Posted by Joshua on Thursday, August 7th, 2008
Abu Muqawama on the chances of yacht-sniping someone.
Nur al-Cubicle writes: "There was no such yacht. Suleiman was killed at close range in the neck; the gun (not rifle) had a silencer. Le Monde suggests some sort of power struggle, which has already resulted in house arrest for General Asef Shawkat."
Landis writes: Asef Shawkat appeared on Syrian TV in May on the occasion of Martyr's Day. He is not under house arrest as has been frequently rumored since February.
Khaled Yacoub Oweis: DAMASCUS, Aug 7 (Reuters) –
Syrian authorities on Thursday freed dissident Aref Dalila, jailed seven years ago after calling for freedom of speech and assembly and abolishing monopolies in the single party country.
"Spending so long in jail for committing no crime was beyond my imagination. My health has been deteriorating and they finally let me go. All what I can say at this point is thank God," Dalila told Reuters after his release.
His lawyer, Mohannad al-Hassani, said: "We hope that this will be the beginning of freedom for the rest of the prisoners of conscience in Syria."
Dalila, an economist, was serving a 10-year jail sentence for weakening national feelings and seeking to change the constitution. He was released from intelligence services' custody and is now with his family.
One official called Dalila "the best economist in Syria". The state's Damascus University fired him from his job as dean of the faculty of economics two years before his arrest.
Dalila was also a leader of the Damascus Spring, a movement of intellectuals and opposition figures that campaigned for democracy to replace four decades of Baath Party rule when President Bashar al-Assad succeeded his late father, Hafez al-Assad, in 2000.
Security forces crushed the movement several months later and jailed its leaders. France and the United States have been leading international calls to free Dalila, 67, and other secular political prisoners in Syria.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is due to visit Syria next month. Diplomats in the Syrian capital say French officials have brought up the issue of human rights during meetings with their Syrian counterparts in the last few months. ..
Assad, however, has rejected what he described as foreign interference in the prisoners issue and said the jailed opponents have violated the constitution…
Ammar al-Qurabi, head of the Syrian Human Rights Organisation, cautioned against expecting improvement in Syria's observance of international human rights standards as a consequence of European diplomatic overtures toward Damascus….
"If there was a change of direction the authorities would have cancelled these trials and dropped the charges," Qarabi said. "The arrests show no sign of stopping either."
Ford Prefect writes: I have also learned that Michele Kilo’s release is imminent, maybe within the next two weeks, Inshallah! Wishing all prisoners of conscious in Syria a speedy release as well as they are true heroes. We will not forget them.
Hizbullah has been able to establish a military presence north and south of the Litani River and is already prepared to a large extent to fire rockets and missiles on Israel, an Israeli newspaper has reported.
Yediot Ahronot daily said Tuesday that security and intelligence chiefs are expected to present a discouraging assessment of the situation during the cabinet meeting Wednesday.
The report added that Hizbullah’s new military plan can effectively hinder the Israeli ground forces who would enter Lebanon to curb the missile fire.
Hizbullah’s rockets and missiles, estimated at 40,000, are found on both sides of the Litani, Yediot Ahronot revealed.
Yet, the heavy arsenal, the newspaper added, is made up of several hundred rockets with warheads weighing hundreds of kilograms and featuring a range of up to 250 kilometers (roughly 160 miles).
The arsenal is found underground north of the Litani and is well fortified in land bought by Hizbullah, the newspaper said.
In south Lebanon, the group established a fortified underground system that would be used to fight the IDF armored corps and infantry troops that advance towards the rocket arsenal north of the Litani. Meanwhile, the logistics and training center of Hizbullah, which has been boosted with thousands of new fighters, is in the Bekaa Valley region.
However, the most worrisome development to Israelis has to do with a new component that Hizbullah is attempting to set up with Syrian assistance.
The newspaper mentioned an anti-aircraft system that is aimed at limiting Israel’s ability to gather intelligence above Lebanon, and later make it more difficult for the Israeli Air Force to strike in Lebanon and Syria.
The Israeli daily warned that if Iran, Syria, and Hizbullah were able to establish a massive anti-aircraft system in Lebanon, this will fundamentally change the strategic balance of power.
This system, the newspaper pointed out, is supposed to provide aerial defense to the entire Syrian-Iranian rocket and missile arsenal in Lebanon and western Syria.
Yediot Ahronot said the message to Syria, which is also being conveyed via Wednesday’s cabinet meeting and through other means, some of them clandestine, is as follows: Israel would not accept the establishment of an advanced anti-aircraft system in Lebanon; should it be set up, Israel will not hesitate to act against it.
Israel is also warning Lebanon against granting Hizbullah the freedom to act, in light of the latest government decision in Beirut that in fact defines Hizbullah as part of the national army.
And the third issue: A warning to Hizbullah to refrain from carrying out acts of revenge for the killing of its top commander Imad Mughniyeh in a Damascus car bombing last February; Such acts would meet a “disproportional response.”
The Israeli government is attempting to convey all these messages at this time to Lebanon, Syria, Iran, and the international community, the daily said.
Israeli officials hope that exposing the Syria-Hizbullah intentions will deter Damascus and Tehran and stop them from implementing their plans in Lebanon.
On August 7, the state-controlled Al-Watan daily carried the following report: “European Parliament Speaker Hans-Gert Poettering said that a new page in European-Syrian relations has been opened and stressed Syria’s important and efficient role in the region… Poettering said in exclusive statements to Al-Watan: “This new page between the two sides was opened in the context of the resumption of the multipartite European policy toward the Middle East.” He added: “It is the result of numerous bilateral and multilateral diplomatic initiatives and it is needless to say that the European parliament welcomes it. Isolation is not a solution for any of us”.
“He continued: “Syria is highly important in the region and is a key player in the peace process in the Middle East. It is certain that maintaining the contacts with Syria and with the Syrian community by the European parliament, contributed to the spread of the EU message in the region. Regarding the Syrian-European partnership agreement, he stated: “The European parliament will take into consideration additional benefits and incentives for Syria, ones which will surpass those stipulated in the partnership agreement, in order to encourage Syria to consecrate its foreign policy and its regional position in a constructive way that would help promote regional peace, stability and prosperity, especially through its support of the current peace process in the Middle East.” – Al-Watan Syria, Syria
Political suicide, Palestinian style By Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star, August 6, 2008
It is painful watching events in Gaza and the West Bank unfold, as Fatah and Hamas battle it out like a bunch of armed neighborhood gangs. The mood among Palestinians throughout the world is one of despair and gloom, tinged with embarrassment and occasional …
When they hit bottom – and they are almost there – the Palestinians will find better leadership that can regain their cohesion and credibility, and their self-respect. […]