Saturday, September 29, 2007

New Poll: Hizballah on Aoun's Presidency!

Here's a poll question long overdue: Does Hizballah Really (really really) support Michel Aoun's bid for the presidency?

The poll is already up and running so feel free to vote on the right side bar. All comments are welcome in this post's comments section, so don't be shy about letting us know your thoughts on the subject and the poll. And finally, don't forget to follow results using the Poll Results link under the sidebar poll.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Hizballah: We'd Complicitly Kill Lebanese to Protect Syria

Syria's allies in Lebanon announced, on Thursday, that they would be willing to ignite a conflict with Israel on Lebanese territory - thereby unilaterally placing the lives of Lebanese citizens at risk - if Syria were attacked by Israel.

The coordinated statements by Hizballah and the PFLP-GC, two organizations with strong links to Damascus - come as tensions between Syria and Israel continue to run high.

Last summer, Hizballah unilaterally ignited a war with Israel which resulted in the deaths of over 1200 Lebanese citizens, and which resulted in the destruction of critical infrastructure throughout the country.

That war came at a time when Lebanese parties were participating in an extra-institutional national dialogue aimed at reducing tensions between the parties and addressing critical national security needs.

Before being unilaterally aborted by Hizballah's ignition of the July War, the national dialogue sessions had succeeded in the draft of a statement politically green-lighting a government order for a disarmament and dismemberment of Syrian-controlled Palestinian groups operating outside the country's refugee camps.

These included, most notably, Ahmad Jibril's PFLP-GC group and the various military installations it controlled throughout Lebanese territory and, most dangerously, along the Syrian border - a position from which it continues to receive illicit weapons shipments from Syria.

The specific timing of that war also coincided with a national dialogue session meant to address Hizballah's possession of a massive weapons stockpiles and highly developed paramilitary infrastructure. That session, after having been postponed by one week from its originally scheduled date by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri - the chief 'sponsor' of the talks and a staunch Syrian ally, was preceded by the launching of the Hizballah operation that ignited the war.

The national dialogue sessions were seen by many observers as having been a conciliatory concession on the part of the recently elected Parliamentary majority. The specific concession took the form of allowing the country's minority opposition to draw the majority into national political dialogue outside the national political institution to which such a dialogue is meant to be restricted, i.e. Parliament.

Added to that attack on the institution of Parliament was the Speaker's refusal to convene a Parliamentary session in March of 2007 - in contradiction to a constitutional stipulation on the convening of the first of two annual Parliamentary sessions, and a continued assassination campaign of members of the Anti-Syrian Parliamentary majority that has resulted in the shrinking of the number of seats constituting that majority.

Lahoud at 62nd UN General Assembly

If you're curious to see how Lebanon was represented at this year's UN General Assembly, then here are links to the text of Emile Lahoud's speech:

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Syria Exposed

Chemical Exposure

Jane's Defense Weekly reported, in its September 26th issue, that a "mysterious" explosion in the Syrian city of Aleppo last July was the explosion was in fact a rocket fuel accident at a plant where scud missiles were being fitted with chemical warheads - of the mustard gas variety.

Reported dead in the incident, at the time, were 15 Syrian soliers, along with 50 others injured. Added to this figure, Jane's Defense Weekly claimed the death and/or injury of "dozens" of Iranian engineers working on the project at the base.

The magazine's sources, listed as members of the Syrian opposition, argued that the explanation given by the Syrian regime for the explosion - that of a sudden rise in temperatures having a destabilizing effect on a weapons depot - was implausible, given that the explosion occurred at 4:30 am, when temperatures would still be cool.

The article went on to outline the Iranian government's aid to Syria in helping it plan, establish, and manage five chemical weapons development facilities. Facilities meant to produce the weapons on an "industrial scale".

It also claimed that an Iranian chemical manufacturer, the identity of which was known to the magazine Jane's and with connections to the Islamic republic's defence industry, had been involved in a number of deals, since 2004, with a Syrian firm with links to the military.

The deals are said to have involved the importation of "hundreds of tonnes of sodium sulphide, hydrochloric acid and ethylene glycol-MEG from Iran" which can be used to produce mustard gas and Sarin nerve gas.


Radiation Exposure

Meanwhile, speculation surrounding that other, more recent, explosion in the Syrian desert continues to run rampant.

In a recent twist, the London-based Times Online has reported that the incident, which according to its sources involved an Israeli air raid on a North Korean-supplied nuclear facility in Syria, was preceded by a top-secret Isreali commando infiltration of the facility in which evidence of Pyong-Yang's complicity, and proof of the presence of nuclear material, was recovered.

The evidence, according to the report, was then shared with American administration officials, prompting them to greenlight the Israeli strike operation.

The foreign-based Lebanese website, World Council for the Cedar Revolution (WCCR), provides comprehensive coverage of the incident, complete with video reports and interviews. One interesting interview is with former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton, who - conceding a high level of speculation and lack of clear information on the case - claims that despite Syria's official complaint to the UN on the strike, it has avoided making a real issue out of it, perhaps indicating that it would rather let the true nature of the "target" remain shrouded.


Blast Exposure

Finally, the Kuwaiti daily As Seyassa, has reported that the September 19th assassination of Lebanese MP Antoine Ghanem was planned and coordinated by Bassem Imad, a Syrian intelligence officer (holding the rank of Major) working under direct orders from Assef Shawkat, Syria's chief of intelligence services and brother-in-law to Syria's President, Bashar el Assad.
“The reopening [of the Dabousiye and Aride border crossings on the Syrian-Lebanese border]came two days ahead of the assassination [of MP Antoine Ghanem] on September 19, and the visit of a delegation of pro-Syrian Lebanese parties was coordinated by Syrian Intelligence to facilitate the entry of those who committed the assassination,” said the sources.

“The Mercedes - stolen a year earlier from Lebanon - that exploded and killed MP Ghanem was prepared in the Syrian village of Kfarsoussa near Damascus. The fake registration plaque and insurance papers were also prepared in Syria,” the article added.
The assassination, according to the paper, was performed by Syrian intelligence agents after detailed monitoring of Ghanem’s movements and the roads used by his motorcade. Two apartments were rented by Syrian Intelligence personnel to that effect, one in Koleiat, where Ghanem lived, and the other in Sin el-Fil, were the assassination was executed.

A third apartment was also reportedly rented in Tripoli in the month of June, and at the height of a terrorist bombing campaign that rocked the country. That campaign was linked to the Battle of Nahr el Bared, where Syrian-linked fundamentalist terrorists continuously fought the Lebanese Army throughout the summer.

According to As Seyassah's sources the assassins exited the country, disguised as Syrian workers, immediately after the execution of their orders.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Presidential Leak

In previous analyses, I've argued that Riad Salameh, Governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, shouldn't be considered as a candidate for the Presidency given that his appointment as such would require a constitutional amendment.

Well guess what...

...according to the Daily Star, recently 'leaked' information suggests that the Governor's position places him outside the realm of public officialdom, thereby granting him abstention from constitutional regulations on holders of public office in regard to the Presidency.

According to the paper,
...many observers have argued that like another potential candidate, army commander General Michel Suleiman, the Central Bank chief is a "first-rank civil servant" and therefore ineligible for the presidency in the absence of a rule change like that made for Emile Lahoud in 1998.

According to an unrelated 1993 ruling by the Labor Arbitration Council however, the very nature of Salameh's position grants him autonomy and means that he is not classified as a public official.
The decision stemmed from a case brought by the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), which argued that Salameh was not entitled to its regular end-of-service package, which generally consists of one month's salary for each year worked.

The council ruled in favor of the NSSF, finding that since both Salameh and his deputies required full independence from political influence to do their jobs, they should not be regarded as public officials.
The article also contained endorsements of the Central Banker by executives throughout the country's banking industry.

Meanwhile, the country's Parliamentary majority (i.e. members of the Syrian target-practice club) convened in Parliament today while their counterparts in the opposition (i.e. members of the "lets wait 'til the Syrians kill off the other guys and we become the majority" club) exchanged militia-training-tips in the hallways of the legislature. All of this to say, of course, that our Presidential electoral process was kicked off today and that nothing was accomplished.

My analysis-strike continues...

...so I leave you with Abu Kais, Jeha, Mustapha, and Tony Bey.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Soqour

Here's a little quip for all of y'all:
And when the day arrives for Aoun to come clean about his military wing, his so-called Soqour or Hawks, he will claim, in that endearing and brusque manner no doubt, that he had no choice. Everyone else was gearing up for a scrap. He had to be prepared.
The government yesterday confirmed, in conjunction with security services and after a seven hour "security meeting" with the heads of the country's security services, the presence of paramilitary training camps operated by the country's opposition forces and including such armed groups as the SSNP, Hizballah, Marada, and Amal, alongside previously unarmed groups such as Aoun's FPM.

And for those of you who find such scenarios as the arming of Lebanese factions hard to conceptualize, below is a video of Marada celebrations in 2004, after their leader Suleiman Franjieh was appointed Minister of Interior. A position he attained through intense Syrian pressure (in replacement of Elias el Murr) and which he held at the time of the Hariri assassination, itself an operation in which the presence of a staunchly pro-Syrian Minister of the Interior would have acted as a major facilitator.

But enough about that, here's the video...enjoy!


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Bidding Farewell, Once Again

Grim-faced March 14 leaders bid farewell to another of their own at the funeral for MP Antoine Ghanem, assassinated Wednesday in a car bombing, on September 21. (Dalati & Nohra)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Breaking News: Explosion in Beirut - Updated!

MP Antoine Ghanem Assassinated!


A massive explosion is being reported in the Horsh Tabet neighborhood of Beirut, near the Metropolitan Hotel and the Librarie Antoine.

Six people have been reported dead in the explosion, along with over 15 injured. The explosion is said to have occured at 5:20 pm, local time.

Images from the scene show the bodies of at least two victims lying dead on the sidewalk. The explosion is said to have left a large crater.

Reports emerging out of Lebanon have confirmed the targetting of Member of Parliament, and possible Presidential candidate, Antoine Ghanem.

Ghanem was an MP in the Baabda-Alley district, just south-east of Beirut. He is a member of the Kataeb Party headed by former President Amine Gemayel. Gemayel's son, Pierre Gemayel, was gunned down last November as part of a series of assassinations targetting anti-Syrian politicians in the country.

Watch live coverage of the scene of the attack and assassination here.

In pictures:


Pictures as seen on Yahoo!News
REUTERS/KHalil Hassan (LEBANON) and REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir (LEBANON)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Wahhab Threatens to Fire on Lebanese Customs Agents

Check out this article from NOW Lebanon.

Given the flurry of news and noise over the past few days and my irregular posting (expect that to continue for a while longer), this article seems to sum up everything that needs to be known. If you’ve been reading the news then reflect on every word in this article, every character, threat and action, and you’ll have a sense of what is happening and being planned in the shrouded halls and salons of the country’s henchmen.

PS – NOW Lebanon was first to break the Hizballah-training-camps story which, it would appear, Syria's useful-destructive-idiot confirmed today.

[Scroll down the sidebar for links to NOW Lebanon and other Lebanese online/offline news agencies and blogs]

Friday, September 07, 2007

Presidents and Borders: Poll Results

Several months ago, ahead of a prolonged moratorium on Blacksmiths of Lebanon polls, we broached the question of the country’s porous borders with Syria – across which dozens of illicit weapons and ammunition-laden trucks have crossed this summer alone – and what should be done about them.

The issue was provoked by continued reports of truck interceptions and the dispatching of a UN commission - at the request of the government - to investigate the need for better enforcement of the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

That investigation led to a devastating report that highlighted an ongoing assimilation of Lebanese territory by Syria, the extension of bases occupied by Syrian-sponsored terrorists organisations such as the PFLP-GC across the border, and the smuggling of both fighters and weapons (including Katyusha rockets) to these groups as well as others.

The report also included a recommendation for the creation of a multi-agency force to patrol the border and to better secure it with the help of German "experts".

Our poll on the subject asked whether or not the government should have officially requested the presence of international "monitors" - a term very vocally opposed by the Syrians at the time, in contrast to "experts" - on those borders. Our readership overwhelmingly approved of the idea with more than 82% of the 229 votes in favour.

(click on any of the images in this post to be taken directly to the relevant poll results - showing not only the percentage of votes for each choice, but also the geographic concentration of those votes!).

This approval, of international help in maintaining a much needed vigilence over our border, was met on Tuesday by an announcement by the German Embassy in Lebanon declaring the upcoming deployment of "German-led Common Border Force (CBF) personnel" along Lebanon's northern border with Syria. The Force is to be made up of presonnel belonging to the ISF, Army, General Security, and Customs branches of the security apparatus - with each branch bringing its own brand of partisanship to the mix (anti-Syrian/Hariri, pro-Syrian/Hizballah units along the border, pro-Syrian/Hizballah, neutral/Anti-Syrian (not sure)- respectively).

Our first poll after our self-imposed moratorium took up the issue of the upcoming 2007 Presidential Elections and for the second time asked the question: Who Should be Lebanon's Next President?


The bi-weekly poll managed to grab 240 votes of which Nassib Lahoud gathered the largest share of 31.7%. Mirroring results in our first presidential poll, Michel Aoun came a relatively close second to Lahoud, winning 27.5% of the vote (this after an "inspired" rally by Aoun's supporters made up for the Orange General's tired start).

Comparisons between the two polls beyond the rudimentary one given above would be "unscientific" given the different candidate composition in each of the polls. A look at the geographical distributiojn of each poll's results, however, provides for a more interesting examination...

...so take a look and let us know what you see. And be sure to keep an eye on our sidebar for our next poll due to be openned in the coming days. As always, all suggestions, comments, questions, and complaints on the poll series are welcome in the comments section.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Jubilant Crowds from Tripoli to Jbeil


Hundreds of people have lined Lebanon's main northern highway to cheer on troops returning from the hard-fought victory in Nahr el Bared. The mood in the country has been ecstatic since the Army Command, Prime Minister, and Minister of Defense have each, in turn, announced the end of major military operations in the camp. According to the Lebanese daily An Nahar, the celebrations are to culminate in a massive parade in the town of Jbeil (Byblos), later today (we'll have pix as they become available).

The Battle of Nahr el Bared claimed the lives of 163 Lebanese soldiers and resulted in the death of 222 Fatah al Islam militants and the capture of another 202.

Tripoli


Lebanese civilians dance and chant slogans for soldiers leaving the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp after defeating Islamist militants, in Tripoli city, north Lebanon September 4, 2007. (REUTERS/Omar Ibrahim, LEBANON)

Anfeh


A Lebanese woman flashes V sign to Lebanese special forces soldiers units who withdrew from the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp to their bases in central Lebanon, ... , in the northern town of Anfeh, Lebanon, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2007. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Batroun


An aunt of a Lebanese special forces soldier, kisses his head when he got back home safely from the fighting in the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp, after his arrival at the northern town of Batroun, Lebanon, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2007. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

...

And the good times keep coming! The celebratory mood rolled into Beirut, right alongside a returning victorious Army this evenning, where it was met with music, fireworks, and dancing in the streets. Some continued to insist on politically "coloring" the celebrations but it is undoubtedly the country as a whole that is erupting with joy this week.

Beirut


Images as seen on Yahoo!News

Monday, September 03, 2007

Victory!

Today the nation celebrates its victory and mourns its heroes...


...words and analysis can wait another day.

Our Fallen Heroes


Major Ibrahim Youssef Salloum
Captain Fadi Ibrahim Abdallah
Captain Walid al Shaar
Captian Tony Khalil Semaan
Captain Ghaled Ahmad Qalout
Captain Michel Jabbour Mefleh
Captain Khaled Fouad Mershad
Second Lieutenant Roy Abu Ghazaleh
Second Lieutenant Maroun al Litani
Second Lieutenant Ali Ahmad Smidi
Second Lieutenant Housam Mohamad Bou Aaram
Second Lieutenant George Michel Fahed
Second Lieutenant Ali Mustapha Nassar
Warrant Officer Mustapha Ali al Dahi
Warrant Officer Walid Ali Saleh
Warrant Officer Hana Ibrahim Fahmeh
First Adjuntant Saadeh Tannous Makhlouf
First Adjuntant Salah Khaled Sakrieh
First Adjuntant Wissam Mohamad Hamdan
First Adjuntant Ali Mohamad Moussa
First Adjuntant Zaki Mikhail al Rahbaoui
First Adjuntant Ahmad Abdel Jawad Heblas
First Adjuntant Ali Mohamad Akkoush
First Adjuntant Khalil Mohamad Shouman
First Adjuntant Jaafar Ismail Mouawieh
First Adjuntant Ghattas Tannous Tarabey
First Adjuntant Bassam Khodr Jawhar
First Adjuntant Ahmad Mohamad Farhat
First Adjuntant Abdallah Jarmash
Adjuntant Mahmoud Mohamad Bakeesh
Adjuntant Elie Maurice Maalouf
Adjuntant Riad Qassem Abdallah
Adjuntant Hatem Ali al Hatem
Adjuntant Ali Hasan Mahmoudi
Adjuntant Ayman Saleh Masheemash
Adjuntant Melhem Saeed Muallem
Adjuntant Walid Mahmoud el Hajj
Adjuntant Raymond Toufic Eess
Sergeant First Class Jean Girgis Elias
Sergeant First Class Wissam Mohamad Chaker
Sergeant First Class Ayash Hamad Rostoum
Sergeant First Class Youssef Hussein Shooman
Sergeant First Class Ali Nazim Hamieh
Sergeant First Class Nasser Mustapha Hassan
Sergeant First Class Ali Khodr al Achkar
Sergeant First Class Rami Hasan Saab
Sergeant Nazih Ali Nader
Sergeant Mazen Fawzat al Aawar
Sergeant Abed al Salam Saleh
Sergeant Khaled Abdel Jaleel Teleeji
Sergeant Shadi Mahmoud Rostum
Sergeant Chaoki Farhan Mahmoud
Sergeant Bilal Riad Al Amoudi
Sergeant George Antoin Akl
Sergeant Omar Imad al Hajj
Sergeant Mahmoud Mohamad Darwiche
Sergeant Mohamad Ahmad al Hajeeri
Sergeant Mohamad Diab Dara
Sergeant Bassam Mohamad Eisheh
Sergeant Edouard George Khattar
Sergeant Ossama Noureddine al Rifaii
Sergeant Elias Dani Aazar
Sergeant Pierre Amine Bou Dale3
Sergeant George Boutros Tannouri
Sergeant Hussein Khalil Karenby
Sergeant Bassam Girgis Ayoub
Sergeant Mohamad Yasir el Ibrahim
Sergeant Jack Milan Sassine
Sergeant Issam Ahmad al Musilmani
Sergeant Girgis Antonious al Bizri
Sergeant Elias Melhem al Ba3ini
Sergeant Chadi Halim al Jalbout
Sergeant Ali Rafik Moussa
Sergeant Khodr Ali Hrouk
Sergeant Nicola Fahmi Naeemeh
Sergeant Osama Mounir Siyoufi
Sergeant Jad Joseph Makhlouf
Sergeant Walid Ahmad Abdeh
Corporal Mohamad Khaleefeh al Khodor
Corporal Maher Hasan al Halak
Corporal Jihad Khaled al Shomtieh
Corporal Mohamad Mahmoud Nizam
Corporal Acher Mohamad al Berri
Corporal Ziad Ahmad Hoblus
Corporal Youssuf Hussein Mohamad
Corporal Nasser Hassan Nasser
Corporal Firas Mohamad Soffan
Corporal Roy Asaad al Boustani
Corporal Ahmad Moustafa al Masri
Corporal Farouq Ezeddine al Moukhlalati
Corporal Bilal Azwan al Hajj Ahmad
Corporal Mehdi Mohamad Deeb al Masbooh
Corporal Mohamad Ahmad Ali
Corporal Mohamad Malek Ramadan
Corporal Mo'men Aamer al Hosni
Corporal Yehia Mustapha al Musulmani
Corporal Bassem Aziz Ahmad
Corporal Mohamad Saheel al Hussein
Corporal Mohamad Mustapha al Sheika
Corporal Saad Mohamad Qassem
Corporal Ahmad Mahmoud al Hamad
Corporal Mahmoud Mohamad al Rahmoun
Corporal Fadi Ahmad al Danaoui
Corporal Saadallah Riad Mostou
Corporal Sakr Nassib Abou Ali
Corporal Mahmoud Abdallah Khodr
Corporal Abdel Rahman Mahmoud Mustapha
Corporal Sari Kassem al Ali
Corporal Majed Elias Girgis
Corporal Abdallah Mohamad Taleb
Corporal Khaled Mustapha Sabsabi
Corporal Mohamad Osman al Hussein
Corporal Elias Hana al Ahmar
Corporal Milad Hana Saadeh
Corporal Abdallah Mohamad Ismail
Corporal Elie Motanous Girgis
Corporal Mohamad Farouq al Halak
Corporal Rony Boutros al Najjar
Corporal Louis Ibrahim Harb
Corporal Rami Samir Hazmi
Corporal Taleb Hussein Al Khateeb
Corporal Khaled Ahmad Taleb
Corporal George Asaad Naameh
Corporal Joneid Ossman Aabdallah
Corporal Arkan Kamal Akl
Corporal Ali Aaoud Kanaan
Corporal Mohamad Hassan al Hojeiri
Corporal Rabih Ahmad Mustapha
Corporal Tala' Qassem el Haff
Corporal Mustapha Khodr el Chami
Corporal Dany Shehadeh Hanna
Corporal Mustapha Hussein Malas
Corporal Ali Ahmad Chams
Corporal Mahmoud Ali Ali Ahmad
Corporal Yehia Mohamad al Achkar
Corporal Ahmad Hassan Abed el Fattah
Corporal Ahmad Khaled Mohrez
Corporal Mohamad Ahmad Jeneid
Corporal Mohamad Ahmad Ayoub
Corporal Hassan Mohamad Ghosn
Corporal Mohamad Ghazi Moueen
Corporal Abdallah Mustapha Aoueik
Corporal Rajeh Jameel Wardeh
Corporal Abbas Mohamad Ali Fawaz
Corporal Mustapha Mohamad Borghoul
Corporal Tarek Mustapha Hammoud
Corporal Mohamad Hussein Jamal
Corporal Ahmad Ali Aableh
Corporal Hassan Ibrahim Bakeer
Corporal Abbas Mashhour el Masri
Corporal Hussein Nasreddine Aala'eddine
Corporal Sobhi Ali el Abbass
Corporal Hassan Mohamad Noureddine
Corporal Khaled Hassan Khalaf
Corporal Ahmad el Sayyed Ahmad
Corporal Mustapha Ahmad Seyfeddine
Corporal Bassam Ahmad Taleb
Corporal Ali Khaled el Rifaii
Corporal Ali Rashed el Wahem
Corporal Mohamad Ghadi Zogheib
Corporal Ali Mohamad Haoshar
Corporal Mohamad Khodr el Khodr
Lebanese Red Cross Volunteer Boulos Maamari
Lebanese Red Cross Volunteer Suleiman Haytham

God Bless You and May You Rest in Peace
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