Friday, November 30, 2007

Tareq Mitri "blindsided" at Annapolis

From Joshua Landis, here
"... at Annapolis ... E.U, and then Egyptian officials began to approach their Lebanese counterparts. “Congratulations on your new president,” they were informed.
The jaws of the Lebanese delegates dropped. It was the first any of them had heard of such news. Tariq Mitri, the erudite and cultured Acting Foreign Minister, was furious and confused. made [his] way to Secretary of State Rice to find out the truth of this breaking news. Secretary Rice played coy, claiming that the deal was the doing of the French and Egyptians. She asked, “Doesn’t that [clearing the way for the Lebanese Chief of Staff to become president] need a constitutional amendment?...”
"...Kouchner is primary target of Lebanese contempt. They blame him for pulling the rug out from under them and fixing the deal behind their backs. It was their way of getting the Syrians to Annapolis. Egypt helped swing the deal. They had been in favor of Michel Suleiman from the start. The Saudis had fallen into line begrudgingly.
Faysal Miqdad, the Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister, was by all accounts very quite and subdued at the Annapolis meeting. He did not demand attention, but rather watched the proceedings with an air of satisfaction and anticipation. One reporter [said] that the Syrian delegation was jubilant after it was over..."
As one Lebanese said, “The French screwed us because they brought Syria to Annapolis. They decided the President of Lebanon without March 14...”
Finally, a M14 member of the Christian faith commented recently that Michel Aoun is "lucky" to have a Muslim partner like Hassan Nasrallah, alluding to the fact that Hezbollah remained true to the "understanding" with the Free Patriotic Movement, and in stark contrast with the Christians of M14 who feel "stabbed twice" by the West and by their Muslim partners in the unraveling alliance.

EU Official: "The US wanted Syria so much in Annapolis, that it backed off its committments to ... Saad Hariri"

Excerpts from the Middle East Policy Survey:
"...According to well-informed sources, these parties were only told the evening before the Annapolis gathering that the Israelis objected to the "internationalization" of the peace process -- a reference that only later did Quartet members take to mean they were being sidelined by the US....
Some Arab diplomats were quick to explain that this is the result of a growing consensus among moderate Arab leaders that the Palestinian issue no longer serves their national interest. "The Arabs want to get rid of the Arab-Israeli issue because it works against them," says one Arab league Ambassador, "Unfortunately," he adds, "They are less capable of helping because of internal threats heightened by this very issue..."
"...For Israeli officials, Annapolis only reemphasized the delicate balance that must be maintained between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. "Too much coming out of Annapolis hurts Olmert; too little undermines Abu Mazen," said one key Israeli official on the eve of the conclave. that in the Palestinian leader they finally have a "political partner," but not a "security partner..."
"...For some, notably Defense Minister Barak, Syria figures to be a much better bet as a security partner. But on a bi-lateral basis, a number of Israelis have concluded that with this raid going a long way to restore Israeli "deterrence" so badly undermined by their poor military performance against Hezbollah last year, now, in the words of one high ranking Israeli official, "We can talk to the Syrians..."
"...In return, Israeli has long been prepared to cede the political initiative to Damascus, when it comes to forming a government in Lebanon. However, it came as a surprise to a number of observers how quickly and completely the US was ready to back off its commitment to pro-Western politicians in Beirut, led by the son of the late Rafik Hariri, who many believe was assassinated on the expressed orders of the Syrian regime. After months of insisting that the new Lebanese President be not only constitutionally chosen but be acceptable to anti-Syrian politicians, the US appears to have backtracked. Now the Administration appears willing to acquiesce in the selection of Army chief of Staff Michel Sleiman, who technically is not eligible to be President and more important, has shown a willingness to work closely with Syria's allies in Lebanon. Some observers speculate that as the Annapolis conference loomed, Administration officials realized the last thing they needed was a contretemps with Syria over Lebanon. "By the end they wanted the Syrians at Annapolis," says one European diplomat who has been deeply involved with the Lebanon issue. And he, perhaps like a number of his American counterparts, came to believe that getting caught in the thicket of internal Lebanese politics was a no-win proposition..."
"If Syrian attendance helped make Annapolis a success, this was due, in part, to the perception that it came at the expense of Iran. Iranian ambitions, particularly of the nuclear variety, rarely stray far from Administration thinking. And some US officials believe that after making an impact earlier in the year, with such pro-active moves as the arrest of Iranian operatives in Iraq and the deployment of two aircraft carrier battle groups in the Persian Gulf, the US has been unable to follow up with efforts to impress Iran of the danger of its increased isolation. [For this reason, Israeli officials believe the Administration was not at all unhappy with the message delivered by their air raid on Syria]..."
"...Now, however, time is becoming more crucial. Some experts believe Iran, at the current rate, will be producing nuclear fuel long before a new Administration comes into office. "The diplomatic timetable is quickly losing out to the technological timetable," is way one veteran diplomat puts it. In fact, some in the Administration are convinced that the International Atomic Energy Agency chief, el-Baradei already thinks it is too late. This has led some observers to conclude that the Administration may be content to leave resolution of this issue to its successors..."
"...Part of the reason for this kind of bravado may be the improving situation on the ground in Iraq. While US officials admit, no one is saying "victory," they do point to the positive consequences of the surge: a reduction in violence, the absence of "non directed fire" at the Green Zone and the splintering of both shia and sunni militant groups. And while most concede the central government will continue to be weak, a number of long time skeptical State Department officials are now saying, as one put it last week, "It just may work at a local level."

Michel Sleiman's 'Candidacy': Beyond the "out loud"

Whatever has been 'discussed' between Commander Michel Sleiman and the main supporters of his candidacy (the Egyptians) is still very sketchy. The Head of Egyptian Intelligence, Brig. Omar Suleiman, is a man of very few words, therefore it is still early to know what (if any) perimeters have been discussed and agreed upon.
In Beirut, 'parties' are in deep discussing the immediate-post-election period: (1) the formation of a new government, (2) its composition (3) Hezballah's arsenal (4) relations with Syria and (5) the International Tribunal.
Every time Sleiman inches towards M14, he loses equal 'Opposition'' support, and vice versa.
The stew is just about heating up.

Sy Hersh's "reporting secrets"

Via the Washington Monthly, Matt Taibbi 'discusses' in *Campus Progress*, here
"...He’s old school. He’s the kind of guy who sits and pores over the newsletters of all these minor government agencies to see who retired that week so he can approach that person to see if he’s got any stories to tell on his way out of service. There are a few guys like that who are still out there, but they’re all holdovers from a lost age."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

"Under-the-radar" executive order issued by President Bush allows him to freeze or seize the U.S-based assets of 'anyone'

Via TPM, here

'FUTURE' movement denies that talk of Amending the Constitution for Sleiman, "represents the consensus of the movement"

... as Aoun threw back the ball of fire to the ruling clique, MP Samir Jisr (FUTURE) was quick to dispel any notion that MP Houri's (FUTURE) position represents the later ONLY!
Is Saad Hariri that "brilliant"? Is Ammar Houri a Maverick? Does the FUTURE movement group a bunch of yoyos? Take your pick. What is certain is this: Saad Hariri DID NOT CONSULT the die hard members of M14, and now they are pissed!
Please note that Carlos Edde (and the throngs of supporters) 'refuses' to amend the Constitution, and Hisham Melhem (brilliant as usual) said that "there is no evidence whatsoever of a COVERT US-Syrian deal"!! Evidence of a covert deal! Wow!

U.S. sponsorship of Sunni groups worries Iraq's government

In McClatchy's, here
"...U.S. officials said they were screening new members — who generally are paid $300 a month to patrol their neighborhoods — and were subjecting them to tough security measures. More than 60,000 have had fingerprints and DNA taken and had retinal scans, American officials said, steps that will allow them to be identified later, should they turn against the government..." (Thank the Lord for these DRACONIAN Measures!!!!)

Aoun 'accepts' Sleiman's candidacy, and M14's Quarantined MPs move to Riviera Hotel, as expenses become an 'issue'

Aoun accepts Sleiman's 'candidacy' and Siniora readies himself to leave the Serail (will not "amputate" hand to amend the Constitution) and the Down Town Opposition's "sit in" will be commemorated with a huge turnout ... Lebanon energized.

The Elephant in Annapolis' Living Room

Laura Rosen writes in MoJo, here and from the CFR (Elephants in the Conference Room), here
"...Focusing on the Israel-Palestine issue at this point fuels "an inattentiveness to the major issues," Wurmser continued, identifying current national security challenges that are "reaching the near acute stage" as North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Venezuela. But Wurmser, Gaffney, and other hawks are increasingly isolated, even among some of the activists opposed to the Iranian regime.
But earlier in the week Wurmser disputed whether Iran would really be more frightened of a broad international front, such as the one assembled in Annapolis, than of signs that the United States was prepared to act unilaterally. "Does Iran care about isolation?
Former Israeli peace negotiator Daniel Levy noted recently in the Guardian that "the Bush administration continues to view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the lens of a global war on terrorism..."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

M14 agrees to 'amend' the Constitution for Michel Sleiman. Do they really?

Or is it a bluff they're calling in order to get Gen. Aoun to "confront" Sleiman, and self-bleed himself and Sleiman out of contention? Could it be that "Jeff" is behind this sudden turn of events? Could it be that Walid Jumblatt is "really worried? and could it be that M14 target is (scroll waaaay down) none other than Riad Salemeh? I call on Gen. Michel AOUN to "call M14's bluff" ASAP! Jeff, Walid & their minions want us to believe that "the" major reversal took place beneath the brunt of Annapolis. This is partly true, but nonetheless, M14 is maneuvering and maneuvering well for that matter, but it could one day, maneuver itself out of elbow room!

"Hariri proposes, Geagea disposes"

In Gulf News, here
"Somewhere along the way, Hariri became jealous. Siniora had managed to establish himself as a towering Sunni personality. He now has a strong power base in Beirut; almost a parallel one to Hariri.
But Geagea's Lebanon would be a nightmare not only for the Shiites, but for the Sunnis, French, and Saudis as well. He would never tolerate a strong Sunni prime minister. He would immediately work at disarming and sidelining the Shiites. And he would crush his Christian opponents (whom he had fought a bloody battle with in the late 1980s). "

Richard Perle is again propping up regime-toppling Mideast dissidents who lack credibility

In the LATimes, here
"...The exiting guest was Farid Ghadry, an exiled Syrian dissident who, like Perle, believes it's past time to replace Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. Ghadry, who heads a Washington-based group called the Syrian Reform Party, hopes to be the man in charge one day in Damascus.... Ghadry is seen in many quarters as a front man for Israel. Not only is he a dues-paying member of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful Israeli lobby in Washington, but a recent column on his website, titled "Why I Admire Israel,"...
People such as 32-year-old Amir Abbas Fakhravar, an Iranian dissident now living in exile in the United States. In a 2006 Washington Post Op-Ed article, Perle promoted Fakhravar as a heroic and inspirational figure around whom oppressed Iranians could rally, if only he were given America's support...."

"Much ado about nothing"

In the WaPo, here

"Annapolis .........................................................Peace!"

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Iran's Secret Weapon: 'The Pope'

In TIME magazine, here
"...If the situation heats up in the coming months, the question of exactly what role the Vatican would play could become pivotal. Says one high-ranking Vatican official: "The Iranians look to the Holy See with particular attention. It is born from our common religious matrix. This could be utilized to offer ourselves as an intermediary if the crisis worsens." Among the potential moves: a forceful series of public appeals by the Pope, a Vatican emissary sent to Washington and Tehran, or a visit to the Vatican by Iranian President President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."

Feltman explains to Newsweek:"The Thin Red Line Between Promoting and Meddling"

Read here and the Q & A, here, and as one of the readers pointed out, Feltman came very close to calling some members of the M14 hodgepodge "corrupt"!
FELTMAN: "Hizbullah's popular support is real. We need to take this into our calculations...Take Michel Aoun [Hizbullah 's chief Christian ally and only announced candidate for president]. He's a most interesting figure here. We have serious reservations about Aoun's providing a Christian facade for Hizbullah's attempts to undermine the Constitution.
NEWSWEEK: Some media in Lebanon accuse you of wanting precisely that—saying you go about from ministry to ministry giving instructions, and otherwise interfering.
FELTMAN: Well, I don't know if you speak Arabic. But Al-Akhbar [a pro-Hizbullah paper] translates, in English, as "The News." Now: Al-Akhbar has no akhbar. [Laughs.] ...
FELTMAN: I suspect our views on reform and transparency coincide with Aoun's views. In short, I don't suspect all the alliances to be the same after the presidential election as they are today. Some of the people we are working most closely with on promoting an international tribunal to try those accused of Rafik Hariri's murder may not be comfortable with these other reforms. I'm probably making too many headlines, though. [Laughs.]

Syria's role at U.S. talks may help Lebanon

In the CSM, here

Tense times: Lebanese soldiers stood guard Monday in front of a store in Beirut, Lebanon. Parliament will try again to elect a new president on Friday.

"Lebanon's Presidential Crisis"

If (if) you are interested, this is WINEP's 'take' on the Lebanese watchamacallit! here

In Annapolis, Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas & PIJ have the biggest impact

Robin Wright, writes in the WaPo, here
""Iran will be the 5,000-pound elephant in the room, even though it's not present," said former U.S. peace negotiator Aaron David Miller. "It's in everyone's calculation and motivation . . . [plus] the impact of Hamas and the role it can play in wreaking havoc with whatever happens in Annapolis. . . . The balance of power is not in favor of peacemakers but in favor of the troublemakers."
"They've [Arabs] decided that the problem in the Middle East begins with 'I' but ends with 'N'," a senior U.S. official said in a recent interview. "The problem in the Middle East now isn't Israel anymore, or the Israelis, it is Iran. . . . I think the Arab states believe [the peace] . . . needs to be resolved, as part of their effort to deal with the problem of Iran."
Iran will still have leverage in the event of peace, Arab officials concede. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said yesterday that any peace agreement would eventually have to include Hamas, since it controls Gaza and half the Palestinian Authority. Moreover, the two major Palestinian parties -- Hamas and Fatah, which controls the West Bank -- would need to join a national unity government, he said."

Bush to open Mideast conference, but won't stay for discussion

From McClatchy's, here

His code name was “Carat,” and his working cover was as a cultural attaché in the U.S. Embassy in Beirut

Via AngryArab, in the VillageVoice, here

Monday, November 26, 2007

Bush-Al Maliki 'teleconference' allows US troops to stay in Iraq "indefinitely"

Read here & here. Nothing said about the American People's opposition to this kind of open ended presence!

"Lebanon needs some love"

McClatchy's, here
Failed state seeks new date. Country of good-looking, beach-going people who killed one another for 15 years ISO strong, presidential type. Let's start with reconciliation and statesmanship, and see what happens. We're not into sectarianism, we swear, but our ideal match must be a Maronite Christian. Eloquent and bold in a Nasrallah kinda way, sans the beard and turban. Sedate and reliable like Saniora, except not a crybaby when the Israelis come calling. All inquiries should be sent directly to the American or French embassies (no ticking or oddly shaped packages, please). Letters postmarked Damascus or Tehran will be returned to sender. Can't wait to hear from you! No, seriously, we can't's in the constitution.

Lowest Point in US Diplomacy: "Handling of the 2006 Lebanese war"

"...Glenn Kessler, a diplomatic correspondent for The Washington Post, was star-struck when he first met Rice, at the 1992 Republican National Convention. “She was poised and elegant, charming but forceful — and utterly sure of herself.” In “The Confidante,” a brilliantly reported book, he treats her like a star; but he also looks unflinchingly at her record in office. And the picture he gives is dismal..." Read more, here

on the upcoming, and much delayed 'NIE': "Does the U.S. have a smoking gun against Iran?"

AP, here

Sunday, November 25, 2007

"Annapolis a Diplo-show of force with very little substance'

Ron Ben-Yishai, in YnetNews, here
".... it is completely clear that the event will only slightly advance the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’s resolution, if at all.
...The genuine and major objective of the US Administration is to produce a diplomatic show of force in Annapolis that would make it clear to all elements involved in the Mideast theater, as well as to the audience at home, how robust Washington’s status is in the region and in global politics.
...And if Syria decides to send its foreign minister to Annapolis, it would be a special bonus for the Bush Administration...."

'Lebanon's Opposition lets Lahoud & itself down"

In Al Akhbar, here "Covert" bed-fellows, Berri & Siniora, overseeing destruction in the Suburb (Dahieyh) and Lebanon's inertia, in expectation of freeing Berri from his opposition "bondage", and towards his FULL inclusion in M14.

'The Syrian Opportunity'

here & Col. Lang's comment, here
"... Syria has been seeking a way to talk seriously to Washington for long time. Israel's willingness to discuss the return of Syrian territory on the Golan Heights provides a chance to do just that.
I am still of the opinion that little will result from the Palestinian-Israeli meeting at Annapolis, but there is a real chance that the Syrian aspect of the festering mess that is the Middle East could be cleared up in the near future.
Syria is extremely uncomfortable with its hostile non-relationship with the US and would go a long way in attempting to resolve that situation.
Lebanon, the "alliance" with Iran, past support of terrorist groups, all of those things could be "in play" if the United States (and Israel) accept the concept of real reconciliation with Syria."

American tactics against Hizbullah resemble those directed against Hamas in Gaza

In "Controlled Chaos", The Guardian, here
".... opposition supporters champion Lahoud's seminal role in protecting and defending the Lebanese Resistance, and in particular his legitimising Hizbullah's armed presence in the face of unprecedented pressure from March 14, the US and the UN security council via the insidious resolution 1559 that calls for disarming all militias. Moreover, Lahoud's status as former commander of the Lebanese army has solidified excellent relations in terms of cooperation and coordination between the army and Resistance during his tenure.
It is this second legacy which the US and March 14 perceive as a threat and thus share a common desire to destroy..."

A Glimmer of Optimism on the U.S.-Iran Front?

By Laura Rosen in MoJo, here

Geagea' to the Muslims in M14: "If you are not ready to take on Hezballah, I am ready to take on Aoun"

In AsSafir, here and here

At Mideast Talks, U.S. and Israel Seek to Isolate Iran by Wooing Syria

Via SyriaComment, in the WSJ, here, as Syria prepares to attend at Deputy FM (Faysal Meqdad), here

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Michel Aoun to “OTV”

Read ,here

In Beirut, people are moving out of their homes, just as they have in Baghdad

Lebanon's "Abed" needs Baghdad "Abou Abed", Fisk, here

Return of the Neocon?

VD Hanson in TNR, here
".........Most leading Democrats quietly are backing away from their talk about bringing American troops in Iraq home on rigid timetables....."

Friday, November 23, 2007

President Emile Lahoud declares State of Emergency

... and Army to relay power when and if a government of 'Unity' is formed! ALL (repeat ALL) security apparatuses are henceforth UNDER the LAF's command!

Annapolis "1786" pulled a Constitution & a Nation out of a "mess".

The WashingtonNote, here
"...Doubt, cynicism, and low expectations about the 1786 Annapolis Convention are part of what helped generate the successful environment that it was for hatching the all important Philadelphia Federal Convention..."
Bush & Rice seem to gamble what is left of their credibility (at least Rice's) to pull something off at Annapolis 2007'.

The Ascendency of Ehud Barak deserves a Michel Sleiman ... until further notice!

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Annapolis and After

From the ICG, here
*The U.S. and others should support and closely supervise the negotiations and introduce bridging proposals as necessary.
*Talks need to be accompanied by rapid, visible changes on the ground consistent with and conducive to a two-state settlement.
*Internal Palestinian divisions must be overcome and Syria should be fully included.

From Hopeful To Helpless At a Protest In Lebanon

Shadid in the WaPo, here

US congress: Iraq's foreign militants 'come from US allies' through Jordan

From the Guardian, here
"...In all, 305, or 41%, of the fighters listed were from Saudi Arabia. Another 137, or 18%, came from Libya. Both countries are officially US allies in anti-terrorism efforts..."

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Aoun' proposal repelled, as March14 readies for a symbolic show in Parliament and a "quiet" transition to Siniora's "Regence"

... or so it it thought. All eyes are on Annapolis, as M14 hedges its bets on a "breakthrough". The "quiet interim" period remains hostage to this thinking, and any such envisaged breakthrough would require a Lebanese government MORE in tune with US policy, coinciding with "change" in Israel with Ehud Barak becoming the Man of the hour, .... in Gaza and South Lebanon.

"Trying to Save Lebanon, ... Again"

Just in case you have nothing else to do except gorge yourself, read this from a NYTimes Editorial, here ... The NYTimes at its superficial self, ... again!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Lebanon's 'vacuum': An all around request, whilst the Damascus-Washington square dance materializes

Read Jean Aziz in Al Akhbar: The Best encapsulation of tonight's Lebanon 'take'. Here.

"Ahmadinejad to conquer Tel Aviv via Turkey"

Via MoonOfAlabama, here

'A powder keg in Lebanon'

Thanks to "b", Milton Viorst, in the LATimes, here and Col. Lang's comment below:
"Ah, yes, the magic of "the deal." This more or less sums up the Lebanese mind set with regard to politics, business, etc. That, and the lesser magic of conspicuous consumption.
I do not believe that there will be another Lebanese civil war. The Lebanese still remember the last one all too vividly for them to soon go collectively mad as they did the last time. The Israel-Hizbullah war of 2006 refreshed that memory for them to something sticky, brown and still drying. It will take a generation of quiet for the Lebanese to have a renewed taste for the mayhem that destroys friend and foe alike. Maybe that was the point of the Israeli campaign? Maybe not.
No. No civil war. Instead, look to see the further disintegration of civil society under the pressure of foreign political interventionism. The Lebanese like a good conspiracy so well that they are perpetually willing to divide themselves into factions and groupings of factions allied to foreign players. They really do not seem to know how to live without that kind of activity.
They will continue." pl

"Chirac mis en examen"

L'ancien président de la République Jacques Chirac a été mis en examen pour détournement de fonds dans le cadre de l'affaire des chargés de mission de la Ville de Paris. Il était entendu depuis 8 h 30 du matin, au pôle financier de Paris, par la juge Xavière Simeoni, a indiqué son avocat, Jean Veil. Déjà entendu le 19 juillet, dans ses nouveaux locaux professionnels, par le juge de Nanterre Alain Philibeaux, chargé de l'affaire des emplois de complaisance du RPR, M. Chirac n'a pu cette fois éviter de se déplacer dans le cabinet du magistrat, Mme Simeoni demeurant inflexible sur ce sujet. Elle est chargée d'enquêter sur les chargés de mission employés entre 1983 et 1995 au cabinet du maire de Paris, Jacques Chirac (1977-1995).
Au total, une vingtaine de personnes sont poursuivies dans cette affaire, dont l'ancien secrétaire d'Etat, Raymond-Max Aubert, Michelle de Charette, épouse de l'ancien ministre (UDF) des affaires étrangères, Marie-Thérèse Poujade, épouse de l'ancien maire (RPR) de Dijon, Robert Poujade, ou encore l'ancien secrétaire général de Force ouvrière, Marc Blondel, qui a bénéficié, pendant dix ans, d'un garde du corps payé par la ville de Paris. M. Blondel, qui avait reconnu une "erreur" a depuis remboursé les salaires versés.
C'est aussi dans ce dossier qu'Alain Juppé a été entendu, comme témoin, le 15 mai. La Cour de cassation a rejeté, mardi 26 juin, les pourvois de plusieurs mis en examen – dont Michel Aurillac, ministre de la coopération en 1986-1988, et trois ex-directeurs de cabinet de M. Chirac : Michel Roussin (1989-1993), Daniel Naftalski (1986-1989) et Robert Pandraud (1983-1986) – dans cette procédure, validant ainsi l'enquête judiciaire.
M. Chirac a été le signataire d'un contrat établi par la Ville de Paris en faveur d'Alain Costecalde, chauffeur du sénateur RPR Lucien Lanier, faussement affecté au cabinet du maire en qualité de chargé de mission, le 10 janvier 1990. Dans un texte publié dans Le Monde daté du jeudi 22 novembre, l'ancien président de la République veut replacer cette affaire dans le contexte de l'époque et tente d'expliquer les raisons de ces embauches successives.


"Beirut Is Not Tehran"

Exum & McInerney in the WaPo, here and Exum's (Abu Muqawama's) comments below:
"1. The U.S. doesn't seem to realize -- publicly, at least -- that the Lebanese populace is really quite evenly divided between the two warring camps. We would prefer to think that our allies in the pro-West March 14th alliance command a solid majority of all Lebanese, but recent polling data indicate that isn't the case..."
"2.You get the feeling the U.S. would rather "wish away" the 35%+ of the population that is Shia and for whom Hizbollah is the sole political representative. From a U.S. policy perspective, it would be a lot easier if those people just didn't exist, or there was a political alternative to Hizbollah (no, Amal is not an alternative), or they didn't have the support of a large part of Lebanon's Christian community..."

"3. The U.S. insists on seeing the conflict in Lebanon through the prism of its greater clash with Iran ...this is a huge mistake. While we're viewing Hizbollah as a conflict with Iran, some of our allies in Lebanon and the greater Middle East are funding and manipulating some nasty transnational Sunni terror groups -- the kind of guys who were not only responsible for the recent fighting in Nahr al-Bared but also the worst terror attacks in Iraq. (Oh, and that whole 9/11 thing.) We said post-9/11 that we would not allow another terrorist safe haven after Afghanistan, but that's exactly what the Palestinian refugee camps have become -- often with the support of U.S. allies..."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Cedars Revolution is on the verge of a crushing political defeat over the next few days, and at the hands of its own politicians

From the mind of a "great academic, strategist, expert & lunatic", Walid Phares talks to the bastion of "moderation", the National Review, here
"...Deploying an aircraft carrier strike group into the eastern Mediterranean could balance the weight of the Iranian Pasdaran and their missiles deployed in Lebanon, so that Tehran and Damascus aren't the only powers present in that small country..."

"Lebanon bids President Lahoud farewell"

Granted, Fareed Salman & Georges Corm, but who the hell is Jawad Jr.? From Al Jazeera, here

Happy Thanksgiving!

It looks like, Michel Edde or "Le Deluge" (Not Murphy's "Chaos")

Still light-years away, but seemingly the 'only' candidate agreeable to most of both!

'Lebanon still in political deadlock'

From the LATimes, here
"...The March 14 coalition, led by Saad Hariri, the son of Rafik Hariri, has threatened to choose a president itself and form a government with its slim majority rather than continue seeking consensus. That position has been publicly endorsed as constitutional by U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman..."

"Dear President Bush and Secretary Rice..."

Letter by the "U.S. Middle East Project * International Crisis Group * New America Foundation/American Strategy", here
Inside sources tell Steve Clemons that the Annapolis Peace Summit to address Israel/Palestine issues will be officially announced today, and the date will be November 27.

Monday, November 19, 2007

"... we're going to go into Iran and what do we have to do to get you guys to along with it"

Laura Rosen writes in MotherJones, here
"...The client paying for the focus group session, according to Sonnemark, was Freedom's Watch, a high-powered, well-connected advocacy group that launched a $15 million ad campaign this summer in support of the surge of American troops in Iraq. Among the group's leadership: former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and Bradley A. Blakeman, a former deputy assistant to President Bush. The focus group session suggests that Freedom's Watch may be looking beyond Iraq and expanding its mission to building support for military action against Iran..."

Michel Aoun: «Je peux faire le pont entre les différentes forces du Liban»


Ahmadinejad to discuss with Arabs a plan to enrich uranium in neutral Switzerland.

From BBC, here

63% of Lebanese "favor a Military Takeover" and 77% ask for a "Referendum on Lebanon's identity"

... and this according to a Poll conducted by the excellent Information International, SAL, while the majority (77%) of respondents want a referendum on Lebanon's "Political & Economic" issues.
A Solid 59% majority remain convinced that Hezballa's arsenal is "necessary to face Israel" until all issues are resolved between Lebanon & Israel, including of course, the Prisoners and the occupied lands.
The Lebanese are equally divided (43%) on the necessary quorum for the election of a new President (2/3 or 50+1) while an important 14% remain "undecided".
More importantly, 63% of all respondents believe that the Army should run the country until a new President is elected and a new government is formed.
مازن كرباج ـ لبنان

NO end in sight in Lebanon!

Annapolis - Why Bother?

Lang on Annapolis, here
"...The Palestinians see the process as one in which the American super-power gives its blessing to the rough outline of what a final settlement will be.
In pursuit of that vision, the Palestinians want there to be a document agreed on between them and the Israelis which gives the shape of what the final settlement will be and they want it in advance. Anything else they see as merely another trick..."

Kouchner: :"some parties are sabotaging the process and France is going to publicly denounce those parties..."

The "Loyalists" & the "Opposition" have morphed. They are not what they seem anymore. Have you fastened your seat belts? Do it NOW!
وصل مساء أمس إلى بيروت وزير الخارجيّة الفرنسيّة برنار كوشنير في زيارة هي الرابعة له إلى لبنان للبحث في الملف الرئاسي. لكنّ كوشنير لم يبدُ متفائلاً هذه المرّة، إذ صرّح: «أنا أقلّ ثقة، والأمور أكثر تعقيداً». (مروان طحطح)

OBG: Lebanon's "fiscal future in the balance" while Syria enjoys "Turkish Delights"

From the Oxford Business Group, here and here

Expectations low for U.S.-Mideast peace talks: "The Incredible Shrinking Middle East Peace Summit"

From McClatchy's, here
"...On the broader Middle East front, Rice has failed to persuade traditional U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt to join together in a new coalition that's meant to balance the influence of Iran. And the administration is still sending mixed signals about whether it's willing to support possible Israeli peace talks with Syria...".
"...As a key negotiator for President Clinton during the Camp David peace talks in 2000, which ended in collapse, Miller knows the risks of pushing the two sides into a deal when they aren't ready..."

Sunday, November 18, 2007

While he met with Sec. Gen. of the UN, Geagea' goons tried to occupy the offices of the LBC

They only dispersed after Geagea' got word that the Lebanese Army was going to quell his "putch", using force if need be. Next day, "Lebanese-Affairs-Aficionado" Ban Ki Moon saw it wise to meet with an unrepentant convicted killer, who still believes that thuggery is the way to build a "modern state."

Lebanon's 'roller-coaster': France (& minions) going for Edde, while 'Muslims' drool over Ghanem & Aoun/Geagea' 'boycott' Sfeir's "list"

Excluded from this "title" is Hezballah: Fasten your seat belts, folks, we're in for a ride of sorts.

Kouchner: 'France is not ruling out a military strike on Iran'

In HAARETZ, here
"...In an interview with Haaretz, Kouchner, who along with French President Nicolas Sarkozy is leading the European hard-liners against Iran, described the crisis over Iran's nuclear program "as extremely serious," adding that France "will never compromise on Israel's security."

British govt' faces row with Bush over 'substantial' financial support to Tehran

From the Sunday Times, here
"...The money (GBP 290 Millions) was offered by the Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD) to support British firms exporting to Iran, mainly to the country’s petrochemical industry.
Many of the loans were being negotiated while British ministers were threatening sanctions against Iran for creating a nuclear enrichment facility to make atomic weapons..."

The IAEA's "real views" on the Iranian Nuclear Program

Via SicSemperTyrannis, Col. Lang writes:

"Remember how the bush-cheney cabal was quite critical of this agreement with iran and has declared that even iran's full compliance with this agreement won't suffice. that seems to be the reason that we have seen so much el-baradei bashing recently. Iran IS cooperating with the iaea as requested, and the info that iran has/is providing IS consistant with the iaea findings. in short, a positive report which also makes no mention of any nuclear weapons programs or any such stuff. four points to keep in mind with the report:

      2. 'UNDECLARED ACTIVITIES' AND THE ADDITIONAL PROTOCOL -- the iaea has found NO EVIDENCE of a nuclear weapons program, the iaea can't say that iran's nuclear activities are exclusively peaceful since the iaea can't verify the absence of undeclared nuclear activities in iran. the report requests that iran once again implement the additional protocol. keep in mind:
        1. the iaea doesn't veirty the absence of undeclared nuclear activities for any nation unless they have signed and ratified the additional protocol. according to the iaea there are currently 40 other nations for which the iaea can't similary verify the absence of undeclared nuclear activities. i.e. egypt (which rice recently lauded as a 'model' nuclear program) have refused to even sign the additional protocol, unlike iran.
        2. iran voluntarily implemented the additional protocol by allowing more stringent inspections for 2 years during the course of the paris agreement negotiations with the eu3 (even though iran wasn't legally obligated to do so) -- and still no evidence of nuclear weapons was found in iran. the 'stuff' the bush-cheney cabal a.k.a. admin. has given the iaea of 'secret' iranian nuclear facilities had been BOGUS [ see: ]. iran has stopped providing that additional level of cooperation and stopped voluntarily implementing the additional protocol when THE EU TRIED TO CHEAT IRAN in the the paris agreement negotiations. iran has repeatedly stated its willingness to ratify and implement the additional protocol once its nuclear rights are recognized.

Lebanon is Hanging by a Thread: 'Diplomatic Pleasantries Have Been Discarded'

From CounterPunch, here
"... the most significant international sponsor--the US--has thus far blocked any agreement that denies the realization of its own principle goal in Lebanon, namely disarming the Resistance and accomplishing what Israel could not do by force during its July 2006 invasion..."

Mohamad Shattah: "The Siniora Government will hold the reins of Power when Pres. Lahoud leaves Office"

Very Prophetic!

America and Israel are 'secretly' drawing up plans to deal with Iran

From the Sunday Telegraph, here
"The more they looked at the intelligence and the information they had, the more pessimistic they have become about what could be achieved on the operational front by military action," said Dan Goure, a Pentagon adviser. "Military strikes might only set the programme back a couple of years, but the current thinking is that it is just not worth the risks." A political rethink has also begun in Israel, where security policy is linked to its status - never publicly admitted - as the region's only nuclear state.

U.S. 'Secretly' Aids Pakistan in Guarding Nuclear Arms

In the NYTimes, here
The New York Times has known details of the secret program for more than three years, based on interviews with a range of American officials and nuclear experts, some of whom were concerned that Pakistan’s arsenal remained vulnerable. The newspaper agreed to delay publication of the article after considering a request from the Bush administration, which argued that premature disclosure could hurt the effort to secure the weapons.
Since then, some elements of the program have been discussed in the Pakistani news media and in a presentation late last year by the leader of Pakistan’s nuclear safety effort, Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai, who acknowledged receiving “international” help as he sought to assure Washington that all of the holes in Pakistan’s nuclear security infrastructure had been sealed.
The Times told the administration last week that it was reopening its examination of the program in light of those disclosures and the current instability in Pakistan. Early this week, the White House withdrew its request that publication be withheld, though it was unwilling to discuss details of the program.

As we inch closer to Primaries, IRAQ will share the stage with a worsening situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan ...etc.

Via Matt Yglesias a PEW research paper, here and here


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Syria (and Saudi Arabia) will come to Annapolis

From Y News, here

State Department Iraq ‘Weenies’ Do Have a Point

From CQ's Jeff Stein, via War&Piece, , here
"Wrecked physically and mentally from terrorist attacks or duty in combat zones, State Department employees from senior diplomats on down to foreign aid workers say they have too often had to fend for themselves when they were hurt.
“The idea of being killed or injured is real,” says Frank Pressley, who was badly wounded during a terrorist attack on the U.S. embassy in Nairobi in 1998, “and if you are injured, you had better believe that you will be forgotten by the very employer that asked and needed your help.”

Friday, November 16, 2007

Abbas settles for the return Home of 20,000 Palestinians, and offers Olmert an end to the "Dispute"

Yes, nothing is wrong with your monitor: The return of 20,000 Palestinians, From Al Hayat, here

Georges Corm: "C’est une erreur grave de continuer de considérer qu’il existe encore une civilisation musulmane"

George Corm, interviewed by Geostrategie, here

C’est une erreur grave de continuer de considérer qu’il existe encore une civilisation musulmane

Army Desertion Rate Highest Since 1980

From the Huffington Post, here

Brookings: "Fatah al Islam was not a mechanical creation of Syrian intelligence"

Apparently this Brookings paper is only available via SyriaComment, here
Seven conclusions and observations can be drawn from the battle of Nahr al Bared that could shed light on al Qaeda and the global war on terror:
1- Despite Fatah al Islam’s Islamist appeal and repeated calls for support throughout its battle with the Lebanese army, not one major salafist jihadist group in Lebanon headed its call. Osbat al Ansar, Jund al Sham (who have now re-merged with Osbat al Ansar), the Qarun group, the Arqoub group, and the Majdal Anjar group remained fairly silent and distanced themselves from the battle. For these groups and others, the battle that Fatah al Islam was waging was the wrong one. The jihadist compass, according to these groups’ leaders, was to be set South (against Israel) not North. This experience solidifies the authors’ earlier conclusion put forth in a study entitled "Securing Lebanon from the Threat of Salafist Jihadism" in which they argued that salafist jihadist entities in Lebanon are not united under a single umbrella or organization, instead they have dissimilar agendas and are relatively small and clandestine semi-autonomous entities with informal organizational structures. Each is more concerned about its own survival than about waging an offensive jihad against "infidels."
2- The battle against Fatah al Islam underscores the argument (also made in the above-mentioned study) that the salafist jihadist phenomenon in Lebanon is not purely a Palestinian phenomenon. Lebanese make a sizable part of the salafist jihadist movement in Lebanon, as evidenced by the high number of Lebanese cells operating in Tripoli, Akkar and al Koura.
3- Fatah al Islam was not a mechanical creation of Syrian intelligence. While Syria did not prevent large transfers of Arab fighters from Iraq to Lebanon, via Syrian territories, it did not play a major role in arming or financing Fatah al Islam.
4- Fatah al Islam could not have survived or accomplished any of its initial or later goals if it had not benefited from the large influx of Arab fighters from Iraq and from the financial support of al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. In that sense, Fatah al Islam, as Kenneth Pollack and Daniel Byman – authors of "Things Fall Apart" – would most probably argue today, is a result of the Iraq conflict.
5- It is very interesting to note that throughout the battle, neither Osama bin Laden nor Ayman al Zawahiri issued a statement supporting Fatah al Islam or endorsing its insurgency. This raises a number of important questions: does al Qaeda only support winners? Why did al Zawahiri praise the attack against UNIFIL on June 24, 2007 but remain silent on Fatah al Islam? Is it because al Qaeda’s senior leadership is more inclined to support terrorist acts as opposed to reckless jihadist enterprises?
6- UNIFIL, as argued in an earlier study by the authors entitled "Al Qaeda’s Terrorist Threat to UNIFIL", remains highly vulnerable to terrorist attacks. The international force is still working with a major handicap: lack of good intelligence and force protection measures.
7- The failure of the jihadist project of Fatah al Islam raises a critical point on terrorist organizational structures. Fatah al Islam morphed from a hierarchical group to a network of semi-autonomous cells. To what extent did that transformation contribute to its ultimate downfall? What does organizational structure say about the effectiveness and survivability of a terrorist enterprise?

"Get used to the Iranian bomb & give back to Syria the control of Lebanon"

Aluf Benn in HAARETZ, here
"With regard to Syria, the situation is completely different. Israel wants "to distance it from Iran" through a dialogue, and assesses that the time is ripe because of Syria's weakness and isolation. But Israel is not eager to withdraw from all of the Golan Heights. The Israelis proposed a deal of "Iran in place of Lebanon": Syria would forgo its alliance with Tehran, would be given control in Beirut with the agreement of the Americans, and would disarm Hezbollah."
"The Americans were angry - you don't care who rules Lebanon but we do, they said to the Israelis."

On "The Big Question of Iraq", Amatzia Baram, Tom Ricks & ... others

Via Pat Lang, here
Between 1920 and 1924 the Shi'is of Iraq spilled a lot of blood in fighting the British. Their leading clerics under the leadership of Grand Ayat Allah Shirazi called for jihad and even after the collapse of the armed revolt in October 1920 they continued to object ferociously to any cooperation with the Brits. They were eventually exiled to India as a result. In June 1921 the Brits brought the Sunni Emir Faisal from the Hejaz and in August they anointed him as King of Iraq. They made up their minds: they turned to the Sunni community for cooperation. The latter, albeit with some exceptions, were pragmatic enough to accept the balance of power and act accordingly.
Iraq became Sunni dominated all the way to 2003. One of the ironies of history is that in the 1930s the Shi'i religious leadership turned a number of times to the Brits to protect them against the discrimination and oppression of the Sunni-led state. In the mid-1930s they even asked the Brits to abolish the formal independent status of Iraq and re-impose a fully-fledged British Mandate. But of no avail.
At least one Shi'i leader today is warning his community that the same scenario may be repeated if the Shi'i community does not know how to work with the US. But both the Shi'i leadership and grassroots are adamant on keeping the Sunnis out in the cold. At long last the US commanders found a common language with many Sunni tribal shaykhs and warlords and support them. It is quite possible to my mind that if the Shi'i leaders, between Maliki and Sistani, don't show more flexibility and civil courage and if Muqtada does not cease his marauding mischief the Shi'is will lose Iraq again. It may not become a Sunni-led centralized state as it was before 2003, but it will descend into chaos and the Shi'i parts (and maybe Baghdad too) will come under Iranian hegemony. This is something most Shi'i Arabs are far from enthusiastic about.

Amatzia Baram

Haifa University"

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

AQ's 'Shipment' of 100 Kgs of Cyanide divided between Lebanon & Iraq, intended for the 'assassination' of Hassan Nasrallah & others

In AsSafir (Arabic) here

Peres relays to Turkey "secret" info on Iran

From Yediot Aharonoth, here
"... Sources on the delegation explained that the information was aimed at persuading Turkey to change its political stances on Iran. Currently, the volume of trade between the two countries stands at billions of dollars annually, and the two also share common problems of terror by Kurdish rebels."

Tough homecoming for Lebanon's refugees

Blanford in the CSM, here

DoD blogger-roundtable adopts the rhetoric of the Sunni "regimes & minions"

Abou Muqawama (Andrew Exum) asks a very good question (a first on this side of the Atlantic) "When a U.S. spokesperson uses the phrase "Persian influence," does he mean Iranian influence? Is he talking about the role Iranians actively play in Iraq? Or is he unconsciously internalizing a phrase Sunni Arabs in Iraq use to describe not just the Iranians but Shia Iraqi Arabs -- who comprise a plurality of Iraq's population but are often not considered by Sunni Arab Iraqis to be real Iraqis?"
We have often heard the Jordanians, Egyptians, Saudis & Walid Jumblat refer to the Shia's in general as the "Persians, Majoos ..." The answer is that this is a premeditated effort and not an "unconscious" mistake.
Read the "DoD-Blogger RT" here

U.S. Intelligence & Rice: Iran Possesses Trillions Of Potentially Dangerous Atoms

From the Onion with zest, here

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

'Some' of Emile Lahoud's choices

From Al Jazeera (Arabic), here

Lang on Israeli manipulation of World opinion & the "Imminent" Iranian nuclear threat

Col. Lang , here
Several key questions arise because of that expressed Israeli belief:
- What are the actual time lines of the putative Iranian nuclear and missile programs? The basic question is; "How long until the Iranians could have a sufficient force of DELIVERABLE nuclear weapons?" The Israelis talk about Iranian nuclear weapons in 2009. Do they really mean that or are they talking about an experimental detonation?
- Do the Iranians really possess the industrial capacity to manufacture miniaturized nuclear weapons and to "mate" them to ballistic missiles?
- Are the Iranians "rational actors" in making strategic decisions or are they driven by messianic religious impulses?
- Is Israel's principal concern fear of an actual Iranian strike at some time in the future or is the main worry the loss of strategic influence and "clout" that would follow upon the possession of such weapons by the Iranians?

These are the kinds of question that should be considered. Instead, the world is subjected to propaganda and information operations designed to push public opinion toward another war.

Debate on whether to invite Syria to Annapolis or not leaves "a lot of blood on the floor"

Josh Landis, here
"...This battle between neocons (Cheney's people) and realists (the State Dept.), which has been raging ever since Washington placed Syria in diplomatic quarantine, was won by the realists. Syria is being invited to Maryland.
The big question is under what terms. Will Syria find the invitation interesting enough to say, "Yes?"

US stategy in Iraq: After Abou Abed ... now "cash"!

Nancy Youssef in McClatchy's, here
"...But everyone agrees that a major bombing, the assassination of a key figure or a sudden drought of money could break the deal. And it raises questions of what role the central government will have in Iraq. If residents reject that government, can Iraq stay together? Or will the state become a series of fiefdoms run by unelected leaders backed by the United States?..."

Hamas "fighting like an Army" is good news for the IDF?

This is basically what Gideon Levy is saying in Haaretz, here
"...But the news the soldiers brought is also encouraging on several other levels. According to their descriptions, a Palestinian Defense Force has emerged. Instead of a rabble of armed gangs, an orderly army is coalescing that is prepared to defend its land..."

"The Middle East's Nuclear Dark Age"

Via WarandPiece, an essay by Barry Rubin at GLORIA Ctr. here and further reading on Israeli thinking, here
"...First, Iran is not about to obtain nuclear weapons, certainly not ones that it could use. That dreadful outcome is still several years away...
Second, neither Israel nor the United States is about to attack Iran... it is hard militarily to carry out such an attack, it is politically dangerous, and can lead to very serious consequences. An attack is something better to avoid, if possible. And it is certainly too early for such a high-risk, potentially high-cost venture..."

Monday, November 12, 2007

Fmr. Chief of Mossad Halevy: 'The US & Israel should look for ways to establish a creative dialogue with Iran & Syria'

Via Kevin Drum,former Chief of Mossad, Efraim Halevy suggests that Israel should stop its jeremiads that Iran poses an existential threat to the Jewish state. The rhetoric is wrong, he contends, and it gets in the way of finding a peaceful solution to the Iranian nuclear problem, ... .The gist of his message is that rather than constantly ratcheting up the rhetoric of confrontation, the United States and Israel should be looking for ways to establish a creative dialogue" with Iran & Syria. here

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Libby: 'Precise' location of Iraq's WMDs: LEBANON

"In the middle of the night in Baghdad, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, was calling from Washington with precise geographic coordinates to guide searchers to Iraq's hidden WMDs. The supposed hiding place was in Lebanon."
"...Drogin's book arrives, serendipitously, as some Washington voices, many of them familiar, are reprising a familiar theme -- Iran's nuclear program is near a fruition that justifies preventive military action. Whether or not these voices should be heeded, Drogin's book explains one reason they will not be..."

Read more on Drogin's book in George Will's "review", here in the WaPo.

Lang on "Tom Friedman, David Brooks and the Church of the 'What's Happening Now!'"

Pat Lang at SicSemperTyrannis, here
"...Tom Friedman is hard at work in this column (as usual) at convincing humanity of its homogeneous future. He desperately wants to see mankind in this way and hopes and hopes that the sense of separateness that prevails in so many people across the world is going to disappear soon. One wonders if he is thinking of ALL groups that way. This egregiously utopian view of the future places him squarely in the Jacobin neocon "camp."


Rashid Al Khalidi in the WaPo, here
"...Our political leaders must recognize that force does not solve the problem of terrorism. The real terrorists -- those blowing up civilians in marketplaces and office towers, as opposed to Iraqis resisting U.S. occupation -- can be dealt with only by means far more subtle than military might. Dealing effectively with this elusive enemy requires patience and a far more precise, carefully targeted and politically sophisticated toolkit than the mighty bludgeon of the U.S. armed forces..."

Meet 'Abu Abed': the US's new ally against al-Qaida

Via the WashingtonNote, here
"... Abu Abed, a member of the insurgent Islamic Army, has recently become the commander of the US-sponsored "Ameriya Knights". He is one of the new breed of Sunni warlords who are being paid by the US to fight al-Qaida in Iraq. The Americans call their new allies Concerned Citizens..."
"...The Americans lost hope with an Iraqi government that is both sectarian and dominated by militias, so they are paying for locals to fight al-Qaida. It will create a series of warlords..."

Saturday, November 10, 2007

'NIE' on Iran held up for more than a year in effort to force 'spooks' to remove dissenting judgments

G Porter, In the AsiaTimes, here
"The aim is to make the document (completed a year ago) more supportive of Vice President Dick Cheney's militarily aggressive policy toward Iran, according to accounts provided by participants in the NIE process to two former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officers."

Iran Policy Counterattack

In the American Prospect, here
"....Massachusetts Rep. John Tierney and Virginia Sen. Jim Webb have emerged as early leaders. With a few exceptions, their efforts have drawn tepid support from their colleagues, in both parties. But Tierney points to hopeful signs of a groundswell -- and sources say influential Democratic donors have begun demanding that party leaders match Bush’s saber rattling with an equally vocal chorus of caution..."
"...Webb sent a letter to President Bush emphasizing his belief "that offensive military action should not be taken against Iran without the express consent of Congress." It was signed by 29 other members. But 60 votes would be needed ..."

Friday, November 9, 2007

SYRIA:Options and Implications for Lebanon and The Region


Bolton turns Bush critic

From UPI, here

Murmur: The US did away with elections with a "simple majority" quorum

A while back, Stalwart Minister of Works and Head of the Tripolitan Bloc, Mohamad Safadi "shocked" the Lebanese political landscape and his allies (so we were led to believe) in the M14 Movement, when he declared that his bloc would not "partake" in the cannibalization of the Constitution by quorum of a simple majority in the House. People speculated (and speculated some more) as to the reasons of such a dramatic turn of events. It was ultimately thought that Safadi (by birth, a Constitutional "Expert") had a calling, ... a sudden political/moral awakening ...
Our 'take': On background, Safadi could have not acted, except at the behest (putting it gently) of the United States and his regional patron, Saudi Arabia, to seal the question of election by a simple majority, allowing the tractions of Lebanese Politics to fill the "temps perdu." Today, Saad Hariri stood up to put that question "out of its misery" once and for all, allowing the interpretation that this is a "great M14 sacrifice" towards the "gran' bargain."
The truth of the matter is, the US has no Iron Clad fixation over elections: In case of a "void", Siniora will do just fine!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Whisper: The US' Lebanon "Dark Horse"

A "close circuit" dinner saw the anointment of the Banker-Head of the Maronite League, Joseph Torbay, as the US's Presidential "Dark Horse", when & should a compromise materialize. Present at the Dinner were, besides the US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman and Joseph Torbay, Marwan Hamadeh and "host"... Fuad Siniora!

Rice in Lebanon: "Hard to Digest"

Thanks to MK, and via the Century Foundation, read here
"...But having supplanted the Syrians as the dominant foreign power in Lebanese politics, the Bush administration is at risk of overplaying its own hand today. It alienated some of the most dedicated democratic reformers in Lebanese politics when it cobbled together an anti-Iranian majority in parliament from traditional political satrapies. It offended many Lebanese by its Dulles-like compulsion to see the region in strictly binary terms—and by simple-mindedly working to align Christians and Sunnis against Shiites attracted to Hizbollah..."
"...Yet most Lebanese are convinced that, as Daoud Khairallah, an analyst of the country’s byzantine politics, now at Georgetown University, wrote in Beirut’s Daily Star last week, Hizbollah’s disarmament “is more likely to be achieved by efforts of internal parties perceived as trusted friends and respected nationalists than by politically discredited adversaries.”

The United States’ new backyard

Alain Gresh in Le Monde Diplo., here
"...Lebanon is a fragile entity that depends upon a subtle sectarian alchemy. By deciding to support one side against the other, the US and France made any internal resolution more difficult. Lebanon has become a battleground where the West and its allies can confront Iran and Syria. And any compromise, however necessary, is in danger of being perceived as a victory for the “forces of evil”.

David Welsh: 'Gen. Aoun could be added to the "list" of those working to undermine Siniora's government'

In a statement to the House Foreign Relations Committee, Asst. Sec. of State David Welsh did not exclude adding the Leader of the Free Patriotic Movement to the list of those who work to undermine the Siniora government, hence the list of those who work to undermine the "US National security."

Lebanon's militias rearm before vote

From the CSM, here

State Department "effectively kills" a program to disburse millions of dollars to Iran's liberal opposition

From the NYSun, here
"..... predicted the $20 million devoted to supporting the activities inside the Islamic Republic would be relegated to what he called "safe initiatives" such as student exchange programs, and not the more daring projects he and his deputy, David Denehy, funded, such as training for Web site operators to evade Internet censorship, political polling, and training ........"
"...The decision .......comes as American diplomats are exploring more meetings in Baghdad with Iranian envoys..."

'The Iranian Challenge'

In agreement with Flynt Leverett on the need for a "comprehensive" grand deal between Iran & the US, a Good essay by Trita Parsi who wrote this in the Nation , here:
"...These negotiations cannot be limited to Iraq or to the nuclear issue alone. The problems between the United States and Iran go well beyond these two issues. There is an underlying geopolitical imbalance that must be addressed. The previous order in the region has crumbled as a result of America's defeat of the Taliban and its subsequent failure to establish a coherent order in Iraq. Even if the nuclear issue and the Iraq calamity were to be resolved, the context that has given meaning to these problems to begin with--the collapse of the previous order and the absence of an all-inclusive security arrangement--will remain unresolved. Any agreement with Iran that does not address this fundamental issue is doomed to be short-lived..."

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Review: Khalil Gibran's "Collected Works"

Via Arts&LettersDaily, read here

Flynt Leverett: 'All or Nothing: The Case for a U.S.-Iranian "Grand Bargain"

Via the WashingtonNote, Leverett's Statement to the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs Committee on Government Oversight and ReformU.S. House of Representatives November 7, 2007.
Read Here

A letter from Iran: "Don't preempt"

This letter was in (of all places) the Jerusalem Post, here
"...My prediction is that any preemptive military action by Israel or America will result in a blowback effect which would be many magnitudes greater than the initial onslaught.
Attacking Iran would be the equivalent of a 1,000 9/11s for the Iranian people.
An attack would also postpone democracy in Iran for decades, and would probably result in a military regime coming to power. And most likely that military regime would have very wide support from the Iranian people, much more so than the current regime..."

Patriarche Sfeir refuses to 'arbitrate' Lebanese Presidential election

Le patriarche maronite libanais refuse d'arbitrer l'élection présidentielle
LE MONDE 07.11.07 15h12 • Mis à jour le 07.11.07 15h12

e cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, patriarche de la communauté maronite (catholique) libanaise, n'en demandait pas tant. A l'approche de la date limite du 23 novembre à minuit pour l'élection par le Parlement d'un nouveau président de la République, c'est sur lui que convergent toutes les sollicitudes, pour pallier les divisions profondes qui séparent les dirigeants politiques, y compris au sein de sa communauté.
Le patriarche s'entend demander presque de toutes parts de choisir lui-même le présidentiable, que le Parlement ne ferait qu'adouber, ou pour le moins de dresser une liste de personnalités dignes à ses yeux d'accéder à la fonction. Manière pour les politiques de se défausser de leurs responsabilités nationales, sous le double prétexte que c'est à la communauté maronite que revient de droit la présidence de la République et qu'il faut, en la matière, redonner à cette communauté le statut de primus inter pares longtemps nié par les diktats de l'ancien tuteur syrien.
Mgr Sfeir a maintes fois déclaré qu'il n'entendait pas se substituer au Parlement et qu'il ne désignerait personne parmi ou hors de la bonne douzaine de présidentiables déclarés ou présumés. Il a réaffirmé cette position, mardi 6 novembre, selon plusieurs de ses visiteurs. Sur un ton dépité, il s'était interrogé un jour : "Tiendrait-on compte d'une liste (de présidentiables) si je la dressais ?"
Il faisait implicitement allusion au revers essuyé en 1988, lorsque Damas n'avait tenu aucun compte d'une telle liste, qu'il avait pourtant été prié de dresser. Il n'a pas non plus oublié deux autres échecs, en 1995 et en 2004...
Le patriarche continue aujourd'hui d'opposer son refus à tout amendement constitutionnel, face à ceux qui évoquent à nouveau une telle modification pour permettre l'accession à la présidence du commandant en chef de l'armée, le général Michel Sleiman. Son refus est également justifié par son aversion, elle aussi traditionnelle, au pouvoir des militaires. Sauf si, a-t-il dit un jour, il s'agit de "sauver le pays" du naufrage...
Le futur président, ne doit "pas avoir à rougir de son passé". Il doit avoir "fait ses preuves dans l'arène politique", être armé "de courage et d'un sens du sacrifice". Il doit aussi être "capable de dire "non" lorsque l'intérêt national l'exige", être fort d'un bagage intellectuel honorable et être enfin réputé avoir "les mains propres".
A l'heure où la majorité et l'opposition continuent de polémiquer sur le quorum de députés requis pour l'élection présidentielle (l'opposition menace de boycotter le scrutin si aucun accord ne se dégage autour d'une personnalité consensuelle), le cardinal Sfeir et les évêques ont rappelé les parlementaires à leur devoir : boycotter le scrutin revient à boycotter la patrie, ont-ils prévenu. L'idéal, à leurs yeux, serait que les députés fassent leur choix entre plusieurs candidats, comme cela aurait été le cas dans toute république parlementaire.
Compte tenu de l'acuité de la crise, Mgr Sfeir affirme jusqu'à présent souhaiter un président consensuel. Les chances de voir ce souhait devenir réalité semblent très minces, à une vingtaine de jours de la fin du mandat de l'actuel chef de l'Etat.