Lebanese to contest by-poll from Iran jail

Zakka wrote of Lebanese politician Mohamad Chatah who was assassinated in Beirut.. (Shutterstock)
Updated 14 March 2019

Lebanese to contest by-poll from Iran jail

  • Nizar Zakka announced he will run for the by-election to fill the vacant Sunni seat in the district of Tripoli

BEIRUT: A Lebanese citizen imprisoned in Iran, Nizar Zakka, announced in a message he sent from Tehran’s Evin prison that he will run for the by-election to fill the vacant Sunni seat in the district of Tripoli in northern Lebanon. 

Zakka, an information technology expert, was kidnapped in September 2015 on his way to Tehran airport after having accepted an invitation from Iran to attend a scientific conference. 

He was a permanent resident of the US, where he served as secretary-general of the Arab ICT Organization in Washington. Iranian authorities have accused him of “spying for the US.” 

Zakka pledged in a message distributed by his family and lawyer to be Lebanese voters’ “loud voice in Parliament, and the voice of every ordinary citizen who has lost his right in a state that knows no justice.” 

He wrote that the Lebanese state had conspired against him when he was kidnapped and “detained in one of the most appalling prisons in the world.” 

He added: “For four years, I have been living in an underground grave between sewers and rats.”

Zakka saluted Prime Minister Saad Hariri and the parties, civil society organizations and personalities that have supported him and his cause. 

“Not a day goes by while I am in prison that I do not remember Mohamad Chatah, and I am sure that had he gotten invited to Iran and responded to the invitation, he would have met the same fate,” Zakka wrote. 

Chatah, a Lebanese politician and economist, was assassinated in 2013 by a car bomb in Beirut. 

He was born in Tripoli, served as finance minister in 2008, and was among the most prominent advisers to Hariri’s Future Movement.


Turkish, Iranian media outlets exchange blows on Syria

A Syrian woman carrying a child walks by, in the Washukanni Camp for the internally displaced, near the predominantly Kurdish city of Hasakeh in northeastern Syria, on February 17, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 17 min 7 sec ago

Turkish, Iranian media outlets exchange blows on Syria

  • Middle East expert believes Ankara and Tehran are locked in an information war

ANKARA: Turkish and Iranian media outlets are battling as deeply rooted tensions have resurfaced. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency has published an opinion piece that critically discussed tensions with Iran over Syria. It said: “Turkey’s vision of regional development and integration is pitched against Iran’s regional strategy prioritising geopolitical wins.
“Ignoring Ankara’s concerns in the fight against terrorism during Operation Peace Spring, Tehran is now setting its Shiite militias in the field in motion against Turkey, who is actively endeavoring to prevent a humanitarian crisis.”
The analysis piece, titled “Idlib front, Iran’s weakening foreign operation capacity,” was penned by Hadi Khodabandeh Loui, a researcher at the Iran Research Center in Ankara.
Throughout Syria’s civil war, Turkey has backed rebels looking to oust Bashar Assad, while Iran has supported the Assad regime. However, the two countries are collaborating to reach a political solution to the conflict.
An editorial piece that was published in Iran’s hardline newspaper Entekhab compared Turkey’s military moves in Syria to Israel’s bombings of pro-Assad forces. The piece warned Ankara about a potential aggressive reaction from Tehran to both threats.
Israeli warplanes fired missiles at targets near Syria’s capital, Damascus, in early February and they hit Syrian Army and Iran-backed militia positions, reportedly killing 23 people.
Being among the guarantor states of the Astana peace process for Syria, aimed at ending the Syrian conflict, Turkey and Iran have already witnessed the fragility of their relations in October 2019 when Iran criticized Turkey’s moves to establish military posts inside Syria, emphasizing the need to respect the integrity of Syria.
Then, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan quickly accused Iran of betraying the consensus between the two countries following Tehran’s condemnation of Turkey’s operation in northern Syria against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia.

BACKGROUND

Throughout Syria’s civil war, Turkey has backed rebels looking to oust Bashar Assad, while Iran has supported the Assad regime. However, the two countries are collaborating to reach a political solution to the conflict.

In March 2018, Iran’s Tehran Times defined Turkey’s cross-border military operation against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia in Afrin as an “invasion.” It splashed with a headline that read: “Turkish troops occupy Syria’s Afrin.”
Over recent weeks, Ankara has voiced criticisms that the Assad regime, Iran-backed militia and Russia have violated the ceasefire in Syria’s rebel-held province of Idlib, with frequent attacks targeting Turkish troops.
Samuel Ramani, a Middle East analyst at the University of Oxford, thinks that Assad’s forces are winning decisively, and Turkey’s ability to resist them is greatly diminished.
“Assad’s forces have consolidated their control over west Aleppo, and are steadily advancing in Idlib. Turkey does not view the Iranian mediation offers in Syria as credible, especially as Iranian media outlets are justifying them by claiming that Turkey broke the terms of the Sochi agreement by harboring extremists. Turkey is insistent that Russia violated Sochi by supporting Assad’s offensive,” he told Arab News.
Regarding the media conflict, Ramani thinks that Turkey and Iran are locked in an information war over Syria, and are both trying to paint the other as an aggressor.
“It’s a way to rally public support in both countries around more confrontational posturing, in the event of a bigger military escalation that actually sees Turkish and Iranian forces in direct combat, not just Assad and Turkish proxies,” he said.