Posts

Lebanese Christian Politician Attacks Israel

Noted Israeli-Canadian scholar Dr. Mordechai Nisan’s, latest book, War and Politics in Lebanon, reveals that very few Lebanese Christian politicians and commanders had a high level of ethics.  See “Engimatic Lebanon”, in the September 2015, New English Review. Those who didn’t lust after power were few. Some were powerless like Charles Malek and Fuad Bustany. Others are dying like Antoine Lahd. Or are in exile such as Etienne Sacr.  Nisan cites  the  example of Christian leaders, like Michel Aoun who have opted to form alliances with Iran and its proxy Hezbollah.  Another Nisan also drew attention to is Samir Geagea, leader of the Lebanese Forces political party. Nisan wrote, “Aoun and Geagea .. both tore Maronite unity into shreds and bloodshed.”

Geagea led the Lebanese Forces Christian militia from 1985 to 1990 in full alliance with Israel. That was before he was jailed by the Syrian-backed regime in 1994 for eleven years for “assassinations of Lebanese citizens”.

Now Samir Geagea has apparently made  a major ideological and strategic change of direction. In a surprising statement issued yesterday, Geagea attacked “the aggressive Israelis for their violence against Palestinians, and Israel’s suppression of Muslims and Christians in Jerusalem.”   Contrast this with his earlier condemnation of Hezbollah in the  January 2015 attacks by Hezbollah the killed two IDF soldiers near Mount Dov near the Lebanese border. The Algemeiner reported Geagea saying at the time: “Hezbollah has no right to implicate the Lebanese people in a battle with Israel. There is a government and a parliament which can decide on that.”?

This statement didn’t appear out of the blue.  Geagea and his wife MP Setrida Geagea had just returned from a visit to Qatar; a major supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. The visit took place after sources revealed that Geagea’s political party went in quest of funding.  He had received Saudi petrodollars in the past, according to wikileaks.

However, the pro-Muslim Brotherhood  and pro-Hamas attitude of Geagea isn’t of recent origin. He  dispatched a member of his party’s political bureau, MP Antoine Zahra, to Gaza in support of Hamas. Geagea supporters argue that he needs to play the Sunni card to create a balance with Hezbollah and Iran.  Lebanese Christian sources dismiss the Sunni Shia reason. They say, “Geagea could have kept his connections to moderate Sunnis like Sa’ad Hariri.  However, he openly allied himself with Qatar, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas which is a huge mistake. It is about Petrodollars of course.”

Waging an attack on Israel to buy credit among Islamist fundamentalists is not a Geagea invention. Before him, another Lebanese Christian leader General Michel Aoun who fought Assad in 1989 and went into exile for 15 years, reversed his position  upon his return to Lebanon in 2005.  He openly sealed an alliance with Hezbollah.  Aoun engaged in a decade long alliance with Assad, Hezbollah and Iran. Thus the two most powerful Christian politicians, who have fought the radical Islamists and Iran in the past, have become allies to the Jihadists, both Sunnis and Shia.  All to the surprise of  veterans of both the Lebanese Forces militia and the Lebanese Army.

In the 1980s, another former commander of the Christian militia, a close ally of Israel, Elie Hobeika, also  reversed course and shifted from being anti Assad to becoming an ally of the Syrian regime in 1985. He was attacked by both Geagea and Aoun in 1986 and removed from East Beirut. Ironically Geagea and Aoun, years later also abandoned their Lebanese Christian legacy to become allies with either Hamas or Hezbollah.

A Lebanese Christian scholar living in Beirut, who knew both Aoun and Geagea, said “this is a sickness of power. We haven’t seen anything like that when Bashir Gemayel was alive.  Geagea and Aoun are  power hungry. They abandoned their people and are aligning with radicals just  hoping one day they will snatch the supreme office of President of the Lebanese Republic. This is disgusting. We blame Geagea more, because he once led a force that was the heart of the Lebanese Christian resistance. He knew better, his betrayal is bigger.”

Geagea, we note,  fell short of  the  65 Parliamentary votes needed in the April 2014 election to succeed Michel Sleiman’s term as the Maronite President in the confessional political system. He only got 48 votes.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Samir Geagea  Christian Lebanese Forces political leader.

President Obama’s Latest Treachery on Iran Nuclear Deal

It has been a spectacular week for Russia and Iran.  Monday, Foreign Ministers Lavrov and Russia and Mohammed Javad Zarif meet in Moscow given the success of the JCPOA negotiations and UN Security Council endorsement to discuss listing weapons sanctions and ways to shore up the flagging fortunes of ally Bashar Assad in bloody Syria, the junior partner in the so-called Axis of Resistance.  That was followed by the announcement of an agreement to deliver on an expedited basis, four versions of the mobile S-300 advanced air defense system for $900 million.  Reuters first reported that Iran plans to sign a contract for four of the S-300 Russian missiles next week.”The text of the contract is ready and our friends will go to Russia next week to sign the contract,” Iran Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan reportedly said.  The earlier version of the S-300 systems were purchased in 2007, but not delivered because of objections by both Israel and the U.S.  Further sales of conventional Arms and missile technology were barred under the 2010 UN Security Council resolution.

A member of the Russian forces guards in front of surface-to-air S300 missiles in a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile unit on the Cape of Fiolent in Sevastopol on March 5, 2014. A military source has told Interfax-Ukraine that Russian commandos have seized control of the anti-aircraft missile systems and are guarding them. AFP PHOTO/ VIKTOR DRACHEV

A member of the Russian forces guards in front of surface-to-air S300 missiles in a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile unit on the Cape of Fiolent in Sevastopol on March 5, 2014. A military source has told Interfax-Ukraine that Russian commandos have seized control of the anti-aircraft missile systems and are guarding them. AFP PHOTO/ VIKTOR DRACHEV

The S-300 systems basically provides an anti-Missile shield of Iran’s “peaceful “ nuclear program against any U.S./Israeli aircraft  or medium range ballistic missile attack according to  the Pentagon.  Fox News reported “We have long expressed our concerns over reports of the possible sale of this missile system to the Iranians,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told Fox News. Further that “is a very capable weapons system that can bring down U.S. or Israeli jet aircraft.”

How capable are the new S-300 system?   Note this Washington Free Beacon report:

According to the defense website Deagel, the S-300V4 missile system is “1.5 to 2.3 times more effective” than previous systems “in its anti-missile defense capabilities.” The system is “capable of shooting down medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBM) with a maximum range of 2,500 kilometers.”

All this stemmed from the July 24th meeting in Moscow by Iran’s controversial Quds Force director Gen. Soleimani with Russian President Putin and Defense Minister Shogui endeavoring to expedite these deliveries of S-300 air defense systems and other weapon systems, including advanced Russian jet fighters to replace aging US fighters from the era of the Late Shah. That would complement the deliveries of Chinese stealth Jet fighters under a $10 Billion oil barter agreement. While objecting to the Russian sale to Iran of advanced S-300 missile deal, State Department press spokesman Admiral  John Kirby suggested  that it was excluded from the JCPOA terms lifting  both  conventional weapons and missile technology  sanctions under the 2010  UN  Resolution 1929 five and year  sunsets provisions.

Parchin Test Site 7-2015

Parchin Iran Military Explosives Test Site.

Then there was the exclusive AP report of its examination of one of the secret side deals between Iran and the UN nuclear watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The AP had been given access to the secret deal by a senior official of the IAEA on conditions of anonymity. The AP report of its examination of the secret side deal revealed   that it gave Tehran, the authority to use its own inspectors to deliver findings on alleged prior military developments for explosive nuclear triggers at the contested military site of Parchin. Iran for years had barred  IAEA inspectors access to Parchin and other known sites under the pretext that it would violate the Islamic Regime’s national security.  U.S. Intelligence has recently said that digital photos show the site being ‘sanitized”. The board of the IAEA, including the US and some of the P5+1 partners,  contemplate acceptance under the terms of the JCPOA  lifting upwards of $100 billion plus in sanctions relief slated for December of this  year based on the delivery of the PMD inspection reports. The reactions of the White House and presumably President Obama on vacation on the offshore island of Martha’s Vineyard stretch credulity.  They simply repeated the explanations by the President and White House press spokesperson Josh Earnest dismissing issues of trustworthiness of Iran’s Mullahs. The meme was the highly intrusive and robust IAEA inspection regime of the JCPOA would catch Iranian cheating instantly enabling punitive snapback of sanctions.

When  queried by journalists at yesterday’s State Department Daily Press Briefings, Press Spokesperson, Admiral John Kirby contended that  the IAEA  Director General Amano briefed both Chambers of Congress in closed door sessions on IAEA Iran inspection terms stating that the side deals  were “routine” and exemplary of the “robust intrusive” inspection regime. Further, he repeated the line that the US and other P5+1 already knew what Iran did a decade ago in prior military developments in violation of the non-proliferation treaty.  These PMD reports by the IAEA were to establish a baseline for the “intrusive, robust” inspections over the 10, 15 and 25 terms of the JCPOA. Now, given the AP report on this secret side deal between the IAEA and Iran it is questionable whether the entire agreement can assure any compliance by Iran.

Watch this C-Span video clip of State Department spokesman Admiral John Kirby at yesterday’s Daily Press Briefing:

The reaction from Republican leaders in both Chambers was incredulity.  That was underlined by statements by two experts on nuclear inspections, former IAEA Deputy Director Ollie Heinonen of Harvard’s Belfer Center and David Albright of Washington, DC –based, Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS). The AP report on the IAEA side deal with Iran noted these comments:

House Speaker John Boehner said, “President Obama boasts his deal includes ‘unprecedented verification.’ He claims it’s not built on trust. But the administration’s briefings on these side deals have been totally insufficient – and it still isn’t clear whether anyone at the White House has seen the final documents.” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce: “International inspections should be done by international inspectors. Period.” John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Republican senator, said, “Trusting Iran to inspect its own nuclear site and report to the U.N. in an open and transparent way is remarkably naive and incredibly reckless. This revelation only reinforces the deep-seated concerns the American people have about the agreement.”

The Israel Project Daily Report noted Heinonen stating “that he knew of no other instance in which a country under scrutiny was allowed to conduct its own investigation.” Albright of ISIS, “called this arrangement “unprecedented and risky.” Albright warned that “ambiguity over Iran’s nuclear weaponization accomplishments and residual capabilities risks rendering an agreement unverifiable by the IAEA.”

Notwithstanding these developments Democrat Senators continued signing up yesterday signed up in support of the President’s nuclear pact with Iran.  Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, who succeeded Senator Kerry, said in a statement to the Boston Globe, yesterday:

I have concluded that diplomacy remains our best tool to secure a nuclear-weapon-free Iran, That’s why I intend to support the Iran nuclear agreement when it comes before Congress in September.”

This agreement is far from perfect and carries risks. But I believe our negotiators achieved as much as they reasonably could, and that if strictly implemented, this plan can be effective.

In contrast to Markey and other loyal Democrat Senators, we suggest that they heed the warning of colleague New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez at his Seton Hall University address:” Hope is not a national security initiative … if Iran is to acquire a nuclear bomb, it will not have my name on it”.

The perfidy of the Obama Administration is exposed each day, yet the cupidity his claque of supporters of the Iran nuclear pact in the Congress like Senator Markey and other Democrats in both Chambers of Congress is appalling.  Witness the mind numbing comment by House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA: “I truly believe in this agreement”.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in Moscow on August 18, 2015.

Saudi-led Gulf Squabble Spells Trouble for Obama?

The Obama White House and the world media are pre-occupied with Russian President Putin’s grab of the Ukrainian autonomous province of Crimea. There are undertones of “Back to the Future”- meaning a possible return to Cold War era geopolitics with Russia.

Despite that overriding ruckus there was a less well publicized series of events in the Persian Gulf region among members of the Gulf Cooperating Council (GCC). Does this spell trouble ahead for President Obama’s Middle East policies?

At the GCC meeting on March 5th in Riyadh, Qatar was effectively isolated by “sisterly” Sunni Arab states. The Emir of Qatar, a member of the GCC, has been prominent in supporting financial aid and assistance to Muslim Brotherhood (MB) affiliates in Egypt under Morsi, Hamas in Gaza and the Syrian Opposition Council, one of whose leaders is a dual American Syrian citizenLouay Safi.

Virtually on the heels of the squabble at the GCC gathering, Saudi King Abdullah announced decrees on Friday, March 7th. They listed the MB as a terrorist organization along with several AQ affiliates in Syria and Iraq, as well as Shia terrorist groups in North Yemen and in the oil rich Eastern Province. The latter are backed by both Iran’s Qod Force and Hezbollah. This should present problems and potential conflicts of interest for President Obama’s senior National Security advisor Robert Malley and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. Both of these men espouse outreach to the MB, Iran and proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas.

This train wreck about to happen has been in development since the July 3, 2013 ouster by Egyptian Gen. al-Sisi of President Morsi in Egypt. Morsi was a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood endeavoring to create a Sharia compliant constitution with him as Emir. Egypt’s interim government in December 2013 outlawed the MB. This week an Egyptian court went after Hamas, the Gaza affiliate of the MB banning activities in Egypt. Following, the ouster of Morsi, Saudi Arabia and several of members of the GCC provided upwards of $12 billion in financial assistance to the interim Egyptian interim government. The stage now appears set for Gen. Abdel Fateh al-Sisi to run as the country’s President, a harkening back to the days of Gamal Abdel Nasser and the possible return of military autocracy in Egypt.

The flashpoint for the GCC isolation of Qatar was the notorious aged Egyptian MB preacher Yousuf al Qaradawi who had been in exile in Qatar before temporarily returning to Egypt in February 2011. He issued Fatwas for the reconquest of Al Quds (Jerusalem) and preached anti-Semitic hatred to crowds in Tahrir Square. In a January 2009 broadcast from Qatar, al Qaradawisaid about Jews: “kill them, down to the very last one.” While in Doha, Qatar he steadfastly refused to participate in annual International Interfaith Conferences.

A news report by Radaw noted the isolation of Qatar by “sisterly” Sunni Arab states because of the mischief of al Qaradawi and sanctuary provided by the Emir:

The Arab states of the lower Gulf are engaged in the latest and potentially most serious of their periodic family squabbles, which this week provoked three of them to withdraw their ambassadors from tiny Qatar.

The Qatar government expressed regret and surprise at Wednesday’s decision by the “sisterly countries” of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, but said it did not plan to retaliate by pulling out its own envoys.

All four states, together with Kuwait and Oman, are members of the GCC.

The official reason for the diplomatic spat is Qatar’s alleged failure to live up to a recent commitment not to interfere in the internal affairs of fellow GCC states.

The three conservative states are particularly distressed that Qatar continued to provide a platform for Yousuf Al Qaradawi, a Qatar-based Egyptian cleric, to use his fiery sermons to attack Saudi Arabia and the UAE despite Riyadh’s threat to freeze relations unless he was silenced.

The scope of King Abdullah’s terrorist designations was reported by Al-Jazeera:

Saudi Arabia has listed the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization along with two al-Qaeda-linked groups fighting in Syria.

The decree against the Brotherhood, whose Egyptian branch supported the deposed Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, was reported on Saudi state television on Friday.

Egypt in December listed the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, prompting the arrest of members and associates and forcing the Islamist group further underground.

Saudi Arabia also listed Jabhat al-Nusra, which is al-Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Sham) (ISIS), which has been disowned al-Qaeda, as “terrorist organizations”.

It also listed Shia Huthi rebels fighting in northern Yemen and the little-known internal Shia group, Hezbollah in the Hijaz.

Early in February, 2014, Ayman al Zawahiri at Al Qaeda Central announced that the global Islamic terrorist group had no association with ISIS, instead providing support for the Al Nusrah front fighting against the Assad regime in Syria.  ISIS however has rampaged across the Anbar province in neighboring Iraq overtaking the Sunni town of Fallujah.

About the same time as the AQ ISIS declaration, King Abdullah had announced new counterterrorism policies that were directed against so-called reform movements in the Saudi Kingdom. The Washington Post  reported the new law “states that any act that ‘undermines’  the state or society, including calls for regime change in Saudi Arabia, can be tried as an act of terrorism.” This Saudi law appears  to be in violation of human rights taken for granted in the West, but clearly viewed as seditious in the autocratic and Sharia compliant Wahhabist Kingdom.

These latest Saudi initiatives could have significant implications for the Obama Administration and Secretary Kerry. Kerry is endeavoring to fashion an Israel- Palestinian final status agreement and resolution of the 37 month civil war in Syria.  We noted earlier the presence of Louay Safi as spokesperson for the Syrian Opposition Council at the recent Geneva II plenum talks. Safi was Research Director at the northern Virginia- based MB supported International Islamic Institute of Thought. Moreover, he was also Leadership Development Director at the MB front, the Islamic Society of North America, an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2008  Federal Dallas  trial and convictions of leaders of the Holy Land Foundation. The Muslim charity group had been accused of funneling upwards of $35 million to MB affiliate Hamas. Safi was also invited by the US Army Chief of Staff to lecture troops on Islam at Fort Hood in early December 2009 following the massacre perpetrated by Maj. Nidal Hassan a month earlier. Clearly, Safi’s rise to prominence in the Syrian Opposition Council is indicative of the MB controlling presence.

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and senior National Security Aides were present at the May 2012 meetings of the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. They were engaged in outreach to MB officials from Egypt, Tunisia and other Arab states and facilitated assistance to ousted President Morsi. Obama Appointments of MB members, especially Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Policy, Arif Alikhan and Senior Advisory board member Mohamed Elibiary have been problematic. National Security Advisor Malley was a former Middle East foreign policy aide to President Clinton during the failed 2000 Camp David Israel-Palestinian negotiations between former Israeli PM Ehud Barak and the late Yassir Arafat. Malley had accused Israel of nixing the agreement, when it was evident that Arafat had purposely sabotaged it. Malley went on to become head of the Middle East and North African program of the International Crisis group and later advised then Senator Obama and was part of the President’s transition team. He holds views that may further complicate Administration Middle East policies.  Malley propounded speaking with terrorist proxies Hamas and Hezbollah as well as the MB. Malley, was recently appointed to the National Security Council. He has the portfolio for Israel -Palestinian peace talks and the Iran nuclear P5+1 diplomatic initiative.

Now that Egypt and Saudi Arabia have designated the MB as a terrorist group, would the Obama Administration dare follow their lead? How Messrs. McDonough, Malley and Secretary of State Kerry will contend with a plethora of problems arising from efforts by the Egyptian government and now the Saudi led GCC targeting the MB is a ‘puzzlement’.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.