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March-14 coalition covers the assassination of Lebanese soldiers at Ersal

By Pierre Khalaf

The aggression against the Lebanese army in Ersal, Friday, February 1, is the consequence of the climate installed the last two years by the head of the Future Movement, Saad Hariri, which promotes, maintains and supports Lebanese, Syrian and international terrorist groups, while concerned official circles pretend to see nothing.

Senior state officials have denied in the past two years the existence of these terrorist-qaïdistes groups, and when the Defence Minister, Fayez Ghosn, talked about this issue, he was targeted by a virulent campaign launched by the March-14 coalition. The same Mars-14 movement that sent a delegation -which included among others the Lebanese Forces MP Antoine Zahra- to Ersal to express his "solidarity" with the people ... against the harassment he suffered from security services!

The death of an officer and a sergeant have not brought to reason this coalition, On the contrary, some March-14 medias endorsed the version of the aggressors, which was well expressed by MP Mouïn Merhebich, who criticized the army under the pretext that it did not implement the "legal process" during the attempt to arrest the terrorist Khaled Hmayyeh. Should the army advance notice before conducting a raid against suspects? or obtain a permission from the head of the municipality, known for its sympathies with Syro-Lebanese extremist groups?

According to concordant versions, residents of Ersal and foreign armed elements ambushed the army patrol, under the pretext that they hadn’t "recognized" the soldiers. Minister Fayez Ghosn ensured that certain elements of the intelligence services of the army were in military uniform, and it was therefore impossible that they were not recognized by the inhabitants of Ersal. Ghosn didn’t exclude the possibility that members of the Free Syrian Army have taken part in the clashes. According to him, the incident Ersal proves the presence of Al-Qaeda in the region.

President Michel Sleiman called on Saturday the army to prevent any action that could undermine the country’s security. "Any breach of security will be fought firmly," Sleiman said, calling the command of the military institution to prevent any attack "against the officers and soldiers."

Prime Minister Najib Mikati has also condemned the clashes. He joined Minister Ghosn and commander in chief of the army, General Jean Kahwaji, who held an emergency meeting Sunday devoted to the situation of Ersal.

The army, which requires responsible for the ambush to be delivered unconditionally, arrested Saturday at Ersal four suspects. They were in possession of weapons. According to media reports, the son of the head of the municipality of Ersal, Yehya al-Hojeiry, was also arrested.

The army has strengthened its presence in the region and erected checkpoints.

The Tendency in Syria

The failure of the war against Syria

By Ghaleb Kandil

The controversy caused by the statements of the Doha coalition leader, Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib, announcing that he was willing to meet with members of the Syrian government, proves that this structure, created upon an American decision, is only a façade of the Muslim Brotherhood. That organization has publicly terrorized al-Khatib to push him not to communicate with the Syrian authorities in exchange for "two conditions": the release of detainees and the renewal of the passports of the opponents installed abroad. Two points which are anyway at the core of President Bashar al-Assad initiative and the government’s agenda, which is responsible for implementing the presidential plan.

Analysts have explained the position of al-Khatib -in the meantime, he changed his mind under the pressure- as a sign of changes on the ground and in the international climate. The leader of the Doha coalition expressed great disappointment by Western countries, which has not kept their promises, while the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, openly recognized that the Syrian case is no more the priority of the West. The failure of the meeting of the "Syria friends" in Paris, Monday January 28, reflects these comments. 50 countries and organizations participated in the conference, against 108 in Marrakech, on December 12.

Western countries also expressed disappointment by the coalition of Doha and its alleged military wing, called "Free Army." The structural and organic relationship between the qaïdiste al-Nosra Front and the armed units of the Muslim Brotherhood explains the intransigence of the Doha coalition and his defense of al-Nosra, since this group has been placed on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations. We must remember that "the fighting vanguard", the military organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, participated in the founding of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in the 80s, after it was defeated by the Syrian Arab Army.

Realities on the ground showed the failure of the stupid and naive Hillary Clinton’s proposal, adopted by France, which was to encourage the creation of "liberated zones" controlled by the armed opposition, which is that a mixture of bandits, terrorists and rebels, killing each other for the booty. Therefore, the formation of an exiled government by the opposition fell into the water, after the counter-strike launched by the Syrian Arab Army.

The political and military developments accelerated in parallel with the preparation of a Russian-American summit that should discuss the Syrian issue. The acceptance by the U.S. of the mechanism of violence cessation, proposed by President Bashar al-Assad, is the key to any new process in the Syrian crisis. This mechanism passes through the stop of arming and funding terrorists by the Western countries and their Turkish and Gulf allies.

Americans could blackmail in the coming period to improve their positions in the political solution. To this end, they introduced the Israeli parameter in the Syrian crisis. However, it is clear that any Syrian army advance on the ground and progress of the State towards the Syrian-Syrian dialogue will push the imperialist-colonial coalition to recognize the failure of his Syrian project and the victory of Syria resistant. Certainly, the destruction of terrorist groups that have taken root in different parts of the country will take time. But Syrian State knows how to rid the country of these forces of evil and destruction.


Statements

MICHEL SLEIMAN, President of the Lebanese Republic

«The electoral law of 1960 resulted in a separation between communities and in a political monopoly within Muslim communities. We must develop legislation that promotes pluralism and diversity (...) Lebanon may not be able to receive more Syrian refugees. Our borders with Syria will remain open. We reject the expulsion of Syrian and Palestinian refugees, but the Syrians exile begins to affect the Lebanese society and the security situation in the country. We seek the help of the international and Arab community.»

SAAD HARIRI, Lebanese former Prime minister (March-14 leader)

«The Orthodox project divides the Lebanese and we do not support it. Our position is the same as that of President Michel Sleiman. We call for the implementation of the Taif agreement which provides the creation of a Senate ensuring representation of all segments of Lebanese society. We propose that the senators are elected according to the orthodox law, and that Parliament is elected on a law based on small districts. I’ll return to Lebanon, but it is I who decides when. I live outside Lebanon for security reasons.»

MICHEL AOUN, Leader of the Free patriotic Movement

«We have a project that guarantees that Christians fully elect their 64 MPs. We are ready to accept any alternative formula that would ensure this. Any other law would be the work of thieves who want to rob us our members. The Orthodox project can contain the rivalries within each community. We buried the 1960 law. The electoral law has nothing to do with the Constitution. It is a mechanism to implement a provision of the Constitution. Members of the Future Movement do not have the right to boycott the parliamentary joint committee meetings. They have to return to Parliament and to respect the opinion of the majority. If they believe that their absence will prevent the approval of the bill, they are wrong.»

MOHAMMAD RAAD, Leader of the Hezbollah parliamentary group

«A consensus on the electoral law is necessary for the elections to take place on the date assigned to them, otherwise the elections will be postponed until an agreement is reached. Call it technical delay.»

SLEIMAN FRANGIEH, Maronite leader of North Lebanon

«President Michel Sleiman has become involved in the electoral battle and promised some factions to ensure that elections are conducted on the basis of the 1960 Act. Postponement of elections is possible to avoid a crisis.»

JOE BIDEN, American vice-president

«We would be prepared to meet bilaterally with the Iranian leadership. That offer stands but it must be real and tangible. There has to be an agenda that they are prepared to speak to. We’re not just prepared to do it for the exercise. There is still time, there is still space for diplomacy, backed by pressure, to succeed. The ball is in the government of Iran’s court and it’s well past time for Tehran to adopt a serious good faith approach to negotiations.»

SAEED JAILI, Head of the Iranian Supreme National security Council

«We will give all our support so that Syria remains firm and able to face all the arrogant [Western powers’] conspiracies. The Israeli aggression and arrogant international forces have tried to take revenge by attacking the resisting Syrian people. The Arab and Muslim worlds must do all they can to diminish the Syrian people’s suffering, because Syria is at the forefront of the struggle against Zionist aggression.»

Events

  • Military Justice filed a lawsuit against an inhabitant of the southern suburbs, Talal Khalil, for collaboration with Israel since 2001. The suspect has met several times with officers of Israeli intelligence and provided them information on the place of residence of the General Secretary of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah.
  • The Ambassador of France in Beirut, Patrice Paoli, extended an invitation to the Minister of Agriculture, Hussein Hajj Hassan, a member of Hezbollah, to attend the Paris Agriculture International Exhibition, to be held from February 23 to March 3.
  • The international group for the release of George Abdallah decided to end the sit-in observed since two weeks before the French Embassy in Beirut. The move comes after the decision of the Council of Ministers to entrust the handling of the Abdullah case to ad hoc ministerial committee in charge of the Lebanese hostages in Syria.

Press review

AS SAFIR (LEBANESE DAILY, CLOSE TO THE MAJORITY, FEBRUARY 1ST, 2013)

IMAD MARMAL

Hezbollah has played, away from the spotlight, a leading role in the consultations that led to the 15-day extension of the work of the parliamentary sub-committee to examine the electoral Act. His logic is that because of the difficult circumstances through which Lebanon is passing, it should avoid imprudent reaction and give all the chances to the agreement, before moving to the next phase which will be inaugurated by the joint parliamentary committees. It is especially important to exhaust all possibilities of understanding, otherwise the Kataeb and Lebanese Forces will be reluctant to undertake any escalation. But in 15 days, if the sub-committee fails to agree on a consensual law, these two partis will be in the front line in the battle to adopt the Orthodox project at the General Assembly. Hezbollah preaches patience before resorting to heavy political and constitutional weapons, especially since current situation is satisfactory for the quadripartite alliance (Hizbullah, Amal, the Free Patriotic Movement and Marada). Indeed, the orthodox project has already gain a parliamentary majority. Furthermore, the quadripartite alliance withdrew from the hands of the Future Movement and the president Michel Sleiman the 1960 Act, after taking the decision to block in the Council of Ministers the formation of the Independent monitoring election committee, even at the cost of a clash with the President.

In this context, the choices are now as follow: the elections on the basis of a consensual act or the Orthodox project, or the delay of the elections. Few weeks ago, the four allies were faced with the choice of the elections on the basis of the 1960 Act.

While the four allies mounted a vigilant guard at the tomb of 1960 law, some leaders of the 8-March hope this situation will push the Future Movement to stop betting on the fall of the Syrian regime to improve its position in the negotiations.

It is clear that the March-8 showed superiority in tactical management of the electoral law battle. It backed clearly his Christian ally, Th Futur Movement did no do the same with his Chritan partner.

Finally, Saad Hariri proposal to elect a Senate before the election of a "non-confessional Parliament" opens the doors to the amendment of the Constitution ... which everyone want, except the Future Movement. Another a sin committed by this party for the sole reason that it does not have immunity when it is not in power.

AS SAFIR (FEBRUARY 1ST, 2013)

SAMI KLEIB

There are reports about the failure of the Syrian opposition conference in Paris. The opponents themselves did not hide this failure, and if they had forgotten, the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, whose country is involved in Mali, reminded them of the Western concern about Islamic extremism that can grip on Syria. This reminder joined the American fear expressed loud when Al-Nosra Front was placed on the list of terrorist organizations.

France tried early to prevent the organization of the Geneva conference initiated by Haytham Mannaa and his companions. Mannaa and other parties have accused France of exerting pressure on Switzerland in order not to deliver visas to the participants. But the United States and Russia were present in Switzerland, as well as the Iranians. There were also representatives, visible or not, of more than 40 states. At the end of the conference, Mannaa and his friends were invited to Moscow and received very positive signals from the United States.

AN NAHAR (LEBANESE DAILY, CLOSE TO MARCH-14 COALITION)

SARKIS NAOUM (JANUARY 29, 2013)

The White House and the State Department conduct an overall assessment of the Obama policy in the Middle East. The findings ensure that the region is heading for a big fire, or to an open confrontation between Sunnis and Shiites. This has already started in Iraq, Syria and Bahrain and is supposed to increase.

The experts of this evaluation indicate an american official decision to maintain the United States away from the conflict, while continuing to provide assistance to their allies. This means that any American initiative to stop this confrontation is excluded, and, of course, that any possibility of sending troops to the region ablaze. These experts suggest that Obama’s positions in the Middle East are largely dependent on what happens between his country and Iran.

What say on Iran? They explain that the words of the new Secretary of State, John Kerry during his audition in the Congress, illustrate the position of the United States on Iran: the resolution of disputes with this country must be done through diplomatic channels. If the U.S. efforts succeed, the administration is willing to allow Iran to continue enriching uranium at a rate not exceeding 5%. As well, it will cease all attempts to undermine the Iranian regime. But in return, Iran must stop its support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah.

Some of these experts are skeptical that Iran accepts these conditions. And whether their doubts are in place next summer promises to be "interesting."

AL AKHBAR (LEBANESE DAILY, CLOSE TO THE MAJORITY, FEBRUARY 2, 2013)

AFIF DIAB

An attempt by the Lebanese Army to arrest a suspected kidnapper in the isolated town of Ersal has left three dead and almost a dozen injured. Conflicting stories abound and questions remain as to what’s next in the town that is too close to the Syrian battleground.

On 1 February 2013, a few minutes before Friday prayers, none of the residents of the Lebanese town of Ersal thought that their day of rest and devotion would turn into a funeral.

Nobody expected the slaughter of the Lebanese army. The soldiers did not think of raising their guns in the face of its residents. But the reality remains that Ersal, located in the Bekaa, witnessed a battle between the Lebanese army and some of its residents. It claimed the lives of one officer, one soldier, and one suspect.

Each side had its own story but the outcome was the same: three killed and ten injured.

The residents say that a BMW and a Toyota van drove into town to arrest Khaled Ahmad Hmayed. According to the residents, he was on his way to prayers when he was shot by gunmen from both cars. The gunmen then took Hmayed’s body and headed towards the Ersal hillside.

This led to suspicions among some residents that the gunmen were Syrian mukhabarat, or intelligence services, who kidnapped Hmayed due to his involvement in the Syrian revolution.

Some claimed that the army had been contacted, but it denied sending a patrol to Ersal. This validated suspicions that a third party was trying to sabotage the security situation in Ersal leading to an unintended clash.

The Lebanese army contests this story, and believes its patrol was attacked during the arrest of Hmayed, according to informed security sources.

In a statement, the Directorate of Guidance in the Lebanese Army said: “This afternoon [1 February 2013], while a Lebanese army patrol was chasing someone suspected by the courts of several terrorist operations in the outskirts of the town of Ersal, the patrol fell into an armed ambush. Clashes erupted between the Lebanese army and the gunmen, resulting in the martyrdom of a captain and a lieutenant, in addition to wounding several soldiers and serious damages to military vehicles. Several insurgents were also wounded.”

Speaking to Al-Akhbar, sources indicated that Hmayed, suspected of being involved in the kidnapping of seven Estonians around two years ago, was being tracked by security forces.

Hmayed is suspected of having ties to Hussein Houjeiri, who is linked to al-Qaeda operatives in Iraq and thought to be the mastermind behind the Estonian hostage operation.

Over a year ago, Hmayed had been involved in another incident in Ersal when the Lebanese army attempted to arrest the Syrian suspect Hamza Qarqouz. Back then, an army intelligence patrol was surrounded, disarmed, its vehicles damaged, and prevented from arresting Qarqouz.

The security sources maintain that Hmayed is an active supporter of the Syrian revolution on the ground. Returning to Ersal two days ago, his presence was intercepted and a plan to arrest him was initiated.

According to the sources, an army intelligence patrol drove to Ersal to arrest the suspect and he was shot while attempting to escape. The patrol left, but lost its way, so it asked for assistance from an armored patrol, which was ready to intervene in emergency situations.

The sources explained that the patrol’s entry and exit routes would follow side routes for security reasons. But it was attacked and chased by dozens of armed men who clashed with the armored patrol. The exchange lasted 20 minutes and resulted in the death of a captain and a lieutenant, injuring more than eight soldiers.

The residents of Ersal were not satisfied by this semi-official tale of the events and some of them still insist on a third side. Speaking to Al-Akhbar, municipality members said that, upon hearing the news of the clashes, some residents ran to the scene and carried the bodies of the army martyrs and the wounded to the municipal building to provide first aid.

This contradicts with the recent televised statements of Ali al-Houjeiri, the head of the municipality. He said that unknown gunmen forced the municipal building’s janitor to open its doors, where they placed the bodies of the two army martyrs and the wounded.

Houjeiri also used the same justification of the incident 13 months ago, saying that those who shot at the patrol, trying to arrest another suspect, were not aware that it belonged to the Lebanese army.

The head of the municipality also had announced last May, in a speech carried by most Lebanese media, that the residents of Ersal will use arms to prevent any attempt to arrest any of them.

According to security reports, Houjeiri provides protection for a group supporting the armed Syrian resistance, which can easily be called the Ersal Revolutionary Coordination Committee. It is interesting that the security forces that retrieved the dead and injured soldiers belonged to the Information Branch of the Internal Security Forces (ISF), not the Lebanese army.

The impact of the day’s events in Ersal reverberated throughout the Bekaa. The residents of Mreijat, on the Chtoura-Dar al-Baydar road, blocked the roads in protest of the killing of the officer, who is from the town. The roads were also blocked near Ablah, Baalbeck, and al-Laboua in protest of the attack against the army.

AL AKHBAR (FEBRUARY 2, 2013)

On Friday, 1 February 2013, Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud appointed his 63-year-old brother Prince Muqrin, the 35th son of the kingdom’s founder King Abdul-Aziz, as second deputy prime minister. This makes Muqrin third in line for the throne after Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul-Aziz.

The top posts thus remain in the hands of the first generation, despite their old age and ill health. For instance, the king recently underwent several successive surgeries that left him weaker. Salman has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and at many times cannot remember his own name.

Meanwhile, Muqrin, the newcomer, is rumored to be a womanizer, frequently indulging in alcohol, which caused him to be sacked last year from his post as intelligence chief.

But the Saudi king’s move may be construed as an attempt to clear a path to the throne for his son Mutaib, currently the commander of the National Guard.

The famous Twitter activist @mujtahidd told Al-Akhbar, “Abdullah is seeking to put his son Mutaib on the throne. If he waits for the long line of Abdul-Aziz’s sons [to pass], then his son will never reach the throne. But the king wants his son to take the crown while he is still alive.”

@mujtahidd added, “Muqrin has two characteristics that allow the king to exploit him to get what he wants. First, he is the youngest and last son of Abdul-Aziz. Second, he is extremely weak-willed to the extent that he perceives his brothers as his masters, because his mother was a black slave.”

Concerning the timing of the announcement, @mujtahidd said, “Abdullah wanted to appoint him now because, in a while, it will become unequivocally clear that Salman’s Alzheimer’s will force his departure, after which Muqrin would be appointed as the crown prince. The king will then appoint his son Mutaib as his second deputy.”

The next step, according to @mujtahidd, would be for Muqrin to abdicate, following which Mutaib would be appointed as his successor. The Twitter activist went on to say that “Muqrin’s health makes this possible.”

@mujtahidd also mentioned that he was aware of some reactions to Abdullah’s decision, particularly from Prince Ahmed and Prince Turki (II) bin Abdul-Aziz. While “Prince Abdul-Rahman and Prince Talal are upset, naturally,” @mujtahidd said, “Ahmed and Turki are more important.”

He reckoned that “Ahmed is relatively active and healthy,” while “Turki has since recovered from his troubles in Egypt and regained some respect in the family.” @mujtahidd then predicted that Salman’s sons would side “with anyone distraught by these developments.”

In previous tweets, @mujtahidd describes Muqrin as an “unimportant man, both as the Governor of Ha’il and as head of the intelligence. He remained inconsequential after being sacked and there is nothing worth pointing out in his record.”

He also said that Muqrin “is often preoccupied with women and alcohol, and has completely delegated his functions to his chief of staff, which led to catastrophic intelligence failures in Egypt, Iraq, Iran, and even in simpler issues such as the case of Princess Sara Bint Talal, who sought asylum in Britain.”

n the issue of Princess Sara in particular, @mujtahidd wrote, it became clear that “Muqrin knew nothing about intelligence work, and was preoccupied instead with forbidden pleasures.” Muqrin, he added, “put his chief of staff [Abdul Aziz bin Saleh] al-Hawas, who was with him when he was governor [of Ha’il], in charge of his entire intelligence agency. He granted him full powers that exceeded even those of Abdul Aziz bin Bandar.”

Prince Muqrin is the youngest son of the founder king. His selection as second deputy follows a series of appointments made by the king, which propelled the second generation of princes to the forefront. For this reason, the king’s move came as a surprise.

Two weeks earlier, the king issued a round of decrees that dismissed a number of governors from their posts and appointed others. Thus, Prince Saud bin Nayef replaced Prince Mohammed bin Fahd, as the governor of the Eastern Province, reportedly as a result of the latter’s mishandling of the unrest there.

The king also appointed Prince Faisal bin Salman as the governor of Medina, relieving Prince Abdul-Aziz bin Majed bin Abdul-Aziz.

Muqrin was appointed as advisor to the king at the time – an honorary position. Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah was also appointed as Minister of State and Commander of the National Guard.

This had sparked widespread speculation that the move was an indication of the second generation finally being given sensitive ministerial posts. Interestingly, the appointments relieved Prince Mohammed bin Fahd from his post without being appointed to any other key position, which meant that the late King Fahd’s sons had been sidelined.

Prince Muqrin’s appointment as second deputy prime minister was announced in a brief statement by the official Saudi news agency. This is the third most important position in the hierarchy of power in the kingdom, after the king and crown prince.

AL AKHBAR (FEBRUARY 1ST, 2013)

HASSAN OLLEIK AND MOHAMMAD BDEIR

For five years, Israel kept harping on about a “red line” that must never be crossed on its northern front. That “red line” was the transport of “balance-tipping” weapons from the Syrian army to Hezbollah. Israel insinuated that it was ready to conduct a pre-emptive military campaign at any time to thwart such a transfer. On Wednesday, 30 January 2013, Israel decided that this line had been crossed.

Regardless of the nature of the target struck by Israeli fighter jets, it is evident that Tel Aviv carried out an aerial aggression deep inside Syrian territory linked to the capabilities of the Resistance.

This was confirmed by leaks from Haaretz about a modern air defense system, which could create “a change in the regional balance of power,” in the event it reached Hezbollah. The Syrian leadership also substantiated this interpretation, announcing that the targeted facility was connected to “raising the capacity for resistance and defense.”

It’s also in line with a statement by Yair Golan, head of the Israeli Northern Command, published in Israel Hayom on 6 April 2012: “What Hezbollah possesses today is haunting us. According to what we know, everything except for chemical weapons, no matter how advanced, has been transferred to Hezbollah.”

If that were the case, then what lies behind Israel’s aggression on Syria last Wednesday? It is highly likely that what Israel destroyed was just one of the many prototypes of the defense system obtained by Syria. Yet one single piece of military equipment is not justification enough for this type of adventurous operation.

There seems to be only one variable that could explain the timing of the Israeli strike: the war raging inside Syria. Based on Golan’s statement, we can assume that Israel had been previously aware of strategic weapons transfers to Hezbollah. This leads to another assumption: Israel did not have the courage to intercept such operations when they occurred previously. The reason is simple: the fear of a Syrian reaction at a time when Damascus still enjoyed stability and, thus, was capable of performing its strategic role in the Resistance axis, efficiently and forcefully.

On the surface, the attack is an exploitation of Syria’s inability to reproduce earlier threats to impose a “red line,” despite the fact that these had been crossed. So Israel employed the Hezbollah angle to justify getting involved in the current confrontation against the Assad regime. Only under this pretext would it be able to legitimize its aggression on an international level.

Israel’s direct involvement in the Syrian arena can only be understood in the following light. First, all former Israeli (and non-Israeli) bets on the imminent fall of the Assad regime were shattered. Second, the situation in the field in the last few weeks tipped in favor of the regime. Third, the international community retreated from the idea of military intervention.

Israeli calculations are betting that this attack will help them score several points. The first is to stop planned transports of weapons that were free-flowing in the past. The second is to attempt to establish new “red lines” with regard to what the Syrian regime is allowed to have in terms of strategic weapon supplies. The third is to show that the fears of the outcome of external intervention is exaggerated as evidenced by the lack of a Syrian military reaction to the Israeli bombing. The fourth is providing the armed opposition on the ground with a push by distracting the Syrian army with a new front. This is in addition to its moral embarrassment by showing the regime as “determined against its people and reticent towards Israel.”

This embarrassment will encompass the whole resistance axis, which seemed to have guessed wrongly that Israel would not get openly involved in Syria.

AL AKHBAR (FEBRUARY 1ST, 2013)

MAYSAM RIZK

“Saad al-Hariri will return,” Future sources declare. But the House of Hariri appears to be faltering both financially and organizationally. Not only is his political party experiencing schisms and splits, but his money troubles are piling up too.

No longer are Saad al-Hariri’s problems limited to his finances. There are reports of mounting tensions within the Future Movement as the leadership attempts to carry out an organizational restructuring ahead of Lebanon’s parliamentary elections in June 2013.

Recently, the Future Movement was shaken by a series of resignations and dismissals of a number of the party’s regional coordinators: Mahmoud al-Jamal (Beirut), Mohamad Qadoura (Western Bekaa), and Ayman Jizini (media coordinator).

According to Future officials, this is part of a deep restructuring intended to revitalize the party organization after having lost much of its effectiveness after the assassination of its founder and leader Rafik Hariri in 2005.

The movement seems to be split at least over the timing of the “shake up,” with some worried about the impact of such structural changes ahead of the elections.

Others believe that Future is in need of some tightening following a period in which many of its supporters grew frustrated with the party’s coordinators.

The removal of Jamal, the Beirut coordinator, did not go smoothly, prompting Hariri to relocate him to Saudi Arabia where he was given a post in order to contain him. Meanwhile, his replacement’s attempt to change the local leadership ignited a storm of anger among the rank and file.

There are also growing sectarian tensions in the party, which were further exposed in the course of the Syrian crisis, as a more militant Islamist discourse developed in some quarters, with some even criticizing the influence of “Qoreitem’s Shia” on Hariri.

Shia circles in the party fear that they will be the scapegoats of Future’s shortcomings. It began with the dismissal of Jizini, who may be followed by another prominent Shia party leader, MP Okab Sakr. Sources close to Hariri are already saying that it may not be possible to nominate Sakr in the coming elections for “political and security considerations.”

In addition to splits within the party in the Bekaa, the Future Movement is also losing its members to Salafi groups such as Ahmad al-Assir’s in Saida.

Hariri’s organizational problems are compounded by financial difficulties on a number of fronts. After waiting patiently for their unpaid back wages, many of the movement’s employees were finally paid over the past few months.

Nevertheless, Hariri still owes large amounts of money for services rendered, as a recent lawsuit filed against him by a Jordanian transport company shows.

The company is asking that Hariri pay it $3 million for transporting voters from the Gulf to Lebanon during the 2009 parliamentary elections. The overall bill was $8 million, of which Hariri has paid $5 million.

Meanwhile, the Hariri-owned Saudi Oger continues to grapple with its severe financial problems, most recently by selling off its Saudi real estate in order to pay its debts.

All of this, however, will not affect the Future Movement’s election coffers. Hariri doesn’t draw from his own funds for elections – Saudi Arabia fronts the fees, according to party sources.

AD DIYAR (LEBANESE DAILY CLOSE TO MARCH-8 , FEBRUARY 1ST, 2013)

ISKANDAR CHAHINE

Why the French government invited President Amine Gemayel and MP Walid Jumblatt in Paris? Is it trying to restore the deteriorating relationships between the components of this coalition? Informed sources report that France has sent invitations to Gemayel and Jumblatt to try to put Lebanon away from regional fire and send a clear message to all Lebanese players that Paris was mandated by the international community to follow Lebanese and regional records, which are passed to the background of American concerns. The positions announced by Paris on the occasion of these visits are the concrete expression of the commitment of the international community to the parliamentary elections as scheduled, regardless of the law that will govern the election.

The French message to Lebanese officials, according to the same sources, said that betting on the course of events in Syria is a losing bet. The Lebanese are encouraged to hold elections at time and to prevent a new internal war.

Source
New Orient News