That’s why Samir Geagea has betrayed the Christians
By Pierre Khalaf
As soon as the coordinator of President Barak Obama for the Middle East, Philip Gordon, he had left Beirut, the results of his visit appeared on the Lebanese political scene. The Lebanese Forces have suddenly renounced all their commitments and turned against the orthodox electoral project, breaking Christian unanimity.
Samir Geagea was commissioned by the Americans to prevent recovery by Christians of their rights, plundered for over 20 years by the Future Movement and the Progressive Socialist Party, with which he has concluded an agreement on a hybrid electoral law. This project is based on majority and proportional elections modes and a new electoral districts. 46% of parliamentary seats will be elected based on proportional representation and 54% according to the majority mode. Majority voting will be held at 26 districts, the current cazas. The proportional voting will be held at six major districts, the current five governorates, the mohafazat Mount Lebanon is divided into two districts: one consisting of cazas Jbeil, Keserwan, Metn and Baabda, and the second grouping cazas of Chouf and Aley. A deep analysis of this proposal shows its consequences. It weakens the Christians more than the 1960 electoral law. The division of Mount Lebanon into two districts puts indeed Christians under the control of Sunni and Druze voters.
The Maronite Patriarchate was surprised that the LF leader could accept such an agreement as he was committed to supporting efforts to produce legislation ensuring the best possible representation for Christians. In consideration of this change, Samir Geagea received assurances that he would appoint some of Christian candidates on electoral lists of the Future and PSP. Both parties have promised to provide him a parliamentary bloc of 16 deputies.
Christian public opinion was shocked by this "betrayal". Instead of his mea culpa, Samir Geagea returned to a virulent hostile speech against Michel Aoun. Out of political considerations, he attacked personally the Free Patriotic Movement leader in the most insulting terms. But voters will not forgive him this change, and analysts expect a tidal wave in favor of Michel Aoun in the upcoming elections.
The danger of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state
By Ghaleb Kandil
For years, Israel is trying to obtain recognition as a Jewish state. Under Barak Obama presidency, this issue has turned into one of the main constants of Western policy in the Middle East. Efforts are being made to convince the wreckage of the Arab League, led by Qatar, to accept the Jewish identity of Israel. This became clear during the last visit to Washington of Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani.
Recognizing Israel as a Jewish state means that the land of Palestine is Jewish and gives credit to the Zionist legend built on the falsification of History. This also means that the Arab states, dominated by the West have signed the document of surrender historical rights of the Palestinian people and buried the right of return of millions of refugees. Thus, Palestinian people become the one that took control of Jews land.
This policy is the most serious since Camp David peace agreement between Israel and Egypt. Its catastrophic results on the political and legal levels will be more dangerous than all the betrayals and mistakes made by the Arab states so far.
Recognizing the Jewish nature of Israel paves the way for massacres against Palestinians in the 1948 territories, that will be driven from their land, not to mention those in the West Bank.
It is a hateful racist concept, and Zionist leaders openly speak of a "pure Jewish state", built on ethnic cleansing. The Palestinian areas in the West Bank will become a kind of Bantustans governed by apartheid. The Israeli Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, has prepared the ground for the Palestinian exodus when he spoke of a Middle East populated with millions of refugees in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. The opportunity is ripe, he said, to drive the Arabs of Palestine.
These words enlighten us about one of the main strategic objectives of the global war launched against Syria. Because this Zionist dream cannot be realized unless Syria is weakened and dismembered.
BASHAR AL-ASSAD, President of the Arab Syrian Republic
«Rebels are not a single entity. They are different groups and bands, not dozens but hundreds. They are a mixture and each group has its local leader. And who can unify thousands of people? We can’t discuss a timetable with a party if we don’t know who they are. There cannot be a unilateral solution in Syria; two parties are needed at least. In practice, the opposition forces are linked to foreign countries and cannot make a decision for themselves. They are one and the same, and it is they who announced that they don’t want a dialogue with the Syrian state, most recently last week. Believing that a political conference will stop terrorism on the ground is unreal. We do not have fighters from outside Syria. There are people here from Hezbollah and Iran but they have been coming and going in Syria since long before the crisis. Our forces did not use chemical weapons. The use of such weapons could be used as a pretext to directly intervene in the crisis. It is probable that the issue would be used. The west lies and falsifies evidence to engineer wars, it is a habit of theirs. Of course any war against Syria would not be easy, it wouldn’t be a simple excursion. Intervention is a clear probability, especially after we’ve managed to beat back armed groups in many areas of Syria. Then these countries sent Israel to do this to raise the morale of the terrorist groups. We expect that an intervention will occur at some point although it may be limited in nature. How does one define excessive force? How can one decide whether excessive force has been used or not? What is the formula to be applied? The debate is not about the extent of the force used or the type of weapon, the issue really centres on the nature and extent of the terrorism we have suffered, and thus, what is a proper response. Israel is directly supporting the terrorist groups in two ways, firstly it gives them logistical support and it also tells them what sites to attack and how to attack them. For example, they attacked a radar station that is part of our anti-aircraft defenses, which can detect any plane coming from overseas, especially from Israel.»
BISHARA RAI, Maronite patriarch of Antioch and all the East
«I ask House Speaker Nabih Berri to haste to exert all efforts to reach consensus over a new fair electoral law, especially that it doesn’t at all befit Lebanon, Lebanese officials and the House of Parliament to fail so far to find a law.»
MICHEL AOUN, leader of the Free patriotic Movement
«Some of the parties that backed the proposal abandoned it therefore toppling the most important law for Christians. The same concessions that were made during the approval of the Taif Accord are being repeated today. We were waiting on this historic day for a fair electoral law to be approved. The constitution calls for fair and equal representation for all sides, which was not respected. We were hoping that the other camp, which opposes the proposal, would have supported it in a moment of clarity, but they didn’t. We are concerned with offering fair representation for Christians, while the others only care about gaining more seats in parliament.»
SAMIR GEAGEA, Lebanese Forces leader
«The Orthodox Gathering proposal could no longer reach the desired results, it no longer had a chance of being approved. The priority of the Lebanese Forces has always been on securing a voting system that enjoys national backing in order to replace the current legislature governing the polls – the amended version of the 1960 law. In the past two weeks, it seemed as if I was negotiating with one of my enemies [referring to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri] despite the close personal ties I have with him. That the path toward the hybrid proposal was extremely difficult. The Orthodox proposal had lost its chances of ever being passed in Parliament due to the harsh reactions it provoked by several parties. The Orthodox law was approved and referred on Feb. 19, 2013, and until today, there was no attempt to hold a session and vote on it. This is the case because many who claim to be backers of the law are in fact opposed to it.»
BARAK OBAMA, American President
«Bashar Assad must quit power as part of moves to end the civil war. There is no magic formula for dealing with an extraordinarily violent and difficult situation like Syria’s. Assad needs to go. He needs to transfer power to a transitional body. That is the only way we’re going to resolve this crisis. And we’re going to keep working for a Syria that is free from Assad’s tyranny.»
GENERAL MARTIN DEMPSEY, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
«Russia’s shipment of anti-ship missiles to Syria will embolden the regime and fuel the country’s civil war. It is at the very least an unfortunate decision. It’s ill-timed and very unfortunate. The SA-300 is a more capable system with a longer-range that would force any air attack to be carried out from a longer, standoff distance. It pushes the standoff distance a little more, increases risk but not impossible to overcome. What I really worry about is that Assad will decide that since he’s got these systems, he’s somehow safer and more prone to a miscalculation. We do not have options to prevent the delivery of any military sales to the Syrians.»
• A Israeli military spokesman said that two missiles were fired from Syria last Wednesday in an area of Mount Hermon occupied by Israel. "There were two explosions on the Israeli side of Mount Hermon, we are examining the circumstances of the incident," added the spokesman, stressing that "this is related to the situation in Syria". Several similar incidents have occurred in recent times in the region. Syria had announced the opening of the Golan front in response to Israeli attacks against Damascus.
• Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday responded to a New York Times report that Russia has sent advanced antiship cruise missiles to war-torn Syria by saying that Russian arms deliveries do not change the balance of power, are fully legal and take place under existing contracts. Citing unidentified American officials, The New York Times on Thursday reported that Russian arms supplies to Syria included Yakhont missiles upgraded with advanced radar systems. “I do not understand why the media is trying to sensationalize this,” Lavrov said in response to a journalist’s question on the latest weapons supply reports during a press conference with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday. Lavrov reiterated that Russian arms deliveries to Syria take place under existing contracts and are fully within the law. He also said that the supplies will not change the balance of power in the conflict.
• A bomb exploded Saturday in a Tripoli street housing the Algerian, Greek and Saudi embassies, lightly damaging a car, hours after a soldier was wounded in a bombing in Libya’s second city Benghazi. A security source said the homemade bomb, locally known as "gelatina", had been placed near a car on a street in the central district of Dahra where the three embassies are located. The car, parked outside the Greek embassy, was slightly damaged and there were no reports of casualties. On April 23, a car bomb detonated outside the French embassy in the upmarket Gargaresh area of Tripoli, causing extensive damage and wounding two embassy guards and several local residents. Meanwhile a pre-dawn drive-by bomb attack in the eastern city of Benghazi on Saturday slightly wounded a soldier.
• US Central Commander Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III stressed during talks with senior Lebanese officials Friday the strong military cooperation between Lebanon and the United States, according to a US Embassy statement. Austin, who arrived Friday morning at the head of military delegation from Cairo, held separate talks with President Michel Sleiman at Baabda Palace and Lebanese Army Gen. Jean Kahwaji in Yarzeh. According to the Embassy statement, during his talks with the Lebanese officials Austin “emphasized the strong and sustained military cooperation between the two countries.” “As part of this cooperation and to strengthen the [Lebanese Army’s] capacity and mobility, he noted the over $180 million in equipment delivered to the Lebanese Armed Forces since June 2012 that includes aircraft, a naval vessel, armored and unarmored vehicles, guns, ammunition, equipment, and medical supplies,” the statement said.
AS SAFIR (LEBANESE DAILY, CLOSE TO THE MAJORITY, MAY 16, 2013)
The Future Movement and the Lebanese Forces have officially buried the orthodox law by agreeing on a joint text. It is a well orchestrated piece to lead to extension of the mandate of Parliament. Whenever Samir Geagea expressed the support of the orthodox project, the echoes were heard in Saudi Arabia, which has had a direct impact on last-minute negotiations: the Future Movement conceded to Lebanese Forces most of seats allocated to independent Christians and the two parties then decided of the electoral districts, taking into consideration the demands of Walid Jumblatt who immediately endorsed the agreement.
AS SAFIR (MAY 15, 2013)
U.S. President Barack Obama is going to discuss with Russia the Syrian crisis issue, allowing the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stay until the end of his mandate. A political solution will be discussed with Assad representatives. "It is not strange that we are dropped by the Americans. They used to do that", responds a former French diplomat directly related to regional issues, as summarized U.S. policy vis-à-vis the Syrian crisis.
At least three European countries, Germany, Belgium and Italy have initiated secret contacts with Damascus. These countries are fiercely opposed to the logic of arming the opposition and fear the shock wave of terrorism that could hit their soil. They also believe that the French President Francois Hollande would quickly end the adventure of his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy. Moreover, there are voices in France, increasingly, against the Franco-Qatari relationship.
AN NAHAR (LEBANESE DAILY CLOSE TO MARCH-14 COALITION)
ROSANNA BOU MOUNCEF (MAY 16, 2013)
When U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry asked his Russian counterpart during his visit to Moscow, a commitment that President Bashar al-Assad will not stand in the next presidential elections in 2014, Sergei Lavrov refused give it to him. Diplomatic sources indicate that Moscow will not easily give up the cards it has in the Syrian issue. Even if it is convinced that it will be difficult for President Assad to remain in power, Russia is not burning this card, as it continues its pressure on the United States. It is in this context that one must put the case of the American spy who was a diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. These sources describe as "ambiguous" the timing of this case, which cannot be separated from the Russian preparations for future negotiations with Washington. This incident confirmed reports that Russia had not changed its position on the Syrian issue, as well as the United States also. European, especially French and British reactions about the international conference on Syria, also show that Moscow and Washington have not yet reached an agreement, even if they have agreed on the need to find a peaceful solution and rule out the military option. Russians and Americans have agreed to work together to develop an agreement on the transitional period. But there is no agreement on the details.
AL AKHBAR (LEBANESE DAILY CLOSE TO THE LEBANESE RESISTANCE, MAY 16, 2013)
According to high-level Iranian sources, the meeting that took place in Jeddah on Sunday, May 12, between Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi and his Saudi counterpart, Saud al-Faisal, may have been amicable, but in substance, little was gained.
In fact, the same sources report that the Saudi minister was largely unresponsive on the key issue of Syria, instead reproaching Salehi about Iran’s meddling in Yemen and Bahrain.
“Where are you going with this? What is it that you are after?” the same sources report Faisal as saying on the Yemen issue. “We feel that the region is tense. The security of the Gulf that you talk about requires more careful steps.”
He then raised the question of Bahrain, without mentioning the country by name, again raising concerns about Iran’s involvement. Salehi’s reply was conciliatory, offering his country as a mediator between the opposition and the regime, refusing that such efforts be secret, as Manama had requested.
Salehi had opened the meeting by talking about Syria and the need for Saudi Arabia to play more of a role in any coming settlement, in the hope of exploiting differences that are said to have emerged among the Arab Gulf nations over the Syria crisis.
Lately, some political observers have suggested that Riyadh is gradually taking over the Syria file from the more hawkish Qatar, and is preparing for a settlement. They argue, however, that the Saudi strategy is to escalate on a number of regional fronts in order to improve their chances on the negotiating table.
Riyadh’s approach was reflected in a recent meeting of six regional foreign ministers (Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, UAE, Egypt, and Turkey) in Abu Dhabi on Monday night, whose attendees issued a statement that “there is no place” for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the country.
Despite declaring that the Geneva agreement provides “the appropriate basis for a solution,” they reaffirmed their support for both the political and armed opposition and blamed the regime for the continuing violence on the ground.
On a related issue, Tehran has now twice postponed a visit from Qatari foreign minister Hamad Bin Jassim al-Thani. The first delay due to Salehi’s meeting with Faisal, and the second due to “an urgent engagement,” according to Iranian sources.
The same sources suggest that Qatar is uneasy about being left out of the negotiations underway regarding a Syria settlement, fearing that Riyadh and Tehran will have a bigger say in setting the terms of any future resolution to a conflict in which Doha has staked so much.
AL AKHBAR (MAY 17, 2013)
In an unusual step, an Israeli official recently contacted The New York Times to issue threats that Israel is prepared to bring down the Syrian regime if Damascus retaliates against Tel Aviv’s earlier military strikes.
“Israel is determined to continue to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah,” declared a senior Israeli official, who contacted The New York Times on Wednesday, May 15. The official continued: “If Syrian President Assad reacts by attacking Israel, or tries to strike Israel through his terrorist proxies, he will risk forfeiting his regime, for Israel will retaliate.”
The newspaper further quoted the Israeli official as saying, “Israel has so far refrained from intervening in Syria’s civil war and will maintain this policy as long as Assad refrains from attacking Israel directly or indirectly.”
Mark Landler, the author ot the piece, wrote that the motives behind issuing such threats were “uncertain,” noting that “Israel could be seeking to restrain Syria’s behavior to avoid taking further military action, or alerting other countries to another military strike.” He also suggested that there may be a secondary audience to the message, i.e. Iran and Hezbollah.
The official’s statement prompted much speculation in the Israeli media about its motives and timing. Some linked it with the landing of two mortar shells on Mount Hermon in the occupied Golan Heights on Wednesday, while others believed that it came as a result of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent trip to Moscow, which Israeli sources described as a failure.
Amos Yadlin, a former Israeli military intelligence chief, told NYT that Russia could be one of the targeted recipients of the Israeli message, particularly given that two of the weapons that Tel Aviv has named as game changers in its confrontation with Hezbollah –the SA-17 anti-aircraft rockets and Yakhont shore-to-sea missiles– are Russian.
In a different take, Amir Bohbout, a military affairs analyst from the Hebrew website Walla!, speculates that the Israeli message did not come from the security establishment, but was rather issued from political circles who intended it to be a reassuring signal to Israelis, particularly those living in the north, who felt that the military was unsure of how to respond to the mortar attacks on Mount Hermon.
Bahbout suggests that Assad was inclined to retaliate after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s cold reception of Netanyahu in Moscow earlier in the week, taking advantage of the opportunity to send a clear signal to Tel Aviv that Damascus does not intend to remain quiet about such aggression.
The Israeli newspaper Maariv, for its part, put the official’s threats in the context of conflicting views emerging in political and security circles over the Syrian crisis, with one side pushing to topple Assad – which they view as a devastating blow to Israel’s most dangerous foe, Iran – and an opposing current, which is increasingly concerned about the kind of alternatives that would emerge to replace the regime in Damascus.
AL HAYAT (SAUDI DAILY, MAY 15, 2013)
Iran is working to change the political and military situation and in Syria. An informed source in Tehran, interviewed by Al Hayat, said that the Iranian authorities have managed to convince Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to give unlimited role to Hezbollah, and put all the resources of the Syrian army at his disposal if he wants to open the Golan front against Israel. Iran, adds the same source, also convinced Damascus to open the door of jihad for Arabs and Muslims who want to fight Israel from the Golan.
THE FINANCIAL TIMES (AMERICAN DAILY, MAY 16, 2013)
ROULA KHALAF AND ABIGAIL SMITH
The gas-rich state of Qatar has spent as much as $3bn over the past two years supporting the rebellion in Syria, far exceeding any other government, but is now being nudged aside by Saudi Arabia as the prime source of arms to rebels.
The cost of Qatar’s intervention, its latest push to back an Arab revolt, amounts to a fraction of its international investment portfolio. But its financial support for the revolution that has turned into a vicious civil war dramatically overshadows western backing for the opposition.
In dozens of interviews with the Financial Times conducted in recent weeks, rebel leaders both abroad and within Syria as well as regional and western officials detailed Qatar’s role in the Syrian conflict, a source of mounting controversy.
The small state with a gargantuan appetite is the biggest donor to the political opposition, providing generous refugee packages to defectors (one estimate puts it at $50,000 a year for a defector and his family) and has provided vast amounts of humanitarian support.
In September, many rebels in Syria’s Aleppo province received a one-off payment of $150 courtesy of Qatar. Sources close to the Qatari government say total spending has reached as much as $3bn, while rebel and diplomatic sources put the figure at $1bn at most.
For Qatar, owner of the world’s third-largest gas reserves, its intervention in Syria is part of an aggressive quest for global recognition and is merely the latest chapter in its attempt to establish itself as a major player in the region, following its backing of Libya’s rebels who overthrew Muammer Gaddafi in 2011.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which tracks arms transfers, Qatar has sent the most weapons deliveries to Syria, with more than 70 military cargo flights into neighbouring Turkey between April 2012 and March this year.
But though its approach is driven more by pragmatism and opportunism, than ideology, Qatar has become entangled in the polarised politics of the region, setting off scathing criticism. “You can’t buy a revolution,” says an opposition businessman.
THE NEW YORK TIMES (AMERICAN DAILY, MAY 16, 2013)
MICHAEL R. GORDON AND ERIC SCHMITT
Russia has sent advanced antiship cruise missiles to Syria, a move that illustrates the depth of its support for the Syrian government led by President Bashar al-Assad, American officials said Thursday.
Russia has previously provided a version of the missiles, called Yakhonts, to Syria. But those delivered recently are outfitted with an advanced radar that makes them more effective, according to American officials who are familiar with classified intelligence reports and would only discuss the shipment on the basis of anonymity.
Unlike Scud and other longer-range surface-to-surface missiles that the Assad government has used against opposition forces, the Yakhont antiship missile system provides the Syrian military a formidable weapon to counter any effort by international forces to reinforce Syrian opposition fighters by imposing a naval embargo, establishing a no-fly zone or carrying out limited airstrikes.
“It enables the regime to deter foreign forces looking to supply the opposition from the sea, or from undertaking a more active role if a no-fly zone or shipping embargo were to be declared at some point,” said Nick Brown, editor in chief of IHS Jane’s International Defense Review. “It’s a real ship killer.”
Jeffrey White, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former senior American intelligence official, said Syria’s strengthened arsenal would “tend to push Western or allied naval activity further off the coast” and was also “a signal of the Russian commitment to the Syrian government.”
“This weapons transfer is obviously disappointing and will set back efforts to promote the political transition that is in the best interests of the Syrian people and the region,” Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement on Thursday night. “There is now greater urgency for the U.S. to step up assistance to the moderate opposition forces who can lead Syria after Assad.”
Syria ordered the coastal defense version of the Yakhont system from Russia in 2007 and received the first batteries in early 2011, according to Jane’s. The initial order covered 72 missiles, 36 launcher vehicles, and support equipment, and the systems have been displayed in the country.
The batteries are mobile, which makes them more difficult to attack. Each consists of missiles, a three-missile launcher and a command-and-control vehicle.
The missiles are about 22 feet long, carry either a high-explosive or armor-piercing warhead, and have a range of about 180 miles, according to Jane’s.
They can be steered to a target’s general location by longer-range radars, but each missile has its own radar to help evade a ship’s defenses and home in as it approaches its target.