News Roundup (15 Jan. 2008)

The car bombing of an American Embassy car, which killed at 3 Lebanese, did not hurt any Americans. It is reminiscent of a string of previous bombings except for this time America was the target. Did it have anything to do with George Bush's tour of the Middle East? Tim Butcher of the Telegraph things so. Read: Analysis: Beirut bomb evokes terrible déjà vu.

The American Ambassador had a goodbye party arranged for him at the Phoenicia Hotel today. That farewell reception was quickly cancelled. The vehicle was returning from the airport after dropping off a U.S. official.

For Iraqi Refugees in Syria, Art May Be Avenue to New Life
by Deborah Amos at NPR Listen Now [4 min 48 sec]

Syrian refugees in Iraq present a unique problem. The UNHCR is trying to help the nearly 1,000 Syrian refugees trapped in Iraq. They are an older lot. Or else they are children of old Baathists who belonged to the Akram Haurani and Michel Aflaq wings of the party that were forced to flee Syria in the 1960s. Muslim Brothers fled in the 1970s and 1980s. Quite a few have been murdered. (I am trying to get the exact number from the UNHCR.) Some have become homeless, as they have been driven from their apartments or lost their stipends and salaries. Most do not have any papers to allow them to travel.

Bush calls IAF strike in Syria an 'important preemptive action". During his visit to Israel last week, Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert discussed the Sept. 6 attack in northern Syria, Defense News reported Monday, citing a Jerusalem official who was briefed on the talks.

Syria said on Sunday that it was waiting for the Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa to resume his efforts on pushing forward an Arab initiative aimed at ending the ongoing presidential crisis in Lebanon.

    "The Arab plan is clear in its adoption of a no winner no loser stand which puts Lebanon on the road of health and stability because it will be the only winner," a foreign ministry official source was quoted as saying by the official SANA news agency.

Damascus slams Arab leaders for allowing Bush's 'criticism of Syria' A newspaper affiliated with the Syrian government on Monday slammed Arab regimes who tolerated U.S. President George W Bush's "criticism of Syria" in their own lands and what they branded "the indirect war" that Bush is drumming up.

Syrian analysts said Bush used the Arab countries' podiums during his multi-nation tour in the region to isolate Syria and orchestrate a war scenario against Iran.

The main strategic concerns of the visit is focused around enticing further hostility against Iran and securing the interests of "the Jewish community," read a front-page column in the Syrian Daily al-Thawra al-Islamiya. The newspaper added that Bush's plan for the Middle East has "clearly no intentions to implement peace."

Bassam Ishak, was about to leave for George Mason University in the United States when he was told by airport authorities. Syrian Human Rights Organisation, said one of its members, Bassam Ishak, was told by airport authorities that he was banned from travelling. A similar ban was recently slapped on seven human rights activists.

Syrian, Iraqi, Turkish irrigation ministers meet for first time…

Rami Khouri in "Best and Worst America This Week"  said "Washington's refusal to accept the verdict when groups like the Islamist Palestinian group Hamas were elected to power, left Bush open to accusations of hypocrisy… If you preach majority rule and the rule of law as a desirable global norm but refuse to respect it when Israeli interests are concerned, you come across as a hypocrite, at best, and a deceitful cheat, at worst…"

It’s not about Iran (Thanks War in Context)

As President Bush travels through the Middle East, the prevailing assumption is that Arab states are primarily focused on the rising Iranian threat and that their attendance at the Annapolis conference with Israel in November was motivated by this threat. This assumption, reflected in the president’s speech in the United Arab Emirates yesterday, could be a costly mistake.

Israel and the Bush administration place great emphasis on confronting Iran’s nuclear potential and are prepared to engage in a peace process partly to build an anti-Iran coalition. Arabs see it differently. They use the Iran issue to lure Israel and the United States into serious Palestinian-Israeli peacemaking, having concluded that the perceived Iranian threats sell better in Washington and Tel Aviv than the pursuit of peace itself.

Many Arab governments are of course concerned about Iran and its role in Iraq, but not for the same reasons as Israel and the United States. Israel sees Iran’s nuclear potential as a direct threat to its security, and its support for Hezbollah and Hamas as a military challenge.

Arab governments are less worried about the military power of Hamas and Hezbollah than they are about support for them among their publics. They are less worried about a military confrontation with Iran than about Iran’s growing influence in the Arab world. In other words, what Arab governments truly fear is militancy and the public support for it that undermines their own popularity and stability.

In all this, they see Iran as a detrimental force but not as the primary cause of militant sentiment. Most Arab governments believe instead that the militancy is driven primarily by the absence of Arab-Israeli peace.

This argument has been a loser in Washington, rejected by many and not taken seriously by others. The issue of Iran gets more traction inside the Beltway. [complete article]

Nobody believes anymore what Mr. Bush is saying”
By Michael Abramowitz, Washington Post, January 14, 2008

Shortly before President Bush showed up in the region last week, human rights activist Abduljalil Alsingace tried to deliver a petition to the U.S. Embassy complaining about the lack of democracy in his native Bahrain. He thought he might have some hope, given the strong language coming from the White House on the need for political reform in the Middle East.

But as he tells it, the U.S. Embassy was cool to his plans to deliver a petition, accepting his document only grudgingly after several days of negotiations. Then he was astounded to hear Bush’s description of Bahrain as an example of positive democratic reform. “All the wealth and power are with the royal family,” Alsingace said in an interview.

America's 'freedom agenda' is still valid
Taipei Times, Taiwan – Jan 11, 2008
By Ammar Abdulhamid

Former Syrian member of parliament and political prisoner Mamoun al-Homsi, Kurdish activist Djengizkhan Hasso of the Executive Council of the National Assembly of Kurdistan, and I recently met with US President George W. Bush in the Oval Office….

while talking to us, Bush did not try to mask his disdain for Syria's rulers, and he rejected the possibility of direct talks or any improvement in relations.

As such, the "positive body language" that Syrian Ambassador to the US Emad Moustapha said he detected during his brief encounter with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during the Annapolis meeting was outweighed by Bush's negative verbal language during our meeting. And we all know where the buck stops.

For our part, we underscored the worsening human rights situation in Syria. Indeed, no sooner did our meeting finish, and with the world commemorating International Human Rights Day, the Syrian regime launched a massive campaign of arrests and intimidation directed against some of the country's most prominent dissidents. Though many were freed within hours, some remain in jail.

This episode also highlights the need for continued emphasis on human rights and promotion of democracy. Indeed, growing cynicism in this regard is a dangerous trend, because this is the one issue that still appeals to the people of the Middle East and can help immensely in the Western powers' battle to win hearts and minds in our region.

Comments (18)

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Rami Khouri has never really understood how democracy works. The Palestinians have every right to elect Hamas and Israel’s democratically elected government has every right not to deal with Hamas if it so chooses.

The hypocrites are intellectuals like Khouri who are scared to criticize by name and action the dictators in the Arab world.

January 15th, 2008, 9:48 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Nasrallah warns the US against an attack in Iran:

Nasrallah is worried as he should be. He knows that if the US attacks Iran he will have to attack Israel and suffer the consequences.

January 15th, 2008, 9:55 pm


offended said:

Of course, Syrian finger prints are all over the bombing. Those callous acts are perpetrated using vehicle snuck from across the borders with the brutal Syria…..etc…bla bla bla….etc…

January 15th, 2008, 9:58 pm


offended said:

I think what you meant to say is that Israel (the reassured Jewish state) is worried about hezbollah’s reaction in case of an American attack on Iran.

January 15th, 2008, 10:00 pm


T is . (sorry, computer keys broken) said:

Isnt it reassuring to know there is still one American housing market that hasnt crashed:

News from the Middle East

15/01/2008 12:04 JERUSALEM, Jan 15 (AFP)
Israel building new homes in east Jerusalem settlement
Israel has begun constructing 66 new homes in an east Jerusalem settlement, according to an AFP correspondent who visited the area on Tuesday, in a move likely to anger Palestinians.

The development comes as Israel and the Palestinians are engaged in the most serious peace talks in years aimed at solving the thorniest issues of the Middle East conflict, including the future status of Jerusalem.

Infrastructure work for new homes is under way in Maaleh Hazeitim, in the Ras al-Amud area of east Jerusalem which Israel occupied and annexed in the 1967 war and which Palestinians want as the capital of their future state.

“We are building 66 new apartments in three buildings,” said David Ben Hamo, the manager of the construction site where a cornerstone was laid in a ceremony on Sunday.

“We have all the necessary papers and authorisation for the construction work,” he told AFP.

Some 60 Jewish families already live in the neighbourhood, built on land bought 15 years ago by US millionaire Irwin Moskowitz. Armed security men guard both the construction site and nearby buildings.

A similar project to build more than 300 homes in the Jewish neighbourhood of Har Homa in east Jerusalem infuriated Palestinians when it was announced in early December, less than a week after the formal revival of peace talks.

The settlement construction also drew strong criticism from the United States, which has backed the renewed peace talks which were relaunched at an international peace conference in the US city of Annapolis last November.

Meanwhile Defence Minister Ehud Barak has written to Israeli administrators in the occupied West Bank reminding them that all new construction inside existing settlements there requires his approval.

“In a letter addressed to the Israeli administration in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), Mr Barak reminded it that all new construction projects in the region must first obtain his green light,” Defence Ministry spokesman Shlomo Dror told AFP.

“Unfortunately in the past this rule was not always respected,” he said, adding that the letter does not apply to construction already begun.

In late December Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered various ministries to seek his approval for all future construction projects in the West Bank.

His announcement came as Israel struggled to calm tensions with the Palestinians over the settlements issue ahead of last week’s visit by US President George W. Bush aimed at bolstering the recently revived peace talks.

But neither Barak’s letter nor Olmert’s order applies to projects in east Jerusalem, which Israel considers part of its “undivided, eternal” capital, a claim not recognised by any other country.

Palestinians have demanded east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state and have said Israeli construction there could endanger the peace talks.

Bush hopes to shepherd the creation of a Palestinian state by 2009, but settlement expansion has been a key source of discord since Israel and the Palestinians resumed their peace talks under US stewardship in November.

©2008 AFP

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January 15th, 2008, 10:00 pm


offended said:

Would you rather Israel clinches a deal with Abbas (the corrupt, undemocratic leader) or with the democratically elected Hamas?

January 15th, 2008, 10:05 pm


T said:


More undisclosed Citi writedowns still coming. How do you think it will affect Alwaleeds investments in Syria/Leb? And what is the impact on Iran War timeline? Do you have any thoughts on this?

January 15th, 2008, 10:16 pm


t_desco said:

Lebanon Warrants Issued Against al-Qaida

A Lebanese military prosecutor issued arrest warrants Tuesday accusing 10 jailed al-Qaida suspects of planning to carry out terrorist attacks, possessing illegal weapons and using forged identity cards, judicial officials said.

Military prosecutor Rashid Mizher also issued arrest warrants naming 10 other suspected al-Qaida members who are at large, the officials added.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, did not say when the 10 suspects were detained or give their nationalities.

Since last year’s three-month battle between the Lebanese army and Muslim extremists in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared, dozens of people have been detained on suspicion of having ties to al-Qaida or the al-Qaida-inspired Fatah Islam group that fought at Nahr el-Bared.

In June, Lebanese troops discovered three vehicles rigged with explosives during a raid on a hideout in eastern Lebanon. The two cars and a van were found near the town of Bar Elias in the Bekaa Valley a day after security forces captured three foreign militants in a nearby area.

Lebanon’s official National News Agency said the 10 detained suspects were among 30 who were charged with joining an armed group with the aim of carrying out terrorist attacks, possessing weapons and explosives, forging identity cards and giving refuge to wanted criminals.

The officials said Mizher, the military prosecutor, will question the 10 with their lawyers present beginning next week.

January 15th, 2008, 10:42 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Abbas was democratically elected. The agreement with him will be worth nothing if the Palestinians don’t stand behind it and continue voting for him.

Mind you, Hamas in my book is not democratic unless they hold free and fair elections in Gaza on a regular basis and it doesn’t seem to be their intention. Democracy is not one man one vote one time. You have to be willing to let go of power peacefully.

It is clear to everybody that there will be another round between Hizballah and Israel. The only question is when. No need to talk or make predictions, we will see what the results are and if Israel has learned from its mistakes in 2006. I think it has but only the results of the next round will tell.

January 15th, 2008, 11:28 pm


ZIAD said:

Kuwait was second highest ranked Arab nation at 39th position, followed by Oman (42), Jordan (58), Saudi Arabia (60), the UAE (63), Qatar (66), Lebanon (73) and Turkey (74); putting them all in the “moderately free” category.

Tunisia was 84th, Egypt 85th, Morocco 98th, Algeria 102nd and Yemen 125th – rating their economies as “mostly unfree”.

The lowest ranked Arab country was Syria at 144th, putting it in the “repressed” economy category.

January 16th, 2008, 1:26 am


Shual said:

“don’t stand behind it and continue voting for him [Abbas]”

Abbas doesn’t want another term, so they can not continue to vote for him.

“The agreement with him”

What “agreement”? There will be no “agreement”. There will be the “willing to invest great effort here over the next year” of Mr. Bush and that always means more weapons, more killing, less “agreements”.

January 16th, 2008, 1:28 am


Nur al-Cubicle said:

And then there’s this…(via L’Orient Le Jour)

“During the second day of his visit to Saudi Arabia, George Bush endured a series of reverses handed to him by Riyadh. The Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister, Saud al-Faisal, declared that the kingdom had “nothing against Iran; it an important neighboring state” and that it could do nothing more in relation to Israel to foster Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Meanwhile, in Cairo where Turkish President Abdullah Gül is meeting with Hosni Mubarek, both leaders warned against military action against Tehran.”

And this via AFP:

The brevity of President Bush’s stay in Cairo, 4 hours, is a sign of cooling relations between the US and Egypt…Cairo had permitting thousands of warplanes to cross its territory during the invasion of Iraq and grants preferential treatment to US warships traversing the Suez Canal….The billions of dollars in aid from Washington no longer represent a significant portion of Egyptian GDP and Saudi billions plowed into the country have generated a booming economy….Egypt is expected to reassess its relationship with Washington, although not immediately….

January 16th, 2008, 2:07 am


norman said:

The Huffington Post
ABC | January 15, 2008 01:39 PM


In Riyadh today, the president danced a traditional sword dance with one of the princes of the royal family. It was a public — and a little awkward — display of affection, all part of Bush’s first visit to Saudi Arabia aimed at repairing strained relations between the world’s biggest oil producer and the world’ s biggest oil consumer.

The president sat down with “Nightline” co-anchor Terry Moran at one of the vast royal palaces, and it became clear who holds the cards right now in the oil markets, with the price up near $100 a barrel…

…”I have talked to these leaders face to face,” he said. “I have asked them point blank, ‘Do you understand how difficult these issues are?’ Yes. ‘Are you prepared to make the painful political compromises?’ They say they are.”

Despite that optimism, the president also said that he does feel misunderstood in the Middle East.

“My image [is] ‘Bush wants to fight Muslims.’ And, yes, I’m concerned about it. Not because of me, personally. I’m concerned because I want most people to understand the great generosity and compassion of Americans,” he said.

“I’m sure people view me as a war monger and I view myself as peacemaker,” the president said. “They view me as so pro-Israeli I can’t be open-minded about Palestinian peace, and yet I’m the only president ever to have articulated a two-state solution. And you just have to fight through stereotypes by actions.”

Read entire article.

Even today, coming on the heels of Bush speaking “peace”, Israel slaughters and butchers 17 people in another Gaza incursion that is totally meant to provoke Hamas into action, so that they can then claim that the Palestinians don’t want peace. You just watch it happen. 😉

Bush and Israel, the pathological liars of the world.

Seems to me like the WH has Israel bought and paid for.. and if you can’t see that it is the US playing both sides against the Middle you are either blind or just don’t want to see it..

Bush wants to make a 123 million dollar arms deal with the Sauds.. and Congress will let him.. Then a Arms deal for Israel and we have to arm the Iraqi Army and the Sunni Tribes too..
Once Again for the Anti-Semites in the Cheap Seats..
King George does not give a fuck about some Joos..or any Muslims for that matter.
King George styles himself a devout evangelical who thinks God speaks through him.. He Loves Jesus Land..
Throughout history Christians have been trying to control THE HOLY LAND and drive away the infidel.. and of course, controlling in the process, valuable trade routes aka oil pipelines..

We Arm everyone in the ME. and We are Friends with Everyone until We are Not..

January 16th, 2008, 3:29 am


why-discuss said:

Israel is getting worried by the day of the refusal of any arab country to support the aggressive Bush war mongering screams against Iran.

Israel has to find new ways to weaken Iran. They tried to use that stupid propaganda of the 40 iranian jews ‘saved’ from the ‘antisemitic’ wrath of Iran regime, but this did not fly.
I guess they are now brainstrorming to find other ways. A direct attack will be very negatively perceived by the west as it may disrupt oil supply badly needed now. IN front of Iran and without the support of the US, they are just paralyzed.., with fear.
So they try to attack the allies of Iran: Syria and Hezbollah.
In Syria their ridiculous attack on a alleged nuclear site was a ballon in the air and is soon forgotten. They may try to stir problems with the Kurds in Syria but have been unsucessful now as Turkey, ally of the USA, would not allow their kurds to become more restless. So their only weapon is to create a media frenzy against Syria’s agressive role on ‘pro US’ lebanese allies and possibly covert attacks.
On Hezbollah , they try just everything they can to decrease its popularity. They have stopped threatening to kill Nasrallah , noticing that these threats were only augmenting his popularity. Hezbollah’s popularity is stronger than ever even if the Mossad will try to pin on them the US embasy attack that curiously did not kill any american. Was it planned so by the Mossad? Lebanese lives, as wll as palestinian lives are a cheap prize to pay for Israel to keep their financially successful ‘democratic’ jewish regime,

January 16th, 2008, 8:50 am


norman said:

Look what our brothers the Saudies are doing and how they are helping , an enemy is better for syria,

مصدر رئاسي فرنسي :الملك السعودي خاب أمله من القيادة السورية

قال الرئيس الفرنسي نيكولا ساركوزي, معترفا بأخطائه السياسية إن “الملك السعودي عبد الله بن عبد العزيز كان على حق بالنسبة إلى سورية عندما حذّره من عدم جدوى الانفتاح على سورية

January 16th, 2008, 1:35 pm


Observer said:

The politics of dependency from conflincts forum

January 16th, 2008, 3:12 pm


ZIAD said:

Iran will not be attacked it’s 99% sure…,despite all hypocrit slongans ,the mollah regime is a natural for Israel..Iran will never forget the millitary support from Israel to the Iranian army,it permitted to resist Saddam army which was near to finish with the iranian army…israel had bombed Iraq during this war …. who think that Iran will be attacked by USA or Isral they do not understand real expect more words of ahmadnajad like whipping israel off the mapp,al mowt….they are world champion in lies and hypociry…this is pure comedy….but no true war.

January 16th, 2008, 4:47 pm


Shual said:

“The agreement with him” – update or “The Agreements of crows”

And… this is getting on my nerves: We are talking about humanitarian crossings from Gaza into Israel. We are talking about the crossing of medics and food and oil into Gaza. We are talking about ill children staying alone in Israeli hospitals, cause their parents are not allowed to cross the border.

But, , if you are a f*** “most senior Fatahist”, that was abducted and shaved on 07.12.31 by Hamas, you have no problem to pop up 16-days later in Nablus on the shoulders of other Fatahists.

Well done, Israelis!

January 17th, 2008, 1:39 am


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