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Lebanon: A new theatre opens for Iran and Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are now seeking ways to compensate for the loss of Syria.

Syed Ali Zia Jaffery

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Courtesy of Global Village Space

Amidst simmering crises in the Middle East, Lebanon finds itself in the thick of things as Saudi Arabia on Monday accused it of declaring war on the Kingdom through aggression by the Iran-backed Shiite group, Hezbollah.

This accusation comes days after Lebanese Prime Minister, Saad Hariri resigned while sitting in Saudi Arabia, citing the interference of Iran and Hezbollah as the reason.

The Arab country has thus been opened up as yet another territory of conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia.Saudi Gulf affairs minister Thamer al-Sabhan said the Lebanese government would “be dealt with as one that is declaring war on Saudi Arabia” because of what he termed as aggression by Hezbollah. Sabhan blamed the Hariri-led government for failing to rein-in Hezbollah.

He said: “There are those who will stop (Hezbollah) and make it return to the caves of South Lebanon. The Lebanese must all know these risks and work to fix matters before they reach the point of no return”.

The Iran-backed Hezbollah is both a military and political force, which according to many is more powerful than the Lebanese army. The group found its way into the Parliament and the Hariri-led coalition government formed last year. In accordance with the intricate Lebanese power-sharing deal, the president should be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni and the parliament speaker a Shiite. Haunted by the memories of the civil war which lasted from 1975 to 1990, the Sunnis and Shiites(dominant) agreed to tread carefully.

Hariri formed a coalition government in 2016 that included Hezbollah too.However, pundits are certain that the glaring victory of the Hezbollah-Iran-Assad forces against Saudi-backed rebels in Syria has got to do with the sudden resignation of Hariri, that despite repudiation appears to be pushed by Riyadh. Here, it is noteworthy to mention that this comes at a time when, both Iran and the Kingdom have ramped up their fight in the Yemen conflict.

The complexion of war changed dramatically when Houthi rebels hurled a missile on the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Saudi Arabia has asserted that Iran provided the rebels with the missile.

 

Saudi Imprints all-over

Hariri appeared on Al Arabiya, a channel whose content is stamped by the Saudi government, and blamed Iran for meddling in Arab affairs. “Iran’s arms in the region will be cut off,” he said, adding his life was in danger. Hariri’s resignation has exposed Lebanon to drift toward internal squabbling. Many are of the opinion that Hariri was led by Saudi Arabia. Hariri, despite tiffs with Hezbollah, showed his pragmatism by supporting its ally, Michael Aoun in a bid to regain premiership in 2016. His sudden theatrics apparently were much against his characteristics.

Talking to the author, senior Syrian-American journalist, Steven Sahiounie said that Hariri was forced to step down by the crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman. “If you see his body language, he hasn’t convinced himself. It has got a lot to do what is happening inside the Royal Family; Hariri is part of the family. His mother was the wife of late King Fahad and hence it is all about the infighting in the Kingdom,” said Steven.

Saudi Gulf affairs minister Thamer al-Sabhan said the Lebanese government would “be dealt with as one that is declaring war on Saudi Arabia”
Watchers are concerned that Hariri has dealt with the even otherwise outnumbered and dormant Sunnis in a rough manner. Hezbollah’s chief, Hasan Nasarullah however, was calm and said that he would not like to comment on a speech delivered by Saudi Arabia. It is expected that Hezbollah will find an acceptable replacement for Hariri because it can lead to domestic distractions; especially at a time when it feels that Syria and Iraq are bigger avenues of conflict. Steven asserted that Nasarullah’s speech was measured because he knows that the opponents want to stir up trouble in Lebanon.

Offset and Compensate

Experts see the desire on part of Riyadh to bleed Iran in Lebanon as something untenable. Hezbollah’s military prowess and kill-capability far exceed those of all rivals to include the Lebanese Army, which rules physical confrontation.

However, the new turmoil has opened up Hezbollah to be attacked left, right, and center, albeit politically. Hariri could contest the upcoming Parliamentary election and pull the plug on Hezbollah but that would require him to come back to Beirut and hope that the tumultuous situation does not lead to a postponement of elections.

Bolstered by President Trump’s outspoken anti-Iran strategy, KSA may tread towards a conflict in Lebanon. Riyadh and Tel Aviv share their spite for Iran; a conflict, therefore, becomes all the more likely. Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu termed Hariri’s resignation as “a wake-up call for the international community to act against Iranian aggression.”

Saudi Arabia has already lost a strong ally in Qatar. Qatar, while small, is an immense powerhouse due to its wealth and large oil reserves. Saudi Arabia is still dominant when it comes to oil supply but losing allies in a region like the Middle East will favor its enemy, Iran. Doha’s tilt towards Tehran has been a direct result of the blockade by Riyadh and its allies.

Saudi Arabia, after losing Qatar may go on to lose Lebanon in the space of a few months. Perhaps after making these mistakes and severing ties with these countries, the Saudi government thinks it needs the US more than ever. It is imperative enough to mention that it was President Trump’s anti-Iran tirade in Riyadh which led to the Qatar crisis_ Trump took credit for it too.

However, two things need to be borne in mind. Iran is not only in an enviable position, it is certainly in no mood to succumb to the mounting US pressure. Trump’s continuous efforts to discredit the JCPOA are not backed by a robust tactical plan to withstand Iran’s response. Seemingly, the US, after reverses in Syria and Iraq is pulling away. Therefore, Saudi Arabia, which is now faced with brazen Houthi rebels can ill-afford to borrow courage to jump in Lebanon, that too when even the Sunnis are not willing to challenge Hezbollah in ways desired by Riyadh

Prominent geopolitical analyst, Adam Garrie, while talking to the author said that the Saudi surge on Lebanon may backfire. He said:”The political situation in Lebanon is indeed more fragile than it previously was because of the forced resignation of Saad Hariri.” He added that “the key lies in the statement of Hezbollah leader Nasrallah who urged calm and appealed to a sense of unity among all Lebanese.” Garrie said that if Lebanese factions continue to follow this mantra then “it will be Saudi Arabia that will be in the midst of a bigger political crisis than Lebanon.”

It is reasonable to expect that Lebanon will soon become a new theater in the fierce animosity between the two powerhouses of the Muslim sects: Iran and Saudi Arabia. Joseph Bahout, a visiting scholar in Carnegie’s Middle East Program aptly puts it: “Regionally, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are now seeking ways to compensate for the loss of Syria as a place where they could defy and bleed Iran If ever they seek to rebalance the regional relationship with Tehran in the Levant, the only place to do so would be Lebanon, despite the many risks that would accompany such an effort.”

Tehran sits pretty; Riyadh has a lot of catching up to do!

Syed Ali Zia Jaffery is a Research Analyst and Sub Editor at Global Village Space.He frequently writes on defense and strategic affairs for various national and international platforms. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

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Germany Wants Nuclear Bombers

Germany does not manufacture atomic weapons but has come to consider itself as a nuclear power because it has vectors to use them.

The Duran

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Via VoltaireNet.org:


Germany’s armed forces are currently studying the possibility of acquiring nuclear bombers capable of using the new American B61-12 atomic bombs.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon itself plans to deploy these new atomic bombs in the German region of Eifel, in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The German air force already has multi-tasking Tornado warplanes, which are already capable of deploying American atomic bombs. But those aircraft are going to be replaced, possibly, by European-developed Eurofighters, or by United States manufactured F/A-18 Super Hornets.

Either way, the warplane that Germany selects will have to be equipped with the AMAC (Aircraft Monitoring and Control) system, which allows the use of the new American atomic bombs and enables the regulation of the power of the explosion as well as at what height the bombs explode after they are launched.

Germany does not manufacture atomic weapons but has come to consider itself as a nuclear power because it has vectors to use them, and believes that this gives it the right to sit on the UN Security Council sharing the permanent member position occupied by France.

Both countries would thus represent the European Union, under the auspices of NATO.

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1st since Notre Dame: Yellow Vests back despite ‘unifying’ disaster & they are angry

‘Yellow Vests’ march in Paris for 23rd straight week.

RT

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Via RT…


Yellow Vests protests brought clashes and tear gas back to the streets of Paris, despite politicians’ calls for “unity” in the wake of the Notre Dame fire. For protesters, the response to the fire only showed more inequality.

Saturday’s protests mark the 23rd straight weekend of anti-government demonstrations, but the first since Notre Dame de Paris went up in flames on Monday. Officials were quick to criticize the protesters for returning to the streets so soon after the disaster.

“The rioters will be back tomorrow,” Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told reporters on Friday. “The rioters have visibly not been moved by what happened at Notre-Dame.”

For many of the protesters, grief over the destruction of the 800-year-old landmark has made way for anger. With smoke still rising from Notre Dame, a group of French tycoons and businessmen pledged €1 billion to the cathedral’s reconstruction, money that the Yellow Vests say could be better spent elsewhere.

“If they can give dozens of millions to rebuild Notre Dame, they should stop telling us there is no money to respond to the social emergency,” trade union leader Philippe Martinez told France 24.

Saturday’s protests saw a return to scenes familiar since the Yellow Vests first mobilized in November to protest a fuel tax hike. Demonstrators in Paris’ Bastille district set barricades on fire and smashed vehicles, and police deployed tear gas to keep the crowds at bay.

Sporadic incidents of vandalism and looting were reported across the city, and some journalists even reported rioters throwing feces at police.

60,000 police officers were deployed across the country, and in Paris, a security perimeter was set up around Notre Dame. A planned march that would have passed the site was banned by police, and elsewhere, 137 protesters had been arrested by mid afternoon, police sources told Euronews.

Beginning as a show of anger against rising fuel costs in November, the Yellow Vests movement quickly evolved into a national demonstration of rage against falling living standards, income inequality, and the perceived elitism and pro-corporation policies of President Emmanuel Macron. Over 23 weeks of unrest, Macron has made several concessions to the protesters’ demands, but has thus far been unable to quell the rising dissent.

After Notre Dame caught fire on Monday, the president postponed a television address to the nation, during which he was expected to unveil a package of tax cuts and other economic reforms, another measure to calm the popular anger in France.

Macron’s address will be held on Thursday.

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O Canada! The True North Strong and Free – Not

Maybe it’s past time for Canadians to get serious again about their independence.

Jim Jatras

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Authored by James George Jatras via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Canadian visitors to Washington sometimes wonder why their embassy stands at the foot of Capitol Hill.

The answer? To be close to where Canada’s laws are made.

A main showcase of Ottawa’s craven servility to Washington is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s complicity in the US-led regime change operation being conducted against Venezuela. Not content with ruining his own country with multiculturalism, polysexualism, and the like, Li’l Justin has acted in lockstep with Big Brother to the south inslapping sanctions on Venezuelan officials and serving as a US agent of influence, especially with other countries in the western hemisphere:

‘A Canadian Press report published at the end of January revealed that Canadian diplomats worked systematically over several months with their Latin American counterparts in Caracas to prepare the current regime-change operation, pressing [Venezuelan President Nicolás] Maduro’s right-wing opponents to set aside their differences and mount a joint challenge to the government. “The turning point,” said the Canadian Press [Global News], “came Jan. 4, when the Lima Group … rejected the legitimacy of Maduro’s May 2018 election victory and his looming January 10 inauguration, while recognizing the ‘legitimately elected’ National Assembly.” The report cited an unnamed Canadian official as saying the opposition “were really looking for international support of some kind, to be able to hold onto a reason as to why they should unite, and push somebody like Juan Guaidó.”

‘One day prior to Maduro’s inauguration, [Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia] Freeland spoke to Guaidó, the newly-elected National Assembly speaker, by telephone to urge him to challenge the elected Venezuelan president.’

But that’s not all. Canada is out front and center in the “Five Eyes” intelligence agencies’ war on China’s Huawei – with direct prompting from US legislators and intelligence.  As explained by Col. Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Gen. Colin Powell, it’s not that Huawei violated any law when circumventing US sanctions but it is the US that is acting illegally by unilaterally imposing sanctions that were never agreed to internationally. But that’s OK – when it comes to Washington’s claims of jurisdiction over every human being on the planet, Justin and Chrystia are happy to oblige!

Also, let’s not forget Chrystia’s role in keeping the pot boiling in Ukraine. It would of course be cynical (and probably racist) to attribute anything relating to Ukraine to her own interesting family background …

To be fair, the lickspittle attitude of Canadian officials towards their masters south of the 49th parallel is hardly unique in the world. Also to be fair, it’s natural and would be generally beneficial for Canada to have a positive relationship with a powerful, kindred neighbor rather than a negative one. Think of Austria’s ties to Germany, or the Trans-Tasman relationship of Australia and New Zealand, or the links that still exist between Russia and Ukraine despite efforts by the west to set them against each other (as, for example, Spain and Portugal were at loggerheads for several centuries, when the latter was a loyal ally of Spain’s foe, Great Britain, to such an extent that Portugal was sometimes shown on maps and globes in the same pink as British possessions; a similar situation existed between Argentina and British ally Chile).

A close and mutually advantageous relationship is one thing, but Canada’s de facto loss of independence is another. Not only does the US control Canada’s diplomacy, military, and intelligence but also her financial system (with, among other levers, the notorious FATCA law, which places Canadian institutions under the supervision of the IRS, with Canada’s revenue service acting, care of the Canadian taxpayer, as a cat’s paw for not only the IRS but the NSA and other snooping agencies). As explained by one Canadian nationalist (yes, they do exist!), the redoubtable David Orchard, trade is also a critical issue:

‘Canada …, after almost three decades of “free trade” with the U.S., has more than $1.2 trillion in federal and provincial debt, large deficits at every level, no national child or dental care, high university tuition, miserly old age pensions, years of massive budget cuts, and giveaway prices for its exports of oil, gas, timber and minerals.

‘For 150 years, great Canadian leaders have warned that without an economic border with the United States, we would soon no longer have a political border.

‘We once owned the world’s largest farm machinery maker, Massey Harris, headquartered in Toronto; built the world’s largest and most respected marketer of wheat and barley, the Canadian Wheat Board, based in Winnipeg; created a great transcontinental railway system, beginning in Montreal, which tied our country together; and saw Vancouver’s shipyards produce the beautiful Fast Cat ferry.

‘Instead of spending hundreds of billions on foreign-made machinery, electronics, automobiles, ships, fighter jets and passenger aircraft (even payroll systems for federal employees!), we can build our own, both for the domestic and export market.

‘We once designed and built the world’s most advanced jet interceptor, the Avro Arrow, so we know it can be done. [Emphasis added] With Canada’s resources and ingenuity, it could create a prosperous, domestically controlled economy that would give Canadians multiple benefits, security and pride of ownership. All that is required is some of the will that drove our ancestors to create an alternate power in North America. As George-Étienne Cartier, the great Québécois Father of Confederation, put it, “Now everything depends on our patriotism.”’ [Note: Orchard is the author of the must-read book The Fight for Canada: Four Centuries of Resistance to American Expansionism. To begin at the beginning, in the late 1680s, as part of English-French rivalry in North America, Massachusetts Puritans sought to root out the nest of popish deviltry known as Quebec. Following their disastrous 1690 defeat, they decided to fight Satan closer to home by hanging witches. The rest, as they say, is history…]

Scratch a Canadian patriot and you’ll hear about the Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow. As a watershed moment in Canada’s downward slide into subservience, the cancellation of what by all accounts was a magnificent aircraft – and a snapshot of what Canada’s international competitiveness (including in advanced aerospace) could have looked like had it been able to develop independently – might have been the point of being sucked into the American vortex. As noted by one response to my suggestion that Ottawa’s stance on Venezuela amounted to Canada’s annexation by the US: “Canadian here…unfortunately, the above is true (not literally of course, but in practice). It goes back even before the time of Diefenbaker, who canceled our Avro Arrow program on demand from the US – thus destroying our aerospace industry and causing brain drain to the US/Europe.”

To this day, the decision of then-Prime Minister John Diefenbaker to kill the Arrow project (and “put 14,528 Avro employees, as well as nearly 15,000 other employees in the Avro supply chain of outside suppliers, out of work”) on what came to be known as “Black Friday,” February 20, 1959, remains controversial and shrouded in mystery. A mix of budgetary, political, technological, and personality factors has been cited, none of them conclusive. Pressure from the US side, including unwillingness of Washington to purchase a Canadian aircraft when the US could pressure them to buy American planes and missiles, no doubt played a key role: “Instead of the CF-105, the RCAF invested in a variety of Century Series fighters from the United States. These included the F-104 Starfighter (46 percent of which were lost in Canadian service), and (more controversial, given the cancellation of the Arrow) the CF-101 Voodoo. The Voodoo served as an interceptor, but at a level of performance generally below that expected of the Arrow.”

While we may never know reliably why Diefenbaker cancelled the Arrow or how Canada or Canadian industry might have followed a different path, there’s no question of the superior capabilities of the Arrow. As it happens, one of the few pilots who had a chance to test the Arrow in an impromptu friendly dogfight is now-retired USAF fighter pilot Col. George Jatras, later US Air Attaché in Moscow (also, this analyst’s father). As he related in 2017:

‘I’ve received a number of messages in the last couple days about this bird, including some that say it may be revived. I don’t know how The Arrow would compare to today’s aircraft, but I had a first-hand lesson on how it faired against the F-102.

‘In 1959, I was stationed at Suffolk County AFB on Long Island with the 2nd Fighter Interceptor Squadron. We had an informal exchange program with a Canadian fighter squadron stationed near Montreal. From time to time, two or four aircraft from one of the squadrons would fly to the other’s base on a weekend cross country.

‘On one such exchange, I was #3 in a four ship formation led by [former Tuskegee airmanErnie Craigwell (I don’t recall who the other pilots were). As we entered Canadian airspace, cruising at about 40,000 ft., we spotted a contrail well above our altitude (probably at 50,000ft.) and closing very fast.  As the other aircraft appeared to be passing by, we could clearly see the delta shaped wing and knew it was the Avro Arrow that the Canadian pilots had told us about. Then, instead of just passing by, he rolled in on us! Ernie called for a break and we split into elements. When we talked about the encounter afterwards we all agreed that our first thought was, “This guy is in for a surprise; he doesn’t know that he’s taking on the F-102.”  Well, we were the ones in for a surprise. Even with two elements covering each other, not one of us could get on his tail. His power and maneuverability were awesome.  After he had played with us for a few minutes, like a cat with four mice, he zoomed back up to about 50K and went on his way. What an aircraft! What a shame that it never went into production.’

What is perhaps most curious about the Arrow’s demise is that “everything was ordered brutally destroyed; plans, tools, parts, and the completed planes themselves were to be cut up, destroyed, scrapped and everything made to disappear.”  Why? Well, security of course! Don’t engage in conspiracy theories …

The Canadian national anthem finishes with a pledge: “O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.” It should be noted that understandably resentful Loyalists fleeing the US following the American Revolution were a major contribution to the growth of Canada’s English-speaking population. American troops – back when we were the plucky underdog fighting the mighty British Empire – invaded Canada in 1775 and during the War of 1812 but were defeated. Relations got testy during the American Civil War as well, and even afterwards the US was wary of a proposed united “Kingdom of Canada,” hence the choice of the name “Dominion” in 1967. If today’s Canadians think we-all down here don’t know whom they’ve mostly had in mind to “stand on guard” against all this time, they’d better think again.

Maybe it’s past time for Canadians to get serious again about their independence – eh?

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