The great lesson of patriotism of Hasan Nasrallah

By Ghaleb Kandil

The General Secretary of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, gave a good lesson of patriotism to all his detractors and opponents who suspect him of worst intentions and accuse him of the worst evils. In a speech which can be regarded as the culmination of a series of important statements, Hezbollah leader proclaimed its commitment to the state and to Lebanon as a final homeland. Addressing members of the party, Nasrallah said: "There was a time when we used to see Lebanon as a colonial construct that was part of the Ummah. That was in our early days, and the country was going through a civil war. All parties were calling a nation that fit their liking."

"Today conditions have changed. We believe that this country is our country, and that the flag of the cedar is our flag that we need to protect, too. At this stage, our priority is to protect the state in Lebanon and to build it."

The remarks appear to fly in the face of accusations by Hezbollah’s opponents that the group is a proxy of Iran, functioning as a "state within a state."

"What I am telling you isn’t mere rhetoric. We are convinced of this and must work to apply it", Nasrallah said at the close of his remarks.

Sayyed Nasrallah also gave a proof of his good intentions to his partners and political allies, including Christians, removing any ambiguity regarding its legislative options by announcing that his party will vote in favor of the orthodox electoral law, because "we should listen and understand the fears of Christians."

In a speech Friday on the occasion of the celebration of the birth of the Prophet, the Hezbollah leader said that he "understands the fears" that drive Christians and push them searching to search for a perfect parity with Muslim candidates." "To choose an electoral law in the current circumstances is very difficult, more difficult than ever before, because of circumstances across the country and the region and particularly Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah said. And naturally the fears of Christians are stronger especially when they see what happens in the region, what happened with the Christians of Iraq. They have the right to be afraid and to consider that the events are critical and far from ordinary. That is why they approach these elections with founding ideas."

The main Christian forces support the Orthodox project that they think will allow Christians to choose their true representatives. "Once the Parliament is called we say bluntly, we will vote for the Orthodox law," assured the leader of Hezbollah. "Christians say that the Orthodox project gives them the opportunity to be fully represented. Let’s give them, as Muslims, this occasion and elect a Parliament where no one can say that it is not fairly represented in terms of its true electoral weight, and a Parliament that may offer the opportunity to Lebanon to fix the system in place", he said.

Hassan Nasrallah has described as "fundamental" the system of proportional representation, which is most likely to give the various political forces "their true electoral weight" and allow maximum access to significant forces in Parliament.

For Hassan Nasrallah, the delimitation of electoral districts comes second, so long as the system of proportional representation is adopted.

Hassan Nasrallah rejected the arguments put forward by the Future Movement to reject the proportional, according to which weapons were used to influence the outcome of the vote in 2009. "The type of weapons that may influence a vote are not missiles, but Kalashnikovs which are in the hands of everyone," said Hassan Nasrallah. According to him, there is, however, a more significant weapon which can distort the results of the election: the money. "I heard with my own ears a senior politician, saying that during the 2009 campaign, the other side has spent 3 billion dollars", he said.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has warned against the political forces not to bet on a collapse of the Syrian regime. According to him, the conflicts in the Arab world are political first. "Do not play with fire, do not take the risk of releasing the genie of sectarian discord of his lamp, we could not make it there back!" he concluded.

The Tendency in Syria

Assad appears comfortable in a mosque, his army advancing on all fronts

By Pierre Khalaf

Denying all the information about the fact that he lives cloistered, outside Damascus, and afraid to move, Bashar al-Assad has appeared in public for the second time since the beginning of the year. Surrounded by high state officials and a crowd a mosque in northern Damascus, in the district of Mouhajirine, Syrian President listened to the sermon delivered by the Minister of Awqaf (Religious properties). The images broadcast live on state television showed President Assad comfortably talking with the people.

Meanwhile, the progress of the Syrian army is continuing on all fronts, especially around Damascus and Homs. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has blocked a thousand terrorist from al-Nosra Front in the city of Darayya south-west of Damascus. A source close to the military command for the operation in the region told the Russian agency RIA Novosti that "the situation is improving day by day, now we control two-thirds of the territory of Darayya. Terrorists are blocked, this time we do not have them left lane exit. They have the choice between surrender or be killed", said the agency interlocutor. According to the source, government forces have blocked 1000-1500 rebels in Darayya. "They use weapons and modern means of communication made in the USA and Israel. Among the dead we find documents confirming that they come from Turkey, Libya and Afghanistan", the source said.

In the North, the popular protest against armed groups has grown in areas where they are present in Aleppo. Almost daily demonstrations demanding their withdrawal from the city are held by the public. In the past, rallies took place spontaneously in neighborhoods without consultation with other sectors of the city. But lately, the young from four neighborhoods went out in the streets together to denounce the fact that terrorists are hiding in residential areas between houses, establishing checkpoints, searching passersby and engaging in flights.

In Homs, the army took control Kfaraya and Sultaniye regions, after inflicting heavy losses to the armed groups. Meanwhile, the army continued its military operations in the countryside of Homs, including Rastan, Qoussair and Hula.


Hasan Nasrallah , General secretary of Hezbollah

«There was a time when we used to see Lebanon as a colonial construct that was part of the Ummah. That was in our early days, and the country was going through a civil war. All parties were calling a nation that fit their liking. Today conditions have changed. We believe that this country is our country, and that the flag of the cedar is our flag that we need to protect, too. At this stage, our priority is to protect the state in Lebanon and to build it. What I am telling you isn’t mere rhetoric. We are convinced of this and must work to apply it.»

Alain Aoun, Lebanese MP, member of the Free Patriotic Movement

«We have not managed to agree on a electoral law. We’re going straight to a political crisis if we do not adopt an electoral law. For the legislation to take place on the scheduled date, the deadline is March 11. We have more than one month. The election cannot take place on the basis of the 1960 electoral law. The Orthodox Project got the most votes in the parliamentary subcommittee. This text is not in contradiction with the Constitution, and it is most likely to ensure a fair representation of all communities

Laurent Fabius, French Foreign Affairs Minister

«Things are not moving in Syria. The solution that we had hoped for -and by that I mean the fall of Bashar and the arrival of the opposition coalition to power - has not happened

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director of Human Rights Watch

«The destruction of religious sites is furthering sectarian fears and compounding the tragedies of the country. In the northern Idlib province, where rebels have taken swathes of territory from government forces, opposition fighters destroyed a Shia husseiniya- a site for worship and gatherings. In the western Latakia province, HRW quoted residents as saying gunmen working in the name of the opposition had broken into and stolen from Christian churches in two villages. While the motivation for the church break-ins may have been theft rather than a religious attack, opposition fighters have a responsibility to protect religious sites in areas under their control from willful damage and theft


Ø Scores of residents of the popular Lebanese skiing area of Kfardebian blocked a convoy Thursday led by prominent Salafi cleric, Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir and his supporters, who were headed to a ski resort. Former minister and pro-government parliamentarian from the area Farid Haykal al-Khazen defended the protesters’ actions against the Salafis, dismissing Assir’s trip as a "political show." "Assir is welcome in the area by himself, or with his family, but not for political posturing," Khazen told a Lebanese news channel from the site of the protest.

The motorcade of around 200 people was allowed to pass nearly an hour later, after Interior Minister Marwan Charbel called on protesters to clear the way and security forces were deployed to the area.

Kfardebian is an well-known for its regionally-known ski resort town of Faraya, and is in the mountain district of Keserwan.

Vice President of the opposition Kataeb party accused Assir of "provoking strife" in the area by bringing with him "500 partisans". The convoy comprised four large buses and around four vans.

Assir preaches a fundamentalist brand of Sunni Islam and is considered close to the Western and Gulf supported opposition March 14 coalition. He is a staunch opponent of Hezbollah, having staged weeks-long demonstrations in his southern hometown of Saida against the group’s arms over the last year.

Ø French journalist Georges Malbrunot said on his blog hosted by the French daily Le Figaro that the United States set up a Delta special forces unit in Harissa just north of Beirut. Citing a French military source, he said Harissa is an ideal observation post to monitor or infiltrate into Syria. But Lebanese military sources denied this information while recognizing the presence in Lebanon "for years of a small group of U.S. Special Forces to train the elite troops of the Lebanese Army." The sources added that the U.S. military are not in Harissa, but declined to specify where they are deployed.

Ø The leader of the kidnappers of the Lebanese hostages in Syria, Omar Dadikhi, better known of bu Ibrahim died ... for the third time. This is what some media reported, but information on the Syrian rebel leader is uncertain. Turkish sources announced that he had actually died from injuries he received during the Battle of the Taftanaz military airport, near Aleppo. The Syrian opposition, however, said Abu Ibrahim is still alive, but his condition is critical.

Press review

As Safir (Lebanese daily, close to the majority, January 24, 2013)

Imad Marmal

The next parliamentary elections appear to be compromised. The text submitted by the Government to Parliament, the Orthodox proposal, the project based on 50 electoral districts, the 1960 law, even the mixed formula put forward by Berry stumbled upon an impasse. Only a change of rulesat the last minute or a parliamentary vote would allow the different actors to find a solution.

For the first time, the Lebanese are left alone, without any regional or international sponsors, which are absorbed by the current developments in Syria. If they are unable to reach an agreement on the electoral law, they give evidence that Lebanon must remain under supervision, and that it is incompetent to manage its internal and national affairs.

As Safir (January 22, 2013)

Sami Kleib

In less than a month, France was involved in at least four crises. One of its intelligence agents was executed by Islamic extremists in Somalia. It sparked a war against the jihadists in Mali, where contrary to expectations, the war will be long lasting. Al-Qaeda has responded with a large-scale hostage in Algeria which has resulted in carnage. France is also involved in Syria, both on political and security levels. It was the first western state to nominate an ambassador of the Syrian coalition opposition in Paris. Finally, France has delayed the release of Lebanese activist Georges Ibrahim Abdallah. It was then accused of "bend to American and Israeli dictates", as the famous lawyer Jacques Vergès said.

It seems that this involvement widens the gap between President François Hollande and

the right-wing opposition. The opposition and the majority of the French people were in favor of the involvement of France in west Africa. But now, critics are increasingly heard. This is dangerous. But even more dangerous is that France is facing Al-Qaeda. This refers to the situation in which France found itself when it confronted Algerian islamists. At that time, the metro stations in Paris and other regions have been targeted by a wave of attacks. This also refers to the situation in which it was when it became involved in Lebanon, in the early 80s of the last century, when a bomb struck the headquarters of French paratroopers in Beirut. The French contingent operating within the UNIFIL is facing now more risks, despite the ongoing coordination between the UN forces and security services in South Lebanon.

Information circulating that the UNIFIL forces were confronted with an incident a few days ago in the region of Jisr el-Khardali. In addition, unprecedented demonstrations were held outside the headquarters of the French contingent in Deir Kifa, Tyre.

Hezbollah has sent some signals. Mahmoud Komaty, politburo member of the party, took part in the demonstration in front of the French Embassy in Beirut. The party cannot defend the banner of the release of Samir Al-Kantar and drop at the same time the case of Georges Ibrahim Abdallah. This is important. But more important is the fact that Hezbollah sent several messages, some of which focus on the role played by France in Syria. Hezbollah is saying that Paris should expect more escaladions.

No doubt that NATO and America are supporting France in these battles. The case is related to the fight against terrorism in which France was the first to suffer. Perhaps, the Socialists are really sincere in their policy and aim to curb the threat of terrorism in Africa, which they cinsider as strategic backyard. But recent history shows that Washington often bypasses Paris and Europe when the time of "deals" comes. According to the events in Mali, we can say that the administration of François Hollande is in trouble.

An Nahar (Lebanese Daily, close to march-14 coalition)

(January 23, 2013)

Visitor of Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea indicate that he focuses on his alliance with the Future Movement and insists that "nothing and nobody can separate us." "We value our relationship with the Future Movement as much as and perhaps more than we want the authentic representation of Christians in the electoral law", he said.

These visitors reported that "Geagea has reassured supporters that 14-March coalition will continue to have common goals in spite of the debate on the most representative electoral law." "We do not disputerons for parliamentary seats or positions and the Lebanese Forces do not conceive the future without the Future Movement", said Geagea. Leader of the LF has made intensive efforts for the secretariat of the 14-Mar resume its meetings, suspended since the early work of the parliamentary sub-committee. Indeed, the Secretariat held a meeting yesterday.

Al Akhbar (Lebanese daily, close to the majority, January 24, 2013)

Firas Choufi

Relations between Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Saudi Arabia have always been estranged, yet the premier’s recent visit with Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul-Aziz in Riyadh hints that the Kingdom might be in need of a new friend in Lebanon.

Saad Hariri no longer holds a monopoly on favors from Saudi Arabia; visits with Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul-Aziz aren’t the exclusive domain of the former prime minister.

While current Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati has yet to have a photo-op with King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz, his path to the Kingdom is now wide open. Mikati’s previous meetings with Saudi officials were never made public – though sometimes leaked to the press – but the prime minister’s visit on Monday, 21 January 2013, was publicized.

Sources close to Mikati attributed the public visit to two factors: the approaching Lebanese general election and a need for Saudi to strengthen its influence in Lebanon. In the case of the election, Saudi Arabia will not stand against Mikati in his hometown of Tripoli, even if it has declared its full support for the Future Movement in Beirut and the Bekaa. As for Saudi attempting to regain a foothold in the country, it sees its influence undermined as a result of Saad Hariri’s absence from Beirut.

Meanwhile, another source familiar with the new Saudi stance on Mikati told Al-Akhbar that, in contrast to the previous distance that marked their relationship, the Lebanese prime minister was greeted warmly by the Saudi crown prince. The encounter took place in the presence of Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal and his deputy, Prince Abdul-Aziz bin Abdullah (son of King Abdullah), after Mikati held lengthy meetings with the latter two.

The source affirmed that the meeting with Mikati was motivated by Lebanese and regional developments linked to Syria. For instance, there is a firm Saudi conviction at present that its allies in Lebanon, specifically the Future Movement, are incapable of restoring a prominent position for the Kingdom in the country’s ruling configuration.

Saudi Arabia is dismayed by “rampant corruption in the Future Movement,” said the source. Given the huge sums of money paid to the bloc by the House of Saud, none of it was “invested in the development of Sunni-majority regions like North Lebanon.”

The source did not conceal that Saudi is disquieted by the Future Movement “for leaving the Sunni arena to the Salafis and other radicals [who are] rejected by a majority of Lebanese.” Indeed, the source went on to say, Riyadh had “asked Hariri to use the Salafis only tactically, but not to hand over the scene to them.”

In the period following the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, Saudi Arabia came to realize that “neutral” Sunni leaders such as Mikati and Minister of Finance Mohammad Safadi, or those who toe the line of the March 8 alliance like former minister of defense Abdul-Rahim Mourad and former prime minister Omar Karami, “had maintained a civilized face for the Sunni community, based on good relations with the Shias and Christians.”

Regionally, the meeting with Mikati coincided with increasing talk about the Saudis opening a back-channel with the Syrians, whether through Jordanian intelligence or a direct security liaison.

Arab diplomatic sources indicated that Syria told Saudi “there will be no discussions about a solution to the Syrian crisis except under the regime’s umbrella.” These hypothetical discussions wouldn’t take place “before Saudi, Qatari, and Turkish support for the militants has stopped and the latter are withdrawn from Syrian territory.”

In addition, the Jordanians made a “very serious” demand of their own, as sources described it, calling on the Saudi leadership to halt its support for the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi groups in Jordan. Otherwise, “Jordan may withdraw its army from the Saudi Arabian border, clearing the way for al-Qaeda elements to cross over.”

Jordan’s King Abdullah II reportedly told the Saudis that “Jordan is not weak. We will not accept to be economically blackmailed. It is Jordan that protects the Saudi borders.”

In truth, Saudi Arabia does not only face pressure from Jordan and Syria, but also within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). According to the source, the Saudis feel today “that the Kingdom no longer carries the same weight in the organization.” Kuwait and the UAE threatened to pull out of the GCC “if Saudi Arabia continued to back the Salafis.”

Mikati’s meetings in Saudi Arabia do not concern Lebanon alone. Lebanon is the gateway to the entire region, and since Saudi Arabia seeks to restore its presence across the Arab world, its first stop was Lebanon.

Al Akhbar (January 23, 2013)

Radwan Mortada

An important dimension of the Syrian crisis is the electronic war being waged by both sides. One of the groups active in this area calls itself the Syrian Electronic Army and it has recently succeeded in hacking into several official Qatari, Saudi, and Turkish websites and downloading thousands of secret documents from them.

Al-Akhbar gained access to some of these through an intermediary and, after confirming their authenticity, agreed to publish them in coordination with the Syrian Ajel wesbsite.

Al-Akhbar begins publishing these documents, starting with three correspondences from the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The first one is the minutes of a meeting between Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani and Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi that took place in September 2012, in which they discussed the situation in Syria.

In it, the Qatari prime minister talks of contacting Russia to convince it of abandoning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, offering guarantees from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) that Moscow’s naval base can remain in Syria.

The document also reveals that what Qatar offered Egypt in terms of financial assistance after the revolution is little more than loans with interest in return for giving the Qataris incentives such as investing in Egypt’s steel industry.

The second document is the minutes of a meeting between Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. The meeting took place in mid-March 2011 during the early stages of battle in Libya and the discussion revolves mainly about the situation on the ground there.

As for the third document, it also contains minutes of a meeting, this time between the Qatari Crown Prince Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and foreign minister Davutoğlu.

In it, the foreign minister stresses the importance of not allowing Assad to complete his term in office, which ends in 2014, because he will use it to defeat the opposition.

Al Akhbar (January 23, 2013)

Mohammad Nazzal

An antiques dealer and former member of Baalbeck’s municipal council has been pinned as one of Israel’s top spies in Lebanon. “Ali Y.” tracked the movements of a former Hezbollah chief and gave Israel its most detailed mappings of the Bekaa, but some say his most fiendish deeds have yet to be revealed.

Ali Y. is considered one of the most important Israeli spies to have been arrested in Lebanon in recent years. Investigators are in the process of interrogating the 67-year-old man before military investigating judge Imad al-Zein. At the close of yesterday’s session, they had only broached about eight of his 23 years as a paid spy for Israeli intelligence.

The information gleaned from that period alone is enough to place him in the category of “heavyweight collaborator.”

Sources familiar with the probe told Al-Akhbar that Ali’s relationship with Israeli intelligence began in 1990 when he was involved in the antiques trade while also working for the Ministry of Public Works’ Buildings Directorate in the district of Baalbeck .

On a trip to New York, he met an American Jewish antiques dealer and they struck up a business relationship. Shortly afterwards, Ali’s new partner suggested he travel to Cyprus to meet another dealer based there, promising lucrative deals. The two men met and the dealer soon revealed his true identity as an Israeli intelligence officer, and, aware of Ali’s ministry position, offered to pay him for information. Ali accepted without hesitation.

Interrogators have concluded that Ali was motivated to become a spy purely by greed. After an initial period of training – during which he was taught communications and encryption skills – he took to meeting his handlers once every six months. He was paid between $10,000 and $15,000 each time, making his total earnings from collaboration around $600,000.

The meetings with handlers took place in Greece, Italy, Cyprus, and Thailand. On one occasion, Ali travelled to Occupied Palestine using a forged passport provided by the Israelis. On several occasions he met them in Tel Aviv or Haifa, always staying in comped luxury apartments.

Among the most intriguing revelations to emerge from the questioning is that Ali was tasked with the surveillance of Abbas Mousawi, the former Hezbollah secretary general who was assassinated by an Israeli missile strike on his vehicle in 1992, two years after Ali became an agent.

He provided his handlers with details of Mousawi’s movements, including where his car would be parked and what position it usually took in the convoy. It is not yet clear, however, to what extent Ali was involved in the actual assassination.

He was also ordered to track Subhi al-Tufaili, Sheikh Mohammad Yazbek, and other leading Hezbollah figures in the Bekaa area, and to a lesser extent local leaders of the Amal movement.

Ali also monitored Syrian intelligence centers in the Bekaa, and later provided information about the Resistance’s wireless communications network – which is thought to have been of direct use to Israel in its 2006 war on Lebanon.

Ali’s work was presided over by a succession of Israeli intelligence officers. At each meeting they would review the information he had gathered and instruct him on his next task. Ali reportedly said that his bosses frequently gave him lie-detector tests, with Israeli psychiatrists present, but he always passed.

Ali’s job at the regional buildings directorate gave him access to information the Israelis clearly found valuable. “He did a complete survey of the Bekaa for them. He dissected it for them like nobody had done before,” one source remarked. “They used to provide him with aerial photographs so he could identify targets on the ground. He had many meetings with Israeli aerial photography specialists in Tel Aviv.”

The Israelis appear to have paid Ali considerably more than most of their Lebanese agents, and even threw a special party for him, expressing their gratitude.

Ali is described as being relatively well-educated, remaining cool and collected under questioning. At 67, he suffers from health problems, and retired from his ministry job three years ago.

He was brought into judicial custody by Lebanese Military Intelligence after it conducted its own interrogation of him, obtaining confessions with the help of information supplied by the Resistance’s intelligence apparatus.

Informed sources said Ali has also revealed secrets of a highly sensitive nature which are being kept strictly under wraps at present.

An indictment is expected soon. The arrest warrant issued for him by Judge Zein cites several articles of the penal code, which potentially carry the death penalty.

Al Akhbar (January 21, 2013)

Firas Choufi

How best to characterize the relationship between Hezbollah and Lebanese President Michel Suleiman? While some issues remain touchy between the resistance group and the head of state, a common outlook can be detected in many domestic issues.

The “Arab Expressway” was a long time coming. It took years for the section of road between Baabda and Galerie Semaan to be completed. But now, residents of Baabda can get to Beirut’s airport without having to pass through the southern suburbs.

They can bypass the Hezbollah stronghold using the cement-columned Dahiyeh flyover. That’s what President Michel Suleiman does when embarking on his trips to Western capitals.

Suleiman’s predecessor as both president and army commander, Emile Lahoud, was better disposed towards Hezbollah than any Lebanese head of state before or since. Lahoud’s contemporaries say his support for the Resistance was genuine. Having been in office during the liberation of South Lebanon in 2000, he viewed it as a strategic imperative for the country, regardless whether the Syrian regime were all-powerful or embattled by internal and external war.

This does not mean that Suleiman is hostile to the option of resistance or to Hezbollah. Since being elected in the wake of the Doha Accords, he has been marketed as a consensus president for the whole country. His rows with Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) leader Michel Aoun – over a roundabout in Jbeil or a public sector appointment – are related to his role after he leaves office, not to his supporting one side or the other. Suleiman’s acolytes say he represents neither the March 8 nor the March 14 coalitions, but all Lebanese.

Neither the resistance credentials of the “axis of evil” nor the democratic pretensions of the “moderate camp” impress the president. His is a third way.

Hezbollah’s Silent Position on the President

When Hezbollah officials are asked about the party’s relations with the head of state, they don’t even allow an inadvertent smile or spontaneous frown to betray their feelings. “How are things going with the president?” No comment. “What’s happening with Baabda?” No comment.

Presidential aides maintain they’re pleased by the way ties have developed as of late. They say that the talks held recently between Suleiman and Muhammad Raad, the head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc, were friendly and positive. The two sides concurred on two points in particular: continuing the official policy of neutrality on the Syrian crisis and agreeing to a new, fair election law.

While official spokespersons decline to discuss the matter, March 8 politicians maintain that although the relationship between Hezbollah and the president is generally good, the devil is in the details.

Frictions were caused by some of Suleiman’s recent statements on Syria. According to March 8 sources, these were seen as evidence that he has been relying on information from Western ambassadors – in turn supplied by Western intelligence agencies – which leads him to conclude that President Bashar al-Assad is on his way out.

But if Western hopes fail to be realized, one March 8 politician noted that “there is a thread of cordiality between the president and Hezbollah which both sides are careful not to break.” Suleiman will definitely need the party if Assad holds on to power.

As time heals all wounds, the rift cause by Suleiman’s remarks some time ago about the Resistance’s arms was overcome. The attitude taken by Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea and other March 14 coalition members to the National Dialogue roundtable was something of a boon in this regard. It moved things on. Here was Hezbollah, the owner of the arms, having no problem agreeing to discuss them in deference to the president, while Samir Geagea and his allies looked for a thousand and one excuses to avoid doing the president’s bidding.

Another source of friction cited by March 8 politicians was the reception accorded by Suleiman to Judge Alice Shabtiny. “It was as if he was spreading his wings to protect her after she freed the collaborator Charbel Qazzi,” explains one.

The dispute between the president and Hezbollah over tenure forLebanese University (LU) professors, however, appears to be a mere divergence of viewpoints.

Informed sources explain that the president insists that a council of deans must be appointed at LU before contract professors are awarded tenure. Other sources suggest that the president’s stance has to do with his rivalry with Aoun; many of the professors on the tenure track-list are FPM proteges, and Suleiman wants other names added to it. Aides maintain that the president seeks nothing out of this other than to “correct the injustice to which a number of professors who are not on the track-list have been subjected.”

On the plus side, the list is topped by the issue of the Lebanese hostages in Syria. The president, who at one point had told their families to “go to your people” to get the problem resolved, heeded Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah’s call for the Lebanese state to get seriously involved in the issue. Less than a week after Nasrallah’s appeal, Minister of Interior Marwan Charbel went to Qatar for talks, conveying greetings from the Lebanese president.

And that’s not counting the president’s support for an electoral law based on proportional representation – Hezbollah’s original demand.

What concerns Hezbollah most is to contain the fire in Syria. So far, this has also seemed to be the president’s top priority. When it comes to Baabda and Dahiyeh, Syria joins together what the embassies put asunder.

Al Hayat (Pro-Saudi Lebanese Daily, January 25, 2013)

An European Union (EU) summit in February should explore the possibility of placing Hezbollah on the EU list of terrorist organizations, under the pretext of involvement in the bombing in 2012 against Israeli tourists in Bulgaria.

According to an anonymous source, Paris opposes the inclusion of Hezbollah on the list because "it is not the time to destabilize Lebanon." "This case is controversial in France where opinions are mixed regarding requests made ​​by some European countries, including Britain, about Hezbollah", the source said. He added: "Paris wants to avoid destabilizing Lebanon, unless concrete evidence of the involvement of Hezbollah in the assassination are put forward."

On 18 July 2012, three people were killed and more than twenty others were injured in an attack against Israeli tourists in Bulgaria’s Bourgas airport, on the Black Sea. Israel has accused Hezbollah and Iran of being responsible for the attack. "We are facing a global wave of terrorism, Bourgas bombing was led by Hezbollah activists and sponsored by Iran", said Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak two days after the attack.

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