Thursday, January 31, 2008

the "Seventh" Al Qaeda Number 3 Man ... killed in Iraq

Steve Benen writes in the WashingtonMonthly, here
"... This is certainly welcome news. I'm curious, though, if anyone has a list of al Qaeda #3s who've been captured or killed recently. I was keeping a list for a while, and I think al-Libi is the seventh, following Hamza Rabia, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Saif al-Adel, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Mohammed Sheikh Mohammed, and a senior operational leader identified in court documents as "C-2."

You'd think, after a while, al Qaeda's #4 guys would stop seeking promotions."

WINEP:"If the Hariri tribunal proceeds like the eight-year Yugoslavia tribunal, ... the March 14 bloc may not be in power long enough to benefit..."

From WINEP, here
" ... Sadly, it may be too late for the pro-Western government of Lebanon to get a sympathetic president in office. But there is still time to save the March 14 coalition if Syria's wings can be clipped. The key is an expedited international tribunal. If the Hariri tribunal proceeds like the eight-year Yugoslavia tribunal did during the 1990s, the March 14 bloc may not be in power long enough to benefit from its results ..."
My question to Mr. Shencker: HOW DO YOU "EXPEDITE" JUSTICE?

Exclusive: Iran's Foreign Minister to Resign?

From MEEPAS, via War&Piece, here

Amnesty: Winograd Commission disregards Israeli war crimes

Amnesty International Report, here

"The Sunni insurgency decimated in the imagination of the surge advocates, has demonstrated something of a surge of its own in recent weeks"

In the WashingtonIndependent, here and the HuffingtonPost, here
"... The Sunni insurgency, all but decimated in the imagination of the surge advocates, has demonstrated something of a surge of its own in recent weeks. Baghdad, Anbar and Diyala provinces, the hotbeds of the insurgency, have seen a return of high-profile suicide bombing. Prominent collaborators with the U.S., like the so-called "Concerned Local Citizens" militias, have been targeted for death by insurgents and terrorists. "Of late, though, as you’ve been seeing, is certainly an increase in the number of suicide events that occur with individuals, mostly with a suicide vest wrapped around their waist," Adm. Greg Smith, a spokesman for Multi-National Force-Iraq, said in a blogger conference call last week..."

Winograd: Will Israel’s politicans learn?

Andrew Exum writes for MESH, here
"...In the 2006 war, the IDF was asked to accomplish strategic aims that were unrealistic and hastily considered by decision-makers in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Watching the war unfold from Cairo in 2006, I knew the minute Israeli strategic decision-makers assured a nervous Israeli populace that the IDF would destroy Hizbollah, rescue the hostages, and end rocket attacks on northern Israel, the job of the IDF had become next to impossible. Hezbollah had only to deny Israel one of its goals to be considered a victor in some circles. In the end, they denied the IDF all three...
The failures of the IDF in the 2006 war are known, and new IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi has already corrected most of them. The unrealistic objectives civilian policymakers set for the IDF in the first few days of the war, however, are less recognized. From statements issued today, the final Winograd report seems to have gone easier on Ehud Olmert and Gen. Dan Halutz than had previous drafts. It seems more likely, in fact, that Hasan Nasrallah and Hezbollah—already crowing about the report from Beirut—have learned the lesson from their strategic error better than the Israeli political establishment has learned theirs."
The IDF will learn its lessons, as it always seems to do. I wonder, though, whether the political leadership in Jerusalem will be able to resist getting mired in such a disastrous conflict again."
جنود إسرائيليّون خلال دفن زميلهم الذي قُتل في 25 من الشهر الماضي قرب مدينة بئر السبع (رونين زفيلين ـ رويترز)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Lebanon to get electrical power from Syria

... as per a most recent memorandum between the EDL & the Syrian government, Via EDL (official) here

America's freewheeling ambassador to the UN ran afoul of his superiors by taking part in unauthorized debate with two high-ranking Iranian Officials

Tsk Tsk Tsk, ... read Kevin Drum, here

Moderate Winograd Commission report makes political shakeup unlikely

Read here , while Yossi Melman says (in the WaPo) that the report could derail the Middle East Process, here

"It is an understatement to say that our President didn't exactly turn out to be `Ibn Bush'"

From the Middle East Policy Survey: [Excerpts]
"...Other State Department officials are much more cautious. Admitting that the Gulf states find Iran a threat in general andthe Revolutionary Guards (who man the speedboats in the Gulf) asa "bunch of dangerous cowboys", still, at best they are, in oneveteran official's words, "rather schizophrenic" about what theywant from the US vis-a-vis Iran. "Sure they would like us to`cut off the dragon's head'", said one State Department officialrather colorfully. But this official also cautioned that theSaudis have seen what can go wrong when US armed forces go tobattle in their part of the world.
For the most important gulf state, Saudi Arabia, this is atime for recalculating its relationship with the US, sayAdministration insiders. "It is an understatement to say that our President didn't exactly turn out to be `Ibn Bush'", areference to his very different orientation from his father. But with time running out on the Administration, the Saudis, say USofficials, are groping towards a new, more "global" policy,albeit with the caveat that if things really start to fall apart,there is no substitute for the US....
One area where the US and Saudi Arabia seem to be in harmony is over the fate of the pro-western Lebanese government. Led by the son of the assassinated former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri,the so called March 14 alliance has been urged by both Washington and Riyadh to resist giving significant powers to rivals close the Syrian regime. A continuing stalemate in Lebanon has left that country without a President but US and Saudi policy makers seem content for the time being with the current impasse... Meanwhile, the United Nations is gearing up an international tribunal in the Hague to investigate the Hariri assassination. It is now expected to begin its work late next month. Money has been a problem, with only the US and Lebanon having transferred funds. Significant amounts have been pledged, however, by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates and these funds are thought more likely to be made available once proceedings begin...
The Syrians, considered by many to be behind not only the Hariri murder but a number of subsequent killings of Lebanese opponents, are said to be extremely concerned about the prospect of being put in the dock in the Hague. Recent efforts to relieve the pressure appear to have been rebuffed by both Saudi Arabia and the US... Administration officials say Saudi King Abdullah will not attend the next Arab League summit slated for March in Damascus. And the US intelligence community has concluded that the recent clamp down on Jihadists trying to make their way from Damascus to Iraq has more to do with Syrian domestic politics than helping the US. "They're not getting anything out of this from us," says one well-placed US official...
Equally important -- from an Arab perspective -- is the President's invariable bias towards Israel. A number of observers have commented on what one called his "over the top"remarks at Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust museum...."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Jumblatt to 'Le Figaro': "Dialogue with assad & Ahmadinejad is futile ... they should be done with..."

Walid Jumblatt in an interview with Le Figaro, here
"...Les Occidentaux ont lâché le Liban. Leur dialogue avec Ahmadinejad et Assad me fait penser à celui de Hitler avec Chamberlain avant la Seconde Guerre mondiale. On ne dialogue pas avec les dictateurs, on les renverse..."
« Le Hezbollah défend de façon acharnée le régime syrien et l'expansionnisme iranien », dénonce Walid Joumblatt.

Rough justice in Lebanon

From the Economist Intelligence Brief, here
"...Mr Eid's force, the ISF, has been depicted as being politically tilted towards the Sunni Muslim community (of which Mr Hariri is a member), and its commander, Ashraf Rifi, has taken a notably harsher line than Mr Suleiman on Syria. Mr Rifi, for example, alleged that Syrian intelligence agents had played a part in the creation of Fatah al-Islam, an Islamist group that fought a bloody conflict with the Lebanese army at the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp last summer; Mr Suleiman denied that there was any connection between Syria and Fatah al-Islam ... and that matters may indeed get considerably worse."

"The US Must embrace Islamist Moderates" in order to prop Democracy in the M.E"

Shadi Hamid sees a GREAT POTENTIAL for such a policy, In the DemocracyJournal, here "...A potential model for this type of "enmeshing" is Turkey’s ruling AKP, an Islamist party which has enacted a series of far-reaching democratic reforms in order to meet requirements to enter the European Union–and which enjoys a working relationship (and military ties) with Israel..."

US law directly contributed to the establishing of Syria's private aviation sector

From OBG "Open Skies", here

Monday, January 28, 2008

Lebanese Government Investigating Allegations of Army Abuses at Nahr al-Bared

In WorldPoliticsReview, here

Beirut dusts off 1975 Lexicon

Bush Hits a Wall in the Mideast

Hoagland in the WaPo, here "...Bush encountered such pushback from the Saudis and other Gulf Arabs on his Middle East peace tour this month, according to a variety of diplomatic sources. Open skepticism greeted his appeals to "moderate" Arab states to provide the political and financial support that might enable Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to move forward on peace. "We are not going to sink a lot of money into West Bank and Gaza projects that will just be blown up by the Israelis in a few months when things go wrong again," one Arab leader reportedly said to Bush. The president was also told that Gulf countries want Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to agree in writing to the borders of a Palestinian state before they can fully support the Bush effort.

That is a tall order for Bush to deliver ..."

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Some Sunni Muslims won't salute Iraq's new flag

In McClatchy's, here

Top US Intelligence Officials in Secret Trip to Pakistan to Seek Broader Role Against al-Qaida

AP, via TPM, here
"... Rather than allow an increased U.S. presence, the Times reported that Pakistan and the United States are discussing other joint efforts, such as increased use of armed Predator surveillance aircraft over the tribal areas, and identifying ways the U.S. can speed intelligence information to Pakistani security forces..."

"Amman Dispatch"

"Amman Dispatch" In MoJo Blog, here
"... got to the subject of the Shiites -- "who do not practice the right Islam" -- as well, and how Saddam "was like a king" who knew how to govern the Iraqis, "who are difficult, they are not easy like the Jordanian people."

Friday, January 25, 2008

"Olmert boasts about quiet Lebanon border, but seems to forget about the war"

In YNETNews, here
"...'Never before, including during the Yom Kippur War in 1973, has Israel’s north been bombarded with such power. Even during the First Gulf War, only a small number of missiles landed in Israel. We can certainly say that never before has an Israeli military leadership encountered such level of mistrust as Olmert and his government are facing..."

On behalf of the Al Sauds, Saad Hariri promoting "America's point man" in Pakistan

In AsiaTimes, here
"... After attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Musharraf has a two-day stopover in England. According to the official version, he will spend quite time "at a farm house". But Asia Times Online contacts maintain he will meet with Lebanese parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri to discuss guarantees and a modus operandi for a relationship between the Sharifs and Musharraf.
Saad's slain father Rafik Hariri previously was the guarantor of a deal between Sharif and Musharraf which allowed Sharif's release from jail in 2000 - he had been sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of hijacking - to go into exile in Saudi Arabia. Sharif initially denied this deal, but later admitted to it.
Retired Squadron Leader Khalid Khawaja commented to Asia Times Online, "We are fully aware of these developments, and you would be surprised to learn that I recently met a person in the UAE [United Arab Emirates] who divulged that America's real point person has always been Nawaz Sharif. The reason is simple, he has inroads to the militants and he is considered among them to be a better person in comparison to all others."
Khawaja was a close aide of Osama bin Laden's after retiring from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)and the Pakistan Air Force. Khawaja also arranged bin Laden's meeting with Nawaz Sharif in the late 1980s in Saudi Arabia to hatch a plan to topple Bhutto's government. .."

A Bomb explodes in Beirut: Beat up the next Syrian Joe ...

from Angry Arab, here

Massive bomb kills Senior Official in ISF's "Intelligence Branch"

Lt. Colonel Wissam Eid of ISF's "Intelligence Branch" killed along with 6 other hapless Lebanese, here & here

Explosion Rocks Christian Area in Beirut

Wolfowitz to Lead State Dept. Panel on disarmament & nonproliferation

In the NYTImes, here

Seale: "Damascus Rumor: Syria seems no longer to trust Sleiman, believing that he has moved into the Saudi/US camp"

Patrick Seale, here

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Hezbollah and Israel continue to battle it out through propaganda

Nicholas Blanford in NOWLebanon, here
"...On Monday, Hezbollah raised the stakes a little higher when the pro- opposition newspaper Al-Akhbar said it had photographs of the remains of dead Israeli soldiers and published a picture of a dog tag belonging to Sergeant Ron Mashiach, who was killed during the war when Hezbollah fighters shot down a troop transport helicopter with an anti-tank missile as it was taking off from near Yater village....The Israeli Haaretz daily on Tuesday carried remarks by Mashiach’s distraught mother who had begun to question if the Israeli army had told her the truth about her son’s remains. “I understood he was buried whole. They said that except for the dog tag, everything is fine,” she was quoted as saying..."
...The propaganda ploy sparked an uproar in Israel, as a deeply embarrassed Israeli army was forced to admit that it had opened up the graves of two soldiers killed at Ansarieh to add the new body parts.
The Ansarieh episode was a prime example of Hezbollah’s ability to blend battlefield prowess with skilful propaganda, and underlined to Israel more than any other incident that its days occupying south Lebanon were numbered..."

Israeli government said it expected to be removed from Canadian "Torture List" after US

From ABC Blotter, here

Bush says Bin Laden may Not be Captured During his Time in Office

From FOX news, here

Hamas Blows a Hole in Bush’s Plans

Tony Karon in the RootlessCosmo, here
"... The Israelis have no choice but to recognize that the group’s control of Gaza is an intractable reality, that will force the Arab world and Abbas himself to accelerate efforts to restore Palestinian unity. And Israel will have no choice but to pursue the cease-fire option offered by Hamas as the most effective means for ending rocket fire out of Gaza..."

Lebanon: Mobile Phone Sale On Hold

From OBG, here
"... Critics of the proposed sale do have a point, given that the publicly owned telecommunications sector - both fixed line operations and mobile phone networks - represents around 40% of state revenues..."

Attacks imperil U.S.-backed "Awakening Council" militias in Iraq

In the International Herald Tribune, here

David Satterfield: "We will support regime change in Syria"

From an interview with UPI, via Al Akhbar, here

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Al Qaeda-inspired militants stir up Lebanon

In the San Francisco Chronicle, here, via SyriaComment.
"Al Qaeda is now unleashed in Lebanon and they are here to stay," said Ahmad Moussali, professor of political science and Islamic studies at the American University of Beirut. "Al Qaeda thrives in civil war and chaos. International players should be very careful in Lebanon."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Bush Admin Made 935 False Statements About Iraq Threat In March To War

In the Huffington Post, here
"... The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Bush and administration officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or had links to al-Qaida or both..."

Global Freedom in Retreat: Most pronounced in ...Middle East and North Africa ...

A Freedom House Report, here
"... The period of modest gains that had marked the political landscape of the Middle East in the post-9/11 period came to an end in 2007. Backward movement was registered in three important countries of the Arab Middle East: Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria. Major declines were also noted in both the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli-Occupied Territories..."

Israeli leaders should at least consider Hamas proposals for long-term ceasefire

Ze'evi in YNEtnews, here
"... In my view, there was something refreshing in their [Hamas] honesty. Those were people who were not resorting to hypocrisy or two-facedness. They openly expressed their hope for Israel’s elimination, but also said that nobody can tell what the future holds. It is possible that in 10 or 20 years their views would also change, and perhaps their sons and our own sons would view co-existence in a different light..."

Arab governments are less worried about the military power of Hamas and Hezbollah than they are about support for them among their publics

Telhami at Brookings, here
"... Arab governments are less worried about the military power of Hamas and Hezbollah than they are about support for them among their publics. They are less worried about a military confrontation with Iran than about Iran's growing influence in the Arab world. In other words, what Arab governments truly fear is militancy and the public support for it that undermines their own popularity and stability. ..
In all this, they see Iran as a detrimental force but not as the primary cause of militant sentiment. Most Arab governments believe instead that the militancy is driven primarily by the absence of Arab-Israeli peace. .."

In Cairo ...

Khamenei sides with the parliament speaker in his standoff with President Ahmadinejad

In the LATimes, here

Iran's Supreme leader

Papers Paint New Portrait of Iraq's Foreign Insurgents

De Young in the WaPo, here

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The world wants America back

This is really highly debatable! FP's Moises Naim, in the WaPo, here . Comments are a must!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

More Jerusalem Arabs seek Israeli citizenship

From McClatchy's, here
"... More than 250,000 Arabs and 481,000 Jews live in greater Jerusalem, according to new figures released this week by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies. But the number of Arab residents is growing faster than the number of Jewish ones...Arabs constitute about 20 percent of the Israeli population, but the nation's leaders worry that Israel eventually could lose its predominant Jewish identity..."

Friday, January 18, 2008

Time To Start Talking To Tehran

Maloney & Takeyh in NEWSWEEK, here
"... the next president will inherit one big advantage. Simply not being George W. Bush—who even Iran's relatively pragmatic former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has dismissed as a "dinosaur with a sparrow's brain"—will enormously improve the next president's prospects for dialogue ...The Islamic Republic does not have to recognize Israel or dissolve Hizbullah. But it should abandon its public attacks on the Jewish state and press its Lebanese protege to become a regular political party..."

It's al-Qaeda, Stupid!

Bilal Saab in PostGlobal, here via SyriaComment.
"...The recent firing of rockets by al-Qaeda in Iraq from southern Lebanon into northern Israel is only one example. We have seen that scenario before, only with different actors: the 1978 and 1982 Israeli invasions of Lebanon were largely in response to Palestinian attacks from southern Lebanon. At the same time, al-Qaeda would assiduously work on causing a war between Syria and Israel and a round two between Hezbollah and Israel. The biggest prize for al-Qaeda, obviously, is to ignite a war between Iran and the United States – something al-Qaeda's Iraq leader, Omar al Baghdadi, has talked about in a recent message..."

STRATFOR: "The Chaos Comes To Lebanon"

(Excerpts: STRATFOR Analysis & "sources" in the rank and file of M14 ... )

"...The blast, which killed three people and wounded 26, struck a U.S. Embassy vehicle, sparking fears that the perpetrators intended to hit a U.S. diplomatic target.

According to Lebanese security officials, the car bomb struck a U.S. Embassy armor-plated sport utility vehicle (SUV) that was transporting Lebanese security officers on a highway north of Beirut. The officers were part of an advance team ...was intended as a warning and was carried out against the United States by an organization such as Hezbollah, as our sources recently indicated.

At the time of the attack, U.S. President George W. Bush was still in the region, where he issued strong statements about confronting Iran and its regional militant allies — including Hezbollah. We have been informed that the Hezbollah leadership is seriously concerned about U.S. plans to help the Western-backed government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora eventually eradicate Hezbollah. Moreover, tensions between Iran and the United States have escalated significantly over the past several weeks, with Washington giving not-so-subtle hints that the military option can be put back on the table if Tehran pushes things too far... Syria, meanwhile, is busy preparing for a massive destabilization effort in Lebanon... According to a source, Syrian intelligence has a hit list of six individuals in Siniora’s March 14 coalition — parliamentary deputies Samir Franjieh, Wael Abu Faour, Nayla Mouawad and Akram Shuhayyib; former parliamentary deputy Faris Said; and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea... from the Syrian intelligence office in Rif Dimashq (NOW this is REAL Intelligence gathering by STRATFOR, ...), and they tell the March 14 leaders and activists that Syrian intelligence knows all the details of their moves, actions and whereabouts. These messages are meant to demoralize the leaders and activists of the March 14 coalition.

The Syrians also are deeply involved in supplying militants in Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps, .. to instigate clashes between rival Palestinian factions — specifically between the Fatah movement and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command..."

Nicholas Burns to step down; William Burns to Replace him

Reuters.

Three-way checkmate

Agha & Malley, in the Guardian, here
"...The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has gone from a violent, intractable, clear-cut duel to a violent, intractable, three-way chess match. Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas each fear that the other two will reach a deal at its expense. And each is determined to prevent that outcome..."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

WINEP: "Bush in Arabia: Work in Progress or Waste of Time?"

Simon Henderson at WINEP, here
"... The reported public reaction to his speech indicates that both the leaders and the people of the Gulf states were less than persuaded...The Gulf states are reportedly concerned about the chaos in Iraq, what they see as a continuing U.S. bias in favor of Israel, and whether isolation is the best way to deal with Iran. They also view Bush, with just a year to go in the White House, as a lame duck president... Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told his French counterpart that Washington's confrontational behavior toward Iran was not the answer; if the Gulf Arabs have a problem with Iran, he argued, they should talk to Tehran, as neighbors should. Indeed, when Sarkozy departed only hours before Bush arrived, the flag poles on the drive from the airport were flying both the French and U.S. flags -- an apparent diplomatic signal that the United States is not the kingdom's only ally..."

US States Renamed For Countries With Similar GDPs

Cute, via Matt Yglesias, here

GAO Report Challenges Effect of Longtime U.S. Sanctions on Iran

Robin Wright in the WaPo, here
"In a report released yesterday, the investigative arm of Congress challenged the impact of U.S. sanctions against Iran dating to 1987. Tehran has circumvented many economic sanctions, it concluded, noting Iran's ability to negotiate $20 billion in contracts with foreign firms since 2003 to develop its energy resources. With the country's oil wealth, Iranian banks also have funded their activities in currencies other than the dollar... "The substance is getting smaller and smaller," said a senior European official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive diplomacy still underway. Some of the provisions in the latest draft call for "monitoring" financial transactions with Iran rather than freezing assets of institutions, banks and businesses suspected of ties to nuclear proliferation..."

Winograd Report could topple Olmert government

From YNETNews, here
"As publication of final report on Second Lebanon War draws near, commission member tells Ynet report's conclusions could have dramatic ramifications for Israeli political system ..."

Aoun meets Hariri, Gemayel & Mussa

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

How does Michel Sleiman 'explain' his refusal to conduct a meaningful relationship with Aoun, while he goes out of his way to visit Jumblatt & Geagea'

Ibrahim Al Amine, in Al Akhbar, here

Bush Embraces Rice's Approach

David Makovsky at WINEP, here
"...Secretary Rice believes that if the core issues were resolved, the Palestinians and Israelis would be motivated to fulfill their earlier obligations. She also believes that a new Palestinian election would provide a diplomatic breakthrough for Fatah, serving both as a referendum to achieve support for peace with Israel and as a means of politically reunifying Gaza and the West Bank. In contrast, without any success on the main issues, she believes that Palestinian and Israeli leaders will fear squandering their finite domestic political capital on lesser issues...President Bush's trip marked the first time that current policy on the Israeli-Palestinian issue was being directly identified with him, and not just Rice....."

Al Qaeda in Lebanon

Nir Rosen, in the Boston Review, here

The Bombing at Qarantina: The Message to Bush: Remove Your Crusader Outpost!

By the author of the "Welch Club", Franklin Lamb, here

Cobban interviews Kanafani, Director of the Foreign Media Department at the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs

At JWN, here

The American 'footprint' in the Middle East: Regional Threats and Security Strategy

From the Strategic Studies Inst. of the US Army War College, here

Targeting the US Again in Beirut

In TIME, here

Study finds Israelis more reluctant to justify Second Lebanon War as time goes by

A Study by 'National Resilience" via YNETNews, here

Sy Hersh: On the Iraq War, Bush Foreign Policy, Private Contractors and the Prospects of War with Iran

An interview in Counterpunch, here
"...Then, America and Israel are going to go after people we don't like. People like Iran, Hamas, Hizbollah. There is a coalition forming, a coalition that forms and pits brother against brother, a fitnah..."

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Yediot Aharonot's journalist, Orly Azoulay, in Riyadh for the second time ..

Orly Azoulay, the Washington bureau chief of Yediot Aharonot, who entered Saudi Arabia back in March of 2007' (as part of Ban Ki Moon's entourage, here) was able to get proper credentials for the second time around as she travelled with Bush on Air Force One. We might as well get used to these "indiscretions", as I remember that Daphne Barack (cousin of Ehud) travelled to "pre-rehabilitation" Lybia 2003', with a French delegation. (Photo below of Barack proudly displaying her Israeli passport with the Libyan attachment, ... as a mural of the Supreme Leader hangs in the VIP lounge- Photo from Private collection)

Bush: "I'm Sure People View Me As A War Monger"

YOU DON'T SAY???!!! See, President Bush is like Godzilla: He is misunderstood. (ABC via Huffington Post, here)

Face to Face with Hezbollah

In the Palestine Chronicle, here

Top Gen. Odierno aide: "Make Awakening Councils part of government ... or face Sunni Army in civil strife"

In LATimes, here

OBG: "Despite US Sanctions, Syria's Economy had a 'Good Year"

In OBG, here

US Embassy 'decoy motorcade' targetted by bomb in Beirut's suburb

... from Beirut, on to New York's UN-Security Council! The Arab initiative should not be seen as more than the "rite of passage" to this poisoned challis. Things should look fittingly "desperate" between now and the 27th of January (Mussa's report) as to warrant the transfer of Lebanon's ordeal to Ban Ki Moon's care.

Cordesman: Despite Gains, Future in Iraq, Afghanistan Remains ‘Uncertain’

Interview at the CFR, here

Bush's Policy Disrupted by NIE

At the Foreign Policy Research Institute, here

Le Point: Michel Sleiman "impliqué dans une affaire de faux passeports, ne peut venir en France… L’action en justice suit son cours »

"Liban : Paris exige."
De retour à Paris, je trouve une télécopie, émise par un inconnu, montrant une page (20) de la revue française « Le Point » du 18 ou 8 novembre 2007 (la copie ne montre pas bien la date).
Dans cette page, « Le Point » raconte que le général Michel Sleiman, « impliqué dans une affaire de faux passeports, ne peut venir en France… L’action en justice suit son cours ».
L’étonnant est que le gouvernement libanais, le général Sleiman et l’opposition n’en aient jamais parlé ni pour confirmer ni pour contredire. Qu’est-ce à dire ?
Veut-on élire le général Michel Sleiman comme Président de la République libanaise pour ensuite le « faire chanter » ou détruire ce qui reste de l’image de la Présidence de la République ?
Le plus étonnant est que la France menace l’opposition libanaise, par la bouche de Monsieur Bernard Kouchner, d’élire le général Sleiman, « sinon elle retournerait à l’ONU » (L’Orient-Le Jour du 15 janvier 2008). Pour faire quoi ?
La France voudrait-elle faire de nouveau « coloniser » Le Liban et par qui ? L’ONU ou les Etats-Unis ? C’est en fait la même chose, car l’ONU obéit pratiquement aux Etats-Unis. Quant à l’Europe…
Bien sûr, le Liban est trop petit et trop faible pour désobéir, surtout que les Américains et leurs alliés, dont les Saoudiens, les Israéliens et les gouvernements Hariri et Siniora, qui se sont succédés depuis 18 ans, ont tout fait pour le cribler de dettes et le détruire, chacun dans sa spécialité. La désobéissance du peuple de ce petit pays n’en est que plus énervante ! A-t-on idée de préférer la liberté à la vie !
Avant de nous menacer, messieurs du gouvernement français, commencez par nous dire si le candidat que vous exigez est persona grata en France ou non.
Quant au gouvernement Siniora et ses alliés libanais, ils feraient bien d’écouter leur peuple avant qu’il ne soit trop tard pour eux et pour leur pays.
Je demande au général Michel Sleiman, que je respecte et que j’admire, de mettre les choses au point sur ce sujet. Je lui demande aussi de m’excuser, mais l’intérêt du pays prime tout autre intérêt.
(FLC's copy of the fax,)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Kouchner: "A meeting between Gen. Aoun & Saad Hariri in the offing"

Through KONA (Kuwait) here

... Bush on to Egypt ... where "roses & sweets" await him

مصريّون يحرقون صورة لبوش خلال تظاهرة ضدّ زيارته إلى القاهرة (عمرو نبيل - أ ب)

Can the Hydra be Beheaded? The Campaign to Weaken Hizbollah: "rub out Hasan Nasrallah"

"The steps taken by Israel and the international community have thus far not succeeded in weakening the organization. This study argues that in addition to considering Hizbollah's military power, the organization's other assets must be taken into account, including its Iranian connection; developments along the Israel-Syria axis; and its domestic Lebanese standing. Weakening Hizbollah rests on reducing it to an unimportant actor on the regional scene, and the study offers some proactive strategies toward this end." First & foremost: "rub out Hasan Nasrallah" (In Hebrew) here.

Bush on the Iran NIE:"I am sorry ...These are not my views"

Michael Hirsh in NEWSWEEK, here
"... Bush's behind-the-scenes assurances may help to quiet a rising chorus of voices inside Israel's defense community that are calling for unilateral military action against Iran. Olmert, asked by NEWSWEEK after Bush's departure on Friday whether he felt reassured, replied: "I am very happy." A source close to the Israeli leader said Bush first briefed Olmert about the intelligence estimate a week before it was published, during talks in Washington that preceded the Annapolis peace conference in November. According to the source, who also refused to be named discussing the issue, Bush told Olmert he was uncomfortable with the findings and seemed almost apologetic..."

"George W. Bush will be passing on to his successor either a daunting piece of unfinished business or a full-blown crisis"

Strobe Talbott at Brookings, here

OBG: Lebanon, A Year in Review

In OBG, here
"In many ways, Lebanon ended 2007 much as it entered the year, mired in political uncertainty and turmoil, deeply in debt and with an economy seeking stability ..."

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Bush's "Abu Dhabi" speech draws cool response

"...But Bush appears unlikely, based on the regional reaction to his address, to find many Arabs to heed his alarms against Iran, a powerful neighbor and trading partner. Nor did many endorse his speech's other theme — a vision of "free and just society" featuring broad political participation and a voice for moderate Muslims in a region where money and family are common keys to leadership. ...Even political analysts here who share Bush's democratic vision said that his speech painted over the daily reality for most inhabitants of the Middle East, an oil-rich region where power is largely inherited and human rights violations abound.....Whether chastising Iran or praising Palestinian elections, analysts said, Bush left out key facts that would have offered a messier — and more true-to-life — portrait of the modern Middle East..." Read more From McClatchy's, here

With umbrella in hand, President George W. Bush waves from aboard Air Force One as he prepares to deplane after arriving Sunday, Jan. 13, 2008, at Abu Dhabi International Airport. White House photo by Eric Draper

Israeli Housing Minister speaks out against division of JERUSALEM, insists on continuing construction in city despite US objections

In YNETNews, here

Amr Mussa's "meeting" with Nasrallah: Boisterous & Imminent

An encapsulation of the meeting between Mussa & Nasrallah:
With the specific goal of telling the Opposition's leadership that M14 was not going to allow them a vetoing power in any government, Mussa thought that the meeting would wrap up presto-pronto, as the "moderate" Arabs were gearing up to blame the Opposition for the failure of this "other" initiative. What he heard next, was very disconcerting and un-choreographed.
Basically, a "highly combative" Nasrallah told the Arab envoy that whatever he was peddling was "unacceptable" and that he was free to leave the meeting and tell the world that the Opposition scuttled the initiative ... In a nutshell, he told him that the Opposition was not going to waddle and mope around anymore especially with "those who helped Israel kill our children". Nasrallah was equally vitriolic in describing the Arabs, and finished the meeting with this warning: "Tell them: you give us the 3rd+1 share of governance or else I guarantee you, we are going to take it to the next level... and I promise you, not even an Elliott Abrams can prevent change" ... Finally, he said for more information & details, contact Gen. Aoun!
Amro left the meeting straight to Berri's for some "consolation." Berri heard of the meeting in "Dahiyeh" and decided to keep their meeting extremely short!

Was Bush's Team Making Fun of Saudi King's Night Habits on the Eve of the Bush-Abdullah Meeting?

From Steve Clemons, here
"... Again, I'm not sure -- but the exchange and comments from the "senior official" seem to undiplomatically poke fun at the Saudi King's late night habits.
Maybe this is just nothing, but if I were the Saudi King's chief-of-staff, I'd really want to know what the "senior administration official" was trying to telegraph with this exchange on the eve of an important meeting between President Bush and King Abdullah..."

bush abdullah twn.jpg

Saturday, January 12, 2008

121 Vets. of Iraq & Afghanistan wars "charged with killing" when back in the US

In the NYTimes, here
"...The New York Times found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war..."

Mofaz: Lebanon Res. 1701 'not worth paper it's written on'

In YNETnews, here
"Hizbullah today is stronger than what it was before the war, and it has a larger rocket arsenal…it does not fulfill any clause in Resolution 1701. Resolution 1701 is not worth the paper it's written on, "Mofaz said... The main problem encountered by Israel in the Lebanon War was the political leadership's failed management of the campaign, Mofaz added. "This is the same army and same commanders who fought in operation Defensive Shield four years earlier, and there we won."

Even with sanctions, Syrians embrace KFC and Gap

In the CSM, here
"...However, some observers argue that the effect [sanctions] has been counterproductive, restricting transparent economic ties that could soften political frigidity and, significantly, opening the door to greater Iranian influence in Syria, itself seeking stronger regional ties to counter US hostility."

Who Killed Bhutto? The Weekly Standard has this:"The Saudi royal family"

"... Musharraf was not the only party threatened by Bhutto's popularity. The Saudi royal family, who had hosted Bhutto's competitor, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif (ousted in a military coup by Musharraf in 1999), feared Bhutto would win the election. Her rise to Pakistan's highest office would weaken Saudi-Wahhabi political, economic, and religious influence in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the rest of Central Asia. The Saudis, who loathe Bhutto, summoned Musharraf in November 2007 and talked him into allowing Sharif to return and run against her. Three days later, Sharif was on his way to Pakistan. This is an intriguing turn of events given the fact that the previous month, Musharraf had rebuffed Sharif when he had shown up in Pakistan, forcing Sharif to return to Saudi Arabia on the same plane that had brought him home..."
Continue reading, here

Liban : les dessous de la tentative infructueuse de l'Elysée de renouer les contacts avec Damas

LE MONDE 12.01.08 11h51 • Mis à jour le 12.01.08 14h03
'un des efforts diplomatiques les plus marquants de la présidence de Nicolas Sarkozy, à savoir son ouverture au régime syrien de Bachar Al-Assad afin de l'inciter à contribuer à un dénouement de la crise politique au Liban, s'est soldé par un échec. Le chef de l'Etat en a pris acte le 30 décembre 2007, en annonçant la rupture des contacts politiques avec Damas jusqu'à nouvel ordre.
Entre-temps, les relations entre Paris et Washington, où l'administration Bush considérait que les Français "s'avançaient trop" auprès des Syriens, ont connu, fin 2007, une phase de tensions discrètes, qui s'est résorbée avec le nouveau durcissement de ton de M. Sarkozy à l'égard de Damas.
La France, qui depuis des mois se trouvait en première ligne dans l'affaire libanaise, a récemment vu son rôle de principal médiateur supplanté par un autre acteur : la Ligue arabe...
Lancée début novembre 2007, lorsque M. Sarkozy avait mis ostensiblement fin à l'isolement diplomatique imposé à la Syrie par Jacques Chirac depuis 2005, la tentative de l'Elysée auprès du régime du président syrien Bachar Al-Assad semble ainsi avoir fait long feu.
Les détails de cet effort, tels qu'ils sont décrits par des sources diplomatiques concordantes, mettent en évidence plusieurs traits de l'action extérieure de Nicolas Sarkozy et de son équipe : un recours intensif aux contacts noués avec les services secrets étrangers quand M. Sarkozy était ministre de l'intérieur (2002-2004 et 2005-2007), une propension au passage en force, un goût du secret et de l'action en solo, au détriment parfois de la cohésion du message français. S'y ajoute une tendance à croire que les complexités d'un dossier, les lourdeurs du passé et du rapport de force politique peuvent être balayées par un simple sursaut de dynamisme présidentiel.
Sur le dossier libanais, Nicolas Sarkozy a voulu tout accélérer en faisant entrer en jeu son homme de confiance, le secrétaire général de l'Elysée, Claude Guéant. Le 4 novembre 2007, ce dernier s'est rendu à Damas pour parler à Bachar Al-Assad, en compagnie du conseiller diplomatique de M. Sarkozy, Jean-David Levitte.
Jusque-là, le dossier libanais avait été géré par le ministre des affaires étrangères, Bernard Kouchner, épaulé par un spécialiste reconnu du Moyen-Orient, le diplomate Jean-Claude Cousseran. Tous deux avaient conçu une stratégie d'ensemble s'adressant aux forces politiques libanaises et aux pays de la région, faite d'une patiente recherche de compromis.
Habitué des réseaux policiers et du monde du renseignement, Claude Guéant a pour sa part cherché à tirer profit des relations nouées avec les services syriens dans "l'antiterrorisme" - notamment avec le chef du renseignement militaire Assaf Shawkat, qui se trouve être le beau-frère de Bachar Al-Assad. M. Guéant se serait aussi appuyé sur des intermédiaires syro-libanais du monde des affaires.
Le Qatar, où le président français se rend la semaine prochaine en visite d'Etat dans la cadre de sa tournée dans le Golfe, a aussi joué un rôle. L'émirat, en très bons termes avec Damas, a beaucoup courtisé M. Sarkozy (contrat avec Airbus, "médiation" dans l'affaire des infirmières bulgares en Libye) dans l'espoir qu'il noue des contacts au plus haut niveau avec la Syrie.
Claude Guéant a poussé assez loin ses échanges avec Damas, multipliant les appels téléphoniques. Il semble être entré avec les Syriens dans une discussion détaillée sur la composition d'un nouveau gouvernement libanais. Mais à Beyrouth, au fil des semaines, aucun accord politique ne prenait réellement forme.
Même quand Nicolas Sarkozy a franchi une nouvelle étape en téléphonant lui-même à Bachar Al-Assad, aucune contrepartie syrienne ne s'est profilée. Au Liban, il semblait qu'à chaque fois qu'une formule était suggérée pour sortir de l'impasse sur l'élection présidentielle, une nouvelle cause de blocage surgissait.
Bernard Kouchner, tout en se dépensant en négociations marathon à Beyrouth, bouillonnait d'agacement contre l'Elysée, qui ne le mettait pas toujours dans la confidence.
A Washington, l'administration Bush s'est aussi énervée. Elle avait déjà eu des doutes sur la visite de MM. Guéant et Levitte à Damas, mais elle patientait, et préparait la réunion d'Annapolis, dans le Maryland (27 novembre 2007), sur le processus de paix au Proche-Orient, à laquelle avait été conviée la Syrie. Mi-décembre, à l'occasion d'une réunion à Paris sur le Liban, les Américains laissent éclater leur colère.
La secrétaire d'Etat, Condoleezza Rice, et le conseiller pour la sécurité nationale, Steven Hadley, demandent que les contacts cessent avec Damas, qui selon eux berne ses interlocuteurs. Jean-David Levitte, diplomate habile, s'emploie à les rassurer. Puis, le 30 décembre, alors qu'il est en visite en Egypte, M. Sarkozy annonce publiquement ce qu'il a dit déjà en privé aux Américains : la fin de la partie a sonné avec Bachar Al-Assad.
La Syrie a-t-elle jamais eu l'intention d'éviter un vide institutionnel au Liban qui pourrait lui profiter ? L'Elysée a-t-il péché par naïveté ? Par précipitation ? La polarisation au Liban, qui met en jeu l'affrontement plus large au Moyen-Orient entre les Etats-Unis et l'Iran, pouvait-elle être dépassée par le simple fait de parler à Damas ? La Syrie a prétendu qu'un document avait été élaboré avec M. Guéant sur un scénario politique au Liban, ce que Paris ne confirme pas. Le 2 janvier, le ministre syrien des affaires étrangères, Walid Mouallem, a accusé la France de n'avoir pas su tenir sa part du marché en pesant sur la majorité parlementaire libanaise.
Peu après Noël, M. Guéant avait tenté un "coup" : faire venir à Paris, dans les 48 heures qui suivaient, trois protagonistes libanais de premier plan, le sunnite Saad Hariri (chef de file de la majorité parlementaire), et deux figures de l'opposition, le chiite Nabih Berri (président du Parlement) et le chrétien Michel Aoun - auquel Damas s'intéresserait de près pour la présidentielle. Mais le carrousel politique libanais a échappé à l'Elysée, et l'invitation fut déclinée. (SEE THE ROLE OF ELLIOTT ABRAMS!!)

Friday, January 11, 2008

"... at least some do try..."

"Freedom Fighters": The State of the Bush Administration's Democracy-Promotion Push

Laura Rosen in MoJo, here
"...While pro-democracy advocates fault the resistance of the bureaucracy, they acknowledge that there were other geopolitical factors that hurt their cause as well. One was the January 2006 election of Hamas in the Palestinian territories—an election the Bush administration pushed hard for—which confronted the administration with the grim prospect that democratic elections in some Middle East states would bring not liberal democrats but militant Islamists to power. "The election of Hamas had a chilling effect," Carpenter says. "What's more, when governments in the region saw that we were prepared to go that far—to have elections in which Hamas would come to power—they themselves put on the brakes." In July 2006, a pro-democracy success story in Lebanon that began with the Cedar Revolution and the withdrawal of Syrian forces the previous year devolved into a devastating 34-day war between Israel and Lebanon after Hezbollah kidnapped Israeli soldiers..."

Turkey to seek US coordination in the spring to launch IRAQ land operations

From ZAMAN, here

Kuwait: Bush's rude awakening!

From TIME, here
. "... he made a curious statement while he was lauding political reforms by pro-U.S. rulers in the conservative Gulf countries. "You know," he said, "women are now very active in the Kuwaiti parliament." Well, no woman has ever been elected to the Kuwaiti parliament ...
. You'd think that Kuwait's 1 million people should be pretty solidly pro-American, and indeed pro-Bush. In 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded the country he called an Iraqi province, and Bush's father, Bush 41, assembled an international war coalition that promptly ejected Iraqi forces and restored the al-Sabah ruling family to power. But while Kuwaitis tend to be well disposed to the U.S. compared with people in most other Arab countries, their sympathy isn't as strong as you'd expect....
. In a Pew poll in 2007, in fact, 26% of Kuwaitis identified the U.S. as the country posing the biggest threat to Kuwait, behind Iran and Iraq; and 63% worried that it could become a military threat... but still sizable. Thirteen percent of Kuwaitis expressed confidence in Osama bin Laden, whose spokesman is himself a Kuwaiti Islamist. Forty-nine percent of Kuwaitis had a favorable view of Hizballah and 41% of Hamas--militant groups the U.S. labels as terrorists. One of the questions Bush fielded from the Arab journalists was whether the U.S. would release four Kuwaitis being detained as terrorists at Guantanamo. Young Kuwaiti men have been captured trying to enter Iraq to wage jihad against U.S. forces there. Islamists have been gaining politically in Kuwait, gaining 34% of the seats in parliament. Government security forces have fought gun battles with Islamic extremists allegedly planning attacks inside the state..."

OTV: "Amr Mussa leaves Beirut empty-handed"

On OTV, via Tayyar.org, here

Bush, "l’encombrant" hôte d’Abbas: L’impopularité de son visiteur a rejailli sur le président palestinien.

On LIBERATION, here
"... Hier, le manque d’enthousiasme des Palestiniens était d’ailleurs patent. «Les Palestiniens n’attendent pas grand-chose de cette visite car la politique de Bush est perçue comme systématiquement favorable à Israël, explique Mustapha Barghouti, ministre de l’Information dans l’ancien gouvernement d’union nationale palestinien. Ses demandes de démantèlement des colonies sauvages montrent bien qu’il n’est pas sérieux dans ses pressions sur Israël. S’il l’était, il demanderait purement et simplement la fin de la colonisation.»

Bin Laden turns heat on Saudi Arabia

In AsiaTimes, here
"...he leaves no doubt that the Islamists' main enemy in Iraq is now Saudi Arabia, not the supposedly militarily defeated United States. After the Soviets' withdrawal from Afghanistan, bin Laden reminded the Iraqi fighters that "America exerted great efforts ... to convince the Afghan leaders through the governments of Riyadh and Islamabad to join a national unity government with communists and secularists from the West." Bin Laden explained that the Saudi regime was then - and is again today in Iraq - the main enemy of the mujahideen: ..."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Italian soccer team "Zassbollah", adopts Hezbollah's logo to boost players' morale & fighting spirit

Mideast Peace: Big Talk, No Action

In TIME, here
George W. Bush

SACKED: “DoD specialist on Islamic law and Islamist extremism” akin to being the Oral Roberts U expert on fellatio and anal sex..."

Larry Johnson, from TPM, here and here

"Unnamed Pentagon officials said on Wednesday that the threatening voice heard in the audio clip is not directly traceable to the Iranian military"

In the NYTimes/The Lede, via War&Piece, here.
Is there an end to deceit?

Intelligence on Iran Still Lacking

From CFR, here
“The U.S. government has created this huge aura of suspicion around a small office of diplomats in Dubai who are simply trying to understand Iran better, not overthrow the regime.”
–Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

La rééducation des terroristes d'Arabie Saoudite

In Le Monde, here
"Pour être plus convaincants, nombre d'imams sont eux-mêmes d'anciens repentis ... Depuis 2004, 2 000 prisonniers l'ont suivi, dont 700 ont été relâchés après avoir renoncé à l'idéologie djihadiste ... 85 % n'ont pas rechuté... Cette efficacité est pourtant remise en question. «Lorsqu'un imam coopté par le régime explique qu'attaquer la famille royale ce n'est pas bien, cela n'a aucun effet», souligne Abdulaziz al-Gassim, expert de la mouvance terroriste. Plus de 1 400 détenus n'ont pas voulu y participer ..."

À raison de trois heures de cours chaque jour pendant dix semaines, sanctionnées par un examen final, les détenus d'al-Thoumama apprennent à ne pas retourner dans le giron d'al-Qaida.

Israel's 'take': "The Lebanon red line"

In HAARETZ, here
"... members of the Bush administration think that Israel would not hesitate to "sell" Lebanon to Damascus in order to make peace with Syria, and therefore an Israel-Syria peace negotiation is too risky a proposition ... While Washington and Jerusalem have worked closely together on a range of issues, few issues have been more problematic. Lebanon is one such issue and it has affected the way the U.S. views talks with Syria. It is sometimes carefully couched, so the U.S. can deny it is vetoing peace talks. When an Israeli reporter asked Bush about such a veto several months ago, Bush was careful to say that no such veto existed. However, as one senior Israeli cabinet official put it, "given Bush's tone, it was like a parent telling a child that if you want you can play in traffic. We didn't see it as a green light."

"Dependency politics"

This week-old essay by Alastair Crooke, via ConflictForum, here
"... In the same fashion, were President Assad to be more compliant and less confrontational by severing his relations with Iran, Hizballah and Hamas and by stepping-up to his “responsibilities” in Iraq, then he too, it is suggested, might benefit from a similar dependency: the EU would probably promise Syria a few new investments and maybe the prospect of talks with Israel in return.
Syria may indeed be both pragmatic and largely secular but its identity has become interlinked with the cause of resistance to American hegemony. ..The western optic also supposes that when Lebanese political parties oppose a particular solution in Lebanon they do not mean what they say, and instead they are seeking only to destabilize Lebanon by blocking the election of a new president. General Michel Aoun may say that his objective is to restore Lebanon’s traditional power-sharing arrangement in Lebanon; Hizballah may say that they support Aoun’s candidacy for the presidency and its secretary general may say that Hizballah seeks only to participate fairly in government, but they do not mean it. When Lebanese politicians state these things, western policy-makers, and some anti-Syrian elements in Lebanon, suggest it is no more than camouflage..."

Al Mustaqbal :"Obama Defeats Hillary in New Hampshire"

and they detail the "defeat" so well, here

CNN: "Mutual trust & Unwritten understandings between UAE & Al Qaeda ..."

..to use Gulf territories as "safe houses" for regrouping and reorganization in return for "safety"... Arabic/CNN, here