Saturday, April 30, 2011

"... Undermining stability in Lebanon is an easy matter ..."

(AFP)- "Unrest in Syria could spread to neighbouring Lebanon at any moment in light of charges by Damascus that Beirut's Hariri camp is backing anti-regime protesters
"Merely stating that Lebanese parties are interfering in Syrian affairs is equivalent to threatening to destabilise Lebanon, irrespective of whether charges of funding and arming the protesters are accurate," said Ghassan el-Ezzi, professor of political science at the state-run Lebanese University. "This could well be an attempt to transfer the crisis from one country to another," Ezzi told AFP...
"Undermining stability in Lebanon is an easy matter: any dispute here will turn into sectarian strife in which Arab states, Iran, Turkey and Western countries, such as France and the United States, get involved," Ezzi said...
Hezbollah's Al-Manar television also reported that Syrian authorities confiscated drugs, money and arms on seven boats that had been heading from northern Lebanon to the Syrian port city of Latakia. Syria "suspected the boats were tied to the Future Movement," Al-Manar said.
Some analysts say there is no smoke without fire.
"While there is no concrete evidence, I do not think it is a totally far-fetched notion that there is arms and cash smuggling from Lebanon to Syria with the help of Saudi Arabia," said Karim Makdisi, a political science professor at the American University of Beirut..."

Pentagon: "Reports of atrocities committed against black African members of Qaddafi's forces..."

"Over the coming weeks, US foreign policy attention will be focused on the Middle East. Here, the way ahead in the maze of conflicting pressures is not becoming any easier to discern. On the Middle East peace process, the announcement of a rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas has been greeted with caution in Washington. When Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu addresses Congress later on May 22nd, US officials expect him to take a hard line against any accommodation with Hamas as well as to possible recognition of a Palestine state at the UN General Assembly in September. With Republicans rallying firmly to this position, President Obama’s freedom of maneuver is limited. As we have reported, a speech addressing the peace process is in draft, but we do not expect Obama to risk much if any political capital on this issue. In parallel, he faces political pressure to take a firmer line against Syria. The Administration’s cautious response is being contrasted to the ongoing military actions in Libya. State Department officials have sought to reconcile the two positions, but we see little possibility that the Administration’s actions will go beyond tougher economic sanctions. On Libya, Pentagon officials tell us privately that their assessment is that the war is headed toward a stalemate. They are also receiving private reports of atrocities committed against black African members of Libyan government forces. For the moment, however, the State Department is leading policy on Libya, with Secretary of State Clinton due to make the case for sustained engagement at the May 4th-6th meeting of the Libya contact group..."

Israeli-American-Mubarak-Suleiman resistance to dealing with Hamas in power & according Israel greater importance than Palestine, prevented a reconciliation earlier

"... The Egyptian government’s constructive and impartial mediating role that brought about Palestinian reconciliation stands in stark contrast with the pro-Fatah and anti-Hamas tilt of the Mubarak regime and its prime purveyor of political and intellectual dishonesty, former intelligence chief General Omar Suleiman. The differences between Fatah and Hamas were all related to political and security matters that had logical solutions, because they emerged from short-term political actions rather than long-term structural differences. Israeli-American-Mubarak-Suleiman resistance to dealing with Hamas in power and the decision to accord Israeli concerns greater importance than Palestinian rights prevented a reconciliation earlier on. The agreement now, so soon after Mubarak-Suleiman have left the scene, is a telltale indicator of where the problems really were. So was the speedy, almost Pavlovian, comment by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu within hours of the reconciliation accord that Fatah could have peace with Hamas or with Israel, but not with both... ... ... 
The reactivation of Egypt’s regional role is also significant because it comes at a time when four other important foreign policy developments are under way in the Middle East. The first is the dynamism among some Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, three of which (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar) have, unusually, sent troops beyond their borders to engage in martial diplomacy in Bahrain and Libya. The second is the global intervention in Libya through the U.N. Security Council, now aiming to overthrow the Libyan leader, Moammar Gadhafi. The third is the increasingly important counsel and role of Turkey in the region. And the fourth is the increasing regional and global pressure being brought to bear on the Syria-Iran-Hezbollah axis, combined with Damascus’ preoccupation with its domestic condition.
In this context of an ongoing structural reconfiguration of Middle Eastern foreign policy actors and influences, an Egyptian foreign policy refreshingly based on integrity, national self-interest and plain old common sense represents the first significant move toward redressing the most glaring imbalance in the region since Egypt slipped out of the Arab order in the late 1970s. The region’s security architecture since then has been defined by interactions among four non-Arab powers – Israel, Iran, Turkey and the United States – which has left this area as a playground for their scheming and rivalries. A robust Egypt that may coordinate more closely with the GCC states, while Syria is preoccupied at home and the Palestinians present a unified face to Israel and the world, means we should expect important changes ahead in the four overriding regional dynamics that continue to link the Arabs, Israelis, Iranians and major Western powers in mostly uneasy relationships..."

"General Petraeus is submissive to Sharia' law!"

... and Obama appointed this guy to head the CIA?
"GAFFNEY: We won’t have time here to go through this. Let me just mention several different ways in which this kind of influence operation is being run against those sorts of target sets. An important part of it is keeping us ignorant of what they are doing. I’m sure most of you witnessed General David Petraeus, the much admired military leader, responding to the Quran burning down in Florida by Pastor Terry Jones. Saying that the holy Quran – repeatedly – the holy Quran must not be desecrated, and in other ways, suggesting that what we are doing here is a kind of submission to this program, lest we give offense, which is a blasphemy and a capital crime under Sharia..."

Friday, April 29, 2011

Banned: "The infringement of the reputation or dignity, the slander or the personal offence of the Grand Mufti"

(Reuters) - "Saudi Arabia tightened its control of the media on Friday, threatening fines and closure of publications that jeopardised its stability or offended clerics, state media reported. ... ... "All those responsible for publication are banned from publishing ... anything contradicting Islamic Sharia Law; anything inciting disruption of state security or public order or anything serving foreign interests that contradict national interests," the state news agency SPA said.......  the royal order banned the "infringement of the reputation or dignity, the slander or the personal offence of the Grand Mufti or any of the country's senior clerics or statesmen.."

'Even Human Rights groups are more cautious on Syria...'

"... Human-rights groups are even more cautious. “If Obama were to call for Assad to go, I don’t think it would change things on the ground in any way, shape, or form,” said Joseph Stork, deputy director of the Middle East division of Human Rights Watch, which had been supportive of military action in Libya. In this case, he said, targeted sanctions, he said, were the right move....  The administration did not sanction President Assad, saying it focused on those directly responsible for human-rights abuses. A senior official said the United States would not hesitate to add him to the list if the violence did not stop. But the White House seemed to be calculating that it could still prevail on him to show restraint.
“Our goal is to end the violence and create an opening for the Syrian people’s legitimate aspirations,,” said a spokesman for the National Security Council, Tommy Vietor. .... ..... .....  for the Obama administration, abandoning Mr. Assad has costs. For two years, it cultivated him in the hope that Syria would break the logjam in the Middle East peace process ... ... .... Israel’s sensitivity about Syria is so acute that when reports began circulating this week that Israeli officials were pressing the White House to be less tough on Damascus, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael B. Oren, called reporters to insist that his government was doing nothing of the sort. ... ... “The regime coming down in a speedy, orderly transition to a Sunni government would be a setback for Iran, but that’s not what’s happening,” said Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “We’re headed for something much messier. The Iranians can play around in that.”

Clinton: "Violence must end!"

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, Mr. Minister, I’d like to ask you on the Syria sanctions that President Obama issued today, although there were some members of President Asad’s family and the intelligence community that were named, President Asad himself wasn’t named. And if, in fact, as the United States attests, that he is a dictator and has absolute rule in the country, how can he not be personally held responsible for the human rights abuses in his country?...
SECRETARY CLINTON: Elise, ... ... ....  The violence must end immediately, and we are conveying that both bilaterally and multilaterally to make it absolutely clear what is expected of the government. I welcome today’s action in the Human Rights Council condemning the Government of Syria for its violent crackdown.... "

Avoiding a Libya redux ...

he United Nations’ top human-rights body on Friday split over how to respond to Syria’s state-ordered violence against civilians – even as Syrians defied the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and turned out in protests across the country. The UN Human Rights Council approved a watered-down statement sponsored by the United States that condemns the military-on-civilian violence. The statement also calls on the UN’s top human-rights official to undertake an immediate investigation of the violence for violations of international law. But the statement had to overcome a barrage of opposition from China, Russia, and some African countries that made it clear they were balking at following the same path the international community has taken against the regime of Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. Nine countries – including China and Russia – voted against the measure, while 11 either abstained or were not present. The council’s split suggests that the long-lived divide over human rights between Western and developed democracies on one side and developing, often autocratic regimes on the other is alive and well. Declarations at Friday’s council session from Russia, China, and some other members suggest that a number of countries now feel Western countries have overstepped their bounds in using international condemnation of Libya to enter the conflict there, and they don’t want the same to occur in Syria..."

European Diplomats: "Muslim Brotherhood enlisting Salafists to do its 'dirty work' in Egypt"

"... Western diplomats have reported expanded cooperation between the Muslim Brotherhood and the so-called Salafist movement, funded by Gulf Arab sheiks,... "There is evidence that the Salafists and Brotherhood are working together to take over the streets [of Egypt]," a diplomat said.
The diplomats said the Brotherhood was using the Salafists for attacks on other elements of the opposition that helped oust President Hosni Mubarak in February. They said the Brotherhood was exploiting its quiet cooperation with the military regime... "The Brotherhood wants to present an image of moderation and non-violence," the diplomat said. "When it needs dirty work done, it calls the Salafists."..
The diplomats said the Salafists have benefited since the military regime began more than two months ago. They said dozens of Salafist prisoners, including those convicted of security offenses, have been released with the promise that they would not attack government installations..."

Farid Ghadri: "Arms flowing to rebels from Iraq, Jordan & Lebanon"

"... Syrian opposition sources said tribes in Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon have been relaying weapons in an effort to oust President Bashar Assad. They said the weapons were sent to avenge the killing by Syrian security forces of tribal members over the last month.
"One of Assad's biggest mistakes is that his security forces have been killing members of powerful tribes with a presence in neighboring countries as well," an opposition source said.
The weapons smuggling to the Syrian rebels began in March when Assad forces shot and killed members of tribes in Dera near the Jordanian border. Some of the tribes in Dera have links with supporters in Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
On April 19, a son of a powerful tribal chief, Saleh Al Fadous, was killed by Assad forces in the northern city of Homs. Fadous is a member of the Fawareh tribe with allies in Iraq and Jordan, including Duleimeh and Bani Hassan.
"Arms are flowing into Syria in large quantities today by tribal leaders whose traditional bonds with the tribes of Syria make it impossible not to smuggle arms," the Reform Party of Syria said. "As Assad massacres continue against unarmed civilians, he is also driving the country towards an outright civil war."
RPS, in a statement on April 23, said Bani Hassan was a leading ally of King Abdullah in Jordan. For its part, Duleimeh, descendants of the Shaalan tribe, was connected to and supportive of the Saudi royal family.
The Assad regime has confirmed arms smuggling from Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. In mid-April, an Iraqi truck driver confessed to receiving thousands of dollars for arms shipments to Syria.
On April 26, the Syrian-influenced Lebanese daily Al Akhbar quoted a Lebanese mayor as saying that an attempt to smuggle weapons to Syria was foiled. Al Hisha Mayor Mohammed Durgham was quoted as saying that villagers were conducting patrols to stop any smuggling."  

Talal bin Abdul Aziz: "Dark days ahead for Saudi Arabia!"

In this video he says: "While King Abdallah is alive, he acts as a security valve ... There are hot coals under the ashes ... After King Abdallah, I expect dark days for the kingdom..."

"Israeli officials want a public commitment from Washington to protect the Saudi regime.."

Ted Koppel writes in the WSJ:
"... None of America's allies is more sensitive to even the most subtle changes in the international environment, or more conscious of the slightest hint of diminished support from Washington... Netanyahu has been so concerned that a member of his fractious coalition might give vent to some damaging public observation on this issue that he has imposed a strict "nobody talks on the subject but me" rule. That the gag has been even partially effective, given the wide-open nature of the Israeli political process, is astonishing. It is also a measure of how worried the Israelis are.
My own reporting on the Middle East in general and Israel in particular goes back almost 40 years—to the days of Henry Kissinger's shuttle diplomacy in the region. On a recent visit to Jerusalem, I met with a number of very senior current and former government officials who spoke on a not-for-attribution basis. They were anything but restrained in voicing their concerns, and some of the views expressed in this article reflect the outlook of the prime minister himself.
Overshadowing all other concerns is the fear that Iran is poised to reap enormous benefits from the so-called Arab Spring. "Even without nukes," one top official told me, "Iran picks up the pieces. With nukes, it takes the house."... What is new is a growing worry that America's adversaries will be less inclined to take warnings from Washington seriously.
The Israeli government is so concerned that America's adversaries may miscalculate U.S. intentions that it is privately urging Washington to make it clear that the U.S. would intervene in Saudi Arabia should the survival of that government be threatened. That is, after all, what President George H.W. Bush did more than 20 years ago when Saddam Hussein ordered Iraqi forces into Kuwait and moved forces in the direction of Saudi Arabia. "This," President Bush said on more than one occasion, "will not stand." And it didn't..... the Israelis are convinced that the principle needs to be unambiguously restated, if only as a reminder that Washington knows where its critical national interests lie. Absent such a public recommitment, they worry that Iran will be encouraged to even greater mischief...
Just as enemies such as Iran need to be cautioned, America's traditional allies need to be reassured. That's why Israeli officials are recommending a Marshall Plan for Egypt... the Israelis believe it is essential to prevent its economic collapse....
here (in Syria's case) the Israelis are far more comfortable with stability on their borders. Assad, like his father before him, has maintained an uneasy truce along Syria's border with Israel, despite Israel's continued occupation of the Golan Heights.
Little, if anything, that has happened during the past few months has improved Israel's standing in the region. One of the most telling blows to Israel's security has gone all but unnoticed in the swirl of uprisings. For years, the most stable relationship that Israel enjoyed with any Muslim nation was with Turkey. Even under the leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has specialized in publicly baiting the Israelis, the relationship between the two countries' intelligence agencies remained strictly professional. "That," a high-ranking Israeli official told me, "is no longer the case."

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Netanyahu: “Israel would not recognize any government in the world that included members from Al-Qaida,”

(Barak Ravid)- "... Netanyahu yesterday hinted in discussions with a visiting delegation of U.S. Congress members that the United States should consider stopping economic aid to the Palestinian Authority... Netanyahu also told the seven U.S. lawmakers that Israel would not recognize a Palestinian unity government if it did not meet these conditions. “Israel would not recognize any government in the world that included members from Al-Qaida,” Netanyahu said..."

Hey Qatar, what gives?

يوم اندلعت ثورة تونس كان الجميع في حالة ترقّب، غابت الأحزاب والجبهات والتيارات خلف حشود من المواطنين، والشباب قرّروا مواجهة الخوف والظلم. كانوا يحتاجون إلى أداةٍ للتواصل مع العالم. فجأةً، أمسكت «الجزيرة» بزمام المبادرة، صارت الناطقة باسم هؤلاء. وبرز دورها أكبر مع اندلاع الثورة في مصر، وحتى الأيام الأخيرة قبل سقوط حسني مبارك، كانت «الجزيرة» تؤدّي باسم قطر، وباسم تيار واسع يمتدّ في كلّ العالم العربي، وحيث الانتشار، دور الداعم للثائرين والمغامر إلى جانب مَن أسقط أكبر طاغية في العالم العربي. ثم جاءت ليبيا واليمن والبحرين وسوريا... فصرنا أمام مشهد جديد!
عند هذه اللحظة، بدأ الأميركيون، والأنظمة الحليفة لهم، التعامل مع الأمر بطريقة مختلفة. انطلقت رحلة الاستنفار والضغوط، وصارت قطر أمام خيارات جديدة، وعند هذا الحد ظهرت الأسئلة الكبرى:
– لماذا تدعم قطر تدخلاً عسكرياً غربيّاً في ليبيا، ولماذا تعطي لنفسها دور المشارك في هذه العملية؟ هل تضيف قواتها شيئاً سوى إضفاء الشرعية على جرائم تعوّد الغرب ارتكابها في عالمنا العربي والإسلامي وضد شعوبنا؟
– لماذا تتحوّل «الجزيرة» إلى أداةٍ تروّج للعدوان الغربي على ليبيا؟ ليس صحيحا أصلاً أنّ الشعب الليبي منح عمرو موسى أو أيّ عربي حقّ استدعاء الغرب باسمه للتدمير، وإن كان الخصم الموجود في طرابلس مجرماً دموياً مثل معمر القذافي.
– مَن أقنع قطر، أو قناة «الجزيرة»، بوهم صناعة الثورات، حتى صار التصرّف على أساس أنْ لا ثورة من دونها وأنْ لا تغيير سيحصل من دون دعمها؟ ومَن كلّف هؤلاء مهمة اختيار الناطقين باسم الشعب الثائر في هذه الدول؟ وهل ثمّة واهم بأنّ ظهور شخصيات من داخل استديو «الجزيرة» يمكن أن يجعل منهم قادة لثورات أو شعوب، بينما هم يعيشون منذ عقود في الخارج، وبعضهم على تواصل يومي مع الإدارات الغربية، وبعضهم الآخر كان يفاوض سيف الإسلام القذافي للعودة إلى ليبيا؟
– مَن أقنع قطر، أو «الجزيرة»، بأنّ في يدهم تقرير صورة قادة الانتفاضات العربية وجعل الصورة المركّبة حقيقة ساطعة لا تقبل الشكّ؟ ومَن استدرج قطر ومعها «الجزيرة» إلى فخّ الدور المنفوخ؟ ومَن قال إن مصير الأمّة العربية صار رهن ما يُقرّر في الدوحة؟
– ثم ماذا عن اختبار البحرين؟ هل تكفي الإشارة إلى خلفية طائفية أو مذهبية لغالبية المحتجّين، حتى نمنع عن هؤلاء حقّ المطالبة بحقوق مدنية بديهية؟ وأيّ عاقل يوافق على إرسال قوّات احتلال إلى هذا البلد، والكل يعلم أنّ لكل ظالم نهاية؟ ومَن قال إن قناة «الجزيرة» سوف تكون خارج النقد إن هي قرّرت إدارة ظهرها لأكبر عملية تطهير عنصري يشهدها الخليج العربي؟ ومَن قال إن صوت المحتجّين في المنامة لن يصل إلى العالم، إذا ما قررت «الجزيرة» الامتناع عن بثّه؟
– ثم إذا كانت قطر، ومعها «الجزيرة»، تريد الوقوف، كما نحن جميعاً، إلى جانب الشعب السوري في مطالبه المشروعة بتحقيق إصلاحات جذرية، فهل هذا يمنح أحداً شرعية تحويل الأمر إلى أداة ضغط على النظام في سوريا لتحقيق أهداف سياسية أخرى؟
– مَن قال إن السوريين الذين يحفظون لقطر وقوفها إلى جانبهم يوم عمل العالم كله على عزلهم، يقبلون بنوعٍ من المقايضة تصل إلى حدود النطق باسمهم والتحدّث عنهم مع النظام نفسه أو مع الخارج؟
– كيف لقطر ولقناة «الجزيرة» أن تنتقل فجأة إلى موقع الساعي إلى إنهاك النظام في سوريا لا إلى مساعدته على تحقيق إصلاحات حقيقيّة؟ وهل المشاركة في التحريض على النظام هناك، هي ما يؤسس لحضور سياسي وشعبي لقطر في بلاد الشام؟
– مَن قال إنّ تورّط قناة «الجزيرة» في بثّ أخبار كاذبة وفي عمليات تغطية تفتقد الموضوعية، وإحياء أحقاد عند قسم من «الإخوان المسلمين» المنتشرين في المحطة من شأنه أن يخدم صورة قطر أو صورة قناة «الجزيرة»؟
وأبعد من ذلك، هناك الموقف السياسي، والسؤال المحيّر: مَن زرع في العقل السياسي القطري أن هناك إمكانية أداء أدوار تفوق القدرة؟
في هذه اللحظة، الأفضل هو العودة إلى الخلف قليلاً، وإلى التمييز بين الدور الداعم لحقّ الشعوب في الحصول على حقوقها – وهذا أمر لا يمكن أن يكون جزئياً، ومَن يرد نصرة أهل الشام لا يغضّ الطرف عن قتل أهل البحرين – وبين الدور الوطني الذي يصوّره لنا غرب له مصلحة فقط في تفتيت قدراتنا، أو إسلامي متملّق يسعى إلى تحقيق مكاسب آنيّة، أو انتهازيّ يعتقد أنها اللحظة المناسبة للفوز بالجائزة...
إنّ لقطر رصيداً حقيقياً عند الشعوب المنخرطة في معركة المقاومة ضد إسرائيل، وشعب سوريا من أبرز هذه الشعوب، وإذا كنّا جميعاً سنظلّ ندين قتل الناس وقمعهم، ونرفع الصوت لحفظ الحقوق، ولأجل أن يلتزم الرئيس الأسد برنامجاً إصلاحيّاً جذريّاً وجديّاً، فإن ذلك لا يقودنا في أي لحظة إلى التخلّي عن قضية مركزية، تتّصل بكيفية مواجهة الغرب واستعماره العسكري والاقتصادي والسياسي والثقافي، وتتصل أولاً وأخيراً بحقّنا في مواصلة المقاومة لاستعادة فلسطين، كلّ فلسطين.
لن يكون لقطر حلفاء يحمونها ويعطونها الدور الحقيقي غير أهل المقاومة. ولن يكون لقطر أيّ دور أو مساحة إنْ هي قرّرت الذوبان في السياسة الأميركية أو السعودية. ولن تكون لقطر صورة ناصعة إذا ما تلطّخت بدم ضحية واحدة تذهب جرّاء تضليل إعلامي، أو خطأ في السياسة.
أمّا قناة «الجزيرة» فهي أمام الاختبار الأصعب، لأنّ استعادة الصدقيّة والمهنيّة، تكون فقط عندما تفتح الكاميرا عينها على شكل عيون السمك، ترى كل شيء من حولها ولا تقف حائرة أو شاردة عن ظلم هنا أو ظلم هناك...

Locals: "A revolution in Syria? yes there is. but who holds the weapons & who uses them & how things going to settle, all are still open questions..."

'Rafah crossing to be permanently open!'

"Egypt's foreign minister said in an interview with Al-Jazeera on Thursday that preparations were underway to open the Rafah border crossing with Gaza on a permanent basis.Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil al-Arabi told Al-Jazeera that within seven to 10 days, steps will be taken in order to alleviate the "blockade and suffering of the Palestinian nation."
The announcement indicates a significant change in the policy on Gaza, which before Egypt's uprising, was operated in conjunction with Israel. The opening of Rafah will allow the flow of people and goods in and out of Gaza without Israeli permission or supervision, which has not been the case up until now. Israel's blockade on Gaza has been a policy used in conjunction with Egyptian police to weaken Hamas, which has ruled over the strip since 2007. The policy also aims to reduce Hamas' popularity among Gazans by creating economic hardship in the Strip. Rafah's opening would be a violation of an agreement reached in 2005 between the United States, Israel, Egypt, and the European Union, which gives EU monitors access to the crossing...."

'Lebanese ambassador sued for abusing Filipino maid'

(This story was removed from NOWLebanon's site. AngryArab got us the cashed link)
"Lebanese ambassador to the US Antoine Chedid is being sued by his family’s former Filipino maid on claims he failed to pay minimum wage and verbally abused and mistreated her. (See the lawsuit here)
Araceli D. Montuya, reportedly the mother of 10 children, says she was made to work for $3 per hour as a full-time housekeeper and nanny for approximately 16 hours per day, six days a week, for a period of 26 months from August 2007 through September 2009. At a status hearing on April 19, Chedid’s lawyer denied the allegations and argued the ambassador and his family are entitled to diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention.
Ok Lebanon, we really need to get a grip on ourselves and ditch this repeated association with the essential enslavement of foreign domestic workers. C’mon now."

Calamity in Syria: '"Over 200 Ba'ath members resign from a total of over 224, Dera'a alone!"

IAEA chief: Asks in response to a question: "The facility that was ... destroyed by Israel was a nuclear reactor under construction"?!?

 'Lost in Translation!'
What kind of 'confirmation' is this? 
(AP)- "..........."The facility that was ... destroyed by Israel was a nuclear reactor under construction," he (Amano) asked in response to a question from The AP, repeating to the AP afterward: "It was a reactor under construction."

"He doesn’t know what he’s talking about..."

In his memoir, Donald Rumsfeld said the opposite — that you almost never wanted to take dissenting views to the president. 
He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I don’t think he was ever in the room with the president and me ...  We tended to do it privately.
Rumsfeld also implied that you were unfit for office. He wrote that you had “modest experience in the federal government and management.” 
First of all, I didn’t have modest experience in management. Managing Stanford University is not so easy. But  Don can be a grumpy guy. We all know that.
One of the great foreign-policy victories of the Bush administration was bringing Muammar el-Qaddafi into the Western fold. Do you see it as any less of a victory now? 
Just imagine what the circumstances would look like if his W.M.D. weren’t sitting in Oak Ridge, Tenn.... 
What were the most exhilarating moments in office? 
The day the Iraqis (and) the Afghans voted for the first time. When Liberia was liberated; when the Syrian forces left Lebanon.
In 2005 you went to see “Spamalot,” and the audience booed you. Does that happen a lot? 
 you know what, I don’t care. I don’t care, ..... The overwhelming majority of people come up to me and say, “Thank you for your service.”

Turkish troops kill 7 PKK militants ...

(Reuters) - Turkish security forces killed seven Kurdish guerrillas in an army operation in eastern Turkey, military sources told Reuters Thursday.

Huge explosion in Marrakesh ... 14 killed

(VOA)- "At least 14 people have been killed by an explosion at a cafe in the Moroccan city of Marrakech. A statement from Morocco's Interior Ministry says the blast appeared to be the result of a "criminal act". Officials say at least 20 other people were wounded in Thursday's explosion, and some of the victims are tourists. The explosion tore the facade off the two-story cafe in Jemaa el-Fna square in the heart of Marrakech's old city, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site."

'The security of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia is indivisible – being two bodies in the same soul' (huh?)

Excerpt from the weekly letter ambassador Nonoo sends on the functioning Bahraini democracy.
"... During his meeting with the Prime Minister, His Royal Highness Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdulla bin Abdulaziz Al-Saudm reaffirmed his unwavering support for Bahrain’s security and stability.
“The security of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia is indivisible – being two bodies in the same soul”

For the fourth time, NATO kills Libyan rebels 'accidentally'

 'Hassan, 11, readies to face Qaddafi'
"...At first, Libyan rebels who've been pleading for more help from NATO in battling Moammar Gadhafi's forces were hesitant to even admit the deaths from Wednesday's NATO airstrike in Misrata. But as the bodies piled up, rebel commanders acknowledged that they believe NATO mistakenly fired on their men. NATO said it was looking into the claim. ..."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

'Riyadh Riddle!'

"...The inadequacies of the Saudi foreign policy-making machine, a lack of Saudi political will partly due to the king's age and inclinations, and regional and US obstruction, saw efforts to promote intra-Palestinian peace run into the sand. Mediation on other fronts - Lebanon, Sudan and Somalia - came to naught. This year, the Saudi leadership has watched with horror as the US has in effect rerun 1979 by abandoning a strategic ally - in this case Mubarak of Egypt instead of the Shah of Iran.
'What army did these two seve in? The 'RayBan-left-right-salute' army?' 
...The Saudi response to events in Bahrain - dressed up in a flimsy flag of convenience, that of the six-country Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), is underpinning al-Khalifa control in the Gulf island,... The Saudi alliance of convenience with Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has however recently collapsed... Without (a Yemeni) domestic agreement, there will be no Saudi-led breakthrough ...
Baathist Syria is not, however, a neighbouring concern. It has long been distrusted as an Iranian ally ...The Saudi government,in common with the US and Israel, it is not sure that the alternative would be to its advantage, even if it disadvantaged Iran..."

Russia: The Syrian crackdown “does not represent a threat to international peace & security,”

"...Russia warned Western powers against “outside interference” in Syria’s strife saying it could spark civil war. The Syrian government’s crackdown on opposition demonstrators “does not represent a threat to international peace and security,” Russia’s deputy UN ambassador Alexander Pankin told the council. “A real threat to regional security could come from outside interference,” Pankin added. “Such approaches lead to a never ending circle of violence” and could spark civil war. ..."

Al Jazeera suspended in Syria ...

States with Nuclear Weapons!

Washington 'blindsided' & Israel grim after rumored Palestinian agreement

"... Washington appeared to be blindsided by the reported agreement, however. Palestinian officials said that leaders would finalize the pact at a signing ceremony in Cairo by the end of the week.
Some veteran Middle East observers expressed skepticism ... But things could be different this time, thanks both to the time horizon of the planned Palestinian statehood bid at the UN in the fall, as well as the rapidly changing political dynamics in the Middle East. One key shift, of course, is the fall of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, who had shared Israel's and Fatah's hostility to Hamas, which controls Gaza and which is an off-shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Meanwhile, the Syrian protests currently targeting the authoritarian rule of President Bashar al-Assad, complicate the political picture for the more vehemently anti-Israel and Islamist Hamas, which has long enjoyed Assad's support.
So far, the prospect of a more united Palestinian front hasn't touched off much enthusiasm among several key players in Jerusalem and Washington.
"You cannot have peace with both, because the Hamas aspires to destroy the State of Israel, and says it openly," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remarked in reaction to the news, according to a tweet from the spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Washington Jonathan Peled. And some commentators are worried that Hamas's participation would imperil Salam Fayyad, who is particularly despised by Hamas and seen as too close to Washington and Israel.
Jon Alterman, the director of Middle East studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said while the details of the reported deal are still murky, "what's clear is how much of a problem Palestinian reconciliation will be for the Obama administration." Alterman frequently consults with the administration on policy to the Middle East, and cautions that the political dynamic in Washington isn't accommodating to a coalition government that includes Hamas. "The Republican House was deeply skeptical about any U.S. aid going to the Palestinian Authority even without Hamas participation in government. Sustaining any sort of aid relationship if Hamas shares power will be a herculean task."....
"Since it is unlikely [Netanyahu] will offer a peace plan, Palestinians needs to get their ducks in a row before September when they are going to the UN to declare a state and probably get overwhelming support doing so," according to former senior George H.W. Bush official, also speaking on condition of anonymity."

On Syria, Europeans push & other members push back on UNSC condemnation

(AP)- UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security has failed to agree on a statement condemning Syrian violence against peaceful protesters. France Britain, Germany and Portugal circulated a draft media statement on Monday calling for the 15-member council to condemn the violence. But during consultations Wednesday afternoon, several members including Lebanon indicated they were opposed, council diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the meeting was closed..."

"The deadliest incident of "rogue" Afghans killing foreign troops..."

(Reuters) - "Eight troops and a civilian contractor killed in a Kabul airport shooting on Wednesday were all Americans, a Pentagon spokesman said. "The current information we have from ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) is that eight service members and one civilian were killed in the attack. ... All U.S.," said Colonel David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman.
The troops and contractor were killed in a shooting incident involving an Afghan Air Force pilot at Kabul's airport on Wednesday, NATO said. It was one of the deadliest incidents of "rogue" Afghans turning their weapons on foreign soldiers."

Palestinians reach agreement over 'Unity Government'?

"... Palestinian officials from the rival Fatah and Hamas movements say they have reached an initial agreement on ending a four-year-old rift that has left them divided between rival governments in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The officials say the plan calls for the formation of a single caretaker government in the coming days, and preparations to hold presidential and legislative elections a year from now. The officials say the agreement was reached through Egyptian mediation. They spoke on condition of anonymity before a formal announcement in Cairo later Wednesday..."

'$25 million in non-lethal aid to the Libya rebels'

"... "One of the reasons why I announced $25 million in nonlethal aid yesterday, why many of our partners both in NATO and in the broader Contact Group are providing assistance to the opposition - is to enable them to defend themselves and to repulse the attacks by Qaddafi forces,"Clinton said.So what was the hold up? State Department spokesman Mark Toner said April 21 that the request, despite being approved by Clinton and sent to Congress, was not fully "cooked" and had not received White House approval.
Our sources tell a different story. Multiple sources said that the list of items and logistics for delivering the goods hadn't been worked out. The U.S. military doesn't actually land on Libya shores under the current operations scheme, so the goods have to be routed through third party carriers, which is costly. The heavier the items (trucks, for example), the costlier the delivery. $25 million doesn't really go that far when delivery costs are accounted for, so the final shipment is likely to contain less military vehicles and more lightweight goods, such as medical equipment and blankets, our sources said. There's a realization that even then, the $25 million won't be enough to meet the needs of the Libyan rebels and the people they are protecting..."

Second bombing of the Egypt-Israel gas line ...

"... It was the second attack since February and came two weeks after Egypt's new government decided to review all contracts to supply gas abroad, including to neighbours Israel and Jordan, amid corruption probes...."

On the Saudi 'offer' to Assad (the one he rejected)

"... While few expected the revolt against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak early this year to dramatically shift his country's generally pro-Western policies, Syria maintains a wider range of contacts with countries that include Iran and Russia. For decades, it has been a key player in volatile Lebanon. It has its own unresolved dispute with Israel over the Golan Heights, but is also important to Israel and the United States because of its alliance with Iran and Hezbollah, a relationship that both American and Israeli officials have encouraged Assad to break.
Iran has been chalking up diplomatic victories as pro-U.S. Arab regimes such as Mubarak's have either fallen or been challenged by democratic movements this year. But now that trouble has come to Syria, Tehran has suddenly cooled to the Arab Spring. "We are worried about the resistance against Israel," said Asad Zarei, a pro-government political analyst in Tehran. "If the changes in Syria happen in a way that the resistance is undermined, we are very worried."
Some Iranians appear to be realizing that the government's official position is untenable, and are calling on Damascus to reform. "The Syrian regime should heed the demands of people in Syria and manage the current crisis in the country," former Iranian Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki was quoted as telling students Tuesday...
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was harshly critical of Mubarak, has long been a friend of Assad. He told a news conference Tuesday that Turkey was displeased by events in Syria. "During my conversation with Assad, I have conveyed our concern to him,"...
Lebanon's political factions are carefully watching events unfold in their influential neighbor,... Countries may also see an opportunity in Damascus' weakness. Neighboring Jordan recently decided to demand renegotiation of a water-sharing agreement from a river that traverses both nations... Saudi Arabia may be considering using its diplomatic and political influence to offer Assad a way out of his predicament, but for a price: breaking his alliance with Iran, (see Nicholas Nassif, in Al Akhbar)... One offer might be help slowing the flow of information feeding the revolt on the streets of Syria. The UAE hosts Saudi-owned Al Arabiya, one of two Arabic-language channels whose reporting has been inflaming passions across Syria, and owns the Thuraya satellite phone network used by pro-democracy activists to circumvent the secret police..."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Susan Rice: "Evidence of active Iranian involvment" on behalf of Assad"

'What is it with the US and 'evidence' at the UNSC?'
(AP) - "...Asked to elaborate on the Iranian involvement, Rice refused to go into detail but said "we have said repeatedly that we are very conscious of and concerned by the evidence of active Iranian involvement and support on behalf of the Syrian government and its repression of its people."

"You still have time for a rapport - a reform process.  Let's get that underway..."

CNN- Wolf Blitzer (aka the handler of the 'Situation Room' of flakiness)
WOLF BLITZER, HOST:  How much time does Assad have?
LIAM FOX, BRITISH DEFENSE SECRETARY:  I hope that he will act quickly.  I hope that...
BLITZER:  How quickly?
FOX:  I hope that the message has got across that - that we absolutely deplore what is happening there and if the message is getting through to those in Syria, in the regime, their behavior is utterly unacceptable. They still have a chance to take a reform process that can save the lives of countless civilians.
BLITZER:  What are we talking, weeks? Are we talking months? How much time do you think he has?
FOX:  Well, we want it to happen as soon as possible and to put a time line on it may only give comfort to the regime change.  We want to see that reform happen and happen as quickly as possible.
BLITZER:  But you're not yet ready to say to him what you said to Mubarak, what you said to Gadhafi, you must go, step down? You're not ready to say that yet?
FOX:  Well, of course, that - that process took a period of time.  And let us say very clearly to the Syrian president right now, tonight, what you're doing is completely unacceptable.  Killing your own people is a crime.  You need to understand that the international community is appalled by this.  You still have time for a rapport - a reform process.  Let's get that underway.

"She was a Christian Zionist, right up to her first checkpoint..."

"... My misty Zionist narrative did not mention fortress-like settlements, graffiti-streaked walls and checkpoints. And it did not include indigenous Palestinians. In fact, it had explicitly denied their existence: “A land without people for a people without land.”...

Erdogan: "There are more steps to be taken in Syria ... "

(Reuters) - "... U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with Erdogan on Monday about the crises in Syria... Erdogan voiced concern on Tuesday over Syria's violent crackdown on demonstrators and said he was sending an envoy to meet President Bashar al-Assad and encourage him to move toward democracy. He said Assad's decision last Thursday to lift 48-year-old emergency laws was a good start, but he needed to do more..... 
"There are more steps to be taken in Syria," Erdogan told a joint news conference with the visiting premier of Kyrgyzstan"We absolutely do not expect or want an undemocratic implementation and certainly not an authoritarian, totalitarian, patronizing structure. Our desire is that ... a rapid democratization process takes place. "Our representatives will present to him (Assad) some of our preparations." He said the envoy might go to Damascus as soon as Thursday..."

"The Al Saud sent an unintended invitation to Iran ..."

"Throughout the years, Saudi decision-making has been characterized by three fundamental principles—discretion, caution and cash. But last month, by deploying troops to Bahrain and lecturing Iran, the al-Sauds acted out of character. They sent an unintended invitation to Iran to intervene around the Persian Gulf, an invitation that Iran cannot refuse and one that might be the seed for the downfall of the al-Sauds and other GCC monarchies........  The Iran-Iraq War in all its savagery was a gift for the al-Sauds. Iranians and Iraqis killing each other was the best of both worlds; ...  After the bloody war, the period of standoff between the two Shia powers afforded the al-Sauds continued comfort. It appeared that devastation from the war, along with sanctions and continued policy ineptitude, would keep both countries backward for years to come. But Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait jolted the al-Sauds....  The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent ascendance of Shia to power there was a new blow to Saudi ambitions. Their worst nightmare was coming true.....  al-Sauds did little to discourage Saudi suicide bombers from going to Baghdad. But matters did not go as the al-Sauds hoped, and the Shia maintained their power in Iraq.
Today, the al-Sauds feel threatened as never before.... The Saudis believe the coming clash in the Persian Gulf is likely to be along the Shia-Sunni divide. But instead of proceeding as they have in the past, the al-Sauds are reacting viscerally against the Shia uprising in Bahrain and have stepped into a hornet’s nest that may well be the opening gambit to a Shia-Sunni clash across the Persian Gulf. ...... The Saudis fear that more humane treatment of the Shia in Bahrain would fuel demands and dissention among their own disenfranchised Shia, representing 10-15 percent of their population. So the al-Khalifas must mistreat their Shia to be in step with the mistreatment of Shia in Saudi Arabia!
Up to now, there is little evidence that Iran has interfered in Bahrain—if it has, its activities have been marginal. The Bahraini Shia have done all they can to distance themselves from the Iranian regime...  All this may now change.... What can we expect Iran to do in response to being overtly threatened by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait..... whom they hold in contempt. They know that today the US could still defend their client dictators, but with difficulty. The US is overstretched,... Its finances are near the breaking point, giving it limited ability to confront Iran in the Persian Gulf—much less in Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq. ..... The Saudi misstep affords Iran the perfect invitation to take on such a role more overtly and with much more justification than in the past..."

'Shift' on Syria

"... After a series of deliberations, culminating in a Deputies Committee meeting at the National Security Council last week, a new policy course was set. In the coming days, expect a new executive order on Syria, a draft presidential statement at the U.N. Security Council, new designations of Syrian officials as targets of sanctions, and a firmer tone on the violence that will include references to Iran's unhelpful influence on Syria's crackdown. The new sanctions will not target Assad directly and there will be no call for him to go.....
"A lot of people were wrong. The general assessment [inside the administration] was that this wouldn't happen, that Assad was too good at nipping these movements in the bud and also that he was not afraid to be brutal," one administration official said. "All of these things combined made this more of a surprise and made it much harder to deal with."........ The Obama administration has always been divided between those who prioritized efforts to convince Assad to break with Iran, those who wanted to concentrate on Syrian-Israeli negotiations (sometimes known as the "peace process junkies"), and those who believed that Assad would always be a ruthless and anti-Western dictator, and should be treated as such.
As the violence in Syria escalated, different parts of the administration pushed for different courses of action. At the Treasury Department, for example, sanctions experts were pushing for targeted and specific measures that could put financial pressure on the Syrian government.... At the State Department, the bureau of Near Eastern Affairs was also pressing for quicker decision making, multiple administration sources said. U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, in search of clear guidance for his discussions with the Assad regime, was pushing for specifics on U.S. demands and what pressures might be forthcoming should Syria not comply. However, a push for aggressive action wasn't necessarily the State Department's position at the end of the day. Multiple sources said that, when the Syria discussions reached the deputies or principals level, State was often viewed as taking a cautious line, not wanting to give U.S. critics ammunition to claim the protests were driven by the West. Meanwhile, the NSC staff was asking what leverage the United States has over Syria, and what exact steps it wanted the Syrian government to take.... 
"The people inside the administration who have been trying to craft a systematic narrative as to how the U.S. is responding to the Arab spring, they would like to see a more forceful response, but they are right to be cautious because it's very unclear exactly how widespread the support for the protests really are," said George Washington University professor Marc Lynch. The administration now has no choice but to increase its involvement, but it will continue to be mindful that U.S. pressure, even with international support, has limited influence. "Once Assad decided to use brutal force, it really forced their hand. But we still don't have a lot of leverage," Lynch said.

"...The U.S. keeps getting stuck in the Middle East "

"...The one consistent thread running through most of Obama’s decisions has been that America must act humbly in the world. Unlike his immediate predecessors, Obama came of age politically during the post-Cold War era, a time when America’s unmatched power created widespread resentment. Obama believes that highly visible American leadership can taint a foreign-policy goal just as easily as it can bolster it. In 2007, Obama said, “America must show—through deeds as well as words—that we stand with those who seek a better life. That child looking up at the helicopter must see America and feel hope.”
In 2009 and early 2010, Obama was sometimes criticized for not acting at all. He was cautious during Iran’s Green Revolution and deferential to his generals during the review of Afghanistan strategy. But his response to the Arab Spring has been bolder. He broke with Mubarak at a point when some of the older establishment advised against it. In Libya, he overruled Gates and his military advisers and pushed our allies to adopt a broad and risky intervention. It is too early to know the consequences of these decisions. Libya appears to be entering a protracted civil war; American policy toward Mubarak frightened—and irritated—Saudi Arabia, where instability could send oil prices soaring.
Nonetheless, Obama may be moving toward something resembling a doctrine. One of his advisers described the President’s actions in Libya as “leading from behind.” That’s not a slogan designed for signs at the 2012 Democratic Convention, but it does accurately describe the balance that Obama now seems to be finding. It’s a different definition of leadership than America is known for, and it comes from two unspoken beliefs: that the relative power of the U.S. is declining.............."

"Let Israel come and take Syria. Let the Jews come.. anything is better than Bashar Assad"

(AP) - "... "We need international intervention. We need countries to help us," a witness in Daraa told the Associated Press on the phone, adding that he saw five corpses after security forces opened fire on a car.... "Let Obama come and take Syria. Let Israel come and take Syria. Let the Jews come – anything is better than Bashar Assad" he said..."

"We want to avoid "owning" a post-Bashar Syria because we had so much trouble 'owning' the post-Saddam Iraq"

(Alterman/ CFR)-
Do you have any thoughts on how this Syrian turmoil is going to resolve itself?
Syria is not like the other places. It is less internationally connected than Egypt is. It is less internationally isolated than Libya is. It is more ruthless than Tunisia. The Syrians also have the advantage of being able to learn from what other leaders have done and what their mistakes have been. The Syrian instinct is to talk soft; but to act hard...
Can you give an example?
They've announced that they are lifting the emergency law established in 1963, but they are not about to give up power. They reportedly have deployed more than three thousand troops to Deraa to put down the uprising there. I assume the intention of the Syrian leadership is to demonstrate that they have the capacity for so much force that they don't have to use it. It also seems to me, however, quite clear that we are not close to the final denouement here. There are probably several more rounds [to go]...
We haven't seen the decisive moment in Syria. The fact that Syria is so isolated in the world may make it easier for the Syrians to act with impunity...Syria's self image, on the contrary, is that of a country that's hunkering down, a country that has real enemies. When the national narrative is about real enemies, it makes it easier to cut yourself off, to use your force, and to keep the world from knowing much. In terms of the Syrian people, there has not yet been the sort of catalytic moment ... We haven't gotten there yet. I don't know if we will, or when we will, but that point hasn't come.
Some people have been speculating that a change in leadership in Syria would be a plus because it would reduce Iran's influence in the region. Do you share that view?
Syria is Iran's closest state ally in the Arab world – there are also non-state allies [like] Hezbollah [in Lebanon] and Hamas [in the Palestinian territories]. I think the fear of many is that a post-Bashar Syria would actually empower non-state proxies of Iran to action and in the net, help Iran in the Arab world.
You've worked in the U.S. State Department on Middle Eastern policy. So far the United States has been publicly critical of the repression in Syria, but it also seemed that the United States was hoping that Assad would actually institute reforms and solve the situation that way.
The Obama administration has been struggling to find its footing, faced with all the revolts in the Middle East... When we look at Syria, we not only have the question of what the United States wants, but the complicating factor that many U.S. allies [in the region] seem to want to keep Bashar in power... Syria's significant neighbors, all of whom have close relations with the United States, are deeply concerned about events in Syria. That only underlines concerns in the U.S. government about what might follow after Bashar al-Assad. Many officials are reluctant to get too far out in front, partly because of the unanswerable question of what are you going to do to follow up if Bashar leaves. U.S. officials do not want to alienate allies. And there is a desire to avoid "owning" a post-Bashar environment in Syria because we are having so much trouble having influence over the post-Saddam environment in Iraq.
What would be the worst case scenario in Syria that Israelis, Saudis, and Turks are worried about?
The worst case is sustained turmoil with jihadi groups operating out of the country; extreme sectarian violence and a period of proxy wars throughout the region..."