Category Archives: Lebanon

Hezbollah Is Launching An Offensive That Will Profoundly Change The Syrian War

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The following article below was originally published by Business Insider:

By Michael Kelley
June 3, 2013

Lebanon’s Hezbollah militants hold flags as they walk towards the cemetery where their fellow fighters were buried during a ceremony conducted one day after Hezbollah’s Martyr’s Day, in the Beirut’s suburbs, November 12, 2010. (REUTERS/Jamal Saidi)

Thousands of Lebanese Hezbollah militants are amassing around the northern Syrian city of Aleppo in preparation for an assault on the city, Loveday Morris of The Washington Post reports.

The deployment demonstrates the group’s complete commitment to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and may profoundly affect the 26-month conflict.

“The Aleppo battle has started on a very small scale; we’ve only just entered the game,” a senior Hezbollah commander told The Post. “We are going to go after strongholds where they think they are safe. They are going to fall like dominoes.”

The commander had been overseeing five units in Qusair, a town near the Syria-Lebanon on border where Hezbollah has been spearheading a regime offensive to retake the town for the last three weeks.

The increased presence of the militant group, in addition to the arrival of sophisticated military technology such as Iranian surveillance drones and Russian anti-mortar systems, has helped solidify recent gains made by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Hezbollah’s preparations to attack Aleppo, which is nowhere near the Lebanon-Syria border, significantly raises the stakes in the war.

“A deployment so deep into Syria and in such a crucial place would be a clear indication that Hezbollah’s role in Syria was never limited to defensive aims but is geared toward helping Assad score major victories,” Emile Hokayem, a Middle East-based analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told the Post.

Aleppo is Syria’s largest city and served as the country’s commercial hub before the war.

David Barrett of The Telegraph reports that the metropolitan population, about three million before the war, has grown to about 3.5 million since the opposition seized half the city last July.

Rebels, primarily al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, have been administering city services in areas under their control while a stalemate persists.

Syrian rebels walk through rubble and damaged buildings near the Aleppo’s Umayyad Mosque on February 11, 2013. (REUTERS/Aref Heretani)

The guerrilla fighters of Hezbollah are training and advising the growing irregular militias being deployed by Assad.

At least 50,000 militiamen — known as Jaysh al-Sha‘bia i.e. “People’s Army” — are now fighting for Assad, and Iran aims to increase the force to 100,000 by sending fighters to a secret base in Iran for guerrilla combat training.

Last week Jeffrey White, a defense fellow at The Washington Institute, wrote that “Hezbollah’s all-in commitment is perhaps the single most important development of the war thus far and will profoundly affect its course.”

Israel, which has bombed Syria three times this year amid suspicions of weapons transfers to Hezbollah, is surely watching the developments closely.

One unintended consequence of the Shia group’s assertiveness inside Syria is an unprecedented galvanization of the fractured opposition.


Another immediate implication is increased sectarian tensions in Lebanon, where Hezbollah is one of two major political parties.

“The presence of Hezbollah units around Aleppo will only deepen the divide in Lebanon and confirm, in the eyes of its rivals, Hezbollah’s complete alignment with Assad,” Hokayem told the Post, adding that it’s now plausible that Hezbollah is and will be utilized anywhere in the country.

Right on cue, on Sunday night a security source told al-Arabiya that one person was killed and 21 wounded in Lebanon’s second city of Tripoli when pro- and anti-Assad Alawite and Sunni residents clashed.

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How leftist “anti-zionists” are allied with Israel against Syria

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By Mimi Al Laham (aka “Syrian Girl”) and Lizzie Phelan
July 19, 2012

The Myth

There has been a ridiculous notion amongst numerous left groups and those opposed to the Syrian government, that the Israeli regime does not want to see Assad fall. As self-professed “anti-zionists”, many in these groups are content to delude themselves into believing that both their enemies are on the same side. In the case of several socialist groups, they believe that this forcing of the Syrian crisis into their blanket “anti-authoritarian” narrative (regardless of the state in which they are applying that narrative to) enables them to maintain a façade of anti-imperialism.

London based socialist newspaper The Socialist Review writes: “Israel, although hostile to Syria, could depend on the Baathist regime to keep the frontier quiet. Thus criticism of Bashar is more muted in Tel Aviv.”

And Simon Assaf of the Socialist Worker writes:

The notion that ordinary Syrians struggling to change their country are the pawns of a ‘Western plot’ is absurd…In fact the Arab League is attempting to throw the regime a lifeline.

This view is also pervasive amongst the Islamic opposition to the Syrian government. Rafiq A. Tschannen of the The Muslims Times writes:

Israel believes that it would be safer under Assad regime than the new government whose credentials are unknown or the new Islamic extremist regime that would open a new war front with the Jewish state.

Israeli state media has actively fuelled this manipulation, as it has been beneficial to the Israeli state to both discredit the Syrian government in the eyes of Syrians and Arabs amongst whom cooperation with Israel has historically been a red line. Therefore the goal of these reports has been to create the false perception that Israel is uninvolved in the insurgency against the Syrian government. Similarly to how the NATO powers were keen to portray the Libyan insurgency as a “home-grown revolution”.

In this early 2011 Haaretz article entitled ‘Israel’s favourite dictator’, great lengths are taken to paint the Syrian president as a weak stooge of the Israeli state. The article regurgitates common Syrian criticisms and sources of frustration about the Syrian government’s failure to take back the Golan Heights. It even goes as far as to chastise Assad for not attacking Israel. The irony that an Israeli paper would be critical of a president’s failure to attack Israel is apparently lost on many. All the more incredible that these anti-zionist groups have chosen to believe the spin of Israeli state media.

The Turkish based Syrian opposition, the Syrian National Council (SNC), also jumped on this bandwagon. The now deposed leader of the SNC, Burghan Ghallion told Israeli paper Ynetnews “We are convinced that the Syrian regime’s strongest ally is Israel”.

Debunking the Myth

However the following facts expose all of the above as merely a part of the psychological warfare machinery directed from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the NATO countries, which is an essential part of the overall aggression against Syria, and that such leftists have willingly become a part of:

Israel’s most important ally, the US, has been amongst its other allies repeatedly calling for regime change in Syria

Israel’s strongest ally the United States has been pushing for regime change in Syria since before the first signs of insurrection began. Most famously in 2007, General Wesley Clarke, who served as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander between 1997 and 2000 said he had received a memo from the US Secretary of Defense’s Office which read that the Syrian Government would be one of the seven governments the US would destroy in the subsequent five years.

The Guardian’s recent headline “Saudi Arabia plans to fund Syria rebel army” is in the typical style of the liberal media based in the NATO countries a malignant manipulation. The text of that article is specifically about plans by the US’ and by extension Israel’s most important regional allies, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, to pay the salaries of insurgents. But buried further down the very same article also reports that such support began months before. A less misleading headline therefore would replace “plans to fund” with “increases support for”, however a truthful headline would suggest external control over Syria’s insurgency has existed since its onset.

Indeed both Qatar and Saudi Arabia have a long history of hostility to the Syrian Ba’ath Party and Syrian foreign policy, a fact which is reflected in both of their leading medias (Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya respectively) severely distorted coverage of events in Syria from the outset.

But to highlight this context would give too much weight to the Syrian government’s consistent analysis that the crisis within its borders is externally created. A fact which leftist groups also fall over themselves trying to downplay or dismiss with the result of boosting the opposing narrative which imperialism has made dominant through its media machinery.

Why did that same Guardian article, and western leftists who claim that Assad is good for Israel fail to mention that for example in early April, the US openly pledged to double its assistance to the insurgents to the tune of an additional $12 million, under the cover of “humanitarian aid”? Or the recent US admission that it is actively arming the insurgency using Qatar as a proxy? Or that in February, solid Israeli ally British Foreign Minister William Hague pledged more equipment to the insurgents, insisting there was “no limit on what resources” Britain would provide?

It shouldn’t have to be explained to anti-Zionists that US and Israeli foreign policy is one and the same.

Axis of Resistance

Syria is a member of the Axis of Resistance, which is the only effective military resistance to Israel left. It is made up of Syria, Iran and the resistance inside Lebanon with Hizbullah at the helm. Far from being a ‘safe’ option for Israel, as Al Akhbar writer Amal Saad-Ghorayeb sets out in her three part critique of the third-way position that has seized much of the western left, Syria has consistently put itself on the frontline, risking its own survival, and has been involved in every Arab-Israeli conflict since they took power. Syria has been the strongest supporter of the Lebanese resistance movements against Israeli occupation; Hizbullah has repeatedly unequivocally attributed its ability to effectively win the 2006 war against Israeli invasion of Lebanon to its support from Syria and Iran.

A year since the beginning of the insurrection in Syria, the ridiculous notion that Israel was not pursuing regime change in Syria began to crumble. Israeli Intelligence Minister, Dan Meridor was quoted on Israeli radio, pointing out what was obvious all along: Regime change in Syria would break the Iran-Syria mutual defence pact thereby isolating Iran and cutting the supply of arms to Hezbollah. Finally, Israel’s greatest adversary, Syria, would be crippled.

This was not reported in Israeli mass media, which ensured that the lid was kept on the obvious, clearly in the knowledge that it would make the position of the insurgent’s self-professed anti-zionist cheerleaders in the west and Arab world more untenable. Yet those cheerleaders who maintain that Assad is good for Israel have been unable to reconcile then why Israel relentlessly beats the war drums against one of Syria’s most important allies, Iran.

Aside from wanting to get rid of Assad to secure military hegemony of the region, Israel also has an economic interest in scarpering the Syria, Iran, Iraq oil pipeline which would rival both Israel’s BTC pipeline and the eternally fledgling plans for Europe’s Nabucco pipeline.

Pro-Israel Opposition

With increasing momentum, the already tenuous facade of being pro-Assad in the Israeli media began to crumble and increasingly, voices within the Syrian opposition have been crossing the red line of sounding friendly towards Israel.

MK Yitzhak Herzog, who has previously held ministerial posts in Israeli parliament, said that Syrian opposition leaders have told him they want peace with Israel after Syrian President Bashar al Assad falls.

Indeed, SNC member Bassma Kodmani attended the 2012 Bilderberg conference where regime change in Syria was on the agenda. Kodmani has previously called for friendly relations between Syria and Israel on a French talk show, going as far as to say: ‘We need Israel in the region’.

Another SNC member, Ammar Abdulhamid declared his support for friendly relations between Israel and Syria in an interview with Israeli news paper Ynetnews.

Earlier this year a telephone conversation between the SNC’s Radwan Ziyade and Mouhammad Abdallah emerged where they begged Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barack for more support.

Outside the SNC the children of former leadership figures now in opposition have joined the pro-Israel rat race. Ribal al-Assad, the son of Bashar Assad’s uncle and exiled former vice-president Rifaat al-Asaad welcomed the possibility of Syria making peace with Israel. And son of former Syrian prime minister Nofal Al-Dawalibi, said in an interview on Israeli radio that the Syrian people want peace with Israel. Dawalibi formed the “Free Syrian Transitional National Government”, another external opposition group rivaling the SNC for power in a situation where the Syrian government falls. This sectarian infighting and disunity, that is a mirror of post-Gaddafi Libya, is now threatening to plague the Syria.

Lower down the opposition hierarchy, pro-Israel voices are still to be found.

Syrian Danny Abdul-Dayem, the almost one-hit-wonder unofficial spokesman for the FSA, appeared on CNN begging Israel to Attack Syria.

And in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2, Sheikh Abdullah Tamimi, an exiled Imam from the Syrian city of Homs, said that the Syrian Opposition does not have any enmity towards Israel. Tamimi proceeded to request monetary and military support for Sunnis in Syria and Lebanon.

Anti-Assad Zionists and Israeli Leaders

Socialists chosen to be blind to the fact that prominent Zionists have been backing the Syrian insurgency since its inception.

US Senator John Mccain and Joe Lieberman, both well known to be close friends of the zionist entity, met with the SNC and Syrian insurgents on the Turkish border, then called for the US to arm them. In fact Joe Lieberman has been calling for war against Syria since 2011.

Another well known zionist Bernard Henri-Levy, who spear-headed the destruction of Libya by NATO aerial bombardment, has also called for an attack on Syria.

More recently voices within the Israeli government have been more vocal and demanding in their desire to see the Syrian government’s replacement with a more friendly puppet regime.

Israeli President Shimon Peres, upon receiving the ‘Medal of Freedom’ from US President Barack Obama, said that the world had to get rid of Assad. That he was receiving such a medal requires its own article dedicated to psychoanalyzing such an event, but that he could also claim, while being part of a system that is responsible for some of the gravest abuses to humankind in history, that from a “human” point of view Assad must go, should really get so-called anti-Zionists thinking.

Other members of the Israeli government, such as Israeli Vice Prime Minister, Shaul Mofaz, urged world powers to mount a Libya style regime change in Syria.

And Israeli defense minister Ehud Barack called for the ‘world to act’ to remove Assad while Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon accused the “world” of wrong doing for failing to act against the Syrian government and then offered Israel “assistance” for Syrian ‘refugees’.

Finally, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon accused the ‘world’ of wrong doing for failing to act against the Syrian government. Then offered Israel offered ‘assistance’ for Syrian ‘refugees’. Thinly euphemism for arming insurgents on the border.

Conclusion

In spite of the overt desire of the US government for regime change in Syria, which they have made clear time and time again, Israel has obvious economic and military interests Israel has for pursuing regime change in Syria, most notably the the break up of the Axis of Resistance and the destruction of plans for rival oil pipelines. Despite numerous public statements by Syrian opposition members that they are pro-israel and the multitude of Israeli government officials calling for the fall of the Syrian government as well as zionist lobbyists and key zionist figures like Bernard Henri-Levy backing the insurgency, so called ‘anti-zionist’ Socialists and Islamic groups persist in their claim that Israel has no stake in regime change in Syria and that the insurgency inside Syria is from the grass roots. Though all information contrary to this delusion is in clear sight, it seems that the socialist and Islamic groups are willingly blind.

This position becomes increasingly untenable however, most recently in light of the murder of Syria’s Deputy Defence Minister Asef Shawkat, which along with the simultaneous murder of Defence Minister Raoud Dajiha and Assistant to the Vice President Hassan Turkomani, which the Syrian government laid the responsibility for squarely at the doors of Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as new information has come to light as revealed by Al Akhbar editor-in-chief Ibrahim al-Amin.

In an article published today, Amin writes of Shawkat, that in spite of the incessant attempts by the US, Israel et al to demonise him, he in fact,

played a major role in resisting Israeli occupation in and around Palestine. Right to the end, he took practical charge of meeting the needs of the resistance forces in Palestine and Lebanon, and of their members and cadres in Syria. He oversaw everything from their accommodation and transportation, to their training camps and provisions, and arranging for cadres from inside Palestine to come to the country secretly for training.

For the resistance in Lebanon, Shawkat was a true partner, providing whatever assistance was needed without needing orders or approval from the leadership. He was a central player in the June 2006 war. He spent the entire time in the central operations room that was set up in line with a directive by Assad to supply the resistance with whatever weapons it wanted, notably missiles, from Syrian army stocks. Shawkat and other officers and men of the Syrian army – including Muhammad Suleiman who was assassinated by the Mossad on the Syrian coast in 2008 – spent weeks coordinating the supply operation which helped the resistance achieve the successes that led to the defeat of Israel.

Despite the accusations levelled against Asef Shawkat regarding security, political or other matters, for Imad Mughniyeh, the assassinated military leader of Hezbollah, he was just another comrade, a modest man who would bow when shaking hands with Hassan Nasrallah, and liked to hear the news from Palestine last thing at night.

However anti-zionist one proclaims to be, there are few in this world that can claim to have done as much as the above for the Palestinian Resistance to the zionist entity. But having proven to wilfully ignore all of the facts and history of Syria’s long history of resistance to Israel, it is a great tragedy that those who cling on to the argument dealt with in this essay, would only perhaps be able to let go of it should Syria fall and then the reality of Palestine’s total military abandonment would be all to devastatingly clear to see.

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Assad Foreign Policy (II): Strategies of Confrontation

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By Amal Saad-Ghorayeb
June 27, 2012

A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), shows President Bashar al-Assad addressing his new cabinet during a swear-in ceremony on 26 June 2012. (Photo: AFP – HO – SANA)

Third-Wayers repeatedly discredit the mumanaist (political and/or military resistance) credentials of the Assad regime on account of a number of regional policies which include: its intervention on behalf of right-wing Christian militias in Lebanon in 1976; its war against Palestinian groups in Lebanon in the 1980s; its decision to join the Gulf War coalition against Saddam Hussein in 1991; its reluctance to engage Israel militarily; and its participation in so-called peace negotiations with Israel since 1991.

Indeed, the first two of these policies in particular represent the darker side of the Assad regime’s foreign policy history. Hafez al-Assad’s strategic motives at the time have been explained by academics as relating to his intent to reign in the Palestinians, and later Hezbollah, in order to avert a wider regional war with Israel, and to co-opt the Maronite Right lest it “draw Israel into the fighting on its behalf and… throw the Christians into the hands of Israel and balkanize Lebanon,” according to Anoushiravan Ehteshami and Raymond Hinnebusch.

In a recently declassified Pentagon document, the Assistant-Secretary of Defense explains the reasoning behind Assad’s 1976 intervention:

“Asad is loath to see emerge on his western flank a radical leftist- and Palestinian dominated Lebanon, almost certainly unamenable to his direction. Furthermore, a radical Lebanon could drag Asad into a war with Israel at a time, place, and in circumstances not of his own choosing. Moreover, a radicalized Lebanon would be a military liability as a confrontation state with Israel. Lebanon may never be able to field a credible military force against Israel and certainly could not do so for Lebanese-Israeli border, a mission for which they are clearly inadequate, or to present Israel with a virtually undefended corridor through which the IDF could outflank his forces on the Golan Heights.”

While difficult to justify this intervention either morally or ideologically, given its Realist motives, serving Israeli interests was clearly not one of them as the above document reveals. Furthermore, it is nothing short of politically naive reductionism to dismiss all of Syria’s foreign policy record as being consistent with these policies or as being governed exclusively by crude realpolitik. Even as it sought to restrain Palestinian forces in Lebanon, Syria confronted the Israeli invasion in 1982 and a year later, succeeded in torpedoing the infamous, US-backed, May 17 Agreement that Israel sought to impose on Lebanon, and which would otherwise have turned it into an Israeli satellite state.

Syria’s Participation in the Gulf War

Even Hafez al-Assad’s decision to partake in the US-led “Operation Desert Storm” coalition against Saddam in 1991 cannot be reduced to such considerations, unless one regards political survival, national security and state sovereignty as power-politics. Doubtless, one of Assad’s motives for joining the coalition was to secure US acceptance of the Taif Accord which legitimized Syria’s mandate over Lebanon. However, this was by no means the sole incentive for participating in the offensive against Iraq as Third-Wayers and oppositionists would have us believe. Assad’s unpopular decision must be viewed against the backdrop of the “1989 Revolutions” in formerly Communist Eastern European countries which presaged the dismemberment of Syria’s superpower patron, the Soviet Union, only months after the Gulf war. In the context of a uni-polar world order, Assad’s rationale for ganging up against a regional rival who was hardly a beacon of resistance to imperialism at the time, was to prevent a similar fate from befalling Syria. After losing the support of the Soviet Union, Assad was forced into a detente of sorts with the sole remaining superpower. As expounded by Ehteshami and Hinnebusch:

“Assad certainly feared that the Iraq invasion could unleash a wider war which Israel could exploit to attack Syria, and joining the coalition was a kind of insurance against that….The destruction of Iraq showed what Assad had spared Syria. Syrians grudgingly gave him credit for shrewdly pre-empting plots to make Syria the next victim of the “New World Order.”

Syria’s Participation in the “Peace Process”

This type of strategic logic was also displayed in Assad’s refusal to drag Syria into another costly war with Israel and his subsequent decision to partake in the peace process, both of which are cited by Third-Way intellectuals as instances of the regime’s alleged complicity with imperialism and Zionism. Third-Wayers peremptorily denounce the Assad leadership for ensuring the Golan Heights remain Israel’s “quietest front” as detracting from its resistance or mumanaa status, and as an example of its “cowardly” regional policies.

What they fail to take note of, however, is how suicidal any offensive action on Syria’s part would be not only for the regime but for the nation-state as a whole. As many historians have pointed out, Syria lacks “a credible offensive capability” in that it would not be able to hold any territory it might succeed in recapturing against an Israeli counter-attack. This is even more so the case considering that Syria lost territory in the 1967 war and failed to retrieve it in 1973 despite the participation of other Arab states.

Hafez al-Assad’s original strategy upon assuming power was to strike a strategic alliance with Egypt in order to retake the Golan. But although he believed in the necessity of the military option, Assad also conceived of the 1973 War and the recapture of the Golan as a prelude to negotiations which would lead to an “honorable” settlement that would include the Palestinian territories. The negotiations track was therefore always viewed as an unavoidable, albeit distasteful, need dictated by the strategic balance of power. This dualistic approach to the confrontation with Israel characterized much of Syria’s history.

However, by the late 1980s Syria was forced to scale back its military ambitions on account of Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms and the Soviet Union’s changing priorities which led to a consequent reduction in military and economic aid to Syria. Such a scale back entailed a shift from pursuing a military balance with Israel to a strategic standoff where Israel could still launch offensive action against Syria but only at a high price. Concomitant with this revised military doctrine was a new political strategy described by Ehteshami and Hinnebusch as “negative power” – or what Washington dubs, a “spoiler” role – the obstruction of a peace agreement which either damages its own interests or Arab and Palestinian rights. This strategy was further demonstrated by Assad’s participation in the peace process after the Gulf War, which also coincided with the downfall of the Soviet Union in late 1991. Deprived of its Soviet backer, and in the context of a new world order, the regime could no longer afford to incur the wrath of the sole remaining superpower.

Rather than view such a change in strategy as a diminution in ideology, Ehteshami and Hinnebusch refer to it as “tactical rejectionism” characterized by “consistent goals and tactical flexibility.”

As Seyyid Hassan Nasrallah himself observed in his Quds day speech in 2009, the policy options before mumanaists did not fit into a neat dichotomy: “either war [value rationality] or if not able to fight, we succumb [instrumental rationality]”. When the requirements for military confrontationalism could not be satisfied, rejectionism served as its ideologically consistent and strategically advantageous, political substitute, and this substitute was to “not succumb” as Syria has done. Thus, for Nasrallah, although “It is true it [Syria] did not fight and close a front but still, it did not surrender.”

This characterization is not confined to Assad’s allies like Hezbollah, but extends to his enemies as well. Aside from Henry Kissinger’s famous maxim, “No war without Egypt no peace without Syria”, Dennis Ross, Bill Clinton’s former special Middle East coordinator, laments “Peace was only acceptable on Assad’s terms”.

Israeli professor, Moshe Ma’oz explains some of the frustrations from the Israeli side:

“One of the obstacles to peace in the 1990s was Assad’s refusal to hold direct talks with Israel. So was his refusal to offer guarantees to Israel over water, security and peace. By security and peace, Israel doesn’t just mean guarantees of peace on its border with Syria. It means a distancing between Iran and Syria, which would also mean a distancing between Syria and Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Yet Assad’s steadfast refusal to divorce himself from his allies, prompted Israel to break off the Wye Plantation talks in 1996 after Syria refused to condemn Hamas’ attacks on Israeli buses, as observed by Israeli specialist, Henry Siegman.

This consistency was further evinced in the Geneva talks of March 2000, which was widely described as a failure on account of Syria’s refusal to relinquish its demand for a “sliver” of shoreline along the Sea of Galilee, as related by The Economist at the time.

True to form, Hafez al-Assad was a “100 percenter” as Ma’oz correctly identifies him, despite all this cost him in military and economic pressures. As Ma’oz points out, had he struck a peace deal with Israel, a large part of Syria’s budget which had previously earmarked for military purposes would have been diverted to social and economic development. Yet Assad was clearly willing to pay this price, as his allies knew well, which is why Hezbollah and Iran have always tolerated and understood Syria’s participation in the peace process, even though they don’t recognize the legitimacy of such talks.

On the report of one source close to Hezbollah, Bashar al-Assad once confided to the resistance movement that his father had in fact “feared” that the Israelis would accept a withdrawal to the June 4 lines and sought to find other pretexts for scuppering the talks after Wye Plantation. He did indeed want a comprehensive peace agreement, but not at any price.

Bashar al-Assad’s resistance credentials

Another pervasive tendency among Third-Wayers, is to conflate Bashar al-Assad’s regional policies with his father’s, despite the fact they are considerably more “radical”, as acknowledged by his American and Israeli foes. This distinction owes itself not only to differences in Bashar’s foreign policy style, but also to international and regional developments such as the Bush doctrine, along with its regime change and preemptive war policies, and the perceived success and efficacy of the resistance option, which was best illustrated by Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from South Lebanon in 2000 at the hands of Hezbollah’s resistance.

Were it not for the Bashar al-Assad regime’smumanaism, it is highly unlikely Hezbollah would be staunchly defending it and losing Arab popular support in the process. For Hezbollah, the Assad regime was not merely an active bystander who defended its allies, but a party to the resistance struggle as “it did not only stand by the resistance, but it backed the resistance in Lebanon and Palestine”. The resistance movement even maintains that it owed its victory in 2000, at least in part, to “Syrian backing”. While the nature of this backing is not specified, Nasrallah’s claim that he did “not want to go into details” about this support, “so as not to embarrass the Syrian leadership,” insinuates that it is military.

Hezbollah and Iran are not alone in viewing the Assad regime as a bastion of political resistance. Israeli professor, Eyal Zisser notes that “Bashar’s foreign policy troubles started as early as the winter of 2000, following the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising (the al-Aqsa Intifada) and the renewal of Hezbollah’s activities, with Syria’s blessing, against Israel’s northern border.”

Viewed from Washington’s perspective, Bashar’s regional policies were far more threatening than his father’s. Dennis Ross griped that “In 1990-1991, Hafez al-Assad’s actions during the Persian Gulf War demonstrated that he grasped the realities of power very differently than his son understands them today,” hypothesizing that “At the time of the 2002 war in Iraq, Hafez would have looked for a deal with the Bush administration…”

As outlined in part I of this article, it is on account of the central pillars of Bashar’s foreign policy – support for Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad and the resistance in Iraq, in addition to its alignment with Iran – that Washington has pursued an increasingly aggressive campaign against his regime.

In effect, although Syria hasn’t directly engaged Israel since 1973, it has been engaging it indirectly through its active backing of resistance groups which have been resisting Israel militarily for the past few decades. What is more, the fact that it has been paying a high price for its military assistance and political support for resistance movements means it did indeed make the required sacrifices of any mumanaist actor and hence can hardly be branded as “cowardly” or insufficiently resistance-oriented.The international war against the regime today is the price Syria has had to pay for the Assad regime’s refusal to capitulate to imperialist and Zionist dictates.

Amal Saad-Ghorayeb is a Lebanese academic and political analyst. She is author of the book, “Hizbullah: Politics and Religion”, and blogger at ASG’s Counter-Hegemony Unit.

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Syrian Crisis: Three’s a Crowd

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By Amal Saad-Ghorayeb
June 12, 2012

Members of the Free Syrian Army “commados brigade” take position near the town of al-Qusayr in Syria’s central Homs province, in anticipation of an attack by government regime forces on 10 May 2012. (Photo: AFP – STR)

The conflict in Syria has recast the political fault lines in the Mideast. Divisions that were once demarcated by ideology and religion, are today centered around the issue of overthrowing the Assad government. Arab leftists, nationalists and Islamists are now divided between and amongst themselves over the Syrian question, and have borne yet another quasi-movement, the anti-interventionist “third-way” camp. Third-wayers, comprised of intellectuals and activists from academia, the mainstream media and NGOs, support elements in the home-grown opposition, reject the Syrian National Council (SNC) on account of its US-NATO-Israeli-Arab backing, and reject the Assad leadership on account of its repression of dissent and its alleged worthlessness to the Resistance project.

While the third-way camp is anti-Zionist and pro-Palestine in orientation, this hardly constitutes a political position. The Palestinian cause has become deeply etched in the Arab collective subconscious and has even become an increasingly pervasive slogan in western liberal activist discourse. Now the real litmus of Arab intellectuals’ and activists’ commitment to the Palestinian cause is no longer their support for Palestinian rights, but rather, their support for the Assad leadership’s struggle against the imperialist-Zionist-Arab moderate axis’ onslaught against it.

Supporting Assad’s struggle against this multi-pronged assault is supporting Palestine today because Syria has become the new front line of the war between Empire and those resisting it. The third-way progressive intellectuals are failing to see the Syrian crisis through this strategic lens. They have shown an inability to “take a step back from the details and look at the bigger picture,” to quote Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.

The third-way campaign against Assad only serves the strategy and interests of the US and Israel, who have made no secret of the fact that his fall would help them achieve their wider strategic ambitions of weakening Iran and resistance forces in Lebanon and Palestine. Moreover, agitation against the regime on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations of war crimes further incites sectarian oppositionists who identify the regime with Alawis, thereby indirectly fanning the flames of Sunni-Shia tension in Syria and the region at large.

The exigencies of the situation require Arab intellectuals to assume a more strategic and responsible position which is based on a recognition that despite its many flaws, the Syrian regime is actively resisting imperialist aggression and anything less than lending it full support — for the duration of this crisis at least — is tantamount to opposing its resistance to imperialist aggression. Although part of our duty as intellectuals is to call for political reforms and a greater inclusion of the homegrown, legitimate opposition in the reform process, this must be done in a manner which neither undermines the regime’s current position vis-à-vis our shared enemies, nor benefits the latter.

In fifteen months, third-wayers have failed to deliver a political solution for a conflict that now belongs entirely to larger geopolitical players. Instead, third-way proponents have taken a seat at the fringes of this conflict and satisfy themselves with pats on the back for “moral consistency” – all the while continuing to lend their legitimacy to a less sovereign and less secure Syria.

As Lenin observed regarding third-way politics: “The only choice is – either bourgeois or socialist ideology. There is no middle course (for mankind has not created a ‘third’ ideology, and, moreover, in a society torn by class antagonisms, there can never be a non-class or an above class ideology). Hence to belittle the socialist ideology in any way, to turn aside from it in the slightest degree means to strengthen bourgeois ideology. There is much talk of spontaneity. But spontaneous development of the working class movement leads to its subordination to bourgeois ideology.”

Although the quote relates to class analysis, Lenin’s argument lends itself well to the Syrian case since he viewed imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism. It is fully in line with Lenin’s logic to therefore argue that the geo-strategic balance of power and the political exigencies at hand leave very little room for such irresponsible and aimless rejectionism practiced by leftist intellectuals, when this only serves to strengthen imperialism both ideologically and politically.

It is not a coincidence that today’s third-wayers also have a misplaced faith in the ability of the Syrian masses to spontaneously resist imperial designs on their country independently of the Assad regime, despite the massive information war waged against them and the imperialist coalition’s firm grip on the uprising and its future direction. This assumption also ignores the sizeable number of Syrians — at least half of the voting population — who have entrusted the Assad regime to confront Empire’s hegemonic ambitions and lead them out of this crisis.

Indeed it is something of an irony that many ordinary Syrians who do not enjoy the same social function or profession as intellectuals have been far more successful than the latter in resisting the propaganda onslaught directed at them. While such an advanced level of political consciousness is in part the product of Syrian political culture, it has undoubtedly also been sustained by the Assad regime’s political identity as a resisting frontline state, and reinforced by the punitive measures imperialist powers have subjected it and its people to as a result of this identity. The history of struggle and sacrifice in neighboring Palestine and Lebanon, and the wider resistance paradigm in which they are anchored, have also contributed to this critical consciousness.

In effect, Syrian political consciousness has in large part been shaped by these challenges and the sacrifices the Syrian people had to make in facing them – in short, by their commitment to foiling imperialist-Zionist schemes. As defined by Marxist educator Paulo Freire, “critical consciousness” or “conscientization” doesn’t merely involve a deep understanding of oppression and domination, but also, the will and commitment to struggle against it: “Conscientization is not exactly the starting point of commitment. Conscientization is more of a product of commitment. I do not have to be already critically self-conscious in order to struggle. By struggling I become conscious/aware.”

Given that third-way intellectuals are producers and disseminators of knowledge and are hence responsible for their own conscientization as well as that of the Arab public, a dilution of their resistance consciousness can only mean that they are not sufficiently committed to the struggle, according to Freire’s logic.

This is largely due to intellectuals’ professional considerations as they relate to academia’s political standards and criteria for publication and promotion. However, politically correct liberal discourses centered on individual rights unconsciously seduce people further into auto-censorship. While the appeal of liberal ideology was less potent in the past, the rebranding of the Arab uprisings as a liberal democratic popular wave has rendered liberalism the new intellectual default position for many progressive Arabs who are keen to remain at the vanguard of regional political trends.

Although Empire has always engaged in a civilizing mission to implant liberalism in “authoritarian” cultures, its latest incarnation of liberal imperialism is less the overt cultural colonialism of the past, characterized by Orientalist tropes, and more a campaign which markets an attractive liberal ideology to more discerning intellectual consumers. Thus, unlike its cruder predecessor, which was easier to detect and hence resist, today’s intellectual imperialism works in far more insidious ways on account of its affected benevolence and seeming universalism, both of which facilitate its internalization.

Moreover, in contrast to more direct modes of imperial control, the new liberal imperialism is an exercise in hegemonic domination which is not imposed but afforded its consent by those its hegemonizes. As with the hegemony practiced within western societies, hegemonic imperialism is exercised by civil society actors like the mainstream media, academia and NGOs, even more so than by governments.

As acknowledged by a senior British diplomat who worked for the Blair government, Sir Robert Cooper, in his seminal essay “The New Liberal Imperialism,” wrote: “What is needed then is a new kind of imperialism, one acceptable to a world of human rights and cosmopolitan values. We can already discern its outline: an imperialism which, like all imperialism, aims to bring order and organisation but which rests today on the voluntary principle… a framework in which each has a share in the government, in which no single country dominates and in which the governing principles are not ethnic but legal. The lightest of touches will be required from the centre.” While Cooper was referring to the laws of international and regional organizations, his logic can just as easily be applied to the supposedly universal rules and standards governing the media and academia.

None of this is to say that progressive Arab intellectuals are intellectually colonized; only that they remain imperialized by liberal hegemony. As in the Marxist-Leninist understanding of the term, colonialism is but one expression or phase of imperialism and as such, the two concepts are not synonymous. Colonialism involves the transfer of a population to a new territory, where they live as permanent settlers, whereas imperialism refers to the way one country exercises power over another, either by means of colonialism or through indirect mechanisms of control. By implication, intellectual colonialism can be seen as a direct Euro-American epistemological invasion which leaves a distinct ethnic footprint, while intellectual imperialism is an indirect form of epistemic control which appears culturally neutral when exercised outside the Metropole, and class-blind when administered within it. It is precisely because of the undiscriminating nature of this deeply entrenched and well concealed domination that de-imperialization is a much harder goal to achieve than decolonization.

Amal Saad-Ghorayeb is an independent Lebanese academic and political analyst. She is author of the book, “Hizbullah: Politics and Religion”, and blogger at ASG’s Counter-Hegemony Unit.

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Hassan Nasrallah: ‘West trying to topple Syrian government’

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May 12, 2012

Demonstration by supporters of Palestinian liberation and Hezbollah in the Shatila Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon.

Hezbollah Secretary General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah has accused the West of attempting to overthrow the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad due to the country’s support for resistance groups, Press TV reports.

“America, the West, Israel, and some regional sides want to destroy Syria only because they want to get rid of the main supporter of the resistance in Lebanon and Palestine,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech on Friday.

“They want to take revenge against the Syrian] state, against the people, the leadership, and the army, which supported the resistance in Lebanon and the resistance in Palestine,” he added.

He went on to say that the people behind the terrorist attacks and violence in Iraq are also trying to destroy Syria.

Nasrallah criticized certain Arab governments for “exporting terrorists to Syria to carry out bomb attacks.”

On Thursday, 55 people were killed and about 400 others were injured in two bombings near a military intelligence building in Damascus. Syrian officials say “foreign-backed terrorists” carried out the attack, which was one of the deadliest since the beginning of the unrest in March 2011.

The Hezbollah secretary general also lamented the fact that most of the international community has done nothing about the issue of Palestinian prisoners in Israel and urged all Arab and Muslim organizations to take serious steps to support the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike.

According to an April 1, 2012 report, published by Addameer, a non-governmental organization providing support to Palestinian prisoners, 4,610 Palestinian political prisoners are being held in Israeli prisons.

An estimated 1,600 to 2,000 Palestinian prisoners began an open-ended hunger strike on April 17 to protest against Israel’s administrative detention rules, the use of solitary confinement, maltreatment of sick detainees, and the difficulty in securing family visits and the strip searches that are imposed on visitors.

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The World Tomorrow: Julian Assange interviews Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah

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Former Al-Jazeera journalist explains why he left over reporting on Syria and Bahrain

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Bio

Ali Hashem is a television journalist who recently resigned from his post as a war reporter for Al Jazeera. While working for Al Jazeera, he covered the revolution in Libya, Lebanese politics, and tension related to the Syrian uprising on the Syrian Lebanese borders. He also worked for the BBC and led the production team at Manar TV.

Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay.

In the middle of February, something called the Syrian Electronic Army—hackers in Syria that support the government—hacked into Al Jazeera’s servers and found some emails. Some of them were written by Ali Hashem, who was a Middle East correspondent for the Arab Al Jazeera channel. In those emails he expressed his concern about the way Al Jazeera was covering the conflict in Syria. It later led to his resignation.

Now joining us to talk about these events, his resignation, and the situation in the Middle East and media is Ali Hashem. Ali joins us from Beirut, where he’s a television journalist. As I said, he worked for Al Jazeera Arabic. He’s covered the conflict in Libya, Lebanese politics. He covered stories on the Syrian-Lebanese border recently. He previously worked for BBC, and before that at Manar TV in Lebanon. And as I said, he joins us from Beirut. Thanks very much, Ali.

ALI HASHEM, FMR. AL-JAZEERA REPORTER (RESIGNED): You’re welcome.

JAY: So start with what happened in February. Who, what were these hackers? And then what happened?

HASHEM: Actually, in February it seems that some hackers that are pro-regime hackers were able to get, you know, into the servers of Al Jazeera network and they were able to, you know, go into several—or, let’s say, hundreds of email accounts of journalists and, you know, executives and whatever. So those people were able to go into our emails and see, you know, the conversations that were going through inside the channel.

One of those conversations was between me and one of the Arabic channel’s presenters. And then we were just, you know, talking about the coverage and points regarding this coverage. We had some problems. You know. As for me, late in—before, in May, I had a problem with the channel when I—you know, we were on the borders with Syria and there were a lot of armed men, militants, tens of guns, and they were with weapons and just moving along the border from Lebanon to Syria.

At that time, you know, everyone was talking about the revolution in Syria, that it’s peaceful revolution, it’s not using arms. But, you know, what we saw, it was really interesting and kind of—if it was any other channel, this should be a breaking news, it should be a big story. But, actually, Al Jazeera, let me say, the policy and the channel itself, maybe the journalists inside, you know, they went back to, maybe, the owners, and then it was kind of—it’s not allowed, and I was asked to go back to Beirut, and those footage weren’t ever aired on Al Jazeera.

And this problem, you know, made, you know, a kind of credibility problem between me and the channel. And, you know, I tried my best to solve this issue. I tried my best to tell my seniors, my bosses, all of them, that there is a problem and we should solve such a problem. Actually, when this happened and I was talking about this issue with my colleague in Doha—and she’s a well-known presenter over there—actually, also she told me a lot about what she’s passing by and what she’s going through and how she was, you know, on air and then she was asked to leave the air because she asked kind of hard questions or harsh questions to the opposition members who are kind of supported by Qatar. So we were talking these issues. And then someone just popped in and took our, you know, privacy off and just took everything and, you know, published them on air. Some were kind of on the Syrian television, some were on newspapers in Beirut, in many other Arab capitals. So this was the story at that time.

JAY: So what—before we go further into your own story, let’s back up one step. What exactly did you see in terms of arms going into Syria? Who do you think (or were you able to tell?) was supplying the arms?

HASHEM: Actually, I can’t identify who’s really supplying the arms, but actually we saw armed men just crossing the river, the great northern river, which is the only, you know, natural barrier between Lebanon and Syria. They were just crossing that barrier and going into Syria, and then clashing with the Syrian Army. That was in May. And even something similar happened in April, but it wasn’t on camera. But in May it was on camera and we had the footage, and, you know, no one wanted to have them on air. At that time, you know, everybody was watching. You know, we were, as journalists, myself, were the only, you know, Arab channel, news channel on the borders, and we were trying to, you know, see what’s going on over there. [crosstalk]

JAY: So this is—you’re talking almost a year ago now, then.

HASHEM: Yeah, yeah, that was in May, that was in May, May 2011.

JAY: And, I mean, I was planning, actually, to get into this subject a little further on, but we’re here, so let’s talk about it. Is it your sense that what happened in Syria, that was in fact—I mean, this is what I’m getting from the people I’m talking to, that there was real peaceful protest developing across the country; that protest was repressed by the government forcefully, but then it gets militarized, and to a large extent by forces outside Syria the protest gets militarized. Is that scenario what seems to you to be correct?

HASHEM: Actually, you know, it was clear the protests started peacefully, but it seems that quickly it went into militarizing. Some external factors or factions wanted the resolution to be militarized and they wanted to face al-Assad’s crackdown with weapons. And maybe this was bad for the revolution. Maybe if this revolution stayed peaceful it might have achieved a lot.

But what happened is that—you know, I’m not sourcing or quoting; I just saw with my eyes, and it was in the beginning of the revolution, it was just, like, one month and a half from the revolution. And things were—you know, I was seeing a lot of weapons, people with RPGs, people with Kalashnikovs, you know, just crossing from the borders. And they were not one or two; they were a big number; they were just dominating the whole village that we were on the borders with. So, you know, the militarization of the revolution started early, and it may be those who were trying, maybe, to push and to—you know, they want al-Assad to fall as soon as possible. Those wanted to say that al-Assad is facing the peaceful crackdown with weapons, while the others on the revolution side are kind of peaceful people, are not holding weapons.

JAY: And you have no—you weren’t able to ascertain who those people were crossing the river, those fighters.

HASHEM: No, actually. That was impossible. You can’t ask, you know, who are those people, because, you know, you are just seeing armed men. And, you know, we were just beside them, we were just beside them. So it was clear that those people are fighting for the Syrian revolution. But who are they? Some of them were Lebanese, some of them were Syrians. But, you know, you can’t—you know, at that time it wasn’t clear. There were no umbrella they were fighting under. You know. After, like, six or seven months, we started hearing about the Free Syrian Army, but at that time, we didn’t hear about anyone. It was just, like, you know, those are armed men just crossing the borders and fighting against al-Assad’s army. But it wasn’t clear who are they and are they backed by, who is giving them the weapons, who is really pushing them to do this and that.

JAY: Now, so, in terms of your email correspondence and your concerns, what was it about the coverage that you didn’t find legitimate or—I mean, you say this story wasn’t covered, the crossing of the river by these fighters. But what about the rest of the coverage of Syria?

HASHEM: You know, actually, this was the main issue that I had, you know, a problem with, because it’s really a problem of credibility. Whenever you have your own footage and you are your channel’s eyes in that area, and the channel is refusing to, you know, air such pictures, then, you know, you should have some question marks, you should raise some question marks.

You know, I’m not coming—I didn’t come to Al Jazeera, you know, as an amateur. I’m a professional. I used to work for the BBC before, for four or five years with the BBC. And then, you know, there is a kind of—things we learn over there about the credibility, our objectivity, being unbiased. I might not be, you know, supportive of the British government’s doctrines or policies in the Middle East, but I respect working at that time for the BBC, because they used to respect us as journalists.

The problem is when you are a journalist and you’re not being respected as a journalist, and then you’re asked to do something, you know, in parallel with the agenda of the channel’s owners. And this is the problem, this is the big problem that any journalist might find.

JAY: Right. Now, in one of the emails, in one of the reports I read about the emails, one of the emails says that there’s this conflict for journalists between the Qatari agenda, it was described, and reporting. I mean, what is the Qatari agenda in terms of Syria?

HASHEM: No, actually, we didn’t talk in this issue [crosstalk]

JAY: I’m not sure it was your email, actually. I think it might have even been in reference to someone else’s.

HASHEM: Well, in general, I can tell you one thing. You know, there is no government—governments are not charities, you know. So whenever a government is paying for channel—. And I respect all my colleagues at Al Jazeera. They’re all good journalists, professionals, and I really—I’m proud to work with them. But the problem, it’s not in the journalists, it’s not in even the executives in Al Jazeera. It’s not a problem with Al Jazeera. It’s the problem with those who are really financing Al Jazeera, which are the Qataris.

You know, today the Qataris are kind of committing—you know, they are taking Al Jazeera to commit suicide, they’re forcing Al Jazeera to commit suicide. Al Jazeera was kind of respected by everyone. Even Al Jazeera went with two or three languages. And everyone was watching Al Jazeera, because they really believed that Al Jazeera is doing good journalism. Today it’s a big problem right now. Wherever you go around the Arab world, everyone is questioning the credibility of Al Jazeera, they’re questioning the agenda Al Jazeera is working with or it’s working for. Today, it’s not anymore that Al Jazeera is doing journalism for journalism; today, journalism is being used for politics.

JAY: And what is that politics? What does Qatar want in Syria?

HASHEM: Actually, it’s really strange. You know that—or everyone knows that the Qatari regime used to be one of the strongest and the closest allies of the Syrian regime. And that wasn’t for one year or three years; that was for the last, at least, six years. They were really close allies. They had even, you know, family visits between each other.

Actually, things changed after the Egyptian Revolution, and things started to be really strong. Really, something changed in the Qatari politics. Some will say that they had a kind of a deal with the Americans in this regard. Actually, I’m not here to—maybe, to analyze what happened, really, but it was something, you know, strange.

In my resignation letter, I was telling the executive or the executives of my channel that the first 15 days of the Syrian revolution, it was like nothing was happening in Syria. Al Jazeera wasn’t covering. And in case there was any kind of coverage of what’s going on there, we were, you know, referring to the uprising over there—it’s kind of demonstrations asking for reforms. It’s the same way the pro-Assad media was dealing with the revolution. But when the relation, the bilateral relations between the Qataris and the Syrians was kind of exploded, for a reason—we really don’t know why things changed—and we started, you know, dealing with the revolution in Syria as the priority of the channel, and that there is no other revolution but this revolution.

JAY: And is there any evidence that you know of that would show there’s something had to do with the Saudi-Qatari relations that would have changed Qatar on this? ‘Cause the Saudis seemed pretty militant on Syria right from the beginning.

HASHEM: Actually, you know, the thing is, as I told you, something strange happened. What really happened, what are the under-table, you know, deals that were really set, no one knows. Is it something that was really prepared before and the Qataris were just waiting for a turning point to really be so blatant and clear about their own stance from Syria?

Actually, you know, I can’t say, because I’m not a political analyst. Rather, you know, I was really—I really cared for one thing: doing real journalism. I really don’t really care about politics and who is with who, because, you know, my job as a journalist is saying what’s going on and not doing things to—you know, and making things. You know. So my problem was really journalism.

I don’t have a problem, because, actually, as you know, maybe Qatar is—have good relations with Israel, Qatar have good relations with America, Qatar have good relations with Iran, and that was just one year ago, one year before the revolution. It was—Qatar had good relations with everyone except for Saudi Arabia. You know. So—and just in a day, in a day and a night, everything changed, and now, you know, it have—Qatar is a country with enemies for the first time. They were kind of doing a strategy of zero enemies, zero problems in the region, and they were trying to show themselves as the brokers of the region, brokers of peace deals, brokers of, you know, consensuses, whatever—they solved the album in Lebanon, they solved the problem in Yemen, they—or tried to solve the problem in Yemen, they tried to solve the problems in Sudan. So these people were trying to play a role. And now they changed this role. Right now they are part of—.

JAY: Well, one of the turning points seemed to be Libya, because Qatar seemed to play such a leading role in the militarization of the Libyan conflict and being very, you know, supportive and, you know, again, leading very much the expansion of the NATO mission and turning it into regime change in Libya. Was that a sort of a change in Qatari policy? Is that where this begins?

HASHEM: Yeah, it seems, yeah, it seems. It seems the Libyan Revolution was the main turning point in the whole thing. But, you know, you never know what was going before that. You know, it wouldn’t be that one thing, you know, just changed everything. Assad’s stance from Gaddafi was kind of supportive.

But will this, you know, turn the Qataris against him directly? Okay. If that’s true, then they will start covering the revolution in Syria from the beginning and not waiting, like, 15 or 20 days to start covering this revolution. You know, there are many stories said about Hamad bin Jassim going to Damascus and meeting al-Assad and telling him that the Qataris are ready to pay from $1 to $1 billion for reforms and that, you know, al-Assad’s regime have kind of surpluses against, you know, facing other regimes, whereas the regime is kind of, you know, supporting the resistance and against Israel, and this is kind of popular in the Arab world. So whenever—when Hamad bin Jassim told him those things, then—as I know, it might be confirmed, it might not be confirmed, but this is what is said—then al-Assad was—replied in a harsh way and asked him to leave the meeting room. And from that point, everything changed and the Qataris decided to make al-Assad their own first enemy.

JAY: Well, in the next segment of our interview we’ll talk more about Libya, Bahrain, and Qatar, and the media in general. So please join us for the second part of our interview with Ali Hashem on The Real News Network.

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Why defending Assad is defending Palestine

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By Amal Saad-Ghorayeb
March 5, 2012

Pro-Assad demonstrators carrying a large flag of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party (ruling party of Syria), which is also the flag of the Palestinian resistance against the Zionist State.

To all the pro-oppositionists who use Palestine as a tool to legitimize the alliance (intended or not) with Israel and imperialism on the issue of Syria:

The opposition and many “third way” intellectual seems to have developed an acute case of amnesia regarding Assad’s (especially Bashar’s) steadfast position on Palestine and Arab rights. They remind us of the late 70s and 80s under Hafez’s leadership and extrapolate from that period the regime’s current strategic position and value to the resistance axis.

They look at the diplomatic maneuvering Assad made vis-a-vis the West and misconstrue that as a sign of his apparent readiness to sell-out given the right price; they whine about the Syrian Army’s military inaction on the Golan front while forgetting how many troops Syria lost in Lebanon during the Israeli invasion of 1982, and overlooking how Syria’s conventional armed forces are no match for Israel.

Interestingly, these same people don’t realise that the constraints imposed by political and geo-strategic reality have neutralized Hizbullah’s resistance activity since 2006 although Lebanese territory remains occupied. And like Syria, Hizbullah has also prevented other rogue groups from attacking Israel so as to deprive it of a pretext to re-invade. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have done the same in Palestine. Does that make them all traitors? This simplistic type of reasoning is used as a kind of moral cover for the oppositionists who frankly don’t prioritise Palestine any more or never did to begin with.

As for the third way types, this argument is devoid any strategic thinking and consideration of realities on the ground. If Assad was such a sell-out why has he been under constant pressures, sanctions and isolation for over a decade now? As the Seyyid [Hizbullah leader, Nasrallah] advised, one has to look at the big picture for answers: the regime’s political and military assistance for resistance movements (as well as its alliance with Iran) is the answer. We need only look the repressive and religiously bigoted regimes of Arab moderation to find proof of how subservience to the US and Israel pays off in regime stability. For now anyway…

“Why is the Syrian state not pro-Palestine? Because Assad won’t go to war with Israel over the Golan Heights?? That is like Cuba risking their Revolution going to war with the United States for Guantanamo Bay. Get real.” – Salvatore Giametta

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Will French Intelligence Agents Be Training Syrian Deserters?

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By Céline Lussato
November 25, 2011

According to Le Canard enchaîné, French agents are now in Lebanon and Turkey “for the mission to build the first contingents of the Free Syrian Army.”

French intelligence agents have been sent to northern Lebanon and Turkey to build the first contingents of the Free Syrian Army out of the deserters who have fled Syria, says the 23 November issue of Le Canard enchaîné.  “Several members of the covert action section of the General Directorate for External Security (DGSE) and the Special Operations Command (COS) are already in Turkey, ready, upon receiving the order, to train these Syrian deserters for urban guerrilla warfare,” according to the weekly.

“A proxy war against Bashar?” asks Le Canard.  “It’s not about repeating what happened in Libya,” insists a high-ranking officer in the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DRM), who adds: “But it’s the French and the British who made the initial contacts with the rebels.”

According to the weekly, it’s a “limited intervention prepared by the NATO” that is being planned.  “Support for the civilian and military rebellion, presentation of a resolution to the UN General Assembly, the smuggling of weapons across Syrian borders, necessary contacts with Washington via the NATO . . . such are the issues under discussion among Paris, London, and Ankara,” Le Canard points out.

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CIA spy ring busted in Iran and Lebanon

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November 21, 2011

United States officials are saying that shortcuts, unaccountability, laziness and general mismanagement are to blame for the compromising of several CIA informants in Iran and Lebanon who are now feared dead.

A CIA-led program in the Middle East is up in the air after officials confirmed to news organizations today that paid informants in Iran and Lebanon working for the US government have disappeared while attempting to infiltrate Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed military organization considered a terrorist group by the US.

Iranian intelligence minister Heidar Mosleh announced in May that more than 30 US and Israeli spies had been discovered and he quickly took to Iranian television to broadcast information explaining the methods of online communication that the agents would use to trade intel. Only a month later, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah announced that two high-ranking officers within his own organization had been identified as CIA spies. Just now, however, does the US government confirm that not only is this information true, but they believe that the rest of their Hezbollah-targeted operations in the Middle East have been compromised.

According to some within the agency, all of this could have been prevented.

Speaking to ABC News, one former US senior intelligence official speaking without accreditation says that CIA agents were warned to avoid using the same Lebanon hub for secret meet-ups — a Beirut Pizza Hut restaurant — though spies continue to use the location for countless meet-ups with a wide range of informants.

“We were lazy and the CIA is now flying blind against Hezbollah,” the former official tells ABC.

According to several US officials speaking to the press, the CIA used the codeword “PIZZA” to arrange for would-be clandestine meetings at the restaurant. To ABC, however, a current CIA officer denied the allegations that the entire operations evaporated at the eatery

Others within the agency, but currently and formerly, say that outside of the Pizza Hut sting, the revealing of the online communication conducted between the CIA and informants in Iran led to “dozens” of assets being compromised. Officials have confirmed that the websites that Intel Ministero Mosleh showed an Iranian television audience were indeed used by the CIA in their secret web chats.

“We’ve lost the tradition of espionage,” one former intelligence official tells ABC. “Officers take short cuts and no one is held accountable.”

Another anonymous official tells the Associated Press that the CIA was warned by Hezbollah’s Nasrallah that they were cracking down on American spies, but the US pressed on despite the consequences.

Prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Hezbollah organization was believed to be responsible for the most terrorism-related deaths of Americans ever. Last year the State Department described the militants as “the most technically capable terrorist group in the world” and a government probe linked the group to hundreds of millions of dollars in funding out of Iran. A 2009 crackdown by Hezbollah aimed at Israeli spies led to the arrest of roughly 100, and a CIA investigation that followed revealed that the United States’ own agents would be just as susceptible to similar strikes.

While the fate of the CIA agents remains uncertain — and the final toll kept under wraps — what is known is that for the American intelligence community, not much good can come from this.

“Hezbollah has disappeared people before. Others they have kept around,” counterterrorism expert Matthew Levitt tells the AP.

“If they were genuine spies, spying against Hezbollah, I don’t think we’ll ever see them again,” former CIA officer Robert Baer tells ABC. “These guys are very, very vicious and unforgiving.”

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