News Round Up (December 19, 2008)

 


By Patrick Worsnip
Reuters
Wednesday, December 17, 2008; 2:53 PM

 Daniel Bellemare

Daniel Bellemare

U.N. investigator says Hariri killing can be solved

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The U.N. investigator probing the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri said on Wednesday he believed the case was solvable but asked for patience as he assembles evidence.

Daniel Bellemare was addressing the U.N. Security Council, which later extended the life of his Beirut-based commission for another two months until a special court to hear the politically sensitive case is set up in The Hague on March 1.

Hariri and 22 other people died in a car bomb explosion in Beirut on February 14, 2005. Some anti-Syrian Lebanese politicians have said Syria was behind the bombing, a charge Damascus denies.

Bellemare, a Canadian who will also be prosecutor when the case comes to court, sought to play down what he said were misconceptions that the move to the Hague would mean indictments would immediately be issued.

He said he would continue his investigations as prosecutor even after the commission ceases operations on February 28 and could not say when they would be completed.

“Fast food justice is not on the menu,” Bellemare said, describing the investigation as “probably one of the most difficult in recent times.”

“There will be no indictment of convenience.”

But he said there was “no such thing as the perfect crime” and, answering the question of whether the case was soluble, added, “While no one ever said it would be easy, my answer to this question is unequivocal: Yes, this case can be solved.”

While countries funding the investigation and the tribunal were entitled to ask whether it was worth continuing, the answer was “absolutely,” he said.

But, he said, “While there is anxiety and impatience, the process must be allowed to follow its course.”

In a report for the council made public earlier this month, Bellemare said his team had found new information that expanded their list of suspects, as well as fresh clues to where the suicide bomber responsible for Hariri’s death came from.

He gave no further details on Wednesday.

The Return of Realpolitik in Arabia
by Fouad Ajami in WSJ

To its surprise, the new administration could yet discover that our adversaries do not wish to see our withdrawal from their midst. The Iranians thrive on the American presence in the Persian Gulf and feed off it. They are the quintessential oppositional force. They are not good at generating policies of their own. Their work consists of subversive attacks on Pax Americana in the region. The call by President Bush’s critics for a dialogue with Iran will be exposed for the pathetic fraud it has been all along. The American drama swirling around the rise of Mr. Obama is of no interest to the theocrats in Tehran. For them, it is business as usual in the Persian Gulf.

Arrests show fears of Saddam followers: The arrests of more than 20 security officials for allegedly trying to revive Saddam Hussein’s banned political party show how the Shiite-led government believes that supporters of the old regime still pose a threat — perhaps as much as al-Qaida or Iranian-backed militias.

Iraq: The Shia Religious State – Matthew Duss, American Prospect

A moment for truth as Britain exits Iraq

Not So Fast
By Eli Lake
The New Republic, 24 December 2008

When it comes to Iraq, “withdrawal” seems to be the word of the day. In Washington, the incoming administration has revived the Obama campaign’s 16- month timetable for removing combat troops from Iraq. At his press conference on Monday, for example, Obama said he still thought that timeframe was “realistic” and said he would be meeting with military commanders to discuss “how we proceed” in what he calls a “withdrawal process.” Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that Obama’s timeframe was “agreeable,” suggesting that the current Pentagon chief has also agreed to a withdrawal.

The agreement ratified on Thanksgiving Day by the Iraqi parliament would seem to lay out a road map for just the kind of withdrawal Obama has promised. It demands that all U.S. forces–with no exceptions–exit the country by the last calendar day of 2011 and that they return to their bases by the end of June 2009. What’s more, it mandates that the unsightly international zone in the center of Iraq’s capital be dismantled and requires the explicit approval of Iraq’s government for any U.S. military actions against Iraq’s neighbors or within the country. For those inclined to call America’s presence in Iraq an occupation, the Status of Forces Agreement, or sofa, as it is referred to at the Pentagon and Foggy Bottom, appears to end it.

All of this has left many with the impression that American soldiers will be out of Iraq by the time Obama begins his campaign for reelection. Or, as Senator Claire McCaskill told Fox News on Sunday: “The important part about that SOFA agreement is it embraces the kind of timetable that Barack Obama made a foundation of his campaign…”

….The call by President Bush’s critics for a dialogue with Iran ill be exposed for the pathetic fraud it has been all along. The American drama swirling around the rise of Mr. Obama is of no interest to the theocrats in Tehran. For them, it is business as usual in the Persian Gulf…..

Russia in talks with Iran over sale of anti-aircraft missiles, despite Israeli objections
By Barak Ravid
Haaretz.com, 16 December 2008

Israel plans to send one of its most senior security officials to Moscow tomorrow to express concern over Russia’s decision to renew contacts with Iran for the sale of advanced anti-aircraft missiles, Haaretz has learned.

Israeli officials said the government will send the Defense Ministry’s Diplomatic-Security Bureau Maj.-Gen. (res) Amos Gilad to try to dissuade the Kremlin from supplying Iran with S-300 missiles – which would significantly complicate any military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

During his two-day visit in Moscow, Gilad will meet with the Russian chief of staff, the head of intelligence as well as senior defense officials and diplomats. In addition to talks on the S-300 sale, Gilad is expected to bring up the Iranian nuclear program and Syria’s supplying of Russian-made weapons to Hezbollah.

Earlier this year, Russia said it would not move forward with the transaction. In October, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited Russia, where he met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and with his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov. The meeting was set up to try and persuade the Russians to drop two deals in the works – one to sell S-300 missiles to Iran and the other to sell them to Syria.

The Russian foreign ministry’s spokesman said Russia will not go ahead with the Iranian deal. “We have declared more than once at the very highest political level that we do not intend to supply those types of armaments to countries located in regions that are, to put it mildly, unstable areas,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko.

The Russian official added that the Kremlin makes decisions on selling such systems based on “both preserving the balance of power in the given region, and taking into account the need to provide stability and security in the region.”

But in spite of these statements, Israeli officials say Russia and Iran renewed negotiations on the purchase of the missile system several weeks ago. The sources confirmed a report that appeared in the foreign press on the matter two weeks ago.

In a recent internal discussion on the matter, Defense Minister Ehud Barak gave ministry officials instructions to put in a request for clarifications from the Russian administration’s highest levels.

The weapons sales are a very sensitive issue for Israeli diplomats, who view it as a form of leverage that Russia is trying to apply on Washington. Some in the Foreign Ministry believe Russia has decided to move forward with the deal in order to demonstrate a hard line ahead of Barack Obama’s entry into the White House as U.S. President.

The S-300 missile, called the SA-10 in the West, has a range of 150 kilometers and is capable of striking a plane at altitudes of up to 30,000 meters. The movable launchers are operational within minutes, and the system’s radar is able to simultaneously acquire and engage dozens of targets.

Poll Finds Widespread International Opposition to US Bases in Persian Gulf
WorldPublicOpinion.org, 15 December 2008

A WorldPublicOpinion.org poll of 21 nations around the world finds widespread opposition to the United States having naval forces based in the Persian Gulf. Most also believe that most people in the Persian Gulf region oppose such bases.

In general, America’s approach to the Middle East and the Muslim world gets poor grades around the world. The United States is widely viewed as disrespectful of the Muslim world. Its support for democracy in the Muslim world is seen as limited to cases where the government is cooperative with the US. More publics than not believe that the US is not really seeking the creation of a viable Palestinian state.

The poll of 21,740 respondents was conducted between July 15 and October 24, 2008 by WorldPublicOpinion.org in 21 nations (in Iran: January 13-February 9). Margins of error range from approximately +/-2 to 4 percent. Most of the world’s largest nations were included (China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Russia), as well as several nations in the Middle East (Egypt, Iran, Jordan, the Palestinian Territories, Azerbaijan, and Turkey). Also included were Mexico, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Kenya, Pakistan, Thailand, and Ukraine, as were publics in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Not all questions were asked in all nations…

Iran’s Regional Security Policy: Opportunities and Challenges
George Emile Irani
16/12/2008

…….The linchpin of Iran’s policy is to preserve its security and project its presence and influence in countries with major Shia populations, such as Iraq and Lebanon. Its desire is to take the leadership of the Muslim world away from the hands of Sunni-dominated states such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Iranian foreign policy is dictated by the need to maintain the country’s sovereignty and independence in the light of past interventions by regional and global powers.

The country has developed a strong strategic relationship with Syria and both countries have adopted policies supporting anti-Western and anti-Israeli groups, such as Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon…..

THE TANGLED US-IRAN KNOT, Part 4, Is a deal on the Middle East possible?
By Gareth Porter

Iran is both willing and able to lend the US a hand in Middle Eastern conflicts – and with the Sunni extremists the two share as an enemy. But for there to be a grand accord to rekindle US-Iran cooperation, the will need to recognize ‘s regional power status and end its fixation on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program.

Russia to donate 10 MiG fighter jets to Lebanon
By Borzou Daragahi and Raed Rafei

Moscow says it also might sell tanks and artillery to Lebanon and that its goal is to help stabilize the nation. The move signifies Russia’s military resurgence in areas long dominated by the U.S.

Russia in talks with Iran over sale of anti-aircraft missiles, despite Israeli objections
By Barak Ravid
Haaretz.com, 16 December 2008

Israel plans to send one of its most senior security officials to Moscow tomorrow to express concern over Russia’s decision to renew contacts with Iran for the sale of advanced anti-aircraft missiles, Haaretz has learned.

Israeli officials said the government will send the Defense Ministry’s Diplomatic-Security Bureau Maj.-Gen. (res) Amos Gilad to try to dissuade the Kremlin from supplying Iran with S-300 missiles – which would significantly complicate any military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

During his two-day visit in Moscow, Gilad will meet with the Russian chief of staff, the head of intelligence as well as senior defense officials and diplomats. In addition to talks on the S-300 sale, Gilad is expected to bring up the Iranian nuclear program and Syria’s supplying of Russian-made weapons to Hezbollah.

Earlier this year, Russia said it would not move forward with the transaction. In October, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited Russia, where he met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and with his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov. The meeting was set up to try and persuade the Russians to drop two deals in the works – one to sell S-300 missiles to Iran and the other to sell them to Syria.

The Russian foreign ministry’s spokesman said Russia will not go ahead with the Iranian deal. “We have declared more than once at the very highest political level that we do not intend to supply those types of armaments to countries located in regions that are, to put it mildly, unstable areas,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko.

The Russian official added that the Kremlin makes decisions on selling such systems based on “both preserving the balance of power in the given region, and taking into account the need to provide stability and security in the region.”

But in spite of these statements, Israeli officials say Russia and Iran renewed negotiations on the purchase of the missile system several weeks ago. The sources confirmed a report that appeared in the foreign press on the matter two weeks ago.

In a recent internal discussion on the matter, Defense Minister Ehud Barak gave ministry officials instructions to put in a request for clarifications from the Russian administration’s highest levels.

The weapons sales are a very sensitive issue for Israeli diplomats, who view it as a form of leverage that Russia is trying to apply on Washington. Some in the Foreign Ministry believe Russia has decided to move forward with the deal in order to demonstrate a hard line ahead of Barack Obama’s entry into the White House as U.S. President.

The S-300 missile, called the SA-10 in the West, has a range of 150 kilometers and is capable of striking a plane at altitudes of up to 30,000 meters. The movable launchers are operational within minutes, and the system’s radar is able to simultaneously acquire and engage dozens of targets.

Poll Finds Widespread International Opposition to US Bases in Persian Gulf
WorldPublicOpinion.org, 15 December 2008

A WorldPublicOpinion.org poll of 21 nations around the world finds widespread opposition to the United States having naval forces based in the Persian Gulf. Most also believe that most people in the Persian Gulf region oppose such bases.

In general, America’s approach to the Middle East and the Muslim world gets poor grades around the world. The United States is widely viewed as disrespectful of the Muslim world. Its support for democracy in the Muslim world is seen as limited to cases where the government is cooperative with the US. More publics than not believe that the US is not really seeking the creation of a viable Palestinian state….

Comments (58)


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51. Alex said:

Man eats 46 latkes in 8 minutes to win N.Y. Hanukkah contest
By The Associated Press

LAKE GROVE, New York – That’s a lot of latkes: A 23-year-old mechanical engineering student has downed 46 of the potato pancakes in eight minutes to win a contest at a Long Island deli.

Pete Czerwinski (sir-WIN’-skee) says he’d never eaten a latke before consuming about seven pounds of them Sunday at Zan’s in Lake Grove.

The contest coincided with the first day of the eight-day Hanukkah festival.

The Toronto bodybuilder says he’s just “a power eater” whose brain never signals that he’s full.

Association of Independent Competitive Eaters Chairman Arnie Chapman says Czerwinski demolished the contest’s previous record of 31 latkes, set in 2006.

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December 22nd, 2008, 9:04 pm

 

52. norman said:

Rumyal,

I just think that the Jews are more vocal on Darfur and Bosnia before that and other areas than on the plight of the Palestinians and they have a chance to change the future of the Palestinians, They should be more vocal to show the world that right is right and wrong is wrong no matter who is involved.

I hope we hear more from American Jewish leaders things that will push Israel to change course and understand that the only way to have people care about Israel is to show that it cares about the Palestinians , and I am not saying the militants , The ordinary Palestinians that count and can change the attitude in the Mideast.

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December 23rd, 2008, 2:10 am

 

53. Rumyal said:

Dear Norman,

I’m not sure how to measure that, but I’ll try and explain further why they were less vocal on the issue.

The relationship between the Jews in America and the state of Israel is complex. As I said there are the fan-boys that will follow Israel in an axiomatic manner. Israel is a great source of pride and they will stick to the ideology that will not deprive them of of this source of pride. So, unlike Darfur, supporting the Palestinians does involve a personal price for these folks.

Those that do wish to voice a more critical opinion are in a bind. Traditionally, the Jews in the US felt on shaky moral ground with respect to Israel because unlike their relatives in Israel who spilled their blood and lived an uneasy life building a “shelter for all Jews”, they have preferred the comforts of the US. Former Israelis who have migrated to the US were even on a lower rung on the moral ladder, being denounced as sell-outs etc.

In this climate, US Jewry felt compelled to shut up, disengage, or become unconditional fanboys and, of course, always keep the wallet open…

As I alluded to in my previous comment, I think this is changing. I personally feel that many more US Jews are feeling now that they have both the right and the obligation to start helping chart a new way for Israel. Both because Israel has been very consistent in doing the wrong things and also because of their conflict as Israeli supporters on one hand and their universal humanistic beliefs on the other hand.

There is also a change in perception in the way Israelis view the diaspora. In the early days those who didn’t come to Israel were considered weak-willed and the grand-vision was that all Jews will converge to Israel. Now, it is clear that Israelis themselves are not willing to give up their personal ties to the diaspora, they seek their dual citizenship, go live abroad periodically, etc. So there is more fluidity—and as a result a sense of a more equal partnership—between diaspora and Israeli Jews, which empowers diaspora Jews to voice their opinions on what the future of Israel needs to look like.

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December 23rd, 2008, 2:49 am

 

54. norman said:

Rumyal ,

I am glad that things are changing for the sake of the Jews in and outside Israel.

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December 23rd, 2008, 3:05 am

 

55. Rumyal said:

Norman,

Me too. I don’t know how good I am at reading the communal tea-leaves in the US but it seems to me this is the current direction. For example, the support for the current set of conscious objectors to military service is mostly coming from US Jewish organizations—this was unheard of before.

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December 23rd, 2008, 3:11 am

 

56. norman said:

Rumyal,

Interesting , I hope they can get on CNN , Lary King, that would reach many people around the world.

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December 23rd, 2008, 3:40 am

 

57. Deborah said:

One of the most fascinating things I find about political commonsense in Washington D.C. on the Palestinians is the assumption that they can be pushed into enclaves, surrounded by a wall that winds deep into Palestinian Territory, and call that a “state.” Even Olmert has argued in a Dec. 4, 2008 interview in the New York Review of Books that “anyone who wants to control all of Jerusalem will have to absorb 270,000 Arabs into Israel.” As he notes, the same is true for the West Bank. In other words, either Israel gets out and a Palestinian state with sovereignty is established or you will have a Palestinian leadership emerging in less than twenty years which will say, “fine we’ve tried freedom, now we want equality.” Again, Olmert himself has noted that the struggle for one person, one vote, is likely to be far “cleaner.”

Is anyone in any U.S. administration at all concerned that U.S. national security is not enhanced by the current political arrangements between the Palestinians and Israel? Olmert has recognized it. Too bad U.S. politicians can’t do the same.

There is a “hearing” problem among U.S. policy makers when it comes to public opinion in the Arab world, a kind of wish to hear that Arab publics mean something other than what they say or that they can just be bought off by economic growth. When they say they like U.S. policy toward Israel and that they don’t like the U.S. double standard when it comes to Israel, they are not being irrational or expressing some kind of false consciousness. They are giving us political viewpoints that are only amenable to a more evenhanded policy in the Arab-Israeli conflict based on international resolutions and law. The Bush administration thinks that the “new realities” established on the ground by Israel, namely major settlements in the West Bank, will have to be taken into account in any negotiated settlement. Yeah, they’ll be taken into account, when the Palestinians decide to take a different strategic path after years of a peace process that has not delivered them from Israeli occupation.

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December 24th, 2008, 11:48 pm

 

58. George Kronfli said:

I really don’t see the point of negotiating with “Israel”. Left alone, the built in hatreds will cause it to implode in the next 50 years and the world will be rid of this evil entity.

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December 26th, 2008, 4:23 pm

 

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