Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, March 11th, 2008
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri stressed that a solution to the ongoing political crisis in Lebanon "has been and will always be" linked to normalization of ties between Syria and Saudi Arabia. "Normalizing ties between Syria and Saudi Arabia will reflect positively on Lebanon," Berri said in remarks published on Tuesday.
The speaker said he does not see any prospect for a settlement to the Lebanon crisis "unless Arab reconciliation is achieved." "If Arabs shake hands, we will quickly reconcile in Lebanon," Berri added.
Saudi Arabia will attend this month's Arab summit in Damascus, Saudi's crown prince said Monday, a day after Syria delivered an invitation to the oil-rich Gulf nation.
But Crown Prince Sultan did not say who will represent the kingdom at the upcoming summit, a possible sign of tension between Damascus and Riyadh.
Crown Prince Sultan put an end to rumors of a boycott on Monday in remarks carried by Al-Jazeera television, saying "it's an Arab summit that we can't give up."
"The goals of the summit would depend on who will participate in it," he added. Syria fears that a poor showing at the annual summit, the first to be held in Damascus, will further isolate President Bashar Assad's regime.
The way to exit from Lebanon’s morass
By Paul Salem in The Daily Star
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Clouds of war hover over Lebanon. The country is adrift without a president and with a contested government as well as a Parliament whose doors have been closed since late 2006… Is there a safe passage through this morass? …
The government must develop a “national defense strategy” that incorporates Hizbullah’s proven force and fighting capacity into the strengthened national army. This can come in the form of a border defense force or other such arrangements that exist in other countries. Ultimate war and peace decision-making, however, must be in the hands of the state, and ultimate command over military means must be in the hands of the army. The state and reconstructed army, however, must provide very credible answers to the recurring threat of Israeli attacks against the South and must include a realistic mechanism to finally control the Lebanese-Syrian border….
the new government’s most urgent task is to adopt an electoral law. The current Parliament’s term ends in June 2009 and the way things are going today we are likely to arrive at that date without having been able to hold elections, thus entering into a period of even more complete institutional bankruptcy than today. To hold the elections we must draft an electoral law by the fall of 2008 at the latest. The government should at long last open and read the proposed draft law prepared by the government-appointed National Election Commission in June 2006, which I participated in drafting. That should be the starting point for debating electoral reform, not backroom deals by political bosses.
That law proposes lowering the voting age, creating an independent electoral management body, enabling expatriate voting, strictly controlling the abuse of money in campaigns, strictly controlling the abuse of private television stations, preventing vote-rigging, introducing measures to protect voting secrecy and to combat vote buying, and boosting women’s representation. These measures would have a revolutionary effect on politics in Lebanon – measures that most political bosses from both camps today would probably not favor.
The law also introduces proportional representation, which would allow diverse groups and parties to enter Parliament so that each community is not represented merely by its communal bosses. Elections are the basis of any republic; and a truly reformed electoral law is the most important step to help rebuild our ruined political culture….
As for the Hariri tribunal, its creation should be advanced quickly. The institution has hung over Lebanon and Syria for three years, and it is time that the truth comes out, that justice be done, and that Syria and Lebanon deal with the serious political repercussions that might follow from its conclusions. Only after facing those truths and overcoming them can the two countries look forward to a post-tribunal relationship.
Khalilzad: Hariri Tribunal Ready to Launch Trials (Naharnet.com)
Contributions to finance the tribunal have reached more than $50 million, including $21,3 in pledges.
Khalilzad said a "management committee" had been established. The committee, which will among other tasks provide advice and policy direction on all non-judicial aspects of the operations of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and oversee expenditures, is composed of France, Germany, Holland, Britain, the United States and the United Nations, he added.
Analyze This: In a cold war with Iran, can Syria become Israel's 'China card'? By CALEV BEN-DAVID , J_Post
Playing the "Damascus card" against Teheran, though, would carry a heavy political price – the return of the Golan Heights, possibly even up to the shores of Kinneret – and it is difficult to imagine that any but the strongest Israeli government would be in a position to make that deal.
The Olmert-led coalition clearly isn't that government. Yet if the intelligence assessment is correct that Iran will reach a "point of no return" in its nuclear program in the latter half of 2009, and neither Israel nor the United States are successful in halting that development, then we will truly find ourselves locked into a cold war-type military stalemate with Teheran – a prospect that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's apocalyptic outlook makes far more frightening than the Kremlin's former belief in the historical inevitability of Marxist triumph.
In that case, even all of the Golan may come to seem a reasonable sacrifice in breaking Syria's alliance with Iran – even if it is no easy task finding an Israeli Nixon to go to that particular China.
"Obama and the Bigots," by NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF (March 9, 2008)
the most monstrous bigotry in this election isn’t about either race or sex. It’s about religion…. The whispering campaigns allege that Mr. Obama is a secret Muslim planning to impose Islamic law on the country. Incredibly, he is even accused — in earnest! — of being the Antichrist….
A 2007 Gallup poll found that 94 percent of Americans said they would vote for a black candidate for president and 88 percent for a woman. In contrast, a Los Angeles Times poll in 2006 found that only 34 percent of respondents said they could vote for a Muslim for president.
To his credit, Mr. Obama has spoken respectfully of Islam (he told me last year, on the record, that the Muslim call to prayer is “one of the prettiest sounds on earth at sunset”). If he were to go further — “and so what if I were Muslim?” — many Americans would see that as confirmation that he is a Sunni terrorist agent of Al Qaeda who is part of a 9/11 backup plan: If you can’t reach the White House with a hijacked plane, then storm the Oval Office through the ballot box….
When Mrs. Clinton was asked in a television interview a week ago whether Mr. Obama is a Muslim, she denied it firmly — but then added, most unfortunately, “as far as I know.” To his credit, Mr. McCain scolded a radio host who repeatedly referred to “Barack Hussein Obama” and later called him a Manchurian candidate. …
Kuwaiti firm interested in buying Syriatel in defiance of American ban on doing business with Rami Makhlouf, a majority owner.
Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications Co (Zain) said it is interested in buying Syria's largest mobile phone provider and does not expect any significant increase in net profit this year. The company is owned by Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Makhlouf is also the target of U.S. financial sanctions for his links to the Syrian regime. Turkey's largest mobile phone operator, Turkcell , said last month it will bid for control of Syriatel.
They pretend to speak for Lebanon’s Shiites, but in fact they are crushing them. Hezbollah calls itself “the Islamic resistance in Lebanon” — they don’t consider themselves Arabs but Iranians. Hezbollah has received an estimated $20bn (€13.6bn) from Iran in the past 20 years. With that, they are buying up land and arms. No one dares oppose them. We are too afraid of a conflict between Shiites and Sunnis. The Shiites are helped by Iran; the Sunnis are helped by Saudi Arabia; and the Christians? All they get are prayers from the Vatican and that’s not enough. I don’t want my country to become an Islamic republic.
To Embrace or Not to Embrace By: Henry A. Kissinger | International Herald Tribune
The elections in Pakistan, far from calming the political crisis, have opened a new phase of it. The world has a huge stake in the outcome.