Butcher, mayor, spy

‘One Lebanese analyst even went so far as to suggest that events may have come full cycle. Before the 1979 revolution in Iran, Israel’s Mossad was deeply involved in training and advising the Shah’s dreaded secret police, Savak – a legacy of expertise inherited by Tehran’s current Islamic rulers, who were instrumental in establishing Hezbollah in Lebanon and retain very close ties with the movement. Whatever the case, the head of Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces, Gen. Ashraf Rifi, said the dismantling of so many networks amounted to a strategic blow of the utmost seriousness, unprecedented in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Other observers agree.”The loss of these eyes and ears within Lebanon is undoubtedly a major strategic setback for Israel,” said intelligence analyst Alastair Crooke. “Networks of these sorts don’t come off the shelf in a supermarket. You can lose them in ten minutes, but they can take 5, 10, 15 years to put in place. So the importance of this should not be underestimated. (…) the arrests in general have not become an election issue, because they have been across the board – Sunnis, Shiites, Christians and Palestinians are all among those detained, with no obvious political or sectarian bias.“‘

‘Lebanese authorities have arrested three more alleged spies, including one carrying an Israeli passport, as investigation with Israel-linked espionage networks was likely to lead to persons “above suspicion.” Media reports on Friday identified the new detainees as Ali Gh. And Youssef H., both brothers of Nasser Nader already in police custody on charges of spying for the Israeli secret service, the Mossad.’

In other news, Nasrallah put forward the one eminently practical and logical reason why people should vote for the resistance (i.e. March 8th), namely that the Lebanese army would then be armed by a country that actually wants it to be able to defend itself from Israel – Iran – rather than underarmed by a country that wants it to remain unable to defend itself against Israel – the US: ‘”The Islamic Republic of Iran, and in particular Ayatollah (Ali) Khamenei, will not hold back on anything that will help Lebanon be a strong and dignified state, and without conditions,” Nasrallah said. “So far, Lebanon has not requested arms and Iran will not offer them unless asked,” he said in a televised address to mark the ninth anniversary of Israel’s troop withdrawal from southern Lebanon after 22 years. “But Iran will help any Lebanese government that requests military aid,” he told a crowd of thousands gathered in the eastern Lebanon Hizbullah stronghold of Baalbek. Nasrallah also dismissed as farcical U.S. aid to the Lebanese army, which amounts to close to half a billion dollars in training and armament since 2005 but does not include anti-aircraft defense. He urged his supporters to vote for his Hizbullah-led opposition alliance in the June 7 parliamentary election, saying his coalition would ensure the army was well equipped to defend Lebanon against Israel.’

‘”The resistance faces today new and serious challenges that prompt us to assume great responsibilities. Following the 2000 victory, the Zionists have worked on a new strategy which was frequently declared by former Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom,” Al-Manar TV channel quoted Nasrallah as saying on Friday. Nasrallah criticized the ruling bloc for putting its focus on his group’s arms instead of improving the country’s ailing economy.’

‘UNIFIL and the Lebanese army, meanwhile, went on high alert Wednesday ahead of an Israeli military exercise scheduled for Sunday along the border with Lebanon. Lebanese news outlet Naharnet cites the Arabic-language National News Agency in Lebanon as saying Lebanese and UNIFIL soldiers dispatched to the southern border as a safeguard against any unforeseen emergency. Meanwhile, Israeli military equipment was observed near Lebanese territory in what is dubbed Exercise Turning Point 3, which is intended to train Israeli troops in emergency response drills.’

And finally, one of the reasons why I love living in this country: the virtual absence of health fascists telling you that you can’t ruin your own health in the way you choose (while being careful never to mention the car exhausts, factory fumes and Israeli bombarments with depleted uranium and cluster bombs which you are subjected to without your consent: ‘Want to indulge in a guilt-free tobacco experience? Then head to Lebanon, a smoker’s paradise where you can work, dine and have your hair styled in a cloud of smoke. The anti-smoking lobby is barely a blip on the radar and the government cares little about the issue. So the price of Cuban Havanas is among the world’s cheapest, cigarettes are free of punitive pricing and health warnings are barely visible on the side of packs — far from the bold warnings and pictures the World Health Organisation (WHO) is promoting on “World No Tobacco Day” on Sunday. Even teenagers can afford the average one dollar per pack, compared to an average seven dollars (five euros) in France or nearly nine dollars in Britain. “The minute you land in this country you start huffing and puffing,” said Ghazi Zaatari, a physician and chairman of the department of pathology at the American University of Beirut as well as head of a WHO study group on tobacco regulation. “As far as tobacco is concerned, Lebanon is a health disaster.” George Saade, a cardiologist and head of the tobacco control unit at the ministry of health, presents a similar picture. “The Lebanese government is doing nothing as far as tobacco control is concerned,” he lamented, partly attributing lax enforcement to a rocky political situation. (…) Zaatari also noted that although Lebanon signed WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2005 it has failed to ratify the document and has shown little interest in enforcement.’ Well, I hate to be the one to break it to you, dude, but there are some real problems in this neck of the woods, you know

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