Thursday, July 31, 2008

Brzezinski: "that discussion with [Barghouti] is humiliating for any decent American who values human rights...."

Via TWN, here

Strike on Iran still possible, U.S. tells Israel?

"...At the same time, U.S. officials acknowledged that there is a rare divergence in the U.S. and Israeli approaches, with Israelis emphasizing the possibility of a military response out of concern that Tehran may soon have the know-how for building a nuclear bomb.
"Is there a difference of emphasis? It certainly looks as though there is," said a senior American Defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity when discussing the sensitive talks...."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

U.S., Iran inch closer to resolution?

In the OttawaCitizen, here with a comment from Col. Pat Lang, here
"The Bush Administration is dying, not listening. It does not seem to want anything more from Iran than continued belligerence that may contain an excuse for an "execute" order for existing plans. The Israeli right and its friends in the US continue to urge preventive war against Iran. They urge it every day. As I have written before, people must remember that there are no effective restraints in the US on short term presidential use of air and sea based power. If President Bush orders operations in Iran, the armed forces of the United States will not ask for a legal opinion as to whether or not he has the legal right. They will obey orders and let the lawyers and Congress sort out the niceties of constitutional authority after the fact.
I include the Iranians as "people" in this admonition. In the interest of keeping the peace I offer them the following unsolicited advice:
An excuse should not be provided to the Bush Administration if war is not the desired "end state."
Iran is still transmitting ambiguous messages to the United States. I presume that this is a matter of national pride. This kind of pride can be a deadly thing. Forget pride.
Send messages so unambiguous that your desire to work out a viable relationship with the US can not be distorted into something to be taken "with a grain of salt."
Find international mediators who are not "allies" of the US. Try the UN again. Try the Organization of Islamic Unity. Try Pope Benedict. Try." pl

Monday, July 28, 2008

Israeli Defense Minister Meets with Cheney, Rice Today, Iran on the Agenda

Laura Rosen in MoJo, here
"...Israel was reportedly not informed in advance that the Bush administration planned to send a US representative to international nuclear talks with Iran..."

The axis of pragmatism: Syria's emergence as a confident regional power has been paralleled by a shift in the foreign policy of its former enemies

"...Syria's global recognition comes at a time in which its regional position is stronger than ever..."

Robert Gates: "War with Iran is the last thing we need...it would be ‘disastrous’"

In "Parameters" (Army War College, Carlisle, Pa.), here via WarInContext.
"...Another war in the Middle East is the last thing we need. In fact, I believe it would be disastrous on a number of levels..."

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Chabrouh, Lebanon by Herge.

Jumblat takes a jab at Hariri ... accuses FUTURE movement of stoking the fires of secatarian strife in Tripoli

Electioneering at its best! In al Hayat, here
وتسببت التعليقات السياسية على الوضع في طرابلس بتصدّع جديد في تحالف قوى 14 آذار إذ أعلن رئيس «اللقاء النيابي الديموقراطي» وليد جنبلاط أن «على
رغم الجروح التي أصابت بيروت، إنما هذا لا يعني أن تعالج جروح بيروت بالانتقام في مكان آخر».

Why Iraq isn't more grateful...

Ignatius in the WaPo, here
"...Maliki and his colleagues are being faithful to Iraqi history -abhorrence of foreign military occupation- a factor the administration has too often misunderstood
...Rather than fretting about the seeming political benefits for Obama, the Bush administration should seize the moment and declare victory -- or, more accurately, declare the required minimum of success. The arrival of an Iraqi government strong and confident enough to negotiate a timetable for gradual withdrawal of U.S. forces is, in many respects, what we have been fighting for since 2003..."

Arab Aid to Palestinians Often Doesn't Fulfill Pledges

"..U.S. officials have pressed Arab governments to make good on their pledges, even privately showing State Department calculations to illustrate how little has been received over the years. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has publicly scolded Arab countries, telling reporters in May, "Clearly, when you make a pledge, you ought to fulfill it."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Saudi Salafism a Stronger Force in Islamist Militancy than Recanting Clerics

"...In his new article, Scheuer asserts that the Western press has bought the idea that al-Qaeda is near defeat. Journalists, he says, have bought it because some Islamist ideologues who previously supported al-Qaeda have criticized the organization. (Scheuer calls these criticisms “recantations,” but only a few of the people he mentions have recanted.) These criticisms, Scheuer says, “are part of a bigger project conducted by several Arab states–led by Saudi Arabia–to make the United States and its allies believe Islamism’s strength is ebbing.” This idea has been picked up by the Western media because people in the West “desperately wants to believe such claims.”
Why is Saudi Arabia conducting this campaign? To divert attention from the real problem, Salafism, which Scheuer calls “Saudi Arabia’s state religion.” The Saudis have even gone so far as to reach out to the pope and to consider the building of a church in the kingdom, all in the hopes that the West will forget that its religious ideology is the “engine of contemporary jihad.” Via Jihadica, here

Ayad Allawi: "We have failed"

"...Appearing today at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, former Iraqi Prime Minister and serving parliamentarian Ayad Allawi stressed that the security gains of the "surge" are only temporary. The surge "did succeed from a military point of view," he told a small group of reporters before the event, but he emphasized that its gains could evaporate unless political reconciliation follows...."

Friday, July 25, 2008

former Mossad chief says strike on Iran could 'affect us for 100 years'

Time, here

An Israeli F16C Jet fighter returns to Ramat David air force base in northern Israel.

Who's afraid of Iran?

"...For many in the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), the regional bloc comprising of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Iran's position over the nuclear issue is a disturbing development.
"Iran for us is a threat by its very own size," says Sami Al Faraj, a consultant on national security and strategic planning to the Gulf Co-operation Council and the president of the Kuwait Centre for Strategic Studies..."

MEPGS: "US believes Iran is in no mood to bargain.."

US officials are exceedingly pleased with the outcome of the July 19 meeting with Iranian representatives in Geneva. This is not because Teheran was, in any way, forthcoming about addressing concerns regarding their nuclear program. On the contrary. The paper they presented was considered so unresponsive ("ridiculous", was the word usedby one senior State Department official) that it highlighted their intransigence. US officials consider this to be a good thing, because it served to increase international concern, specifically Russian and Chinese.
....with oil prices at record levels and through their surrogates, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, projecting greater political power, some US analysts believe Iran is in no mood to bargain. Says one senior State Department official, "Iran is getting more dangerous. I fear that their confidence level is leading them to think they can do things they really cannot."
....analysts believe there is an important internal debate going on in Iran. "They are not like the North Koreans. They care about and want to do business with the people who are getting more anxious about them." To buttress this argument, this official notes that both in 2003 and 2006, the political leadership put the brakes on Iran's nuclear program. In the first instance, as disclosed in the latest National Intelligence Estimate, their "weaponization" efforts were halted. In 2006, they suspended their enrichment program, as they entered into a dialogue with the Europeans.
Now, say some US officials, the Iranians have to weigh the increasingly threatening words and actions of Israel. "Ideally the Iranians would like to have an ambiguous nuclear deterrent, like Israel. Not declared or operative, but assumed to be easily and quickly assembled." [One analyst calls it the "Japan option", which assumes that the Japanese, who have foresworn nuclear weapons, could, if necessary, assemble a number of them "over along weekend."]
US officials also take seriously Israeli willingness to use force against Iran. ...noting that "exuding calm and serenity, rather than overstating" their concerns might have been a more powerful message to send to Teheran, no one doubts the seriousness of Israeli concerns. Although the Israeli air force has famously destroyed Arab nuclear sites before; many analysts doubt that Israel could be nearly as successful against the larger, better protected and more widespread Iranian program. To begin with, the logistics are daunting. It is widely assumed that Turkey allowed Israeli warplanes the use of its airspace to get to the Syrian nuclear facility. The Turks may not be as acquiescent when it comes to its more powerful neighbor Iran. A more direct route would be over Iraq. But that would require, not just acquiescence, but active assistance by the US. Still, some hard line Administration officials argue that the US should do exactly that. ["There is no doubt, for reasons of national pride, all Iranians want to have the bomb," notes one State Department official. "Heck, even the exiles want Iran to join the nuclear club."] Coupled with the military threat from Israel (and perhaps the US), there is the widespread opposition of most of the international community to Iran going nuclear.
To drive home the second part of the message, the US, after the Geneva meeting, is redoubling its efforts to pressure Iran economically and financially. Operating effectively (and almost independently) is the Treasury Department's Stuart Levey,... "He has put the fear of God, or at least of US capital markets into a lot of companies and institutions thinking of doing business with Iran." At the same time, State Department officials are working with counterparts in Dubai to stop shipments of materials that could aid Iran's nuclear program. Bahrain has also become a target because of its banks' involvement in financing this trade.
Iran has been asked to respond by August 2, to the proposals presented at Geneva. If, as expected, the response is not satisfactory, US officials plan to introduce another UN Security Council resolution in the fall. ...say US officials. "We used to worry that we did not have a `Plan B', said one key US official this week. I think Iran's performance in Geneva gave us one."
The US investment in getting Iran, in the words of one State Department official "to step back", has never been greater. "Unlike in the old days, we face Iran on three sides: Iraq, Afghanistan and in the Gulf." [Somewhat surprisingly, career US officials believe a Democratic victory in November increases the odds for success. Their reasoning: As one State Department veteran says, "Our best chance for turning Iran around is through international pressure. And the international community would be more likely to follow the lead of a President Obama."
The enhanced status and therefore independence of the al-Maliki government is causing Teheran (as well as Washington) to recalculate its relations with Baghdad. "The Iranians used to have the luxury of turning the temperature up and down with their Iraqi surrogates," says one key State Department official. "Now that Iraq has more of a government, the Iranians have to be more careful. After all, they want a friendly government next door." 

J Street: "American Jews [ 76%] believed that Israel should negotiate with its enemies, and [ 81%] would support any peace deal with the Arabs...

"...The poll found that, of 800 American Jews surveyed, 76% believed that Israel should negotiate with its enemies, and that 81% would support any peace deal the Israeli government made with an Arab state...."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Iraq Team Banned From Olympics

"...There's also a potential sectarian rift. Iraq's Youth and Sports Ministry is dominated by Shiites, while the NOC includes several holdovers from the Saddam-era Olympic Committee, run by his feared eldest son, Odai..."

Ashkenazi in U.S.: All options are on the table regarding Iran...

Would someone please either set or clear this "options table" once and for all?!...In Haaretz, here
"...The IDF chief met with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney on Wednesday, as well as senior congressmen and John Negroponte, the deputy secretary of state. On Thursday he was set to meet with his counterpart at the Pentagon, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen..."

Consensus May Be Nearing on Iraq Pullout: Is Petraeus ready to "betray" the neocons?

"...Target Year of 2010 Gains Some Traction Among Principals as U.S. Looks Toward Afghanistan.” I would add that, in addition to Obama, the Bush administration and now even the McCain Campaign, it appears that Gen. David Petraeus, who will take over as CentCom commander some time around Sep 1, is also preparing the ground for a move in that direction..."

Lebanon: Another Lost Season?

In OBG, here

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Can Lebanon's March 14 Reverse the Tide?

More delusions from David Schenker ...............at WINEP, here
"...But given developments of recent months, a weak statement will offer little comfort for March 14 and its constituent groups. Instead of providing a respite, these groups will likely focus on preparing -- arming and training -- for the inevitable next round with Hizballah..."
"SFM of FLC" writes:
"Mr. Schenker should look for another job, though one must say that to his credit, he has been consistently wrong in his analysis of the Lebanese scene. Like M14 people, who are scurrying to rekindle old ties with Syria (one should never forget that they were the favorite stooges of Khaddam, Kanaan, and co, Schenker confuses his wishes with reality. For his info, M14 is defunct!!!! Yet they may be in a state of denial, though this will not change reality. A new reshuffling of cards is already taking place and the M14 hardliners are alone with very little support. Hariri's trip to Bagdad to 'reconcile' with the much hated Shiites (Iran's stooges!) has elicited strong negative comments in the stronghold of Tariq Jadideh!!! Among remarks heard in the street: If he is so keen on reconciling with Shiites, the Dahhieh is much closer!!!!
'Caghloss' Edde is marshalling whatever is left of stormtroopers he had. Fares Soueid is having his blood pressure taken every fifteen minutes. Samir Frangieh, is hiding behind the robes of the Patriarch. Nayla Moawad has been sending her boy genius son to scurry favor from Soleiman Frangieh for safekeeping her a place for the next elections (to no avail apparently), Misbah Ahdab is trying to marshall the forces of his minions (literally minions) to fight Hezbollah in....Tripoli!?!
Every day is a barrel of laughs at the expense of this pathetic bunch of losers. These were the allies of Schenker and co!"

Bush engages: Iran, N Korea and ... (almost) Syria

Nukes & Spooks.

"..The most underestimated cause (per the question prompt) is very likely the occupation of Islamic lands by foreign powers..."

Greg Djerejian in the Washington Note, here
"...Last, I would say the most underestimated cause (per the question prompt) is very likely the occupation of Islamic lands by foreign powers. This has historically been a major cause of Palestinian terrorism (see, over the years, the PLO, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PFLP, DFLP etc), and see too Chechnya, Lebanon (Hezbollah notably), and more. .."

The opportunity to hammer out a grand compromise with Iran is there, but Bush seems determined to prevent talks that could advance vital US interests

Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett in the National Interest, here, via WPR.
"...In Lebanon, Bosnia and Afghanistan too, Tehran did much—not all, but much—of what was asked of it. For example, in official U.S.-Iranian negotiations over Afghanistan—in which one of us, Hillary Mann Leverett, participated from 2001 to 2003—the Iranians deported hundreds of suspected al-Qaeda operatives who had fled Afghanistan, warned that insufficient attention to postconflict stabilization would leave pockets of Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters to reemerge later, delivered important regional warlords to the bargaining table to support creation of a pro-American, post-Taliban political order under President Hamid Karzai, and dissuaded anti-American warlords from acting as “spoilers.”

"..Instead of holding on to the false hope that Bush will order the bombing of Iran, Israel should look at the positive aspects of US-Iran dialogue.."

Aluf Benn in Haaretz, here

Syria's Dawoodi cancels Washington visit.. but Al Taki will travel to the US

"..Riad Daoudi, Syrian lead negotiator with Israeli officials in Turkey and legal adviser to the Syrian foreign ministry, had been asked at the last minute to remain in Damascus for talks with a visiting Turkish delegation, sources said.
"Based on our information, Mr. Daoudi did not make the trip to Washington," Syrian embassy spokesman Ahmed Salkini told AFP. He didn't provide details.
But Ahmad Samir al-Taki, a consultant to the Syrian prime minister and director of the Orient Center for International Studies in Damascus, together with two others will attend the forum "Engaging Syria: new negotiations, old challenges" at Washington-based Brookings Institution on Wednesday..."

Scowcroft Says He'd Tell Israel To "Calm Down" On Iran Strike

"...Appearing with Scowcroft on Tuesday was another former national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who now provides advice to Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Despite the partisan divide, however, both veterans of the foreign policy scene agreed they would advise Israel not to launch any preemptive strike against Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program..."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hints of a Colin Powell or Condi Rice Endorsement for Obama, the 44th President of the USA?

In WashingtonWhispers, here

Cuban missile crisis sequel?

"..It was a little strange when Russia's foreign ministry vaguely threatened the Czech Republic with military action last week. But now there's even better evidence that Russia's defense establishment is hopelessly stuck in the '60s. An unnamed defense ministry spokesman told the Russian newspaper Izvestia that Russia may be planning a re-enactment of the Cuban missile crisis in retaliation for the U.S.'s planned missile defense shield. Here's the Washington Post's translation:

"While they are deploying the missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, our strategic bombers will already be landing in Cuba."

General James Jones, is preparing an extremely critical report of Israel

On a personal note, delightful man Gen. Jim Jones ... Extremely well educated (a Hoya at heart) and a great Dinner companion (Kent Island Maryland) ...
In Haaretz, here
"...A few copies of the report's executive summary (or, according to some sources, a draft of it) have been given to senior Bush Administration officials, and it is reportedly arousing considerable discomfort. In recent weeks, the administration has been debating whether to allow Jones to publish his full report, or whether to tell him to shelve it and make do with the summary, given the approaching end of President George Bush's term...."

Analysis: U.S. advisers could stay long after troops leave Iraq

"...Recent evidence suggests that although the Iraqi military has made enormous progress, it is still dependent on small teams of American advisers who can rein in overly aggressive Iraqi commanders, call in U.S. airstrikes and help coordinate basic supplies such as food, rifle-cleaning kits and even printer cartridges.
The advisers could remain on the ground in Iraq long after most U.S. combat troops have left. Col. John Nagl, who resigned last month as commander of the U.S. Army’s school for military advisers, says they are “the key to our exit strategy in Iraq.”

"...Hariri’s visit to Iraq merely represented the commercial side of Saudi-Iraqi detente.."

Amer Mohsen in IraqSlogger, via AngryArab.

For the 6 powers — the US, Russia, China, France, Britain & Germany — the Iranian response's substance was just as disappointing as its style

"... both in their paper, and throughout the talks, the Iranians did not discuss the formula, called a “freeze for freeze.” As a result, they left the impression that they wanted to lure the parties into an open-ended, cost-free, high-level negotiating process. “The paper calls for a huge exercise in talking,” said one senior European official. “If you were to try to implement it, it would take a minimum of several years.”

Mideast's Balance of Power Shifts Away From U.S.: Regional Players Bypass Washington In Brokering Deals

This WSJ piece, thanks to SyriaComment, here
"...A collection of peacemakers, some unlikely, has stepped into the breach. In May, Qatar successfully pushed a peace deal in Lebanon that saw Iranian-backed Hezbollah gain extensive new political powers at the expense of Beirut's Western-backed government. Last month, Egypt brokered a military truce between Israel and the Palestinian faction Hamas, an Iranian ally that last year violently overran the Gaza Strip.
But his efforts come after Israel's once-unquestionable regional military superiority has been severely tested. In 2006, Hezbollah fighters bogged down a larger and more advanced Israeli army during a month-long battle in Lebanon. And Israeli military incursions into the Hamas-held Gaza Strip failed to dislodge rocket-firing militants.
Amid that backdrop, the State Department's point man on the Middle East, Assistant Secretary of State David Welch, is set to meet top Syrian academics and attorneys this week, according to Syrian officials. Mr. Welch's planned session is raising hopes Washington may more aggressively support the Damascus-Jerusalem peace track. The State Department didn't comment on the meetings..."

Monday, July 21, 2008

"Hizbullah’s capitulation"

What better way to make Israelis feel better about their "victories" over Lebanon than to concoct this type of bull. Anyone with a modicum of understanding of Lebanese politics will chuckle .... In YnetNews, here

Iran's response to an Israeli strike

In the Interpreter, here, via WPR.

"Behind Druze kisses for Quntar"

I hate to say it, but I do slightly agree with Lebanon's uber-neocon, Michael Young, in MESH's, here
"...Jumblatt’s and Arslan’s rally for Quntar was motivated by the need to avoid Druze ill feeling by ignoring their coreligionist; but more importantly by a desire to defend their leadership over the Druze by containing Quntar, which they did by embracing him to better defuse him. Although Quntar presents no threat to their power base, he could emerge as a small headache. For example, he could conceivably be brought into parliament in next year’s elections in the Baabda constituency, where Hezbollah and the Aounists, if they decide to bother Jumblatt, have considerable electoral sway..."

Syria: Doors Open In Paris

From OBG, here

Sunday, July 20, 2008

"Why was neocon Kristol invited by the DoD to Ft. Hood, Texas to talk to Gen.Odierno?"

"...Why was Kristol invited by the Defense department to Ft. Hood, Texas to talk to Odierno? Who were the other member of the "small group" who were invited? Why does Odierno want to talk to such a group privately? Is Odierno involved in information operations in the United States?"

Saturday, July 19, 2008

What are the odds?

... of having your two boys, living thousands of miles away from each other, involved in serious car accidents AT THE SAME EXACT TIME, time difference notwithstanding?
This is what happened to a friend of mine. We can say that both boys are safe, having suffered minor cuts and bruises in what could have been a family nightmare!

May God keep all your children safe!

GPC.

SALAFI JIHADISTS IN GAZA: 'Compared to Us, Hamas Is Islamism Lite'

Also in Der Spiegel, here

Interview: Maliki Supports Obama's Withdrawal Plans

"As Soon As Possible" says Maliki in this interview with Der Spiegel, here
"...Maliki was careful to back away from outright support for Obama. "Of course, this is by no means an election endorsement. Who they choose as their president is the Americans' business," he said. But then, apparently referring to Republican candidate John McCain's more open-ended Iraq policy, Maliki said: "Those who operate on the premise of short time periods in Iraq today are being more realistic. Artificially prolonging the tenure of US troops in Iraq would cause problems."
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says he agrees with US presidential candidate Barack Obama's plans for withdrawing US troops from Iraq.

Hariri relays Saudi message to Sistani & Maliki

Via IraqSlogger, here

Lebanese MP Sa'ad Hariri meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki at the Iraqi PM's offices on Thursday.

Friday, July 18, 2008

"...Moscow took a deliberate decision to press ahead with Iran in energy cooperation in complete disregard of US displeasure..."

Clearly, Saudi bribes are not having the desired effects .... From "b", here
"...The Kremlin didn't show any anger, but coincidence or not, Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller suddenly arrived in Tehran on Monday and discussed with Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad the setting up of an organization of gas-producing countries....
...Evidently, Moscow took a deliberate decision to press ahead with Iran in energy cooperation in the full glare of world publicity in complete disregard of US displeasure. Tehran loved it...."

Bandar tries 'bribery' with Russians...

"...[In] February, Saud Al-Faisal, Minister of Foreign Affairs, paid a brief visit to Moscow to conduct negotiations with the then President Vladimir Putin. At that time the prince conveyed a personal message of King Abdullah, where Riyadh expressed its concerns over Iran’s growing impact in the Middle East. The authorities of the kingdom suggested that Moscow should scale down its cooperation with Teheran. In exchange, Saudi Arabia offered beneficial contracts..."
and the Kremlin denies "Saudi-Iran Condition", in PressTv, here
"Any claims that military-technical cooperation between Russia and Saudi Arabia is in any way linked to Russian-Iranian dialogue are inappropriate and do not correspond to reality," said [Kremlin spokesman Dmitry] Peskov on Wednesday..."

"The US, Israel & Europeans are recognizing that their policy of trying to defeat their enemies by isolating & vilifying them has failed"

"...The West’s opponents — Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas — also appear to recognize that the cost of ratcheting up tensions may be too high. Syria and Iran are suffering serious economic problems and could benefit from better relations with the United States and Europe. We are seeing the outlines of a general thaw in the region,” said Osama Safa, director of the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies in Beirut.
This is not necessarily good news for Washington’s traditional Arab allies, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Leaders there were content to have the United States keep pressure on Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, which threaten their own power...."

"..Five Reasons for Doubting an Israeli strike..."

(1) Can Israel destroy the Iranian nuclear program?
(2) What would Iran's response be?
(3) What is the cost of failure?
(4) Can Iran be deterred from using nukes?
(5) Whose problem is this, and what should be done?
Five Questions Israel Should Ask Before Bombing Iran

US official: "Iran-policy overtaken by the dramatic rise in oil prices ..Iran’s GDP has doubled, & they are isolated from the effects of sanctions.."

War*Piece.
"A colleague writes, "Everyone seems to have missed the obvious: The State Department's third man is going to [talk with] Iran to send oil prices down. I'm sure Paulson told Bush this was the only way to stop a panic." Almost certainly part of it. (And is it working?)
Indeed, a US official involved with Iran policy wrote me a couple weeks back that high oil prices had severely crimped their policy: "It’s clear that the two-track policy put in place a number of years ago (incentives vs. sanctions) has been overtaken somewhat by the unforeseeable and dramatic rise in oil prices. Iran’s GDP has doubled, and they are more isolated from the effects of economic sanctions. At the same time the Iranians have made significant progress on enrichment. There are many, many more economic sanctions in the quiver, but we have carefully resisted imposing economic sanctions, unilaterally or multilaterally, that would significantly affect the Iranian people. Our goal remains an Iran without nuclear weapons, and our strategy remains the two-track approach. In light of the rise in oil prices and Iran’s enrichment achievements, the interim objectives that the two-track strategy should be aiming to achieve is something everyone is looking at, and there is no question that there is a way forward. ..."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Haass:U.S. influence will decline from what it has been.. the end of one historical era (unipolarity) and the outset of another (nonpolarity).."

Richard Haass, in MESH, here "....The era came to an end both for structural reasons—globalization, the shifting balance between energy supply and demand, the weakening of some national entities and the strengthening of other national and non-state actors alike—and for reasons related more to U.S. policy, in particular the Iraq war and the lack of priority accorded the “peace process.”...actors, including Iran, a divided but assertive Iraqi government, Hezbollah, Hamas, national oil companies and the governments behind them, sovereign wealth funds, terrorist organizations, China, Russia, the EU, political factions within Israel, religious authorities, and the Muslim Brotherhood, will count for more...."

Hadley holds talks in Turkey over Iran ... the pre-Geneva talks..

"...Turkey is playing a mediating role between Iran, Syria, Washington and the West. "It has been doing so especially as regards to Iran and Syria. At the beginning the Turkish government's intentions to mediate were received very suspiciously. Now, more and more, they appreciate the role Turkey and the AKP plays...."
Turkey believes Iran has the right to develop a peaceful nuclear energy program, but calls on Tehran to be transparent.

"Word of advice to Kuntar... ask your comrades in the PLO ...what happened to the killers of our athletes in Munich and their masterminds..."

"...And on a final note, a small word of advice for Samir Kuntar. Ask you comrades in the PLO and Hizbullah what was the ultimate fate of various killers of Israelis and Jews years after they thought their actions were forgotten; for example, what happened to the killers of our athletes in Munich and their masterminds – the last of them died in unnatural circumstances 24 years after that horrific massacre. So learn from the past and draw your conclusions..."

Bush's decision to negotiate with Iran is a symbolic gesture but not necessarily a shift in US policy

Laura Rosen in the Guardian, here
"...What remains uncertain at this point is whether the move represents what Bush administration officials publicly insist – a one-time offer by Washington to demonstrate its willingness to negotiate only if Iran should agree to halt its uranium enrichment activities, or the beginnings of a greater flexibility and willingness by the Bush administration in its twilight months to engage in a more sustained diplomatic process toward Tehran – a process that is likely to be fraught with setbacks and delays, and short of easy breakthroughs..."

US plans to station diplomats in Iran for first time since 1979

In the Guardian, here

Iran and U.S. Signaling Chance of Deal

In the WaPo, here
"...With negotiations now a real possibility, the Bush administration, which had largely subcontracted the nuclear diplomacy with Iran to its European partners, also appears intent on making sure that Iran hears its voice directly, rather than having it filtered by other interlocutors...
Bush accepted Rice's recommendation at the closely held meeting, which also included Vice President Cheney, national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, White House chief of staff Joshua B. Bolten and Burns. The move infuriated the administration's conservative critics, who said it was yet another sign the White House has lost its moorings...."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

WINEP: Hizballah's Military Wing Under Pressure Despite Political Gains

Sometimes we wonder on which planet people like Levitt lives ... Lewitt at WINEP, here
"...This week, Hizballah celebrates. But its party may be short-lived, especially if European leaders followed Britain's lead and held the group accountable for its militant and terrorist activities..."

U.S. Envoy to Join Meeting With Iranian

"...William J. Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs, will attend a meeting on Saturday with the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, and Iran’s nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, a senior administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of an official announcement on Wednesday..."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"..Peace deal with Syria can only be secured by returning Golan, but no Israeli PM will do that.."

"...Because after all, peace with Syria, with all due respect to the United States, depends not only on America, and not even on Syria. It also depends on what Israel does.
And in Israel, we have not yet seen the leader, and it is doubtful whether we will see one, who stands up and says what everyone knows and suppresses and denies: There will be no peace with Syria unless we return the Golan Heights to the Syrians...."

Last Minute snafu in the Prisoner swap: Israel will not deliver Mughrabi's remains!

Al Jazeera, here

Two senior Jewish congressmen distance themselves from tougher sanctions against Iran....

In the Forward, here, via War&Piece. ......."....Democratic Reps. Robert Wexler of Florida and Barney Frank of Massachusetts pulled their support — Wexler on July 9, and Frank a week earlier — from a congressional resolution that called for increasing inspections on all sea and air traffic in and out of Iran, among other measures. The bill has been targeted by a coalition of progressive groups that give an argument that the measure is pushing for a de facto blockade on Iran that may lead to war...arguing that the bill would send an unnecessarily bellicose message to Tehran"

The New Lebanese Equation: The Christians’ Central Role

This ICG full report is currently only available in French , here.
"...For Lebanon’s Christians, these represent potentially momentous changes. The formula devised in 1989 to end the fifteen-year civil war shifted the balance of power in a way that clearly disfavoured them: the president was stripped of several prerogatives while the number of parliamentary seats allocated to Christians was brought down from 60 to 50 per cent. The ensuing period was characterised by Syria’s military occupation and the systematic repression of pro-independence Christian movements. Already weakened by a substantial wartime exodus, the Christian community was both leaderless and adrift, contributing to a sense of dispossession that, to this day, shapes its outlook in profound ways..."

Exclusif. La réponse de l'Iran à l'offre des Six

Le Nouvel-Obs., here
"C'est un document confidentiel, remis le 4 juillet à Javier Solana, le diplomate en chef de l'UE - et publié, ici, pour la première fois.
Il est signé par Manouchehr Mottaki, ministre des Affaires étrangères de la République islamique.
Il s'agit de la réponse officielle de l'Iran à l'offre des Six (les cinq membres permanents du Conseil de sécurité plus l'Allemagne) présentée le 14 juin dernier à Téhéran par le même Solona.
L'offre en question dite "révisée" contenait un "paquet" de mesures incitant l'Iran à renoncer à son programme d'enrichissement de l'uranium.
Un fac-similé de la réponse de Mottaki, qu'une source européenne m'a confié récemment, est ici: lettre mottaki.pdf
Qu'apprend-on dans cette missive écrite en anglais?
1/ Téhéran propose aux Six de faire appel aux "capacités" de l'Iran "pour renforcer la paix et la stabilité dans la région", particulièrement "en Irak et en Afghanistan".
La République islamique semble dire qu'elle n'acceptera un compromis que si les États-Unis la reconnaissent comme un interlocuteur incontournable et acceptent de traiter avec elle de tous les sujets régionaux.
2/ Mottaki n'évoque pas directement la question de l'enrichissement et ne propose donc pas de geler cette activité ainsi que le Conseil de sécurité l'exige.
Mottaki maintient qu'"il n'y a pas logique à essayer d'"amplifier" le cas de l'Iran" en matière nucléaire puisque, selon lui, l'AIEA n'a pas mis en cause le caractère pacifique du programme atomique iranien.
3/ Néanmoins, selon Mottaki, les "principales têtes de chapitre" du "paquet" des Six et celles de l'offre iranienne (déposée le 20 mai et que l'on trouvera ici) présentent "certaines similarités".
Il ajoute - et c'est là le point important - que "ces similarités peuvent être la base de négociations approfondies et plus vastes."
Que veut-il dire exactement?
Une tête de chapitre de l'offre des Six étant intitulée "nucléaire", doit-on comprendre que l'Iran serait prêt à parler de l'enrichissement? Probablement, mais pas en des termes qui ne satisferont pas les Six.
Ces derniers proposent un "double gel" : pas de nouvelles centrifugeuses en Iran, pas de nouvelles sanctions internationales.
Mais, dans le paquet de mai présenté par Téhéran, à la rubrique "nucléaire", il n'est pas question de ce "double gel".
En revanche on y parle de la création d'usines d'enrichissement de l'uranium de par le monde -y compris, donc, en Iran...
Si bien que réponse de Mottaki (qui repose sur le paquet de mai) est si floue, et surtout si éloignée de l'offre européenne, qu'il faudrait un miracle pour que les pourparlers entre Javier Solana et le négociateur iranien, Saeed Jalili, qui démarrent le 19 juillet, aboutissent."

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In France, Syrian Stirs Tensions

"...Not everyone was so optimistic. The union almost deadlocked amid squabbling over whether or not to call Israel a nation-state in the founding declaration. In the end, diplomats skirted the issue. Other decisions were postponed. Even some of the group’s successes have more to do with short-term interests than long-term vision, said Dominique Moïsi of the French Institute of International Relations..."

Monday, July 14, 2008

"..Soon, Washington may modify its aid to the Lebanese Army, because of Hezbollah’s recent political and military gains.."

WINEP's Schenker previously (WINEP- May 9th) very excited about supporting the LAF, has second thoughts now..., in MESH here
"...Several recent developments have sparked the debate about this previously uncontroversial U.S. assistance provided to the military of the only pro-West, democratically elected Arab government. First, as a result of Hezbollah’s May 2008 blitz on Beirut, the Shiite militia cum terrorist organization has rejoined the Lebanese government, with important de jure powers (i.e., the blocking third in the parliament). Questions are also being raised about the utility of funding the LAF, particularly following the organization’s actions—or inactions—this past May. Essentially, the LAF was missing in action. At a minimum, the army did not protect national institutions; some accuse the LAF of colluding with Hezbollah in the raid...."

[Obama-Hagel-Brzezinski]: "My Plan for Iraq"

Barack Obama, in the NYTimes, here.
"...Only by redeploying our troops can we press the Iraqis to reach comprehensive political accommodation and achieve a successful transition to Iraqis’ taking responsibility for the security and stability of their country. Instead of seizing the moment and encouraging Iraqis to step up, the Bush administration and Senator McCain are refusing to embrace this transition — despite their previous commitments to respect the will of Iraq’s sovereign government. They call any timetable for the removal of American troops “surrender,” even though we would be turning Iraq over to a sovereign Iraqi government...."

"The Politics of Fear"

"...Washington watched with frustration how its policy of sanctions against Syria was taking a nosedive..."

Bar'el & Ravid in Haaretz, here
"...A few hundred meters away, a new star was born: Assad. He was the man with all the answers to regional conflicts. He solved the Lebanese conflict at the last minute; Hamas and Islamic Jihad are his guests and therefore are subservient to the well-known rules of hospitality. In the peace process with Israel he is considered the good guy...."

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bush admits defeat: "No SOFA before end of term"

Long-Term Agreement Will Fall to Next President...In the WaPo, here
"...The failure of months of negotiations over the more detailed accord -- blamed on both the Iraqi refusal to accept U.S. terms and the complexity of the task -- deals a blow to the Bush administration's plans to leave in place a formal military architecture in Iraq that could last for years..."
Pat Lang's comment, here
"...It was predictable that the hubris of the Bush Administration belief that it had acquired a NATO-like position with regard to the "new Iraq" would prove to be both false and dangerous.
Whatever the terms of the temporary agreements that will be agreed on between Baghdad and Washington, those agreements will not be a solid basis for an indefinite US occupation of Iraq.
Future Iraqi governments will be able to repudiate them to demand withdrawal and true independence. A future US president will be able to cite them as justification for a reduction in US forces leading to the sort of relationship that the US has with Jordan and Egypt..."

"You're damned if you do ... You're damned if you don't"

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Most "Suspect-US Soldiers" sent to Iraq, involved in "controversial or criminal incidents"

"...From 2003 to 2007, the percentage of Army recruits receiving so-called "moral conduct" waivers more than doubled, from 4.6 percent to 11.2 percent. Others, The Bee found, were able to enlist because they had no official criminal record of arrests or convictions, their records were overlooked or prosecutors suspended charges in lieu of military service — akin to a now-defunct Vietnam-era practice in which judges gave defendants a choice between prison and the military..."

"...At the urging of the Bush, Israel has pulled back from threatening to bomb Iran & has joined the US-led coercive diplomacy.."

Jim Hoagland in the WaPo, here
"...Bush said in Europe last month that he intends to "leave behind a multilateral framework to work this issue" of Iran's nuclear program. ..
In its past six months, the Bush administration has stopped playing into Ahmadinejad's political need for conflict and tension. ..
The most significant indication of that change comes from strong U.S. public and private pressure on Israel to forgo military strikes while Washington seeks new U.N. economic and travel sanctions against Tehran..."

Israel & Murdoch's color interpretation: "Bush gives Israel "an Amber light" for a strike on Iranian facilities?"

After Cordesman's "Red Light", ....In the LondonTimes, here "...“Amber means get on with your preparations, stand by for immediate attack and tell us when you’re ready,” the official said. But the Israelis have also been told that they can expect no help from American forces and will not be able to use US military bases in Iraq for logistical support. Nor is it certain that Bush’s amber light would ever turn to green without irrefutable evidence of lethal Iranian hostility...."

Washington seems cognizant of Iran's reasonable desire to protect its legitimate national interests in the Middle East, and is willing to talk..."

Rami Khoury, in the Daily Star, here.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Obama heading to Iraq with Hagel, Reed...

"...Aides to Hagel and Reed both refused to comment when asked by CNN about the upcoming trip.
The Nebraska Republican could also be a contender for a Cabinet post like Defense Secretary if either Obama or McCain wins, according to strategists in both parties, because of his friendship with both candidates..."

IDF is starting to look like an army that can fight a war?

Amos Harel in Haaretz, here

"...Le double jeu de Bachar..."

"...Damas joue sur tous les tableaux: Le pas de deux entre l’Iran et l’Occident ferait-il partie d’une subtilité orientale ou d’une duplicité syrienne ? Car Damas joue sur tous les tableaux..."

Sarkozy will visit Damascus "before mid-September"..

In Le Nouvel Observateur, here

Bachar al-Assad à sa descente d'avion (AP)

Patti Smith 'Dazzles' her Lebanese audience with "Qana" ..about the children who died in an Israeli air strike..TWICE!

"...The celebrated 1970s rock icon turned political activist performed near the old Phoenician port at the opening of the Byblos music festival,...
"To all mothers and children who lost children, all unnecessarily in war, which seems to me in our time something we can make obsolete," Smith said before dazzling the audience with "Qana."
The song is pointedly political. It's about the children who died in an Israeli air strike on a Lebanese village during the summer 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. Here are some excerpts:
There's no one in the village, not a human nor a stone... Children are gone and a mother rocks herself to sleep. Let it come down, let her weep… Some stayed buried, others crawled free... Little bodies, tied head and feet, wrapped in plastic, laid out in the street… The new Middle East… The dead lay in strange shapes… Wine to blood, Oh Qana, the miracle is love.
At one point, Smith wore a kaffiyeh, a scarf with black and white patterns that has become a symbol of the Palestinian upheaval."

Report claims Israeli Air Force practicing for a possible attack against Iran in IRAQI airspace...

"...On Friday, sources in the Iraqi Defense Ministry told a local news network that Israel Air Force (IAF) war planes are practicing in Iraqi airspace and land on US airbases in the country as a preparation for a potential strike on Iran...."
Iraq denies!
An IAF jet participates in a...

Former U.S. diplomat gets year in prison for anti-Arab remarks

Among his comments in a series of e-mails, Syring wrote that "the only good Arab is a dead Arab."

Hezbollah Gains Effective Veto Power; U.S.-Backed Premier Stays

"...The majority also named to the cabinet Ibrahim Shamseddine, a Shiite not allied with Hezbollah or Amal, another Shiite party. Siniora's supporters said Shamseddine would undermine Hezbollah's claim to be the exclusive representative of Lebanon's Shiites..."

Friday, July 11, 2008

Red Cross: "Bush administration officials who approved torture.. guilty of war crimes!"

In the NYTimes, here

Fox News Needs A Geography Lesson (VIDEO)

Fox News: "Straites of Hormels..." Arrow over KUWAIT.... Via Huffington Post, here

Iran Hearings on the Hill

"...Even so, some of the United State's best tools to defuse the Iranian standoff are regional in scope. Revitalizing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, strengthening Iraqi reconstruction efforts and confronting Hezbollah and Hamas in Lebanon and Palestine, respectively, could force Iran into a lonely corner and encourage a change in its nuclear course, according to Biden..."

Iran Red Lines: "here's where the US & Israel differ on what to do next"

Washington Dispatch: Mother Jones has learned that a parade of high level Israeli officials are on their way to the White House over the next two weeks to discuss Iran policy. Here's where the two countries differ on what to do next, by Laura Rosen, here

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Olmert:".. Hizbullah scared to death of Israel.."

In YNEtnews, here

Khamenei' "...bringing people into line..."

"...Although this may not seem like a major issue to most observers, the fact that Shariatmadari has gotten in line, in addition to the fact that the greater majority of the internal debate is now quite clearly focused how best to handle the negotiations rather than about whether or not to negotiate, once again highlights that when the Supreme Leader takes a clear stance on an issue (albeit indirectly this time, through Dr. Velayati), the rest of the system rather quickly falls in line. I recall Mr. Larijani even calling the incentive package a "mirage" but has since the Supreme Leader's indirect intervention remained rather quiet. This has largely been the case across the board (other list members please correct me if I've missed anything).
The way I see it, this is a positive sign and shows that Iran is in fact committed to initiating a process to reach a solution and that the main person in charge is bringing people into line...."

The 'Wall' in Palestine ...

The map projects the numbers and identifies locations of four groups of Palestinians whose access to the rest of the West Bank may be affected by the barrier. Two of these groups will be on the opposite side of the barrier from the West Bank:

  • Approximately 35,000 Palestinians with West Bank identity cards will be located between the barrier and the Green Line.
  • The majority of the 250,000 Palestinians with East Jerusalem identity cards will reside between the barrier and the Green Line.

The other two groups will have fewer or less direct means of access to the West Bank than in the past:

  • Approximately 26,000 Palestinians in two enclaves will be surrounded entirely by the barrier, and their access to the rest of the West Bank will be by tunnel or road connection.
  • Approximately 125,000 Palestinians will be surrounded by the barrier on three sides.

Failed Responsibility: Iraqi Refugees in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon

Report from ICG, here
"...If Jordan, Syria and Lebanon can be faulted for unfriendly treatment of refugees at border crossings and lukewarm assistance once they have entered, they should, nonetheless, be credited for having agreed to receive so many Iraqis in the first place and allowing them to stay at great cost to their own societies. By contrast, it is difficult to give the Iraqi government any credit at all. Flush with oil money, it has been conspicuously ungenerous toward its citizens stranded abroad. No doubt there are senior former regime figures among the refugees, but this does not excuse callous neglect of overwhelmingly non-political people who loyally served Iraq rather than any particular regime....
The approach of the international community, especially states that have participated in Iraq’s occupation, has been equally troubling.... the U.S., whose policies unleashed the chaos that spawned the outflow, has clearly failed in its own responsibilities: downplaying the issue, providing far less assistance to host countries than needed and admitting to its own shores merely a trickle of refugees and only after unprecedented security checks to which asylum seekers from other nations are not subjected..."

Jumblatt 'warns Lebanese Forces'... goes public with intra-March 14 squabble

"Hariri has repeatedly denied the existence of divisions within the parliamentary majority camp over distributing portfolios in the new cabinet. But Jumblatt's remarks (FROM BAABDA) on Wednesday seemed to confirm earlier reports about such divisions...
"The truth is that the March 14 Forces are still not done with working out their internal differences and they want to blame someone (Qanso) for their failure to agree among each other ... They want to make it seem as if the opposition is responsible for delaying the formation of the government."

Olmert to Frattini: "... Assad is underestimating Bush ... I can get the current administration on board as a partner and sponsor for the talks.."

Barak Ravid in Haaretz, here

TOTAL quits Iran gas deal .. "because it is too risky"

In FT via War&Piece, here
"...The boss of French energy giant Total says he will not invest in Iran because it is too risky.
The firm had been due to develop gas fields in the south of the country, but Christophe de Margerie told the Financial Times it would not go ahead.
The announcement comes a day after Iran test-fired a series of missiles, amid weeks of rising tensions with Israel over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
Analysts say the move will be a big blow to Iran's energy industry.
"Today we would be taking too much political risk to invest in Iran because people will say: 'Total will do anything for money'," Mr Margerie told the newspaper.
The US has recently stepped up the pressure to impose tougher sanctions on Iran and companies that do business with it.
The FT reported that Total was the last major western energy group considering making a significant investment to develop Iran's huge natural gas reserves..."

Why is so much sensitive US military technology winding up in Iran?

Laura Rosen in MoJo, here
"...The latest statistics on illegal US arms sales to Iran detected and compiled by investigators at the US bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), now part of the Department of Homeland Security, read like the basis of a spy novel. The story they tell raises many questions..."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

When interests collide - The US, Israel and Iran

".....Israel is a country which was established to foster the interests of a particular Ethno-religious group over all others. In that way Israel and Pakistan have much in common.
The United States is a country that revers the idea of freedom of and from religion. The United States has always sought the melding of its populations into one, new and hybridized group. This has not always been successful but it has remained the "national" zeitgeist for a long time.
These ideological goals are fundamentally in opposition to each other......
....Israel and its partisans are now engaged in seeking enough "leverage" to have the US do their will in this matter. Let us sober up in the United States and remember that we are the dog and they are the tail...."

Michel Sleimane: "Le Liban est un besoin arabe et universel"

L'Express interviews Lebanon's president, here

The end of Syria's isolation?

In METimes, here

Qatar, Playing All Sides...

"....The Qataris also back their diplomacy with some eclectic investments. Many Americans know about the emir’s gift of $100 million to help Hurricane Katrina victims, but Qatar is also building a $1.5 billion oil refinery in Zimbabwe, a huge residential complex in Sudan and a $350 million tourist project in Syria.
Some call Qatar’s policy deranged. The Qataris prefer to think of it as useful...."

Iran Raises Vanishing of 4 Citizens in Beirut as U.N. Issue

"...Israel has long drawn attention to its missing soldiers in Lebanon, so analysts believe that Tehran wants to show that it, too, has endured losses. “It is an attempt to get back at Israel and get some publicity points, to put Israel on the defensive at a time when they think that Israel might be considering attacking them,” said Abbas Milani, director of Stanford University’s Iranian studies program. .."

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

"the Henry" pimping for the Israel Right and the AEI/Weekly Spectator crowd in their efforts to drag the US into war with Iran...

Kissinger "pimping" in the WaPo, here ... and Pat Lang in "Kissinger unveiled - again", here.
"....Four questions need to be answered with respect to nuclear proliferation: Do Russia and the United States agree on the nature of the challenge posed by an Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons? Do they agree on the status of Iran's nuclear program? Do they agree on the diplomacy to avert the danger? Do they agree on what measures to take if whatever diplomacy is finally adopted fails?..."

White House: "Berlusconi ..a Dilettante.. despised by many ...a controversial leader in a country known for governmental corruption & vice.."

Whoa!!... and we thought these guys were allies?!... In Bloomberg, here

Bachar el-Assad : «La France doit jouer un rôle direct pour la paix au Proche-Orient»

Interview of Pr. Assad by Le Figaro, here
"....J'en saurai davantage quand j'aurai rencontré le président Sarkozy. Mon impression est qu'il est enthousiaste à l'égard de ces négociations et pour que la France y joue un rôle direct. S'il me le confirme, je l'inviterai aussitôt à soutenir directement ce processus de paix. Bien sûr, je parle ici de négociations directes. La France fait preuve actuellement d'un dynamisme politique très élevé pour pousser en avant le processus de paix..."
Bachar el-Assad : «Nous empruntons le chemin de la démocratie, c'est un long chemin» (photo : Présidence syrienne)

Adm. Mullen: "... Israel does not have a "green light" from the US to attack Iran..."

Amos Harel, in Haaretz, here
"...Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards have begun a military exercise with a warning that Israel and the U.S. naval force in the Persian Gulf would be prime targets if Iran is attacked, according to the ISNA news agency...
Cordesman said Mullen came to Israel to deliver a message that Israel did not have a green light to attack Iran and that it would not receive U.S. support for such a move.
According to Cordesman, Mullen was expressing the official opinion of the U.S. administration, including that of President George W. Bush and the National Security Council..."

CRS Report: "Cluster Munitions"

A New report from CRS, here via SecrecyNews
"...In 2006, Israeli use of cluster munitions against Hezbollah forces in Lebanon resulted in widespread international criticism. Israel was said to have fired significant quantities of cluster munitions — primarily during the last three days of the 34-day war after a UN cease fire deal had been agreed to4 — resulting in almost 1 million unexploded cluster bomblets to which the UN attributed 14 deaths during the conflict.5 Reports maintain that Hezbollah fired about 113 “cluster rockets” at northern Israel and, in turn, Israel’s use of cluster munitions supposedly affected 26% of southern Lebanon’s arable land and contaminated about 13 square miles with unexploded submunitions.6 One report states that there was a failure rate of upwards of 70% of Israel’s cluster weapons.7..."

The US has "checkmated itself"... precisely because it dominates the airspace around Iran...

Robert Kaplan in the Atlantic, here, via War&Piece.
Bottom line: precisely because the U. S. dominates the airspace around Iran, it has checkmated itself. Israel will find it very hard to pull America’s chestnuts out of the fire in Iran. An Israeli attack is, in the last analysis, still unlikely. The problem of a nuclear Iran is far from being solved.

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Monday, July 7, 2008

"Maliki has warned Bush"

1-Maliki wants a short term "memorandum of understanding" between the US and Iraq concerning the presence of US troops in the country.
Translation: contrary to the pseudo Wilsonian fantasies of Bush/Cheney/the Jacobins and McCain, the Iraqis are still Iraqis and their government does not want foreign troops in their country... Period! Such a memorandum would not amount to a treaty of alliance or even a permanent relationship. All the spurious talk about American troops in Germany and Korea for fifty years founders here on the rock of Islamic and Arab difference. Yes. It's the culture thing again. Political science dogma about the sameness of peoples is still crap. Neither the idiot savants of the Jacobin group nor the ignorant buffoons who vote them into office ever comprehended any of this and they still do not.
No predominately Muslim country is going to enter into a treaty of alliance with a non-Muslim state. That was true before 2003 and it remains true. The Muslims who read here will explain that to you all.
2- Maliki has now specifically warned Bush that Iraqi territory is not to be used for an attack against Iran by US forces.
Translation: He made sure that it was understood that this prohibition includes facilities and air space. He did not mention Israeli forces or US assistance to Israeli forces, but it was hardly necessary to do so.
The Dick McBush crowd could go ahead and do it anyway, but that would make it painfully clear that our prattling of Iraqi sovereignty was just a "blind" for neo-colonial adventure. There are a lot of good hearted and ignorant people in America who think that Iraq now belongs to the US in some way. Those folk may think that we ought to just "bull" our way through to final victory over the forces of darkness, fighting on to the "End of Evil" as Frum and Perle entitled their book. AIPAC may like that idea. WINEP certainly likes that idea in its secret heart of hearts, but the people who would pay the price for such a decision would be men and women in the field whose fortunes would be endangered by such foolishness. "

Israelis sue U.S.-based Lebanese banks accused of aiding Hezbollah

Donation Forms with missile & weapon boxes? ... In Haaretz, here
"....The statement of claim included a copy of a Hezbollah donation form, which includes the option of having one's money applied toward the acquisition of missiles and weapons for Hezbollah fighters. ..."
Reader GuthmanBey got to the names for us "....The five: Fransabank, Lebanon Commerce Bank (BLC) , Bank of Beirut (BoB) , French-Lebanese Bank, and MEAB (Middle East Africa Bank)."

Amin Maalouf's "Origins"

Book Review of AM's book "Origins" by Jonathan Wilson, in the NYTimes, here
"....In “Origins,” Maalouf focuses mainly on his grandfather Botros, a schoolteacher who, having failed in business (he wanted to grow tobacco in the Bekaa plain), lives instead “between notebooks and inkwells”; and on his more successfully entrepreneurial great uncle Gebrayel (his grandfather’s younger brother), who left Lebanon in late 1895 for the United States and three years later for Cuba. They are a study in contrasts. Botros, a dandified intellectual determined to bring enlightenment to his corner of the mountains, scandalously refuses to have his children baptized, sets up a “Universal School” and roams his village bareheaded in a suit and cape, while Gebrayel establishes a successful retail business in Havana, only to die there under tragic circumstances...."

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sunni leader hero to US, outlaw in Iraq..

"...But Abul Abed's flight into exile shines a light on a violent power struggle pitting upstart leaders like him against Iraq's entrenched Sunni political elite and its Shiite-dominated government. The frictions could easily shatter the Sons of Iraq and open the door to Al Qaeda in Iraq's resurgence..."

"Waltz with Nasrallah"

Zvi Bar'el in Haaretz, here
"...What these trenchant critics (Gemayel, Jumblat ...etc) forget to mention is that the abductees are not in their hands to be negotiated for; that the Israeli government did not insist that the contacts be held exclusively with the government of Lebanon or with mediators of its choice; and that Hezbollah proposed that the Lebanese government mediate, on condition that the abductees remain in the organization's hands. Now, when the time has come to reap the rewards, the critics can only whine over their weak stance...."

Jacobin fantasy redux...

Pat Lang, here "....they also pronounced that "the Iranians have suffered a major defeat in Iraq." They have? How?.....Amusingly, this "gang that can't shoot straight" had just finished predicting victory for the despised "Democrat" party in November before they took up the Middle East question..."

Photo

Maliki: "..I would not permit US forces to use Iraqi land, airspace and waterways to attack Iran..."

UPI, here

Adm. Mullen: "Israeli plans Iran attack 'will fail to destroy the facilities' because CIA & Mossad don't know where they are.."

"The Americans had spies in Iran until they were rounded up in 2003 and now they do not have much by way of humint [human intelligence] on the ground. The Israelis have better information. But the Americans went away from the meetings unconvinced that the Israelis have enough intelligence on where to strike, and with little confidence that they will be able to destroy the nuclear programme."

Hamas, finds it hard to halt attacks..

"...But the Egyptian-brokered peace is slowly unraveling as Hamas leaders in Gaza struggle to keep militants — especially their Fatah rivals — from firing the occasional rocket at Israel..."

Alon Liel: ".. I also think they will not do it unless they are assured they have an alternative to Iran..."

"...Alon Liel, a former director of Israel's foreign ministry, said the prospect of a peace agreement with Syria was growing, though it might require a new American president before a deal could be agreed...
"They are asking not only for the Golan Heights but a change in Washington that will break the Syrian isolation internationally," said Mr Liel. "But I also think they will not do it unless they are assured they have an alternative to Iran."

Saturday, July 5, 2008