The US has been speeding up delivery of small ammunition to shore up Lebanon’s army, but recent cross-border attacks and beheading of Lebanese soldiers by Islamic State fighters — and the defection of four others to the extremists — has sent shockwaves across this Mediterranean country, eliciting fear of a potential slide into the kind of militant, sectarian violence afflicting both Syria and Iraq, and increasingly prompting minorities to take up arms
The crisis was slow in coming.
For long, Lebanon managed to miraculously avoid the all-out chaos gripping neighboring countries — despite sporadic street clashes and car bombings, and despite being awash with weapons and taking in an endless stream of refugees from Syria who now constitute a staggering one third of its population of 4.5 million people.
Unlike in Syria or Iraq, the al-Qaeda-breakaway Islamic State group does not hold territory in Lebanon. But along with Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate, the Nusra Front, it has established footholds in remote mountains along Lebanon’s remote eastern border, from where it launches almost daily incursions further afield.
The order to stop the processing of all Israeli requests came from a senior echelon – probably the White House, among other reasons, because Israel had ignored the initiatives of Secretary of State John Kerry and preferred to end the operation through a direct channel with the Egyptians. The State Department had been annoyed with Israel for several months, since it was revealed that Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon had referred to Kerry as ‘Messianic’ in closed sessions.
Israel can hardly be said to hold a balance of power with super-powerful Russia. But there are certain understandings in the eastern Mediterranean, where Israel remains a regional power, economically and militarily. And those understandings, carefully calibrated yet shifting during the course of the Syrian civil war, may have been rattled – despite the lack of official comment – by last week’s discovery of a Russian intelligence base in Tel el-Hara, Syria.
The Free Syrian Army revealed in an October 5 video that the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate’s OSNAC unit – its signals intelligence unit, much like the American NSA or Unit 8200 in Israel – had been operating from within a Syrian regime base near the border with Israel.
“Russians are Russians,” Zvi Magen, a former head of the semi-clandestine Nativ Liaison Bureau within the Prime Minister’s Office and a former ambassador to Russia, currently working as a senior researcher at the INSS think tank in Tel Aviv, said of the disclosure. “So this is not entirely surprising.” But both the nature of the intelligence being collected and the fact that the Russian officers left traces, he said, were rather unexpected.
Russia, as befits a former superpower and an intelligence powerhouse, has deep intelligence penetration into Israel, including other signals intelligence collection posts, likely on Russian navy boats in the Mediterranean Sea.
In an exclusive interview with The Brody File, Senator Ted Cruz says pastors being hauled off to jail by the government for preaching against homosexuality is a “real risk” in the future. ““I think that is a real risk,” Cruz tells me. “Some in the media ridicule that threat saying there is no danger of the government coming after pastors. That is the usual response.” But he adds: “The specter of government trying to determine if what pastors preach from the pulpit meets with the policy views or political correctness of the governing authorities, that prospect is real and happening now.”
Senator Ted Cruz: “When you subpoena one pastor, you subpoena every pastor. If government has the power to force the pulpit to knuckle under, if government has the power to insist that pastors hand over their sermons for government approval then we’ve lost the very first freedom that begins our bill of rights. We’ve lost the freedom that this country was built on. That’s what this fight is and I very much hope that this serves as a wake-up call to Christians, to people of faith, I hope it serves as a wake-up call to pastors to speak out and make abundantly clear that we will not give up our religious liberty. We will not go quietly into the night but we will stand and fight for principles that are right and true and will speak the truth and the pastors of this country will not be muzzled.
“The specter of government trying to determine if what pastors preach from the pulpit meets with the policy views or political correctness of the governing authorities, that prospect is real and happening now.”