Thursday, May 31, 2012

Death threats to 'Friday Lunch Club' bloggers

We take them VERY seriously.

Saudi-Bahraini union opposed by GCC states ...and Iran

 "...A few of the GCC members blocked the idea, as it would give further sway to Saudi Arabia, the biggest member of the gulf coalition.Smaller GCC countries are afraid of losing political and economical influence to Saudi Arabia whose population is five times bigger than Oman; the second biggest country in the GCC by population. In addition there are fears that they will lose out in important gas and oil sectors.After the summit, a source close to the Qatari government told Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper that, "Qatar sees the move as a Saudi manoeuvre to undermine the bilateral relations between the countries of the GCC and to impose its agenda upon it." ..."

Syria kidnappers demand Nasrallah's apology to free hostages

(Reuters) - "Syrian (kidnappers) said they were holding a group of kidnapped Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim pilgrims, and... added they would not start negotiations for the release of the hostages until the leader of Lebanese guerilla group Hezbollah, an ally of Assad's, apologized for a recent speech.
The rebel Revolutionary Council in Aleppo did not give any more details on their plans for the captives, or spell out what had offended them in the speech by Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah...."

You can't say it enough: Syria is really different from Libya

You can't say it enough: Syria is really different from Libya

Al-Qaeda fighters clash with Yemeni troops

Al-Qaeda fighters clash with Yemeni troops - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

"A brief, more limited “mopping up” operation in Lebanon"

"...The emergence of a de facto sanctuary in northern Lebanon for the Free Syrian Army poses a particular challenge for the government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati. Instructing the Lebanese army to seal off the border would be bitterly divisive domestically, but failure to act decisively could lead, sooner or later, to direct Syrian intervention.The signs are there. The Lebanese authorities have already received several warnings from Syria demanding an end to the flow of rebels and weapons across their common border. Journalists with access to decision-makers in Damascus relay the message that the Mikati government’s policy of “warding off evil” — i.e. formal neutrality — is no longer tolerable, .......Rifaat Ali Eid is the head of the pro-Syrian Arab Democratic Party and a leading political figure in the small Alawi community in Tripoli, which has come under attack from armed Sunni militants, reportedly backed by fugitive Syrian rebels. He has given the clearest signal yet of the Syrian government’s possible intentions: “If Lebanon enters the unknown,” he predicted in mid-May, “an Arab army will intervene … the UN will request the Syrian army to enter north Lebanon to resolve the situation there, because it is the most knowledgeable and capable Arab army in this regard.”
Eid is a marginal figure in Lebanese politics, but Syria’s intervention in Lebanon in 1976 followed the same sequence: private warnings delivered by former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Lebanese Left; public hints of Syrian intentions issued by Palestinian and Lebanese parties and media affiliated to the Syrian regime; and the claim that Syria was responding to an appeal for protection from Christian leaders. When these warnings failed [to produce the desired outcome], a Syrian armored brigade entered Lebanon and stopped just across the border. It was the forerunner of a major Syrian force deployment, which entered Lebanon two months later.
There are several obstacles to a significant Syrian intervention in Lebanon in 2012..... However, the Syrian regime may regard a brief, more limited “mopping up” operation in the border zone as a dual deterrent. This kind of operation could serve both to underscore to the Lebanese the potential costs of granting sanctuary to Syrian rebels, as well as to demonstrate the regime’s determination and capacity to act, thus discouraging other neighboring countries from allowing similar sanctuaries on their soil. A limited cross-border operation in northern Lebanon would act as a “dress rehearsal” for the wider armed conflict that may develop if the Syrian crisis degenerates into full civil war, or the Friends of Syria gear up for their own military intervention.
There would be other advantages to a cross-border intervention from the Syrian regime’s perspective. The United States would no doubt condemn an incursion into Lebanon, but its stance would be complicated by its own concern, shared by other Western governments, about the possible emergence of al-Qaeda-style jihadism in Tripoli. Its inclination to assist the Lebanese Army might similarly be tempered by a reluctance to get overly involved with a government in which Hezbollah is represented. Russia is likely to regard a limited Syrian operation as a legitimate act of self-defense, despite recent statements by its foreign minister holding the Assad regime primarily responsible for the bloodshed in Syria.
The reactions of Syria’s other neighbors would be no less complex. Turkey would certainly protest a Syrian incursion into Lebanon; but it has repeatedly sent its own military into northern Iraq in pursuit of guerrillas from the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK), and may yet claim the right to act similarly against them in northern Syria, where their presence has increased. Iraq, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the Arab League’s council of foreign ministers, has its own problems with Sunni militants and is reported to have exchanged information with Syrian intelligence over the infiltration of jihadists from its territory into Syria. Jordan, whose king was the first Arab leader to call on Assad to step down last year, has tightened controls over the smuggling of arms destined for Syrian rebels across its border, and has seen its trade with Syria actually increase since the economic embargo was declared last November...."

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"Exclusive Houla: Lots of people report killers had Shia slogans written on their foreheads."

"This is what a Western reporter is posting on Twitter (and it was circulated by Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashuqji--I am told):  " Exclusive Houla: Lots of people report killers had Shia slogans written on their foreheads. ‪#C4news".   Did they also chant "Long Live Ali Ibn Talib" on the way out?  Can the propaganda be less dumb so that we don't laugh at it? "

'Al-Qaeda in Lebanon: Murmurs of Assassinations'

"Lebanese security agencies have strong evidence that al-Qaeda has been planning to target high level political and religious figures – including the speaker of parliament – with the aim of provoking sectarian strife.
In recent weeks, Lebanese security agencies have obtained intelligence about activities of al-Qaeda networks in Lebanon which they are taking extremely seriously. It includes information about the planning of attacks and assassinations against specific targets by known al-Qaeda operatives who recently arrived in the country.
Some of this intelligence was gleaned directly by monitoring telephone conversations related to the suspects’ arrival and subsequent contacts with locally-based leaders. It was partially corroborated by information supplied separately by foreign intelligence services.
According to security officials, this combination of evidence led to the “highly credible conclusion” that al-Qaeda has sent people to Lebanon to carry out terrorist actions aimed at provoking large-scale sectarian strife in the country. Specifically, it indicates that plans were being made to assassinate Parliament Speaker and Amal movement leader Nabih Berri.
Multiple Targets
Tasks included surveillance of Christian religious sites in Mount Lebanon and the North, and preparing for the assassination of Shia and Christian political and religious figures.
Security agencies learned that between May 1 and 3, al-Qaeda's head of external relations, Ahmad Jamil, arrived in Lebanon accompanied by one of his top aides, Abdallah al-Hattar (described as tall and pale-skinned, carrying a forged ID in the name of Ahmad Hussein Aqel).
The purpose of their visit was to plan a series of operations. Implementing a decision to assassinate Berri was top of the list. They also sought to examine the possibility of mounting an attempt on Pope Benedict XVI’s life during his planned visit in September. Their tasks included surveillance of Christian religious sites in Mount Lebanon and the North, and preparing for the assassination of Shia and Christian political and religious figures.
Some days later, it was learned that Majed al-Majed, Jamil’s Lebanon-based Saudi aide – informed two Palestinian militants, Abdel-Majid Azzam and Tawfiq Taha, of the arrival in Lebanon via Turkey of another leading al-Qaeda figure, plus four companions. This was Sheikh Saleh al-Awfi who was known to be close to Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaeda’s former leader in Iraq. Azzam and Taha were told that his mission was to find and secure a safe haven for other al-Qaeda operatives who would be dispatched to the country.
Shortly afterwards, further intelligence was received about Jamil’s activities after his arrival. The first thing he did was convene a meeting with Majed, Azzam, Taha and four others (Usama al-Sihabi, Ziad Abul-Naaj, Muhammad Haithat al-Shaabi, and Muhammad al-Arefi), to convey a verbal message to them from al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Security surveillance of al-Qaeda operatives over the past few weeks indicates that the goal of targeting Berri was being given high priority.
The gist of this message was that al-Qaeda had decided to step up its activities in the Levant and turn the region into one its main bases, and thus needed to establish control over appropriate enclaves in Lebanon. Zawahiri added that he would soon name an amir (commander) for al-Qaeda in the Levant, but in the meantime that position would be held by Majed, and other local leaders should pledge allegiance to him. He would make Lebanon al-Qaeda’s main base for supporting “the mujahideen” in Syria.
Zawahiri also said in his message that he would dispatch senior al-Qaeda figures to take charge of the group’s funding and arming in Lebanon, as well as specialists in forging documents, training fighters, and preparing explosives. He went on to give directions about how the group’s followers should be organized in cells, with an amir heading each group, and speak of similar details.
Security surveillance of al-Qaeda operatives over the past few weeks indicates that the goal of targeting Berri was being given high priority as part of these activities.
European Message
This is not the first time that information of this nature reaches Lebanon. Previously – the last occasion being about one year ago – its importance has been played down, as intelligence assessments have deemed its sources to be of questionable credibility.
This time, however, the intelligence is based on surveillance conducted over the course of several weeks following monitoring of telephone conversations between suspects, as well as secret information provided from within the organization in Lebanon.
It was also apparently corroborated by the intelligence service of a European country which has troops in the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). This service sent an urgent message to Beirut via the UNIFIL command around two weeks ago, alerting it to information that al-Qaeda had sent groups of people to Lebanon with the aim of assassinating Berri. The speaker was informed of this message.
Meanwhile, details coming in about the movements of al-Qaeda figures indicated that they were indeed making logistical preparations for an attempt on the speaker’s life.
In the second half of May, there appears to have been a further influx of al-Qaeda envoys to Lebanon.
During the first week of May, at a meeting between Majed, Hattar and Azzam in Ain el-Helweh refugee camp, it was agreed that Majed would spread the word, falsely, that the Abdallah al-Azzam Brigades – the name given to the local al-Qaeda chapter – had vacated the camp. Members were ordered to lay low and avoid any risk of being seen in public.
The aim of that was to turn the camp into a safer haven by turning prying eyes away. Rumors soon began circulating that the al-Qaeda cell had evacuated Ain el-Helweh and relocated to Syria. In reality, while a handful of al-Qaeda members indeed left the camp, surveillance confirmed that a number of the more important figures who were said to have departed remain there.
It was clear that this was an attempt to lull the Lebanese security forces off their guard, so as to facilitate the movement of the al-Qaeda cells tasked with assassinating Berri and staking out other targets.
In the second half of May, there appears to have been a further influx of al-Qaeda envoys to Lebanon. Among the recent arrivals are thought to be the Saudi explosives expert Ashraf al-Ghamedi and the Moroccan communications specialist Muhammad Dawbak, who are believed to have been sent to supervise training in their respective fields. Intelligence indicates that they were directed by Hattar to base themselves in Tripoli.
Information about these cells’ movements has now been cut off, after weeks of intensive activity in Lebanon, which is what prompted European intelligence agencies to warn Lebanon that al-Qaeda is poised to strike."

‘UN report on Houla massacre? But they only talk to Syrian opposition – by phone’

"The Houla massacre is to be brought to a rare gathering of the UN Human Rights Council. But what kind of findings will the council be presented? Anti-war campaigner Marinella Corregia is concerned UN observers only question opposition activists.
The meeting, set for Friday, has been called by 21 of the 47 council members. The request was officially submitted by Qatar, Turkey, the US, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Denmark and the EU.
The UN top human rights body says most of the 108 victims of the massacre in the Syrian town of Houla were summarily executed – while less than 20 killings “can be attributed to artillery and tank fire.”
It also appears that entire families were shot in their homes. Local residents have blamed the executions on Shabbiya, a paramilitary group that "essentially supports the government forces," says Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN Human Rights Council.
UN Human Rights Council ‘own’ sources?What worries Marinella Corregia, an activist from the "No War Network," is the sources the UN Human Rights Council uses to draw their reports, as their opinions do not seem in accord with UN monitors’ prudence. General Robert Mood, who heads the observing mission, has not yet pointed to anyone for the killings. (CONTRARY to what western media' claims!)
 '... Circumstances are still unclear!... '
Marinella Corregia called the Council spokesman, Rupert Colville, to get some answers. This is the conversation they had as reported by the peace activist:
Marinella Corregia: Who spoke with the local people you quote? The UN observers?
Rupert Colville: The UN observers are another body.
MC: So which witness sources do you have and how did you speak with them?
RC: Our local network, whom we spoke on the phone. I cannot say more; I have to protect them.
MC: How could they recognize that the killers were Shabbiya? Weren’t their faces covered?
RC: Our local contacts in Syria say they were Shabbiya. Try to be less cynical.
MC: But no doubt from your side? It seems that many of the children were from Alawite pro-government families
RC: We are asking for an investigation. I don’t say we are certain. We have also been asking for international investigations for the past months in Syria; but it has never been done and that is why we rely on our sources.
MC:  So it is not the UN that says that pro-government groups killed the children, it is your sources saying that.
RC: Yes, many people, our sources point the finger at the Shabbiya [militia group].
More questions than answers as Houla investigation continuesBut who are these contacts? Corregia says that so far the UN Council on Human Rights used reports made up by their own commission of three envoys, working independently from UN monitors. The commission has never set foot on Syrian soil; their sources, as listed by the anti-war campaigner, appear to be: “the opposition groups [the UN Human Rights Council] spoke to on the phone; the opposition they met in Turkey; and other ‘activists’ they met in Geneva.”
So the bottom line: no actual witnesses!” points out Marinella Corregia, who is sure the body treats the Houla incident “just the same way.”
Houla reports filed so far stand no criticism, continues the activist, – instead of giving answers, they just raise more questions:
Who talked to the residents, since the UN Human Rights Council is in Geneva? Are they true residents or the ones like the face-covered lady interviewed by Al Jazeera? The ‘survivor’ in question says she was hiding as her children were being slaughtered – how is it possible that a mother hides at a moment like this?
How was it possible that immediately after “Shabbiya” and the “army’s artillery” accomplished the massacre people were not afraid to collect bodies, film them and then send the video to international media?”..."

Lalaland Theories: "The Arab Spring Is Good for Israel"

 'Israeli Right wingers Love the Arab Spring!'
"... But during my current trip in Israel, I've been finding a positive take on the Arab Spring coming from an unexpected place: right-wing Israelis, particularly opponents of the two-state solution. From former security officials to West Bank settlers, I heard a surprisingly large number of Israelis arguing that the Arab Spring will actually solve their problems with the Palestinians.
The first step of their argument is that the Muslim Brotherhood is taking over Egypt, so soon enough they will be will be willing to annex Gaza (run by the Brotherhood-affiliated Hamas). The group is certainly not hampered by former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's fear that annexing Gaza would strengthen his domestic Islamist opponents. So Israel will no longer have to worry about that strip of land from which it unilaterally withdrew in 2005, but for which the international community still holds Israel responsible.
The next phase of the argument is that Jordan, though seemingly quiet, is actually brewing with discontent among its Palestinian population (which some estimates put at over 50 percent of the country), and a Palestinian overthrow of the Hashemite monarchy is inevitable, clearing the way for a Palestinian state in Jordan or the Jordanian annexation of the Palestinian cities in the West Bank. The "Jordan is Palestine" argument is a familiar trope on the Israeli right that reappears every few years, but the Arab Spring has, surprisingly, breathed new life into it...."

So, How Do You Expel an Ambassador, Anyway?

So, How Do You Expel an Ambassador, Anyway? - By Joshua E. Keating | Foreign Policy

Credibility & Truth: "Abdulrahman sits with a laptop & phones & pieces together accounts of conflict..."

Why I envy the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights….

Hazem Chahabi defects? Resigns? ... again!

This 'Honorary Consul' (lool)  guy, the son of Hikmat Chahabi (a Hafez Assad inner-circle-lifetime-member) defected (heart & soul) ages ago when his father was among the first Syrians to drink the Saudi 'kool-aid', along with Abdul Halim Khaddam, ...etc. However, Chehabi pere was smarter than Khaddam: he returned home and decided to stay the long haul... he did not sever all bridges with Damascus! Obviously now, with this 'defection', Chehabi fils thinks that, should the ship sinks, he could save his hide with the 'victorious insurgency! Not!
But again, we have to laugh hard at how the LATimes turned this post into a diplomatic post of importance!
"Syria's honorary consul general in California... Chehabi was one of Syria's highest-ranking diplomats in the United States and is the first to defect from Assad..."

The Great Escape: Has Avaaz & Wissam Tarif Been Lying About Its Role In Syria?

Via 'b' of MoonOfAlabama: "... On the morning of February 28, the activist organization Avaaz reported that it had coordinated Conroy’s escape to Lebanon and that 13 activists within its network had been killed in the effort. “This operation was carried by Syrians with the help of Avaaz,” read the press release. “No other agency was involved.” By the end of the day, Avaaz founder Ricken Patel had been interviewed on CNN and the BBC, andThe Guardian had published a short profile titled, “The activist organisation behind Paul Conroy’s rescue in Syria.” Admiring profiles in Time and on NPR soon followed.A week after his escape, I called Conroy, who was recovering in a London hospital, to ask him about Avaaz’s role. “I can sum it up in one word,” he said. “Bollocks.” Conroy had never heard of Avaaz, he told me, until he “saw them on television, saying how [they] helped me get out.” Has Avaaz, a group that quickly became a darling among Arab Spring sympathizers in the West, been lying all this time?..."

"You've got 48hrs!"

This of course comes from the FSA-InsideSyria as opposed to the FSA-BosphorusView; 
"... Les rebelles syriens donnent 48 heures au président Bachar al Assad pour appliquer le plan de paix de Kofi Annan sous peine d'en supporter les conséquences.
"La direction commune de l'Armée libre à l'intérieur de la Syrie annonce qu'elle donne au régime un dernier ultimatum de 48 heures pour appliquer les résolutions du Conseil de sécurité", a déclaré le colonel Kassim Saadeddine dans un communiqué diffusé sur le site YouTube.
"Il prend fin vendredi à 12h00. Nous serons alors libres de tout engagement et nous défendrons et protégerons les civils, leurs villages et leurs villes." 

'I'll have what he's having!'

"The fact is that there is no uprising of the Syrian people against the government"

"... The fact is that there is no uprising of the Syrian people against the government. Nor have there been any major protests against Assad’s presidency in the country’s two biggest cities, Damascus and Aleppo, where the only mass demonstrations to have been held at all have been pro-Assad.Some try to explain the absence of mass rallies by claiming that the tyrannical nature of the government prevents them, but this will not wash. In Egypt, the police, army and security forces under President Mubarak were far stronger than those under Assad in Syria today, yet they still could not prevent huge popular protests.
There has been nothing like that in Syria, for the reality is that the opposition does not represent the will of the people. Instead, it is a largely Islamist force that wants to end Assad’s attachment to secular rule, under which — for all the regime’s other failings — the rights of religious minorities are respected.
The opposition’s co-ordinating body, the Syrian National Council, is dominated by the hardline Muslim Brotherhood, which supports the imposition of Sharia law. The council is strongly supported by armed jihadists on the ground who want to create an anti-Western Islamic state in Syria.
These zealots have been provided with both arms and financial backing by the fundamentalist Muslim regimes of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as both want to promote ultra-conservative Islamism across the region.
It is grotesque that our own Foreign Secretary thinks that we have a duty to take up the cause of these fanatics in Syria who have no interest in negotiation or democracy.
Hague is quite simply deluded if he thinks that we have anything to gain from intervention in the country. 
    Britain’s position is shot through with hypocrisy. Hague fulminates about human rights in Syria because the issue is dominating international news, yet says nothing about abuses of freedom in Saudi Arabia, just because the country happens to be our oil-rich economic ally.
    He criticises Russia for backing Assad, yet remains silent about Qatar’s backing for the murderous jihadists.... (Continue, here)"

    WaPo: 'Time to strike Assad!'

    "...The odds that Mr. Putin will make this happen are little better than those for Mr. Annan. It’s not likely that the Russian leader wants democracy in Syria, which would lead to the empowerment of leaders disinclined to maintain the current regime’s alliances. Even if Mr. Putin could be persuaded, he probably lacks the means to force out Mr. Assad and his clan.  ..."

    Meir Dagan: 'Attack on Iran would garner Iranian public's support for regime & give Tehran legitimacy to accelerate development of Nukes!'

    "... "A strike could accelerate the procurement of the bomb," claimed Dagan, who spoke at a conference held at the National Security Studies Institute in Tel Aviv. "An attack isn't enough to stop the project."
     Dagan posited that military action would align the Iranian population behind the regime, thus solving the country's political and financial problems..."


    "Western media basically rent their pages and screens to Western governments to plant whatever propaganda stories they wish"

    "So did anybody in the press account for the feverish propaganda lies and fabrications that preceded NATO intervention in Libya? What happened to the 100,000 civilians killed by Qadhdhafi's bombs?  What happened to the stories of mercenary armies?  What happened to the story of that woman who claimed she was raped and then fled to Qatar before she was deported again?  When Western governments plan or plot action against a developing country, Western media basically rent their pages and screens to Western governments to plant whatever propaganda stories they wish.  We see that over and over again."

    More on the Syrian mediatic marasm

    "...UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said there were strong suspicions that pro-Assad fighters were responsible for some of the killings, casting doubt on allegations that "third elements" - or outside forces - were involved, although he did not rule it out. ..."

    Zbigniew Brzezinski: 'The Syrian uprising is largely a propaganda phantasm'

    "... The media and (?) generated hysteria over the Sunni rebellion against the Syrian government has taken a new turn with the withdrawal of foreign ambassadors from Damascus  and the expulsion of Syrian ambassadors across the world.  Syria's response is to expel the Dutch charge d'affaires from their capital. The Arab World is prone to signalling in international affairs.  This expulsion is a signal that Syria is unimpressed by the "pressure" being exerted against her.As Zbig said today on "Morning Joe" The Syrian uprising is largely a propaganda phantasm occurring spottily across the country.  The Saudis, the Turks and the neocons want Assad overthrown for particular reasons of their own and to that end are manipulating the "imaging" involving Syria in the pursuit of regime change.The Syrian military has largely held together, the government seems unmoved by external pressure and Russia is not yielding to pressure designed to eleicit condemnation of the Syrian government.  Are the Russians providing  military materiel to Syria?  I doubt it.  The country is saturated with weapons and ammunition.  Is Iran continuing to supply Syria?  Certainly.  Why would they not?  pl"

    'Al Mayadeen' transmitting the 'alternative', soon from Beirut to the Arab world ...

    Tuesday, May 29, 2012

    Egypt's Depressing Run-Off: 'A President without wide legitimacy or popular support!'

    "... Morsi has a greater chance of being willing and able to use the Presidency to contest SCAF authority, but still frightens many outside of the Brotherhood's orbit (including many salafis who retain a deeply ingrained hostility to their Islamist rivals).  I doubt that Morsi would actually move to impose sharia law, should he win, however.  Despite erratic political behavior over the last few months, the Brotherhood remains a pragmatic organization, and all of the leaders with whom I've spoken over the last year have emphasized the urgent need to prioritize economic reform.  Forming meaningful coalitions in the next few weeks ahead of the election, and making firm guarantees on the constitution, would help.... though such promises are difficult to make credible.
    Don't believe the idea that Washington is pleased with the choice.  The odd idea of a convergence or alliance between the U.S. and the Muslim Brotherhood is radically exaggerated in some circles, while Shafik promises instability and an emboldened military which could resist meaningful reform. My personal hunch is that the U.S. was quietly rooting for Moussa, which shows how effectively it controls events in CairoIt's actually a very good sign that the U.S. was so irrelevant to the  election campaign -- a successful campaign based primarily on anti-American rhetoric, or overt American intervention in the election being two dogs which didn't bark in an important way.
    The first round of the elections really did produce the worst possible outcome, even if it in retrospect seems rather inevitable in light of earlier decisions, such as the MB's fielding a candidate and the political center failing to unite around a single candidate.  The second round really can't produce a President who will command wide legitimacy or a popular mandate. Sadly, I suppose that's about what we should have expected from this disastrous transition.  But despair isn't an option.  The focus must remain on seeing through the transition to civilian authority and the drafting of an acceptable constitution.
     (*) One additional point --- from what has thus far been reported, election day itself appeared to be reasonably fair despite the assorted complaints.  But the allegations of large numbers of additions to the voting rolls in the months before the election, and the even more worrying allegations that conscripts were allowed (and ordered) to vote, should have been thoroughly investigated.  There is no sign that they were.  In the context of deep, deserved suspicions about the neutrality of the state --- exacerbated by the repeated judicial interventions of the last few months, including the disqualifications of Shater, Abu Ismail and Sulaiman --- a cloud will hang over the legitimacy of the vote.  Which, once again, seems pretty much par for Egypt's transitional course. "

    Egypt protesters storm Shafiq's Cairo office

    Egypt protesters storm Shafiq's Cairo office - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

    US 'Syria-War-Games': " “The next battle might not be a battle. It might be an 'evacuation Op' or a 'mass atrocity response Op'”

    "...For three days earlier this month (May 15-17), more than 100 people met in Annapolis, Md. to brainstorm about devising such an exercise. The actual game is to be played this summer at an air base in Florida.If current trends hold, the focus will be on the crisis unfolding around the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Experts will represent the players, who will include Syria’s neighbors, the United States, NATO and other interested parties such as Russia and Iran that might impact Syrian events and be affected by them in return.
    Surprised all too often by nominally less well-equipped adversaries in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US military wants to know more about what it is getting into before it has to fight another war. It especially wants to know if there are non-military ways of dealing with crises......
    By the end, however, everyone appeared to understand what Col. Patrick J. Mahaney Jr., the commander of AWG, meant when he said that “the next battle might not be a battle. It might be a NEO or a MARO.”
    A “NEO” is a Noncombatant Evacuation Operation in which the State Department and US forces rescue Americans and other third-country nationals stranded in a crisis zone. That could well become necessary if the situation in Syria continues to deteriorate.[ii]A “MARO” is a Mass Atrocity Response Operation......
    For example, US European Command (EUCOM) would likely be drawn into a NEO or a MARO even though Syria and Lebanon are in the area of responsibility of US Central Command, whose bases are located around the Persian Gulf and in Afghanistan. (EUCOM’s area includes Turkey and Israel as well as the Mediterranean Sea.)
    A number of US combatant commands and agencies would also be engaged if the Barack Obama administration decides to create a no-fly zone or humanitarian corridor in Syria for refugees. And there is the possibility of wider US military involvement in support of the Syrian opposition......
    Among issues discussed as the seminar split into smaller working groups was how to influence Lebanese Hezbollah to function more as a Lebanese political entity and less as a militant organization allied with Syria and Iran. One suggestion: allow US officials to meet with Hezbollah members of the Lebanese government.
    A spokesman for a group working on mitigating negative Iranian influence in the Levant noted in its final presentation that “we did not see a lot of military solutions” and that diplomacy, law enforcement and collaboration with partners would likely work best.
    While it appears unlikely that Assad can remain in power over the long term, a retired Iraqi general warned about the consequences of sudden regime change, noting that the US removal of Saddam Hussein had led to the mass exodus of Iraq’s educated classes and the collapse of a national identity beyond support for Iraq’s soccer team.......
    Asked how the region encompassing Syria and its neighbors was chosen for this year’s exercise, Lt. Col. Scott Crino of the AWG outlined the methodology used for choosing focus areas but said this decision was easy. “You can tie every threat group around the world to the Levant,” he said."

    Reading the Egyptian Elections

    "...The Egyptian people are still in shock ever since the announcement of the results of the presidential elections late last week. They refuse to accept an outcome that sees Gen. Ahmad Shafiq, the last Prime Minister of deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak, having received more than 5.5 million votes, or about 24 percent of the votes cast, less than one percent behind the frontrunner and Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Dr. Muhammad Mursi.
    After the dust has settled, some remarkable facts have been revealed that point towards an extremely sophisticated operation, which ensured that Shafiq would receive enough votes to go to the second round runoff (that could only have been pulled off by the Egyptian security apparatus with the support of the military and the remnants of Mubarak’s banned National Democratic Party)....
    Moreover, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has never intended to hand over real power to an elected civilian president. According to one European ambassador in Cairo, when he recently asked a member of SCAF how the military would react upon the election of an “Islamist” or a “civilian” belonging to the revolutionary forces the answer was an emphatic “this is not going to happen.” President Jimmy Carter was given the same answer early this year when he met with the leaders of SCAF. He mistakenly interpreted that answer as SCAF not handing over power or even holding elections rather than fielding its own candidate and then ruling from behind. In a recent interview, former intelligence chief and Mubarak’s vice president Omar Suleiman told the London-based al-Hayat newspaper that he had no doubts if an Islamist is elected president a military coup d’état would be inevitable...."

    This changes everything: 'Most Houla victims 'were executed' & not killed by tank & artillery shells!

    Nothing on earth will convince us that these massacres were committed by government forces at the precise time when the tide turned in its favor!
    "...Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told journalists in Geneva that initial investigations suggested that fewer than 20 of the victims in the village of Taldou, near Houla, were killed by artillery or tank fire."Most of the rest of the victims in Taldou," he added, "were summarily executed in two separate incidents." ..."

    Monday, May 28, 2012

    Jeffrey Feltman's appointment "would strip from the UN its last scrap of credibility in the Middle East,"

    'b', from MoonOfAlabama unearthed this gem (posted a link in a comment section) about Jeffrey Feltman.
    "...Now, a well placed diplomat complained to Inner City Press Wednesday about Feltman. "This would strip from the UN its last scrap of credibility in the Middle East," he said, adding that "more shoes would be thrown at Ban Ki-moon."
    He said, however, that Ban might be "so out of touch" -- or so powerless or craven -- that he would rubber stamp the nomination of a Permanent Five member of the Security Council as he had France's ill-fated and 11th hour nomination of Herve Ladsous as the UN's top peacekeeper. Watch this site.



    Dempsey: ""I'm sure there are some things that we did in Libya that could be applicable in a Syria environment"

    "... "Of course -- there is always a military option," Dempsey said. 
    But he added that while military leaders are "cautious" about the use of force, the situation in Syria could demand it. 
    "You'll always find military leaders to be somewhat cautious about the use of force, because we're never entirely sure what comes out on the other side," he said. "But that said, it may come to a point with Syria because of the atrocities." 
    Asked whether the Libya model -- in which the U.S. joined with other allies to provide support to anti-regime forces -- could be applied in Syria, Dempsey said it's "risky to apply a template" anywhere. 
    "I'm sure there are some things that we did in Libya that could be applicable in a Syria environment or Syria scenario. But I'm very cautious about templates," he said...."

    Jeffrey Feltman to replace Susan Rice at the UN?

    Someone, somewhere is trying hard to tweek this guy into a job where he can do more (or less?) harm! From the al akhbar leak, you get the feeling that he is irrelevant and so depasse! Even the petty liar Siniora was able to shock and awe him!

    WaPo Forgets the Scarequotes for the Word “Plot”

    WaPo Forgets the Scarequotes for the Word “Plot”

    Why it is highly unlikely the Syrian regime was behind the Houla massacre

    Why it is highly unlikely the Syrian regime was behind the Houla massacre

    BBC News uses 'Iraq photo to illustrate Syrian massacre'

    "Photographer Marco di Lauro said he nearly “fell off his chair” when he saw the image being used, and said he was “astonished” at the failure of the corporation to check their sources.The picture, which was actually taken on March 27, 2003, shows a young Iraqi child jumping over dozens of white body bags containing skeletons found in a desert south of Baghdad.
    It was posted on the BBC news website today under the heading “Syria massacre in Houla condemned as outrage grows”. ..."

    Sunday, May 27, 2012

    View from my Window!

    'Saugerties, New York'

    Russia at the UNSC: 'A third force – terrorists or external agents – seeking to trigger outside intervention'

     'Horror in Houla'
    "..."It still remains unclear what happened and what triggered what," said Russia's deputy UN ambassador, Alexander Pankin. "We understand that the village … was not under the control of the government forces. We understood that there was a lot of demonstration in one of the districts of this village and allegedly firing and shelling started afterwards."He said it was unlikely government forces would have killed civilians at point-blank range and suggested there was a third force – terrorists or external agents – seeking to trigger outside intervention ..."

    Zionists for Syria!

    'Bernard Henri Levy at the Cannes Festival with two Syrians?'
    'Also in Cannes, BHL with two Neo-Libyans?'
    'BHL at no festival: BHL unmasked!'


    "... the Iranians assess that the Obama Administration has an interest in keeping the negotiations going at least through the U.S. presidential election in November.  As Flynt points out, they have been using the talks as a way of probing Western seriousness about a potential deal
    We anticipate that Tehran will continue using the talks for this purpose for some time; at this point, neither side is taking an approach that, in the near term, is likely to prompt a complete breakdown.  There will be another round of discussions in Moscow next month, and it is easy to imagine further meetings through the summer and into the early fall.  But the talks are not going to produce anything of strategic significance unless the United States substantially alters its approach...."

    "Refugees threatens our social fabric & national security!"

    Nope! That is not a Lebanese politico throttling the subject of 'Palestinian refugees in Lebanon' is; 
    "... Interior Minster Eli Yishai called most African immigrants "criminals" and vowed to either deport or jail them. He said on Israel Radio that a firm response was the only way to discourage more refugees from entering the country. "Once they're in jail, they won't want to come over here anymore," he said.
    ...... Netanyahu echoed the sentiment, saying the presence of African migrants in Israel "is extremely serious and threatens Israel's social fabric and national security."

    Egyptians ask why a Mubarak holdover like Shafik did so well

    Egyptians ask why a Mubarak holdover like Shafik did so well | McClatchy

    Infighting at the Iran Nuclear Talks

    "...The diplomat declined to identify which nations in the P5+1 — the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China — pushed for taking a harder line. But he did say that lead international negotiator, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, was ultimately able to find a compromise in working out the text of the final document that every member of the group unanimously endorsed. The statement said while significant gaps remain between Iran and the P5+1, there was enough common ground to move to another meeting to try to advance areas of agreement. ...“They are always pushing maximal positions,” the senior European diplomat said. “They are always a bit unpredictable. Iran is a very isolated country and this is what happens to isolated countries. They are very proud of their history and feel like they are often on the losing side. There is a lot of mistrust on both sides.”
    “Our objective is for Iran to become in full compliance with all the resolutions of the UN Security Council and IAEA,” the diplomat said. “The idea is to get there. This is why we propose as a first-step package that addresses our major concerns about 20% [enrichment]. This is to help them rebuild confidence: they do something, we do something.”The Iranian negotiating team “agree that this [Iran's 20-percent enrichment] is an issue for discussion,” a second, senior European diplomat told Al-Monitor in an interview Friday. “The question is what they would get for it. Also, they link it with other proposals, like upfront recognition of their right to enrich.”"

    'A “serious” diplomatic process...'

    The White House’s confidence in President Obama’s foreign policy record – about which we have been recently commenting – is now a settled part of Democratic campaign rhetoric. Governor Romney has yet to respond in kind, and senior Republican strategists are advising against making foreign policy a major issue. However, the troubled international landscape is likely to intrude and offer him a number of opportunities. Of these, IranSyria and the ongoing Euro crisis represent the most intractable problems facing the Administration. The ambiguous outcome of the May 23rd/24th P5+1 talks with Iran have unleashed a high-decibel duel in Washington between the respective advocates of diplomacy andconfrontation. With new reports from the IAEA that Iran may have enriched uranium to a higher-than-expected level, there is little doubt that Obama will feel increasing pressure to take tougher action. Following the Baghdad talks, US representatives have visited GCC and Israel to provide briefings and to affirm the Administration’s policy of not allowing Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. However, US officials tell us that they believe that they have entered a “serious” diplomatic process. Given the new tighter sanctions scheduled to go into effect on July 1st, they calculate that Tehran will soon be ready to make the necessary concessions on not enriching uranium beyond the 3.5-5% range. The Administration continues to tell us that they reject the military option and continue to make the case for restraint to Israel. On the Euro crisis, there is deepening anxiety in Washington that an orderly solution will not be found and that there will be serious knock-on impact on the US economy. At the May 19th G-8 summit, Obama gave backing to French President Hollande’s ideas for a “growth agenda” – which parallel US actions – and added to the pressure on German Chancellor Merkel to follow a fiscally more expansive strategy. It was also agreed – albeit unannounced – that the appropriate Central Banks are ready to intervene in a crisis with substantial swap lines. Finally on Egypt, State Department strategists tell us that they are disquieted by the results of the first round of the presidential elections. As one commented to us: “The two remaining candidates represent the polar opposite of Egyptian politics. The electoral process seems to be illuminating and confirming these tensions not relieving them.” 

    Saturday, May 26, 2012

    Reuters is getting its marbles mixed ...again!

    Look at this paragraph. It says that all the Hullabaloo in Lebanon was not due to the arrest of an Al Qaeda suspect, nor the death of a Sheikh ... So basically, the rampage happened before the kidnapping of the pilgrims, but BEFORE they were kidnapped!
    "...In the latest episode, gunmen in northern Syria snatched a group of Lebanese Shi'ites this week as they were returning from a religious pilgrimage, sparking the worst unrest in years in the Lebanese capital..."

    What the Egyptian “low intensity democracy” election can teach us about hypothetical elections in a post-Assad Syria

    "...The Egyptian case is an example of US-promoted “low-intensity democracy” or “polyarchy”, par excellence: a western-backed bourgeois elite stage-manages elections designed to suppress, rather than express, popular aspirations for more radical political change. To facilitate its task, it is equipped with tools like foreign funding of Empire-serving candidates, vote-buying, the creation of a climate of apathy and or/intimidation to ensure a low voter turnout in rival constituencies, redrawing electoral districts and gerrymandering to ensure the election result (though this didn’t occur in Egypt, it is practiced elsewhere) and a fair —though not excessive— amount of voter/election fraud thrown in when faced with stiff competition from anti-system candidates who enjoy real popular legitimacy..."

    Friday, May 25, 2012

    Military coup is 'very possible', says Mubarak's ex-spy chief

    "... He went on to claim that the Brotherhood is forming paramilitary forces modelled on Iran's Revolutionary Guard to be ready in 2 to 3 years and which will fight to protect the Islamist group's political power.
    Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh also came under fire from Suleiman, who claimed the Islamist presidential candidate was the founder of the Gamaa Islamiya (Islamic Group), an organisation behind a wave of brutal violence across Egypt in the early 1990s..."

    Brotherhood advances to second round!

    "(AP) - The candidate of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood won a spot in a run-off election, according to partial results Friday ........ The most polarizing figures in the race were the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi and former air force commander and former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, a veteran of Mubarak's rule.....
    Morsi was in the lead with 28 percent of the ballots so far, according to the independent newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm, which was compiling reports from counting stations. That is likely enough to secure him a spot in the run-off.
    But the race for second place was neck-and-neck between Shafiq and leftist Hamdeen Sabahi, who was a darkhorse during months of campaigning but had a surprising surge in the days before voting began as Egyptians looked for an alternative to both Islamists and the former regime figures known as "feloul" or "remnants."
    Sabahi is a leftist who claims the mantle of the nationalist, socialist ideology of Gamal Abdel-Nasser, Egypt's president from 1956 to 1970...."

    Don't Exaggerate Turkey-Israel Row

    "... Turkey had reason to be angry with Israel over the Gaza Operation.....But Israel has kept its tongue on issues like the on-going Turkish bombing of the Kurds, and the still disgracefully unsettled issue of recognizing the Armenian genocide.
    If we are looking for arguments, there are many to be found, but it would be hard to see how Israel and Turkey do not fit into the same overall strategic context, especially in this region at this time.
    Olmert is gone; Assad, for all intents and purposes, is gone; Gaza is living its life, if you can call it that, and there are much bigger issues at stake than yet another attempt to drive a nail into a relationship that should be better.
    There is no contradiction between Turkish-Israeli ties and the Turkish desire to establish itself as a regional power. Israel would have no reason to object. On the contrary....
    As for Turkey as a tourist destination again, wouldn't that be a delight?"

    Fresh Iran nuclear talks set for Moscow

    Fresh Iran nuclear talks set for Moscow - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

    View from my Window!

    'St. Michael's, Maryland'

    Thursday, May 24, 2012

    Feltman Leaks: "Would it help if this government is brought down before the elections?"

    During his last visit to Beirut on 3 May 2012, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman met with former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, former finance minister Mohamad Chatah, Future Movement leader Nader Hariri, and a number of Future Bloc MPs at Saad Hariri’s residence in Beirut’s city center.
    The meeting included discussions on many issues, mostly regarding the way forward in Syria and Lebanon, among others. Al-Akhbar was able to obtain a partial transcript of the meeting’s minutes.
    Unidentified speaker : ...There is no stomach for military action and we don't have a stomach for that at all either. We don't think this [military action] is wise because it will play in the hands of the Syrian regime and the Iranian regime and they will be able to bring you their battlefield. Now, aiding the Syrians in providing necessary support, this is something else! (Implying that more can be done). Whether in terms of humanitarian aid or certain equipment – if you want to call it non lethal – I don't know! But you have to be a bit more liberal in the definition of non-lethal and you should talk more to the countries that could put more pressure on the Syrian regime and Iran on one hand and on Russia and China on the other.
    With regards to the Chinese, pressure can be exercised either through Arab or Gulf countries, because there are energy need and market needs. So one should continue pressure. I sense that the Chinese are more ready to accept.
    Jeffrey Feltman (JF): That's how they [the Chinese] at least posture. Secretary Clinton in there now and Syria is on her agenda. They are not as forceful as the Russians. But what is your advise [sic] on our approach on Russia? They say they don't care about Bashar but rather about their interests. I see we should make Russia part of the solution rather than problem.
    Fouad Siniora (FS): I told the Russians that they are the only country in the P5 that can ease Bashar out and the opposition in. I also told them that we have a habit in the region of burning US flags and now we are witnessing a habit of burning Russian flags and that they need to stop this habit! This was 7-8 months ago.
    JF: It seems that you are not burning enough [Russian flags].
    (Recommended Action Step: It is evident that the Americans would welcome any ideas that we may have with regards to the Russians. This is an area where we can provide some help.)
    FS: I am coming from Egypt. I saw Shaikh el Azhar and others. The situation in Egypt is in flux. However, Islamic forces are losing ground.
    JF:(In a very shocked tone) Really? Why?
    FS: First, because they had pledged they wouldn't run for the presidential seat – they said something and did something else. Also, they ran for more seats than they said they would in Parliament.
    JF: (Still in a state of shock)
    FS: They are coming out. They are seeing the world.
    JF: Two things I find curious: one is the strength with which people, particularly at THE lunch, talk of how this government is enabling a soft coup d'etat by Hizbullah and two, everyone we spoke to were far more worried about the financial state of the country than ever.
    FS: I will come to that. You can see how this government is acting with regards to certain issues: they have distanced themselves from the Syrian situation. I don't deny that if I were in their place, I would probably do something similar. But they are applying their magic world of distancing themselves to everything! What is happening is unacceptable.
    On the other hand, they found a magic solution to finance the STL for one year and a magic solution to extending the mandate. Other than that, they are doing mistakes left, right and center: whether dealing with the simple issues or degenerating the state. Every minister in this government is acting like a Prime Minister. Every minister is running his own government. There are all sorts of violations. It so happened that this government with this degree of concentration of the Aoun group has really put this government in a very bad situation.
    Another [serious] problem with the weakness of the government is the fine line between the executive arm of the government and the legislative arm which is being broken. Berri goes to cyprus to discuss the maritime border and then he calls the PM and tells him I will come March 14. We should benefit from the decline of Aoun's popularity and the changes that are definitely happening within Hizbulla [sic]. Hopefully we won't do mistakes and they will continue to do more.
    JF: They present themselves as the opposition in their communication not as the incumbents. They sound as if they are still fighting the battle against the government.
    FS: They have done a great fuss regarding the budget and busied people for a year and a half about what had happened since 2005.
    JF: Would it help if this government is brought down before the elections?
    FS: We know it's not going to happen tomorrow, but this government cannot be entrusted with the responsibility of doing elections. They don't have the neutrality to do so and this situation cannot be sustainable.
    JF: Maybe I should tell Najib Mikati, we see him tonight. He sees himself as a political leader and I can't imagine this government is popular in Tripoli.
    Mohamad Chatah: It is not and he is trying to present himself as a victim of Aoun.
    JF: This place is very very weird. Weirder than when I left.
    FS: And the bus I told you about, the passengers are trying to jump out of it.
    JF: Can Najib be part of the solution of changing this government rather than part of the problem?
    FS: This may be considered if he doesn't want to have a political career or if he changes [his attitude]. I can't see that he is doing a good performance. Look what is happening with the strikes and the reactions of the labor unions. I haven't seen this in my life. All these labor unions are manufactured by the members of the government, all of them, all driven by Amal and Hizbullah.
    [US ambassador to Lebanon] Maura Connelly: (With a hint of sarcasm) It is a Hizbullah dominated government and they are moving them.
    JF: You can bring down the government if Walid is with you in the parliament or if Najib resigns right? There are the two option?
    [Beirut Future MP] Bassem el Shabb: Or through civil disobedience.
    FS: I think ultimately. But by convincing, convincing, or convincing Walid. This is something that can be achieved. As long as this government stays, the level of tension is going to rise and not go down. One way to [...]
    JF: Maura thinks there seems to be more concern about violence breaking out in Lebanon. There is a sense of nervousness that we hadn't been hearing for a while. By the way, as we were coming down from Hazmieh to here I was on the phone with Bill Burns and he send you his best.
    FS: Actually, the incident against Geagea was bad. He showed you the location yes?
    JF: It was horrifying.
    FS: It was clearly intended to kill. There were probably three snipers, all directed at him and probably because of wind and distance or something of the sort they weren't able to kill him. As we say in Arabic, he is destined to live more. On the other hand, there is a tense feeling among many Lebanese that if and when the Syrian regime will realize that it has lost all possible options, there is a possibility that it might resort to some sort of action [in Lebanon]. They are still in a state of denial.
    But it is clear understanding that this [situation in Syria] is a slow process. It will take time and one has to accumulate things until this [toppling of regime] is achieved. But then again, there is complete recognition that there is no way back to the past.

    Is Washington really worried about 'spawning more Sunni-Shia' sectarian wars'?

    "... Fear of blowing up the region — and spawning even more Sunni-Shiite sectarian war — is one reason the Obama administration has refused to arm the Syrian opposition. Officials fear that militarizing the conflict, without reliable Syrian allies or a clear endgame strategy, could produce unintended consequences much like those of the Iraq war.
    Administration officials expect Kofi Annan’s peace plan will fail, but they don’t want to give up on the former U.N. secretary general’s effort yet. Better to let the planned 300 U.N. observers travel in Syria, they reason, and perhaps encourage a new round of protest that would show that President Bashar al-Assad’s rule is doomed.
    What makes this period of Arab revolution so complicated is that the new themes of liberation, culminating in this week’s Egyptian presidential election, are becoming interwoven with ancient ethnic hatreds. Analysts from Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon describe the growing tensions in each country, as these factors play out:
    ●Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, faces a possible breakup of his ruling coalition. Potential opposition has widened to include Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shiite militia leader, and Massoud Barzani, the Kurdish chieftain. Last month, they threatened to dump Maliki unless he implemented a November 2010 power-sharing pact....... Yet Maliki is still in power, thanks partly to the bizarre fact that he enjoys support from both Washington and Tehran. Symbolically, perhaps, U.S. and Iranian negotiators agreed on Baghdad as the site for nuclear negotiations taking place this week.
    The old expression “once bitten, twice shy” may explain the Obama administration’s view of Iraq. The White House favors compromise with Maliki and the preservation of stability there, in part because it doesn’t want to reignite civil war in Iraq at the same time it is spreading in Syria.
    ●The reign of Jordan’s King Abdullah has been one long balancing act, between Palestinians and East Bankers, ...The king has burned through four prime ministers in 15 months, without getting agreement on an election law and other reforms. Corruption scandals have taken down three intelligence chiefs in a row, to the point that many Jordanians wonder whether the deeper problem is in the palace itself. There is growing talk about Jordan as a staging ground for Syrian insurgents — which might please Saudi Arabia and other Sunni powers that want to overthrow Assad, but would add new risks for the king.
    Lebanon may be in the most delicate position of all. Under Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Lebanon’s policy is “disassociation” from the Syria battle. But that middle ground is disappearing — with anti-Assad refugees using northeastern Lebanon as a sanctuary, triggering reprisals from pro-Assad forces.
    An illustration of how the regional and sectarian strands come together is the case of Shadi Mawlawi, a Sunni activist supporting the anti-Assad opposition. He was arrested two weeks ago by the Shiite-led General Security service. According to a Lebanese official, evidence linked Mawlawi to a prominent Qatari who was funneling money to the rebels in Syria. Mikati wants Washington’s help in keeping Lebanon from being drawn deeper into the regional turmoil, (but some in Washington, see here, seem bent on undermining Mikati)..."