Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ann Coulter's Anti-Muslim Name Calling...

In the WaPo, here
"....The fact that Obama, like Coulter, is a Christian isn't the point. Coulter's attempts to disparage Obama and Islam offend Democrats and Muslims. They should also offend Christians and all "fair and balanced" people of faith, including John Sydney McCain III ..."
PRECISELY!
It is these TWO daggers thrown at Obama that makes him dear to our household! Regardless, (1) my THREE children are Arab-Americans with 'exotic' sounding names like Hussein, and (2) we are MUSLIMS! It may not make much difference to idiots like Coulter (and that women who battled Chris Matthews, who looked exactly like her ...) but it goes to the heart of America, and what it represents.

St. Sarkis-Bakhos Church, 730AD Ehden, Lebanon
Photo by HERGE.

Cindy McCain: "...Palin understands ... because Alaska is near Russia!"

Matt Yglesias.

Olmert to Abbas after meeting with Kuntar: You're not supposed to meet killers

YNetnews, here

Bush: “Let me just say from the outset that I don’t consider Bolton credible,”

"The Final Days", in the NYTimes, here, via Matt Yglesias.
Bush had brought Bolton into the top ranks of his administration, fought for Senate confirmation and, when lawmakers balked, defied critics to give the hawkish aide a recess appointment. “I spent political capital for him,” Bush said, and look what he got in return. The president went on to defend his North Korea decision, saying his “action for action” approach held out the most hope of getting rid of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons...."
Of course Bush is right, Bolton isn’t a credible thinker on national security issues. But Bolton is also right — the inherent unworkability of the Bush doctrine has persuaded Bush to substantially abandon it in the waning days of his administration. But before Bush subscribed to the “Bush doctrine” it was John McCain’s doctrine, and he shows no sign of having left the true faith. (MY)

US intelligence fears the Kremlin will supply the S-300 system to Tehran if Washington pushes Nato membership for Georgia and Ukraine...

"...That would make it a "game-changer", greatly improving Iranian defences against any air strike on its nuclear sites, according to Pentagon adviser Dan Goure. "This is a system that scares every Western air force," he said.
Senior US intelligence operatives believe that Russia is planning to use a stand-off over the S-300 to create a foreign policy showdown that would test the mettle of a new US president. ..."
Dmitry Medvedev [right] speaks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during their bilateral meeting in Dushanbe on August 28, 2008
Dmitry Medvedev with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during their bilateral meeting in Dushanbe on August 28, 2008 Photo: AFP/GETTY

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Jumblatt 'preferred' an Army Commander with whom he had 'affinity'...

In Al Balad, here

وشــــرح الــنــائــب فــــؤاد السعد تحفظات وزراﺀ "اللقاﺀ الديمقراطي" على تعيين جــان قهوجي قائدا للجيش، وكشف ان النائب وليد جنبلاط على عــلاقــة وثيقة بأحد ضباط الجيش الذين كانت أسماؤهم مطروحة للقيادة وكان يفضله على قهوجي.

Assad-Sarkozy: A rapprochement that combines security concerns with Diplomacy & personal affinity...

Al Balad, here

Agreement on US withdrawal from Iraq said to be in peril as Maliki ousts negotiators

In the LATimes, here
"...The shake-up comes just four months before the expiration of the United Nations mandate that authorizes the U.S. troop presence in Iraq.Maliki's confidant defended the shake-up, saying the prime minister needs those closest to him to lead the talks because they have the authority to make decisions that the original team did not possess..."

Whaddaya know: "Pro-Israel" pollsters say Americans ready to back Attack on Iran if Diplomacy fails

In CQ, here

The Front Against Iran Is Unraveling ......

"....The likelihood that Israel and the United States would at some point soon agree on the necessity of one or both preemptively attacking Iran has decreased even further due to the dramatic events this month in the Caucasus. The United States — and indeed, the entire Western alliance — may now feel obliged to soften their approach to Iran as their security concerns focus increasingly on Russia....
......In parallel, tensions between the West and Russia may in any event render it impossible for the United Nations Security Council to agree on tightening economic and other sanctions against Iran. Russia’s increasingly obvious ambition to reassert its superpower status, meanwhile, is already bringing it into closer military ties with hostile countries like Syria and Iran...."

The "Right" offers some comments on Palin ...

Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly, here
"...I've been genuinely curious to see how Republicans respond to yesterday's Sarah Palin announcement. I don't mean campaign surrogates or Fox News personalities, who don't have a choice; I mean more traditional Republican voices who actually have to consider this decision on the merits (or lack thereof).
* Charles Krauthammer: "The Palin selection completely undercuts the argument about Obama's inexperience and readiness to lead.... To gratuitously undercut the remarkably successful 'Is he ready to lead' line of attack seems near suicidal."
* Noah Millman, presenting a defense for Palin: "I realize, of course, that she's totally unqualified to be President at this point in time. If McCain were to die in February 2009, I hope Palin would have the good sense to appoint someone who is more ready to be President to be her Vice President, on the understanding that she would then resign and be appointed Vice President by her successor."
* Ramesh Ponnuru called it "tokenism," adding, "Can anyone say with a straight face that Palin would have gotten picked if she were a man?"
* David Frum: "The longer I think about it, the less well this selection sits with me. And I increasingly doubt that it will prove good politics. ... But maybe (and at least as likely) it will reinforce a theme that I'd be pounding home if I were the Obama campaign: that it's John McCain for all his white hair who represents the risky choice, while it is Barack Obama who offers cautious, steady, predictable governance.... If it were your decision, and you were putting your country first, would you put an untested small-town mayor a heartbeat away from the presidency?"
* Kathryn Jean Lopez: "As much as I loathe Obama-Biden, I can't in good conscience vote for a McCain-Palin ticket. Palin has absolutely no experience in foreign affairs. Considering both McCain's advanced age and the state of the world today, it is essential that the veep be exceedingly qualified to assume the office of president. I simply don't have any confidence in Palin's ability to deal effectively with Iran, Russia, China, etc." [Update: Lopez was quoting an email, not expressing her actual views. My apologies.]
* Mark Halperin: "On the face of it, McCain has failed the ultimate test that any presidential candidate must face in picking a running mate: selecting someone who is unambiguously qualified to be president."

Friday, August 29, 2008

Why CIA Veterans Are Scared of McCain

Laura Rosen in MoJo, here
"....These critics point especially to the McCain campaign's top national security adviser Randy Scheunemann—who ran a front group promoting war with Iraq and the fabrications of controversial Iraqi exile politician Ahmad Chalabi, the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, and who has lobbied for aggressive NATO expansion. Scheunemann's record, they argue, encapsulates everything wrong with the past eight years of Bush leadership on intelligence issues, from a penchant for foreign policy freelancing and secret contacts with unreliable fabricators, to neoconservatives' disdain for the perceived bureaucratic timidity of the CIA and State Department, to their avowed hostility for diplomacy with adversaries. If McCain wins, "the military has won," says one former senior CIA officer. "We will no longer have a civilian intelligence arm. Yes, we will have analysts. But we won't have any real civilian intelligence capability."

Palin, bringing 'energy' to the ticket, praised Obama on the issue?

I am pleased to see Senator Obama acknowledge the huge potential Alaska’s natural gas reserves represent in terms of clean energy and sound jobs,” Palin says in the release. “The steps taken by the Alaska State Legislature this past week demonstrate that we are ready, willing and able to supply the energy our nation needs.”

Former Aipac Head Leads Push for American-Syrian Rapprochement

In the Forward, here "....Dine is currently serving as the head of an American-Syrian working group set up early last year by the organization Search for Common Ground. It comprises eight high-level figures from each country, including former American ambassadors and advisers to the Syrian regime..........After holding two meetings in Syria over the past year, the group organized a visit to the United States in late July for three of its Syrian members, during which they met with lawmakers, think-tankers and media outlets in Washington, Houston and Los Angeles."

Why was Cheney's guy in Georgia before the war?

"What was a top national security aide to Vice President Dick Cheney doing in Georgia shortly before Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's troops engaged in what became a disastrous fight with South Ossetian rebels -- and then Russian troops? ... Joseph R. Wood, Cheney's deputy assistant for national security affairs, was in Georgia shortly before the war began. But, the vice president's office says, he was there as part of a team setting up the vice president's just-announced visit to Georgia. ..." Do aides really do advance for a trip three weeks ahead? Cheney's headed to Georgia next week...."

Deputy Assistant to the U.S. Vice President at the Ministry of Defence of Georgia

(photos: from the Georgian Ministry of Defense)
Deputy Assistant to the U.S. Vice President at the Ministry of Defence of Georgia

Palinmania»

...it's Palin for McCain's VP...

Sarah Palin

All things considerd, if you’re going to get involved in an abuse of power scandal, one that involves an attempt to fire a state trooper who “had been involved in a divorce and child custody battle with Palin’s sister, Molly McCann” and who “was briefly suspended for ten days for threatening to kill McCann’s (and Palin’s) father, tasering his 11-year-old stepson, and violating game laws” doesn’t seem like the worst possible way to go. Certainly by the standards of Alaska GOP corruption it’s kind of small potatoes.

But of course the weird thing about the Alaska Republican Party is that while they send these endlessly re-elected legislators to DC to push for hard-right legislation, pork, and various forms of sleaze they’re running a government based on a weird form of socialism in one giant swathe of sub-arctic wasteland. Normal governors don’t get involved in controversies about state-owned dairy farms and the like (I believe it was Mikhail Gorbachev who moved to privatize the agricultural sector) and there’s no other state whose oil tax revenues are big enough to just cut the entire population welfare checks. It’s a bit hard to know how you shift from that into non-fantasyland world of federal policymaking. (Matt Yglesias)

Iran agrees Nigeria nuclear deal ...

In the BBC, here

.....and Iraq Signs Oil Deal With China Worth Up to $3 Billion

in the NYTimes, here

340x.jpg

Muqtada Sadr extends militia truce,.. 'indefinitely'...

In BBC, here

Thursday, August 28, 2008

"I Get It!"

"...I get it. I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don't fit the typical pedigree, and I haven't spent my career in the halls of Washington.

But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the nay-sayers don't understand is that this election has never been about me. It's been about you...."

Haaretz: "...Obama-Biden team bodes badly for Israeli foreign policy..."

Yossi Melman in Haaretz, here
"...Biden's moderate attitude toward Iran did not start this past year or with the George W. Bush's arrival in the White House eight years ago. Ten years ago Biden was already recommending to the foreign minister of the Czech Republic that he prohibit (American-funded) propaganda broadcasts against Iran from the territory of his country and explained this would encourage "dialogue" with the clerics and improve relations with them...."

De-Baathification committee's director, arrested by the U.S. military after returning from Beirut...

CNN, here, via War&Piece.
"...The man taken into custody is Ali al-Lami, the de-Baathification committee's director general for follow-up and execution, according to Ahmed Chalabi, the head of the committee. Chalabi said al-Lami was detained at Baghdad International Airport by coalition forces, with the help of a foreign security company, after returning from Beirut, Lebanon."

"Wrong on Russia"

Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, in the Nation, here
"...But, in reality, today’s Russia is not a resurgent imperial power. In the post-Cold War period, it was Washington, not Moscow, which started the game of acting outside the United Nations Security Council to pursue coercive regime change in problem states and redraw the borders of nominally sovereign countries. In Russian eyes, America’s invasion and occupation of Iraq, including arresting and presiding over the execution of its deposed President, undermined Washington’s standing to criticize others for taking military action in response to perceived threats. And American unilateralism in the Balkans, along with planned deployments of missile defense systems in Eastern Europe and support for “color revolutions” in former Soviet republics, trampled clearly stated Russian redlines...."

"Amman Warms to Hamas"

...and WINEP is none too happy. Levitt & Schenker, here
"....Talking with Hamas may temporarily deflect some of the intense domestic pressure in the kingdom, and also presents Amman with the opportunity of reengaging Hamas and Israel, a role that until now had been the sole preserve of Cairo. A less optimistic explanation for Jordan's tactical change is a tacit recognition that Hamas's rule in Gaza -- and potentially in the West Bank -- is a long-term problem. Regardless of the reason, Jordan's involvement will likely tempt Saudi Arabia to press once again for a Palestinian national unity government, a development that would regrettably constitute yet another step on Hamas's road toward international recognition...."

Ron Suskind: "...CIA's Murray discovered that [the Lebanese Journo] had made off with Sabri's $200,000..."

NOT very hard to guess who's the Lebanese journo is!...In Ron Suskind's book (pages 179-182)
"Along the way, [Naji Sabri] had also established a relationship with French intelligence as a paid spy. Though there were surface tensions between the United States and France in those prewar years, the countries' intelligence agencies maintained a good working relationship. CIA's Paris station chief, Bill Murray, was one of the more experienced field bosses in the clandestine service, having run five stations across a thirty-year career...Back in Washignton, Bush, Cheney, and Rice were briefed on the development, and agreed that Sabri seemed very promising indeed. Langley concurred, and coughed up an initial payment for the high-ranking Iraqi: $200,000...Direct contact was too dangerous. Arrangements were made for Sabri to meet with an intermediary--a Lebanese journalist trusted by both sides--while in New York. The intermediary would pose questions on behalf of CIA and then follow up with Murray. The plan went off smoothly: Sabri passed along what he knew, Murray debriefed the journalist in a New York hotel, and for his adress to the General Assembly, Sabri even wore a specific type of suit requested by Murray as a good-faith signal...(p. 179-180) In January, Murray discovered that the Lebanese intermediary had made off with Sabri's $200,000..."(p. 182).

McCain: "...Not just four more years - but four more years like Bush's first term..."

Andrew Sullivan, here via War&Piece.
"...John McCain is making it quite clear what his foreign policy will be like: tilting sharply away from the greater realism of Bush's second term toward the abstract moralism, fear-mongering and aggression of the first. Not just four more years - but four more years like Bush's first term..."

Charlie Wilson': "We can avoid spending so much on our military --and put so many of our soldiers in harm's way --by investing more in saving lives."

In the WaPo, here
"....While I have always believed in and fought for a strong defense, I know that we cannot rely on the military alone to keep us secure. As the situations in Afghanistan and Georgia suggest, our future threats are likely to come from states that cannot meet the basic needs of their people. We can avoid the need to spend so much on our military -- and put so many of our soldiers in harm's way -- simply by investing more in saving lives, creating stable societies and building economic opportunity. This strategy won't resolve the conflict in Georgia today, but it could help America prevent similar crises in the future.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates was spot-on when he said last month, "The Foreign Service is not the Foreign Legion, and the U.S. military should never be mistaken for a Peace Corps with guns." We've got to get this right..."

US military 'secretly' hands over militants to the intelligence services of Saudi Arabia, Egypt ....

"...Many of these militants are initially held, without notification to the Red Cross, sometimes for weeks at a time, in secret at a camp in Iraq and another in Afghanistan run by American Special Operations forces, the military officials said...
Christoph Wilcke, who researches the prison systems of Middle Eastern countries for Human Rights Watch, said that international organizations had very little information about the treatment of detainees in the prisons run by the Saudi intelligence service, in part because the Red Cross had never been allowed to operate inside the country..."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Jamil Assayyed sues Detlev Mehlis

AFP, here

Russian Diplomat: Russia to up naval presence in Syrian ports

Reuters, here

Ryan Crocker: "...Iran ..simply does not carry anything remotely like that weight, not internationally, not even regionally”

in the Irish Times, here via Matt Yglesias.
"...So is there a New Cold War, comparable to that with the former Soviet Union, between the US and Iran?
“I don’t think so,” says Crocker, formulating his answer as a putdown to Tehran. “The Soviet Union was a formidable force at its height, with a massive nuclear arsenal. It had half of Europe locked up in its grasp. Iran simply does not carry anything remotely like that weight, not internationally, not even regionally.”

Tonight, Biden is expected to deliver a frontal assault on McCain...

CQ, here

Bush administration's reluctance leaves Sarkozy as 'lone sponsor' of direct Syrian-Israeli talks...

David Ignatius in the WaPo, here
"...The Syrians would like to see a clear signal from the Bush administration that it supports the peace process and that the United States is prepared to join the French as "godfather" of the talks. But Syrian officials are pessimistic and say they doubt that the administration, which has sought to isolate and punish Syria, will change its policy in the few months it has left.....The Syrians have received private assurances through Turkish mediators that Israel will indeed withdraw as part of an overall peace deal, and that disputes about borders, water rights and other technical issues can be resolved through formulas explored in U.S.-backed negotiations during the 1990s....."

Talabani: U.S. sought troop presence to 2015 ... but we said no

Reuters, here
"It was a U.S. proposal for the date which is 2015, and an Iraqi one which is 2010, then we agreed to make it 2011. Iraq has the right, if necessary, to extend the presence of these troops," Talabani said in an interview with al-Hurra television, a transcript of which was posted on his party's website on Wednesday..."

Au Liban, « 2009 sera l’heure de vérité pour les chrétiens »

"...Le général Aoun (chrétien) a réussi à imposer sa grille de lecture et certaines de ses revendications au sein de l’opposition. Finalement, grâce à l’accord de Doha – qui est un accord de capitulation des Forces du 14 Mars (le bloc dirigé par Saad Hariri) face au Hezbollah chiite –, les chrétiens sont revenus au gouvernement. Les chiites n’ont pas acquis un rôle majeur au sein de la politique institutionnelle, ce qui est normal puisque leurs méthodes d’influence ne passent pas par là. Le Hezbollah est sur une ligne constante depuis la fin de la guerre de 2006 : la revendication d’une capacité d’obstruction pour l’opposition (2). Une stratégie qui a permis au Courant patriotique libre (CPL), le parti de Michel Aoun, dans le cadre de son alliance avec le parti chiite, de récupérer son quota de ministres, dont il avait été privé après les élections législatives de 2005, au moment de la formation du gouvernement qui a suivi. Doha a été un vecteur de montée en puissance du CPL et, à travers lui, d’un certain type d’affirmation chrétienne.
La nouvelle loi électorale – prévue dans l’accord – permet par ailleurs sur le long terme de libérer les chrétiens du jeu d’alliance auquel ils étaient soumis précédemment. Cette législation était le résultat de la stratégie syrienne qui avait réduit l’influence des chrétiens par toute une série de mesures : découpage des zones chrétiennes et annexion à des zones en majorité musulmanes, ce qui avait contraint les chrétiens à négocier avec des acteurs musulmans pour être élu ou à faire alliance avec la Syrie. L’accord de Doha a balayé ce système. Les chrétiens sont aujourd’hui plus autonomes par rapport aux musulmans. On estime à 40-45 le nombre des députés pouvant être élu uniquement par un électorat chrétien. Ce qui, en revanche, risque d’amplifier la confessionnalisation du jeu politique libanais..."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Russia: we are ready for a new cold war

"...Declaring that if his decision meant a new cold war, then so be it, President Dmitri Medvedev signed a decree conferring Russian recognition on Georgia's two secessionist regions. The move flouted UN security council resolutions and dismissed western insistence during the crisis of the past three weeks on respecting Georgia's territorial integrity and international borders..."

Maliki: No American bases in Kurdistan...

"...Kurdish sources told Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Watan that Maliki refused to include Kurdistan among the U.S. military bases presence in the SOFA agreement, noted that Maliki used Iran and Turkey’s refusal to prevent the American from establishing and American base in Kurdistan. They also said that there is no American forces presence in Kurdistan since the fall of Saddam in 2003.
Maliki was also not very supportive for the presence of U.S. forces to join Iraqi Kurds forces to fight against the Turkish - Kurdish PKK on the Turkey’s border a year ago.
The sources conclusion is that Baghdad fears reflects Iran and Turkey fears of the growing relations between the Kurds and the U.S. and the future possibilities that the Kurds will announce the independent Kurdistan state..."

Lebanon: Migrant Domestic Workers Dying Every week from Suicides or in Botched Escapes

HRW, here
“These suicides are linked to the isolation and the difficult working conditions these workers face in Lebanon,” Houry said. “While the Lebanese authorities cannot guarantee these women happiness, they should guarantee them the right to move freely, to work in decent conditions, to communicate with their friends and families, and to earn a living wage.”

When fellow (but) STUPID Americans speak :"We're 'Clintons for McCain ...and Obama is a 'registered' Muslim..."

When idiots get the pulpit, this is what spews out! (Watch!) ...and this from CQ, here
"...But for Arab-Americans and Muslim Americans at the Democratic convention this week, the fact that Obama’s name is seen as a political dagger indicates just how far they have to go to achieve full acceptance as Americans...."


"...why the 21st century might prove difficult - even painful - for America..."

Fabius Maximus on Pat Lang and America, here

DE BORCHGRAVE: "Unwinnable insurgencies?"

Arnaud de Borchgrave in the WashingtonTimes, here, via SyriaComment.
"...There are lessons in all these defeats for NATO in Afghanistan. If NATO doesn't prevail and Taliban sneaks in by agreeing to a junior partnership in a broad-based coalition government, the geopolitical consequences would be incalculable. Yet Taliban is now maneuvering for a Vietnam-style Tet offensive, this time against Kabul.
The U.S. and NATO are fast approaching decision time to take the war to Taliban's safe bases in FATA, with or without Pakistan's consent. A larger aid package than the current $750 million for FATA's 3.5 million people would also have to be voted by the new U.S. Congress...."

"If Nouri Maliki and his advisors persist in this sectarian agenda, the country may spiral back into chaos...."

... so says Gen. Petraeus, Shawn Brimley and Colin Kahl in the LATimes, here

Iraqi leader 'insists' on deadline for troop pullout

"Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki dug in his heels Monday on the future of the U.S. military in Iraq, insisting that all foreign soldiers leave the country by a specific date in 2011 and rejecting legal immunity for American troops...."

When Hamas and Jordan Talk

Rami Khouri in the METimes, here
"....Unlike Israeli and American officials who are mostly ignorant of trends in large swaths of the Arab world, the Jordanian monarchy, government and intelligence service have their ear to the ground and excellent insights into sentiments in their and surrounding societies....
This is not a purely bilateral or local matter. It suggests that both are looking out for their own best interests, by making preliminary moves to adjust to changing circumstances in the region. Also, when the director of intelligence does politics, it signals that whatever is going on is worth watching...."

Monday, August 25, 2008

Khalilzad, is facing angry questions from other senior Bush administration officials over unauthorized contacts with Asif Ali Zardari...

in the NYTImes, here “Can I ask what sort of ‘advice and help’ you are providing?” Mr. Boucher wrote in an angry e-mail message to Mr. Khalilzad. “What sort of channel is this? Governmental, private, personnel?”....The conduct by Mr. Khalilzad, who is Afghan by birth, has also raised hackles because of speculation that he might seek to succeed Hamid Karzai as president of Afghanistan ..."

Kouchner 'denies' that France is vying for a new Syrian 'role' in Lebanon .. and blames 'foreign visits & directives' for Tripoli events

In AnNahar, here

Bernard Kouchner : l'action militaire

Jumblatt: "... Israel will fail if it aggresses Lebanon..."

In Al Hayat, here

Obama: "We've got to do that before Israel feels like its back is to the wall..."

"My job as president would be to try to make sure that we are tightening the screws diplomatically on Iran, that we've mobilized the world community to go after Iran's program in a serious way, to get sanctions in place so that Iran starts making a difficult calculation," Obama said in response to a voter question at a campaign event in Iowa. "We've got to do that before Israel feels like its back is to the wall," he said. .."

Chuck Hagel will as Barack Obama's Secretary of State?

"...Joe Biden's selection as Vice President doubles the chances that Senator Chuck Hagel will be selected as Barack Obama's Secretary of State, ....". More from Steve Clemons, here

biden hagel.jpg

Maliki demands 'specifc deadline' for U.S. troop pullout

SPECIFIC.... as in "no security agreement between the United States and Iraq without an unconditional timetable for withdrawal". ... in McClatchy's, here
".....Maliki said that the
United States and Iraq had agreed that all foreign troops would be off Iraqi
soil by the end of 2011
. "There is an agreement actually
reached, reached between the two parties on a fixed date, which is the end of
2011, to end any foreign presence on Iraqi soil," Maliki said.
But the White House disputed
Maliki's statement and made clear the two countries are still at odds over the
terms of a U.S. withdrawal.
..."

After a US-supported Ethiopian invasion, conditions may be ripe for Al Qaeda in Somalia

In the LATimes, here

Cheney to Visit Georgia and Ukraine

Reuters
...and here Matt Yglesias comments that "...The McCain campaign is sensitive to accusations that he would continue the Bush administration’s policies, and is very eager to avoid giving the impression that he would do so, though as best one can tell there aren’t any areas of national policy in which he proposes to implement significantly different policies. But optics-wise, it seems, they’d rather keep Dick Cheney far away from the convention. And not DC far; Azerbaijan far..."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Salafi's Shahal to ANB (TV): "Hariri was all for the MOU with Hezbollah, but he later retracted his support..."

الشيخ حسن الشهال للANB

سعد الحريري كان موافق على وثيقة التفاهم بينهم وبين حزب الله لكنه تراجع فيما بعد

(Cherchez La Bandar)

“Going to war” is never an intention...It is rather the result of weak, shortsighted leaders entrapped by a series of mistakes...

Hassan Nasrallah promises 'destructive' retribution if Israel targets Lebanon

In Al Jazeera, here

"..US-Israeli Early-warning missile radar in the Negev ... sort of "parting gift from Washington to Jerusalem"..."

"...The system will protect Israel's skies from missile attacks, but the flip side of the deal is that Israel's freedom of action against Iran or Syria will be significantly curtailed.
Israel will be required to obtain U.S. permission for any such operation, since it would endanger the lives of the U.S. personnel operating the system. The ground station itself would likely become the target of any reprisal attack by Iran or Syria..."

Iran's first Russian-built nuclear power plant in the southern city of Bushehr will become operational by the end of 2008

"Russia is seriously committed to completing and running Bushehr power plant in the shortest possible time," Iran's PressTV quoted Alexander Sadovnikov as saying..."

Saturday, August 23, 2008

CIA contra Suskind: Operation Squelch Congressional Investigation...

Laura Rosen in MoJo, here
"...The timing is interesting. Just this week, the House Judiciary committee moved forward with plans to investigate Suskind's claims, issuing letters to several of the participants named asking them to testify. As a reader friend suggests, whether Suskind got details in his account wrong or not, "there can be no doubt whatsoever that what motivated this statement by CIA echoed by Tenet's new statement is an effort to scare off and squelch Congress from pursuing its investigation."
Suskind has said in media appearances that he wants the officials involved to testify under oath. He has also posted the partial transcript of an interview with Rob Richer, a former top CIA official he cites as telling him about the White House order on Habbush. Richer has denied the account took place as Suskind reported it. But his denial is carefully worded. And as my reader friend notes, "Richer's comments on the record on Suskindresponse contradict the CIA's official response, insofar as he simply acknowledges as a fact Habbush's defection while CIA acts like it knows nothing about it and as far as it is concerned Habbush is still a wanted man."
Let's see if Operation Squelch Congressional Investigation succeeds."
......and here, the "CIA Statement" and George Tenet's (today's) Statement, here

US military opposes crackdown on 'Sahwas',... but may not be able to defend its Sunni allies from a largely Shia government and army

    Patrick Cockburn in the Independent, here ".............Already the government has started moving against al-Sahwa, the Awakening Movement, fostered and paid by the US to eliminate al Qa’ida in Iraq. It has drawn up a list of 650 al-Sahwa members to be arrested. The US military opposes the move but may not be able to defend its Sunni allies from a largely Shia government and army ".....for the first time since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi government is confident that it can survive without US military support..."

Defense Secretary Gates Counts Down to End of Bush Administration

In USNWR's "Whispers", here
"Part of what got him through this difficult tenure, presiding over two wars, losing hundreds of brave men and women on his watch," says spokesman Geoff Morrell, "has been this expectation that come Jan. 20, 2009, he gets to return to the place he loves the most in the world." The clock is actually a little business-card size thing on a key chain that a friend back in the Seattle area gave Gates. "He refers to it quite often," says Morrell, "and likes to break it out to remind himself that his days are numbered and he's heading home."

"Sons if Iraq" returning to insurgency ...

"...Amid fears that the Sunnis' treatment could rekindle Iraq's insurgency, the Americans are caught between their wish to support the fighters and their stronger ties to Maliki's government, which has challenged the Sunni paramilitaries in recent months as it grows increasingly confident about its fledgling army.
"We want to have our cake and eat it too, support Maliki and the Sons of Iraq. . . . Maliki wants to make that as hard for us as possible. He wants us to choose him," said Stephen Biddle, a Council on Foreign Relations defense expert who has served as an advisor on strategy to Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq. "What it looks like we are getting is a Maliki government that won't behave itself and wants to crush the Sons of Iraq."
Sons of Iraq

Joebama Obiden for 2008'...

Jobama.jpg

Friday, August 22, 2008

Saudi Arabia wants "fairness in reporting on Israel..."

In the Jerusalem Post (Via AngryArab) here
"UK group tackles anti-Israel media bias: A new organization seeking to promote accurate and responsible media coverage of Israel in the UK is to be launched in London on Friday. By holding journalists accountable to the principles created by the industry, Just Journalism says it is aiming to promote responsible journalism and fairness in reporting on Israel...."

What Israel Lost in the Georgia War

Toni Karon in TIME, here via WarinContext.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili is shown an Israeli Aircraft Industries pilotless drone during his visit  to their factories at Lod, Israel.
[Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili is shown an Israeli Aircraft Industries pilotless drone during his visit to their factories in Lod, Israel
Israel Aircraft Industries / Getty]


A deal on missile defences angers Russia even though they may not work

"......Because they are scared of Russia. Within days of Russia’s invasion of Georgia, Poland had agreed to host ten American interceptors. Ukraine offered to link up its early-warning radars and contribute to surveillance in space. The Czech Republic had already agreed to host the missile-tracking radar.
“We have crossed the Rubicon,” said the Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk, as the deal was done. Russia said any country involved in America’s missile defences made itself a legitimate target for nuclear attack. Condoleezza Rice, the American secretary of state, who went to Poland to sign the deal this week, retorted that such threatening language “isn’t tolerable”..............cannot fend off Russia’s huge arsenal, but countries hosting them place themselves under America’s umbrella, in effect becoming part of the defence of its homeland...."

McCain Advisor: "If one of Senator Obama's advisers has been to Damascus, we just wonder how many have been to Tehran."

Eli Lake, in the NYSun, here

Levy: "..Israel would be making a terrible, even fatal, mistake if it attacked Iran..."

"....The good news is - there are better options. For one, Israel should be leading, or at least contributing to, rather than retarding, a policy re-think on Iran. Instead, when the U.S. sends Under-Secretary of State William Burns to sit in on talks with Iran in Geneva or considers opening an interest section in Tehran, Israel takes umbrage. The same is true when our back-channel mediators with Syria, the Turks, host Iran's leaders.
Israel needs to encourage this direct hard-headed diplomatic engagement between its friends and Iran - contributing talking points of its ..........that Israel will support a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction in the context of regional peace, mutual recognition and security guarantees.
Beyond that, Israel should de-emphasize its unilateral military options and stress confidence in its own deterrence capacity vis-a-vis Iran..."

Israel Warns Against US, International Pressure for Palestinian

God forbid anyone should 'pressure' Israel .... may his offspring be damned to decades of refugee status, humiliation and despair! VOA, here
"I think that any attempt to try and bridge gaps that might be premature to reach, or to reach something that is not the comprehensive agreement that we want to reach can lead to doing it wrong just because of the pressure, the international pressure. This can lead to clashes. This can lead to misunderstandings. This can lead to violence as we faced after Camp David 2000 and the circumstances are in a way are similar," she said.

Iran gets around US bank sanctions

In the FT, here
"...Bank Mellat, Iran’s third largest state-owned bank, is getting around US-imposed sanctions by establishing links with small and medium-sized banks that have less US exposure than bigger lenders, its managing director said..."

US. Sees Much to Fear in a Hostile Russia

"....The list of ways a more hostile Russia could cause problems for the United States extends far beyond Syria and the mountains of Georgia. In addition to escalated arms sales to other anti-American states like Iran and Venezuela, policy makers and specialists in Washington envision a freeze on counterterrorism and nuclear nonproliferation cooperation, manipulation of oil and natural gas supplies, pressure against United States military bases in Central Asia and the collapse of efforts to extend cold war-era arms control treaties.
It’s Iran, it’s the U.N, it’s all the counterterrorism and counternarcotics programs, Syria, Venezuela, Hamas — there are any number of issues over which they can be less cooperative than they’ve been,” said Angela E. Stent, who served as the top Russia officer at the United States government’s National Intelligence Council until 2006 and now directs Russian studies at Georgetown University. “And of course, energy.”

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The outlook on a triple-superpower world...

Helena Cobban in the CSM, here
"....From the beginning of the crisis in Georgia, President Bush has recognized these facts. He has wisely refrained from doing anything there that might lead to a shooting war with Russia. That might not seem "right" to many Americans. But Georgia was certainly not blameless. Now Washington should work hard for a settlement – possibly a broad demilitarization – that can protect both Georgia's borders and minority rights.
But our strong concern over Georgia shouldn't distract Americans from doing some hard thinking about how to work with both Russia and China – and other governments – to address even bigger global challenges: nuclear proliferation (especially in Iran), violent transnational Islamism, and climate change – not to mention the continuing challenges in Iraq and Afghanistan....."

U.S. to Syria: Do not meddle in Russia-Georgia conflict

"...Earlier Thursday, Assad backed Russia's military action against Georgia at talks with President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday
...According to Russian media, Assad offered to host the Russian missiles as a response to a deal signed by Washington and Warsaw this week to deploy elements of a U.S. missile defense system in Poland, which has aggravated Moscow's relations with the West. (Syria denied: Al Jazeera)
Assad's visit is likely to become an additional irritant for Washington. In the past, the United States has more than once warned Moscow against selling arms to its longstanding ally Syria....."

الأسد وميدفيديف في  المقر الرئاسي الصيفي الروسي على البحر الأسود أمس  (فلاديمير روديونوف ــ أ ب)

Wal, Street Journal: We are getting out of Iraq!

Yawn, yawn ..... yawn, in the WSJ, here

Sophisticated analysis says there is no single pathway to violent extremism

I figured this out long ago, when my son, upon his return from EVERY ski trip to Mont Tremblant, is asked the same off-the-shelve question: "Do You Know Ossama BL?" ....
In the Guardian, here

"Free & Sovereign Iraq!" (Reuters)

[29mideast-span-600.jpg]

'Key' U.S. Iraq strategy in danger of collapse

"We cannot stand them, and we detained many of them recently," said one senior Iraqi commander in Baghdad, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the issue. "Many of them were part of al Qaida despite the fact that many of them are helping us to fight al Qaida."

"...American leaders shouldn't make threats the country can't deliver or promises it isn't prepared to keep..."

Ignatius, in the WaPo, here
"....Let's put aside the fact that McCain's top foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, has in fact been a lobbyist for Georgia. In his own feisty comments in recent months, McCain encouraged Georgians to believe America would back them up in a crisis. That expectation was naive, and it was wrong to encourage it. It was especially wrong to give a volatile leader such as Saakashvili what he evidently imagined was an American blank check...."

Mubarak & Abdullah's Middle East. slipping out of their grip and into that of new mavericks, most notably, Syria's Assad...

In Haaretz, in case you missed it back 'then', here
".......Bashar Assad, who is half their age; Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is repositioning the former Ottoman Empire into power; and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is blazing like a menacing meteor over the Arab Middle East...."

Monday, August 18, 2008

"..The New US President must make clear to Maliki & co. that the era of unconditional support is over—or see security gains evaporate fast..."

Colin H. Kahl, John A. Nagl, Shawn Brimley in FP, here
"...Genuine reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites remains elusive. The “Sunni Awakening”—the Sunnis’ decision to cooperate with U.S. forces against AQI—ranks among the biggest reasons for the decline in violence in Iraq. But don’t be fooled: The awakening represents an accommodation with the United States, not the Shiites who dominate Iraq’s government. These security gains could dissolve if the Sunni “Sons of Iraq”—many of them former insurgents—are not integrated into official forces or gainfully employed, and if emerging tribal leaders don’t get an opportunity to share power at the local and national levels through elections......Iraq could easily backslide into mass violence. The surge was supposed to be about buying time to build Iraqi capacity and create breathing space for political accommodation. Yet, as Iraqi capacity and confidence have increased, Maliki and his allies seem less inclined to reach out to their adversaries. By emphasizing capacity over political will, the Bush administration has failed to force Iraqi leaders to make tough compromises. Instead, it too often conveys messages of unconditional support to the Iraqi government that undermine the behind-the-scenes cajoling of U.S. commanders and diplomats..."

Syria test fires series of long-range missiles?

In Haaretz, here

Al Maliki moves against the 'Awakenings'....

"...But Iraq's government is suspicious of such groups, fearing their decision to break with the insurgency was a short-term tactic to gain U.S. money and support. The government fears they will eventually turn their guns against Iraq's majority Shiites
Since the rise of the allied Sunni movement, America has spent some $200 million on salaries, equipment and training for the fighters, which now number nearly 100,000. The U.S. goal is for many of them to be integrated into the Iraqi army or police, providing the fighters with long-term incomes...."

"....The Tehran Timeline...."

"....What is the principal strategic outcome from the war in Iraq? According to the index’s experts, it’s not the end of Saddam’s dictatorship, a rise in militant Islam, or even a war-torn Iraq. Rather, almost half of the experts say that the most important outcome is the emergence of Iran as the most powerful country in the Middle East. Worse, three quarters of the experts believe that the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions is rising.
The U.S.-led war has not only benefited the United States’ chief regional nemesis, but the experts are no longer optimistic that Washington knows what to do about it. Their confidence that U.S. policies can adequately address the Iranian threat has never been lower. The experts give U.S. policy toward Tehran an average grade of just 2.8 on a 10-point scale, where 10 means the United States is doing the best possible job. More than 80 percent of the experts, including 69 percent of conservatives, believe that U.S. policy toward Iran is negatively affecting America’s national security goals. This appraisal represents the most critical view of U.S. policy toward Iran since the index began two years ago...."

graph three

Jumblatt: "Lebanon cannot be a springboard for targeting Syria..."

أدلى رئيس "اللقاء الديموقراطي" النائب وليد جنبلاط بموقفه الاسبوعي لجريدة "الانباء" الصادرة عن الحزب التقدمي الاشتراكي ومما جاء فيه: "نتطلع لأن تترجم النتائج التي توصلت إليها القمة اللبنانية - السورية من خلال إجراءات فعلية لا سيما على مستوى التبادل الديبلوماسي الذي جاء لينهي سنوات طويلة من الجدل، خصوصا أن في التاريخ الحديث المشترك بين البلدين، كان هناك عقدة من بعض كبار الاستقلاليين السوريين تجاه لبنان. لذلك، نأمل أن نكون قد طوينا هذا الملف نحو مرحلة جديدة مرتكزاتها الاساسية الاعتراف بإستقلال لبنان نهائيا وربط هذا الاعتراف بسلوك سوري جديد مغاير لما شهدته العقود الماضية من تدخل مستمر في الشؤون الداخلية وتابع :"في ما يتعلق بملف المفقودين، لا بد من التذكير أن المخابرات السورية كانت موجودة في لبنان وليس المخابرات اللبنانية كانت موجودة في سوريا. فإذا كان الجانب السوري يطالب بمفقودين من تنظيمات مسلحة أو جنود أو مدنيين، فهذا يمكن طرحه في إطار لجنة مشتركة فاعلة تضع جدولا بالأسماء وتعطى صلاحية زيارة السجون في البلدين بهدف جلاء ملابسات هذه القضية الانسانية بالدرجة الأولى واردف:" أما بالنسبة للمجلس الاعلى اللبناني - السوري، فإذا أردنا السير بمنطق تنقية العلاقات وفتح صفحة جديدة بين البلدين، فمن الافضل الاكتفاء بالعلاقات الديبلوماسية المنتظرة والتي تؤسس لمرحلة جديدة عوض الاستمرار وفق الاطر السابقة التي كانت تشوبها الكثير من العثرات. وغني عن القول أن ما جاء في إتفاق الطائف يفترض أن يسري على هذه العلاقات وقد جاء فيه ما حرفيته: "إن لبنان لا يسمح بأن يكون ممرا أو مستقرا لأي قوة أو دولة أو تنظيم يستهدف المساس بأمنه أو أمن سوريا، وإن سوريا الحريصة على أمن لبنان وإستقلاله ووحدته ووفاق أبنائه لا تسمح بأي عمل يهدد أمنه وإستقلاله وسيادته."".".

Rice: "...Always, Mr. President. We always fight for our friends...”

Within the Bush administration, “the fight between the hawks and the doves” erupted anew, said one administration official. In this case, the people he called the “hawks” —Mr. Cheney and the assistant secretary of state for Europe, Daniel Fried — argued for more American military aid for Georgia; the “doves” — Ms. Rice, Mr. Hadley, Mr. Burns — urged restraint..
....Ms. Rice traveled to Tbilisi, Georgia, in July, where, aides said, she privately told Mr. Saakashvili not to let Russia provoke him into a fight he could not win. But her public comments, delivered while standing next to Mr. Saakashvili during a news conference, were far stronger and more supportive.
And when she brought up NATO membership, mentioning that the Bush administration had pushed for it in Bucharest, Mr. Saakashvili jumped on the opportunity to get a public commitment that the administration would bring the matter up again with NATO before leaving office.
“So are you going — I understood you are going to give a tough fight for us in December,” he said.
Ms. Rice: “Always, Mr. President. We always fight for our friends.”

Former SLA soldiers protest neglect & "dogs-like" treatment in Israel

“I came here eight years ago with my husband and children, we were in the SLA, we had true peace with Israel. After the IDF pullout from Lebanon we didn’t know what to do, they neglected us. “We came to this country and we know that people receive all their rights here. For eight years they didn’t know how to absorb us like they should have; they divided us,” she said in sorrow. ..."

After Egypt, ... Siniora seeks Iraqi Petrol at reduced prices...

In Al Hayat, here
".....This visit follows on that of King Abdullah II of Jordan, which involved a similar request. The rise in oil prices (which are still high compared to only a couple of years ago) has given Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki sudden clout in the region. It is clear what Jordan and Lebanon want from him. The question is, what does he want from them? So far the quid pro quos are not being reported, unless it is just greater recognition and re-integration into the Arab political system. For instance, Saudi Arabia still declines to let al-Maliki visit Riyadh, apparently because of his enmity toward the Sunni Arab Awakening Councils, which are in part a Saudi project. Seniora and his backer Saad Hariri are close to Saudi Arabia and presumably will be intermediaries for al-Maliki in back channel communications to the Kingdom." (Cole)
عمر سليمان يتحدّث إلى الرئيس فؤاد السنيورة في الاسكندرية أوّل من أمس (عمر دلش ــ رويترز)
(Siniora 'chatting' with Chief of Egyptian Intelligence, O Sleiman)
Professor Cole forgot to mention that Hariri's last visit did not go well: He visited Sistani on the heels of the collapse of the praetorian branch (lol) of his Future Movement, and told Sistani that the seat of Shia'a leadership was in Najaf and not Qom ... I don't know who advises the prodigy, but they totally forgot to mention that Sistani is a HUGE FAN of Iran. The meeting was promptly dismissed!

"Implications of the Russo-Georgian War for the Middle East and the Gulf littoral"

Special INEGMA Report on Russia-Georgia Conflict Impact on ME Region.

THE RUSSO-GEORGIAN WAR AND GEOPOLITICAL IMPLICATIONS FOR THE GULF LITTORAL

Dr. Theodore Karasik
Director of Research and Development
INEGMA - Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis
The August 2008 Russo-Georgian war is much more than about Moscow's claims to South Ossetia or Abkhazia. There are broad regional implications that affect the Middle East and the Gulf littoral in particular.
Background & Developments
South Ossetian separatists, supported by Moscow, escalated their machine gun and mortar fire attacks against neighboring Georgian villages last week. In response, Georgia attacked the separatist capital South Ossetian Tskhinvali with artillery to suppress fire. Tskhinvali suffered severe damage, thus providing the pretext for Moscow's invasion of Georgia. Russians in Abkhazia are also fighting the Georgians.
As Russia responded with overwhelming force, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin flew from the Beijing Olympics to Vladikavkaz, taking control of the military operations. Putin sidelined his successor, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, thereby leaving no doubt as to who is in charge. Medvedev's role is to handle the international diplomatic front which seems to be not on the table. Under Putin's orders, the 58th Russian Army of the North Caucasus Military District rolled into South Ossetia, reinforced by the 76th Airborne "Pskov" Division. Cossacks from the neighboring Russian territories moved in to combat the Georgians as well.
The Black Sea Fleet is blockading Georgia from the sea, while Russian ballistic missiles and its air force are attacking Georgian military bases and cities including Tbilisi International Airport .What Russia is trying to do-and looking like she may succeed- is to establish a pro-Russian regime in Georgia that will also bring the strategic Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Baku-Erzurum (Turkey) gas pipeline under Moscow's control.
Impact on Israel
More importantly and with immense strategic implications, Russia is also trying to send Israel a clear message that Tel Aviv's military support for Tbilisi in organizing, training and equipping Georgia's army will no longer be tolerated. Private Israeli security firms and retired military officials are actively involved in Georgian security. In addition, Israel's interest in Caspian oil and gas pipelines is growing and Moscow seeks to stop this activity at this time. Intense negotiations about current and future pipelines between Israel, Turkey, Georgia, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan are tied to receiving oil at the terminal at Ashkelon and on to the Red Sea port of Eilat. Finally, Russia is sending a clear message that Moscow will not tolerate American influence in Georgia nor Tbilisi's interests –supported by the pro-U.S. Georgian President Mikhal Saakashvili--in joining NATO. Overall, the military crisis will push Moscow to punish Israel for its assistance to Georgia, and challenge the U.S. to do more than voice rhetoric.

Impact on Arab Gulf States, Iran
In the Gulf, there are several broad implications. First is the impact of the war on Gulf investment in the Caucasus and in Russia. The Russian damage to Ras al Khaimah's investment plan in Georgia is troublesome. The Ras Al Khaimah Government has recently invested in the Georgian port of Poti where its real estate development arm Rakeen is developing a free zone. Rakeen is also developing some mixed-use projects near capital Tbilisi. The company has three projects in Georgia - Tiblisi Heights and Uptown Tiblisi - with a total value of Dh7.3 billion, while a third is being planned. However, Ras Al Khaimah's other major investment did not remain unhurt. The Georgian harbor Poti, which is majority owned by the Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority (Rakia), was badly damaged in Russian air raids. In April 2008, Georgia sold a 51 per cent stake in the Poti port area to Rakia to develop a free economic zone (FEZ) in a 49-year management concession, and to manage a new port terminal. The creation of FEZ, to be developed by Rakeen, was officially inaugurated by Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili April 15 2008. Previously the trend in Russo-GCC relations focused on strengthening the "north-south" economic corridor between the two regions; this linkage may now be in jeopardy if more Gulf investment goes up in smoke.
The second implication is the growing military presence in both Gulf waters and the Mediterranean Sea by the West and Russia that cannot be separated from the Russo-Georgian conflict. There is an unprecedented build-up of American, French, British and Canadian naval and air assets-the most since the 2003 invasion of Iraq-that are to be in place shortly for a partial naval blockade of Iran. Three U.S. strike forces are en route to the Gulf namely the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the USS Ronald Reagan and the USS Iwo Jima. Already in place are the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea opposite Iranian shores and the USS Peleliu which is cruising in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.
There is also a growing Russian navy deployment begun earlier this year to the eastern Mediterranean comprising the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov with approximately 50 Su-33 warplanes that have the capacity for mid-air refueling along with the guided missile heavy cruiser Moskva. This means the Russian warplanes could reach the Gulf from the Mediterranean, a distance of some 850 miles and would be forced to fly over Syria but Iraq as well, where the skies are controlled by the U.S. military. The Russian task force is believed to be composed of a dozen warships as well as several submarines. While the West is seeking to defend Gulf oil sources destined to the West and the Far East, Russia is increasing its desire to control Caspian oil resources and setting herself in a strategic position near the Levant.
A final implication is what may be a complete collapse of any back channel communications via Russia to Iran regarding Tehran's preparation for confrontation with the West and slowing down Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon. In the past year, Russia acted as an intermediary between the U.S., Israel, the GCC-specifically Saudi Arabia-and Tehran. With the Russian-Georgian war, the door may now slam shut between these players. Saudi Arabia, for instance, is attempting to halt the Russian sale of the S-300 anti-air defense system to Tehran and also is seeking to purchase large amounts of Russian weapons in order to "buy-off" Moscow's pursuit of selling conventional weapons to Iran. As a consequence of the Russo-Georgian war, Russia may start to play hardball with going through with arms sales to Iran and dropping support for sanctions against Iran that may invite a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran.
As further evidence of the heightening of tensions, Kuwait is activating its "Emergency War Plan" as the massive U.S. and European flotilla is heading for the region. Part of Kuwait's plan is to put strategic petroleum assets in reserve in the Far East and outside the forthcoming battle space. And Israel is building up its strike capabilities for an attack on Iran, purchasing 90 F-16I planes that can carry enough fuel to reach Iran. Israel has also bought two new Dolphin submarines from Germany capable of firing nuclear-armed warheads, in addition to the three already in service with its navy. Many strategic and tactical pieces for a confrontation are falling into place.
Overall, analysts have argued in the past few years that there might be a series of triggers that could force a confrontation between the West and Iran. Some maintained that this trigger may occur in the Gulf itself or in the Levant-whether accidental or on purpose. There were potential triggers before-the April 2007 seizure of British sailors in the Gulf, the September 2007 Israeli attack on a suspected Syrian nuclear facility, and Hezbollah's seizure of Western Beirut in May 2008. Now it appears that a more serious trigger may be the Russo-Georgian war –despite geographical distance-- that may carry dire consequences for all-especially in the Gulf littoral.

.... and in MESH, Walter Lacqueur writes this
"......What will be the impact of these trends on the Middle East? Ideally, it would be wise to wait with any major action in the area until Russian domination in its closer neighborhood is established. But if opportunities for a Russian return to the Middle East arise, they should be used.
There are no illusions about finding allies in the region. As one of the last Tsars (Alexander III) said (and as Putin repeated after him), Russia has only two reliable allies: its army and artillery. Among the police and army ideologues there has been of late the idea to give up Panslav dreams, since the Slav brothers can be trusted even less than the rest, and to consider instead a strategic alliance with Turkic peoples. But these are largely fantasies.
The main aim will be to weaken America’s position in the Middle East. In this respect, there are differences of opinion in the Kremlin. Some ex-generals have come on record to the effect that a war with America is inevitable in a perspective of 10-15 years. The influence of these radical military men should not be overrated. But it is certainly true that the belief that America is Russia’s worst and most dangerous enemy is quite common (see for instance the recent Russkaia Doktrina). The downfall of the Soviet empire is thought to be mainly if not entirely America’s fault; Washington, it is believed, is trying to hurt Russia all the time in every possible way. This paranoiac attitude is deeply rooted (in contrast to China) and it will be an uphill struggle in the years to come to persuade the Russian leadership that this is not the case.
Moscow has threatened to supply greater help to Iran and Syria, which would certainly annoy America and perhaps hurt it. But Russia does not want to do this at the price of creating political and military problems for itself in the years to come. Russian distrust does not stop at its southern borders.
The attack on South Ossetia provided Russia with an unique opportunity; it was motivated by a militant Georgian nationalism which failed to understand that small and weak countries, unlike big and powerful ones, are not in a position to keep separatist regions indefinitely under their control. Such opportunities will not frequently return, and other opportunities will have to be created by the Kremlin—probably by exploiting existing conflicts such as those in the Middle East. This could open the door to serious miscalculations."

Saturday, August 16, 2008

[Image]

CIA analyst gives Bush a "Syria-North Korea Project" commemorative coin...

In WashingtonWhispers, here
"...Bush then took a seat at a table with two dozen junior employees. They included analysts, clandestine operatives, scientists and engineers, and support personnel. In between bites, he asked them about their jobs and where they have served overseas. One analyst, who played a key role for the CIA in identifying the nuclear reactor that was being built in Syria with North Korean assistance, gave the president a bronze commemorative coin that Hayden had presented to each agency employee who was directly involved in that intelligence effort.
The 3-inch diameter coin was inscribed with, "Syria-North Korea Project" and the words, "No Core, No War."

Secret Israeli forces "exposed" in Georgia...

"When I arrived in the operations room I saw a book of IDF safety instructions that shouldn't have been there," he said. "There were IDF CDs that explicitly said, 'Confidential' documenting army activities, charts from special units' operations, and officers' names." He added that the room was not guarded, making this information easily obtainable to everyone.
Tomer said the main reason for the infidelity was mercenary. "The training companies wanted to finish the projects as quickly as possible in order to create more projects and make more money," he said. "We knew the training had to be completed quickly because the soldiers would soon have to get into real military activity."

The Trouble With “Pro-American”...

Yglesias, at ThinkProgress, here
You see a remarkable amount of credulity about the need to back “pro-American” leaders from Ahmed Chalabi to Mikheil Saakashvili to Pervez Musharraf and whomever else when in fact none of these people (as Chalabi and Musharraf have managed to make crystal clear over the years with certain betrayals) are, in fact, monomaniacally focused on advancing American interests. (Matt: You need to check out Siniora and more recently Chattah ... but heck, Lebanon is peanuts compared to Iraq, Pakistan ...etc.)
Failed Global Test

Friday, August 15, 2008

UNIFIL's Gen Graziano accuses Israel of violating Resolution 1701

"...Graziano made his comments at a press conference at UN headquarters in New York. He said that continued Israel Air Force flights in Lebanese airspace and Israel's refusal to submit maps of areas on which it dropped cluster bombs during the war constituted a "permanent violation of 1701." Graziano also referred to the village of Ghajar, which sits on the Israel-Lebanon border, as "a permanent area under occupation."
The Italian general, meanwhile, said that Hezbollah recognizes Resolution 1701, and that the militant Lebanese group and UNIFIL forces enjoy excellent cooperation with one another. He added that apart from UN and Lebanese soldiers and local hunters, no one is armed south of the Litani River...."

Michael Ledeen "Leaves" AEI ...

Laura Rosen in MoJo, here
"...From afar, one sensed that Ledeen may be too controversial for AEI's other scholars to want him to be the public face of the think tank on Iran issues, an observation the associate described as reasonable.
Ledeen is not alone in being scarcer at the influential think tank of late. Former Reagan administration Pentagon official Richard Perle is often in France and rarely makes public appearances at AEI any more; but there's no talk of Perle leaving AEI, although his role there is largely "emeritus" the associate described...."

"Bases in Iraq, Provocation of Iran"

In Cole's Informed Comment, here

US court rules that Saudi Arabia and four of its princes are immune from legal action by victims of 9/11

Al Jazeera/English, here

Last minute Escalation: "Hit squads training in Iran..by Lebanese Hezbollah" says a U.S. military intelligence officer in Baghdad

"...The officer on Wednesday provided Iraq's national security adviser with several lists of the assassination teams' expected targets. He said the targets include many judges but would not otherwise identify them ...(Samir Geagea' did that in Lebanon...). Iraq's intelligence service is preparing operations to determine where and when the special group fighters will enter the country and is to provide an assessment to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki...."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

"...Having overestimated the power of the Soviet Union in its last years, we have consistently underestimated the ambitions of Russia since..."

(Paranoia?) MELIK KAYLAN opinion in the WSJ, here
"...Between Russia and Iran, in the lower Caucasus, sits a small wedge of independent soil -- namely, the soil of Azerbaijan and Georgia combined. Through those two countries runs the immensely important Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which delivers precious oil circuitously from Azerbaijan to Turkey and out to the world. This is important not just because of the actual oil being delivered free of interference from Russia and Iran and the Middle East, but also for symbolic reasons. It says to the world that if any former Moscow colonies wish to sell their wares to the West directly, they have a right to do so, and the West will support that right. According to Georgian authorities, Russian warplanes have tried to demolish the Georgian leg of that pipeline several times in the last days. Their message cannot be clearer...."

"..Some compare Bush's vocal, but less than substantive backing to Lebanon's "Cedar Revolution" to its tepid support for embattled Saashkavili.."

From MEPGS, August 14, 2008
"The events in Georgia are not being lost on Middle East leaders. Some compare America's vocal, but less than substantive backing to Lebanon's "Cedar Revolution" to its, so far, tepid support for the embattled Georgian government. Others, notably the Israelis, see a warning in too much reliance on the US for long standing pledges of support. "There is no doubt that Georgia has an impact," said one senior Israeli official this week. And for this official as well as most of his colleagues, the issue they see as being impacted is Iran.
Even before the events of this week in Georgia, Israeli officials were growing uncomfortable with US policy. They were particularly miffed at the presence of Under Secretary of State William Burns at the recent talks in Geneva with the Europeans, Russians, Chinese and Iranians. "They gave us practically no warning of this clear change in US policy," said one veteran israeli official.
Even European diplomats admit that time is running out on the dialogue with Iran. Tehran's "non-response" to the package offered at Geneva has led some to say that the process is reaching what one European diplomat calls a "crossroads." He says that shortly it will be a question of military action to prevent Iran from attaining the capability to produce a nuclear weapon and acceptance of one.
Despite expert opinion that Israel lacks the capability to retard, let alone "take out" Iran's nuclear infrastructure, privately and publicly Jerusalem has continued to reiterate its determination to prevent Iran from obtaining the bomb. And top US officials take this threat increasingly seriously. "The Israelis have used the words `existential threat' and `holocaust' too many times in connection with Iran for us not to be worried," says one high ranking US official. And for every argument that Israel will be restrained by circumstances or lack of ability, there seems to be a counter argument put forth by outside observers, US officials and, of course, the Israelis themselves.
For example, a recent, widely circulated paper by the respected researcher, David Albright and two other colleagues, makes a compelling argument that Iran's nuclear development program is so diffuse and easily reconstituted that an attack could well be counter productive. And it certainly cannot be compared to the relatively easy operation against Iraq's centralized program that was destroyed by the Israeli airforce in 1981. But one key US official points out that the Israeli success in 1981 far exceeded expectations. More important, Iraq's program was not --to use that phrase again -- an existential threat to Israel. Another argument put forward by skeptics of preemptive strike is the need for permission by the US for the Israeli airforce to overfly Iraqi airspace -- the most likely route to Iranian nuclear installations. "The last thing the shia-led Iraqi regime would want to see is their airspace being used as a route to punish their friends and co-religionists next door," says one US analyst. The answer: According to one key US official: "The Israelis aren't going to ask until the last moment and I can't believe the Administration saying no."
An Obama Administration may not be so amenable. Top Obama advisors say that as President, one of the first things he would do is to tell Israel that the military option is off the table. These advisors see other significant changes in Middle East policy coming, should the junior Senator from Illinois become the forty-fourth President. It will all start with Iraq, says one key Obama advisor. While Obama's pledge to withdraw a brigade a
month from combat in Iraq is likely to be scuttled ["Like most campaign promises, this one won't be kept," says one Obama foreign policy advisor]. Still, like the candidate, his top advisors see Iraq, in the words of one, "...as an albatross" around the neck of the US. "We are going to get out, not hang on like the Israelis did all those years in Lebanon."
A number of analysts note that the Maliki government will ease the way towards an American departure. Says one European diplomat, "Iraqi nationalism is back." And American officials, who are having a difficult time negotiating a status of forces agreement ("SOFA") with Baghdad can attest to that. This `sofa' is turning into a `futon', quipped one veteran observer, noting the Iraqi reluctance to grant the US sweeping powers when the UN mandate for the American presence in Iraq expires at the end of the year.
One area where US officials appear to be making significant progress is in clearing away the obstacles to full diplomatic relations with Libya. It is what one US official calls the "poster child" for Administration success in Middle East non- proliferation and anti-terrorism. But Libya is still entangled in the last issues connected with the downing of Pan Am 103 and the bombing of La Bell Disco as Sen. Lautenberg (D-NJ) has put an effective hold until compensation issues are fully resolved. David Welch has spent many hours trying to resolve this dispute and, according to informed sources is on the verge of a breakthrough. With Libyan agreement to provide up to $1 billion more in compensation, the way seems to be clear for Secretary Rice to visit Libya in September. Also in September, it is hoped there will be enough time for the Senate to confirm a full fledged ambassador to Tripoli, the first in decades.
With Secretary Rice on her way to Paris and Tblisi, in an effort to deal with the Georgian crisis, her latest trip to the Middle East to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace talks has been, at least temporarily, delayed. But participants in the latest round, held here in Washington earlier this month, say she shows no signs in her desire to see the issue through in the remaining months of the Administration.
Israeli negotiators, notably Foreign Minister Livni reportedly were less than enthusiastic about engaging in this
latest round. She, like former Defense Minister Mofaz is engaged in a competition to succeed Olmert as head of the leading Israeli political party and therefore the country's putative new Prime Minister. It has been speculated that Secretary Rice, absent an agreement by year's end, would like to make public the progress that has been made so far. But Livni, in particular, is reportedly opposed to such a move, since it could undercut her credentials in her race against Mofaz [Prompting one US official to comment "Israelis produce more politics than they can consume"]. However, according to informed sources, the Israelis were supported in this stance by their Palestinian interlocutors, who fear the flip side of highlighting progress -- the intractable issues still on the table.