"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


Monday, December 17, 2018

Sudan lideri Beşir, yıllar sonra Esad'ı ziyaret eden ilk Arap lider oldu- Sputnik News

Sudan Cumhurbaşkanı Ömer el-Beşir'in Şam'a düzenlediği kısa bir ziyarette Suriye Devlet Başkanı Beşar Esad ile görüştüğü bildirildi. Beşir'in görüşmede Esad'a "Suriye'nin Arap dünyasındaki yerini alana ve eski gücünü kazanana dek Sudan elinden gelen tüm gayreti gösterecektir" dediği aktarıldı.
Sudan Cumhurbaşkanlığı kaynaklarından edinilen bilgiye göre Beşir, Şam ziyaretinde Esad ile bir araya geldi.
Sudan Cumhurbaşkanlığından basına yapılan davette Beşir'in kısa bir yurt dışı ziyaretinden ülkeye dönüşünün ardından önemli açıklamaların yapılacağı belirtildi.

Monday, November 19, 2018

25 fighters killed in clashes between pro-Turkey fighters in Afrin- Daily Star

BEIRUT: Clashes between Turkish-backed rebel factions vying for control in Syria’s Afrin have left 25 fighters dead since Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said.
At least 10 people were also wounded Monday in an explosion targeting military police officers from the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army, it said.
Clashes erupted Saturday between the majority of the pro-Ankara rebels – including the FSA – against Shuhada’a al-Sharqiyyah, a group of around 200 fighters accused of "disobeying" Turkish forces and "committing abuses," according to the activist group.
Fourteen of the 25 killed since were said to be Shuhada’a al-Sharqiyyah fighters.
"The clashes have provoked terror among civilians," head of the observatory Rami Abdul Rahman said.
Turkish tanks with heavy weaponry had entered the area and fired upon the headquarters of the group, the observatory said. The troops had been stationed in Afrin since a curfew was imposed on civilians Saturday evening in an attempt to avoid bloodshed.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Deadlock in Lebanon over representation of Sunnis in government- Sami Moubayed

Nasrallah insists on two Sunni blocs in parliament, while saying that he and Speaker Nabih Berri will relinquish none of their Shia seats.

BEIRUT - “I am the father of Sunnis,” boomed Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri on November 14, replying to claims by Hezbollah that he no longer solely represents Lebanese Sunnis.
Hariri insists on giving no cabinet seat to members of the Hezbollah-backed “Sunni opposition,” who claim to have a parliamentary bloc of ten members of parliament.
By norm, this entitles them to one or two seats in government. Hariri insists on giving them none, however, saying that they have six, not ten, seats in the chamber of deputies, leaving Sunni representation exclusively in the hands of his Future Movement.
“I refuse to accept (accusations) that Saad Hariri is triggering sectarian tension,” he said, referring to himself in third person, adding: “Our (Future) Movement is cross-sectarian.”
His father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, assassinated in 2005, was universally regarded as a
heavyweight Sunni politician throughout the Arab world.
By appointing himself “father” of the community, Saad Hariri is making claims to his father’s inheritance in leadership of “Sunni Lebanon.” His opponents say he cannot monopolise the community and needs to accept power sharing with Sunnis who are not members of his political orbit. His backers see Hezbollah as trying to have its own Sunni political faction.
Hariri’s news conference came after a televised appearance by Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, who bluntly said the Hariri cabinet will never see the light unless the “Sunni opposition” is adequately represented.

Aoun, Hariri May End Maronite-Sunni Seat Swap as Solution to Crisis- Naharnet

The political parties are mulling a swap of Maronite and Sunnis seats between President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri as an exit from the government formation deadlock, media reports said.
Under the proposal, Aoun would give up the Sunni seat in his share in return for Hariri's giving up of the Maronite seat that is part of his share, informed sources told Kuwait al-Anbaa newspaper in remarks published Sunday.
“This would raise Aoun's Maronite seats to two instead of one and Hariri would recover the Sunni seat that he had given to Aoun, raising the number of his Sunni seats to five out of six. This would give the sixth Sunni seat to Hizbullah, which would save everyone from embarrassment,” the sources said.
“In this case, Hizbullah would guarantee the appointment of Faisal Karami, whose nomination has been rejected by Aoun, while Hariri would lose the seat of Ghattas Khoury, his favorite adviser,” the sources added.
The government was on the verge of formation on October 29 after the Lebanese Forces accepted the portfolios that were assigned to it but a last-minute hurdle over the representation of pro-Hizbullah Sunni MPs surfaced.

Al-Sayyed: We appreciate Russia’s support to Syria in its war against terrorism- SANA

Damascus, SANA- Minister of Islamic Endowments (Awqaf) Mohammad Abdul-Sattar al-Sayyed expressed Syria’s appreciation of the role played by Russian leadership, government and people to support Syria in its war against terrorism.
Minister’s al-Sayyed remarks came during a meeting with Chairman of Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations (DECR) Bishop Hilarion and the religious delegation accompanying him on Saturday evening.
Minister al-Sayyed added that, over the years of crisis, Syria has faced a Takfiri campaign which tried to undermine the unity of its people and to sow separation among them.
He affirmed that the religious institutions in Syria have confronted strange notions on society and its values and principles, and the Syrians have been able to defeat terrorism thanks to their steadfastness and sacrifices.
For his part, Bishop Hilarion expressed happiness over the return of normal life and stability to most of the Syrian territories.
He affirmed confidence that peace and stability will return to Syria thanks to the coexistence among the Syrians who have faced a foreign aggression backed by the US and Western states,  and who have foiled all the Western schemes.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Jihadist rebels kill 18 Syrian soldiers in northern Latakia- Al-Masdar News

Militants attacked on Saturday Syrian troops in the province of Latakia leaving 18 servicemen dead and one more injured, the Russian Center for Syrian reconciliation said.

According to the centre’s head Lt. Gen. Vladimir Savchenko, illegal armed formations continue to violate the ceasefire in the Idlib de-escalation zone. He also noted that militants continued to shell the outskirts of Aleppo and Hama.

“As a result of the shelling of Tall-Alush [settlement] in the Aleppo province, one Syrian serviceman was wounded. As a result of the shelling of Safsara [settlement] in the Latakia province, one Syrian serviceman was wounded and 18 more were killed,” Savchenko said.

Army establishes control over large areas in Tuloul al-Safaa, Sweida- SANA

Sweida, SANA- Army units operating in the southern region made a significant advance against Daesh (ISIS) terrorists’ depots in Tuloul al-Safaa in the depth of Sweida eastern Badiya (desert).
SANA reporter said that the army units on Saturday imposed fire control on what remained of the areas where terrorists are positioned, after seizing control over the top hills.
Big numbers of terrorists were killed during the military operations, the reporter indicated, adding that the army units are continuing to clear the liberated areas from what has been left behind by Daesh terrorists.
Daesh military commander in Tuloul al-Safaa area , Abu Hajar al-Shishani was killed east of Qaber al-Sheikh Hussein near Tuloul al-Safaa in the depth of Badiya.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Bassil Meets al-Rahi, Urges All Parties to 'Cooperate to Find Solutions'- Naharnet

Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Jebran Bassil held talks Thursday in Bkirki with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi after which he urged all parties to “cooperate to find solutions” to the cabinet formation deadlock.
“Any clash, regardless of its nature, harms all Lebanese,” Bassil said, explaining why he has launched a mediation effort aimed at resolving the so-called Sunni obstacle that is delaying the formation of the new government.
“Over the past days, we all coordinated with the government dispute parties and we pacified the atmosphere and now we must enter another phase which is turning general ideas into practical ones,” Bassil added.
“We call on all parties to cooperate to find solutions based on fair representation and on general principles that lead to a quick formation of this government,” the FPM chief went on to say.
He also emphasized that the parties cannot enter the new government according to a “victors and losers approach.”
Asked whether the new cabinet line-up will be announced soon, Bassil said: “Pray with us.”

Taymour Jumblat Urges 'Communication', Meets Tony Franjieh- Naharnet

The head of the Democratic Gathering MP Taymour Jumblat tweeted Thursday that “it is necessary to realize the importance of keeping the channels of communication open.”
“We must maintain our belief that dialogue is always a positive step towards overcoming all crises in order to strengthen stability and protect the country,” he added.
Also on Thursday, Jumblat met with a Marada Movement delegation led by MP Tony Franjieh.
Discussions tackled the current political developments according to the National News Agency.

No Imminent Solution as Cabinet Formation Drags Out- Naharnet

The gridlock of forming Lebanon’s government may “prolong further” shall political parties adamantly adhere to their positions, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Friday.
A senior source who spoke on condition of anonymity, said in remarks to the daily that “solutions must be found, the country can not wait any longer. If (political) positions keep on escalating, I fear that the formation will be delayed further. We cannot estimate the magnitude of repercussions as a result.”
Meanwhile, a prominent ministerial source said: “Despite the efforts being made by caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, the adamant positions of parties indicate that the gap is still large between them.”
Bassil has met with several officials lately in a bid to convince the rival parties to accept a settlement based on naming a “consensus” Sunni minister.
The government was on the verge of formation on October 29 after the Lebanese Forces accepted the portfolios that were assigned to it but a last-minute hurdle over the representation of pro-Hizbullah Sunni MPs surfaced.

Hariri: Saudi Ruling in Khashoggi Case in Right Direction- Naharnet

Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri hailed the Saudi Arabian decision regarding the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“The Saudi judiciary’s decision to hold the accused in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi is a decision in the right direction in order to establish the principles of justice, and to block the attempts at politicization and the campaigns against the Kingdom,” said Hariri via Twitter.
Saudi Arabia on Thursday called for the death penalty against five people accused of murdering the journalist inside the kingdom's Istanbul consulate, but absolved Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of any blame.

Geagea: Unacceptable to Exploit Khashoggi Murder to Besiege KSA- Naharnet

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea on Friday condemned the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi but said the murder should not be exploited to “besiege” Saudi Arabia.
“The killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in that fashion was a brutal act that is unacceptable at all levels. But taking advantage of this murder for goals and objectives unrelated to the crime in a bid to besiege the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is condemned and rejected,” Geagea said in a statement.
“It is deplorable when a crime with the magnitude of journalist Khashoggi’s murder is exploited to undermine the role that KSA has been playing, especially over the past few years,” the LF leader added.
“Had it not been for KSA’s support for a lot of Arab countries and many rightful Arab causes, perhaps the entire face of the Middle East region would have changed,” Geagea went on to say.
He also called “those keen on fighting crime in the world” to “help the judiciary in everything it is doing to unveil all circumstances of this ugly crime” instead of “using it as an excuse to reach goals and objectives that have nothing to do with Jamal Khashoggi, the crime, public freedoms or any other matter.”

2 death sentences issued for Kataeb members' murder- Daily Star

BEIRUT: Judge Jean Fahed handed down two death sentences to fugitives Joseph and Tohme Zouqi for the murder of Kataeb Party members Nasri Marouni and Salim Assi, a judicial source told The Daily Star.
Following the verdict, Elie Marouni said, “After 10 tireless years we were able to get a trial, albeit in absentia,” news website Lebanon Debate reported Friday.
“The criminals have been able to ... live normal lives at a time when two martyrs have fallen,” he added.
The judge ruled that the convicted persons must pay LL100 million (about $66,000) each to the families of Marouni and Assi, and LL150 million to Rashid Assi, LL75 million to Elias Issa and LL50 million Roger Ghra, all of whom were injured in the incident.
Judge Fahed also stripped the fugitives of their civil rights and issued warrants for their arrest.
The Special Judicial Council, headed by Fahed, Friday also handed down the verdicts for two other people implicated in the case, Walid Edward Zouqi and Nicholas Homsi. Zouqi was sentenced to six months of imprisonment, but Homsi was acquitted because of a lack of sufficient evidence of his involvement in the murders.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

More displaced Syrians head back to Syria coming from Lebanon- SANA

Homs, Damascus Countryside, SANA- New batches of displaced Syrians, who are coming from Lebanon, arrived in the Syrian territories on Thursday morning via the crossings of al-Dabbousyia, al-Zamrani and Jdeidet Yabous.
The return of the displaced came due to the joint efforts exerted by the Syrian Government in cooperation with the Lebanese side for the return of all the displaced to the homeland.
SANA’s delegate to al-Zamrani crossing in Damascus Countryside said that a number of buses and small freight cars entered the crossing with hundreds of displaced Syrians onboard who are coming from the Lebanese territories.
The reporter indicated that the bodies concerned which are supervising the process of transporting the displaced had prepared a medical center to give vaccines for children and to provide food for the returnees.

Berri Congratulates Rahi, Franjieh, Geagea on Reconciliation- Naharnet

Speaker Nabih Berri congratulated Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi for sponsoring a reconciliation between Marada Movement chief Suleiman Franjieh, and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea that ended 40-years of enmity, the National News Agency reported on Thursday.
Berri congratulated Rahi over the phone, and made similar congratulatory calls with Franjieh and Geagea, NNA said.
Geagea and Franjieh held a reconciliation meeting Wednesday in Bkirki, turning the page on a 40-year-long rift between their two parties.
The meeting was sponsored by al-Rahi and held in the presence of a large number of officials from the two parties.
Describing the meeting as “great,” al-Rahi said “all those who cherish rapprochement, dialogue and peace for the sake of the country are pleased by this meeting today.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Lübnan Enerji Bakanı: Hükümet elektrik açığını sülfatla kapatacak- Şark'ul Avsat

Lübnan Enerji ve Su Kaynakları Bakanı Sezar Ebi Halil dün yaptığı açıklamada hükümetin önceki gün meclisten geçen yasa tasarısıyla birlikte elektrik sektöründeki açığı kapatmak için sülfata yöneldiğini belirtti. Lübnan Meclisi pazartesi günü elektrik krizini çözecek olan ancak bütçe açığını artıracak bir hamleyle 400 milyon dolarlık ek bütçeyi onayladı.

Devletle özel sektör arasındaki ortaklıkla ilgili meclis tarafından onaylanan ve yasa tasarısına değinen Ebi Halil, bakanlıkta düzenlenen basın toplantısında yaptığı açıklamada özel sektörle yapılan elektrik anlaşmasının 24 + 24 ay olarak aynı kalitede kalacağını Zahle’deki yönetim ve personelin çalışmalarına devam edeceğini bununla birlikte maliyetin değişeceğini kaydetti.

Bakan Ebi Halil açıklamasının devamında “Dün yaptığım açıklamada Bakanlığın Bihamdun imtiyazını sağladığını ve Zahle imtiyazını sağlamak için iki yıldır çalıştığımızı açıklamıştım” ifadelerini kullandı. Devletin imtiyaz süresinin sona ermesi nedeniyle 2016 yılından bu yana Zahle Elektrik Şirketi’nden imtiyaz almak için çalıştığına işaret eden Bakan, hükümetin Lübnan Elektrik Şirketi’ndeki açığı kapatmak için Enerji Bakanlığı’na sülfat ödemesi yaptığını belirtti.

Bassil Meets Mufti Deryan over Sunni MPs Hurdle- Naharnet

Caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil said on Wednesday that tampering with the Prime Minister was tampering with the tenure of President Michel Aoun, stressing the need for a “strong government and strong PM.”
"We want a strong government and a strong Prime Minister, and what tampers with the PM also tampers with the tenure," Bassil said in remarks made following his meeting with Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdullatif Deryan in Dar-al-Fatwa.
"The issue is not related to the PM's powers; rather, there is a problem regarding representation," he added.
"The Mufti has a role to play in that respect. We are in a national crisis and need to hear the guidance of the Mufti," he stressed.
"It is time to talk behind closed doors to reach a solution," he proposed.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Bassil Presents Solution Initiative to Berri and Hariri- Naharnet

Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Jebran Bassil has proposed an initiative to overcome the so-called Sunni hurdle that is delaying the formation of the new government, media reports said.
Bassil presented the initiative in his talks with Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri on Monday, al-Joumhouria daily said.
“It involves an exit that calls for naming the sixth Sunni minister from those labeled as centrist Sunnis instead of him being from the (pro-Hizbullah) six Sunni MPs or provocative to the PM-designate,” the newspaper added.
“It is likely that the sixth Sunni minister will be the one whom Hariri has exchanged with the President for a Christian minister, in order to keep Hariri’s share intact,” al-Joumhouria said.
Hariri is scheduled to hold a press conference on the latest developments at 3:00 pm Tuesday.
The government was on the verge of formation on October 29 after the Lebanese Forces accepted the portfolios that were assigned to it but a last-minute hurdle over the representation of the aforementioned Sunni MPs surfaced.

At least 6 wounded in massive blast in Syria's Homs- Daily Star

BEIRUT: At least six people were wounded in a massive explosion in the government-controlled city of Homs, state news agency SANA and activists reported Tuesday.
"Six civilians were injured by a bomb explosion inside a bus in ... the al-Zahra neighborhood," SANA quoted the head of the Homs police force as saying.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that as many as 10 civilians may have been wounded in the blast.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Protesters demand 24/7 electricity in Zahle- Daily Star

BEIRUT: Residents in Zahle protested Monday in front of Electricite de Zahle to demand that the government renew its contract with the local company providing the city with 24/7 electricity.
The protesters, including students joined by school administrators, carried the Lebanese national flag along with banners and shouted their demands.
The demonstration took place as Parliament convened in a morning session to discuss a list of 39 agenda items, including a bill submitted by MPs George Okeis, Assem Araji and Cesar Maalouf to extend the electricity contract for two years.
The contract between EDZ and the Lebanese state is set to expire at the end of the year, and caretaker Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil has said it will not be renewed.
If the contract expires, residents will have to follow a system used by much of the rest of the country, whereby the state provides electricity for a certain number of hours a day, while residents pay separately for generators to cover the remaining hours.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Oil firms in Beirut ordered to stop fueling Iran airlines- Daily Star

BEIRUT: International oil companies operating at Beirut’s airport have been warned against fueling airlines that are affected by the recent U.S. sanctions against Iran, Lebanese officials told The Daily Star Friday.
Asked if Iranian airlines would be prohibited from stopping at the airport, caretaker Transport Minister Youssef Fenianos, said, “To stop? No. To refuel? By sanctions, yes.”
A senior airport official said international oil companies were notified after Washington reimposed sanctions on Iran Monday to force Tehran to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear agreement and to end what it called the sponsoring and financing of terrorist activity.
These measures mean that bodies dealing with the sanctioned Iranian entities would be penalized.

Syrian soldier killed in shelling attack by militants in Aleppo governorate- TASS

Militants operating in the Idlib de-escalation zone shelled the settlement of Qudehi in the Aleppo governorate and Aleppo’s western suburbs.

MOSCOW, November 9. /TASS/. One Syrian serviceman was killed in a shelling attack staged by militants operating in Syria’s Idlib de-escalation zone at positions of government troops in the Aleppo governorate, chief of the Russian Reconciliation center for conflicting sides Vladimir Savchenko said on Friday.

Army units thwart an infiltration attempt towards military posts in Hama countryside- SANA

Hama, SANA – Army units on Saturday thwarted an infiltration attempt by terrorists from Hasraya village towards military posts in the village of Tal al-Melh in the countryside of Meharda in Hama Province, killing many of the terrorists and injuring others.
SANA reporter pointed out that a military unit clashed with a terrorist group affiliated to the so-called “al-Ezza Battalions” that tried to infiltrate into military posts centered in the lines of Zallin and al-Zallaqiat in the northern countryside of Hama.
The reporter added that many of the terrorists were killed and others got injured while the rest were forced to flee away leaving their weapons behind.
The “al-Ezza Battalions” terrorists acknowledged on their social media websites the killing of 23 terrorists including the “military leader” Radi Rajjoub, in addition to injuring others in an ambush at the line of al-Zallaqiat in the northern countryside of Hama.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Arslan: Syrian Arab Army is Syria’s guarantee of victory over terrorism- SANA

Beirut, SANA- Head of the Lebanese Democratic Party Talal Arslan said that the valiant operation made by the Syrian Arab Army to liberate the civilians abducted from Sweida province proves that the army is Syria’s guarantee of victory over terrorism.
On Thursday, the Syrian Arab army managed, in a valiant and accurate operation, to liberate the civilians abducted by ISIS terrorist organization from Sweida province weeks ago, following a fierce battle with an ISIS group in Humeima area northeast of Tadmur (Palmyra) .

Syria: Military freed 19 Daesh hostages- Daily Star

DAMASCUS: Syrian troops have liberated 19 women and children hostages held by Daesh since July in a military operation in the country’s center, ending a monthslong crisis that has stunned Syria’s Druze religious minority, state media reported Thursday. An opposition activist group said the release was part of an exchange.
SANA news agency said in its report that the operation occurred in the Hamimah area east of the historic town of Palmyra. It said all Daesh militants in the area where the hostages were held have been killed.
The Suwayda 24 activist collective quoted local officials as saying the women and children held by Daesh have all been freed.
“My happiness is huge,” Nashaat Abu Ammar, whose wife, two sons and daughter are among those freed, told the Associated Press by telephone.

US-held Area Of At-Tanf Once Again Appears To Be 'ISIS-Welcome' Zone In Syria- South Front

On November 8, the Syrian Special Forces rescued a group of hostages from ISIS during a military operation in the Hamimah area in the eastern part of Homs province.
At least 30 hostages were captured by ISIS in an attack on the government-held area in eastern al-Suwayda on July 25. A part of them, 6 people, was freed by ISIS in September in the framework of a local deal between the terrorist group and the Damascus government. However, after
The most strange thing in this development is where the hostages were rescued. As it was noted by multiple persons following the conflict, Hamimah (Humaymah) is located far away (over 250km) from the area, where the hostages were captured or where ISIS positions in eastern al-Suwayda are located [al-Safa].
The map above allows to see that Hamimah (Humaymah) and al-Safa are separated by the so-called “security zone” imposed by the US-led coalition near its military garrison in at-Tanf.

17 freed Druze hostages return to south Syria homes- FRANCE 24

Seventeen civilians from Syria's Druze minority who had been kidnapped in July by the Islamic State group returned home safely Friday, a local media outlet reported.
State media announced on Thursday that 19 hostages had been freed following a military operation against the jihadists in the southern province of Sweida.
But the head of local channel Sweida 24 said only 17 returned to their homes in the province early on Friday, indicating that three other hostages had died.
"Seventeen hostages returned," Nour Radwan told AFP.
Two children were killed as they tried to escape the truck where they were being held by IS, during clashes with the army, Sweida 24 reported a freed female hostage as saying.

Al-Tanf, Syria- International Crisis Group

Why it Matters

Located in Syria on the Iraqi border and within miles of the Jordanian border, the U.S. garrison at al-Tanf has, since 2016, served as a launching point for counter-ISIS operations and training for Syrian opposition factions fighting the jihadist group. Iranian and Iran-backed forces are deployed in close proximity to the al-Tanf desert outpost, which sits on the strategically significant Baghdad-Damascus highway. U.S. forces in al-Tanf established a 55-km de-confliction zone, beyond which lie an array of forces described as either “pro-regime” or “Iran-backed” that have set up checkpoints in the area. Several incidents in recent months underscore al-Tanf’s potential as a flashpoint between U.S. and Iranian and/or Iran-backed forces.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

The Plight of the Druze Hostages Held by ISIS & the War on the Islamic State - by Talal el-Atrache- Syria Comment

Throughout the Syrian war, the Southern Province of Sweida, in coordination with the Syrian army, had succeeded in protecting itself against the jihadist attacks on the province’s Western border with Deraa, and on the Eastern flank, adjacent to the Syrian Desert.

By the end of summer 2018, as the war seemed to reach an end in Southern Syria, the local paramilitary units were partially demobilized. The Syrian army units stationed in Sweida’s Desert were redeployed to the southwest of Deraa, where they joined the fight against an Isis enclave nestled at the foot of the Israeli controlled Golan Heights.
The demobilization was a fatal mistake. On July 25, at dawn, hundreds of Isis fighters emerged from the Eastern Desert. They carried out a coordinated attack marked by suicide bombings, shootings, and stabbings targeted mainly at the Eastern villages overlooking the Syrian Desert. The poorly armed local villagers, men and women, from 12 besieged villages fought bravely against the invaders, but six villages succumbed to the fundamentalist group as it carried out door-to-door massacres with the help of some local Bedouins.
The attack had two objectives. The first was to force the Syrian army to halt its offensive against the Isis enclave in Deraa. The second was for ISIS to provoking a massive exodus from the Druze Mountains.
Within less than two hours, hundreds of Druze fighters rushed to the targeted areas, killing more than 80 ISIS members. Dozens of Druze fighters from Mount Hermon and from the Damascene suburbs of Jaramana and Ashrafiet Sahnaya arrived that same day and joined the combat. The besieged areas, including the six ambushed villages, were liberated by the end of day, boosting the morale of the local population. More than 250 civilians and local Druze fighters lost their lives and another 250 people were injured, in what has become the bloodiest day for the province since the beginning of the war.

Taymour Jumblat Meets Bogdanov in Moscow- Naharnet

The head of the Democratic Gathering MP Taymour Jumblat held talks Wednesday in Moscow with Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov.
A statement issued by the Progressive Socialist Party said the meeting was attended by the Russian official in charge of the Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian files, Andrey Panov, MP Wael Abu Faour and Dr. Halim Bou Fakhreddine.
The terse statement said talks “tackled the latest developments.”
Jumblat had visited Moscow in August to discuss the situations of the Druze community in Syria's Jabal al-Arab region in the wake of a bloody Islamic State assault on the region.
The young MP said at the time that he discussed means to “protect” the Druze of Syria in his talks with the Russian officials.

Mashnouq: Hariri Won’t Withdraw, Sunni MPs Made the Wrong Approach- Naharnet

Caretaker Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq assured on Thursday that Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri will not withdraw from forming the country’s government, noting that Sunni MPs have made the wrong approach.
On Hariri’s presence in Paris amid rumors he is on a retreat in the French capital, Mashnouq brushed off the claims.
“It is a matter of days and Hariri will return back to Beirut to hold contacts with the various political parties in a bid to find a solution. Calm rhetoric is crucial in order to form the government, which will be formed according to the national standards,” said Mashnouq.
His remarks came after meeting Grand Mufti of the republic Abdullatif Daryan in Dar el-Fatwa.
On demands of the so-called independent Sunni MPs of March 8 to be represented in the government, Mashnouq said they “made the wrong approach.”
“They used the wrong door and approached it through a political party not suitable to name any of them,” he said, in an indirect reference to Hizbullah.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Future: Sunnis MPs’ demand aims to block Cabinet- Daily Star

BEIRUT: A demand by so-called independent Sunni MPs for representation in the new Cabinet is impossible to meet and is intended to obstruct the formation, the Future Movement’s parliamentary bloc said Tuesday, in a strong rebuff to Hezbollah’s support for this demand.
This comes as Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai sent a message to Hezbollah, urging the party to help in eliminating obstacles facing the Cabinet formation process, which has entered its sixth month of deadlock.
Rai’s appeal came a day after he implicitly blamed Hezbollah for the Cabinet formation deadlock, over its support for the representation of Sunni MPs not affiliated with the Future Movement.
A national unity government embracing all the main political parties appeared ready to be announced late last month after the last major hurdle over the Lebanese Forces’ representation had been resolved.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Lebanon expects gas exploration to start by end of 2019-cbank official- Reuters

ABU DHABI, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Lebanon is expected to start gas exploration by the end of 2019, which will take three to four years, through a consortium led by French oil giant Total , Saad Andary, second vice-governor of Lebanon’s central bank, said at a conference.

Finance Ministry: U.S. Sanctions on Iran Have No Direct Effect on Lebanon- Naharnet

The Ministry of Finance confirmed there was no direct effect on Lebanon as the result of sanctions imposed by the United States on Iran, “because the banking and financial system in Lebanon comply with the international rules,” al-Joumhouria daily reported in Tuesday.
Lebanon “has for a while taken all needed measures dismissing any urgent threat,” added the sources who spoke on condition on anonymity.
However, they raised “concerns of the absence of the executive authority shall things touch the red line,” they said, referring to the delay in the government formation.
“Lebanon needs to cover its expenses by the end of the year. Since expenditures are increasing and revenues are limited, Lebanon as usual will be needing loans. But, who will lend us in these circumstances and foggy political situation?” they asked.

Bahia Hariri Says PM-Designate 'Not on a Retreat' in Paris- Naharnet

Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri is “not on a retreat” in the French capital Paris, MP Bahia Hariri said on Monday.
“The PM-designate is not on a retreat and he is taking his time in the issue of (the cabinet) formation,” the lawmaker, who is also Hariri’s aunt, said.
“We’re full of hope that after President Michel Aoun’s remarks we will head towards a solution,” the MP added.
Hariri has been in Paris on a private visit since Thursday according to his office.
His departure after a last-minute hurdle delayed the formation of his long-awaited government has raised speculation that the PM-designate has left the country in protest at the current situation.

What Did Khamis and his Ministers do in Aleppo?- Syrian Observer

None of the projects promised by the Government in Aleppo are being implemented as Syria's second largest city remains largely controlled by militias, Al-Modon reports.

The Syrian cabinet held its weekly session on Sunday in the city of Aleppo headed by Prime Minister Imad Khamis and 30 ministers. The regime’s government made a large number of promises to the residents of Aleppo to develop the city’s commercial, residential and tourist center, and to fight crime and to provide services. The ministers carried out tours in the city and the Aleppo countryside. However, residents ridiculed the government promises and accused them of lying and trickery and of being unable to actually do anything in light of the total control of regime militias and security branches, according to Al-Modon’s correspondent Khalid al-Khateeb.

Imad Khamis and members of his government arrived at the Aleppo International Airport on Friday/Saturday night. They were received by the Aleppo governor, Hussein Diyab, and the secretary of the Baath Party branch, Fadel al-Najjar. This was the first time in which loyalist militias supported by Iran allowed the airport to be used by civilian authorities after they turned it, since the start of 2013, into a military barracks and a command quarters for their operations led by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Khamis visited Aleppo at the head of a delegation of 15 ministers in January 2017, a short time after the regime’s militias had taken control of the eastern districts and the armed opposition had left the area in the end of 2016. Khamis’s second visit was accompanied by 16 ministers at the start of 2018.

Residents ridiculed the government’s visit and the visits planned by ministers in advance, as the city council was put on alert, the streets were cleaned and pictures of Bashar al-Assad and flags were hung in squares and streets which would be used by the ministers. The electricity supply was not cut on Saturday for 24 straight hours for the first time in years.

Al-Rahi Visits Aoun, Confirms Geagea to Meet Franjieh Soon- Naharnet

Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi confirmed Monday that a much-anticipated reconciliation meeting between Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and Marada Movement chief Suleiman Franjieh will be held “soon,” as he stressed the need to facilitate the formation of the new government.
Speaking after talks with President Michel Aoun at the Baabda Palace, al-Rahi called for “supporting the efforts of the president and the prime minister-designate in order to form the government,” while emphasizing “the need to achieve national unity.”
“President Aoun will not accept the formation of the government to remain faltering,” the patriarch added.
Noting that “strength is not about putting sticks in the wheels but rather about facilitating the formation of the government,” al-Rahi expressed “solidarity” with President Aoun.

Syria's war economy exacerbates divide between rich and poor- Middle East Institute

An old Damascene saying goes, “Half of 1000 is 500.” It is usually reserved for sarcastically stating the obvious or bringing someone back to reality. This isn’t always easy in government-controlled Syria, as reality can be distorted, but it has become clear that problems are emerging that can no longer be justified by the excuse of war. 

More than 80 percent of people in Syria today live below the poverty line. The country has an unemployment rate of at least 55 percent, and jobs are increasingly hard to find. The conflict has taken a heavy socio-economic toll on the population, and that is now the catalyst for growing discontent in loyalist ranks. As the military begins a slow-but-steady demobilization process, reintegrating soldiers into civilian life and creating jobs is proving difficult for the government.

One fighter, who only agreed to be identified as “Salem,” belonged to army reservist group 201, which was released over three months ago after seven years of continuous service. Salem complained, “We had been promised jobs by the government, but we are still waiting. Even if we get jobs as promised, the salary is too low for us to live well.”   

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Lebanese Economic Bodies Threaten Strike over Govt. Formation Delay- Asharq al-Awsat

The economic bodies and General Labor Union in Lebanon have threatened to hold a strike in Lebanon in wake of the ongoing delay in forming a new government, which is having a devastating impact on the country.

They had threatened to take to the street if the cabinet is not formed by the end October.

Now that the deadline has ended, the economic bodies held a meeting to announce an upcoming sit-in.

The General Labor Union was noticeably absent from the meeting, raising questions that it may not have been invited.

Economic bodies head Mohammed Shucair told Asharq Al-Awsat that the its meeting was restricted to its members. Another meeting will be held later to coordinate future steps.


Saturday, November 03, 2018

Abi Khalil, Algeria studying ‘loophole’ electricity solution- Daily Star

BEIRUT: Caretaker Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil said Friday that he was working with longtime fuel supplier to Lebanon Algeria to find a “loophole” solution to secure fuel for the country amid serious concerns over supply. The move comes after a lack of funds to buy additional fuel for Lebanon’s power plants has caused a recent increase in electricity rationing, which means longer power cuts across the country, except in Beirut.
Electricite du Liban had warned of a potential shortfall more than a year ago, an EDL source told The Daily Star, but the government failed to secure the funds necessary to purchase extra fuel. This led the company to increase rationing in order to preserve its fuel reserves, the source said.
Abi Khalil told The Daily Star that he and his Algerian counterpart were discussing ways that Lebanon could receive fuel from the country without having to pay for it immediately.
“We’ve been working with Algeria for 13 years [in the energy sector]. [The Algerian energy minister] said he will send us the fuel without us paying for it. It’s a kind of loophole,” he said

Friday, November 02, 2018

March 8 Sunni MPs Reject Naming Minister Not Belonging to ‘Bloc’- Naharnet

The Consultative Sunni Gathering refused suggestions to allocate a ministerial portfolio to a Sunni figure not belonging to their group, as efforts continue to resolve the government formation delay, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Friday.
The so-called independent Sunni MPs comprised of six lawmakers, said they “insist” one of them be represented, arguing that the “height of popularity” was given to all six of them.
Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil has reportedly carried a proposal from President Michel Aoun to Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri on naming a Sunni minister not provocative to Hariri from the President's share in a bid to solve the new hurdle

Aoun in ‘Confrontation’ with Hizbullah over Representing March 8 Sunnis- Naharnet

A new obstacle of the representation of so-called independent Sunni MPs delaying the formation of the government, has triggered a “difference” between Hizbullah and President Michel Aoun after the latter’s declaration that the demand was “not righteous,” the Saudi Asharq al-Awsat daily reported on Friday.
Since Aoun’s latest remarks about said MPs, no meetings were recorded between him and Hizbullah, said the sources following up on the government formation process.
They said discussions aiming to find a solution for the hurdle were ongoing but without recording any progress in that regard, noting that Aoun and Hizbullah have not met since Wednesday.
On Wednesday, when Aoun was asked about the emergence of the so-called Sunni representation hurdle as the new cabinet was on the verge of formation, the president said: “The obstacles are unjustified and using delay as a political tactic undermines the national strategy that we are in dire need for.”

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Interview With Syrian Transport Minister: Purchases Of MC-21 Passenger Jets From Russia, Re-Opening Of Border With Iraq & Other Topics- South Front

Syria is seeking to buy MC-21 passenger jets from Russia and re-open border with Iraq, Syrian Transport Minister Ali Hammoud told Sputnik in an interview with the Russian news agency Sputnik.

Most of the heckpoints on the Syrian-Iraqi border have been closed since 2014 because this area was sized by ISIS terrorists. Now, when ISIS’ self-proclaimed Caliphate is defeated, Damascus and Baghdad have started discussions on the possible re-opening of the border.
The transport minister also stated that he would like if PJSC Aeroflot – Russian Airlines becomes the first foreign company to resume air services to Syria.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Russia Is Ready To Shoot Down Any US Plane Coordinating UAV Attacks On Hmeimim Air Base - Russian Top Official- South Front

Russia is prepared to shoot down any US plane coordinating UAV attacks on its Hmeimim Air Base near Latakia, Syria, according Vladimir Shamanov, head of the lower parliamentary house’s defense committee, former Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Airborne Troops.

Threat of attack halts aid convoy to Syrian refugee camp, says Russia’s top brass- TASS

MOSCOW, October 31. /TASS/. The delivery of a humanitarian convoy to the Rukban refugee camp was disrupted because of a threat that it could be attacked in the US-controlled area, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Wednesday.

The convoy, carrying more than 450 tonnes of food and medicines, was due to be sent on October 27. "However, the delivery of the convoy was again disrupted over the threat of an attack against it within the 55-km zone controlled by the Americans," Konashenkov said.

According to the spokesman, the dire humanitarian situation at the Rukban camp can be laid at the feet of Washington, who illegally occupied the vast Syrian region.

"The humanitarian crisis in Al-Tanf has been artificially cultivated by the US for several years with the goal of creating a permanent breeding ground of recruits from the refugees at the Rukban camp for the militant groups it controls in order to carry out recurrent acts of sabotage against the Syrian military and authorities in the adjacent areas," the general explained.