Sunday, July 31, 2011

Obama: "Assad is completely incapable & unwilling!"

" President Barack Obama is stepping up his criticism of Syria’s crackdown on protesters, charging that the Syrian president is “completely incapable and unwilling” to respond to what Obama calls the legitimate grievances of the Syrian people... "

Is Al Akhbar comfortable with someone who says that Libya's rebels' solicitation of NATO bombings & weapons is "understandable"?

"...The al-Qaeda threat may be waning but not that posed by Hezbollah"

"Of all the leftover business for the Obama administration as U.S. troops prepare to leave Iraq at the end of the year, nothing is more symbolic of the continuing threats there -- and throughout the region -- than the case of a Lebanese Hezbollah operative named Ali Mussa Daqduq.
Daqduq has been one of Iran's top covert operatives in Iraq, according to U.S. officials. He was captured in March 2007 by U.S. forces in Basra who had evidence he had plotted (with Iranian help) a kidnapping in Karbala that January that resulted in the deaths of five American soldiers. U.S. satellite photos showed the Iranians had even built a mockup of the Karbala facility inside Iran to practice the kidnapping. Daqduq is now a prisoner at Camp Cropper, a U.S. detention facility near the Baghdad airport. Thousands of other detainees have already been released, and the U.S. must close Camp Cropper by year-end, under the status-of-forces agreement negotiated by the Bush administration. The detainees will be handed over to the Iraqis (who would likely free many of them) unless they are transferred elsewhere.
Herein lies the Daqduq conundrum, which has been the subject of weekly interagency meetings this summer: The White House is leaning against releasing a prisoner who has American blood on his hands. But how should he be prosecuted?
The administration is weighing several options. First, Daqduq could be tried by a U.S. military commission, presumably at Guantanamo Bay, under the laws of war. A second option is to try him in a civilian court. That's what the Justice Department decided to do earlier this month with a Somali terrorism suspect named Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame. He was indicted and transferred to New York for trial, after being held for months in a naval vessel in the Persian Gulf...
Back in Tehran, Daqduq was told to organize "Special Groups" of Shiite extremists that would operate like Hezbollah fighters. According to Bergner, Iran was, at that time, funding the Special Groups with $750,000 to $3 million a month, as well as training them to use "Explosively Formed Projectiles," the sophisticated roadside bombs that have killed so many U.S. troops.These Hezbollah cadres, backed with Iranian money and intelligence support, have in recent years fanned out across the region. As Arabic-speaking Lebanese, they can work with Shiite activists from Bahrain and eastern Saudi Arabia, as well as Iraq. Iran's leverage in Iraq will be especially important if its ally, Bashar al-Assad, is toppled in Syria.
At a time when Iranian-made weapons are killing a rising number of U.S. troops who remain in Iraq, U.S. senior military commanders have warned the White House that releasing Daqduq would send what one calls "a horrible message." The Obama administration seems to agree -- and is weighing how to try this Hezbollah operative. I favor a trial, but not in the heart of Manhattan. The al-Qaeda threat may be waning but not that posed by Hezbollah."

CIDI-Israel: "The disruption of Egyptian gas to Israel after Jan 25 revolution could cause an Israeli-Lebanese war.."

US Embassy/ Damascus: "There is one big armed gang in Syria, & it's named the Syrian government".

"An official at the US embassy in Damascus told the BBC World Service that "there is one big armed gang in Syria, and it's named the Syrian government"...
Speaking to the BBC World Service's Newshour programme, Harder said: "I think we can safely say it's full-on warfare by the Syrian government on its own people. This full-on warfare in which the government is engaged in today, I think, amounts to nothing less than a last act of utter desperation. They're killing their own people, they're sending their tanks into their own cities. It's ridiculous. There is one big armed gang in Syria and it's named the Syrian government. That's the armed gang that is pillaging its own cities, that's the armed gang that is striking terror into the hearts of a lot of these people who are out there who just want to peacefully protest.... The government is not exactly a cohesive, coherent unit but rather a group of disparate groups within the government itself,... On one hand you have a purported reform movement.. and then you have warfare, then you have full-on attacks of Hama and Deir Ezzor (in the east), it just doesn't make any sense." ..."

Hired by Al Akhbar, English version: 'Hezbollah should emulate Libya's rebels!'

"Hezbollah's position on events in Syria is shameful... And Al Manar is nothing but a regime propaganda tool" says HS on fcbk. "I hope that Hezbollah will procure its weapons elsewhere ... The rebels in Libya asked for NATO's assistance. Do we blame them?"

The Syrian 'Islamic emirates' (part II):

"...Consequently, we should expect the regime to collapse in ultra-slow motion, at least compared with how matters developed in Tunisia and Egypt, and even, in the opposite direction, in Bahrain. The uneasy balance between the protestors and the security services will continue. Cities such as Hama and Homs and tribal regions such as al-Bukamal will grow incrementally more autonomous. At some point or in some places, protestors might take up arms. (Indeed this may have already begun.) In that case, the conflict on the streets will begin to look more like a civil war than a contest between security services and rock-throwing protestors. As the Ba‘athi regime loses strength and its residual power to intimidate, a power vacuum may well develop; indeed, it is already doing so. Such a vacuum will further destabilize not just the internal theater in Syria, but will have significant destabilizing implications for all of Syria’s neighbors.
Either way, regional powers will work to shape the battle on the ground to their advantage. The Turks, who are deeply concerned about the flow of refugees across their border, especially Kurds, now seem tempted to intervene directly, if only to establish a buffer zone where refugees could be sheltered on Syrian territory. Turkey has already taken an active role in hosting opposition conferences and providing a base for, among others, Muslim Brotherhood elements. For their part, the Iraqis will inevitably grow concerned about the creeping autonomy of the tribal regions on their border. Meanwhile, the Iranians will continue to support the regime, Tehran’s closest ally in the region and its gateway to its proxies Hizballah and Hamas. In sum, Syrian domestic politics will become enmeshed with regional politics, according to a pattern now familiar to us from Iraq and Lebanon.The question for Washington, then, is this: How can the United States compress the timeline of collapse? ..."

'View from my Window!'

'Niagara Falls'

US-Saudi nuclear cooperation

"...With the United States hoping to head off an arms race in response to Iran's nuclear program, officials from President Barack Obama's administration plan to head to Riyadh in the coming week for nuclear talks, the sources said.
A congressional aide, who requested anonymity as the trip has not been publicly announced, said the visit would be a "preliminary" step to "discuss the possibility of moving forward on a nuclear cooperation agreement."
A senior lawmaker from the rival Republican Party strongly criticized the visit, pointing to concerns about Saudi financing for Islamic extremists. ..."

'Fifth time & counting'

"...For the fifth time this year, terrorists yesterday blew up the terminal serving the main pipeline from which gas flows to Israel from Egypt in the northern Sinai, AP reported. Egyptian sources have confirmed the report.
This attack at the al-Shulaq gas terminal is the third on the pipeline this month alone and the fifth since the beginning of the year, when an uprising toppled President Hosni Mubarak. ..."

New Israeli refrain (part II): 'The Rents Intifada!'

Siniora: 'Hassan Nasrallah has no right to protect Lebanon's resources ... A couple of tears should do it'

The "liberated" Islamic emirates of Syria?

"...Maleh, who appeared at the Istanbul meeting to acclaim as a statesman... "The opposition abroad is raising funds to sustain the rebels and help in broadening the civil disobedience that has already made some cities like Hama and Homs liberated areas," said Maleh, as he lunching at the five-star hotel near the Bosphorus where the exiles were meeting...
Expatriate Syrians, who have run anti-Assad websites and supplied smuggled satellite phones to protest organizers in Syria, say they are also finding clandestine ways to finance disobedience campaigns in cities such as Hama and Homs, which they hope will accelerate the fall of the Assad family...
In another sign of political maturity, debates over the shape of post-Assad Syria have induced the Muslim Brotherhood openly to embrace democratic principles and accept a civil society with a pledge that Islamic law would not be imposed."The pluralistic democratic state is our goal..." said Ali Sadreddin Bayanouni, the former head of Syria's Muslim Brotherhood...Many exiles acknowledge they lack a united leadership, but say the Muslim Brotherhood and secular leftists can agree on two main goals -- Assad's overthrow and a democratic future..."

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Temperature gauge in the Washington metro area ...

'Radical ... Last Friday!'

"The next war's battlefield will be larger than the traditional theater of southern Lebanon & northern Israel

"On July 30, 2006, an Israeli warplane dropped its deadly munitions on an apartment building in the southern Lebanese town of Qana as part of its military operations against Hezbollah during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war. The aerial bombardment buried two large Lebanese families beneath the rubble -- killing 28 civilians, including 16 children. The attack carried grim echoes of the 1996 Israeli shelling of a U.N. compound in Qana, which killed 106 Lebanese civilians and wounded 116 more.... In the five years since the second Qana massacre and the war's conclusion, Lebanon and Israel have enjoyed a rare calm along their border. But both sides are aware that the possibility of renewed conflict remains high..
Should another war happen, we believe that it will be even larger and bloodier than the 2006 conflict. Our judgment is based on extensive field research in Lebanon covering the military preparations of both sides and analyzing their own assessments of the likelihood and nature of a future war. Over the past five years, we interviewed and spoke with dozens of Hezbollah members, including political leaders, advisors, commanders, IT specialists, and foot soldiers... In the five years since, Hezbollah has responded by swelling its ranks with dedicated cadres and reviving its multi-sectarian reservist units. It has also acquired long-range rockets fitted with guidance systems, which enable it to develop a target list of specific military and infrastructure sites in Israel. The organization is also believed to have received training on more advanced air-defense systems that could pose a threat to low-flying Israeli air assets, such as helicopters and drones. With the support of Iran, Hezbollah has made further advances in its signals intelligence and communications capabilities, which play an increasingly vital role in its ability to wage war against Israel. Hezbollah is expected to use these upgraded capabilities to attempt to take the offensive in a future conflict, extending the fight into Israel through land and seaborne commando raids. The next war's battlefield will therefore likely be larger than the traditional theater of southern Lebanon and northern Israel...."

Friday, July 29, 2011

'View from my (car's) window!'

'Beirut, Lebanon'

Tweeting AmalSG, on Blanford & Narwani ...

abumuqawama +1 RT @DavidKenner: So impressed by Nick Blanford's ability to rationally eviscerate criticism of his work at 3am.…
2 days ago

MEMRI: Saudi columnist says: "I sought Abu Hussein ... (he) got lost in Damascus"

MEMRI (founded by the Israeli Mossad by way of Lady Meyrav Wurmser, adopted mother of Farid Ghadri), loves 'a good Saudi': Khalaf Al-Harbi said President Obama (Abou Hussein) applied a double standard in dealing with the revolution in Egypt & the rumble in Syria...
"... All last month, I kept my eyes out for Mr. Obama, who appeared so often at the outset of the 'Arab Spring' and suddenly disappeared, leaving the tyrants' armored vehicles to wreak havoc in the land. I sought 'Abu Hussein' [i.e. Obama] everywhere [and] wondered where he was hiding – this man whose [face] did not leave the TV screen throughout the Egyptian revolution, and who had asked [Egyptian president Hosni] Mubarak to step down, appearing every five minutes to say to his erstwhile ally: 'Get out today, not tomorrow!'"Obama got lost in the old neighborhoods of Damascus. He 'dissolved like a lump of salt,' as our brothers in Egypt say. [He did so] even though, [in contrast to] the U.S.'s [close] ties with Hosni Mubarak's regime, U.S. relations with the Syrian regime [are weak], and even though the number of victims in the protests of the Egyptian revolution [was far smaller] than the number of victims in the protests now sweeping Syria's cities..."

US & al Qaeda agree on Syria!

"We are looking for the most effective way to tell Assad he must go!"

So basically when the US ambassador concocts a 'regime irritating' visit to Hama, he is a Simon Bolivar of sorts. But when the Syrian Ambassador goes on a mediatic rampage and 'irritates' folks inside the beltway, his demeanor is 'odious'! 
MEPGS; Excerpts;
A consensus has emerged within the Administration that the current regime in Syria not only has no future but that it is only a matter of time before the President declares that President Bashar al-Assad must go.  As one top Administration official put it this week, “We are looking for the most effective way and point to say he has to leave.”  Even three weeks ago, there were some US officials who argued that the Assad regime could work its way through the current situation.  But no longer.  They now see the uprising spreading and deepening and that every maneuver by the authorities has come up short....
Hama was the site of the controversial visit by US Ambassador Robert Ford... Ford’s visit, according to informed sources, was not coordinated at the top levels of the White House or the State Department.  The Ambassador, a low key, fluent Arab speaker, took it upon himself (with some lower level coordination among colleagues in Washington/ read:JF) to make a gesture, knowing it would infuriate the Syrian regime...
STATE: 'Odious demeanor!'
However, with this dramatic gesture, the Administration, at least for the time being, has run out of new pressure points to apply to the Syrian government.  There is no appetite to expel Syria’s Ambassador to the US, Imad Mustapha, despite his embassy’s involvement in spying on Syrian protestors in the US (as well as his odious demeanor).  Such a move, would likely provoke the expulsion of  Ford, who only got his post via a “recess appointment” – the result of some key Republican Senators’ objection to “rewarding” Syria by sending back a US Ambassador after years of being represented at a lower level.  “We still are having difficulty convincing some Senators of the obvious value of top level representation,” complained one exasperated State Department official, aware of lingering doubts in the Congress over the wisdom of dealing at all with a noxious regime like the one in Syria.  Another route that has been explored to exert pressure on Syria is through importers refusing to purchase its limited oil exports.  “There just aren’t enough takers,” says one Administration insider.
Although there is little doubt that Assad’s days are numbered, there seems to be little planning within the Administration about what to do after he goes.  There is no doubt among veteran analysts that there will be competition for influence among Syria’s neighbors as well as other interested parties, such as the US and Saudi Arabia []..."

On a Gaza beach ...

'Rudderless & leaderless with WINEP-AIPAC as 'spiritual guide'!

"... Just about every other ingredient that usually goes into building a revolution — organization, strategy or leadership — is still missing, however. The nationwide uprising that erupted spontaneously on the streets of Syrian cities remains a largely ad hoc affair, inspired by the revolts in Egypt and Tunisia, driven by anger and frustration...
The United States and other world powers are increasingly distancing themselves from Assad, while a growing number of think tanks and experts are becoming convinced that his regime will not survive.
Officially, the United States is adopting a hands-off position, saying it is up to the Syrian people to determine their future. But behind closed doors, “a lot of people are obsessed with this issue,” said Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (Winep-Aipac to the rescue, of course!) “As the regime degrades, the necessity of the opposition coming together grows.”
Efforts by exiled opponents of Assad to form a united front have faltered, in part because of an acute awareness that the Syrian street is driving the uprising. No one, least of all the Syrians, said a Western diplomat in Damascus, wants to see a repeat of the Iraq experience, in which exiled leaders with no street credibility are foisted upon those living inside the country..."
There is a small community of established, mostly elderly dissidents who have long opposed the regime, who served time in prisonand who could yet emerge as potential leaders of a new Syria. They are keeping a low profile, mindful that this is not their revolution.
The two activists with the most name recognition inside the country are women: Razan Zeitouneh..., and Suhair Atassi,...Even these groups are regarded with skepticism by many protesters, said Damascus- based activist Abu Adnan, who works with two groups. “They are fake groups, they exist only in the media,” he said. “People are suspicious of those who want to take personal advantage from the revolution.” indeed, most activists reject outright the notion that anyone should take charge of a revolt dedicated to the overthrow of the only form of leadership most Syrians have ever known..."

Iraqis, victims of American political engineering, consider Syria an 'Oasis'

Iraq, a feat of American political engineering, some would argue for a 'Copie Conforma' in Syria.
"...Now, even as Syria faces its own turmoil, few Iraqis are returning home. In fact, the number of Iraqis leaving for Syria is far greater than the number coming back, said Brian C. Vaughan, assistant representative at the United Nations office. When balanced against Iraq’s continuing violence, its sporadic electricity that will only get less reliable as summer creeps on and an economy dominated by a corrupt public sector, Syria is seen as a better place to live.
“You can relax there,” said Ali Mohammed, a barber, who left the Iraqi city of Najaf for Syria in 2005...
“You don’t need to worry about electricity, the heat” in Syria, Mr. Mohammed, wearing a skintight T-shirt and wraparound sunglasses,...
“Life is beautiful there, women are beautiful there,” Mr. Rashid said. “That is the important thing. Freedom and security, everything.”
Four or five buses leave each day for Syria from this station. A ticket costs about $25, and business seems to be booming. “The number of people leaving Iraq for Syria has increased because of the summer holiday,” said a bus company manager, Abu Muhammad. “Families are going there to escape the summer heat, and for tourism.”...
“It’s stable, very normal,” said Farras Ali, a driver who makes the trip to Syria three times a week. “The media is making it look larger than it is.”..."

FLASH: "Peres & Arekat hold 'secret talks' for the good of Palestine!"

British MP: "Arm Libya's 'rebels'!"

I bet, and in light of most recent events, Qaddafi must also be hoping that the rebels get weapons to ...kill each other!
"... Throughout the conflict, the British Government has been robust: indeed, I can fault its approach in only one respect. We are, so far, refusing to provide weapons and training to the insurgents. There is, of course, an arms embargo in force. However, its effect was modified by a UN resolution that authorised Nato to use “all necessary measures” to protect civilians. The French, the Qataris and others have duly provided military supplies to the insurgents, but we have been overly cautious and refused. Now we have recognised the insurgents as the legitimate government, I hope that the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary will reconsider: it would greatly shorten the conflict, and ensure Gaddafi’s early departure...."

Again. Who are Libya's rebels? And, BTW, who are Syria's opposition illuminatis?

"For NATO allies struggling to understand who exactly they are backing, the death of Gen. Abdel Fatah Younes is likely raise more questions about who the rebels are and how they would conduct themselves if Gadhafi lost control of the capital... Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the leader of the Transitional National Council that serves as the rebel government, told reporters that Gadhafi loyalists had killed Younes... But the chain of events was confusing. Hours earlier, the TNC had ordered Younes, 67, to return from Brega for questioning in what Jalil called a military matter, and rumors swirled throughout the day that he was being accused of conducting secret talks with the Gadhafi government..."
And Reuters,
"...Some rebels were never comfortable with an army leader who had until recently been so close to Gaddafi, and Younes had been involved in a dispute over the leadership of the rebel forces.
Jalil said Younes was shot before appearing in front of the judicial committee and the head of the armed cell that killed him had been arrested.
It was not clear where Younes and his bodyguards had been killed or how Jalil had learned of their deaths, but Jalil said all efforts were being made to find their bodies.
Shortly afterwards, gunmen burst into the grounds of the hotel where Jalil was speaking and fired bursts of shots in the air, a Reuters reporter said...."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

"... We need to drive a wedge between Assad on one hand, & the Army and the Alawites on the other!"

U.S. Priorities in a Changing Middle East
Robert Danin, Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
Deborah Jerome, Deputy Editor,, Council on Foreign Relations
July 27, 2011
...We must keep our focus on Egypt, first and foremost. As home to a quarter of the Arab peoples and perhaps the key galvanizer within the region, Egypt will be the critical trendsetter. A smooth and peaceful transition to a more representative government, with checks and balances, could have a positive demonstration effect. Similarly, a descent into greater sectarian conflict, a failed transition to effective civil governance, and no real improvement could precipitate more unrest and ultimately violence. The Obama administration understands that Egypt is central and is focused on that.
Obviously, Libya is now critical because we and the international community are engaged there militarily. We have drawn a line in the sand, and we now have lives and credibility at stake. This will have a regional demonstration effect of one sort or another. I would point to three other places critical for the United States: First is Saudi Arabia, given the West's energy dependency and Saudi Arabia's centrality to Gulf security. Second is Syria, the only Arab state fully aligned with Iran, which has become a widespread killing field for the regime against its own people. Third is Yemen, a potentially failed state that risks becoming a sanctuary for terrorists and anti-Western radicals.
How has the U.S. intervention in Libya driven policy options in Syria?
The United States has been slow to react to developments in Syria and slow to condemn the regime's brutality. It is probably the case that NATO's military involvement in Libya detracts from our ability to focus on Syria. We do not have an obvious military option in Syria, nor should we explore one. But there needs to be greater attention focused on Syria, and greater international community mobilization around a common position, much as we have done via the Libya Contact Group. We also need improved outreach to key parties in the region about Syria, particularly its neighbors—Turkey, Jordan, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, which, while not a neighbor, can play a critical role.
The fundamental problem in Syria now is that the longer the unrest continues, the greater the risk that the Assad regime will manipulate it and exacerbate the divisions that exist within a diverse population consisting of Alawites, Christians, Sunnis, and Kurds. Our goal now must be twofold: To drive a wedge between Assad and the Alawite community, to prevent the conflict from becoming sectarian. And to find carrots and sticks to encourage the Sunni merchant classes in Damascus and Aleppo, places that have remained quiet so far, to break from the regime. This could allow for a rapid transition from power.  My fear is the longer this drags on, the more difficult the situation will become, and the greater the chances for real civil war.
Let's say the United States gets what it wishes for in Libya, and Qaddafi steps aside. What would be the aftermath of that in Libya? What about a similar scenario in Syria?
Libya has become important, disproportionately so, because of the region's call for an international response and because of our subsequent efforts to dislodge Qaddafi. The international community met the challenge by authorizing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which precipitated the first real humanitarian intervention in the Arab world. This sent an important message of concern. But the subsequent mission creep has led to a call for and effort to bring about regime change. We, in the form of NATO, are now fully engaged in Libya. As a result, we've committed ourselves to helping to sort out a broken state after Qaddafi is gone. Given that the country has no effective institutions by Qaddafi's designs, and the strong tribal makeup of the country, salvaging a post-Qaddafi Libya is going to be a major challenge. We, in the form of NATO, are now fully engaged in Libya. As a result, we've committed ourselves to helping to sort out a broken state after Qaddafi is gone.
Syria's socio-economic makeup is fundamentally different. It has a middle class, an educated elite. It has a conscript army that could play an effective role if it manages to disassociate itself from the Assad regime. So the challenges of nation-building that I fear face us in Libya are much less so when it comes to Syria. Yet both places face the risk of real civil war..."

Palestine is in safe hands!

'Iraq-02'' redux: US accuses Iran of Al Qaeda "secret deal"

 Remember these forgeries? and WMDs? and Colin Powell's vials?
"The U.S. Treasury Department today announced that it has officially designated as terrorists six members of an al Qaeda network whose head operates in Iran. This action marks the first time the U.S. government has so explicitly accused Iranian authorities of formally collaborating with an al Qaeda cell, which it alleged to serve as a financial pipeline between al Qaeda fundraisers in the Persian Gulf and operatives in Afghanistan and Pakistan....Counter-terrorism analysts said such designations as those announced today are not done in a haphazard way, and take quite a lot of time and debate to be worked through the U.S. inter-agency process.
"The material made public for these designations is very, very carefully reviewed," stressed Matthew Levitt, a former FBI terrorism intelligence analyst now with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (AIPAC), in an interview with the Envoy. They "don't go forward without policy concurrence, legal review, and intelligence concurrence," meaning, "the inter-agency met and debated them and yelled and screamed." That said, Levitt continued, "let's not get hysterical."... As to why the U.S. government would make the focus of today's announcement Iran and not the al Qaeda financiers apparently able to operate from Qatar and Kuwait, Levitt said the U.S. government has long taken up the matter more quietly with those countries."
 ... Leah Farrell, a leading al Qaeda expert based in Australia, tweeted that she was skeptical of the Treasury designation, and suggested it might be motivated by a U.S. desire to put pressure on Iran. "Past reports have been poorly sourced and containing serious inaccuracies," she said. "I know about some of these people. They're not new and the reality is far more complex."
"This seems like a means of overcoming a lack of leverage against Iran releasing people." 

"Out of Africa"

"Not exonerated?"

"... As for Saudi Arabia, America’s purported friend, you would have thought from the reaction of the Saudi ambassador, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, that the commission had found nothing dubious in his country’s role. “The clear statements by this independent, bipartisan commission,” he declared, “have debunked the myths that have cast fear and doubt over Saudi Arabia.” Yet no finding in the report categorically exonerated Saudi Arabia....In June 1996, according to published reports, while in Paris for the biennial international weapons bazaar, a group including a Saudi prince and Saudi financiers gathered at the Royal Monceau hotel, near the Saudi Embassy. The subject was bin Laden and what to do about him. After two recent bombings of American targets in Saudi Arabia, one of them just that month, the fear was that the Saudi elite itself would soon be targeted. At the meeting at the Monceau, French intelligence reportedly learned, it was decided that bin Laden was to be kept at bay by payment of huge sums in protection money.In sworn statements after 9/11, former Taliban intelligence chief Mohammed Khaksar said that in 1998 Prince Turki, chief of Saudi Arabia’s General Intelligence Department (G.I.D.), sealed a deal under which bin Laden agreed not to attack Saudi targets. In return, Saudi Arabia would provide funds and material assistance to the Taliban, not demand bin Laden’s extradition, and not bring pressure to close down al-Qaeda training camps. Saudi businesses, meanwhile, would ensure that money also flowed directly to bin Laden.... 

Before 9/11, American officials visiting Riyadh usually discovered that it was futile to ask the Saudis for help in fighting terrorism. George Tenet, who became C.I.A. director during Bill Clinton’s second term, vividly recalled an audience he was granted by Prince Naif, the crown prince’s brother. Naif, who oversaw domestic intelligence, began the exchange with “an interminable soliloquy recounting the history of the U.S.-Saudi ‘special’ relationship, including how the Saudis would never, ever keep security-related information from their U.S. allies.”There came a moment when Tenet had had enough. Breaching royal etiquette, he placed his hand on the prince’s knee and said, “Your Royal Highness, what do you think it will look like if someday I have to tell the Washington Post that you held out data that might have helped us track down al-Qaeda murderers?” Naif’s reaction, Tenet thought, was what looked “like a prolonged state of shock.”.... (Continue, here)"

Lebanon's Joan of Bark: 'Nasrallah is all talk, ...we will protect our resources, like we always do!.'

... like we did for decades, like we did when israel occupied lebanon with the frequency of the World Cup, like we did when israel stole the only resources we had so far (water), like we did when israel slaughtered our people even when they sought refuge with the UN contingent in the land where Jesus made wonders, like we did when israel waltzed in, burned our airport and civilian fleet, like we did when israel strolled in and assassinated arab leaders in our capital ...and like we did when israel occupied, shelled & starved the first and only Arab capital in the history of our region! Yes, kabbara and his clones in the Future movenent will protect Lebanon's resources!
"... Future bloc MP Mohammad Kabbara said on Thursday that Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah “once again harmed” the Lebanese state ...
“Sayyed Nasrallah must know that these resources are protected by the people, army and official institutions and not by he who claims to protect the state and steals its abilities and kills its people,” Kabbara said in a statement issued by his press office.(Oooh look at you! Press office and all!)...
Kabbara also criticized Nasrallah for supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ...
“We announce our full solidarity with the Syrian people... "Let it be known…that we will not allow the authority of illegitimate arms to take Lebanon hostage to protect Assad’s regime..."

"Target: Hezbollah"

Sources: WINEP, Israeli Intelligence services, Stratfor & Stuart Levey ...
Hezbollah: Party of Fraud | Foreign Affairs

'No expectations' from Barak's Washington visit ...

"...There are no real expectations that Barak's consultations in the U.S. this week will result in any breakthrough on stalled peace process efforts, a source who consulted with the administration on the visit told the Envoy.
The Obama White House has similarly told allied nation diplomats in recent days there is not yet meaningful progress to report in its diplomatic efforts to get relaunched talks. A less than promising precedent was set two weeks ago at an uncomfortable meeting of the Middle East Quartet--the U.S., Russia, UN and European Union--in Washington...
The "Americans told us they could bring the parties together," one diplomatic official told the Envoy on condition of anonymity to express frustration with Washington's handling of the issue. But the traditional American approach "is to pre-negotiate with the Israelis and then tell [the Quartet members] you should ... endorse [what the U.S. and Israel agreed]. That's a problem dealing with sovereign countries."
Separately, Israeli ambassador Michael Oren was spotted having lunch today at the Oval Room with National Security Council human rights and multilateral organizations adviser Samantha Power, restaurant-goers told the Envoy.
No word yet on what was the subject of today's lunch, but one person who spotted them suggested the White House may simply be trying to step up its outreach efforts. Power is also the White House point person on international organizations. That includes the United Nations, which held a tense meeting yesterday on Palestinian statehood aspirations that may be a preview of September's dynamics...."

Israel to Lebanon & UN: 'Without search warrant & coordination!'

Israel sees Lebanon bombing as warning to UNIF... JPost - Defense

"... How we overlooked our own blindingly obvious national interest in the demise of the Assad regime"

Notes from an Isramerican Senator & someone who needs no introduction: Jeffrey Feltman!
"The U.S. administration has pretty much exhausted all the possible ways to put pressure on Assad's regime - sanctions, rebukes, hints that the regime "is not indispensible" – other than explicitly calling for Assad to step down. And that's exactly what members of Congress would like the Administration to do.
"Noting that Assad has lost legitimacy without calling for his immediate departure from power trivializes the death of thousands of Syrians killed by Assad's thugs", Rep. Gary Ackerman (New York, Democrat), said Wednesday during the hearing of the Middle East and South Asia Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, titled "Axis of Abuse: U.S. Human Rights Policy Toward Iran and Syria ... the Obama administration has barely scratched even the surface of their utility in aiding the people of Syria in throwing off this regime of murderers and thieves and torturers of children. History will record not only how we mostly ignored the people of Syria in their hour of need but, worse, how we overlooked our own blindingly obvious national interest in the demise of the Assad regime"...
Ackerman clarified that he is not calling for military intervention in Syria, but that "the President must call for Bashar Assad, the “blood-soaked dictator”, to step down. "Trifling with the lives of the people of Syria with nuanced, lawyerly phrases like ‘President Assad must understand he is not indispensable’ is shameful", the congressman said.
Jeffrey Feltman, Assistant Secretary of State from the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, who represented the administration at the hearing, along with Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary of State from Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Location, shared the Congress members’ contempt for the Syrian leader, saying that "Bashar al-Assad is not a reformer but someone whose rule relies on terror, theft and torture".

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Michel Sleiman's new refrain: 'Thou shall only sing my praise!'

"... A Lebanese singer was briefly detained on Wednesday for slander over a song posted on YouTube in which he urges President Michel Sleiman to "go home," his attorney told AFP. "General prosecutor Said Mirza ordered Zeid Hamdan detained for a song posted more than 18 months ago," Nizar Saghieh said.
"This is shocking," he added. "This case concerning the reputation of the president suddenly erupts while in the entire region you have heads of state being brought down and the people calling on them to leave. "It is surreal in Lebanon to have this taking place."...
The reggae-style English language song ends with the following lyrics: "General Sleiman, you're a miracle man for peace in the nation. General Sleiman you're a miracle man. Gene, gene, general go home."...
'First prize for schmuckery!'
"It's hilarious really," a company official said, requesting anonymity. "Here you have all these revolutions going on in the Arab world and we have this in Lebanon."
Last year, three people were detained in Lebanon for using the social networking website Facebook also to allegedly slander the president..."

Mubarak's new refrain: 'I refuse to eat!'

"... The head of the hospital where Mr Mubarak is detained in Sharm al-Sheikh said he was depressed, has lost weight, and was not eating enough to keep him alive, MENA agency reports.
But critics see Mr Mubarak's illness as a ploy to avoid going on trial.
Opposition supporters are sceptical about the reports. They believe the authorities are just looking for a way to put off the start of the former leader's trial, scheduled for next week...."

The new Israeli refrain: 'The rent is too damn high!'

"... But income inequality is high and growing in Israel, and even politically jaded young Israelis have grown frustrated with rising housing prices and costs for common consumer goods. Indeed, the high price of cottage cheese in Israel ignited an earlier round of protests and consumer boycotts this summer.
"The gap between rich and poor in Israel is among the greatest of those countries, as is the number of people living below the poverty line," Bronner writes, noting certain groups, particularly Israeli Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews, are still economically struggling. And, he adds, "nearly everyone has been affected by rising rents stemming from a drop in construction, followed by a rush on available housing when mortgage rates dropped."..."

Zogby: 'When Saudi Arabia speak about Iran, Arabs listen!'

"...."It really was rather shocking I thought,” Zogby tells Newsmax. “Even a couple of years ago, people would say, ‘Oh, Arab leaders are against Iran, but their people aren’t...“ this is clearly an indication of the fact that when Saudi Arabia and the UAE speak about Iran, they’ve got the people with them,” he says.
The Zogby poll surveyed citizens in Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Iran has a favorability rating of only 14 percent in Morocco. It rates highest in Lebanon, with 63 percent approval, and in Egypt, with 37 percent approval. The Arab nation with the dimmest view of Iran is clearly Saudi Arabia ..."

Zogby via Haaretz: 'Iran is less popular in the Arab world!'

Ruppert Murdoch & Hezbollah's "Scuds"

Amal Saad-Ghorayeb: "Narwani makes an excellent argument but Blanford is not in the business of fabricating sources..."

"The Huffington Post's Sharmine Narwani makes an excellent argument in this piece. In all fairness though, Nicholas Blanford is not in the business of fabricating sources and is one of the few foreign journos who are granted rare access to Hizbullah. Need to run this by him to hear his version."

Amal Saad-Ghorayeb has Nick Blanford's response to S Narwani's piece on Hezbollah's '(Merdoch's) Scuds!'

"Apologies for the mass email response and for the necessity of responding in the first place which I do with great reluctance (especially as it's 3am!). But a couple of you have emailed me asking me to comment on Sharmine Narwani's Huff Post piece and so here it is. 
First, my contribution to the Times article was limited to the Hizbullah sources. I have no idea about the veracity of the Scud/Jabal Taqsis claims. Rupert Murdoch's political inclinations do not interest me. 
Second, I will not discuss nor elaborate upon my contacts within Hizbullah. They have learned to trust me sufficiently over the years to meet and talk (many of them have become friends) and protecting their identity is my paramount concern (Amal confirms this). That said, these are not "moles" slipping secret information to a foreign reporter. They are dedicated and proud members of Hizbullah and the Islamic Resistance and (frustratingly) guarded in their comments.... 
If I am a peddler of pro-Israel propaganda, then why would Hizbullah's Al Manar TV interview me for a documentary on the 2006 war, part one of which was aired this evening? (I think part two is tomorrow (Tuesday) night). 
My contacts within Hizbullah - both at a grassroots level and at a leadership level - are borne of nearly 16 years following the affairs of the organization from within Lebanon (as Timur knows better than anyone else on this list of recipients). Sharmine is perfectly within her rights to question my sourcing. All I can say is that after 16 years one develops good contacts. That said no Hizbullah figure - fighter or leader - has ever specified to me any particular weapons system that the organization has acquired or seeks to acquire prior to its use on the battlefield. Believe me, I have tried..... When the Scud story broke last year, I wrote several articles that questioned the veracity of the claims. My doubts were not based on whether Hizbullah would like to include Scuds within its arsenal but centered on the logistical complexities of maintaining and launching them. (Without wishing to belabor the point, Scuds are liquid fueled not solid fuelled, like other rockets believed to be in Hizbullah's arsenal, which means that the launch cycle is much lengthier and more complicated...) 
As for the increase of weapons into Hizbullah's arsenal, I have been hearing this since late March, shortly after the uprising began in Syria and long before the Israeli and US press began reporting such things. It's common knowledge within Hizbullah circles. Where the weapons go and what they are, I have no idea. 
To some specifics: 
Sharmine writes: I have been looking for weapons in Lebanon since Israeli President Shimon Peres told us in April 2010 that Syria was sending long-range Scud missiles to Hezbollah. Problem is that I can’t find them anywhere and neither can anyone else. 
Blanford says: Me too. And not since 2006 but since 1996. I like to think I know south Lebanon like the back of my hand, but I couldn't find any weapons... 
Sharmine writes: While Peres’ claims were reported widely in the international media, Syria rejected all charges and Hezbollah played the Israeli game of refusing to confirm or deny anything. Then came a slow but steady stream of denials from an array of international observers – albeit, quietly.First up was UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Commander General Alberto Asarta Cuevas: “We have around 12,000 soldiers and three Lebanese army brigades in a small area. We haven’t seen a thing,” said Asarta Cuevas. “Scud missiles are big. I’m sure there are no Scuds because it is very difficult to hide them,” he added. 
Blanford says: If Hizbullah has acquired Scuds, they are not going to bring 40-foot missiles and even larger TELs south of the Litani. The whole point of acquiring a Scud (probably the only point) is that you can launch them from northern Lebanon and still hit Eilat. Come to think of it, didn't Mohammed Raad last week say "If Israel launches an attack, rockets of the resistance will cover all of Israel. Even the city of Eilat won’t be spared". 
Sharmine writes: The Jewish state has even provided maps – down to the exact house – that indicate where Lebanese women-and-children-commandos have stashed these weapons. Kudos go to the IDF too for creating user-friendly video games – or, as they like to call it, “3D animated clips” – that “illustrate how Hezbollah has turned over 100 villages in South Lebanon into military bases.” 
Blanford says: I'm assuming that Sharmine is referring to the widely disseminated map published by The WaPo in March showing a rash of red, blue and yellow dots across south Lebanon pointing out Hizbullah bunkers and positions. At the time, out of curiosity, I overlaid the WaPo map over a Google Earth image of south Lebanon and zoomed in to try and guage the accuracy of these multiple dots (I know it's a bit nerdy and obsessive but what can I say). Unlike Sharmine who discerned that the map was accurate to the "exact house", I found that each dot covered around half a village. Come on, the WaPo map was nothing more than a psy-ops ploy by Israel and had no bearing on reality. If the Israelis really had such sensitive information, do you think they would pass it on to the media? ... 
Sharmine writes: Hebrew-language newspaper Maariv last summer reported that Israeli finance officials were using Hezbollah to justify exorbitant defense budget demands. Ben Caspit wrote on July 11, 2010: “It’s interesting how every time the military budget is on the table, they release from the stocks Hezbollah’s missile array and expose sensitive classified material.” 
Blanford says: Totally right. I wrote such comments for The Daily Star back in the 1990s. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

best wishes to all,

US: ""Let there be no doubt: symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the UN will not create Palestine,"

Hassan Nasrallah: 'Lebanon's natural resources will be well protected!'

" ... Lebanon has submitted its own sea boundary proposal to the United Nations, and the Israeli government earlier this month approved a conflicting proposal that it also sent to the world body. Lebanon called the Israeli proposal a violation of international law and Lebanese sovereignty.
Nasrallah, in his speech Tuesday marking the fifth anniversary of the 2006 war, urged the Lebanese government to ratify a law which has already been discussed in parliament to pave the way for companies to start exploring off its coast. He said Lebanon can protect those companies and oil and gas installations because Israel has installations too. "Those who harm our installations will have their own installations harmed, ... We warn Israel not to touch this area or try to steal Lebanon's resources," he added.
Last week, senior U.N. envoy Michael Williams urged Lebanon and Israel to promote oil and gas exploration off their coasts despite their dispute. He said maritime disputes are common and exploration companies will avoid the contested area.
... Israel's National Infrastructure Minister, Uzi Landau, has said Israel would use force to defend its gas fields.(subtext: 'israel will aggress others' rights, as usual!')..."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Five French UN troops wounded in Lebanon ...

The list of 'usual suspects' is getting longer ...

WSJ: 'Lebanon should trust Israel ... always!'

"Tensions are rising in the eastern Mediterranean between Israel and Lebanon, this time over roughly 430 square miles of contested waters that contain considerable underwater gas reserves. Iran, Hezbollah and Syria are all interested in a war with Israel, each for their own reasons...
Both Israel and Lebanon have trillions of cubic feet of underwater natural gas and can benefit tremendously from these resources. All they need is the goodwill to negotiate a sea-border demarcation agreement. This usually occurs through bilateral negotiations or mutually agreed arbitration—not through U.N. border-dispute mechanisms, as Lebanon is now demanding.
In 2000, the U.N. meticulously traced the Israel-Lebanon land border when Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon (a blue-line not worth the Future-movement-blue-ink used to demarcate it).At the time, the U.N. did not establish a maritime border between the two countries and no one seemed to mind. Lebanon has made no hydrocarbon discoveries since, but it does seem eager to discover another border conflict: It's only now that Israel has identified substantial natural gas in the Tamar and Leviathan fields that Hezbollah, the Iranian and Syrian regimes' long arm in Lebanon, has decided to make an issue of the issue.
Lebanon's Hezbollah-dominated government has called Israel's proposed border an "aggression" and is now threatening to attack any Israeli gas projects—even those in undisputed waters. It wants the U.N. to arbitrate the border dispute under the Law of the Sea Treaty, to which Israel is not even a party. More troubling still, the U.S. State Department has reportedly endorsed Hezbollah's preferred solution of throwing the matter to the U.N.—despite the fact that the U.S. never ratified the treaty either.
The stakes are high for the U.S. and Israel. Hezbollah is armed with Chinese-designed, Iranian-made C-802 anti-ship missiles that could be devastating against future Israeli off-shore gas platforms and tankers. Hezbollah also has sea-born commando units.
The State Department's fear of a flare-up in the Mediterranean and its newfound preoccupation with the Law of the Sea Treaty should not result in coddling a terrorist organization and the state it is running. Washington would do better to stand by its democratic ally and reject Hezbollah's Tehran- and Damascus-inspired position, which can only further escalate tensions in the Levant. Washington should clarify that the two countries need to settle the border dispute between themselves—and both enjoy the benefits from their underwater natural resources."

“They are not seeking to have a religious country,”

"A member of Egypt’s ruling military council said fears that the Muslim Brotherhood poses a threat to the country’s emerging democracy are exaggerated and that the group has a right to participate in political life.
“They are not seeking to have a religious country,” said Major General Mohamed Said Elassar, a member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that took control when ousted President Hosni Mubarakceded authority. “They have to have the same rights as all Egyptians.”
Elassar assured an audience yesterday at the U.S. Institute of Peace, a government-funded organization in Washington, that the military council is eager to hand over authority to civilian parliament and president to be elected later this year.
The military council, in the meantime, remains committed to the 1979 Camp David Accords with Israel, said Elassar, who is assistant to Egypt’s defense minister and is leading a military delegation in Washington for semi-annual meetings at the Pentagon, the State Department and on Capitol Hill..."

"... 'Two minds' over Egypt"

"As last week, national attention is being monopolized by the unresolved wrangling over the debt ceiling and the associated procession of proposed solutions, no one of which seems able to command a majority in the Congress. As a senior State Department official stationed overseas commented to us: “It is almost as though the outside world is irrelevant to the US. The only debates we are having are with ourselves. The domestic context is the only one that matters.” An example might be the Middle East peace process where disagreement among the US parties prevented an agreement statement after the July 12th session of the Quartet. A National Security Council adviser explained to us: “The Administration is always looking to its Congressional relations on the pressing domestic priorities. It can’t afford to buck the very strong pro-Israel opinion on Capitol Hill.” This opinion will intensify should the UN in September vote in favor of Palestinian statehood. Staying in the Middle East, a similar hesitancy to force the peace may be observed over the Arab Spring. While Secretary of State has intensified her criticism of Syria and attempts to accelerate reform in Yemen continue, the Administration finds itself in two minds over Egypt. Concerns arising from intelligence reports on the resurgence of the Muslim Brotherhood are keeping US policy aligned with the Egyptian military...."

"... If Iran had to choose between Syria & Turkey, well it would choose ....."

"... Behind Iran's new Syria move is a calculated gamble that contrary to some Western perceptions, the Assad regime is not completely isolated and still enjoys a considerable mass following. This is reflected in huge pro-government rallies consistently ignored by the Western media, and that with sufficient internal and regional support, Damascus could survive and ride out the current storm...
A clue to the "new Iranian thinking" on the crisis in Syria and its regional implications emerged in a recent issue of Sobhe Sadegh, the weekly publication of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), written by Reza Garmabehry, that in unmistakable language warned that if Iran had to choose between Turkey and Syria, it would choose Syria. Titled "Iran's serious position vis-a-vis the events in Syria", the article implicitly criticized Turkey for serving Western and Zionist interests by siding with the opposition and thus weakening the regime in Syria. Simultaneously, the IRGC has demonstrated Iran's hard power by conducting a successful counter-insurgency military campaign resulting in its incursion inside Iraqi territory in hot pursuit of a Kurdish armed group known as PJAK (Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan). This is a fresh reminder to Turkey of Iran's stability role with respect to the Kurdish problem besetting Ankara, in light of Iran's considerable clout in Iraq. ...
According to some Tehran analysts, Iran hopes that Turkey will adjust its Syria policy and rethink its stinging criticisms of the Assad regime. If this does not happen and the policy contrasts between Iran and Turkey over Syria grow sharper, then we may witness a cooling period between Tehran and Ankara. Turkey is seeking a leading role in the deadlocked Middle East peace process,...Much as Iran and Turkey may cooperate at the UN level on the Palestinian issue, given that Turkey-Israel strategic relations have remained essentially untouched by various negative developments, such as the murder of nine Turkish citizens on a Gaza-bound ship by Israeli commandos, Tehran continues to view with suspicion some of Turkey's regional moves that may come at Iran's expense...
Assuming the Syria crisis lingers - which would mean more Syrian refugees in Turkey - the pressure on Ankara will likely increase and thus force Ankara to look to Iran for influencing Damascus. After all, contagion from Syria, as compared to Iran's distance from Syria, represents a minus for Turkey at the moment that adds to its vulnerability.
Playing hardball with Ankara, Tehran's new determination to stand behind Damascus no matter what in effect confronts Ankara with tough choices: ie, either continue with the current position tilted in favor of the Syrian opposition, and thus earn a substantial setback in relations with Iran, or emulate Iran and refrain from the hard push for reform inside Syria, and thus avoid a broadening of the arc of crisis engulfing Turkey's regional context.
According to Bahram Amirahmadian, a Tehran analyst who says Ankara has been exploiting "weak Iranian diplomacy", a more robust Iranian diplomacy is called for to avoid lagging behind Turkey in Middle East affairs. Apparently, the above-mentioned IRGC initiative is intended to address this issue, through a combination of soft and hard power that includes the carrot of economic (energy) incentives in league with Baghdad. Thus, it is not simply Iran but rather the triumvirate of Iran-Iraq-Syria that Turkey, a North Atlantic Treaty Organization member, has to reckon with."

Thought of the day: The Republicans are bent on 'injuring' Obama in 2012'. Are we to expect a fiscal disaster?

"We’ve started to hate them more than we hate Israel ..."

"... That is not to say that anyone really knows what kind of state the protesters want. In Homs last week, pious activists debated the differences between an Islamic and civil state, both of which they said should rely on religious law. Minorities fear militant currents within the Sunni Muslim majority. Sunnis seethe at the injustice of living for decades under a state endowed with a remarkable capacity for violence and led by the Alawite minority, a heterodox Muslim sect. Even some activists celebrating the unity that the revolt has brought warn that repression is breeding strife...
Many in Homs and Hama feel anger at what they see as American, European and Turkish acquiescence to Mr. Assad staying in power. They often express resentment at Aleppo, Syria’s second-largest city, which has remained relatively quiet...
Perhaps most pronounced is the anger at Hezbollah, the Shiite Muslim militant movement in Lebanon that has bluntly supported Mr. Assad’s government. Hezbollah was widely popular in Syria, where sentiments against Israel and longstanding American dominance of the region run deep. But Hezbollah’s backing for Mr. Assad has unleashed a sense of betrayal at a movement that celebrates the idea of resistance. At times, it has also given rise to chauvinism among Syrian Sunnis against Hezbollah’s Shiite constituency.
“We’ve started to hate them more than we hate Israel,” said Maher, a young father and protester in Hama, sitting with a friend who gave his name as Abu Mohammed..."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

"After his ouster (this Sunni 'smiley man of integrity') chose to leave & claim his life was in danger ..."

With these odds, FLC says: 'President Assad, please proceed with reforms!'
"... Lebanese American University political science professor Imad Salamey says some Hariri supporters felt let down by Saad Hariri's apparent willingness to make a deal with Hezbollah.
It was brokered by the Syrians and the Saudis, to abandon the U.N.-backed tribunal probe in exchange for Hezbollah consolidating its weapons with the Lebanese army's...
“He admitted that his position cost him a lot of support and many people felt betrayed....
For the last two months, Hariri has lived at his Paris home, saying there are threats against his safety in Lebanon. American University in Beirut political science professor Hilal Khashan says his absence under such circumstances contributes to him looking weak. “The fact that after his ouster from office of prime minister he chose to leave Lebanon and claimed that his life was in danger, that did not sit well with the Lebanese Sunni community," said Khashan. "Just imagine if President Obama receives a life threat, would he leave the U.S.? This has not worked in his favor. A strong leader does not abandon his community and his constituency.”
But along the waterfront, people identifying themselves as Sunnis did not necessarily agree with the experts...
Saleh Dabbagh, 51, a retired businessman, applauds Hariri’s.... "Just look at him. He's a smiley one, he is a good one, good heart. And especially he is Lebanese, excuse me, not Syrian, not Iranian, he is Lebanese.”...
Salamey says if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is toppled, that could improve the political fortunes of both Lebanese Sunnis and Saad Hariri.
“If the Alawite regime in Syria collapses and then you have a greater power shifting in favor of the Sunnis in Syria, that will definitely strengthen Sunnis in Lebanon, and will tilt the balance in their favor against Shiites, and particularly Hezbollah. So that will help Hariri in that regard,” said Salamey. Khashan agrees, noting that as long as Assad hangs on, Hariri's political prospects are dim.“If the situation in Syria shifts in another direction, then Hariri will stand to be a major beneficiary. If Assad holds on to power you may say goodbye to him,” said Khashan..."

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Blasts hit Syrian army college in Homs

"Two explosions were heard overnight from inside the Syrian Army War College in the city of Homs, scene of military assaults to crush protests against President Bashar al-Assad's rule, residents said today.
The sound of heavy gunfire was heard and ambulances were seen heading to the compound in the old al-Waer district, two residents told Reuters by telephone. ..."

PJAK blamed for killing of senior IRGC official

Iran says senior security official killed - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

"I haven't seen such openness anywhere else in the world "

Israeli companies discover South Sudan - Israel Business, Ynetnews

UN report: Syrian refugees numbers are inflated!

"...The United Nations Refugee Agency Friday disputed recent media reports that had suggested hundreds of Syrians have fled to Lebanon over the past few days.
The latest UNCHR update on the refugee situation in Lebanon says that only 13 families have been identified as having recently fled from Syria, with 150 displaced people having arrived over the last two weeks.
The report states that there are currently around 2,300 Syrian refugees in Lebanon, compared to 5,000 in May. ..."

Friday, July 22, 2011

Israel's looking for a 'moral minority' at U.N.

Israeli ambassador seeks 'moral minority' at U.N. - By Colum Lynch | Turtle Bay

Robert Baer: 'Oops ... but then again?!'

"...When I hung up the phone, I was sure Masters had lost more than a few listeners. After all, what I'd said was a tedious rehash of various media reports. I would have forgotten it altogether were it not for the blogosphere's version of a Pacific hurricane. I don't know where it started, but soon the choice bits of our conversation were being rebroadcast as a danger signal flashing bright red: "Former CIA Official: Israel Will Bomb Iran in September," read the headline in the Huffington Post.
The Huffpo's headline sparked a frenzy in Middle Eastern media outlets ranging from Israel's Jerusalem Post and Haaretz to Hizballah's TV station al-Manar. Their reports implied that I was some sort of unimpeachable authority, talking with the certainly of an insider looped into the plans and intentions of the key decision-makers. And then came the hate mail. One former State Department official wrote that my comments were all the proof he needed to know that I'd "gone rogue." A well-known pundit called me a loose cannon. By Monday, the former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley started tweeting that I didn't know what I was talking about. His tweets also made front-page news in Israel.
Crowley is right about me speculating about things I don't know a lot about. (Isn't that what commentators do more often than not?) But my question was, didn't he have the time to check the radio's Web page and listen to the interview? My editors at TIME certainly have. Or, more obviously, I wondered why Crowley and everyone else didn't notice I hadn't drawn a government check in more than 12 years, and therefore wasn't bringing any inside knowledge to the subject. And I'd certainly never claimed a back-door access to Netanyahu's inner circle that would give me any privileged knowledge about a planned attack.
What I am now certain of, however, is that my speculative wandering accidentally kicked a hidden hornets' nest. For all I know, maybe there really is an attack planned for September. Or, more likely, the problem is that it's July, it's hot, and everyone's bored of the Murdoch stuff. And, here I leave pure speculation to return to fact: It's lucky tweets, talk radio and blogosphere hysteria don't drive the decision making in Jerusalem and Washington. But, then again, what do I know?"

Mabrook to Saeed Akl, a creative @%#* bigot!

Saeed Akl, honoured by the full house of Lebanon's polity is ALSO remembered for calling for the 'extermination of the Palestinian scum' in Israel's 1978 aggression ... Whereas in the 1982 occupation of much of Lebanon and in a plaidoirie to Menachem Begin, he asked for the IDF to remain in Lebanon as long as the Palestinians are there!

The WaPo: 'Time to bomb Iran!'

Fred Hiatt & co. are peddling the Iraq-WMD-alQaeda line ...9 years later! The problem is that it does not take a lot to reconvert the American People.
"... Iran’s ability to sustain its nuclear program and its meddling in Iraq reflect the fact that these initiatives are controlled by the Revolutionary Guard, which has not been affected by the political feuding in Tehran and has first claim on the oil revenue that Iran continues to reap. Economic and political hardship also has had no apparent impact on Mr. Khamenei, who has maintained the regime’s refusal even to negotiate with the U.N. Security Council, much less obey its resolutions.
The bottom line is that the threat from Iran is not diminishing but growing. Where is the policy to reverse that alarming trend?."

UN: 'Let's try a Libyan ceasefire & power-sharing government without Gaddafi

"... In public, the Libyan leader remained firm, telling supporters he would never countenance talks with the rebels who rose up in February to try to end his 41-year one-man rule.
"There will be no talks between me and them until Judgment Day," Gaddafi told a crowd of thousands in his home town of Sirte in a remotely delivered audio message Thursday. "They need to talk with the Libyan people ... and they will respond to them."
He has, however, said he welcomes talks with Western powers, with no preconditions. But Washington and Paris say they have given his officials the same simple message: Gaddafi must go. Gaddafi has stepped up his defiant rhetoric amid persistent reports of talks. Pro-government rallies are being shown almost daily on state television, perhaps a reminder to outsiders that he can still command considerable support..."

Opinion Poll: Lebanon & the 'ill reputed' Hariri Tribunal

English summary of Beirut Center for Research and Information's latest poll on tribunal.
For Arabic version see

1. Do you believe that the simultaneous release of the STL indictment along with the issuance of the ministerial statement was a coincidence or deliberate?

26.4% said it’s a coincidence
65.8% said it’s deliberate

2. In your opinion, do the leaks of the indictment’s contents 2 years ago in the western and Arab media cast doubt on the tribunal’s credibility?

63.5% said YES;
33% said NO

3. Did Daniel Bellemare, the STL Prosecutor, deal with the evidence provided by Seyyid Hassan Nasrallah in a professional manner?

26% YES,
60.5% NO

4. do you have confidence in the STL’s autonomy?

36.8% said YES,
60% said NO

5. do you believe that the tribunal should investigate the false witness issue before the trial?

70% said YES,
22.5% said NO

6. what are the objectives pursued by those who support the tribunal?

40.8% said justice,
54.3% said political gains

7. whom in your opinion stood most to gain from the assassination of Hariri

55.8% said Israel and/or US
13.8% said Hizbullah and/or Syria

Robert Baer: 'Israel Will Bomb Iran In September'

"... But according to Baer, we ain't seen nothing yet.
There is almost "near certainty" that Netanyahu is "planning an attack [on Iran] ... and it will probably be in September before the vote on a Palestinian state. And he's also hoping to draw the United States into the conflict," Baer explained.
The Israeli air force would attack "Natanz and other nuclear facilities to degrade their capabilities. The Iranians will strike back where they can: Basra, Baghdad," he said, and even Afghanistan. Then the United States would jump into the fight with attacks on Iranian targets. "Our special forces are already looking at Iranian targets in Iraq and across the border [in Iran] which we would strike. What we're facing here is an escalation, rather than a planned out-and-out war. It's a nightmare scenario. We don't have enough troops in the Middle East to fight a war like that." He add, "I think we are looking into the abyss."
Masters asked Baer why the U.S. military is not mobilizing to stop this war from happening. Baer responded that the military is opposed, as is former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who used his influence to thwart an Israeli attack during the Bush and Obama administrations. But he's gone now and "there is a warning order inside the Pentagon" to prepare for war...
"The president is up for re-election next year" Blair pointed out, and Israel is "truly out of control."...
Actually, only one person matters: the president. If Israel bombed Iran tomorrow, Congress would forget all about their partisan differences and run, not walk, to the House and Senate floors to endorse the attack and call for unstinting support for Israel. That is what Congress always does, and will always do so long as the lobby (and the donors it directs) are the key players in making our Middle East policies.
And who knows what Obama would do? So far, he has not exactly distinguished himself when it comes to standing up to Netanyahu.
But an Israeli attack on Iran would be different. It would endanger countless Americans (in the region and here at home, too). It would kill off any economic recovery by causing oil prices to skyrocket. It would engulf us in another Middle East war. And it would threaten the existence of the state of Israel..."