person:bashar al-assad

  • From refugees to entrepreneurs: How one family started over

    With just 30 days notice, the Rawas family was plucked from their temporary home in Jordan, where they’d fled the Syrian civil war, and resettled in Oakland. As refugees, they knew no one, had no job prospects and didn’t speak a word of English.

    Three years later, Mohammed Aref Rawas, Rawaa Kasedah and their four children are running a budding catering business that serves authentic Syrian food such as smoked basmati rice, falafel and fattoush salad. They’ve hired their first employee. Their clients include big tech companies. And the days when starting over seemed impossible are far behind them.

    They are among a large population of refugees who, after fleeing a homeland overrun by violence and political turmoil, started a business in the U.S., integrating quickly into the economy and life of a country that gave them a second chance. The family’s entrepreneurial approach is common among immigrants, studies show.

    An estimated 11 percent of all Syrian immigrants in the labor force are business owners — nearly four times the rate of U.S.-born business owners, according to a study by the New York-based Fiscal Policy Institute and the Center for American Progress. A significant part of that success has been the ability to master the English language, the report said.

    Meanwhile, a 2016 study by the Institute that followed Bosnian, Burmese, Hmong and Somali refugees nationwide found that they too moved up the occupational ladder and started businesses after settling in the U.S. Thirty one out of every 1,000 Bosnian refugees in the labor force are business owners, compared with 26 out of every 1,000 Burmese, 22 out of 1,000 Hmong and 15 out of every 1,000 Somalis, the study found.

    “There’s a hunger for dignified work,” said Dr. Thane Kreiner, executive director of the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University. Kreiner launched an accelerator program known as Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins, which helps businesses and organizations around the world run by refugees, migrants or victims of human trafficking. “There’s this element of launching businesses, but also of integrating with the new host community so the refugees become part of the community rather than the ‘other.’”

    The Rawas family started Old Damascus Fare casually, by happenstance last year though the family has entrepreneurship in their blood. Rawas owned a successful clothing factory in Syria, where he oversaw about 50 employees. The family lived comfortably in a suburb in their native Damascus. But increasing gunfire, kidnappings and the presence of military groups forced them to leave, and their temporary escape to Jordan in 2012 soon became permanent.

    More than 500,000 Syrians have died and nearly 6 million have fled during a civil war that began seven years ago with an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. Since the Trump administration’s ban on travel from seven Muslim nations, including Syria, only a handful of Syrian refugees have been resettled in California in the past fiscal year.

    As the Rawas family settled into the Bay Area, new friends and acquaintances in the Arab community asked Kasedah to cater birthday parties and other events. By then, the family had noticed the absence of authentic Syrian food, even in Oakland’s diverse neighborhoods. Soon they were catering events for local tech companies such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

    “We got to the point where we realized it’s not only about food,” said Batool Rawoas, one of the couple’s daughters. “We are making new friends, we are hearing about new opportunities. It’s a way to share our culture with the people here.”

    They’re a powerful example of the American dream, said David Miliband, a former British foreign secretary and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, which resettled the Rawas family in 2015. “They show that these are people who want to work and not be reliant on welfare,” he said.

    Miliband visited the family recently at their catering kiosk on the UC Berkeley campus before he gave a speech, ordering the falafel sandwich and munching on appetizers that the family excitedly prepared for him. Because refugees like the Rawas’ often have to reinvent their lives, he said, that makes them resilient entrepreneurs.

    “In a way, being a refugee, having to flee for your life, having to figure out who to trust, having to figure out new ways of survival … there could hardly be a more effective job training program,” he said. “Those qualities of cooperation, determination, courage, trust are important for any entrepreneur. I don’t want to trivialize it, but it makes the point.”

    The family admits they’re still struggling. Their expenses regularly exceed their income, and they’re overwhelmed by the painstaking details of operating a business.

    “The main challenge for any refugee family is navigating how to survive in the Bay Area because it’s so expensive,” said Rawoas, who is attending community college and hopes to transfer to a four-year university to study psychology and public health. “We lived in Syria, we were from the middle class and we had a very comfortable life. We owned our own house, our own land.”

    “But we’re hoping, in the future, this will be a good thing to support us financially,” she added.

    Their next goal: to own a restaurant.


    https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/11/04/from-refugees-to-entrepreneurs-how-one-family-started-over
    #entrepreunariat #entreprenariat #USA #Etats-Unis #réfugiés #asile #migrations #travail #intégration_professionnelle #réfugiés_syriens #économie


  • Russia’s only aircraft carrier damaged after crane falls on it | Reuters
    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-military-ship/russias-only-aircraft-carrier-damaged-after-crane-falls-on-it-idUSKCN1N410U

    Russia’s only aircraft carrier was damaged while undergoing repairs in the north of the country after the floating dock holding it sank in the early hours of Tuesday and a crane crashed onto its deck, tearing a gash up to 5 meters wide.

    The Admiral Kuznetsov has seen action in Russia’s military campaign in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad with its planes carrying out air strikes against rebel forces.

    It was being overhauled on one of the world’s biggest floating docks in the icy waters of the Kola Bay near Murmansk close to where Russia’s Northern Fleet is based and was due to go back into service in 2021.

    Maria Kovtun, Murmansk’s governor, said in a statement that a rescue operation had been launched and 71 people evacuated after the floating dock holding the ship had begun to sink.

    The warship had been successfully extracted from the dock before it completely sank, she said.

    • Russian officials: Nope, we can’t finish fixing the carrier Kuznetsov | Ars Technica
      https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2018/11/russian-officials-nope-we-cant-finish-fixing-the-carrier-kuznetsov


      MURMANSK, RUSSIA - Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov at the PD-50 floating dry dock of Shipyard 82.

      Russian officials have now acknowledged that the October 29 accident involving Russia’s only aircraft carrier and largest floating dry dock has made continuing the refit of the ship impossible. The dry dock, the PD-50, was the only one available capable of accommodating the 55,000 ton Admiral Kuznetsov. As a result, the completion of the refit of the ship is now delayed indefinitely.

      The PD-50, built by a Swedish shipyard in 1980 for the Soviet Union, sank in an uncontrolled “launch” of the Kuznetsov and came to rest on the sloping bottom of the harbor at Murmansk. Two cranes collapsed during the sinking, with one crashing onto the Kuznetsov and leaving a large gash in its hull. And recovering and repairing the PD-50 could take as long as a year.

      We have alternatives actually for all the ships except for Admiral Kuznetsov,” United Ship-Building Corporation Chief Executive Alexei Rakhmanov told TASS. But the loss of the PD-50 dock “creates certain inconveniences” for future repairs on large capital ships, he acknowledged. “We hope that the issue of the docking of first-rank ships will be resolved in the near future. We are also preparing several alternatives, about which we will report to the Industry and Trade Ministry,” Rakhmanov said.


  • The Real Reasons Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Wanted Khashoggi ‘Dead or Alive’
    https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-real-reasons-saudi-crown-prince-mohammed-bin-salman-wanted-khasho

    Christopher Dickey 10.21.18
    His death is key to understanding the political forces that helped turn the Middle East from a region of hope seven years ago to one of brutal repression and slaughter today.

    The mind plays strange tricks sometimes, especially after a tragedy. When I sat down to write this story about the Saudi regime’s homicidal obsession with the Muslim Brotherhood, the first person I thought I’d call was Jamal Khashoggi. For more than 20 years I phoned him or met with him, even smoked the occasional water pipe with him, as I looked for a better understanding of his country, its people, its leaders, and the Middle East. We often disagreed, but he almost always gave me fresh insights into the major figures of the region, starting with Osama bin Laden in the 1990s, and the political trends, especially the explosion of hope that was called the Arab Spring in 2011. He would be just the man to talk to about the Saudis and the Muslim Brotherhood, because he knew both sides of that bitter relationship so well.

    And then, of course, I realized that Jamal is dead, murdered precisely because he knew too much.

    Although the stories keep changing, there is now no doubt that 33-year-old Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the power in front of his decrepit father’s throne, had put out word to his minions that he wanted Khashoggi silenced, and the hit-team allegedly understood that as “wanted dead or alive.” But the [petro]buck stops with MBS, as bin Salman’s called. He’s responsible for a gruesome murder just as Henry II was responsible for the murder of Thomas Becket when he said, “Who will rid me of that meddlesome priest?” In this case, a meddlesome journalist.

    We now know that a few minor players will pay. Some of them might even be executed by Saudi headsmen (one already was reported killed in a car crash). But experience also tells us the spotlight of world attention will shift. Arms sales will go ahead. And the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi risks becoming just one more entry in the annals of intensifying, murderous repression of journalists who are branded the “enemy of the people” by Donald Trump and various two-bit tyrants around the world.

    There is more to Khashoggi’s murder than the question of press freedom, however. His death holds the key to understanding the political forces that have helped turn the Middle East from a region of hope seven years ago to one of brutal repression and ongoing slaughter today. Which brings us back to the question of the Saudis’ fear and hatred of the Muslim Brotherhood, the regional rivalries of those who support it and those who oppose it, and the game of thrones in the House of Saud itself. Khashoggi was not central to any of those conflicts, but his career implicated him, fatally, in all of them.

    The Muslim Brotherhood is not a benign political organization, but neither is it Terror Incorporated. It was created in the 1920s and developed in the 1930s and ‘40s as an Islamic alternative to the secular fascist and communist ideologies that dominated revolutionary anti-colonial movements at the time. From those other political organizations the Brotherhood learned the values of a tight structure, party discipline, and secrecy, with a public face devoted to conventional political activity—when possible—and a clandestine branch that resorted to violence if that appeared useful.

    In the novel Sugar Street, Nobel Prize-winning author Naguib Mahfouz sketched a vivid portrait of a Brotherhood activist spouting the group’s political credo in Egypt during World War II. “Islam is a creed, a way of worship, a nation and a nationality, a religion, a state, a form of spirituality, a Holy Book, and a sword,” says the Brotherhood preacher. “Let us prepare for a prolonged struggle. Our mission is not to Egypt alone but to all Muslims worldwide. It will not be successful until Egypt and all other Islamic nations have accepted these Quranic principles in common. We shall not put our weapons away until the Quran has become a constitution for all Believers.”

    For several decades after World War II, the Brotherhood’s movement was eclipsed by Arab nationalism, which became the dominant political current in the region, and secular dictators moved to crush the organization. But the movement found support among the increasingly embattled monarchies of the Gulf, including and especially Saudi Arabia, where the rule of the king is based on his custodianship of Mecca and Medina, the two holiest sites in Islam. At the height of the Cold War, monarchies saw the Brotherhood as a helpful antidote to the threat of communist-led or Soviet-allied movements and ideologies.

    By the 1980s, several of the region’s rulers were using the Brotherhood as a tool to weaken or destroy secular opposition. Egypt’s Anwar Sadat courted them, then moved against them, and paid with his life in 1981, murdered by members of a group originally tied to the Brotherhood. Sadat’s successor, Hosni Mubarak, then spent three decades in power manipulating the Brotherhood as an opposition force, outlawing the party as such, but allowing its known members to run for office in the toothless legislature, where they formed a significant bloc and did a lot of talking.

    Jordan’s King Hussein played a similar game, but went further, giving clandestine support to members of the Brotherhood waging a covert war against Syrian tyrant Hafez al-Assad—a rebellion largely destroyed in 1982 when Assad’s brother killed tens of thousands of people in the Brotherhood stronghold of Hama.

    Even Israel got in on the action, initially giving Hamas, the Brotherhood branch among the Palestinians, tacit support as opposition to the left-leaning Palestine Liberation Organization (although PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat once identified with the Brotherhood himself).

    The Saudi royals, too, thought the Brotherhood could be bought off and manipulated for their own ends. “Over the years the relationship between the Saudis and the Brotherhood ebbed and flowed,” says Lorenzo Vidino, an expert on extremism at George Washington University and one of the foremost scholars in the U.S. studying the Brotherhood’s history and activities.

    Over the decades factions of the Brotherhood, like communists and fascists before them, “adapted to individual environments,” says Vidino. In different countries it took on different characteristics. Thus Hamas, or its military wing, is easily labeled as terrorist by most definitions, while Ennahda in Tunisia, which used to be called terrorist by the ousted Ben Ali regime, has behaved as a responsible political party in a complex democratic environment. To the extent that Jamal Khashoggi identified with the Brotherhood, that was the current he espoused. But democracy, precisely, is what Mohammed bin Salman fears.

    Vidino traces the Saudis’ intense hostility toward the Brotherhood to the uprisings that swept through much of the Arab world in 2011. “The Saudis together with the Emiratis saw it as a threat to their own power,” says Vidino.

    Other regimes in the region thought they could use the Brotherhood to extend their influence. First among these was the powerful government in Turkey of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has such longstanding ties to the Islamist movement that some scholars refer to his elected government as “Brotherhood 2.0.” Also hoping to ride the Brotherhood wave was tiny, ultra-rich Qatar, whose leaders had used their vast natural gas wealth and their popular satellite television channel, Al Jazeera, to project themselves on the world stage and, they hoped, buy some protection from their aggressive Saudi neighbors. As one senior Qatari official told me back in 2013, “The future of Qatar is soft power.” After 2011, Jazeera’s Arabic channel frequently appeared to propagandize in the Brotherhood’s favor as much as, say, Fox News does in Trump’s.

    Egypt, the most populous country in the Arab world, and the birthplace of the Brotherhood, became a test case. Although Jamal Khashoggi often identified the organization with the idealistic hopes of the peaceful popular uprising that brought down the Mubarak dynasty, in fact the Egyptian Brotherhood had not taken part. Its leaders had a modus vivendi they understood with Mubarak, and it was unclear what the idealists in Tahrir Square, or the military tolerating them, might do.

    After the dictator fell and elections were called, however, the Brotherhood made its move, using its party organization and discipline, as well as its perennial slogan, “Islam is the solution,” to put its man Mohamed Morsi in the presidential palace and its people in complete control of the government. Or so it thought.

    In Syria, meanwhile, the Brotherhood believed it could and should lead the popular uprising against the Assad dynasty. That had been its role 30 years earlier, and it had paid mightily.

    For more than a year, it looked like the Brotherhood’s various branches might sweep to power across the unsettled Arab world, and the Obama administration, for want of serious alternatives, was inclined to go with the flow.

    But then the Saudis struck back.

    In the summer of 2013, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, the commander of the Egyptian armed forces, led a military coup with substantial popular support against the conspicuously inept Brotherhood government, which had proved quickly that Islam was not really the “solution” for much of anything.

    Al-Sissi had once been the Egyptian military attaché in Riyadh, where he had many connections, and the Saudis quickly poured money into Egypt to shore up his new regime. At the same time, he declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, and launched a campaign of ruthless repression. Within weeks of the coup, the Egyptian military attacked two camps of Brotherhood protesters and slaughtered hundreds.

    In Syria, the efforts to organize a credible political opposition to President Bashar al-Assad proved virtually impossible as the Qataris and Turks backed the Brotherhood while the Saudis continued their vehement opposition. But that does not mean that Riyadh supported moderate secular forces. Far from it. The Saudis still wanted to play a major role bringing down the Syrian regime allied to another arch enemy, the government of Iran. So the Saudis put their weight behind ultra-conservative Salafis, thinking they might be easier to control than the Muslim Brothers.

    Riyadh is “okay with quietist Salafism,” says Vidino. But the Salafis’ religious extremism quickly shaded over into the thinking of groups like the al Qaeda spinoff called the Nusra Front. Amid all the infighting, little progress was made against Assad, and there to exploit the chaos was the so-called Islamic State (which Assad partially supported in its early days).

    Then, in January 2015, at the height of all this regional turmoil, the aged and infirm Salman bin Abdelaziz ascended to the throne of Saudi Arabia. His son, Mohammed bin Salman, began taking into his own hands virtually all the reins of power, making bold decisions about reforming the Saudi economy, taking small measures to give the impression he might liberalize society—and moving to intimidate or otherwise neutralize anyone who might challenge his power.

    Saudi Arabia is a country named after one family, the al Saud, and while there is nothing remotely democratic about the government, within the family itself with its thousands of princes there traditionally has been an effort to find consensus. Every king up to now has been a son of the nation’s founder, Abdelaziz ibn Saud, and thus a brother or half brother of the other kings.

    When Salman took over, he finally named successors from the next generation. His nephew Mohammed bin Nayef, then 57 and well known for his role fighting terrorism, became crown prince. His son, Mohammed bin Salman, became deputy crown prince. But bin Nayef’s position between the king and his favorite son clearly was untenable. As one Saudi close to the royals put it: “Between the onion and the skin there is only the stink.”

    Bin Nayef was pushed out in 2017. The New York Times reported that during an end-of-Ramadan gathering at the palace he “was told he was going to meet the king and was led into another room, where royal court officials took away his phones and pressured him to give up his posts as crown prince and interior minister. … At first, he refused. But as the night wore on, the prince, a diabetic who suffers from the effects of a 2009 assassination attempt by a suicide bomber, grew tired.” Royal court officials meanwhile called around to other princes saying bin Nayef had a drug problem and was unfit to be king.

    Similar pressure was brought to bear on many of the richest and most powerful princes in the kingdom, locked up in the Ritz Carlton hotel in 2017, ostensibly as part of an extra-legal fight against corruption. They were forced to give allegiance to MBS at the same time they were giving up a lot of their money.

    That pattern of coerced allegiance is what the Saudis now admit they wanted from Jamal Khashoggi. He was no prince, but he had been closely associated in the past with the sons of the late King Faisal, particularly Turki al-Faisal, who was for many years the head of the Saudi intelligence apparatus and subsequently served as ambassador to the United Kingdom, then the United States.

    Although Turki always denied he had ambitions to be king, his name often was mentioned in the past as a contender. Thus far he seems to have weathered the rule of MBS, but given the record of the crown prince anyone close to the Al Faisal branch of the family, like Khashoggi, would be in a potentially perilous position.

    Barbara Bodine is a former U.S. ambassador to Yemen, which has suffered mightily since MBS launched a brutal proxy war there against Iran. Both MBS and Trump have declared the regime in Tehran enemy number one in the region. But MBS botched the Yemen operation from the start. It was dubbed “Decisive Storm” when it began in 2015, and was supposed to last only a few weeks, but the war continues to this day. Starvation and disease have spread through Yemen, creating one of the world’s greatest humanitarian disasters. And for the moment, in one of those developments that makes the Middle East so rich in ironies, in Yemen the Saudis are allied with a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

    “What drives MBS is a ruthless effort toward total control domestically and regionally; he is Putin of the Desert,” says Bodine. “He has basically broken the back of the princelings, the religious establishment and the business elite, brought all ministries and agencies of power under his sole control (’I alone can fix it’), and jailed, killed or put under house arrest activists and any and all potential as well as real opposition (including his mother).”

    In 2017, MBS and his backers in the Emirates accused Qatar of supporting “terrorism,” issuing a set of demands that included shutting down Al Jazeera. The Saudis closed off the border and looked for other ways, including military options, to put pressure on the poor little rich country that plays so many angles it has managed to be supportive of the Brotherhood and cozy with Iran while hosting an enormous U.S. military base.

    “It was Qatar’s independent streak—not just who they supported but that they had a foreign policy divorced from the dictates of Riyadh,” says Bodine. “The basic problem is that both the Brotherhood and Iran offer competing Islam-based governing structures that challenge the Saudi model.”

    “Jamal’s basic sin,” says Bodine,“was he was a credible insider, not a fire-breathing radical. He wrote and spoke in English for an American audience via credible mainstream media and was well regarded and highly visible within the Washington chattering classes. He was accessible, moderate and operated within the West. He challenged not the core structure of the Kingdom but the legitimacy of the current rulers, especially MBS.”

    “I do think the game plan was to make him disappear and I suspect the end game was always to make him dead,” said Bodine in a long and thoughtful email. “If he was simply jailed within Saudi there would have been a drumbeat of pressure for his release. Dead—there is certainly a short term cost, whether more than anticipated or longer than anticipated we don’t know yet, but the world will move on. Jamal will become a footnote, a talking point perhaps, but not a crusade. The dismembered body? No funeral. Taking out Jamal also sends a powerful signal to any dissident that there is no place safe.”

    #Arabie_Saoudite #Turquie #politique #terrorisme #putsch


  • EU steps up planning for refugee exodus if Assad attacks #Idlib

    Thousands to be moved from Greek island camps to make space in case of mass arrivals.

    Children walk past the remains of burned-out tents after an outbreak of violence at the Moria migrant centre on Lesbos. Aid groups say conditions at the camps on Greek islands are ’shameful’ © Reuters

    Michael Peel in Brussels September 14, 2018

    Thousands of migrants will be moved from Greek island camps within weeks to ease chronic overcrowding and make space if Syrians flee from an assault on rebel-held Idlib province, under plans being discussed by Brussels and Athens.

    Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU’s migration commissioner, is due to meet senior Greek officials next week including Alexis Tsipras, prime minister, to hammer out a plan to move an initial 3,000 people.

    The proposal is primarily aimed at dealing with what 19 non-governmental groups on Thursday branded “shameful” conditions at the island migrant centres. The strategy also dovetails with contingency planning in case Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Russian-backed regime launches a full-scale offensive to retake Idlib and triggers an exodus of refugees to Greece via Turkey.

    The numbers in the planned first Greek migrant transfer would go only partway to easing the island overcrowding — and they are just a small fraction of the several million people estimated to be gathered in the Syrian opposition enclave on the Turkish border.

    “It’s important to get those numbers down,” said one EU diplomat of the Greek island camps. “If we have mass arrivals in Greece, it’s going to be very tough. There is no spare capacity.”

    Syria’s Idlib awaits major assault The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said this week that 30,000 people had been displaced from their homes by air and ground attacks by the Syrian regime and its allies in the Idlib area, while a full assault could drive out 800,000.

    Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission president, this week warned that the “impending humanitarian disaster” in Idlib must be a “deep and direct concern to us all”.

    17,000 Number of migrants crammed into camps designed for 6,000 The European Commission wants to help Athens accelerate an existing programme to send migrants to the Greek mainland and provide accommodation there to ease the island overcrowding, EU diplomats say.

    The commission said it was working with the Greeks to move 3,000 “vulnerable” people whom Athens has made eligible for transfer, in many cases because they have already applied for asylum and are awaiting the results of their claims.

    Migrant numbers in the island camps have climbed this year, in part because of the time taken to process asylum cases. More than 17,000 are crammed into facilities with capacity of barely 6,000, the NGOs said on Thursday, adding that Moria camp on the island of Lesbos was awash with raw sewage and reports of sexual violence and abuse.

    “It is nothing short of shameful that people are expected to endure such horrific conditions on European soil,” the NGOs said in a statement.

    Mr Avramopoulos, the EU migration commissioner, told reporters on Thursday he knew there were “problems right now, especially in the camp of Moria”. The commission was doing “everything in our power” to support the Greek authorities operationally and financially, he added.

    Recommended The FT View The editorial board The high price of Syria’s next disaster “Money is not an issue,” he said. “Greece has had and will continue having all the financial support to address the migration challenges.

    ” The Greek government has already transferred some asylum seekers to the mainland. It has urged the EU to give it more funds and support.

    EU diplomats say the effect of the Idlib conflict on the Greek situation is hard to judge. One uncertainty is whether Ankara would open its frontier to allow people to escape. Even if civilians do cross the border, it is not certain that they would try to move on to the EU: Turkey already hosts more than 3.5m Syrian refugees.

    The EU secured a 2016 deal with Turkey under which Brussels agreed to pay €6bn in exchange for Ankara taking back migrants who cross from its territory to the Greek islands. The agreement has helped drive a sharp fall in Mediterranean migrant arrival numbers to a fraction of their 2015-16 highs.

    https://www.ft.com/content/0aada630-b77a-11e8-bbc3-ccd7de085ffe
    #Syrie #réfugiés_syriens #asile #migrations #Grèce #guerre #réfugiés_syriens #Moria #vide #plein #géographie_du_vide #géographie_du_plein (on vide le camp pour être prêt à le remplir au cas où...) #politique_migratoire
    cc @reka


  • Syrian opposition arresting those who promote reconciling with regime
    https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/08/syria-north-fsa-arrest-reconciliation-regime.html

    Regime opponents have been cracking down on people it accuses of spreading rumors about or urging reconciliation with the government and its allies in northern Syria.

    Since mid-July, such rumors have been circulating in opposition-controlled parts of Idlib and neighboring areas in rural Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces, along with al-Ghab Plain in Idlib and Hama provinces. There have been reports that an increasing number of people in these areas are calling for reconciliation. The regime’s Ministry of Reconciliation also reports that dignitaries of these areas have contacted the ministry and officials at Khmeimim air base, which is operated by Russia in Latakia, to discuss their surrender.

    The rumors, according to regime opponents, broke out a few days before the regime took full control over the southern province of Daraa in a bloody mid-July campaign. President Bashar al-Assad said Idlib would be next, sparking concerns in opposition-held areas in the north.

    Capt. Abdel Salam Abdel Razzaq is a leader of the Syrian Liberation Front, which is affiliated with the opposition’s Free Syrian Army (FSA). He told Al-Monitor, “After the regime took over Daraa, we were expecting those collaborating with the regime [in the north] to come out and make their voices heard about the need to reconcile with the regime. … We also warned residents about people promoting reconciliation and stressed the need to track them down.”


  • China to allegedly assist Syrian Army in Idlib - report
    https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/china-to-allegedly-assist-syrian-army-in-idlib-report

    China will allegedly assist the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in their upcoming battle in southwestern Idlib, the Chinese Ambassador to Syria, Qi Qianjin, told Al-Watan this week.

    According to the Al-Watan, Qianjin told the Syrian daily that the Chinese military is prepared to ‘somehow’ take part in the upcoming Idlib offensive, especially because of the large presence of Uyghur fighters near Jisr Al-Shughour.

    “The Chinese military has played an imperative role in protecting sovereignty, security and stability of China. At the same time, it (China) is wanting to take part in peacekeeping operations,” Qianjin told Al-Watan.

    Tiens ! Les Chinois aussi en #syrie.


  • What Would Happen if the United States Were to Recognize Israel’s Sovereignty Over the Golan Heights? -

    Carnegie Middle East Center - Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
    http://carnegie-mec.org/diwan/76889?lang=en

    Alain Gresh | Editor of OrientXXI.info

    Such a decision by the United States would only add to the ongoing instability in the Middle East. After the transfer of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, it would confirm that the United States is no longer even a “dishonest broker” in Arab-Israel peace negotiations, but rather has become a direct party in the Arab-Israeli conflict. This will make it even more difficult for Washington to broker “the deal of the century” between Israelis and Palestinians. Talks are in limbo, despite many statements this past year on the imminence of a peace plan.

    This situation will strengthen the hand of Russia, which is now seen as an important actor maintaining working relations with all regional leaders, from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It will also play into the hands of Iran, allowing Tehran to widen its alliance with certain “Sunni groups.” We can even imagine that it may play into Assad’s hands as well. After the 2006 war in Lebanon, some Syrian Muslim Brotherhood leaders were ready to engage with Assad in the name of the struggle against Israel. Today, U.S. recognition of Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights may revive such impulses.


  • Russia. Winning in Syria and the Middle East - By David W. Lesch and Kamal Alam - Syria Comment

    https://www.joshualandis.com/blog/25520-2

    Winning in Syria and the Middle East
    By David W. Lesch and Kamal Alam
    For Syria Comment – July 16, 2018

    The common perception today is that Russia has won in Syria, having supported the government of Bashar al-Assad, which is now steadily reasserting its control over previously lost territory. As a result, Russia has inserted itself as the power broker in Syria, if not the entire Middle East.  The summit between Presidents Trump and Putin on Monday in Helsinki, where the subject of Syria was high on the agenda, seems to have consecrated Russia’s victory. Countries tend to gravitate toward winners, not losers.

    Kamal Alam

    The United States, on the other hand, directly and indirectly intervened in multiple conflicts in the Middle East since 9/11, first in Afghanistan, then Iraq, followed by involvement in a series of upheavals brought on by the Arab Spring:  Libya and Syria most notably. No one would say the US has won in any of these cases—far from it.

    On the surface, this is difficult to comprehend.  After all, the US has by far the most powerful military on earth. The image of Russia’s only aircraft carrier limping toward, breaking down, and being towed in the eastern Mediterranean in support of Assad’s forces was a stark reminder of this reality.  So how did Russia win—and why did the US fail over and over again?

    There is one outstanding difference in the Russian versus American military interventions in internal national conflicts in the Middle East:  in Syria, the Kremlin supported the entrenched state. In Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria, the US supported opposition forces seeking the overthrow of the entrenched state.

    For the sake of argument, let’s say the US and NATO reversed their policy and actually wanted Libyan President Muammar Gadafi to remain in power against the opposition forces unleashed by the Arab spring. Is there any doubt that with US military support he would still be in power today?  Perhaps he too would be mopping up pockets of resistance much as Assad is doing today in Syria.  However illogical or immoral it may have seemed at the time to most in the West, let’s say Washington wanted Assad to stay in power seven years ago when the Arab spring hit Syria. Would not the US be the one crowning its success there, not Russia? Ironically, the US supported the Iraqi state against ISIS—and won.  But the US is not going to get much credit for solving a problem it largely created when it dissolved the state via the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and its chaotic aftermath.


  • How a victorious Bashar al-Assad is changing Syria

    Sunnis have been pushed out by the war. The new Syria is smaller, in ruins and more sectarian.

    A NEW Syria is emerging from the rubble of war. In Homs, which Syrians once dubbed the “capital of the revolution” against President Bashar al-Assad, the Muslim quarter and commercial district still lie in ruins, but the Christian quarter is reviving. Churches have been lavishly restored; a large crucifix hangs over the main street. “Groom of Heaven”, proclaims a billboard featuring a photo of a Christian soldier killed in the seven-year conflict. In their sermons, Orthodox patriarchs praise Mr Assad for saving one of the world’s oldest Christian communities.

    Homs, like all of the cities recaptured by the government, now belongs mostly to Syria’s victorious minorities: Christians, Shias and Alawites (an esoteric offshoot of Shia Islam from which Mr Assad hails). These groups banded together against the rebels, who are nearly all Sunni, and chased them out of the cities. Sunni civilians, once a large majority, followed. More than half of the country’s population of 22m has been displaced—6.5m inside Syria and over 6m abroad. Most are Sunnis.

    The authorities seem intent on maintaining the new demography. Four years after the government regained Homs, residents still need a security clearance to return and rebuild their homes. Few Sunnis get one. Those that do have little money to restart their lives. Some attend Christian mass, hoping for charity or a visa to the West from bishops with foreign connections. Even these Sunnis fall under suspicion. “We lived so well before,” says a Christian teacher in Homs. “But how can you live with a neighbour who overnight called you a kafir (infidel)?”

    Even in areas less touched by the war, Syria is changing. The old city of Damascus, Syria’s capital, is an architectural testament to Sunni Islam. But the Iranian-backed Shia militias that fight for Mr Assad have expanded the city’s Shia quarter into Sunni and Jewish areas. Portraits of Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbullah, a Lebanese Shia militia, hang from Sunni mosques. Advertisements for Shia pilgrimages line the walls. In the capital’s new cafés revellers barely notice the jets overhead, bombing rebel-held suburbs. “I love those sounds,” says a Christian woman who works for the UN. Like other regime loyalists, she wants to see the “terrorists” punished.

    Mr Assad’s men captured the last rebel strongholds around Damascus in May. He now controls Syria’s spine, from Aleppo in the north to Damascus in the south—what French colonisers once called la Syrie utile (useful Syria). The rebels are confined to pockets along the southern and northern borders (see map). Lately the government has attacked them in the south-western province of Deraa.

    A prize of ruins

    The regime is in a celebratory mood. Though thinly spread, it has survived the war largely intact. Government departments are functioning. In areas that remained under Mr Assad’s control, electricity and water supplies are more reliable than in much of the Middle East. Officials predict that next year’s natural-gas production will surpass pre-war levels. The National Museum in Damascus, which locked up its prized antiquities for protection, is preparing to reopen to the public. The railway from Damascus to Aleppo might resume operations this summer.

    To mark national day on April 17th, the ancient citadel of Aleppo hosted a festival for the first time since the war began. Martial bands, dancing girls, children’s choirs and a Swiss opera singer (of Syrian origin) crowded onto the stage. “God, Syria and Bashar alone,” roared the flag-waving crowd, as video screens showed the battle to retake the city. Below the citadel, the ruins stretch to the horizon.

    Mr Assad (pictured) has been winning the war by garrisoning city centres, then shooting outward into rebel-held suburbs. On the highway from Damascus to Aleppo, towns and villages lie desolate. A new stratum of dead cities has joined the ones from Roman times. The regime has neither the money nor the manpower to rebuild. Before the war Syria’s economic growth approached double digits and annual GDP was $60bn. Now the economy is shrinking; GDP was $12bn last year. Estimates of the cost of reconstruction run to $250bn.

    Syrians are experienced construction workers. When Lebanon’s civil war ended in 1990, they helped rebuild Beirut. But no such workforce is available today. In Damascus University’s civil-engineering department, two-thirds of the lecturers have fled. “The best were first to go,” says one who stayed behind. Students followed them. Those that remain have taken to speaking Araglish, a hotch-potch of Arabic and English, as many plan futures abroad.

    Traffic flows lightly along once-jammed roads in Aleppo, despite the checkpoints. Its pre-war population of 3.2m has shrunk to under 2m. Other cities have also emptied out. Men left first, many fleeing the draft and their likely dispatch to the front. As in Europe after the first world war, Syria’s workforce is now dominated by women. They account for over three-quarters of the staff in the religious-affairs ministry, a hitherto male preserve, says the minister. There are female plumbers, taxi-drivers and bartenders.

    Millions of Syrians who stayed behind have been maimed or traumatised. Almost everyone your correspondent spoke to had buried a close relative. Psychologists warn of societal breakdown. As the war separates families, divorce rates soar. More children are begging in the streets. When the jihadists retreat, liquor stores are the first to reopen.

    Mr Assad, though, seems focused less on recovery than rewarding loyalists with property left behind by Sunnis. He has distributed thousands of empty homes to Shia militiamen. “Terrorists should forfeit their assets,” says a Christian businesswoman, who was given a plush café that belonged to the family of a Sunni defector. A new decree, called Law 10, legitimises the government’s seizure of such assets. Title-holders will forfeit their property if they fail to re-register it, a tough task for the millions who have fled the country.

    A Palestinian-like problem

    The measure has yet to be implemented, but refugees compare it to Israel’s absentees’ property laws, which allow the government to take the property of Palestinian refugees. Syrian officials, of course, bridle at such comparisons. The ruling Baath party claims to represent all of Syria’s religions and sects. The country has been led by Alawites since 1966, but Sunnis held senior positions in government, the armed forces and business. Even today many Sunnis prefer Mr Assad’s secular rule to that of Islamist rebels.

    But since pro-democracy protests erupted in March 2011, Syrians detect a more sectarian approach to policymaking. The first demonstrations attracted hundreds of thousands of people of different faiths. So the regime stoked sectarian tensions to divide the opposition. Sunnis, it warned, really wanted winner-take-all majoritarianism. Jihadists were released from prison in order to taint the uprising. As the government turned violent, so did the protesters. Sunni states, such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, provided them with arms, cash and preachers. Hardliners pushed aside moderates. By the end of 2011, the protests had degenerated into a sectarian civil war.

    Early on, minorities lowered their profile to avoid being targeted. Women donned headscarves. Non-Muslim businessmen bowed to demands from Sunni employees for prayer rooms. But as the war swung their way, minorities regained their confidence. Alawite soldiers now flex arms tattooed with Imam Ali, whom they consider the first imam after the Prophet Muhammad (Sunnis see things differently). Christian women in Aleppo show their cleavage. “We would never ask about someone’s religion,” says an official in Damascus. “Sorry to say, we now do.”

    The country’s chief mufti is a Sunni, but there are fewer Sunnis serving in top posts since the revolution. Last summer Mr Assad replaced the Sunni speaker of parliament with a Christian. In January he broke with tradition by appointing an Alawite, instead of a Sunni, as defence minister.

    Officially the government welcomes the return of displaced Syrians, regardless of their religion or sect. “Those whose hands are not stained with blood will be forgiven,” says a Sunni minister. Around 21,000 families have returned to Homs in the last two years, according to its governor, Talal al-Barazi. But across the country, the number of displaced Syrians is rising. Already this year 920,000 people have left their homes, says the UN. Another 45,000 have fled the recent fighting in Deraa. Millions more may follow if the regime tries to retake other rebel enclaves.

    When the regime took Ghouta, in eastern Damascus, earlier this year its 400,000 residents were given a choice between leaving for rebel-held areas in the north or accepting a government offer of shelter. The latter was a euphemism for internment. Tens of thousands remain “captured” in camps, says the UN. “We swapped a large prison for a smaller one,” says Hamdan, who lives with his family in a camp in Adra, on the edge of Ghouta. They sleep under a tarpaulin in a schoolyard with two other families. Armed guards stand at the gates, penning more than 5,000 people inside.

    The head of the camp, a Christian officer, says inmates can leave once their security clearance is processed, but he does not know how long that will take. Returning home requires a second vetting. Trapped and powerless, Hamdan worries that the regime or its supporters will steal his harvest—and then his land. Refugees fear that they will be locked out of their homeland altogether. “We’re the new Palestinians,” says Taher Qabar, one of 350,000 Syrians camped in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.

    Some argue that Mr Assad, with fewer Sunnis to fear, may relax his repressive rule. Ministers in Damascus insist that change is inevitable. They point to a change in the constitution made in 2012 that nominally allows for multiparty politics. There are a few hopeful signs. Local associations, once banned, offer vocational training to the displaced. State media remain Orwellian, but the internet is unrestricted and social-media apps allow for unfettered communication. Students in cafés openly criticise the regime. Why doesn’t Mr Assad send his son, Hafez, to the front, sneers a student who has failed his university exams to prolong his studies and avoid conscription.

    A decade ago Mr Assad toyed with infitah (liberalisation), only for Sunni extremists to build huge mosques from which to spout their hate-speech, say his advisers. He is loth to repeat the mistake. Portraits of the president, appearing to listen keenly with a slightly oversized ear, now line Syria’s roads and hang in most offices and shops. Checkpoints, introduced as a counter-insurgency measure, control movement as never before. Men under the age of 42 are told to hand over cash or be sent to the front. So rife are the levies that diplomats speak of a “checkpoint economy”.

    Having resisted pressure to compromise when he was losing, Mr Assad sees no reason to make concessions now. He has torpedoed proposals for a political process, promoted by UN mediators and his Russian allies, that would include the Sunni opposition. At talks in Sochi in January he diluted plans for a constitutional committee, insisting that it be only consultative and based in Damascus. His advisers use the buzzwords of “reconciliation” and “amnesty” as euphemisms for surrender and security checks. He has yet to outline a plan for reconstruction.

    War, who is it good for?

    Mr Assad appears to be growing tired of his allies. Iran has resisted Russia’s call for foreign forces to leave Syria. It refuses to relinquish command of 80,000 foreign Shia militiamen. Skirmishes between the militias and Syrian troops have resulted in scores of deaths, according to researchers at King’s College in London. Having defeated Sunni Islamists, army officers say they have no wish to succumb to Shia ones. Alawites, in particular, flinch at Shia evangelising. “We don’t pray, don’t fast [during Ramadan] and drink alcohol,” says one.

    But Mr Assad still needs his backers. Though he rules most of the population, about 40% of Syria’s territory lies beyond his control. Foreign powers dominate the border areas, blocking trade corridors and the regime’s access to oilfields. In the north-west, Turkish forces provide some protection for Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a group linked to al-Qaeda, and other Sunni rebels. American and French officers oversee a Kurdish-led force east of the Euphrates river. Sunni rebels abutting the Golan Heights offer Israel and Jordan a buffer. In theory the territory is classified as a “de-escalation zone”. But violence in the zone is escalating again.

    New offensives by the regime risk pulling foreign powers deeper into the conflict. Turkey, Israel and America have drawn red lines around the rebels under their protection. Continuing Iranian operations in Syria “would be the end of [Mr Assad], his regime”, said Yuval Steinitz, a minister in Israel, which has bombed Iranian bases in the country. Israel may be giving the regime a green light in Deraa, in order to keep the Iranians out of the area.

    There could be worse options than war for Mr Assad. More fighting would create fresh opportunities to reward loyalists and tilt Syria’s demography to his liking. Neighbours, such as Jordan and Lebanon, and European countries might indulge the dictator rather than face a fresh wave of refugees. Above all, war delays the day Mr Assad has to face the question of how he plans to rebuild the country that he has so wantonly destroyed.


    https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2018/06/30/how-a-victorious-bashar-al-assad-is-changing-syria?frsc=dg%7Ce
    #Syrie #démographie #sunnites #sciites #chrétiens #religion #minorités

    • Onze ans plus tard, on continue à tenter de donner un peu de crédibilité à la fable d’une guerre entre « sunnites » et « minoritaires » quand la moindre connaissance directe de ce pays montre qu’une grande partie des « sunnites » continue, pour de bonnes ou de mauvaises raisons, mais ce sont les leurs, à soutenir leur président. Par ailleurs, tout le monde est prié désormais par les syriologues de ne se déterminer que par rapport à son origine sectaire (au contraire de ce qu’on nous affirmait du reste au début de la « révolution »)...


  • THE BATTLE OF DARAA IS HAPPENING : AL-RIDWAN, HEZBOLLAH’S SPECIAL FORCES WILL PARTICIPATE.
    https://ejmagnier.com/2018/06/19/the-battle-of-daraa-is-happening-al-ridwan-hezbollahs-special-forces-will

    The Syrian command ignored the US and the Israeli requests to exclude Hezbollah and the Iranian allies from being present in Daraa. Thus, the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad asked Hezbollah al-Ridwan Special Forces to take positions in Daraa and around it to participate in the forthcoming attack.

    Sources on the ground believe the US is not expected to pull out of al-Tanf crossing between Syria and Iraq – as requested by Damascus in exchange of Hezbollah and Iran absence in Daraa – because Israel believes the battle is not going to take place. Therefore, the Syrian government has decided to engage in the Daraa’ battle and remove all jihadists from the south to regain total control of the territory or even impose a negotiation by force to reached a withdrawal of the US forces from al-Tanf.

    The Syrian Army is also aiming to end the southern battle so it can move all offensive forces to the north and al-Badiya afterwards, to attack the remaining ISIS forces present in that part of Syria.

    The US faces a dilemma with thousands of trained, supported and funded Syrian proxies militias in the border area between Syria and Iraq. These militias can be a burden if the US decides to withdraw because they are Arab and non-Kurdish forces.


  • #Seymour_Hersh on spies, state secrets, and the stories he doesn’t tell - Columbia Journalism Review
    https://www.cjr.org/special_report/seymour-hersh-monday-interview.php

    Bob Woodward once said his worst source was Kissinger because he never told the truth. Who was your worst source?

    Oh, I wouldn’t tell you.


  • Pentagon Warns Syria’s Assad against Attacking Washington Allies | Asharq AL-awsat
    https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1287576/pentagon-warns-syria%E2%80%99s-assad-against-attacking-washington-allies

    The Pentagon on Thursday warned Head of Syrian regime Bashar al-Assad not to carry out an offensive against Kurdish and Arab forces backed by the Washington that control the country’s north-east.

    Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, director of the joint staff, said during a press conference on Thursday: “Any interested party in Syria should understand that attacking US Forces or our coalition partners will be a bad policy.

    Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White later stated that US is in Syria only to fight ISIS.

    She added that the “US did not want to get involved in Syria’s civil war.

    Assad told Russian broadcaster RT in an interview that the “only problem left in Syria is the SDF.”

    Assad said there were only “two options" to deal with SDF.

    The first one: we started now opening doors for negotiations. Because the majority of them are Syrians."

    Otherwise, "we’re going to resort... to liberating those areas by force,” he added.

    SDF continue to fight against ISIS in part of oil-rich province of Deir Al Zour.


  • Syria cooperation highlights progress in Egypt-Russia relations as hurdles remain | MadaMasr

    https://madamirror.appspot.com/www.madamasr.com/en/2018/05/01/feature/politics/syria-cooperation-highlights-progress-in-egypt-russia-relations-

    Phone calls between high-ranking Egyptian and Russian officials have brought the two countries into accord on the Syrian crisis, according to an Egyptian government source, in what is one of several breakthroughs on pending Cairo-Moscow diplomatic discussions.

    The government source, who is involved in Egyptian-Russian diplomatic relations, says communications between the two countries were at their peak prior to the mid-April joint airstrikes carried out by the United States, United Kingdom and France against government facilities in Syria. Talks centered on possible approaches to the conflict, to be taken in the event that the then-potential tripartite strikes were carried out, that would ensure that Islamist groups do not reap any political gains.

    Egyptian-Russian cooperation was and remains mainly an exchange of information aimed at curbing Saudi Arabian and Turkish-backed militias that were deployed to Syria to “overthrow” President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, according to the source, who spoke to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity.

    The alliance falls in line, the source adds, with Cairo’s position on the situation in Syria: Assad remaining in power is the best available option, despite Cairo’s reservations on certain aspects of the way he’s managed the conflict. Tellingly, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s speech the Arab League summit in Dhahran in mid-April was free of any condemnation of the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta — the stated reason for the tripartite airstrikes — as much as any endorsement of the strike.



  • SyrianObserver.com: Assad Confiscates Properties of Absentees Through Legislation
    http://syrianobserver.com/EN/News/34055


    Apr 5th, 2018 by Al-Hal (opposition website)

    Syrian lawyer and rights activist Michel Shammas said that Decree 10 for the year 2018, which was issued by the Syrian regime’s President Bashar al-Assad, “opened the door wide for demographic change and legitimizing the confiscation of the properties of millions of displaced and expelled people.”

    Shammas said on his Facebook page that the decree had a basic aim of preventing displaced and refugees from returning to their homes. He called on all Syrians living in countries of refuge and those in contact with the authorities with whom Syrians have taken refuge to inform them of the decree which deprives refugees of their properties and will therefore prevent them from returning to Syria.

    The lawyer said that the timing of the decree’s issuance will deprive millions of refugees and displaced from establishing their ownership, as most of them are wanted by security forces, adding, “The decree must be stopped from being implemented now, because a safe and calm environment is required after the return of every refugee and displaced person to their homes and areas is ensured and they are able to exercise their rights.”

    Assad issued a decree last Monday which stipulated allowing “for the establishment of one or more organizational zone within the general organizational plans for administrative units by a decree based on the proposal of the minister of local administration and environment and the amendment of some articles of legislative Decree No. 66 for the year 2012.”

    According to experts the new decree will allow for new organizational zones to be established in any province the regime government wants, like the Khalaf al-Razi zone in Damascus, or what is known as the Marotta City project.

    #RECONSTRUCTION #réfugiés #spoliation


  • Trump wants to get the U.S. out of Syria’s war, so he asked the Saudi king for $4 billion - The Washington Post
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-wants-to-get-the-us-out-of-syrias-war-so-he-asked-the-saudi-king-for-4billion/2018/03/16/756bac90-2870-11e8-bc72-077aa4dab9ef_story.html

    In a December phone call with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, President Trump had an idea he thought could hasten a U.S. exit from Syria: Ask the king for $4 billion. By the end of the call, according to U.S. officials, the president believed he had a deal.

    The White House wants money from the kingdom and other nations to help rebuild and stabilize the parts of Syria that the U.S. military and its local allies have liberated from the Islamic State. The postwar goal is to prevent Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian partners from claiming the areas, or the Islamic State from regrouping, while U.S. forces finish mopping up the militants

    #syrie


  • Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia: Top three stunning admissions from the top U.S. general in the Middle East

    Assad has won, Iran deal should stand and Saudis use American weapons without accountability in Yemen: head of U.S. military’s Central Command’s stunning Congressional testimony

    https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/top-three-stunning-admissions-from-the-top-u-s-general-in-the-region-1.5910

    Haaretz and Reuters Mar 16, 2018

    The top U.S. general in the Middle East testified before Congress on Tuesday and dropped several bombshells: from signaled support for the Iran nuclear deal, admitting the U.S. does not know what Saudi Arabia does with its bombs in Yemen and that Assad has won the Syrian Civil War.
    U.S. Army General Joseph Votel said the Iran agreement, which President Donald Trump has threatened to withdraw from, has played an important role in addressing Iran’s nuclear program.
    “The JCPOA addresses one of the principle threats that we deal with from Iran, so if the JCPOA goes away, then we will have to have another way to deal with their nuclear weapons program,” said U.S. Army General Joseph Votel. JCPOA, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is the formal name of the accord reached with Iran in July 2015 in Vienna.
    Trump has threatened to withdraw the United States from the accord between Tehran and six world powers unless Congress and European allies help “fix” it with a follow-up pact. Trump does not like the deal’s limited duration, among other things.
    Votel is head of the U.S. military’s Central Command, which is responsible for the Middle East and Central Asia, including Iran. He was speaking to a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the same day that Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after a series of public rifts over policy, including Iran.
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    Tillerson had joined Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in pressing a skeptical Trump to stick with the agreement with Iran.
    “There would be some concern (in the region), I think, about how we intended to address that particular threat if it was not being addressed through the JCPOA. ... Right now, I think it is in our interest” to stay in the deal, Votel said.

    When a lawmaker asked whether he agreed with Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford’s position on the deal,Votel said: “Yes, I share their position.”
    Mattis said late last year that the United States should consider staying in the Iran nuclear deal unless it was proven Tehran was not complying or that the agreement was not in the U.S. national interest.
    A collapse of the Iran nuclear deal would be a “great loss,” the United Nations atomic watchdog’s chief warned Trump recently, giving a wide-ranging defense of the accord.
    Iran has stayed within the deal’s restrictions since Trump took office but has fired diplomatic warning shots at Washington in recent weeks. It said on Monday that it could rapidly enrich uranium to a higher degree of purity if the deal collapsed.
    Syria
    Votel also discussed the situation in Syria at the hearing.
    During the Syrian army’s offensive in eastern Ghouta, more than 1,100 civilians have died. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, backed by Russia and Iran, say they are targeting “terrorist” groups shelling the capital.
    U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley warned on Monday that Washington “remains prepared to act if we must,” if the U.N. Security Council failed to act on Syria.
    Votel said the best way to deter Russia, which backs Assad, was through political and diplomatic channels.
    “Certainly if there are other things that are considered, you know, we will do what we are told. ... (But) I don’t recommend that at this particular point,” Votel said, in an apparent to reference to military options.
    Republican Senator Lindsey Graham asked whether it was too strong to say that with Russia and Iran’s help, Assad had “won” the civil war in Syria.
    “I do not think that is too strong of a statement,” Votel said.
    Graham also asked if the United States’ policy on Syria was still to seek the removal of Assad from power.
    “I don’t know that that’s our particular policy at this particular point. Our focus remains on the defeat of ISIS,” Votel said, using an acronym for Islamic State. 
    Saudi Arabia
    In a stunning exchange with Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, Votel admitted that Centcom doesn’t know when U.S. fuel and munitions are used in Yemen. 
    “General Votel, does CENTCOM track the purpose of the missions it is refueling? In other words, where a U.S.-refueled aircraft is going, what targets it strikes, and the result of the mission?” Warren asked.
    “Senator, we do not,” Votel replied.
    The Senator followed up, citing reports that U.S. munitions have been used against civilians in Yemen, she asked, “General Votel, when you receive reports like this from credible media organizations or outside observers, is CENTCOM able to tell if U.S. fuel or U.S. munitions were used in that strike?”
    “No, senator, I don’t believe we are,” he replied.
    Showing surprise at the general’s response, Warren concluded, “We need to be clear about this: Saudi Arabia’s the one receiving American weapons and American support. And that means we bear some responsibility here. And that means we need to hold our partners and our allies accountable for how those resources are used,” she said.


  • UPDATE 3-Lebanon to begin offshore energy search in block disputed by Israel
    https://uk.reuters.com/article/lebanon-israel-natgas/update-1-lebanon-will-fully-use-energy-block-disputed-by-israel-minister

    Lebanon said on Friday it had signed its first offshore oil and gas exploration and production agreements for two blocks, including a block disputed by neighbouring Israel.

    Lebanon’s energy minister said the dispute with Israel would not stop Lebanon benefiting from potential undersea reserves in the contentious Block 9, while consortium operator Total said it would not drill the block’s first well near the disputed zone.
    […]
    Lebanese and Israeli officials said David Satterfield, acting assistant U.S. secretary of state, was in Israel last week and in Lebanon this week on a mediation mission. U.S. officials confirmed his travels without detailing his agenda.

    Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Friday a diplomatic resolution to the dispute “is preferable to threats”.

    But, speaking to Tel Aviv radio station 102 FM, Steinitz added: “We made two things clear, in a very forthright manner, over the last year. One, don’t provoke us, and don’t explore in or even get close to the disputed line-of-contact.

    But : ah ben voilà que Reuters, au fil des mises à jours successives de la dépêche, met en doute la volonté inébranlable d’Israel de recourir à une résolution diplomatique de la dispute frontalière… Doute substancié par le paragraphe suivant qui rappelle innocemment…

    Israel last went to war in Lebanon in 2006, against the heavily armed, Iran-backed Shi‘ite Muslim Hezbollah movement. Israel says Hezbollah has increased in strength since helping sway the Syrian civil war in President Bashar al-Assad’s favour.


  • How De-Escalation Zones in Syria Became a War Management Strategy.
    https://www.newsdeeply.com/syria/articles/2018/02/06/how-de-escalation-zones-in-syria-became-a-war-management-strategy

    BEIRUT – Hundreds of civilians have been killed in attacks on so-called de-escalation zones in Syria in January, undermining a Russian-led agreement that world powers have touted as a step toward a comprehensive cease-fire in the country.

    While the de-escalation zones may have failed to reduce violence and protect civilians, analysts and experts argue that these were not the agreement’s main impetus. Recent developments have shown that the deal was instead designed as a war management strategy aimed at weakening the opposition, they say.

    “In the beginning, there was an illusion that this initiative to introduce de-escalation zones would help establish a comprehensive cease-fire,” said Anton Mardasov, a nonresident expert at the Russian International Affairs Council and columnist for Al-Monitor. “But after a few months it has become clear – this is all just a ploy to intensify military operations in [other parts] of Syria and imitate the desire for a political settlement.”

    The agreement, signed by Turkey, Russia and Iran in the Kazakh capital of Astana in May, was supposedly meant to reduce violence, protect civilians and ensure humanitarian access to besieged communities. Under the terms of the deal, the guarantors would refrain from carrying out attacks in protected areas, unless they were targeting the so-called Islamic State or the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance, which is dominated by al-Qaida’s former affiliate in Syria.

    The exact borders of the de-escalation zones remain unclear. However, they cover parts of Idlib, northern Hama, Eastern Ghouta and southern Syria. Those include some of the last remaining opposition enclaves, which led to skepticism early on that the deal was designed to help President Bashar al-Assad widen his control over the country.

    Despite early criticism, the four de-escalation areas witnessed a relative reduction in fighting in the months after the deal was signed, contributing to a narrative that the conflict was now winding down ahead of a political settlement.


  • Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow is a major work, but what does the defense of immigrants entail? - World Socialist Web Site
    https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/11/15/flow-n15.html

    Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow is a major work, but what does the defense of immigrants entail?
    By Eric London
    15 November 2017

    In Human Flow, Ai Weiwei’s remarkable documentary on mass immigration, the Chinese expatriate artist and director includes a clip from an interview with Greek Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas, a member of that country’s ruling Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA).

    –----

    Human Flow review – Ai Weiwei’s urgent look at the scale of the refugee crisis | Film | The Guardian
    https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/aug/31/human-flow-review-ai-weiwei-refugee-crisis

    The international co-productions of the mid-20th century often boasted myriad shooting locations in far-flung places. Who would have guessed the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei would pick up where moguls such as Sam Spiegel left off.

    Ai’s new film, Human Flow, while certainly epic in scope, is not exactly meant as entertainment. This is an urgent, deep soak in the current refugee crisis. There has been no dearth of documentaries about this topic, but this one comes closest to understanding the totality of the issue.

    –----

    Review: Ai Weiwei’s ‘Human Flow’ Tracks the Global Migrant Crisis - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/12/movies/human-flow-review-ai-weiwei.html

    There are moments in “Human Flow,” a bracing, often strangely beautiful movie by the artist Ai Weiwei, when it can be hard to see the individuals who make up the roiling, surging rivers onscreen. This difficulty in isolating specific people — really seeing them as sovereign beings rather than as an undifferentiated mass — is crucial to the meaning of the documentary, which charts the global refugee and migrant crisis. Shot over the course of one year in 23 countries, the movie tracks the here and there of people whose relentless ebbing and flowing make startlingly visible what news headlines repeatedly suggest: that ours is an age of ceaseless churn with no calm in sight.

    #art #réfugiés #migrations #Ai_Weiwei

    • Between Ai Weiwei and Bashar al-Assad, we wonder

      On a fine early afternoon in late March a young German-Iranian friend and I walked into the Garage Gallery at the Fire Station in Doha, Qatar - and we wondered.

      We were there to see the famous Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s “Laundromat”: “A traveling installation”, as the official description of the exhibition says, “that brings the current European migrant crisis into sharp focus.” We had read before that “the work is centered around a vast makeshift camp near the village of Idomeni, on the border with the Republic of Macedonia. As part of his recently released documentary #Human_Flow, Ai Weiwei has borne witness to the brutal plight of refugees worldwide.”

      Borne witness? Does the brutal plight of refugees worldwide - those from Syria in particular - need a witness? Surely. But how - we wondered. How can an artist, a work of art, transcend the mundane materiality of human wherewithal (a brush, a camera, a pen, a pair of washed and ironed pants) to reach for the quintessence of a man-made calamity? If the principle (but by no means the only) culprit of the Syrian catastrophe is Bashar al-Assad, what can Ai Weiwei teach us to better bear witness to the crooked timber of our time?


      https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/ai-weiwei-bashar-al-assad-180426071333625.html
      #Laundromat


  • Moon of Alabama à propos de la démission de Saad Hariri (en gros : grosse destabilisation du Liban, qui échouera et finira par renforcer intérêts russes et iraniens) :
    http://www.moonofalabama.org/2017/11/lebanon-hariris-resignation-the-opening-shot-of-the-saudi-war-on-hizb

    The resignation of Hariri is intended to provoke a constitutional crisis in Lebanon and to prevent new parliament elections. The further Saudi plan is likely to evolve around these elements:

    – The Trump administration will announce new sanctions against Hizbullah and against Lebanon in general.
    – The Saudi government will slip some of its al-Qaeda/ISIS proxy fighters from Syria and Iraq into Lebanon (possibly via Turkey by sea). It will finance local Lebanese terror operations.
    – There will be new assassination attempts, terror attacks and general rioting by Sunni extremist elements against Christians and Shia in Lebanon.
    – The U.S. will try to press the Lebanese army into a war against Hizbullah.
    – Israel will try to provoke and divert Hizbullah’s attention by new shenanigans at the Lebanese and Syrian border. It will NOT start a war.

    The plan is unlikely to succeed:

    – The Lebanese people as a whole have no interest in a new civil war.
    – The Lebanese army will not get involved on any specific side but will try to keep everyone calm.
    – Sanctions against Hizbullah will hit all of Lebanon, including Sunni interests.
    – A new Sunni prime minister will be found and installed, replacing the resigned Saudi puppet.
    – Russian and Iranian economic interests will find a new market in Lebanon. Russian companies will engage in Lebanese gas and oil extraction in the Mediterranean and replace U.S. involvement.

    The miscalculated Saudi/U.S./Israeli plan against Hizbullah can be understood as a helpless tantrum after their defeat in Syria and Iraq.

    Je vois qu’il y a déjà une traduction en français :
    http://arretsurinfo.ch/liban-demission-dhariri-premiere-salve-de-la-guerre-saoudienne-contre-l

    • Hezbollah is Not a Threat to America | The American Conservative
      http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/hezbollah-is-not-a-threat-to-america

      Western-backed militants are in retreat, Bashar al-Assad remains president, Hezbollah has stretched its wings regionally, Israeli power is in decline, and Iran is on the rise. Not a pretty result for Washington’s multi-billion dollar investment in the Syrian conflict, especially if it was intended to change the map of the region to favor U.S. interests.

      The Trump administration is therefore moving to hit its regional adversaries on alternative, non-military fronts—mainly, employing the sanctions tool that can cripple economies, besiege communities, and stir up public discontent.

      The first step was to decertify the nuclear agreement struck between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1), which would open up a pathway to further U.S. sanctions against Iran.

      The second step is to resuscitate the Hezbollah “threat” and isolate the organization using legal maneuvers and financial sanctions—what one pro-U.S. Lebanese Central Bank official calls “the new tools of imperialism.”

      The U.S. listed Hezbollah as a “terrorist organization” 20 years ago this month. Most other states, as well as the United Nations Security Council, have not.

      Two weeks ago, at a State Department briefing on the Hezbollah “threat,” National Counterterrorism Center Director Nicholas J. Rasmussen tried to paint a picture of an organization that was directing “terrorism acts worldwide” and posing a threat “to U.S. interests” including “here in the homeland.”

      “Prior to September 11,” Rasmussen claimed, “I think everybody knows Hezbollah was responsible for the terrorism-related deaths of more U.S. citizens than any other foreign terrorist organization.”


  • Le premier ministre libanais, Saad Hariri, annonce sa démission
    http://www.lemonde.fr/proche-orient/article/2017/11/04/le-premier-ministre-libanais-saad-hariri-annonce-sa-demission_5210238_3218.h

    Le premier ministre libanais, Saad Hariri, a annoncé sa démission, samedi 4 novembre, à la surprise générale. Il a accusé le Hezbollah chiite et son allié iranien de « mainmise » sur le Liban et a affirmé avoir peur d’être assassiné.

    « J’annonce ma démission du poste de premier ministre », a ainsi déclaré M. Hariri, qui se trouve actuellement en Arabie saoudite, dans un discours retransmis par la chaîne satellitaire Al-Arabiya. Selon les informations du Monde, un des conseillers de M. Hariri lui avait déjà suggéré de démissionner il y a quelques semaines, mais l’idée avait alors été écartée.

    « L’Iran a une mainmise sur le destin des pays de la région (…). Le Hezbollah est le bras de l’Iran non seulement au Liban mais également dans les autres pays arabes », a dénoncé le premier ministre démissionnaire. Et « ces dernières décennies, le Hezbollah a imposé une situation de fait accompli par la force de ses armes », a-t-il ajouté.

    Bien entendu, le Monde-avec-AFP (ainsi que l’ensemble des médias francophones) qualifie la démission de Hariri de « totalement inattendue »… Si ces gens faisaient un tout petit peu leurs devoirs, ils sauraient que le renversement du gouvernement et la mise en accusation du Hezbollah ont été très clairement annoncés lundi par les Séoudiens :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/641376
    que Hariri s’était déjà rendu en Arabie séoudite ce même lundi, et y et retourné hier :
    https://www.lorientlejour.com/article/1081985/hariri-se-rend-a-nouveau-en-arabie-saoudite.html

    Le chef du gouvernement libanais se rend à Riyad pour une visite de travail. Lors de son dernier déplacement, il avait été reçu par le prince héritier saoudien, Mohammad Ben Salmane. M. Hariri avait affirmé être totalement en phase avec Riyad pour ce qui a trait à la stabilité du Liban.

    • L’aspect évidemment ridicule de l’événement, c’est que Saad se rend deux fois en Arabie séoudite en quelques jours, applique ce qui a été annoncé par un ministre séoudien en début de semaine, rencontre le nouveau Séoud-en-chef ben Salmane et dans la foulée annonce sa démission depuis l’Arabie séoudite, tout ça paraît-il pour dénoncer la « mainmise » de l’Iran sur le Liban.

    • Malgré cet aspect ridicule, on peut être particulièrement inquiet. Que l’Arabie séoudite décide de porter (à nouveau) son affrontement régional sur la scène libanaise ne présage d’absolument rien de bon pour le pays (tu as vu l’état des pays où l’Arabie a prétendu « contrer » l’influence iranienne ?).

    • http://www.raialyoum.com/?p=772730
      Commentaire des Iraniens : "La démission de Hariri a été arrangée par Trump et Muhammad ben Salmane, en fionction d’une décision manifeste des Saoudiens de s’en prendre au Hezbollah."
      طهران : استقالة الحريري جاءت بترتيب من ترامب ومحمد بن سلمان وبقرار سعودي واضح لمواجهة “حزب الله”

    • November 2, 2017
      Targeting Lebanon Again
      Edito d’ABA. Cela date du 2 novembre mais, comme c’est en anglais, je suppose que cela a dû être publié un peu avant.
      http://www.raialyoum.com/?p=771836

      We do not know what instructions Hariri was given when he met Saudi strongman Crown Prince Muhammad bin-Salman. But it would not come as a surprise to learn that he was told either to withdraw from the government or sack its Hezbollah ministers in order to create another government crisis in Lebanon. Hariri would have no option but to comply. That would mean the collapse of the hard-won political accommodation that enabled him to return to office and Gen. Michel Aoun to be elected president.

    • Angry Arab: Hariri resignation in Beirut
      http://angryarab.blogspot.fr/2017/11/hariri-assassination-in-beirut.html

      It is funny: people of the Saudi and Israeli lobbies on social media are jubilant about Saad Hariri’s resignation (from Riyadh, no less and through Saudi regime media) and treating the matter as if it was a purely Lebanese matter. The resignation was days in the making. Saudi minister (for Gulf affairs but he also seems to be in charge of Lebanese affairs as well) has been threatening the Lebanese people and government for many days and warning of an impending action. In fact, he threatened hours before Hariri resignation that Saudi Arabia will “cut off” the hands of Iran—which was the same expression used by Hariri in the speech which was prepared for him. Hariri was sitting with Hizbullah ministers and defending the political arrangement in which all parties were represented against critics in his quarters. He also met with a senior Iranian delegation HOURS before his resignation (above) (the delegated was headed by Ali Akbar Welayeti, who said after the meeting that it was “constructive”). Just after the meeting, Hariri was summoned to Riyadh and he took a selfti with Minister Sabhan (the latter posted it on Twitter (above) and said it was after a long meeting), and then the speech of resignation was aired on Saudi media. Its text was counter to all the speeches that Hariri has been giving for many months. The best part is that Saudi regime media announced that there was an assassination attempt on Hariri’s life just before he departed for Saudi Arabia. The pro-Saudi branch of the Lebanese security services promptly told Lebanese media that they never heard of any of that and that they were not sources for this fable.

    • Au sujet de la prétendue tentative d’assassinat contre Hariri, le démenti des FSI (généralement pro-séoudienne et proches du camp Hariri) :
      http://nna-leb.gov.lb/fr/show-news/83957/Les-FSI-mentent-les-rumeurs-sur-la-tentative-39-assassinat-jou-contre-Sa

      La direction générale des FSI a démenti, ce samedi dans un communiqué, les informations qui circulent dans les médias, réseaux sociaux et sites électroniques, selon lesquelles son service de renseignements aurait déjoué une tentative d’assassinat contre le Premier ministre démissionnaire Saad Hariri.

      « La direction des FSI précise que ces informations sont erronées, qu’elle n’a fourni aucun détail et qu’elle ne dispose d’aucune donnée à cet égard », précise le communiqué.

    • Saad Hariri Quits as Lebanon Prime Minister, Blaming Iran - The New York Times
      https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/04/world/middleeast/saad-hariri-lebanon-iran.html

      On en est là, il faut lire un article du NYT pour se rendre compte combien les articles des MSM français et les reportages de France 24 sur le sujet sont lamentables.

      The surprise announcement — which shocked even his own staff — was an ominous sign of the escalating regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, analysts said, indicating the growing dominance of Iran and Hezbollah as well as the Saudis’ increasingly assertive response.

      Lebanese and regional analysts, whether supporters or opponents of Hezbollah, said it appeared that Mr. Hariri had been pressured to resign by his patrons, the Saudis , as they and the United States ratchet up efforts to counter Iranian influence. The resignation came after weeks of sharp American and Saudi condemnations of Iran, including from President Trump, and new American sanctions against Hezbollah.

      By pushing out Mr. Hariri, analysts said, Saudi Arabia could deny Hezbollah a credible Sunni governing partner — an attempt to isolate it and deny it the fig leaf of a national unity government.

      “They concluded that Hariri was serving as more of a cover for Iranian and Hezbollah influence than as a counterweight to them,” said Rob Malley, a former special Middle East adviser to President Barack Obama and the vice president of the International Crisis Group.

      Yet the resignation also shows how few options Iran’s opponents have. Without Mr. Hariri in power, the United States and Saudi Arabia lose their main partner in the Lebanese government.

      Across the political spectrum, analysts and officials said the resignation ushered in new dangers. If the next government is more pro-Hezbollah, they said, that could lead to devastating sanctions. It could even increase the chances of a new war with Israel, which would see added justification for its argument that there is little distinction between Hezbollah and the Lebanese state.

      Mr. Hariri even raised the specter of internal violence. [si jamais des attentats contre le camp du 14 mars reprennent on aura été averti] He compared the atmosphere in Lebanon now to the days before the 2005 assassination of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, saying he believed his own life was in danger. “I sensed what’s being woven in secret to target my life,” he said.

      Mr. Hariri’s father was killed when his motorcade was bombed on Beirut’s seafront. Several Hezbollah members are being tried in absentia in a special United Nations-backed tribunal in The Hague, although the militant group has denied involvement in the assassination.

      [...]

      Mr. Hariri headed a 30-member national unity cabinet that was crafted to protect the country from any spillover from the multisided war in neighboring Syria, where Iran backed the government and Saudi Arabia backed the insurgents.

      That mission has largely been successful , even though Hezbollah has sided with the Syrian government, Lebanese Sunni militants have joined insurgents there, and well over one million refugees flooded this small Mediterranean country.

      In Lebanon’s political system, power is divided between a prime minister, who must be Sunni; a president, who must be Maronite Christian; and a speaker of Parliament, who must be Shiite.

      The exercise of real power in the country is a more complicated affair of alliances, rivalries and division of spoils between the leaders of sectarian groups, including former warlords from Lebanon’s civil war.

      Hezbollah, which rose to prominence fighting the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon, is the strongest because of its powerful militia, which can act independently of the state and in recent years has served as an expeditionary force across Syria.

      In recent years Lebanon’s rival blocs have essentially agreed to confine their fight to Syria. But tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran have only increased.

      In addition to Hezbollah’s decisive role in helping President Bashar al-Assad of Syria hold on to power, Iran has supported several militias in Iraq that have managed to defeat Islamic State forces in that country and remain a fighting force.

      Iranian leaders say their interference is needed to stop terrorism, and to create a security zone for their country. The country’s influence started to rise after the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq in 2011, leaving behind an incomplete army and a pro-Iranian government.

      Iran’s filling of the vacuum created by the departure of the United States military has been an extremely worrying development for Saudi Arabia and some other Arab states, who have seen their efforts to fight proxy wars with Iran largely fail.

      And now that the Syrian war seems to be entering a new phase, with Mr. Assad still ruling a devastated country, there are fears that tensions that had been pushed to the back burner — inside Lebanon, between Hezbollah and Israel, and elsewhere — could re-emerge.

      The United States has stepped up sanctions on Hezbollah in recent weeks after President Trump criticized Iran and the landmark nuclear deal it reached under Mr. Obama.

      “It signals a new phase of escalation,” said Ali Rizk, a pro-Hezbollah Lebanese analyst, adding that the imminent defeat of Islamic State by the United States would put new pressure on what it sees as Shiite extremists. “Lebanon is in for a hard time,” Mr. Rizk said.

      The resignation brought sharp words from Israel and Iran. Bahram Ghasemi, a spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, said Mr. Hariri’s speech was driven by a Saudi, American and Israeli effort aimed at “creating tension in Lebanon and the region.”

      And in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the resignation “a wake-up call for the international community to take action against the Iranian aggression.”

      The pressure now is on the Lebanese president, Mr. Aoun, who will hold consultations with Parliament about appointing a caretaker government, said Imad Salamey, an analyst at the American University of Beirut.

      “If he indeed is going to bring in a pro-Hezbollah government, then he has to face the consequences,” such as new sanctions, Mr. Salamey said. “It will be a massive U.S. and Saudi response. The economy will collapse for sure.”

      In his speech, Mr. Hariri said he wanted to unite Lebanon and free it from outside influence. He pronounced himself “full of optimism and hope that Lebanon will be stronger, free, independent, with no authority over it except that of its own great people.”

      But in the streets of Tariq al-Jdeedeh, a mostly Sunni neighborhood of Beirut that is part of Mr. Hariri’s political base, anger and confusion contrasted with the posters of Mr. Hariri that festooned the buildings.

      “Hariri didn’t do this for Lebanon, he did this for Saudi against Iran,” said Nabil Idriss, who was tending his son’s fabric shop. “Now with this move, the picture is more transparent than ever. Saad Hariri was never in control.”

      #Liban #Hezbollah #Israel #Etats-Unis #Arabie_saoudite


  • France / Syrie / Lafarge : Arrestation de Firas Tlass aux Émirats Arabes Unis
    http://www.renenaba.com/france-syrie-lafarge-arrestation-de-firas-tlass-aux-emirats-arabes-unis

    L’arrestation de Firas Tlass apparaît rétrospectivement comme un dommage collatéral de la guerre médiatique que se livrent 3 pétromonarchies contre le Qatar, en ce que la révélation de son lieu d’arrestation, les Émirats Arabes Unis, viserait à contrario à désigner Abou Dhabi comme un complice du financement du terrorisme international et à dédouaner en conséquence le Qatar de cette accusation.

    […]

    Officiellement son interpellation a été présentée comme étant liée à des problèmes concernant son passeport syrien à des questions financières : Lafarge Syrie, dont Firas Tlass était membre de son conseil d’administration, lui versait près de 100.000 dollars par mois en vue d’assurer la protection du site et de ses employés, dont l’homme d’affaires syrien en reversait le quart, soit 20.000 dollars, au groupement terroriste Daech.

    Détail savoureux, c’est le même Firas Tlass qui servait à expliquer (oui, encore en janvier dernier) que c’était Bachar Assad qui « sponsorise des jihadistes » : Quand Bachar al-Assad "favorisait l’idée du jihad en Syrie" pour faire revenir l’Occident vers lui
    http://www.huffingtonpost.fr/2017/01/22/quand-bachar-al-assad-favorisait-lidee-du-jihad-en-syrie-pour_a_21659

    Dans ce reportage, le réalisateur donne la parole à Firas Tlass, ex-proche du dictateur syrien, et aujourd’hui en exil. Ce dernier rappelle une chose utile : c’est Bachar al-Assad qui a favorisé l’émergence des jihadistes en Syrie pour ensuite, s’ériger en rempart contre le péril islamiste qui tétanise les occidentaux. Mieux, il explique comment le dictateur syrien sponsorise des jihadistes depuis 2003.

    (M’enfin avec la Syrie, ça fait bien longtemps qu’on a passé toutes les bornes du n’importe quoi…)


  • NSA DOCUMENT SAYS SAUDI PRINCE DIRECTLY ORDERED COORDINATED ATTACK BY SYRIAN REBELS ON DAMASCUS
    https://theintercept.com/2017/10/24/syria-rebels-nsa-saudi-prince-assad

    A LOOSELY KNIT collection of Syrian rebel fighters set up positions on March 18, 2013, and fired several barrages of rockets at targets in the heart of Damascus, Bashar al-Assad’s capital. The attack was a brazen show of force by rebels under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, targeting the presidential palace, Damascus International Airport, and a government security compound. It sent a chilling message to the regime about its increasingly shaky hold on the country, two years after an uprising against its rule began.

    Behind the attacks, the influence of a foreign power loomed. According to a top-secret National Security Agency document provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden, the March 2013 rocket attacks were directly ordered by a member of the Saudi royal family, Prince Salman bin Sultan, to help mark the second anniversary of the Syrian revolution. Salman had provided 120 tons of explosives and other weaponry to opposition forces, giving them instructions to “light up Damascus” and “flatten” the airport, the document, produced by U.S. government surveillance on Syrian opposition factions, shows.

    The Saudis were long bent on unseating Assad. Salman was one of the key Saudi officials responsible for prosecuting the war in Syria, serving as a high-ranking intelligence official before being promoted to deputy minister of defense later in 2013.


  • Russia setting up direct shipping line to Syria - TASS
    https://www.reuters.com/article/mideast-crisis-syria-russia-agriculture/russia-setting-up-direct-shipping-line-to-syria-tass-idUSL8N1ML40L

    Russia is setting up a direct shipping line to Syria and wants its companies to help build an economic recovery in the war-torn Middle Eastern country, the TASS news agency quoted Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin as saying on Tuesday.

    The report did not specify what a direct shipping line would entail, but any increase in agricultural and other supplies from Russia or help in reviving exports would be a boost for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
    […]
    Syria was once self-sufficient in wheat but continued fighting in the main grain-producing areas in its northeastern regions has reduced its crops in recent years.

    Trade between Russia and Syria rose by 42 percent year-on-year to $193 million in the first seven months of 2017, according to Rogozin. However, Syria’s exports to Russia only amounted to $2 million in the period.