Posted by Joshua on Sunday, November 28th, 2010
President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, left, with William J. Burns, a State Department official, in Damascus.
New York Times, November 28, 2010
By SCOTT SHANE and ANDREW W. LEHREN
….Cables describe the United States’ failing struggle to prevent Syria from supplying arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon, which has amassed a huge stockpile since its 2006 war with Israel. One week after President Bashar al-Assad promised a top State Department official that he would not send “new” arms to Hezbollah, the United States complained that it had information that Syria was providing increasingly sophisticated weapons to the group.
…. Dagan expressed deep skepticism regarding any near-term solutions. Dagan believes that the Syrians were emboldened by the Second Lebanon War, and argued for a concerted international effort to enforce UNSC resolutions in Lebanon as a means of removing Syria from Iranian influence.
…. Dagan characterized Qatar as “a real problem,” and accused Sheikh Hamad of “annoying everyone.” In his view, Qatar is trying to play all sides — Syria, Iran, Hamas — in an effort to achieve security and some degree of independence. “I think you should remove your bases from there…seriously,” said Dagan. “They have confidence only because of the U.S. presence.” Dagan predicted, with some humor, that al-Jazeera would be the next cause of war in the Middle East as some Arab leaders (specifically Saudi Arabia) are willing to take drastic steps to shut down the channel, and hold Sheikh Hamid personally responsible for its provocations.
Syria Taking Dangerous Risks: Dagan echoed other reports that Syria expects an Israeli attack this summer, and has raised its level of readiness. Despite the fact that Israel has no intention of attacking, said Dagan, the Syrians are likely to retaliate over even the smallest incident, which could lead to quick escalation. Dagan believes that Syria’s strategic alliance with Iran and Hizballah has not changed, and that Assad views these policies as both “successful and just.” There is a tendency to assume that Syria can be separated from Iran, said Dagan, and that this offers the key to weakening Hizballah. Dagan argued that the opposite is true: by enforcing UN resolutions on Lebanon and increasing efforts to disarm Hizballah, the international community can remove the glue that binds Iran and Syria. Enforcing the resolutions would put additional pressure on Assad, who fears being tried for the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri above all else. The advantage of such an approach, continued Dagan, is that the legal ground is already in place for action by the UNSC. This credible threat could sufficiently frighten Syria away from Iran and towards more natural allies in the Arab League…..
Around the World, Distress Over Iran
By DAVID E. SANGER, JAMES GLANZ and JO BECKER
Cables show how two presidents have dealt with Iran and how President Obama built support for harsher sanctions….
…..Six months later it was an Arab leader, the king of Bahrain, who provides the base for the American Fifth Fleet, telling the Americans that the Iranian nuclear program “must be stopped,” according to another cable. “The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it,” he said.
His plea was shared by many of America’s Arab allies, including the powerful King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who according to another cable repeatedly implored Washington to “cut off the head of the snake” while there was still time.
These warnings are part of a trove of diplomatic cables reaching back to the genesis of the Iranian nuclear standoff in which leaders from around the world offer their unvarnished opinions about how to negotiate with, threaten and perhaps force Iran’s leaders to renounce their atomic ambitions.
The cables also contain a fresh American intelligence assessment of Iran’s missile program. They reveal for the first time that the United States believes that Iran has obtained advanced missiles from North Korea that could let it strike at Western European capitals and Moscow and help it develop more formidable long-range ballistic missiles. ……
U.S. Expands Role of Diplomats in Spying
By MARK MAZZETTI
State Department personnel were told to gather the credit card and frequent-flier numbers, schedules and other personal data of foreign officials.
According to the London-based daily al-Hayat, the WikiLeaks release includes documents that show Turkey has helped al-Qaeda in Iraq — and that the United States has supported the PKK, a Kurdish rebel organization that has been waging a separatist war against Turkey since 1984, the Washington Post reported.
The U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv warned the Israeli foreign ministry that some of the cables could concern U.S.-Israel relations, the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported, citing a senior Israeli official.
that “there are US-Israeli understandings” on way to counter the repercussions of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) indictment against Hezbollah in the assassination case of former Premier Rafiq Hariri. The newspaper’s correspondent in Washington Shmuel Rosner said that the US administration was working on this track more than it was on the Israeli Palestinian track. He added it was surprising to see how busy the US official’s schedule on the Middle East, be it with Saudi or Israeli officials who have been to Washington lately.
Rosner also quoted a “well informed Israeli official on US-Israeli talks on Lebanon” as saying that “between Washington and Tel Aviv are understandings concerning what we will or will not do, in case of escalation in Lebanon…Washington had hinted that Israel could attack Lebanon” and that “this was the most efficient threat available, based on the hypothesis that the Americans will not send aircraft carriers to tackle the problem of Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The Maariv correspondent said that “the United States finds it difficult to solve the anticipated crisis in Lebanon; because the ball now is in Hezbollah’s court as the party has pointed out that it will not accept accusations against it and while Washington does not really know where Hezbollah’s counter action would lead; will it settle for a show of power, or will it try to topple the government? Will it content itself with pointing the finger towards….
Hummus sales top $350 million a year in the US and Israeli companies — Sabra and Tribe – dominate. Not an Arab company in sight.
Iraq’s Troubles Drive Out Refugees Who Came Back
New York Times
By JOHN LELAND, November 26, 2010
BAGHDAD — A second exodus has begun here, of Iraqis who returned after fleeing the carnage of the height of the war, but now find that violence and the nation’s severe lack of jobs are pulling them away from home once again.
Since the American invasion in 2003, refugees have been a measure of the country’s precarious condition, flooding outward during periods of violence and trickling back as Iraq seemed to stabilize. This new migration shows how far the nation remains from being stable and secure.
Abu Maream left Iraq after a mortar round killed his brother-in-law in 2005. Amar al-Obeidi left when insurgents threatened to kill him and raided his shops. Hazim Hadi Mohammed al-Tameemi left because the doctors who treated his wife’s ovarian cancer had fled the country.
All three joined the flow of refugees who returned as violence here ebbed. But now they want to leave again.
“The only thing that’s stopping me is I don’t have the money,” said Mr. Maream, who gave only a partial name — literally, father of Maream — because he feared reprisal from extremists in his neighborhood. “We are Iraqis in name only.”
Nearly 100,000 refugees have returned since 2008, out of more than two million who left since the invasion, according to the Iraqi government and the United Nations high commissioner for refugees.
But as they return, pulled by improved security in Iraq or pushed by a lack of work abroad, many are finding that their homeland is still not ready — their houses are gone or occupied, their neighborhoods unsafe, their opportunities minimal.
In a recent survey by the United Nations refugee office, 61 percent of those who returned to Baghdad said they regretted coming back, most saying they did not feel safe. The majority, 87 percent, said they could not make enough money here to support their families. Applications for asylum in Syria have risen more than 50 percent since May.
Justice, or a Death Blow For Lebanon?
Sharmine Narwani. Senior Associate, St. Antony’s College, Oxford University
November 23, 2010
Lebanon … has split into predictable camps – those who believe the STL is an “Israeli Project” bent on destroying its biggest regional foe the Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah, and those who back the Tribunal, possibly also in hopes that it will neuter the ever-growing strength of Hezbollah and its regional allies….
Lebanon’s Telecoms Minister Charbel Nahhas said just a few weeks ago that Israel has been capable of altering telecommunications-related data in the country “for a very long time.” In a press conference earlier today, Nahhas and others expounded further:
“Israel has set up electronic warfare towers along Lebanon’s border and can crack encrypted data, jam communications, view phone subscribers’ information, and tap their lines.
Israel “controls information and data packets, and can enter a network, shut down parts and transfer information or delete it.”
“They can fabricate calls that originally did not exist.”
Israel can obtain information about mobile phone owners, their location, their numbers, and their other phones.
“The network is penetrated at any control point, via a person inside the [phone] company, an agent, or another means.”
In light of these facts, it seems unlikely that Hezbollah – a very early adherent to the battle strategy of foiling the enemy’s penetration of communications – used a bunch of mobile phones to plan a very high-profile assassination…..
……But if you look at the line-up of who really supports the STL – the US, a handful of Western nations, Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia (though the latter may change its position shortly) – you see a line-up of nations that have never done a single positive thing for sovereignty, independence and real progress in the region. Ever.
….. I am not certain that any nation outside the region has done MORE to undermine Lebanon’s stability and sovereignty than the United States. More and more, this Feltman/Clinton crusade resembles the Bush-era legacy in the Middle East. …. This Tribunal is no longer about justice. To weigh one man’s death against the lives of four million Lebanese and countless other millions who could be caught up in a regional conflagration is sheer madness.
“The United States Embassy in Tel Aviv has informed the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem that the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks was planning on releasing hundreds of thousands of American diplomatic cables, some of which might deal with Israel-America relations. ..”
An American Jolt for the Middle East
By CHESTER A. CROCKER, SCOTT B. LASENSKY, and SAMUEL W. LEWIS
Published: November 23, 2010
Faltering Middle East peace talks need a jolt. And Washington does have a powerful potential prod: taking a firm stand on how to end the conflict.
An American declaration of principles — carefully crafted and properly marketed — could spark a debate and thereby change the political calculus for leaders. As a mediator and a world power, one of America’s strongest assets is the ability to legitimize ideas and then rally others in support. A central role for the U.S. in this conflict must be to define the zone of negotiability.
This does not mean imposing peace. Rather, it would be a statement of the basic principles the U.S. believes can guide the parties toward a negotiated solution.
America has long declared its support for “two states” but must now say more about what that means in practice.
Even if the current talks resume, without American ideas the parties are unlikely to agree on the broad trade-offs necessary to reach a peace deal. A quick deal on “borders and security,” as many have proposed, is itself unlikely without Washington addressing the endgame. Otherwise, both sides would be too exposed on issues set for later discussion, like Jerusalem and refugees. Opinion polling has consistently showed that support for peace is strongest when all the core issues are addressed.
An American statement of principles would mobilize regional support. It would provide, for the first time, a public framework for engaging sponsors of the Arab Peace Initiative. It would also strengthen America’s ability to reassert the importance of a regional support structure for the bilateral negotiations, especially by reviving multilateral contacts and meetings involving Israelis and their neighbors throughout the region. Moreover, greater regional engagement on the peace process can carry powerful benefits for regional challenges like the Iranian nuclear program.
A clearer U.S. declaration is also the surest way to protect prospects for a two-state solution from an unrelenting onslaught on the ground. An American set of ideas would anchor present-day demands on issues like Jerusalem, security and settlements in a clear vision of the future.
Perhaps most urgently, it would broaden the debate from the narrow confines of the settlements question.
At a minimum, the American declaration should be based on the 1967 lines, with agreed territorial swaps; support a compromise on Jerusalem that allows for two capitals for two states; include provisions about security limitations and guarantees; reiterate America’s support for an agreed solution to the refugee problem; and reaffirm our long-standing commitment to the state of Israel. But American principles should also include some caveats, given that our ultimate interest is in an agreed, viable solution — not in any particular formula.
What would it take for American ideas to succeed? Unlike some past efforts, Washington should not try to “pre-cook” this declaration with one or more parties or to choreograph their reactions. In fact, the U.S. statement of principles would be explicitly described as what our own country believes in and can support; and by implication what it cannot support.
Thus the U.S. statement would not be designed to achieve immediate approval or adoption by the parties.
Reporting from Istanbul, Turkey — The United States is about to push for so-called “special inspections” in Syria by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, a rarely used tool to seek access in a country that otherwise denies entry to sensitive sites, …
Syria played a major role in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005, and the UN probe into the murder is wrongly absolving it of guilt, Western intelligence sources familiar with the probe told Haaretz. The …
The first Arabic language printing press in the Arab world was founded in 1702 in Aleppo by the Patriarch Anathios Dabbass.
Meanwhile in Istanbul, it was not until 1727 that an Imperial edict (Ferman) was issued, giving permission for the establishment of a Turkish press. However, in 1742 the press was closed, not to be reopened until 1784.