Weekly information and analysis bulletin specialized in Arab Middle Eastern affairs prepared

Posted on March 25, 2013 by Libya 360°

Monday March 25, 2013, no124
Weekly information and analysis bulletin specialized in Arab Middle Eastern affairs prepared by neworientnews.com
Editor in chief Wassim Raad
wassimraad73@gmail.com
New Orient Center for Strategic policies
The resignation of Mikati and the US escalation plan
By Ghaleb Kandil
The resignation of Najib Mikati is a Lebanese copy of the American escalation plan in the region, whose was launched by President Barack Obama during his visit to Israel. In Lebanon, the resignation was preceded by many political indices. It opens the door to a new phase of political and securitry confrontation, which is part of the global war waged against the Syrian national state, whose players want to turn Lebanon into a platform for attacking the neighboring country and weaken the resistance, which is a deterrent against Israel and its supporters.
The first signs of this escalation occurred with the statements, a few weeks ago, of the U.S. ambassador in Beirut, who required the organization of elections in Lebanon under the 1960 law. Maura Connelly has torpedoed all Lebanese attempts to a consensual electoral law, as Washington and its Gulf allies have come to the conclusion that any legislation correcting the Christian representation allows a clear majority which would defeat the mission that they gave the centrist bloc, which was to neutralize national initiatives. A task that the March-14 coalition, the Future Movement in particular, failed to complete. The statements of Connelly inaugurate a period of confrontation and unrest.
The aggressive and provocative statements of Obama towards Hezbollah is another proof coming from the highest authority in America. The U.S. president is the source of instructions to Gulf monarchies, Turkey, Lebanon and European countries. He orders and all other run. Some Lebanese political forces and personalities bend his orders on the pretext that the West always wins, while past experiences show that Lebanon has defeated the West at many occasions. Or they say they are unable to resist the pressures exerted on them. The American order is clear: the time has come to put an end to partnership with Hezbollah in the government.
The two contentious issues that had apparently caused the resignation of Mikati are at the center of American interest: the insistence for the creation of the commission to supervise the elections, is part of the will to hold elections on the basis of the 1960 Act; insistence to keep Gen. Ashraf Rifi at the head of the Internal Security Forces (ISF) is quite natural, because since 2005, this institution is at the heart of the services and information provided to the Americans and their auxiliary in the region, including those involved in the war against Syria.
Lebanese officials who campaigned for maintaining Rifi at ISF head are well aware that this man and his institution have provided support and protection to Takfirists movements close to al-Qaeda and other multinational terrorist groups in the Palestinian camps and inside the central prison of Roumieh.
The resignation illustrates the entanglement of political and security issues with the electoral law. Any political solution must await the collapse of American illusions in Syria and the defeat of the United States in this country.

Obama regional tour

The U.S. president has launched the escalation plan during his regional tour which aimed to strengthen the ranks of his allies, to resolve differences between some of them, in order to try to change the balance of power in Syria and the region. He first gave the signal to open war against Hezbollah, he convinced Jordan to fully play the role allotted to him in the aggression against Syria (influx of terrorists, training in the kingdom etc.. ..) and finally, he settled the pseudo-dispute between Turkey and Israel.
His Secretary of State was asked to follow up, trying to isolate Syria from its allies. John Kerry warned Sunday in Baghdad Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that plane loads of arms that connect Iran and Syria through Iraqi airspace helped to keep Assad in power. “Anything that helps Assad is a problem,” said Kerry, who spoke during a press conference during a surprise visit to Baghdad.
The stage is set, the decisive battle will soon begin.
Statements
Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement
«Mikati resigned for stupid reasons. We must go to one of the embassies to understand exactly the reasons for the resignation. To appoint a new Prime Minister is a complicated affair, Lebanon lives into chaos and the government cannot even send at home a retire officer. Ashraf Rifi’s predecessors were more loyal to Lebanon than he was. President Sleiman violates the rights of Christians and some Muslims who rejected 1960 law.»
Bichara Raï, Patriarch of the Maronite Church
«The Lebanese people and leaders must be aware of the seriousness of the situation in Lebanon and return to the dialogue table. After the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Mikati, and given the internal and regional security situation, we must assume our responsibilities and form a government capable of serious work for the people and for the adoption of a new electoral law. We hope that the elections will take place in time to preserve the Constitution and democracy in Lebanon. We need a government that can handle internal security and especially our border with Syria. A cabinet that strengthens the economy and the national pact. We pray for the innocent and a solution based on negotiations.»
Marwan Charbel, Lebanese Interior Minister
«The dangerous developments in Tripoli have regional ties, if not international. Some fighters do not come from Tripoli and members of the city have no influence on them. President Nabih Berri should convok the House that members sign a commitment to Lebanon’s security.»
Martin Nesirky, Spokesman ok Ban Ki-moon
«In this challenging time for the region, Secretary General calls on all parties in Lebanon to stay united behind the leadership of President Michel Sleiman. He calls them to work together with the institutions of the state to maintain peace and stability, and respect the political separation of Lebanon from the Syrian conflict. Parties should support the role of the Lebanese Armed Forces working for the unity, sovereignty and security.»
Alexander Zasypkin, Russian Ambassador
«It is necessary to provide clarification on the use of chemical weapons in Aleppo and determine the origin of these weapons to avoid a repeat of this incident. This is a dangerous development that should encourage all parties to work more seriously to push the protagonists to talk. Surrender to the opposition of the regime is unacceptable and Russia is ready to exert pressure to prevent this.»
Events
Ø Syrian President Bashar al-Assad condemned the suicide bombing that killed a Sunni famous cleric and 48 other people in Damascus, pledging to “cleanse” the country of extremists in a message published Thursday night. “I offer my condolences to the Syrian people for the martyrdom of Sheikh Mohammad Said al-Bouti, this great man of Syria and the Islamic world,” said Assad.
“They believed that by killing you they silence the voice of Islam and faith in the country (…), they’ve killed him for having raised his voice against their obscurantist ideas to destroy the principles of our merciful religion,” says the message.
“I swear to the Syrian people that your blood and your little grandson’s and all the martyrs will not be cast for free, because we will be faithful to your ideas by destroying their darkness until we clean up the country, “said Mr. Assad. Thursday evening, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives killing 49 worshipers, among them the Sunni Sheikh Mohammad Said al-Bouti and his grandson, said the Ministry of Health.
Ø Antoine Audo, bishop of Aleppo, which is located in Rome as head of Caritas Syria for a meeting of regional Catholic Relief, has reported a “painful” situation not being able to be with her faithful. “In Aleppo, two young priests have been kidnapped. Ransom of 150,000 dollars was requested, “he also said. The prelate also spoke of an “underlying concern” that led to the departure of 20,000 to 30,000 Christians of Aleppo were 160,000 as at the beginning of the conflict. The bishop spoke of the three types of displaced: first there those inside Syria, for example those who left the suburbs of Damascus to the city center. The second category, the majority, left to Lebanon, a “Christian country” to which links are “historical.” A third category went to Canada or the United States.
Ø The Syrian authorities have released the young Lebanese Salafist Hassan Srour, captured four months ago in Syria while fighting with the rebels. Syrian television had broadcast an interview in which Srour stated that the Lebanese extremist preacher Dai al-Islam al-Chahhal had financed the group of volunteers to Syria. He is the only survivor. Syrian authorities had given the body of his eleven comrades killed in an ambush near Tall Kalakh. Srour release was obtained thanks to the intervention of General Abbas Ibrahim.
Press review
As Safir (Lebanese daily, close to the majority, March 22, 2013)
Marleine Khalife
Independent U.S. sources in Washington call a “tragedy” the events in Syria and believe that the United States should stay away from the problems in the Middle East for their unlimited support for Israel helps create more problems in this area. These sources do not see any “hopeful” message in President Barack Obama’s tour in the region, nor Syria, nor for the Palestinian cause, or for the Iranian nuclear issue. His tour is part of a “moral commitment” to Israel and regional allies of America.
These sources believe that “President Bashar al-Assad heads a dictatorial regime but at the same time gave women freedom and religious freedom of worship.” These sources are skeptical that things remain as theere were with the jihadists.
The Obama administration is not defending this view openly although it is convinced, the sources added. “What concerns him is to support the rebels to overthrow the Assad regime to fulfill Israeli conviction that the destruction of Syria will lead to the weakening of Iran”, said the U.S. sources.
Europeans share this plan and their common desire is to destroy Syria to weaken Iran and Hezbollah.
Behind the scenes, European power criticize the American “hesitation”. Paris and London decided to arm the opposition, although the two capitals support and cover the operations of arming the insurgents long ago. But now they want to build strong relationships with any regime that would succeed Assad, knowing that his overthrowing him is not an easy task. The United States, for their part, try to remove the calyx of a new war, except in the case of use of chemical weapons in Syria.
Commenting the appointment of Ghassan Hito, Kurdish head of the interim government opposition, the same American sources say that the whole affair was “cooked” by the CIA, and is one of the facets of Washington’s support for the rebels.
An Nahar (Lebanese Daily, close to march-14 coalition)
Rosanna Bou Mouncef (March 19, 2013)
Well-informed political sources reveal that the negotiations taking place behind the scenes about the electoral law are actually on whether to extend the mandate of Parliament. There is no question of a technical delay of three or four months, as some claim, but an extension, because the considerations that have prevented the election will still be present after this time. 8-March movement calls for a three years extension of House mandate, because it wants to keep the majority of which he grabbed at the “coup” against the majority after the last election in 2009. 14-March prefers a one-year extension, which could possibly be extended.
The same sources added that the differences displayed publicly about the electoral law will prevent the elections organization (…) and the security incidents from one region to another, are arguments to preserve the status quo in Lebanon and not move any piece of the Lebanese puzzle, fear of provoking a war with local, regional, communitarian and financial ingredients are ready. Only a balance of terror prevents the outbreak of war.
Al Akhbar (Lebanese Daily close to the majority, March 23, 2013)
Ibrahim al-Amine
There are many details, and a lot has happened over the past few days. From Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri’s trip to Rome, to President Michel Suleiman becoming persuaded that the domestic political set-up needs changing, to the contacts made in connection with the two cabinet sessions convened in the past couple of days.
What is clear is that Mikati’s resignation was essentially part of the crisis in Syria.
Regarding the domestic issues that prompted the move, which are inextricable from developments in Syria, a number of things can be noted.
One is the growing hold of the US and certain European and Arab governments over a great many Lebanese politicians, including Suleiman, Mikati, and Walid Jumblatt.
These countries wanted to block the adoption of a new election law that would deny the March 14 coalition a parliamentary majority and jeopardize the “balance-tipping” power of Jumblatt. So they went into action to ensure that no agreement would be reached on legislation that does not suit their strategy. Even the confused position of the Phalangists and Lebanese Forces was insufficient to enable the Orthodox Gathering Law to be approved.
Given Suleiman, Mikati, and Jumblatt’s insistence on involving Berri in the ploy to thwart the Orthodox Law, the speaker may have erred by not referring it to parliament earlier, rather than allowing the trio to mount their pre-emptive strike aimed at keeping the 1960 election law in place.
The trio assumed that pressure from the president and prime minister would suffice to achieve this goal. Their aides insist they had they cooperation of the speaker — why else would he have agreed not to convene parliament to debate the Orthodox Gathering law? But it did not cross their minds that the people who matter would be unwilling to submit to blackmail once again.
The other directive that was issued relates to the security situation in the country.
For the West and its Arab clients, it is not enough to neutralize the Lebanese army, prevent it from acting decisively to bring the security breakdown under control, and threaten to split or scrap it. They also want direct control over the Internal Security Forces (ISF), so decided there is a pressing need for General Ashraf Rifi to be kept in his post as ISF head following the assassination of Wissam al-Hassan.
No opportunity was missed to press this point, whether in repeated remarks by the US ambassador to Lebanon, or in the Saudi ambassador’s claim to have been given an undertaking by the president of the republic that Rifi’s term would be extended. The French prime minister even raised the subject with Mikati, telling him within earshot of accompanying ministers that “President Hollande recommends” that Rifi be retained.
But the trio were unsure they could get that done. When Mikati failed to secure a direct promise from Berri, he sought at least to obtain one from Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM). The big surprise was when Hezbollah’s reply, delivered to the prime minister minutes ahead of the resignation announcement, was “do what you deem appropriate.”
While everyone will now be busying themselves with analyses and anecdotes about the domestic aspects of the crisis, the consequences of Mikati’s resignation for the tragedy in Syria are no less serious. In this context, it would help to note the following:
– The sharp escalation of political and military pressure on the Syrian regime by its Arab and Western detractors. They have acted to foil any efforts by opposition figures to pursue a political settlement, such as by sidelining Moaz al-Khatib. This while running a massive scheme to arm and train thousands of fighters inside Syria, Turkey, and Jordan, ahead of what the Turks have been saying will be a decisive showdown in three months.
– The real results of US President Barack Obama’s visit to Palestine and Jordan. While urging the Palestinian president to keep praying, he was firm with the king of Jordan about the need to fall fully in line with the anti-Assad camp. More importantly, Obama obliged Israel’s leaders to keep quiet, refrain from action against either Iran, Syria, or Hezbollah.
– The American, European, and Gulf mobilization against Hezbollah, which has taken several forms: reactivating the issue of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL); putting pressure on the EU to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization; directly pressing the prime minister to do what is necessary to weaken Hezbollah’s influence in the government; and contriving a new controversy called “Hezbollah’s role in Syria.”
In light of the above, some worrying conclusions can be drawn:
– The slogan of dissociation from the Syrian crisis, even if it was never fully realistic, is being finally abandoned. The resignation of the government means involving Lebanon directly. In parallel, more pressure will be exerted on the army to prevent it from taking preventive measures, while the ISF will likely head toward disintegration, rendering it ineffective.
– The architects of this move are betting that change in Syria is inevitable and will come soon. One security veteran says it amazes him how time after time, world capitals behave as though the end of the war in Syria and the downfall of the regime are imminent. This wager requires waves of tension to be unleashed in Lebanon, in the belief that this will unsettle Hezbollah and prevent it from aiding the regime in Syria.
– The political chaos will be protracted, the elections are as good as postponed, and the political tilt of Suleiman-Mikati-Jumblatt will revive the fortunes of the March 14 camp. Some of its leaders made calls yesterday evening to arrange their affairs in anticipation of new ministerial and security posts.
God protect us.
Al Akhbar (March 23, 2013)
Ghassan Saoud
If you had expected anything substantive to come out of President Suleiman’s historic trip to West Africa – where large numbers of Lebanese have lived and worked for decades – you would be sorely disappointed. It was all pomp and circumstance, with little to show for in the end.
On the plane carrying the president, his wife, and their entourage, Suleiman sat like a statue at the front of the plane hardly uttering a word, much less changing his characteristically vacant expression.
It was clear from the seven-day trip that the president’s relationship with the accompanying ministers is far from normal. Only on a couple of occasions could Suleiman be seen talking with them, despite the fact that Lebanon is facing critical economic, political, and security problems.
He brought several of his close advisors to keep him company, one of them giving him Wikipedia-style introductions to each country they were about to visit, while the head of his media office made sure that the team of journalists on board did not capture any out-of-character images of the president.
In a quick visit to Senegal, Suleiman met with a clerical delegation in the morning and, after receiving a medal from the the Senegalese president, he and his wife hopped on a boat to visit Gorée Island, which once served as a major outpost for the slave trade.
Ironically, one of the president’s favorite Lebanese TV stations was interviewing someone at the time who kept using the term “abeed,” which means slave in Arabic, to refer to Africans. There was no protest from the journalist.
In the Ivory Coast, the president was received by schoolchildren waving Lebanese flags along his motorcade’s route to the hotel. The local Lebanese Chamber of Commerce, whose members are estimated to control 40 percent of the country’s economy, covered the delegation’s room and board.
For his part, Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara turned a new page with Suleiman, putting behind him the fact that Lebanon’s ambassador had openly sided with his opponent during the country’s controversial 2011 presidential elections.
For some strange reason, after receiving a medal from Ouattara, the Lebanese president reciprocated by granting his counterpart – and his wife! – Lebanon’s medal of achievement.
He indulged the local community with his pat centrist speeches, declaring that Lebanon cannot and will not become a passage for weapons and fighters to Syria and advising them to preserve the peace in their host countries.
In Ghana, he promised the Lebanese there “a modern and democratic electoral law,” and repeated calls for “a dialogue between civilizations.”
The first lady did not miss her chance to make a statement to the media. After Ghanaian children welcomed her with a dance, she declared that “Ghana’s children are Lebanon’s children.”
No such honors were exchanged on the tour’s last stop in Lagos, Nigeria, but it was made up for when Lebanese businessman Gilbert Shaghoury gave Suleiman a tour of his man-made peninsula project, situated on reclaimed land from the sea.
Ad Diyar (Lebanese daily, close to March 8 Coalition, March 22, 2013)
Sources close to Sheikh Ahmad al-Asir reported that the cleric had received an invitation from the Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, to visit Doha as a representative of a faction of the Lebanese people. It will be the first visit of Sheikh al-Asir in a Muslim country. He should spend three days in Qatar before returning to Beirut.
In Doha, Sheikh al-Asir will meet with Qatari security officials to discuss with them the situation on the ground in Beirut, Tripoli and Sidon, and the situation of Sunnis and their ability to cope with crises that they are facing. According to some sources, Sheikh al-Asir will receive financial support to form a political party which he will soon announce the birth as the “Party of the Sunnis.”
Ad Diyar (Lebanese daily, close to March 8 Coalition, March 19, 2013)
Simon Abou Fadel
A series of clues emanating from official circles suggest that the time to end the Ahmad al-Asir phenomenon approaches. A ministerial source says that Sheikh al-Asir is now a threat to the country, and its actions may cause discord between Sunnis and Shiites that could not be contained. The Government adds that minister Marwan Charbel tried by all means to contain al-Asir. But instead of limiting his actions, the sheikh extended them to other regions. In addition, he does not hesitate to attack the commander of the army, General Jean Kahwaji, and begins to exacerbate sectarian tensions within the military institution.
The inhabitants of Saida are unhappy with behaviors that may cause a Sunni-Shiite discord and economic losses. In addition, the Future Movement does not support al-Asir. Hezbollah the authorities to contain this phenomenon.
Al Baas (Syrian Daily, March 21, 2013)
Syrian army forces discovered the main smuggling used for infiltration of terrorists and sending arms to Syria. This road passes through the village of Oteiba. The army also seized a truckload of arms in the countryside of Hama. Meanwhile, some 220 refugees have voluntarily left the Zaatari camp, in Jordan, to return to their villages in the region of Daraa. On the ground, the armed forces have inflicted heavy losses on the terrorist groups in the eastern Ghouta, near Damascus. Dozens of al-Nosra members died in the fighting.
The Wall Street Journal (American Daily, March 23, 2013)
The US Central Intelligence Agency has been feeding information to select rebel fighters in Syria to try to make them more effective against government troops. Current and former US officials said that the new CIA effort reflected a change in the administration’s approach that aims to strengthen secular rebel fighters. The CIA has sent officers to Turkey to help vet rebels who receive arms shipments from Gulf allies, the report said.
But administration officials cited concerns about some weapons going to Islamists.
In Iraq, the CIA has been directed by the White House to work with elite counterterrorism units to help the Iraqis counter the flow of al Qaeda-linked fighters across the border with Syria.
Syrian opposition commanders said the CIA had been working with British, French and Jordanian intelligence services to train rebels in the use of various kinds of weapons.
The move comes as the Nusra Front, the main al-Qaeda-linked group operating in Syria, is deepening its ties to the organization’s central leadership in Pakistan.
The new aid to rebels doesn’t change the US decision against taking direct military action, the paper added.
Der Spiegel (German Weekly, March 24, 2013)
Israel’s “Prisoner X,” the former Mossad agent who was found hanging in his jail cell shortly after his arrest in 2010, had provided Hezbollah with the identities of Lebanese informants, helping crack at least two major spy rings in the country.
Accordind to an internal Israeli record, Ben Zygier, an Australian national recruited by the Israeli spy agency in 2003, was suspected of having passed on the names of Ziad al-Homsi and Mustafa Ali Awada prior to his secret arrest and detention in Israel.
Lebanese authorities arrested the two suspects in 2009 on charges of espionage and sentenced them each to 15 years in prison.
Ziad al-Homsi
Homsi, a former mayor of a town in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa valley, and prominent member of the March 14 coalition’s leading Future Movement, served only three years of his sentence and was released in May 2012.
Zygier’s identity had only become known to the public last month when it was revealed by an investigative Australian TV report. Israel had imposed a gag order on its media to prohibit them from reporting on the case.
Zygier had reportedly been kept in a cell built for the man who assassinated former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Israel has remained extremely secretive over the case, refusing to provide information over the reasons behind Zygier’s arrest

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
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