One of the many alarming aspects of Syria in recent days – amid reports of ethno-sectarian cleansing and chemical weapons use – has been the brazen behaviour of two of the proxy warriors in the conflict: Hizbollah and Israel.
The Shia Islamist movement’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, almost boasted in a speech broadcast last week that his forces were helping to prop up Bashar al-Assad. Then, over the weekend, Israel’s air force blasted targets in Damascus that anonymous US and Israeli officials suggested were Iranian rockets destined for Hizbollah.
This accelerating spiral of proxy warfare – and these are but two of the actors driving it – is becoming a menace not just to a fast disintegrating Syria but to the region. Read more
Coming up We’re pulling together some of the best reads on the “Iron Lady”. Read more
Israeli soldiers stand guard at an army post in the annexed Golan Heights on January 31 (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Reports that Wednesday’s Israeli air strike somewhere near Syria’s border with Lebanon was on an arms convoy destined for Hizbollah have been denied – sort of – by the Syrian regime and its paramilitary Lebanese ally.
Throughout Wednesday, Hizbollah, normally prodigious in its denunciations of any and all Israeli aggression on its al-Manar television station, maintained the stoniest of silences. Today, al-Manar moved swiftly to endorse the account given by Syria’s state news agency: that Israeli warplanes had hit a military research facility in Jamraya, near Damascus.
There is no cast-iron corroboration of anything at this stage. Israel is saying nothing. But beyond fuelling fears that Syria’s civil war will spread, Israel’s actions have led to some interesting statements. Read more
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A promotion shot for Homeland
Episode two of the second series of US hit TV show Homeland (“Beirut is Back”) caused anger in the Lebanese government for its depiction of central Beirut. Lebanon’s tourist minister Fadi Abboud even threatened legal action against the producers.
The episode was shot in Tel Aviv and showed former CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Clare Danes) with dyed brown hair, brown contact lenses and a veil for her safety.
The Israelis, meanwhile, were unhappy that Tel Aviv had been used as a substitute for its enemy’s capital.
News flash for those who have never been to Lebanon: a third or so of Lebanon’s population is Christian. And both Muslims and Christians can have fair skin and blue eyes. And unlike other Arab states, in Lebanon Muslim women do not have to wear the veil by law.
Homeland may only be fiction, but its portrayal of Lebanon has done little to change the stereotype of Arabs in Hollywood as gun-toting, fanatical terrorists who pray five times a day. Indeed, when it comes to Arab characters in movies, Hollywood sometimes seems to have only one kind: bad. Read more
I’m told that the UN-backed special tribunal for Lebanon will, within days, hand down indictments over the 2005 killing of former premier Rafiq Hariri. Pan-Arab papers have been speculating about this. Diplomatic sources say the speculation is justified.
This is an explosive case that is being closely watched all over the region. Read more