Beirut Last week Hezbollah buried one of its princes, Jihad Mughniyeh, the 22-year-old son of the late Imad Mughniyeh, a legendary Hezbollah commander implicated in such infamous operations as the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut. The assassination
The death of Fouad Ajami this weekend, at the age of 68, deprived this country and the world of a uniquely powerful voice – one that is at the same time both Arab and American – that could have helped guide us, as he has in the past, through the hazards and complications of his native Middle East.
Today the Palestinian Authority announced a joint interim government uniting Fatah and Hamas. West Bankers and Gazans cheer the move because the division between the two most powerful Palestinian factions has been a black eye for the Palestinian nationalist movement. Their rival religious and political visions, dating back to the creation of Hamas in 1987, have divided the Palestinians ideologically. Moreover, the territorial divisions resulting from the 2007 civil war in Gaza had made the creation of a unified, viable Palestinian entity all but impossible, until now.
Remember a few years ago when Iranian officials had to intervene to prevent Hezbollah gunmen from turning on their Syrian patrons? Few people do. Today, the "axis of resistance" is as strong as ever, with Iran and Hezbollah fully committed to fighting for the survival of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, despite battlefield losses and the political costs of siding with a brutal dictator who gasses and bombs his own people.
A car bomb detonated today in the southern suburbs of Beirut, a Hezbollah stronghold. So far, four are reported dead and over 50 have been injured. With rumors spreading that the bombing may have been the work of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, a Sunni jihadist group with ties to al Qaeda, it seems that this was the latest in a series of moves indicating that the regional conflict with Syria as its red-hot center is growing ever wider, now encompassing all the Levant, from Baghdad to Beirut. In the Lebanese capital alone, within a one-week span a former Sunni minister was assassinated, Saudi Arabia bought a $3 billion share of a national army heavily infiltrated by Hezbollah, and then today the Party of God was targeted on its home turf.
In the wake of the interim deal that the White House signed with Iran Saturday, Secretary of State John Kerry said on the Sunday talk shows that nothing has changed, not with the American position in the Middle East, or with the U.S. alliance system in the region. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is screaming his head off, but Israel has nothing to worry about says Kerry.
The cartoon above is from the Great Game era in Central Asia, when the British and Russians were in a contest for places like Afghanistan and Iran. It's strongly (perhaps perversely) suggestive given current events.
Lebanese authorities have arrested two suspects affiliated with a pro-Syrian regime group in the bombing of two Sunni mosques in Tripoli on Friday. Forty-seven people were killed in the attack in the northern Lebanese city, likely retaliation for a bombing the previous week in the southern suburbs of Beirut, a Hezbollah stronghold, that killed another 27.
Even with all eyes turned toward Egypt and the increasingly violent rifts pulling that society apart, the region’s active civil war in Syria burns on. Last Thursday, the two-and-a half-year-long conflict touched neighboring Lebanon, again, when a bomb detonated in the Hezbollah-held southern suburbs of Beirut killing 27 people and wounding hundreds.
For over a week now, the Syrian town of Qusayr in Homs Province has seen some of the heaviest fighting in the two-year conflict. The struggle for Qusayr, says besieged President Bashar al-Assad, “is the main battle” in all of Syria.
CNN reports this evening that there have been Israeli airstrikes on Syria:
"Two U.S. officials are telling CNN that the U.S. believes Israel has conducted an airstrike into Syria," CNN reports. "Western intelligence agencies are reviewing classified data and they say they believe Israel conducted the strike today or late yesterday."
Eight years ago today, February 14, 2005, former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri was assassinated, along with 22 others, when a massive explosive detonated as his motorcade drove past Beirut’s St. George Hotel.