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Middle East politics

Lebanon UNIFIL United Nations Hezbollah Israel Washington Post maps Middle East politics bunkersThe United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL) has failed spectactularly in its mandate, namely:

Assist the LAF in taking steps towards the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL deployed in this area.

Without actually naming the predicted troublemaker, the United Nations had committed to preventing a buildup of Hezbollah bunkers and munitions dumps throughout civilian areas of southern Lebanon. This wasn't just in the aim of preventing another war between Hezbollah and Israel. It was also going to help prevent Hezbollah becoming physically dominant and using its leverage to help take over the Lebanese state.

Just five years later, the Lebanese state is basically owned by Hezbollah. Meanwhile, as maps of Southern Lebanon provided to the Washington Post via Israel show, the territory is strewn with about 1,000 Hezbollah military sites and facilities, almost all of them within rock-throwing distance...More >>

Will Syria be immune from the Arab Spring? The regime is perfectly willing to use lethal force (as usual) to stifle dissent. And it's hard to believe President Bashar Assad would cave to anything less than armed rebels beating down his bedroom door.

Still, this latest protest shows that there may be some hope:

Update at 11:17 a.m. ET: Witnesses say Syrian troops opened fire today during a protest in Latakia, the AP reports. It is the first reported clash between security forces and demonstrators since a morning speech by President Bashar Assad, who promised job opportunities and a campaign corruption. Assad also blamed much of last week's popular protests on "conspirators."

Witnesses, who asked to remain unidentified for security reasons, say police opened fire during a protest by about 100 people — although it was not immediately clear whether they were firing in the air or at the protesters, the AP reports.

Update at 11:06 a.m. ET: Al-Jazeera TV reports that Syrian actvists are very disapponted with Assad's speech and have called for more demonstrations after Friday prayers.


Update at 8:28

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Syrian President Bashar Assad claims protests against his regime are the work of a foreign conspiracy.

He's right, actually. Human rights activists, responsible governments and courageous individuals outside Syria have been working for years to do everything possible to end his regime's lethal repression and destabilizing foreign policy. It's nice to see that the people of Syria appreciate these efforts.

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Roughly one year ago, Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai suggested publicly to shocked international colleagues that if Western powers didn't stop asking him to end the corruption and increasing authoritarianism of his regime, he would quit politics and join the Taliban.

Karzai's bluster was met with shock, disbelief and finally boiling anger. Karzai's position owes everything to the billions of dollars poured into the country by generous international donors -- not to mention the sacrifices of thousands of killed and maimed ISAF soldiers. Those of us who support the international mission found ourselves undercut by the one leader in Afghanistan who ought to be its boldest champion. One of the worst aspects is that Karzai couldn't possibly justify his threat on pragmatic grounds, since poll after poll show that roughly 90 percent of Afghans despise the Taliban and rightly see them as the enemy. So Karzai's outburst wasn't ordinary lizard-brained demagoguery -- it was crazy talk.

Confidence in Karzai, never all that strong to begin with thanks to years of double-talk and government robbery schemes, has never recovered from that incident. No one was expecting Jacksonian democracy to spring up overnight, but neither can we forgive a decade...More >>

The Al Jazeera anchor is defenseless against a barrage of straight talk from an Israeli soldier telling it like it is.

"There have been hundreds of missiles fired on the heads of our men, women, children and elderly, even in the last few days," says Israeli Defense Forces Captain Avichai Adraee on Al Jazeera. "Did anyone really think that we would not defend our citizens?

"... Instead of threatening and attacking us, they could have been investing their money in the daily needs of the Palestinians. This is the barbarism that I'm talking about."

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druze village unhrc middle east politics united nations syria human rights israelThe United Nations Human Rights Council addressed the subject of the dire state of the human rights of Syrian citizens this week. The discussion did not, however, relate to the Syrians being shot at , murdered or imprisoned by their own regime in the town of Dara’a in southern Syria even whilst the council session took place. The resolution – proposed by Cuba, North Korea, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Venezuela – related solely to the human rights of “Syrian citizens” of the Golan Heights.

Whilst we are by now regrettably familiar with the UNHRC’s practice of sidestepping the issue of the human rights of millions of people who live under some of the oppressive regimes which also hold seats in that institution,  here we have an instance in which what should be an internationally respected body is fabricating supposed abuses for purely political ends. Sadly, some nations on the council which should know better – including the UK, France and Belgium - chose to abstain from the vote...More >>

If you've ever seen the popular gangster film, Reservoir Dogs, you may recall trying to turn your eyes away from the screen during the scene where Mr. Blonde cuts off a helpless police officer's ear with a straight razor.

Unfortunately, this level of brutality is not merely the province of Hollywood fantasy, but of reality in Egypt, where Coptic Christians are enduring torture and ethnic cleansing. Note that in this latest incident, an Egyptian police officer was present - he at least prevented the victim from being murdered outright (because he didn't want to get into trouble), thought he was willing enough to take part in the torture (for which he seemed confident he would not be punished):

Remembering his ordeal, he said that they sat him on a chair and a Muslim named elHusseiny cut his right ear off. "I felt so shocked that I do not even know what tool he used." They also made a a 10cm cut at the back of his neck, cut his other ear, his face and his arm (video showing wounds). Mr. Mitri said they wanted to throw him off the fifth floor but Khaled objected, saying he

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Today's message from Hamas to the United Nations:

"Hey guys! We've been launching rockets indiscriminately at Israeli towns and cities from Gaza for the last week or so. The problem is that the Israelis keep firing back!

"We'd like you to get them to stop shooting at us so that we can kill them easier. Have a nice day and thank you for your ongoing support for our Jew-killing campaign."

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Syrian security forces are cracking down heavily on opposition protests. Who is leading the protests? Will they gather momentum? And if they manage - yes, we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves, here - to topple the regime, who will come out on top?

For now, it is too early to say if these outbreaks in Syria will transform into a wider revolution. This will be an uneven contest between those sick of tyranny and impoverishment and a regime with no compunctions about using lethal force to maintain its illegitimate hold on the state:

Syria remains a closed and walled-off nation. But descriptions of the uprising in Dara'a were dramatic. The alleged details included dozens of young men pelting a poster - in broad daylight - of a smiling President Bashar al-Assad; a statue of his late father and predecessor Hafiz al-Assad, demolished; official buildings including the ruling Baath Party's headquarters and the governor's office burned down. "There is no fear, there is no fear, after today there is no fear!" hundreds of men chant, captured in shaky mobile phone footage allegedly taken on Monday. Over the

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We've pointed out the Arab League's hypocrisy on Libya before, but it feel's so nice, we're doing it twice. From Dennis Prager in the National Review:

Witnessing the Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi’s large-scale killings of Libyan civilians, the Arab League begged us, the Europeans, and the Security Council to militarily intervene on behalf of the Libyan people.

So, despite the fact that America is rather weary of fighting Muslim mass murderers, is militarily overstretched, and has a devastating national debt, America said yes. We are the most decent country on earth and even a liberal-Left Democrat in the White House feels the moral pull of America’s legacy, values, and unparalleled strength.

But no sooner have America and the Europeans intervened than the Arab League officially protests our intervention on the grounds that Libyan civilians — 48 claimed, zero confirmed, at the time of the protest — have been killed by the intervention requested by the Arab League.

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