Saturday, January 31, 2009

IAEA Chief: Israel violated international law by bombing Syrian site (Israel Radio)

El Baradei is trying to please everyone by saying this: As I have said before, he almost faced a mutny inside the IAEA, when over thirty of his lieutemnants threatened resignation over Israeli lies.

In a sarcastic remark directed at the United States, ElBaradei said that the US was also to blame for "sitting on the information" for a year and a half after the bombing."Now we are doing our best to try to see what Syria was doing, but it's like Iran. I cannot jump the gun and say Syria was building a nuclear facility because what we are doing now is trying to verify what was there," he added.

Israeli Advocacy Group Begins Campaign to Help Palestinians Sue Over Settlements

The violations include private and public building carried out without the appropriate permits or outside of approved plans, as well as the construction of whole neighborhoods on private Palestinian lands in blatant contravention of Israeli policy and law. Some 285,000 Israelis now live in about 120 recognized settlements in the West Bank, not including East Jerusalem. Israel says their fate will eventually be decided through negotiations with the Palestinians. Settler leaders routinely say that the settlements are built on areas defined as state land. Israel says it carries out exhaustive checks to ensure that there is no building on private Palestinian land.

But the official data published Friday showed numerous examples where Israel had not enforced its own laws.Align Center

Friday, January 30, 2009

More on the ........full extent of illegal Israeli settlements

Haaretz, here

"...Someone who is liable to be particularly interested in the data collected by Spiegel is George Mitchell, President Barack Obama's special envoy to the Middle East, who came to Israel this week for his first visit since his appointment. It was Mitchell who authored the 2001 report that led to the formulation of the road map, which established a parallel between halting terror and halting construction in the settlements..."

Hezbollah & Mubarak: Point of no return?

Al Akhbar, hereBlockquote
ورغم ان الجهات الرسمية في مصر حاولت منذ اليوم الاول لعدوان غزة إبعاد نفسها عن المساءلة ازاء الخطوات الواجب اتخاذها وخصوصاً لجهة فتح معبر رفح الا انها اهتمت بعد دعوة نصر الله المصريين الى الضغط على حكومتهم، بإظهار عدم وجود تجاوب لدى الشارع بما قاله نصر الله، الا ان الاجراءات الرسمية المصرية أخذت اشكالاً عدة منها:
اولاً: الاتصال بغالبية الصحافيين المصريين الذين يعملون مع وكالات انباء وقنوات فضائية من القاهرة وطلب الى هؤلاء إعداد تقارير تتضمن مقابلات مع مواطنين وشخصيات تنتقد كلام نصر الله، اضافة الى الطلب من شخصيات أن تطل عبر
وسائل إعلامية مختلفة لترد على نصر الله وتعتبر أن المصريين لا يحتاجون الى من يدعوهم للتضامن مع غزة.
ثانياً: جُمع كل الصحافيين القريبين من النظام وانطلق هؤلاء في حملة اعلامية تهاجم السيد نصر الله وحماس، كذلك طلب الى قيادة الجيش المصري المبادرة الى ارسال برقيات تهنئة الى الرئيس حسني مبارك لمناسبة الاعياد وتتضمّن إعلان الولاء ل
ثالثاً: العمل على منع أي متظاهر في مصر من رفع صورة لنصر الله خلال التظاهرات التي جرت، كذلك العمل على منع تغطية اي تظاهرات تبرز اهتمام المصريين بخطاب نصر الله بما في ذلك قمع التجمعات في المساجد.
رابعاً: اخذ النظام المصري بالاعتبار أن شعبية السيد نصر الله عند المصريين اكبر بكثير من شعبية اي سياسي مصري عند اهله، والكل يتذكر استطلاع الرأي الذي أجرته جامعة ميرلاند الاميركية بالتعاون مع كرسي أنور السادات والذي اظهر أن نصر الله يحظى بتأييد شعبي تجاوز 26 في المئة من عموم الجمهور العربي، وتبيّن لاحقاً أنه يحظى بتأييد اكثر من خمسين بالمئة من المستطلعين المصريين، بينما لم يرد الرئيس المصري نفسه في نتائج الاستطلاع بسبب عدم حصوله على نسبة جدية في مصر نفسها وعلى عدم حصوله على أي تأييد خارجها، حتى إنه تناول الاستطلاع لاحقاً على أن السؤال قصد معرفة موقف الجمهور من الشخصيات غير الرسمية، علماً بأن الاستطلاع نفسه الذي نشر في الولايات المتحدة الاميركية لا في دمشق أو طهران أو حارة حريك أفاد بأن الرئيسين السوري بشار الأسد والإيراني أحمدي نجاد يحظيان بشعبية تتجاوز 14 في المئة.

Tony Blair: "Hamas must be brought into peace process"

"...Mr Blair, speaking after talks with the new US envoy George Mitchell, says that Gaza will not be pushed aside because there are 1.25 million people there who want a Palestinian state. Mr Blair also receives a warm endorsement today for his Middle East work from Bill Clinton, the former US President. He says that Mr Blair and Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, “will work well together” towards achieving a lasting pieace..."

A Saudi Jihadist in Gaza...

From WIRED-DangerRoom:

"..Yesterday, an online jihadist magazine confirmed the death of the first reported foreigner to die fighting in the current Gaza conflict. Abu Mohammed al-Marri "came from a town in eastern Saudi Arabia, was a veteran of battles against Russian troops in Afghanistan and in Chechnya as well as against Serb and Croat forces in Bosnia," according to postings on jihadi websites, culled by AFP. He "arrived in Gaza 10 days before the start of the Israeli offensive."Afghanistan? Chechnya? Bosnia? What was a Saudi national with a Qaeda-like resume doing in Hamas’s war with Israel?

Jihadica comes up with 3 answers, here:

1) as a fluke - al-Marri had a Palestinian wife so he may not have been seen as an outsider; 2) as reflecting a decision by Hamas to allow in a Saudi or two to embarrass the Saudis, or 3) as reflecting a strategic decision by Hamas to accommodate more foreign volunteers. Only time will show which one it is.

Ajami: "Obama Tells Arabia's Despots They're Safe"

In the WSJ, hereBold
"...Say what you will about the style -- and practice -- of the Bush years, the autocracies were on notice for the first five or six years of George. W. Bush's presidency. America had toppled Taliban rule and the tyranny of Saddam Hussein; it had frightened the Libyan ruler that a similar fate lay in store for him. It was not sweet persuasion that drove Syria out of Lebanon in 2005. That dominion of plunder and terror was given up under duress..."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Revealed: Recent U.S.-Iran nuclear talks involved key officials

Laura Rosen in her new FP page, here
"...A person familiar with the Pugwash U.S.-Iran meetings declined to speak on the record or provide many details, except to confirm Perry's participation and say that they involved four meetings in different cities in Europe over the past year. They were among the most interesting and most valuable of such meetings that have occurred, The Cable was told. (Another discreet, high-level Track Two dialogue series between the U.S. and Iran has been conducted by Thomas Pickering, the former undersecretary of state for political affairs and United Nations Association-USA cochair, who has cowritten about his experience with fellow participants William Luers, the former UNA-USA president and U.S. ambassador to Czech Republic, and Jim Walsh for the New York Review of Books.)..."

SOURCES: Ross will NOT be named special envoy to Iran!

W&P: "A contact says that "CSIS's Jon Alterman told listeners to a BBC radio talk show Thursday that his sources within the Administration indicate that Ross is NOT going to be named special envoy to Iran."

Obama’s Vietnam Plus?

[Via SST: here]

There appears to be a real possibility that Afghanistan could become, for President Obama, a repeat of how the Vietnam fiasco unfolded for Lyndon Johnson. An inherited war that the new president makes his own, the hope, fed by the Pentagon and the generals in the field, that putting in more troops would provide a quick victory and a triumphal exit, the conflict just grinding on, with more rosy promises by the generals (‘the light at the end of the tunnel’, victory ‘just around the corner’), and, even when he knew it was a lost cause, finding it impossible to pull out, until the unending war destroyed his presidency. Text Color
Obama does not seem to be getting good advice. What is occurring in Afghanistan and FATA (Pakistan’s tribal borderlands) is a Pashtun insurgency against a foreign occupation and the foreign-imposed Karzai regime. When devising a policy and a military strategy to deal with an insurgency, the first question that should be asked is: how widely and deeply is the insurgency embedded in the general population? If the answer is ‘Not too much’, then it is feasible to try and deal with it using a typical military COIN strategy against the insurgents, along with political and economic measures to win over the rest of the population. This is how the US stabilized the situation in Iraq after it stopped waging war against the Sunni population, and instead began to court, and even protect, it (it helped greatly that the remaining insurgents were mainly foreigners).
If the insurgency is well established within a large part of the population, then the above measures will not work, and another question needs to be asked: Are you prepared to wage war (not COIN!) on the general population (as the only means available to strike at the insurgency)? If the answer is ‘No’, then you must find a political solution to the problem. This was the answer of the British in Northern Ireland, and they finally did manage to arrange a political solution.
If the answer you are prepared to give is ‘Yes’, then the chances of success of the war you will need to wage on the general population will depend on the human and natural environment in which you will wage it, and whether you are prepared to invest in it the required time, resources and brutality. The US’s initial answer to the Sunni insurgency in Iraq was ‘Yes’, but, because they did not have sufficient resources to put in, their war was unsuccessful (in spite of some quite brutal operations, e.g., Fallujah). The same answer was given by the US in Vietnam, by Russia in Chechnya, by Pakistan in what is now Bangladesh, and, recently, by Israel in Gaza. Of these, only the Russians ultimately succeeded, because of the small size of the target population compared to the forces they put in, and the massive brutality of their operation. (Brutality by itself cannot assure success; otherwise both Vietnam and East Pakistan would have been victories, and Israel would by now have solved the ‘Palestinian question’).
If your answer is that you aBoldre not prepared to wage war on the general population, then your only recourse is to find a political solution. The Afghan insurgency is well embedded in the general Pashtun population. The US and NATO have said that they are not waging war on the Pashtun people. Yet, the policy and strategy that they are following is all over the place. They have encouraged President Karzai to explore a political solution, but are not prepared to face the fact that Boldno such solution is possible with the Karzai regime being part of it. They wage a semi-COIN, semi-war military operation that cannot defeat the insurgency, and merely results in driving more people into the insurgents’ arms. They talk of winning hearts and minds through development projects, yet don’t have the troops to ensure security for them, nor the means, or even perhaps the will, to prevent most of the funds going into a few well-connected pockets. They have no agreed policy on how to deal with the opium industry (the world’s largest), which bankrolls the insurgency (but is also the sole means of livelihood for large numbers of people).
Now, the argument that his advisers and the generals seem to have sold to Obama is: Sure, we all agree there will ultimately have to be a political solution. But Boldthe Taliban have so far shown no interest in one, probably because they think they are winning the war. If we put in more troops there, we can wage more robust operations, while we get Pakistan to either seal the border or clean up FATA. After receiving some hard knocks the Taliban will realize that they cannot win, and will come to the negotiating table. This is delusional! The Taliban know that they can ultimately win just by keeping the insurgency alive and waiting out the invaders, as Afghan insurgents have done since time immemorial. Putting in more troops, or Gen Petraeus trying out his favourite COIN recipe, is not going to make much of a difference. This is not a COIN situation, nor are these extra troops going to change the force/people/area ratios to any significant degree. Also, the insurgent’s base in FATA can neither be blocked off nor cleaned up.
The only choice before the US in Afghanistan is either full-scale war on the Pashtuns, or a political solution that includes the insurgency (which is more than just the Taliban). Since the first is being ruled out, the latter is the only course open. The pre-requisite to any movement in this direction is to get rid of the Karzai clan, which has become a rapacious mafia, and is unalterably branded as Western stooges. For Afghans, the basis of the political resolution would need to be the expeditious departure of foreign troops, and a sharing of power among themselves. The US’s main aim is that, in the future, Afghanistan does not again become a haven and launching pad for al-Qaeda and other terrorists. This should be achievable through a political solution resulting in a loosely federal system that ensures that the Taliban cannot create a unitary state in which they achieve dominance, and gives other ethnic groups, and other Pashtun leaders, room to establish their own power centres. With the help of the ‘Northern Alliance’ provinces, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and its own proximate military power, the US can ensure that its aim is achieved in the new Afghanistan.
President Obama has to realise that there is no military solution possible in Afghanistan. Fruitless attempts to achieve one (or even to improve the negotiating position of the US or its Afghan protégés) will make much more difficult, if not quite unlikely, the only possible way out of this quagmire – a political resolution. It is either that, or a Vietnam style debacle.
If the war in Afghanistan is not quickly ended, the situation in Pakistan is likely to become beyond repair. Pakistan could then become a far bigger security problem for the US than Afghanistan ever was or could be. Pakistan has been a reluctant conscript in the US war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban, in which it has been compelled to wage full-scale war on its people in FATA. The blowback from this (and the US war in Afghanistan) has added to the political instability in the country, as well as created a growing internal jihadi menace. Some settled areas adjoining FATA are in open rebellion (which the army has so far been unable to quell), while terrorist bombs go off periodically in the cities. The economy is in dire straits (an IMF bailout has just prevented its collapse), the central government is dysfunctional, politicians are lining their own pockets when they are not undermining each other, the bureaucracy is paralysed due to political meddling, corruption is
widespread, civil society is in disarray, the military is under considerable stress, while ordinary people are facing severe hardships in their daily lives.
All this provides fertile ground for jihadis to spread their message and further their cause.To turn this situation around the US must act soon. The adoption by the US of a political solution as the goal in Afghanistan will allow the Pakistan army to ratchet down, and then suspend, the offensive operations it is currently waging in FATA, which are quite unpopular in the country and also in the military. The ending of major military operations in Afghanistan, also unpopular in Pakistan, will deprive the jihadis of another emotional issue that they exploit. Freed of the distraction of the Afghan war, the US can focus its attention on the much bigger problem of Pakistan, and begin the difficult task of helping this pivotal country stop its downward slide into disorder and failure.
If the war in Afghanistan goes on for much longer (as the Obama surge seems to presage), then both Afghanistan and Pakistan are likely to become huge security problems for the US and President Obama in the not too distant future, much worse than they currently are. The shadow that would then once again fall across the land and over the White House would be not only that of Vietnam but, possibly, also of the collapse of the Shah’s Iran.


Brigadier F. B. Ali, January 2009

Brilliant Erdogan storms off Davos stage over Peres remarks on Gaza

AP, here Watch and applaude!
“For me Davos is over, I will never attend this meeting again.”

Blackwater Mercenaries Likely to Stay in Iraq, ...Never Mind the Ban

"...But why would the State Department want to do such a thing? Well, keep in mind that Blackwater hasn't had a single person un der their protection killed in Iraq. And it's not like there are tons of people with the experience, security clearance, and willingness to work in war zone needed to serve on the diplomatic protective detail..."

Russia and Iran Get Strategic

"...The United States falls into a trap in assuming that Russia doesn't want a nuclear- armed Iran. Russian officials repeat over and over that they have no evidence that Iran has a weapons program. U.S. officials discount that statement but shouldn't. The United States needs to remember that Russia has nuclear engineers inside Iran working with the Iranians......The consequences of the new Russian security strategy and the developing of a relationship with Iran are very significant. Incentives for the Iranians to agree to anything as a result of talking now have much less value for them. The Iranians haven't changed their behavior with over 30 years of sanctions. With the Russians as a strategic partner, there is no reason to believe any new sanction will be effective...
Another consequence of what we're seeing is an even greater separation between the objectives of the United States and Israel with Russia in the equation. That will make progress with both Iran and the other pressing Middle East issues more difficult for the United States. Israel will have to understand that although the United States supports its security, we have our own interests in the region.Bold Israel must respect those interests.no reason to believe any new sanction will be effective....."

Mottaki: "We're ready to cooperate with Obama ...if..."

Reuters, here

Letter to Tehran, gives assurances that US does not want to topple Islamic regime

"...The US state department has been working on drafts of the letter since Obama was elected on 4 November last year. It is in reply to a lengthy letter of congratulations sent by the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on 6 November...State department officials have composed at least three drafts of the letter, which gives assurances that Washington does not want to overthrow the Islamic regime, but merely seeks a change in its behaviour. The letter would be addressed to the Iranian people and sent directly to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, or released as an open letter..."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Massive Hezbollah attack against Israeli target in Europe thwarted

"A massive terror attack against an Israeli target in Europe has been thwarted in recent weeks, Channel 2 quoted security officials as saying Wednesday. The attack, linked to the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, was foiled thanks to intelligence sharing between Israel and an undisclosed European country. Israeli officials believe that as the one year anniversary of the February 14 assassination of Hezbollah second-in-command Imad Mughniyeh approaches, attempts to attack Israeli targets around the world will intensify. Hezbollah's 1800 Unit is reportedly working on possible attacks inside Israel. Hezbollah leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, said: "The Zionists will discover that the war they had in July was a walk in the park if we compare it to what we've prepared for every new aggression," the Times reported. The report also stated that the Egyptian intelligence broke up a Sinai-based Hezbollah cell headed by Sami Shehab, a Lebanese citizen. The cell, which also included Palestinians members, had allegedly planned to attack Israeli targets."

Shin Bet and MI failed to adequately protect Palestinian "agents"...

Harel & Issacharoff in Haaretz, here
".....Sources at Southern Command and in MI claim that intelligence-gathering personnel both at the Shin Bet and MI were frustrated that in a number of instances, operations officers failed to adequately protect a source of information - namely Palestinian agents. According to one source, a number of agents were "intercepted" by Hamas during the operation because the intelligence they provided was used carelessly...."

"Stupidity & Luck"

Anytime I see Berlusconi, I have that sudden urge to ...gloat!

"We (Italy) are somewhat not in this mess because our banks did not understand
the last 5 years of finance and did not pretend to understand it, so they stayed
out. We are now in the spot where stupidity and luck meet."

For Barack Obama, winning over the Muslim world is going to take far more than just interviews and eloquent speeches

Geneive Abdo in Foreign Policy, here

"...But people in the Middle East, and particularly Iran, are not swayed by skilled oration and flowery language. If it were poetry Iranians were really looking for, they could always turn to Rumi or Omar Khayyam....

Is he going to reserve seats at the peace table for Hamas and Hezbollah, a necessary step for real progress? And, what does his reference to leaders who cling to power through "deceit and the silencing of dissent" really mean? If, as he says, they are "on the wrong side of history," is the United States going to cut off aid and demand free elections and an end to repression and human rights violations carried out by nearly every Arab regime? Or will he revert to business as usual, like all his predecessors have done?

If the Arab street protests across the region over Gaza -- which in number and rage were unprecedented -- prove anything, it is that Arab regimes are more vulnerable than ever to real dissent and upheaval. There are now opposition movements mobilizing people, such as laborers, members of the underclass, and a new generation of young activists, who in the past never cared about politics. Can the United States afford to further destabilize these regimes?

Arabs and Iranians are relieved to know that Obama is not an ideologue like his predecessor. But as much as he is a visionary, he is also a pragmatist. They worry that the weight of the foreign-policy establishment in Washington and the realities of geopolitics will crush his ambitions -- and theirs in the process."

"Who do you work for, Doctor Hizbullah?"

YNetnews, with the help of a few friends (Hussein Abdul Hussein) wonders about Filka-Israel (the blog)
"...However, in Lebanon the doctor is well-known, albeit by another name: Bnay Simon is apparently a pseudonym for Khodor Awarkeh, who is a regular contributor to the pro-Syrian news websites Aksalser and Champress. Lebanese sources (exclusively in M14) have already associated him with the Syrian Social Nationalist Party ..."

Aboul Gheit warns Europeans against sending a flotilla of ships to counter smuggling off the coast of Gaza

"...Barak was scheduled to travel to Washington Wednesday night for talks with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on arms smuggling, and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana arrived in Israel for talks Tuesday, after discussing the issue with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit in Cairo Tuesday.
Aboul Gheit warned the Europeans against sending a flotilla of ships to counter smuggling off the coast of Gaza. "You must understand Arab and Muslim feelings," he said. "I urge you to look and consider this ... because it might have consequences in Palestinian and Arab relations with you." The Egyptian minister said Israel, not Europe, should undertake the effort to stop the smuggling..."

Top US Official: "There's no way and no chance to stop the Iranian nuclear program,"

..., says Republican U.S. Congressman and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra, .. in Haaretz, here
The Congressman, who has access to top secret information, indicated that an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities would be "incredibly difficult and complex." Regarding the U.S army's Strategic Studies Institute's assessment that Iran will obtain enough enriched uranium to build a nuclear bomb before the end of the year, Hoekstra stated that "Our information is limited. What we know is that they are committed to producing nuclear arms, we know of their intentions to develop capabilities to launch nuclear arms and that their technological knowledge in the field of developing and manufacturing missiles continues to improve."

"..Armor-piercing bombs decreasing sharply in Iraq, & increasing in Afghanistan.."

In WIRED's DangerRoom, here

Q Yes. Do you have any evidence that there are more or fewer Iranian-made weapons going into Iraq?...

MR. MORRELL: I don't have a strong indication of whether there are more or less, but I think we see persistent evidence that there continues to be Iranian support of special groups who are trying to undermine peace and security in Afghanistan. Whether it be through training or the supply of weapons such as EFPs. Frankly --

Q Afghanistan?

MR. MORRELL: You're asking Iraq.

Q : I was asking about Iraq.

MR. MORRELL: Iraq.

(Cross Talk.)

MR. MORRELL: Okay. I did that last week, too, and I apologize, but it wasn't a Freudian slip. Actually, we have seen evidence, obviously, of it in Afghanistan, as well -- or perhaps it was a slip, but it was deliberate.

It's possible that Morrell was referring to other Iranian help to Afghanistan, but he made no attempt to correct the statement about the supply of weapons such as EFPs in that country. So, perhaps, this is his way of letting us know that the threat is there, even if it isn't being reported. (Of course the EFPs in Afghanistan may also be home made; Hamas, Hezbollah and even the IRA have made them in the past, and information gets exchanged.)

Fillon: La France retirera sa troupe martime du Liban

Le Premier Ministre français, François Fillon a annoncé lors d'un débat sur les opérations extérieures à l'Assemblée nationale, le retrait de la troupe maritime française qui travaille au sein de la Finul.
Fillon a assuré le maintien du contingent français de la Finul au Liban-Sud, mais la France retirera prochainement les deux navires de guerre français qui participent à la Finul maritime au large des côtes libanaises.
Le PM a aussi déclaré que son pays retira cette année, 1100 de ses 2000 soldats français stationnés en Côte-d'Ivoire. Fillon a également dévoilé le retirement au moins de 1000 de ses 1650 soldats de la force de l'Union européenne, Eufor Tchad/RCA, chargée de protéger les réfugiés du Darfour.

"...From Nigeria to Sudan to Pakistan to Indonesia to the Philippines, .. most hate-driven violence is perpetrated by Muslims.."

These were the written words of Charles Krauthammer Blockquote(December 2002') who dared criticize Obama as "Conciliatory, but also apologetic and defensive, I thought needlessly. We heard him say that he we shouldn’t paint Islam with a broad brush. Who does?..." Via ThinkProgress, here

Hamas & Hezbollah: "Freedom fighters again?"

Zvi Bar'el, in Haaretz, here

"No other organization has known such reversals, it seems, as the Mujahideen Khalq. While France warmly embraced the activists, Washington gave them the cold shoulder. The American approach did not disturb the Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein. The organization operated as one of his arms, and he allegedly used thousands of these Iranians in his war against the Kurds.
The decision to take the organization off the terrorist list, which originally met with opposition from France, does not merely stem from the recommendations of the courts in Europe. It is a clear hint to the regime in Tehran, a kind of "sanctions substitute." It is also a warning light for Israel. The politics of defining terrorist organizations could also mean a new examination of the definitions with regard to Hezbollah and Hamas. Israel cannot be immune to the possibility that the European Union will decide to take "its" terrorist organizations off the list. Not because Europe believes that Hezbollah is a charity organization or that Hamas is the Arabic acronym for WIZO, but because Israel will get on the nerves of the EU. A kind of "sanctions substitute."

Haaretz: "The report that the ministry of defense is hiding: Construction without permission in most of the settlements.”

It seems that Haaretz selectively translates some of their stories, ignoring those that could be too offensive to their US readers. This story in Haaretz (hebrew ONLY) by Uri Blaumat, did not appear in the English version. Our friend Nir Rosen was kind enough to translate it grosso modo for us:Text Color
"...Haaretz obtained secret ministry of defense data that is Blockquotedefined as “political dynamite.” The data is hidden for fear that it can damage the state’s security and its foreign relations..Three out of four settlements in the west bank have construction without authorization or in opposition to authorization and in many settlements buildings and infrastructure was constructed on Palestinian land.
The ministry of defense began collecting the information four years ago because it needed reliable and easily accessible information to allow it to deal with lawsuits relating to construction in the settlements..The information collected was defined as “political dynamite” and the ministry of defense led by minister of defense ehud barak decided to prevent its publicity out of fear of damaging the state’s security and foreign relations
The information, which relates to all the settlements and not just the “unlawful” ones will be published for the first time in the weekend issue of haaretzBold
According to the information, in more than thirty settlements, including some of the oldest and most established ones, homes, schools, synagogues, roads and even police stations were built on private Palestinian land. The most sensitive part is called building without authorized plans in which are detailed the scope of construction without permission...According to the information, for example, in the settlement of Ofra, most of the construction on the settlement is on private land, without legal basis. The local municipality itself is built on private Palestinian land...'

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Michel Sleiman ... "the Decider" wannabe...

لكن لميشال سليمان حجته الأخرى في ما يقوم به. مثلاً، هو مقتنع بأنه أدّى دوراً مركزياً ومحورياً في ترتيب العلاقات بين سوريا وفرنسا، وربما هو مقتنع بأنه هو من أقنع الرئيس نيكولا ساركوزي بالتوجه إلى دمشق ومحاورة الرئيس بشار الأسد. ثم هو يعتقد أنه يقوم بجهد مرئي ومسموع في ما خص العلاقات العربية ـــــ العربية، ويريد أن يقنع نفسه ثم بقية الناس بأنه في موقع ندي مع كل نظرائه العرب ويمكنه صياغة موقف وسطي أيضاً يسمح بتلاقي المتخاصمين من العرب على ملفات تتجاوز لبنان حجماً وقدرة ودوراًلكن هذا الكلام يخفي ما هو أهم بالنسبة لرئيس الجمهورية. ثمة من أقنعه بأن سوريا قبلت به رئيساً لأنه ليس لديها خيار، وبالتالي فهي ليست في موقع مطالبته بالمقابل، بل هو يتصرف على أساس أن لمصر والسعودية في ذمته أكثر من الآخرين، وعندما يتاح له التعبير عن رأيه كما يرغب، يعود محتجاً إلى طريقة استقبالسوريا للعماد عون، ربما كان سليمان ينتظر أن يخرج الشارع السوري بعفوية أو بقرار لاستقباله عند الحدود ولا يفعل ذلك لميشال عون، إذ إنه هو رئيس لبنان لا الآخرون، ثم ما يلبث أن يتذكر أن سوريا اهتمّت أيضاً باستقبال مميز لقائد الجيش العماد جان قهوجي. كيف يحصل ذلك مع موظف برتبة قائد للجيش، وكأنه نسي كيف عُيّن قائداً للجيش، وكيف تعامل معه السوريون خلال وجودهم في لبنان وبعد ذلك، ثم إنه يفسر كل انتقاد له بأنه رسالة سورية، وعندما يكثر من الكلام عن العلاقات العربية ـــــ العربية، يتحدث كأنه رئيس لدولة في أميركا اللاتينية، وهكذا فعل عند انطلاقة البحث في تداعيات العدوان الإسرائيلي على غزة. تصوّر أن لبنان خارج ما يحصل، ونسي وهو قائد الجيش العارف، أن غزة موصولة بالرحم بالمقاومة في لبنان، ونسي أن سوريا هي المقر السياسي لقوى المقاومة ضد إسرائيل، اللبنانية منها والفلسطيني واعتقد لوهلة أنه يمكنه التوفيق بين موقف عام يدين العدوان، وحياد إزاء ما يجب على العرب القيام به لمواجهة إسرائيل.وربما أغمض عينه متجاهلاً أنه قبل عامين لا أكثر، كانت الطائرات الإسرائيلية نفسها وإيهود أولمرت نفسه يرتكبان الجريمة نفسها في لبنان، ولم يحرك العرب أنفسهم ساكناً، بل تورّط بعضهم في الحرب كما فعلوا في الحرب على غزة. ثم يعود سليمان ويتصرف وفق نظرية الحياد، تماماً كأنه عضو في فريق 14آذار، وكأن أحد كتبة هذا الفريق هو من نص عليه خطابه العام، الذي لا يعكس شيئاً إلا الاستقالة من دور لبلد لديه الرصيد الكبير في مواجهة إسرائيل، إلى حدود أن أمير قطر حمد بن خليفة اضطر لتذكير الرئيس سليمان بأنه رئيس لبلد قاوم إسرائيل وهزمها. ومع ذلك فإن سليمان لا يزال مقتنعاً بأن فعله هو عين الصواب.

CJCS Mullen: "..we have no legal authority to impound the arms found on Iranian ship to Gaza..."

"..At a press conference in Washington, Admiral Mike Mullen, who heads the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said although American naval personnel boarded the ship and found the weapons, they had no legal authority to impound the arms. He suggested that more stringent resolutions by the UN Security Council would be required, stating clearly that Iran is violating standards against arms smuggling... Mullen stressed involving Iran in solving regional problems, including the deteriorating condition in Afghanistan and Pakistan..."

Hezbollah & UNIFIL: The need for a more "robust" mandate!

"...One of the major problems, despite the explicit language in UNSCR 1701 calling for the UN to stop weapons from entering this area of operation, is that UNIFIL has no presence on the border between Syria and Lebanon -- the route used by Hizballah to transport weapons and materiel into Lebanon. Syria was the main opponent to placing troops there and threatened to close its border with Lebanon should the UN follow through with this proposal. When the idea was floated, Syrian president Bashar al-Asad announced that such a deployment would be considered "a hostile act" by the Syrian regime
The Lebanese government and UNIFIL both responded weakly to the exercise, even though it was clearly intended to demonstrate that Hizballah was in charge. ....The feeble UNIFIL response to the exercise is consistent with its broader pattern since 2006 of avoiding escalation of the situation. ....Clearly UNIFIL has not fulfilled its obligation of helping to restore Beirut's writ in the south, disarming Hizballah and other groups, or stopping the flow of arms. And now that Hizballah has reentered the Lebanese cabinet and reasserted its political power in Beirut, the issue of the organization's disarmament has been shelved indefinitely.... To change the cautious and ineffective nature of the current deployment, pressure needs to be applied to the governments contributing troops to UNIFIL. Fearing the implications of provoking Hizballah, however, it is unlikely that UN member states would be willing to more aggressively patrol southern Lebanon..."

CNN: Egyptian company "fed" the Israeli Army during the Gaza aggression

CNN-Arabic, here (as seen in Jane's Defense!)
فضيحة من العيار الثقيل، لا يمكن إدراجها إلا في سياق التخاذل والتواطؤ العربي، والمصري تحديدا، مع العدوان ضد غزة، فضيحة طرفاها البارزان للعيان حتى الآن، هما شركة "شانل فوود" الإسرائيلية، وفي الطرف الثاني، شركة مصرية تسمى الاتحاد الدولي للمنتوجات الغذائية" نجحت بشكل مذهل في إخفاء سرها الكبير، وهو تمويل جيش الاحتلال الإسرائيلي بالغذاء قبل تنفيذ العدوان وأثناءه، وحتى بعده؟!

Tired of "Saudi Arabia vs. Syria" ... Get Qatar!

WINEP, here

"....Since the breakdown of the 2000 Camp David peace talks between Israel and the PA, Arab leaders have differed over how to deal with the Palestinian issue. In one camp, Syria supports "resistance" activities of the Iranian-backed groups Hizballah and Hamas. In the other, U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Egypt support the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative ......Divisions between the two camps widened following the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, ...Saudi Arabia and Egypt led a diplomatic boycott of Damascus, a leading suspect in the murder. Relations deteriorated following Israel's 2006 war with Lebanon's Shiite Hizballah. Syria supported Hizballah, ..... In a bid to rein in Syrian and Iranian influence following Hamas's victory in the 2006 Palestinian elections, Saudi Arabia brokered a power-sharing accord in Mecca between Fatah and Hamas in February 2007. To cement the deal, Saudi Arabia invited President al-Asad to the March 2007 "Arab Solidarity Summit" in Riyadh. While the summit began with photos of King Abdullah and al-Asad walking together, holding hands, it ended in discord when al-Asad tried to add new language to the Arab Peace Initiative. Three months later, in June 2007, Hamas seized power in Gaza through armed force. Tensions between Riyadh and Damascus worsened over the standoff to select a new Lebanese president, ending in Hizballah's May 2008 temporary armed takeover of West Beirut. Adding insult to Riyadh's injury, Qatar's Sheikh Hamad brokered a deal to elect a Lebanese president and to ensure a "blocking third" of opposition ministers in the ruling cabinet (effectively giving them a veto), solving the Lebanese standoff on Hizballah and Syria's terms....

The turmoil in Arab diplomacy presents both challenges and opportunities for the United States. On Gaza, Washington should continue to support the Egyptian initiative, which calls for the monitoring of Gaza crossings by the PA and greater Egyptian and international efforts to shut down tunnel smuggling networks. The United States should also work to ensure that Arab aid is delivered via the PA, allowing Hamas to gain as little credit as possible during reconstruction. The Saudi-authored Arab Peace Initiative could still provide a diplomatic building block in the peace process, but was already suffering from a lack of Saudi commitment to propel it forward despite recent Israeli interest in its proposals. Egypt and Saudi Arabia are Washington's strongest Arab allies, but both Mubarak and Abdullah are old men, and the leadership transition in both countries could be problematic. Having the status of these leaders challenged by other countries does not help. Of the main antagonists Syria and Qatar, each presents a different problem. While the United States, at least under the Bush administration, was determined to curtail the influence of Syria, particularly in Lebanon, Qatar is an ally, providing air-base facilities and storage sites for military equipment. Qatar's diplomatic stance has long been complex, as it tries to
balance ties with the United States and Iran, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. Despite what often appears as deliberate provocation, Washington will most likely be careful not to irritate Qatar. Worryingly though, the Qataris appear to have concluded that the U.S. status in the region is declining while Iran's is ascending, and that Tehran therefore should be accommodated as necessary. "

Jim Jones' "opposition" delayed Dennis Ross' announcement...

"There is no question that the pace of activity has picked up around here," said one veteran State Department official yesterday "But, it may be quite a while before we find out if it means anything much different in substance." TheAdministration's most dramatic move so far, the appointment and dispatch to the Middle East of former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, may be the least
substantive.Text Color
With Israeli elections two weeks away and the formation of a government there perhaps taking another month, the regional visit by a high profile envoy, can be, in the view of a number of observers, little more than a symbolic trip. "The Mitchell appointment and trip suggests nothing more than a symbolic break with what is perceived as an indifferent Bush Administration approach," says one former US official. "What everyone conveniently forgets is that [former] Secretary Rice was visiting the region at least once a month during the last year in office."This former official contrasts the Mitchell trip with the more studious approach on the part of the other high profile appointee, Richard Holbrooke, who is seen as having a much more substantive assignment. Holbrooke's job will be to help create and fully coordinate US policy for the war in Afghanistan. Int he view of a number of observers, this is a model that Mitchell cannot realistically aspire to.
Moreover, in the scheme of Middle East priorities, most observers place Iraq and Iran well ahead of Arab-Israeli peacemaking. As the nearly three week war in Gaza demonstrated, Israel -- whether led by the current Kadima party or as many observers now believe more likely, a resurgent and more hawkish Likud Party -- is determined "to chart a more muscular course,"as one well-placed Israeli official puts it.
The Israelis feel vindicated by their strategy in dealing with Hamas. Although critics decry the
widespread destruction the Israeli military left in its wake ["They make an earthquake and call it peace," said one State Department official, displaying his knowledge of Roman history], top Israeli
officials say they have nothing to apologize for. As one key official put it, "No matter what we said over the many months before the Gaza attack, no one cared. They didn't seem to understand that
Israel couldn't conduct an election with eighty rockets a day falling on its towns and villages." They also disparage all critics, save those in the US. And here, support was widespread, especially on Capitol Hill where nearly unanimous resolutions backing the Israeli actions were passed by both the House and Senate.
This hard nosed attitude is clearly apparent as Israel focuses ever more closely on the growing Iranian nuclear program. With the Iranians running 5,000 centrifuges in their nuclear enrichment program, even some US officials now believe 2009 will be a breakthrough year for Teheran. Says one veteran USofficial, "Once the new team takes a look at the `intel' on Iran,they will sober up pretty quickly." If a number of Israeli officials are to be believed, including the likely next Prime
Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the new Administration may have a limited amount of time to deal with the emerging Iranian nuclear threat. Emboldened by their "success" in Gaza, Israeli officials now quietly but persistently talk about their willingness and ability to confront Iran militarily.
Meanwhile, the Obama Administration is struggling a bit in "getting up to speed" on its Iran policy. The widely anticipated announcement of Dennis Ross as point man on Iran [though likely without such a specific title] has taken at least second place to the Holbrooke and Mitchell appointments. One informed source says that the delay has been due, in part, to the opposition of National Security Advisor, Jim Jones. "The more special envoys there are, the less clout has the NSC," suggests one long time observer. Notwithstanding this kind of opposition, Ross is now
"packing up" for his imminent move, say intimates.

The first decision Ross and others working the Iran issuwill face is whether to press for engagement with Iran [A givewith the new Administration] before or after its June Presidential elections. Some fear that an early US outreach would vindicate hard liners like current President Ahmadinejad. They argue for careful coordination with allies and to seek a "window of opportunity" between June and the end of the year. Others argue that time is of the essence. That to wait is togive the Iranians enough time to stall talks, allowing them to make their crossing the nuclear threshold a fait accompli. In trying to deal with Iran, some argue that, given the current international economic climate, Teheran in uniquely vulnerable to financial pressures. "The Iranian economy is going downhill and may actually reach bottom around the time of the Presidential elections," says one long time Iran watcher. And this diplomat notes, that unlike their last bout of economic troubles in 1999, this time around Teheran does not have access to significant outside credit. This argues, he says, for a concerted approach in the second half of the year.
Meanwhile, US officials say that Iran is struggling to deal with its setbacks in Iraq. After unsuccessfully trying to block the US-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement, Iran has had to scale back its ambitions with its neighbor. "The hegemony they once aspired to is no longer within their reach," says one well-placed State Department official. This official admits that Teheran will never stop trying to play a significant role in the affair of its neighbor ["I'm not sure we should object, anyway," he says]. However, as the ability of Iraqis to manage their own affairs increases, Iran, in his view, will run the risk of a backlash from all but its most ardent supporters.
In Iraq, campaigning for the January 31 elections is well advanced. US officials there are encouraged by the process aswell as the anticipated results. Noting the abundance of "normal electioneering" paraphernalia such as balloons and posters; theregular gathering of "town hall" type meetings, some US officials are prepared to declare that a "critical mass of activity" --meaning no turning back -- has been achieved. As for the outcome, this too, in the view of veteran US officials, is awatershed. "They are running as individuals, people who can get things done -- technocrats," says one exultant State Departmentofficial.
That is not to say all is well in Iraq. The three Kurdish provinces have yet to hold elections [Although, here too, say US officials, previous tensions with Turkey over the activities bythe militant PKK rebels, have eased considerably]. One areawhere agreement still eludes the central government is Kirkuk,where attempts to find a power sharing agreement among Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen have foundered, at least on the national level.
Among its fellow Arab Leagues members, the Shia-led al-Maliki government has found considerable support from Sunni Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. However,
US officials are still frustrated with Saudi Arabia's reluctance to reach out to Iraq [They are more patient with Kuwait, given the "understandable" sensitivities of what Iraq once called its "19th Province"]

Likud Charter: "..rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.."

"b" at Moon of Alabama raises a very good point: "Likud is likely to win next month' election in Israel. Its leader Netanjahu promisses to extend the Zionist settlements in the West Bank. This against international law, the roadmap and other peace plans. So while using Hamas charter in an argument as being an obstacle to peace is clearly bogus, it is obviously justified to point to Likud's charter as the real issue. So why have I never seen this used as an argument in the discussion? Maybe people just do not know. If that is the case, please spread the word." At MOA, here

The Likud charter from 1999 as available on www.knesset.gov.il says:

The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel. The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting. ...The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.

NEW & Improved "National Intelligence Estimate-Iran"

In the WaPo, here
"....Reuel has a good idea. There is little that is as important as the truth about Iran. The Israelis have one view of things and the US intelligence community has another. Reuel undoubtedly prefers the Israeli view. Admiral Blair, not Panetta, would be wise to order just such a review as Gerecht suggests. What should it be called? Ah. Perhaps "National Intelligence Estimate - Iran" would be a good title." (WPL)

Jund-Allah kill twelve Iranian border patrolmen on Sistan-Baluchistan border

Al Jazeera, here

"Recognizing that Israel's effort to topple Hamas has failed"

Haaretz, here

"...the prisoner release, coupled with the reopened border crossings, would essentially constitute de facto Israeli recognition of "Hamastan," since it would bolster Hamas' grip on Gaza by giving it the image of a winner. It would also boost Hamas' popularity in the West Bank. Effectively, therefore, it would constitute an Israeli recognition that its three-year-old
effort to topple Hamas has failed..."

Gen. Qassem Suleimani is a "marked man"!

Captain'sJournal here and here

"....The only compromise between full scale conventional war with Iran and abject surrender to Iraninan hegemony is selective targeting and fomenting an insurgency inside of Iran and its security apparatus (Qassem Suleimani himself should be targeted, and he should know that he is is a marked
man). As for the words from General David Petraeus to General Qassem Suleimani, they might have been more effective had they carried threats.Iran has mastered the art of small scale, covert intelligence warfare. The U.S. will master the art as well if we are to be successful in Iraq and throughout the larger region. Time is short..."

Monday, January 26, 2009

"India threatened making Richard Holbrooke persona non grata if his mandate officially included India or Kashmir"

Laura Rosen, in FP, here
"...Among the Obama transition figures who attended the meeting, held as part of the Aspen Institute's U.S. India Strategic Dialogue: former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig; Kurt Campbell, the director of the Aspen Strategy Group who is expected to be named assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs; and former Pentagon official Ashton Carter, a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School.... "The message was clearly conveyed by India to the Transition and received," The Cable was told. "It led to a change in how Richard Holbrooke's mission was publicly described and unveiled."

IRNA: "Former German chancellor Schroeder on mission-trip to Tehran..?"

"...The foreign ministry spokesperson could not confirm media reports saying Schroeder's Iran visit was linked to an initiative by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier who was the ex-chancellor's chief of staff. It was not clear yet with whom Schroeder would meet in Tehran. German press reports said over the weekend that Berlin had not ruled out the possibility that Schroeder's visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran had been coordinated with the new US administration of President Barack Obama ..", in IRNA, here, via MOA

Elliott Abrams to Parachute to Council on Foreign Relations

Jim Lobe confirms this, here
"....will begin work as a Senior Fellow at the new Washington offices (one block away from his old one) of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in mid-February. ...Abrams, the highest-ranking neo-conservative left in the Bush administration when it finally decamped last week, served, along with help from Dick Cheney’s office, as the bureaucratic foil for former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s to give some momentum to the Annapolis peace process; tried to persuade the Israelis to widen their 2006 war against Hezbollah to include Syria; and no doubt steadfastly encouraged the Olmert government to pursue its Gaza war as vigorously and as long as possible. To the extent that U.S. influence in the Middle East has diminished, Abrams can claim a good share of the credit. And his strategy to spread democracy globally (and especially in the Middle East) appears to have prospered in a similar fashion...."

"Obama under pressure from Israel to attack Iran ...and tie that with Gaza & Lebanon.."

Baer reflects the debate between the "War Lounges" as seen in the triangular models ... and the pragmatists .... Interviewd by IPS, here
"IPS: Some analysts believe that attacking Hamas in Gaza, two years after the 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah, is a part of a bigger plan which will end with attacking Iran's nuclear facilities. Is Israel walking this path?
Robert Baer: No. I think that there is a military veto in attacking Iran. It's just not possible."

"The Laughable Saudi Peace Plan"

...says Max Boot, the hawkish commentator in his criticism of the Beirut initiative and of the Saudi regime, in COMMENTARY, here
"....It is hard not to laugh at a representative of one of the world’s most oppressive and intolerant regimes condemning the most democratic, liberal and tolerant government in the region as a “murderous… regime.” It is also hard to take seriously the prince’s professions of deep concern for the sufferings of Hamas, a terrorist group that is aligned with Saudi Arabia’s chief enemy, Iran, and whose destruction he would no doubt be delighted to witness.
This is part of the Saudi habit of trying to push new American administrations into being more “even-handed” in the Middle East — code for turning against Israel. Perhaps the Saudis really care about this issue. More likely they are eager to assert their anti-Israel credentials as a way to blunt Iran’s appeal and to bolster Saudi claims to preeminence in the Muslim world. It would be deeply unfortunate if, as appears likely, Obama plays into Saudi hands and acts as if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is (a) the fulcrum of the Middle East and (b) resolvable through more American pressure on Israel. Neither proposition is remotely true, as the new president is likely to learn to his regret before too long..."

Rice: "We look forward to engaging in vigorous diplomacy that includes direct diplomacy with Iran,"

Reuters, here

Obama: To move beyond the "uncritical endorsement of anything Israel does in its self-defined pursuit of "security""

"Let me be clear: America is committed to Israel's security. And we will always support Israel's right to defend itself against LEGITIMATE threats (emphasis added)." The inclusion of the adjective "legitimate" suggests that President Obama may be willing to take a significant, even critical, step beyond President Bush and President Clinton's reflexive and uncritical endorsement of anything Israel does in its self-defined pursuit of "security." (Hillary M Leverett, in National Security, here)

Kuwait will not channel its Gaza-aid funds through "corrupt & unfit Abbas"

Al Jazeera, here

Paris pousse l'Europe à avoir une attitude plus souple avec le Hamas... et cependant?!

"...Estimant que la guerre de Gaza a imposé de nouvelles priorités et que l'administration du nouveau président américain, Barack Obama, pourrait rompre avec la ligne de soutien inconditionnel à Israël, la diplomatie française tente d'imprimer, au niveau européen, un changement de ton à l'égard du Hamas. L'idée est de rompre avec l'ostracisme dans lequel le Hamas est tenu officiellement, et de l'inciter à adopter une attitude constructive qui permettrait un processus de réconciliation interpalestinienne, souhaité par les Européens..."
"La Commission européenne débloque 32 millions pour Gaza", also in Le Monde, here
"...Très critique à l'égard du Hamas, le commissaire a exclu tout dialogue entre l'Union européenne et un "mouvement terroriste" qui tue "des civils innocents" et refuse de reconnaître Israël. "Nous ne pouvons accepter que la manière dont le Hamas se comporte soit confondue avec de la résistance (...) Il a raté une opportunité d'être un interlocuteur de la communauté internationale et a été ce faisant indiscutablement un élément de la division du peuple palestinien." Ces déclarations interviennent au moment où la diplomatie française tente d'imprimer un changement de ton, au niveau européen, à l'égard du parti au pouvoir à Gaza.."

Israel "rents" drones in Afghanistan...

"...Now it appears that more Israeli-built unmanned aerial vehicles will be patrolling the skies over Afghanistan. Last week, Flight International reported that Israel's Aeronautics Defense Systems will rent out drones to Dutch troops serving with the NATO.
Flight notes one possible catch: Israeli personnel are not authorized to operate inside Afghanistan, meaning operators would have to be contractors from the United States or the United Kingdom. That is not entirely unprecedented: Some U.S. Army Hunter drones in Iraq, for example, are "government-owned, contractor-operated."

BBC & SKY News: The need to Marginalize the Palestinians!

"I am at a loss to understand this happening. While not being able to view the content of the ad at this time, I have heard and read reporting that running such appeals is a tradition at the BBC. It appears to be yet another marginalization of Palestinians as a people, as humans. If the ad was itself inflammatory, could it not be redone to wash any overt emotional appeal? Or has this whole issue now become so radioactive that we are asked to accept that Gazans should expect less from the West." (WPL)

Obama ready to cut Karzai adrift?

"...International support for Mr Karzai, who was once the darling of the West, has waned spectacularly, amid worsening violence, endemic corruption and weak leadership.... There is now talk of a "dream ticket" that would see the main challengers run together to unite the country's various ethnic groups and wrest control away from Mr Karzai. "The Americans aren't going to determine the outcome of the election, but they could suggest to people they put their differences aside and form a dream ticket," said a senior US analyst in Kabul....
Karzai officials had hoped Hillary Clinton, now the US Secretary of State, would prove their ally in White House. But those hopes were dashed last week when she branded Afghanistan a "narco-state" with a government "plagued by limited capacity and widespread corruption" during her confirmation hearing..."

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Michel Sleiman: "I will not be another Lahoud ..."

وقال مروان حمادة "سمعت من الرئيس ميشال سليمان قوله: "لن اكون الرئيس امين الجميل واقصف دمشق من واشنطن، ولن اكون اميل لحود واقصف العرب وواشنطن من دمشق"، لافتا الى "اننا لم نكن مسرورين بذهاب الرئيس سليمان الى الدوحة واعربنا عن ذلك عبر بعض الوزراء المقربين منه وبعض المستشارين". وقال ان سليمان "فسر لنا ان الظروف الاقليمية والدولية تفرض عليه الذهاب وكلامه في الدوحة لم يعجب البعض لجهة تمسكه بالمبادرة العربية"، مؤكدا ان الرئيس سليمان بذهابه الى الدوحة وفي خطابه هناك عبّر عن مصلحة البلد.

The Late Gen. Francois el Hajj, Michel "Unique" Sleiman, President Emile Lahoud ...

Bandar "walks like a Syrian" in Lebanon...

في تقليد يطابق ما كان يقوم به ضباط من الاستخبارات السورية في لبنان، تولّى الأمير بندر بن سلطان ومعه رئيس جهاز أمني سعودي إدارة ملفّ الخلاف بين قائد «القوات اللبنانية» سمير جعجع ورئيس مجلس إدارة المؤسسة اللبنانية للإرسال. وعُقدت سلسلة اجتماعات كانت تهدف إلى احتواء المشكلة، وذلك لما بعد الانتخابات النيابية المقبلة على الأقل، وفق اقتراح كان قد طرحه النائب سعد الحريري الذي يخشى أن تنتقل المؤسسة اللبنانية للإرسال إلى العمل مع فريق المعارضة، ما يؤثّر على وضعية 14 آذار في الشارع المسيحي.

"..In an effort to prevent powerboat containing US components from being used by the Iran Revolutionary Guards.."

(incidentally, this looks like one heck of a boat!)... In the International Trade Law News, here, via W&P
"...In an interesting and unusual development, last Thursday the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) issued a Temporary Denial Order (TDO) in an effort to prevent a powerboat containing U.S. engines and other components from being reexported from South Africa to Iran for possible use by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps navy. Because the powerboat can reportedly reach speeds of up to 65 knots BIS has concerns that the boat will be used by the IRGC navy as a fast-attack craft to mount surprise attacks. BIS noted that similar vessels have been armed with torpedoes, rocket launchers and anti-ship missiles..."

"60 Minutes: 'Who Are You'?"

EXCELLENT show by Bob Simon on 60 Minutes, encapsulates the manic zeal, the injustices and all the ISRAELI obstacles to Peace! Watch, here

"What he's up against are scores of Israeli settlements dominating the lowlands like crusader fortresses. Many are little cities, and none of them existed 40 years ago. The Israelis always take the high ground, sometimes the hills, and sometimes the homes. And sometimes Arabs are occupied inside their own homes.
...The commander declined to talk to 60 Minutes. "But we are talking to you now," Simon pointed out, standing outside. "Why don't you tell us what you are doing here? Have you lost your voice? Well they've closed the door now, they've closed the window so I guess if the children are going to get home now we have to leave, so that is what we will do."







United Against Nuclear Iran: Fuad Ajami, Richard Holbrooke & ...Dennis Ross!

United Against Nuclear Iran thanks Ambassadors Holbrooke and Ross for their commitment, service, and leadership and we congratulate them on their recent appointments to the Department of State.” UANI's site (here) via Jim Lobe

Dennis Ross & the "Jewish People Planning Institute"

".... is it an institution that should be the "day job" of the US presidential envoy to and for Iran? Should we be surprised if Muslims do not think Dennis Ross an unbiased American negotiator?..."...the assumption that Iran is an implacable enemy of the United States, and a country that is not accessible by reason on the basis of its national interest is a self fulfilling policy position. If Dennis Ross is made the US special envoy to Iran there is every reason to believe from his prior statements and actions that he will proceed on the basis of that flawed assumption." (Lang)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Netanyahu: "We're not going to redivide Jerusalem, or get off the Golan Heights, or go back to the 1967 boundaries,"

Interview in the WSJ, here
"..Netanyahu's gaze is intently fixed on Iran, a subject that consumes at least half of the interview. Iran is the "mother regime" both of Hamas, against which Israel has just fought a war, as well as of Hezbollah, against which it fought its last war in 2006. Together, he says, they are more than simply fingers of Tehran's influence on the shores of the Mediterranean. "The arming of Iran with nuclear weapons may portend an irreversible process, because these regimes assume a kind of immortality," he says, arguing that the threat of a nuclear Iran poses a much graver danger to the world than the current economic crisis..... Netanyahu mentions that he has met with Barack Obama both in Israel and Washington, and that the question of Iran "loomed large in both conversations."

White House counsel: " The President reserved the right to ignore his own (and any other president's) executive orders.."?

M Hosenball in Newsweek, here
"....A day before Obama signed executive orders closing Guantánamo Bay and banning torture, the White House's top lawyer privately indicated to Congress that the new president reserved the right to ignore his own (and any other president's) executive orders. In a closed-door appearance before the Senate intelligence committee, White House counsel Gregory Craig was asked whether the president was required by law to follow executive orders. According to people familiar with his remarks, who asked for anonymity when discussing a private meeting, Craig answered that the administration did not believe he was. The implication: in a national-security crisis, Obama could deviate from his own rules. A White House official said that Craig's remarks were being 'mischaracterized..."

Palestinian back-to-school day ... a sad roll call..

George Mitchell "worries settlers"

"...In the past, Mitchell made an indecent comparison between the war on terror and the settlements," the Yesha leader said. "Right now it's important for us to have a governmeJustify Fullnt that will stand up for our interests..."

"Radical" Sunnis lambast Israel...

...and, "Moderate" Sunnis discuss .... moderation!

Iran, running out of Uranium!

So, the London Times wonders whether the Uranium is for electricity grids or missiles ... The London Times for Pete's sake! ..."War-on-Iran" lounges must be putting up signs of "going out of business", .... in the London Times, here

"...Iran’s stock of yellow cake, acquired from South Africa in the 1970s under the Shah’s original civil nuclear power programme, has almost run out. Iran is developing its own uranium mines, but does not have enough ore to support a sustained nuclear programme. Any move by the Iranians to buy stocks of uranium from other countries could be interpreted two ways: either as an investment for what they claim is a genuine civil nuclear power programme or as an insurance policy for a future successful weapons project...."

"Take Up Iran on Its Al Qaida Offer"

Hillary Mann Leverett, at TWN, here
"...Instead of working to establish a framework within which Tehran could have made Al Qaida operatives detained in Iran available to U.S. interrogators -- as our Iranian interlocutors requested -- the Bush Administration insisted that Iran detain and deport all the Al Qaida figures we believed might be in Iran, without any assistance from or reciprocal understandings with the United States. (From the Bush Administration's perspective, this was meant to be a "test" of Iranian intentions.) In the end, it was the Bush Administration, not Iran, that rebuffed a deal which would have given us access to important Al Qaida operatives--including, possibly, Saad bin Ladin..."

Iran-US-flags.jpg

Afghanistan, Obama's toughest foreign challenge

N Youssef, in McClatchy's, hereText Color
"...The deteriorating relationship between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his foreign allies, however, is only one of myriad obstacles that Obama and his just-named special envoy, Richard Holbrooke, are confronting in Afghanistan,The Taliban are stronger than they've been at any time since the U.S. ousted the puritanical Islamist group in 2001...... easily replace the casualties they suffer, and they've increased their use of suicide bombs, snipers, assassinations and other guerrilla tactics while creeping closer to Kabul, the capital.......
the Bush administration failed to develop a coherent strategy to coordinate security operations in Afghanistan with international efforts to improve governance and provide schools, roads and other infrastructure.
Other obstacles facing Obama include the reluctance of NATO governments to buck majorities of their publics that oppose sending more troops or funds to Afghanistan..."

Israeli Officials: "recent policies haven’t been erratic and irrational, they’ve been calculated to appear erratic and irrational"

Israeli officials on the fastrack of hunris & madness ... in WIRED, here
"...Israel's war against Hamas was launched, in large part, to send a message to its adversaries: Be afraid. Any attacks on the Jewish state will be met with overwhelming, even brutal, force. Traditionally off-limits sites, like Mosques and hospitals, won't serve as hiding places. Enemy leaders will be hunted down and killed -- even if they're surrounded by their children and wives. ....Israeli leaders believe they've accomplished that task. "The Arab view is now that Israel is a crazed animal, locked in a cage, fuming to get out all the time," a senior Foreign Ministry official tells Danger Room, approvingly. "Now, it's the responsibility of the Arab leadership to keep the animal in the cage, by not provoking it."

Friday, January 23, 2009

Frangieh: "The Opposition is contemplating the candidacy of one of the four incarcerated Officers..."

سليمان فرنجية: المعارضة تدرس إمكان ترشيح أحد الضباط الأربعة إلى الإنتخابات
- قوى 14 آذار تسعى إلى التوطين ويقون أنفسهم عبر السلاح
الفلسطيني السني
-لا مصالحة مع سمير جعجع إلا بعد الإنتخابات .......سعد الحريري لا يتمتع بالذكاء الكافي ليخلق فكرة كتلة وسطية
الرأي العام سوف يختار في الإنتخابات وهو يتحمل مسؤولية خياراته

James Baker: Obama Has to Get Hamas Involved Peace Process

"you cannot negotiate peace with only half the Palestinian polity at the table. I would suggest an approach like we used leading up to the Madrid Conference in 1991. Baker further advised new president to engage Syria. "Syria's marriage with Iran is one of convenience, and if we assured them they would get back the Golan and normalized relations with the U.S., we might wean them from Iran.."

Christians United for Israel: "Mitchell is wrong for the job"

“George Mitchell has a reputation on his previous work in the Middle East as being evenhanded between Israel and the Palestinian extremists. And for me that means the appointment is bad because I don’t believe we should be evenhanded between Israel and the Palestinians,”

... and, Obama urges Israel to open Gaza borders

In the FT, here

"...Under its ceasefire, Hamas has given Israel until Sunday to open the borders. But many foreign donors share Israel’s concerns that the reconstruction efforts should not be led by Hamas, or enhance the group’s legitimacy..."

Olmert: "If opening the passages will strengthen Hamas, we won't do it," ....

"...the end-result of Israel's war, which killed 1,300 Palestinians and injured more than 5,000 others, was "more extremists."

Iraq asks MEK to "leave"

Moiffac Al Rubbaie made the announcement that Iraq was not going to allow its territory to serve as a springboard for actions threatening neighbourly Iran, at a joint appearance with Iran's Jalili... In Al Jazeera, here

Iran bolstered by survival of Hamas

Reuters, here

"Real vs. Rhetorical Change" in US Foreign Policy...

Greg Djerejian, at the BelgraviaDispatch, here
1) Don’t Let Afghanistan Become Your Administration’s Iraq...
2) De-Mystify Al-Qaeda, It’s Not All That...
3) Resuscitate the Middle East Peace Process, But For Real This Time...In short it is high time to cease the hapless by-standing (pre-Annapolis), or alternately, the empty spectacle (Annapolis), and instead roll up our sleeves and get to the hard work of forging a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace without a moment’s delay, and with relentless energy (without getting bogged down necessarily in a months long series of anti-smuggling discussions with the Egyptians, in large part a waste of time given factors such as these, rather than focusing on the larger strategic picture). Such hard toil can and likely will pay-off (see Camp David, Madrid, Oslo, etc), but only if all instruments of American national power are used, and focus, intelligence and intensity are brought to bear consistently from the Presidential level on down, with pressure applied even-handedly to get to the (so elusive, but not impossible) goal-line. ...
4) Iran: A New Paradigm, Moving Beyond “Carrots & Sticks”...Additional tracks should be considered as well, meaning beyond the nuclear, Afghanistan and Iraq tracks, for instance, Iran’srole in supporting Hamas and Hezbollah. This track should not be included merely to scold and berate, ..."