Friday, July 31, 2009

U.S. briefs Israel on new Iran nuke sanctions

Barak Ravid in Haaretz, here
"... U.S. National Security Advisor James Jones, who is now in Israel to discuss Iran's nuclear program, indicated that Tehran has until the UN General Assembly in the last week of September to respond. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates delivered a similar message during his visit here earlier this week. If no satisfactory answer is received, the Americans said, they would work to form an international coalition to impose harsh sanctions on Iran. 
A senior source in Jerusalem said the American message to Israel in these talks was to "lower its profile" and refrain from "ranting and raving" about Iran in public until the international evaluation on Iran takes place at the end of September. "Until that date, we must give diplomacy a chance," the official said
New sanctions would mainly aim to significantly curb Tehran's ability to import refined petroleum products. Despite its huge crude oil reserves, Iran has only limited refining capacity, so it imports large quantities of refined products such as gasoline. 
Jones and his team reported that a bill by Senator Joe Lieberman to curb sales of refined oil products to Iran is almost complete, and 67 senators have already signed it. 
The Americans are proposing financial sanctions such as banning insurance on trade deals with Tehran, which would make it difficult for Iran to trade with other countries. They also want to impose sanctions on any company that trades with Iran and use this to pressure other countries, mainly in Asia, to resist making deals with Iran. 
In the next stage, the Americans will consider even harsher sanctions, such as banning Iranian ships from docking in Western ports and, as a next step, banning Iranian airplanes from landing in Western airports. ......
Jones and his team presented the ideas that the administration is forging, together with France, Britain and Germany, on imposing additional sanctions on Iran via the UN Security Council if the dialogue fails. The Americans are also discussing this issue with Russia, which at this stage objects to further sanctions. 
China, which has numerous interests in Iran, also objects to further sanctions. Jones told the Israelis that Obama will therefore go to China soon to try to enlist Beijing to join the coalition."

"frozen assets" sanctions extended on 'individuals' who continue to contribute to political and economic instability in Lebanon

Haaretz, here
".... However, the statement continued, ultimately "the actions of certain persons continue to contribute to political and economic instability in Lebanon and the region and constitute a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States." 
As a result of these actions, the White House has decided to extend by an additional year the sanctions initiated by former president George W. Bush on August 1, 2007. 
The sanctions include the freezing of assets of those individuals suspected of undermining Lebanon's sovereignty on Syria's behalf." 
  • Assaad Hardan, ...Profession: Member of Parliament, Lebanon and Chief of the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party.
  • Wi’am Wahhab..... Former member of the Lebanese Parliament.
  • Hafiz Makhluf Position: General Intelligence Directorate senior official Military Rank: Colonel, ....a maternal cousin to Syrian President Bashar al-Asad. He is also the brother of Rami Makhluf, Syria’s leading businessman.
  • Muhammad Nasif Khayr-Bayk, Damascus, Syria Position: Deputy Vice President for Security Affairs Military Rank: Major General, ....As of early 2007, Khayrbik was one of several key advisers to Syrian President Bashar al-Asad.

  • Thursday, July 30, 2009

    Jeffrey Feltman to be confirmed assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs

    The CABLE, here

    "Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) lifted his hold today on the confirmation of Jeffrey Feltman to be assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, a Levin staffer tells Foreign Policy.

    Feltman, a well-liked career foreign service officer and former ambassador to Lebanon who assumed the role of acting head of the NEA bureau after the retirement of David Welch last December, has had some other unreported good news of late. ..."

    The case for a tactical pause with Iran

    TRITA PARSI in FP, here

    "..... Although diplomacy must remain the policy, the momentous upheaval in Iran has completely changed the political landscape. Opening talks with Iran's current government at this decisive moment could backfire severely. Indeed, now is the time for a tactical pause with Iran.
    ...The Iranian opposition is alive and kicking. .......Meanwhile, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the official election winner, is entangled in a battle with conservatives over his cabinet picks. ....... Khamenei is increasingly resorting to warnings and threats rather than calls for unity and reconciliation. "The elite should be watchful, since they have been faced with a big test. Failing the test will cause their collapse," Khamenei said last Monday in a speech that many perceived as verging on desperation. Khamenei and Ahmadinejad now seem to be off balance.
    The dispute between the Ahmadinejad government and the opposition is about far more than a disputed election. It goes to the core question of whether there is a peaceful path toward changing Iran's political system from within. For a population that is highly critical of the government, but values stability, ......If Ahmadinejad succeeds in silencing his internal critics and opponents, many will conclude that this path has been closed. Iran cannot be changed through the ballot box if people's votes won't be honored. The likely result will be a radicalized population whose opposition to the government will be met with increased repression at home and more adventurism abroad.
    The Obama administration should avoid repeating the key mistake of the Bush administration, for which Iran was solely viewed through the prism of its nuclear program. Delaying nuclear talks a few months won't make a dramatic difference to Iran's nuclear program. It could, however, determine which Iran America and the region will be dealing with for the next few decades -- one in which democratic elements strengthen over time, or one where the will of the people grows increasingly irrelevant to Iran's decision-makers.
    Moreover, even nuclear talks would have a negligible impact on the election dispute, Iran currently is not in a position to negotiate. The infighting has simply incapacitated Iranian decision makers.
    Iran's lack of capacity creates a tremendous danger for the White House. Of all scenarios the Obama administration could end up facing -- an Iran that refuses to come to the table, for example, or an Iran that only uses talks to play for time -- the worst scenario is another one: where the parties begin talks according to the set timetable, but fail to reach an agreement due to an inability to deliver. If talks fail, U.S. policymakers will be left with increasingly unpalatable options as a result.
    Obama should not be married to any artificial deadlines. Pushing for talks now simply because he decided on a timetable before the elections could undermine the chances for diplomacy to succeed. Paradoxically, the best way to enhance prospects for diplomacy might actually be not to pursue diplomacy for now. Better instead to make a tactical pause, see how things develop, and be ready to engage at the right time."

    "... Netanyahu & Mitchell left the meeting with contradictory beliefs..."

    Via the Pulse:

    "... Maya Bengal in Ma'ariv, however, reports that no agreement was reached regarding the settlement issue and that Netanyahu and Mitchell left the meeting with contradictory beliefs. While Netanyahu left believing that the US is more understanding of Israel's situation and will dramatically reduce pressure on Israel for a settlement freeze, American officials state that the US will not back down on the issue.

    At the end of the meeting, Netanyahu appeared pleased. "There is progress in the attempt to find a middle road," said a source close to Netanyahu. Senior sources in Jerusalem said that the Americans were dropping the pressure from Israel, as of now, mainly with regard to the major bone of contention between Washington and Jerusalem: The demand to freeze construction in the settlements as a preliminary step to launching regional peace negotiations. "There has been progress in the American understanding that this is a freeze that can only exist after normalization measures have been obtained from the Arab states and as part of talks on a final status arrangement," said a senior source yesterday. American officials involved in the talks said, however, that the US had not backed down. "The demand to freeze the construction in the settlements still stands," said a US official.

    Nathan Guttman in Ha'aretz reports:

    So far, the Arabs have been resistant. Still, in the wake of Obama's White House meeting with the Jewish delegation, Israeli, American and Arab leaders have, to varying degrees, shifted their rhetoric in ways that reflect acceptance of a new principle of reciprocity.

    "The Americans now understand that if they get anything from us on the settlement issue, it will only be in the broader context of some kind of Arab return," said an Israeli diplomat, echoing other similar comments from Israeli officials recently..."

    Netanyahu understands Muslims!

    Via the Pulse:

    Etgar Lefkovits in the Jerusalem Post reports:

    "In the struggle between darkness and terror, advancement and prosperity, the vast majority of Muslim societies would pick advancement and prosperity," Netanyahu said, in an address to the graduating class of the National Security College at a ceremony at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

    "Prosperity and peace will win in the struggle and, in the end, Islamic radicalism will be defeated," he [Netanyahu] said, adding that the need to stop Iran's nuclear program was an essential condition for a victory of moderates in the region.

    While Netanyahu does not believe that the Gazans currently have the power to overthrow the Islamic radicals of Hamas, he believes that in the future they will. To substantiate this belief, Netanyahu cited the recent events in the West Bank saying, "We have seen this in Teheran and in the West Bank and tomorrow we will see it in Gaza." (he did not say, however, whether Gaza will be free of his savagery first ...or not!)

    On the current economic status of the West Bank, Lefkovits reports:

    Netanyahu noted that the question for the Palestinian Authority running the West Bank, where he is seeking to promote the Palestinian economy as a cornerstone of a future peace deal, is "do they progress economically like Dubai , or do they go backwards like Gaza?" (borrowed from Walid Jumblat's "Hong Kong or Saigon" example)

    Ariel Kahane in Makor Rishon-Hatzfone reports:

    The prime minister said he believed that radical Islam was on the decline (apart from bombing Arab cities, 'Yahu has not walked Arab streets much!)and that Hamas was likely to lose its control over Gaza-provided Iran did not obtain nuclear weapons. "Ultimately, radical Islam will be defeated by the information revolution throughout the world, by the freedom of ideas and by means of technology. That isn't going to happen immediately, but it is going to happen. The only thing that might delay and disrupt the pace of extremist Islam's decline is the possibility that it will arm itself with nuclear weapons."

    Iraq Assault on Mujahidin-e-khalq shows Growing Power of Shiite Hard Liners...

    Juan Cole, here
    "... Now that US troops have ceased their independent patrols in Iraqi cities, the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has decided to move against the (MEK) group. The Ministry of the Interior security forces are alleged to have been deeply infiltrated by the Badr Corps of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a leading party in parliament and ally of al-Maliki that was formed in Iran by Iraqi expatriates under the auspices of Ayatollah Khomeini. Badr in turn was from the 1980s through 2003 essentially a unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.

    Likely the victory of the hard liners and the IRGC in Iran's struggle over the outcome of the June 12 presidential election has put them in a strong position to ask their Iraqi counterparts and former colleagues to move against the MEK.

    The UN has instructed Iraq not to return the MEK members to Iran, where they would face torture and possibly summary execution, and what to do with the camp inmates is as controversial for Iraq as what to do with the Guantanamo prisoners is in the US. Al-Zaman says that the MEK members say they would be willing to return to Iran if they are given full immunity from prosecution, imprisonment and torture. Since this development is unlikely, I suppose they will end up in some other country.

    You will note that not a single high Iraqi Shiite official condemned the hard liners' tactics in Iran during the past month, and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq made pretty clear its support for the hard liners...."

    Amb. to the UN Susan Rice: 'US can't expand UNIFIL authority in Lebanon'

    YNEtnews, here
    "... Addressing the recent explosion at an arms cache in south Lebanon, US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told the House of Representative's Foreign Affairs Committee that while UNIFIL enjoys limited power in the Arab country, its presence still has some value. ......
    Rice told the committee members that UNIFIL failed to properly investigate the blast at the weapons reserve because it lacks the authority to apply force, adding that according to information relayed to the Security Council, the arms cache belonged to Hezbollah. ........
    She said this proves that weapons are continuing to flow into Lebanon and underscores the need for UNIFIL and the Lebanese army to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the war between Israel and the Shiite group in the summer of 2006..."

    "We should be working with Arabs to strengthen their defenses & intelligence, ..and don't say a word about it. ... "

    In the CABLE, here

    " ... Later in the interview, Clinton said something else that, though unremarkable to many observers, pricked up the ears of some international nonproliferation experts and one hawk-eyed journalist, World Politics Review's Judah Grunstein. Addressing Iran, Clinton said, "You have a right to pursue the peaceful use of civil nuclear power. You do not have a right to obtain a nuclear weapon. You do not have the right to have the full enrichment and reprocessing cycle under your control."

    Whether Iran, as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), has a right to enrich depends on whom you ask. (Iran insists it does under the NPT, as do many international nonproliferation experts. Others believe the Islamic Republic has essentially forfeited that right for being found by the U.N. Security Council to have violated its obligations under the same NPT treaty.) But the explicit assertion that Iran does not have the right to enrich has not been previously publicly expressed by the Obama administration, some nonproliferation experts asserted.

    "That statement [by Clinton on Meet the Press] also perked up my ears," one U.S. government expert said on condition of anonymity.

    "The NPT does give members states the right to enrich uranium, as long as they comply with their other obligations," he continued. "The Bush administration position, which was supported by the U.N. Security Council, was that Iran forfeited this right by concealing many of its nuclear activities for 18 years, but Iran asserts that the right is still inherent there. ...."

    "I think she was being telegraphic," said the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's George Perkovich, who thought her remarks merited attention.

    "The argument on which the Security Council resolutions rest is that Iran violated its safeguard obligations ... and its violations suspended its rights," he continued. "But that battle was lost politically in the broader international community. Most people say Iran has a right to enrich, and they don't acknowledge the conditionality of that right."

    Regarding Clinton's "defense umbrella" comment, Perkovich thinks it also would have been better left unsaid. "'Defense umbrella' invokes nuclear weapons. That's trying to convince a country they don't need nuclear weapons by implicitly saying we'll nuke them. ... That kind of thing helps the Iranians who like it when Americans say aggressive things. They are very good at a shouting match. What they really respect, however, is the secret stuff."

    "We should be working with Arabs on how to strengthen their defenses and intelligence," Perkovich continued, "and don't say a word about it. ... That will get to the Iranians."

    Wednesday, July 29, 2009

    Wicked AIPAC trolls, relay info provided by American 'patriot' to ....... ISRAEL! (Hard to believe!)

    I just love the part where Franklin says he "only" wanted the AIPAC samaritans to relay the info & concerns to the AMERICAN NSC staff! Those wicked AIPAC trolls, went instead to the ISRAELI embassy! Hard to believe!!!
    Franklin interviewed in the Wash-Times, here

    " ... He said he never sought to spy for Israel and felt betrayed when the same FBI agents whom he had assisted suddenly told him to get an attorney and threatened to send him to prison for disclosing classified information to AIPAC officials and the Israeli Embassy. ......
    Franklin said the FBI first pressed him about working undercover in an investigation into alleged Israeli spying in the United States in May 2004, after he had become a subject of investigation into whether he provided sensitive information to reporters at CBS News on Iraqi exile leader Ahmed Chalabi's relations with Iran.
    He said his FBI handlers convinced him that AIPAC analysts Steven Rosen and Mr. Weissman were "bad people" and that the agency needed his help in making a criminal case against the pro-Israel lobby officials. The two AIPAC officials were eventually indicted, but this spring -- after years of legal wrangling -- the government reversed course and dropped all charges against them..........
    "And not having a policy on the country next door [to the one] that you are invading I thought was a problem," he said. "I knew what the Iranians had prepared for us in Iraq. Sure, they were glad we would knock off Saddam. But as soon as we got in, they were not going to allow us to succeed, nor were they going to allow us to pull out without pain."
    Franklin, who held a "top secret" security clearance during his Pentagon work, said the Iranians had prepared "an entire mosaic of agents and cooperatives inside Iraq before we had invaded." .....
    "So I wanted to delay and shock the National Security Council staff into convincing [National Security Adviser] Condoleezza Rice and others that, hey, maybe we ought to think this out a little more because there was so little time," Franklin said. His plan was to use Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman to relay his concerns to the National Security Council (NSC) staff. Instead, the AIPAC officials, without telling Franklin, took his information, some of which was classified, to Mr. Gilon at the Israeli Embassy and to a Washington Post reporter. ....................."

    Syrian German Qaeda operative, a CIA agent?

    I came across Darkazanli's name over 7 years ago as a man of serious interest to people 'inside the beltway.'
    Jeff Stein in CQ, here
    "There's no doubt that Darkazanli harbored sympathies for al Qaeda, as many Muslims did before 9/11," says Robert Baer, the former CIA counterterror operative ... "But there was never any evidence he was aware of 9/11 in its planning stages or consciously provided material support to the attack. He was only guilty of having bad thoughts, as far as I've seen."
    The CIA does not, of course, comment on its spies.
    Darkazanli's "bad thoughts," and perhaps more - he hung out with three of the 9/11 hijackers in Hamburg - landed him on the Treasury Department's freeze list right after Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
    He was called "Osama Bin Laden's financier."
    But the U.S. has not asked for the arrest or extradition of Darkazanli, 50, in connection with 9/11 or other terror attacks in American citizens.
    German police also let Darkazanli walk after questioning him about his connections to the 9/11 hijackers.
    In 2004, however, Spanish authorities charged the Damascus-born Syrian German with involvement in the Madrid train bombings, and asked Berlin to extradite him for trial.
    This time, Darkazanli, a member of the radical Muslim Brotherhood for most of his adult life, was jailed.
    But he was released after only nine months, when a German court declared that the arrest warrant issued by the European Union violated Germany's constitution. He walked, again, and remains free in Germany, where "The Wanted" program's crew pursued him.
    ........................"Usually something bizarre like this only happens," he said, "when an intelligence agency is protecting someone."

    Cairo: "Jumblatt is sectarian ... his oratory is filled with political slogans, without real convictions behind them.”

    JL at SyriaComment, here

    "The PSP leader Walid Jumblatt, in his most recent weekly editorial in an-Anbaa, attacked Egypt for having hosted Israeli President Shimon Peres and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a ceremony held last Thursday to commemorate the July 23rd Revolution. His criticism has led to tension with Cairo, which answered him back through their Foreign Ministry Spokesman,Husam Zaki.

    Zaki said : “No one should forget that Jumblat, a leader in the March 14 coalition and who had received Egyptian support, said things like this about Egypt, which had received him more than once,”
    We categorically reject any speculation on Egyptian stances or Egyptian history,” Zaki said in remarks published by pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat on Wednesday. “We are fully aware of the objectives behind Jumblatt’s remarks,” he added
    Al-Hayat, however, quoted official Egyptian sources in Cairo as saying that Egypt was “not surprised” by Jumbulatt’s statements.“We are aware that Jumblatt has been undergoing political re-positioning and is making advances to Syria and Hezbollah,” the Egyptian official said; adding sarcastically, “Jumblatt is a sectarian leader and his oratory is filled with political slogans, without real convictions behind them.”

    Tuesday, July 28, 2009

    Nayef the 'harsh Saudi prince who would be king ...'

    FP's the CALL, here

    "On Friday, Saudis will celebrate the 85th birthday of Abdullah bin Abd Al-Aziz. ............................The bad news: reform has moved very, very slowly. The inter-faith dialogue has not created anything approaching religious freedom within the kingdom. Women are still denied rights considered fundamental in other Arab countries. Efforts to rein in the so-called Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, a religious militia that uses physical violence to enforce Wahhabi rules of dress and behavior, have produced little progress.
    But a pair of recent setbacks suggests the opening of Saudi society may actually be moving from slow speed into reverse. First, despite direct early support from King Abdullah, plans to reopen public movie theaters, banned across the kingdom for the past three decades, have recently been reversed....Second, the editor of a leading Saudi newspaper was fired in June after a reporter at the paper offended Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abd Al-Aziz by appearing to criticize the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.
    In addition, though there's nothing new about Internet censorship in the kingdom, credible rumors suggest the Saudi government may soon mandate installation of a state-owned computer chip in every Saudi computer, one that would allow authorities to track all Internet activity within the country. As with the controversial Green Dam project in China, the stated purpose would be to crack down on pornography. But, also as in China, the state officials who monitor all this traffic would be unlikely to ignore online content that poses political or social challenges for the House of Saud.
    Prince Nayef, Abdullah's half-brother, is the embodiment of the conservative backlash.....
    These defeats for reform provide an early warning sign of rising levels of dissension within the Saudi elite -- and possibly of anxiety among senior members of the royal family as they begin to think more seriously about the eventual succession process.
    In the near term, infighting could undermine the ongoing effort to diversify the Saudi economy -- as well as the political and social reform process. Longer-term, if Sultan dies before Abdullah, champions of reform inside and outside the kingdom will worry more openly that Nayef might one day become Saudi Arabia's king."

    In Israel, no settlement deal for US envoy – just more settlers

    In the CSM, here
    During Mitchell's visit, activists set up 11 outposts.

    "We are fed up with Hezbollah" ,say villagers of Kherbit Selem, says Yediot

    In Yediot Aharonoth, via the Pulse, here

    Itamar Eichner and Yaniv Halili in Yedioth Ahronoth report:

    The inhabitants sent the letter in the wake of the explosion of a Hizbullah ammunitions depot in Hirbet Salim at the beginning of the month. "The exploding of the depot is what has brought us to write this letter; this overtly exposes what people have been attempting for a long time to hide and cover up - the existence of an illegal weapons depot in the midst of civilian population areas," the Lebanese wrote.

    "We appeal to Hizbullah leaders and state: We are not naïve. We distinguish very well between the sounds of an explosion from a regular fire and the sounds of explosions from cluster bombs and other explosives. We already absorbed a heavy disaster and much suffering in
    July 2006, in what you refer to as ‘the victory'. If you are operating on a mission from Allah and the religious leadership, you must completely clear civilian areas of weapons, ammunition and anything that endangers our lives."

    Palestinians ‘Played A Significant Role In The Holocaust’

    From the spewing mouth of the most hateful hater in the North continent, Alan Dershowitz, via Matt Yglesias, here
    "The decision to circulate a 1941 photo featuring the Nazi dictator sitting with the then grand mufti of Jerusalem Amin al-Husseini is aimed at easing pressure on Israel over a construction project on land in annexed east Jerusalem once owned by the cleric, [an Israeli] official told AFP.''

    Obama tells Syria that US to ease sanctions ....

    In the WSJ, here

    "....The U.S. decision targets spare aircraft parts, information-technology products and telecommunications equipment, sales of which have been restricted by U.S. sanctions on Syria enacted in 2004. The step was conveyed Sunday by Washington's special Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, to Syrian President Bashar Assad during an hour-long meeting in Damascus....

    The move represents the latest action in a rapidly accelerating rapprochement between Washington and Damascus initiated after President Barack Obama took office this year, said officials from both countries....

    For Syria, Mr. Obama's decision could mean relief from pervasive sanctions that have crippled Syria's airlines and slowed the Middle East nation's entrance into the information age. Among the companies that could be affected are airplane maker Boeing Co.; software companies Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp.; and information-technology companies like Cisco Systems Inc....

    The Obama administration's moves toward rapprochement with Mr. Assad, however, are raising concerns among some U.S. allies in the region, such as Israel and Egypt, as well as some Syrian democracy activists. They worry that relieving pressure on Damascus could lessen its willingness to cut ties to Hezbollah and Hamas and to open Syria politically....."

    Dennis Ross gave Iran a "proof text of US Interference in the elections"!

    Juan Cole points to one Obama appointment-disappointment, at IC, here
    "... In the White House, I think it would be hard to find a worse choice than the new Special Assistant to the President, Dennis Ross. Three examples of his skill: a) in the early negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, when he was supposedly the honest broker, he took a more disruptive position than even the Israelis, apparently shocking even them; b) in the build-up to the Iranian elections he sponsored and organized a program to "electronically invade" Iran with destabilizing messages trying, more subtly to be sure than the 1953 CIA-MI6 coup, to "regime change" it. Whatever else could be said about the "Iran-Syria Operations Group" , it played right into the hands of Ahmadinejad and the rightwing of the ulama and the military, giving them a proof text for American interference in the elections and thus may have backfired since no issue in Iranian politics is as sensitive as the fear of foreign espionage; (c) just before his appointment to be the chief honcho on all the Middle East, Ross published a book whose message was essentially 'let's try a bit of diplomacy for a short time. Of course it won't work, but it will justify our attacking.' That is, his approach to peace-seeking is consistent and negative. Since he is now Obama's point man, we are in for deeper trouble...."

    Monday, July 27, 2009

    "Secret pact between Hizbullah & top officers in the Lebanese Armed Forces ..."

    In the ALWAYS RELIABLE TABLOID Kuwaiti Assiyasah, via the JPOst, here

    "...According to the account, a LAF battalion will operate within the Hizbullah framework and have independence and access to the group's arsenal.

    The paper said Israel gave the United States and European governments which have UNIFIL contingencies (France, Germany, Spain and Italy) information which proves Hizbullah was training dozens of LAF soldiers to prepare them to fight alongside Hizbullah guerrillas in case the IDF attacks Lebanon. Israel conveyed the information on July 1, according to the report

    The LAF battalion in Hizbullah, according to Asiyassa, will include 150 troops who will have access to areas south of the Litani River from where Hizbullah fighters are currently banned in the framework of UN Resolution 1701. Hizbullah reportedly trained the officers on the use of specific Iranian missiles with average- and long-distance ranges...."

    WINEP: Syria & Hezbollah spoil Lebanon Dolce-vita summer ...

    Schenker, from WINEP, here
    "Six weeks after the pro-West March 14 coalition defeated the Hizballah-led alliance in Lebanon's parliamentary elections, no new government has been formed in Beirut. Although March 14 leader Saad Hariri was given a mandate back in early June to become prime minister and form a cabinet, he has still not completed the sensitive and contentious negotiations with the opposition.... These developments, coupled with the apparent failure of Saudi-Syrian reconciliation efforts, are elevating tensions, and raising the possibility of a return to violence in Beirut....
    Damascus was apparently seeking to leverage its rapprochement with Riyadh to reinstitute the previous "condominium" arrangement that left the management of economic matters to Saudi Arabia and its Lebanese allies, and security-related affairs to Syria and Hizballah.
    .......Not only would the deal have effectively erased March 14's election victory, it would have given the impression, via Hariri's trip to Damascus, of Syrian innocence in the murder of his father, Rafiq. Still others, however, are blaming Cairo -- frustrated with Syria's role in obstructing the Egyptian-brokered effort to foster a Hamas-Fatah national unity government -- for the aborted reconciliation. Regardless of the reason, by late July, Lebanese sources indicated that a visit from the Saudi monarch to Syria was off the table. Meanwhile, the al-Asad regime is frustrated with the pace of diplomatic progress with the United States and appears to be sending Washington the message that it can play a potent spoiler role. ....... al-Asad met in Damascus with Muqtada al-Sadr, an anti-American Iraqi Shiite militia leader with close ties to Tehran. Syria likewise continues to play an unproductive role vis-a-vis a potential Hamas-Fatah reconciliation. Most recently, some have speculated that Damascus encouraged its ally, Fatah leader Faruq Qaddumi, to issue the explosive claim on al-Jazeera that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas conspired to assassinate longtime Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat.
    ........Hizballah activities are not solely responsible for increased tensions in the south. On July 21, the Lebanese Armed Forces announced that it had arrested ten people -- allegedly tied to Fatah al-Islam -- suspected of targeting UNIFIL. If rumors prove true of impending European troop withdrawals from UNIFIL -- to fulfill peacekeeping commitments in Afghanistan -- it would further erode confidence in the already embattled force. ...
    .......................the Obama administration should leverage its diplomatic engagement with Damascus to prevent and/or mitigate egregious Syrian meddling in the process, thus insulating March 14 from external pressures. Yet even with a diminished Syrian role, March 14 will still be left to contend with Hizballah...."

    Obama hopes to hear Iran's 'response' at the UNGA in late September ...

    The CABLE, here

    U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates had "frank talks" with his Israeli counterparts at meetings in Jerusalem today, a person familiar with the discussions told Foreign
    . "Even as [Gates] noted that engagement was not open-ended (no new news there)," the person said, "he continued to push for Israeli patience to let our strategy play out, reiterating the September and December deadlines for an Iranian response and progress, respectively. He mentioned the possibility of a ‘non-incremental' increase in sanctions if Iran rejects our offer for talks, as well as continued robust security cooperation in the Gulf and elsewhere to make it clear that their pursuit of nukes will not improve Iran's security."

    "Mr. Gates, speaking with [Israeli Defense Minister Ehud] Barak after meetings at the King David Hotel, said that President Obama hoped to hear Iran's response to the offer of talks at the time of the United Nations General Assembly in late September,".....

    U.S. Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell was in Israel for meetings Sunday, before being summoned for a quick trip to Cairo Sunday night by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak is expected to come to Washington August 17 for talks at the White House. National Security Advisor James L. Jones leads a multi-agency delegation of around 10 U.S. officials to Israel Wednesday for talks with their Israeli counterparts about Iran."

    "...Fatah, the only Palestinian party that Israel & the US will work with—is breaking apart ..."

    Newsweek, here

    "..... the truly epic fight brewing among Palestinians. It's not between Hamas and Fatah, it's between Fatah and Fatah. The original liberation group—and the only Palestinian party that Israel (and the United States) will work with—is breaking apart, and it could set back Middle East peace by decades....
    ...... while the PLO's political decisions (including foreign policy) are technically supposed to be cleared with some Fatah leaders abroad, Abbas in reality has cut them out of the loop. Resentment has been festering.
    Things came to a head last week when Farouk Qaddumi, the secretary general of Fatah's central committee—and the head of the PLO's political department—accused Abbas and his former national security adviser, Mohammed Dahlan, of conspiring with Israel to assassinate Arafat. Qaddumi, the most senior Fatah leader still in exile, is the only surviving member of the five-man team that founded the group in Kuwait in 1959. At his press conference last Tuesday, he produced a transcript he claims to have obtained from Arafat before his death in 2004. It says that, in an undated meeting between Abbas and former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the men discussed the possibility of killing Arafat and some senior Hamas officials.
    Abbas, Dahlan, and other Qaddumi rivals say Qaddumi fabricated the document. But the alleged transcript has worried Palestinians about the stability of their leadership, and with good reason: next month is Fatah's sixth-ever General Congress, a summit to clarify principles and assign leadership roles. For Palestinian Authority officials, everything is at stake.
    Qaddumi had hoped to use the conclave—the first in 20 years—to reify and remind Abbas of his power. But in a sly preemptive move, Abbas scheduled the meeting inside the West Bank, where Qaddumi has refused to set foot in protest of Oslo. (He claims holding Fatah's convention in the "arms" of the occupation will undermine its legitimacy and compromise its outcome.) That means Qaddumi—and his supporters still in exile—can't compete for seats on the 21-member central committee or the 100-member revolutionary council. If the Diaspora holdouts have trouble influencing Palestinian politics now, they'll be out of business when Abbas controls both the government and the political body.
    if the Fatah rivalry looks like one between insiders (who run the Palestinian Authority) and outsiders, another important divide has risen up in recent years: between those who support Abbas's unbending position on Hamas and those who want unity. The Qaddumi episode was indicative of the first struggle. But the second one bubbles up from time to time. In 2007, for example, top presidential aide Hani al-Hasan was dismissed when he told Al-Jazeera that the government was conspiring with Americans and Israelis to destroy Hamas.
    Although al-Hasan was dismissed from his post, he represents an increasingly popular position inside of Fatah, as its members realize that the conflict with Hamas undermines the Palestinian cause. Even if Qaddumi can't win back any power, he can make the locals second-guess their leader—and his uncompromising position on Hamas. By putting the credibility and legitimacy of the Palestinian presidency in doubt, unresolved rivalries within Fatah could empower Hamas and steer it toward a position of dominance in Palestinian politics. If that happens, no amount of exhortation from world powers—even Israel's closest friends—will persuade Israel to deal with the Palestinians. What looks like petty internecine politics could be the nail in the coffin of Palestinian statehood."

    الخصخصة: ما لها وما عليها

    زياد حافظ*
    كاتب وباحث جامعي ومدير تحرير مجلة "شؤون عربية معاصرة"

    فيما تغرق النخب السياسية الحاكمة سواء كانت من الأكثرية البرلمانية أو من "المعارضة" في لبنان في متاهات تأليف الحكومة يغيب عن خطابها السياسي الملفّ الاقتصادي والاجتماعي. هذا لن يعفينا عن مسؤولية إلقاء الأضواء على بعض الملفات الاقتصادية السياسية الاجتماعية لما لها من تأثير مباشر على حياة المواطن اللبناني بغض النظر عن إمكانية نجاح أو فشل محاولات إقرار بعض "التغييرات" أو ما يسمّى با"لإصلاحات" في سياق التوازنات السياسية القائمة* من هذه الملفّات قضية الخصخصة المطروحة سواء من منطلق "عقائدي" أو من منطلق سياسي وفقا لقرارات باريس 1 أو 2 أو 3. فالاجتماعات الدولية المرقمة "لإنقاذ لبنان" اقتصاديا عقدت في سياق دولي وتوازنات دولية محددة إما تغيّرت وإما سقطت بعد ما شهدناه من أزمات مالية واقتصادية عالمية وارتداداتها السياسية عالميا وإقليميا. فنموذج العمل القائم حتى انفجار الأزمة الاقتصادية والمالية الدولية لم يعد ذلك النموذج الذي يمكن أن يقتدى به الآن. فذلك النموذج النيوليبرالي الذي ظهر في أوائل الثمانينات مع الحقبة الريغانية والثاتشيرية وصل إلى طريق مسدود. كما أن الأزمة الاقتصادية والمالية العالمية قضت على نظرية صوابية نظام السوق الحر والنظام التنافسي القائم نظريا في عالم الاحتكارات والتكتّلات الاقتصادية العملاقة عندما أوجبت ضرورة الرقابة وضبط الأمور من قبل الدولة. لذلك نرى تلك التكتلات الاقتصادية المالية العملاقة تلجأ إلى الدولة التي عملت المستحيل على تقليص دورها ونفوذها في الحياة الاقتصادية وذلك لإنقاذها من الإفلاس الذي يحدّق بها. طبعا هناك من يستمرّ في الدفاع عن النظام الاقتصادي النيوليبرالي إلا أن المأزق الذي وصل إليه ذلك النظام يفوق قدّرات البنى الاقتصادية والنظم القائمة على إيجاد الحلول لقضايا البطالة المزمنة والتفاوت الاجتماعي وتفشي ثقافة الريع التي تؤمن بإنتاج الثروة بدون مجهود عبر الصفقات والمضاربات والاستدانة المتفاقمة التي تشجع ثقافة استهلاكية دون مقابل في العمل والمجهود والمخاطرة. لكن هذا حديث يخرج عن نطاق البحث إلاّ أنه يشكّل خلفية للوحة التي تتعلّق بالخصخصة موضوعنا هنا.
    حاولت الاجتماعات والمؤتمرات الدولية المنعقدة منذ بداية الألفية الحالية فرض الخصخصة كجزء من ذلك النموذج النيوليبرالي على لبنان وإن كان لبنان في الأساس غير بعيد عن ذلك النموذج وذهنية السوق الحر والتنافس النظري. وبالتالي هناك محاولات حثيثة لنزع ما تبقىّ من إمكانيات للدولة في الاقتصاد الوطني عبر إخراجها من الدورة الإنتاجية بواسطة الخصخصة لبعض المرافق الحيوية الإستراتيجية كالهاتف والكهرباء والمياه والمطار والمرفأ إلخ.
    أما الأسباب التبريرية للخصخصة فهي مبنية على خلفية فكرية ناتجة عن فلسفة أو رؤية معينة لتسيير الأمور ظهرت في الغرب، وخاصة في الولايات المتحدة، حيث جرت منذ تأسيسها نقاشات وسجالات حادة بين من يعتقد أن الدولة الناجحة هي الدولة الأقل تدخّلا في شؤون المجتمع وبالتالي يجب تقليص دورها إلى أبعد حد ممكن في القضايا الاقتصادية وتسيير الأمور. ومازال ذلك النقاش قائما حتى اليوم ينعكس في الخطاب السياسي بين من يُنعتوا بالمحافظين وأرباب تقليص دور الدولة في الشؤون الاقتصادية والاجتماعية وبين الليبراليين الذين يريدون للدولة دورا أكبر في التسيير الاقتصادي والاجتماعي. والآخيرون –أي الليبراليون بالمفهوم الأميركي- يريدون فرض القيود الضابطة على النشاطات الاقتصادية بحجة جموح وجشع القطاع الخاص على حساب المصلحة العامة أو لتصحيح ما يسمّى بإخفاقات آليات السوق التي لا تصحح تلقائيا انحرافاته كما يزعم أرباب السوق الحر. ويجدر الإشارة أن الأب الروحي للاقتصاد الحر آدم سميث حذّر من انحرافات السوق وجشع القطاع الخاص كما جاء في مؤلفيه الشهيرين: نظرية الشعور الأخلاقي (Theory of Moral (Sentiments والبحث في أسباب ثروة الأمم (An Inquiry into the Origins of the Wealth of Nations ). وشهدت الحقبة السابقة منذ الثمانينات من القرن الماضي حتى حدوث الأزمة الاقتصادية المالية الحالية تغلّب وجهة نظر المحافظين. والترويج الفكري لتلك وجهة النظر قام به مجموعة من الجامعيين العاملين في جامعة شيكاغو مثل ليو سترواس (الأب الروحي للمحافظين الجدد) وميلتون فريدمان صاحب نظرية الصدمة الإقتصادية التي تأتي بعالم جديد ومفاهيم جديدة. كما لا يجب أن نغفل دور المفكر الاقتصادي النمساوي فريدريتش فون هايك ومؤلفه الشهير "الطريق إلى العبودية" The Road to Serfdom)) وتأثيره على فكر مارغاريت ثاتشر (نفت وجود مجتمع بل مجموعة أفراد!) شريكة رونالد ريغان في نشر ثقافة اللبيرايلية الاقتصادية الجديدة. فانتشرت في المؤسسات الدولية التابعة لنفوذ الولايات المتحدة وبريطانيا أي صندوق النقد الدولي ومجموعة مؤسسات البنك الدولي. لذلك ظهرت في معظم اقتصادات الدول المتقدمة موجة من الخصخصات التي حوّلت العديد من المرافق العامة من ملكية وإدارة الدولة إلى الملكية والإدارة الخاصة. كما أن المؤسسات المالية والاقتصادية الدولية الآنفة الذكر والمصرف الأوروبي للإستثمار على سبيل المثال وليس الحصر، حاولت واستطاعت فرض تلك الرؤية على العديد من الدول الناشئة كشرط أساسي مسبق لتوفير المساعدات التنموية (هكذا يسموّنها إلا أنها ليست إلاّ إجراءات تزيد في تبعية تلك الدول لمراكز القرار الدولي ولكن هذا حديث آخر!). من هنا نفهم سياق المؤتمرات الدولية التي عقدت مبدأئيا من أجل لبنان (مؤتمرات باريس المرقمة وقمة روما بعد العدوان الإسرائيلي عام 2006).
    أما السبب الثاني للخصخصة فهي مبنية على أولوية القطاع الخاص في عملية النمو والتنمية. و هذه الأولوية تقوم على فرضية أساسية هي أن الدولة أقلّ كفاءة من القطاع الخاص في تشغيل الدورة الاقتصادية لأن حافز الربح وآلية الأسعار هما الوسيلتان الأساسياتان لترشيد القرارات الاقتصادية وتوزيع الموارد في النشاطات الأكثر كفاءة والتي تجني أحسن مردود. ويسترسل مروّجو تلك النظرية/الفرضية أن الدولة في تكوينها فاسدة خاصة في الدول الناشئة ولبنان خاصة وأن الهدر والصفقات هو من سمات الدولة التي تعجز عن توفير أبسط الخدمات. وبالتالي فعلى الدولة أن تخرج من دائرة الإنتاج وتكتفي بالرقابة على النشاط المخصخص! وبالفعل هناك أدلّة واضحة يمكن من خلالها إدانة الدولة في إخفاقها في تقديم الخدمات المطلوبة وفقا للمعايير التي ذكرت من حيث الكفاءة وقلة الترشيد والهدر الناتج عن ذلك. ولكن بالمقابل يُوجد ردٌ على ذلك يعرض في فقرة لاحقة.
    الحجة التبريرية الثالثة ناتجة عن الحجتين السابقتين. فهي ترفع عن كاهل الدولة أعباء مالية كبيرة فيمكن عندئذ تحويل مواردها لاستعمالها في أماكن أخرى. صحيح أن الخسارات المتتالية في مصلحة كهرباء لبنان تشكّل مصدرا أساسيا في تكوين الدين العام الذي وصل إلى أرقام قياسية. إلاّ أن تلك الخسارات يمكن تجنبها في حال تحقيق ترشيد المصلحة وحثّها على العمل بعقلية التوازن بين الربح والمصلحة العامة وتحميل المسؤولين فيها النتائج المحققة.
    غير أن الحجة الأقوى لمفهوم الخصخصة – وهي الحجة الرابعة - هو ترسيخ التنافس المفقود بسبب احتكار الدولة للمرفق الاقتصادي الذي تشغّله.
    وإذا كان هناك إجماع لفظي على إدانة الاحتكار إلا أن النفاق الفكري في هذا الموضوع يُغيّب طرح الهدف المعلن وغير المعلن لأرباب القطاع الخاص أي زيادة الأرباح وإن كان على حساب تقلّص التنافس بزيادة الممارسات الاحتكارية. من طرائف الدعوة إلى الخصخصة ضرورة تأمين الاحتكار للفريق الذي سيحظى بالمؤسسة التي يتمّ نقل ملكيتها وإداراتها له. فلن يقبل ذلك الفريق أن تعطي الدولة تراخيص لمؤسسات تنافس المؤسسة المخصخصة. فإذا كانت الدولة "غير كفؤة" في إدارة المشروع إلا أنها "كفؤة" في حماية الاحتكار الخاص! إذن ليس هناك من ضمانة بأن الخصخصة ستزيد من التنافس في القطاع المخصخص خاصة وأن الشركات "المتنافسة" قد تتواطئ لتكريس الممارسات الاحتكارية في ضبط حصص السوق والأسعار وتجنب التنافس المدمّر للأرباح. وفي المحصّلة يتمّ استبدال احتكار الدولة باحتكار القطاع الخاص دون الوصول إلى التنافس الذي يستفيد منه المواطن المستهلك.
    من جهة أخرى لا بد من الإشارة إلى أن عمليات الخصخصة في الدول الناشئة تحصل دائما لمصلحة المقرّبين من السلطة سواء عبر مؤسساتهم الخاصة أو عبر الوكالات الحصرية أو التمثيل الحصري لشركات أجنبية. فالذي يتمّ عادة هو إعطاء المرافق الحيوية إلى شركات أجنبية تتضارب مصالحها مع مصالح الشعوب في تلك الدول. والحجة في ذلك قلّة الخبرة والمهنية من قبل القطاع الخاص الوطني في إدارة المرفق الاقتصادي المرشح للخصخصة. وبما أن الفساد في الدولة هو أحد المبررات الرئيسية للخصخصة فالسلطة الرقابية التي تواكب عملية الخصخصة تصبح وهما بسبب تدخّل أصحاب النفوذ وارتباطهم مع الشركات الأجنبية لمصلحة الشركات.
    إن الخصخصة التي تؤدي إلى تسليم المرافق العامة لشركات أجنبية بشكل تام أو جزئي مع شركاء صوريين محليّين عبر حجة ضرورة إيجاد شريك إستراتيجي دولي معروف بكفاءته ومهنيته ليست إلا وسيلة ملتوية لإخضاع القرار الاقتصادي الوطني للمشيئة الخارجية وتكريس تبعية الوطن لمراكز القرار الخارجي. وهناك شكوك قائمة حول ارتباطات بعض الشركات بمصالح متناقضة مع الأمن الوطني والقومي خاصة في قطاع المواصلات حتى في مؤسسات ما زالت خاضعة لملكية وسيطرة الدولة فما بال الحال إذا خرجت عنها كلّيا؟! إن المصلحة الوطنية لن تتحقق عبر ما يُسمّى بالاستثمار الخارجي خاصة وأن الإدخار الوطني لم يتمّ تعبئته وتوظيفه في المشاريع التنموية. إن النظام القائم منذ جمهورية الطائف حوّلت الإدخار اللبناني إلى توظيفات- وليست استثمارات- في سندات الخزينة التي وفرّت دخلا ريعيا لحامليها على حساب الإستثمار في المشاريع التنموية الحقيقية. ودراسات الوزير المالي السابق الدكتور جورج قرم حول الدين العام والقطاع المصرفي تفضح الإنحرافات التي حصلت في ذلك الموضوع. فإذا كانت مداخيل النظام المصرفي اللبناني من عائدات سندات الخزينة تصل إلى 42 بالمائة عام 2006 من إجمالي مداخيل المصارف فلماذا نتوقّع عندئذ أن يقوم النظام المصرفي اللبناني بدوره في تمويل المشاريع الإنتاجية وخاصة تلك التي لها الطابع التنموي وتتحمّل أعباء المخاطرة ومشقّة البناء ومواكبة المشروع؟
    أما مقولة ضرورة إيجاد الشريك الإستراتيجي الأجنبي في مشاريع الخصخصة فهي من "مقترحات" المؤسسات المالية الدولية وخاصة مجموعة مؤسسات البنك الدولي ونقول ذلك بكل ثقة لما لدينا من خبرة مهنية ممتدة إلى أكثر من عقد مع تلك المؤسسات. فنظرية ضرورة الإستثمار الأجنبي لتمويل التنمية بسسب غياب أو تغييّب الإدخار الوطني وضرورة الخصخصة عبر الشريك الخارجي لمكافحة الفساد المزمن في الدولة والهدر ليست إلا تغطية لخلفيات سياسية هدفها السيطرة على موارد ومرافق الدول الناشئة ولمصلحة الشركات الدولية العملاقة العابرة للقارات وللجنسيات.
    وهنا بيت القصيد في حجة "الفساد المزمن" في الدولة التي تثير تساؤلات عديدة. فإذا كانت الدولة فاسدة في إطار الدورة الاقتصادية وعبر نشاطها وإداراتها للمرافق الحيوية فهل هي "صالحة" في الميادين والقطاعات الأخرى وخاصة في إطار الرقابة العامة على المصلحة الوطنية؟ وفي بلد كلبنان هل هناك من يضمن النزاهة في الإدارة العامة والقضاء والأمن والدفاع في ظلّ النظام السياسي القائم؟ خاصة وأن الخطاب السياسي للنخب يشكّك دائما في نزاهة القضاء (من هنا كان اللجوء إلى المحكمة الدولية لمحاكمة المسؤولين عن إغتيال الرئيس رفيق الحريري)، أوالتشكيك في قدرات القوى الأمنية والدفاعية في الدفاع عن الوطن (ومن هنا كان "تلزيم" مقاومة الإحتلال الصهيوني لفئة من اللبنانيين).
    والجدير بالذكر أن موجة خصخصة الخدمات التي تقدمها الدولة لا تقتصر على المرافق الاقتصادية بل يمكنها أن تمتد إلى رموز السيادة والكيان. ففي الولايات المتحدة، الدولة الرائدة في الليبرالية الجديدة، هناك موجة خصخصة لقسم كبير من وظائف ومهام الجيش. والمنطق الطبيعي لخصخصة الأمن القومي عبر تلزيم ما يمكن من "خدمات" ومهام للقطاع الخاص يؤدي إلى عسكرة المجتمع وهي ظاهرة متنامية في الولايات المتحدة أشرنا إليها في العديد من الأبحاث والمقالات منها تلك التي نشرتها مجلة "المستقبل العربي" في عدد شهر آب 2004. هذا هو أحد معاني ظاهرة الشركات الأمنية التي ولدت في الغرب وخاصة في الولايات المتحدة وامتدت إلى العراق ولبنان. وبالتالي يصبح السؤال ما هي حدود الخصخصة وأين تقف؟ فمنطق فساد وعدم كفاءة الدولة يمكن تعميمه على كافة نشاطات ومهام الدولة مما يؤدي في آخر المطاف إلى تقليص الدولة إلى رموز شكلية أو تافهة إن لم يكن إلى إلغائها بشكل جزئي أو كامل.
    في نفس السياق أود طرح سؤال يروادني منذ فترة طويلة. لماذا تنازلت الدولة عن إحدى أهم ميزات السيادة وهي الحق الحصري في إصدار النقود؟ الكتلة النقدية في لبنان كما في جميع الدول مكوّن من النقد المتداول التي تصدره الدولة وإجمالي الودائع التي ينتجها النظام المصرفي وهو الذي يشكّل النسبة الأكبر! هكذا نعلّم طلاّبنا في الجامعات. أليس ذلك خصخصة- وإن لم تكن كاملة -في حق إصدار الكتلة النقدية؟ وهل كانت السياسات النقدية سواء في لبنان أو في الخارج سليمة؟ ألم تكن تلك السياسات التي تخرج عن السيطرة الكاملة للدولة والتي يشاركها النظام المصرفي مسؤولة عن تدهور النموذج الاقتصادي في النظام الاقتصادي والمالي العالمي؟ سؤال أطرحه دون أن أقدّم إجابة عليه على الأقل في هذه المداخلة. إن الغرض من هذا السؤال هو التحذير من عدم تحديد آفاق الخصخصة إذا كان لا بد منها. فسيادة الدولة وحتى وجودها مهدد فكيف يستقيم الحديث عن الخصخصة وبناء الدولة؟ ففي لبنان ليس هناك من دولة بالمعنى المتعارف عليه في العلوم السياسية بل سلطة تتقاسمها الطوائف والمذاهب وفقا لموزاين قوى قد تكون ظرفية أو غير ذلك. ومن هنا يمكن طرح السؤال ما هو مصير وشكل الخصخصة في ظلّ المحاصصة المنبثقة عن نظام يُسمّى بالديمقراطية التوافقية حيث السلطة الرقابية لمؤسسات الدولة تخضع لاعتبارات خارجة عن المفهوم المؤسسي للدولة بل لمرجعيات طائفية مذهبية غير خاضعة للمسائلة والمحاسبة؟
    والمسألة ليست مزاج أو تنظير خارج الواقع. تجدر هنا الإشارة إلى دراسة أعدتها المنظمة العربية لمكافحة الفساد حول إمكانية تحسين أداء الرقابة المالية في الوطن العربي توّجت بندوة على مدى يومين في شباط 2009 حضرها العديد من الخبراء الاقتصاديين ومن المسؤولين عن منظمات دولية. تناولت الندوة النقاشية الرقابة المالية في خمس دول عربية منها لبنان. ومن نتائج تلك الدراسة عن لبنان أن السلطة الرقابية المنصوص عليها في الدستور اللبناني وفي العديد من التشريعات اللبنانية معطّلة ومهمشّة بسبب طبيعة النظام السياسي القائم على المحاصصة التوافقية. فالسلطة الرقابية البرلمانية والقضائية والإدارية على الأداء المالي للدولة معطلّة باعتراف المسؤولين السابقين والحاليين في تلك المؤسسات الرقابية مما يجعل الدور الرقابي المرتقب للدولة في إطار الخصخصة أقلّ فعّالية وحفاظا على المصلحة العامة. والجدير بالذكر أن تلك الإستنتاجات لم تكن مقتصرة على لبنان بل موجودة في جميع الدول التي تمّ مسحها كمصر واليمن والأردن والمغرب. فالتشريعات والتنظيمات الموكلة بمهام الرقابة المالية جيدة ومقبولة من حيث النص ولكن لا تُطّبّق في الواقع. ومن وقائع تلك الدراسات ما جاء في الورقة عن مصر حيث تناول فريق العمل المكلف شكل وتداعيات الخصخصة التي طبّقت وحجم الفساد والهدر الحاصل بسببها.
    بناء على ذلك ليس في الواقع العربي بشكل عام والواقع اللبناني بشكل خاص ما يشجّع على سلوك طريق الخصخصة. حتى الآن لم نتناول البعد الاجتماعي للخصخصة الذي يتّم دائما على حساب العاملين في المؤسسة المرشحة للخصخصة. فالخصخصة تتنافى مع أبسط قواعد العدالة الاجتماعية وهذا أمر يصعب القبول به. هناك نظرة متعالية في أحسن الأحوال تجاه العاملين المنعوتين باللامبالين وغير الكفؤين والمصدر الأساسي للخسائر التي تتكبدها المؤسسة المرشحة للخصخصة. صحيح أن المؤسسات الدولية التي تدفع إلى الخصخصة ترصد مبالغ تعويضية للعاملين الذين يتمّ تسريحهم غير أن هذه التعويضات لا تكفي لإعادة تأهيلهم هذا إن كانت هناك فرص في الأساس لإعادة استيعابهم. لكن الخلفية العقائدية لتلك الممارسات هي إلغاء حق العمل وضمان الوظيفة. فالمنطق الليبرالي الجديد لا يرحم العامل وينظر إليه كسلعة يمكن استهلاكها ورميها بسهولة دون مراجعة ومساءلة ومحاسبة وفقا لمنطق اقتصاد السوق الحر. هناك تقديس لرأس المال وصاحبه وتحقير للعمل والعامل. القيمة المضافة التي ينتجها العامل بعرق جبينه هي من حصة صاحب رأس المال وليس على العامل إلا أن يكتفي بالراتب أو الأجر الذي يتكرّم عليه صاحب رأس المال. الخصخصة لا تحترم مجهود العامل بل تحاول تقليص إلى أكبر حدّ ممكن حقوق العامل في الناتج الذي يحققه. وليست في التشريعات العماّلية القائمة والتي غالبا ما تعدّل لمصلحة أصحاب رأس المال ضمانات لحقوق العاملين في نظام الليبرالية الجديدة حيث يتّم القضاء على النقابات أو تهميشها أو تحييدها من أي دور فعّال لمصلحة العاملين.
    الخصخصة في رأينا ليست ضرورية وليست كافية لحلّ معضلة تقديم الخدمات التي تخفق الدولة في تقديمها. الحلّ هو في ترشيد الإدارة ومكافحة الفساد المتفشي فيها. والفساد ليس حكرا على الدولة بل هو موجود أيضا في القطاع الخاص. الفضائح المالية في الدول المتقدمة (إنرون مثلا) وفي لبنان (فضيحة بنك المدينة مثلا) خير دليل على ذلك. ولا بد من ذكر تطوّر هام حصل منذ فترة في تفكير البنك الدولي تجاه الخصخصة. فحقبة الثمانينات والتسعينات التي شهدت رضوخ العديد من الدول الناشئة لإملاءات البنك الدولي في ضرورة خصخصة المرافق الاقتصادية الأساسية كقطاع الكهرباء شهدت أيضا تراجعا في استهلاك الطاقة بسبب ارتفاع أسعار الطاقة التي فرضتها الشركات الخاصة (وغالبا ما تكون أجنبية) على المستهلكين. فكانت النتيجة تراجعا في مستوى التعليم حيث انخفضت نسبة النجاح في المدارس لاستحالة الاستذكار في المساء أو الليل بسبب عدم توفر الطاقة في المناطق الفقيرة التي لا تستطيع تسديد كلفة الطاقة المخصخصة. لذلك بدأ البنك الدولي مراجعة سياسته في قضية الخصخصة في قطاع الطاقة فلم يعد يفرضها على الدول التي تسعى إلى مساعدات البنك بل أصبح من مروّجي إعادة تأهيل قطاع الطاقة عبر استثمارات جديدة للدولة وبقروض من البنك الدولي ومع تأهيل وتدريب العاملين فيه لتحسين الأداء. غير أن تلك التطوّرات لم يصل خبرها على ما يبدو إلى مروّجي الخصخصة في لبنان سواء على المستوى السياسي أو حتى الجامعي. فمازال هناك من يستميت في الدفاع عن الخصخصة مهما كلّف الثمن! الله أعلم لماذا؟!!!
    وأخيرا لا يمكن أن نقبل بدون تدقيق مقولة أن القطاع الخاص أكثر كفاءة في إدارة المرافق العامة بشكل عام. هناك أدلّة كثيرة حتى في الدول المتقدمة تشير إلى أن أداء القطاع الخاص في المؤسسة المخصخصة ليس بالضروري أفضل مما كان عليه سابقا عندما كانت الدولة تدير المشروع. من تلك الأمثال ما نشهده من انتقادات لخصخصة قطاع السكك الحديدية في بريطانيا حيث المسافر يشكو من تدنّي الخدمة. صحيح أن هناك نجاحات في العديد من المؤسسات المخصخصة ولكن هناك أيضا إخفاقات. مثل آخر تدنّي الأداء الخدماتي والمالي لشركة سويس اير المخصخصة. في المقابل أستذكر مسألة تأميم قناة السويس (احتفلنا بالأمس بذكرى ذلك العمل المجيد!) التي انتقدها العديد في الغرب بسبب عدم كفاءة الدولة المصرية في الإدارة التقنية والتنظيمية لعمل من اختصاص الرجل الأبيض! نجاح التأميم ما زال قائما حتى هذه الساعة رغم كل ما حصل ويسجّل للنظام القائم عدم الرضوخ لضغوط خصخصة القناة على الأقلّ حتى الآن!
    هنا أودّ أن ألفت النظر أن أدآء الدولة في تقديم الخدمات لم يكن دائما في ذلك المستوى من الردائة الذي نعرفه. فكانت الدولة والمؤسسات التي أنشاها الرئيس الراحل فؤاد شهاب حتى اندلاع الحرب الأهلية تؤمّن الخدمات الأساسية من كهرباء ومياه ومواصلات إلخ بشكل مقبول وإن كانت هناك إمكانيات لتحسين الأداء. كما أن فترة الحرب القاسية على جميع المواطنين لم تمنع الدولة في استمرار تقديم ما يمكن من الخدمات رغم الصعوبات والتدمير الذي حصل في العديد من المنشئات. ويجب تسجيل ذلك لمصلحتها. من هنا يمكن طرح السؤال من هو المسؤول عن تردّي خدمات الدولة ولماذا؟ فالإجابة على ذلك تسهّل الإجابة على جدوى الخصخصة. النظام السياسي والمحاصاصات والذهنية الريعية والجشع مسؤولون عن التدهوّر المتعمّد لمؤسسات الدولة وجودة خدماتها تمهيدا لفرض الخصخصة.
    لذلك فإن موضوع الخصخصة موضوع دقيق وحسّاس للغاية يجب أن يخضع لتدقيق في شروطه. من تلك الشروط وجود دولة القانون والمؤسسات التي لا تخضع لمزاج القيادات السياسية التي لا تقبل بالمسائلة والمحاسبة. كما أن مستوى النمو الاقتصادي عنصر أساسي في تحديد جدوى وإمكانية قيام الخصخصة وفقا لتقديرات دقيقة لمفهوم المصلحة العامة وليست مصلحة النخب والمتنفذّين.
    لكن ما العمل في لبنان وهل نستطيع أن نستمر في وضع مأزوم للغاية حيث لا الكهرباء ولا ماء الشرب ولا المواصلات مؤمنة بشكل متوازن في كل المناطق ولجميع المواطنين؟ هل الخصخصة هي أدآة التغيير المطلوب؟ لا أعتقد ذلك وإن كان التغيير في الأداء السياسي والاقتصادي والاجتماعي أولوية لا يمكن تجاهلها. إلآ أنّ الإصلاحات الضرورية مغيّبة من الخطاب السياسي للنخب الحاكمة سواء في الحكم أو المعارضة. وأعتقد أن التغيير السياسي والاقتصادي والاجتماعي المطلوب في لبنان لن يأتي بفعل القوى السياسية الوطنية ولكنه رهن بالتغييرات التي يمكن أن تحصل في المنطقة وفقا لمسار مختلف الصراعات الإقليمية والدولية. فلبنان –دولة الحاجز- قدره المراوحة اقتصاديا واجتماعيا دون الإقبال على أي تغيير يذكر لما يمكن أن يؤثر على التوازنات الداخلية وبالتالي على مسار الأمور في المنطقة. كما أن التغيير لن يأتي إلاّ إذا حدث تغيير أساسي في المنطقة وهذا مستبعد في المدى المنظور وإن كانت المنطقة حبلى بتطورات جذرية ليست أقلّها استنهاض الشعوب والشعور القومي في محيط مؤجج بالصراعات الطائفية والقطرية. لا داعي هنا للإسترسال في أبعاد الصراع الجيوستراتيجي في المنطقة وتداعياته على الاستقرار الداخلي في لبنان بل ما يهمنا أن نؤكده أن القرارات الاقتصادية السياسية التي يمكن أن تتخذها النخب الحاكمة سواء في الأكثرية أو المعارضة لن تكون إلا مرآة لتوجّهات تعكس التوازنات الإقليمية والدولية. من هنا نفهم غياب الخطاب الإصلاحي، من هنا نفهم تغييب الملفّ الاقتصادي والاجتماعي في خطاب القوى الأساسية في الحكم كما في المعارضة.

    West Bank settlers over 300,000 ....

    Haaretz, here
    "...As of June 30, the settlements had 304,569 residents, an increase of 2.3 percent since January .... However, these figures do not include all of the residents of unauthorized outposts ..."

    Sunday, July 26, 2009

    Bahraini King sought Saudi "permission" before his gambit ...

    LR, in the CABLE, here

    "As U.S. Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell arrives in Israel Sunday for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, after visiting Abu Dhabi and Damascus and before heading on to Bahrain and Egypt, Foreign Policy has confirmed that President Barack Obama has sent letters to at least seven Arab and Gulf states seeking confidence-building measures toward Israel, .....including the leaders of Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. ...

    Last week, a "Dear Colleague" letter supported by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was circulated by Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Sen. James Risch (R-ID) urging Obama to encourage Arab states to "normalize relations with Israel" and recognizing "the key role that Arab states can play in furthering the peace process." A House version circulated by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) had received 85 signatures as of Friday, a representative of AIPAC said.....
    Mitchell's planned visit to Bahrain this week would seem to indicate Washington's interest in exploring ways to advance the crown prince's call for "simultaneous, good faith action." Saudi experts previously indicated to Foreign Policy that Riyadh was not inclined to show intermediate steps towards normalization with Israel in exchange for an Israeli settlement freeze. ...
    Citing a Saudi official he interviewed on assignment in Riyadh last month, McClatchy's Middle East bureau chief Dion Nissenbaum reported Thursday that the Bahraini king flew to Riyadh to seek permission from the Saudi king before publishing the carefully worded Washington Post opinion piece. Saudi King Abdullah cautioned Bahrain's al-Khalifa "not to go too far in offering concessions to Israel," Nissenbaum reported.
    "During his hurriedly arranged visit to Saudi Arabia last month, Obama asked King Abdullah to try to broker a new Palestinian unity government, to revamp his 2002 peace initiative and to consider some good-faith gestures to Israel, officials in Riyadh said," Nissenbaum wrote. "With Saudi Arabia apparently unwilling to take such steps, American officials have been approaching less-influential Arab nations that may be more amenable to Obama's overtures. Israel and the United States have floated a variety of ideas: Qatar might reopen the Israeli trade office it shuttered in January to protest Israel's military offensive in Gaza. Tunisia and other countries might allow Israeli planes to use their airspace. Arab leaders also might grant interviews to Israeli journalists, an Israeli government idea that the crown prince of Bahrain publicly endorsed last week, saying that Arab nations should ‘tell our story more directly to the Israeli people by getting the message out to their media.'"
    "One of the main [reasons] Arabs are saying they can't go very far" in showing possible reciprocal gestures to Israel, said Daniel Levy of the New America Foundation, "is, [they say], ‘what worries us most, will you guarantee that the Israelis won't embarrass us?'" ...

    Putting words in UNIFIL’s mouth ...

    EDB at MENASSAT, here

    "... Weapons stocked prior to Resolution 1701 or not?

    Following an Israeli complaint about the weapons depot, Alain Le Roy, UN Undersecretary for Peacekeeping Operations, conducted an oral briefing off the public record about the weapons depot. The conclusion of his testimony was reported differently by the Israeli, Arabic and US press—highlighting the rhetorical tightrope that the UN frequently walks when it comes to sensitive missions. The Arabic press, leading with Al Akhbar, noted that Le Roy had said the weapons cache was old and the investigation “ongoing.” The New York Times also said that Le Roy had confirmed to reporters that the weapons cache was an “older one,” while the Jerusalem Post claimed that Le Roy said “there was an ‘actively maintained’ weapons cache in southern Lebanon.”
    [Resolution 1701, passed in August 2006, prohibits Hezbollah from maintaining arms below the Litani river line where the stockpiled munitions were found.]

    He said, she said

    The NY Times, in a characteristic display of semantic acrobatics, reported, “U.S. Deputy U.N. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff said U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy told the Security Council behind closed doors that the United Nations suspected an explosion in southern Lebanon last week was the detonation of an operational weapons cache that Wolff said Washington believes belonged to Hezbollah.” In plain English: the US said that the UN said that a weapons depot had caused the explosion, which the US said belongs to Hezbollah. Note that the allegation that the weapons cache belonged to Hezbollah was not attributed to Mr. Le Roy in the New York Times piece.
    But in an article entitled “UN official: Arms cache that exploded in Lebanon was Hezbollah's”, Israeli Ynet News claimed that “During a UN Security Council session that discussed Israel's complaints on the recent developments in Lebanon, LeRoy said that the arms cache that exploded in the area last week was used by Hezbollah.”
    Not only did Le Roy attribute the weapons cache to Hezbollah, according to this report, but he also said Hezbollah was involved with the attack on UNIFIL soldiers:
    “He claimed that the attack on French UNIFIL soldiers sent to investigate the explosion was not carried out by civilians, adding that Hezbollah men were spotted in the area,” YNet wrote.
    A UNIFIL representative in Lebanon contacted by MENASSAT concluded that it was “impossible” Le Roy made these claims, and that the statement – if true—would amount to “suicide” for UNIFIL. Ari Gaitanis, a spokesperson for Le Roy, however told MENASSAT that, “in relation to the attack, Mr. Le Roy noted that some individuals present at the site were identified to UNIFIL as belonging to Hizbullah.” Mr. Gaitanis, who previously served as deputy spokesperson for UNIFIL, did however express bewilderment as to how Hezbollah could be distinguished from civilians, since “they don’t wear uniforms.”...

    Further Israeli reporting on the incident was devoted to blaming UNIFIL, who, according to an article in Haaretz, knew of the cache for months in advance and never did anything about it.

    "the savages who came from the Torah ..."

    "I am still amused by Western press reports in which March 14 Movement in Lebanon is described as "pro-Western", thereby ignoring the Salafi component of the movement. Lebanese Hariri MP, Samir Al-Jisr, the spokesperson of the largest Hariri-led March 14 bloc in Parliament (known as the "Lebanon First" bloc) spoke on LBC the other day. He said that it would be unfair to castigate the Salafites of Northern Lebanon (some of whom are in jail for membership or activities with Ben Ladenite groups and Hariri MPs have been advocating on their behalf). He said that "we all are Jihadist" because Jihad is a pillar of Islam. Another element of March 14 is anti-Semitism (now that is clearly "Western" since anti-Semitism was born in the West and raised there). The "prominent" March 14 intellectual, Paul Shawul, who is in charge of the culture section of Hariri rag, Al-Mustaqbal, spoke on Hariri TV. He mentioned the Israeli war on Gaza and clearly and typically spoke in anti-Semitic terms. Shawul said that Israelies are "the savages who came from the Torah." Warning: such statements would not appear in MEMRI bulletin (which specializes these days in airing pro-Saudi writers in Saudi propaganda outlets and referring to them as "liberals") because they may be disturing to allies of the Zionist usurping entity.

    Lebanon: Number "29" on Failed States Index ...

    ... while Lebanon's 'archenemy' (to some) ranks "39" and Bestest Friend Forever (to others), comes at "42" ...... In FP, via FasterTimes, here

    How far is Syria ready to go to appease the US?

    In the JPOst, here

    "...... But it has yet to show signs of a real policy shift vis a vis its ally Iran or its leading proxies. And just how far Syria, which wants to be acknowledged as a key player in the region, is willing to go to appease the United States has yet to be seen.

    In fact, the anti-US Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who is very close to Iran, visited Damascus last week reportedly to strengthen relations with Iraqi resistance groups.

    "I don't see any major changes on Bashar's part," Andrew Tabler, an expert on Syria at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told The Jerusalem Post last week. "And whatever changes there are, [they] are very incremental and very hard for the US to pick up."

    Others, however, argue that Syria's recent behavior can be considered an attempt to keep some distance from the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Syrian regime, for example, did not interfere in Lebanon's hotly contested June 7 elections, which resulted in a victory for the Western-backed March 14 coalition over the Hizbullah-led opposition, says Abdel Monem Said Aly, director of the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. ... "Certainly, some of it can be seen as a distance from Teheran, not a big distance, but a distance [nonetheless] can be noticed," Said Aly said.

    As part of its approach to cautious, critical engagement with Syria, Obama's administration announced in June that it will restore an ambassador to Damascus after a four year hiatus following the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri. But despite last month's announcement, the US has yet to name an ambassador. Security arrangements involving foreign fighters in Iraq have yet to be adhered to. And in neighboring Lebanon, where Syria still wields influence, the March 14 coalition and the Hizbullah-led opposition have yet to form a government more than six weeks after the country's general elections.

    "This all indicates to me that there are still a lot of bones of contention between Syria and the US," and even within the US administration on how to best deal with Syria, said Prof. Joshua Landis, co-director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Oklahoma....

    "What I think is they want to be able to get the Golan [Heights] back in exchange for some sort of change in their relationship with Iran, which is not described, and where they can politically support Hizbullah and Hamas but perhaps without supplying them" militarily, Tabler said.

    This strategy, however, is complicated by parliamentary moves in Israel that would require a referendum to withdraw from the Golan Heights, which Israel captured in the Six Day War.

    "The question is: Are Israelis the kind of people that will give back the Golan [in a peace agreement] for a maybe?" Tabler said. "Probably not. I can't see it."

    Saturday, July 25, 2009

    Miliband: "Syria in a unique position to influence Iranian policy choices..."

    Haaretz, here

    "For that, we believe we can play a role but we cannot take decisions on behalf of Iran. They have to take their decisions according to their interest," Moualem said. ...
    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has shown signs of taking a tougher approach toward the West after he won a disputed election in June, ...

    Miliband said Syria was in a "unique position to influence Iranian policy choices." ...

    Friday, July 24, 2009

    Chatah: "Hezbollah veto power to raise Lebanon's public debt to over ...US$50 Billions..."

    AFP, here

    "I think the sources of strength in the economy are there," Chatah told AFP. "If we can somehow put together a government that can function better than this one, we can move to rapid and better quality growth."

    Chatah said "the divisive politics" in the outgoing government -- where the alliance headed by the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah movement had veto power --contributed to halting reforms in the country....."

    "... Bashar is looking for concessions that are quite tangible ..."

    In TWN, here

    "...A pair of anecdotes from Shepherdstown, 2000:

    Martin Indyk recalls riding with Ehud Barak on flights from Israel to Washington as often as possible in order to glean as much as he could about the prime minister's thinking. At the time, it was apparently a rather battered old 707, with a bedroom that had been hastily installed with little room for more than a bed. On the eve of the summit, Indyk, then an assistant secretary of state, was waiting for Barak's arrival at Andrews AFB. After the delegation filed off the plane the prime minister failed to emerge, Indyk climbed aboard and found Barak in his bedroom. Barak motioned for him to sit on the bed alongside him. He told him he couldn't cut a deal with Assad -- there would be no peace in exchange for the Golan.
    Danny Yatom also recalls going to the gym with Barak and finding Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharraa there working out. Barak tried to make a joke, saying that he would follow al-Sharraa through the routine so they could see who was stronger; al-Sharra picked up his belongings and left without a word.
    So where are we now, nearly a decade down the line?
    While Washington seems to be content to quibble about whether Hillary was upstaged by the White House's decision to return an ambassador to Damascus -- apparently without a quo to match the quid -- the difficult question remains unanswered: can Damascus really offer what Israel's after?
    Far more than recognition; more than a peaceable border -- Hezbollah seems to be the one issue looming in the minds of the Israeli leadership. Hezbollah, the dominant Lebanese political movement, or Hezbollah the militant lung through which Iran breathes?
    If Israel attacks next year, we'll certainly find out. But until then, post-election Hezbollah, the better equipped, more strategically positioned, and more internationally credible incarnation -- having proved willing to play both sides of the democracy game -- remains an insufferable ire for Netanyahu.
    Bashar is looking for concessions that are quite tangible -- one can wrap the mind around 1,200 square kilometers of strategic high ground.
    But networks of support connecting Syria to Nasrallah's army, contacts and friendships intertwined with intelligence and armament deals -- these are less concrete, less severable bonds.
    If Bashar is as eager to get the Golan back as we've all believed -- and as David Lesch, who literally wrote on the book on the new lion, suggested while presenting a paper at the National Press Club last week -- he'll have to be less fixated on dangling his feet in lake Tiberias than his father was, and more devoted to delivering on the Party of God..."