News Roundup (23 January 2008)

I hope everyone will continue to post to the letter from Alon Liel,  Chairman of the Israeli-Syrian Peace Society, posted below. It has stimulated very interesting dialogue. Alex will be posting a summary soon.
I begin this news roundup with a short announcement:
Serene Taleb-Agha [] has begun a "a list for English-speaking residents of Syria, in particular expatriates from America, Britain, Canada, Australia, South Africa, etc. Dual nationals are welcome. We are here to network and share our experiences living in Syria." Here is the group:

Hugh Macleod writes: "I wrote an analysis for San Fran Chron on the attack on the US embassy vehicle and how there appears to be a new strand of political violence emerging in Lebanon, that seems more the work of Al-Qaeda style fundies than hit squads taking out anti-Syrian figures . . 

The attack on a U.S. embassy vehicle that killed four people last week represents a dangerous widening of political violence that includes international targets, and shows how al Qaeda-inspired extremists are attempting to push the politically deadlocked country toward civil war, some analysts say.
"Al Qaeda is now unleashed in Lebanon and they are here to stay," said Ahmad Moussali, professor of political science and Islamic studies at the American University of Beirut. "Al Qaeda thrives in civil war and chaos. International players should be very careful in Lebanon."
Just last month Gen. Francois Haj, the man tapped to take over Suleiman's role as army chief and head of operations against Fatah Islam, was assassinated by a car bomb. It was the first attack on a high ranking army officer in decades.

Meanwhile, U.N. peacekeepers in southern Lebanon have also been threatened and attacked by Sunni militants.

In a statement aired on Dec. 29, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden criticized Hezbollah for agreeing to the deployment of the U.N. Interim Forces in Lebanon following the end of the 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah fighters in 2006. Bin Laden said the U.N. soldiers were on a mission to "protect the Jews."

Some analysts said bin Laden's message could have been interpreted as a rallying call by Sunni militants.

"Bin Laden's threats represent a kind of edict, guidelines which are adapted by groups that identify themselves with al Qaeda," said Amal Saad Ghorayeb, an expert on Hezbollah at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut.

Ghorayeb compared the attack on the U.S. embassy vehicle to the Jan. 8 roadside bomb that exploded when two U.N. soldiers drove through Rmaileh, 21 miles south of Beirut, close to the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, a hotbed for Sunni Islamist groups.

"Both were very clumsily planned and were not high value targets. It was an assassination attempt but not along the lines of previous assassinations," said Ghorayeb, referring to a string of well-planned assassinations of anti-Syrian figures in Lebanon since the 2005 killing by an explosion of former prime minister, Rafik Hariri. "It could well be an al Qaeda-inspired attack. There has been a resurgence of sorts. Fatah Islam were always clumsy."

BAGHDAD (AFP) — Syria and Saudi Arabia have reduced the flow of foreign insurgents crossing their borders to fight in Iraq, a US military spokesman said on Sunday.

"Syria and Saudi Arabia have taken a number of steps to reduce the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq," US military spokesman Rear Admiral Gregory Smith told a press conference in Baghdad.

"In early 2007, 110 foreigners were coming into Iraq from Syria every month. That is now reduced to 40 to 50."

Syria has introduced roadblocks and border patrols in a bid to crack down on fighters trying to cross into the war-ravaged country, while Saudi Arabia has tightened requirements for people applying for visas to Syria, Smith said.

Papers Paint New Portrait of Iraq's Foreign Insurgents

90 percent of foreign fighters entering Iraq during the one-year period ending in August came via Syria, a greater proportion than previously believed.

More North Africans were foreign terrorists than previously assessed." Although Saudi Arabia was by far the most common country of origin of foreign fighters, with about 40 percent of the total, a surprising share — 19 percent — came from Libya. Overall, about 40 percent were North African.

Based on information solicited in the longer Islamic State of Iraq forms, the Syrian role in the traffic appeared more that of entrepreneur than ideological partner and seemed to be a source of concern and suspicion for al-Qaeda in Iraq. Entrants were asked for names and descriptions of Syrians they had come into contact with, and were asked how they were treated. Many responded that the Syrians had demanded exorbitant sums of money, often exactly the amount the entrants were carrying.

Sex outside marriage is legal in Syria, lawyer says 

A Syrian rights activist urged couples who live together outside of wedlock – cohabiting – to sign a contract stipulating the rights of both parties.

The prevalence of this living arrangement – found mostly in the capital Damascus – was brought into the open after the state-owned newspaper Al-Thawra ran a story about cohabiting couples in 2006.  Ali told that the law does not prohibit sexual relationships between unmarried couples — as long as both are adult and single — and can thus be legally recognized.

Nasrallah's taunt gets under Israel's skin

Hizbullah's leader said on Saturday his party had the remains of Israeli soldiers killed in Lebanon during the 2006 war, saying the dead were left behind "in our villages and fields." "Your army left behind the remains of soldiers in our villages and fields," Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said, addressing the Israeli people during a speech to tens of thousands of Shiites taking part in commemorations marking Ashura.

"They [Israeli army] were so weak on the field that they left behind remains not of one, two or three but a large number of your soldiers," Nasrallah added. "One body is almost complete," Nasrallah said. "What did the [Israeli] army say to the family of these soldiers and what remains did they give them?"

The Hizbullah leader's comments sparked outrage in Israel, which prides itself on doing everything to recover the remains of its soldiers from fields of battle and has in the past freed prisoners in exchange for remains of soldiers and civilians.

Israeli ministers on Sunday cursed Nasrallah as a "sewer rat" for boasting that his group had Israeli body parts. "Nasrallah has crossed all possible boundaries of inhumanity,"  Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's centrist Kadima party said ahead of a weekly Cabinet meeting.

Berri: Syrian-Saudi reconciliation key to Lebanon solution

"When [Arab League Secretary General Amr] Moussa came to see me before going to Damascus and asked me if I have any message for [Syrian President] Bashar Assad, I told him just tell him to reconcile with Saudi Arabia," Berri told The Daily Star in an exclusive interview Saturday.

He added that the rift was "Syria's mistake," the result of comments made by Syrian Vice President Farouk Sharaa, which soured relations. Hopes are high that the upcoming Arab summit in March in Damascus will serve as an ideal platform for a Saudi-Syrian reconciliation.

Berri said that "only the 10+10+10" equal distribution of Cabinet posts between the majority. The plan calls for neither majority nor opposition having the power to hinder the government or monopolize power and gives the president the swing vote in Cabinet as the arbiter.

He said the ruling coalition supported a 14+10+6 formula of seats. Berri said that "only the 10+10+10" equal distribution of Cabinet posts between the majority, the opposition and the president in a new government would meet with the requirements of the three-point Arab plan. The plan calls for neither majority nor opposition having the power to hinder the government or monopolize power and gives the president the swing vote in Cabinet as the arbiter.

The speaker said that the American strategic interests lie in ensuring Israel's security and the continued flow of oil, while everything else is "just details."  

Nasrallah electrifies faithful in Beirut's southern suburbs

Hizbullah's Al-Manar television station said one million people had turned out for the Ashura commemoration, in the Sfeir neighborhood of Beirut's southern suburbs.

The Hizbullah leader has rarely made public appearances since the 2006 war. His last public appearance was at the opening of a book fair in May in the southern suburbs of Beirut.

He also appeared at a massive victory rally in the southern suburbs in September 2006. He told the cheering crowds that his group was ready for a new conflict with Israel. "If Israel launches a new war against Lebanon, we promise them a war that will change the face of the entire region," Nasrallah said. – AFP

The reinvention of Lebanese Shiite history

Among its defects, the most potentially damaging is that Hizbullah threatens the Lebanese Shiite community by seeking to impose its exclusivist version of Shiite history. Shiites have left their imprint on Lebanon's history ever since the Middle Ages, albeit with varying degrees of political involvement. To presume that Lebanese Shiite history only really began when Hizbullah was established is unfair first and foremost to the Shiite community itself.

It is incorrect to say that Shiites were excluded from Lebanese political life.

A friend who attended this conference sent the following summation:

Analyses of the 9/6/07 Israeli strike on a Syrian facility near the Euphrates
Hosted by the Center for National Policy, 1/23/08

David Albright, Institute for Science and International Security

  • The Israelis believe they hit a nuclear reactor
  • Finding nuclear reactors through satellite imaging is very difficult; it is impossible to find nuclear weapons production facilities
  • Syria did not obtain plutonium from North Korea or any other country, but probably received nuclear assistance
  • The alleged Syrian nuclear reactor was not very developed; there is no Syrian fuel fabrication plant or processing plant
  • By attacking Israel showed no confidence in the international community's ability to control countries' nuclear activities
  • There is now a new building on the site; it is probably a warehouse, but it might have been constructed in order to cover up excavation of the remains of the previous building
  • It is unlikely that the new building is nuclear given the speed with which it was constructed

Robin Wright, Washington Post

  • Originally thought that the facility was a Lebanon-bound Iranian arms cache for Hezbollah
  • North Koreans were on the ground at the site and the Israelis attacked at night to avoid collateral damage
  • The U.S. and Israel shared intelligence before the bombing
  • Syria didn't invite the IAEA to inspect the site after the bombing, which makes their innocence suspect
  • After looking at satellite photos from 2001, it is confirmed that construction began under Hafez Al-Assad
  • The secret was held so closely that some of the Assad family members didn't know about the facility
  • In 35 years of reporting, she has never seen a mystery like this

Bonus fact: The Makhloof family (Bashar's mother's family) owns the Dunkin' Donuts franchise in Syria.

Conn Hallinan: Desert Mirage: What Was the Bombing of Syria Really About? Desert Mirage. By CONN HALLINAN. So what was that Sept. 6 Israeli bombing of Syria all about?


President George W. Bush hasn’t accomplished much on his voyage to the Middle East, but he did take the time to inflict another wound on the entire U.S. intelligence community—and on the credibility of anything he might ever again say about the world.

In the latest Newsweek, Michael Hirsh reports that, during a private conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Bush “all but disowned” the agencies’ Dec. 3 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. A “senior administration official who accompanied Bush” on the trip confided to Hirsh that Bush “told the Israelis that he can’t control what the intelligence community says, but that [the NIE’s] conclusions don’t reflect his own views.” [complete article]

"A Russian advantage that Syria would do well to exploit," By Vitaly Naumkin

Russia's approach to a Syrian-Israeli peace process is very much a function of developments in Russo-Syrian relations. Since the beginning of the 21st century, Russo-Syrian ties have been making good headway in quite a number of fields. Certainly, the traditional character of historical ties between Moscow and Damascus is playing a role. But one should also not ignore the pragmatism inherent in President Vladimir Putin's foreign-policy course, and in particular the promotion of interests of Russian companies in world markets, the Middle East included.

Moscow's decision, taken in early 2005, to write off $9.782 billion or 73 percent of Syria's $13.4 billion debt, the remaining $3.62 billion to be paid off in installments, was a great boost for the development of cooperation.

Naturally, Russo-Syrian relations are not based on economic interests alone, but also security interests. On the one hand, religious extremism and terrorism are significant threats in the region for Russia. Consequently, Moscow is building cooperation with the United States and other global and regional actors. Incidentally, the secular regime in Syria is a reliable partner in this regard.

On the other hand, the way the US is operating in the region, particularly in Iraq, often only provokes fresh outbursts of terrorist activity that require that Moscow follow its own balanced course. In addition, the crisis in the system of arms control, US reliance on forceful means of resolving conflicts and other crisis phenomena in the framework of international relations demand from Russia at least a partial restoration of its military potential lost in the 1990s. In this connection, the possibilities Syria can offer, to Russian ships stationed in the Mediterranean for example, are a weighty argument in favor of developing relations with Damascus.

This in no way implies that Moscow regards everything Syria is doing with unqualified approval. …

In Iran reversal, bureaucrats
triumphed over Cheney team

Senior officials at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the umbrella organization that coordinates the U.S.’s 16 spy agencies and that oversaw the report, say payback wasn’t a factor. They defend the report as a righting of the ship after the Iraq intelligence failures.

Hundreds of officials were involved and thousands of documents were drawn upon in this report, according to the DNI, making it impossible for any official to overly sway it. Intelligence sources were vetted and questioned in ways they weren’t ahead of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Thomas Fingar, 62 years old, is one of the lead architects of the Iran report. A veteran State Department official, Mr. Fingar helped lead the office that argued in 2002 that evidence of Iraq’s nuclear program was faulty. He is now a senior official at the DNI.

Of the backlash against the report, Mr. Fingar says, “A lot of it is just nonsense. The idea that this thing was written by a bunch of nonprofessional renegades or refugees is just silly.” [complete article]

Lebanon Delays $7 Billion Sale of Phone Companies
By Massoud A. Derhally

Jan. 22 (Bloomberg) — Lebanon's government postponed the auction of two mobile-phone companies, at which it hoped to raise $7 billion, because of a political stalemate over the election of a president, said Minister of Telecommunications Marwan Hamadeh.

“We had committed ourselves to this February, but we will not take a decision before a new president and a new government takes over,'' Hamadeh said in an interview from Beirut today. The ruling coalition has agreed to a delay of three months.

The government, which will retain a third of the shares in the two companies, MTC Touch and Alfa, plans to use revenue from the sale to repay part of its debt. Revenue from telecommunications accounts for about 40 percent of the state's income, Hamadeh said.

Sami Moubayed, "Damascus Wearing Make-Up"

A few months ago, I met with one of the organizers of Damascus-Capital of Arab Culture 2008. She wanted my advise on what can be done to promote Damascus. I made several suggestions, including honoring 365-Syrians in 2008. I advised against one thing, however, saying: “Don’t try to promote Damascus as a beautiful city. It is no longer beautiful. Say that it is magical. Say that it is historical. Say that it is great—but it is no longer beautiful!”

God proved me wrong today. Damascus under snow was AMAZING. I have been through winters in London, Paris, Berlin, Cairo, and Beirut. Each of these cities is magical in its own way, and I am no fool. I know that we are not as majestic or organized as London, nor are we clean and proper like Berlin, or charming and romantic like Paris. But from where I stand today, Damascus is more beautiful than “all of the above.”

The Damascenes have not seen so much snow in years. The snow exposed the beauty of Damascus; it covered all the distortions on the streets, the damage done to roads, buildings, and monuments. It almost erased the ugliness of bad planning, and the destruction left behind by mediocre architects.

What I saw today was Damascus 1950—my Damascus. We witnessed its remains in the 1980s both first hand, through bedtime stories from our elders, and via the magical poetry of Nizar Qabbani. We must not forget that there is a rising number of young Syrians around who simply, don’t know ‘that’ Damascus.

I just came back from a cold and enchanting walk in Salhiyah. It reminded me of London. I saw the statue of Yusuf al-Azma, the martyr of Damascus, covered with snow. I saw children in utter joy, with heavy clothing, building a snowman near the Central Bank. They were laughing like crazy. I heard the voice of Fayruz coming out of shops that managed to remain open, despite the blizzard. The Damascenes are rediscovering Fayruz, as she is about to perform at the Opera House on January 28—her first performance, in nearly 30-years. Other Syrians were listening to Um Kalthoum playing on Damascus Radio. She was singing Ruba’yat al-Khayyam, an eternal classic; another reminder of a bygone era.

Fayrouz, Damascus, Um Kalthoum, snow, and roasted chestnuts from one of the peddlers of Damascus. …………..

tishrin park

Comments (216)

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201. Honest Patriot said:

MNA, thanks to you I have “discovered” but it does read like a regime mouthpiece from a country with no free press. I’m sorry but I can’t count the news and spin written there as objective or complete.

Offended, the contradiction in the reported Junblat statements may well be due to the distortion or selective quoting in

SimoHurtta, what is that source you’re quoting for the bribe in Iraq? It has no credibility. Your subsequent rants are also not fact-based and the USA whose foreign policy you love to hate is the one who defeated the Nazis and reconstructed Europe. There is no doubt that you are sincere and passionate about your beliefs and your disdain of AIG. But it all comes across as emotion-based with no facts to back it. When we disagree with AIG we engage him in a rational debate. Your approach leads nowehere and it’s often difficult to understand your writing.

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January 30th, 2008, 8:11 am


202. Honest Patriot said:

From Naharnet:

Initial Testimony: Gunshots Came from Shiyah
التحقيقات مستمرة…وإطلاق النار على الجيش مصدره الشياح

Note, in particular:
“Meanwhile, the pro-opposition al-Akhbar newspaper said Hizbullah and Amal movement were waiting for the results of the investigation into Sunday’s riots before announcing their stance regarding their support for consensus presidential candidate army commander Gen. Michel Suleiman.”

Way to base political decisions on principles!
Any group that ties support for a candidate to events that happen ten levels below him in the chain-of-command is so blatantly trying to find excuses and justifications for decisions motivated by other considerations. The sad part is that it’s all for local political consumption by and brainwashing of their followers.

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January 30th, 2008, 8:23 am


203. Honest Patriot said:

What say you about the following hypothetical scenario?

Everyone rallies around Aoun as President, with the 14+10+6 formula. Clearly Aoun will have to agree. What about HA and the other members of the Opposition ?

HA would have to clear out tent city and fall in line with Aoun. For his part, Aoun will have no one else to blame and all the power he ever hoped for. Now, will he deliver peace, prosperity, and stability ?

Rather than QN’s suggestion of the Government resigning, I put forth the scenario of rallying around Aoun.

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January 30th, 2008, 8:34 am


204. T said:

Who owns the USA?
(Israeli dual-national editor propagates smear against Pres candidate Barack Obama while practicing Democracy)-

Obama aide wants talks with terrorists
Foreign adviser’s ‘anti-Israel policies,’ sympathy for Hamas, raise concerns

Posted: January 29, 2008 By Aaron Klein World net Daily

JERUSALEM – While officials here largely maintain a policy against interfering in U.S. election politics, some Israeli security officials quietly expressed “concern” about an adviser to Sen. Barack Obama who has advocated negotiations with Hamas and providing international assistance to the terrorist group.

The officials noted Robert Malley, a principal Obama foreign policy adviser, has penned numerous opinion articles, many of them co-written with a former adviser to the late Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, petitioning for dialogue with Hamas and blasting Israel for numerous policies he says harm the Palestinian cause.

Malley also previously penned a well-circulated New York Review of Books piece largely blaming Israel for the collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations at Camp David in 2000 when Arafat turned down a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and eastern sections of Jerusalem and instead returned to the Middle East to launch an intifada, or terrorist campaign, against the Jewish state.

Malley’s contentions have been strongly refuted by key participants at Camp David, including President Bill Clinton, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and primary U.S. envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross, all of whom squarely blamed Arafat’s refusal to make peace for the talks’ failure.

“We are noting with concern some of Obama’s picks as advisers, particularly Robert Malley who has expressed sympathy to Hamas and Hezbollah and offered accounts of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that don’t jibe with the facts,” said one security official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official stated he was not authorized to talk to the media about U.S. politics, noting Israeli officials are instructed to “stay out” of American political affairs.

In February 2006, after Hamas won a majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament and amid a U.S. and Israeli attempt to isolate the Hamas-run Palestinian Authority, Malley wrote an op-ed for the Baltimore Sun advocating international aid to the terror group’s newly formed government.

“The Islamists (Hamas) ran on a campaign of effective government and promised to improve Palestinians’ lives; they cannot do that if the international community turns its back,” wrote Malley in a piece entitled, “Making the Best of Hamas’ Victory.”

Malley contended the election of Hamas expressed Palestinian “anger at years of humiliation and loss of self-respect because of Israeli settlement expansion, Arafat’s imprisonment, Israel’s incursions, Western lecturing and, most recently and tellingly, the threat of an aid cut off in the event of an Islamist success.”

Malley said the U.S. should not “discourage third-party unofficial contacts with [Hamas] in an attempt to moderate it.”

Hamas is responsible for scores of deadly shootings, suicide bombings and rocket attacks aimed at Jewish civilian population centers. The past few weeks alone, Hamas militants took credit for firing more than 200 rockets into Israel.

Hamas’ official charter calls for the murder of Jews and destruction of Israel.

Hamas maintained a national unity government with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas until the Palestinian leader dissolved the agreement and deposed the Hamas prime minister last year.

In an op-ed in the Washington Post two weeks ago coauthored by Arafat adviser Hussein Agha, Malley – using could be perceived as anti-Israel language – urged Israel’s negotiating partner Abbas to reunite with Hamas.

“A renewed national compact and the return of Hamas to the political fold would upset Israel’s strategy of perpetuating Palestinian geographic and political division,” wrote Malley.

He further petitioned Israel to hold talks with Hamas.

“An arrangement between Israel and Hamas could advance both sides’ interests,” wrote Malley.

In numerous other op-eds, Malley advocates a policy of engagement with Hamas.

After the breakdown of the Camp David talks, Malley wrote a lengthy New York Times piece that mostly blamed Israel and the U.S. for the breakdown of the negotiations.

Malley was a special assistant to Clinton for Arab-Israeli affairs and was a member of the U.S. peace team during the Camp David negotiations. He currently serves as director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at the International Crisis Group, which is partially funded by billionaire and Obama campaign contributor George Soros, who also serves on the board of the Crisis Group.

Ed Lasky, a contributor to the American Thinker blog, calls Malley a “[Palestinian] propagandist” who, he charged, bends “the truth to serve an agenda that is marked by anti-Israel bias. … Malley’s writings strike me as being akin to propaganda.”

Lasky points out Malley’s father, Simon Malley, was a personal friend of Arafat and wrote in support of numerous struggles against Western countries. Simon Malley founded Afrique Asie, a French magazine that was known for its advocacy for “liberation” struggles throughout the world, including the Palestinian cause.

Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, called Simon Malley a “sympathizer” of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which, headed by Arafat, carried out numerous terror attacks.

“[Robert] Malley has seemingly followed in his father’s footsteps: He represents the next generation of anti-Israel activism,” wrote Lasky.

Obama spiritual adviser also anti-Israel?

Obama the past few days has taken note of his growing negative image within the pro-Israel and Jewish activist community, reaching out yesterday to a coalition of Jewish and Israeli newspapers.

Obama told Israel’s Haaretz daily there is a “constant virulent campaign” being waged against him, aimed particularly at weakening support among Democrat voters within the Jewish community.

Obama said “false” e-mail campaigns calling him Muslim and accusing him of not pledging allegiance to the U.S. have been especially visible in the Jewish community.

The presidential hopeful urged Haaretz and U.S. Jewish newspapers to use their “megaphone” so people can hear “from the horse’s mouth” that anti-Israel accusations against him are “unfounded.”

Mass e-mail distributions have pointed out Obama’s spiritual adviser, Jeremiah Wright Jr. of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, recently presented Nation of Islam founder Louis Farrakhan with a “Lifetime Achievement” award. Farrakhan has expressed consistent anti-Israel views.

Wright, who reportedly married Obama and baptized his daughters, has called for divestment from Israel and refers to Israel as a “racist” state.”

Obama called Wright’s heralding of Farrahkan a “mistake” but has not spoken out against Wright’s views regarding Israel.

Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick noted in a column last week, “Obama has taken no steps to moderate his church’s anti-Israel invective. Obama’s affiliation with Wright aligns with his choice of financial backers and foreign policy advisers. To varying degrees, all of them exhibit hostility towards Israel and support for appeasing jihadists.”
———-the OUTCOME——
Hillary Clinton Thanks Jewish Legislator for Victory
30 January 08 (

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton opened up her victory speech in the Florida primaries Tuesday by thanking a Jewish legislator for helping her win. Florida Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman raised millions of dollars for the Clinton campaign.

She defeated Senator Barack Obama, giving her a big boost in the race following his victory in South Carolina. He has been the victim of a massive e-mail campaign which falsely accused him of being a Muslim who would bring Bin Laden to the White House if he were to win the general elections in November.
Sibel Edmonds spy update (Turkish translator who accused Israeli dual-nationals of spying on America/ stealing & selling nuke secrets to rogue states.)
Keith Ryan, a US diplomat working in Customs for Homeland Security in Pakistan was assassinated Monday in Islamabad. It is suspected retaliation as he may have been a whistleblower associated with info in London Times investigation on File 203a. His father, Bob Ryan, is a collaegue of one of the reporters covering the story for The Times.
Much more to follow.

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January 30th, 2008, 10:01 am


205. MSK said:


Akhbar al-Khaleej, the source of that “$5 mio for each Iraqi MP’s vote for the new oil law” claim is not a reputable source. It’s on the same level as Kuwait’s Al-Siyasa.


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January 30th, 2008, 10:47 am


206. why-discuss said:

Does he ( Walid Joumblatt) really believe that the Iranian and Syrian regimes are in any danger of being toppled? I can’t believe that he is that naive.
Do you have still illusions about Jumblatt mental sanity?
His head has turned so much that he lost his balance and now utters lots of inflammatory nonsense. The West has finally understood that and dumped him, this is why he went to Russia trying to get a replacement ally. In a few months he will go to Iran.

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January 30th, 2008, 10:52 am


207. why-discuss said:

T Said
If Sleiman doesnt abide impartially by the law and find the perps- NO MATTER THE OUTCOME- he shouldnt be the President. Do you agree? Only a truly fair, non-aligned actor can save Lebanon now.

I agree, and I guess this is what Hezbollah and the CPL want to see: finally an impartial and not politically manipulated investigation.
I am anxious to see if Sleiman will be allowed to do that.

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January 30th, 2008, 10:58 am


208. T said:

The FBI/CIA is already over in Lebanon trying to help out. Maybe they can get to the bottom of all these killings- like they helped us solve 911.

Why not get outside, disinterested investigators with the tech capability? China? Russia? Norway? Just brainstorming.

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January 30th, 2008, 11:10 am


209. Qifa Nabki said:


Your formula is an out-and-out victory for the opposition. In fact, it’s more than they’ve ever asked for!

Under that scheme, they get everything they want: Aoun as president, a blocking veto, and in fact, a majority (10+6)!!

My suggestion (which I should have qualified, and will as soon as I have some time) is geared toward creating a situation where no side can claim a complete victory, which is what the opposition has been calling for anyway.

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January 30th, 2008, 2:42 pm


210. alle said:

About Timur Jumblatt, wasn’t there an article exactly like that somewhere about one/two months ago? Where it was said he was kissing up to Damascus, but this was then denied.

Same thing again?

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January 30th, 2008, 3:22 pm


211. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Interesting take on the Lebanese situation:

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January 30th, 2008, 4:10 pm


212. Nour said:

Lebanon under its current system can never ever be sovereign, as the various competing sects and sectarian leaders will do anything and collaborate with anyone to preserve and/or improve their sectarian standing and increase their share of the pie. The Lebanese formula has been an utter and complete failure since its very inception. It has never formed an actual viable state, but rather a conglomeration of sects and tribes competing and many times warring with each other. This can never constitute a formula for success.

As for those suggesting that the French/US/Saudi/Israeli influence in Lebanon cannot be compared to Syrian influence are actually correct in their conclusion but completely wrong in their reasoning. The Syrians and Lebanese are joined by a singe interest and a common destiny. They enjoy a single socio-economic life-cycle, such that events on either side of the artificial border will have a tremendous impact on the other side. This is not the case for the other mentioned countries, and thus if Lebanon was to descend into utter chaos they really wouldn’t care much as the effect on them would be very minimal. In addition, to underestimate the level of interference the above-mentioned countries are exercising in Lebanon is dangerously obtuse. It is not normal for ambassadors of foreign nations to summon politicians and leaders, including potential presidential candidates, of their host country into their office to discuss matters of internal politics. They are in fact acting as the rulers and lords of Lebanon giving orders and directing specific political representatives on what to do and say.

Unfortunately, many Lebanese, through years of hate mongering, have grown to despise everything “Syrian” and welcome and embrace control and influence from other nations around the world. This is a truly sad manifestation, as Lebanon will continue to find itself in one disaster after another should it not permanently rid itself of these divisive mentalities.

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January 30th, 2008, 4:19 pm


213. Honest Patriot said:

Nour says:

“(…) joined by a singe interest and a common destiny (…) the artificial border (…)”

Nour, it is not true that Lebanese people “despise everything “Syrian””

However, there is no mistaking your true belief — probably shared by the Syrian regime and their supporters — that Lebanon should be a province of Syria just like Saddam believed that Kuwait should be a province of Iraq.

Lebanon does NOT need Syrian hegemony to survive. It has an entrepreneurial work force, the ability to have the most successful service, financial and tourism industries in the Middle East, and to serve the region and the world as a true non-aligned “Switzerland of the Middle East.”

Until Syria allows true democracy and a free press, you can be proud of the Syrian people, their culture, heritage, accomplishments, but please steer away from “adopting” Lebanon just because it is an adjoining country.

Sure Lebanon has a long way to go to expiate the sins of the past, improve the quality of its leaders, advance the much needed civic sense, bring full accountability for crimes past, achieve true reconciliation, and continue on a solid democratic footing to carve a strong role in the future world economy — despite its small size. But that’s NOT going to happen with the help of the Syrian regime which itself has not only that list to check-off but a much longer list to emerge from before they are eligible for this list.

Similarity of culture does not imply encompassing osmosis. Why, we have much in common with the Israelis too. We all like Hummus and Falafel and for the most part are hot-headed Mediterranean gesturers. Does that mean we should be one with Israel?
Ditto for Palestinians and Israelid.

Sorry, but your logic does not compute. But at least you’re transparent. We can work together. Just don’t count on “eating” Lebanon.

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January 30th, 2008, 5:40 pm


214. Honest Patriot said:

QN, ok: 15+9+6 with the President having the deciding vote in case of a tie. Where, regardless of who ends up a majority in future elections: 15 -> majority, 9-> President, 6-> minority
Aoun is trusted as far as his intentions for an independent Lebanon. Put him in charge and let him bear the burden of integrating HA into a purely political movement, taking care of the economy, eradicating corruption, etc.

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January 30th, 2008, 6:28 pm


215. Nour said:


The problem with your position is that you interpret all affirmations of the unity of the Lebanese and Syrians to mean support for the Syrian regime and the adoption of its policies. I do not want to merge Lebanon into today’s Syrian Arab Republic, nor have I ever made such a contention. I simply believe that the Lebanese and Syrians share a common identity, which is not reduced to eating Hummus and Falafel as you mockingly state. You know very well that the Lebanese and Syrians share the same culture, common social traditions, and a single national psyche. This does not mean that the current Syrian regime should exercise hegemony over Lebanon, nor should any affirmation of the above-stated reality be construed as meaning as much.

We all know that in the 1980’s there was a plan in effect to divide Lebanon into various sectarian states. Should such a plan have materialized, would those rejecting division and insisting upon the unity of Lebanon be labelled as “regime sympathizers” of one side or the other? Would they be accused of wanting one entity to “eat” the other? This is what is not logical. Lebanon’s interest lies in its connection to its natural environment and to try to deny this connection is futile and cannot possibly serve Lebanon’s interest.

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January 30th, 2008, 7:20 pm


216. SimoHurtta said:


Akhbar al-Khaleej, the source of that “$5 mio for each Iraqi MP’s vote for the new oil law” claim is not a reputable source. It’s on the same level as Kuwait’s Al-Siyasa.


No doubt about the credibility of the source MSK. But undoubtedly the American oil companies want desperately the Iraqi oil law, which is extraordinary stupid for Iraqis, to pass. That desire is well documented and US (and European) companies are known to have used frequently bribes. Which makes the story more than believable despite of the source.

What is the sense of Iraq to allow foreign companies to ship most of the income abroad and leave almost nothing to Iraq. Most Arab countries, including US “friends”, use a national oil company to guaranty that the profit sharing is almost fair and that more importantly that the “indirect colony” also gets technological knowledge. But in Iraq that is not wanted. Iraqis want a national oil company to stay in control, but Americans do not allow it. Which raises the question are Iraqis now really free as Bush claims. Well they will soon be free from the burden of controlling their national assets and free to collect the small pieces US oil companies drop for them from the table. There are many kinds of freedom and free people, depends who is holding the speech. Bush claims that Iraqis are now free and AIG claims that Israeli Palestinians are as free as Israeli Jews. But are they?

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January 30th, 2008, 8:43 pm


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