Monday April 1, 2013, no125
Weekly information and analysis bulletin specialized in Arab Middle Eastern affairs prepared by neworientnews.com
Editor in chief Wassim Raad
New Orient Center for Strategic policies
US meddling in Lebanon
By Ghaleb Kandil
The resignation of Prime Minister Najib Mikati is mainly due to the positions of the United States and the West vis-à-vis the Lebanese internal balance and its relationship with the new electoral law. This is a response to 8-March and the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), which torpedoed the 1960 Act by preventing the formation of the Supervisory Commission elections.
The United States ambassador, Maura Connelly, gave the kickoff of escalation three weeks ago, insisting on the need to hold elections as scheduled, regardless of the electoral law.
Washington and the West are aware that any law other than that 1960 on will be subject to the determination of the Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai and General Michel Aoun to put an end to the injustice suffered by Christians in electoral matters since the Taif agreement. The U.S. and Western policy makers are convinced that the proportional electoral system and the Orthodox project (each community elects its own members) would put an end to the hegemony of their allies: a third of the seats would go to Sunni opponents of the Hariri clan; Christian representation would essentially goes to FPM. And if the blocks of the Lebanese Forces and Kataeb will increase, it will be at the expense of Christians elected on the lists of Saad Hariri and Walid Jumblatt.
The decline of the Western presence in Parliament will result in an automatic decline of its influence in the choice of the future President of the Republic, who is elected by the Chamber of Deputies.
All these issues are entangled with the determination of General Michel Aoun to reject all extension of the Parliament mandate, which expires in June, the President of the Republic mandate, which ends in May 2014.
Consultations for the selection of a new Prime Minister and for the formation of the next government are related to these political issues. Thus, despite discreet contacts made between the different political forces to try to reach acceptable scenario, the situation remains unclear. Political circles say that the Lebanese have to get used to the idea of a long period of current affairs government, as it is difficult for the various actors to reach agreement on a new electoral law. And if the American auxiliaries in Lebanon try to attempt a move on the ground, it will result in a new balance that will certainly not be in their favor.
U.S. limits and divides opposition
The latest developments have proved that the U.S. plan which is to mobilize and send terrorists in Syria and weapons to rebel groups has reached its peak. The decision of the Arab League arming terrorists has retroactive effect, which seeks to justify actions already undertaken. It is no longer a secret that 3500 tons of weapons, transported aboard 130 aircrafts were sent to Syria in the last three months. And despite all forms of support, Syrian opposition is undermined by divergences and traversed by outside influence. France-Press Agency sheds light on this aspect:
Divisions within the Syrian opposition have brought to light the extent of a regional struggle led to blows money, media propaganda and weapons between the Qatar-Turkey axis and Saudi Arabia, close to American politics. “Our people refuse any supervision. Regional and international disputes have complicated the situation”, said the president of the opposition coalition, Moaz Ahmed Al-Khatib, in a speech to the Arab summit in Doha.
Simultaneously, some 70 opposition figures denounced in a message to the Arab summit a policy of “exclusion” followed by the Coalition, referring to the Muslim Brotherhood, and a “scandalous Arab and regional hegemony ” on opposition, referring to Qatar.
“There is a struggle between two main axis that do not represent the entire opposition but are essential for material aid and military aids. Qatar/Turkey axis supports the Muslim Brotherhood and the Saudi axis in harmony with the United States”, said Ziad Majed, a political science professor at the American University of Paris. “This has an impact on the internal composition of the political opposition and the affiliation of various military groups”, he added.
At the meeting of the Coalition in Istanbul, the participants expressed their divisions between supporters and opponents of an “interim government” to manage the “liberated zones”.
Some critics have denounced Ghassan Hitto, elected head of the government, as “Qatar’s candidate,” and others have suspended their group membership.
For Mr. Majed, “Saudi-American axis preferred to postpone the formation of the interim government and the axis Qatar/Turkey wanted to form it quickly and would have pushed to choose Hitto.”
The rivalry between the rich oil monarchies of the Gulf and neighboring Turkey, seeking a regional power, is also reflected in the military.
After the meeting in Istanbul, Riyadh has hinted that it was “unhappy with the choice of Hitto, leading the Free Syrian Army (SLA) to reject this choice”, told AFP an opponent who requested the anonymity.
Daraya rebel fighters in the province of Damascus tell AFP that because the lack of arms and ammunition, they were on the verge of losing the city, besieged by the regime for more than three months. But, says one of them, “when Mr. Khatib made his offer of dialogue with the regime, weapons flowed quickly. This means that the weapons were stored at the border”.
According to an Arab specialist, weapons sent by Qatar are arriving to groups close to the Muslim Brotherhood via Turkey.
However, he adds, the Saudis prefer to fund and arm the military councils led by army dissidents “for fear of the increasing role of radical Islamists”, an approach supported by the United States. Saudi deliveries now arrive by the Jordanian border.
As for Salafi, including Al-Nosra Front they are funded based NGOs including Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, according to the specialist on Syria, who does not want to be named.
Regional rivalry is also played in the media, especially television Al-Jazeera in Qatar and Al-Arabiya, a Saudi-owned chain, competing to provide a forum for various opposition groups (AFP).
Michel Sleiman, Lebanese president
«We agreed with Patriarch Rai that elections should be held as scheduled at any price. The duty of government is to organize elections, to ensure peace and security in Lebanon and reduce the impact of the Syrian crisis on the country. Most Lebanese do not want the 1960 Electoral Act, but all the Lebanese want the elections to take place on time. Not organizing elections is a great sin and come to a political vacuum is a mortal sin. I will not sign the extension of Parliament mandate. Political parties are responsible for the current situation. They must agree on a new electoral law as soon as possible.»
Bashar al-Assad, Syrian president
«I called Brics leaders to work together to stop immediately the violence in Syria to ensure the success of the political solution. This requires a clear international commitment to dry up the sources of terrorism, to stop its funding and its equipment. You who seek to bring peace, security and justice in today’s troubled world, put all your efforts to stop the suffering of the Syrian people, caused by unfair economic sanctions, contrary to international law, and which affect directly the lives and daily needs of our citizens. I express the desire of the Syrian people to work with Brics countries as a force just trying to bring peace, security and cooperation between countries, away from the hegemony and injustice imposed on our peoples and our nations for decades.»
Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement
«The Electoral Orthodox project is the only legitimate one. This is our only chance to ensure a fair and balanced representation of the Christian community. The Taif Agreement provides a balanced representation of all communities. Lebanon has already gone through a similar situation. We want a new electoral law before the formation of a new government, it is our priority. Mikati did his best and he was very cooperative. I would participate in a meeting of the dialogue if the discussion focuses on the electoral law. »
Samir Geagea, Leader of the Lebanese Forces
«One government can save Lebanon, a government formed from Mars-14 personalities and centrists. Thus, we could adopt a new electoral law in Parliament. Hezbollah has tried his luck in trying to govern, and then we were opponents. He should do the same today. The proposal to form a national unity government is not possible.»
Sergei Lavrov, Russian minister of Foreign Affairs
«We received with deep regret the outcome of the Arab League summit in the capital of Qatar. Decisions adopted at Doha mean that the League has waived the peaceful solution. Recognizing the Syrian opposition coalition as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people destroyed all settlement efforts, including Arab League. The mediator of the UN and the League for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, will no longer pursue its mission. There will be no possible negotiation between the government and the opposition in Syria, I really do not see how Mr. Brahimi will be able to fulfill its mandate as a mediator.»
François Hollande, French president
«Paris will not send any weapons to the Syrian opposition fighters until it has a tangible proof that these weapons will not fall in the hands of any terrorist group.»
Ø A British report indicates that hundreds of Muslims, with British, French and other countries of the European Union passports, are participating in hostilities in Syria in the ranks of radical groups, and may return to Europe. According to the document, the radical extremists are able to carry out terrorist attacks and acts of sabotage. “It would be foolish to believe that radical Islamists decide one day that Europeans are their friends, says Sergei Demidenko, a Russian political analyst. The West will always be their potential target”. Sources give different figures – from 3-10000 mercenaries. All agree that they are part of al-Nosra Front linked to Al-Qaeda.
Ø A delegation of national and Islamic parties, led by the head of international relations at Hezbollah, Ammar Moussawi, visited China at the invitation of the Chinese Association for International Understanding. The members of the delegation met with officials of the Chinese Communist Party and parliamentary personalities.
Ø Turkey has expelled hundreds of Syrians refugees after clashes with military police, said a Turkish official. “These people were involved in violence. They were seen by surveillance cameras in the camp”, the official said. “From 600 to 700 people were expelled. Security forces continue to review video footage and if they discover other people, they will be deported”, he added.
As Safir (Lebanese daily, close to the majority, March 29, 2013)
Dialogue between the President of the Chamber, Nabih Berry, and the head of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) Michel Aoun is blocked due to differences relating to the convening of a Parliament plenary to vote the electoral law and the extension of the mandate of the security institutions. Hezbollah has not lost hope. In a final attempt, the political assistant of the secretary general of Hezbollah, Hajj Hussein Khalil, met with president Nabih Berry in the presence of Minister Ali Hassan Khalil. There were reports of a possible intervention of Marada leader, MP Sleiman Franjieh, to mediate between the two ” forced allies.”
The last hours of consultations show that the former prime minister, Saad Hariri, has not yet decided over the issue of his candidacy to succeed Najib Mikati, although Saudi Arabia is not enthusiastic about the idea, while Qatar, Turkey and Britain, as well as other capitals, would support the continuation of the outgoing Prime Minister. The position of these countries aroused reserves of the Future Movement who believes that if we had a process of elimination, it should start with the name of Mikati which should be deleted of the list of potential prime ministers, because the “man is undesirable.”
At this point, MP Walid Jumblatt is embarrassed after he had provided guarantees to President Nabih Berry and Hezbollah. The leader of the Progressive Socialist Party now arises the following questions: How will I do if Saad Hariri is a candidate? Can I deceive him again? What price should I pay? What will be my attitude if he proposes another candidate? How do I act with Najib Mikati to whom I promised to stay with him? Could I disappoint Hezbollah and Nabih Berry in consultations for the choice of prime minister?
An Nahar (Lebanese Daily, close to march-14 coalition)
Sabine Oueiss (March 25, 2013)
The Syrian crisis will worsen and pressure against Hezbollah will intensify. Which would have deprived the Lebanese government of the international recognition, under the pretext that the distinction is no more possible between its president and the Hezbollah. As well as the assumption that the government is guaranteeing the stability of Lebanon lapses, especially that Lebanon is in the eye of the Syrian storm and warnings about the need to keep it away from this crisis are now ineffective. At the same time, the countdown began for constitutional deadlines.
Najib Mikati’s resignation is a way out for all, including Hezbollah. A current affairs government, where the minister is the only master on board of his ministry, is preferable to an cabinet that has become a burden for the party, especially since it lost productivity and became the hostage of external commitments of the Prime Minister.
Government sources give a reading at the post-resignation. They said the resignation came at the right time after the government had reached the limit of what he could do and that the need for change has become more urgent. The slogans of yesterday are no longer valid.
These sources draw the following scenario: In a first step, Najib Mikati is reappointed as prime minister after parliamentary consultations. Then the Speaker Nabih Berry convene a parliamentary session to discuss the electoral law. In the proposed agenda are the Orthodox project and other drafts. Consultations for the formation of the government will take time and go through shocks.
Al Akhbar (Lebanese Daily close to the Resistance, March 29, 2013)
To get to the Sayyida Zainab shrine from central Damascus, one must take the Airport Road. Until recently, this route was considered too dangerous because of flying rebel roadblocks and falling mortar shells. Yet following an army offensive into the capital’s suburbs, access has become easier.
Once you pass the army checkpoints and fortified military positions, you are almost to the gold-domed shrine that is the burial place of Zainab Bint-Ali, granddaughter of the Prophet Mohammad and a revered figure for Shia Muslims.
At the entrance to the nearby market is a checkpoint manned by members of the local Popular Committees. Once inside, the alleys are lined with signs in Farsi. Many of the shops cater to the busloads of Iranian pilgrims who used to make pilgrimages to this area on the southern outskirts of Damascus.
In the market, business does not seem booming. Trade has dwindled since pilgrims have become targets of kidnappers. Unsold goods are piled up in the stores. Most shops display portraits of Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah alongside Bashar al-Assad. Shia religious slogans are plastered on all surfaces. Banners call for the shrine to be defended until martyrdom.
To enter the actual shrine, you must first undergo a search conducted by the Abul-Fadl al-Abbas Brigade, the main protectors of the site. Young men, their badges identifying them as members, smile before searching visitors, and apologize to them afterwards, explaining that it is due to the security situation.
Inside, calm prevails. Three young boys converse in a language that turns out to be Baluchi. They have come from Pakistan with their parents to visit the shrine, explained their father Hassan. His niqab-covered wife refused to speak, but when asked why they chose to make the journey at this time, Hassan explained that he made a vow and is fulfilling it.
Elsewhere, a man in his sixties from Bint Jbeil, Lebanon clasped the silver lattice-work that encloses Zainab’s tomb. He kissed it and recited religious entreaties for the well-being of his family, he said, and for Syria to overcome its crisis.
Barely half a kilometer to the west of the shrine lies the small village of Jiera, where rebel groups operate. They sometimes trade fire with members of the Abul-Fadl al-Abbas Brigade, mostly at night. Recently the gunmen have become less active thanks to the brigade, and the area has become relatively safer, but not entirely.
When the muezzin belts out the call to prayer, the shrine is transformed into a beehive. It is as though the entire neighborhood has congregated. At nightfall, the shrine is locked, security is heightened, and the adjoining streets become a virtual military zone. Brigade members are deployed in substantial numbers since clashes occasionally break out.
One member explained that gunmen take advantage of the densely built-up neighborhoods to the west of the shrine to stage hit-and-run attacks and fire mortars. They are invariably beaten back, he said, and have failed to reach the shrine itself, although they managed to damage an outer wall with a mortar shell.
Al Akhbar (March 29, 2013)
With the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt has become Lebanon’s political kingmaker once again. He reveals to Al-Akhbar his conditions for the next government.
Walid Jumblatt rejects the idea that he has regained his role as a kingmaker, a figure who is able to both shape the next government and determine which election law will be adopted for the parliamentary elections. “I cannot accept any side being left out,” he says, suggesting that he does not plan to back a particular bloc as he did in 2011 with the previous government. “This is a very dangerous period.”
He’s pleased that Hezbollah is not pressuring him this time around, adding that the situation has changed since then, particularly when it comes to Syria. He maintains that Lebanon’s policy of dissociation from the crisis next door has collapsed, blaming Hezbollah, Lebanese Sunni armed groups, and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) of violating it.
So what do you think should be done? “The return to dialogue,” he answers. “We really should stay away from the kind of criticisms that the Future Movement directed against the National Dialogue Roundtable. We’ve made a lot of progress on how to benefit from Hezbollah’s arms in confronting the Israeli enemy, so let’s use it to get them out of Syria.”
He refuses to name his candidate to head up the next government, insisting that the selection be made collectively by the main political forces. If it is going to be a government of technocrats, as some are proposing, then he would name businessman and head of the Arab Chamber of Commerce Adnan Kassar.
Jumblatt denies reports that he had already proposed the return of Mikati to head up a national unity government. He reaches for a piece of paper on which he wrote his main conditions: a return to disassociation from the Syrian crisis, making sure Lebanon’s sources of wealth are not “controlled by destructive political forces,” and administrative reform.
His second condition stands out most. Jumblatt doesn’t want Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement to control the lucrative energy and telecom ministries as they have in previous governments, thus firing the first salvo in the ministerial selection process.
He insists that Mikati’s resignation had nothing to do with external pressures as many had suggested – “he was barred from appointing a first-category civil servant,” he says, referring to the refusal of the previous cabinet to endorse Mikati’s proposal to extend the term of the commander of the Internal Security Forces (ISF), Ashraf Rifi.
He refuses any quid pro quo between extending for Rifi and the new election law, particularly the Orthodox Gathering proposal which he strongly opposes, denouncing the Christian political leaders who are supporting it.
Jumblatt says categorically that his MPs will not participate in any parliamentary session that will consider the Orthodox law. He is only willing to consider what is being called a “mixed law” that combines both proportional and majority representation.
Al Akhbar (March 28, 2013)
The three Lebanese governments formed during President Michel Suleiman’s five-year term have all been forced into existence due to external pressures.
The 2008 Fouad Siniora government was the result of the Doha Agreement. The 2009 Saad Hariri government saw the light of day due to a Saudi-Syrian reconciliation. The 2011 Najib Mikati government emerged after the collapse of this regional understanding.
After Mikati’s recent resignation, however, it is unclear what circumstances will force the formation of a new government, particularly given the fact that the constitution does not impose time limits on either the president to name a new prime minister, or the prime minister to form a government.
It seems clear that most of the political parties, which are divided between March 8 and 14, are not in any rush to form a new cabinet for a variety of reasons.
First, the president prefers to wait until the contending political forces come to some sort of agreement on the shape and role of the new government before initiating consultations to name a prime minister.
It doesn’t matter that there is a majority that supports a particular candidate – without the agreement of both March 8 and 14, the new prime minister will hit a wall and be forced to step down.
Since the Taif Agreement, presidents have generally moved rather quickly to name a prime minister as soon as a government collapsed. Suleiman has decided to break this practice this time around, particularly as the political parties have come to play a role in the formation of recent governments that is equal to the designated prime minister.
Second, given that the preparations for parliamentary elections are due to begin on April 20 (two months before its term expires), no prime minister alone is capable of dealing with the contradictory demands that will be placed on any new government. The likely result will be an extension for parliament before the formation of a new government.
Third, both March 8 and 14 will not rush the formation of a government before determining what role it is meant to play internally and externally, in addition to what their position will be within it.
It is telling that neither side has put forward any names despite the fact that it has become customary since the time of Syrian rule to designate a prime minister almost immediately before or after the government resigns.
Even if a cabinet is formed, it cannot last long as it will expire with the onset of the March 2014 presidential elections, thus making any new government a transitional one at best.
Fourth, both sides are now dealing with Mikati’s resignation cooly after some initial negative reactions from March 8 and celebration on the part of March 14.
His resignation does not appear to have changed the balance of power between the majority and minority in parliament. Rather, it appears that there will be two large minority blocs – March 8 and 14 – with a much smaller group of MPs headed by Mikati, and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt standing in the middle.
Al Akhbar (March 27, 2013)
Suddenly, the Arabs became men. They awoke to the fact that they possess military capabilities ready for use. But where? In an Arab land. And against whom? An Arab people. Their rationale is that there are killings and death in Syria. They decided that the culprit is a segment of the Syrian population, and it must be fought with every means at their disposal.
Suddenly, the Arabs became men. But instead of feeling disgraced by the constant sight of death in Palestine, they decided to kick up as much dust as possible in the name of Palestinian reconciliation. They resolved to hold summits to ensure Palestinian reconciliation. They hope the dust-cloud will be thick enough to conceal their big crime in Syria. Suddenly, the Arabs have all been exposed. There are no major countries left in the Arab world.
In Egypt, the government is busy ingratiating itself with the whole world in search of loans to exchange for what is left of the public sector. Algeria faces daily threats of it being added to the list of Arab countries in urgent need of an Arab Spring.
There is no need to even mention Tunisia, Libya, or Yemen. They have become centers for the production of terrorist groups to fight beyond their borders, while takfiris terrorize the folks back home.
In Lebanon, all contracted services are being delivered on demand. The government resigns, and courts chaos and civil war, to keep the plunderers of Arab wealth happy.
In Jordan, meanwhile, they are told they have two choices: civil war, or signing up for the global alliance against the Syrian regime.
As for Palestine, it can continue to be ignored, as there’s no tragedy there that merits action.
This has left the institution of the Arab League under the control of the madmen of the Gulf, and transformed Qatar, from one moment to the next, into a megalomaniac that thinks it is the leader of the Arab nation.
Thus, without shame, Qatar wants to persuade the world that the cause of Syria is top priority. They want to persuade us that they are qualified to champion a people, while they shackle their own peoples, and their wretched ruling families indulge in the theft of an entire nation’s resources.
America’s Gulf clients found that Palestine warrants no more than a few million dollars and some reconciliation efforts. They have never heard of a popular uprising going on in Bahrain for the past two years. And they certainly face no protests at home for a fair distribution of wealth. All that really troubles them is Syria.
Once again, these people seem confident that they are all-powerful. They are equally confident that American and Western armies will forever protect them..
The one thing that preoccupies them is an obsession that has become very personal. What they worry about the most is being caught vulnerable as they stand transfixed before their TV screens, waiting for just one item of news: the announcement that Bashar al-Assad has fallen.
Al Akhbar (March 28, 2013)
An Israeli decision to transfer its military brigades from the Syrian border to the Lebanese suggests that Israel is preparing for a new war in the north.
Israeli military sources told Haaretz that war exercises are currently focused on its northern front. With a Syrian army weakened, claimed Haaretz, the Lebanese border preparations are informed by a “redefinition of the real threat represented currently in Hezbollah.”
The newspaper reported that Yair Golan, head of the Israeli Northern Command, has stressed the need to work on dismantling the aura that has developed around Hezbollah in order to highlight the possibility of its defeat in the next war.
Golan emphasized that Hezbollah is creating a strategic balance with Israel and “part of it is trying to get surface-to-sea missiles to eliminate our naval superiority, surface-to-air missiles to eliminate our aerial supremacy, and perhaps even trying to acquire chemical weapons to eliminate Israel’s supreme strategic capabilities.”
Golan pointed out that “the pressure faced by Hezbollah as a result of Syria’s disintegration is quite evident and it is expressed not only through its support for Assad, but also through developments in Lebanon.”
Golan said, “It is believed that instability in this country will further take root, but that Hezbollah will succeed in facing it with Iran’s help. I have a feeling that Hezbollah will overcome this challenge, but its control over Lebanon will be more obvious than before.”
This, according to Golan, means that “we will have a Hezbollah state, but it will be behind the Alawite state expected to emerge in Syria. In other words, Iran is here.”
AL Joumhouria (Lebanese daily, close to March 14 Coalition) (March 27, 2013)
Military sources reported that the plan of the army to control the situation on the ground in Tripoli is still in force, but a possible explosion is not excluded. These sources mention a well studied plan by the militia, including Salafists and supporters of the Free Syrian Army to transform the city into a center for operation and logistics.
The same sources added that Al-Qaeda, in cooperation with the Salafists in Tripoli, want a sanctuary. The organization works to route militants from Syria, Mali, Iraq, Sudan and Jordan towards Lebanon. To ensure the success of his plan, the Emir of Al-Qaeda in Lebanon, Houssam Sabbagh, strives to undergo brainwashing to Sunni sheikhs in the city, and pushes them to proclaim an Islamic emirate in Tripoli. This option had been already considered by the Group of Mohammad Zein al-Abidine Ben Nayef Ben Srour, who arrived in Lebanon on the eve of Nahr al-Bared war, in 2007.
Military sources add: “The Srour affiliated groups are present today in the streets of Tripoli. They include Libyans, Algerians, Syrians, Kuwaitis and Palestinians. They coordinate their action directly with Houssam Sabbagh and Kuwaiti Yaacoub Choummari. Their goal is to create a broad Salafi Religious Council, which attract other Salafist groups to unify the gun and put the Salafist plan to proclaim an Islamic emirate in North Lebanon. In addition to the religious council, these groups want to form a council of war.”
The Lebanese security services are aware of these plans and know that these ideas are deeply rooted in the minds of Salafists and their supporters.
Yediot Aharonot (Israeli Daily, March 29, 2013)
According to former Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit (1989-1996), Qatar played a “historic role in Israel’s favor larger than Great Britain.” Referring to the role of Doha in the implementation of policies of the United States and Israel in the Middle East, Shavit added that the services rendered by the Qatar to Tel Aviv are “more decisive than the services rendered to Israel for many years in other countries. “
According to former Mossad chief, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar, had always sided with the U.S. and “Israel” in regional issues. “The foreign policy of Qatar as Arab political lever in Tel Aviv and Washington,” said Shavit.
Haaretz (Israeli Daily, March 30, 2013)
Home Front Command, Maj. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg expected for future conflict between Israel and Hezbollah that the latter will rain down 10 more times rockets than those dropped on the central of Israel during July war. “Hezbollah is able today to rain down on the central of Israel 10 more times rockets than those dropped in 2006. It will be massive rockets and missile fire”, Eisenberg said. “Before 2006, Hezbollah was able to launch 500 rockets but this did not happen because Israel destroyed the rockets during the war first nights”, he pointed out.
“Now Hezbollah has around 5 thousand rockets, of 300kgs to 880kgs. First days will be very difficult and I am preparing myself for a scenario when the interior front will be rained down by more than one thousand rockets every day”, he added.
However, Eisenberg considered that Israel is not looking for such military confrontation. “This war is useless also for the second party and Israel’s know how to harm widely its enemy, far much more than the latter could do thanks to our Air weapons”, he stated.
Ria Novosti (Russian press Agency, March 30, 2013)
The Russian Foreign Ministry on Saturday posted a statement on its website slamming the US State Department’s stated intent to continue funding non-governmental organizations in Russia as “interfering.”
“We view the declaration made by the official representative of the State Department, Victoria Nuland, that the United States will continue financing individual NGOs within Russia via intermediaries in third countries, bypassing Russian law, as open interference in our internal affairs” the statements reads.
This statement responds to comments Nuland made during Thursday’s State Department presse briefing in which she highlighted US concern that the latest wave of spot-checks on NGOs in Russia was “some kind of witch hunt.” The Russian Foreign Ministry statement singles out the use of that term in particular as “nothing other than cynical and provocative.”
On Thursday, Nuland also said “we are providing funding through platforms outside of Russia for those organizations that continue to want to work with us, understanding that they have to report that work now to their own government.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry criticized Nuland as inciting Russian NGOs and public bodies to violate Russian regulations.
On Thursday, President Vladimir Putin warned the Kremlin’s human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin that the raids should be monitored to ensure there were no “excesses” by the officials carrying out these spot checks.
Earlier this week, Russian NGO Agora, which has provided legal support to numerous political activists and which itself was also subject to a spot check, said that this latest wave of inspections has affected over 80 organizations across Russia.
Reuters (British press agency, March 30, 2013)
Saudi Arabia may try to end anonymity for Twitter users in the country by limiting access to the site to people who register their identification documents, the Arab News daily reported on Saturday.
Last week, local media reported the government had asked telecom companies to look at ways they could monitor, or block, free internet phone services such as Skype.
Twitter is highly popular with Saudis and has stirred broad debate on subjects ranging from religion to politics in a country where such public discussion had been considered at best unseemly and sometimes illegal.
Early this month, the security spokesman for Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry described social networking, particularly Twitter, as a tool used by militants to stir social unrest.
The country’s Grand Mufti, Saudi Arabia’s top cleric, last week described users of the microblogging site as “clowns” wasting time with frivolous and even harmful discussions, local newspapers reported.
“A source at (the regulator) described the move as a natural result of the successful implementation of (its) decision to add a user’s identification numbers while topping up mobile phone credit,” Arab News reported.
That would not necessarily make a user’s identity visible to other users of the site, but it would mean the Saudi government could monitor the tweets of individual Saudis.
The English-language news outlet did not explain how the authorities might be able to restrict ability to post on Twitter. The newspaper belongs to a publishing group owned by the ruling family and run by a son of Crown Prince Salman.
Internet service providers are legally obliged to block websites showing content deemed pornographic.
One of the big investors in Twitter is Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a nephew of King Abdullah who also holds significant stakes in Citi Group, News Corp and Apple through his Kingdom Holding Company.
The country’s telecom regulator, Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) did not immediately responded to requests for comment on the report. Last week it did not comment on the report it was seeking to restrict Skype use.
A spokeswoman for Kingdom Holding said Prince Alwaleed was not available to comment.
“There are people who misuse the social networking and try to send false information and false evaluation of the situation in the kingdom and the way the policemen in the kingdom are dealing with these situations,” said Major General Mansour Turki, the security spokesman, at a news conference on March 8.
In a separate interview with Reuters this month, Turki argued that a small number of supporters of al-Qaeda and activists from Saudi Arabia’s Shia minority used social media to stir wider sympathy for their goals and social unrest.
Two weeks ago one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent clerics, Salman al-Awdah, who has 2.4 million followers on the site, used Twitter to attack the government’s security policy as too harsh and call for better services. He warned it might otherwise face “the spark of violence.” Two leading Saudi human rights activists were sentenced to long prison terms this month for a variety of offenses including “internet crimes” because they had used Twitter and other sites to attack the government.
Some top princes in the monarchy now use Twitter themselves and Crown Prince Salman, King Abdullah’s designated heir and also defense minister, recently opened an official account