Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mubarak: "Arabs should demonstrate the seriousness of their peace initiative with steps that address the hopes & concerns of ordinary Israelis"

"... During my career in the Egyptian Air Force, I saw the tragic toll of war between the Arabs and Israel. As president of Egypt, I have endured many ups and downs ..."

NO Deal on settlments freeze!

The Cable
"...The settlements issue is the most pressing item on the agenda, because the current moratorium is set to expire by the end of September. Without some new agreement on even a limited settlement freeze, analysts fear, the new talks could break down only weeks after they begin -- dealing a perhaps mortal blow to President Obama's Middle East ambitions. Peled indicated that there was a deal to be worked out, and we've heard that a compromise is in the works that would expand exemptions for building in areas that are expected to fall on the Israeli side of the line after final borders are established.
But for now, the Israeli government is making clear that the settlement freeze in place, which the Palestinians have argued is not being strictly enforced, is not guaranteed to continue. Netanyahu is under pressure from members of his coalition to let the freeze expire.
"The latest moratorium that this government took about 10 months ago was a one-time gesture with the aim of jumpstarting the process," Peled said...."

Paul Wolfowitz: Whitewashing the Failure in Iraq

Walt in FP:
"... Notice also that Wolfowitz says very little about the costs of this adventure in the past, or how much more blood and treasure the United States should be expected to spend in the future. There are boilerplate references to the "brave men and women" of the U.S. military, and to Iraq's people "who have borne a heavy burden." All true, but he doesn't offer any numbers (either dollars spent or lives lost), because he might have to take his share of responsibility for the hundreds of thousands of people who would be alive today if the United States had not followed his advice. It would also remind us that he once predicted that the war would cost less than $100 billion and that Iraq's oil revenues would pay for reconstruction and so it wouldn't cost the American taxpayer a dime. Given that track record, in fact, one wonders why the Times editors thought he was a reliable source of useful advice on Iraq today....
Of course, what Wolfowitz and Brooks are up to is not hard to discern. They want Americans to keep pouring resources into Iraq for as long as it takes to make their ill-fated scheme look like a success. Equally important, they want to portray Iraq in a somewhat positive light now, so that Obama and the Democrats get blamed when things go south.
All countries make mistakes, because leaders are fallible and no political system is immune from folly. But countries compound their errors when they cannot learn from them, and when they don't hold the people responsible for them accountable. Sadly, these two pieces suggest that the campaign to lobotomize our collective memory is now underway. If it succeeds, we can look forward to more "success stories" like this in the future."

Ibish 'tweet': Dangerous lunatics: Hamas praises settler attack but does not claim involvement ..

Ibishblog I need no convincing: Hamas claims "full responsibility" for murder of Israelis near Hebron -
about 1 hour ago
Ibishblog ATFP Deplores Attacks on Israelis near Hebron
about 2 hours ago
Ibishblog Dangerous lunatics: Hamas praises settler attack but does not claim involvement -
about 2 hours ago

Saudi 'tweet': Saudi King Abdullah received call from U.S.President Obama today

SaudiEmbassyUSA: King Abdullah received call from U.S.President Obama today.
about 2 hours ago

"Suspend Peace talks NOW!"

'The victims that never counted!'

Beneath Palestine, Iraq, & Afghanistan policies, Iran .. Iran .. Iran...

"... Administration officials think they have at least improved the chances for success in each spot, and they probably have. As always in the Middle East, the chances of failure remain high on each front, too.
President Obama has hit the reset button on U.S. policy in the Middle East with regards to Iraq, Afghanistan, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Iran, as a means to clearing the decks to concentrate on Iran and its extremist allies. Whatever the odds of success, though, a common thread runs through Mr. Obama's moves in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories. In each case, one important goal is to clear the decks in order to concentrate more intensely on the paramount challenge posed by Iran and its Islamic extremist friends.
The Bush administration invaded Iraq in 2003 because it was worried about precisely this kind of threat to American security in the post-9/11 era: a marriage between Islamic extremists in al Qaeda and a hostile state potentially armed with weapons of mass destruction. Since then, though, the threat has evolved in a significantly different direction. Al Qaeda has splintered and now is dangerous not because it is sponsored by a powerful state, but because it has burrowed underground in states too weak to counter it, in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.
Meantime, there is indeed a threat from a hostile state potentially armed with weapons of mass destruction. But that threat now arises not from Iraq but from its next-door neighbor, Iran, and from Iran's extremist friends in Hezbollah in Lebanon, in Hamas in the Palestinian territories, and among other groups getting support or inspiration from Tehran. American policy maneuvers in the region—starting in the last year of the Bush administration, continuing into the first two years of the Obama administration and culminating in tonight's Iraq address—represent an effort to adjust to this new reality.....
But each of the other moves is directly tied to that overarching concern about Iran and its influence in the region. In Iraq, the effort to consolidate power in a credible central government also is an attempt to block neighboring Iran's ability to exert influence there. Similarly, stabilizing Afghanistan would demonstrate the ability of the West to bolster moderate Muslims as a counter to the rise of Iran-like extremism.
And restarting Israeli-Palestinian talks is an effort not just to seek peace on the Palestinian front, but also to remove a political sore point in the Palestinian problem—one that Arab leaders say inflames their people and reduces their ability to cooperate with the U.S. and Israel in countering Iran's nuclear ambitions. More directly, a successful Palestinian peace process also would reduce the influence of Iran's allies in the Hamas movement, which seeks to undermine Mr. Abbas and other moderate Palestinian leaders.
Of course, it could all go terribly wrong. A disintegration of the fragile government that U.S. forces leave behind in Iraq would only widen the playing field there for Iranian trouble-making. Palestinian talks could collapse quickly over the question of new Israeli settlement activity, strengthening the hand of Iran's radical friends in the Hamas and Hezbollah Palestinian movements......"

Now that the Iraq War is over, only one thing is clear about the outcome: We didn't win

"... The war was on its way toward becoming a disastrous failure until the country's Sunni minority turned against the al-Qaeda jihadists who had flooded into Iraq to fight against the hated Americans -- and Bush's troop surge, ably led by Gen. David Petraeus, capitalized on this shift of allegiance. As a result, Iraq did not disintegrate into the vast charnel house of sectarian bloodshed that many had predicted. But neither did it become a coherent, functioning polity -- months after the most recent election, a new government still has not been formed -- nor did the violence end. Insurgents still periodically wreak havoc, as they did last week in a series of coordinated attacks.
One thing that has not changed about wars is that they always have unintended consequences. In the case of Iraq, the biggest unforeseen development is that Iran has gained tremendous power and influence in the region -- and is much closer to becoming a nuclear power. Show of hands: Who believes the Middle East is a safer place now than before the U.S. invasion?..."

Abbas & Barak met secretly in Amman ...

"... The two met on Sunday in a private home in the Jordanian capital, where Barak also held talks with King Abdullah II..."

All regimes in the Middle East recognize that America has lost the war in Iraq & that Iran ... Won.

Mohamad Bazzi in the GlobalPost:
"... Iran is the biggest beneficiary of the American misadventure in Iraq. The U.S. ousted Tehran’s sworn enemy, Saddam Hussein, from power. Then Washington helped install a Shiite government for the first time in Iraq’s modern history. As U.S. troops became mired in fighting an insurgency and containing a civil war, Iran extended its influence over all of Iraq’s Shiite factions.
Today’s Middle East has been shaped by several proxy wars. In Iraq, neighboring Sunni regimes backed Sunni militants, while Iran supported Shiite militias. In Lebanon, an alliance between Washington and authoritarian Sunni Arab regimes — Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries — backed a Sunni-led government against Hezbollah, a Shiite militia funded by Iran. And in the Palestinian territories, Iran and Syria supported the militant Hamas, while the U.S. and its Arab allies backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah movement.
In 2007, at the height of the insurgency and sectarian conflict in Iraq, I went to see Marwan Kabalan, a political scientist at Damascus University. He explained the regional dynamics better than anyone else. “Everyone is fighting battles through local proxies. It’s like the Cold War,” he told me. “All regimes in the Middle East recognize that America has lost the war in Iraq. They’re all maneuvering to protect their interests and to gain something out of the American defeat.”
With U.S. influence waning and Iran ascendant, Iraq’s other neighbors are still jockeying to gain a foothold with the new government in Baghdad. For example, Saudi Arabia’s ruling Al-Saud dynasty views itself as the rightful leader of the Muslim world, but Iran is challenging that leadership right now. Although Saudi Arabia has a Sunni majority, its rulers fear Iran’s potential influence over a sizable and sometimes-restive Shiite population concentrated in the kingdom’s oil-rich Eastern Province. In Bahrain (another American ally in the Persian Gulf), the Shiite majority is chafing under Sunni rulers who also fear Iran’s reach.
Even worse, the brutal war between Iraq’s Shiite majority and Sunni minority unleashed sectarian hatreds that are difficult to contain. This blowback has been most keenly felt in Lebanon, a small country with a history of religious strife. During Lebanon’s 15-year civil war, which ended in 1990, the sectarian divide was between Muslims and Christians. This time, the conflict is mainly between Sunnis and Shiites — and it is fueled, in part, by the bloodbath in Iraq........
It was a rich contradiction: American-allied Sunnis in Lebanon carrying posters of Saddam, a dictator the U.S. had spent billions of dollars and lost thousands of lives to depose. But it was also a declaration of war. Saddam, after all, killed hundreds of thousands of Shiites in Iraq. Many Lebanese Shiites have relatives in Iraq, and the two communities have had close ties for centuries. Lebanon’s political factions eventually compromised on a new government, but the underlying sectarian tensions are still in place, with everyone keeping a wary eye on Iraq.....
As Iraq’s Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds argue over sharing power and the country’s oil wealth, violence is on the rise yet again. The latest elections produced a deadlocked parliament in Baghdad that has not been able to agree on a new government. Far from becoming a model of freedom and religious coexistence, Iraq remains a powder keg that could ignite sectarian conflict across the Middle East."

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Iranian Qiam missile...

From the ArmsControlWonks:
"... The missile definitely is a Scud variant, but with slightly elongated tanks compared to Scud B (thus the lower initial launch acceleration than that of Scud B, which has 2.2 g). With the 0.88 m diameter, the warhead baby bottle is the well known Ghadr-1 (or Shahab 3M) warhead, with the typical 0.88 m base and 0.6 m body diameter. Length also is identical.
So, what does this mean?
Most probably, the Iranians tested a new guidance that is able to control aerodynamically unstable rockets (no fins!). This feature is desired if the missile is to be launched from a container – either mobile or stationary (silo).
In this case, Qiam 1 is only the first test in a row, and we will soon see Qiam 2, which will again be declared as a “new missile with higher accuracy” in the press release. After that – because it makes sense to have a Sejil without fins as an ultimate goal for silo or container launch – we can expect a launch of the Sejil with the new guidance system and without fins, probably again designated as a “new missile”.
Though detailed analysis still has to be done, it seems clear that the Qiam is a modified Scud that is used as a technology test bed."

"... Squeezing Abbas & Fayyad is like squeezing a dry lemon..."

Walt, at FP:
"... .Excuse me, but haven't we seen this movie before, and isn't the last reel a bummer? This idea sounds a lot like the Oslo Accords, which also laid out a "framework" for peace, but deferred the hard issues to the end and repeatedly missed key deadlines. Or maybe it's another version of the Road Map/Annapolis summit, which offered deadlines and bold talk and led precisely nowhere. Or perhaps what they have in mind is a "shelf agreement" -- a piece of paper that sits "on the shelf" until conditions are right (i.e., forever). It is this sort of charade that has led veteran observers like Henry Siegman to denounce the long-running peace process as a "scam," and Siegman is hardly alone in that view.
Here's the basic problem: Unless the new "framework" is very detailed and specific about the core issues -- borders, the status of East Jerusalem, the refugee issue, etc., -- we will once again have a situation where spoilers on both sides have both an incentive and the opportunity to do whatever they can to disrupt the process. ...
The great paradox of the negotiations is that United States is clearly willing and able to put great pressure on both Fatah and Hamas (albeit in different ways), even though that is like squeezing a dry lemon by now. .... "

What Israel and Iran share: mistrust of international law

What Israel and Iran share: mistrust of international law - CSMonitor.com

Al Maliki to Al Akhbar: "This is our Iraq!..."

Al Akhbar/ here
لطالما مثل الوجود العسكري الأميركي قوة موازية تحد من قدرة الدول الإقليمية على التدخل، وخاصة تلك المناهضة لواشنطن. ويعتقد البعض أن العراق سينتقل، في غيابها، من رهينة بين أيدي الأميركيين إلى رهينة بأيدي إيران، فما رأيكم؟
ــــ لم يكن العراق يوماً رهينة بيد أحد ولن يكون. العراق بلد محوري وشعب عظيم لا يمكن أن يصبح رهينة لأية قوة في العالم.

■ يأتي الانسحاب في ظل وجود ملفات خلافية أساسية لم تُحسم بعد وتهدد بعودة الاقتتال الأهلي. من بين هذه الملفات كركوك والأراضي المتنازع عليها مع الأكراد وتوزيع الثروة والسلطة. كيف ستتعاملون مع هذه القضايا بوجود طرف كردي يستغل حاجتكم إليه لتشكيل السلطة من أجل انتزاع الحد الأقصى من المكاسب؟
ــــ الكرد هم جزء أساسي من شعبنا، عاشوا في هذه البلاد وضحوا من أجلها، لذا فهم يستحقون ما يستحقه غيرهم من أبناء هذا الشعب. أما عن الملفات الخلافية فهي موجودة بالتأكيد كجزء من التركة الثقيلة التي ورثناها من السياسات التي انتهجها النظام السابق. ولكن هناك خريطة حلول وضعها الدستور لحل هذه الملفات، ونحن سنكون أوفياء لما قرره الدستور من دون زيادة أو نقصان.ا.

■ نحو 6 أشهر مرت من دون التوصل إلى تسوية يخرج من ثناياها اتفاق على تشكيل السلطة في العراق. معضلة سبق أن أكدتم أنكم تتحملون جزءاً من المسؤولية عنها. هل أنتم مستعدون للتخلي عن منصب رئاسة الحكومة؟ وإن كان الجواب نعم، فلمصلحة من؟ إبراهيم الجعفري أم عادل عبد المهدي أم إياد علاوي أم شخصية أخرى ومن هي؟

نحن أمام رؤى متباينة لشكل الدولة وهيكلية السياسة الأمنية والخارجي __

المفاوضات لم تنقطع مع علاوي والمهم قناعتنا بأنه لا مجال أمامنا سوى الشراكة

ليس لنا عداوات مع أي جهة إقليمية، إلا إذا اعتبرت سياسة الحفاظ على السيادة والاستقرار نوعاً من العداء

(More, here)

"... If Not Gamal, Who?.."

"... Assuming that Egypt continues to follow constitutional processes but bypasses Gamal, who could become the next president? One fact is clear: the new amendments ensure a limited pool of candidates and create an almost insurmountable obstacle for independents. This includes a broad range of personalities that the ruling party currently frowns upon, such as Mohamed ElBaradei, Ayman Nour, and any candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood.
The most frequently suggested establishment names come from within the current NDP leadership, including Secretary-General Safwat al-Sharif and Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif. Among non-NDP party leaders, possible contenders include El Sayed El Badawy, current head of the Wafd Party, as well as Rifaat Said, head of the Tagammua Party.
Other establishment candidates have been suggested outside the party leaderships. Omar Suleiman, the current head of Egyptian intelligence, is the favorite for many in Cairo (and Washington) who prefer backrooms and gray hair to Gamal's youth and inexperience. Ahmed Shafiq, current minister for civil aviation and former commander of the Egyptian air force, is credited with successfully building Cairo's new international airport. Featured prominently in an April 2010 al-Dustour article, he is reportedly close to President Mubarak, himself an air force man. Defense Minister Muhammad Hussein Tantawi, reportedly chosen for the post by Mubarak because of his loyalty (and lack of political ambition), is a taciturn, unimaginative interlocutor for U.S. diplomats and has not been perceptibly active in Egypt's domestic politics. All of these men would have to run as "independents" to comply with the law and be supported by the NDP as such.
Aside from establishment candidates, it is difficult to envision how truly independent candidates such as ElBaradei would be able to run under the existing system......
Securing U.S. Interests during Transition
Although the identity of Mubarak's successor is uncertain, the next president in Cairo will likely appreciate Egypt's relationship with the United States, have had some contact with U.S. diplomats, and be insecure in his new role at first. This will create both opportunities and risks for the United States.
Citing American security interests, many within the so-called "realist" camp will be tempted to embrace any successor chosen by elites in the Egyptian establishment. But the United States also has an interest in seeing a peaceful transition that is consistent with both long-term American interests and the aspirations of the Egyptian people. Indeed, retaining a strong partnership with Egypt will be heavily contingent on the nature of the transition. Toward that end, Washington should reiterate early and often that it does not have a preferred candidate but expects the succession process to be open, transparent, and in accordance with international standards, with the people given a meaningful opportunity to participate in the choosing of their next leader. And if the transition is marked by violence or intimidation, the United States must be prepared to comment on it. The audience for America's message will be the Egyptian people as much as the new Egyptian leader.
Washington should also prepare for the possibility of a new president who seeks to bolster domestic legitimacy by adopting more populist foreign policies. This could be the case with an untested establishment candidate (e.g., Gamal Mubarak) or in the highly unlikely scenario that some outsider manages to win the post. In fact, ElBaradei hinted at such an approach during a recent Der Spiegel interview, suggesting that the permanent opening of the Rafah border crossing with Gaza would not be injurious to Egyptian security, and that the West's concerns about a nuclear Iran are overblown. This tack seems inspired by Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a man ElBaradei has praised as an "Arab hero." If the next president in Cairo adopts such populism, Egypt's chilly peace with Israel would become even more frigid.
In light of these challenges, the future transition will require deft U.S. diplomacy. On the one hand, Washington must publicly identify with the Egyptian people's political aspirations, while on the other hand ensuring the survival of the strategic partnership that has been so important to U.S. national security.
Egypt is at a crossroads. For three decades, President Mubarak has been a stabilizing force within both Egypt and U.S.-Egyptian relations -- so much so that domestic political development has been stunted. His passing will mark the end of an era, likely forcing his successor to search for a new basis of legitimacy at home and a stronger foundation for the bilateral partnership. Beginning with Mubarak's upcoming trip to Washington next week and continuing throughout the coming months, the United States has an opportunity to ensure that its policy is clearly understood by the people and ruling elite alike, so that America's position in Egypt after transition is at least as strong -- if not stronger -- than it is today. "

"PERSUADING ISRAEL not to attack Iran really means convincing Israel that now is the time to give up its regional nuclear monopoly.."

TargetIran.jpg image by dallaspeacecenter
Riedel in the National Interest:
"...ISRAEL SEES its nuclear monopoly as a key factor in its security. Successive Israeli governments have thus ensured that no other state in the Middle East becomes nuclear armed. Time and again, the challenge arises; time and again, the Israelis thwart the attempt. Egypt ...Iraq .... 
The only exception to the rule is Pakistan—the one Muslim state which has developed a nuclear arsenal. But in this case we are talking about a geographically distant country, and one that has never participated in military operations against Israel......
ISRAEL NOW faces the biggest-ever challenge to its monopoly on the bomb in the Middle East from Iran. For Israel, Tehran is a dangerous opponent, close and threatening. There is a virtually unanimous consensus in Israel that Iran cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. ... They fear Israel’s strategic room for maneuver in the region would be constrained by an Iranian nuclear deterrent. The success of Hezbollah and Hamas in the last few years has only added to Israeli concern....
It is certainly a challenging one. Distance alone makes Iran a much more difficult target than Iraq or Syria. .....Moreover, unlike Iraq and Syria, but like Pakistan, the Iranian program is dispersed throughout several facilities and sites around the country, some of which are underground and hardened. An attack might require multiple missions over several days.
Though Israel is giving diplomacy and sanctions time to change Iranian behavior, few in Jerusalem expect the soft approach to work. Most also doubt the United States will use force. .....
AN ISRAELI attack on Iran is a disaster in the making. And it will directly impact key strategic American interests. Iran will see an attack as American supported if not American orchestrated. ..... Even if Iran chooses to retaliate in less risky ways, it could respond indirectly by encouraging Hezbollah attacks against Israel and Shia militia attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq, as well as terrorist attacks against American and Israeli targets in the Middle East and beyond.
America’s greatest vulnerability would be in Afghanistan. Iran could easily increase its assistance to the Taliban and make the already-difficult Afghan mission much more complicated. Western Afghanistan is especially vulnerable to Iranian mischief, and NATO has few troops there to cover a vast area. President Obama would have to send more, not fewer, troops to fight that war. Making matters worse, considering the likely violent ramifications, even a successful Israeli raid would only delay Iran’s nuclear program, not eliminate it entirely. In fact, some Israeli intelligence officials suspect that delay would only be a year or so. Thus the United States would still need a strategy to deal with the basic problem of Iran’s capabilities after an attack, but in a much more complicated diplomatic context since Tehran would be able to argue it was the victim of aggression and probably would renounce its NPT commitments. Support for the existing sanctions on Iran after a strike would likely evaporate.
The United States needs to send a clear red light to Israel. There is no option but to actively discourage an Israeli attack. There is precedent for Washington telling Israel not to use force against a military threat. In the 1991 Gulf War, President George H. W. Bush pressed Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir not to target Iraqi Scud missile launchers that were attacking Israel. Most importantly, Bush refused to give the Israelis the iff codes (encrypted signals to identify aircraft as “friend or foe”) and approval to enter Iraqi airspace, thereby indicating that Israeli aircraft would be flying into harm’s way
PERSUADING ISRAEL not to attack Iran really means convincing Israel that now is the time to give up its regional nuclear monopoly. If we are going to do so, that means enhancing Israel’s deterrence posture. This is the only way Israel can feel (and will be) safe from an Iranian nuclear threat.....IN SUCH a dire (but manageable) situation, the United States needs to bolster Israel’s capabilities now...."

UNIFIL: Stuck in the middle ...

Josh Hersh in the National
Stuck in the middle - The National Newspaper

"...I never promised to extend West Bank settlement construction freeze ..."

Netanyahu: I never promised to extend West Bank settlement construction freeze - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

Hezbollah, Syria to join forces in future clash with Israel

"... The joint command, the report said, would ensure full cooperation in land, sea, and air warfare, as well as take care of the positioning of anti-aircraft missiles in both Lebanon and Syria in order to confront the possibility of an Israeli nuclear assault. .... trading information regarding strategic sites within Israel, including airports and other facilities, as well as dividing up the prospective war fronts between themselves.
The report also stated that Damascus and Hezbollah also worked together on the possibility of joint artillery strike against Israel, as well as drawing up a collective plan for the defense of vital Lebanon, Syria sites in case of an Israeli attack.....
The al-Rai report also stated Syria's contentment with Turkey's recent announcement that it would ban Israeli warplanes from entering its airspace, since it prevents the possibility of an Israeli airstrike from that direction.
Earlier Monday, Syria's Assad urged Lebanon's leader to support Hezbollah and maintain calm in the country.....Hariri has visited Damascus repeatedly this year in a sign of Syria's renewed influence over Lebanon in the years since Damascus withdrew its military in 2005, ending a nearly three-decade hold on Lebanon. Hariri's visits indicate that he needs Syrian support as his Western-backed coalition struggles at home...."

French-Saudi Relations: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

French-Saudi Relations: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Lessons of Iraq applied to Iran ...

Richard Haass, in the Daily Star:
"... The 2001 war against Afghanistan and the 2003 war against Iraq were markedly different. Both interventions sought to oust the governments in place at the time, and both succeeded in that goal. I maintain that the effort against Afghanistan was justified (to remove the Taliban government that helped bring about the 9/11 attacks), and that ousting Saddam Hussein was not.
But, regardless of one’s position on these questions, it cannot be disputed that replacing a government with something better and lasting is a different and much more ambitious goal than changing a government’s behavior. Successful regime change requires a long-term commitment of military force, of civilian experts trained to build a modern society, and of money and attention – and even then there is no assurance that the results will justify the investment....
In the case of Iran, the first Iraq war teaches us that economic sanctions will likely not be enough to persuade the Revolutionary Guards (who increasingly dominate the country) to accept verifiable limits on their nuclear program. Sanctions may, however, persuade some other powerful constituencies within Iran, namely the clerics, the businessmen of the bazaar, and political conservatives, to turn on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Revolutionary Guards base.
But, if not, the question of whether to use military force to slow the development of an Iranian nuclear weapon will come to the fore. Only a few governments, at most, will support doing so. No one can predict or assume what a limited attack on Iran’s nuclear installations would accomplish, cost, or lead to. But not acting – in effect accepting Iran’s nuclear might – risks bringing about a more dangerous and possibly costlier future. As a result, it is Iran, even more than Iraq or Afghanistan, where the lessons of the Gulf war are likely to be debated and, ultimately, applied."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Kahwaji & Baroud: "Hezbollah weaponry not for barter... Not even in Beirut..."

As-Safir Newspaper - : سحور دمشقي للحريري ... والعلاقة بينه وبين «حزب الله» تتصدّع
عـدد الموقوفين إلى عشـرة ... وبـارود يؤكّـد مـراعاة خصوصية سـلاح المقاومـة في بيـروت

Despite Israeli protests, Russia won't halt arms sale to Syria

Despite Israeli protests, Russia won't halt arms sale to Syria - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

While Israeli 'Spiritual Leader' wishes Palestinian genocide, Mubarak makes one easy!

Egyptian forces find additional missile, TNT caches in Sinai - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

“Obama has to walk a fine line between claiming victory in Iraq and preparing the nation for continued chaos there.”

"President Obama will mark his return to Washington with renewed engagement in foreign affairs. In a visit to Texas, he will speak at a rally of troops home from Iraq. Later, in television address to the nation on August 31st he will announce the formal end of the US combat role in Iraq. This will enable him both to fulfill a campaign pledge and to place a positive narrative on the US engagement there. Following that, he will preside over the Middle East peace talks that begin in Washington on September 2nd.  In doing so, Obama will draw on one of the traditional strengths of the American presidency: its dominant role in military and international affairs. He should, therefore, be able to draw some much-needed political benefit from these activities. Senior White House advisers are keenly aware, however, that he will have to maneuver carefully. As one official expressed it to us: “Obama has to walk a fine line between claiming victory in Iraq and preparing the nation for continued chaos there.” Certainly, while most Americans welcome the return of US troops, the debate about the war’s significance pits conservatives and liberals against each other. White House officials also acknowledge to us that the Middle East peace talks carry a significant risk of turning out to be a high profile failure. They are keeping expectations modest and will declare them a success if the talks result simply in an agreement to keep talking. Meanwhile, the underlying doubts about policy toward Afghanistan continue. A number of senior generals are openly questioning the mid-2011 timeline for starting to withdraw US forces. Reports about President Karzai’s involvement with corruption are highlighting a deepening dilemma for US policy-makers in how far to push clean-up demands. Overshadowing foreign affairs, however, the biggest question for Obama, however, remains the economy.  Top economic officials are struggling to deflect a widening public impression that they are deeply divided on how best to counter the faltering recovery. Until Obama settles that question, his advisers know that any boost he may receive from foreign affairs activism will be modest and short-lived. "

Allawi: "... It's a total failure ... Lebanon will be on the agenda when the STL issues its verdicts ... God help us!"

Der Spiegel interviews Eyad Allawi:
"...Allawi: You see what is happening in Afghanistan: It is a total failure. The problem here is not about America leaving Iraq and continuing its fight in Afghanistan. America has to rethink its strategy for the whole region from Central Asia to the Middle East. NATO will have to rethink its strategy, and so will Europe. The West's policy is wrong. Just look around: Somalia is a totally failed state. Yemen faces the most serious of challenges. Palestine? One step forward, three steps back. And somewhere down the line, Lebanon will be on the agenda. God help us when the United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon issues its verdicts in the murder case of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri...."

"... Obama weaker than his predecessors..."

Via Mideastwire:
"...On August 26, Palestinian Ramallah-based paper Al-Ayyam wrote: “US President Barack Obama failed in implementing what he sees as a suitable solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He backtracked on his statements and demands on Israel under pressure from the pro-Israeli Jewish lobby in Washington. The facts on the ground show that he is currently weaker than his predecessors… and that he who controls US policy in the region rules Israel."

"Israeli brains & Arab dollars..."

"... Nochi Dankner, chairman of the IDB Group and one of Israel's most prominent businessman, found a way of circumventing the politics that block ties between the business communities in the Gulf and in Israel. More than two years ago, Dankner purchased shares of Credit Suisse via Koor Industries, an IDB Group subsidiary. Today he holds 3.2% of the bank's wealth. 
The bank's other major shareholders are the Qatari government (6.6%) and Saudi business group Olayan (about 10%). Under the Credit Suisse umbrella, a beautiful friendship blossomed between Dankner and the Arab representatives, to the ponit where the sides are exchanging gifts. In this same spirit, the joint emerging markets investment fund was created. The fund is worth $1.1 billion and is equally split between the largest private Israeli corporation and the Qatari and Saudi investors. 
This is not merely a financial move. Persian Gulf rulers and investors have inconceivable wealth and don't need a credit line from Koor Industries or Clal Insurance. A quarter of a million dollars is peanuts for them. They are embracing Nochi Dankner for other reasons. It is meant to signal their sincere desire to openly conduct joint business with Israel...."

"..Not possible for the strongest & the weakest kids in the neighborhood to have talks on reconciliation when talks are based on 'arm wrestling'.." b

"...Mr. Prime Minister, only one person in the world can fail in these talks, and his name is Benjamin Netanyahu. If there is success, you will have to share the Nobel Peace Prize with Abbas and special U.S. envoy George Mitchell. If there is failure, it will be yours alone. And your failure, Mr. Prime Minister, will not be our failure, it will be our disaster. Because, for the time being, I don't see the U-turn that is needed, I don't believe there will be peace. Get ready for the commission of inquiry."

Saturday, August 28, 2010

"..Abbas & all Palestinians should perish..."


Beirut's 'fifth columns'?

ان مديرية المخابرات في الجيش اوقفت أربعة اشخاص بتهمة حرق المسجد التابع جزئيا لـ"جمعية المشاريع الخيرية الاسلامية" في البسطا الفوقا وهم: محمد أحمد نصرالله (شيعي) من السكسكية بمنطقة صيدا، علي منير شاهين (سني) من الباشورة، فادي الشيخ موسى عميرات وعلي خالد عميرات (كرديان) ومعروفان بأنهما من أصحاب سوابق في سرقة السيارات. ويجري التحقيق معهم في مديرية المخابرات لمعرفة خلفية دخولهم على خط الاشتباكات كطرف ثالث وحرق المسجد. وفهم من التحقيقات الاولية ان الموقوفين الاربعة تعمدوا احراق المسجد بمواد قابلة للاشتعال

Egypt raids Palestinian arms caches ...


"...Israel planning to attack Hezbollah arms depots in Syria..."

"... According to the report, Israel plans to attack Hezbollah weapons depots, including ones deep inside Syria that store long-range rockets.
The Al Rai report said that the situation on the Israel-Syria border is tense and that Syria could respond immediately to any Israeli attack and not demonstrate the restraint that it did after the Israeli Air Force bombed a suspected nuclear reactor in Syria in the fall of 2007.
According to the report, Syria's military is on high alert and is strengthening its anti-aircraft defenses along the border with Israel and at strategic sites within Syria..."

Friday, August 27, 2010

“...This battle changed our thoughts. We returned to our sect. I won’t die for the [Future Movement]. I will die for my sect..."

Nir Rosen sent us a glimpse of his upcoming book "Aftermath", release due in October 10'. Below are excerpts dealing with the May 2008' 'events', and the sectarianism that prevailed.

"..... As Nasrallah explained at a press conference, Hizballah had used its weapons to defend its weapons. By the morning of May 9 all of west Beirut was in the hands of Hizballah or its armed allies. The government headquarters, called the Sérail, was surrounded, as were the homes of key March 14 leaders like Hariri and Jumblatt. It was the coup that never happened, but it galvanized the more militant Sunnis of the Beqaa and northern Lebanon....

....That evening I interviewed (Mosbah) Ahdab in his ostentatious Tripoli apartment. He had a small militia of dozens of fit armed men protecting him. One of his security guards belonged to Afwaj Trablus, the Tripoli Brigades. He was paid by Secure Plus. There were six or seven thousand men like him, he told me, who had been trained but not in the use of RPGs. A few had received advanced training in Jordan. “It would be better if the Syrians were here,” he said ruefully. “At least there was security.” Ahdab’s eyes were bloodshot and wide in near hysteria. His breath smelled strongly of alcohol. An Iranian militia had taken over an Arab capital, he told me. As we spoke, we got word of clashes in the slums of Bab al-Tabbaneh.....

Shadi thought Prime Minister Siniora was an infidel, apostate, and ally of the Americans. But the Hizballah-led siege of Siniora’s government was not about Siniora, he said; it was about the sect...

... When Nabil and the men in his network were arrested (they were found with fifty kilograms of TNT and five kilograms of C4), they were tortured by members of the Interior Ministry’s Information Branch. During the interrogations Nabil was hit in the back of his head with a club; his legs were bruised for months after the beatings. Nabil was accused of being the number-two man in the group. Ismail was tortured to death, and his funeral in Majd al-Anjar was an occasion for massive demonstrations. With Ismail’s death, Nabil lost his connections to Iraq and no longer smuggled on behalf of the jihad. Nabil bragged about those days. “We are Al Qaeda,” he told me. “We had connec- tions to Abu Shahid.”.......

He did not want fitnain the Muslim community, he said; he wanted to fix the problems of arms in Lebanon and the dangers they posed for Sunnis. After seeing what happened in Beirut, Sunnis understandably wanted to arm themselves too. The Future Movement had no creed, he said. Its people worked only for money, unlike Hizballah. Sunnis were looking for a leader to repre- sent them, but the Mufti Qabbani was too close to the Saudis and the Future Movement, and he was weak, having done nothing in response to the events in Beirut. There was an opening now for Islamist movements,.....

“Before May 8 I used to love life,” said Hossam. “I would never sleep. I was into women, drugs, alcohol—I was living life to the fullest. ....“I should be doing martyrdom operations too,” he told me, his eyes darting to Nabil, look- ing for approval. “I would like to blow myself up during Nasrallah’s speech when there is a large group of people.” He got so much pleasure from shoot- ing, he said, and he surmised that if he went on a martyrdom operation his soul would feel even better. Nabil expected suicide operations like those in Iraq to occur in Lebanon, targeting Shiites. “I won’t be surprised if it happened,” he said.

... Sunnis had lost their trust in the security forces, especially after seeing the Lebanese army side with Hizballah. “We will defend ourselves, ....The Sunnis of Beirut were hit, but we will hit back one hundred times.” They were disappointed in Saad al-Hariri, who hadn’t supported the sect enough. Dhaher added that they were coordi- nating with Sunnis in the Beqaa and in Arsal.

I went to Arsal, a town bordering Syria that I had not heard of before talk- ing to Dhaher. I saw more posters for Saddam Hussein on the walls than for Rafiq al-Hariri.... “We are all yours, glorious Saddam, ...All the Muslim community is for Saddam,”.....

Hujairi had been mayor for four years. He was a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, he told me, but he admitted that in the recent fighting the Brotherhood had not had a strong stand. Only the Salafis had been strong.....

Only three officers in the army were from Arsal, though many townsmen were enlisted. There were no government services in town. Electricity was four hours on, four hours off. I was thus surprised to learn that townspeople from Arsal still identified enough with the state to go down to Beirut and demon- strate so often. They had gone to protest the Danish cartoons and to show sup- port for Saad Hariri. Although many Western journalists live in Beirut, and many others descend on it whenever there is a crisis, few venture outside Beirut. This is despite the fact that Lebanon is such a small country. So the neglected Sunni population and the anger of that community are relatively unknown...... there was no party equivalent to Hizballah that could provide social services to poor Sunnis......

All Sunnis felt threatened and were uniting, he said, whether with the Muslim Brotherhood or the Future Movement. The Brotherhood was gaining in popularity in town because Sunnis felt marginalized. When they asked the Future Movement for weapons, they were turned down, he complained. “The Islamists will protect the Sunnis,” he said, and the Salafi movement would emerge stronger after these events. Dabaja’s brother agreed. “People are moving to extremism,” he said. “Before they were supporting Future, which is moderate, but now we cry for Nahr al-Barid. We could have used those people.” Dabaja agreed: “Last year we supported the army in Nahr al-Barid, but now we regret killing the extremists. People are thinking of weapons. We are threatened now. Are we going to sit with our hands tied?” Hizballah was afraid of the Salafis, they said.......

Fifty men from the town had gone to fight in Beirut, but they had only been given sticks. There was a strong sense of Sunni solidarity now, he said, and they wanted weapons. “Shiites exposed that they are against Sunnis,” he said. He cursed Hariri for betraying Sunnis’ trust and humiliating them. “If Hariri wants to gain Sunnis back, he has to arm us....

I continued visiting Tariq al-Jadida in late May and early June......“We don’t want Shiites here!”

“The shabab are upset,” said Fadi, the local militiaman I had befriended. “Future brought us down to the street but could do nothing. Future is popular because there is no Sunni alternative.” Fadi and his men had asked Secure Plus for weapons but were told they didn’t have any. It seemed as though the leadership had sold the weapons for profit. .......“This battle changed our thoughts. We returned to our religion, to our sect. I won’t die for the [Future Movement]. I will die for my home, my sect. I am a Sunni. Now, there is no Sunni living who likes Shiites.” But Fadi still drank and didn’t pray five times a day. Like many other Sunnis, he was proud of the Halba massacre......"