Monday, June 30, 2008

"Kuwait.. taking precautionary steps to export oil if Iran closes the Strait of Hormuz.."

"...Crude oil rose to a record above $143 a barrel, completing the biggest quarterly increase in nine years, on concern Israel may attack Iran over its nuclear program and disrupt supply from OPEC's second-largest producer.
Pressure on Iran to end uranium enrichment and the falling value of the U.S. dollar may drive prices to $170 a barrel, OPEC President Chakib Khelil said June 28. Kuwait, the fourth-largest OPEC producer, is taking precautionary steps to export oil if Iran closes the Strait of Hormuz, Kuwait News Agency reported...."

Lebanon's "electoral weight & security"

This map of Lebanon, prepared by Lebanon-Support, seeks to identify areas of “vulnerability” within Lebanon—what might best be described as potential flashpoints. as of June 2008. The map’s authors describe the map’s layers in these terms:

  1. Political layer, displaying the electoral weight of the opposition and “loyalists” in each of the electoral districts of the 2005 general elections.
  2. Confessional layer, displaying a rough presentation of the geographic distribution of Lebanese confessions.
  3. Security layer, displaying the areas that have witnessed tensions and conflicts in the May 2008 events, as well as current conflicts in the North, Sidon, and the Bekaa.
  4. Deprivation layer, displaying areas with a high percentage of “deprived households” on the district level, as well as areas with a high concentration of “deprived households” as a percentage of the total population in Lebanon.

IRAN: " is either a real war or none at all. Israel cannot be “delegated.” Nor should it be..."

Joseph Joffe, publisher-editor of Die Zeit, via MESH, here
"...The basic problem is the divergence of interest once you go beyond the shared loathing of the Tehran regime and the common U.S.-Israeli abhorrence of Iranian nukes. Since these threaten Israel’s existence, other items like oil fields in Saudi Arabia, tanker traffic in the Gulf or terror in Iraq are logically secondary concerns. For the United States, on the other hand, these “secondary” concerns are primary ones. In the war in Iraq, it matters a great deal how the Iranians would respond on that front line. Forget the Mahdi Army; even Moqtada Sadr is not a flunky for the “Supreme Leader.” But how about a straightforward lunge of the Revolutionary Guards into the Basra province—oil wells and all?
...The Israeli air force cannot stage such a three-pronged campaign. Nor would it have to because even $300 oil pales in significance to national survival. For the United States as the global power, however, Iranian retaliation in Iraq or against oil assets matters greatly. Therefore, these threats would have to be eliminated along with the Bushehr reactors and the enrichment and reprocessing plants. Hence, it is either a real war or none at all. Israel cannot be “delegated.” Nor should it be."

Saudi Arrests: Iran's the culprit...

" of today, the Saudis are now injecting a new piece of information into the story: the network was taking orders and receiving money from someone in Iran...
(*)The funding for the AQ cells in Saudi came from one of the major countries in the region in the form of Euros. (al-Qabas, “Oil Cell”)
(*)Instructions for the cells came from the same major country in the region in which leaders of AQ sought refuge, like the Egyptian Sayf al-Adl who is currently living there. (al-Qabas, “Oil Cell”) ..."

Andrew Card: '...the citizenry have right to be informed only if that did not limit the president's freedom to go to war...'

Col. Lang on Card, here
"...Today on the MSNBC "Morning Joe" show, Card was asked by Pat Buchanan if the American people did not have the right to be informed in advance of deliberations that might lead to a new war.
Card's reply was that the citizenry have right to be informed only if that did not limit the president's freedom of action in deciding how to defend us (America.)
There you have it. The man was the president's chief of staff and he thinks of the presidency as a nearly unlimited monarchy." pl


Bush 'mesmerized' as he learns of the New York, twin towers attacks...from Card

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Viva Espana ...

Fernando Torres celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal in the 33rd minute.
Spain 1- Germany 0 (Torres min. 33')

"If Hezbollah & Hamas can can gain the release of Lebanese prisoners & bring about the collapse of Israel's policy of sanctions...."

Zvi Bar'el, in Haaretz, Here
"....The Palestinian Authority, like the Lebanese government, had nothing to do with these negotiations. They watched from afar how those groups, Hamas and Hezbollah, are taking onto themselves the authority of states and holding negotiations that are not only about the release of prisoners. Every such negotiation has diplomatic and political aspects. After all, if only Hezbollah. not the government in Beirut, can gain the release of Lebanese prisoners, and if only Hamas and the rest of the Palestinian factions have the power to bring about the collapse of Israel's policy of sanctions and opening the crossings into the Gaza Strip - what's left for the state above them to do? ...
....Israel experiences pangs of great pain every time it needs to undertake such negotiations, but could have probably avoided the experience. During the first days of the Second Lebanon War it appeared that Hezbollah was willing to release the two abducted soldiers to the custody of the Lebanese government, so that it would negotiate over them. It is unclear why Israel rejected the offer. In retrospect, we can also say that even before the raid, the abduction and the war that followed, Israel could have negotiated over the release of Samir Kuntar with the government of Lebanon, granting it the political gains or at least the role of mediator...."

FYE: "Syria will employ its Islamist militant proxies in Lebanon to move AGAINST Hezbollah.."

Thanks to Josh Landis, we get this STRATFOR early-April fools ... here.
"....Syria appears to be feeling confident enough about the Israeli political situation to keep on trucking with the negotiations....An Israeli-Syrian rapprochement will have to involve Syria’s cooperating in trimming Hezbollah to size....A number of Syrian and Saudi-backed Islamist militant groups — operating under a variety of shadowy names that are designed to sow confusion — have been popping up recently in Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps......with the secular Syrian regime more interested in circumscribing Hezbollah’s power in Lebanon..."

Iran ready to strike Dimona....& Israel has a year to stop Iran bomb, warns former head of Mossad...

In the London Times, here ... and "Israel has One Year..." in the Telegraph, here

A satellite image of Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment facility

Israel approves a prisoner swap with Hezbollah..

In Al Jazeera/English, here

Hersh: "Preparing the Battlefield: The Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran"

Sy Hersh, in the New Yorker, here
"....Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year. These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of “high-value targets” in the President’s war on terror, who may be captured or killed. But the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have now been significantly expanded...

....some members of the Democratic leadership were willing, in secret, to go along with the Administration in expanding covert activities directed at Iran, while the Party’s presumptive candidate for President, Barack Obama, has said that he favors direct talks and diplomacy..
....Gates warned of the consequences if the Bush Administration staged a preëmptive strike on Iran, saying, as the senator recalled, “We’ll create generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America.”
....The Joint Chiefs of Staff, whose chairman is Admiral Mike Mullen, were “pushing back very hard” against White House pressure to undertake a military strike against Iran...The Democratic leadership’s agreement to commit hundreds of millions of dollars for more secret operations in Iran was remarkable, given the general concerns of officials like Gates, Fallon, and many others...
...There is a growing realization among some legislators that the Bush Administration, in recent years, has conflated what is an intelligence operation and what is a military one in order to avoid fully informing Congress about what it is doing...."
Fallon made it clear in our conversations that he considered it inappropriate to comment publicly about the President, the Vice-President, or Special Operations. But he said he had heard that people in the White House had been “struggling” with his views on Iran...[his]early retirement, however, appears to have been provoked not only by his negative comments about bombing Iran but also by his strong belief in the chain of command and his insistence on being informed about Special Operations in his area of responsibility...“When Fallon tried to make sense of all the overt and covert activity conducted by the military in his area of responsibility, a small group in the White House leadership shut him out.”...The Pentagon consultant said, “Fallon went down because, in his own way, he was trying to prevent a war with Iran, and you have to admire him for that.”
...Jundallah, .. which describes itself as a resistance force fighting for the rights of Sunnis in Iran. “This is a vicious Salafi organization ..."They are suspected of having links to Al Qaeda and they are also thought to be tied to the drug culture.” The Jundallah took responsibility for the bombing of a busload of Revolutionary Guard soldiers in February, 2007. At least eleven Guard members were killed. According to Baer and to press reports, the Jundallah is among the groups in Iran that are benefitting from U.S. support...
...But a lesson was learned in the incident [IRG/US Navy 'interaction in the Gulf]: The public had supported the idea of retaliation, and was even asking why the U.S. didn’t do more. The former official said that, a few weeks later, a meeting took place in the Vice-President’s office. “The subject was how to create a casus belli between Tehran and Washington,” he said.

"Iran Panic"

Laura Rosen talks to Parsi, Melman, Levy & others about the likeliness of a US or Israeli strike ... before Bush exits the WH, ... in MoJo, here

Saturday, June 28, 2008

DOD: "..Taliban has coalesced into a resilient its ability to regenerate combat power by leveraging tribal networks.."

Via AbouMuqawama, "...Late Friday night, the Pentagon released two congressionally mandated reports evaluating the progress of international efforts in Afghanistan.
The first,
Report on Progress toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan, provides an assessment of developments from 2001 through April of this year. The companion report, United States Plan for Sustaining the Afghanistan National Security Forces, as the title suggests, provides a “long-term plan for sustaining the ANSF...."

Bush Rebuffs Team-Cheney's Hard-Liners ...

"....In the internal Bush administration war between the State Department and Mr. Cheney’s office over North Korea, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her top North Korea envoy, Christopher R. Hill, won a major battle against the Cheney camp when President Bush announced Thursday that he was taking the country he once described as part of the “axis of evil” off the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. ...."

Friday, June 27, 2008

Congressional Research Service Report: IRAN's Economy

An updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that have not been made readily available to the public include the following report on Iran's Economy, via Secrecy News, here

Jane's: "Syrian Troops in Lebanon... part of maneuvers that took place just ahead of Israel's largest military war drill..."

Jane's says that these are Syrian troops inside Lebanese territory. (Via DigitalGlobe) Jane's goes on to say that "Syrian positions in Lebanon appear designed purely as a forward defensive line in the case of any Israeli advance and not as conduits for weaponry smuggled from Syria to Hezbollah..." Jane's concludes that these 'might' have been part of maneuvers that "took place just ahead of Israel's largest ever civilian and military war drill..."

Is it "..the collapse of the Bush doctrine"?

"....Bush had refused to engage in one-on-one diplomacy with a regime he reviled, at least outside the Chinese-organized six-nation framework. He still refuses direct talks with Iran, another troublesome nuclear aspirant...
....Even some proponents of the peace talks say North Korea's nuclear declaration contains less than it promised last year. It covers North Korea's known efforts to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons, but says nothing about the weapons themselves — nor about an alleged covert program aimed at a uranium-based bomb or the North's nuclear cooperation with countries such as Syria.
"I think it's a very sad day. ... It reflects the collapse of the Bush doctrine," said former undersecretary of state John Bolton, a leading hawk on proliferation issues...."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Former Senior US Diplomat: US should engage with Hamas leaders

"...Richard Viets, who was US ambassador to Jordan in the early 1980s, Tuesday recounted his meeting with Haniya in Gaza earlier this month as part of a private US group's fact-finding mission to the region. "Haniya is a very smart, articulate, sophisticated, thoughtful politician. You have to be impressed sitting in the room with him," Viets told a news conference. "On the whole his comments regarding Israel I thought were remarkably balanced and non-polemical," Viets said..."

Obama’s letter to Bush on AIPAC's site: "..Israel’s security at greater risk because of policy choices by the US.."

On AIPAC's site, here

US Administration: "...there is much skepticism over Israel's ability to act alone on Iran..."

MEPGS: [Excerpts]
" While official Israeli planning is a very closely held matter, Israeli and US officials have made no secret of the fact that the two countries, in the words of one well-placed diplomat, "...are operating on different timetables." The Israelis suspect that the Bush Administration has effectively concluded that it will be the next Administration which has to make the "tough" decisions regarding actions necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons....
..Israel and the US would prefer to use the diplomatic track, if it is still viable. One approach to pressuring Iran that is supported by a growing number of Members of Congress, is to target the import of refined product. Although Iran is a major exporter of crude oil, because of its limited refinery capacity, it has to import as much as half of its daily use, by some estimates. However, this approach, even advocates admit, is
beset by a number of drawbacks....
...Still, there is much skepticism within the US government over Israel's ability to act alone. And key Administration officials see in the Mediterranean air maneuvers a lot more bravado than actual planning for an extremely difficult military operation. As one senior State Department official said last week, "When the Israelis went after the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 and Syria's facility last year, there was no publicity before and very little afterwards."
.. Israeli and US policies regarding Syria and Lebanon have diverged recently, as well. Talks brokered by Turkey have been greeted by the Administration with at best, a heavy dose of skepticism. Key US officials, many of whom were not aware of the advanced state the talks had reached, are now saying they have no
choice but to support Israel's efforts. As one well-placed State Department official put it this week, "We are hardly in a position to discourage Israel from trying to make peace with one of its neighbors." However, this official could not hide his displeasure over concurrent Israeli talks (brokered by Germany) to win the release of its two soldiers kidnapped in the summer of 2006 [An action which led to the violent but inconclusive month long round of fighting between the two adversaries]....
...According to informed sources, Secretary Rice has long sought to reopen the Shebba Farms issue. More recently, she has cited it as an opportunity to bolster Siniora and the central government's standing. As one Administration critic of the Secretary puts it, "Her attitude is why shouldn't Siniora be able to claim a victory over Israel, just like Hezbollah?" Not surprisingly, the Israelis take exception to the Secretary's approach on practical and well as political grounds. Says one Israeli diplomat, "We'll open this issue up and soon the Syrians will be saying one thing, the Lebanese another and we will be going round and round, getting nowhere." Israel's riposte was Prime Minister Olmert's public declaration calling for Lebanese- Israeli talks on a wide range of issues. Although Olmert fully expected his offer to be turned down [Which Siniora promptly did], it still allowed the Israelis to emphasize that extant UN Security Council resolutions leave a number of issues, more important than Shebba Farms, still unresolved.
...Although Prime Minister Olmert may have scored a few political points in his public call for talks with Lebanon,..... he has become something of a figure of ridicule, says one senior White House official..."

Sy Hersh's piece on covert-ops ....IRAN coming this week end!

In Rose Garden statement Bush will seek N-Korea's removal from "state sponsors" & suspends sanctions ...

Steve Clemons in TWN, here

Can Lebanon douse political fires?

Blanford in the CSM, here
"...Foreign jihadi militants have infiltrated Tebbaneh and are being armed and paid by Saudi officials and leaders of the Future Movement, echoing a prevalent rumor in Lebanon..."

Perle: "..after denouncing Iran's weapons program, a hapless president and his coalition can only look on while the Iranians rush to the finish line"

The Prince of Darkness in the WaPo, here
"...The coalition that Rice thinks a success, and Obama a failure, is, at best, a "do nothing decisive" group, with at least half its members -- Germany, Russia and China -- maneuvering for self-serving advantage in their dealings with the mullahs in Iran...."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Secret level briefing: State Department's democracy promotion activities in Iran..

Friday 1130am: Secret level briefing for Senate Foreign Relations committee staff by State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor and Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs on State Department's democracy promotion activities in Iran. (Laura Rosen)

... that will be the game to watch today ...

GER 1-- TUR 1 (at Halftime!)
GER 3--TUR 2 (Germany goes to the Final in Vienna!)

‘Unexceptional: America’s Empire in the Persian Gulf’

Marc O'Reilly, ... in MESH, here
"... As the primary extra-regional power in the region, the United States adopted a number of imperial strategies (which I dub proxy, alliance, and unilateral) in an effort to achieve its national-security objectives. Some of those strategies, which pre-dated the Nixon Doctrine, worked well; others disappointed or failed. The history of empires recounted many similar episodes, ...
.....I realized that the United States could proceed hegemonically in Europe, a zone of peace that emphasizes economic competition via well-established institutions, but imperially in the Persian Gulf, a zone of conflict where violence (or the threat of it) could still carry the day.....
....Yet my case study underscores that, in the Persian Gulf, the United States proceeded in a manner similar, if not identical, to the British, Ottoman, and other imperia. Thus, I characterize the American empire in the Gulf as unexceptional...."

A (Slightly) Better War: A Narrative and Its Defects

Gian Gentile has this essay on the "surge" in World Affairs Journal, via the Washington Independent's Spencer Ackerman.
"...For surge enthusiasts, there is no such thing as declaring victory too soon. Historically, in order for a counterinsurgency to succeed, the counterinsurgent force must operate in a society with a relatively cohesive identity and alongside a government that possesses at least some measure of legitimacy—two conditions plainly spelled out in the new counterinsurgency manual. Neither apply to Iraq, where ministries operate by sect rather than by function, sectarian hatreds have gone well beyond the point where “hearts and minds” campaigns will dampen them, and only a decades-long American occupation can prevent the country from coming apart at the seams. We are fighting an insurgency; they are fighting a civil war. In 2006, a Sunni brigade commander in the Iraqi National Police (a rarity in the Shia-dominated force) told me, shortly after the destruction of the Samarra mosque, that it would take “400 years” for Iraq to resolve this war. Recent history suggests that for Americans even ten years might be too long..."

"...Attack on Al Kibar's "Enigma Building" may have helped the Syria-Israel peace talks..."

David Ignatius, in the WaPo, here
... and more here on Imad Mughniyeh'.."Adding to the speculation are reports that shortly before his death, Mughniyah was attempting to heal a split within Hezbollah between the group's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, and its former leader, Subhi Tufaily. Tufaily's power base is the Bekaa Valley, which has lost influence in Hezbollah to Shiites from southern Lebanon. According to one Arab source, Mughniyah -- traveling under his longtime pseudonym, "Haj Ismail" -- paid a visit shortly before his death to Tufaily's village of Britel, just south of Baalbek..."

Lebanon ranks a sorry 18th in "failed state index"

In Foreign Policy, here and here

Bush to Filipino President: I am reminded of the talent of Filipino-Americans when I look at the WH 'help'....

In the Huffington Post, here
"Madam President, it is a pleasure to welcome you back to the Oval Office. We have just had a very constructive dialogue. First, I want to tell you how proud I am to be the President of a nation that -- in which there's a lot of Philippine-Americans. They love America and they love their heritage. And I reminded the President that I am reminded of the great talent of the -- of our Philippine-Americans when I eat dinner at the White House...(laughter)"

Damascus is certain that the results of the IAEA inspection will help it wither new sanctions

In the CSM, here

BREAKING: Bush Administration to Ask Congress on Thursday to REMOVE North Korea from TERROR WATCH LIST

Steve Clemons, at TWN, here
"...While North Korea's behavior continues to be erratic and often troubling, the Bush administration's decision will be considered a major victory for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Deputy Secretary John Negroponte, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and others -- but the real winner is Department of State Asst. Secretary for East Asia Affairs Christopher Hill -- who has been under almost constant assault from John Bolton and others opposed to deal-making with North Korea"

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The facade of Lebanon's ailments ...

Olmert to resign soon?

Al Jazeera, here

Syria on track to return to its political and economic alliance with Russia

"....With many doors closed to it, Damascus can see in Russia a friendly state that can provide much of what the Syrian economy needs, investment and heavy engineering know-how"

Senior STATE Officials: ".. to open a US interest section in Tehran.."

If this happens, it should cause some severe heart ailments to many in the US and the Middle East ... Fred Hiatt, in the WaPo, here
"....Senior officials at the State Department and beyond are mulling a proposal to open an interest section in Tehran, similar to the one the United States has operated in Havana since 1977. This would fall short of full diplomatic recognition, but it would open a channel to the Iranian people and, maybe, eventually, to the regime as well.
Beneath the debate is an effort by the administration to bequeath to its successor a foreign policy on something of an even keel, and a belief that Iran may be the relationship furthest from achieving that. ..."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Israel 'will attack Iran' before new US president sworn in, John Bolton predicts

...and the Arab world would be "pleased" by Israeli strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities, he said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, here

John Bolton, the former American ambassador to the United Nations

Dealing with Damascus: Seeking a Greater Return on U.S.-Syria Relations

USIP's Mona Yacoubian & Scott make a strong case that the Bush administration’s policy of diplomatic isolation of Syria is not serving U.S. interests, at CFR, here
"...What lessons can be drawn from this lengthy period of confrontation? First, prospects for Syrian cooperation were diminished due to maximalist demands from Washington and its unwillingness to bargain.
Fourth, the attempt to isolate Syria diplomatically because of its destabilizing behavior, including its alliances with Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas, has largely been a selffulfilling prophecy that has only served to limit U.S. options and raise the costs of reengaging.
forgoing dialogue and diplomacy cedes too much of the diplomatic landscape to others, forces Syria to draw closer to Iran and other U.S. adversaries, and leaves the United States feeling righteous but nevertheless on the sidelines.
The policy (engagement) must also be informed by an understanding of Syria’s role in each of these crises, including its underlying motivations, strengths, and weaknesses. Syria’s primary interest is to ensure against Iraq’s complete disintegration, particularly given the likelihood that all-out civil war would result in additional refugee flows into Syria and the potential spillover of sectarian violence. the United States and Syria share a deep antipathy to al-Qaeda and its jihadist ideology.........."

EU freezes Iranian assets...

In the IHT, here, via WPR.
"...The bloc is also studying sanctions against Iran's oil and natural gas sector, but such a step would probably take several months to carry out, diplomats say..."

America’s victory in Lebanon

Mark Perry in BitterLemons via Conflict Forum, here

Adviser: "..Another Attack on US Would Be "Big Advantage" For McCain..."

Charlie Black also advised the late Rafic Hariri among other world dilettantes ... In Fortune, here
"...On national security McCain wins. We saw how that might play out early in the campaign, when one good scare, one timely reminder of the chaos lurking in the world, probably saved McCain in New Hampshire, a state he had to win to save his candidacy - this according to McCain's chief strategist, Charlie Black. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December was an "unfortunate event," says Black. "But his knowledge and ability to talk about it reemphasized that this is the guy who's ready to be Commander-in-Chief. And it helped us." As would, Black concedes with startling candor after we raise the issue, another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. "Certainly it would be a big advantage to him," says Black..."

Lebanese food served with a bang

"....Other dishes include the Kalashnikov, Dragunov, Viper, B52, while realistic-looking weapons and ammunition decorate the counters, and camouflage netting hangs from the ceiling...."
Buns Guns menu (picture courtesy of Manar TV)
Diners are encouraged to laugh - rather than dive for cover

Assad's plays a "risky nuclear game"... and becomes more Conciliatory...?!

Spiegel .....again (with JANE's as "source") here (Thanks to GB)
"...Syria and Iran may be better friends than many thought. Reports indicate that the two might have been cooperating on nuclear weapons research. Now, though, Damascus may be rethinking those ties and looking for friends in the West...According to intelligence reports seen by SPIEGEL, the Syrian facility at Al Kibar that Israeli jets bombed last September was the site of a secret military project. The report states that North Korean, Syrian and Iranian scientists were working side by side to build a reactor to produce weapons-grade plutonium. Sources say that the Iranians were using the facility as a "reserve site" and had intended sending the material back to Tehran.
...Iran, Syria and North Korea are also alleged to have cooperated on the production of chemical weapons. Indeed, in July 2007 an explosion near the Syrian city of Aleppo killed 15 Syrian military officials as well as dozens of Iranian rocket scientists and, according to information obtained by SPIEGEL, three North Koreans. According to Jane's Defence Weekly, the accident released quantities of mustard gas and the nerve agent Sarin...."

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Michel Aoun: "Siniora's shenanigans could lead to War..."

In Al Akhbar, here and for those Germanphonics, Siniora's interview with Austria's Der Standard, here
السنيورة وعقيلته هدى في وسط بيروت أمس (أنور عمرو ــ أ ف ب)

"Perhaps Israel does not want Peace..."

Gideon Levy, in Haaretz, here
"...It is hard to believe: The outbreak of war is received here with a great deal more sympathy and understanding, not to say enthusiasm, than a cease-fire. When the warmongers get started, our unified tom-toms drum out only encouraging messages; when the all-clear is sounded, when people in Sderot can sleep soundly, even if only for a short time, we are all worried. That says something about society's sick face: Quiet is muck, war is the most important thing..."

Sarkozy: "If we do not talk with Bashar Assad there will not be peace in the Middle East"

In Haaretz, here

Al Hurra fails to connect in the Middle East ...

In the WaPo, here and for a better sense as to why the station is under attack () read here in YNEtnews.
"...Al-Hurra -- "The Free One" in Arabic -- is the centerpiece of a U.S. government campaign to spread democracy in the Middle East. Taxpayers have spent $350 million on the project. But more than four years after it began broadcasting, the station is widely regarded as a flop in the Arab world, where it has struggled to attract viewers and overcome skepticism about its mission. Since its inception, al-Hurra has been plagued by mediocre programming, congressional interference and a succession of executives who either had little experience in television or could not speak Arabic, according to interviews with former staffers, other Arab journalists and viewers in the Middle East...
Harb filled the newsroom with Lebanese employees, many of whom had thin journalistic credentials. Anchors spoke in heavy Lebanese dialects"He hired his friends -- this was the problem -- and they didn't have any experience," said Magdi Khalil.... "He had no idea what being a news station means".... former al-Hurra staffers said Harb was encouraged to leave"(he says) ...because he sensed the Broadcasting Board of Governors wanted al-Hurra to promote U.S. foreign policy instead of just reporting the news..."
Washington Institute's Robert Satloff has a segment on al Hurra

Spiegel mixes up the Axis of Evil Again ... Iran, Syria & North Korea

My thanks to Guthman Bey who has this interesting piece about the "reactor" at Al Kibar ... In Der Spiegel (German edition)
"...Meanwhile here is the latest round of disinformation about the "reactor" this time fed to Der Spiegel (English translation not yet available). According to this latest version, the "reactor" was actually (depending which part of the article you believe) either an exiting warehouse for Iranian noocular spareparts whilst being under construction or it was intended for it to become that later. North Korean help with plutonium for Iran on Syrian soil, that is the latest version. And not only that, the evil trio is supposed to also have tried to produce Sarin and mustard gas together, but of course failed: their plant exploded near Hallap in July 07 killing scores of "bad guys". Those evildoers are so useless!
Quote: ...the three countries apparently also cooperated in the production of chemical weapons: at an explosion in July 2007 near Aleppo, during which Sarin and mustard gas escaped, not only 15 syrian soldiers and dozens of Iranian rocket engineers were killed, but, according to sources of SPIEGEL, three North Koreans as well...."

Was Israel's recent major military exercise a rehearsal or a performance?

In the National, here

Israel's Iran-strike a "long way ... but pretty much on the table?!"

Melman AND Harel on Israel's aim ... Iran: a long way but pretty much on the table?! ... in Haaretz, here and here.
Melman writes, "...Israel will not strike Iran without first coordinating its actions with the U.S. This could be a tacit understanding, a flashing yellow light, or a direct request for a green light. Such support is conditioned first and foremost on the question of who will occupy the White House come November....Only when there are clear answers to these issues will Israeli leaders make a decision. First they will take into account the heavy price Israel may have to pay. Undoubtedly, Iran will retaliate. Above all, Israel will make up its mind only as a last resort after realizing the U.S. will not attack Iran, the regime in Iran will not change its direction and the sanctions remain ineffective..."
Harel writes, "The defense establishment assessment as of June 2008 is that in 1.5 to two years Iran will cross the technological threshold enabling Tehran to develop nuclear weapons. Contrary to last December's U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran.....There is still the possibility of an American attack on Iran, but in light of the NIE report that is not highly likely...Israel's effort would not be to completely destroy Iran's nuclear complex - blocking its progress for a period of time may be a significant achievement in itself. .."

Chirac, toujours loge chez les Hariri, devrait boycotter les cérémonies du 14 juillet

The most corrupt President in the history of France acts on "principle" ... in Le Monde, here

Many of Lebanon's Sectarian Differences Do Not Run along a Straight Muslim-Christian Fault Line

Thanks to AB, in Pew, here

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Iraq: Near Term Dangers...

Dr. Iraq at Abou Muqawama discens 6 "near-term dangers in Iraq"...
"....1. OMS/JAM backlash to Maliki's crackdown. Sadrists were not happy about the mass arrests in Amara, and there is considerable risk of backlash, especially among hard-line factions, if they think their ceasefire is being exploited by the Dawa/ISCI backed ISF to secure a permanent political advantage. JAM is not dead . . . and they are capable of producing considerable instability if they choose to.
2. Failure to meet rising Sunni expectations. Maliki’s operations against JAM have bought him a window of opportunity with Iraq’s Sunnis, but it has also increased expectations ......

3. Electing to fight. There is a real danger of violent intra-sectarian competition in the lead-up to, or immediate aftermath of, the provincial elections. ....
4. Maliki’s overconfidence, part I. Maliki’s growing confidence in the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces may actually reduce his sense of urgency in accommodating the country’s Sunni population. Given nearly 100,000 armed Awakening groups/SoIs, that would be a BIG mistake....
5. Maliki’s overconfidence, part II. If Iraq’s leaders, including Maliki,
delude themselves into thinking that the ISF has achieved full operational independence, that may frustrate cooperation with Coalition Forces ..
6. Iran. Iran continues to have incentives to make our life difficult in Iraq – and Tehran has enough influence with all sides to make this happen..."

Gaza cease-fire: will it give Hamas greater clout?

The agreement may mark a break with a longstanding Israeli and American boycott of the Islamic militant organization, giving Hamas incentive to enforce the deal. .. in the CSM, here

Palestinian policemen loyal to  Hamas rest at the  Hamas headquarters in Gaza Friday.

Will Sunday's oil summit in Saudi Arabia lower prices?

"....Backroom whispers suggest that the Saudis may add another half a million barrels, which would raise their production to well over the 9.02 million barrels per day of production reported in April. Saudi production nearing 10 million barrels per day could reverse the perception that supplies are so tight that they prompt fears of disruption.......In private, the Saudis are known to be concerned that a sustained high oil price would accelerate a move by developed nations to new technologies and alternative fuels that could erode the demand for oil, their cash cow.......By increasing the supply, the Saudis hope to burst what they see as a bubble in oil markets...."

What to Make of a Recent Israeli Military Exercise?

Laura Rosen talks to Yossi Melman, intelligence correspondent for Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, in MoJo, here
"....Now does it mean an imminent attack? Far from that. I don't see at the moment an Israeli cabinet which has the nerve to take such a decision.... If they decide to do it, it will not be before spring - mid 2009 most probably, end of 2009,..."

Friday, June 20, 2008

Israel attempting to scuttle $400 million U.S.-Lebanon arms deal

"...Israeli authorities have stated that recent events in Lebanon, including Hezbollah's resurgence in the south, have led them to believe that the arms transfer could pose a security threat, namely if future clashes cause government forces to splinter, possibly causing the arms to fall into the hands of the Lebanese Shi'ite militia Hezbollah..."

A New Legal Challenge to Israeli Settlements

Gershom Gorenberg, in the American Prospect, here
"...The suit is the product of dogged research by Dror Etkes, who for years monitored settlement growth for the Israeli left-wing Peace Now movement. Etkes now heads the Land Advocacy Project of Yesh Din, a group working against violation of Palestinians' rights by settlers. (The veteran B'Tselem rights organization joined in the suit.) Etkes' motivation could be called progressive patriotism: He wants Israel to live up to its own ideals. Through legal action, he seeks to highlight the unbearable dissonance between the rule of law and the settlement effort -- and to force Israel to make a choice between the two..."

Overflight Clearance for an Israeli strike at Natanz, ...

Rick Francona, a retired United States Air Force intelligence officer with extensive operational experience in the Middle East, has these comments on Israel's 'preparations for a strike on Natanz ...etc. Via SicSemperTyrannis.
"Overflight Clearance" is the granting of permission for one country's military or civilian aircraft to fly over and through the air space of another sovereign political entity. For one country to overfly the territory of another without permission is a clear violation of international law which invites engagement by air defense forces of the country overflown or any country that has effective authority to grant or deny overflight permission.
"could be used to rescue downed pilots" Really? Where? Routes to and from Natanz would have to cross some combination of the territories of Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia or Turkey.
Jordan and Saudi Arabia are extremely unlikely to grant overflight clearance for this purpose. Presumably this would include Search-Air Rescue (SAR) missions over their territory as well as the strike itself. Egress from Iran after a strike might well involve Israeli aircraft with combat damage or mechanical problems. Downed aviators in Jordan, Iraq or Saudi Arabia would be a distinct possibility. Are the Israelis envisioning fighting their way into and out of these countries on SAR missions? Would the United States, Jordan, Saudi Arabia or Iraq allow damaged Israeli aircraft to land on airfields in Iraq or these other countries?
Is Turkey going to grant Israel overflight clearance for a routing of the strike or SAR that would enter Turkey at its Mediterranean coast near Iskendurun, turn east to reach Iranian kurdistan, then south to Natnz and return by same route? Opinions?
Is a Syrian route a realistic possibility? Certainly the Syrians are not going to grant such overflight permission. Was the "celebrated" Israeli mission in Syria a while back a test to see how difficult it would be to use Syrian airspace?
Finally, there is the issue of whether or not the Israelis would have overflight clearance for Iraqi airspace at all. At present, the US exercizes airspace control for Iraqi airspace under the authority it has from the UN for the coalition's operations. This authority from the UN is to expire soon. Because of this (and other reasons), the US is seeking acceptance from the Iraqi government for two agreements. One is a SOFA agreement and the other amounts to a mutual defense and cooperation pact. Among the things the US wants under these agreements is a continuation of its authority over Iraqi airspace. The Iraqis are reluctant to concede this as well as a number of other points..."

Ahmadinejad: 'I was Almost Kidnapped by Bush'

USG Open Source Center translates an article in Tabnak saying that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is alleging that the US had planned to abduct him when he visited Baghdad in March, via Juan Cole, here
"...Elsewhere, the president said: Twice, Bush made a serious decision to attack Iran this year and last year. However, this country failed to take such action due to opposition from its military commanders..."

Israeli rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran?

Gordon & Shmitt in the NYTimes, here
"...Several American officials said they did not believe that the Israeli government had concluded that it must attack Iran and did not think that such a strike was imminent..."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

ABC 'Exclusive': "..No credible information... from intelligence officials on Hezbollah imminent strike ..."

When you read this, you wonder HOW CREDIBLE is ABC news? here
"....There is no credible information on a specific target, according to the officials. Suspected Hezbollah operatives have conducted recent surveillance on the Israeli embassy in Ottawa, Canada and on several synagogues in Toronto, according to the officials"

Murr Pere & Fils ... anything to stay in power ...

بعث النائب ميشال المر برسالة سرية إلى دمشق تفيد باستعداده للحلول مكان ابنه في وزارة الدفاع إذا كان لدى دمشق ملاحظات على ابنه الياس. إلا أن القيادات السورية التي تسلمت الرسالة أهملتها، فيما تردّدت معلومات في بيروت عن زيارة قام بها المر إلى دمشق التقى خلالها رئيس المخابرات العامة اللواء علي المملوك ورئيس شعبة ريف دمشق العميد رستم غزالة، في محاولة للالتفاف على الوعد السوري للرئيس السابق إميل لحود بابعاد الوزير إلياس المر عن أية حقيبة وزارية.

Salafists Ascendant in the Arab World...

Khalil Al-Anani at Brookings, here
"....More alarming is the possibility that the ascendance of conservative Salafis would polarise the Arab world. Even if they don't pose an immediate threat to governments, Salafis are bound to alienate all other religious and political groups. Should this happen, violent conservatism, or jihad-based Salafism, may follow. The "literal" interpretations of religion, which Salafis seem quite skilled at, could combine with the militant zeal of well-organised jihad groups, and the mixture could be lethal. This may already be happening in countries such as Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, where "conventional" Salafi groups are starting to dabble in political and controversial issues, including the hijab (veil), the mixing of sexes, and the rules of political succession. Salafis were also quite impressed by Hizbullah's recent show of force in Beirut..."

New and Improved Rice?

“I think he [then Secretary of State Colin Powell] has proved that Iraq has these weapons and is hiding them, and I don’t think many informed people doubted that.” (NPR, Feb. 6, 2003)…

“The United States policy has been regime change for many, many years, going well back into the Clinton administration. So it’s a question of timing and tactics…We do not necessarily need a further Council resolution before we can enforce this and previous resolutions. (NPR, Nov. 11, 2002)

If you thought that these quotes were by Condoleeza Rice, think again .....In Harper's, here

Some are "troubled" by Michel Sleiman's stance on Hezbollah's weaponry ...

... or are they? Uqab Sakr & co. seem to be peddling something here, and it ain't ever innocent! ... in NOW/Lebanon, here
"....President Michel Sleiman, however, appears to be exploiting these high hopes to buy some time before having to deal with the issue of Hezbollah’s arms......The implication is that any reevaluation of Hezbollah’s possession of arms is on hold until after the Shebaa Farms issue is resolved...... President Sleiman’s statement could also violate the terms of the Doha Agreement, which led to his election...."

Bush 'Hawks' Aggressively Working to Rewrite Accepted Iraq War History..

James Risen in the Washington Independent, here
".....But for the Pentagon troika most identified with Iraq – former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith -- silence has not equaled happiness. It certainly has not meant acceptance of their fate at the hands of the many journalists, former generals and assorted ex-members of the Bush administration who have taken to the cable talk fests and the nation’s media outlets to reject and denounce them...
...........Now, the Rumsfeld team is starting to fight back...."
former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz (Dep. of Defense, WDCpix)

Naval Blockade of Iran!

Proposed House Res. "362" ..demands that the President initiate an international effort to immediately and dramatically increase the economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on Iran to verifiably suspend its nuclear enrichment activities by, inter alia, prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products; imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran; and prohibiting the international movement of all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating..." Via WPR.

Saudis, oil, and U.S. elections

Gal Luft, in MESH, here
".....From a Saudi perspective, an American president who plans to withdraw from Iraq while being conciliatory toward Iran is bad news. The Saudis, therefore, vote McCain; Iran goes for Obama...."
... and here, from Le Monde, "Bush, McCain: pétrole contre démocrates"
Le gouverneur de Californie, Arnold Schwarzenegger et le candidat républicain, John McCain
"Les républicains ont décidé d'exploiter la crise pétrolière contre les démocrates. George Bush a expliqué, mercredi, qu'en raison de l'opposition des démocrates, au Congrès, à la prospection des gisements de pétrole dans une zone protégée de l'Alaska, "les Américains paient à la pompe le prix de cette obstruction", selon l'agence Reuters. Le président est allé plus loin, indique l'Associated Press, en demandant au Congrès de mettre fin à l'interdiction de l'exploitation du pétrole off-shore, qui date de son père, le premier président Bush, il y a près de vingt ans.
"Si nous voulons payer moins cher l'essence, le gazole et les autres carburants, et réduire notre dépendance vis-à-vis de dictateurs étrangers, nous devons demander aux politiciens de briser les privilèges et de mettre en place des politiques qui augmentent la production nationale", tonne Newt Gingrich, ancien speaker républicain de la Chambre des représentants, dans le
New York Post.
La position de Bush rejoint celle de John McCain, qui a changé d'avis après avoir été longtemps hostile à l'exploitation des gisements côtiers, indique le
Los Angeles Times. Le candidat républicain a expliqué, à Houston (Texas), que "les techniques utilisées aujourd'hui sont suffisamment sûres" pour que les plates-formes résistent à des ouragans comme Katrina, en 2005. Il reste opposé, en revanche, à la prospection dans la partie de l'Alaska classée en réserve naturelle.
La colère de Schwarzenegger
Pour Barack Obama, les mesures préconisées par Bush et McCain "ne vont pas apporter un soulagement aux consommateurs, à court terme," et "ne constituent pas, à long terme, une solution à nos problèmes d'énergie fossile", indique le Boston Globe. Les démocrates ont accusé le président et les républicains d'obéir aux souhaits des compagnies pétrolières. A leurs yeux, écrit le New York Times, l'initiative de la Maison Blanche "leur donne une occasion de présenter M. Bush comme soumis à l'industrie pétrolière et M. McCain comme un clone de M. Bush". Dans un éditorial, le grand quotidien de New York condamne la position des républicains.
Les avis sont partagés sur l'exploitation off-shore. Le
Saint Petersburg Times explique que les habitants de la Floride y ont toujours été opposés, mais que leur opinion est en train de changer. Charlie Crist, gouverneur républicain de l'Etat, cité comme un colisitier possible pour McCain, s'est dit "prêt à étudier" cette possibilité. Au contraire, le gouverneur de Californie, Arnold Schwarzenegger, lui aussi républicain et supporteur de McCain, s'est déclaré totalement opposé à la levée de l'interdiction d'exploitation des zones côtières, rapporte le San Diego Union-Tribune. "Il ne s'agit pas de retourner en arrière, mais d'aller de l'avant", a-t-il dit, très en colère.
3 % des réserves, 24 % de la consommation
Naturellement, à Houston, siège d'une partie de l'industrie pétrolière, le changement de position de McCain a été très apprécié, selon le Houston Chronicle. "Nous devons devenir sérieux et produire nos propres ressources pour le bénéfice des Américains", déclare Jim Hackett, PDG d'Anadarko Petroleum. Dans l'Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jim Wooten, adepte d'un "conservatisme de bon sens", recommande à Obama de choisir Sam Nunn, ancien sénateur de Géorgie, comme candidat à la vice-présidence, et félicite McCain pour sa position sur l'exploitation des réserves de pétrole nationales. Dans le San Francisco Chronicle, Debra Saunders estime, elle aussi, que le moment est venu de se demander si l'approvisionnement en pétrole n'est pas plus important que la protection de l'environnement.
Time s'interroge pour savoir si l'autorisation d'exploiter là où c'est interdit ferait baisser les prix des carburants. La réponse est non, indique l'hebdomadaire, en soulignant que les Etats-Unis "détiennent 3 % des réserves estimées de pétrole, mais consomment 24 % de la production mondiale annuelle".

The U.S. isn't likely to try Bush administration officials for war crimes--but it's likely that a European country will

"....These disclosures and others have put the issue of war crimes on the front burner. Major General Antonio Taguba released (below) this statement in the forward to a report just out by Physicians for Human Rights...... In other hearings, witnesses have treaded lightly and experienced frequent failures of recollection, perhaps driven by a concern over self-incrimination. And, indeed, in what may be a sign of things to come, 26 American civil servants are being tried in absentia by an Italian court in Milan for their involvement in the rendition of a radical Muslim cleric to Egypt. So, is it really feasible for Bush administration officials to be tried for war crimes?...
......yes, there are ample theoretical grounds for a war-crimes prosecution.......But the action requires political will, which makes it quite unlikely to happen in the United States....
Is it likely that prosecutions will be brought overseas? Yes. It is reasonably likely. Sands's book contains an interview with an investigating magistrate in a European nation..."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

King of Jordan bro-in-law sues top McCain fundraiser ...sparks Congressional inquiry

"....fuel through Jordan to Iraq involved an influential group of people, including Florida businessman Harry Sargeant III, who is now a top fundraiser for Sen. John McCain's presidential bid. It also involved the brother-in-law of the king of Jordan, who is suing Sargeant, alleging fraud......... sparking an inquiry by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform..."

Gen. Antonio Taguba: "...Bush officials committed war crimes..."

WArren Strobel in McClatchy's here
"After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes," Taguba wrote. "The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."

Olmert: "...Nous ne sommes pas éloignés des contacts directs avec la Syrie..."

Interview with Le Figaro, here
"...Peu importe si, pour l'instant, les Syriens disent qu'ils ne se sépareront pas de l'Iran. S'ils font la paix avec Israël, cela modifiera la réalité dans la région. La Syrie doit cesser d'être un centre pour la terreur et d'abriter les quartiers généraux du Hamas et du Djihad islamique. S'il y a une ambassade israélienne à Damas, les choses changeront. Cela fera aussi une différence pour le Liban. Si on négocie avec la Syrie, pourquoi pas avec le premier ministre libanais, Fouad Siniora ?"
« La Syrie doit cesser d'être un centre pour la terreur et d'abriter les quartiers généraux du Hamas et du Djihad islamique», déclare Ehoud Olmert.

El Baradei: "Syria lacks skills, personnel & fuel ... for nuclear facility..."

"We have no evidence that Syria has the human resources that would allow it to carry out a large nuclear programme. We do not see Syria having nuclear fuel," International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamad ElBaradei told Al Arabiya television...."
...yet Le Monde in "Une filière nucléaire secrète nord-coréenne en Syrie" says that "non-American sources... and satellite imagery" confirm a 'secret' nuclear Korean-Syrian tandem, ... and this new info was just submitted to the IAEA as it's chairman started voicing concern and suspicions, .... here
".... L'AIEA est elle-même placée dans une position délicate car l'affaire Al-Kibar peut être perçue comme une nouvelle illustration – après les cas libyen et iranien – d'une incapacité de l'Agence à détecter à temps des programmes nucléaires clandestins dans le monde. Signe des tensions que ce dossier suscite, le directeur de l'AIEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, a vivement protesté contre le bombardement israélien et contre la lenteur de la transmission de certains renseignements à l'Agence. Il a aussi déclaré, mardi 17 juin, que la Syrie n'avait pas "les ressources humaines qui lui permettraient de mener un programme nucléaire d'envergure".(see above)

Lebanon: Crisis of Power ...

"...There is some hope that the chronic shortages will ease later this summer, with the first shipments of Egyptian natural gas due to be pumped through a pipeline running via Jordan and Syria by July at the latest...... Lebanon's gross public debt as of the end of April rose to $43.2bn, up 3.6% over the total at the close of last year, and a 5.5% increase on the April 2007 figure. With the government having to subsidise EDL's operations to the tune of almost $1bn last year, and probably more this year..."

Bush & Olmert propose 'conditional' withdrawal from Shebaa to support Siniora's government in Lebanon...

In Haaretz, here
"....Olmert responded that he agreed in principle, but had several conditions. First, he said, any resolution of the Shaba dispute must include full implementation of Resolution 1701, which, inter alia, requires Hezbollah's disarmament and an end to arms smuggling from Syria. Moreover, he said, until the UN decides whether Shaba is Syrian or Lebanese, there is no point in discussing its future...."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Lebanon's Salafis: "Hariri's Future adherents are 'useless' in War & Piece ...and their interests are those of Al Qaeda..."

ABdul Kafi Al Samad in Al Akhbar, here
وإذا كان اللقاء قد شكّل خطوة تمهيدية لموقف الشعّار الذي أطلقه بعد انتخابه مفتياً، لناحية نيّته «إقامة مجلس أمناء يضمّ جميع الجمعيات الإسلامية والحركات الدّينية والعاملين في الحقل الإسلامي»، فإنّه أظهر في المقابل مواقف سياسية متمايزة داخل التيّار السلفي، يمكن اعتبارها أكبر من انتفاضة داخلية، إنْ لم تكن انقلاباً على مفاهيم وانطباعات عديدة تكوّنت عن التيّار السلفي بمختلف مشاربه.
فرئيس «وقف الإمام البخاري» في عكّار الشيخ سعد الدين الكبّي رأى أنّ «أهم أسس الدعوة السلفية هي منع الخروج على الحكّام وقتالهم، وعدم تدخّل العامّة في هذا الشأن، حرصاً على عدم إثارة الفتن»، أمّا رئيس جمعية «دعوة الإيمان والعدل والإحسان» والمشرف العام على «معهد الدعوة والإرشاد» الدكتور حسن الشهّال فقد شدّد على أنّ «السلفية هي الوسطية الحقة»، لافتاً إلى أنّ «أهل السُنّة والجماعة يمرّون هذه الأيّام في ظروف عصيبة».
في موازاة ذلك، أكّد رئيس مجلس أمناء «وقف التراث الإسلامي» الشيخ صفوان الزعبي أنّ الهدف من اللقاء «إظهار الوجه الحقيقي المعتدل للدعوة السلفية، وأنّها جزء من مشروع الدولة، لا تخرج عن الإطار العام لدار الفتوى»، مشيراً إلى أنّ توقيت انعقاد اللقاء يعود إلى «بروز حالات ناتئة في الوسطين الإسلامي والسلفي، تتقاطع مصالحها مع بعض التيّارات السياسية اللبنانية، بغية إظهار التشنّج والتوتر لإخافة الآخرين، بينما نحن نشدّد على مبادئ الاعتدال والوسطية، وإرساء الأمن في المجتمع».
غير أنّ ما لم يقله «السلفيون الجدد» صراحة، أوضحته لـ«الأخبار» أوساط متابعة، فقالت إن السلفيين «يرفضون الزجّ بهم في الصراع السياسي الدائر، وأن يُتخذوا «فزّاعة» في وجه أحد، فهم عملوا سابقاً وما زالوا على إظهار اعتدالهم وبُعدهم عن التطرّف والإرهاب».
وفي الوقت الذي وجّهت فيه الأوساط السلفية انتقادات شديدة اللهجة إلى الشيخ داعي الإسلام الشهّال معتبرة أن حركته «طارئة ويدعمها تيّار المستقبل بهدف تعويم نفسه، بعدما همّ نجمه بالأفول»، لفتت إلى أنّ «مصالح المستقبل تتقاطع مع تنظيم «القاعدة» ومؤيديه في لبنان، تحت حجّة الوقوف في وجه الفرس والشيعة ودولتهم المنتظرة»، مؤكّدة أنّ «الساحة السلفية أوعى من أن تستغل أو تتورّط في معركة ليست من صنعها، وسيستفيد منها تيّار علماني، أبعد ما يكون عن السلفية وعن الالتزام الديني».
إلا أنّ الأوساط ذهبت بعيداً في انتقاد المستقبل، وهو أمر لم تعتبره مفاجأة، «لأنّ كلاماً قاسياً أبلغناه لقادته في جلسات ضيقة، لفشلهم في قيادة الشارع السُنّي، ودفعه نحو الهاوية، فأدخلوه في صراع مع السوريين بعد تحالفهم مع حزب الله في انتخابات 2005، قبل أن يدخلوا في صراع جديد مع حزب الله، مما أربك الساحة السُنّية، ودفع العديد من زعمائها ونخبها السياسية والفكرية والدينية إلى الاعتراض على مسلكه السياسي».
وعن أسباب ابتعادهم عن المستقبل «رغم أنّنا أيّدناهم انتخابياً»، أوضحت الأوساط أنّ ذلك أتى «نتيجة توصّلنا إلى اقتناع بأنّهم لا يصلحون للحرب ولا للسلم؛ ففي الحرب هم جبناء، وفي السلم لا يفكرون إلا في مصالحهم، عدا أنّهم أصبحوا تيّارات تتجاذبهم صراعات داخلية حادة».
وأكّدت الأوساط «لن نعادي المستقبل، إلا أنّنا لن نسلّمه قيادة الطائفة السُنّية «على عماها». فالاتصالات معه قائمة، والنقاش بيننا مستمر، وقد انطلق أساساً من نقطة اعتراضنا على سعيه لإنشاء ميليشيا سُنّية، تحت اسم «الأفواج» أو «فرع المعلومات»، إلا أن «سقوط» بيروت كان الشعرة التي قصمت ظهر البعير، وفشل تجربتهم فشلاً ذريعاً أوصل علاقتنا بهم إلى هذه المرحلة».
وسخرت هذه الأوساط من التخويف من أنّ «السلفيين والمتشدّدين سيرثون المستقبل إذا سقط»، وقالت: «إنّنا غير مؤهلين لقيادة الشارع السُنّي، ولسنا مستعدين للدخول في صراع على السلطة، لأنّها آخر همّنا، بل ندخل فقط في صراع للدفاع عن وجودنا كسُنّة»، »
وإذ قالت هذه الأوساط: «نيّتنا إجراء حوار مع حزب الله، وحتى مع السوريين لاحقاً، ولو عادوا إلى لبنان لأيّدناهم انطلاقاً من مبدئنا بعدم الخروج على الحاكم، علماً بأنّ تواصلنا مع الطرفين لم ينقطع»، أشارت إلى أنّ «عدم الصدق وانعدام الثقة تسبّبا بوصول العلاقة بين المستقبل وحزب الله إلى ما هي عليه، وأنّه يجب توافر عناصر الصراحة والوضوح وتقدير هواجس الآخر وتطمينه في أي حوار لإنجاحه»، مؤكّدة أنّ «أيّ حوار بيننا وبين الحزب سينجح».
ونفت الأوساط إمكان أن «تضغط السعودية علينا لردعنا عن توجّهنا، أو المونة علينا، لأن أغلب دعمنا المالي والرعائي نستمده من الكويت، ولكن نسأل: إذا عادت العلاقات بين سوريا والسعودية إلى طبيعتها، فماذا سيكون موقف المستقبل والنائب سعد الحريري خصوصاً إذا طلب منه زيارة دمشق والتفاهم مع السوريين؟».

Curveball: "...How did the Bush administration get it so wrong... I never said Iraq had WMDs"

In the LATimes, here

Curveball meeting

BREAKING NEWS: Carlos Eddé quits the March 14 coalition!

Head of the Lebanese National Bloc Carlos Eddé said he is quitting the March 14 coalition in order to remain true to his principles... had already declared his intention to leave the coalition the day the constitutional amendment to elect sleiman as president was approved. “The May 7 incidents have consolidated my convictions. The Lebanese Army did not move until after Hezbollah finished its military strike,” Eddé told An-Nahar... also expressed shock that some of those who supported Sleiman’s candidacy could watch their supporters being killed on the streets while the Army stood idly by, “for it had received orders not to do anything...We fear that the coalition will make new compromises because of the ongoing violence,” Eddé said. (we say, his insights and impeccable linguistic aptitudes, will be sorely missed!)

Rice: "Obviously, in any compromise, there are compromises”

We wonder: How did she reach this conclusion?
In the NYTimes, here

ISRAEL: "A broad consensus in favor of strike against Tehran -- without the Americans -- is beginning to take shape..."

"....But Yatom's willingness to strike a compromise ends when he is asked what he considers to be the best response to the Iranian nuclear program. "We no longer believe in the effectiveness of sanctions," says Yatom. "A military operation is needed if the world wants to stop Iran."
....The hawks, on the other hand, believe time is running out. They stress that there is now a "favorable window of opportunity" that will close with the US presidential election in November, and that Israel can only depend on American support for as long as current US President George W. Bush is still in charge in Washington. They are convinced that the country cannot truly depend on any of the candidates to succeed Bush in office. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic candidate, has already said that he favors direct negotiations with Tehran. And even if Republican John McCain wins the race, politicians in Jerusalem do not expect him to be ordering an attack as his first official act -- despite his performance....
....the Israelis are expressly contradicting the assertion, put forward in a report by US intelligence issued last December, that Iran shut down its nuclear weapons program in 2003. "The Iranians resumed the program at full speed in 2005," says Yossi Kuperwasser, the director for intelligence analysis with Israeli military intelligence at the time....
....This is why Riedel sees an Israeli military strike, with the US government's consent, as the most likely attack scenario. But the consequences, according to Riedel, would not differ from those of an American attack. "An Israeli attack will be seen as a US attack. Iran will retaliate against both Israel and the US." The consequences, says Riedel, would be fatal. "We will see a Middle East in flames."


Israel-Hamas Truce To Begin Thursday...

"....Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said the group is committed to the truce deal. Israeli officials declined to confirm a deal, but said Israel's negotiator in the truce talks was rushing to Cairo and that they were "cautiously optimistic."
and here, from Foreign Policy's blog, "Is Hamas becoming a legitimate player?"

Monday, June 16, 2008

Roed-Larsen: "...Israel has given Syria a huge gift, without thus far receiving anything in exchange.."

"...In a classified telegram to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, Israel's UN delegation wrote that Larsen had complained that "Syria is receiving legitimacy for free." ..."Europe is courting the Syrians because of the negotiations with Israel, and they are no longer being asked to give anything in exchange," the telegram quoted Larsen as saying..."

Latest diplomatic offer to Iran (English text)

HERE (pdf.)

"...Get Osama Bin Laden before I leave office, orders George W Bush..."

“If he [Bush] can say he has killed Saddam Hussein and captured Bin Laden, he can claim to have left the world a safer place,” said a US intelligence source...."
McCain is allegedly slaughtering a 100 goats to please the Gods!

... and here, just about to see Siniora ... (were they watching an episode of "Family Guy")

رايس وسيسون وضحكة من القلب على مدخل السرايا (بلال جاويش)

That must've been quite a joke!

Our newly elected President: quite a women's man .. and what a sense of humour...!

Swiss Smugglers Had Advanced Nuclear Weapons Designs...

Via War&Piece, Albright's ISIS report, here

"Lame duck envoy of a lame duck: No Red Carpet for Condi in Jerusalem..."

"...... this time there was no fanfare, no motorcades snarling up the city’s traffic, and the lady couldn’t even book a room in her usual hotel, the David Citadel. She had to settle for a less grand hotel, though admittedly it wasn’t one of those pilgrim fleapits in the Old City. But for me, that’s a sign of how far how far her superpower status has fallen in the dwindling days of Bushdom.....
One source told me: “Condi left feeling very frustrated. There’s no Israeli government to speak of, nobody to make decisions.” And, if she wants her usual swanky hotel suite, she’d better learn to book in advance like everybody else."
However, in Beirut, it was all the contrary!

"Strengthening the Partnership: How to Deepen U.S.-Israel Cooperation on the Iranian Nuclear Challenge"

WINEP's "Presidential Task Force Report", is the report of the first of these initiatives—the Presidential Task Force on the Future of U.S.-Israel Rel ations.Read it here

CONFLICT between US Policy & and Interest in the Middle East

[Excerpts of Dr. David Khairallah's speech to the ADC Convention on June 14, 08']
"...I would like to propose that what constitutes a genuine and legitimate interest of the US, our government has managed to secure in the most discrete and successful manner and practically without opposition or resentment. And actions and policies that are least reflective of US interests or values have proven unsuccessful and very costly.
Considering the role oil plays in the US and world economies, successive US administrations have managed to secure a stable source of energy while simultaneously enjoying stable and friendly relations with Arab oil producing countries. Historically, Arab governments and markets have easily accommodated US economic interests. One can hardly find a statement by a US official expressing concern for US economic interests in the Arab world.
While no single Arab country or combination of Arab countries has ever constituted a military threat to the US, security concerns find expression in most policy statements of US officials, especially after September 11, 2001 and the Bush Administration declaration of war on terrorism. Of course, no society can tolerate violence against innocent civilians to achieve political objectives. The issue here is not the legitimacy of the concern or the desire expressed by US officials to eradicate terrorism, it is rather the effectiveness of the methods adopted to achieve that objective. Does US policy and the means of its implementation reflect a good understanding of the underlying causes of terrorism and the reasons for its appeal to young people in the region? Has the war against terrorism reduced the determination of those who are ready to sacrifice their lives just to inflict harm on US interests? Do we understand better why such people hate us? I leave it to you to decide.
Democracy was promoted as a cornerstone of the Bush administration’s policy to bring about a desired change in the Middle East, to defeat religious fanatics and to overcome terrorism. It was not clear from the beginning how much commitment to democracy the promoters of this policy had. What was clear is that such policy was dead on arrival. Not because democracy is not needed or can’t be implemented in the Arab world, but because its promoters lacked credibility and showed no respect for the fundamentals of democratic rule. First, it was difficult to convince anyone that the US government, which practically has no friends among the people in the Arab world and no enemies among their rulers, would really want the change that democracy would bring. Democratic rule, which is the government of the people, by the people, and for the people, would obviously bring to power representatives who would reflect peoples’ aspirations and feelings towards their rulers, and to the extent US policy affects their lives, towards the US. This was practically the case everywhere free elections have taken place in the Arab world. The success of Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza and Hizballah in Lebanon are cases in point; and the reaction our government had to such success betrays any commitment the Bush administration claimed to democratic rule in the Middle East. We boycotted Hamas and Hizballah immediately after their election respectively by the Palestinian and Lebanese people. And when the US was in full control and had an opportunity to take credit for a democratic rule that is the work of its own hands, as is the case in Iraq, people associated democracy with bloody chaos, institutionalizing of primitive sectarian structures and social and political disintegration of both society and state.
.....the unconditional commitment to what Israel considers its own interest. One needs go no further than the pandering speeches of the three hopeful candidates at the AIPAC annual conference ...The distinguishing feature of each of the three finalists’ speeches was the attempt to outdo the others in expressing total dedication and a firm pledge of allegiance to the state of Israel. What is probably most challenging is to find an American interest that justifies such commitment. Yes, it is much easier to identify what, in this policy of blind commitment to Israel, has hurt the US interest over the years, and sometimes the Israeli interest, than to find a US national interest in such policy.
....But the unwavering US support of the expansionist policy of the occupier of land, against the victims who lost and continue to lose their homes and livelihood, is bound to create resentment among the victims of such occupation and other fair-minded persons. ...Playing a primary role in paralyzing the international institutions, which are expected to guard against such transgressions, ... I will limit myself to just a few examples of the role the US has consistently played at the UN Security Council.
.....decisive role the US plays in all Council resolutions....Control of Security Council decisions emanates from the veto power that each of the five permanent members enjoy in the Council. The US has exercised its veto privilege more than any of the other members, and guess in favor of which country. No, it’s not the US, it’s Israel. Back in March 2003, in an article titled “America used UN veto to protect Israeli war crimes-24 times”, Joe Vialls documented each occasion in which the US used its veto at the UN Security Council. ...
In the summer of 2006, during the conflict between Israel and Hizbollah, when Lebanese civilian targets were under constant bombardment by the Israeli war machine for 34 days, the US has prevented the Security Council from ordering a ceasefire thereby preventing the Council from carrying out the sole role for which it was established. It did that in the hope that Israel would prevail against Hizballah, .....instead of eradicating terrorism, we have a policy that fertilizes the ground on which terrorism grows..."