Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Iraqis, Not Iran, Behind Karbala Attack: Internal US Army Investigation Implicates Iraqi Police, Politicians

From TIME, via IraqSlogger, here and here
" ... The military has struggled to affix responsibility for the Karbala murders. U.S. commanders have accused the Quds Force, a paramilitary organization run by members of Iran's security establishment, of being behind the operation. On July 2 in Baghdad, the military revealed it was holding Ali Musa Daqduq, a Lebanese national who was captured in Basra in March. He is a senior operative of Hizballah (the Lebanese Shi'ite militia supported by the Quds Force), and officials say he has admitted to involvement in the attack. An internal Army investigation into the attack reviewed by TIME, in addition to interviews with U.S. and Iraqi witnesses, suggest that the abduction and murders were carried out with the knowledge and complicity of Iraqi Shi'ite police who only hours earlier had been working alongside U.S. soldiers--and may have involved local officials loyal to the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ..."

"Iran and US Jiu-Jitsu in the Middle East", Op-Ed by Gary Sick

Via WarAndPiece, read G Sick's full essay here.
the "moving parts" of the new US strategy (excerpts)
-- In Lebanon, provide covert support for efforts to support the Siniora government and to thwart Hezbollah, probably in close cooperation with Israeli intelligence [being done?];
-- keep attention focused on Iran, including raids and general harassment of its representatives [the 5 Iranians who were arrested in Irbil have now been in US custody for more than 6 months, during which time Iranian representatives have been permitted to meet them only once, near the six-month anniversary];
-- Attempt to woo (or threaten) Syria away from its alliance with Iran with promises of money and support of Syrian efforts to regain the Golan Heights [if so, the effort is totally subterranean as far as I can tell];
-- Provide (Israeli) intelligence support to U.S. (and potentially Arab) anti-Hezbollah efforts in Lebanon [probably done];

Monday, July 30, 2007

Major Quake, Tsunami Likely in Middle East, Study Finds

"... In A.D. 551, a massive earthquake spawned huge tsunamis that devastated the coast of Phoenicia, now Lebanon Now a new underwater survey has finally uncovered the fault likely responsible for the catastrophe and shown that it rumbles approximately every 1,500 years—which means a disaster is due any day now...More than 30,000 people died in Beirut alone... "
Read More from National Geographic, here

Pollack & O'Hanlon: "Surge is Wonderful"

"... But for now, things look much better than before. American advisers told us that many of the corrupt and sectarian Iraqi commanders who once infested the force have been removed. The American high command assesses that more than three-quarters of the Iraqi Army battalion commanders in Baghdad are now reliable partners (at least for as long as American forces remain in Iraq)..."

OBG: Lebanon: Best Prospect Sectors

Jorma Ollila, Chairman and CEO, Nokia and Marwan Hamadé, Minister of Economy and Trade, Lebanon

While last year's July war and ensuing political instability have severely impacted Lebanon's economic growth and led to a slowdown in investments, three sectors have been singled out as best prospect sectors by a US report on Lebanon 2007. The guide pointed to Lebanon's "many investment-enabling strengths" that had encouraged foreign companies to set up offices in recent years, including "a free market, a highly dollarised economy, the absence of controls on the movement of capital and foreign exchange, a highly educated labour force, a good quality of life and limited restrictions on investors". The three "best prospect sectors" were named as information and communication technology (ICT), pharmaceuticals and insurance... Read More here.

Sale of Sophisticated gear to the Saudis: It will gather dust and rust somewhere after all the payments, training and posturing are finished

"The main theme of this set of deals is the desire to do "business" (literally) in the Gulf. The Arabs have money and we might as well continue to have as much of it as they are willing to part with. Some Arabs in these countries will benefi from the sales. There will be a certain amount of the usual paying of "comissions" suitable disguised as something else, somewhere, sometime.
The Chinese, among others, have been pursuing Arab money and Arab investment opportuities all over the Arab World as well in many other places. The commercial competition from them is intense.
Those involved probably, almost, nearly think this is about Iran. The ludicrous conception of selling such sophisticated toys to the Saudis is delightful in an Evelyn Waugh kind of way. Saudi Arabia has a tiny, still poorly educated population. There is no way that THE KINGDOM can absorb this kind of equipment, but, then, neither can the jihadis. What will happen to all this "gear?" It will gather dust and rust somewhere after all the payments, training and posturing are finished.
The symbolism is the thing. We, the American guarantors of the status quo in the Middle East guarantee to you, the Sunni Arab govenments that we are not going to try to unseat you. We had our flirtation with radical change, but, well, ... How can you be sure? Well, if we do, we can't collect the money.
And, of course, this means that we understand what you have to do in Iraq...
Israel? They won't pay for their part of the deal."
And read William Arkin, here

Israel agrees to U.S. arms sale to Saudis

"In a break from historic Israeli opposition to U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday his country understands Washington’s plan to supply state-of-the-art weapons to Riyadh as a counterweight to Iranian influence... The United States, knowing that Israel is sensitive about such arms sales, is also offering a sharp increase in defense aid to Israel and has assured the Jewish state it will retain a fighting edge over other countries in the region, he added."
read the full story here.

Maliki and his "friends" are unhappy with Petraeus

From the Athenaeum (a couple of very interesting downloads) , read it here
"The Maliki government exists by the courtesy of neocon influence on US policy for the purpose of giving the Shia religious urban crowd political power in Iraq. That policy has failed. The Shia are clearly not capable of making effective the authority given to them by "one man, one vote" based elections. They probably will never be capable of making their authority effective in the parts of the country dominated by Sunni Arabs. To put it bluntly. They don't have "the juice.""

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Iraq: It's How We Pull Out

Read Ignatius in the WaPo here. "A good start would be for Washington partisans to take deep breaths and lower the volume, so that the process of talking and fighting that must accompany a gradual U.S. withdrawal can work." ... But we should ask Ignatius: "Is G W Bush listening?"


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Medley Global Advisors: Iraq: The Logistics of Withdrawal

Medley's reports are very hard (and expensive) to come by. Col. Lang is very generous with us all. Read their latest, most notably Lang's essay on Iraq, page 9 , here.

France unlikely to repeat Libya triumph in Lebanon

From Reuters via SyriaComment, here

Heritage: Bombing Iran "is good for the US Economy"

Via Kevin Drum we get this essay from the Heritage Foundation on the advantages of bombing Iran. Here

Friday, July 27, 2007

Richard Sale on IRAN:Cheney propsed a "very limited strike" but so far has gotten NO approval!

Via SicSemperTyrannis (Col. Pat Lang) from the very well informed Richard Sale.
"Regarding Iran.."
Richard Sale sent me this. It should be posted. I am busy writing. That is all. Not a big deal. pl

"Dear Pat:
I will be brief and be gone.
Regarding Iran, the Bush line of attack has been and will continue to be allegations of Iranian interference inside Iraq, chiefly to al Sadr and other pro-Tehran factions. Iran is supplying weapons and IEDs to the insurgency, but only to the Shia factions.British intelligence uncovered an Iranian op in Afghanistan that was supplying weapons to the Taliban. Knowing of Cheney's relish to appear tough in front of the eyes of the world and his followers, the British spooks were timid about informing Bush about the Afghan op, but were overruled at the ministerial level.According to senior US intelligence officials, President Bush has definitely decided not to strike any of Iranian alleged nuclear weapons production facilities this year. Israeli intel is floating a lot of stories about bunker buster bombs being moved to the region, but this is psyop rubbish.What Cheney has proposed is a measure that would launch a very limited military strike at one or more known Iranian training centers whose forces are being deployed to Iraq. This proposal has, so far, gotten no approval.
With greetings to all,
Richard Sale"

Alterman: "How To Manage Assad"

Read CSIS's John Alterman's WaPo piece here.
"The Bush administration thinks Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is bluffing. Its policy of cutting off most contacts with the Syrian government and tightening the screws of sanctions is meant to signal that the United States has superior strength and a superior will. At some point, the reasoning goes, the Syrians will realize that resistance is futile, and they will give up the charade of virulent opposition to U.S. policy in the Middle East. But a visit to Damascus early this month that included an hour-long discussion with Assad left me unconvinced that his regime can be scared straight..."
The Syrian government may overestimate its centrality to Middle East politics and its diplomatic weight, but it knows how to stay in power. The rest of the Middle East has been swept up by discussions of social and political change, economic development and foreign direct investment;
Syria's leaders are preoccupied with security and stability. Rather than opening up, they are hunkering down. Six weeks after Assad won reelection with 97.6 percent of the vote, flattering portraits with adoring messages still festooned most billboards and large flat spaces in Damascus. This authoritarian government is not searching for a new playbook..."

Thursday, July 26, 2007

U.S. Tracks Saudi Bank favored by Extremists

Via WarandPiece, we have this long WSJ piece on "the US looking the other way" when it involves Saudi financing terror. here.
"As a result, the Bush administration repeatedly debated proposals for taking strong action itself against Al Rajhi Bank, in particular, according to former U.S. officials and previously undisclosed government documents. Ultimately, the U.S. always chose instead to lobby Saudi officialdom quietly about its concerns..."
"... For the ruling Saud family, any confrontation with the Al Rajhis could be politically treacherous. To stay in power, the Sauds rely on the tolerance of clerical and business elites, many of whom view the royal family as corrupt. The wealthy Al Rajhis are a clan long at odds with the royal family. And U.S. intelligence files show the Al Rajhis also have close ties to another group critical of the royals: Saudi Arabia's conservative clerics..."

Expropriations by Amman Municipality in favor of Hariri's "Abdali"

"A friend in Jordan sent me this. "Attached is a photograph I took of the two buildings in Amman belonging to Talal Abu Ghazaleh that have now been forcibly expropriated by the Amman municipality on behalf of Hariri in order to build an access road to the Solidere-style Abdali development. As you recall, Abu Ghazaleh resisted all attempts at intimidation to force him to sell. His son told Baha al-Hariri: 'if you sell me your father's house in Quraytim, then I will sell you my father's headquarters in Amman."
Read AngryArab's full story here.

U.S. Kills Plans to Build Embassy in Hezbollah Area of Beirut

reader (and Blogger) Apokraphyte lead me to this ABC Blotter story.
"A U.S. official tells the Blotter on ABCNews.com that Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman, in a May 31, 2007 classified cable to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, registered his strong objections, saying his staff "unanimously opposes construction" of the embassy on the proposed site.
Feltman also said in the cable that his local staff would be "an easy target" for Hezbollah and that U.S. diplomats would "be under siege" during any conflict."
I have heard about this lot a few times (with conspiratorial twists) and it does not look like news to me. Purchasing US-pegged real estate (40,000 meters in Yarzeh) in the immediate proximity of "Dahieh" is a stroke of ... madness. The Beirut cynics say that "Jeff Feltman, who is anything but Ambassadorial, must have been promised a healthy remuneration on another lot". Your call!
Read the blotter here

Iran says it is ready for "higher level" talks with US over Iraq

"Iranian Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, said on Wednesday that his country was ready to consider further talks with the United States over Iraq's security at a higher level, the official IRNA news agency reported. "

WSJ: To Check Syria, U.S. Explores Bond With Muslim Brothers

Via SyriaComment, in the Wall Street Journal, here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Elias Murr "proposes" himself as compromise President while a "star realignment" favors Army Commander Suleiman for interim government

From "VERY fine" Parliamentary source:
Constant: NO civil strife! Shia's will not partake & Sunnis CANNOT partake.
Constant: President Lahoud will not relinquish power to the Siniora govt'.
Constant: In the Metn elections, Gen. Michel Aoun will be confirmed and re-anointed "leader of the Christians." (US source implied that Feltman "might have tricked Gemayel" specifically to have this M14 damning scenario unfold. Then, the US will tell M14 (most notably the Christians in it) that the "dice were played"...)
Constant: In a two government scenario, opposition will "grab" (access to) 16 ministries, while the rest remains in the hands of the ruling clique. A devastatingly bad scenario.
Constant: Only the LAF can guarantee access to ALL ministries, if it chooses so.
Constant: Michel Suleiman said that he will submit his resignation to the "two LEGITIMATE governments"should we face this scenario.
Solution: (pending) ALMOST ALL Christians will support it- ALL Shia's will support it- Grudgingly, most Sunnis will support it (no way back now): An interim government headed by Michel Suleiman as Prime Minister, supported (varying degrees) by regional & great powers!
I forgot to mention that during his last trip to Washington, Minister of Defense Elias "Ludicrous" Murr proposed to his hosts an unusual amendment of the Constitution, to allow the election of a non-Maronite to the country's highest job under the guise of the ..., ... "War on Terror"!

Lebanon's MH Fadlallah in the WaPo:"Muslims Speak Out"

Interesting event, when the Washington Post allows Sayyed MH Fadlallah to "blog" on their site. Read the full "Muslims Speak Out" piece here.

Nadim Gemayel star of London's "Gen II Peacemakers"

read here.
"The Monday dinner was remarkable. Most of the principals were meeting for the first time. To see the daughter of Itzak Rabin and the son of Bachir Gemayel in cordial conversation, though their nations are locked in conflict, was remarkable."

To the Incoming President: On Iraq

In case you missed this good piece by Flynt Leverett, here.

WINEP: "How Supreme Is Iran's Supreme Leader?"

"... If permitted to remain at the head of the Assembly of Experts, Rafsanjani would pose a persistent and open challenge to Khamenei..."
"... In the event that Khamenei dies, the new Supreme Leader would most likely be a compromise candidate rather than either of the two polarizing figures said to want the post: Rafsanjani, a technocrat, and Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, an extreme hardliner openly dismissive of democracy... For the West, there are many advantages if Iran's leadership is weakened by internal disputes. Such an Iran would be busier domestically and therefore less able to concentrate on foreign adventures. It would also be more aware of its weaknesses and therefore more likely to compromise..."
Read the full piece here.

US-Iran to form an Iraq "Security Committee" to deal with Sunni insurgents

Though the article's headline reflects the high tensions between the two parties, the most important feature remains the "security Committee". Read The Telegraph, Here.
Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, saw signs of apparent progress at the session.
"We have reached an agreement, for the first time, to work together on the security sub-committee for the benefit of the people of Iraq," he said... The two countries did agree to form a security committee, with Iraq, to focus on containing Sunni insurgents.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

David Wurmser leaves White House because of policy tension between contending teams in the White House over Iran policy


See Steve Clemons at WashingtonNote, here.

Classified Plan: NO Exit from Iraq before 2009'

"... The detailed document, known as the Joint Campaign Plan, is an elaboration of the new strategy President Bush signaled in January when he decided to send five additional American combat brigades and other units to Iraq ... The plan itself was written by the Joint Campaign Redesign Team, an allusion to the fact that the plan inherited from General Casey was being reworked... The classified plan, which represents the coordinated strategy of the top American commander and the American ambassador, calls for restoring security in local areas, including Baghdad, by the summer of 2008. “Sustainable security” is to be established on a nationwide basis by the summer of 2009..."
Read the NYTimes full story here.

Syria intervenes to cancel Iraq rebels meetings

Via SyriaComment, read the Reuters piece here.

Bush's incompetence gives al-Qaida new life

Read Juan Cole's full piece in Salon, here.
"In the past week, worrying signs of a resurgence of al-Qaida surfaced in cyberspace, in Pakistan and in Washington, D.C. The Pakistani military's invasion of a major mosque and seminary complex in the country's capital set off an unprecedented, violent wave of protests and car bombings in the north of the country. A new National Intelligence Estimate warned that al-Qaida was reconstituting itself in those very areas of northern Pakistan. A U.S. threat to send Special Forces into Pakistan in search of al-Qaida roiled relations with the weakened Pakistani president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf. And a new videotape of Osama bin Laden surfaced..."

Monday, July 23, 2007

NEW Iraq Documentary: "No End In Sight" opens Friday in Washington, DC and New York City

No End In Sight
Of all the documentaries recounting the Bush Administration's missteps and missed opportunities in Iraq, Charles Ferguson's "No End in Sight" may very well be the best, says IraqSlogger. "Gen. Jay Garner, Amb. Barbara Bodine, Richard Armitage, and Col. Lawrence Wilkerson all speak about how advice was ignored or overruled in favor of an ideologically Republican plan that ignored the realities of Iraq."

CSIS's Cordesman: Improving U.S. and Syrian Relations: Some Possible Beginnings

Dr. Cordesman recently traveled to Syria with Jon Alterman and Thomas Sanderson. Attached is a list of imporvements in Syrian-US relations that may be possible in the near future.There are many areas where the US and Syria do have common interests and might be able to move forward without some kind of formal improvement in relations It is not necessary to have "breakthroughs" to make progress or to wait on the next Administration. In fact, waiting nearly two years for a new Administration to fully take office is in neither nation’s interest. There is too much instability in the region; there are too many areas where leaving things unintended can only make things worse.
Report Here.

With Iraq on fire, rest of world on hold

By going into a Middle East overkill, the US Administration has dangerously neglected other regions. From McClatchy's Strobel & Youssef, here

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Israel’s Primal Myth: A Barrier to Peace

Read Barry Lando's full essay at TruthDig here
"The myth goes like this: In 1948, when the Arabs attacked the newly declared state of Israel, the Arab population fled by the hundreds of thousands. They left not because of attacks by Israeli soldiers but because of the calls of their own Arab leaders, who guaranteed them a speedy return once the Arab armies had triumphed over the upstart Jewish state. Indeed, they fled despite the attempts of many Israelis—as was movingly portrayed in the film “Exodus”—to convince their Palestinian neighbors to remain. Why should such treacherous people have the right to return? Not to mention the fact that their return by the millions would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state."
"But since the early 1990s a new generation of Israeli historians and investigative journalists—drawing on formerly classified documents as well as recollections of Israeli leaders of the War of Independence—has demolished the traditional Israeli position. According to their research, the Palestinians fled their villages not in response to a call from Arab leaders but because of a concerted campaign of terror—including massacres and rape—perpetrated by military units of the newly declared Israeli state. "

Re-Targeting Syria, the “Ho Chi Minh Trail of Terrorists?”

Via SyriaComment, read this story by Jim Lobe, here.
Also, ad nauseam, read two essays peddling "punitive" attacks against Syria. Michael Gerson (Trouble With the Neighbors) in the WaPo here, and from the Contentions blog, (Low Hanging Fruit) here

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Article 1 Section 8 of the US Constitution: Congress has the power to "raise Armies ..."

Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution is clear in stating that Congress shall have the power:
"To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years; To provide and maintain a Navy; To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces."
Read Pat Lang's comment on the NYTimes editorial, here.
(excerpt) "In May, Mrs. Clinton wrote Defense Secretary Robert Gates with a reasonable question: Had the Pentagon done any planning for withdrawal from Iraq? What she got back was a belligerent brush-off. Mr. Edelman, who said he represented Mr. Gates, wrote that “premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq.” "

Israel-Palestine: Final Status Negotiations Now!

read MJ Rosenberg's essay, here
"... The central problem with the Bush approach is that it is predicated on the idea that one can establish a vibrant democracy at peace with Israel in the West Bank while the other half of Palestine, Gaza, is ignored. .."
"... This is not something we hear much about these days. The people who are so enthusiastic about aiding Fatah and Abbas are anything but enthusiastic about a negotiation process that will require an immediate settlements freeze and dismantling of illegal outposts (both long promised by Israel and never delivered). Although they know that these two actions – combined with a significant (not 250!) prisoner release would do more to help Abbas than all the aid Congress and the EU can provide together – the new Abbas champions do not believe that Israel need make any “concessions...”

REMARKZ has a few very interesting stories from South Lebanon

Read here.

"La Loi, C'est Moi"

"A few months ago, Seymour Hersh reported that a White House official and Iran Contra alum, Elliot Abrams, had recently led a "lessons learned" discussion about Iran Contra:
Iran-Contra was the subject of an informal “lessons learned” discussion two years ago among veterans of the scandal. Abrams led the discussion. One conclusion was that even though the program was eventually exposed, it had been possible to execute it without telling Congress. As to what the experience taught them, in terms of future covert operations, the participants found: “One, you can’t trust our friends. Two, the C.I.A. has got to be totally out of it. Three, you can’t trust the uniformed military, and four, it’s got to be run out of the Vice-President’s office”—a reference to Cheney’s role, the former senior intelligence official said.
Today the Washington Post reports that the White House may have taken that lesson to heart. It has determined, the Post reports, that in legal disputes between the Congress and the White House over executive privilege, game over, because the White House has decided no US attorney can uphold a contempt of Congress decree..."
Read more at MotherJones, here.

Khalilzad: "Several of Iraq’s neighbors — not only Syria and Iran but also some friends of the United States — are pursuing destabilizing policies."

In an otherwise relatively routine op-ed calling for the U.N. to ratchet up its involvement in Iraq (wise), Zal Khalilzad writes: "(s)everal of Iraq’s neighbors — not only Syria and Iran but also some friends of the United States — are pursuing destabilizing policies." "Several" and "friends" plural connotes more than one, so ostensibly he's not just speaking of Turkish saber-rattling in the north. Surely the Kuwaitis or Jordanians aren't causing any trouble? Is there a message for the Saudis here, or?

Friday, July 20, 2007

From the MEPGS newsbrief (excerpts)

" ... With intentional understatement, one key State Department official, noted "with the situation not improving in Iraq," theAdministration is taking an approach that was once "anathema". More important, says this official, "This can lead to a wider dialogue." The new operating principle is "Can an approach be effective", which replaces the ideological driven policies of the pasts. An example cited by this official is US policy towards Syria. "In the past we were unwilling to talk to the Syrians because it was thought that would legitimize them. This has been replaced by judging any approach in terms of whether it will advance US interests [As part of this effort, some thought is being given to a grant of immunity to all heads of state attending the next international meeting on Iraq, say informed sources This would be a gesture to Syrian President Assad, whomay feel the upcoming International Tribunal looking into theassassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri,could implicate the entire Syrian leadership]...
" ... However, even if Middle East antagonists such as Syria and Iran were not to continue to pursue a hard line, some Administration insiders appear to be far from willing to embrace Secretary Rice's apparent outreach. At a recent "Deputies"meeting it was proposed that airlines servicing Damascus bebarred from entering the US market. The reasoning was that Syria should be punished for allowing Jihadists from the Arab world touse Damascus as a gateway to Iraq. This proposal was shelved only after forceful arguments were made by State Department experts, who pointed out that a number of European airlines regularly fly in and out of Damascus..."
"... Even the willingness of the new Sarkozy government to entertain sanctions outside the framework of the UN SecurityCouncil, is not enough to satisfy key Administration officials. They are aware that other Europeans countries, notably Germany and Italy are less than enthusiastic about imposing tough sanctions on Teheran. Moreover, many officials both here and inEurope are looking over their shoulders at Israel. So, far the Israelis, in their own words, have been "very supportive of the US diplomatic effort." But as one well-placed Israeli official put it recently, "There is no indication that Iran is slowing down [its nuclear program]." And while key Israeli officials profess not to be anxious about the current state of US diplomatic efforts, they say that relative complacency could quickly change unless the US makes significant progress over the coming months. Says one US official, "I don't believe that anyone in a position of responsibility in Israel has set atimetable, let alone decided what to do should we be unable to shut down Iran's enrichment program. However, I also do notdoubt, that given their anxieties and their influence around here, that they may well determine the turning point away from diplomacy..."

"On the Streets of Tehran"

Michael Hirsh, in NEWSWEEK, argues for engaging Tehran and says that repression in Iran is "overstated". Read more here.
"What’s the story? No, it’s not that the Iranian revolution is fading away. Quite the contrary. The revolution has gotten so deeply under the skin of this society nearly three decades later that the regime feels, if anything, more relaxed about its unchallenged power than ever. The political opposition is all but gone, and the current government led by the radical Islamist president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is adopting a rather savvy tack of letting people enjoy themselves a bit and, above all, make money (no alcohol or drugs, except in the privacy of your own home), despite the rising inflation rate brought on by international sanctions. He's banking on a little capitalism and extra freedoms, in other words, to relieve any urge to revolt..."

Hezbollah & Hamas "overplayed their hands"

From the NYTimes, here

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Iraq: Daily Attacks Chart

Matt Yglesias found this chart here

Bill Maher:"George Bush's Jihad Recruitment Drive"

Via the HuffingtonPost, here.
"... The exact opposite of what the president says is true: because we're there, this shit is going to follow us home. You could probably make up a chart with incidents and images on one side, and the number of terrorist recruits on the other..."

L'ouverture française vers la Syrie laisse sceptique la majorité libanaise

Le Monde, here.
"...Peut-être la France cherche-t-elle, via cette ouverture, à "couvrir" son contingent de casques bleus au sein de la Force intérimaire de l'ONU pour le Liban (Finul)", note-t-il, avant de rappeler que l'Italie avait précédé la France dans cette voie, "ce qui n'a pas empêché un attentat contre la Finul ni l'assassinat du député Walid Eido". Hormis cette "erreur de parcours", M. Samir Frangié estime cependant que "l'initiative française doit continuer" et que "le fait de réunir les Libanais est un pas positif".
Le ministre et député Ahmed Fatfat ne dit pas autre chose lorsqu'il rappelle que l'ancien président français, Jacques Chirac, n'a ostracisé le régime syrien qu'après "avoir pâti de nombreux engagements non tenus et essuyé plusieurs échecs". Et que, "derrière des manoeuvres auxquelles nous sommes habitués, la Syrie ne fera pas de concessions, pas davantage qu'elle n'en a fait aux Belges, aux Italiens et aux Espagnols, qui ont précédé les Français", dit-il..."

Chirac "audited" for financial shenanigans

L'ancien président de la République, Jacques Chirac, a quitté peu après 13 h 30 ses bureaux parisiens de la rue de Lille, où il était entendu depuis 9 h 15 par le juge Alain Philibeaux sur l'affaire des emplois fictifs du RPR.
Excerpts from Le Monde:
"Vous avez observé que c'est une audition qui dans la pratique judiciaire est relativement courte, elle s'est passée dans la sérénité, la courtoisie", a déclaré son avocat Me Jean Veil. L'ancien président de la République a été entendu en tant que "témoin assisté", intermédiaire entre le mis en examen et le simple témoin. Ce statut permet à une personne d'être assistée de son avocat mais n'implique pas de poursuites.

"L'ancien chef de l'Etat s'est exprimé très complètement, très sereinement", a dit son avocat à la presse à l'issue de l'audition. "Je crois que les explications que l'ancien président de la République a fournies au juge ont été tout à fait complètes, transparentes, explicitent son rôle, sa connaissance des faits et devraient satisfaire les juges en charge du dossier", a-t-il ajouté.
"Il a repris une partie des explications qu'il a fournies aux Français dans le cadre de sa tribune au Monde publiée aujourd'hui, a-t-il précisé. La stratégie de défense, je la réserve pour les juges." Prié de dire si l'ancien chef de l'Etat serait soumis à un nouvel interrogatoire, Me Veil a répondu : "Je n'imagine pas qu'il puisse y en avoir d'autre, mais le juge est maître de son dossier."
Interrogé sur une possible mise en examen de Jacques Chirac, l'avocat n'a pas répondu.
0234545521, 1/02/74. C'est sous ces deux numéros d'enregistrement qu'était ouvert, au parquet et à l'instruction du tribunal de Nanterre (Hauts-de-Seine), depuis le 12 décembre 2002, un dossier visant expressément l'ex-président. Officiellement diligentées contre X… en raison de l'immunité – reconnue par le Conseil constitutionnel en 1999 et confirmée en 2001 par un arrêt de la Cour de cassation – dévolue au chef de l'Etat en exercice par la Constitution, les poursuites visaient M. Chirac en ses anciennes qualités de maire de Paris (1977-1995) et de président du RPR (1976-1994), sous les qualifications pénales de "prise illégale d'intérêts" et "recel de prise illégale d'intérêts". Dernier avatar de l'instruction relative au financement du RPR, jadis confiée au juge Patrick Desmure et désormais conduite par le juge Philibeaux, l'ouverture de cette procédure particulière scellait le rendez-vous de l'ancien chef de l'Etat avec la justice, à l'instant où il quitterait l'Elysée. Par une "ordonnance de disjonction", le magistrat de Nanterre avait écarté de l'enquête ouverte en 1996 – qui avait abouti en 2004 à la condamnation en appel d'Alain Juppé, à quatorze mois de prison avec sursis et un an d'inéligibilité – les éléments qui étaient "susceptibles d'être reprochés à M. Chirac" afin que ceux-ci puissent constituer, l'heure venue, les charges retenues à son encontre. Redevenu simple justiciable depuis le 16 juin, M. Chirac a donc été interrogé sur l'organisation du système par lequel la Mairie de Paris – ainsi qu'une série d'entreprises privées – avait pris en charge, des années durant, les rémunérations de cadres du RPR.
La mise en cause personnelle de M. Chirac dans cette affaire avait été provoquée par la découverte, dans les archives de l'Hôtel de Ville, au début de l'année 1999, d'une lettre qu'il avait adressée au secrétaire général de la Ville et signée de sa main. Dans ce courrier, daté du 16 mars 1993, il demandait la promotion d'une secrétaire au sein des services municipaux, en soulignant le "dévouement exemplaire" dont elle avait fait preuve dans les "fonctions délicates" qu'elle exerçait… au RPR. Ce document synthétisait de manière saisissante le système de vases communicants instauré entre la Mairie de Paris et le parti gaulliste, tous deux dirigés à l'époque par M. Chirac.
Dans un rapport daté du 25 mars 1999, la direction centrale de la police judiciaire avait dénoncé l'existence d'un "système délictueux opéré avec l'aval de ses instances dirigeantes". Constat qu'Alain Juppé, interrogé lors de son procès en appel le 13 octobre 2004, allait confirmer, à sa manière : "Je savais que le RPR avait recours à des pratiques qui pouvaient être discutables et qui devaient cesser."

Haaretz: Assad: Israel and Syria in touch via third country

Via WarandPiece, report of a Turkish mediation here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bloggosphere on the National Intelligence estimate

Via Matt Yglesias here.
New National Intelligence Estimate on the threat from al-Qaeda apparently says the threat is "persistent."

Spencer Ackerman notes that what we're seeing declassified today is eerily silent on the invasion and occupation of Iraq's impact on jihadism.

Rand Beers' National Security Network does some myth versus reality stuff.

Kevin Drum deems it vacuous.

Richard Clark says "It's more about what it doesn't say than what it does say." In particular, it doesn't say we have al-Qaeda on the run -- because we don't.

Anything else? My view is that these NIEs have started to suffer from a kind of Heisenberg Principle problem. They only constitute fodder for valid political point scoring if the authors aren't expecting them to become political footballs. Since that's clearly not the case with a report like this, it winds up having little probative value.

Bush's plan: 'Too little, too late, too risky'

From AsiaTimes, this essay by Jim Lobe here.

Lang: It is unlikely that Assad has the USA in mind as an "honest broker"

Col. Lang commenting on a DailyStar story, here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Interview: The Israeli author- journalist describes Israeli thinking about Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the mystique of Israeli Intelligence

Via WarandPiece, here. (Excerpts)
MJ: How good is Israeli intelligence on Iran?
YM: Israeli intelligence on Iran's nuclear capabilities is not bad at all. It has improved in the last five years. Unfortunately the intelligence is less updated and tuned in to Iran's internal questions. Israeli intelligence on Iran led by the military intelligence is no longer talking about the point of no return. It believes that there is such a point. You can always reverse trends and events. The military intelligence and Mossad are now talking about the "technological threshold" which Iran may cross. It may happen in April 2008.
MJ: Last summer, Israel suddenly found itself fighting a war against Hezbollah in Lebanon—a situation that came as a surprise at least to many in the U.S. How much do you think that war demonstrated that the U.S. and Iran are already fighting a proxy war in the region?
YM: Indeed Iran and the U.S. are on a confrontational course because of Iran's desire to have nuclear weapons and its involvement in arming militias in Iraq. The U.S. is trapped. It may reach an agreement with Iran over Iraq—to stabilize Iraq and reduce terrorism and political violence—but the U.S. will have to pay a heavy price for it. It will cost the U.S. to accept nuclear Iran

New NIE on terrorist threats against the US homeland

Via WarandPiece here and MotherJones here
--Concern that Al Qaeda is getting more comfortable in "ungoverned spaces" of Pakistan, due to various factors, including a recent agreement by the Pakistani authorities with tribal leaders to leave Islamic militants in Waziristan alone. Intelligence community seeing more signs Al Qaeda is regrouping, able to train, and communicate in Pakistan ...
--Expect a new National Intelligence Estimate on terrorist threats to the homeland (this is not yet officially out ...), which [ODNI intel chief Thomas] Fingar rated the greatest threat to US national security. Al Qaida remains the greatest threat to the country. US intel community is increasingly concerned about Al Qaeda-linked militants in Pakistan using Europe, and in particular the UK, as a gateway to target the US homeland. Thwarted airplane plot last summer "very sophisticated" and of the type that concerns them, with its mix of UK and Pakistani-based terrorists working together on a plot to target the US. ...

A Year Later: Hezbollah struggles to achieve goals

For those who missed this piece in McClatchy's (July 13) here.
Even the Iraq war is bedeviling the group: Hopes that Hezbollah could bridge sectarian divisions to become the national emblem of resistance have fallen victim to Sunni-Shiite Muslim tensions worsened by the civil strife nearby.
"The problem is that society and politics are so deeply polarized now that no matter what (Nasrallah) or Hezbollah have been trying to do in terms of mending fences with their rivals — the Sunnis and so on — it has not worked because of very high levels of sectarianism," said Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a Lebanese political analyst who monitors the group. "There was a clear conspiracy to weaken Hezbollah before the war, during the war and after the war."

NeoCons Exposed: Voyeurs Listen in to the "Real Stuff" on Trains and Ships

This VERY interesting (and revealing) HuffingtonPost story via the WashingtonNote, here and here.
"I had the chance to chat about this Bill Kristol encounter with Arianna Huffington at her Washington home last night at a grand affair of her many blogging and political friends in Washington, and I agreed with her that what she heard Kristol say on the train and what Hari reported from the cruise show that modern neoconservatism has become a reality-denying cult.
And for those who think that the neocons are out and gone -- think again. They continue to embed most corners of America's policy establishment."

Oxford Analytica: "Syria: Regime Survival depends on Hariri outcome"

Via SyriaComment, and Josh Landis' remarks;
"The Oxford Analytica report copied below is sound. The title is unfortunate. No one I have talked to in or out of the government actually believes that the International Court endangers the Syrian regime. The analyst who wrote this must have howled with embarrassment when he read the title... My only other quibbles with the analysis is that the opposition in Syria never presented a threat to the regime..."
Read full essay and Landis' full remarks here

President Bush Offers Another False Promise to Israel & Palestine

Via the WashingtonNote, here.
"The President continued to base his policy on deepening the division among Palestinians, on pre-conditions to a two-state solution, and on an unwillingness to outline his own parameters for an Israeli-Palestinian endgame deal. Even the $190 million dollars of money pledged to the new PA government is mostly a repackaging of old commitments."

Monday, July 16, 2007

WINEP: Can Fatah Compete with Hamas?

See Dennis Ross's piece on the WINEP site here.

ISG's Hamilton "doubtful" of Al Maliki

From TPM, we get this.
"He's had quite a bit of time now. He's known exactly what he's had to do. He hasn't done it. His rhetoric is pretty good. His performance is pretty bad," says the Iraq Study Group co-chairman.

King Abdallah discusses "Toto steam Bidets" & Lebanon with Syria's Muallem

As my blogging "Angry" friend says: "I kid you not"!
While Lebanon anxiously awaits the outcome of any initiative whether its La Celle-St-Cloud' or talks between "S & S" (as the Lebanese came to know Syria & Saudi Arabia), a MOST INFORMED source (NOT Saudi and NOT Syrian, but of "beltways and bottoms") relayed that during a most recent meeting between King Abdallah & FM Walid Al Muallem, the two dealt partially with Lebanese affairs while the King explained the merits of technology, the virtues of hygiene and most notably, the latest addition to the Royal realm, a "Toto steam Bidet"!

Cheney pushes Bush to act on Iran

"A well-placed source in Washington said: "Bush is not going to leave office with Iran still in limbo..."The Washington source said Mr Bush and Mr Cheney did not trust any potential successors in the White House, Republican or Democratic, to deal with Iran decisively. They are also reluctant for Israel to carry out any strikes because the US would get the blame in the region anyway..."The red line is not in Iran. The red line is in Israel. If Israel is adamant it will attack, the US will have to take decisive action," Mr Cronin said. "The choices are: tell Israel no, let Israel do the job, or do the job yourself..."
Read the full Guardian story here.

DIA's "The Tribes of the Al-Anbar Governorate":The main thing the tribals and secular insurgents bring to this fight is the ability to FIND THE ENEMY

In one of many studies commissioned by the US-DOD, "The Tribes of the Al-Anbar Governorate" (Not released to the Public) was written for DIA, (and on Charles Krauthammer) Col. Pat Lang has this to say, here.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Bandar's Boy: Most Outside Insurgents in Iraq come from Saudi Arabia

From Editor&Publisher via Atrios, we get this. Does that ring a "Lebanese Bell"?
"The situation has left the U.S. military in the awkward position of battling an enemy whose top source of foreign fighters is a key ally that at best has not been able to prevent its citizens from undertaking bloody attacks in Iraq, and at worst shares complicity in sending extremists to commit attacks against U.S. forces, Iraqi civilians and the Shiite-led government in Baghdad."

Are we Already at War? Have US-enabled Kurds killed 200 Iranian Troops?

Juan Cole has this interesting bit via an anonymous source, here

"Transcript of TV program on German ARD television, "The Monitor, no. 564, June 21, 2007:
Sertan (a PJAK terrorist): "Three months ago, by using radio-controlled mines (IEDs) we killed 13 to 14 Iranian soldiers". Kurdish terrorists hide in the U.S. protected areas of North-Eastern Iraq. From there, they send fighters over the border into Iran and attack Iranians. In the past two years, they have killed over 200 Iranians..."

Saturday, July 14, 2007

"Summer Wars in Lebanon?"

For those who missed Anthony Cordesman's June 22nd report, here.
Lebanon is already involved in four potential struggles:

(1) A Syrian effort to restore influence, if not control.

(2) The rebuilding and restructuring of Hezbollah military power as both a means to gaining power in Lebanon and as an Iranian and Syrian supported threat to Israel.

(3) Confessional struggles for power reflected in a major division between a Christian-Sunni Prime Minister and a slim majority of Parliament and a Presidency with Syrian and Hezbollah ties, and

(4) A struggle against the emergence of Sunni Islamist extremist movements with ties to Al Qa’ida that has led to clashes between the Lebanese Army and extremists in Palestinian Camps, but which involves Lebanese supporters of Al Qa’ida as well.
None of these struggles need turn into a “war,” but all of them can. They also interact, not only with internal developments in Lebanon, but developments in Israeli-Syrian relations, regional tensions with Iran, Palestinian struggles, and conflicts involving Sunni Islamist extremist movements like Al Qa’ida. The question of who will use whom interacts with the question of how far things can escalate, and no one can predict the outcome.

"A Lesson In Iraqi Illusion"

Read the Boston Globe essay on Operation Sinbad in Basra, by Bob Malley & Peter Harling here.
"So, what happened? While British forces were struggling to suppress the violence, the parties and organizations operating on the public scene never felt the need to modify their behavio r. Militias were not defeated; they went underground or, more often, were absorbed into existing security forces"

"Over the past 24 months the number of Iraqi battalions capable of fighting has increased from 3 to 6: At this rate we'll turn security over in 2067'"

Kevin Drum has this to say:
"PROGRESS REPORT....So how are we doing on training the Iraqi security forces? Compare and contrast:
September 2005: The number of Iraqi army battalions that can fight insurgents without U.S. and coalition help has dropped from three to one, top U.S. generals told Congress yesterday....Gen. George W. Casey Jr., who oversees U.S. forces in Iraq, said there are fewer Iraqi battalions at "Level 1" readiness than there were a few months ago.
Today: The number of Iraqi army battalions that operate independently, with no assistance from U.S. forces, has dropped from 10 to six over the last two months, the top U.S. general said on Friday.

So over the past 24 months the number of Iraqi battalions capable of fighting on their own has increased from three to six. At this rate we'll be able to turn security over to the Iraqis sometime around 2067. Yippee."

"Was the Hummus Bad?"

Via the AngryArab, the Chicago Sun Times has this story about Tahini, Salmonella & Hummus, here.

Maliki "overrules" Zibari : "US can leave anytime"

"But one of his (Al Maliki's) top aides, Hassan al-Suneid, rankled at the assessment, saying the U.S. was treating Iraq like "an experiment in an American laboratory." He sharply criticized the U.S. military, saying it was committing human rights violations, embarrassing the Iraqi government with its tactics and cooperating with "gangs of killers" in its campaign against al-Qaida in Iraq..."
"... Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told reporters earlier this week that a U.S. withdrawal would make Iraq's chaos worse, but Maliki dismissed his concerns, saying, "We say in full confidence that we are able, God willing, to take the responsibility completely in running the security file if the international forces withdraw at any time they want." In other words, "We can take it from here."
read more here and here.

Friday, July 13, 2007

BBC airs Indictment of Tony Blair for Iraq-Related Crimes Tomorrow

Steve Clemons writes in the WashingtonNote:
"The BBC has a must-listen show on radio tomorrow titled Called to Account (times noted further below) offering a theatrical version of Tony Blair's indictment for Iraq War-related crimes. This may inspire many on this side of the Atlantic pond to think about various strategies to hold America's current political leadership accountable for duplicity and mismanagement of America's national security portfolio -- and particularly for the Iraq War... "

Rice to Al Maliki: "Pretty soon, you'll all be swinging from lampposts if you don't hang together"

" Hayden (DCI) said "the inability of the government to govern seems irreversible," adding that he could not "point to any milestone or checkpoint where we can turn this thing around," according to written records of his briefing and the recollections of six participants."
read the WaPo here.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

SOLIDERE & Beirut's "militarized geographic spaces"

"Take Solidere’s reconstruction and real-estate plan. Winston Smith explained to me over the most divinely prepared Foul Medammas in Sour (Vince, a poster of Nasrallah and Berri, and my sister where there too) how Solidere, although devising gardens and green spaces in downtown have made sure they were heavily guarded by private security contractors so that ‘dodgy’ people would not try to sit there. So how public is that? But wait a minute; did ‘public’ officials think for a minute how a “privately” managed monopolizing real-estate company would actually deliver a “public” social space when they amended the constitution in order to let Hariri and co take a hold on public asset? You see, a private company will care for the ‘well-being’ of its investors and clients. ‘Well-being’ in real-estate means security. Security means militarized geographic space."
read the rest from Remarkz here.

Open for Business: Syria’s Quest for a Political Deal

Via SyriaComment, read "Open for Business: Syria’s Quest for a Political Deal," by Rime Allaf, July 2007: Chatham House" Download Paper here

Lebanon's Bloody Summer

Read the long essay here.

Michael Young's smear campaign against Abdo Saad & Amal Saad-Ghorayeb

Michael Young (one sour bubba) takes aim at three "myths" about Lebanon in his article: "Mostly, a divine victory for disinformation:" 1. That Lebanese overwhelmingly supported Hizbullah during last years war with Israel. 2. That Israel's decision to go to war in Lebanon was premeditated and preplanned, making it inevitable. 3. "That because Israel cannot accept defeat in Lebanon, it is bound to attack the country again in the future…. it gives Hizbullah an excuse to retain its weaponry."
Via SyriaCommenty read Young here and Josh Landis' remarks here.

"Solid Intelligence"

There are still those who believe that "the administration really thought Iraq had an active nuclear weapons program that was making meaningful progress, or at least that the odds of this being the case were quite high. Absent that sincere conviction, the war simply doesn't make sense. "
Read more here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Lebanon: Center of the United States of America

Geographical Center of the United States plaque

M14 Whispers: "Lahoud & Sleiman in cahoots"

"Loud whispers" emanate from Lebanon's "ruling clique's" circles: President Lahoud and Army Commander Sleiman have struck a deal whereby Baabda would call upon Sleiman to form a government come "end of Lahoud's mandate."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

"Syria Invades Lebanon" ... and everyone shrugs it off

Read all about the fictional Syrian invasion of Lebanon, as reported by Instapundits via Totten and al. here

Un-dead Al Qaeda "franchisee" threatens Iran

From Matt Yglesias, here and in the foreign policy blog, here
"We are giving the Persians, and especially the rulers of Iran, a two-month period to end all kinds of support for the Iraqi Shia government and to stop direct and indirect intervention ... otherwise a severe war is waiting for you."

Giuliani names Norman Podhoretz as "key foreign policy advisor"

From Talking Points here.

UPI:"Rumors of Syria-Israel war:

read here

Crocker: Petraeus' task is similar to the one faced by two top Americans in Vietnam when the decisions that led to the US withdrawal there were made

Greg Djerejian writes "...But here's the dirty little secret. The nation lacks a top diplomat with the requisite skill and standing to implement the "diplomatic offensive" called for by the ISG, including variants as per Chuck Hagel's recent piece in the FT. While we have a pretty strong team with Gates and Petraeus at DoD, we lack players of the requisite caliber at State and the NSC. So while the security situation in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Gaza worsens, while a refugee crisis builds in Syria, while Jordan and Saudi get ever more skittish, while Iran gets more lebensraum in Iraq, and while the Maliki government continues to fail in getting essential compromises hammered out among the Iraqi factions, Condi Rice is giving interviews such as this one. "

At AEI Cheney, Kagan, Keane & Pletka "mourne" all the debate about SURGE

Via War and Piece, read here and at MotherJones, here.

"Before a packed house including Vice Presidential daughter Liz Cheney and former VP aide Mary Matalin, Iraq surge godfathers Frederick Kagan and Gen. Jack Keane faced off against a proponent of a phased withdrawal from Iraq at a discussion at the American Enterprise Institute today. "I think I am the designated skunk at the AEI surge garden party," said James Miller, of the new centrist think tank, Center for a New American Security, a former Clinton era deputy assistant secretary of defense, from the panel. And in a way, that's exactly what he was meant to be. [...]

The AEI debate on this sweltering Washington day drew the kind of crowd you would expect to see for the kind of high stakes event the think tank ran during the height of the Iraq invasion. And the stakes are high: while the panel moderator Danielle Pletka mourned at the end everyone was only talking about the surge in the context of US domestic politics, and not US national security, the event organizers too are arguing for a strategy they see as urgently necessary for political vindication, but one that has lost the support of the vast majority of the American public. As the presence of Cheney daughter Liz and aide Matalin attest, the public debate continues a private discussion with a more receptive audience of two in the White House."

Le Dossier des "mercenaires" du Fatah al-Islam est clos!

Opération secrète
Le dossier des mercenaires du Fatah al-Islam est clos
par Thierry Meyssan*

L’armée libanaise a vaincu les mercenaires du Fatah al-Islam retranchés depuis un mois dans le camp palestinien de Nahr el-Bared. Leur reddition est une victoire pour le président Lahoud, tandis que la mort de leur chef est un soulagement pour le clan Hariri qui les avait indirectement engagés pour combattre le Hezbollah et avait été contraint d’interrompre le versement de leurs soldes à la demande du roi d’Arabie saoudite. Thierry Meyssan revient sur cette opération secrète qui a mal tourné.

Ancien colonel de l’armée de l’air jordanienne, Shaker al-Absi était également adjoint d’al-Zarkaoui en Afghanistan puis au Nord-Irak contrôlé par les États-Unis.
Les derniers survivants du Fatah al-Islam ont annoncé un cessez-le-feu unilatéral, le 21 juin 2007 à 23 h 30. Elias Murr, ministre de la Défense du « gouvernement » libanais, a confirmé le lendemain la cessation définitive des combats au camp palestinien de Nahr el-Bared. À cette occasion, il a confirmé que les insurgés avaient eu l’intention de créer un mini-Émirat islamique au Nord du Liban. Au moins 143 personnes (76 militaires libanais, 50 insurgés, 17 civils palestiniens) ont péri au cours des 32 jours d’affrontement.
La presse occidentale s’est montrée particulièrement mal à l’aise pour rendre compte des évènements. Elle a hésité entre les rumeurs successives selon lesquelles le Fatah al-Islam aurait été financé par le clan Hariri, ou par le Hezbollah, ou par les services secrets syriens, serait lié à la nébuleuse Al-Qaïda et serait responsable de l’attentat contre un autobus à Ain Alaq. En définitive, les journaux occidentaux ont repris la version qui les arrangeait, selon leur couleur politique, sans travail de vérification. C’est que la vérité n’est pas très reluisante.
L’existence du Fatah al-Islam n’est attestée que depuis novembre 2006 [1], bien que les autorités syriennes affirment qu’il s’est constitué en août 2002 [2].
En définitive, il semble que le Fatah al-Islam est né d’une scission à l’intérieur du Fatah al-Intifada, un groupe palestinien soutenu par la Syrie, et qu’il ait immédiatement fusionné avec un groupe informel venu de Jordanie et constitué, lui, depuis août 2002.
En 2005, un conflit avait surgit entre les deux principaux chefs du Fatah al-Intifada, le colonel Abu Musa et Abu-Khalid al-Imlah. Ce dernier s’était alors retiré chez lui et n’avait plus rendu compte de ses activités [3]. Informées de ce que Abu-Khalid al-Imlah recrutait hors de tout contrôle de nouveaux combattants en utilisant les subsides syriens, les autorités syriennes le firent arrêter et incarcérer [4]. Cependant, cette ingérence syrienne dans les affaires palestiniennes suscita une vive contestation parmi les Palestiniens et des démissions en cascade au sein du Fatah al-Intifada. Finalement, la Syrie accepta de continuer à financer le Fatah al-Intifada si Abu-Khalid al-Imlah en était exclu, et les membres de cette organisation acceptèrent de rester dans le giron syrien si Abu-Khalid al-Imlah était relâché, ce qui fut fait [5]. Dès lors, chacun s’attendait à ce que les Palestiniens lavent leur linge sale en famille.
À la mi-décembre, le Fatah al-Islam reçoit le renfort de nouveaux combattants et prend le pouvoir au sein du camp de Nahr el-Barid, au Nord du Liban. Les porte- paroles du groupe insistent pour dire que les renforts sont exclusivement composés de Palestiniens, venus de Syrie, de Jordanie, d’Égypte, etc. Mais de nombreux témoins palestiniens assurent que les renforts sont des mercenaires arabes ayant participé à des combats en Irak.
Le leader du groupe est un des hommes venus en renfort : Shaker al-Absi, un Palestinien résidant en Jordanie. L’homme est connu depuis les années 50 pour ses diatribes anti-US. Colonel dans l’armée de l’air jordanienne, il a été condamné par contumace par un tribunal militaire pour l’assassinat de Lawrence Foley, un agent de la CIA qui travaillait à Aman sous couverture diplomatique de l’USAID, tué le 28 octobre 2002 à la sortie de son domicile.
Or, selon le département d’État, ce meurtre aurait été commandité par Abou Moussab al-Zarkaoui [6]. Ce dernier aurait vécu en Afganistan sous les Talibans. Il serait revenu en Jordanie commettre son crime, puis aurait constitué un groupe armé dans le Nord de l’Irak, dans la zone kurde interdite de survol et contrôlée par les forces anglo-saxonnes. Au cours de son célèbre discours au Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU, le général Colin Powell accusera Zarkaoui de fabriquer des poisons pour Saddam Hussein, puis il admettra que c’était faux, ce mensonge servant à justifier de l’invasion de l’Irak. Plus tard, Zarkaoui deviendra l’icône d’Al Qaida dans la « triangle sunnite » pour la presse occidentale, tandis que la Résistance dénoncera ses liens avec l’Occupant. On lui attribuera toutes sortes de crimes, dont l’exécution de Nick Berg [7]. Il serait mort en juin 2006. Bref, pour de nombreux observateurs, Zarkaoui serait de longue date un agent provocateur des États-Unis et par conséquent, un fort doute pèserait sur Shaker al-Absi qui l’a suivi en Afghanistan et en Irak.
Le 13 février 2007, à la veille de la commémoration de l’assassinat de l’ex-Premier ministre Rafic Hariri, un double attentat détruit deux autobus et tue leurs occupants à Ain Alaq, dans le fief de la famille Gémayel. Un mois plus tard, six suspects (dont quatre de nationalité syrienne) avouent avoir perpétré l’attentat, qui aurait dû en principe toucher la permanence du parti fasciste Kataëb. Ils déclarent tous appartenir au Fatah al-Islam [8]. Mais le groupe palestinien dément énergiquement [9]
Cependant, entre temps, le journaliste états-unien Seymour Hersh publie un long reportage sur le Fatah al-Islam dans le New Yorker [10]. L’auteur montre que le vice-président Dick Cheney, le conseiller de sécurité nationale Elliott Abrams [11] et l’ambassadeur à l’ONU Zalmay Khalizad ont planifié un réalignement de la politique arabe des États-Unis en vue de l’attaque de l’Iran. Désormais, les bons seront les sunnites et les méchants seront les chiites. Dans ce contexte, le Conseil national de sécurité financerait des groupes armés sunnites, à l’insu du département de la Défense et de la CIA [12]. Le Fatah al-Islam serait l’un de ces groupes, mis en place avec l’aide de Saad Hariri et du prince Bandar, le conseiller national de sécurité saoudien. Sa fonction serait de déstabiliser le pays et d’aider à éliminer le Hezbollah. Mais Saad Hariri et ses amis démentent énergiquement [13].
Le problème est que, contrairement à ses dénégations, Saad Hariri n’en est pas à sa première manipulation de terroristes. Il est établi qu’en juin 2005 il versa 48 000 dollars de caution pour la libération de quatre terroristes d’Asbat al-Ansar, un groupe de mercenaires musulmans ayant combattu en Afghanistan, en Bosnie-Herzégovine et en Tchétchénie aux côtés des États-Unis contre les Russes. Ils étaient impliqués dans les affrontements de Dinniyeh, en 1999 [14]. De même, le bloc parlementaire de Saad Hariri a voté l’amnistie de Samir Geagea, le leader fasciste qui assassina le Premier ministre Rashid Karamé, ainsi que celle de 29 mercenaires musulmans impliqués dans des tentatives d’attentat contre les ambassades d’Italie et d’Ukraine à Beyrouth [15].
Mais le plan de réalignement est remis en cause par le roi Abdahallah d’Arabie séoudite. Il reçoit le 4 mars la visite de son homologue iranien, le président Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Les deux hommes sont conscients que l’opposition politique entre populations chiites et sunnites est artificielle, même si le contentieux théologique entre religieux wahhabites et chiites est fort lourd [16]. Informé par la partie iranienne des initiatives du prince Bandar pour financer le Fatah al-Islam, le roi lui interdit de poursuivre l’opération [17]. Le lendemain, le président chiite de la Chambre des députés libanaise, Nabih Berri, déclare que les violences sectaires au Liban peuvent être réglées dans les 48 heures.
Sur instruction du procureur général du Liban, les forces de sécurité reçoivent l’ordre d’interpeller les membres du Fatah al-Islam. Compte tenu du statut particulier des camps palestiniens, l’armée libanaise n’entre pas à Nahr el-Bared, mais établi un cordon de sécurité pour interpeller les suspects s’ils en sortent. De son côté, l’OLP prend officiellement ses distances avec le Fatah al-Islam et dénonce les attentats d’Ain Alaq [18]. Les incidents entre le fatah al-islam d’une part, les groupes palestiniens dans le camp et l’armée libanaise à l’extérieur, d’autre part, se multiplient. La population du camp est prise en étau [19].
Le 1er avril 2007, un rapport des Forces intérieures de sécurité libanaises confirme que le Fatah al-Islam est bien l’auteur des attentats d’Ain Alaq [20]. Il note que le groupe n’est pas aussi nombreux qu’il le laisse entendre et que ses membres sont effectivement pour l’essentiel des mercenaires recrutés dans les camps palestiniens du Proche-Orient.
Les membres du Fatah al-Islam, qui déclarent publiquement être des militants sans appui extérieur, reconnaissent bientôt qu’ils touchaient jusque là une solde mensuelle et que celle-ci est interrompue depuis la rencontre Ahmadinejad-Abdallah. Leur traitement était versé via la banque des Hariri (qui ne pouvait évidemment ni ignorer la provenance, ni la destination de ces sommes). Le 19 mai, ils décident donc d’aller chercher eux mêmes leurs soldes : ils attaquent la banque des Hariri. L’armée intervient. Il y a 11 morts.
Le président de la République, le général Emile Lahoud, considère que le moment est venu de désarmer cette armée privée des Hariri qui menace la stabilité du pays. Il ordonne l’intervention de l’armée libanaise. Au titre des accords d’ex-territorialité, l’OLP autorise les Libanais à entrer dans le camp. L’armée annonce qu’elle va attaquer et demande aux civils de fuir. La plupart refusent, ne sachant où aller. La bataille s’engage. Abandonné par ses anciens employeurs, qui tentent de se refaire une virginité en les conspuant, le Fatah al-Islam combat seul. Un groupe d’oulémas, conduits par Fatih Yahkan, s’interpose et négocie l’évacuation des civils. Les mercenaires refusent de se rendre et d’être traduits en justice. Ils croient jusqu’au dernier moment que ceux qui les ont fait entrer au Liban sauront les en faire sortir. Erreur.
Leur mort efface les traces les plus visibles de l’implication du clan Hariri. Ils avaient été engagés pour combattre le Hezbollah. Il convenait de les sacrifier pour clore ce dossier malheureux.

Thierry Meyssan
Journaliste et écrivain, président du Réseau Voltaire.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Much-Investigated British Defense Company About To Sell More Planes to the Saudis

Spencer Ackerman writes:
"So here's yet another instance of shadiness to add to the BAE bribery scandal. Up until December, the British Government's Serious Fraud Office had a wide-ranging corruption investigation open into alleged kickbacks paid by defense giant BAE Systems to prominent Saudi officials -- including, allegedly, Prince Bandar, the ex-ambassador to the U.S. -- in order to secure a multi-billion arms deal. Suddenly, then-PM Tony Blair announced an abrupt end to the SFO inquiry, citing unspecified national security concerns. And while the inquiry ended, the stain on BAE's reputation by the probe was enough to push the Justice Department into opening its own corruption investigation of the company ahead of its scheduled purchase of a U.S. armor manufacturer. "
Continue reading here.

Izzat Ibrahim Al Douri: "Americans 'are being defeated"

An Audiotape by Saddam's deputy surfaces, from Gulf Daily news, here

Clemons: "Cheney wanted to tie Bush's hands by encouraging an Israeli cruise missile attack on Natanz"


Just released in the Washington Post is an interesting story (scroll down) on the existence of a new -- heretofore unreported -- hardened underground facility and set of tunnels conneted to Natanz. Some analysts believe that it this facility is probably meant to disperse and protect nuclear assets in case of attack.
Given the earlier reports on TWN confirmed by other major journalistic establishments that a member of Vice President Cheney's staff was reporting that the Vice President was afraid of losing the "policy argument" on Iran with the President's other advisors and wanted to tie Bush's hands by encouraging an Israeli cruise missile attack against Natanz, this new report does give one pause.

White House Debating Whether To Announce "Intention" To Begin Withdrawing From Iraq Someday

From TPMCafe, here.
"This is very nice to hear, but according to The Times, the explicit goal here is merely to prevent GOP defections on actual legislation that would accomplish a pullout. So doesn't it seem likely that such a White House announcement would simply give GOPers the cover they need not to defect and thus not to support any actual withdrawal policies? "

Al Maliki's govt' nears collapse

"Iraq's prime minister is facing his most serious challenge yet. The no-confidence vote will be requested by the largest block of Sunni politicians, who are part of a broad political alliance called the Iraq Project. What they want is a new government run by ministers who are appointed for their expertise, not their party loyalty. "
Full CBS story, here.

Powell tried to talk Bush out of war

From the London Times, here
"The signs are that the views of Powell and other critics of the war are finally being heard in the Pentagon, if not yet in the White House. Robert Gates, the defence secretary, is drawing up plans to reduce troop levels in Iraq in anticipation that General David Petraeus, the commander in Iraq, will not be able to deliver an upbeat progress report in September on the American troop surge..."

More on Iran "getting Cheney-Ready"

from the WaPo here.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

The Road Home

An editorial from the NYTimes, here.
"It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit."

Saturday, July 7, 2007

ADC-RI Report on Lebanon: "Eyewitness Lebanon, July-August 2006': An International Law Inquiry"

ADC-RI Report on Lebanon Now Available "Eyewitness Lebanon, July – August 2006: An International Law Inquiry"
To get a copy, please contact ADC for overseas shipping. The report can also be downloaded as a pdf file at: http://www.adc.org/ .

Schuster & Ajami:"almost feel like the world is setting itself back on its axis -- at least for today"

On the "Hardball" segment where Ajami ("marginal neocon") was guest-hosted by David Schuster, and made to look like a fool , here and here

New Iran Regime-Change Think Tank Opens

From TPMuckraker, we get this:
"Under the byline of Mattie Fein -- her husband is Bruce Fein, the prominent Reagan-era Justice Department lawyer last seen calling for the impeachment of Dick Cheney -- Hojjati penned an op-ed in the Washington Times last week heralding the creation of a new think tank, known as the the Institute for Persian Studies, devoted to pushing the regime over the abyss..."
read it here.

"Iran preparing for Cheney"

Steve Clemons had this to say in the middle of a commentary on Cuba, Hillary ... etc.

" ... Third, the Washington Post is developing a story on new facilities in Iran designed to prepare for an attack. I can't say more now, but it should be out over the weekend. And to my original sources -- don't worry -- I found other sources. But while this is not "huge" news, it is significant to know that Iran is preparing for Cheney..."

Gen. Odom: 'Supporting the troops' means withdrawing them

Writing in the Neiman Watchdog (Harvard U) Gen. William Odom (head of the NSA under Reagan) accuses President Bush of putting incredible strains on US troops, and proposes impeachment as a remedy, here.
"To force [Bush] to begin a withdrawal before [the end of his second term], the first step should be to rally the public by providing an honest and candid definition of what "supporting the troops" really means and pointing out who is and who is not supporting our troops at war. The next step should be a flat refusal to appropriate money for [use] in Iraq for anything but withdrawal operations with a clear deadline for completion.
The final step should be to put that president on notice that if ignores this legislative action and tries to extort Congress into providing funds by keeping U.S. forces in peril, impeachment proceeding will proceed in the House of Representatives. Such presidential behavior surely would constitute the "high crime" of squandering the lives of soldiers and Marines for his own personal interest."

Friday, July 6, 2007

Joe Lieberman: "Iran's Proxy War"

An OpEd by Joe Lieberman in WSJ who is peddling "forensic evidence" linking Iran to US deaths in Iraq, here.

"Miscreants" Attack Musharraf's Plane

From TPMuckraker comes this story of a most brazen and unusual assassination attempt, here.

Syria says doubts IDF Golan Heights exercise is merely training

from Haaretz, here.

Prisoner 345: Al Jazeera's Sami Al Hajj

"The accusation that al-Haj had filmed Osama bin Laden did not resurface in the unclassified evidence described to al-Haj in the three hearings he has had. Instead, the allegations against him have evolved over time. In his status review, held in late 2004, military officials said al-Haj had gone to Afghanistan to buy Stinger missiles to fight in Chechnya, a charge that has since been dropped. Then, he was alleged to have sought the missiles in 1996, although Stafford Smith says he can prove that al-Haj was in the United Arab Emirates every day of that year. ... "

Thursday, July 5, 2007

"Are there still ghosts in Beirut?

Plan "B" for Gaza: Engage Hamas!

From Ephraim Halevy at the New Republic:
"This plan is predicated first and foremost on accepting realities on the ground and turning them to the best possible advantage. Hamas has demonstrated that when in distress, it is pliable to practical arrangements on the ground. Therefore, parallel to maintaining pressure on Hamas on a daily basis, isolating it regionally and internationally, contacts should be established with Hamas to see if a long-term armistice with it can be obtained."
Read the full essay, here.

Lynne (Cheney) and the "showdown with China"

From the bloggers at the Atlantic online, we get this:
"Her name was Lynne Cheney," Hart said. "I am convinced that if it had not been for 9/11, we would be in a military showdown with China today." Not because of what China was doing, threatening, or intending, he made clear, but because of the assumptions the Administration brought with it when taking office.
Read it here.