Thursday, May 31, 2012

English Translation of Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's Speech 25 May 2012

In His Name

The speech delivered by Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah during the ceremony marking the Resistance and Liberation Day held in Bint Jbeil on May 25th, 2012.

In the Name of Allah, The Compassionate, The Most Merciful. Peace be on the Seal of prophets, our Master and Prophet, Abi Al Qassem Mohammad and on his chaste and pure Household and on his chosen companions and on all messengers and prophets.

Peace be upon you and Allah's Mercy and blessings.

First I would like to felicitate all of you, all the Lebanese in general, and our Arab and Islamic nation on this great national day – the Resistance and Liberation Day – the anniversary of the victory of the resistance, the anniversary of the triumph of the blood on the sword, and the anniversary of the victory of will, determination and sacrifices. Today also, and on these very few hours, we are witnessing a good ending of a painful event as it was confirmed that the Lebanese kidnapped are now in the Turkish territories, and they are getting ready to head towards Martyr Premier Rafiq Al Hariri Airport in Beirut.

I would like to start with this event and experience as a prelude to talking on the occasion – the Resistance Day – the current challenges and the situation in the country in the available time Inshallah.

Indeed, above all the moral obligation necessitates that we express our gratitude first to Allah Al Mighty for his kindness, mercy and will in having this ending. He bestowed on all of us with this ending that came rapid and with no negative consequences. On the contrary, it has positive consequences Inshallah.

Moreover, who does not thank the creature does not thank The Creator. In our name and in the name of the families concerned in the event, I thank all those who participated, helped, showed care and led to this kind ending.

Since the very first moments that followed the abduction news, we contacted the Syrian leadership and the authorities in Syria who in fact from the beginning showed care for the women and the elderly who were set free. They provided them with security and following the orders of President Bashar Assad an airplane was set to convey the women and those with them swiftly on that very night back home. This helped greatly in soothing the souls and calming them down. We witnessed the arrival of the ladies on that very night. I start here with thanking the Syrian authority and President Bashar Assad for his special care. From the very first moments, the state and its presidents and officials assumed their responsibilities. Several Lebanese political leaderships also invested their relations and efforts and took initiatives to make contacts and show cooperation – true national cooperation. Thus we reached what we reached.

Here also we must thank – while observing legal hierarchy – His Eminence President of the Republic Michel Sleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Najeeb Mikati as well as former Premier Saad Al Hariri as we knew that he exerted special efforts in this direction. We also thank all those who made contacts, negotiations and invested their relations in an excellent positive way. In fact, the behavior of the youths a while ago does not agree with our courtesies. We might differ in politics. There is no problem in that, and we might differ in more than in politics. However, every good deed must be praised.

On the regional level also, the contacts which were made must be thanked as well as the Turkish officials and government – whether PM Ardogan or FM Oglo – for their cooperation in this domain as well. We thank everyone who made contacts and highly evaluate their humanistic and moral efforts.

Indeed we must thank the families for their positive response, patience and tolerance though some tried through the media to make things difficult. Such events need calmness, patience, wisdom, and precise handling if we wanted to reach good endings. I would also like to thank the people who controlled their agitations and responded to the calls of showing self-control, wisdom, reason and mediation. Here I would like in this occasion also to point to another event that happened to another group of visitors. It's the attack on the group of visitors in Iraq which led to the martyrdom of the solemn ladies and the injury of several people. We thank the brethrens in Iraq, the political forces and the government for their care for our wounded. Some time ago, I was informed that Iraqi PM Nouri Al Maleki will set a special airplane to convey the wounded and the rest of the visitors to Beirut. I also thank them for their special care.

I will tackle these events before ushering in talking about the occasion. I want to say a word to the people, a word to the kidnappers and a word to the state before ushering into the occasion.

First I address the people. We must contemplate lengthily on this event. Indeed during the first moments, some people got agitated. They hit the street to cut roads off. Only because this event may happen again – May Allah forbids and we hope that will not take place – and to put our actions in order I say that hitting the street is meaningless and cutting roads off is useless. That's not to mention what is worse – meaning the attacks on cars and public and private properties. What for is that good?

Indeed and according to all norms this is forbidden. On the religious level, this is forbidden and on the moral level as well as according to all humanistic, legal… norms, this is disgraceful. Through hitting the street, on whom are you trying to exert pressure? The kidnappers are not in Lebanon. The event has nothing to do with streets, people and cars. I must stress on another point. There's a fashion in the country that started primarily in 2005. Whenever an incident that has to do with Syria or Syrians take place, the Syrian subjects and laborers in Lebanon are being attacked.

This is really weird. These people and laborers live among us and in our neighborhoods, villages and towns. An incident which they have nothing to do with takes place. Thus they are attacked. Religiously, this is forbidden. Morally, this is a very disgraceful crime. What have these people whether they are laborers, subjects, a community or emigrants to do with the incident? No one is allowed to behave without these moral and human norms.

We highly respect this great self-control. This is a manifestation of our trust in people. That's how we know they act, and this has been our great hope in them always.

I also address the private sector and more precisely the officials of religious tours whether to Iraq or Iran. In this period of time, they must have mercy on us and on people. I add my voice to the voice of the Higher Islamic Shiite Council and to all the sides that announced a call to the effect of having no need to have tours by land because the stage is somehow difficult and critical.

The first priority is the security, safety, life and dignity of the visitors. However, the story does not end at these limits. That does not mean that there are people who were abducted only. Such incidents might have dangerous repercussions which might lead to ordeals and pursuant events. This time people showed control. The next time we don't know what might happen. Thus we wish that no one make the visitors, the people and the whole country in face of dangers and confrontations of this kind. Through Beirut Airport, people may travel safely and profitably on Beirut-Baghdad, Beirut-Holy Najaf, Beirut-Tehran and Beirut-Mashhad routes. Any tour official who insists on taking visitors by land from now on will assume the responsibility. I hold him responsible on all levels whether legally, legitimately, morally…Indeed we trust all of the officials of tours. We hope they will respond. Even more, the people must be careful and fully committed as far as this issue is concerned so that no one may lead us later in to problems as the one we were to have headed to had not all acted with responsibility and wisdom.

I have a word to the kidnappers. Indeed this act of yours was condemned. Now they have acted with wisdom and responded to the kidnappers. That is good. We hope that people may act with wisdom. However I would like to point to one thing: kidnapping the innocent and attacking people in such a way is something which does harm to you and to all what you claim or say you are seeking. What might your aim be? There are two suppositions. If the aim was pressing on our political stance as the words the visitors have heard from the kidnappers, this will not make any difference. Our political stance from the events which are taking place in Syria springs from firm convictions, a strategic vision, an evaluation to the situation in the region, and a precise, calm, and rational approach to the threats and events and projects. Thus we are with dialogue, with reforms, with national unity, with putting an end to all forms of armed confrontation, and with a political address for the sake of Syria and its future, position, people integrity and strength. Consequently, if the aim from kidnapping the Lebanese is influencing our political stance or the stance of our allies, that would be fruitless and senseless. That's because when we take a position, we would be ready to offer sacrifices for this position which springs from our firm convictions. Thus for such a position, we offer sacrifices for what is more important and has more priority.

The second supposition has been a serious attempt. It is to the effect that they kidnap Lebanese so that Lebanon pressures the Syrian regime in Syria – i.e. the authorities in Syria – to set free detainees in exchange for the kidnapped Lebanese.

Here I tell you; in the past, that was fruitless and in the future that will be fruitless. It is out of question that the authorities in Syria open this gate; it is also out of question that we get engaged in such a kind of problems. There has been an unfortunate attempt weeks ago. In Al Qasir area, two Lebanese who reside within the Syrian territories were kidnapped by armed groups who made a call saying to get these two Lebanese back, you must call on the Syrian authorities to set so and so free. In fact, this is a dangerous door. If they wanted things to move as such, there will be no response. Also this is unquestionable as far as the Syrian authority is concerned. Contacts failed. The tribes and the families of these two kidnapped Lebanese abducted some members of the armed groups. Then they made a swap operation among each other. Thus that was a failing attempt. We hope that this attempt would not happen again because it is fruitless whether on the political, security or swap levels. We also hope that no one resorts to violence against the Lebanese because after all violence might lead to violence.

Here of, I reach tackling the state. This experience that took place today was a kind experience. Since the first moment, we said that the responsibility is the responsibility of the state and the government must assume its responsibility as well as the political leaderships and the political forces. We all back the efforts of the government and the state. This is good. In fact, there are some people who commented on this stance saying this is a good start. No, this is not a start. This is an ancient route.

Here of, I usher to the south and to Lebanon and the confrontation with Israel, the resistance and the occasion.

Since the establishment of the Zionist entity in 1948 on the Palestinian territories, the Israelis started staging aggressions on the Lebanese territories. They used to attack the Lebanese, the Lebanese villages, peasants and farmers. Since 1948, the Israeli enemy used to sneak through the borders and burst into villages and security control posts. They used to attack the soldiers and kidnap militants and civilians and perpetrate crimes. Those who forget history may go back to the archives. Crimes were perpetrated in villages in some of which 80, 100 and 120 martyrs fell.

That was before the seventies and before the Palestinian resistance factions came to Lebanon. What was the speech of the people of the south and the political and religious leaderships of the south since the time of late Imam Abdul Hussein Sharafeddine and the other scholars? O state, come and defend the south? Come and guard the borders? Come prevent the aggressions against the Lebanese – all the Lebanese. However, the state did not respond to all these calls. Listen to the speeches of absented Imam His Eminence Sayyed Moussa al-Sadr – May Allah return him and both his friend safe – since he came to Lebanon in 1960-1961 and since he first started assuming the responsibility of the public affairs: we want the army to go to the borders to guard the south and not to guard Israel; we want the army to be present and defend the people; we want the state to be present; we want you to train the youths of the south and to arm the youths of the south; we want you to line the people of the south along the army so that both defend the south. However, the state did not respond. That was because the state was somewhere else. Let me say the authority instead of saying the state. The political authority has always been in another world. The political authority in Lebanon did not adopt any strategy to defend the south and the people of the south or Lebanon and the people of Lebanon. It rather adopted the theory of the strength of Lebanon is in its weakness and the theory of neutralism. Well, we may understand that someone be neutral concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict. But how may he be neutral concerning defending his land, people, forces, army, police, control posts and infrastructure? This was what took place. This is what held Imam Mussa al-Sadr – who was one of the strictest callers for the state to be responsible and for the Lebanese Army to be on the front defense lines – to form the Lebanese Resistance groups (Amal Movement) then. He also called on the people to hold arms and to purchase arms and to sell some of their properties to purchase arms to defend themselves. He used to purchase arms himself. Thus when we talk about popular resistance, we must remind and make a positive record for the Lebanese people and especially the people of the south and the front villages in the south and west Bekaa. They were obliged to purchase arms and to hold arms and assume this national obligation under an absolute absence of the Lebanese political authority – that is if we did not say more than absence. Let's be a little bit calm today. We want to help the country. The story is more than absence. However let's say absence. Thus if the state did not guard the country and the land and the people, thus the state did not assume the responsibility of liberating what was occupied later on following 1967 in Shebaa farms and Kafar Shouba Hills or in 1978 and 1982. The people did not give up their obligations and dignities and their legal and legitimate properties.

Thus the Resistance in Lebanon was launched and took its popular form manifesting itself in parties, organizations, and movements. The Palestinian brethrens also had an essential role in this resistance via the resisting and struggling Palestinian factions and the embracing popular milieu. Thus was this resistance which developed. Its efforts and achievements piled and thus was the great victory of May 25th, 2000 which has become a national day – The Resistance, Liberation, and Victory Day.                

Accordingly and as for the whole past stage we must say: We always had stressed and called on the state to assume its responsibility. All of us back it and support it. If it wants us to be before it in confrontation, martyrdom and offering sacrifices, we are ready. However, when it is not responsibility, people would assume their responsibility in a primary and precise way.

Here of, I usher into the occasion and say today we are before a true national day. I call for consecrating this national day for the entire Lebanese people, the state, the army, the institutions, the Lebanese people and to all the political forces especially the parties, organizations, groups and movements which participated and fought. What is the problem in that? Today we hold a ceremony, and tomorrow our brethrens in Amal Movement hold a ceremony in Khiam; other parties and organizations – each in their area and town – hold ceremonies. Thus ceremonies prevail in the country. It is the right of the parties, factions, groups, movements and organizations who participated in the resistance, shot bullets in the resistance, offered martyrs in the resistance, had prisoners who were taken as captives in the resistance, and had wounded in the resistance to celebrate and be a partner.

This day is for all the families of martyrs, all prisoners, all the wounded, all those who were displaced from their homes or whose houses were demolished, all those who remained steadfast in their lands, and all those who helped, shared, supported, and guarded with a spoken word, a written word, a stance, a poem, a prayer, or a show of sympathy which came whether sooner or later. It is a day also for all those who backed this resistance during July war. It is a day for everyone, and we want it truly to be as such and we do not accept that it be turned to a day for a sect or a faction or for definite organizations. No! This is a true national day. It is a true national victory. Since the very first day on May 25th when we celebrated in the field in Bint Jbeil – I was then live at your service – we talked and said this victory is for Lebanon – all of Lebanon. Today on the 12th anniversary, I also say this is the victory of Lebanon – all of Lebanon.

This is a national day for all the Lebanese, and we want it to be consecrated as such.

I will handle the second point which has to do with the occasion so as to talk about the achievement and the cause.

The topic which I do not want to talk about for history but rather for the future too – the topic which I want to present in my speech today – is that the resistance is an important achievement and cause. When I say resistance I mean its decision, will, right, legitimacy, fighters, people, weapons and readiness. This is the resistance.

Well, as we come to the achievement and later to the cause, I want to talk about consequences indeed:

As far as the achievement is concerned, we may say a lot. On the level of the region, everyone knows that in 1982 through the invasion there had been an Israeli-US project set for Lebanon and the region and for liquidating the Palestinian cause. There had also been a group of targets which had to do with the Lebanese and Palestinian issues and the settlement process in Lebanon and Syria. I will not consume all the time talking to this effect. All of you have lived this. The resistance, which launched swiftly and confronted the occupation in 1982, foiled the Israeli-US project on the level of the region and let the region launch into a new stage. Then it was said that Lebanon stepped into the Israeli era; however, few months later it was clear that Lebanon had started stepping out of the Israeli era.

Well anyway, let's talk about tangible points. Today, you are present in a region near the border. Let's talk about 1982, the Israeli project then, the targets from the invasion and the settlement which was intended to be imposed. Many people may still remember; still there is a generation which did not exist then. Let's talk about tangible things. Let's touch the achievement. The land you are standing on now was then an occupied land. A section of the region at the border was occupied in 1978; another section was occupied in 1982 – meaning following the Israeli pull out from Sidon, Tyr, and Nabatiyeh and the formation of the so called borderline. Well, this land was restored to its people through a tangible achievement. This land was not meant to be restored according to the Israeli project. The Israelis did not invade Lebanon to withdraw from Lebanon. The Israelis have greed in Lebanon and Lebanon's land and water. Indeed we do not have time now to read on you and show you. However, this is historically confirmed. Documents assert this greed. When first the region started to be formed and following the establishment of the Zionists entity in 1948, Israel's eye was on Lebanon – at least on southern Lebanon from Al Awali River to the border. If we wanted to descend to lower limits, we'd say from Litany River to the border. Through investing the events that existed in the south in 1982, the sensitivity between the people of the south with their various belongings or between the people of the south and the Palestinian factions, it was bet that the south and the people of the south would be calm, docile and cooperative and consequently, the Israeli army would remain in the south. They took a one-year-chance to start constructing settlements on southern Lebanon territories as they did on all the Arab territories they occupied in previous wars. However, the Lebanese wasted no time and rushed to resist the occupation. Thus was the great qualitative hit on November 11th, 1982 through the martyrdom of Ahmad Qasir in the city of Tyr. Sharon's miserable grub face on the ruins of that place gave a clear impression to the Israelis: No! Lebanon will not be a secure land for the occupation troops and the occupation projects. Well, today tangibly speaking, the land of the Lebanese to the very border had been restored to them.  

There still remain Shebaa Farms, Kafar Shouba Hills and part of Al Ghajar village. You also saw in 2000 how the Lebanese were on the border area via the political authority discussing meters of land, hundreds of meters and thousands of meters. This land was restored to us with dignity and unconditionally and without security guarantees and humiliating agreements or any profits for the enemy. What is most important is that this land returned to its owners. Everything – houses, farms and fields – was restored to the state, the authority and the state sovereignty.

We all know how Sinaa was restored to Egypt via Camp David Agreement. It returned with Israeli conditions. Today there is problem faced by the Egyptian authority in Sinaa: the number of soldiers allowed to be there, the number of policemen as well as the quality and quantity of arms allowed to be in there.

The achievement in Lebanon is that the entire land was restored to the Lebanese sovereignty. Today, the Lebanese government is the one who decides the number of army battalions and brigades it dispatches there as well as the kind of arms. No one has the right to discuss and object. It may be present over any span of land in the south. It does not need permission from Israel or the United Nations or anyone in the world. That means the return of sovereignty over this land. Well, this is an achievement also – a tangible achievement.

Today, we are present on our land and villages. People live securely in peace and serenity. The ordeal which was set by the Israelis and which they prepared to in 2000 was foiled in no time and we must praise Allah All Mighty for that. Perhaps no one tackled this point before. I don’t know if it was even mentioned before. Why did the Israelis withdraw from the south with haste? Why did not the Israelis inform Antoine Lahd and the army of Antoine Lahd? Do you know why? They stepped out with haste! They left Antoine Lahd Army in streets and in villages. They were lost and perplexed. The Israelis thought that the resistance will attack, kill, perpetrate massacres and turn the situation into a civil war or a sectarian ordeal. O our people in the south! O families of all those who were with Antoine Lahd Army! O Lebanese who were involved with the Israelis and went or fled to Occupied Palestine! You may scrutinize this phrase: The Israelis whom you served for decades wanted you to be killed and slaughtered. They wanted your women to be widowed and your children to be orphaned. They wanted you to be the victims of a sectarian ordeal so that the Lebanese celebration be turned into a funeral. They wanted you to be the victims and they conspired against you to this mean level.

However the resistance with all its factions then as well as the people of the south especially the residents of the frontal villages who had suffered to a great extent from Lahd Army and its crimes, shells, Khiam Detention Center, torture, and collaborators acted in a high sublime humanistic and moral level. This must be recalled not for the sake of begrudging one another. Never! These people observed their moral obligation, religion and national belonging. However we must remind all of the Lebanese – and especially those who collaborated with Israel for decades – that the Israelis do not care for your security, integrity, dignity, life and blood. They exploited you and fought with you and then as mattresses they left you in the open air. They left you to be killed and to be the fuel of the ordeal.

Well, since that day up till today, the people of the south and the border area – which is a little Lebanon because demographically it has Muslin, Shiite, Sunnite, Druze and Christian residents of all sects – live with each other in peace. No one revenged from another. No one demolished the house of another. No one burnt the field of another. No one displaced another. No demographic change took place under the presence of the resistance and the army of the resistance. Even those who fled to Occupied Palestine were not asked to flee. Since the very first day, the conduct and behavior and the stance were clear: {Nor can the bearer of burdens bear another's burdens}. The wives, mothers, women, daughters, kinship and fathers who were not involved with the Israelis were not approached. Even the wives of senior collaborators as well as the collaborators themselves were not harmed. Facts from the very first moment said that we did not want to kill anyone. The Lebanese jurisprudence and the Lebanese government try them. They fled though from that first moment we told the people you may return. That does not need an agreement. The women, children, the young and the elderly who were not involved in collaboration may come back. There are the state and the judicial authorities. You noticed the judicial tolerance as far as this issue is concerned. So no one wanted to make any change in the south. Rather the resistance with all its factions wanted the welfare of the south and the people of the south. It wanted the wound to be healed and the people of the border area to live with each other with security, peace, love, stability, cooperation and everything that promote united coexistence. We are always ready for this civil peace, rapprochement, and cooperation Inshallah.

Well, this also is a tangible achievement in every hour and in every moment. Some people may not feel this achievement; however, those who were under occupation and experienced humiliation on cross points feel it. Today you pass on cross points whether for the Lebanese Army or the security forces. These are your sons and people who respect you and represent you.

We now move to the other achievement and usher to the important cause. It is protecting the south, protecting Lebanon, protecting the people, and protecting the country against Israeli greed, threats and aggressions. In liberation, the balance was the resistance. In guarding the liberation, the equation is the army-people-resistance. Well, did this equation make an achievement or not? We may say poetry, prose, theories, or talk Plato. I will talk in the tongue of the people of villages. We will head to villages and ask the people of the villages: does this equation make an achievement or not? Does it protect the borders or not?

Yes, it protects the people at the borders. Yes, people may go day and night and move near the barbed wire and the founded wall – which I will talk about later. Day and night people move to and fro. They go to their fields. They go to their schools. Where are houses being built today? They are being built not only on front villages but also on the borders. By the barbed borders houses are being built. What does that indicate?

This stands for a feeling of security, protection and a great confidence in this protection. So it is not that we are protected and that is the end of the story. No! We have great confidence that we are protected.

Thus since May 25th, 2000 until July 12th, 2006, and since that date until August 14th, 2006 (this is the duration of the war time interval) and since August 14th, 2006 until this very day, the Israelis did not dare to stage an aggression on Lebanon and on the Lebanese. What is the problem? What happens? The Zionists make a violation here. The army confronts them. It is revealed the Blue Line or the Green Line. I don't know what the goal of this story is.

This is trivial compared to what used to take place since 1948 to 2000 when they used to shell villages, shoot peasants, displace villagers, attack control posts and kidnap people and stage commandos operations. This is over. All of this is over. What is the evidence? These 12 years are the evidence. The Israelis who are aggressive in nature – i.e. the owner of the aggressive nature – the Israelis who are greedy of our land and water do not dare to attack our villages, people, and the sovereignty of our country. Who is protecting? This equation is providing protection. It is not the United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Arab League or anyone else. It's the equation which is providing protection. It is the army-people-resistance equation and the resistance is part of this equation.

This is the achievement. That's not to mention that the Israelis were the ones who always used to transcend our land, attack us and open fire on us. Now they are afraid of fire being opened on them, stones being thrown on them and their area being transcended. Thus they started constructing this wall. We did not take a position from this wall which is being built in Kafar Kila. However I will tackle this point from one perspective. This wall is an indication to what we have been saying from 2000 until today. Israel's – or the Israeli – withdrawal from Lebanon in May 25th, 2000 hammered the last pin in the coffin of Greater Israel. That's over. The so called Greater Israel from the Nile to Euphrates and even Middle Israel outside historic Occupied Palestine are over. It was severed on our own land and border with the blood of your martyrs, your steadfastness, your resistance, your heroism and your sacrifices.

The project of Greater Israel had always aspired for comprising vast areas having rivers as its borders: the Nile River, the Euphrates River and the Litany – if we did not say the Awali – River. These rivers were to be under its control. Its strategy was based that no one who lives without the area of these rivers would dare to through a stone on this powerful capable Israel besides firing a bullet. Today on the Lebanese borders there are people who do not only through stones on the Zionists, do not only open fire on the Zionists but also threaten them with shelling rockets on all posts in Occupied Palestine.

These walls started being built in the West Bank. Indeed there is a great link between the achievement of the resistance in Lebanon and the achievement of the resistance in Palestine. Can you see that? A short time following the Israeli withdrawal in 1985, the first Intifada in Palestine took place. Few months following the liberation on May 25th, 2000, Al Aqsa Intifada took place. It had very great repercussions as it put Israel before a battle of existence. Was it not for the international community, the Arab states and the desertion which afflicted the Palestinians, this Intifada would have made very great historic and strategic achievements. However, one of its achievements is that it imposed on the Zionists building walls in the West Bank. Israel started pulling out. It pulled out from Gaza and southern Lebanon. In the west Bank it started building a wall. Now talks are taking place over building a wall on the Egyptian border and another on the Jordanian borders. That is great. So Greater Israel came to an end. The borders of rivers are over. They resorted to the borders of walls. Walls will not protect them. There existence which is established on usurping, massacres, aggression, terrorism and greed will not be protected. This is an achievement. This is also a great achievement.    

In 2000, much was said by senior Zionist leaders. By the way, I would like to remind of a word said by Isaac Shamir – the Right Likud extremist former enemy PM. He said: "I never thought to live to the day (and you know that he died in an old age) in which the state of Israel and its army which was labeled by our friends and foes alike (the Arabs also consecrate this label) as the undefeatable Army to flee (That means the time in which the state of Israel and its army are forced to flee) before an Arab side. (See this contempt to the Arabs! As if he was saying how would an Arab side drive us away? What happened? How do things move in that direction?) Few hundreds Hezbollah fighters force the most powerful state in the Middle East to appear in this defeated scene. We have proven to the Arabs always that they would rather not try to oblige us to offer concessions by force as after all they are the side which must offer sacrifices. However Hezbollah (but I say all the Lebanese fighters) proved that there are Arabs with other characteristics. I'm not someone who praises others by nature. Still I am among those who show respect and admiration to so and so (Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah) who ran the battle against us in a manner that mounts to the level of challenge which was imposed by the struggle with our state."

The enemy is acknowledging this achievement. Thus today this achievement is the most important on the level of the region and on the internal level and on the level of the south and the border. When we say that Lebanon is protected we mean that Lebanon as a whole is protected. In 1982, Baalbeck-Hermel was being bombarded. Later Beirut was being bombarded as well as Dahiyeh, Mount Liban, Mid Bekaa and Western Bekaa. Is there any place in Lebanon which was spared Israeli aggression? Well this is an achievement.

I will sum the cause in two words.

The cause is that the resistance and the arms of the resistance are part of the equation which protects Lebanon and confronts the Israeli threats and aggressions. This is the achievement and this is the cause.

I would like to remind before tackling the repercussions that this resistance has made all of these achievements under international conspiracies – I would not like to make a problem with Arabs – and under Arab absence – I would not like to say the conspiracies of some Arab countries – and under Arab and Islamic absence with the exception of Syria and the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is well known and does not need evidence. In Lebanon also, the achievement was made under the absence of the official Lebanese state with the exception of the last few years before 2000. I would not like to say more than that. Moreover, there never has been one day national consensus on the resistance. Never! You may go back to the archives. Few nights before May 25th some in Lebanon – whether politicians and media outlets – were still talking about the cycle of violence in the south. So they did not acknowledge the resistance and legitimate fighting. There are killed and no martyrs. There are armed men and armed groups.

With my respect to all who claim that, there has never been in Lebanon a national consensus on the resistance. There has always been division. There has never been national consensus on the arms of the resistance. There has always been a division.

I wonder when some Lebanese or politicians or media men say when a definite incident happens that now the national consensus on the resistance and its arms fell. When has there been a consensus so that it falls? There has always been a division over this issue.          

There are two viewpoints. Under this division, Arab absence, and international connivance, the resistance could make these achievements and victories. This must be kept in mind when we talk about the achievement.

Here I reach the conclusion. Today there is a search in the country before the state of arms chaos we witnessed in the past few weeks. Well, men let's calm down a little bit. There is a new file under the title of arms, arms chaos and the spread of arms. Let's evoke this issue along with the arms of the resistance and call it together illegitimate arms or the arms without the Lebanese state and let's approach this file as one file. This is a big fallacy. This is not a show of smartness. It is a very big fallacy for several reasons.

The first reason: I am talking about the arms of the resistance and I am saying these are its achievements and cause. Tell me about all the other arms, whether with the forces of March 8 Bloc or the forces of March 14 Bloc. Indeed no one may deny the possession of arms. We are through with the stories of individual arms and the like. All the people in Lebanon have arms whether light, middle or heavy. The light arms are qualitative such as expensive and valuable shotguns.

Now tell me what is the achievement and what is the cause of all the arms which are not in the equation of deterrence in face of the Israelis? There is an essential difference between the two arms. This is on one hand.

On the other hand, though we are convinced that there is an essential difference between the two kinds of arms, we say let's discuss everything. Let's discuss the two kinds of arms. Let's discuss the whole issue. When we tackled the national defensive strategy, we were not talking about the army – a definite face of the resistance. No! In fact, we were talking about the Lebanese people, the resistance and everyone who wants to be part of this defense strategy – i.e. everyone who wants to hold arms to fight the enemy and confront the enemy. We may gather all the capabilities and capacities in a national defensive strategy to protect our country. You saw today's event. When the Lebanese agree on a national cause, they exert all efforts despite their political disagreements and make an achievement.

Logic says: it's not because there is arms chaos in Lebanon let's annul the resistance and its arms. No! The true equation is: Because there is arms chaos in Lebanon, let's set all of these arms in the army-people-resistance equation to protect our country and to protect the wealth of this country.

Hereof, I will talk about the internal situation briefly. When we tackle this equation, I must differentiate – as I have to be very clear – between the equation that protects the country in face of the Israeli enemy and the equation of guarding civil peace, security, and national stability locally. These are two different topics and they are not one topic. True they interact, but we may view them as two major topics.

As far as confronting Israel is concerned, I frankly say our conviction and vision is based on the experience that worked in Lebanon and in Gaza and worked months ago in Iraq and before that in Afghanistan. Based on this experience, on the logic of history, on facts, on the enemy's status quo, greed and capabilities, and on Lebanon's (this weak country) situation and capabilities, we say we must protect the country through the army-people-resistance equation because Israel is before us.

As far as the internal level is concerned, the case differs. The side responsible for home security, home stability, and protecting the Lebanese at home, and protecting civil peace at home is the state and the state only via the Lebanese Army and the official security institutions. No one else is responsible at this level. Thus during all the past eras, some used to say that in Dahiyeh there is security disorder, in Baalbeck Al Hermel they kidnapped so and so and in such and such regions there are acts of burglary. Thus articles which hold us responsible of security would be written. Since the very first day we said we do not assume the responsibility of security. Let the state assume its responsibilities. In Bint Jbeil, on May 25th, I stood and said: We are not an alternative to the authority and we have no authority project. We are not responsible for security. The state, the army, the security forces and the Lebanese judicial authorities are the ones responsible. Let them assume their responsibility then.

The Lebanese people have passed through many experiences. We are not talking about theories. There had been wars in Lebanon. We do not read books. Our cemeteries embrace the bodies of many victims and our memory is burdened with woes. We do not want the past to be repeated. Our arms are not there to protect one sect. We call on the Lebanese state to protect all the sects, sides and political forces. Our arms are to protect the country in face of Israel, while the state is responsible of protecting the people at home. It is the one responsible for the people's security.

The political forces are partners in the sense that they do not provoke or cause troubles. The media is a partner in the sense that it does not magnify incidents in a way that makes people not able to tolerate each other. The same applies to platforms, speakers and sectarian and factional provocations as well. Thus security is not a plain operation; it is rather the outcome of political, cultural, educational, media, economic and living efforts. Consequently, everyone has to play his role and assume his responsibility so that the situation remains intact in the country, so that security remains stable in the country and so that civil peace persists. Hereof, we are clear and committed as far as this issue is concerned.

Some say this is a claim. We say that the essential institution that protects civil peace and performs this mission is the Lebanese Army along with the other security apparatuses. However the pillar is the Lebanese Army Institution. Let's be frank with each other. In the south, in the North, in Bekaa, in Beirut, in Mount Lebanon, we are all Lebanese. O People! In going back to civil war, local prominence, and sectarian cantons, we will be losers and people will kill each other. We are seeing unfortunately the moral and educational level. Today, the last guarantee which might guard civil peace in Lebanon is the Lebanese Army. Indeed there are other things which are required on the political and governmental level and on the level of the political forces. Thus we must guard this institution and protect it and support it and its morals, strength and presence in the field as well as its capability to perform its roles even if painful incidents took place.

I'm not theorizing. On September 13th, 1993, it was not an incident that took place by mistake on the Lebanese Army cross point at the Airport Rotary. People were demonstrating. The army and the security forces were facing them, and they opened fire on them. More than fifty martyrs and wounded fell. Women were among them. Did we open fire on the Lebanese Army? Did we hold arms in face of the Lebanese Army? Did we call for forcing the Lebanese Army out of Dahiyeh and its surrounding? Never! We said that if there is a political decision, the government must assume the responsibility, and the soldiers who executed the decision must be interrogated and tried.

Now, whenever anything takes place they say it's Dahiyeh. Where are those who killed our brothers and sisters at the Airport Rotary? Where were they executed and hanged? Were they put to life prison? The issue was very clear. In fact, it did not even need any investigation as there were no ambiguities. Later, syndicate demonstrators were killed in Hay Assiloum. Five martyrs were killed by the bullets of the Lebanese Army. Did anyone in Dahiyeh hold fire in face of the Army and open fire on the army or killed anyone from the army or called for forcing the army out? Never!

Some time ago, they gave Mar Mikhail events as an example. Some youths were demonstrating there and firing tires. Was that right or wrong is another point. However that does not make killing them permitted. Fire was opened on them and they were killed. What happened? We condemned the act and that was natural. We showed our objection, delivered speeches and called for trials and the like. However, what happened at last?

After all, in this framework I said, the incident that took place in Akkar and led to the martyrdom of Sheikh Ahmad Abdulwahed and Mohammad Mireb (May Allah have mercy on them) is an unfortunate, sorrowful and condemned. However, it is an incident. So let's put it in its natural context and say investigation, judicial action and trials are necessary. That's what is right. Still, the army must be guarded and preserved for the sake of all sheikhs and martyrs, all the regions, all the Lebanese and all the country and its integrity and future. This is an essential point which I liked to highlight. Here too I would like to say that the state must assume its responsibility. Let no one intend to make troubles with anyone and let no one intend to fight anyone. Still we must be careful not to be dragged to any form of fighting. Some work in the field so that fighting take place anywhere.

The security apparatus arrested one of the wanted. Well, why does fighting take place in Tripoli? Why do clashes take place between Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen and others? The incident that took place in Karakas yesterday might have led to worse endings. Prior to it the incidents in Tariq Jadida took place. No one may say these are individual incidents. No there are parties which assume responsibility. For eight hours clashes took place in Tariq Jadida. Where was the state? Where was the army? I defend the army but I also criticize it. Where were the security forces? This incident must not take place again because it may lead the country to true and serious dangers. Offices and political forces for whatever sides they belonged must be protected by the state. The state must intervene. The army and the security forces must be provided with all the materialistic and moral capacities and capabilities and all the margins to finally and fiercely put an end to all forms of clashes of this kind on the Lebanese internal level. There is a point which I like to stress too. I also wish to speak on the ground. O brothers several days ago we celebrated the reconstruction of Dahiyeh. I then delivered a speech and I like to stress on what I said in it.

There are political forces which are making provocations to cause tension and to secure their masses having in mind the elections. However we must be careful. Sectarian and factional provocations are extremely dangerous. It's a negative point which is called "the ground will not be controlled by any side". We would all be subject to the very risks. If anyone believes that he may control the ground and halt the collapse in the country or prevent falling on the verge of a civil war or to a civil war he is mistaken and misled. A couple of days ago, when I talked in my name and in the name of Speaker Nabih Berri, people responded and we thank them for that. Well, you may be able to control people once or twice. However, it I work to cause sectarian and factional provocations, these people will not respond to me or to anyone anymore. The leaderships will turn to members and members will become leaderships. You may tell some people you are educated and you understand because you have great minds; so how do you talk such a language? They would answer saying if we did not talk as such the street will forsake us. What led the street that far? It's political forces.

Thus before holding the government, the army and the security forces responsible for the status quo, the primary responsibility today is on the political leaderships and media outlets. We do not want a scoop to cause provocation. Let the piece of news remain a piece of news. Everyone must be responsible. Provocation must come to an end. These fallacies must come to an end or else if following every event sectarian and factional accusations would be made, where would the country head to then?

As for the arrested Islamists for example, our stance since the first day is the need for a quick trial and thus the release of those found not guilty. This was the position of Hezbollah. This was the position of Amal Movement, Speaker Nabih Berri, and the Higher Shiite Islamic Council. However some people said the Shiites are the ones preventing trying the arrested Islamists. What is this tone and speech?

Since the first day they were arrested years ago, the Premier was from Future Movement, and the Justice Minister was from March 14 Bloc and a Lebanese Forces Member. So what have we to do with that? On the contrary, some arrested Islamists were accused of attempting to kill me, I then said I would not ask for my right; I rather call for their release! Here I am saying it frankly. It is great oppression, falsification and misleading to oppressively and aggressively hold the Shiite Sect responsible for having the arrested Islamists still in custody. Whom does this serve? Today, I reiterate the very stance I said 4 or 5 years ago. We call for undertaking very quick trials. Whoever is found guilty must be convicted; or else let him be freed. This is not special to the Islamists only. It applies to all people in custody in Lebanese prisons. It is unfair that the arrested remain untried not for years but also for months and even weeks. Why must they?    

This is our stance, and it is well known and announced. Still they mislead to the extent that they hold us responsible. Here I am telling all the families of the arrested Islamists and all those truly showing solidarity with them – and it is right to show solidarity with them because they are really oppressed as they have been in custody for 4 or 5 years without trial. Search for the reason behind that. I have an interpretation; still I do not want to say it not to cause provocation. So search for the reason. Why have they been in custody for years without trial? Look for the true reason. Then announce your condemnations. Now the security body is undertaking its responsibilities. Excuse me for being frank here. Now if the Information Branch arrested someone in the south or in Dahiyeh or in Bekaa or in anywhere else, is it allowed that whenever a Shiite is arrested, that we say the Sunnite Information Branch officer or the Sunnite General Manager of the Internal Security Forces are arresting Shiites? Where would the country head to? If we are to reach a point in which we divide the country to the extent that the Army Information arrest only Christians and the Public Security arrests only Shiites and the Internal Security Forces arrest only Sunnites and I believe the Druze would be the share of the judicial police, would that be a state or the means to build a state?!

There are security bodies which are assuming their responsibilities and they must be supported officially and politically in undertaking their responsibilities, and no one must take permission or is asked to take permission in performing his duty.

In Hezbollah we are against security cooperation with the CIA and against security cooperation with the French, the British and the Germans on the convictional and political levels. There is rather a security body which does not belong to me but rather to the state, and the state is to provide it with security or clear it from responsibility. There are fallacies. Take for example the incident that took place at the army cross point. Since the first day of the incident in Akkar, they started searching for the identity of the officer who opened fire. Is he a Christian, a Shiite, a Sunnite or a Durzi? What is this logic? Pursuant to this logic, we won't have an army anymore. If the army is not trusted, things would be over. Let's erect mattresses and head to civil war then if the head of the army is not to be trusted, the army leadership is not to be trusted, and the army officer is not to be trusted. All of us have complaints at times. Fire is opened at us. Fire was opened on all of us. Still we are not heard to. That's natural because if the army leadership is to listen to everyone, it will not be able to assume its missions and obligations.

To wrap up I say: O brothers! Let's see how we may calm down the situation. Days ago, his Eminence the President of the Republic called for dialogue in the second week of June. In the name of Hezbollah, I officially announce that we agree on going back to the dialogue table. We will partake in the dialogue table without preconditions. I tell March 14 Bloc if you really care for the country and you are really worried and afraid on the future of the country as you don't know where to it is heading, let's go to the dialogue table without preconditions. As for those who say the government must resign and so and so before we go to the dialogue table, they do not want dialogue. They rather want the authority for whatever price.

I also call on the other sides of the dialogue table to respond to the call of the President and to participate. Let the people sit together and make discussions. Let's try to contain congestion in a way that makes political competitions and conflicts controlled by sound national ceilings.

There's one more point I want to tackle. Amid our preoccupation in our internal status quo, what happens around us remains important as well whether in Syria, Egypt (and the elections through which we hope the Egyptian people would elect a president for this stage and this challenge), Bahrain, Iraq, the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the 5+1 countries and all what is taking place in the region, our eyes must always remain oriented southwards and more precisely on the national unity government which was formed in the Israeli entity. Our researches and approaches say that it has internal reasons which have to do with the composition of the cabinet and the blackmailing and threats to topple the government, the blocs and political divisions. So most probably it has more to do with the internal status quo than with a war in the region.

However this analysis does not mean at all that a strong cabinet that is supported by the Knesset to this extent may not be employed in any aggressive project against Lebanon, Gaza, Syria or Iran. This must be kept in mind. The response must always be incessant awareness, readiness and not being drowned in internal affairs. The eyes, ears and minds must always be opened, and the hands must always be ready for any possibility of this kind.

Here I am telling you. You have liberated this country of yours with your chaste blood, your children and your senior leaders – martyrs Sayyed Abbass, Sheikh Ragheb and Hajj Radwan as well as Amal Movement and the other parties, forces and factions of the Lebanese and the Palestinian leader martyrs. We have restored our sovereignty, freedom, dignity, land and prisoners with pride, sacrifices and jihad. Likewise, we will Inshallah guard this country and the south. We will guard its coexistence, peace and the spiritual familial relations. We will guard the south which is the foremost front for guarding Lebanon and which was in 2006 the foremost front for guarding the entire region against a Neo Middle East project. Inshallah, with you and your presence, patience, faith, bravery, and wisdom we will always have but days of achievements and victories. Peace be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Drones Increasing Support for al-Qaeda

In Yemen, U.S. Airstrikes Breed Anger, and Sympathy for al-Qaeda

By Sudarsan Raghavan
The Washington Post
Wednesday, May 30 2012

Aden, Yemen — Across the vast, rugged terrain of southern Yemen, an escalating campaign of U.S. drone strikes is stirring increasing sympathy for al-Qaeda-linked militants and driving tribesmen to join a network linked to terrorist plots against the United States.

After recent U.S. missile strikes, mostly from unmanned aircraft, the Yemeni government and the United States have reported that the attacks killed only suspected al-Qaeda members. But civilians have also died in the attacks, said tribal leaders, victims’ relatives and human rights activists.

“These attacks are making people say, ‘We believe now that al-Qaeda is on the right side,’ ” said businessman Salim al-Barakani, adding that his two brothers — one a teacher, the other a cellphone repairman — were killed in a U.S. strike in March.

Since January, as many as 21 missile attacks have targeted suspected al-Qaeda operatives in southern Yemen, reflecting a sharp shift in a secret war carried out by the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command that had focused on Pakistan.

But as in the tribal areas of Pakistan, where U.S. drone strikes have significantly weakened al-Qaeda’s capabilities, an unintended consequence of the attacks has been a marked radicalization of the local population.

The evidence of radicalization emerged in more than 20 interviews with tribal leaders, victims’ relatives, human rights activists and officials from four provinces in southern Yemen where U.S. strikes have targeted suspected militants. They described a strong shift in sentiment toward militants affiliated with the transnational network’s most active wing, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP.

“The drone strikes have not helped either the United States or Yemen,” said Sultan al-Barakani, who was a top adviser to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. “Yemen is paying a heavy price, losing its sons. But the Americans are not paying the same price.”

In 2009, when President Obama was first known to have authorized a missile strike on Yemen, U.S. officials said there were no more than 300 core AQAP members. That number has grown in recent years to 700 or more, Yemeni officials and tribal leaders say. In addition, hundreds of tribesmen have joined AQAP in the fight against the U.S.-backed Yemeni government.

As AQAP’s numbers and capabilities have grown, so has its reach and determination. That was reflected in a suicide bombing last week in the capital, Sanaa, that killed more than 100 people, mostly Yemeni soldiers.

On their Web sites, on their Facebook pages and in their videos, militants who had been focused on their fight against the Yemeni government now portray the war in the south as a jihad against the United States, which could attract more recruits and financing from across the Muslim world. Yemeni tribal Web sites are filled with al-Qaeda propaganda, including some that brag about killing Americans.

“Every time the American attacks increase, they increase the rage of the Yemeni people, especially in al-Qaeda-controlled areas,” said Mohammed al-Ahmadi, legal coordinator for Karama, a local human rights group. “The drones are killing al-Qaeda leaders, but they are also turning them into heroes.”

An escalated campaign

Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, has publicly defended the use of drone strikes, arguing that their precision allows the United States to limit civilian casualties and lessen risks for U.S. military personnel. The decision to fire a missile from a drone, he said, is taken with “extraordinary care and thoughtfulness.”

National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said the administration’s counter­terrorism strategy in Yemen is “guided by the view that we must do what is necessary to disrupt AQAP plots against U.S. interests” and to help the Yemeni government build up its capabilities to fight AQAP.

“While AQAP has grown in strength over the last year, many of its supporters are tribal militants or part-time supporters who collaborate with AQAP for self-serving, personal interests rather than affinity with al-Qaeda’s global ideology,” Vietor said. “The portion of hard-core, committed AQAP members is relatively small.”

The dramatic escalation in drone strikes in Yemen followed foiled plots by AQAP to bomb a U.S. airliner headed to Detroit in 2009 and to send parcel bombs via cargo planes to Chicago the following year. In April, Saudi intelligence agents helped foil an AQAP plot to plant a suicide bomber on a U.S.-bound plane.

On May 6, a U.S. drone strike killed Fahd al-Quso, a senior al-Qaeda leader who was on the FBI’s most-wanted list for his role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Aden, an attack that killed 17 American sailors. The drone strike in Shabwa province also killed a second man, whom U.S. and Yemeni officials described as another al-Qaeda militant.

But according to his relatives, the man was a 19-year-old named Nasser Salim who was tending to his farm when Quso arrived in his vehicle. Quso knew Salim’s family and was greeting him when the missiles landed.

“He was torn to pieces,” said Salim’s uncle, Abu Baker Aidaroos, 30, a Yemeni soldier. “He was not part of al-Qaeda. But by America’s standards, just because he knew Fahd al-Quso, he deserved to die with him.”

Out of anger, Aidaroos said, he left his unit in Abyan province, the nexus of the fight against the militants. Today, instead of fighting al-Qaeda, he sympathizes with the group — not out of support for its ideology, he insists, but out of hatred for the United States.

‘More hostility’ toward U.S.

The U.S. strikes, tribal leaders and Yemeni officials say, are also angering powerful tribes that could prevent AQAP from gaining strength. The group has seized control of large swaths of southern Yemen in the past year, while the government has had to counter growing perceptions that it is no more than an American puppet.

“There is more hostility against America because the attacks have not stopped al-Qaeda, but rather they have expanded, and the tribes feel this is a violation of the country’s sovereignty,” said Anssaf Ali Mayo, Aden head of al-Islah, Yemen’s most influential Islamist party, which is now part of the coalition government. “There is a psychological acceptance of al-Qaeda because of the U.S. strikes.”

Quso and Salim are from the Awlak tribe, one of the most influential in southern Yemen. So was Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni American preacher who was thought to be a senior AQAP leader and was killed in September by a U.S. strike. The following month, another U.S. strike killed Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, also an American citizen, generating outrage across Yemen.

Awlak tribesmen are businessmen, lawmakers and politicians. But the strikes have pushed more of them to join the militants or to provide AQAP with safe haven in their areas, said tribal leaders and Yemeni officials.

“The Americans are targeting the sons of the Awlak,” Aidaroos said. “I would fight even the devil to exact revenge for my nephew.”

In early March, U.S. missiles struck in Bayda province, 100 miles south of Sanaa, killing at least 30 suspected militants, according to Yemeni security officials. But in interviews, human rights activists and victims’ relatives said many of the dead were civilians, not fighters.

Villagers were too afraid to go to the area. Al-Qaeda militants took advantage and offered to bury the villagers’ relatives. “That made people even more grateful and appreciative of al-Qaeda,” said Barakani, the businessman. “Afterwards, al-Qaeda told the people, ‘We will take revenge on your behalf.’ ”

In asserting responsibility for last week’s bombing in Sanaa, Ansar al-Sharia — the name by which AQAP goes in southern Yemen — declared that the attack was revenge for what it called the U.S. war on its followers.

The previous week, al-Qaeda’s supreme leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, released a video portraying Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who took office in February and vowed to fight AQAP, as an “agent” of the United States.

In some cases, U.S. strikes have forced civilians to flee their homes and have destroyed homes and farmland. Balweed Muhammed Nasser Awad, 57, said he and his family fled the city of Jaar last summer after his son, a fisherman, was killed in a U.S. strike targeting suspected al-Qaeda militants. Today, they live in a classroom in an Aden school, along with hundreds of other refugees from the conflict.

“Ansar al-Sharia had nothing to do with my son’s death. He was killed by the Americans,” Awad said. “He had nothing to do with terrorism. Why him?”

No Yemeni has forgotten the U.S. cruise missile strike in the remote tribal region of al-Majala on Dec. 17, 2009 — the Obama administration’s first known missile strike inside Yemen. The attack killed dozens, including 14 women and 21 children, and whipped up rage at the United States.

Today, the area is a haven for militants, said Abdelaziz Muhammed Hamza, head of the Revolutionary Council in Abyan province, a group that is fighting AQAP. “All the residents of the area have joined al-Qaeda,” he said.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Encouraging Conflict in Syria?

In Syria, this is no Plan for Peace

After the Houla massacre, it's clear that the outside funding of the anti-Assad rebels is undermining efforts to end the conflict.

By Patrick Seale
The Guardian
Sunday, 27 May 2012

Last Friday's savage clashes at Houla, a village in the Syrian province of Homs, have aroused international indignation against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. It is the latest grisly episode in what is quickly developing into a sectarian civil war.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, makes no bones of her wish to overthrow the Syrian regime. She issued a statement saying: "The US will work with the international community to intensify our pressure on Assad and his cronies, whose rule by murder and fear must come to an end." The UK government is to seek an urgent meeting of the UN security council.

Engineered by Kofi Annan – the UN and Arab League mediator – the ceasefire of 12 April is now in tatters. His peace plan called on both sides to put down their guns as a necessary preliminary to '"Syria-led" political negotiations. But the opposition – of which the most formidable element is the Muslim Brothers – is waging an urban guerrilla war backed by outside powers. This wing of the opposition does not want to negotiate with Bashar al-Assad: it wants to topple him.

The Gulf states have pledged $100m to the opposition, to enable it to pay its fighters and buy arms. The US has no intention of getting involved in a war in Syria itself, but it is said to be co-ordinating the flow of weapons and intelligence to the rebels. Although it says it supports the Annan plan, it is unashamedly undermining it by helping to arm the rebels. This is the central contradiction in US policy.

The only way to prevent a full-scale civil war in Syria – which would destroy the country, as happened in Iraq, and could destabilise the whole Levant – is to demilitarise the conflict and bring maximum pressure on both sides to negotiate. This is what Annan wants, but he is being undermined. He is due in Damascus this weekend in a forlorn bid to save his plan.

UN monitors counted 85 bodies at Houla. The opposition has blamed the regime for the slaughter, while the regime has put the blame on "terrorists" – that is to say, on its armed opponents, stiffened by Islamist jihadis, some of them linked to al-Qaida, who have been flowing into Syria from Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan. These jihadis are thought to be responsible for about a dozen terrorist acts, the worst of which, in Damascus on 10 May, killed 55 people and wounded close to 400.

Major-General Robert Mood, the Norwegian head of the UN observer mission, has been cautious in pointing the finger of blame for Friday's Houla killings: "Whatever I learned on the ground in Syria ... is that I should not jump to conclusions." Probably, the truth is that the two sides share the responsibility.

The strategy of the armed opposition is to seek to trigger a foreign armed intervention by staging lethal clashes and blaming the resulting carnage on the regime. It knows that, left to itself, its chance of winning is slim. For its part, the regime's brutality can be explained, if not condoned, by the fact that it believes it is fighting for its life – not only against local opponents but also against an external conspiracy led by the United States (egged on by Israel) and including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Britain and France.

The regime's strategy is to prevent – at all costs – its armed opponents from seizing and holding territory inside the country, as this might give foreign powers a base from which to operate. As soon as it identifies pockets of armed opponents, it sends in its troops to crush them. That it often uses disproportionate force is not in doubt: this is all too predictable when a conventional army faces hit-and-run opponents. Trapped between opposing forces, civilians inevitably pay the price.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Bahrain: Our Country is not for Sale

Bahrain Protests Decry Closer Saudi Ties

By Reem Khalifa
Associated Press
May 19, 2012

MANAMA, Bahrain – Tens of thousands of protesters chanting “Bahrain is not for sale’’ jammed a major highway Friday to denounce proposals for unity between the unrest-torn Gulf kingdom and Saudi Arabia.

The rally’s large turnout – demonstrators stretched for more than three miles on a major highway – underscored the strong backlash to efforts by Bahrain’s rulers to integrate policies such as defense and foreign affairs with their Saudi neighbor.

Saudi Arabia has aided Bahrain’s embattled Sunni monarchy with troops and money during the island nation’s 15-month uprising.

Leaders for Bahrain’s majority Shi’ites call the unity proposal a sellout of the country’s independence and an effort to give Saudi security forces a stronger hand in crackdowns in the strategic island kingdom, which is home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

Gulf Arab leaders earlier this week delayed any decisions on seeking greater unity among members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council. Some members, such as the United Arab Emirates, also have raised questions about whether closer council cooperation would give too much power to Saudi Arabia.

Crowds streaming along a highway outside Bahrain’s capital Manama Friday chanted slogans, such as “No unity, no unity,’’ and “Bahrain is not for sale.’’

Bahrain has been hit by near daily protests and clashes since the Shi’ite-led uprising began in February 2011, inspired by revolts in other Arab countries. Opposition groups seek a greater Shi’ite political voice in the Sunni-ruled nations. At least 50 people have died in the unrest in Bahrain, where a Saudi-led Gulf force came to the aid of the ruling dynasty last year.

There were no immediate reports of violence in Friday’s rally.

Bahrain’s leaders have blamed Shi’ite power Iran for encouraging the uprising, although there has been no clear evidence to support the charge. Nonetheless, many Iranians have expressed sympathy with Bahrain’s Shi’ites.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Remembering the Nakba 2011 in Lebanon

Nakba Day: Returning to Lebanon's Border

Survivors of Israeli shooting on the Lebanese border recount their stories, one year on.

By Nour Samaha
Al Jazeera
15 May 2012

It was meant to be a day of commemoration, albeit amid an atmosphere of festive defiance; hundreds of multi-coloured balloons were floating in the skies, national flags adorning the hill top were fluttering in the wind, speeches rich with patriotism were booming over the loud speakers.

But what started off as a "day out" to the border for thousands of Palestinians and Lebanese – many of whom had never seen the occupied territories before – quickly turned to bloodshed.

By the end of the day, six young men had been killed – and 126 people wounded – after Israeli soldiers opened fire on the unarmed demonstrators, reported the ad hoc committee Palestine Action in Lebanon, which counted the corpses and the injured.

This was the scene at Maroun el Ras, a town situated on the Lebanese border with Israel, on Nakba Day 2011.

The day, known as "The Catastrophe" in Arabic, commemorates the exodus of thousands of Palestinians from their homes and their land on May 15, 1948, sparked by Israeli violence immediately following the declaration of the Israeli state.

'Maybe it’s time to go home'

"I remember getting on the bus from Beirut on the morning of Nakba Day with my friends, and everyone was really happy, really enthusiastic," said Munib Masri, a 24-year-old Palestinian who attended last year's event. "It wasn’t an aggressive situation."

"I still remember seeing the first person getting shot," he said. "I will never forget that image. He was about 15 or 16 years old, and I remember he had the Palestinian flag in his hand. Maybe he wanted to hang it on the fence? He had managed to get through the barbed wire, and had gotten caught in it. I heard a shot, and saw him fall."

"That image of him caught in the wire, and not being able to move, I will never forget."

From that point on Munib was in a daze, he said. "People were getting shot, falling down. We stayed put, by the border, breaking up stones for people to throw."

Munib was standing with his back to the fence when he felt there was something wrong. "That’s when I realised I had been shot."

The bullet had entered Munib's back and, rather than shooting through the other side, it exploded inside his body. It damaged his spinal cord, his spleen, his kidney, and his stomach.

"The first thing I thought about was 'maybe it’s time to go home', but I couldn't get up," he said. As people rushed to him, he remembers trying to speak. All that came out was mouthfuls of blood.

At the ambulance, a bystander, convinced that Munib was close to death, grabbed him to recite the Muslim declaration of faith, usually said before one dies.

"They put me on the floor of the ambulance. In the bed next to me was a dead body," he said. "All I kept thinking about was my mother, God, and how badly I wanted some water."

Munib's condition was stabilised in hospital in Bint Jbeil, before being air-lifted to one of the main Beirut hospitals, where he stayed in intensive care for ten days.

The doctors removed a kidney, his spleen, and part of his stomach. His spine is permanently damaged.

"I eventually woke up, and relief flooded over me," he said. "I thought I had died."

He spent approximately two months in hospital before being allowed to leave for Atlanta in the United States.

One year later and Munib is still in the US, where he has had to undergo intensive rehabilitation and physiotherapy for his injury. He is paralysed from the waist down, and will be spending his foreseeable future in a wheelchair.

"It takes a long time to recover; I went through a lot of pain, and living day to day with my condition takes a lot, but I have my family who is by my side," he explained. "I can now do things, like go to university, but my mum has to take me around."

"The harder I work in therapy, the better chance I have of recovery, but this is easier said than done," he said.

Yet he considers himself lucky, in comparison with others who were there that day. "Thank God, I have all these resources around me. What I wonder about are the other people who were shot, the people from the refugee camps. Who is taking care of them?"

Bullet to the heart

Miled Majthoub, a 20-year-old Palestinian living in Ain el Helweh refugee camp, had also gone down to mark Nakba Day. Bussed to the border area with thousands of others from the camp in the southern town of Sidon, Miled and his friends had not intended on going down to the border fence.

"The elders on the day told us to go to the border, in order to show support and solidarity," he said. "We went to show the Israelis that we hadn't forgotten our land, and we will not let it go."

While on the border, he watched as friends of his started getting shot all around him. "One of them was killed," he said.

Miled had managed to reach the fence when he was shot, twice. "I was shot near the heart and in the stomach," he said.

One bullet missed his heart by one centimetre.

He was rushed to hospital, where he spent ten days under observation, while doctors attempted to remove the shells.

"I’m a little better today, but there is constant pain around the area where the bullets hit," he said. It has not stopped him from working, however, as he spends his days on-site as a construction labourer.

"There are some minor things I can't do, like heavy lifting, but luckily my boss doesn't push me," he said.

'You stopped feeling fear'

Arabi el Andari, a 38-year-old Lebanese citizen, had gone to Maroun el Ras with friends a little later in the day, when they were greeted with the news that there were dead and injured on the border.

"After a while, with every shot fired from the Israelis, people were becoming more and more furious," he said. "You stopped feeling fear, and you were not afraid of death."

The border area is littered with anti-tank landmines, and Arabi, with a few others, took it upon themselves to stop people from stepping on them.

"Every time the Israelis shot, everyone threw themselves on the ground, so we wanted to make sure they weren’t throwing themselves on the mines," he said.

He had been trying to get people to move away from the border and back up the hill, when he moved to an area closer to the border. Several of his friends had gathered there and he wanted them to retreat from the fence.

"That’s when I got shot," he said. "I looked down, and saw that my leg had literally been taken apart."

The bullet, similar to the one that hit Munib, also exploded on impact, completely shattering his leg.

As people began to carry him away, he noticed his leg was hanging at a right angle. "I have no idea what held it together. I started shouting" 'My leg! My leg!' – because I didn't want them to leave it behind," he said. Taking his keffiyeh off, he made them tie it around his leg to hold it in place.

He was taken to the hospital in Beirut, where they performed surgery while clamping his mangled leg together.

Since then, he's undergone five operations to support the bone structure by inserting metal plates into his right leg above his ankle. The doctors have said he still has one more bout of surgery to go.

"I'm still on crutches, although I would say I'm finally independent again," he told Al Jazeera. "Today I have about 50 per cent recovery in the muscles and nerves, and in some parts of my leg I cannot feel anything at all."

"You can overcome the pain after the operations because of all the medication they give you, but the toughest thing is not being able to do anything normal, like walk, or drive, or just move around – and having to depend on someone else all the time to help you do things."

Dr Ghassan Abu Sitta, a craniofacial, plastic and reconstructive surgeon at the American University Hospital in Beirut, operated on both Munib and Arabi.

He said the bullets used were a type of fragmentation bullet, otherwise known as hollow-point bullets, which are illegal in international war according to the Hague Convention. In addition, in 2010, one of the amendments made in the Rome Statute included the use of expanding bullets as a war crime.

"The damage done by this bullet relates to how much energy it leaves inside the tissue. If you fragment the bullet, you are able to dissipate all the energy inside the body because [the bullet] does not leave, explained Dr Abu Sitta.

Hollow-point bullets have an indentation at the tip, allowing the bullet to slow when entering tissue and either fragmenting or collapsnig in on itself on impact, causing maximum damage.

Dr Abu Sitta, who had previously witnessed the same type of bullets in patients he operated on when working in Gaza during the Second Intifada, was able to compare the fragmentation from Munib's bullet with one he already had.

"Both Munib and Arabi were hit with the same bullets I saw during the Second Intifada in Gaza," he said. "The Israelis denied using these bullets in Gaza, and also this time around on the border."

The right to return

"Would I go back again? Yes, I would," said Arabi. "But I would put myself forward as an example to the youth, to show them what could happen."

While determined to show his solidarity with the right of Palestinians to return to their land, and to commemorate Nakba Day, he also wants others to be aware of the consequences, "so they can think twice in some situations", he said.

Miled has no second thoughts about returning to the border. "This is our land, and we will never let it go," he said. "It is our land, even if we are killed in the name of it."

"If we need to go to the border again, we will do so, and if death is sent by God, then we welcome it."

For Munib, while he regrets his injuries, he would not hesitate to go back. "It’s about standing up for what you believe in, and standing up for Palestine."

Saturday, May 12, 2012

An Undemocratic Vote in Algeria

Algerian Election Results Draw Disbelief

By Adam Nossiter
The New York Times
May 11, 2012

ALGIERS — Algeria’s governing party strengthened its rule in parliamentary elections this week, officials announced Friday, dampening hopes that the vote might bolster the standing of opposition voices and eliciting audible gasps of skepticism from many of those who heard the results at a hilltop hotel here.

An alliance of moderate Islamist parties did poorly in the voting, a result sharply at odds both with analysts’ predictions and the experience of Algeria’s neighbors in the wake of last year’s Arab Spring. The country’s governing party, the National Liberation Front, known by its French initials, F.L.N., gained almost half the seats in Parliament, government officials said.

The Islamists rejected the results at a late-afternoon news conference. One of their leaders, Aboudjerra Soltani of the former Hamas party, called them “neither acceptable, logical or reasonable,” and said they would merely “delay the Algerian Spring.”

Disbelief was also evident in the statement of another established opposition party, the Socialist Forces Front, which said that “once more, the system has made use of all its ingenuity, not to find a solution to the crisis, but to consolidate its power.”

Over all, the results announced Friday by Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia, at a news conference packed with Algerian journalists, appeared likely to add to the apathy in Algeria toward a Parliament that has little real power and is considered by analysts a rubber stamp. Algerian politics is still dominated by men from the F.L.N., the party that led the country to independence from France 50 years ago.

Algeria remains an outlier in a region that was turned upside down by tumultuous political change over the past year. Small-scale protest and nibbling reform aside, citizen resignation appears to be united with relative government immobility here, as a government led by an ailing 75-year-old president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, shows no sign of ceding power.

Still, the Algerian government, anxious to avoid the Arab Spring from reaching here, was hoping for an elevated turnout as proof that Algerians backed its efforts to assuage discontent with spending from considerable oil revenues.

But the turnout figure announced by Mr. Kablia, 42 percent — ostensibly up from the previous election’s 35 percent — did not square with numerous reports of sparse turnout and empty polling places in much of the country. “Heavy abstention” and “total indifference” were headlines on Friday in some of the regional reports in a leading French-language newspaper, El Watan.

Out of a group of nine men, all employed, socializing together on the Friday holiday in a worn colonial neighborhood of downtown Algiers, only three said they had gone to the polls the day before. And one of the three, a doctor, said he had cast a blank ballot as a protest.

“Why would I vote, and for whom?” said Yosfi Adlene, 27, who works with containers at the city’s sprawling port. “I don’t even know who those people are,” he said, referring to the names on the ballot. “And besides, it would be useless. Nothing is going to change, anyway.”

His friends cited the interior minister’s declaration — a huge victory for the governing party — as evidence that they made the correct choice in abstaining.

A leading Algerian political analyst, Lahouari Addi of the Institut d’√Čtudes Politiques of Lyon, said turnout was probably closer to about 20 percent. Mr. Addi called the figure of 220 seats won by the governing party in the new Parliament “impossible, because the F.L.N. is rejected by the population. In a fair vote, the people would have voted for the Islamists.”

Mr. Addi suggested that for now, Mr. Bouteflika’s government appeared secure. “The government has lots of money, and it is distributing it,” he said. “This regime will last another few years.”

Friday, May 11, 2012

Palestinians Continue to Resist Detention

Hunger strikers challenge Israel. But which side will blink first?

International outcry as Palestinians protesting against policy of detention without charge near death.

By Catrina Stewart
The Independent   
Friday 11 May 2012

Kharas, West Bank – In the message to his family, Tha'er Halahleh asks his wife for forgiveness. It might be the Palestinian's last words to her, for he is close to death after 74 days on hunger strike in an Israeli jail.

At his family home near Hebron, his mother, Fatmeh, holds a picture of her son in happier days. No longer the lean man in the photograph, he tells them that he is wasting away in a prison hospital bed. His weight has plunged by nearly 30 kilograms, he is bleeding internally, his teeth are falling out, and he is finding it difficult to hear.

A so-called administrative detainee, Mr Halahleh, 34, has been imprisoned for two years without charge, denied trial or permission to view the evidence compiled against him. Israel typically detains those it suspects of security-related offences or membership of militant organisations. Mr Halahleh and his fellow administrative detainee Bilal Diab, 27, who was seized last August and is also on hunger strike, now face what critics say is a "death sentence" after Israel's highest court rejected an appeal for their release last week.

As their conditions deteriorate, Israel is under growing international pressure to take steps to end the hunger strike. Some believe the swelling support for the strikers could trigger the Palestinians' own Arab Spring.

Responding to criticism that the United Nations has remained silent on the matter, Ban Ki Moon, the UN chief, condemned Israel's inaction, calling on it to charge the administrative detainees or release them "without delay".

Israel has defended its policy of detaining Palestinians without charge by saying that it cannot always reveal evidence against terror suspects without compromising its informants.

Nevertheless, Mr Halahleh's family was quietly optimistic yesterday in view of unconfirmed media reports suggesting that a decision to release the two men within weeks may be imminent.

Between 1,500 and 2,000 of the 4,700 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have been on hunger strike since 17 April. They are demanding better conditions, including an end to solitary confinement, improved family visitation rights and access to education.

Palestinian sources suggested yesterday that Israel might cave in to those demands, but there was no confirmation of a deal for Mr Halahleh and Mr Diab, who Israel claims are both active members of the militant group Islamic Jihad and remain a threat.

"If this is a game of who blinks first, [Israel] is taking it to the limit," said Hadas Ziv from Physicians for Human Rights, an Israeli NGO monitoring the cases of the two men. The prisoners' situation bears gloomy parallels to the Irish Republican hunger strike in 1981. Ten died during the stand-off with the Thatcher government, the last after 73 days. Such was the international attention that more than 100,000 mourners attended the funeral of Bobby Sands, the most famous of the hunger strikers.

Israel faces a conundrum. If it releases the men, their struggle will provide inspiration to others, much like the recent release of Khader Adnan and Hana Shalabi after 66 days and 43 days, respectively, without food. But if one or both die, some fear their deaths could fan the flames of Palestinian resistance and trigger widespread unrest in the occupied West Bank. "We don't want to see anybody die," said Mark Regev, an Israeli government spokesman. "[But] you cannot have a situation where every prisoner who goes on hunger strike gets a 'get-out-of-jail-free' card. The criminal justice system would fall apart."

Mr Halahleh seems to accept he may not win this fight. In his letter to his wife, Shireen, dated 8 May, he writes: "I cannot describe with words my love for you. I am doing this for the sake of God and my homeland, for [you] and my daughter Namar. Take care of her and take care of your health... and forgive me."

Arrested two weeks before Namar was born, he has held his infant daughter for only five minutes, as family visits are conducted via telephone in separate rooms. Israel has tried to persuade his family to convince Mr Halahleh to give up the struggle, but to no avail. His mother says: "I will not put pressure on my son to make him yield. His dignity is more important than everything."

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Pre-election Violence in Egypt

Cairo on a Knife-edge as 20 Killed in Election Clashes

The Military Council is accused of orchestrating the violence in a bid to have the poll postponed.

By Alastair Beach
The Independent
Thursday, 3 May 2012

Cairo – Two high-profile presidential candidates suspended their campaigns yesterday after an attack on anti-military protesters left at least 20 people dead ahead of Egypt's first free presidential elections later this month.

Scores of men, dressed in plain-clothes and armed with guns, knives and Molotov cocktails, ambushed protesters who had been staging a sit-in close to the Ministry of Defence in eastern Cairo yesterday.

Activists blamed the ruling Military Council, accusing Egypt's generals of orchestrating the violence in a bid to postpone the presidential poll – a move which has been suggested by top-ranking officials but which is opposed by most of the main political groups.

With the 23 May election approaching, one of the country's leading youth organisations called on thousands of followers to mount a "siege" of the heavily guarded Ministry of Defence tomorrow. But the plan could lead to more unrest after months of bloodshed and political wrangling.

Mohammed Mursi, who heads the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and independent Islamist Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh, both suspended their campaigns after authorities took hours to intervene to stop the violence.

Yesterday's clashes began in the early hours of the morning, and came after a sit-in initially launched days ago by disgruntled ultra-conservative Salafi Muslims.

Many of the demonstrators had descended on the Abbaseya district to protest over the disqualification of their favoured presidential candidate, Abu Ismail, but they were later joined by other activists, including "ultras" from Cairo's top two football clubs.

Activists said that at around 2am dozens of men armed with sticks and guns began rushing towards the protesters from two different directions.

"They came running at us from near the metro station," said Bahaa Ragab, a 23-year-old university graduate told The Independent yesterday. "I saw thugs carrying pistols. I'm so angry. My friends have died today."

A trainee doctor said that after 2.30am he started treating a steady stream of injured protesters, many of them battered and bloodied by rocks and stones. By 4.30am he and his colleagues were receiving victims with gunshot wounds.

"I saw five people who had been killed by live rounds," said the doctor, Ahmad el-Khabiry. "One of them was shot in his left temple and the bullet came out of the other side of his head," he said, adding that another two victims had their eyes forced from their sockets by shotgun pellets.

Hospital officials said that nine of the 11 people who died received gunshot wounds to the head. Two others were stabbed to death. According to state television, the assailants were local people from the Abbaseya district who had grown sick of the continued demonstrations, though protesters and politicians insisted they were regime thugs.

According to the Reuters news agency there were also unconfirmed reports that some Salafis had brought guns to the protest for protection.

But Dr Amr Darrag, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing, blamed the ruling generals, telling The Independent that the attacks were a "replica" of previous incidents which activists have pinned on the regime.

Yesterday's violence was the latest in a string of clashes which have blighted Egypt's transitional period and prolonged the continuing stalemate over the country's new constitution.