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The ongoing riots throughout the Middle East and the burnings this past weekend of Danish government offices in Damascus and Beirut in protest of newspaper cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad bear the fingerprints of “Iranian and Syrian plotting,” Lebanese leader Walid Jumblatt charged during an exclusive interview.
He warned Syria and Iran might use the cartoon riots as a pretense to attack American and European troops in Iraq.
“It seems the Syrian regime and the Iranians are not allowing us to have independence. I think they are behind these attacks [of Danish offices]. In Lebanon, we are squeezed by this kind of alliance between the Syrian regime and the Iranian regime,” said Jumblatt, speaking from Beirut to WND Jerusalem bureau chief Aaron Klein and ABC Radio’s John Batchelor on Batchelor’s national program for which Klein serves as a co-host. (Listen to an audio file of the Jumblatt interview.)
Jumblatt, Druze leader and head of Lebanon’s Progressive Socialist Party, yesterday told WND the Danish office burnings were directed by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in part using undercover soldiers acting as rioters.
Later, during the radio interview, Jumblatt clarified he thinks Syria worked together with Iran to orchestrate the riots.
“All over the Islamic world there were civilized protests except in Lebanon and Syria,” said Jumblatt. “I suggest the Syrian government and regime with their allies were behind these attacks.”
This past Sunday, thousands of Muslim demonstrators in Beirut clashed with police, storming the city’s Danish consulate and setting it ablaze over cartoons in Danish and other European newspapers that mocked Muhammad. A nearby Maronite Catholic church was also attacked, prompting fears the protests could turn into a sectarian clash.
In Damascus on Saturday the evacuated Danish and Norwegian embassies were burned during protests that also damaged the Swedish embassy. Rioters reportedly tried to storm the city’s French mission but were held off by police.
Jumblatt highlighted the timing of the burnings, which came just two weeks after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met in Damascus with Assad and Lebanese terrorist Imad Mugniyah, who reportedly was involved in the riots.
Some have been comparing the weekend’s Syrian and Lebanese attacks on European government buildings to the Iranian assault on the American embassy in 1979. Ahmadinejad is accused of being one of the perpetrators of the 1979 attack.
Jumblatt told WND Iran and Syria have a “military alliance and overall cooperation. They are both under mounting international pressure and have plenty of reason to foment violence as a tool against the West. They are working together.”
He contended Assad used the protests to stir regional passions alongside the continuing probe into the assassination last February of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, for which Damascus has been widely blamed. The United States and some European countries are calling for United Nations sanctions against Syria.
Jumblatt noted Iran is looking to escape sanctions for its alleged nuclear ambitions.
The Lebanese leader accused Syria of using plainclothes soldiers to torch Beirut’s Danish consulate.
“Those involved, including more than 300 arrested, were found to be people working for Syria, including Syrian soldiers disguised as civilians,” said Jumblatt. “They were sent from remote areas in the south, a kind of orchestration. Even though clerics of al-Jamal Islaimya (an extremist Lebanese splinter faction) denounced violent protest, they couldn’t control the Syrian saboteurs.”
Asked if he thought pro-Syrian Lebanese President Amil Lahoud was involved in plotting the anti-Western riots, Jumblatt replied: “Lahoud is just a Syrian tool. We don’t have a Lebanese president. … [Lahoud] is directed and ordered by the Syrian regime. That is our biggest problem.”
Jumblatt warned Syria might use the cartoon riots as pretense to attack U.S. and European interests in Iraq:
“Syria allows insurgents to cross into Iraq and out. They are sending agents there. These same agents are sabotaging the peace in Lebanon. I do think Syria could use the violence to attack U.S. troops and innocent Iraqis.”
The Muslim Middle East protests continued today from New Zealand to Afghanistan, where this morning protesters attacked a Norwegian military base. A 14-year-old boy was reportedly killed in clashes with police in Somalia.
In Iran, protesters reportedly hurled rocks and firebombs at the Danish embassy. An Iranian newspaper launched a competition asking readers to submit cartoons about the Holocaust.
The cartoon controversy erupted a week ago following a request by Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten in September for cartoonists to create satirical drawings of Muhammad. Muslims are prohibited from creating images of Muhammad. Some Muslims consider caricatures to be particularly blasphemous.
The Muhammad cartoons have been reprinted in Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Jordan, Spain, Switzerland, Hungary, New Zealand, Norway and Poland.
Said Jumblatt: “Printing such cartoons I believe is a blasphemy against Islam under the guise of freedom of the press. But let’s keep the protests peaceful. No one wants to insult any religion.”
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