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Will the Mediterranean Sea save Lebanon from drowning in debt?

Steven Sahiounie | Mideast Discourse | October 16, 2020

The Lebanese population faces between six to twelve hours of electricity cuts per day, and in some rural areas, there is simply no electricity provided by the government grid. Amid the backdrop of decrepit infrastructure, government corruption, devalued currency, and widespread poverty, Lebanon began talks with Israel concerning their maritime borders in the gas-rich Mediterranean Sea on Wednesday at the UNIFIL headquarters at Naquora.

The UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL has been monitoring the disputed land boundary since Israel’s’ military withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000, ending a 22-year occupation. The two sides met together in the same room but directed their communications through a US mediator.

The US is the mediator between the two countries which remain technically ‘at war while hoping to end a long-running dispute which could eventually see Lebanon producing gas to convert to domestic electricity, as well as a potential revenue producer which could pay off Lebanon’s huge debts. Lebanon’s currency has lost 80 percent of its value against the dollar over the last year, and its debt-to-G.D.P. ratio is one of the world’s highest.

Lebanon and Israel are struggling to deal with high COVID-19 infection rates, while Netanyahu is slipping in the polls due to abuse of power charges, and the Lebanese government is in limbo after being labeled as corrupt and inept, while desperate for cash from foreign donors as it faces the worst economic crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war. The financial collapse was compounded by an explosion at the Port of Beirut in August, killing nearly 200 people.

Israel is already pumping gas from huge offshore fields, and this meeting will allow both sides to proceed further within the safety of an understanding of the maritime borders.

US pressure

The talks follow years of diplomacy by Washington, and the Trump Administration had hoped to use the Naquora meeting as a dramatic media show less than a month after landmark US-sponsored normalization agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain; however, this showy plan was aborted.

The US envoy David Schenker explained that these talks “have nothing to do with the establishment of diplomatic relations or normalization.” However, it was last month that the US turned up the pressure on Lebanon to start the talks with a deadline for the agreement before the US election on November 3, while the second round of talks is scheduled for October 28.

The Naquora meeting

President Michel Aoun is the key person managing the off-shore energy resources portfolio, and he placed a representative from the Lebanese Petroleum Administration (LPA) on the negotiating team as a nod to pressure from Washington who had insisted on civilian presentation, whereas Hezbollah requested only military and technical delegates.

There are four points on the agenda of the Naqoura talks: setting the land reference point from which to depart toward the sea; defining the southern maritime border where the disputed area is located; agreeing on the land border demarcation after the completion of the maritime demarcation, and exchanging documents and handing over copies to the United Nations.

The Lebanese Negotiating team

Brigadier General Bassam Yacine is the lead negotiator, Marine Colonel Mazen Basbous is the head of operations in the Lebanese military, Najib Masihi is a Lebanese American expert in maritime and territorial boundaries, and Wissam Shbat is a board member of LPA and head of its geology and geophysics unit.

 Lebanon’s offshore possibilities

In 2017, Lebanon’s information minister announced the Cabinet had approved licenses for Italy’s Eni, Frances’s Total, and Russia’s Novatek to carry out exploratory drilling off the Lebanese coast in two of Lebanon’s 10 offshore blocks to determine whether oil and gas exist in the area.

Analyst Diana Kaissy, who heads the Lebanese Oil and Gas Initiative think-tank, said it was “impossible to know” the extent of the accessible reserves before exploration operations begin, but she said, “preliminary evaluations” showed the five blocks offered by the government were the “most promising,” with block nine bordering a sector disputed by Israel.

At issue is more than 330 square miles in the Mediterranean that Israel and Lebanon both claim is in their exclusive economic zone. The pressure to resolve the dispute has mounted as Israel and Cyprus have begun exploiting offshore gas.

Lebanon estimates it has 96 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves and 865 million barrels of oil offshore. Israel is aiming to get a percentage of a contested area of 860 square kilometers that Lebanon is claiming.

The 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) stipulates that coastal states have sovereign rights in a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) concerning natural resources; however, the maritime dispute does not fall within the UNIFIL’s current mandate, and Israel is not a party to UNCLOS.

Lebanon reached a maritime border agreement with Cyprus in January 2007. This prompted Beirut, in July and October 2010, to deposit with the United Nations the geographical coordinates of the southern and southwestern maritime borders of that EEZ. Cyprus went ahead and signed an EEZ delimitation accord with Israel in December 2010.

Lebanon and Israel could share in the disputed 860 square kilometers, which covers Lebanon’s offshore gas Blocks 8, 9, and 10. The “Hoff line” proposal gave Lebanon 550 square kilometers, which was rejected as Beirut insists on full rights in this disputed area. Lebanon has refused to join the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum or any other regional mechanism that includes Israel; therefore, it has been more or less isolated in the eastern Mediterranean gas process given the emerging alliance between Israel, Egypt, Cyprus, and Greece.

France’s Total energy company is set to begin gas exploration in Block 9 by the end of the year, while Israel approved in June oil, gas exploration in Block 72, close to Lebanon’s Block 9 where exploration will soon start.

Hezbollah and Amal

Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah in a joint statement with Amal, the country’s other main party of resistance, released hours before the talks were due to start, called for the negotiating team to be revised to include only members of the military.

The Lebanese preconditions included having military and technical delegates, instead of diplomatic delegates, and setting no timeline to reach a deal, to avoid US pressure on the negotiations.

Last month the US placed sanctions on the top aide to Nabih Berri, the leader of Amal, for corruption and financially enabling Hezbollah.

October 16, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

Rare maritime talks do not mean normalization with Israel: Hezbollah

Press TV | October 9, 2020

The Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement says a UN-brokered indirect maritime negotiations with Israel do not signify “reconciliation” or “normalization” with the Zionist entity.

Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc said in a statement on Thursday that the talks have “absolutely nothing to do with either any reconciliation with the Zionist enemy… or policies of normalization recently adopted… by Arab states.”

“Defining the coordinates of national sovereignty is the responsibility of the Lebanese state,” it said in a statement.

Lebanon’s parliament speaker Nabih Berri last week announced the talks would go ahead.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric has recently said Lebanon’s maritime border talks, to be held at the headquarters of the UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL in the southern town of Naqoura, will start around mid-October.

The issue of the sea frontier is especially sensitive as Lebanon hopes to continue exploring for oil and gas in a part of the Mediterranean.

In February 2018, Lebanon signed its first contract for offshore drilling for oil and gas in two blocks in the Mediterranean with a consortium comprising energy giants Total, ENI and Novatek.

Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem on Monday strongly condemned normalization with Israel as a betrayal of the Palestinian cause, emphasizing that Arab rulers scrambling to establish diplomatic ties with the Tel Aviv regime have reaped nothing but humiliation and disgrace.

He underlined that Palestinians are at the vanguard of the resistance front seeking to liberate Jerusalem al-Quds, calling for support for them.

Qassem was reacting to the recent decisions by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to sign contentious US-mediated normalization deals with Israel.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed the deals with UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani during an official ceremony hosted by US President Donald Trump at the White House on September 15.

Palestinians, who seek an independent state in the occupied West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital, view the deals as betrayal of their cause.

Hezbollah is credited with ending two decades of Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000.

Lebanon marks the Resistance and Liberation Day on May 25 each year. In May 2000, the Israeli regime was forced by Hezbollah to withdraw its troops from Lebanon, ending nearly two decades of occupation of the country’s south.

Hezbollah was established following the 1982 Israeli invasion and occupation of southern Lebanon.

Since then, the movement has grown into a powerful military force, dealing repeated blows to the Israeli military, including during a 33-day war in July 2006.

October 9, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Gantz: During Next War with Hezbollah, ‘Israel’ Will Strike Governmental Targets in Lebanon

Al-Manar | October 5, 2020

The Israeli minister of defense, Benny Gantz, threatened to strike governmental targets in Lebanon during any upcoming war with Hezbollah, considering that ‘Israel’ can no longer differentiate between the resistance military posts and the residential buildings which house missiles.

In an online interview with Saudi, Emirati and Bahraini journalists, Gantz said that the normalization deals with the Gulf countries will reinforce the fight against Iran, adding that the best approach to confront Tehran is to exert the heavy pressures and impose tough sanctions on it.

Gantz pointed out that no one can accept the demands of the Palestinians in the context of the ‘peace’ negotiations, adding that the normalization deals would reinforce the Zionist-Palestinian settlement.

October 5, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , , | 2 Comments

Will Lebanon be the next US-NATO humanitarian war?

By Steven Sahiounie | Mideast discourse | October 2, 2020

The waters off Lebanon are the scene of a gathering Armada of French and American naval ships. What appeared at first to be a humanitarian response to the devastating Beirut Port explosion on August 4, is now feared to be the prelude of the next US-NATO humanitarian war.

French President Emmanuel Macron blamed Hezbollah and all of the Lebanese politicians Sunday and warned of a new civil war. I’m ashamed of the Lebanese political leaders. Ashamed,” Macron repeated.

He accused them of “collective betrayal” while putting their parties and personal greed above the needs of the Lebanese people.

Some political observers now believe that Lebanon may well be going the way of Somalia, as evidenced by the characteristics of a failing state, such as lack of governance, corruption and incompetence, chronic humanitarian problems, and persistent social tensions.

Prime minister-designate Moustapha Adib stepped down September 26, and Lebanon’s Central Bank reserves may soon dry up and the government would no longer be able to subsidize basic goods such as fuel, medicine, and wheat.

Macron has been pressing Lebanese politicians to form a Cabinet made up of technocrats that can work on urgent reforms, and Macron has traveled twice to Beirut since August 4, while making it a personal mission to try to repair the devastated country, which some see as a neo-colonial farce.

Macron criticized the Lebanese system of sectarian politics, “as if competence was linked to religious confession.”

He lambasted Hezbollah demanding to know its characteristics and identity, and he criticized Lebanese political leaders from all parties and dynasties. Each Lebanese faction has found a foreign godfather and has ended up as a pawn in a regional and international chess game. Tens of billions of dollars have reportedly been looted by politicians and deposited in European and American banks.

US-NATO Humanitarian wars

In 1999 NATO updated its ‘Strategic Concept to allow members to defend not only other members but also conduct ‘non-Article 5 Response Operations’. It would be under this mechanism that a US-NATO military operation, along with an Arab Gulf coalition, would be used to attack, invade and defeat Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Since 2002, it was agreed that NATO forces could be sent “wherever they are needed,” regardless of the location, and in 2006 the NATO Response Force (NRF) of 25,000 troops has been fully operational.

US President Bill Clinton and NATO waged the humanitarian war on the former Yugoslavia, which broke a larger nation into ‘bite-sized’ pieces.

Critics of the US-NATO bombing of Yugoslavia have argued that certain attacks forming part of the campaign violated international humanitarian law. Noam Chomsky argued that the main objective of the US-NATO war was to force Yugoslavia into the Western economic system since it was the only country in the region that stood alone in defiance of the US world domination.

Hezbollah targeted by US-NATO war machine

Hezbollah’s prominence in the Lebanese government caused foreign donors and investors to stay away, because of US sanctions targeted on anyone with ties to the group, based on their designation as a terrorist group.

Hezbollah’s leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, said on Tuesday, “We welcomed President Macron when he visited Lebanon and we welcomed the French initiative, but not for him to be judge, jury and executioner, and ruler of Lebanon.”

Nasrallah has headed the group since 1992 as Secretary-General; however, its military wing is considered as a terrorist organization in 21 countries, as well as by the Arab League and the European Union.

Hezbollah’s 1985 manifesto listed its objectives as the expulsion of “the Americans, the French and their allies definitely from Lebanon, putting an end to any colonialist entity on our land”.

In 2008, the Lebanese government unanimously recognized Hezbollah’s existence as an armed organization and guarantees its right to “liberate or recover occupied lands”.

Hezbollah is an armed resistance group, as well as a political party that has seats in Parliament through free and fair elections.  Their ally in Parliament is the ‘Amal Movement, and together they hold the majority of Parliamentary seats. In a democracy, the majority rules and this is why recently Hezbollah and Amal insisted on choosing the Finance minister, which became a conflict point in the view of Macron.

Hezbollah is resisting the Israeli occupation of Shebaa Farms, an area in the far south of Lebanon. Moreover, Hezbollah also is resisting the Israeli occupation of Palestine.  At one time, all of the Arab world demanded the rights for the Palestinian people, who have lived under brutal military occupation since 1948, and the UN has ratified resolutions calling for a 2-state solution, where Palestine would be given the land of the 1967 borders, and both Israel and Palestine would live side by side in peace.

In 2017, Ron Prosor, former Israeli ambassador to the UN said Hezbollah was then “10 times as strong now as it was in 2006, and its military infrastructure permeates Lebanon.” He added that Lebanese President Michel Aoun has also “embraced” Hezbollah’s arsenal as “a principal element of Lebanon’s defense.”

Many critics tried to blame Hezbollah for the Beirut Port blast on August 4, but the Lebanese officials and locals admitted that Hezbollah had no access to the Port, or authority over it.  Even officials known to be antagonistic of Hezbollah admitted that the blame would not plausibly stick on Hezbollah. The exact cause is not known, but it may have been an accident borne of corruption and ineptitude, or it could be sabotage, according to President Michel Aoun. MP Machnouck, member of the Sunni-led ‘Future Party’ stated he was convinced Israel was responsible.

The elimination of Hezbollah is Israel’s top priority

A former director of Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau, Brig. Gen. Nitzan Nuriel, said that another war between Israel and Hezbollah was “only a question of time.”

Hezbollah is the only force that Israel has faced that has caused the Israeli Defense Forces to retreat without success. Defeating Hezbollah is a top Israeli priority.

Under the Obama Administration’s Middle Eastern policy, Iran became a negotiations partner, while pressuring Israel to conclude a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu recently gave a virtual speech to the UN Security Council, in which he displayed a detailed map of Beirut, and he predicted the location of where a future explosion would occur, and he blamed Hezbollah for having a weapons factory and warehouse at the location, which was a residential area.  During the Netanyahu speech, Nasrallah was also giving a live televised speech in Lebanon and was told what Netanyahu had claimed.  He immediately invited all media to go to the location that Netanyahu portrayed in his map, and inspect for themselves if there were any weapons or warehouse present.  Later, the media arrived, and live local TV coverage showed that in fact, the location was a cooking gas canister factory. This confirmed the Israeli accusation was false and led experts to assume a direct connection between the Port blast, and the Israeli proposed blast in Netanyahu’s map.

The Israeli occupation of Lebanon 

Israel occupied the south of Lebanon for 23 years, during which men, women, and children were imprisoned in Khiam Prison, where they were routinely tortured, abused and many died. Hezbollah aligned with many other Lebanese resistance groups, who resisted the occupation vociferously until Israel gave up and left in 2000. The south of Lebanon is populated by both Shite Muslims and Christians. The steadfastness of Hezbollah is remembered by those Lebanese citizens. However, the North of Lebanon was never occupied and lived free of fear, oppression, and intimidation which may have influenced many Lebanese citizens to either support or reject Hezbollah. As they say, “Your view depends on where your seat is.”

Using ISIS as ground troops by US-NATO

Recently, the Lebanese Army fought fierce battles against Radical Islamic terrorists near Tripoli in the north, in the area of Wadi Khalid.

In 2016, Efraim Inbar, an Israeli scholar, and the director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies wrote, “The continuing existence of ISIS serves a strategic purpose,” and added that ISIS “can be a useful tool in undermining” Iran, Hezbollah, Syria, and Russia and should not be defeated. He wrote, “Stability is not a value in and of itself. It is desirable only if it serves our interests,” and stressed that the West’s “main enemy” is not ISIS; it is Iran.

Saudi Arabia part of the Coalition against Hezbollah

The King of Saudi Arabia rarely gives speeches; however, he made a televised speech in which he accused Hezbollah of the Beirut Port blast, apparently unaware that that accusation has been debunked. This is the same King who summoned Prime Minister Saad Hariri from Lebanon to be kidnapped and forced to resign in Saudi Arabia. It was President Macron who personally negotiated Hariri’s freedom.

It appears that Saudi Arabia will be among the first Arab countries to send support for a US-NATO attack on Lebanon to eliminate Hezbollah.

Steven Sahiounie is an award-winning journalist and political commentator.

October 4, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hezbollah Media Refutes Netanyahu’s Claims about Missile Depot, Opens Site Shortly after His Remarks

Al-Manar | September 29, 2020

Hezbollah Media Relations Department has issued a statement in which it invited media outlets to inspect the Beirut site falsely claimed by Zionist PM Benjamin Netanyahu as a missile Depot.

A large number of cameramen and reporters gathered near the alleged site around two hours after Netanyahu’s remarks in the context of the step organized by Hezbollah to refute the Zionist claims in light of the critical political conditions in Lebanon.

Head of Hezbollah Media Relations Department, Hajj Mohammad Afif, stressed that today’s tour aims at proving that Netanyahu’s story is wrong, adding that the Resistance is not concerned with exposing every site claimed by the Zionist enemy as a missile depot.

Netanyahu had alleged that Hezbollah stores missiles at a depot in a residential area in Jinah, adding that it lies near a gas facility and that its explosion will be similar to that of Beirut port.

The Israeli intelligence command has prepared a plan to provoke the Lebanese against Hezbollah by weaponry by unveiling maps of its locations in Lebanon and launching a propaganda that promotes its threat in light of the Beirut Port explosion, Al-Manar English Website reported on August 25, 2020.

Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah announced the invitation during his televised speech, highlighting that it would be shortly after Netanyahu’s remarks so that the inspection will be very credible.

The following video shows the iron factory full of the media reporters shortly after Netanyahu’s remarks… continue to Al-Manar for video tour

September 29, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | 1 Comment

Lebanon hits back at Israel, defends Hezbollah at UN Human Rights Council session

Press TV | September 29, 2020

Beirut has strongly reacted to the Israeli envoy’s interventionist remarks against Hezbollah at a UN Human Rights Council session, describing the resistance movement as an “inseparable part” of Lebanon and slamming the regime’s history of rights violations in Lebanon and other Arab states.

The Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants issued a statement on Monday in condemnation of the comments by Merav Marks, the legal counselor to the Israeli mission to the UN and international organizations in Geneva, who had attacked the Hezbollah resistance movement for its role in Lebanon during a general debate at the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council.

The Israeli envoy accused the UN Human Rights Council of not dealing with what she called Hezbollah’s efforts to hamper the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and attempts to manipulate the Lebanese government.

In its statement, the ministry said Lebanon’s Permanent Mission to the UN and other International Organizations in Geneva exercised its “right to respond to the Israeli enemy’s envoy, as has been the case whenever there is an attack on Lebanon and its right to resistance.”

The ministry then described Israel as “an occupation force armed with sophisticated weapons and in possession of a nuclear arsenal, with which it threatens its neighbors.”

Israel” has a history of flagrant human rights violations and international crimes in Lebanon and in other Arab lands that it has occupied. The international community should one day fulfill its duty to prosecute the perpetrators… Today we are marking the 38th anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, one of the ugliest crimes against humanity in modern history,” the statement pointed out.

“Lebanon stresses its right to resistance to liberate its land and defend its sovereignty,” the ministry said, underlining that Hezbollah resistance movement is “an inseparable part” of Lebanon.

The ministry also lashed out at the Israeli envoy over her remarks regarding last month’s deadly Beirut port explosion, which killed some 200 people, wounded thousands more and ravaged buildings in surrounding residential neighborhoods.

The Israeli envoy had tried to link Hezbollah to the blast, claiming the movement was putting the interests of Iran before that of its own nation, and that the explosion “is a clear demonstration of that.”

The Lebanese Foreign Ministry said in response that “the Occupation (Israeli) force has sought to put itself in the position of the Lebanese judicial authority in the issue of the port blast, in which investigations have not yet been completed.”

“The hypothesis of a foreign plot should not be ruled out, and in this case, this (Israeli) force will be the main suspect,” it added.

The explosion has been followed by other upheavals in the country, including thousands-strong rallies and the resignation of the entire government of former prime minister Hasan Diab.

Hezbollah has called for accountability for the explosion, while strongly urging countrywide unity and integrity.

Wary of Hezbollah’s power in defending Lebanon, the Israeli regime and its allies have been doing all in their power — from sanctions to targeted killings — to undermine the movement’s political and military influence in the Arab country.

The regime has, in recent months, stepped up its violations of Lebanese airspace in spying missions on southern Lebanon, where Hezbollah is mainly based, drawing condemnations from Beirut, Hezbollah and the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

The resistance movement was established following the 1982 Israeli invasion and occupation of southern Lebanon. Since then, the movement has grown into a powerful military force, dealing repeated blows to the Israeli military, including during a 33-day war in July 2006.

September 29, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , | 10 Comments

Lebanese PM-designate steps down amid political turmoil

Press TV – September 26, 2020

Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib has announced his resignation amid a deadlock over government formation in the crisis-hit country.

In a televised address on Saturday, Adib said he was stepping down from “the task of forming the government” following a meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun.

He also noted that the kind of cabinet that he wanted to establish “was bound to fail” and that he was keen on protecting national unity.

“I apologize to the Lebanese people,” he added.

The announcement came almost a month after Adib, former Lebanese ambassador to Berlin, was appointed by the president to form a new government.

Lebanon is currently mired in the country’s worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history.

It has been waiting for a new administration since outgoing Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned on August 10, a few days after a powerful explosion in the capital killed more than nearly 200 people, injured thousands and caused losses worth billions of dollars.

The blast took place in Beirut port warehouses storing highly explosive material, specifically ammonium nitrate, commonly used in both fertilizer and bombs.

The explosion — one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions the world has ever seen — flattened much of the strategic port and left buildings in ruin.

Following the blast, the US and European countries have been mounting pressure on Lebanese officials to form a government that secures the West’s interests.

The United States on September 8 slapped sanctions on two former cabinet ministers in Lebanon over support for Hezbollah as it vowed to isolate the resistance movement.

French President Emmanuel Macron paid two visits to Lebanon, where he called for a “new political pact” among Lebanese political factions and said he had proposed a roadmap to authorities to unlock billions of dollars in funds from the international community.

In a meeting with Aoun, Macron threatened Lebanese leaders with sanctions if they do not submit to reforms and a “political change,” Lebanon’s Arabic-language al-Mayadeen television news network reported.

The French president’s colonial-style sojourn sparked a swift backlash among the Lebanese nation.

Many Twitter users denounced what they deemed as interference in the internal affairs of Lebanon, which gained independence from the French colonial rule more than seven decades ago.

September 26, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , | 1 Comment

A Peace Deal Like No Other

Much ado about nothing, but Act 2 is coming up

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • September 22, 2020

It is odd that the White House is gloating over its claimed peace agreement in the Middle East at the same time as one of the signatories is bombing Syria, Lebanon and Gaza. It all suggests that peace in the region will exclude designated enemies and the friends of those enemies, since the ties among the three parties – Israel, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain – is transparently in part an offensive alliance directed against Iran and its friends, to include Syria and Lebanon. A significant amount of the horse trading that preceded the gala signing ceremony in the White House involved who would get what advanced American weapons down the road. The UAE wants F-35 fighter bombers while Israel is already asking for $8 billion for more top-level weapons from the U.S. taxpayer to maintain its “qualitative edge” over its new found friends.

For the more sagacious readers who chose to ignore what took place, a short recap is in order. Last Tuesday President Trump hosted a White House signing ceremony during which Israel established formal ties with the two Arab states. The agreement was dubbed the Abraham Accord because it purports to build on the foundation provided by the fraternity, as one might put it, of the three Abrahamic religions, namely Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. More specifically, it created the mechanism for diplomatic, economic, and cultural ties between Israel and the two Arab countries. It should be observed that both the UAE and Bahrain are close to being client states of the U.S. Bahrain is in fact the home port of the U.S. Fifth Fleet that operates in the region and it also hosts headquarters of the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT). Both countries have long had de facto semi-secret relations with Israel on security issues and Israelis have been able to travel to them as long as they do not do so on an Israeli passport. And they both also know that the road to improving already good relations with Washington passes through Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally attended the ceremony, together with the foreign ministers of the UAE and Bahrain. Trump enthused “We’re here this afternoon to change the course of history” and presented a replica gold key to the White House to Netanyahu. It is not known if the two Arab ministers received anything beyond a “don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.”

The president observed that the two Arab nations were the third and fourth to normalize relations with Israel, following on Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994, and predicted that five more Arab countries might soon also recognize Israel. Oman and Qatar, which hosts the major U.S. airbase at Al-Udeid, are likely to be next in line as both have close ties to the United States and have never exhibited much hardline anti-Israeli fervor. The claim made before the signing, that Israel would stand down on its plan to annex much of the Palestinian West Bank as a quid pro quo for the agreement was not discussed at all, nor was it part of the document. It is generally believed that Israel will wait until after the U.S. election to make its move.

The Palestinians, who have been on the receiving end of Israeli nation-building were not invited. There were some demonstrations by Palestinians in Gaza and Ramallah denouncing the signing as it took place, together with chanting that “Palestine isn’t for sale.” Indeed, Palestinians are more-or-less invisible in Washington, having had their representational office closed by Trump in 2018 after he had been shown a fabricated video by Netanyahu in which Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas appeared to be calling for the murder of children. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also viewed the video and informed the president that it was an obvious fabrication, but Trump was convinced by it.

The U.S. media, always inclined to applaud anything that advances Israeli interests, registered its approval of the agreement. And there were calls for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Trump for his miraculous achievement, not as ridiculous as it sounds as it is at least as well deserved as the one that was given to Barack Obama. Trump the peacemaker has a nice ring to it, and it quite possibly would pay off for the president in terms of votes and political contributions. Indeed, if one looks at the White House ceremony dyspeptically, it becomes clear that the whole event was staged for political purposes to advance GOP interests in the upcoming election. If it changes anything on the ground at all it actually worsens the chances for peace in the region. The UAE and Bahrain are now locked into a unified effort to oppose Iran by military force if necessary, with open support from Israel plus covert aid from Saudi Arabia as well as the full backing of the United States.

One might reasonably argue that the agreement was a win for Israel, the UAE and Bahrain, as they have succeeded in obliging the U.S. to support their own regional security interests for the foreseeable future. The media, defense contractors and politicians bought and paid for by Israel will be able to assert that the U.S. must retain significant forces in the region to defend Israel and friendly Arab states against the largely fictitious “Iranian menace.” It is unfortunately a major setback for United States efforts to limit its exposure to any and all political developments in an increasingly unstable Middle East. If the White House had really wanted to disengage from the quagmire that it has found itself in, it was an odd way to go about it.

And the Palestinians are left with nowhere to go, the presumption being that with lessening Arab support they will be reduced to begging Israel (and the U.S.) for a deal that will reduce them to the status of helots. That conclusion just might make them desperate and could trigger a new and even more bloody intifada.

The downside of the agreement is already beginning to play out as the United States is preparing to unilaterally impose sanctions on Iran that will include possible seizure of Iranian ships in international waters, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also warned Russia and China against trying to sell weapons to Tehran. One might well ask, how exactly does Pompeo propose to do that? Will he shoot down Russian transport planes or sink Chinese and Russian flagged ships? How does one go from being crazy to being batshit crazy, and what about all those Americans and others who would prefer not to be on the receiving end of a nuclear exchange?

Trita Parsi, who follows the situation in the Middle East closely, has suggested that Pompeo might even be planning an October Surprise, which might amount to some kind of provocation or even a false flag operation that would result in open conflict with Iran with the U.S. arguing that the fighting is both lawful and defensive in nature.

Such a suggestion might be considered insanity, but there are signs that the U.S. is heightening its delegitimization campaign against Iran. Unconfirmable allegations from anonymous U.S. government sources are surfacing about an alleged Iranian plot to kill the U.S. Ambassador in South Africa. And, as of Saturday, Washington is now implementing its new sanctions regime and there is a distinct possibility that an Iranian vessel in the Persian Gulf might be seized, forcing Iran to respond. The U.S. Navy has already intercepted four Greek flagged tankers in the Atlantic Ocean on their way to Venezuela, claiming they were carrying Iranian petroleum products, which were then confiscated. Given the demonstrated propensity to use armed force, anything is possible. The thinking in the White House might be that a containable war against a recognized enemy might be just the ticket to win in November. Of course, once the fighting starts it might not work out that way.

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation (Federal ID Number #52-1739023) that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is https://councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is inform@cnionline.org.

September 22, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Sabra & Shatila Massacre

IMEU | September 17, 2012

On September 16, 1982, Christian Lebanese militiamen allied to Israel entered the Palestinian refugee camp of Shatila and the adjacent neighborhood of Sabra in Beirut under the watch of the Israeli army and began a slaughter that caused outrage around the world. Over the next day and a half, up to 3500 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians, mostly women, children, and the elderly, were murdered in one of the worst atrocities in modern Middle Eastern history. The New York Times recently published an op-ed containing new details of discussions held between Israeli and American officials before and during the massacre. They reveal how Israeli officials, led by then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, misled and bullied American diplomats, rebuffing their concerns about the safety of the inhabitants of Sabra and Shatila.

Lead Up

  • On June 6, 1982, Israel launched a massive invasion of Lebanon. It had been long planned by Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, who wanted to destroy or severely diminish the Palestine Liberation Organization, which was based in Lebanon at the time. Sharon also planned to install a puppet government headed by Israel’s right-wing Lebanese Christian Maronite allies, the Phalangist Party.
  • Israeli forces advanced all the way to the capital of Beirut, besieging and bombarding the western part of city, where the PLO was headquartered and the Palestinian refugee camp of Shatila and the adjacent neighborhood of Sabra are located.
  • Israel’s bloody weeklong assault on West Beirut in August prompted harsh international criticism, including from the administration of US President Ronald Reagan, who many accused of giving a “green light” to Israel to launch the invasion. Under a US-brokered ceasefire agreement, PLO leaders and more than 14,000 fighters were to be evacuated from the country, with the US providing written assurances for the safety of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians left behind. US Marines were deployed as part of a multinational force to oversee and provide security for the evacuation.
  • On August 30, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat left Beirut along with the remainder of the Palestinian fighters based in the city.
  • On September 10, the Marines left Beirut. Four days later, on September 14, the leader of Israel’s Phalangist allies, Bashir Gemayel, was assassinated. Gemayel had just been elected president of Lebanon by the Lebanese parliament, under the supervision of the occupying Israeli army. His death was a severe blow to Israel’s designs for the country. The following day, Israeli forces violated the ceasefire agreement, moving into and occupying West Beirut.

The Massacre 

  • On Wednesday, September 15, the Israeli army surrounded the Palestinian refugee camp of Shatila and the adjacent neighborhood of Sabra in West Beirut. The next day, September 16, Israeli soldiers allowed about 150 Phalangist militiamen into Sabra and Shatila.
  • The Phalange, known for their brutality and a history of atrocities against Palestinian civilians, were bitter enemies of the PLO and its leftist and Muslim Lebanese allies during the preceding years of Lebanon’s civil war. The enraged Phalangist militiamen believed, erroneously, that Phalange leader Gemayel had been assassinated by Palestinians. He was actually killed by a Syrian agent.
  • Over the next day and a half, the Phalangists committed unspeakable atrocities, raping, mutilating, and murdering as many as 3500 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians, most of them women, children, and the elderly. Sharon would later claim that he could have had no way of knowing that the Phalange would harm civilians, however when US diplomats demanded to know why Israel had broken the ceasefire and entered West Beirut, Israeli army Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan justified the move saying it was “to prevent a Phalangist frenzy of revenge.” On September 15, the day before the massacre began, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin told US envoy Morris Draper that the Israelis had to occupy West Beirut, “Otherwise, there could be pogroms.”
  • Almost immediately after the killing started, Israeli soldiers surrounding Sabra and Shatila became aware that civilians were being murdered, but did nothing to stop it. Instead, Israeli forces fired flares into the night sky to illuminate the darkness for the Phalangists, allowed reinforcements to enter the area on the second day of the massacre, and provided bulldozers that were used to dispose of the bodies of many of the victims.
  • On the second day, Friday, September 17, an Israeli journalist in Lebanon called Defense Minister Sharon to inform him of reports that a massacre was taking place in Sabra and Shatila. The journalist, Ron Ben-Yishai, later recalled:

    ‘I found [Sharon] at home sleeping. He woke up and I told him “Listen, there are stories about killings and massacres in the camps. A lot of our officers know about it and tell me about it, and if they know it, the whole world will know about it. You can still stop it.” I didn’t know that the massacre actually started 24 hours earlier. I thought it started only then and I said to him “Look, we still have time to stop it. Do something about it.” He didn’t react.”‘

  • On Friday afternoon, almost 24 hours after the killing began, Eitan met with Phalangist representatives. According to notes taken by an Israeli intelligence officer present: “[Eitan] expressed his positive impression received from the statement by the Phalangist forces and their behavior in the field,” telling them to continue “mopping up the empty camps south of Fakahani until tomorrow at 5:00 a.m., at which time they must stop their action due to American pressure.”
  • On Saturday, American Envoy Morris Draper, sent a furious message to Sharon stating:

    ‘You must stop the massacres. They are obscene. I have an officer in the camp counting the bodies. You ought to be ashamed. The situation is rotten and terrible. They are killing children. You are in absolute control of the area, and therefore responsible for the area.’

  • The Phalangists finally left the area at around 8 o’clock Saturday morning, taking many of the surviving men with them for interrogation at a soccer stadium. The interrogations were carried out with Israeli intelligence agents, who handed many of the captives back to the Phalange. Some of the men returned to the Phalange were later found executed.
  • About an hour after the Phalangists departed Sabra and Shatila, the first journalists arrived on the scene and the first reports of what transpired began to reach the outside world.

Casualty Figures

  • Thirty years later, there is still no accurate total for the number of people killed in the massacre. Many of the victims were buried in mass graves by the Phalange and there has been no political will on the part of Lebanese authorities to investigate.
  • An official Israeli investigation, the Kahan Commission, concluded that between 700 and 800 people were killed, based on the assessment of Israeli military intelligence.
  • An investigation by Beirut-based British journalist Robert Fisk, who was one of the first people on the scene after the massacre ended, concluded that The Palestinian Red Crescent put the number of dead at more than 2000.
  • In his book, Sabra & Shatila: Inquiry into a Massacre, Israeli journalist Amnon Kapeliouk reached a maximum figure of 3000 to 3500.

Aftermath

Israel

  • Following international outrage, the Israeli government established a committee of inquiry, the Kahan Commission. Its investigation found that Defense Minister Sharon bore “personal responsibility” for the massacre, and recommended that he be removed from office. Although Prime Minister Begin removed him from his post as defense minister, Sharon remained in cabinet as a minister without portfolio. He would go on to hold numerous other cabinet positions in subsequent Israeli governments, including foreign minister during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s first term in office. Nearly 20 years later, in March 2001, Sharon was elected prime minister of Israel.
  • In June 2001, lawyers for 23 survivors of the massacre initiated legal proceedings against Sharon in a Belgian court, under a law allowing people to be prosecuted for war crimes committed anywhere in the world.
  • In January 2002, Phalangist leader and chief liaison to Israel during the 1982 invasion, Elie Hobeika, was killed by a car bomb in Beirut. Hobeika led the Phalangist militiamen responsible for the massacre, and had announced that he was prepared to testify against Sharon, who was then prime minister of Israel, at a possible war crimes trial in Belgium. Hobeika’s killers were never found.
  • In June 2002, a panel of Belgian judges dismissed war crimes charges against Sharon because he wasn’t present in the country to stand trial.
  • In January 2006, Sharon suffered a massive stroke. He remains in a coma on life support.

The United States

  • For the United States, which had guaranteed the safety of civilians left behind after the PLO departed, the massacre was a deep embarrassment, causing immense damage to its reputation in the region. The fact that US Secretary of State Alexander Haig was believed by many to have given Israel a “green light” to invade Lebanon compounded the damage.
  • In the wake of the massacre, President Reagan sent the Marines back to Lebanon. Just over a year later, 241 American servicemen would be killed when two massive truck bombs destroyed their barracks in Beirut, leading Reagan to withdraw US forces for good.

The Palestinians

  • For Palestinians, the Sabra and Shatila massacre was and remains a traumatic event, commemorated annually. Many survivors continue to live in Sabra and Shatila, struggling to eke out a living and haunted by their memories of the slaughter. To this day, no one has faced justice for the crimes that took place.
  • For Palestinians, the Sabra and Shatila massacre serves as a powerful and tragic reminder of the vulnerable situation of millions of stateless Palestinians, and the dangers that they continue to face across the region, and around the world.

September 14, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

US ‘Pressing’ Lebanon to Sign Unfavourable Deal With Israel, Analysts Suggest

Sputnik – 11.09.2020

A number of Lebanese politicians expressed concern that the United States is pressuring Lebanon, pushing it to sign a border demarcation agreement that would jeopardise Beirut’s plans to develop gas fields on the Mediterranean shelf.

Sputnik spoke to Lebanese experts to find out whether Israel and the United States are thus trying to take advantage of Lebanon’s current economic and political weakness and force it to agree to all the conditions which are favourable to them, as well as whether Lebanon will be able to resist them.

According to US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker, the maritime border demarcation negotiations between Beirut and Tel Aviv are gradually advancing.

“I hope I will soon come back to Lebanon to sign a framework agreement with Israel,” he said during a telephone press conference with Lebanese journalists.

Schenker refused to talk about the existing obstacles to signing the agreement and the disagreements between the parties.

US Pressure

In turn, Lebanese political scientist Osama Wahby sees direct US pressure on extremely weak Lebanese political elites, which complicates the internal crisis with external issues.

“I’d like to point out that absolutely everyone is pressuring Lebanese politicians for any reason today: government formation, Beirut restoration, receiving money from the IMF and, of course, maritime border demarcation with Israel. While France is pressing Lebanon to solve domestic policy issues, the US is pressing to solve foreign affairs. They are interested in border demarcation and find it interesting for Israel. Undoubtedly, Washington will promise the government financial assistance in exchange for a good deal: they understand very well that Lebanon has no funds to rebuild Beirut after the explosion. There is a danger that Beirut will not receive any international assistance until it concedes to American and Israeli interests,” he said.

“Washington is pressuring individual movements and parties through sanctions. For example, two ministers of the current government have been sanctioned. And this is one of the key indicators of how much the United States expects Lebanon to do what it needs,” he added, speaking about US pressure on Lebanese politicians.

The Streets are Against?

However, Lebanese political scientist Riyad Isa believes that if the government is engaged in such negotiations, the Lebanese public will strongly oppose a framework agreement with Israel, and won’t allow it to be adopted.

“It’s surprising that the United States is speaking of some kind of negotiations between Israel and Lebanon, while Beirut is negotiating border demarcation exclusively with Washington. Such details will face serious consequences in Lebanon. It’s important to understand that the public doesn’t trust the current government and its actions. If they really do sign any kind of agreement with Israel, people will take to the streets. No one will recognise it [the agreement] as valid,” he said.

According to the expert, the US is ready to take advantage of any Lebanese weakness to fulfil its own desires and interests in the region. Nobody will wonder about Lebanon’s interests. If the country were in a better position, it could show some resistance, but not now.

Lebanon rejects Israeli claims to offshore block 9 in the Mediterranean, which is believed to have large hydrocarbon reserves. It is a plot of 856 sq. km, which each party considers a part of its exclusive economic zone. Beirut also shows its discontent with the land border line at 13 points, including the port of Naqoura and Adaisseh, where the Israelis have built a barrier.

September 11, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | Leave a comment

US Fails to Control Lebanon Because Hezbollah, Amal ‘Represent the Majority’ – Journalist

Sputnik – 10.09.2020

While US officials claim that their recent sanctioning of former Lebanese government ministers was designed to expose the corruption of the country’s politicians, one expert tells Sputnik that Washington’s recent action is nothing more than a continuation of a longstanding, but unsuccessful, Western campaign to control Lebanon.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenke declared on Tuesday that political allies of Hezbollah will have to “choose between bullets and ballots,” as they stand to be held “accountable for any enabling of [Hezbollah’s] terrorist and illicit activities,” Arab News reported.

This came amid the two-day Lebanon leg of Schenke’s tour of the Middle East, which also included stops in Qatar and Kuwait.

That same day, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned former Lebanese Minister of Transportation and Public Works Yusuf Finyanus and former Lebanese Minister of Finance Ali Hassan Khalil, who Washington claims “provided material support to [Hezbollah] and engaged in corruption.”

Laith Marouf, an award-winning multimedia producer as well as a media policy and law consultant with the Community Media Advocacy Center, joined Radio Sputnik’s By Any Means Necessary on Wednesday and told hosts Sean Blackmon and Jacquie Luqman that what is occurring right now is a continuation of “twenty-some” years of attempts by Washington and “imperial forces” to control Lebanon’s government.

Marouf explained that Khalil is a member of the Amal Movement, which is “allied with Hezbollah,” and Finyanus is aligned with the Christian Marada party of Suleiman Frangieh. These parties are “allied with the sovereigntist movements in Lebanon,” which virtually means they “represent the majority of the [country’s] population.”

Because of this, he asserted, the US’ attempts to gain control have been unsuccessful. “The majority of the Lebanese have lived [through] the crises,” he said, referring to a “cycle” of Western military aggression and sanctions that has occurred in the years following the Lebanese Civil War.

“There’s not going to be a change in the population demographics without a major, major war,” he argued.

September 10, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , | 1 Comment

Macron threatens Lebanon with sanctions unless Beirut brings about ‘real change’ in three months

RT | September 1, 2020

Paris will slap Lebanese elites with sanctions and could even withhold crucial financial aid if Beirut fails to implement reforms, the French president has warned.

The upcoming months would be “fundamental” for what he described as “real change,” Macron told Politico as he was heading to Beirut for a second visit in a month. Should he be not satisfied with the reforms made within the set period of time, punitive measures will follow, he added.

The list of such measures ranges from personal sanctions against members of the Lebanese political elite, to blocking an international financial bailout – vital for a country gripped by a prolonged economic and political crisis, and struggling with the aftermath of the recent major explosion in the capital.

During Macron’s previous visit in early August in the wake of the devastating blast which killed almost 200 people, the French president called for a new, interim government, as well as for an audit of the nation’s central bank and parliamentary elections within a year. Now, he says he wants “credible commitments” from the Lebanese political parties that they will stick to the plan – including a timetable for holding the legislative vote within “six to 12 months.”

The horrific blast aggravated existing problems and provoked violent anti-government demonstrations, forcing Prime Minister Hassan Diab to dissolve the cabinet in early August. A new government has however been slow to emerge, prompting President Macron to intrude on the affairs of the former French protectorate.

Macron stated he is not known for being soft and is not going to back down in Lebanon but is still wary of using what he calls France’s full force and locking horns with Hezbollah. The French president meanwhile blamed Lebanese protesters for the failure to produce a leader powerful enough to bring the country’s political elites under control.

“A name works if the street knows how to produce a leader who leads the revolution, and breaks the system. It didn’t work, at least not today, maybe tomorrow or after tomorrow it will,” he said, commenting on public discontent over the choice of a new prime minister.

Diplomat Mustapha Adib was agreed as the new head of the government just hours before Macron’s arrival in Beirut. However, his candidacy apparently did not sit well with at least some members of the public and Macron was at some point met by a crowd chanting “Adib won’t do!” and “We want Nawaf Salam!”

Salam – a judge with the International Court of Justice – lacks support among the political elites of Lebanon and would hardly be able to fulfil his role as a head of government, Macron said while also explaining that it was not him, who chose Adib and it was not his job “to interfere or approve.”

September 1, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 2 Comments