Iran & Hezbollah Prove They Don’t Give A Damn About Lebanon’s Laws

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Lebanon Investigates Visit of Iraqi Militia Leader to the South

Sunday, 10 December, 2017 – 10:30
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaks after a cabinet meeting in Baabda near Beirut, Lebanon December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/ File Photo
Beirut- Caroline Akoum

The appearance of the head of an Iran-backed Iraqi militia during a visit to Lebanon’s border with Israel, accompanied by Hezbollah fighters, sparked a wave of anger, especially as it came shortly after the government announced the adoption of a policy to dissociate the country from external conflicts.

In a video released on Saturday, Qais al-Khazali, leader of the Iraqi paramilitary group Asaib Ahl al-Haq, declared his readiness “to stand together with the Lebanese people and the Palestinian cause”, just four days after the Lebanese political parties announced the adoption of the policy of “dissociation” from external and regional conflicts.

The video showed an unidentified commander, presumably from Hezbollah, gesturing toward military outposts located along the borders, while Khazali was talking to another person through a wireless device, telling him: “ I am now with the brothers in Hezbollah in the area of Kfarkila, which is a few meters away from occupied Palestine; we declare the full readiness to stand together with the Lebanese people and the Palestinian cause.”

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri ordered the security apparatus to conduct the necessary investigations into the presence of the Iraqi leader on the Lebanese territories, which he said violated the Lebanese laws.

Presidential sources told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that President Michel Aoun has requested further information about the video, while military sources denied that Khazali has entered the Lebanese territories in a legitimate way.

“The entry of any foreigner to this border area requires a permit from the Lebanese Army, which did not happen,” the sources said, stressing that Khazali has entered the area illegaly.

A statement issued by the premier’s office said: “Hariri contacted the concerned military and security officials to conduct the necessary investigations and take measures to prevent any person or party from carrying out any military activity on the Lebanese territory, and to thwart any illegal act as shown in the video.”

The Lebanese prime minister also ordered that Qais Al-Khazali would be banned from entering Lebanon again, the statement added.

Israel targets Syrian military base

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Israel targets Syrian military base – Syrian state TV

A Russian Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft defence system at the Russian Hmeimim military base in Latakia province, in the northwest of Syria, on December 16, 2015.Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionFile photo: A Russian Pantsir-S1 anti-air defence system in Syria, 2015

Israel launched surface-to-surface missiles at a military installation outside the Syrian capital Damascus overnight, Syrian state TV reports.

The attack caused damage but two missiles were intercepted, it added.

The Israeli military has not confirmed it carried out the strike.

UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights earlier reported explosions near Damascus, which it said were caused by a suspected Israeli missile attack.

The extent of the damage is not yet clear although the TV report spoke of “material losses” at the base.

Head of the Syrian Observatory, Rami Abdel Rahman, told the AFP news agency the strike destroyed an arms depot – but his group did not know who it belonged to.

Israel has hit weapons sites before, in a bid to prevent arms being transferred to Syria’s Lebanese ally Hezbollah. Arms convoys in particular have been singled out by the Israeli air force.

According to the Syrian Observatory the attack took place near El-Kiswah, a few miles south of Damascus.

Last month the BBC revealed a claim that Iran was building a permanent military base near the town.

A series of satellite images showed construction at the location of the alleged base, which was made known to the BBC by a western intelligence source.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has previously warned that Israel would not allow Iran to establish any military presence in Syria.

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Saudi Arabia’s crown prince calls Iran’s supreme leader ‘new Hitler’ of the Middle East

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FOX NEWS AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

 

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince calls Iran’s supreme leader ‘new Hitler’ of the Middle East

Amid his sweeping cultural reforms and systematic purges from the royal family, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince this week called Iran’s supreme leader the “new Hitler of the Middle East,” comments that are sure to ratchet up the conflict between the two rival Muslim powers.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made the statements about Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in an interview with The New York Times that was published Thursday. Salman told The Times that Iran’s efforts to expand “needed to be confronted.”

The prince, 32, who is expected to succeed his father, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, 81, compared Iran and Saudi Arabia’s power struggle in the region to those fighting for Europe in World War II.

“But we learned from Europe that appeasement doesn’t work. We don’t want the new Hitler in Iran to repeat what happened in Europe in the Middle East,” Salman told The New York Times.

RETURNING PM ATTENDS LEBANON’S MILITARY PARADE

The Islamic Republic and Saudi Arabia support rival sides in the various wars and political battles occurring throughout the region. Saudi Arabia backs Sunni Muslims while Tehran backs Shiite Muslims.

Tensions between the two countries escalated earlier this month when Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced in Saudi Arabia that he was resigning from his position. Hariri accused Iran-backed Hezbollah, a Shiite political party and terror group based in Lebanon, of holding his country hostage and plotting against him. Saudi Arabia has also accused Hezbollah of meddling on Iran’s behalf in regional affairs.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaks during a regional banking conference, in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017. Hariri told the conference that the country's stability is his primary concern. The remarks, a day after Hariri suspended his resignation, sought to assure the Hariri's government would keep up the effort to have Lebanon remain a top Mideast destination for finance. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said earlier this month he was resigning from his position.  (AP)

Hezbollah, however, accused Saudi Arabia of engineering Hariri’s resignation, calling it “an act of war,” Reuters reported.

Hariri returned to Lebanon this week and said he was putting his resignation on hold.

 

UN CHIEF NUKE INSPECTOR: IRAN COMPLYING WITH NUCLEAR DEAL

Salman also told The New York Times the war in Yemen was “going in its favor.” The war, which has raged since 2015, has pitted a Saudi-led coalition backed by the U.S. against the Houthi rebels and forces loyal to Yemen’s ousted president. The war has left over 10,000 people dead, driven 3 million from their homes and destroyed the country’s already fragile infrastructure.

Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of sending aid to the Houthi rebels in Yemen while Tehran has denied the accusations, the BBC reported.

Iran did not immediately responded to Salman’s comments but Khamenei has previously called Saudi Arabia’s royal family, the House of Saud, an “accursed tree” and accused the kingdom of “spreading terrorism.”

A November crackdown saw the arrests of 11 members of the House of Saud on various charges related to “corruption.” In the midst of the arrests and constant countering of Iran, Saudi Arabia has also worked to institute reforms such as allowing women to drive vehicles in the Kingdom.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Arab League Condemns Iran’s Terrorist Ally: Hezbollah

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Saudi Arabia ramped up its campaign against Iran’s growing influence in the Arab World Sunday by persuading most of the 22 member states of the Arab League to condemn Iran’s Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, as a “terrorist organization.”

Arab foreign ministers gathered at the League’s headquarters in Cairo Sunday for an emergency meeting called by Saudi Arabia. Lebanon’s foreign minister, Gibran Bassil, did not attend, and the Lebanese representative at the meeting expressed reservations over the final communique.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari also did not attend the meeting. Iran, along with the US-led international coalition, has been a major supporter of Baghdad in its war against ISIS.
“We want to hold everyone responsible,” Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa said during the deliberations. “We want to hold countries where Hezbollah is a partner in government responsible, specifically Lebanon.” Al-Khalifa claimed that Lebanon “is subject to full control by this terrorist group.”

Arab ministers attend a meeting at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on Sunday.

The cabinet, led by outgoing Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, includes several ministers affiliated with Hezbollah.
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Commenting on the Bahraini foreign minister’s statement, American University of Beirut professor Rami Khouri told CNN that “Hezbollah is certainly the single most powerful political group in Lebanon, where governance requires complex consensus building in which Hezbollah is clearly preeminent. But it is not in total control.”
This latest flare-up between Saudi Arabia and Iran was sparked by a November 4 incident in which Iranian-supported Houthi rebels in Yemen fired a ballistic missile at Riyadh’s international airport. Saudi Arabia subsequently accused Hezbollah and Iran of being behind the attack. Both have denied any involvement in the incident. Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran have been rocky since the 1979 Iranian revolution.
Saudi Arabia subsequently expressed its anger at Hezbollah, which maintains close ties with Iran. Saudi Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamar Sabah has warned the Lebanese they must choose “either peace or to live within the political fold of Hezbollah.”
Hariri announced his resignation as prime minister of Lebanon on November 4 from Riyadh on the Saudi-funded Al-Arabiya news network, accusing Iran of destabilizing Lebanon and the region. Many Lebanese, including President Michel Aoun and Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, have said they believe Hariri resigned under Saudi pressure.
Hariri flew to Paris Saturday and vowed to return to Lebanon to attend celebrations marking the country’s independence day on November 22.
It’s not clear whether Sunday’s Arab League meeting will translate into concrete action. The League is notorious for passing resolutions and issuing communiques which are rarely acted upon. It is, however, the first time the Arab League has taken such a strong public stand against Hezbollah.
Reacting to the emergency meeting, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said, “Unfortunately countries like the Saudi regime are pursuing divisions and creating differences, and because of this they don’t see any results other than divisions.”
While the Arab foreign ministers deliberated in Cairo, Iran’s growing power across the region was on display in Syria. On Sunday evening Hezbollah’s media unit posted on YouTube a video of Qassem Suleimani, the powerful head of Iran’s Quds Force, meeting with what appeared to be Iraqi, Lebanese and Syrian fighters in the newly liberated Syrian town of Albu Kamal. The town, on the Iraqi-Syrian border, was the last significant population center in Syria to be held by ISIS.
Iranian forces have played a key role in backing the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in its war against the rebels and ISIS.

France Adopting Biased Stance on Regional Crises: Iran

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TASNIM NEWS AGENCY OF IRAN)

 

France Adopting Biased Stance on Regional Crises: Iran

News ID: 1576462 Service: Politics

بهرام قاسمی

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi slammed French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian for his recent anti-Tehran remarks and said the western European country has a “one-sided and biased” stance on crises facing the Middle East region.

Qassemi made the remarks on Thursday in response to comments made by Le Drian, who earlier in the day expressed concern about what he called Iran’s “hegemonic” intentions in the Middle East.

At a joint press conference with his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir during a trip to Saudi Arabia, Le Drian said, “I’m thinking specifically about Iran’s ballistic program.”

In reply, Qassemi said, “Unfortunately, it seems that France has a one-sided and biased view of the crises and humanitarian catastrophes in the Middle East.”

This view only exacerbates regional conflicts, “whether intentionally or unintentionally,” he added.

The Iranian spokesman also stressed the need for stability and security in the region and advised leaders of France and other nations to take a “realistic and responsible” stance on the conflicts.

Qassemi also pointed to arms sales by “trans-regional countries” to Middle Eastern governments, including those used in Saudi Arabia’s ongoing military aggression against Yemen and said the western support has only led to “more instability and insecurity” in the region.

Yemen’s defenseless people have been under massive attacks by the coalition for more than two years but Riyadh has reached none of its objectives in Yemen so far.

Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia and some of its Arab allies have been carrying out deadly airstrikes against the Houthi Ansarullah movement in an attempt to restore power to fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh.

Over 14,000 Yemenis, including thousands of women and children, have lost their lives in the deadly military campaign.

Saudi Arabia Threatens Hezbollah In Lebanon

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Saudi Arabia calls on Hezbollah to disarm, threatens its ouster from Lebanon

Riyadh’s foreign minister says ‘peace-loving countries’ exploring ways to reduce terrorist group’s influence in Beirut

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir addresses a joint press conference with his French counterpart in the Saudi capital Riyadh on November 16, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Fayez Nureldine)

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir addresses a joint press conference with his French counterpart in the Saudi capital Riyadh on November 16, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Fayez Nureldine)

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Thursday called on the Hezbollah terrorist organization to disarm, warning the group that regional efforts were underway to oust them from the Lebanese government.

At a press conference in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, al-Jubeir denounced Hezbollah as “a tool of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards” and “a first-class terrorist organization used by Iran to destabilize Lebanon and the region.”

“Hezbollah has kidnapped the Lebanese system,” he said.

Al-Jubeir added that “consultations and coordination between peace-loving countries and Lebanon-loving countries are underway to try to find a way that would restore sovereignty to Lebanon and reduce the negative action which Hezbollah is conducting in Lebanon.”

The minister’s remarks came as the kingdom rejected accusations that Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri was being detained in Riyadh following his shock resignation earlier this month.

Former Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri gives his first televised interview on November 12, 2017, eight days after announcing his resignation. (Future TV via AP)

“The accusation that the kingdom would hold a prime minister or a former prime minister is not true, especially a political ally like” Hariri, al-Jubeir said at the news conference flanked by his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian.

“I don’t know the source of these accusations. But they are rejected and are baseless and untrue,” al-Jubeir said, adding that Hariri is in Saudi Arabia of his own free will and “he leaves when he wants to.”

Hariri has been in Riyadh since giving a statement on television on November 4 that he was stepping down because he feared for his life while also accusing Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah of destabilizing Lebanon.

But Lebanese President Michel Aoun refused to accept his resignation from abroad, and accused Saudi authorities of “detaining” Hariri in Riyadh against his will.

At Thursday’s press conference, it was announced that Hariri had accepted an invitation to visit France in the coming days.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil delivers a press conference in Paris, November 14, 2017. (AFP/Lionel BONAVENTURE)

Aoun confirmed that Hariri and his family would arrive Saturday in France, “where he will rest for a few days” before returning to Beirut to make “a decision regarding the resignation.”

He welcomed Hariri’s decision to accept the French invitation, saying he hoped it “opened the door for a resolution” of the political crisis in Lebanon.

“I wait for the return of President (of the council of ministers) Hariri to decide the next move regarding the government,” Aoun told journalists.

Separately on Thursday, Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil, on a European tour over the crisis, told reporters that “our concern is that he (Hariri) returns and takes the decision that he wants.”

Bassil spoke at a news conference in Berlin with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who called the situation in Lebanon “very dangerous.”

He warned other countries not to interfere or do anything to threaten the unity and stability of Lebanon, saying “every attack will backfire and will make the entire region suffer.”

READ MORE:

Saudi Arabia: 24 Hours That Have Shaken The Middle East

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

A resignation, detentions and missiles: 24 hours that shook the Middle East

Story highlights

  • Weekend’s events serve as an opening salvo for a new period in the region’s crisis-ridden history, analysts say
  • They represent an escalation in a years-long proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran

(CNN)When 32-year-old Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman rose to power two years ago, many predicted that change was afoot. The events of November 4 have shown that change would not just be swift, but also seismic, extending unremittingly beyond the kingdom’s boundaries.

A 24-hour sequence of political bombshells began on Saturday afternoon, when Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation from the Saudi capital of Riyadh, blindsided his country’s political establishment. Hours later, Saudi Arabia’s official news agency reported that the country’s military had intercepted a Yemen-borne ballistic missile over Riyadh. Even as images of the blast were flashing on TV sets around the region, similarly dramatic news began to trickle in: Some of Saudi Arabia’s most high-profile princes and businessmen were being sacked and detained in an anti-corruption drive led by bin Salman.
The events serve as an opening salvo for a new period in the region’s crisis-ridden history, analysts say. They represent an escalation in a years long proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, threatening to activate new fronts in the region, with the Saudi show of force beginning with a sweeping consolidation of power from within.
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On Friday, ISIS’ last strongholds in Iraq and Syria fell. It marked a major milestone in a fight that saw archrivals converge on the extremist group until its so-called caliphate was on its last legs. On Saturday, regional powerhouses appear to have trained their sights on one another.
“I think the end of ISIS, the so-called Islamic State, does not really mean the end of geostrategic struggles,” London School of Economics Professor Fawaz Gerges told CNN’s George Howell.
“On the contrary, the dismantling of the so-called caliphate will basically intensify the geostrategic struggles between the pro-Iranian camp led by Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and its allies in the region, including the United States.”

A resignation sets the stage

On Friday evening, Lebanon’s Saad Hariri was summoned to the Saudi capital. It was his second visit to the country in a week. Hariri is a dual Saudi-Lebanese citizen and the regional powerhouse is widely seen as his political patron.
Just a week before, it appeared the Prime Minister had averted a major crisis between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. He had met with the Crown Prince and outspoken Saudi Minister Thamer al-Sabhan, appeasing their fears about the Iran-backed Hezbollah, which has members in his Cabinet.
“A long and fruitful meeting with my brother Prime Minister Saad Hariri. We’ve agreed on many issues that concern the good people of Lebanon. God willing, the best is yet to come,” Sabhan wrote in a tweet.
The meeting came on the heels of a series of tweets in which Sabhan chastised the Lebanese government for its inclusion of Hezbollah. Hariri appeared to have defused tensions with his visit.
Lebanese MP Yassin Jaber, a member of a pro-Hezbollah parliamentary bloc, told CNN that he met with Hariri just as he returned from Saudi Arabia, and described the premier as cheery and in a “joking” mood.
But when Hariri returned to Saudi Arabia the second time, it was an altogether different matter.
It would be the first time a Lebanese premier submitted his resignation from outside the country. Multiple local media reported that nearly all Hariri’s closest aides were caught unawares.
“Over the past decades, Hezbollah has unfortunately managed to impose a fait accompli in Lebanon by the force of its weapons, which it alleges is a resistance weapon,” Hariri said in his resignation speech.
“I want to tell Iran and its followers that they are losing their interferences in the Arab nation affairs. Our nation will rise just as it did before and the hands that want to harm it will be cut,” he said in remarks apparently aimed at Hezbollah, which he shared a coalition government with.
Hariri’s resignation spells the collapse of a 30-member government of national unity that saw Saudi-backed Hariri fill the post of prime minister, and Hezbollah-backed Michel Aoun occupies the presidency. That government, analysts say, was one of the byproducts of the Obama administration’s landmark Iran nuclear deal.
“With this arrangement, we saw some sort of appeasement where we saw mutual steps from the US and Iran in improving relations and lowering tensions in various areas,” said Riad Kahwaji, director of Institute for Near East and Gulf Military.
The period marked a brief time of stability, in which Lebanon seemed to have steered clear of regional fault-lines.
“With (Hariri’s) resignation yesterday, this arrangement has come to an end and we are back to an escalation between Iran and Saudi Arabia on the Lebanese front. Lebanon is back in the arena of the showdown between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
“Everyone in Lebanon is holding tight and worried … we’re seeing now that we may again be engulfed in conflict,” said Jaber.

Riyadh intercepts ballistic missiles

Hariri’s resignation triggered a crescendo of war drums. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the remarks were a “wake-up call” to “take action” against Iran. Saudi Minister Sabhan promptly tweeted: “The hands of treachery and aggression must be cut off,” echoing Hariri’s threats against Hezbollah.
Just hours later, Yemen’s Houthi rebels launched a ballistic missile targeting King Khalid International Airport in the Saudi capital. Saudi forces intercepted the missile over northeast Riyadh, the Saudi Ministry of Defense said, but the Houthis hailed it as a “success” that “shook the Saudi capital.”
The attack was conducted using a Yemeni-made, long-range missile called the Burqan 2H, the rebels said. The missile launch was the first time the heart of the Saudi capital has been attacked.
The Saudi-led coalition accused a regional state of providing material support to the Houthi rebels, saying the firing of a ballistic missile at Riyadh “threatens the security of the Kingdom and regional and international security,” according to a statement carried by Saudi state-TV al-Ekbariya.
The coalition didn’t name the country. Saudi Arabia has been fighting a proxy war in Yemen against Iran, which it accuses of arming the Houthi rebels.
Analysts dubbed this a “major escalation” in the Yemeni war.
“This is a major escalation and will have tremendous implications on the situation in Yemen itself, because Saudi Arabia now feels extremely the urge to retaliate against the Houthi movement that controls the government in Sanaa,” said Gerges.
Gerges added that combined with the political rupture in Lebanon, the ballistic missile attack spells an outbreak of tensions “throughout the region.”

Saudi Arabia wages war within and without

Saudi Arabia was still putting out the fires caused by the missile attack when state TV announced the onset of an anti-corruption crackdown led by the crown prince. Over 17 princes and top officials were arrested on graft charges, according to a list obtained by CNN and cited by a senior royal court official.
The list includes billionaire business magnate Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who owns 95% of Kingdom Holding, which holds stakes in global companies such as Citigroup, Twitter, Apple and News Corp.
The list also includes the formal head of the royal court Khaled Al-Tuwaijri, Saudi media mogul Waleed Al-Ibrahim and Prince Turki Bin Nasser.
“Some of the wealthiest figures in the Arab world are in apprehension today,” said military analyst Riad Kahwaji.
“This is unprecedented. We’re seeing it for the first time and it’s definitely causing shock waves across the region.”
Reportedly, the detainees are being held at the lavish Ritz-Carlton hotel. “I think there’s a lovely irony in that many of these corrupt deals happened at the Ritz-Carlton and now these guys are locked up there,” said historian Robert Lacey, who wrote two books about the kingdom.
“In historical terms, what we’ve seen in the last few months is nothing short of revolutionary,” said Lacey. “I’ve been waiting for 40 years for these things to happen, and they happened in four months.”
Mohammed bin Salman’s campaign of “two fronts,” as analysts have dubbed it, is being met by cheers and apprehension. But there is near consensus that these are uncharted waters, and the results will be dramatic.

 

 

Lebanese Prime Minister Resigns While In Saudi Arabia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

 

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Yarzeh near Beirut, Lebanon in September.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Yarzeh near Beirut, Lebanon in September.
Hassan Ammar—AP

By Zeina Karam / AP

6:07 AM EDT

(BEIRUT) — Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri resigned from his post Saturday during a trip to Saudi Arabia in a surprise move that plunged the country into uncertainty amid heightened regional tensions.

In a televised address from Riyadh, Hariri fired a vicious tirade against Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah group for what he said was their meddling in Arab affairs and said “Iran’s arms in the region will be cut off.”

“The evil that Iran spreads in the region will backfire on it,” Hariri said, accusing Tehran of spreading chaos, strife and destruction throughout the region.

Hariri was appointed prime minister in late 2016 and headed a 30-member national unity cabinet that included the Shiite militant Hezbollah. The government has largely succeeded in protecting the country from the effects of the civil war in neighboring Syria.

The country is sharply divided along a camp loyal to Saudi Arabia, headed by the Sunni Muslim Hariri, and a camp loyal to Iran represented by Hezbollah. President Michel Aoun, who was elected in October 2016 after more than two years of presidential vacuum, is a close ally of Hezbollah.

His election was made possible after Hariri endorsed him for president, based on an understanding that Aoun would then appoint him as prime minister.

In a statement, the presidential office said Aoun was informed by Hariri in a phone call of his resignation, adding that the president now awaits Hariri’s return to the country to clarify the circumstances of his resignation and proceed accordingly.

Hariri’s bombshell resignation Saturday was expected to raise tensions in the country and ushers in a stage of deep uncertainty and potential instability. It comes amid a sharp escalation in Saudi rhetoric against its regional archrival Iran.

In his speech, he suggested he feared for his life and said the climate in the country is similar to the one that existed before his father, the late prime minister Rafik Hariri, was assassinated in 2005.

Several Hezbollah members are being tried in absentia for the killing by a U.N.-backed tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. Hezbollah denies any involvement.

Hezbollah has sent thousands of its fighters to Syria to shore up President Bashar Assad’s government. The group’s intervention in Syria is highly controversial in Lebanon.

Hariri said Hezbollah’s policies have put Lebanon “in the eye of the storm.” His attacks on Hezbollah come on the heels of new U.S. sanctions on the group that many fear will impact negatively on the Lebanese economy.

“Hezbollah was able in past decades to impose a reality in Lebanon by force of arms directed at the chests of Syrians and Lebanese,” he said.

“I declare my resignation from the premiership of the Lebanese government, with the certainty that the will of the Lebanese is strong,” Hariri said.

“When I took office, I promised you that I would seek to unite the Lebanese, end political division and establish the principle of self-sufficiency, but I have been unable to do so. Despite my efforts, Iran continues to abuse Lebanon,” he said.

Earlier this week, Saudi State Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan sharply criticized Hezbollah, calling for its “toppling” and promising “astonishing developments” in the coming days during an interview with the Lebanese TV station MTV.

Al-Sabhan met with Hariri in Saudi Arabia when the now resigned prime minister was visiting earlier this week. Hariri abruptly returned to the kingdom later Friday before his bombshell announcement Saturday.

In tweets after meeting Hariri, al-Sabhan described it as “long and fruitful meeting” that resulted in agreements over many issues that concern the Lebanese. “What’s coming is better, God willing,” al-Sabhan tweeted on Tuesday. In a series of tweets, al-Sabhan criticized the Lebanese government for tolerating Hezbollah’s criticism of the kingdom.

He earlier said that those who cooperate with Hezbollah must be “punished.”

Israel-Hezbollah war is inevitable, sure to be devastating

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel-Hezbollah war is inevitable, sure to be devastating — defense experts

International High Level Military Group paints grim picture of potential conflict between Jewish state, Iran-backed terror group, and what, if anything, can prevent it

Soldiers evacuate a wounded comrade during the Second Lebanon War, on July 24, 2006 (Haim Azoulay/ Flash 90/ File)

Soldiers evacuate a wounded comrade during the Second Lebanon War, on July 24, 2006 (Haim Azoulay/ Flash 90/ File)

A war between Israel and the Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorist group is inevitable, though not necessarily imminent, and will be unavoidably bloody for both sides, according to an assessment by a number of former generals from around the world, known collectively as the High Level Military Group.

In an extensive report, published Wednesday, the organization details both the IDF’s and Hezbollah’s reorganization in the 11 years following the Second Lebanon War, the last time the sides engaged in all-out combat with one another. The High Level Military Group (HLMG) also describes the strategies each side will use in the apparently approaching war, as well as the potential pratfalls of those plans.

“Hezbollah doesn’t want a conflict to break out at present, given it is still seeking to consolidate its gains in Syria and continue preparations in Lebanon. However, its actions and propaganda suggest that it considers its ability to fight a war with Israel as a given,” according to the report.

A Hezbollah fighter stands behind an empty rocket launcher, May 22, 2010. (AP/Hussein Malla)

“The timing of such a conflict is likely to be determined by miscalculation as much as decision-making in Iran and Lebanon.”

The group said that should such a war break out, it will likely be “more violent and destructive than the previous ones,” due to the improvements that both sides have made to their respective military capabilities in the interim.

The report, “Hezbollah’s terror army: How to prevent a third Lebanon war,” offers limited recommendations for avoiding such a conflict, instead painting it as a war waiting to happen.

The retired generals and defense officials from the United States, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Colombia, India, and Australia who make up the HLMG also express significant criticism of the United Nations for its “evident severe failure” to fully implement UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War, a dereliction that they credit with exacerbating the situation.

The former military leaders found that the UN Interim Force in Lebanon peacekeeping mission is not enforcing the aspects of Resolution 1701 that are meant to keep armed non-state actors like Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon.

The 76-page report, which is based on interviews solely with Israeli representatives during a fact-finding mission, comes to many of the same conclusions as those of Israeli defense officials. In preparing the assessment, the HLMG did not meet with Lebanese, Hezbollah, or UN officials.

Yet the High Level Military Group maintains that its assessments are “based purely on the accumulated military and strategic experience of its members.”

Colonel Richard Kemp speaks at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, June 29, 2015 (courtesy UN Watch/ Oliver O’Hanlon)

The HLMG, which includes a former chairman of the NATO military committee, a former chief of staff of the Italian army, a former US ambassador-at-large on war crimes, a former director-general of the Indian Defense Intelligence Agency and the outspoken Israel supporter Col. (res.) Richard Kemp of the British military, was created by the Friends of Israel Initiative, a group founded by former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar in 2010 to fight an “unprecedented campaign of delegitimization against Israel.”

This is not the group’s first foray into Israeli security. In December 2015, the organization also released a report that defended the IDF’s actions during the previous year’s Gaza war, finding that the army had abided by the rules of armed conflict and even surpassed them.

Hezbollah is all grown up

Hezbollah was founded in 1985, three years after the start of the First Lebanon War. It was created with Iranian support, and began killing Israeli soldiers stationed in IDF outposts in southern Lebanon with anti-tank missiles, improvised explosive devices, and small arms fire.

Over time, however, the group grew from a terrorist nuisance to a full-scale nemesis with significant sway in domestic Lebanese politics. What was once a two-bit terrorist group now represents the benchmark by which the IDF measures its preparedness.

Supporters of the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah watch a video screening of a speech by the group’s head, Hassan Nasrallah, to mark the 11th anniversary of the end of the 2006 war with Israel, in the village of Khiam in southern Lebanon, August 13, 2017. (AFP/Mahmoud ZAYYAT)

In its report, the former generals and defense officials describe Hezbollah as being “widely considered to be the most powerful non-state armed actor in the world.”

As the Lebanese terrorist group has taken part in the fighting on behalf of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, it has gotten stronger through combat experience and improved access to advanced weaponry from its benefactor, Iran.

“Hezbollah has the political clout of a government, the firepower of an army and the strategic approach of a terrorist organization,” according to the report.

Israel believes that Hezbollah maintains a force of approximately 25,000 full-time fighters — 5,000 of which underwent advanced training in Iran — with another at least 20,000 fighters in reserve units.

A Hezbollah armored vehicle sits at the site where clashes erupted between Hezbollah and al-Qaeda-linked fighters in Wadi al-Kheil or al-Kheil Valley in the Lebanon-Syria border, July 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

The terrorist army boasts of possessing attack drones, air defense systems, armored personnel carriers and even tanks. It is also believed to have the Yakhont shore-to-sea missile, with which it can threaten Israeli Navy ships.

But its weapons of choice are missiles and rockets, which it has been amassing and improving, with Iranian assistance, at a fantastic rate.

Hezbollah is believed to possess between 100,000 and 150,000 projectiles, most of them short range. Israeli officials assess that in a future war, the terrorist group would be able to sustain a firing rate of over 1,000 missiles per day.

Increasingly, the IDF believes, the group has been focusing on making its missiles more precise so that it can direct attacks to key Israeli strategic sites.

Israeli explosives experts inspect a Hezbollah rocket after it landed in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, August 9, 2006. (Max Yelinson /Flash90)

“Thus, not only has the sheer numeric scale of the threat increased exponentially, but the lethality is greatly increased on account of larger payloads, range and higher targeting accuracy,” the HLMG wrote in its report.

Israel has been working to counter that threat through advanced missile defense systems like the Iron Dome, David’s Sling, Patriot and Arrow. But military officials regularly stress that these batteries will not provide perfect, hermetic protection.

On the defensive side, Hezbollah has been embedding itself in the southern Lebanese civilian population “for tactical advantage (making the IDF hesitate to attack) and strategic advantage (using images of civilian harm to delegitimize the IDF),” according to the report.

The HLMG said that Hezbollah “transformed almost every Shiite village in the country’s south into a military asset.”

Inside and under those villages, Hezbollah is believed to have prepared extensive fighting positions from which it could confront the more powerful IDF.

Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah has also threatened that the terrorist group would not be fighting alone, but would have the support of Iran-backed militias in Syria and other fighters from across the Middle East. This which would force the Israeli army to fight on two fronts or even more, if Hamas in Gaza joins in the conflict as well.

Lebanese supporters of Hezbollah gather in the southern town of Nabatiyeh on May 24, 2015 (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)

But the terrorist group has another advantage: the Israeli citizenry is unaccustomed to and unprepared for sustained conflict.

A man inspects the damage to a house following a rocket attack by terrorists from the Gaza Strip on the Israeli town of Yehud, beside Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport, on July 22, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Policymakers expressed concerns about how prepared the Israeli public is for the level of devastation that would be wrought in a major military clash with Hezbollah,” the HLMG wrote.

“Younger Israelis are less familiar with the threat of direct attack than older generations, and Israel’s success in neutralizing less sophisticated rockets fired from Gaza may have led to inflated expectations of its capacity to intercept the volume of rockets likely to be fired by Hezbollah.”

The IDF’s nothing to scoff at either

While Hezbollah’s arsenal contains “more rockets than many European armies,” according to the HLMG report, Israel’s military is considered by many analysts to be the most powerful in the Middle East.

Israel’s first two F-35 stealth fighter jets on their maiden flight as part of the Israeli Air Force on December 13, 2016. (Israel Defense Forces)

“Israel is equipped with the most advanced fighter jets, high-tech armed drones, and is widely assumed to be a nuclear weapons power,” the retired generals and defense officials wrote.

“Statistical data available for 2014 suggests that the IDF has 410,500 active frontline personnel, 3,657 tanks, and 989 aircraft.”

Israel has also dramatically improved its intelligence on the terrorist group in the 11 years since the Second Lebanon War, an important development, as a severe shortage of accurate information has been blamed for causing many of the conflict’s failures.

By combining the overwhelming military force at its disposal and the intelligence required to direct it, the IDF would seek to end a future war quickly, before the Israeli home front would sustain heavy casualties.

“However, as a potential conflict progresses, it will become harder for Israel’s military superiority to translate into battlefield victory,” according to the HLMG.

In their report, the former generals wrote that Israeli officials told them they expect there to be “thousands of casualties in Lebanon, many of whom will be civilians despite the IDF adhering to the highest standards of the Law of Armed Conflict.”

Conspicuously, while the High Level Military Group provides a general estimate of Lebanese casualties, it offers no such assessment of Israeli civilian deaths, beyond saying that the number is “likely to far exceed previous conflicts.” (There were 50 Israeli civilian deaths in the 1982 Lebanon War, and 46 in the 2006 conflict.)

Hezbollah is Lebanon, or is it?

One of the lingering questions in the High Level Military Group’s report is how Israel perceives the country of Lebanon, if it is fundamentally intertwined with Hezbollah or distinct from it.

“During the HLMG fact-finding, it was clear that an intense policy debate in Israel’s upper echelons increasingly sees some senior voices making the case that a conflict should probably be conceived as including the state of Lebanon as an adversary,” the former generals wrote.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, October 22, 2017. (Alex Kolomoisky)

For instance, Education Minister Naftali Bennett has been leading the charge that the two cannot be separated and that Lebanese national infrastructure should also be counted as a legitimate military target in a future war.

This was not the case in the 2006 Lebanon War, when the IDF’s policy was to differentiate between Lebanon and Hezbollah, but developments inside the Arab country could change that.

In its report, the HLMG noted an “increasingly symbiotic relationship between Hezbollah and the Lebanese Armed Forces,” which is believed to include intelligence sharing, as well as material cooperation.

Lebanese soldiers sit atop an armored personnel carrier in the eastern town of Ras Baalbek on August 21, 2017, after returning from fighting against Islamic State. (AFP Photo/Stringer)

“Israel shared evidence with the HLMG that suggests that at least some military equipment which the LAF receives from international patrons, including the United States, ultimately finds its way into the hands of Hezbollah units,” the retired generals wrote.

However, some analysts, who are not cited in the HLMG document, make the case, against the view of Bennett and other Israeli officials that Lebanon is Hezbollah, and Hezbollah is Lebanon.

One of these is David Daoud, a researcher analyst for the United Against a Nuclear Iran think tank and advocacy group, who argues that by attacking Lebanese national infrastructure, Israel could end up helping Hezbollah by proving to the Lebanese population that the terrorist group is, as it claims, the country’s defender against the “Zionist regime.”

Peacekeepers with their hands tied behind their back

The HLMG puts significant focus on the role and failures of UNIFIL, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon.

The international force is generally seen by Israel to be feckless and incapable, or at least unwilling, to take serious action against Hezbollah’s force build-up, while in Lebanon the group is perceived by many as being a shill for the IDF.

A Spanish UNIFIL peacekeeper drives an armored vehicle in the Lebanese town of Adaisseh, near the border with Israel, on January 19, 2015. (AFP/Mahmoud Zayyat)

UNIFIL’s activities in southern Lebanon are dictated by UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which, among other things, calls for no non-state armed forces to occupy positions south of Lebanon’s Litani River.

According to the HLMG, the United Nations force understands Resolution 1701 “in a very narrow sense with regards to the authority to search for weapons in Lebanon and curtail the activity of armed groups.”

A new and improved mandate is required to address the situation

Israel, and now the HLMG, argue that this mandate should be interpreted more broadly, which would allow UNIFIL to curb Hezbollah’s efforts to prepare for war by actively preventing the terror group from possessing weapons south of the Litani, with force if necessary.

“A new and improved mandate is required to address the situation,” according to the report.

What else can be done?

Beyond granting UNIFIL broader powers, the High Level Military Group offers scant advice for preventing a future conflict between Hezbollah and Israel.

What advice is offered is relatively vague, with no specifics to implement or mention of its feasibility. The main recommendation is to address not Hezbollah, but its patron.

“The international community must take actions to curtail Iran’s activities, raise the cost of its behavior and engage in efforts at deterrence,” the group wrote.

In terms of Hezbollah specifically, the High Level Military Group calls for Western nations to cease distinguishing the terror group’s political and terrorist wings.

The international community must take actions to curtail Iran’s activities

The former generals and defense officials also encourage the United States to make any future aid arrangements with Lebanon contingent “on a plan to strip Hezbollah of its de facto status as the leading force in the country.”

More generally, the HLMG calls for the West to “strongly support Israel in its efforts to de-escalate the tensions.”

READ MORE:

An Israeli Woman Has Been Elected To Top UN Space Committee

(THIS ARTICLE IS FROM THE WORDPRESS BLOG OF SEELISTENUNDERSTAND COURTESY OF AMIR)

 

Post-Oct. 20th 2017
1. Despite opposition by anti-Israel elements, an Israeli woman was elected to a top UN space committee. An Israeli representative was elected to the bureau of the United Nations’ Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) on Tuesday following a vote in the United Nations General Assembly Fourth Committee. This was the first time an Israeli was elected to the prestigious position. Israel sees the nomination as a significant victory, defying efforts by Israel’s adversaries to thwart the representative’s election. The successful candidate, Keren Shahar, who serves as the Director of the Treaties Department in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, had been selected by the Western European and Others (WEOG) regional group as their choice for the position. After a vote was called, Canada, the United States and others led efforts to “ensure a fair and unbiased process in the Committee,” Israel’s mission to the UN reported after the victory. Together with Israeli diplomatic efforts, this ensured that Israel succeeded in securing the necessary votes and the motion passed. In addition to Israel, Brazil, Mexico, Poland, South Africa and Indonesia were also elected to COPUOS. Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon welcomed the results of the election. “We have proven once again that Israel can succeed in all roles as we spearhead positive new initiatives as an equal partner in the UN,” Danon stated, vowing to “continue to stand strong against attempts to harm Israel in the international arena.” COPUOS is charged by the UN with governing the exploration and use of space for the benefit of all humanity, reviewing international cooperation in peaceful uses of outer space, encouraging space research, and studying legal problems arising from the exploration of outer space. Israel joined the 84 member organization in 2015.
2. “Iran needs to understand that Israel will not allow” its military build-up in Syria, Netanyahu told Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met on Tuesday in Jerusalem with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who is in the country for a two-day visit to meet with Israeli leaders for discussions on Iran and security coordination in Syria. Shoigu’s visit to Israel is his first since becoming Russia’s defense minister in 2012. According to an Israeli statement, the meeting mostly dealt with Iran’s attempt to establish itself militarily in Syria. Iran currently commands a large force of up to 25,000 Shi’ite Muslims fighting alongside Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria, including 500 Iranian army soldiers, 5,000 Hezbollah terrorists and several thousand guerrillas from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. Netanyahu told Shoigu that “Iran needs to understand that Israel will not allow this.” Russia and Iran are considered allies, while Russia is currently the main power broker inside Syria, which has been ravaged by six years of civil war. The issue of the Iranian nuclear agreement was also discussed. Netanyahu warned that Iran will have an arsenal of nuclear weapons within 8-10 years if the deal is not changed. Netanyahu has repeatedly called to alter or nix the nuclear accord with Iran, which Israel says does not prevent it from developing nuclear weapon, which it has repeatedly threatened to use against the Jewish state. Before meeting with Netanyahu, Shoigu visited Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial, and met with his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Liberman in Tel Aviv. During the meeting with Liberman, Shoigu expressed certainty that the talks would help “to better understand each other” and contribute to the strengthening of friendly relations between the Russian and Israeli militaries. Israel and Russia have collaborated closely on their respective militaries’ operations in Syria. Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin have held six bilateral meetings over the past two years to discuss regional issues and to maintain a protocol that prevents friction between their militaries in Syria. During a meeting in June with Putin in Sochi on the Black Sea, Netanyahu warned that Iran’s military build-up is a significant danger not only to Israel, but to other countries as well. “Iran makes huge efforts to cement its presence in Syria. This poses a threat to Israel, the Middle East and the whole world,” Netanyahu told Putin. Shoigu’s arrival in Israel came just hours after the Israeli Air Force (IAF) launched a retaliatory strike against a Syrian army anti-aircraft battery Monday morning. IDF spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said the Russian military was notified in real time as the Israeli strike was launched and that the incident will be addressed directly with Shoigu.
3. Would you, my friend, agree to spend your money/taxes, in helping the following? Visam Zvidat was an Israeli citizen. His wife convinced him to move to Iraq to Join DAESH. He, there, got wounded. He returned to Israel. He was sentenced to jail. As his health is, now, problematic, he needs Israeli health care. If Israel was a normal state he should have been sent back to Iraq and ask them to take care of him. But Israel, the most disgraced state in the world, due to lies of its enemies, of apartheid, accepted him back. We are the most social state in the world. Leave the Arab propaganda. Just search for the facts. The written here/in my posts is the truth.
4. The open/sincere declaration of the leader of Hamas in Gaza, Ihie Sinwar was: “Hamas was never a terror organization. We are freedom revolutionary fighters that fight for our people. The time that we were discussing recognition of Israel has passed. Now we deal with the question when we will erase Israel “. This is the face of the Hamas. They are proud of it. This is the spirit of the Quran. You guys, the readers, never read the Quran so you don’t know how awful it is. How sensible people can live with it. It is amazing how so many people hear such declarations, don’t stop for a minute to think: Is the declarer got out of his mind? Such declarations are made only by people that got out of their minds. People that their holy book is full with murdering orders and instructions how to implement it, by stoning, for example. Yes, this is true.
5. A missile was launched from Syria to the Golan Heights. No casualties. Israeli tank destroyed another Syrian army position. The Israeli Minister of defense said that Israel will not allow any fire into its space. Every such a case will get its clear answer/treatment.
6. With/in spite of all these problems and hardship Israel still behave logically and develop medicines for the people and the Arabs as well. It was announced that the new medicine of “KitePharma”, Israeli development, which is called: “Yescarta”, that treats the Lymphoma disease, (the same that I was honored to have, 10 years ago and the super Israeli doctors managed to fight before this medicine was available), was approved by the FDA for use by the public. Just to remind you: Gilead bought it for the sum of as little as $11.9 billion. I wish the sick people to get out of it like I did. It is very nice to talk about such a win after you get out of it healthy/healthier.
7. More good news from Israel: the unemployment is just 3.5% and we are looking for laborers/ workers. Te inflation is something above “0” (which is too low) and the yearly economy growth is 3.5% which is too, too little, but at least we are in the most positive situation. So, if you are qualified for working and you want to work in the most social place, you are invited to join Israel developing/dealing/producing the most sophisticated technology. Forget about the Arabs threat. We will solve this problem.
8. Last for today is the way of Arab thoughts: Iran is preparing its nuclear bomb to attack Israel. This is according to the Iranian declarations. Now, in order to do it the missile must fly/pass Arab space like Iran itself, Iraq, Jordan, S. Arabia. The flight time is about 8 minutes. Israeli Radar see the missile the minute it gets out from its shell/hide. Israeli missile “arrow 3/5” will be launched, the latest, after 20 seconds. The Israeli missile will meet the Iranian after 2 minutes, as it is faster than the Iranian. This meeting will take place somewhere in the Arabic space. The explosion will create heat and radioactive dust that will spread above the poor state that the explosion reached. OK, it will be very high, but its results will, sometime reach the ground. This will cause a lot of damage, sickness and casualties to the Arabs. Israel, due to its small size, will not suffer that much, if at all. Now, this is the time for you mankind, to resist the Iranian bomb and you Arabs to start thinking if this scenario, which is true, does pays you with all your wars against Israel. If it is not better to have a comprehensive peace agreement and to solve all disputes around the table instead of following the “Harb” (war) of the Quran?
Have Shabat Shalom and nice weekend .
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