Tag Archives: Lebanon

Here’s What 44 Countries List As The Greatest Dangers In The World

Iraqi Shi'ite

Amid rising conflicts engulfing the Middle East, most of the 44 nations surveyed in a new Pew Research Center study listed the top threat in the world as “religious and ethnic hatred.”

Nations were given the option of selecting between five dangers: nuclear weapons, pollution, AIDS and other diseases, inequality, and religious and ethnic hatred.

map danger larger

At 58%, Lebanon had the highest level of concern of any country and identified religious and ethnic hatred as the single greatest danger to the world, correlating to its diverse religious makeup of Shia Muslims, Sunni Muslims, Lebanese Christians, Greek Orthodox, and Jews.

Meanwhile, severe battles between Hezbollah and Jabhat al-Nusra have brought war to Lebanon. Egypt, Israel, Palestine, and Tunisia also shared Lebanon’s concern.

Meanwhile in the West, “the gap between the rich and the poor is increasingly considered the world’s top problem by people living in advanced economies,” the Pew Research Center says

Americans, and generally most European nations listed “inequality” as the world’s greatest danger. Spain cited this concern at a rate of 54%, the highest level of concern in this category.

global dangers survey pew research

Ukraine and Russia both named “nuclear weapons” as their highest threat, along with Japan, Pakistan, and Turkey. It is estimated that Russia —which leads the world in number of nuclear weapons — along with the US, UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea, possess approximately 17,000 nuclear weapons altogether.

Most African countries claimed “AIDS and other infectious diseases” as their most pressing issue in the world today.



A gondola from Sugarbush Resort takes skiers to the top of a peak in Vermont, August 1967.Photograph by B. Anthony Stewart, National Geographic

A gondola from Sugarbush Resort takes skiers to the top of a peak in Vermont, August 1967.

Interstate highways 90 and 94 meet at the Halsted Street Interchange in Chicago, February 1968.Photograph by James K. W. Atherton, National Geographic

Interstate highways 90 and 94 meet at the Halsted Street Interchange in Chicago, February 1968.

A man sells goldfish in baggies tied to a tree branch in Beirut, Lebanon, February 1983.Photograph by W. E. Garrett, National Geographic

A man sells goldfish in baggies tied to a tree branch in Beirut, Lebanon, February 1983.

John F. Kennedy’s coffin lies in state beneath the Capitol’s dome, November 1963.Photograph by George F. Mobley, National Geographic

John F. Kennedy’s coffin lies in state beneath the Capitol’s dome, November 1963.

Israeli spy allegedly infiltrated Hezbollah and passed information on terrorist group to Mossad

Hezbollah commander Imad Mughnieh on Feb. 13, 2008. Israel is also believed to have been involved in the assassination of Mughniyeh, who was killed by a car bomb in Damascus in 2008.

BEIRUT – An agent of Israel’s Mossad spy agency infiltrated the upper echelons of Hezbollah’s security apparatus and leaked information about the Lebanese-Shiite group for several years before being discovered and arrested recently, according to security officials and people in Lebanon familiar with the incident.

The espionage activities of the man, identified as Mohammed Shawraba, would represent one of the most significant security breaches of the highly secretive organization, which is a mortal enemy of Israel and classified as a terrorist organization by the United States.

The incident, which could not be independently verified, has been widely reported in the Lebanese and Arabic media as having helped Israel thwart numerous Hezbollah operations.

Hezbollah refuses to deny or confirm the reports that say Mr. Shawraba had fed the Mossad with intelligence on the Lebanese group’s foreign-operations unit, which he headed since 2008.

“Hezbollah uncovered and arrested Mohammed Shawraba, and they consider his arrest a significant achievement despite the blows that his activities dealt to their operations,” said one official familiar with the incident.

Mr. Shawraba was apprehended with assistance from Iranian intelligence, said the official, who added Hezbollah had become increasingly suspicious of a mole within its highest ranks. Iran, also an enemy of Israel, is the Shiite group’s foremost ally.

Hezbollah and Israel fought a devastating 34-day war in 2006, and they also have spent years countering each other through acts of espionage. That has involved activities such as Israel planting listening devices on Hezbollah’s telecommunication networks, including one that exploded and killed a member of the group in September who was attempting to dismantle it, the group said.

Israel is also believed to have been involved in the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, a senior Hezbollah operative who was killed by a car bomb in Damascus in 2008.

AFP/Getty Images

AFP/Getty ImagesA wrecked car sits at the site of a car bomb attack in Damascus late Feb.12, 2008 that killed one of Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah’s top commanders, Imad Mughnieh.

The Bulgarian government formally accused Hezbollah of bombing a bus carrying Israeli tourists two years ago in the resort city of Burgas. Hezbollah denies involvement in the attack, which killed six people.

Citing an unnamed security source, the Lebanese English-language Daily Star reported Mr. Shawraba was being tried in a Hezbollah court. He was arrested with four other people who worked for him in the foreign-operations unit, which works against Israeli interests in foreign countries.

Hezbollah had become suspicious of him after five attempted retaliations against Israel over the Mughniyeh killing had failed, the newspaper said.

Lebanon’s Elnashranews website also reported Mr. Shawraba, who is believed to come from a village in southern Lebanon, once even headed the security detail for Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah.

Hezbollah’s response is basically an admission that this happened

Hilal Khashan, professor of political science at the American University of Beirut, said Hezbollah appears to have been caught off-guard by the flurry of news reports about Mr. Shawraba. Its response indicates it wants to reassure supporters the problem has been resolved, he said.

“Hezbollah’s response to this is very deliberate, and it’s a response that was certainly decided on by the senior leaders, even Hassan Nasrallah himself,” he said.

“The public is now entirely aware of this, and Hezbollah’s response is basically an admission that this happened.”

Mark Heller, a research associate at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies, expressed doubt Hezbollah would retaliate over the issue of an Israeli agent in its organization. The group is too focused on its military operations in Syria, which involve fighting the armed opposition to the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad.

“I doubt that at this point they’re interested in an escalation with Israel,” he said.

Hezbollah has previously said publicly it has been infiltrated by foreign intelligence agencies. In 2011, Mr. Nasrallah announced that two Hezbollah members had confessed to working as agents for the Central Intelligence Agency.

10 Arab Nations Join US-Led Coalition against Islamic State

Isis: Ten Arab Nations Join US-Led Coalition against Islamic State
US Secretary of State John Kerry poses with his Arab counterparts in Jeddah.

Ten Arab nations have announced they are to join a US-led coalition against Isis (known as Islamic State) militants.

In a joint statement, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, said they “will do their share” to fight against the jihadist group that has taken control of large swathes of Iraq and Syria.

The development marks a major diplomatic success for Washington and US Secretary of State John Kerry, who had embarked on a Middle East tour to lobby for a greater Arab role in the fight against extremists. 

In fact, some of the ten states have tense diplomatic relations due to their rivalry on other regional issues.

Qatar and Turkey’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood, for example, has put the two countries at odds with Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Egypt.

The announcement came after Kerry met delegates from the ten countries in the Saudi government’s summer seat of Jeddah.

The group of states said they assessed plans to eradicate IS “wherever it is, including in both Iraq and Syria” and pledged to join in “many aspects of a coordinated military campaign” against the militant organisation.

They also promised to support the new Iraqi government and stop the flow of funds and fighters that have boosted IS power.

Representatives from Turkey attended the meeting but did not sign the agreement and refused to let the coalition use its bases to launch air strikes in Iraq and Syria.

“Turkey will not be involved in any armed operation but will entirely concentrate on humanitarian operations,” a government spokesperson speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP.

Earlier, Russia condemned Washington plan to target IS militants in Syria, saying it would consider air strikes an “act of aggression” if carried out without a UN mandate and the assent of the regime of Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad.

The US has already launched limited air strikes against IS in Iraq at the request of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

IS launched its offensive on Iraq from its heartland of north-eastern Syria, capturing key Sunni towns and cities such as Mosul and Tikrit.

It has now declared a “caliphate” that straddles the Iraqi-Syrian border and represents a greater landmass than that of the United Kingdom.

According to the UN, over 1.6 million people have been displaced by conflict in Iraq this year while 850,000 people fled their homes in August alone.

World Intelligence Agencies Must Cooperate to Combat IS

A Kurdish fighter hold a position overlooking IS-controlled territory in Iraq

Israeli Defense Minister says Islamic State can only be defeated if intelligence agencies learn the lessons of 9/11 and cooperate.


Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Tuesday called for world intelligence agencies to work together against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group.

“In order to stop and overcome the Islamic State, we have learnt since 9/11 that there must be cooperation between intelligence agencies from across the free world, a sharing of experience and operational cooperation,” he told public radio.

Ya’alon’s comments follow a speech he made Monday night, in which he criticized the international community for focusing on criticizing Israel instead of targeting state sponsors of terrorism – naming Qatar and Turkey as two of the most prominent such states, along with Iran.

The Islamic State (IS) group, formerly known as ISIS, is at the forefront of a sweeping militant assault that has overrun swathes of Iraq and holds significant areas of territory in neighboring Syria.

The ultra-violent group has imposed strict Islamic law on areas under its control, and has embarked on a campaign of mass-killings of non-Muslims and rival Muslim sects which Amnesty International recently described as ethnic-cleansing on an “historic scale”.  

US President Barack Obama on Friday called for a broad coalition to defeat the IS jihadists and he is to chair a key UN Security Council session on the threat on September 24.

The US has carried out over 130 airstrikes in Iraq, backing Kurdish and pro-government ground forces who are battling Islamic State jihadis.

Asked about the proposed international coalition, former military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin indicated Israel would likely share its intelligence with its allies.

“The intelligence that we gather in the Middle East – which deals with threats from Iran, (Lebanon’s Shiite) Hezbollah, what’s happening in Syria, terrorist organisations in Sinai and the Gaza Strip – is of very good quality and we share it with our allies,” he told the radio.

Israeli intelligence services have already reportedly been providing their foreign counterparts with intelligence, including satellite imagery, on IS positions in Iraq.

Last week, Ya’alon adopted a recommendation by the Shin Bet internal security agency (also known as the Shabak or Israel Security Agency) and designated both the Islamic State and Al Qaeda affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades as an “illegal organisation” under Israeli law.

The move allows for legal measures to be taken against both organisations as well as anyone found to be supporting or financing them.

Last week, IS released a video showing the beheading of US journalist Steven Sotloff, who also reportedly held Israeli nationality, in the second such execution of a US journalist within a fortnight.

The Abdullah Azzam Brigades is a Lebanese jihadist group linked to Al Qaeda which periodically claims rocket fire on Israel.

Lebanon detains Islamic State leader Baghdadi’s wife

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (5 July 2014)

Lebanese security forces have detained a wife and son of Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi near the border with Syria, the army says.

The pair, whose names were not given, were picked up by military intelligence after entering Lebanon 10 days ago.

The al-Safir newspaper reported that Baghdadi’s wife was being questioned at the Lebanese defence ministry.

In June, Baghdadi was named the leader of the “caliphate” created by IS in the parts of Syria and Iraq it controls.

Last month, the group denied reports that he had been killed or injured in an air strike by US-led forces near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

It released an audio recording purportedly of Baghdadi in which he said the caliphate was expanding and called for “volcanoes of jihad” to erupt.

‘Second wife’

Describing them as “a valuable catch”, al-Safir said that, in co-ordination with foreign intelligence services, the IS leader’s wife and son were detained at a border crossing near the town of Arsal while trying to enter Lebanon from Syria with forged papers.

In this Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014 file photo, Lebanese army soldiers open fire during clashes with Islamic militants in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon.The Lebanese army has been battling jihadist militants loyal to Islamic State and the rival al-Nusra Front

Relatives of Lebanese soldiers captured by Islamic State and al-Nusra Front at a demonstration in Beirut demanding the Lebanese authorities take action to secure their release (22 October 2014)IS and al-Nusra Front are holding about 20 Lebanese soldiers hostage

They were currently being held for interrogation at the defence ministry’s headquarters in al-Yarza, in the hills overlooking Beirut, it added.

A security source told the AFP news agency that the woman was a Syrian citizen and that her son was eight or nine years old.

“It is his second wife,” the source added.

Grey line

Analysis: Jim Muir, BBC News, Beirut

Assuming the reports are true – and there is little reason to doubt them – the Lebanese authorities now face the delicate question of what to do with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s wife and offspring.

In theory, they could prove a useful bargaining chip in the highly-charged imbroglio surrounding the fate of more than 20 Lebanese Army soldiers held hostage since August by IS and the rival al-Qaeda-linked militant group, al-Nusra Front.

The militants are demanding the release of Islamist prisoners in Lebanese jails to spare the soldiers’ lives – three have already been murdered.

But al-Nusra has been much more involved than IS in back-channel negotiations for a possible exchange, so there is no guarantee it would pay off.

And there is always the possibility that the continued detention of the pair could provoke IS to seek revenge in one way or another, perhaps by seizing more hostages.

Grey line

Very little is known about Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who has not been seen in public since June.

A profile published by IS supporters the following month said the Iraqi was married, but it is unclear how many wives he has. Under Islamic law he is allowed up to four.

The Associated Press reported that Baghdadi’s first wife was believed to be Suja al-Dulaimi, an Iraqi citizen who was reportedly detained by the Syrian authorities before being released in a prisoner exchange with al-Nusra Front in March.

Lebanese security forces have arrested a number of jihadists suspected of carrying out attacks in the country with the aim of expanding the influence of Islamic State.

IS and another Syria-based jihadist group, the al-Nusra Front, are holding around 20 Lebanese army soldiers hostage. They are threatening to kill them unless militants are freed from Lebanese jails.

Islamic State conflict: Kurdish fighters arrive in Turkey

Turkish Kurds welcome Peshmerga fighters crossing from Iraq at Habur crossing (29 Oct)

A group of 150 Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have arrived in Turkey from where they plan to cross into Syria to battle Islamic State (IS) militants besieging the town of Kobane.

One contingent flew from Iraq to a south-eastern Turkish airport.

Another contingent, carrying weapons including artillery, is travelling separately by land through Turkey.

Turkey agreed to the deployment last week after refusing to allow Turkish Kurds to cross the border to fight.

Thousands of cheering, flag-waving supporters gathered to see off the first batch of Peshmerga forces as they left the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Irbil by plane.

The group of 90-100 fighters landed in the early hours of Wednesday at Sanliurfa airport in south-eastern Turkey.

They were then reported to have left the airport in buses escorted by Turkish security forces.

Kurds in Turkey, celebrate the deployment of Peshmerga fighters to Syria (28 October 2014)News of the deployment of the Iraqi Kurdish fighters triggered celebrations in Turkey

A few hours later, just after dawn, a convoy of 80 lorries carrying weapons and more fighters crossed by land into south-eastern Turkey through the Habur border crossing.

Turkish police fired into the air to disperse a large crowd of Kurds who had come to welcome their arrival. Some in the crowd threw stones at the police.

The two groups of fighters are expected to meet later on Wednesday in Suruc, some 10 miles (16km) from Kobane, before crossing the border into Syria.

Turkey has come under considerable international pressure to do more to prevent Kobane falling into IS hands but has refused to allow Turkish Kurds from the militant PKK to cross the border.

The PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) has fought a decades-long insurgency in Turkey, although a ceasefire was declared last year. The government in Ankara sees the Syrian Kurdish fighters across the border in Kobane as linked to the PKK, which it views as a terrorist organisation.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has rejected claims that not enough was being done to end the jihadist assault.

He told the BBC that Turkey would only take part once the US-led coalition against IS had an “integrated strategy” that included action against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Kurdistan Parliament authorised sending 150 Peshmerga to help defend the predominantly Kurdish Syrian town last week. It was unclear why their deployment was delayed.

The Kurdish population in both Iraq and Syria is under significant threat because of the rapid advance by IS.

US state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that America would “certainly encourage” the deployment of Iraqi Peshmerga forces to Kobane.

Map showing frontline in Kobane, 20 October 2014

The battle for Kobane has emerged as a major test of whether the coalition’s air campaign can push back IS.

Weeks of air strikes in and around Kobane have allowed Kurdish fighters to prevent it from falling, but clashes continued on Tuesday and a local Kurdish commander said IS still controlled 40% of the town.

More than 800 people have been killed since the jihadist group launched an offensive on Kobane six weeks ago.

Convoy of Peshmerga fighters drive through Irbil, Iraq, en route to Turkey (28 October 2014)Turkey agreed last week to allow the Peshmerga to pass through its territory to defend Kobane

Convoy of Peshmerga fighters drive through Irbil, Iraq, en route to Turkey (28 October 2014)The Peshmerga are bringing heavy weapons Syrian Kurdish fighters say are desperately needed

The fighting has also forced more than 200,000 people to flee across the Turkish border.

IS has declared the formation of a caliphate in the large swathes of Syria and Iraq it has seized since 2013.

The UN says that millions of Syrian refugees fleeing the conflict have had an “enormous” impact on neighbouring countries in terms of “economics, public services, the social fabric of communities and the welfare of families”.

More than three million Syrians have fled their country since the uprising against President Assad began in March 2011, with most of them now sheltering in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.

Explosion in Kobane, Syria, after air strike by US-led forces (28 October 2014)A US-led coalition has been carrying out air strikes to help defend Kobane

The coffins of Syrian Kurdish Popular Protection Units (YPG) fighters are carried by Kurds in the Turkish town of Suruc (28 October 2014)More than 800 people are believed to have been killed in the six-week battle for Kobane