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Hassan Nasrallah gave the signal for the Resistance axis counter-attack

By Pierre Khalaf

As Americans try to undermine the Geneva 2 Conference, the Syrian state and its regional allies have shown great determination to make irreversible the balance of power change on the field. By hitting the terrorists, Syria reduced to almost nothing the maneuver margin of Washington. Meanwhile, Russia stands holds its position and refuse any conditions imposed by the Americans concerning the composition of the delegation of the Syrian "opposition" and blocking Iran’s participation in this conference.

Saying that the region is going through "a new phase", the leader of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, gave the signal for the resistance axis counter-attack, which began several weeks ago with the strategic successes of Syrian army around Damascus and in the regions of Aleppo and Idleb. Sayyed Nasrallah was clear: the resistance will not allow Syria falls into the hands of America, Israel and takfiris movements. It does not accept that its supply lines are broken and that the enemy force stabs in the back. Resistance is ready to deploy tens of thousands of combatants if necessary to achieve these goals.

Confirming this statement, the Syrian army continues to advance on the ground. 80% of the strategic town of Qoussair is now controlled by the regular army, the national defense army and popular committees. The road linking eastern Lebanon in Homs in central Syria, is secure. It is a vital road to deliver men and equipment to Syria and to all regions of the country.

According to a Syrian military source, Dabaa airport, north of Qoussair, is completely surrounded, fights take place inside and rebels therein no longer have contact with those who remained in the north of the city.

In an attempt to ease the pressure, the Syrian terrorists and their Lebanese supporters threaten to transpose the conflict in Lebanon. They have stepped up their attacks against the Jabal Mohsen district in Tripoli, multiplied incidents and provocations in Sidon through the fundamentalist Sheikh Ahmad al-Asir, fired two Grad rockets on the border region of Hermel, and more still serious, they fired Sunday, two rockets into Beirut southern suburbs.

Ammar al-Wawi, a leader of the extremist Syrian threatened on Sunday that "Lebanon is not immune to what is happening in Syria." "What happened in the south suburbs is a warning. We will not stand idly by the actions of Hezbollah", he said.

Evidence of confusion in the ranks of the Syrian rebels appeared when Ammar al-Wawi was quickly disavowed by the spokesman of the Free Syrian Army, Fahd al-Masri.

The decay of extremists is also reflected in the fighting that broke out Sunday at two locations in northern Syria between rebels and Kurdish fighters. The clashes took place in Ras al-Ain, a border town with Turkey.

Meanwhile, Damascus has deployed its diplomacy in preparation for the Geneva 2 conference. The Foreign Minister, Walid Moallem, made a surprise visit to Baghdad, where he announced that Syria had given his agreement to participate in the conference through an official delegation. He said after a meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that Iraq will not be part of the axis hostile to Syria.

At the same time, Iran has raised its voice against Turkey. The House Speaker, Ali Larijani, said Ankara should accuse Iran and Hezbollah for the mistakes he makes during two years in Syria.

These military successes and the political offensive came as Syrian opposition remains unable to agree on the composition of its delegation to Geneva 2, because its regional sponsors (Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey) and international, led by the United States, compete for representation quotas.


STATEMENTS

HASSAN NASRALLAH, general secretary of Hezbollah

«A new phase has begun to support and protect the Resistance and Lebanon and this is everyone’s responsibility. We have a state which cannot stop the bloody confrontation in Tripoli. We have a state that cannot agree on an electoral law, a state of confessionalism. After the 2006 war I said build a capable state, and we will fight under the state. Some Arab countries receive weapons from the West because they guaranteed that not one bullet from these weapons will be directed towards Israel. If the Lebanese national army was getting these weapons, it would fight just like the resistance. The men of the army are the sons of the people, the youth of this people. We have confronted great pressure, but they have never been successful in harming our will. What is happening in Tripoli must stop. … Anyone who wants to fight, let him fight in Syria. Leave Tripoli to the people. We don’t accuse everyone [in the opposition] of having foreign ties. Some have logic, a vision, rightful demands, and they are ready to hold a dialogue. That’s their natural right. But the armed groups have a different objective, and are executing western plans to dominate the region. If Syria falls into the hands of the Americans and Israel and extremists, and want to impose its own project on Lebanon …, Jerusalem will be lost. The resistance will be lost. The people of our region will witness a very difficult and dark period. You can take any side you want. However Hezbollah cannot be on the side of America or Israel or people who dig the graves and open the chests and behead other people. We do not need to call for Jihad because by simply saying two words, thousands of Hezbollah members will be ready for battle. Just as I always promised you victory, I promise you victory once again.»

MICHEL SLEIMAN, Lebanese President

«Resistance is nobler and more important than anything, it should not get bogged down in the sands of dissent, whether in Syria or Lebanon. Avoid getting bogged down in the fighting for either brother or friend. Resistance fought and liberated southern Lebanon not because it was a religious issue but a national issue.»

BISHARA RAI, Maronite patriarch of Antioch and all the East

«We must organize elections according to law. Elections are a moral and constitutional obligation. I was very disappointed with the parliamentary blocs. Lebanon is a neutral country and nobody should involve him in regional or international routes. The Lebanese must first be loyal to their homeland.»

MICHEL AOUN, leader of the Free patriotic Movement

«The solution to the electoral crisis is to hold a parliamentary session and vote for one of the proposed bills. We have three choices: bad is the Electoral Act 1960, the worst is the extension of the mandate of the Chamber of Deputies, and the third is the catastrophic emptiness.»


EVENTS

• According to the news agency of the Vatican I.Media, the Maronite Patriarch, Bechara Rai, gave the pope François a report on the situation of Christians in the Middle East, to help him to act on this issue. "The pope always looking for ways to act but needs to know the truth objective of things", said the cardinal. It is a "detailed report on the situation of Christian communities and the situation in the Middle East". he said. Asked about the Syrian crisis and more generally on the Middle East, Cardinal Rai said that if it continues "to provide money and weapons to various Islamist groups," we run "the risk of Muslims, who are in vast majority of moderate spending fundamentalist side".

• Kuwait Sunday urged its citizens to avoid travel to Lebanon and those who are there to leave the country. "Due to the unstable situation in Lebanon, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs calls on citizens to exercise caution and avoid travel to Lebanon for the moment," the official news agency KUNA reported.

• According to the Kuwaiti daily al-Anbaa, Al-Nosra Front affiliated with Al-Qaeda, had entered Lebanon. This information has been "officially" reported the highest security officials in the country.


PRESS REVIEW

AS SAFIR (LEBANESE DAILY, CLOSE TO THE HEZBOLLAH, MAY 24, 2013)

The former director of the Internal Security Forces (ISF), Ashraf Rifi, took off his white gloves and gray outfit during his appearance on the TV to clone the speech and the position of the fronts leaders in Tripoli. Rifi was quick to reveal his openly biased or responsibility in the events unfolding on the ground, when he described the antagonists in Jabal Mohsen ’little people who will pay the price for having infringed the city of Tripoli. "

The Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, was shocked by the statements of Rifi to whom he have asked by phone to contribute to efforts to calm the situation in Tripoli.

AS SAFIR (MAY 24, 2013)

IMAD MARMAL

For Hezbollah, involvement in the fighting in Syria is a decision he was forced to take. It is part of the confrontation with Israel and the United States, the defense of the idea of resistance and protecting Lebanon against the danger of takfiris movements expansion.

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

ROSANNA BOU MOUNCEF (MAY 24, 2013)

Through its involvement in the war in Syria, Hezbollah has transposed the Syrian crisis in Lebanon, which runs thus the risk of discord between Sunnis and Shiites. Observers say that by taking part in the fighting on Syrian ground, Hezbollah walked several red lines: he violated the Taif agreement and violated the resolutions 1701 and 1559

AN NAHAR (MAY 22, 2013)

SARKIS NAOUM

Asked about the situation in Syria, an active member in a U.S. think tank in Washington said very seriously: "It’s a chaotic situation that will become even more chaotic. The crisis and the war in Syria will last long. There will be plenty of blood and no solution. The U.S. government turns a blind eye and the American people do not want war outside the country, particularly in the Middle East, after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "

Is there a U.S. strategy in the Middle East? "No, there is no strategy and American diplomacy is non-existent, says the specialist. Arab countries that support the revolutionaries are divided. Qatar and Turkey are competing to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. Washington can not put pressure on these countries. The revolutionaries inside Syria are divided. Al-Nosra Front and al-Qaeda have become two essential components of the Syrian revolution after their covenant, "concluded the specialist.

AL AKHBAR (LEBANESE DAILY CLOSE TO THE LEBANESE RESISTANCE, MAY 24, 2013)

FIRAS CHOUFI

The Syrian army is continuing to advance against opposition fighters in the embattled city of Qusayr, encircling them and cutting them off from one another. Al-Akbar takes a close look at the army’s movements on the ground.

Qusayr – As you approach the city of Qusayr, it appears much like the remains of a post-World War II European city. Every street, house, and tree has been touched by the ferocious battles still underway in its northern neighborhoods.

The regime lost control of this geographically strategic city early on in the crisis, and over the past year and half, opposition groups have amassed thousands of fighters there to maintain control of it.

After systematically taking over the surrounding villages over the past few weeks, government forces turned their attention to Qusayr in mid-May, quickly retaking most the city, with the exception of the northern section, where many of the fighters have retreated to reinforced positions.

According to an officer on the frontlines, the army has corralled the fighters into a triangle linking the northern parts of Qusayr to the villages of Arjun and Dabaa. He explains that they deliberately left an exit for the fighters to force them out of the city. There are reports that large numbers of them have retreated to Dabaa airport, where they can find cover against air strikes and artillery fire.

Another officer on the scene says that the army has now launched an operation to cut off the fighters from one another, and prevent them from sending reinforcements and supplies to those still holed up in Qusayr.

Soldiers serving here seem to be aware of the difficulties ahead. One of them points out that the fighters are mounting a stiff resistance from positions that they have built up over the past year and half. “They have rigged the whole area with explosives and they change their tactics all the time,” he says.

Government forces may resort to heavy fire power, including air strikes to weaken the opposition’s defenses, but their approach on the ground is slow and systematic, taking over small bits of enemy territory and consolidating it before moving on.

Practically speaking, very little in terms of opposition reinforcements has been able to reach Qusayr in the past few days. Military sources report that they have been able to repel several attempts by groups of fighters, particularly from areas near the Lebanese border, to come to the aid of their comrades in the city.

AL AKHBAR (MAY 24, 2013)

NASSER CHARARA

The field commanders of Bab al-Tabbaneh’s gunmen have carried out a ‘coup’ against political leaders in the northern city of Tripoli, particularly MP Mohammed Kabbara. For all intents and purposes, the gunmen, who were being exploited politically and even financially, are now the ones controlling the streets.

Political leaders in Tripoli have long taken advantage of the internecine street conflicts in the city, using the violence and political allegiances of the militants to advance their standings, both locally and regionally. So the field commander rebellion against politicians comes as a striking development in this latest spate of violence.

The ‘coup’ against MP Kabbara and his political camp began on the night of Wednesday, May 22. As clashes spread, there was a lack of political stances to set the tone for the violence.

That night, MP Kabbara and retired Lebanese army colonel Amid Hammoud went to the Harba Mosque. Kabbara had called for the meeting only a few hours earlier. He intended to do the same thing he had always done in previous rounds of violence in the city, namely, convene field commanders and receive their mandate to represent them in political negotiations.

This time, however, Kabbara and Hammoud were surprised to find that the field commanders of Tabbaneh had declared a ‘rebellion’ against them, as though proclaiming that they alone had the final say, both politically and on the field.

The clerics of Bab al-Tabbaneh did not miss the meeting. In addition to more than 130 militants representing the gunmen of the neighborhoods, the attendees included Sheikh Khaled al-Sayyed, Sheikh Omar Aziz, and Sheikh Mazen al-Mohammed.

The field commanders boycotted the meeting, partly based on Kabbara’s earlier statement calling for the Lebanese army to “strike with an iron fist.” To the gunmen, this meant that Kabbara was on the army’s side, not Bab al-Tabbaneh’s.

The absence of the field commanders thwarted the main purpose of the meeting, which was to produce a unified set of demands. Their nonattendance meant that those at the meeting had no bearing on what was happening in the field.

As a result, the discussions shifted and focused on complaints about the discord in Tripoli’s political scene and among the armed groups. Accusations were made against Kabbara, and to a lesser extent Hammoud, over responsibility for the divisions and the chaos.

During the meeting, Sheikh Bilal Baroud elaborated on the causes of the existing anarchy and called on everyone to refrain from dealing harshly with the Lebanese army. His calls found support from Sheikh Mazen al-Mohammed, who said, “There is now blood in every street in Tripoli.

Mohammed then lashed out at the MPs of Tripoli and said, “Rather than unify our vision and efforts, you are playing a role in drawing us apart.” He then asked, “Where are the weapons? In Jabal Mohsen, they have weapons like nothing we have in Bab al-Tabbaneh.

At this point, Hammoud sensed that the insinuation was aimed at him and responded, “I have distributed the arms, but I cannot cover all of Tabbaneh’s weapon needs.

Kabbara also interjected, asking, “Who can contact the field commanders so that we can find out what their demands are, and resolve the issue with them?

Hammoud proposed Sheikh Khaled al-Sayyed for the task, but this measure gathered little support. Here, Mohammed al-Hilwe, AKA Abu Daas and wanted by the army, pointed his finger at Kabbara and his bodyguards, saying, “You are beggars. You beg money from Saudi in our name and in the name of Bab al-Tabanneh…when the people of Tabbaneh are forsaken.

Hilwe had even harsher things to say to Kabbara, while Sheikh Sayyed tried to calm him down, but to no avail. Finally, Sayyed asked the gunmen present to throw him out, and Hilwe was forced to leave the meeting.

Kabbara again broached the subject of tracking down the field commanders. However, Hammoud took advantage of Kabbara’s compromised position and attempted to take over the negotiations.

Hammoud said, “Let Sheikh Sayyed go to them, and leave Saad al-Masri to me.” This seemed to suggest that Hammoud was the only person capable of bringing Masri to the fold. Following Kabbara’s statement about the army, Masri had the harshest criticism for the MP of all field commanders.

Hammoud continued, “Go to the field commanders and agree on specific demands, and leave the rest to me.” One of the clerics would later describe Hammoud’s theatrics as “a coup within the coup of the field commanders against Kabbara.

The meeting concluded by tasking Sayyed, Omar Aziz, and Mazen al-Mohammed to meet with the field commanders that night. The field commanders agreed to the meeting on one conditions, that the clerics would hand their demands to Kabbara, who would then convey them in a press conference “without omission or addition.

AL AKHBAR (MAY 21, 2013)

IBRAHIM AL-AMIN

The matter is very simple: If the forces backing the Syrian opposition could have provided them with more support, they would have already done so. In fact, there is little left they have not given them in terms of weapons, money, and fighters. The only reasonable answer to those who ask why they have not intervened directly in the conflict is that there is a limit to military force.

In Lebanon, the Syrian opposition’s supporters took the initiative early on to provide individuals and groups with all kinds of political, media and material assistance. The northern border with Syria became a lifeline for the opposition, turning Tripoli into a support base for the uprising, where money was collected, fighters recruited and trained, and weapons gathered and smuggled across the border.

Several weeks into the crisis, support for the opposition became public as “relief centers” were established in places like Turkey and Europe, among many others around the world, under the guise of “assisting the Syrian people,” when in fact they were little more than military training camps for the opposition.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the Emirates, and Jordan also joined the campaign, just as Salafi and jihadi groups from around the region sent dozens of fighters who rubbed shoulders with French, British, and American special forces. They all operated on the basis that the regime in Damascus would be toppled quickly.

Aside from those who denied such support, there are those who decided on their own that the vast majority of Syrians were opposed to the regime, ignoring a very different reality on the ground. And when detractors pointed out the growing influence of extreme takfiri elements in the crisis, the response was that these were lies fabricated by the regime to distort the image of the revolution.

In Lebanon, March 14 forces – along with others at the service of Gulf and Western countries – did all they could to make Lebanon part of the official Arab stance that sought to destroy Syria under the pretense of a popular uprising. They would go into a fit of hysteria any time Lebanon’s foreign minister expressed a different point of view.

In this context, how is Hezbollah’s involvement in the battle of Qusayrbeing treated?

Those who oppose Hezbollah’s political and military support for the Syrian regime are the very same people who reject any role for the Resistance in Lebanon. They dream of turning the party into a charitable organization, never once having stood by its side when it battled Israel for years to liberate the South.

In fact, their history is full of betrayal of country and cooperation with the enemy – from the failed May 1983 peace accords between Lebanon and Israel, to openly justifying Israel’s assault on Lebanon in 2006. They would gladly fight Hezbollah themselves if they could. Instead, all they have left to hope for is to see the takfiris bring their crusade to Lebanon, so that they can blame it on Hezbollah.

Quite frankly, no one – from Hezbollah leadership all the way down to its popular base – wanted to see the party’s fighters engaged in the Syrian conflict. But the fact of the matter is that the Resistance is doing something that many will soon begin to appreciate.

And to spare us a long debate on this matter: What Hezbollah is doing in Syria is part of a wider struggle by the forces of resistance against a murderous front of reactionary forces...at the heart of which stands Israel.

THE TELEGRAPH (BRITISH DAILY, MAY 23, 2013)

RICHARD SPENCER AND RUTH SHERLOCK

The posters of President Bashar al-Assad hang over the streets of Damascus a little prouder these days. A few weeks ago, rebel mortars landed on Umayyad Square, the capital’s symbolic centre, and the noise of shelling was close and ever-present.

After two years of insurgency, residents said the city’s upmarket central boulevards felt besieged for the first time.

The state television building was attacked. Rebels established a chain of control from the north of the city around its eastern side to the fringes of the airport to the south-west. Even analysts who thought Mr Assad would be hard to beat were talking of a last stand on the Qasioun Mountains behind the city.

Now Mr Assad is fighting back, to despairing rebel admission. Those same analysts suggest he could be in a position to deal an ultimately fatal blow. Even before the current battle for Qusayr on the Lebanese border, he was making small but strategic gains around Damascus, and in the centre of the country.

Mr Assad has reopened the road to Deraa and Jordan, and brought to a halt the sweeping rebel gains in the north, which began last July with the seizure of half of Aleppo and culminated when the opposition, led by the al-Qaeda offshoot Jabhat al-Nusra, swept to the Iraqi border in March.

The German intelligence agency BND, which last year was predicting the regime’s imminent collapse, believes Mr Assad could regain the entire south by the end of the year, according to a report leaked to Der Spiegel. Other Western powers appear to think in similar terms.

The regime may not have regained much territory, but it has taken supply lines, allowing it to hit back at will.

Predictions of an Assad victory might be premature, but the political and military opposition are badly divided between Islamists, militants and secular forces. This is likely to be exacerbated if they do not resume the charge.

The first rebel gains last year were relatively easy: the countryside and poor neighbourhoods in big cities such as Aleppo, Damascus and Homs are conservative, their Sunni inhabitants long opposed to the Alawite Assads and their wealthy, metropolitan allies. It is the bits in between, such as Sheikh Saeed and downtown Damascus, that are difficult.

At military bases, rebels and regime fight face to face, with the rebels’ greater determination pitted against the regime’s better weapons, air support and tactical ruthlessness.

These battles sap rebels’ enthusiasm and weaken their numbers, if only by tying them down. In Minegh airbase, north-east of Aleppo, a few hundred Assad men, totally surrounded, have held at bay battalions of two big brigades since August.

Every day, jets drop bombs on the assailants. From inside, the regime shells surrounding villages, helping to engender a disillusion with the revolution even in its heartland.

Then there are the large towns, where rebel lines can become stretched in the face of overwhelming power, as at Sheikh Saeed or, now Qusayr.

Here, the regime not only has support from Iranian advisers and the Lebanese Hizbollah militia, but it does seem to be also for the first time matching the rebels’ willingness to fight. The number of defections has declined, and both sides talk of there being a new spirit in Assad’s men.

The Syrian armed forces were trained to fight a long-range war, and had no idea how to fight an insurgency, except with its brutal sectarian militia, the Shabiha.

Now the government has created a 60,000-strong volunteer group, the National Defence Force, that can match rebel tactics and fight street by street. "Before we used to guard the neighbourhood around our houses, but now we are more organised. We are participating in military actions," one recruit in Damascus said.

Until the NDF was created, the regime would "retake" a district by sending tanks down the main streets, snapping photographs, and then withdrawing again, leaving the rebels to move back in. Now a combination of urban warfare training and a greater inculcation with "patriotic values", is making a difference. "We are not fighting for Assad," the man said. "The country comes first. He is the best in the world but we still don’t fight for him, we fight for the country. Those people want to take us back to the dark ages."

In fact, he says, the air raids that met any advance in the city were so devastating they are now leaving the regime-held areas alone.

The loss of momentum is having a huge effect. One Tawhid figure estimated that 30 per cent of its strength had defected to the better-resourced Jabhat al-Nusra.

Senior British security sources now believe that, in their own terms, rebels risk defeat.

Source
New Orient News