Monday, December 31, 2007

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Paris interrompt ses contacts avec Damas

In Le Figaro, here
Nicolas Sarkozy et Hosni Moubarak au cours d'une conférence de presse commune, dimanche au Caire. (Guez/AFP)

A Lebanese (of sorts) laments the demise of the neocons

Via AngryArab in "Long, Gone Neocons" , here
"... So maybe it's time to stop referring to the neocon policies of the Bush administration. The neocons are gone, many for so long that no one seems to remember their leaving. What we now have in Washington is a mishmash of old political realism and improvisation, topped with increasingly empty oratory on freedom and democracy. That should please quite a few of Bush's domestic critics. He's returned to the futile routine in the Middle East that they always urged him to."

"Mr. 10%": The NYTimes on Bhutto's husband, only a decade ago!

Zardari is today's Pakistan' PPP's "Regent" ....Via War&Piece, here
"... The documents leave uncertain the degree of involvement by Ms. Bhutto, a Harvard graduate whose rise to power in 1988 made her the first woman to lead a Muslim country. But they trace the pervasive role of her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, who turned his marriage to Ms. Bhutto into a source of virtually unchallengeable power..."

There will be no "Hariri-like" UN inquiry over Bhutto

In SicSemperTyrannis, here
"... Some might ask why not? After all, when Rafik Hariri was killed in Lebanon several years ago, there was an international hue and cry for a UN led investigation with the clear intention of hanging responsibility around Syria's neck. The investigation has come to pass and the result has been -- nothing. Now we have the Bhutto affair. Will there be an investigation analogous to the Hariri investigation? No. That investigation took place because it was the policy of the United States to agree to and, indeed sponsor such an inquiry. The French? Ah, yes. The French in this case sided with the United States because Chirac's government had reached a level on alienation from America that needed correction. Bottom Line: Crimes like these are really matters of international politics, and the large countries' interests still govern. All else is just illusion. International law? A pretty conceit. The strong still are strong."

"Bhutto's is the highest profile scalp the jihadists can claim since their assassination of Egypt's Anwar Sadat in 1981"

In the WSJ, here and further comment by Martin Kramer at MESH, here, and Eli Lake has this, in the NYSun.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

He Could Care Less About Obama's Story

Reza Aslan writes in the WaPo,
"... The next president will have to try to build a successful, economically viable Palestinian state while protecting the safety and sovereignty of Israel. He or she will have to slowly and responsibly withdraw forces from Iraq without allowing the country to implode. He or she will have to bring Iraq's neighbors, Syria and Iran, to the negotiating table while simultaneously reining in Iran's nuclear ambitions, keeping Syria out of Lebanon, reassuring Washington's Sunni Arab allies that they have not been abandoned, coaxing Russia into becoming part of the solution (rather than part of the problem) in the region, saving an independent and democratic Afghanistan from the resurgent Taliban, preparing for an inevitable succession of leadership in Saudi Arabia, persuading China to play a more constructive role in the Middle East and keeping a nuclear-armed Pakistan from self-destructing in the wake of Benazir Bhutto's assassination..."
Read more, here

Syrian expatriates return home in hopes of new wealth

"Many Syrian-Americans are leaving for Damascus, lured by the opportunities offered by a newly open economy", In the CSM, here

Rudy Campaign Official: He's The Guy To Chase "The Muslims" Back "To Their Caves"

From TPM, here
"He's got I believe the knowledge and the judgement to attack one of the most difficult problems in current history and that is the rise of the Muslims, and make no mistake about it, this hasn't happened for a thousand years. These people are very dedicated and they're also very very smart in their own way. We need to keep the feet to the fire and keep pressing these people until we defeat or chase them back to their caves or in other words get rid of them."

"PAKISTAN SITUATION. . .predictable? Nukes safe. . ."

Via the WashingtonNote, the NELSON Report on Pakistan, here
SUMMARY: the assassination of Benazir Bhutto is one of those horrible "shocking surprises". . .something expected at almost any time since her dramatic return after 8 years of exile, but the event itself is stunning.
At the risk of sounding callous to the predicament of the Pakistani people. . . for the world, key questions tonight are whether the military will be able to keep control of the nuclear weapons arsenal. . .and, is there a risk that Pakistan will literally blow-up into uncontrollable chaos, and so spill-over into the region?
Answers, based on hurried consultation this afternoon with authoritative US sources, are "reassuring" in a crude sense: the nukes are under control, nothing happening now, including the likely imposition of martial law by President Musharraf, is expected to change that situation for the worse.
Experts warn that if the current violence extends from Karachi, Ms. Bhutto's PPP party stronghold, to Lahore, home of the military leadership. . .that will be Musharraf's decision-point.
Suspicion as to the killer/killers must include lower ranking Pakistani military. . .so look to see if renewed attempts are made on President Musharraf and other political figures. The assumption is that Al Qaeda and/or Taliban were involved in today's events. . .and if so, it would be "logical" for further assassination attacks to be launched against Pakistan's leadership.
Indeed, as unwelcome in principle as martial law is, the immediate chaos and risk of violence in Pakistan's major cities probably means it is the best of a bad situation, short and even medium-term. Setting aside the nukes, does that situation pose a threat to the region? Stay tuned for the next 24-48 hours. Again, the prediction, or conclusion, however reluctantly given, is based on a martial law response and the assumption. . .presumption. . .that "order will be restored" however painfully.
Regional risk assessment must include India's reaction. In recent months, the rising uncertainties in Pakistan have caused India to beef-up troops along the Kashmir border. Our experts note that bilaterally, professionals on both sides of the India/Pakistan border have been working to reduce tensions, so for now, the risk is seen as coming from Kashmiri separatists trying to capitalize on the situation by somehow provoking India.
Continued domestic unrest. . .and/or the need to pull troops from the Afghan border. . .clearly will not help US interests, or regional stability.
What about the US goal of free elections as scheduled Jan 8? Seemingly impossible, for obvious reasons. And if re-scheduled, the PPP must designate another candidate. This may prove either impossible or essentially meaningless, since politics in Pakistan is intensely "personal" and Ms. Bhutto was really all the PPP had to offer.
Her husband may seem the logical pick, but his well-earned reputation for corruption and mendacity exceeds even her record, during her second term. . .so not a happy choice.
"Saudi Arabia's" candidate, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, or Imran Khan, are expected to try to move to the front of the political pack, but our experts. . .looking at a situation which, obviously, can change overnight. . .do not think either gentleman will be able to capitalize (one almost uses the word "profit") from Ms. Bhutto's murder.
For now, Nawaz is saying he won't be a candidate so long as Musharraf stays in power, so one of the things we need to find out is whether he has ties to the military. . .and not just to Riyadh. . .and is hoping to see what comes his way.
Flawed as she was, Ms. Bhutto was really the only "candidate" the US had with the capacity to make and enforce some kind of a deal with Musharraf, and to set in motion a return to something resembling normal political life and liberalization.Right now, US policy is in shambles. Is there no hope?
Our experts say if some semblance of order can be restored, and something resembling a real election scheduled, and held, perhaps former caretaker Prime Minister Qureshi. . .or, more likely, Chief Justice Chaudhry, fired by Musharraf. . .may gain mass public support as an alternative to military rule.
Recall that Chaudhry's sacking, which set off the dramatic "lawyers revolt", saw well-dressed professionals in the streets. . .by the thousands. It was seen at the time as "the collapse of the center" which might herald a collapse of the Musharraf regime.
But for the next day or so, perhaps through the weekend, basically "all hell will break loose". . .not a pretty picture, and a real tragedy in the Shakespearean sense, an historic change with unforseeable consequence."

Israel's UN representative: Bhutto sent me emails saying she was afraid ...and showed "a warm dedication to Israel"

From YNetNews, here


Thursday, December 27, 2007

What are the odds on Bhutto?

From SicSemperTyrannis, here
"...The Pakistani military is thoroughly infiltrated by men of doubtful loyalty to a Western alliance. Without the past help or passive acceptance of such men the Taliban and al-Qaeda would never have become the menace that they still are.
No. The US did not sponsor either group. We sponsored other groups. Look it up.
Nevertheless, the situation in Pakistan remains largely a question of the survival of a handful of people like Musharraf and Bhutto. Perhaps next time the plotters will have better luck. If they do then, a sudden reversal in Pakistan which produces a government committed to an Islamist course is distinctly possible...."
and Laura Rosen interviews a Former US Intell. Official (FUSIO) in MoJo, here
"...MJ: What now for Washington’s policy?
FUSIO: My sense is that the American government can send sympathy and condolences and condemn the assassination, and then should shut up.
The next big test is, do we have the election [Pakistani parliamentary elections were scheduled for January 8].
If I were [President Pervez] Musharraf, I would say, tough it out, have elections. People are saying, will he call martial law. If he picks up phone and calls his old “house,” Army house, and asks for martial law, they will tell him, “Thank you for your sentiments on this, I will get back to you.” Does Musharraf call martial law? Can he? ..."

Priests brawl at Bethlehem birthplace of Jesus

"Encroaching ladders in the Holy Land."
From AFP, here
"...Following the Christmas celebrations, Greek Orthodox priests set up ladders to clean the walls and ceilings of their part of the church, which is built over the site where Jesus Christ is believed to have been born.
But the ladders encroached on space controlled by Armenian priests, according to photographers who said angry words ensued and blows quickly followed..."

Bhutto assassination a blow to U.S. hopes in South Asia

In McClatchy's, here
"... Although negotiations between Musharraf and Bhutto failed, the administration saw Bhutto and her secular Pakistan Peoples Party as offering the best hope for winning Jan. 8 parliamentary elections and restoring civilian rule..."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

... Meanwhile in Palestine ...

Via Moon Of Alabama,

Happy Holidays

Skiers getting first tracks in Blue Sky Basins Petes Bowl

Middle East censors seek to limit Web access

From McClatchy's here
"...The ultraconservative Saudi government, a close U.S. ally, blocks thousands of Web sites that deal with pornography, religion, politics and human rights. Medical students at Saudi universities have complained that they can't even access scientific sites to study human anatomy.
Fed up with the growing list of banned sites, a 25-year-old finance student named Hani Noor helped his cousin to create a Facebook group called, "We All Hope They Don't Block Facebook in Saudi Arabia." As of Monday, the group had 225 members and a message board that focused on tips for the best proxies to get around government bans.
Noor, however, hit on an even better solution: he signed up for satellite Internet, which means his connection is now free from the long arm of the Saudi censors.
"I'm off the hook," Noor said with a triumphant laugh in a telephone interview from his home in Saudi Arabia. "We are winning. They're blocking, but we've always found a way to overcome it."

Out of Iraq: The Haves, Have-Nots And Dogs

In the WaPo here

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Middle East Policy Survey: "... As for pressuring Gulfies, the US is not what it used to be..."

"... Others see a more sinister motive behind the NIE's highlighting this one aspect of Iran's nuclear program. "If I had to put it on a bumper sticker," says one State Department official, "It would say `Bush Got It Wrong Again.'" This
underscores the antipathy felt in the intelligence community towards senior members of the Administration since the run-up to the Gulf War. "It is the price we are paying for all that distrust." And Capitol Hill veterans notice the same attitude among Congressional Democrats. "They really believed, as did the authors of the NIE, that the Administration wanted again to go to war. Only this time they were determined not to be used." So determined were they to avoid being used says one State Department insider, that the authors of the NIE were, in his words,"...willing to risk another bumper sticker; this one saying `CIA Gets It Wrong Again,'" a reference to the intelligence community's failure to find out since 2003 that Iran had, at least, partly changed course. Equally upsetting to some in the Intelligence Community, say former officials, is the awareness that by going public with this NIE, they risk exposing their methods of collecting information to the Iranians and therefore letting them figure out exactly what the US does not know.
"...Left in the lurch by this intelligence "bombshell" are the Israelis. They have consistently subordinated their fight to
prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear capability to the US-led effort. In the view of US officials, not to mention the Israelis themselves, they are now alone with a military option "on the table." But like the Administration, Israel's pursuit of the diplomatic option was the best, if not the only alternative. Israeli military planners admit that even if their government were to order a military strike, there is no guarantee it would be effective. The Israelis say privately they do not know which of the many sites where nuclear work is conducted in Iran could constitute a bottleneck, the crippling of which would seriously retard its overall development. More important, Israel is aware of the impact unilateral military action would have on its international standing, especially with the US. Says one well-placed Israeli, "We know that Iran would retaliate, not just against us but against the US as well. And quite frankly, you
are more vulnerable than us."
"... As for pressuring Gulf Arab states and sheikdoms, like Dubai, Administration officials maintain that given the current financial climate, US leverage is not what it used to be. That is not to say that the Gulf states are not concerned about Iran's increased standing. But as one well-placed US official put it
this week, "They were already an easy sell." But this official admits that most Arabs were more than a bit confused by the NIE. "In their world the mukhabarat [intelligence services] are not exactly independent agencies." The only silver lining this official saw was, "Perhaps the Iranians are asking `What the heck is the US up to?.'" And he concludes, "We could well be on our way to a policy designed to confuse and contain."
"...Some observers say this characterization could be used to describe current Administration policy on other Middle East problems. In Lebanon, the US clearly went from major actor in the drama of selecting a new President to (in the words of one US official) "subcontracting the role to France." Now with an impending visit by Secretary Rice, there is the expectation that the US will once again attempt to buttress the dispirited pro- western politicians there. On the more important Arab-Israeli issue, the Administration appears to be trying to buy time, with what one State Department official calls "monthly activities" designed to contain the violent confrontations occurring daily between the Israeli military and Hamas controlled Gazans [What one well-placed Israeli calls "A train wreck waiting to happen."] After the November Annapolis meeting, there came the December "Donors' Conference " in Paris [Where, much to the Administration's chagrin the Gulf States once again disappointed with their relatively meager promises of assistance to Abu Mazen's fledgling Palestinian Authority]. In January President Bush will visit the region. "And then we will be only two events, I mean months, away from the next Arab summit," cracks one State Department official. That summit is slated for Damascus. And some Arabs (and not a few Israelis) see it as a an opportunity to further woo Syria away from its long time Iranian embrace."

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Iran NIE: Non-Nuclear Fallout

Laura Rosen in MoJo, here


Gary Gambill in MERIA, here via SyriaComment.

Syria spurned atom smuggler approach in 2001

From Reuters, here

Don't Try to Stay in Iraq

From Col. Pat Lang, here
"...What we should not think is that our former enemies have become reconciled to a permanent US military garrison in their country. To think that would be a terrible mistake.
If we want to have a reasonable relationship wth whatever Iraq there will be, then we should understand that the basis for resistance to us was rejection of the idea of foreign military occupation.
Bottom Line? Those who fight beside us now will fight us again if we decide to occupy their country permanantly..."

Monday, December 17, 2007

WINEP: The European View on Iran: Fallout from the New U.S. Intelligence Estimate

From WINEP, 3 European diplomats say that the NIE was more news in Washington than it was in either Berlin, London or Paris, here


"Neocon Development Inc."

Cakewalk Estates

Saudis fund "Clinton Library"

In the WaPo, here
"The royal family of Saudi Arabia gave the Clinton facility in Little Rock about $10 million, roughly the same amount it gave toward the presidential library of George H.W. Bush, according to people directly familiar with the contributions."

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Bolton: Bush's "Rice-Dominated-foreign-policy" is in free fall and puts the nation's security at risk

At Reuters, here
"... Bolton, who was a leading hawk in the U.S. administration and favored a tough stance against Iran, North Korea and Iraq, told the Der Spiegel weekly that Bush needed to rein in Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice..."

Israeli targets within range of Gaza

Via MESH, here "...organizations can be expected to continue their efforts to introduce technological improvements which are liable to increase rocket ranges, the amount of explosives the warheads can carry and their degree of accuracy (following the Hezbollah model in Lebanon)..."

'FUTURE' bloc MP, Majdalani: "The US committed its worst crime by dealing with Syria at Lebanon's expense"

In Al Anba', here and Israel worries that "Hizbullah will gain a third of the seats in the cabinet, granting it the power to veto major government decisions" in the JerusalemPost, here
(Now, the Majdalani says he stand by everything the interview mentioned EXCEPT that the "US committed its worst crime ...". Al Anba apparently, stands by ALL that figured in the interview.)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

"Look Who Talks to the Enemy"

"Administration officials are openly making nice with Syria, holding round after round of talks with Iran over the fate of Iraq, and making preliminary plans for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to visit Libya." In The NYTImes, here

Fmr. CIA Bin-Laden Hunter: "For the first time in history we are capturing POWs who can't be released; many go back to the battlefields after release"

In response to [Steve Clemons'] note that "The Guantanamo Detainee" be named TIME's person of the year because of the legal and political convulsions and hemorrhaging that will be caused for years ahead by institutionalized extralegalism there, Michael Scheuer sent [him] a thoughtful note of his own on the subject that needs to be read., was head of the CIA's now terminated "bin Laden unit" and authored Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror, Through our Enemies' Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam, and the Future of America, and the forthcoming Marching Towards Hell: America and Islam After Iraq. Continue reading the NOTE, here.

Israel plans to "correct" the Iran NIE

Lang at SicSemperTyrannis, here
"In his remarks — Israel's harshest criticism yet of the U.S. report — Avi Dichter said the assessment also cast doubt on American intelligence in general, including information about Palestinian security forces' crackdown on militant groups. The Palestinian action is required as part of a U.S.-backed renewal of peace talks with Israel this month.
Dichter cautioned that a refusal to recognize Iran's intentions to build weapons of mass destruction could lead to armed conflict in the Middle East.
He compared the possibility of such fighting to a surprise attack on Israel in 1973 by its Arab neighbors, which came to be known in Israel for the Yom Kippur Jewish holy day on which it began.
"The American misconception concerning Iran's nuclear weapons is liable to lead to a regional Yom Kippur where Israel will be among the countries that are threatened," Dichter said in a speech in a suburb south of Tel Aviv, according to his spokesman, Mati Gil. "Something went wrong in the American blueprint for analyzing the severity of the Iranian nuclear threat."" Yahoo News
Yup. Tail wags dog. Mouse gives diving eagle the finger. Dog bites the hand, etc.
Israeli intelligence has been the foster child of American government for so long it is impossible to remember when anything was different. I suppose before '56.... Maybe.
The reference to the "Yom Kippur War" is amusing since the surprise experienced by Israel was entirely the product of their own analytic failure.
In any event, now they have a satellite or two and they have arrived at their own theory of the state of mind of the Iranians. In that context, their officials speak grandly of "the American misconception of Iran's nuclear weapons." My. My.
In fact what happened is that the US intelligence community punctured the balloon of illusion concerning Iran's programs That balloon had been skilfully painted in gaudy colors that fit the Israeli "misconception" of the world. Now there is unbridled rage among the Jacobins, the Cheneyites and the Israeli government over an unexpected failure.
I hear that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is going to make a visit to Israel. The Israelis actually say that they will make a maximum pitch to him for repudiation of the intelligence community's work. That should be interesting since a lot of the intelligence community belongs to the Defense Department.
Then, there is the visit of the president, supposed to occur in January. Israelis have told me that he must be going there to coordinate the next moves in the Iran game. I told them that they should believe that his trip is connected to a renewed peace process.
They found that amusing. They do not believe there really is a peace process. PL

Furieux des derniers projets israéliens de colonisation, les riches Arabes traînent les pieds pour annoncer le montant de leur aide a La Palestine

In Le Figaro, here

The Palestinians of Lebanon: Scapegoats in an Unwelcoming Land

Our friend Nir Rosen, in the WaPo, here

Friday, December 14, 2007

Rice to Kouchner: "Your 'mediation' is weakening our allies and strengthening Hezbollah"

Nicholas Nassif, in Al Akhbar, here
"... Aoun's "unfolded hand" included a National Unity government of 30 ministers, divided as such: 15 to M14, 4 to President Michel Sleiman (?) 5 to Michel Aoun and 6 Shia'as. [a 60-40% ratio] ... Hezbollah & Berri DID NOT humor Aoun with the following: A shortened Presidential mandate and his (Aoun) refusal of Hariri's premiership. (Some believe, and perhaps rightly, that Hariri should be burdened with the rebuilding of confidence between Beirut & Damascus.)
Apparently, MANY in M14 did not like what they saw, and hurriedly called Washington through their usual conduits to ask for support. Consequently, Secretary Rice called Minister Kouchner while he was still in Beirut to tell him that his "draw" weakened the US allies in M14 and strengthened Hezbollah's hand ... "
FLC knows Nassif's "source", and let's just say that it is as French and as Official as a Quai D'Orsay Ratatouille!

Taymoor Jumblatt's interview: Walid's concoction to "mend fences" between Damascus & Taymoor, in due time?

Apparently, it's Walid's idea to pave the way towards the inevitable: A "forgive & forget" thingy for the next 15 years? Until a newer version of the "birth pangs of Democracy" becomes available? This interview has been circulating for days now ... Is it real? Today, Al Balad comments on it as if it does exist. Does anyone have the ORIGINAL French version? In Al Balad (page 6), here

'Hollywood & the CIA: The Spook Stays In The Picture'

Laura Rosen in MoJo, here
"...Bearden worked as a consultant on the film, in the process retracing much of his own career. "Morocco's High Atlas Mountains are ideal for replicating Afghanistan," Bearden mused over lunch at the Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner, just down the road from cia headquarters. "But we had some freakishly high winds destroy the refugee camp we had beautifully laid out," thus the reshoot in California..."

Allah Ma3ak ya Watan!

Sons & daughters of South Lebanon, the tobacco pickers, the peasants ...the simple folks, bid farewell to one of theirs. In Rmeish, the family of Gen. El Hajj thanked all those who shared their grief except the representative of little Fuad. The reason? Little Fuad sent none! Must be real busy packing and wondering WHERE to reside after the Serail: It is, we hear, contingent upon the least amount of urine sprinkled at him...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Khalilzad: "NIE is a goal against ourselves"

In HAARETZ , here
"Khalilzad's remarks were made during a speech Thursday morning at the Union of Reform Judaism's biennial convention in San Diego, California..."

The Christians of M14: "Quantity but NO Quality"

Edmund Saab in AnNahar, here


Washington's Misguided New Middle East Policy: "Containing Iran today would mean promoting Sunni extremism"

Nasr & Takeyh writing "The Cost Of Containing Iran" in Foreign Affairs, here
"...The specter of Shiite primacy in the region will persuade Saudi Arabia and Egypt to actively help declaw Hezbollah. And, the theory goes, now that Israel and its longtime Arab nemeses suddenly have a common interest in deflating Tehran's power and stopping the ascendance of its protégé, Hamas, they will come to terms on an Israeli-Palestinian accord. This, in turn, will (rightly) shift the Middle East's focus away from the corrosive Palestinian issue to the more pressing Persian menace..."
"... But there is a problem: Washington's containment strategy is unsound, it cannot be implemented effectively, and it will probably make matters worse.
"...The ingredients needed for a successful containment effort simply do not exist. Under these circumstances, Washington's insistence that Arab states array against Iran could further destabilize an already volatile region ... But the same Arab governments that complain about Tehran's influence also oppose the Shiite government in Iraq, which is pro- Iranian and pro-American, and favor its Sunni opponents -- leaving Washington having to figure out how to work with the Iraqi government while also building a regional alliance with Sunni Arab states..."
"...The last time the United States rallied the Arab world to contain Iran, in the 1980s, Americans ended up with a radicalized Sunni political culture that eventually yielded al Qaeda. The results may be as bad this time around: a containment policy will only help erect Sunni extremism as an ideological barrier to Shiite Iran, much as Saudi Arabia's rivalry with Iran in the 1980s played out in South Asia and much as radical Salafis mobilized to offset Hezbollah's soaring popularity after the Israeli-Lebanese war in 2006. During the Cold War, confronting communism meant promoting capitalism and democracy. Containing Iran today would mean promoting Sunni extremism -- a self-defeating proposition for Washington..."

Secretary of the Iranian National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, addresses the media at the embassy of Iran in central London, 30 November 2007, following a meeting with European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana at Lancaster House. Iran's top nuclear negotiator said Friday it was "unacceptable" to press Tehran to stop enriching uranium, insisting it can do so under international treaty rules. From Getty Images by AFP/Getty Images.

After "serious & long" consultations, Siniora mourns the death of Lebanon's would-be-Commander of the Armed Forces

... and this, as most children in Lebanon went to bed, and while half of Lebanon's poor are without electricity and after much "consultations" with Mohamad Shattah & Roula Noureddine (the Lebanese equivalent of a National Security Council) little Siniora first whispered his "decision" to mourn a would've-been Commander of the LAFs to a weary Elias Murr who did not know what to do with the announcement, and then asked hapless Khaled Qabbani to announce a day off!
I forgot to say that all of the above are "illegitimate" representatives of the People of Lebanon!

Putin asks Hariri to "rethink" his rhetoric with Syria as "investigation" points clearly to Al Qaeda

Accordingly, the Russian leader told Hariri that he is privy to certain aspects of the deliberations and details of the "Hariri investigation", and these show clearly that things are pointing in the direction of Al Qaeda.
Russian President Vladimir Putin toasts champagne during a meeting ...

Saudi Al Sharq Al Awsat quotes MAARIV's "esteemed European sources" to demote Hassan Nasrallah

In MAARIV (Rappaport's piece on Tuesday) via the green pages of Muslim piety in Al Sharq al Awsat, here and Hezbollah's reply here

Kissinger & Associates: out of the "neocon-closet" long enough to challenge the "right" of the National Intelligence Council to make judgments

Pal Lang, here
"... In this piece Kissinger insists that he (and his friends) know best what is important (and dangerous) in Iran's nuclear program. He insists that the mere enrichment of uranium is the most dangerous part of such a program. He denigrates the focus of the NIE on actual weapon and warhead research and production, claiming that such prodigies of engineering could be achieved with relative ease once the all-important store of enriched uranium is obtained.
In this process of reasoning, Kissinger ignores the fact that uranium enrichment is also necessary to produce fuel needed to have a large number of atomic electric plants. The difference in the two kinds of enrichment is that weapons production requires a much higher percentage of enrichment. The difference is detectable and so far the IAEA has not detected any efforts to produce weapons grade enriched fuel.
Kissinger's anger at the "interference" of the spooks in the image building campaign conducted against Iran is palpable. He is revealed as an ally of the AEI fantasists and their friends in the White House. His "crocodile tears" over the poor, misguided souls in the intelligence community are not merely laughable. They are, in fact, symptomatic of a great mind which has lost its own way."

Key Neo-Cons Giving Up on Iran Attack?

Jim Lobe writes here
"...While his PNAC co-founder, Bill Kristol, doesn’t go nearly as far in embracing the notion of negotiations with Tehran , his lead editorial in the latest edition of the Weekly Standard, “What Happened in 2003?”, offers a mixture both of indignation against the NIE and resignation that it marks the end of the chances for a U.S. attack on Iran before Bush’s term expires. Bush’s task over the next year, he argues, is to try to restore U.S. credibility — including military credibility — by achieving “victory” in Iraq..."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sarkozy: "J'ai beaucoup hesite avant d'appeler Bachar el-Assad"

Sarko, who promised to be THE defender of Human Rights, discovers that the coffers of France need a shift to the real-politik mode, in Le Nouvel Observateur, here
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi (R) reviews the honour guard in ...

AnNahar: "M14 Hawks presuring Siniora to seek "foreign" assistance to recapture the Parliament"

AnNahar's, Edmund Saab (right now on NBN): "The Hawks of M14, predominantly the Christians, are behind the intransigence, and are at loggerheads with Hariri and Jumblatt. Hariri's do-si-do, is due to these opposing views with the M14 camp ... Geagea' and "gang" are pressuring Siniora to ask for UN's assistance to "recapture" the Berri-occupied Parliament ..."

AUB panel split over UN bond to international law

Via AngryArab, in the DailyStar, here
"...Makdisi said the UN had lost legitimacy in Palestine and Lebanon, noting that the "UN itself breached its most basic principles that prohibit the use of force except in cases of self-defense, by first allowing an Israeli war to continue for over a month in Lebanon, at huge expense, and then essentially rewarding it with UN Resolution 1701 ... which allowed Israel an extra 48 hours, after the resolution was negotiated, to continue its attacks in Lebanon ... That's when Israel dropped 1 million cluster bombs in Southern Lebanon and people are still suffering from that."

M14 to AsSiyassah: "Francois El Hajj should be tried for dereliction and for siding with the 'Opposition'"

Dated Friday January 26th, 2007', on M14's website , and in AsSiyassah, here and here ... Harsh vitriolic words were also said to describe Commander Michel Sleiman, who overnight became M14's candidate to the Presidency!

Lebanon’s Exodus

Since the beginning of Bush's "crusade" Christians in Iraq, Palestine & Lebanon have left in throngs. In NEWSWEEK, here

Gen. Francois El Hajj, candidate to the LAF's command after Michel Sleiman, assassinated in Baabda

Gen. Al Hajj was known to FLC as a low profile, professional, exemplary and disciplined officer. On the wake of the January 23, 07' demonstrations, the World Council of the Cedar Revolution issued a plea asking that Gen. El Hajj and his officers be brought before a world tribunal and listed as "terror supporters." El Hajj, fought the Lebanese Forces under the command of Michel Aoun, and was among the critics of Gea'gea's visit to Michel Sleiman in Yarzeh. He is the same General El Hajj who answered M14's allegations of borders porosity, that the " the Lebanese Army is properly controlling its borders with Syria", obviously, not a man after M14ers' hearts!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

UN General Assembly adopts first Israeli-proposed resolution

In HAARETZ, here
"....The resolution calls on developed countries to make their agricultural technology know-how -an area where Israel has expertise - more available to the developing world.."

Iran Resumed Weapon Program, says Mohammad Mohaddessin, Supreme Foreign-Affairs Chief for the Paris-based NCRI (phew)

...who are these Ghadri-like people? are they "drive-thru" ready? In the WSJ, here

Both Tehran and Washington must swallow the rhetoric and seek a deal

Max Hastings in the GUARDIAN, here

10h07, Muqdadiyah. Ces soldats américains font une pause cigarette dans la cour de la maison qu’ils viennent de fouiller, dans cette ville au nord de l’Irak.

More discussions "in depth"

Ahmed Al-Bedeiwi: "sheikh Saad, ana shayfak metlabbek?!"
Saado: "la Wallahi, bass da ana manfookh shwayah min il akl hahaha..if you know wattay meen.."

US Military aid to Lebanese Army skyrockets to 30 HUMVEEs

...having judged that the LAF was across the board, sufficiently well equipped!!!

HTS employee's "National Loyalty" investigated for joking "'Okay, if we invade Iran, that's where I draw the line, hop the border, and switch sides"

"...The human-terrain program has generated enormous controversy among academic anthropologists, many of whom claim that anthropologists in military uniforms cannot possibly gain free and informed consent from the people they study (The Chronicle, November 30). Ms. Helbig says that in her four months of training, she can recall no explicit discussion of informed consent or any other element of fieldwork ethics..."

Leverett: "How To Defuse Iran"

Flynt & Hillary Leverett, in the NYTimes, here
"...the Bush administration’s single-minded insistence on increasing international pressure on Iran seems increasingly detached from reality. Even before the intelligence estimate, there was no set of sanctions with any chance of being endorsed by the Security Council (or even the relatively cooperative European Union) that would have given Washington and its allies real strategic leverage over Iranian decision-making...
The idea of “engaging” Iran diplomatically is becoming less politically radioactive than it was early in the Bush years, when any officials who broached it were putting their careers in jeopardy...
Still, even Democrats who have talked about “engagement” have yet to spell out what it would take to engage Iran successfully. Most hide behind a vague incrementalism...
Why should any Iranian leader take such rhetoric as a legitimate invitation to the table? Iran has tried tactical cooperation with the United States several times over the past two decades — including helping to secure the release of hostages from Lebanon in the late 1980s and sending shipments of arms to Bosnian Muslims when the United States was forbidden to do so...[to be]dashed by American condemnation of perceived provocations in other arenas...From an Iranian perspective, serious engagement would start with American willingness to recognize Tehran’s legitimate security and regional interests as part of an overall settlement of our differences...[to cease] seeking regime change in Tehran...[and to] pledge to end unilateral sanctions against Iran, re-establish diplomatic relations and terminate Tehran’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism..."
What would Iran have to concede? It would first have to carry out measures — negotiated with the United States, other major powers and the International Atomic Energy Agency — definitively addressing the proliferation risks posed by its nuclear activities... [including] disclosing all information relating to its atomic program, past and present, now being sought by the atomic energy agency, and agreeing to an intrusive inspections regime of any fuel cycle activities on Iranian soil....
Tehran would also have to issue a statement supporting a just and lasting settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict based on current United Nations Security Council resolutions. This statement would affirm the idea of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as expressed in the 2002 Security Council resolution, and also the Arab League’s commitment to normalized relations with Israel after it has negotiated peace agreements with the Palestinians and Syria.....
also have to pledge to stop providing military supplies and training to terrorist organizations and to support the transformation of Hamas and Hezbollah into exclusively political and social-welfare organizations. Iran, in fact, proposed these steps as part of its offer for comprehensive talks that was passed to the Bush administration through Swiss diplomats in 2003. (Today, it’s clear that Hezbollah’s transformation would need to be linked to reform of Lebanon’s so-called democracy to end systematic Shiite under-representation in Parliament.)

Bush's nomenklatura meets "Syrians" in Oval Office

"... In response to our message, the President, who had all the while listened to our presentation quite patiently and attentively, spoke passionately in defense of human rights in Syria and worldwide and revealed in-depth knowledge of developments inside Syria."

Douglas Feith: "U.S. Abandoned Quick Iraq Transition"

Looky here, Douglas Feith pontificating and criticizing the incompetent Bremer, in the WaPo, here

Monday, December 10, 2007

The "multiple allegiances" within Hariri's bloc are behind Saad's confusion

Ra'uf Shehoori writes in Al Anwar ""Could Jumblat be the key to the Solution?", here

White House's Perino on the Cuban Missile Crisis:"'Wasn't that like the Bay of Pigs thing?"

From the WashingtonNote, here
"I was panicked a bit because I really don't know about . . . the Cuban Missile Crisis," said Perino, who at 35 was born about a decade after the 1962 U.S.-Soviet nuclear showdown. "It had to do with Cuba and missiles, I'm pretty sure."
So she consulted her best source. "I came home and I asked my husband," she recalled. "I said, 'Wasn't that like the Bay of Pigs thing?' And he said, 'Oh, Dana'"

Sadrists protest "folding of Awakening" forces in Regular units, while same is not afforded to Mahdi's forces

Sunni Arab Sahwa members patrol a market in Baghdad's al-Adhamiya district Saturday.

"Sahwa" members patrol in Al Adhamiya district of Baghdad

"Etats-Unis, Iran, Syrie... C'est la victoire!"

Roger Akl, in the NEWROPEANS mag., here

Discussions "in confidence"

Jeffrey Feltman: "So what did you and Andre discuss this morning?"
Saado: "Moliere, Racine, Rabelais ... stuff like that"

Andre Parain: "A Quoi Penses-tu Saado?"
Saado: "Suis-je Beau?"

Mowaffak al-Rubbaie to the US: "you cannot stabilise Iraq and destabilise Iran"

In the FT, here
"...American military officials confirmed that the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq through Syria had been substantially reduced. But Admiral William Fallon, commander of the US central command, told the FT that he did not see "such a clear change" in Iranian behaviour, which the US alleges includes supplying Iraqi Shia militias with sophisticated explosives, charges that Tehran denies. "I believe there's some restraint in the activity of the extremist militias but I don't know the cause and effect," said Admiral Fallon..."

CIA has recruited Iranians to defect, with very little effect

In the LATimes, here


Steve Coll, in the NYorker, here
"...The estimate’s findings provide equally bracing clarity about the Bush Administration: they show that the Cheney regency persists, and that the Vice-President and his neoconservative protégés in the Administration have continued to exaggerate and misuse intelligence to advance preconceived policies—in this case, a policy of militant confrontation with Iran, salted by public misstatements of what was known or knowable about the Iranian nuclear threat..."
"...The engagements that will matter most, after Bush and Cheney have at last departed, will be not only with Iran and North Korea but with the neglected goal of worldwide nuclear-arsenal reductions, negotiated in full embrace of the ideal of abolition..."

Barak's adviser: ""Remember the Iranians are always 5 to 7 years from the bomb.. Time passes, but they're always 5 to 7 years from the bomb"

Trita Parsi in the AsiaTimes, here
"...Remember, the Iranians are always five to seven years from the bomb," Shlomo Brom, deputy national security adviser under former prime minister Ehud Barak, told this analyst sarcastically during an interview for a book on Israeli-Iranian relations. "Time passes, but they're always five to seven years from the bomb."
But Israel's new and aggressive Iran policy didn't lack critics. An internal government committee concluded in the mid-1990s that Israel's harsh public position on Iran had backfired, caused Israel to unnecessarily make itself a target of Iran and made Tehran's nuclear ambitions appear as an Israeli problem, rather than being a concern of the entire international community. The Rabin-Peres government countered that its aggressive stance had pushed Washington to take on Tehran instead of striking a deal with the Iranian clergy, an argument that was well received even by the Labor government's critics..."

Sunday, December 9, 2007

WSJ: "Responsibility for this fiasco lies with Mr. Bush. Too often he has tolerated officials who oppose his agenda, and failed to discipline them"

Hilarious indeed, borderline scary have we not been in the USA. In the WSJ, here.

Mike Huckabee and wife, Janet, "registered" for home gifts as they prepared to leave Governor's mansion

Talk about freebies, via the ArkansasTimes, here

Lebanese Politics for Kids!

مازن كرباج ــ لبنان

"Bottom-up peacebuilding in the Occupied Territories"

Alastair Crooke interviewed by Aisling Byrne, Conflicts Forum, Beirut, November, 2007, Via ConflictForum, , here

Meet 'The Decider' of Tehran. It's Not the Hothead You Expect

Vali Nasr in the WaPo, here

Iran ‘nuclear bombshell’ splits US

From the SundayTimes, here
"...Robert Kagan, an influential neoconservative writer, argued that “with its policy tools broken, the Bush administration can sit around isolated for the next year. Or it can seize the initiative, and do the next administration a favour, by opening direct talks”.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Only 1 suicide bombing hit Israel so far this year, as Palestinians shift "attack plan"

In McClatchy's, here
Rocket attacks less effective than suicide bombing

Bush Engages Foreign Foes, as Policy Shift Accelerates

In the WSJ, here "... In addition to the report on Iran, Washington's sudden opening to Syria and President Bashar Assad has also stunned many diplomats and foreign-policy analysts. For most of the past six years, the White House viewed Damascus as among its most intractable foes in the Middle East, charging it with supporting militant groups fighting in Lebanon, Iraq and the Palestinian territories... Pentagon and State Department officials say their optimism toward Syria has been driven by a lessening of the number of foreign fighters being allowed to cross into Iraq from Syria. They also say they hope Mr. Assad can be constructive in helping Lebanon elect a new president after a yearlong political crisis in Beirut..."

... Letters from Bush have that personal, hostile, suspicious touch ...

McConnell Defends Iran NIE Against the Right

From TPM, here

As politicians tone down rhetoric, Lebanon's "Jeanne D'Arc", Nayla Moawad, moves full throttle & lambasts Aoun

She pleaded (while Micho looked on admiringly) with Speaker Berri to refrain from proceeding with a coup against the constitution and described "Aoun as a fake title to defend rights of the Christians." Afterwards, she and Micho hugged and shared a hot coco.

"Intelligence career seniors lined up to go to jail if necessary" if the NIE's gist were not given to the public, and GOP senators call for hearings

In the WaPo, here
Colonel Lang says that "the reason the conclusions of the NIE were released is that it was communicated to the White House that "intelligence career seniors were lined up to go to jail if necessary" if the document's gist were not given to the public. Translation? Someone in that group would have gone to the media "on the record" to disclose its contents"
"It is no wonder that the AEI crowd and their congressional helpmates are running around with their hair on fire over this estimate. In sharp contrast to the ease with which the neocon Jacobins were able to control the content of the October 2002 NIE on Iraq, this time they failed utterly to use a national intelligence estimate as a propaganda tool"

Democrats tout a provision that would "bar spy agencies from using controversial interrogation techniques"

CQ via War&Piece, here

"Comment les États-Unis espionnent l’Iran"

Malbrunot writes In Le Figaro, here. HUMINT? anyone?
Image satellite de l’usine d’enrichissement d’uranium de Natanz, découverte en 2002 au centre de l’Iran.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

"As Dubai Heats Up, Is Israel Frozen Out?"

In the FORWARD, here
"Israelis have been unable to attend international conferences recently held in Dubai, and a private equity firm has been questioned for its decision to set up a new fund that will target every country in the region except Israel. At the same time, however, the UAE’s growth appears to be prodding the government to open up a bit toward Israel; just this year, two delegations of Jewish organizations traveled to the UAE for the first time. .."
"...But the ban is still in effect. Statistics collected by the U.S. Department of Commerce show that companies from the UAE led the way in asking American companies to comply with the embargo. In 2006, American companies reported receiving 486 requests to comply with the boycott from companies in the UAE. That was more than three times the number of requests received from any other Arab League country..."

Richard Haass on "Morning Joe": 'US. Must Change Policy Toward Iran'

Listen to CFR's Haass on "Morning Joe", here

Nabih Berri's sources: "AGREEMENT on a National Unity Government, headed by a "neutral" and an electoral law based on "Qada"

Al Jazeera reports that an agreement looks within reach, with Hariri as PM! However, the hurdles of the Constitutional amendment to elect Commander Sleiman, remain unsolved... Stay tuned. Hariri reneges!

"Lebanon - agreement or illusion?"

From Middle East Times, here
"...Unfortunately international indignation only proved counterproductive - the tug of war for Lebanon got worse. The United States and France were no less persistent than Syria and Iran. The condition of Lebanese politics over the subsequent three years has uncannily reflected the confrontation between these powers. Even the compromise nomination of Suleiman smacks of foreign, rather than domestic, negotiation.
Lebanon still gives grounds for apprehensions. Have the West and Syria made up for good, or at least for the foreseeable future? Have they really reconciled or do they just share passing interests? What turns will the situation take when they fall out again? Last but not least, how many more compromises in Lebanon will serve only to make things worse?"

Beirut, Manarah 1880

Landis to CFR: "Syria Key to Middle East Peace Process"

Interview here

Fmr. President Lahoud in Baabdate, "very un-former-like"

On after the news, on NTV

Details in Military Notes Led to Shift on Iran

In the NYTimes, here and in the WaPo John Bolton lambasts the Intelligence Community, here

W Patrick Lang's "The Butcher Cleaver"

Avalilable, here, here and here

"Santa should move to Kyrgyzstan to optimize delivery of gifts to 2.5 billion homes"