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Saad Hariri Quits as Lebanon Prime Minister, Blaming Iran

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Prime Minister Saad Hariri of Lebanon visiting the presidential palace in Nicosia, Cyprus, last month. Credit Yiannis Kourtoglou/Reuters

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Prime Minister Saad Hariri of Lebanon said on Saturday that he had quit his post, blaming Iran for interference in Arab affairs and surprising a country already awash with tensions and regional rivalries.

Mr. Hariri, speaking in a televised address from the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on his second trip there this week, issued a blistering condemnation of Iran and its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, the Shiite militia and political party that is part of the unity cabinet he led.

“Wherever Iran is present it plants discord and destruction, attested to by its interference in the Arab countries,” Mr. Hariri said, adding that “Iran’s hands in the region will be cut off.”

Comparing the atmosphere in Lebanon to the days before his father, the former prime minister Rafik Hariri, was assassinated in Beirut in 2005, he said that he believed his own life was in danger. “I sensed what’s being woven discreetly to target my life,” he said.

President Michel Aoun’s press office issued a statement saying that Mr. Hariri had contacted the president by phone and informed him of his decision, and that Mr. Aoun was waiting for Mr. Hariri to return to Beirut and “inform him of the circumstances of his resignation.”

Continue reading the main story

Mr. Hariri became prime minister in late 2016, in a compromise deal under which Mr. Aoun, a political ally of Hezbollah, became president, ending a two-and-a-half-year political deadlock.

His resignation left the country reeling — even Mr. Hariri’s staff was taken by surprise — and Lebanese could do little other than speculate about why he had quit.

Mr. Hariri’s political party, the Future Movement, announced it would hold solidarity demonstrations for him across the country, including in Beirut and in the northern city of Tripoli. But just before 4 p.m., the party announced it was canceling the demonstrations.

Nabih Berri, the speaker of Lebanon’s Parliament, cut short a trip to Egypt to return to Beirut to deal with the crisis, the Daily Star, a Lebanese newspaper, reported.

Mr. Hariri headed a 30-member national unity cabinet that was crafted to protect the country from any spillover from the multisided war in neighboring Syria, which has been raging for more than six years.

That mission has largely been successful, even though Hezbollah entered the Syrian war on the side of the government, Sunni militants joined insurgents, and well over 1 million refugees flooded this tiny Mediterranean country.

But Lebanon, which is governed by a sect-based political system, has long been deeply divided between a bloc aligned with Shiite Hezbollah and Iran, and one aligned with Saudi Arabia, the dominant Sunni country in the region.

In Lebanon’s political system power is divided between a prime minister, who must be Sunni; a president, who must be Maronite Christian; and a speaker of Parliament, who must be Shiite. But the exercise of real power in the country is a more complicated affair of alliances, rivalries and division of spoils between the leaders of confessional groups, many of them former warlords from Lebanon’s civil war. Hezbollah, which rose to prominence fighting the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon, is the strongest because of its powerful militia.

In recent years the rival blocs have essentially agreed to confine their fight to Syria, where Iran backed the government and Saudi Arabia backed the insurgents.

Yet in the same period, tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran on the regional stage have only increased, with the assertive new Saudi crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, taking a more aggressive stance as Iran continued to build its influence.

Now that the Syrian war seems to be entering a new phase, with the government of President Bashar al-Assad holding onto control over a devastated country, there are fears that tensions that had been pushed to the back burner — inside Lebanon, between Hezbollah and Israel, and elsewhere — could re-emerge.

The United States has stepped up sanctions on Hezbollah in recent weeks, and President Trump has declared that his administration wants tougher policies on Iran and criticized the landmark nuclear deal reached with Iran under President Barack Obama.

Mr. Hariri’s father was killed when his motorcade was bombed on Beirut’s seafront, and outrage over his death ultimately lead to the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, where they had been a longstanding presence.

Several Hezbollah members are being tried in absentia in a special United Nations-backed tribunal in The Hague, although the militant group has denied involvement in the assassination.

Mr. Hariri said in his speech that he wanted to unite Lebanon and free the country from outside interference; his bloc has long opposed the fact that Hezbollah has maintained a military force outside the control of the Lebanese government.

At the same time, Mr. Hariri’s political foes saw him as a tool of Saudi Arabia, where his father built his fortune. Mr. Hariri met earlier this week with Saudi Arabia’s minister for Gulf affairs, Thamer al-Sabhan, who had called for the “toppling” of Hezbollah and promised “astonishing developments” in the coming days, The Associated Press reported.

Mr. Hariri then returned to Saudi Arabia on Friday, for what was billed as another series of meetings with Saudi officials.

He pronounced himself “full of optimism and hope that Lebanon will be free, independent, with no authority except that of the Lebanese.”

Continue reading the main story

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Prime Minister Saad Hariri of Lebanon said on Saturday that he had quit his post, blaming Iran for interference in Arab affairs and surprising a country already awash with tensions and regional rivalries.

Mr. Hariri, speaking in a televised address from the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on his second trip there this week, issued a blistering condemnation of Iran and its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, the Shiite militia and political party that is part of the unity cabinet he led.

“Wherever Iran is present it plants discord and destruction, attested to by its interference in the Arab countries,” Mr. Hariri said, adding that “Iran’s hands in the region will be cut off.”

Comparing the atmosphere in Lebanon to the days before his father, the former prime minister Rafik Hariri, was assassinated in Beirut in 2005, he said that he believed his own life was in danger. “I sensed what’s being woven discreetly to target my life,” he said.

President Michel Aoun’s press office issued a statement saying that Mr. Hariri had contacted the president by phone and informed him of his decision, and that Mr. Aoun was waiting for Mr. Hariri to return to Beirut and “inform him of the circumstances of his resignation.”

Mr. Hariri became prime minister in late 2016, in a compromise deal under which Mr. Aoun, a political ally of Hezbollah, became president, ending a two-and-a-half-year political deadlock.

His resignation left the country reeling — even Mr. Hariri’s staff was taken by surprise — and Lebanese could do little other than speculate about why he had quit.

Mr. Hariri’s political party, the Future Movement, announced it would hold solidarity demonstrations for him across the country, including in Beirut and in the northern city of Tripoli. But just before 4 p.m., the party announced it was canceling the demonstrations.

Nabih Berri, the speaker of Lebanon’s Parliament, cut short a trip to Egypt to return to Beirut to deal with the crisis, the Daily Star, a Lebanese newspaper, reported.

Mr. Hariri headed a 30-member national unity cabinet that was crafted to protect the country from any spillover from the multisided war in neighboring Syria, which has been raging for more than six years.

That mission has largely been successful, even though Hezbollah entered the Syrian war on the side of the government, Sunni militants joined insurgents, and well over 1 million refugees flooded this tiny Mediterranean country.

But Lebanon, which is governed by a sect-based political system, has long been deeply divided between a bloc aligned with Shiite Hezbollah and Iran, and one aligned with Saudi Arabia, the dominant Sunni country in the region.

In Lebanon’s political system power is divided between a prime minister, who must be Sunni; a president, who must be Maronite Christian; and a speaker of Parliament, who must be Shiite. But the exercise of real power in the country is a more complicated affair of alliances, rivalries and division of spoils between the leaders of confessional groups, many of them former warlords from Lebanon’s civil war. Hezbollah, which rose to prominence fighting the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon, is the strongest because of its powerful militia.

In recent years the rival blocs have essentially agreed to confine their fight to Syria, where Iran backed the government and Saudi Arabia backed the insurgents.

Yet in the same period, tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran on the regional stage have only increased, with the assertive new Saudi crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, taking a more aggressive stance as Iran continued to build its influence.

Now that the Syrian war seems to be entering a new phase, with the government of President Bashar al-Assad holding onto control over a devastated country, there are fears that tensions that had been pushed to the back burner — inside Lebanon, between Hezbollah and Israel, and elsewhere — could re-emerge.

The United States has stepped up sanctions on Hezbollah in recent weeks, and President Trump has declared that his administration wants tougher policies on Iran and criticized the landmark nuclear deal reached with Iran under President Barack Obama.

Mr. Hariri’s father was killed when his motorcade was bombed on Beirut’s seafront, and outrage over his death ultimately lead to the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, where they had been a longstanding presence.

Several Hezbollah members are being tried in absentia in a special United Nations-backed tribunal in The Hague, although the militant group has denied involvement in the assassination.

Mr. Hariri said in his speech that he wanted to unite Lebanon and free the country from outside interference; his bloc has long opposed the fact that Hezbollah has maintained a military force outside the control of the Lebanese government.

At the same time, Mr. Hariri’s political foes saw him as a tool of Saudi Arabia, where his father built his fortune. Mr. Hariri met earlier this week with Saudi Arabia’s minister for Gulf affairs, Thamer al-Sabhan, who had called for the “toppling” of Hezbollah and promised “astonishing developments” in the coming days, The Associated Press reported.

Mr. Hariri then returned to Saudi Arabia on Friday, for what was billed as another series of meetings with Saudi officials.

He pronounced himself “full of optimism and hope that Lebanon will be free, independent, with no authority except that of the Lebanese.”

Nytimes

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Syria

Turkey Begins Ground Assault on Kurdish Enclave in Syria

- 22turkey1 facebookJumbo - Turkey Begins Ground Assault on Kurdish Enclave in Syria


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Turkish soldiers waiting Sunday near the Syrian border. Turkish forces renewed their assault on Kurdish militia. Credit Bulent Kilic/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

ISTANBUL — Turkish troops crossed the Syrian border into the Kurdish enclave of Afrin on Sunday morning, beginning a ground assault against American-allied militias there, as the first accounts of casualties emerged amid rising international criticism of Turkey’s military action.

Turkish fighter jets were again in the skies Sunday bombing Kurdish militia targets in the border region. Ten people were reported killed in the bombing raids, according to Kurdish militants, and three people died on the Turkish side of the border in retaliatory shelling, local people said.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim of Turkey confirmed to local journalists that his country’s troops had crossed the border into Syria on Sunday morning.

Mr. Yildirim said the forces intended to create a security zone about 18 miles deep inside Syria. The area would encompass urban centers, including the town of Afrin, with a predominantly Kurdish population, and the much larger city of Manbij, further east, as well as dozens of outlying villages.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has vowed to eliminate “terrorist nests” in the Kurdish enclave, but on Sunday he promised that the operation would be swift. “Hopefully, we will complete this operation in a very short time,” he said in a speech to the women’s branch of his Justice and Development Party in the city of Bursa.

Continue reading the main story

“The real issue here is to deliver Afrin to its real owners,” Mr. Erdogan said. He said that “we have 3.5 million Syrians in our lands” and that Turkey wanted “to send our Syrian brothers back to their own land as soon as possible.”

Mr. Erdogan’s comments came amid growing international dismay over Turkey’s intervention, and amid reports of Syrian fighters massing to join the fight on both sides.

Members of the Free Syrian Army have been joining to fight alongside Turkish troops. Many of them are refugees from Arab villages and towns in the region.

At the same time, hundreds of Kurdish fighters from the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which has been leading the fight against the Islamic State in Syria, were assembling in towns to the east and south of Afrin, according to The Associated Press.

Photo
Syrian-Kurds demonstrating Sunday in the town of Amuda against the Turkish military action. Credit Delil Souleiman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A shopkeeper in Raqqa, who asked not to be named out of fear for his safety, said by text message that a large number of Arab fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces were being sent from Raqqa to Manbij to prepare for a Turkish attack. His cousin was among 1,000 fighters gathered in Manbij and commanders were telling them an attack was imminent.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson spoke by telephone with his Turkish and Russian counterparts on Saturday to express concern about the situation, a State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said in a statement.

“We urge Turkey to exercise restraint and ensure that its military operations remain limited in scope and duration and scrupulous to avoid civilian casualties,” the statement said.

France called for an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss the developments and also urged Turkey to act with restraint, noting that the humanitarian situation was deteriorating in several regions of Syria.

Turkish officials have repeatedly criticized the United States for its support and arming of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, known as the Y.P.G., which are spearheading the fight against the Islamic State in Syria. Yet they made clear Sunday they did not want to confront American troops in Syria.

Mr. Yildirim said Turkish forces would seek to destroy any logistics supply routes to Kurdish units, but Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said United States officials had assured Turkey there were no American troops in the region.

“It is out of the question to have a direct clash between Turkey and the U.S. in the region,” he said at a news briefing for international reporters Sunday.

By nightfall Turkish troops seemed to have advanced only a few miles into Syria.

Syrian fighters allied with Turkish forces claimed to have seized control of Shankal, a village on the northwestern edge of the Afrin district, but Kurdish fighters rejected the claim.

Casualties were reported from both sides, but numbers varied.

Hanadi Hafsi, a homemaker who lives in Reyhanli, a border district in Turkey, said two Syrians and a Turk died Sunday afternoon from shelling by Kurdish militias. The shells fell on a market, killing three and wounding 32, she said. Turkish officials said that only one Syrian had refugee died and that 37 people were wounded.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu condemned the “indiscriminate rocket fire by #PYD/#YPG terrorists” in a Twitter post. “This attack on innocent people shows the real face of #PYD terrorists.”

Continue reading the main story

ISTANBUL — Turkish troops crossed the Syrian border into the Kurdish enclave of Afrin on Sunday morning, beginning a ground assault against American-allied militias there, as the first accounts of casualties emerged amid rising international criticism of Turkey’s military action.

Turkish fighter jets were again in the skies Sunday bombing Kurdish militia targets in the border region. Ten people were reported killed in the bombing raids, according to Kurdish militants, and three people died on the Turkish side of the border in retaliatory shelling, local people said.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim of Turkey confirmed to local journalists that his country’s troops had crossed the border into Syria on Sunday morning.

Mr. Yildirim said the forces intended to create a security zone about 18 miles deep inside Syria. The area would encompass urban centers, including the town of Afrin, with a predominantly Kurdish population, and the much larger city of Manbij, further east, as well as dozens of outlying villages.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has vowed to eliminate “terrorist nests” in the Kurdish enclave, but on Sunday he promised that the operation would be swift. “Hopefully, we will complete this operation in a very short time,” he said in a speech to the women’s branch of his Justice and Development Party in the city of Bursa.

“The real issue here is to deliver Afrin to its real owners,” Mr. Erdogan said. He said that “we have 3.5 million Syrians in our lands” and that Turkey wanted “to send our Syrian brothers back to their own land as soon as possible.”

Mr. Erdogan’s comments came amid growing international dismay over Turkey’s intervention, and amid reports of Syrian fighters massing to join the fight on both sides.

Members of the Free Syrian Army have been joining to fight alongside Turkish troops. Many of them are refugees from Arab villages and towns in the region.

At the same time, hundreds of Kurdish fighters from the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which has been leading the fight against the Islamic State in Syria, were assembling in towns to the east and south of Afrin, according to The Associated Press.

A shopkeeper in Raqqa, who asked not to be named out of fear for his safety, said by text message that a large number of Arab fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces were being sent from Raqqa to Manbij to prepare for a Turkish attack. His cousin was among 1,000 fighters gathered in Manbij and commanders were telling them an attack was imminent.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson spoke by telephone with his Turkish and Russian counterparts on Saturday to express concern about the situation, a State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said in a statement.

“We urge Turkey to exercise restraint and ensure that its military operations remain limited in scope and duration and scrupulous to avoid civilian casualties,” the statement said.

France called for an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss the developments and also urged Turkey to act with restraint, noting that the humanitarian situation was deteriorating in several regions of Syria.

Turkish officials have repeatedly criticized the United States for its support and arming of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, known as the Y.P.G., which are spearheading the fight against the Islamic State in Syria. Yet they made clear Sunday they did not want to confront American troops in Syria.

Mr. Yildirim said Turkish forces would seek to destroy any logistics supply routes to Kurdish units, but Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said United States officials had assured Turkey there were no American troops in the region.

“It is out of the question to have a direct clash between Turkey and the U.S. in the region,” he said at a news briefing for international reporters Sunday.

By nightfall Turkish troops seemed to have advanced only a few miles into Syria.

Syrian fighters allied with Turkish forces claimed to have seized control of Shankal, a village on the northwestern edge of the Afrin district, but Kurdish fighters rejected the claim.

Casualties were reported from both sides, but numbers varied.

Hanadi Hafsi, a homemaker who lives in Reyhanli, a border district in Turkey, said two Syrians and a Turk died Sunday afternoon from shelling by Kurdish militias. The shells fell on a market, killing three and wounding 32, she said. Turkish officials said that only one Syrian had refugee died and that 37 people were wounded.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu condemned the “indiscriminate rocket fire by #PYD/#YPG terrorists” in a Twitter post. “This attack on innocent people shows the real face of #PYD terrorists.”

Nytimes

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Syria

Turkey fires barrage of missiles on Kurdish-held targets in Syria (VIDEO)

- 5a64d376fc7e93f94e8b4567 - Turkey fires barrage of missiles on Kurdish-held targets in Syria (VIDEO)


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Syria

Last thing Syria needs after beating ISIS is another conflict – German FM on Turkish op

- 5a64c468fc7e93f8458b4569 - Last thing Syria needs after beating ISIS is another conflict – German FM on Turkish op


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