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Is the Middle East Beginning a Self-Correction?

By Alastair Crooke | Strategic Culture Foundation | November 18, 2019

“Two years, three years, five years’ maximum from now, you will not recognize the same Middle East”, says the former Egyptian FM, Arab League Secretary General and Presidential Candidate, Amr Moussa, in an interview with Al-Monitor.

Mousa made some unexpected points, beyond warning of major change ahead (“the thing now is that the simple Arab man follows everything” – all the events). And in reference to the protests in Iraq, Moussa says that Iraq is in “a preparatory stage for them to choose their way as Iraqis — emphasizing that “the discord between Sunni and Shia is about to fade away.”

The present regional turbulence, he suggests, is [essentially] a reaction to the US playing the sectarian card – manipulating “the issues of sect and religion, et cetera, was not only a dangerous, but a sinister kind of policy”. He added however, “I don’t say that it will happen tomorrow, but [the discord between Sunnis and the Shi’a fading away], will certainly happen in the foreseeable future, which will reflect on Lebanon too.”

What we are witnessing in Iraq and Lebanon, he adds, “are these things correcting themselves. It will take time, but they will correct themselves. Iraq is a big country in the region, no less than Iran, no less than Turkey. Iraq is a country to reckon with. I don’t know whether this was the reason why it had to be destroyed. Could be. But there are forces in Iraq that are being rebuilt … Iraq will come back. And this phase – what we see today, perhaps this is the — what can I say? A preparatory stage?”

Of course, these comments – coming from a leading Establishment Sunni figure – will appear stunningly counter-intuitive to those living outside the region, where the MSM narrative – from Colombia to Gulf States – is that the current protests are sectarian, and directed predominantly at Hizbullah and Iran. Certainly there is a thread of iconoclasm to this global ‘Age of Anger’, targeting all leaderships, everywhere. In these tempestuous times, of course, the world reads into events what it hopes and expects to see. Moussa calls such sectarian ‘framing’ both dangerous and “sinister”.

But look rather, at the core issue on which practically all Lebanese demonstrators concur: It is that the cast-iron sectarian ‘cage’ (decreed initially by France, and subsequently ‘corrected’ by Saudi Arabia at Taif, to shift economic power into the hands of the Sunnis), is the root cause to the institutionalised, semi-hereditary corruption and mal-governance that has infected Lebanon.

Is this not precisely articulated in the demand for a ‘technocratic government’ – that is to say in the demand for the ousting of all these hereditary sectarian Zaim in a non-sectarian articulation of national interests. Of course, being Lebanon, one tribe will always be keener for one, rather than another, sectarian leader to be cast as villain to the piece. The reality is, however, that technocratic government exactly is a break from Taif – even if the next PM is nominally Sunni (but yet not partisan Sunni)?

And just for clarity’s sake: An end to the compartmentalised sectarian constitution is in Hizbullah’s interest. The Shi’i – the largest minority in Lebanon – were always given the smallest slice of the national cake, under the sectarian divide.

What is driving this sudden focus on ‘the flawed system’ in Lebanon – more plausibly – is simply, hard reality. Most Lebanese understand that they no longer possess a functional economy. Its erstwhile ‘business model’ is bust.

Lebanon used to have real exports – agricultural produce exported to Syria and Iraq, but that avenue was closed by the war in Syria. Lebanon’s (legal) exports today effectively are ‘zilch’, but it imports hugely (thanks to having an artificially high Lebanese pound). All this – i.e. the resulting trade, and government budget deficit – used to be balanced out by the large inward flow of dollars.

Inward remittances from the 8 – 9 million Lebanese living overseas was one key part – and dollar deposits arriving in Lebanon’s once ‘safe-haven’ banking system was the other. But that ‘business model’ effectively is bust. The remittances have been fading for years, and the Banking system has the US Treasury crawling all over it (looking for sanctionable Hizbullah accounts).

Which brings us back to that other key point made by Moussa, namely, that the Iraqi disturbances are, in his view, “a preparatory stage for them to choose their way as Iraqis … and that will reflect on Lebanon too”.

If the ‘model’ – either economically or politically – is systemically bust, then tinkering will not do. A new direction is required.

Look at it this way: Sayyed Nasrallah has noted in recent days that other alternatives for Lebanon to a US alignment are possible, but have not yet consolidated into a definitive alternative. That option, in essence, is to ‘look East’: to Russia and China.

It makes sense: At one level, an arrangement with Moscow might untie a number of ‘knots’: It could lead to a re-opening of trade, through Syria, into Iraq for Lebanon’s agricultural produce; it could lead to a return of Syrian refugees out from Lebanon, back to their homes; China could shoulder the Economic Development plan, at a fraction of its projected $20 billion cost – and, above all it could avoid the ‘poison pill’ of a wholesale privatisation of Lebanese state assets on which the French are insisting. In the longer term, Lebanon could participate in the trade and ‘energy corridor’ plans that Russia and China have in mind for the norther tier of the Middle East and Turkey. At least, this alternative seems to offer a real ‘vision’ for the future. Of course, America is threatening Lebanon with horrible consequences – for even thinking of ‘looking East’.

On the other hand, at a donors’ conference at Paris in April, donors pledged to give Lebanon $11bn in loans and grants – but only if it implements certain ‘reforms’. The conditions include a commitment to direct $7 bn towards privatising government assets and state property – as well as austerity measures such as raising taxes, cutting public sector wages and reducing social services.

Great! But how will this correct Lebanon’s broken ‘business model’? Answer: It would not. Devaluation of the Lebanese pound (almost inevitable, and implying big price rises) and further austerity will not either make Lebanon a financial safe-haven again, nor boost income from remittances. It is the classic misery recipe, and one which leaves Lebanon in the hands of external creditors.

Paris has taken on the role of advancing this austerity agenda by emphasising that only a cabinet acceptable to the creditors will do, to release crucial funds. It seems that France believes that it is sufficient to introduce reforms, impose the rule of law and build the institutions – in order to Gulliverise Hizbullah. This premise of US or Israeli acquiescence to this Gulliverisation plan – seems questionable.

The issue for Aoun must be the potential costs that the US might impose – extending even to the possible exclusion of Lebanese banks from the dollar clearing system (i.e. the infamous US Treasury neutron bomb). Washington is intent more on pushing Lebanon to the financial brink, as hostage to its (i.e. Israel’s) demand that Hizbullah be disarmed, and its missiles destroyed. It might misjudge, however, and send Lebanon over the brink into the abyss.

But President Aoun, or any new government, cannot disarm Hizbullah. Israel’s newly ambiguous strategic situation (post – Abqaiq), will likely hike the pressures on Lebanon to act against Hizbullah, through one means or another. Were Aoun or his government to try to mitigate the US pressures through acquiescence to the ‘reform’ package, would that be the end to it? Where would it all end, for Lebanon?

And it is a similar conundrum in Iraq: The economic situation though, is quite different. Iraq has one-fifth of the population of neighbouring Iran, but five times the daily oil sales. Yet the infrastructure of its cities, following the two wars, is still a picture of ruination and poverty. The wealth of Iraq is stolen, and sits in bank accounts abroad. In Iraq, it is primarily the political model that is bust, and needs to be re-cast.

Is this Moussa’s point – that Iraq presently is in the preparatory stage of choosing a new path ahead? He describes it as a self-correcting process leading out from the fissures of sectarianism. Conventional Washington thinking however, is that Iran seeks only a Shi’i hegemony for Iraq. But that is a misreading: Iran’s policy is much more nuanced. It is not some sectarian hegemony that is its objective, but the more limited aim to have the strategic edge across the region – in an amorphous, ambiguous, and not easily defined way – so that a fully sovereign Iraq becomes able to push-back against Israel and the US – deniably, and well short of all-out war.

This is the point: the end to sectarianism is an Iranian interest, and not sectarian hegemony.

November 18, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Cornering and Strangulating Iran Has Backfired on Israel

By Alastair Crooke | Strategic Culture Foundation | November 11, 2019

What happens if the two premises on which Israel and America’s grand Iran strategy is founded are proven false? ‘What if’ maximum pressure fails either to implode the Iranian state politically, nor brings Iran to its knees, begging for a new ‘hairshirt’ nuclear deal? Well …? Well, it seems that Netanyahu and Mossad were so cocksure of their initial premise, that they neglected to think beyond first move on the chess board. It was to be checkmate in one. And this neglect is the cause of the strategic bind in which Israel now finds itself.

Lately, these lacunae in strategic thinking are being noticed. Iran is doing just fine, writes Henry Rome in Foreign Affairs:

“Some analysts predicted that Iran’s friends in Europe and Asia would defy the United States to lend Iran economic help. Others reckoned that the sanctions would send Iran’s economy into a “death spiral,” leaving Tehran the choice to either surrender or collapse. Neither of these predictions came to pass.

“Rather, Iran now enters its second year under maximum pressure strikingly confident in its economic stability and regional position. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other hard-liners are therefore likely to continue on their current course: Iran will go on tormenting the oil market, while bolstering its non-oil economy—and it will continue expanding its nuclear program while refusing to talk with Washington.”

Similarly, the (US) Crisis Group reports that on the eve of the US oil sanctions snapback in November 2018, Secretary Pompeo was asked if Iran might restart its nuclear program. He responded: “we’re confident that the Iranians will not make that decision”. But, Iran did just that: In April 2019 – after the US revoked the sanction waivers that had previously allowed eight countries to import Iranian oil – the Iranian leadership started pushing back.

They are still doing it. “Iran’s responses on the nuclear and regional fronts call into question the core premises of the U.S. “maximum pressure” campaign … Tehran [effectively] has broken the binary outcome of concession or collapse by instead adopting what it touts as “maximum resistance”. As a result … there can be little doubt that the [US] strategy has fallen short, delivering impact without effect and rather than blunting Iran’s capabilities only sharpening its willingness to step up its [push-back]”, the Crisis Group report concludes.

So here we are: Iran’s “fourth step” in its incremental lessening of compliance with the JCPOA (injecting nuclear gas into the – hitherto empty – centrifuges at Fordo; augmenting enrichment to 5% and unveiling substantially improved centrifuges), effectively tests the very core to the Obama JCPOA strategy.

The Accord was built around a framework that meant Iran would remain at least 12 months away from break-out capacity (the moment when a state can transition into a nuclear weapons’ state). Iran – in these de-compliance steps is inching under that limit, if it is not already under it. (This does not, however, imply that Iran is seeking weapons, but rather that it is seeking a change in western behaviour.)

Yes, Israel – which pushed hard its assessment (albeit, onto a Trump team wholly receptive to this Israeli analysis) of an Iran entering into a death-spiral within one year, under Trump’s maximum pressure – can plead reasonably that its grand strategy was struck by two ‘black swans’. The double ‘punch’ quite evidently has knocked Israel – it is now all at sixes and sevens.

One was the 14 September strikes on the two Aramco plants in Saudi Arabia (claimed by the Houthis), but demonstrating a level of sophistication which Israelis explicitly admit took them wholly by surprise. And the second was the accumulated evidence that the US is in the process of quitting the Middle East. Again, Israel – or at least Netanyahu – never believed this could happen under Trump’s ‘watch’. Indeed, he had built a political platform on his claim of intimate rapport with the US President. Indeed, that did seem at the time to be perfectly true.

Israeli historian, Gilad Atzmon observes, “it now seems totally unrealistic to expect America to act militarily against Iran on behalf of Israel. Trump’s always unpredictable actions have convinced the Israeli defense establishment that the country has been left alone to deal with the Iranian threat. The American administration is only willing to act against Iran through sanctions”.

And the former Israeli Ambassador to Washington put the consequences yet more bluntly under the rubric of The Coming Middle East Conflagration: “Israel is bracing itself for war with Iranian proxies … But what will the United States do if conflict comes?” — by this Oren implies the US might do little, or nothing.

Yes. This is precisely the dilemma to which the Israeli policy of demonising Iran, and instigating ‘the world’ against Iran, has brought Israel. Israeli officials and commentators now see war as inevitable (see here and here) – and they are not happy.

War is not inevitable. It would not be inevitable if Trump could put aside his Art of the Deal pride, and contemplated a remedy of de-escalating sanctions – especially oil export sanctions – on Iran. But he has not done that. After a quick (and wholly unrealistic) ‘fling’ at having a reality-TV photo-op with President Rouhani, his Administration has doubled down by imposing further, new sanctions on Iran. (Friends might try to tell their American counterparts that it is well time they got over the 1979 Tehran Embassy siege.)

And war is not inevitable if Israel could assimilate the reality that the Middle East is in profound flux – and that Israel no longer enjoys the freedom to strike wherever, and whomsoever it choses, at will (and at no cost to itself). Those days are not wholly gone, but they are a rapidly diminishing asset.

Will Israel shift posture? It seems not. In the context of the Lebanon protests, the local banks are becoming vulnerable, as capital inflows and remittances dry up. Israeli, plus some American officials, are favouring withholding external financial assistance to the banks – thus making the banking system’s survival contingent on any new government agreeing to contain and disarm Hizbullah (something which, incidentally, no Lebanese government, of whatever ‘colour’, can do).

That is to say, US and Israeli policy is that of pushing Lebanon to the brink of financial collapse in order to leverage a blow at Iran. Never mind that it will be the demonstrators – and not Hizbullah – who will pay the heaviest price for pushing the crisis to the brink – in terms of a devalued pound, rising prices and austerity. (Hizbullah, in any case, exited the Lebanese banking system, long time past).

Iran, on the other hand, faced with maximum pressure, has little choice: It will not succumb to slow-strangulation by the US. Its riposte of calibrated counter-pressure to US max-pressure, however, does entail risks: It is predicated on the judgement that Trump does not want a major regional war (especially in the lead up to US elections), and also predicated (though less certainly) on the US President’s ability to avoid being cornered by his hawks into taking responsive military action (i.e. were another US drone to be shot down).

So, what do all these various geo-political ‘tea-leaves’ portend? Well, look at Lebanon and Iraq through the geo-political spectacles of Iran: On the one hand, it is well understood in Tehran that there is justified, deep popular anger in these states towards corruption, the iron sectarian structures and hopeless governance — but that is only one part of the story. The other is the long-standing geo-strategic war that is being waged against Iran.

Maximum pressure has not produced a chastened, and repentant Iran? So, now Iranians see the US and Israel resorting to ‘Euromaidan warfare’ (Ukrainian protests of 2013) against Iran’s Lebanese and Iraqi allies. (It was, after all, during President Aoun’s visit to Washington in March, that Trump first warned Aoun of what was coming – and presented his ultimatum: Contain Hezbollah, or expect unprecedented consequences, including sanctions and the loss of US aid).

Fresh sanctions, plus an Euromaidan-type assault on Iranian allies (Hizballah and Hash’d A-Shaabi)? Might we then expect another ‘Gulf surprise’ – in coming weeks?

This tit-for-tat of pressure and counter-pressure is set to continue — Michael Oren, the former Israeli Ambassador to the US, lays it out:

“The conflagration, like so many in the Middle East, could be ignited by a single spark. Israeli fighter jets have already conducted hundreds of bombing raids against Iranian targets in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. Preferring to deter rather than embarrass Tehran, Israel rarely comments on such actions. But perhaps Israel miscalculates, hitting a particularly sensitive target; or perhaps politicians cannot resist taking credit. The result could be a counterstrike by Iran, using cruise missiles that penetrate Israel’s air defenses and smash into targets like the Kiryah, Tel Aviv’s equivalent of the Pentagon. Israel would retaliate massively against Hezbollah’s headquarters in Beirut as well as dozens of its emplacements along the Lebanese border. And then, after a day of large-scale exchanges, the real war would begin.

“Rockets, many carrying tons of TNT, would rain on Israel; drones armed with payloads would crash into crucial facilities, military and civilian. During the Second Lebanon War, in 2006, the rate of such fire reached between 200 and 300 projectiles a day. Today, it might reach as high as 4,000. The majority of the weapons in Hezbollah’s arsenal are standoff missiles with fixed trajectories that can be tracked and intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome system. But Iron Dome is 90 percent effective on average, meaning that for every 100 rockets, 10 get through, and the seven operational batteries are incapable of covering the entire country. All of Israel, from Metulla in the north to the southern port city of Eilat, would be in range of enemy fire.”

Of course, the claim that Israeli air defences are 90% effective is ‘for the birds’ (Israeli officials would not be in such a panic if it were true). But Oren sets out the course to a region-wide war plainly enough. This is the end to which their Iran strategy has brought them.

And just to recall, this strategy was always a ‘strategy of choice’ – taken for domestic political purposes. Israel’s demonization of Iran did not begin with the Iranian Revolution. Israel initially had good relations with the revolutionary republic. The relationship transformed because an incoming Israeli Labour government needed it to transform: It wanted to upend the earlier political consensus, and to make peace with the ‘near enemy’ (i.e. its Arab neighbours). But Israel then required a ‘new’ villain threatening ‘plucky little Israel’ to keep unstinting US Congressional support coming through: Iran became that villain. And then, subsequently, Netanyahu made his twenty-year career out of the Iranian (nuclear) bogeyman.

Reaping what a long-term strategy of threats and incitement sows …? In one of the most detailed assessments of Iran’s strategy and doctrine across Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) concludes that Iran’s “third party capability” has become Tehran’s weapon of choice: “Iran now has an effective military advantage over the US and its allies in the Middle East, because of its ability to wage war using third parties such as Shia militias and insurgents”, the report concludes. It has the military edge? Well, well …

And doesn’t this fact help explain what is happening in Iraq and Lebanon today?

November 11, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The ‘War’ for the Future of Middle East

By Alastair Crooke | Strategic Culture Foundation | November 4, 2019

Oh, oh, here we are again! In 1967, it was then the ‘threat’ of the standing Arab Armies (and the ensuing six-day war on Egypt and Syria); in 1980, it was Iran (and the ensuing Iraqi war on Iran); in 1996, it was David Wurmser with his Coping with Crumbling States (flowing on from the infamous Clean Break policy strategy paper) which at that time targeted secular-Arab nationalist states, excoriated both as “crumbling relics of the ‘evil’ USSR” and inherently hostile to Israel, too; and in the 2003 and 2006 wars, it was Saddam Hussein firstly; and then Hezbollah that threatened the safety of the West’s civilizational ‘outpost’ in the Middle East.

And here we are once more, Israel cannot safely ‘live’ in a region containing a militant Hezbollah.

Not surprisingly, the Russian Ambassador in Beirut, Alexander Zasypkin, quickly recognized this all too familiar pattern: Speaking with al-Akhbar on 9 October in Beirut (more than a week before the protests in Beirut erupted), the Ambassador dismissed the prospect of any easing of regional tensions; but rather identified the economic crisis that has been building for years in Lebanon as the ‘peg’ on which the US and its allies might sow chaos in Lebanon (and in Iraq’s parallel economic calamity), to strike at Hezbollah and the Hash’d A-Sha’abi — Israel’s and America’s adversaries in the region.

Why now? Because what happened to Aramco on 14 September has shocked both Israel and America: the former Commander of the Israeli Air Force wrote recently, “recent events are forcing Israel to recalculate its path as it navigates events. The technological abilities of Iran and its various proxies has reached a level at which they can now alter the balance of power around the world”. Not only could neither state identify the modus operandi to the strikes (even now); but worse, neither had any answer to the technological feat the strikes plainly represented. In fact, the lack of any available ‘answer’ prompted one leading western defense analyst to suggest that Saudi should buy Russian Pantsir missiles rather than American air defenses.

And worse. For Israel, the Aramco shock arrived precisely at the moment that the US began its withdrawal of its ‘comfort security blanket’ from the region – leaving Israel (and Gulf States) on their own – and now vulnerable to technology they never expected their adversaries to possess. Israelis – and particularly its PM – though always conscious to the hypothetical possibility, never thought withdrawal actually would happen, and never during the term of the Trump Administration.

This has left Israel completely knocked, and at sixes-and sevens. It has turned strategy on its head, with the former Israeli Air Force Commander (mentioned above) speculating on Israel’s uncomfortable options – going forward – and even postulating whether Israel now needed to open a channel to Iran. This latter option, of course, would be culturally abhorrent to most Israelis. They would prefer a bold, out-of-the-blue, Israeli paradigm ‘game-changer’ (i.e. such as happened in 1967) to any outreach to Iran. This is the real danger.

It is unlikely that the stirring of protests in Lebanon and Iraq are somehow a direct response to the above: but rather, more likely, they lie with old plans (including the recently leaked strategy paper for countering Iran, presented by MbS to the White House), and with the regular strategic meetings held between Mossad and the US National Security Council, under the chairmanship of John Bolton.

Whatever the specific parentage, the ‘playbook’ is quite familiar: spark a popular ‘democratic’ dissent (based on genuine grievances); craft messaging and a press campaign that polarizes the population, and which turns their anger away from generalized discontent towards targeting specific enemies (in this case Hezbollah, President Aoun and FM Gebran Bassil (whose sympathies with Hezbollah and President Assad make him a prime target, especially as heir-apparent to the leadership of the majority of Christians). The aim – as always – is to drive a wedge between Hezbollah and the Army, and between Hezbollah and the Lebanese people.

It began when, during his meeting with President Aoun in March 2019, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo reportedly presented an ultimatum: Contain Hezbollah or expect unprecedented consequences, including sanctions and the loss of US aid. Leaked reports suggest that Pompeo subsequently brought ally, PM Hariri into the picture of the planned disturbances when Hariri and his wife hosted Secretary Pompeo and his wife for a lunch banquet at Hariri’s ranch near Washington at the end of the Lebanese premier’s August visit to the US.

As the Lebanese demonstrations began, reports of an ‘operations room’ in Beirut managing and analyzing the protests, and of large scale funding by Gulf states proliferated; but for reasons that are not clear, the protests faltered. The Army which originally stood curiously aloof, finally engaged in clearing the streets, and returning some semblance of normality – and the Central Bank governor’s strangely alarmist forecasts of imminent financial collapse were countered by other financial experts presenting a less frightening picture.

It seems that neither in Lebanon or in Iraq will US objectives finally be achieved (i.e. Hizbullah and Hash’d A-Sha’abi emasculated). In Iraq, this may be a less certain outcome however, and the potential risks the US is running in fomenting chaos much greater, should Iraq slip into anarchy. The loss of Iraq’s 5 million barrels/day of crude would crater the market for crude – and in these economically febrile times, this might be enough to tip the global economy into recession.

But that would be ‘small beer’ compared to the risk that the US is running in tempting ‘The Fates’ over a regional war that reaches Israel.

But is there a wider message connecting these Middle East protests with those erupting across Latin America? One analyst has coined the term for this era, as an Age of Anger disgorging from “serial geysers” of discontent across the globe from Ecuador to Chile to Egypt. His theme is that neoliberalism is everywhere – literally – burning.

We have noted before, how the US sought to leverage the unique consequences arising from two World Wars, and the debt burden that they bequeathed, to award itself dollar hegemony, as well the truly exceptional ability to issue fiat credit across the globe at no cost to the US (the US simply ‘printed’ its fiat credit). US financial institutions could splurge credit around the world, at virtually no cost – and live off the rent which those investments returned. But ultimately that came at a price: The limitation – to being the global rentier – has become evident through disparities of wealth, and through the incremental impoverishment of the American middle classes that the concomitant off-shoring brought about. Well-paid jobs evaporated, even as America’s financialised banking balance sheet ballooned across the globe.

But there was perhaps another aspect to this present Age of Anger. It is TINA: ‘There is no alternative’. Not because of an absence of potentiality – but because alternatives were crushed. At the end of two World Wars, there was an understanding of the need for a different way-of-being; an end to the earlier era of servitude; a new society; a new social contract. But it was short-lived.

And – long story, short – that post-war longing for ‘fairness’ (whatever that meant) has been squeezed dry; ‘other politics or economics’ of whatever colour, has been derided as ‘fake news’ – and in the wake of the 2008 great financial crisis, all sorts of safety-nets were sacrificed, and private wealth ‘appropriated’ for the purpose of the re-building of bank balance sheets, preserving the integrity of debt, and for keeping interest rates low. People became ‘individuals’ – on their own – to sort out their own austerity. Is it then, that people now are feeling both impoverished materially by that austerity, and impoverished humanly by their new era servitude?

The Middle East may pass through today’s present crises (or not), but be aware that, in their despair in Latin America, the ‘there is no alternative’ meme is becoming reason for protestors ‘to burn the system down’. That is what happens when alternatives are foreclosed (albeit in the interests of preserving ‘us’ from system collapse).

November 4, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 3 Comments

Trump Freezes Lebanon Military Aid After Israel Voiced Concerns

By Tyler Durden – Zero Hedge – 11/02/2019

Amid recent statements by both Iranian and Hezbollah leaders accusing the United States of hijacking the massive anti-corruption protests which have gridlocked Lebanon for over the past two weeks, the White House has made the dramatic and unexpected move of freezing US military aid to the Lebanese Army.

The money, part of a military aid package totaling $105 million, had been approved by Congress and the State Department, and requested by the Pentagon. Interestingly, proponents of the package argued that it would allow the Lebanese Army to grow more independent, making it less cooperative with Hezbollah.

According to Reuters the aid was frozen two days following Tuesday’s resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, who in a parting speech admitted he’d “reached a dead end” amid the protests which have reportedly involved one million people, or up to 25% of Lebanon’s total population, and further called on “all Lebanese to protect civil peace”.

The United States, said the report, has frequently voiced “concern over the growing role in the Beirut government of Hezbollah, the armed Shi’ite group backed by Iran and listed as a terrorist organization by the United States.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week called on Beirut to take steps for a new unified government which focused on rooting out endemic corruption.

Though no specific reason was given as to why the White House has targeted Lebanon for an aid freeze, Trump has lately signaled his disdain for the amount of foreign aid Washington hands out around the world, seemingly with no strings attached.

On Friday, an Israeli media report revealed that officials in Tel Aviv had lobbied the White House to condition any US Lebanese aid based on the country removing advanced arms in possession of Hezbollah — something it should be noted that Lebanon’s national forces are likely incapable of, given the Shia paramilitary organization is actually considered stronger.

The Foreign Ministry ordered Israeli diplomats “in all relevant countries,” including the US and European states, to emphasize the need to cease providing aid to Lebanon as long as the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror organization does not cease upgrading its military capabilities that could target Israel, the official added. Times of Israel

“In discreet talks with various capitals, we made it clear that any aid meant to guarantee the stability of Lebanon needs to be conditioned on Lebanon dealing with Hezbollah’s precision-guided missiles,” a senior official told The Times of Israel. “Anything short of that will be problematic, in our eyes.”

This could mark a big first step in Trump cutting of aid to ‘dysfunctional’ governments and/or governments made up of elements which are hostile to the United States, as is the case with the designated group Hezbollah.

November 2, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 4 Comments

Hezbollah’s Unchartered Frontier

By Ghassan Kadi | The Saker Blog | October 31, 2019

Following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in June 1982, Lebanon looked like it had totally lost its independence and ability of self-determination. Later on, and with Israeli boots still on Lebanese ground, the Lebanese government was coerced to reach the 17th of May (1983) peace accord with Israel; and which was in reality tantamount to terms of surrender.

By then, the underground resistance, known back then as “The Lebanese Resistance”, was launched, and it was already causing much concern for the Israeli occupiers. As for the 17th of May accord, the then Lebanese President, Amin Gemayel, found himself between a rock and a hard place; supporters of the accord and those against. And even though back then the supporters were a political and military majority, Gemayel did not want to be remembered in the books of history as the President who surrendered to Israel, and refused to ratify the accord.

What happened afterwards is now history. The resistance gained momentum, and with all the might of the Israeli army and the large number of local Lebanese militia that collaborated with it, Israel had to leave Lebanon defeated in April 2000.

This epic victory couldn’t have happened without two men; President Hafez Assad and Hassan Nasrallah.

Hezbollah was a small organization back in 1982 and Nasrallah was not the founding leader. He became the leader after founding leader Abbas Al-Musawi was killed by Israel in 1992. Nasrallah has been the leader ever since, and has managed to evade many would-be assassination attempts and many disasters that would undermine the sovereignty and integrity of not only Lebanon, but also Syria.

This is not meant to be a historical narrative. The stops I shall make are meant to be those pertinent to the standing of Hezbollah and how it is perceived by the Lebanese community.

Hezbollah has had thus far three major victories. The first was the afore-mentioned victory over Israel in 2000 when the Israeli army was made to retreat from Lebanon unconditionally. Never before had Israel ever left occupied Arab land unconditionally. This is not to mention that southern Lebanon is rich in water, something Israel lacks and is in dire need for. The defeat was so humiliating that Israel had to save face, calling it a “tactical withdrawal”.

The second victory came in July 2006 when the Israeli incursion and massive bombing of Lebanon did not result in any Israeli gains and Israel again withdrew from Lebanon under heavy casualties; including marine casualties.

The third victory was in Syria where Hezbollah played a huge role in staving off the attack on its Syrian ally.

For any Lebanese or Arab to even attempt to take away from Hezbollah its achievements is tantamount to national treason; and I cannot make this statement more vehemently.

With the Arab World divided on lines based on foundations essentially that of capitulation and accepting the American/Israeli roadmap, and that of the opposite dipole of independent decision-making, it is not a surprise therefore that Hezbollah has been gaining momentum in the hearts and minds of Arabs of the so-called resistance axis.

In my previous article, I predicted that the current widely popular uprising in Lebanon can eventually be diverted by the enemies of Hezbollah in order to transform the anger against corruption into anger against the political ally of the government; ie Hezbollah. In a matter of a few days since, this prediction is taking form. There has been increasing criticism of Hezbollah for allegedly turning a blind eye to the burgeoning state of corruption in the government.

Nasrallah addressed the issue recently in a televised speech. His words however fell short of generating a sense of satisfaction in the protesters, even from many protagonists of the axis of resistance. Deep down inside, even many of the staunchest supporters of Hezbollah believe that it has seriously overlooked the consequences of its silence in regards to the three years of extreme corruption of the Aoun tenure.

Cartoons showing president Aoun on his presidential chair with Nasrallah as his shadow are circulating on social media. There are rallies in heartlands of Hezbollah, expressing utter dis-satisfaction with the government. A close friend of mine who wishes not to be named told me that “Nasrallah should understand that protecting the integrity of a country is not restricted to guarding its borders against invaders, but also guarding its economy and domestic wellbeing”. He added that ”… even though Nasrallah was exemplary in protecting Lebanon’s state borders from Israel, he allowed for the economic borders, the infra-structure borders and the public services borders of Lebanon to be breached and looted dry from within by his corrupt political allies”.

There are unconfirmed stories alleging that there are $800 Bn worth of looted money banked in Swiss accounts by corrupt Lebanese politicians. If true, this would constitute a massive figure by any standards, let alone that of a country of 4.5 million citizens. What seems to be certain is that the central bank (Banque Du Liban) has only $11-12 Bn out of the $120 Bn that local banks have deposited.

The domestic and international enemies of Hezbollah and the axis of resistance are already using everything in their armament to turn the anger of the Lebanese people against Hezbollah. They are digging up skeletons such as a video interview of Nasrallah back in 1982, long before he became Hezbollah chairman, and circulating it on social media, in which Nasrallah says that Hezbollah’s ideology is based on establishing a Muslim state in Lebanon, adjunct to Iran. And, even though Nasrallah has made many statements later on that emphasize the importance of plurality and unity of Lebanon, that dated video is the one stealing the show right now.

At this juncture, it must be stated that even most of the staunchest supporters of the axis of resistance do not want for Lebanon to become a religious state by any definition.

In more ways than one, Hezbollah, and Nasrallah in particular, have taken on board too many agendas to juggle; that of an anti-Israel resistance spearhead, a political power in Lebanon, and according to many, a Shiite religious agenda, or at least a commitment to empower the minority Shiite sector of Lebanon.

The truth of the matter is that any two of the above three are incompatible with each other, let alone all three, and for as long as Hezbollah seemingly clings to all of them, it is creating the Achilles Heel that can lead to its own undoing.

Unlike the IRA, Hezbollah does not have a separate political wing. And unlike Gerry Adams who represented Sinn Fein, Nasrallah represents both, the military as well as the political side of Hezbollah; and also the religious. He therefore has put himself in a situation in which he cannot distance himself from any actions and/or decisions that can or may backfire.

Politics is a dirty quagmire, and Lebanese politics in particular is dirtier than most, if not the dirtiest. If Hezbollah wanted to remain above it and with the sole objective to protect Lebanon’s southern borders, being involved in politics was not essential for its survival.

By entering the world of politics, Hezbollah had to play by the rules of the Lebanese ruling Mafia. And even though Nasrallah said on many occasions that the military might of Hezbollah will only be used against Israel, in reality it isn’t and wasn’t. To begin with, there is a haunting and daunting feeling within Lebanon that Hezbollah will forcefully crush any potential move to disarm it. Secondly, when the political opposition threatened to control the streets in May 2007, Hezbollah made a pre-emptive move. This was not a wise decision, even though it was followed by an almost immediate surrender of its positions to the Lebanese Army. In the minds of many Lebanese, this remains till now, a dark point in the history of Hezbollah; one that is replayed and replayed to remind people of how determined Hezbollah can be if challenged. As mentioned in the previous article, after this event, Hezbollah irreversibly lost a huge chunk of its Sunni support base.

It can be argued that the amazing military victories Hezbollah scored made it complacent, even perhaps too self-assured. But this again has been another unwise move. Unless a popular resistance force does all it can to maintain its popularity and grass-roots support, it can easily fall into a state of rot, leading to its own demise.

Hezbollah has many lethal domestic and international enemies that failed to defeat it militarily, and now they are trying different ways to crack its spine.

Leading up to this, Hezbollah managed to establish an iron-curtain in regard to its modus operandi. Nasrallah is rarely seen in public, and when he appears in public, his appearance is never pre-announced. All security measures are always taken to guarantee his safety, and even the “army” units themselves are invisible, even during war; and this was what drove the invading Israelis up the wall fighting an “invisible enemy”.

Yet with all of those precautions, Hezbollah entered the domain of Lebanese politics from the most vulnerable vantage point.

At this juncture again, with the Lebanese Government facing a most uncertain future, and likely to end up in chaos, perhaps even anarchy, or at the most hopeful scenario, holding thieving politicians accountable and having their loot confiscated, Hezbollah needs to have a second take at its political venture in Lebanon and decide to go totally underground. If it doesn’t, it may find itself facing a battle it is not prepared to fight; one that it can easily lose.

Two weeks into the uprising, and apart from the resignation of PM Hariri, there are no signs of any relenting on President Aoun’s side. The street protests are escalating despite purported thuggish attempts to stifle them. This uprising is in fact Lebanon’s revolution of the silent majority, the majority that did not partake in the 1975-1989 civil war and all conflicts thereafter. Its ranks seem to have already been penetrated by various domestic, regional and international parties with vested interests as some claim. There are many rumours floating around; rumours of the Lebanese American Embassy recruiting people with little or no experience and no clear job qualifications, rumours of Soros investing $600 m in the uprising, rumours of $150 as a daily stipend for every demonstrator, and the truth is that no one knows if any of such rumours or others are accurate.

There are even rumours and photos circulating on social media of alleged Hezbollah members bashing and terrorizing peaceful demonstrators. Whatever the facts, such images are causing untold damage to the stand, popularity and integrity of Hezbollah.

There is a legitimate reason for the Lebanese to rise up against their government, and irrespective of the final outcome, the silent majority has finally spoken, and Hezbollah must find its way to regain its support base if it wants to survive this ordeal.

And to survive it, the leadership of Hezbollah ought to go back to the rationale behind its own raison d’être as a resistance force. Popular resistance is one of people against an oppressor. Currently, the majority of Lebanese people see their politicians as their oppressors. They are not currently looking beyond their southern borders, nor looking at the potential danger of Israeli aggression. They are worried about survival. They are demanding an end to the thieving of politicians and the restoration of services like water, electricity and fuel. They want their dignity and financial security back, and alarmingly they are increasingly seeing Hezbollah as a part of their problem; not the solution.

In Lebanon, sectarian measures are always used to gauge political opinion, and in this respect, Hezbollah has reached wide popularity among all Muslims with nearly all Shiites and perhaps up to 70-80% of Sunnis supporting it especially after the outcomes of the July 2006 war with Israel. At that time, perhaps at least 50% of Lebanese Christians supported it too. After the events of May 2007, the Shiite support remained unwavering, but the Sunni support slumped to something like 50% with some decrease in popularity among Christian Lebanese. The recent corruption of the Aoun government coupled with the street uprising has enhanced the percentage of the anti-Hezbollah sentiment among Sunnis and Christians, and for the first time ever, street action has shown anger against Hezbollah even in Shiite areas. All up, and based on an educated guess only, from a national support based of at least 65-70% back in 2006, the tally has seemingly now dropped to 40-45%. This is a serious development and Hezbollah leadership ought to be aware of it.

In hindsight, Hezbollah should not have taken any political role in Lebanon. Rather, it should have stayed totally as an underground movement and force. After all, the political cover did not give it any “protection”. It was its own military might that guaranteed its survival on the ground in Lebanon. Perhaps it is time for Hezbollah to retrace its past steps, be humble enough to accept that it has made mistakes, put the euphoria of military victories aside for a moment and learn from the serious political mistakes it has committed.

This is an unchartered frontier for Hezbollah; a battle that it might not have either trained or prepared itself for. It may turn out to be its ultimate challenge.

October 31, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | 2 Comments

Lebanese PM Hariri submits his resignation amid ongoing anti-government protests

Press TV – October 29, 2019

Embattled Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has submitted his resignation as people remain on the streets across Lebanon for the thirteenth day of anti-government demonstrations against the country’s economic crisis.

“I have reached a dead end today. I will head to the Baabda Palace to submit the government’s resignation to President Michel Aoun,” Hariri said as he addressed the Lebanese nation in a televised speech on Tuesday evening.

“Posts are not important; what’s important is the country’s dignity and safety,” he added, calling upon people from all strata of the Lebanese society to preserve the stability and security of the country.

Hariri highlighted that he wants to make a “positive shock,” saying, “No one is bigger than his country.”

He also told Lebanese political parties that “It is our responsibility to protect Lebanon.

Under the constitution, Hariri’s cabinet would stay on in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed.

The protests first began on October 17, hitting Lebanon at a time of worsening financial crisis — banks were closed for a 10th day on Tuesday along with schools and businesses.

‘Lebanon government resignation won’t end economic crisis’

Earlier in the day, Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said the resignation of the incumbent government led by Hariri would not solve the deep social and economic crisis in the country, and would further complicate the situation.

Berri said the government must immediately embark on measures aimed at economic reforms, Lebanon’s Arabic-language al-Joumhouria daily newspaper reported.

“Changing the government’s components does not solve the crisis, but complicates it further, and will diminish the possibility of forming a new one in the foreseeable future, which opens the country to an unknown fate,” the senior Lebanese lawmaker pointed out.

Fresh scuffles in Beirut

Meanwhile, clashes have erupted between local residents of Beirut’s Ring Area and a group of vigilantes over the closure of streets in the neighborhood.

“Protesters must stage their sit-ins outside the houses of politicians and officials instead of paralyzing the movement of citizens,” the locals argued.

Lebanese security forces eventually intervened, and dispersed the crowd.

Observers and political pundits view Hariri’s resignation as a stinging blow to his pro-West and pro-Saudi Future Movement. They also state that the move would throw a monkey wrench into Saudi attempts to advance its agenda in Lebanon.

In November 2017, Hariri stunned Lebanon and the world by announcing his resignation in a live television broadcast from Saudi Arabia. He accused Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement of sowing strife in the Arab world – an allegation strongly rejected by both.

Senior sources close to Hariri and top Lebanese officials said Riyadh had coerced the Lebanese premier into stepping down and put him under house arrest.

Aoun stressed at the time that the prime minister was being detained in Saudi Arabia against his will. Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s secretary general, also noted that Saudi authorities had clearly and openly declared a war on Lebanon by holding Hariri hostage and forcing him to quit.

Hariri finally managed to get out of the kingdom amid international pressure on the Riyadh regime. He rescinded his resignation after returning home.

Moreover, President of the Progressive Socialist Party, Walid Jumblatt, appealed for calm and called on all Lebanese political parties and factions to engage in national talks in the wake of Hariri’s resignation.

“I do not know what circumstances Hariri is currently in, but if he rescinds his resignation, we are with him. Those coming to governance should well know the crisis in Lebanon and avoid an economic disaster,” he told Lebanon’s Arabic-language al-Mayadeen television news network.

Also, France on Tuesday called on Lebanese authorities to guarantee stability and national unity in the country after Hariri stepped down as the country’s prime minister.

“Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri has just resigned a few moments ago, which makes the crisis even worse in a way,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told the National Assembly.

“Will politicians and political authorities decide to build Lebanon together? Will they put the collective interest of the country ahead of their own? That is the question posed by Prime Minister Hariri’s resignation,” he added.

Banque du Liban chief denies economic ‘collapse’

Separately, governor of the central bank of Lebanon, officially known as Banque du Liban, has dismissed reports that Lebanon’s economy will collapse in a matter of days in the wake of anti-government protests.

“I am not saying that we are going to have a collapse in a matter of days. I am saying we need to have a solution in a matter of days to regain confidence and avoid collapse in the future,” Riad Salame said in an interview with CNN television news network on Monday.

The senior Lebanese monetary figure underlined that a “solution” to the crisis is needed within days in order to restore confidence and avoid a collapse.

Growth in Lebanon has plummeted in the wake of endless political deadlocks and an economic crisis in recent years.

The country hosts 1.5 million Syrian refugees, and their presence is often blamed for putting pressure on the already struggling economy.

Unemployment stands at more than 20 percent, according to official figures.

The Lebanese Finance Ministry says the national debt is hovering around $85 billion, which accounts for more than 150 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

Successive governments have failed to address a waste management crisis or improve the electricity grid, which is plagued by daily power cuts.

October 29, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | | Leave a comment

Who is pushing for another civil war in Lebanon?

Press TV – October 26, 2019

Secretary General of the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has warned that foreign elements and certain political parties are seeking to “exploit” recent protests in Lebanon and “create a political vacuum in the county.” But who are these voices of chaos in Lebanon?

“Some protests have been financed by embassies and suspicious sides. Certain elements are seeking to stir political tensions in Lebanon in a bid to create political vacuum in the country,” Nasrallah said on Friday, warning that certain factions seek to take the country to “civil war”, a reference to the country’s bloody 1975-1990 civil war.

Nasrallah, nonetheless, did not elaborate what political parties and foreign entities may be seeking to divert the major anti-corruption and economic protests which have continued for ten consecutive days.

The Hezbollah chief had previously lauded the protests as being initially “spontaneous” and independent from any foreign or domestic political influence.

Remarks similar to those by Nasrallah have been echoed among other Lebanese figures in recent days.

Last week, Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil warned of a “fifth column” seeking to provoke further tension in these heady days.

Similarly, Leader of the Arab Tawhid Party We’am Wahhab said that “foreign elements” were seeking to pressure Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri to resign and dissolve the government.

Nasrallah has said the government’s resignation is a “waste of time”.

New elections and the consequently timely formation of a new government will ultimately include the same combination of Lebanon’s various political parties already present in the cabinet, failing to address Lebanon’s “systematic” problems and further destabilizing Lebanon, Nasrallah has argued.

While many Lebanese leaders have warned against foreign and domestic parties seeking to destabilize Lebanon and weaken its government, none have specified the names of foreign entities and domestic parties seeking to benefit from the destabilization.

Certain factions among Lebanon’s political elite have, nonetheless, openly called for the resignation of the current government.

Samir Geagea, leader of the Lebanese Forces parliamentary bloc, was one of first Lebanese figures to call for Hariri to resign. He ordered his party’s four ministers in Hariri’s cabinet to submit their resignation last week.

Geagea and his party are known to have close links with Washington and Riyadh. During Lebanon’s bloody 1975-1990 civil war, Geagea led the Lebanese Forces militia which formed an alliance with Israel.

The militias are known to have facilitated the infamous Sabra and Shatila massacre in Beirut, which lead to death of up to 3,500 civilians from Palestinian and Lebanese Shia backgrounds.

In 1994, Geagea was found guilty of ordering four political assassinations, including the killing of PM Rashid Karami in 1987 and the unsuccessful attempt on the life of Defense Minister Michel Murr in 1991 while cooperating with Israeli intelligence.

Geagea was consequently held in solitary confinement in a cell below Lebanon’s defense ministry building in Beirut before being released in 2005.

Leader of Lebanon’s Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblatt is also another prominent political leader in Lebanon to call for new elections in Lebanon. His party currently has two ministers in the Hariri government.

Jumblatt is known to switch political affiliations and political positions in whatever way best suits his political agenda.

The politician, once an ardent backer of Syrian government, expressed tacit support for terrorist groups like the al-Qaeda-lined al-Nusra Front during the height of a foreign-backed terrorist insurgency against Damascus, effectively siding with Riyadh and Tel Aviv’s shared objective of ousting the Syrian government.

With US and Saudi-backed terrorists in Syria all but defeated after more than eight years of war, observers say a similar scenario may be pushed upon Syria’s southern neighbor of Lebanon.

October 26, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | 1 Comment

Nasrallah Says Suspicious Sides Exploited Popular Protests, Urges Supporters to Leave Streets

By Marwa Haidar| Al-Manar | October 25, 2019

Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah urged the resistance supporters on Friday to leave the streets, noting that a dangerous scheme aimed at targeting Lebanon on the political level has being prepared.

In a televised address to the Lebanese people on the latest local developments, Sayyed Nasrallah said that Hezbollah at first hailed the popular protests but noted that such rallies have turned out to be politically exploited by foreign powers and suspicious sides inside Lebanon.

His eminence listed the achievements of the nation-wide protests which started on October 17, noting that its major achievements were the package or reforms and 2020 budget which was with no taxes.

As he stressed that Hezbollah doesn’t accept toppling the presidency, Sayyed Nasrallah noted that the resistance party also doesn’t back the government resignation.

In this context, Hezbollah S.G. pointed to a call by President Michel Aoun to meet protests representatives.

Sayyed Nasrallah vowed, meanwhile, that the package of reforms announced by Prime Minister Saad Hariri will be implemented on its due dates, stressing that Hezbollah won’t allow delay in this regard.

Achievements of Popular Protests

Noting that Lebanon is witnessing critical events, Sayyed Nasrallah reminded of Hezbollah’s stance at the start of the popular protests.

“We have stressed that Hezbollah respects the popular protests,” Sayyed Nasrallah said, noting that the resistance party didn’t want to take part in the protests in order for these rallies to be far from political affiliations.

“What happened was very good, especially in the first days of the protests, and must be preserved,” his eminence said, noting that he had warned against the politicization of the rallies.

Sayyed Nasrallah then listed the achievements fulfilled by the popular movements which swept across different areas in Lebanon.

“One of the protests’ achievements is announcing a budget with no taxes, something that is  very important.”

He hailed the package of reforms announced by Premier Saad Hariri as “unprecedented,” noting that it was dismissed and misunderstood by many “in a suspicious way”.

Sayyed Nasrallah in this context, vowed that the reforms package will be implemented on its due dates, and that Hezbollah will not allow the delay in this regard.

Talking further about the achievements, Sayyed Nasrallah said the “popular protests indicate that people have regained self-confidence and hope of achieving the change.”

He said that the nation-wide protests “paved the way for political parties to be serious in countering corruption,” noting that the package of reforms is the first step towards countering corruption.

Vacuum and Chaos

Sayyed Nasrallah said that President Michel Aoun had called for dialogue with protest representatives, noting that the remarks of the president were distorted.

As he said that Hezbollah and his allies are open to dialogue with protesters, Sayyed Nasralah stressed that any solution to the current crisis should avoid political vacuum.

In this context, Sayyed Nasrallah called on protesters to choose their representatives.

“O’ protesters choose a leadership that can talk on your behalf. If you can’t do so, then let the people in the protest venues choose representatives in order to hold talks with President Aoun.”

“Any solution should be away from vacuum in political institutions and authority, for such vacuum, in light of hard economic, livelihood and financial condition, would lead to chaos and collapse.”

“We don’t accept toppling of presidency, as we don’t back the government resignation,” Sayyed Nasrallah said.

Commenting on calls for early parliamentary elections, Sayyed Nasrallah said that such step is complicated; stressing that reaching a deal on elections law by political parties in Lebanon is something difficult.

“They say that Hezbollah had contributed to political vacuum before the election of President Aoun,” Sayyed Nasrallah said, referring to remarks by officials belonging to some political parties in Lebanon.

“It’s not right that we took the country to the vacuum. Yes we disrupted the presidential elections, but the government and parliament were working. The roads weren’t blocked as well as the universities and schools were not shut.”

Blocking Roads

Hezbollah S.G. said that blocking roads is one of the civilian forms to protest. However he pointed to the duration of these moves, noting that after nine days, they cause harm for people and hamper their lives.

He also condemned offensive acts staged by protesters who belong to some political parties.

The checkpoints established in the roads by political parties’ supporters who ask the people for their IDs remind of the civil war, Sayyed Nasrallah said.

“I call on protesters to open the roads. Stay in the protest venues but open the roads for people to go to their work, universities and schools.”

Meanwhile, Sayyed Nasrallah denied as baseless, rumors that there are calls to the Lebanese Army to clash with protesters.

Suspicious Sides

Sayyed Nasrallah reiterated Hezbollah’s stance which voiced support to the protests at the first days.

“In the first days we didn’t consider the protests suspicious. We didn’t believe that there is a conspiracy behind such moves.” Sayyed Nasrallah said.

But the scene has changed now, Sayyed Nasralah said, noting that “what started spontaneously has been largely exploited by political parties.”

“Some protests have been financed by embassies and suspicious sides,” his eminence affirmed, adding: “social and livelihood demands have been diverted to target resistance.”

“Several sides are exploiting popular protests to settle their account with Hezbollah and implement foreign agendas.”

“Lebanon has entered dangerous phase, there are prospects that our country will be politically targeted by international, regional powers,” his eminence warned.

“We have information that an anti-resistance scheme is being prepared for Lebanon.”

Sayyed Nasrallah also responded to those who say that Hezbollah ‘is not in the camp of Imam Hussein(PBUH)’ because of his reservations on the protests in the last few days.

“Unlike the current protests, Imam Hussein’s revolution had a clear and sincere leadership,” Sayyed Nasrallah said.

“In the first days of protests we didn’t prevent people to take part in protests. Last Saturday I urged Hezbollah members (not supporters) to refrain from participating since their participation affects the social identity of the rallies,” his eminence said.

“Today, and based on new givens and suspicions I call upon the resistance crowds to leave the streets and the protest venues,” Sayyed Nasrallah concluded.

October 25, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

The Lebanese Fall – Hezbollah’s Latest Challenge

By Ghassan Kadi | The Saker Blog | October 22, 2019

Hezbollah is facing a new challenge, and this time it is not a military one, but rather political.

Perhaps few countries need peaceful “popular revolutions” more than Lebanon does. In my simplistic way of thinking, Lebanon should actually be on the top of the list; followed by the USA.

Corruption in Lebanon is endemic. Its politicians are in reality the heirs of dynasties with self-given “birthrights”. Lebanon is ruled, owned, and manipulated by a few families and bloodlines that virtually own everything and have control on whatever happens in the country. This excludes the very few new comers such as the Hariri dynasty, Hezbollah, and the incumbent President Aoun, among others that one can count on the fingers of one hand.

Before President Aoun was finally elected, Lebanon had a presidential vacuum and had no head of state for 29 long months. It took all that time for the feuding Mafias to finally come to an agreement that guaranteed their positions and vested interests before they were convinced that Aoun was the right choice.

Aoun does not come from any of the political-feudal lineages. As a former Army Chief, and despite his history as a former enemy of Syria in the 1980’s who turned into a supporter twenty years later and eventually became a political partner of Hezbollah, he was finally endorsed even by his Christian Maronite arch-rival, Samir Geagea, the head of the rightwing “Lebanese Forces” as a conciliatory president. This was what finally gave him the numbers to be elected and ended the presidency vacuum crisis.

Aoun was perhaps the first Lebanese president to be elected by consent of many rivals and former political and strategic enemies. After all, he had the backing of Hezbollah and the approval of Geagea. He had all that was needed to embark on a journey of reform.

And “Reform and Change” was the motto of his political party.

As a former enemy of Syria, he took voluntary exile in France in 1984 and started his movement of alleged reform. As he returned to Lebanon in 1999, in the years leading up to his election, his rhetoric was that of holding politicians accountable for corruption.

In 2008 Aoun visited Syria, his former enemy, and was greeted by President Assad like a head of state. He had a huge reform agenda, but whether he was genuine or not, by the time he was elected as President in 2016, he was already in his eighties and suffering ill health.

As a president and if anything at all, he followed the footsteps of those he was meant to hold accountable by endorsing his son-in-law Gibran Bassil to become a Member of Parliament and a Minister. But this is not all, he acted in a manner as if he has passed on the presidency and the running of Lebanon to Bassil.

This would have gone well had Bassil been “clean”, but he soon proved to be corruptible as hell. Bassil is now perhaps the most hated Lebanese politician. He is believed to have amassed billions of dollars of corruption funds. The current Lebanese uprising in the streets of Lebanon and the world are aimed at many Lebanese politicians; but mainly Bassil.

What is pertinent is that the political backdrop that eventuated in guaranteeing Bassil’s position has originally come from Hezbollah who has secured the presidency of his father-in-law; President Aoun.

In hindsight, Hezbollah has made a bad gamble on Aoun, and this is forgivable perhaps, but what is unforgivable was turning a blind eye to thus far three years of unimaginable corruption of the Aoun tenure.

Admittedly, the Lebanese Cabinet, headed by Saad Hariri, an opponent of Hezbollah, is an all-inclusive cabinet. Politically, strategically and militarily protected by Hezbollah in a manner that represents all political parties of Lebanon, the ambient Lebanese cabinet has Nasrallah as its patron. Right or wrong, this is the general understanding in the streets of Lebanon now.

For the sake of giving itself a constitutional cover and parliamentary majority, Hezbollah’s gamble on Aoun is failing. Aoun is losing ground and for Hezbollah to continue to support him would be an act of political suicide.

Currently, everything about what looks like a “Lebanese Revolution” looks legitimate and worthy of support. Thus far, the protestors have been peaceful and civilized. Lebanon is a country rich in many ways; well-educated human resources, agriculture, water, tourism venues, untapped oil/gas, you name it. People are angry because their government has not yet been able to build up enough infrastructure after the 1975-1989 Civil War that destroyed much of it. The country is reeling from growing unemployment, the high cost of living and a lack of basic local services like water, power and garbage management. Add to this the factor of low income, it becomes understandable that the Lebanese are sick and tired of having to put up with a seemingly endless legacy of government incompetence and rising taxes.

So once again, Lebanon needs a peaceful popular revolution that can provide reform; not more destruction, and the current uprising, which hasn’t been given a name yet, will inevitably, for better or for worse, yield some outcomes.

What seems probable is that President Aoun will be forced into retirement at the very least. And, this may only be the prelude to further developments. However, what we are seeing now in Lebanon is not necessarily a “Lebanese Spring”. The seasonal aspect of it does not necessarily mean that it is a “Lebanese Fall” either. It is a Lebanese test; and most specifically a defining moment for Hezbollah.

Thus far, Hezbollah has been “faultless” in as far as deterring Israel, protecting its own ground base and providing enough popular support to guarantee its popularity.

And the support of, and well regard for Hezbollah did not only come from the Shiite sector of the Lebanese community. After all, Hezbollah represented resistance, and this ideological arm has no sectarian boundaries. But what Hezbollah seems to have failed to realize is that it cannot bank on ideology alone, all the while turning a blind eye on corruption.

It has to be said as it is. Hezbollah is becoming increasingly perceived in Lebanon as having a role in protecting its corrupt government. This situation is inviting the “Soros connected” forces to take control of the “Lebanese Revolution”.

But as events in Lebanon are changing on daily basis, we must look back at the Arab Spring and what came out of it.

There is a revolution in Lebanon and I support it. People on the streets are genuine and have legitimate demands. But this revolution is headless and has fingerprints of meddlers already. After all, as we see virtually millions of Lebanese flags appearing all over the world, including some that are 300 and 400 meters long, we ought to ask where did they come from and who paid for them? And, who is giving the greenlight for mainstream media coverage to this all?

After the Israeli war with Hezbollah in July 2006, Shiite Muslim Hezbollah had a huge popularity in Lebanon even in the Muslim Sunni as well as Christian regions. This changed soon after Hezbollah made the decision to control the streets of Beirut in May 2007. Ever since, Hezbollah lost a fair chunk of its popularity outside the Shiite sect.

Nasrallah must make his position clear in regard to the street protests and his stand on the ugly corruption that is bringing Lebanon to its knees. He had to urgently respond to the street rallies during the 2005 so-called “Cedar Revolution”, where protestors wanted Syrian troops out of Lebanon, and the counter pro-Hezbollah protestors demanded the opposite. The schism back then brought Lebanon close to civil war again. A repeat of such a scenario now is potentially more dangerous and inflammatory than back then.

Hezbollah rose victorious, both politically and militarily, and with victory in Syria, the position of Hezbollah in Lebanon has never been stronger. Hence a wise and appropriate response to the current crisis is paramount.

The situation occurring presently is quite different to the events of 2005. It is no longer ideological. People are literally unemployed, angry and hungry. They blame the corrupt government, and are pointing the finger at Hezbollah for its silence.

Hunger and popular anger do not stop at sectarian boundaries.

Nasrallah has been making the right decisions thus far, but he cannot afford to be complacent. Each and every camel has a straw that can break its back, and Aoun is not the one for Nasrallah to count on for political survival; quite the contrary in fact.

Even within the ranks of heartland pro-Hezbollah territory, there is an element of opposition to the Aoun administration and its political and economic bankruptcy.

The success of Hezbollah as a liberating force in Lebanon may well have reached a crossroad now. How the protests and the issues voiced are dealt with, will define the future of Hezbollah. It can cause it great damage or, if quickly respond to with sympathy and solutions to the issues raised by the groundswell of angry and fed-up protesters, Hezbollah can maintain the grassroots support they enjoyed. It is time for Hezbollah to revisit the viability of its political alliances.

The progress of the popular uprising thus far, sounds too good to be true. However the substantial support this uprising is receiving, both domestically and internationally is ominous. International support can only be based on political interests aimed at reducing the stronghold of Hezbollah and to weaken the position of the axis of resistance.

Without a figure head, without a clear agenda, the Lebanese uprising is likely to end up like the Egyptian uprising back in 2011. The street anger will be employed by the meddlers in order to serve their own agendas, and the suffering of the people will not be reduced. This is my fear.

October 22, 2019 Posted by | Corruption | , | Leave a comment

Hezbollah Firmly Denies Involvement in Beirut Downtown Motorcade

Al-Manar | October 22, 2019

Hezbollah stressed on Monday it has no relation with the motorcade which threatened protests in Beirut Downtown and was thwarted by Lebanese Army.

In a statement, Hezbollah’s Media Relations Office firmly denied involvement in the motorcade.

“The Media Relation would like to affirm that Hezbollah definitely has no relation with the motorcade which went about Beirut Downtown tonight,” the statement released late Monday said.

Lebanese media reported that a motorcade including alleged supporters of Hezbollah and Amal movement attempted to attack protesters in Beirut Downtown, with the Lebanese Army confronting them and saving the protesters.

A video showing the motorcade went viral on social media, with pro-resistance activists stressing that such moves are suspicious and aim at tarnishing Hezbollah’s image.

Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah expressed solidarity with protesters who have been since last Thursday staging demonstrations and rallies across Lebanon in protest against hard livelihood conditions and corruption in the state institutions.

In his speech in the Arbaeen commemoration in Baalbeck on Saturday (October 19, 2019), Sayyed Nasrallah stressed that the resistance party stands beside the protesters urging all Lebanese parties including Hezbollah to bear the responsibilities in a bid to solve the long-term crises in the country.

Source: Hezbollah Media Relations (Translated by Al-Manar English Website)

October 22, 2019 Posted by | Deception | , | Leave a comment

Russia’s Mideast Rise, Fading of Pax Americana Presents Threats, Opportunities, Israeli Media Says

Sputnik – 18.10.2019

Earlier this week, as US troops abandoned positions in northern Syria under the de facto control of local Kurdish forces amid the Turkish onslaught, Russian peacekeeping patrols quietly began operating in Manbij, northern Syria in a bid to prevent fighting between Turkish and Syrian Army forces.

The withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria signals a waning of ‘Pax Americana’ in the Middle East, and presents both “dangers” and “opportunities” for Israel in the region, former Israeli intelligence officials, diplomats and lawmakers have told The Times of Israel.

According to Amos Yadlin, former head of the Israeli military’s Military Intelligence Directorate, “All pairs of enemies in the Middle East enjoy reasonably good ties with Russia: Saudi Arabia and Iran, Israel and the Palestinians, the Kurds and the Turks, Israel and Iran, Egypt and Turkey, and so on.” Russia, Yadlin said, is not a Middle Eastern ‘hegemon’ in the traditional sense of the term, with Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt sharing that title, in his view. Furthermore, he noted, Washington still has far greater forces in the Middle East than Moscow.

“The Russian success stems from their ability to use very few forces with determination and rules of engagement that only they can allow themselves, with a veto at the UN Security Council and a patriotic audience at home,” Yadlin said, without elaborating.

Former Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren said he found the US disengagement in the Middle East much more concerning than Russia’s growing influence. “We have relied for the last 45 years on a Pax Americana that no longer exists. I am not saying that the US won’t come to our assistance, but we can’t be certain of it anymore,” he said. As for Russia, Oren suggested Israel should work to reach a ‘modus vivendi’ with Moscow. “It’s useless for us to pretend that Russia is going to be an ally, but we don’t have to make them enemies either,” he said.

However, Ksenia Svetlova, a former Israeli lawmaker from the Zionist Union Party, said Russia’s rise could have “very grave” implications for Tel Aviv. “We already have Russian air defence systems, the S-300, that cover the Syrian and Lebanese shores. As soon as the Russians think that it’s smart for them to operate these systems and to halt the Israeli attacks, Israel would no longer be able to deal with the extension of Iranian power in these countries,” she said, repeating Tel Aviv’s talking point about alleged growing ‘Iranian influence’ in Syria.

Russia initially deployed its air defences only at its airbase in Latakia, northwestern Syria. However, last October, following a friendly fire incident led to the loss of a Russian aircraft and the deaths of 15 Russian airmen, Moscow began deploying S-300s to Syria’s armed forces, complicating Tel Aviv’s campaign of airstrikes into Syria and leading to a reduction in its intensity.

According to Svetlova, Iran, another Israeli adversary, was also a Russian ‘strategic ally’, and “it’s not likely that Moscow will do anything to curb the Iranian influence in Syria and Lebanon.”

But Ofer Zalzberg, an analyst at the Belgium-based nonprofit International Crisis Group, believes Russia could help reduce tensions between Israel and other countries in the region. In his view, President Trump’s Syria exit would at least temporarily end “Israeli wishful thinking about the US resolving all problems militarily,” which could force Israel too to move away from military operations and turn to diplomacy and “some temporary de-facto power-sharing,” including agreements on Syria and Lebanon and perhaps even a “non-aggression pact” between Israel and Hezbollah.

The US withdrew about 1,000 troops from northeast Syria last week, thereby greenlighting a Turkish military operation Ankara says is aimed against Daesh (ISIS) terrorists and local Kurdish militants, whom Turkish authorities also classify as terrorists. Turkey’s operation brought it broad condemnation from its NATO allies, with the US slapping the country with sanctions. Late Thursday, US Vice President Mike Pence said he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and agreed to a ceasefire in Syria.

Amid the Turkish operation, Damascus reached an agreement with Kurdish-led militia forces in northern Syria, allowing Syrian Army forces to advance into Kurdish-controlled areas to mount a joint defence of the Syrian-Turkish border area. This week, Russian peacekeepers began patrols in the city of Manbij in eastern Aleppo province, with the mission aimed at preventing fighting between Syrian and Turkish forces.

October 18, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , | 8 Comments

Israel Directing Policy Through US Treasury: Sanctioning Hezbollah’s Political Allies in Lebanon

By Patrick Henningsen | 21st Century Wire | September 12, 2019

Nearly three years into the Trump administration, one thing is clear: as it struggles to wage any new direct shooting or proxy wars, Washington has instead relied on economic warfare against its perceived enemies, and largely on behalf of the state of Israel.

Through the U.S. Treasury Department and its own openly pro-Israel agents of influence, namely Secretary Steve Mnuchin, along with his Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal P. Mandelker, Israel has been able to attack and undermine all of its own geopolitical enemies and region rivals. The chief mechanism for achieving this is by directing the US government to label any person, politician or state agency – as a “terrorist,” or as a terrorist entity, thus allowing the US government to apply sanctions against any person or entity which Israel designates as its enemy, or even potential enemy. As a result of this runaway policy, the list of sanctioned persons and organisations by the Trump administration is the most in history.

Firmly in its crosshairs is Lebanon’s well-established political and military wings of the Hezbollah organisation. There is a fundamental flaw in the West’s framing of Hezbollah though, starting with its origins. It is a fact of history that Hezbollah was born out of Israel’s illegal occupation of southern Lebanon. Had Israel not invaded and occupied this region, or prosecuted its long and violent military campaign during and after the Lebanese Civil War, then it’s possible the Hezbollah movement may never had formed. It was born out of Israel’s occupation. Indeed, Iran has been traditional supporter of the group – which has drawn the ire of Washington and Tel Aviv who view both Iran and Hezbollah as a joint obstacle to US-Israeli strategic security objectives in the Middle East. In order to elevate Hezbollah to ‘most targeted status,’ US officials have had to repeatedly fabricate claims that Hezbollah is acting as major global terrorist organisation. In the same breath, US officials, like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will enthusiastically drift out the well-worn fable that ‘Iran is the world’s number state-sponsor of terror’.

Earlier this year, the US also announced that henceforth, Iran’s leading military divisions, the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Quds Force – would now be designated as a “terrorist organisation.” The cold irony of course, is that Hezbollah militias are presently fighting (and defeating) actual terrorist organisations like al-Qaeda and ISIS (both of who have been created, as well as armed and financed by numerous western and gulf states, including the United States) in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Since 2013, Hezbollah militia have played a pivotal role in ejecting al Qaeda and ISIS terrorists from their enclaves in Syria, thus thwarting the regime change objectives of US, UK, France, NATO member states, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and also Israel too. Likewise for IRGC and Quds special military advisors deployed in Iraq and Syria to help subdue the invading terrorist brigades. The same is true for Iranian-backed militias in Iraq like the Hash’d Shaabi (People’s Mobilization Units), predominantly Shia, who were pivotal in Iraq’s ultimate victory over ISIS in 2017. Veteran journalist Patrick Cockburn summed it up when he concluded that the greatest threat to building peace in Iraq was not ISIS, but rather, Donald Trump determined to pick a fight with Iran. Documentation on the number of casualties is still difficult to determine, but on the aggregate, between Hezbollah, Hash’d, Iranian forces, the losses sustained in the fight against ISIS and al Qaeda number in the tens of thousands – and likely far more than the combined US soldier death tolls in 18 year-long War on Terror in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond. Regardless of general western ignorance of what has actually transpired in Syria since 2011, and in Iraq since 2014, the people who actually live in the Middle East know the severity of this largely foreign-backed terrorist usurpation.

Regardless of the facts on the ground, neconservatives and war hawks in the Beltway are still happily pressing ahead with their policies. With Tel Aviv carefully leading from behind, Washington has successfully pressured many of its allies to obey its geopolitical dictates, with the UK, Argentina and Paraguay all falling into line this year by designating Hezbollah – both its political and military wings – as a terrorist organisation, as well as pressuring Brazil to follow suit.

Of deeper concern for Washington though, is that Hezbollah is defending Lebanon’s borders from what is undoubtedly the region’s most prolific aggressor – Israel. In just the last few weeks, Israel has attacked no less than 4 of its neighbours, including unprovoked military strikes against Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and of against Palestinians living under illegal Israeli occupation in Gaza. Hezbollah also poses another threat to Israeli hegemony in the region because of its unflagging support for Palestinian resistance against Israel’s violent occupation and ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinian people. Similarly, the Islamic Republic of Iran also supports the Palestinian resistance cause, which is also a predicate for Israel’s various and sundry fabricated claims about a ‘secret Iranian nuclear arsenal,’ and imagined conspiracy that ‘Iran is occupying Syria’ – all of which are designed to garner leverage in Washington whereby US officials can view Hezbollah an accomplice to “Iran’s threat world peace.” This is the sort of geopolitical gymnastics which Israel is attempting to perform on a daily basis in order to justify the longest-running, most brutal and inhumane apartheid regimes in modern history – being waged against Palestinians and Arabs in the Middle East.

Targeting Hezbollah’s Political Allies

Still, Washington insists on basing its international relations on these numerous fabricated claims about Iran and Hezbollah drafted by Israel’s J Street lobbyists and the Prime Minister’s office in Tel Aviv. Now the Trump administration is taking this method a step further by threatening to sanction any political allies of Hezbollah in Lebanon. With military options practically off the table, this is the only remaining option for Washington and Tel Aviv to try and undermine Hezbollah which is now a political force in Lebanese politics, forming a working majority in the Lebanese Parliament along with its allies, as well as holding key ministerial and cabinet positions. But will it work?


Future Sanctions Will ‘Absolutely’ Target Hezbollah Allies in Lebanon: US Envoy

Al-Manar – September 13, 2019

US envoy said on Thursday that future sanctions could target allies of Hezbollah in Lebanon.

“In the future we will designate, because we have to, individuals in Lebanon who are aiding and assisting Hezbollah, regardless of their sect or religion,” the new US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, David Schenker, said in an interview with local LBCI television.

When asked by the interviewer if this means sanctions will target allies of Hezbollah, Schenker said “absolutely,” adding that the US is constantly reviewing its sanctions lists.

Earlier on Tuesday, US State Department announced it has issued sanctions against four alleged Hezbollah members, Ali Karakeh, Mohammad Haydar, Ibrahim Aqil and Fouad Shukr.

The administration of Presdient Donald Trump has ramped up sanctions on Hezbollah and other resistance groups since the US withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018.

Last month, the US Treasury slapped sanctions on the Lebanese Jammal Trust Bank, claiming the bank “brazenly enabling” Hezbollah’s financial activities. And in June, the Treasury took the unprecedented step of sanctioning two sitting Hezbollah MPs, Amin Sharri and Mohammad Raad, alongside security head Wafiq Safa.

September 13, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment