Posted by Joshua on Sunday, September 19th, 2010
The following Jerusalem Post editorial is a fine study in manufactured outrage. Israel is astonished and insulted on behalf of the US because Syria is upgrading its missiles. And this despite the fact that the US has sought to engaged Syria by naming an Ambassador, whom it has refused to actually dispatch to Damascus. At the same time President Obama has managed to drop its demand that Israel stop settling its citizens in what Washington claims will be the future Palestinian. To top it off, Washington has agreed to give Israel 30 billion dollars in stealth bomber planes….. Can those really be tears coming from Jerusalem? Or is it just to hide the jubilation?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a meeting of Likud ministers yesterday that Moscow’s arms sale to Syria is “problematic.”
“We’ve known about this deal for a while, and we held meetings with Russians at every level. Unfortunately the sale went through,” he said. “We are living with the threat of a new variety of missiles and rockets, and we must have a military response to them.” Netanyahu cited the advanced F-35 fighter jet as part of that military response….
The Bashar Assad regime recently supplied Hezbollah with sophisticated weapons, like the Iranian-made M-600 missile, and has also begun providing Hamas with cutting-edge anti-tank weaponry that it had previously supplied only to Hezbollah. Syria is also said to be funding Hamas training camps in the Damascus area.
Jerusalem Post: Editorial: Syria’s derisive response to US engagement
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad (R) welcomes Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,in Damascus September 18, 2010. REUTERS/Sana
Over the weekend it became known that Russia would provide Syria with its P-800 Yakhont supersonic anti-ship cruise missile. Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov announced the deal during talks last week in Washington with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, noting that his country was simply honoring a contract that had been signed back in 2007.
The Yakhont is about 9 meters long, weighs close to 3 tons, has a range of 300 kilometers, can carry a 200 kilogram warhead and has the ability to cruise at just a few meters above sea level at over twice the speed of sound, which makes it a highly difficult missile to intercept.
Israel is concerned that the missile will be transferred by Syria to Hizbullah, its terrorist proxy in Lebanon, to be used against Israeli naval vessels.
There is more than a little basis for such concerns. During the 2006 Second Lebanon War, four Israeli sailors were killed when Hizbullah, aided by undercover Iranian Revolutionary Guards fighting in Lebanon at the time, hit the Israel Navy missile boat Hanit with a Chinese-made C-802 surface-to-sea radar-guided missile that had been sold to Iran and smuggled into Lebanon via Syria.
In April of this year, reports surfaced that Syria was supplying Hizbullah with Scud missiles that could strike any part of Israel.
And if these precedents were not enough to arouse concern, Syrian President Bashar Assad made it clear with whom his loyalties reside this Yom Kippur when he met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was on a stopover en route to the UN General Assembly.
The meeting with Ahmadinejad symbolically canceled out any purported “understandings” reached just two days before when Assad received US Middle East envoy George Mitchell. Mitchell had claimed he had had a “very useful conversation” about renewing the Syrian-Israeli track.
IT HAS become abundantly clear that the Obama administration’s attempt to “engage” Syria – which has included, in addition to Mitchell’s recent visit there, ongoing attempts to reinstate a US ambassador in Damascus – has been a resounding failure….
Iranian, Syrian presidents meet after Assad-U.S. talks
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis
DAMASCUS | Sat Sep 18, 2010
DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met in Damascus on Saturday, two days after Assad held talks with a U.S. envoy about the prospects of renewing peace negotiations with Israel.
…Mitchell said he had assured Assad that the U.S. focus on securing a peace deal between the Palestinians and Israel would not distract Washington from seeking an Israeli-Syrian accord.
An official Syrian statement said Ahmadinejad and Assad discussed “a range of bilateral and international issues” and need to resolve the government crisis in neighboring Iraq.
Assad met on Wednesday an envoy of acting Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, signaling that Syria’s dissatisfaction with Maliki, who has links with Iran and is vying to hold on to power after inconclusive elections in March, may have lessened.
Syrian political commentator Ayman Abdel Nour said Washington has been unable to drive a wedge between Ahmadinejad and Assad. “The Syrians have assured the Iranians that any progress in ties with the United States or in peace with Israel will not come on the expense of Tehran,” he said. …”
Israel outspends the entire Arab world on public relations. Only Saudi Arabia spends about a third of that, but the rest very little or nothing.
Nathan Thrall has written an excellent article — Our Man in Palestine — in the October 14, 2010 issue of the New York Review of Books. He underlines how fragile the Palestine Authority is under Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad and how completely dependent the West Bank’s new stability and growth is on American, and ultimately Israeli, good will.
The Palestinians have few choices. Hamas and resistance have paved a road to self destruction; the devastation in Gaza is bleak testimony to this. Can the PA do better? Leaning on the authority of men such as general Keith Dayton, who is largely absent in this article despite it’s ostensibly being about him, and who probably has limited authority in Washington, cannot be wise.
Thrall argues that Fayyad, Washington’s real man in Palestine, understands full well that the US is a paper cut out of Israel and cannot pressure the Jewish state do do much that it does not want to. So what is Fayyad’s plan for the day after failure? It seems he plans to throw Palestine at the mercy of the UN and EU, in the hope they they will be able to protect a “de facto Palestinian state,” in contrast to Washington. The impotence of the UN and international law to protect Palestinians is well known. It all becomes curiouser and curiouser. Here is the most important quote in the article which should be read in its entirety:
Fayyad’s speech concerned his ambitious plan, made public in late August 2009, to establish unilaterally a de facto Palestinian state by August 2011. By that time, according to Fayyad, “the reality of [a Palestinian] state will impose itself on the world.”5 Fayyad’s plan to “build” a state—he does not say he will declare one—has been endorsed by the Quartet (the US, EU, UN, and Russian Federation) and supported eagerly by international donors.
Some Palestinians have rejected it as too closely resembling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s notion of “economic peace,” which proposes that development precede independence. And a number of Israelis have expressed suspicions that Palestine will seek UN recognition of its statehood when the plan is complete. Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister, has warned that any unilateral steps Fayyad takes toward a state could prompt Israel to annul past agreements and annex parts of the West Bank.6
Fayyad has said that his plan to build a new state “is intended to generate pressure” on Israeli–Palestinian negotiations, and the direct talks recently started by the two parties have a late summer 2011 deadline that coincides with Fayyad’s.7 Mike Herzog, former chief of staff to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, told me, “Ultimately, I think Fayyad calculates that political negotiations will not succeed and his plan [to establish a state] will be the only game in town.” The danger, for Israel and the Palestinian Authority alike, is what will happen if negotiations fail and Fayyad’s plan does not produce significant concessions from Israel. “We are not going to withdraw from certain areas just because there was a declaration or a UN resolution,” Herzog said. In that event Hamas will be able to present a persuasive argument that violence is the only means of achieving national liberation. “Fayyad sets an arbitrary date and says, ‘Okay, now all of you break your heads if you want to avoid a catastrophe,’” ……
Israeli Foreign Ministry PR to focus on social media
More than NIS 60 million will be spent on bringing big-name bloggers and media mavens to Israel.
By Ayala Tsoref
The Foreign Ministry plans to target leading social media figures as part of a new public relations campaign. The ministry will soon launch the NIS 60 to 70 million initiative, which constitutes a large chunk of a NIS 100 million publicity budget approved by the Finance Ministry this week.
The Foreign Ministry had initially requested NIS 300 million for efforts to cultivate Israel as a “brand,” but the treasury ultimately approved NIS 100 million.
The campaign will focus on hosting figures the ministry has identified as having significant influence on public opinion. The first step in that effort was seen in ministry involvement in coordinating Arianna Huffington’s visit to Israel. She is the co-founder of the prominent Huffington Post political blog.
The ministry says it will work to cover the visits of many other opinion makers next year. The focus will be on people involved in lifestyle issues, culture and art, as well as leaders of specific population segments such as the gay community.
The Foreign Ministry also plans to fund activities already underway online. For example the site “I am Israel,” which features video clips and articles about the average Israeli. The project, part of an effort to change the world conception of Israelis, was initiated by individual Israelis. While the ministry is not currently involved in this site, in the future it intends to fund such projects……
Edo Aharoni, who visualized and found the branding project, says that the chosen PR company will be responsible for promoting Israel through sub-brands that work within the company, such as tourist sights with international affinity (the Dead Sea, Jerusalem); Leading figures (artists, scientists) or products (olive oil, wine).***
The internet activity will focus on audiences that are interested in these niches, through the social networks that they surf, including wine and culture enthusiast forums and websites. Aharoni says it’s a quantum leap for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that until now dealt mainly with classic Hasbara and crisis management.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the goal is to align the activity of the public sector, on Hasbara issues, to that of the private sector, in relation to the models and methods of action. Similar to the way private companies manage their marketing budget.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Avigdor Leiberman, said on the matter that “today’s world requires completely different paths and plans than those we were accustomed to in the past, and it’s the governmental sector’s responsibility to move forward with the world of media and business and bring to the maximizing of Israel’s relative advantages with modern means.”
Relations with Syria Continue to Improve- Iraqi Official
15/09/2010By Rahmat al-Salaam – Asharq Al-Awsat
Relations between Baghdad and Damascus have improved in the last dew days, particularly after the telephone contact made by Syrian Prime Minister Muhammad Naji Itri with his counterpart Al-Maliki early last week. Within the same context, informed sources, which refused to be identified, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the Syrian Foreign Ministry is preparing to issue a statement in which it welcomes the recent Iraqi tendency toward Syria, particularly after the statements of the Iraqi Government spokesman (Al-Dabbagh) in which he pointed out the presence of mutual economic interests between Iraq and Syria.” The sources refused to elaborate further.
Al-Dabbagh said in press statements last Friday that “the Syrian-Iraqi relations are developing well and there are joint economic interests,” pointing out that the two sides “have signed a memorandum of understanding late last month concerning three pipelines to transport energy, two of which are for transporting crude oil to the Mediterranean and a third for transporting gas.”
Meanwhile, and on the level of the dialogues between the political blocs on forming the government, Shakir Kitab, member of the Al-Iraqiya list led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, said that all the negotiations between the political parties “have been a failure,” explaining to Asharq Al-Awsat that “all the negotiations between the political parties in the country have failed and all have reached a dead end.”
Writing to share a piece I have in the The National (Abu Dhabi) on a new biography of Sayyid Qutb, the ‘father’ of radical Islam. Have a look:
Sayyid Qutb, man of his era
September 17. 2010
Sayyid Qutb behind bars in Cairo in 1966, the year of his execution. AFP
During the Second World War, Sayyid Qutb commuted to his government job in central Cairo on a train that ran north from his home in the suburb of Helwan. Qutb worked as a school inspector, but was also a man of letters who wrote novels, poetry and criticism. The Egyptian Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz later credited Qutb as one of two literary critics who had been “responsible for rescuing him from obscurity”: Qutb had praised Mahfouz’s early novel The Struggle of Thebes, an allegory of Egypt’s anti-colonial struggle against the British told through the ancient Egyptians’ battle with the Hyksos invaders. In an interview in the 1990s, Mahfouz remarked that “had it not been for his tendency to extremism,” Qutb “would have become the most important critic in Egypt.”…..
Gulfsands Petroleum Profit Rises Almost Fivefold
2010-09-16, By Brian Swint
Sept. 16 (Bloomberg) — Gulfsands Petroleum Plc, a U.K. explorer focused on the Middle East and North Africa, said first-half profit rose almost fivefold as it increased output. Net income climbed to $18.7 million from $3.9 million in the first six months of 2009, the company said today in a statement. Average production rose to 9,689 barrels of oil equivalent a day compared with 6,165 barrels a year earlier. The company reached a milestone of 10 million barrels of output in Syria at the end of July from its Yousefieh and Khurbet East fields. After rejecting a takeover from Indian Oil Corp. and Oil India Ltd. in May, Gulfsands is buying into fields in Tunisia and aims to build its business in Iraq.
Students meet Hamas and Hizbollah for education beyond the classroom
September 15. 2010 UAE
Students of the Damascus Exchange are encouraged to get outside the walls of the university to engage with the Syrian capital. Al-Azem Palace, above, houses the Museum of Arts and Popular Traditions. Ola Rifai / AP Photo
Few Arabic-language study programmes include visits with Hamas and Hizbollah officials as part of their curriculum. But at Damascus Exchange, a two-week course, access to such people is what students sign up for.
“Getting a chance to talk with Hamas was an amazing opportunity,” said Mert Karakus, a 22-year-old student from Turkey and one of 11 participants in this summer’s programme in Damascus, which is run by Mideastwire.com, a Beirut news translation service.
The Meaning of the Koran
By ROBERT WRIGHT, September 14, 2010, 9:00 pm
Test your religious literacy:
Which sacred text says that Jesus is the “word” of God? a) the Gospel of John; b) the Book of Isaiah; c) the Koran.
The correct answer is the Koran. But if you guessed the Gospel of John you get partial credit because its opening passage — “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God” — is an implicit reference to Jesus. In fact, when Muhammad described Jesus as God’s word, he was no doubt aware that he was affirming Christian teaching.
Extra-credit question: Which sacred text has this to say about the Hebrews: God, in his “prescience,” chose “the children of Israel … above all peoples”? I won’t bother to list the choices, since you’ve probably caught onto my game by now; that line, too, is in the Koran.
I highlight these passages in part for the sake of any self-appointed guardians of Judeo-Christian civilization who might still harbor plans to burn the Koran. I want them to be aware of everything that would go up in smoke.
But I should concede that I haven’t told the whole story. Even while calling Jesus the word of God — and “the Messiah” — the Koran denies that he was the son of God or was himself divine. And, though the Koran does call the Jews God’s chosen people, and sings the praises of Moses, and says that Jews and Muslims worship the same God, it also has anti-Jewish, and for that matter anti-Christian, passages.
The regrettable parts of the Koran — the regrettable parts of any religious scripture — don’t have to matter.
This darker side of the Koran, presumably, has already come to the attention of would-be Koran burners and, more broadly, to many of the anti-Muslim Americans whom cynical politicians like Newt Gingrich are trying to harness and multiply. The other side of the Koran — the part that stresses interfaith harmony — is better known in liberal circles.
As for people who are familiar with both sides of the Koran — people who know the whole story — well, there may not be many of them. It’s characteristic of contemporary political discourse that the whole story doesn’t come to the attention of many people.
‘Obama wants to restore Lebanon aid Congress feared would be used against Israel’ – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News
In its time of trial, Lebanon must be warier about its economy
By AKenan Mortan
Friday, September 17, 2010
Lebanon’s main economic indicators show steady improvement: GNP increased from $21 billion in 2004 to $32 billion in 2009, inflation remains under control, foreign trade is balanced, and the unemployment rate is tolerable. Moreover, the Lebanese pound is pegged to the US dollar. According to the IMF, “the crisis did not directly affect the Lebanese economy, the banks are solid and the funds are flowing in.”
But, although the World Bank classifies Lebanon as an “upper middle income” country, with a per capita GNP of $10,800, 28 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. As many of Lebanon’s poorest are Shiites, this provides fertile ground for Hizbullah recruiters.
Other economic shadows remain, with serious potential political implications. The IMF forecasts that the Hariri government should be able to tap capital markets to cover its financial needs for 2010. But the current budget relies on foreign aid to cover a $3 billion (10 percent of GNP) shortfall. The issue is not so much where the funds will come from as the amount itself. Lebanon’s growth rate, which has averaged 3.7 percent over the last 10 years, has been, according to the IMF, “lower and more volatile than (averaged) in the MENA [Middle East-North Africa] region.”
Under these conditions, it is difficult to see how the country can ever offset the damage caused by the various wars of the 1975-2006 period, estimated to have caused $35 billion in damage. The “emergency post-conflict assistance” (under $100 million) provided by the IMF after the 2006 fighting with Israel fell well short of the amount needed to rebuild. The Lebanese government has been highlighting the US aid that it has received. But this assistance – military hardware and a five-year military training program – does not address the country’s fundamental economic problems….
Hariri’s government is set to keep its 71-member majority in Lebanon’s 128-seat Parliament, helped by the 8 percent economic growth projected for this year…..
Egypt is moving forward with plans to build four nuclear power plants.
Jordanian TV viewers prefer Syrian and Egyptian drama series over Jordanian ones.
A new Arab Advisors online Media Survey of Jordan’s Internet users revealed that 92.5% of Jordanian TV viewers prefer watching Syrian drama series while 61.6% prefer watching Egyptian drama series. This is compared to 26.6% of the respondents who stated that they prefer watching Jordanian drama series.
The reason lies in the common family legacy that both King Abdullah and Assad inherited from their fathers. This heritage was a lesson from the fathers on geo-politics and it states that it is in the best interest of their respective countries to work together.
Patrick Seale in his seminal biography on late President Hafiz Assad mentions an episode about King Abdel-Aziz, the founder of Saudi Arabia. In his last days, King Abdel-Aziz gathered his sons – Saud, Faisal, Fahed, and Abdullah – around him to give them a crash course on how to run the affairs of the vast and wealthy kingdom. Among the many things he had said was that Syria was important for Saudi security, which should take center-stage in Saudi regional policy. He warned his sons not to let Syria go either with Iraq or with Egypt because that would isolate Saudi Arabia and enfeeble its clout and influence in the region. These sons later iterated that Syria should not be run over by Israel either, since Arabia itself would be the next prey.