Lebanese security forces arrest three Syrians with links to Daesh in Middle East, Europe

Aoun said keeping Syrian refugees in Lebanon was “harmful to our country at all levels.” (AP)
Updated 09 January 2019

Lebanese security forces arrest three Syrians with links to Daesh in Middle East, Europe

  • Lebanese President: Lebanon’s infrastructure and limited resources “are unable to sustain this population increase,” and he urged the international community to take urgent steps

BEIRUT: Lebanese security forces have arrested three Syrians believed to have links to Daesh terror groups across the Middle East and Europe.
The Lebanese General Directorate of General Security said on Wednesday that investigations were ongoing and more arrests were expected.
One of the detainees had been plotting a bombing campaign against Lebanese military and civilian targets, while also producing videos on how to make explosives.
The announcement coincided with a speech by the Lebanese President Michel Aoun, in which he expressed concerns about the economic and security pressures being placed on Lebanon by the number of Syrian refugees in the country.
Speaking at a meeting of diplomats at the presidential palace on Wednesday, Aoun said keeping Syrian refugees in Lebanon was “harmful to our country at all levels.”
He said the war against terrorism was now a global one which had caused huge displacements of populations in countries throughout the Middle East.
Aoun said: “Lebanon is one of the countries that have borne the burden of neighboring wars and the flow of Syrian refugees into it.” He added that while Lebanon had been successful in tackling terrorism on its own soil, the refugee crisis continued to “weigh heavily” on economic, security, social, educational and health aspects of the country.
He said Lebanon’s infrastructure and limited resources “are unable to sustain this population increase,” and he urged the international community to take urgent steps to help resolve the refugee situation. Peace in the region, he added, would only come by recognizing the rights of others, however difficult and costly that may be.
Joseph Spiteri, the Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon, stressed the need for international diplomatic and economic support for Lebanon to tackle its internal and external challenges, including the Syrian refugee crisis. The Papal envoy added: “In the context of the ever-evolving geopolitical reality, we hope that Lebanon will remain stable and able to benefit from its pioneering role in the region, drawing on its rich history and experience over the last 75 years of its existence as a republic.”
Meanwhile, Lebanese security forces said the three detained Syrians, born in 2000, 1968 and 1997, had been arrested for belonging to “a terrorist organization.”
One of the detainees was said to have confessed allegiance to Daesh through a Syrian group religious leader in the Lebanese town of Arsal. The statement said the detainees had revealed that groups supporting the terrorist organization had been set up through social networking sites to attract recruits.  One of those arrested had been recruited to form a terror cell to operate within Lebanese territory and was associated with a Daesh Iraqi commander and other commanders in Syria, Palestine, Turkey and Europe.
“They published video recordings on how to prepare explosives and manufacture lethal poisons from materials available in local markets,” the statement said. “He (the detainee) bought some of these materials with the knowledge of his father, the third detainee, and he conducted more than one experiment to make explosives in order to assassinate a person from Arsal and to carry out operations against Lebanese army bases and patrols in the town. The material was seized inside his (the detainee’s) house in Arsal.”

From tourism to terrorism: How the revolution changed Iran

Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi with his third wife Farah and their son Reza (left). Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (right). (AFP)
Updated 16 January 2019

From tourism to terrorism: How the revolution changed Iran

  • Forty years ago on Wednesday, the shah went into exile and less than a month later, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini assumed power
  • His departure paved the way for the establishment of an Islamic republic hostile to Arab Gulf states

DUBAI: Forty years ago today, Iran’s then-shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, fled the country after a 37-year reign, in the first stage of a revolution that would replace 2,500 years of monarchy with an Islamic republic.

Prior to the revolution, Iran very much resembled Western countries, with a flourishing economy and tourists flocking to the country for its breath-taking landscapes, beaches and various activities, including hiking and skiing. 

The shah’s departure, prompted by mass protests, paved the way for Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to return from exile in France, assuming power on Feb. 11, 1979. 

It was “a genuine social revolution against tyranny, domestic and foreign — the first represented by the shah and the second by… the US,” said Dr. Albadr Al-Shateri, politics professor at the National Defence College in Abu Dhabi.

“The revolution went awry when religious leaders dominated the government, imposed its version of Islam and eliminated their partners in the revolution, including Iranian nationalists.”

Not long after Khomeini took over, the world got a taste of the new regime. Fifty-two American diplomats and citizens were taken hostage on Nov. 4, 1979, and were held for 444 days, after a group of Iranian students who supported the revolution took over the US Embassy in Tehran. 

The Iran-Iraq war, which began in 1980 and lasted for eight years, contributed to the deterioration of Iran’s situation. 

“Fear of the new regime’s attempt to export the revolution to a Shiite-majority neighbor led Iraq to initiate the war,” Al-Shateri said. 

“However, Iran’s insistence on continuing the war until the toppling of the regime of Saddam Hussein exacted a heavy cost on both countries in human and economic terms,” he added. 

“Iran had legitimate grievances against the US, but the way it tried to redress these gripes was counterproductive.”

The shah was considered one of the best customers of the US defense industry. But his Western-inspired reforms sparked turbulent social change that aggravated the clergy, while his consolidation of power and the secret police gave him the reputation of a dictator.

Opposition to his reign and corruption among Tehran’s elite created an influential alliance of radical Islamists. 

Although Pahlavi tried to modernize Iran, driving up oil prices in the early 1970s and implementing reforms in education and health care, he became alienated among Iranians and angered the conservative clergy, who helped drive his exile. 

“Iran changed significantly from before the revolution to after, from a more civil, open and decent Iran to a closed, aggressive and sectarian one,” said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, former chairman of the Arab Council for Social Sciences. 

“Post-1979 Iran is deeply sectarian, and is not only responsible for sharpening the Sunni-Shiite divide, but also wholly responsible for politicizing and militarizing it,” he added.

Iran “has funded and armed Shiite militias, and has done everything possible to strengthen them so they can challenge the nation-state, Lebanon being a clear example.” 

Post-1979 Iran does not “play by the rules of the game,” Abdulla added. “It became radical, revolutionary and sectarian, and was about to become nuclear, which is deeply destabilizing.”

He said: “Gulf states have lived with Iran for thousands of years, and they knew how to deal with it all along. They had the best possible neighborly relationship, but it has always been a difficult Iran, whether under the shah or Khomeini.”

Abdulla added: “We’ve never seen an Iran that has become the number-one terrorist country in the world except in the last 40 years.”

Mark Katz, professor of government and politics at the Schar School of Police and Government at George Mason University in the US, said: “Unlike the shah’s Iran, the Islamic Republic of Iran sought to export its revolution to other Muslim countries, especially the Arab Gulf ones.” He added: “Still, it must be remembered that the shah’s Iran was also fairly aggressive. It seized Abu Musa and the Tunbs (islands) right when the British were leaving the Trucial States and the UAE was being formed. It had also laid claim to Bahrain.” 

Furthermore, while the shah’s troops helped defend Oman against a South Yemeni-backed Marxist insurgency in the 1970s, Katz said the presence of those Iranian troops in Oman was unsettling to Saudi Arabia in particular. 

“The shah had also got the best of Iraq in their border rivalry — something that Saddam Hussein sought to reverse after the Iranian revolution,” he added. 

Before the revolution, the shah’s Iran often behaved “aggressively toward its Arab neighbors, but its close cooperation with the US against the Soviet Union, which Iran bordered and the Gulf Arab states didn’t, meant that Washington wasn’t willing to act against the shah for doing so,” Katz said. By contrast, the rise of an anti-American government after the revolution led to the US working with Arab Gulf states against Iran. 

“Because the Islamic Republic behaved in such a hostile manner, both toward the Gulf Arabs as well as the US, the 1979 revolution led to the isolation and containment of Iran for many years,” Katz said. 

“Although it may seem counterintuitive, Iran may have posed a far greater problem for the Gulf Arabs if the… revolution hadn’t taken place, because if it hadn’t and Western investment in Iran continued or even grew, there would’ve been a tendency for Tehran to assert — and the US to value — an Iranian effort to be the leader in the Gulf in collaboration with the US.”