Saturday, February 28, 2009

Syria's not enough: Target Hezbollah...Le Monde: "Bellemare s'est vu refuser l'interrogatoire de huit personnalités du Hezbollah..."

...hours before the tribunal is put in motion, obviously, Le Monde is peddling something that resembles a preliminary accusation of Hezbollah, basing the story on a "Lebanese security official (wow) and a guy in Holland who says he saw Hezbollah "operatives" taking photos in the Court's proximity (wow) ...In Le Monde, here and here, in the M14 tabloid "Youkal", the same Robert Vincent (below) denies that the "middle eastern photographers" belong to Hezbollah, "I don't know" he says, "they are just middle eastern looking".

"...des individus qui photographiaient les lieux ont été identifiés, selon une source sécuritaire à La Haye, comme appartenant au Hezbollah libanais, un mouvement chiite prosyrien. "Tirez-en les conclusions politiques que vous voudrez", tempère Robin Vincent, qui précise par ailleurs que "trois incidents" ont été répertoriés par les services néerlandais. L'identité des juges, placés sous haute protection aux Pays-Bas, reste confidentielle. A Beyrouth, le conseil des ministres a décidé, vendredi, de renforcer les dispositifs de sécurité autour des édifices judiciaires.
L'enquête, toujours en cours, a nécessité le concours d'experts internationaux de haut vol et le recours à des technologies de pointe pour analyser, par exemple, les multiples fragments du corps déchiqueté d'un kamikaze. Mais, à Beyrouth, un membre de la commission d'enquête relativise les bénéfices de ces prouesses techniques en déplorant les "blocages politiques au Liban et dans d'autres Etats qui limitent la marge de manoeuvre des enquêteurs".
Récemment encore, selon une source de renseignement libanaise, le procureur Bellemare s'est vu refuser l'interrogatoire de huit personnalités du Hezbollah.
L'enquête sur le mobile de l'assassinat de l'ex-premier ministre libanais semble avoir progressé. Il serait lié "aux activités politiques de Rafic Hariri", selon l'un des rapports qui estime "probable"que la résolution 1559 du Conseil de sécurité, adoptée en septembre 2004, a "joué un rôle important dans la genèse de L'assassinat". Cette résolution visait, sans les nommer, la Syrie et le Hezbollah. Elle réclamait le respect de la "souveraineté" du Liban et le désarmement des "milices".

Olmert "infuriated" when Shin-Bet intercepted Hamas discussing the identity of Olmert's "missionary" family member...

Sometimes, aggressions happen for the most trivial of things. ... In the Guardian, here

"...It was a channel of communication that was abruptly closed, allegedly when Israel's domestic intelligence agency Shin Bet intercepted members of Hamas discussing the identity of the Olmert family member involved in passing on the messages, infuriating Olmert.

A year after the first contacts, Baskin told the Observer, he had been given approval to pursue an informal effort to open secret direct contacts, co-ordinating with Ofer Dekel, the official appointed by Olmert as his "special representative" to head efforts for Shalit's return.This time, however, it was Hamas's turn to block the opening of the secret negotiations - rejecting the linking of the prisoner exchange with the cease-fire and the end of the siege...With the conflict only two weeks away Baskin arranged a meeting with his key Hamas contact in Europe, which resulted in another offer to link Shalit to the lifting of the ceasefire. Nobody on the Israeli side replied to the final offer."

"Zaballin" tell Israelis that Hasan Nasrallah is "going out of fashion"

Obviously, Israeli analysis & predictions of anything related to Hezbollah is worthy of .... dumpsters ... In YNETnews, here

"...The comments, which ran on Tuesday in the Egyptian daily 'Al-Youm al-Sabah,' aimed directly at Nasrallah's underbelly..."

'A military operation against Iran? I don't even want to imagine the consequences'

Lieberman going soft on Iran? In YNETnews, here
"A military operation - I think I don't even want to imagine the consequences of this step," he says. Instead, Lieberman advocates more sanctions – "really tough and very strong political and economic sanctions, as in the case of North Korea and Libya." Iran is not just Israel's problem, he says, it's "a headache for all the free world."

"Netanyahu's position on a Palestinian state is a joke meant to kill the negotiations before they begin"

Aluf Benn in Haaretz, here
"....There are obvious political reasons for Netanyahu's refusal to demonstrate a more moderate stance: It would cost him his potential coalition with the right-wing National Union and Habayit Hayehudi, and force him into a rotation arrangement with Livni. But his opposition to a Palestinian state is also a matter of principle, one he has held for many years.........
Netanyahu believes Israel must insist on retaining 50 percent of the West Bank - the open areas in the Jordan Valley and the Judean Desert that are vital as a security zone. In light of statements the outgoing government has made to the Palestinians, Netanyahu's position is a joke meant to kill the negotiations before they even begin..."

Lebanon: "open Season" on Israeli spies ...

Le Figaro, here

"...Interrogé par Le Figaro (voir ci-dessous), le numéro deux du Hezbollah conteste la réalité du problème. « Aucun de ceux qui ont été démasqués ces derniers mois n'a réussi à infiltrer le Hezbollah et nous n'avons jamais acheté de voitures à Marwan Faqih. Les informations qu'ils ont communiquées au Mossad relèvent du domaine public », affirme le cheikh Naim Kassem. Il dément aussi que le Hezbollah ait été contraint de réorganiser son système de sécurité.....Pour Omar Nashabé, responsable des pages judiciaires du quotidien Al-Akhbar, une chose est sûre : « Depuis le conflit de l'été 2006, les services israéliens ont renforcé leurs opérations au Liban, car leur incapacité à atteindre leurs buts de guerre, à savoir l'élimination du Hezbollah, est en grande partie imputable à l'échec de leur renseignement. C'est d'ailleurs l'une des recommandations de la commission Winograd », chargée de tirer les leçons du conflit en Israël..."

Le Figaro: "La stratégie d'Obama «relève de l'illusion» pour le Hezbollah"

Le cheikh Naïm Kassem, numéro deux du mouvement libanais, pense qu'en dépit des velléités de dialogue annoncées par Washington, «l'axe du refus» entre la Syrie et l'Iran reste solide. Interview in Le Figaro, here
(No comment)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Lebanon's 'fateful' elections: M8 victory & Saad Hariri premiership?

Qifa Nabki, here
"....Why not? Makes perfect sense when you think about it. Nasrallah is lowering expectations for any sweeping changes while he calls for power-sharing and national unity. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and Syria are burying the hatchet, while Fouad al-Saniora is shown the door. Saad’s current protestations notwithstanding, it is not so hard to imagine a deal being worked out to make everybody happy, wolves and lambs alike.
Of course, should such an arrangement come to pass, it would represent a high-water mark of cynicism, even for Lebanon. For what better way to drive home to the miserable Lebanese electorate that its fate – as determined by the long-heralded ‘fateful’ elections – is to endure four more years of the same old faces in the same old positions, despite having voted the opposition coalition into power?"

"The marines understood Obama"

A Soldier's take on President Obama's speech at Camp Le Jeune today:

"It was a bravura performance.

It would be strange if I had not liked this speech. The policies involved are ones that I have advocated for years.

In straightforward, statesmanlike, dare I say soldierly, fashion, he laid it all out:

- Major combat forces out of Iraq in 2010.

- ALL forces out of Iraq by the end of 2011 (no

- A regional approach to serious diplomacy

- Outreach to Iran and Syria

- A reasoned study of what the US should do about Afghanistan and Pakistan. (not completed yet)

- Congratulation to the armed forces for duty faithfully and successfully performed.

His words could not have been clearer, and the 2011 date was completely unequivocal. After that date it is up to the Iraqis.No sooner had President Obama stopped speaking than the geeks and freaks assembled by MSNBC began to tell us that the plain sense of his words did not mean anything at all.

Before the president spoke, the same crew claimed that "the generals" would insist on a renegotiation (repudiation) of the recent US/Iraqi agreement on withdrawal. This was and is patent nonsense. The Iraqis played hardball with the United States last year over this agreement and got pretty much all they wanted. What possible reason could they have now for agreeing to "renegotiate" anything with us? They understandably want us out of THEIR country. There are still many here who can not believe that we have not acquired Iraq as a neocolonial possession, a "jewel in the crown of empire." Many of the media people are either challenged with regard to "the vision thing" or unable to deal with the idea of a selfless effort. Perhaps they should have made careers in finance.

The marines understood Obama. They did not applaud when he entered the room. They stood, of course, but they did not applaud. By the time he was finished they were with him 100%. Barry McCaffery (the sane man among the G&F crowd) said that Obama had spoken perfectly to a military audience, especially to combat people. I understand that. For such as they, things do "go bump in the night." McCaffery also said that his eyes filled with tears at several points. McCaffery is a hard man.

Mine too, general, mine too." pl

Obama: "The United States has now “begun the work of ending this war”

The NYTimes, here, in WIRED.

"..The “transitional force” he will leave behind will no longer participate in major combat missions but instead train and advise Iraqi security forces, hunt down terrorist cells and protect American civilian and military personnel working in Iraq.."

...and more on the Logistical Nightmare, here from Global Policy Forum.

"...Even with the benefit of a detailed plan, Payne said, "this is going to be an enormous challenge." Extricating combat forces during an active war is a tricky military maneuver under the best of circumstances, according to interviews with senior military officers and dozens of tactical and strategic military planners and logistics experts in Iraq and at U.S. military facilities across the region. A hastier departure could find military convoys stalled on roads cratered by roadside bombs, interrupted by blown bridges and clogged with fleeing refugees; heavy cargo planes jammed with troops could labor into skies dark with smoke rising from abandoned American bases..."

Saud Al-Faisal: "we buried our differences with Syria..."

Arab Times, here

Netanyahu is "tossing around the idea of an interim agreement between Israel and Syria"...

Remembering Assad Pere in Geneva I say "bala interim bala batteekh".or should I say "bala Interim bala Toffah"....Haaretz, here
Close associates of prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu are tossing around the idea of an interim agreement between Israel and Syria, in which the two countries would declare a "state of non-belligerence" in return for an Israeli withdrawal from a small part of the Golan Heights. (read below how ridiculous this plan is...)
"How would such an arrangement look on the ground? Israel would withdraw from all or some of the Druze villages in the northern Golan. Syria could then claim it was repatriating citizens "liberated from the Israeli occupation," after having encouraged them "to resist" in recent years. The apples grown by the Druze would be transported to markets in Damascus without having to pass through United Nations checkposts, and without Red Cross mediation, as is presently required. To add to the credibility of the Israeli withdrawal, perhaps the possibility of evacuating a Jewish settlement or two would be considered. This would be harder for the right-wing parties to digest. Mount Hermon and its early-warning apparatus would remain under Israeli control, and the territory Syria would receive would be entirely demilitarized, the way Quneitra has been since Israel withdrew from it, in 1974. Israel would certainly offer citizenship to those Golan Druze who might prefer to remain within its territory...."

"The blow Hamas was dealt has only led to increased admiration for the group..."

Benn, Harel & Issacharoff in Haaretz, here
"...The Israel Defense Forces left Gaza with the feeling that it had proven itself, after its debacle in Lebanon in 2006. But it seems that the bottom line will have to wait.......The blow Hamas was dealt has only led to increased admiration for the group, according to opinion polls in the territories. Hamas is still waiting for another crowning achievement: if abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit is released for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners..."

AI: Lebanon: "Special Tribunal insufficient without wider action to combat impunity"

Thanks to EDB, I got hold of this Amnesty Int'l Press Release, on the Hariri Special Tribunal, here
“The resolve to ensure justice in the case of Rafiq al-Hariri contrasts markedly with the repeated failures of the Lebanese system to deliver justice for other political killings and human rights abuses,” said Malcolm Smart. “This creates a perception that some are considered more deserving of justice than others and presents a clear challenge to the credibility of the Special Tribunal.” “Having invested so heavily in the Special Tribunal, the international community needs now to press the Lebanese authorities to focus their attention on delivering truth and justice for the full range of victims of human rights abuses in Lebanon, regardless of the profile of the victims or the presumed identity of the perpetrators,” said Malcolm Smart. .."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Israel Hardliners May Be Ticking Off Obama Team and Showing Signs of Weakness"

Steve Clemons, in TWN, hereJustify Full
".....I think it's increasingly clear that Barack Obama is pushing a very full spectrum range of talent and perspective into his Middle East policy team, and if Rosen and the other Israel-hardliners are going to prove anything in the campaign against Freeman, it will be their general impotence in challenging Barack Obama as flagrantly and as crudely as they are doing now.
I may not like everything Obama and his Middle East team are up to every moment, but I do think it's exceedingly clear that he's not going into this arena with the traditional biases and the traditional "false choice" approach that many others before him have taken...."

[ODNI: News Release]

"Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair has selected Charles W. Freeman, Jr. to be Chairman of the National Intelligence Council (NIC). As Chairman, Ambassador Freeman will be responsible for overseeing the production of National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) and other Intelligence Community (IC) analytic products.

“Ambassador Freeman is a distinguished public servant who brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise in defense, diplomacy and intelligence that are absolutely critical to understanding today’s threats and how to address them,” Director Blair said. “The country is fortunate that Ambassador Freeman has agreed to return to public service and contribute his remarkable skills toward further strengthening the Intelligence Community’s analytical process.”

As a former United States negotiator, Freeman has worked with more than 100 foreign governments in East and South Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and both Western and Eastern Europe. He has served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’Affaires in Bangkok and Beijing, Director of Chinese Affairs at U.S. State Department, and Distinguished Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace and the Institute of National Security Studies. Freeman received his J.D. from the Harvard School of Law.

Ambassador Freeman will report to DNI Blair and the Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis, Dr. Peter Lavoy."

Elliott Abrams: "Iran Sends arms to Hamas, via Somalia.."

Jim Lobe, here

" always seemed possible that weapons originating in Iran could be smuggled into Egypt — either via Mediterranean routes or into Sudan, especially by air, and smuggled into Egypt — and then across the Sinai and through the tunnels ....Abrams tell reporters during a teleconference hosted by his new boss, the Council on Foreign Relations, that one route used by Iran was by ship “around the Gulf of Aden..."

WINEP: Push on the Syria-IAEA investigation ... but not too hard...

WINEP, here

"...The Obama administration will face an uphill climb in its apparent drive to improve U.S.-Syria relations. According to the U.S. intelligence community's publicly released 2009 threat assessment, the al-Asad regime, despite its professed desire for better relations with Washington, has maintained its interference in Lebanon, support for Palestinian terrorist groups, and close ties with Iran; further, it has "increased substantially" its military support for Hizballah. It is in this inauspicious environment that the new administration must formulate its position on the IAEA's investigation into Syria, with the knowledge that aggressively pursuing the case could derail any outreach to Damascus, while deemphasizing the investigation could impair the administration's national security agenda on multiple fronts...."

... and, Smart-Sanctions should make Syria nicer ...

sigh, those people are still peddling the "The Syrians Know What Is Required Of Them"! Well, I got news for WINEP: It has not worked before, and it will not work now.. ... from WINEP, here

"...As the fiscal crisis unfolds in Syria, existing U.S. sanctions could have a powerful negative impact on the Syrian economy, prompting Damascus to reevaluate its policies -- on U.S. designated terrorist groups (Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hizballah), Lebanon, Iraq, and weapons of mass destruction -- to obtain relief...To ensure U.S. leverage, Washington should recalibrate sanctions based on a clear understanding of Syria's fiscal problems and changing socioeconomic trends, rather than lift sanctions as Damascus suggests. The resulting "smart sanctions" should be a key element of a comprehensive U.S. strategy to put Damascus into dilemmas in which its choices will clearly signal whether Syria intends to continue fanning the flames of regional militancy or to play a productive role in reinvigorated regional peacemaking..."

The stealth nature of the announcement & the fuzzy job description indicate that Obama is aware" that Ross' appointment is "problematic"

The CABLE, here
"...sources suggested the U.S. government was sensitive to Iran's perception that Ross, a former senior fellow at the WINEP, is a pro-Israel hawk whose writings on U.S. policy toward Iran have suggested a high degree of continuity with the Bush administration's approach of carrots and sticks.
"I understand the Iranians have let it be known that they won't deal with him," said one former senior U.S. official who has dealt with Persian Gulf issues.
"I think the stealth nature of the announcement and the fuzzy job description indicate that folks in the administration are aware" that the Ross appointment is problematic, the former senior official continued. "But that will not make it more workable -- even if the real heavy lifting is done by [Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William] Burns, as some insiders claim..."

"..Operational cooperation between Iran, Syria & Hezbollah increasing.."

There is so much Israel knows about Hezbollah, as evidenced by its swift victory over the organization in July 2006...Obviousely, Israeli "officials" will never know or understand Hezbollah.....Harel, in Haaretz, here
"...Senior Israeli defense officials told Haaretz that Mughniyeh's assassination, which Hezbollah blames on Israel, left a large hole in the organization. Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah is now stuck dealing with operational matters he never handled in the past, say the Israeli officials....Nasrallah has much less knowledge and experience on these matters than Mughniyeh, who was very careful about secrecy and compartmentalization of information. His death caused quite a bit of fear and anxiety among senior Hezbollah officials, the officials said..."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It's not Chas Freeman they want, "It seems to be the president these guys are after,"

In the Cable, here
"...Some sources noted that among Freeman's most outspoken critics, are those who have accused many other administration officials of being insufficiently pro-Israel or too even-handed, such as NSC senior director for multilateral affairs Samantha Power, U.S. Middle East peace special envoy Sen. George Mitchell, and indeed, during the election campaign, Obama himself...The source close to Freeman said that the former ambassador was recruited for the post by Admiral Blair and had not been seeking a return to government service, which Freeman had retired from in 1994..."

"China-coddling Israel basher in charge of drafting the most important analyses prepared by the U.S. government."

... says the Arab bashing, Israel coddling suspects, and in this case, the WSJ of Chas Freeman's pick to run the NIC, WSJ, here

Suspects in Hariri killing, freed...

The Abdel Aal brothers have a third sibling of (then) high political importance to the M14 concoction, Col. Walid Abdel Aal of President Lahoud's Presidential Guards Brigade ... Naharnet, here
"...The three are Lebanese brothers Mahmoud and Ahmed Abdel Aal and Syrian Ibrahim Jarjoura, all civilians who were being held on suspicion of withholding information and misleading the probe into the assassination. Their release comes shortly before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, set up to try suspects over the Beirut bomb blast in February 2005 that killed Hariri and 22 other people opens its doors in The Hague on Sunday..."

Dennis Ross not too happy with 'advisorship'

He is basically NOT responsible for anything, and his boss can accept or reject his advise. This from STATE dept. and DoD officials!

"...Some think him too close to Israel; a critical former State Department official has suggested that he was Israel’s lawyer in negotiations with the Palestinians, and he has lately hung his hat at a pro-Israel think-tank. Part of the delay may have revolved around his exact responsibilities and title. Rumour had it that he would be a “super-envoy” above all others in Middle East policy. That seems to have been overdone; he will instead be a “special adviser” for the Gulf and south-west Asia..."

Cheney: "I will not accept Michel Sleiman as President .. on my dead body"

During a trip to Amman, Jordan, John Hannah talks to Al Akhbar, here
وبالانتقال إلى حال الانقسام السياسي اللبناني بين فريقي 8 و14 آذار، كشف هانا اهتمام إدارته العالي بدعم فريق 14 آذار ضد فريق 8 آذار «الموال لسوريا»، فـ«بعد تبلّغنا من وزير الخارجية السوري فاروق الشرع رغبة دولته في تصحيح
علاقتها بإدارتنا، وصلتنا كمية ضخمة من شكاوى 14 آذار، فطلب تشيني إرسال برقيات جوابية أذهلت الحريري وجنبلاط لما فيها من تصلّب أميركي تجاه دمشق»، كما تضمّنت وعداً من تشيني بإنهاء أيّ نفوذ سوري في الدولة اللبنانية، طالباً من حلفاء أميركا اللبنانيين الضغط على حلفاء سوريا لعزل حزب الله وتطويق استراتيجيته العسكرية والسياسية.
لكن مفاجأة هانا كانت لدى سؤاله عن الموقف الأميركي من أزمة الفراغ الرئاسي التي وقع لبنان ضحيتها، حيث كشف أن إدارته كانت تعمل من أجل تأمين سلامة نواب الأكثرية خارج لبنان لانتخاب رئيس للجمهورية بأكثرية عدد أعضاء البرلمان اللبناني، وأن إدارته قامت بكل الترتيبات اللازمة لهذه المهمة، وأبدى تشيني خيبته الكبيرة لتراجع الأكثرية النيابية اللبنانية عن هذه الخطوة. بعدها طلب تشيني ملف قائد الجيش الأسبق الرئيس ميشال سليمان، وبعد اطلاعه عليه علّق بالقول: «كيف رضي به أركان ثورة الأرز رئيساً للبنان، وهو على علاقة جيدة ومزمنة بالنظام السوري؟ لن أوافق على أن يكون رئيساً للبنان ولو على جثّتي.
يبدو ممّا تقدم أن الإدارة الأميركية السابقة كانت تتعاطى مع لبنان بعد صدور القرار الدولي 1559 بنمط الاضطراب
السياسي نفسه الذي حكم سلوك حلفائها اللبنانيين. وإذا كان الإخفاق والخيبة هما السمتين اللتين طبعتا مواقف نائب الرئيس الأميركي الأسبق ديك تشيني، فهذا يعني أن هاتين السمتين طبعتا أيضاً كل مواقف الإدارة السابقة من الوضع السياسي اللبناني في مرحلة مفصلية من مراحل الأزمة اللبنانية. ولم يكن أحد يتصور أن الولايات المتحدة تتعامل بهذه الخفّة والسطحية مع المسائل الاستراتيجية في الشرق الأوسط وفي دولة مجاورة جغرافياً لحليفة أميركا الأولى في المنطقة، أي دولة إسرائيل. فهل يترك تعاطي الإدارة الحالية مع لبنان انطباعاً سياسياً أنضج وأوضح من الانطباع عن عمل الإدارة

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Israeli Officials fear US may cut military aid to Israel...

When pigs (sorry, not Kosher).... when wild boars fly & Dodo birds reappear in Mauritius... JPOst, here

"...Still, the fact that the pledged sum of money is sent to Israel only after approval by the House of Representatives and the Senate has raised some concern in the Defense Ministry, even though both bodies have a strong record of military support for Israel...... Defense officials speculated that if the US decided to cut the funding, it would not say it was doing so due to outposts and settlements, but would cite the global financial crisis as the reason..."

Syria "reveals" it has built a missile facility over the ruins of a bombed site?

"Diplomats quoted Syrian nuclear chief Ibrahim Othman as saying during a closed meeting Tuesday that the new structure appeared to be a missile control center or actual launching pad. They demanded anonymity for divulging details about what Othman told the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board..."

"...Who'll pay for the entrecote steak and apple pie?..."

Olmert has a knack for scandal, and Bush's people are simply bad luck... In McClatchy's, here

US troops out of Iraq by August 2010...

In AP, here
The officials said they expect Obama to make the announcement this week. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan has not been made public.

WINEP: "Washington Balances Engagement with Syria with Commitment To Lebanese Allies"

Schenker (always) seems to buy into Washington's empty and recycled commitments to the Cedarites ... Obviously, he has not talked to Walid Jumblatt lately, and most importantly, he seems to be oblivious to the fact that the sloganeering & bravado (Sen . Kerry) in Beirut was not duplicated in Damascus, where the talk was focused & revolved around the fact that "we're all interested in turning a new leaf".... WINEP, here

"...In Lebanon, where March 14's electoral success depends to a great extent on the perception of ongoing U.S. backing, the recent visits by American legislators to Damascus were viewed with great interest. During his public statement following the Hariri meeting, Kerry reassured Beirut and lowered expectations in Damascus (IN BEIRUT!). He reiterated U.S. support for Lebanon and emphasized that the Hariri tribunal was "independent from any issues of discussion between the U.S. and Syria." The purpose of discussions with Syria, Kerry said, was to "test whether or not this is a moment for change. . . . We are looking for actions." ....By all accounts, March 14 officials were pleased with Kerry's message in Beirut.........

The Obama administration's initial approach toward engaging with Syria has been somewhat haphazard, but ultimately cautious, careful both to preserve U.S. equities in Lebanon and to discourage irrational exuberance in Damascus.......On the one hand, Washington does not want to undermine the March 14 coalition as the June Lebanese elections approach. On the other hand, it will prove hard to generate momentum with Syria unless the United States sends an ambassador and/or senior administration officials to Damascus. ......A Hizballah victory in the Lebanese elections would represent a strategic setback for regional moderates at the hands of Iran and Syria. Conversely, if the administration could somehow engineer the strategic realignment of Syria -- away from Iran toward the peace camp -- it would prove a real blow to regional militants. As Washington's engagement with Syria moves forward, balancing should remain an integral element of the strategy...."

Deadly US Mysterious munitions, killed Gaza children

From Wired's DangerRoom, here

"Amnesty International delegates in Gaza also found evidence of the use of a new type of missile, seemingly launched from unmanned drones, which explodes large numbers of tiny sharp-edged metal cubes, each between 2 and 4 mm square in size. This purpose-made shrapnel can penetrate even thick metal doors and many were seen by Amnesty International’s delegates embedded deep in concrete walls. They appear designed to cause maximum injury

The signature of these new missiles, in addition to the deadly tiny metal cubes, is a small and deep hole in the ground (about 10 cm or less in diameter and up to several meters in depth) 

(Likud spokesman) Elliot Abrams: "... PA forces acted in Concert with IDF during Gaza operation..."

(Rice, Siniora & Abrams in the back...)
Abrams outs himself as "Bibi Netanyahu's spokesman" in this Weekly Standard piece, here, via Jim Lobe

"...In reading the article, ironically entitled “The Path of Realism or the Path to Failure: Laying a Foundation for Peace in Palestine,” what can’t help but be struck by the coincidence in views between Abrams and the Likud leader on virtually every single issue regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, from reviving the notion of a Jordanian option to seeing the conflict as “part of a broader struggle in the region over Iranian extremism and power.” Also noteworthy is the clarity with which he expresses his total opposition to his former boss’s (President George W. Bush) stated policy, particularly with respect to the Annapolis process (although it apparently didn’t occur to him to offer his resignation under the circumstances) and his explicit embrace of Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (”reliable and trustworthy”) and the PA’s U.S.-tutored security forces who “acted in parallel, and sometimes in concert, with Israeli forces” during Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. I’m sure both Fayyad and the PA’s security forces appreciate such a fulsome endorsement from Netanyahu’s alter ego.

With friends like Abrams, who seems to think that democratic reform — remember, he was in charge of global democracy promotion, as well as the Middle East, in Bush’s National Security Council — consists mainly of building Palestinian security forces that can maintain Israel’s occupation indefinitely and fails to mention the word “settlements” in a 3,200-word essay on “realism” and laying a foundation for peace in Palestine, who needs enemies?"

NIC Report: "... leadership in the Middle East is passing to Saudi Arabia ... a loss to Egypt..."

A National Intelligence Council report, (Dec. '08) here
The experts convened to draft the study agreed Egypt is no longer the undisputed leader of the Arab world as it had been in previous decades, and that the torch of regional leadership is being passed to Saudi Arabia. However, the report indicates the Saudi regime is loath to accept that role, largely because of implications of the growing threat Iran poses the Arab world.

"Mubarak is getting older and no longer has the energy to provide the leadership he once did," the report states. "No one in the government, including his son or Omar Suleiman, the chief of the Egyptian External Intelligence Service, has replaced him in regional relations."

"...Hezbollah's meeting places, operational areas, safe houses, or bunkers compromised?..."

Abu Muqawamah interviews M Prothero , here
Q. In security services, when a mole is discovered, among the first things done is a damage assessment. How badly, in your opinion, has Hizballah been hurt? How badly are they exposed?
"Hizballah has had since mid-January, we're told, to assess their level of exposure by the operation, so the lag between everyone else finding out was probably put to good use. But what I am hearing is that so many vehicles were tracked for so long that it's assumed that any significant meeting place, operational area, safe house, or bunker is probably compromised to some degree. Lebanese authorities sympathetic to the group say they've had to abandon more than a few key facilities.

The big question looking backward -- considering the tracking seems to have happen over a four-plus year period -- is how much did this operation hurt them in 2006 when Israel seemed to have an uncanny ability to hit apartment buildings used on some level by Hizballah. A lot of those mysterious explosions where people asked 'why this building?' seem less random in light of this...."

Monday, February 23, 2009

Syria-Saudi Arabia relations: "Rebuilding brick by Intelligence-brick"

It's like a few knew of these 'visits', but thought Assef Shawkat's & Ali Al Mamluk's visits... were better left for ...Nicholas Nassif, in Al Akhbar, here

لم تنقطع في الأشهر الأخيرة الاتصالات المباشرة بين مسؤولين أمنيين سعوديين وآخرين سوريين تناوبوا على الزيارات بين البلدين بهدفين متلازمين: تنسيق التحرّك الأمني وتبادل المعلومات حيال النشاطات الإرهابية، وتسهيل عودة الروح إلى الاتصالات السياسية المجمّدة بسبب وجود أكثر من وجهة نظر متعارضة مع أخرى داخل فريق الحكم في كلّ من البلدين، بين مبرّر للقطيعة وداع إلى تجاوزها. ولم تكن زيارة مدير الاستخبارات السعودية الأمير مقرن بن عبد العزيز لدمشق في 15 شباط، ونقله رسالة من الملك إلى الأسد، ومنه أخرى شفوية جوابية إلى عبد الله إلا تتويجاً لسلسلة من الزيارات والاتصالات السابقة، بينها زيارة غير معلنة قام بها مسؤول سوري رفيع المستوى إلى الرياض. وهو أمر كشف مستوى التنسيق بين جهازَي استخبارات البلدين اللذين لم ينقطعا عن التواصل إلا قليلاً، إلى أن حتمّت المصالح المتبادلة إعادة تعاونهما. وفي ذلك مغزى التقدّم والانتقال بالمصالحة السعودية ـــــ السورية من بعدها الأمني إلى السياسي والشخصي.
وكان للبعد الاخير تأثير مقرّر في القطيعة قبل ثلاثة أعوام ثم في طيّ صفحتها.لكن المطّلعين على المسار الجديد لعلاقات
البلدين يتحدّثون عن دور إيجابي وبنّاء ساهم في المصالحة اضطلع به السفير السعودي السابق في بيروت عبد العزيز خوجة قبل تعيينه أخيراً وزيراً للإعلام والثقافة في الحكومة السعودية المعدّلة، بشكل حمل مسؤولاً أمنياً سورياً رفيع المستوى على
الإشادة بخوجة، قائلاً إنه قام بدور مهم في إعادة علاقات البلدين إلى طبيعتها وكان حرياً أن يضطلع بهذا الدور نظيره في دمشق، المعنيّ أساساً بهذه المهمة. بيد أن المسؤول السوري لم يتردّد في عزو الأمر إلى قرب السفير الوزير من الملك كأحد أبرز الموثوق بهم لديه.
وجود ترابط ملموس بين الحوار السعودي ـــــ السوري والأميركي ـــــ السوري، بشقّيه السرّي والمعلن، وبدا أن كلاً منهما يتناغم مع الآخر في توقيته قبل الخوض في تفاصيله، كما أن الحوارين يتقاطعان عند إجراء مراجعة جديدة لعلاقات واشنطن والرياض بدمشق وتسليمهما بدورها المحوري في استقرار المنطقة. وقد لا يكون من باب المصادفة تزامن المصالحة السعودية ـــــ السورية مع خطوات لافتة على صعيد انفتاح واشنطن على دمشق والرهان ـــــ في مرحلة أولى على الأقل ـــــ على محاورتها بلا نظرات جاهزة سوى الرغبة بأن يفضي هذا الحوار إلى نتائج مجدية. وقد لا تكون زيارة أربعة وفود أميركية تمثّل الكونغرس ومجلس النواب الأميركيين لدمشق، في غضون أسبوعين، والاجتماع بالأسد هي الحدث فحسب، بل أيضاً سلسلة المواقف التي أطلقت من العاصمة السورية لتأكيد ضرورة مباشرة حوار أميركي ـــــ سوري قريباً وفتح صفحة جديدة في علاقات البلدين. لكن المهم في ذلك كله أن ما يقال عن سوريا خارج أراضيها لا يُكرّر أمام مسؤوليها علناً. فرئيس لجنة الشؤون الخارجية في الكونغرس جون كيري أسهب في بيروت في الكلام عن سوريا وتوجيه الانتقاد إليها، محاولاً استرضاء قوى 14 آذار. إلا أنه لم يذكر مثل هذا الكلام أمام المسؤولين السوريين الذين اجتمع بهم. لم يدعُهم جهاراً ـــــ كما فعل في بيروت ـــــ إلى المساعدة في تجريد حزب الله من سلاحه، ولا قال إن على سوريا احترام استقلال لبنان وسيادته وتغيير سلوكها واتّباع الأقوال بالأفعال، الأمر الذي عكس ازدواجية في المواقف الأميركية بين توجيه رسائل إعلامية هي أقرب إلى الدعاية والاستهلاك الإعلامي، والخوض جدّياً في حوار مع دمشق قال كيري إن إدارته تستعجله، وهي لا تريد أن تملي على سوريا ما تفعله، مسجّلاً ـــــ في بيروت كما في دمشق ـــــ انتقاداً للإدارة السابقة

Our Friend in Tehran

Op-Ed in the NYTimes, here
"...He (Ahmadinejad) has signaled his interest in resuming full diplomatic relations with Egypt, to the dismay of hard-liners. (Iran severed diplomatic ties with Egypt three decades ago.) In the past, Mr. Ahmadinejad has indicated his willingness to open an embassy in Cairo. Last year, he telephoned President Hosni Mubarak to discuss regional issues.... But Mr. Ahmadinejad’s boldest moves have been toward the United States......It is even possible that Mr. Khamenei indirectly delegated this task to the president. The supreme leader is hardly in a position to make such a gesture.....Mr. Obama must seize the opportunity to shake the Iranian president’s outstretched hand..."

Iran: the enemy that almost isn't

So what happened? Well, nothing. George W. Bush was president, the Iraq war was just approaching the "mission accomplished" phase, and nobody in the White House thought it would look good to make peace with Iran, a country that only the year before had been made a rhetorical component in Mr. Bush's "axis of evil."...As one State Department official directly involved with the Iranian offer told me, "It was like we missed the biggest Middle East peace opportunity of the decade, just so we could keep saying 'axis of evil.' "

So the offer was stuck in a drawer.....

Most of the objection to this scenario, of course, is based on our belief that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon. But that, too, is almost ready to vanish into vapour. Our most authoritative source of information about Iran's nuclear program is the 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, which stated categorically, based on voluminous sources, that Iran had abandoned its nuclear-weaponsprogram in 2003.....Most informed observers, including Mr. ElBaradei, believe that Iran is merely "hedging" by keeping open the possibility of building a bomb within five to 10 years - exactly what Canada once did..."

The US Ambassadors...

In FP's/TheCable, here

"...Now, the new administration still has to decide, for all those people chosen, whether to confirm the selections made last summer, or, in some cases, to switch out people. Among the selections made last summer by the D-committee, sources said, was for a tentative career Foreign Service diplomat to succeed Ryan Crocker as U.S. ambassador to Baghdad. It's not clear if Christopher Hill was the choice at that time.

Sources speculate that the secret hand influencing the decision to not give Zinni the Iraq ambassadorship may have actually been the top government advocate warning against the militarization of the face of U.S. foreign policy: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. (Zinni, you willremember, was offered the ambassadorship to Saudi Arabia after the administration changes its mind on Iraq, an offer Zinni said he declined.)

Former Clinton-era NSC official Ivo Daalder is expected to be appointed U.S. ambassador to NATO. ....Current U.S. ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker is likely to be named to another ambassadorship, sources said. .....Sources said former Clinton-era NSC official Mark Brzezinski is possibly going to be named as U.S. ambassador to Poland. Brzezinski, the son of former Carter national security advisor Zbigniew Brezinski, speaks Polish, associates note. Brzezinski, now a lawyer at Hogan & Hartson, did not respond to a query.

Lee Feinstein, the former Clinton-era State Department deputy director of policy planning who coordinated outside foreign-policy advisors for Hillary ...not clear where: associates have mentioned Prague, the European Union, Geneva, or OSCE/Vienna......Harvard Kennedy School professor and dean emeritus Joseph S. Nye tops the list for U.S. ambassador to Japan,....Jeff Davidow, the former assistant secretary of state for Latin American affairs, has taken a leave from the Institute of the Americas to serve as the envoy preparing for the next Summit of the Americas, sources confirmed. "The summit is a premier regional venue, where all of the presidents (including Canada, but not including Cuba) discuss hemispheric problems and solutions and cement their personal relationships," a Washington Latin America hand said. " ....

Tom Shannon, the assistant secretary of state for Western hemispheric affairs, is expected to stay on the job through the spring, when he is likely to be succeeded by Arturo Valenzuela.Afterwards, Shannon is expected to be named ambassador to Brazil or Argentina. ....Numerous media outlets have reported that Christopher Hill, the assistant secretary of state for Asian and Pacific affairs, is expected to be named U.S. ambassador to Iraq, and that Gen. Karl Eikenberry will be named U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. ......Sources said that Karl Inderfurth, the former assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, tops the list for U.S. ambassador to India. Inderfurth, a professor at George Washington University's Elliot School of International Affairs who advised the Obama campaign on South Asian issues, .... Robert Blake, the current U.S. ambassador to Sri Lanka, is the top foreign service officer candidate for the job of assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, sources told The Cable. Some South Asia hands thought that U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, who is overseeing the South Asia appointments, might choose to keep Anne Patterson, the current US ambassador to Pakistan, in the Islamabad job. Richard Boucher, the current assistant secretary of state for south Asian affairs, is expected to move on, either to an ambassadorship or to retire from the Foreign Service. Boucher declined to comment on his plans. Outgoing Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Daniel Fried, who has agreed to stay on until his expected successor Philip Gordon gets in place, might also be being considered for an ambassadorship. Fried declined to speculate on a possible ambassadorship, saying his future plans are uncertain.

A State Department source suggested that the current U.S. ambassador to Israel, James B.Cunningham, is likely to stay in the job. He said the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Jordan, Daniel Rubenstein, is expected to become the consul general and chief of mission of the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem.

"Alarming appointment at the CIA"

says S Rosen (Indicted AIPAC spy!) the 'usual pro-Israel zealots, at thw MEF blog, here
"... This is a profoundly disturbing appointment, if the report is correct. Freeman is a strident critic of Israel, and a textbook case of the old-line Arabism that afflicted American diplomacy at the time the state of Israel was born. His views of the region are what you would expect in the Saudi foreign ministry, with which he maintains an extremely close relationship, not the top CIA position for analytic products going to the President of the United States..."

Iraq Invites France to Build Nuclear Reactor

In AFP, here, via W&P
"...Under former dictator Saddam Hussein, Iraq sealed a 1976 deal with France to build the Osirak nuclear reactor, where construction started in 1979.......Sarkozy said a large French business delegation would follow him to Baghdad by the end of the summer. Defense, energy and water were all key sectors for cooperation with Iraq, he said."We are ready to listen to the requests of the Iraqis."

"...Let us restrict our efforts in Afghanistan to a minimalist focus on disrupting our enemies..."

NJ's National Security's panel of regular experts, here
"...The United States is fast becoming a poor country. If we launch a full blown COIN driven nation building effort in Afghanistan, that effort will be paid for with borrowed money or with fiat money. One path probably leads to a deflationary spiral and the other to massive inflation. We can afford neither eventuality. Let us restrict our efforts in Afghanistan to a minimalist focus on disrupting our enemies..." (PL)

"Bringing Syria in"

In the ECONOMIST, here

"...However, Mr Assad has delayed the appointment of an ambassador to Beirut, prompting speculation that he is looking for some form of diplomatic reward for taking this step—such as an assurance that the US president, Barack Obama, will appoint a US ambassador to Damascus...Mr Obama is likely to send an ambassador to Damascus in due course. He can also be expected to approve including Syria on the itinerary of US officials visiting the region. These would be likely to include, in the first instance, the assistant secretary of state for near east affairs, a post for which an appointment has yet to be announced (one of the names said to be in the hat is Jeffrey Feltman,... bête noire to Syria's Lebanese allies). Mr Assad has also expressed interest in receiving David Petraeus, the head of the US Central Command, which suggests that he might be ready to offer some co-operation to the US in ensuring an orderly exit of its troops from Iraq....
The timing of an American ambassadorial appointment will be critical. Mr Obama could offer this move as an early gesture of goodwill. He could alternatively hold it back as means to maintain pressure on Syria in a number of sensitive areas. One of these is the Lebanese general election, which is scheduled to take place on June 7th. The election could see a shift in the balance of power towards Syria's allies, led by Hizbullah, a Shia political and military group that the US wishes to be
disarmed. If such a shift should occur as a result of what the US perceives to be Syrian interference, relations between Washington and Damascus could revert to their former coolness....
The US administration will also be looking at several other benchmarks of what it might describe as Syrian good behaviour. These include the negotiations about a long-term ceasefire in the Gaza Strip; the US expects Syria to use its influence on Hamas and Islamic Jihad to secure a favourable outcome...."

Saudi Newspaper: "Siniora misused & must refund the Saudi aid funds ASAP..."

"I see it as part of the series of opinion pieces in Asharq, QN. Check out the other one by their stupid editor [Tareq Alhomayed] who insists on seeing everything in his own favorite way … now he sees Syria and Iran panicking and therefore they will cause Lebanon some future pain:

For the coming months expect Asharq to be engaged in trying to influence the Lebanese elections by tarnishing the reputation of Aoun, Hizbollah and of course Syria and Iran.

The difference between Tareq and Abdel Rahman, is that Abdel Rahman always finds some creative issue through which he can deliver an indirect blow to the bad guys, whereas Tareq is more straightforward."

G8 invites Iran to "Afghanistan Meeting"...

"...Italian Foreign Ministry spokesman said the question of Iran being invited to the June meeting was a "working hypothesis that Italy is exploring in agreement with the other principal allies in Afghanistan".Italy wants to hold a conference bringing together the world's richest countries and Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, India, China and Turkey among others to find ways of bringing stability to Afghanistan and Pakistan......It also seeks to involve Iran, which shares borders with both those countries.....the head of NATO, which leads some 55,000 troops in Afghanistan, has said dialogue with Iran was crucial to fighting the insurgency there...."

Lieberman auditioning for Foreign Affairs portfolio

In the JPost, here

Turkey & US: "preliminary discussions on Iraq-exit strategy"

Hurriyet, here

:...U.S. army chief, Adm. Mike Mullen has said the Pentagon has already examined possible exit routes through Turkey and Jordan. Both countries, longtime U.S. allies, support the withdrawal planning contingencies, said Mullen. Another alternative exit route passes through Kuwait.

However, an Associated Press report said during the weekend that the U.S. military is working through logistic obstacles and bottlenecks as it tests possible exit routes, including Turkey, Kuwait and Jordan, for battlefield equipment ahead of the withdrawal from Iraq...."

Sunday, February 22, 2009

"Iran, Syria, Hezbollah & Hamas' 'axis of evil', will require Israel to wage a campaign..."

Haaretz, here
"...Although Obama has more urgent things on his agenda - first and foremost among them the rehabilitation of the U.S. economy - Iran will be his first major foreign-policy test. Israel regards Obama's decision to talk to Tehran about its nuclear program as a done deal. What it is trying to do, in a low-profile way, is to impact the way the Americans reach the point of dialogue........When and if talks fail, Israel would expect the U.S. to head an international move for immediate and harsher sanctions, this time effectively involving Russia, China and India. .....And if all efforts fail? Barak told the cabinet yesterday that "Israel will take no option off the table." The commander of the Israel Navy, Maj. Gen. Eliezer Marom said in a rare statement yesterday: "An axis of evil coordinated between Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas will require Israel to wage a campaign against it that will require our best efforts and abilities."

"..Hezbollah's highly effective counter-intelligence unit is responsible for discoveries of Mossad cells in Lebanon..."

"...Two Lebanese newspapers have claimed that Mr Sader is in the custody of Lebanese military intelligence, although the army denies that it is holding him.(BUT THEY DO hold him) .....It also emerged last week that another suspected Mossad agent was arrested when military intelligence officers raided a petrol station near Nabatiyah ....Hezbollah's highly effective counter-intelligence unit is responsible for most discoveries of Mossad cells in Lebanon. ..Last November Beirut newspapers reported the arrest of a Lebanese man who had been spying for Israel since the early 1980s. ...The covert war works both ways, with Hezbollah building up a network of espionage cells in Israel and even recruiting Israeli soldiers.."

Jumblatt ally bans movie showing his daughter "naked & in compromising scene"

Antoine Andrawos has enough time to tackle Lebanon's "Strategic Defense Policy" and his daughter's acting ... In the Kuwait Al Qabas, here
العرض الأوّل لاقى الكثير من الانتقادات السلبيّة، لما تضمنه الفيلم من مشاهد عري وجنس جماعي وشتائم بدت نافرة في الحوار الذي كان شبهغائب في الفيلم. فكرة الفيلم تعود إلى شهر مارس 2007 حيث حصل المخرج في أكتوبر من العام نفسه على رخصة التصوير، قبل أن ينال حق العرض في يوليو 2008، ليعرض في فبراير
2009ويمنع عرضه بعد أربعة أيام فقط على خروجه الى النور. دائرة الرقابة في
الأمن العام لم تعلن عن اسباب المنع، واكتفت بإصدار القرار الذي دفع بصالات السينما إلى إعادة تعديل برنامجهاوبعيداً عن طرح التساؤلات، يتردد في الأوساط القريبة من المخرج أن سبب المنع هو سياسي بحت، خصوصاً أن البطلة هي جوانا ابنة النائب في البرلمان اللبناني أنطوان أندراوس، المرشح على ائحة الزعيم الدرزي وليد جنبلاط، وقد كان لظهورها عارية تماماً الأثر السلبي على حملة والدها الانتخابية، خصوصاً أن توقيت العرض جاء قبل أربعة أشهر من الانتخاباتالنيابيّة،
يذكر ان القبس التقت بجوانا اندراوس بطلة الفيلم في العرض المخصص للصحافة، وقد بدت حريصة على التقليل من شأن ظهورها عارية في الفيلم رافضة الحديث عما اذا كان سيشكل احراجا لوالدها على عتبة الانتخابات النيابية. إذ قالت «ماالمشكلة ان اظهر عارية هذه إحدى الضرورات الدرامية التي يحتمها الفيلم لم اعرض جسد لمجرد العرض لعبت دور مومس تمارس الجنس وكان من الطبيعي ان اظهر عارية.كما كانت والدتها حريصة على الدفاع عن ابنتها قائلة «كنت افضل الا تؤدي جوانا هذا المشهد لكنها ممثلة واحياناً يتطلب الدور اداء مثل هذه المشاهد وفي النهاية ابنتي تتمتع بالحرية لتقرر ما تريد». وعزت سبب عدم حضور النائب انطوان اندراوس العرض الاول لفيلم ابنته الاول بانشغاله بالاعداد للانتخابات النيابية وبضرورات أمنية تجعل تحركاته قليلة وخاضعة لمراقبة امنية.

"Will Netanyahu kill the US-Israel romance?"

"Probably so", says Colonel Lang, at SST

"It is unlikely that Barack Obama will tolerate Netanyahu's normal arrogance and overbearing demeanor. It is, however, likely that Netanyahu will "try it on."
Why? Because he is compulsive and will not be able to help himself. Like a lot of extreme nationalists in various parts of the world, Netanyahu deeply believes in the intellectual and moral superiority of what he thinks of as his people. For him, innate feelings of group superiority are the bedrock of his personality. The Oval Office encounter which I forecast some time ago is inevitably in the cards now. Ah, to be a fly on the wall in that one.
To see such a confrontation approaching does not require "moral and intellectual superiority." Therefore one must ask why the Israeli electorate has created the preconditions for that meeting.
I will leave the question open for debate."

The Bushehr nuclear plant to begin operations on Wednesday...

"...He added that the preliminary phase will take place during a visit by Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Russia's state nuclear agency. The long-awaited 1,000-megawatt light-water reactor, which was built in the southern Iranian port of Bushehr with the help of Russia under a $1 billion contract, was previously scheduled to become operational in fall 2008. Some 700 Iranian engineers were trained in Russia to operate the power plant..."

Bomb in crowded Cairo tourist area

Telegraph, here
Anonymous reader points out "Lavon Affair Redux!"... (Blame it on the Brotherhood or the plethora of discontented Egyptians ...)

Kerry: "..possibilities for "real cooperation" between the US & Syria..."

"...He did not elaborate, but the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee did say he heard from the Syrians "a great willingness" to share in efforts with respect to Iraq............questions remain over just how much common ground exists between Syria and the U.S., and there are concerns that the new openness from the U.S. may turn out to be only cosmetic...."

Saturday, February 21, 2009

"...In a Beirut 'meeting' with Gemayel, Chamoun, Georges Adwan & Abu Arz, Sharon set forth the battle plans..."

Haaretz, here
"....One of the Mossad's most important missions from the day of its inception was Israel's "special relations" with countries that did not recognize it and with minorities like the Christians in Lebanon and the Kurds in Iraq. This was the declared policy of the governments of Israel: Israel will be prepared to come to the aid of any threatened minority that is fighting for its existence - but it will not fight in its stead..... Iran, under the shah, took an interest in Lebanon and flew in arms to defend the Christians.....
The Mossad's relations with the Christians enabled the senior IDF brass, including the commanders of the forces in the field, to reconnoiter as far as Beirut, and to receive the necessary intelligence.....
In January 1982, at a meeting in Beirut with top Christian leaders - Pierre Gemayel, Camille Chamoun, Georges Adwan and Etienne Saqr (Abu Arz) - Sharon set forth the battle plans......"

Defence chiefs tell Netanyahu to strike a deal with Syria

In the london times, here
"....According to sources familiar with the documents, both Amos Yadlin, the head of military intelligence, and Meir Dagan, his Mossad counterpart, recommend a deal not only to eliminate the risk of war with Syria but also to create a split between Damascus and Iran, Israel’s arch foe....
The reports argue that Israel is vulnerable to Syria’s upgraded chemical weapons capability, which is being expanded with the help of North Korean experts. Satellite images that emerged last week showed new construction work at the heavily protected site of al-Safir.....
Aides close to Netanyahu say an agreement with Syria is the surest way for Netanyahu to make political progress with the new administration, as they profoundly disagree on other aspects of a Middle East peace deal...."

Jeff Feltman's attempt to duplicate Bush's 'interest in Lebanon' ... rebuffed

Nicholas Nassif in Al Akhbar, here

تبعاً للمعلومات الدبلوماسية نفسها ،وفي معرض مناقشة الإدارة الجديدة إجراء مراجعة لسياستها حيال إيران، اقترح عليها فيلتمان إجراء مراجعة مماثلة لسياستها اللبنانية، في مسعى منه لرفع وتيرة الاهتمام به والعودة إلى سابق زخم الدعم الأميركي إبان مرحلة الحكومة السابقة للرئيس السنيورة وحكم الغالبية النيابية. لكن ردّ فعل الإدارة كان سلبياً. وبحسب تقويم المعلومات الدبلوماسية، فإن إمساك واشنطن عن مراجعة سياستها حيال لبنان بيّن حدّين في نظرتها إليه: حد أقصى هو أن لبنان ليس في سلم أولويات إدارة أوباما في الوقت الحاضر، وبحسب التعبير المستخدم في المعلومات الدبلوماسية فإنه «ليس على شاشة تلك الأولويات»، وحدّ أدنى هو أن لا تراجع عن ثوابت السياسة الأميركية تجاه لبنان في ما يتصل بسيادته واستقلاله

"none of March14's 'enthusiastic defenders'... are going to be effective with Obama"

"....I find this whole thing really interesting for an entirely different reason. Whatever your position is on Lebanese politics, there can surely be little disagreement that March 14th was left wrong-footed by the U.S. presidential election. For several years, March 14th cultivated an enthusiastic group of defenders in the U.S. media and think tanks: Tony Badran, Lee Smith, David Schenker, and Michael Totten -- just to name a few. The problem was, almost all of these guys only have influence in a very narrow band along the ideological spectrum. Put another way, a favorable op-ed printed in the Weekly Standard carried a lot more weight in 2004 than it does today. And if you're looking to carry the March 14th message to policy-makers in Barack Obama's Washington, none of these guys are really going to be effective.

For the life of me, I have no idea why they weren't doing this in 2006 and 2007, when, after the mid-term elections, anyone with half a brain could see the way the political winds were starting to change in the U.S."