"...Similarly, one has to contemplate the possibility that Israeli efforts at disempowering Hamas won’t so much fail as suffer “catastrophic success” as the area is taken over by a Palestinian branch of al-Qaeda. I’m not sure that would be worse for Israel (probably would) but it would definitely be worse for the United States of America..."
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
"..I'm guessing Hamas comes out of this stronger than before, although the Egyptian reaction could change things by affecting Hamas logistically.."
"...The international community is directly guilty for this latest massacre. Will it remain immune from the wrath of a desperate people? So far, there have been large demonstrations in Lebanon, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Iraq. The people of the Arab world will not forget. The Palestinians will not forget. "All that you have done to our people is registered in our notebooks," as the poet Mahmoud Darwish said..."
Monday, December 29, 2008
Mousawi sees the two-year siege of the prime minister's office in much the same terms Siniora does -- as a battle over Lebanon's identity. It ended in a compromise, and Mousawi seems to find that acceptable. His organization doesn't want to create a Hezbollah state, he insists. It just wants to block a pro-American one......."No one would have imagined the Americans would have let [Lebanon] go. But they are a superpower, and they said: 'Let it go,' "
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
"...Most recently, the apparently temporary success of the US military "surge" in Iraq resulted in a large number of al-Qaeda and Sunni fighters deciding to leave western Iraq for safe havens abroad, a majority of them heading for Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. As a result, Jordanian security services are now confronting the potential for trouble posed not only by would-be mujahideen who have been unable to get through Jordan to Iraq, but also by veteran fighters angry that they had to leave Iraq..."
"..With Syria's standing in the international community boosted by these welcome overtures, foreign interest in the economy began to rise."
Monday, December 22, 2008
وسأل: "ان من ينتقد، لماذا لا يعطيني قليلاً مما لديه كي يصير الجيش أقوى؟ حزب الله عنده طاقة ممتازة، قاوم ودافع، والجيش ايضاً اعطى الشهداء اريد ان
اسأل: ان الذي سلح الحزب لماذا لا يسلّح الجيش ايضاً؟.ورداً على سؤال آخر قال المر: "هناك قرار اميركي بدعم الجيش الى اقصى الحدود، ضمن الامكانات التي تسمح بها التركيبة السياسية الداخلية في الولايات المتحدة. ننتظر وصول مدرعات ومدفعية وصواريخ وذخيرة، والآن نبحث معهم في تزويدنا "أم 60" التي طلبت قيادة الجيش تطويرها، وهذا الموضوع سيتأمن قريباً. واضاف: "ان زيارة روسيا تكمّل الدعم الاميركي، والمصادر الرسمية الاميركية اعربت عن جو ايجابي للمساعدة الروسية.
قيل له: لكن ديفيد ولش اعترض. فقال: "ولش استقال وذهب. ان سفيرة اميركا موقفها ايجابي جداً وداعم، وهي التي تمثل بلدها في لبنان، لدينا برنامج لـ5 سنوات معهم، والدعم الاميركي للجيش جيّد جداً. لا بد أن نشكر أميركا أيضاً، لانها تساعدنا لنصل الى جيش قوي ودولة قوية واستقرار". ورداً على سؤال قال: "الجيش لا يقدر ان يستوعب المقاومة، والعكس صحيح، وليس وارداً في رأيي. في الواقع، هناك مقاومة دافعت في الجنوب وقاتلت، وكذلك الجيش. أما النقاش فقد اشتد بعد 7 أيار بعدما استعملت المقاومة سلاحها في الداخل، وان انقلاباً سياسياً حصل، فما هو الضمان حتى لا يتكرر ذلك؟ ما هو الضمان كي لا يصبح سلاح الحزب عبئاً عليه في جو المفاوضات الجارية في المنطقة؟
وقال رداً على سؤال: "اذا قدم حزب الله، عشرة آلاف صاروخ للجيش، فإني سأقف في وجه اي شخص يكتب ضد ذلك. لا يجوز تخوين النائب سعد الحريري لأنه ساعد الجيش. لا شيء يربطني بسعد سياسياً ولا بـ 14 آذار، ولا أنا في كتلته، وليس هناك مصالح خاصة او عامة. أكيد هناك صداقة، ولكن سعد الحريري يعمل لبلده، وهو رئيس اكبر كتلة برلمانية وزعيم الاكثرية، وقد أكمل طريق والده الشهيد الرئيس رفيق الحريري الذي كان بنى علاقة متينة مع الرئيس السابق فلاديمير بوتين. وأدى دوراً أساسياً في تأمين المناخ الروسي للمساعدة العسكرية للجيش. لكن ان تحصل "هوشة" ضد المساعدة وضد الحريري، فهذا غير مقبول. فليفعلوا عشرة في المئة مما فعله سعد الحريري. ماذا فعلوا هم في زياراتهم غير الرقصات والهيصات على الطرق؟ ان كلامي هذا لا يعني اي اتفاق سياسي او تحالف او التزام مع سعد الحريري. يمكن أن أتحالف مع ميشال عون في الانتخابات.ورداً على سؤال عن علاقة "تيار المستقبل بـ"فتح الاسلام" سابقاً، قال المر: "ان فخامة رئيس الجمهورية في مجلس الوزراء قبل 6 او 7 جلسات قال: "أنا كنت قائداً للجيش ومديرية المخابرات تابعة لي. ولا معلومة لدينا عن ان لتيار المستقبل "علاقة بفتح الاسلام
"But why not put the Saudis on the spot, at least make them explain their reluctance to fight in their own interests? After all, they've got as much at stake in Afghanistan -- maybe more -- as we do."
"...One week later, Zaidi-mania shows no sign of slowing down. The Turkish company that makes the shoe Muntadar al-Zaidi threw at President Bush has seen demand for the think-soled model explode:
"Baydan has received orders for 300,000 pairs of the shoes since the attack, more than four times the number his company sold each year since the model was introduced in 1999. The company plans to employ 100 more staff to meet demand, he said. “Model 271” is exported to markets including Iraq, Iran, Syria and Egypt. Customers in Iraq ordered 120,000 pairs this week and some Iraqis offered to set up distribution companies for the shoe, Baydan said. "
"...Bin Laden's operatives & Saudi intelligence will push the Salafi trends... again demonstrating how closely aligned are Al Qaeda & Riadh.."
"...(the US-led international effort to drive Syria out of Lebanon) "...forced the precipitate decline of effective governmental authority in Lebanon, allowing jihadis to use the country for transit and basing. This made it a target for aggressive expansionist efforts by Saudis and other Salafis and encouraged the rapid growth of internal violence between political and religious factions.
Overall, the Iraq war and Syria's departure from Lebanon gave al-Qaeda and its Islamist allies an unprecedented opportunity to infiltrate their influence and manpower into Lebanon, as well as help strengthen the Sunni Salafist trend in northern Lebanon....
The West's pyrrhic 2005 victory in forcing President Bashar al-Assad to evacuate Syrian forces from the country, however, seems to have created a situation which now finds growing numbers of non-Lebanese Salafi Islamists present in Lebanon and a growing Salafist movement in the north - especially in Tripoli, which is Lebanon's largest, most conservative Sunni city - as well as in the city of Sidon and Lebanon's Palestinian refugee camps.
In addition to the growth of Salifism and Islamist militancy engendered by the passions aroused by the Iraq war, Saudi Arabia has been fishing in troubled waters by encouraging the growth of each in northern Lebanon. Riyadh has paid for the construction of new mosques in Tripoli and reportedly has assisted militants residing in the northern territory abutting Syria.
Bin Laden's operatives and Saudi intelligence will continue to push these trends, thereby once again demonstrating just how closely aligned are the interests of al-Qaeda and Riyadh outside the Arabian Peninsula.
For now, the Salafist leaders will continue to work with Saad Hariri's "Future Movement"....."If [cooperation with Hariri] fails, we have another option called bin Laden."
(The Puppeteer of violent Salafis in Lebanon and NSA of the 'intended' victim)
"...Barak and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called for calm at the meeting. "I won`t compete with hysterical (Mofaz) voices [over Israel`s action in Gaza]," said Olmert. He added that he, Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni have discussed the situation in depth...."
"...Contrary to Israeli assertions that the crossings will allow the Israeli army to ease the movement of people and goods within the West Bank, the World Bank said internal restrictions have only increased and the new system has the potential to become "another serious constraint to Palestinian businesses."The World Bank said the back-to-back system would create added delays and uncertainties for Palestinian businesses already hamstrung by Israel's network of hundreds of checkpoints, roadblocks and other barriers in the West Bank..."
"...Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie on Saturday traveled to the camp with several other government officials to deliver the message to members of the Mujaheddin-e Khalq, or MEK, an Iranian opposition group that was closely aligned with deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein but has been under U.S. military protection since shortly after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. ....."Staying in Iraq is not an option for them," the government said in a statement issued Sunday. The Iranian government has long called for the group's expulsion...."
Sunday, December 21, 2008
"...S-300 is Russian long range surface-to-air missile system.Referring to Israel's negative reaction to Tehran-Moscow agreement, the MP said that "Israel is trying to create obstacle to Iran's progress." "But the independent countries including Iran have national sovereignty and they make decision on their ties with other states," he added..."
"...Both statements are barely veiled complaints about the fact that the United States, so far the only country that has given direct military aid to Lebanon, has always been keen not to provide anything that could pose a threat (however hypothetical) to Israel. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Near East and South Asian Affairs Chris Straub had said only a few days ago that Washington always considered Israel's concerns before providing military aid to Lebanon........And let nobody be fooled by the statement that "no political conditions" would be attached to any future arms deals between Russia and Lebanon........And the Lebanese state does not need, nor want, any offensive capabilities. If it wants to defend itself against the continued Israeli overflights or during the much-expected "next round" of the Hizbullah-Israel brawl, 10 MiG-29s won't do any good. .....Hizbullah has successfully shown that a smart defence is the best deterrent. The Lebanese armed forces need anti-tank, anti-ship, and anti-aircraft rockets. Lots of them.."
"Time is when either Damascus or Beirut can fully control the Sunni militant forces operating on or from their territory?"
"...an al-Qaeda-led mujahideen bleed-through from Iraq to Syria had fertile ground in which to take root in 2003.......a multinational assortment of veteran mujahideen stranded in Syria after leaving Iraq; and would-be fighters who got to Syria but were prevented from entering Iraq. ....
They also will have to cope with an external threat by better controlling the Syria-Lebanon border to prevent the infiltration of Islamist fighters angry with Damascus and eager to strike back for the blocking of routes to Iraq. Assad and other Syrian officials have already claimed the border is being infiltrated by violent, Saudi-backed "Salafists", "Takfiris" and other "extremist forces" from northern Lebanon, and several Arab commentators have noted that this is a legitimate concern for Damascus because northern Lebanon lies close to Syria's "Sunni belt", once a hotbed of support for the SMB. Damascus' recent decision to sign a security-cooperation deal with the Lebanese regime shows the depth of the Assad regime's concern with the Islamist threat, but the time may be passing when either Damascus or Beirut can fully control the Sunni militant forces operating on or from their territory."
"...The budget will decide whether Israel will seriously consider a military option against Iran. A decision focusing on defense and deterrance will mean that Israel has given up on attacking Iran. The dilemma becomes more serious in the context of economic recession, which limits the government's ability to expand the defense budget..."
"....What's intriguing about Davutoglu's analysis is that it involves a series of elections. That's good news for a region that has had too little democracy. The bad news is that voters may make choices that confound U.S. policy -- and that make peace in the region more difficult.The line of political dominoes continues. Lebanon goes to the polls to elect a new parliament in April, with a final round of voting in June. Iran and Saudi Arabia already are pumping in tens of millions of dollars to support their favorite candidates..."
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Burg: "..Israel should not be a Jewish state ... Israeli Arabs were like German Jews during the Second Reich .."
"...But four years ago Mr. Burg not only walked away from politics, but also basically walked away from Zionism. In a book that came out last year and has just been translated and released in the United States, he said that Israel should not be a Jewish state, that its law of return granting citizenship to any Jew should be radically altered, that Israeli Arabs were like German Jews during the Second Reich and that the entire society felt eerily like Germany just before the rise of Hitler.In other words, rather than reconciling the country’s complex tensions, Mr. Burg ended up imploding from them.“I realized something about myself and Israel that frightened me,” he said recently, looking back over the past few years. “I realized that Israel had become an efficient kingdom with no prophecy. Where was it going? What is a Jewish democratic state? What does it mean that Jews define themselves by genetics 60 years after genetics were used against them?”
Friday, December 19, 2008
US War College Report: "Hezbollah's performance in 2006, more effective than that of any Arab army that confronted Israel.."
"....The report indicates that no army can be ideally prepared to deal with both kinds of enemy, conventional and guerrilla, simultaneously, and that in light of the discrepancies between the lessons of the Second Lebanon War and the current U.S. experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, serious challenges confront military planners.
While fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan demands the ability to defeat guerrilla forces, the example of Lebanon may inspire enemies of the U.S. to adopt more conventional methods...."
"...A State Department official said the idea of naming a senior Iranian outreach coordinator was broached in the first transition meetings with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mr. Obama's choice for secretary of state, and her transition team earlier this month...Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, an organization that supports U.S.-Iran dialogue, said that a special envoy position for Iran is planned..."
Thursday, December 18, 2008
"..Certainty, that any deal with Iran will have to allow them to retain some kind of nuclear enrichment program.."
"President-elect Obama has shown, with the selection of the top members of his National Security team, a certain ruthlessness that is impressing veteran US officials as well as long timeWashington observers. To begin with, by naming Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, Obama has, in the view of a number of observers, effectively sidelined Vice President Biden. "Biden was supposedly selected for his foreign policy experience," noted one State Department official. "I guess watching Biden in action on the [Senate] Foreign Relations Committee did not leave Obama impressed." Another veteran State Department official noted that unlike his predecessor, Obama did not choose to keep his long time foreign policy advisor close by his side. As this official put it, "I guess he figured his Rice unlike Bush's Rice, was best employed out of town."
Instead, Obama named former Marine Commandant, James Jones as his National Security Advisor. Jones, who also served as NATO commander, is highly regarded by the Europeans (especially in France, perhaps because he is fluent in French). Arab diplomats compliment his "worldliness," while Israelis, who have had experience working with him on the ground [Survey, November 22, 2008] found him to be, in the words of one official who dealt with him frequently, "...the complete professional. Someone without a political predisposition." However, US officials, who likely know him best, describe him as "nasty and tough," two traits that may well reflect his new boss' predisposition.
In keeping Robert Gates on as Defense Secretary, at least temporarily, Obama has, again in the view of veteran State Department officials, demonstrated a toughness, this time shutting out those in the Democratic party who expected an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. As one State Department
official argued last week, "Obama's pledge to withdraw all combat troops within sixteen months is a dead letter. It is now the "SOFA"[Status of Forces Agreement] that will govern our actions there."
Iraq's adoption of the SOFA, painstakingly negotiated over the past year, envisions the withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraqi cities by the middle of next year and all of them out of the country by the end of 2011. Elated State Department officials say the agreement demonstrated a larger truth about the political situation in Iraq. As one well-placed official put it, "The Iraqis had to learn how to go for the best and settle for something less."
What made this all possible, say key US officials, is a "virtuous cycle" that began with last year's "Surge." As US troops moved against the insurgents, they also turned the Iraqi security forces into, what one US official calls, "The number one militia in the country." At the same time Prime Minister al- Maliki replaced brigade commanders suspected of sectarianism. Soon weapons' caches were routinely being uncovered and intelligence on "the bad guys" improved dramatically. A "tipping point" was reached, says one key US official, when, in his words, "The Sunnis realized the Shia weren't going to do to them what they had done to the Shia."
Especially pleasing to US officials was seeing Iran having no choice but to acquiesce in the SOFA. "It showed that Iran was prepared to accept the reality of their reduced power in Iraq," said one US analyst. However, if Iran has not achieved its greatest ambitions in Iraq, its power is still on the ascendancy, say most analysts. US officials who have recently visited the region find increasing concern, especially among Gulf Arab states. And just this week, representatives from most of these states along with top diplomats from Egypt, Jordan and Iraq met with their counterparts from the Permanent five members of the UN Security Council and Germany -- who have been trying to rein in Iran's nuclear program. Some analysts believe that the Gulf Arabs fear that any deal with Iran, especially one negotiated by the Obama Administration, may come at their expense. In effect, they see that in return for Iranian concessions on their nuclear enrichment program, the outside powers would acquiesce in a form of Iranian hegemony over the Gulf.
However, US officials say there is long way to go before any kind of deal, let alone one that may unnerve the Arabs, is concluded. So far, Iran has shown little inclination to bargain away its ability to develop a nuclear program. Current US officials, like the leadership in the region, appear to be
waiting for the Obama Administration to confront the issue. The President-elect has given few hints but the expectation among most serving US officials is that an attempt to reach out to Iran on a bi-lateral basis, is inevitable. The questions remaining, therefore are timing, level of involvement and the degree to which US allies will be involved in the process.
Although Secretary Rice was, according to informed sources, given the "green light" to make the Administration's final gesture to Iran by sending US diplomats to man an "interest section" in Teheran, ultimately she was prevailed upon by aides not to do so. "Perhaps it would have been a fitting end to her legacy of turning the Administration away from the military option," said one State Department insider. "But it would have been a `freebie' for Iran and not helped the incoming Administration one bit."
Although some veteran analysts are certain that any deal with Iran will have to allow them to retain some kind of nuclear enrichment program, others argue that Israel will not permit such
an outcome. This will especially be the case, if, as now expected, Benjamin Netanyahu and his hard line Likud party takes power after Israel's parliamentary elections next year. One veteran US analyst, who had many dealings with Netanyahu when he was Israel's Prime Minister in the 1990's, predicts Netanyahu saying in his first meeting with President Obama, "We have a problem with Iran. What are we going to do about it?" [Former Clinton Administration officials still wince at the memory of Netanyahu's overly familiar style with the President. One recalls watching President Clinton try to control his temper during a phone call with Netanyahu, when asked "How's Hillary?"]
Israel's ability to influence US policy when it impinges on its perceived security was most recently on display when Jerusalem, in effect, vetoed a number of arms transfers the Administration was trying to make to the Lebanese Armed Forces. Sale of Apache helicopter gunships was nixed, despite the support of the US Ambassador to Lebanon. In fact, the Lebanese are now in line to receive only single engine (Cessna) aircraft outfitted with air-to-ground missiles.
QUESTION: What’s been the best moment?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, there have been a lot of great moments: seeing the Afghans liberate themselves from the Taliban; seeing the Iraqis vote for the first time; going for the first time to the West Bank and being with Palestinians was a really special – a special time. And I think the thing I never expected was to actually be in Libya face-to-face with Colonel Qadhafi. So that probably stands out as one of the extraordinary moments.
Apparently she treasured that moment on the West Bank so much that she decided to ensure it would forever be the high point of Palestinian living. Thus, after telling the Palestinians they’d be subjected to endless Israeli occupation until they held an election, they held an election and were told they’d be subjected to endless Israeli occupation because the wrong party won. And then with the wrong party in office, Rice backed efforts to overthrow the Hamas-led government by force. That led to a civil war, a breakdown of Palestinian institutions, and a new line from Washington that the Palestinians have to be subjected to endless Israeli occupation because the Palestinian side lacks a coherent government to negotiate with. And these are her finest memories!
"President Hafez kept Shihabi because he wanted to maintain some bridges with the Americans ... but President Bashar saw no wisdom in keeping Shihabi ..."
"...The arrests, confirmed by officials from the Ministries of the Interior and National Security as well as the prime minister’s office, included four generals. The officials also said that the arrests had come at the hand of an elite counterterrorism force that reports directly to the office of Prime Minister Al Maliki,,, the arrests reflect a new set of political challenges for Iraq. Mr. Maliki, who has gained popularity as a strong leader but has few reliable political allies, has scrambled to protect himself from domestic rivals as the domineering influence of the United States, his leading backer, begins to fade..."
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
"...He supported California’s anti-gay marriage Proposition 8 and has likened gay marriage to polygamy and incest. He is strongly anti-choice, and has equated abortion to the Holocaust. Warren also supports the assassination of foreign leaders. Appearing on Fox’s Hannity and Colmes on December 3, Warren agreed with Sean Hannity’s assertion that “we need to take him [Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] out,” saying that stopping evil “is the legitimate role of government.” He added, “The Bible says that God puts government on earth to punish evildoers.”
"....For all the talk of withdrawal and timetables, however, nothing like that is likely to happen....American and Iraqi military and diplomatic officials insist that a residual U.S. force of considerable size is likely to remain for the medium to long term, as will the U.S. bases in Iraq that Democrats over the last two years have insisted must not be permanent...A good picture of the size and shape of America's future presence in Iraq can be found in a memo sent by retired General Barry McCaffrey earlier last month to the head of the social sciences department at West Point, Colonel Michael Meese....He has also been a reliable surrogate for the thinking of Odierno and General David Petraeus, who understandably have tried to steer clear of the politics of the Iraq war....In the report, obtained by The New Republic, McCaffrey writes, "We should assume that the Iraqi government will eventually ask us to stay beyond 2011 with a residual force of .. 20,000 to 40,000 troops..... McCaffrey's reasoning rests in part on his view of the Iraqi military, an institution he says has vastly improved yet still needs mentoring, equipment, and support from Americans on the ground. In his report, McCaffrey writes that Iraq's border-control service is "anemic" and that the army cannot currently conduct military operations without U.S. support and equipment. "The confidence of the Iraqi combat force is still dependant on US mentoring and backup," he writes. "Their officers are very explicit on this point--THE IRAQI SECURITY FORCES DO NOT WANT THE U.S. COMABT UNITS TO LEAVE--YET." The capital letters are McCaffrey's....
.....The SOFA clearly ends any legitimate claim that America's presence in Iraq is an occupation at all."
(having sensed the failure of the venture) "...Miss Rice said. "But this was not an effort to develop a common strategy." Qatar and Oman, members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, declined a U.S. invitation to attend Tuesday's meeting, Arab sources here said....At a regional security conference in Bahrain over the weekend, Omani Foreign Minister Yousuf Bin Alawi told The Washington Times that the incoming Obama administration should focus on talks with Iran...Gary Sick, an Iran and Gulf specialist at Columbia University, said the Gulf Arab "strategy is two-fold." "On the one hand, they are trying to develop reliable relations with Iran to preclude the sense that they are obvious enemies. At the same time, they are encouraging the United States to take a tough line."
"...A servant appeared with a bottle. Tenet knocked back some of the scotch. Then some more. They watched with concern. He drained half the bottle in a few minutes."They're setting me up. The bastards are setting me up," Tenet said, but "I am not going to take the hit.""According to one witness, he mocked the neoconservatives in the Bush administration and their alignment with the rlght wing of Israel's political establishment, referring to them with exaxperation as, "the Jews."
"..The irony is that the division between the West Bank and Gaza is hardening just as a growing number of international actors acknowledge that without Palestinian unity a genuine peace process, let alone a genuine peace, is unattainable. Changing the dynamics that have convinced both Fatah and Hamas that time is on their side and compromise against their interests will be daunting. At a minimum, it will require both a change in the regional landscape (through U.S. engagement with Syria and Iran) and a clear signal from the U.S. and European Union (EU) that, this time around, they would judge a Palestinian unity arrangement on its conduct rather than automatically torpedo it. Ultimately, the responsibility to put their affairs in order must fall on Palestinian shoulders. But the division of the national movement, which came about at least in part because of what outsiders did, will not be undone without outsiders’ help..."
"...Like other Islamist groups, Hamas calculates on the basis of a longer time frame than the next election, shifting public opinion, or whether or not it will be invited to tea at the White House. The single most important factor in the mind of the Islamist leaders is whether the agreement to renew the cease-fire reflects mutual respect and an acceptance of the principle
of equal rights for Israel and Hamas..."
"...Several US administrations have tried, and failed, to achieve Iran's strategic acquiescence by exploiting its economic vulnerabilities. It is time to approach the Iranian conundrum from a power-politics perspective. The Islamic Republic can be offered an opportunity to emerge as a leading regional state so long as it tempers its nuclear ambitions..."
"...The THAAD system deployed by the Emirates will become the very first such system to be operated by non-American personnel; other similar systems are already operational in Poland and Israel, but are operated by U.S. military personnel. The Emirati system will be under full Emirati control. The most likely threat on the UAE will emanate from Iran; accordingly, a number of Gulf countries are considering joining the Gulf equivalent of NORAD..."
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
"Throughout the U.S. occupation of Iraq, billions in tax dollars have been lost due to corruption and incompetence. Some of the most egregious losses have been via “American programs”:--The Coalition Provisional Authority delivered 363 tons of cash on an airplane, totaling $12 billion, to Iraq “without assurance the monies were properly used or accounted for.”--The State Dept spent $36.4 million dollars on weapons and equipment that could not be accounted for because “invoices were vague and there was no backup documentation“.--Top contractor KBR came under fire last year from government investigators for overpricing its contract by $2 billion, which, for example, included overstating labor costs by 51 percent.--State Dept. employees testified in May 2008 that the U.S. “allowed corruption to fester at the highest levels of the Iraqi government,” resulting in the loss of billions in U.S. tax dollars.--The use of private contractors, a major source of the corruption, has skyrocketed under Bush. The government has spent $85 billion on contracts in Iraq and other countries in the first four years of the war. “Taxpayers have been bled dry with massive misuse of public dollars,” observed Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), who has spearheaded investigations into waste, fraud, and abuse in Iraq.--Thus far, some $50 billion in taxpayer dollars have been spent on the reconstruction of Iraq, which anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International listed as the third-most corrupt nation in the world."
"...The Iran sanctions have placed Germany in a delicate position. The limited punitive measures did not achieve their goal of convincing Iran to give up its controversial nuclear program. In fact, they are even doing harm, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, said last week. "Many Iranians who even dislike the regime (are) gathering around the regime because they feel that country is under siege," ElBaradei said.Politically speaking, however, the sanctions have been relatively ineffective, as IAEA Director-General ElBaradei says.... The die-hard reactionaries surrounding President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are no longer the only ones insisting on Iran's right to close the nuclear fuel cycle. The reformers, too, have fallen in step with Ahmadinejad's hard-line approach, and they no longer seriously consider abandoning uranium enrichment..."
"...Israeli officials said the government will send the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau Maj.-Gen. (res) Amos Gilad to try to dissuade the Kremlin from supplying Iran with S-300 missiles - which would significantly complicate any military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.... The meeting was set up to try and persuade the Russians to drop two deals in the works - one to sell S-300 missiles to Iran and the other to sell them to Syria..."
"During today’s White House press briefing, spokesperson Dana Perino echoed President Bush’s claim that Iraqi journalist Muntader al-Zaidi’s frustrations are not representative ofthe Iraqi public’s sentiments. She pointed out that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki apologized for the mistreatment of his guest. When reporter Helen Thomas pointed out that U.S. forces are actually “occupiers,” Perino bristled:QUESTION: Why not worry about it? Does it reflect the feelings of the people?PERINO: I don’t think that you can take one guy throwing his shoe as representative of the people of Iraq. And I will tell you that Prime Minister Maliki and the journalists who were there in the room, who apologized on behalf of the Iraqis, saying this is not how they would treat a guest. […]QUESTION: But he wasn’t a guest. We’re occupiers.PERINO: No, we’re not. We are absolutely a guest."
(... and the black eye..)
إفلات الرئيس جورج بوش من قذيفة الحذاء المزدوجة، لا تعني ان الصحافي العراقي منتظر الزيدي اخطأ الهدف. فقذف الرئيس بـ «القندرة» لم يكن بقص جرحه أو قتله، بل إهانته. وهذه الأخيرة تمت على خير ما يرام. كان المقصود ان ترتبط
آخر زيارة لزعيم الغزو الاميركي للعراق بهذه الإهانة. وكان المطلوب ان تفهم الادارة الجديدة ان الاتفاق الأمني لا يستحق سوى قذفه بـ «الجزمة»، ناهيك عن ان المشهد فضح الدعاية الكاذبة التي يمارسها السياسيون الاميركيون والعراقيون لتسويق اتفاق الإذعان وتكريس الاحتلال. ولك ان تتخيل مشاعر الشعب الاميركي وهو يرى الطريقة التي تم فيها وداع الرئيس بوش، وفي قاعة تعج بالصحافيين والسياسيين ونخبة المجتمع العراقي. كان المشهد نهاية مزرية لحقبةمزرية.
"...The Saudi operation began three months ago with preemptive raids by Saudi security forces on suspected al-Qaida cells, according to a former senior CIA official. Several hundred suspects were taken into custody, he said. (Apparently ...)..."The number of al-Qaida in Saudi Arabia isn't very large, but they are just as lethal as ever," said a former senior U.S. intelligence official. Several U.S. officials said that al-Qaida is withering within the kingdom thanks to repeated defeats and continual assaults by Saudi security sources.... According to Ghamdi, 9,000 al-Qaida suspects have been arrested and another 3,106 remain in detention. ...Said Cordesman: "The fact is that al-Qaida has not enjoyed a major success [in the kingdom] since 2003," when it launched a series of suicide bombings. Thanks to the intensity of current Saudi efforts directed against the group, "the place today is a lot more relaxed, "
"...A senior Lebanese Defense Ministry official was also quoted by local media as saying that there would be "no political conditions" attached to arms deals between Lebanon and Russia. The United States has provided military assistance to Lebanon to help the fractured Middle East state fight terrorism and resist the Hezbollah Shiite military group Some Pentagon and State Department officials have expressed concern about extensive military aid to a country where Hezbollah, which has close ties to Syria and Iran, continues to play an important role. Israel has also been lobbying against heavy weapons supplies to Lebanon, fearing they might eventually be used against it..."
(Murr, with the nose job, toasts the 'acquisition')
Monday, December 15, 2008
MATTHEWS: "Arabs ready with sweet tea and a shoe ...a joke" DERGHAM: "Despicable act ... it's against Arab Hospitality ..disgraced...embarassed..."
Chris Matthews, who has the intellect of a cucumber, hosted Raghida Dergham, MSNBC contributor and another fellow who had nothing else to do. The topic: Flying Footwear. Matthews who started off with such pearls as "what is with Arabs always ready ... drinking sweet tea ... with a shoe ... we look at you and joke here ... why don't you hold it against the looting Assads in Syria .. and not our flag...."Now if that did not put you in a a refelective mood, and made you all fuzzy inside, wait until you hear what Dergham commented on the shoe episode:As a journalist "I was offended ... a despicable act ... I was embarassed ... we do not raise shoes ... it's against the Hospitality of the Arabs..."And when pressed by Matthews to get a numerical sense of the "Arab Street":"... the street is 60/40 because of the anger ... whereas the 'elites' are 50/50... BUT the Iraqis are saying 'thank you General Petraeus'... the state run TV of Syria made the shoe thrower a national hero... the Hezbollahs of the world ... but the the 'professionals' are disgraced..."
"...Falk, an American Jew, arrived at Ben Gurion Airport with his entourage Sunday to compile a report on the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories, .....was barred from entering the country on Sunday after the Foreign Ministry charged him with "legitimizing Hamas terrorism" and "drawing shameful comparisons to the Holocaust."
Hassan Nasrallah appeals to Egypt to open the Rafah crossing, & to Arab masses to hold rallies in support of Gazans..
"... I call on Egypt's officials - this is not the time for bargaining. We face a painful reality. There are hundreds of sick people and starving families in Gaza. You must take a stand during these historic times."
“I fully apologize for all the mistakes that we committed when we were carrying out our national duties during past civil war years,” Geagea said. “I ask God to forgive and so I ask the people whom we hurt in the past.”..... He gained a reputation for no-holds-barred killing, including violence against rival Christians.....
Although many of his Christian and Muslim rivals acknowledge the speech as important, they say he continues to practice divisive politics, emphasizing Christian grievances and suffering, that could drag the country back into war."This is a courageous attitude," one intellectual close to the Shiite Muslim militia Hezbollah said of Geagea's stance. "But his current political ideology depends on fear, and his political outlook is in contradiction to his regret, and will not end the logic of civil war."
Early this morning, during a press conference in Kabul with Afghan President Karzai, President Bush attempted to paper over his previous declarations of victory over the now-resurgent Taliban. Bush claimed emphatically, “I never said the Taliban was eliminated.” In fact, Bush used the word “eliminated” to describe the state of the Taliban on several occasions:
September 2002: “The Taliban’s ability to brutalize the Afghan people and to harbor and support terrorists has been virtually eliminated.”
"April 2002: “With the Taliban eliminated and al-Qaida badly damaged, we have moved into the second stage of our war on terror.”
At other times, Bush prematurely declared victory using similar language:
September 2004: “And as a result of the United States military, Taliban no longer is in existence. And the people of Afghanistan are now free.”
December 2004: “In Afghanistan, America and our allies, with a historically small force and a brilliant strategy, defeated the Taliban in just a few short weeks.”
October 2005: “Over the years these extremists have used a litany of excuses for violence — the Israeli presence on the West Bank, or the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia, or the defeat of the Taliban, or the Crusades of a thousand years ago.”
"...It would be a rare move in recent years by the world's fourth-largest crude producer to tap investors for loans in non-Iranian currencies. The Islamic Republic is under US and UN sanctions over its disputed nuclear plans...Analysts say international credit conditions may make it difficult for Iran to raise funds and that financial and other sanctions on Tehran could deter investors. Many Western banks have cut ties with the country."
Reuters, here and here and AP, here (Note Bene: "The government said Zaidi had carried out "a barbaric and ignominious act"... That was the Iraqi government .. In the US however, people are fascinated by Bush's "reflexes" and the ansent Secret service.)
"Ryan Crocker: Former Ambassador to Syria and Israel Edward Djerejian pushed the possibility of keeping on a former member of his staff, current U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker. "He has a record of seeking out difficult assignments," Djerejian told me. "He knows the region like the back of his hand, [and] he works well with the military."David Satterfield: ...another career diplomat, David Satterfield. He currently serves as senior advisor to Secretary Rice on Iraq, and had previously been the deputy Chief of Mission in Baghdad .... as well as a stint in Washington as Director of the State Department's Office of Israel and Arab-Israeli Affairs.Frank Ricciardone:... has long experience working with Kurdish groups in the north of Iraq. He served as US political advisor for Operation Provide Comfort, an effort by the US and Turkish military to protect Kurds persecuted by Saddam Hussein following the first Gulf War. In 1999, he was selected as the State Department's special coordinator for the transition of Iraq, tasked with coordinating the overthrow of Hussein's regime with Iraq opposition groups.Richard Holbrooke: ....Holbrooke could use his experience mediating in the Balkans to help Iraq overcome its sectarian obstacles. Having evidently missed out on a place in the Cabinet, serving as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq is one of the few remaining positions appropriate to Holbrooke's stature. However, he lacks the Middle East experience of the other candidates, as well as fluency in Arabic, which is crucial for public diplomacy."
"...his appointment reassures the more Likud-friendly elements of American Jewish opinion, ....has a disturbing habit of palling around with neocons. He was, for example, a big fan of invading Iraq. He signed a report on Iran policy authored by AEI’s Michael Rubin that basically called for sham negotiations as a prelude to military action. At the Washington Institute for Near East Policy he has a number of neocon associates, including the odious Daniel Pipes.At a few stages during the campaign, and with some of his early national security picks — perhaps most notably General James Jones as National Security Adviser — Obama has indicated a desire for a bold new approach to these issues. Leaning on Ross as the major policymaker for Israel and its neighbors would signal the reverse — an approach to the issue dominated by caution and domestic politics in a way that would make serious progress unlikely...."
as per the "Inquiry Committee", in AsSafir, here ... and the 'perpetrators'" prize goes to, ISRAEL's allies in the Lebanese Forces, the South Lebanon Army and today's Cedar Revolutionary, Walid Jumblat, and "honorable" Third...
Le Point, L'incident aurait été comique si la guerre d'Irak n'avait été aussi tragique et sanglante ...Arrivé à la fin de son mandat, le 43e président se démène depuis quelques semaines pour tenter de mettre le meilleur visage possible sur son bilan catastrophique....Les Américains ont eu un rappel spectaculaire de la virulence de l'anti-américanisme dans le monde arabe, que l'invasion de l'Irak a alimenté......Il (Bush) a même trouvé "bizarre" l'acte du journaliste irakien, et s'est demandé quels pouvaient bien être "ses griefs..."
Sunday, December 14, 2008
“We had one meal today - khobbeizeh,” said Abu Amra, 43, showing the leaves of a plant that grows along the streets of Gaza. “Every day, I wake up and start looking for wood and plastic to burn for fuel and I beg. When I find nothing, we eat this grass.”
Lebanese Bin Laden sympathizing mufti: "..I would imprison all sectarian leaders & let loose the detained youth of Lebanon.."
However, senior government sources in Jerusalem said that the information they have received indicates that the new administration is planning a hierarchy of about five special envoys to various regions, overseen by a kind of "super coordinator," who would answer directly to the president and the secretary of state. ( Pegged for Coordinator: (sigh) Dennis Ross.... and for Mideast envoys (sigh) Dan Kurtzer, Martin Indyk & ...Colin Powell)
"... this was a victory lap without a victory: Nearly 150,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq fighting a war that is remarkably unpopular in the United States and across the globe. More than 4,209 members of the U.S. military have been killed in a war that has cost U.S. taxpayers $576 billion since it began five years and nine months ago..."
"...The United States could soon have reason to consult this cautionary tale of deception, waste and poor planning, as troop levels and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan are likely to be stepped up under the new administration. The incoming Obama administration’s rebuilding experts are expected to focus on smaller-scale projects and emphasize political and economic reform. Still, such programs do not address one of the history’s main contentions: that the reconstruction effort has failed because no single agency in the United States government has responsibility for the job...."
Saturday, December 13, 2008
"Targeting Israel is a poor excuse. It will not absolve IAEA of its prime duty to get to the bottom of Syria's nuclear activities"
"....His journey of self-recognition, from suppression to acceptance of his role in a despised war and traumatic massacre, may or may not echo a similar process in Israeli society at large. But it has struck a chord. Israelis are seeing the film in large numbers and praising its frank portrayal of life in uniform in a country that has tended to dismiss the psychic damage that can result from being a soldier in war.The film is both the psychologically compelling story of Mr. Folman’s search for his own past — his younger self — based on videotaped interviews he conducted and a scrupulous recounting of the massacre of hundreds (some say thousands) of Palestinians by Lebanese Christian Forces inadvertently facilitated by the Israeli Army ....The massacre was a scene of unspeakable terror in which the Lebanese forces, also known as the Phalange, entered the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps and killed randomly for some 72 hours to exact revenge for the assassination of their leader, Lebanon’s president-elect, Bashir Gemayel ..."
فيلتمان استذكر صدور القرار 1559 بالقول ان «الفلسفة وراء هذا القرار» كانت تقضي بتسليم حكومة لبنان مصير البلاد، على عكس «الاملاءات على الطريقة السوريةوقال فيلتمان ان بلاده «لا تسعى الى استبدال النفوذين السوري والايراني في لبنان بنفوذ اميركي بل تريد دعم الحكومة اللبنانية وتمكينها من اتخاذ القرارات». كذلك اسدى الديبلوماسي الاميركي نصائح الى السياسيين اللبنانيين بكيفية التعامل مع الادارة المقبلة وقال انه خلال فترة خدمته في وزارة الخارجية منذ الثمانينات،رأى ثوابت حكومته، ودعا اللبنانيين الى «عدم الاستغراق في عادتهم في التحليل السياسي الزائد عن حده لمواقفنا»، معتبرا ان حزب الله» وحلفاءه سيعملون على استغلال اي عصبية من طرف تحالف «14 مارس» في التعاطي مع المواقف الاميركية المقبلة.وقال: «لا تتوتروا فالدعم (الاميركي) للبنان هو واحد من الأعمدة الثابتة في السياسة الاميركية وتم نقشه في القرارات الدولية». واضاف: «ان مبادئ الديبلوماسية الاميركية تعتمد على انهاء الصراع العربي - الاسرائيلي... ثم ان اي ادارة ستستمر في معارضتها للارهاب وسلاحهوختم فيلتمان بالقول ان «حزب الله يخلق التهديدات لتبرير احتفاظه بسلاحه الديبلوماسي السابق ومدير «مركز سابان» في «معهد بروكنغز للابحاث» حاليا مارتن انديك قال ان التزام الولايات المتحدة بلبنان هو «التزام اخلاقي باستقلاله». واضاف: «اذا فاز حزب الله وحلفاؤه في الانتخابات (البرلمانية المقبلة في يونيو، فان ذلك سيزعزع الدعم الاميركي للبنان واعتبر انديك انه على واشنطن دعم «محادثات السلام السورية - الاسرائيلية، لكن من دون التضحية بلبنان وتابع: «علينا المشاركة في رعاية هذه المفاوضات للتأكد من ان استقلال لبنان سيتم المحافظة عليه وقال انديك انه اثناء ادارة الرئيس السابق بيل كلينتون، «كان الاعتقاد السائد ان سورية ستتوصل الى سلام مع اسرائيل وان لبنان سيتبع سورية في ما ستقوم سورية بالاهتمام (بنزع) سلاح حزب اللهلكن الان، حسب انديك، «اختلف الوضع مع مواقف تحالف 14 مارس واصبح نزع سلاح حزب الله مسألة لبنانية وعلى سورية ايقاف شحنات السلاح، فقط، التي تمر الى هذا الحزب عبر اراضيها وختم انديك بالتأكيد على ضرورة استئناف مفاوضات السلام بين بيروت وتل ابيب برعاية اميركية ودولية
(Indyk on the Lebanon-Israel border)
Friday, December 12, 2008
"...He knows that he must focus on the domestic front. He can't spend his time calling world leaders, he must get a grip on the domestic agenda because he knows: The American voters currently do not care about the Iranian bomb, they care about the money they need to send their kids to college. The people he has nominated so far understand these constraints. Also, every president has to fight the apparatus in Washington. His cabinet choices are more experienced in dealing with this apparatus. That helps a lot. However, it is certainly a sign of a considerable amount of self-confidence that Obama thinks he can control these experienced players around him..."
"...LeT operatives and supporters are particularly active in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, according to US Treasury department information released in the context of LeT-related terrorist support designations.....In 2003, he helped LeT leaders in Saudi Arabia expand the organisation and increase its fundraising activities there. Similarly, the Saudi-based al Haramain Islamic Foundation was designated as a terrorist-supporting entity in part because its office in Pakistan supported LeT....Beyond the terrorism portfolio, the need to secure the full-fledged assistance of our Gulf allies is most pronounced when it comes to Iran...The UAE, like other Gulf countries, is trying to perform a high-wire balancing act when it comes to Iran. On the one hand, the Gulf countries don't like Iran, fear the prospect of it developing nuclear weapons and would prefer not to anger the US. On the other hand, they would like to avoid antagonising Tehran -- the emerging regional power -- and they enjoy the benefits of strong commercial ties to Iran. Qatar's ongoing discussions with Iran and Russia on establishing a gas cartel are indicative of the uphill struggle the US will face in persuading the Gulf countries to financially isolate Iran..."
Outlook. The Syria-Israel talks will be shaped by a number of conclusions the Israeli establishment has reached regarding Syria:
EVENT: Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu yesterday told a gathering of 26 EU ambassadors that he supported talks with Syria, but that the Golan Heights should remain Israeli territory.
SIGNIFICANCE: The incoming Obama administration, in concert with European allies, is likely to work to stabilise the Levant in order to contain the instability threatened by troop withdrawals from Iraq and confrontation over the Iranian nuclear programme. Israeli-Syrian talks will probably be at the forefront of such efforts.
ANALYSIS: Since the end of the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbollah, Israel-Syria relations have fluctuated between concern over the outbreak of a confrontation and hope for peace between the two countries.
Tension and relief. After the war, which Damascus saw as a Hizbollah victory, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad felt confident enough to threaten Israel that he would consider military action or Hizbollah-style resistance to regain the Golan Heights. The atmosphere was worsened by increased troop deployments and exercises on both sides of the border. In the midst of these tensions, Israeli jets attacked northern Syria on September 6, 2007. Israeli and US sources claimed that the strike targeted a Syrian nuclear facility built with the aid of North Korea; Syria denied the allegations. Significantly, Syria did not respond to the attack. Nor did it respond when Hizbollah military commander Imad Mughniyeh was assassinated in a Damascus car bomb on February 12. In addition to restoring some measure of Israel's tarnished image of strength, the operations clarified that Assad had no interest in violent confrontation with Israel and demonstrated his ability to control both his military-security establishment and his angry public.
Tentative steps. In late April, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert sent a message to Assad via Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in which he said he was ready to committ himself to the "deposit" made by former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in August 1993. This was a reference to a note to the Clinton administration expressing Israel's willingness, albeit conditional, to carry out a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights. In May 2008, the Israeli and Syrian governments confirmed the resumption of peace talks between the two countries through Turkish mediation -- an unwelcome surprise for the Bush administration, which maintained its hard line towards Syria. The talks were immediately sidelined by an investigation by the Israeli police into corruption allegations against Olmert. What quickly became known as the Talansky affair snowballed to the point of ending Olmert's political career. Nonetheless, Olmert has exploited his remaining time in office to pursue both the Syrian negotiations and other dovish initiatives. The fact that Olmert is the least popular prime minister in Israeli history has helped him promote far-reaching political moves. Feeling unconstrained by public opinion surveys and acting with a grander sense of his own historical importance, he has broken taboos in acknowledging discrimination against Israeli Arabs, in mooting far-reaching concessions to the Palestinians, and in publicly acknowledging that the price of peace with Syria is the full return of the Golan Heights. Olmert's initiatives found support in Israel's intelligence and security community, which saw the benefits of drawing Syria away from its Iranian alliance, blocking Iran's influence and containing Hizbollah.
New administration. In January 2009, the new US administration will start its term in office, auguring a subtle shift in Middle East policy .While sharing the Bush administration's determination to contain Iran, the Obama team is much more sensitive to the negative consequences for regional stability that a confrontation would entail. In order to strengthen its hand against Iran, the new administration is likely to reduce and reorient its deployment in Iraq .It will also work to shore up the stability of the Levant. The Israel-Syria negotiations are the low-hanging fruit in such a project. While Israel-Palestinian negotiations are hamstrung by the complexity of the dispute, the fragmentation of the Palestinian side and the political difficulty of withdrawals in Israeli domestic politics, the Israel-Syria talks involve comparatively much simpler conflict. The Golan Heights is home to roughly 20,000 settlers, as compared to roughly 300,000 in the West Bank.
Tactical success. Syria is the immediate winner from the renewed talks with Israel :
- Assad reinforced his international legitimacy, freeing himself from the isolation of recent years.
- Syria seems to have extracted from Olmert a commitment to a complete Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights to the lines of June 4, 1967; this commitment will shape any future talks.
- Syria has as yet sacrificed nothing; ties with Iran and Hizbollah remain strong.
1. Genuine motives. It is now clear to Israel that Syria has a genuine interest in advancing the political process with Israel. This interest is based on a recognition not only among the Syrian leadership, but also in Syrian public opinion, that a peace agreement with Israel is likely to serve Syrian interests.
2. Uncompromising conditions. Syrian terms for achieving a peace agreement remain stiff and uncompromising. Syria is demanding the return of the Golan Heights in its entirety, including the Sea of Galilee shoreline. Exaggerated assessments in Israel regarding Syria's possible flexibility on this issue have been repeatedly shown to have no basis in reality.
3. No radical shift. Syria has not shown willingness to clearly and unambiguously distance itself from Iran and Hizbollah. Syria benefits from the strategic space created by the polarisation of the region between Iran and its opponents. At most Damascus has hinted that it would cool those ties, which one might assume would occur in any event once Syria signed a peace treaty with Israel.
4. No goodwill gestures. Syria continues to avoid confidence-building steps. The picture of Assad turning his back on Olmert in Paris in July 2008 dramatically illustrated this policy. This seriously complicates the prospects for Israeli leaders being able to sell an agreement with Syria to the domestic audience.
The Syrian position being relatively clear, the outcome of the talks will depend more on two other variables:
1. Israeli politics. Current polls in Israel suggest that the next government will be considerably to the right of the present government. Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu is best placed to become prime minister. Even though he has shown himself to be a pragmatic rather than doctrinaire hawk, the bulk of his party is firmly hard-line, comprising those members of the Likud who rejected former prime minister Ariel Sharon's policy of withdrawal from Gaza. A Netanyahu government would furthermore likely depend on support from other right-wing parties that would oppose an agreement. Even should the Kadima leader, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, form the next government, her coalition would likely depend on support from parties opposed to withdrawal from the Golan Heights. However, Israeli politics can be volatile, and much could change between now and the Feburary 10 elections.
2. US involvement. The extent to which the new administration is willing to spend political capital on Israel-Syria talks will be decisive as to the outcome. Without active US sponsorship it will be difficult for the talks to progress. The United States is expected not only to cover the costs of peace, including compensation for Israeli settlers, (see below) additional defence aid to Israel, and an economic aid package for Syria, but to exert pressure on the sides to soften their positions. Only overwhelming US pressure might override the imperatives of Israeli domestic politics. The pressing issues of the global economy, the challenges of Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, together with more mundane matters, could distract the new president from the relentless focus required to achieve an Israel-Syria peace treaty. The new administration may well be content with a tactical stabilisation of the Levant without investing the time and money required to achieve a lasting strategic breakthrough.
CONCLUSION: The road towards an Israeli-Syrian peace agreement remains long and difficult; a breakthrough will depend on the willingness and ability of the new US administration to spend its political capital on the talks.