International affairs

Editorial : Israeli political and military tests in Gaza
The blockaded Gaza Strip is being subjected to an ongoing military operation carried out by the Israeli army. This operation is claiming more lives among the population by the hour, at a time when the Israeli leaders are threatening to launch a comprehensive war against the Strip despite the clear announcement of intentions issued by the leaders of the Palestinian factions, regarding the preservation of the truce equation which existed prior to the Israeli escalation.
In the context of the military operations, the Israelis talked about a field test for the efficiency of the Iron Dome System used to deter short and middle range missiles, considering that the results are pointing to a limited efficiency despite the wide scale campaign with which the Israeli military command wanted to lift the morale of its people and affect those of its rivals in Palestine, Lebanon and Syria.
The Palestinian resistance with all its factions is facing a difficult test in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the Palestinian territories occupied in 1948, and is now facing the challenge of proving the ability of the Palestinian people, whether inside the occupied territories or abroad, to confront the new attack. For their part, the leaders of the resistance bloc in the region, will have to draft a political response to the Israeli open depletion process which is heading toward a new extermination war in the blocked Gaza Strip, at a time when the measures of the Egyptian authorities which succeeded to Mubarak remained below the level of freeing Gaza from the restraints imposed by the American-Israeli alliance two years ago.

The tribal division and the fires of foreign interference
New facts emerged at the level of the incidents witnessed in Libya ever since the beginning of NATO’s military interference. According to these facts, the war is evolving in the context of a dangerous stalemate, whose price will be paid by Libya out of its wealth, the stability of its people and maybe even the unity of its soil.
The back and forth witnessed on the battlefield is actually pointing to the vertical divisions which became publically clear ever since the Benghazi uprising. Experts and historians believe that the tribal division historically seen in Libya — since the days of the Ottoman empire and the Italian occupation — is still a decisive factor in the Libyan domestic fabric, as the latter experts believe that what happened in Libya was an uprising staged by a social base in Kaddafi’s regime, which rebelled against him and could no longer remain under his authority. As for the military and political command in Benghazi, it attracted — through the transitory council it proclaimed following its uprising — a mixture of oppositions abroad, including the Muslim brotherhood organization in Libya and other groups that feature oppositionists who have been enjoying close ties with Western intelligence apparatuses for many years now.
The tribal balance in Libya does not give the impression that the situation will be settled in favor of any of the sides considering that even if military balance were to shift, the problem will continue to exist and raise questions regarding the real goal which the Americans are trying to achieve: do they aim at solving the problem or at exploiting it? This was the main question which emerged in Iraq and Afghanistan, although it is being responded to by the bills of the American companies and the daily lists of dead locals, and especially those said to have been killed by mistake by the American leaders and their partners in NATO, as it was recently seen near Ajdabia.

The Arab file

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appointed Adel Safar, the minister of agriculture in the resigned government to form the new Cabinet. And in the context of the reforms which were launched by President Al-Assad the latter issued several decrees, mainly featuring the appointment of Mohammed Khalid al-Hanous as the governor of Daraa, the ousting of the governor of Homs and granting the Syrian nationality to the foreigners in Al-Hassaka, in addition to several other decrees aiming at meeting the needs of the citizens. Al-Assad had met with leaders in the areas inhabited by a Kurdish majority to listen to their demands. For their part, these Kurdish leaders welcomed the president’s decree and considered it was a “historical” one which will enhance Syrian national unity.
In the meantime, the special committees looking into the state of emergency and the investigations in the Daraa and Latakia incidents proceeded with their work.
On Friday, some Syrian cities witnessed gatherings demanding the hastening of reforms and the enhancement of the climate of freedom. However, a number of armed elements randomly opened fire on the security forces and the citizens, which resulted in the fall of a number of dead and wounded.
The Syrian Interior Ministry assured in a statement there was no room for any leniency in maintaining the security of the country and the citizens, adding: “We will not allow the intentional mixing between peaceful demonstrations, sabotage and the attempts to generate strife.”
It is worth mentioning, that the official Syrian television was able to air footage showing armed men shooting at the demonstrators in Douma, Homs and Daraa, which clearly pointed to the presence of foreign fingers attempting to tamper with Syrian security. On the other hand, total calm prevailed over the two largest cities in Syria, i.e. Aleppo and Damascus, which proved that the majority of the Syrian population was not concerned about the ongoing incidents.

Several cities in Yemen witnessed the fall of many dead and wounded in the ranks of the demonstrators protesting against the regime. For his part, President Ali Abdullah Saleh called on the opposition to withdraw from the streets before reaching an agreement over the transition of power, while the opposition called on Saleh to step down, surrender his powers to his deputy and work on reaching an agreement with them over the transitory phase in the country.
The European Union asked Saleh to start transferring power without any delay.
In the meantime, dissident Brigadier General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar accused the Yemeni president of attempting to kill him through an ambush which resulted in a number of injuries.
It is worth mentioning, that the Gulf foreign ministers’ meeting saw the proposal of an initiative which was presented by Qatar to establish dialogue between Saleh and his opponents. However, Qatar’s assurance that this dialogue will eventually cause President Saleh to step down, raised the Yemeni president’s discontent, prompted him to reject the initiative altogether and to accuse Qatar of interfering in Yemeni internal affairs.

The battles continued between the forces of Colonel Kaddafi and the armed rebels next to the city of Ajdabia, after they were able to restore Brega where the fighting revolved around the oil wells.
On Monday, the United States pulled out it warplanes and its Tomahawk missiles from the battlefield, after NATO assumed the responsibility of the military operations in the country. From now on, the American army will only be providing fuel supply planes and undertake jamming and surveillance missions.
The White House asked Libyan leader Kaddafi to carry out actions and not to settle for words, after it received a letter from him following Washington’s pullout from the military campaign on Libya.
The military commander of the rebels, Abdul Fattah Youness, said that NATO “disappointed us because it left the people of Missratah to die and is not interfering to strike Kaddafi’s forces which have been blocked for over a month.” It is worth mentioning that during the last couple of weeks, NATO inadvertently bombed positions for the rebels and claimed the lives of dozens among them, a thing which raised the discontent of the revolutionaries especially in light of NATO’s refusal to apologize.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey was trying to draft a roadmap to put an end to the war in Libya, featuring a ceasefire and the pull out of Kaddafi’s forces from some cities. For that purpose, Turkey conducted talks with envoys representing the Libyan government and the opposition during the past week.

In light of the protests which erupted on the Egyptian arena to demand the trying in court of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a great rift emerged between the protesters and the military council after the Egyptian troops attempted to disperse Friday’s demonstration by force, leading to the death of two protesters and the wounding of many others. Following these incidents, the youth of the revolution issued calls for the staging of new massive protests in the capital Cairo and other provinces.

The Israeli occupation forces had escalated their attacks on the Palestinian people this week, thus arresting dozens of citizens, besieging the village of Ourta and arresting dozens of women in it. Moreover, since Thursday, the occupation forces and aircrafts have been launching an ongoing attack on the Gaza Strip. This attack has so far resulted in the martyrdom of a number of resistance fighters and the fall of many wounded in the ranks of the citizens. This happened at a time when Israeli War Minister Ehud Barak ratified the structural plans of four settlements in the West Bank.
Israel also launched an air raid on a car in Port Sudan in the eastern part of Sudan on Tuesday, thus causing the fall of two martyrs.
Head of the UN-affiliated Human Rights Committee South African Judge Richard Goldstone recanted the biggest part of the report in which he assured that the Israeli occupation forces committed war crimes during their attack on the Gaza Strip on the end of 2008. In this context, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the United Nations to immediately annul the Goldstone report, as the South African judge assured that the claims made by Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai in regard to the Israeli attack on Gaza were false and unfounded.

The Israeli file

Judge Goldstone’s recanting of the biggest part of his report regarding the operation on the Gaza Strip constituted the main headline of the Israeli papers issued last week, as Haaretz indicated that Netanyahu assigned a team to exploit this development in favor of Israel.

At the level of Palestinian affairs, the papers talked about the possible launching of a wide scale military operation on Gaza against the backdrop of the daily launching of rockets on Israel, pointing to Netanyahu’s escalatory statements at this level. Haaretz focused on Israel’s preparations to counter the international convoy which includes twenty ships and is heading toward the Strip, as well as on the attempts of the Foreign Ministry to convince the governments of the concerned states to prevent this convoy from starting its journey at the end of May.

Moreover, the press focused on the Wikileaks documents which are exclusively being published by Haaretz, and the most prominent of which being the one in which the Mossad assured that Hezbollah was planning on launching six thousand rockets on Tel Aviv in the next war, and the dupery exerted by Israel vis-à-vis the United States in regard to the discontinuation of the constructions in the settlements.

Aircrafts arrive from the Red Sea and bomb wanted men in Africa
Yediot Aharonot quoted foreign sources as saying that an Israeli aircraft carried out the attack on a car in south Sudan – which led to the death of two people- and that the aircraft entered the Sudanese airspace at around ten. Writer Yossi Yehoshua from Yediot Aharonot, said that the Israeli aircrafts arrived from the Red Sea and returned as soon as they completed their mission.
As for Amit Cohen from Maariv, he assured that the attack on Sudan aimed at killing the man responsible for armament within the Hamas organization, i.e. Abdul Latif al-Ashkar who replaced Mahmud al-Mabhouh and is likely to have been killed in the attack.

Lebanese affairs

Editorial: Al-Hariri’s task to trigger strife
The forces of the new majority are busy arranging the files of their government and establishing the possible allocation of the portfolios and the names. They are in fact postponing the necessary debate over the policy and choices of the government in regard to several thorny issues. In the meantime, leader of the future movement Saad al-Hariri is placing obstacles before the new government through political and field harassments that will force the next cabinet -following its proclamation- and its president to deal with complications and problems affecting Lebanon’s relations with the outside world and the ways to deal with several domestic files.
Through his pressures on Mikati, Hariri wants to delay the birth of the government as long as possible, and while this effort is doomed to fail after the majority forces expressed their determination to settle this matter, what is required through the pressures is to place Mikati in a state of continuous political blackmail that would render him the defense line of Al-Hariri’s positions and policies within the state from inside the Cabinet. Al-Hariri was assigned to carry out provocations in order to induce a debate that would revive the confessional sensitivities in Lebanon and the region through three axes:
 1. Interfering in Syria and providing support to the forces of sabotage and sectarian instigation, while offering logistic facilitations allowed by geographic proximity and the Future Movement’s presence and influence in the Bekaa and the North.
 2. Leading a campaign to topple the arms in Lebanon in order to deplete the reputation and credit of the resistance, and prepare the popular climate and political reality for a state of erosion that with provide Israel with the best conditions for when it decides to launch its promised war.
 3. Provoking an attack on Iran in order to fuel sectarian mobilization and induce reactions going in that same direction.
It seems that Al-Hariri is trying to generate tensions on all levels in order to pave the way for the Israeli war in a few months, before the set date for the American troops’ pullout from Iraq in August.

The Lebanese file

The Roumieh prison witnessed protests during which the prisoners burned their blankets and detained elements from the security forces to demand the improvement of their conditions and general pardon. For their part, the families of the prisoners blocked the roads and protested in front of the prison, which led to clashes with the security forces and resulted in the fall of dead and wounded in the ranks of the prisoners. Minister of Interior Ziad Baroud assured that the chronic neglect of the prisons file rendered the latter a time bomb and placed a number of prisoners in the position of victims, regardless of their judicial files. He thus called for the hastening of the investigations, the trials, the implementation of the law regarding the reduction of the sentences and the implementation of article 108.

Hundreds among the relatives of the Lebanese living in Abidjan and the Ivory Coast protested in front of the Foreign Ministry to condemn the state’s shortcomings toward 100 thousand Lebanese citizens.

And following the opening of the Abidjan airport, the Middle East Airlines company decided to dispatch urgent flights in parallel to charter planes which will be rented to help transfer the Lebanese outside the capital or to nearby ones.

Politically, Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said during the inauguration of the Lebanese-Saudi Economic Forum that no one was entitled to export anarchy to the Lebanese territories and the Arab countries, adding: “The biggest challenge facing the Arab world is the Iranian infiltration into the Arab fabric. The Iranian command misinterpreted the positive Arab behavior toward it, thus going to the farthest extent by infiltrating the Arab communities.”

Hezbollah responded by describing Al-Hariri’s “instigation” against Iran as being a translation of “the recent positions issued by American Secretary of War Robert Gates from Riyadh, regarding the Iranian role in the region. This is an exposed attempt to cover up the American interference in the affairs of the region, and confiscate the will of its people to achieve freedom and get rid of American hegemony. It also shifted the attention away from the enemy’s escalating practices against the Palestinian people.”

For his part, Hezbollah’s Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah defended Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri in regard to what was attributed to him in the Wikileaks documents, assuring there existed a relation of cooperation and total complementarity with him and the Amal movement. He then attacked the statements of Prime Minister of the caretaker government Saad al-Hariri against Iran, as well as the intentions of the Kingdom of Bahrain to deport some Lebanese from Manama. Nasrallah said: “When a state which stood alongside Lebanon on all levels is harmed, we cannot remain silent. And when someone says that Iran is an enemy and the reason behind the crisis in Lebanon, not Israel and America, this is a great mistake especially coming from a prime minister.”

Prime Minister Designate Najib Miktai called for calm at the level of the political rhetoric to avoid slipping toward what could increase the tensions. He also rejected “the attempt to exploit political slogans that neither serve Lebanon nor its people, regardless of the party or movement to which they belong. In addition, these slogans are harming the Lebanese because they are implicating them in disputes with friendly states that stood alongside Lebanon and helped the Lebanese during the very difficult conditions endured by their country.”

News analysis

The Muslim Brotherhood in Syria: The role and choices
The events witnessed in Syria are pointing to a very active role played by the Muslim Brotherhood group, i.e. the strongest, most organized and widest spread among the opposition groups. It seems - from the size of the calls for protest and the harsh tone of the statements issued last week - that the slogan related to the hastening of the reforms was a mere maneuver to instigate against the Syrian command. The size of the MB’s role could clearly be seen based on the poor Syrian response to the calls to stage wide demonstrations in front of the Baath party’s branches on Thursday, knowing that the partisan elements who were celebrating the founding of the Baath party on April 7 were not disturbed by any actions.
At this point, we should point to the political choice expressed by the MB organization in Syria. It participated in the alliance led by Khaddam in the context of the American-Israeli attack on the country in 2005 and practically adopted an agenda of security and political sabotage to annex Syria to American hegemony. This forces us to say that the MB never acted against the regime except during the days of the official Western attack on the country, and while this was true in 2005, it is also true today.
Through its sectarian project, the MB poses a threat on national unity in Syria and the interests of this unity in the ongoing conflict with the Israeli enemy. And since the Syrian fabric features several sects and confessions, fears always surround the inclinations of the MB which never conducted any political reviewing of its choices and connections, while it is clear that its relations with the Palestinian Hamas and the Turkish Justice and Development Party constitute a burden on both Khalid Mishaal and Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Despite the willingness of the Syrian command to engage in the dialogue called for by all the oppositionists on the basis of national principles, the facts on the field show that the Muslim Brotherhood, along with some extremists groups, the Al-Qaeda of Bandar Ben Sultan and others - is standing behind the bloody escalation in Syria and especially in the locations that witnessed the fall of many dead and wounded.

The American file

The American papers issued last week focused on the ongoing attempts to mend the American-Saudi relations, as well as on the Yemeni file and the United States’ recanting of its support to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been facing protests demanding his departure from power since the month of January.

The papers also took interest in the Libyan incidents, assuring that at least two among Libyan leader Muammar al-Kaddafi’s sons were proposing the transition toward a constitutional democracy, the departure of their father from power, and the handling of the transitory phase by one of them. They indicated there was no concord whatsoever between the United States’ military goals and policies in Libya.

The British file

The developments of the Libyan crisis and the tense relations between the NATO forces and the Libyan rebels were among the most prominent topics tackled by the British papers issued last week.

The papers also focused on the local, European, and international news which they perceived as being the most heated, namely the issue of the Ivory Coast which is suffering from an important international neglect and the gangs of pillaging that are roaming the streets.

The developments in Yemen came in second position in the British papers following the Libyan developments, in light of the continuation of the protests demanding the departure of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime. They also pointed to the Gulf interest in finding a political exit to the political crisis in Yemen.

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