Monday October 14, 2013, no153
Weekly information and analysis bulletin specialized in Arab Middle Eastern affairs prepared by neworientnews.com
Editor in chief Wassim Raad
New Orient Center for Strategic policies
The victory of Syria, a realistic bet
By Ghaleb Kandil
Away from all the hype, and with modesty, the Syrian leadership observes the changes that occur in the world, and whose credit goes largely to the resistance of Syria.
The strength of international balances is due to the strategic outcomes of the last confrontation triggered after the announcement by the United States of their intention to strike Syria. The Syrian leadership believes that the Russian initiative on chemical arsenal aimed, at the first place, to defeat the American plan of aggression, and has not resulted in a global agreement binding Washington and its allies to stop supporting terrorists. Stopping this support by the West, Turkey and the extremists monarchies has not occurred, although this demand is high on the political and diplomatic agenda of Russia. Since she agreed to participate in the Geneva 2 Conference, Syria has received no indication that this support has stopped. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar are confused because they've based all their calculations on the "Obama strike", which finally didn't took place. They are victim of hysteria, especially after the information on secret contacts between some Arab and Western countries and the Syrian government to prepare the political change.
This is why the Syrian National Council (SNC, close to Turkey and Qatar), announced, on Sunday, its refusal to participate to Geneva 2. "The SNC, which is the largest political bloc in the Syrian National Coalition, made a firm decision (...) not to go to Geneva in the present circumstances" on the ground in Syria, said its president Georges Sabra. "That means it will not remain in the coalition if it goes there," he added. "If the coalition decided to go there, we will not go," insisted Mr. Sabra. In late September, the head of the Syrian Coalition, the pro-Saudi Ahmad Jarba, had told the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that the Coalition was prepared to send a delegation to the conference, according to a spokesman for the UN.
This development illustrates the divisions between the various components of the Syrian opposition and between their regional and international sponsors.
However, trust between Syria and its international and regional partners, China, Russia, Iran and the Resistance, is solid. Damascus faced challenged with the strong support of its allies, who provide strategic military, economic and political assistance necessary to ensure its resistance. They know that the new international balance is the direct result of the Syrian resistance to the universal war for two and a half year. This help strengthen the immunity of the Syrian State against the takfirist aggression and chaos. And now, the Syrian version of events in Syria began to make its way in even the most bellicose Western countries: the Syrian state is fighting not against its own people or an armed opposition, but against extremists and barbarian mercenaries, coming from 80 countries, carrying the obscurantist Al-Qaeda thought. The Western media are no longer able to hide this fact and begin to echo the horrors perpetrated by these bloodthirsty gangs. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad himself explained in interviews recently granted to a large number of Western media, the danger posed by these groups to international peace and stability. As a result, an overwhelmingly current opposed to any war against Syria emerged in public opinion in all Western countries, according to surveys conducted by prestigious institutes.
The confidence of the Syrian leadership in his army and its capacity to multiply the success on the battleground is also very strong. This army has demonstrated an exemplary solidity, fed with loyalty and a strong popular support. Armed rebels can no longer rely on such a popular support. They are increasingly isolated from the people, who are closing ranks around the state, which continues to pay salaries and ensure services, including in the field of education, with the organization of official examinations to more than 4 million students. This is why 93,000 refugees from Lebanon and 100000 from Jordan returned to their home, the last two months
The Syrian leadership is confident in the abilities of his army to release all parts of the country from extremist gangs. While insisting on the inevitable and inalienable nature of that objective, he refuses to set schedules and dates, leaving the military to decide the nature of operations in accordance with the requirements of the field.
Meanwhile, the Syrian state is increasing its efforts in order to isolate the extremists mercenaries, establishing contacts with dissidents who wish to return to the right path and strengthening the Defense army.
Naïm Kassem, deputy secretary general of Hezbollah
«We recognize the ability of March 14 in paralyzing the country and its institutions. They are the ones that prevent the formation of the cabinet, pending regional changes and directives from the Gulf. Whatever their attempts to launch other charges, everyone knows that we want a unifying national government without conditions. They want a monochrome cabinet. This claim is not sustainable. They do not represent the parliamentary majority and cannot decide without their national partners. Avoid people more misery and stretch your hand for coordination in favor of a unifying government. If you expect positive regional developments in your interest, you're going to get in your lap. So that you assume full responsibility for the crash.»
Michel Aoun, Leader of the Free Patriotic Movement
«Miqati is running away from his responsibility to convene a session concerning the exploitation of Lebanon’s oil. He has no ability to resolve national issues. The aggressive attacks against us were not out of criticism nor aimed at rectifying matters, but rather to settle scores.»
Boutros Harb, Lebanese MP (March-14 coalition)
«It is not permissible that the President is required to give its most important prerogative, which is to agree on the government's formula. It is not permissible that the Prime Minister-designate abandons his power to form the cabinet in cooperation with the President. If this had happened before in the context of the Doha agreement, because of the involvement of non-legal weapons in the political game, it does not mean that we must do the same thing today.»
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon on Thursday announced that it had indicted Hassan Merhi for the assassination of former Premier Rafiq Hariri, raising the number of people charged for the massive 2005 Beirut car bombing to 5. The indictment—which was filed in on June 5, 2013 but not made public until Thursday—charged Merhi with one count of “conspiracy aimed at committing a terrorist act” and four other counts of being an accomplice to the killing. The STL said in a statement that Merhi coordinated with the other alleged conspirators to prepare the false claim of responsibility issued following Hariri’s murder and was also involved with efforts to coordinate the attack. The unsealed indictment further added that Merhi is a “Hezbollah supporter.”
At the end of the seminar held by the General Secretariat of the block of Change and Reform in the Yuhanna convent in Beit Mery, chaired by Michel Aoun, MP Ibrahim Kanaan stated the recommendations adopted . "The block calls for the election of a strong Christian president and rejects the extension of the mandate of the current Head of State Michel Sleiman," said Kanaan. Turning to the question of Eastern Christians and the consequences of the Arab Spring on their situation, the parliamentary bloc denounced oppression in Syria, Iraq, Palestine and Egypt. "The fate of Eastern Christians is linked to that of the Muslims," said Ibrahim Kanaan. "We call for the holding of an Islamic-Christian meeting to deal with religious oppression," he added. The bloc also called for the formation of a government and the adoption of an electoral law that ensures fair representation of all Lebanese components.
The Lebanese Justice announced the arrest and detention in custody of a deserter Syrian colonel believed to enlist to fight in Lebanon and Syria to plan attacks against the Syrian army. Colonel Ahmad Amer was arrested at the port of Tripoli, "as he returned from Istanbul where he met with officials of the Syrian opposition," said a source to AFP. A CD and a USB key in his possession were seized after it was found to contain maps of military positions of the Syrian military.
Quoting informed sources, Al Akhbar daily reported that the head of the political bureau of Hamas, Khaled Mashaal, did not come to Beirut, contrary to some information that has circulated. The visit is made more difficult as the relationship between his movement and Hezbollah have not improved to allow a meeting between Mashaal and Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.
The international community on Friday hailed the OPCW's Nobel Peace Prize win as much-deserved recognition for a group that has worked behind the scenes to rid the world of chemical weapons. Previously little-known, the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons emerged from the shadows in recent months as its inspectors were called in to verify Syria's claims of destroying its chemical arsenal. The head of the UN weapons inspection team working with the OPCW in Syria said the prize would help boost the group's efforts to enforce bans on chemical arms and dismantle existing stockpiles.
As Safir (Lebanese daily, Arab nationalist)
Nabil Haitham and Elie Ferzli (October 11, 2013)
Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt voiced his support of the ministerial lineup formula that gives both March 8 and March 14 coalitions nine ministers, and allows the centrists six. “The 8-8-8 formula is no longer valid… the best solution is the 6-9-9 formula which ensures a blocking third to Hezbollah and March 14, while not giving anyone the chance to control the government,” Jumblatt said.
The PSP chief reiterated the importance of forming the cabinet “as soon as possible,” and said that it was March 14’s responsibility to facilitate the cabinet lineup “given the conditions it sets and then takes back.”
Jumblatt also expressed his objection to the formation of a fait accompli government, citing Speaker Nabih Berri’s description of such a cabinet as being “unconstitutional.”
As Safir (October 10, 2013)
Ghassan Rifi and Hasnaa Saade
The head of the Marada Movement, MP Sleiman Franjieh, said that the pursuit of regional and international confrontation on the Syrian land will result in Lebanon by a continuous governmental vacuum, which could spread to the presidency, next spring. "Every Lebanese Maronite is a candidate for President of the Republic until he proves the contrary," he said. Political pragmatism leads him to say that the question is not whether he is running or not but know the balance of power. "Lebanese, Syrian and regional realities today do not allow the election of a candidate or 14-March or 8-March, says the leader of Zgharta. As well as the extension of the mandate of President Michel Sleiman is excluded for the same reasons. This is why the Presidential election won't take place next year."
Mr. Franjieh believes that 2014 will be a transitional year. "The region , and perhaps the world, are at a historic turning point, he said. If our political camp, which runs from Moscow to Beirut via Damascus and Tehran prevails, it will affect the sharing of regional influence and Lebanon will not be out of this equation. If we are defeated, we will be congratulating our opponents. I would not change my position. If my political camp loses his bet, I would lose with him. I am deeply convinced that Lebanon cannot survive without all of its communities."
Mr. Franjieh continued: "The Americans are beginning to recognize the Russian-Iranian influence in the region while the Arabs, especially Saudis, have not recognized the changes ( ... ) Christians derive their protection of their attachment to Arabism and their adherence to the cause of the region, particularly in the Arab-Israeli conflict. I reject neutrality and I am attached to the Resistance. After the 2006 epic war, nobody in Lebanon or abroad dare touch the weapons of the resistance."
As Safir (October 10, 2013)
The Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea is confident that the Shebaa Farms will return to the the Lebanese state. However, he is certain that it is not the resistance that will do it "but the new Syrian government because the current regime will fall sooner or later." "There is no doubt about it, we all know, including the Russians," he says. "It was sufficient that Lebanon and Syria sign a document attesting that Shebaa Farms are Lebanese, which would then be sent to the United Nations, for the area falls under the umbrella of UN Resolution 425. Israel will be forced to withdraw." "The opposite happened. Syria has refused to sign a document, which has deprived Lebanon of its right to recover this area," he says.
Geagea continued: "We want the Lebanese and future generations to enjoy oil while others want to turn it into new lines of demarcation with Israel. It certainly does not lead to the defeat of Israel. The issue of oil is used to give legitimacy to the illegal weapons and the axis of resistance".
Al Akhbar (Lebanese Daily close to the Lebanese Resistance)
Amal Khalil (October 11, 2013)
When news circulated a few days ago that head of Hamas politburo Khaled Meshaal was coming to Beirut to attend a conference on Jerusalem, many interpreted the step as part of improving relations with Hezbollah after the Syrian crisis caused a rift between the two resistance movements.
But as it turned out, Meshaal spoke by way of a video link from Turkey, which he was visiting to conduct some business. Hamas representative in Lebanon Ali Baraka explained that this was the plan from the very beginning, and the Palestinian leader had never intended to speak in person at the Beirut event.
In response to criticisms that the situation of Jerusalem today called for a personal appearance by the Palestinian leader, Baraka said that the gathering was not an official conference, but a series of workshops that were intended to address the growing danger to the occupied city’s holy sites and its Palestinian residents.
Critics, however, suggest that Meshaal is not yet ready to make an appearance in a country like Lebanon, where the resistance axis (Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran) have a strong presence, because he does not want to upset his new Gulf patrons, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Close observers did not detect anything out of the ordinary in Meshaal’s speech that would suggest a dramatic change in the movement’s political direction around the Syrian crisis. Unusually, Hezbollah’s Manar TV did not air the opening session of the conference, during which the Palestinian leader spoke, as is usually the case with such events.
For his part, Meshaal called for uniting ranks around the issue of Jerusalem, pointing out the need to establish the necessary military capabilities that can return Jerusalem to the Arab and Muslim fold once again. He concluded with a reference to the Syrian crisis by stressing the “right of the Arab and Muslim peoples to struggle for their freedom, democracy and dignity in a peaceful manner, far away from violence and sectarianism, and far from foreign meddling in our countries.”
Al Akhbar (October 11, 2013)
Israel postponed a project to build a military road at the border with the southern town of Aytaroun in the Marjayoun district following a warning by the army and the town's residents, who threatened to stop the road by force.
Aytaroun – In the past few days, residents of the southern border town of Aytaroun went on alert after Israeli soldiers repeated their attempts to annex a part of the town's lands.
An Israeli military unit, along with a bulldozer, arrived to the outskirts of Aytaroun and began digging in one of the disputed areas, a location called Khallat al-Ghamiqa, near the 9 kilometer mark at the border. They laid a cement foundation and set up barbed wire, which had been on the scene for two days prior, according to Aytaroun's municipality head Haidar Mouasi.
"What happened was an attempt to place border signs around an area they wanted to annex without anyone knowing," Mouasi explained. "It is more the 15,000 square meters and is comprised of agricultural land. The whole property belongs to residents of Aytaroun."
"They have their olive trees there, which they planted decades ago, as well as the cultivation of various grains," he added.
The Israeli transgression prompted the Lebanese army to stay on alert and increase its patrols in the area. Contacts were made with the UNIFIL command, which communicated the messages to the Israeli enemy. According to an informed source, "The enemy provided flimsy evidence to mislead the UNIFIL into believing it did not seek to annex the disputed lands."
However, at the tripartite meeting held yesterday in Ras al-Naqoura, Israel succumbed to threats by the Lebanese army and the Aytaroun municipality. Israel had planned to construct a military road, extend a new barbed wire fence, and take new measures to prevent residents from reaching their fields. The representative of the occupation army informed UNIFIL representatives and the Lebanese army that they will not continue with the construction.
"There are around 100,000 square meters of disputed land owned by the people of Aytaroun, including the current plots, planted by the people of the town, who were getting ready to start picking the olives in the next few days," explained Mouasi.
Israeli occupation forces began their attempts to annex the farms of the people of Aytaroun in 2007. Back then, it prevented some farmers from reaching their land, whose area was more than 30,000 square meters. However, UNIFIL dealt with the situation and placed blue markers at the borders of those lands, awaiting the demarcation of the borders.
At the time, municipality head Salim Mrad said, "Chinese UNIFIL forces put the markers unilaterally." He pointed out that the matter still needed to be solved, especially since the area is one of the contested points that remained during the demarcation of the Blue Line.
Mohammed Ali al-Sayid, a Lebanese landowner in the area Israel tried to annex, told Al-Akhbar that he owns the land according to official contracts. "The enemy annexed other lands, which we own and we can prove," he added. "At the time, the French put markers, some of which are still there, showing that the international borders are beyond our property and parallel to the current Israeli position known as 'Arid al-Hawa.’"
"In the early 1980s, the Israelis dug a ditch in the middle of our farmlands as an indication of the new borders. However, we continued to farm them," he said.
Al Akhbar (October 10, 2013)
The conflict between jihadis in Syria is not over. Although the differences have not led to internal armed conflict, the financial impact has hit al-Nusra Front, whose funding was cut off recently by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Attempts at reconciliation have failed, and the ISIS emir rejects arbitration.
The Islamist Spring has only just begun, but its followers are already beginning to split. This is a fatal blow to the jihadis, especially since attempts at arbitration have failed more than once, the reason being Syria. The country used to be "where the heart is" for jihadis, but now they are fighting over its control.
Attempts at mediation by some sheikhs have failed due to the reticence of ISIS emir, Sheikh Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Following al-Qaeda’s Ayman Zawahiri's statement calling for al-Nusra Front to remain in the field and for ISIS to withdraw to its bases, Baghdadi rejected the idea through a voice recording titled, "The State [ISIS] Will Remain."
The dispute among the emirs led to a conflict on the field between the fighters. This led the ISIS emir to boycott al-Nusra Front's commander Sheikh Abu Mohammed al-Golani, calling him a "renegade who split from the Islamic State." Additionally, ISIS spokesperson Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, in another audio recording, attacked Golani, accusing him of "going against consent, breaking the stick, and sowing the seeds of discord among jihadis."
Adding to the boycott, ISIS decided to cut off financial and other kinds of support it used to provide to al-Nusra Front, which negatively impacted the morale of Nusra fighters, since all their needs were provided by ISIS.
According to jihadi sources, ISIS’ main source of funding, in addition to ransoming hostages, are the oil fields they control inside Iraq. This has been supplemented recently by oil fields in the Syrian cities of al-Raqqa and Deir al-Zour.
The funding slash went hand-in-hand with an ideological disagreement over the designation of a leader. The decision of whom to follow was left to the fighters and most decided to remain with Nusra. Their position was supported by Zawahiri, who decided to support Golani in this phase. However, hundreds of fighters switched to ISIS, saying "the banner of the State is bigger than that of the Front. Thus, ISIS is more worthy of allegiance.”
To this effect, information is beginning to surface about an internal debate in al-Qaeda's Supreme Shura Council on whether ISIS in an intrinsic part of the mother organization or if it became an independent jihadi organization.
Al-Nusra Front is now facing a financial crisis and lack of liquidity, but this does not impact its military equipment since its fighters were able to capture weapons factories in several areas. However, the group is now an orphan, despite being the official arm of al-Qaeda. Islamist sources explain that it fights the battle of unifying the Islamist front.
To this effect, an agreement to unify Islamist brigades active in Syria was signed by al-Nusra Front with several groups, the main components of this alliance being Ahrar al-Sham, led by Abu Abdullah al-Hamwi; al-Tawhid brigade, led by Abdul Qadir Saleh; and Liwaa al-Islam led by Zahran Alloush.
Despite rumors about a disagreement between the alliance's leadership and Alloush, sources from both sides maintain that "the relationship is more than fine."
Al Akhbar (October 9, 2013)
Although British Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher admitted that his country has had no communication with Hezbollah for years now, the relationship could change in the future.
In an interview with Al-Akhbar, Britain’s Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher begins by refuting a controversial statement attributed to him that the region is on the verge of a new Sykes-Picot, penned by the US and the Russia, or Saudi Arabia and Iran.
“I said the whole region is changing,” the ambassador explains, “and if the region is changing, it’s important that the region’s future is determined by the people in the region, not by Sykes-Picot with a Russian name or American name or Saudi name or an Iranian name. That’s what I said.”
“The Lebanese always look to outsiders for the answers,” he continues, “and the international community all meddle and all play games...the Lebanese leaders need to decide for themselves what will happen in Lebanon. Everyone says we can’t have a dialogue or we can’t have a government because we have to wait and see what happens in Iran or Syria…at some stage people here have to take responsibility.”
Fletcher admits that the question of disarming Hezbollah is a difficult one, saying that the Resistance has to be given “reassurance that the best way to secure their objectives is through politics – and I don’t believe that’s impossible.” He compares such a process to his experience in the Northern Ireland peace talks, which everyone said would be impossible, according to the ambassador.
Asked about the importance of Hezbollah’s weapons in deterring Israeli attacks, Fletcher says that this problem can be resolved by brokering an agreement in which the Lebanese armed forces would be given the wherewithal to confront foreign aggression, pointing to British military assistance to the Lebanese army that has reached 15 million British pounds ($24 million) this year.
But is this enough? The ambassador simply replies, “We have to be realistic about the resources available.”
Regarding relations with Hezbollah’s “political wing,” Fletcher says that his instructions are clear: There can be no communications due to a decision made after the invasion of Iraq, “when Hezbollah was training militias that were fighting against us in Iraq.”
Notably, the ambassador insists on distinguishing between the party’s military and political wings, which Hezbollah rejects: “I believe there is a big difference between the members of Hezbollah that blew up the bus in Bulgaria and much of Hezbollah,” adding that “we should not penalize the whole movement for what just a few people have been doing.”
Fletcher maintains that within any movement, including the Resistance, there is a wide spectrum of opinion, insisting that there is a current within Hezbollah that wants to focus on internal issues, particularly in southern Lebanon, and not what is being asked of the movement in Syria by Iran.
The ambassador does, however, leave the door open for a possible change in his country’s relationship with Hezbollah: “I would never say never to anything, the whole region is in flux, everything is changing...everything is in motion, everyone’s interests are changing, we have to be adaptable.”
Al Akhbar (October 9, 2013)
Lebanon may be edging closer to extracting the large gas reserves located in its territorial waters in the Mediterranean, but there are forces working diligently to make sure that doesn’t happen.
To many, it appears as if Lebanon is merely one or two legal steps away from becoming a gas producer, but they may find getting there nearly impossible, given the regional forces arrayed against it. These forces aim to either dominate the country or tip it over the edge, as some government sources describe the attempts to prevent Lebanon from exploiting its gas. It all started on March 13 when the Lebanese Ministry of Energy expressed great optimism at the interest shown by major oil companies to participate in the bidding process for exploration rights in Lebanese waters. Some go so far as to say that the Najib Mikati government’s resignation on March 22 was not purely coincidental, nor was the consequent deadlock over the electoral law and other resignations.
This did not prevent the Energy Ministry from issuing a list the following month of companies eligible to enter the bidding process, including 46 oil companies, among them the top seven from the US, Russia, China, with virtually none from the Arab Gulf. This is what prompted the likes of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt to insist that current Energy Minister Gebran Bassil cannot return to the ministry in any future government.
Nevertheless, the bidding process continued at the end of April, with company representatives submitting exploration licences, thus setting Lebanon on a course to becoming a petroleum-producing country starting in March 2014, when the bidding process would end and the actual work of extracting the gas would begin in earnest. This was seen as a great provocation and orders were issued that this process must be stopped at all costs for political, economic, and geopolitical reasons.
Government sources concede that the Gulf countries’ concerns may very well have to do with issues beyond Lebanon, like the Syrian crisis, without ruling out internal consideration. Lebanon’s gas file, for example, is firmly in the hands of the Gulf’s political opponents locally, and they are ones likely to benefit most from any progress toward completing the process of exploration and drilling. The oil sheikhs could barely contain themselves at the site of the British foreign minister meeting with Lebanon’s minister of energy during his last visit to Lebanon.
The Gulf’s antagonism toward Lebanon has only intensified as prospects of a political resolution to the Syrian crisis have increased, prompting them to take a series of steps, from arming takfiri groups in Syria and Lebanon to threatening to expel the thousands of Lebanese expats who work in the Gulf, not to mention their efforts last summer to abort Lebanon’s vital tourist season by warning their citizens against traveling here for security reasons.
The Gulf’s success in undermining Lebanon’s efforts to become a gas producer will not only affect their political opponents, it will be a deadly blow to the country as whole, for even before anything is extracted, the national economy will experience a much needed boost in creating jobs, for example, and set Lebanon on a course to deal with its ballooning debt, which today eats up 40 percent of the annual budget.
Al Joumhouria (Lebanese daily close to March-14 coalition)
(October 7, 2013)
Two month investigation conducted by agents of the General security (GS), some of which had infiltrated extremist groups, led to the arrest of three suspected members of the network, Lebanese and Syrian nationals. According to security sources, the terrorists were planning to commit "dirty and dangerous" actions. Their goal was to target religious places and political figures of 8 and 14-March in order to train the Lebanese in an internal conflict. The suspects planned to detonate small loads of 200 to 500 grams in downtown Beirut, in the southern suburbs, Tarik Jdide, Achrafiye and other regions outside the capital, to give the impression that the country sinks into a communal conflict.
The three members belong to a network affiliated with Al-Qaeda and were working for several months in preparation of terrorist acts involving explosions targeting crowded public places such as malls and places of gathering, creating destabilization and chaos. The three suspects were monitored for a whole month, along their phone lines and contacts.
Investigators found the suspects with explosives, sent from an Arab country by land (Iraq or Syria), and a gun with a silencer.
The three suspects made a full confession during interrogation and were brought before the military court. Explosive materials, communication equipment and weapon with a silencer seized on them have also been brought to justice.
The Jerusalem Post (Israeli newspaper, October 8, 2013)
Israel's enemies, including Hezbollah, has 200,000 rockets and missiles pointed at Israel, Homeland Defense Minister Gilad Erdan said Tuesday at the Israel’s Perils and Prospects conference aat Bar Ilan University.
A rocket and missile protection program will be set up within three months for around 30 percent of Israel’s population that remains vulnerable to such attacks, he added
Around 30 percent of Israel’s population is vulnerable to attacks Erdan said that in any IDF scenario of a full-scale war, the Israeli home front will be pounded by thousands of rockets for up to three weeks, and that every point in the country could be targeted by Hezbollah.
“One out of every 10 homes in Lebanon has a rocket launcher or weapons stored in it,” Erdan said. “They plan homes there so that the roof opens up and closes for rocket launchers to fire.”
Moreover, Hezbollah’s accurate missile stockpile is growing, and the terror organization will seek to target the most painful places for Israel, such as national infrastructure sites, natural gas facilities, electricity production centers, and other installations “we all need to function continuously,” Erdan warned.
“Our enemies want to break the spirit of Israelis, and get them to stop believing that we can have a normal life here,” he added. He said the level of the threat called for a radically new way of thinking on how to repel it on the civilian life. Paying tribute to the IDF’s offensive and active defense capabilities, Erdan said that civilians remained exposed nonetheless.
“We need to create a mechanism to allow the continuous functionality of the home front, and not to return to scenes of the Second Lebanon War of 2006,” Erdan said. “No other country is facing the threat we are today,” he added.
Currently, Erdan said, an inter-ministerial committee is working on a plan to ensure that basic commodities reach civilians in wartime, and that safe zones for people living in 650,000 unprotected homes are created.
“This is an intolerable gap... we need to set up an infrastructure,” he said, hinting that the measures will be mandatory, like car safety features.
“This will be no less than a revolution. We have to set minimal standards for protection,” Erdan said.
Earlier in the conference, Giora Eiland, former head of the National Security Council and a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies, said that Israel should reject the idea that it must fight against terrorist guerrilla organizations embedded in civilian areas, and return to the idea that it is fighting enemy states. This, he said, would add to Israeli deterrence and cut short any future conflicts.
“In 2006, we tried to do something impossible by hitting rocket launchers. If tomorrow there’s a third Lebanon war, the result will be worse if we try to do the same thing. We and Hezbollah have improved tactically. The result will be damage to us that is so big that we’ll be unsure we accomplished anything the day after the dust settles,” he cautioned.
The path to a clear victory lies in defining the state in which the enemy operates as the enemy. “Just doing this will deter them.
Hezbollah, Syria, nor Iran, nor the Americans want to see destruction of Lebanon. If war does break out, treating Lebanon as an enemy would end the conflict in three days, not three weeks,” he said.
This entails bombing bridges and other state-affiliated targets, though staying clear of civilian sites like schools and hospitals, he stressed.
“It’s not right for us to accept the idea of fighting low-intensity counter-terrorism conflicts. We should move to an interstate conflict system,” Eiland argued.
The model applies equally well to Gaza, which, since Hamas seized power there, has become a “state in every way.
It has borders, a central government, armed forces. We’ll get our advantage back by making this shift,” he said.
Agence France-Presse (October 11, 2013)
Rebel groups executed at least 67 civilians and took hostage 200 others from Alawite villages in Syria in August, Human Rights Watch reported Friday, saying this constituted war crimes.
HRW based its 105-page report on an on-site investigation and 35 interviews, including with survivors of an August 4 attack on 10 pro-government Alawite villages in the coastal province of Latakia.
Out of 190 civilians killed, the New York-based group said at least 67 were executed. Some 20 groups took part in the attack before government troops expelled the rebels from the villages on August 18.
"Two opposition groups that took part in the offensive, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham [the Levant] and Jaish al-Muhajireen Wal-Ansar, are still holding the hostages, the vast majority women and children," it said.
"The findings strongly suggest that the killings, hostage taking, and other abuses rise to the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity," the rights group said.
"The scale and pattern of the serious abuses carried out by opposition groups during the operation indicate that they were systematic and planned as part of an attack on a civilian population," it said. "In some cases, opposition fighters executed or gunned down entire families."
HRW, noting that it had previously documented war crimes by government forces, urged the UN Security Council to "impose an arms embargo on groups on all sides against whom there is credible evidence of widespread or systematic abuses or crimes against humanity."
It also urged countries with influence over the rebel groups, mostly made up of Sunni Muslims, to work for the release of the hostages.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (German Daily, October 11, 2013)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "a bad deal is worse than no deal" with Iran over its disputed nuclear program, ahead of crunch talks between Tehran and world powers. He called for sanctions on the Tehran regime to be stepped up rather than eased. Iran "will ask for a partial lifting of sanctions for cosmetic concessions that would leave them with the ability to have a nuclear weapons capability," Netanyahu said.
He cautioned that Iran was far more dangerous than nuclear-armed North Korea and bent on spreading terror in the world. "You demand enrichment if you want to build nuclear weapons," he stressed.