Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, October 8th, 2008
World War II, The French Revolution, and “A historical vision of ‘Arab companionship’ with the western world”: Goetz Nordbruch explores the intellectual challenge of Nazism in the Levant Mediterranean Historical Review, Vol. 21, No. 2, December 2006, pp. 219–238
“In April 1942, on the eve of the decisive battles of World War II in El Alamein and Stalingrad, the Lebanese intellectual and political activist Raif Khoury (1913–67) contemplated the ongoing war and its consequences for the future of society. Writing in an editorial for the cultural magazine al-Tariq, Khoury did not limit his reflections to the immediate repercussions of the war on the territorial order in the Middle East; for him, the war of the Allies against German Nazism and Italian Fascism was not only a struggle for territories, but for the survival of society and culture as such…”
Syria, Lebanon abuzz over report about militant’s arrest
By Borzou Daragahi
The Los Angeles Times, 6 October 2008
An intriguing item about the mysterious leader of a ferocious militant group floated around the Lebanese and Syrian media over the weekend.
According to a report in the Arab-language Syrian newspaper Al Liwaa, the leader of the Al Qaeda-linked militant group Fatah al Islam was captured two months ago in Syria.
The report says that Shaker Abbsi, a former Libyan air force pilot turned Islamist, was caught in the poor Meliha district of south Damascus and hauled off to prison.
Abbsi, 53, who is of Palestinian descent, has led a storied life. He piloted MIGs for the Libyan air force in a war against Chad and on a trip to Latin America in the early 1980s, he helped Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinistas.
But as the years went by, he drifted toward Islamist groups and beliefs. Jordanian officials accused him of playing a role in the 2002 assassination of U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley in Amman, Jordan. Syria imprisoned him the same year, accusing him of plotting against the Damascus government, but released him in 2005.
He popped up in Lebanon as leader of Fatah al Islam, a group of well-armed Islamic insurgents who fought the Lebanese army for months last year in a battle around the seaside Nahr el Bared refugee camp that left more than 400 civilians, soldiers and militants dead.
Abbsi vanished after the battle. He issued statements this year vowing to take revenge against the Lebanese army, which has been the apparent target of two bombing attacks in the last two months.
But according to Al Liwaa’s report Saturday, Abbsi was captured when Syrian intelligence operatives carried out a “major house raid” two months ago in Damascus, the capital. The item was quickly picked up by media and websites in Lebanon and Syria.
The report says Abbsi’s loyalists were planning to carry out a suicide bombing at a Damascus soccer stadium during a game a month ago to avenge him, but were thwarted by Syrian security.
The website of the Lebanese newspaper An Nahar reported last month that Syrian authorities had told French President Nicolas Sarkozy that they had arrested Abbsi.
Moscow makes no promises on arms sales to Syria, Iran
By Yossi Melman
Haaretz.com, 8 October 2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said yesterday he received assurances that Russia would not allow Israel’s security to be threatened, but offered no indication he won the concrete promises he sought on Russian arms sales or sanctions on Iran.
After meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Olmert also said Israel was not prepared to tolerate a situation in which Iran possesses nuclear weapons, but will not take the lead in preventing it from gaining nuclear capability.
Olmert did not receive a clear commitment that Russia would refrain from supplying Syria with S-300 anti-aircraft missiles or sell advanced weapons to Iran. However, he said he succeeded in getting Medvedev to understand his fears that Russian-made missiles and other technology could fall into the hands of anti-Israeli militants in the region.
“My feeling is the Russian government understands well the Israeli position and is aware of the possible influence such supplying could have on stability in the region,” Olmert told reporters traveling with him…
David Schenker argues that if there is a formalized arrangement b/t Hizballah and the LAF, or if there is a March 8 Government come the spring, the US will revise its policy toward the LAF to deny it attach helicopters and other equipment. PolicyWatch #1407: The Future of U.S. Military Aid to Lebanon
Russia-Syria cooperation no threat to Mideast stability – Lavrov
RIA Novosti, 29 September 2008
The military and technical ties between Russia and Syria do not pose a threat to the balance of power in the Middle East, Russia’s foreign minister said Monday.
Sergei Lavrov said the cooperation between the countries was “in line with the international law” and “in the interests of strengthening stability and maintaining security” in regions close to Russia’s borders.
“We are not doing anything that could upset the balance of power in this or that region,” Lavrov told reporters.
During last month’s talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Moscow, Lavrov confirmed that Russia was ready to supply Syria with defensive weapons. Media reports said earlier Moscow and Damascus had agreed on deliveries of the latest Russian MiG-29SMT fighter.
Syria, a major importer of Russian weapons, also bought 36 Pantsir S1E air-defense systems from Russia, and hopes to receive Strelets short-range air defense systems, Iskander tactical missile systems, Yak-130 aircraft and two Amur-1650 submarines.
Media has also reported Russian plans to rebuild the Soviet-era Navy maintenance site in the northern Syrian port of Tartus, the only Russian foothold in the Mediterranean, and turn it into a permanent naval base.
The reports say about 10 Russian warships and three floating piers are deployed there while Russia expands the port and builds a dock in nearby El-Latakia. There has been no official confirmation of the reports.
Israel and the United States are sensitive about Russian-Syrian military and technical cooperation, fearing not only a reinforcement of Syria’s armed forces, but also the possibility that modern weapons could fall into the hands of Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon or be passed on to Iran, in violation of the existing international embargo.
Why Syria matters to Israel
By Osama Al Sharif
Arab News, 8 October 2008
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has returned from his Washington meeting with President George W. Bush empty-handed and frustrated. His already shaky peace negotiations with Israel have hit a brick wall and, as more often than not, Washington was siding with his opposite side. Meanwhile, his Hamas rivals in Gaza Strip have failed to find takers of their offer of a lengthy truce with Israel. On the eve of the 60th anniversary of Al-Nakbah and the creation of Israel, Palestinian losses appear to have been compounded on all fronts.
But the peace game continues elsewhere. All eyes are suddenly glued on Syria, whose president revealed that Turkey was mediating to revive abandoned negotiations with Israel. The Israelis confirmed the existence of a Turkish initiative and announced that Washington had not objected to a resumption of talks with Damascus.
But then there was the surprise accusation by the Bush administration that North Korea was helping Syria build a nuclear facility in the eastern desert, which President Bashar Assad said was a nonnuclear military site. The timing of the release of intelligence material on the alleged reactor, nearly seven months after Israel is believed to have destroyed it in an airstrike last September, has baffled Republicans and Democrats in Washington…
Quite a Few Nations Interested in Russia’s Iskander-E Missiles
Kommersant, 7 Octbober 2008
Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and other states are interested in buying Russia’s Iskander-E tactical missile systems, Rosoboronexport Director at Large Nikolay Dimidyuk said, Interfax reported.
“The demand has been noted in Syria. The Emirates takes much interest in it. Malaysia, India are interested in it very much,” Dimidyuk told reporters Wednesday. Other states are eyeing it as well, but off-the-record, the official added.
Iskander-E has great export potential, Dimidyuk said. “This is truly a high-precision weapon. Missile defense systems can’t hit the Iskander missile,” the official specified, explaining that the missiles have a perplexed flying trajectory and are able to make anti-missile maneuvers, which prevents their hitting.
Iskander can fire horizontally, which doesn’t unmask it, and has a number of other vital combat characteristics, Dimidyuk pointed out.
Iskander is produced in two variants – Iskander-M for Russia’s Armed Forces and Iskander-E for the export to other countries. The export variant slightly differs from the systems made by order of the RF Defense Ministry.
Iskander-E can hit targets at the range of up to 280km, striking two different targets at a minute interval. Its trajectory isn’t of ballistic nature and forecasting it would be very difficult for an enemy, the more so that the missile is controlled during all flight.
Israel will strike before Iran gets bomb – French FM
RIA Novosti, 5 October 2008
Israel is preparing a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities and will act before Tehran creates a nuclear bomb, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told an Israeli newspaper.
In an interview with Haaretz published on Sunday, Kouchner, who is on a visit to Israel, said he agreed with expert estimates that Iran needed from two to four years to create a nuclear bomb.
“I think that you are well informed, and so are the Americans and so are we. It has always been the case between two and four years. But to make what? One bomb,” Haaretz quoted Kouchner as saying.
Kouchner said that even one bomb would not make Iran immune to attack.
“I honestly don’t believe that it will give any immunity to Iran. First, because you will eat them before. And this is the danger. Because Israel has always said that it will not wait for the bomb to be ready,” he said.
Kouchner also urged to give international diplomacy more time to solve the Iranian nuclear issue.
“Iran with an atomic bomb is unacceptable at all…But how can it be prevented? Talking, talking, talking, and offering dialogue, sanctions, sanctions, sanctions,” he said.
The UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution on September 27, reiterating demands for Iran to halt uranium enrichment. The resolution did not however impose any new sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Iran says its nuclear program is aimed purely at electricity production, and has pledged to continue uranium enrichment regardless of international sanctions.
‘Syria Banking on Obama Victory, Invites Advisors’
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
Israel National News, 7 October 2008
Syria is banking on an Obama victory and is trying to reach out to his advisors, according to a Forbes article by the editor-in-chief of the Damascus-based All4Syria website.
Ayman Abdel Nour also revealed in the widely respected financial publication that Syria covered up a terrorist attack on its intelligence agency last week.
He said that Syria wants Senator Obama to win the presidential election to help Syrian President Bashar Assad bring back prosperity to Syria, which is under American sanctions. “The government wants desperately for things to look under control” in the wake of growing dissent, according to Nour. Syria wants Sen. Obama to win the presidential election to help Syrian President Bashar Assad bring back prosperity to Syria.
He said that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime “will bank on Barack Obama becoming president of the United States” and is trying to reach out to his advisors. Nour named Robert Malley, from whom Obama quickly himself disassociated earlier this year after it was revealed that he had direct contact with Hamas and Syrian leaders. Malley “has no formal role in the campaign and will not play one in the future,” the Obama camp has stated…
Olmert unlikely to persuade Russia not to arm Iran, Syria
By Yossi Melman
Haaretz.com, 7 October 2008
Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will seek Tuesday to persuade Russian President Dmitry Medvedev not to sell weapons to Iran and Syria, but with little chance of success, diplomatic sources said.
Jerusalem is particularly concerned that sales of Russia’s S-300 anti-aircraft missile system could threaten Israel’s air superiority over both states. And if Iran received these missiles, it would be able to protect its nuclear sites more effectively, making an aerial strike on these sites more difficult.
However, Russia’s arms export monopoly denied that it plans to deliver the S-300 missiles to either Iran or Syria, the Interfax news agency reported Monday.
“We have no information of this kind,” a spokesman for Rosoboronexport said when asked about potential sales of the sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons to Tehran or Damascus…
Olmert and Medvedev will also discuss the situation in Georgia following its war with Russia in August. However, Israeli sources said, Russia commended Israel for having stopped its arms sales to Georgia completely even before the war and restricted its sales to defensive systems before then. Consequently, this issue is no longer a strain on bilateral relations, the sources said.
Olmert reiterated that Israel would have to give up most of the West Bank and agree to territorial exchanges in any peace agreement with the Palestinians. Asked whether his statement reflected the views of prime minister-designate Tzipi Livni, he said: “My statement reflected my opinion, but this is what the negotiations were based on. She [Livni] was a party to everything, but she does not necessarily agree with every one of my positions.”
Asked whether his statements would not bind Livni and the next government, Olmert replied: “I’m not holding Livni to everything I’ve said, but I believe what I said reflects the negotiations and they will continue in this spirit.”
‘Russia committed to preventing Iran from attaining nuclear arms’
The Jerusalem Post, 6 October 2008
Russia is committed to stopping Iranian nuclearization for military purposes, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Moscow on Monday night.
Lavrov also told Olmert that Russia would continue to act to secure the release of captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit and that Moscow was committed to steering clear of having contacts with Hamas so long as the group failed to abide by the Quartet conditions.
During his meeting with Lavrov, Olmert also urged Russia to support Israeli-Syrian peace talks and “prevent weapons from Syria from reaching extremist elements in Lebanon, such as Hizbullah,” an official from Olmert’s office said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting’s content was not officially made public…
Is Damascus planning a return to Lebanon?
By Michael Bluhm
The Daily Star, 7 October 2008
While Lebanon probably need not fear an impending incursion by the almost 10,000 Syrian troops on Lebanon’s northern border, the recent Syrian deployment has nothing to do with the stated aim of deterring smuggling and instead puts the international community on notice that Syria considers restive North Lebanon a threat to Syrian security, a number of analysts told The Daily Star on Monday.
While the troop movement about two weeks ago could represent the first step toward renewing the presence of Syrian soldiers on Lebanese territory, Damascus’ immediate priority was to protect itself from the unceasing unrest in North Lebanon, said Oussama Safa, executive director of the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies. “The nature of the deployment is not offensive,” he said. “The way they are deployed does not indicate an invasion is imminent.”
“The Syrians are there because Tripoli is fast becoming a proxy land for regional and international score-settling. Tripoli has become a regional mailbox to exchange messages. The nature of the deployment is to make sure you are sealing yourself off from what is becoming a volatile border…”
For now, the unchallenged deployment underscores the interregnum in the region as the US waits for its presidential election on November 4 and Israel could face early elections if Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni cannot cobble together a new cabinet, Hanna said. “This is the vacuum in the international system today,” Hanna added.
“The Syrians are trying to create and shape a certain environment favorable to impose [a return to Lebanon] on the new administrations” in the US and Israel, Hanna said, adding that these designs stood behind Assad’s recent statement that the deployment fell in line with UN Resolution 1701, which ended the summer 2006 war with Israel.
Syria’s decision to move its soldiers to Lebanon’s frontier also symbolizes the failure of US policies in the region to weaken Assad or his partners, Hanna said. The deployment builds on the successes of Syria’s Lebanese allies in the Hizbullah-led March 8 alliance, who gained a blocking minority in a new national unity Cabinet in Doha following street violence in early May, Hanna added.
The Syrians “have got the momentum,” he said. “They are recovering Lebanon as a seat of influence. They have leverage in Lebanon.”
Although Syria will probably not take definitive action with its troops for several months, Assad’s desire to return his soldiers to Lebanon and restore Syria’s regional clout appears clear, Khashan said.
“The Syrians want to market themselves by re-entering Lebanon as a regional power,” he said. “Syria wants to reclaim its regional status.”
“The Syrians will not re-enter Lebanon now,” he added. “The Syrians are patient. They never lose sight of their objective. The Syrians are simply positioning themselves, but they will not re-enter Lebanon until there is a new administration in the US.”
“This is just a message telling the world, ‘There is a problem coming from North Lebanon, and we want the world to know about it until further developments occur.'”