Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, August 29th, 2007
Whose fault is it that jihadists get into Iraq across the Syrian border? There is a lot of blame to go around according to latest reports.
America's fault. This is according to a high placed Iraqi politician. McClatchy's quotes the official explaining that roughly half the 300 million dollars being spent in Anbar province for reconstruction is going directly into the pockets of resistance groups. A portion of this gets spent turning Syrian border guards so they "look the other way." The story is here.
Despite several devastating U.S. military offensives to rout insurgents, the militants – or, in some cases, tribes with insurgent connections – still control the supply routes of the province, making reconstruction all but impossible without their protection.
One senior Iraqi politician with personal knowledge of the contracting system said the insurgents also use their cuts to pay border police in Syria "to look the other way" as they smuggle weapons and foot soldiers into Iraq.
"Every contractor in Anbar who works for the U.S. military and survives for more than a month is paying the insurgency," the politician said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. "The contracts are inflated, all of them. The insurgents get half."
Senator Lieberman has blamed it on the Syrian government and believes the solution is closing down Damascus airport.
Dennis Ross blames it on Iraq's Prime Minister Maliki, because he is making nice with the Syrians instead of getting tough with them. He also blames it on Bush, because he refuses to embrace the Baker – Hamilton report and set benchmarks. Ross argues that if America used leverage and refused to give more money to Maliki on condition that he treat Syria as an enemy, he would, and Syria would shape up or be treated to Maliki's enmity. You might have noticed that Ross is getting tougher on Bush now that elections are in full swing. Obama just announced that Ross is his main Middle East go to guy.
Is Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbullah, really an Iranian devotee?
The story purports to be "an interview given by Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah to Iranian national television." It quotes him:
"We are ready to be torn apart, spliced into tiny pieces, so that Iran will remain exalted. For if Iran remains exalted, we too shall be exalted. I am a lowly soldier of the Imam Khamenei. Hizbullah youths acted on behalf of the Imam Khomeini, with the aid of Imam Hussein, and sent their blessings to the Iranian people," said Nasrallah in an interview with reporter Bijan Nobaveh on the day marking the start of the Second Lebanon War according to the Persian calendar.
Another commentator quickly pointed out, "The Ynet story posted by Akbar is based, without attribution, on a report by the Saudi outlet Elaph." Elaph is not know for its accuracy, and Nasrallah is not so stupid as to say something that his enemies would chew him up for, such as the above statement.
Al-Hayat is banned in Saudi Arabia. (Thanks Norman)
Saudi Government Bans Leading Arab Paper
By SALAH NASRAWI
Associated Press Writer
6:48 AM PDT, August 28, 2007
CAIRO, Egypt — Saudi Arabia has banned the influential Arab newspaper Al Hayat from distribution in the kingdom, just days after it reported a Saudi man had served as a key figure for an al-Qaida front group in Iraq, journalists and diplomats said Tuesday.
One of the country’s most influential journalists said the ban was a sharp retreat from growing press freedoms in Saudi Arabia.
Al Hayat’s Saudi edition did not appear on newsstands Monday and Tuesday, several Arab diplomats told The Associated Press in telephone calls from Riyadh, the Saudi capital. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.
Saudi information officials had no immediate comment. Al Hayat officials in London, the newspaper’s headquarters, also had no comment.
But a Saudi journalist with knowledge of the situation said the Ministry of Information and Culture had imposed the ban after the paper published an article Monday about the Saudi man, Mohammad al-Thibaiti, thought to be a key figure in the Iraqi extremist group, the Islamic State of Iraq.
“They (authorities) confiscated the copies before going to stands, and imposed an indefinite ban on the paper,” said the journalist, who is a member of the Saudi Press Association. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared reprimand.
A private distribution firm in the kingdom, the National Company of Distribution, also confirmed the ban.
One of Saudi Arabia’s most influential journalists, Dawood al-Shirian, who is a former regional director at Al Hayat and still writes a weekly column, said he believed there was a different reason for the ban.
Al-Shirian, who now is deputy head of Al-Arabiya TV, said Al Hayat staff had told him that Saudi Information Minister Iyad Madani had asked that some writers be stopped from appearing in the newspaper, but that the paper had refused to comply.
Madani previously had been considered something of a reformer.
Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak said of Bashar al-Assad: ""Asad junior is like Asad senior: coolheaded, careful and willing to check opportunities. He has positive elements that could allow for talks to develop. The key to beginning negotiations is in his hands."
Here is the Jerusalem Post story:
[Report by Gil Hoffman: "Baraq: With 20,000 Rockets, Hezbollah Stronger Than Before"]
The Jerusalem Post website on 28 August
BBC MidEast: Text of report in English by Israeli newspaper
Defence Minister Ehud Baraq sent contradictory messages about Syria to members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee on Monday [27 August]. In his first address to the committee since becoming defence minister in June, he said Hezbollah, which receives its rockets via Syria, had increased its supply from an estimated 10,000-15,000 before the Second Lebanon War to some 20,000 today. He said Hezbollah had also acquired antitank missiles and was trying to re- establish its infrastructure in southern Lebanon.
On the other hand, Baraq said Syria was "showing preliminary signs of easing tensions with Israel". He said Syrian President Bashar al-Asad was acting like his father, former Syrian president Hafiz al-Asad. Baraq said four Israeli governments had made diplomatic progress in talks with the father, adding that the son could not be ruled out as a future peace partner. "Israel does not have an interest in escalating tensions with Syria, and I think the Syrians don't have an interest in escalating tensions with us," he told the committee.
"Asad junior is like Asad senior: coolheaded, careful and willing to check opportunities. He has positive elements that could allow for talks to develop. The key to beginning negotiations is in his hands."