Israel hit Lebanon with a number of rockets after an anti-tank missile was fired at an Israel Occupation Forces (IOF) convoy near the Lebanon border on Wednesday.
The Israeli army said on its Twitter feed that an “initial reports indicate a military vehicle was hit, apparently by an anti-tank missile in the area of Har Dov,” using Israel’s term for the Shebaa Farms which is also close to the ceasefire line with Syria.
Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement claimed the attack.
“At 11:25 (0925 GMT) this morning, the Quneitra martyrs of the Islamic Resistance (Hezbollah) targeted an Israeli military convoy in the Shebaa Farms composed of several vehicles which was transporting several Zionist soldiers and officers,” Hezbollah said in a statement broadcast on the group’s Al-Manar television channel
Al-Manar said nine Israeli vehicles were targeted in the attack. Al-Mayadeen news channel’s Director Ghassan Ben Jeddo, said at least 15 Israeli soldiers have been killed.
There were conflicting reports on whether an Israeli soldier was abducted during the attack. Al-Akhbar English could not independently confirm the information at this time.
The Shebaa Farms area is a mountainous, narrow sliver of land rich in water resources measuring 25 square kilometers (10 square miles). It has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war.
An Israeli security source, meanwhile, said a number of people were wounded in the incident after their vehicles came under “very heavy fire at close range,” saying the incident was still ongoing.
He said it was not clear whether the vehicles had been hit by an anti-tank missile, a rocket or a mortar, but said Israeli forces had returned fire, hitting targets across the border.
Israeli newspaper the Jerusalem Post said the Israeli army fired at the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Shouba.
Two sources told AFP that more than a dozen shells had been fired on Lebanese border villages and that Israeli warplanes were flying over the area.
A spokesperson for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which monitors the Lebanese-Israeli border, reported that one of its soldiers, a Spanish citizen, was killed after sustaining serious wounds by Israeli shelling in the border village of Abbasieh.
“At least 15 shells have been fired against five villages in the south,” one security source said, adding that the village of Majidiyeh was hardest hit.
Another security source said the Israeli army was firing a new shell into the area about every two minutes, and was also firing artillery.
The Lebanese army is deployed in all five villages that were shelled, but it was unclear whether Hezbollah had a presence there.
Al-Mayadeen said the Israeli strikes were ongoing.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that mortar shells had hit the village of Ghajar, which straddles the border between Lebanon and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Images broadcast from the scene showed large plumes of white smoke billowing across the area and police sealed off several roads close to the border in northern Israel.
Commenting on the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was ready to act “with force” following the border attack.
Referring to the bloody Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip this summer, Netanyahu added: “I suggest that all those who are challenging us on our northern border, look at what happened in Gaza, not far from the city of Sderot.”
“Hamas suffered the most serious blow since it was founded this past summer and the [IOF] is prepared to act on every front.”
Retaliation for Israeli attacks in Syria
The attack came hours after Israeli aircraft struck alleged Syrian army artillery positions early on Wednesday, and one day after rockets were launched at the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
On January 18, an Israeli airstrike on the Syrian city of Quneitra killed six fighters of Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah, including a commander and the son of assassinated senior commander Imad Mughniyeh, as well as Iranian Revolutionary Guards General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi.
The Hezbollah brigade which carried out the attack, the Quneitra martyrs of the Islamic Resistance, was named in reference to the deadly strike in Quneitra, indicating that Wednesday’s attack was in retaliation for the killing of its members.
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah had previously warned Israel against any “stupid” moves in Lebanon and Syria, vowing to retaliate and make sure Israel pays the price for any aggression against the neighboring countries.
Israeli airstrikes on Syria “target the whole of the resistance axis,” Nasrallah said in reference to Syria, Iran and his government, who are sworn enemies of Israel.
“The repeated bombings that struck several targets in Syria are a major violation, and we consider that any strike against Syria is a strike against the whole of the resistance axis, not just against Syria,” he said, adding the “axis is capable of responding” anytime.
Since the airstrike, troops and civilians in northern Israeli-occupied territories of Palestine and the occupied Golan Heights have been on heightened alert and Israel has deployed an Iron Dome rocket interceptor unit near the Syrian border.
The last Israeli war on Lebanon in the summer of 2006 killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, most of them civilians, and 160 Israelis, most of them soldiers.
Nasrallah is expected to deliver a speech on January 30 regarding the Israeli strikes.
(Al-Akhbar, AFP, Reuters)
The Origin of Modern Terror and Crumbling Western Values
By John Chuckman | Aletho News | January 26, 2015
Do you ever solve problems by ignoring them? Most of us would say that is not possible, yet that is precisely what western governments do in their efforts to counteract what is called “Islamic terror.” Yes, there are vast and costly efforts to suppress the symptoms of what western governments regard as a modern plague, including killing many people presumed to be infected with it, fomenting rebellion and destruction in places presumed to be prone to it, secretly returning to barbaric practices such as torture, things we thought had been left behind centuries ago, to fight it, and violating rights of their own citizens we thought were as firmly established as the need for food and shelter. Governments ignore, in all these destructive efforts, what in private they know very well is the origin of the problem.
Have Islamic radicals always existed? Yes, we have records through the history of British and French empire-building of strange and fearsome groups. It appears every large religion has a spectrum of believers, always including at one end of the spectrum extreme fundamentalists. They are not a new phenomenon anywhere, so why has one group of them, in the sands of the Middle East, become part of our everyday awareness?
It is also nothing new that young men become hot-blooded and disturbed over what they regard as attacks upon their kind. Western society’s record of crusades, religious wars, colonial wars, and revolts, all total likely having no equal in the histories of the world’s peoples, offers countless examples of young men being angered by this or that circumstance and joining up or running off to fight.
George Bush told us today’s terrorists hate our freedom and democratic values, but like virtually every utterance of George Bush, that one was fatuous, explaining nothing. Nevertheless, his is the explanation pounded into public consciousness because governments and the corporate press never stop repeating versions of it, the Charlie Hebdo affair and its theatrical posturing over free speech being only the latest. Theatrical? Yes, when we know perfectly well that most of those who marched at the front of the parade in Paris are anything but friends of free speech.
All backward peoples are uncomfortable with certain western values, that being the nature of backwardness, and backwardness is a defining characteristic of all fundamentalist religious groups – Hasidic or ultra-Orthodox Jews, Mennonites, Roman Catholic Cardinals, cloistered nuns, Sikhs, and many others – who typically choose modes of dress, rules to obey, and even foods to eat having little or no relationship with the contemporary world and science. Of course, that is their right so long as they are peaceful and law-abiding.
Any fundamentalist group, pushed by more powerful people from outside their community, is entirely capable of, and even prone to, violence, and all human beings are capable of violence when faced with abuse and injustice. Centuries of religious wars and terrors in Europe about such matters as how the Mass is celebrated prove the proposition and should be held as a warning, but they are forgotten by most, if they were ever known. The tendency towards violence continues today amongst many fundamentalist faiths. In so relatively small and seemingly homogeneous a society as Israel, there are regular attacks from ultra-Orthodox Jews against the country’s worldly citizens or against fair-minded rules about such pedestrian matters as women riding buses or walking on a street. The attacks become quite violent – punching, spitting, burning down homes, and killing sometimes – and all go against what we call western values, but because the scale is fairly small, and our press also has a constant protective bias concerning all things Israeli, these events rarely make our mainline news. They must be found on the Internet.
It took Western Europe literally centuries to leave behind such recurrent and violent themes as witches and the need to burn them alive, the Evil Eye, casting out demons, execution for differences of belief, and countless other stupidities which characterized whole societies and destroyed lives. And if you want to go still further back, go to the Old Testament, a collection of ancient writing packed with violence, superstition, prejudice, and just plain ignorance, which Christians and others even today regard as containing important truths for contemporary life. Human progress, at least in some matters, takes a very long time indeed.
Our world has more backward people than most of us can imagine. The news does not feature their extremes and savageries because it serves no political purpose. In Africa, for example, we find practices and beliefs utterly repellent to modern minds: the practice of senior village men raping young girls as an accepted right, the genital mutilation of 3 million girls annually (an African, not an Islamic, practice), the hunting down and butchering such “strange” people as albinos, their parts to be eaten as medicine, and many others. In India, a country well on its way to becoming modern yet one with a huge backward population, we have practices such as marrying off mere girls to old men rich enough to pay dowries to poor parents. At one stroke this enriches the parents and relieves them of the burden of a child, a female child too, always viewed less favorably. The practice generates a large population of widows when the old husbands of girls married at, say, twelve die. These women are then condemned to entire lives as widows, never allowed to remarry, required to dress and eat in certain ways, and basically shunned to live in squalid equivalents of old folks homes, living entirely meaningless lives. India also has the practice of “bride burning” where new brides who are deemed unacceptable for various reasons become the prey of the groom’s family, literally being burned alive. There are many other barbarities in that society too, including “honor killing” and young women who are made inmates in certain temples to serve as glorified prostitutes.
Our press assiduously avoids much of the world’s horrors as it focuses on “Islamic extremism,” and politics are the only explanation for the bias. The press theme of Islamic terror and indeed real incidents of terror grow from a reality always taken for granted, never debated, and certainly never criticised: the elephant in the room, as it were, is Israel’s illegal and agonizingly long occupation of the Palestinians.
It may be not be important to our press and governments that Israel holds millions as prisoners, crippling the lives of generation after generation, or that Israel periodically strikes out in every direction – Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank – causing the deaths of many thousands, or that Israel is seen to bulldoze people’s homes and sacred monuments with complete impunity, but it very much matters to many millions of Muslims in the world, and some of them, fundamentalist men, strike out against it just as young men everywhere have sometimes struck out against keenly-felt hurts and injustice.
In western countries, under the hard influence of America, a country in turn under the hard influence of the world’s best organized and financed lobby, the Israel Lobby, we have come to regard Israel’s behavior as normal, but it is, of course, not normal, not in any detail. What is normal about holding several million people prisoner for half a century? What is normal about bulldozing homes and literally stealing the land upon which they stood? What is normal about declaring an honestly elected government as criminal and treating its people as though they were criminals? What is normal about limiting people’s opportunity to earn a living or to import some of the needs of life? What is normal about killing nearly a thousand children, as Israel has done just in Gaza, since 2008?
Pretending that Israel’s behavior is not the major cause of what screams from our headlines and news broadcasts has reached absurd levels. America has only vastly compounded the problem of Israel’s organized abuse of a people: it and its silent partners have destroyed Iraq, destroyed Libya, are working hard to destroy Syria, have seen to it that Egypt’s tens of millions again live under absolute government, ignore countless inequities and barbarities in secretly-helpful countries like Saudi Arabia, and carry out extra-judicial killings through much of the region. All of it is carried out on Israel’s behalf and with Israel’s cooperation. Can any reasonable person not see that this vast factory of death also manufactures countless grievances and vendettas? The stupidity is on a colossal scale, rooted in the notion that you can kill your way out of the terrible consequences of terrible policies.
In America, paid political shills (Newt Gingrich was one) have campaigned about there being no such thing as a Palestinian. Others (Dick Armey was one) have said that millions of Palestinians should be removed, all their land left conveniently to Israel. That last is an odd thing to say, isn’t it, considering there are supposed to be no such thing as Palestinians? And just what country would take millions of “non-existent” Palestinians? Obviously no politician with even pretence of integrity would say such things, and how can intelligent and successful people like America’s Jews take satisfaction in hearing politicians reciting such embarrassing scripts? But this is a good measure of the way intelligence and sound thinking are scorned in American politics. How can you achieve anything worth achieving without intelligence and sound thinking? You cannot, but that doesn’t stop American Presidents and Secretaries of State from carrying on the world’s longest-running dumb show, something called the “peace process.” The sombre, moose-like figure of John Kerry is photographed playacting at statesmanship while American-supplied arms just keep killing thousands of innocent people.
Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) confirms the killing of one of its generals in an Israeli airstrike on the occupied Golan Heights in Syria that also killed six members of the Lebanese resistance movement, Hezbollah.
“A number of fighters and forces of the Islamic Resistance along with Brigadier General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi were visiting the region of Quneitra and were attacked by a military helicopter of the Zionist regime,” the IRGC said in a statement on its website on Monday.
“This brave general and some members of Hezbollah were martyred as a result of this crime,” it added.
It said Allahdadi had traveled to Syria to provide consultation and help the Syrian government and nation counter the Takfiri and Salafi terrorists in the war-stricken country.
He gave “decisive” consultation about ways to stop and thwart the Israeli regime’s plots and crimes, it added.
The statement emphasized that the killing of the IRGC general and Hezbollah fighters would strengthen the movement’s determination to fight the Israeli regime.
“The Zionist regime’s criminal move to violate Syria’s airspace once again showed that the terrorist plot of the ISIL and Takfiri groups has been hatched in line with policies of the arrogant and Zionist system and in coordination with leaders of the White House and the occupying regime of al-Quds against the Muslim community,” the IRGC said.
They are not committed to any international regulations and human and moral principles to achieve their evil goals, it pointed out.
Jihad Mughniyeh funeral procession
Lebanon’s Hezbollah on Monday held a funeral procession for Jihad Mughniyeh in southern Beirut. Massive crowds took part in the event.
Jihad was among six Hezbollah fighters killed in Israel’s missile strike on Syria’s Golan Heights. He was the son of Hezbollah’s slain military commander, Imad Mughniyeh, who was assassinated in an Israeli-orchestrated bombing back in 2008.
A source close to the Lebanon’s Hezbollah says the movement’s response to Israel’s deadly attack on members of the resistance would be “painful.”
“The attack against six Hezbollah members will have a painful and unexpected response, but it can be assumed that it will be controlled to prevent an all-out war,” the sources told the Lebanese As-Safir Arabic political daily on Monday.
A serious mistake
The Syrian information minister has slammed as a “serious mistake” the recent Israeli airstrike on the southwestern strategic Syrian city of Quneitra.
“Israel has made a serious mistake when it attacked on Syrian soil today,” Omran al-Zoubi said in an interview with Lebanese al-Manar TV on Sunday.
Al-Zoubi said the airstrikes proved the Tel Aviv regime was cooperating with terrorist groups, including the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front.
The Syrian minister said that Israel needs the terrorist groups to act as a “buffer zone” that separates it from the Syrian army and people.
Whoever fights the Syrian people and army is putting himself in the service of the Zionist project against Syria, Palestine and the Arab nation, he added.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry has strongly condemned the killing of six fighters of Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah by Israel, Press TV reports.
“We condemn all actions of the Zionist regime as well as all acts of terror,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Press TV early on Monday, lashing out at Israel for committing acts of terrorism.
Zarif further censured the acts of terrorism against the people of Lebanon and the resistance movement, saying that “this has been a practice followed for a very long time,” the top Iranian diplomat noted. “The policy of state terrorism is a known policy of the Zionist regime,” he added.
Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah confirmed the death of six fighters in the new Israeli airstrike on the southwestern strategic Syrian city of Quneitra.
In a statement issued on Sunday, Hezbollah said 25-year-old Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of slain Hezbollah top commander Imad Mughniyeh, and five other fighters lost their lives in the fresh Israeli aerial assault against Syria.
Hezbollah identified the other victims as Mohammad Issa,42, Abbas Ibrahim Hijazi, 35, Mohammad Ali Hasan Abu al-Hasan, 29, Ghazi Ali Dawi, 26, and Ali Hasan Ibrahim, 21.
The martyrs were reportedly on a field reconnaissance mission in Quneitra when an Israeli military helicopter targeted their vehicle.
Fresh Israeli aggression
On Sunday, an Israeli military helicopter fired two missiles into Amal Farms in the strategic southwestern city of Quneitra, close to line separating the Syrian part of the Golan Heights from the Israeli-occupied sector.
The Israeli military has so far declined comment on the attack.
Press TV reported that the Israeli military has gone on high alert for the fear of a possible Hezbollah response to the regime’s new act of aggression.
Analysts believe the new Israeli assault is yet another attempt by Tel Aviv to change the balance of war in favor of the Takfiri militants fighting against Syria.
The new Israeli aerial raid comes as Syrian soldiers, backed by Hezbollah resistance fighters, have made numerous gains against the militants operating in Quneitra.
The Tel Aviv regime has carried out several airstrikes in Syria since the start of the nearly four-year-old foreign-sponsored militancy there.
Damascus says Tel Aviv and its Western allies are aiding the extremist terror groups operating inside Syria since March 2011.
The Syrian army has repeatedly seized large quantities of Israeli-made weapons and advanced military equipment from the foreign-backed militants inside the Arab state.
Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has hit out at the Tel Aviv regime for disrupting stability in Lebanon.
“Every time we take steps forward in terms of achieving stability … Israel tries to create chaos,” local Lebanese media quoted Berri as saying on Monday.
“Israelis don’t want Lebanon to relax,” he said.
Lebanon’s al-Manar TV said later in the day that Tel Aviv is “playing with fire that puts the security of the whole Middle East on edge.
File photo shows a foreign-backed militant preparing to launch a US-made TOW anti-tank missile in Idlib countryside in northwestern Syria.
The ISIL Takfiri group has released a photo showing one of its members preparing to launch a US-made TOW anti-tank missile against rival terrorists in Syria’s strategic and mountainous Qalamoun region along the border with Lebanon.
The ISIL militant is shown aiming at the positions of the Jaysh al-Islam militant group on the outskirts of al-Qaryatayn, located approximately 120 kilometers (74 miles) northeast of the capital, Damascus.
Political analysts say the photo shows the scale of threats the ISIL militants pose to the Qalamoun region against fighters of the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement.
On October 5, Hezbollah fighters killed scores of Takfiri militants after the gunmen crossed from crisis-hit Syria into eastern Lebanon and attacked the Lebanese resistance movement’s posts.
Most of the militants killed during the clashes were from the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front. Two Hezbollah fighters were also killed in the shootout.
Meanwhile, Ghuraba al-Sham Battlion and Lions of Shahba Battalion, both allied to the so-called Free Syrian Army, are reportedly training their members in a camp set up in Qalamoun.
Over the past months, Lebanon has been grappling with terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda-linked militants and rocket attacks, in what is said to be a spillover of the conflict in Syria.
The Takfiri ISIL terrorists currently control parts of Syria mostly in the east and north. They have also seized large swathes of land in neighboring Iraq.
More than 1.1 million Syrian refugees are currently taking shelter in Lebanon. The influx of Syrian refugees is exerting huge pressure on Lebanon’s poor infrastructure, education and health systems.
Syria has been grappling with a deadly crisis since March 2011. Western powers and their regional allies – especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey – are the main supporters of the militants operating inside Syria.
More than 200,000 people have died so far in the conflict in Syria, according to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein.
Ever since the end of former president, Michel Sleiman’s tenure in May 2014, Lebanon has continued to function without a head of state.
The country is grappling with turmoil on its border with Syria due to different factors including the presence of foreign-backed Takfiri militants, a Syrian refugee crisis, and a spillover of the war in Syria.
Amid all this, Hezbollah and Saudi-backed Sa’ad Hariri’s Future Movement have held talks to try and diffuse tensions and pave the way for a joint fight against terrorism.
An atmosphere of cautious optimism prevailed over Lebanon after the resistance movement Hezbollah and the western and Saudi-backed March 14 Future Movement held their first dialogue session in over four years. The step has been praised by various Lebanese officials who have indicated that the dialogue process has got off to a good start. Hezbollah, in its first comments on the issue, highlighted the necessity of such a step as a means to strengthen the country against the menace of Takfiri terror.
To discuss Lebanon’s current political developments, Press TV has conducted an interview with Sukant Chandan, who is the co-founder of The Tricontinental from London, and Salah Takieddine, with Lebanon Future Movement from Beirut.
The Debate – Rivals Reconciliation (P.1)
The Debate – Rivals Reconciliation (P.2)
Israel was asked by the UN General Assembly on Friday to compensate Lebanon for $856.4 million in oil spill damages it caused during the July 2006 war.
The non-binding vote, which passed 170-6 with three abstentions, asks Israel to offer “prompt and adequate compensation” to Lebanon and other countries affected by the oil spill’s pollution.
While General Assembly votes are non-binding, they reflect broader international opinion without the possibility of veto by world powers like in the Security Council.
The resolution indicated that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon “expressed grave concern at the lack of any acknowledgment on the part of the government of Israel of its responsibilities vis-a-vis reparations and compensation” for the oil spill.
Lebanon’s permanent representative to the UN Nawaf Salam hailed the resolution, the Lebanese National News Agency reported.
“Lebanon considers this to be a major progress,” Salam said. “This resolution also paves the way for further compensation into other areas of damage (health, ecosystem services as habitat, potential groundwater contamination, and marine diversity), that were not considered in the current calculated amount.”
“Furthermore, its adoption asserts the will of the overwhelming majority of the international community to hold countries responsible for their internationally wrongful acts,” he added.
“We affirm that Lebanon will continue to mobilize all resources and resort to all legal means to see that this resolution is fully implemented, and that the specified compensation is paid promptly.”
In a statement, Israel condemned the resolution as “[serving] no purpose other than to contribute to institutionalizing an anti-Israel agenda at the UN,” Israeli media reported.
The oil spill was caused by Israel’s air force when it bombed oil tanks near a coastal Lebanese power plant during its fierce month-long war with Hezbollah resistance fighters.
The attack flooded the Mediterranean coastline with 15,000 tons of oil, according to the United Nations.
The adopted resolution cited $856.4 million (700 million euros) in damages caused by the oil spill, accounting for inflation of a October 2007 estimate by the United Nations Secretary General that reported the spill caused $729 million in damage.
Lebanon bore the brunt of the spill, but the Syrian coast and other Mediterranean countries have suffered as well, the UN said.
The oil slick made by the spill “has had serious implications for livelihoods and the economy of Lebanon,” the resolution said.
The UN asked Lebanon to continue clean-up efforts and the international community to increase funding for its environmental restoration.
The US, Australia, Canada and Israel were among the six states that voted against the UN text.
While political factions are distracted with the upcoming dialogue between Hezbollah and the Future Movement, and the Lebanese government is struggling to resolve the issue of the kidnapped soldiers and counter the threat of terrorist groups on the Syrian border, Israel is stealing Lebanese gas from the deep sea off the Lebanese southern coast, Al-Akhbar reported on Monday.
Parliament speaker Nabih Berri told Al-Akhbar that he received information a few days ago confirming that Israel has started stealing Lebanese gas, expressing his surprise over the government’s lack of interest in the matter.
Berri said “he will personally push the pressing issue early next year,” adding that the Israeli move will force Lebanon to sign two designated decrees that would allow it to start digging for gas and ensure new revenues for the Lebanese economy.
Lebanon is located in the heart of the Levant basin, where seismic surveys indicate the presence of huge oil and gas reserves, but has so far failed to impose itself as a regional player in this area, as neighboring states greedily fight for its resources.
In July 2013, an Israeli company found Karish, a gas field 75 kilometers from the coast of Haifa. The new field is sufficiently close to Lebanon’s maritime borders to allow Israel access to Lebanon’s own reserves. It is evident that Israel is pressing ahead with exploration and production while Lebanon’s own energy plans falter.
At the time, then-Energy and Water Minister Gebran Bassil addressed these concerns in a press conference. “Theoretically…Israel is now able to reach Lebanese gas and that is a very grave situation,” he said.
“We cannot yet say that a disaster has happened, but the new Israeli discovery may indeed lead to one, especially if Lebanon’s efforts continue to be plagued by delays.”
“If Israel drills horizontally in Karish – made possible thanks to US technology – it may be able to reach up to 10 kilometers north into Lebanon’s reservoirs. If Israel drills vertically, it would still be possible for Israel to syphon off Lebanese oil and gas, if the Israeli and Lebanese fields overlap,” Bassil added.
After the discovery of large deposits of oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean, the main struggle for Lebanon remains with both Cyprus and Israel to prevent encroachment on its maritime boundaries.
Cyprus breached its agreement with Lebanon and signed a deal in 2010 with the Zionist state, which attempted to gobble up 860 square kilometers of Lebanon’s maritime zone.
This incident revealed the need for Lebanon to assert the integrity of its maritime boundaries and to recover all of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) – currently being disputed by Israel following its agreement with Cyprus.
In theory, there was no dispute over maritime boundaries between Israel and Cyprus. But when the opportunity arose, Israel encroached on Lebanon’s zones as a result of the latter’s failure to quickly ratify its agreement with Cyprus.
The Cypriot-Israeli agreement enabled Israel to foray into Lebanon’s EEZ, although Israel had so far observed the same boundaries adopted by Lebanon in all its operations.
Reports indicate that Israel found a loophole in the agreement between Lebanon and Cyprus which stipulates that the triple point can only be determined through trilateral negotiations.
Since there are no contacts between Lebanon and Israel, the determination of this point is pending negotiations.
Israel’s interpretation of this, however, is that Lebanon has lost 860 square kilometers.
Lebanon managed to recover 500 out of 860 square kilometers of its EEZ according to international community laws, while 360 square kilometers remain effectively under Israeli control.
In November 2013, Israel rejected a proposal for a settlement made by the US administration to resolve the “dispute” between the Zionist state and Lebanon over the boundaries of each side’s EEZ. The proposal concerned the disputed area of Block 9 in the Mediterranean, which Israel claims sovereignty over.
Israel claims that this block – one of the richest areas in terms of commercial gas deposits recently discovered in the Mediterranean – extends into its EEZ.
In September, Director of the Research and Strategic Studies Center General Khaled Hamada said “the expected quantities (of oil and gas) are relatively small, compared to those discovered in the Arabian Gulf, Russia, and the Caspian Sea, but they are enough to make a significant impact on the energy security of Mediterranean countries, and contribute to a lesser extent to Europe’s energy security.”
Hamada pointed out that Israel had already begun commercial gas production, while Cyprus had started exploration in more than one location.
In a conversation with Al-Akhbar, Hamada warned that any further delays in Lebanon’s efforts to implement gas projects would force it to deal with these projects and security arrangements as a fait accompli down the road.
While Lebanon is busy with endless debates, Israel is rushing to put the final touches on its bid to export gas to Europe.
Four years ago, Al-Akhbar published a statement by Israeli Minister Yossi Peled on September 25, 2010 that highlighted the Israeli stance on Lebanon becoming a gas producer country.
Peled, appearing before the Knesset Economic Committee at a special hearing on the oil and gas sector, said that Lebanon had large gas fields similar to the ones Israel had discovered. He cautioned that the Europeans, who were looking for alternatives to Russian gas, had initiated negotiations with Lebanon, saying, “Imagine what it would mean if this country became a gas producer,” something he claimed had equally alarming economic and security implications.
Although Israel managed to pinpoint the challenges it faced, it did predict at the time – and wager on – Lebanon’s complacency. In response to Peled’s warnings in the Knesset, Israeli daily Globes, in a front-page editorial on October 5, 2010, stated:
“Israeli sources who follow events in Lebanon are convinced that, at the current rate of progress, the Lebanese will award the first licenses this year , and will start exploratory drilling within a year. The same sources believe that Lebanon will quickly be able to close the gap between it and Israel, and become a real competitor.
“Past experience shows that Israel has no immediate reason for fear. Lebanon’s natural resources will arouse internal (and external) conflicts no less severe than Israel’s natural resources have provoked here …
“The oil giants will not rush to invest billions in a country where it is not clear who is in control, and where so many other countries openly interfere.”
Israel was proven right. Nothing in Lebanon is exempt from being the object of division and polarization, and thus, obstruction, including the oil and gas sector.
Meanwhile, Turkey is also trying to expand in the eastern basin through northern Cyprus, with a view to reduce its dependence on oil imports from Iran and gas imports from Russia.
Ankara is seeking to build a network of onshore and offshore gas pipelines, to act as an energy transit hub between East and West.
A Syrian military statement has accused Israel of launching two air strikes near the capital Damascus.
“This afternoon, the Israeli enemy targeted two safe areas in Damascus province, namely the Dimas area and the Damascus International Airport,” the statement said.
Although the Syrian government did not provide details on damage or loss of life, opposition groups said that a number of explosions were heard near the airport and the town of Dimas.
Earlier, Israeli jets were reported to have crossed into Lebanon.
The Israeli military has not commented on the attacks. But the Syrian News Agency SANA accused Tel Aviv of carrying out air raids to help the opposition fighting the government of President Bashar Al-Assad.
Israel has carried out a number of air raids against Syrian positions since the civil war erupted in February 2011.
In May, Israeli fighter jets were reported to have struck a convoy of trucks allegedly carrying advanced missile components to the Lebanese Hezbollah faction.
The strike, the second in a year, appears to conform to an Israeli policy of preventing the transfer of “game-changing weaponry” from Syria to its allies in Lebanon.
The reported Israeli air strike comes amid fierce fighting between the Syrian Army and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIL) for control of the town of Deir Ezzor near the Iraqi border.
A Syrian refugee child peers out from his tent in Baiseriyeh in southern Lebanon, July 23, 2013. Al-Akhbar Marwan Bou Haidar
This month Syrian refugees in four host countries, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey and Jordan will not receive food assistance. The World Food Program (WFP) ran out of funding to help those affected by the Syrian crisis, meaning it can no longer help feed Syrian refugees. Given that donor countries are not providing more funding, refugees are left alone to face deadly cold weather and starvation with catastrophic humanitarian, social and health repercussions.
Suspending food aid to Syrian refugees adds to the tragedy they are already facing. Refugees worry about the rain leaking through their tents and they cannot imagine their conditions getting any worse. What is worse than displacement, homelessness, living in a tent and dying of cold weather?
On Monday, the World Food Program (WFP) announced that it does not have funding for the month of December. As a result, 1.7 million Syrian refugees in four countries – 1.1 million of them in Lebanon – will not receive food aid. Syrian refugees are now afraid they will die of the cold weather and of starvation.
By deciding to suspend funding to the WFP, is the international ‘donor’ community intent on multiplying the misery of Syrians, as if telling the refugees to “die of hunger?” Refugees could die of hunger because donor nations have donor fatigue. They have given a lot in the past three and a half years, and they gave generously. But it seems the message is that the crisis has lasted for too long and that it is not the fault of these generous donors.
According to the WFP’s statement, “Without WFP vouchers, many families will go hungry. For refugees already struggling to survive the harsh winter, the consequences of halting this assistance will be devastating.”Tensions within refugee communities will rise. Striving to secure food is the fiercest, most primal struggle in life. Psychological and financial pressures will increase which will lead to dangerous behavior. The rate of crime, prostitution, begging, child labor, child marriages and diseases might increase. Faced with these dangerous phenomena, feelings of racism within host communities could grow and lead to a destructive path.
The WFP’s statement warned that refugees are “ill-prepared for yet another harsh winter, especially in Lebanon and Jordan, where many children are barefoot and without proper clothing. Many tents are drenched in mud and hygiene conditions are growing extremely precarious.”
Don’t they know that a few days ago, a newborn baby died of cold in Ersal? We learned of her death but we did not learn about the deaths that followed and we do not know if she is truly the first baby to die from the elements. Everyone, including international organizations, knew that babies will die from the cold because tents do not protect against the freezing cold of the hills and mountains. Despite these facts, they did nothing. News of the baby’s death passed without incident. They were too busy trying to find an excuse to justify her death. A problem at birth, lack of oxygen… It really doesn’t matter, the three-day old baby could not bear the freezing wind in the hills of Ersal. International organizations, fearing for the lives of their employees, deserted the town leaving behind children, women and men who cannot withstand the deadly cold or hunger.
Refugees received the unfortunate message on their cell phones. Those who do not have cell phones were informed by partner organizations that this month the accounts on their electronic vouchers will be zero dollars but they did not tell them what to do. The organizations themselves do not know what refugees should now do. WFP spokesperson, Sandy Maroun, said” “The program’s regional office distributes the funding. As we know, there is a big crisis in funding. We’ve been warning against it since October when funding for the program in Lebanon decreased by 33 percent. But we were surprised that there is no funding for this month.”
Children will go to sleep hungry in their cold tents, fathers will return with disappointment stamped on their brows while mothers will cry silently. Shop owners who have signed contracts with the WFP will be negatively impacted as well because their profits will decline. Refugees will not rush on the fifth of the month at 12:00 pm to buy bread, rice and grains. Many Lebanese will realize that the presence of refugees has had a positive economic impact and did not bring economic ruin, as is the common misperception. The Lebanese will experience this reality first-hand but they will not go hungry. The WFP said that $216 million were injected into the Lebanese economy in the past 10 months and $341 million since the beginning of the crisis through the Syrian refugees’ electronic vouchers.
No one knows if halting the funding will go on till next month. Maroun explains, “Funding is provided monthly that’s why we can’t say for sure if there is going to be money for next month except at the end of this month.”
“No organization can secure comprehensive and continuous food assistance to refugees like the WFP, which is considered the largest humanitarian organization in the world fighting hunger,” she added.
The program needs $64 million immediately to be able to provide food assistance to Syrian refugees residing in neighboring countries for the month of December. If funding is provided, the program will immediately resume its aid to refugees who use electronic vouchers. What will happen, however, if funding never materializes? Concerned parties cannot provide a definitive answer: “We hope they will be able to manage.” But hopes and wishes do not mean much. The international community is tired of paying to feed refugees. Donor countries prefer to spend the money on “civil society” and “democracy, transparency and citizenry” projects. Maroun explains: “Funding the program is voluntary and it involves countries, individuals and organizations. It is not based on mandatory and periodic funding even though it falls under the Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP) to respond to the Syrian humanitarian crisis but it is independent of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) funding.”What about UNHCR, the organization charged with “protecting” refugees”? “We don’t have an alternative plan to provide food assistance,” says UNHCR spokesperson, Dana Suleiman, adding that “the crisis is the same for all organizations. They are all worried about the decline in funding. Besides, we play a coordinating role. For this month, there is no decrease or change in UNHCR programs but there are no guarantees for next month.” UNHCR’s last report talked about “food security” as nearly 900,000 refugees have benefited from the electronic voucher system in November. Today, all of these people are without food assistance. The only thing they have is blankets, a fuel voucher and a tent simply because the world does not have enough money to help them.
A cannabis farmer in the Bekaa Valley prays as Lebanese army men come to destroy his harvest. Al-Akhbar/Rameh Hamieh
The cultivation of cannabis is popular in specific areas that have special characteristics like high altitude and sunlight, similar to the Bekaa region. This differential feature of Lebanon, which can revive the Lebanese countryside, has been overcome by the alternative agricultural policies required from abroad. The health risks associated with the use of cannabis are minimal compared to alcohol and tobacco, and compared with the results of the war on cannabis cultivation which only affects the poor segments of society.
A few years ago, Lebanese organizations, including left-wing movements, launched a media campaign warning against cannabis and the risk of its spread among the youth. The intention behind the campaign was noble, but it had several flaws: The first is related to the medical claims that accompanied the campaign – which are similar to the propaganda that was disseminated in America during the forties to scare people away from marijuana – saying that marijuana drives people crazy, makes them jump out of windows, and causes delinquency and crime. The main problem was in the “central-Beiruti” mentality, which led left-wing movements to claim their devotion to the grievances of the poor and the marginalized, and thus sought to combat and criminalize hashish rather than demand its legalization and lifting the ban on its cultivation.
The issue is very clear. There is a disregard – even contempt – by urban activists for the fates of hundreds of thousands of peasants in their country. They support policies and laws that have impoverished large parts of the Lebanese countryside, either because of their focus on “more important” issues (such as the rejection of the [parliamentary] extension and the “revolt against the sectarian system”), or because of a bourgeois view aimed at preserving morality and normalcy. There is no harm in adopting or defending such a view, but not when it is at the expense of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged segments of society. To date, there are no adequate studies on the social and economic deterioration that affected the villages of Bekaa and Hermel after the prohibition of cannabis cultivation in the nineties, and others on the prosperity witnessed in the region and the local development that resulted from it, while the rest of the country – paradoxically – was experiencing the worst stages of the civil war, and so the government left the farmers alone.
From the history of cannabis
In his book about the history of cannabis, Martin Booth (who also published a well-known book about opium) says that the cannabis is one of the oldest plantations that spread in human societies. He refers to one of the three major species of cannabis today, the “cannabis sativa,” whose name in Latin means “cultivated hemp” because it reached us in its hybrid version, which means that Neanderthals cultivated and hybridized it for thousands of years until the original “wild” seed has been lost and we now have the agriculturally-improved species.
The cultivation of cannabis was widespread not only because of its narcotic effect. Archeological excavations have shown that the consumption of cannabis was also part of religious rituals, and that the plant was an economic asset and resource used in the manufacturing of cloth, linen, ropes, and oils. A conspiracy theory popular among supporters of marijuana in the United States claims that the ban on cannabis cultivation is linked to influential circles in the timber industry, who sought to exclude cannabis as a competitive resource in the paper-manufacturing industry.
We also find many references to hashish and cannabis in Arab and Islamic history, which show its spread and recreational use in our countries through the eras, such as in the writings of chronicler Abdel Rahman al-Jabarti (who talked about his meeting with a mosque orator in Cairo, who claimed to be “under the effect of hashish” to justify his lack of focus during the sermon), as well as in the fatwas of Ibn Taymiyyah, where “Sheikh al-Islam” discussed the topic of hashish and ended up outlawing most of its uses. Based on his jurisprudential arguments, it appears that the people at the time used to consume cannabis either through melting it in tea, eating it directly, or cooking it with food (since the United States had not been discovered yet, and tobacco had not yet reached the ancient world). However, the prolonged explanation provided by Ibn Taymiyyah on the topic and his detailed justification of the prohibition show that the scholars of his day did not have a clear or decisive stance on the matter.
Lebanon and the differential feature
To be able to understand the secret behind the special relationship between Lebanon and hashish, and the differential feature that characterizes the Bekaa Valley and its surrounding hills in this regard, we have to know a few basics about the cultivation of this plant. According to Martin Booth, the “quality” of the hashish – i.e., the concentration of the principal psychoactive constituent Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the female plants – is directly linked to two factors: altitude and sunlight. Cannabis needs large amounts of solar radiation during the maturity period so the plant can grow rapidly, and the growth of its genital parts, which contain the active substance, needs infrared (IR) radiation, whose concentration in the sun increases with altitude.
In other words, high-quality cannabis needs high-altitude mountainous areas, which are, at the same time, hot and exposed to the burning sun during the summer, which is rare in the world. For this reason, the cultivation of cannabis is prominent in specific areas that combine the characteristics of altitude and sunlight, like the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, the hills of Afghanistan … and the Lebanese Bekaa. This is a “geographic gift” that cannot be cloned or bought with money. It is limited to a few regions in the world – Booth says that the best and most expensive types of hashish are grown in India, on the foothills of the Himalayas and over-3,000-meter heights, and due to their rarity are preserved in special leather bags. These qualities have made Lebanon’s Bekaa and Hermel a center for cannabis cultivation since ancient times.
The charming town of Yamuna, which lies in a small internal valley in the highlands of Lebanon’s western mountain range, acquired its “market” reputation in the production of cannabis not because of its special soil, or the magic touch of al-Sharif. It is simply due to its high altitude in the barren areas and abundant water sources, which allows the cultivation of cannabis in perfect conditions. If the Hermel heights – which are rain fed areas today – were covered by irrigation projects – as it was supposed to be decades ago – the whole area would have been like Yamuna.
In the past two decades, new varieties of marijuana were bred in the West, and plantation techniques were developed in closed spaces under controlled lighting and temperature conditions to produce crops in which the concentration of the psychoactive constituent exceeds any product grown in nature.
However, this pattern of agriculture (which supplies the medical and commercial marijuana market in the West) requires the consumption of large amounts of energy for each plant separately. It is also less competitive – in the commercial sense – compared with lands that are, by nature, ideal for the cultivation of cannabis, and have been inherited by farmers over long years. Millions of meters of these lands can be cultivated at a low cost, and by relying solely on the generosity of the sun and the sky.
From here, we conclude that any kind of agriculture is – naturally – ideal for the marginal areas of Lebanon, and some have real differential features on a global level. A quick look at the labor force working in Lebanon, the price of land, and state policies is enough to understand that Lebanon’s competitive commodity – which will eliminate rural poverty and create development in rural areas – is most likely not potatoes or wheat. In addition, a main characteristic of agricultural property in eastern Lebanon is that [owned lands] are relatively small and fragmented. Also, most farmers own their land, which prevents the emergence of feudal and semi-feudal cartels (as in Afghanistan and South America), or huge agricultural companies that would exploit the peasants as laborers and monopolize profits for the benefit of major landowners. A significant part of proceeds from the cultivation of “contraband” plants in the Bekaa traditionally went to farmers.
This question should be raised, while the country that pressured and forced Lebanon to ban the cultivation of cannabis – the United States – has legalized the use of hashish in several states. The governments of the West no longer have a moral or legal excuse to impose such policies on our country. The general direction in the West is heading toward the legalization of cannabis derivatives, or at least not criminalizing it and prosecuting its users. But Lebanon is required to arrest its farmers who are seeking to avoid hunger and migration.
War on the poor
One of the reasons that triggered the wave of marijuana legalization in the West, even for recreational use, is the absence of a convincing medical argument – i.e. a threat to “public safety” – to justify the prohibition of hashish while allowing the sale of other “drugs” like alcohol and tobacco, which are far more dangerous and harmful than marijuana. As Professor As`ad AbuKhalil once wrote, if whiskey was produced by the countries of the South, while hashish was monopolized by the West, wine would be forbidden and frowned upon in Lebanon while ads by hashish companies would have filled the streets.
Science has become clear in this regard. Serious proven tests have shown that the consumption of cannabis may have side effects and can be dangerous for people who suffer from certain neurological problems. Also, heavy consumption can cause addiction and dependency in one out of 10 cases. However, these risks are insignificant compared with those of alcohol and tobacco, or even stress. Tobacco combustion may be the most dangerous thing in a “marijuana cigarette.” During the writing of this article, I consulted with a professor and researcher of Lebanese origin at Harvard Medical School, who graciously provided me with scientific studies and summaries. He expressed his opposition to the criminalization of cannabis cultivation, adding that its advantages in medical use are “very real,” and that the greatest harm results from the war on cultivation, as evidenced by the American experience, since it mainly affects – in Lebanon, as in America – the poorer classes, which do not have a voice in society.
This is one of the issues that will not be of concern to civil society organizations, and will not receive financing from European governments and institutions. However – unlike a lot of campaigns created by these organizations to justify their existence – it is achievable and can change – in the actual direct sense – many people’s lives.
It is possible to imagine a different future for large areas in Lebanon that are marginalized and disadvantaged today, in which farmers will be able to live in dignity and prosperity in their areas, and land and production will have real value.
The people living on the coast may migrate to internal areas, this time, in search of work and opportunities.
Riyadh has ‘red-lighted’ the planned dialogue between Hezbollah and the Future Movement before it even began. The Saudi call for Hezbollah to be put on the list of terrorist organizations made at the United Nations threatens to renew tension between the two sides, following an undeclared truce in the media that did not last for more than a few days.
Is there a fixed Saudi, and consequently Gulf policy, vis-à-vis Lebanon? Are these countries really keen on the stability of this country, as they claim, when they hardly spare any occasion to exacerbate its divisions? These questions and others are being asked after the new Saudi escalation against Hezbollah, which is likely to aggravate the already complex situation in Lebanon and the region.
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United Nations Abdallah al-Mouallimi called on the UN Security Council on Wednesday to place the Resistance Party on the list of terrorist organizations. In a special session on terrorism, Mouallimi called for punishing Hezbollah and other groups including the Abu al Fadl al Abbas Brigade, the League of the Righteous, and other “terrorist organizations fighting in Syria.”
Al-Akhbar learned that as a result of the new Saudi position, contacts will be made with Riyadh over the next few days to contain possible reactions. Well-placed sources warned against negative repercussions from the Saudi move over the ‘preliminary dialogue’ between Hezbollah and the Future Movement.
The sources expressed concern that this could put an end to the de-escalation that begun when Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, speaking during the Shia Muslim commemorations of Ashura, welcomed dialogue with the Future Movement. The sources told Al-Akhbar that the Saudi move, in addition to the sudden re-activation of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) after a long period of inactivity, by summoning political witnesses, will create tensions in the country, and are indicative of a Saudi veto on dialogue between the Future Movement and Hezbollah.
The sources asked, “How do the Saudis explain their position when barely two months have passed since their ambassador in Beirut Ali Awad Asiri celebrated his country’s National Day surrounded by deputies from Hezbollah? Why has Saudi Arabia made this call two days after the GCC summit, and as the UAE – which is influenced to a large extent by Riyadh’s position – placed a number of organizations on its terror list not including Hezbollah?”
The sources deduced that the Saudi policy is not yet ready to restore its balance in Lebanon and the region. The sources also had questions about Saudi-Israeli ‘intersection’ over trying to smear Hezbollah’s image as a resistance movement and link it to terrorism, something that Tel Aviv has sought for very long.
The sources described Mouallimi’s speech at the UN as a ‘sound bubble’ that will have no results, recalling Nasrallah’s declaration that Hezbollah will be where it has to be in Syria. They said the Saudi UN envoy’s move “demonstrates real disappointment in the ranks of the Saudi leadership over the failure of its project in Syria, with [Saudi]… making random accusations right and left.”
The sources pointed out that the Saudi envoy, in the course of justifying his call, cited the emergence of terror groups like ISIS and others, which he linked to the “practices of the Syrian regime” and the “sectarian policies of some countries,” rather than Saudi and Gulf support for these groups. The sources added, “Saudi Arabia is among the top supporters of terrorist Takfiri groups in Syria, which makes its talk about fighting terrorism lacking in any seriousness.”
The sources then linked the Saudi position to “growing concerns in the ranks of the Saudi leadership over the nuclear negotiations with Iran, and real fear from the possibility of the parties reaching an agreement that would undermine the Saudi leadership’s hopes to step up the siege on Iran.”
The sources ruled out any practical effect of the Saudi position in light of the current balance of power in the international organization, and in light of the responses the Saudi envoy heard regarding his proposal.
Iran’s envoy at the United Nations Gholam Hossein Dehghani had responded to Mouallimi’s call by emphasizing the need to make a distinction between legitimate resistance and terrorism, and the need to support the resistance. He also criticized regional countries for failing to match their words with deeds, and said that few governments in the region have taken the threat seriously, while the rest did not control their borders, did not stop ISIS from recruiting, and did not stop the flow of financial support to these “criminal organizations.”
For his part, Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations Bashar Jaafari accused Saudi Arabia of backing terrorism in the region, denouncing the inconsistencies in its diagnosis of the roots of terrorism. He said that al-Qaeda and its ilk had all grown thanks to Saudi patronage in Afghanistan. Jaafari also said that the carnage in Syria is supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, citing the call by 72 Saudi clerics for people to go for “jihad” in Syria, and wondered whether the Saudi government was serious about fighting terrorism.
A recent poll by the Beirut Center for Research and Information (BCRI) found that two thirds (62.6%) of Lebanese Christians feel that, contrary to its vilification by members of the NATO alliance, Hizbullah has in fact protected their country from its most determined enemies—Israel, IS (known locally as Da‘ash), and Wahhabi-style terrorist groups linked to the Syria-Iraq conflagration.
The poll revealed also that very few of the respondents prefer UNIFIL to Hizbullah on the front line with the terrorist groups, as some domestic and regional actors have insisted. Nor do they believe the claim that the foreign “coalition” presently targeting IS in Iraq and parts of Syria seeks to “destroy” IS, as President Obama and his allies have declared.
As many as 73.1% dismiss this view entirely, which comes in the wake of endless reports in the mainstream media worldwide and growing evidence regarding Saudi, Turkish, Qatari, Israeli and NATO collaboration with anti-Syrian terrorist fronts and organizations.
Although some have interpreted the survey results as indicative of a “significant increase” in favorable attitudes—at least compared to two similar surveys in June 2013 and February 2014—there is no history of enmity between the Christian and Muslims communities, much less with Shi‘i Muslims.
During a visit to France in 2011, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Boutros Rai defended the government of President Bashar al-Assad and criticized states that had begun supplying arms to the terrorists gathering in Syria. Again in 2013, he said, “There is a plan to destroy the Arab world for political and economic interests and boost interconfessional conflict between Sunnis and Shi’ites. Some Western and East powers are fomenting all these conflicts. We are seeing the total destruction of what Christians managed to build in 1,400 years,” referring to peaceful cohabitation and historically productive relationship with Muslims.
“I have written to the Holy Father twice to describe what is happening,“ he had added. “I appeal again to the Holy Father, who only talks about peace and reconciliation.”
Hizbullah, which solidified the resistance against the Israeli occupation of South Lebanon, began largely in the Shi’a community, but then quickly expanded ties with other communities and organizations across the country. Today, it identifies its primary interests with Lebanon and does not claim to act on behalf of Shi’a Muslims only.
Strictly speaking, Lebanon’s woes are not confessional, even if they fed on endless disputes over confessionally based electoral rules and representation.
That a Wahhabi terrorist claims to speak for “Sunnis” does not by itself make for a Sunni-Shi’a divide. Nor does it define the armed conflicts that have erupted since the West began to sponsor a massive armed campaign to destroy the Syrian government and state. Few people know that this sponsorship dates, not from 2011 (when the terrorist onslaught gained traction), but from the early 1990s, after Syria insisted that Israel declare its intention to return the Golan Heights during the ”peace“ negotiations phase, a demand Israel categorically refused at the time.
The “West” (essentially, the United States, United Kingdom and France) has blacklisted Hizbullah as a “terrorist” organization and for years fought hard to pin the Hariri assassination on it, which many now believe Israel carried out, possibly even at Saudi Arabia’s behest, nearly provoking another civil war.
Hizbullah officials have repeatedly warned that a “terrorist” listing is a “big mistake,” one that will further damage the West’s standing in the region. In fact, this is no longer in doubt, given NATO’s current desperate effort to insinuate itself back into Iraq and to intervene for the first time inside Syria itself. NATO now has no choice but to tolerate Iran’s determined assistance to Iraqi military and security forces. This tolerance naturally must now be extended to Syria, where Hizbullah aims to deal decisively with the terror emanating from the Gulf, Turkey and Israel before it overwhelms Lebanon too.
Clearly, the events surrounding the Syria conflict have thrown deep doubts on Western intentions—and competence—in the Middle East. For some time, these doubts have been seeping into Western policymaking circles, diplomatically around the world, and most tellingly, inside the intelligence communities themselves.
Years ago, under a previous government just before Canada put Hizbullah on the terrorism list, Canadian security analysts and some federal cabinet ministers had cautioned against such a blanket interdiction. The former Liberal government’s decision, it had transpired, was based in the ever-quaint Washington Times, which merely quoted a professor claiming that Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah had issued a worldwide call for “a suicide bombing campaign”and “don’t be shy about it.”
The “professor’s” claim happens to be in keeping with the Mickey Mouse warnings that Israel has for years been dishing out to Western countries about the Lebanese resistance. Yet, suicide bombings then, as now, are the Wahhabi terrorists’ choicest method in asymmetric warfare, not Hizbullah’s.
Developments since then have shrunk Canada’s blacklisting of Hizbullah to insignificance as an issue. This is because Canada has lost most of its diplomatic influence thanks to the deeply ideological character and the arrogant style of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Many Canadians have questioned the wisdom of blacklisting a party with elected members in the Lebanese parliament and government cabinet. This year marks a new watershed: few either in Canada or in the West are sure any more which side they are on according to their government.
To the Christians of Lebanon, such hesitation would have been unthinkable for the fatal consequences it entailed for them and their country.
One can only recall with nostalgia Hillary Clinton’s shrill call with the Friends of Syria: “Mr. Putin, you are on the wrong side of history!”
Dr. Anthony F. Shaker is the editor-in-chief and founder of Mittags Journal and visiting scholar at McGill University; his published works and articles are in classical Islamic philosophy and history, as well as modern politics.