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Posts Tagged ‘Lebanon’

A U.S. nuclear submarine and aircraft carrier move toward Iran while Israel conducts its largest war exercises to-date

A US nuclear submarine has moved into the Persian Gulf, in advance of an aircraft carrier and its accompanying naval strike force. There will soon be two US aircraft carrier groups in the region facing off against Iran, also while tensions are on the rise between Israel on one side and Syria and Lebanon on the other. Currently, one carrier strike group is stationed in the Arabian Sea. The additional carrier group currently on its way will include 6,000 personnel and combatants.

DEBKAfile reports:

Tehran reports that an Iranian naval patrol Thursday, May 27, detected a US nuclear submarine sailing through the strategic Strait of Hormuz, through which most of the oil produced by Persian Gulf states passes on its way to world markets.

[…] Western intelligence and naval sources confirm that a nuclear-armed American submarine has in fact entered the Persian Gulf.

Some 20% of the world’s oil leaves the Persian Gulf via the Straight of Hormuz.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, May 23, Israel began five day long war games. Numerous media reports present an Israeli war with Labanon and perhaps Syria as inevitable, if not this summer then within the next few years. I’m not sure about what inevitable means, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that drills and war preparations are used as threats against neighbours, or that Israel desires war at some point and that war is being planned for. Here is an example of statements from Israel’s daily, Ha’aretz: “The home front’s readiness for the next war was the focus of this past week’s national exercise.” And, paraphrasing Israeli Brig. General Uzi Moskovitch “Moskovitch, who speaks cautiously, does not think there is a big risk of a war in the north this summer. He does, though, believe such a confrontation will occur in the coming years.”

In response to the Israeli exercises, Lebanon has conducted its own drill on May 26.

Ynet reports:

A security source in Beirut said that Lebanese soldiers were dispatched across the border with Israel “in order to thwart any possible offensive from the enemy, and close any loopholes that it might use during an attack scenario.”

During its drill, Lebanon fired its anti-aircraft batteries on Israeli airplanes it said violated the national airspace.

Xinhua reports:

Lebanon accuses Israel of violating its airspace on a daily basis, also a breach of UN Resolution 1701 which ended the 34-day war between Israel and Lebanese Shiite armed group Hezbollah in 2006.

[…] Lebanese army also opened fires to Israeli warplanes in March and February, but none of Israeli planes were hit.

The Israeli war exercises included airplane flight distances that were similar to the length they would need to fly to reach Iran.

Iran’s army is not able to credibly threaten its neighbours with a land invasion, it simply does not have that capacity. It can, however, function to defend itself against invasion and has as focus internal security. Iran has not started a war in the past couple of centuries.

The Race for Iran has responded to talk of a US-Iran war scenario, stating that they “believe that Iran has an enormous capacity for ‘asymmetric’ resistance to armed violations of its sovereignty.”

The war drills in Israel are part of a yearly exercise of emergency preparedness, and includes not just war games but also emergency services, and also air raid sirens are set off requiring citizens to enter air raid shelters. This year’s exercise has been the largest in Israel’s history.

Israel’s IBA News television broadcast interviews a man discussing his and his children’s experience of the shelters drill (you can view this online, at Mosaic World News, 4 minutes and 40 seconds into the video). His children were told of the drill in kindergarten and are prepared for it through school. When asked how he talks to his children about these events the interviewee explains that “It doesn’t scare them but they have an understanding about enemies, Arabs, and people who hate the state of Israel. They have these vague concepts.”

Brazil and Turkey are at odds with the US over their negotiations with Iran to swap low enriched uranium amounting to nearly half of Iran’s current total. The US has said the deal is not good enough and has pressed for further sanctions against Iran while mobilizing its navy. Brazil and Turkey have said that US president Obama earlier gave them personal assurances that he was in support of their pursuing a nuclear fuel swap deal along the lines promoted by the US and Europe in October of 2009. Brazil has published the letter from the US to Brazil giving support for the deal while the US administration claims that the letter is taken out of context.

Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah speech of May 29th, 2009

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The entire speech – translated into English – is available on Vineyard of the Saker blog. The speech is on the topic of past Israeli invasions of Lebanon and geared for the upcoming 7 June Lebanese elections.

Second rocket attack from Lebanon into northern Israel, a new group responsible?

January 14, 2009 Leave a comment

It seems that a second round of rockets have been fired from Lebanon into northern Israel on Wednesday morning. The first round of rockets were fired on Thursday, 8 January. The Turkish daily, Hurriyet, provides a summary of reports, indicating that no one has yet claimed responsibility for this attack. AP reports that the rockets fired from Lebanon caused no injuries or damage.

Hurriyet’s report indicates that rockets were fired from Lebanon’s Shebaa village. In the same report, a security official is quoted saying, “Israel responded within a minute with four rockets that landed north of Ghajar.” Ghajar is a village that was fully in Syria before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war but is now split in two with part of it under Israeli control and the other section in Lebanon.

The village of Shebaa, where the attack is said to have originated is over 10 km from Ghajar (view map on outside site). So what target could Israel have been firing at so soon after the incident? It doesn’t seem likely the response could have been targeted at whatever group was behind the attack, especially since intelligence on who initiated last week’s attack still seems sketchy. Hezbollah denies involvement in the 8 January attack.

Sami Moubayed covers the story of who may have been behind last Thursday’s attack in an article for the Asia Times:

If Hezbollah wasn’t behind the rocket attacks launched on Israel from South Lebanon on January 8, then who was? The question is clouded by the emergence of the Arab Islamic Resistance – a rival to Hezbollah believed to be linked to Saudi Arabia. The new group may have fired the rockets to create a pretext for a new round of war between Hezbollah and Israel.

Media Wars in the Middle East: Egypt, Lebanon, and Israel

November 28, 2008 Leave a comment

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Protest in Egypt

Protest in Egypt

Extreme editorial bias, formal and informal censorship, and political interference is a bane of journalists in the Middle East, both local and international. At times, this results in ambiguous or clear battle lines being drawn between media houses that have become partially or fully politicized. The traditional media of print, radio, and television is, however, being challenged in some places by a rise of alternatives provided by the Internet.

In many cases, the state has not yet had an effective response to control these new mediums of communication, and the traditional media is increasingly being influenced by independent journalists, and political activists via blogs and social networking sites. It remains to be seen if states adapt and develop new modes of control over freedom of communication, and if the Internet proves to be an effective long term medium of political comment and organization.

Below is information on the state of the media in Egypt, Lebanon, and Israel taken from a number of studies and posts.
Read more…

Roundup of Analysis and Investigative Articles: Lebanon and Hezbollah

October 16, 2007 Leave a comment

Hizbollah and the Lebanese Crisis. The Lebanese crisis has receded from the headlines but has not gone away. Today, all eyes are on the presidential election, the latest arena in the ongoing struggle between pro- and anti-government forces. Yet even if a compromise candidate is found, none of the country’s underlying problems will have been addressed, chief among them the status of Hizbollah’s weapons. If the election is to be more than a mere prelude to the next showdown, all parties and their external allies need to move away from maximalist demands and agree on a package deal that accepts for now Hizbollah’s armed status while constraining the ways in which its weapons can be used. (International Crisis Group)

The Lebanese Impasse. The premise in this column by Jackson Diehl is that with a united international front, it will be possible for the sitting government to elect a new president, one who will work to undermine the strength of Hezbollah and maintain preferential ties to the West. It is certainly crucial for the Lebanese to succeed in electing a president to replace Emile Lahoud. While the Lebanese constitution specifies that a parliamentary quorum is a simply majority, the consistent practice (‘urfi) in Lebanon has been to require a quorum of two thirds of members. Thus, it is impossible to comprise a quorum without opposition participation. This means that there must a serious dialogue between government and opposition. (Informed Comment Global Affairs)

Roundup of Analysis and Investigative Articles: Oil, war, torture, privatization, and politics

October 10, 2007 Leave a comment

Oil and the origins of the ‘War to make the world safe for Democracy’. At first almost unnoticed after 1850, then with significant intensity after the onset of the Great Depression of 1873 in Britain, the sun began to set on the British Empire. By the end of the 19th Century, though the City of London remained undisputed financier of the world, British industrial excellence was in terminal decline. The decline paralleled an equally dramatic rise of a new industrial Great Power on the European stage, the German Reich. Germany soon passed England in output of steel, in quality of machine tools, chemicals and electrical goods. Beginning the 1880’s a group of leading German industrialists and bankers around Deutsche Bank’s Georg von Siemens, recognized the urgent need for some form of colonial sources of raw materials as well as industrial export outlet. With Africa and Asia long since claimed by the other Great Powers, above all Great Britain, German policy set out to develop a special economic sphere in the imperial provinces of the debt-ridden Ottoman Empire. (F. William Engdahl, Geopolitics-Geoeconomics)

Even CATO libertarians say energy deregulation does not work. In an Op-Ed that was published in the Wall Street Journal last month (and is available in full to non-subscribers on CATO’s website) two CATO economists specialised in deregulation and energy markets provide a breath of fresh air in the debates on energy. Their point is to criticize the poorly thought out deregulation in various US States over the past 15 years, and they explain clearly how energy markets work (something which is rare enough in the mainstream media), and what the consequences of various bits of deregulation are on market behavior and thus on electricity prices. (Jerome A. Paris, The Oil Drum)

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) says it supports Iraqi oil unions. The Iraqi Kurds’ oil minister, in contrast to the federal oil minister, says what’s best for Iraq is to embrace the oil unions. Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani has ordered the ministry’s companies and departments to cease dealings with the oil unions. “The trade unions in Iraq now are illegal till the new law is passed by the Parliament,” Shahristani told UPI, referring to a new labor law called for in the Constitution but that has not materialized. Ashti Hawrami, minister of natural resources for the Kurdistan Regional Government, told UPI his region’s law has incorporated local worker requirements, and unions are key to that. (Ben Lando, UPI)

Torture Endorsed, Torture Denied. Marjorie Cohn of Thomas Jefferson School of Law says that the Bush administration’s repeated insistence that it has not endorsed the torture of prisoners rings hollow in light of newly-disclosed US Department of Justice memos supporting the harshest techniques the CIA has ever used. (Marjorie Cohn, The Vineyard of the Saker)

Hizbollah and the Lebanese Crisis. The Lebanese crisis has receded from the headlines but has not gone away. Today, all eyes are on the presidential election, the latest arena in the ongoing struggle between pro- and anti-government forces. Yet even if a compromise candidate is found, none of the country’s underlying problems will have been addressed, chief among them the status of Hizbollah’s weapons. If the election is to be more than a mere prelude to the next showdown, all parties and their external allies need to move away from maximalist demands and agree on a package deal that accepts for now Hizbollah’s armed status while constraining the ways in which its weapons can be used. (International Crisis Group)

Indian Patents: Doing Just Fine. In early August, the Madras High Court dismissed Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis’ claim that a section of Indian patent law was unconstitutional. In the aftermath of the decision, one image stood out: the MNC pharmaceutical lobby, with its tropical agents in tow, raising a big stick to beat an errant country. In a situation rife with speculation, we should know that we have no reason to cower. (Chan Park & Achal Prabhala, Tehelka)

Book Review: Are Diplomats Necessary? Diplomacy is one of the world’s oldest professions, although diplomatic practice as we know it is a relatively recent development. Using ambassadors and envoys, often distinguished personalities of the time (Dante, Machiavelli, Peter Paul Rubens), was an accepted practice throughout recorded history. It was also regarded, in Europe at least, as “a kind of activity morally somewhat suspect and incapable of being brought under any system.” The establishment of the international rules of diplomacy, including the immunity of diplomats, began with the Congresses of Vienna (1815) and Aix-la-Chapelle (1818). The rules were a European creation gradually adopted in the rest of the world. Further international conventions update them from time to time. Diplomats have enjoyed a surprising degree of immunity from criticism for the often violent and disorderly state of international affairs. (Brian Urquhart, New York Review of Books)

Roundup of Analysis and Investigative Articles: Assassins, Revolts, and Health Care

October 3, 2007 Leave a comment

‘A matter of life and death’. Egypt’s largest workers’ action in 20 years began on Sunday. On Sunday, workers at the state run textile and weaving company Ghazl Al-Mahala began one of the largest industrial protests of the past two decades, with 27,000 workers downing tools. The strike, say the workers, is a continuation of the action taken in December, when production at the plant was halted. On Saturday night, police forces had surrounded the factory only to withdraw, fearing direct confrontation with the workers. Meanwhile , Minister of Manpower Aisha Abdel-Hady said that action can only be taken once the strike is ended. (Karim El-Khashab, Al-Ahram)

Burma More or Less Needs Help. Burma needs help, desperately, but with a “friend” like Bush trying to capitalize on his “freedom” agenda, they might do well to look elsewhere. ASEAN is a good place to start, Burma is a member country and informal personal, cultural and trade links provide intelligence and potential leverage. Surin Pitsuwan, ASEAN’s new Secretary General is a veteran diplomat who as foreign minister under Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai, chose not lend support to the dictators of Burma, in sharp contrast to the devil-may-care profiteering in Rangoon and elsewhere on the part of the successor government led by Thaksin Shinawatra. And Japan, the largest aid donor and home to a community of Burmese exiles has a modest role to play. But the real wild card in the Burma conundrum, with immense leverage for better or worse, is China. (Phillip J. Cunningham, re-published in Informed Comment: Global Affairs)

Pakistan’s plan is coming together. With President General Pervez Musharraf naming his successor as head of the army, the United States-backed stage is set for Musharraf to be re-elected as president on Saturday and for Pakistan to move towards a civilian-based consensus government. The army will not be left out, though. A select team of “war on terror” veterans will work closely with the US in its military and trade objectives in the region. (Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times)

Islamabad’s grip on tribal areas is slipping. Taliban forces and their sympathizers are becoming entrenched in the seven tribal agencies in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas. A lethal combination of President General Pervez Musharraf’s declining public support, a significant rise in suicide attacks targeting the army, and the reluctance of soldiers in the area to engage tribal gangs militarily, further exacerbates the problem. (Hassan Abbas, Asia Times)

Gaza’s darkness. Gaza has been reoccupied. The world must know this and Israelis must know it, too. It is in its worst condition, ever. Since the abduction of Gilad Shalit, and more so since the outbreak of the Lebanon war, the Israel Defense Forces has been rampaging through Gaza – there’s no other word to describe it – killing and demolishing, bombing and shelling, indiscriminately. (Gideon Levy, Haaretz)

Playing loose with law. Israel’s declaring Gaza “hostile” is but a way to justify its unwarrantable starvation of Palestinians under occupation. While some Palestinians are able to cope with temporary electricity outages, there is no dispute that Gaza’s residents will not be able to weather other means of collective punishment approved by the Israeli government. Israel provides the Gaza Strip with 150 megawatts of electricity per month, which constitutes 45 per cent of Gaza’s electricity needs. According to the first stage of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s plan, if locally manufactured missiles continue to be fired at Israeli settlements in the Negev, Israel will significantly cut back electricity supplies. The plan clearly states that supplies will only suffice hospitals and health facilities. (Saleh Al-Naami, Al-Ahram)

Healthcare in Africa: Lesotho’s Youth Struggle to Survive. in the small African nation of Lesotho, there are only six pediatricians to care for the country’s 800,000 children. HIV/AIDS has been declared a national emergency in the country: one in four people have contracted the virus. Why are physicians in such short supply in a nation with such a dire need for healthcare? Lesotho is yet another victim of an expanding skills drain in Sub-Saharan Africa. Promising students often leave the country and once educated, flee to surrounding nations to work in a more stable, higher-paying environment. (Nash Riggins, Toward Freedom)

Lebanon and Syria: The Politics of Assassination. The assassination of Lebanese politician Antoine Ghanem on September 19 is likely to be used, predictably, to further US and Israeli interests in the region. Most Western and some Arab media have industriously argued that Syria is the greatest beneficiary from the death of Ghanem, a member of the Phalange party responsible for much of Lebanon’s bloodshed during the civil war years between 1975 and 1990. The reasoning provided is that Syria needs to maintain a measure of political control over Lebanon after being pressured to withdraw its troops. This political clout could only be maintained through the purging of anti-Syrian critics in Lebanon, and by ensuring a Lebanese parliament friendly to Syria. And indeed, with the elimination of Ghanem, the anti-Syrian coalition at the fractious Lebanese parliament is now left with an even slimmer majority – 68 MPs in a 128-member assembly. Case solved. Or is it? (Ramzy Baroud, ZNet)

Who shot Mohammed al Dura? It was a shooting that became a powerful rallying cry for Palestinians resisting Israeli occupation at the start of the second intifada. On Sept. 30, 2000, almost seven years ago to this day, Mohammed al Dura was shot and killed in Gaza while cowering behind his father during a clash between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants. Israel immediately apologized for the shooting and said the bullets had “apparently” come from their soldiers. But, very quickly, Israel and its supporters began challenging the video and the story. The controversy has been resurrected because of a pending court case in France in which the French television journalist who aired the dramatic footage in 2000 sued a media watchdog who accused the reporter of staging the shooting. (Dion Nissenbaum, Checkpoint Jerusalem)

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