In Lebanon, bravado about Syrian civil war is replaced by foreboding

Two Sunni gunmen in the northern Lebanese town of Tripoli where fighting has killed 25 people in eig

Two Sunni gunmen in the northern Lebanese town of Tripoli, where sectarian conflict has taken hold. Photograph: Omar Ibrahim/REUTERS

Beirutis like to say that their city thrives on uncertainty. “We’ve been through worse,” is a common refrain. “We’re used to war every few years,” is another.

In the last few months, though, bravado has been replaced by uncertainty and fear. Residents are often heard discussing the steadily deteriorating region in more foreboding tones.

“Is war really coming?” they regularly ask each other. Amid the rumble and whirl of drills and construction cranes, many in Beirut prefer not to draw conclusions. But away from the capital, the countryside resounds to the unmistakable drumbeat of war.

The largely Sunni north has taken on an increasingly heavy burden as Syria has unravelled. Lebanese men have gone to fight on Syrian battlefields, from where hundreds of thousands of civilians have fled to Lebanon.

Two years of sporadic clashes between Sunnis in Lebanon’s second city, Tripoli, and a minority Alawite Shia community barricaded on a residential hilltop have recently taken the shape of a more enduring battle.

Here, the Syrian civil war is unmistakably cast as a sectarian bid, led by Iran, to keep Sunnis away from power in the Levant. Fighting has intensified in each of the last three weeks, as Hezbollah – the Shia militia-cum-political powerhouse – has emerged from the shadows to take a very public stake in Syria’s war.

The speech two weeks ago by Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, announcing his militia’s role in seizing from rebels the border town of Qusair has heightened tensions. There is an undeniable sense that a reckoning now awaits the Shias of Lebanon, and especially their patrons in Tehran and Damascus. Nasrallah’s belligerent speech has done far more than the two-year creep of chaos across the Lebanon ranges to crystallise what is now at stake.

Hezbollah’s victory in Qusair, on behalf of Assad’s regime, is widely viewed as a first step in the escalation of the group’s role on other Syrian battlefronts. Many Sunni communities in the north are increasingly viewing the conflict in straight-up sectarian terms, believing they are being inexorably drawn into a fight that extends well beyond Lebanon’s borders.

The Shia of the south, meanwhile, cast Hezbollah’s role in Syria as a pre-emptive bid to protect them from an ancient inter-Muslim foe, salafists or takfiris – fundamentalist streams of Sunni Islam who the Shia claim are trying to attack them. This mutual demonisation is clearly hardening sectarian positions in the south and north. It is also being felt in parts of the capital, where both sects live alongside each other. Here, tensions run just as high as in the respective heartlands.

In Lebanon’s moribund parliament, though, there seems to be some kind of a detente at play. “Hezbollah sends us messages constantly that they don’t want things to get out of hand here,” said one member of the opposition March 14 political bloc. “We believe them about that. But what has been unleashed could prove unstoppable.”

Meanwhile, Beirut’s construction boom – legacies of contracts signed in better years – continues unabated. Hotels, however, stand largely empty and high-street shopping strips are deserted. Lebanon is not yet a country at war, but nor is it at peace with itself.

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/09/lebanon-bravado-syria-replaced-by-fear

Advertisements

Iranian Army preparing for 3 wargames, says Commander

Commander of the Iranian Army Ground Force General Ahmad Reza Pourdastan said his forces will stage three sets of drills this year.

Pourdastan voiced pleasure in the results of the assessments made over the recent Beitol-Moghaddas 25 Wargames in the Central Isfahan province, saying that the exercises succeeded in achieving all its desired objectives.

“The Ground Force programs for the year 1392 (March 2013-March 2014) also includes more wargames, including the drills of the armored units in Southeastern Iran, followed by infantry drills in the Western parts of the country and tank-patterns exercises,” he said.

“Alongside these drills, we aim to reinvigorate the training of our forces and meantime enhance the operational capacities of the Ground Force for confronting threats in asymmetric battles,” added the Ground Force commander.

The Iranian Ground Force conducted Beit ol-Moqaddas 25 in the general zone of Isfahan from May 20 to 24 in a bid to boost its units’ military preparedness and exercise different asymmetric tactics.

Lieutenant Commander of Ground Force for Training General Hossein Shokouhi told FNA at the time that different army units, including air force, airborne, infantry, armored, cavalry, artillery, air-defense, drone, communications and logistical units participated in the wargames.

Shokouhi further noted that during the drills, the Iranian army tested its latest home-made weapons and equipment, including the newly unveiled Shaher sniper rifle, Neinava tactical vehicle, optimized Scorpion tanks, anti-chopper launchers, Fadak wireless radio and Akhgar machinegun.

The commander also said that Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and aircrafts were used in the exercises for reconnaissance and aerial imaging operations.

Iran’s Army and IRGC hold regular wargames to practice combat tactics and also test new home-made military tools, equipment and weapons in action.

Iranian officials and commanders have repeatedly underlined that all military exercises and trainings of the Iranian Armed Forces are merely meant to serve deterrent purposes.

“When the enemy observes that our Armed Forces are constantly in wargame zones and their fingers are kept on the trigger, it will not dare to invade the Islamic Iran’s borders,” Pourdastan said in January, underlining the significance of military trainings for boosting the country’s deterrent power.

As regards the Iranian Armed Forces’ military exercises, Pourdastan described wargames as “very important” to the Iranian military, and said drills have provided the Iranian military forces, including the Army Ground Force, with an opportunity to test its achievements and remove deficiencies for future missions.

Exercise ‘Eager Lion’ returns to Jordan

U.S. forces joined their Jordanian hosts and regional partners today to begin Eager Lion 2013, an annual multilateral land, naval and air exercise. The exercise takes place at various locations throughout the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan from June 9-20.

Eager Lion is a multi-national exercise designed to strengthen military-to-military partnerships and enhance security and stability in the region by responding to realistic, modern-day security scenarios. This year’s scenarios will focus on Integrated Air and Missile Defense, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Exercise Eager Lion demonstrates U.S. Central Command’s dedication to the Kingdom of Jordan and regional partners and the combined efforts to sustain regional security and stability.

“Eager Lion is an excellent example of teamwork that brings together military forces and inter-agency partners from around the world,” said Maj. Gen. Robert Catalanotti, Director, USCENTCOM Exercises and Training. “This exercise challenges the participants to respond to realistic, modern-day security scenarios by integrating a variety of disciplines in the air, on land and at sea. Our relationship with Jordan and the 19 partner nations involved in the exercise is built on a foundation of interoperability that brings us closer together and enhances regional stability.”

Regularly scheduled exercises such as Eager Lion allow U.S. forces the opportunity to operate with, contribute to, and learn from their Jordanian partners, all while promoting long-term peace in the region.

Exercise Eager Lion provides multilateral forces with the opportunity to promote cooperation and interoperability among participating forces, build functional capacity, practice crisis management and enhance readiness. Approximately 5,000 U.S. military personnel from all services will participate in this year’s exercise, along with U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps aircraft and ships.

Putin holds back on Syria missile delivery

missile

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Moscow has held back on delivering sophisticated S-300 missiles to the Syrian regime, while UN investigators said they have “reasonable grounds” to believe both sides in the conflict have used chemical weapons.

Putin, a key backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said Russia has so far refrained from supplying the powerful S-300 surface-to-air missile systems to Assad’s regime for fear of upsetting the delicate balance of power in the volatile region.

His remarks came as fighting raged on in Syria’s besieged city of Qusayr, with both sides battling for control of the strategic post, and as US, Russian and UN representatives prepared to meet in Geneva on Wednesday to hammer out details of proposed peace talks.

Putin — who has used Russia’s veto at the UN Security Council to shield Assad’s regime from repeated attempts to impose UN sanctions — said Moscow had already signed a contract to deliver S-300s.

But he appeared to back down from Moscow’s earlier insistence that the missiles would be a “stabilizing factor” that could deter foreign intervention in Syria.

“The contract was signed several years ago. It has not been realized yet,” Putin said at a joint press conference with European Union leaders in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg.

“We do not want to upset the balance in the region.”

The weapon could theoretically shoot down Israeli jets and harm any Western military support missions.

But Putin warned the West and Arab states allied to the opposition that any attempt to resolve the crisis through outside force was “doomed to failure.”

Syria’s civil war, which has already cost more than 94,000 lives in 26 months of fighting, has threatened in recent weeks to turn even more dire with reports that chemical weapons — albeit in small amounts — had been used by both sides.

UN investigators in Geneva added to those suspicions Tuesday by reporting they had reason to believe chemical weapons had been used by both Assad’s troops and rebels fighting them.

“Allegations have been received concerning the use of chemical weapons by both parties,” said the Commission of Enquiry on Syria in a report to the UN Human Rights Council.

There are “reasonable grounds to believe that chemical agents have been used as weapons,” added the investigators.

It was the first time the commission — tasked with probing human rights violations in Syria since 2011 — added the suspected use of chemical weapons to its long list of war crimes committed in the country.

The commission also called for Damascus to grant full access to Syria for another group of experts tasked by UN chief Ban Ki-moon with investigating the possible use of chemical weapons, who have been barred by the regime.

Commission member Carla del Ponte, a high-profile former war crimes prosecutor, warned however that focusing too heavily on chemical weapons could overshadow the overall suffering in the country.

The report was released as diplomats from Washington and Moscow as well as the United Nations prepared to meet in Geneva on Wednesday to try to hammer out terms that could get Assad’s camp and the rebels to negotiate directly for the first time.

Putin himself said the chances of the proposed peace conference taking place were being harmed by reports of atrocities such as those captured on a video apparently showing a rebel eating the body parts of a slain Syrian soldier.

“I hope that such participants of the negotiations do not appear” at the proposed Geneva talks, Putin said.

“It would be hard to work with such people,” deadpanned the Russian leader, known for his black humor.

Uncertainty in recent days over whether Russia had in fact delivered S-300s to Syria had further strained Moscow’s already tense relations with regional governments and the West.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a special visit to Russia last month to convince Moscow not to make the shipments.

US Secretary of State John Kerry also voiced concern.

– Warplanes pound Qusayr –

The latest fighting on the ground saw a missile strike near Syria’s biggest city Aleppo kill 26 people and government warplanes pound Qusayr.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said there were numerous dead on both sides but gave no other details.

The Observatory also said shellfire near the Russian embassy in Damascus had killed a civilian and wounded a member of the security forces.

A representative of the Russian embassy in Damascus told AFP two Syrian security guards had received injuries but that no embassy staff had been killed or hurt in the attack.

US-based group Human Rights Watch meanwhile said its mission to Aleppo had concluded that the bodies of 147 men pulled out of a local river between January and March were “probably” executed in government-controlled areas of the northern city.

Chemical weapons use in Syria reaching ‘new levels of brutality’: UN

fsa

A UN report on Syria says limited quantities of unknown chemical agents have been used in at least four attacks in a civil war that has reached “new levels of brutality.” It said there’s proof of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Commission of Inquiry on Syria, tasked since 2011 with investigating human rights violations, said it had “reasonable grounds” to believe rebels have used toxic agents, although the “majority” of attacks were probably committed by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

Commission inquiry chair Paulo Pinheiro told reporters in Geneva that investigators could not “determine the precise chemical agents used, their delivery systems or the perpetrator.” Conclusive proof may be obtained from test samples taken from victims or the soil of suspected areas, but so far Damascus has barred a team of experts from the country.

The UN report came as French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius claimed to have conclusive evidence sarin gas was used in Syria. Laboratory tests there “prove the presence of sarin in the samples in our possession,” he said in a Tuesday statement cited by the Associated Press, saying it “now is certain that sarin gas was used in Syria multiple times and in a localized way.”

The statement did not get into whom is believed responsible for using the deadly nerve agent in Syria, according to France24, but did say “[i]t would be unacceptable that those guilty of these crimes benefit from impunity.” Also Tuesday, Britain said it had also found evidence of sarin gas use in Syria, reported AP.

The UN report, without much detail, lists the time and locations of four alleged chemical attacks: The Khan al-Asal neighborhood of Aleppo and Uteibah, both on March 19, the Sheikh Maqsood district of Aleppo on April 13, and on the northwestern town of Saraqab on April 29.

Syria’s UN ambassador Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui dismissed the report, saying the commission “excessively exaggerated their conclusions and outcomes” and “totally neglects the substantial events, or even marginalizes them.”

Commission member Carla del Ponte, a former war crimes prosecutor, warned that the issue of chemical agents could overshadow the mass suffering of Syrians in a war that has killed more than 94,000 people and displaced millions.

“We have so many deaths in Syria now… so please don’t make the use of chemical weapons in Syria now the most important issue,” she told reporters. The UN report says at least 17 new massacres are under review, which makes a total of 30 since September.

“The war in Syria is a major catastrophe of our time,” Pinheiro said. “Syria is in free-fall,” and “brutality has become a tactic of war,” including forcing child hostages to witness torture, and 86 child combatants killed.

The report comes a day after US Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States had arrived “late” to the Syrian peace process, with political unrest now quickly escalating in neighboring Turkey. “This is a very difficult process, which we come too late,” Kerry said after a State Department meeting with Poland’s foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski.

“We are trying to prevent the sectarian violence from dragging Syria down into a complete and total implosion where it has broken up into enclaves, and the institutions of the state have been destroyed, with God knows how many additional refugees and how many innocent people killed,” Kerry added.

The UN commission urged the international community to find a diplomatic solution that would include all Syrians, and called on world leaders to restrict arms sales feeding the war, despite a recently lifted EU arms embargo on Syria and Russia’s sale of the S-300 surface-to-air missile defense system to Damascus. It’s unclear when those missiles will arrive.

Qusayr captured: Syria’s army regains control of strategic town

Qusayr

Qusayr, a strategically important town in Syria, has been recaptured by Bashar al-Assad’s forces, who are being aided by Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah.

The town — located along major supply routes in between Damascus and the Mediterranean — was the center of intense clashes between the two sides over the past two weeks.

Syrian TV reported that the rebels withdrew overnight, and had suffered large casualties in the battle. Many also surrendered during the final offensive by the government’s forces.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based organization, also confirmed that Qusayr had fallen based on reports from activists and medics on the ground.

“The army and Hezbollah have succeeded in taking Qusayr after an intense bombardment of the town overnight,” the Observatory said. “The rebels have withdrawn to other areas because they were short of ammunition.”

The Army said in a statement that their recapturing of Qusayr sends “a clear message to all those who share in the aggression on Syria … that we will continue our string of victories until we regain every inch of Syrian land.”

“We will not hesitate to crush with an iron fist those who attack us. … Their fate is surrender or death,” the statement added.

Syria’s bloody two-year civil war has left upwards of 80,000 people dead, and has spilled over into neighboring countries both in its sparking of sectarian violence and the thousands of displaced Syrians seeking refuge.

Fighting was still ongoing in Dabaa and Buweida Al Sharqiya, the last village in the area under rebel control.

Israel’s secret “Doomsday” Nuke base

A location and details of a top secret Israeli base which could be used to launch nuclear attacks on China or North America was published last week. Immediate moves were made to “spin” the story away.The base, intended to house Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) built in cooperation with Indiais also to include, not just a doomsday “Fuhrer-bunker” for Netanyahu and the Zionist elites but storage for nuclear, biological and chemical warheads as well.

According to intelligence sources in Pakistan, India is supplying Israel with missiles capable of carrying 10 MIRV (Multiple Independent-targetable Re-entry Vehicle) warheads each with a range of up to 11,000 miles. A single missile from this US financed complex could knock out all major population centers on America’s eastern seaboard.

The thermonuclear warheads and guidance systems for these advanced weapons were made possible through espionage activities tied to AIPAC, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee.

Newspapers claim the underground base, one of a series being built across Israel, is part of an air defense system. This is, of course, utterly absurd.

Air defense systems are designed for stealth and mobility and never require huge underground facilities. Air defenses are meant to protect, not to “be” the primary target.

Scamming America to death

An Israeli program to use American funds earmarked for missiles defense on a nuclear command bunker and ICBM silos was “accidentally” exposed by the Department of Defense last week.

America needs more “accidents” of this kind.

Detailed plans on the massive underground facility at Tel Shahar, intended to be Israel’s answer to NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain fortress in Colorado, were made public when the US published over 1000 pages of documents, including key information on location, design and vulnerabilities to attack.

In an attempt to “put the genie back in the bottle,” Israel and key media assets in the west published deceptive and inaccurate accounts.

From SheeraFrenkel at McClatchy News, “The Obama administration had promised to build Israel a state-of-the-art facility to house a new ballistic-missile defense system, the Arrow 3. As with all Defense Department projects, detailed specifications were made public so that contractors could bid on the $25 million project. The specifications included more than 1,000 pages of details on the facility, ranging from the heating and cooling systems to the thickness of the walls.”

Why Israel has gone “M.A.D.” (Mutually Assured Destruction)

Until a week ago, Israel, in combination with Turkey and Arab “friends” was unassailable in the region due to its American equipped air force.

Russian President Vladimir Putin changed all that when Syria’s own S 300 air defense system came on line. Israel’s air forces are now useless against Syria, a nation scheduled to be “erased from the sands of time” by Israel, part of a multi-stage global strategy against Iran, a strategy to be coordinated with India against all of South Asia and the Caspian Basin.

Putin’s “red line” left Israel only one card to play, a “nuclear wild card” devoid of credibility without deliverable long range nukes stored in hardened silos with command and control deep underground.

America, either duped or fully complicit, has given Israel that capability, a “Samson option” first strike against any nation, even America.

One might want to ask why nuclear bunker facilities for up to 80,000 elites from among the “chosen people”are being financed by the United States, a project reminiscent of Dr. Strangelove.

The “Arrow 3” fraud

The Arrow 3 missile system, designed to be a mobile launched high altitude missile interception much like the Russian designed S 300 system now active over Syria, was funded based on the unsubstantiated hypothesis that Iran’s nuclear program was, not only advanced, but that Iran would have small “missile deliverable” warheads soon.

Israel demanded the system as protection from Iranian nuclear missiles, which, according to a new IAEA report, may well never exist.

However, advance copies of the IAEA report due to be released on Monday, June 10, 2013, show that America’s intelligence assessments indicating Iran has no military nuclear program have been right all along.

The report cites that every “gram” of nuclear material has been accounted for and none has been transferred to weapons related programs.

“Nuke pundit,” David Albright is typically the source for all information used to substantiate claims of nuclear weapon development by Iran. To check on Albright’s credentials, we went to Clinton Bastin, an editor at Veterans Today and former chief nuclear weapons designer for the US Department of Energy.

In a 2011 interview with Jim W. Dean, Bastin said the following about his friend and longtime associate, David Albright, “David Albright, a physicist, former colleague, president of the non-government Institute for Science and International Security in Washington and a former consultant for IAEA inspectors, is recognized by the US news media as an expert on nuclear weapons but is not. I called David several months ago to correct inaccurate information attributed to him by New York Times reporter William J. Broad.

I also mentioned that Pakistan probably did not have many nuclear weapons because gun-type weapons require about 100 pounds of highly enriched uranium. David said that he had seen drawings of Pakistan’s weapons and they had solid cores but were implosion, not gun-type. With that statement, I realized that David did not understand basic concepts of nuclear weapons.”

Bastin went on further and pointed out that controls long in place in Iran made it impossible for any nuclear material to have been “redirected” and that Iran’s program to enrich uranium gas to 20% could never realistically result in weapons grade material.

Both the US and Israel have known all of this all along, know this and have lied about it.

Press complicity

The Arrow III missile system was debuted on February 13, 2013 on the front page of the Jerusalem Post. This system, designed, at least as the American people are told, is depicted in a full color graphic showing the following components:

– “The Elta Electronic Industries subsidiary of IAI Electronic Group developed the Green Pine early warning and fire control radar for the Arrow 2 system. The radar carries the designation EL/M-2090 and includes the trailer mounted radar and antenna array.”

– Two other vehicles provide generator power and targeting control.

– The third vehicle tows the launching system.

Note that every component includes a “vehicle.” What, exactly, goes into the “Fuhrer-bunker” that we are told houses the Arrow III system?

When the press films or photographs a launch of an “Arrow” missile, they carefully include only the top portion of the mobile launching tube. Do they wish us to believe that, somehow, these tubes are hundreds of feet below the earth?

Can they keep “cropping” photos forever?

Thus far, the controlled press seems to miss story after story. Recently, the same press when photographing Senator John McCain on his secret trip into Syria forgot to “crop out” the Al Qaeda commanders McCain met with.

The underground “Temple of Doom”

Back in 2001, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld appeared on television with media pundit Tim Russert. Rumsfeld told a worldwide audience of the secret bunker complexes that spread across Afghanistan, able to house thousands, interconnected with secret monorails, undetectable by air.

Thirteen years later, the US forces have yet to find one of these bunkers. They never existed.

The ones in Israel, however, do exist. Anyone capable of downloading an “online” bid specification can see the scope of these massive projects, conclusive proof that preparations for “doomsday” are underway in Israel.

A careful read of the “material handing” specifications is rather curious. Israel denies having nuclear weapons. No American president has ever admitted knowing of such things, a question former White House correspondent Helen Thomas has asked of every American president prior to the untimely end of her outstanding career.

Now even school children with their iPhones can read about Israel’s underground nuclear weapons storage, about equipment for storing, protecting and deploying nuclear weapons.

What they may not know is that the money that might have helped finance their college education paid for this highly secret and equally highly illegal equipment.