Posts Tagged ‘Lebanon’

As Syria Continues To Simmer, Lebanon Remains in Limbo

January 16, 2013

Pat_BeirPatrick Henningsen
21stCentury Wire
Jan 16, 2012

BEIRUT – On arrival to Lebanon’s capital city, all seems very functional and normal on the surface, as the city runs business as usual.

Below the surface however, there is a feeling of trepidation, an unspoken collective worry that a city and country who has gradually managed to pick up the pieces from the decades-long conflict which stretched through the 70’s and 80’s, an Israeli occupation of its south, followed by a brief, albeit destructive, ‘33 Day War’ with Israel in 2006 – might once again be dragged into another sub-regional conflict. It goes without saying that police and security services in Lebanon are on high alert.

Tourism Hit Hard

The neighboring conflict has also had a very negative impact on Lebanon’s tourism, keeping away the much-needed outside currency for which many jobs, independent hotels and other SMEs are dependent for their economic survival. But despite the recent problems, Beirut is still moving ahead, still attracting some foreign investment made visible by the hundreds of new building projects springing up all over the city. And as expected, the restaurants seem busy and the cafes are still buzzing.

Already there is a tangible presence of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and in the capital Beirut, who have fled from the fighting and breakdown of society currently unfolding next door. The impact of the Syrian conflict on its neighbor Lebanon in such a short space of time is substantial.

Latest reports put the number of Syrian refugees recently accumulated in Lebanon at 300,000. This figure is contrasted by the number of Palestinian refugees whose ancestors fled Israel’s ethnic cleanings in 1947-48, still housed in Lebanon today – which is currently estimated at 500,000.

The Issue of Sectarianism

Lebanon is, more than ever, a demonstration of sectarianism par excellence. In of country of 4 million, there is differentiation within the Christian community – Greek Orthodox, Maronite, Melkite, Greek Catholic and Roman Catholic, as well as within and the Muslim community – Sunnis, Shi’ites, and Druze.  In addition to this, there is a substantial Armenian community, a large community of foreign nationals from the US and Europe, Asian and African migrant workers, and a small Jewish community. One might also note that the internal rifts between Christian and Muslim factions are almost as great as the polarity separating Christians and Muslim as a whole.

That said, it is also the only society in the region where contrasting religions and cultures are completely intermingled and where tolerance has evolved into a virtue.

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Co-existance: A scene from a recent Christmas illustrates the country’s diversity (PHOTO: Mary Henningsen)

In its totality, Lebanon consists of some of 19 religions and dozens more ethnic , groups. Many a thesis and book have sought to chronicle (and will continue to argue no doubt) this strive towards cultural détente in the Levant. One such writer is Lebanese-American Professor Walid Phares, who sums up the country’s current alignment as follows:

“Although multi-ethic and multi-religious, Lebanon was viewed by the political establishment as a unitary republic which can only have a majority and a minority. Therefore, and without a mechanism of decentralization, Federation or simply pluralism, that establishment was vying over who really represents the “majority” of all Lebanese, and who reduced to a “minority.” The debate was then about numbers, census, demographic changes, communities who have allegedly increased in numbers because of poverty versus communities who have decreased in numbers because of emigration. But that was a false problem.”

Much of the country’s political energy has been expended over the course of the last half century in determining who is the majority and who is the minority, and although the intention was to present a fair solution to representation in its central government, it has also been the source of internal power-politics, which some believe laid down a fertile soil for the sharp upheaval Lebanon experienced from 1975 onward.

Nowhere is the nation’s simmering ‘political ratio’ reflected more than in its own constitution – a document which goes to extraordinary lengths to secure some form of socio-religious balance. The Lebanese constitution mandates that the office President should be held by a Maronite Christian, the Speaker of the House held by a Shi’ite Muslim, and the post of Prime Minister held by a Sunni Muslim.

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Beirut shoulders a diverse collection of ethnic groups, along with their corresponding political issues (PHOTO: Patrick Henningsen)

Many academics such as Phares, feel that the future would be brighter if Lebanon would embrace its multicultural reality and take a feather out of Belgium’s or Canada’s cap, and consider phasing out its historical obsession with ethnic and religious minorities and majorities. In other words, if Lebanon could embrace ‘multiculturalism’, it wouldn’t need the old system. This idea is easier said than done, as vested political interests and blood spilled over decades has, to a large degree, cemented traditional political and social paradigms into place.

Syria Simmering Next Door

What’s foremost on the minds of Lebanese in 2013 is what will happen with Syria, and will Lebanon we dragged to their war. Alongside this, many are left questioning whether or not Lebanon will ever achieve some form of long-term peace with its southern neighbor Israel. The former is the key to its short-term prosperity, while the latter is the key to healing wounds still festering from the wars, as well as the influx of Palestinians it has had to shoulder since 1948.

The situation in Syria is made even more complex by the fact that a number of foreign powers with vested interests in Damascus regime change are supplying fighters, arms, logistics, money and mass media support – which has always been a recipe for chaos throughout history. Among these foreign actors vying for position in Syria are Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Turkey, US, UK and France (somehow, it’s all beginning to look more and more like pre-WWI power-politics).

Syria has long played an overshadowing role in the stability – and destiny of its smaller neighbor Lebanon. The scares still run deep from Syria’s obtuse and often disjointed alliances with different factions over the course of Lebanon’s Civil Wars in the 70’s and 1980’s. The result of Syria’s hand in those affairs has been a dysfunctional, and often times confusing relationship between Damascus and Beirut, as well as the cause for political dysfunction within Beirut itself.

In 2013, however, the alignments are markedly different from previous decades. For starters, Syria, itself, is now a major piece on the global chessboard, not least of all because of its three major allies, all of whom seem to run contrary tocentral planning in the West – namely, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Iran and now Russia. All interested parties see Syria as the key domino, and this, rightly so, is the cause for much worry right now.

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Stunning countryside: Sunset over the historic Chouf mountain range in southern Lebanon (PHOTO: Patrick Henningsen)

Lebanon has a number of internal issues I’m sure it would prefer to sort out first before being dragged into another sub-regional conflagration – like it’s own central government, its economy, its potentially massive tourism trade, and of course, the Palestinian refugee issue.

Yesterday, I was able to travel south the ancient city of Tyre, some 16km from the the Israeli border. The ruins are stunning, but so are the Palestinian refugee camp which runs alongside it. It’s was a little tragic, if not amusing to discover there that some Palestinians in need of rock for building their homes had permanently borrowed some of the antiquity ruins next door. In a certain way, some five millennia of history puts the current protracted upheaval into some perspective.

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Ancient city of Tyre in Lebanon (PHOTO: Patrick Henningsen)

The recent past certainly has pulled Lebanon down in a spiral of social tension and extreme economic strife, but set against the larger backdrop of successive empires and cultures who have been overlaid on to this small, but historically pivotal region, it’s merely the latest chapter in a much larger epic novel. Many people outside of Lebanon – academics, archeologists, tourists – all long to see Lebanon achieve stability and one day showcase its incredible cultural and historical wealth to the world.

In essence, making the difficult transition from a fractured state, to one of stability and eventual prosperity. I talked about this to one long-term Beirut resident, named Jamal, who put it simply, “To do all this, first we need to have peace.”

It’s that simple. On paper anyway.

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Writer Patrick Henningsen is a roving correspondent for the UK Column, as well as host of 21st Century Wire TV programme airing Thursdays at 6pm on PSTV SKY channel 191 in the UK.

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Blast in Lebanon kills top security official

October 23, 2012

A prominent Lebanese security official is among the dead in a car bombing in the capital Beirut. Wissam al-Hassan, intelligence chief of the Internal Security Forces (ISF), was the brain behind uncovering a recent bomb plot that led to the arrest of Michel Samaha, a Lebanese politician close to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has been accused of trying to help smuggle explosives into Lebanon. The ISF was also deeply involved in seeking the arrest of those responsible for a host of attacks and assassinations between 2005 and 2008, starting with the murder of Rafik al-Hariri. Following the attack, clashes occured in the northen city of Tripoli between the rival districts of Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh, leaving one person killed. Jabal Mohsen is resided by mostly Alawites supportive of Assad, while Bab al-Tabbaneh is a Sunni area. Al Jazeera’s Caroline Malone wraps up the developments.

LIBYA BOMBSHELL: Obama Overruled Two Top Lawyers, Who Told Him War Must Be Terminated

June 18, 2011

By Joe Weisenthal
Business Insider
June 18, 2011

This week several members of Congress challenged Obama on the legality of the Libya war, given that actions have exceeded the 90 day period during which The White House doesn’t need Congressional authority for military action under the War Powers Act.

The White House response: We don’t need Congressional approval because this is not technically a hostile action (because we don’t have ground troops in Libya).

Tonight the NYT has a major bombshell: Two top lawyers — Jeh C. Johnson, the Pentagon general counsel, and Caroline D. Krass, acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel — told The White House otherwise.

ORDERS FROM ABOVE: Obama is faithfully executing a globalist agenda in Libya

Even Attorney General Eric Holder sided with Krass.

But Rather than heed their advice, he instead went with two lawyers with views more favorable to him: Bob Bauer (who is internal at The White House), and State Department advisor Harold Koh.

This is striking:

Presidents have the legal authority to override the legal conclusions of the Office of Legal Counsel and to act in a manner that is contrary to its advice, but it is extraordinarily rare for that to happen. Under normal circumstances, the office’s interpretation of the law is legally binding on the executive branch.

No doubt this will only embolden the bi-partisan group of Congressmen who think the war at this point is illegal.

And of course one can only imagine how news like this would have gone down under the Bush administration.

All that being said, Obama does have the support of serious lawyers, and he himself was a constitutional lawyer, so the idea that just because Johnson and Krass opposed this decision doesn’t in itself end it.

But this is still tough.

For some context, see this American Conservative story (from last June) on the war philosophy of Harold Koh, a renowned liberal legal scholar who also has a history of justifying hostile activity.

At the end of March, Harold Koh, top lawyer at the State Department, used his keynote address at the annual confab of the American Society for International Law to make an announcement: the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to kill suspected terrorists is legal. The drone strikes in Pakistan and Afghanistan are lawful because, Koh delineated, they are done only in national self-defense, their proportionality is always precisely calibrated, and they carefully discriminate civilians from combatants.

There’s both more and less to it than that, but the legal argument itself is of minor importance. What matters is that Koh said it. Harold Hongju Koh: renowned human rights advocate; leading theorist of international law (which, the ASIL conventioneers would happily have told you, is much more civilized than mere national law); until last year dean of Yale Law School and therefore unofficial pope of the American legal system, and former director of the school’s Orville H. Schell Jr. Center for International Human Rights; Obama appointee accused by Glenn Beck and likeminded screamers of wanting to smuggle Sharia law into U.S. courts. All of which is to say, if a liberal lion like Harold Koh says drone strikes are lawful, what more do you need to know?

Read the full report at The Business Insider

The “Rape in Libya” Story – Our Military’s Latest Fairytale

June 17, 2011

By Peter Dale Scott
June 17, 2011 

It is a troubled time for NATO’s campaign against Libya.

President Obama has seen a near-revolt in Congress against the costly war, while Defense Secretary Gates in Brussels has warned his European allies that their tepid response “is putting the Libya mission and the alliance’s very future at risk.” Back home, according to the London Daily Mail, “Mr Gates has requested extra funds for Libya operations, but has been rebuffed by the White House.”

PR WARS: US pr hacks are likely to have invented the latest tabloid talking point of rape in Libya in order to sway audiences in the UK and US.

The past history of American wars tells us that, when the war-going begins to get tough, the professional p.r. campaigns get going, often with wholly invented stories. For example, when in 1990 Defense Secretary Colin Powell was expressing doubts that the United States should attack Kuwait, stories appeared that, as revealed by classified satellite photos, Saddam had amassed 265,000 troops and 1500 tanks at the edge of the Saudi Arabian border. Powell then changed his mind, and the attack proceeded. But after the invasion a reporter from the St. Petersburg Times viewed satellite photos from a commercial satellite, and “she saw no sign of a quarter of a million troops or their tanks.”

Hawks in Congress, notably Tom Lantos and Stephen Solarz, secured support for the attack on Iraq with a story from a 15-year-old girl, that she had seen Kuwaiti infants snatched from their incubators by Iraqi soldiers. The story was discredited when it was learned that the girl, the daughter of the Saudi ambassador in Washington, might not have visited the hospital at all. She had been prepped on her story by the p.r. firm Hill & Knowlton, which had a contract for $11.5 million from the Kuwaiti government.

The history of American foreign interventions is littered with such false stories, from the “Remember the Maine” campaign of the Hearst press in 1898, to the false stories of a North Vietnamese attack on U.S. destroyers in the so-called Second Tonkin Gulf incident of August 4, 1964. We know furthermore that in their Operation Northwoods documents, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1962 proposed a series of ways, some of them lethal, to deceive the American people in order to engineer a war against Cuba.

Since the fiasco of the false Iraqi stories in 1990-91, these stories have tended to be floated by foreign sources, usually European. This was conspicuously the case with the forged yellowcake documents from Italy underlying Bush’s misleading reference to Iraq in his 2003 State of the Union address. But it was true also of the false stories linking Saddam Hussein to the celebrated anthrax letters of 2001. (Their anthrax was later determined to have come from a U.S. biowarfare laboratory.)

This recurring history of falsified stories to justify interventions should be on our minds as we now face the allegations, as yet neither proven nor disproven, that Gaddafi has been using rape as a method to fight insurrection, and may have been guilty of raping victims himself. These charges were made on June 8 by Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), who claimed (according to Time Magazine):

“… there were indications that Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi had ordered the rape of hundreds of women during his violent crackdown on the rebels and that he had even provided his soldiers with Viagra to stimulate the potential for attacks.”

According to Time, the rape stories are being circulated by doctors who claim to have met and treated patients but do not have patients’ permission to reveal their identities. Earlier, according to a Libyan doctor interviewed in an Al Jazeera video, “many doctors have found Viagra and condoms in the pockets of dead pro-Gaddafi fighters, as well as treated female rape survivors. The doctor insists this clearly indicates the Gaddafi regime is using rape as a weapon of war.”

But what of Moreno’s charge that “Now we are getting some information that Gaddafi himself decided to rape, and this is new.” This is a sensational charge: until we learn there is a reliable source for it, one can suspect it was made to grab headlines.

One problem in investigating these charges is that Libyan culture is so unkind to rape victims that they are reluctant to come forward. Researchers for Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International were unable to find one woman who said she had been raped. A U.N. human rights investigator, Cherif Bassiouni, told Agence France-Presse that the rape and Viagra stories were being circulated by the Benghazi authorities as “part of a “massive hysteria.'” In fact he had discovered only three cases.

Others have objected that the purchase of Viagra-type drugs falls far short of indicating a war crime. Former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, in Tripoli on an investigative mission, has pointed out in her emails that to date the one army known to have distributed Viagra as part of its war operations is the U.S. Army — as a bribe to entice information from aging tribal leaders in Afghanistan.

Military conflict of course is normally accompanied by rape. What might constitute a war crime would be whether (to quote Time) Gaddafi “had provided his soldiers with Viagra.” Moreno actually said, according to the Associated Press, that “some witnesses confirmed that the [Libyan] government was buying containers of Viagra-type drugs “to enhance the possibility to rape.'”

Time‘s subtle enhancement of Moreno’s claim — from purchasing Viagra to providing it to soldiers, reminds us of the sorry record of the U.S. mainstream media in circulating past false stories to justify war. It is painful to say this, but virtually every major U.S. military intervention since Korea has been accompanied by false stories. Mr. Moreno-Ocampo should be pressed to come forward quickly with the supporting evidence for his charges, which should be based on more than the testimony of doctors working for the Benghazi regime.

This story first appeared at Global Research.


US Naval and Troop Movements Toward North Africa, Middle East As Syrian Destabilization Escalates

June 17, 2011

Webster Tarpley
June 17, 2011

US Special Forces units based at Fort Hood, Texas, have been told to prepare for deployment to Libya no later than July, according to a US military source. The Special Forces would then be followed in September or October by heavy armored units of the First Cavalry Division, currently located in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with other components of the US III Corps. This report was broadcast today on the Alex Jones radio program, and comes against the backdrop of escalating US destabilization operations against Syria and sharpening US condemnation of Damascus and its ally, Tehran.

Observers point out that US Special Forces have been in Libya since February. They also note that, while the Libyan destination is highly plausible, some of these units may also find themselves on the way to Yemen, Syria, or beyond.

Another anonymous military source speaking on the Alex Jones broadcast reported that US stocks of depleted uranium (DU) munitions are currently very low. This may be the reality behind outgoing Defense Secretary Gates’ complaint last week that NATO is “running out of bombs” in Libya, and similar remarks by French NATO General Stephane Abrial in Belgrade.

BOMBS AWAY: US and NATO forces are sizing up Syria as their next carpet bombing 'regime change' project.

A source at US Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed that US forces are being lined up for new foreign missions, and added that his unit had recently processed two deceased US Army soldiers and three deceased US civilians, possibly mercenaries. The source attributed these cases to Libya, although US operations in Libya are widely thought to be controlled by the new US African Command (AFRICOM).

These reports should be taken together with the energetic protests from the Russian Foreign Ministry over the presence of the US Aegis cruiser Monterrey (a vessel with anti-ballistic missile capabilities) in the Black Sea, along with the arrival of the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan off the coast of Syria.

According to the Israeli site DebkaFile, which often reflects the views of the Mossad, “Western sources additonally report a build-up of ship-borne anti-missile missile strength in the Mediterranean basin. This huge concentration of naval missile interceptor units looks like preparations by Washington for the contingency of Iran, Syria and Hizballah letting loose with surface missiles against US and Israeli targets in the event of US military intervention to stop the anti-opposition slaughter underway in Syria. Moscow, Tehran and Damascus, in particular, are taking this exceptional spate of American military movements in and around the Mediterranean as realistically portending American intervention in Syria.” Debka also says that Hezbollah is in the process of moving some of its formidable missile assets from northern Lebanon to the central regions of that country, closer to Israel.”

The Obama administration is thus on a collision course with the Congress over the War Powers Act, which requires legislative approval of the Libyan war by June 20. If Obama continues to bomb Libya beyond next Monday, or compounds his air assault with a ground invasion, he will be impeachment bait.

Originally posted on Webster Tarpley’s blog.

After Libya: NATO Will Target Any Head of State

June 14, 2011

RT
June 13, 2011

Tensions are peaking in Syria, government troops have stormed the rebel northern border town of Jisr Al-Shugour with tanks and military helicopters. The army has entered the city in order to “cleanse it” from rebellious armed groups, which killed at least 120 police officers last week.

Dead police soldiers at Jisr al-Shughour, Syria, estimated 120 killed on June 07th, 2011 (PHOTO: AP)

Meanwhile, Britain and France are still pushing for a UN resolution, condemning the brutal crackdown against anti-government activists in Syria. Russia, which opposes any attempts to intervene in the Syrian conflict, said it won’t back the move.

Libya should be a wake-up call to all nation states: NATO can target you too.

RUSSIA TODAY INTERVIEW WITH PATRICK HENNINGSEN: “Libya has become a nation building circus”

June 10, 2011

21st Century Wire 
June 10, 2011

21st Century Wire Editor Patrick Henningsen talks with Russia Today about the UN and NATO’s illegal war in Libya

NATO is continuing its barrage of the Libyan capital, with no sign there will be any let-up until Colonel Muammar Gaddafi goes. Western and Arab countries are showing their support for the Libyan opposition by pledging more money.

The rebels say they need $3 billion over the next several months to pay salaries and buy supplies.

Although the rebels have managed to get financing from their first oil exports to the US, writer and filmmaker Patrick Henningsen believes the oil business coming out of Libya is not the main driver of this NATO operation.

“We are talking about a total restructuring of the state,” he said. “The rebels drew up plans way back in March to have their own oil company to replace the Libyan national oil company, and their own national bank.”

UN AND NATO: Taking sides in Libya's civil war to bring Libya under the globalist system.

The unfreezing of Libyan assets to be given to the opposition is taking longer than expected, but Henningsen says there are bigger issues.

“I think a bigger question is that the Libyan national bank has one of the highest per capita gold reserves of any state bank in the world. I think the only country that has a higher per capita gold reserve is Lebanon,” he said. “What Gaddafi might have stuffed away in Swiss bank account or a collection of Swiss bank accounts is miniscule compared to the state assets in terms of gold and oil that Libya possesses. And this has really been the game all along.”

Henningsen claims this operation is about making Libya fold into the globalist umbrella, converting the nation to a more privatized one…

SEE THE FULL REPORT HERE AT RT