Monday January 6, 2014, no165
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 Saudi dynasty and the ghost of Jouheiman
By Ghaleb Kandil
The behavior of Saudi Arabia in the region is the focus of attention and a specific monitoring after the Saud dynasty has become the main source of escalation and violence carried lately by Takfirist-terrorist groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and even in some regions of Russia.
Saudi Arabia is angry and wants consolation prizes in the region. It seeks compensation for major confrontations that are taking place and allies with France. Paris tries to sabotage agreements between the United States and Russia, which pass through the recognition of the West defeat in Syria and Iran's status as a regional power. All these statements illustrate the impasse is the Wahhabi kingdom after the collapse of its regional influence due to Syria's resistance facing the universal war led by Saudi Arabia, Israel, Qatar and Turkey.
Relevant changes have shaken the foundations of the Saudi role, which dates back over half a century. The rise of Iran is not the only change, although it is the most pronounced. This factor has been felt even within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which is the first circle which carries Saudi influence. Developments in Bahrain and Yemen also lay the foundations for a dramatic change in the kingdom. Possible establishment of a constitutional monarchy in Bahrain, the consecration of the political diversity in Yemen, or the resurgence of South Yemen, are all serious challenges that will undoubtedly impact even within Saudi Arabia, where the social and political anger is spreading. These last three years, the protests are strongly expressed on social medias, where millions of young from Gulf express their anger and thirst for freedom.
The determination of Saud to use and support Takfirist groups throughout the region, as part of a global campaign threatening the world with a new generation of terrorists, not only explains the anger and disappointment Saudi Arabia after its defeat in Syria. This same terrorist card had been operating for 40 years through a partnership between the United States and the Wahhabi kingdom, before the decline of American influence. One of the main causes of Saudi behavior is explained by internal factors. Indeed, spreading extremist aims to divert the attention of the Saudi youth not to question the dynasty, an ally of the West which controls all the country's wealth while leading a lifestyle characterized by extreme opulence and debauchery without limits.
We almost forgot the incident of the occupation of the Kaaba in Mecca, November 20, 1979, by the first insurrection led by a takfirist group coming from the heart of the Wahhabi institution. The movement was led by Juheiman al-Oteiby, who came from the ranks of the National Guard and studied with his comrades in the official Wahhabi religious institutes. We almost forgot this rebellion crushed in blood, which was a protest against decay and injustice of the Saudi system. Al-Oteiby's appeal to consider apostate Saudi regime has a large impact among the Saudi youth, and rebels have recruited hundreds of young people ready to take arms to assault the Kaaba. Saudi security forces have failed to controle the situation, and Riyadh had to hire the services of the French special forces to crush the uprising.
One year after the Al-Oteiby movement, the ruling Saud family, in cooperation with the United States, launched the first wave of terrorism in Afghanistan, and funded arms for the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria in their war against the Syrian state, which was resolutely opposed to the Camp David peace agreement. Riyadh and Washington had legitimized the first nucleus of Al-Qaeda networks, fruit of cooperation between the West and the Saudis. The terrorist network was assigned to missions in Chechnya, Bosnia, Somalia, Sudan, Algeria, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, Iran, Syria and elsewhere. All these wars, financed by Saudi Arabia, served the U.S. strategies. At the same time, they have helped divert attention of thousands of young Wahhabi sent to practice Jihad in distant lands. Palestine obviously was not among these lands.
Majed al-Majed, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades leader, an Al- Qaeda branch that has claimed the double suicide attack against the Iranian embassy in Beirut on November 19, is a symbol of these Saudi young men. The circumstances of his capture and death in Lebanon are very suspicious. The Lebanese Army waited nine days before officially confirm his arrest, before announcing, the next day, his death for kidney failure.
Afraid that he might reveal the names of Saudi princes and sheikhs who fund and give him orders, Saudi Arabia has lobbied hard for his extradition.
Reports from the Lebanese press warned against the possible elimination of Majed al-Majed on his hospital bed to forbid him making embarrassing revelations. They were right. After the announcement of his death, the Iranian MP, Mohammad Hassan Asghari, said his confession pointed to Saudi Arabia.
The Saudis are still haunted by the ghost of Juheiman Al-Oteiby, who protested with weapons against a dynasty that shamelessly exploits religion to submit and blind the poor to take advantage of the immense oil wealth.
Michel Sleiman, Lebanese President
«The saudi kingdom has decided, following ongoing contacts, to offer exceptional and admirable support to the Lebanese Army of $3 billion which would allow the military to buy newer and more modern weapons. The Saudi grant will allow France to equip the Army, and I hope Paris will swiftly carry out this initiative. After decades of unsuccessful efforts with no tangible results, I was able through contacts with the Saudi King Abdullah to provide the Lebanese Army with this exceptional grant. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the Saudi King Abdullah, the custodian of the two mosques, for his generosity and his keenness on a moderate approach in the face of all kinds of extremism.»
Naïm Kassem, under-secretary general of Hezbollah
«The criminal attack against Haret Hreik is part of a black Series. These are ordinary people who are affected and not just Hezbollah. We have seen several attacks on different Lebanese regions last year, which confirms that there is a comprehensive plan which target all Lebanese rather than a specific party. It is a criminal plan aiming to undermine Lebanon's stability. In fact, the groups running these attacks are irrelevant and has no interest. They are beast and stipendiary groups of no importance, what is important is rather the overall project to destroy the country, instigate fitna, to divert the eyes of Israel and weaken Lebanon, which held firm against the winds of the new Middle East. Hezbollah will not exchange accusations with any party. But we say to all that the criminal plan, in all its colors and all its forms, which is also a multinational project, will spare no one. The response would be, we believe, to reach a political agreement and hasten to form a national unity government. Because if we immunize domestic scene by cohesion policy, we neutralize the environment favorable to Takfirists and other terrorists. However, any misstep, any unilateral action or try to isolate any party, would contribute to destabilization and criminal projects. We call to learn from this criminal act which hit the southern suburb, to put hand in hand. We assert that it is with stability and political understanding that we face crime. No one can eliminate the other. In the absence of a political agreement, Lebanon will be on the road to ruin.»
Walid Joumblatt, Progressive Socialist Party leader
«To immortalize the memory of Mohammad Chatah and innocent victims who fell with him, it is necessary to cling to moderate guidance and dialogue despite the pain and sorrow. The trap set by the assassins intended to emphasize the chaos that the whole region is going through and that takes the form of bloody conflicts that might extend. Today, as the Middle East and the Arab world in general are passing through difficult circumstances, the Lebanese must assess the internal situation with lots of rationalism and realism to protect valuable achievements made over the years and to prevent further deterioration at all levels.»
Assem Kanso, Lebanese MP (Baas Party)
«The speeches that followed the murder of Mohammad Chatah fit into the context of accusations against Syria, as in the assassination of Rafik Hariri. Today, they also accuse Hezbollah. It is Saudi Arabia that killed Mohammad Chatah. Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora worked for the Israeli intelligence services and this information was known by Rafik Hariri. Hariri has given Resistance international legitimacy and Fouad Siniora wants to withdraw the weapons of the resistance.»
The Al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham claimed responsibility for the car bombing that rocked the Hezbollah stronghold of Dahiyeh on Thursday. “[ISIS] was capable of crossing the border and breaching the security of the satanic party in Lebanon [Hezbollah] and striking it in its own headquarters in the southern suburb of Beirut on Thursday,” a statement released Saturday by the Islamist organization read. The radical group also warned that further explosions will hit pro-Hezbollah neighborhoods. “[This car bomb was] the first of a heavy bill that awaits those criminals,” the statement added. An explosion ripped through the Haret al-Harayk neighborhood of Beirut’s southern Dahiyeh suburbs Thursday afternoon, killing at least four people. ISIS’ claim of responsibility comes after DNA tests confirmed that Qatiba Mohammad al-Satem—a Sunni Muslim from Lebanon’s Wadi Khaled region that borders Syria—was the suicide bomber behind Thursday’s attack. “DNA tests conducted on the human remains found in the car used in the bombing revealed that they belonged to Qatiba Mohammad al-Satem,” the Lebanese army said in a statement Saturday.
A member of the Iranian parliament's National Security Committeee on Saturday accused Saudi Arabia of killing Abdullah Azzam Brigades chief Majid al-Majid, who died in custody in Lebanon earlier in the day. “The people who supported and funded the leader of Abdullah Azzam Brigades Majid al-Majid … are the same people behind his death,”Mohammad Asfari told Iranian TV channel Alalam on Saturday. “This implicates Saudi Arabia because [Majid] would have revealed information about his terrorist activities that would have damaged Saudi Arabia.” The Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for the November 19 twin suicide attacks that targeted Iran's embassy in southern Beirut. Majid's death comes amid a dispute between Saudi Arabia and Iran over Tehran's right to be briefed on any information Lebanese army intelligence extracted from Majid, who they arrested on December 26. Al-Joumhouria newspaper reported Friday that Saudi Arabia was refusing Iran’s request to be briefed on Majid’s interrogations as he is a Saudi citizen. However, Caretaker Minister of Foreign Affairs Adnan Mansour told Al-Nahar on Friday that Iran has the right to be briefed on the investigation.
A decades-old library owned by a Greek Orthodox priest in Lebanon's northern city of Tripoli was torched late Friday, a day after a sectarian scuffle, a security source said. "Unknown assailants torched the Saeh Library in Tripoli, destroying two thirds of some 80,000 books and manuscripts housed there," said the source, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity. Civil defense teams were deployed to put out the fire, "but there are fears that more books were damaged by the water used to try and put out the flames," he added. The attack came a day after "a pamphlet was discovered inside one of the books at the library that was insulting to Islam and the prophet Mohammad," the source said. "After that, the library owner, Father Ibrahim Surouj, met with Islamic leaders in Tripoli. It became clear the priest had nothing to do with the pamphlet, and a demonstration that had been planned in protest over the incident was called off," the source said. "Then on Friday night, the library was torched," he added.
As Safir (Lebanese daily, Arab nationalist)
Marlene Khalifé (January 3, 2014)
Several European countries have a critical look at the unilateralism of the Lebanese president, who accepted the "Saudi promise" to arm the Lebanese army immediately after his visit for "medical purposes" to Paris, and without consulting with any other European country. They also criticize the unilateralism of France, which has marginalized its partners in UNIFIL, while many other European countries have a long-standing cooperation with the Lebanese military.
Well-informed European diplomatic sources also wonder if Michel Sleiman is really a centrist president, why did he choose to side with the March-14 coalition? According to these sources, it was during his visit to France some ten days ago, under the pretext of medical care, that President Sleiman had brought finalizing the Saudi-French agreement. Such manipulation would aim, they say, to sow discord between the Lebanese Army and Hezbollah: "it is a very intelligent plan, with the aim of widening the distance between the army and the resistance represented by Hezbollah, and this plan is followed by some countries in the first place which France. Some Lebanese parties could share the view of those countries. These include Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who wants the Lebanese Army plays the role of Hezbollah in strength and border security but would like this to be done within the framework of an agreement with that party, and not by force as would some countries, including Saudi Arabia and France. "These diplomatic sources also criticized the attitude of France, which acts alone in the Lebanese file: the French insisted on various occasions within European meetings, particularly in the context of "international support group in Lebanon" to be in charge of the defense file of Lebanon. And European countries often asked questions about this attitude. The answer was provided by the announcement of the "Saudi donation" to the Lebanese Army, via France, who did not bother to inform its European partners.
According to these sources, the Saudi aid to the army requires holding a Lebanese Council of Ministers. It also may not be endorsed by the International Support Group in Lebanon, all of whose members are concerned with supporting the army under the proposed five-year plan. Clearly, European countries do not allow France to act as the solo approach concerns them too. They are even able to obstruct, in different ways, the French project. "France will quickly find itself isolated on the European level after his mistake even if it gets the Saudi envelope," say these sources.
An Nahar (Lebanese daily, close to March-14 Coalition)
(January 4, 2014)
Speaker Nabih Berri reiterated his support for the formation of a national unity cabinet. “The formation of a consensual government will facilitate staging the presidential election,” Berri said.
The speaker added that he was exerting all efforts to facilitate the formation of a consensual cabinet to avert “the biggest danger for Lebanon in failing to hold the presidential election.”
Al Joumhouria (Lebanese daily close to March-14 coalition)
(January 4, 2014)
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said that his party and the March 14 coalition have been holding meetings to discuss radical political moves to counter their rival, the March 8 group.
“Several meetings have been held and others will be held to come up with a joint stance between the March 14 parties in preparation for civil resistance in the face of all that is happening on the Lebanese scene,” Geagea said on Saturday.
He added that the March 14 move was a response to the Hezbollah-led March 8 provocation “through disrupting the work of state institutions” and “planned killings as well as importing the Syrian war to Lebanon.”
“We will not sign any constitutional concession and we will not provide a cover for a government that includes Hezbollah.”
Geagea remarks were made after a March 14 delegation visited him at his residence in Maarab.
The delegation included MPs Nohad al-Mashnouq, Jean Ogassapian, Hadi Hobeish and March 14 General Secretariat Coordinator Fares Soueid.
The March 14 meeting with Geagea discussed the political and security measures that the coalition will take following the assassination of one of its main political figures, former Finance Minister Mohammad Chatah who was killed in a car bomb explosion in Beirut last week.
“There are several proposal that are being assessed by the LF and the Future Movement, and, when ready, will be discussed with the Kataeb Party and the National Liberal Party and other independent figures.”
Al Akhbar (Lebanese Daily close to the Lebanese Resistance)
Maysam Rizk (January 4, 2014)
The praise that Lebanese President Michel Suleiman heaped on Saudi Arabia and its allies in Lebanon did not save him from criticism by March 14 politicians. They see him as “weak because he has not formed the government he has promised many times.” Today, they express their displeasure at the “breaking and contradictory news” that reaches them from the presidential palace, “indicating that the president intends to back down once again.”
Every time President Suleiman vows to form a neutral government and is about to take the plunge, a blast goes off here or an assassination takes place there, putting his plans on hold. Sources indicate that Suleiman is still adamant on forming a government, however, this responsibility does not lie with the president alone but with the prime minister-designate as well. Besides, after the bombings that targeted minister Mohammed Shatah and the residents of Dahiyeh, one must be prudent and re-examine the local and regional political realities.
Suleiman’s advisers partially admit that the government he had intended to form was directed against Hezbollah and the Amal movement. “Therefore, it is impossible after the Dahiyeh bombing to shove a provocative government down the throat of Hezbollah and Amal supporters,” said a source. They also concede that the government will not be formed next week, after Armenian Christmas, as it had been indicated.
Some forces within March 14 are less disturbed by the bombings that have targeted different areas of Lebanon than by the idea that “reaction to these bombings leads to a chorus of statements calling for a national unity government, and Suleiman, under shell shock and out of fear, joins the chorus, prompting him to slow down.”
Suleiman’s “reluctance” makes him susceptible to March 14 criticism. In addition, he “not only fears March 8 forces,” but also “submits to pressure from the Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai, who always calls for dialogue and forming a government in which all parties participate.”
This exacerbates concerns over the forthcoming government, which has become a daily obsession for March 14 forces because “there is no possibility to form a government in accordance with their agenda in the foreseeable future.” They believe “counting on Suleiman to form a government has been a losing bet.” They know the parliamentary majority would not allow them to form a March 14 government, as MP Walid Jumblatt insists on his decision not to give a vote of confidence to such a government. This is not to mention “the imbalance of power on the ground.”
Does that mean March 14 forces are afraid of a repeat of the 2008 conflict, or of the surprises that March 8 promised if a unilateral government is formed? On the surface, sources deny that fear of a replay of the “black shirts incident” – Hezbollah’s unarmed show of force in 2011 – prevents them from carrying out their threats.
March 14 forces are now stronger. They are aware that “the conditions are different from 2008.” Gloating, they say, “Hezbollah cannot open a domestic front in addition to the Syrian front.” Nonetheless, these sources stress “their party will not take one step on the question of the government if Suleiman does not take the initiative to form a neutral government.”
While waiting for Suleiman, “March 14 forces engage in an extensive debate on forming the government, given their differing views on the matter, without getting anywhere.” The Lebanese Forces do not want to participate in the national dialogue. The Phalanges made up their mind to support forming a political government.
Views within the Future Movement vary between supporters of a fait accompli government who refuse to participate in the national dialogue, and supporters of a neutral government who are convinced of the need to open the door to dialogue. The latter view is represented by former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
Prominent Future Movement sources confirm that “forming a government is impossible under the current circumstances. Suleiman needs to be prudent because it is not right to make such a decision while the people injured in the bombings have not left the hospitals.”
Al Akhbar (January 4, 2014)
[Update: Majed al-Majed died while in Lebanese custody on January 4.]
There are many stories about what Saudi national Majed al-Majed has perpetrated, whether through his extensive involvement in a wide array of al-Qaeda’s activities, or his role as the emir of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, and recently, his role in supporting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Certainly, dozens of Lebanese, Syrians, and non-Arabs were victims of terrorist acts that Majed had a role in, whether through planning, financing, or recruiting terrorists to carry them out.
As security officers closely involved in his case attest, Majed is a strong figure among his supporters and followers. The security sources say that Majed’s associates have carried out acts that demonstrate their conviction and faith in him, to the extent of being willing to sacrifice their lives for Majed.
The most recent example of this was the crew made up of at least seven men who acted as a decoy to help take Majed back from a medical trip to Beirut to his hideout in either the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp or a neighborhood in Saida. Majed’s bodyguards were aware that the Lebanese security services had knowledge of his medical illness, making them more cautious and prompting them to take additional measures, including drafting plans to bail him out in the event there was an attempt to kill or capture him. Four in Majed’s crew lost their lives in order to “secure” their leader’s movements.
Majed, according to experts on extremist groups, is privy to the secrets of a long era that spanned at least 10 years of direct action. His journey took him from Saudi Arabia to Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, and also Afghanistan and Pakistan, during which he became acquainted with quite a few individuals who would go on to join al-Qaeda. Majed also had a key role to play in helping jihadists regroup in decentralized frameworks following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan and the dismantling of al-Qaeda’s leadership.
The information supposedly in his possession covers a large number of operatives, operational details, the form and targets of sleeper cells, and amendments introduced to the modus operandi of jihadi groups after the US-led invasion of Iraq and then the Syrian crisis. Majed also has intricate knowledge of how the group’s leaders and members are financed, where the funds are spent, and also many of the group’s political, security, military, and economic contacts that helped it operate in several countries, including in Lebanon.
Furthermore, the emir of Abdullah Azzam Brigades is very familiar with the itineraries of “jihadi trips” to Syria, both before and after the crisis. Majed also has a record of the recruitment campaign among supporters of Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir.
More importantly, Majed, despite his illness, remained in contact with the cells tasked with attacking Hezbollah and the Lebanese army across Lebanon. The man possibly knows everything about the database of targets his group intends to attack, but above all, he holds the most important secrets about ties to Arab and Western governments and agencies, especially Saudi’s shadow men in the Levant and Iraq.
Yet as much as Majed was a high-value target that many agencies in the region and the world were tracking down, and as much as his arrest was a major achievement – regardless of how and why it succeeded – his case is shrouded in mystery, prompting one to infer that his capture was a difficult matter for those who decided to do it, and that he has now become a burden.
Since he was arrested on december 26 by a Lebanese army unit, the army went into “radio silence.” Perhaps this is an ordinary measure in the world of security services, especially since the catch was exceptional, and the military establishment needed time to take appropriate measures to secure the place of his detention, and keep him away from the eyes and hands of those who do not want him in prison alive, or who want him dead.
But after news leaked of the arrest, mystery continued to surround the army’s conduct. Conflicting statements, leaks, and information emerged, all leading to the same question: Who has been feeling nervous about the affair? Members of a security service outside the army expressed their anxiety over this by saying: It’s good that he’s in the army’s hands, because if he was in someone else’s custody, especially the Information Branch, and something bad happened to him, no one in the world would have believed that he was in dire health that could lead to his death.
Today, many in the state are faced with a major challenge. There are many rumors and inaccurate leaks about Majed’s health. Some hold that he had been in a coma since before he was arrested (and this is not true), while others purport that Majed had been suffering from rapid deterioration in his health in the days that followed his capture, that he is in no condition to be interviewed or questioned, and that there are indications he could enter into a coma or that he is living his final moments.
However, there are questions and warnings that need to be raised now, with officials in general, but with the army in particular, especially army commander Gen. Jean Qahwaji and intelligence director Gen. Edmond Fadel, and others in the state.
Majed’s life, and access to the trove of secrets he carries, are invaluable. Any attempt by outside parties, in the form of recommendations, wishes, or suggestions to get rid of him, will be very negative, and will adversely affect the army, the reputation of its leadership, and security conditions in Lebanon. Just listening to the pro-Saudi camp in Lebanon would draw a big question mark about things that go beyond self-interests and immediate ones.
Letting Majed die, or not doing enough to keep him alive, will be the biggest crime, equal to the terrorist crimes of Majed and his comrades. A segment of people in Lebanon, especially those who are pro-Resistance and who are being targeted by al-Qaeda, will be face to face with an open killing season in the event Majed is neglected.
Nothing should thus prevent us from raising our voice to say: Save Majed’s life, and do everything possible to keep him alive. Beware, beware of letting him die or letting him be killed!
Al Akhbar (January 3, 2014)
On December 2, a car bomb, possibly detonated by a suicide bomber, exploded in Dahiyeh again. On al-Arid Street of Haret Hreik, scores were killed and injured. This was not an isolated incident, but part of the same “death chain” as Bir al-Abed, Roueiss, Tripoli, and Bir Hassan.
Officially, al-Arid Street is called Ahmad al-Qassir Street, after the resistance fighter who blew himself up at the Israeli occupation military headquarters in the South Lebanon city of Sour, 31 years ago. There is a small marble plaque that bears his name, with the title “the herald of the era of martyrs.”
In Thursday’s blast, the plaque was damaged, but it did not fall down. It remains legible, even though the car bomb exploded directly in front of it.
Terrorism struck at almost the exact same place that the Israeli air force targeted in the 2006 July War. The street is home to several buildings that were restored after the Israeli war, including the old Al-Manar TV building. The street was also home to Hamas’ offices for many years, and before the Sayyid al-Shuhadaa Complex was built in Roueiss, Hezbollah used to hold its main Ashura events right here. In short, it is one of the most famous streets in Dahiyeh.
People reacted by swarming the blast site from all directions, guided by the column of black smoke that rose into the sky. Some were tearful, some were visibly angry, while others just stood silently on the side of the road. If a second explosion had taken place, we would have definitely seen a much worse catastrophe.
But how can people not rush to the site, knowing that they might have friends or loved ones there? Still, there were many overly curious individuals who stuck around despite all warnings. Not even shots in the air could drive them away.
The bombing does not compare to the one in Roueiss, which was much more devastating and killed dozens of people. Thursday’s bomb was smaller by comparison, reportedly containing 20 kilograms of TNT.
Meanwhile, everyone was asking whether a suicide bomber was involved. There were human remains on the street, but no one knew whether these belonged to a suicide attacker or an innocent bystander who would have been very close to the vehicle. In the Roueiss bombing, people saw human remains that, in the beginning, were thought to belong to a suicide bomber before investigations revealed otherwise.
While people differed over most details, they seemed to all agree on the identity of the perpetrators: Salafi takfiris. Overheard often among the crowds was the name Bandar bin Sultan, the infamous Saudi intelligence chief. Some people were shouting “Death to the House of Saud,” as many people believe Prince Bandar is the preeminent sponsor of the extremist groups they accuse of carrying out the attack.
This street, which for decades has been adorned with banners calling for Death to Israel, now hosts residents who feel they have become targets for some Arabs. This is how, in their view, what they call the “Desert Arabs” and the House of Saud are showing their gratitude to the people of Dahiyeh, which defeated Israel and brought about the first indisputable Arab victory against the “nation’s enemy.”
But who is the nation’s enemy now? The people of Dahiyeh ask, “What have we done to deserve this? Where does all this hatred come from, and why?” Some in Beirut’s southern suburb are saying: Look for Saudi-Wahhabi fingers. Some of the angry bystanders who flocked to the bomb site were saying it loudly, calling on Hezbollah to do something about those “ghouls.”
It was clear that the popular mood, after the attack in Dahiyeh, is convinced now more than ever of the need to confront extremist groups in Syria and Lebanon. Perhaps the perpetrators thought that by striking at innocent civilians, they would drive them to renounce Hezbollah, or put pressure on the Resistance Party to withdraw from Hezbollah. However, the opposite happens after each attack.
Human remains were found in the car that exploded on Friday, reinforcing the hypothesis about a suicide bomber. The security authorities, however, have decided to wait for DNA tests before confirming this, especially since a man who works in the area is still missing, while his motorbike had been found close to the car that exploded. According to a Lebanese army statement, the car was a dark-green 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee, similar to a booby-trapped car seized in Mreijeh previously.
Lebanese Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil announced that four people died and 80 wounded, some in critical condition. But there were subsequent reports that the number of casualties had risen, while a final toll has yet to be announced. Some people were still looking for their relatives in hospitals late Thursday night.
The car is registered to a woman from the Othman family. She had sold it to a person named Mohammed Izz al-Din, who in turn sold it to Sami Houjeiri from the town of Ersal. On Friday, both men turned themselves over to the Lebanese army. At a later time, Al-Manar TV said a man called Abdul-Basset Ammoun bought the car, and then gave it to his relative Rakkan Ammoun, who “sold it four months ago to Syrians active in the opposition,” according to Lebanese security officials.
Back on Ahmad al-Qassir Street, hundreds of people, soldiers, and police officers, and dozens of ambulances and fire trucks, were still at the scene. Many Dahiyeh residents now understand that they are facing a “death chain,” a series of bombings that will continue to target them. This is perhaps why a young man was telling a companion in the crowd yesterday, “Nothing will stop this unless explosions echo in the palaces of the House of Saud.”
Al Anbaa (Kuwaiti daily, January 4, 2014)
The change in the stance adopted by Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Beshara Boutros al-Rai regarding the government formation issue came as a result of a Speaker Nabih Berri's warning that a neutral government will undermine the upcoming presidential election.
“Rai agreed with President Michel Suleiman on the quick formation of a neutral cabinet, but he later turned his back on this agreement after he was convinced by Berri that a failure to form a national unity cabinet based on the 9-9-6 formula will lead to the cancellation of the presidential election,” said a source.
“During the last hours of last year, Berri dispatched a representative to Bkirki who warned Rai of the repercussions of the formation of a transitional government, which led the Maronite patriarch to express his renewed stance during his New Year sermon.”