News Round Up (1 Sept 2007)

More and more pundits are coming to the view that Bush might actually strike Iran, although, many suspect that US military leaders will revolt if he should be so foolhardy. Nevertheless, the US forces are in place for a major strike. Iran will have to lie low for some time. 

War with Iran, by Barnett R. Rubin at Informed Comment Global Affairs. He argues that Bush is preparing for war. The same argument, but with more supporting evidence, is made by two SOAS professors:

Study: US preparing 'massive' military attack against Iran Say SOAS professors

The United States has the capacity for and may be prepared to launch without warning a massive assault on Iranian uranium enrichment facilities, as well as government buildings and infrastructure, using long-range bombers and missiles, according to a new analysis. The paper, "Considering a war with Iran: A discussion paper on WMD in the Middle East" was written by well-respected British scholar and arms expert Dr. Dan Plesch, and Martin Butcher, a former adviser to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament.

"We wrote the report partly as we were surprised that this sort of quite elementary analysis had not been produced by the many well resourced Institutes in the United States," wrote Plesch in an email to Raw Story on Tuesday.

Plesch and Butcher examine "what the military option might involve if it were picked up off the table and put into action" and conclude that based on open source analysis and their own assessments, the US has prepared its military for a "massive" attack against Iran, requiring little contingency planning and without a ground invasion.

The study concludes that the US has made military preparations to destroy Iran's WMD, nuclear energy, regime, armed forces, state apparatus and economic infrastructure within days if not hours of President George W. Bush giving the order. The US is not publicising the scale of these preparations to deter Iran, tending to make confrontation more likely. The US retains the option of avoiding war, but using its forces as part of an overall strategy of shaping Iran's actions…

UN offers food aid to Iraqi refugees in Syria, International Herald Tribune
Syria, home to as many as 1.5 million Iraqi refugees, has decided to require visas for Iraqis entering the country for economic, trade and educational purposes, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

The new rules take effect Sept. 10, the ministry said in a statement on its Web site.

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari was informed about the Syrian decision by his counterpart Walid Moallem in a telephone conversation Thursday, the ministry said.

Syria's move is seen as an attempt by the Arab state to reduce the flow of more than 30,000 Iraqi refugees every month.

Syria is one of the easiest countries for Iraqis to visit because they can stay up to six months then simply leave any border crossing and enter the same day to start a new six months. It was unclear how the rules would affect Iraqis who try to enter Syria simply to take refuge.

Lebanon president flags army chief as provisional successor 

BEIRUT (AFP) — Lebanese President Emile Lahoud said Thursday he would name army chief General Michel Suleiman as his provisional successor if the country's competing political camps fail to agree on a permanent one.

He was speaking ahead of a planned parliamentary vote this autumn to elect a new president, with the country's pro- and anti-Syrian blocs in a deadlock that threatens to exacerbate ongoing political paralysis.

A successful vote requires the 128-seat house to muster a quorum of 86 MPs but this will require a compromise, as the ruling coalition of Western-backed Prime Minister Fuad Siniora has just 69 MPs.

Only once a quorum is reached can the legislature proceed to electing a president, but even then the only hope for success is a compromise candidate.

General Suleiman has recently made statements suggesting that he might be prepared to be that person.

"The constitution is clear and so are our constitutional norms: a president can be elected only if two-thirds of the number of deputies attend the session," the pro-Syrian Lahoud said in a statement issued by his office.

"Otherwise I have already made a suggestion to appoint a transitional cabinet headed by army commander General Suleiman and comprising six or seven civilians.

"The goal of this cabinet would be to draft a new electoral law, hold parliamentary elections and pave the way for the holding of presidential elections."

Lahoud said he would not 'hand over power to the cabinet of Siniora, simply because I consider it unconstitutional and inexistent."

Lebanon, always Lebanon, By Zvi Barel, Ha'aretz

Granted, mutual loathing between Saudi Arabia and Syria is nothing new, but last August as well, it was Lebanon that soured their relations anew. Speaking in support of Hezbollah in a speech delivered after the Second Lebanon War, Assad annoyed King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia by calling the Arab leaders "half-men" for failing to back the Shi'ite militia. Since then the relations appear to have been mended and Assad was welcomed with all due respect at the Riyadh summit in March. But their mutual mistrust has not abated.

Saudi Arabia, which has itself entered into an agreement with Iran, is angry about the Syrian-Iranian axis and dislikes Syria's close relations with the Shi'ite leadership in Iraq, and the government headed by Nouri al-Maliki. Saudi Arabia views al-Maliki as an Iranian stooge who's turning Iraq into a direct threat to Saudi Arabia.

Syria, on the other hand, received al-Maliki with fanfare last week. Damascus also opened an embassy in Baghdad, something Saudi Arabia so far hasn't done, and is seeking to reopen the Iraqi oil pipeline passing through Syria. In Saudi Arabia's opinion, with these moves Syria is making itself into an integral member of the Shi'ite circle in the Middle East, and is thus acting against the interests of most of the Arab countries.

Saudi Arabia is no paragon of virtue either. It is suspected of aiding Sunni organizations that are undermining the government in Baghdad, and of frustrating the establishment of a unity government in Iraq. Terrorists apparently operating alongside extremist Sunni organizations pass undisturbed into Iraq from Saudi Arabia. But unlike Syria, which is suspected of much the same, Saudi Arabia is a dear friend of Washington.

Now Syria is trying to take revenge on Saudi Arabia through Lebanon. It isn't just a question of any personal umbrage Assad may harbor over Saudi Arabia heading the political group that caused Syria's expulsion from Lebanon in 2005, nor is it just because Saudi Arabia vigorously advocated convening an international court to judge Hariri's killers.

Saudi Arabia has ousted it from every possible body in the Middle East, Syria thinks, and even sabotaged the possibility of its renewing negotiations with Israel. Now Saudi Arabia is supporting the international conference that President George Bush is promoting, to which Syria isn't even invited. Syria, which threw its support behind the Saudi Arabian initiative at the last moment — and is now using that support as leverage to negotiate for the return of the Golan Heights — is discovering that the international conference won't be addressing it as an issue at all. The conference mandate is confined to the Palestinians. Lebanon is the only arena left where Syria can flex its muscles.

On his first official visit to Syria, Maliki met President Bashar Assad and other officials.

Insisting he brought a message from his government alone, Maliki said: “We have found support for the political process, national reconciliation and the efforts deployed by Iraqi forces to stabilize [Iraq].”

At a press conference after his talks with Assad, he linked future economic cooperation between Syria and oil-rich Iraq with “the security file in Iraq, which is the key to all the positive developments we hope for. Talks continue between the two sides to find a mechanism aimed at controlling the borders and prevent infiltration of terrorists which target both countries”.

He also pledged to cooperate with Syria to deal with the problem of refugees, but put Iraq’s problems first. “We must guarantee stability in order to ensure their return to their country”.

Bush's Lost Iraqi Election By: David Ignatius | The Washington Post

Ayad Allawi, the former interim prime minister of Iraq, hinted in a television interview last weekend at one of the war's least understood turning points: America's decision not to challenge Iranian intervention in Iraq's January 2005 elections….

As recounted by former U.S. officials, the story embodies the mix of hubris and naivete that has characterized so much of the Iraq effort. From President Bush on down, U.S. officials enthused about Iraqi democracy while pursuing a course of action that made it virtually certain that Iran and its proxies would emerge as the dominant political force.

The CIA warned in the summer and fall of 2004 that the Iranians were pumping money into Iraq to steer the Jan. 30, 2005, elections toward the coalition of Shiite religious parties known as the United Iraqi Alliance.

To counter this Iranian tide, the CIA proposed a political action program, initially at roughly $20 million but with no ceiling. The activities would include funding for moderate Iraqi candidates, outreach to Sunni tribal leaders and other efforts to counter Iranian influence. A covert-action finding was prepared in the fall of 2004 and signed by President Bush. As required by law, senior members of Congress, including Pelosi, were briefed.

But less than a week after the finding was signed, CIA officials were told that it had been withdrawn.

Ethically, that was certainly a principled view. But on the ground in Iraq, the start-stop maneuver had the effect of pulling the rug out from under moderate, secular Iraqis who might have contained extremist forces.

Allawi, in a telephone interview Tuesday from Amman, Jordan, confirmed that the United States had shelved its political program. "The initial attitude of the U.S. was to support moderate forces, financially and in the media," he said. "This was brought to a halt, under the pretext that the U.S. does not want to interfere." Allawi said the American decision was "understandable" but ceded the field to Iran and its well-financed proxies.

Allawi said he is trying to gather support for a new coalition …

Comments (17)

JimR said:

I’m struck by the Iran report authors’ comments that GW Bush does not want to be accused of using too little military force this time around, in contrast to Iraq. But I thought the problem regarding Iraq was not inadequate military force — remember “shock and awe”? remember the subversion and collapse of Iraqi state armed forces? — but the political miscalculations, tone-deafness and disasters that followed in implementing the occupation. So, following the Iran report authors’ logic, if GWB blows up in Iran what the US can blow up (and let’s everyone agree the US is capable of blowing up a great deal), what happens after that? The Iran attack — if and when it happens — will be widely seen as yet another unjustified and unprovoked attack by an irresponsible Great Power on a sovereign Muslim state that posed little threat to anyone outside its own frontiers. The political fallout cannot be contained by military force.

September 2nd, 2007, 11:57 am


Nur al-Cubicle said:

Sovereignty is dead.

BTW, the Grand High Land and Sea Lord William G. Fallon was just in Saudi, now he’s in Lebanon with a “message of support” to Siniora.

September 2nd, 2007, 2:45 pm


norman said:

We should expect a surprise attack by the US , Iran will retaliate by destroying the infrastructure of the Gulf states , after the attack western companies will jump in to rebuild the Gulf and KSA using the oil revenue , What a plan to keep the Muslims divided and weak. I hope the Arabs and the Iranians are smarter than having their lands destroyed.

September 2nd, 2007, 7:24 pm


Joshua said:

Fallon is perhaps the most reasonable of the new crew. He said that there would be no bombing of Iran on his watch. He has to pick his battles. I would give him a pass on Lebanon. It seems Washington is going to push to the end for elections and following the constitution to the letter.

This strategy has opened up a gap between Sfeir and Hariri. Sfeir wants a strong presidency, hence his willingness to entertain a Suleiman presidency.

Hariri will be happy to have a very weak presidency in order to stand on the principle of constitutionalism, which frightens many Christians.

September 2nd, 2007, 8:01 pm


ausamaa said:

Does anyone really thinks that Al Harriri Jr. knows what he wants and what he does not want? That is one helluva an assumption.

And does anyone really think that Bush is capable of attacking Iran? Willing? Yes. Dreams about it? Yes. Being constantly pushed to do it? Sure. But CAPABLE of doing it? Forget it. He is not even capable of guarenteeing the saftey of Baghdad’s “liberated” Green Zone. Sorry to rub it in, but if Bush is dying to Attack Iran -as we all know for a fact- then what is stopping him from doing it if it is not his “knowing” that he CAN NOT do it?

Let some of us come down our from their high horses. Let us acknowledge that while absolute power does corrupt absolutly; yet, absolute power does not seem that absolute after all except to those who refuse to see its limitations. Those limitations have been proven over and over again in many places as we have seen in the past few decades. Crazy or not, Bush knows that he is absoultly incapable of attacking Iran.

September 2nd, 2007, 8:16 pm


Kamal said:

> Let us acknowledge that while absolute power does corrupt absolutly;
> yet, absolute power does not seem that absolute after all except to
> those who refuse to see its limitations.

The man is a real wizard with words.

September 2nd, 2007, 8:30 pm


why-discuss said:

If the IAEA clears Iran for the nuclear WMD, it will be a big blow to the US administration and to Bush in particular.
He will have much less arguments to ostracize Iran and rally the world community other than the threat to Israel. Israel would feel even more vulnerable to Iran’s military threat. I think Israel will pressure the US to make a symbolic demonstration of power against Iran. The US may resort to a military “surgical” operation against Iran, just before the IAEA report comes out.

September 2nd, 2007, 10:36 pm


Nour said:


The Lebanese Constitution clearly states that there has to be a quorum in Parliament before they can vote for a president, and the quorum consists of a 2/3 majority of MP’s. Hariri and Co. want to change the quorum to 1/2 + 1 knowing that they do not have enough MP’s to reach the 2/3 requirement. Therefore, it appears that they are the ones who want to undermine the Constitution.

September 3rd, 2007, 12:16 am


norman said:

The Us is using Lebanon to have a weak Christian President of Lebanon to appease the Sunni minority of Lebanon in return for the settlement of the Palestinians under the goal of having cheap Labor , President Bush is a fanatics who will attack Iran even if he can not then he will wait for the result , the US is far from Iran and Iran can not affect the American homeland , the only people who will suffer are the Iranians and the Arabs of the Gulf then there will never be a united Muslim front against the west.

September 3rd, 2007, 2:47 am


SimoHurtta said:

Opposition in Syria raises its head

For the first time since 1982, Reform Party of Syria defies regime, hangs posters of exiled leader in three of Syria’s major cities

A rare sight welcomed visitors to some of Syria’s major cities last week – huge posters of Farid Ghadry, exiled leader of the Reform Party of Syria, the opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

Ghadry’s posters were plastered in three of Syria’s major cities: Halab, Idlib and Damascus. This was the first defiant act made against Assad’s regime since the suppression of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood in 1982.

Hafez al-Assad, then president of Syria, used his army to crush the opposition, killing some 20,000 people in the process.

A spokesman for the Reform Party of Syria told Ynet that those responsible for hanging Ghadry’s posters were “tired of all the war, tired of not having any real future… they want the Israelis to understand that the Syrian people aren’t the extremists the Israelis think they are.”

The spokesman said the dissidents were a group of 30-year olds and that they also asked that Ghadry print his message on 300,000 cards they intend to distribute in Syria.

“We promised to help them as along as their actions didn’t put them in any danger,” he said, adding that “as far as we know, the posters were up for at least a few hours. We don’t know if Syrian Intelligence made any arrests in the matter.”
Ghadry himself is worried about the safety of those opposing Assad. “Our main concern is for Syria’s youth, who are risking their lives to do this. We hope they are safe.”

Rather desperate propaganda, when there is no news one must create “news”. Opposition raising head with a couple of posters of an totally unknown AIPAC member.

September 3rd, 2007, 4:48 am


Enlightened said:

Norman Said;

“The Us is using Lebanon to have a weak Christian President of Lebanon to appease the Sunni minority of Lebanon in return for the settlement of the Palestinians under the goal of having cheap Labor ”

Norman, The presidency is weak because of the Taif agreement, under the agreement which is still a sore point, it limited the powers of the President, and transferred it to the government executive ( If I have misread this Kamal please elaborate further )


The settlement will not happen not under any inducements offered , not even the wiping of Lebanons debts will sway the Lebanese to accept this scenario.

September 3rd, 2007, 4:56 am


Innocent_Criminal said:

the poster of Ghadry is too funny. i kept thinking to myself haram that poor old demented man,7340,L-3445000,00.html

September 3rd, 2007, 5:47 am


Enlightened said:


Why do they refer to Ghadry as a exile? when he left the mid east a six seven year old?

September 3rd, 2007, 6:09 am


ausamaa said:

I do not agree with setteling the Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon on the basis of mattter of principle. But where the hell would they be settled if a settlement is reached? And why talk only of those Palestinian Refeugees in Lebanon? How about those in Syria? Jordan? Kuwait? Saudi? Do we have to ignore those non-Lebanese countries who treated their Palestinan refugeees humanly -in contrast to how Lebanon treated them- just because they where considerate and human enough to act so? And please let no one one start talking about relocating them to a newly discovered uninhabited place.

It is not a Lebanese problem, its a “settlement” problem!

Any intelligent serious and practical solutions or alternatives?

September 3rd, 2007, 2:02 pm


Enlightened said:

Here is a intelligent proposal: ” Let them re settle in their natural homeland” this is the only just solution for all

September 3rd, 2007, 11:06 pm


ausamaa said:

I agree of course; that would be the easiest and most natural solution, At least they would still know they way around their hometowns. But does ISRAEL agree? Can the WORLD force it to agree? Maybe Al Harriri Tribunal can examine this as a side issue in their search for justice in the Crime of the Century.

September 4th, 2007, 4:43 am


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