The Middle East Channel

Twin Bombings Target Iranian Cultural Center in Beirut

Twin bombings in the southern suburbs of the Lebanese capital of Beirut killed at least eight people Wednesday and injured an estimated 128 others. According to security sources two suicide bombers in either two cars or in a car and on a motorcycle detonated explosives outside the Iranian cultural center in the Hezbollah stronghold of Beirut and also caused damage to a nearby orphanage. The al Qaeda linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for the bombings saying similar attacks will continue until the Iranian backed Hezbollah withdraws its forces from Syria and until its own fighters are released from Lebanese prisons. The group also claimed an attack on the Iranian Embassy in Beirut on November 19, 2013 that killed 23 people. Seven bomb attacks have hit Beirut's southern suburbs since July.


A delegation from the Syrian National Coalition is meeting with U.S. policymakers appealing for Special Forces advisors and advanced arms. However, it is unclear if U.S. President Barack Obama will approve increasing weapons deliveries to rebel groups. With the lack of progress in peace talks in Geneva, the White House is reconsidering its options on Syria. Although, White House spokesman Jay Carney suggested that Obama remains wary of any direct U.S. involvement in the Syrian conflict. Meanwhile, the governor of Homs, Tala Barazi, said that a new group of civilians has been evacuated from besieged areas of the city after a humanitarian operation was suspended on Sunday. On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that a U.N. resolution on humanitarian aid access in Syria could be agreed in days "If nobody in the Security Council seeks to politicize this issue." Russia criticized a Western-Arab draft resolution and proposed its own text, which has been merged into the document. However, diplomats said the Security Council is still negotiating on several points including a threat of sanctions and cross-border aid access.


  • Iran and world powers have begun a second day of nuclear talks after the United States pressed Tehran Tuesday to allow for a cap on its ballistic missile program.
  • Turkish President Abdullah Gul has signed into law a bill giving the government broad supervisory powers over Internet service providers.
  • Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak denied charges of stealing public funds Wednesday in the first session of the retrial of the ousted leader and his sons Alaa and Gamal.
  • At least nine people were killed in an attack on an army convoy in the southern Yemeni city of Daleh and 14 soldiers were captured.

Arguments and Analysis

'Syria through a glass darkly' (Richard Falk, Al Jazeera)

"Providing humanitarian relief in a situation free of internal political struggle should be sharply distinguished from the realities amid serious civil strife. The response to the Somali breakdown of governability during the presidency of George H. W. Bush in 1992, is illustrative of a seemingly pure humanitarian response to famine and disease. It was characterised by a posture of political non-interference and by the shipment of food and medical supplies to a people in desperate need.

This contrasted with the supposedly more muscular response to a troubled Somalia during the early stages of the Bill Clinton presidency in 1993 when the humanitarian mission became combined with anti-‘warlord' and political reconstruction goals. Difficulties emerged as national armed resistance was encountered culminating in the Blackhawk Down incident that resulted in 18 deaths of American soldiers, prompting an almost immediate pullout from Somalia under a cloud of intense criticism of the intervention within the United States.

This had the unfortunate spillover effect of leading the supposedly liberal Clinton White House to discourage a prudent humanitarian response to the onset of genocide in Rwanda in 1994, which might have saved hundreds of thousand of lives. In the Rwanda context, the US Government even discouraged a modest response by the United Nations that already had a peacekeeping presence in the country. It remains a terrible stain on America's reputation as a humane and respected world leader."

'The New Generation of Jordanian Jihadi Fighters' (Mona Alami, Sada)

"Estimated to number about 5,000 members, Jordanian Salafi-jihadis are only one part of Jordan's broader Salafi population, unofficially estimated to total 15,000 individuals (according to local journalist and Salafi specialist Tamer Smadi). Jordanian jihadis exist alongside traditional Salafis and Salafi reformers. Until 2011, Jordanian Salafis and the jihadis among them were largely underground, but the protests the country witnessed that year allowed them to surface and gain more visibility through participating in demonstrations. The war in Syria was another turning point; they witnessed an ideological shift with a new focus on the 'near enemy,' and are thus attempting to create what they refer to as a 'fortified house' (Diyar al-Tamkeen) in Syria. In other words, they are seeking to secure a fortress from which they could expand their activities to other regional countries by building on the training they acquired.

Today, the Salafi-jihadi movement is a loose group with several influential leaders such as Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi and Abu Muhammad al-Tahawi, a prominent Salafi-jihadi sheikh who encouraged Jordanians to fight in Syria in 2012. 'I called for any man able to go for Jihad in Syria; it is the responsibility of any good Muslim to stop the bloodshed perpetrated by the Nusayri regime (against Sunnis),' al-Tahawi said in June 2012, referring to the ruling Alawite regime in Syria." 

--Mary Casey & Cortni Kerr

AFP/Getty Images


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