Sunday, August 31, 2008
US intelligence fears the Kremlin will supply the S-300 system to Tehran if Washington pushes Nato membership for Georgia and Ukraine...
Saturday, August 30, 2008
وشــــرح الــنــائــب فــــؤاد السعد تحفظات وزراﺀ "اللقاﺀ الديمقراطي" على تعيين جــان قهوجي قائدا للجيش، وكشف ان النائب وليد جنبلاط على عــلاقــة وثيقة بأحد ضباط الجيش الذين كانت أسماؤهم مطروحة للقيادة وكان يفضله على قهوجي.
Friday, August 29, 2008
In the Forward, here "....Dine is currently serving as the head of an American-Syrian working group set up early last year by the organization Search for Common Ground. It comprises eight high-level figures from each country, including former American ambassadors and advisers to the Syrian regime..........After holding two meetings in Syria over the past year, the group organized a visit to the United States in late July for three of its Syrian members, during which they met with lawmakers, think-tankers and media outlets in Washington, Houston and Los Angeles."
...it's Palin for McCain's VP...
All things considerd, if you’re going to get involved in an abuse of power scandal, one that involves an attempt to fire a state trooper who “had been involved in a divorce and child custody battle with Palin’s sister, Molly McCann” and who “was briefly suspended for ten days for threatening to kill McCann’s (and Palin’s) father, tasering his 11-year-old stepson, and violating game laws” doesn’t seem like the worst possible way to go. Certainly by the standards of Alaska GOP corruption it’s kind of small potatoes.
But of course the weird thing about the Alaska Republican Party is that while they send these endlessly re-elected legislators to DC to push for hard-right legislation, pork, and various forms of sleaze they’re running a government based on a weird form of socialism in one giant swathe of sub-arctic wasteland. Normal governors don’t get involved in controversies about state-owned dairy farms and the like (I believe it was Mikhail Gorbachev who moved to privatize the agricultural sector) and there’s no other state whose oil tax revenues are big enough to just cut the entire population welfare checks. It’s a bit hard to know how you shift from that into non-fantasyland world of federal policymaking. (Matt Yglesias)
Thursday, August 28, 2008
"...I get it. I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don't fit the typical pedigree, and I haven't spent my career in the halls of Washington.
But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the nay-sayers don't understand is that this election has never been about me. It's been about you...."
De-Baathification committee's director, arrested by the U.S. military after returning from Beirut...
Ron Suskind: "...CIA's Murray discovered that [the Lebanese Journo] had made off with Sabri's $200,000..."
Charlie Wilson': "We can avoid spending so much on our military --and put so many of our soldiers in harm's way --by investing more in saving lives."
US military 'secretly' hands over militants to the intelligence services of Saudi Arabia, Egypt ....
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Ryan Crocker: "...Iran ..simply does not carry anything remotely like that weight, not internationally, not even regionally”
La nouvelle loi électorale – prévue dans l’accord – permet par ailleurs sur le long terme de libérer les chrétiens du jeu d’alliance auquel ils étaient soumis précédemment. Cette législation était le résultat de la stratégie syrienne qui avait réduit l’influence des chrétiens par toute une série de mesures : découpage des zones chrétiennes et annexion à des zones en majorité musulmanes, ce qui avait contraint les chrétiens à négocier avec des acteurs musulmans pour être élu ou à faire alliance avec la Syrie. L’accord de Doha a balayé ce système. Les chrétiens sont aujourd’hui plus autonomes par rapport aux musulmans. On estime à 40-45 le nombre des députés pouvant être élu uniquement par un électorat chrétien. Ce qui, en revanche, risque d’amplifier la confessionnalisation du jeu politique libanais..."
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
When fellow (but) STUPID Americans speak :"We're 'Clintons for McCain ...and Obama is a 'registered' Muslim..."
"If Nouri Maliki and his advisors persist in this sectarian agenda, the country may spiral back into chaos...."
Monday, August 25, 2008
Khalilzad, is facing angry questions from other senior Bush administration officials over unauthorized contacts with Asif Ali Zardari...
".....Maliki said that the
United States and Iraq had agreed that all foreign troops would be off Iraqi
soil by the end of 2011. "There is an agreement actually
reached, reached between the two parties on a fixed date, which is the end of
2011, to end any foreign presence on Iraqi soil," Maliki said.But the White House disputed
Maliki's statement and made clear the two countries are still at odds over the
terms of a U.S. withdrawal...."
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Salafi's Shahal to ANB (TV): "Hariri was all for the MOU with Hezbollah, but he later retracted his support..."
(Cherchez La Bandar)
“Going to war” is never an intention...It is rather the result of weak, shortsighted leaders entrapped by a series of mistakes...
"..US-Israeli Early-warning missile radar in the Negev ... sort of "parting gift from Washington to Jerusalem"..."
Israel will be required to obtain U.S. permission for any such operation, since it would endanger the lives of the U.S. personnel operating the system. The ground station itself would likely become the target of any reprisal attack by Iran or Syria..."
Iran's first Russian-built nuclear power plant in the southern city of Bushehr will become operational by the end of 2008
Saturday, August 23, 2008
US military opposes crackdown on 'Sahwas',... but may not be able to defend its Sunni allies from a largely Shia government and army
Patrick Cockburn in the Independent, here ".............Already the government has started moving against al-Sahwa, the Awakening Movement, fostered and paid by the US to eliminate al Qa’ida in Iraq. It has drawn up a list of 650 al-Sahwa members to be arrested. The US military opposes the move but may not be able to defend its Sunni allies from a largely Shia government and army ".....for the first time since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi government is confident that it can survive without US military support..."
"We want to have our cake and eat it too, support Maliki and the Sons of Iraq. . . . Maliki wants to make that as hard for us as possible. He wants us to choose him," said Stephen Biddle, a Council on Foreign Relations defense expert who has served as an advisor on strategy to Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq. "What it looks like we are getting is a Maliki government that won't behave itself and wants to crush the Sons of Iraq."
Friday, August 22, 2008
McCain Advisor: "If one of Senator Obama's advisers has been to Damascus, we just wonder how many have been to Tehran."
Israel needs to encourage this direct hard-headed diplomatic engagement between its friends and Iran - contributing talking points of its ..........that Israel will support a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction in the context of regional peace, mutual recognition and security guarantees.
Beyond that, Israel should de-emphasize its unilateral military options and stress confidence in its own deterrence capacity vis-a-vis Iran..."
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Assad's visit is likely to become an additional irritant for Washington. In the past, the United States has more than once warned Moscow against selling arms to its longstanding ally Syria....."
In the Guardian, here
"...American leaders shouldn't make threats the country can't deliver or promises it isn't prepared to keep..."
Mubarak & Abdullah's Middle East. slipping out of their grip and into that of new mavericks, most notably, Syria's Assad...
Monday, August 18, 2008
"..The New US President must make clear to Maliki & co. that the era of unconditional support is over—or see security gains evaporate fast..."
THE RUSSO-GEORGIAN WAR AND GEOPOLITICAL IMPLICATIONS FOR THE GULF LITTORAL
Director of Research and Development
INEGMA - Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis
The August 2008 Russo-Georgian war is much more than about Moscow's claims to South Ossetia or Abkhazia. There are broad regional implications that affect the Middle East and the Gulf littoral in particular.
Background & Developments
South Ossetian separatists, supported by Moscow, escalated their machine gun and mortar fire attacks against neighboring Georgian villages last week. In response, Georgia attacked the separatist capital South Ossetian Tskhinvali with artillery to suppress fire. Tskhinvali suffered severe damage, thus providing the pretext for Moscow's invasion of Georgia. Russians in Abkhazia are also fighting the Georgians.
As Russia responded with overwhelming force, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin flew from the Beijing Olympics to Vladikavkaz, taking control of the military operations. Putin sidelined his successor, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, thereby leaving no doubt as to who is in charge. Medvedev's role is to handle the international diplomatic front which seems to be not on the table. Under Putin's orders, the 58th Russian Army of the North Caucasus Military District rolled into South Ossetia, reinforced by the 76th Airborne "Pskov" Division. Cossacks from the neighboring Russian territories moved in to combat the Georgians as well.
The Black Sea Fleet is blockading Georgia from the sea, while Russian ballistic missiles and its air force are attacking Georgian military bases and cities including Tbilisi International Airport .What Russia is trying to do-and looking like she may succeed- is to establish a pro-Russian regime in Georgia that will also bring the strategic Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Baku-Erzurum (Turkey) gas pipeline under Moscow's control.
Impact on Israel
More importantly and with immense strategic implications, Russia is also trying to send Israel a clear message that Tel Aviv's military support for Tbilisi in organizing, training and equipping Georgia's army will no longer be tolerated. Private Israeli security firms and retired military officials are actively involved in Georgian security. In addition, Israel's interest in Caspian oil and gas pipelines is growing and Moscow seeks to stop this activity at this time. Intense negotiations about current and future pipelines between Israel, Turkey, Georgia, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan are tied to receiving oil at the terminal at Ashkelon and on to the Red Sea port of Eilat. Finally, Russia is sending a clear message that Moscow will not tolerate American influence in Georgia nor Tbilisi's interests –supported by the pro-U.S. Georgian President Mikhal Saakashvili--in joining NATO. Overall, the military crisis will push Moscow to punish Israel for its assistance to Georgia, and challenge the U.S. to do more than voice rhetoric.
In the Gulf, there are several broad implications. First is the impact of the war on Gulf investment in the Caucasus and in Russia. The Russian damage to Ras al Khaimah's investment plan in Georgia is troublesome. The Ras Al Khaimah Government has recently invested in the Georgian port of Poti where its real estate development arm Rakeen is developing a free zone. Rakeen is also developing some mixed-use projects near capital Tbilisi. The company has three projects in Georgia - Tiblisi Heights and Uptown Tiblisi - with a total value of Dh7.3 billion, while a third is being planned. However, Ras Al Khaimah's other major investment did not remain unhurt. The Georgian harbor Poti, which is majority owned by the Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority (Rakia), was badly damaged in Russian air raids. In April 2008, Georgia sold a 51 per cent stake in the Poti port area to Rakia to develop a free economic zone (FEZ) in a 49-year management concession, and to manage a new port terminal. The creation of FEZ, to be developed by Rakeen, was officially inaugurated by Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili April 15 2008. Previously the trend in Russo-GCC relations focused on strengthening the "north-south" economic corridor between the two regions; this linkage may now be in jeopardy if more Gulf investment goes up in smoke.
The second implication is the growing military presence in both Gulf waters and the Mediterranean Sea by the West and Russia that cannot be separated from the Russo-Georgian conflict. There is an unprecedented build-up of American, French, British and Canadian naval and air assets-the most since the 2003 invasion of Iraq-that are to be in place shortly for a partial naval blockade of Iran. Three U.S. strike forces are en route to the Gulf namely the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the USS Ronald Reagan and the USS Iwo Jima. Already in place are the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea opposite Iranian shores and the USS Peleliu which is cruising in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.
There is also a growing Russian navy deployment begun earlier this year to the eastern Mediterranean comprising the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov with approximately 50 Su-33 warplanes that have the capacity for mid-air refueling along with the guided missile heavy cruiser Moskva. This means the Russian warplanes could reach the Gulf from the Mediterranean, a distance of some 850 miles and would be forced to fly over Syria but Iraq as well, where the skies are controlled by the U.S. military. The Russian task force is believed to be composed of a dozen warships as well as several submarines. While the West is seeking to defend Gulf oil sources destined to the West and the Far East, Russia is increasing its desire to control Caspian oil resources and setting herself in a strategic position near the Levant.
A final implication is what may be a complete collapse of any back channel communications via Russia to Iran regarding Tehran's preparation for confrontation with the West and slowing down Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon. In the past year, Russia acted as an intermediary between the U.S., Israel, the GCC-specifically Saudi Arabia-and Tehran. With the Russian-Georgian war, the door may now slam shut between these players. Saudi Arabia, for instance, is attempting to halt the Russian sale of the S-300 anti-air defense system to Tehran and also is seeking to purchase large amounts of Russian weapons in order to "buy-off" Moscow's pursuit of selling conventional weapons to Iran. As a consequence of the Russo-Georgian war, Russia may start to play hardball with going through with arms sales to Iran and dropping support for sanctions against Iran that may invite a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran.
As further evidence of the heightening of tensions, Kuwait is activating its "Emergency War Plan" as the massive U.S. and European flotilla is heading for the region. Part of Kuwait's plan is to put strategic petroleum assets in reserve in the Far East and outside the forthcoming battle space. And Israel is building up its strike capabilities for an attack on Iran, purchasing 90 F-16I planes that can carry enough fuel to reach Iran. Israel has also bought two new Dolphin submarines from Germany capable of firing nuclear-armed warheads, in addition to the three already in service with its navy. Many strategic and tactical pieces for a confrontation are falling into place.
Overall, analysts have argued in the past few years that there might be a series of triggers that could force a confrontation between the West and Iran. Some maintained that this trigger may occur in the Gulf itself or in the Levant-whether accidental or on purpose. There were potential triggers before-the April 2007 seizure of British sailors in the Gulf, the September 2007 Israeli attack on a suspected Syrian nuclear facility, and Hezbollah's seizure of Western Beirut in May 2008. Now it appears that a more serious trigger may be the Russo-Georgian war –despite geographical distance-- that may carry dire consequences for all-especially in the Gulf littoral.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Friday, August 15, 2008
The Italian general, meanwhile, said that Hezbollah recognizes Resolution 1701, and that the militant Lebanese group and UNIFIL forces enjoy excellent cooperation with one another. He added that apart from UN and Lebanese soldiers and local hunters, no one is armed south of the Litani River...."
Last minute Escalation: "Hit squads training in Iran..by Lebanese Hezbollah" says a U.S. military intelligence officer in Baghdad
Thursday, August 14, 2008
"...Having overestimated the power of the Soviet Union in its last years, we have consistently underestimated the ambitions of Russia since..."
"..Some compare Bush's vocal, but less than substantive backing to Lebanon's "Cedar Revolution" to its tepid support for embattled Saashkavili.."
"The events in Georgia are not being lost on Middle East leaders. Some compare America's vocal, but less than substantive backing to Lebanon's "Cedar Revolution" to its, so far, tepid support for the embattled Georgian government. Others, notably the Israelis, see a warning in too much reliance on the US for long standing pledges of support. "There is no doubt that Georgia has an impact," said one senior Israeli official this week. And for this official as well as most of his colleagues, the issue they see as being impacted is Iran.
An Obama Administration may not be so amenable. Top Obama advisors say that as President, one of the first things he would do is to tell Israel that the military option is off the table. These advisors see other significant changes in Middle East policy coming, should the junior Senator from Illinois become the forty-fourth President. It will all start with Iraq, says one key Obama advisor. While Obama's pledge to withdraw a brigade a
month from combat in Iraq is likely to be scuttled ["Like most campaign promises, this one won't be kept," says one Obama foreign policy advisor]. Still, like the candidate, his top advisors see Iraq, in the words of one, "...as an albatross" around the neck of the US. "We are going to get out, not hang on like the Israelis did all those years in Lebanon."
A number of analysts note that the Maliki government will ease the way towards an American departure. Says one European diplomat, "Iraqi nationalism is back." And American officials, who are having a difficult time negotiating a status of forces agreement ("SOFA") with Baghdad can attest to that. This `sofa' is turning into a `futon', quipped one veteran observer, noting the Iraqi reluctance to grant the US sweeping powers when the UN mandate for the American presence in Iraq expires at the end of the year.
One area where US officials appear to be making significant progress is in clearing away the obstacles to full diplomatic relations with Libya. It is what one US official calls the "poster child" for Administration success in Middle East non- proliferation and anti-terrorism. But Libya is still entangled in the last issues connected with the downing of Pan Am 103 and the bombing of La Bell Disco as Sen. Lautenberg (D-NJ) has put an effective hold until compensation issues are fully resolved. David Welch has spent many hours trying to resolve this dispute and, according to informed sources is on the verge of a breakthrough. With Libyan agreement to provide up to $1 billion more in compensation, the way seems to be clear for Secretary Rice to visit Libya in September. Also in September, it is hoped there will be enough time for the Senate to confirm a full fledged ambassador to Tripoli, the first in decades.
With Secretary Rice on her way to Paris and Tblisi, in an effort to deal with the Georgian crisis, her latest trip to the Middle East to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace talks has been, at least temporarily, delayed. But participants in the latest round, held here in Washington earlier this month, say she shows no signs in her desire to see the issue through in the remaining months of the Administration.
Israeli negotiators, notably Foreign Minister Livni reportedly were less than enthusiastic about engaging in this
latest round. She, like former Defense Minister Mofaz is engaged in a competition to succeed Olmert as head of the leading Israeli political party and therefore the country's putative new Prime Minister. It has been speculated that Secretary Rice, absent an agreement by year's end, would like to make public the progress that has been made so far. But Livni, in particular, is reportedly opposed to such a move, since it could undercut her credentials in her race against Mofaz [Prompting one US official to comment "Israelis produce more politics than they can consume"]. However, according to informed sources, the Israelis were supported in this stance by their Palestinian interlocutors, who fear the flip side of highlighting progress -- the intractable issues still on the table.