April 19/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 3,16-21. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

Free Opinions
The Lebanese cannot afford more bills for their politicians' arguments.Daily Star. April 19/07
Early Al-Qaeda rumblings in the Maghreb? By James Badcock. April 19/07
Israel's Next War.
By P. David Hornik.April 19/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for April 19/07
U.S: Syria, Iran Continue to Provide Hizbullah with Weapons-Naharnet
Gates In Israel to Discuss Iran, Hizbullah, Syria-Naharnet
Hezbollah says UN move on court could hurt Lebanon.Scotsman
Lebanon crisis undermining UN efforts: Italy.Reuters
Lebanese Students Among Virginia University Victims. Naharnet
Lahoud's First Meeting with a U.N. Official in 30 Months. Naharnet

Two-Week Deadline for Lebanon to Reach Consensus over Tribunal
Independent Mission to Probe Reported Arms Smuggling Across Lebanon-Syria Border.Naharnet

Independent Mission to Probe Reported Arms Smuggling Across ...Naharnet
Mount Lebanon Mufti receives threats for criticizing Hezbollah.Ya Libnan
Russia seriously concerned about political crisis in Lebanon.Ya Libnan
Hezbollah: March 14 seeking new ME.PRESS TV

Christians flee Lebanon amid signs of growing Islamic ...Catholic Online
Belgian Defense Minister: Israel must pay to clear cluster bombs.
Lebanese Lobby
Jordan, Syria ask world to help.Boston Globe
Israel tells Syria to stop using language of 'ultimatums'.The Brunei Times
We don't plan to attack Syria, says Olmert.Ynetnews
Moscow concerned about protracted crisis in Lebanon.ITAR-TASS
Intel Chairman Begins New Projects to Help Revitalize Lebanon.Business Wire (press release)
Lebanon War Commission Tries to Block Publication of Testimonies.Arutz Sheva
High-rises and rising unemployment.Ha'aretz

Latest News Reports From The Daily Star for April 18/07
Two Lebanese-Americans among dead in US campus massacre
Discarded livestock carcasses pose new threat to river and residents alike
Lebanon to join nations hosting 'Race for Peace'

Sarkozy says Lebanon's 'independence' a priority
Lebanon to join nations hosting 'Race for Peace'
Sultanov, Michel take temperature on Hariri tribunal
Azour says Lebanon will seek both money and an apology from Israel

Italy says UNIFIL needs diplomatic help to succeed
Sayyed requests meeting with visiting diplomats
Hariri salutes Fuleihan, repeats call for court
MPs gather at Parliament for weekly theater
AUB announces death of veteran educator
Unclear border with Syria raises new problem
Hospitals demand help for NSSF's debt
Zaki vows to uphold right of return
Qabalan, Sfeir discuss need for coexistence
Fadlallah holds talks with Nasrallah
Prosecutor charges nine in notary exam cheating case
Security forces tout forensic analysis, cooperation in enforcement successes

U.S: Syria, Iran Continue to Provide Hizbullah with Weapons
Syria or Iran continue to provide weapons to the Shiite militia Hizbullah in Lebanon in violation of a U.N. arms embargo, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday.
"The border between Lebanon and Syria remains highly porous," Assistant Secretary of State David Welch told a Congressional panel. Welch said Washington agreed with a recent report by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asserting "serious breaches" of the arms embargo imposed under a U.N. Security Council resolution which ended last year's war between Israel and Hizbullah.
"It is clear in (Ban's) judgment, and it is clear in our own independent (judgment) that Hizbullah continues to rearm and we can see no other source for such assistance than Syria or Iran," said Welch, the top State Department official for the Middle East. "We are encouraging the Lebanese army and UNIFIL to take a more assertive role in stopping smuggling," he said, referring to an expanded United Nations peacekeeping force deployed in Lebanon following the July-August war.
Welch said Hizbullah, which is also a political movement in Lebanon, of campaigning to overthrow the elected government of Prime Minister Fouad Saniora, with Syria's backing. He said one aim was to thwart the establishment of a U.N.-backed special tribunal to investigate the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Hariri was a strong opponent of Syria's long domination of Lebanon and many believe Damascus was behind his murder. Welch said that if Lebanon is unable to formally endorse the creation of the special tribunal due to opposition from Hizbullah and other pro-Syrian parties in parliament, the U.S. could back unilateral action by the U.N. "If the Lebanese government is unable to approve the agreement, the (Security) Council may need to consider other mechanisms for establishing the Tribunal, including under U.N. Security Council Chapter VII authority," he said.
Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter gives the Security Council the power to impose mandatory actions on member states. Welch was speaking after the Security Council on Tuesday asked Ban to send an independent mission to investigate reports of illegal arms movements across the Lebanese-Syrian border.
The council expressed its "serious concern at mounting information by Israel and another state" of arms smuggling across the border in violation of U.N. resolution 1701. Syria has denied that arms are making their way over the border into Lebanon and warned against any moves to station international troops along the frontier in Lebanon, which Damascus occupied for 30 years until being forced by popular protests to withdraw following Hariri's assassination.
Ban is due to visit Syria next Tuesday.(AFP) Beirut, 18 Apr 07, 19:25

Gates In Israel to Discuss Iran, Hizbullah, Syria
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates arrived in Israel on Wednesday on the third leg of a Middle East tour aimed at countering Iran's influence in the region.
Gates is to meet Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, U.S. officials said. The trip, which follows stopovers in Jordan and Egypt, also is aimed at reinvigorating the Palestinian-Israeli peace process -- a top issue in Gates' talks with Jordan's King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Husni Mubarak.
"The first thing that the secretary will want to do will be reassure Israel vis-a-vis the Iranian issue and the nuclear issue," said a senior U.S. Defense Department official traveling with Gates.Gates will also ask about Israel's regional intentions, "particularly vis-a-vis Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and Syria," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Israel waged a month-long war against Hizbullah in 2006 and accuses the militia of trying to re-arm ahead of another potential conflict, mainly across Lebanon's porous borders with Syria. "Where does Israel see itself post activity last summer vis-a-vis Lebanon? What is their position regarding the Hizbullah re-arming in Lebanon and activity across the border there?" the official added.
The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday called on U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon to send a mission to probe the alleged smuggling of arms from Syria into Lebanon. Damascus denies any involvement in such smuggling. Gates will also seek to reassure Israel over the planned U.S. sales of advanced weaponry to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.The weapons package, aimed at countering Iran's growing strength in the region, reportedly includes tanks, warships and advanced air defense systems valued at between five to 10 billion dollars. However, the exact content and value of the arms package is still under consideration, the Defense Department official said. The U.N. Security Council has imposed sanctions on Iran for failing to curtail its nuclear program. Washington and major powers say the program is aimed at producing nuclear weapons, while Tehran insists it is peaceful. U.S. officials have refused to rule out the option of military force to bring Iran to heel should sanctions fail to achieve that target.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 18 Apr 07, 18:51

Independent Mission to Probe Reported Arms Smuggling Across Lebanon-Syria Border
The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday asked Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to send an independent mission to investigate reports of illegal arms transfers from Syria to Lebanon. The council "expresses its serious concern at mounting information by Israel and another state" of arms smuggling across the border in violation of U.N. resolution 1701, it said. The statement was unanimously adopted by its 15 members and read by Britain, the council chair this month. It called on Ban "to dispatch at the earliest, in close liaison with the Lebanese government, an independent mission to fully assess the monitoring of the border." The French-drafted text took note of the Syrian government's assertion that it has taken measures to prevent the alleged illegal arms movements and reiterated its call to Damascus to "take further measures to reinforce controls at the border."
Syria has denied that weapons are making their way over the border into Lebanon and warned against any moves to station international troops along the frontier. Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the 34-day war between Israel and Hizbullah last August, called for the prevention of illegal arms sales and smuggling operations in Lebanon.
It also called for the disarming of all militias, in a reference to Hizbullah as well as Palestinian militant groups. Tuesday's statement was adopted as Ban embarked on a four-nation tour that will take him to Syria next Tuesday after visiting Italy, Switzerland and Qatar. The text also noted progress recently made by a cartographer in developing "an accurate territorial definition" of the disputed Shebaa Farms area. The Shebaa Farms is a small plot of land covering about 20 square kilometers on the border of Israel, Lebanon and Syria. It was captured by Israel as part of the Golan Heights, seized from Syria, during the 1967 war, but is now claimed by Lebanon with Damascus' approval. The statement noted Ban's expectation that the technical work on the demarcation will be completed by mid-June and urged all parties to cooperate with the cartographer by providing any relevant material in their possession.
France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere welcomed the adoption of the text, saying it also reflected "the council's concern over continuing Israeli air incursions in Lebanon and the serious issue of arms movements at the Syrian-Lebanese border." The statement reiterated the council's "deep concern at the continuing Israeli violations of Lebanese air space," in violation of Resolution 1701. Israel says the flights are necessary to monitor what it charges is rampant arms smuggling to Hizbullah from Syria. The council also noted with "profound concern that there has been no progress" on the issue of the return of two Israeli soldiers abducted by Hizbullah last July and reiterated its call for "their immediate and unconditional release."It also encouraged efforts "aimed at urgently settling the issue of the Lebanese prisoners detained in Israel."(AFP) Beirut, 18 Apr 07, 07:36

Two-Week Deadline for Lebanon to Reach Consensus over Tribunal
World powers reportedly gave Lebanon a two-week deadline to reach consensus over the international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and related crimes before the U.N. Security Council rules on the issue.
The daily As Safir, citing well-informed European diplomatic sources, said on Wednesday that the deadline set by Washington and Paris for a "Lebanon-made" solution to the tribunal issue expires May 6. The sources said "unofficial consultations" had begun in the capitals of the Five Permanent Members of the U.N. Security Council to adopt swift measures in the event that the Lebanese failed to cut a deal over establishment of the court in the coming two weeks. As Safir said visiting top U.N. legal adviser Nicolas Michel has stressed in his meetings with Lebanese officials on Tuesday the need for a Lebanese consensus over the court issue and its ratification by parliament.
It quoted the sources as saying that Michel had been authorized to "listen to the viewpoints" of both sides of the political divide, including that of President Emile Lahoud whom the U.N. envoy is scheduled to meet on Wednesday. Michel met with Premier Fouad Saniora and Speaker Nabih Berri on Tuesday.
An Nahar daily said that Michel will stay in Lebanon till the end of the week. He will brief the Security Council, which will then have to rule on the issue upon his return to New York. Michel on Tuesday said the time has come to draw up the framework for the disputed international court.
He told reporters upon arrival in Beirut that the United Nations does not want to take sides in Lebanon's "internal controversy" over the tribunal, but insisted there will be a trial.
"The time to adopt the legal basis (for the tribunal) has come. This time has come," he told reporters at the airport. However, the U.N. official also warned that such a tribunal will need "at least a year" after the legal basis is established to become operational. "All of them (Lebanese leaders) agree that there is a need for justice, therefore there should be no doubts: there will be a tribunal," he said. "We want the tribunal to be a real judicial organ, and not a political instrument." Saniora's government has called for the U.N. Security Council to impose the setting up of the tribunal, endorsed under its Resolution 1595, if the Hizbullah-led opposition continues to block its establishment.
Asked by reporters last week whether his mission was a last-ditch attempt to secure a deal in Beirut before the Security Council takes over the issue, Michel said: "Everybody understands that there is an element of time here." Michel is also due to meet with Energy Minister Mohammed Fneish, one of Hizbullah's cabinet members who resigned in November. Hizbullah has cautioned the United Nations to remain impartial in Lebanon's political deadlock which is centered on the launch of the trial into the Hariri murder which was widely blamed on Damascus.
Hariri was killed in a massive bombing on Beirut's seafront in February 2005. Popular protests in the wake of the killing led to the departure of Syrian troops from Lebanon after nearly 30 years. Alongside the efforts of the United Nations, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Alexandre Sultanov was also holding talks in Beirut on Tuesday aimed at resolving the crisis. "We would like the Lebanese themselves, with the help of the international community, to find a solution that is acceptable to all," Sultanov said. "We do not want to impose anything on the Lebanese. Russia will contribute to closing the gap between the different points of view" on the Hariri tribunal, he said. The political crisis in Lebanon was sparked by the resignation last November of six pro-Syrian ministers -- including all five representing Lebanon's Shiite community -- from the Saniora government.(Naharnet-AFP)

Lahoud's First Meeting with a U.N. Official in 30 Months
The United Nation's top legal adviser on Wednesday met Lebanese officials in an effort to overcome differences preventing the creation of an international tribunal to resolve the 2005 murder of former Premier Rafik Hariri. One day after expressing determination that a court must be formed, Nicolas Michel made the first visit by a U.N. official in over two years to pro-Syrian Lebanese President Emile Lahoud. Michel's mission is to meet government and opposition leaders and encourage the two sides to renew dialogue and accept parliamentary ratification of a Lebanon-U.N. agreement to set up the court. "My mission is really a genuine attempt ... at bringing the Lebanese authorities and the political leaders to a fruitful dialogue toward the completion of the constitutional process for the ratification of the agreement," he told reporters after meeting with Lahoud.
"My discussions will allow me to have a very good perception of what the position of the president is, and this will be very helpful when I will have to report to the secretary general of the United Nations," he said. Lahoud has backed the opposition which has blocked the establishment of the court to try suspects in the murder widely blamed on Damascus -- despite Syrian denial. Western visitors have boycotted Lahoud since his term was extended for three years in a Syrian-brokered constitutional amendment in September 2004. Lahoud met U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-moon at the Arab summit in Riyadh in March, but the U.N. chief did not visit him during his two-day trip to Lebanon late last month. On Tuesday, Michel, the U.N. under-secretary general for legal affairs, held talks with Western-backed Prime Minister Fouad Saniora and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a leading member of the opposition.
The United Nations and Lebanon's government have signed a deal to set up the tribunal, but it must be ratified by the country's divided parliament. Berri has continued to refuse convening the house. Later on Wednesday, Michel is to meet Mohammed Fneish, a Hizbullah member of Parliament who resigned his cabinet post last November along with other pro-Syrian ministers throwing the country in semi political paralysis.
Michel is also to meet Justice Minister Charles Rizk and Lebanese judges who helped to prepare the draft for the international tribunal accord.
On his arrival in Beirut, Michel said that the United Nations does not want to take sides in Lebanon's "internal controversy" over the tribunal, but insisted that a court will be set up, noting that it would need "at least a year" to become operational. "All of them (Lebanese leaders) agree that there is a need for justice, therefore there should be no doubts: there will be a tribunal," he said. "We want the tribunal to be a real judicial organ, and not a political instrument." Lebanon's government has called for the U.N. Security Council to impose the setting up of the tribunal, endorsed under its Resolution 1595, if the pro-Syrian opposition continues to block its establishment. Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hizbullah, has criticized the tribunal in its current proposed form, saying it was designed to announce ready-made verdicts. Michel is to brief the Security Council upon his return to New York.Alongside the efforts of the United Nations, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Alexandre Saltanov flew on Wednesday to Syria after a day of talks in Beirut aimed at resolving the crisis.  U.N. chief Ban is due to visit Damascus on April 24. He also has been asked by the U.N. Security Council to send an independent mission to investigate reports of continued illegal arms movements across the Lebanese-Syrian border.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 18 Apr 07, 16:07

Israel's Next War
By P. David Hornik | April 17, 2007
Ze’ev Schiff—left-of-center, not a hawk, and considered by many to be Israel’s foremost military analyst—cites security sources as saying those Qassams that Islamic Jihad has been raining on Gaza-bordering communities during the “ceasefire” with Hamas are in fact supplied by Hamas.
Hamas, the sources said, while “maintaining a front of abiding by the ceasefire,” is actually “emerging as the lynchpin of Palestinian terrorist activities against Israel.” That is believed to include providing Islamic Jihad with Russian-made 16-kilometer-range Grad rockets, already used last year to target the town of Ashkelon with its strategic facilities.
An analysis last month already warned that Hamas is “improving its rocket capabilities” while “seeking to build anti-tank and anti-aircraft systems that will neutralize Israel’s current ability to easily penetrate Gaza.”
The deteriorating situation in the south led Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Tzvika Fogel, formerly chief of staff for Southern Command, to warn on Israel’s Channel 10 that Israel faces two choices: to “continue its ostrich-like stance” until the Gaza terror forces mount a surprise attack, or to launch a full-scale preemptive attack of its own.
Meanwhile, shifting the lens to the north, last week the head of Israeli Military Intelligence, Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin, reported to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Syria is “purchasing massive amounts of ground-to-ground and anti-tank missiles from Russia”—a country whose name tends to turn up in these contexts—and that, while “there is a low probability that Syria will initiate a war against Israel,” Syria could launch attacks in the Golan Heights even though it could lead to war.
Another report gave an even more ominous picture of an “unprecedented military buildup in Syria,” including the deployment of 300 home-manufactured Scud missiles just north of the Golan Heights, the establishment of new commando units, and a spike in training for urban and guerrilla warfare.
A source in IDF Northern Command said that “Syria saw the difficulty the IDF had during the fighting inside the southern Lebanese villages [last summer] and now . . . wants to draw us—in the event of a war—into battles in built-up areas where they think they will have the upper hand.”
And over in Lebanon itself, the fallout from last summer’s war is just as negative and the prognosis no better. In his same testimony to the Knesset committee last week, Maj.-Gen. Yadlin noted that up to several hundred Al Qaeda members have arrived in Lebanon with the aim of attacking UNIFIL and other Western targets; and that Hezbollah remains entrenched in southern Lebanon and keeps amassing large quantities of arms from Syria and Iran.
Rounding out the circle by returning to the south, Yadlin also said some Al Qaeda operatives have infiltrated Gaza as well, and that Hamas is gaining financial and political strength while its members receive training in Syria and Iran.
Overall, “the MI chief stressed that Iran continues to provide funding and weapons to Syria, Hamas, and Hezbollah, and has close military and intelligence coordination with Syria.” Add Russia to the mix and the picture is complete: a Shiite-Sunni-Russian terror-military axis seeking to surround, pressure, and harass Israel and ultimately eradicate it.
Tragically, this is happening at a time when Israel has a government hobbled by incompetence, unpopularity, scandals, infighting, and delusory dovishness, and that, apart from stepped-up training for some IDF units, is essentially doing nothing about the growing threats. It does not help that Israel’s U.S. ally keeps obsessively choreographing diplomatic dances with the likes of PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the Saudis, and the Arab League with which Israel dutifully complies—achieving nothing except to further project weakness to Israel’s enemies and lull the parts of the Israeli public that are eager to be lulled.
As Schiff points out in another analysis, it was the reluctance to enter a two-front war that led Israel to allow Hezbollah’s major military buildup in southern Lebanon in the first place. After Israel pulled out of southern Lebanon in 2000 against the advice of most of the IDF top brass, Prime Minister Ehud Barak and then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon found themselves facing a Palestinian terror onslaught mounted from the West Bank and Gaza and did not want to further complicate matters by doing something about Hezbollah in Lebanon.
So Israel, Schiff notes, “never once struck at the convoys transferring the missiles to Lebanon, and never struck even one Hezbollah missile warehouse, or even the short-range rockets near the border.” The end result was that Israel found itself at war on two fronts anyway—when Hamas attacked from Gaza and kidnapped a soldier last June, and Hezbollah followed suit the next month with an attack and kidnapping from Lebanon; and now faces the prospect of a further two-front war against enemies with enhanced capabilities.
Hope resides mainly in the interim report later this month of the Winograd Committee, set up to investigate the failures in last summer’s war and also expected to address the whole period of 2000-2006. Sufficiently harsh conclusions against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert could lead him to resign or cause other political ferment leading to new elections. As time goes on and Israel, aside from antiterror policing work in the West Bank, remains almost entirely passive against the growing threats, it does not appear that Olmert’s government has the will or ability to do anything about them, and its continued tenure appears to spell disaster.
If there is a chance—apart from a strike on Iran that would alter the region’s strategic balance—for Israel to avoid another two-front entanglement, it lies mainly in regaining its deterrence by making an effective move in Gaza. A hard-enough blow to Hamas and its friends there could make Hezbollah and Syria think twice about starting more trouble in the north. But there may be little time left, and such an outcome requires a functioning government in Jerusalem. It also calls for a Washington able to look past short-term diplomatic concerns and give Israel the backing it needs.