Category Archives: Syria

Al Qaeda in Lebanon: Who Killed Hariri? Who Really Knows? Who Really Cares?…………

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In focusing entirely on the alleged links between four Hezbollah activists and the 2005 bombing that killed Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the indictment issued by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon earlier this month has continued the practice of the U.N investigation before it of refusing to acknowledge the much stronger evidence that an Al-Qaeda cell was responsible for the assassination. Several members of an Al-Qaeda cell confessed in 2006 to having carried out the crime, but later recanted their confessions, claiming they were tortured. However, the transcript of one of the interrogations, which was published by a Beirut newspaper in 2007, shows that the testimony was being provided without coercion and that it suggested that Al-Qaeda had indeed ordered the assassination. But the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) was determined to pin the crime either on Syria or its Lebanese ally Hezbollah and refused to pursue the Al-Qaeda angle…………”

An interesting angle introduced about the Hariri assassination. This adds yet more “parties of interest” to the whole tedious boring saga. Let’s see what we have now:


  • Originally Syria was accused and convicted in (some) media of the assassination in 2005. That created pressure on the Syrian regime to evacuate its forces from Lebanon (they had overstayed their welcome anyway). For some time the Syrian angle was the one pushed by the March 14 right-wing Lebanese bloc and by the Saudi and Israeli and Western media. Hariri allies went all over Western media swearing that the Syrians were behind the assassinations.
  •  
  • In 2006 the war between Israel and Lebanon (actually Hezbollah) erupted. The Israelis, who usually trounce regular Arab armies easily, were humiliated for the second time in six years by an Arab guerrilla army.

  • The West started to cozy up to the Assad regime in Syria in recent years (before the Arab Spring and Summer). The Saudi King visited Damascus and he and Assad flew together into Beirut.  They looked almost sweet together.

  • Lo and behold, suddenly news leaked that in fact it was not Syria that was being suspected, not anymore. It was Hezbollah or more accurately some Hezbollah officials who were suspected of the assassination of Hariri. Some reports in Middle East right-wing media even threw in the names of Iranian leaders like Khamenei and others as possible suspects.

  • Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah hinted, nay strongly suggested, that the Israelis may have been behind the assassination. He noted that Israel stood to gain the most from it (getting the Syrians out of Lebanon, dividing the Lebanese, dividing the Arabs to the extent that some regimes supported Israel in the war of 2006).

  • Now al-Qaeda is being introduced as yet another suspect.

  • Most Lebanese seem to have lost faith in the Hariri tribunal and think, probably quite rightly, that it is being used as a political tool. Now where would they get this idea?

  • Most Arabs, those who care at all, look at the tribunal through the prism of their own political (and sectarian) inclinations. These are the Arabs of the East, of the Asian side: Lebanon, Syria, and the Gulf GCC states. These are the Arab regions were sectarian passions are strong.

  • The other Arabs (Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, North Africa, Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti) don’t give a rat’s ass about the whole Hariri STL thing.

  • Who killed Hariri and so many others who were nearby in 2005? I haven’t the foggiest idea. But I do suspect one thing: the STL tribunal may not know anymore than I do. Possibly only the killers know.
  • (No, Hugo Chavez had nothing to do with it).

Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

From Tehran to Riyadh: of Revolutions and Selective Memories………

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Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei announced on Wednesday that “we are very worried about situation in Bahrain.” The Leader made the remarks as he addressed worshippers at prayers marking Eid ul-Fitr. The Leader called on people in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen to vigilantly guard their revolutions so that the arrogant powers would not hijack their revolutions. “Muslim nations whether in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, and in the rest of countries need to be vigilant today. They should not allow the victories they have gained to be hijacked by enemies.” The Leader also pointed to NATO attacks on Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, saying those countries which consider themselves as owners of the Libyan revolution are those past colonial powers who helped suppress the Libyan nation………….

I agree with the ayatollah about Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, and Bahrain, especially Bahrain. But he forgot all about the protests and the repression in Syria. Must have been a simple lapse; people do forget one or two countries sometimes. That is also the reason why Saudi media focus on Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Syria, and forget all about the struggle and the repression in Bahrain.
And about those parliamentary elections next March: it would be interesting to see who is allowed to run and who isn’t.

Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Is Iran Hedging on Syria? Saving Assad from his Party…………….

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Iran, Syria’s closest ally, called on the government in Damascus to recognize its people’s “legitimate” demands on Saturday, in the first such remarks to come from the Persian country since the five-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad started. Although the remarks, by Iran’s foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, did not advocate any specific changes, they were the first public sign of growing unease with the crisis in Syria — even as Iran has maintained an unyielding crackdown on its own dissenters. Other governments in the region are increasingly worried that the crisis could spill beyond Syria’s borders…………….

A little late, but not too late: maybe they see something new. This is a serious development for Syria. Iran is the last ally left, other than Hezbollah. The Iranians see the writing on the wall, but the Syrian regime does not. The Iranians worry about a “Libyan” solution for Syria
whereby Nato forces (Turks and others) would interfere, with the help and alibi provided by a couple of Gulf states like UAE and/or Qatar (other Arab countries are smarter than intervening in a bloody civil strife). Now if one day Hezbollah surprises everyone and comes out and calls on the Syrians to respect the rights of their people………
Cheers
mhg



m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Syria Divided: Arab Spring, Arab Toothpaste………….

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On one of the city’s main streets, families have still gathered every night on the sidewalks and in the medians for nighttime picnics. Vendors crowd around selling hookahs, popcorn, sandwiches and coffee. Traffic moves slowly as people park cars by the sidewalk and open doors and windows to let music stream out to entertain the crowds……. But Aleppo’s reluctance to join the revolution goes beyond any alleged cowardice. As a financially stable city, Aleppo was already less likely to revolt, and since the nationwide unrest erupted in mid-March, residents have by turns been made complacent by government enticements and scared by the overwhelming presence of security agents and spies. Whereas Damascus is the capital and administrative hub of Syria, Aleppo is the economic center where much of the money flows, said Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian opposition activist and dissident in the United States. Many of the country’s factories, textile plants and pharmaceutical companies are in the city………….

The regime in Syria, just like those in Libya and Yemen, just like all Arab regimes whether dictatorships or monarchies, clings to power. As a Ba’ath Party regime, it is more willing to kill its own people than say, even the Mubarak regime in Egypt. The Ba’ath Party has had a specially dark and bloody history, in both Iraq and Syria. It started as an imitator of Europe’s Fascist “Nationalist” parties, but later acquired socialists pretensions after the expansion of Soviet power. Yet it soon descended, especially in Iraq, to a basically tribal power center (tribal in the literal sense and in the broader sense of a clan or a sect). In that, the Ba’ath rule became no different from any dictatorship or absolute monarchy; only it was bloodier than both other cases because of the mutual mistrust with the people. Neither Nasser nor Sadat or Mubarak in Egypt were ever nearly as repressive as the Ba’ath, nor were most Arab monarchies with one exception (some would say two exceptions).
No doubt the Syrian toothpaste is out of the tube. Yet the shape of the future is unknown. Arab despots are very creative in bargaining with their people and clinging to their power under different, new, guises. And the outside world (especially the West) does not like any change not of its own making. That is why the overall verdict on the so-called Arab Spring is undecided, yet.
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Political Advertisement: Syrian Uprising Spills over into Lebanon…………

Gangs of supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad armed with whips and clubs assaulted a small anti-regime protest in front of the Syrian Embassy in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, leaving several injured. According to accounts of the victims, mostly Lebanese activists and members of civil society organizations, gathered in front of the embassy Tuesday night to show support for those killed by Assad’s gunmen in the Syrian city of Hama when groups of men began striking them and whipping them with belts……. “It was all planned. They came, started chanting for Bashar and then started getting closer to us,” said Saad Kurdi, one of the anti-regime protestors. “We didn’t provoke them. As they chanted ‘We sacrifice ourselves for you, Bashar,’ we chanted over them, ‘We sacrifice for you, Syria,’ and then they attacked us.” Demonstrators blamed the Lebanese Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party, known for being closely aligned with the increasingly isolated Baathist regime in Damascus, for inciting Syrian laborers around the neighborhood to attack them. Lebanon is home to a large community of Syrians who work in construction and many other blue-collar jobs.…………

It was bound to happen. Lebanese unrest has always spilled into Syria in some way, and Syrian unrest has now reached Lebanon. The Lebanese parties are divided between pro-regime (Syrian regime) like Hezbollah and General Michel Aoun and opponents of the regime like the Phalangists and the Hariri allies. There are also some ethnic racist elements: some Lebanese tend to look down on Syrians who work in their country and there have been incidents of mob attacks and abuses. On the other hand the Syrians controlled Lebanon from 1976 until 2005. Oddly, the Syrian forces entered Lebanon during the civil war in order to prevent the defeat of some of the right-wing parties that are now strongly anti-Syrian.
About the chant of “We sacrifice ourselves for you, Bashar,“: this is common in Arab states, where dictators or absolute monarchs have their paid agents march and chant. The late Saddam Hussein used the chant extensively on the streets of Baghdad and Amman. Nobody would sacrifice their lives for any Arab leader: it is all like the advertisements one sees on television, all paid for (like soap or Corona or Pepsi).

Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Syria: Revolution or Reform……..

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The Syrian Ba’athist regime of Bashar al-Assad says it wants to reform but the ‘opposition’ says it is not enough and anyway it might be too little too late. Arab regimes are divided: some want the Assad regime to remain because it is their ally (Iran, Hezbollah, possibly Iraq), others want the Assad regime to fall for the same reason the three mentioned earlier want it to remain in power, yet others reluctantly want it to remain because they fear the unknown alternative (Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey). Syria is potentially the most explosive case among Arab states facing revolt: it is almost impossible to predict what will replace the Assad regime, and the regional stakes for all concerned are far greater than in Libya or Tunisia. Assad is close to Iran but that does not mean the next regime will be closer to Saudi Arabia or to the West, or necessarily more hostile to Iran. Or less hostile, or more hostile, to Israel. The opposition itself is divided, depending on geography to some extent. They can’t seem to bring out the type of masses seen in Egypt and Tunisia.
Complicated, but the killings have to stop, for the Syrian people deserve to have their say and vote freely for their government. As should ALL Arab peoples have that right.
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Political Nirvana: Hillary Clinton Writes to the Saudi People about Freedom for Syrians…….

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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has penned a column for the Saudi daily Asharq Alawsat (owned by Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz al-Saud). Her topic is the Syrian uprising against the Assad regime and is titled “No return to the Status Quo Ante in Syria”.
She assures the Saudi people, and any other Arabs who might read that daily, that the Bahraini Saudi Syrian people deserve freedom and the right to choose their own government, that they deserve dignity and freedom from fear. She also said that Bahrain Syria deserves a government that respects the people and seeks a unified and democratic nation…..
Like Mr. Obama in his last speech, she neglected to mention Saudi Arabia and the people of the Arabian Peninsula. They both believe in the principle of selective non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations, and hence she did not mention Occupied Bahrain or Saudi Arabia or the UAE where many people are languishing in prison for expressing their opinion. Or maybe they believe that the peoples in these absolute tribal monarchies have already attained political Nirvana or, worse, they don’t believe these people deserve what the peoples of other Arab countries (and Iran) deserve.
It is true, not as many people have been killed in most the Gulf states than in Syria or Libya or Egypt. Except for Bahrain where proportionally as much if not more have been killed than in some of the others, given the small population of native Bahrainis and the 33 killed and dozens still “missing”.
Cheers
mhg




m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Is it Syria in Exchange for Bahrain? the Arba’een………….

     
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The West, especially the United States government, have been quite silent over the oppression and the reign of terror going on in Bahrain. The reactions have been mild, calling for a end of violence by “both sides” and dialog. The US even accepted the Saudi invasion of Bahrain, which raises the question of what would the US say if Iranian troops had landed in Damascus at the invitation of Bashar al-Assad. Of course that will not happen.
On the other hand, the US has been almost muted about the protests in Syrian cities. Ironically, it is the Saudis, through their vast controlled media, who have been calling for reforms in Syria. The Saudis would not recognize reform if it kissed every prince on the nose (as we might say in the Gulf). They mean their kind of “reform” which means a regime that is as subservient to the al-Saud dynasty as Mubarak was, as subservient as Hariri in Lebanon or al-Khalifa in Bahrain have been (or even maybe as the al-Nahayan in Abu Dhabi seem to be nowadays).
In any case, shifts in Syria or the Gulf would be game changers in the region, and there seems to be an understanding that real change in these two regions is not acceptable, yet. Hence Syria will most likely suppress its uprising and institute some reforms with international blessing. Hence Bahrain has called in foreign invaders to suppress its uprising, with Western blessing.
I can be wrong about both: the Syrian uprising may gather steam, and the Bahrain uprising may regain its momentum as the forty-day (arba’een) anniversary of the first regime killings arrives.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Goebbels of Arabia: A Feudal Lesson in Democracy………..

     
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No doubt suppression will buy the regime, any regime, more time, but it will not lead to safety. The simplest examples are those of Saddam’s Iraq and Mu’ammar Qaddafi. They tried all methods of oppression, but the time for change came… Can Damascus continue to try a journalist for weakening national resolve or a teenage blogger for threatening national security? This cannot continue in view of recent changes in our region….. If Egypt becomes truly democratic it may limit presidential terms, and the same may happen in Tunisia and Libya. Can the Syrian regime then remain the only static case in the face of all this change?….. Developments from which Syria cannot be isolated say that Syria has no choice but to do more reforms, It is time for Damascus to start some real reforms in allowing political parties and term limits……There are no magical solutions but real reform…….

You might think this paragraph was written by someone who is a devout republican democrat, someone who believes in power to the people. It was not: on the contrary, it was written by a spokesman for the Saudi regime. It was written by Tareq al-Humaid, the chief editor of Saudi semi-official daily Asharq Alawsat, owned by Prince Salman. I would not call him Goebbels: that would be a flattery.
These people truly believe that everybody around them can reform and democratize (except Bahrain under its apartheid), but that they should maintain a feudal system in the Arabian Peninsula. An anomaly: a most backward system anywhere in the 21st century. To read him agonize about people power and democracy and term limits, you’d think their absolute king is about to announce a new republic, the princes to give up their power. These people truly believe they are entitled to maintain their own system of absolute one-family feudal rule even as they urge others to reform. They never asked Bin Ali or Mubarak or the al-Khalifa to reform, but they are eager for Assad to do so. It is true that Syria is a dictatorship that should open up and allow free elections of its leaders. But the peoples of the Arabian Peninsula and Bahrain and the UAE and Qatar also deserve the same freedoms (so do the Iranians).
Truly a case of a pot calling a kettle black.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com