Posted by Joshua on Monday, September 13th, 2010
“…Walid Jumblatt, urged Paris to “abolish” the verdict to be issued by the United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which is investigating the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri, Naharnet reported citing an article published in Al-Hayat.
It is feared that the tribunal might trigger strife within Lebanon by potential indictment of figures with the Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement. …The movement has categorically rejected the allegations and called the tribunal an “Israeli project.” …
Jumblatt also warned French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner that France would be “held responsible if civil war was ignited in the country,” Al-Hayat added. …Earlier in the year, the Lebanese daily As-Safir also said that Saudi Arabia had asked France to use its influence to find a way out of the indictment issue. The French authorities, however, told Prince Muqrin, the Saudi envoy and the Kingdom’s intelligence chief, that the solution lied in the United States. …”
Read Qifa Nabki on the Hariri Tribunal and the likely impact of Saad’s apology for having accused Syria of orchestrating the crime.
Americans will never be at war with Islam — Obama
Kuwait News Agency – 12 September, 2010
While al Qaeda may seek to spark conflict between different faiths, Americans “are not, and never will be, at war with Islam,” President Barack Obama said on Saturday.
Speaking at the Pentagon Memorial on the ninth anniversary of the terrorist strikes, the President said it was not a religion that attacked the United States that day, killing nearly 3,000 people.
“It was al Qaeda, a sorry band of men which perverts religion,” Obama said. “And just as we condemn intolerance and extremism abroad, so will we stay true to our traditions here at home as a diverse and tolerant nation. We champion the rights of every American, including the right to worship as one chooses — as service members and civilians from many faiths do just steps from here, at the very spot where the terrorists struck this building.” The attackers sought to demoralize and divide Americans, to deprive them of the unity and ideals that have made the United States “a beacon of freedom and hope to billions around the world,” he said. “Today we declare once more
we will never hand them that victory….
Hichame Assi invites you to join SyriaConnect – a news aggregater about Syria. He also invites you to join a project to map Syria by helping to name the streets and shops you love on Google Maps. Learn about the effort here. It looks like a great and useful project. Also a great way to meet some interesting Syrians.
WASHINGTON—Arab states are preparing to press for far greater United Nations controls over Israel’s nuclear program, in a move that could complicate the Obama administration’s broader nonproliferation campaign and Middle East peace drive. …
Eli Bardenstein, Maariv, September 13 2010 [page 5; Hebrew original here and at bottom of post] (Didi Ramez)
Along with the direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, France and the US are acting to put in motion the political negotiations between Israel and Syria. Over the course of the holiday and yesterday, two top officials visited Israel who are responsible for talks on this channel. They met with top Israeli officials and in the next few days will go to Damascus for meetings with Syrian President Bashar Assad and with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.
The Lebanese As-Safir newspaper wrote that the French official was Jean Claude Cousseran, French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s special envoy to the Israeli-Syrian talks, and Fred Hoff, deputy to special US envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell, who is responsible for the Syrian-Lebanese desk for Washington. Cousseran and Hoff met with Defense Ministry officials, including Defense Minister Barak.
The paper further reported that in his visit to Damascus, Cousseran will try to clarify to what extent Syria will agree to be flexible in its demands of Israel even though, at every opportunity, Assad is firm about stressing that without a withdrawal from the Golan Heights, there will be no peace. Cousseran will also try to help get the dialogue moving on this track by means of putting pressure on the Israeli side to enter into the negotiations. France believes that if this works, the US will take on itself the role of patron of the talks.
Envoy Mitchell is also expected to visit Damascus and will try to get the support of President Assad for the direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians and to relay a message in the matter of the importance that the US attributes to talks on the Israel-Syria track.
[SYR] Syrian channels launched in US and Canada
State-owned Syrian Satellite Channel and the newly launched sister channel, Syria Drama, have announced their launch in the US and Canada. The two channels will be available as part of the premium packages of IPTV platform TV2MORO in North America. Earlier this year TV2MORO launched two Arabic television subscription packages.
Iran’s Growing Interests and Influence in Central Asia
Dario Cristiani | 10 Sep 2010 in World Politics Review
In early August, at the fourth trilateral summit between Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan held in Tehran, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged the leaders of the other two countries to join in an alliance to counterbalance NATO’s growing presence in Central Asia. Though any such formal alliance is unlikely, the declaration reflects Tehran’s desire to play a larger role in Central Asia’s regional dynamics.
If Iran has always been geographically part of the regional context of Central Asia and the Caucasus, Tehran’s geopolitical orientation has historically been focused southward, on the Persian Gulf. For more than a century, Iranian interests in the area were limited to dealing with Russia’s — and later the Soviet Union’s — expansionism. The end of the Cold War and the implosion of the Soviet Union opened new opportunities on Iran’s northern borders, even if Iran remained more preoccupied with the need for domestic reconstruction following the war with Iraq.
In the past 15 years, however, Tehran has been particularly active in trying to create a deep net of institutional and economic links in the region, in part to counter the increasing reach of Turkey, perceived as an American proxy, and of Pakistan, historically an enemy of Iran. Such an approach has been characterized by the “pragmatism” typical of Iran’s post-revolutionary leadership. Eschewing the idea of exporting revolution, Iran has instead tried to improve ties with all the countries of the region, focusing on those with which it shares cultural and historical links. This explains the strong attention paid by Tehran to Tajikistan and Afghanistan, which represent cornerstones of the Iranian strategy in the region. At the same time, a clear example of Iran’s pragmatism is the close relationship it has forged with Armenia, cemented by the common interest of containing Azerbaijan….
Tehran faces a strategic dilemma. On one hand, Iran is clearly interested in a stable Afghanistan: Iran and Afghanistan are linked by a “strategic geography,” and problems due to instability in one country can easily affect its neighbor. For example, Iran is already deeply concerned about drug trafficking, refugee flows and crime along its borders with Afghanistan. Only a stable government in Kabul can reduce such threats.
On the other hand, Tehran perceives the longstanding presence of American troops at its borders as a strategic threat. Moreover, the ability to undermine American interests in Afghanistan can provide Tehran with leverage over Washington on other issues, such as the confrontation over its nuclear program. As a result, Tehran could potentially see an interest in destabilizing Afghanistan in order to affect the American military effort there.
This same unresolved ambiguity in Tehran’s approach can also be seen, if to a lesser extent, in Iran’s relationships with Russia and China….
Thousands of Syrians Cross Turkish Borders to Visit Relatives on Eid al-Fitr: More than 31,000 people crossed Bab al-Hawa border point to congratulate their relatives on a two-day visit – in Raqqa it was 24,000. 800,000 Syrians are expected to visit Turkey this year.
Untangling the Bizarre CIA Links to the Ground Zero Mosque
By Mark Ames in The New York Observer
September 10, 2010 | 2:36 p.m
Untangling the Bizarre CIA Links to the Ground Zero Mosque
So far, the debate over the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero has unfolded along predictable lines, with the man at the center of the project, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, drawing attacks from the right painting him as a terrorist sympathizer with ties to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
But meanwhile, links between the group behind the controversial mosque, the CIA and U.S. military establishment have gone unacknowledged.
For instance, one of the earliest backers of the nonprofit group, the Cordoba Initiative, that is spearheading the Ground Zero mosque, is a 52-year-old Scarsdale, New York, native named R. Leslie Deak. In addition to serving on the group’s board of advisors since its founding in 2004 by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Deak was its principal funder, donating $98,000 to the nonprofit between 2006 and 2008. This figure appears to represent organization’s total operating budget–though, oddly, the group reported receipts of just a third of that total during the same time period.
Deak describes himself as a “Practicing Muslim with background in Christianity and Judaism, [with] in-depth personal and business experiences in the Middle East, living and working six months per year in Egypt.” Born into a Christian home, Deak became an Orthodox Jew and married a Jewish woman before converting to Islam when he married his current wife, Moshira Soliman, with whom he now lives in Rye.
Leslie Deak’s resume also notes his role as “business consultant” for Patriot Defense Group, LLC, a private defense contractor with offices in Winter Park, Florida, and in Tucson. The only names listed on the firm’s website are those of its three “strategic advisers.” These include retired four-star General Bryan “Doug” Brown, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command until 2007, where he headed “all special operations forces, both active duty and reserve, leading the Global War On Terrorism,” and James Pavitt, former deputy director for operations at the Central Intelligence Agency, where he “managed the CIA’s globally deployed personnel and nearly half of its multi-billion dollar budget” and “served as head of America’s Clandestine Service, the CIA’s operational response to the attacks of September 11, 2001.” …
Subject: An Unsettled Issue
3 September 2010
Israeli Settlement Construction Booms Despite Ban
By Juliane von Mittelstaedt in Jerusalem
In Washington, the Israelis and Palestinians are discussing peace, but in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, construction is proceeding at full speed. A legal ban is being ignored and the government is looking away. The thousands of new homes could hinder reconciliation….
It’s also an issue where the fronts are growing increasingly tense. “As far as we are concerned, we will continue building after we have buried our dead,” Naftali Bennett, the general director of the settlers’ association Yesha said hours before the start of peace talks. Just a short time after his announcement, the settlers began erecting several symbolic settlements in the West Bank. In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, Bennett had threatening words. “It is not good enough that the moratorium will end on Sept. 26,” he said. “Ehud Barak needs to act to approve 3,000 new housing units — 1,500 of them right now.”
….And why should they if they have the impression that the government doesn’t even support the moratorium?
…. From the start of the Oslo peace process in the 1990s until today, the number of Israeli settlers living in the West Bank has tripled — growing from 110,000 to more than 300,000 people living in 121 settlements and 100 outposts. In addition to that there are 200,000 more settlers in East Jerusalem.
The Land Is Practically Free….. Construction may even proceed at a faster pace than before. In the West Bank, there are few signs that the moratorium has even been put in place. In dozens of settlements, excavators and cement mixers are a regular sight, and Palestinians work in temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). Around 2,000 homes are currently under construction — and in most cases, work had begun shortly before or after the start of the moratorium….
…. The Moratorium ‘Was a Fiction Right from the Outset’…. “The construction boom here began shortly before the building freeze,” says Dror Etkes, who is perhaps the Israeli who knows the most about the settlements. For years he has been documenting settlement construction and submitting complaints against illegal projects.
Etkes is sure that active construction is taking place in at least 46 out of 120 settlements. Building projects have only actually been frozen in five settlements, he says. Even government inspectors have found violations of the moratorium in 29 settlements. So far, however, no construction firm has been called to account over those violations. That is despite the fact that the building freeze, for the first time in Israeli history, is not just a “political” requirement, but is actually enshrined in law — meaning that any violation should be legally punished.
Additionally, infrastructure projects are not included in the building moratorium. As a result, a number of sewage treatment plants and water reservoirs are being built in settlements — including on Palestinian land. In Beitar Illit, a new road is being built.
Neither were the associated financial incentives — the only reason that many Israelis choose to live in the West Bank — affected by the moratorium. Those benefits include cheap loans, subsidized rents, tax breaks and countless other perks, all of which could easily be cancelled.
“The difference between the level of construction before and during the moratorium is much, much less than the settlers claim,” says Etkes. “It’s not just that the building freeze has been undermined — it was a fiction right from the outset.” One of the consequences, he says, has been that construction activities have become even more focused on the eastern settlements — in other words, those small, isolated and often radical settlements that would need to be evacuated if a peace agreement were reached. It is expected that the inhabitants of those settlements would defend themselves with force against such a move.
‘Building Freeze Is More Harmful than Useful’
Construction work is also going on in Kfar Adumim. The settlement is significantly larger than the norm — 2,700 people live here in the hills between Jerusalem and Jericho. Among them are two members of the Knesset, the two hardliners Aryeh Eldad and Uri Ariel. 30 houses are to be built here and 50 Palestinian workers are employed on the site. One man, who is busy laying bathroom tiles, says they started work a month before the building freeze came into force. In the beginning, they had 300 men working at full speed to lay as many foundations as possible in the short time.
Etkes sees the circumventing of the building freeze here as a “classic example of the cooperation between the settlers and the government”: Some of the foundations were hastily laid before the building freeze came into force, some afterwards — but nobody bothers to police it. “The building freeze was discussed for half a year, that was enough time for all parties to prepare.”
This is no different from other settlements. Once the moratorium comes to an end, the settlers immediately begin to build. Or, if they do not need housing right away, they can save the foundations as a “reserve” in case of future building freezes. In addition, dozens of settlers’ organizations have submitted building applications to local authorities that could be approved in the coming months.
The tiler will not give his name because he is afraid of losing his job, which pays him a minimum of about €30 a day. But he did say that many of his colleagues began work on the site two days before the construction moratorium in the settlements came into force. He also said that building work is still going on in Har Homa in Bethlehem, even though the building freeze is in force there. Carpenters work at night so as not to draw so much attention.
With Each Project, the Future Clearing of Settlements Becomes More Difficult…
…All it takes is a few figures from Israel’s statistical office to determine that no reduction of construction activity worthy of mention has taken place. Israel’s Channel 10 TV, for example, has reported that 8,000 Israelis either moved to the West Bank or have been born there in the past six months. Projected over the remaining months of 2010, that would be 16,000 people. In recent years — without the construction moratorium — the average growth rate was 5.5 percent, which with 300,000 settlers in the West Bank, would mean an annual increase of around 16,500 people. “In other words, the much-discussed construction moratorium has brought us 500 fewer settlers,” Etkes says.
‘At the End of the Day, There Will Be Another 1,000 Homes’
For the Palestinians, the time elapsed since the start of the construction moratorium hasn’t been a good one. According to Human Rights Watch, the Israeli civil administration in West Jordan has torn down a total of 267 Palestinian homes in recent months, more than ever before. The homes had been built without permits, but that’s the case with most new Palestinian homes because they are hardly ever approved.
By contrast, says Etkes, he has no doubt that the homes in the settlement that have been built illegally during the moratorium will, at least some of them, be legalized later. “At the end of the day, there will still be another 1,000 homes more in the West Bank.”
Special investigation: How Blair rescued Palestine deal worth $200m to his £2m-a-year paymasters
David Rose | The Daily Mail | September 12 2010
Tony Blair mounted an intense political lobbying campaign to rescue a struggling mobile-phone business owned by a client of the bank that pays him a £2 million annual salary. The firm, Wataniya, had already built a brand-new network in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian West Bank.
But it almost collapsed before launching its service, jeopardising a £450 million investment, because Israel’s government was refusing to let it use the frequencies it needed to operate.
President al-Assad Performs Eid Al-Fitr Prayers at Badr Mosque
Interestingly, the English version of the SANA article about the sermon delivered by Imam Husam Eddin Farfour during the Eid celebration that President Assad attended, is much abridged from the Arabic version and leaves out the attack on America and what America means by democracy. Farfour explains that the the US is spreading a new world order that is spreading chaos throughout the region. It is returning man to the law of the jungle where the poor eats the weak and the rich eats the poor and where humanity and civilization is abased. Man was made by the creator…
After the prayer, President al-Assad listened to the Eid al-Fitr sermon by Sheikh Husam Eddin Farfour. The sermon talked about the supreme meanings of the Eid as an opportunity for cooperation, amity and rapprochement, noting the pioneer place of the Islamic nation as the carrier of the message of Islam to the world.
Sheikh Farfour said Islam is a human world religion that is not confined to a nation, society or group, but a religion that belongs to the whole world.
”The world nowadays is afflicted by injustice, woes, wars and massacres as a result of the world hegemony and domineering powers claiming that they want to set a new world order,” he said, describing this new order as a legitimization of chaos and a setback to humanity.
”The war on terrorism, as Your Excellency said, is a war waged on us for the sake of terrorism which is disavowed by all heavenly religions, mainly Islam” Sheikh Farfour said.
The sermon affirmed that Islam was the first to preach dialogue as a substitute for clash of civilizations.
Sheikh Farfour hailed President al-Assad’s wise leadership that laid the foundation of dignity, security and stability in Syria, wishing him success and prosperity.
وقال خطيب العيد ” لقد قرات من مقالاتكم ياسيادة الرئيس وانتم تستقبلون وزاء الخارجية أنكم قلتم ” اهلا بكم في عاصمة الامويين” ووقفت عند هذه الكلمة طويلا ، نعم ياسيادة الرئيس لقد كانت دمشق عاصمة العالم والتاريخ والحضارة والانسان والعلم والفكر والاشعاع باختصار كانت مركز الكون ، كان خليفتنا من منبر الجامع الاموري يامر العالم وينهاه فاذا قال خليفة المسلمين لا فان الدنيا كلها تقول لا ..ولكن خليفة المسليمن لايقول لا الا اذا انتهكت حرمات المسلمين “.
وتابع الخطيب ” لقد اصبح العالم الان يعاني من ويلات ومجازر من جراء هيمنة عالمية وقوى عالمية طائلة تزعم نظاما عالميا جديدا ” وهو تشريع للفوضى” ، وقد زعمت امريكا ان لديها نظاما عالميا جديدا فاذا هو انتكاس في عالم الانسانية ورجوع الى شريعة الغاب يأكل فيه الفقير الضعيف والغني الفقير ” ، لقد فقد الانسان في هذا العالم الجديد ابعاده الانسانسة والروحية ،وهذه المعاني الانسانية لاتوجد إلا في إسلامنا ، فعمارة الانسان هي عمارة البنيان” .
وأضاف ” من هنا من دمشق خرجت جحافل الدعاة والعلماء ورجال الفكرو الدعوة والارشاد قبل جحافل الفاتحين ..وحينما خرج الفاتحون لم يخرجو للسرقة والنهب وانما خرجو لكسر الحواجز وتحرير الانسان من عبادة الانسان إلى عبادة الله” .
ثم انتقل خطيب العيد للحديث عن معنى اخر من كلمات الرئيس الاسد وقال ” انت قلتم ياسيادة الرئيس “ان الدعوة للديمقراطية دعوة لنشر الفوضى” فنظرت الى عمق الفكر الذي ترونه ان الارهاب تبرأ منه الرسالات السماوية وعلى راسها الاسلام الذي هو من اشتقاقه دين للسلم والسلام”.
نحن نفخر في سوريا بقيادتكم الحكيمة ، يتابع خطيب العيد الفرفور ، فلقد ارسيتم قواعد هذا البلد ..ومن هنا سيعود القرار الدولي من سيادتكم إن شاء الله ،فنقول للظلم لا وننبه اننا امة أبية تابى الهوان ..نريد سلاما تحفظ فيه الحقوق والكرامة ..إنه سلام مبينى على حق وكرامة او كما قال الرئيس الراحل حافظ الاسد ” سلام الشجعان” .
ايها السيد الرئيس المقام لايحتمل الكثير من القول واستمحكم عذار ؟ و أقول ” نسأل الله ان يثبت خطاكم وان يبقيكم قدوة لهذه الامة فلقد راينا فيكم قدوة حسنة في اخلاقكم ورجولتكم ” لقد لقيت سوريا الحبيبة من قيادتكم في السنوات العشر ماتفخر به على التاريخ ..سوريا الان بلد استقرار وعلم وحضارة .