Lebanon starts offshore oil and gas exploration, defying Israel – By PRESS TV (SOTT)

The photo shows a ceremony in the Lebanese capital city of Beirut

© AFP
The photo shows a ceremony in the Lebanese capital city of Beirut on February 9, 2018, for signing an agreement between Lebanon and an international consortium to start exploratory offshore drilling

Lebanon has started exploration of oil and gas at its offshore energy reserves in the Mediterranean waters disputed by the Israeli regime.

Lebanon’s Energy and Water Minister Cesar Abi Khalil said in a televised statement that the exploration project for the country’s first oil and gas reserves began on Tuesday after Lebanese officials approved a plan submitted by a consortium of France’s Total, Italy’s Eni and Russia’s Novatek.

Khalil expressed hope that Lebanon would launch the second phase of offshore licensing by the end of 2018 or early 2019.

The announcement came after months of tensions between Lebanon and Israel over the disputed energy reserves.

No immediate reaction has been observed on the part of Israeli officials.

In December 2017, the Lebanese government granted licenses to a consortium of three international companies to carry out exploratory drilling in Lebanon’s Block 4 and Block 9 territorial waters and determine whether they contain oil and gas reserves.

Israel lashed out at the three international firms for making “a grave error” by accepting the offer. Israeli minister of military affairs Avigdor Lieberman warned that Lebanon would “pay the full price” should another war erupt between the two sides.

Lebanon, however, was quick to respond to the blatant threat, with Energy Minister Abi Khalil pledging that Beirut was going to push ahead with its exploration plans.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun also vowed to use all the diplomatic powers vested in him to resolve the dispute, saying the country had a right to “defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity by all means available.”

The territorial dispute between Israel and Lebanon runs over 776 square kilometers (300 square miles) of waters claimed by both sides.

The underlying Levant basin of the Eastern Mediterranean has been proven to contain large natural gas reserves and maybe even crude oil.

Israel itself has long been developing a number of offshore gas deposits in the Mediterranean Sea, with the Tamar gas field, with proven reserves of 200 billion cubic meters, already producing gas, while the larger Leviathan field is expected to go online in the coming months.

A source close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in 2012 that Israel’s natural gas reserves were worth around $130 billion. A Businessweek estimate later that year put the reserves’ value at $240 billion.

Israel relies heavily on gas. According to estimates by the Israel Natural Gas Lines, the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories consumed around 9.5 Billion Cubic Meters (BCM) in 2016. The number is expected to reach 10.1 BCM in 2018.

Comment: See also: Oil interest heats up maritime dispute between Israel and Lebanon

See Also:

From Targeted Assassinations to Sniper Fire, How Israel Eliminates Palestinian Resistance – By Ramona Wadi (MINT PRESS)

 Mourners chant slogans while carry the coffin of Palestinian scientist Fadi al-Batsh, after his body crossed into the Gaza Strip from Egypt, during his funeral at Al Emari mosque in Jebaliya on Thursday, April 26, 2018. The body of the Hamas engineer who was gunned down in Malaysia last week was returned for burial. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Mourners carry the coffin of Palestinian scientist Fadi al-Batsh, after his body crossed into the Gaza Strip from Egypt during his funeral April 26, 2018. (AP/Adel Hana)

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SAUDI SNAFU IN LEBANON; MORE RODENTS LEAVE TOWNS FOR LALA LAND – By ZIAD FADEL

DAMASCUS-BAYT SAHM:

“RIDE GREYHOUND AND LEAVE THE DRIVING TO US”.  That’s right folks.  Buses clad in a variety of colors, 40 to be exact, have left Bayt Sahm in the East Ghouta to take remnant rodents to either Jaraablus on the Turk border or to Idlib where they can disport with fellow vermin of every ethnicity and culture.  Like backpacking college students of the 70’s, they can now engage in cultural exchanges with Chechens, Uighers, Uzbekis, Albanians, Eskimos and Trobriand warriors.  With their caterwauling brats screeching their lungs out like the nocturnal cats of Beirut, they shall wend their way into a new world of malignancy – where homosexuals are routinely put to death because of they way they were born; where non-rodents can be swindled and shook down for the dishonest tax that’s meant to protect them; where women are handed from one rat to another in a solemn ritual of brotherliness and sexual socialism.  It’s all coming to Idlib and Jaraablus.  And so is the Syrian Army.

____________________________________________

HOMS: 

Al-Rastan:  The birthplace of legendary Minister of Defense, Lt. Gen. Mustafaa Talaas, has become the new focal point of humiliation for Ahraar Al-Shaam, inter alia, with the turnover of all heavy weapons and the departure of their thieves on government- supplied buses.  Included in the handover were 6 T-62 tanks, 3 BMB armored vehicles, 2 Shilkas, a huge number of mortars and cannons.  Al-Rastan, which is, frankly, like Jisr Al-Shughoor, a hotbed of ignorance and minoritarian bigotry, is going back to being what it has always been historically:  the city you least like to visit in Syria.  Why Al-Rastan is as welcoming as Gary, Indiana, Newark, New Jersey, Flint, Michigan or even Tizi-ouzo, Algeria.  An invitation to Al-Rastan should be treated with the same zeal as one to spend an afternoon under the boardwalk in Coney Island, Brooklyn, the rats fighting for first dibs on your buttocks.

__________________________________________

LEBANON:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wearing his iconic Italian restaurant tablecloth, MBS beams for the camera while singing:  “I’m the one who broke the bank at Monte Carlo.”………He’s not smiling today.

You all read my last exclusive post which revealed 2 “top secret” memos indicating a strong Saudi preference for Sa’ad Al-Hareeri, the stillborn, oaf son of the late gazillionaire and atomized prime minister of Lebanon whose assassination sparked a fitful withdrawal of Syrian Deterrent Forces from the country.  The memos made very clear the generous support Saudi Arabia was going to unload on Hareeri to strengthen his hand in the Lebanese Parliament.  And just as you might think, whenever the Saudis apply their Lilliputian brains to anything, it was going to be a devastating fiasco!

Yeah, sure.  I know.  Geagea did okay,  In fact, better than ever with his rabid Lebanese Forces candidates.  It’s true.  But, it just ain’t enough to get him over any hump in Leb politics.  I’m afraid that Geagea will always be the proverbial “also-ran”.

Hizbollah’s victory is all the more sweet because the Saudis are gnashing their teeth over how they managed to lose their grip on Lebanon.  Financially, they were top dog.  Now, with MBS’s realignment with the Zionist Settler State, Lebanon correctly saw the twilight of Saudi involvement coming, strengthened all the more by MBS’s curious vilification of Palestinians for not returning to the nauseating, episodic dead-end of peace negotiations under the aegis of the perversely pro-Zionist United States.  What other nincompoop but Trump would send 3 rapacious, Ashkenazi Zionist zealots to strike a deal with the Palestinians over land the negotiators believe was given to Jews by some imaginary deity?

Hizbollah and its allies now have a full majority in the Parliament.  With 128 seats available, HZB and its allies control 67, giving them a “veto” vote over any legislation deemed unacceptable.  Even, dedicated, pro-Assad politicians like Jameel Al-Sayyid won a seat.  Al-Sayyid won his seat despite a 4-year stint in prison on orders from German democracy-loving judge, Detlev Mehlis, who didn’t mind having 4 Lebanese generals wallow for 48 months without charges.  They were released eventually and never indicted for anything.  German justice.

Syria, despite the tumult of a 7-year insurgency, still managed to win on this front, also, handing Saudi chimpanzees a stinging defeat at every level, on every front and in all political dimensions.  The biggest winner,is, of course, Iran.

 

 

 

 

 

Sayyed Nasrallah: Resistance Able to Strike Any Target inside ’Israel’, Berri our Candidate As House Speaker – By Zeinab Essa ( Source: Al-Ahed news )

Zeinab Essa

Hezbollah Secretary General His Eminence Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah delivered on Sunday a speech in which he addressed a huge electoral rally held in the Southern Lebanese city, Tyre.

 

Hezbollah Secretary General His Eminence Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah


At the beginning of his speech, Sayyed Nasrallah addressed the the father of the three martyrs, Hajj Sami Muslimani, who saluted the Resistance Leader, by saying: “You, the martyrs’ families, are the crown of heads.”

Starting from the place of the rally, His Eminence highlighted that “the city of Tyre, remained unobstructed by sedition, as it embraced and opened its homes to Palestinians displaced in 1948.”

“”Israeli aggressions on Lebanon started in 1949, not with the advent of the Palestinian resistance factions,” he said.

He further stated: “The city of Tyre city resisted the occupation in 1982 and on its land the first self-scarifying operations was carried to break the Zionist enemy’s arrogance and prepare for the “Israeli” humiliating defeat.”

In parallel, he underscored that “we meet here on the anniversary of April 1996 “Grapes of Wrath” aggression, which began on April 11, by striking Hezbollah’s military headquarters in Haret Hreik.”

“The “Israeli” air strike at that time failed to hit Hezbollah military Leader martyr Mustafa Badreddine as the missile hit the other room,” Sayyed Nasrallah clarified.

Moreover, he recalled that the “Israeli” chief of staff in 1996 said that Hezbollah have turned ‘April understanding’ into a boxing bag,” noting that “the sons of Imam al-Sadr from Amal movement and Hezbollah have developed the concept of resistance, that led to victory.”

Furthermore, His Eminence stressed that “the South and its people have waited the state since 1948 until Imam al-Sadr came and adopted the alternative by establishing the resistance.”

He also unveiled that “before 2006, it was the Resistance that asked the state and the Lebanese Army to be present in the South and along the border.”

“The Lebanese state has delayed its move and turned its back to the South,” Sayyed Nasrallah mentioned, noting that “it is not the poor, who bought arms from his own money to defend the land.”

Meanwhile, he added that “our crime is that we took up arms to defend our land and sovereignty.”

“The resistance that was the dream of Sayyed Sharaf al-Din and Imam al-Sadr has now turned to a real force that the enemy greatly fears,” His Eminence emphasized.

In addition, he went on to say that “Thanks to the resistance capabilities and achievements, South Lebanon is currently safe from the Zionist barbarism.”

To Sayyed Abdl Hussein Sharf Din and Imam Moussa Sadr, Sayyed Nasrallah sent a message of assurance: “There is no humiliation today that is able to hit the land of Jabal Amel [South Lebanon]

To Imam al-Sadr, His Eminence vowed: “The resistance that you have founded owes the capability, power, technology and missiles that can strike any target in the “Israeli” enemy’s entity.”

“The resistance came with great sacrifices and we aren’t to abandon it, as it means our dignity and pride,” he added.

Addressing the people of the Resistance, Sayyed Nasrallah told the crowd: “May 6 is your day of voting. It is a message to the world that we in the South have not left the resistance and won’t give up or turn our back. I hope that on May 6 … you will choose the Hope and Loyalty [electoral lists], the hope for the future.”

“Here in Zahrani-Tyre, you are not just voting for MPs, you’re voting for the next Lebanese House Speaker. There is no question that House Speaker Brother Nabih Berri should be reelected as House Speaker and he is the party’s strongest representation,” he said.

He further hailed the fact that “since the 1920s, there has been no internal peace in the history of the South as the one it’s enjoying from pride and dignity for the past 12 years.”

On the internal front, Sayyed Nasrallah noted that “Lebanon has witnessed a kind of understanding: one party will defend the country and protect it while the other side will take care of the economy.”

This comes as His Eminence confirmed that “we can say, ‘these are our successes.’ We protected our country. Stability and security have been available since 2006.”

In this context, he asked the Future Movement: “What are your achievements in administering Lebanon’s economics? Those in charge failed. Everyone agrees that we have an economic problem. We’re suffering from a huge debt that reached $ 80 billion.
The agriculture and the productive sectors are at an all-time low.”

Commenting on the National Defense Strategy, Hezbollah Secretary General reiterated that Hezbollah is ready to discuss it after the election ends.

However, he asked the Future Movement, “Who is escaping from forming a national economic strategy?”

On this level, Sayyed Nasrallah cautioned that corruption has extended to all state institutions. “When we talk about a strong country, corruption has no place. There is no discussion, no need for debate, the steps are clear. However, if the country keeps moving like this, it will crumble.”

In addition, he slammed the fact that Lebanon is suffering from sectarianism on all levels. Even Lebanese water and rivers have turned to a sectarian topic.”

“Even our gas and oil blocks are going to be distributed based on sects,” he feared, wondering: “what kind of country operates like that?”

He also said “This isn’t a US, Arab countries or “Israeli” fault. We have to take responsibility. When you have a minister working for his sect, his town and his kids, can we still call him a minister for Lebanon?”

Source: Al-Ahed news

Hezbollah Gives the Israelis Something to Think About – by Richard Edmondson

Posted on 

Recently Hezbollah released two videos, both within a space of about two weeks, depicting missile attacks upon an Israeli offshore oil/gas platform. This comes at a time when Israelis have been doing a lot of sabre rattling, as well as, likewise, laying claims to a gas field which lies off the Lebanese coast.

Here is the most recent video:

Hezbollah’s Central Military Media releases a video threatening Israel to strike its Oil and Gas facilities if it touches Lebanon’s Gas Block #9 within Lebanese Maritime Borders. pic.twitter.com/Wqz1eKoyB8

Hezbollah’s Central Military Media releases a video threatening Israel to strike its Oil and Gas facilities for the second time in less than two weeks, pinpointing the exact locations of Israel’s Tamar and Karish facilities. pic.twitter.com/HOjtsgdevL

And here is one which was released about 10 or 12 days prior to it:

Hezbollah’s Central Military Media releases a video threatening Israel to strike its Oil and Gas facilities if it touches Lebanon’s Gas Block #9 within Lebanese Maritime Borders.

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Here is a map of Lebanese offshore gas fields. The dispute between Israel and Lebanon is over block 9, to which Israel is laying claim, or at least laying claim to some portion of.

And here is a map of the gas fields off the coast of Israel…the Hezbollah videos appear to be threatening an attack upon the Tamar field unless the Israelis back off and quit trying to lay claim upon block 9…

“He who impinges on the future gas and oil facilities inside the Lebanese maritime borders–his facilities will be impinged on and he knows Lebanon is capable of this,” Nasrallah says in the video.

You’ll note of course the “disputed zone” in the above map. The word “disputed” is a word the Israelis are fond of applying to occupied Palestinian lands in the West Bank (this due to a finicky distaste for linguistic implications of the word “occupied.”) So what gives with the dispute over block 9? The Israelis seem to be employing the same philosophy here as in their settlement enterprise in the West Bank–grab as much as you can. Create facts on the ground (or in this case, in the sea).

Lebanon – Should it be Devil, Deep Blue Sea… or Russia? – By Andre Vltchek ( New Eastern Outlook)

Author: Andre Vltchek

 

 

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Lebanon, as so often in the past, is facing mortal danger.

Saudi Arabia is putting great pressure on the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, a powerful but controversial figure who holds dual nationality – Saudi and Lebanese. Riyadh expects Lebanon to play by its own rules, sidelining Hezbollah, ending Iranian influence in the country, and promoting Saudi business and political interests… or else. It is a clear that foreign aid from the Gulf is increasingly conditional.

Tension with Israel is also mounting. A military conflict could erupt at any moment, with devastating consequences. Between 1978 and 2006, Israel attacked its northern neighbor on five occasions. The last time Israel invaded Lebanon, during the so-called Lebanon War in 2006, at least 1,300 Lebanese people were killed and 1 million displaced.

The Israeli air force is lately, unceremoniously, violating Lebanese air space, flying over its territory on the way to Syria, where it is bombing selected targets, grossly violating various international laws.

To make things worse, Israel has begun building an ugly concrete wall right at the border line, an act which Lebanon views almost as a declaration of war. The Lebanese military received orders to confront Israeli bulldozers and construction crews, if the building of the frontier barrier continues. Both sides are now using intermediaries to communicate, but a confrontation may take place at any moment.

There is also a maritime dispute between the two countries, over an oil and gas rich area, which both countries are claiming as their own. This quarrel is also threatening the fragile ‘peace’ between Israel and Lebanon. Although some would say, what peace, really, if both nations are still technically at war?

Reported by AP, on February 8, 2018:

“Israel has in recent days escalated its threats against Lebanon over Lebanon’s invitation for offshore gas exploration bids on the countries’ maritime border.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman described Lebanon’s exploration tender as “very provocative” and suggested that Lebanon had put out invitations for bids from international groups for a gas field ,”which is by all accounts ours.”

His comments drew sharp condemnation from the militant Hezbollah group and Lebanese officials, including Hariri, a Western ally, who described Lieberman’s comments as a “blatant provocation that Lebanon rejects.”

Abi Assi quoted Hariri as saying Thursday that area in the water that Israel is claiming, “is owned by Lebanon.”

A day after the above report appeared, Lebanon’s energy minister said, “the dispute with Israel would not stop Lebanon benefiting from potential undersea reserves in the contentious Block 9.”

An international consortium consisting of three giant oil companies – Italy’s Eni, France’s Total and Russia’s Novatek – is standing by, ready to begin drilling, although Total is increasingly reluctant to participate in the project amidst the Israeli threats.

*

Many in Lebanon feel that their country is literally caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.

For years, war in neighboring Syria has been sending hundreds of thousands of refugees across the border into tiny Lebanon, greatly straining its fragile and inadequate infrastructure. Refugee slums have mushroomed, in the Bekaa Valley, as well as in all the major cities.

Terrorist groups supported by the West and its allies, have spilled over the border, and are operating in the frontier region, while also infiltrating the capital.

In 2017, the Lebanese military, together with Syrian forces and Hezbollah, managed to confront and greatly weaken both al Nusra and ISIS cells.

Hezbollah is the only truly powerful social force in Lebanon, providing assistance to all needy citizens and refugees, regardless of their religion or ethnicity. It is also fighting, determinedly, all terrorist implants operating in the Lebanese territory.

Thanks to the help from both Russia and Hezbollah, the Syrian armed forces managed to regain most of the territory of their country and to come very close to winning the war. The country is now rebuilding and hundreds of thousands of refugees are returning home, including those who have temporarily been seeking refuge in Lebanon.

Sidelining Hezbollah would definitely have a devastating impact on both Lebanon and Syria.

And sidelining, intimidating and antagonizing Hezbollah is precisely what the United States is doing again.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to Beirut, and on February 15th, addressed reporters at a press conference:

“It is impossible to talk about stability, sovereignty and security in Lebanon without addressing Hezbollah. The US has considered Hezbollah a terrorist organization for more than two decades now …It is unacceptable for a militia like Hezbollah to operate outside the authority of the Lebanese government. The only legitimate defender of the Lebanese state is the Lebanese armed forces.”

Mr. Tillerson made some reconciliatory noises regarding Hezbollah, just a few days earlier, but was loudly criticized by both his regime apparatchiks and by the mainstream media. Promptly, he ‘regained his senses’ and stopped rocking the boat.

Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States, indeed, treat pro-Iranian Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Israel continuously intimidates Lebanon, claiming that it will not tolerate any Iranian influence in its vicinity. The fact that Lebanon is an independent country, is somehow overlooked. It is expected to ‘behave’, to accept foreign dictates, even if it means going against its own interests.

After all, Lebanon is in the Middle East, which in turn is just the playground of the West and its allies.

*

Most of the Lebanese citizens are indignant. The Israeli air force flying over their country’s territory, attacking Syria, is to them, naturally, something absolutely unacceptable. Being bullied over disputed resources-rich sea territory, as well as the construction of border barriers, is causing great outrage. However, until now, the Lebanese people felt that there was very little they could do, faced with the overwhelming military might of Israel, a country which is determinedly backed by the United States and most of the Western countries.

All this has suddenly changed.

Unexpectedly, although logically, the ‘Russian alternative’ has emerged.

As reported by the Middle East Monitor on the February 8, 2018:

“Russian media sources revealed that on Tuesday Russian Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, instructed the Russian Defense Ministry to begin talks with its Lebanese counterpart to sign a military cooperation agreement between Russia and Lebanon.

The draft agreement to be signed between the parties included the opening of Lebanese ports in front of Russian military vessels and fleets, in addition to making Lebanese airports a transit station for Russian aircrafts and fighters, and the dispatch of Russian military experts to train and strengthen the capabilities of members of the Lebanese army, according to the Russian agency Sputnik.”

This is just a logical continuation of Russian approach towards the Middle East in general, and Lebanon in particular. According to a Russian Foreign Ministry statement, made public in November 2017, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov declared:

“Russia invariably supports the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Lebanon. We are interested in ensuring that Lebanon is safe, effectively functioning with the participation of all branches of government and with all state structures.”

Lavrov’s remarks came during a meeting with his Lebanese counterpart Gebran Bassil in Moscow.”

Russia is becoming increasingly active in those countries that have been destroyed or at least crippled by the Western interventions, such as Syria, Libya, now Lebanon and soon, hopefully, Afghanistan. Russian involvement is ranging from diplomatic and economic, to, as has been the case in Syria, military.

A Lebanese intellectual, anonymously, declared for this essay:

“If Russian military comes to Lebanon, then Israeli air force would certainly stop flying over our territory. We would also be able to retain our organizations and movements: particularly those that helped our country to stay united and to survive. Most of the Lebanese people have no bad experience with Russia. We tried many things, many alliances and they failed: we are still vulnerable, exposed. There is no harm in attempting to work with the Russians.”

The West, particularly the United States, is well aware of the mood on the streets of Lebanon. That is why Mr. Tillerson came on an official visit. But he offered nothing new, and what he offered, was rejected. It is clear that his mission was to simply preserve the status quo.

While it is increasingly obvious that the Lebanese people are hoping for something much more dramatic and ‘radical’ – they want their country to be respected, taken seriously. They want their borders to be protected. They want to have their independent foreign policy. They want to decide who is their ally and who is their foe.

Lebanon is tired of being stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea. And now it is discovering that it actually has other options!

Andre Vltchek is philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He’s a creator of Vltchek’s World in Word and Images, a writer of revolutionary novel Aurora and several other books. He writes especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”
https://journal-neo.org/2018/02/17/lebanon-should-it-be-devil-deep-blue-sea-or-russia/

When Red Lines are Crossed in Syria, Expect Israel to be Shaken. – By Elijah J. Magnier (UPROOTED PALESTINIANS)

 on 

Damascus | Elijah J. Magnier | @ejmalrai

https://elijahjm.files.wordpress.com/2018/02/96k6e-pantsir-s1e-uae-2s.jpg?w=1000

Decision makers in Damascus said “Syria and its allies have decided to move more harshly against Israel, replicating Hezbollah’s strategy in those days (the 90’s), before the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon. For every violation of Lebanese airspace over the capital Beirut, Hezbollah would fire heavy artillery above the Israeli villages along the Lebanese-Syrian border”.

“The Syrian command and its allies have decided to impose a new rule of engagement on Israel: for every violation of Syria’s airspace, Damascus will fire dozens of missiles above the Israeli inhabited areas along the Golan Heights. The intention is not to hit a specific target but to make sure no Israeli on the borders and within range of the fired missiles will live in peace. They will be in the shelter, and this will happen every time the Israeli air force violates Syrian sovereignty”, according to the well informed sources.

In fact, two days ago, when Syria downed the Israeli F-16, Damascus started this rule of engagement by firing 25 missiles above the Golan Heights and over Israeli territory, forcing the closure of Ben Gurion airport for several hours. The siren sounded loud and clear in the entire area, ordering civilians to reach the closest shelter.

If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists on his policy and Syria implements its new “style” of response due to the Israeli Prime Minister’s policy, his popularity will be seriously affected.

Israel found its defeat when its F-16 was shot down hard to swallow, and it will undoubtedly seek revenge. But during the seven years of the Syrian war all it did was to fight “quick battles between wars”, prolonging the Syrian war. Israel is now discovering that the longer the war lasted, the greater the strength of the Syrian army, Iran and Hezbollah: the “axis of the resistance” represented by these is therefore winning and its opponents are losing.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not learn the lessons, and he also deceived the decision-makers in his country. Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin seven times to convince the Israelis that he was able to impress upon the Russian President the prime importance of Israel’s security. This alone would have given Israel enough authority to do whatever it wanted in Syria.

But Netanyahu didn’t report back to his partners in Israel that Putin had clearly stated: “We do not want to be part of your war with Hezbollah and Iran, but it must not be allowed to harm those who are fighting with the Russian army in Syria. And if you want to target the odd Hezbollah ammunition depot or convoy, that’s your business”.

Moscow does not want Israel to play in its Syrian court, and for many reasons: the Levant opened the door wide for Russia to come into the Middle East and have a robust access to the Mediterranean, shake NATO (through its strong alliance with Turkey), and restore its prestige wounded in Afghanistan by America. And clearly it wishes to dismantle the US’s plans for weakening Russia economically and politically.

DVqNQuJWAAAERfwThe US, imagining it could strike Russia without triggering any reaction, tried originally to hit Moscow’s economy through Ukraine by trying to interrupt the Russian gas supply that feeds Europe- and forms the cornerstone of the Russian economy . And lastly, the US sought to remove Russia definitively from the entire Middle East after striking Libya and trying to change the regime in Syria where the Russian navy was based.

Moscow seems faithful to its friends and protective of its interests, and this is what Syria can provide and benefit from if it remains a strong state. Analysts believed throughout the war years that Russia was abandoning President Bashar al-Assad in return for remaining in Syria. But the world did not understand that Russia – as well as Iran – saw in Assad (and in no other possible president-candidate) the only person could live up to his promises and stand up to America.

However, like America, Israel has been reluctant to accept its defeat in Syria and the failure of its project to overthrow Assad and change the regime. It has attacked the Syrian army on several occasions without substantially altering the strategic balance of power in Syria. But this disturbed Russia, and explains why it gave the green light to the government of Damascus for directing its anti-air missiles towards Israel.

The Israeli Air Force has been hitting deep in the Syrian desert in the past, causing Russia discomfort. Netanyahu thought he was the darling child of President Donald Trump and that Vladimir Putin would understand that. The Israeli Prime Minister did not understand that the only reason the Russian President seems happy to see his counterpart President Trump in power is that the latter understands little about politics. Therefore, Moscow can accurately predict the steps that the military and advisors around Trump will take. And Israel’s violation of Syrian sovereignty would never be protected by Russia.

When Israel insisted on resending its Air Force towards the Syrian desert, falling headlong into the trap, it was surprised to see Syrian air defence ready to hunt it down. Putin reminded Trump’s spoiled child –Prime Minister Netanyahu – that he could not go beyond the red lines, especially since the Russian officers work alongside their allied forces counterparts (Hezbollah, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and their other allies). The Russian President is not expecting, nor expected, to allow any of his soldiers to be killed by Israel’s air force. Will he listen to Israel’s belated excuses, with Netanyahu asking for forgiveness-while Putin loses his prestige in Russia? This is just not going to happen.

Israel played a losing card in insisting on this futile policy in Syria. An Israeli jet was shot down for the first time in 36 years, allowing President Assad and his allies to collect a victory and regain prestige in the Middle Eastern streets. Israel did not understand that it could no longer achieve its goals in Syria, that the variety of options had shrunk, and that the policy of intimidation – which Israel cannot abandon – far from helping, only strengthens its enemies, Assad, Hezbollah and Iran.

When Hezbollah hit the INS Hanit Sa’ar-5 class corvette of the Israeli Navy during the 2006 war, it effectively removed the entire Israeli Navy from the battle, showing Israel both how determined Hezbollah is to fight, and its capacity to innovate, and reveal military surprises. The downing of the Israeli F-16 certainly informed Tel Aviv that Syria has recovered, ready to do what it has not done since 1973: it is certainly ready for war.

America is in the north-east of Syria and can only get out once it is seriously in trouble-wounded. Netanyahu, who has climbed the tree to sit next to Donald Trump on the same Syrian branch, has supported the jihadists-Takfiris of al-Qaeda and repetitively attacked the Syrian army. Today, the two leaders refuse to recognize that they are up the wrong tree: it is not even their tree! So there is a danger that they will only climb down from the tree when they are both hurt. It is very probable they both need a few more hard years to learn their lesson and let go of Syria.


Syria Does Not Fear War with Israel: The Rules of Engagement Have Changed

Sayyed Nasrallah Warns of Fragmentation: Kurdish Vote Regional Threat, Hezbollah Stronger than Ever – By uprootedpalestinians

Sayyed Nasrallah Warns of Fragmentation: Kurdish Vote Regional Threat, Hezbollah Stronger than Ever

Source

01-10-2017 | 00:12

Zeinab Essa

Hezbollah Secretary General His Eminence Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah delivered Saturday a speech in which he tackled various internal and regional topics.

Addressing thousands of people participating in the 10th night of Muharram, thanked the huge crowds that participated in Ashura ceremonies all over the Lebanese regions.

Meanwhile, His Eminence thanked the Lebanese Army and security agencies that helped in securing Ashura ceremonies.

He further urged various Lebanese sides to preserve the current stability in the country and the current state of calm, communication, dialogue and rapprochement among the various forces.

Regarding the recent crisis that emerged after the Constitutional Council’s decision to stop the wage scale, Sayyed Nasrallah stated: “We faced a dangerous crisis and the country was in front of a dangerous juncture, but shunning confrontation and keenness on reaching solutions enabled the Lebanese to reach a solution.”

As he warned anyone from seeking to drag Lebanon into internal confrontations, especially Saudi Arabia, the Resistance Leader assumed that the Americans are preparing for new wars and confrontations in the region.

“If someone particularly, Saudi Arabia, is driving Lebanon into internal crisis, it would be a failing adventure,” he stressed.

Moreover, he commented on the recent reports that have uncovered that some parties are preparing for new political alignments.

“If this is related to elections, we don’t have a problem, but I warn against any attempt to drag Lebanon into an internal confrontation,” Sayyed Nasrallah said, pointing out that “Hezbollah’s warning is not from the position of weakness or fear. Everyone knows that Hezbollah is today in its maximum strength. Hezbollah is in its strongest position and even “Israel” also says that Hezbollah is the second military in the region.

He also predicted that the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group are numbered, stating that “Israel” was seriously concerned about the terror group’s defeat in the region.
“Daesh is losing ground in both Iraq and Syria. It was created by the United States, and supported by “Israel” as well as their regional allies,” Sayyed Nasrallah said.

He added that Hezbollah supports the incumbent Lebanese government led by President Michel Aoun. “We support that the government continues its work until the last day so that it carries out its duties with positive cooperation.We warn against incitement taking place to create local confrontation in Lebanon.”

On another level, Sayyed Nasrallah refused any delay to the Lebanese parliamentary elections, which are expected to be held next spring.

“I repeat our total agreement with House Speaker Nabih Berri that the parliament’s term must not be extended,” he added, reiterating that the “elections will be held on time and based on the agreed electoral law.”

In addition, Sayyed Nasrallah warned of any security threat by terrorist groups. “The threat has declined after liberation but it still exists,” he warned.

However, His Eminence assured that “Lebanon, despite what is happening in the region, is one of the safest countries in the world, It is safer than Washington itself.”

As His Eminence praised the 2nd Liberation resembled by defeating the takfiri terrorist groups in the Eastern Lebanese outskirts, he hailed the sacrifices of the people and the Lebanese army.

In parallel, Sayyed Nasrallah declared Hezbollah’s opposition to any security approach in dealing with the Palestinian refugee camps. “We’re with the comprehensive approach that strengthens the Lebanese-Palestinian cooperation,” he emphasized.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Sayyed Nasrallah sent a clear message to the Syrian refugees in Lebanon. “Today, it seems, that all the Lebanese and the political forces declare their support for the voluntary return of the Syrian refugees. You must have the intention to return to your country, to help, protect and rebuild it. Look around you. The Palestinians are clinging to the right of return.”

He said days of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group are numbered, stating that Israel was seriously concerned about the terror group’s defeat in the region.
“Daesh is losing ground in both Iraq and Syria. It was created by the United States, and supported by Israel as well as their regional allies,” Nasrallah said.

On another level, the Resistance Leader viewed that the official Lebanese response to the “Israeli” violations needs to be pursued, sustained and worked on.
“The Zionists are planting espionage devices inside the Lebanese territories, in which it include explosive devices. This is dangerous and cannot be tolerated. The Zionist regime is violating international law and regulations,”Sayyed Nasrallah commented.

He also threatened should “Israel’s” violations [of UN resolutions] in Lebanon” not be handled in political ways, we would have to take care of those violations on our own. “The booby-trapped surveillance cameras and eavesdropping facilities on Lebanon grounds are violations of UN Resolution 1701. It is impossible to treat “Israeli” violations on Lebanese ground lightheadedly.”

Moving to the dangerous scheme of fragmentation facing the region, Sayyed Nasrallah highlighted that the beginning of the dividing scheme in the region is from the Iraqi Kurdistan. “No one can fool anyone because the issue is not related to self-determination, but to the fragmentation of the region on the ethnic and sectarian basis.”

“Regional nations bear the responsibility to confront this divisive scheme. There should not be any ethnic bias between Arabs, Kurds or Iranians. The problem is purely politically-motivated,” he added, wondering why the only public supporter for the breakaway of Kurdistan is “Israel”.”

According to His Eminence, fragmentation means taking the region into permanent wars with no bear ends.

He also stressed that wars and confrontations in the region “are in favor of “Israel” and the US, helping their weapons-manufacturing factories make a fortune.”

In this context, Sayyed Nasrallah explained that the Saudis still insist that the files and fronts be fed in order to focus on a new front. “This means that “Israel” becomes an ally and a friend and the battle turns to Iran and the axis of the resistance. Continuing the Saudi wars and opening new wars are to result in more failure and losses, and this is what happened in the nuclear agreement.”

To the Saudis, Sayyed Nasrallah sent a sounding message: “You are the ones who opened the doors to Iran. The Iranian influence is due to your continuous attacks on Iraq, Syria and Yemen.”

In addition he stated that : “we do not believe that the arrogance of the “Israelis” can accept a settlement that would preserve the face of the Palestinian Authority.”

In conclusion, Sayyed Nasrallah vowed that the resistance won’t withdraw from battlefields against the nation’s enemies, stressing that the resonant call of “At Your Service O Imam Hussein” will last.

Source: Al-Ahed news 

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Pentagon Falsifies Paperwork To Keep Syrian Rebels Armed With Quasi-Covert Program – by Whitney Webb

 

On July 19, the Trump administration announced that it would end the CIA’s covert program aimed at arming and training terrorist-linked “moderate rebels” in Syria, sparking hope among some Trump supporters that he was finally enacting the anti-interventionist rhetoric of his campaign.

However, a recently released report shows that the Pentagon has picked up the slack left by the end of the CIA’s program — pumping billions of dollars worth of weapons into the hands of Syrian “rebels,” while attempting to mask the paper trail and their suppliers’ ties to organized crime.

The report, published Tuesday by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), provides conclusive evidence that the Pentagon plans to provide up to $2.2 billion in weapons to Syrian “rebel” groups, particularly Kurdish militant groups like the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). While the Pentagon has been arming “rebels” since 2015, the Department of Defense began requesting increased funding for the program once the CIA covert arms program was ostensibly slated to shut down

While the Pentagon has been arming “rebels” since 2015, the Department of Defense began requesting increased funding for the program once the CIA covert arms program was ostensibly slated to shut down.

The Pentagon has requested an additional $322.5 million for the financial year ending October 2017 and $261.9 million for the following 12 months. For fiscal years 2017 and 2018, the budget for the program has been set at $584 million while another $900 million has been earmarked to continue the program through 2022.

 

Working the Balkan arms pipeline

Weapons were shipped from Eastern-Europe via Silk Way airlines, who offered security-free diplomatic flights to clients ranging from Saudi Arabia, Israel to US Central Command.

The program utilizes the Pentagon’s so-called “Balkan arms pipeline,” a network first exposed by Bulgarian journalist Dilyana Gaytandzhieva. The arms-supply chain involves the U.S. purchasing vast amounts of Soviet-Era weaponry from Eastern Europe, from which it is then shipped to air bases in Turkey and Kuwait, via the Azerbaijan commercial airline Silk Way, and later sent into Syria. The BIRN/OCCRP report adds, notably, that several of the Pentagon’s weapons suppliers in these countries share links to organized crime organizations and other unsavory actors.

In addition, the report details how this Pentagon program to arm “rebels” has essentially sidestepped long-established checks on international weapons trafficking that are intended to curb illicit deals. Many of these safety checks are included in the UN’s Arms Trade Treaty, which the U.S. has yet to ratify but ostensibly supports.


Related | Journalist Interrogated For Linking CIA Weapons Shipments To Syrian Jihadists


Patrick Wilcken, an arms researcher at Amnesty International, told BIRN that the Pentagon’s actions are undermining the treaty in its entirety.

 

Masking the recipients

Syrian militants are seen with a Serbian made MO2 Coyote machine gun, a weapon which was shipped to Syria via Saudi Arabia and Turkey on diplomatic flights a few months earlier.

The specific “sidesteps” the Pentagon has been taking involve the alleged removal of documentation regarding who or what groups ultimately receive the purchased weapons. By removing this documentation, the Pentagon enables weapon transfers to any armed group within Syria it chooses – including Syrian rebels – without providing documentation as to who received what.

“The Pentagon is removing any evidence in their procurement records that weapons are actually going to the Syrian opposition,” Ivan Angelovski, who co-wrote the report, told Foreign Policy. Indeed, when the report authors contacted authorities in Romania, Bulgaria, and other nations involved in the program, several of the governments responded that they had granted export licenses for the weapons where the U.S., not Syria, was listed as the final destination. They claimed to have been unaware that the weapons were destined for Syria.

Thus, the Pentagon’s alteration of documentation is, in fact, illegal, given the U.S.’ membership in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which requires that end-user certificates include the final destination country.

 

Exhausting the Balkan weapons’ supplies

A visitor looks at assault rifles made by the Serbian company Zastava Arms, during a defense fair, in Belgrade, Serbia. (AP/Darko Vojinovic)

Furthermore, the report notes that the arms transfers are so massive that they are fundamentally altering the economies of the Eastern European nations that are supplying the weapons. The report notes that factories in Serbia and Bulgaria have been drastically increasing arms and ammunition production in order to keep up with demand. In order to meet the increasing demand to be generated by the program over the next several years, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic promised in July to turn “meadows and forests” into arms factories and almost double Serbia’s arms exports to $750 million by 2020.

Increased production alone has proven insufficient, however, with the Pentagon being forced to lower its standards for weapons and ammunitions to meet demand, while also forcing the U.S. to procure even more arms from “non-traditional” countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Vietnam.

While the U.S. has ostensibly accepted that Syria’s government will remain in power and even reclaim most, if not all, of its territory, it seems the Pentagon – along with its regional ally, Israel – are unwilling to let the billions already spent on arming the Syrian “rebels” go for naught, spending billions more in hopes that the situation will finally favor their long-standing goal of regime change.

Top photo | Free Syrian Army militants clean their weapons and check ammunition at their base on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria. (Khalil Hamra/AP)

Russia deploys MiG-29SMT fighters to Syria – Deterring Israel? – By Alexander Mercouris

MiG-29SMT

Russia air force deployment of advanced MiG fighter to Syria may precede its transfer to Syria’s air force

The Russian Ministry of Defence has unexpectedly confirmed the deployment of MiG-29SMT fighters to Russia’s Khmeimim air base in north east Syria.

The MiG-29SMT should not be confused with the new MiG-35, which has yet to enter service with the Russian Aerospace Forces, and which is an essentially new aircraft with new electronics and engines and a new airplane structure, though one which uses the old MiG-29’s planform. By contrast the MiG-29SMT is essentially a heavily modernised MiG-29, an aircraft that entered service with the Russian air force in the 1980s.

It is nonetheless a potent aircraft which however is designed for air to air combat against enemy fighters rather than for strike roles or ground attack. In this it differs from the SU-35 and SU-30 fighters also deployed by the Russian Aerospace Forces to Syria, which though exceptionally effective air combat fighters are nonetheless true multirole fighters, which are also very effective when used for ground strikes.

What explains the deployment of the MiG-29SMT to Syria?

Ever since the start of the Russian intervention in Syria in 2015 the Russians have openly and frankly spoken of Syria as a testing ground for their military systems. It would be in keeping with this approach to use Syria to test the combat performance of the MiG-29SMT, making it incidentally the first MiG fighter deployed by the Russians to Syria on a sustained basis, though four much more advanced naval MiG-29K fighters were also briefly deployed to Syria last autumn on board Russia’s carrier Admiral Kuznetsov.

However a more likely reason for the deployment to Syria of the MiG-29SMT is that the Russians are preparing a delivery of MiG-29SMT aircraft to Syria and the deployment of some examples of this aircraft to Khmeimim air base is intended to familiarise the Syrians with it.

In 2009 the Russians confirmed that a contract had been agreed between Russia and Syria for the supply of 24 MiG-29SMT fighters to Syria. The sale was however postponed in 2012 because of the Syrian war. However with most of western Syria now pacified and under the Syrian government’s control, and with ISIS just weeks away from final defeat in eastern Syria, it is now possible to speak of the Syrian war finally winding down, making it possible for the supply of the 24 MiG-29SMTs to proceed.

When the Syrian war is finally over the Syrian air force – which has experienced heavy equipment losses because of the war, and whose aircraft are anyway largely obsolete Soviet designs delivered to Syria by the USSR in the 1970s and 1980s – will need modern new aircraft to re-equip itself, especially in light of the increasing threats to Syria from Israel.

At that point the transfer of the 24 MiG-29SMT fighters to Syria may finally take place, with the deployment of some of these aircraft to Syria being intended to prepare the ground for this.

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