Adonis Diaries

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How France mandated power militarily entered Damascus

Note: France was never accepted by the Syrians as an occupying force and constantly harassed this dominion. That’s why France political institutions hate the Syrian people, and not just any government, and always find excuses to harass Syria at every event.

Effondrement du rêve d’un royaume arabe indépendant

RÉCIT DE LA BATAILLE DE KHAN MEISSELOUN

ORIENT XXI L’ORIENT DANS LA GUERRE (1914-1918) JULIE D’ANDURAIN > 11 AOÛT 2017

La bataille de Khan Meisseloun1 — du nom du défilé se situant sur la route entre Beyrouth et Damas où eurent lieu les combats —

le général Henri Gouraud (1867-1946), haut-commissaire et commandant en chef des armées françaises au Levant, pénétre triomphalement dans Damas dès le lendemain du combat.

Si cette entrée dans la ville des Omeyyades marque pour eux la fin de l’expérience chérifienne en Syrie, elle est surtout perçue comme une simple mise en conformité de la présence française en Orient par un nécessaire retour à l’ordre réclamé par la Société des Nations (SDN).

De ce fait, le combat de la « colonne de Damas » — autre désignation de la bataille de Khan Meisseloun — est vite oublié du côté français.

Mais pour l’émir Fayçal Ben Hussein (1885-1933) et sa famille, convaincus que ce n’est qu’une péripétie dans le cadre d’une guerre pour la conquête du monde arabe par les « Arabes », la bataille perdue devient aussitôt la butée-témoin d’une mémoire combattante douloureuse. Meisseloun se charge alors d’une dimension symbolique dont la résonnance se fait encore sentir de nos jours.

Pour appréhender sereinement cette bataille et ses conséquences, pour distinguer l’histoire de la mémoire, il s’agit non pas d’aborder l’événement sous un angle téléologique (en connaissant la fin de l’histoire), ou pire sous un angle idéologique, mais au contraire de comprendre le processus qui a mené à la bataille en posant correctement les jalons historiques.

UN MANDAT SOUS HAUTE TENSION

Au moment de la sortie de guerre, Français et Britanniques reçoivent officieusement un mandat sur les provinces arabes de l’empire ottoman, alors que les Arabes s’estiment capables de se diriger par eux-mêmes. Entre la fin de l’année 1919 et le milieu de l’année 1920, les tensions s’accumulent : la proclamation de Fayçal Ben Hussein comme « roi de Syrie » en mars 1920, alors que le général Gouraud est arrivé en Syrie en décembre 1919 avec le titre de haut-commissaire en Syrie, met véritablement le feu aux poudres.

Côté occidental la réaction ne se fait pas attendre longtemps. Robert de Caix (1869-1970), l’adjoint civil du général Gouraud, est l’un des premiers à envisager une conquête de Damas.

« Si nous pouvions marcher sur cette ville », écrit-il à un ami aux environs du 12 mars 1920, « après avoir pendant quelques semaines envoyé des émissaires et quelques subsides dans les tribus bédouines de l’Est, surtout si Faysal n’avait pas d’argent de son côté, pour s’acheter des amis, le gouvernement de Damas s’effondrerait comme un château de cartes »2.

Le 25 avril 1920, la conférence de San Remo confirme les mandats. Elle rassure et inquiète tout à la fois. Conscients des enjeux, Fayçal et son principal ministre Nouri Saïd Pacha (1888-1958) cherchent un accord, mais les discussions se figent rapidement. Le général Gouraud récuse l’utilisation du drapeau chérifien et les prières faites au nom du « roi de Syrie » et argue de sa seule autorité, laquelle lui a été conférée par Paris et Londres. Il exige la tranquillité et la sécurité des transports, en particulier autour du nœud ferroviaire de Rayak, l’abolition du service obligatoire qui permet déjà de disposer de 6 000 hommes et le châtiment des coupables des attaques de convois.

À mesure que les mois passent, la tension augmente et devient palpable, d’autant qu’elle est relayée par des rumeurs d’attaques de la « zône3 est » (Damas) de plus en plus fréquentes. Pendant la conclusion des accords de la Conférence de paix, de nouvelles troupes débarquent dans la « zône ouest » (Beyrouth) ; à l’autre bout du territoire, des armes entrent dans le pays par Deir Ez-Zor. Au début du mois de juillet, devant les inquiétudes qui se multiplient, les Libanais repartent vers la zône ouest ; les prix flambent à Damas.

Désormais convaincus qu’il ne s’agit plus de discuter avec leurs anciens alliés, les nationalistes les plus radicaux prétendent résister aux « préparatifs français d’agression ». Le 30 juin 1920, le portefeuille de l’intérieur est attribué à Youssef Bey Al-Azmé (1874-1920), ministre de la guerre qui accélère la concentration de troupes à Meisseloun, oasis à 28 km à l’ouest de Damas.

Au début du mois de juillet, les tensions s’accumulent dans tous les camps. Dans une lettre du 7 juillet 1920, Robert de Caix pousse clairement le général Gouraud à agir « dans les plus brefs délais ». En termes de méthode, cet anglophobe assumé n’est pas favorable à la publication d’un ultimatum car celui-ci, dit-il, permettrait encore aux Britanniques d’intervenir. La présence des colonels Édouard Cousse et Antoine Toulat4 auprès de Fayçal impose cependant de respecter certaines formes. Le 14 juillet, un ultimatum lui est remis en mains propres. Le général Gouraud fait état des doléances déjà connues mais insiste particulièrement sur la tranquillité du transport ferroviaire dans la région de Rayak et sur l’occupation d’Alep, car il est par ailleurs soucieux de pouvoir acheminer des troupes en Cilicie, où les Français combattent également la Turquie.

Deux jours plus tard, Fayçal fait demander des précisions et un délai de réponse de quatre jours. La situation se détend quelque peu dans la ville de Damas. Mais le 20 juillet l’affaire rebondit car il n’a pas répondu positivement aux demandes du général Gouraud.

MOUVEMENT DE TROUPES ET STRATÉGIES DE COMBAT

Aussitôt les troupes se préparent à l’action. Partie de Zahlé, ville située dans la plaine de la Bekaa le 21 juillet à zéro heure, la 3e division du général Mariano Goybet (1861-1943) composée de 10 bataillons d’infanterie, quatre batteries de 75, l’équivalent de six escadrons de cavalerie, une compagnie du génie, 15 chars de combat et une escadrille divisionnaire à disposition de l’armée se met en route. Le Litani est franchi à 4 h 45.

Le but des opérations a été défini au début du mois de juillet. Il s’agit initialement de maîtriser les hauteurs (Sahrat Ed-Dimes), de récupérer la gare de Rayak et d’empêcher que Damas ne menace les troupes. La division doit avancer en deux bonds successifs : d’abord, rejoindre la coupure d’Ain-Jdeideh, en prenant le risque de passer par le défilé de l’oued el-Korn, puis le Sahrat-ed-Dimes. Au cours de la progression vers la zône est, les petits postes ennemis laissés auprès des ponts cèdent tous sans difficulté.

Un temps, le général Goybet croit que l’armée chérifienne reflue vers Damas sans combattre. L’aviation lui confirme que des troupes retraitent vers l’est. Il pense que Fayçal a accepté l’ultimatum. Il profite donc de la situation pour pousser encore plus en avant ses troupes qui progressent au nord de la route de Damas, le long des pentes de l’Anti-Liban, alors même que la chaleur torride épuise les hommes. Il installe son campement à Ain-Jdeideh, dans un immense évasement naturel du terrain qui permet d’installer plusieurs milliers d’hommes et de bêtes.

Fayçal dépêche Sati Al-Housri (1860-1968), son ministre de l’instruction, à Aley, au quartier d’été du général Gouraud. Il obtient un délai supplémentaire d’une journée mais l’ultimatum est maintenu tandis que les troupes françaises continuent à avancer vers Meisseloun, point d’eau important où elles comptent se refaire. À l’annonce de la nouvelle, Damas s’embrase : une émeute éclate dans la ville. Cela n’empêche pas le colonel Toulat de continuer à servir d’intermédiaire entre le général Gouraud et Fayçal.

Le 22 août il rencontre lui-même les commandants des troupes (d’une part le général Goybet et le colonel Gaston Pettelat, le chef d’état-major de l’armée du Levant, le bras droit du général Gouraud ; Youssef Bey Azmé et l’émir Zeid de l’autre) pour tenter de trouver un terrain d’entente autour de cette question essentielle de Rayak, alors que vient s’ajouter une exigence nouvelle : celle de pouvoir désaltérer les troupes françaises à Meisseloun. Le refus du ministre de la guerre chérifien de permettre aux troupes françaises de se ravitailler en eau met le feu aux poudres.

Le 23 juillet, convaincu que la bataille est inévitable, Youssef Bey Azmé fait barricader les routes et miner les terrains autour de Meisseloun. Rassemblant à la va-vite les forces hétérogènes — militaires réguliers, volontaires, cavalerie de chameaux bédouins — que le général Gouraud lui avait demandé de dissoudre quelques jours plus tôt, il aligne difficilement 3 à 4 000 hommes.

Spontanément des milices se sont formées dans Damas. Rassemblées autour de notables damascènes, elles apportent à Youssef Bey Azmé une force supplémentaire sous la forme d’une milice civile, mais celle-ci n’est guère formée au métier des armes. En outre, ces formations hâtivement constituées utilisent un armement de deuxième catégorie. En dépit de la présence de 15 batteries d’artillerie, les Syriens ont peu de munitions (120 à 250 balles par fusil, 45 balles par mitrailleuse et 50 à 80 obus par canon) et une grande partie de leur armement est inutilisable du fait des différences de calibres.

Au cours de cette même journée, le général Goybet a profité de l’attente pour perfectionner ses avant-postes, reconnaître le terrain de l’attaque et rassembler péniblement ses troupes qui dépassent désormais les 9 000 hommes. Le nouvel ultimatum qui porte sur le point d’eau de Meisseloun lui permet de comprendre qu’il faut se préparer à l’attaque pour le lendemain. L’ordre d’engagement des troupes pour le jour J est publié le 23 juillet à 17 heures. Il précise que les troupes chérifiennes semblent installées sur les hauteurs de l’oued Al-Tequieh où elles ont disposé leur artillerie, tandis que les réserves sont plutôt dans les fonds de Khan Meisseloun. Sûr de ces forces, notamment en matière d’artillerie, le général Goybet décide d’attaquer de front les hauteurs en prévoyant une intense préparation d’artillerie qui doit soutenir l’attaque du lieutenant-colonel d’Auzac ; son deuxième objectif est constitué par Meissaloun, opération qu’il confie au général Bordeaux. Dans la nuit, vers minuit, il apprend que les conditions de l’ultimatum sont rejetées par Fayçal. C’est donc la guerre. L’attaque est prévue pour 5 heures le lendemain matin.

ÉCHEC DE LA RÉSISTANCE CHÉRIFIENNE

Le 24 juillet à 5 heures du matin, une immense préparation d’artillerie signale le début des combats. Les forces chérifiennes répondent avec leur artillerie à 5 h 40. Après quatre heures de bombardements intenses, avec des obus de 155 mm qui tirent à plus de 10 km par-delà la montagne, alors que la manœuvre de contournement des spahis chargés de déborder l’aile gauche des chérifiens échoue, ordre est donné d’enlever les positions ennemies à la baïonnette.

Deux lignes de retranchement sont prises successivement, mais les Français avancent difficilement. Le soleil d’été commence à darder ; sur leur promontoire, protégées par leurs mitrailleuses, les forces chérifiennes restent très combatives. Dans leurs rangs, elles comptent un grand nombre d’officiers de la Grande Guerre, des servants allemands sur des batteries de 77, mais elles sont surtout très bien commandées par le général Youssef Azmé Bey, l’âme de la résistance chérifienne.

Leurs positions sont aussi bien organisées que celles des Français, avec des batteries, des tranchées reliées aux postes par des fils téléphoniques. Les combats les plus difficiles ont lieu dans le défilé du Wady Corm, pris d’enfilade par le tir de batteries placées à droite et à gauche de la route de Damas. Dominant les hauteurs, les chérifiens semblent maîtres de la situation.

Soudain un coup de théâtre se produit. Vers 10 heures, passés entre le mur de mitrailleuses et la montagne, grimpant le long des pentes raides, des chars escaladent les positions chérifiennes. Indifférents à l’artillerie, ils avancent sans faille, entraînant derrière eux des éléments du 415 e de ligne, des Algériens et des Sénégalais.

Quittant la route, ils débouchent sur les batteries de 77 qui ne cessent de tirer en contrebas. Quelques obus de chars projetés sur les caisses de munitions suffisent à les réduire. Azmé Bey qui les commandait est foudroyé par un éclat d’obus de 37 tiré pratiquement à bout portant. V

êtu avec élégance, impeccablement chaussé de bottes souples vernies, il est venu au combat avec des gants blancs en peau de chamois. Sa mort sonne le glas de la résistance chérifienne. À 11 heures, les combats s’achèvent. Outre le corps d’Azmé Bey, les chérifiens affichent un taux de pertes (tués et blessés) de plus de la moitié des combattants. Ils perdent également 15 canons, 40 mitrailleuses et leurs munitions.

Côté français, selon le rapport du général Goybet, les pertes font état de 42 tués, 152 blessés et 14 disparus pour la période du 21 au 25 juillet. Dès le lendemain, sans perdre un instant, ses troupes pénètrent dans Damas, la ville des Omeyyades.

Cette bataille brise le rêve des nationalistes panarabes. Tandis qu’Azmé Bey est enterré par les troupes françaises avec les honneurs militaires dus à son rang, c’est l’affolement général à Damas. Les princes hachémites se sont enfuis de la ville, dans un train blindé dit-on, mais Fayçal, pensant un temps pouvoir reprendre les négociations, revient quelques jours plus tard.

Après l’avoir déclaré persona non grata en Syrie, le général Gouraud lui demande de partir. Fayçal Ben Hussein quitte Damas le 27 juillet, se réfugie d’abord à Caïffa avant de prendre la route du Hedjaz5.

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Forcing face-to-face negotiations with extremist factions are bearing fruits

Question: Can you resume fighting, with the same abstract zeal, after you were squarely militarily defeated, surrendered and negotiated for your life and potential freedom?

Facts on the ground are proving that after surrender negotiation you become more reflective on your previous behavior and start a respectful communication with your previous hated enemy.

USA/Israel strategy and purpose is to maintain this abstract hatred within the extremist factions and prevent any face-to-face communication and negotiations. Iran discovered this evil strategy and worked to counter it.

USA/Israel are scared shit of Iran because it demonstrated the determined capacity to sustain long-term strategies against current obstacles and sustained campaign of “denigrement” (heaping on them all kinds of evil behavior)

Iran has infused to Hezbollah of Lebanon, the Syrian army and Russia this patient capacity to sustain long-term strategy consequences against short-term impatient reactions that the world community is pressuring them to behave accordingly.

USA/Israel can plan for the long-term, but their arrogance in the last 3 decades robbed them from the capacity to sustain any long-term planning with any consistency to destabilizing the Middle-East.

The Syrian regime negotiated countless agreements with extremist factions, after they were militarily and economically cornered, to transfer to the province of Edleb (north-west province of Syria bordering Turkey) and secure its internal security and start the reconstruction.

Hezbollah of Lebanon defeated Al Nusra in the eastern mountain chains of Lebanon (Jroud Ersaal) and negotiated with 1,000 fighters, and 7,000 other extremist supporters, to move to Edlib with their families.

The same happened with Daesh on Lebanon borders (Jroud Al Qaa3) and negotiations allowed 300 fighters to transfer with their families to the border city with Iraq of Boukamal.

USA expressed its ire with this negotiation that it bombed the bridge on the way to prevent the convoy to resume its transfer across the eastern desert stretch in the Euphrates.

In all these negotiations, Syria agreed upon them and provided the necessary buses to accomplish the transfer across her territory.

In the Edleb province, those factions that were allowed to transfer are putting the pressure on the “original” Al Nusra faction to ease up on its control and restrictions on the daily life of the people.

Eventually, with sustained period of peace, Al Nusra there will eventually sit down for meaningful political settlement with Syria administration. Regardless of Turkey refusal, but simply because the people got used to a peaceful life and refuse to resume this mindless war.

Additionally, the Syrian army and its allies are barely finding mush stubborn Daesh fighters’ resistance in their advances. Daesh fighters, when receiving order from their leaders in Raqq to resist, prefer to flee to neighboring towns, hoping that their eventual surrender to Syria Army will save their families from extermination.

Iraq, under the influence of USA, refrained to open channels of communications with Daesh (ISIS) and its victories and liberation of towns and cities resulted in countless casualties on both sides.

It is Not realistic to believe that military victories can eradicate the latent extremist abstract ideology.

While Syria and Lebanon managed to open lines of communications with extremist factions and secure the long-term appeasement of these factions, Iraq may still frequently face reactions of terrorist suicide attacks from Daesh for many years to come.

Note: On August 28, 2017, Lebanon celebrated its Second Liberation Day from concentrations of terrorist factions on all its borders. It can boast to be the first State of achieving this result, with enormous engagement of Hezbollah resistance forces and the Syrian army.

The First Liberation Day is on May 24, 2000 when Israel withdrew unilaterally from south Lebanon without any negotiation after 27 years of occupation since 1982. Israel suffered huge casualties by the Lebanese resistance forces

 

 

‘What the Isis jihadis lose in strength from the air strikes they may gain in legitimacy’

Note: Since 2014, the picture has changed drastically in perspective and on the ground. This international war on Syria that dispatched 300,000 fighters from around the world is being defeated by the Syrian people, its army and Hezbollah fighters, backed by Russia and Iran. The nemesis were USA, France, UK, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Kingdom.
Qatar supported Turkey financially to insure the logistics to the extremist Islamic factions in weapons, fighters and almost everything.
Lebanon, Iraq and Syria are very close to liberate their territories from ISIS.
Protest against the US air strikes in Raqqa, Syria, 26 September 2014.
Protest against the US air strikes, Raqqa, Syria, 26 September 2014. Photograph: Reuters

Since Islamic State (Isis) were formed in their current incarnation in April last year, they have had a dilemma: how to gain legitimacy from the local population while continuing to be ruthless and genocidal against fellow Sunnis.

The decision by the American-led coalition to strike against Isis while overlooking the Assad regime seems to have resolved this dilemma for the jihadist organisation. What Isis will lose in terms of strength and numbers as a result of the air strikes they might gain in terms of legitimacy.

Air strikes against Isis were inevitable, as the group’s advances towards Baghdad, Erbil and northern Syria seemed irreversible by local forces. But the way the US-led coalition, which the UK has now joined, has conducted itself so far threatens to worsen the situation in favour of Isis.

Most importantly, by overlooking the regime of Bashar al-Assad, which caused the death of nearly 200,000 Syrians, the air strikes create the perception that the international coalition is providing a lifeline to the regime. Despite repeated reassurance by Washington, such a perception is likely to become entrenched if the Assad regime begins to fill the vacuum left by the offensive against Isis, especially that there has been no evidence yet that the opposition forces are part of the military strategy against Isis.

The regime might deliberately step up its campaign in some areas to retake areas it has recently lost to the jihadist group to reinforce that perception, as Syrian officials were quick to issue statements that the regime had been briefed about the air raids before they were launched.Many Syrian rebel factions, including ones directly financed by the Americans and the Gulf states, expressed reservations about, or opposition to, the air strikes, including Harakat Hazm, Division 13, Suqour al-Sham.

The significance of such statements is that they are issued by groups currently operating in areas outside Isis control but which are adjacent to Isis front lines. That makes them more capable than other groups of being part of potential ground forces to attack Isis under air cover. Even though some of these groups made such pronouncements mostly for practical reasons, since they are the ones who will bear the consequences of any failure to dislodge Isis as they fight on the ground, they are also concerned that the international campaign will aid the Assad regime.

Regionally, the offensive against Isis has received a similar cynical reaction from groups and people in the Middle East. The Muslim Brotherhood, including prominent figures such as Doha-based Yusuf al-Qaradawi, condemned the attacks inside Syria.

Arab countries that have participated in the international military campaign (Not in soldiers) including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, have been particularly criticised for failing to push for a formula that undermines Isis and Assad at the same time. In comparison, Iran opposed the air strikes against Isis in Syria while Turkey made it clear that the offensive would fail without moves to undermine the Assad regime, including a no-fly zone. (Turkey is becoming the main culprit in sustaining Al Nusra terrorists in north west Syria)

These attitudes mean that Isis are set to gain from the international campaign against them, if the current strategy does not change. Based on conversations with people from eastern Syria, including Isis members and sympathisers, the offensive against Isis seems to have already achieved one thing for the jihadi group: to push some Isis members who were on the periphery into their core, and neutralise some of their Islamist opponents.

Many of Isis members are new to the group and they are still ideologically uncertain. But since Isis are now face to face with a numerically exaggerated alliance led by Washington, Isis members who could otherwise shift away from the group have become more determined adherents.

Isis can afford to lose their supply lines, infrastructure and many of their members – who are likely to be among the ones who recently joined it – as long as they can compensate by achieving popular recognition. They are already adapting to the campaign, reducing checkpoints (now mostly mobile) to a minimum and relocating weapons warehouses to safe areas in both Iraq and Syria.

People inside Syria say most of the bases or facilities hit by air strikes had been already emptied. While the air raids will surely undermine Isis’s ability to generate revenue by disrupting supply lines from factories or oilfields, Isis can survive without such easy-money resources. Also, it is important to highlight that Isis have established an intricate sleeper cell system that has not been unveiled, even when they felt secure in their territories.

Legitimacy for the fight against Isis cannot be achieved by simply having Sunni countries involved in it, but, rather, by addressing the true reasons that drove tens of thousands of Syrians to rise up against the regime.

Regardless of who is involved in the campaign, the perception is that the allies have overlooked the acts of the Assad regime over the past three years and quickly assembled a major international coalition against a group that the Syrian rebels have been fighting since last summer.

Unless the strategy against Isis shifts to a broader one that appeals to the local communities, the fight against it is doomed.

(Note: the USA still air bomb the Syrian army when it approaches ISIS strongholds)

Hassan Hassan is an analyst with the Delma Institute, a research house in Abu Dhabi. @hxhassan

 

Top 5: What Lebanon & The Lebanese Lost Over The Years

05 Oct 2014

Lebanese love lists, everyone loves lists, and we love being featured in them. Whether it is the list of worst passports to have or how awesome are parties in Lebanon or most recently the list of the oldest cities in the world

They basically are fun to share, a quick read and a conversation material… You know, talking about women’s right, political instability, economic fucks up, is not really sexy! -_-

So I decided to come up with my own list of the things Lebanon and the Lebanese lost over the years

I will just name the top 5 (in my opinion) by some chronological order. Feel free to add to it, I am sure there is a lot more…

  1. The Train & Tramway

52

Rail transport in Lebanon began in the 1890s and continued for most of the 20th century, but has ceased as a result of the country’s political difficulties.

Whereas the tramway system opened in April 1908 and lasted until September 1965. The golden age of the Beirut Tram saw it cover 12 Kilometers around Beirut’s center in 1931.

And of course the employees of the Lebanese Rail Transport are still getting payed till now. Yey!

  1. The Downtown of Beirut – El Balad

6

No matter what everyone says about this, After 1994, Lebanon lost its downtown, not because of war mind you (even though the war destroyed it) but because of Solidere (sigh!) that forced and coerced the residents and owners into leaving their homes and shops.

Solidere expropriated land from its owners and gave them the equivalent of “market value” (according to their assessment) in Solidere shares.

Property owners were given little choice in the decision, as those who opted to refurbish their own properties were subject to Solidere’s stringent regulations and approval. After redevelopment, many former residents were unable to pay the inflated housing prices and could not return to their neighborhoods.

What pisses me even more about this loss, is that downtown Beirut is now a privatized compound of private fleet of douchebags security personnel and valets parking that control every entry and sidewalk, not to mention the destrored, stolen or hidden ruins that lay under every shop and parking space… Shoukran Solidere!

  1. Lebanese Right to VOTE

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The Lebanese government and the parliament members deprived the Lebanese people from their constitutional rights to vote by postponing the parliamentary elections that was supposed to take place in JUNE 2013, the elections are now supposedly to take place in November 2014. (Postponed again till 2018)

However and as most of our illegitimate parliament members are declaring, this round will also be postponed… you know, they care so much about the well being and stability of the country to hold the elections.

  1. Public Beaches (and overall public spaces) 

1

rawshe

This is not a recent issue in Lebanon, all over the Mediterranean coast, private resorts are more and more controlling the sand and water.

From the north all the way to Nakoura, public beaches in Lebanon are disappearing. Whether it is the greed of people in charge or those who owns the resorts (they are usually the same person or someone from the family) the Lebanese have lost their public beaches .

More recently, the Dalieh beach is soon to be a private property, a luxury destination they say, a destination that is now fenced in an attempt, which is apparently successful, to end public access to the beach.

And a couple of weeks back I read that also Ramlet El-Baydah’s beach is now owned by two private companies who filed a request to the governor of Beirut to also fence the property.

People in Turkey ignited a widespread protest, Gezi Protests, to contest the urban development plan for Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park. The protests were sparked by outrage at the violent eviction of a sit-in at the park protesting the plan.

They have took almost everything from us, what are we waiting for? 

  1. The battle of wage correction, salary scale and universal health coverage

Photo by the late Bassem Chit

Another lost battle (I don’t believe in miracles) is the wage correction battle in Lebanon. Even though some might say a decree of wage correction was signed, it is still a lost battle.

What was passed is not a decent correction (they didn’t include the transport fees in the base of the salary) and of course it favors the company owners rather than the employees, and of course it is not applied since in Lebanon the employers are above the law and if you dare to ask for your right you will be fired or bullied into silence (We all still remember the spinneys case).

Same goes for the universal health plan that was being pushed by Minister Charbel Nahas, a health plan that benefits all Lebanese residents, funded by taxes on real estate and financial speculation. This plan was shot down by almost everyone in power, the ministers, the real estate moguls and ironically enough by Ghassan Ghosn the head of CGTL.

And finally the teacher’s battle for their salary scale, another soon to be lost battle from one of the truest and popularly movement in Lebanon…

Sat Aug 5, 2017 10:14AM
Arrivée du premier train redonnant vie à la célèbre « route de la soie », le 15 février 2016. ©AFP
Arrivée du premier train redonnant vie à la célèbre « route de la soie », le 15 février 2016. ©AFP

Est-ce la renaissance “eurasiatique” ce dont ont peur le plus les États-Unis à chaque fois qu’ils évoquent l’avenir des relations entre l’Iran d’une part et la Russie et la Chine de l’autre?

Or en dépit de tous les obstacles dressés par Washington, la route de la soie finira par renaître.

Le projet de la ligne de chemin de fer reliant Khaf, en Iran, à Herat, en Afghanistan, sera lancé d’ici une semaine, selon Abbas Nazari, directeur des affaires internationales de l’Organisation des Chemins de fer.

Interviewée par Sputnik, cette autorité iranienne détaille ce projet :  « À la faveur de cette liaison ferroviaire, l’Afghanistan aura accès, via l’Iran, à onze corridors de transport internationaux, y compris à une sortie sur la mer. »

Cet énorme projet permettra aussi à l’Afghanistan, à l’Inde et au Pakistan d’avoir un accès direct aux marchés d’Asie Centrale, d’Europe et de Russie, en évitant les ports et le canal de Suez qui est surchargé, ce qui n’ira pas sans déplaire à l’Égypte et à ses alliés israéliens et américains.

Selon le responsable iranien, l’Iran et les pays impliqués dans ce méga projet comptent sur cette ligne de chemin de faire pour intensifier les échanges non seulement entre l’Iran et l’Afghanistan, mais aussi entre l’Iran et l’Europe car cette liaison ouvrirait aussi et surtout un corridor de transport qui relierait la Chine à l’Europe.

De l’Ouzbékistan jusqu’à Mazar-i-Sharif, en Afghanistan, 27 km de voie ferrée ont été posés par lesquels transiteront quelques cinq millions de tonnes de marchandises chaque année.

En effet, l’Iran rallie sa voix à l’Organisation de coopération économique (ECO) dont les dirigeants ont convenu de la nécessité de construire une voie ferrée qui relierait la Chine au Kirghizstan, au Tadjikistan, à l’Afghanistan, à l’Iran et à l’Europe.

Et la sécurité? 

Abordant le problème de la sécurité sur ce tronçon de la voie ferrée, M. Nazari a estimé qu’il s’agissait plutôt d’un problème politique et que les entreprises iraniennes engagées dans ce projet n’avaient connu jusqu’ici aucun problème de sécurité.

La Chine est le principal partenaire commercial de l’Iran. Et les deux pays veulent porter leurs échanges à 600 milliards de dollars d’ici dix ans, contre environ 50 milliards actuellement.

Les sanctions US contre Téhéran revigorent d’ailleurs cette dynamique. La route de la soie a permis de transporter pendant des siècles les marchandises, dont le précieux tissu, entre l’Asie à l’Europe.

Photo

Remnants from an ancient Canaanite found in the Sidon excavation site. A genetic analysis found that the Canaanites survived a divine call for their extinction and that their descendants live in Lebanon. CreditClaude Doumet-Serhal/Sidon Excavation

There is a story in the Hebrew Bible that tells of God’s call for the annihilation of the Canaanites, a people who lived in what are now Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Israel and the Palestinian territories thousands of years ago. (What we call the Syrian Nation, one people)

“You shall not leave alive anything that breathes,” God said in the passage. “But you shall utterly destroy them.”

But a genetic analysis published on Thursday has found that the ancient population survived that divine call for their extinction, and their descendants live in modern Lebanon (along all the eastern Mediterranean seashore).

“We can see the present-day Lebanese can trace most of their ancestry to the Canaanites or a genetically equivalent population,” said Chris Tyler-Smith, a geneticist with the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute who is an author of the paper. “They derive just over 90 percent of their ancestry from the Canaanites.”

Dr. Tyler-Smith and an international team of geneticists and archaeologists recovered ancient DNA from bones belonging to five Canaanites retrieved from an excavation site in Sidon, Lebanon, that were 3,650 to 3,750 years old.

The team then compared the ancient DNA with the genomes of 99 living people from Lebanon that the group had sequenced. It found that the modern Lebanese people shared about 93 percent of their ancestry with the Bronze Age Sidon samples.

Photo

The Sidon excavation site in Lebanon. Archaeologists retrieved bones from five Canaanites that were 3,650 to 3,750 years old. CreditClaude Doumet-Serhal/Sidon Excavation

The team published its results in The American Journal of Human Genetics.

“The conclusion is clear,” said Iosif Lazaridis, a geneticist at Harvard who was not involved in the study. “Based on this study it turns out that people who lived in Lebanon almost 4,000 years ago were quite similar to people who lived there today, to the modern Lebanese.”

Marc Haber, a postdoctoral fellow at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in England and lead author on the study, said that compared with other Bronze Age civilizations, not much is known about the Canaanites.

“We know about ancient Egyptians and ancient Greeks, but we know very little about the ancient Canaanites because their records didn’t survive,” he said. Their writings may have been kept on papyrus, which did not stand the test of time as clay did. What is known about the Canaanites is that they lived and traded along the eastern coast of the present-day Mediterranean, a region that was known as the Levant.

“What we see is that since the Bronze Age, this ancestry, or the genetics of the people there, didn’t change much,” Dr. Haber said. “It changed a little, but it didn’t change much and that is what surprised me.”

At first the team was not sure if it would be able to retrieve DNA from the ancient skeletons, which were recovered from the hot and humid excavation site within the last 19 years.

Dr. Haber had chosen more than two dozen bones from the site that looked promising and had them investigated for genetic material. It turned out that only five contained ancient DNA.

All of those came from the petrous part of the temporal bone, which is the tough part of the skull behind the ear, from five different individuals.

Photo

Ancient DNA recovered from bones in the excavation site was sequenced for a new study.CreditClaude Doumet-Serhal/Sidon Excavation

After extracting that DNA, the team members compared it with a database that contained genetic information from hundreds of human populations. They then further compared their results with the genomes of the modern-day Lebanese population sample, which revealed what happened to the ancient Canaanite population.

Genetics has the power to answer questions that historical records or archaeology are not able to answer,” Dr. Haber said.

He said researchers thought that migrations, conquests and the intermixing of Eurasian people — like the Assyrians, Persians or Macedonians — with the Canaanites 3,800 to 2,200 years ago might have contributed to the slight genetic changes seen in modern Lebanese populations. Still, the Lebanese retain most of their ancestral DNA from the Canaanites.

“It confirms the continuity of occupation and rooted tradition we have seen on-site, which was occupied from the 4th millennium B.C. right to the Crusader period,” Claude Doumet-Serhal, an archaeologist and director of the Sidon Excavation who is a co-author on the paper, said in an email.

She said that the archaeologists had found about 160 burials to date at their excavation site, which is in the heart of modern Sidon. They include graves and burials where a person was placed in a large jar, and they date to between 1900 and 1550 B.C. The genetic results further support the archaeological findings.

“We were delighted by the findings,” Dr. Doumet-Serhal said. “We are looking at the Canaanite society through 160 burials and at the same time uncovering a common past for all the people of Lebanon, whatever religion they belong to.”

Note 1: Lebanon and Syria were the crossroad (carrefour) of all people fleeing persecution and occupation by warrior nations or extremist radical religious sects since antiquity, the temporary melting pot until many transferred again to greener pasture. I won’t be surprised if most European people have many Canaanite genetic traces.

Note 2: One hundred years later, Israel could Not find any trace of their presence in Palestine: they were at best nomadic people who never settled near cities or by the seashore

Isis propaganda comes across the radio waves

his is the third installment in Robert Fisk’s series from Syria

For 60 miles across the vast desert of eastern Syria, far beyond the trashed Roman ruins of Palmyra, the army of Syria is moving through the hot grey sands towards the besieged garrison city of Deir ez-Zour.

For 60 miles, tanks and heavy artillery – and brand new Russian Army multiple missile launchers – line the narrow, melting highway through the oilfields, pale tents flourishing in the dry wadis of distant hills which belonged to Isis only a month ago, gun batteries thumping amid the sand dunes.

We’ve been through this before, of course: Syrian army advances that turned sour in northern Syria, the long siege of eastern Aleppo, Isis retreats that transformed themselves into new and savage suicide attacks out of the desert and into Palmyra.

But the Russian army foot patrols in the wrecked modern city of Palmyra – I even saw Russian Army Chechen troops in the city, a vital Muslim component to Moscow’s military alliance with Damascus – suggest that this time the Syrian army has its enemies on the run.

So enormous is the landscape – harsh, lined with green desert grass and baked sand hills – and so intense is the 47-degree heat, that images do greater credit to this desert war than dry essays on the strategy of an army that plans to free 10,000 of its soldiers still holding out further east, surrounded by Isis for three years in the ancient city of Deir ez-Zour, along with 400,000 civilians in two pockets of land in the valley of the Euphrates.

Sixty miles beyond Palmyra I travelled eastwards, the only western journalist to reach this far front line in a convoy of Syrian vehicles until we stopped just five miles short of the crossroad town of al-Sukhnah.

“Sukhnah” means heat. It is the right name. Isis is still there. The desert mirages turn empty sand beds into waterless rivers, but the Syrian encampments and the 122- and 130mm guns are real enough. So are the tanks heading east: some loaded with infantry, thrashing up the tarmac, truckloads of green-painted ammunition boxes crammed on top, soldiers clinging to the tailboards.

The wreckage of war – a bombed-out Isis truck, a shattered army lorry, carbonised buses pushed off the road – is everywhere. A bearded Syrian officer – many of them have grown these big bushy Isis-style beards over the past two years, perhaps to mock their enemies – shouts that the gun line have been ordered to fire, and then the desert shakes ever so slightly and long lines of sand streak in front of the artillery.

They look like those big wheeled guns on the old silent Somme newsreels and they are almost as quiet in the desert. The fine dust absorbs the thumping detonations.

When we stop at a military post beside the highway, a sergeant emerges holding two tiny drones, just shot down at a height of 350 feet by a soldier with a Kalashnikov, the machine stinking of burned plastic. A beady camera glass hangs from one wire, the little rotors still rotating at the touch of a finger.

Isis, through the heat haze, is watching us through these sinister little lenses. Someone with a fully working brain in al-Suknah, ready to retreat no doubt, is looking for targets.

Only when we pass the batteries of Russian army BM-30 SMERTCH “Whirlwind” multiple rocket launchers, their Russian crews beside them, magenta and blue camouflage amid the sand, does a Syrian officer ask us not to take pictures. No problem with Syria’s weapons.

We can shoot photographs of as many guns as we like, as many mortar batteries, although they appear dwarfed by the immensity of the landscape.

There’s an operational battle map in General Mohamed Khadour’s air-conditioned headquarters. It shows a black patch for al-Sukhnah, and just to the left a grim series of blood-red circles. These are the gun lines. And Khadour, the senior army commander for this huge area of desert and remote cities – tall, head shaped like a bullet, thinning hair, face darkened by the sun; a 58-year-old graduate of the Aleppo military college with an infantry training degree – coldly reads off a set of coordinates to open fire.

Beside him on a sofa leans a heavy black six-chamber 46mm rocket gun that his men captured up north in Hassakeh – “RPG-6, GLV-HEF [stock number] 4348” for those who can trace its foreign manufacturers – and the general looks contemptuously at it.

“However many weapons they got from the West, Isis is finished,” he says. “They are like a banana that has fallen out of its skin. Only the skin is left.”

I’m not so sure about this. There’s a small truck park in Palmyra filled with the big black iron suicide trucks that Isis manufactured in its caliphate, identical to the massive killer cars captured by the Iraqi army in distant Mosul, far to to the east. General Khadour reports that in one month his soldiers have faced seven suicide trucks and 20 individual Isis suicide fighters, all of whom had blown themselves to pieces.

And I ask the same old question I put to everyone who fights Isis: who are they really? And I get the same reply from the general. “Animals,” he says. “But even animals are not evil.”

Curiously, the brain inside the Isis “animal” does not interest these soldiers. They regard the al-Nusrah / al-Qaeda fighters as far better trained – and with far more sophisticated Western weapons and anti-aircraft missiles – than Isis.

For Nusrah, still fighting on in Idlib province, they have a curiosity rather than respect. But for Isis, they have contempt. (Hezbollah of Lebanon just kicked out Al Nusra from our mountain chains eastern borders)

There is a creepy story which two officers tell me, which might – given the nature of the Isis mind – have some pathetic truth. Several suicide bombers, they say, were found with women’s underclothes in their pockets – for the virgins they would meet in paradise.

Some generals only speculate on dates – a sound precaution in the Syrian war – but General Khadour does not hesitate to tell me that he will reach and “liberate” Deir ez-Zour by the end of August, just 30 days away. Why not? He was head of the security and military headquarters in the eastern region of Syria – including the surrounded city – until he was flown north to fight Isis and Nusrah around Hassakeh. He will, no doubt, resume his duties there when his army breaks the siege.

“I and General Mohamed Sbeh here,” he says – Sbeh, Khadour’s subordinate officer, sits, rotund and narrow-eyed, listening like a fox to his left – “told the people of Deir ez-Zour we would come back for them, and we shall. That is what I am doing. We have got a third of the way. We have just 130 kilometres to reach Deir ez-Zour.”

An Isis radio station went on the air a few days ago and many of the soldiers heard it. “They said they were still winning and our soldiers in the desert heard it,” General Khadour said. “Isis said: ‘We have captured a major in the army and destroyed a tank of the regime and killed a lot of ‘pigs’ [soldiers].’ We all laughed. It was a lie. We have no one captured; we have not lost a tank. We are winning.”

But the Syrians are of course taking casualties. On a small hill captured only 24 hours earlier, General Sbeh told me he had two soldiers “martyred”, one of them an officer, and others wounded. But he said that Isis was now retreating to Mayadeen, along with some of their families.

These Syrian officers are dismissive of American power – their army has certainly advanced in the desert faster than the US-supported and largely Kurdish “Syrian Democratic Forces” east of the Euphrates when they approached Raqqa – and dismissively list the American airbases on Syrian soil.

“We know their bases are outside Hasakeh, and at Al-Ermeilan, Al-Shedadeh and Ein al-Arab [Kobani] and other places – but these are temporary,” Khadour says. “They cannot stay there.”

The general says he will never retire – like many soldiers, I suspect he likes fighting too much – and he says he will never give up till the end of his life. We first met in Aleppo five years ago when he was defending the middle-class Saef al-Dawla district. “We did not know whom we were fighting then,” he says.

“They had no tactics and we had much to learn. Then they would start getting sophisticated equipment from the West and we had to adopt our tactics. Now we are fighting in the desert.”

And therein runs a tale. For the Syrian Army was trained – always – to fight Israel on the Golan Heights, to go to war in cooler climates, to head south. But now it is fighting its way east in arid lands that resemble those of the Iran-Iraq war – indeed, of the Second World War in Egypt and Libya – and it has become a desert army.

Khadour ponders this for some time and then looks across the destroyed modern metropolis of Palmyra. In Roman antiquity, Queen Zenobia ruled this ancient city, infuriating the empire with her arrogance and independence. No civilian has returned to Palmyra.

The general gazes across the smashed hotels and villas and shops and laughs mirthlessly. “Why did Zenobia ever come here?” he asks.

Note: Today, July 31, 2017,  the defeated Al Nusra in Lebanon by Hezbollah will be boarding buses to be transferred to Idleb


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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