News Round Up (12 May 2007)

Jay Solomon of the WSJ writes:

A U.N. Security Council vote on establishing an international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is expected as early as May 29.

The U.S., France and U.K. are initiating discussions inside the Security Council on the resolution Thursday, according to U.S. diplomats, and the actual vote is expected next Tuesday. Permanent Security Council members China and Russia, and non-permanent members South Africa and Qatar, are among the countries that might oppose the Hariri court, according to U.S. and Lebanese officials. Many Lebanese fear even more violence could engulf Lebanon should the tribunal move forward.

French FM says Hariri tribunal will happen, Date : May 24, 2007

France said on Thursday that the international community was determined to set up an international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri. Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, on his first trip abroad since being appointed less than a week ago, told a Beirut news conference "France and the international community are determined to establish the tribunal to try the assassins."

What is the case for a Syrian connection to Fath al-Islam?

Paul Salem says: "A lot of it is conjecture, but the timing is kind of suggestive," Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, said of the events this week and the accusations that ensued.

"It's worrisome that in pretty much 48 hours, we went to basically a war and two bombs," Salem said in a telephone interview in Beirut, before Wednesday's blast.

White House spokesman Tony Snow charged Tuesday that Syria was trying, through the violence, to influence the Security Council's decision on a tribunal, as well as disrupt security in Lebanon.

What is the Case Against?

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem has denied that his country played any role. Syria's ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari, also saw a pattern in the violence, just as Lebanese do, but suggested that the culprits were Lebanon or its allies.

"This is not a coincidence," the Syrian ambassador said. "Some people are trying to influence the Security Council and to make pressure on the council so they can go ahead with the adoption of the draft resolution on the tribunal."

Sami Moubayed argues that Syria has nothing to do with Fath al-Islam: Lebanon battles a new demon

Read the "Friday Lunch Club" for more interesting articles.

One commentator writes:

Any analogy between the events in Nahr el-Bared camp & Hama?

Islamic extremists, innocent civilians caught in the middle, a military siege, etc. etc… The only difference: publicity. The US was praising the Lebanese military for the "tough battle" yesterday..

Just a quick reflection on the notion of good vs evil. Sounds like history repeats itself, with different names… Don't forget the battle of Falluja to destroy the insurgency, and the number of civilian casualties.

t_desco said: 

"The truly international character of the Fatah al-Islam membership is a good argument against it being a creation of (or receiving orders from) Syrian intelligence. Frankly, it looks more like al-Qa’ida proper: so far we have seen reports of its members being

- Algerians
- Tunisians
- Egyptians
- Sudanese
- Somalis
- Lebanese
- Syrians
- Palestinians
- Jordanians
- Saudis
- Yemenis
- Afghans
- Pakistanis
- Bangladeshis

Many interesting articles today, e.g.:

A Newsweek interview with Bernard Rougier (note that he is much more cautious in his assessments than the reporter) – Lebanon’s New War(s)
Newsweek

A good summary by Robert Fisk who poses interesting questions about the relationship between Fatah al-Islam and Jund al-Sham -

Robert Fisk: The road to Jerusalem (via Lebanon)
Independent

Fatah al-Islam has a direct organizational link to al-Qa’ida via Mohammad Ali Omar (Abu Hattab/Abu Azzam) and Abu Rushd al-Miqati, according to Hazim al-Amin:

Lebanon’s Fatah al-Islam leadership & organization

Beirut- According to alarabiya.net the group’s leader is not Shaker al-Absi. Absi belongs in the second tier of the leadership… His role is to execute the orders of the top leadership.

The top Leadership of the organization or what is known as first tier is a group of 3 who are the following:

1-Mohammad Ali Omar known as Abu Hattab who heads the leadership group.

Abu Hattab was born in Syria but travels with a Lebanese passport . He lives in Tripoli and is well known in this city and some call him Abu Azzam . He is 30 + years old. He has reportedly lived in Afghanistan and Chechnya.

2- Marwan , who is a a Palestinian is the Financial chief of the group. He lives in the Ein Helwe Palestinian refugee camp and travels regularly to Baghdad , Iraq . Unconfirmed reports say he is also known as Abd Alkarim Alsaadi or Abu Muhjin and has known Abu Hattab for a long time .

According to reports , the US FBI had sent an investigating team to Lebanon in 2002 to investigate the relations between Abu Hattab , Abu Muhjin and Mohammad Atta , the leader of the September 11 bombing .

3- Mohammad H. who is a Syrian citizen is the coordinator . His role is to inform the 2nd tier leadership of the decisions made by the first tier leadership.

According to Alarabiya, Alqaida is no longer an organization, but it is an ideology . Hence Fatah al-Islam is not a member of al Qaida , but it is an alQaida type organization and its leadership is organized in the same way as al Qaida.

Al Qaida Cell in Lebanon has a leader whose name is Abu Rushd el Mikati ( no relationship with the Mikati family of Lebnaon ). Mikati travels regularly to Peshawar in Pakistan . He is Abu Hattab’s boss.

Most of the Fatah al-Islam militants have returned from Iraq via Syria.

All those that were killed or wounded by the Lebanese army are from the second tier of leadership of the organization.

Alarabiya.net information came from an expert on Islamic extremists including al Qaida, Arab Journalist Hazim al Amin. Amin told Alarabiya, Fatah al-Islam is finished as a coherent organization, but he is concerned that once shattered this organization could become very dangerous in Lebanon and individual terrorists could do could do much harm to the country.

Ya Libnan, Al-Arabiya

The Middle East Monitor has a number of good articles. The first by Gary Gambill article by Moubayed are particularly interesting.

Hezbollah and the Political Ecology of Postwar Lebanon
Hezbollah's conflict with is Israel is fueled substantially by local political conditions in Lebanon.
Gary C. Gambill
Implications of the Israel-Hezbollah War
The mixed outcome of the recent Israel-Hezbollah war may prove to be a stable equilibrium.
Gary C. Gambill
Briefing: Lebanese Public Opinion
Four surveys offer revealing insights into Lebanese public opinion about Hezbollah, Israel, and the United States.

The Islamic Revival in Syria by Moubayed
In response to growing Islamist militancy in Syria, the Assad regime has incrementally abandoned the ruling Baath Party's longstanding secularizing mission and encouraged the growth of Islamist civil society loyal to the state.  

One the subject of the regime and Islam, also read Marc Perelman in the Forward: With Islamic Militancy Rising, Syria’s Baath Regime Finds Religion

Juliette Terzieff of the World Politics Review Exclusive puts Syria's recent arrests of political activists in context in "Whither the Damascus Spring? Syria Steps Up Crackdown on Reformers."."

I will be off-line for the next several days, while at the shore.

Comments (64)


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52. ausamaa said:

This is from the Lebanese Akhbar Newspaper:
http://www.al-akhbar.com

أيضاً… وأيضاً
خالد صاغيّة

فيما كان آلاف الفلسطينيّين يُقصَفون داخل مخيّمهم الصغير ويُجبَرون على الخروج إلى سجن آخر، كان العمّال السوريّون يُلاحَقون من قبل الجموع الغاضبة في عاليه ويتعرّضون للضرب. مشهد أصاب جماهير لبنانيّة واسعة بنشوة مزدوجة. خرجوا إلى الشوارع يداعبون أجسادهم، ويطلقون تأوّهات اختلطت فيها اللذّة بالألم. بعضهم رفض حتّى بيع الخبز للنازحين الفلسطينيّين، وبعضهم الآخر لم يتوانَ عن إظهار عجزه عن مواجهة النظام السوري، عبر الاقتصاص من عمّال لم يستسغ جنسيّاتهم وسحنات وجوههم.
«تنظيف المخيّمات» عنوان حفلة الجنون. «تنظيف» يتبارى في الدعوة إليه كلّ مرشّح للانتخابات الرئاسيّة المقبلة. فشرط الرئيس أن يكون قويّاً، ولا بأس أن يبدأ عرض العضلات ضدّ الحلقة الأضعف.
«تنظيف المخيّمات» عنوان يأتي دائماً بعد تأكيد الحرص على حياة الفلسطينيّين، «ولكن»… أو «غير أنّ»… استدراك ضروريّ لإطلاق العنان لإعلان الولع بأنواع معيّنة من المبيدات لأنواع معيّنة من البشر.
«الثأر» هو عنوان حفلة الجنون الأخرى. الزعيم يرفع راية الثأر في وجه الرئيس السوري، وجماهيره ترفعها في وجه الجمهور السوري. تقسيم «عادل» للعمل يتضمّن دائماً تحذير الزعيم من الانفعالات غير المنضبطة، حتّى لا تتأثّر صورته كركن من أركان التحوّل الديموقراطيّ وسيادة حقوق الإنسان.
بين حفلة جنون وأخرى، لا بدّ من إقناع الياس المرّ بأنّه ليس وزير دفاع الجيش الألماني، وأنّنا لسنا قبيل الحرب العالميّة الثانية.

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May 28th, 2007, 11:28 am

 

53. t_desco said:

Idaf,

the statement could be genuine.

A “senior American security source” recently told The Sunday Times that “Al-Qaeda is trying very hard to seize a foothold in Syria”:

Al-Qaeda chief urges Iraqis to export jihad

THE deputy leader of Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has urged supporters in Iraq to extend their “holy war” to other Middle Eastern countries.

In a letter sent to the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq in the past few weeks, Zawahiri claims that it is defeating US forces and urges followers to expand their campaign of terror.

He conjures a vision of an Islamic state comprising Lebanon, Palestine and Syria, where Al-Qaeda has already gained its first footholds.

The goal of an Islamic “greater Syria”, first outlined by Zawahiri two years ago, is detailed in the letter amid growing concern about the activities of new groups under Al-Qaeda’s influence in the countries concerned.

A senior American security source said he was aware of the letter and Al-Qaeda’s growing emphasis on spreading jihad through a volatile region.

The source said Zawahiri, a Sunni, was determined to prevent Lebanon falling into the hands of the Shi’ite Hezbollah movement, which has tried to bring down the government.

“Al-Qaeda is trying very hard to seize a foothold in Syria,” the American source added.
The Sunday Times

Note that the information about “Al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Suri” believed to have been arrested “in Syria” is probably wrong. Mustafa Setmariam Nasar was arrested in Pakistan and is now in Guantanamo (but perhaps there are several “Al-Qaeda leader’s” using that name?).

There seems to be a flurry of statements attributed to al-Qa’ida in recent days. This was reported by Ynetnews yesterday:

Al-Qaeda: Help Fatah al-Islam attack Israel

A statement attributed to al-Qaeda’s leadership has been released on the internet calling for “every Muslim” to support Fatah al-Islam, the Palestinian Islamist group engaged in a bloody conflict with Lebanese troops.

According to the statement, Fatah al-Islam is under attack in Lebanon because it is seeking “a confrontation” with Israel, and all Muslims are therefore obliged to support the group.

The message was released by the Global Islamic Media Front, an al-Qaeda mouthpiece which distributes statements by the international terror organization’s leaders and field commanders.
Ynetnews

And today the New York Times published this important article detailing the modus operandi of al-Qa’ida linked networks in the region (including inside Syria):

Militants Widen Reach as Terror Seeps Out of Iraq
NYT

The article also shows, in my opinion, how important it would be to return to the kind of close cooperation with Syria in security matters that existed right after 9/11.

The following passage may be of interest for the Hariri case:

“In Somalia and Algeria, for example, recent suicide bombings have been accompanied by the release of taped testimonials by the bombers, a longtime terrorist practice embraced by insurgents in Iraq” (my emphasis).

After the recent suicide bombing in Algiers, the pictures of the three alledged bombers appeared on the Web almost immediately, together with a tape that was played on al-Jazeera.

In light of this, the quick release of the Abu Adass tape doesn’t seem so unusual anymore.

However, a word of caution – at least part of the reason why there are suddenly so many reports about al-Qa’ida in the region could be a deliberate shift in White House rhetorics, as Seymour Hersh noted recently:

“I do know that within the last month, maybe four, four-and-a-half weeks ago, they made a decision that because of the totally dwindling support for the war in Iraq, we go back to the al-Qaeda card, and we start talking about al-Qaeda. And the next thing you know, right after that, Bush went to the Southern Command — this was a month ago — and talked, mentioned al-Qaeda twenty-seven times in his speech. He did so just the other day this week — al-Qaeda this, al-Qaeda that.”
Interview on Democracy Now!, May 24th, 2007

Certainly related to this new PR strategy, yet also interesting:

Bush declassifies intelligence that asserts bin Laden ordered more attacks outside Iraq
AP, May 22, 2007

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May 28th, 2007, 11:48 am

 

54. Atassi said:

Mabrook La Souria El Watan… by the popular demand and widely held opinions of your fellow Syrians, Souria El Watan has been sentenced to be oblivious, incompetent and liniment for seven more years …. Mabrook!!

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May 28th, 2007, 2:30 pm

 

55. K said:

IDAF,

I don’t object to the gist of your statement. I do not support any particular party or leadership in Lebanon. And, to the extent of my abilities, I take it as my responsibility to resist sectarianism and backwardness within my own community. I am also a lifelong supporter of the Palestinian cause.

With that said, the Lebanese zu’ama, as toxic as they are, have never caused harm to Syria. They have allowed themselves to be used by Syria (and others) to cause harm to Lebanon and the Lebanese. They have robbed the Lebanese people in collaboration with the Syrian regime. They have never invaded Syria or shelled Damascus or armed surrogate militias to battle each other in Syrian streets or arrested hundreds of Syrians and dragged them to Lebanese dungeons, or any of the many, many Syrian crimes against Lebanon – ongoing.

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May 28th, 2007, 3:06 pm

 

56. Ziad said:

K never call it syrian crimes ,say asad regime crimes against syrian,palestinian and lebanese people.
the first victims of their crimes are the syrian people.

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May 28th, 2007, 4:03 pm

 

57. idaf said:

K,

The Lebanese Zu’ama have done (and are still doing) a lot of harm to Syria and Syrians. I’ll give you few examples in the time on my hands (many more examples can be listed, and I’m sure that many can list some more):

The Lebanese Zu’ama are hysterically inciting their devout masses against anything Syrian and -historically as well as more recently- anything Palestinian. The end result is the barbaric murder of tens of Syrian and Palestinian civilians in the last 2 years (not to mention the “civil” war). Tens more have been robed, injured or abused in different inhumane manners.

The Lebanese Zu’ama were and still are coordinating with external powers that follow a declared agenda against the Syrian national interests (with an ultimate goal to harm Syria as much as possible, economically, militarily or even socially). Proclaiming that harming Syria is intended to hurt the regime, where in fact it only hurts the millions of ordinary Syrians (as the whole world has learned from Iraq). Examples on this:
Co-drafting and supporting the Syria Accountability Act (and continue to do so after Syria left Lebanon)
Begging the Europeans to harm Syrians economically by all possible means.

Moreover, I don’t think that Chirac asked Israel to attack Syria during the war last summer to advance French interest or out of the goodness of his heart. How much do you want to bet that this came under influence from his personal Lebanese Zu’ama friends?

Collaborating with the neo-cons in the US administration (hence indirectly with the Israelis) on how to harm Syria. Giving John Bolton the highest Lebanese Medal of Honor was not for the elegance of his mustache.

Funding Syrian fundamentalists (through their ex-master Khaddam) with the goal of destabilizing Syria (you can tell how I think about the MBs). I will not be surprised if more anti-Syria AlQaida-esque groups pop up soon through your Zu’ama funding.

Basically, many of the Lebanese war criminals (Zu’ama) would have driven forces to Damascus and slaughtered ordinary Syrians if they could (Junblat did beg the US to invade Syria publicly, didn’t he not?). Given their bloody history on their own kin, I argue that your Zu’ama’s onslaught on Syrians -if given a chance- would be even more inhumane and barbaric.

K, maybe you don’t support any of the Zu’ama, but how many other Lebanese think likewise.. honestly?
So, please quit your endless lectures to those Syrians who support Bashar for what they see as the “lesser evil” for their country at this moment of time. Bashar is definitely no worse than those war criminals in the M14 bunch with blood of tens of thousands of Lebanese and Palestinian civilians on their hands.
Here’s a thought K.. come to think of it, if we go with the rational “innocent until proven guilty” on Hariri, Bashar does not have anyone’s blood on his hand, compared to most of the Lebanese Zu’ama who repeatedly gloat with the blood of Lebanese and Palestinians they have on their hands.

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May 28th, 2007, 5:45 pm

 

58. Ziad said:

Despite all its imperfections ,the lebanese liberal regime is the most respectable if compared to the neighbor monolothic regimes.

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May 28th, 2007, 8:51 pm

 

59. Ziad said:

The qurdahian regime killed more palestinians than Israel.
The zionists have shown more dignity and respect towards the palestinians than the syrian regime and their lebanese allies.(under the cover and the green light after the tripartite deal between the qurdahians, israel and the usa).
So this regime is like a whore who speak in the name of dignity.
There is no difference between the syrian ,lebanese and palestinian blood.

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May 28th, 2007, 8:59 pm

 

60. Ziad said:

I’m sure that the current debate in asad house is about the percentage of their last circus and what to say to the world more or less 97 % indeed ,they must be upset.

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May 28th, 2007, 11:13 pm

 

61. ugarit said:

If you read the Hariri Lebanese press and the Saudi Arab press, you may get the impression that there is only one political prisoner in the Arab world: Michel Kilo. Almost every issue of Muhaq An-Nahar has something about human rights violations in Syria (and of course, it is obvious that the regime is tyrannical) and not a word about human rights violations in Jordan, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Oman, UAE, Tunisia, etc. But then again. Maybe they know something that I don’t know: maybe with the exception of Syria, Arab regimes are now functioning, exemplary democracies, of the kind that Mr. Bush constructed in Iraq.

http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2007/05/if-you-read-hariri-lebanese-press-and.html

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May 28th, 2007, 11:41 pm

 
 

63. Enlightened said:

This article made made the hair on the back of my neck stand up!
An article about Iraqi refugees in Syria. Quite sad and appalling.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/29/world/middleeast/29syria.html?hp

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May 29th, 2007, 4:15 am

 

64. Ziad said:

Blair in Libya, Praises Kadhafi
Outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived in Libya Tuesday on the first leg of a three-country African tour before he leaves office next month.

He touched down in Tripoli shortly after Libya announced that British energy giant BP was to sign a 900 million oil exploration deal with the state energy company.

Blair, who is due to meet Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, last visited the north African country in March 2004, three months after Tripoli announced it was abandoning a weapons of mass destruction program.

It was the first time a British prime minister had visited Libya since it became independent in 1951.

Speaking on board his plane before taking off for Tripoli Blair said he was on first name terms with the Libyan leader.

“I find him very easy to deal with,” he told reporters, describing his relationship with Kadhafi as “very good.” Asked about Kadhafi’s reputation for unpredictability, he added: “He’s not been mercurial.”

Blair said that ties between Britain and Libya had been “transformed” and that a visit 10 years ago would have been unthinkable.

Libya, which for years was subject to sanctions, renounced weapons of mass destruction in 2004, and Blair said the two countries were now cooperating well on business, as well as security issues.

On counter-terrorism, Blair said Libya has a vital role to play in combating the spread of extremism, including that of Al-Qaeda, adding that Kadhafi had made good his pledges since coming back into the international fold.

“Some of the information they have provided has been extremely valuable in combating terrorism,” he said.

During his trip to Libya Blair was expected to meet with the families of Libyan children suffering from AIDS, after a court ruled they were deliberately injected with HIV-tainted blood by foreign medics.

The medics — five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor — are on death row in Libya after being convicted of infecting 438 children at a hospital in Benghazi, 56 of whom have since died.

The West has appealed for clemency from Libya. “Our position is well known. But what we have to do is work with the Libyan authorities on this,” said Blair’s official spokesman.

After Libya, Blair was due to travel on to Sierra Leone and South Africa.(AFP-Naharnet)

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May 29th, 2007, 3:06 pm

 

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