Analyst: US sent destroyer to keep lebanon under its ‘wing’

 Posted by Alex

Jordanian newspaper Al-Arab Al-Youm reported today, through sources that an American message leaked by Egypt to Syria shows that the United States is ready to launch a broad military operation against Syria if it insists on its position on the Lebanese crisis and this is the real reason behind the deployment of “USS Cole” in front of the Syrian – Lebanese waters.

The source said that the official announced reason of Condoleezza Rice’s visit to Egypt is to push the Palestinian – Israeli peace process forward but the real reason is to explain the American military actions and the presence of the American ships to the Egyptian leadership.- roads to iraq

 

'USS Cole aims to dissuade any Hizbullah reprisal against Israel'; Analyst: US sent destroyer to keep lebanon under its 'wing'

Michael Bluhm

THE DAILY STAR, BEIRUT, LEBANON.

Beirut — BEIRUT: Despite US assertions that it deployed the USS Cole off Lebanon's coast to support regional stability, the destroyer's presence represents symbolic backing for the March 14 faction, an attempt to contain Hizbullah and put pressure on Syria in the regional context, a number of analysts told The Daily Star on Tuesday.

The guided-missile destroyer arrived in international waters off Lebanon's shores the evening of February 28, as White House National security Spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the purpose of the USS Cole and other warships joining it shortly near Lebanon was "a show of support for regional stability."

"Initially we thought it might have been to support Israel vis-a-vis Gaza," said Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, visiting scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center. "I don't think we can say it's there to target Syria or the Gazans or whomever. The statements coming out of the Bush administration all mention Lebanon.

"It's there for Lebanon, to support [Prime Minister Fouad] Siniora. 'Regional stability' is a euphemism for 'To keep Lebanon under our wing.'"

She added that the choice to sail a warship to Lebanon's coast demonstrates the "political bankruptcy" of US President George W. Bush's administration, after countless initiatives pushed by the US and its regional allies have failed to break the 16-month-old political impasse here between the March 14 camp and the Syrian-backed March 8 opposition.

In addition to signaling support for its allies in the March 14 governing coalition, the USS Cole also sends a message to  Hizbullah to reconsider any plans to retaliate against Israel for the February 13 assassination of senior resistance commander Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus, said retired General Elias Hanna, who teaches political science at Notre Dame University.

"It's a message for Hizbullah after the two speeches of [party chief Sayyed] Hassan Nasrallah about open war" against Israel after Mughniyeh's killing, Hanna said, adding that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's recent expression of dismay over the term "open war" added to the pressures deterring Hizbullah from retaliating.

"Maybe now they will wait, but everything is up to Iran," which backs Hizbullah financially and militarily, Hanna added.

The US Marines in the convoy accompanying the USS Cole present a dramatic symbolism as well – the US has long fingered Mughniyeh in the November 1983 bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut that drove American troops from Lebanon, and after Mughniyeh's death the Marines are again approaching Lebanon, Saad-Ghorayeb said.

"It's too provocative," she added. "On a symbolic level it targets Hizbullah. "The [warships] are there both symbolically and [because] the US is resorting now to flexing its military muscle in the face of Hizbullah's declaration that it's going to respond to Israel for Mughniyeh's assassination."

Although the US has made clear that the USS Cole would be in the waters off Lebanon, its presence will also impact other nearby US foes such as Syria and Iran, she said.

"You can't extricate one from the other," Saad-Ghorayeb said. "You can't extricate Hizbullah from Iran andSyria."

"A lot of officials have actually said it's to target Syria," she added. "It could also be a message to target Iran. In and of itself, this is simply going to increase tension."

Regarding Syria, the Cole's arrival adds to the list of worries plaguing Syria, as part of the US desire to pluckDamascus from its alliance with Tehran and Hizbullah, Hanna said.

"When you look at the American project in the region, you have to look at it holistically," Hanna added. "Their next move will be to contain Iran and separate Syria from Iran. This is the main issue. Maybe now they are trying to threaten the regime itself.

"If Syria is isolated from Iran, all the tentacles of Iran will be cut."

Syrian President Bashar Assad has to juggle the UN tribunal investigating the series of political killings here, the bombing last September by Israel of a Syrian site allegedly connected to weapons activity, the probably absence of major Arab leaders from the Arab League summit in Damascus later this month and the aftershocks of having Mughniyeh killed while under Syria's ostensible protection.

"It's highly dangerous for the regime to have Imad Mughniyeh killed there," Hanna said.

While US officials tout the abilities of the Cole to ensure stability in the region, the destroyer's appearance here means in reality that the United States "expects some instability," said political analyst Simon Haddad.

"It is becoming clearer that a regional war will happen in the coming months," Haddad added. "The positioning of the USS Cole is not directed against Lebanon – it is most certainly directed against the Syrians. I think the next war will be directed against Hizbullah by the Israelis, and maybe the Americans want to prevent a Syrian intervention."

Whatever the US intentions in dispatching the Cole, its presence might boomerang by driving out some of the Sunnis from the March 14 coalition or by tempting militants here to attack the destroyer, which lost 17 sailors in a suicide bombing by Al-Qaeda in Yemen's Aden port in October 2000, said Saad-Ghorayeb.

"One consequence could be to provoke Al-Qaeda elements to target it," she said. "This is obviously a prime target for them, considering it was already attacked. This looks like it's bait, almost."

"It might cause a split in the Sunni community," which has many anti-American members, she added. "It will be hard for the Future Movement to argue that this is legitimate or not in any way condemn this. It might well close ranks between some Sunnis and Hizbullah."

Although the US has not said how long the Cole will remain on station off Lebanon, the destroyer will draw acute attention if it remains here if and when Hizbullah takes its avowed revenge on Israel for Mughniyeh's assassination, Saad-Ghorayeb said.

"That's the real litmus test for them," she added. "Things are to really change once Hizbullah responds."

 

 

Comments (202)


ausamaa said:

Analyst: US sent destroyer to keep lebanon under its ‘wing’

Ya… like a wandering policy Flying on a Wing and a Prayer.

BTW, for those who “doubt” Syria’s standing in the Arab street, please review the way Arab Journalists “bombarded” Amer Mousa during the final Press Conference of the Arab League Forigen Ministers meeting in Cairo tonight with questions SUPPORTING Syria and rebuffing both Egypt and Saudi Arabia. By Name!!!

It seems, public pressure, the carnage in Gaza and the Cole presence have backfired all at once. Biggest loser: Saudi Arabia. Second place goes to its underlings (you guessed it; the Feb 14 circus).

March 5th, 2008, 7:11 pm

 

Shai said:

I seem to buy Simon Haddad’s argument the most – we’re probably heading for a regional war sometime soon. There’s just too much pressure for our region at the moment, and not enough cool-headed leaders/politicians around. Israel feels threatened from the North (Hezbollah), Northeast (Syria-weapons program, support of terrorists), East (Iran), South (Hamas). Lebanon feels threatened by everyone (Syria, Iran, U.S., Israel, etc.) Syria feels threatened by Israel, U.S., KSA, Egypt, etc.

So there’s a pressure-cooker effect here, and if a mere crazy assassin in Sarajevo managed to spark a first World War, why on earth won’t some fast-shooter on any side start our own 21st century regional war? There are too many moves here that seem coordinated, and things like this don’t happen every other Tuesday and Thursday. Someone in Washington really doesn’t want to leave office with his tail between his legs, but rather with a large “Bang”.

And impotent leaders in our region are so fed up with their own failures, that they’ll buy just about any offer out there that’ll take the attention off their miserable political non-achievements. Unfortunately, like in any other war, it is us the people of this region, that’ll pay the price. The politicians tend to happen to be in well-protected bunkers when all hell breaks loose… Oh well, some things never change… But, even if there will be war, let all of us remember one thing. There WILL be a day after. And most of us WILL be there. And all of us SHOULD still be ready to fight for peace! There is no other alternative.

March 5th, 2008, 8:00 pm

 

Alex said:

Shai,

Terje Roed Larsen said to a friend of mine that he expects WWIII this year .. he said it after he toured the middle east and met with all leaders. He said that everyone felt confident (not threatened) … so confident that they did not feel the need to compromise over anything at all.

But … here is a small detail: This conversation took place over breakfast in Qatar … 2 years ago.

So, let us hope that the pressure will continue to be manageable for one more year.

While I have you here, and the same goes to AIG and Akbar as well to all other readers who are interested in history of the Middle East:

I would like you to take a look at this wonderful book by an online friend of mine Tony Rocca and his wife Mira (Shamash). There are many original photos from the collection of Mira’s late mother Violette Shamash … a wealthy Iraqi Jew who lived in Baghdad few decades ago.

The book is titled: Memories of Eden | A journey through Jewish Baghdad

http://www.memoriesofeden.com/introduction/

Photos:
http://www.memoriesofeden.com/pictures-of-the-past/

Review of Book
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/feb/02/iraq.mainsection

I hope you tell everyone about it.

Tony is a British journalists who wrote in the New York times and many other newspapers.

March 5th, 2008, 8:21 pm

 

pam 53 said:

The presence of the war ships are pure sabre rattling and I,m wondering about this ..

Jordanian newspaper Al-Arab Al-Youm reported today, through sources that an American message leaked by Egypt to Syria shows that the United States is ready to launch a broad military operation against Syria

It sounds as if they are passing threatening messages on to Syria ,and it might be a bluff , at least i hope so .
As Shai said its the innocents who will suffer if there is an attack

March 5th, 2008, 8:26 pm

 

Norman said:

this is from the US,

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/world/bal-ships0305,0,4217148.story

baltimoresun.com
U.S. ships stay in Mediterranean as Syria-Lebanon tensions mount
The Associated Press

11:11 AM EST, March 5, 2008

WASHINGTON

The U.S. Navy switched out warships that are patrolling in the Mediterranean today, maintaining a show of strength during a period of tensions with Syria and political uncertainty in Lebanon.

Officials said it was a routine, planned deployment but it was an action sure to draw attention in the Mideast, where an announcement on U.S. presence last week caused a political stir in Lebanon.

The USS Cole guided missile destroyer and support ships passed through the Suez Canal at midday today, heading from the Mediterranean Sea into the Red Sea, canal officials said. In Washington, a Navy official said it had been relieved by the guided missile destroyer USS Ors and the guided missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea.

Both the canal official and navy official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of talking about ship movements.

“It’s a sign of our commitment to stability in the region … a stabilizing force and commitment to our allies,” Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said today of the U.S. presence.

“I think it prevents miscalculations,” he told Pentagon reporters.

The deployment of the USS Cole had sparked criticism from Hezbollah and from pro-Syrian groups in Lebanon, who are locked in a political standoff with the pro-U.S. government. It also sparked criticism from Syria.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora has said his government did not ask for the ships and that they were not in territorial waters. Some in his coalition said they were surprised by the deployment.

Syria has said the deployment threatened security in the region. Syria’s foreign minister warned the U.S. it cannot impose its own solutions to the political crisis in Lebanon. Syria’s foreign minister and the pro-Syrian groups in Lebanon also reminded Washington of its 1980s bloody debacle in Lebanon.

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters last week that the deployment should not be viewed as threatening or in response to events in any single country in that volatile region.

The decision to send the ships appeared to be a not-too-subtle show of U.S. force in the region as international frustration mounts over a long political deadlock in tiny, weak Lebanon. The U.S. blames Syria for the impasse, saying Syria has never given up its ambitions to control its smaller neighbor.

The presidential election in Lebanon has been delayed 15 times. It is now pushed back to March 11.

National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe had called the deployment of the Cole “a show of support for regional stability” and said President George W. Bush is concerned about the situation in Lebanon.

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

March 5th, 2008, 8:27 pm

 

Shai said:

Alex,

Looks like a wonderful production. I’ll definitely pass it along. I have a very good friend who’s around my age, was born in Baghdad, but had to escape at age 5 with his mother and younger brother, after his father was executed by Saddam for “spying on behalf of Israel”. They ran away through the mountains to Iran, who at the time had peace with Israel, and finally made it here. His mother is still alive, and she may want to see her city once more (or not…) But I know many others who’ll definitely be interested.

March 5th, 2008, 8:43 pm

 

Shai said:

Alex,

BTW, did you get a chance to read your mail (from Saturday)?

March 5th, 2008, 8:51 pm

 

Shai said:

Alex,

Doesn’t “this year” mean “2008” in Norwegian? 🙂

March 5th, 2008, 8:59 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

I am going to Syria soon, plan to stay there 2 months, I hope I will be back before the war start.more I hope there will never be a war.

March 5th, 2008, 9:10 pm

 

T said:

Alex,

Thanks so much for the book on Jewish Iraq. Looks extremely fascinating- will pass on and read myself. Any and all history sources you supply are always greatly appreciated. Are there photos of old synagogues and churches also?

March 5th, 2008, 9:16 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

The USS Cole guided missile destroyer and support ships passed through the Suez Canal at midday today, heading from the Mediterranean Sea into the Red Sea, canal officials said.

Norman,

Nice to know the USS Cole is up and running. There’s lots of work to be done out there…

http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/africa/03/03/somalia.us/index.html

March 5th, 2008, 9:38 pm

 

Alex said:

Shai,

I replied …finally : )

“this year” means 2008 in Norwegian?!

Coooool !!

T,

You are welcome. It is both an interesting diary and a feel good book.

I went through all the photos, and I can’t recall seeing churches. There were schools, bridges, a movie theater downtown …and people.

And there are quite a few interesting new Mideast history books about to be published. I will be happy to post info on each when I find out their release dates.

March 5th, 2008, 9:41 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

The USS Cole and America’s election

By Michael Young
Daily Star staff
Thursday, March 06, 2008

The USS Cole has certainly created a ruckus in Lebanon, especially when no one has actually seen the ship. But amid all the howls of “gunboat diplomacy” and dire warnings that the United States cannot impose its will in such a way, most people are missing the broader Bush administration goal: to tie the hands of a successor administration, particularly a Democratic one, in Lebanon and particularly Iraq.

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius recently highlighted this point in an article. He observed that US President George W. Bush wanted to maintain a large force in Iraq until the November election, “because that would open the next administration’s bargaining on troop levels at a higher level – and allow the next president to cut troops without getting down to a bare-bones level that might be dangerous.” He went on to note that Defense Secretary Robert Gates seemed to share Bush’s view, and concluded: “[Y]ou get the sense that Bush’s biggest concern is that the next president not unravel the gains he has made in Iraq.”

That’s obvious, as is the fact that what happens with Syria is essential to the success of this strategy. The USS Cole’s deployment came in a larger context of heightened American pressure against the regime of President Bashar Assad. Lebanon was one of the intended beneficiaries, but on Tuesday Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was vaguer in describing the vessel’s mission: “It is simply to make very clear that the US is capable and willing to defend its interests and the interests of its allies.” And when Washington puts the military option on the table, it is probably not because it expects to lob missiles from the Mediterranean; it is to remind Syria that America has 160,000 soldiers in next-door Iraq.

In that sense, one Arabic newspaper may have gotten it right when it compared the USS Cole move to what the late Hafez Assad faced in 1998, when Turkey bullied the Syrians into expelling Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), from their territory. The Turks proved more to the point in that their commandos were routinely operating dozens of kilometers inside Syria in the Kamishli area, while Turkish armor was concentrated along the border. But Assad realized that Ocalan did not merit a war, so he instructed the Syrian intelligence chief in Lebanon, Ghazi Kanaan, briefly imported from Anjar, to say yes to pretty much any of the demands the Turks imposed. The result was the Adana Agreement of October 1998, a pragmatic Syrian capitulation.

Nothing so muscular seems to be taking place today. However, the US Treasury DepartmentBernanke-Changed-Course Nov-07 recently imposed financial sanctions on Rami Makhluf, the cousin of Bashar Assad, freezing his assets under US jurisdiction and prohibiting Americans from conducting business with him. But Makhluf is more than just a privileged Syrian getting fat through regime clout. He is the most powerful businessman in Syria and a financial leg of the Assad regime. While Makhluf and Syria’s Lebanese peons responded, in chorus, that Makhluf had no assets under US jurisdiction, let alone did business with Americans, that wasn’t especially relevant. To be placed on an American watch list is the anteroom to hell for anyone conducting financial affairs in the world, and Makhluf’s accounts are reportedly already under international scrutiny.

A week after that decision, the Bush administration hit out against another lever of the Syrian regime: its ability to wreak havoc in Iraq. The US Treasury targeted four other Syrians under the same legislation used with Makhluf, particularly one Badran Turki Hishan al-Mazidih, otherwise known as Abu Ghadiyah, who has played an important role in supporting Al-Qaeda operations in Iraq and in funneling militants via Syria. A primary objective in Washington today is to so cripple Al-Qaeda in Iraq, that a drawdown of US forces in the coming months would not substantially threaten the achievements of the “surge.” At the same time, without a serious Al-Qaeda card in Syria’s hand, a new American president would have no incentive to engage Damascus over Iraq’s future.

To interpret the USS Cole’s arrival in isolation of these two events, therefore, would be a mistake. We should add a third, equally appropriate development. While Turkey has of late tried to mediate between Syria and Israel, and is sometimes regarded by the Assad regime as a reliable neighborhood comrade, the fact is that Ankara has largely gotten over its bumpy interregnum with Washington, as shown by American acquiescence in the recent Turkish incursion into northern Iraq. Turkey is also considering buying an Israeli satellite, and selling one was a principal ambition of Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on his visit to Ankara in mid-February. As security, particularly security with regard to the Kurds, rises on Turkey’s list of priorities, the more reluctant it may be to cross America on its regional priorities – impairing Syria being one of them.

The USS Cole affair will blow over, but it is quite possible (at least if we believe the departing State Department official Nicholas Burns) that more economic sanctions will be imposed on Syria this year. The country’s financial system is hardly as invulnerable as many claim. With oil reserves nearing their end and the Syrian government increasingly obliged to lift subsidies on essential products, in the midst of an international increase in prices no less, punitive measures can hurt. They’re unlikely to change Syrian behavior much. However, taken in unison with the Hariri tribunal being set up in The Hague, the limited margin of maneuver of Syria’s Lebanese allies, the abandonment of Al-Qaeda in Iraq by the country’s Sunnis, growing Syrian isolation in the Arab world, Israel’s apparent ability to act with impunity in the heart of the Syrian capital, and Turkey’s collaboration with the US against the PKK, the Assad regime might at some point have to start overhauling its political calculations.

The Bush administration may already have succeeded in making Lebanon a “red line” in terms of a Syrian return. With its now-usual haste, the Assad regime has achieved precisely what it sought to avoid when it began its bid to reimpose its hegemony in Beirut: It focused the attention of all those in the Arab world and outside who have no intention of allowing this to happen. The mainly Sunni Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan, agree that giving Syria and Iran a Lebanese victory would consolidate the “Shiite arc” they are so existentially afraid of. The US has a Lebanon policy today, and it won’t be easy for a new president to reverse it if it means that America’s Arab allies are harmed.

And what about Iraq? Despite learned analyses in the past two years affirming that Iraq was in a civil war, the violence has stopped short of Armageddon. There are many things the US can do wrong to undermine the pluses of the surge, but that will not change the fact that Al-Qaeda, Syria’s sole weapon in Iraq’s morass, is not something Iraqis, Arabs, or even Iranians are keen to see revived. If Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Iraq this week did not show Syria that Iranian-Iraqi normalization may come at Al-Qaeda’s expense, then nothing will.

That’s where US military browbeating comes in. No one bothered to console Syria all the times Israel bombed its territory or murdered someone in its capital; no one approves of Syrian efforts in Lebanon now; Syria is a nuisance in Gaza, so the prospect of a helping hand from Israel is doubtful, even if Syrian diplomats are talking to Israelis. The USS Cole reminds Syria that it is exposed, and that George W. Bush believes a weak Syria is the best means of protecting his policies in the Middle East.

March 5th, 2008, 9:50 pm

 

Alex said:

Michael Young still trying to point to all the remaing pressure options:

“more economic sanctions will be imposed on Syria this year. The country’s financial system is hardly as invulnerable as many claim. With oil reserves nearing their end and the Syrian government increasingly obliged to lift subsidies on essential products, in the midst of an international increase in prices no less, punitive measures can hurt. They’re unlikely to change Syrian behavior much. However, taken in unison with the Hariri tribunal being set up in The Hague, the limited margin of maneuver of Syria’s Lebanese allies, the abandonment of Al-Qaeda in Iraq by the country’s Sunnis, growing Syrian isolation in the Arab world, Israel’s apparent ability to act with impunity in the heart of the Syrian capital, and Turkey’s collaboration with the US against the PKK, the Assad regime might at some point have to start overhauling its political calculations.”

Syria has 20 billion dollars on the side … there will be no hunger and street demonstrations.

The Hariri tribunal will go no where with no evidence against Syrian officials, and Syria will not send any official if summoned.

And next year there will be a new team in Washington.

March 5th, 2008, 10:01 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
20 billion dollars that can’t be transferred anywhere or used because of sanctions, are not worth much. The money is also mostly from exporting oil and the reserves will come down quickly when Syria becomes a net importer if it is not already one.

If Syria does not send officials to the tribunal it will face sanctions and will look guilty as hell.

Maybe next year there will be a new team in Damascus also? I don’t think so, but that is what you should really hope for.

March 5th, 2008, 10:23 pm

 

Nur al-Cubicle said:

One destroyer is going to do all that? Gee, why waste money on a diplomatic corps and an army?

March 5th, 2008, 10:47 pm

 

Antoun said:

I do think the concerns of a great war this year are a bit extreme.

Small tit-for-tats in Gaza, perhaps in Lebanon, or a strike or two in Syria may arise, but a large scale war involving the regional powers is the extreme end we have all been talking about since Bush imposed his neocon agenda on the Middle East.

The American public are busy with the presidential campaign, with all candidates distancing themselves from Bush’s unilateral, belligerent approach. The Israeli public still haven’t forgiven Olmert over the Lebanon war. A large-scale war is incredibly unpopular, and unsustainable.

The US cannot maintain three fronts, with Iraq, Afghanistan, and perhaps a Syria or Iran. It would take greater mobilisation other than a simple deployment of a destroyer, and there’s no guarantee what course any US military action of today might take in a year’s time with a new president.

Of course, Israel would be used as the military conduit to engage in any large-scale conflict, and perhaps an Israeli engagement with Hizballah/Syria would be backed up by American forces. Again, there would be no guarantee that a future US administration would be willing to sustain military support for a regional conflict. And judging from the results of the Hizballah war in 2006, any future-like moves would be deemed highly risky.

I would be more inclined to suggest that any future violence would occur within Lebanon, within Palestine, with the regional patrons playing chess with their pawns and perhaps the odd military strike as we saw last September. Essentially, I doubt the status quo will change.

March 5th, 2008, 11:15 pm

 

Thomas said:

It sure is interesting to hear all this babbling about a little destroyer that nobody has actually seen. Now the that the destroyer is has departed the area, the crisis has cooled. Of course nobody notes in the Islamofascist world of Hizbollah that the destroyer was actually replaced with twice the firepower (an Aegis class destroyer and Aegis class cruiser). Would be interesting to see what would happen if the Aegis radars actually vectored onto Hizbollah rocket fire.

March 6th, 2008, 12:22 am

 

Enlightened said:

Alex:

New proposal from Syria today to end the Lebanese impasse

1. Election of Suleimann
2. Caretaker government
3. New Elections based on 1960 Electrol Law

Any thoughts?

March 6th, 2008, 1:00 am

 

Enlightened said:

Syria’s ‘New Plan’ for Lebanon … Transitional Government

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has come up with a new plan to end the prolonged political crisis in Lebanon: formation of a transitional government to oversee early parliamentary elections, a measure seen as torpedoing the Arab League initiative.
The ruling March 14 coalition slammed the proposal, saying it “comes in contradiction with the Arab League initiative.”

Arab diplomatic sources said the “plan” was conveyed by Assad to Arab League chief Amr Moussa during a recent meeting in Damascus.

The sources said Assad’s proposal calls for electing army commander Gen. Michel Suleiman president on March 11 in return for the immediate formation of a transitional government to oversee early parliamentary elections based on the 1960 election law, a move that has been rejected by the pro-government ruling majority as well as Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir.

They said Assad informed Moussa that the proposal still needed to be discussed with the Hizbullah-led opposition.

Moussa has reportedly conveyed the Syrian offer to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and al Mustaqbal movement leader Saad Hariri, who is in Riyadh on a private visit.

The sources said March 14 rejected the offer which disagrees with a three-point Arab plan that calls for electing Suleiman president, formation of a national unity government in which no one party has veto power and adoption of a new electoral law.

Sfeir on Tuesday rejected a call by the opposition for adoption of a 1960 election law, saying this law “is no longer sound … a county constituency leads to better representation.”

March 6th, 2008, 1:04 am

 

Alex said:

Enlightened,

Syria’s proposal is not bad at all. But it is useless. It is clear by now that “the Majority” is not going to resign and allow early elections. And it is clear tat the Saudis are not about to give up on the continued hold on power of their allies in Lebanon.

So … this proposal is for local consumption.

If we are to be optimistic, we can think of it as an opening position … who knows. Syria might be willing to offer something a bit more accommodating to the Saudis and M14 that can allow them to attend the Damascus summit without looking like they got nothing in return.

As for that summit … remember that last year, Syria’s attendance was uncertain until the last week… then Bashar attended and he kissed King Abdullah and they laughed and pretended they are freinds.

March 6th, 2008, 1:13 am

 

Enlightened said:

Middle East Monitor is now out.

Gary Gambill a good analyst, here is the Link, I havent read anything yet on it.

http://www.mideastmonitor.org/issues/0801/

We can all read and discuss in next few days.

March 6th, 2008, 1:16 am

 

Enlightened said:

Alex:

“As for that summit … remember that last year, Syria’s attendance was uncertain until the last week… then Bashar attended and he kissed King Abdullah and they laughed and pretended they are freinds.”

If you remember when this was happening I told you that these summitts are damn useless, heaps of handshakes, back slapping, and then things go back to normal. I think that the summitt in Syria will go on with this tradition.

Syria’s proposal is not bad at all. But it is useless. It is clear by now that “the Majority” is not going to resign and allow early elections. And it is clear tat the Saudis are not about to give up on the continued hold on power of their allies in Lebanon.

So … this proposal is for local consumption.

I think the two sides are too diametrically opposed, and something has to give it depends on who will blink first, whats your guess?

March 6th, 2008, 1:26 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

As long as Syria and KSA are locking horns, we can forget about a solution in Lebanon. A solution will not materialize organically; it needs to be imposed upon the actors from the outside, by all of the relevant patrons.

March 6th, 2008, 1:29 am

 

Alex said:

Enlightened,

I agree with QN … but why stop with the Saudis … Eliot Abrams has to also learn about the beauty of working with, and not only against, Syria.

I doubt he is about to do that.

Do you think the Saudis can go against strong pressure from Washington to continue boycotting Syria?

Don’t forget that starting from last year’s summit, it was decided that Saud Al-faisal will visit Damascus to coordinate the follow up to what they discussed in the Riyadh summit.

He could not visit Damascus for some reason.

This is the problem in the Middle East the past few years:

In the transition to the new middle East (where Syria was supposed to become a spectator) … we now have too many cooks.This is the problem:

March 6th, 2008, 2:52 am

 

Ford Prefect said:

The latest from Haaretz. Talks with Syria should be considered (no kidding, Mr. Olmert!)

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/961341.html

Olmert: Talks with Syria should be seriously considered
By Yossi Verter and Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondents
Tags: Egypt, Syria, Israel, Gaza

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert believes negotiations with Syria should be seriously considered “if this would bring an end to its involvement in terrorism and extricate it from the axis of evil.” Speaking at a briefing on the situation in the South to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday, Olmert said that the Syrian leadership is aware of his position.

Israel is also planning to initiate a broad diplomatic effort in order to reach an agreement with Egypt on regulating the security situation along the Gaza-Sinai border, and countering arms smuggling into the Strip. The political-security cabinet instructed the foreign and defense ministries to step up contacts with Egypt on this issue.

A committee member attending the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting earlier this week said that the prime minister’s comment was “not just words.”

A senior political source well versed in relations between Israel and Syria, described Olmert’s statement as “another step forward,” even though Olmert has in the past signaled to Damascus through the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Four months ago, on the eve of the Annapolis conference, Olmert told committee members that he believes “the participation of Syria in the conference could, under certain conditions, bring about a resumption of the negotiations, and this is valuable from Israel’s point of view.”

He added that “no responsible person in Israel would think that negotiations withSyria does not have many advantages for Israel.”

Syria sent a delegation to Annapolis, headed by deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad.

Merely two months earlier, in September 2007, tensions between Jerusalem and Damascus rose dramatically following Israel’s strike in the eastern part of Syria, which foreign press reports claimed was an attack against Syrian nuclear installations.

About three months prior to the attack Olmert called for direct negotiations with Syria, and declared that Israel is interested in peace with Damascus. The statements were made at the completion of a security-political meeting on the situation on the northern border, and ostensibly due to Syrian rearmament and concerns that miscalculations would lead to a confrontation.

Political sources noted on Wednesday that Defense Minister Ehud Barak also believes that Israel should make an effort to achieve progress on the Syrian track, but not necessarily at the expense of the Palestinian track.

Several months ago, speaking at the Saban Forum, Barak said that there may be another outbreak of fighting between Israel and Syria and then “we would have to look into the eyes of the soldiers and tell them that we have made every effort to reach agreement.”

At the end of last week, Haaretz reported that Syrian President Bashar Assad had said recently that he would be willing to meet Prime Minister Olmert in Moscow and discuss a peace agreement.

Assad conditioned the meeting on Israel restoring the proposal made by prime minister Yitzhak Rabin to the Americans in 1994, that Israel would withdraw to the 1967 lines in the Golan Heights, in return for peace.

Meanwhile, Israel intends to push for an agreement with Egypt on regulating and safeguarding the Gaza-Sinai border and to better counter the smuggling of weapons into the Strip. The United States and the European Union have already been involved in the preparations for these talks.

During Wednesday’s political-security cabinet meeting, Foreign Ministry officials presented a plan for progressing diplomatically on this issue with Egypt. The plan’s basic principle is that “in the absence of a major ground offensive, it is important to create a new situation in the Gaza Strip, which will include broader military operations and also an effort to reach a new arrangement with Egypt from a position of strength.”

According to the plan, in order to bring about a stop to the Qassam attacks, it is necessary to strike Hamas in Gaza, but at the same time solve the problem of smuggling, which enables the organization and other militant groups to replenish their weapons arsenals, and also acquire more advanced equipment.

The Foreign Ministry concluded that the solution to smuggling will not come from IDF operations in the Strip, but through Egyptian action, and therefore it is important to take diplomatic action vis-a-vis Cairo.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said that the situation at the border has changed dramatically and therefore it requires a change in the Israeli outlook about a possible solution.

“We need to choose between Hamas and Egypt,” she said. “Dealing with a situation from the past is not relevant. A draw is not acceptable and we need to create a new reality from a position of strength.”

March 6th, 2008, 3:01 am

 

Enlightened said:

Alex, all true, The main obstacle remains Saudi/Syrian Tension so how can we get re-approachment?

The main issue Alex is not too many cooks, but the problem of the Saudi sword dance! We need to come up with a compromise Dabke/Sword dance that is palpatable to both parties. (anyway it might go like this)

1. Facilitate the Election
2. Get Arab attendence at the Summitt
3. Transitional government until 2009 Elections (Equal distribution of Ministries ) President ultimate arbiter of Disputes (acting as non aligned chairman)
4. Commission sanctioned by Lebanese government to reform electoral law.
5. Comission to review the constitution (independent Consitution court) to rule on these matters.

This is a good start, however the Saudi’s and Syrians might think that their dance and body work is more superior to the other! then we are back to square one!

March 6th, 2008, 3:10 am

 

Habib said:

Interesting from the NYT:
Syrians on Video

Make sure to watch the promoted video

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/06/arts/design/06demo.html?_r=1&ref=world&oref=slogin

March 6th, 2008, 3:14 am

 

sam said:

It’s just sabre rattling. The leaked info was probably disinformation to accomplish the same affect. If it comes from a credible source, it would add weight. But have no illusions, Syria can hold fast for a long time. The have very little debt per capita, and alot of reserve natural gas, good agraculture, this winter it rained almost everyday in the Wadi nisara where I’m from, so it’s going to be a good olive harvest this Oct. Other than that Syria will Iran, China, and Russia to help on some form of aid. If there is war, which I pray to GOD there isn’t Syria will hold fast. There isn’t one Isreali soldier that wan’ts to go to war with the Syrians and Hizb, that for sure.

March 6th, 2008, 5:40 am

 

Nur al-Cubicle said:

Humpf. L’Orient Le Jour didn’t so much as mention the Cole in Thursday’s edition. Big spread on the Arab Foreign Ministers Conference in Cairo, though.

March 6th, 2008, 6:25 am

 

Observer said:

The prize is all this is the Iranian nuclear program and the presidential elections.
The presidential elections are minor in my opinion and I still think that a hit on Iran is in the offing with the idea of neutralizing HA through the Cole deployement and the FINUL.
Haaretz just published an article about the administration’s fury over the leaks that Risen of the NYT has produced in his book regarding the combined efforts of the CIA and Mossad to cripple the nuclear program of Tehran. Two operations were completely botched and therefore with the little time left for the administration and the NIE clipping its sails for an overt war, I believe the time is set for covert war.
Here is the link
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/961337.html
I think it is much more than saber rattling. Jumblatt returned warning and welcoming war, he would not have done that if he was not promised full support to crush HA.
All hell will break after the summit.

March 6th, 2008, 1:46 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

How exactly does the Cole (now departed, by the way) “neutralize” Hizbullah?

If the Israelis couldn’t do it over the course of an entire month, using a full frontal military assault, how does a single warship make much of a difference?

March 6th, 2008, 2:06 pm

 

Norman said:

the US is getting ready,

US Fears Attacks on Americans in Lebanon

The Associated Press
Thursday, March 6, 2008; 8:21 AM

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The U.S. embassy in Beirut warned Thursday that militant groups may be planning attacks against Americans citizens and interests in Lebanon.

The statement was the latest in a series of messages urging U.S. citizens to be vigilant. It called on Americans visiting or living in Lebanon to “maintain a low profile in public” and avoid predictable behavior.

“There is a general concern that extremist groups may be planning to attack U.S. citizens and interests in Lebanon. The U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens who live, work, or are traveling in Lebanon to exercise responsible security practices,” it said.

The statement comes amid sectarian tensions and a political deadlock in Lebanon _ the worst since the 1975-90 civil war. It also follows the deployment last week of U.S. warships off the coast of Lebanon in a show of strength amid tensions with Syria, which the U.S. blames for the impasse in Lebanon.

The ships’ deployment sparked criticism from the militant Hezbollah and other pro-Syrian groups in Lebanon, who are locked in a political standoff with the pro-U.S. government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora. Syria also criticized the deployment.

The U.S. embassy has maintained travel limits on its personnel since mid-February and has been telling Americans here in recent advisories to exercise caution because of security conditions.

© 2008 The Associated Press

March 6th, 2008, 2:12 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

I have a question for the Israelis, picking up on something that Qunfuz says in an older post.

Why hasn’t Israel withdrawn from Shebaa?

Since this is the grand pretext for the maintenance of Hizbullah’s weapons, why don’t the Israelis hand it back, along with some Lebanese prisoners?

Nasrallah consistently repeats that Hizbullah will disarm once every inch of Lebanese soil is liberated and their prisoners have been returned. Now, they will always find pretexts to maintain their weapons, but it will be much more difficult.

By the way, I’m not advocating that Israel does this now, as the political atmosphere in Lebanon is so poisonous that HA will have an easy case to make for maintaining the weapons. After all, there’s a warship over the horizon…

But, had Israel withdrawn back in 2005 or earlier, for example, this would have put a lot of pressure on HA to accelerate their transition to a political party.

March 6th, 2008, 2:17 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

QF,
Military planner at the Pentagon and in Israel have been holding joint sessions for a while to figure out lessons learned and new tactics. There is a plan and they “think” it is workable to neutralize HA.

Whether they will implement it or not remains to be seen. And if they do, success can be predicted based on their history.

I draw your attention to the following quatation from the famous publication called “REBUILDING AMERICA’S DEFENSES” on page 51:

“Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.”

The whole interesting, timely, and the basis for today’s US Foreign policy can be found here: http://www.newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf

March 6th, 2008, 2:24 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
If they will always find pretexts, even if it is difficult, then why bother? Now they have the seven villages which they claim are Lebanese and are deep in Israeli territory. I don’t think it will be difficult for them to find reasons at all.

The famous Aoun-Hizballah MOU entails that Hizballah will disarm once Lebanon can defend itself from Israel. In other words, never. That will always be their fallback excuse: How will you defend the people in the Jnoub from an Israeli attack, serve them tea?

March 6th, 2008, 3:19 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

FP,

Please tell me that you’re not one of those folks who believe that the U.S. was the author of its “new Pearl Harbor” incident on 9/11/01.

😉

March 6th, 2008, 3:26 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

AIG

Yes, I’ve heard this argument as well, but you don’t take into account the fact that there are other potential sources of pressure on Hizbullah besides the U.S. and Israel. Over half of the Lebanese are leery of a heavily armed militia, and this includes many Shi`a. They will go to the demonstrations and wave the flags and pictures of Nasrallah, but I think that most people would prefer to see HA’s military wing eventually incorporated into the Lebanese army. (Not as a stationary force with barracks and commissaries, but as a kind of elite commando division that can wage assymetric warfare in defensive operations).

The time to act is not now, though. However, when conditions are right (who knows when?) Israel will have indirect support in its initiative to declaw its adversary: half the Lebanese, most of the Sunni Arab states, and (if we are to believe Alex!) possibly the Syrians themselves (pending a comprehensive deal).

The question is how to bring about those conditions. What the Israelis and Americans don’t seem to get is that military confrontations with these groups play directly into their hands.

March 6th, 2008, 3:35 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
We will have to disagree on this one. I think the Lebanese are just making excuses. The argument that Israel left Lebanon in 2000 and that the UN has decreed the Sheba farms occupied Syrian land should have been enough ammunition for the internal argument to disarm Hizballah. Since that didn’t work, I don’t believe any addition action by Israel will help.

Maybe force will not stop Hizballah but also not ambivalent Lebanese efforts that prefer to point a finger at Israel instead of confronting Hizballah head on.

March 6th, 2008, 3:42 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

I wrote you a response in the previous thread. As for Lebanon (and you’ll forgive me QN), why are we so concerned with their excuses, or with what they really think about Hezbollah, or whether they’ll incorporate them into their regular army, or as commando units? What we want is for Hezbollah to stop firing rockets at our cities, and to stop planning to bomb Jewish centers in S. America, and to stop supporting other armed resistances like Hamas. If we one day have peace with Syria, and through the agreement this is achieved de facto, why do we care so much about the internal arrangements in Lebanon? Must a democratic Lebanon, or Syria, or Saudi Arabia, (or Egypt/Jordan), be a prerequisite to peace with these nations?

March 6th, 2008, 3:57 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

QN,
Of course I am not. I don’t believe in conspiracy theories but I strongly believe that Elvis is actually dead.
However, events like these do accelerate transformation; so they say.

March 6th, 2008, 3:58 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

AIG

I’m sorry — I don’t understand your argument exactly. Which excuses are the Lebanese making? As you know, there is a massive political struggle being waged in Lebanon right now, and the issue of Hizbullah’s weapons is a part of it. So, I don’t understand which excuses are being made.

Nasrallah was not paranoid when he made his barely-veiled accusations against the members of March 14 after the war. Many Lebanese want to see Hizbullah disarm, period. The question is, how do you do this? Some of them are stupid enough to imagine that this can be achieved by force (i.e. by funding their own militias). Others are trying to do it via the UN. And still others are taking the long-view approach which hopes to see them disarm as part of a wider deal.

My argument is that there is real support for disarmament in Lebanon, just as there is real support for peace. However confronting Hizbullah head-on is not so straightforward… and please believe me, I’m not “making excuses” here. (You should know about my ambivalence regarding HA). Once again, I will pull out that chestnut from the bottom drawer: this is a problem that will require chess, not checkers.

March 6th, 2008, 4:16 pm

 

Welcome | Project on Middle East Democracy said:

[…] Alex at SyriaComment analyzes the rationale behind the USS Cole deployment in Syrian-Lebanese waters, citing the possibility of a military operation against Syria if it insists on its position on the Lebanese crisis. Furthermore, the argument presented is that by isolating Syria from Lebanon, the US can move forward with aligning the Lebanese government in its favor. […]

March 6th, 2008, 4:29 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
Saniora sat with Hizballah in the coalition and the outline of the government (“bayan al wasiri” I think you call it) endorsed “resistance activities”. Give me a break. He then started a process to nowhere to disarm Hizballah using “national dialog”. T

The excuses I am talking about is the moving of blame for the failure of the “national dialog” from the participants to Israel. It failed because Hizballah does not want to disarm at this point regardless of what Israel does.

I believe also most Lebanese want to see Hizballah disarmed. I just don’t think any action by Israel will help. Hizballah is a state within a state and will be so for quite a while. The only way to disarm them is by stopping the funding from Iran.

March 6th, 2008, 4:37 pm

 

Observer said:

Well so far the Israeli violations of the Lebanese air space amounted to over 900 since the beginning of 2008 and today L’Orient Le Jour did have a headline that a small Israeli incursion into Lebanon did occur.
Now the warship is anti missile ship and is meant to engage up to 120 targets at once with its weapons and radar systems and this is where it is aimed to neutralize the HA rockets.
Someone is itching for a fight and certainly before the Arab summit if possible but certainly can happen afterwards so as not to “embarrass further” the axis of moderation.
As we say in Damascus they have taken the skin off their ass to cover their faces after the last meeting of the Arab foreign ministers delivered a mini mouse.

March 6th, 2008, 4:51 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

AIG,

That was a tactic designed to fight off the challenge from Aoun. Without Hizbullah’s support, March 14 would not have been able to build its anti-Syrian majority. Unfortunately politics is term-to-term.

Who is blaming Israel for the failure of national dialogue? They’re all blaming each other, and the U.S./KSA/Syria, etc. What I’m blaming Israel for is not recognizing that the solution to Hizb’s weapons is a political one.

On that note, FP, can you imagine what the world would look like if the U.S. spent even a modest fraction of the amount of money, effort, strategic planning, and human resources that it reserves for its armed forces, on its diplomatic and intelligence services? The fight for hearts and minds cannot be won by battleships and carriers… in this new world order, it is won on al-Jazeera talk shows and opinion pages. How telling is it that the U.S. cannot field a fluent diplomatic corps educated in the history of the region, that can step up to the plate with Iranian or Arab interlocutors and fight it out on the airwaves?

They would lose some arguments and win others. But they would win much more in the way of formulating intelligent policy…

March 6th, 2008, 4:54 pm

 

Norman said:

This promising,

FROM WND’S JERUSALEM BUREAU
Israel announces ‘willingness’ to negotiate with Syria
Sources say secret, high-level dialogue with Damascus began months ago

——————————————————————————–
Posted: March 06, 2008
10:43 am Eastern

By Aaron Klein
© 2008 WorldNetDaily

Syrian leader Bashar Assad

JAFFA, Israel – Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced today negotiations between the Jewish state and Syria should be seriously considered it if would bring an end to Syrian-sponsored terrorism and Damascus’ “involvement in the axis of evil.”

WND exclusively reported last month Olmert’s government already has been secretly holding high-level talks with Syria regarding renewing negotiations over an Israeli retreat from the strategic Golan Heights.

Top diplomatic sources in Jerusalem confirmed Defense Minister Ehud Barak, a former prime minister, has been passing official messages regularly to Syrian President Bashar Assad regarding Israel’s willingness to negotiate over the Golan.

The messages are being transmitted by the Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv with the sanctioning of Turkish President Abdullah Gul.

The talks continued even after the assassination in Syria last month of Hezbollah arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyah. Most Arab countries, including Syria, charged Israel was behind the top terrorist’s elimination.

(Story continues below)

March 6th, 2008, 5:03 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

QN,
you are absolutely right. Most people in the Arab World, if not everywhere, respect America’s Jeffersonian ideals, freedom, and democracy. While there is an ignorant and bigoted minority, they are on the fringes and do exist everywhere. The vast majority want nothing but peace.

Imagine if the $3 trillion spent on the war in Iraq were spent on peace instead. Imagine.

March 6th, 2008, 5:10 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN and FP,
You guys need to vist a refugee camp post haste.
People do not care about words. They care about actions. They want to see their situation change. But the oppressive regimes in the area do not provide hope and then they blame the US for everything. Why exactly would an illiterate Egyptian living in a graveyard in Cairo be interested to hear about Jefffersonian ideals or to listen to some American on Al-Jazeera? How would that help. Get real.

March 6th, 2008, 5:23 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
You are indirectly blaming Israel for failure of the national dialog because it didn’t return the Sheba farms. If not, then I misunderstand your argument.

March 6th, 2008, 5:24 pm

 

Alex said:

Damascus, Tehran sign eight memorandums of understanding
By The Associated Press

Syria and Iran signed Thursday eight memorandums of understanding, in a ceremony attended by journalists, involving different fields and agreed to set up a fund to finance investment in both countries.

The memorandums in fields including energy, media, health and customs were signed by Syrian Prime Minister Naji Otari and Iranian Vice President Parviz Davoudi who attended a two-day annual meeting of the joint Syrian-Iranian Supreme Committee.

During the meetings, both sides discussed ways of implementing three giant projects including diverting waters from the Tigris river to the northeastern province of Hassaka as well as generating power in the region. The third project is to divert water from the Euphrates river to the arid central regions.

Syria is Persian Iran’s strongest ally in the Arab world and has maintained close relations with Tehran since the overthrow of the monarchy in 1979.

The two countries also had agreed to set up an investment fund with a value of $200 million to finance joint investments.

Davoudi met earlier Thursday with President Bashar Assad and discussed with him bilateral relations and the situation in the Middle East, the official news agency, SANA, said.

A day earlier, Otari stressed Syria’s support to Iran in facing international pressures aiming to prevent it from its legitimate right to possess nuclear power for peaceful purposes.

“We reject the principle of sanctions, political pressures and resorting to intimidation and blackmail,” Otari said, adding that Iran’s nuclear issue must be handed through dialogue and diplomacy.

The UN Security Council on Monday imposed a new round of sanctions on Iran for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, a key process that can be used to produce nuclear fuel or a warhead of a bomb. Iran immediately dismissed the sanctions as worthless and said it would continue enrichment.

Otari called on the international community to rid the region of all weapons of mass destruction and not to ignore what he called Israel’s nuclear arsenal that threatens regional and international peace and security.

The volume of joint investments in Syria from Iran have amounted during the past few years to around $1.5 billion especially in the industrial field, SANA said.

More than 350,000 Iranian tourists visited Syria in 2007

March 6th, 2008, 6:18 pm

 

Alex said:

I would like to make a comment on the above news story:

Iran’s investments in Syria over the past few years is estimated at $1.5 billions.

Qatar alone announced an 8 Billion investment in Syria last week (the Lattakia and Damascus projects) … UAE companies are investing over ten billions in Syria as well.

So … I hope this puts things in perspective. Syria is not “an Iranian puppet” because Iran “supports Syria financially” as one reads in many opinion pieces.

350,000 Iranian tourists visited Syria last year.

When Prime minister Olmert talks about taking Syria out of the “axis of evil” … I hope he realizes that Syria’s ties to Iran are not valued at 1.5 billions (the last few years), but at 350,000 Iranian tourists per year who come to Syria because they love Syria…. since 1979, millions of Iranians visited Syria. A Syrian leader would be crazy to jeopardize his country’s special relationship with the nation of Iran.

March 6th, 2008, 6:28 pm

 

Naji said:

Here is another one…!

Last update – 11:59 06/03/2008
Who leaked the details of a CIA-Mossad plot against Iran?
By Yossi Melman

The Bush administration is prolonging the hunting season against journalists. The latest victim is James Risen, The New York Times reporter for national security and intelligence affairs. About three months ago, a federal grand jury issued a subpoena against him, ordering Risen to give evidence in court. A heavy blackout has been imposed on the affair, with the only hint being that it has to do with sensitive matters of “national security.”

But conversations with several sources who are familiar with the affair indicate that Risen has been asked to testify as part of an investigation aimed at revealing who leaked apparently confidential information about the planning of secret Central Intelligence Agency and Mossad missions concerning Iran’s nuclear program.

Risen included this information in his book, “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration,” which was published in 2006. In the book, he discusses a number of ideas which he says were thought up jointly by CIA and Mossad operatives to sabotage Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

One of these ideas was to build electromagnetic devices, smuggling them inside Iran to sabotage electricity lines leading to the country’s central nuclear sites. According to the plan, the operation was supposed to cause a series of chain reactions which would damage extremely powerful short circuits in the electrical supply that would have led to failures of the super computers of Iran’s nuclear sites.

According to the book, the Mossad planners proposed that they would be responsible for getting the electromagnetic facilities into Iran with the aid of their agents in Iran. However, a series of technical problems prevented the plan’s execution.

Another of the book’s important revelations, which made the administration’s blood boil about James Risen, appeared in a chapter describing what was known as Operation Merlin, the code name for another CIA operation supposed to penetrate the heart of Iran’s nuclear activity, collect information about it and eventually disrupt it.

Operation Merlin

The CIA counter proliferation department hired a Soviet nuclear engineer who had previously, in the 1990s, defected to the United States and revealed secrets from the Soviet Union’s nuclear program. His speciality was in the field of what is called weaponization, the final stage of assembling a nuclear bomb.

The scientist was equipped with blueprints for assembling a nuclear bomb in which, without his knowledge, false drawings and information blueprints were planted about a nuclear warhead that was supposedly manufactured in the Soviet Union. The plan’s details had been fabricated by CIA experts, and so while they appeared authentic, they had no engineering or technological value.

The intention was to fool the scientist and send him to make contact with the Iranians to whom he would offer his services and blueprints. The American plot was aimed at getting the Iranians to invest a great deal of effort in studying the plans and to attempt to assemble a faulty warhead. But when the time came, they would not have a nuclear bomb but rather a dud.

However, Operation Merlin, which was so creative and original, failed because of CIA bungled planning. The false information inserted into the blueprints were too obvious and too easily detected and the Russian engineer discovered them. As planned, he made contact with the Iranian delegation to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna and handed over to them, also as planned, the blueprints.

But contrary to the CIA’s intention, he added a letter to the blueprints in which he pointed out the mistakes. He did not do this with ill intent or out of a desire to disrupt the operation and harm his operators. On the contrary, he did so out of a deep sense of mission and in order to satisfy his American operators. He hoped that in this way he would simply increase the Iranians’ trust in him and encourage them to make contact with him for the good, of course, of his American operators.

The result was disastrous. Not only did the CIA fail to prevent the Iranians in their efforts to enhance their nuclear program, this operation may also have made it possible for them to get their hands on a plan for assembling a nuclear warhead.

Freedom of the press

In Israel, military censorship would have prevented the publication of details such as these. But in the U.S., where the principle of freedom of the press is sacred and anchored in the constitution, there is no compulsory and binding censorship. There is, however, an expectation there that the press will show responsibility. This expectation has increased in recent years, particularly with the conservative Bush administration and in the wake of the events of September 11, 2001 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Risen is not the first journalist to have been subpoenaed to give evidence before a grand jury and reveal his sources. According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, some 65 journalists have been summoned for such investigations since 2001. Some agreed, cooperated and testified. Most refused, so that they would not have to reveal their sources. In this way, they exposed themselves to being charged with contempt of court.

There were some who even preferred to be jailed so long as they were not forced to reveal their source. The best-known case was that of Judith Miller, another New York Times writer. The background to her 85-day imprisonment was her refusal to reveal who had leaked the name of Valerie Plame, a CIA agent, to the media. (The man responsible for the leak was Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a senior aide to Vice President Dick Cheney. Libby was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment but was pardoned by President Bush.)

“It is true that there is tension between the Bush administration and the media,” says Steve Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy on behalf of the Federation of American Scientists, an independent body which aims at analyzing the activities of government with a critical eye, “but I would not go so far as to say that the administration is waging war against the media.”

In Aftergood’s assessment, the danger to the freedom of the press comes rather from private citizens and organizations, those who feel themselves harmed by journalistic publications and commentators and who would therefore like to limit the press’ freedom. The most conspicuous of these is Gabriel Schoenfeld, a senior editor at Commentary, who believes that liberal newspapers like The New York Times are not sufficiently patriotic. In his articles and in testimony before a Senate committee that discussed the issue, Schoenfeld claimed that

The New York Times reporters had revealed confidential material that weakened America’s struggle against Al-Qaida. He calls for relinquishing the soft approach which he says the administration has taken against journalists in whose publications, in his opinion, America’s security is harmed.

There are many others who take the opposite approach and believe that the right of journalists to keep their sources secret should be anchored in law. Two Congressmen, the Republican Mike Pence, and Rick Boucher, a Democrat, have proposed legislation to this effect – a law for the free flow of information. The House of Representatives has already approved their proposal but the legislation is being held up in the Senate, to the displeasure of the American Civil Liberties Union.

On the face of it, this is a sensitive issue that is intended to draw the lines between the freedom of information, freedom of the media, and the public’s right to know, against the right of a democracy to defend itself against enemies that are not democratic. But James Risen has no doubt that the correct and just moral act on his part has to be to defend his sources, even if this means he will lose his freedom.

The next test case in the U.S. concerning the freedom of the press could be of even greater interest to Israel. It is connected to next month’s trial of two former senior American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) employees, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, who have been charged with crimes based on an old First World War anti-espionage law, which has hardly ever been put into practice since.

The indictment states that they obtained confidential information from officials at the Pentagon and transferred it, inter alia, to Israeli diplomats and journalists. A number of American journalists have already been investigated by the CIA in connection to this, and it is possible that they will be called to give evidence incriminating the two senior AIPAC officials.

March 6th, 2008, 6:30 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

AIG,

First, on Shebaa… I’m not blaming Israel (directly or indirectly) for the failure of national dialogue. The fact of Israel’s not returning Shebaa is not what is making Hizbullah hold on to the weapons. (Rather, Shebaa is a pretext which insults our intelligence and makes a mockery of the legitimate struggle that ousted Israel in 2000.) I was merely wondering aloud why Israel does not take this seriously as an option, if it wants to put pressure on HA, rather than bombing Lebanon fruitlessly. You explained your reasoning.

As for words vs. actions… Again, you misunderstand me. What I have in mind is not a fuddy duddy career diplomat in a tweed jacket lecturing a snoring al-Jazeera anchorman on the subtleties of the system of checks and balances, and the merits of a bicameral government.

If you believe that oppressive regimes are responsible for stifling hope and then blaming the U.S. for everything, then how could a steady VERBAL onslaught of articulate, informed, witty, shrewd, and sincere commentary and debate NOT help matters?

Contemporary Middle Eastern culture is, in most countries, deeply political. You keep saying that you want to see the region change… for people to topple their governments and embrace democracy. I am saying that the surest way to achieve this is by engaging the region’s populations (graveyard and villa dwellers alike) on a common ground. It’s at least a start.

March 6th, 2008, 6:33 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

I think AIG is currently being “resisted” on three different fronts, I mean posts.

March 6th, 2008, 6:46 pm

 

wizart said:

That’s why we need to invite more “enemies” in so we can get to know them and be able to put ourselves in their shoes and they in ours.

QN: Qifa Nadhak is a more advanced question 🙂

March 6th, 2008, 6:52 pm

 

Shai said:

QN,

Is this then what is often referred to as “the resistance”? 🙂

March 6th, 2008, 6:56 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
You saw what happens when the US tries to pressure Egypt for more democratic reforms. The Egyptian state controlled press went berserk.

What are the Amercians going to tell Egyptians via Al-Jazeera or any other means: “Mubarak, who by the way we support, is opressing you”? How will this message ever fly? Any PR staregy is doomed to failure because of the short term political decisions that in many cases contradict the PR message.

March 6th, 2008, 6:57 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

AIG

Aha!

I caught you. Now you’re sounding like one of those Arabs who blames everything on the U.S.

So what you’re saying is that it’s the U.S.’s fault that it supports Mubarak in the first place… hmmmm.

March 6th, 2008, 7:11 pm

 

Naji said:

Eight Israelis dead, and more than 30 injured, in a West Jerusalem shooting…

So what is the score so far this year…?! A few hundred Palestinians killed, to a few dozen Israelis killed …but who has caused more injuries, more pain…?! Who is winning…??!! 🙁

March 6th, 2008, 7:32 pm

 

T said:

AIG,

USS Nassau is heading to Lebanon with its 6 or more support vessels. But the ships are supposedly empty- of troops and hardware. What would this mean? Floating detention center? Evacuations? What?

March 6th, 2008, 7:38 pm

 

Naji said:

…apparently this was at THE most important Judeo-fascist madrasa…!! Is it really only Hamas who is involved…?! Oh the arrogance of power… they just never learn…!!

March 6th, 2008, 7:39 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

QN,
I am now 100% sure that you are reading my mind. Stop it! 😉

March 6th, 2008, 7:40 pm

 

Shai said:

Naji,

I’m glad you used a sad emoticon. This is ridiculous. A few people on this earth, some 40 years ago, figured out how to land a man on the moon, and we still can’t figure out how to live in peace! Why? Don’t tell me it’s because we’re blood-thirsty animals that thrive off each other’s pain. Don’t tell me it’s because we’ve been so badly brainwashed that we can’t think for ourselves. These aren’t the reasons. I think it’s because we’ve become almost numb to our reality. We’ve lost all hope, and have come to accept this bloody reality as our fate.

But you and I know that it doesn’t have to be this way. We know that we CAN change reality. We therefore must have hope. We must look towards the future, and see peace, not war. We must continue to search for every ounce of energy and to invest in this quest, in this dream. Please find the strength, and help others do the same. We must believe, that the “Day After”, can be a brighter day.

March 6th, 2008, 7:49 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Empty vessels mean empty threats.

The news from Israel-Palestine is very sad.

There will be much more bloodshed to come.

March 6th, 2008, 8:21 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
No, I am telling you what the Arabs will say and why the PR will not be effective. The Arab masses really don’t care for the short term expidiency considerations that every US adminstration must make. Their un-nuanced view is that the US supports Mubarak and what he stands for; not that the US supports Mubarak because it believes the other options are worse but it really does not like dictators like Mubarak. That is a PR hole you cannot get out of.

The Arabs need to come to the conclusion that democracy is good for them inspite of the fact that the US preaches it and its actions are not totally consistent with what it preaches. This will take time and no US PR can help this process.

March 6th, 2008, 10:00 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

bloodshed will lead to bloodshed

March 6th, 2008, 10:03 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,

Of course there will be more bloodshed and it will back fire badly on the Arab residents of Jerusalem. The murderer was apparently a resident of Jerusalem affiliated with a Hizballah related group.

Next time the Arab residents of East Jerusalem ask why their movements are limited, you already know the answer.

Also now Israel will have to keep an eye to make sure there are no revenge killings by settlers. I think this is very likely.

And as for who is winning, there cannot be winners in the middle east. Only some lose less. Yom asal yom basal.

March 6th, 2008, 10:10 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Naji said –

So what is the score so far this year…?! A few hundred Palestinians killed, to a few dozen Israelis killed …but who has caused more injuries, more pain…?!

I don’t know. Another 50 Iraqis got blown away today in a car bomb. And no one here mentioned it, only the 8 Israelis that got killed. I wonder why?

In any case, the War on Terror is real and it isn’t going to be negotiated away like some here speculate.

http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/meast/03/06/iraq.main/index.html

March 6th, 2008, 10:37 pm

 

Nur al-Cubicle said:

Watch the Israelis overreact. I think this Mercaz Harav rabbinical school was for die-hard West Bank settlers. Didn’t take long for an Israeli crowd to form shouting “Death to Arabs”.

March 6th, 2008, 10:44 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Nur,
How about the people giving out sweets in Gaza? Were they over reacting? Maybe a little?
Let me know when they shout Death to America, that would be interesting.

March 6th, 2008, 10:54 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Didn’t take long for an Israeli crowd to form shouting “Death to Arabs”.

Nur,

These shouts of “Death to …” are an everyday occurence across the Middle East, Europe, the UK, Iran, and the US.

What are you so surprised about?

March 6th, 2008, 11:18 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

AIG

Their un-nuanced view is that the US supports Mubarak and what he stands for; not that the US supports Mubarak because it believes the other options are worse but it really does not like dictators like Mubarak. That is a PR hole you cannot get out of.

Ok, this is … wrong? Our un-nuanced view is certainly not that the US supports Mubarak because of what he stands for. (What’s that, by the way?) We’re not idiots. Decades of dictators following centuries of kings, caliphs, and emperors sows a little cynicism into one’s cultural DNA.

If the U.S. continues supporting the dictators who oppress their populations and stifle democracy out of “short term expediency considerations”, how do you see democracy emerging? Eventually we’re going to get movements like the MB toppling or almost toppling regimes, which will then be followed by more U.S. bolstering and buffeting… What do you see happening otherwise?

March 6th, 2008, 11:54 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

If the U.S. continues supporting the dictators who oppress their populations and stifle democracy…

Qifa Nabki,

Did the U.S. “continue supporting the dictators who oppress their populations and stifle democracy” when it overthrew the Baathist strangle-hold of Saddam Hussein? The Taliban in Afghanistan?

Hey, what if the U.S. conducts REGIME CHANGE IN SYRIA? Does that count or is there another anti-American “asterisk” involved with that hypothetical scenario?

Qifa, unfortunately I think AIG is right, the Arabs like yourself alway find fault with someone else no matter the outcome. There is NOTHING the US can do that will please a rejectionist.

March 7th, 2008, 12:12 am

 

offended said:

I agree with Majed, bloodshed will only lead to bloodshed….

‘No justice, no peace’ if the Israeli government thinks the resolution to its problems in Sderot and elsewhere are security-based, then it is gravely mistaken…

You want to break form the cycle of violence? It really is simple, give Palestinan people back their rights and show them that their lives are highly regarded as every other human being on this planet.

And Akbar, the same applies to Iraq, the solution is not security based. I think it won’t take much time before the Sahwa thing backfires on the US if they don’t get their act together…

March 7th, 2008, 12:46 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

AP,

You haven’t been reading my exchange with AIG closely enough. I know I’m an Arab rejectionist and that I’m culturally wired to moan about the American conspiracy responsible for my rotting tomatoes, but I don’t think my argument deserves your verdict.

My point in referring to the U.S. support of dictators was not to play the rejectionist card. In fact, I didn’t bring it up in the first place… AIG did. He expressed doubt that engaging meaningfully with the Arab world via a linguistically and culturally fluent diplomatic corps would make a difference in the region, because people can’t get their heads around the support for dictators.

I disagree with him. I actually believe that America is not doing enough to bring about change in the Middle East. (There he goes again, complaining about America!) You see, AP, I’m worse than a rejectionist. I’m an affirmatist. I believe in the logic of overwhelming force… force of argument, force of communication, force of rhetoric, force of dialogue. I want to see America play a powerful role in the region, but I’d like to see it do so in a thoughtful and informed way.

If the “freedom agenda” was not just a cynical foil for America’s post-Soviet strategy for world domination (as most Arabs believe), then there are ways in which this agenda could be pursued more meaningfully.

Having said that… I also believe that our problems are ours to solve.

March 7th, 2008, 1:32 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

You want to break form the cycle of violence? It really is simple, give Palestinan people back their rights and show them that their lives are highly regarded as every other human being on this planet.

Israel has given full rights to everyone living under her juristiction including Arabs, Christians, Muslims, and Jews.

Israel has no reponsibility to those living outside her borders, including Palestinians living in Gaza under the Utopian Hamas government.

And the occupation could never be an excuse because Israel is out of Gaza now and never occupied any land before ’67.

Perhaps, one day, it may occur to you that what Hamas and Islamic Jihad say is the real reason they’re so violent: Israel’s existence.

March 7th, 2008, 1:40 am

 

Enlightened said:

Revisiting Designation Of Rami Makhlouf:

Dossier from Middle East Monitor

Dossier: Rami Makhlouf

Rami Makhlouf
On February 21, the US Treasury Department designated Syrian billionaire Rami Makhlouf a beneficiary and facilitator of public corruption in Syria,[1] in conjunction with a White House executive order expanding American sanctions on Damascus. Although the move was unilateral and largely symbolic (Makhlouf has no known financial assets in the US or significant ties to American companies), the decision to censure a major Syrian public figure outside of government represents a discernable escalation in the scope and intensity of American opprobrium.

A cousin of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Makhlouf’s singular claim to notoriety is the enormous and multifaceted conglomerate he has built as a result of no-bid government contracts, immunity from unfavorable judicial rulings, and all other manners of privilege typical of clan-based patronage in the Middle East. Having done so in partnership with like-minded elites in the region, he occupies an important nexus in Syria’s relations with other Arab states that is all but impervious to outside pressure.
Background

When the late Hafez Assad consolidated power in the 1970s, he distributed considerable privileges to relatives of his wife, Anisah Makhlouf. Like Assad, the Makhlouf family was Alawite (the minority Islamic sect that has dominated government in Baathist Syria), but far more prominent than his own and from a different tribe, the Haddadin. Some members of the family advanced within the security apparatus, such as her cousin, Gen. Adnan Makhlouf, the commander of the Syrian Presidential Guard for many years. Anisa’s brother, Muhammad, made a fortune, both through management of state companies and in the private sector. Rami (b. 1969) is one of Muhammad’s four sons, the others being Hafez, Ihab, and Iyad (the latter twins). Hafez (best known for surviving the fiery car crash that killed Bashar’s older brother Basil in 1994) began a career in the General Intelligence Directorate, while Rami and Ihab followed their father into business.

The Makhloufs were among a diverse and multipolar panoply of connected insiders who monopolized the small, but growing, Syrian private sector in the 1990s. However, the distribution of spoils began to shift as an ailing President Hafez Assad paved the way for his son’s succession. He understood that the Makhlouf family could be counted upon to support Bashar without waver in the uncertain political environment likely to ensue upon his death (in contrast to those who had close financial ties to the late Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, such as then-Vice-president Abdul Halim Khaddam). Rami and Ihab therefore enjoyed easy access to opportunities – the most notable being an exclusive license to operate a network of duty-free retail shops (where a significant portion of goods are redistributed). By the time Bashar assumed power in 2000, Rami was well established.

While Assad delegated sweeping authority in the security realm by installing Assef Shawkat (the husband of his sister, Bushra) as head of military intelligence, management of the economy was nominally diffused to loyal technocrats. However, as Assad began steadily opening sectors of the Syrian economy, a select group of close allies were allowed to swarm the private sector and bend the system to their will. Like Rami, many are sons of “first generation” power barons (e.g. Firas Tlass, son of former Defense Minsiter Mustapha Tlass).

Along with his brother and business manager, Nader Qilaai, Makhlouf has built an empire that penetrates every high growth sector of the economy, particularly real estate (he owns the Talisman Hotel, where US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi stayed during her visit last April), transport (he is a major shareholder in a newly licensed private airline), banking, heavy industry, and – most importantly – telecommunications. These investments have usually been made through corporations in which the Makhlouf family is the majority or largest shareholder (e.g. Ramak, Cham Holding, Drex Technologies), and very often in joint ventures with partners from other regional (particularly oil-rich Arab) countries. Since Makhlouf could virtually guarantee the profitability of any project in which he was invested, the latter were not hard to find.

After obtaining one of two lucrative mobile phone licenses in 2001, Makhlouf formed a joint venture with Egypt’s Orascom Telecom (OT) to form Syriatel, which came to control about 55% of Syria’s mobile-phone market (the rest belonging to Investcom, a “rival” firm tied to other regime interests). Having utilized the expertise and funds of OT to get the company up and running, Makhlouf effectively forced his Egyptian partner to relinquish its share of the profitable racket on highly concessional terms – the kind that only a series of farcical Syrian court rulings on Makhlouf’s behalf could make possible.

MP Riad Seif famously attempted to abort the government’s effective seizure of the “private” cell phone market at the very start, submitting a report to parliament denouncing irregularities in the creation of both Syriatel and Investcom. He did not actually name Makhlouf, but pointed out that Syria was one of the few countries in the world where the state had failed to profit from the sale of mobile phone licenses – that alone was apparently sufficient to ensure his arrest and imprisonment for several years.

Whether Makhlouf was involved in the decision to punish Seif isn’t clear, but the distinction is perhaps irrelevant – his role in cornering the Syrian cell phone market implicitly made him a key participant in the regime’s security-intelligence infrastructure. This would become readily observable years later, when Assad felt the need to mobilize public displays of support in the wake of Hariri’s assassination. As the president gave defiant speeches, all subscribers to Syriatel received text messages inviting them to attend rallies demonstrating ”love of country and the rejection of external pressures.”[2] One opposition source speculated that Rami helped secure the recent appointment of his brother Hafez as head of the Damascus department of State Security so that he can monitor the communications and movements of rival businessmen.[3]

Although Makhlouf did not succeed in every attempt to advance his ambitions (he failed in a rather audacious attempt at forcing Mercedes to make him its sole agent in Syria, a position long held by the Sanqar family), his rise was the most glaring indication that economic power in Bashar’s Syria was being concentrated in fewer hands. This narrowing of the regime’s power base helped inspired Syrian opposition leaders (many of whom genuinely liked Bashar at first) to unite against him and eventually contributed to the defection of Khaddam in late 2005. Moreover, allowing Makhlouf and others to bend the rules ultimately undermined the government’s ostensible economic aims. The Orascom affair, as the Middle East Economic Digest noted at the time, “highlighted the difficulties foreign investors are liable to face in Syria” for all the world to see.[4]

These costly ramifications beg the question of why Assad has not reined in his cousin. Many informed observers speculate that the Assad family profits under the table from Rami’s ventures, though there is little solid proof of this. It is rumored that Bashar’s mother has pressured him not to clip his cousin’s wings, possibly at the encouragement of Bushra (who may be closer to Rami than her brother). It is also important to bear in mind that Makhlouf’s large network of regional business partners provides him with enormous leverage at home and provides the regime with a layer of protection against outside Arab pressures.

These international connections have made Makhlouf’s loyalties the subject of much speculation. When international pressure on Damascus peaked following the assassination of Hariri in 2005, Makhlouf spent much of the summer abroad. Reports of his arrival in Paris with Qilaai[5] and a lengthy sojourn to Qatar[6] fueled intense speculation that he was preparing to abandon the regime. Al-Hayat reported that Makhlouf and other Syrian officials had transferred billions of dollars in assets to the Arab Gulf.[7] Nothing came of it, however, and Makhlouf has continued to prosper as the partner of choice for Gulf-financed megaprojects. Ironically, the ensuing instability in Lebanon (a favorite of Saudi investors) has led Saudi investment in Syria to greatly increase in 2006/2007, even as Syrian relations with Riyadh have deteriorated.

The Bush administration’s decision to formally sanction Makhlouf is part of a broader effort to punish Syria for failing to help resolve the ongoing political standoff in Lebanon. Although the designation is a powerful display of diplomatic antipathy, it is unlikely to have a major impact on his financial power. Just days after the sanctions were announced, Emaar Properties of the United Arab Emirates signed for a $100 million venture with Cham Holding.[8] So long as there is money to be made in Syria and a surplus of Gulf petrodollars, Rami Makhlouf will have a bright future.

Notes

March 7th, 2008, 2:23 am

 

majedkhaldoun said:

With 50 years passed since Syria and Egypt get togather ,uniting in one country, I do wish that the alliance between Syria and Iran,extend to include Egypt, this is very dangerous time for the Arab, and such alliance is needed badly.

March 7th, 2008, 2:24 am

 

norman said:

The Idea of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is going to leave many people in the Mideast ,Christians , Jews and Muslims blind and toothless, I think Gandhi said that.

March 7th, 2008, 3:06 am

 

norman said:

World news
Israel and the Palestinian territories

A double act of revenge: carefully planned atrocity strikes at Israel’s spiritual heart· Attack may be in response to Gaza and Damascus
· Lone gunman could have had Israeli ID document
Ian Black, Middle East editor The Guardian, Friday March 7 2008 Article historyAbout this articleClose This article appeared in the Guardian on Friday March 07 2008 on p19 of the International section. It was last updated at 02:57 on March 07 2008.
Israeli medics and emergency personnel outside The Wohl Torah Center in Jerusalem. Photograph: Nati Shohat/EPA

Atrocities in the Middle East are often carefully planned and the Palestinian gunman who killed eight Israelis in Jerusalem last night may have been carrying out a dual act of revenge for the recent onslaught in the Gaza Strip and the assassination of a Hizbullah commander in Damascus.

The shooting at a Jewish seminary in the west of the city, far from Palestinian areas , matters for several reasons:

· It was the first attack in Jerusalem for four years

· It seemed intended to send the message that Israel’s attacks on its enemies, either in Gaza, Lebanon or Syria would not go unanswered

· It reinforced the assumption that action on one front would bring a response on another.

· It will make it harder than before to achieve progress in the near-moribund peace process.

It may have been a coincidence that the Mercaz Harav yeshiva or religious college is identified with the spiritual leadership of the Jewish settlement movement in the occupied West Bank, and especially with Gush Emunim, one of its leading elements. But Jerusalem is likely to have been deliberately chosen: there were no Palestinian attacks in the city during 2007 though the security forces claimed to have foiled many attempts. Between 2001 and 2004 it was hit frequently, with six suicide bombings on buses that killed 77 people.

Last night’s was the worst incident inside Israel since April 2006. The decrease in violence has been attributed to the effectiveness of the West Bank barrier in restricting access for Palestinians.

Movement between the Palestinian and Jewish parts of Jerusalem is less strictly controlled. Initial reports suggested that the gunman – apparently acting alone – was a resident of East Jerusalem and had an Israeli ID card.

Swift international condemnation was coupled with predictable declarations of support for the faltering peace process, relaunched at Annapolis last November but bedevilled by the split in Palestinian ranks and the absence of meaningful Israeli concessions.

Israel’s foreign ministry was quick to insist that the incident would not “destroy the chances of peace”. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, condemned the attack. Abbas announced he was suspending contact with Israel after last week’s violence in Gaza, in which at least 100 Palestinians (half of them civilians) and three Israelis were killed.

But he backed down on Wednesday after meeting Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, and agreed talks would resume.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad welcomed the news. “It’s the responsibility of those who killed 130 Palestinians in Gaza,” said Abu Ahmad, an Islamic Jihad spokesman. “We congratulate those responsible for this heroic operation.”

The most intriguing reaction came from Lebanon where al-Manar, Hizbullah’s TV station, reported that responsibility for the attack had been claimed by a previously unknown group called The Galilee Freedom Battalions – Groups of the Martyr Imad Mughniyeh and Martyrs of Gaza. The name suggests a tendency that Middle East analysts point to: Hizbullah and Hamas, both backed by Iran and Syria, see themselves as allies who coordinate their actions.

Mughniyeh, a Hizbullah commander seen as master terrorist by the US and Israel, was assassinated in a mysterious car bombing in Damascus last month. No one claimed responsibility but Israel was widely blamed.

Hassan Nasrallah, Hizbullah’s leader, pledged at the funeral that Mughniyeh would be avenged. Last night may have been his response.

March 7th, 2008, 3:41 am

 

Ford Prefect said:

Norman,
It will be curiously interesting if we hear in the news that Israel is officially blaming HA for the Jerusalem masasacre. Then the US naval assets would have been at the right place, at the right time, wounldn’t they?

March 7th, 2008, 3:59 am

 

norman said:

FP,
If Israel is going to attack HA, I mean if it is the right time to start the war they are planing then they will blame HA and attack , The US destroyers will be used to prevent any assistance to HA.

March 7th, 2008, 4:49 am

 

Nur al-Cubicle said:

More nonsense from Washington:

“The United States Coast Guard has strengthened security in US ports against ships that might have called at Syrian ports because of Syria’s links with “international terrorist organizations”.

Pfffft.

March 7th, 2008, 5:23 am

 

offended said:

A mini SC conference was held today. The participants were me and Ehsani2. It was beyond successful. And I am telling you guys, if it were up to us, and although we have few points of disagreement, world crises would be resolved within 15 minutes. : )

March 7th, 2008, 12:37 pm

 

offended said:

Today, Dan Daemon (spelling?), the chief anchor at the BBC World radio said that Imad Mughneya was a top ‘Hamas’ commander, and the Palestinian correspondent in Jerusalem didn’t correct him….???

March 7th, 2008, 12:39 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Qifa Nabki continues:

I actually believe that America is not doing enough to bring about change in the Middle East. (There he goes again, complaining about America!)

Yes, right on que. The US is doing and has done more to change the Middle East than any other nation on the face of the Earth, including the powerless, anti-American, do-nothing, “Arab Street”.

You see, AP, I’m worse than a rejectionist. I’m an affirmatist. I believe in the logic of overwhelming force… force of argument, force of communication, force of rhetoric, force of dialogue.

Welcome to the discussion. Your “overwhelming force” may do well in the West, but back home in Syria, Eygpt, Iran this “overwhelming force” couldn’t push a fly off an apple.

I want to see America play a powerful role in the region, but I’d like to see it do so in a thoughtful and informed way.

Translation: Force Israel to absorb terrorist attacks, give up land without security guarantees, all while turning a blind eye to terrorist organizations and their supporters.

Frankly, I think America is more “informed” than you think, they just don’t process the information the same way you do.

If the “freedom agenda” was not just a cynical foil for America’s post-Soviet strategy for world domination (as most Arabs believe), then there are ways in which this agenda could be pursued more meaningfully.

Most Arabs believe the US or Israel caused 9-11. This is no “informed” basis to change US policy. And of course, “most Arabs” are both crying for freedom and chanting “Death to America” in the same breath (except the Iraqis).

Having said that… I also believe that our problems are ours to solve.

Everyone has problems to solve – I grant you that. I’d like an affordable electric car;)

Have a good day,

AP

March 7th, 2008, 1:28 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Now it turned out that Hamas has carried the operation in Jerusalem. Anyway, if anyone would think killing Mughanie would be revenged by one such a small scale operation would be fooling himself.

March 7th, 2008, 2:13 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Bush wants to put ships to Syria under observation! They lost their mind or what. Honestly, is the Bush Admin having a real “Personal” case with Syria. What is wrong with them? Is this little Syria so DANGEROUS and INFLUENTIAL? If so, woldn’t either talking to Syria, or attacking it outright save all a lot of efforts, time, and the suspense? Or has DC decided that Syria is the focal point of its National Security Strategy? Or are they pushing things to the point of no return so that the next Admin would find itself cornered into continuing with the same policy?

But count on Syria, if it has such pull as they make it seem, or as it actually has, to outfox them. Plenty of places and manners where that can be done. After all, Syria has “lived” in the area much longer than the Bush idiots. They do get advice from Israel who has been there for sixty years, but it seems such advice is always self-srving, and more often than not:Wrong.

Let us watch and see, and in the end, I bet you the Mountain will come to Mohammed. As it did for the last forty years!!! Time will judge.

March 7th, 2008, 2:36 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Akbar Palace writes:

Your “overwhelming force” may do well in the West, but back home in Syria, Eygpt, Iran this “overwhelming force” couldn’t push a fly off an apple.

This may have been true a decade ago, but this was before the emergence of the satellite news networks in the Middle East. The seismic shift is only beginning to be felt. AP, in Lebanon, people drop their dishes into the sink and run to the television when a powerful speaker appears on the screen (Nasrallah, Jumblatt, etc.) (You wouldn’t know this if your only experience of new Arabic media is via MEMRI). The power of oral communication is immense in Arabic culture; rhetoric is a cherished art, honed over the centuries, taught in schools, practiced by intellectuals, rulers, and preachers. The U.S. knows where anti-American ideologies are promulgated, but it can’t even field a team in this war of ideas. This is incomprehensible to me.

Frankly, I think America is more “informed” than you think, they just don’t process the information the same way you do.

AP, in 2006, Silvestre Reyes (U.S. congressman and Democratic nominee for the House Intelligence Committee) was asked two questions by a reporter: (1) Is al-Qaeda Sunni or Shiite? (2) What about Hizbullah?

He had a 50% chance of answering at least one question correctly. He got both wrong.

Jeffrey Goldberg (award-winning journalist for the New Yorker) had an excellent piece in the Atlantic Monthly several weeks ago, in which he tells a story about Norman Podhoretz (the godfather of neoconservatism and father-in-law of Eliott Abrams). After a lecture given by Goldberg about Kurdistan shortly before the Mission Accomplished speech, Podhoretz came up to him and asked: “What’s a Kurd, anyway?”

Examples like these abound.

We are sorely lacking in Middle East experts. After 9/11, it was revealed that the CIA had only four people with 5/5 competency in Arabic on the Interagency Language Roundtable scale (this is the benchmark used by all government agencies). The government is now throwing money at people with even a 3/3 level in Arabic, Persian, Urdu, etc. even though this level barely gets you through a newspaper article in half an hour.

And this is only in the area of language, let alone history, religion, society!

There is much, much more that can be done.

March 7th, 2008, 2:51 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
I have to agree with AP on this based on many interactions with Israeli Arabs and Palestinians. Let me give you a challenge, why don’t you write a paragraph or two that would be delivered on Al-Jazeera by a US representative and you think would convince people. You are an expert on the middle east, so instead of telling the US to do something, why don’t you give a concrete example of what should be done? I contend that nothing in the PR realm will be effective. Prove me wrong.

March 7th, 2008, 3:06 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

QN,
To underscore your argument, a famous senator on the Foreign Relations Committee visited by dear friend doctor’s office for an undisclosed condition. (Space and time are concealed to protect the senator’s ignorance).

Being his first time there, the senator wanted to get a little personal with the Lebanese doctor while he was examining him.

“So, where are you originally from, Doc?” Asked the Senator.
“I am originally from Lebanon, Senator,” replied my friend.

“Oh, heard a lot about your beautiful country, doc. How’s the King doing? He is very popular isn’t he?” Asked the senator.

“Ummm, we don’t have kings in Lebanon, Senator. Only Presidents. Lebanon is a Republic.” Said the amused doctor.

“Oh, I am sorry, doc. I must have been thinking about another country. Jordan? The king is in Jordan, right?” Replied the senator.

“Yes, Senator, the king is in Jordan.” Replied my friend doctor.

March 7th, 2008, 3:07 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

AIG suggests:

Let me give you a challenge, why don’t you write a paragraph or two that would be delivered on Al-Jazeera by a US representative and you think would convince people.

Ok, here we go:

“Ahem ahem… Greetings, Arabs. I come in peace. Salam Aleikum, honestly. I am here to inform you that my government means you no harm. We are interested in promoting democracy, and birthing a new, you know, Middle East and stuff. Peace out.”

That would do the trick.

AIG, a paragraph or two isn’t going to convince anybody. I’m talking about an onslaught. I’m talking about debating ministers and clerics and vice-presidents. I’m talking about challenging authoritarian figures to defend their ideas, in the public square (satellite TV). I’m talking about engaging meaningfully with the rest of the world.

But, as you’ve already pointed out, there is a flip side to this kind of engagement. The flip side is that America too will be poked and prodded and attacked, and its hypocrisies will be questioned and examined. This is my point. Dismantling rejectionism, paving the way for societal transformation, and building confidence for peace requires this kind of honest mutual engagement.

I can’t help but feel that an articulate, sympathetic representative who communicates powerfully in beautiful Arabic (both classical and colloquial) and is a master debater would be a much more powerful tool for the U.S. then a couple of warships parked over the horizon.

March 7th, 2008, 3:29 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
I really don’t get what you are saying. Let’s do a simulation. Let’s say you are debating the Egyptian or Syrian minster of information and representing the US position and I am the Syrian or Egyptian minister.
I’ll start: The US is an imperalistic power that is interested only in oil. Also it supports the Zionists that are oppressing our brothers in Gaza. Why did it allow 1000 Lebanese to be killed instead of pushing Israel to a cease fire in July 2006? All your talk about democracy is just a way for the US and Israel to create an hegemony in the middle east.

Ok, it is your turn. Good luck and remember, keep it short we are on tv. Just look at the positions of Wizart. Do you think the US has any chance with the 90% uneducated (from a western prespective) masses in the Arab world?

March 7th, 2008, 3:43 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Is it true that the place hit by Hamas, the Israeli equivelant of the Sunni Takfiri ‘Madrassa”??

March 7th, 2008, 3:59 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

AIG (Syrian Minister of Information) said:
The US is an imperalistic power that is interested only in oil. Also it supports the Zionists that are oppressing our brothers in Gaza. Why did it allow 1000 Lebanese to be killed instead of pushing Israel to a cease fire in July 2006? All your talk about democracy is just a way for the US and Israel to create an hegemony in the middle east.

Mr. Minister, please lower your voice and stop spitting at me. As I said, I come in peace. Salam Aleikum. As for your accusations, this level of discourse does not befit the representative of an important government. Of course the U.S. is interested in oil… what do you expect your (American) car to run on? Your beautiful Damascene smile? We’re the world’s only superpower for God’s sake… someone has to keep the trains running on time. As for the situation in Gaza, it is very regrettable. Tell me, however, Mr. Minister, what is SYRIA’s proposal for ending the conflict? Hamas explicitly desires the destruction of Israel. Do you? No, answer the question. No, no no… answer the GODDAMNED question!!

etc. etc.

AIG,

This is fun. But, your pessimism is telling, because you’re essentially saying that American policy is indefensible, and therefore, Arab rejectionism is legitimate! You’re implying that American “imperialism” is so pervasively selfish and hypocritical, that it defies any attempt to defend it.

If this is not what you’re saying, then how would you respond to the Egyptian minister?

March 7th, 2008, 4:12 pm

 

Observer said:

I urge the participants here to read Michael Scheuer’s latest book the March to Hell. He used to head the UBL unit in the CIA from 96-04.
He clearly shows that the US supports the dictatorships in the ME and the Muslim world, he clearly shows that there is a political subversion campaign in the US by Likud sympathesizers

(Remeber how AIG boasted about having near 100% zionist sympathies in the US congress not realizing that this trend if totally undemocratic as it does not reflect the views of the constituents to such an absolute number yet he lectures us daily about democracy).

In reading the book I certainly do not agree with all of the assertions and the conclusions but putting the jest of the subject in the context of the following facts let me remind the audience

three weeks of Iraq war spending were equivalent to six years of Afghanistan reconstruction

One day of was spending can put 58 000 children in head start for one year or pay the salaries of 11 000 border patrol agents.

It takes ten security personnel between army and police to deal with one insurgent if you count the teeth to tail ratio for a combat mission (that is the ratio of support for each combat personnel)

The war has cost us at least 2 trillion and would easily climb to 3 trillion if some indirect costs are added

After one month of gulf war 1 about 40% of the veterans of that conflict applied for disability over the next 10 years. For this conflict the number of deployed is not the 500 000 for GULF war 1 but is more like 2 million and if the length of the conflict is any indication and we assume a similar 40% disability rate, the VA would have do deal with 800 000 additional disabled veterans.

I think building a small public library and a health clinic near every other or every third mosque in the Muslim world would have been much cheaper and would have completely deflated the bubble of militancy.

March 7th, 2008, 4:18 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
Have you seen Akira Kurasawa’s movie Rashumon?

American policy is indefensible TO ARABS with their current world view. It is very easily defensible to other people with another point of view. Your world view, beliefs and who you trust influence if you can be convinced or not. Most Arabs do not trust any American and are sure that Israelis and Americans have BAD intentions. There is just no way to convince them. It will take a societal change in Arab countries to make a difference. For heaven’s sake, can you convince your taxi driving relatives?

Any cent invested in PR is money thrown away. The right thing to invest in is have Arabs come to the US to live and learn for a few years and then go back, not stay like you. That will help, but change will come VERY slowly.

March 7th, 2008, 4:21 pm

 

Norman said:

It looks like we have to remind the American government that 17 of the 19 hijackers are from Saudi Arabia, not from Syria or Iraq ,
As my daughter tells me , DA Dad, It is a one way street , the terrorists are coming from KSA , why are we looking at the wrong direction.

March 7th, 2008, 4:22 pm

 

ausamaa said:

I liked this qoute which I found on the angryarab website:

Hannah Arendt (to Zionists): ” All hopes to the contrary notwithstanding, it seems as though the ONE argument the Arabs are incapable of understanding is force.” (“Peace or Armistice in the Near East?” in Review of Politics (January 1950), p. 56).

At least, some know what they are talking about and dealing with!!!

March 7th, 2008, 4:25 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Observer,
You are an American. I am not. If you have problems with US democracy, then change it or leave the US. It is hilarious that you are complaining to me about the democratic system in the US.
I have even said here that I prefer the Israeli democracy to the American one because it lets small parties be heard because the vote in Israel is proportional and not based on districts. Until then, the fact is the not ONE senator supports your views because in every state the people who support my views outnumber the people who support your views.

Go change the world! All the power to you. And don’t forget to vote Nader.

March 7th, 2008, 4:30 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

AIG,

First of all, my relatives don’t drive taxis. Screw you.

😉

Second of all, the American policy is actually not easily defensible to non-Arabs, as you believe. I’d say that at least 1/2 of America’s voting population is NOT happy with American policy, and in Europe this percentage is much higher.

Are all of these people also deluded rejectionists?

Just because Israelis think Bush is the cat’s meow, my friend, doesn’t mean the Americans are pursuing their best interests. Come on, stop pretending like the problem is only Arab. We’ve got our problems, and I take a lot of flack on this blog for pointing them out, but I’m not going to absolve the Americans of frequent, sheer idiocy, even if this make you and AP call me a rejectionist.

March 7th, 2008, 4:32 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Alex,

Has it occured to you that SC can make -or lose- a lot money by publishing a new book called the “In Defience of Truth and Reason; Political Idiots Revealing Themselves” in which you can publish the full contents of all the Posts by AIG and AP.

Come on man, this way, way, too much. Please open a sub-directory for both so those who are really interested in their pearls of wisdom can go there directly and not waste their time with the other normal comments. Two semi-educated Zionists trying to convince those interested in Syrian affairs with their point of view. Ridiculous!

March 7th, 2008, 4:35 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

Hamas denied any connection to the heroic action

March 7th, 2008, 4:38 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Alex,

Has it occured to you that SC can make -or lose- a lot money by publishing a new book called the “In Defience of Truth and Reason; Political Idiots Revealing Themselves” in which you can publish the full contents of all the Posts by AIG and AP.

Come on man, this way, way, too much. Please open a sub-directory for both so those who are really interested in their pearls of wisdom can go there directly and not waste their time with the other normal comments. Two Zionists trying to convince Syrian-interested bloggers with their point of view. Ridiculous!

March 7th, 2008, 4:38 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
Sorry, I misinterpreted a sarcastic post of yours in the past about your relatives.

And thanks, for making my point. We were discussing whether PR can solve the problem. I say it can’t because of the US actions in the past and probably in the future as they are viewed by the Arab people. You make my point stronger by saying that this is also the case with 50% or more of the American people. If Americans have a hard time convincing Americans, what chance do they have of convincing Arabs? So why waste money on PR in the Arab world? It just won’t help.

March 7th, 2008, 4:49 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Qifa Nabki said:

I’d say that at least 1/2 of America’s voting population is NOT happy with American policy, and in Europe this percentage is much higher.

Here’s some data showing you’re facts are wrong:

A Gallup poll of American attitudes toward various countries finds Israel at a strastopheric 5th, following only Canada, Great Britain, Germany, and Japan, with a 71 percent approval rating. Republicans clock in at 84 percent favorability and Democrats at 64 percent.

In contrast, the Palestinian Authority has the third lowest ranking, beating out only Iran and North Korea with 14 favorable (and 75 percent unfavorable).

http://www.gallup.com/poll/104734/Americans-Most-Least-Favored-Nations.aspx

March 7th, 2008, 5:49 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

AIG,

No offense taken; I was having a little fun.

This is your problem, as I understand it. You begin with the premise that American policy is necessarily and universally good, and therefore people who criticize it are rejectionists. What’s more, the critics have a completely different world view, which makes it impossible to get through to them, so we may as well continue with business as usual.

This is simply not the case. America is not perfect. America makes mistakes in its dealings, on a daily basis. Furthermore, not everyone who criticizes America is a rejectionist.

The opposite point of view, by the way, is that American policy is necessarily and universally evil, and therefore anybody who follows it participates in America’s enslavement of the world. What’s more, those who follow it have a completely different world view, which makes it impossible to reason with them through established bodies like the U.N., etc. so we may as well resist America at all costs.

This is the position of people like Finkelstein, and you know what I think of it.

Both positions, in my opinion, are cop-outs. I believe that America is not acting in its own best interests, and it would understand this if it had a better informed, culturally/linguistically fluent diplomatic and intelligence service. Some people will be impossible to convince and will not teach America anything except that it has irreconcilable enemies. Others, though, would engage America in more productive ways.

March 7th, 2008, 6:46 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
That is not my position at all. My position is influenced by Kissinger who views US foreign diplomacy over the years as a struggle between realists and ideals. While Americans like to think that their foreign policy is always driven by America’s ideals (freedom etc.) the fact is that the US has to make many realist compromises that do not conform to its ideals. How much compromise is good or prudent is the usual discussion in foreign policy circles. This is part of what you call political expidiency.

The US history is what it is. It has bad parts and it has good parts, but when you look at the details carefully it truly reflects a will to make the world more like the US (which I believe is good). Over all the US intentions are good but in many cases the American system and abilities gives varying results including very bad one. No one can argue that the Iraqi occupation was done well, but I do believe Rumsfeld would have been happy to see a thriving democracy in Iraq.

March 7th, 2008, 7:00 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
Who in Egypt and Syria would engage America in more productive ways? I understand what you are saying, but the devil is in the details. The US cannot say anything that will change opinions about it.

March 7th, 2008, 7:13 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

AIG,

I agree with a lot of what you said above. In particular:

The US history is what it is. It has bad parts and it has good parts, but when you look at the details carefully it truly reflects a will to make the world more like the US (which I believe is good). Over all the US intentions are good but in many cases the American system and abilities gives varying results including very bad one. No one can argue that the Iraqi occupation was done well, but I do believe Rumsfeld would have been happy to see a thriving democracy in Iraq.

This mostly rings true. And this is why I have to believe that things can take a turn for the better in the Arab world, if America becomes more knowledgeable about the region, and is better about expressing itself and about understanding its interlocutors. There will always be people who disagree with certain American policies — especially those policies that do not make sense or are handled badly, as you say. However, there will be many people who see the positive aspects of the American system (if promulgated in a non-arrogant and sympathetic way), and this could have a positive effect.

I’ll tell you a story.

I have a friend from South Lebanon who is a card-carrying member of HA. We had a conversation once about geo-politics (his favorite topic). After he finished telling me about how America rules the world and is trying to subjugate the region’s masses to allow Israel to dominate, our conversation shifted over to the limping Lebanese economy. He was having trouble finding a job, and was cursing Hariri Sr. for bankrupting the country. So I asked him: “Why don’t you leave and go to Germany where your brother lives? Maybe you can find a job there.” He said, “If I’m going to leave Lebanon, it sure as hell won’t be to Germany.” So I said, “Where would you go, if you could?”

He responded: “To America, of course. Where else?” When I challenged him on this, he looked at me like I was stupid and said: “Why wouldn’t I go to America? It’s the best country in the world. People can do whatever they want. Anybody can become rich, educate his children, live how he likes.”

My friend is, formally speaking, a rejectionist. But he’s not stupid.

March 7th, 2008, 7:51 pm

 

Alex said:

Akbar,

Did you see this graph?

March 7th, 2008, 7:57 pm

 

Seeking the Truth said:

Akbar Palace,

The poll numbers you quoted (how Americans view other countries) are irrelevant (they deal with different question) to the claim put forward by QN (how the world views American policies)!

March 7th, 2008, 8:05 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG, I responded to you in the previous thread.

Alex, isn’t it amazing that the international media isn’t crucifying Israel for the 120 dead Palestinians? They can’t all be pro-Zionists, nor owned by Murdock. And we’re “shocked” at the barbaric cruelty of a single Palestinian in spraying his AK-47 at 8 Jewish yeshiva students. The Arabs must be sick to their stomach when they see how the world, in its silence, is legitimizing the continuation of this endless cycle of violence. It is the worst thing that can happen for Israel – to have such support and, unfortunately, most Israelis don’t understand why.

March 7th, 2008, 8:21 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Alex, isn’t it amazing that the international media isn’t crucifying Israel for the 120 dead Palestinians?

Shai,

Good point. Most observers in the US and the US Media considers one an act of terrorism and the other an act of self-defense.

Isn’t that interesting?

March 7th, 2008, 8:40 pm

 

Shai said:

AP,

Right. And do you think the 1 billion plus Muslim world views it the same way? Or, does it not really matter much…? What is in Israel’s best interest?

March 7th, 2008, 8:44 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
Your South Lebanon story is confusing. I don’t know what to make of it. It just does not compute. But if this is the situation and people know that the US is a great country, then how would the PR help?

March 7th, 2008, 8:50 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
Do you personally not see a real difference between what Givati did in Gaza and the “attack” in Jerusalem? What is your belief about the two actions?

March 7th, 2008, 8:52 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
And if 1 billion Muslims are for circumcision at the age of 13, is that the age the Jews should do it in? They are also against drinking alcohol, should we stop drinking it?

What the muslims think does not matter very much just like what the Jews think does not matter very much to the muslims.

March 7th, 2008, 9:00 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

I think that by not caring what 1 billion Muslims think about what you say and do, you’re not only exhibiting a lack of sensitivity, but indeed contributing to their preconceptions of Israelis and Jews as arrogant, disrespectful, and anti-Arab. If we continue to ignore how our neighbors, and their neighbors, view these events, mainly because it isn’t something we’d like to hear, then we’ll continue to expect them to change, and never accept any responsibility ourselves. If you’d like the Muslim world to care about what we think, you better find a way to show them you can do the same vice-versa. If you don’t care either way, or have no hope this could ever be achieved, then just wait. But the world won’t get safer by just waiting, I believe.

Both Gaza and Jerusalem were horrific. Those 8 kids that were murdered did nothing wrong, except for being Jewish yesterday evening. But the majority of those 120 Palestinians were just as innocent. They did not carry weapons, they did not attack soldiers in the field, and they were not militia members. But we of course are “shocked” at the barbaric act against 8 yeshiva students, and quickly brush off 120 Palestinians as “self-defense”. In 4 days, we managed to kill nearly 10 times as many Palestinians as their Qassam rockets killed in 2,500 days. I think there’s a slight problem with proportionality there, don’t you? I think “self defense” doesn’t quite sell well on the streets of Gaza, as we might have hoped it would, so that the Palestinians would finally “pressure” Hamas to stop. No, I think 120 dead gets a very different kind of response. And it usually starts with “Allahu Akbar”…

March 7th, 2008, 9:25 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
If you were a Givati soldier in Gaza, would you have not participated in what the IDF was doing (seruv pkoda)?

March 7th, 2008, 9:27 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

I was, in fact, once a soldier in Gaza. And I did what my commanding officers told me to do. I never understood why we were still there, I felt like a white man in an Apartheid police uniform, and I hated being there. But no army can be expected to defend its nation in real war, if its soldiers decide when they do and when they don’t follow orders. I would expect every one of those Givati kids to follow their orders, unless of course they are illegal orders. If they saw the civilians they were shooting at, that was illegal, and they should have stopped. But I believe the majority of the casualties were not by simple rifle fire, but rather by heavy artillery, fire from the air, and the like, meaning those who fired never saw their victims. Another act of “bravery”, as seen by the Palestinian side.

March 7th, 2008, 9:36 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
If the operation was legal, what are you complaining about? And if it was not in your opinion, then just say it.

March 7th, 2008, 9:37 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

We can go round and around using fancy language like “legal operation”, or “collateral damage”, or even “self defense”. And if this language is used to make you sleep better at night, because it soothes your conscience, then good for you. For me, the numbers still speak louder. And the results, even more. If I thought there was even a chance in the world that the Palestinians and the Israelis were going to be closer to peace by this operation, I’d be willing to accept even 120 dead Israelis. I’d call it our sacrifice for peace. But clearly, this Gaza operation is only creating much more hatred, is bringing about continued retribution, is helping recruit another couple hundred, or thousand, young men to commit suicide by shooting at yeshiva students. And, it moves us backwards, not forward. Will less Qassams be fired at Sderot? I doubt it, probably the opposite. Are Israelis safer? No, the opposite. Is Hamas closer to its end? No, the opposite. So what did we gain? I know what we lost, and I know what we’ll lose. Life’s not about being right, it’s about being smart. Those who don’t understand that are doomed to fail time and again.

March 7th, 2008, 9:48 pm

 

Norman said:

Dr Landis was coated here,

Arab leaders threaten to boycott Damascus summit
By Robert F. Worth

Friday, March 7, 2008
BEIRUT: Several Arab leaders say they may boycott the annual Arab summit meeting scheduled for this month in Damascus because of anger at Syria over its role in Lebanon and ongoing links to Iran.

The measures are part of an intensified campaign against Syria that comes alongside similar moves by the United States, which recently added several new financial sanctions on Syria and sent warships to cruise off the Lebanese coast – a gesture aimed directly at the Syrian government.

“There’s a new initiative to completely isolate Syria and weaken its destructive influence in Lebanon,” said an adviser to the Saudi government who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

“We’re not going to pull them away from Iran by talking to them; we’re going to take them away from Iran by making them feel the pressure and making them understand that this time it’s as real as it can get.”

In the past week, Saudi Arabia has recalled its ambassador from Damascus and urged all its citizens to leave Lebanon as soon as possible, indicating that it believes any Saudi here is now a target for Syria or its allies. Last month the Saudi government deposited another $1 billion into Lebanon’s central bank in a show of support for Lebanon’s government.

Syria’s role in Lebanon is rooted in its alliance with Iran and Hezbollah, which it views as crucial weapons against Israel and the West. But most Arab nations, led by Sunni Muslims, view Shiite Iran as a dangerous and implacable foe, and they appear to have given up on luring Syria back into the Arab fold through diplomacy.

The conflict has grown increasingly bitter, with officials of Saudi Arabia and Egypt – with Jordan on board – complaining that Syria is deliberately prolonging the political vacuum in Lebanon through its support for Hezbollah, which opposes the Western-backed government majority. Lebanon has been without a president since late November.

Syria, committed to maintaining its present course in Lebanon, has derided the arrival of American warships as an empty gesture, and says it would rather have a summit meeting without major Arab leaders present than give in to intimidation.

“They do not know us,” said Samir Taqi, the director of the Orient Center for International Studies in Damascus.

“Syria doesn’t need approval from anyone, and this is not the way to approach us.” Even the violence in Gaza last weekend, in which nearly 100 Palestinians were killed, did not force a show of Arab unity, as such violence sometimes has in the past. It is still possible that Saudi Arabia and Egypt will try to paper over the feud by sending high-level ministers to the summit talks, particularly if there is more violence in Gaza, analysts say.

But for the Saudi and Egyptian rulers to stay away from the summit meeting to punish Syria would be an extraordinary gesture, rare in the 63-year history of the Arab League.

The dispute has a personal element, in the steadily worsening relationship between Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

“The king really hates Assad, and he is looking to punish him, because Assad allegedly insulted him on a couple of occasions,” said Bernard Haykel, a professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University in New Jersey who specializes in Saudi affairs.

The animosity began in 2005 when Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister who was a Saudi citizen and intimate Saudi ally, was killed in a car bombing. The Saudis, like much of the world, blame Syria, and the king is said to have been furious at Assad, whose father, Hafez al-Assad, protected Hariri.

The king is also said to have been seriously offended when Assad, during the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, referred to other Arab leaders as “half men.” On that occasion and others, the Syrian president has used the broad popularity of Hezbollah’s armed struggle with Israel to burnish his own image and to denigrate those of other Arab leaders.

There have been a number of attempts to mend the relationship in the name of Arab unity. At the Arab summit meeting last year in Riyadh, Abdullah publicly embraced Assad. But more recently, those efforts appear to have soured, helping bring Saudi-Syrian relations to what many observers call an all-time low.

Both countries view Lebanon as a fundamental battleground on which they cannot afford to lose. The Saudis have longstanding ties to the country, particularly its Sunni community. The new threat of a nuclear Iran wielding its influence in Lebanon through Hezbollah has deeply unnerved them.

“They have a historical relationship with Lebanon, and I think they have just decided they are not going to let go,” Haykel said.

With oil reaching $105 a barrel, the Saudis are richer than ever, and they feel confident in their ability to use their money to press Syria for concessions in Lebanon, Haykel added. But the Syrians are equally committed to maintaining their historic influence in Lebanon.

“At the end of the day it’s about security,” said Taqi, the Syrian analyst. “Syria has often been threatened by Israel through Lebanon.”

It is also partly a matter of honor and family tradition. Under Hafez al-Assad, Syria occupied Lebanon for the better part of three decades. His son Bashar al-Assad was forced to withdraw Syrian troops from Lebanon in 2005, under pressure from huge popular demonstrations after the killing of Hariri.

Now, under threat of possible indictments by the international tribunal investigating the killings of Hariri and other prominent Lebanese figures, the Syrians apparently feel that maintaining some power over Lebanon is a matter of basic self-defense.

“I think Syria has taken its position: we’ll help you in Iraq and Palestine, but you have to give us Lebanon,” said Joshua Landis, a Syria expert who teaches at the University of Oklahoma.

Its strategy, Landis added, is based in large part on countering the enormous financial power of Saudi Arabia and its allies.

“This is Syria’s game: keep Lebanon paralyzed, and Saudi has to subsidize everything,” Landis said. “That’s going to take billions of dollars, and where does it end? Syria thinks they can outlast them.”

——————————————————————————–
Notes:

——————————————————————————–
Copyright © 2008 The International Herald Tribune | http://www.iht.com

March 7th, 2008, 10:21 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

Shai,
If the operation was legal, what are you complaining about? And if it was not in your opinion, then just say it.

AIG what Germans did in WW2 was in that time in their view “legal”. The soldiers and others did what the state and leaders ordered. Just like IDF soldiers now. And there was for Germans no other option on personal level than obey. Later the international view was that what they did was not legal. Most of the world has condemned Israeli actions and violent methods tens of thousands times and the list of numerous war crimes and other crimes is unseen in the modern western world.

If we watch at the circle of revenge, why is only Israel entitled to revenge, as Israel publicly on the highest level always informs. The fair question is who started this insanity of revenge. Palestinians did not voluntarily leave their homes and livelihoods.

On the other hand what do “the members of the Nation” wait when the Palestinians are kicked on the ass daily by bearded religious fanatics (members of the Nation), who are shown being ready to steal the little what is left. Does “the Nation” really believe that Palestinians sit on the floor and watch the Israeli “negotiation show”?

Does the name Baruch Goldstein say anything to the religious, self declared secular, fanatics 🙂 like AIG? Strangely the Israeli politicians seem to forgotten that miserable name in their present heated speeches. By the way the suicide bombings began after Baruch Goldstein*s action.

I remember reading a news a little time ago about a new study that the main personal motivation of suicide bombers is not religious “brainwashing”. It is revenge of killed friends and relatives, stolen property and for a life that doesn’t offer anything.

March 7th, 2008, 10:49 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Shai,

Your contribution is most welcome, as always.

AIG said:

Your South Lebanon story is confusing. I don’t know what to make of it. It just does not compute. But if this is the situation and people know that the US is a great country, then how would the PR help?

AIG, you’re confused by this story because it doesn’t conform to the black and white vision of the world that inflects your analyses.

But I’m glad you’re confused by it, and not scornful. That’s a start, at least.

March 7th, 2008, 11:34 pm

 

Alex said:

Absolutely QN.

Shai is great. I a;ways enjoy reading his comments.

Too bad he goes to sleep 9PM Israel time.

March 7th, 2008, 11:39 pm

 

Alex said:

Carter, Annan to lead peace delegation to Middle East next month
By The Associated Press

A council of world leaders launched by former President Nelson Mandela is sending a three-person team to try to help ease tensions in the Middle East, the organization known as The Elders said Friday.

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former Irish President Mary Robinson will visit Israel, the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia April 13-21.

March 8th, 2008, 12:07 am

 

Habib said:

Shai referes to “the prestate zionist intelligence agency.”

From Dr. Assad Abu Khalil:

Many Jewish readers were upset by Cohen’s revelation that the prestate Zionist intelligence agency, Shai, and the Jewish Agency’s Arab bureau exploited almost every honest Jewish and Palestinian relationship to advance narrow Zionist interests. There were, Cohen notes, many Jews who desired only friendship or good business relations with Palestinians but were eventually identified by the Shai, which used them to collect information and enlist Palestinian collaborators. The Jewish Agency even helped establish and finance Neighborly Relations Committees, which initiated mutual visits and Jewish-Palestinian projects, ranging from pest control to the sending of joint petitions to the Mandatory government. The rationale for the creation of these committees was not only to enhance coexistence but also to recruit informers. Ezra Danin, head of the Shai’s Arab department from 1940 to 1948, identified twenty-five occupations and institutions in which Jews and Palestinians mixed company, among them trucking, shipping, train and telecommunications systems, journalism, Jewish-Arab municipalities, prisons and the offices of the British Administration. He proposed that the Jews in these walks of life enlist Arab collaborators, adding that “such activity should be similar to the way the Nazis worked in Denmark, Norway, and Holland–touching on every area of life.” Cohen explains that this approach was different from that of British intelligence, which allowed only political and military organizations and subversive bodies to be targeted as pools for potential informers. This revelation, besides shedding light on some of the ruthless tactics employed by the intelligence agencies, helps explain why, from Zionism’s very beginnings, it was almost impossible for many Jews to develop loyal relationships with indigenous Palestinians.”

March 8th, 2008, 12:12 am

 

Enlightened said:

Alex:

Any updates on the Arab League Summitt? Has any agenda been put forward, and who at this stage is attending not attending?

Any updates/whispers on the Mughniye hit, investigation?

March 8th, 2008, 1:09 am

 

Enlightened said:

Tearful eulogies for the victims, anger at the weakness of Israel’s leaders

By Donald Macintyre
Saturday, 8 March 2008

After the psalms had echoed through the loudspeaker, the crowd of several thousand packed into the road, having repeated the verses line by line after the rabbi made a narrow space for the slow queue of ambulances bringing the bodies from the mortuary in ones and twos, and fell silent.

The sobs of a few mourners, scattered here and there on this, the warmest day of the year so far, were the only sound as the first of eight bodies, lying on a stretcher and covered with a prayer shawl, was carried up the steps to the yeshiva yard for the eulogies and the Kaddish.

But by the time Rabbi Yerachmiel Weiss, head of the young yeshiva, the high school section of this rabbinical seminary which had lost four of its students in the previous night’s attack, began to speak, his own repeated and uncontrollable gasps and sobs magnified through the speaker as he did so, the weeping and keening among the crowd became more widespread. The cries came not just from the families of the dead gathered in front of the yeshiva or the students clustered on the balconies of the building above them, but from the crowd in Harav Zvi Yehuda Street, its central reservation performing the task – necessary, in religious Jewish funerals – of dividing the men on the near side from the women on the far one.

And the crying came from among both sexes. Rabbi Weiss, who had had to identify the bodies of his young charges the previous night, started by referring to what should have been a day of celebration rather than of burial, the first in the month of the festival of Purim. “How can you say a eulogy for one person on Rosh Hodesh Adar?” he asked. “How can you say one for two, three, four, five, six?” Naming each of the students in turn, he spoke directly to God: “You took Yonathan – God gives and God takes – what sweetness, what humility, what a student, what a prayer. He loved to sit in the library and you have taken him to the good library on high.”

Turning next to 15-year-old Neriah Cohen, from Jerusalem, he added: “You took the youngest, Neriah, what a house, what a family, what a sweetness you took with you.”

But if the deep grief of the occasion was palpable and genuine, so too was the equally deep ideology that the rabbis of Yeshiva Mercaz Harav also expressed. For this is the most important yeshiva in right-wing religious Zionism, the spiritual backbone of the Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. Just one of its many famous ex-pupils was Rabbi Moshe Levinger who in 1968, a year after the Six Day War, spearheaded the national religious concept that redemption lay in the reclamation of “greater Israel” from the Jordan to the Mediterranean and established the still hardline settlement of Kyriat Arba at Hebron.

Directing yesterday’s ceremony, Rabbi Eitan Eisenman appeared to have no doubt that all this was well known to those that had dispatched the lone Palestinian gunman who gunned down eight students on Thursday night. “Not for nothing they came to this yeshiva,” he told the mourners. “From this yeshiva we grow up the next generation of the Torah … The next generation of Eretz [the land of] Israel Here they learn that we don’t give up any part of Eretz Israel. Here started the big revolution and it will continue with these eight martyrs.”

And the head of the yeshiva, Rabbi Abraham Shapira, referred to the killings of more than 60 Jews on a single day in Hebron during the British mandate, adding: “This massacre is the continuation of the 1929 massacre, and the prophet’s blood is still boiling.” And Rabbi Shapira, who also repeatedly broke into sobs during his own address, had a clear message to reinforce those national religious politicians who started declaring from soon after the killings on Thursday night that the atrocity was the price paid for what he described, despite the operation last weekend which killed more than 100 Palestinians, as “weakness in the face of terror in Gaza” and the willingness of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to pursue negotiations, however falteringly, with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. A message that not just the religious but also the secular right will see Thursday’s carnage as strengthening their entrenched opposition to present efforts to secure a two-state solution to the conflict.

“The time has come for all of us to understand that an external struggle and an internal struggle is raging,” Rabbi Shapira told the mourners, “and everyone believes that the hour has come … for us to have a good leadership, a stronger leadership, a more believing leadership.” The land of Israel was not “ownerless,” the rabbi declared. “You can’t play with it, you can’t divide it.”

March 8th, 2008, 1:25 am

 

Enlightened said:

Robert Fisk: Offended by Shakespeare? Let’s ban him

Saturday, 8 March 2008

When I first read of the nine 14-year-old students at the Jewish Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School in east London who refused to sit a Shakespeare test because they believed the Bard was anti-Semitic, I could well understand their feelings. Their protest against Shylock in The Merchant of Venice – reported in this newspaper last week – seemed well grounded.

However human moneylenders may be (“If you prick us, do we not bleed?”), demanding a pound of flesh from a debtor really does add to the anti-Semitic overtones of Elizabethan literature and – by implication – stokes up the racist fires of our contemporary world. But then – in paragraph four – I came across the killer line. The nine girls were not being tested on The Merchant of Venice at all – they were being examined on The Tempest. It was Shakespeare they were objecting to. If only I and my schoolboy chums had thought of such a wizard wheeze.

I always found Christopher Marlowe a bore. “Christ’s blood streaming in the firmament” did not have me yearning for more of Dr Faustus and I had no desire to “ride in triumph through Persepolis” with Tamburlaine. But if I’d had the wit to protest at The Jew of Malta, I could have abandoned all my Marlowe studies. Then, of course, I could have chucked T S Eliot – and yes, I fear he was an anti-Semite, however much we may try to excuse him by remembering the “times” in which he lived – because of that horrible line in “Gerontion” about “the Jew…/ Spawned in some estaminet of Antwerp”.

It’s not the only line of Eliot that makes me cringe (try reading “Burbank with a Baedeker: Bleistein with a Cigar”). So into the bin goes Eliot’s Prufrock, Murder in the Cathedral, The Cocktail Party, The Waste Land, etc. Come to think of it, even Siegfried Sassoon’s poetry might have to go, given that unpleasant reference in his diary (22 February 1918) to a Jew in a British army concert in Italy, “chin out, with his curved Hebrew beak coming down to the thin-lipped mouth…”. So out go “Base Details”, “The General” and “Everyone Sang”.

But hold on a moment. Let’s take a look at the darkly anti-Semitic overtones of anti-Muslim discourse in Shakespeare. Othello was a Moor, a black Muslim, a mercenary (in the service of Venice) – and a wife killer. Even worse, the mother of Caliban, a Muslim Arab, born of an Algerian mother, is described by Prospero – in The Tempest, the very play the nine Jewish schoolgirls were supposed to take in their test – as “This blue ey’d hag was hither brought with child…? A freckl’d whelp, hag-born – not honor’d with/A human shape”.

Why not a protest over this racist, provocative portrait of a Muslim Arab? For that matter, Tamburlaine – already flung into the trash heap because of another Marlowe play – scarcely improves Muslim-Western relations with its description of the Muslim warrior as “the scourge of God”. But let’s not stop there.

Winston Churchill exhibited some racist views of the Indians – typical of his age, no doubt, but hardly acceptable – in the Daily Mail. See his description of Indian villagers as “humble, primitive folk, who have been incapable of evolving, even in a most rudimentary form, a village government”. Later, Churchill reflected on the need to curtail the entire Indian race. When he sees a wounded Sikh on the North West Frontier, Churchill describes him as “a tragic golliwog”. (See My Early Life, 1935, page 156, if you don’t believe me.) So I guess we’ll have to chuck out Churchill’s Marlborough: His Life and Times, A History of the English Speaking Peoples and The Second World War.

And then – let’s not leave the anti-Muslim slant of English poets here – there’s Spenser, whose Faerie Queen drove the schoolboy Fisk to oceans of boredom. But wait! When the Prince is fighting the Pagan, the latter, “all full of rage … gan to curse and sweare,/And vow by Mahouone (Mohamed) that he should be slaine. With that his murderous mace…” etc. (For pedants, you can check Booke IV, Canto VIII, v. 44.) Anti-Muslim rhetoric again! And Spenser, let’s remember, was an anti-Irish racist, too, a rapacious landlord, one of the Munster planters known locally as the “Undertakers”, who wrote a vicious tract (“A View of the present State of Ireland”) in which he advocated cruel measures of suppression. So – to my infinite relief – out go The Faerie Queen and The Shepheardes Calender and The Teares of the Muses and all that other late 16th-century fluff.

And so to Dante. If only I had realised, ploughing through The Inferno, that here lay yet another anti-Islamic provocation. For the Prophet himself is discovered by Dante in – Hell! “Look how Mohammed claws?/And mangles himself, torn open down the breast! Look how I tear myself. And Ali goes weeping before me…” in Robert Pinsky’s imperishable translation.

But why, for that matter, leave out the texts of the great religions of the East? In the Hadith of the Prophet and the Old Testament, there are excuses for any lunatic to commit mass murder and ethnic cleansing. Mohamed dealt most savagely with the Jews of Medina. “Assuredly thou (Mohamed) wilt find/that the most violent of the people/in enmity against those who have believed/are the Jews…” (Koran 5:82 85). In the Bible, God instructs Moses to tell the children of Israel that “…When ye are passed over Jordan into the land of Canaan;/Then shall ye drive out all the inhabitants of the land…/And ye shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land…” (Number 33:50-55).

In fact, why don’t we go the whole hog and spare students the sacrifice of refusing their school tests by instituting the same kind of censorship that the Arab League – surely the silliest institution in the history of the world – has just adopted in the Middle East. For yes, the 22-member League now demands that TV stations should not “offend leaders or national religious symbols … should not damage social harmony, national unity, public order or traditional [sic] values”. TV channels must “refrain from broadcasting anything which calls into question God, the monotheistic religions, the prophets, sects or symbols of the various religious communities … erotic or obscene material”.

And then – my favourite advice amid all this tosh – “freedom is to be exercised with awareness and responsibility to protect the supreme interests (again, sic) of the Arab states and the Arab nation”.

The Egyptian minister of information, Anas al-Fiqi, proudly announced that Egypt would be “the first to implement” this craven document. Nor is it surprising that the decision of one of Mr al-Fiqi’s predecessors in the Cairo censorship sticks in my mind. Faced with Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List and its epic portrayal of the Jewish Holocaust, he decided to ban the film. It was “too depressing”, he said. Another wizard wheeze to shut down our ears and our hearts and our understanding of history.

March 8th, 2008, 1:32 am

 

Shai said:

Habib,

Ok, you got me! 🙂 But from what I’ve been told, my parents named me Shai because in Hebrew it also means “Gift” (not that I see how I could have been thought of as one…), and is also an acronym for my two grandfathers’ names (Shlomo and Itzhak…)

March 8th, 2008, 11:11 am

 
 

ausamaa said:

“Tearful eulogies for the victims, anger at the weakness of Israel’s leaders”

What WEAKNESS is this kind-hearted Donald Macintyre reffering to? More than 200 Palestinians were killed by Israel in less than 10 days and I saw at least 6 mutilated bodies of Palestinian infants on TV among the scores of other killed Palestinians.

And you call that Weakness!!!!!?????

Or did I miss the point altogether?

March 8th, 2008, 2:04 pm

 

Shai said:

Simohurtta,

Of course – how could we have expected anything different? If we had that goal in mind, you and I could now sit down and write 20 different rational and informative-sounding articles that claim a different party each time was behind the attack. Syria, because it wanted to keep attention away from Lebanon. Lebanon, KSA, and Egypt, because they wanted to embarrass Syria. Israel itself (!), because it would serve our ultimate goal of annihilating the Arabs. And so on.. and so forth. Truth is, does it really matter WHO was behind this attack? What would we do if we knew exactly who it was? Punish them? And then what would happen? They would punish us in return. And then? You see, all of this energy being spent on uncovering the “truth” behind each terrible case of violence, is an utterly useless piece of exercise. It’s only good for providing each side yet more excuses for not ending this 60 year endless cycle of blood and tears.

You know who the real heroes are in this region? The ones who, a week after burying their dead child, go on national TV and tell their people to stop this nightmare. They’re the ones that hook up with their “counterparts”, parents on the other side who’ve suffered the same, and jointly call out to all leaders to put their differences aside once and for all. And you know what the funny thing is? We tend to dismiss them, as being overly emotional, and obviously affected by their personal loss to the point of confusion and weakness. So we just nod our heads, pretend to feel their pain, and then go back to doing what we’re best at – war. Instead, we should realize they’re the ones to listen to. They, more than any leader, general, politician, or adviser, deserve to be heard.

March 8th, 2008, 2:14 pm

 

Shai said:

Ausamaa,

I know of another Donald that talks nonsense. My daughter was watching him today on a Disney show.

March 8th, 2008, 2:18 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Nour,

If you’re out there, here’s another Lebanese political figure who is horse-trading with opposition demands:

Franjieh’s Barter Deal: 1960 Law for President

EX MP Suleiman Franjieh, who leads the Marada Movement, said the Hizbullah-led opposition is ready to facilitate presidential election if the majority accepted re-adoption of the 1960 general elections law.

“Give us the 1960 law and take whatever you want. I can convince my allies in the opposition,” Franjieh said in a television interview aired Friday evening.

By pledging to facilitate presidential elections in return for re-adoption of the 1960 law, Franjieh dropped a traditional demand by the opposition to control veto powers in the forthcoming government.

March 8th, 2008, 2:45 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

By the way, if Franjieh is for real, then this could be the opening that people have been waiting for.

The majority should seize the opportunity, agree on the 1960 law (with a couple of modifications), and unstick this whole thing by March 11.

March 11, by the way, is a symbolically ideal day to elect a president and move forward. It is exactly between March 8 and March 14.

March 8th, 2008, 2:47 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Signs of a thaw?

“[Fatfat] expressed concern that Israel “might be preparing for a major (war) thing, and our only option to confront it is by consolidating our domestic front and electing a president.”

He criticized the “American style” in declaring the mission of the USS Cole off the Lebanon coast as “useless political stupidity.”

“[Jumblatt] said the attack on the Jewish religious school in Jerusalem was “a normal reaction to the ugly crime committed by the Israeli Army in Gaza.”

The March 14 majority alliance, of which he is a prominent leader, would adopt a “unified stand in the few coming days” regarding the general election law, Jumblat said without further elaboration on the remark.”

March 8th, 2008, 2:52 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Guys, you are treating the matter as if Fatfat or others do have a say in how things go. The way I see it, Jumblat and Ja’ja consult their respective mentors (Elliot Abrahmas and Dagan primarily), con Harriri into whatever they tell him and guide him as how to get the Saudies to back whatever plan they concoct. Harriri clears it with Siniora (Bandar and Rice presumebly), then they assess how much damage their action will cause Syria and the Opposition, then they start implementing what they think the Plan calls for. Or rather, what they tell other people that they thought the plan was. By then, a new plan is put ito action, w hat khalisaa iza 3ad feek.

They are a practicaly a minority on the ground, they do not OWN their decision or their will, and they for the last year they are scared they will be left alone in the end which is exactly what will happen to them. They keep waiting for the rockets to start falling on Damascus, Tehran and South Lebanon, as if whoever is capable of lunching such rockets really needs “their” support. That is the position people get themselves in when they get themselves …ed royally..

Why else has Junblat become such a certified clown??? Desperation disorients people, what else?!

March 8th, 2008, 4:38 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Media Monitor: The Hariri Legacy
http://www.mideastmonitor.org/issues/0801/0801_6.htm

This is the first in a series of reports compiled by Mideast Monitor on Western media coverage of the Middle East.

Although Western journalism has long had a spotty track record in Lebanon, no subject has been more misrepresented than the legacy of the late Prime Minister (1992-1998 and 2000-2004) Rafiq Hariri. Many elements of the myth are true, of course. He was a man of humble origins who struck it rich and lavished money on charitable causes for two decades before becoming prime minister. A great many Lebanese – including some of his fiercest political opponents – genuinely liked him as a person and grieved when he was brutally assassinated in February 2005. Nevertheless, the reality was “more complicated than the fairy tale,” as Anna Ciezadlo aptly observed, and “not as easy to report.” [1]

During the 1990-2005 Syrian occupation of Lebanon, mainstream American and European media regurgitated a quasi-fictitious narrative of Lebanon’s postwar economic and political revival marketed by Hariri. They showed little interest in the darker sides of Beirut’s glittering reconstruction, such as steadily widening income inequalities, rampant corruption, and the devastating impact of unregulated Syrian labor exports (which benefited Hariri and other Lebanese construction tycoons) on the poor. The steady erosion of civil liberties during Hariri’s first tenure (a necessary adjunct of his economic policies) was largely downplayed.

Sugar coated press coverage was driven less by inscrutable complexities of the subject matter or conscious intent to distort facts than by a profound reluctance to acknowledge problems that have no easy solution and heartfelt support for a political establishment that many Westerners saw as the only viable bulwark against extremism and internal disintegration. While Western media coverage of Hariri during his lifetime was slanted mostly by omission, it veered toward blatant misrepresentation after his February 2005 assassination and the subsequent withdrawal of Syrian forces. As the March 14 coalition, headed by the Hariri family and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, narrowly won a parliamentary majority and assumed the reins of power, an even more grandiose Hariri myth was born and reproduced verbatim in the Western media.

Hariri, who never once publicly criticized the Syrian occupation, was recast by The New York Times as a towering nationalist “known as a fierce opponent of Syrian domination.”[2] Variations of this claim have been ubiquitous in Western media reports on Lebanon. The Los Angeles Times and the BBC prefer the phrase “vocal opponent,”[3] while Agence France Press is partial to “outspoken opponent.”[4]

While Hariri is known to have secretly encouraged outside pressure on Syrian leader Bashar Assad not to extend the presidential term of Emile Lahoud (his political archrival) in 2004, his aim was simply to win a greater share of the spoils within Syria’s orbit. Even after the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1559 calling for an unconditional Syrian withdrawal and began deliberating over how to implement it, the prime minister spent weeks trying to convince Assad to grant him a two-thirds veto-proof cabinet majority before eventually resigning. Being killed by the Syrians (presumably) does not retroactively make Hariri a “fierce opponent” of Syrian domination, even if his death inspired many others to demand an end to the occupation.

Other aspects of the late Hariri’s legacy are routinely misrepresented in the Western media. Hariri did not, as The New York Times reported, “broker an end to the civil war in 1991.”[5] He played a role in persuading (and, it is widely rumored, bribing) parliamentary deputies to sign the 1989 Taif Accord, but the terms of this accord were handed down by the Saudis, with non-negotiable clauses legitimating the Syrian military presence. In any case, the agreement did not bring an end to the war (none of the combatants were even present at the negotiations) – it brought a beginning to internationally sanctioned Syrian hegemony in Lebanon.

The Economist recently reported that “a lack of foreign aid and high reconstruction costs” after the war account for Lebanon’s crushing debt burden today.[6] In fact, Lebanon was one of the world’s largest per capita recipients of foreign aid during the occupation. The problem was that billions of dollars in bilateral and multilateral grants and soft loans were grossly misspent. A 2001 UN-commissioned assessment report on corruption in Lebanon estimated that the country had been losing $1.5 billion in graft annually (almost 10% of its GDP).[7] This was why Lebanon was saddled with “high reconstruction costs” and why it now has a massive debt burden.

Whether Hariri “drove the country forward often by sheer force of his personality,” as The New York Times recently reported,[8] is perhaps debatable (since the Syrians were appointing Lebanese prime ministers, the alternatives could have been worse). However, modest economic growth at the expense of generating one of the largest per capita foreign debts of any country in the world doesn’t normally win plaudits from Western journalists. These results might well have been the best possible in a country under Syrian occupation, but if so that only highlights that the occupation might well have collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions had Hariri and his Saudi financial backers not stepped in.

The rehabilitiation of Hariri’s legacy has greatly benefited his political heirs and allies in the March 14 coalition (where is name is invoked more often than American Republican politicians talk of Ronald Reagan) have inherited much of the media’s fawning coverage. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, a close associate of Hariri who ran the finance ministry of occupied Lebanon longer than all others combined, was described by The Financial Times as “a career banker accidentally thrust . . . into the top job” after Hariri’s assassination.[9] In fact, this government stalwart was chosen after careful deliberations within the Hariri family and the March 14 coalition.

The Western media’s misrepresentations and glorification of Hariri’s legacy constitute one of the most startling anachronisms in journalism today. Elsewhere in the Middle East (and the world), Western journalists intensively scrutinize governments, empowering their disaffected constituents and enhancing the international community’s understanding of impediments to democratic change. Lebanon remains very much an exception.

March 8th, 2008, 4:48 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Here is another insightfull one from the NY Times ending with a qoutation from Josh:

March 8, 2008
Arab Leaders, Angry at Syrian President, Threaten Boycott of Summit Meeting
By ROBERT F. WORTH
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Several Arab leaders say they may boycott the annual Arab summit meeting scheduled for this month in Damascus, the Syrian capital, because of anger at Syria over its role in Lebanon and its continuing links to Iran.

The measures are part of an intensified campaign against Syria that comes alongside similar moves by the United States, which recently added several new financial sanctions against Syria and sent warships to cruise off the Lebanese coast — a gesture aimed directly at the Syrian government.

“There’s a new initiative to completely isolate Syria and weaken its destructive influence in Lebanon,” said an adviser to the Saudi government, who requested anonymity because of the delicacy of the issue. “We’re not going to pull them away from Iran by talking to them. We’re going to take them away from Iran by making them feel the pressure and making them understand that this time it’s as real as it can get.”

In the past week, Saudi Arabia has recalled its ambassador from Damascus, and urged all its citizens to leave Lebanon as soon as possible — indicating that it believes any Saudi here is now a target for Syria or its allies. Last month the Saudi government deposited $1 billion into Lebanon’s central bank in a show of support for Lebanon’s government.

Syria’s role in Lebanon is rooted in its alliance with Iran and Hezbollah, which it views as crucial weapons against Israel and the West. But most Arab nations, led by Sunni Muslims, view Iran, a Shiite-dominated nation, as a dangerous and implacable foe, and they appear to have given up on luring Syria back into the Arab fold through diplomacy.

The conflict has grown increasingly bitter, with officials of Saudi Arabia and Egypt — with Jordan on board — complaining that Syria was deliberately prolonging the political vacuum in Lebanon through its support for Hezbollah, which opposes the Western-backed government majority. Lebanon has been without a president since late November.

Syria, committed to maintaining its course in Lebanon, has derided the arrival of American warships as an empty gesture and says it would rather have a meeting without major Arab leaders present than give in to intimidation.

“They do not know us,” said Samir Taqi, the director of the Orient Center for International Studies in Damascus. “Syria doesn’t need approval from anyone, and this is not the way to approach us.”

Even the recent violence in Gaza, in which more than 120 Palestinians were killed, did not force a show of Arab unity, as such violence sometimes has in the past. It is still possible that Saudi Arabia and Egypt will try to paper over the feud by sending high-level ministers to the meeting, particularly if there is more violence in Gaza, analysts say.

But for the Saudi and Egyptian rulers to stay away from the meeting to punish Syria would be an extraordinary gesture, rare in the history of the Arab League.

The dispute has a personal element, in the steadily worsening relationship between Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

“The king really hates Assad, and he is looking to punish him, because Assad allegedly insulted him on a couple of occasions,” said Bernard Haykel, a professor of Near Eastern studies at Princeton University who specializes in Saudi affairs.

The animosity began in 2005 when Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister who was a Saudi citizen and an intimate Saudi ally, was killed in a car bombing. The Saudis, like much of the world, blame Syria, and the king is said to have been furious at Mr. Assad, whose father, Hafez al-Assad, protected Mr. Hariri.

The king is also said to have been seriously offended when Mr. Assad, during the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, referred to other Arab leaders as “half men.” On that occasion and others, the Syrian president has used the broad popularity of Hezbollah’s armed struggle with Israel to burnish his own image, and to denigrate those of other Arab leaders.

There have been a number of attempts to mend the relationship in the name of Arab unity. At last year’s Arab meeting in Riyadh, King Abdullah publicly embraced Mr. Assad. But more recently, those efforts appear to have soured, helping bring Saudi-Syrian relations to what many observers call a new low.

Each country views Lebanon as a fundamental battleground on which it cannot afford to lose. The Saudis have longstanding ties to the country, particularly its Sunni community. The new threat of a nuclear Iran wielding its influence in Lebanon through Hezbollah has unnerved them.

“They have a historical relationship with Lebanon, and I think they have just decided they are not going to let go,” Professor Haykel said.

With oil reaching $105 a barrel, the Saudis are richer than ever, and they feel confident in their ability to use their money to press Syria for concessions in Lebanon, Professor Haykel said.

But the Syrians are equally committed to maintaining their historic influence in Lebanon.

“At the end of the day it’s about security,” said Mr. Taqi, the Syrian analyst. “Syria has often been threatened by Israel through Lebanon.”

It is also partly a matter of honor and family tradition. Under Hafez al-Assad, Syria occupied Lebanon for most of three decades. His son Bashar withdrew Syrian troops from Lebanon in 2005, under pressure from huge popular demonstrations after the killing of Mr. Hariri.

Now, under threat of possible indictments by the international tribunal investigating the killings of Mr. Hariri and other prominent Lebanese figures, the Syrians apparently feel that maintaining some power over Lebanon is a matter of self-defense.

“I think Syria has taken its position: they need to make sure that Lebanon cannot be used against them,” said Prof. Joshua M. Landis, a Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma. Its strategy, he added, is based in large part on countering the enormous financial power of Saudi Arabia and its allies.

“This is Syria’s game: keep Lebanon paralyzed, and Saudi has to subsidize everything,” Professor Landis said. “That’s going to take billions of dollars, and where does it end? Syria thinks they can outlast them.”

March 8th, 2008, 4:51 pm

 

MSK said:

Ya QN,

Let’s all hope that there will be some kind of compromise soon. And let’s hope even more that it’ll be an inner-Lebanese …

Now, on your story about your friend from the South … I’ve had similar conversations & I think these people are utterly hypocritical.

They want to live in a country where “People can do whatever they want. Anybody can become rich, educate his children, live how he likes.” yet deny that very same system to themselves, their families, their neighbors, compatriots.

Also, they are utterly opposed to pretty much anything the U.S. is doing in the Middle East (and for good reason) but wouldn’t mind living in that very same country and pay taxes, with which the “bad” U.S. policy is financed … A few actually decry American culture as “uncivilized, dirty” etc. but then want to move to the U.S.

It’s a schizophrenia that is mirrored by that of a group of Egyptians once interviewed who railed against American imperialism but also insisted that the U.S. keep paying Egypt the yearly “aid” (is it $2 billion now?).

Feels like something about a cake and having & eating …

–MSK*

March 8th, 2008, 4:56 pm

 

MSK said:

Ausamaa,

It’s interesting to see that you don’t read previous comments, or else you would’ve noted that your 2nd story was already posted a while ago …

Oh well.

I do heartily agree with you that M14’s decisions are not made only by themselves but that they take into account the interests of their allies – the U.S., Saudi, some other Arab states.

Of course, as you would agree, the same goes for M8, except they take into account what the Syrian and Iranian regimes want.

So both camps are dependent in their decision-making on outside allies. Got anything NEW for us?

–MSK*

March 8th, 2008, 5:03 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Yeh, I got General Michel Aoun! The new Syrian “puppet” I presume!!

March 8th, 2008, 5:20 pm

 

ausamaa said:

And the Fact that the Feb 14 Camp & Supporters are in deep…. trouble it seems!

March 8th, 2008, 5:22 pm

 

ausamaa said:

And the fact that the THREATS about holding or unholding the Arab Summit in Damascus came to nothing.

March 8th, 2008, 5:23 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Enough “new things” for now??

March 8th, 2008, 5:24 pm

 

MSK said:

Ausamaa,

Michel Aoun … is as much a flip-flopper as Jumblatt. He thinks he alone knows what’s best for Lebanon and damn the consequences for the other 4.5 million inhabitants.

I never called M8 “Syrian puppets”. I don’t know how good your English is, but I’m happy to explain words to you. I said that M8 is, in their decision-making, taking Syrian & Iranian interests into account. And M8 would be the first to acknowledge that.

M14 is in “deep … trouble” – yes, they are. They have been ever since they banked too much on their ability to sway the majority of Lebanese, the Assad regime’s vulnerability, & their allies’ will and ability to force M8 & Syria.

About that Damascus Summit – so far it hasn’t been held. Let’s talk after – maybe it will be held with all Arab states attending on highest level, maybe on lower level, maybe with some key states just not showing up at all, or maybe it will be postponed. I’m not Michel Hayek, and neither are you. (Or ARE you???)

So far, nothing new from your side, Ausamaa. But I haven’t given up hope for you yet. 🙂

–MSK*

March 8th, 2008, 5:43 pm

 

offended said:

MSK*
I think Aussama was commenting on Ahmad Fatfat’s and Junblat’s quotes ‘brought to you’ by QN.
And btw, while the opposition has never hidden their alliance with Syria and Iran. It doesn’t seem to me that Saniora publicly acknowledges his alliance with Rice and Abrams.

QN,
Who believe Junblat any longer? he always trys to strum on the chords of his father, the great Arabist. But as we say in Arabic; ish jab al marhaba lel toz?
I mean seriously, what is his real stance on these things? (namely what’s happening in Gaza) he keeps ambivalenting that I guess he himself doesn’t know what he wants and what he believes in any longer.

(I don’t know if there is such a word as ‘ambivalenting in english, if no, then I am copy-writing it..)

March 8th, 2008, 5:53 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

“Syria has often been threatened by Israel through Lebanon.”

“I think Syria has taken its position: they need to make sure that Lebanon cannot be used against them,” said Prof. Joshua M. Landis,

I do not believe that Lebanon has been a threat to Syria at any time through out the History, Syria may have worries,but at no time Lebanon sent troops to invade Syria, yes there are many spies to Israel in Lebanon, but they were there during the time when Syria controled lebanon, they are no more,no less.

Syria will benefit,even without troops there, will benifit from good relations with lebanon, economic coopertions will benefit both sides, and so political relations, socially the lebanese and syrians are related, Syrians love to shop in Lebanon, and lebanese like the good deals they get in Syria
Dictatorship will lead to seperation,democracy will lead to unification, good example is what happened between Syria and Egypt, democracy in Syria in 1958,cause Syria to unite with Egypt, Nasser dictatorship system,cause Syria to secede.
Syria is afraid of the tribunal, not from Lebanon.

March 8th, 2008, 5:59 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Well, at least some muslims can criticize someone else other than George Bush and Israel:

http://singularvoice.wordpress.com/2008/03/07/return-to-sender/

Granted, there aren’t many…

March 8th, 2008, 7:19 pm

 

Naji said:

I am watching Wadie’ Al-Safie (“symbol of Lebanese nationalism”) sing “Ghaneitu Bashar” (I sing Bashar), an ode to our Bibo, on TV right now… has been going on for the past 10 minutes…! How surreal, embarrassing, and expressive…! “our master… our hope…” it goes on… and on… Lovely…!

I have a hell of a lot more respect for our Bibo than for the 99% percent who voted for him…! And don’t let anybody fool you, they really DID vote him… I was there…!

Thus, just accept that our Bibo, perhaps more than anybody else(!!) DOES FAIRLY REPRESENT the Syrian, and Arab, people and sentiment at this time, and… just deal with it…!

Frankly, I am a lot more comfortable with that thought than with the equally true, but much more tragic, fact that Olmert does fairly represent the Israeli public and ethos at this time…!!

At least the Americans are thinking of electing an Obama…!

March 8th, 2008, 7:52 pm

 

Shai said:

Naji,

Sorry to spoil your brew, but Olmert absolutely does NOT represent the average Israeli at the moment. He is so low in the polls, that I don’t think any previous PM has ever been so unpopular. Most Israelis are fed up with him (and Barak), for not bringing more security to Israel, and instead engaging us in the failed Lebanon 2006 campaign, and now in further adventures in Gaza. Problem is, that most Israelis today are not dovish, but are turning more and more hawkish as time passes, and their frustration grows. Olmert and Barak don’t seem to be able to deliver, and so Netanyahu’s popularity is skyrocketing back again. But be sure that Olmert is not likely to win the next election. He may survive as a politician, but not as Israel’s leader.

March 8th, 2008, 8:06 pm

 

Naji said:

Oh Shai, …kindest Shai …I was trying to be nice by stopping at Olmert, but… since you mentioned it… Yes, …”Netanyahu’s popularity is skyrocketing back again” …!!

March 8th, 2008, 8:12 pm

 

Shai said:

Sorry Naji… I just want to make sure our readers understand the situation as it really is here in Israel. But, as I’ve written a few times now, I am not at all sure that Netanyahu at the helm is bad for our quest for peace. I seem to think he’s so desperate to not screw up this time (if he wins), and he very very much wants to go down in history as the man who brought peace to Israel and the region. In the coming months, he’s going to be anti-everything. His rhetoric will crucify Olmert and Barak, and his popularity will indeed skyrocket even further. If no dramatic events occur on the ground (like, god-forbid, war…), there’s a plausible chance he’ll win the next elections. And then, my friend, I look forward to seeing him do exactly everything he said he won’t. Remember, he said he would never shake that terrorist’s hand, Arafat? Well, he didn’t. He only kissed the man on his cheek every time they met. And, he gave the Palestinians control of a few very important towns and cities. And, he began negotiating with the late Hafez on… yes, withdrawal from the entire Golan. As I’ve said before, that’s part of the political absurd here in Israel, that exactly the party that preaches anti-peace is most likely to deliver it, upon achieving power. Best examples of course are Begin, Netanyahu, and Sharon. I wouldn’t bet on Barak right now…

March 8th, 2008, 9:06 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

MSK,

Yes, those types are quite schizophrenic. As for March 14 being in trouble or not, it doesn’t really matter in my opinion… as Ausamaa has said, they’re not really the masters of their own fate, and neither is the opposition.

The Robert Worth piece in the NY Times makes it clear that this is really a conflict between Syria and KSA (with U.S. help). The Saudis have decided that they have to make a stand, and they’re going to put Bashar in his place. Bush is providing cover.

The Syrians currently have Lebanon by the balls, but it seems that the Saudis are taking a longer view of things, financing the Tribunal, snubbing Syria at the summit, etc. I think that King Abdullah has basically taken the gloves off, and he’s going to push this all the way.

If/when regime change becomes a real possibility, you will know whom to blame.

March 8th, 2008, 9:08 pm

 

Naji said:

Well, Shai, …we better hope that you are right and that it all turns out for the best… somehow…!

I would have rather hoped that Israel, as it claims, is not that far behind, if not ahead, of America in the area of social and societal prgress and that the Israeli society is capable of producing, or of being inspired by, a new “politics of hope”, …even more desperately needed around here than in America. That is the real challenge today for all Syrians, including the Israelies ;)…!

March 8th, 2008, 9:20 pm

 

Shai said:

Naji,

You don’t know how right you are. But the problem is this “numbness” that exists amongst so many great and talented people here in Israel. You would think that when things are going down the drain, that capable people will rise above it all, and find the energy and will to bring about change. But instead of having a political system that encourages criticism, new ideas and opportunities, new faces, etc., we have political dinosaurs that care more about their volvos and free stamps than about giving “new blood” a chance. Unfortunately, an Obama-type politician speaking of hope would almost be ridiculed here, as being a dreamer. Still, having said all that, I still have hope. What we’re trying to do, is to get to those 30-35% who were absolutely pro-peace in Rabin’s days, and have since turned numb. We want to show them the real face of our neighbors, not just the one they think they know. We want to bring back hope, if need be without identifying ourselves with one party or another, so that people understand that peace is not a political agenda, it is a national interest, and it is their interest. We believe in our way (starting with Syria first), and we will succeed! And when we do, you and I will have coffee together, each year, in a different capital in our region, starting with mine!

March 8th, 2008, 9:33 pm

 

Shai said:

Naji,

In that respect, Israel and the U.S. could not be farther apart. In the U.S., if a governor of some state hinted that he may raise his state tax by 1/4 of a percent next month, some 60,000 residents will be marching up the hill holding torches to burn down his house… (I’m exaggerating of course, but just for the sake of demonstration). In Israel, as you’ve seen, we let politicians and leaders get away with corruption, with rape, and with murder. Impeachment? Hah! That must be some tiny village in North-Eastern Siberia, no? No one’s heard of it here… sorry. So yeah, don’t count on our political system being too much “ahead” of the U.S.

March 8th, 2008, 9:51 pm

 

Naji said:

Well, Shai, if you are going to deal in this “politics of hope”, then you better not despair… 😉 Do remember that a couple of years (even a few months…) ago, Bush enjoyed unprecedented popularity, the paranoid sinister politics of Cheney & Co were the order of the day, and even the Clintons were collaborating…

So, do try for immediate change, and do not set your sights any lower…

March 8th, 2008, 10:04 pm

 

Shai said:

Naji,

Thank you for those wise words. I promise you to do all we can, because peace is not just another goal, it should be our life’s mission. Our heads are raised, our eyes and ears are focused, and we are determined. From Israel, right here, right now.

Alex, just a note… it’s 12:10 AM (that is, past midnight)… And my youngest will be awake in less than 5 hours… 🙂

March 8th, 2008, 10:10 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Naji,
I love your view that all is well in Syria and the problem is with the US or Israel. To me, it explains exactly why Arab societies cannot solve their own problems.

March 8th, 2008, 10:17 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
Humor me and my “black and white” mentality and please explain to me the “nuance” I am missing in the “deep” words of the Hizballah guy?

March 8th, 2008, 10:21 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
I would like to understand your view better. It would help if you could answer the following question for me:
Was there any military action that Israel took from 47 till now that you think was effective or justified?

March 8th, 2008, 10:25 pm

 

Naji said:

AIG,
I was was hoping that your silence so far was a signal of agreement, as the saying goes around here, but alas… 😉

If you were to go over my comments again, the astute reader that you are, you would be hard pressed to find anything but exasperation at the general situation in ALL of geographic Syria, and in the US…! However, I was also expressing hope about the changes taking place at the societal level, for that is where change must take place to be effective and meaningful, in the US and, believing in American leadership (as a good American!), I was expecting these changes to spill over to our region sooner or later… That’s all…!! You fault me for counting on Israeli society, advantaged by all that democracy and freedom you tease the rest of us with, to lead in the region…??!! Perhaps you are right…!?

March 8th, 2008, 10:47 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

AIG

The Hizbullah guy’s words aren’t deep! He’s an uneducated ex-militia member who lost a finger in the war doing God knows what.

The intention of the story was to illustrate my point that Arabs are not all “rejectionists”, or that their “rejectionism” is not an insurmountable obstacle to progress through dialogue and intelligent diplomacy. This guy is even worse off than your hypothetical Egyptian or Syrian minister of information; he’s probably never even met an American, much less an Israeli. But that doesn’t mean that he is a brainwashed jihadi whose sole purpose is to resist anything American at all costs.

This is what I meant about black and white, and this is why the example probably did not “compute” for you.

It is precisely this gray area (which represents 99%) of Arabs and Muslims (i.e. everyone but the irreconcilable extremists) who must be engaged in meaningful ways. I’m not saying that America is responsible for the lack of democracy in the region. What I’m saying is that if America is serious about the freedom agenda, there are better and smarter ways to go about it, and I’m eager to see them implemented.

March 8th, 2008, 10:48 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Naji,
How are societal changes in the US going to spill to the mid east? Why should they? What changes are you exactly talking about?

As for Israel being an example or leader in the region, that is highly unlikely. First because most Arabs do not believe that Israel is a good example of anything let alone democracy and second because they will resist Israeli “hegemony” or “imperialism”.

March 8th, 2008, 11:00 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
The guy to me is just irrational or deeply confused. He doesn’t need PR, he needs therapy. You obviously see some opportunity in his state of mind.

So, what are the better ways you are talking about of implementing the freedom agenda? How would you approach the Hizballah supporters in Lebanon? Try to be a little more specific instead of just saying that there must be a better plan.

How about those that have both a house in Bint Jbeil and Dearborn? They should be America’s most potent ambassadors and the backbone of your strategy, yet they are not. Why?

March 8th, 2008, 11:05 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

AIG said:

The guy to me is just irrational or deeply confused. He doesn’t need PR, he needs therapy.

Ok, AIG. Whatever floats your boat.

If it makes you feel better, then sure, 99% of Arabs are irrational or deeply confused, and in need of therapy.

Guilty as charged.

March 9th, 2008, 12:18 am

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
You are evading the argument. In what way does he make sense? You understand him, so explain to me what he is saying in a way that makes sense to people like me.

Why do you expect me when someone says something contradictory to be able to understand him? If you want a dialog between America and Israel and 99% of the Arabs then please explain what these people are saying? There are many Arabs that make sense, even when if I don’t agree with some of them. But this guy just doesn’t unless you see something hiding behind his comments that I am missing.

And I still would be very interested to hear some specific strategy of addressing these people from you instead of claiming that one should be found. If you can’t think of something, why would America and Israel be able to?

March 9th, 2008, 12:44 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

AIG,

Of course he doesn’t make sense! That’s the whole flipping point! He has two completely contradictory ideas of what America stands for, and who could blame him? He’s lucky he only has two ideas.

AIG, America is a massive, mystifying, glorious, menacing, beautiful concept, a bewilderingly complex civilization, far more self-contradictory than self-explanatory. Have you simply never read Whitman, Melville, Faulkner, Vonnegut, Mailer, Fitzgerald, Franzen, Roth, Updike, Bellow, Morrison, O’Connor… ? If America’s greatest sons have exhausted their own energies trying to make sense of their country and its contradictions, how do you expect a foreigner to be able to relate to America in a one-dimensional way?

What is “hiding behind his comments” is nothing complicated or difficult to grasp. He is a person who admires many aspects of American culture (opportunities for social and economic advancement, a government that looks after its citizens, greater freedoms, etc.) At the same time, he looks around his region and sees America responsible (directly or indirectly) for much suffering.

That these two images are contradictory and seemingly incompatible is not his fault.

Your response to this incongruency is that America has to make “realist compromises” that occasionally go against its ideals. You go on to say:

Over all the US intentions are good but in many cases the American system and abilities gives varying results including very bad ones.

I completely agree with you, as I said above. So then, what’s the problem? Why is my friend’s position difficult for you to understand? He either (a) is not able to see the benefits of the specific realist compromises that directly and negatively affect him vis-a-vis how they fit into the bigger picture of noble American intentions; or (b) he is able to see it, but he is unconvinced of it. In either case, this is a response that is perfectly acceptable, and shouldn’t be tarred as “irrational”, “confused”, or rejectionist.

As for a specific strategy for pursuing the freedom agenda, I’ll put some ideas together and post later.

March 9th, 2008, 1:24 am

 

Enlightened said:

The 18th sect
Lebanon’s forgotten Jewish community
Ronnie Chatah, Special to NOW Lebanon , March 7, 2008

Magen David Avraham Synagogue in Wadi Abu Jamil, Beirut’s former Jewish neighborhood, today. (Photo courtesy of the author)

Lebanon has 18 official religious sects. Many groups, such as the Maronites, Sunni and Shia Muslims, and Druze, for example, play a daily role in Lebanon’s civic affairs. But how many Lebanese Chaldean Catholics or Ismaili Muslims have you met? Other sects, like the Alawi, Assyrians and Coptic Christians also add to the Lebanese mosaic.

But one sect, which numbered nearly 17,000 in the 1960s, is nearly extinct today. Lebanon still has an officially recognized Jewish sect, made up of roughly 60 citizens, mostly residing in Beirut’s eastern suburbs. The most recent community representative, Joseph Mizrahi, lived in Beirut until 2003, when he left for France.

Although their numbers steadily decline, Jewish shadows linger in Beirut and across Lebanon. Even if you’ve never been inside, chances are you’ve walked by the Magen David Avraham synagogue in Wadi Abu Jamil, the old Jewish quarter just below the Grand Serail. Now and then, elderly women are spotted walking into the Jewish cemetery in Sodeco or the vandalized, neglected cemetery by Saida’s coastal trash landfill. Deir al-Qamar boasts Lebanon’s oldest synagogue, yet the structure itself has been sealed shut for nearly 33 years. And Tripoli, Bhamdoun and Saida still have abandoned synagogues, closed since the outbreak of the civil war in 1975.

One of the last Jews to remain in Beirut is Liza (for reasons of security, her last name will be withheld). Liza continues to live in Wadi Abu Jamil and steadfastly refuses to leave Lebanon. An internal refugee from the days of the civil war, Liza now lives in an abandoned building set for demolition by Solidere. She may be the last Jewish presence in Wadi Abu Jamil. Living alone with several generations of pet cats, she is quick to emphasize how important Lebanese identity is to her.

“Before anything else, I want you to know that I am Lebanese… and I am Jewish,” she says at the beginning of our interview. “Don’t ask me questions about Israel because I know nothing about that.”

Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, Lebanon’s Jewish population actually increased. Most of the newly arrived Jews fled from Syria in search of security and found it easiest to escape to Beirut. Lebanon’s Jewish community felt safe, and saw its future here rather than abroad. Well-integrated in commerce and trade, many Lebanese Jews left the relatively poor Wadi Abu Jamil district and moved to the upper-middle class neighborhoods of Hamra and Clemenceau.

“When I was a child, my family used to take trips to Bhamdoun,” recalled Liza. “I used to play with other families – Christians, Muslims, Druze, anyone you could imagine. The ability for me, a Jewish woman, to play with Christian and Muslim girls and boys and never think anything of it, makes me as Lebanese as anyone else.”

But Lebanese Jews shared the fate of other Arab Jews in the aftermath of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Although their numbers began to decline following the 1958 civil war, the majority only chose to leave after 1967. The community suddenly found itself exposed to violence, as it became increasingly difficult for Arab Jews to stay in their native countries without facing discrimination and hostility. Thus, the active role of Jews in Lebanese society quickly deteriorated with Israel’s victory in the 1967 war.

Targeted for the Arab blunders in that war, demonstrations against Jews in Wadi Abu Jamil became routine. In her book, The Jews of Lebanon: Between Coexistence and Conflict, Kirsten Schulze describes the rapid politicization of Palestinians and Jews in Lebanon following the war. The Jews, fearing a backlash from Palestinians and Lebanese sympathizers due to the Arab defeat, sought protection from the Kataeb party. The general climate of fear drove the Jewish population down to 3,000 after the 1967 war; after the first year of civil war in 1976, only 400-500 Jews remained in Lebanon.

When Israel invaded Lebanon and reached Beirut in the summer of 1982, the Israeli government offered the remaining Lebanese Jews Israeli citizenship. According to a report issued by British daily The Times in August of that year, not one Lebanese Jew accepted the offer. “I was offered Israeli citizenship,” Liza confirmed, “when [Ariel] Sharon came to Beirut. I wasn’t the only one then to simply turn it down. I am not, and will never be, Israeli.” Indeed, Zionism was largely unattractive even to many of the 500,000 Arab Jews that fled to Israel. However, there was no other country willing to accept them as refugees.

So, where are the Lebanese Jews today? Most of them fled to Paris and Montreal and became citizens of their host countries. Less than 200 settled in Israel, reflecting Zionism’s lack of appeal at the time to the overwhelming majority of Lebanese Jews.

We are left with only a glimpse into a history that is often forgotten in Lebanon. After the civil war ended in 1990, many Jews temporarily returned to Beirut to sell the property they still owned in Wadi Abu Jamil to Solidere. Walking in the former Jewish neighborhood today, the area feels more like a newly paved parking lot than a dense quarter that was home to thousands. Some Jewish-owned buildings still stand, but most have been destroyed. The Magen David Avraham synagogue remains abandoned, roofless and gutted. Solidere will likely renovate the structure but keep it closed to the public until the community decides to reopen it. Of course, that would first require a Lebanon ready to accept an active Jewish presence – not to mention a functioning synagogue right below the Grand Serail. In any case, the Jewish community and its presence in Lebanon are pushed to the backburner by domestic politics. Sadly, their concerns are largely considered a non-issue by most of their fellow Lebanese.

Liza believes that Lebanon’s Jewish community is beyond revival. “You are asking for the impossible, for me, a Jew, to really feel part of this country,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong, I am Lebanese, 100% Lebanese. But I am rejected because people think I am Israeli, or a Zionist or a Mossad agent.”

Even the government’s identification of Jews is a reminder to Liza of her rejection by Lebanese society. She reaches over into a dresser and pulls out an old Lebanese birth certificate, pointing to the mazhab, or religion, section. “The government is too afraid to list me as a Jew. I am ‘Moussawi,’ because I follow Moses,” she says. “But the followers of Moses are Jews, so why can’t I be a Jew? I can’t because of the problem with Israel. Get that solved and I’ll be fine.”

A telephone call interrupts our conversation, and Liza asks to end the interview here. I leave her building and quickly get stopped by a Solidere security guard asking why I was visiting Liza. I explain, and he quickly asks if I am Jewish. I tell him no, but ask why he’s curious. He says, “She’s the only Israeli I know in Lebanon. And she seems nice, and I thought you were related to her. You’d be the second Jew I meet.”

Inextricably linked – against her will – to Israel, the last Jew in Wadi Abu Jamil is protected by a guard who thinks she’s Israeli. We may be down to 17 sects very, very soon.

March 9th, 2008, 1:45 am

 

Shai said:

AIG,

Many of the activities of the IDF since 1947 were effective and justified. Many also weren’t. I’d prefer a COGS that thinks in terms of “effective and smart”, rather than “effective and justified”. Always happy to clarify the confusion… 🙂

March 9th, 2008, 4:49 am

 

Alex said:

Shai

You slept very late (at 12:10 Am) last night. Go back to sleep.

But absolutely, replacing “justified” with “smart” is … smart.

March 9th, 2008, 4:53 am

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Please, how likely is it that an action that is effective not be also smart? However, there could certainly be actions that are effective but not justified, that is how Asad stays in power, using effective methods that have no justification. So, I am not surprised that from your point of view Alex it is “smart” to change justified to smart.

March 9th, 2008, 5:29 am

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
Can you give me a few examples of actions of the IDF that you view as effective and justified (or effective and smart whatever that means)?

March 9th, 2008, 5:35 am

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
Two points.
The first is that if Americans cannot understand themselves as you contend, why would they be able to explain themselves to outsiders, especially Arabs?

The second point is that the contradiction lies in the fact that US foreign policy has been basically the same for 100 years under different adminstrations whether they were republicans or democrats. So trying to argue that America is different from its foreign policy does not make sense. It is a whole package. Furthermore, doesn’t moving to the US means accepting US “hegemony” which is exactly what Hizballah rejects in Lebanon? Doesn’t it mean that part of your taxes goes to supporting Israel? How can all this together make sense?

March 9th, 2008, 5:38 am

 

offended said:

AIG, let’s put the history aside for a sec ya? let me ask you this: what does Israel want to achieve NOW that can only be done through military actions?

March 9th, 2008, 6:19 am

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Offended,
Quite simple, through limited military actions Israel’s aim is to stop Hamas from becoming like Hizballah (having long range rockets etc.) thus negating the need for a war like the July 2006 one. If there is a “hudna” it is clear that Hamas will smuggle rockets and build its strength.

Israel made the mistake of withdrawing from Lebanon and leaving Hizballah alone thus letting Hizballah build its strength, organize and build bunkers. The mistake should not be repeated in Gaza and it looks as if it won’t be repeated.

March 9th, 2008, 6:27 am

 

offended said:

That’s a dodgy answer AIG, but anyway… I am going to walk with you down that road for a moment: after you neutralize Hamas and Hizbullah and every other foe in the region; what would you still want the military to achieve?

March 9th, 2008, 6:34 am

 

Alex said:

AIG,

Israel “made the mistake of withdrawing from Lebanon” to escape having to sign a comprehensive (Syria and Lebanon) peace treaty with Syria in 1999…. your prime minister at the time wanted to outsmart Hafez Assad by taking the Hizbollah card away from his hand.

It did not work, did it?

THAT was the mistake.

March 9th, 2008, 6:34 am

 

Shai said:

AIG,

I agree with Offended, why are you so interested in the past, and in our history? That’s what I meant when I said your focal point is the past, instead of the future. The IDF fought effectively on endless occasions, from 1948 on. If it hadn’t, I wouldn’t be typing these words to you now, or at least not from Israel. Effective and smart operations were the 1981 attack on Osirak, destroying Saddam’s near-nuclear capabilities (after knowing what he’s capable of doing to his own people), and the 1976 rescue of the hostages in Antebbe. Both showed the long-arm and impressive capabilities of the IDF, contributed to our deterrence, and killed very few people in the process. Some may argue that 1981 led to Saddam’s SCUD launches against Israel 10 years later in the first Gulf War, which may be true, but I still preferred a Saddam with SCUDs than with nuclear weapons.

Want some examples of “effective and stupid”? Lebanon I, Lebanon II, Homat Magen, “Surgical Strike” assassinations, Gaza I-XXXVII, … This is starting to sound like Rocky movies, or the Superbowl. Except they’re far less funny, and far more costly. Let’s get back to the Future, shall we? Let’s see how we don’t add more operations to the “effective and stupid” list.

March 9th, 2008, 6:46 am

 

Shai said:

Alex,

Wallahi, you need to sleep! Otherwise you’re going to write responses that don’t make sense!!! And then Syria-lovers like myself will get all confused (Qunfuzed)…

March 9th, 2008, 6:47 am

 

offended said:

AIG, let’s do it this way:
We’ve got a good basketball team in Aleppo called Al Jala.
You’ve got a good team (I think) team called Maccabi Haifa.
Let’s play a match on neutral ground and the winner’s word will prevail.

How does that work for you?

Or do you fear your butt will be kicked in basketball as well? 😉

March 9th, 2008, 7:14 am

 

Shai said:

Offended,

I think you mean Maccabi Tel-Aviv, though this year they’re not doing well at all. But, I still wouldn’t put your political future up against them – they have won 5 European Championships, you know.

March 9th, 2008, 7:33 am

 

offended said:

Shai, oh is that right?

(dropping the ball and running back to my AK47)

March 9th, 2008, 7:40 am

 

Alex said:

Yes, that’s right Mr. Offended.

Next time think before you come up with such ideas.

March 9th, 2008, 7:45 am

 

offended said:

Btw guys, joking aside: do you know that this is the way wars were fought in ancient India?
But instead of basketball the tribal leaders would play chess…

March 9th, 2008, 8:01 am

 

SimoHurtta said:

Effective and smart operations were the 1981 attack on Osirak, destroying Saddam’s near-nuclear capabilities (after knowing what he’s capable of doing to his own people), and the 1976 rescue of the hostages in Antebbe. Both showed the long-arm and impressive capabilities of the IDF, contributed to our deterrence, and killed very few people in the process.

Shai the tale of the heroic Osirak operation is complete bullshit. Osirak was a small French research nuclear reactor and under IAEA guarding. It was no nuclear weapon factory.

(after knowing what he’s capable of doing to his own people)
If you Shai refer with this to the Kurd “gassing”, lets remember that that it happened years later than the Israeli attack. Also it is disputed was the usage of gases made by Iranians (using Israeli technology) or by Saddam (using US – German technology). Let’s not be hypocrites and forget the history.

Iran and Iraq (before) differ from Israel in that case that they have given IAEA permission to inspect their nuclear sites and technology. Israel hasn’t. It is amusing that a country which in secret has developed an enormous nuclear arsenal, which has long ago passed the limit of a strategical defence detterent, is so worried about others nuclear ambitions. Now Israel is not only a risk to Arab nations and Iran. It is also a big risk for Europe. Moshe Dayan said: Israel must be like a mad dog, to dangerous to others to touch. Lets remember that because since Dayan that mad dog attitude has became only “madder”.

Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld has said, that Iranians are nuts (from a pure military point of view) if they do not develop nukes. That same military need applies also the Arab states. It is the only way to get a military balance in the region if Israel doesn’t demolish its WMD arsenal (which it undoubtedly doesn’t).

The wisdom of Osirak operation is disputable. On the longer run it only made Israel’s regional dominance “dreams” clear for Arabs and Europeans. Most of Arabs have understood that. In Europe only the military circles have understood that real and present danger. If Israel can send nukes to Teheran, so it can send to Rome, Mûnchen, Athens etc. Mad dogs behave like mad dogs, otherwise they would not be mad dogs only normal dogs.

March 9th, 2008, 10:12 am

 

MSK said:

Ya Alex, Qifa Nabki et al-

Just saw this & thought you might want to put it up in the next “News Round” or even as its own post so we can discuss … (Also, before y’all read the article I beg you to overlook the execrable English. One would think that a leading Leb paper could afford to hire at least one good English speaker …)

Iran Seeking to Prolong Lebanon Crisis until 2009
(http://www.naharnet.com/domino/tn/NewsDesk.nsf/getstory?openform&79CCD7F05ACC04CEC225740700241E59)

Iran on Sunday was reportedly seeking to prolong the Lebanon crisis until parliamentary elections scheduled for next year.

The daily al Hayat said Arab diplomatic sources feared that the political crisis in Lebanon could drag on until the 2009 parliamentary elections based on reports that Iran is inclined toward “standstill along with calm” in Lebanon.

The sources said Iran has informed several Arab bodies of its inclination toward the “equation of standstill together with calm” in Lebanon during the next phase, pending progress of the regional situation and until the path of the Iranian-U.S. relationship becomes clear.

They said Arab officials were also informed by Iran that Tehran does not expect an end to the presidential crisis in Lebanon.

The impasse in Lebanon was raised in talks during a visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Iraq last week, the sources said.

The Iranian president informed his Iraqi counterpart that Lebanon is heading toward recession.

The sources said Iran’s interests in this stage are focused on issues “other than the Lebanon crisis.”

They said contacts are underway between Tehran from one side and several Western powers and the U.S. from the other side.

Meanwhile, Sports and Youth Minister Ahmad Fatfat said that he believes presidential elections will take place on March 25.

The daily An Nahar, however, said Sunday chances were slim that Lebanon will have a president ahead of the Damascus summit.

Beirut, 09 Mar 08, 08:31

This is making M8 look a bit like “Iranian puppets”, is it not ya Ausamaa? 😉

–MSK*

March 9th, 2008, 11:19 am

 

wizart said:

Mad dogs behave like mad dogs, otherwise they would not be mad dogs only normal dogs.

Simo,

It’s so sad when human beings feel the need to behave like mad dogs. It’s also sad to see mad dogs and not realize they’re basically insecure dogs longing for security and recognition.

How do we solve this fundamental psychological problem which I’m pretty sure is related to the Holocaust and the tendency to deny its huge and undying ramifications? Are there any clinical assessments done to measure these effects on Israel defence policy?
Perhaps the whole problem can be redefined in terms of better mental health with special funding directed to special education.

Problems are better solved by those who created them. If there was no Holocaust we would never have heard of a country named Israel. Germany paid billions in compensation. Did a lot of money find its way to Palestine as the survivors set up their new country there?

March 9th, 2008, 11:23 am

 

Alex said:

“The failure so far of different initiatives to resolve Lebanon’s crisis is not to be blamed on Arabs or France or any other foreign party. It is only to be blamed on the Lebanese,” Kouchner told a news conference in France.

March 9th, 2008, 3:40 pm

 

offended said:

I am not concerned with mad dogs really. They can possibly revert to their sanity. What concerns me is rabid dogs, man they are contagious…

March 9th, 2008, 4:50 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Offended,
I accept the solution using basket-ball teams. Yalla Macabbi.

Let me ask you this. Why does Syria need such a huge oppression mechanism? Why does it throw dissidents in jail and suppress the opposition? Why does Asad work with them by violence and not by peaceful means? Can you please explain this to me? Aren’t we all brothers? Shouldn’t we just talk and solve our brothers? Why isn’t Asad forward looking?

March 9th, 2008, 5:34 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

AIG

I’ll respond to your last post on the new thread.

March 9th, 2008, 5:42 pm

 

Alex said:

AIG,

I removed your last comment.

Try to not change the topic again … I was talking about lessons of Israel’s withdrawal from south of Lebanon, and you switched to democracy in Syria (“the Damascus spring”)

March 9th, 2008, 5:48 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
That was uncalled for. Offended was trying to argue that military force was not needed in the mid east. It was fair to ask why it is needed by Syria against its own people.

March 9th, 2008, 5:50 pm

 

Alex said:

No, your comment was addressed to me. I wrote about my opinion of the lesson learned from Israel’s withdrawal from south Lebanon. the damascus spring has nothing to do with it.

And then you accused me of trying to rewrite history!!

Are you saying that what I wrote was not a popular impression at the time? .. that Barak went for a unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon to take away the Hizbollah (or Lebanon) negotiating card from Hafez Assad?

They (the Israelis) are using the withdrawal
from Lebanon as a pressure card on the Syrian
negotiations, which of course the Arab parties
are not prepared to accept.

We agreed that

1) you will not throw accusations at people here.
2) You will not try to justify inserting democracy in Syria in every discussion topic.

I know you can always find a way to justify your need to talk about democracy in Syria, that’s part of why most people here had problems with you… if we discuss damascus culture, you change it to democracy. If we discuss fairouz, you change it to democracy.

March 9th, 2008, 5:57 pm

 

Shai said:

Simohurtta,

I only now got back, so I hope you get to read this response.

I’m sorry you see things the way you do. The anti-Israel in you is quite strong, and I can understand that, though I’m still sorry for it. Look, if you mean to tell me that you’d feel perfectly safe having a Saddam in 1981 with nuclear weapons, allow me to differ with you just a bit. And with all due respect, please don’t tell me that “you know” what Osirak was and what it wasn’t… unless you worked there, and have some permission to tell us all. My “bullshit” is no less credible than yours. Van Krefeld indeed suggests that the entire Middle East go nuclear, in order to create our version of M.A.D. Now do you honestly expect me to believe that most Arabs (Sunni and Shia) will feel safe knowing that Iran, Iraq, KSA, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Kuwait, Israel, Palestine, etc. will all have nuclear weapons? Will YOU sleep well at night? If your answer is “yes”, you either live outside this region, or you don’t give a damn about those who do, or you must be out of your mind. A nuclear Middle East is NOT a U.S.-U.S.S.R. type situation. The Cold War was hot enough (according to McNamara himself), and at least once the two superpowers were EXTREMELY close to starting a real nuclear war (and subsequent holocaust), namely in 1962 with the Cuban Missile Crisis. If our region was full of nuclear weapons, held by more-responsible and less-responsible parties and regimes, I think the chances for nuclear war would be infinitely greater than were in the Cold War. I think most people in this region would agree.

As for a nuclear Israel, of course I can understand your anger. But do recall, that despite the fact that (according to foreign sources) Israel had nuclear capabilities (weapons, not just nuclear power) already back in 1967, we have not used it once. After all, October 1973 was the closest we ever felt to real existential threat. It could have been much easier to just drop a few nuclear bombs on Syria and Egypt, and save ourselves from 3 weeks of bloody war. Yet we didn’t. So don’t talk to me about responsibility. Either we don’t have nuclear weapons, and we’ve fooled the world amazingly well, or we DO have them, and are quite responsible about it, to say the least.

Lastly, please allow me to call your entire thesis about Israel being also a nuclear threat to Europe, utter crap. Come on, where do you get this stuff from? You don’t like Israeli propaganda about Iranian Shihabs also reaching European capitals, so you develop the same for Israel? There are better ways to “combat” our propaganda, if you truly feel safe with the current regime in Iran acquiring nuclear weapon capabilities. Your claim about the lack of IAEA inspections in Israel is justified (one of the few things you made sense about), but between you and me, what do you need it for – you already assume we have nukes, don’t you? Let’s pretend Israel tomorrow invited any IAEA inspectors in. We showed them all our weapons. They report it to the world. What will you say tomorrow morning – Aha! You see? You DO have them? Or, now if you want Iran not to develop them, you shouldn’t either? Okay, so say that already now. You don’t need the IAEA. By the way, say the IAEA would tell you that Israel doesn’t have nuclear weapons. But say it would tell you that Iran likely does. You’d believe the latter, but not the first, right?

Come on, Simohurtta, we’re not going to bridge any gaps if you cannot let go of your “hate-Israel-at-all-cost” attitude. I know we’re evil, and only want to annihilate all Arabs, but do you really think we’d be wasting our time talking on this forum if we didn’t want to change that image? We truly want to understand you, and listen to you. And, we hope you could do the same with us. But let’s not ruin any possibility of communication, by suggesting each of us is the epitome of the Devil himself.

March 9th, 2008, 8:03 pm