News Round Up (10 June 2008)

Leaving Baghdad: The View From Syria
By Ahmad Fadam

(Self-portrait by Ahmad Fadam )

Ahmad Fadam was a member of the Iraqi staff in the newsroom of The New York Times in Baghdad. He left Baghdad in May to take up a visiting fellowship at the University of North Carolina. He will continue to contribute to the Baghdad Bureau blog from there.

After spending three weeks in Syria with my family, I can say that it was a very strange feeling to be in that country. It is so similar to what Iraq used to be when Saddam was president – the same order, the same political system and of course the same government and Baath party slogans, like to stand against the colonists and Zionism and liberating Palestine, which I used to hate…. A cab driver named Abu Zaki said to me: “We used to hate Bashar al-Assad, we used to hate having the son sitting on the chair and ruling after his father [Hafez al-Assad] but after what we saw happening in Iraq, we started thinking ‘We don’t want to be in the same situation as you, and thank God we are not.

This means that if what happened to Iraq had happened instead to some other Arab country, then maybe Saddam would still be alive. The Iraqis would have said that bad is better than worse, and accepted what they had. They would have said that dictatorship is not so bad after all.

Another Syrian I met in the market, Kamal, said to me, “Thank God we don’t have sectarian way of thinking like you do, this is a blessing.” Yes, the sectarian violence the people hear about is something else that made them hate the idea of bringing the so-called new democracy to the Middle East.

But still. This doesn’t mean that we – the Iraqis – are very welcome here in Syria. There are thousands of Iraqi families living here. Most of them have fled the country because of the sectarian violence. They thought that by coming to Syria or to any other country, they would have a chance of starting a new life again.

I am not saying that the Syrian government is treating the Iraqis badly; they also have their system and order to maintain, and they are better than many of the other Arab countries that closed their borders in the face of the Iraqis.

But what happened is that the Syrian government forced Iraqis to get visas, in order to stop the continuous waves of arrivals. This has left many Iraqis …..

Sarkozi Sends Invite to Assad to Visit Paris and "Turn a New Page"

Ibrahim Hamidi of Al-Hayat, an independent Saudi owned newspaper, wrote on June 10: “Concurring sources announced to Al-Hayat yesterday that the French ambassador to Damascus delivered to Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Muallem a “written invitation” from French president, Nicholas Sarkozy, to his Syrian counterpart, Bashar Al-Asad, to participate in the summit dedicated to launching the Mediterranean project, which will be held in Paris on the 13th of July, and also to attend the celebration to be held on the following day to mark the anniversary of the French revolution.
US cautious on French plans to renew ties with Syria:  WASHINGTON (AFP) — The US State Department reacted with caution on Monday when asked about plans by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to renew ties with Syria, saying that Washington would discuss the issue with Paris.

Olmert signals readiness for talks with Lebanon Daily Star

Washington Post Editorial: Israel's Syria Card: 2008-06-10

Syria plays down chances of direct talks with Israel
Tue Jun 10, 2008 1:38pm EDT
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – A senior Syrian official said on Tuesday no direct negotiations will be held with Israel until it recognizes what Damascus regards as requirements for a deal.

Indirect peace talks between Syria and Israel are expected to resume soon in Turkey, which has been mediating between the two sides since last year.

The Damascus government and Israel have kept secret the details of the talks. Syria seeks full return of the occupied Golan Heights and Israel has linked a peace agreement to Syria distancing itself from Iran and severing ties with Lebanon's Hezbollah and the Palestinian group Hamas.

Israel occupied the Golan Heights, a water-rich plateau, in the Middle East war four decades ago. It annexed the territory in the 1980s in a move declared null and void by the United Nations Security Council.

"I think it is too early to resume direct talks. There are conditions," Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal al-Mekdad told reporters.

"I hope Israel responds to the requirements of peace, which are the end of the occupation of Palestine and the establishment of a Palestinian state, restoration of the Syrian Golan and pull out of remaining occupied Lebanese territory," he added.

Bush Wins EU Backing for More Iranian Bank Sanctions: By Edwin Chen and Patrick Donahue, Bloomberg

June 10 (Bloomberg) — President George W. Bush won backing from the European Union for tighter sanctions against Iranian banks, another step aimed at hampering Iran's ability to build nuclear weapons.

European Commission President Jose Barroso, meeting with Bush in Slovenia, agreed to take “additional measures'' to ensure that “Iranian banks cannot abuse the international banking system to support proliferation and terrorism,'' according to a joint statement released at the end of the talks.

Pentagon blocked Cheney's attack on Iran – Gareth Porter, Asia Times

United States Vice President Dick Cheney's plan in August 2007 to launch airstrikes against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps was blocked by the Pentagon over concerns about Iran's retaliation capabilities. But Cheney's close alliance with Centcom chief General David Petraeus gives him the option of ignoring his opponents in Washington during the final months of the George W Bush administration.

Hardliners Assume Leadership of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood (Jamestown report)

In an internal election for the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood’s top position, Hamam Sa’id, a senior member known as a hawk within the organization, defeated incumbent leader Salem Falahat (Jordan Times, May 2). The new general regulator of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood is a critic of the government and seeks to one day implement Shari’a law in Jordan as well as sever Jordan’s diplomatic ties with Israel (AP, May 2). Sa’id’s ascension places the organization’s hardliners firmly in control. Sa’id, anticipating early skepticism, maintains that the Muslim Brotherhood will continue its “historic” role in Jordanian political life (Al-Dustur, May 2). Despite Sa’id’s assurances, many observers believe that his victory signals a tilt in favor of the hardliners. Furthermore, Sa’id represents the first leader of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood to claim Palestinian origin, indicating a dramatic shift within the organization’s balance of power (Jordan Times, May 4). Such roots, accompanied by the connections several other leaders maintain with Hamas, worry some observers and government officials that Hamas may be greatly expanding its influence into the “East Bank,” despite having been banned from Jordan in 1999.

CNN, here: Fath al-Islam's leader Absi speaks live on TV, attacking Hizbullah and Hariri.

Olmert calls for Israel-Lebanon talks

JERUSALEM (AFP) — Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday suggested holding peace talks with Lebanon, following last month’s announcement of Israel’s indirect Turkish-mediated negotiations with Syria.

“I would have been glad if after the announcement of the talks with Syria the Lebanese government would announce its willingness to open direct bilateral talks with Israel,” a senior official quoted Olmert as saying in a cabinet meeting.

“I see many advantages in this,” he said.

Sweet Deals Oxford Business Group
Syria is positioning itself to become a player in the Middle East's lucrative sugar market, hoping that the opening of a new processing plant will allow it to cater to the region's sweet tooth. A $90m sugar refinery at Jindar in the province of Homs was opened on May 14, marking a new phase in the Syrian sugar industry. The plant is the first major agriculture processing partnership between the Syrian private sector and international investors.

Operating as the National Sugar Company, 51% of the refinery is held by Mohammed Najib Assaf, the Syrian chairman of the company, while minority shareholders include US agribusiness giant Cargill and Brazilian sugar producer Crystalsev.

With an annual capacity of 1m tonnes, which the partners say could be doubled in the future to meet regional export demands, the Jindar refinery is one of the largest of its kind in the world.

Cargill will provide management and sales expertise for the project,

Syria: conversations in a pariah state
by John Casey on Open Democracy
The layers of religious faith, the shards of political frustration and the surprise of everyday encounters help compose John Casey's rich, allusive portrait of Syria.

Egypt's Pres Avoids Mini-summit To Shun Syrian Counterpart
2008-06-10 (New York) Dow Jones

CAIRO (AP)–Government officials say Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak will stay away from an Arab mini-summit in Libya to avoid an encounter with Syria's president. The mini-summit in Tripoli Tuesday was initiated by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to work out an Arab response to a French proposal to set up a European, Middle Eastern and North African strategic bloc. The officials say Mubarak has dodged the summit to avoid a reconciliation
with Sryia's Bashar Assad.

'New' US ambassador to Turkey, James Jeffrey, a "regime-changer" & co-chair with Elliott Abrams of the now defunct ISOG … From "friday-lunch-club"

I guess "Regime-Changers" are much more resilient than we all thought them to be … Laura Rosen, here & here
"…Jeffrey is getting his reward for long hours of service at the White House: President Bush nominated him last week to be U.S. ambassador to Turkey…..
The ISOG (Iran-Syria Policy Operations Group), which had been co-chaired by NSC's Elliott Abrams and the state department's James Jeffrey, the principal deputy assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, had four working groups: nuclear issues, counter-terrorism, regional affairs, and public diplomacy and democracy ……."

Elizabeth Cheney's waning horror show: Rami Khouri hits the ball out of the park in his parsing of Elizabeth Cheney's remarks at the AIPAC meeting in Washington. Here is the meat:

Here's a particularly representative quotation: "In my view, this administration has gotten it right when we have been bold, when we have been decisive, when we have been focused, when we have used our military force when necessary."

The amazing but troubling thing about this sort of thinking in Washington is that it perpetuates an aura of toughness, while disregarding the catastrophic consequences to America's standing and influence abroad as a direct result of these failed policies that rely so heavily on guns — instead of sensible analysis and quality diplomacy. Elizabeth Cheney is like an intellectual and ideological cluster bomb that keeps exploding, and killing and injuring people, years after it has been dropped and fallen out of sight.

She is not alone, of course, for her views accurately reflect those of a once robust population of neo-conservative political leaders and obsequious technocrats in Washington, which has been severely depleted by defections, indictments, and dismissals. The neo-cons' greatest legacy, to date, has been a collective failure that many of them simply refuse to grasp.

Here's another Cheney gem from her AIPAC remarks: "I think that getting back to a situation where our enemies in the region understand that America will stand up for its friends, that America will stand up for its principles and that we have red lines is critically important."

This sort of blindness to the realities of the real world is not inherited from her father, Vice President Dick Cheney, who holds similar views. No, this is self-made madness. The misguided nonsense that she espouses is so profoundly wrong and so intensely inane that it has to be generated by a life-long process of adult intellectual regression and political chicanery. Her father will not do it, so someone among her circle of friends should take her aside and quietly tell her that while she gets the accolades of the AIPAC audience, virtually the entire rest of the world reacts to this sort of performance with a combination of personal embarrassment for her, and deep political disdain for her capacity to insult us with this sort of blind buffoonery.

The reality is precisely the opposite of what she portrays. The United States' insistence on using power unilaterally in the Middle East, and "standing up" for its friends by stoking domestic battles and mini-civil wars in the Middle East, has turned the region into a cauldron of intemperance and violence. It is precisely when the United States has been "bold, decisive and focused" that it has generated enormous resistance to its policies throughout the region, put its allies in more vulnerable situations, strengthened the forces of Islamist militancy, stoked the furnace of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and even given democracy a bad name.

It is incomprehensible to me that someone like Elizabeth Cheney, whose responsibilities included promoting democracy and human rights, would argue against holding elections in the Palestinian territories. Now she argues that it was a mistake to push for the elections, when in fact the real mistake was for Washington to spinelessly fall in line with Israeli dictates and boycott the victorious Hamas party.

The right thing to do would be to honor the essence of the democratic process, and bring Hamas and Israel into an honorable diplomatic process that aspires to achieve the equal rights of both people. Only once did I meet Elizabeth Cheney while she was in office and watch her perform, and what I saw and heard then was frightening in her misdiagnosis of the cause of the tensions in the Middle East, and brutal in its misdirected intellectual violence. It is saddening to see her persist in this same vein. She is among the last of a dying breed, these few performers on a horror show stage that has been largely deserted by its public audience, and thankfully is soon to be shut down forever.

Madonna's next project: documentary about the Israeli-Arab conflict
By Nathan Burstein, The Forward
She's busy promoting her first documentary and her seventh No. 1 album, but the world's most famous kabbalah devotee already has her sights set on a new project: a documentary about the Arab-Israeli impasse.

Comments (80)

Zenobia said:

Hail to Rami Khoury, who certainly did hit the ball out of that park with that account of the Cheney spawn.

Meanwhile, I hate to do it but…. it is about a lovely thing… the world wide Obama-rama.

Op-Ed Columnist
Obama on the Nile

Published: June 11, 2008

The New York Times

This column will probably get Barack Obama in trouble, but that’s not my problem. I cannot tell a lie: Many Egyptians and other Arab Muslims really like him and hope that he wins the presidency.

I have had a chance to observe several U.S. elections from abroad, but it has been unusually revealing to be in Egypt as Barack Hussein Obama became the Democrats’ nominee for president of the United States.

While Obama, who was raised a Christian, is constantly assuring Americans that he is not a Muslim, Egyptians are amazed, excited and agog that America might elect a black man whose father’s family was of Muslim heritage. They don’t really understand Obama’s family tree, but what they do know is that if America — despite being attacked by Muslim militants on 9/11 — were to elect as its president some guy with the middle name “Hussein,” it would mark a sea change in America-Muslim world relations.

Every interview seems to end with the person I was interviewing asking me: “Now, can I ask you a question? Obama? Do you think they will let him win?” (It’s always “let him win” not just “win.”)

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the Democrats’ nomination of Obama as their candidate for president has done more to improve America’s image abroad — an image dented by the Iraq war, President Bush’s invocation of a post-9/11 “crusade,” Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay and the xenophobic opposition to Dubai Ports World managing U.S. harbors — than the entire Bush public diplomacy effort for seven years.

Of course, Egyptians still have their grievances with America, and will in the future no matter who is president — and we’ve got a few grievances with them, too. But every once in a while, America does something so radical, so out of the ordinary — something that old, encrusted, traditional societies like those in the Middle East could simply never imagine — that it revives America’s revolutionary “brand” overseas in a way that no diplomat could have designed or planned.

I just had dinner at a Nile-side restaurant with two Egyptian officials and a businessman, and one of them quoted one of his children as asking: “Could something like this ever happen in Egypt?” And the answer from everyone at the table was, of course, “no.” It couldn’t happen anywhere in this region. Could a Copt become president of Egypt? Not a chance. Could a Shiite become the leader of Saudi Arabia? Not in a hundred years. A Bahai president of Iran? In your dreams. Here, the past always buries the future, not the other way around.

These Egyptian officials were particularly excited about Obama’s nomination because it might mean that being labeled a “pro-American” reformer is no longer an insult here, as it has been in recent years. As one U.S. diplomat put it to me: Obama’s demeanor suggests to foreigners that he would not only listen to what they have to say but might even take it into account. They anticipate that a U.S. president who spent part of his life looking at America from the outside in — as John McCain did while a P.O.W. in Vietnam — will be much more attuned to global trends.

My colleague Michael Slackman, The Times’s bureau chief in Cairo, told me about a recent encounter he had with a worker at Cairo’s famed Blue Mosque: “Gamal Abdul Halem was sitting on a green carpet. When he saw we were Americans, he said: ‘Hillary-Obama tied?’ in thick, broken English. He told me that he lived in the Nile Delta, traveling two hours one way everyday to get to work, and still he found time to keep up with the race. He didn’t have anything to say bad about Hillary but felt that Obama would be much better because he is dark-skinned, like him, and because he has Muslim heritage. ‘For me and my family and friends, we want Obama,’ he said. ‘We all like what he is saying.’ ”

Yes, all of this Obama-mania is excessive and will inevitably be punctured should he win the presidency and start making tough calls or big mistakes. For now, though, what it reveals is how much many foreigners, after all the acrimony of the Bush years, still hunger for the “idea of America” — this open, optimistic, and, indeed, revolutionary, place so radically different from their own societies.

In his history of 19th-century America, “What Hath God Wrought,” Daniel Walker Howe quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson as telling a meeting of the Mercantile Library Association in 1844 that “America is the country of the future. It is a country of beginnings, of projects, of vast designs and expectations.”

That’s the America that got swallowed by the war on terrorism. And it’s the America that many people want back. I have no idea whether Obama will win in November. Whether he does or doesn’t, though, the mere fact of his nomination has done something very important. We’ve surprised ourselves and surprised the world and, in so doing, reminded everyone that we are still a country of new beginnings.

June 11th, 2008, 4:44 am


MSK said:

Dear Josh,

I am a bit at a loss why you edited the excerpt of Ahmad Fadam’s piece you posted without indicating that you’d deleted a part.

Here the actual version (deleted part highlighted):

“After spending three weeks in Syria with my family, I can say that it was a very strange feeling to be in that country. It is so similar to what Iraq used to be when Saddam was president – the same order, the same political system and of course the same government and Baath party slogans, like to stand against the colonists and Zionism and liberating Palestine, which I used to hate.

Before in Iraq, every Iraqi was trying to build his own paradise, in spite of all the life difficulties that we faced: the embargo, the poverty, the lack of services and the lack of knowledge. By this I mean, we were cut off from the outside world, not knowing the kind of development that was happening. I remember that the newest book I used in my Master’s degree in arts was printed in 1968. We were trying to keep up, using what we had, and develop it in whatever ways we could, just to say to ourselves that life is going on and this is what life is.

There is something else that we got used to: knowing how to keep ourselves away from harm. Don’t mess with the government and the government won’t mess with you, don’t cross the line or get near it and you will be safe. This is a summarized picture of how we used to live.

When I was in Syria, I tried to see what the Syrians were saying about their situation. They live under the same party – the Baath Party – and a similar regime.

I talked to some of them to find out how they feel, especially after what happened to Iraq.

A cab driver named Abu Zaki said to me: “We used to hate Bashar al-Assad, we used to hate having the son sitting on the chair and ruling after his father [Hafez al-Assad] but after what we saw happening in Iraq, we started thinking ‘We don’t want to be in the same situation as you, and thank God we are not.’ ”

So what happened to Iraqi was in the interest of the Arab rulers hated by their people.

This means that if what happened to Iraq had happened instead to some other Arab country, then maybe Saddam would still be alive. The Iraqis would have said that bad is better than worse, and accepted what they had. They would have said that dictatorship is not so bad after all.

Another Syrian I met in the market, Kamal, said to me, “Thank God we don’t have sectarian way of thinking like you do, this is a blessing.” Yes, the sectarian violence the people hear about is something else that made them hate the idea of bringing the so-called new democracy to the Middle East.

But still. This doesn’t mean that we – the Iraqis – are very welcome here in Syria. There are thousands of Iraqi families living here. Most of them have fled the country because of the sectarian violence. They thought that by coming to Syria or to any other country, they would have a chance of starting a new life again.

I am not saying that the Syrian government is treating the Iraqis badly; they also have their system and order to maintain, and they are better than many of the other Arab countries that closed their borders in the face of the Iraqis.

But what happened is that the Syrian government forced Iraqis to get visas, in order to stop the continuous waves of arrivals. This has left many Iraqis…”

I really don’t want to have to check every article posted on SC whether it was edited (for what? content?). A simple […] is all that it takes to indicate cuts, no?


June 11th, 2008, 6:52 am


qunfuz said:

Lord, save us from Madonna.

June 11th, 2008, 10:28 am


ausamaa said:


Josh did not delete anthing neither did he post in full the other articles. You could have just clicked on the green link (under the Writer’s name) which Josh provided in:

“Leaving Baghdad: The View From Syria
By Ahmad Fadam ” and read the whole article.

But again, Josh has always had his suspicious “Ulterior Motives”!!! Does he not??? !!!!!


June 11th, 2008, 10:29 am


MSK said:


You don’t seem to see the difference between the excerpt Josh posted and the original piece. I thought that by highlighting the left-out parts I had made it obvious.

How do you think I saw that he’d cut out parts without marking that there were cuts? I was interested to read the whole article, clicked on the link, started reading and then thought “Wait a minute, this one is different from what Josh had posted.”

Again, of course Josh can’t post full articles and of course he can cut down excerpts any which way he wants. But it is disingenuous to not indicate where there are cuts.

That’s it.

And I did not say anything about Josh having any “ulterior motives”. I’ve known Josh a bit longer than you & would kindly request that you don’t put words in my mouth that I have not said.


June 11th, 2008, 10:49 am


ausamaa said:

This is from the “indepedent” Saudi Elaph website; Money Talks in Doha!!!

كشف تفاصيل أنجحت الحوار اللبناني

GMT 6:00:00 2008 الأربعاء 11 يونيو

سلطان القحطاني

تفاصيل جديدة تتكشف عن الهواتف الأخيرة التي أنجحت الحوار اللبناني
الرياض ودمشق وطهران… و40 مليون دولار دفعت سليمان للسلطة

سلطان القحطاني من لندن: لا تزال الأنباء تتوالى حول قصة الأربع وعشرين
ساعة الأخيرة التي قلبت طاولة الحوار اللبناني في العاصمة القطرية، ممهدة السبيل أمام إنتخاب العماد ميشال سليمان رئيسًا للجمهورية، عقب أشهر عاصفة من الشد والجذب بين أطراف المعارضة والموالاة في ذلك البلد الصغير على شرفة المتوسط.
ووصل الحوار الذي كان تحت رعاية أمير قطر إلى طريق مسدود لولا اتصالات قام بها رئيس مجلس الوزراء وزير الخارجية الشيخ حمد بن جاسم في اللحظات الأخيرة مع أطراف مؤثرة في كل من الرياض ودمشق وطهران، بغية إقناع حلفائهم بتقديم تنازلات لإنهاء جو التوتر المشحون على الأرض كما قالت مصادر “إيلاف” سابقًا.

وتعود المصادر من جديد لتتحدث حول أن المال السائل الأخضر قد شكل دورًا موازيًا في هذه الاتفاقية من خلال دفع قطر مبلغًا يقدر بأربعين مليون دولار لأكثر من زعيم شارك في حوار المصالحة لإنفاقه على شؤونه ونشاطاته الحزبية مقابل التنازلات التي قدمها خلال المفاوضات المضنية التي جاءت بعد قيام ميليشيات حزب الله بالنزول إلى الشارع.

إلا أن مصدرًا لبنانيًا كان من ضمن المتواجدين في المفاوضات أشار إلى أن الحكومة القطرية دفعت مبلغ ” 40 مليون دولار لأحد الزعماء المسيحيين فقط” دون أن يكشف عن اسمه في حديث مع “إيلاف” عبر الهاتف من بيروت.

ويرى بعض المتسائلين القطريين يرون أن دخول بلادهم في الرمال السياسية اللبنانية لا يخلو من المخاطر، بل هو “خطيئة سياسية سيكتشف القطريون صعوبة مسالكها في المستقبل القريب”، خصوصًا وأن “حالة اللا معقول” هي القانون السائد في المعترك اللبناني.

وحاولت “إيلاف” الحصول على تعليق قطري رسمي لكن لم يتسنَّ لها ذلك في حين رفض رئيس كتلة المستقبل النائب سعد الحريري التعليق على هذه الأنباء. وأبدى الأكاديمي القطري محمد المسفر فخره بهذا الاتفاق خلال حديث عبر الهاتف من الدوحة قائلاً :” علينا أن ننظر إلى التحركات الدبلوماسية المقبلة .. أنظر إلى الصومال مثلاً”.

وتقود قطر، التي يمكن أن توصف بأنها دولة صغيرة ذات أفكار كبرى، تحركًا سياسيًا نشطًا في مناطق متفرقة من الشرق الأوسط عبر جهازي حكم ودبلوماسية شابين مما يجعلهما أكثر قدرة على قراءة كف القرن الجديد بشكل دقيق حسب ما يراه محللون سياسيون.
وقال مصدر قطري وثيق الإطلاع في سياق تعليقه على أنباء الدفعة المالية الكبيرة التي أنفقتها بلاده لإتمام هذا الاتفاق قائلاً:” إنه أمر طبيعي فكثير من رعاة المفاوضات دفعوا .. أنظر إلى إتفاق الطائف. لقد تكبدت الحكومة السعودية الملايين لإنجاحه. وعليك أن تقيس على ما تبقى من المصالحات التي رعتها، خصوصًا في أفريقيا”.

ومعروف أن الحكومة السعودية أنفقت الملايين من الدولارات خلال مراحل إتفاق الطائف الذي أنهى حربًا أهلية شرسة بين الطوائف اللبنانية. غير أن ذلك كان أحد البنود السرية التي لم يكشف عنها النقاب بشكل رسمي حتى هذه اللحظة، مما يفتح باب التكهنات على مصراعيه.

وأكد مصدر دبلوماسي بريطاني في الرياض في تصريح لـ”إيلاف” أن أحد بنود اتفاقية المصالحة التي رعتها السعودية بين كل من السودان وتشاد نص على أن تدفع السعودية مبلغًا يقدر بنحو مليار ريال لاستثمارات في البلدين.

ويبدو أن الفوائض النقدية المتأتية بسبب ارتفاع أسعار النفط ستجعل من دول الخليج “متعهدة حفلات زفاف المصالحات السياسية” في الشرق الأوسط وأفريقيا. إلا أن السؤال الأهم هو من منهم يجرؤ على أن يتعهد بحفل المصالحة السياسية في العراق بعد أن أفلس المتعهد الأميركي بسبب المدرجات الفارغة من السنة والشيعة والكرد.

ويقول المحلل السياسي عبد الوهاب بدرخان، الذي يرأس تحرير جريدة الجزيرة التي لم تصدر بعد، أن قطر وجدت نفسها وسط شبكة علاقات موسعة تجعلها قادرة على التشاور مع جميع الأطراف المعنية مثل سوريا وإيران والسعودية ومصر، إضافة إلى حلفائها من الدول الغربية.

ويضيف في حديثه مع “إيلاف” قائلاً بتفصيل أوسع: “تمكنت قطر من تحقيق “اتفاق الدوحة” بفضل مجموعة عناصر: فهي استفادت من الغطاء العربي الذي تمثل بقرارات مجلس وزراء الخارجية، وكذلك من العمل الدؤوب الذي قام به الأمين العام للجامعة العربية وفريقه خصوصًا انه اشبع الاقتراحات درسًا ونقاشًا، فلما وصل الأقطاب اللبنانيون إلى الدوحة كانت الحلول جاهزة بنسبة كبيرة”.

كما أن تفجر الأزمة في لبنان قد أدى إلى وضع غير مريح لجميع الأطراف: “المعارضة التي اعتبرت نفسها “منتصرة عسكريًا لكنها لا تعرف ماذا تفعل بهذا الانتصار، والأكثرية التي اعتبرت “مهزومة عسكريًا” مع أنها كانت تخوض أزمة سياسية وتريد لها حلاً سياسيًا. لذلك وجدت الوساطة القطرية نفسها أمام طرفين راغبين في البحث عن حل”.

وأشار إلى أن القطيعة السياسية بين مصر والسعودية من جهة وسوريا من جهة أخرى” عطلت الحل العربي وأفسحت في المجال لطرف ثالث كي يقود الوساطة وصولاً إلى حل”.

واستبقت قطر قبولها المهمة بجملة اتصالات ومشاورات لتحصل على تعهدات بالدعم وعدم العرقلة، ولم تلق من أي طرف تحفظًا على قيامها بالوساطة.

وتعاونت الدوحة على نحو متكافئ مع مختلف الفرقاء اللبنانيين واحتفظت بمسافة واحدة مع كل منهم على الرغم من أنها كانت قبل ذلك تعتبر أقرب إلى المعارضة كما يقول بدرخان الذي يضيف: “يمكن القول إنها خرجت من هذه الوساطة بفكرة مختلفة عن فريق الأكثرية، وكان لها تقدير خاص لتعاونه من أجل إيجاد حلول واستكمال عناصر الاتفاق”.

وليس سرًا أن الدوحة اضطرت إلى ممارسة ضغوط على فريق المعارضة عندما أدركت أن هناك اتفاقًا جاهزًا عمليًا، لكن هناك عرقلة غير مبررة بسبب بعض التفاصيل المتعلقة بقانون الانتخاب. وقد استعانت بدمشق وطهران والرياض لإنجاح هذه الضغوط.

June 11th, 2008, 11:25 am


ausamaa said:


Nice, you insinuate something and then you back out!! You meant something by that remark which I did not think that it was waarented, period! What? Do you think we are stupid here or what for Gods sake?

And all that with your knowing Josh “longer” than I did (!!!!????), which makes it sound as if two elderly female nieghbours are fighting it out on their building startircase about something related to a third nieghbour.

BTW, what would you have “done” if you had known him less than I did !!!!

June 11th, 2008, 11:41 am


MSK said:


I am not entirely sure why you are attacking me here.

You claim that I “meant something” – yes, you’re right. I meant to convey my puzzlement at Josh’s editing of the excerpt.

Re: your stupidity – I don’t even know you.

Re: me knowing Josh longer – When I ask Josh a question then you can safely assume that he does not need you to answer it for him.


June 11th, 2008, 12:26 pm


norman said:


Don’t you think that the part that you mentioned was more to appease the editors at the NYT and the population of NY?.

June 11th, 2008, 12:57 pm


MSK said:

Dear Norman,

I have no idea why Ahmad Fadam wrote what he wrote & I did not comment on content.

The issue isn’t that articles or excerpts are edited. But I had assumed that Josh would indicate cuts with a simple […].

That’s all.


June 11th, 2008, 1:10 pm


Joshua said:

Dear MSK,

I did add a ….. at the end of the article to warn people that it was edited – but you are correct, I was sloppy not to add the …. internally. I normally do. Akbar Palace was furious the other day because I edited the account written by a Harvard grad of their trip to Beirut-Damascus. I cut from both Geagea and Hizb critiques in an attempt to be fair, but he was distressed that I had cut the Hizb critique, thinking I was protecting them.

In that case I did add the …. in all the places I shortened. I have to edit for the meat or my posts would drag. I try to spend only 3-4 hours a day gathering, editing, and laying out the material, which leaves me time to comment only very rarely. I often make mistakes, such as not indicated all the edits. I always recommend going back to articles, which are usually shortened.

Thanks Aussama for coming to my defense, although, I readily concede that MSK has a good point.

I did think about the edits and how they would be read. I left in enough of the critique of Syria to keep the spirit of Fadam’s article, but I calculated that his real purpose in writing was not to critique Syria so much as to use it as a stand in for the “old Iraq,” which is gone (one can argue how apt is his comparison after three weeks in Syria, but it doesn’t really matter. There is a comparison to be made, even though most writers on SC would argue that Syria is very different from Saddam’s Iraq and that Bashar al-Assad is a competent and psychologically well balanced leader compared to Saddam, who most would agree was a sociopath.)

The point is that Fadam is not trying to give a precise appraisal of Syria so much as he is trying to tell Americans that they screwed up and have cost people like Fadam and his family very dearly. Their lives have been turned upside down and country destroyed to the point that he believes that it will not repair itself in is lifetime.

He is, of course, grateful to America and the NY Times for employing him and for giving him refuge – and we are to believe his family will get citizenship too once he takes up residence in the US and applies for them to join him in the USA. He cannot insult the US outright, but he gets the Syrian cab driver and Joe nargile to do it for him.

He makes his point: “You have legitimized dictatorship through out the Middle East for another generation.” That is his main thesis.

That is a thesis the SC has been reiterating for several years now. My ulterior motive – to the extent that I had one – was to capture this thesis without misrepresenting his sub=critique of Syria.

Best, Joshua

June 11th, 2008, 2:22 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

If you don’t take Saddam out and let his sons inherit him, “You have legitimized dictatorship through out the Middle East for another generation” and if you take him out and give Iraqis a chance at democracy “You have legitimized dictatorship through out the Middle East for another generation”. So what exactly are you advocating?

June 11th, 2008, 2:34 pm


ausamaa said:


Norman explained to you what I ommited to say in very plain Black and White, but you still insist that your question to Josh was a mere excersise in literal objectivity. Despite Josh’s explanation (you, being a seeker of truth and knowledge) do not really need some one to point out that the article had more. The LINK WAS THERE, in GREEN, and all you needed to do was Click (like I did, read it and filed it in your mental archive rather than chose to make an issue of it! Which was what I did initially before I stumbled on your remark). If Josh did not attach the link, we could all fault him, but he did. And it is called a News Round up, not the Complete and Unedited Guide to World News!!!

And please, I was not attacking you, I was just stricking down a point you attempted to make.

To me, the whole article was worthless. Syria lets him in with another million and a half other Iraqies from the hell he was in ( because it is Syria’s duty to do this), and instead of a single word of gratitude he goes on to “reveal” the similarties between Sadam and Bashar, and that prices are gone up (what happens to elasticity of demand??), and that Visas are needed for Iraqies to enter Syria(did he need a visa to get to the States or was it granted him upon showing his friendly face at the US entry port?), and then he whines about this and that until he reaches the “intended” point of his intent to stay in the US as the poor sole does not know if things in Iraq would be better. He praises Syrians for not being sectarian but he links that to how the situation (hint, hint?) was in Iraq before. And he longs to smell the roses in the streets and museams in Iraq in which nobody has smelt anything in them but gun powder since Iraq attacked Iran years ago! Let him go back to Iraq to help his people, or stay in Jordan and Syria and help the refugess. But I guess the nice cushy corridors in the University of North Carolina are more interesting than the streets of Baghdad, Damascus and Amman.

Maybe he is a nice guy, but his article was more sentimental than objective and did not reflect a patriotic commitment to the millions of his beloved brethern left in the “old country” in and around Iraq.


June 11th, 2008, 2:34 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Quite to the point! Exactly how I feel about all the people living in the US or Canada or the UAE who lecture about the sufferring of the Palestinians but do nothing to help.

June 11th, 2008, 2:39 pm


MSK said:

Dear Josh,

As an editor I can only sympathize with you. Maybe you can get a research assistant? 😉

Re: Ahmad Fadam, I agree mainly. But his second point is that with the way the US handled the post-Saddam occupation period they basically helped non-participatory political systems (to put it mildly) in the region (he points at Bashar al-Asad because he was in Damascus, but it’s equally true for Egypt/Jordan/KSA/rest-of-GCC) to stay in power as, given the choice between the devil you know & the possibility of an Iraq scenario almost all would choose the former.

I really wouldn’t discount that.

I also found Fadam’s comments about how Iraqis got & get exploited by Syrians spot-on. Yes, the vast majority of Syrians is hospitable, but the fact that Iraqis are exploited because they are in a precarious situation needs to be addressed.

Btw, on that note, a good study of Iraqi refugees in Jordan & Syria is here:



June 11th, 2008, 2:41 pm


MSK said:


I refer you to Josh’s answer to my comment.

In sum: You don’t seem to know the difference between someone saying “Why didn’t you post the full article?” and “Why didn’t you indicate the edits of the part you posted?”


June 11th, 2008, 2:45 pm


ausamaa said:


Buddy, the LINK was there. and you goofed up regardless of how scholarly Josh wants to be.


I am happy that you have come around to agree with me. To make your day, and since you seem to be in a reading mode, I hope you agree with the below:

Middle East Pop Quiz

Charley Reese û June 7, 2008

It’s time for another pop quiz on America’s favorite region of the world û the Middle East. Let’s get started with the subject of nuclear weapons.

Which country in the Middle East actually possesses nuclear weapons?


Which country in the Middle East refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty?


Which country in the Middle East refuses to allow international inspections of its nuclear facilities?


Which countries in the Middle East have called for the region to be a nuclear-free zone?

The Arab countries and Iran.

Which country in the Middle East occupies land belonging to other people?

Israel, which occupies a piece of Lebanon, a larger piece of Syria, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

Which country in the Middle East has for 60 years refused to allow refugees to return to their homes and refused to consider compensation to them for their lost property?


Which country has roads on which citizens who are Arab may not drive and housing developments where Arabs may not live?


Which country in the region has violated more United Nations resolutions than any other?

Israel. The United States has on more than one occasion gone to war ostensibly to enforce U.N. Security Council resolutions, but when it comes to resolutions directed against Israel, the U.S. is like the amoral monkey that sees, hears and says nothing. That raises the question of who’s the dog and who’s the tail?

Which country in the region has in the past been led by men who at one time were terrorists with a price on their heads?

Israel. Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir once led the Stern Gang and ordered, among other things, the assassination of Count Folke Bernadotte, a Swedish diplomat working for the United Nations. Former Prime Minister Menachem Begin led the Irgun, a terrorist gang that among other things blew up one wing of the King David Hotel, killing nearly 100 people.

Which country in the Middle East openly employs assassination against its political enemies?

Israel. There have been assassinations carried out by some of the Arab governments, but they usually don’t own up to them. Israel has created a euphemism that the suck-up American press has readily adopted: “targeted killings.” A British journalist told me once, “The Palestinians have a talent for picking bad leaders, and the Israelis have a talent for murdering their good ones.”

What are the top five countries from which we import oil?

Here they are in order of volume: Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Nigeria and Venezuela. The next time you hear some blowhard politician ranting about how the Arabs control our oil imports, remind him or her of the facts. By far, a majority of oil imports come from non-Arab countries.

Which country in the region receives an annual gift of $3 billion or more from Congress?


Which foreign-aid recipient is the only one allowed to receive its aid in a lump sum and which routinely invests part of it in U.S. Treasuries so that taxpayers pay them interest on the taxpayers’ gift?


Which country in the Middle East has the most powerful lobby in the U.S.?


Which country in the Middle East are most American politicians, journalists and academics afraid to criticize?


On behalf of which country has the U.S. vetoed the largest number of U.N. Security Council resolutions?


What country do the people in the region consider the world’s biggest hypocrite?

The United States.

Which countries in the Middle East have attacked U.S. ships in international waters?

Iraq and Israel. A lone Iraqi plane fired one missile at a U.S. ship by mistake. The Iraqi government quickly compensated the U.S. In 1967, Israeli airplanes and torpedo boats attacked the USS Liberty, killing 34 Americans. The U.S. government declared it an accident even before the ship limped into port, and to this day Congress has never held a public hearing and allowed the survivors to tell their story. Their story, by the way, is that the attack was deliberate. Israel compensated the families of those who were killed, but resisted for years paying compensation for the ship.

June 11th, 2008, 2:55 pm


MSK said:


الله معك


June 11th, 2008, 3:07 pm


ausamaa said:

الله يحفظك الهي

June 11th, 2008, 3:09 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Quite to the point! Exactly how I feel about all the people living in the US or Canada or the UAE who lecture about the sufferring of the Palestinians but do nothing to help.

Ouch… Walla Ausamaa he got you with that one, habibi. You let your guard down. 😉

2amet l-2iyameh minsheyn tlet nuqat 3al satr! walla karseh, ya ta3tiir…

June 11th, 2008, 3:11 pm


ausamaa said:


I happen to live “here” and very close to this stuff and people, not “there”..!!

June 11th, 2008, 3:16 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

rou2 ya albi, 3am lattif al-jaw 😉

waynak, bil-khalij?

June 11th, 2008, 3:18 pm


ausamaa said:

I can not devulge that. I have been very carefull with such information since the adoption of the Bush Law which calls for punishment for anyone who works against or criticizes (or was it undermine?) the democratically ellected government of our friend Saniora!!!

June 11th, 2008, 3:26 pm


norman said:


Do you think that Iran will attack the American bases in the Gulf if attacked and what the Gulf people are thinking about that.

June 11th, 2008, 3:31 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

damn, you caught me trying to trap you.

ma3lesh, we know everything about you anyway.

how was that suju2 sandwich that you had for breakfast? 😉

June 11th, 2008, 3:32 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

The division in the arab world is very deep and disturbing, and has to be corrected by all possible means, Mubarak did not attend the Libian meeting, Syria tried to correct it, but they are dancing the Debka, a step forward, and a step backward, I am afraid this division may be permanent(I mean will last till major change occur).

June 11th, 2008, 3:37 pm


norman said:

Syria: Between the Brink of the Abyss and “Constructive” Ambiguity
Abdullah Iskandar Al-Hayat – 11/06/08//

It seems, perhaps for the first time since the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri in February 2005, that Syria has moved away from the “brink of the abyss” policy that it has adopted as part of its defiance strategy, whether in Iraq or in Lebanon, in inter-Arab relations, or in its focus on the special strategic ties with Iran. During this period, Syria was openly and practically determined to engage in wide scale confrontation through domestic tools in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. It was also involved in verbal war with the international community, especially with the tight American-French alliance and with the majority of Arab countries, hence the low level Arab representation at the Damascus Summit last March. For a while, Syria appeared alone in its commitment to a form of escalation that almost brought down all the fundamentals of joint Arab policy and evolved into a regional military confrontation.

Since the Annapolis Conference for peace in the Middle East last November, and more specifically since the election of General Michel Suleiman as president on 25 May, Damascus has ambiguously and vaguely transformed its management of the inflammable regional issues. To retrieve unprecedented diplomatic activity in Arab and international directions, and since Annapolis, Syria has suggested that it is pursuing the mainstream peaceful path as expressed in the Arab peace initiative. With its mere attendance at the conference, it signaled that it did not object to pushing the Palestinian-Israeli track forward with American sponsorship. Then came the revelation of the indirect Syrian-Israeli negotiations with Turkish mediation to show that Damascus was not maneuvering over its peace choice with Israel. With the election of a president in Lebanon, Syria was showing responsiveness to the general Lebanese, Arab and international calls to end political void in the land of cedars and to allow institutions to play their role in resolving domestic conflicts.

While no one will risk offering a decisive interpretation of Syria relinquishing the brink-of-abyss policy, it is still difficult to predict how far the new Syrian approach will go, especially that Damascus has yet to offer a new reading of this approach while it confirms the continuity of its policy and indicates that change – in case there was any – was the result of a change in behavior on the other side. This ambiguity in the “new” Syrian positions is most likely intended to preserve the mobility and flexibility required in the coming period. Similarly, ambiguity is maintained with respect to changes in decision-making positions in Damascus in concurrence with the Syrian diplomatic offensive.

In this context, it is significant, at least for Syria, that President Bashar Assad is a guest in several Arab capitals, if only in his capacity as the head of the Arab summit which demands action to handle general Arab issues. All this precedes a foreign tour for President Assad, a tour for which the Syrian diplomacy is mobilizing all efforts in an attempt to highlight its significance.

At the time when Washington still attempts to keep Syria under siege, calm preparations are underway for a French-Syrian summit in Paris, even if it only came on the sidelines of the Mediterranean Union Summit next month. France, which had until recently severed any contacts with Syria, is interested in returning to normal relations with Damascus on the eve of assuming presidency of the European Union. This move has upset Washington which has announced that it will seek an explanation from Paris over this change in position.

The diplomatic siege surrounding Syria has been broken. Yet, basic questions have yet to find convincing answers. How far will the talks with Israel go given the expiring presidential term in the US and the political instability of Ehud Olmert’s government? How far will Damascus go in encouraging the internal Palestinian dialogue? Will it pressure its Palestinian allies to offer the necessary concessions to ensure the success of this dialogue? How far will Damascus go in translating into actions its declared concern over domestic peace in Lebanon and interest in normalizing relations there? Will it utilize its relations with its Lebanese allies for this purpose? Most probably, the ambiguity in responding to all these questions is more a part of the new approach rather than a change in the positions over these issues. Ambiguity is a necessity for the policy of keeping the door ajar, which has allowed Syria to partly break the imposed siege.

©2003 Media Communications Group مجموعة الاتصالات الإعلامية

June 11th, 2008, 3:51 pm


ausamaa said:


Can you believe it, its almost 7 pm here and no breakfast yet, just Nescafe and Orange Juice!!


They are not seriously debating this, the US strike on Iran, some say the US will definitly hit Iran before Bush leaves (lots of them think of themselves as the “elitest” who just happen to have business connections to US companies and brands), some of those tell you Iran will hit everything in sight if attacked, others say the Iranians will limit their strikes to US Naval forces, Hormoz, and the US Forces in Iraq which will be more than sufficent. But they dont act as if anything is gonna happen. The rest of the people are more worried about where they gonna travel this summer, how to pay off their loans and visa cards, the usual stock exchange things, and the increasing complaints about the crazy prices in the market with inflation hitting 10%. But overall, there is no fear of a US attack or an Iranian repraisal. The majority are in living the “consumer” arena and not really bothered by all this.

P.S. But when you say Gulf people, that is 30% Nationals who are not bothered, 40% Arab expats who are mainly happy seeing Bush dreams crumble, and 30% Asian expats more worried about thier job contract expiery dates and about the exchange rates of Pesos and Ruppies.

But over all, they are acting as if the beleive nothing is going to happen. And I, happen to agree with them.

June 11th, 2008, 3:55 pm


norman said:

Thank you for the insight.

June 11th, 2008, 4:01 pm


ausamaa said:


I am realy surprised that Mubark is playing such a dirty role. Same as the Saudies are. But the Saudies being the head and him being the tail. What is it, playing hard to get? Confused; should he beat Saudi to making up with Syria or should he only follow them up when they do? Enraged and ashamed of how they failed in Lebanon? Feeling desperately insecure? More worried about things happening in Egypt which we are not privey to? Worried about the rising popularity in the street of whom he considers his foe-brothers? Envious? Playing to the tunes of Saudies? Has an agenda that yet to reveal itself? Waiting for major changes can not take that long; Bush is leaving soon, him and the Saudi King and Prince Sultan are in thier Eighties, they are not expected to be active around for long, are they?

Or is it merely age? but that does not fully explain it neither! Wisdome, Recouncilliation and Forsight come with age. Niether is apparently being displayed by him.

June 11th, 2008, 4:14 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Did anyone in Syria believe before September 2007 that Israel will attack a nuclear facility there? No. Keep living in your own little dream world about Iran. If it does not stop enriching uranium, it will be attacked.

June 11th, 2008, 4:17 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

How about Occam’s Razor? The Syrians are funding and supporting Hamas who are a huge headache for Mubarak. Simple isn’t it?

June 11th, 2008, 4:18 pm


ausamaa said:


I will answer you only if you have taken the quiz I put forward to you a couple of posts above. We can not discuss politics until we get the basic “facts” striaght. Opinions, we can debate, but memorizing the facts in the quiz is a must. They are the basis of any objective debate. Right?

June 11th, 2008, 4:54 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Moussa to Use Wedding of Berri’s Daughter for Political Action

Arab League chief Amr Moussa will travel to Beirut on Friday to attend the wedding of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri’s daughter.
The pan-Arab daily al-Hayat said Moussa is likely to use the wedding, which is due on Saturday, to hold contacts with the various political parties to inquire about the “obstacles” facing formation of the new government.

Beirut, 11 Jun 08, 09:25

June 11th, 2008, 5:06 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Your “facts” are really your opinions.
But let’s look at facts we can agree on and that really matter:
1) Israel controls the Golan heights.
2) Israel is much richer and more technologically advanced then Syria
3) Israel is strongly supported by the US and Europe

And there is a simple reason for all the above. Democracy.
You know the formula, now beat us at our own game instead of supporting dictators.

June 11th, 2008, 5:10 pm


ausamaa said:


On a second thought you may have been more right that I gave you credit for. But it can still be argued that there was those three dots (…) inserted between both sentences.

Well, have a nice day now.

June 11th, 2008, 5:15 pm


norman said:

This is very interesting,

Shalom to a new pro-Israel lobby
An alternative to AIPAC, the new group ‘J Street” could help US leaders be more even-handed.
from the June 12, 2008 edition

How’s this for a roster of speakers? Three presidential candidates, the top leaders of Congress, and Israel’s premier. Last week, they all spoke before a pro-Israel group, one of Washington’s most influential lobbies.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, is right up there with the gun lobby in terms of political power. But while the National Rifle Association faces tough – if underdog – competitors, AIPAC has long stood as the unchallenged king of the Hill.

This is not healthy for the political discourse that shapes US policy. Last fall, two professors from Chicago and Harvard universities helped explain why. In a controversial book, “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy,” John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt argued that the US is overly influenced by a loose alignment of groups that includes neoconservatives, many conservative, evangelical Christians, and AIPAC, which represents the views of many American Jews largely loyal to Israel’s right-wing.

Washington’s near adherence to the lobby’s themes – often unconditional support for Israel, reluctance to push Israel hard on behalf of the Palestinians, and an overly confrontational stance toward Israel’s adversaries – works against US interests, the authors say.

It inspires Islamist terrorism, undermines the US as an honest broker, and complicates diplomatic relations. One thing that would help, the book suggested, is an additional lobby, one that can open up the debate.

Enter “J Street,” a new lobby which describes itself as pro-Israel. It’s directed by Jeremy Ben-Ami, a former Clinton official whose father fought alongside Menachem Begin for Israel’s independence.

J Street (a play on the K Street address of many lobbyists), seeks a less hard-line US policy in the Middle East and wants to create an environment in which politicians can confidently discuss such a change without fear of political punishment or being labeled anti-Semitic.

Several US groups share J Street’s views but they don’t have much political muscle. J Street wants to build clout by using the Internet to raise money from small donors, and to contribute to congressional campaigns.

Next week, it will endorse several candidates who support a major US push for a negotiated, two-state solution to the Palestinian crisis. J Street also favors dialogue with Israel’s enemies, including Hamas and Iran; an Israeli-Syrian peace deal; and US withdrawal from Iraq.

But it faces an uphill climb. AIPAC has an annual operating budget of $60 million. J Street’s first-year budget is $1.5 million. J Street says it speaks for a silent majority of American Jewish voters – overwhelmingly Democrats – who favor a more balanced approach to the Middle East peace process. But on the specific question of making peace with a “Hamas-led Palestinian government,” three-quarters of them don’t believe it’s possible.

Neither is the bipartisan AIPAC as conservative as it is made out to be. It supported the Oslo accords, for instance. And at the moment, Washington is actually at odds with Israel over its talks with Syria.

America must remain a strong friend to Israel – because it’s a democracy, because it faces a threat, because of the history of Jews. But friends need not always agree, and in allowing for that debate, J Street can play a useful role.

June 11th, 2008, 5:23 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Since you’ve been asking recently, here is Sami Moubayed’s latest update on the situation of the cabinet formation in Lebanon. It seems that the biggest obstacle these days is Aoun… as usual.

(I’ve pasted an excerpt below. You read the full article here.)



According to the Doha deal, the prime minister would preside over a 30-man cabinet. Sixteen of its seats would be held by the pro-Western majority, known as March 14. And 11 would be held by the Hezbollah-led opposition, giving it veto power within the cabinet to drown any legislation related to the inquiry into Hariri’s death or regarding the arms of Hezbollah. The final three seats would be named by the president.

It has now been decided that the three seats will be Defense and Interior, to be filled by a Maronite and a Greek Orthodox, and the third seat will be for a Catholic as a minister of state with no portfolio.

The two Shi’ite parties, Amal and Hezbollah, will get five seats, including minister of foreign affairs, and they will be named by speaker Nabih Berri. The rest of the opposition’s six portfolios would be divided between Sunni, Druze and Christian forces allied to Hezbollah and Amal.

The March 14 coalition gets the Ministry of Finance (traditionally held by Siniora) along with services-related cabinets, like Telecommunications. Opposition leader and presidential hopeful Michel Aoun – who was never too pleased with the Doha agreement because it denied him his last chance at becoming president – supposedly gets two of the five Maronite seats in the Siniora cabinet. He has his eyes set on everybody else’s ration; that of the Shi’ites, Sunnis and fellow Christians. He is demanding the Ministry of Finance “to see why they [the Hariri team] have monopolized it for so long”. He is also demanding the Ministry of Health, although it is earmarked for his ally Nabih Berri.

Whenever confronted by friends or allies, he tells the press, “They cannot form the cabinet without us [the Free Patriotic Movement] and if they want to try, let them.” He always adds, “We are in a hurry, we want the cabinet formed. it can be formed in a week’s time.”

Another problem is confessional – rather than political – representation. One of the conditions of the Doha agreement is that no party walk out on the cabinet under any circumstances. In 2006, Amal and Hezbollah resigned from the Siniora cabinet, and immediately labeled it unconstitutional because it no longer included any Shi’ites. This time, the March 14 coalition gets to name a Shi’ite, so if Hezbollah walks away, there would still be Shi’ite representation. In return, Hezbollah gets to name a Sunni. March 14, to date, has been uneasy with Hezbollah naming Sunni ministers in the cabinet.

Suleiman, the new president, is upset that his era is off to a rough start, thanks to the bickering of politicians. So is the Maronite patriarch, Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir. This week, sources close to Siniora mapped out their own version of the cabinet – without naming ministers – and put forward a draft cabinet, which was immediately and flatly rejected by Hezbollah and Michel Aoun.

The euphoria following the Doha agreement is fast dissipating.

June 11th, 2008, 6:21 pm


ugarit said:

Like the US needs another pro-Israel lobby! The US would be better off if there were fewer pro-Israel lobbies

June 11th, 2008, 6:36 pm


Shai said:

This might be good news by Lebanon (suggesting that they may join the talks even before the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is resolved):,7340,L-3554469,00.html

Despite the obvious need to connect all such talks to the Palestinian issues, I do believe the more we talk with our “other enemies”, the greater the pressure on both sides (Israel, Palestinians) to recognize one another, and to reach an agreement.

As for Olmert, rumors have it that he has already accepted the fact that his days as PM are numbered. What he is asking of those close to him, is to allow him to depart in a respectful manner. To him, his greatest contribution, or last farewell, would be the handing of a peace agreement to his people, as the main subject for the next elections. Olmert knows he will not participate in these elections, but wants to be remembered not as the one receiving cash envelopes from some Talansky-guy, but as the Israeli PM to have finally delivered a real option of peace with our Arab neighbors. Unfortunately, I believe he is way too late, and he will not last long enough to see that day, not under his leadership at least.

June 11th, 2008, 6:39 pm


Shai said:


While I certainly can’t see this J-street being a true challenge to AIPAC anytime soon, I do believe it is in Israel’s best interest to have a group that will be more balanced, and won’t automatically side with any government policy or action taken in Israel. In the long run, it will serve the interests of all of us.

June 11th, 2008, 6:48 pm


norman said:


i agree.

June 11th, 2008, 6:51 pm


Shai said:


How do you see the coming months, before Obama/McCain come to power? Will Bashar try to get far along the talks, knowing Olmert’s days are numbered? Will he do the absolute minimum required to keep the “flame” going, but will await the new administration and new PM in Israel? How do the Syrian people view this period? And lastly, what’s your take on Bashar’s subtle-but-not-so-subtle comment last week at the UAE, saying that if Iran is attacked, Syria will not participate in a regional war? (I found this comment to be extremely important, but in a way, it almost gave a Syrian “green light” to whatever fool may be thinking of attacking, no?)

June 11th, 2008, 6:55 pm


norman said:

Shai ,
I will answer you later ,

June 11th, 2008, 7:02 pm


Shai said:

Norman, no probs. I may only get to read it tomorrow though…

June 11th, 2008, 7:06 pm


ausamaa said:

Regarding Iran, Bush -during his Germany visit today- said his usual being piece that “all options are on the table”, only to immediately follow up with saying that Iran had one of two options: Cooperation and Isoloation. He did not say Cooperation and War, he did not say Cooperation and Shock and Awe, he did not say Cooperation or Other Measures! Cooperation and Isolation. That is what he said.

So, why you put words in his innocent mouth?

He does NOT want to go to war against Iran, period. He did not say that at all. So, please stop daring him to do so.

June 11th, 2008, 7:11 pm


Shai said:


I assume you’re referring to what I said, about the possibility of attacking Iran. To make it perfectly clear, I am personally against it, not for it. I’m not “daring” anyone to do so, certainly not that frat-boy cowboy from Texas Dubya. My concern is about an American, Israeli, or joint American-Israeli attack. The opposite, I think the more we talk about the terrible consequences of such foolish act, the greater the chances someone with half-a-brain in DC might read it, contemplate, and pass along the message that it would indeed be a foolish thing to do. I wouldn’t count too much on Bush’s rhetoric. He has also been known to say “Don’t misunderestimate me”… (there’s no such word in the English language… 🙂 )

June 11th, 2008, 7:18 pm


ausamaa said:

Shai, no, no, I was reffering to the whole thing..

And nevermind his “dont misunerestimate me” stuff, file it in the same drawer that has his “mission accomplished” thing. I feel he just aint got the guts to do it. That is apart from lacking the other necessary stuff such as equipment, mission, personnel and concensus.

For some reason, when his father Bush Sr. said to Sadam: “This will not Stand” in September 1990, I beleived him, and he did what promissed. But any time Bush Junior says something, I immediately start woundering who he is bluffing and when and where it will blow up in his face.

June 11th, 2008, 7:32 pm


Shai said:


But that’s precisely what I’m also afraid of… Bush Jr. himself (and his Cheney puppet-master). Some might think that GWB no longer thinks of “smoking them out of their foxholes”, and of the Axis-of-Evil. But I don’t. I think he still very much believes in it, and may try to go out with a “bang”, leaving his replacement to clean up after him. There are too many advisors in DC that are still hoping to hit Iran, if anything, to teach that belligerent Ahmadinejad a “lesson”. It’s typical American conservative thinking, and there’s no reason to believe it’s different in this case. I can’t say I’ve ruled out a scenario, whereby first the U.S. (or its proxies in the region) have sent calming messages around (Israel-Syria, etc.) before choosing the time and place, and manner. I don’t think the U.S. can go into Iran, like it did into Iraq and Afghanistan. But just as Clinton decided to hit Saddam in 1996 (I think it was), by air, so too can Bush do the same here. He’ll just find the excuse to pound Iran’s army bases (claiming they’re used for training Shias who later kill Americans in Iraq), and maybe nuclear reactors as well. This is what I’m afraid of…

June 11th, 2008, 7:43 pm


ausamaa said:


Maybe, but this time Bush certainly knows what is he up against.

And crazy or not, he does not even dare to start calculating what the price of such a war maybe. Crazy neighberhood bullies can threaten to do a lot of thing, but jumping in front of a city bus to prove thier “resolve” is surely not one of them.

June 11th, 2008, 8:00 pm


Shai said:

Well, let’s hope you’re right… Though from what I hear of McCain, he’s also not the most “dovish” guy in town. He seems (to me) at times to be a bit trigger-happy, no?

June 11th, 2008, 8:08 pm


ausamaa said:

Everyone can be trigger happy especially if the guy in front of him can be beaten easily.

By the way, anyone has a link to the Arabic Version where Assad said he will not join Iran in case of War?

June 11th, 2008, 8:44 pm


Zenobia said:

J Street was formed to stand in opposition to AIPAC – as much as it can given that it is so small in its beginning.
But it is EXACTLY what is needed.
The government will never listen to the Arab American lobby (what there is of one) regarding Israel or middle east affairs. It may however, start to listen to opposition jewish voices like J Street or Jewish Voices for Peace and such who are trying to redefine what it means to be “pro-Israel” and to clarify that far from all or even most American Jews support the right wing positions of AIPAC.

I would suggest (in fact I did suggest in an email to the AAI president) that arab americans would do well to support J Street and these alternative jewish voices.

June 11th, 2008, 9:40 pm


Zenobia said:

we do actually still have this body called the congress, as much as they have been impotent and cowardly. I think this time around they are not going to provide the white house a blank check to cash any way they like militarily and give it carte blanche to attack Iran.
Technically speaking, congress must approve of any military action. And this time, there is no way they will give permission. If the white house went ahead and did it anyway, I think the president would actually get impeached.
He is not going to risk that, no matter how much Addington and Cheney poke him and try to intimidate his dumb head into doing it.

Notice that I am saying the executive’s decision will be motivated by self preservation, not that they will hold back because it would be an insane, immoral, an utterly self destructive move. It just isn’t politically possible at this point with the executive branch’s total loss of credibility. And if they went against the instruction of the congress – this could actually lead to indictment this time. I actually believe that because the pres is THAT unpopular and people are that angry about the way things have gone.

June 11th, 2008, 9:48 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

Alex;e you o.k.

June 11th, 2008, 11:29 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

National conference held on electoral law
June 11, 2008

On June 11, 2008, Lebanese politicians, civil society activists, legal consultants and UN representatives gathered to discuss the Draft Law of the National Commission on Electoral Law (NCEL), commonly known as the Fouad Butrous law.

The national conference, entitled “Electoral Law Tailored for the Nation,” consisted of three sessions that jointly covered all aspects of the highly debated parliamentary electoral law.

On behalf of President Michel Sleiman, Justice Minister Charles Rizk read a speech that expanded on Sleiman’s inaugural speech. Ziad Baroud, a prominent lawyer and NCEL member, mediated the panels. Baroud was representing former Minister Fouad Butrous, who heads the commission.

UNDP Resident Representative Marta Ruedas summarized the main concerns of and around the Butrous draft law.

The “contentious issue of electoral districting was agreed upon in the recent Doha agreement,” Ruedas said. “However, key reforms are still awaiting a parliamentary discussion of the draft law submitted by the National Commission on Electoral Law Reform.”

While the Doha agreement has observably shaped the electoral landscape for the 2009 parliamentary elections, debates on major issues still spark heated disputes.

All participants called for reforms in seven major areas:

1) Lowering the voting age to 18

2) The “modernization” of the voting procedure by introducing ballot papers and holding elections on one day

3) The need for neutral administrative and managerial bodies for the elections

4) Regulations of the media, including campaigns and news, and of campaign financing

5) Increased participation and representation of women

6) Equal participation rights and possibilities for people with disabilities

7) Granting Lebanese expatriates the right to vote

The need for an independent electoral commission, campaign spending and media control, and an automated election was presented by Baroud, MPs Antoine Haddad, Ghassan Mokheiber, Dr. Ali Fayad of the Consultation Center for Studies and Documentation, and Dr. Khalil Gebara, Executive Director of the LTA.

Minority voting, the woman quota, lowering the voting age, voting outside of Lebanon, and the vote of disabled persons was discussed by a separate panel, led by Dr. Arda Ekmekji of the NCEL. Ekmeji was joined by LADE Secretary General Ziad Abdel Samad, Guita Hourani of NDU’s Emigration Research Center, Sylvia Lakkis of the Handicapped Association, and Dr. Fahmiyah Charafeddine, Vice President of the National Committee for Follow-up on Women’s Issues.

Electoral constituencies and the voting system were discussed in the context of overall democracy in Lebanon in the third and final panel, which joined Dr. Paul Salem of the NCEL with MPs Robert Ghanem, Samir Franjieh and Ali Hassan Khalil.

June 12th, 2008, 2:10 am


norman said:


I am in your view that the US will attack Iran before the end of the present US administration , at least that is what i think ,The attack will not be with declaration of war as Ausamaa thinks and that needs Congress approval but will be with a sneak attack on Iran Quds brigade and the nuclear installations claiming that Iran is killing our soldiers in Iraq , I think the US will be the one to attack leaving Israel out of it as the support for Iran will be huge from the Arab streets especially in the Gulf and Egypt as the campaign to vilify Iran and the Shai does not seem to succeed if Israel attacks Iran and the Gulf states do nothing .

About Syria , Staying out of the war , I think Syria will do that , Syria will only fight on it’s term and when ready , Syria will not fight in a frontal war that will destroy Syria ,

When the war broke in 2006 between Lebanon / HA and Israel neither Syria nor Iran came to the rescue of HA as they new that their interference will give Israel and the US an excuse to destroy them , So they elected to support HA with arms which is more important to HA .

Conclusion: If the US attacks Iran Syria will support Iran in Iraq and make the lives of the US army in Iraq more difficult.
Syria will not join a frontal military campaign.

Syria’s talk with Israel will continue waiting for a new US and Israeli administration and to prevent a simultaneous attack on Syria and Iran .

I think Iran will respond to the US attack by low intensity war that they will refuse to stop so they can keep fighting the war of aggression that the US started.

June 12th, 2008, 2:55 am


norman said:

Rising India’ good for Middle East: Assad

Siddharth Varadarajan

It will help restore some “balance” in peace process, he says

Bashar al-Assad

Damascus: Noting that the problems of the Middle East were already adversely affecting New Delhi, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he hoped a “rising India” would help restore some “balance” in the peace process involving Israel and its neighbours.

In an exclusive interview to The Hindu days before his arrival in India on an official visit, Dr. Assad said India should play a direct role between Israel and Syria as well as Israel and the Palestinians, besides engaging the U.S. and other major powers on what was needed to bring peace and stability to West Asia.

The Syrian President strongly refuted Israeli and U.S. allegations that his country had built a clandestine nuclear facility at al-Kibar. The site which Israel bombed last September was a military facility which had nothing to do with any nuclear application, he said. He accused the Israelis of fabricating evidence to justify their attack, asking why it took Tel Aviv seven months to own up to the missile strike. Dr. Assad said that if the Israelis had evidence now, “How could they not have had this evidence seven months ago?”

In the interest of transparency, Syria had invited the International Atomic Energy Agency to visit the site, he said, rejecting the American demand that inspectors be allowed to visit other sites. “Talking about other sites is not within the purview of [our] agreement [with the IAEA].”

June 12th, 2008, 3:18 am


Shai said:


I have a feeling that IF an attack on Iran is still in the books, it’ll happen more or less as you described. What I fear, is that Iran will lob missiles into Israel (as it promised in such a case), and that will undoubtedly drag us into hitting back. If that happens, we could be starting a regional war, because I doubt HA or Hamas will sit aside watching their greatest patron get hit so hard, and do nothing.


You may well be right (and I’m hoping so). If Bush wants to leave office without much more damage, he should keep as low a profile as possible. Actually, there is something he SHOULD do, which would win him infinite credit, even by Democrats, and create some positive legacy before he leaves office. Bush should announce that he is setting up a new national administration, whose goal it is to reduce within 15 years, America’s dependency on oil, by 15%-20%. The actual job would be left of course to the private sector to do that, but the trigger would come from a NASA-like body, government formed and supported, for this very serious energy issue, which most Americans are experiencing today. Few in America would NOT hail Bush as a national hero, the day he makes such an announcement. Of course, it would go against some of his daddy’s investments, but I think for America (and for the Bush family’s name) it would certainly be worth it.

As for declaration of war on Iran, I agree with Norman, there would be no need for one. If Bush gives the order, it would be a limited air strike (couple hundred sorties, etc.) The actual attack would probably be supported by many in DC, but its aftermath would undoubtedly lead to widespread condemnation, though I doubt impeachment. By law, the President doesn’t even need to declare war, or have the approval of Congress, within the first 90 days. He could, in theory, start and end almost anything he wishes, in such time, and not be acting illegally. The question at this point is, does Bush even care about what Americans think about him, or about his policies. Or, does he still follow his pastor’s advice, supported by Cheney. I’ve lost all belief that Bush acts rationally, when faced with serious challenges.

June 12th, 2008, 4:54 am


Zenobia said:

If Bush tried that, no matter by what technical devise to avoid the laws to prevent the executive from unilateral action, I think all hell would break loose in Washington right now. Not only would the republicans secure their loss of the November election in congressional elections as well, but seriously, i think congress would go crazy with fury. I just don’t think they can get away with that a second time. Nobody, absolutely nobody would see it as justified or believe the excuses.
I think it would result in legal action against the administration. I seriously do.

Now, i see your point, that they don’t act rationally. They might be willing to destroy their own party for a long time just for the sake of bombing Iran,but I am with Ausamaa, I just don’t think they are quite crazy enough to jump under a bus. Throwing others under buses is fine, but there must be some level of self preservation.

June 12th, 2008, 6:01 am


Shai said:


You could say the same about the U.S. administrations during the Vietnam era, and the past 5 years in Iraq. How is it that America might actually vote for McCain, who will undoubtedly keep American soldiers in Iraq, for another 4 years at least (according to him)? Some 50% of Americans do NOT think rationally, but rather emotionally, when it comes to the infamous GWOT (“Global War on Terrorism”). Put up a few aerial photographs of some Iranian army bases training Shia to kill Americans in Iraq, have a 4-star general nodding a lot, and talking to the press about “new intelligence”, mix that with renewed Intelligence Estimates changing their earlier stance on Iran’s military nuclear program, and you’ve got yourself the perfect recipe for an attack. After all, what crazy lame duck President would authorize an illegitimate attack at the last minute, right?…. See the backwards logic, that might just make it possible for him?

I truly hope you and Ausamaa are right. But I fear Norman might be…

June 12th, 2008, 9:53 am


norman said:

look at this .

Posted on Thu, Jun. 12, 2008
Case builds for a military strike on Iran
Six months ago, after American intelligence agencies declared that Iran had shelved its nuclear-weapons program, the chances of a U.S. or Israeli military strike on the Islamic Republic before President Bush left office seemed remote.
Now, thanks to persistent pressure from Israeli hawks and newly stated concerns by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the idea of a targeted strike meant to cripple Iran’s nuclear program is getting a new hearing.

As Bush travels across Europe to gain support for possible new sanctions against Iran, Israeli leaders have been working to lay the psychological foundation for a possible military strike if diplomacy falters.

In public threats and private briefings with American decision makers, Israeli officials have been making the case that a military strike may be the only way to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

”Temperatures are rising,” said Emily Landau, an Iran specialist at the Institute for National Security Studies, an independent Israeli research center.

Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have met twice in recent weeks for extended talks on Iran. America’s intelligence chief, Mike McConnell, has traveled to Israel for private briefings, and Israeli Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz publicly declared that a military strike on Iran may be “unavoidable.”

In Germany on Wednesday, Bush said that ”all options are on the table” if Iran doesn’t abandon its uranium enrichment programs.


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad greeted Bush’s initiative by mocking the latest international efforts.

”They’ve tried by military threats . . . and political pressure to stop you from your luminous path,” Ahmadinejad reportedly told a rally in Iran on Wednesday. “But today they have seen that all their planning has failed.

“Today the Iranian nation is standing on the nuclear height.”

Intelligence analysts disagree over the likelihood of a military strike on Iran before Bush leaves office. But there’s little disagreement about the possible repercussions, which could include missile strikes on Israel, an attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities, renewed attacks on Israel from Hezbollah fighters in southern Lebanon, a resurgence of Shiite Muslim resistance to U.S. forces in Iraq or an attack on oil shipping in the Persian Gulf, which could send crude oil prices well above $200 a barrel.

Some analysts view the latest Israeli threats as an attempt to put pressure on Iran to capitulate to Western demands. Others see the Israeli campaign as intended to press the Bush administration to take the lead if the two nations decide to launch a military strike on Iran.

”The most likely scenario is that the Israelis will train and prepare as if they are very serious — and that’s part of the bluff to get the U.S. engaged,” said John McCreary, a retired intelligence analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense.

The key factor in any decision to launch a military strike is likely to be solid intelligence that Iran is rapidly advancing on its nuclear ambitions.

”I don’t think there is that smoking gun that we can hold up and say that everyone should stand behind this,” said Landau, who recently wrote an analysis titled The Elusive Smoking Gun for her think tank.

But Landau said the international debate had shifted in the weeks since the IAEA expressed ”serious concerns” about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and demanded more answers.

Israel already has demonstrated an ability to persuade reluctant Bush administration officials of the need to stage a preemptive strike. Before launching an airstrike on Syria last September, Israel provided the United States with intelligence suggesting that its Middle East neighbor was building a nuclear plant.

In April, the CIA publicly unveiled detailed images of the Syrian target and said that it was a nuclear reactor built with help from North Korea. Syria has denied the allegation. International inspectors are expected to visit the site for the first time later this month.

Considering Ahmadinejad’s refusal so far to accept the international incentives, some analysts see support growing in Israel and the United States for a military strike.

”I think more and more people are looking to the military option as possibly the only thing that will work, and people are more and more feeling that negotiations won’t work,” said Meir Javendanfar, a co-author of The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran.

Hard-liners in the U.S. and Israel also dismiss the notion that U.S. or Israeli nuclear weapons would deter Iran from using such weapons itself if it succeeded in obtaining them.

The very fact that a military strike is percolating back into mainstream debate is a significant shift in the political discourse.

Most analysts dismissed the military option last December after U.S. intelligence agencies agreed that Iran had shelved its nuclear weapons work in 2003 and was unlikely to produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb until 2010 or 2015.

Though Bush and Olmert challenged the assessment at the time, the analysis made it more difficult to make a case for swift military action.

Since then, Israel has shared more of its intelligence with the Bush administration.

Last week, Olmert traveled to Washington for extended talks with Bush that focused primarily on Iran.

”Every passing day the world acts, under the leadership of the United States, to achieve that goal that will prevent Iran’s armament,” Olmert said after meeting Bush.


On Wednesday, Olmert spokesman Mark Regev said Iran must understand that it must give up its nuclear ambitions in order to receive international incentives.

”Only if they understand that there is a clear and stark choice, that there isn’t wiggle room, only then can diplomacy succeed,” Regev said. “I think in dealing with the Iranians it’s important to have both carrots and sticks.”

June 12th, 2008, 12:38 pm


Shai said:

Norman, yes, that’s the other possibility (Israel attacking on its own). Though less likely, I wouldn’t rule this option out, especially if American forces will help out (airspace, refueling, etc.) Will Olmert “win” extra points for such an attack? Probably in the immediate run, but quite the opposite when the missiles start landing in Tel-Aviv. Israelis seem to be taking up investigation-committees as a new national sport… We may be needing another one, if someone here does authorize an attack.

June 12th, 2008, 1:24 pm


norman said:


I do not think you should worry,
Israel will not attack Iran , the US will do that and Iran will probably not attack Israel if no attack from Israel.

June 12th, 2008, 3:08 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Kind of sad that this is considered a “major setback”…

Major Guantanamo setback for Bush

Foreign suspects held in Guantanamo Bay have the right to challenge their detention in US civilian courts, the US Supreme Court has ruled.

In a major legal setback for the Bush administration, the court overturned by five to four a ruling upholding a 2006 law which removed such rights.

It is not clear if the ruling will lead to prompt hearings for the detainees.

Some 270 men are held at the US naval base, on suspicion of terrorism or links to al-Qaeda and the Taleban.

The White House has said it is studying the latest decision.

‘Extraordinary times’

The court said the detainees “have the constitutional privilege of habeas corpus”.

Unidentified inmates of Camp 4, Guantanamo Bay (14 May 2008)
Nearly 300 men remain in detention in Guantanamo Bay

Justice Anthony Kennedy said: “The laws and constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times.”

This is the Bush administration’s third setback at the highest US court since 2004 over its treatment of prisoners who are being held indefinitely and without charge at the base in Cuba.

The court has ruled twice previously that Guantanamo inmates could go into civilian courts to ask that the government justify their continued detention.

But each time, the Bush administration and Congress, then controlled by Republicans, changed the law to keep the detainees out of civilian courts.

The two previous Supreme Court rulings have not done much to clarify the inamtes’ situation, says the BBC’s Jamie Coomarasamy in Washington.

Last week, five detainees, including key suspect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, appeared before a military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed dismissed the trial as an “inquisition”.

June 12th, 2008, 3:42 pm


Alex said:

On the horns of dilemma
By Shmuel Meir
Tags: Golan Heights

The peace talks with the Syrians took us by surprise. The public discourse is divided between strategists, who hold on to issues of topography and differences in height (“They are up there and we are below – a recipe for disaster”), and the peace-seekers, who have become giddy from the air of the summits (“Everything has already been tied up”).

On the side of the debate are the residents of the Golan Heights (17,000 now, as compared with the 250,000 Syrians who lived there before 1967), and there are also the voices reminding us of the property rights over thousands of dunams that were legally acquired and registered by the Jewish National Fund. As if a private property right imparts sovereign status.

Above all, the Syrian peace is characterized by periodicity. It breaks out, fades away and disappears until the next time around. As if there is no price to be paid for inexplicable delays. As if the peace that was achieved with Egypt and Jordan will never be affected by a situation of no peace with Syria. As if a superfluous war, like that of the summer of 2006, is not a sufficient price.
The public has become accustomed to not receiving explanations from its leaders. Shimon Peres broke off the negotiations with Syria in 1996 on the pretext of elections whose date he had fixed. Ehud Barak allowed the talks of 2000, and the decisive meeting between Bill Clinton and Hafez Assad, to evaporate. The answer to the question of why peace has not been achieved with Syria remains under wraps. The dramatic reversal in the Syrian position in 1991 – readiness for a full peace under the aegis of the United States – was considered insignificant by us and became non-existent. That, even though the Syrians did not back off from their stance, despite the dozens of Syrians who were killed during the Second Lebanon War and despite the incident of September 2007.

A quick summary of the claims that justify the non-peace with Syria will reveal that most of them do not hold water. The security arrangements are not a stumbling block. In the peace treaty with Jordan, no demilitarized or thinned-out areas were fixed. All of Jordan is a security belt with regard to the prohibition of foreign troops entering that country. It is possible to apply the Egyptian model and to set up a strip with a lighter troop presence that is not symmetrical on the Israeli side. The issue of marking the border has produced many books with numerous proposals for a creative path between three close lines: the international border, the armistice lines and the 1967 line.

With regard to everything relating to water, Israel has control of most of the sources of the Jordan River; and with regard to the Iranian issue – a peace treaty and an Iranian military presence on the Golan cannot go hand-in-hand.

And what about the ultimate claim about why an agreement is not reached – the Syrian desire to paddle in Lake Kinneret? We are talking about a demand aimed at making permanent a fleeting picture of the balance of power before 1967, when Israel did not succeed in implementing its sovereignty over a strip of 10 meters on the north eastern shore of the lake. Surely it must be clear to the Syrians that a claim that rests on temporary superiority in the balance of power in those days will play into Israel’s hands, since it now holds the entire Syrian heights. It is possible that this realization is what led to raising the ideas about joint sovereignty or an international park at the northeast end of Lake Kinneret.

There is another thing that is extremely important: Along with the recurring refrain about the borders of June 4, a Syrian demand appeared that all nuclear facilities be under international inspection. According to the book by Itamar Rabinowitz, who headed the Israeli delegation to the talks in the 1990s, the Syrians had a well-thought-out doctrine concerning Israel’s nuclear potential, and the issue took a central place in the discussions about security arrangements. At one meeting, the nuclear issue actually led to a dead end.

Israel can apparently expect to face a new situation. On one side will be the peace treaties with Syria, Lebanon and the entire Arab world, with a dramatic decrease in the incentive for war on the part of distant countries. On the other side of the scale will be Israel’s policy of ambiguity. The Arab League’s peace initiative likewise created a connection between the nuclear potential and peace.

The doctrine of ambiguity succeeded in the peace with Egypt, but since then Egypt has raised the threshold of its demands for nuclear disarmament. The United States, which has supported Israel in international forums, was not able to remove the Egyptian position from the agenda. The U.S. is committed to preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the world, according to its declared policy and according to the NPT (nuclear non-proliferation treaty). The accepted wisdom in Washington and Jerusalem, which tended to view a comfortable coexistence between ambiguity and the peace process, will require reassessment.

Peace talks with Syria and the declaration on the part of former U.S. president Jimmy Carter about Israel’s nuclear capabilities, indicate this future has already arrived. Syria, with the diplomatic backing of other countries, is likely to stick by its position and to demand nuclear symmetry: full inspection of its facilities and possibly also those of Iran, in return for full inspection on the Israeli side. A central layer in the doctrine of ambiguity – a declarative policy of non-proliferation and inspection when comprehensive peace is attained – will have to stand the test. Nuclear potential and peace are no longer separate worlds or worlds apart.

The writer is a researcher of strategic issues and formerly headed the branch for weapons supervision in the Israel Defense Forces’ Planning Branch

June 12th, 2008, 4:26 pm


Alex said:

majedkhaldoun said:

Alex;e you o.k.


Thanks for noticing that I have not been spamming the comments section for few days now.

: )

June 12th, 2008, 4:34 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


How’s the nosy Egyptian? Caught the smuggling racket yet?


June 12th, 2008, 4:39 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Saniora has called Aoun’s bluff. The latter was claiming that the Future Movement was trying to monopolize the Ministry of Finance, so Saniora has now offered it to the opposition.

Trouble is, the offer is an either/or: Either the Finance ministry or the Foreign Affairs ministry. Traditionally (i.e. for the past 19 years), Foreign Affairs is held by an AMAL guy, so Aoun would have to pry it out of Berri’s tight little hands and give it to the majority, if he wants to grab the Finance ministry. Since that is rather unlikely, Aoun is stuck trying to make a case for the opposition holding two sovereign ministries while the majority and the president would each hold one. Yeah, I’m not convinced either.

According to NOW Lebanon, some believe that Aoun was making a fuss over the Finance ministry because he was really angling for the Defense portfolio, but that would mean taking it away from the new prez. Who knows.

I wonder how many times the following thought has crossed either Sayyed Hasan or Nabih Berri’s minds:

There he goes again… If we wanted a Napoleon, we should have just asked the French to re-colonize us… I wonder if Geagea would be amenable to ‘flipping’ next year… hmmmm…

Here’s Saniora’s either/or:

Saniora Offers Opposition 2 Baskets of Cabinet Line-Up

Prime Minister-designate Fouad Saniora has on Thursday reportedly offered the opposition two baskets of the new government line-up.
The daily An Nahar, which carried the report, said the first basket consists of the ministries of finance, public works, education, tourism, environment, youth and sports, culture and displaced.

It said the second comprises the ministries of foreign affairs, energy, justice, economy, trade and commerce, agriculture, health and social affairs.

Saniora was waiting for responses from the opposition, the daily said.

Beirut, 12 Jun 08, 12:03

June 12th, 2008, 5:01 pm


Majhool said:

Poll: Growing Israeli opposition to Golan pullback in Syria peace talks
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Pollsters say Israeli opposition to handing the Golan Heights back to Syria as part of a peace deal has leapt since the announcement last month of renewed talks between the sides.

A survey conducted by the Hebrew University and a Palestinian think tank also shows most Israelis and Palestinians see no point to current peace negotiations.

The survey was published Thursday, and said that 67 percent of Israelis are against returning the strategic plateau, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East War. That’s up from 56 percent in a March poll.

It said 55 percent of Israelis and 68 percent of Palestinians feel talks between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas are going nowhere and should be shelved.

June 12th, 2008, 5:09 pm


Majhool said:

Poll: Growing Israeli opposition to Golan pullback in Syria peace talks

Pollsters say Israeli opposition to handing the Golan Heights back to Syria as part of a peace deal has leapt since the announcement last month of renewed talks between the sides.

A survey conducted by the Hebrew University and a Palestinian think tank also shows most Israelis and Palestinians see no point to current peace negotiations.

The survey was published Thursday, and said that 67 percent of Israelis are against returning the strategic plateau, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East War. That’s up from 56 percent in a March poll.

It said 55 percent of Israelis and 68 percent of Palestinians feel talks between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas are going nowhere and should be shelved.

June 12th, 2008, 5:10 pm


Majhool said:


Syria: Repression of Activists Continues Unabated
Engagement With Damascus Should Include Human Rights
(Washington, DC, June 12, 2008) – Western countries looking to increase engagement with Syria should know that Syrian authorities continue to arrest, try, and harass political and human rights activists, Human Rights Watch said today. In May 2008, Syrian authorities detained a political writer, began the trial of two activists, and restricted the travel of at least seven others. Amidst increasing calls in Western countries to increase engagement with Syria, Human Rights Watch urged that an improvement in the treatment of these activists be at the heart of any future talks with the Syrian authorities.

The French daily Le Monde reported on June 9, 2008, that President Nicholas Sarkozy of France plans to send two senior envoys, Jean-David Lévitte and Claude Guéant, to Syria as early as June 12, as ties suspended last year over Lebanon’s political crisis start to thaw. Last week, US senators John Kerry and Chuck Hagel co-wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal calling for increased engagement with Syria following “the recent announcement of peace negotiations between Israel and Syria through Turkey, and the agreement between the Lebanese factions in Qatar.”

“Any engagement with Syria must include an open discussion of human rights concerns, including the fate of political prisoners and other Syrians who suffer abuse,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa director. “The authorities in Damascus are still harassing anyone who dares criticize them.”

On May 7, members from Syria’s security services arrested Habib Saleh, 60, a writer and political analyst, and took him to an undisclosed location where he remains in incommunicado detention. Saleh had written articles critical of the Syrian regime, including an article defending Syrian opposition figure Riad al-Turk. Saleh has already been jailed twice in the past for his writings.

A few days later, on May 11, the State Security Court, a special court with almost no due process protections, issued a three-year sentence against Tarek Biasi, 23, a blogger whom the government detained in July 2007 accusing him of “insulting security services” online, and charging him with “weakening national sentiment.”

On May 12, a military court began the trial of Muhammad Badi` Dek al-Bab, a member of the National Organization for Human Rights, on the charge of “spreading false information that harms the prestige of the state” because he wrote an article criticizing the Syrian authorities for detaining writers and intellectuals while celebrating Damascus as the 2008 “Arab Capital of Culture.” He has been in detention since March 2, and his next trial hearing is scheduled for June 11. Dek al-Bab has previously been jailed for his activities. In 2000, he was sentenced to 15 years on charges of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, but was released in 2005 following a presidential amnesty.

Meanwhile, a group of 13 notable political activists, including former parliamentarian Riad Seif, remain in detention following their arrest in December 2007 for attending a meeting of opposition groups. They are awaiting their trial on charges of “weakening national sentiment and awakening sectarian strife,” “spreading false or exaggerated news which would affect the morale of the country,” and “membership in an organization formed with the purpose of changing the structure of the state.”

“These activists are in jail because they dared to express their opinions,” said Whitson. “We hope that Western diplomats talking to Syria will show the same courage and tell the Syrian authorities that they need to release these activists.”

Syrian authorities also continue to restrict hundreds of activists from leaving the country. Seven political and human rights activists were directly affected by these restrictions in May. For example, the authorities barred Muhannad al-Hasani, president of the Syrian Human Rights Organization, from traveling to Beirut on May 21 to participate in a show on the al-`Alam TV channel to discuss the situation of Syrian detainees in Saudi Arabia. They also prevented Radif Mustafa, the chairperson of the Kurdish Committee for Human Rights, from traveling to Paris to participate in a workshop organized by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network from May 19-23.

Other forms of harassment include preventing gatherings and meetings. The activist Mazen Darwish, president of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, had obtained a permit from the Ministry of Culture to organize a conference on “press freedom” at the Arab Cultural Center in Damascus on May 25, but an official from the same ministry called the venue 15 minutes prior to the start of the event and ordered its cancellation.


The seven activists prevented from traveling outside Syria in May are:

Abdel Sattar al-Qattan: previously detained for affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood. Released from jail for health reasons on June 12, 2007. He requires dialysis three times a week, and his doctors have recommended that he travel outside Syria to receive a kidney transplant.

Radif Mustafa: a lawyer and chairperson of the Kurdish Committee for Human Rights. Prevented from traveling to Paris to participate in a workshop organized by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network from May 19-23.

Muhannad al-Hasani: president of the Syrian Human Rights Organization. Syrian security officials prevented him from traveling to Beirut on May 21 to participate in a show on the al-`Alam TV channel to discuss the situation of Syrian detainees in Saudi Arabia.

Raja` al-Nasser and Muhammad Abdel Majid Manjounah: lawyers and members in the Socialist Union party. Prevented from traveling on May 8 to Yemen to participate in a workshop by the Arab National Congress

Zaradasht Muhammad and `Abdel Rahman Ahmad: two Kurdish political activists prevented from traveling to Iraq on May 12 to meet other Iraqi Kurdish parties.

June 12th, 2008, 5:31 pm


Shai said:


I agree with much of Shmuel Meir’s article above, but certainly disagree with his assessment that “Nuclear potential and peace are no longer separate worlds or worlds apart.” There is no way on earth that Israel will enable anyone, friend or foe, access to its nuclear installations, anytime soon. There is still tremendous distrust, and plain fear, of our Arab neighbors’ intentions, and even in return for peace (or a superficial peace treaty), information about our nuclear program or access to inspections should not be expected. That, of course, is why I believe Israel is being hypocritical when demanding the same of Syria. If we’re not ready to expose certain programs and capabilities, why expect others to do so?

June 12th, 2008, 6:44 pm


Alex said:


It might be a negotiating card that Syria will drop eventually when Israel drops some of its not very reasonable demands too.

But it might be a real fear … I realized from many discussions that you and AIG and AP are having here with Syrian and Arab expats that many of them are very uncomfortable with Israel’s substantial nuclear capabilities.

June 12th, 2008, 7:30 pm


Shai said:


Yes, and it makes sense. But our Arab neighbors should also understand that many Israelis, probably most, strongly believe that the only reason Israel still exists today is because of its nuclear deterrence. So on the one hand they feel strong enough in the region, and on the other, they fear Syrian tanks rolling off the Golan… It’s all emotional, very little of it is rational.

June 12th, 2008, 8:10 pm


Akbar Palace said:

But our Arab neighbors should also understand that many Israelis, probably most, strongly believe that the only reason Israel still exists today is because of its nuclear deterrence.

Alex, Shai,

Don’t fret about Israel “nuclear deterrrence”. Israel has yet to threaten to “wipe out” any Arab or Muslim country and has never used their nuclear weapons during all the wars she’s fought, including the darkest hours of the ’73 surprise attack.

Israel’s nuclear deterrrence is just in case Israel is literally face-to-face with extinction. We’ve seen that some jihadists are willing to kill several thousands of innocent people for their cause while their state sponsors provide the training and armament. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to discount the possibility of ever having to use this capability one day.

June 12th, 2008, 9:13 pm


Alex said:


On the afternoon of 6 October 1973, Egypt and Syria attacked Israel in a coordinated surprise attack, beginning the Yom Kippur War. Caught with only regular forces on duty, augmented by reservists with a low readiness level, Israeli front lines crumbled. By early afternoon on 7 October, no effective forces were in the southern Golan Heights and Syrian forces had reached the edge of the plateau, overlooking the Jordan River. This crisis brought Israel to its second nuclear alert.

Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, obviously not at his best at a press briefing, was, according to Time magazine, rattled enough to later tell the prime minister that “this is the end of the third temple,” referring to an impending collapse of the state of Israel. “Temple” was also the code word for nuclear weapons. Prime Minister Golda Meir and her “kitchen cabinet” made the decision on the night of 8 October. The Israelis assembled 13 twenty-kiloton atomic bombs. The number and in fact the entire story was later leaked by the Israelis as a great psychological warfare tool. Although most probably plutonium devices, one source reports they were enriched uranium bombs. The Jericho missiles at Hirbat Zachariah and the nuclear strike F-4s at Tel Nof were armed and prepared for action against Syrian and Egyptian targets. They also targeted Damascus with nuclear capable long-range artillery although it is not certain they had nuclear artillery shells.[62]

U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was notified of the alert several hours later on the morning of 9 October. The U.S. decided to open an aerial resupply pipeline to Israel, and Israeli aircraft began picking up supplies that day. Although stockpile depletion remained a concern, the military situation stabilized on October 8th and 9th as Israeli reserves poured into the battle and averted disaster. Well before significant American resupply had reached Israeli forces, the Israelis counterattacked and turned the tide on both fronts.

June 12th, 2008, 10:51 pm


why-discuss said:

Iran and Israel are stuck in a dysfunctional relationship that neither party can escape on its own. Here’s how to break up their fight.
by Trita Parsi

June 12th, 2008, 11:26 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Your quote proves exactly what AP is saying. What was your point?

June 13th, 2008, 4:01 am


Shai said:


Very interesting article. Makes a lot more sense than trying to subdue Iran by force.

June 13th, 2008, 4:54 am


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