Friday, October 31, 2008

An 'Idiot Wind': John McCain's latest attempt to link Barack Obama to extremism

MJ Rosenburg (Israel Policy Forum) wrote:

"...Fortunately, the Washington Post (which happens to be a bastion of neo-conservatism) published a terrific editorial today that points out that Khalidi is nothing more, or less, than a respected Palestinian-American academic who holds views that are “unsurprising” although “complex.”What are those views? He supports the two-state solution. He opposes terrorism. And he is strongly critical (like at least half of Israel's population) of the occupation of the West Bank). He is neither anti-Jewish nor anti-Israeli. And he's an American.
But even if he was a strident critic of Israel's policies, so what? Is policy toward Israel the only issue about which an American is not allowed to hold opinions? Is it possible that it is acceptable to oppose, the US war in Iraq, President Bush and everything he stands for, and,
say, social security, but you cannot oppose Israel's policies in the West Bank? If it is, Walt, Mearsheimer, and Carter are not just right but guilty of understatement..."

"...For the record, Mr. Khalidi is an American born in New York who graduated from Yale a couple of years after George W. Bush. For much of his long academic career, he taught at the University of Chicago, where he and his wife became friends with Barack and Michelle Obama. In the early 1990s, he worked as an adviser to the Palestinian delegation at peace talks in Madrid and Washington sponsored by the first Bush administration. We don't agree with a lot of what Mr. Khalidi has had to say about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the years, and Mr. Obama has made clear that he doesn't, either. But to compare the professor to neo-Nazis -- or even to Mr. Ayers -- is a vile smear..."

FP: "Seven Questions for Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha"

Interviewed by FP, here
"...Do we know why? Of course not. The only analysis we have is that they are doing this for pure domestic political reasons that have everything to do with the elections and the electoral campaign. They want to come out with a story. But we are still waiting for the U.S. administration to come out and tell the American people: “We killed [Abu Ghadiya], and here is the proof that we killed him.” We have presented our side of the story. We have published the photos of the eight people that were killed, their names, and what they were doing. This is our side of the story. Let the United States come with its side...
I have reason to believe that even if [Senator John] McCain becomes president of the United States, he will also be inclined to sit and talk with Syria. I can tell you this on the record: Senator Joe Lieberman, who is supposed to be very close to McCain, has said this explicitly and very clearly to me personally. "

VOA: "Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman denies reports that Syria has withdrawn troops from its border with Iraq in retaliation for US raid...

"[Timur] Goksel adds that he thinks Syria is responding to long-term international pressure to keep better control of its border with Lebanon and that he doubts anyone inside Lebanon or from within the international community will protest the move:"So, I think the timing is perfect. It is certainly not a threat of any kind to the Lebanese or anything like that," he said. "Nobody is going to complain, because everyone has been complaining that the eastern border has been unguarded…"

a "hesitant" Ban Ki Moon: US Syria raid "unintentional, undesirable & an obstacle"....

KONA/Kuwait, here

Inquiry Targeted 2,000 Foreign Muslims in 2004

"...The documents show that more than 2,500 foreigners in the United States were sought as “priority leads” in the fall of 2004 because of suspicions that they could present threats to national security in the months before the presidential election and the inauguration. Some of those foreigners were detained and ultimately deported because they had overstayed their visas, but many were in this country legally, and the vast majority were not charged..."

WINEP: Damascus' liaison with Al Qaeda ... diplomacy is "futile" .... finish Assad off!

Schenker, at WINEP, here

"...Ultimately, Damascus's newfound problem with al Qaeda may change the Assad regime's permissive attitude toward the group, but it's unlikely to have any impact on Syrian support for Hezbollah and Hamas. These longstanding relationships with Islamist terrorist organizations are closely linked to the 30-year strategic alliance between Damascus and Tehran..."

Boycotting Jerusalem's Israeli-run elections is futile for the city's Palestinians

Akram Salhab in the Guardian, here
"...Despite the illegality of Israel's occupation and the continuing indignities, the decision of whether to vote or not should be made on the basis of political tactic, not political principle. For all its numerous faults, Israel has afforded Palestinians a degree of political representation and there is no reason why these democratic structures should not be pushed to their limits. With Palestinians constituting over 30% of the city's population, the Palestinian vote would hold significant sway in how the city is run and force the Israeli authorities to confront head-on the contradictions they face in being both a Jewish as well as a democratic state..."

TV Station Reports Damascus Pulling Troops From Iraq Border In Response To "American Aggression"

"...Syria had threatened it would end border security cooperation with the United States and Iraq in response to the attack..."

Lawrence Eagleburger: "Palin's Not ready"

Huffington via Matt Yglesias, here
"...that the American people were secretly yearning to be led by a dim-witted, far-right, scandal-plagued first term governor of a weird state. What ever happened to that?..."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Petraeus Proposed Visiting Syria But Was Rejected By Bush Administration

ABC/News, here

"...ABC News has learned, Petraeus proposed visiting Syria shortly after taking over as the top U.S. commander for the Middle East. The idea was swiftly rejected by Bush administration officials at the White House, State Department and the Pentagon..."When the timing is right, we ought to go in there and have a good discussion with the Syrians," said a Defense Department official close to Petraeus. "It's a meaningful dialogue to have."

Wolfowitz: "Would we do Iraq again? You would have to be crazy to do it again.."

In Die Zeit, here

Einer der vielen reuigen Sünder? Der ehemalige Weltbank-Chef Paul Wolfowitz

Khalidi and the PLO

Ron Kampeas in the JTA, here Text Color
"...Now, however, in the dying, damning days of an election campaign, we’ve somehow been DeLoreaned back to the 1980s and contact with the group has become radioactive, even though the Israeli government, with full Bush administration blessing, is scrambling to come to a peace agreement with Mahmoud Abbas, who is still the PLO’s leader...
So here’s the thing: What everyone acknowledges is that Khalidi was an adviser to the Palestinian delegation to the 1991 Madrid talks. That delegation - to a person - could not have had any formal affiliation with the PLO. Israel regarded the group as terrorist and its laws banned contact with its members; then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir made NOT being affiliated with the PLO it a condition of Israel’s agreement to participate. The names of the Palestinian team would have been vetted by Israeli intelligence."

Saudi angle: They Prefer McCain ... who understands "financial inducement & fighting through proxies" like in Lebanon ...

In MESH, here
"....Historically, the Saudis have favored Republicans for the following reasons: 1) a shared social and economic conservatism and a visceral anti-Communism; 2) the closer ties that Republicans are thought to have to the oil companies and the weapons industry, which represent the two domestic constituencies of, and therefore lobbyists for, the Saudi government in the U.S. political system; and 3) a highly personal (anti-institutional) form of political engagement in foreign affairs, especially in the Middle East.
The royal family’s objection to G.W. Bush’s policies have to do with what they perceive to be his impulsive and rash behavior as well as his high-stakes style in foreign policy. On the whole, the Saudis were not in favor of the invasion of Iraq because they were worried of the instability that this would create in the region. The Saudis are, if anything, conservative and
don’t like to gamble their survival on military campaigns unless these are absolutely necessary, as in the 1991 Gulf war against the Iraqi invader of Kuwait. Instead, they prefer other means, which include financial inducements and fighting through proxies (e.g., Lebanon today).
Based on all the above, I would guess that the Saudis would prefer if McCain were to win. Furthermore, there are indications that they have a strong dislike to Senator Biden, primarily because of his public criticism of the Saudi royal family, its religious policies, and the very form of rule it represents..."

Senior McCain adviser: "..huh.."

Via War&Piece:

Wolf Blitzer: And this just coming into the "Situation Room," the Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin now speaking out openly about her intentions in 2012 if, if she and John McCain were to lose this contest next Tuesday. In an interview with ABC News, Sarah Palin is now saying, she would be interested in remaining a serious national political figure, going ahead to 2012. She was asked what happens in 2012 if you lose on Tuesday, would you simply go back to Alaska? Elizabeth Vargas of ABC News asked her and Palin said this, and I will read it to you verbatim according to an ABC News transcript: "Absolutely not," Sarah Palin says. "I think that, if I were to give up and wave a white flag of surrender against some of the political shots that we've taken, that ... that would ... bring this whole ... I'm not doin' this for naught," and that is a direct quote from Sarah Palin. Clearly, leaving open the possibility that she would be interested in leading the Republican Party in 2012 if she and John McCain were to lose this presidential contest right now. Let's go to Dana Bash. She has been covering the McCain campaign reaction from the rather blunt statement from Sarah Palin that she would in fact be interested in leading the Republican Party going forward after Tuesday if they lose?

Dana Bash: I just got off of the phone, Wolf, with a senior McCain adviser and I read this person the quote and I think it is fair to say that this person was speechless. There was a long pause and I just heard a "huh" on the other end of the phone.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"...Strikes, such as Syria, can occur without Bush's approval , & at the discretion of of Centcomm's Petraeus..."

Wondering how expansive these ideas could become, and whether they would be limited to AlQ...Lake in TNR, here
"...The new order could pave the way for direct action in Kenya, Mali, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen--all places where the American intelligence believe al Qaeda has a significant presence, but can no longer count on the indigenous security services to act. In the parlance of the Cold War, Petraeus will now have the authority to fight a regional "dirty war."

The Jewish Extremists Behind "Obsession"

"...Torossian's attitude toward Arabs and toward the peace process are echoed in the approach of Aish HaTorah, which is just about the most fundamentalist movement in Judaism today. Its operatives flourish in the radical belt of Jewish settlements just south of Nablus, in the northern West Bank, and their outposts across the world propagandize on behalf of a particularly sterile, sexist and revanchist brand of Judaism. Which is amusing, of course, because "Obsession" is meant to expose a particularly sterile, sexist and racist brand of Islam..."

Iraq's Security Agreement Demands Revealed: "No US Attacks On Neighbors"

"...Iraq wants a security agreement with the U.S. to include a clear ban on U.S. troops using Iraqi territory to attack Iraq's neighbors, the government spokesman said Wednesday, three days after a dramatic U.S. raid on Syria....But critics say the current version, reached after months of tough negotiations, does not go far enough in protecting Iraqi sovereignty, and key Shiite politicians argue it stands little chance of approval in Iraq's fractious parliament in its current form...."

NY Post: "'OBAMA! Inshallah!"

Little neocon Taheri (who else) in the NYPost (where else) here
"...Obama especially appeals to pan-Arab nationalists angry at the United States for having ousted Saddam Hussein..Obama, by contrast, has retained his Arabic-Islamic names. (Barack means "blessed" and Hussein means "beautiful.") His family name is Swahili, an East African lingua franca based on Arabic. Arab commentators note that his siblings also all have Arabic Muslim names. His sister is called Oumah, Arabic for "the community of the faithful his older daughter, Malia, bears the name of a daughter of the Caliph Othman, who commissioned the compilation of the first edition of the Koran..."

Palin & Mideast 'expert' J the P: "Rashid Khalidi, he -- in addition being a political ally of Obama, is a former spokesperson for PLO..."

and McClatchy's "With Florida tied, McCain tries to play a Palestinian card", here
"I'm not in the business about talking about media bias," McCain said on Radio Mambi, a Spanish-language station in Miami. "But what if there was a tape with John McCain with a neo-Nazi outfit being held by some media outlet? I think the treatment of the issue would be slightly different."
The Trail, in the WaPo, here Justify Full
"This associate, Rashid Khalidi, he -- in addition being a political ally of Barack Obama -- is a former spokesperson for Palestinian Liberation Organization," Palin continued, brushing aside Khalidi's denial that he was ever a PLO spokesman. "The twist here is there's a videotape of a party for this person. A celebration of him. Barack was there. Some very derogatory things were said there of Israel and America's support for that great nation. Among other things, Israel was described there as the perpetrator of terrorism rather than the victim. What we don't know is how Barack Obama responded to these slurs on a country that he professes to support, and the reason we don't know is the newspaper that has this tape, the Los Angeles Times, refuses to release it."

Pakistan to US: Stop missile strikes near border

"...Reflecting that frustration, U.S. military and CIA drones that patrol the frontier region are believed to have carried out at least 15 strikes since mid-August, including one that killed about 20 people at the home of a Taliban commander on Monday......The United States rarely confirms or denies involvement."

Samuel Wurzelbacher (aka. Joe The Plumber): "Obama's presidency would mean the 'death of Israel'.."

"...The push-back against Wurzelbacher's comments began, somewhat unexpectedly, at Fox News..."

Iran opens new naval base at mouth of Persian Gulf

"...Iranian naval doctrine is focused on asymmetric attacks against western navies using swarms of small high-speed fibreglass boats armed with anti-ship missiles under the command of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The IRGC would rely on strength in numbers and surprise, calling it a "presence everywhere and nowhere doctrine".

Monday, October 27, 2008

US Special Operations Forces (USSOF) counter-terrorist forces may have been "off the leash" on the Syria raid?

"...The US Special Operations Forces (USSOF) counter-terrorist forces may have been "off the leash" on this one. These forces are exclusively focused on hunting down terrorist people and support group world-wide. Rumsfeld made them largely independent of the regular military chain of command. They amount to a global SWAT team. They develop their own targeting intelligence and make their own plans. The amount of control that the local US joint commander has over them is not very clear. They are not noted for a great deal of insight into geopolitical niceties.
...Whatever the cause, the result of ham fisted actions of this kind can be disastrous for the chance of making something better emerge from the situation that Bush/Cheney is leaving for President Obama and his team."


"...What better way to move the American people back to a neoconservative view than by provoking a Syrian/American conflict days before one of the most fateful elections in American history. Most Americans are fed up with foreign wars, unbelievable debt from those wars, and economic failure. Yet if we can provoke Syria into retaliating against the United States somehow, then we can terrify the American people enough right now before the elections. Then they will vote from fear, not from the perspective of pragmatism and realism, and certainly not from a position of vision and hope. It has happened before in history..."
The Iraqi/Syrian border: an appropriate place to decide an American election?

The Iraqi/Syrian border: an appropriate place to decide an American election?

Lebanon's Hariri, Nasrallah hold rare meeting

Reuters, here

"...nobody takes the Syrians seriously anymore, given the repeated violations of their sovereignty..."

"...Before the attack the U.S. issued a warning. At a press conference last week a senior American commander in western Iraq warned that the situation is worsening on the Syrian border, while at the same time Saudi Arabia and Jordan did as the Americans asked and closed their borders with Iraq. This modus operandi is reminiscent of Israeli "targeted killings": an effective combination of intelligence and operation, with the use of aerial strikes accompanied by a commando force to confirm the operation's success..."

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Nicholas Burns: "We Should Talk to Our Enemies"

N. Burns, in Newsweek, here
"...Iran is a case in point. Its hard-line, theocratic government poses the greatest threat to peace in the Middle East today. It is funding and arming most of the region's terrorist groups shooting at us, Israel and our moderate Arab friends. It has complicated our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most alarming, Iran is seeking a nuclear-weapons capability that would change the balance of power in the Middle East...If we aren't willing to talk to Iran, we may leave ourselves with only one option—military action.
....Similarly, there will be no peace treaty between Syria and Israel if we don't support the talks underway between those countries.In Afghanistan, the new president will face a very difficult set of choices roughly similar to those in Iraq before the surge.."

With Bush on the way out, this US military incursion may represent something of a parting shot against the Syrians...

"....All of this is in marked contrast to European efforts to engage the Syrians. With French President Nicolas Sarkozy in the lead, a number of European countries have sought to bring Syria in from the cold. But despite glimmerings of dissent from the State Department, the Bush administration has held firm to its policy of no substantive talks with Syria unless - as the Americans put it - Damascus decides to take a more "positive role" in the region. With the Bush administration on the way out, this US military incursion may represent something of a parting shot against the Syrians..."

Iraq: Why the End is in Sight

Tony Karon in the RootlessCosmo, here via WIC

Shi’ite demonstrators call for U.S. Withdrawal

"... Iran's nuclear facilities are so deep underground that it would be difficult for Israel to wipe them out...unless....."

"...............or even significantly damage them, with a quick airstrike. In order to deal a serious setback to Iran's nuclear program, at least four key sites inside Iran would have to be hit, said one Western official, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information. The facilities, however, are located in tunnels fortified by barriers more than 60
feet thick. According to this official and other U.S. experts, Israel does not possess conventional weapons capable of knocking out the facilities. Breaking through the thick shell would require, at minimum, several bunker-buster bombs striking precisely the same spot. "These targets would be very hard to destroy," said former U.N. nuclear expert David Albright. Theoretically, Israel could do a lot more damage with a nuclear strike. But U.S. and other Western experts say there is no reason to believe the Israelis will abandon their policy against shooting first with nukes..."

US attack inside Syria kills eight ...

"...Four American helicopters violated Syrian airspace around 16:45 local time (1345 GMT) on Sunday. They penetrated eight kilometres (five miles) into Syria," official Syrian media said....
....We are in the process of investigating this" reported attack, Sergeant Brooke Murphy, a US military spokeswoman, told AFP in Baghdad..."

New elections could turn Israel to the right

Dion Nissenbaum in McClatchy's, here
"..Livni's decision means that Israel most likely will hold new elections in early 2009 that could propel former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu back into power. Current polls show Netanyahu and his more hawkish Likud Party poised to regain control..."

Friday, October 24, 2008

McCain advisers believe that Palin, has begun to play their Candidate off of the base...

When it rains, it pours!
Via War&Piece, in the Atlantic, here and AOL/News "Does GOP Ad Presume Obama Victory?", here

Dennis Ross Signs on to Roadmap to War with Iran...

"...According to a variety of sources, Ross was the main drafter of Obama’s pander (except on the settlers) to AIPAC’s annual convention here in May and has since raised his hopes for a top post in an Obama administration, possibly even secretary of state. Frankly, I doubt that the latter prospect is realistic, but — and here’s the main point — I have it from several sources close to the campaign that he is more eager to gain control over the Iran portfolio (possibly special envoy) than to work on the problem that he knows best from his long experience, the Israel-Palestinian conflict. If he succeeds in his quest and if this report is any reflection of his views, then the U.S. could very well find itself at war with Iran within a remarkably short period of time..."

Doubts About Dubai

"...Dubai's boom has long been fueled by the notion that the region's oil economy would one day betray the tiny emirate. With shrinking hydrocarbon revenues now a single-digit percentage of its GDP, diversification into tourism, finance and other services was a no-brainer. Even if oil prices slumped—as they have in recent weeks, to around $75-a-barrel—the city's rapidly multiplying hotels and resorts could still be counted on to attract sun-seekers from Europe and Asia. The result: a supercharged real-estate market that includes some $300 billion in recent projects..."

Dennis Ross on 'why' he's working for Obama and how he'd talk to Iran

Interviewed in Haaretz, here

"...Look, we're trying to see if there's a way to avoid that.' Preventing Iran from going nuclear is a very high priority for him, not only because it's such a threat to Israel, but because it's such a threat to the United States..."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Bush Doctrine in Ruins: "F is for failure!"

Tom Engelhardt in the TDispatch, here

"...In these last years, the Bush administration's deepest fundamentalist faith -- its cultish belief in the efficacy of military force above all else -- has proven an empty vessel. With its "military strengths beyond challenge" all-too-effectively challenged, Bush's second-term officials are finally returning to some of the most boringly traditional methods of diplomacy and negotiation -- under far more extreme circumstances and from a far weaker position -- while their former neocon supporters scream bloody murder from right-wing think tanks in Washington and the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. "Having bent the knee to North Korea," former U.N. ambassador John Bolton wrote recently in that paper, "Secretary [of State] Rice appears primed to do the same with Iran, despite that regime's egregious and extensive involvement in terrorism and the acceleration of its nuclear program."
And they do have a point.
This administration does now seem to be on bended knee to the world. As with Pandora's Box, however, what the Bush administration unleashed cannot simply be taken back. A new administration will not only inherit an arc of instability that is truly aflame, but the paradigm, still remarkably unexamined, of a Global War on Terror. Now, there is a disaster-in-the-making for you..."

Senior Administration Official: "The first US diplomatic presence in Iran since the 1979-81 hostage crisis, a 'near certainty'..."

Warren Strobel in McClatchy's, here
"..While some senior officials said Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice haven't made a final decision, they and others indicated that the mid-November announcement is a near-certainty..."

Haaretz: "Like our 'scandalous' Olmert, the wanna-be VP Palin owes it all to a septuagenarian former warrior..."

"The revelations have the potential to be infuriating and puzzling to many mainly because they come from the campaign that has played the "elitist" card with reckless abandon, and has made a central issue of their campaign the idealization and ownership of working-class "small-town values", hard-to-pin-down ideals that presumably cannot be found within a hundred miles of a Saks or Nieman's branch....And what I'm wondering is, where did Joe the Plumber get the suit he was wearing on Fox News the other night."

EU's Solana in Syria as ties warm ...

France/24, here

The McCain/Palin Administration - Not!

"...After watching the developing dynamic of the election state by state, I have come to think that this election will be a landslide of historic proportion. This is a "perfect storm" for the Republicans. There are many cyclones that have produced this typhoon; revulsion against the proto-fascism of the neocons, the muddle that is the Bush Administration, "Darth" Cheney and his henchmen, the two wars, the failure to capture bin Laden, the stock market crash, the rumors of a coming depression/recession, etc. Add some more disasters to the list if you like. There are many possibilities.
It looked for months as though the deep seated racism of many Americans might be enough to hold back the wind, but that ancient sin and defect has not proven to be effective this time. Obama will be president. The Democrats will hold both houses of Congress so strongly that they will be tempted to govern unwisely, pushing the country farther to the left than its nature will allow.Bold
McCain will be finished. Perhaps he can find some peace in that. Palin will become queen of the Northwest and prophetess of the Evangelicals. Unfortunately for her, there are not enough votes in that base to elect her president..."

Iraqis hit back at US commander Mullen for warning of "major security losses" if Iraq does not pass a key security deal.

"...Such a statement is not welcomed by Iraq. All Iraqis and their political entities are aware of their responsibilities and are assessing whether to sign the deal or not in a way that it is suitable to them. "It is not correct to force Iraqis into making a choice and it is not appropriate to talk with the Iraqis in this way."

Russia Backs Keeping U.S. Force in Iraq

"...While the significance of Russia’s announcement is difficult to determine, it does remove one potential barrier to extending the resolution, which expires on Dec. 31. Whether the Iraqis would consider such a path is unclear, but with widening criticism of the proposed pact, at least it opens the way for another approach.
Meanwhile, the voices against the proposed agreement gathered strength as an influential Iraqi cleric living in Iran issued a fatwa condemning it..."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"...I get my funding from many countries in the Gulf..."

In the WaPo, here
"...Most at some point have been suppressed by Lebanese authorities. Many are funded by Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries, and many others are said to have links with Syrian intelligence. "I get my funding from many countries in the Gulf, but this money, I use to spread the ideology, not to buy weapons. We are not a militia," Shahal said. Many of Shahal's supporters were arrested in 2000 following clashes with the Lebanese army in the Dinnieh area, where the Salafis had set up a training camp tied to al-Qaeda, according to Lebanese security sources. Shahal denies charges that his supporters were planning to impose strict Islamic rule in Lebanon and says that they "were wrong" to set up the camp. "They should have been more patient," he said, complaining .."

Washington's support of president Sleiman is a clear signal to the wanning prominence of Hariri and his ilke...

أجرت مصادر ديبلوماسية وثيقة الصلة بالموقف الأميركي تقويماً للاهتمام الذي تبديه واشنطن بالرئيس ميشال سليمان والمؤسسة العسكرية، وبات في الأسابيع الأخيرة متواتراً سواء بتلازم دعمهما أو إرسال إشارات ذات دلالة إلى بعض الأفرقاء اللبنانيين، في وقت بدا لافتاً أن واشنطن قلّلت تدليعها بعض أصدقائها السياسيين وخصوصاً قوى 14 آذار. ويستند تقويم المصادر الديبلوماسية هذه إلى ملاحظات، منها:
1 ـــــ تشديد الإدارة على الانتقال بالدعم من قوى سياسية حليفة لها، دون التخلي عنها، إلى السلطة المركزية اللبنانية التي ـــــ رغم إمساك المعارضة بنصاب ثلث الحكومة اللبنانية ـــــ تجد واشنطن فيها حلفاء أقوياء وأصدقاء موثوقاً بهم من بين الوزراء فضلاً عن رئيسها فؤاد السنيورة أضف أن الجيش يضطلع بدور فاعل في ضمان الاستقرار بسبب الثقة التي يمحضه إياها الموالون والمعارضون على السواء. الصراع السياسي اللبناني ـــــ اللبنانيورغم عدم رضاها على التوازن القائم في حكومة السنيورة، تسلّم واشنطن بأنه شقّ الطريق أمام التهدئة وانكفاء التدخّل السوري جزئياً فيالصراع السياسي اللبناني ـــــ اللبناني.
أن واشنطن تعتمد معيار موقع السلطة الرسمية ودعم دورها بما يتلاقى والمصالح الأميركية. في هذه المسألة تعبّر المصادر الديبلوماسية عن ارتياح واشنطن إلى المواقف المتكررة لكل من سليمان والجيش من الإرهاب الذي يمثل هدفاً جوهرياً لواشنطن في خطة تقويضه. وكانت مواجهة الجيش اللبناني تنظيم فتح الإسلام نموذجاً معبّراً أيضاً عن إصرار الجيش ـــــ وهو يضمّ في صفوفه ضباطاً وجنوداً سنّة ـــــ على تدمير تنظيم إرهابي سنّي متطرّف من غير أن يلقى تأييد الزعماء السنّة اللبنانيين. الأمر الذي أضفى صدقية ـــــ وإن مكلفة ـــــ على تشبّثه بوحدته ومكافحته الإرهاب بضراوة
بذلك يكمن الوجه الآخر في الإشارة الأميركية إلى دعم الرئيس والجيش، وهو تبديد الانطباع بالانحياز إلى تيار النائب سعد الحريري
كقيادة سياسية سنّية على حساب المسيحيين اللبنانيين وتياراتهم السياسية
إن الموقف الأميركي السلبي من الرئيس السابق إميل لحود ترتّب على علاقته غير المشروطة دعمه النشاطات المسلحة لحزب الله في جنوب لبنان قبل تحريره عام 2000 وبعده، وتسويقه ذريعة مزارع شبعا للتمسّك بسلاح الحزب وبقاء الجيش السوري

WINEP: "...Siniora, can demonstrate his authority by taking up Israel's offer of bilateral talks.."

" is critical to stop the flow of arms to the militias that hold Lebanon hostage. To this end, any further European moves to revive EU-Syria relations should stipulate that Damascus cooperate in ending the flow of arms into Lebanon. The EU should also emulate the British government's recent designation of Hizballah as a terrorist organization. In addition, the international community and Lebanon's regional partners should take meaningful action to secure the Lebanese-Syrian border, or Siniora should charge UNIFIL with that mission under the authority provided him by Resolution 1701.
The long-term challenge for Lebanon's allies will be to strengthen the Lebanese state by increasing military, diplomatic, and economic assistance to Beirut. The Lebanese government, in turn, can demonstrate its authority by continuing to address the country's
security challenges and wresting control of the Lebanon-Israel relationship from Hizballah and Iran by taking up Israel's offer of bilateral talks
. Hizballah and its allies may criticize such a move, but Suleiman could justify the talks by pointing to the peace deals and ongoing talks between Israel and its other neighbors.
....Israeli leaders should see the Lebanese government as a partner and refrain from actions that indirectly benefit those seeking to undermine it, such as Hizballah. ...the Lebanese and Israeli governments should pursue the peace that both countries need."

FOX News Poll: Obama Grabs Nine Point Lead Over McCain

"..Current US officials & Obama advisors see 'significantly improved relations with Damascus' inevitable!"

Excerpts from MEPGS.
"...The highest priority for Obama's advisers is the situation in Iraq. While serving US officials are privately very upbeat about the military and political trends in Iraq, the Obama team still sees the war as essentially a drain on resources both at home and in the greater war on terrorism. While State Department officials point to "a fundamental change in the dynamic and attitudes of the various Iraqi communities" [One State Department official's words], Obama advisors these changes only facilitating their candidate's goal of a speedy withdrawal...
If Iraq is the highest profile issue Obama will face, Iran may be the most dangerous, say his advisors as well as currently serving US officials. Although the Bush Administration continues to try to ratchet up the economic pressure on the Iranians to force them to stop their nuclear enrichment program, little progress appears to have been made. Strained relations with Russia over its actions in Georgia have contributed to the lack of a concerted effort by outside powers, but there seems to
be an increasing acceptance that no amount of likely outside economic pressure will be successful in thwarting Iran's nuclear ambitions. ..
Some Administration officials have long believed that the US would have to learn to live with a nucleararmed Iran. Some Obama advisors privately adhere to that view. However, well placed officials both inside the Administration and those former US officials advising the Obama campaign admit that while the US may be able to find a way to come to terms with Iran's nuclear ambitions [eg. They could all but assemble or testa weapon before crossing an American "red line"], they admit that Israel may not, in the words of one Obama advisor "have that luxury." No one in Washington [nor perhaps in Jerusalem, either] purports to have a definitive view of Israeli plans.
As current Administration officials as well as Obama's foreign policy team grapple with the Iranian "problem", the idea of Israel's outreach to Syria has come in for renewed interest. At first, Administration hard liners were upset with Israel's unexpected shift. Even now, the Administration has warned the Israelis not to seek any deal with Syria that could be at the
expense of Lebanon
-- particularly one that could allow Syrian troops back into that country. However, current US officials and Obama advisors see as inevitable the next Administration significantly improving relations with Damascus. "The potential rewards are obvious," says one veteran US analyst. "A deal between Israel and Syria would be at the expense of Syria's relationship with Iran, notably its backing of Hezbollah. It could also cause a split within Hamas leading to a more moderate approach to the Palestinian issue." Even the Israelis admit that since their raid on Syria's facility in September 2007, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad has shown considerable restraint and, in their view, good judgement. They argue that the Syrians were stunned by the near total indifference the rest of the world, including Arab countries, showed to the Israeli attack. Finally, US officials have long believed that the Israeli security establishment prefers and would be willing to press for a clear cut peace treaty with Syria rather than continue primarily down the tortuous path toward a two state solution with the Palestinians."

Iran busts 'spy pigeons' near nuclear site

AFP, here

Enough Joe the Plumber; here's to Kareem the Soldier

Nancy Youssef in McClatchy's, here
"...On Sunday, Powell said that Khan's sacrifice and service had swayed him to discuss the way that Muslims have been portrayed in the presidential campaign, and the contention that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is a Muslim..."

Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan was invoked by Gen. Colin Powell in his endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama on SundayÕs

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Syrians & Europeans see eye to eye on the threat of "Organized Islamic Extremism"

إلا أن هناك سلسلة من الوقائع والرسائل ذات الطابع الأمني ـــــ السياسي كانت عواصم أوروبية قد حرصت على إبلاغها لحكومات وجهات سياسية في المنطقة، مع حرص على وضع قيادات رسمية وسياسية في لبنان وسوريا في أجواء هذه الرسائل وفي خلفية بعض المعلومات التي ترى أوروبا أنها تمس الخط الأحمر لأمنها ومنها:
أولاً: إبلاغ فرنسا دولاً عربية عدة بأنّ علاقتها مع المملكة العربية السعودية تمر بمرحلة دقيقة. ليس هناك من أزمة بالمعنى المباشر، لكنّ التواصل الذي كان قائماً أيام الرئيس السابق جاك شيراك والثقة المتبادلة انتهت، وآخر رسالة نقلها دبلوماسي سعودي إلى قصر الإليزيه احتجاجاً على العلاقات الفرنسية ـــــ السورية ـــــ القطرية، جرى التعامل معها بشدة، وأُسمع الدبلوماسي السعودي كلاماً لم يسبق أن سمعه أحد من إدارته، بما في ذلك التعابير التي أخرجته من القصر الرئاسي الفرنسي منزعجاً، فيما كان المسؤولون الفرنسيون يشكّون في أنه سينقل بأمانة ما سمعه من أجوبة إلى قيادته.
ثانياً: أُبلغت دمشق بأن أوروبا عامة والدول المطلة على البحر المتوسط خاصة، تتفهم كل إجراء تقوم به الحكومة السورية لمواجهة ما تسمّيه أوروبا «التطرّف الإسلامي الحركي» وتقصد به مجموعات تعمل في فلك تنظيم القاعدة أو على طريقته. وقدمت فرنسا إلى سوريا كمية كبيرة من المعلومات بما في ذلك صورة عن معلومات قدمت إلى أجهزة أمنية لبنانية، لملاحقة بعض هذه المجموعات. وجرى نقاش واسع بين الفرنسيين والسوريين حول «قاعدة الشمال اللبناني» مع حديث عن اختراقات متبادلة قائمة بين هذه المجموعات وفرع المعلومات في قوى الامن الداخلي، وهو الامر الذي تنفيه قيادة هذا الفرع، ولكن الاوروبيين يتحدثون عن نجاح عناصر من هذه المجموعات في الاستفادة من علاقة خدمات تبادلية مع فرع المعلومات للقيام بأعمال وفق الاجندة الخاصة بتلك المجموعات، على طريقة اختراق «طالبان الجديدة» لجهاز الاستخبارات في باكستان، حتى إن دبلوماسياً غربياً تحدث عن عناصر من هذه المجموعات كانت تستخدم بطاقات تسهيل مرور صادرة عن فرع المعلومات للتنقل بحرية في بعض الأماكن وحتى للخروج من أي دائرة مراقبة أو مطاردة، ويتحدث الدبلوماسي المذكور عن أن هذه الامور هي السبب الحقيقي لقرار وقف العمل بهذه البطاقات.
ثالثاً: وجود خشية ذات طابع استثنائي لدى الدول الاوروبية المطلة على المتوسط من «نشاط المجموعات المتطرفة الحركية» الموجودة في لبنان، وتضع هذه الدول وأجهزة الاستخبارات فيها سيناريوات سوداء عدة من بينها نجاح هذه المجموعات في تفخيخ مراكب والقيام بعمليات انتحارية ضد ناقلات تجارية أو سياحية أو عسكرية في .
رابعاً: مباشرة بعض العواصم الغربية ببرنامج رفع الغطاء عن مجموعات المعارضة السورية التي تموّلها السعودية، ويقول دبلوماسيون إن باريس عندما قررت استضافة الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد، بادرت إلى خطوات إجرائية ذات طابع أمني هدفت إلى عدم حصول أي نشاط لمعارضين سوريين في باريس، وصولاً إلى إبلاغ نائب الرئيس السوري السابق عبد الحليم خدام بأنه أمام خيارين: إما عدم مغادرة منزله أثناء زيارة الأسد، وبالتالي التوقف عن أي نوع من المقابلات الاجتماعية والعامة، وإما مغادرة باريس قبل 24 ساعة من موعد وصول الأسد، .
خامساً: مبادرة باريس إلى إجراء إداري بخصوص السفارة الفرنسية في بيروت، لجهة التوقف عن التواصل عبرها مع القيادات اللبنانية، على أن يصار خلال هذه الفترة إلى حصر المسؤولية عن الملف اللبناني بالمدير العام للرئاسة الفرنسية كلود غيان، الذي عقد اجتماعات عدة مع قيادات لبنانية من فريق المعارضة، وتمنّع عن مقابلة وفد فريق 14 آذار وأبلغ الخارجية توجيهات بعدم التعامل مع هذا الوفد على أنه يمثل كل لبنان، وصولاً إلى بدء ترتيبات خاصة لقيام العماد ميشال عون بزيارة مميزة إلى فرنسا العام المقبل، كما ترافق مع رفع مستوى التنسيق والتشاور مع حزب الله.

WINEP: "Hezbollah: a new line of defense north of the Litani & a complete a massive, unprecedented recruitment, training, and rearmament drive.."

Nicholas Blanford, writing for WINEP, here
"...What is less evident is the scale of Hizballah's military preparations near the southern border. Although Resolution 1701, paragraph 8, designates the area between the Blue Line (the UN's 2000 border demarcation between Israel and Lebanon) and the Litani River "free of any armed personnel, assets, and weapons" other than those of the Lebanese government and the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), Hizballah is reportedly carrying out clandestine military preparations in the area.,,,Given what has transpired in Lebanon over the past two years -- both on the ground and in the air -- it would appear that Hizballah and Israel will continue to breach, and not honor, Resolution 1701. Preparing for the inevitable second round of conflict has taken priority -- for both parties -- over complying with the UN

Faisal welcomes Israeli interest in Saudi plan

Reuters, here

"...Saudi rancour towards Syria's Bashar al-Assad may be blinding Riyadh..."

Reuters, here

"....diplomats and analysts say....They also say that Saudi rancour towards Syria and its president Bashar al-Assad may be blinding Riyadh to the possibilities of dialogue with Damascus.
A U.S. official said this month Washington is assessing its policy of trying to isolate Syria. The review in U.S. policy follows a recent rapprochement between France and Syria, with President Nicolas Sarkozy visiting Damascus last month. He said Arab and foreign governments had "underestimated" Assad, an eye doctor who was plucked from relative obscurity in London to succeed his father Hafez al-Assad died in 2000...."

Gates: "Door nearly closed on Iraq troop deal"

Reuters, here

"I don't think you slam the door shut, but I would say it's pretty far closed," he added, warning that failure to reach a new status of forces agreement (SOFA) or renew the current U.N. mandate for U.S. troops would mean "we basically stop doing anything."
and "Iraq's cabinet rejects current draft of U.S. troop accord", McClatchy's, here

Obama's Lead Widens: 52%-38%: Growing Doubts About McCain's Judgment, Age and Campaign Conduct

PEW, here via War&Piece

"Barack Obama’s lead over John McCain has steadily increased since mid-September, when the race was essentially even. Shortly after the first presidential debate on Sept. 26, Obama moved to a 49% to 42% lead; that margin inched up to 50% to 40% in a poll taken just after the second debate. Currently, Obama enjoys his widest margin yet over McCain among registered voters, at 52% to 38%. When the sample of voters is narrowed to those most likely to vote, Obama leads by 53% to 39%..."

We regret the mistake ...but Michelle Obama "was not even staying at the Waldorf"....

How "noble" of the NYPost to put this correction! How big & noble! (The original item, October 17th, has been deleted from site, but usually after the intended damage is done ...of course.)

"THE source who told us last week about Michelle Obama getting lobster and caviar delivered to her room at the Waldorf-Astoria must have been under the influence of a mind-altering drug. She was not even staying at the Waldorf. We regret the mistake, and our former source is going to regret it, too. Bread and water would be too good for such disinformation."

Iraqi forces raid home of pro-U.S. group leader

Reuters, here

ElBaradei: "Iran remains far from acquiring capabilities to develop nuclear weapons..."

Haaretz, here

Monday, October 20, 2008

Jon Stewart To Sarah Palin: "F*** You"

watch here

Negroponte: "Al qaeda is active in North Lebanon & Mosul..."

Al Akhbar, here

رأى نائب وزيرة الخارجية الأميركية، جون نيغروبونتي، «أن قوة تنظيم القاعدة ضعفت في أفغانستان منذ سبع سنوات لغاية اليوم، ولكنّها ما زالت ناشطة في الموصل في العراق، وفي شمال لبنان»، قائلاً إن هذا التنظيم «تلقّى ضربة قاضية في محافظة الأنبار في العراق».
وأعرب نيغروبونتي، في حديث لمحطة «العربية»، عن اعتقاده بأن «القاعدة باتت أضعف من ذي قبل، وأن أصوات المسلمين المعتدلين أصبحت مسموعة أكثر»، قائلاً على صعيد أفغانستان «هي معركة نستطيع أن نكسبها، وهناك خطة لزيادة عدد قوات الأمن فيها»، وإن تلك الدولة «في حاجة إلى مساعدة المجتمع الدولي لتطوير برنامجها الاقتصادي»، مستطرداً أنه «مع مرور الوقت، يمكننا أن نجد حلاً لمشكلة أفغانستان».
على صعيد إيران، قال «ما زلنا نقنعها بتخلّيها عن برنامجها النووي ووقف تخصيب اليورانيوم»، مشيراً إلى أن مجلس الأمن فرض عقوبات اقتصادية عليها «كما فرضنا بدورنا عقوبات مماثلة للحدّ من هذا الأمر».

Can Saudi Arabia save Tzipi Livni?

in the FP/Blog, here

Babacan, hopes that Israel will decide to resume meetings on Syria, once a new government has been formed...

Hurriyet, here

AIPAC Case Lingers On...

SecrecyNews, here
"...From the prosecution’s perspective, the two defendants “conspired to obtain classified information from government sources and passed that information to a foreign government, journalists and others, in violation of [the Espionage Act].” Yet in an August 20 response (pdf) that was redacted and unsealed last week, the defense not only denied guilt but also said it would prove that no crime had been committed..."

Deafening silence on Islamophobia

Paul Woodward, in WIC, here

"...But the blatantly obvious truth is that we do live in a society where “Muslim” and “Arab” are dirty words.The near universal response to claims that Obama is a Muslim has been to vigorously deny it and point out that he is a Christian. Peripheral to those denials have been the occasional and rather tepid denunciations of the use of this term as a slur.
If Obama was “accused” of being a Jew, his accusers would without hesitation be denounced as anti-Semites — no need to identify Obama’s actual religious affiliations. The issue that would be confronted unequivocally would be the use of the label “Jew” as a slur..."

WINEP: "Another war with Hizballah is inevitable, and Israel is making preparations to ensure that the next round is decisive.."

"...Moreover, Israel now faces a more formidable organization, one that is better supplied and entrenched than it was two years ago. Although Israel's reaction to the kidnapping of two soldiers in 2006 took Hizballah's leadership by surprise and may have increased Israel's regional deterrence, the mixed performance of the IDF during the campaign undercut the shock value, making its impact of limited value and efficacy..."

The Republicans have lifted the lid off their rightwing id

Tomasky, in the Guardian, here
"...It's true that we're hearing racial-code talk here and there. But the main fear tactic being employed now is something else. It's that Obama and his associates - and for that matter his supporters and even the regions of the country that he's destined to carry - are anti-American..........'But friends, all is not darkness. Bachmann's appearance caused a national uproar. Colin Powell, in endorsing Obama yesterday, said of Bachmann's comments that "we have got to stop this kind of nonsense and pull ourselves together". Her Democratic opponent raised nearly half a million dollars from around the country in just 24 hours, and he now has a chance of beating her...........Now McCain's supporters are casting Obama as anti-American. This may well scare voters, but not the way they mean to.."

Saudis resurrect, Subhi Tufayli, as a rival for Hezbollah

Sami Moubayed, in AsiaTimes, here

"Italic...The Saudis, ...under United States urging,.. strongly opposed to Hezbollah, claiming that it is an extension of Iranian influence in the Arab world. More recently, the Saudis have began coordinating with former vice president Abdul-Halim Khaddam to break Hezbollah's influence in Lebanon. The Saudis, however, are reportedly funding a rival wing of Hezbollah itself, modeled around Sheikh Subhi Tufayli, one of the party's original founders who has been sitting in the dark since the 1990s...."

NATO's SACEur: "political will "wavering" in Afghanistan"

"..Craddock defended the view expressed by Britain's outgoing commander in Afghanistan, Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, that the Taliban could not be defeated militarily and that at some level insurgents needed to be drawn into a dialogue.
"His comments are generally in line with what our military and political leaders have been saying all along... The conflict in Afghanistan cannot be won by military means alone," Craddock, who serves as NATO's operational commander, said."We in the international community must come together as part of a truly comprehensive approach (in Afghanistan). The current effort remains disjointed in time and space."

How John McCain came to pick Sarah Palin.

Jane Mayer, in the New Yorker, here

In 2007, Palin entertained top conservative pundits at the governor’s mansion.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Saudi official presents new Israeli-Palestinian peace plan

Good luck with that too.......Avi Issacharoff, In Haaretz, here

Until Peace with Syria-Lebanon is achieved, ... Israel can try a long-term non-belligerence pact with Beirut...

... Good luck with achieving that! In Haaretz, here
"....The agreement would be signed by both governments, and its focus would be a reciprocal agreement on the route of the border between the two countries. The deal would include a solution to the dispute over the Shaba Farms border area and the divided village of Ghajar, as well as a number of small border adjustments demanded by Lebanon.Israel is expected to ask Lebanon to significantly reduce Hezbollah's weapons stores, and to extend the Lebanese army's authority across the entire country, with a special emphasis on the area south of the Litani River, which is the closest area to Israel. In return, an agreement would have to be reached over Israeli overflights in Lebanese airspace...."

Israel must adapt to reality of U.S.-Iran dialogue

Aluf Benn, in Haaretz, here

"...considering the expected changeover of government in Washington. Israel should keep an eye on its interests in the event of a possible U.S-Iranian dialogue, rather than live with the mistaken illusion it can unilaterally put a stop to Iranian nuclear plans. Among the Israeli officials who say that an attack on Iran is not imminent is MK Isaac Ben-Israel (Kadima). Ben-Israel told Maariv that prime minister-designate Tzipi Livni "believes that if Iran's nuclear project is not stopped by the world, Israel will have no choice but to attack."
But he also said Israel still has time. "It doesn't mean we're going to bomb in three months."

Powell endorses Obama as 'transformational'

"I think he is a transformational figure," Powell said. "He is a new generation coming ... onto the world stage and on the American stage. And for that reason, I'll be voting for Senator Barack Obama."Powell, speaking live in the studio, told moderator Tom Brokaw that he is "troubled" by the direction of the Republican Party and statements by the campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), and said he does not believe Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is ready to be president...."This is not the way we should be doing it in America. I feel strongly about this particular point," Powell said. "We have got to stop polarizing ourselves in this way. And John McCain is as non-discriminatory as anyone I know. But I'm troubled about the fact that within the party,we have these kinds of expressions.Stressing that Obama was a lifelong Christian, Powell denounced Republican tactics that he said were insulting not only to to Obama but also to Muslims. “The really right answer is what if he is?” Powell said, praising the contributions of millions of Muslim citizens to American society. "
Colin Powell on Oct. 10.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

"...McCain's choice of Palin? ... right up there in the history books, with Caligula appointing his horse to the Senate... "

Clemons' email, here in TWN,"...But something that is very off color and that I should discreetly report is what one of the most well-known conservative commentators in the world said to me privately in Chicago. I won't report the name of the individual, but he/she said:

"What are we to think of McCain's choice of Palin? It's outrageous -- an insult to the nation and an insult to everything the man has supposedly stood for all his life. McCain's decision is right up there in the history books -- right up there with Caligula appointing his horse to the Senate.No self-respecting conservative can support McCain now."

FLC urges the next US President to deal with Iranian dominance at once!

Our Concern: Here!

Obama Rally Draws 100,000 in Missouri

I need a quick eye exam, cuz' this crowd of 100K looks way bigger than Lebanon's crowds of 1.5-2.5 millions ... in the WSJ, here via War&piece


Barack Obama attracted 100,000 people at a Saturday rally here, his biggest crowd ever at a U.S. event.

"We're votin' for the n***er!"

FiveThirtyEight, here and "Racists for Obama?" in Politico, here via War&Piece.
"....So a canvasser goes to a woman's door in Washington, Pennsylvania. Knocks. Woman answers. Knocker asks who she's planning to vote for. She isn't sure, has to ask her husband who she's voting for. Husband is off in another room watching some game. Canvasser hears him yell back, "We're votin' for the n***er!"Woman turns back to canvasser, and says brightly and matter of factly: "We're voting for the n***er."
In this economy, racism is officially a luxury. How is John McCain going to win if he can't win those voters?....
“The economy is trumping racism,” said Kurt Schmoke, the dean of Howard University Law School and a former Baltimore mayor. “A lot of people who we might think wouldn’t vote their pocketbook because of race — now they are.” One senior congressional Democrat mused about prejudice among his own supporters. “They’ve all got one black friend,” he said, “and they won’t stop talking about their black friend.” “That’s Obama,” he said..."

Post US-Elections: "Israel will have to show it understands the needs of a weakened America and not hamper U.S. foreign policy.."

Aluf Benn in Haaretz, here
"...At the moment, the likelihood of an Israeli, American or joint Israeli-American attack on Iran appears low. There is no guarantee that such an attack can succeed, the risk is enormous, and the United States is in the throes of a profound economic crisis - not to mention the military chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan - and hardly needs more troubles ....
If Iran is not attacked, and if it acquires enough fissionable material for a nuclear weapon in
the coming year, the regional balance of forces will be altered: Israel will have to get used to living with a constant balance of terror, and the next U.S. administration will have to be far more respectful toward Tehran....
And if Iran's nuclear timetable is prolonged, we can expect lengthy diplomatic talks between the U.S. and Iran over the division of influence in the Middle East....
Livni's main challenge, if indeed she succeeds Ehud Olmert, will be to develop good relations with Barack Obama, who appears likely to succeed President Bush in the White House. This is not only a matter of personal chemistry, but of understanding the needs and constraints of a weakened America, which is reeling under a financial crisis and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan..."

Siniora: "I brought Hizbollah into my office... because what happened was contrary to all the promises made"

Interviewed by the FT, here

Maliki says Gen.Odierno has 'risked his position' by remarking that Iran tried to bribe Iraqi legislators ...

"The American commander risked his position when he talked about this issue and in this manner. He has regretfully made relations complex," Maliki said in remarks made to Kuwaiti journalists on Thursday and aired Friday. "The man is known for his goodness, but [I don't know] how he made such a statement, and there is no reality in this subject. The parliament does not take any bribes, neither from Iran or any other party. This is regretful."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Meanwhile, in Paris .....


Bush offered Bashar Assad, to press Israel on the Golan Heights if Damascus promises to cut its Iran ties ...

Al Jarida, (Kuwait) here

وقال مصدر فلسطيني مقرب من عباس لـ«الجريدة» إن العرض جاء في «رسالة سرية مكتوبة من بوش شخصياً»، وعرض فيها على الأسد «إتمام هذه التسوية خلال أسابيع وقبل الانتخابات الرئاسية الأميركية المقررة الشهر المقبل، لإعطاء دفعة قوية للعملية السلمية بالشرق الأوسط يتوج بها رئاسته قبل مغادرته البيت الأبيض في يناير».

وأوضح المصدر أن الوفد المرافق لعباس خلال زيارته إلى دمشق «لم يكن على علم بهذه الرسالة أو تفاصيلها، وأن الولايات المتحدة شددت على أهمية أن تكون هذه الرسالة سرية وبعيداً عن القنوات الرسمية المعتادة»، كما أن السفير الأميركي في دمشق لم يبلغ بها.

[US President George W. Bush has reportedly offered to force Israel to fully surrender the Golan Heights and conduct a swift withdrawal from the strategic plateau if Syria will agree to sever ties to the regime of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. That according to a report in the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Jareida on Friday. A senior Palestinian Authority official told the newspaper that Bush made the offer in a handwritten letter that was given to Syrian President Bashar Assad by US officials earlier this week... The 'source' added that the US side insisted on the 'close-hold' nature of the offer, and kept (even) the US Ambassador in Damascus in the dark]

US Policies, created conditions that helped destabilize Iran in the late 1970s and contributed to the country's Islamic Revolution

"...The report, after two years of research by scholar Andrew Scott Cooper, zeros in on the role of White House policymakers -- including Donald H. Rumsfeld, then a top aide to President Ford -- hoping to roll back oil prices and curb the shah's ambitions, despite warnings by then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that such a move might precipitate the rise of a "radical regime" in Iran..."

Israel Gets Real on Iran ....dashing the hopes of neoconservatives in Washington...

Trita Parsi, in the RootlessCosmo, here, via WIC
"...On Iran, Olmert argued that Israel had lost its “sense of proportion” when stating that it would deal with Iran militarily. “What we can do with the Palestinians, the Syrians and the Lebanese, we cannot do with the Iranians,” Olmert said, in stark contradiction to his own earlier warnings on Iran as well as the rhetoric of many of his hawkish cabinet members. “Let’s be more modest, and act within the bounds of our realistic capabilities,” he cautioned. Olmert’s interview dashed the hopes of neoconservatives in Washington hoping for an Israeli post-November surprise through the bombing of Iran’s nuclear facilities ...Olmert’s statement may signal a long-overdue shift towards Israel’s Plan B on Iran..... Warning about being “boxed into the corner,” a recent Haaretz editorial offered a clear break from Israel’s Plan A: “The best chance of calming the atmosphere and reducing the threat lies in starting negotiations between the United States and Iran… [I]t is the only route not yet tried and is likely to help moderate Iranian policy..."

Colin Powell will endorse Obama?

Politico's Mike Allen: Colin Powell will endorse Obama.
"...The general’s camp is being coy about what he might or might not say on Sunday. But some McCain advisers suspect, without being sure, that Powell will endorse Obama. “It’s going to make a lot of news, and certainly be personally embarrassing for McCain," a McCain official said. "It comes at a time when we need momentum, and it would create momentum against us.”

How the Recession Could End the Iraq War

Tony Karon, in TIME, here
"...Other key factors in tamping down violence may yet be the cause of further violence and instability; these include the truce declared by the radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, and the anti-Qaeda alliance the U.S. forged with the Sunni insurgents of the Awakening Movement. Deep distrust remains between the Awakening Movement, many of whose members were aligned with the Saddam regime, and the Shi'ite dominated Maliki government..... But it may not be the situation on the ground in Iraq that determines the future of the U.S. military mission there. For one thing, the fragile calm in Iraq coincides with an increasingly perilous Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan,......Then, there's the financial crisis and looming global recession that will inevitably impose a far greater austerity on Washington. America's military deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan are expected to cost close to $200 billion for 2008 alone, and maintaining that commitment will become considerably more burdensome as Washington is forced to funnel many hundreds of billions of dollars into simply averting financial collapse...."

"The new & improved" Iraqi Air Force...

AviationWeek, here via FP

"[T]he order of battle for the Iraqi Air Force now includes three [Cessna] Caravans for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance [ISR], three armed Caravans, two Hawker/Beechcraft King Air light transports and six King Airs 350s also for ISR."

After Admiral Hayden ...Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman arrives in Beirut....

"How We Lost the War We Won"

In case you missed this, Nir Rosen, in RollingStone, here
"...But even as Rumsfeld spoke, the Taliban were beginning their reconquest of Afghanistan. The Pentagon, already focused on invading Iraq, assumed that the Afghan militias it had bought with American money would be enough to secure the country. Instead, the militias proved far more interested in extorting bribes and seizing land than pursuing the hardened Taliban veterans who had taken refuge across the border in Pakistan. The parliamentary elections in 2005 returned power to the warlords who had terrorized the countryside before the Taliban imposed order. "The American intervention issued a blank check to these guys," says a senior aid official in Kabul. "They threw money, weapons, vehicles at them. But the warlords never abandoned their bad habits — they're abusing people and filling their pockets.
By contrast, aid for rebuilding schools and clinics has been paltry. In the critical first two years after the invasion, international assistance amounted to only $57 per citizen — compared with $679 in Bosnia. As U.S. contractors botched reconstruction jobs and fed corruption, little of the money intended to rebuild Afghanistan reached those in need. Even worse, the sudden infusion of international aid drove up real estate and food prices, increasing poverty and fueling widespread resentment..."

Bush Administration Explores Possible Opening With Long-Shunned Syria?

"...The quick release of the Americans is, undoubtedly, appreciated at Foggy Bottom. But the administration is still professing skepticism about a turnaround in relations with Damascus. A senior State Department official insists that Washington's Syria policy is not shifting. "There is no consideration of changes to our policy," the official says, and there is "no agreement on further meetings." The official tersely described the recent conversations as "limited" in their significance...."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Gea'gea' to Mubarak: "I could've crushed Aoun in a jiffy, had I acted like Hezbollah back in May .."

AsSafir, here

CIA's Director Hayden in Beirut ...Egypt's Intelligence Head, Suleiman in 'secret' trip to Damascus ...

AnNahar, here and Al Akhbar, here


McCain aides privately call Palin a ‘total disaster.’»

"...The ongoing animosity may have something to do with the McCain campaign blaming Kristol for one its biggest problems -- picking Sarah Palin was his idea..... McCain aides see Palin as a "total disaster," and see Kristol as culpable."We've got a lot of finger-pointing going on within the camp, and I'd say there's a pretty broad agreement amongst a number of the senior-most advisors to McCain that the Palin pick is worse than disappointing. It's a total disaster, as one describes to me. And there is a sort of blame game going on there. [...] "I would say the anger and irritation between a number of the senior people in the McCain camp and Bill Kristol is become really acute.... They view this man as the guy who gave them this albatross, Sarah Palin. I think there's a lot of real anger about it. There's also recognition that it's too late to do anything."

'Muslim' & 'Arab', shouldn't be a slur

Constance L. Rice, in the LATimes, here
"..The fact is, neither McCain nor Obama -- who continues to combat absurd attacks on his Americanness -- has been willing to speak out against the implicit slurs against Arabs and Islam. Is it really too difficult for Obama to respond: "For the hundredth time, I am a Christian, and if you are suggesting that there is something wrong with Islam or being a Muslim, you are wrong"? Women rightly protested gender bias during Hillary Clinton's run, but we failed to strongly challenge the earlier bias against Mormons during Mitt Romney's bid, and we are currently failing to refute the anti-Muslim bias embedded in the assaults on Obama.
It is a failure we need to correct now.

..... in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli

“In the past, Syria has killed many people here under the pretext of fighting terrorism,” said Mr. Daqmaq, the cleric. “But the difference now is that there is a big lion called Al Qaeda, and the Syrians fear it.”

James Bamford: 'Israel's high-tech industry a branch of Mossad'...

Yossi Melman, in Haaretz, here
"....The above accusations come from journalist and writer James Bamford, whose new book, "The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America" (Doubleday), came out this week in the United States. In this respect, the United States resembles Israel: Successes attributed to the Mossad should often be credited to other intelligence units - first and foremost Unit 8200, the Israeli equivalent of the NSA. Another of Bamford's important assertions, which also concerns Israel, is that the largest telephony and communications companies in the United States - in fact all of them except QWEST - have cooperated with the NSA, allowing it to tap their lines and optic fibers.
Bamford has no love lost for Israel. In his articles, he publishes claims by American Navy officials who believe Israel maliciously attacked the American spy ship Liberty during the 1967 Six-Day War. He holds that the September 11 attack did not stem from radical Islam's basic hatred of America, but rather from its anger at the United States' support for Israel... ,
Bamford asserts that in light of the problematic record of Israel, which did not hesitate to spy against America on American soil, Israeli companies should not have been given the keys to the kingdom of America's secrets..."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

When he concluded on the “long line of McCains”.. I thought he was going to bust out the big guns “my dad was an admiral, his dad was a Muslim”.....

When John concluded by reflecting on the “long line of McCains” that have served the country, I thought he was finally going to bust out the big guns — “my dad was an admiral, his dad was a Muslim” would, unlike most of what he says, actually true.

CBS:53 pct said Obama won; 22 pct said Mccain
Uncommitted voters; 28 pct now committed to obama; 14 pct to McCain
Who would raise taxes? McCain: 48 pct; Obama 63 pct.
Right decisions on health care: McCain, 30 pct; 69 pct obama

CNN: 58 pct said Obama won; 31 pct said McCain, and McCain's unfavorables went up slightly (45% to 49%). Obama won three debates out of three.