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Hezbollah Threatens Israel With War Over Disputed Gas Field

Hezbollah Threatens Israel With War Over Disputed Gas Field

  • Lebanon’s armed Hezbollah group threatened Israel that drilling at the Karish gas field could result in war.
  • Israel and Lebanon are in a years-long dispute over the demarcation of their territorial waters in the Mediterranean.
  • Israel has already warned early on that any damage to the drilling rig in Karish will result in an immediate reaction.

Lebanon’s armed Hezbollah group warned Israel on Sunday against drilling at an offshore gas field, renewing a threat that it could escalate the offshore border demarcation dispute to a war.

Hezbollah, backed by Iran, aired a video on its Al-Manar television channel, showing drone footage of Israeli barges at the gas field and their coordinates. The video ends with footage of a rocket with the words “within range” in Arabic and Hebrew. The text on the video message opens with “Playing with time is useless,” also in both languages.

Israel and Lebanon, which do not have diplomatic relations, are in a years-long dispute over the demarcation of their territorial waters in the Mediterranean.

The dispute escalated this summer after UK’s Energean, which has been awarded the right to drill at the offshore Karish field, arrived on the site with a rig, prompting an immediate reaction from Beirut. The Lebanese president and the caretaker prime minister of the country accused Israel of violating Lebanon’s sovereignty.

Karish is the focus of the rift. According to Israel, Karish lies in its territorial waters. According to Lebanon, it falls within a triangle of contested waters because the two cannot agree where exactly the border passes.

Israel has already warned early on that any damage to the drilling rig in Karish—like attacks on any gas drilling rigs in its waters—will be construed as an attack on the state, implying there would be an immediate reaction.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Entirety Of Lebanon Goes Dark, Mass Power Outage To Last Several Days

Entirety Of Lebanon Goes Dark, Mass Power Outage To Last Several Days

On Saturday the entirety of Lebanon was plunged into darkness, with the electricity grid shut down completely after the small Mediterranean country’s two main power stations reportedly ran out of fuel.  “The al Zahrani and the Deir Ammar power stations stopped working after supplies of diesel were apparently exhausted, and energy production dropped to below 200 megawatts,” Sky News reports.

A Lebanese official has confirmed to Reuters that the blackout is expected to last multiple days. “The Lebanese power network completely stopped working at noon today, and it is unlikely that it will work until next Monday, or for several days,” the official said.

Via BBC correspondent/Twitter

Over the past months major Lebanese cities and towns have experienced periodic blackouts, but this looks to be the worst and most far-reaching and long lasting – increasing the misery of a Lebanese population still in the midst of an economic crisis, persistent fuel shortage, and which has seen the local currency plunge by 90% since 2019.

Much of the past year in Lebanon has witnessed scenes of sometimes miles-long lines at gas stations, with fights and disputes over supplies becoming almost routine. Residents and business owners have tried to endure via generators and hoarding personal fuel supplies insofar is possible for those who can afford it.

Some Lebanese interviewed by Middle East Eye told the publication that moving about an entirely darkened city at night is like “reliving the civil war” – in reference to lengthy war and collapse of infrastructure that gripped the country from 1975 to 1990.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Nationwide Blackout Hits Syria After Gas Pipeline Bombed

Nationwide Blackout Hits Syria After Gas Pipeline Bombed

A blackout has reportedly plunged all of Syria into darkness Friday into Saturday, with Syria’s state-run SANA announcing the nationwide power outage is due to an attack on a gas site and pipeline in southern Damascus.

Into the overnight hours, electricity reportedly returned to much of the capital of Damascus, while the Minister of Electricity Ghassan al-Zamil vowed to restore the rest of the country’s power in a matter of “hours” as technicians are on the scene.

Illustrative image: gas pipeline bombing from earlier in the war, Reuters file.

It was part of Hezbollah’s promise to get Iranian fuel into Lebanon amid the country’s energy crisis, which has seen its own severe blackouts hit major cities and towns over much of the past month.

There’s also the possibility of an attack on Syria’s infrastructure by remnant anti-Assad insurgent groups, also as there’s again in recent weeks been renewed fierce fighting centered on the southern Syria city of Deraa.

According to a popular Syria blogger and commentator, “Sources in southern Damascus reported hearing an explosion seconds before the blackout. All of this happened as the second batch of tankers carrying Iranian fuel was crossing into Lebanon.”

Speculating on the question of a possible external sabotage operation that caused the blackout, given the deeply suspicious timing, geopolitical commentator and Syria watcher Aaron Maté said, “Just as it helps Hezbollah bring desperately needed fuel into Lebanon, Syria suffers a sabotage attack that leads to complete blackout.”

“This is on top of the regular power shortages caused primarily by US sanctions & the 10-year dirty war,” Maté added.

Beirut Goes Dark As Economic Tailspin Sees Dire Fuel & Electricity Shortages 

Beirut Goes Dark As Economic Tailspin Sees Dire Fuel & Electricity Shortages 

Starting Wednesday night Lebanon’s Central Bank announced that fuel subsidies have been halted, already at a moment where there’s been scarcity of both gas and electricity. Fuel prices are expected to at least quadruple, leading to a national scramble for fuel, exacerbating rolling blackouts akin to what’s become the tragic “norm” of recent years in neighboring war-torn Syrian.

International reports are underscoring that the enduring economic crisis beginning in 2019 which sparked a year of mass protests and a currency crisis, and subsequent failed attempts to stave off total collapse amid a drastic “shock” change in government, are now coming to a head, sending already impoverished areas of the country of nearly seven million spiraling into steadily worsened conditions.

Regional director of humanitarian aid NGO Crisis Group, Heiko Wimmen, was cited in CNN as saying “This is obviously going to ripple through the whole economy.” He emphasized that seemingly overnight basic staples that support daily life have now become a “luxury”.

“For a large part of the population, electricity will become a luxury. Driving your car will become a luxury, too. Transportation will become a luxury,” Wimmen added.

The cutting of subsidies was expected, but still a “shock” nonetheless. Like everything else in Lebanon energy has been severely mismanaged, after already the government suspended lines of credit to fuel importers.

AFP

So the sudden liberalization of fuel prices meant whole villages, towns, and parts of cities were plunged into darkness overnight as not even generators could keep the lights on:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

War Drums Beat in Middle East After Thousands of Casualties in Beirut Explosion

WAR DRUMS BEAT IN MIDDLE EAST AFTER THOUSANDS OF CASUALTIES IN BEIRUT EXPLOSION

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On the evening of August 4th, a massive explosion rocked the port of the Lebanese capital of Beirut, causing devastating damage and leaving thousands of casualties. The explosion sent a shockwave across the city and blew out windows up to 10 kilometers away. It was felt as far away as Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea.

As of the morning of August 5th, the number of reported fatalities exceeded 100, with at least 4,000 people reported  injured. At least 48 staff members of the United Nations and 27 members of their families were among the injured. 10 rescuers involved in the operation to contain the damage and to help people have been reported killed.

Initial reports suggested that the explosion may have been caused by an incident in the firework storage area. However, later, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab said that 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate, which is typically used as an agricultural fertilizer, had been stored for six years at a port warehouse without proper safety measures, “endangering the safety of citizens.”

This statement was backed by General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim, who said a “highly explosive material” had been confiscated years earlier and stored in the warehouse, just minutes’ walk from Beirut’s shopping and nightlife districts.

It is still unclear what caused the explosion itself thus laying the ground for various speculations in mainstream media outlets and on social media platforms. In particular, reports suggested that a number of Hezbollah members were in the port area at the moment of the explosion. This immediately caused reports that this may have been a result of some Israeli attack, for example sabotage actions or a somehow unnoticed missile strike, and that the site of the explosion was in fact a part of the Hezbollah military infrastructure.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Lebanon Announces Default On $1.2BN Debt Payment In Historical First

Lebanon Announces Default On $1.2BN Debt Payment In Historical First

Lebanon announced Saturday it will default on its Eurobond debt for the first time in its history. The protest-racked country has seen a recent change in government, banks opened for merely about half of the past few months, strict controls on hard currency withdrawals and transfers abroad amid a liquidity crisis, a plummeting Lebanese Lira since October, a run on dollars, and crushing public debt which has lately blown up to nearly 170% of its gross domestic product (now about $89.5 billion).

Prime Minister Hassan Diab confirmed in public statements the bond payment of $1.2 billion due on Monday will not be paid: “The debt has become bigger than Lebanon can bear, and bigger than the ability of the Lebanese to meet interest payments,” he said in a televised address. “We are paying the price for the mistakes of the past years. Must we bequeath them to our children?”

Lebanese Government photo of Prime Minister Hassan Diab during his Saturday address, via AP.

The broader crisis is being widely described as the worst and most potentially destabilizing disaster since the 1975-90 civil war. It also means that the country’s bond which mature on Monday and which last traded at a price of 57 cents on the dollar (or roughly 8000% YTM) won’t be repaid.

Local banks, which own some of the Eurobonds set to mature on March 9, have long argued against a default. But clients also fear the continued rapid depletion of their savings. Diab, appearing to respond not only to the people in the streets but to criticisms from the West centered on the Mediterranean nation’s decades of state corruption, pledged to continue negotiations to restructure the country’s debt “with all creditors… in a manner consistent with the national interest.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Is Lebanon’s central bank a Ponzi scheme ?

Is Lebanon’s central bank a Ponzi scheme ?

The situation in Lebanon is deteriorating. Traffic lanes have all been reopened, but a rift has emerged between those who favour the free flow of traffic and the road blockers. The Free Patriotic Movement of President Michel Aoun, the Shiite Amal Movement of parliament speaker Nabih Berri and the Hezbollah condemn road closures; while the Future Movement led by Saad Hariri, a Sunni, the Lebanese Forces of the Maronite Samir Geagea and the Progressive Socialist Party of Walid Jumblatt, leader of Lebanon’s Druze, have attempted to reintroduce the roadblocks.

In the current political landscape, pursuing a simultaneous fight against corruption does not seem possible. Gebran Bassil (Free Patriotic Movement) announced that all the leading members of his party would make public their bank accounts. He also tabled a bill aimed at verifying the assets of civil servants. However, several hurdles would render such measures unworkable (the waiver of bank secrecy being prohibited by law in these circumstances; nothing has been said about the bank accounts belonging to the family members of political leaders; etc.).

Actually, corruption in Lebanon is not a violation of the law; it is the law itself that generates it. For example, there are import taxes, which nobody pays since the law grants an exemption to the 17 recognized religious communities. It is therefore sufficient to have the import declared by a person from one of these communities to avoid paying the tax. Thus, the port of Beirut loses out on US$ 3 billion every year.

The liquidity crisis, which sparked the 17 October protest movement, has worsened. Banks only allow cash withdrawals in Lebanese pounds up to a maximum amount equivalent to US$ 500 per week.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

ATMs Spitting Back Bank Cards In Lebanon As “Dollars Have Virtually Disappeared”

ATMs Spitting Back Bank Cards In Lebanon As “Dollars Have Virtually Disappeared”

Though banks reopened this week in Lebanon, with the country’s financial institutions remaining front and center in massive anti-government protests amid accusations of corruption and wild mismanagement, withdrawal limits have now been made official by the country’s Banks Association — previously unofficially enforced. 

The formal controls now include limiting withdrawals to $1,000 per week, with transfers abroad only ambiguously defined necessary for “urgent matters”.

Yet the collective panic, driven by fears patrons won’t be able to retrieve their deposits from banks, has only compounded, as now The Washington Post reports “Dollars have virtually disappeared.”

Vandalized ATM machine in Lebanon’s northern port city of Tripoli this week, via Middle East Online.

“Over recent weeks, ATMs in Lebanon have been spitting back bank cards, refusing to provide dollars to those who ask for them, though people here have long used the American currency alongside the Lebanese pound,” the WaPo reported.

Protest-racked Lebanon over the past month has seen its banks opened for only half that time. Given that most of the country’s debt is held by local banks, and with the scene of police literally standing at teller windows having to enforce controls and restrain patrons from removing all of their own money, the vicious cycle continues hurtling the $86 billion indebted country toward economic collapse. 

First, the deteriorating security situation since Oct. 17 forced their prior closure for two weeks, with the country’s association of banks then fearing a run on deposits, and after a brief opening staff went on strike, citing personal safety at the hands of angry citizens demanding their cash from the “thieving” banks (literally in some cases involving clients with guns). 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“Panic Mode” Run On Lebanon’s Banks Feared After 7-Day Closure Amid Protests

“Panic Mode” Run On Lebanon’s Banks Feared After 7-Day Closure Amid Protests 

Banks across Lebanon have been shuttered now for a seventh consecutive day, with the country’s banking association saying banks would remain closed Friday over “safety concerns” as massive anti-corruption protests have brought multiple cities to a standstill, which began a week ago.

Reuters reports that banking operations have been “limited to paying out customer and employee salaries via ATMs” in a situation which has also hit war-torn Syria, given many Syrians rely on the neighboring Lebanese banking system to hold dollars and savings following the collapse of Syria’s currency. 

Via NBC News

For the first time addressing the protests  dubbed the ‘WhatsApp Revolution’ because it was initially triggered by a government a plan to boost state revenues with a daily tax rate on calls made via voice over internet protocol (VoIP), utilized by applications such as Facebook-owned WhatsApp — Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun in a public speech touted an economic reform package proposed by the prime minister as a “first step” toward staving off economic collapse

Aoun acknowledged state corruption has “eaten us to the bone” and assured the crowds,  “I am ready to meet your representatives who carry your concerns, to listen to your specific demands.”

He also hinted at a government reshuffle potentially in the works, saying that there was “a need to review the current government.”

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

It’s a New World Order, Alright

It’s a New World Order, Alright

Pavel Filonov The Kolkhoznik (Member of a Collective Farm) 1931

Those winds just keep on shifting, no matter that the western press either doesn’t see them shift, doesn’t recognize them for what they are, or chooses to ignore them. But these winds bring tidings of a tectonic plate-shaking shift in the global political climate.

The fires in Saudi oil installations, whether they were caused by drones or missiles, and whoever fired those, are a major story, and rightly so, because they could shake up economies in drastic ways. But they may still, not be the biggest story after all.

Last Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his intention to annex the Jordan Valley (already occupied territory, 65,000 Palestinians and 11,000 Israeli settlers live there). He did that to steal votes from the far right in next Tuesday’s (Sep. 17) Knesset election. “Bibi” also called Donald Trump his “friend” every second word for that same purpose. Trump responded in kind. He may come to regret that. Choose your friends wisely. Bit of background from RT:

 

US, Israel Talk About Mutual Defense Treaty – Trump

The US and Israel are discussing a mutual defense treaty that would further cement the already “tremendous” alliance between the two countries, President Donald Trump has revealed. “I had a call today with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss the possibility of moving forward with a Mutual Defense Treaty, between the United States and Israel, that would further anchor the tremendous alliance between our two countries,” Trump tweeted. 

Trump voiced not-that-veiled support for Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections in Israel. “I look forward to continuing those discussions after the Israeli Elections when we meet at the United Nations later this month!” Trump wrote. The support surely comes in handy, as Netanyahu’s backing appears to be quite shaky. 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Netanyahu Confirms Israeli Attacks In Iraq

Netanyahu Confirms Israeli Attacks In Iraq

Recent unprecedented airstrikes on Iraq widely believed to have been carried out by either Israeli drones or stealth jets have been acknowledged by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who on Friday gave belated confirmation that the Israeli military has been active there.  

He said during a Facebook live stream event to political supports that “I am doing everything to defend our nation’s security from all directions: in the north facing Lebanon and Hezbollah, in Syria facing Iran and Hezbollah, unfortunately in Iraq as well facing Iran. We are surrounded by radical Islam led by Iran.”

Image source: The Times of Israel

Over the past six weeks there’s been three significant airstrikes on Iraqi paramilitary forces bases  at least one of which US officials have confirmed Israeli responsibility for. All of them targeted Iran-backed Shia paramilitary units. 

The ‘mystery’ attacks, two of which came in August and one in July, have renewed calls from Iraqi parliament for a complete US troops withdrawal from the country, especially given the demise of the Islamic State and now with no official justification for American forces to be there. 

The political and diplomatic firestorm resulting from the Israeli strikes and violations of sovereign Iraqi airspace have resulted in an awkward Pentagon statement saying the US had no role or foreknowledge of the attacks; however the statement stopped short of naming Israel or alleging who was behind them. 

AP image of one of the recent airstrikes on an Iraqi munitions depot and paramilitary base. 

Last week while on a state visit to Kiev, Netanyahu told reporters“Iran has no immunity, anywhere”. He was responding to a specific question about the mystery attacks on Iraq. 

“We will act — and currently are acting — against them, wherever it is necessary,” he declared.

Lebanon’s President Announces Israeli Attacks Are “Declaration Of War”

Lebanon’s President Announces Israeli Attacks Are “Declaration Of War”

After pro-Iran allies in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq were all hit in suspected Israeli strikes in the space of less than 24 hours, signalling a new aggression out of Tel Aviv and willingness to risk yet another major Middle East war, Arab capitals are now alerting their armed forces to be on a war footing

Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Monday condemned the “Israeli assault on the southern suburbs of Beirut” and told the country’s United Nations Special Coordinator, that the recent spate of drone strikes on Lebanon amount to a “declaration of war”.

banese President Michel Aoun, file image via Reuters.

Especially in Lebanon, where the most powerful military force is not the Army but Shiite paramilitary group Hezbollah, tensions are soaring after Hezbollah media offices in Beirut were targeted by Israeli drones overnight Sunday.


New Video of alleged Israel strikes in east Lebanon ~ an hour ago, targeting Palestinian Group PFLP.

If true, this may be 4th military incident in Lebanon-Syria-Iraq involving Israel in 24 hours. Via @tobiaschneider


A separate Israeli operation the day following reached deep into Lebanon, killing a PFLP-GC leader in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley (a Palestinian paramilitary group). 

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah described the weekend aggression as was the first Israeli attacks inside Lebanon since the devastating month-long 2006 war; however, Israel has yet to claim the Beirut attack.

Has the United Kingdom transported fake money to Venezuela?

Has the United Kingdom transported fake money to Venezuela?

According to a pan-Arab Lebanese TV Channel (Al-Mayadeen), an Ethiopian plane has uploaded at Malta 15 chests of false money to be delivered to Venezuela.

The Venezuelan economy has collapsed. Elliot Abrams thinks this is due to the communist government being unfit managers while the Bolivarian government of Nicolas Maduro thinks it’s the result of a US sabotage.

Whilst sabotaging the Venezuelan economy, the United States has just delivered humanitarian aid for the victims of this sabotage to the border that Venezuela and Colombia share. Convinced that this stock includes subversive material, the Venezuelan government is refusing to deliver this aid (but it is accepting aid from other countries). Clearly this stock is barely significant, since the total US aid following the crisis represents only 6% of the daily aid distributed by the Venezuelan authorities.

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During the war against Syria, both Saudi Arabia and Qatar printed false money to bring the Syrian economy into chaos. However at the time, both monarchies were competing with each other; they had not come to a market sharing agreement. Further, at the same time they were paying all their mercenaries in dollars. For the mercenaries to be on the spot men, they had to change their US dollar pay into Syrian pounds. Finally, Syria has printed new notes in Russia.

Translation 
Anoosha Boralessa

New Rules of Engagement Between Syria and Israel, as Russia Changes its Position

NEW RULES OF ENGAGEMENT BETWEEN SYRIA AND ISRAEL, AS RUSSIA CHANGES ITS POSITION

Syria will adopt a new rule of engagement with Israel now that Russia has taken a tougher and clearer stance on the conflict between Israel and the “Axis of the Resistance”. Henceforth, Damascus will be responding to any Israeli strike. If it damages a specific military target it will reply with a strike against a similar objective in Israel. Decision makers in Damascus said “Syria will not hesitate to hit an Israeli airport if Damascus airport is targeted and hit by Israel. This will be with the consent of the Russian military based in the Levant”.

This Syrian political decision is based on a clear position taken by Russia in Syria following the downing of its aircraft on September 18 this year. In 2015 when the Russian military landed in Syria, it informed the parties concerned (i.e. Syria, Iran and Israel) that it had no intention to interfere in the conflict between them and Hezbollah and that it would not stand in the way of Tel Aviv’s planes bombing Hezbollah military convoys on their way to Lebanon or Iranian military warehouses not allocated to the war in Syria. This was a commitment to remain an onlooker if Israel hit Iranian military objectives or Hezbollah convoys transporting arms to Hezbollah from Syria to Lebanon, within Syrian territory. It also informed Israel that it would not accept any attacks on its allies (Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, and their allies) engaged in fighting ISIS, al-Qaeda and its allies.

Israel respected the will of Moscow until the beginning of 2018, when it started to attack Iranian bases and Syrian military warehouses, though it never attacked a Hezbollah military position. Israel justified its attack against the Iranian base, a military facility called T4, by claiming it had sent drones over Israel. Tel Aviv considered violation of its neighbours’ sovereignty as its exclusive prerogative.

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Washington Is Intent on Destroying Iran

Washington Is Intent on Destroying Iran

Washington Is Intent on Destroying Iran

On February 18 the leader of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, declared that Iran “is trying to establish this continuous empire surrounding the Middle East from the south in Yemen but also trying to create a land bridge from Iran to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza. This is a very dangerous development for our region.” Netanyahu’s presentation was dismissed by the Iranian foreign minister as “a cartoonish circus,” but it was nonetheless a reflection of the policy of the United States, which is Israel’s mentor and unconditional ally.

Last November Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei suggested to President Vladimir Putin that Tehran and Moscow should cooperate more fully to try to dissuade the US from further disruptive dabbling throughout the Middle East. His opinion was that “Our cooperation can isolate America. The failure of US-backed terrorists in Syria cannot be denied but Americans continue their plots,” which is certainly the case, because although the so-called “moderate rebels” who were recruited to overthrow President Assad, with massive amounts of assistance from the Pentagon and the CIA, collapsed in ignominious failure, the US fandangos continue. Washington is not going to give up, and the Trump administration seems to relish being isolated by almost everyone.

During his time in the White House, President Obama tried to get US-Iran relations on an even keel, and managed to temporarily overcome the Washington warmongers to some extent and push forward the tension-reducing, trade-improving, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) concerning Iran’s nuclear programme, which the BBC described as “the signature foreign policy achievement of Barack Obama’s presidency.” It was settled two years ago by China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the US in a most welcome example of international solidarity and downright common sense, and removed sanctions on Iran in exchange for Teheran’s agreement to limit its nuclear research and development.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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