Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"He wants the President not simply to support Israel but to LOVE it!"

"... So what’s with the sensational headline that suggests Saban is withdrawing his full political support from Obama? At best, it’s a shallow misunderstanding; at worst, it’s irresponsible journalism. Haim Saban is a well-worn political influencer and I can only assume, extremely careful and calculated about the statements he makes to the press. What he’s doing here is playing a political game, sending a message to the President that says, ‘Well, maybe I won’t contribute to your re-election campaign unless...’ His goal is clear: he wants the President to visit Israel and talk to Israelis. He wants the President not simply to support Israel but to love, to treat it as more than a strategic interest, but as an ally, a friend. This is very smart posturing because it sets up the opportunity for a quid-pro-quo. When it comes time for Obama’s re-election campaign and Saban is next on the call list, rather than a guarantee of support, Obama will have to make good on Saban’s request"

"... If the UN vote on Palestine becomes a diplomatic train wreck, we have only ourselves to blame"

"... Truman refused to recognize this enclave as “the Jewish state.” Despite Barack Obama’s reference to the Jewish state in a recent speech on the Middle East, during the final days before granting recognition and thereby “legitimacy,” Truman was consumed with the fear that Zionist aspirations would lead to a racist or a theocratic state. Those concerns led Zionist leader Chaim Weizzman to lobby Truman with a seven-page letter reassuring him that Jewish settlers envisioned a thoroughly secular state similar to the U.S. and Great Britain. Truman underscored that understanding when he recognized not the “Jewish state” (a description he crossed out) but the “State of Israel.”

'Abbas to Egypt: Convince Hamas to accept Fayyad!

'Abbas to Egypt: Convince Hamas to accept ... JPost - Middle East

'Breakeven-buying-yourself-out-of-trouble' price of oil increasing significantly for GCC members!

"... The chances that the GCC's long-term socio-economic challenges of demographic growth and youth unemployment will be solved now look a good deal worse than just a few months ago. For the high-rent countries, the issue will remain largely academic for decades to come. But depending on oil price developments, it could become an existential worry for Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia before the end of the decade. The breakeven oil prices for GCC budgets have increased significantly in the past few months. Bahrain probably already needs a per barrel price above $100, while the Institute of International Finance predicts a Saudi breakeven price of $110  for 2015. These should be sobering numbers for those who believe that the GCC can always buy its way out of trouble."

Palestinians will march back to Lebanon-Palestine border on Sunday ...

 'Washington wants the Lebanese Army 'act as buffer''
BEIRUT: "Palestinians will march on Israel’s borders from neighboring Arab states Sunday to mark the 1967 war, a top Fatah commander said, calling on the United Nations to protect the protesters.“We, who hope to return to our lands in Palestine, are planning a peaceful rally this Sunday” at the Lebanese, Syrian and Jordanian borders with Israel as well as the Gaza Strip, Fatah commander in Lebanon Munir Maqdah told AFP.Maqdah urged Arab states and the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, a 12,000-strong peacekeeping force stationed at Lebanon’s southern border with Israel, to “ensure the protection of this peaceful gathering.”

"... uncomfortable reading for the British government..." (and most Western governments!)

(UPI) -- "... It described London's action as "vigorous back-pedaling" and declared the withdrawals reflected the extent "of policy misjudgment that has occurred."
The report, issued in April, "will be uncomfortable reading for the (British) government, which put trade at the heart of its diplomatic mission," the Financial Times observed.
The newspaper reported that British export license approvals since January 2009 have covered "components for military helicopters in Algeria, submachine guns and tear gas to Bahrain, machine guns to Egypt and hand grenades to Jordan."
British defense contractors have also sold "small arms ammunition to Syria, hand grenades, sniper rifles and tear gas to Saudi Arabia and shotguns to Morocco."
John Stanley, chairman of the investigating committee, suggested that Bahrain may have used British-made equipment, including sniper rifles sold to the tiny Persian Gulf monarchy and armored personnel carriers sold to Saudi Arabia... Arguably the most controversial of the U.K. arms sales were those to the Libyan regime of Moammar Gadhafi,... Britain isn't the only Western state to fall under scrutiny since the Middle East bloodletting began as authoritarian regimes, long tolerated by the West, came under threat from their own people...
The irony of the fighting in Libya is that the NATO members that are bombarding Gadhafi's forces under a U.N.-mandated no-fly zone, are using the conflict to showcase their combat jets and weapons systems to potential buyers."

Feltman (and March8) denie 'parley' in Beirut!

The 'Anti-Hersh' stories ... (part II)

Again, thanks to 'b' at MoonOfAkabama:
"... In 2009, senior staff members of the I.A.E.A. concluded in a confidential analysis that “Iran has sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable implosion nuclear device” based on highly enriched uranium.
The new report includes some of the technical evidence behind that charge. It describes the sources of the information as “many member states” as well as its own efforts. Nuclear experts assume that much intelligence comes from Israel, the United States and Western Europe, though the I.A.E.A. in total has 151 member states... ...
Two diplomats familiar with the evidence, both of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity under the usual protocol, emphasized that no single one of the technologies stood out as indicating bomb work. Some, they conceded, have peaceful uses. But the totality of the evidence, they said, suggested that Iran has worked hard on multiple fronts to advance the design of nuclear arms. “It’s the whole variety of information,” one of the diplomats said. “You have to look at the whole thing.”"

Jeffrey Feltman met Mohamad Reza Shibani in Beirut?

MEMRI translates:
"The Kuwaiti daily Al-Anbaa said, citing a senior official of Lebanon's March 8 Forces, that on May 20 U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman and Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Middle East Affairs Mohammad Reza Sheibani met in Beirut and discussed the situation in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon. The paper reported that Feltman had set the date for his visit to Beirut to coincide with that of Sheibani."

'Neutered Hamas?'

Hamas urges Palestinians not to jeopardize Egypt's opening of Rafah crossing - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

Administration & Intelligence officials: Hersh's piece is a "slanted book report"...

"... In “Iran and the Bomb,” from the issue dated June 6, Hersh adds up what’s known about the Iranian nuclear program and concludes that the Obama administration is overstating the threat coming from Tehran, just as the Bush administration did nearly a decade ago when sizing up Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq.
But two administration officials told 
POLITICO’s Playbook that’s not the case.
“[A]ll you need to read to be deeply concerned about Iran’s nuclear program is the substantial body of information already in the public domain, including the most recent IAEA report,” a senior administration official said... 
“There is a clear, ongoing pattern of deception, ... These examples and more make us deeply skeptical of Iran’s nuclear intentions.”
And a senior intelligence official also ripped Hersh, saying his article amounted to nothing more than “a slanted book report on a long narrative that’s already been told many times over.”
“We’ve been clear with the world about what we know about the Iranian nuclear program: Tehran is keeping its options open despite the fact that the community of nations demands otherwise,” the official added..."

We just want "to change its political behavior"

Sharing Sy Hersh's story via MoonOfAlabama (Thanks)
Major points in the Hersh piece:"... (1) Iran does not have a current nuclear bomb program (2) Some U.S. intelligence folks think Iran had one until 2003 because it feared Iraq had one (3) U.S. pressure on Iran is not because of anything nuclear but "to change its political behavior"..."

Bahraini Royals approved: "US Embassy Political Section working with Hezbollah on 'training & provoking protesters'!"

(McClatchy's) "The United States pulled its human rights officer from Bahrain last week after he'd become the subject of a weeks-long campaign of ethnic slurs and thinly veiled threats on a pro-government website and in officially sanctioned newspapersLudovic Hood left the island nation on Thursday. During his final days in Bahrain, Hood was given security protection equal to that of an ambassador, U.S. officials said... ... ... The campaign against Hood, however, had been going on for two months, State Department officials said, with one of the most virulent attacks coming May 7 in an anonymous posting on a pro-government website that included links to photos of Hood and his wife on their wedding day and information on where Hood and his family lived. The posting claimed that the biggest single supporter of the anti-government protests that began Feb. 14 was the political section of the U.S. embassy, working "in cooperation" with a cell of the Lebanese Hezbollah militant movement. The head of the office, the blog claimed, was "a person of Jewish origin named Ludovic Hood," and charged: "He's the one who trained and provoked the demonstrators to clash with the army" near the Pearl Roundabout that was the epicenter of the demonstrations... ... The blogger called for "honest people to avenge" Hood's role, gave the neighborhood in which he lived with his family in Manama, the capital, and promised to provide his street address. It linked to a wedding photo of Hood with his "Jewish wife, Alisa Newman." The attacks continued even after Hood left Bahrain, according to an official in Washington, with two newspapers on Monday targeting both Hood and the embassy's current top diplomat, Stephanie Williams. The Arabic language website appears to have the approval of Bahrain's royal family. ..."

Syria's Kurds not invited to Antalya 'summit'...

"... “This is a plan against the Kurdish movements in Syria and an attempt to keep out the Kurdish organizations. At the same time, it is about drawing Syria’s future. I’m afraid that this will divide the Kurdish voice and unity in Syria,” said Shekho.
However, Abdul Basit Hammo, a leading member and media secretary of Syria’s Kurdish Popular Union Party, believes that some Kurdish representatives have not received invitations to the conference because their parties have not yet made their stance about the situation in Syria and the Syrian regime clear
Hammo, who lives in Germany, told Rudaw, “Our party has been formally invited to the summit in Antalya and we will participate and explain our views about the solutions for Kurdish issues and Syria’s future in a clear manner.”
Regarding claims that some Syrian parties and Turkey aim to disregard the Kurdish issues in Syria after the fall of Assad, Hammo said, “It is not clear yet who is behind the organization of this summit. We are ready for it and adamant about discussing the Kurdish issues and their solutions. If we feel there’s an anti-Kurdish angle to this conference, we will leave the place.”..."

Monday, May 30, 2011

"... while the Israelis contemplate the wreckage of their air force..."

Bravo!  I wish the Israelis all the success in the world so long as the United States does nothing to support them. nothing, no re-fueling, no SAR, no ECM, no BDA, nothing.   They want to fight?  Let them fight using the weapons, aircraft and money that we have provided them, but no 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc. strike by the US while the Israelis contemplate the wreckage of their air force, pl

"Disseminating the Obama Administration’s propaganda: 'Assad as “illegitimate” as Qaddafi & Iran propping him up!'

"Last year, we took The Washington Post’s Joby Warrick to task for stories he published that relied “almost entirely on unnamed U.S. officials and a known terrorist organization” to advance “Iraq-redux” claims that the Islamic Republic is seeking to build nuclear weapons, see here and here.  Now, Warrick published a front-page story in The Washington Post—a story which relied entirely (no “almost”) on unnamed “U.S. officials and a diplomat from an allied nation” to report that
“Iran is dispatching increasing numbers of trainers and advisers—including members of its elite Quds Force—into Syria to help crush anti-government demonstrations that are threatening to topple Iran’s most important ally in the region.  The influx of Iranian manpower is adding to a steady stream of aid from Tehran that includes not only weapons and riot gear but also sophisticated surveillance equipment that is helping Syrian authorities track down opponents through their Facebook and Twitter accounts.”
We would directly challenge Warrick’s assertion that “anti-government demonstrations” in Syria “are threatening to topple Iran’s most important ally in the region”.  Another story, see here, in the same edition of The Washington Post as Warrick’s offers a far more accurate characterization of the Syrian protests as having “failed to muster the numbers that brought down the presidents of Egypt and Tunisia earlier this year”, and further notes that “despite [protestors’] efforts, there has been no indication that the army would be willing to break ranks with the regime.”  We would add that the demonstrations in Syria, while persistent, have been concentrated in essentially peripheral areas of the country.
But to explore such issues would constitute serious journalism, and that is not what Warrick is doing here.  What he is doing is helping to disseminate what amounts to the Obama Administration’s chosen propaganda line:  popular unrest is making President Assad as “illegitimate” as Qaddafi in Libya, and the Islamic Republic of Iran—unlike the United States, which is valiantly standing by the “people” of Libya in their efforts to overthrow a dictator—is propping up a dictator in Syria.  We would argue that reality is quite different from this propaganda line:  the United States, without having done its homework, intervened on behalf of one side in a civil war in Libya, and still has not managed to oust Qaddafi.  Conversely, the unrest in Syria does not come anywhere close to a “civil war” threshold.  In our view, President Assad continues to command the support of at least half of Syria’s populationBut the Administration is worried about Iran’s rising standing and influence across the region—and is turning to every propaganda tool it can think of to “push back” against the Islamic Republic’s popularity in the Middle East—something attested to over several years by multiple public opinion polls.         
In his story, apart from the very obvious limitations on his sourcing, Warrick makes no effort to offer an alternative perspective on the line he was fed by the Obama Administration.  Warrick cites one outside commentator—Michael Singh, from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.  We know, like, and respect Michael Singh.  But, before Warrick’s story was published by The Washington Post, Michael had already published his own Op Ed, see here, in The Wall Street Journal subscribing to the Obama Administration’s narrative about Iranian involvement in Syria [link].  Moreover, the Washington Institute is an AIPAC-created entity with its own agenda regarding both the Islamic Republic and Syria.  By going to Michael Singh as his sole outside commentator, Warrick assured that the Obama Administration’s preferred propaganda line would not be challenged in his “news story”... (continue, here)   

"For Americans stuck in the 60's, the West Bank settlers are the cowboys in white hats & the Palestinians are the heathen Indians..."

 'Who's circling the wagons?'
"... And for those Americans stuck in the 1960's, the West Bank settlers are the cowboys in the white hats struggling in an inhospitable frontier and the Palestinians are the heathen Indians. Sometimes, understanding American grassroots politics is all about the movies..."

'Evidence for the first time of allied boots on the ground' in Libya?'

"Armed western men have been filmed on the ground with rebels in central Libya in the first apparent confirmation that Nato has sent military advisers to train anti-government forces.... The westerners were seen by al-Jazeera on rebel lines late last week, days before British and French attack helicopters are due to join the Nato campaign. They are likely to be deployed on the outskirts of Misrata, from where pro-Gaddafi forces continue to shell rebel positions to the east....  The subject is sensitive as the UN security council resolution in March authorising the use of force in Libya specifically excludes "a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory"..."

"Thank You. Thank You. America number 1!"

"... The pizza, too, is respectable, especially at Pisa Pizza in Benghazi, where the pies are about a yard in diameter. Proof that Italian colonialism accomplished something after all.
In other parts of the Mideast, one refrains from advertising American nationality, if only just in case. This is a part of the world where, other than outside American embassies, the Stars and Stripes are most often spotted ablaze and stomped upon.
Here, crowds of chanting youth fly it proudly, alongside their own new flag, a tricolor with red, black and green horizontal stripes and a crescent and star in the center... What popular Arab street movement has ever flown the flags of not only the United States, but the European Union, NATO, Italy, France and Qatar, all at once?
Many Libyan parents with newborn girls are reportedly naming them Susan, in honor of Susan E. Rice, the Obama administration’s ambassador to the United Nations, for her vote in the Security Council in favor of establishing the no-fly zone. French visitors find an even warmer reception, and accolades to President Nicolas Sarkozy are graffitied on walls everywhere....
Still, it may explain why the rebels’ Transitional National Council has so far refused to reveal the identities of most of its members. (This is a big issue for the United States, which has not recognized the rebels, at least in part out of concern over who its leaders really are.)
The Qaddafi government must have had some supporters, even here in the alienated east. In every town and city, there are row after row of new apartment buildings, with units that were in effect given away by the government to families in exchange for only token mortgage payments. While people here deride those blocks as “made in China” for their apparent poor quality of construction, free homes have got to win some enduring support, somewhere.
Perhaps such residual loyalty explains the bullet that whizzed just over one foreign jogger’s head, on the seafront Corniche early on a recent morning, a single shot on an otherwise quiet day. The sound of the rifle’s report came a second later, as it would with a high-velocity round. Whoever fired it was not about to show himself, at least not yet."

Israeli judoka snubbed by Egyptian rival

Israeli judoka snubbed by Egyptian rival - Israel Culture, Ynetnews

Israel: "Rafah opening good for us" (of course it is, because the crossing remains closed!)

"... security officials in Israel are satisfied with the opening of the Rafah Crossing. Nobody will say it out loud, yet in internal discussions at the highest levels we see a sense of relief in face of the unilateral Egyptian move. Officials are saying that we may finally be moving towards full disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Israel’s wet dream is taking shape: Egypt is assuming responsibility for Gaza residents.
 The Arab media in general and al-Jazeera in particular constantly characterize the opening of the crossing as a humiliating act for Israel.... Yet as it turns out, none of the parties are quick to voice outrage, and this is no coincidence.... The ban on transferring goods via the Rafah Crossing, which remains intact at this time, is being circumvented by Gazans using small containers or large suitcases characterized as “personal equipment.” If someone is concerned about arms smuggling via Rafah, here too the opening of the crossing makes no difference: Some 70 arms smuggling tunnels are regularly active at this time.. ...  The new regime led by the generals undertook this step in order to appease the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas gained a diplomatic-physiological-political achievement in the short term.  Yet in the long run, Israel will only gain."

'Egypt losing control of growing terror groups in Sinai'

Netanyahu warns Egypt losing control of growing terror groups in Sinai - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

Lebanon's Police Chief faces legal action for 'disobedience'

(AFP) - " Lebanon's police chief is facing legal action linked to an alleged secret telecoms network after the president referred the case to the justice ministry on Monday. President Michel Sleiman asked the justice minister to take the necessary measures against General Ashraf Rifi after the police chief refused to pull his troops from a state-controlled building where the network is based...  Hezbollah and its Christian ally, former army commander Michel Aoun, have accused Rifi's police force -- considered close to Saudi-backed caretaker premier Saad Hariri -- of using what would be a state-owned network for their personal ends. Lebanon, which has one of the world's priciest telecoms sectors, has two private mobile service providers, Alfa and MTC Touch. State-run telecommunications provider OGERO has said the second floor of its building in Beirut housed staff working on the third network, funded by China. OGERO has said the network is still being tested, but Aoun has raised suspicion that the network is already in use by Hariri (allegations of over 50,000 lines in use)..."

DSK: Je me lève chaque matin « en me demandant comment je pourrais être utile à Israël. »

Sunday, May 29, 2011

"I am nothing but your humble servant!"

Dar Al Hayat - الملك عبدالله لمواطنين: ما أنا إلا خادم لكم

View from my Window!

'Baskinta, (Metn), Lebanon'

“We are heading toward chaos.”

"Caretaker Public Works and Transportation Minister Ghazi Aridi told LBC television on Sunday: “Because of what’s happening today in the country, we must be ready for anything,” adding, “We are heading toward chaos.” Aridi commented on Thursday’s Telecom ministry incident blaming it on mismanagement at the ministry : “I don’t disagree with resigned Telecommunications Minister Charbel Nahhas, but there is a correlation between ‘will’ and ‘management’.”
It is not enough to just have the will and a plan.” Aridi said that Nahhas had no right to act the way he did, adding that the telecommunications minister should know how to be a good manager. “What is more dangerous is when the head of a security institution gives an order to an officer and the latter does not follow it. This is a violation of the simplest rules on which the institution is based,” Aridi also said. According to various reports, Interior Minister Ziad Baroud on Thursday had ordered Internal Security Forces Director-General Achraf Rifi to withdraw ISF units from the Telecommunications Ministry’s building in Adliyeh. However, Rifi refused to do so..."

FLASH- 'Israeli security make huge arrest: "7 years old Arab boy!"

"Jerusalem policemen arrested a Palestinian seven-year-old child, relatives said on Sunday, claiming that the boy was battered by police officers during his arrest. The boy's parents, residents of the East Jerusalem village of Silwan, said they searched for their son for two hours at several police stations, without the police providing any information as to his whereabouts. According to family members, the second grader was arrested during play. His father, who noticed policemen arresting his son, attempted to intervene, and in the ensuing scuffle was sprayed in his face with pepper spray and was evacuated to receive medical care.
'The sub-human 'enemy-of-the-people' bundle' 
Finally, the boy was found by his mother waiting in a Israel Border Police vehicle near Silwan. He arrived at a police station after being held up in the police car for two hours, where he was investigated with his mother present on suspicion he had hurled stones..."

'Al-Qaeda fighters seize Yemeni city'

'Al-Qaeda fighters seize Yemeni city' - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

Seeds of Palestinian 'spring' blooming fast...

JERUSALEM (AP) — "The Israeli military is preparing for the possibility of violent protests along its borders in the coming days, aiming to avoid a repeat of deadly unrest that erupted earlier this month, a senior military official told The Associated Press on Sunday.
Facebook-organized activists have called for demonstrations next weekend in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan to mark the anniversary of the 1967 Mideast war, in which Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip east Jerusalem and Golan Heights.The official said the army also is planning to counter possible unrest in the West Bank in September after an expected U.N. vote to recognize Palestinian independence..."

"Washington & Ankara formulate Joint Initiative for Handling Syria"

al-sharq al-awsat

Military Council to Egyptians: "Stop beating on each other!"

UK training Saudi forces used to crush Arab spring

"... "Britain's important role in training the Saudi Arabian national guard in internal security over many years has enabled them to develop tactics to help suppress the popular uprising in Bahrain," said Nicholas Gilby of the Campaign Against Arms Trade...  "Last year we raised concerns that the Saudis had been using UK-supplied and UK-maintained arms in secret attacks in Yemen that left scores of Yemeni civilians dead," said Oliver Sprague, director of Amnesty International's UK Arms Programme..."

Saturday, May 28, 2011

"The uncertainty regarding Saleh’s departure is opening the door to anti-American forces inside the country"

"US officials might be forgiven for believing that foreign policy operates in two hermetically sealed hemispheres: during his European tour President Obama could not put a foot wrong or sound a false note. He was received by large and enthusiastic crowds. At the G-8 summit his policies for responding to the “Arab Spring” were endorsed. At home, Obama’s prestige is under siege. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s May 24th speech to a joint session of Congress is, as we had anticipated, widely perceived both to have outflanked Obama’s own approach to the Middle East peace process and to have demonstrated the overwhelming support enjoyed by Israel in the Congress. Several commentators pointed out that it appeared that Netanyahu was appearing for the “home team.” There is now virtually no expectation in Washington that any progress on the peace process will be possible. In terms of the “Arab Spring”, Yemen is the focus of greatest US concern. The uncertainty regarding President Saleh’s departure is, we are told privately, opening the door to anti-American forces inside the country. US officials are fearful that Saudi Arabia may be drawn in, adding further controversy.  Further East, Secretary of State Clinton’s visit to Pakistan represents a further intensification of US efforts to assuage Pakistani resentment over the operation against Osama bin-Laden. In their private conversations with us, Intelligence Community officials leave no doubt that underlying tensions remain deep-seated..."

Egypt's Salafis demonstrate against demonstrations...

Here, thanks AngryArab.

View from my Window!

'Beirut, Lebanon'

"Family Matters"

"... The report released on May 9 by the International Strategic Research Organization (USAK) titled “The Name of Walking in a Mine Field: Forcing Change in Syria,” indicates that Syria is in need of “urgent change” and Turkey needs to develop policies in the direction of democratic change, as human rights groups say the death toll from Syria's crackdown on a nine-week uprising has exceeded 1,000.
The report states that Turkey's priority should be preventing a foreign intervention.
A foreign intervention in Syria means disaster for both Turkey and the region. A solution is necessary before it reaches that point. Turkey should focus on Syria with all of its power. If the issues in Syria are not solved as soon as possible, Turkey's initiatives in the region will fail,” the report said and continued: “Turkey's assertion to be a model state in the region will weaken in particular. A Turkey that cannot be influential in solving matters in Syria will lose its positive image in the eyes of the Arab public. The situation in Syria could be seen as a foreign policy problem in other countries, but it is a family matter for Turkey. Events in the region will greatly affect Turkey.”
Among the short-term policy recommendations: ... 
The USAK report also has mid and long-term policy recommendations, including:
- Syria's unity and stability should be a priority and opposition groups should be closely followed... 
- Turkey needs to cooperate with Syrian security authorities closely, especially in regards to the activities of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)...

Egypt explains 'Rafah' to Israel!

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- Egypt has explained to Israel that the Rafah crossing will not be used to transfer goods, and restrictions will be imposed on the movement of individuals, Israel radio reported Thursday.  According to political sources quoted in the report, Egyptian authorities are aware of the risk that "terrorist elements" could pass through Rafah, the sole non-Israeli entrance point, and Cairo will act accordingly... ... 
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum hailed the move as "a courageous and responsible decision which falls in line with Palestinian and Egyptian public opinion... We hope that it is a step towards the complete lifting of the siege on Gaza," he said in a statement, calling on the world "to follow Egypt's example" in breaking the Israeli blockade which has been in place since 2006..."

Truly "priceless" from the Arabist

From the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, in a report on Wikileaks US Embassy cable reports on Pakistan: 
The dismissive attitude towards Pakistan is, however, not limited to Western governments. In a cable dated December 21, 2009, Egyptian Defence Minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi told US Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair that Egypt encountered the same suspicions from Pakistan as the US did. Pakistanis, he said, “don’t trust Egyptians either.” He went on to say that “while the Pakistanis were ‘difficult’… Egypt was still trying to ‘work with them.’”According to the cable, Mr Tantawi, who has previously served as the Egyptian Defence Attache to Pakistan, also pointedly noted that “any country where the military became engaged in ‘internal affairs’ was ‘doomed to have lots of problems.’”
Tantawi's history as Egyptian Defense Attaché in Pakistan in the 1980s — probably as a major conduit in the Saudi and US-led effort to send mujaheddin to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan — deserves a closer investigation. The relationships Tantawi must have developed with key actors in that semi-covert war such as Prince Bandar. Hence the long-held rumor that not only Tantawi has close relations with the al-Sauds, but also that he is a religious conservative whose views would not be out of sync with the Muslim Brothers. 

MK Kara: "Syria dissidents sought Israel's help"

"Knesset Member Ayoob Kara said Saturday that Syrian opposition figures turned to him and asked that he help convince the international community to act against President Bashar Assad. Speaking at an event in Beersheba, Kara said that he presented the request to the government, “which refused to intervene ... The Syrian opposition asked for my help, because of my connections; they wanted me to turn to the Israeli government so it would support them through various means, utilizing the United Nations, the United States and the European Union against the Assad regime." The Likud MK said that he cultivated secret ties in Syria ..."

Lavrov reiterated Russian position against a UNSC resolution on Syria

MOSCOW, May 28 (RIA Novosti) Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated Russian position against a United Nations Security Council resolution on Syria, the ministry said in a statement.... Britain, France and Germany have been pushing for the UN Security Council to condemn Syria's crackdown on pro-democracy protests. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been using tanks and troops to crush the dissent. The minister re-confirmed "Russia's principal position" against a UN Security Council resolution on Syria, the statement reads..."

Toeing the 'Feltman Line': 'Sever the ties en doucette!'

It did not take long for NL to answer the call of duty! 
"... Created in 1991 to oversee the implementation of the treaties between Syria and Lebanon, the Syrian-Lebanese Higher Council (SLHC), together with a host of so-called brotherly accords, has come to symbolize the enduring imbalance in the Lebanese-Syrian dynamic. Since its inception, the SLHC approved several bilateral agreements in economic and financial areas and implemented the controversial 1991 Fraternity, Cooperation and Coordination Treaty (FCCT), under Article 6 of which the SLHC was formed. The FCCT formalized Syria’s role as powerbroker in Lebanon, and the SLHC’s General Secretariat acted as a virtual embassy in Beirut during Syria’s presence here. The FCCT, which is still active, is composed of six articles that emphasize the Lebanese government’s role in protecting Syrian security. Article 2 allows the Syrian government to carry out any military or security operation in Lebanon to preserve its security without having to ask for the Lebanese government’s permission... 
After the exchange of embassies between Syria and Lebanon, many March 14 politicians waged a campaign against these agreements and called for their abolition, fearing future interference by the Syrian regime.  Though this is happening today, and no one is saying anything.  Abolishing these agreements is a must if Lebanon wants to act as a sovereign state. However, annulling the Syrian-Lebanese Higher Council would require a vote by parliament after a draft proposal is submitted by the government or a group of MPs. We do not have a government, but there must be a group of MPs out there who could draft a proposal of the sort. Getting it passed would be another matter altogether, but wouldn’t it at least be a worthy attempt?"

“There will be blood”

"... On my visits to Egypt since the Tahrir Revolution, I have been struck by the growing polarization between Christians and Muslims and the vindictiveness against Mubarak’s family and friends. It’s nice to see Egyptians lining up at newspaper kiosks (to buy real newspapers, as opposed to canned official lies), but my Cairo friends say that too many headlines carry the implicit message, “Off with their heads!”... ... This transition process is especially volatile in Syria, where a blood feud between the ruling Alawite minority and the Sunni majority has been building since the 1970s. Exacerbating this religious fracture is the regional tension between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia. For an example of how the blood feuds of the past can poison the present, one need look no further than the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Both sides are so embedded in their narratives that they can’t write the common document of a peace treaty. They could use a little truth and reconciliation, too...."
As the Arab Spring rolls forward, the new revolutionaries must build pathways to a stable and tolerant future, even as they take proper account of the past. Otherwise, as the movie title had it, “there will be blood.”

Friday, May 27, 2011

Is this really relevant anymore? "US Veto means no UNSC recommendation .. No recommendation means no Palestine!"

" The president of the United Nations General Assembly said Friday there is no way that a Palestinian state could become a member of the United Nations without a recommendation from the Security Council. Joseph Deiss told a news conference that if the United States or any other permanent council member used its veto, the General Assembly would not be able to vote on membership for Palestine...."

View from my (car's) Window!

'Tivoli, New York'

"When we want to assert our exceptionalism, Israel has consistently supported that assertion..."

"...  Yglesias says in his piece that Israel does nothing for America – Israel is a burden, nothing more. This isn’t entirely true – Israel has, for example, proved a useful partner in intelligence-gathering in the past, helped battlefield-test American weapons back when we weren’t fighting so many wars ourselves, and was a useful proxy for undertaking certain unsavory tasks. But against this must be set Israel’s repeated violations of basic rules of friendship – spying on us, re-selling sensitive technology to our rivals without permission, etc. And that’s before you get into the question of whether Israel is a geopolitical asset or a significant liability.
But Israel has been a particular friend to America in one respect. When we want to assert our exceptionalism, Israel has consistently supported that assertion. Much of the rest of the world wants to subject American power to something resembling a system of laws and norms through institutions like the International Criminal Court. America, for understandable reasons, has resisted this, even when parts of the system were our own creations, designed to legitimate our own supremacy by limiting its absolute scope. We can debate whether our resistance is wise or not, but my point is that Israel has been consistently supportive of our resistance – again for obvious reasons. The psychological component of this comraderie is that we are simultaneously able to maintain our sense of ourselves as boundless and universal, and relieved of some of the burden of our solitude in such a position..."

"An Israel that puts zero moral weight on the welfare of Arabs is a natural partner for xenophobic anti-Muslim parties"

Yglesias: "The existence of Christian Zionists is, of course, not new. But what is new is that Israeli politics has drifted toward the hawkish right over the past ten years even as Jewish Americans remain on the progressive left. That change in Israeli politics, meanwhile, has been in part driven by a demographic shift away from the kind of secular ashkenazi Jews who predominate in the American population. At the same time, Christian Zionist sentiment has boomed in America and the Palestinian cause has never been less popular among America’s overwhelmingly non-Jewish population.
This is all part of what I’ve called the trend toward post-Jewish Zionism. That’s not to say that there are no Jewish Zionists in the United States (or Canada, etc.) but merely to observe that Jews as such are decreasingly relevant to the politics of Israel. In Europe, too, we’re seeing a boom of far-right parties (True Finns, Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party, the Danish People’s Party) with strong pro-Israel stands. And why shouldn’t there be? An Israeli government whose policies are based on putting zero moral weight on the welfare of Arabs is a natural partner for xenophobic anti-Muslim parties who appeal more to Europe’s local sociocultural majorities than to its small Jewish communities."

GPI: 'Israel was not far behind Somalia among the "World's most violent & chaotic countries"...

"... the dubious honor of being named the world's most violent and chaotic country went to Somalia – which ranked at the bottom of the list – 153...New Zealand ranked second and Japan third. Denmark, Czech Republic, Austria, Finland, Canada, Norway and Slovenia rounded up the top 10, respectively.  Israel did not fare so well and was ranked 145 – above Pakistan and Russia, but below Libya and Chad. Israel was ranked 144 in the 2010 GPI, and 119 in 2007."

UNIFIL targetted by IED in South Lebanon ...

... The attack occured near Saida and targetted the Italian contingent. 7 wounded, including three Italians. It really comes as no surprise: many possible culprits, add to that the fact that UNIFIL made a few extra enemies on Nakba day, when it failed to protect peacful Arab demonstrators ...

Jeffrey Feltman, here, there, everywhere!

"(After Bahrain & Lebanon,) ... Assistant Secretary Jeffrey Feltman was in Libya earlier this week, where he asked the Transitional National Council to open an office in Washington (even though they already have one). Feltman is now in Egypt, where he met with Deputy Foreign Minister Wafaa Bassim, Major General Mohammad Al Assar, Major General Murad Muwafi, Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Moussa, and some political activists. Toner said there was no real objection to the news Egypt would open the Rafah border crossing with Israel permanently. "I would imagine that they're well aware of our concerns, ... We also believe that the Egyptians are fully aware of and capable of providing that kind of security."

"We want to co-exist with it ..."

(Reuters) "... "Israel believes that if we go to the United Nations we will work to isolate it and delegitimise it. This is not at all possible because we do not want to isolate Israel or to delegitimise it. On the contrary, we want to co-exist with it," he added...."

'We will back Israel whatever the cost, Ey?'

(Reuters) - "... Group of Eight leaders had to soften a statement urging Israel and the Palestinians to return to negotiations because Canada objected to a specific mention of 1967 borders, diplomats said on Friday. Canada's right-leaning Conservative government has adopted a staunchly pro-Israel position in international negotiations since coming to power in 2006, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper saying Canada will back Israel whatever the cost..."

View from my Window!

'Beirut, Lebanon'

Bandar to Pakistani military: 'The US cannot be counted on to protect Pakistan's interests or stabilize Middle East!'

(WSJ) ...  Saudi Arabia approached Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Central Asian states to lend diplomatic support—and potentially military assistance in some cases—to help stifle a majority Shiite revolt in Sunni-led Bahrain, a conflict that has become a symbol of Arab defiance against Iran.
Saudi Arabia’s efforts, though against a common enemy, signal increasing friction with the Obama administration. Its invitation to Pakistan in particular could complicate U.S. security goals in South Asia. The chief of the Saudi National Security Council, Prince Bandar bin Sultan al Saud, asked Pakistan’s powerful generals in March to lend support for the operation in Bahrain, according to Pakistani, U.S. and Saudi officials briefed on the meetings. Prince Bandar—who was the Saudi ambassador to Washington for more than two decades—told the Pakistani generals that the U.S. shouldn’t be counted on to restore stability across the Middle East or protect Pakistan’s interests in South Asia, these officials say.... ... ... The Saudi overture in Pakistan is a sign of how diplomatic friction in two distinct regions—the Middle East on one hand and Afghanistan and Pakistan on the other—could make it harder for the U.S. to pursue its goals of ending the conflict in Afghanistan, stabilizing nuclear-armed Pakistan, limiting Iran’s power and keeping a lid on violent turmoil in the Mideast... 
A senior Saudi official said relations with Washington are strong, and denied that Prince Bandar had spoken ill of the U.S..."

“We’re sending a message that monarchies are not where this is happening,”

" ... The kingdom is aggressively emphasizing the relative stability of monarchies, part of an effort to avert any dramatic shift from the authoritarian model, which would generate uncomfortable questions about the glacial pace of political and social change at home.... ... “We’re sending a message that monarchies are not where this is happening,” Prince Waleed bin Talal al-Saud, a businessman and high-profile member of the habitually reticent royal family, told The New York Times’s editorial board, referring to the unrest. “We are not trying to get our way by force, but to safeguard our interests.”
The range of the Saudi intervention is extraordinary as the unrest pushes Riyadh’s hand to forge what some commentators, in Egypt and elsewhere, brand a “counterrevolution.” .... ... In Egypt, where the revolution has already toppled a close Saudi ally in Hosni Mubarak, the Saudis are dispensing aid and mending ties in part to help head off (?) good showing by the Muslim Brotherhood in the upcoming parliamentary elections. The Saudis worry that an empowered Muslim Brotherhood could damage Saudi legitimacy by presenting a model of Islamic law different from the Wahhabi tradition of an absolute monarch.... Saudi officials are also concerned that Egypt’s foreign policy is shifting, with its outreach to the Islamist group Hamas and plans to restore ties with Iran. The Saudi monarch, King Abdullah, also retains a personal interest in protecting Mr. Mubarak, analysts believe.
The Arab Spring began to unravel an alliance of so-called moderate Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which were willing to work closely with the United States and promote peace with Israel. American support for the Arab uprisings also strained relations, ... ... But that seems at least partly a display of Saudi pique, since the oil-for-protection exchange that has defined relations between the two for the past six decades is unlikely to be replaced soon. Saudi Arabia is negotiating to buy $60 billion in advanced American weapons, and President Obama, in his speech last week demanding that Middle Eastern autocrats bow to popular demands for democracy, noticeably did not mention Saudi Arabia. The Saudi ambassador, Adel al-Jubeir, sat prominently in the front row.
Saudi Arabia is taking each uprising in turn, without relying on a single blueprint. In Bahrain, it resorted to force, sending troops to crush a rebellion by Shiites because it feared the creation of a kind of Shiite Cuba only about 20 miles from some of its main oil fields ... In Yemen, Saudi Arabia joined the coalition seeking to ease out President Ali Abdullah Saleh because it thinks the opposition might prove a more reliable, less unruly southern neighbor. But Arab diplomats noted that even the smallest Saudi gestures provided Mr. Saleh with excuses to stay, since he interpreted them as support. This month, for example, the Saudis sent in tanker trucks to help abate a gasoline shortage. On Syria, an initial statement of support by King Abdullah for President Bashar al-Assad has been followed by silence, ...  In Libya, after helping push through an Arab League request for international intervention, Saudi Arabia sat out ...  It has so far kept its distance publicly from Tunisia as well,... There are also suspicions that the kingdom is secretly providing money to extremist groups to hold back changes. Saudi officials deny that, although they concede private money may flow. (Wikileaks says private-government collusion, here)