News Round UP (29 April 2008)

 

New York Times – NEW DELHI — The Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, arrived here for a dinner meeting with government officials on Tuesday, but he was expected to sign no path-breaking bilateral deals, nor iron out the kinks in a proposed 1,600-mile-long natural gas pipeline. Instead, he brought the Indian government a strange boon: a chance to show that it is willing to buck pressure from the White House and shake hands with a man Washington reviles.

“It is good for the government to be seen taking a stand that the U.S. may not like,” observed Lalit Mansingh, a former Indian ambassador to Washington.

In fact, for energy-hungry India, good relations with Iran are important for at least three reasons. It is the second largest supplier of oil to India, after Saudi Arabia, and a potential source of natural gas in the future; it wields influence in Afghanistan, which India increasingly considers critical to regional stability; and it commands loyalty from India’s substantial community of Shiite Muslims.

Iran’s new thrust into India and Sri Lanka comes as it is increasingly isolated by the United States and Europe.

Iranian Foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki, who attended university in the southern Indian city of Bangalore, is credited with driving this “Look East” strategy.

Bilateral trade between Iran and India, the bulk of which is oil and gas-related products, increased 55 percent in the last fiscal year to $9.3 billion, according to figures from the Indian government. That amount is about a third of India-United States trade.

In February, the Confederation of Indian Industries, the country’s largest business group, took a delegation of 10 companies to Iran to discuss possible business partnerships, said one executive who went on the trip but did not want his name used because he did not want to comment on government matters.

With increased diplomatic pressure from the West on Iran, the executive said, “this is the right time for Indian companies to step in.”

Indian companies have had difficulties signing deals with their Iranian counterparts because international banking restrictions make it difficult to get a valid bank guarantee known as a “letter of credit” from an Iranian company, he said. But some Indian banks are finding ways around international banking rules, by putting these letters of credit in different currencies, he said.

A breakthrough on the pipeline project, the executive added, would encourage greater business opportunities for Indian companies.

India for its part must figure out how to balance its broader relationships in the Middle East. Its second largest defense partner, after Russia, is Israel, and its largest source of oil, to the tune of 25 million metric tons last year, is Saudi Arabia. From Iran, it bought nearly 15 million metric tons during the same period, followed by about 13 million each from Iraq and Nigeria. India imports roughly three-fourths of its oil from abroad. 

Bashar and Olmert: The First Test
Eyal Zisser
Dayan Center
April 29, 2008 

Bashar al-Asad's confirmation, in an interview to the Qatari daily al-Watan, that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had given him a commitment to return the entire Golan Heights to Syria has one meaning: Syrian-Israeli peace negotiations are warming up. For the first time since the failure of the Clinton-Hafiz al-Asad Geneva summit of March 2000, there is a real chance for the resumption of peace negotiations between Israel and Syria, and perhaps even for a breakthrough.

As the results of the 2006 Lebanon War gradually became clear to both sides, the Israeli and Syrian leaderships began exchanging messages expressing interest in restarting the long-stalled peace negotiations. Yet, up until recently, they produced no results. In fact, imbedded in these exchanges was a fear of the consequences of resuming negotiations, reflecting the lack of genuine political will to move ahead, not to mention an unwillingness to pay the price which would be entailed by a peace agreement.

Over the years, Syria's unwavering precondition for the resumption of the peace process was an Israeli commitment to full withdrawal from the Golan Heights, to the 4 June 1967 lines.  Israel's difficulty in accepting this demand was at the root of the failure of the Syrian-Israeli negotiations conducted with Hafiz al-Asad by the Barak government in 1999-2000. Since then, no Israeli prime minister has been ready to commit himself to full withdrawal before Syria clarified what it intended to offer Israel as a quid pro quo.

Now, however, it seems that Prime Minister Olmert is prepared to comply with the Syrian demand.  In this, he is following in the footsteps of Yitzhak Rabin, who tendered a similar commitment (the Rabin deposit) in August 1993, when he made it clear to the Syrians that in return for a peace agreement acceptable to Israel, he would be ready to withdraw to the 4 June 1967 lines. All subsequent prime ministers expressed their readiness to accept Rabin’s commitment. Yet at the moment of truth, each of them got cold feet, refusing to take the political risk entailed in acceding to a Syrian return to the Galilee shoreline.

For Olmert, accepting the Rabin deposit is the inevitable outcome of pursuing a peace deal with Syria. It has long been clear to Israeli leaders that neither Hafiz al-Asad, nor his son and successor Bashar, would follow in the footsteps of Egypt’s Anwar al-Sadat and undertake dramatic public initiatives and symbolic gestures on behalf of Arab-Israeli peace. Hence, it would be up to Israel to make the requisite initial gestures towards Damascus in order to pave the way to an agreement.

This raises the question of why Bashar chose to disclose the Olmert commitment, delivered to him by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. There are several possible answers. The Syrians may have feared that the existence of a secret Turkish channel between Syria and Israel would be leaked to the Israeli media, and thus preferred to be the first to make it public, in order not to find themselves on the defensive. More likely, the Syrians may have wanted to test Olmert's seriousness, to check whether the message delivered to them was reliable, and whether Olmert would be capable of weathering the inevitable criticism from portions of the Israeli public. The fact that the Israeli Prime Minister's Office declined to deny the news of the commitment has been understood as a tacit confirmation of its veracity. Syria, incidentally, was not worried about the embarrassment it might cause Olmert. Supporting an Israeli prime minister in the difficult challenge he may be expected to face among his own public has never been on Syria’s agenda.

Olmert and Bashar have successfully passed their first joint test. Olmert dared to do what no other Israeli prime minister in the last decade had done, and Bashar reacted relatively positively, praising Olmert for his efforts to advance peace.

Nonetheless, a word of caution is in order. Notwithstanding the fact that Jimmy Carter concluded his recent visit to Damascus by declaring that 85% of the problems between Israel and Syria had already been settled during the previous rounds of the peace negotiations, the picture is far more opaque. First, all understandings reached between Syria and Israel in the past have been left unwritten, and are hence given to interpretation. Second, the current reality on the ground and the overall regional configuration have changed substantially in the last eight years. For example, earlier Syrian-Israeli understandings regarding Hizballah were reached at a time when the organization had only a few thousand rockets of limited range. Now, however, the organization has in its possession tens of thousands of advanced rockets that can reach as far as Israel’s nuclear reactor in Dimona, in southern Israel. In addition, Syria’s primary regional ally, Iran, and their Palestinian joint client, Hamas – both of whom embody a hard-line, rejectionist position towards Israel – have far more weight then they had in 2000. Finally, achieving real progress in the Israeli-Syrian peace process will require active American participation. So far, the US has not reacted officially to the latest Olmert-Bashar exchange. However, it concurrently revealed information regarding the Israeli attack in northern Syria in September 2007 against a nuclear facility under construction with North Korean assistance. To be sure, the revelation was not designed as a response to the incipient resumption of Syrian-Israeli negotiations. Nevertheless, it served as another reminder of the low point that Syrian-American relations have reached in recent years, and the lack of any readiness in the Bush administration to change its attitude towards Syria.

In conclusion, much water will flow through the River Jordan and into the Sea of Galilee before the Syrians are allowed to wade into them. Nonetheless, it seems clear that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has taken the first plunge.

U.S. Was 'Clueless' on Counterinsurgency
BY ELI LAKE – Staff Reporter of the Sun
April 29, 2008

WASHINGTON — Paul Wolfowitz, in his first public remarks on the Iraq war in years, said the American government was "pretty much clueless on counterinsurgency" in the first year of the war.

The former deputy secretary of defense said yesterday that the force sent to Iraq was adequate for fighting Saddam Hussein's military, citing the speed with which American troops toppled the regime. But Mr. Wolfowitz said no one in the Bush administration anticipated that Saddam would order his security services to wage an insurgency after their formal defeat on the battlefield.

Mr. Wolfowitz's remarks came at a forum for a new book, "War and Decision," by the former no. 3 official at the Pentagon, Douglas Feith. In the book, Mr. Feith argues that America's greatest mistake in the war was establishing a coalition provisional authority instead of installing a group of Iraqi exiles in an interim government until elections could be held….

SYRIA: More questions about alleged nuclear site
LA Times Blog — Borzou Daragahi in Amman, Jordan

Professor William Beeman at the University of Minnesota passed along a note today from "a colleague with a U.S. security clearance" about the mysterious Syrian site targeted in a Sept. 6 Israeli airstrike.

The note raises more questions about the evidence shown last week by U.S. intelligence officials to lawmakers in the House and Senate. 

The author of the note pinpoints irregularities about the photographs. Beeman's source alleges that the CIA "enhanced" some of the images. For example he cites this image: ….

LEADING EDITORIAL IN TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL

—- Original Message From: DAVID KIM (BANK OF TOKYO-MITSUB) At: 4/29 8:13:19 Plutonium on the Euphrates — II April 29, 2008; Page A12 We finally know what Israel bombed in the Syrian desert on September 6 last year, and it isn't pretty. After seven months of silence, the Bush Administration confirmed last week that the target was a nuclear reactor being built with the aid of North Korea.

The prospect of nuclear technology in the hands of another terrorism-sponsoring state is scary enough. Worse is the notion that Syria's reactor is no big deal.

That's the interpretation being shopped in Washington by anonymous Administration officials, presumably at State, who have been quoted as saying the CIA has "little confidence" that the goal was to build a bomb.

The no-big-deal thesis expounded by the President's men directly contradicts their boss. After briefing Congress behind closed doors, the White House put out a statement expressing "confidence" that "this reactor was not intended for peaceful activities." CIA Director Michael Hayden said yesterday an operational reactor could have produced enough plutonium to make one or two nuclear bombs.

This is article about permanent bases in the ME and especially in Iraq

Damascus think tank chief handles Syrian talks on Israel
Ha'aretz, Israel
Yoav Stern

The Syrian official in charge of the Turkish-mediated contacts with Israel is Samir Taqi, head of a Damascus-based research institute, Israeli officials told Haaretz Monday. The officials said Taqi was very close to decision-makers in Damascus and enjoyed the confidence of the Turkish government. People who know Taqi personally said Monday they believed he was very well-connected to the Syrian intelligence services.

Taqi served for years as an adviser to the previous Syrian president, Hafez Assad. In recent years he received the official title of adviser to the prime minister, and heads the Center of Oriental Studies, a political think tank.

Prior to taking up his advisory posts, Taqi, who is a Christian, was a cardiac surgeon, who studied medicine in London. In recent years he has has frequently met with journalists and academics to discuss political issues.

Last year, the Turks welcomed Taqi's visit to northern Cyprus at the head of an unofficial Syrian delegation, when he met with with the foreign minister of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. His act aroused the ire of Greek Cypriots, who oppose recognition of the Turkish part of the island as an independent state, which only Ankara recognizes.

Haaretz has learned that Taqi was the bearer of Israel's main message to Syrian President Bashar Assad more than a week ago, following his visit to Ankara. Taqi's principal contact in Ankara is Ahmet Davutoglu, a close associate of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Report: Assad demands Israeli guarantee on Golan pullout Ha'aretz

Comments (131)


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101. abraham said:

AIG, for a supposed former American (BTW, did you rescind your American citizenship when you accepted Israeli citizenship?) you sure have a poor grasp of English. Rowan said nothing of the sort that you accuse him. You are, of course and as always, simply trying to lower the level of discussion here.

What rank are you in the Mossad Keyboard Blog Brigades?

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April 30th, 2008, 7:17 pm

 

102. Qifa Nabki said:

Offended,

Yes al-Busiri’s Burda is quite beautiful. I memorized the first 30-odd lines of it once, several years ago, but have since forgotten it.

Lately, my personal favorites have been more along these lines.

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April 30th, 2008, 7:21 pm

 

103. Shual said:

“we are trying to have serious political discussions here” [Abraham]

“Syria has the right to go blow up Dimona to pre-empt an Israeli nuclear attack. And I hope, by God, they do.” [Abraham]

Topic for you, Mr. Abraham: http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2008/04/29/world/29iran-600.jpg

Symbolic steps into a brigth future. Do you weigh Ehuds step lower than Ahmanidejads? Because of some money running in another direction?

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April 30th, 2008, 7:24 pm

 

104. Shual said:

Last post for today.

What rank are you in the Mossad Keyboard Blog Brigades?

Answer: http://www.zelmaas.se/text_och_bild/bilder/Mops.jpg

[Sorry for that AIG. It is really dirty to compare people with insects, or cancer, or ...]

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April 30th, 2008, 7:28 pm

 

105. abraham said:

Shual, if you could write in English I might be inclined to respond to your inquiries. It would also help if what you wrote actually made sense.

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April 30th, 2008, 7:47 pm

 

106. Shual said:

Yes Abraham,

AIG is a pug an I am an illiterate. [Maybe the next time Rowan agrees to play the flee-circus.]

Thank god we have you to tell us the secrets of the world like “And I hope, by God, they do blow up Dimona”. Thats a wise sentence and I must admit that I am overmastered by the correct english of it.

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April 30th, 2008, 8:00 pm

 

107. Friedrich von Hohenstaufen said:

Qifa Nabki is right ,sufism is almost entirely a sunni phenomenon and it was first known amongst the hanbalis but it’s true that sufi thinkers like Suhrawardi and Ibn Arabi had important influence on shia scholars of shiraz.
The city of Hama is an important center of Sufism in Syria ,a place that have seen the union of Western Sufism(Sheikh Maamoun al Fasi al Hamwi ,Sheikh Alwan al Hamwi with Eastern Sufism (Al Kilani sheikhs).
Their shrines and lodges have been razed by the militias of asad in 1982.

Salam

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April 30th, 2008, 8:07 pm

 

108. wizart said:

QN,

Nice Zajal (Arabic music video) although it might require some translation for those who might mistake it for a pep rally given by Aoun to a Hizbala brigade celebrating the election of a Sufi for president ;)

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April 30th, 2008, 8:07 pm

 

109. abraham said:

Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize it was OK to advocate the genocide of Gaza, but not the relatively casualty-free deterrent effect of destroying Israel’s Samspon Option.

Silly me.

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April 30th, 2008, 8:09 pm

 

110. Akbar Palace said:

AIG -

On the topic of denial, here’s a statement showing more on the “debated” Syrian nuclear reactor and the assessment that Syria was “on the werge” of producing nuclear weapons:

http://www.worldtribune.com/worldtribune/WTARC/2008/ss_syria0102_04_30.asp

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April 30th, 2008, 8:11 pm

 

111. wizart said:

Israelis must be really interested in knowing more about Syria these days just by counting the number of them on this blog this evening.

I think Israelis just love what they can’t have. Every time AIG is banned for a week we get like half a dozen new born baby IGs wanting to discover their next door neighbor. Pretty soon we’ll be receiving Hebrew language sessions in return for the Golan and free religion classes in return for the West Bank.

Why should Syria have a new “reactor” when they can always use the one in Demona and dump the nuke waste somewhere in the Golan since it’s the nicest peace of land in Syria which Israel feels free to use to produce branded nuc-enhanced wine famous for its export potential.

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April 30th, 2008, 8:22 pm

 

112. Alex said:

Rowan,

I linked that old silly Lebanese song as a joke for our friend QN who is a Lebanese.

But thanks for all the interesting music you recommended today. I enjoyed the first two the most.

Offended, QN

I heard that Sufie comes from … Σοφία” or “Sophia”

Wisdom.

What do you think?

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April 30th, 2008, 9:23 pm

 

113. Friedrich von Hohenstaufen said:

I heard that Sufie comes from … Σοφία” or “Sophia”

Bro Alex,the explanation of wizart is more likely but it’s also true some have seen an impact of neoplatonic litterature on sufism.

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April 30th, 2008, 9:57 pm

 

114. Akbar Palace said:

Wizart asks:

Why should Syria have a new “reactor”…

I don’t know. I suppose we’ll have to get past the “free Syrian press” in order to get a respectable answer;)

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April 30th, 2008, 10:02 pm

 

115. Friedrich von Hohenstaufen said:

April 30th, 2008, 10:25 pm

 

116. Shual said:

“relatively casualty-free deterrent effect”

You wanted to destroy a reactor, Mr. Abraham and because of the location THIS results in a genocide in Gaza and elsewhere in the region.

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April 30th, 2008, 11:00 pm

 

117. Qifa Nabki said:

َAlex,

I’m glad that the Lebanese song was joke. I was beginning to question your taste. ;)

As for the word Sufi, the most likely origin is from the word Suuf (wool), as woolen clothes were the traditional garb of mystics and ascetics. The other common explanation (Σοφία) is a folk etymology.

And the other one that Wizart cited ,”Safaa’” (purity) is not correct, because that is a different root altogether (S-f-w, not S-w-f).

PS: Wizart, with respect to zajal, the funny thing is that I’ve actually heard some very interesting zajal praising or criticizing the various political leaders in Lebanon and the current crisis. Haven’t heard any about Aoun yet, but of course about Berri, Nasrallah, Lahoud, Hariri, Saniora, etc.

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April 30th, 2008, 11:23 pm

 

118. Alex said:

QN

Maybe there are many meanings behind mystic terms and names?

I know of one group of people who believe that Sufi comes from Sophia (representing wisdom) … they would not accept any other explanation.

By the way .. that video clip I posted … I ended up listening to it few times. I started to like it : )

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April 30th, 2008, 11:54 pm

 

119. Qifa Nabki said:

Alex,

There can surely be many meanings behind names, especially to modern practitioners. But if the question is: “What is the origin of this word?” then we have to trace it back in the sources. Scholars have done that with this word, and it seems almost certain that it was related to the clothing worn by the early ascetics of the 2nd/8th century. The earliest Sufism was not the theosophical Sufism of later centuries… so it seems unlikely that people would have applied a Greek term connoting philosophical wisdom to them. Much more likely that they were hermits/mystics who sought to distinguish themselves by rejecting the comfortable clothes of the notables.

But etymology is an imprecise science.

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May 1st, 2008, 12:11 am

 

120. Qifa Nabki said:

Bondo,

You’re right. This issue has been gone over to death, and people are probably sick of it by this point.

Some people share your opinion. Some people believe that Syria was absolutely responsible. Some attach some kind of probability to the various potential parties (Syria, U.S., Israel, al-Qaeda, etc.)

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what people think because arguments could be made either way. We will have to wait and see what the Tribunal turns up, and even then its findings will be questioned and debated for a long time.

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May 1st, 2008, 1:01 am

 

121. abraham said:

Bondo:

me? i say israel with american complicity and a party in lebanon that has collaborated before with the israelis killed hariri.

That’s pretty much it in a nutshell.

QN:

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what people think because arguments could be made either way.

And at the end of the day it was probably better for Lebanon in the long term. Hariri was steering Lebanon towards the Western sphere, and that would have ultimately caused more upheavel than his assassination.

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May 1st, 2008, 1:21 am

 

122. Qifa Nabki said:

Abraham:

And at the end of the day it was probably better for Lebanon in the long term. Hariri was steering Lebanon towards the Western sphere, and that would have ultimately caused more upheavel than his assassination.

How so? Which sphere is better for Lebanon in the long term?

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May 1st, 2008, 1:50 am

 

123. Rowan Berkeley said:

There is an english language ‘ibn Arabi site, and it has a pretty good translation of one of his poems on it:

I marveled at an Ocean without shore,
and at a Shore that did not have an ocean;
And at a Morning Light without darkness,
and at a Night that was without daybreak;
And then a Sphere with no locality
known to either fool or learned scholar;
And at an azure Dome raised over the earth,
circulating ’round its center – Compulsion;
And at a rich Earth without o’er-arching vault
and no specific location, the Secret concealed…

I courted a Secret which existence did not alter;
for it was asked of me: “Has Thought enchanted you? ”
– To which I replied: “I have no power over that;
I counsel you: Be patient with it while you live.
But, truly, if Thought becomes established
in my mind, the embers kindle into flame,
And everything is given up to fire
the like of which was never seen before!”
And it was said to me: “He does not pluck a flower
who calls himself with courtesy ‘Freeborn’.”
“He who woos the belle femme in her boudoir, love-beguiled,
will never deem the bridal-price too high!”

I gave her the dower and was given her in marriage
throughout the night until the break of Dawn -
But other than Myself I did not find. – Rather,
that One whom I married – may his affair be known:
For added to the Sun’s measure of light
are the radiant New Moon and shining Stars;
Like Time, dispraised – though the Prophet (Blessings on him!)
had once declared of your Lord that He is Time.

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May 1st, 2008, 2:35 am

 

124. Rowan Berkeley said:

AIG, to answer your question, I ought to explain, I am not conventionally religious, and it didn’t even occur to me that when I talked about Israelis living in hell, you would think I meant going to hell in an after-life. I meant a hell right here on earth, which I suppose, from a conventionally religious point of view, is a metaphorical usage of the word, whereas the idea of “going to hell” or “going to heaven” after death is the literal meaning. It just didn’t occur to me that anyone would miss my meaning, of heaven and hell being right here on earth.

Also, having just watched that Berry Sakharof video yet again, I can add, the fact that the land is beautiful – at least, I think so, and obviously he does too – the fact that it inspires yearning – is part of the hell. Two rabbis, following their mission in 1897 to investigate the possibility of building a Jewish state in Palestine, wrote to zionist colleagues in Vienna, “the bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man.”

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May 1st, 2008, 4:11 am

 

125. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Rowan,
I understood your meaning perfectly. I am an Arik Einstein and Sholom Artzi type and didn’t realize Inbal was dead.

Alas, your whole view of Israel and Israelis is completely wrong. Israelis on the whole are very happy people.

Oh, and history has no rewind button. When you start wars in which you lose, you can’t complain. The Palestinians had a chance to accept the UN partition of 47 but refused. The land of Israel belongs to Israelis. By law, the Golan is also part of Israel. We realize that others disagree with us and that is why they are our enemies and we will fight them if forced to. If they want to beat us, I recommend they build strong and cohesive societies that are technologically advanced and that they seek strong allies. That is our plan to beat them. Since they prefer to languish under dictators, we in Israel are not worried.

It is really as simple as that. You see, we are simple and happy people.

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May 1st, 2008, 5:11 am

 

126. Rowan Berkeley said:

funny you should say that. I just posted a remark to one of Glenn Greenwald’s articles at Salon.com, praising him for his extreme command of irony.

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May 1st, 2008, 5:21 am

 

127. offended said:

Alex,
I agree with QN. It comes from Soof (wool) since wearing it was q sign of abstinence at the time.

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May 1st, 2008, 9:13 am

 

128. abraham said:

AIG’s rambling are increasingly mindless (to be polite).

The war of 1948 never ended. Arabs don’t accept defeat, as there is no such thing. There is just the passage of time. Time is not an ally of Israel.

People don’t choose to live under dictators. They are imposed. In this case, they are imposed by Western hegemons and zionists.

I’m glad to hear Israelis are such happy people. I suppose when you can commit a crime and get away with it then it’s a pleasurable experience.

However, I’m sorry to have to be the one to break the news to you, but they say pay-back is a bitch.

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May 1st, 2008, 8:35 pm

 

129. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Abraham,
Who imposed Bashar on the Syrians?
Who imposed Nasser on the Egyptians?

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May 1st, 2008, 8:48 pm

 

130. Rowan Berkeley said:

Bashar’s dad, Hafez, staged his coup against Salah Jadid, who was in the process of aligning himself with the Soviet bloc, so one might suspect CIA involvement just for that reason.

Nasser, if you believe Miles Copeland, was also helped into power by CIA (the aim at that point being to displace the Brits).

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May 2nd, 2008, 8:40 am

 

131. Rowan Berkeley said:

Did you see this?
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=8868
The author is a Larouche associate, I think, but the article doesn’t depend on Larouche’s supposedly unique sources.

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May 2nd, 2008, 10:27 am

 

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