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.
Yesterday the Bulgarian government announced the results of its investigation into the July 18, 2012 bus bombing that killed 5 Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver in the city of Burgas. At least two members of what appears to have been a three-man team belong to Hezbollah. More specifically, explained Bulgaria’s interior minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, they were part of Hezbollah’s “military wing”—a peculiar turn of phrase that hints at the political implications of the Bulgarian investigation, which may have a major impact on European Union foreign policy as well as Hezbollah’s ability to operate on the continent. And yet the most serious repercussions may be felt inside Lebanon, where Hezbollah is already feeling the pressure.
Last week THE WEEKLY STANDARD published my article, “Smugglers Galore: How Iran Arms its Proxies.” It seems that part of it may have found its way onto the reading list of Hezbollah general secretary Hassan Nasrallah.
NBC’s Middle East correspondent Richard Engel was released yesterday after being held for five days in Syria. When his kidnappers came to a rebel checkpoint, they were engaged in a firefight with a Free Syrian Army unit that allowed Engel and his colleagues to go free. NBC’s statement said he was taken by an “unknown group,” but Engel himself said he has a “very good idea” that the kidnappers are members of the shabbiha.
This morning, the State Department designated former Lebanese parliament member, and longtime ally of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, Michel Samaha as a specially designated global terrorist. Treasury also designated Samaha for “undermining Lebanon’s democratic processes or institutions, contributing to the breakdown of the rule of law in Lebanon, supporting the reassertion of Syrian control or otherwise contributing to Syrian interference in Lebanon, or infringing upon or undermining Lebanese sovereignty.”
Soon after 9/11, Michael Totten abandoned a profitable career as a technical writer and started a blog that took him throughout the Middle East, including Iraq which he visited seven times from 2006 to 2009. He also lived in Lebanon in parts of 2005 and 2006 in the middle of the Cedar Revolution, where I first met him.
To many Lebanese, the massive car bomb attack in Beirut on Friday that killed the Sunni Muslim head of internal security Wissam al Hassan and seven others evoked the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri.
Yesterday a car bomb in Beirut killed a senior Lebanese security chief along with seven others, while wounding hundreds in Ashrafiyeh, a busy neighborhood in Christian-majority East Beirut. The target, Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan, was close to former prime minister Saad Hariri and his late father, Rafik Hariri. Yesterday evening, Hariri supporters, mostly Sunnis, closed down roads and burned tires in protest against the assassins, almost certainly tied to the Syrian regime and their Lebanese ally Hezbollah.
Berlin On the eve of al Quds day, when supporters of the Iranian-led resistance bloc plan to march throughout European cities, U.S. representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida), chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has written a letter to José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, urging the EU to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
Last week the Treasury Department leveled sanctions against Hezbollah for providing support to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in his efforts to put down the 17-month-old rebellion meant to topple his regime.
Earlier this month, 48 Iranian Shiite “pilgrims” were abducted in Damascus. The Free Syrian Army claims they were members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, who have been dispatched to Syria to protect one of Tehran’s vital interests, Bashar al-Assad’s regime.