"And I have found both freedom and safety in my madness, the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us. But let me not be too proud of my safety. Even a Thief in a jail is safe from another thief. "

Khalil Gibran (How I Became a Madman)

Lübnan Marunîleri / Yasin Atlıoğlu


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Syria conflict: Islamic State 'kills 30 villagers'- BBC News

Islamic State militants have killed at least 30 people, including children and women, in a government-held village in central Syria, a monitoring group says.
Some of the victims in Mabouja were burned to death or beheaded, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
The state news agency, Sana, said at least eight people were killed, as soldiers repelled a terrorist attack.
Mabouja's population include members of the minority Alawite and Ismaili Muslim sects, which IS considers heretical.
In recent weeks, the jihadist group has mounted numerous attacks in government-held areas in the central provinces of Homs and Hama, where Mabouja is located.

Mustaqbal Throws Weight behind Salam: Lebanon Can't Breach Arab Consensus- Naharnet

Al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc on Tuesday threw its weight behind Prime Minister Tammam Salam, after his remarks on Yemen at the Sharm el-Sheikh Arab Summit drew criticism from Hizbullah.

“The bloc lauds the balanced stance that was voiced at the Arab Summit by PM Tammam Salam and stresses that Lebanon cannot breach Arab consensus or endorse unilateral policies,” it said in a statement issued after its weekly meeting.

“In this regard, the bloc renews its stance that is committed to the Baabda Declaration and the Arab and international resolutions,” it added.

On Monday, Hizbullah said Salam's Arab stances were not discussed or sanctioned by the cabinet, pointing out that the PM's remarks do not reflect the viewpoint of all Lebanese.

“We want to clarify that these two stances – the aggression on Yemen and the creation of a joint Arab force – were not discussed in the Lebanese cabinet,” Hizbullah Industry Minister Hussein al-Hajj Hassan said in a statement.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Bkirki's Spiritual Summit Says only a Christian President Safeguard Coexistence- Kataeb.org

The Islamic-Christian summit held earlier today in Bkirki voiced concern over the presidential vacuum that is affecting Lebanon’s security and sovereignty, calling on local factions to seek the country’s best interest so as to end the ongoing impasse. 

In a statement issued following the summit, the conferees warned that the delay in electing a president is negatively affecting all public and constitutional institutions, noting that paralysis is gradually plaguing the state administrations. 

The spiritual leaders urged officials to give the social and economic affairs utmost attention and called for endorsing the state 2015 budget as soon as possible so as to re-inject dynamism into the economic cycle.

Religious Leaders Meet in Bkirki over Presidential Stalemate- Naharnet

Bkirki is scheduled to host on Monday a spiritual summit to press for the election of a new president amid an alleged call by Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan to turn the meeting into a permanent institution for consultations among religious leaders.
Discussions during the 90-minute summit at the seat of the Maronite church are expected to focus on the challenges that Lebanon is facing, mainly the presidential deadlock, An Nahar daily reported.
The closing statement of the summit also focuses on the burden of Syrian refugees, the future of Arab Christians and the situation in the region, it said.
Baabda Palace was left vacant after the expiry of President Michel Suleiman's six-year term in May 2014.
The rivalry between the March 8 and 14 alliances has caused the vacuum at the country's top Christian post despite calls by some political and religious leaders on MPs to head to parliament and elect a new head of state.
The majority of the March 8 coalition's lawmakers, mainly from Hizbullah and Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun's Change and Reform bloc, are boycotting the parliamentary sessions and causing a lack of quorum.

Bashar al-Assad says US air strikes are not easing jihadist threat- The Telegraph

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria claims the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) has recruited followers and gained in strength despite a US bombing campaign.
In an interview with CBS television, he said he was open to talks with the US, insisting that he retained the support of much of the population
But he also accused Washington of exaggerating the impact of air strikes.
“Sometimes you could have local benefit but in general if you want to talk in terms of Isil, actually Isil has expanded since the beginning of the strikes,” he said.
He went on to dispute American claims that Isil was under growing pressure.
“Actually, no, you have more recruits,” he said. “Some estimates that they have 1,000 recruits every month in Syria. And Iraq they are expanding in, in Libya and many other al-Qaeda affiliate organisations have announced their allegiance to ISIS. So that's the situation.”

Turkey closes two border crossings with Syria amid fears of 'terrorist attack'- The Telegraph

Turkey has partially closed its two remaining border crossings with Syria amid fears of a possible terrorist attack.
The Oncupinar and Cilvegozu border gates in Hatay Province were initially closed on March 9, after clashes in northern Syria. While aid trucks have since been allowed to cross the border, individuals have not.
An anonymous intelligence official told the New York Times that the decision to close the crossings was based on “solid intelligence about a large-scale terrorist attack”.
The decision is a policy reversal for a country that has been praised for its open-door stance towards refugees. The country hosts over 2 million Syrian refugees - more than any other country in the world.

The Republican Guard Captures Al-Malha in Deir Ezzor- Al-Masdar News

The Syrian Arab Army’s 104th Airborne Brigade of the Republican Guard – in coordination with a local tribe – has captured the village of Al-Malha in the Deir Ezzor Governorate after launching a new offensive east of the city.
According to a military source in the 104th Brigade, the soldiers from the Republican Guard launched this offensive 20km east from the provincial capital after controlling most of the Al-Kanamat Quarter.
West of Deir Ezzor City, the 104th Brigade seized an ISIS weapons depot in the village-center of Al-Shoula, confiscating a large cache of assault rifles, ammunition, RPGs, and mortars in the process.
On Sunday morning, an ISIS contingent attempted to infiltrate through the 104th Brigade’s frontline defenses at the village of Al-Jafra; however, they were unable to breach their fortifications and withdrew their attack after sustaining heavy casualties, including a field commander of Tunisian descent: “Abu Talha Al-Tounisi.”

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Fall of Idlib: Turning point for rebels in Syria?- Al-Jazeera

It was not that long ago that forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad were making rapid gains across Syria.
But the capture of Idlib by a rebel coalition, including the al-Qaeda linked Nusra Front, marks a major defeat for the Syrian government.
The fall of the city may be an indication that Assad's forces are struggling to keep the momentum they gained on the battlefield last year.
Idlib's strategic importance will not be lost on the government. It is close to a major highway that connects the capital Damascus to the north and is not far from Assad's stronghold in Latakia.
It also means that a vast area of northern Syria is under the control of rebel fighters.
So, is this a turning point for rebels fighting the government?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Syria crisis: Idlib 'captured by Islamist groups'- BBC News

Islamist rebels have captured the north-western Syrian city of Idlib from government forces, monitors say.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the Ahrar al-Sham, Jund al-Aqsa and Nusra Front groups had taken the city on Saturday.
Idlib is only the second provincial centre to fall into rebel hands, after Raqqa was seized by Islamic State (IS).

Nasrallah lambastes Saudi Arabia, draws Hariri rebuke- Daily Star

BEIRUT: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah launched a fierce tirade against Saudi Arabia Friday night, saying its military offensive in Yemen was doomed to fail and vowing that the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels would emerge victorious from the “Saudi-U.S. aggression.”

'İdlib muhaliflerin elinde'- Al-Jazeera Turk

Al Jazeera muhabiri, Suriyeli silahlı muhalefetin İdlib'in tamamını kontrol altına aldığını, ancak Esed rejimine bağlı bazı güvenlik binaları önünde hala çatışmaların devam ettiğini aktardı.
El Kaide'ye bağlı Nusra Cephesi'nin de dahil olduğu Fetih Ordusu kenti ele geçirmek içinm dört gündür ağır silahlarla saldırılar düzenliyordu. 
Fetih Ordusu komutanlarından Usame Ebu İbrahim, sabah saatlerinde kent merkezinde Ziraat Fakültesi, Hel Pazarı, şehir postanesi, devlet hastanesi, şehir müzesi, kent stadyumu, Maret Masrin bölgesi ile Mahrib kavşağı gibi önemli yerlerin denetimini ele geçirerek, İdlib'in yüzde 60'ını kontrol altına aldıklarını söylemişti.
Andalo Ajansı’na konuşan Ebu İbrahim, muhaliflerin ilerleyişi karşısında Şam yönetimine bağlı güçlerin kent merkezinde büyük kayıplar vererek çekilmeye başladığını belirtti.
Ebu İbrahim, "Şehir merkezinde güvenli bölge çevresinde Esed güçleriyle yoğun bir şekilde çatışıyoruz. Kentte subay lojmanları şimdi bizim kuşatmamız altında, düşmesi an meselesi. Birliklerimiz kent stadyumunun da kontrolünü ele geçirdi" dedi.
Şehir merkezinde taraflar arasında yoğun çatışmaların yaşandığına değinen Ebu İbrahim, "Şehirde Esed güçlerinin bulunduğu yerlere ağır silahlarla saldırıyoruz. Esed güçleri büyük kayıplar veriyor. Çatışmalarda 35 rejim askerini esir aldık. Birliklerimiz kuzeyden de kent merkezine doğru ilerliyor" ifadelerini kullandı.

Syrian Rebels Capture Idlib, by Aron Lund- Syria Comment

On March 28, Syrian rebels and jihadi fighters announced that they had captured the city of Idlib, posting pictures and videos online that showed them in control of government buildings and other landmarks. This followed a lightning offensive of several days, by a coalition of Sunni Islamist militias that assaulted the city from several directions.
After the security forces of President Bashar al-Assad violently put down protests inside the city in 2011 and 2012, resistance had been relegated to the countryside. With most of the surrounding Idlib Province captured, rebels had in the past year slowly but surely increased pressure on the city itself. They repeatedly demonstrated their capacity to block access roads as a way to force concessions and prisoner exchanges, which must have been a demoralizing experience for pro-Assad forces inside the city. In December 2014, the bell tolled for Idlib City, when the opposition overran the long-besieged Wadi Deif base, freeing up hundreds of crack rebel fighters for new campaigns.
At the time of writing, the situation remains unstable and it cannot be ruled out that Assad’s forces will launch a counterattack from areas still under their control. The government-run SANA news agency only speaks of “repositioning forces” in the southern neighborhoods of the city. Still, the apparent collapse of government defenses in Idlib has punched a gaping hole in the government’s narrative of approaching victory and boosted the opposition politically as well as militarily, spelling trouble for Bashar al-Assad.

Friday, March 27, 2015

President al-Assad: The West has not changed policy, intervention in terrorists’ favor must stop for a solution to succeed- SANA

Damascus, SANA – President Bashar al-Assad gave an interview to Russian media in which he hailed the Russian initiative for inter-Syrian dialogue as positive and denied any direct dialogue between Syria and the US, stressing that there has been no real change in the American or Western policies on Syria so far. 
The following is the full text of the interview: 
Question 1: Thank you, Mr. President. I am Gregory from TASS News Agency. What is you assessment of the next round of Syrian-Syrian talks scheduled to be held in Moscow next April, and who will represent Syrian in these talks? In your opinion, what is the essential factor to ensure the success of Syrian-Syrian dialogue?
President Assad: Our assessment of this new round of talks, and of the Russian initiative in general, is very positive, because the initiative is important; and I can say that it is necessary. As you know the West, or a number of Western countries, have tried, during the Syrian crisis, to push towards a military war in Syria and the region sometimes under the title of fighting terrorism, and at other times under the title of supporting people who rose for freedom, and other lies which have been circulating in Western media.
The Russian initiative was positive because it emphasized the political solution, and consequently preempted the attempts of warmongers in the West, particularly in the United States, France, and Britain, as they have done in the Ukraine. You know that warmongers have been pushing towards arming different parties in Ukraine in order to change regimes, first in Ukraine, then in Russia. That’s why the principle behind this initiative is good and important. We have always believed and spoke publicly that every problem, however big, should have a political solution. This is in principle. However, its success depends very much on the substance genuinely reflecting the title which you have spoken about. The title is: a Syrian-Syrian dialogue. In order for this dialogue to succeed, it should be purely Syrian. In other words, there shouldn’t be any outside influence on the participants in this dialogue. The problem is that a number of the participants in the dialogue are supported by foreign Western and regional countries which influence their decisions. As you know, only a few days ago, one of these parties announced that they will not participate in the dialogue. They didn’t participate in the first round.
So, for this dialogue to succeed, the Syrian parties taking part in it should be independent and should express what the Syrian people, with all their political affiliations want. Then, the dialogue will succeed. That’s why the success of this initiative requires that other countries not interfere, as Moscow proposed in the first round; for the dialogue to be among the Syrians with the Russians facilitating the dialogue among the Syrians without imposing any ideas on them. If things happen this way, I believe this dialogue will achieve positive results for stability in Syria.
Question 2: Abu Taleb al-Buhayya from RTV Arabic. Mr. President, within the framework of the steps taken to achieve a political solution, there is an initiative proposed by the UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura concerning a fighting freeze in Aleppo. After a number of meetings and trips, and there is information that some of de Mistura’s staff in Damascus went to Aleppo, but in the end, there were statements made by some outside opposition factions which rejected this initiative. Nevertheless, there are safe neighborhoods in Aleppo which have come in recent days under a fierce attack and mortar shelling on safe neighborhoods. In general terms, Mr. President, how do you see the prospects of this initiative proposed by de Mistura and is it going to succeed in the coming days?
President Assad: Since the first meeting with Mr. de Mistura, we supported his ideas. And when we agreed with him on the basic elements of the initiative, which he announced later, Mr. de Mistura’s team started working in Syria in order to implement this initiative. We continued our support and continued our discussions with him about the details of this initiative. In principle, the initiative is good because it deals with reality on the ground. It is similar to the reconciliation deals which have been achieved in Syria. The objective is to alleviate pressure and avert the dangers facing civilians specifically in the city of Aleppo, as a first stage for his mission. But de Mistura’s initiative depends on more than one party. Obviously, it depends on the Syrian state’s cooperation, as a major party to this initiative, including the state’s institutions. But, on the other hand, it depends on the response of the terrorists or the armed groups who operate in different neighborhoods in Aleppo.
Another problem is similar to that concerning the Syrian-Syrian dialogue. Some of these armed groups are controlled by other countries. In the city of Aleppo in particular, all the armed groups or terrorist forces are supported directly by Turkey. That’s why these forces, and from the beginning of de Mistura’s initiative, declared that they refuse to cooperate with him and rejected the initiative altogether. They confirmed their rejection of the initiative about a week ago, and enforced their rejection by shelling civilians in the city of Aleppo and a large number of martyrs fell as a result. De Mistura’s initiative is important in substance, and we believe that it is very realistic, and it has significant prospects of success if Turkey and the other countries supporting and funding the armed groups stop their interference. One of the most important factors of its success is that most Syrians want to get rid of the terrorists. Some of these terrorists will return to their normal lives or leave the neighborhoods in which civilians live, so that civilians can come back to these neighborhoods.
Question 3: Mr. President, on the political solution, the Syrian government took significant steps which have been applauded by Syria’s friends and allies concerning national reconciliation attempts. These attempts have been successful, from what we hear from the Syrian population, and from our coverage in Damascus and other Syrian governorates. In general, Mr. President, what is your vision for the prospects of these national reconciliation attempts, whether in Damascus Countryside or in other governorates, particularly that we have been informed that the Syrian government released, a few days ago, over 600 prisoners, in order to ensure the success of national reconciliation?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Idlib Druze agree to forced conversion, destroyed shrines under Nusra rule- Syria direct

The Jabal al-Summaq region in the Idlib province’s northern countryside is home to nearly 18,000 Druze spread out amongst 18 villages, all of whom have been living under the control of Jabhat a-Nusra (JAN) for nearly two years.
An offshoot of the Ismai’li sect of Shiite Islam, hardline Sunni groups such as JAN consider the Druze faith a form of heresy. Nusra gave the Druze in Idlib a choice: Convert or fight. They converted. Publicly, at least.
“They claimed they were fighting infidels, and that we had to decide our own fate and our identity, to either be with the Muslims, or the infidels,” Abdul Majid Sherif, a resident and retired math teacher who currently works as the head of the Media Office of the Free Democrats Party of Idlib, tells Syria Direct’s Moatassim Jamal.
“They forced us to accept their interpretation of Sunni Islam, or else we’d be punished,” Sherif says. “We reject their laws in principle, but follow them in public.”
This past February 1, JAN released a statement spelling out a series of obligations agreed to by Druze and JAN leaders in Jabal al-Summaq: The Druze would destroy their holy shrines, convert to Sunni Islam, force women to wear clothing Nusra believes to be in line with Sharia law, among others.
The Druze agreed to Nusra’s conditions to ensure their own survival, Sherif says. “Jabhat a-Nusra is strong, so our leaders preferred that we remain under their protection. The FSA is weak, and with them we might end up being left on our own.”
Q: How does Jabhat a-Nusra treat the Druze in Jabal a-Summaq?
They treat us fairly for now. However don’t misinterpret what I’m saying as some form of propaganda; they only do so because we’ve agreed, at least on the surface, to comply with all their rules and regulations. We follow their orders so that they treat us well.
After JN kicked the Islamic State (IS) out of Idlib, they told us that they wouldn’t protect us unless we converted to Sunni Islam, prayed and issued an official statement saying that we’ve left the Druze faith. As of now they have yet to attack us. As long as we appear to be following their rules, they consider us ‘brothers’ in Islam.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Marie Harf: Bakan John Kerry’nin sözleri yanlış anlaşıldı, ABD Esad ile doğrudan müzakere yapmayacak- T24

ABD Dışişleri Bakanı John Kerry’nin Suriye Devlet Başkanı Beşşar Esad’la ilgili olarak “Er geç müzakere etmek zorunda kalacağız” sözleriyle ilgili konuşan ABD Dışişleri Bakanlığı Sözcü Yardımcısı Marie Harf, ülkesinin Suriye politikasında değişiklik bulunmadığını ve Suriye Devlet Başkanı Beşar Esad ile doğrudan müzakere etmelerinin söz konusu olmadığını kaydetti.
Harf, Dışişleri Bakanı Kerry'nin açıklamalarıyla ilgili şunları kaydetti:
"ABD'nin Suriye politikasında bir değişiklik yok. Bakan Kerry, rejim ile masada müzakere edilmiş bir sürece ihtiyacımız olduğuna dair uzun süredir var olan politikamızı tekrar etti. Kerry, doğrudan Esad ile müzakere edeceğimizi söylemedi"

Kerry: Esad ile görüşmek zorundayız- Sputnik News

Amerikan CBS televizyonuna konuşan ABD Dışişleri Bakanı John Kerry, Suriye Devlet Başkanı Beşşar Esad ile müzakereye istekli olduklarını, "Sonunda müzakere etmek zorundayız. Her zaman Cenevre I süreci çerçevesinde müzakere etmekten yana olduk" sözleriyle ifade etti.

Müzakere masasına oturtmak için Esad'a baskının artırılması gerektiğini savunan Kerry, konuşmasında Washington'un savaşı bitirecek siyasi bir çözüm çabalarını canlandırmaya çalıştığını söyledi.
Esad yönetimi ile Suriye muhalefetinin bir kısmı, ilk kez geçen yıl ocak ayında İsviçre'nin Cenevre kentinde düzenlenen konferansta bir araya gelmişti. İki tur yapılan görüşmelerden sonuç alınamamıştı.

ABD: Suriye savaşını bitirmek için Esad'la konuşmak zorundayız- BBC Türkçe

ABD Dışişleri Bakanı John Kerry, ülkesinin Suriye krizini bitirmek için "eninde sonunda" Devlet Başkanı Beşar Esad'la müzakere etmek zorunda olduğunu söyledi.
CBS televizyonunda yayınlanan bir röportajda konuşan Kerry, "Eninde sonunda müzakere etmek zorundayız. Cenevre çerçevesinde müzakere etmeye her zaman hazırdık diye düşünüyorum" dedi.
Kerry, savaşı bitirmek için daha önce yürütülen görüşmelerin Esad müzakere etmeye istekli olmadığı için başarısızlığa uğradığını söyledi.

Syria conflict: US wants to 're-ignite' peace talks, says Kerry- BBC News

US Secretary of State John Kerry says he wants to "re-ignite" negotiations with President Bashar al-Assad to end the conflict in Syria.
Speaking as the war enters its fifth year, Mr Kerry said it was "one of the worst tragedies any of us have seen".
He said the international community was upping pressure on Syria's regime to hold new peace talks, saying "we have to negotiate in the end" with Mr Assad.

IŞİD'e katılmak isteyen üç İngiliz genç İstanbul'da yakalandı- BBC Türkçe

İngiltere vatandaşı üç genç erkek, Irak Şam İslam Devleti (IŞİD) örgütünde katılmak için Suriye'ye geçme planı yaparken, İstanbul'da yakalandı.
Gençlerin İspanya'nın Barselona kenti üzerinden İstanbul'a uçtukları ve Sabiha Gökçen Havalimanında Cuma günü yakalandıkları söyleniyor.
BBC'ye bilgi veren Türkiye'den bir yetkili ise 17 yaşındaki iki kişi hakkında İngiltere polisinin Türkiye makamlarını harekete geçirdiğini, gençlerin beraberinde olan 19 yaşındaki kişinin ise Türkiye polisinin takibi sonucunda yakalandığını söyledi.
Aynı yetkili olayı "Bu, Batılı istihbarat kurumları ile Türkiye arasındaki güvenlik işbirliğinin nasıl olması gerektiğinin iyi ve net bir örneği" olarak tanımladı.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Killing of Muhammad al-Assad, a.k.a. “Shaykh al-Jabal” - Syria Comment

Muhammad Tawfiq al-Assad, a.k.a Shaykh al-Jabal, a well known second cousin of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was killed two days ago. He was the son of Tawfic al-Assad. His grandfather, Ismail al-Assad, was a half-brother of the late president Hafez al-Assad.
Muhammad al-Assad, a.k.a Shaykh al-Jabal, was the best known and most feared member of the second generation of shabiha that emerged from the al-Assad family in rural Latakia in the early 1980s. In his death announcement (Na’wa نعوة), he is listed as both a Doctor and Mujahid. He was 48 years old.
His being given the honorific title “Mujahid” made people ask where and when Muhammad al-Assad, a.k.a Shaykh al-Jabal, was fighting. His supporters claimed that he was killed in the vicious battle underway in Doreen دورين, east of Latakia.

'ABD Suriye rejiminin yıkılmasını istemiyor- Al-Jazeera Turk

CIA Başkanı John Brennan, Washington yönetiminin Suriye'de IŞİD gibi örgütlerin hakim olması tehlikesi nedeniyle rejimin yıkılmasını istemediğini söyledi.
Brennan, New York Dış İlişkiler Konseyi'nde yaptığı konuşmada, ABD yönetiminin rejimin çökmesi halinde yerini kimin alacağına dair endişeleri olduğunu belirterek "Bence bu meşru bir endişe" dedi.
Suriye'nin bazı bölgelerinde IŞİD ve El Kaide gibi 'radikal unsurların egemen olduğuna' dikkat çeken Brennan, "Yapmayı istediğimiz son şey onların Şam'a yürümelerine izin vermektir. Hiçbirimiz, Rusya, ABD, koalisyon, bölge ülkeleri Şam'daki siyasi kurumların ve hükümetin çöküşünü istemiyor" ifadelerini kullandı.
Brennan, "Bundan dolayı da Suriye muhalefetinin içinde bulunan radikal olmayan unsurların güçlendirilmesi büyük önem taşıyor" diye konuştu.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Lavrov Meets Bassil, Voices Opposition to Foreign Meddling in Lebanese Affairs- Naharnet

Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil held talks on Wednesday with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on the latest developments in Lebanon and the region.
The Russian official stressed during the talks his country's support for Lebanon and its “opposition to meddling in its internal affairs.”
Bassil, of the Free Patriotic Movement, and Lavrov met in Geneva on the margins of the 28th United Nations Human Rights Council meeting.
Lavrov also voiced Russia's constant support in backing “Lebanon's sovereignty, unity, and regional safety.”
The foreign ministers also expressed their concern over terrorist threats to Lebanon's stability “through ethnic and religious incitement.”
For his part, Bassil had declared during his speech before the Human Rights Council on Tuesday that “Lebanon is facing unprecedented political, security, economic, and humanitarian challenges, starting with the threat of terrorism.”
“This terrorism is the product of erroneous policies and conflicting interests in the region,” he remarked.

Lavrov assures Bassil of Russia's support for Lebanon- Daily Star

BEIRUT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has assured Lebanese counterpart Gebran Bassil of Moscow’s support for Lebanon’s stability, unity and territorial integrity amid a troubled Middle East swept by conflicts and jihadi violence, a Russian Foreign Ministry statement said.
The statement, which was distributed by Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry Wednesday, said Lavrov and Bassil discussed the plight of Iraqi and Syrian Christians facing an onslaught by ISIS militants, during their meeting on the sidelines of the Human Rights Council assembly in Geneva.
“Lavrov briefed his Lebanese counterpart on efforts deployed by the Russian authorities, the civil society and NGOs to assist the affected Christian communities as part of humanitarian support for countries of the region,” the statement said.
It said “Lavrov has reiterated Russia’s solid stance in support of Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence from foreign interference, as both expressed concern over terrorists’ unrelenting attempts to destabilize Lebanon through stirring sectarian discord.”

No solution to presidential crisis: Geagea- Daily Star

BEIRUT: The presidential election crisis continues with no solution in sight, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said in remarks published Wednesday.
“Personally, I don’t see any way out [of the crisis] now,” Geagea said in a chat with journalists Tuesday.
“Previously, Tehran was the one that proposed French presidential envoy Jean-Francois Girault’s intervention and after extensive contacts, he was told that Hezbollah has committed its support for Gen. Michel Aoun, and they can’t do anything,” Geagea said.
Nevertheless, Geagea emphasized his willingness to continue to support an anticipated dialogue with his Christian arch foe Aoun even if talks did not yield any fruit.
“I insist to carry on dialogue with Aoun no matter what,” he said.

In northern Syria, is the US running out of rebel allies?- CS Monitor

Gains by Jabhat al-Nusra, an Al Qaeda affiliate, have forced two major US-backed rebel groups to disband at a time when Washington needs solid partners to counter the influence of jihadists in Syria.
Al Nusra, the main jihadist rival to the self-declared Islamic State, delivered a deathblow over the weekend to Harakat Hazzm, seizing the moderate rebels' headquarters in Aleppo Province. It also took its remaining weapons, including dozens of US-supplied TOW anti-tank missiles, according to images the group disseminated.

Syria death reported of ex-British marine fighting alongside Kurds- BBC News

A former Royal Marine has become the first Briton to be killed while fighting alongside Kurdish forces against Islamic State in Syria, a Kurdish militia has told the BBC.
The Kurdish Popular Protection Units (YPG) named him as Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, from Barnsley.
A British pro-Kurdish activist said he had informed Mr Scurfield's family of the death, at the request of the YPG.
The Foreign Office said it was "aware of reports" of a Briton dying in Syria.
The YPG said the "British volunteer martyr" died in an area west of the city of Qamishli on Monday.

Turkish opposition parties support Assad over Erdogan’s Syria policy- Middle East Eye

Members of the ultranationalist Homeland Party (Vatan Partisi), a Turkish political faction that does not have any representatives in parliament, met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on 28 February.
According to SANA, the Syrian official news agency, Assad met with VP’s leader Dogu Perincek and an accompanying delegation of Turkish members of various parties at the presidential palace in Damascus.
Vatan Partisi had its roots in the Workers Party (IP), before changing its name recently. Perincek, an outspoken critic of President Recep Tayyep Erdogan’s Justice and Development (AKP) party’s policy on Syria, was accompanied by former deputy prime minister Abdullatif Sener, who was a founder and former member of the AKP.
Birgul Ayman Guler, who had recently resigned from the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), was also present on the delegation.
The delegation also met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem on 1 March.
Perincek was mired in controversy in 2007 when, during a series of talks in Switzerland, he was charged by a Swiss court for calling the Armenian genocide an international lie. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in favour of Perincek, but the Swiss court has filed for an appeal case in late January.
Perincek views the civil war in Syria as a struggle between Assad and imperialist forces. The meeting in Damascus lasted for two hours, with Perincek and the Syrian president both agreeing on the importance of dialogue and of cooperating closely with each other, in order to ensure the territorial integrity of both countries.

Rifaat Eid Stresses: No Intention to Escalate Situation in Lebanon- Naharnet

A leading member of the Arab Democratic Party, Rifaat Eid, stressed on Wednesday that the party has no intention to escalate the situation in Lebanon, pointing out that political settlements are always held “on our blood.”
“There is no political interest for any Lebanese side to escalate the security situation,” Eid said in comments published in the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.
He criticized “allies” that asked them to flee the northern city of Tripoli, saying: “Political settlements are always struck on our blood because we are the weakest, but I don't want to embarrass anyone.”
“We received phone calls from several sides to express condolences, urging us not to escalate on the pretext of safeguarding the country,” Eid revealed.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Agreement Between Walid Jumblatt and Al-Nusra Front- Al-Akhbar

Mediated by a member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the talks between al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front (ANF) and Lebanese MP Walid Jumblatt were successful, culminating in an agreement regarding the Druze community in the Syrian city of Idlib. The agreement reportedly requires the local Druze to convert to Sunni Islam and demolish their shrines, in return for ANF suspending Sharia-sanctioned punishments against them.
Walid Jumblatt’s declaration that ANF is not a terrorist group has not helped protect the Druze community in Syria and Lebanon, just as the support voiced by some Syrians for Daesh’s “other face” has not helped protect them from the ANF’s brutality, murder, and displacement. Indeed, Sunni Muslims have been targeted and tormented by the radical jihadi groups as much as — if not more than — other religious communities and tribes in Syria and Iraq.
Though Jumblatt has so far succeeded in averting the execution of the kidnapped Lebanese soldiers (the Druze soldiers) by exonerating ANF — which is proving adept at exploiting internal Lebanese political dynamics — the efforts of the head of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) have failed to dissuade the group from trying to forcibly convert the Druze in Jabal al-Summaq, northern Syria, to the Wahhabi brand of Islam.
Jumblatt previously called on the Druze to “return to Islam.” He has spared no occasion to proclaim that ANF is part of the fabric of the Syrian society, while PSP minister Wael Abu Faour said two weeks ago in a television that the al-Qaeda affiliate “includes doctors and engineers” in its ranks. Similarly, Walid Jumblatt has jumped at every opportunity over the past two weeks to try to dissuade Druze religious leaders in Lebanon from speaking out about the plight of their coreligionists.

Assyrian refugees begin streaming into Lebanon- Daily Star

BEIRUT: More than a dozen Assyrian Christians fleeing an onslaught by ISIS in northeastern Syria have entered Lebanon since Monday night, a General Security official told The Daily Star.
Gen. Nabil Hannoun Tuesday also refuted allegations that the fleeing families had been blocked or prevented from crossing into Lebanon. “There is the regular routine administrative procedures which they have to follow in order to enter Lebanon, but no blocking,” Hannoun said.
He said no Assyrian was stranded on the border Tuesday and that many have been allowed into the country Monday night.
Hannoun did not give a figure for how many Assyrians have crossed into Lebanon, but the state-run National News Agency said Tuesday that 17 entered last night.

President al-Assad to Turkish delegation: People should pressure governments to stop supporting terrorism- SANA

Damascus, SANA – President Bashar al-Assad said combating terrorism needs, in parallel to battling with the Terrorists, having people pressure their governments to halt their support to those.
The President was addressing a Turkish delegation that included political, economic and party figures representing various Turkish parties and establishments during a meetign on Tuesday.
A real cooperation among countries is needed to fight the scourge of terrorism, along with work to battle against the takfiri mentality that feeds this scourge, President al-Assad added.
He viewed the Turkish delegation’s visit as an indicator that “real relations between countries are built by the people and not the governments.”
Governments, he said, may follow inward-looking and subversive policies that are not in the people’s interest.
This is what the Turkish government under Recep Tayyip Erdogan is doing, providing support to extremist and takfiri forces “to win the favor of his masters” through implementing their plots, President al-Assad said.
For their part, members of the Turkish delegation, headed by Dogu Perincek, leader of the Turkish Nationalist Land Party, said what Syria is achieving in terms of combating terrorism is the primary factor in warding off the dangers of the fragmentation projects targeting the region.
Syria, they added, has provided lessons in steadfastness to the whole region and the world through its army’s sacrifices and its people’s resilience and adherence to their land and unity.

US still considering no-fly zone for Syria- Al-Monitor

WASHINGTON — The retired Marine general in charge of mobilizing an international coalition against the group that calls itself the Islamic State (IS) says that the United States has not ruled out a no-fly zone or protected corridor in Syria to safeguard the thousands of fighters it intends to train to help defeat the militant group. 

ISIS loses more than 20 villages in Syria- Daily Star

BEIRUT: Syrian regime forces and Kurdish militia fought separate battles with ISIS militants in a strategic area near the Iraqi and Turkish borders, a monitoring group said.
Forces loyal to President Bashar Assad and fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) launched uncoordinated offensives against ISIS in the northeastern province of Hassakeh, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Observatory head Rami Abdel-Rahman told AFP that after three days of clashes, regime forces bolstered by fighters from Arab tribes had secured control over 23 villages in the center of the province from ISIS. Syria’s official news agency SANA put the number at 31.
State television said the army offensive would continue until it controlled the main road linking the provincial capital Hassakeh and the city of Qamishli.
“ISIS has launched counterattacks on regime checkpoints, while the regime fortifies its positions with support from local Arab tribes,” Abdel Rahman added.

Syrian army and Kurdish forces fight ISIL on two fronts- Al-Jazeera

Syrian government forces and Kurdish forces have fought separate battles with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group in a strategic area near the Iraqi and Turkish borders, according to a monitoring group.

Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and fighters from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) launched uncoordinated offensives against ISIL in the northeastern province of al-Hasakah, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Monday.

Rami Abdel Rahman, the Syrian Observatory head, told AFP news agency that after three days of clashes, regime forces bolstered by fighters from Arab tribes had secured control over 23 villages in the centre of the province from ISIL.
Syria's official news agency SANA put the number at 31.

Agreement Between Walid Jumblatt and Al-Nusra Front- Al-Akhbar

Mediated by a member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the talks between al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front (ANF) and Lebanese MP Walid Jumblatt were successful, culminating in an agreement regarding the Druze community in the Syrian city of Idlib. The agreement reportedly requires the local Druze to convert to Sunni Islam and demolish their shrines, in return for ANF suspending Sharia-sanctioned punishments against them.
Walid Jumblatt’s declaration that ANF is not a terrorist group has not helped protect the Druze community in Syria and Lebanon, just as the support voiced by some Syrians for Daesh’s “other face” has not helped protect them from the ANF’s brutality, murder, and displacement. Indeed, Sunni Muslims have been targeted and tormented by the radical jihadi groups as much as — if not more than — other religious communities and tribes in Syria and Iraq.
Though Jumblatt has so far succeeded in averting the execution of the kidnapped Lebanese soldiers (the Druze soldiers) by exonerating ANF — which is proving adept at exploiting internal Lebanese political dynamics — the efforts of the head of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) have failed to dissuade the group from trying to forcibly convert the Druze in Jabal al-Summaq, northern Syria, to the Wahhabi brand of Islam.
Jumblatt previously called on the Druze to “return to Islam.” He has spared no occasion to proclaim that ANF is part of the fabric of the Syrian society, while PSP minister Wael Abu Faour said two weeks ago in a television that the al-Qaeda affiliate “includes doctors and engineers” in its ranks. Similarly, Walid Jumblatt has jumped at every opportunity over the past two weeks to try to dissuade Druze religious leaders in Lebanon from speaking out about the plight of their coreligionists.
A month and a half ago, Abu Abdul-Rahman al-Tunisi, ANF’s emir to Jabal al-Summaq, gave 14 Druze villages until February 1 to demolish their shrines and renounce their faith, or face the consequences. The residents of the villages complied, and forged an agreement with ANF representatives to that effect. The people of these 14 villages proceeded to demolish their shrines, and agreed to let ANF imams lead them in prayers in their temples, which were converted to mosques. But ANF was not satisfied. A number of its fighters ransacked the Druze shrines, while al-Tunisi vowed to enforce full-blown Sharia provisions in their villages.
Only Sheikh Ali Zine al-Din, the head of the Druze Irfan Foundation in Lebanon, denounced what happened publicly. This outrage among the ranks of Druze clerics put pressure on Jumblatt. This, in addition to the issue of the kidnapped Druze soldiers, whose families threatened to escalate their protests and to react fiercely if something happens to their relatives, compelled the head of the PSP to act.