Sunday, November 30, 2008

"Relations between Israel & India grow stronger when tensions between Delhi & Islamabad rise"

Need we say more? Not that we're saying "THAT" (what you've just thought of) but we're very close! ... Haaretz, here
"...However, two other issues were also on the table which were no less important: cooperation between Israel and India against Islamic terrorism, and the two countries' concern - along with that of other Western nations - over the expected dissolution of Pakistan, India's historic enemy and the first, and so far only, Islamic nuclear power. Relations between Israel and India tend to grow stronger when tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad rise, or when India experiences a rightward shift in anti-Muslim public opinion or in leadership..."

EU/French Foreign Ministry paper "worries" Israel ...

And the wise man said: 'Let Them Be Worried....forever'.....Ravid in Haaretz, here
"...Inter alia, it calls for increased pressure on Israel to reopen Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem, including Orient House, which formerly served as the Palestinian Authority's headquarters in the city....
....its proposals are liable to result in a clash with whatever new government Israelis elect in February, whether headed by Tzipi Livni or Benjamin Netanyahu....
"...A key part of building the Palestinian state involves resolving the status of Jerusalem, as the future capital of two states," Therefore, "the EU will work actively towards the re-opening of the Palestinian institutions, including the Orient House."
.... it notes, the EU "expects a complete freeze of all settlement activities including natural growth, including in East Jerusalem .."

Moawad's "Syrian VIP Laissez-Passer" (2004')

(Signed Rustom Ghazaleh: 05/01/2004')

Iran proposes building nuclear power plants with Arab states...

RIA-Novosti, here
"...light-water nuclear power plants jointly with neighboring Arab

Dennis Ross: "Talk Tough With Tehran"

Dennis Ross, in Newsweek, here
"...The way to achieve such pressure is to focus less on the United Nations and more on getting the Europeans, Japanese, Chinese and Saudis to cooperate. The more Washington shows it's willing to engage Iran directly, the more these other parties, will feel comfortable ratcheting up the pressure. Europeans have also complained that if they reduce their business with Iran, the Chinese will pick up the slack. But having the Chinese onboard will allay that fear.
Sharp sticks, of course, must be balanced by appetizing carrots. We need to offer political, economic and security benefits to Tehran, on the condition that Iran change its behavior not just on nukes but on terrorism as well. Sticks will show Iran what it stands to lose by going nuclear; carrots will show its leaders what they would gain by moderating their behavior. Smart statecraft involves wielding them together. It's needed now to avoid two terrible outcomes: living with a nuclear Iran, or acting militarily to try to prevent it."

Bill Kristol's Wars: Two actual ones, in Afghanistan & Iraq, ...called for war with North Korea, Syria, Iran, and Sudan, ... and now this..

" Kristol wants to go off on yet another half-baked invasion scheme. Or, rather, he wants to posture as favoring such. Because the best wars to monger for are the ones that don’t actually happen..." Matt Yglesisa, here
"And while [Bush is] at it, perhaps he could tell various admirals to stop moaning about how difficult it would be to deal with the pirates off the coast of Somalia (isn’t keeping the shipping lanes open a core mission of the Navy?) and order the Navy to clobber them. If need be, the Marines would no doubt be glad to recapitulate their origins and join in by going ashore in Africa to destroy the pirates’ safe havens..."

Mossad on Iran: "promises not kept ....but, some results..."

Yossi Melman in Haaretz, here

"...Since Dagan joined the Mossad, he has behaved like a bull in a china shop. He has closed departments, made structural changes, alienated veterans, insulted senior officials and made promises he didn't keep - including his promise to block Iran's nuclear program ...
Dagan's changes and emphases have begun to show results. Various foreign governments (Spain, Belgium, Austria, Tanzania, Azerbaijan and others) have prevented Iran from receiving important technological equipment for its nuclear program....
Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Intelligence Ministry and prosecutor general have "exposed" several Mossad spies in recent weeks......what we do know is only the tip of the iceberg of Israeli and western efforts to block Iran's nuclear program, as well as Iran's attempts to expose and neutralize them."

"Discovering Palestine"

Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, in the MorungExpress, here
"...I’VE TRIED TO REMEMBER when I first learned that there were Christians living in Palestine and then met them. I know how strange that sounds. But the assumptions of evangelical Zionism that infused my Christian upbringing made me predisposed as a young person to believe that Israel was on the right side of any conflict. I didn’t know the stories of Palestinians—and ironically, I didn’t really know the stories of the Jews, but only the version of Jewish settlement in Israel interpreted through the lens of Christian Zionism. As I learned the histories of these peoples, and navigated the domestic U.S. politics of the Middle East conflict, I was struck by the contortions of much evangelical theology as it was applied to these realities. I saw with alarm Israeli political leaders co-opting evangelicals into religious sanction of territorial aggression...."
Discovering Palestine

Bush: "Why do you want to give Assad the Golan for nothing?"

(..because as they say in Lebanon, "the Golan is his father's property") ..Aluf Benn, in Haaretz, here
"....The Bush administration has long had reservations about Israel's talks with Syria and refuses to play any active role in them. Infuriated by Syria's involvement in anti-American terror in Iraq, as well as its undermining of Lebanon's fragile democracy, Bush preferred to invest his diplomatic capital in Israeli-Palestinian talks, while eschewing contacts with the Syrians..."

Egypt asks for Al Azhar' Tantawi's "sacking" ... after Peres handshake

Tantawi on the other hand, said all those who are calling for his demise are "cowards"...In Al Jazeera, here
("...adde kidda...")

Saturday, November 29, 2008

'An "F" for Bush's Iran Policy'

Ignatius in the WaPo, here
"...A disturbing test of Iran's missile technology and the robustness of its command-and-control systems came in the war in Lebanon in the summer of 2006. Tehran's proxy army, Hezbollah, was able to keep firing its Iranian-supplied missiles at Israeli population centers despite several weeks of aggressive Israeli attacks....
It's impossible to say whether Iran's march toward nuclear-weapons capability could have been stopped by diplomacy. But there hasn't yet been a good test. Because of bitter infighting in the Bush administration, its diplomatic efforts were late in coming and, once launched, have been ineffective. Iran ... views America as an aggressive adversary that wants regime change, no matter what Washington says..."

"I'm Still Tortured by What I Saw in Iraq.."

The leader of an interrogations team assigned to a Special Operations task force in Iraq in 2006, writing under a pseudonym for security reasons, has this in Sunday's WaPo.

"....Americans, including officers like myself, must fight to protect our values not only from al-Qaeda but also from those within our own country who would erode them. Other interrogators are also speaking out, including some former members of the military, the FBI and the CIA who met last summer to condemn torture and have spoken before Congress -- at considerable personal risk...."

Saudi King: "Oil Prices Should Be Much Higher..."

In AP, here and in the original interview Custodian gave to the Kuwaiti 'tabloid', AsSiyassah, here

"...Saudi Arabia, the 13-member organization's top exporter and kingpin, broke with its usual silence about specific prices and cited $75 per barrel as a favorable target. King Abdullah, in an interview ... said that (US75) would be a "fair price"

With Hillary Clinton as Sec-State, will Obama’s bold agenda prevail?

Matt Yglesias in The National, here
"...But since Obama met with Hillary Clinton two weeks ago – and offered her a job as Secretary of State – the conversation has been dominated by speculation about her acceptance. Talk of Obama’s new national security team – now reported to include Robert Gates staying on as Secretary of Defense, and former General Jim Jones as National Security Advisor – has hardly touched on actual policy plans. Instead, we’ve been treated to endless treatments of the touching story of personal reconciliation between Clinton and Obama...
What has compounded the confusion is a tendency to rewrite the history of disagreements between Clinton and Obama to minimise the clear policy differences......
Many of those differences were indeed small. But it’s important to recall that, though the dispute over direct high-level talks with Iran was the highest-profile difference between Clinton and Obama, it was far from the only one...On Iran, they differed not only on direct talks, but also in that Obama explicitly envisioned negotiations as ideally leading to a grand
bargain and a normalisation of relations...."

al-Sistani, "concerned" over Washington-Baghdad pact...

Al Jazeera/Magazine (English) Here and McClatchy's, here
"...He added that Iraqi rule in the country is not complete while the occupiers are present. He highlighted that the government of Iraq has no authority to control the transfer of occupier forces into and out of Iraq, no control of shipments and the pact grants the occupiers immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts..."
Team of Rivals

"Director of ISI, Gen Shuja Pasha will NOT visit India: Instead, a 'representative' will.."

Gathering storm or what? The Times Of India, here
"...The decision was made at a late night meeting between President Asif Ali Zardari and Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the chief of the powerful army. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani also joined the meeting..."

"Mumbai terrorists came in through the Persian Gulf ...?"

Details continue to be extremely sketchy, and at times contradictory ....REDIFF, here
"...officials are not ruling out the possibility of local elements providing logistical support to the terrorists..."

Friday, November 28, 2008

Indian media: "Israel, with a 'bad record' in hostage-rescue operations... has nothing to teach Indian Commandos.."

"They accuse Israel of casting doubt on the effectiveness of their 'brave' Indian commandos, and claim that Israel has a bad record in hostage-rescue operations, aside from the successful Operation Entebbe in 1976..."

"Lebanon 'worst place' for Palestinian refugees" .... and many others!

(Thank God Lebanon is a Shagri La for Citizens, guest workers & refugees from Srilanka, the Philippines, Ethiopia, Bagladesh, India, Cote D'Ivoire, Madagascar, Eritrea, Egypt, Sudan, Iraq, Syria ... and yes, Lebanon!!!!!) The DailyStar, here
"...Refugees in Lebanon suffer from the highest levels of abject poverty of all Palestinian refugees, according to UNRWA. In contradiction to the UN Refugee Convention of 1951, all refugees must be given the right to work and to own property. But Palestinians in Lebanon do not enjoy those rights. Nor are they entitled to state health care. Their status has long been an issue of bitter dispute between Lebanese political parties, many of whom argue that Palestinians are temporary guests and vehemently oppose the possibility of Palestinian naturalization...."

".........I 'Liberated' Iraqis........"

ABCNews, here
Bush: One of Worst Disasters to Hit U.S.

"..Iraq will not be Iowa in the Middle East,.. it will also not be Saddam's Iraq, nor will it be the takfiris' dream of Iraq..that's Victory enough.."

Pat Lang, at SST, here
"The Mumbai attacks are, I think, illustrative of the difficulty that any society or set of security forces experience in a surprise transition to war from relative peace. The Pearl Harbor attack was an example of this experience. Confusion is always the prime characteristic of the initial reaction. This is often followed by a ferocious and sustained reaction. In such cases it never seems to matter that the general situation may have portended the possibility of attack. Surprise need only be tactical and local to be effective...
These attacks are likely to have been made by Kashmiri fighters influenced by the example of takfiri jihadis throughout the 'umma. They are without meaning unless you are a takfiri jihadi or a victim of this violence. Kashmir should be partitioned. India and Pakistan should move on.
Iraq and Afghanistan
The US and its friends appear to have outstayed whatever welcome they once enjoyed in these countries. I was wrong about the willingness of the Maliki government to accommodate the US in the matter of the two agreements. I thought that, in the end, the Iraqis would decide to "humor" us in this until we grew weary and left of our own volition with our own timing, but I see now that the internal dynamic of a desire to be rid of the foreign "other" has been too strong to let that happen. We will or should have our combat units out of there by the US mid-term elections. That would have happened even if McCain had been elected. In spite of his Vietnam driven angst, he would have had to yield to the demands of the Iraqis and the plain fact that the US is broken financially and likely to remain that way for a while. In Obama's case, this is a gift from on high. In Afghanistan, Karzai now laughs at us for not being able to defeat "a small force like the Taliban." He says he will negotiate his own end to the war if we do not wind this up soon.
To some extent wars like these are always messy in their ending. It took the US military, handicapped by the Bush Administration, a long time to recognize these situations for the insurgent conflicts that they always were. Adequate forces and a proper strategic approach could have led to an effective if "temporary" pacification of Afghanistan. The time and opportunity for that are nearly gone. Once again, we are "broke" and that reality will govern the outcome. Iraq will not be Iowa in the Middle East, but it will also not be Saddam's Iraq, nor will it be the takfiris' dream of Iraq. Perhaps that is victory enough.
The armed forces are weary and need to "reset." Even the SOF counter-terrorist people would be secretly happy for a chance to absorb the impact of high casualties and an unrelenting operational tempo. Their war against the takfiris will go on whether or not the US occupies Iraq and Afghanistan. Good.
Among those who have bled in these wars, there will be cries of "stab in the back," and "nous sommes trahis." Get used to these kinds of outcomes, boys and girls. This is how the game is played."

India’s Suspicion of Pakistan Clouds US Strategy

"...Reconciliation between India and Pakistan has emerged as a basic tenet in the approaches to foreign policy of President-elect Barack Obama, and the new leader of Central Command, Gen. David H. Petraeus. The point is to persuade Pakistan to focus less of its military effort on India, and more on the militants in its lawless tribal regions who are ripping at the soul of Pakistan. A strategic pivot by Pakistan’s military away from a focus on India to an all-out effort against the Taliban and their associates in Al Qaeda, the thinking goes, would serve to weaken the militants who are fiercely battling American and NATO forces in Afghanistan..."

Flashback: "Le 29 novembre 1947, une nuit funeste pour les arabes"

Rene Naba, here

"...Issue d’une famille juive d’Europe orientale, communiste français parfaitement arabisant, enseignant le Français dans la ville de Saida, au sud du Liban, homme de courage et de conviction, Maxime Rodinson, assumera, cette nuit là, la terrible responsabilité pédagogique d’expliquer à ses camarades arabes les dispositions de la résolution 181 de l’Assemblée générale de l’ONU. Peine perdue..."

ONU 1947

"Why is criticism of Israel automatically considered anti-Semitism,"

.... asks Louise Stigsgaard Nissen, Middle East Bureau chief for the Danish daily Berlingske Tidende ... In Haaretz, here
"It's a traditional deflection tactic aimed at diverting attention from the real problem, which is Israel's well-documented and incontestable abuse of Palestinians," Willoch, who presided as Norway's prime minister in the 1980s, told a Norwegian daily..."

WSJ: "...Gates and Jones are WELCOME signs of continuity..."

THAT"s how the WSJ sees things .... WSJ, here
"...The Gates selection is an implicit endorsement of President Bush's "surge" in Iraq and its military architect, General David Petraeus...
General Jones sure beats Bill Clinton's NSC advisers (Anthony Lake and Sandy Berger) and perhaps President Bush's...
Both these men can help Mr. Obama check the worst reflexes of his anti-antiterror base...."

‘The View from Damascus’

Itamar Rabinovich's "new" book is 'The View from Damascus: State, Political Community and Foreign Relations in Twentieth-Century Syria', (MESH) here
"....The accent of the essays dealing with foreign relations is on two themes: Syria’s transformation under Hafez al-Asad from a weak state to a powerful regional actor, and the evolution of its relationship with Israel from the pure hostility of earlier decades to the mix of conflict and negotiations since 1991.The volume’s concluding essay is taken from a forthcoming monograph written for the Saban Center at Brookings and dealing with the trilateral relationship between Washington, Jerusalem and Damascus during the past eight years. It was written with an eye to the unfolding policy debate in the United States and Israel...."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Indian Official: "Lashkar-e-Taiba fidayeen squad behind Mumbai attacks..."

This of course, could (could) have enormous implications on Pakistani-Indian relations .... In the Hindu, here and today, "Claims emerge of British terrorists in Mumbai", in the Guardian, here
"Police sources said an injured terrorist captured during the fighting at the Taj Mahal hotel was tentatively identified as Ajmal Amir Kamal, a resident of Faridkot, near Multan, in Pakistan’s Punjab province."

"A new role for Mohamad Dahlan... "

In AlHayat/English, here via AngryArab. (Old Role, in VanityFair, here)

"...a new role for Mohammad Dahlan, or his rehabilitation so that he enters the front lines of Fatah, after his exit from Gaza. Dahlan has fervent supporters, just as he has equally ardent opponents and rivals. There are Arab and non-Arab states that support him. He is bold and intelligent and personally I do not rule out Abbas getting angry one day and resigning, leaving a vacuum...."

Condi Rice was "asleep" on the night of Obama's election: "yes, she is that disciplined.."

David Ignatius working on Rice's "legacy" ... in the WaPo, here

"...when the administration (just now?)became concerned about Iranian interference in negotiations with Iraq over a status-of-forces agreement. It seemed the wrong time for an opening to Tehran that Sunni Arab allies warned would be seen as a concession...."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with President Bush at the White House on Sunday.

Happy Thanksgiving

US military commander: "Al Qaeda's Focus Is Pakistan, not Iraq..."

In the WSJ, here
"Iraq is now a rear-guard action on the part of al Qaeda," said Gen. James Conway, the head of the Marine Corps and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in an interview. "They've changed their strategic focus not to Afghanistan but to Pakistan, because Pakistan is the closest place where you have the nexus of terrorism and nuclear weapons."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Unified Saudi-Wahhabi 'masterplan'...or 'accident'?

AbuAardvark, (MESA), here
"...I also chaired a panel on Wahhabism and Saudi foreign policy, attended by about 125 people at a rather late hour in the conference. The size of the audience attests to the demand for quality research on these topics, and also speaks well to the respect commanded by young European scholars such as Thomas Hegghammer, Stephane Lecroix, Laurent Bonnifoy, and Bernard Rougier. Hegghammer offered a counter-intuitive revision of the nature of and reasons for Saudi support for the Afghan jihad in the 1980s, focusing heavily on Abdullah Azzam and the "Muslim Brotherhood" trend rather than on the official Saudi ulema. Lecroix presented a more general argument about the domestic political bases of variations in Saudi policies towards religious projects abroad, with a particularly interesting look at the struggles between competing trends at the Islamic University of Medina. Bonnifoy presented an exceptionally detailed, well-constructed account of the limitations of Saudi attempts to influence Yemeni salafists. I had hoped for a more direct intellectual confrontation between these three scholars - all of whose work deeply complicates any conception of a unified Saudi masterplan or of the easy reception of these Saudi efforts by their intended audiences - and a fourth panelist, Naveed Sheikh, whose paper (extracted from a forthcoming book), had presented a fairly strong argument for such a "masterplan". Unfortunately, the strong version of his argument did not really materialize in the presentation and little direct engagement between these positions really emerged. The final paper by Norman Cigar, focused on the military strategic text of al-Qaeda figure Abd al-Aziz al-Muqrin, didn't really fit the panel but was a fascinating contribution in its own right - though several people questioned the significance of such texts (it was David Patel, I think, who wondered whether there was an inverse relationship between successful campaigns and campaigns which produced a lot of such texts)."

BLOWBACK: "Mumbai Rampage..."

More & more innocent people are getting caught in the middle ....hundreds of innocent civilians are getting accidentally killed by US forces, .... and this is breeding more lethal blowbacks than anyone can tolerate!
"The Legacy" of Bush 43 is one for the stuffing!

DPA: "Lebanese President Suleiman asks Iran for medium-sized weapons"

"...Lebanese President Michel Suleiman recently asked Iran for medium-sized weapons for Lebanon's army, in a move aimed at shifting Iran's assistance from the country's militant Hezbollah movement to the state, (I donno who or what believes this nonsense) a Lebanese "government official" said Wednesday.
The official, who requested anonymity, said Suleiman had emphasized during a two-day visit to Tehran earlier this week that he was not seeking long-range missiles or jet fighters, but rather modern medium arms that would help the Lebanese army combat terrorism and maintain national security.
The source told Deutsche Presse-Agentur that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had assured his Lebanese counterpart that Iran would be ready to assist Lebanon in this regard...."

Amd.Fallon: "..people warned me sooner or later we're going be at War with China.."

In the Boston Globe, here... via TPM,. ...."One clever person once quipped that the silver lining to the neocons' war on terror craziness was that at least it distracted them for a decade from their primary aim of fomenting a war with China."
"When I was in the Pacific [as the head of the US Pacific Command from 2005 to 2007] there were people with different viewpoints. One of the challenges I saw out there ...was that we had one long term issue and that's called China. It seemed to me that of all the things we needed to deal with we had better figure out how we are going to come to grips with the future relationship between the US and China."
They are the owners of most of our debt. Between China and Japan they are sitting on $3 trillion dollars [of US debt]. People say 'look at all [the rest of] these problems in the world.' They are all interesting. For my money, if you fix the problems here most of those others go away because it is our behaviors that are the cause of some of our challenges."
The size of the country and its influence is staggering.
So we've got to figure this out. There were people who warned me that you'd better get ready for the shoot 'em up here because sooner or later we're going be at war with China. I don't think that's where we want to go. And so I set about challenging all the assumptions and I came back here about once a month and sat down with Secretary Rumsfeld. I'd walk through what I was thinking, why I was thinking that way. There were people who didn't like that.[My reputation became] "Fallon loves the Chinese, doesn't see any problem with this." [I responded with] "What are the priorities, guys? Do you want to have a war? We can probably have one. But is that what you really want? Is that really in our interest? Because I don't think so." We had a lot of initiatives underway [on military-to-military relations with China] and some of that stuff didn't go over too well back here."

Admiral William Fallon

Condoleezza Rice: "...NO US Interests Section in Tehran..."

"...the plan has changed, and no such announcement would be forthcoming. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made it official today: Bush has decided to punt the issue to President-elect Obama....Bottom line: This is one more issue Obama will have to wrestle with come January 20. Our guess is that establishing a diplomatic outpost in Iran won't be the Obama administration's first move on Iran policy..."

"..We mistook messages from the US administration as encouragement to use force against Georgia's breakaway provinces..our actions lauched the war.."

Georgian Ambassador, in AP, here
"...Erosi Kitsmarishvili, who was ambassador to Moscow in the months before the August war, said the Georgian government's actions had launched the conflict.Kitsmarishvili's comments appeared to support the Russian arguments. But he also accused Moscow of provoking the Georgian action, and said "both parties share the blame."

"Start With Syria"

Aaron Miller's second instalment on "forget about it", ... in the WaPo, here
"...The White House would have to be patient. Syria won't walk away from a 30-year relationship with Iran; weaning the Syrians from Iran would have to occur gradually, requiring a major international effort to marshal economic and political support for Damascus..."

US: "..SOFA does not mean what Iraqis think it means.."

McClatchy's, here ... and "Iraqi Parliament Delays US Troop Pact Vote", AP, here
"...Officials in Washington said the administration has withheld the official English translation of the agreement in an effort to suppress a public dispute with the Iraqis until after the Iraqi parliament votes.
"There are a number of areas in here where they have agreement on the same wording but different understandings about what the words mean," said a U.S. official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media..."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

So, ...who will stay with Robert Gates?

Politico, here
At least we know that: "...Gates’ most pernicious subordinate, Cheney aide Eric Edelman, (Big 'expert' on Lebanese 'freedom fighters') is on his way out. Spencer Ackerman reports that his successor as Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (the number three job, used to be Doug Feith) will be Michèle Flournoy..."

Olmert to Bush: "I will never forget that you have removed one of the most threatening strategic dangers from Israel's side, in Iraq.."

WH, here
President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert shake hands during the Israeli leader's visit Monday, Nov. 24, 2008, to the Oval Office. White House photo by Eric Draper

UNGA's President Brockmann: "Israel's policies are like apartheid of bygone era..."

"...Brockmann stressed that it was important for the United Nations to use the heavily-charged term since it was the institution itself that had passed the International Convention against the crime of apartheid..."

"The General in Damascus... finally"

Sami Moubayed, in Gulf News, here
"...He wants to stand as a pan-Lebanese leader, representing all sects, and this explains his alliance with Druze figures like Talal Arslan, Sunnis like Omar Karameh and Salim Hoss, and Shiites like Nasrallah and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.... A newfound axis that Aoun is creating with both Syria and Iran is also frightening to the March 14 Coalition. Last month, he visited Tehran, marketing himself as the only leader who can protect Hezbollah in Lebanon.... In striking contrast, Geagea was visiting President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo and meeting Lebanese President Michel Suleiman in Riyadh, showing just how polarised Lebanese Christians had become...."

"Hizbullah pays Palestinians to avenge the assassination of Mughniyeh"

...aren't they bound by contracts? with penalty clauses and all? Seriously though, Is anyone believing what the Israelis are saying these days? JPOst, here
"...According to the defense officials, while the Palestinian terrorist groups have received large sums of money from Hizbullah, their failure to carry out attacks against Israel has caused tension between Gaza and Lebanon..."

Lebanese President Sleiman 'inspects' & asks for Iranian weapons

سليمان في معرض الصناعات العسكريّة بوزارة الدفاع الإيرانيّة أمس (دالاتي ونهرا)

US Engagement with IRAN: A How to Guide

Carnegie's Karim Sadjadpour, here in the Middle East Progress, via Matt Yglesias. His list of "spoilers" seems dubiousely short! Short of one main ingredient: ISRAEL!
    1. "Build confidence on issues of common interest (rather than, say, opening with discussion of Israel or nuclear weapons). concentrate on areas of shared interest, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, rather than those of little or no common interest, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the nuclear issue
    2. Understand where power lies (with the Supreme Leader). In practical terms the country’s most important institutions—the Revolutionary Guards, Guardian Council, presidency, and parliament—are currently led by individuals who were either directly appointed by Khamenei or unfailingly obsequious to him.
    3. Speak softly (rather than boasting about all options being on the table, or issuing threats to obliterate Iran). Instead of reciprocating threats and name calling, the next U.S. administration should project the dignity and poise of a
      superpower. A hostile rhetorical line allows Iran’s leadership to paint the United States as an aggressor
    4. Don’t let the spoilers set the tenor. both within Iran and among Iran’s Arab allies—have entrenched economic and political interests in preventing U.S.-Iranian reconciliation
    5. Maintain an international approach. A common approach by the European Union and the United States is absolutely imperative. Uniting China and Russia behind the U.S. position will prove more difficult given divergent national interests, though Moscow certainly has an interest in avoiding a nuclear-armed Iran within missile range.
    6. Get the Timing Right (i.e., save big steps for after Iran’s June 2009 presidential election).As such, it is better for Washington to begin with cautious, limited engagement with Tehran until June 2009, when Iran’s domestic situation will be clearer"

Chuck Hagel, Director of National Intelligence?

Tom Dispatch, here

Europe is waiting to see how Obama plays Iran

"..Wary of challenging Obama's current reservoir of international prestige and support, the European leadership's concerns on Iran are only half-articulated...
But they go to fears of being cut out of the process in the direct U.S.-Iran talks Obama has promised and losing a means to bring pressure against eventual military action...
And how influential are U.S. experts who argue he should run around Russia's chokehold on the UN Security Council's initiatives and sanctions by starting head-on, "all options on the table" negotiations with the mullahs?...
As much as he feels "there's really nothing much to expect from the Russians," Tertrais also considers "the reasonableness and experience of the people around Obama" would result in a formula to keep the European allies in a new negotiating equation....
All the same, he said, one day soon an official will enter the Oval Office to tell Obama, "Mr. President, Iran must now be considered a virtual nuclear power."
Israeli fighter pilots talking to foreign reporters on a visit to a desert air base last week maintained ambiguity when asked if they were training for a strike on Iran. (Gil Cohen Magen/Reuters)

Powell for Middle East Envoy -- Dennis Ross for US Ambassador to Israel?

"...Ross is much more hawkish on Iran ..... with his ability to simultaneously sell conflicting themes -- like on one hand he wants to bomb Iran and undermine any engagement with Hamas while on the other he desires the sort of dovish position advocated by Search for Common Ground -- Dennis Ross is much more comfortable with neoconservatives than realists or liberal internationalists.......Zbig dropped some names -- some big ones.....He said hypothetically, Colin Powell could be the person asked to do the broad negotiating and arm twisting to achieve the Obama administration's foreign policy objectives with Iran and in Arab-Israel peace negotiations. Brzezinski then said that Dennis Ross would make an excellent and important US Ambassador to Israel"

Monday, November 24, 2008

Legacy Watch: "..Bush signed off, allowing missile strikes at a much lower probability of success – about 50% against 90% previously.."

... and the best way to add to the good will people feel towards America! In the LondonTimes, here

“Absolutely this is from the top, absolutely this is about legacy,” a former intelligence official close to the decision-making process said. ....Mr Bush signed off on new rules of engagement this summer allowing missile strikes to be launched with a much lower probability of success – about 50 per cent against 90 per cent previously. US Predators and the larger Reaper unmanned drones, which are armed with Hellfire missiles and precision bombs, have stepped up their strikes into Pakistan’s border areas in the past three months..."

Sami Gemayel: "Fath-il-Islam killed my Brother..."

"... this happens while 'Usbat-il-Ansar' & others Al Qaedaesque groups still procrastinate in delivering a prime Fath-el-Islam suspect (Abdul Rahman Awad), who is hiding in the Ain El Helweh refugee camp, to Army Intelligence.[Interestingly, LAF Intelligence has been after Awad since his name was mentioned in the famous Syrian TV confessions, despite the hullabaloo raised by Saad Hariri and his Future/Bloc lieutenants...]"

Sleiman sits with Ahmadinejad & Iran's NSC head, Saeed Jalili ...

El Baradei: "..There are claims against Syria..there were claims against Iraq, which were proven bonkers... the result was a terrible war"

"...IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei urged the agency governors to approve the Syrian aid project, saying it would be wrong to curb Damascus's IAEA membership rights based on unverified reports that it had violated non-proliferation commitments....
U.S. assertions Saddam Hussein had a mass-destruction weapon programme led to the 2003 invasion of Iraq but proved unfounded...."

Gaza's 'underground economy'

FP, photo essay, here

US military 'ripe' for a fight with Obama

Mark Perry in the AsiaTimes, here
"....the military is an almost exact reflection of the nation's ethnic and gender diversity, the simple truth remains that the new president will be the commander-in-chief of a military that is primarily southern, rural and conservative - an exact description of the one group of Americans that voted overwhelmingly for McCain....
"Mark my words," a retired general says, "the test that Barack Obama will face in the first months of his presidency will have nothing to do with foreign policy. It's going to come from the military and the opening shot will be the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy. The military is hard over on the issue of gays in the military and we'll go up against him just like we did with Clinton.

Olmert warns Rice that "European & US officials were trying to maintain direct contact with Hamas.."

"....Olmert warned Monday that European and American officials were making efforts to maintaining direct contact with Hamas, thus bypassing Western demands that the militant Palestinian group recognize Israel and renounce violence before direct talks could begin..."

US Intelligence 'snooped' on Al Yawer when he was "an Army Arab linguist assigned to a secret NSA facility... between 2003 & 2007'"

"A former communications intercept operator says U.S. intelligence snooped on the private lives of two of America's most important allies in fighting al Qaeda: British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Iraq's first interim president, Ghazi al-Yawer. David Murfee Faulk told he saw and read a file on Blair's "private life" and heard "pillow talk" phone calls of al-Yawer when he worked as an Army Arab linguist assigned to a secret NSA facility at Fort Gordon, Georgia between 2003 and 2007..."
Inside the Listening post

"An Israeli-Palestinian agreement? Forget about it"

Clinton's Aaron Miller, in the JPost, here via WIC.
"...a conflict-ending agreement betweenBold Israelis and Palestinians may no longer be possible. I choose my words carefully here. Varying kinds of accommodations cease fires, informal cooperation and temporary arrangements may still be possible. But an agreement now or perhaps for the foreseeable future that revolves conclusively the four core issues (borders, Jerusalem, refugees and security) isn't. ......The dysfunction and confusion in Palestine....there is serious dysfunction at the political level in Israel as well......
I would, however, respectfully suggest to President-elect Barck Obama, in my capacity as an American who doesn't want to see America fail again, that he recognize there's no deal in this negotiation now. Manage it as best you can: help support an Israeli-Hamas ceasefire, train PA security forces, pour economic aid into the West Bank and Gaza, even nurture Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on the big issues, but don't think you can solve it; you can't.
Instead, go all-out for an Israeli-Syrian agreement which is doable and will enhance American credibility to confront Hamas, Hizbullah and Iran over time with tough choices, and improve America's regional standing. Then, perhaps, your chances on the Israeli-Palestinian track may be better. In the interim, I'm afraid sadly that the bottom line for Israelis and Palestinians is not a good one: Israelis will have their state, but Palestinians will never let them completely enjoy it."

Scowcroft Protégés on Obama's Radar: "Broker a Palestinian-Israeli solution first!"

In the WSJ, here
"The relationship between the president-elect and the Republican heavyweight suggests that Mr. Scowcroft's views, which place a premium on an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, might hold sway in the Obama White House....He also endorsed Mr. Obama's call for diplomatic engagement with Iran..
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who was deputy national-security adviser under Mr. Scowcroft in the George H.W. Bush administration, is almost certain to be retained by Mr. Obama, according to aides to the president-elect. Richard Haass, a Scowcroft protégé and former State Department official, could be tapped for a senior National Security Council, State Department or intelligence position. Mr. Haass currently runs the Council on Foreign Relations.
Other prominent Republicans with close ties to Mr. Obama -- including former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who endorsed the Democrat in the final days of the campaign, and Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- share Mr. Scowcroft's philosophy..."

Sunday, November 23, 2008


In the London Times, here
The settlers' campaign of vandalism and disorder was designed to make it as difficult as possible for soldiers to evict them

Miliband to Tehran: "..EU and UN sanctions "are not an attempt at regime change & are not a precursor to military action.."

"..Britain is to assure Iran that it is "100% committed to diplomacy" to end the impasse over Tehran's nuclear ambitions and is signalling that it expects Barack Obama's administration to follow the same approach.... that "the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran poses the most immediate threat to the stability" of the Middle East. But he also explicitly states that the British-backed EU and UN sanctions "are not an attempt at regime change. And nor are they a precursor to military action. We are 100% committed to a diplomatic resolution of this dispute. We will work closely with the new US administration on this issue."

Israeli Defense Report: "Return Golan to Syria; Prepare for Iran attack; Prevent new Palestinian elections"

Barak Ravid in Haaretz, here
"It also recommends close cooperation with the U.S. to prevent a deal between Washington and Tehran that would undermine Israel's interests." (We love this one!)
The paper warns that after PA President Mahmoud Abbas' term ends on January 9, 2009, he might "disappear" from the political arena. That could cause the PA to disintegrate, which would increase the risk of the two-state solution being taken off the table.Due to this possibility, coupled with the fear that Hamas might win a new election, the paper recommends "preventing elections in the PA, even at the cost of a confrontation with the
U.S. and the international community."
Israel should support moderate factions in Lebanon in next year's scheduled parliamentary elections...
The paper proposes various steps to strengthen Israel's ties with moderate Sunni Arab countries, and especially Saudi Arabia. "Israel must examine ways to expand its dialogue with Saudi Arabia on various shared interests,"

Ya'alon on Ahmadinejad: "...We have to consider killing him,.."

[On the Proverbial Israeli 'NEXT YEAR'] It's basically an Israeli 'restraint order' against President Obama! .... In Australia's Sydney Morning Herald, here
"We have to confront the Iranian revolution immediately,".....decapitating the Iranian leadership by military strikes, including on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel's destruction? "We have to consider killing him," .....The Boogie doctrine is mainstream, not fringe, in the Israeli strategic debate. "We cannot accept a nuclear Iran, we cannot be reconciled to it," Major-General Amos Gilad......."Sanctions won't work against Iran...Only a military action against Iran will work," Professor Efraim Inbar said....Lerman, too, believes next year will be year zero..."

Kurds, 'bypassing' Baghdad, get weapons from Bulgaria...

In the WaPo, here

"...The large quantity of weapons and the timing of the shipment alarmed U.S. officials, who have grown concerned about the prospect of an armed confrontation between Iraqi Kurds and the government at a time when the Kurds are attempting to expand their control over parts of northern Iraq...Iraq's interior minister, Jawad al-Bolani, said in an interview that central government officials did not authorize the purchase of weapons from Bulgaria. He said such an acquisition would constitute a "violation" of Iraqi law because only the Ministries of Interior and Defense are authorized to import weapons"

Iranian Basij lead "civil defense drills"...

"...Iran's navy will hold exercises in December involving missile-equipped battleships and scuba-diving special forces, state radio said..."

At Damascus' "Iraq Security Conference", US official criticizes host for "giving safe haven to terrorists"

"...The criticism contrasts with the position of Washington's Western allies, including Britain, which praised Damascus for preventing foreign fighters from infiltrating Iraq."The American diplomat's speech was blunt and short. The United States was the only country at the conference to criticize Syria openly," one of the delegates said...Saudi Arabia, which has major disagreements with Syria over Lebanon and Iran, has not attended the conference"

"The ‘Good War’ Isn’t Worth Fighting"

Rory Stewart, a former British Foreign Service officer, in the NYTimes, here thanks to WIP.
"...The financial crisis is a more immediate threat to United States power and to other states; environmental catastrophe is more dangerous for the world. BoldAnd even from the perspective of terrorism, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are more lethal....President-elect Obama’s emphasis on Afghanistan and his desire to send more troops and money there is misguided. Overestimating its importance distracts us from higher priorities, creates an unhealthy dynamic with the government of Afghanistan and endangers the one thing it needs — the stability that might come from a patient, limited, long-term relationship with the international community.....
A sudden surge of foreign troops and cash will be unhelpful and unsustainable. It would take 20 successful years to match Pakistan’s economy, educational levels, government or judiciary — and Pakistan is still not stable. Nor, for that matter, are northeastern or northwestern India, despite that nation’s great economic and political successes.
We will not be able to eliminate the Taliban from the rural areas of Afghanistan’s south, so we will have to work with Afghans to contain the insurgency instead. All this is unpleasant for Western politicians who dream of solving the fundamental problems and getting out. They will soon be tempted to give up..."

Palestinians: "Clinton, would continue a lack of US evenhandedness in refereeing the Israeli-Palestine dispute..."

In the WaPo, here
"...Amjad Atallah, who formerly served as a legal adviser for the Palestinian negotiating team in peace talks with the Israelis, said the prospective Clinton nomination is being watched warily in the Arab world, given her unstinting support for Israel in recent years and hawkish comments on Iran. Some worry that her selection is a possible indicator that Obama may not be as aggressive as Palestinians hope in pushing for a peace deal."Nobody has a negative opinion of Senator Clinton, except maybe that her opinions are closer to the neoconservatives than they might wish," Atallah said..."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Israel: "Bush will pass the Iran hot potato to Obama,.. while the last chance of destroying Tehran’s nuclear programme may be passing..."

Bravura & posturing ..still. In the SundayTimes, here
"...In a further indication that this squadron is preparing for conflict, 80 US technicians based at the nearby Nevatim air base in the Negev have installed the world’s most advanced X-band radar system, with a range of 1,250 miles, that will hugely enhance Israel’s tactical capacity in the air..."

Saudi Arabia offers asylum to Mullah Omar

Reuters, here and Saudi denial via AFP, here

"...Saudi Arabia has a history of providing sanctuary for exiled and controversial politicians, including Uganda's Idi Amin, who died in exile there in 2003. Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates were the main supporters of the Taliban when they ruled .... The Taliban were overthrown by U.S.-led troops..."

Academic to Israeli Ambassador: "Turkey is not an occupied territory where such arrogant behavior is acceptable,"

Turkish Delights! ... In Haaretz, here
"..The Turkish academic was apparently annoyed by the bodyguards, who entered his office without permission. He said he opened his office door and asked them to leave. "Turkey is not an occupied territory where such arrogant behavior is acceptable," he said."

'Senior Iranian IRGS' released today by US forces in Iraq?

According to Al Jazeera, this 'senior' Iranian Revolutionary Guard was "released today after an Iraqi government," here
(previously) on DOD News:
"...coalition troops apprehended a identified as a senior Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force officer Nov. 17 at Baghdad International Airport. The man is believed to be part of a Quds group that operates under the cover of building and repairing religious sites in Iraq to smuggle illegal weapons into the country in shipments of building materials, officials said. Coalition forces were in pursuit of the wanted man when he was detained by airport security forces while he was attempting to leave the country. During their search, forces discovered he was carrying an unspecified amount of cocaine. Coalition officials said the Iranian Quds Force is believed to provide direct support to multiple extremist groups in Iraq, and intelligence information suggests that one of these groups was the expected recipient of the weapons being smuggled into Iraq from Iran...."

Israeli on the 'next' round with Hezbollah: "We know we are going to bleed... It's just a question of how much"

[Excerpts from MEPGS]
"As President-elect Obama begins to assemble his NationalSecurity team, the leading candidates reflect the same centrist,experienced figures that dominate speculation (or actual announcement) for key domestic posts. For the Middle East, inthe view of veteran observers as well as current office holders,this may well mean a continuation of many Bush Administration policies. As one veteran analyst explains, "The Administration's policies in the Middle East over the last year and a half to two years are much different than in the previous six.
Should General James Jones be selected as National Security Advisor, the former top Marine and NATO commander will bring onthe ground Middle East experience to the job, having served asspecial envoy for Secretary Rice in security dealings withIsraelis and Palestinians. However, some Obama supporters see his credentials as a retired four star general being moreimportant to dealing with America's two ongoing wars and the current military commander in the area, David Petraeus......if you want to be able to deal with him, it's best done"General to General." For the Obama team, a shift from Iraq to Afghanistan is imperative. One of the President-elect's advisorsargues that two full divisions are needed in Afghanistan in orderto "break the momentum of the Taliban." And the personnel aswell as the funding can only come at the expense of USdeployments in Iraq. But even this advisor admits that, in his words, "It's "Principals" first, policy changes to follow."
With US troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is only natural that speculation about changes there would dominate public discussion. But as far as many key players are concerned the number one issue facing the incoming Administration is Iran. With the Iranians close to developing a nuclear capability, the time remaining to prevent what many consider to be this unacceptable outcome is growing short. European diplomats estimate that a "window of opportunity" exists between March andAugust for a major push by the US and its allies to strike a deal with Teheran that reverses the current trend.
What some Europeans would like to see is the US taking the lead role, supported by France, Britain, Germany and as many others as can be rounded up. "We are trying to put together a new method of dealing with Iran," says one well-placed European diplomat. This approach apparently would have the US engaging in one-on-one talks with Iran, aimed at creating something new and appealing to Teheran.
Even some skeptics, notably the Israelis, seem open to a new diplomatic initiative. For one thing, with oil prices now at $50a barrel, Iran is much more vulnerable to sanctions. For another, the Israelis, in particular, have needed to adapt toObama's emphasis on diplomacy,
which was, at least initially a good deal different from the approach advocated by Senator McCain [However, of late, Obama's call for unconditional talks with the Iranians, in the words of one former critic, "... has been walked back quite satisfactorily."]
Still, a deal with Teheran appears to many to be a long shot. The Europeans worry that the Obama team may give away too much in agreeing to talks with the Iranians, who are so often masterful in negotiating [As one veteran observer wryly put it,"A signed deal with Iran should always be viewed as the start of a negotiation."] ....
Meanwhile, State Department officials, even at the risk of antagonizing the Israelis are moving ahead with plans to strengthen the Lebanese Armed Forces [LAF] Recently, a Joint Military Group met in Beirut and this week it was announced that US made M-60 battle tanks will be transferred from excess Jordanian inventory to the LAF. Also destined for the LAF arehelicopter gunships, night vision equipment and a host of upgraded weaponry. The strategic rationale behind this assistance is to shore up the army, the most respected institution in Lebanon. The tactical reason is to enable the LAF to subdue radical elements that have gained power in a number of Palestinian camps throughout Lebanon. But from Israel's point of view, provisioning the LAF is just one short step from seeing them wind up in the hands of Hezbollah. For that reason, there has been a ongoing dialogue between the Israelis and the Administration over what kind ofequipment could pose the greatest danger, should Hezbollah manage to obtain it. As one Israeli analyst, who believes it is only a matter of time before Hezbollah and Israel engage in another round of fighting, puts it, "We know we are going to bleed. It'sjust a question of how much."

"U.S. Trapped Between Iraq and a Hard Place"

"...But even swifter than the speed the negotiations unraveled, they were salvaged; and one week later the Iraqi Cabinet approved a draft. Whether the final version of the SOFA would in its form endure, or would be reopened to negotiation for substantial emendation, was not yet clear. What is clear however is that the length and intensity of the negotiations could not be adequately explained by intransigent negotiators, but that something much larger was at stake: the future shape of U.S.-Iraqi relations and, by implication, Iraq’s relationship with Iran."

Yearning for change in US Middle East policy

In the DailyStar, here

"surge" of over 20,000 for Afghanistan...

"...Gates rejected speculation Afghanistan could be heading for a dire situation. "The notion that things are out of control in Afghanistan or that we're sliding toward a disaster I think is far too pessimistic," he said
.....Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay said Obama should look to other NATO members first, rather than turning to the other seven states that took part in the Cornwallis meeting: Canada, Denmark, Britain, the Netherlands, Australia, Estonia and Romania.
"The reality is there are other NATO doors that President-elect Obama should be knocking on first," he told the news conference. Canada has long complained that the nations with troops in southern Afghanistan are bearing a disproportionate share of the military burden.
"There is an enormous amount of goodwill that has been engendered by President-elect Obama that he might be willing to spend for a cause that he clearly believes in," said MacKay..."

Friday, November 21, 2008

WINEP: Sarkozy, inviting Assad to Paris. . .was a disastrous 'message'"

Yup! You guessed it: Schenker, basically saying screw the Syrians and maybe ... maybe, Israel and/or the US will not do Iran!... at WINEP, here
"within the context of any U.S.-brokered deal, Washington should ensure that tangible and irreversible Syrian concessions coincide with -- if not precede -- Israeli territorial withdrawals........The IAEA can change this perception by acting decisively on Syria during its next meeting. And in the process, it just might generate enough credibility regarding IAEA effectiveness to forestall an airstrike -- Israeli or American -- against Tehran's nuclear facilities..."

"Salafist websites are using Right-wing Arab Christian (Lebanese) writings to attack the Shi’as..."

"...Albayinah, as an example of this new trend, featured Emile Khoury, a Christian, in an article originally published in An Nahar.....
Hassan Rashidi in Mofakirat Al-Islam, who argues that Hezbollah is preparing for a new war with Israel. He cites Hezballah’s reconciliation with Hariri as evidence of this preparation.....
Salafist websites seem determined on exacerbating Shi’ite-Sunni tension; but the question arises: for how long will this instigation continue, and what are its objectives? Is the intent to unite the Sunni community and mobilise them into a Sunni revival that parallels that of political Shi’ism; or is this largely the product of a ‘political disinformation’ operation mounted by the US in direct coordination with some Arab countries – for example President Bush’s non-lethal Presidential Finding for covert actions by the CIA against Hezballah and Iran4 which was described as being at the centre of a fresh drive by America, supported by the Sunni states of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt as well as Israel, to stop Iranian hegemony emerging from the collapse of Iraq? "

Security Agreement with Iraq, ..."Deja Vu"

In the NYTimes, here

"...In a treaty signed on Oct. 10, 1922, Britain agreed to prepare the country for independence. But the treaty postponed discussion of exactly how this would happen, and effectively prolonged Britain’s mandate under another form for at least 20 years (a period later reduced)."

Times PastTimes PastTimes Past
(From the New York Times, 1929', 1930', 1931'...)

Brzezinski, Scowcroft to Obama: "Peace First"

Kampeas in JTA, here and the WaPo piece, here
"...During the campaign, staffers insisted that the candidate was closer to the views of his adviser Dennis Ross, the Clinton era negotiator who counseled dealing with Iran before getting deeply involved in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which he suggested were premature..."

"...American and Gulf Arabs need to stop exaggerating the effects of a nuclear-armed Iran.."

In the National, here
"...A nuclear Iran would not be a good thing, to be sure. It would introduce a new level of anxiety into regional politics and might prod Arab actors to consider acquiring their own nuclear deterrents. It could lead to a direct Israeli-Iranian confrontation. But American and Gulf Arab analysts need to stop exaggerating the effects of a nuclear-armed Iran..."

Richard Sale: "Killing of al-Qaida Smuggler in Syria was Joint Syrian, U.S. Effort.?."

My old friend Richard Sale writes in the METimes, here (glad to see that he's doing well)
"....But Syria's alleged anger was calculated to conceal Syrian complicity in the operation. Although the attack is still officially "classified," serving and former U.S. intelligence officials told the Middle East Times that Syria gave U.S. forces permission to fly into its airspace and even provided extensive targeting intelligence on Abu Ghadiya. "Syrian intelligence couldn't have been more cooperative," said a former senior CIA official......
Then, in early October, U.S. intelligence learned that Abu Ghadiya was planning another cross-border attack, and back-channel discussions with Syrian officials began.....
Washington has long run a back channel to Damascus through Syria's air force intelligence, the Idarat al-Murkabarat al-Jawiyya, U.S. sources said....
But the cross-border raid of last month and similar U.S. Special Forces raids into Pakistan could provide a model for Syrian forces anxious to cross into Lebanon and raid al-Qaida groups, especially Fatah al-Islam, around the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli."

"France ...simultanément, témoin pour le régime Syrien et éclaireur pour l'Administration Obama.."

ICG's Harling in Le Figaro, here

"...L'équipe Obama, à l'instar de la précédente, craint que la Syrie feigne vouloir une paix avec Israël et une normalisation avec l'Occident pour mieux déjouer les pressions internationales et restaurer son hégémonie au Liban. ....
La France peut mettre à profit les semaines à venir pour minimiser les risques de quiproquo et maximiser les chances de succès, en exploitant les leviers importants dont elle dispose désormais à Damas. L'Élysée pourra en effet témoigner à la future Administration des mérites d'un dialogue avec le régime syrien, à condition bien sûr qu'il porte des fruits plus appétissants qu'aujourd'hui....
La France a une chance de convertir l'essai marqué à Damas. Elle peut servir simultanément de témoin pour le régime syrien et d'éclaireur pour la prochaine Administration américaine. Mais pour réussir, il lui faudra donner davantage de teneur à une ouverture vers la Syrie dont les potentialités sont loin d'avoir été explorées. Pour Sarkozy, il s'agit de garder un temps d'avance pour ne pas qu'un beau coup, joué avec une rapidité exemplaire, se fasse dépasser par les événements..."

Gen. James Jones, National Security adviser?

Reuters, here

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hezbollah Marshals the Young via Scout Troops ... to create a "Society of Resistance"...

"...At a time of religious revival across the Islamic world, intense piety among the young is nothing unusual. But in Lebanon, Hezbollah — the name means the party of God — has marshaled these ambient energies for a highly political project: educating a younger generation to continue its military struggle against Israel. Hezbollah’s battlefield resilience has made it a model for other militant groups across the Middle East, including Hamas. And that success is due, in no small measure, to the party’s extraordinarily comprehensive array of religion-themed youth and recruitment programs....
But the Mahdi Scouts are different. They are much larger; with an estimated 60,000 children and scout leaders, they are six times the size of any other Lebanese scout group. Even their marching movements are more militaristic than the others, according to Mustafa Muhammad Abdel Rasoul, the head of the Lebanese Scouts’ Union . While the Scouts fall under the umbrella of the Lebanese union, they have no direct affiliation with the international Scouting body based in Switzerland. Because of the Scouts’ reputation as a feeder for Hezbollah’s armed militia, the party has become extremely protective of the Scouts and rarely grants outsiders access to them...
But there is a limit to Hezbollah’s flexibility. All young members and supporters are encouraged to develop a hiss amni, or security sense, and are warned to beware of curious outsiders, who may be spies...."

"GLOBAL TRENDS 2025: A Transformed World"

"Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World " is the fourth unclassified report prepared by the National Intelligence Council (NIC) in recent years that takes a long-term view of the future. It offers a fresh look at how key global trends might develop over the next 15 years to influence world events. Our report is not meant to be an exercise in prediction or crystal ball-gazing. Mindful that there are many possible "futures," we offer a range of possibilities and potential discontinuities, as a way of opening our minds to developments we might otherwise miss. Some of our preliminary assessments are highlighted below:

  • The whole international system—as constructed following WWII—will be revolutionized. Not only will new players—Brazil, Russia, India and China— have a seat at the international high table, they will bring new stakes and rules of the game.
  • The unprecedented transfer of wealth roughly from West to East now under way will continue for the foreseeable future.
  • Unprecedented economic growth, coupled with 1.5 billion more people, will put pressure on resources—particularly energy, food, and water—raising the specter of scarcities emerging as demand outstrips supply.
  • The potential for conflict will increase owing partly to political turbulence in parts of the greater Middle East.

"Syria Seeks Change: On Its Own Terms"

Brookings' Bilal saab, here in JANE's
"...Damascus’s foreign policy reorientation has not yet translated into tangible improvements in its relations with the US and Saudi Arabia, two key countries in Syria’s strategic orbit. Also, this pragmatic shift should not be seen as a radical new approach or a strategic realignment.
On Lebanon, Syria has made it very clear to the US and other Western powers that its smaller neighbour’s nominal freedom is tolerated as long as that it does not undermine or jeopardise Syrian strategic and national security interests. With regard to Iran, Syria has repeatedly stated that its strategic relations with the Islamic Republic are firm and as a result will not be drastically affected by any potential peace deal with Israel. This fixed position also applies to relations with Hizbullah and Hamas, as it is difficult to see how Syria would voluntarily break with these actors in the absence of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace deal.
Meanwhile, relations with Saudi Arabia have never fully recovered after the assassination of Hariri. Hariri was a staunch ally of Riyadh and his murder was a big blow to Saudi interests in Lebanon. Syria’s endorsement of the Doha agreement may have slightly eased the tensions between the two countries, but fell well short of putting relations on track. Mistrust between the two countries remains high as Saudi Arabia is still wary of Syria’s intentions in Lebanon and Syria is constantly worried about the Kingdom’s alleged attempts to destabilise the Assad regime through Syrian Sunni tribes loyal to Riyadh.
Damascus also remains a relevant player in Iraq. Syria re-established diplomatic relations with Baghdad in 2006 and has maintained ties with senior Iraqi figures (including Jalal Talabani and Moqtada al-Sadr). More importantly, it enjoys solid relations with Iran, the major regional power broker in Iraq.
While the Bush administration remained suspicious of engaging Syria, President-elect Obama has given clear signs that he is more willing to resort to conventional diplomacy, rather than aggressive unilateralism. However this is not to suggest that future US-Syria relations will be straightforward or unconditional.
The US wants a clear commitment from Syria to cooperate on Washington’s exit strategy from Iraq, a reassurance not to destabilise Lebanon, and a promise to break with Iran, Hizbullah, and Hamas. Syria, on the other hand, wants the US to end the international tribunal into the killing of Hariri, recognise its influence in Lebanon, and mediate a peace deal with Israel...."