Hezbollah experiencing political confusion, says analyst

Hezbollah experiencing political confusion, says analyst
Lebanese President Michel Aoun sits between Prime Minister Najib Mikati (R) and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri during a ceremony marking the 78th anniversary of Lebanon's Independence Day in Yarzeh near Beirut on November 22, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 25 November 2021

Hezbollah experiencing political confusion, says analyst

Hezbollah experiencing political confusion, says analyst
  • Shiite party boycotting Cabinet sessions since Oct. 12
  • Judge leading blast probe could have powers limited

BEIRUT: Hezbollah is experiencing political confusion, writer and political analyst Sana Aljak said on Wednesday, amid reports of a disagreement between the party and the Amal Movement headed by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on their earlier call to remove Judge Tarek Bitar from his investigation into last year's Beirut port blast.

The government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati has been stuck over how to respond to calls for Bitar's removal, and the positive atmosphere that prevailed in a meeting on Monday between Berri, Mikati and President Michel Aoun had not materialized into concrete steps by the middle of the week.

There were also claims of a dispute between Berri and Hezbollah on the solutions proposed for resuming Cabinet meetings.

The two allies have boycotted the meetings since Oct. 12, against the backdrop of the port blast investigation, and the government turmoil has been aggravated by a provocative statement from Information Minister George Kordahi about the war in Yemen.

The meeting on Lebanon’s Independence Day produced, according to the information that followed, “flexibility, positivity, and openness to resolving outstanding problems.”

There has been an increasing level of conversation about solutions related to Kordahi.

There are also reports that Aoun promised to facilitate understanding on solutions provided that the prime minister, after his Vatican visit to meet Pope Francis, invited a Cabinet session that conveyed to the international community the government’s seriousness about implementing commitments to save Lebanon from collapse.

The information circulated said the way out regarding Hezbollah’s demand to suspend Bitar was to limit his powers.

Accordingly, out of respect for the provisions of the constitution, Bitar should not be allowed to investigate accused officials, including ministers, MPs and a former prime minister, and try these officials before the Supreme Council for the trial of presidents and ministers.

This solution requires that Bitar be removed from the trial of political officials, rather than suspending him entirely.

Respecting the constitution was a requirement for Berri as well as other political parties, especially since the prime minister reiterated his refusal to interfere in the work of the judiciary and was committed to the separation of powers.

But this solution, according to the information circulated, means withdrawing the demand for Bitar's dismissal, a condition that Hezbollah is sticking to in order to let its ministers attend Cabinet sessions.

This development has led to claims of disagreement between Hezbollah and the Amal Movement.

MP Mohammed Khawaja, a member of the Parliamentary Development and Liberation Bloc headed by Berri, confirmed that the speaker “has been making, since the beginning of the crisis, every effort for the return of the government to business and address the thorny files, including the judicial file, whose course is required to be corrected as a starting point to the rest of the issues, foremost of which is the living conditions that affect all citizens and pressurize most of the Lebanese who have become poor.”

Khawaja said: “It is natural that there is a difference in attitudes between the Amal Movement and Hezbollah, especially in their view of internal political affairs and how to deal with them since they are not one party. The two parties meet on strategic matters and complement each other. There is no need to exaggerate the dispute.”

Aljak said the dispute was “a division of roles” between Hezbollah and Berri.

She told Arab News: “Hezbollah was not able to completely remove Bitar from the file, so the party tried to overthrow the head of the Supreme Judicial Council, who protects Bitar. But it could not (do) either. Hezbollah, which is very powerful in Lebanon, has found that it is incapable of controlling everything and that it is even helpless. The party is now entering into reconciliation with the tribes of Khaldeh, that is, with the murderer of one of its leaders. Hezbollah can no longer use the excess power it possesses. When he boasts that he has 100,000 fighters, this is a sign of weakness, not strength.”

Aljak referred to the attack by a Hezbollah leader, Ghaleb Abu Zainab, against political leaders last Monday, and how the party was forced to say that he did not represent the party's positions.

“This is evidence that Hezbollah has reached a stage where it thought it could control everything, but suddenly it discovered that its excess power did not benefit it. Hezbollah intervened in many places in the region, but what did it gain? Everyone is talking about an Iranian occupation. Hezbollah's prestige has declined. Hezbollah has become like a dictator who no longer bothers to convince people to like him, but suddenly discovers that people hate him.

“The party no longer knows how to get out of all the places it has been involved in,” Aljak added.


Aoun condemns fresh attack on UN forces in Lebanon, announces probe

Aoun condemns fresh attack on UN forces in Lebanon, announces probe
Updated 17 sec ago

Aoun condemns fresh attack on UN forces in Lebanon, announces probe

Aoun condemns fresh attack on UN forces in Lebanon, announces probe
  • Hezbollah is striking troops to show rejection of Kuwaiti initiative, claim analysts
  • Anonymous source with Hezbollah links rejects this analysis, tells Arab News attack was due to water tank breakage by Ghanaian troops 

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun has condemned “any attack that targets the UN Interim Force in Lebanon,” after UNIFIL troops were injured during violence on Tuesday. 

In a meeting on Wednesday, Aoun informed Joanna Wronecka, the UN’s special coordinator in Lebanon, that the government had launched a probe into the attack west of the southern village of Ramyeh. He pledged to establish who was responsible. 

UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti said on Tuesday night that a number of peacekeepers on a routine patrol were attacked after their cars were intercepted. The incident left one soldier wounded.

He said that “the attackers sabotaged two vehicles and stole a number of items,” adding that “the Lebanese armed forces were present at the scene and managed to defuse the situation.”

Tenenti stressed that “the peacekeepers weren’t in private properties but on a public road they usually take.” 

They were doing their job, executing decision No. 1701, and maintaining stability in south Lebanon, he said.

Tenenti warned in a statement that “the attacks on the men and women who serve the cause of peace are considered crimes pursuant to the Lebanese and international laws.”

He called on the Lebanese authorities to “investigate this incident and prosecute those responsible for it.”

The UNIFIL patrols have been the target of two other attacks recently. Troops were targeted in the border village of Chakra at the end of last year and in Bint Jbeil village earlier this month.

The area where these attacks took place is considered critical to Hezbollah as it is adjacent to the border, where several important Israeli military positions are found on the other side.

The latest attack on the UNIFIL patrol occurred while Lebanese officials discussed messages conveyed by Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmed Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah, in the name of Kuwait, the Arab and Gulf family and the international community, to Lebanon at the end of last week.

The minister sent a message of “sympathy, solidarity, synergy and love for the brotherly Lebanese people,” urging Lebanese officials to adopt a position of neutrality and ensure that the country “will not be a platform for any aggression, while refraining from interfering in the internal affairs of Arab countries in general, and the Gulf in particular.”

Al-Sabah reaffirmed a regional desire “to see a stable, secure and strong Lebanon by implementing international and Arab resolutions.”

Kuwait is expecting to receive a response through the Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdullah Bou Habib next Saturday during his visit to Kuwait. 

While Hezbollah has not reacted to the Kuwaiti initiative, some political observers saw the attack on the UNIFIL patrol as an indirect display of Hezbollah’s objection. 

However, a source who works as a link between the UNIFIL, the villagers and Hezbollah, told Arab News: “The attack that took place has nothing to do with any political or security messages.”

He said: “The patrol that was attacked is affiliated to the Ghanaian force participating in the UNIFIL.

“It appeared that while it was using a public road, one of its cars hit, intentionally or unintentionally, a water tank belonging to a farmer who used it to water his plants.

“The patrol didn’t stop but instead kept going without probably noticing that it had hit the tank. The tank owner, joined by a number of villagers who usually stand by each other in the village, followed the patrol and attacked it. This is what happened.”

The source, who requested anonymity, said the previous two attacks were different. “One of them happened because some UNIFIL soldiers were taking pictures in internal alleyways, whereas the other one took place because they entered some private properties and this is not allowed as per decision no. 1701.”

The source added that “this attack doesn’t align with any of Hezbollah’s positions regarding the Kuwaiti initiative.

“If Hezbollah wanted to object to the Kuwaiti initiative that targets in its essence the management of the country, attacking the Ghanaian force is not going to be the response.”

This development coincided with the announcement by Israeli Minister of Energy Yuval Steinitz that “border negotiations with Lebanon on US-mediated maritime demarcation, hosted by the UNIFIL in its headquarters in Naqoura, will resume next week.”

Lebanon has been waiting since the end of last year for the return of the US mediator Amos Hochstein to the region with fresh proposals to resume talks over maritime borders demarcation between Lebanon and Israel.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres announced during his visit to Lebanon at the end of last year that “the nations are ready to sponsor these negotiations.”

Meanwhile, Lebanon signed deals on Wednesday to purchase electricity from Jordan via Syria to help the country deal with its crippling energy crisis.

The electricity will be transmitted through Syria. The deals are expected to bring Lebanon up to 250 MW of electricity a day within two months, enough for about two hours of power a day.

The World Bank is expected to finance the deals, with negotiations underway.

Lebanon’s Energy Minister Walid Fayyad said he expects financing negotiations to conclude within two months.


US appreciates Kuwait’s support for mutual return to compliance with Iran nuclear deal: Blinken

US appreciates Kuwait’s support for mutual return to compliance with Iran nuclear deal: Blinken
Updated 34 min 36 sec ago

US appreciates Kuwait’s support for mutual return to compliance with Iran nuclear deal: Blinken

US appreciates Kuwait’s support for mutual return to compliance with Iran nuclear deal: Blinken
  • Blinken said the JCPOA is the “most effective way to ensure that Iran cannot develop a nuclear weapon”
  • Sheikh Ahmad thanked US commitment to the stability and security of Kuwait and the region

LONDON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US appreciates Kuwait’s support for a mutual return to compliance with the Iran nuclear deal.

Speaking at a joint conference during Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah’s visit to the US, Blinken said they discussed Iran, and that the JCPOA is the “most effective way to ensure that Iran cannot develop a nuclear weapon.”

“We are very grateful for Kuwait’s close coordination through venues like the GCC Iran working group where we have stood together against Iran’s destabilising actions in the region,” the secretary of state said. 

Blinken thanked Kuwait for helping to “significantly reduce the threat that Daesh poses to international security even as we remain very vigilant about the ongoing threat.”

He also said that the Gulf country stood by the US during the evacuation of Afghanistan in August 2021 as people fled Taliban rule.

Kuwait helped the US evacuate thousands of people from Afghanistan including US citizens, foreign nationals and Afghans, Blinken said.

“Because of Kuwait’s help, thousands of people reached safety and Afghan families have been able to start new lives around the world.“This was a signal of Kuwait’s generosity and its commitment to humanitarianism and international stability.”

“We see that in the leadership role that Kuwait plays in institutions like the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League,” he added. 

Sheikh Ahmad thanked US commitment to the stability and security of Kuwait and the region.

 “The US and Kuwait are solid partners, great friends and we appreciate this historically strong partnership, the minister said. 

“We are partners in combating terrorism after 9/11 and we were partners as well in the liberation of Iraq, he said. He added that Kuwait also provided safe transitory corridors for people feeling Taliban rule in the country.


Yemeni army pushes into Marib province as Houthis retreat

Yemeni army pushes into Marib province as Houthis retreat
Updated 26 January 2022

Yemeni army pushes into Marib province as Houthis retreat

Yemeni army pushes into Marib province as Houthis retreat
  • “We are now pushing deeper into Juba and Abedia districts,” a military official said
  • This week, government forces seized control of most of Hareb district, inflicting major military blow to the Houthis

AL-MUKALLA: Dozens of Houthis were killed on Wednesday in the central province of Marib as government troops rolled into a new area in Abedia district for the first time in months, adding to the latest military gains in the province, a local military official told Arab News from Marib.

A day after seizing control of strategic mountainous locations in neighboring Hareb, Yemen’s army and the Giants Brigades seized control of Al-Jafara in the district of Abedia, south of Marib, and besieged Um Resh military base in Juba district, also south of Marib, after heavy fighting with the Houthis who are coming under attack from government troops and intense airstrikes from the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen.

“We are now pushing deeper into Juba and Abedia districts,” the military official who spoke on condition of anonymity said.

Local media reports said that warplanes from the Coalition intensified airstrikes on Houthi targets in Abedia district, apparently to prepare the ground for government troops to advance into the strategic district.

This week, government forces seized control of most of the district of Hareb, including the town of Hareb, inflicting a major military blow to the Houthis who have suffered heavy defeats in Marib since the start of the year.

Military officials say that seizing control of Abedia and Juba would effectively mean protecting the central city of Marib from Houthi attacks from the south and it would also allow government troops to advance into the neighboring Al-Bayda province.

Last year, the Houthis besieged thousands of people in Abedia district and heavily shelled residential areas with missiles, mortar fire and explosive-rigged drones to force local army units and tribal fighters to surrender.

The Houthi siege had pushed thousands of people to the verge of mass famine and sparked local and international condemnation.

The coalition’s deployment of hundreds of fighters from the Giants Brigades from the country’s west coast to the central province of Marib late last year helped government troops to reverse Houthi military gains south of Marib and in Shabwa province.

On Wednesday, the Coalition said it killed more than 160 Houthis in 31 airstrikes in Marib, Al-Bayda and Taiz.

The Coalition’s announcement about the latest Houthi casualties came less than a day after its warplanes carried out intensive airstrikes against military targets in Houthi-controlled Sanaa, sparking thunderous explosions.

Residents reported seeing flames of fire and smoke billowing from military bases north, west and east of Sanaa on Tuesday night.

Videos circulated on social media showed missiles fired by the coalition’s warplanes exploding inside mountain military bases.

The Coalition has accused the Houthis of storing and assembling ballistic missiles and explosive-rigged drones that targeted Saudi Arabia inside military bases in Sanaa.


Egyptian president to discuss regional peace on official visit to Abu Dhabi

Egyptian president to discuss regional peace on official visit to Abu Dhabi
Updated 48 min 46 sec ago

Egyptian president to discuss regional peace on official visit to Abu Dhabi

Egyptian president to discuss regional peace on official visit to Abu Dhabi
  • El-Sisi reiterated Egypt’s condemnation of the Houthis militant attacks against the UAE

DUBAI: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi arrived Wednesday on a state visit to Abu Dhabi  where he was welcomed by United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed.

The Egyptian president later attended a meeting Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed, UAE Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid and Bahrain King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. 

Upon arrival, the Egyptian presidency said the president’s visit aims to bolster ties between the UAE and Egypt.

It also said that El-Sisi reiterated Egypt’s condemnation of the Houthis militant attacks against the UAE.

El-Sisi intended to “(consult) and (coordinate) on the latest regional developments, in light of what the current stage requires of concerted efforts to protect Arab national security and to counter attempts to destabilize the security and stability of Arab countries,” a statement from Egypt’s presidency read.


UAE records marks 2,369 new coronavirus cases over past 24 hours

UAE records marks 2,369 new coronavirus cases over past 24 hours
Updated 26 January 2022

UAE records marks 2,369 new coronavirus cases over past 24 hours

UAE records marks 2,369 new coronavirus cases over past 24 hours

DUBAI: The UAE health ministry announced Wednesday 2,369 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, marking a reduction in daily infection rates. 

The new figures bring the total number of recorded cases in the UAE to 833,201.

The ministry briefing also announced four deaths due to COVID-19 complications, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 2,228.
An additional 1,201 individuals had fully recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries to 771,624.