Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, May 13th, 2008
[Comment by Joshua Landis] Washington's Middle East policy is in deep trouble. The ultra conservatives, such as Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal, are advocating bombing Syria again in order to broaden the crisis. They believe that Hizbullah is too strong to do any remedial work in Lebanon to defeat it. Stephens knows that the Bush administration will not bomb Syria, so he advocates pulling the chain on Lebanon. His last line says it all: "Lebanon will continue its transformation into Hezbollahstan, a sad fate for a country that might have stood for something fine."
Perhaps a decrease in US interest would be the best thing for Lebanon.
The flollowing story in French is about a UN investigative team that spent three days interviewing the editor in chief of "Al Siyassa" of Kuwait. It is discovering a complex dissinformation ring linked to the March 14 leadership and Israel.
Ahmad Jarallah (Al Siyassa Koweit) under thorough interrogation by the Bellemare’s Hariri commission as reported by Al Diwan for propagating false information and hampering the investigation.
“La Commission d’enquête internationale sur l’assassinat de l’ancien Premier Ministre libanais HARIRI interroge le propriétaire du quotidien koweitien As-Syassa
1 mai 2008
Le quotidien koweitien Al-Diwan a rapporté citant des sources de presse au siège de l’ONU à New York et d’autres sources au sein des bureaux du quotidien koweitien Al-Siyssa qu’une délégation de la commission d’enquête internationale sur l’assassinat de Hariri composée de 3 enquêteurs accompagnés de techniciens et d’analystes d’informations s’était rendue au Koweït où elle avait interrogé pendant 3 jours et au rythme de 10 heures par jours l’éditeur et propriétaire du quotidien koweitien As-Siyassa Ahmed EL-JARALLAH connu pour ses positions alignées sur les forces du 14 février au Liban et accusé par l’opposition d’être le porte parole d’Israël et des alliés des Etats-Unis au Liban.
L’interrogation de M.EL-JARALLAH s’inscrit dans le cadre d’une enquête secondaire ouverte par le nouveau chef de la commission d’enquête internationale sur l’assassinat de HARIRI sur la présence de groupes et de réseaux chargés de fournir des fausses informations ainsi que des faux témoins à la commission d’enquête pour brouiller le cours de l’enquête qu’elle mène sur l’attentat ayant coûté la vie en 2005 à Beyrouth à l’ancien Premier Ministre libanais, Rafic HARIRI.
Selon des sources à l’ONU, le magistrat BELLEMARE a décidé de former une telle commission après avoir subi de fortes pressions de la part de la Russie, de l’Afrique du Sud, de la Libye, et de la Chine pour le pousser à prendre les mesures adéquates contre ceux qui veulent faire avorter l’action de la commission d’enquête internationale.
Le magistrat BELLEMARE a réussi à mettre la main grâce à l’aide de l’une de ces grandes puissances (peut-être la Russie) sur des enregistrements audio, des messages électroniques, et des fax contenant des ordres reçus par le propriétaire du quotidien koweitien As-Siyassa et son réseau de la part de responsables de la propagande auprès du député Saad HARIRI à savoir : le Ministre libanais Marwan HAMADE, le député Bassem EL-SABAA, les deux conseillers de Saad HARIRI, le journaliste Fares KHACHAN et Hanni HAMOUD.
Ces responsables font partie d’autres réseau de propagande liés à la famille HARIRI, à Israël et à ses collaborateurs libanais aux Etats-Unis et qui appartiennent au soi disant groupe mondial de soutien à la révolution du cèdre à savoir : Ziad ABDELNOUR, Walid FARESS, Jo BIANI, Tom HARB, et Kabalan FARES.
Le rédacteur des affaires juridiques au sein du quotidien koweitien Al-Diwan, M.Hamed YOUSSEF a affirmé avoir suivi cette question sur le terrain et obtenu une confirmation des informations fournies par les sources de presse à l’ONU de la part d’une partie indépendante à savoir : un haut fonctionnaire au sein du quotidien koweitien As-Syassa qui lui a affirmé que Ahmed EL-JARALLA avait refusé d’accéder à la demande de la commission d’enquête internationale de venir à Beyrouth sous prétexte que sa vie était en danger.
M.YOUSSEF a également affirmé que l’agent d’Ahmed EL-JARALLAH à Beyrouth Samir GHERIAFI écrivait dans les journaux sous le pseudonyme de Hamad GHERIAFI et qu’il prétendait être installé à Londres alors qu’il travaille au bureau de Marwan HAMADE à Beyrouth et ne réside pas à Londres comme l’a découvert la commission d’enquête internationale.
Les sources de presse à l’ONU d’ajouter : 7 enquêteurs de la commission d’enquête internationale sur l’assassinat de HARIRI sont entrés dans les bureaux du quotidien As-Siyassa accompagnés d’agents de sécurité en civil pour interroger Ahmed EL-JARALLAH qui a nié être impliqué dans un réseau sécuritaire et médiatique chargé de propager des rumeurs pour brouiller l’action de la commission d’enquête.
Selon ces sources, ce réseau est composé de dizaines de journalistes dont Samir GHERIAFI et un autre journaliste installé à Paris à savoir : Nizar NAIOUF, propriétaire du site électronique Al-Hakika (la vérité) et qui reçoit une somme mensuelle de 1500 euros de la part de Saad HARIRI.
Cette somme est virée sur le compte de NAYYOUF à Paris par l’intermédiaire de Bassil YARED chargé par Saad HARIRI de verser des pots de vin et d’acheter les consciences dans la capitale française. (As-Saoura)
From Lebanon to Hezbollahstan
May 13, 2008; Page A15
On Friday, Hezbollah gunmen set fire to the Beirut offices of Future TV, a Lebanese broadcaster. On a purely symbolic level, it was an apt demonstration of where the Party of God stands in relation to the future itself.
But that wasn't the worst of what has happened in the past week in Lebanon, where scores of people have been killed in interfactional violence. More ominous was the role of the Lebanese army, avowedly neutral and nominally under civilian control. "An army officer accompanied by members of Hezbollah walked into the station and told us to switch off transmission," an unnamed Future TV official told Reuters. So much for army neutrality.
AP Shiite gunmen patrol the streets in Chouweifat, south of Beirut, May 11.
The army also countermanded government orders to dismantle Hezbollah's telecommunications network at the Beirut airport and remove the brigadier responsible for airport security, who is said to be a Hezbollah pawn. "I have called on the army to live up to its national responsibilities . . . and this has not happened," Fouad Siniora, Lebanon's increasingly irrelevant prime minister, said on national TV.
Future historians will look for the precise moment the Lebanese Republic began to transmogrify into Hezbollahstan. Was it the June 2005 murder of anti-Syrian journalist Samir Kassir – the earliest sign that Syria, whose 29-year military occupation of its neighbor had ended just two months before, intended to reinsert itself by stealth and terror (and with the connivance of Hezbollah)? Was it the role played by the Maronite Gen. Michel Aoun, a hero of the last Lebanese civil war, who returned from exile in 2005 intending to play the part of de Gaulle only to become, after striking a bargain with Hezbollah, another Pétain?
Was it the summer war of 2006, when Israel failed to destroy Hezbollah militarily and, in so failing, gave Hezbollah an aura of invincibility? Was it the unwillingness of international peacekeepers to patrol the Lebanese-Syrian border, thereby allowing Hezbollah to rearm itself after the war? Was it the absence of an effective, or even intelligible, American policy toward Lebanon, epitomized by Condoleezza Rice's decision to rehabilitate Damascus by inviting it to November's Annapolis Middle East conference?
The answer is all of the above: An accumulation of policy mistakes, political dodges and moral atrocities that have nearly killed the "new" Lebanon in its crib.
Demography has also played a role. Christians in particular have been fleeing Lebanon for decades. And though a census hasn't been taken in Lebanon in 75 years, Nizar Hamze of the American University of Beirut estimates that there are between eight and nine live births per Shiite household. The comparable figure for Lebanon's Sunnis is about five; for Christians and Druze, about two. These numbers must ultimately count against an outmoded constitutional order geared to favor Christians first, Sunnis second, Shiites third.
But even if Lebanon cannot escape its Shiite destiny, it is not ordained that it must also become a Hezbollah state, taking its orders from Tehran. So what are the U.S.'s policy options?
Inside Lebanon, they are few. No American president will send American troops back to Beirut and risk a reprise of 1983. Supplying the Lebanese army is a nonstarter; it is no longer clear whose side that army is on. Should the U.S. arm the anti-Hezbollah factions in the event of an all-out civil war? Some of them, like Samir Geagea's Lebanese Forces, have well-earned reputations as war criminals.
A more productive thought comes from Dwight Eisenhower, who observed that "if a problem cannot be solved, enlarge it." The reason the U.S. lacks for options in Lebanon is because it has no policy toward Syria.
In 2003, Congress passed the Syria Accountability Act, but the administration has observed only its weakest provisions. They could be enforced in full. A Syria Liberation Act, similar to the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, would be a step forward. So would international sanctions for Syria's violations of the Nonproliferation Treaty, exposed by Israel in its raid last year on an unfinished nuclear reactor. Bombing the runway of the Damascus airport for the role it plays in serving as a conduit for Iranian arms to Hezbollah would also be an appropriate signal of American displeasure.
None of this is likely to happen, however. U.S. policy toward Syria will continue to vacillate between partial engagement and partial ostracism, achieving neither. And Lebanon will continue its transformation into Hezbollahstan, a sad fate for a country that might have stood for something fine.
The Other Mideast Talks
Israel and Syria are edging closer to the negotiating table. What Bush must do to make sure they get there.
By Mohamad Bazzi | Special Guest Columnist
May 12, 2008
If President George W. Bush truly wants to leave a legacy of peacemaking in the Middle East, he's looking in the wrong place. Instead of focusing exclusively on Israeli-Palestinian talks, Bush should do more to encourage renewed Israeli-Syrian negotiations.
The United States has much to gain strategically from renewed Israeli-Syrian dialogue. Syria could be pressed to play a more constructive role in the region—instead of being a spoiler or, worse, turning into a full-fledged rogue state.
In recent months Israeli and Syrian leaders have been exchanging positive messages through Turkish mediators. Unlike the weak Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Syrian President Bashar Assad can actually deliver on a peace deal with Israel. The Israeli-Syrian track can move faster than Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, where the two sides are still far apart on the central issues: Israeli settlements, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the final status of Jerusalem. By contrast, the Syrians and Israelis mainly need to negotiate over the return of the Golan Heights, a strategic terrain that Israel has occupied since the 1967 Middle East war. …
Even without a regional settlement, Israel has much to gain from a deal over the Golan. It would mean not only a peace treaty with Damascus but an end of Syrian aid to what is now Israel's most dangerous enemy: Hizbullah, the Lebanese Shiite militia that did surprisingly well in its war with a far superior Israeli army in the summer of 2006. On May 9, Hizbullah dispatched hundreds of heavily armed fighters into West Beirut, and within 12 hours it had altered Lebanon's delicate political balance. Hizbullah's military victory—in which it quickly routed Sunni militiamen, took control of their political offices and shut down media outlets owned by the Sunni leader Saad Hariri—is likely to bolster Assad's position in any negotiations.
Lebanon's Sunni bloc built militia, officials say
The Future movement used a security firm to assemble a private force, officials say. But the fighters were no match for the Shiite group Hezbollah.
By Borzou Daragahi and Raed Rafei, Special to The Times
May 12, 2008
BEIRUT — For a year, the main Lebanese political faction backed by the United States built a Sunni Muslim militia here under the guise of private security companies, Lebanese security experts and officials said.
The fighters, aligned with Saad Hariri's Future movement, were trained and armed to counter the heavily armed Shiite Muslim militant group Hezbollah and protect their turf in a potential military confrontation.
But in a single night late last week, the curious experiment in private-sector warfare crumbled.
Attacked by Hezbollah, the Future movement fighters quickly fled Beirut or gave up their weapons. Afterward, some of the fighters said they felt betrayed by their political patrons, who failed to give them the means to protect themselves while official security forces stood aside and let Hezbollah destroy them.
"We are prepared to fight for a few hours but not more," said one of the Sunni fighters in the waning moments of the battle. "Where do we get ammunition and weapons from? We are blocked. The roads are blocked. Even Saad Hariri has left us to face our fate alone."…..
Four days that changed the Middle East
Lally Weymouth interviews Olmert in Newsweek, here (Thanks FLC)
Do you want peace with Syria, and do you think it's obtainable with President Bashar al-Assad?
We are very unhappy with the continued intensive involvement of Syria in the affairs of Lebanon and the lack of a democratic process in electing a new president in Lebanon. We are also unhappy with the continued links between Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas. [But] the relations between us and Syria have to be reexamined, [as well as] the possibility of making peace. It's not something that can be done publicly. I don't mind that President Assad made an announcement that there will be negotiations, but the actual negotiations ought to be discussed quietly. In principle, we are ready for it if they are.
In order to have a full peace with Israel, would Syria have to break with Iran? Is such a break possible?
Look, I don't know if this is a possibility or how you can describe it in terms of probabilities. But one thing I know, if I don't check it, I will never find out. I think at the end of the day, this will have to be the choice of Syria.
Have there been direct Israel-Syrian talks, or have they all been conducted via the Turks?
I prefer not to go into these details.
Hasn't the United States been apprehensive about Israel-Syria negotiations for some time?
The international and local press . . . [has left] the impression that America does not allow Israel to engage in negotiations with Syria. This is not true. I never heard from my friend George W. Bush any warning or any request not to negotiate with the Syrians. I think that if the Syrians will handle the negotiations with us in an appropriate manner, they will be surprised to see how these negotiations can improve their status with America. My personal view is that no one can be of better help to this process than President Bush. Because any new president in America, if confronted with this issue, will have to wait two years at least until he learns enough and finds the appropriate time to devote to this, while Bush knows, Bush is familiar, and Bush understands. Therefore, if one is interested in a [Syrian-Israeli] process that ultimately leads to a public endorsement by the United States of America, then he has to hurry up. I believe, for reasons that I don't want to go into, that for Syria, the road to Washington must cross Jerusalem. I know what I'm talking about.
Officials in the U.S. government are reportedly concerned that Syria's real price for peace is Lebanon. The U.S. is interested in the survival of the government of Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora.
I know what our expectations are. I know what the Americans' expectations are. I'm not going to do anything which [is in contradiction] to what my understanding of [what] the fundamental interests of the United States are in this part of the world.
So is this a pure deal about the Golan?
I didn't say that. I said that this is an attempt to achieve peace between Israel and Syria. And at the same time, to also make sure that the interests of free, democratic Lebanon are well protected. What the ingredients of peace [are] is something that will have to be discussed. I would not limit it to only one issue. It has to be peace from both sides–no threats or attacks from both sides.
What is your assessment of Assad?
Look, Assad is the president of Syria. He enjoys fairly effective control over his country. And I'm looking forward to negotiating with him.
"Bomb Syria" Woolsey advises McCain
Eric Margolis: Former CIA head James Woolsey heads group of neocon advisers to John McCain
Monday May 12th, 2008
John McCain has recruited several members of "The Committee on the Present Danger" as foreign policy advisers, including former CIA head James Woolsey. Do Woolsey's viewpoints represent McCain's vision for America and the world?