Syria has been conducting extensive construction work on a chemical weapons facility in the country's northwest, satellite images obtained by the defense analyst group Jane's reveal. The images of a chemical weapons facility identified as al-Safir were taken by several commercial sources from 2005 to 2008, the analyst group said. Imagery obtained by DigitalGlobe's WorldView-1 satellite shows that extensive construction has taken place at the facility, as well as at an adjacent missile base, the group wrote. In addition, the images showed that the site contained a number of the "defining features of a chemical weapons facility." (...) >>>
Feb 21, 2009
There has been series of flagrant human rights violations recently in Syria, including the mass killing of prisoners in Sidnaya prison and the killing of three Kurdish citizens who were celebrating Norouz (New Year) in the city of Kamishli.
Following are excerpts from reactions to these events on oppositionist Syrian websites, as well as details and illustrations from reports posted on these sites about the torture of prisoners in Syrian jails. (...) >>>
PJM: "The Rehabilitation of Bashar Assad - A real transformation or deceptive new packaging?", by P. David Hornik
Syrian President Bashar Assad is getting showered with honors these days. The question is what he’s done to deserve them. True, Assad has been meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Qatari Emir Hamad ibn Khalifa. The talks are variously billed as promoting Israeli-Syrian peace, smoothing Assad’s path out of his Iranian alliance into the Western camp, and helping Assad mediate the Western-Iranian standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. (...) Assad has played a deft double game of continuing in his old ways while making gestures that keep Olmert and Sarkozy earnestly averring that he’s changed. Syria is continuing to host Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations, funnel Iranian weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and pursue its own intensive military buildup that includes chemical and biological warfare programs. Only a year ago Israeli planes destroyed an almost-operational, North Korean-supplied Syrian nuclear reactor. (...) Assad’s fear of the Hariri tribunal is intense and offers a ready explanation for his transparent pretenses of conciliatory behavior. He has a record of reverting to talk of peace with Israel when he finds himself in trouble (...) the belief in “soft power,” and denial of the intense hostility to the West in parts of the world, runs very deep in Western Europe (...) Nicolas Sarkozy and Ehud Olmert are doing a disservice both to truth and geopolitical rationality by packaging unrepentant malevolent dictator Bashar Assad as a smiling friend. >>>
Updated: 7th Sep 2008
Memri: " French President Sarkozy in Interview with Syrian Daily Al-Watan: A New Page in French-Syrian Relations"
The Syrian daily Al-Watan published an interview with French President Nicolas Sarkozy today, in advance of his visit to Damascus. Following are excerpts from the interview (...) >>>
Updated: 3rd Sep 2008
Townhall: "Hezbollah Kills Lebanese Army Officer,"
Hezbollah has “brazenly attacked the Lebanese Army” – in its Thursday shooting-attack on an army helicopter, killing 1st Lt. Samer Hanna and wounding several others – so say the leaders of Lebanon’s pro-democracy movement. Hours after the shooting, Tom Harb, secretary general of The International Lebanese Committee for UN Security Council Resolution 1559 (which calls for the disarming of Hezbollah), tells me: “This is tantamount to a declaration of war by Hezbollah, and if they will attack the Lebanese Army, they will surely have no qualms about attacking the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).” Harb has just sent a letter to the UN stating such.
Hezbollah (...) is heavily funded and equipped by Iran and operationally supported by both Iran and Syria. As we have reported, the group has strengthened its strategic positions across Lebanon in recent months (...) combat training and military posturing has increased in regions of the country far beyond its traditionally recognized southern defenses (...) The doomed helicopter was in fact shot down over a rugged stretch of terrain in south Lebanon where sources have been informing us for weeks that Hezbollah and Pasdaran (Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) fighters have been conducting small-unit military exercises.
This is not the first time Hezbollah has attacked the Lebanese government. But it is one of the boldest attacks to date against the army. In May Hezbollah (...) turned its weapons on the Lebanese government and citizenry following government decisions to both fire a Hezbollah-linked airport security chief and shut down the terrorist group’s private telecommunications system (linking Hezbollah with Teheran and Damascus). In the end, Hezbollah won, was granted veto power over government decisions, and ultimately positioned as an “official” wing of the Lebanese Defense apparatus. Simply put, Hezbollah has increased its leverage over the legitimate army.(...)
All of this comes on the heels of published remarks by Italian Army Major General Claudio Graziano, senior commander of UNIFIL. Speaking to the Jerusalem Post on Aug. 15, Graziano said that “excellent cooperation” existed between UNIFIL and Hezbollah militiamen, and that “apart from UN troops, Lebanese soldiers and [local] hunters, no one is armed south of the Litani River.” Not sure if Graziano was drinking grape or cherry Kool-Aid. >>>
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Ynet: "Report: Iran supplied Hizbullah with advanced missiles"
Updated: 29th Aug. 2008
Yahoo!News: "Syria holds mass trial over call for democracy"
Twelve Syrian dissidents went on trial on Wednesday for signing a declaration calling for democracy in Syria in what a human rights group said was the biggest such case in seven years.
The 12 denied all charges, which include harming the state and spreading false information, when they appeared in a Damascus court, the National Organisation for Human Rights in Syria (NOHRS). (...) The 12 are charged with "spreading false information which weakens the morale of the nation and national sentiment, joining a secret organisation with the aim of modifying the nation's political and economic status, inciting racial and sectarian dissent and harming the state," according to Syrian non-governmental organisations (...) >>>
Updated: 31st July 2008
Pajamas Media: "Winners and Losers in the Lebanon Crisis"
The ruling Lebanese regime may have ceded some ground to Hezbollah following the recent violence - but they also managed to take Lebanon another step in the direction of full independence. (...) By provoking Hezbollah to respond, Jumblatt may just have saved Lebanese democracy and the Lebanese constitution. Had the March 14 Coalition elected a president without Hezbollah’s consent, the government might have triggered a full-scale Hezbollah invasion. There would have been a constitutional crisis, and Hezbollah might have been able to commit a coup d’etat. This was something they were clearly unable to manage to achieve during the recent clashes. After taking over Beirut and attacking the Druze community in the Chouf Mountains, Hezbollah realized that it gained nothing. (...) >>>
Updated: 122nd May 2008
Please spread the word: The real target of Hezbollah’s vicious campaign is free media in Lebanon. Hidden under the coverage of explosions, smoke and gunmen roaming Beirut is the real story: Hezbollah and its backers in Syria and Iran can’t stand any voice that freely express a different point of view. (...) Please do everything you can to spread the word and be part of this: (...) >>>
Updated: 11th May 2008
Memri: "A Clean Sweep: Amal, Hizbullah Take Much of Beirut in Redux of Hamas' Gaza Takeover"
Two elements of Hizbullah's preparations have been uncovered in the past few weeks: Hizbullah's independent communications network, and a surveillance network at Beirut's Rafic Hariri International Airport, set up by airport security chief Wafiq Shuqer, who is in the service of Hizbullah (see footnotes for MEMRI’s reports on these issues going back to 2007).
This week, the Lebanese government made a series of decisions deeming Hizbullah's communications network to be both illegal and intolerable.
In response, armed forces, primarily from Amal but also from Hizbullah, took to the streets of Beirut, cutting off roads, mostly those leading to the airport; paralyzing life in the city; clashing with (...) >>>
Updated: 9th May 2008
Politeia: "Lebanon: Back to the War by Proxi"
(...) Gunbattles erupted on the streets of Beirut yesterday as a general strike turned into a violent confrontation between the Government and the opposition, led by the militant Shia group Hezbollah. The rattle of automatic weapons and the crump of exploding rocket-propelled grenades echoed around the streets of the Lebanese capital as thick plumes of smoke rose from barricades of burning tyres. In scenes grimly redolent of the 1975-1990 civil war, gunmen were seen inching down empty streets and firing rifles at windows to a backdrop of burning cars. (...) >>>
Updated: 8th May 2008
Middle East Forum: "What's at Stake for the West in Lebanon?", by David Wurmser
Mr. Wurmser calls Lebanon a "key battleground between the West as a whole and the forces that seek to drag the Middle East down." The situation in Lebanon must be viewed in the context of the larger conflict in the region, which is becoming far more dangerous. Two years after the Cedar Revolution in March 2005, which was brought on by the assassination of Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, the Lebanese are still living through a tragedy. The inability to install a new president today is indicative of the situation. It is because of the size and success of the popular demonstrations by the Lebanese, however, that Lebanon has become the focal point of the enemies of the West, namely Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah.
Mr. Wurmser focused on the Iranian strategy toward Lebanon, arguing that Iran is undergoing a transformation, not in the direction of reform as the West hopes, but from a pure theocracy toward a "theofascist state on the edge of an even more aggressive foreign policy." This transformation in Iranian politics, according to Mr. Wurmser, is being played out in Lebanon and in Gaza. (...) >>>
Updated: 8th Apr 2008
BBC: "'Divided' Arab summit continues"
An annual summit of the Arab League is continuing in Syria's capital Damascus but key leaders are staying away amid signs of a growing regional rift. Only 11 heads of states from the 22-member organisation were present at the summit's opening on Saturday. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan were among those sending low-level delegations to the two-day gathering. They blame Syria for the ongoing political crisis in Lebanon - a charge denied by the government in Damascus. The Lebanese government is boycotting the summit completely. (...)
- Caption: Cox and Forkum -
Wahid Abdel-Meguid, of the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, believes the division within the region is now clear. "There are now two axes - Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah are on one side and the rest are on the another," he was quoted as saying by The Associated Press. "The Syrian axis is coherent and they have a clear objective and they are working in an organised way." (...) >>>
Updated: 30th Mar 2008
MEMRI: "Lebanon Publishes New Evidence of Ties Between Syria and Fath Al-Islam" - Despatch 1880
On February 18, 2008, Lebanese prosecutor-general Judge Sa'id Mirza submitted a report on his two-year investigation of the February 2007 terrorist attack in 'Ain 'Alaq, a Christian town in northern Lebanon.  The findings of the investigation indicate that Fath Al-Islam was behind the attack, but the report also implies a possible connection between Fath Al-Islam and the Syrian regime. 
Lebanese Prosecutor General: Fath Al-Islam Was Founded to Oppose the Lebanese Government, March 14 Forces (...) >>>
Updated: 27th Mar 2008
Yahoo!News: "Bush blames Lebanon stalemate on Syrian interference"
US President George W. Bush Friday laid blame on Syria for the stalemate that has prevented Lebanon from choosing a new president, saying Damascus was "thwarting the will of the Lebanese people." (...) "And so there needs to be a clear message to the Syrians from all us that you will continue to be isolated, you will continue to be viewed as a nation that is thwarting the will of the Lebanese people." (...) >>>
... that would be because the proxis are demanding control of the entire country by veto power ...Haaretz: "Lebanese politics / A decisive one-third minority"
(...) French President Nicolas Sarkozy "declared war" on Syria, the Hezbollah leader stepped up to stress that Damascus is not the responsible adult in Lebanon - he is. Nasrallah will be the one who determines Lebanon's political future, or the lack thereof, unless the Lebanese government is willing to agree to a veto-wielding one-third in the cabinet. Without such an agreement, Nasrallah says there will be no government or president in Lebanon. >>>
Updated: 5th Jan. 2008
BBC: "France to halt links with Syria"
France is to suspend diplomatic contacts with Syria, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced.
Links will be restored only when France has proof that Syria is not blocking progress towards installing a consensus president in Lebanon, Mr Sarkozy said. >>>
Updated: 30th Dec. 2007
The Lighthouse: "Of Political Entertainment and Slumber"
"It is long past time that one important piece of fantastical rubbish be finally sent on its way: this is the idea that Islamists maintain >>>
Updated: 18th July 2007
The Lighthouse: "Biding our Time"
CNN is reporting that the Lebanese security forces are doing battle with Sunni jihadist operatives near the Nahr al-Bared >>>
Updated: 20th May 2007
The Lighthouse: "Hezbollah's Scorched Earth Mentality Backfires Yet Again"
(...) a new phenomenon in Middle East politics, the Iranian-Syrian invention of National Islamism. >>>
Dated 24th Jan. 2007
- "Israeli Raid on Syrian Nuke/Nork"