Lebanese soldier dead in raid on Islamist militant hideout, army says

Lebanon has mostly escaped the rash of militant assaults around the Middle East spurred by the war in its neighbor Syria. Above, army soldiers install barb wire in downtown Beirut for security protection. (Reuters)
Updated 05 February 2018
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Lebanese soldier dead in raid on Islamist militant hideout, army says

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s army raided a suspected Islamist militant hideout in the northern city of Tripoli late on Sunday, leading to armed clashes in which a soldier and a suspected militant were killed, the army said.
The raid on a house in the Al-Tabbaneh district of Tripoli aimed to capture Hajjar Al-Abdullah, but was met with resistance including gunshots and hand grenades, the army said on its website.
In the fighting, Abdullah and a soldier were killed, several other soldiers were wounded, and Abdullah’s brother, Bilal Al-Abdullah, was detained. The army seized money, arms, ammunition and other military hardware from the house, it said.
Lebanese authorities say they have disrupted a number of Daesh attacks and networks since the last major attack — a 2015 twin suicide bombing in Beirut.
Lebanon has mostly escaped the rash of militant assaults around the Middle East spurred by the war in its neighbor Syria, and last year forced Daesh fighters out of an enclave on the mountainous border between the two countries.


US accepts Assad staying in Syria — but will not give aid

Updated 18 December 2018
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US accepts Assad staying in Syria — but will not give aid

  • James Jeffrey said that Assad needed to compromise as he had not yet won the brutal seven-year civil war
  • Trump’s administration has acknowledged, if rarely so explicitly, that Assad is likely to stay

WASHINGTON: The US said Monday it was no longer seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad but renewed warnings it would not fund reconstruction unless the regime is “fundamentally different.”

James Jeffrey, the US special representative in Syria, said that Assad needed to compromise as he had not yet won the brutal seven-year civil war, estimating that some 100,000 armed opposition fighters remained in Syria.

“We want to see a regime that is fundamentally different. It’s not regime change —  we’re not trying to get rid of Assad,” Jeffrey said at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank.

Estimating that Syria would need $300-400 billion to rebuild, Jeffrey warned that Western powers and international financial institutions would not commit funds without a change of course.

“There is a strong readiness on the part of Western nations not to ante up money for that disaster unless we have some kind of idea that the government is ready to compromise and thus not create yet another horror in the years ahead,” he said.

Former President Barack Obama had called for Assad to go, although he doubted the wisdom of a robust US intervention in the complex Syrian war. and kept a narrow military goal of defeating the Daesh extremist group.

President Donald Trump’s administration has acknowledged, if rarely so explicitly, that Assad is likely to stay.

But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned in October that the US would not provide “one single dollar” for Syria’s reconstruction if Iran stays.

Jeffrey also called for the ouster of Iranian forces, whose presence is strongly opposed by neighboring Israel, although he said the US accepted that Tehran would maintain some diplomatic role in the country.

Jeffrey also said that the US wanted a Syria that does not wage chemical weapons attacks or torture its own citizens.

He acknowledged, however, that the US may not find an ally anytime soon in Syria, saying: “It doesn’t have to be a regime that we Americans would embrace as, say, qualifying to join the European Union if the European Union would take Middle Eastern countries.”