Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Liban: "Qui étaient les djihadistes du Fatah al-lslam ?"

From Le Nouvel Observateur, the re throttling of a well known story, here
"...Ce qui l'avait intrigué, Khaled s'en souvient encore, c'est l'accent bizarre des braqueurs. «Ils imitaient le parler palestinien, raconte-t-il. Les Palestiniens, nous vivons avec eux depuis 1948. Je connais parfaitement leur dialecte. Pour moi, c'était des gens du Golfe ou des Saoudiens.»
Qui sont les membres du Fatah ai-Islam ? Des électrons libres ? Des membres locaux de la mouvance Ben Laden ? Un groupe armé manipulé par Damas ? Ou par Saad Hariri, comme beaucoup l'affirment au Liban ? Les protagonistes d'une histoire à tiroirs «à la libanaise» ? «La vérité, dit un politicien chrétien bien informé, c'est un peu tout celaen même temps. N'oubliez pas, ici, c'est le Moyen-Orient.»
Abou Jandal était-il gênant ? A-t-il été éliminé, comme l'affirment les islamistes, sur ordre du Premier ministre Fouad Siniora, ancien homme de confiance de Rafic Hariri, dont dépend directement la gendarmerie ? Ce qui est sûr, c'est qu'Abou Jandal n'était pas, en mai 2007, un inconnu des services de sécurité libanais. Pour avoir participé en 2000 aux combats entre les islamistes et l'armée libanaise dans les montagnes escarpées de Sir al-Dinniyé, à 50 kilomètres au nord-est de Tripoli, il avait été condamné, avec 21 autres islamistes, à dix ans de détention et emprisonné. Curieusement, il a été amnistié après la mort de Rafic Hariri par la nouvelle majorité parlementaire. A la demande de Saad Hariri."

"Private Note" from Hagel to Bush Calls For "Direct, Unconditional, Comprehensive Talks with Iran"

Steve Clemons has a copy of a "private" letter from Sen. Chuck Hagel to Bush (and cc. to Rice, Gates & Hadley), and apparently CENTCOM's Adm. Fallon got a copy, most probably through Sec. Gates and has sice "communicated" with Hagel
October 17, 2007
The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
I write to urge you to consider pursuing direct, unconditional and comprehensive talks with the Government of Iran.
In the last two years, the United States has worked closely with the permanent members of the UN Security Council, Germany, Japan, and other key states as well as the UN Secretary General and the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency to pursue a diplomatic strategy regarding Iran's nuclear program. I have supported your efforts. Maintaining a cohesive and united international front remains one of our most effective levers on Iran.
In the last year, you have also authorized our Ambassador in Iraq, Ryan Crocker, to hold bilateral talks with Iranian officials regarding the situation in Iraq. I have also supported this effort. Although Iran has continued dangerous actions in Iraq, this channel for dialogue is important.
I am increasingly concerned, however, that this diplomatic strategy is stalling. There are growing differences with our international partners. Concerns remain that the United States' actual objectives is regime change in Iran, not a change in Iran's behavior. Prospects for further action in the UN Security Council have grown dim, and we appear increasingly reliant on a single-track effort to expand financial pressure on Iran outside of the UN Security Council. Iran's actions, both on its nuclear program and in Iraq, are unchanged. Iran's leaders appear increasingly confident in their positions vis-a-vis the United States.
Unless there is a strategic shift, I believe we will find ourselves in a dangerous and increasingly isolated position in the coming months. I do not see how the collective actions that we are now taking will produce the results that we seek. If this continues, our ability to sustain a united international front will weaken as countries grow uncertain over our motives and unwilling to risk open confrontation with Iran, and we are left with fewer and fewer policy options.
Now is the time for the United States to active consider when and how to offer direct, unconditional, and comprehensive talks with Iran. The offer should be made even as we continue to work with our allies on financial pressure, in the UN Security Council on a third sanctions resolution, and in the region to support those Middle East countries who share our concerns with Iran. The November report by IAEA Director General ElBaradei to the IAEA Board of Governors could provide an opportunity to advance the offer of bilateral talks.
An approach such as this would strengthen our ability across the board to deal with Iran. Our friends and allies would be more confident to stand with us if we seek to increase pressure, including tougher sanctions on Iran. It could create a historic new dynamic in US-Iran relations, in part forcing the Iranians to react to the possibility of better relations with the West. We should be prepared that any dialogue process with Iran will take time, and we should continue all efforts, as you have, to engage Iran from a position of strength.
We should not wait to consider the option of bilateral talks until all other diplomatic options are exhausted. At that point, it could well be too late.
I urge you to consider pursing direct, unconditional and comprehensive talks with the Government of Iran.
Thank you for considering my views.
Best wishes.
Sincerely,
Chuck Hagel.
United States Senator

STATE Official : "Hariri will be Prime Misister, but not necessarily a Good Prime Minister"

Excerpts from the Middle East Policy Survey:
"... US officials bristle at the lack of cooperation fromSaudi Arabia. Although the Saudis have recently agreed to openan embassy in Baghdad, not only do they refuse to help the Maliki government, they are not even willing to assist in US efforts to woo tribal leaders in Anbar province, say well-placed USofficials. "The Saudis have their heads in the sand," dead panned one State Department official this week. [According to one well informed source, Saudi King Abdullah refuses to evendiscuss Iraq with US officials]..."
"... Few expect the United Nations Security Council to even takeup a third resolution this year. With International Atomic Energy Chief (IAEA) Mohammed el-Baradei due to report to the council in mid November, few see the politically adept el-Baradei providing any impetus for stronger actions. Top US officials are convinced that el-Baradei has concluded that it is too late to stop Iran's nuclear enrichment program. And empowered by his correct assessment of Iraq's pre-war weapons program (as well as the Nobel Prize his organization received for getting it right), el-Baradei is a formidable opponent for the Administration..."
"... Even the designation of Iran's "al Quds" military organization as "terrorist" has brought unforeseen problems. With al-Quds operating its own fleet of power boats and the like,British and US commanders with responsibility for patrollingPersian Gulf waters fear that new "rules of engagement" could lead to military confrontation. In fact, a number of analysts believe that the only way the US and Iran could wind up in a major military engagement is as a result of al-Quds actions..."
"... Annapolis "would be just a `photo op' without the Saudis." Some Administrationanalysts expect, in the end, the Saudis will come, although theyfear their representative will be a lower level official thanForeign Minister, Prince Saud. Still, as one cynicalAdministration insider said last week, "The time couldn't bebetter for the Arabs to try to help us work things out. Afterall what better time than between two wars?"
"... US policy towards Lebanonconstitutes a glaring exception to the well thought outapproaches to the major three Middle East issues. This casualattitude was most recently on display with the visit toWashington earlier this month by Saad Hariri,... On his visit here, Hariri, seen by Washington (and apparently himself) as a future Prime Minister["He will be Prime Minister," says one State Department official. "Not necessarily a good Prime Minister."] was lavishly praised by the President and other top Administration officials. But in subsequent weeks, it has become apparent that while the Administration is prepared to offer generous vocal support, it is not willing to back up its rhetoric with action. As one veteran diplomat put it last week, in a cynical twist on former Secretary of State Powell's famous line about American responsibility for Iraq after the invasion, "If you break Lebanon, it's broken."

"The View from a Divided Palestine"

Highlights from that event, here
"Basically" says Matt Yglesis, "from Mustafa Barghouti's perspective, the Israeli side side has basically lost interest in achieving a final-status agreement. They basically see themselves as having nothing to lose from the status quo continuing more-or-less indefinitely, though obviously if some kind of Palestinian quisling leadership emerges that's willing to accept less than what was offered at Camp David were to emerge, they would listen to those guys. But basically the Israeli's feel no urgency about this."

Larry Johnson on the "reasons" for Intelligence failures

From TPM, here
"...A dissent is shorthand for a different point of view. For example, I could say “Iraq is trying to buy uranium yellowcake from Niger”. While INR would write, “No, Iraq is not trying to buy uranium yellowcake from Niger and cannot process the yellowcake currently in its possession”. This ensures the policymaker will understand there may be a dispute about particular matters. If there is not dispute then they have a reasonable expectation that they are reading a consensus view of the intelligence community

That is not the case today and has not been the case for at least 8 years. I still have not been able to determine who instituted this change–was it Woolsey, Deustch, or Tenet? Don’t know, but it was a damn stupid change. Analysts at CIA, DIA, and INR are now free to write articles that are disseminated throughout the intelligence community without having to coordinate with each other and get clearance on their pieces. And you wonder why we have intelligence failures? This is a contributing factor..."

'Immunity" routinely offered by STATE to Contractors slaughtering Iraqis

Via TPM from AP, here

"Plan B (for 'bombs') after Iran fantasy fails"

Gareth Porter writes in the AsiaTimes, here
"...In a September 2007 interview with the London Telegraph, after he had left Cheney's office, Wurmser confirmed his belief that regime change in Syria - by force, if necessary - would directly affect the stability of the Tehran regime. If Iran were seen to be unable to do anything to prevent the overthrow of the regime in Syria, he suggested, it would seriously undermine the Islamic regime's prestige at home...
Former Central Intelligence Agency analyst Reuel Marc Gerecht of the American Enterprise Institute - writing under the pseudonym Edward Shirley - had been more aggressive than anyone else in arguing that Iraq's Shi'ites, liberated by US military power, would help subvert the Iranian regime. But in April 2006, he called, in a Weekly Standard article, for continued bombing of Iran's nuclear sites until the Iranians stopped rebuilding them...."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

'Du chaos irakien à l’escalade contre l’Iran'

Alain Gresh in Le MondeDiplomatique, here
"...La fragmentation irakienne va-t-elle s’étendre à l’Iran ? Cette politique n’est pas sans susciter de surprenantes contorsions. Ainsi, alors que le Parti des travailleurs du Kurdistan (PKK) turc est inscrit sur la liste des organisations terroristes, une délégation du Parti pour une vie libre au Kurdistan (Pejak) – organisation sœur du PKK en Iran –, conduite par son leader Rahman Haj-Ahmadi, était reçue à Washington en août 2007"
"... A l’automne 2006, au terme de quatre années passées comme ambassadeur d’Israël à Washington, M. Dani Ayalon était interrogé pour savoir si un président aussi impopulaire pouvait prendre une telle décision : « Oui, je le crois. Vous devez connaître l’homme. J’étais privilégié et je le considère comme un ami personnel. Les gens qui le connaissent savent qu’il est très déterminé. Il est sûr de la suprématie morale des démocraties sur les dictatures. (...) Pour lui, les ayatollahs avec des bombes nucléaires, c’est une combinaison intolérable qui menace l’ordre du monde, c’est pour cela qu’il ne laissera pas cela arriver ."

Zogby Poll: 52% of Americans Support U.S. Military Strike Against Iran

A Poll by ZogbyInternational shows that despite Bush's 25% approval rate, ... Americans remain "vulnerable" to Big Media ... , here

An attempt to scuttle US-North Korea talks or "a New Intelligence Failure?"

From NEWSWEEK, here
"...Republicans and Democrats came away with opposing conclusions. According to a former administration official, Republican legislators began agitating for a halt, or at least an interruption, in ongoing U.S. disarmament talks with North Korea. But House Foreign Affairs chairman Tom Lantos told NEWSWEEK that even after the briefing, he remains "fully in favor of pursuing ongoing diplomatic discussions with North Korea." Lantos said he also favors closer relations with both Pyongyang and Damascus..."

Monday, October 29, 2007

"This is the Shi'ite moment"

In the AsiaTimes, by "Spengler", here
"...The use of force against Iran without doubt will make the Iraqi mess completely unmanageable. It will have spillover effects in Turkey, where the electoral majority that supported the Islamists in this year's elections will rise in outrage against the United States and Israel. It may reignite the war between Israel and Hezbollah..."

The Iran 'blame game'

Michael Hirsh in NEWSWEEK, here
"...But the new U.S. sanctions represent a lurch toward unilateralism that some European officials now fear could be "a repeat of 2002"—in other words, the run-up to the invasion of Iraq..
"... both sides—the United States and Iran—have staked out extreme positions, and it is difficult to see how there can be a negotiated solution...
The Bush administration seems singularly uninterested in truly bargaining—that is to say, compromising, which is what real negotiation is about—with a regime it wants to see replaced. That is why it refuses to discuss all outstanding issues at once—nukes, Iraq, Tehran's support of Hizbullah and Hamas, Israel and the Palestinians—which is what Iran would prefer. Instead the administration pretends that it can hold ambassadorial-level talks with Iran over Iraq in one place (Baghdad), and back European-led talks in another place (over the nuclear issue), while the president and his top aides demonize Tehran in every speech they give..."

Sunday, October 28, 2007

With friends like America, Lebanon doesn't need any more enemies

DailyStar editorial, here
"President George W.Bush and other US leaders like to trumpet their determination to spread democracy, their sympathy with Lebanon, and their support of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's government. But these and other pronouncements have translated into little or no concrete action. Whenever Lebanon's interests clash with those of Israel, the latter receives America's backing on multiple levels - even when its actions trample both the rights of other nations and the principle of collective security."

Lang: "I have regretfully come to the conclusion that Cheney just does not like our present form of government"

"There (in the ME), diplomacy is, in fact, usually not the Hegelian bargaining that we imagine. No, it is actually the process of arranging the terms of a surrender. That is surely the "diplomacy" that we are offering the Iranians.
When Cheney or his spiritual clone talk of diplomacy you can be fairly sure that something other than a compromise solution is envisioned.

Chalabi back in action in Iraq

From McClatchy's, here
"That the U.S. and Iraqi officials are again turning to Chalabi, this time to restore life to Baghdad neighborhoods, speaks to his resiliency in this nascent government. It's also, some say, his latest effort to promote himself as a true national advocate for everyday Iraqis."

Dowd on Cheney & Iran

In the NYTimes, here
"...CHENEY: If Admiral Mullen wants to be Admiral Sullen, that’s his business. I’m not going to be a defeatist or question the courage of our fighting men...."
Frighthouse

Ray Close on the Israeli Sept. 6 Air Raid on Syria

From Josh Landis, Ray Close's "comments", here
"...As an aside: I hope the rumors are false that the Jordanians, Egyptians and Saudis all approved of the Israeli raid when they were (allegedly) briefed in advance (possibly by Dick Cheney in person, without the knowledge of Condi Rice and Bob Gates) that it was coming. How foolish it would have been for any Arab government to approve such an Israeli action, because they should all know from sad experience that sooner or later the secret would leak out, to their acute distress...
"...One cannot minimize the fact that American collusion with Israel in such an offensive act would be a disastrous blow to our relationships with our few remaining Arab friends. We got away with that many years ago at the time of the Israeli attack on the Iraqi nuclear facility at Osirak (which, we should be reminded, the United States officially condemned as illegal at the time), but today it's a different Middle East, and we have no reserve of goodwill capital to fall back on. How would the Egyptian, Jordanian and Saudi governments, for example, explain and justify such action today by its so-called US ally?..."

Jerusalem is the third rail of Israeli politics: 'Few are willing to touch it, and those who do often get burned'

From McClatchy's, here

'The Moment Has Come to Get Rid of Saddam'

Via Greg Djerejian, Mark Danner writes for the NY Review of Books, here
"Aznar: The only thing that worries me about you is your optimism.
Bush: I am an optimist, because I believe that I'm right. I'm at peace with myself. It's up to us to face a serious threat to peace...

Aznar: In reality, the biggest success would be to win the game without firing a single shot while going into Baghdad.

Bush: For me it would be the perfect solution. I don't want the war. I know what wars are like. I know the destruction and the death that comes with them. I am the one who has to comfort the mothers and the widows of the dead. Of course, for us that would be the best solution. Besides, it would save us $50 billion.

Does "Loving" Lebanon Mean Never Having to Say You're Sorry?

Franklin Lamb, author of the "Welch Club or Who's Fighting In North Lebanon", writes here in Counterpunch, as "Jeffrey Feltman Moves On".
"...Feltman acquired Indyk's support to be Israel's man in Lebanon during the year (2000-2001) they worked together in Israel. Feltman was Ambassador Indyk's Special Assistant.
One aspect is the above noted 'strategic alliance' complete with "forward power projecting military bases" widely believed to be planned for Lebanon
The "strategic alliance" project, is confirmed by more than one high-ranking American official in Washington and is being studied in the State Department, the Senate Armed Services Committee and Intelligence Committee Chaired by Bush Administration critic Patrick Leahy.
Feltman failed and the US lost Lebanon, for at least the foreseeable future, for a number of reasons including Bush administration support for Israel's continuing occupation of Palestine and intensification of human rights violations there and the US aggression in Iraq...."

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Republicans and Top Dems Missing at Arab American Leadership Summit

Steve Clemons has this rapporteur summary and critique, here

"Police Judiciere" search archives of Chirac's electoral shenanigans

LE MONDE 26.10.07 10h56 • Mis à jour le 26.10.07 11h54

es enquêteurs de la police judiciaire parisienne, saisis d'une demande de la juge d'instruction Xavière Simeoni, ont effectué mercredi 24 octobre une perquisition au centre des archives contemporaines de Fontainebleau, où la commission nationale des comptes de campagne et des financements politiques (CNCCFP) stocke ses documents. Ils s'intéressaient plus précisément, dans le cadre de l'affaire Euralair, compagnie aérienne tombée en faillite, aux archives liées aux campagnes présidentielles menées par Jacques Chirac.
L'ancien président de la République et sa femme sont suspectés, selon plusieurs témoignages recueillis dans le dossier judiciaire, d'avoir bénéficié de vols gratuits, ce qui pourrait constituer une infraction. Les enquêteurs cherchaient donc à vérifier si ces vols figuraient dans les comptes des campagnes de M. Chirac.
L'avocat de Jacques Chirac, Me Jean Veil, a assuré au Monde, vendredi 26 octobre, qu'il existe "dans les comptes de la campagne présidentielle de Jacques Chirac en 1995, les factures émises par Euralair relatives à des vols d'avions".
"Si ces factures figurent dans les comptes de campagne, a indiqué Me Veil, c'est donc qu'elles ont été réglées. Il est dommage que la juge d'instruction saisie du dossier ne nous les ait pas demandées par voie de réquisition, nous les lui aurions fait parvenir".
Une information judiciaire a été ouverte par le parquet de Paris, le 20 septembre 2006. L'ancien PDG d'Euralair, Alexandre Couvelaire, présenté comme un proche de Jacques Chirac, a depuis été mis en examen pour plusieurs chefs, dont "abus de biens sociaux, banqueroute, publication de comptes sociaux inexacts, trafic d'influence actif et passif et recel".
La juge Simeoni a été saisie après trois années d'une enquête préliminaire lancée à la suite de la plainte d'un ancien salarié de la compagnie. Cette plainte vise notamment M. Couvelaire.
OMELETTE AUX CÈPES
Les policiers de la brigade financière se sont déjà rendus en Corrèze, sur les terres de Mme Chirac, en novembre 2005 (Le Monde du 25 novembre 2005). Ils avaient tenté de vérifier si MmeChirac avait bien bénéficié de voyages gratuits et si ces déplacements avaient un lien avec ses fonctions de conseillère générale.
Malgré les graves difficultés financières de sa compagnie, M. Couvelaire aurait permis à MmeChirac de bénéficier de six vols gratuits, de juin 1998 à avril 1999, pour une valeur totale de 41121 euros.
Selon un listing remis aux policiers en 2004, l'épouse du chef de l'Etat se serait, par exemple, rendue à Brive, le 8 juillet 1998, à bord d'un jet privé de la compagnie, pour assister à la confection de la plus grande omelette aux cèpes du monde.
Lors de sa garde à vue, M. Couvelaire avait assuré que ces vols représentaient une pratique commerciale courante, et s'était refusé à livrer les noms des bénéficiaires.

Eveything Israel wants you to know about its secret airstrike

Philip Giraldi writes in the American Conservative, via SyriaComment, here
"..........Official silence—narrated by a compliant press taking uncorroborated dictation—is cementing a public impression........................"

'Attack Iran and you attack Russia'

Pepe Escobar writes in the AsiaTimes, here

'Walking Into Iran's Trap'

Ignatius in the WaPo, here
"That's the lesson for Muslim warriors of the Iraq and Lebanon wars: Draw your adversaries deep into terrain that you control; taunt them into starting a war they can't finish. I'm told that the Syrian military, for example, is now changing its doctrine to fight an asymmetric guerrilla war against Israel that it can win, Hezbollah-style, rather than a conventional war it would certainly lose."

Why Iran's Democrats Shun Aid

Akbar Ganji in the WaPo, here
"... Many of the social prerequisites of democracy exist in Iran today, but dollars cannot produce the bravery or love of freedom that individuals need to make the transition possible."

Friday, October 26, 2007

Israel CANNOT have Peace with the Palestinians because '1967 borders' are indefensible

In the New Republic, here
"...The Clinton-Barak parameters have raised the bar so high as to make it nearly impossible for future negotiators to come to a practical understanding that works for both sides. So it's no surprise what currently confronts us: A maximalist Palestinian position and an Israeli retreat to the pre-1967 borders, which are actually the 1949 armistice lines..."

NID's McConnell "Reverses the recent practice of Declassifying and releasing summaries of National Intelligence Estimates

From AP via War&Piece, here

The U S and the Ongoing Lebanese Crisis

Excerpts from an essay presented by David Khairallah, given at the "Arab-US Policymakers Conference" in Washington, DC, October 25.
"... A third cause of instability is the absence of a national military power that can effectively maintain law and order inside the country and be a credible deterrence against foreign aggression. Such a military power would have prevented the outbreak of the civil war. It would have prevented the formation and operation of paramilitary organizations with transnational objectives and affiliations, such as the PLO and Fateh Al-Islam."
"...An effective national military power would also have been the primary vehicle for the defense of the country and its people. In the case of foreign occupation, any need for the formation of groups to carry out guerilla activities or asymmetrical warfare operations would have been met under its auspices and involved the participation of all social groups within the nation."
"If one thinks of US interests in economic, political or military terms, then Lebanon presents no significant strategic interest. At best Lebanon would serve as a listening post where ideas, aspirations and frustrations expressed by major groups in the Arab world are echoed. It is also the place where the reasons for anger, frustration and mistrust of the US policy in the Middle East are articulated.
"This does not explain, however, the high degree of interest US officials have expressed and actions they have taken as regards internal Lebanese political developments, especially by the current Bush administration.
"Many in Lebanon consider the US responsible for the Syrian military intervention in Lebanon that lasted fifteen years. Those who complained of to US officials of the prolonged Syrian hegemony still recall those officials’ response that "the Syrians are elements of stability in Lebanon".
"Last summer, during the Israeli war on Lebanon, the Lebanese, along with the rest of the world, watched the US, practically alone among all members of the UN Security Council, block a Council’s decision to promptly stop the death and destruction Lebanon endured over thirty-three days. .Such stands remain in the collective memory of people and cannot but deepen the sense of alienation between the US and Lebanon and also other parts of the Arab world.
The dominant belief in Lebanon is that motivation for the US involvement and the stand it has taken from respective parties and issues reflect more an Israeli interest than either an American or Lebanese interest."
"...Disarming Hizballah and putting an end to it as a resistance movement is beyond doubt the main objective of all US efforts in Lebanon..."
"...Many of them, however, realize that the exclusive right of the state to hold arms and resort to the use of force is based on the assumption that the state and those manning its institutions are willing and able to defend the country and its people. The main weakness of the present Lebanese government is that it is perceived as not meeting either condition."

Prospect of "Pandemonium" in Oil Markets make a Strike on Iran "unlikely"

From the WaPo, here and here, Robin Wright & Michael Abramowitz on "Sanctions ... to Prevent War..."

Robert Gates: "Without good intelligence, sending large numbers of troops across the border or dropping bombs doesn't seem to make much sense to me"

Read it in TurkishPress, here
"Without good intelligence, sending large numbers of troops across the border or dropping bombs doesn't seem to make much sense to me," he told reporters after talks with NATO defence ministers in the Netherlands. This applied "for anybody" considering such action, he added."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Farid Ghadri asks for 'World Jews' to assist him

Here, Ghadri's take on the Modern History of the Middle East is encapsulated in the following:
"Before the advent of absolutist parties and dictatorships, our Arab countries were a perfect model for brotherhood, clemency and coexistence of the three monotheistic religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism."
Apparently, this cajonesless little man knows not what 'came first': The egg or the chicken! With Meyrav Wurmser's coaching & blessing, he looks upon the Israeli occupation & daily massacre of the Palestinian People as yet another chapter of 'coexistence'.

"Scenarios – Lebanon’s Presidential Elections"

Bilal Saab writes at Brookings', here

The Israeli “Nuclear Reactor Strike" and Syrian WMDs

Read Tony Cordesman's report at CSIS, here

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Founder of the "State Department's Office of Iranian Affairs" quits post

Laura Rosen writes in MoJo, here
"... Denehy's departure comes just a few weeks after his colleague, J. Scott Carpenter, left Foggy Bottom for a fellowship at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. At a forum there featuring Carpenter and other pro democracy experts earlier this month, the International Republican Institute's president Lorne Cramer said he had reluctantly come to the conclusion that the whole Middle East pro democracy program should be moved outside the State Department (where it is unpopular), perhaps to a new institution created in the style of the National Endowment for Democracy.
Denehy and Carpenter both previously worked for the International Republican Institute.
Denehy's and Carpenter's former boss at State, Liz Cheney, left the Bush administration in the spring of 2006 on maternity leave, but never really came back, sources say. Her departure left those she had brought into the State Department somewhat orphaned in a bureaucracy some consider hostile to their efforts to promote regime change in Iran.
Liz Cheney has since become a foreign policy advisor to the Fred Thompson campaign. "

Blackwater fallout: Top Security Official at State Resigns

From TPM, here
The AP, reporting on an internal e-mail announcing the resignation, adds:
"He read his letter of resignation at the weekly Diplomatic Security staff meeting," said the e-mail, which was read to The Associated Press by one its recipients. "There was no detailed reason provided and no effective date identified at this time."

Michel (Micho) Moawwad's "army" (on Facebook)





The tea-leaves of an Iranian resignation

From the Economist here.
"... In the past two years, the European diplomats who have been negotiating with Mr Larijani over Iran’s nuclear plans feel he is flexible up to a point—and certainly worth trying to convince that the merits of a “grand bargain” ...
... the background of his replacement, Saeed Jalili, has alarmed the Europeans (Britain, France and Germany) who have been mandated by the West to negotiate with Iran. A former head of the department for America and Europe in the foreign ministry, he is a close friend and ideological ally of Mr Ahmadinejad...
The big question is the state of relations between the president and the Supreme Leader. Does their apparent disagreement, at least over the style of nuclear diplomacy, mean that Mr Khamenei is moving towards a more flexible negotiating position—and may perhaps be more amenable to reform in other spheres too? “Khamenei is the new Khatami”, muses Karim Sadjadpour, an analyst of Iran at the Carnegie Endowment ..."

Imad Moustapha: "Give Syria a Place at the Table"

Read the full interview here, via SyriaComment.
"...The Israelis know very well, and the United States knows absolutely well, that there is no Syrian nuclear program whatsoever. It's an absolutely blatant lie. And it's not like they think we have but they're not sure. They know. Let me be clear about it: Syria has never, ever contemplated acquiring nuclear technology. We are not contemplating it today. We are not contemplating doing this in the future – neither for military nor for civilian purposes. .."

Top Rudy Foreign Policy Says Giuliani Is Preparing For "World War IV"

From Podhoretz' the dilettante-warmonger & luminary to you, via TPM, here
“I was asked to come in and give him a briefing on the war, World War IV,” said Mr. Podhoretz, a founding father of neoconservatism and leading foreign policy adviser to Mr. Giuliani. “As far as I can tell there is very little difference in how he sees the war and how I see it.”

CQ: Democrats worry President Bush’s funding request to enable B-2 “stealth” bombers to carry a new 30,000-pound “bunker buster” is sign of Iran preps

Via WarandPiece, here
"...Previous statements by the Defense Department and the program’s contractors, along with interviews with military experts, suggest the weapon is meant for the kind of hardened targets found chiefly in Iran, which Bush suspects of developing nuclear weapons capability, and North Korea, which already has tested a nuclear device..."

Lebanon, a country of MANY directions!


Georges Corm: "L’évolution du statut du Liban dans l’ordre régional et international (1840-2005)

"Les violences qui y sont commises acquièrent une double connotation qui deviendra une constante de ses crises. Elles sont locales, opposant alors druzes et maronites an quête de puissance dans l’évolution plus large des changements que connaît la Méditerranée de l’Est ; elles sont régionales et internationales, car il s’agit de faire évacuer les forces égyptiennes du Liban et de rétablir l’autorité au moins apparente du Sultan ottoman sur ce territoire et sur l’Egypte." More of the same, Read more, here

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

With thoughts like these, Giuliani's place should be the White out-House!

Read on and regurgitate, these are the thoughts of a Clown who dreams of a Presidency, here!
"... But these people are attacking us not for the things that are wrong about us that we have to correct. They’re attacking us for the things that are right about us.

I mean, they’re attacking us for the good things about us. I mean, why are they doing it? They’re doing it because — my wife and the wives of the other candidates addressed a women’s breakfast this morning. You think they have women’s breakfasts with political candidates speaking in Islamic terrorist countries or countries that support Islamic terrorism?

Imagine if they showed up for a breakfast. Maybe they’d get stoned. They don’t want women to have rights. Let’s just deal with it. I mean, that’s just the reality. They don’t want to allow them to have rights … "

Efforts to resolve Lebanon's crisis may be too little, too late

In the Daily Star, this Ed. here
"Hoping for a positive outcome is a useful psychological tactic, but it should also be accompanied by sober preparations for one or more disasters..."

Putin: Russia does not want its Muslim neighbor to have nukes, but it also sees Iran as an important market for arms sales and nuclear electricity

On Putin's "trip" to Tehran, Oddly enough, from Israel's Haaretz, read here
"...Russia under Putin does not change its views so quickly. Certainly not because of Israel. Russia has a clear and consistent foreign policy. It was consolidated over the past four years in light of the sharp rise in energy prices, which turned Russia into a rich country, and thanks to Putin's leadership, which seeks to challenge the United States and restore Russia's former glory..."
"...Russia does not want its Shi'ite Muslim neighbor to have nuclear weapons, but it also sees Iran as an important market for the sale of arms and nuclear power plants for producing electricity. As far as Russia is concerned, Iran has been a target of diplomatic influence throughout history..."

"Islamo-fascism Awareness Week" Response Kit

Matt Yglesias says so rightly: "It's a little sad that, as a country, we've reached a point where the Center for American Progress feels the need to publish an "Islamofascism Awareness Week" Response Kit, but it led to a funny picture and it's nowhere near as sad as the fact that we live in a country where there's a serious "Islamofascism Awareness Week" campaign under way."

islamofascism.jpg

Joint Chiefs Chairman Mullen: attacking a third Islamic nation in the region "has extraordinary challenges and risks associated with it."

From the NYTimes, here
"He rejected the counsel of those who might urge immediate attacks inside Iran to destroy nuclear installations or to stop the flow of explosives that end up as powerful roadside bombs in Iraq or Afghanistan, killing American troops.
With America at war in two Muslim countries, he said, attacking a third Islamic nation in the region "has extraordinary challenges and risks associated with it." The military option, he said, should be a last resort."

Monday, October 22, 2007

"Pakistan on the Brink"

PAKISTAN ON THE BRINK (excerpts)
"...There is a deep attachment to Islam, for many to the religion of the Islamists but, for the large majority, to Islam in its utopian guise as the source of all answers and solutions. There tends to be a sense of one Pakistani nationality among the people of the Punjab and most people in urban centres in other parts of the country.
Another widely held sentiment is strong anti-US feelings; these are not directed against Americans but against the US government, and are based on what is perceived as its destruction of Afghanistan and Iraq, its condoning the destruction of the Palestinians and Lebanon, ...
These various commonalities do not significantly foster national unity but they do create common attitudes and responses to certain events and situations. All these forces, ...operate beneath the surface but, though pervasive and powerful, do not have the capability to move events on their own. This can only be done by the two major repositories of power in Pakistan : the army and the people.
The army has ready-to-use, mobilized power.
The people possess potential power that needs to be mobilized to produce its effect. This cannot be done through elections because they are conducted and controlled by the corrupt and pliable administrative machinery (that is why Benazir Bhutto, even though she believed she had the votes, was forced to make a deal with Gen Musharraf in order to ensure that they would not be nullified in a rigged election). She, as well as some other politicians, have the ability to bring large numbers of people out on the streets, but these demonstrations wield no effective power; a "whiff of grapeshot" can scatter them (actually, a little tear gas will do the trick).
This people power can, however, be effectively mobilized and projected by a dedicated and well-organized group. It is instructive to examine one case where this was successfully done. ZA Bhutto, then prime minister, had the 1977 elections rigged (he didn’t need to as he could have won a comfortable majority in a fair vote, but his vanity demanded an "overwhelming" victory). ..
If the army is used against its compatriots it imposes severe strains on its discipline and cohesion. If these are felt to be at risk the generals will act decisively to end such action, by whatever means are necessary; this is a red line they will not cross.
The critical situation in which Pakistan finds itself today is because, under intense US pressure, Gen Musharraf has sent in the army to seize control of the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan,...There is real danger of a catastrophe. If Musharraf keeps forcing the army to continue fighting this war it may fracture; all it will take is one crack, since the strain on the whole edifice is so great that this would be enough to break it apart. Even if the army is pulled back into token operations, the tribesmen are so incensed that they may not cease fighting,...
Meanwhile, the impact of this war, and the ongoing low-level insurgency in Baluchistan, is destabilizing the country. Religious fundamentalism is spreading and terrorist attacks and bombings occur frequently. The US hope that Benazir Bhutto can somehow stabilize the country, defeat internal extremists and mobilize the people against the "Taliban" is based on almost complete ignorance of the country and its dynamics. Even if she becomes prime minister, the war in the tribal areas will be controlled and fought by the generals, not by her. ..
If the army cracks, the country could break down into anarchy, or another military dictator, with a very different orientation, could take over. ...
Critics of the Bush administration point to the invasion of Iraq as its greatest blunder. History may well record that an even bigger blunder was its policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Knowing that al-Qaeda was the real enemy, that they were based in Taliban Afghanistan, and that the Taliban themselves had come to power out of their bases in Pakistan, it focussed its attention instead on invading Iraq...
Compounding this initial blunder, the US administration is now trying to salvage US-NATO operations in Afghanistan by forcing the Pakistan government to undertake a war upon its own tribal people...
It has no comprehension that in seeking this tactical gain it is risking a strategic catastrophe. In its blithe ignorance and wishful policy-making it pursues the chimeras of Benazir Bhutto’s promises that, if the US helps her become prime minister, she will take care of everything and sort out all the problems. Ahmed Chalabi once sold them an identical bill of goods, and led them into the Iraq quagmire. Now they follow Benazir Bhutto’s siren song into an even bigger disaster in the making. Some people never learn.
(continue reading here)

U.S. Planners See Shiite Militias as Rising Threat

From the WaPo, here
"Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker have concluded that Shiite extremists pose a rising threat to the U.S. effort in Iraq, as the relative influence of Sunni insurgent groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq has diminished drastically because of ongoing U.S. operations..."

Ahmadinejad challenges Khamenei directly and openly with Ali Larijani's firing

From the WashingtonNote, here
"Ali Larijani has essentially been fired by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is not letting Larijani leave the negotiating scene yet.
Despite Larijani's blurry status, Iran has announced that "joint will" of Ahmadinejad and Khamenei that Iran's top nuclear negotiator attend talks on Tuesday in Rome with Javier Solana..."

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Fisk: Looking for pro-Hariri militias? "Check the register of the Mayflower Hotel in West Beirut"

Fisk in the Independent writes here
"...There are growing fears, moreover, that many of these guns are from the vast stock of 190,000 rifles and pistols which the US military "lost" when they handed them out to Iraqi police officers without registering their numbers or destination..."
"...Fouad Siniora's Lebanese government – supplied by the US with recent shipments of new weapons for the official Lebanese army – has now admitted that militias are created among Muslim pro-government groups..."
"Widespread reports that Saad Hariri – son of the assassinated ex-Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri – has himself created an embryo militia ...But a number of armed Hariri supporters initially opened fire into the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian camp after its takeover by pro-Al-Qaida gunmen last April. Hariri's men also have forces in Beirut ... might like to check the register of the Mayflower Hotel in the western sector of Beirut." (FLC knows of other hotels in Beirut Hamra district and adjoining streets, where "folks" from Ersal & North Lebanon were kept!)

"The Butcher's Cleaver": Epic novel of Confederate and Union intelligence in the American Civil War will soon be published

For those interested in that aspect of the American Civil War, Pat Lang's book will be fascinating. Take a look at the pre-publication page here.

The Moral Dilemma of Leaving Iraq

In MoJo, hereU.S. Out of Iraq How?

Lebanese Druze leader to seek Barak's help in toppling Syria gov't

Via Haaretz, here

Friday, October 19, 2007

Assad visit signals Deepening Rapprochement between Syria & Turkey

Via SyriaComment an analysis in Eurasia Daily Monitor, here
"It is a sign of the dramatic change in the bilateral relationship that Assad’s visit has so far received very little coverage in the Turkish press. In the late 1990s, it was Syria that was vilified for its alleged complicity in the killings conducted by the PKK. In recent weeks, it has been the United States for opposing Turkey’s plans to launch a military strike against the organization’s camps in northern Iraq. Anti-Americanism has risen still higher since the October 10 approval by the House Foreign Affairs Committee of a resolution characterizing the massacres and deportations of Armenians by the Ottoman authorities during World War I as a genocide"

Thursday, October 18, 2007

'Extraordinary' meeting between Putin & Khamenei

Read the NYTimes, here
"...Mr. Putin’s visit highlighted the fact that Russia seems to be increasingly distancing itself from the United States and the Europeans on a strategy to curb Iran’s nuclear program. While those nations have sought to impose new Security Council sanctions on Iran, the governments of Russia and China have resisted, arguing that more time is needed..."

Gallup Poll: Even Republicans don't think this are 'getting better in Iraq'

Overall, polls finds that things are (surprise, surprise) Worse! Check the Gallup Poll, here

Israeli soldiers aiding arms smugglers into Gaza, says Egyptian Military Report to US Congress

From Haaretz, here

Bush 'explains' his decision to invade Iraq: "We had to do something after 19 young people blew up 3,000 Americans"

Via Matt Yglesias, Richard Rose (University of Aberdeen) talks to Bush, read more here

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hariri: "You have to remember that the Iraqi government wants the United States government to stay"

... and other pearls of wisdom, here in NEWSWEEK

Clinton in Foreign Affairs: "I will order spc-units to engage in targeted operations against al Qaeda in Iraq and other terrorist orgs. in region"

Remember, Clinton voted with the Kyl-Lieberman bill, read more in FA, here
"...As we redeploy our troops from Iraq, we must not let down our guard against terrorism. I will order specialized units to engage in targeted operations against al Qaeda in Iraq and other terrorist organizations in the region..."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

(Excerpts) "Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the US and the Twisted Path to Confrontation"

Via the WashingtonNote, Excerpts from USAToday's Barbara Slavin book on Iran "Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the US and the Twisted Path to Confrontation", as shared by the Nelson Report:
Barbara Slavin writes:
The first Bush administration, according to Brent Scowcroft, was eager for contacts with Iran. "We're happy to do it," Scowcroft told me he told various intermediaries. "We could have it official, public or private citizen to private citizen, any way you want it." The two sides got as far in 1990 as agreeing to meet in Switzerland, but "at the last minute the Iranians pulled the plug," Scowcroft said Under Clinton, relations took several steps back because of 'dual containment' -- the effort to sanction and isolate both Iran and Iraq. After Mohammad Khatami was elected Iranian president in 1997, a warming trend ensued but theClinton administration made a fatal error -- since continued by George W. Bush.
It sought to distinguish between the parts of the Iranian regime it liked -- namely Khatami -- and the parts it didn't -- namely supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iran's military and intelligence establishment. Clinton went so far as to name a delegation to meet with the Khatami government, a team consisting of Bruce Riedel, his top NSC Mideast adviser, then undersecretary of State Tom Pickering and deputy assistant secretary David Welch. But the Iranians wouldn't bite.
Enter George W. Bush. He had the best chance to patch up relations after 9-11 and he blew it. The U.S. and Iran both opposed the Taliban and Iran believed Bush and Cheney, as ex-oilmen, would lift sanctions. Unknown to many, the U.S. and Iran held secret, one-on-one high-level talks in Paris and Geneva from the fall of 2001 through May 2003, talks led on the U.S. side by Ryan Crocker and Zalmay Khalilzad.
In early May 2003, through Swiss intermediaries, the Iranians also presented an offer for comprehensive negotiations (reprinted in the annex to my book). Bush, full of hubris over Iraq, did not even give the Iranians the courtesy of a reply. The Europe talks ended, meanwhile, after yours truly wrote about them on the front page of USA TODAY and al-Qaeda bombings took place in Saudi Arabia that the White House said were linked to al-Qaeda detainees in Iran.
The Iranians did not give up, however. In late 2005 and through the spring of 2006, Ali Larijani, their new national security adviser, sought backchannel talks with Steve Hadley. Larijani went so far as to publicly accept a prior U.S. offer of talks on Iraq in March 2006. Supreme leader Khamenei publicly endorsed the talks, something he had never done before. Again, Bush sawed off the limb. The upshot: Larijani was weakened, Khamenei humiliated and Iran accelerated its nuclear program and its intervention in Iraq.
There is much more, including an intelligence assessment in early 2003 that invading Iraq would spur the two members of the Axis of Evil with real nuclear programs -- Iran and North Korea -- to intensify their efforts. Also the fact that the White House did not even ask the intelligence community for an assessment of the regional impact of toppling Saddam before invading.
It simply assumed that all would go well and that Tehran would be the next evildoer to fall. Instead of dividing our enemies by negotiating with Iran, the Bush administration has united them. And now -- like the child who shot his parents and complains he's an orphan -- the White House blames Iran for taking advantage of the strategic opportunities the United States has provided.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Brookings: "What is Syrian President Bashar Assad up to?"

It's the "Assad Pere-Caution vs. Assad Fils-recklessness" theory, AGAIN. From Brookings' Opinion by Dan Byman, here

Lebanese Malaise

Nibras Kazimi in the NYSun, here and go on to read Jean Aziz in Al Akhbar, here
"...One of the opposition's main leaders is the former general and interim president, Michel Aoun. He makes a somewhat convincing case for his own candidacy by claiming the mantle of Maronite representation — he earned the most direct votes from this community in the 2005 elections..."
"...A new president would have the wherewithal to pick a new head for the Lebanese Army and a new head of military intelligence..."
"...But wouldn't such a short-term solution (2 Year lull) keep Lebanon in a state of perpetual crises? Yes, it will and that's a good thing. Lebanon can handle crisis, just take a look at its history..."

Gen. Abizaid: ‘We’ve Treated The Arab World As A Collection Of Big Gas Stations’

Via ThinkProgress, here
We’ve treated the Arab world as a collection of big gas stations,” the retired general said. “Our message to them is: Guys, keep your pumps open, prices low, be nice to the Israelis and you can do whatever you want out back. Osama and 9/11 is the distilled essence that represents everything going on out back.

The US 'wali' in Lebanon keeps Minister Murr under a very close watchful eye

Jeff Feltman's almost 'daily' visits to Lebanon's version of Admiral Doenitz (Minister Elias Murr) stems from "founded fears" that this (yet another) mercurial Murr could "flip sides" yet again! "Observers" and people in the know have seen Elias' father, Michel luster his "Opposition" shield and threaten to "lean on Elias" to pull out of Siniora's govt'. Mind you, not that Elias hates ALL the attention!

The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Deconstructing the neocon nuclear narrative ...on the Syria "raid"

Via the WashingtonNote, Paul Woodward deconstructs Krauthammer, et al, on the Syria "raid" story, here
"Why would he [Krauthammer] (and Israel) sound so relaxed about chemical weapons? Because as dangerous as they are, they do little to buttress the argument that Iran presents an existential threat to the Jewish state. It’s a nuclear story or no story at all — at least for those looking through the prism of World War IV"

Walid Jumblatt on a "good hair day"?

Guess again! This is Jules Henri de Sibour, the famous Washington DC architect, pioneer in the exuberant Beaux Arts style, and producer of a staggering number of homes, theaters, hotels and office buildings such as the Jefferson Hotel, the Folger Library ...etc.

Smear Email: “Barack Hussein Obama has joined the United Church of Christ in an attempt to downplay his Muslim background,”

From Politico, here

"I want to kill you, but not today"

From the ECONOMIST, here
"... But tribal leaders' motives have also been questioned. In Qaem, some claim the Albu Mahal turned against al-Qaeda partly because it had helped a weaker tribe tip the balance of power in the area. Others say that Abu Risha was a devious former highway robber who simply found a new source of income by teaming up with the Americans. In many areas where a tribal awakening is proclaimed, rows have erupted over who is a clan's true representative and who a “fake sheikh”."

Saturday, October 13, 2007

"What the Hell is Going on with the CIA IG?"

Via War and Piece, our friend Larry Johnson wonders, here
"There is a split in the CIA with respect to Helgerson. Some believe he is using 20/20 hindsight to go after officers who were doing their jobs. Others believe he is doing the right thing and upholding the honor of the intelligence professional."
CIA officers, at least some, used torture on terrorist suspects. They did so with the full permission and blessing of George W. Bush and his Attorney General, Alberto Gonzalez.
It is time for the Congress–the House and Senate Intelligence Committees–to get off of their collective asses and figure out what the hell is going on."

... Oh, one more thing on the Syria "raid" ...

ONE catch phrase in the whole article: "A senior Israeli official, while declining to speak about the specific nature of the target, said the strike was intended to “re-establish the credibility of our deterrent power,” Could it be that LEBANON (July 2006') is that much of an ordeal for "Savage State"? Otherwise, we've about just had it with "It's nuclear, no it's not, yes it could be".
If you're interested, read more here

Brazil won't extradite Lebanese banker

No one is more anxious than Charles Rizk to blow the Al Madina hullabaloo up, for purely "Presidential" Politicking. No one is adamant to keep it under the rug more than M14: Al Madina Bank = Boutros Harb, Ghazi Aridi, Neyla Moawad, Marwan Hamadeh, deputy Head of the "Sho3bat al Ma3loomat" (ISF), Rustom Ghazaleh, Elias Murr ... and many "prominent" second tier-others! Just ask Governor Salameh. (We did!)
Read more here from AP,

A French view of the Iranian situation

Via Pat Lang, where a French Officer gives us his views on the Iran situation, here

"If we need some combination of sanctions, threats and cooperation offers to get Tehran back at the table of negotiations, we should look toward the veterans of the Iran-Iraq war, particularly among the IRGC. They are the future power in the country. We should also understand what they are hoping for. This is a stable and modern Iran, admitted as an international player and feeling safe in its regional environment..."

"Used Hawks" abound in Giuliani's 'Foreign Policy Team'

Michael Hirsh writes this good piece in NEWSWEEK, here
"...Giuliani clearly hopes this image, born of his heroic performance on 9/11, can carry him to the GOP nomination and to the White House. But is he really the candidate who will "keep Americans safer" if his primary tactic is to go "on offense" in the "long war," as he often puts it in his campaign stump speech? Critics will say that the neocons already tried that—in Iraq. Still, what's left of the neocon movement does seem to be converging around the Giuliani campaign, to some degree, because he embraces their common themes: a willingness to use military power, a tendency to group all radical Islamist groups together as a common enemy, strong support for Israel and an aggressive posture toward Iran."

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Exclusive: Photos of navy ship hit during July-Lebanon war revealed

From YnetNews, here


US Intelligence "Triumvirate" skeptical of Israeli conclusions that Syria was on a nuclear weapons track

From Steve Clemons, here
"...This is one of several reasons that this Intel Triumvirate (since Gates is holding DoD's intel portfolio close to himself) has been skeptical of Israeli conclusions that Syria was on a nuclear weapons track. According to my source, "all of them were chastened by the Jonathan Pollard affair" and thus have some "healthy resistence" to intel that is circumstantial rather than definitive."

Changing Course with Syria

Via SyriaComment, here
"... Inviting Syria to the peace conference is not a reward to Damascus for its alleged mischievous behavior; it is a matter of real necessity dictated by the prevailing turmoil in the Middle East to which the Bush administration has contributed so largely. The Middle- East conference offers the Bush administration an opportunity to change course toward Syria without loosing face not to speak of preventing a colossal failure..."

Syria's Place at the Table

From the WashingtonNote, here
President G W Bush with Imad Mustafa.jpg

CSIS's Cordesman: "Pandora's Box: Iraqi Federalism, Separatism, 'hard partitioning & US Policy"

"...If such divisions continue and reach the level of partitioning or federalism that effectively divide Iraq on sectarian and ethnic lines the consequences are likely to be much grimmer. It is far from clear that such developments will lead to a large-scale blood bath -- although this is at least possible. However, isolated cases of large-scale violence and local atrocities seem all too likely. Major new displacements of population are almost certain, and will come at great economic cost to those involved..." Continue reading here

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Russians "furious" with Bush over "lack of coordination & preparation" for the Annapolis Mideast Peace summit

"...Ambassador Ushakov allegedly told Hagel (Chuck) that he's never seen anything like this. He said there are normally side agreements orchestrated, diplomatic understandings, and significant coordination efforts. Most Middle East summits attempted before involved enormous heavy-lifting before the meeting. However, according to a significant source, absolutely nothing of import is happening between White House officials and key stakeholder governments in the region -- including Russia which is one of the Middle East Quartet members..." More here from Steve Clemons.

... more Saudis Named Terror Financiers by U.S. Treasury

Via the Blotter, here
"... Last month, the Blotter ... reported on the longtime frustrations of U.S. officials who say the Saudi government continues to look the other way at wealthy individuals identified as sending millions of dollars to al Qaeda..."

Scowcroft, Brzezinski, Hamilton, Baker, & Others Call for Syria and Hamas to Be Engaged in Israel-Palestine Effort

Via the WashingtonNote, here
"... What may be the most remarkable thing about this bipartisan statement is not only who is saying it but what they are prepared to say.
In the letter to Bush, beyond calling on the US and the parties to focus on the outlines of a final status settlement, the co-signatories defy the administration's views by calling for an end to the policy of isolating Hamas and for a shift in policy toward Syria -- including both US/Syria engagement and renewal of Syrian/Israeli negotiations.
Colin Powell -- who is not (yet) a signatory -- has also called for communication with Hamas, and the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group called for engaging Syria. This letter makes the point even more strongly..."

ICG: "Hizbollah and the Lebanese Crisis"

[Excerpts from embargoed report]
"... At war’s end, Hizbollah’s opponents within and outside Lebanon were hoping to establish an alternative Shiite movement. This rapidly proved an illusion. At almost every social level, Shiite support for Hizbollah has solidified -- a result of both the movement’s longstanding efforts to consolidate its hold over the community and a highly polarised post-war context..."
"... Hizbollahs’ popularity and staying power cannot be properly understood without bearing in mind this collective Shiite experience of victimisation at the hands of more powerful parties, coupled with the state’s utter and repeated failure to protect them..."
"...The war also altered the movement’s relationship with Shiite intellectuals. According to Hassan Abbas Nasrallah, a historian, "prior to the war, Shiite intellectuals were very divided, and few backed Hizbollah. The war changed all that"
"...The pro-Saudi Salafi preachers who backed Hizbollah during the latter part of the war also quickly broke with the movement as a result of its campaign to oust the government and control Beirut’s centre..."
"...None of these represents the Sunni community’s centre of gravity, and most are paying the price of the current sectarian divisions; they are a minority and a shrinking one at that, a phenomenon that mirrors the situation among the Druze..."
"...Practically, this means that Hizbollah’s most important non-Shiite ally – and the key to its efforts to avoid a sectarian label – is Michel Aoun."
"...Although inherently fragile given clear ideological differences, the alliance has stood firm in the face of serious strains and challenges and even though Aoun has paid a steep political price..."
"...As an Aounist deputy remarked, "it is not really in Hizbollah’s interest to bring Aoun to power, because the general genuinely wishes to pursue a state-building and militia-disarming agenda. In a way, Hizbollah is stuck: it doesn’t really want Aoun but, since the July war, it owes him a huge moral debt..."
"...Hizbollah is contemplating a deal whereby Aoun would renounce the presidency in exchange for a major say in choosing the candidate, important ministerial posts in the future government and an electoral law more favourable to Christians..."
"Hizbollah is adapting in several ways. The shift from resistance to deterrence"
"Unlike Amal, Hizbollah does not view politics as an end in itself and has not made Shiite representation its priority. For an expert on the movement, "Hizbollah has only two priorities: the Palestinian question and resistance against U.S. regional projects. All other objectives, including Shiite empowerment, are ancillary..."

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

When you dehumanize a people to the extent Iraqis were, "Blackwater" happens!

From MoJo, here
"will Blackwater survive this latest scandal? It's impossible to know for sure, but there's little reason to believe otherwise. The company, which started as a small-scale provider of firearms training in 1998, has grown into a billion-dollar Goliath, complete with an army of lobbyists and sympathetic politicians to press its agenda on Capitol Hill. Guided by its reclusive founder, Erik Prince, the company, over its short history, has deflected controversy with ease, all the while simultaneously expanding its reach into new markets and generating ever more profitable government contracts

Meaningless House Resolution:"...a major religion that has been behind the Islamic jihad ..."

From Matt Yglesias, here and here ("42 Members of Congress Protest Recognition of Ramadan")
"...To offer respect for a major religion is one thing, but to offer respect for a major religion that has been behind the Islamic jihad, the radical jihad, that has sworn war upon the United States, its free allies and freedom in Iraq, is another thing."

Monday, October 8, 2007

War on terror is fuelling al Qaeda

Via MoonOfAlabama, this report from the Oxford Research Group, here
"...He described the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq as a "disastrous mistake" which had helped establish a "most valued jihadist combat training zone" for al Qaeda supporters.

The report -- Alternatives to the War on Terror -- recommended the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq coupled with intensive diplomatic engagement in the region, including with Iran and Syria..."

The Oil Crisis of 2012?

From the National Interest, here
" ...The picture is not entirely rosy, however: Alkadiri reported that clients are extremely worried about regional trouble spots. One is Iran, where a possible conflict could have a disastrous effect on the oil market. This led him to counsel against strengthening sanctions against Tehran, which he said would damage both the U.S. and Iranian economies. Kirsch agreed, saying that a war in the Gulf would likely lead to an average oil price of $150 per barrel and “trigger a global recession...
... Another concern is Iraq."

After Iraq, Iran & Syria, Bill Kristol calls for US Military intervention in Burma!

Via Kevin Drum, who wonders "why anyone takes Kristol seriously? Why is it that a guy who thinks U.S. military action is always the answer is any more credible than the peacenik who thinks it never is?", here

Lessons for Lebanon from Nahr el-Bared

Bruce Riedel at Brookings, here
"...To be sure, Fatah al Islam was no ordinary enemy. This al-Qaeda inspired salafist jihadist network – which reportedly still has several sleeper cells across the country – had enough men and materiel to wage a war like any other regular army battalion.
"...We later learned from testimonies of militants who were captured by the army that Fatah al Islam was planning a string of catastrophic terrorist attacks inside Lebanon, including attacks on UN headquarters in Beirut, large-scale bombings, and assassinations of leading Lebanese political figures. The plot, called 'operation 577', was to lay the foundation for an Islamic emirate in Tripoli..."

Sunday, October 7, 2007

“Ticking Clocks and ‘Accidental’ War,” BY Alastair Crooke

Via SyriaComment, here.
"The view from those most likely to be affected by an “accidental” war, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas, all share the conclusion both that war is imminent and that any one of a number of “ticking clocks” may be “engineered” as a provocation that would by-pass the Pentagon chiefs of staff arguments against expanded conflict and trigger war. All of these actors have been preparing flat-out for the coming conflict..."

Intel Community To Release ‘Three Iran Reports’ To ‘Slow Down’ Bush’s Warmongering

NBC's Fineman : "...Those are going to be key to decide what the Bush administration is going to do, and it’s the intelligence community I think trying to slow down what the president, most particularly the vice president, want to do in Iran..."
Read more here, via ThinkProgress.

"Iraq exit logistics"

From De Borchgrave in the WashingtonTimes, here

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Pace's "involuntary" exit marks the end of the "Rumsfeld era

From TPM, here
"... Pace was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff the last two years. Gates decided not to renew the general's term, despite Pace's request for another. The public rationale was that Gates wanted to avoid "very contentious" confirmation hearings. There's clearly something to this. Not only was Pace the last senior official still associated with early decisions on the war (he was the JCS vice chairman at the time of the invasion) ..."
"...But the larger import of Pace's forced retirement -- the message that many officers heard clearly, whatever Gates' intention -- is that the sorts of generals who behave as Pace did the past few years are no longer desired in the Pentagon's inner sanctum..."

Friday, October 5, 2007

Looking Into Blackwater

Who Wants To Bomb Iran? Democrats, Not Republicans, Says Seymour Hersh

From the Huffington Post, here
"...When I asked Hersh who wants to bomb Iran, he said, "Ironically there is a lot of pressure coming from Democrats. Hillary Clinton, Obama, and Edwards have all said we cannot have a nuclear-armed Iran. Clearly the pressure from Democrats is a reflection of - we might as well say it - Israeli and Jewish input." He added the obvious: "a lot of money comes to the Democratic campaigns" from Jewish contributors..."

Wurmser calls for US instigated "regime change" in Iran & Syria

From the Telegraph, here
"... Although Mr Wurmser's recommendations have not yet become US policy, his hard-line stances on regime change in Iran and Syria are understood to have formed the basis of policy documents approved by Mr Cheney, an uncompromising hawk who is deeply sceptical about the effectiveness of diplomatic pressure on Teheran..."