Thursday, June 30, 2011
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 3:00 PM
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 2:58 PM
"... Iran drew the following lesson from this: it would not be the Islamic Revolution that would advance its cause but anti-American militancy, support for the Palestinians and its new stance as the major regional power, which ensured security in the Gulf in a way that neither the Saudis nor the US had managed. This policy reached its apogee with the war in Lebanon in July 2006, when Hezbollah held its own against the Israelis and its leader, Hasan Nasrallah, appeared as the new champion of the Arab cause. But everything changed with the execution of Saddam Hussein some months later. This was seen as the revenge of the Shias, supported by both the Iranians and the US.Arab Shias are not an Iranian fifth column: Shias in Iraq and Bahrain have long understood the dangers of becoming instruments of Iran. They are Iraqis and Bahrainis first and foremost and are fighting to be recognised as full citizens of the countries in which they live. But, like Hezbollah in Lebanon, they depend on Iranian patronage in a hostile Sunni environment.Saudi Arabia is behind the elaboration of a grand narrative that pits Persian Shias against Arab Sunnis and in which all Arab Shias are regarded as Arabic-speaking Persians (as well as heretics, according to Wahhabi doctrine). This is one of the rare instances in which the foreign policy of the Saudi kingdom finds a religious justification - which also explains the ambivalence that Riyadh has long shown towards hardline Sunni movements, from the Taliban to new jihadists in Fallujah. For some time now, the Palestinian question has been marginal for the Saudis. It has registered for them only in that it has created a climate in which popular opposition has flourished among Arab peoples.The real issue, as it is for Israel, is the "Iranian menace". Here, the prophecy could come true: in denying the Shias of Bahrain full citizenship rights, Saudi Arabia in effect confirms their status as an Iranian fifth column.Then there is the neuralgic issue of Syria. The Syrians are the Iranians' main allies in the region and everyone, from the Saudis to the Israelis, would celebrate the fall of the government in Damascus. Yet anxiety reigns, because the consequences of regime change, in this case, are unknowable. The idea of a stable and easily identifiable national interest that would endure while power changes hands can be applied to Tunisia or Egypt. But would it apply to Syria? What would the foreign policy of a post-Ba'athist Syria look like? It is hard to say, because the regional strategy of the Assad family has always been intimately bound up with internal political considerations.For 40 years, Damascus has followed a strategy of permanent tension with Israel, so as to present itself as the defender of Arab nationalism. But it has also pursued a form of diplomatic realpolitik that has crossed no red lines and has kept several alliances in play at the same time. Bringing the regime down would put an end to this subtle yet stable game and lead to who knows where.A fear of the unknown paralyses all of the states surrounding Syria - perhaps with the exception of Turkey, which appears to be the only neighbouring country that is preparing for the post-Assad era. It could be that, when the dust finally settles, it will be Turkey that emerges as the big winner from the current convulsions in the region and establishes itself as the new pole of stability in the Middle East. Provided, of course, that it manages to resolve the eternal Kurdish question."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 2:43 PM
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 2:03 PM
Recall, NOW!A senior diplomat in one of Lebanon's 'transatlantic embassies' is involved in a vicious campaign against the new government of Lebanon and OPENLY advising the expats in his/her community to 'refrain from visiting Lebanon this summer.'This diplomat was best known to have launched a relentless campaign to undermine his/her former boss at the same Embassy where he/she still serves.
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 12:51 PM
"... "The political landscape in Egypt has changed, and is changing," said the senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "It is in our interests to engage with all of the parties that are competing for parliament or the presidency."
The official sought to portray the shift as a subtle evolution rather than a dramatic change in Washington's stance toward the Brotherhood, a group founded in 1928 that seeks to promote its conservative vision of Islam in society...
There is no U.S. legal prohibition against dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood itself, which long ago renounced violence as a means to achieve political change in Egypt and which is not regarded by Washington as a foreign terrorist organization. But other sympathetic groups, such as Hamas, which identifies the Brotherhood as its spiritual guide, have not disavowed violence against the state of Israel...
Former U.S. diplomats said the United States had to engage with the Brotherhood given its influence in Egypt."We cannot have a free and fair election and democracy unless we are going to be willing to talk to all the people that are a part of that democracy," said Edward Walker, a former U.S. ambassador to Egypt and Israel who now teaches at Hamilton College. "It's going to stir up demons," he added. "You have got an awful lot of people who are not very happy with what the roots of the Brotherhood have spawned ... There will be people who will not accept that the Brotherhood is of a new or different character today."...
U.S. dealings with the Brotherhood have evolved over time and officials have found ways to keep lines open under the cover of one diplomatic fig leaf or another."We have not had contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood," then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in response to a question at the American University in Cairo in June 2005. "We have not engaged the Muslim Brotherhood and ... we won't."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 3:32 AM
"... “I feel like we’re in a stalemate, and while the stalemate is not pretty — in fact, it’s ugly — it only works in the opposition’s favor,” said an Obama administration official in Washington, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Time is on the opposition’s side.”...Hama is a city whose name remains seared in the memory of many Syrians... Some residents said that Hama’s place in history had made the state more reluctant to crack down this time."We learned from our mistakes,” said a teacher in Hama, who gave his name as Abu Omar. Like many interviewed there, he agreed to speak only on the condition of partial anonymity. “To make a revolution halfway,” he added, “is to dig our own tombs.”On June 3, government forces and protesters clashed in the city, which is along a strategic highway linking Damascus, Homs and Aleppo. By activists’ count, as many as 73 people in Hama were killed, though Syrian officials said their security forces also suffered casualties. Syrian officials said an agreement was reached afterward according to which protests would be permitted, as long as they remained peaceful and no property was damaged. Some residents confirmed that an agreement was indeed concluded this month.Since then, some said, even the traffic police had withdrawn."The security and the army are completely absent,” said a resident who gave his name as Abu Abdo. “They are not harassing us at all, neither before nor during the daily rallies, which have been gathering day and night. There are no patrols. Life is normal.”...Syrian officials played down the idea that the departure of government forces suggested a void in their authority. Since the beginning of the uprising, the government has said that much of the violence has occurred in clashes with armed opponents and, indeed, American officials have corroborated the existence of insurgents in some areas in Syria.“Our policy has been that if the demonstrators are peaceful, if they do not wreak havoc or destroy public property, no security will harass them,” Imad Moustapha, the Syrian ambassador to the United States, said in an interview. “The universal orders are not to harass demonstrators as long as those demonstrators are peaceful.”Mr. Moustapha estimated that 9 out of 10 protests began and ended peacefully...“Everyone is stuck, at this point,” said Mr. Tarif, the human rights advocate. “The regime is stuck, the protesters are stuck and the opposition is stuck.”
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 2:30 AM
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
"Shell oil shipments to Syria do not violate European Union sanctions against the country. And the Anglo-Dutch concern’s activities in Syria are not at odds with guidelines for socially responsible business practices. Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal made these statements in a letter to parliament on Tuesday..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 1:09 PM
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:49 AM
Lebanon's new government must address Lebanon's endebtedness. Granted, the tractations and haggling will consume a lifetime, but there are instances where bold decisions can actually produce quick returns. The ill-famed Solidere has a huge swat of reclaimed (sea) land that borders the city center sea facade. According to conservative estimates, this swat of land is worth a mere $15 billions. According to inflated estimates, Solidere paid about $400 million to reclaim the sea. A responsible government with the welfare of the People of Lebanon should reclaim the reclaimed land, pay Solidere what costs it incurred + a handsome bonus ... and use the proceeds from the sale towards paying the national debt.
We believe that PM Mikati and many of his 'fiesty' ministers have this in their 'rifles scopes'!
CIA 'contacts': 'Wahhabis & Weapons coming to Syria's Islamists from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Iraq & Turkey...'
..."If Iran is involved in Syria, it's at a minor level like blocking the internet. At the end of the day, it's Syrian tanks, Syrian artillery which is slaughtering people ... I just see a general desire to frame Iran because of the nuclear issue. This kind of thing makes it easier to impose more economic sanctions [on Iran] down the line."
In another sign that the EU and US' main motive is to weaken the Shia axis, Baer noted they have not taken action against its enemies, such as Saudi-sponsored rulers in Bahrain and Yemen, who are also guilty of brutal repression. "We've taken sides in the Middle East. We've taken sides with Israel and with the Sunnis, from the US to the Dutch and the French. It's part of our cultural and historical background," he said... He noted that Turkey is also trying to weaken the Shia alliance in order to become the pre-eminent power in the region. "I'm still talking to my Syrian contacts and they are quite convinced that weapons are coming in [to the opposition] not just from the Sunnis in Lebanon and through Iraq but also from Turkey," Baer said....
An EU diplomat backed up some of his analysis.
The contact said EU sanctions will not work because Assad still has good relations with China, Iran, Russia and Latin America. "When you talk to Syrian diplomats, they are relaxed. Life in Damascus is pretty normal. We [the EU] don't really know what our objectives are, but if it's regime change, it will take more than sanctions," he explained. He added that the situation is more complicated than a simple struggle between the disenfranchised Sunni majority and the Alawite elite.
"We have reports that Wahhabists [radical Sunni Islamists], who are not necessarily controlled by any state, are coming into Syria from Iraq and from Saudi Arabia to create chaos. Inside Syria, there are snipers shooting at demonstrators who are not controlled by Assad but by the deep state, and other snipers who are shooting at both demonstrators and police," he said.
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 4:44 AM
Mother of All Conclusions: "Israel's capacity & will to attack Iran independently has been significantly reduced!"
Oxford Analytica; Excerpts;Impact
- Barring a major development that would alter the situation in Iran, it is highly doubtful that Israel will attack Iran this year.
- Long-festering disputes between the Israeli security and the political echelons over security doctrines are now coming out into the open....
- Israel's initial security doctrine was based on the assumption that, as a tiny country, Israel cannot afford a defensive posture, nor a prolonged war. Instead, defence spending should be directed almost solely at creating an offensive deterrent force that is capable of rapidly defeating an open-field offensive by massed armies invading on three fronts. Thus, for decades, almost all the country's military preparations were based on creating a technologically-superior and better-trained offensive force.
- That policy proved its worth until the intifada broke out in 1987, when IDF ground forces, against the army's will, were forced to create new units specifically charged with fighting individuals and small groups of militants in an urban setting.
- The public has demanded greater protection for border villages that have come under rocket fire from Gaza.
- The army was forced to double its spending on crowd-control training and equipment in the wake of the recent incursions into Israel by protesters on the Golan Heights.
- Iran's nuclear facilities are now so dispersed and well-hardened that the Israeli Air Force will be unable to destroy them all in one offensive blow.
- An Israeli surprise attack will only be able to set back the Iranian nuclear programme by a few years -- not destroy it.
- Hizbollah now has 50,000 rockets, which are also dispersed in hundreds of sites, which Hizbollah could use to pummel the Israeli heartland on behalf of Iran.
- Any Israeli assault could create a regional conflagration.
- the country will never be able to afford full protection against thousands of rockets because the cost would be too high; and Israel needs a credible offensive posture, both as a means of cajoling other countries to step up sanctions on Iran out of fear that Israel will attack, and as a last resort if Tehran is nonetheless on the cusp of acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 3:45 AM
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
'We are the relatives of the martyrs ...'
“If anyone decides to sideline the tribunal, Lebanon would have to confront the international and regional community,” Geagea said during a ceremony Monday night....... "There are over 30 judges working within the tribunal and any result is destined to be accurate, as these judges come from different countries... If there were any negligence or loopholes within the tribunal we'd be the first ones to criticize it because we are the relatives of the martyrs, ... This is a chance for those who committed crimes against great men in Lebanon to take responsibilities for their actions,” Geagea said. “So, why are we trying to stall it?”
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:48 AM
"... The Kusa defection is a classic case of covert confusion. The Libyan official had originally planned to defect to France. A French intelligence officer is said to have contacted him on March 10 during a meeting of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A French intelligence official met him again on March 29 at the Royal Garden Hotel in Djerba, Tunisia, and pitched him about defecting, promising residency, financial help and legal immunity.The French plan faltered the next morning after Paris demanded that, as part of the deal, Kusa appear publicly with President Nicolas Sarkozy when he arrived in Paris and denounce Gaddafi. Kusa refused, and initiated frantic contacts with MI6 representatives in London about fleeing there. The British first asked for three days to work out details, but when Kusa said he had to leave immediately, MI6 hammered out the basics in several hours, and the Libyan flew to Farnborough Airport, southwest of London.Kusa’s escape to Britain got off to a bad start. MI6 officers met him at the airport, but his visa paperwork wasn’t ready for several hours. The British weren’t demanding that Kusa publicly renounce Gaddafi, but they weren’t offering him immunity from prosecution, either, in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing and 1984 shooting of a British policewoman. His debriefing at a safe house on the southern coast was rocky, in part because of the media frenzy about his defection — with Kusa reading tabloid headlines such as the Daily Mail’s description of him as Gaddafi’s “Fingernail-Puller-in-Chief.”When Kusa’s passport was returned to him in mid-April, he promptly left for Qatar, nominally to attend a meeting of the “contact group” opposing Libya. He hasn’t left Doha since. The defection mishaps have been a “laughing stock” back in Libya and undermined hopes of other recruitments, according to one intelligence source.Whatever the NATO coalition’s miscues, the fact that Gaddafi’s circle has sent an emissary to Washington suggests that military pressure is slowly taking its toll. The problem is that because Libya’s tribal politics are so backward — CIA officers used to refer to the Libyan power elite as “the Flintstones” — a stable transition will be difficult. The TNC rebel movement still seems like a ragtag mix of ex-Gaddafi officials and Islamist militants.
If there’s a deal that can get Gaddafi out, end the fighting, unite the tribes and create a reasonably stable coalition government run by technocrats, the correct answer for the Obama administration would be “yes.”
(WSJ) - ISTANBUL—One day after the leader of the outlawed Kurdish PKK guerrilla movement warned that Turkey could soon return to "war" with its Kurdish minority, the group killed a soldier and seriously wounded three others.Fighters from the PKK, or Kurdish Workers' Party, carried out the ambush Monday in the town of Saray, close to Turkey's border with Iran, Anadolu Ajansi, Turkey's state news agency reported, citing the governor of Van province.The PKK didn't claim responsibility.... The PKK also on Friday claimed responsibility for an attack two days earlier, in which two Turkish soldiers were killed.
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:25 AM
The recent foreign policy headlines have focused on President Obama’s statement on Afghanistan and the Congressional attempts to limit US operations in Libya. Of much greater import to US policymakers, however, was the decision to release 60 million barrels of oil from the strategic petroleum reserve. While presented as a response to the shortfall of Libyan production, officials tell us that this was, first, a direct response to the failure of OPEC to raise production quotas at their June 8th meeting and, second, a move to mitigate rising gasoline prices in the US. With the Federal Reserve pointing to a continued soft recovery in the US and threats to the international banking system increasing in Europe, concern is mounting in the White House about Obama’s re-election prospects. This concern was reflected in Obama’s decision about the pace of withdrawal from Afghanistan which has drawn statements of disappointment from liberal and conservative analysts alike. The underlying rationale was not, however, a foreign policy one. As a State Department official put it to us: “We know we cannot please the two ends of committed opinion about Afghanistan, so we have tried to split the difference. It is clear, however, that public opinion is losing interest in the war. So we feel that we are safe ground in winding things down.” Electoral considerations will also be in play in the likely September vote in the UN General Assembly on Palestinian statehood. While expert opinion within the Administration remains divided about the substantive wisdom of this matter, lobbying by well-connected domestic interest groups are making the decision more subject to electoral considerations....
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 3:50 AM
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 3:35 AM
"Officially, the U.S. does not pay other governments for rights to military bases. The logic is straightforward: funneling money to the treasuries of foreign dictators cannot form the foundation of genuine strategic alliances. Yet, to fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while staring down the mullahs in Iran, over the last decade the Pentagon has come to rely in an unprecedented way on a web of bases across the Middle East. And a NEWSWEEK investigation of Pentagon contracting practices in Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, and Bahrain has uncovered more than $14 billion paid mostly in sole-source contracts to companies controlled by ruling families across the Persian Gulf..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 3:18 AM
Monday, June 27, 2011
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:34 AM
(Sunday Times)- "... So enraged were the townspeople at the blood spilt by the mukhabarat, or secret police, that intermediaries had struck a deal between the two sides. Four hundred members of the security forces had been withdrawn from Ma’arrat in return for the promise of an orderly protest. The remainder, 49 armed police and 40 reserves, were confined to a barracks near the centre of town. By the time 5,000 unarmed marchers reached the main square, however, they had been joined by men with pistols.
At first the tribal elders leading the march thought these men had simply come prepared to defend themselves if shooting broke out. But when they saw more weapons — rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers held by men with heavy beards in cars and pick-ups with no registration plates — they knew trouble lay ahead.
Violence erupted as the demonstrators approached the barracks, where the police had barricaded themselves inside. As the first shots rang out, protesters scattered. Some of the policemen escaped through a rear exit; the rest were besieged.
A military helicopter was sent to the rescue. “It engaged the armed protesters for more than an hour,” said one witness, a tribal leader. “It forced them to use most of their ammunition against it to relieve the men trapped in the building.”
Some of the gunmen were hit by bullets fired from the helicopter. When it flew away, the mob stormed the front of the barracks.
A fierce gunfight ensued. Soon, four policemen and 12 of their attackers were dead or dying. Another 20 policemen were wounded. Their barracks was ransacked and set on fire, along with the courthouse and police station.
The officers who escaped the onslaught on June 10 were hidden in the homes of families who had been demonstrating earlier, the tribal leader said. He and his sons and nephews retrieved 25 men and drove them to the safety of their headquarters in Aleppo.
Last Friday I watched Ma’arrat’s latest demonstration for democracy. Only 350 people turned up, mostly young men on motorbikes who raced along the main road towards a line of army tanks parked in some olive groves. Among them were bearded militants.
They shouted provocation and were greeted with stoicism. Local people said the tanks had not moved since they had taken up position 10 days earlier.
The significance of the low turnout was not lost on the tribal elders who have been organising the protests, hoping political reform will bring government money to their neglected town of 100,000 people. Thousands of ordinary people who had backed them were now staying at home for fear that armed elements would pick another fight.
Reports of gunmen opening fire at protests in at least four towns appear to mark the emergence of a disturbing pattern ..." (continue, here)
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 3:19 AM
Sunday, June 26, 2011
The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب: `Abdul-`Aziz bin Fahd: "This is very significant. A royal decree was issued in Saudi Arabia to relieve Prince `Abdul-`Aziz bin Fahd of his responsibilities 'according TO HIS WISH!..."
'On his Mobile...'
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 1:29 PM
"... Turkey's growing diplomatic anger at Syria has made Istanbul an attractive hub for the Syrian opposition movement, which has received scores of defectors in recent weeks. Beirut, which is less than three hours' drive from Damascus and offers easy access to Syrian citizens, is now considered too dangerous for anti-regime dissidents. "It is a clearing house only," said one Syrian activist who directs a network of dissidents across the border. "There are many ways that the regime can get to people here – they don't even have to be here themselves. They just use their proxies."
One Syrian journalist who fled to Beirut has told the rights group Avaaz of his capture by Lebanese military intelligence officers. The journalist says he was seized from a coffee shop in Jounieh, 25km north of Beirut. He said he was first asked by a stranger to step outside for a conversation, then seized and taken to a fetid barracks where he was interrogated for several days.
"During the days I spent in Beirut, some other Syrian activists were kidnapped and extradited to the Syrian security police," he said. "The Lebanese authorities have also captured the few fugitive Syrian soldiers who had fled Syria through the borders, and then turned them in to Syria, claiming that it had to because of the security agreement signed between the two countries."..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 2:51 AM
"... According to a senior government official in Jerusalem, the report criticizes the Turkish government and highlights the relationship between it and IHH, the group that organized the flotilla...The official said the Turks would like to soften the parts of the report that could cause a political storm in Turkey.
During the meeting with Ya'alon, the Turks suggested that the toning down of the report would lead to an end to the crisis and the normalalization of relations between the countries, which would include the return of the Turkish ambassador to Tel Aviv. The Turkish representative on the UN panel, Ozdem Sanberk, presented a new version of an apology in an interview to the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet late last week, noting that Turkey expected Israel to admit to an operational failure. Sanberk told Hurriyet that if the crisis was not solved, Turkey could lose its influence in the region....
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 2:45 AM
Saturday, June 25, 2011
"...What is Ankara so nervous about? There are of course many reasons for Turkish qualms about the refugee situation—not least Turkey’s careful cultivation of the Assad government in recent years, which has already put it in an awkward position in relation to the Syrian revolt (though it did host a Syrian opposition conference in early June). Largely overlooked, however, is the history of Hatay itself—a region that, until 1939, belonged to Syria and to this day appears as part of Syria on Syrian maps. Geography, moreover, seems to be on Syria’s side...Indeed, Syria has never officially recognized Turkish sovereignty over Hatay, and as recently as the late 1990s, Syria’s support for separatist Kurds in the disputed region pushed the two countries to the brink of war. Moreover, Hatay’s population has large non-Turkic minorities. There are Christians and Sunnis of Arab descent as well as Kurds; there are also Arab Alevis, a minority religious community that in this part of Turkey follows the same syncretic faith as the Alawites in Syria who dominate the Syrian government and mukhabarat. With this history and population, it becomes clearer why the Turkish government might worry that the arrival of tens of thousands of Syrian Sunnis could cause sectarian tensions to spill into Turkish territory...... there has already been at least one protest in the Turkish border town of Samandag by Turkish Alevis who are against allowing in (mostly Sunni) Syrian refugees to Turkey. With hundreds of Syrians crossing each day–and growing reports of Alawite-Sunni violence in Syria’s northwest—such opposition in Hatay’s border villages, several of which have concentrations of Alevis, could gain strength. (One apparent reason Syrians are crossing into Hatay and not into other Turkish provinces further east along Syria’s long northern border with Turkey is that other parts of northern Syria include areas dominated by Syrian Kurds, who have reportedly been far less affected by the crackdown and hence have not been compelled to flee the country.) ..."
"... On April 26, Mr. Obama and his advisers, alarmed by a report showing brent crude prices surging above $120 a barrel, concluded they should move to release oil from the strategic reserves held by the U.S. and other consuming nations.
In early May, Mr. Obama and his advisers decided to undertake a secret diplomatic effort to persuade Saudi Arabia to accept the move. Gene Sperling, the director of the National Economic Council, and Mike Froman, a deputy national security adviser, prepared a May 2 memo for the president detailing why that was necessary and asking him to sign off on outreach to Riyadh. The world's largest oil producer has traditionally objected to U.S. moves to release oil from its strategic reserves.
Mr. Obama called Saudi King Abdullah to discuss the issue, and pave the way for the arrival later that week of a delegation of senior administration officials that included Mr. Froman, Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman and deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin. The team went to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, and returned to Washington on Mothers' Day, May 8, administration officials said...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 4:15 AM
The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب: US and Syrian Muslim Brotherhood: "I can report to you that the US government has been in contact with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. In a recent conference held in London, U..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 3:24 AM
Friday, June 24, 2011
The WSJ's Bret Stephen is best known for views that are largely in line with those held by Israel’s Likud Party, which opposes Palestinian statehood. In an interview with the conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, Stephens described former Israeli prime minister and Likud leader Ariel Sharon as “the most significant prime minister Israel has had since the founder, David Ben-Gurion.”... Stephen talked to some of Saad Hariri's entourage, when Hariri visited Washington in May.
(WSJ)- "The Lebanese are a people who famously can’t agree about anything. So how is it that Beirut’s political establishment, soon to be under the effective control of Hezbollah (and under the influence of Syria and Iran), seems unanimous in its resolve to reappoint Riad Salameh to a fourth term as governor of the central bank?
On the surface, Mr. Salameh has earned his reappointment by providing Lebanon with the measure of economic stability that its politics notoriously lack...But a different view of the Lebanese banking system was recently afforded by the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Treasury Department, which in February designated the Beirut-based Lebanese Canadian Bank (LCB) as a primary money-laundering concern.The bank, which in 2010 had assets of some $6 billion, is alleged by the DEA to have facilitated the money laundering of a global drug-trafficking network linked to Lebanese drug kingpin Ayman Joumaa, who, the agency says, was moving as much as $200 million a month through the bank. The DEA also claims that LCB had ties with one Abdallah Safieddine, the Tehran-based envoy of Hezbollah, who "was involved in Iranian officials’ access to LCB and key LCB managers, who provide them banking services."...
In the meantime, it’s worth recalling the last great Lebanese banking scandal. In July 2003 the al-Madina bank was taken over by Mr. Salameh after it came to light that the bank had a $300 million cash deficit. It soon became clear that al-Madina had sidelines laundering money for Iraqi officials and their partners as part of the U.N.’s oil-for-food scam. The FBI also discovered al-Madina was the bank of choice for a Hezbollah arms dealer who once made a deposit of $160 million to the bank—in cash.But the most interesting revelation about al-Madina concerned its ties to the Assad regime in Syria, which at the time had its army in Lebanon....
In 2006, following the departure of the Syrian army, the al-Madina files were transferred from the central bank to the Ministry of Justice (controlled by the US allies in March14). Two bank officials were arrested and jailed on charges of misappropriating funds; the rest of the case, including the money-laundering side, was left to languish in memory...
Fortunately, the Societe Generale takeover isn’t a done deal. Sources tell me that advisers on the acquisition have raised thorny questions about a number of suspicious accounts held by the LCB bank. Questions are even being raised in the Lebanese press about the desirability of having as a central banker a man "who can be accepted by Damascus, Washington, Paris, Riyadh and Tehran."
Those questions should be pressed harder. Lebanon is girding for the unsealing of indictments by a U.N. tribunal in the case of Hariri’s murder, which is widely expected to implicate Hezbollah and maybe also the Assad regime. The incoming Lebanese government of Prime Minster Najib Miqati is planning a unified stand against the tribunal. The West has staked a great deal on seeing that tribunal succeed. Applying maximum scrutiny to Lebanon’s banks is one way of reminding the country’s politicians that there may yet be a price to be paid for making common cause with Hezbollah."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 12:15 PM
UNITED NATIONS — Oscar-winning film director Woody Allen on Thursday joined two Nobel prize winners in a petition demanding that the UN Security Council condemn the Syrian government crackdown on opposition protests, organizers said Thursday.
Allen, Nobel literature prize winners Wole Soyinka of Nigeria and Orhan Pamuk of Turkey and leading writers such as Salman Rushdie, Umberto Eco and Bernard-Henri Levy are all calling for a UN resolution.An open letter on Syria was started by Levy on his Regle du Jeu (Rules of the Game) web site. The letter says demonstrators in Syria have "faced a death machine aware of the heavy price they would pay." The signatories say it would be "tragic and morally unacceptable" for the Security Council to do nothing.
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:08 AM
'The rise of a “democratic” Muslim Brotherhood with the support of the West would mean that Syria no longer belongs to the Shiite bloc'
"...Iran-Syria relations teach a significant lesson for understanding the balances in the region. During the Iraq-Iran war, Khomeini’s Iran established a strategic alliance with Syria. Rapprochement with Iran was a sign that Syria was prepared to sacrifice Saddam’s Iraq. Iran rewarded this by providing Syria 1 billion dollars worth of free oil and commercial privileges. In return, Syria let Iran’s Revolutionary Guards move to Lebanon in order to train Hezbollah. In this way, Iran, exhilarated by the Islamic revolution, was now able to reach the Israeli border. No longer suffering from diplomatic isolation, Iran responded to NATO-member Turkey’s rapprochement with Iraq by first inviting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, to its own land and then allowing them to move to northern Iraq. The Syria-Iran relations of the past continue up to this day, despite minor crises.
The rise to power of a “democratic” Muslim Brotherhood with the mediatized and psychological support of the West would mean that Syria will no longer belong to the Shiite bloc. Losing an ally like Syria would force Iran to lose a highly important geopolitical space and also instigate serious psychological trauma. Under such circumstances, Turkey will most likely leave aside the politics of balancing and begin to embrace its role as a new member of the Sunni bloc. It would be no surprise at all if Turkey-Iran relations acquired a new shape in the near future. "
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 3:37 AM
"..."The State Atomic Energy Corporation ROSATOM and our subsidiaries had suffered a great loss," the Russian agency said on its website Wedneesday. "Five senior staff from three of our subsidiary enterprises were among the 45 people who died in a plane crash in Russia's north-western republic of Karelia on 20 June.
The RusAir Tupelev-134 passenger jet, which took off from Moscow's Domodedova airport, crashed on approach to the Petrozavodsk airport late Monday, killing 45 of the 53 passengers and crew members aboard.
Among the dead were the following scientists employed at Rosatom subsidiaries: Sergey Ryzhov, director and general designer of OKB Gidropress; Banyuk Gennady Fedorovich, deputy director and chief designer of OKB Gidropress; Nikolai Trunov, head of department and chief designer of OKB Gidropress; Andrei Trofimov, chief technologist of OKBM Afrikantov; and Valery Lyalin, head of the technology department of AtomEnergoMash ..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 3:16 AM
Thursday, June 23, 2011
January 24, 2011
The Honorable Barack H. Obama
Dear Mr. President,
We write to you in light of the breakdown of Middle East peace talks following your most recent efforts to get the parties to resume negotiations for a two-state accord.
We believe this latest impasse once again confirms the impossibility of getting the parties to reach an agreement on their own. Left to their own devices, it is the vast disparity of power between the two parties rather than international law and fairness that will continue to prevail. The experience of these past two years has surely not suggested any other possible outcome.
What is widely perceived as a terminal failure of Middle East peace diplomacy has left a vacuum that threatens to deepen the State of Israel’s isolation, undermine Palestinian moderation, and endanger American interests in the region and beyond. That vacuum is beginning to be filled by new international initiatives that increase Israelis’ sense of existential threat from what they perceive to be a global movement that seeks their country’s delegitimization.
But it is not the State of Israel within its 1967 borders that is being challenged.It is Israel’s occupation, the relentless enlargement of its settlements, its dispossession of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, and the humanitarian disaster caused by its blockade of Gaza that are the target of international anger and condemnation.
We strongly support America’s commitment to Israel’s security, but that commitment cannot justify obstruction of legitimate international efforts in the Security Council and in other international institutions to halt illegal behavior that the itself has long opposed.
It has been said that terms for a peace accord cannot be imposed on the parties. But surely the United States can declare the principles that will henceforth determine what this country will support and what it cannot and will not support. The declaration would serve to let friends and foes throughout the world know that America remains faithful to the principles and values that you so eloquently articulated in your address in Cairo.
What we believe should be the major features of such a statement of policy was described in two previous letters to you of November 6, 2008, and April 30, 2010, to which many of us were signatories. We have reviewed them in the light of current developments and have attached suggested formulations which we believe are balanced, equitable and likely to be effective in finding the answers to key differences among the parties on the central questions. If parameters are rejected by Israel or by the Palestinian Authority (or by both) as the framework for a permanent status agreement, they should be submitted for adoption by the Security Council.
We are persuaded that a clear statement reflecting longstanding American principles would influence the debate within Israeli and Palestinian societies far more consequentially and constructively than a renewal of the unproductive bilateral talks that have taken place to date. Such a statement would also help diminish Iranian influence in the region, improve Israel’s security, and reduce the risk of a military conflict with Iran.
Because of our long and unique history of deep friendship with the state and people of Israel, only our country has the ability to help bring this conflict to a close. Only the can provide the parties with the credible security assurances they will need to make compromises in their positions that a peace treaty will require. No other country can do that. Therefore, if we do not put forward a clear framework for a fair and workable two-state solution to the conflict, the peace process will in effect have been abandoned, for all other approaches have been tried—over and over again—and have failed.
This abandonment will inevitably return Israelis and Palestinians to the cycle of recurring conflicts of ever-escalating violence that has marked the Israeli-Palestinian relationship, into which other destructive forces in the region will be drawn, and into which we will inescapably be drawn as well.
We understand, Mr. President, that the initiative we propose you take to end the suffering and statelessness of the Palestinian people and efforts to undermine Israel’s legitimacy is not without political risks. But we believe that if the American people are fully informed by their President of the likely consequences of an abandonment of leadership in a part of the world so critical to this country’s national security and to the safety of our military personnel in the region, he will have their support.
David L. Boren, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Frank C. Carlucci, William J. Fallon, Chuck Hagel, Lee H. Hamilton, Gary Hart, Rita E. Hauser, Carla Hills, Nancy Kassebaum-Baker, Sandra Day O’Connor, Thomas R. Pickering, Paul Volcker, James D. Wolfensohn (Continue, here)
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 12:34 PM
(Hilarious) French TV5 Commentator: "Those large demonstrations were actually not in support of Assad ...!"
"... they were anti-Assad demonstrations. And those who carried photos of Assad did so to say 'we want to hang you Assad!...(In Arabic: 'Allah, Syria & Assad' must have meant: "we in Syria want Allah to take you Assad". Thank you TV5 for that brilliant translation!" French media goes on a hilarious fast track of falsification! After France24, 'Amina-turned-out-to-be-Bob', Angelina discovering refugees in the MIDDLE EAST ... TV5 brings 'Mob-Arabic: The untold version'!
'Let's Get him!'
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 12:19 PM
"A SWATHE of undecided Syrians in the middle ground are being wooed both by protesters who want to bring President Bashar Assad down and by purported reformers in the regime who want to prop him up. On June 20th Mr Assad made a bid for support with his third public speech since the crisis started three months ago, his first in two months. It was not a success. The protests—and the deaths—show no sign of letting up.
Mr Assad acknowledged that some of the protesters were peaceful, offered a “national dialogue”, promised yet again to enact reforms and talked of “making an amnesty more comprehensive”. But he also made a string of fanciful claims that alienated sceptics all the more. He said he cherished “the love…of those who represent most of Syria’s people.” The unrest, he said, was the result of a conspiracy carried out by criminals and extremists that was spreading like a “germ”.
On a more emollient note, he pledged to create a committee to look at ways of amending the constitution. He promised a law to regulate political parties, but made no mention of the role of his ruling Baath party as the sole arbiter of politics and social life. A new election, he said, would be held in August, but he offered no indication that it would be a more open affair than usual...
Meanwhile, the opposition, which dismissed Mr Assad’s speech out of hand, is trying to draw the silent majority into its movement....it is finding other ways, especially economic, of squeezing the regime....
Those in the middle are wary, not just because they fear violence. Hounded as it is by the regime, the opposition has yet to reassure ordinary Syrians of their credentials as future rulers... no strong figure has emerged as an overall leader..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:55 AM
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Landis writes: "I asked a friend who joined the organized Foreign Press Corps visit to Jisr al-Shaghour to tell me what his take was on the visit. This is his account:
'We got a tour of the place with lots of press. The story is that the Syrian Military Intelligence (SMI) garrison was attacked and seized over the course of about 36 hours between 4 and 5 June. 500 “armed criminals” attacked. The detachment, about 72 people, was overrun when they ran out of ammo. The condition of the place was pretty consistent with an armed attack, though I don’t think it lasted that long and I think the garrison likely surrendered. The insurgents then took over the city, looting several gov’t buildings, esp the Palace of Justice and burning the files there, esp the criminal investigation records. These buildings were extensively damaged. No evidence of real damage in the rest of the town – I don’t think the military took it by force. They just rolled in.There are people returning – we saw a convoy of what we were told was refugees returning from Turkey, waving Syrian flags and photos of the President. The city is still pretty devoid of people, but there are some shops open and people in the streets. They seem to get along with the soldiers, but that could have been staged for our benefit.We also were taken to a mass grave of the dead from the SMI garrison. The story is the dead SMI soldiers were taken by the rebels and buried in several areas, to include the town dump. A local resident who operates a bucket loader was forced by the rebels to dig the graves. He was there to tell his story to us. The bodies I saw were military age males and looked like they had been dead about two weeks.They tell us the “rebels” are a mix of criminals (smugglers mostly) and Salafists, and are from the local area, using lots of Turkish weapons and ammo. No implication the Turkish gov’t is supplying them.I think the event happened, more or less. I also think our trip was stage-managed, with lots of press, and they waited for us to get there to pull the bodies out.There is a big military presence in the north. It is hard to say what is going on in the rest of that area.There are two parallel narratives going on. There are peaceful protestors (I saw them in Hama last Friday), and there is an armed insurgency in the north of the country. There may well be one around Daraa as well. How the government deals with both separately will determine where we go from here. The president acknowledged the peaceful protests in his speech, so that is something. But people in Hama told me there is no going back. They won’t negotiate. Maybe that is just talk, but they sound pretty determined.Hope this helps…."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 3:21 PM
"... In closed-door remarks earlier this month, Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal also strongly implied that Riyadh would be forced to follow suit if Tehran pushed ahead to develop nuclear weapons and said Saudi Arabia is preparing to employ all of its economic, diplomatic and security assets to confront Tehran's regional ambitions."Iran is very vulnerable in the oil sector, and it is there that more could be done to squeeze the current government," Prince Turki, a former Saudi ambassador to the U.S. and U.K., told a private gathering of American and British servicemen at RAF Molesworth airbase outside London...U.S. and Arab diplomats said Saudi Arabia's monarchy often uses Prince Turki to float ideas concerning the country's future policies. Saudi Arabia has pursued an increasingly aggressive foreign policy over the past year—sometimes at odds with the U.S. and driven by concerns about Iran and the recent political turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East.Iran's "meddling and destabilizing efforts in countries with Shiite majorities, such as Iraq and Bahrain, as well as those countries with significant Shiite communities…must come to an end," Prince Turki said, according to a copy of his speech obtained by The Wall Street Journal. "Saudi Arabia will oppose any and all of Iran's actions in other countries because it is Saudi Arabia's position that Iran has no right to meddle in other nations' internal affairs."... Saudi officials have criticized the Obama administration's public support for democratic movements in Egypt and Bahrain, arguing that they served to strengthen Tehran's regional hand. "A lot of people in the kingdom are talking along these lines," said a senior Arab official briefed on Prince Turki's speech.Throughout its history, Saudi Arabia, the world's largest producer of oil, has been reticent to use its energy reserves as a strategic weapon. But in recent weeks, Riyadh has pressured members of OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, to increase production as a way to tamp down global oil prices, a move Iran has strongly opposed.On the same day Prince Turki spoke to the troops in the U.K., OPEC officials in Vienna split into two blocs—one led by Riyadh and the other Tehran—and failed to reach an agreement on the pricing issue. Saudi Arabia subsequently plans to increase in June its output by as much as 1 million barrels a day outside of OPEC as a way to suppress international prices, some Gulf officials have said. They added that the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait will likely increase production too...U.S. officials on Tuesday said they hadn't been notified by Saudi Arabia of any changes in its production plans. But senior Obama administration officials have lobbied Riyadh over the past two years to explore ways to pressure Iran through the energy markets. The White House has specifically asked Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. to guarantee China greater energy supplies in exchange for Beijing cutting off its energy investments in Iran.Saudi Arabia has repeatedly said it doesn't seek nuclear weapons and supports the establishment of a United Nations-administered nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East, which would include Iran and Israel. But Prince Turki suggested this could change if Iran continues to work toward the point where it could produce nuclear bombs.... "It is in our interest that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon, for their doing so would compel Saudi Arabia, whose foreign relations are now so fully measured and well assessed, to pursue policies that could lead to untold and possibly dramatic consequences," Prince Turki said.The Saudi royal also singled out Iraq as a battleground where Riyadh will increasingly challenge Iranian influence. Saudi Arabia has withheld sending an ambassador to Baghdad due to charges that Prime Minister Nour al-Maliki's Shiite-majority government is too close to Iran. Indeed, Iraq sided with Iran in the recent dispute over OPEC energy prices. And Prince Turki alleged that Iranian military officers were directly involved in formulating Iraqi security policy..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:59 AM
Al Jazeera's Sami Kleib: "Let us give President Assad a month 'grace period' & if he does not deliver, we'll all take to the streets!"
Just watched Al Jazeera's Sami Kleib ('Private Visit') on Al Manar, "Bashar Assad promised reforms ... let's wait a month or so and see if he delivers. If he does not, we will all demonstrate. But let's give a month!..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 4:22 AM
AngryArab, certified enemy of all Arab regimes, says this on the media coverage of Syria: "...I really believe that Aljazeera's over-the-top propaganda helped the Syrian regime because it was so devoid of balance and even facts. The supply of Islamists Syrian dissidents that has been paraded on Aljazeera screen may have alarmed secular Syrians (not that the so-called secularism of the regime is to my liking as I don't consider any Arab regime to be appropriately secular--they all use religion, and US is not secular by my standard of the neutrality of the state on matters of religious preference.). The BBC the other day featured a Syrian officer who a week ago was lionized in Time magazine when he said that he defected with some 30 of his soldiers. That was featured on Aljazeera and every other network. BBC yesterday revisited the guy and admitted that he lied and that he defected on his own. Yet, the report praised his lies and said that this his lies were responsible for delaying the advances of Syrian troops in Jisr Ash-Shughur. So lies on behalf of Western agenda (and the Muslim Brotherhood agenda is part of the Western political agenda--certainly in Syria) are now warmly welcome. The more the better."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 3:46 AM