Tag Archives: Hezbollah

Syrian Troops, Hezbollah Retake Latakia Town

by Jason Ditz

Syrian military forces, backed by Hezbollah forces on the ground and Russian airstrikes, have retaken the Latakia Province town of Salma, along with strategically important hillsides around the town’s outskirts.

The Latakia Province, along the Mediterranean coast, is hugely important to the Syrian government, and has been contested by the coalition of rebels dominated by al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, which holds the adjacent Idlib Province.

Holding Latakia is also a top priority for Russia, as they have a naval base further south along the coast, and want to ensure that there is a secure path between the capital city of Damascus and the coast. This is why, despite the lack of ISIS in the area, Russia has heavily supported offensives against other Islamist rebels in and around this area.

In addition to the al-Qaeda coalition, Turkmen rebels are also active in northern Latakia. The Turkmen are heavily backed by neighboring Turkey, and have been targeted heavily by Russia since Turkey destroyed one of their warplanes over Syrian territory.

US Quietly Removes Iran, Hezbollah From ‘Terror Threats’ List

Report Praises Iranian Attempts to ‘Deescalate Tensions With Saudi Arabia’

by Jason Ditz, March 16, 2015

Though there was no formal announcement of any policy change accompanying it, the latest Worldwide Threat Assessment, issued by the office of the Director of National Intelligence, conspicuously did not list either Iran or Hezbollah as terrorist threats to the United States.

The 2014 report declared both were direct threats to the US and its allies, and Iran had been given an entire segment of the terrorism section in the previous years.

This year, the assessment on Iran praised the nation for its attempts to “dampen sectarianism” and to “deescalate tensions with Saudi Arabia,” though they did warn that Iranian attempts to protect regional Shi’ites risked fueling a secfarian backlash against them.

Israeli officials said they believe the move is the result of a US shift toward a war with ISIS, against whom both Iran and Hezbollah are already fighting. Despite not being included in the threat assessment, Iran is still listed as a state-supporter of terrorism by the US State Department.

Image via Creative Commons.

SCANDAL Continues: Brian Williams’ Coverage of Rocket Fire in Israel Raises Questions

Following NBC News anchor Brian Williams’ revelation that he lied about being on a helicopter that was shot down by RPG fire during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, multiple instances have surfaced that raise questions about his credibility as a journalist and his accuracy when reporting ranging from his coverage of Hurricane Katrina to his coverage of the Israel-Hezbollah war.

The latest report that is drawing criticism stems from 2007, when Williams was interviewed by Emily Fitzmaurice at Fairfield University:

When asked about which stories he had covered that have had the biggest impact on his life, Williams responded:

I’ve been very, very lucky the way my life has turned out. I’ve been very lucky to have survived a few things that I’ve been involved in. At a reception a few minutes ago, I was remembering something I tend to forget: the war with Hezbollah in Israel a few years back, where there were Katyusha rockets passing just underneath the helicopter I was riding in. A few years before that, we go back to Iraq, and I look down the tube of an RPG that had been fired at us, and it hit the chopper in front of ours.

While he did mention that he had covered the 2006 war between Israel and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, the 2007 interview was the first time Williams mentioned Katyusha rockets “passing just underneath” the helicopter he was riding in.

In an article for NBC News that was published just days after the incident occurred in 2006, Williams wrote that he was “in a Blackhawk helicopter at 1,500 feet,” and that he did witness a rocket launch, but it was “from a distance of six miles.

Williams’ comments from the 2007 interview about looking “down the tube” of the RPG that had been fired at the helicopter in front of the one he was in also raised questions. His report on the helicopter that was grounded by RPG fire in 2003, changed in 2013, during an interview on Late Night with David Letterman when Williams claimed he was on board the helicopter that was hit.

Williams repeated the same claim during a broadcast of NBC Nightly News on Jan 30. Following backlash from soldiers who were on board the helicopter, Williams issued a public apology on Wednesday, and claimed that he had “misremembered” the exact details of which helicopter he was on.

Questions have also been raised over Williams’ coverage of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. While the reports originally won him a Peabody Award, speculation has been raised by citizens of New Orleans.

The New Orleans Advocate reported that the claim Williams made of watching a dead body “float by face down” from his hotel room window in the French Quarter is not possible, due to the fact that the French Quarter is the “original high ground of New Orleans,” and “was not impacted by the floodwaters that overwhelmed the vast majority of the city.”

The Washington Post noted that another story Williams “likes to tell,” which he emphasized during an interview with Tom Brokaw, but has “never reported” to his viewers, is the story of the time he was “overrun” by gangs while staying at a Ritz-Carlton during Hurricane Katrina.

On Friday, NBC News announced that it will be conducting an internal investigation regarding Williams’ reporting in Iraq. The network released a statement from Williams’ on Saturday announcing that he has decided to take a leave of absence for “the next several days” and that NBC News anchor Lester Holt will take his place.

On Sunday, NBC announced that Williams has cancelled another appearance on Late Night with David Letterman, which was scheduled for Thursday.

Feb. 10, 2015: UPDATE: NBC Suspends Brian Williams for 6 Months without Pay