Posted by Joshua on Thursday, July 17th, 2008
Much of today's Daily Star is devoted to stories of the return of Lebanon's prisoners. Yesterday on NPR, Walid Junblatt defended the notion that Lebanon should welcome them as heros. Samir Kantar, the most controversial returnee, is a Druze. He killed an Israeli family in an attack on Israel in the 1970s. The controversy raises all the difficult questions about what is permissible in war. When is killing to be called terrorism and when is it legitimate? When is killing collateral damage and permissible under the "rules" of war, even if lamentable, and when does it cross the line into war crimes. Should people cheer their returning soldiers even when they have killed children and women in the name of defending the homeland? How does one measure intentions in such situations?
A similar controversy was raised by the assassination of Mughniyya, the Hizbullah hero. Some saw him as a legitimate national hero who drove foreign occupiers out of Lebanon with minimal loss of life and by targeting military objectives. Others see him as a master terrorist and murderer.
Here are some of the headlines:
Israel Mourns, Hezbollah Exults: (By Griff Witte and Alia Ibrahim, The Washington Post)
In Swap, 2 Jewish Soldiers' Remains Are Released and 5 Lebanese Prisoners Go Home
Freed detainees receive heroes' welcome – Hussein Abdallah: Five Lebanese prisoners freed by Israel arrived to a hero's welcome in Lebanon Wednesday, hours after Hizbullah handed over the bodies of two Israeli soldiers seized two years ago.Among those freed in a prisoner swap greeted with triumph in Lebanon but anguish in Israel was Samir Kontar, who was sentenced to five life.
Naqoura rolls out red carpet for liberated detainees Agence France Presse (AFP): Five Lebanese prisoners arrived to a triumphant red carpet welcome in Lebanon on Wednesday after being freed by Israel in a prisoner swap after years behind bars. The five – Samir Kontar and Hizbullah members Khaled Zeidan, Maher Kurani, Mohammad Srour and Hussein Suleiman – were given a heroes' welcome when they set foot on Lebanese soil.
Lebanese officials hail swap deal as harbinger of unity Dalila Mahdawi: Senior Lebanese officials welcomed Wednesday the prisoner swap between Israel and Shiite group Hizbullah, with many saying that the exchange would serve to bolster unity in Lebanon. Speaking to Al-Jazeera television about the returning Lebanese prisoners, Christian opposition leader and head of the Free Patriotic Movement MP Michel Aoun said.
Tens of thousands celebrate return of detainees in Dahiyeh Eugene Yukin: Tens of thousands of jubilant people descended into the Rayeh football court in Beirut's southern suburbs, better known as Dahiyeh, Wednesday night to celebrate the prisoner exchange that took place earlier that morning. In the prisoner exchange five Lebanese prisoners were exchanged for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers captured on July 12.
World leaders see prisoner exchange as positive step Eugene Yukin: United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says he is encouraged by an exchange of prisoners that took place between Israel and Lebanon's Hizbullah on Wednesday. Ban said at a news conference in Berlin that he hoped it will be the beginning of many to come.
Swap criticized as granting Nasrallah victory Agence France Presse (AFP): Israeli commentators sharply criticized a prisoner exchange with Hizbullah on Wednesday, saying it gave a propaganda victory to the Lebanese group and set a dangerous precedent. The Maariv daily newspaper said Israel had been humiliated, arguing that Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah "will entrench his image.
Poor rainfall will slash this year's harvest in Syria, a major foods and commodities player in the Middle East, to around 2.3 million tonnes from 4.2 million tonnes last year, according to traders and agronomists.
Syrian officials who deny it will go that far concede it will drop to 3 million tonnes, eroding a strategic stockpile of at least 1.5 million tonnes in country with wheat consumption of at least 3 million needed to feed 19 million people.
Syria's private millers have begun importing Black Sea wheat and the country is studying issuing tenders to buy soft wheat and even contemplating importing US wheat as its production hits a nine-year low. Barley production is also expected to fall to almost a third of last year's 800,000 tonnes production.
Syria Will Start Importing Wheat After Drought Hurts Harvest
2008-07-15 12:53:49.490 (New York)
By Abeer Allam
July 15 (Bloomberg) — Syria will start importing wheat for the first time in at least 18 years after drought hurt the crop.
"We will likely make a decision about quantity in a couple of days,'' Adnan Ramadan, a senior official at state-owned grain exporter Hoboob, said today by phone from Damascus. “It won't exceed 100,000 tons.'' The Syrian government expects farmers to harvest 2 million metric tons of wheat in the year through June 2009, half the previous year's crop, according to a report by the U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service dated May 15.
"The harvest was below expectations this season because of the drought,'' Ramadan said. “We have halted exports for the past year to build our stockpiles. We will use imports to add to that.''
Demand in Syria, a country of 19 million people, is increasing because of refugees from neighboring Iraq, according to the U.S. report. Syria exports wheat to countries including Jordan, Yemen and Egypt.
Iran `Increasingly Isolated' on Financial Front, Levey Says
By Steve Scherer
July 15 (Bloomberg) — U.S. Treasury Undersecretary Stuart Levey said Iran was becoming more isolated from the global financial and business community, especially as European countries begin to cut off business ties.
"What we've seen in the last month or so is very significant, with the Europeans taking a very important step forward in terms of actions against Iran,'' Levey told reporters today in Rome. Levey is undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. “Iran is finding itself, because of its own conduct, increasingly isolated.''
Italy was Levey's first European stop on a trip aimed at coordinating diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran to prevent the Islamic republic from funding terrorism and developing nuclear weapons, he said. After meetings at the Bank of Italy, Foreign Ministry and the Finance Ministry this morning, he will travel to Spain and France.
Eni SpA, Italy's biggest oil producer, and Total SA, France's biggest petroleum company, this month both announced they wouldn't seek any new contracts or investments in Iran even as oil prices soar to record highs. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said oil prices will remain above $100 per barrel because of political tensions and threats against his country, according to a state-television interview late yesterday.
While U.S. policy to isolate Iran may put “some pressure'' on oil prices, the goal is to find a diplomatic solution, Levey said. Should diplomacy not work and force be used, the effect on petroleum prices would be “much more drastic and costly in every way,'' Levey said.
Oil prices climbed to near a record today and have gained more than 50 percent this year. Crude oil for August delivery rose as much as $1.55, or 1.1 percent, to $146.73 a barrel inelectronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Progress on Israel needed for Syria/EU pact-France
Tue 15 Jul 2008, 14:42 GMT
BRUSSELS, July 15 (Reuters) – It is still too early for the European Union to sign a stalled partnership pact with Syria and more progress is needed in dialogue between Damascus and Israel, the French foreign minister said on Tuesday.
"My personal opinion is perhaps it's a bit too early, we are going to have to wait and see how the dialogue between Israel and Syria develops," Bernard Kouchner, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, told a European Parliament committee.
"But we should be prepared to move forward. Not yet, we should be on standby, and ready to respond to the opening up, the democratic opening up of Syria, but I think that we will need to bide our time," he said.
Kouchner was speaking after a visit by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Paris at the weekend marking his emergence from isolation by the West three years after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, which many believe was orchestrated from Damascus.