Friday, February 19, 2016


By Ghassan Kadi
18 February 2016

On the 14 of February 2005, Lebanese ex-PM Rafiq Hariri was killed in a massive car bomb in downtown Beirut. His son Saad Hariri was quick to accuse Syria of the murder, rallied around him massive support, both political and demographic and successfully managed to get the Syrian troops out of Lebanon.

And thus the 14th of March Coalition was created; an unlikely alliance that was based on most of the former Lebanese traditional enemies of the Civil War that dismembered Lebanon and destroyed its stature and economy to the point of no return.

By “traditional enemies”, what is meant is the dipole of political hierarchy that controlled the traditional Lebanese power brokers during the periods of the French “Grand Liban”, independence, and golden age of Lebanon. These are primarily, and in order of prominence, the Maronites, Muslim Sunnis and the Druze.

Here, it is worthy to note that when the Lebanese Civil War began in 1975, the Sunnis and the Druze sided with the PLO against the Western-allied Maronites. The irony here is that after those archrivals have finished hammering each other, they realized that by weakening themselves, they found themselves surrounded by a new rising demographic power; The formerly forgotten and underprivileged Shia. So they inadvertently and reluctantly realized that unless they united, they could not curb the rise of the Shiite Hezbollah and Syrian presence, and later on influence.
In other words, in as much as Lebanese political Sunnis, Maronites and Druze leaders loathed each other and still do, they were united by their hatred to Syria and the Shia.

At best, the 14th of March Coalition was a marriage of convenience. And when convenience was not alone enough, Hariri money weighed in and bought support.

Many corrupt Sunni aspiring leaders and would-be leaders had a “loyalty-for-rent” banner written all over them. They knew pretty well that the leaderships of traditional Sunni legacies such as Karameh, Salam and Saad formed regional monopolies in the Sunni strongholds of the major Lebanese cities. For those aspiring leaders to have a chance, they had to jump on a new bandwagon. Saadi Hariri’s aspirations to become Lebanon’s first ever unrivaled Sunni leader of the whole of Lebanon was seen by those aspiring hopefuls as a chance from heaven. And why wouldn’t they? He offered them not only political positions, but also money, lots of money, supporters, money to buy support, and even money to buy votes.

Lebanese dual citizens were flown in from as far as Canada and Australia to partake in Lebanese parliamentary elections if they were to vote for the Al-Mustakbal (ie Hariri) candidates.

Songs were written and recorded portraying Saad Hariri as the one who is believed by his people as their saviour. They were played everywhere in Sunni stronghold. For a price, they were played on vendor’s stalls, shops, taxis, public arenas, sporting arenas, you name it. If Hariri did not worry about some kind of religious recrimination, he would have had those songs played at mosques.

His portraits, ranging from all sizes, all the way from passport photo size to meters in length and width were displayed in every corner of the Lebanese Sunni major cities and towns. Even Facebook has thousands upon thousands of members who use Al-Hariri father or son photos as their profile photo in a cult-like manner.

Saad Hariri ran American-style election campaigns spending bottomless funds, and managed to buy his way into establishing himself as a rightful heir to his father on the Sunni front. But he went a step further by setting himself as the leader of the 14th of March Coalition, proclaiming himself as the populist leader of not only the Lebanese Sunni Muslims, but also the coalition that includes Maronites and Druze. No one before him has reached this echelon.

From 2005 onwards, the whole of the pro-14th of March Coalition area, especially the Sunni areas, had Saad Hariri coming out of everyone’s ears.

For Hariri to bolster his popularity beyond his ability to buy support, he had to capitalize on the sectarian hatred of the Sunni-Shiite divide. In reality, his entire hatred to Assad and the Syrian “regime” is only based on sectarian grounds.

It is easy to capitalize on hatred and bigotry. It is easy to buy support from people who can be bought. All the way from the northern Akkar region of Lebanon, east to the town of Arsal, including the coastal city of Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city, training camps and logistic support units were set up for the Jihadis, funded, trained and supplied by Hariri and Saudi monies.

As a leader and statesman however, Saad Hariri is not short of being joke. He cannot even read speeches that are written for him. During an address he once gave to parliament, he was making so many mistakes that the leader of the house sarcastically asked him if he would like someone to get up and read his speech on his behalf. He stumbles in every sentence and makes vocal expressions that clearly indicate that he didn’t even practice reading those speeches, and that reflected his utter arrogance, because apart from being who he is, he is also a dual Saudi-Lebanese national, and rich Saudis have the attitude of believing that everything, including respect and loyalty, can be bought with money.

But that tower that Hariri built for himself was not any less fragile than a house of cards.
It didn’t take long for the Druze leader Jumblat to leave the 14th of March Coalition. Jumblat remained rather close to Hariri and other leaders, and took a position in the middle.

However, as the “War On Syria” started to take a turn in favour of the Syrian Government back in late 2013, and as the Bandar Bin Sultan plan of engaging American and NATO troops in Syria failed, Bandar’s own position began to shake until he was pushed into an early retirement.

The new king Salman and his son Mohamad Bin Salman represent the Sudiri faction of the Saudi royals, and they do not like the heritage of the previous royals and their friends; including Saad Hariri.

As a matter of fact, Hariri’s major company (Saudi Oger) is in deep trouble and in debt to the tune of 7-8 billion dollars. Hariri was promised a bail out by the previous king Abdullah and a big contract that could get him out of trouble. The new king and his son do not seem to be interested at all in helping out Hariri. They are hanging him out to dry.

Furthermore, employees of the Lebanese Al-Mustakbal news agency which is owned by Hariri have not been paid for many months and most of them are expecting retrenchments without receiving long service payments let alone salary arrears.

Some argue that Hariri’s wealth has shrunk from a few billions to little over a few millions, and with this shrinkage, he is no longer able to master and muster those who were once subordinate to him.
As Lebanon lurks in presidential vacuum and remains without a president for twenty months, unable to agree on a nominee who can win enough votes, Hariri nominated Suleiman Franjieh, a close personal friend of Bashar Assad and a member of the pro-Hezbollah 8th of March Coalition. That was done in an attempt to eliminate the chances of the bigger political enemy; Michel Aoun.

In a sheer surprise to Hariri, his ally and former nominee Samir Geagea, the leader of the right-wing Christian militia Lebanese Forces, drops his nomination and jumps in bed with Aoun endorsing him. In effect, by doing so, Geagea has left the 14th of March Coalition.

A few days later, more fractures appear in that once mighty and all-inclusive coalition. Even small players like Tripoli’s MP Khaled Daher has revolted and left the coalition. Daher by the way is a Muslim Brotherhood man and was instrumental in smuggling arms and fighters into Syria from Northern Lebanon. This begs the question, who did Daher shift his loyalty to? To put it more bluntly, who has bought his loyalty? There can only be one bidder here; Daesh.

And just two days ago, the Lebanese minister of justice, the staunch Hariri man retired General Ashraf Rifi who was the chief of Lebanese Internal Security, who played a huge role arming the Sunni militants in Bab Al-Tabbaneh in Tripoli for nearly a whole decade, has also decided to resign from his position in the cabinet. His resignation is seen as the end of his honeymoon period with Hariri and the 14th of Match Coalition.

In hindsight, the departure of Syrian troops from Lebanon was no only pushed for by the 214th of March Coalition, but Saudi Arabia played a major part. The then King Abdullah has personally asked President Assad to withdraw his forces in order to restore peace and unity in Lebanon. That was a major step in weakening Syria’s sphere of influence. Had Syrian troops stayed in Lebanon, Hariri and his cohorts would not had been able to use Lebanese soil to smuggle Jihadists and munitions into Syria.

As mentioned above, Daher and Rifi were both instrumental in supporting Sunni fighters against the Syrian Army and forces loyal to Hezbollah. The funds they spent were sponsored by Hariri and Saudi Arabia.

Hariri played big and played dirty, and now he is falling on his head.
With friends like Geagea, Daher, Rifi and Mohamad Bin Salman, Hariri does not need enemies. What he bought with money slipped through his fingers when his funds dried out. His huge portraits all over the streets and major highways in Lebanon, captioned by the word “Al-Hakika” ie The Truth, the only truth time has revealed is the emptiness of his substance.

Monday, February 15, 2016

THe COLD WAR OVER SYRIA...WILL REMAIN COLD By Sami Koleib Assafir Lebanese Daily 15 February 2016. Translated by G and I Kadi

Introduction by Ghassan Kadi

This is an article that has been translated from Arabic by Intibah and me. It was published on today's Assafir (Lebanese daily) by Sami Koleib. He is a renowned pro-Resistance Lebanese journliast. He has made great analyses over the last few years and Intibah and I had the pleasure of translating some of his work.

In this article, he is articulating his views about the outcome of the huffing and puffing of Turkey and Saudi Arabia in regard to their threats of launching ground military operations in Syria. A highly recommended read.

“The Cold War” Over Syria…Will Remain Cold

By Sami Koleib

Assafir Lebanese Daily, 15 February 2016
Translated by Ghassan and Intibah Kadi

For the Russia Prime Minister, Dimitry Medvedev to say that the world is entering a cold war, he is declaring the status quo..and confirming what’s already confirmed. But to say it from Munich, this is the same place from which President Vladimir Putin began to stand up against Washington in his famous speech nearly eight years ago. And, for Medvedev to mention the Russian Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 to stop an American invasion, is only a reminder of the new red lines for any land invasion perpetrated by the enemies of the Syrian President Bashar Al Assad in Syria’s north, and specifically to any Saudi-Turkish gamble with a NATO cover.  The cold war is realistically under way, what’s new in it this time is that it is the Syrian scorched ground that decides its destiny..and it seems that various contacts made in the last few hours have focussed on putting the situation under control and prioritising on fighting terrorism.

What’s worthy of noticing in what Medvedev has said, and he is the one who alternates Presidency and Prime Ministership with Putin since the duo decided to return Russia to the world centre stage, that there is no end to this cold war except through American-Russian agreement.. as for the others, they are simply pawns. Most probably, reason will prevail in as far as the American-Russian relationships are concerned, otherwise the cold war will heat up.  Contrary to all posturing, threats made, Putin and Obama continued to communicate, two days ago, just like John Kennedy and Nikita Kruschev did back in 1962.  According to reliable European sources, the Russian President asked his American counterpart to “harness” Turkey so it would stop its bombardment of Kurds and Syrian military targets, and also, to downscale the Saudi rhetoric about direct military involvement in Syria. The wording of Putin carried a clear warning to both countries if Washington did not make a move along these lines.

We should also note that the White House took the initiative to contact Moscow and made a statement saying that President Putin renewed his assertion to form a united front against terrorism..and that the defense ministers of both countries will intensify their coordination..the rest are just pawns! Barack Obama has no interest at all to bestow upon his successor a new war just before he leaves office and, after all, he is the one who forged an agreement with “the apex of the axis of evil”, Iran, and made peace with the “outlaw state”, Cuba, in his own neighbourhood.  Putin also does not have any interest to create economic burdens that a new arms race will inflict. 

So why is Medvedev making his warning?

The current problem of the United States is not with its adversaries, it is with its allies.  Saudi Arabia and Israel have been feeling marginalised ever since the nuclear deal. They both see the West marketing a new Iran.  Turkey, on the other hand, sees that America is bolstering its alliance with the Kurds and now has become prepared to accept that Bashar Al Assad remains in power..and his recapture of northern Syria.  It is an aberration for Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan, the President of a NATO member State, to say to America, the leader of NATO, that their policies have turned the region into a pool of blood.

Have regional powers become able to declare mutiny on America and drag it into war?

Of course not, they can not revolt, but they are capable of kindling many fires unless Washington smacks them into obedience..and this is exactly what it is going to do.

According to some sources, American and European discussions have been intensified with all relevant regional parties.  This is essential, especially that Tehran has offered two responses: the first of which is a warning saying that the response will be very harsh and may hit the heart of Saudi Arabia, and that the Saudi forces will suffer a huge defeat if it gets involved, and the second one is by extending the hand of friendship to Riyadh via the words of Foreign Minister Muhammad Jawwad Zarif, the star of Western media since the nuclear accord.  Zarif said, “by cooperating with our brothers in Saudi Arabia and Turkey, we can resolve all regional problems and issues”.

Similar words were echoed by the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubair in saying: “we are pleased to have good relationships with Iran, but they have to take serious steps and stop intervening in our affairs”, and as usual repeating his mantra that Assad will fall politically or militarily in the end. The pertinent point here is that the further north the Syrian Army moves, Saudi Arabia needs to repeat this mantra more often for domestic and regional reasons as well.

The statement that Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid Mouallem, made about the returning home of Saudis in coffins, is probably backed by joint Russian-Iranian determination to confront any foreign interference that has not been approved by both the Americans and the Russians under the clear mandate of fighting terrorism only.

Is it possible to slip into a wider war?

So far this seems unlikely, but however, some reliable sources argue that Saudi Arabia has made some plans for direct military action in Syria for a long time. Those plans were made before the big advances that the Syrian Army and its allies made in the north, but it had always felt that what the militants were doing was enough and that there was no need for that.  However, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are currently under great pressure and they are both looking for a role. What they seek is not essentially going into a war that Riyadh knows beforehand how much it is going to cost, what is sought however is to maintain a Saudi-Turkish role in what is planned for the future of Syria.

We should notice something very important: neither Turkey nor Saudi Arabia have thus far declared that they are embarking on their military intervention without a cover. They are both saying that this is all within an international plan to fight Daesh. For example, we see the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mouloud Jawish Oglu  declaring that, “if there’s an anti-Daesh strategy then it becomes possible for Turkey and Saudi Arabia to launch a land operation”… The “if” the Jawish Oglu statement begins with is very pertinent.   In a similar manner Adel Jubair told CNN that, “Saudi Arabia is prepared to send special forces to join the coalition in a land operation in Syria”, in other words, taking part in a coalition under the auspices and direction of the United States.

The possible escalation is towards a wider war but not towards an all out war.

This is possible if one of these things happen:
- if Saudi Arabia and Turkey get involved directly on the ground or in the air without an international cover.

-Putin made a clear warning two days ago, and Obama is quite unhappy about the Turkish bombardment of his Kurdish allies. Several American and European messages have been sent to Ankara in this regard.

-If Turkey shoots down Russian or Syrian planes over Syrian soil. But it seems that it would not dare do this any more.

-In the event of military confrontation between Israel and Iran, in either Syria or Lebanon, directly or via Hezbollah.

-If some intelligence apparatus commits a major assassination or a major explosion of significance.

What do Turkey and Saudi Arabia want?

Turkey and Saudi Arabia want for either the Syrian Army and its allies to stop moving north, and this has become impossible for them to achieve, or for them to get a role in future plans, as they both consider that the current period is very fortuitous for them to put pressure on American Democrats just before Presidential elections.  They will also accept to have forces in the “international coalition”, and this is what Assad has refused in his last interview in which he said that the war in the north aims for, “cutting the link between Turkey and Aleppo”… We can only imagine Erdogan’s face when he reads this statement, and as he is fighting an internal war with Kurds, and feels that things are falling out of his hands.

What will the allies of Assad do?

-Putin will continue to give the West both biscuits and tranquilizer pills, as his fighter jets are delivering fire on the enemies of Assad. He will continue doing this irrespective of what happens, for he and Assad are both saying that the current peace negotiations have nothing to do with fighting terrorism.

-Iran will intensify its direct involvement or indirectly via Hezbollah in the Syrian war, all the while making sugar-coated statements to the Saudis, knowing beforehand, that this will upset the Saudis more than calm them, such statements however make Iran look good in the eyes of the West and serve as a good cover up for military action.

With this complex regional and international Syrian scene, the main questions are the following: what is the true American position towards Assad?, how far did the American-Iranian agreement reach?, what is the level of American-Russian agreement about Syria?

It seems that [Druze Lebanese political leader] Walid Jumblatt has got the hint.  He said that the world will give Aleppo back to Assad in the name of peace.  Undoubtedly he would have wished that hint wasn’t there and that he didn’t pick it up. The time of trying to topple Assad is gone. Fighting terrorism takes precedence.  Future terrorism is going to be bigger and stronger. French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls said it very clearly in Munich when he stated that the Syrian Army is its most important opponent. There is little doubt that it enjoys tacit American support to move north. Obama will not allow anyone to drag him into a wider war before he leaves the White House.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


14 February 2016

Article also makes reference to  Sharmine Narwani, The Saker, Andrew Korybko's analyses.