April 3/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 12,1-11. Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him. Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. Then Judas the Iscariot, one (of) his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said,  Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days' wages and given to the poor? He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions. So Jesus said, "Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me." (The) large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there and came, not only because of Jesus, but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too, because many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him.

Free Opinions
A Jihadi Circus in Tehran and the 15 sailors.By Walid Phares. March 03/07
Report: Nearly Half the Maronites Consider Fleeing Lebanon-Naharnet. March 03/07
A Change in Attitude, Lebanon as a Model-Dar Al-Hayat. March 03/07
Political Impasse in Beirut, Re-growth in the South-Dar Al-Hayat. March 03/07

Lebanese leaders need to be aware of shifting regional winds -Daily Star March 03/07
Khalilzad: Afghan, Levantine, realist and neocon -By Michael Young -Daily Star March 03/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous sources April 03/07
Two Lebanese Nationals Kidnapped in Southern Nigeria-Naharnet
Arms Smuggling to Lebanon-Naharnet

Pelosi has No 'Illusions' about Syria Visit-Naharnet
Pelosi to discuss kidnapped Israelis with Syrian president-AlaskaReport
White House Attacks Pelosi's Damascus Visit-Naharnet
German chancellor arrives in Beirut for talks with Lebanese officials-People's Daily Online
Angela Merkl wraps up Mid-East tour in
Merkel urges Syria to cooperate on Lebanon-Reuters

US lawmakers tell Syria to stop-France24 - Paris,France
House Speaker Pelosi arrives in Lebanon for talks with officials-Ha'aretz

March 14 Seeking to Ratify International Tribunal by All Means-Naharnet
Olmert: No Plot with U.S. Against Iran, Syria, Lebanon-Naharnet

Israel denies intensions to strike Lebanon, Syria in summer conflict-
Israel Insider -
U.S. Lawmakers Pressure Syria on Iraq, Lebanon-Naharnet

MI: Iran, Hezbollah and Syria preparing for US offensive-Ha'aretz

Roundup: US Republican lawmakers seek dialogue with Syria-People's Daily Online
Army manual lumps radical natives with
Lebanon: Hezbollah's Mix of Prayer and Politics-Ya Libnan
In South Lebanon, Ban Ki-moon stresses need for eventual permanent ...ReliefWeb (press release)
Sheikh asked to account for Lebanon aid cash-ABC Online
No presidential elections on time in Lebanon, predicts Aoun-Ya Libnan
Iranian Students throw Rocks at British Embassy in Tehran-Naharnet

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous sources April 02/07
Ban calls for full cease-fire with Israel
March 14 threatens to convene House elsewhere without Berri
Geagea directs stream of criticism at opposition
Two mortars found near Syrian border
American students get close-up lesson on Lebanon
Soueid calls on Hizbullah to end 'occupation'
SF claims evidence that links Fatah al-Islam to bus bombings  
Weekend sermons preach unity and tolerance

Report: Nearly Half the Maronites Consider Fleeing Lebanon
Christians are fleeing Lebanon to escape the political and economic crises and the rise of radical Islam in the country, a British newspaper reported.
The Sunday Telegraph said a poll to be published next month and exclusively leaked to it reveals that nearly half of all Maronites were considering emigrating. "Of these, more than 100,000 have submitted visa applications to foreign embassies," the newspaper said.
"Their exodus could have a devastating effect on the country, robbing it of an influential minority which has acted as an important counter-balance to the forces of Islamic extremism," it added.
It said about 60,000 Christians have already left since last summer's war between Israel and Hizbullah. "Many who remain fear that a violent showdown between rival Sunni and Shiite factions is looming," it reported. The newspaper quoted a Christian mother from the northern port city of Tripoli as saying "If we love our children we have to tell them to get out.""When my daughter finished her high school I sent her to Europe, and I will follow her if I can," said Maria. "Lebanon has always been a bastion of religious tolerance, but now it is moving towards the model of Islamization seen in Iraq and Egypt," said Fr Samir Samir, a Jesuit teacher of Islamic studies at Beirut's Saint Joseph University. The Sunday Telegraph said the Christian community is concerned that its influence is declining as a result of the power struggle between the Sunni-led government and the predominantly Shiite opposition.
"The collapse in influence has been exacerbated by a roughly equal spilt in support among Christians for rival Shiites and Sunni leaders," it said.
"The exodus of young workers crosses the religious spectrum. Some 22 per cent of Shiites and 26 percent of Sunnis say they are considering going abroad, according to the study by Information International, an independent Beirut-based research body," the newspaper said. Beirut, 02 Apr 07, 10:35

March 14 Seeking to Ratify International Tribunal by All Means
The March 14 coalition threatened in a statement published Monday that it was seeking to ratify the U.N.-backed international tribunal to try suspects in the murder of former Premier Rafik Hariri "by all means.""The March 14 leadership asked the parliamentary majority to exploit all constitutional means to ratify the international tribunal in parliament," said the statement issued by the March 14 Forces after a late night meeting on Sunday.
The statement said March 14 also called on the parliamentary majority to "undertake all measures that will bring about an achievable result which will safeguard Lebanon, its interests and the interests of its people."The coalition warned against "closing parliament doors" for discussing the international tribunal and ratifying it. March 14 "shoulders full responsibility on all those who stand behind the delay in convening parliament," said the statement published in Lebanese newspapers on Monday.
The daily As Safir on Monday quoted a senior March14 official as saying that the statement was intended to hold House Speaker Nabih Berri and all those who delay approval of the court responsible for "any move that would ascertain the creation of the tribunal under Chapter 7."
Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter clears the way for the formation of the tribunal without the explicit approval of Lebanon's government and parliament.
Berri has been refusing to receive any documents referred to Parliament by Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's government which he terms "illegitimate" after the resignation of six opposition ministers in November. The ministers quit after the cabinet approved the tribunal bill.
Saniora on Monday again referred a bill creating the international court to Berri's office, only to be turned back to the premiership just like the first time.
Saniora's office had published the international tribunal bill in the official gazette on Dec. 12. Hizbullah on Sunday warned that any attempt by the majority to convene a parliamentary session outside the house compound would be a "leap into the unknown and an escalation leading to non-benign repercussions."
The threat was made by Hizbullah MP Hussein Hajj Hassan at a news conference in the Beqaa valley town of Baalbek. Hajj Hassan was responding to reports that legislators representing the March 14 parliamentary majority might convene a session of the house at an undisclosed venue to deliberate and ratify a bill creating the court that would try suspects in hariri's assassination and related crimes. The opposition wants amendments to the bill, details of which have not been officially disclosed. The international community and the Arab League, however, term the Saniora cabinet "the legitimate" government of Lebanon. The March 14 majority, which backs the Saniora government, blames the Hariri killing and related crimes on Syria, which vehemently denies the charge. The latest move by Saniora opens the door for an escalation of the political confrontation between the majority and opposition. Beirut, 02 Apr 07, 07:18

Olmert: No Plot with U.S. Against Iran, Syria, Lebanon
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has denied reports of a planned coordinated offensive in which the U.S. would attack Iran and Israel would hit Syria and Lebanon at the same time. Olmert dismissed the idea on Sunday, calling it "a plan we don't know of. It is baseless, and an unfounded rumor with no foundation." "I hope no one will operate on the basis of unfounded rumor to create a move that for no reason would drag us into a violent confrontation," Olmert told a Jerusalem news conference.
Standing alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Israeli Prime Minister insisted the Jewish State had no desire to see a fresh conflict in the region. "Israel is not planning an attack and does not wish for war, as it did not want one in the past," he said.
Olmert's comments followed a briefing given to the Israeli cabinet earlier Sunday by military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin in which he set out his assessment of the likely reactions of Iran's main regional allies, Syria and Hizbullah, to an intensifying confrontation between Tehran and Washington.
"They fear a war initiated by the Americans because they understand that there might be an attack against Iran over the summer, but not by Israel," a senior government official quoted Yadlin as telling cabinet ministers.
Although Yadlin insisted Israel had no intention of becoming embroiled in such a conflict, he warned that any moves by the Jewish state could be wrongly interpreted by its neighbors as a sign of hostile intent. "If the Americans launch an offensive in Iran, Hizbullah and Syria will think the move had been coordinated with Israel and would expect Israel to strike them too," another government official at the meeting told Agence France Presse.
Yadlin said he was concerned that the region might inadvertently stumble into a new conflict.
"We might again find ourselves in a war no one wanted," he told ministers. "Israel must be prepared and make sure its steps will not lead to any miscalculation on the other side. "Israel is closely following developments on this front out of a concern that the three players might misinterpret certain steps taken by Israel." Yadlin said Hizbullah was abiding by a U.N.-brokered ceasefire in south Lebanon, but charged that the fighters were busy rearming north of the Litani river -- out of the jurisdiction of U.N. peacekeepers. "Hizbullah has no intention of getting into a second round of conflict," Yadlin was quoted as saying. "But it is busy rebuilding its forces and has accelerated those efforts for fear of a summer attack."(AFP-AP-Naharnet)
Beirut, 02 Apr 07, 08:02

U.S. Lawmakers Pressure Syria on Iraq, Lebanon
U.S. House members meeting with President Bashar Assad Sunday said they believed there was an opportunity for dialogue with the Syrian leadership.
The U.S. House members, who included Virginia Republican Frank Wolf, Pennsylvania Republican Joe Pitts and Alabama Republican Robert Aderholt, also said they had raised with Syrian officials the issue of stopping the alleged flow of foreign fighters from Syria to Iraq.
In a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, the congressmen said they had talked about "ending support for Hizbullah and Hamas, recognizing Israel's right to exist in peace and security, and ceasing interference in Lebanon."
"We came because we believe there is an opportunity for dialogue," the statement said. "We are following in the lead of Ronald Reagan, who reached out to the Soviets during the Cold War," it added. Syria's official news agency said Assad discussed U.S.-Syria relations and the latest developments in the Middle East with the representatives. Despite the poor relationship between the two countries stemming from disagreements over Iraq and suspected Syrian support for militant groups, there have been recent calls in the U.S. to engage Syria.
Earlier this year, a bipartisan U.S. commission initially proposed by Wolf recommended the Bush administration launch new diplomatic initiatives with both Syria and Iran, something it has refused to do. The congressional delegation met earlier in the day with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, who expressed Syria's desire to bring security and stability to the Middle East and called for dialogue with the U.S., SANA reported.
He said discussions between the two countries could produce "common stands conducive to putting an end to current crises in the region."
The visit came ahead of one on Tuesday by the leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the highest-ranking politician to visit Damascus since relations began souring in 2003. Pelosi, heading a congressional delegation, is on a fact-finding trip to the Middle East that includes visits to Israel, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. Her trip comes as the Democratic majority in Congress is locked in a battle with President George Bush over strategy in Iraq.
Pelosi on Sunday hailed U.S.-Israeli ties and reaffirmed Washington's commitment to its main ally in the region in an address before the Israeli parliament.
"There is an unshakeable bond between America and Israel," Pelosi told lawmakers, adding that "America's commitment to Israel's security is unshakeable.""Israeli democracy is one of the cornerstones of a more stable and democratic Middle East."
Washington's top Democrat said she would call for the release of three captured Israeli soldiers -- one by Gaza-based militants last June and two by Hizbullah a month later -- during her visit to Syria. "We must never rest until they are all safely at home," she said. "And I will mention this to the president of Syria." Washington and Damascus have not been on friendly terms in recent years. The Bush administration has accused Syria of allowing Islamic militants to cross its border into Iraq, supporting Palestinian militants and funneling arms to Hizbullah.
Relations deteriorated significantly in early 2005 when Washington withdrew its Syrian ambassador to protest the assassination of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri, who was killed in a Beirut suicide truck bombing that his supporters blamed on Syria. The Assad regime has denied involvement.
The U.S. delegation traveled to Jordan after their talks with Syrian officials.(AP-AFP-Naharnet) (AP photo shows Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi holding up the tag of an Israeli soldier captured by Hizbullah, during her speech at an official dinner at the Knesset) Beirut, 02 Apr 07, 07:39

Ban calls for full cease-fire with Israel
By Mohammed Zaatari and Mirella Hodeib
Daily Star staff
Monday, April 02, 2007
NAQOURA: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon left Beirut on Saturday vowing to work toward a permanent cease-fire between Lebanon and Israel, after he toured areas in the South devastated in last summer's war. "I am still working to change the cessation of hostilities to a permanent cease-fire agreement," Ban said at the Naqoura headquarters of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) before flying back to New York.
Following a visit to a memorial site for UN troops killed while serving in Lebanon, UNIFIL commander General Claudio Graziano said he had briefed Ban on the force's mission in South Lebanon and on the social and humanitarian services it performs. Graziano also saluted "the large collaboration" between UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army.
The UN force is monitoring a truce agreement reached under UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 34-day war on August 14, 2006.
UNIFIL was formed in 1978 after Israel's first large-scale invasion of Lebanon. The force was enlarged after last year's war to a total of 12,997 peacekeeping soldiers from 30 countries. It includes 11,302 ground troops and 1,695 naval personnel.
The UN peacekeeping force is patrolling Southern Lebanon alongside Lebanese Army soldiers, who deployed along the border after the war for the first time in 40 years. "I hope the calm being witnessed on the ground will continue and the close cooperation with the Lebanese Army will continue," Ban said after reviewing a UNIFIL honor guard. He promised to maintain "the United Nations' commitment to support the people of Lebanon." He added that the UN force continued to be "vigilant," and reiterated prior allegations that arms were being illegally smuggled into Lebanon.
"I am concerned about reports of smuggling. We do face some challenges and potential threats. The UN has to be vigilant, but the situation is rather calm," Ban said.
Graziano said unspecified obstacles lay ahead.
"The next few months will not be quite easy and we might face a lot of challenges," the general said. "However, the UNIFIL troops have gained the respect of all Southerners, and the international support we have will also help us overcome any difficulties." Israel claims that Hizbullah and Palestinian groups in Lebanon are receiving weapons via Syria in breach of Resolution 1701. Israel has ignored UN complaints over its continuing violations of Lebanese airspace, saying overflights are necessary because of arms smuggling. After meeting the UNIFIL commander, Ban flew by helicopter to tour other peacekeeping positions in the South. He visited a Spanish contingent position in the central town of Marjayoun before meeting Italian and French forces in Tibnin, further to the south, and flying over the border area. During talks with Lebanese leaders in Beirut on Friday, Ban said "violations of Lebanese sovereignty must stop." He also called for dialogue to end Lebanon's internal political crisis and for the prompt creation of a court to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Ban urged leaders on both sides of the political divide to pursue dialogue in order to reach national reconciliation and end the country's most severe crisis since the Civil War. Ban's visit to Lebanon was the third for a UN secretary general. Kurt Waldheim visited Lebanon in 1985, and Kofi Annan visited in 2000 and 2006. Commenting on Ban's two-day visit to Beirut, former MP Nassib Lahoud said the UN leader had "encouraged dialogue, especially dialogue sessions currently taking place between Speaker Nabih Berri and Future Movement leader MP Saad Hariri, and stressed the avoidance of any crisis that was likely to stir up conflict in Lebanon and the region."
Speaking during an interview of the Voice of Lebanon radio station on Saturday, Lahoud said: "All attempts to consider the current government as illegal have failed because [it] has international approval, including that of the UN." In a separate development, Serge Brammertz, the head of the UN probe into the Hariri assassination, left Beirut for Paris on Saturday evening. - With AFP

March 14 threatens to convene House elsewhere without Berri
By Rym Ghazal -Daily Star staff
Monday, April 02, 2007
BEIRUT: Following an announcement by the March 14 Forces coalition that it was "studying" ways to convene Parliament without the participation of Speaker Nabih Berri, the opposition warned that such a move would lead to "unknown repercussions." MP Butros Harb said on Sunday that March 14 would announce a decision on Monday as to whether it might convene a parliamentary session without Berri.
"When Parliament can't do its job, then the situation will spill over to the streets and subsequently the street will go out of control," Harb told the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation on Sunday. Harb said that Parliament has two main purposes: holding the government accountable and serving as a legislative body. "Why hamper the legislative role?" he asked. "Whether the government is constitutional or not is beside the point, as Parliament should be convened to allow it to carry on its legislative activities without the attendance of the government."
March 14 MPs want to approve an international tribunal to try suspects in the killings of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and others.
Harb called the prospect of Deputy Speaker Farid Makari convening a session of Parliament "unlikely."
The Hizbullah-led opposition considers the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to be unconstitutional, while the ruling coalition sees the speaker's refusal to convene Parliament as unconstitutional. The opposition has said it wants amendments to the Hariri tribunal proposal, although the changes have not been specified. Berri has refused to consider a proposal for the tribunal approved by a depleted Cabinet following the resignation of six ministers in November 2006. Druze leader and MP Walid Jumblatt warned Berri that the continued closure of Parliament was a "big mistake" because it hampered efforts to bring about justice.
"[Berri's] refusal to convene a session to vote on the draft of the international court is a constitutional violation and will be registered as a black mark on his record," Jumblatt told reporters on Saturday after a meeting with a delegation from the March 14 Forces.
"The court will come as a deliverance of justice and not revenge," he added. "So the doors to Parliament need to be opened before it is too late."
Jumblatt also warned against a "new war" on Lebanon and said: "We don't want Lebanon to be again a battle field for other people's wars."
"We will not allow the Shebaa Farms to be used as an excuse to smuggle in more rockets and arms," he said.
Berri responded to Jumblatt by saying that the Parliament's "doors are always open.""I am well-informed of your keen interest in preserving the Constitution," Berri said in a statement. "I assure you that the draft of the court will pass soon and I will turn the issue into a meeting point for all Lebanese and not a source of division."Hizbullah warned Sunday that any attempt by the majority to convene a legislative session outside Parliament would be a "leap into the unknown.""A session outside Parliament would be considered a provocation for further escalations," Hizbullah MP Hussein Hajj Hassan told reporters at a news conference on Sunday in the Bekaa Valley town of Baalbek.
Hajj Hassan said any meeting convened by the ruling coalition outside Parliament would be a mere political meeting by a parliamentary bloc that "bears no legal or constitutional significance."His statement followed mounting differences between the two political camps over the Hariri tribunal after the Arab summit held in Riyadh last week. The summit declared support for the tribunal.
Hizbullah number two Naim Qassem said the opposition had "already" given up a lot for the sake of reaching a solution in the four-month-old political crisis. "We have 45 percent of the MPs in Parliament, while they have 55 percent of the MPs, so it means we should have 13 ministers and they have 17 ministers," Qassem said Sunday during an honorary ceremony for graduating students. "In that vein, we have given up two ministers with the new 19+11 Cabinet formula, so why does the ruling majority continue to accuse the opposition of demanding too much?"
"They don't want to reach a solution, that is what they want," he said. On the international front, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be arriving to Beirut on Monday as the last stop in her regional tour. US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is also expected to arrive on a one-day visit before heading to Syria and a highly anticipated meeting with President Bashar Assad. Meanwhile, US Ambassador Jeffery Feltman left for Washington as Saudi Ambassador Abdul Aziz Khoja returned to Lebanon on Sunday.

Geagea directs stream of criticism at opposition
'They adopt tricks' to block hariri tribunal
Daily Star staff-Monday, April 02, 2007
BZUMMAR: Lebanese Forces (LF) leader Samir Geagea said on Sunday that the only solution to Lebanon's political crisis was to elect a new president and disarm all militias. "The position of president has been vacant and totally inefficient for the past 15 years and some armed groups in Lebanon have extensive external connections and were militarily a lot more powerful than the government, which is totally unacceptable," Geagea told a delegation of Casino du Liban employees who came to visit him at his residence in Bzummar. A day earlier, Geagea said he was taken aback by the paralysis afflicting Parliament and, he said, the presidency. "Nowhere in the world but in Lebanon does the president work on destroying his country and where the Parliament has locked its doors and abandoned its responsibilities," Geagea said during the LF's annual dinner at the Regency Palace Hotel in Adma.
He accused President Emile Lahoud of working on "limiting the responsibilities of the army and the Internal Security Forces" while "supporting and encouraging other armed groups," in reference to Hizbullah. Geagea also recommended that the government "stop paying the salaries of legislators who are not reporting for duty at the Parliament."
"The job of MPs is to serve the Lebanese and since a number of MPs are not doing so they better be reprimanded," he said. Geagea said that the political situation in Lebanon "has become a true mockery," where a number of leaders were working "day and night" to destroy the country.
"However," he said, "despite all this the Lebanese succeeded on March 14, 2005, in setting their country free from crushing Syrian hegemony, and there will be other winds of change similar to the March 14 one as long as the Lebanese feel that their country is threatened."Geagea advised "all those groups calling for true partnership" to go back to the "true essence of the Constitution."
"As the Constitution clearly states," he said, "partnership is accomplished within constitutional institutions."Geagea said he had always wondered why various opposition groups "overlooked" constitutional texts. "I found out that the main explanation for them not reading the Constitution is the fact that they had a goal in mind to ruin Lebanon's economy, education, and culture," he said. Geagea said that the opposition's goal was only to obtain a blocking minority in any potential unity government, "not to establish true democracy or partnership as their many slogans seem to express, but to restore Syrian interference in Lebanese domestic issues."
"The rhetoric adopted by the opposition is loaded with contradictions," he said. "While they always express their approval to have an international court to try suspects in the murder of former Premiere Rafik Hariri, they adopt all kinds of tricks and strategies to hinder its establishment."
Geagea also accused the opposition of working on fashioning the make-up of the tribunal "according to Syrian norms."
"They want to have the tribunal responsible to put on trial individuals and not regimes, as if ... Hariri was in conflict with any normal Syrian citizen, and not the Syrian regime as a whole," he said. Geagea urged opposition members participating in the fourth-month-old sit-in Downtown to leave "because the majority of the Lebanese are against your moves.""In the past, we had to liberate only one part of Lebanon, the Shebaa Farms," he added. "Nowadays we also want to deliver Riyadh al-Solh Square from its invaders." - The Daily Star

Two mortars found near Syrian border
Monday, April 02, 2007
A resident of Rashaya near the Syrian border found two 60-millimeter mortar bombs on Sunday on the main road linking the villages of Dahr al-Ahmar and Mehaidsse. The man informed security forces while an engineering team from the Lebanese Army worked to secure the weapons.

American students get close-up lesson on Lebanon
By Nichole Sobecki -Special to The Daily Star
Monday, April 02, 2007
BEIRUT: "Beirut is the most important and fascinating human and political place to be in the world today. It is the Berlin Wall of the new Cold War," Rami Khouri, director of the Issam Fares Institute of Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University, told a meeting with a delegation of nine American students pursuing research in Lebanon.
With Khouri's words on their minds, nine undergraduate students from Tufts University in Massachusetts traveled to Lebanon on March 16-27 to study issues of state and society. Accompanied by project coordinator Rudy Jafaar, a Lebanese-Canadian PhD candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, the group met with prominent local figures such as Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Druze leader and MP Walid Jumblatt, Hizbullah MP Hussein Hajj Hassan, senior Shiite cleric Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, academics Amal Saad Ghorayeb and Paul Salem, and several AUB professors, civil society leaders, journalists and students.
The opportunity for on-the-ground research was sponsored by the New Initiative for Middle East Peace (NIMEP), a student research and outreach program coordinated by the Institute for Global Leadership at Tufts. In the past, NIMEP has sponsored similar trip to Israel, the occupied West Bank, Egypt and Turkey. In 2004 the Iran Dialogue Initiative (IGL), a project of NIMEP, sent the first American group to Iran since the 1979 revolution.
"I felt it was essential to be able to insert students, with safety and precaution, into the fulcrum of contemporary history as quickly as we can to comprehend what is happening on the ground, to encounter firsthand what all sides are thinking and feeling," said Sherman Teichman, director of the IGL. "It's particularly important in the aftermath of a war with all sides portraying themselves as the victims and the other side as the aggressor, when propaganda is unabating. It is essential to take students who we believe are young leaders to provide this kind of immersive education, to test their preconceptions, to challenge them, to open their minds, to gain perspective and render their own decisions."
Each of the nine students are pursuing independent yet intertwined projects in areas such as education, sectarianism, governance and non-state actors. Ultimately the students' research will be published in Insights, an annual journal of original research on the Middle East by NIMEP members and academics. The students also are compiling a multimedia presentation of audio recordings, still photographs and video.
"It is crucial for students of Lebanese affairs to supplement their book knowledge with what I term an 'organic understanding' that can only be gained ... on the ground," said Jafaar. "In fact, I would venture to say serious American students cannot but travel to the region and listen to all sides if they wish to construct as accurate and objective a picture as possible of the Middle East and its predicaments." "By transcending the discourse in the US environment and exploring areas outside of the students' comfort zones,| he added, "I believe the IGL delegation accomplished just that."

Soueid calls on Hizbullah to end 'occupation'
By Maher Zeineddine -Daily Star correspondent
Monday, April 02, 2007
Former MP Fares Soueid lashed out at Hizbullah and Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun on Sunday, saying that if the opposition did not "facilitate the establishment of an international court to try suspects into the murder of former Premier Rafik Hariri it will be passed under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter." Soueid was speaking during a lecture organized by the Progressive Socialist Party in the Chouf village of Botmeh. Soueid called on Hizbullah to end what he called its "occupation of Downtown Beirut and to resort to constitutional institutions in order to negotiate their demands." Soueid also advised Hizbullah to disarm and "to be loyal only to Lebanon and not to any other forces or countries."

ISF claims evidence that links Fatah al-Islam to bus bombings
Daily Star staff-Monday, April 02, 2007
BEIRUT: The Internal Security Forces (ISF) on Sunday unveiled what it said was evidence of links between four suspects in the February Ain Alaq bombings and the Palestinian group Fatah al-Islam. An ISF report said that security forces had tracked the "long journey" of one suspect, Mustafa Sayyed, after he allegedly set off one of the two bus explosions on February 13.
The report said authorities had traced telephone calls made by Sayyed to the main office of Fatah al-Islam in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in North Lebanon. The calls were allegedly made using prepaid phone cards. The twin bus bombings in Ain Alaq killed three people and wounded 24 others. The security report said investigations had produced "in-depth" information about the structure and activities of Fatah al-Islam, which has been tied to another group, Fatah al-Intifada. Fatah al-Islam has denied involvement in the bombings.
Officials from other Palestinian factions in Lebanon have recently distanced themselves from Fatah al-Islam.
The report said the group has 50 members, including two Saudis, one Yemeni and four Syrians of Palestinian descent. All other members are Palestinians, the report said. Fatah al-Islam members "have slowly started infiltrating the Ain al-Hilweh camp," which is on the opposite end of the country from Nahr al-Bared, the report said. The four Syrian members were said to have formerly been "Islamist detainees" in Syria who had been permitted to leave the country about six months ago on the condition that they would join the Fatah al-Islam group in Lebanon.
The report added that the four Syrians were released from jail "exactly one day after the cease-fire during the summer 2006 war with Israel."
The report said the Syrians received "extensive military training" in Lebanon from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. - The Daily Star

Weekend sermons preach unity and tolerance
Fadlallah urges politicians to put country first
Monday, April 02, 2007
BEIRUT: Sermons on the consecutive holidays of the Prophet Mohammad's birthday on Saturday and Palm Sunday a day later centered on themes of national unity and encouraged the adoption of tolerant and positive attitudes amid Lebanon's four-month-old political deadlock.
Speaking during a Mass marking Palm Sunday at the open-air altar of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Bkirki, Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir called on the Lebanese to follow the path of Jesus Christ, "which was full of humility, and innocence."
"Let us all ask God to help us become more tolerant and loving," the prelate said.
Palm Sunday processions with children wearing their newest clothes and holding creatively designed candles could be seen in the squares of various Lebanese towns and villages, including Beirut, Koura, Batroun, Bsharri, Akkar, Nabatiyeh, Tyre and Marjayoun.
The head of the Maronite Diocese of Beirut, Boulos Matar, urged people to perform "a self-evaluation" and to think deeply about past experiences, "so as to save our children and our country from all the sufferings we have been through for the past 30 years or so."
"We want Lebanon to be in peace where children celebrate Palm Sunday freely and where youth seek a better future within the borders of Lebanon and not elsewhere in a faraway country," he added.Matar asked the Lebanese "to work and pray" for Lebanon to prosper "and become the safe haven we all dream of." Following the sermon, Matar inaugurated a new playground outside the Saint Georges Cathedral in Downtown Beirut.
At Tripoli's Saint Maroun Church, Archbishop Georges Abou Jaoude expressed hopes for more unity among the Lebanese, "in order to be able to build our country on the proper foundations."
"All Lebanese groups claim that they work for the welfare of Lebanon, but in reality, the actions of all those prove the contrary," he said.
Abou Jaoude added that the Lebanese "fight and quarrel and attempt to divide their country," instead of working on having it develop and prosper.
Meanwhile, Grand Mufti Mohammad Rashid Qabbani said Saturday said that "minor tensions" between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in Lebanon "are likely to fade away very soon, for Lebanon is known to be able to withstand any crises."
Qabbani was speaking from Cairo, where he went to celebrate the Prophet's birthday. "Muslims in Lebanon will overcome this contingency and unite for the welfare of their country," Qabbani said. Senior Shiite cleric Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah urged politicians to renounce personal interests and start thinking about the general welfare of Lebanon before "we are cornered by strife and wars."
Fadlallah added that the United States had long been working "to plant the seed of hatred among Muslims and to use Arabs to fuel further strife and deadly conflicts."The vice president of the Higher Shiite Council, Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan, urged Lebanese Muslims to unite and "act as role models for all Sunnis and Shiites of the world."Qabalan said the Lebanese should take advantage of the "current united Arab stance reflected by the Arab summit in Riyadh" and work toward finding "immediate solutions to the prevailing crisis."
He also called on Lebanese politicians to seek out Speaker Nabih Berri so that dialogue is re-launched "in an attempt to revive accord and cooperation among Lebanese."Sidon hosted a parade on the occasion of the Prophet's birthday, where ritual sword and shield dances were performed while traditional Muslim chanting, or madaeh, was played.
Meanwhile, a number of Sidon clerics condemned a common practice performed extensively during the Prophet's birthday in which fakirs attempt to pierce their skin with a skewer withoutdrawing blood."Such extreme and harmful pseudo-Sufi practices ought to be put an end to because Islam strictly condemns self-mutilations," Sheikh Abdel-Rahman Habli said. - Additional reporting by Mohammed Zaatari

A Jihadi Circus in Tehran and the 15 sailors
By Walid Phares
Since day one of the planned operation to snatch British sailors from Iraqi (or international waters), the Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards) “Kitchen” in Tehran, had already drawn multiple scenarios for the following weeks and potentially months to come. Indeed the regime, reacting to significant rising pressures from sectors of its own population and from the US-UK led coalition, engineered an “escalating” incident.
The main scenario, as projected inside the minds of the Iranian “Jihadi-cooks,” is based on one request from the Khamenei-Ahmadinijad regime: wasting time, as much time as possible. To the Khomeinist Mullahs and their men in power, it is crucial to win the race: On the one hand, a rising pressure coming from the inside of the country and inspired by the political changes in the region. On the other hand a pressure by the Iranian led “axis” in the region, directed at the US and the UK initiatives in Iraq and in the neighborhood. In short, Tehran’s regime wants to crumble its enemies before it is crumbled by its own opposition. From there on, all incidents, scenarios, plans, and sub plans are possible.
“Catching” a British Navy unit off the shores of Iraq -regardless of the GPS positioning of the unit- is the beginning of the play. In ten days, Tehran has already scored one success: The UN is discussing what to do about the 15 British sailors instead of how to shut down the 15 nuclear centers in Iran. The debate has been deflected and is now in the hands of the “Iranian architects.” This is followed by the dramatization of the “incident.” First the regime begins showing the “captives” and swings media-reporting between “where were they patrolling” and “will they be tried.” Another psychological victory is scored: The international press follows the Iranian maestro’s gesticulations. As usual with the Western mainstream media, the story’s details become the devil, and their readers are denied the big picture. Here is how the Mullah “psych-war” develops and could evolve in different directions:
Framing the incident
In the aftermath of media rush to describe the details of the “crime’s location,” it is simply forgotten that Iran’s behavior is what really count. Had the dingy -or a bigger ship- entered Kuwaiti waters by error, the principality navy would have alerted the British unit as to its current location and asked them if they needed help to correct their sailing.
Saudi, Qatari and other Emirates vessels would have offered water to the UK patrol, had they requested. In worse conditions, a regime which is bragging about the “dialogue of civilizations,” that is the Ahmedinijad elite, should have behaved better. Instead of offering water to the sailors patrolling under UN mandate, the Mullah forces charged as if they were in full Jihad mode. Had the Khomeinist Navy been “international” in its behavior, its men should have gotten close to the British sailors, “informed them” that they were in Iranian waters (the legality of the issue to be resolved by Governments not by a military takeover of the rapid boat) and “asked” them to leave the area immediately.
That would have been the case, had an Iranian warship been spotted within Saudi or Omani waters. But the “Pasdaran” elite were on a path of war, from the moment it ordered its vessels to surround the British personnel and abduct them without warning.
Ironically, the spokespersons of the Iranian regime are framing the incident as a British act of war. Psychologically, this is very revealing: it shows that the Jihadi Mullahs have decided to frame the incident as an “act of war” to begin with, and then open the field for negotiations, giving London one only choice: to apologize and hasten the pull out from the area. Isn’t it a Machiavellian chess maneuver: Moving the game from UN sanctions on Iran to UN mediation between Tehran and London to free the sailors.
Prisoners show
Against all stipulations of international law, the Khomeinist regime used these “prisoners of war” in propaganda operations: Parading the 14 detainee on national and international TV as if they have “already committed a crime.” Then singling out the female prisoner and abusing her individual human rights: First, British society, law and military doesn’t recognize gender Apartheid. It is a Khomeinist breach of international human rights to separate the British female sailor from her companions for the purpose of propaganda, to force her to wear a black headscarf (a sign of ideological submission) and other outfits not appropriate with her status of free British woman.
It is against her private rights to show her smoking on world TV. And above all it is illegal to show the abducted service persons in any other opportunity than to present the evidence that they are alive and well. Any and all other “cinema” manufactured by the Ahmedinijad regime not only is against international law, but can be addressed in courts, both national and international.
The Jihadi letters
Stage three is the classical fascist “extraction” of confessions. While the Iranian regime has been very astute lately in external propaganda, thanks to the technical advice provided by the hired PR “expertise” in the West, the airing-of-letters drama seems to be a resurgence of the old methods, instead of the sophisticated suggestions the international “advisors” would put forward. Forcing the detained servicewoman to send a letter to her parents asking for the British withdrawal from Iraq is obsolete.
Videotaping the other male sailors “apologizing for the incursion” looks more like the old Nazi and Communist propaganda rather than anything else. However what is interesting is that Tehran is giving its own official TV channel in Arabic al Aalam, the exclusivity of the initial broadcast. This means the regime is eager to play this “Jihadi” propaganda in the Arab world and score mileage with it. More interesting is the fact that al Aalam TV, which is airing material in breach of international law, has offices in London and Washington DC.
The old Students-show
As in the 1980’s US embassy hostage crisis, the lead is given by the regime to “students.” In the West, the image of students is reminiscent of the 1968 college uprising in France and the US, thus touches a domestic cord. If students are upset with the “colonial powers” explained Western academics at the time, then it is the future generations of these countries that we need to take into consideration.
However, liberal democracies elites have hard time understanding that fascist type propaganda uses all what is dear and sensitive to their enemy camp. The “students” of the Iranian revolution in the 1980s ended up becoming members in the oppressive Pasdaran corps, a Khomeinist version of the 1940s SS. Those students who seized the US embassy in Tehran were the same ones who crushed the bones of freedom-seeking students in the 1990s Iran. These are the regime’s “students.” They never graduate, they stay at the service of the Mullahs and they only appear when the military trucks pick them up from the militia’s barracks.
After falling in a two decades long sleep, here are the “students” again rushing to “protest” at the British embassy? The view is tragicomic: Chanting against Zionism, imperialism and infidels, the stone throwers burn large signs with red crosses on them, and a word in Farsi citing England. More surreal are the so-called Police cordons which are there to “enforce security.” The students are Pasdaran in disguise and the security forces are under Pasdaran control: the rest is a Khomeinist street play.
Other “shows” soon?
Will the regime restrict itself to this menu or will it produce others “shows?” According to connoisseurs in Khomeinist political culture, hostage crisis are designed to last long, as long as needed to reach the goals. The 15 sailor’s episode was structured by the Tehran kitchen to obtain a variety of political revenues: propaganda victory, exchange of prisoners against Iranian detainees in UK and US custody, a “solution” to the defectors crisis, waiting out the departure of the Blair Government and dealing with the following cabinet, etc.
The Mullahs strategists have a wide array of needs to satisfy. It will be up to them to decide when the crisis would end. But beware of more “shows” as well: For example the students’ action in front of the embassy may lead to an additional situation; dispersing the 15 British sailors in different locations is also another scenario. Students in another capital, Beirut for example, could also be instructed to “protest.” Actions inside Iraq or even in the West are to be expected, if the Ahmedinijad’s regime decides to do so. It is at their full discretion, or so they think.
Bad cop good cop drama
What is also to expect is the circulation in the media of stories about an “internal struggle” between the good guys and the bad guys in Tehran. Media reports are already talking about two poles inside the military security apparatus, giving some hope to the Western camp calling for calm. In an article titled “Power struggle in Iran over hostages, the Sunday Times of London on April 1, writes that “Major-General Yahya Rahim Safavi is said to have told the country’s Supreme National Security Council on Friday that the situation was “getting out of control” and urged its members to consider the immediate release of the prisoners to defuse tension in the Gulf.”
And the Times adds “However, Safavi’s intervention was reportedly denounced by another senior general at a meeting of high-ranking commanders yesterday. Yadollah Javani, the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ political bureau, was said to have accused him of weakness and “liberal tendencies”: How interesting to see that this “internal information” was obtained only now by Western (and some Arab) media from “well informed sources.”
Until this incident, few in the Western press have uttered the names of these Iranian generals. But now, they have become the good Cop and the bad Cop of Tehran. And on top of it, it works, because the logical western reaction would be then to wait for the “good guy” to prevail. That is precisely what the astute propaganda machine out of Tehran wants: time.
Then comes the “mediations”
As in most similar situations, candidates for “mediation” will emerge fast from the realm of world politics and opportunities. Since the British Government can’t negotiate “properly” would argue the self-suggested mediators, we will.
High profile former hostages such as Terry Waite are expected to offer their services, but as long as “Iran, the hostage taker, is understood and respected.” But beyond the classical candidates for this job, including former President Jimmy Carter and Jesse Jackson, expect the possible other sub-scenarios, all encouraged by Tehran. Banking on domestic political unrest in the UK, the Mullah strategists wouldn’t mind to see British politicians, usually anti War and sympathetic to political Jihadism, begin the shuttle negotiations between Tehran and London. Imagine what can an MP George Galloway type, achieve out of this new Iranian business: media devastation against the British Government, the US, and by ripple effect against the rising democracy movement inside Iran. It would be hours of sheer anti-Western propaganda by English speaking politicians on both international and Arab networks.
But the Tehran propagandists could request a “British Muslim” mediation to deal with the issue, putting even more pressure on the UK. Or possibly ask the League of Muslim states to begin a go-between initiative with a 5 member team. Who knows, the circus could involve Lebanese politicians too. How about Hezbollah entering the fray and offering to “help,” confusing further the situation? Even better, Iran would accept an offer by the Christian Lebanese General, Michel Aoun, now an ally of Hezbollah, to visit the detainee and play the mail man. Everything is possible; everything is open, as long as Tehran obtains the precious commodity: Time.
Other incidents?
The Shatt al Arab incident may not be the last one. Now that Ahmedinijad’s “War-kitchen” has discovered the recipe, it may also serve more dishes of the sort, in other spots, by other actors and in different timing. Remember how Hassan Nasrallah of Hizbollah, Iran’s strategic ally in Lebanon, dragged Israel into a month long war as a result of another similar snatch of soldiers in July 2006.
In this open field, results determine future actions. If the Iranian regime would conclude that British, US and international reactions haven’t really generated a strategic response, they will most likely unleash a second strike and a third strike after that. That is the law of conflicts. And the Khomeinists having discovered the weak link will widen their war of images and words, till they crumble the resolve of their foes; unless the latter prove them wrong.
Professor Walid Phares is the author of the recently released book, The War of Ideas: Jihadism against Democracies. He is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a visiting scholar at the European Foundation for Democracy.