Wednesday, April 30, 2008

After Gaza, comes the suffocation of the West Bank ...

Violence in Gaza gets the headlines. But the slow suffocation of the West Bank should get more attention too ... in NEWSWEEK, here

Lebanon & Syria: "Business Prevails"

OBG, here

U.S. pressures Turkcell to abandon Syria deal

Reuters, here
"...Syriatel is at least 69 percent owned by Rami Makhlouf, the cousin of President Bashar al-Assad. Washington imposed high profile sanctions on Makhlouf in February for alleged involvement in public corruption in Syria as relations between the Damascus government and the United States plummeted.
"The U.S. Treasury communicated indirectly with U.S. investors in Turkcell to reconsider the deal and hinted that there could be legal implications of doing a business transaction involving a huge amount of dollars upfront with Rami Makhlouf," one of the diplomats following the deal told Reuters..."

We're not celebrating Israel's anniversary....

Guardian, here

Iraq After the Surge II: The Need for a New Political Strategy

INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP - report II, analyses reasons for the current deadlock and suggests a way forward, ... here
“For years, the U.S. pursued a lofty strategy – the spread of democracy; Iraq as a regional model – detached from any realistic tactics”, says Robert Malley, Crisis Group’s Middle East and North Africa Program Director. “And yet, with Washington having finally adopted a set of smart, pragmatic tactics, the risk today is that the U.S. finds itself devoid of any overarching strategy”.

Iraq after the Surge I: The New Sunni Landscape

INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP , report I, describes the sweeping changes affecting Sunni tribes, al-Qaeda in Iraq and the insurgency, here

State Department 07': Al Qaeda gaining strenght...

Country Reports on Terrorism 2007

Gen. Ali el Hajj in first interview ...on Wissam Hassan, Jumblatt ...

In Al Intiqad, here

US seeks more solidarity from Turkey against Iran

Turkish Daily News, here via WPR

Azerbaijan: Did Washington have a hand in stopping nuclear shipment headed for Iran?

A Story in Eurasia, here ....and a comment by Judah Gurnstein
"....Apparently I'm not alone in believing that the incident has more to do with behind the scenes intrigue than with the lack of proper shipping documents. And while the possibility of American involvement in the seizure is advanced, the article points out that the Russians, too, might have an interest in keeping one foot on the brake while the other hits the gas when it comes to Iran's nuclear program. Iran, after keeping a low profile for the past few weeks, has now raised the heat on Azerbaijan. But the consensus seems to be that given Russia's and Iran's dependence on Azerbaijan as a transit territory, Baku (and whoever's behind the seizure) is in the driver's seat."

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

McCain Camp Is Neocon Redux: It's Official ...

Heilbrunn in the Huffington Post, here via War&Piece.
"....Speaking Monday at a fascinating on-the-record session on U.S.-Russia relations at the Nixon Center, former Reagan administration official Robert McFarlane declared that McCain's first year as president would be "neocon redux." McFarlane, who was Reagan's national security advisor and who supports McCain's candidacy, emphasized that he wasn't speaking as a member of McCain's team, but as a practical realist and private citizen..."

Nelson Report: "The real issue is not whether the video is fake, but rather that the well has been 'poisoned' before on false intel. allegations..."

N. KOREA. . .since our Reports of Thursday and Friday last week, possibly debilitating rumors, but little "fact" has been added to the deconstruction of the CIA's controversial "Syria briefing".
In the sexy rumor department, there are those claiming that the Israeli-supplied photos used in the "video" shown on Capitol Hill "came from a photo-shop", specifically, "the pixels don't match" on the alleged N. Korean nuclear expert and his Syrian compatriots.
This strikes us as amazingly easy to confirm, one way or the other, but we cite it as emblematic of the fundamental destruction of trust in nuclear-related "intelligence" since the Colin Powell "Iraq WMD" debacle at the UN, oh so many long years ago.
On the photo allegedly of a DPRK nuclear expert, Administration sources confirm that the video ID is inaccurate, but our sources say the S. Korean newspaper identification of the man as a senior political official from the Foreign Ministry is also incorrect.
On the briefing itself, we can report that Capitol Hill "customers" are not at all happy that less than an hour after professional staff with the appropriate clearances were barred from the room, the whole video was handed over to the world.
"You have to think the Administration didn't want to have experts in the room who might dare to ask tough questions", notes one disgruntled bar-ee, whom, we should note, said he did not believe the "pixel" mismatch rumor "because it would be so unbelievably stupid..."
The majority of our expert sources do say they feel that the video briefing can be accepted as conclusive that...assuming the photos are not a complete fabrication...the Syrian plant can now be said to definitely be a Yongbyon-type of nuclear facility.
But after that, consensus breaks down completely on whether it was a nascent bomb facility, a power station of some kind, or what.
One Congressional expert, after watching the video, comments "the very first line in the briefing is false...there's no way the plant was 'ready to be switched on', so you have to question the entire premise for the raid..."
For those who want to follow the pros and cons of what kind of a nuclear plant may have been bombed, and what about Israel's "motive", we urge you to check the blogs. For Asia purposes, the focus needs to shift to the effect of all this on the 6 Party Talks.
On the issue of how "Syria" relates to the 6 Party Talks, and the "Singapore" deal hammered out by A/S Chris Hill, now under review in both Washington and Pyongyang...
Indications are that the lack of support from his immediate boss, Condi Rice (noted in last Wednesday's NY Times), plus the warning from President Bush "don't make me look weak", has led Hill to conclude he needs more detail than was brought back over the weekend by Korea Desk chief Sung Kim.
With that in mind, don't be surprised if Kim is sent back to Pyongyang in hopes of generating materials which skeptics and supporters alike will accept on the vital "verification" issues now under such strong attack.
Hill cannot have been pleased to see a predecessor as Asst. Sec., Winston Lord, and the highly respected Les Gelb, join in an OpEd criticizing the Singapore deal, and thus legitimizing the concerted conservative/neo-con attack on what is clearly still a work in progress.
So...stay tuned. important point...the Sanger article in the Times last week led to speculation that Hill was close to resigning, and there were quotes being passed around by various "friends"...the Truman dictum at work again.
We can report definitely from Hill himself, "still here...still here..."

Iraq jumps into U.S.-Iran tussle..

In the LATimes, here
"We are worried about any escalation between the United States and Iran for a simple reason: We are the weakest party in this game," said Sadiq Rikabi, an advisor to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki....
Despite the heated-up rhetoric, neither the United States nor Iraq has said it believes Iran has increased its smuggling of weapons, including rockets and roadside bombs blamed for most U.S. troop deaths. They appear instead to be accusing Iran of not keeping a promise it made late last year to Maliki to reduce activities here....
"I find it difficult to believe that Iranians would allow weapons to be traced back to them easily with manufacture dates on them," said Vali Nasr, an expert on Shiite politics at Tufts University. He said nothing in the allegations was new. What is new, he said, is the United States' need to justify its expansion of its operations to southern Iraq in support of Maliki's offensive...."

"Did the US Photoshop the Syrian reactor?"

Via HuffingtonP, in the LATimes, here

Wolfowitz: U.S. Was 'Clueless' on Counterinsurgency...

Eli Lake in the NYSun, here

... while, Iran criticizes US for scapegoating others for Iraq policy failure...

Via IRNA, here

US accuses Iran and Syria of trying to destabilize Iraq....

In the IHT, here
"Iran and Syria must stop the flow of weapons and foreign fighters into Iraq, and their malign interference in Iraq," U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said Monday in a report to the U.N. Security Council on behalf of the multinational force in Iraq....."

Senior U.S. officials in Baghdad weighing back-channel messages from Iran condemning the recent bloodshed

In the WSJ, here
"...The officials declined to identify the Iraqi go-betweens, but Iran previously has sent messages to the U.S. through Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, and Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, who heads Iraq's largest Shiite political party.
....People familiar with the communications said the Iranian officials expressed alarm at the bloody fighting last month between Iraqi government forces and Shiite militants loyal to nationalist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
.....The Iranians also told the U.S. they weren't in control of the Shiite fighters, these people said...."

Monday, April 28, 2008

Damascene Samir Taqi to handle Syrian talks on Israel

Haretz, here

Is an Iranian general the most powerful man in Iraq?

Strobel, Allam & Landay in McClatchy's, here
"Whether we like him (Suleimani) or not, whether Americans like him or not, whether Iraqis like him or not, he is the focal point of Iranian policy in Iraq," said a senior Iraqi official who asked not to be identified so he could speak freely. "The Quds Force have played it all, political, military, intelligence, economic. They are Iranian foreign policy in Iraq."

Iraqi and U.S. officials told McClatchy that Suleimani also has:

  • Slipped into Baghdad's Green Zone, the heavily fortified seat of the U.S. occupation and the Iraqi government, in April 2006 to try to orchestrate the selection of a new Iraqi prime minister. Iraqi officials said that audacious visit was Suleimani's only foray into the Green Zone; American officials said he may have been there more than once.

  • Built powerful networks that gather intelligence on American and Iraqi military operations. Suleimani's network includes every senior staffer in Iran's embassy in Baghdad, beginning with the ambassador, according to Iraqi and U.S. officials.

  • Trained and directed Shiite Muslim militias and given them cash and arms, including mortars and rockets fired at the U.S. Embassy and explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, the sophisticated roadside bombs that have caused hundreds of U.S. and Iraqi casualties.

  • Iranian Brig. Gen. Qassam Suleimani

"The Future of US-Syrian Relations" as translated by Walid Jumblatt

Jean Aziz alludes to Martin Indyk's hearing ...,in Al Akhbar, here

Brent Scowcroft Echoes Obama: We Need To Talk To Enemies

In the Huffington Post, here
"Absolutely," said Scowcroft, when asked by The Huffington Post whether he thought the next president should meet with the likes of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "It's hard to make things better if you don't talk."
Scowcroft, a former Air Force general who is widely considered to be one of the preeminent foreign policy minds in the United States, was appearing at an event with Henry Kissinger at Georgetown University. His take on U.S. diplomatic outreach comes as Obama's position -- to meet with our enemies even without preconditions -- has gotten the Illinois Democrat routinely criticized as naive and inexperienced from his Democratic and Republican rivals...."

Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft

"... If you’re Bashar Assad, why would you give up your alliance to the ascendant power in the Middle East...?"

Noah Pollack (the man who called Samantha Powers "an antisemite", argues that no matter what, Syria's interest lies with status quo... flipping Syria, he explains, brings nothing to Damascus, ...when some Washingtonians believe that a "cessation of hostilities from the US & Israel outweighs all of that", Commentary, here
".... If you are Bashar Assad, you’re in the enviable position of being the only Arab ally of Iran, which you believe will soon be the greatest regional power, and a nuclear one. You were recently forced out of Lebanon, but your ally Hezbollah is still there, growing in power, ensuring your political influence today and your return in the future. You provide aid and safe haven to Hamas, which gives you a strong hand not only in thwarting America and Israel in the peace process, but in manipulating Palestinian violence....."

"Our Defense Forces, our war crimes, our terrorism..."

Bradley Burston in Haaretz, here

Bahrain set to name Jewish woman as Ambassador to Washington ...

In Gulf News, via War&Piece, here

Iran to Give Nuclear Proposals to Russia

In Fars-English, news

The Syrians have been sold to the Americans as altogether "black"...How could Israel... stain itself by making peace with these devils?...

Turkish20flag This is very good news. One can hear the string section warming up for the concert. This must enrage many in the US and Israel. Imagine the effrontery of the locals! Taking things into their own hands like this! Who do they think they are to do this?

The Syrians have been sold to the American people as altogether "black" in the usual Manichean construct. How could Israel, land of milk and honey stain itself by making peace with these human devils? Unthinkable!

Out there in Middle America (something like Middle Earth but with less cachet and more rust), there are going to be a lot of puzzled people if an Israeli-Syrian peace were to actually occur.

What about the purple thumbs?

Psst. That was Iraq.

It was? Oh well, one of those places. Pat Lang

U.S.-Syria: Who’s converting whom?

Former Asst. Secretary of Defense, Peter Rodman in MESH, here
(NOTICE the comments section: Michael Young + Eyal Zisser gang on CSIS's Jon Alterman in siding with the never learning hawks!)
"...........splitting Syria from Iran ...... The obstacle to actually accomplishing this strategic coup is that no one has figured out a way to do it consistently with other important strategic interests or without risk to other strategic interests of the United States.....
.........In other words, while our tough talking points were meant to ratchet up pressures, the Syrians spun the visits into relief from pressures........
.........Arab anger at Syria is a recurring phenomenon—usually short-lived. In recent years, however, given the growing threat from Iran, the unholy alliance between Syria and Iran is likely to remain a big issue in Syrian-Arab relations. We should not forget which side we have the bigger stake in.............
............The incident ('strike') probably has more immediate relevance to our present diplomacy with North Korea, but it is also a reminder of the potential dangers of a Syrian-Israeli conflict. Syria already possesses other forms of WMD if not nuclear weapons..........
Syrian policies have made it harder to visualize any kind of rapprochement.........Ultimately there will have to be a Syrian-Israeli peace settlement—everyone knows that—but it should be in a strategic context that strengthens the forces of moderation in the region rather than weakening them. Syria will be thinking strategically if it pursues a dialogue with Israel; so should we."

"Operation Orchard": More on that Syrian 'reactor'...

LauraRosen in MoJo, here
".... calling the State Department’s diplomatic efforts with Pyongyang "feckless, " noted hawk, former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton, wrote in a Wall Street Journal oped August 31, 2007 – intriguingly precisely one week before the Israeli Air Force operation....
“Based on my own ‘uninformed’ perspective, the big question is not whether the Syrians were building a nuclear reactor, but whether it was actually close to becoming operational (which raises questions about the timing of the strike) and the almost total absence of any evidence of what kind of plans the Syrians may have had for any plutonium that might have been produced at the plant if and when it went into operation,” said former US National Security Council official Gary Sick. “Although some will fix on the anomalies to cast doubt on the very existence of such a project, the real debate in policy circles (including the Congress) is likely to focus on whether it was really as far along as claimed and whether the same thing could have been accomplished by publicizing the photographic evidence and insisting that the IAEA be permitted to inspect the site.”

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Israel would announce that it is "well aware of the price it would have to pay at the end of talks" ...

Barak Ravid in Haaretz, here
"....The Turks are taking both sides' stances into consideration and trying to come up with a formula that would bring them to the negotiating table," the government source said. "The key issue now is to find a solution that would satisfy Syria's demand that Israel commit to a withdrawal from the Golan Heights, which at the moment is impeding progress." The source said Israel is considering an alternative, in the form of a public announcement indicating that Israel is be "well aware of the price it would have to pay at the end of talks."

McCain's 'Schizophrenic' Foreign Policy ..

Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek, here
".... The neoconservative vision within the speech (McCain's) is essentially an affirmation of ideology. Not only does it declare war on Russia and China, it places the United States in active opposition to all nondemocracies. It proposes a League of Democracies, which would presumably play the role that the United Nations now does, except that all nondemocracies would be cast outside the pale......
"......McCain appears to think that he can magically unite the two main strands in the Republican foreign-policy establishment. But he can't. This is not about personalities but about two philosophically divergent views of international affairs. Put together, they will produce infighting and incoherence. We have seen this movie before. We have watched an American president unable to choose between his ideologically driven vice president and his pragmatic secretary of State—and the result was the catastrophe of George W. Bush's first term. Twenty-five years earlier, we watched another president who believed that he could encompass the entire spectrum of foreign policy. He, too, gave speeches that were drafted by advisers with divergent world views: in that case, Cyrus Vance and Zbigniew Brzezinski. It led to the paralyzing internal battles of the Carter years. Does John McCain want to try this experiment one more time?"

Israel: UNIFIL is hiding information about Hezbollah from Security Council

In HAARETZ, here
"...The Israel Defense Forces and the Foreign Ministry are reportedly very angry about UNIFIL's actions in recent months, especially about the fact that its commander, Major General Claudio Graziano, is said to be leniently interpreting his mission, as assigned by Security Council Resolution 1701, passed at the end of the Second Lebanon War...."

Baghdad Green Zone blasted under cover of storm


Will U. S. Policy in Lebanon and the Middle East Ever Change? (Part III)

Franklin Lamb, in the final (part III) instalment in Counterpunch, here

...Meanwhile, a Day in the life of Afghanistan's President ....

Afghan security members escaping from an attack against President Hamid Karzai near the presidential palace in Kabul on Sunday

Israelis wonder: Do they have to hear 'it' from Assad?

Zvi Bar'el in Haaretz, here and Qatar's Al Watan, here
"..."Olmert's silence" was so successful that the Syrian-Turkish disclosures on Israel's position raised only questions concerning Syria: Why now? What does Assad gain from this? Is Assad serious? Can he deliver? As if Israel is the one that for years has stood on the border in the Golan Heights, waving peace offers while the Syrians have kept silent. Assad's speeches and interviews to the international media about his desire for peace talks with Israel were forgotten...."
Hussein Malla/Associated Press

In tow with the Administration, UK says British hostages held inside Iran by IRG...

... and when it rains it pours ..... Sunday Times, here
"....If confirmed, the involvement of Revolutionary Guards would be seen as evidence that senior figures in the Iranian government had backed the decision to hold them in the country.
However, British officials said that while there had been rumours that the five were in Iran, they had seen no evidence to support the idea...."

Hizbollah builds up covert army for a new assault against Israel

In the Observer, here

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Intelligence Official: "Israel might have Many More Spies in the US ..."

Jeff Stein in CQ, here
"....A former senior CIA counterintelligence operative believes the case “will never go to trial, because of all the ugly stuff that would come out” about Israeli activities in the United States....
Indeed, Justice Department attorneys have fought to keep “ugly stuff” from emerging in the trial of two officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, charged with accepting classified documents from Pentagon official Larry Franklin....
But the federal judge in the case has indicated he might not go along with their strategy. Last month Judge Thomas Ellis III indefinitely postponed the trial of AIPAC officials Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, which was scheduled to open next week....
Influencing Congress is usually the domain of foreign diplomats, he said, but in Israel’s case there was “very little distinction between Mossad and the diplomats.”

The Right of Way ... the Right Of Return!

Syria, North Korea, Iran? What are US Intentions?

Col. WP Lang at SicSemperTyrannis, here
"Cheney and the Israelis." That will be the subject matter or title of some future piece of popularizing history. Perhaps it will prove impossible to get it published. What is the source of this affinity between Cheney and the Israeli Right? He has his "1% solution." They have their unwillingness to live with any sort of ambiguity in foreign relations or deterrence. What is this "love affair" based on?...
Now we have Mullen and Gates beating the drum against the Iranians. I have been traveling a lot lately in my own country and it is clear to me that many, many people in the USA are not in a position to resist propaganda spread in the MSM and by people like Mullen and Gates. "Guns of August?" Or maybe some other month?" pl

Al Ahram: "Hamas collaborating with Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt on obtaining or developing drones..."

Via YNETnews, here

"Hezbollah submits to Europeans, detailed reports on Al Qaedasque groups in Lebanon..."

In the Kuweiti Al Rai'i al A'am, here

.. and Questions Linger on Scope of Iran’s Threat in Iraq...

It's "evidence" week in Washington, Syria & Iran on the plat du jour ... NO Yellow cake for dessert!
In the NYTimes, here
"....Some intelligence and administration officials said Iran seemed to have carefully calibrated its involvement in Iraq over the last year, in contrast to what President Bush and other American officials have publicly portrayed as an intensified Iranian role...
...Iran, the officials said, has shifted tactics to distance itself from a direct role in Iraq since the American military captured 20 Iranian operatives inside Iraq in December 2006 and January 2007......."

Iran NIE Revisited: something to keep in mind when considering both the Fallon dismissal and the Petraeus appointment at CENTCOM ...

Another interesting sidenote from the Syria intel briefing was this mention of last December's NIE on Iran's nuclear program:
When we published our NIE, we had not planned to make unclassified key judgments available to the public; therefore we wrote our estimate for a very sophisticated audience believing or understanding that they understood that in the program, it's basically three large pieces: There is pursuit of fissile material; there is a delivery system - ballistic missiles or some other; and then there is weapons design. The only thing that the Iranians halted that we had awareness of was design of the warhead. They continue with ballistic missiles and they continue with fissile material pursuit. It was a secret program that they halted. They have never admitted that.

That's a pretty definitive declaration that the NIE's conclusions about Iran's frozen weaponization program were not meant to suggest that Iran had abandoned its ultimate goal of a nuclear weapons capacity. So the widespread interpretation of the NIE as the intelligence community's pushback against administration Iran hawks might have been wildly optimistic. That's something to keep in mind when considering both the Fallon dismissal and the Petraeus appointment at CENTCOM.

The Israeli Project Has Failed in Lebanon (Part II)

Part II of Franklin Lamb's 3 part series ... Good read despite of MAJOR historical & factual mistakes, here in Counterpunch

Friday, April 25, 2008

Mahmud Abbas:" I failed in the US .... no progress in peace talks ..."



ArmsControlWonk: HERE

Office of the Director of National Intelligence

Background Briefing with Senior U.S. Officials on Syria’s Covert Nuclear Reactor and North Korea’s Involvement April 24, 2008

Bush to Nasrallah: an Offer Hezbollah Cannot Refuse?

Frank Lamb in Counterpunch, here
"...The Bush administration no longer believes there is a viable military option - American, Israeli or combined - for destroying Hezbollah. The Party is deeply embedded in much of Lebanon and has broad support in the region. Recent reports indicate that some of its administrative staff is moving offices into Sunni areas including Tripoli and north Lebanon and that more Sunni, Christians and Druze are joining the Lebanese Resistance under Hezbollah leadership....
"....CIA and Israeli demographers such as Sergio Della-Pergola estimate that in the next 10 years Jews will be less that 45 per cent of the population in Palestine i.e. between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River. This sets up the South African Apartheid model of a minority occupying population ruling the indigenous majority.
".....Some in the Bush administration believe that history is on Hezbollah’s side given the swelling Lebanese resistance trend over the region including Gaza, the West Bank, Egypt, Jordan
".....With its new authority, the CIA set up ‘counterterrorism units’ similar to those Bush authorized in 2007. Casey quickly funded the “Foreign Work and Analysis Unit” (FWAU) inside Lebanon which had the assassination of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah as its first priority. Others targeted for death were Lebanese former Prime Minister Salim al-Hoss, Imad Mughniyeh and Walid Jumblatt, then supporting the PLO..."
(END part I)

... and yet, Adm. Mullen said today that the Pentagon is planning for "potential military courses of action" against Iran...

in the WaPo, here

MEPGS: "...The emphasis on making progress in Iraq is at the expense of flagging US efforts in Lebanon..."

"....The central event will be to participate in Israel's 60th Anniversary party. But the 'Survey' has learned that the President will also take the opportunity to again visit Saudi Arabia, as well as meetings in several other Arab lands [but not, at this point, the West Bank]. Lebanon, too, continues to generate discussion, even controversy,as the political stalemate there shows no signs of easing. And even Libya has popped up again on the Administration's radar as Congressional action threatens to undermine the Administration's one undisputed Middle East success.
"....As one well-placed US official said thisweek, "We are deeply conflicted about what to do about Iran." Congressional testimony last week by General Petreus and Ambassador Crocker emphasized the increasingly aggressive role Iran has played in Iraq. A day later Defense Secretary Gates, as one State Department official put it, "Walked back the impression that we were about to do something rash to counter Iran." Still,some US policy makers are convinced there are no good options for dealing with Iran, unless, as one US official puts it, "We take it to them, instead of always playing defense." This official and as well as his colleagues and veteran observers consider major military moves against Iran highly unlikely, especially in the waning days of this Administration But they do speak of "drawing new red lines" and pushing back harder against Iranians on the ground in Iraq. Some even have again raised the possibility of trying to destabilize the Teheran regime via greater support for opposition groups.
"....On the nuclear front, little seems to be going the Administration's way. United Nations Security Council resolution1803, passed in March, the third since December 2006 appears, like its predecessors to have had little impact on Teheran's continued nuclear program. Hopes that Iran's trading partners, particularly the Europeans, would, in the words of one diplomat "take the vigilance called for in the resolutions and turn it into obligations," has not materialized. On the contrary, within the European Union, dissenters, led by Italy, have stymied unified action. And the recent multi-billion dollar gas deal concluded with Switzerland has further eroded efforts to financially squeeze Iran [US officials are so upset by the Swiss deal that they are looking for a legal mechanism that would allow US interests in Iran, heretofore represented by Switzerland, be switched to Poland].
".....Iran's stepped up activities in Iraq come against a backdrop of the Maliki government's attempts to extend its authority. Byc onfronting hard line cleric Muktada al-Sadr and his militia, Maliki precipitated a fight that has US officials still debating who came out on top. Some analysts note, that while Muktada waited out developments safely in Iran, his forces performed well, those rogue elements who have opposed him became "fairgame" for US and Iraqi forces and finally when it came time to show the Iraqi people that enough bloodshed had been spilled, he had the power to impose a cease fire.
"....Some US officials take a more upbeat assessment of this struggle. They see Maliki finally acting as an Iraqi leader, not merely as a Shia -- something crucial to US efforts to attract Sunni insurgents. And this comes at a time when the Sunni tribes have clearly gained the upper hand over Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Moreover, US officials emphasize that progress is being made in legislation that addresses central concerns such as oil revenue and provincial voting. "It's no wonder Iran is upping the ante," says one State Department official. "They don't like the way things are going."
".....Some analysts argue that the emphasis on making progress in Iraq is coming at the expense or at least with the realization that US efforts in Lebanon have begun to flag. Administration officials continue to go out of their way to show support for the Siniora government. Assistant Secretary of State David Welch was in Beirut doing just that last week and in previous weeks the Administration has opened its doors to a wide range of pro-Siniora politicians, including the former Christian militia leader Samir Geagea (who, despite his somewhat unsavory reputation was quite effective in his presentations, including a meeting with Secretary of State Rice). And the Administration still has high hopes for the International Tribunal that will look into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.
"....However, US officials admit that a certain distance has emerged between the US and France, its primary partner in Lebanon policy. Lacking the personal link that former French President Chirac had with Lebanon in general and Hariri in particular, policy in Paris has begun to steer a somewhat different course. "They (the French) are not nearly as quick to voice support for the government, preferring instead to see a certain equivalence between the Government and the Opposition," says one State Department official. At the same time, there are signs that the Saudis, who have acted uncharacteristically tough towards Syria for its assumed role in the Hariri assassination and backing for Hezbollah and the Shias over a Sunni-led government, are having second thoughts. The former Saudi Ambassador to the US Prince Turki al-Feisal, told US officials recently that his government has run out of ways to influence Syrian behavior [One diplomat observed wryly that the Saudis should try speaking Turkish - a reference to the ability of the Ankara government to get its way with Syria -- given its willingness to threaten to use force or divert water sources Syria depends upon].
".....When President Bush visits Saudi Arabia, there is one item certain to be missing from his briefing book -- selling nuclear energy. Administration insiders say the President was miffed at being reduced on his last trip to what one official called a "salesman" on behalf of the US nuclear industry. The President had been enlisted by US officials eager to court Gulf states looking to buy nuclear power plants and are in competition with France, whose President Sarkozy, like his predecessors, is shameless in promoting French industry on any foreign trip. The kind of nuclear success the White House is looking for is the one achieved with Libya when the Qadaffi regime "came clean" about its nuclear program. But since then, the Administration's attempts to reward Tripoli have been stymied by Congressional efforts to insure that families of victims of Libyan sponsored terrorism are fully compensated for theirlosses. Now the Administration is hard at work trying to reach a "global settlement" which would satisfy all outstanding claims and allow Libya to be taken off the official terrorism list. "It is important that countries know that reform is possible and once guilty is not always guilty," says one State Department official.

Erdoğan will make the necessary statement that he believes appropriate, before or during Damascus trip ...

In the Turkish Zaman, here

Israel rejects Hamas cease-fire offer as humanitarian crisis deepens in Gaza

In the CSM, here
".... These developments come a day after President George Bush, meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House, said a two-state deal is still possible before Mr. Bush leaves office, The New York Times reports...."

North Korea Talks May Survive Syria Report, U.S. Says ...

Janine Zacharia for Bloomberg, here

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Roumieh prison mutiny ... still ongoing

....of interest to the laymen, Roumieh prison is where the 4 Generals, Assayed, Azar, Hamdan & Hajj are kept ... and where many of the Fath El Islam elements are imprisoned ... I remain suspicious.

Update: AM of April 25: peacful resolution of the mutiny near, says the ISF

Click to see full size image

Indyk to the House Mideast Subcommittee : "Syria won't talk to Israel unless U.S. present..."

At the, here

Bashar Al Assad: "Ardogan did relay Olmert's readiness to a total Golan withdrawal..."

In the Qatari, Al Watan, here

Al-Sadr Considers Restarting Full-Scale Fight Against US-Led Forces

"Muqtada has shown a great deal of patience not calling for an all-out war yet with so much pressure on him," said Mohan Abedin, director of research at London's Center for the Study of Terrorism and an expert on Shiite affairs. "The Mahdi Army is by far the most powerful Iraqi faction. It can cause damage on a massive scale if it goes to war."

US Official: "...but it's a video presentation, like a Powerpoint presentation. IT IS NOT a video of the facility."

No video? A video of the photos? .... and the con jobs continue! Yahoo News, here via MoonOfAlabama.
"...A US official, requesting anonymity, told AFP: "There are still photographs of the facility as part of the video, but it's a video presentation, like a Powerpoint presentation. It's not a video of the facility."
The New York Times and The Washington Post, had earlier cited unnamed senior US officials saying a video showing North Koreans inside the Syrian reactor would be shown at the hearings..."

Cheney's Compulsive Obsession with Syrian nukes & Iraq WMDs..

In the WashingtonNote, here
"..... Cheney believes that Syria has them -- and has been watching closely intelligence streams from a secret "black SIGINT base" that the US has placed in the mountains near the intersection of the Syrian, Turkish, and Iraqi borders...."
turkey iran syria twn.jpg

An agent inside with a video camera is a littler more "24".. than typical clandestine op.. not sure how or why the Syrians let a video cam. inside?!

ArmscontrolWonk, here
"There are still tons of unanswered questions, but I suspect folks will ask those in the Congressional briefings:
  • Who took the video, when and why? How did the Israelis get a copy?
  • Where are the fuel fabrication and reprocessing facilities? I would be surprised if Syria would be willing to depend on foreign fuel and, even more, on foreign reprocessing services.
  • Why weren’t Administration officials willing to call it a reactor, even off-the-record? "

Hillary: "I was named after Sir Ed Hillary..." but 5 YEARS BEFORE HE CLIMBED EVEREST????

FLC does not usually go "there" .. but that is embarrassingly funny ... here

French Deputy to Kouchner: "What happened to Zuheir Siddiq?"

In the French Assemblee-Nationale: "M. Gérard Bapt demande à Mme la garde des sceaux, ministre de la justice, des éclaircissements sur les conditions dans lesquelles le syrien Mohammed Zouheïr Al Siddiq a, selon M. le ministre des Affaires étrangères, disparu depuis 1 mois. Témoin principal interrogé par la commission internationale chargée d'enquêter sur l'assassinat, en février 2005, de l'ex-premier Ministre libanais, Rafic Hariri, les accusations portées par cet ancien membre des services de renseignements syriens avaient conduit à l'arrestation de 4 généraux libanais toujours détenus. Arrêté à son arrivée en France, en vertu d'un mandat d'arrêt international, il avait été remis en liberté sur le territoire français malgré une demande d'extradition provenant de la justice libanaise. Il lui demande de rendre publiques les informations dont elle dispose sur la disparition de Monsieur Al Siddiq, quelle est la situation juridique de ce citoyen syrien, et si une enquête a été lancée concernant le sort d'un témoin important du dossier de l'enquête internationale en cours sur l'assassinat de Rafic Hariri et de plusieurs autres personnalités libanaises."

... the Siddiq saga, in line with epic "con jobs" ... (Lebanese Minister of Justice, Charles Rizk, sensing an American eclipse, in a crazed race against time, lobbies to hurry efforts to nominate Canadian Judge Daniel Belmar as "special prosecutor" to thwart any possibility of release of the incarcerated Generals ... )

Buthaina Shaaban reveals Israeli offer to ‘return’ the Golan... Israeli leaders do not deny the reports..

In the FT, here

Back to the Jordanian option: "The Jordanians won’t admit this publicly, yet a Palestinian state in the West Bank is the worst solution for them.."

In case you missed this a few days back, ... in YNetnews, here
"....We should reshuffle the cards and try to think about other solutions as well. One of them is a return to the Jordanian option. The Jordanians won’t admit this publicly, yet a Palestinian state in the West Bank is the worst solution for them. They too know that within a short period of time such state would be ruled by Hamas. The moment Jordan—which features a Palestinian majority as well as powerful Muslim Brotherhood opposition— will share a border with a Hamas state, the Hashemite regime will face immediate danger...."

Abbas and Olmert Meet at Informal First Meeting

US Sells Secret Anti-IED Tech to Iraq amid fears that this is tantamount to a technology transfer to Iran...

In, here via World Politics Review.
"You have to assume that about the third one that we ship over there is going to go straight out the back door," said John Pike, director of the, a Washington-area defense research group. "We have a fundamental dilemma here in trying to indigenize these security forces."

Israel asks US to refrain from 'detailing strike', while... "Anonymous" nuke expert described video of Syrian-Korean shenanigans as "very damning"...

The White House going public with this 'story' seems promising, ... WaPo and Haaretz, here

Fearing a War, Lebanese Prepare by Buying Up Arms

Price Inflation .....In the WaPo, here
"There are more arms dealers in this country than there is hair on my head," said Abu Omar, who has long white hair and who refused to be named more precisely out of concern the government would take away his gun licenses...."

Bush's "secret" letter gave Israel permission to expand the West Bank settlements...

Help Bush from himself ... In the WaPo, here
"... Ehud Olmert, the current Israeli prime minister, said this week that Bush's letter gave the Jewish state permission to expand the West Bank settlements that it hopes to retain in a final peace deal, even though Bush's peace plan officially calls for a freeze of Israeli settlements across Palestinian territories on the West Bank. In an interview this week, Sharon's chief of staff, Dov Weissglas, said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reaffirmed this understanding in a secret agreement reached between Israel and the United States in the spring of 2005, just before Israel withdrew from Gaza...."

Sadrists ask for Allawi's 'assistance' in negotiations with US?...

In Iraq-Updates, here & here, via AbouMuqawama.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Douglas Feith 'sacked' by G'town?

In the HOYA, here

Asked about Feith's status, Robert Gallucci, dean of Georgetown's foreign service school, told us that when Feith was hired -- something that caused an uproar among the faculty -- it was understood he "was on a two-year appointment." Any decision not to renew should not be seen as "a judgment on his performance," Gallucci said, noting that Feith's students' "course evaluations were really good." Word is that keeping Feith on beyond the two-year term again would have infuriated a number of faculty members. .." in the WaPo

Iraqi Troops: Asleep on the Job?

In Time, here via MoonOfAlabama
And at least one American soldier said he was angry that the role of Iraqi troops was exaggerated after the battle. "A gunfight broke out and we were fighting [the Mahdi Army] for about four hours," the soldier told TIME. "The army article made it sound like we were just there supporting the Iraqi Army, but we did all the work. We just had four humvees out there with some Iraqi [troops]."
Iraqi soldiers check a house during a military operation in the holy city of Karbala, southern Iraq, April, 2008.

U.S. intelligence officials: "no solid evidence to date that Syria was actually building a nuclear facility"...

in TWN, here
"...In a closed congressional session tomorrow, Israeli intelligence officers will provide Members of Congress with details regarding Israel's air raid last September on an alleged nuclear installation Syria was constructing with North Korean assistance. However, there is no solid evidence to date that Syria was actually building a nuclear facility, according to highly-placed U.S. intelligence officials.
CIA analysts suggest the Syrians might have been building some kind of air missile facility. But the Bush administration is keen on darkening Syria's image, as are the Israelis, so they must promote the nuclear line. President Assad of Syria has joked to Western visitors that his engineers are so incompetent that if they tried to build a nuclear facility it would become another Chernobyl.
Vice-President Dick Cheney continues to tell associates that the Syrians were constructing a chemical weapons plant. At the time of the attack, UN nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei accused the Israelis of taking "the law into their own hands" and demanded more information about what was hit. To date, the IAEA chief has received no such briefing......."

Carter: Rice statement untrue, I wasn't warned not to meet Hamas

In Reuters, via Haaretz, here
"No one in the State Department or any other department of the U.S. government ever asked him [Carter] to refrain from his recent visit to the Middle East or even suggested that he not meet with Syrian President [Bashar] Assad or leaders of Hamas," said a statement released by the Atlanta-based Carter Center, which speaks on the former president's behalf..."

..Petraeus picked as CENTCOM commander ..


Maliki voiced frustration with Arab for failing to send ambassadors and relieve Iraq’s debts...

In the NYTimes, here
"...Ms. Rice seemed sanguine about aid to Iraq, saying that debt relief was on the way and that diplomatic issues would soon be resolved. The Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, speaking to reporters alongside Ms. Rice and the Turkish foreign minister, Ali Babacan, said, “we have to be patient with our Arab brothers.”
"...Mr. Maliki and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was also at the Kuwait meeting, have made similar appeals over the past year. Those have resulted in numerous verbal expressions of support, and even pledges to send ambassadors to Iraq, but little tangible progress..."

Turkey's Ardogan relays to Assad Israel's readiness for a "full Golan withdrawal"?

Al Jazeera, here

... and for seasoning, "CIA to describe North Korea-Syria nuclear ties"..

In the LATimes, here
"...Some administration officials are believed to be unhappy with the latest developments in talks with North Korea. But several analysts were skeptical of speculation that the briefing might have been initiated by internal opponents who hope to set off an outcry that would scuttle any deal with Pyongyang...."

.... while Joint Chiefs Chmn. Mullen says "Iran's activities ..., resulted in the deaths of Coalition forces..."

At the Atlantic Council of the United States, here
"...We also live in a time where Iran routinely pushes its way into more and more realms of instability. And I, for one, think it is important that we deal with that instability that they create, whether it is Hezbollah, Hamas. Recent operations in Southern Iraq, recent combat operations in Southern Iraq in Basra highlighted yet again Iran's activities in ways that very specifically pointed to activities which, in fact, resulted in the deaths of coalition soldiers. And I think for the ability to create stability in that part of the world that not just this alliance, but those who are allied, will have to deal with Iran in the very near future..."

Gates: says another Mideast War Would Be "Disastrous".......

AP, via the Huffington Post, here
"Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he believes Iran is "hell bent" on acquiring nuclear weapons, but he warned in strong terms of the consequences of going to war over that..... Gates also said that if the war in Iraq is not finished on favorable terms the consequences could be dire..."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Lebanon finds Berlusconi's "rules-of-engagement-review" comment "dangerous"...

Monsterandcritics, here

Barbra Streisand pulls out of Israel 60th anniversary jubilee..."disturbed by Israel's complicity in the worsening problems with Gaza"?

Here, and Steve Clemons adds this "She gave no reason for her cancellation -- but those who know her tell me that she's disturbed by Israel's complicity in the worsening problems with Gaza and with the failure to move towards some kind of a credible Palestinian state solution. " here

"Mossad.. was involved in tragic histories of using Jewish citizens to spy on their governments..led to the deaths of many Jews around the world.."

At SicSemperTyrannis, here

U.S. arrests American suspected of giving nuclear secrets to Israel

In Reuters and true to the Pollard Tradition, here
"....The documents included information about nuclear weapons, a modified version of an F-15 fighter jet and the U.S. Patriot missile air defense system...."
An image of nuclear espionage suspect Ben Ami Kadish, taken from the Jewish War Veterans Web site. (

La France renoue le dialogue avec la Syrie

Bernard Kouchner a rencontré son homologue syrien mardi à Koweït pour parler du Liban. C'est une première depuis la décision française en décembre dernier de suspendre les contacts officiels avec Damas, .... Le Figaro, here

Bernard Kouchner et son homologue syrien Walid al-Muallem. (Marwan Naamani / AFP)
Mottaki, Kouchner & Muallem ...

Is the United States still the “indispensable nation”? How much more time does it have on top of the global political order?

In the National Interest, Leverett, Weber & Kempe weigh in, here
".... a foreign policy approach predicated on collapsing oil prices is probably not feasible....
....Leverett saw a huge disconnect between the foreign-policy rhetoric of the U.S. presidential candidates and the actual situation, going so far as to say that Obama, Clinton and McCain must be talking about “some other planet.”
......Gvosdev left off. Wondering how long it would take for Americans to “wake up” to the fact that “another center of gravity” is emerging, he spoke of a group of developing states building an “alternative . . . international system” that largely bypasses the United States....."

U.S. Embassy 'clarifies' David Welch’s Statement

"Several media outlets have incorrectly reported on recent remarks by Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs C. David Welch

Answering a question from a reporter in the United Arab Emirates about his trip to Lebanon, Assistant Secretary Welch said Lebanese had expressed to him concern that tourism could suffer again this summer because of the tension in the country.

The Assistant Secretary said:

"They're worried that they'll have another difficult summer of tourism being low because of the tension in the country, and more broadly, I think they are concerned, ever since Hizballah launched the war in 2006, that maybe Lebanon will miss out from this oil boom, that it will be left behind in the region as there is economic progress elsewhere. So I found them troubled about the future."

Department of State continues to strongly urge that Americans defer travel to Lebanon

STATE's update, here

Monday, April 21, 2008

Think Again: Israel

By Gershom Gorenberg in FP, here
...Garrison State: Far from endangered, Israel now controls the commanding heights....(and endangers its neighbors!)

FUTURE News: M14 MPs will attend tomorrow's session for the Election of a new President...

..... remains to be seen whether it's a sloganeering & photo-op or ... else! But the else, as of 3:00AM Beirut time, is not possible: 50+1 is unattainable due to the travels of some ...

Attack Iran, With Words...

.... Gerecht on the other hand, is clearer, though with 'nuance'! In the NYTimes, here

Hawkish talks with Iran?

O'Hanlon hoping for 'failure' of diplomacy? I get the feeling that he does! In the Wash-Times, here
"...To suggest sitting down and talking with such a regime will itself be a major step toward solving our problems in Iraq risks sounding naive. To be sure, Mr. Obama has good company: The Iraq Study Group made a similar argument late in 2006. But at that point, at least, it was (slightly) easier to excuse Iran's behavior partly as the result of President Bush's pre-emption doctrine, earlier axis of evil speech, and unwillingness to deal directly with not only President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but his somewhat more moderate predecessors..."

"They..should never travel outside the US, except to Saudi Arabia and Israel. They broke the law; they violated their professional ethical code..."

In the Guardian, here (Where are you Prof. Michael Ratner?)

Larry Wilkerson, a former army officer and chief of staff to Colin Powell, US secretary of state at the time, told the Guardian: "I do know that Rumsfeld had neutralised the chairman [Myers] in many significant ways.

"The secretary did this by cutting [Myers] out of important communications, meetings, deliberations and plans.

"At the end of the day, however, Dick Myers was not a very powerful chairman in the first place, one reason Rumsfeld recommended him for the job".

He added: "Haynes, Feith, Yoo, Bybee, Gonzalez and - at the apex - Addington, should never travel outside the US, except perhaps to Saudi Arabia and Israel. They broke the law; they violated their professional ethical code. In future, some government may build the case necessary to prosecute them in a foreign court, or in an international court."

David Welch 'predicts' another very hot summer in Lebanon...

The Welch Club is at it again, ... In the UAE's Al Itihad, here

U.S. and Iran Find Common Ground in Iraq’s Shiite Conflict?

In the NYTimes, here
"...The causes of this convergence boil down to the logic of self-interest, although it is logic in a place where even the most basic reasoning refuses to go in a straight line. In essence, though, the calculation by the United States is that it must back the government it helped to create and take the steps needed to protect American troops and civilian officials.
Iranian motivations appear to hinge on the possibility that Mr. Sadr’s political and military followers could gain power in provincial elections this fall, and disrupt the creation of a semiautonomous region in the south that the Iranians see as beneficial...."

"...Incidentally, Miller was never able to name three non-Jewish friends who would have hidden him if the Nazis took over America..."

Eldar in Haaretz, on Aaron Miller, here
"...Aaron David Miller, a former State Department official, says U.S. acted as 'Israel's lawyer' in peace talks...accuses U.S. of pro-Israel bias ..."

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Newshour: Mark Perry squares off with Robert Satloff on engaging Hamas ...

MARGARET WARNER: Mark Perry, should Jimmy Carter have met with Khaled Mashal and, if so, to what end?

MARK PERRY, Conflicts Forum: Absolutely he should have met with him, and here’s why. There are three very good reasons.

First, Hamas won an election in January 2006 in the Palestinian Authority, and it wasn’t even close, and it was the most transparent, open and fair elections in Arab world history.

Second, they retain prestige among the Palestinian people. All polls show that they retain their strength.

And, third, most recently, their leaders have been showing real moderation. They want an opening to the United States. This is their opportunity, and Jimmy Carter is capitalizing on that. We should be talking to Hamas.

MARGARET WARNER: So what’s the harm?

ROBERT SATLOFF, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy: This is a grave mistake. Jimmy Carter may be a fairly marginal political actor in the United States, but abroad he’s viewed as an ex-president and a Nobel Peace Prize-winner. He lends the credibility of his office to meeting with a terrorist organization.... (more here)