Latest New from the Daily Star for August
US and Britain go high alert after uncovering of plot to bomb airliners over Atlantic
Hundreds of flights cancelled as Britain foils terror plot
Hijacking scare aboard Qatar Airways flight
French expect deal on UN resolution at any moment
Hizbullah exacts price for enemy advance
Lisbon tight-lipped about Israeli aircraft
Diplomatic frenzy continues apace - but will it succeed?
Israelis hit heart of Beirut, warn of new suburbs to be targeted
Volunteers try to help displaced children deal with trauma of war
Nadia Tueni's words find new meaning and urgency today
Off-the-cuff relief has been great but could be better
Will we soon miss the Shebaa standoff? By Augustus Richard Norton
Latest New from Miscellaneous sources for
Letter From Europe: Blair out of the loop on Lebanon conflict-International Herald Tribune
Card.Mc Carrick visits Patriarch Sfeir-AsiaNews.it
Asharq Al-Awsat Interviews Lebanese PM Fouad Siniora-Asharq Alawsat
Authorities say they have disrupted major terror plot in Britain-Seattle Times
Police foil transatlantic bomb plot-NEWS.com.au
Man, Attendants Fight Aboard Qatar Plane-Forbes
Tight Security, New Rules at US airports-Forbes
Walker`s World: Flawed Lebanon consensus-Monsters and Critics.com
Foiled airline plot brings extra security, delays-AP
Bush says U.S. still at risk of attack-AP
Failure of diplomacy may boost Mideast crisis-AP
Hezbollah fights Israeli push into Lebanon-Mail & Guardian Online
Israel stopping offensive until weekend-AP
Between cholera and the plague-Ha'aretz
Israeli troops seize Marjayoun in south Lebanon-Reuters
Evacuation of Canadians from Lebanon to continue-Canada.com
Israel puts ground offensive on hold-AP
Israel set to invade Lebanon despite lessons of 1982 war-Independent
More Israeli tanks, troops enter south Lebanon-CTV.ca
Israeli troops push deeper in south Lebanon-Reuters
At a Makeshift River Crossing in South Lebanon,Guerrillas Come-New York Times
Israel OKs expansion15 troops killed-AP
U.N.'s Mideast diplomatic efforts falter-AP
The Lebanese proposal / Salvation army-Ha'aretz
Agencies struggle to get aid into south Lebanon-Washington Post
Thomas Friedman: Israel needs international force in south Lebanon-Whittier Daily News
Give diplomacy a chance-Ynetnews
Bombing Near Iraq Shrine Leaves 35 Dead-San Francisco Chronicle
“Lebanese Canadians are grateful for the government’s help in getting people out
of the war zone.
© Canadian Press 2006
Evacuation of Canadians from Lebanon to continue; 2,400 said to be returning
Canadian Press-Published: Wednesday, August 09, 2006
OTTAWA -- Foreign Affairs will send two ships to Lebanon early next week to resume the evacuation of Canadians from the war-wracked country.
The vessels have the capacity to carry up to 2,400 people, but the department says it doesn’t know how many people will take advantage of the offer.
The department said Canadians who have notified the embassy in Beirut or the Emergency Operations Centre in Ottawa that they want to leave Lebanon will be contacted with instructions about the evacuation.
Evacuees are restricted to a single piece of luggage and must leave their pets behind.
The department said continued fighting in Lebanon has hampered the delivery of essential goods and services, which prompted the resumption of the evacuation effort.“We’ve continued to monitor the situation and we’re responding to the needs of Canadians in Lebanon,” said Ambra Dickie of Foreign Affairs.
Elias Bejjani of the Lebanese-Canadian Co-ordinating Council, said he thought more people would want to leave Lebanon as the fighting goes on.
He said Lebanese Canadians are grateful for the government’s help in getting people out of the war zone.
“The Lebanese-Canadian community, in the majority, appreciates what has been done,” he said.
“From Day 1 we expressed our gratitude to the government.”
Between July 19 and Aug. 3, chartered ships and planes ferried approximately 14,000 Canadians out of Lebanon from Beirut and the southern port city of Tyre to Cyprus and Turkey. They were then flown home.
The Tyre evacuation was hazardous because the city was a centre of the fighting between Israeli forces and Hezbollah.
Foreign Affairs officials, Canadian soldiers and even CSIS agents helped shepherd people aboard the ships.
When that evacuation ended, Foreign Affairs said it was ready to resume operations if necessary.
At the time, some of the evacuees said there were Canadians trapped by the fighting in south Lebanon, which cut key roads and made travel perilous.
Up to 40,000 Canadians are registered with the embassy in Beirut.
The government has not said how much the evacuation effort has cost to date.
Bejjani, however, said he believes the final tab will be in the millions.“We are grateful to Canadians because they are paying for that,” he said.
© Canadian Press 2006
London: The "Shoe Bomber Factory" again?
By Walid Phares
Quick reaction: The British security reports about a plot to destroy airliners traveling from London to the US and the decision by UK authorities to ban passengers hand bags on board brings back the whole question of the "factory" again, an issue I have been tiredly raising with legislators and officials on both sides of the Atlantic: From shoes to hand bags the Jihadists are not letting go of their morbid fantasy: bleeding the skies over the Atlantic. While most investigation will direct itself on the "hand bag" weapon in the next few hours and probably days, the larger question on the mind of Jihadism analysts will certainly be: where do these Jihadists come from and how come there are more of them?
For, bypassing the security threat these potential perpetrators have created, with all the public, managerial, intelligence and logistical consequences, the questions I would raise immediately for global reflection are as follows:
1) Who made the decision among the Terrorists to begin the use of hand bags instead of shoe bombs to bring down airliners over the Atlantic? Are the two related? Are there other decisions to come?
2) Did the Jihadi-Terrorists study the possibilities of hand bags use and analyze the current state of security of the flights between the UK and the US? Have they been taking these flights back and forth and thus determine that it is feasible? So are there Terrorists flying with us and exploring the holes in the system?
3) Are there Jihadi Terrorists who are already inside the system (including the security structure) and have determined that attacks via explosives hidden in hand bags are possible? How did the design of the types of components that could be carried in these hand bags came to exist, and under whose expertise?
4) Why the insistence on striking a London US bound plane? What are the Jihadists trying to score on these air corridors? Why not London Pakistan and Venezuela lines?
5) What Jihadi command, organization, group are in charge of these operations, and where do they operate from? Is it London again? Is London's Jihad hub still operational, how large is it and who is recruiting for it?
6) Many have claimed that there are no Jihadi Terrorists in London during the past months arrests in Britain and "these are only Government conspiracies to single out specific communities, etc." If today's reports are verified, the latter question should be investigated as follow: Who is attempting to transform every lead against the Terrorists into a crisis with entire communities? Who in the UK and elsewhere is obstructing the full fledge war on Terrorism by protecting future Jihadi improvisation through accusing Governments (in the large sense of the word) of "political measures" while real Terror attempts are ongoing?
7) Is there a "Jihadi factory" in the UK which is targeting domestic and Transatlantic transportation; a factory that produces suicide bombers heading towards the Middle East, London subways and passengers flights towards the US? Who is ordering these strikes and are they located inside the British isles?
8) Are they British citizens? Who indoctrinates them and how and who forms these cells? Have they penetrated the technological and security systems of the Kingdom and are they receiving advice and help from the inside.
These and endless other questions are not only warranted after this plot but need to be taken to a higher dimension: looking at the "factory." For as long as there are Jihadi minds out there, improvisation from shoes to hand bags is only a process of mutation. In my book Future Jihad I called it just that: "Mutant Jihad"
**Dr Walid Phares is the author of forthcoming Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies Against the West, Senior Fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Visiting Fellow with the European Foundation for Democracy. August 10, 2006
Been There, Done That
Engaging Syria isn't going to work.
by David Schenker
08/14/2006, Volume 011, Issue 45
LAST WEEK, even before the carnage in Qana, a parade of pundits, lawmakers, and former policymakers started calling for Washington to reengage in a dialogue with Damascus. President Carter, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, among others, argued that the Bush administration should talk with Syria about reining in Hezbollah, perhaps with an eye to breaking the Damascus-Tehran axis.
This policy prescription is ill-advised and poorly timed. Moreover, the strategy was tried and failed during President Bush's first administration. Washington engaged Syria in a robust fashion from 2001 through the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005, sending no less than five senior-level U.S. delegations to cajole Bashar Assad to change his unhelpful behavior. Discussions during this period focused on Iraq--in particular on Syria's role in destabilizing the newly liberated country--but also touched on Syrian interference in Lebanon, provision of safe haven to Palestinian terrorist groups, and ongoing support for Hezbollah.
It's no secret that the administration was divided over the utility of this engagement, but, nevertheless, the effort was made in good faith. On a broad range of U.S. policy concerns articulated during these meetings, Syria was without exception unresponsive. And this was when things were going relatively well for the United States in the region.
Why then does anyone believe that Syria will be responsive now, when U.S. leverage is diminished by the deterioration of conditions in Iraq and by Iran's seemingly effortless foray into the nuclear club? Assad is clearly feeling emboldened: Inconclusive U.N. reporting on the Hariri assassination has given him the impression that Syria has dodged the bullet of international sanctions for the killing. The Syrian reform movement has been duly repressed, Syria's economy is performing fairly well, and now, with Syrian assistance, Lebanon is once again on the verge of ruin.
Given this state of affairs, it seems naive to expect that Washington will be able to convince Assad that a change of policy would really be in his regime's best interest. In fact, from where Assad sits, things could hardly be better. The Assads have controlled Syria for some 35 years and are doing quite well, thank you. Why mess with success?
The notion that the Bush administration will somehow be able to tempt Syria away from its Iranian patron and Hezbollah is a long shot at best. The potential costs of such a gambit, however, could be steep.
Granting Damascus a reprieve from its well deserved international isolation would undermine what remains of U.S. credibility with Syrian reformers and Lebanese demo crats. Reengagement would also practically invite a Syrian return to Lebanon. Even more problematic, as Assad has put it, "Syria is not a charity," and as such we can expect that Damascus would extract a high price for even temporary compliance with U.S. demands.
The price is not hard to envision. At a minimum, the Syrians would need the U.N. to bring the Hariri assassination investigation to a swift conclusion without implicating the Assad regime. Assad would also no doubt want a free pass from Washington for his ongoing repression of the Syrian people, and an end to the freedom agenda as it relates to Syria.
In any event, Syria's behavior--its bellicose statements about military conflict with Israel, its playing host only last week to meetings with Iran, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hamas, and its attempts to rearm Hezbollah--do not suggest that Assad is looking for a deal.
Should Syria make an abrupt about-face in its unhelpful policies on Hezbollah, Iraq, and the Palestinian ter rorist organizations--by, for instance, ex pelling Iraqi insurgents and Hamas leaders--Washington might want to consider robust engagement. But as long as Syria demonstrates itself to be an active part of the Hezbollah problem, it would be foolish to look toward Syria as part of the solution.
David Schenker is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. From 2002 to 2006, he was the Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestinian affairs adviser in the office of the secretary of defense.Copyright 2006, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved.
A Bad Status Quo
We Must Address the Roots of the Mideast Crisis
By John Waterbury
Monday, August 7, 2006
BEIRUT -- Unfortunately, it is all connected: Hezbollah, Israel, Palestine, Syria, Iran and, indeed, Iraq. One cannot "solve" the Hezbollah problem without coming to terms with all the pieces. Anyone who has dealt with the successive Middle East crises over several decades knows there is a kind of infinite regress of cause andeffect. I cut into the process somewhat arbitrarily in 1967. Next June will be the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War. Six days and 40 years. I wonder if, at the end of formal combat in 1967, Moshe Dayan declared "mission accomplished."Out of the Israeli triumph of 1967 there emerged a status quo that has prevailed with some modifications ever since, and no matter how unsatisfactory, the international system prefers the status quo tochange.
Israel has had a distinct preference for the status quo, founded on conventional military superiority over all its neighbors and some strategic depth through its retaining the occupied territories. While the Cold War continued, the United States was not entirely comfortable with the status quo as it offered the Soviet Union a restive back yard in which to meddle, but the situation was manageable until 1973.
In 1973 Egypt's Anwar Sadat resorted to a limited war against Israel to dislodge it from the Suez Canal and to draw the United States into an active role of mediation. It is doubtful that Sadat anticipated even the limited military success his forces attained. He did anticipate an international crisis. Moscow obligingly threatened intervention, and Henry Kissinger began his famous shuttle diplomacy. Israel gave up the occupied Sinai Peninsula but not the essential ingredients of the status quo: military superiority, Gaza, the West Bank, the Golan Heights. This modification of the status quo was embodied in the Camp David accords of 1979. From then on, and up to 1989, the Arab states, led by Egypt (and with the exception of Iraq), pretty much abandoned the military option against Israel. Even Iraq was more intent on using its military power against Iran and Kuwait than against Israel. Nor, after 1973, did any of the Arab oil producers, with the exception of Iraq, do anything to drive up prices or interdict oil supply.
Arab authoritarians tacitly accepted the status quo in exchange for tacit acceptance of their rule by Washington. Arab governmental, financial and military support for the Palestinians dwindled. Action spoke volumes more than words. With the end of the Cold War, Washington's alignment with Israel and the status quo in the Arab-Israeli theater become more solid than ever. If Israel seemed willing to move, as under Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak, Washington moved, too. If Israel was unwilling to move, as under Binyamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon, Washington asked few questions. Two intifadas shook but did not break the status quo.
But time has not healed wounds. There has been none of the oft-trumpeted confidence-building. The real issues -- safe and recognized borders, settlements, Jerusalem, the occupied territories including the Golan Heights, refugees, nuclear arms -- all remain unresolved. The balance sheet of death and destruction is longer than ever, bitterness on all sides is deeper than ever, and there is no end in sight.
Under Barak, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Lebanon, and under Sharon it unilaterally withdrew from Gaza. In neither case was any formal understanding negotiated with Lebanon or the Palestinian Authority. This was a modification of the status quo but not a fundamental change.
It is far too early to tell whether the ferocious battle between Hezbollah and Israel in Lebanon will lead Israel to question the desirability and viability of the status quo, but surely after 39-plus years of pounding away militarily at the symptoms of the Arab-Israeli conflict, it is time to have a go, once again, at the
identifiable causes. It requires U.S. engagement -- bipartisan and involving more than one administration. The process will be harder than anything Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton faced, and it cannot be done quickly. Perhaps because I work and live in the battle zone, I find the status quo unviable. If this is the devil we know, then Satan, get thee behind me.
The writer is president of American University of Beirut.
London Review of Books
LRB | Vol. 28 No. 15 dated 3 August 2006
I was in Japan with my wife when we heard the news. The memories flooded back: Israel was once again attacking Lebanon. We were frantic because our two daughters were there with their grandparents. We flew to Damascus via Dubai, and after a flurry of telephone calls and consultations with fellow travellers who had similar plans, we took a taxi and went by the recently hit but shortest route via Zahle and Tarshish. Along the way, we passed a convoy of ambulances. When we arrived home two and a half hours later, my parents greeted us with tears in their eyes. The road we had been on was hit several times, and the ambulances destroyed.
Yesterday the Israeli military targeted water-drilling machines that lay idle on a construction site in the Christian district of Ashrafieh in the centre of Beirut. It is difficult to think of anywhere in Lebanon where Hizbullah 'terrorists' are less likely to be hiding. A few hours earlier the Israeli foreign minister had announced that Israel was not attacking Lebanon as such, but Hizbullah, because of its capture of two Israeli soldiers. Such claims are intended to align this war with the US 'war on terror', and also to quell guilt on the part of those in the West who might otherwise feel uncomfortable with the carnage. But the overwhelming majority of casualties have been civilians, and the targeting of infrastructure - the airport, ports, bridges, electricity stations, roads, factories, hospitals - is the latest instance of the long-standing Israeli policy of collective punishment of Arab civilian populations that resist Israeli dictates. The world meanwhile looks on.
Hizbullah's capture of the Israeli soldiers had a specific objective: to exchange the soldiers for Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. This was neither a new strategy nor was it unexpected. The last time Hizbullah seized Israeli soldiers, in 2004, international mediation resulted in prisoner exchanges. There are some 9000 prisoners (including women and children) in Israeli jails, many of them detained without trial. Among these prisoners are Lebanese citizens abducted by Israel from Lebanese territory. Israel's stated objective is to destroy Hizbullah. Its more realistic actual goal seems to be to terrorise the Lebanese people to such an extent that they collectively turn against Hizbullah and remove them from the political scene. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have been expelled from the mostly poor rural areas of southern Lebanon into the larger urban centres, particularly Beirut, which will put intolerable strain on Lebanon's delicate social structure. Shimon Peres attempted the same tactic during the brief incursions into Lebanon of 1996, which led to the massacre of unarmed civilians taking refuge with UN peacekeepers in the village of Qana.
Another Israeli objective, perhaps less obvious to the outside world, is to reassert the reputation of the Israeli military after its humiliation in 2000 at the hands of the Lebanese resistance, which succeeded in forcing the Israeli army to withdraw under fire from southern Lebanon. The psychological effect of this dishonourable retreat on the Israeli military should not be underestimated. Israel fears Hizbullah both for its military capabilities and for its intransigence and status as a role model in the wider Arab world.
There does not appear to be any end in sight to this latest Israeli attack. The Lebanese have reluctantly accepted that the international community - that increasingly cynical euphemism for the Great Powers - have abandoned them, though France, China and Russia at least have made reassuring gestures. George Bush and Condoleezza Rice have backed Israel's right to 'self-defence' and blamed Hizbullah's very existence for the current violence. Meanwhile Tony Blair - in an ironic reversal of the Blair Doctrine, which calls for intervention for humanitarian reasons - has called for more UN peacekeepers to be deployed in southern Lebanon 'to protect Israel'. Together Bush and Blair stifled the G8 call for an immediate ceasefire and have threatened to veto any Security Council resolutions calling for an end to hostilities. The consensus in Western foreign policy circles is that Hizbullah is only a proxy for Iran and/or Syria. Fear of the 'Shia crescent' that supposedly connects Iraq, Iran, Syria and Hizbullah also explains the unprecedented Saudi and Egyptian acquiescence to the Israeli attacks.
It is clear that Israeli and American foreign policy officials have not learned the lessons of the past couple of decades: namely, that it is their policies - and not some cultural or religious backlash - that make resistance certain and foster support for resistance groups across the Arab world. Hizbullah was itself born out of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the siege of Beirut that claimed more than 20,000 civilian lives and culminated in the massacres of Palestinians and Lebanese in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. Hizbullah grew in influence and effectiveness; its popularity peaked with the forced Israeli withdrawal. The current war will not only once again increase support for Hizbullah, it could turn Hassan Nasrallah into a hero almost on a par with Nasser.
The US has made a grave mistake in lumping all Islamist organisations together as 'terrorists', and in associating itself so strongly with Israeli interests in the region. In the Arab world today, Israel's activities in Gaza and Lebanon are referred to as the 'Israeli-American' war. John Bolton, the US ambassador to the UN, has refused to sanction a diplomatic end to the current conflict because 'I'd like to know when there's been an effective ceasefire between a terrorist organisation and a state in the past.' Such sentiments indicate a total ignorance of the politics of the region. Not everyone in Lebanon supports Hizbullah, yet, for better or worse, its reputation is growing across the Arab world as an organisation that represents Arab peoples ashamed of their corrupt and servile leaders. (In the same way, Hizbullah's missiles are taken as a sign, again for better or worse, that the havoc caused by the Israelis in Palestine and Lebanon is having repercussions in Israel itself.) America's supposed efforts at democratisation have been given the lie by its backing of the Egyptian, Jordanian and Saudi regimes, which have been encouraged to crack down on their citizens' civil rights while the democratically elected representatives of Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine are attacked. The ultimate irony is the Israeli claim that the purpose of this war is the 'implementation' of UN Security Council Resolution 1559 (which calls for the disarming of 'militias' in Lebanon): this from a country that has an unrivalled record in defying UN resolutions. Hizbullah's response must be read as part of a political struggle against the uneven distribution of rewards in the US-dominated world order. Essentially, this is a fundamental - and very secular - resistance to the idea that Arabs must accept Israel as a regional hegemon, with all the benefits that accrue from that status, including the stockpiling of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons denied to all other states in the region.
There is a huge gap between Arab rulers and the people they govern. Islamists have understood this; Western governments have not. The neo-cons in the US have joined Israel in actively promoting sectarian conflict in the Arab world, frightening the ruling Sunni factions in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan into further repression of their own citizens in the name of 'combating terrorism'. These Sunni leaders fear the 'Shia crescent', but what they fear most is any challenge to their unpopular and illegitimate rule.
The Israeli war on Lebanon will probably end in one of two ways, neither of them promising for the hawks. The first possibility is that a stalemate will be reached, after Israel realises that it cannot destroy Hizbullah because Hizbullah has support not only from the Shia but from many others across Lebanon's sectarian spectrum. The international community will step in, making appropriate noises about the need for a 'buffer zone' and kick-starting the 'peace process' yet again. The Arab League will rubber-stamp whatever the Great Powers tell it to. Civilian deaths will be described as unfortunate collateral damage, and members of the EU will pledge technical assistance to repair damaged infrastructure. The status quo will be reimposed until the next conflict, and Israel will escape unpunished and free to continue its occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Or there is a more optimistic scenario. The US will realise that the best way to protect its people is to pursue a multilateral approach that seeks a just and equitable resolution both to this war and the larger question of Palestine. It will stop making a mockery of international law and the UN, abandon its failed 'war on terror' which has led only to the destruction of its credibility in the region; and use its influence to support real democracy and the rule of law. The US has a choice to make. For the Lebanese, there is no choice but to resist.
**Karim Makdisi teaches at the American University of Beirut.
Deal That Could Disarm Hizballah
Prime Minister Fouad Siniora thinks his government can end the crisis over Hizballah's arms — if only the Bush administration would help get Israel to hand over the contested area of Sheba Farms
By SCOTT MACLEOD
Posted Wednesday, Aug. 09, 2006
Why is Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora weeping?
When he took office last year, Siniora represented the hopes of many Lebanese for peace and freedom after the country endured decades of neither. A banker by trade, he stepped into the shoes of former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, a childhood friend, after Hariri's assassination in February 2005 ignited Lebanon's massive freedom protests. The White House hailed the Lebanese democracy mass movement as an inspiration to Arabs across the Middle East who dream for an end to tyranny. After the war in Lebanon erupted last month, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flew to besieged Beirut as a deliberate — and poignant — gesture of Washington's support for Siniora's government and Lebanon's quest for democracy.
Yet, when Siniora met with a group of Arab diplomats to discuss Washington's proposed U.N. resolution to end the war this week, he wept. It barely leads to a cease-fire, he complained. Siniora insists on an immediate cease-fire and Israeli pullout to end the fighting, which has taken nearly 1,000 Lebanese lives and forced as many as 1 million citizens — incredibly, a quarter of the country's population — to flee as refugees to other parts of Lebanon. More tragedy may be on the way, as Israel implements plans this week to send even more forces into southern Lebanon rather than retreat. Equally important, Siniora wants the U.S. and the U.N. to accept his government's seven-point peace plan, which would entail the crucial, landmark move of sending the Lebanese army to replace Hizballah's guerrillas in southern Lebanon.
For Siniora's plan to succeed, however, he needs a major concession from Israel that was conspicuously absent in Washington's proposed resolution: Israel's withdrawal from the occupied strip of land known as Sheba Farms. Israel occupied the territory, about 10 square miles or 25 square kilometers, in the 1967 war when it technically belonged to Syria (though Syria had ceded it to Lebanon in the 1950s and it was largely inhabited by Lebanese nationals ). Because the Syrian and Lebanese governments now claim it is part of Lebanon, Hizballah has been able to justify its continued attacks against Israel on the grounds that Israel, even after it ended its 22-year occupation of south Lebanon in 2000, continues to occupy Lebanese land.
Most everybody in the Middle East knows this is nonsense, and the U.N. still officially regards Sheba as part of Syria. (Part of the reason being that Syria, while publicly claiming Sheba is part of Lebanon, won't agree to formally recognize it as such with the U.N., since its ruling Ba'athist party still at heart believes Lebanon is part of Syria.) The problem is that Hizballah, as the current crisis shows, has become a potent force in Lebanon, and the Lebanese army is not strong enough to disarm Hizballah, even if it had an order to do so. Siniora's government would be vulnerable to charges of treason if it gave such an order — considering this is the guerrilla group that successfully ended Israel's 22-year occupation — so long as Israel still occupies Lebanon's Sheba Farms.
If on the other hand it were able to gain it back as part of a cease fire, Siniora would be able to tell Hizballah it's time to hand its its weapons over, become a political party that poses no military threat to Israel — and in the process, allow for some kind of international military force to patrol the border area. Sheba, a source close to the Lebanese government tells TIME, the only card Hizballah has been able to play in order to continue its 'resistance.'
Until, that is, the current Israeli incursions and bombardments. Siniora's plan to end those attacks requires all leaders involved in the crisis to show courage. No doubt, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will lose face if he withdraws Israel's forces from Sheba as the result of the war. In addition, the Bush administration will in effect be granting concessions to Hizballah — which it considers a terrorist organization — if it pushed Israel to make such a move. The conundrum is that if Sheba is not part of a deal, the war is likely to drag on, with the distinct possibility that Hizballah, while being degraded, will survive the conflict to fight another day.
Despite its impressive performance so far, Hizballah is not as strong as it seems right now. The conventional wisdom is that under the Israeli bombardments of their country, Lebanese are rallying around Hizballah and hailing its leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. That may be true for the moment, as Lebanese vent their anger and express patriotic sentiments amid Israel's attacks. But not far beneath the surface, many Lebanese, including high government officials as well as Shi'ites themselves, are actually furious with Hizballah and Nasrallah. They blame the group for bringing on the devastation by senselessly provoking Israel with the operation to kidnap two Israeli soldiers on July 12. Now, while weeping over the death and destruction, they are quietly hoping that Israel's war achieves its intended result: the end of Hizballah's power.
But the truth is that will never happen on the battlefield, given Hizballah's deep-seated integration with the Shi'ite community, Lebanon's largest. Hizballah was initially formed to resist Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982, and no matter how hard Israel tried, Israel never managed to destroy the group through force of arms afterwards. But if Siniora can produce Israel's withdrawal from Sheba — and even toss Hizballah the credit — he can make Nasrallah an offer to disarm that he cannot really refuse.
That's not to say he won't try. With the encouragement of Syria and Iran, Nasrallah may even use Hizballah's arms against the Lebanese government. But in that case, he would have gone from being hailed as an Arab hero to being exposed as another Arab tyrant, and few will cheer Nasrallah any longer. If that were to happen, Hizballah would truly be disarmed, not by Israel's guns, but by Lebanese public opinion.
Who Will Disarm Hizballah? Not the Lebanese Army
By ANDREW LEE BUTTERS/BEIRUT
Despite the furious diplomatic debate over how and in what sequence it will be implemented, the peace plan for Lebanon requires the following: Israeli forces will withdraw; an international force will be deployed in southern Lebanon; Hizballah will be disarmed; and protection of the border will be handed over to the Lebanese Army. In essence, though the Lebanese Army is envisaged as the foundation of the long-term solution, it has remained remarkably silent during the three-week war on what is, legally at least, its own territory. And the reasons for its passivity may hold important clues to the final shape of a peace agreement.
A few days after the Israelis began their air raids and artillery bombardment, Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr talked tough: "The Lebanese army will resist and defend the country," he said in a televised address. "If there is an invasion of Lebanon, we are waiting for them." Twenty-four days into the conflict, the Lebanese army is still waiting, and has made no move against the Israeli invasion.
To have stood up to the advancing Israeli armored columns, of course, would have been suicidal: The poorly equipped Lebanese military, whose annual budget is $542 million, is vastly outgunned by the Israelis, who spend more than $9 billion a year on keeping one of the world's most advanced armies equipped with cutting-edge American technology. "There is no way we are going to get the army into this conflict because within an hour it would be decimated," said one government official. "The only official orders the army has are to 'react if attacked directly' and it has already been attacked directly. The army can do nothing."
The Lebanese Army is weak not just by neglect, but also by design, however. Like the Lebanese government, the military allocates power and position on the basis of maintaining the delicate sectarian consensus that ended decades of bloody civil war. Domestic political stability rather than military effectiveness has been the guiding principle of its development. "The Lebanese army is a mirror of all the country; its job is to maintain stability in the country," said Retired General Salim Abu Ismail, a former military attache to Washington and the managing editor of Al Defaiya Defense Magazine. "During the Civil War, every sect had a portion of the army. In the late '80s, we had at least two armies, one Christian, one Muslim."
The makeup and capability of the Lebanese Army render it unthinkable, say military observers and government officials, for it to forcibly disarm Hizballah or take control of southern Lebanon. More than one third of the army's personnel is Shi'ite, drawn from a community in which Hizballah is overwhelmingly popular. And as long as it is the only force fighting the Israelis inside Lebanon, Hizballah's support would be even wider, making it even less likely that the government could order the Army to move against it. "The Lebanese Army will never be given any orders to disarm any militia, especially under these circumstances when Hizballah is being attacked by Israel," said Gen. Ismail. "The Lebanese army is not going to fight other Lebanese. There would be civil war."
Instead, government officials say, the only way that the Lebanese Army would deploy to the south would be as part of a political framework agreed to by Hizballah. On present indications, that would require a cease-fire agreement that included a prisoner exchange and settling of border disputes. The Lebanese Army could then work with an international force to ensure that Hizballah abided by the cease-fire, and that no new militias move into southern Lebanon as the PLO did in the 1970s and 1980s. "You can't just throw a force down into southern Lebanon and have it create peace," said Dr. Mohammed Chatah, a senior advisor to the Lebanese prime minister. "There has to be peace first."
France and the U.S. are currently butting heads over the sequencing of a peace process — Lebanon's view, requiring a deal with Hizballah as a precondition for deployment, appears to be closer to that of France — and the outcome of that debate may be dictated by events on the battlefield.
But even once consensus is achieved, the long-term role of the Lebanese Army in protecting the border would require a massive modernization that would take at least three years and cost upward of $1 billion, according to Dr. Riad Kahwaji, the Lebanese founder of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, a think tank in Dubai. Right now, its 1960s-era American and Soviet armor is so obsolete that spare parts are no longer available. Its only air force consists of 16 very old Huey helicopters that pilots call "flying coffins"; it has no navy except for four or five patrol boats; no border sensors; no night vision goggles; and minimal special forces. "The Lebanese army needs to focus on becoming more flexible," said Kahwaji. "Weapons smuggling, drug trafficking, al-Qaeda infiltration, this can only be dealt with by special operations."
On the positive side, however, the Lebanese army seems to be recovering its independence after the 15 years of Syrian domination. Although the Defense Minister, Elias Murr, is sometimes allied with Lebanon's pro-Syrian president, Emile Lahoud, there has been an extensive purge of pro-Syrian officers in the past year, according to Kahwaji. That's been especially true in military intelligence, often the most political — and powerful — branch of Arab militaries.
Even with extensive modification, of course, the Lebanese army is unlikely to be a match for its more powerful neighbors, Israel and Syria. "We are a small country and we have to rely on international agreements to protect ourselves," said Gen. Ismail. But international treaties and allies have failed Lebanon in the past. And with the international community still refraining from imposing an immediate cease-fire, many Lebanese continue to look to Hizballah as their only defense against the Israeli invader.
What If They Gave a Cease Fire and Nobody Came?
Analysis: The U.S.-French proposals for a truce in Lebanon are unlikely to end the fighting. They may simply be part of the struggle to shape the war's outcome
By TONY KARON
Posted Monday, Aug. 07, 2006
The conflict raging in Lebanon is not between France and the United States, so despite a week of widely reported wrangling, the agreement the two countries reached last weekend on a cease-fire plan is unlikely to mark a genuine turning point. Indeed, France and the U.S. have long collaborated in their effort to shape a new, post-Syria order in Lebanon in which Hizballah is a non-military bit player, and the text of their proposed Security Council resolution reflects their common concerns. But as long as Hizballah and the Lebanese government continue to reject its terms, the resolution — even if approved — has little chance of ending the fighting. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice admitted as much Sunday, and said that neither side could get all of what it wants from a cease-fire. Still, there was no symmetry in the responses to the plan from the protagonists: While Israeli leaders are generally satisfied with the proposal, Lebanon and Hizballah complain that it imposes an unacceptable outcome. U.S.-backed Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora denounced the proposal in an emotional address to Arab diplomats in Beirut on Monday, warning that it could not end the violence.
The draft resolution requires "an immediate cessation of all attacks by Hizballah" and an end to "offensive military operations by Israel," to pave the way for the eventual deployment of an international security force in southern Lebanon. It makes no mention of the return of the two Israeli soldiers captured by Hizballah at the start of the crisis, which Israel has made a core objective of its operation. But it allows Israeli forces to remain in southern Lebanon — and to take any action they deem defensively necessary — until the arrival of an international force. President Bush said Monday this would prevent Hizballah from returning in force to the border area. But neither Hizballah nor the Lebanese government will accept Israeli troops' remaining on Lebanese soil. "The Israelis have justified this whole war as self-defense, so they could argue that they have a right to continue operations," Mohammed Chatah, the senior diplomatic advisor to the Lebanese prime minister, told TIME. "They need to withdraw." And Hizballah has warned that even if it agrees to refrain from rocket attacks into Israel, it will continue to fight any Israeli soldiers remaining on Lebanese soil.
Arab governments are mounting a last-ditch attempt to change the text before it is adopted by the Security Council. Although France has indicated sympathy with Arab complaints, they say the deal on offer is as much as Israel and the U.S. will concede. All of which brings up the question, what's the purpose of pressing for the adoption of a cease-fire plan that's dead on arrival? On Sunday, in response to Arab complaints about the cease-fire proposal, Secretary Rice said "We'll see who is for peace and who isn't," making clear that part of the plan is to put diplomatic pressure on those who disagree with the U.S.-French version of an acceptable outcome. More likely, however, the coming weeks of diplomacy and warfare are going to settle the question of whether Israeli troops remain in Lebanon once the guns go silent. The U.S. may be calculating that the Lebanese government's desperation to end the fighting that threatens to destroy the country will force it to accept Israeli forces' remaining in southern Lebanon, thereby isolating Hizballah. Israel has the country in an ever-tightening choke-hold, having cut transport links and leaving the county with less than a week's energy supplies to maintain electricity and essential services. The desperation of Lebanon's government is palpable, and Washington appears to be betting that this will drive a wedge between it and Hizballah.
But the fighting has actually boosted Hizballah's standing in Lebanon and raised the level of hostility throughout the population toward Israel and the U.S. Even if Siniora wanted to back Washington's plan to keep Israeli forces in the country, he'd be restrained by the massive political risk involved. Lebanese politicians fear that if decisions are taken without a national consensus, the result could be a new civil war.
At the same time, by adopting the language of "cease-fire" — the rallying cry of U.S. critics in recent weeks — Washington may simply be hoping to deflect some of the pressure from European and Arab allies over its efforts to buy the Israeli military more time to finish the job.
Hizballah's calculations, of course, are different: It sees the U.S.-French proposal as handing Israel a victory it has not won on the battlefield. Israeli commanders have certainly been shocked by the resilience of Hizballah: Almost a month after the fighting began, the small guerrilla force has not only continued to fight doggedly — and remarkably effectively — to hold its positions in southern Lebanon, it also remains able to rain down scores of rockets every day on Israel's civilian population centers despite Israel's control of Lebanon's skies. Hizballah defined victory simply as survival as a military force, and so far, it seems right to believe it is winning. It may see Israeli uncertainty over how to pursue the campaign and the mounting pressure on the U.S. to press for a truce as signs that continuing to fight can only strengthen its position at the bargaining table.
In the end, the standoff over the cease-fire will eventually be settled by the answer to a simple question: Who needs the truce more? For now, each side believes the other does, and that's precisely why Israel and Hizballah will continue trying to wear each other down, both in the chambers of diplomacy and in the killing fields of southern Lebanon and northern Israel.
—With reporting by Andrew Lee Butters/Beirut
Center for Democracy and the Rule of Law ("CDRL")
Beirut 10/8/06: A call to uphold the international rule of law by recognizing that the existing Israel-Lebanon Armistice Agreement of 1949 is still binding
Beirut, August 10: The most ready solution for the ongoing atrocious war between Israel and Lebanon is to uphold the international rule of law through the immediate re-activation of the existing Israel-Lebanese Armistice Agreement of 1949, the Beirut-based Center for Democracy and the Rule of Law ("CDRL") said in a statement issued today.
The Armistice Agreement, entered into on March 23, 1949, pursuant to the UNSC Resolution of November 16, 1948, established a general armistice between the two states in the land, sea and air, including military, Para-military and non-regular forces. The agreement called for the withdrawal of the all forces to the armistice line which was defined as running along the international Lebanon-Palestine boundary and the exchange of prisoners, including those "against whom a penal prosecution is pending", under UN supervision. It established a mixed armistice committee with representatives of both parties meeting to supervise the implementation of its terms, with the use of international observers. It established a zone on both sides of the armistice line where each party may maintain military troops up to 1,500 soldiers of "defensive forces" only. Article VIII of the agreement provides that it shall remain in full force until a peaceful settlement is reached between the partie! s, and prohibits its abrogation or suspension without mutual consent and, in all events, subject to a conference to be convoked by the UN Secretary General upon the request of either party. Participation in such a conference is obligatory upon both parties.
Israel wrongly stopped recognizing the Armistice Agreement following the war of June, 1967, but Lebanon has continuously rejected such Israel position. Neither side, however, has asked the UN Secretary General to convoke a conference on revising it.
It is clear that the Armistice Agreement, drafted over half a century ago, contains all the essential elements needed to end the current hostilities. More than that, its terms make it continuously and irrevocably binding on Israel and Lebanon. The UN Charter calls for the respect for the obligations arising out of treaties such as this agreement. The continued violation of the agreement undoubtedly contributed to the breakdown resulting in the current hostilities and threat to international peace. CDRL calls for an immediate two-fold solution of the current atrocious hostilities by fully upholding and implementing the Israel-Lebanon Armistice Agreement of 1949: A. The Security Council should reaffirm international support for the agreement and its continued full application, including withdrawal to the armistice line and exchange of prisoners, declare an immediate ceasefire as the most basic requirement of the armistice, and order the two parties to re-constitute the mixed armistice commission without delay by naming their representatives thereto.
B. The UN Secretary General should call the two parties to a bilateral conference to examine whether the Armistice Agreement requires any revisions in the light of the current and recent events.
For further information: E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and visit http://www.cdrl.org/.
Asharq Al-Awsat Interviews Lebanese PM Fouad Siniora
Interview by Thair Abbas
Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat - The rumble of Israeli war planes could be heard clearly in the sky and the bombs falling on the southern suburbs were shaking the foundations of the Grand Serai, the seat of the Lebanese government, when Asharq al Awsat met the country’s Prime Minister Fouad Siniora on Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, Siniora had met with the US Assistant Secretary of State for the Middle East, David Welsh, and spoken to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the phone. Lebanon’s Premier was not optimistic about the talks being held at the United Nations, between an Arab League delegation and western diplomats. He didn’t think “there is any progress to speak of”.
“There is no political progress. The [international] position is still centered on some points that have not yet been clarified and that are not in conformity with the Lebanese position, especially concerning the issue of [ Israel ’s] withdrawal from the regions that it has occupied lately and the issue of the Shebaa Farms.”
Q: What about the international force?
A: The issue revolves around finding a framework for it. There is a decision by the cabinet relating to the seven points and how to re-activate [the international UN force in southern Lebanon] UNIFIL after re-examining the way it functions and the scope of its mandate and the issues it is in charge of; there is no disagreement about its presence. The matter is supported by two Cabinet decisions; the first in the seven points and the other is the readiness to deploy 15 thousand Lebanese soldiers [in southern Lebanon] and to seek help of UNIFIL.
Q: Does the Israeli side still refuse the idea of placing the Shebaa Farms under international protection?
A: Until now, there has been no agreement on this issue.
Q: US Assistant Secretary Welsh’s visit occurred at the same time as the Israeli cabinet decided to widen its military operations in Lebanon. How do you explain this?
A: I don’t know if Welsh had prior knowledge of the decision. He seemed surprised when I informed him.
A: I don’t know if he was surprised or not but he told me he was surprised.
Q: What is your opinion of the Israeli decision? Is it a reflection of the failure of political negotiations?
A: This is one of the methods of Israeli pressure, at a time when we are resisting this aggression and the crime Israeli is committing. We are continuing the dialogue with the international community and we continue to hold the same stance which calls for a ceasefire. This position will not change.
Q: What are the horizons of a solution? The operation is entering its second month.
A: We are continuing and we are resisting and determined. As for any optimism, I can’t go into any expression that carries feelings. We are resisting and are supported by the people. The government knows what it wants and that is a ceasefire, liberation and controlling all Lebanese territory.
Q: What is the ceiling that Lebanon will accept for a solution?
A: I won’t tell the other negotiators what I now accept.
Q: To what extent are you insisting on the seven points?
A: They are the seven columns of wisdom.
Q: What if the Security Council issued a resolution that Lebanon did not agree with?
A: I don’t want to rush things.
Q: The Qatari foreign minister warned the UN Security Council of a civil war if the resolution is issued. Are you afraid of something similar?
A: I look at things from another angle. I say that we have a right and a cause we are following. I also say that, at the same time, we insist on national unity. I don’t want to look at things from a negative angle. These two points express the meaning better than a negative outlook.
Q: Does the government have guarantees that Hezbollah will agree to give up its weapons if the UN agrees on the seven points?
A: According to the seven points, the government will control all Lebanese territory and no other weapons will be deployed. This is what Hezbollah's ministers have agreed to.
Q: But, Lebanese president Emile Lahoud has said that Hezbollah will not give up its weapons until a just and comprehensive peace is achieved in the Middle East.
A: A comprehensive and just peace all over the globe!
Q: In the Middle East?
A: We can add even more conditions. But, what I am saying has been agreed by the cabinet. The cabinet has to abide by these decisions and no other statement has the same effect.
Q: Can Lebanon withstand the continuation of this war for very long?
A: The government’s position is clear and we insist on it. These  points enjoy the support of the majority of Lebanese and the Arab position is also moving in this direction. Now, we have to continue resisting and helping each other, so as not to give the Israeli enemy a chance to tear us apart.
Q: What about the Arab role?
A: This war is not only being waged on Lebanon alone but on the Arabs as well. Lebanon is fighting on behalf of the Arabs as well. This is a fight that has been imposed on us. The Lebanese will remain in this fight until it ends. No blood is shed in diplomatic battles but they are no less fierce. There is no doubt that the stance of all Arab countries and especially Saudi Arabia is supportive of the Lebanon. I believe that the meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Beirut crystallized the Lebanese position and demonstrated that there is an Arab wide support of Lebanon. It showed the international community that Lebanon is not alone. Therefore, what I said in my statement was that Lebanon isn’t just targeted in this war but also all Arab countries
The most hypocritical people on earth
© Metula News Agency
Sunday 30 July [21:23:00 BST]
By Michael Béhé in Beirut
L’article qui constitue cette dépêche a déjà été diffusé en français à une date antérieure et peut être lu sur le site de l’agence, à l’adresse http://www.menapress.com
Translated from the French by Llewellyn Brown
Ména will continue to inform its readers of the evolution of the situation, by way of continuous official statements on this site for the minor developments, and by emailing “breaking news” to its subscribers, in the case of major events.
The politicians, journalists and intellectuals of Lebanon have, of late, been experiencing the shock of their lives. They knew full well that Hezbollah had created an independent state in our country, a state including all the ministers and parallel institutions, duplicating those of Lebanon. What they did not know – and are discovering with this war, and what has petrified them with surprise and terror – is the extent of this phagocytosis.
In fact, our country had become an extension of Iran, and our so-called political power also served as a political and military cover for the Islamists of Teheran. We suddenly discovered that Teheran had stocked more than 12,000 missiles, of all types and calibers, on our territory and that they had patiently, systematically, organized a suppletive force, with the help of the Syrians, that took over, day after day, all the rooms in the House of Lebanon. Just imagine it : we stock ground-to-ground missiles, Zilzals, on our territory and that the firing of such devices without our knowledge, has the power to spark a regional strategic conflict and, potentially, bring about the annihilation of Lebanon.
We knew that Iran, by means of Hezbollah, was building a veritable Maginot line in the south but it was the pictures of Maroun el-Ras and Bint J’bail that revealed to us the magnitude of these constructions. This amplitude made us understand several things at once : that we were no longer masters of our destiny. That we do not possess the most basic means necessary to reverse the course of this state of things and that those who turned our country into an outpost of their islamic doctrine’s combat against Israel did not have the slightest intention of willingly giving up their hold over us.
The national salvation discussions that concerned the application of Resolution 1559 and which included most of the Lebanese political movements were simply for show. Iran and Syria had not invested billions of dollars on militarizing Lebanon in order to wage their war, simply to give in to the desire of the Lebanese and the international community for them to pack up their hardware and set it up back home.
And then, the indecision, the cowardice, the division and the irresponsible behavior of our leaders are such that they had no effort to make to show their talent. No need to engage a wrestling match with the other political components of the Land of Cedars. The latter showed themselves – and continue to show themselves – to be inconsistent.
Of course, our army, reshaped over the years by the Syrian occupier so it could no longer fulfill its role as protector of the nation, did not have the capacity to tackle the militamen of the Hezb [hezb-Allah : the party of Allah. Translator’s note]. Our army whom it is more dangerous to call upon – because of the explosive equilibrium that constitutes each of its brigades – than to shut up behind locked doors in its barracks. A force that is still largely loyal to its former foreign masters, to the point of being uncontrollable ; to the point of having collaborated with the Iranians to put OUR coastal radar stations at the disposal of their missiles, that almost sunk an Israeli boat off the shores of Beirut. As for the non-Hezbollah elements in the government, they knew nothing of the existence of land-to-sea missiles on our territory… That caused the totally justified destruction of all OUR radar stations by the Hebrews’ army. And even then we are getting off lightly in these goings-on.
It is easy now to whine and gripe, and to play the hypocritical role of victims. We know full well how to get others to pity us and to claim that we are never responsible for the horrors that regularly occur on our soil. Of course, that is nothing but rubbish! The Security Council’s Resolution 1559 – that demanded that OUR government deploy OUR army on OUR sovereign territory, along OUR international border with Israel and that it disarm all the militia on OUR land – was voted on 2 September 2004.
We had two years to put implement this resolution and thus guarantee a peaceful future to our children but we did strictly nothing. Our greatest crime – which was not the only one! – was not that we did not succeed but that we did not attempt or undertake anything. And that was the fault of none else than the pathetic Lebanese politicians.
Our government, from the very moment the Syrian occupier left, let ships and truckloads of arms pour into our country. Without even bothering to look at their cargo. They jeopardized all chances for the rebirth of our country by confusing the Cedar Revolution with the liberation of Beirut. In reality, we had just received the chance – a sort of unhoped-for moratorium – that allowed us to take the future into our own hands, nothing more.
To think that we were not even capable of agreeing to “hang” Émile Lahoud – Al-Assad’s puppet – on Martyrs’ Square and that he is still president of what some insist on calling our republic… There is no need to look any further : we are what we are, that is to say, not much.
All those who assume public and communicational responsibilities in this country are responsible for this catastrophe. Except those of my colleagues, journalists and editors, who are dead, assassinated by the Syrian thugs, because they were clearly less cowardly than those who survived. And Lahoud remained at Baadbé [the president of the Lebanese Republic’s palace. Editor’s note]!
And when I speak of a catastrophe, I do not mean the action accomplished by Israel in response to the aggression against its civilians and its army, which was produced from our soil and that we did strictly nothing to avoid, and for which we are consequently responsible. Any avoiding of this responsibility – some people here do not have the minimal notions of international law necessary to understand! – means that Lebanon, as a state, does not exist.
The hypocrisy goes on : even some editorialists of the respectable L’Orient-le-Jour put Hezbollah’s savagery and that of the Israelis on a par! Shame! Spinelessness! And who are we in this fable? Poor ad æternum victims of the ambitions of others?
Politicians either support this insane idea or keep silent. Those we would expect to speak, to save our image, remain silent like the others. And I am precisely alluding to general Aoun, who could have made a move by proclaiming the truth. Even his enemy, Walid Jumblatt, the Druse leader, has proved to be less… vague.
Lebanon a victim? What a joke!
Before the Israeli attack, Lebanon no longer existed, it was no more than a hologram. At Beirut innocent citizens like myself were forbidden access to certain areas of their own capital. But our police, our army and our judges were also excluded. That was the case, for example, of Hezbollah’s and the Syrians’ command zone in the Haret Hreik quarter (in red on the satellite map). A square measuring a kilometer wide, a capital within the capital, permanently guarded by a Horla army , possessing its own institutions, its schools, its crèches, its tribunals, its radio, its television and, above all… its government. A “government” that, alone decided, in the place of the figureheads of the Lebanese government – in which Hezbollah also had its ministers! – to attack a neighboring state, with which we had no substantial or grounded quarrel, and to plunge US into a bloody conflict. And if attacking a sovereign nation on its territory, assassinating eight of its soldiers, kidnapping two others and, simultaneously, launching missiles on nine of its towns does not constitute a casus belli, the latter juridical principle will seriously need revising.
Thus almost all of these cowardly politicians, including numerous shiah leaders and religious personalities themselves, are blessing each bomb that falls from a Jewish F-16 turning the insult to our sovereignty that was Haret Hreik, right in the heart of Beirut, into a lunar landscape. Without the Israelis, how could we have received another chance – that we in no way deserve! – to rebuild our country?
Each Irano-Syrian fort that Jerusalem destroys, each islamic fighter they eliminate, and Lebanon proportionally starts to live again! Once again, the soldiers of Israel are doing our work. Once again, like in 1982, we are watching – cowardly, lying low, despicable, and insulting them to boot – their heroic sacrifice that allows us to keep hoping. To not be swallowed up in the bowels of the earth. Because, of course, by dint of not giving a damn for southern Lebanon, of letting foreigners take hold of the privileges that belong to us, we no longer had the ability to recover our independence and sovereignty. If, at the end of this war, the Lebanese army retakes control over its territory and gets rid of the state within a state – that tried to suffocate the latter –, it will only be thanks to Tsahal [the Israeli Defense Forces. Translator’s note], and that, all these faint-hearted politicians, from the crook Fouad Siniora, to Saad Hariri, the son of Lebanon’s plunderer, and general Aoun all know perfectly well.
As for the destruction caused by the Israelis… that is another imposture : look at the satellite map! I have situated, as best I could, BUT IN THEIR CORRECT PROPORTIONS, the parts of my capital that have been destroyed by Israel. They are Haret Hreik – in its totality – and the dwellings of Hezbollah’s leaders, situated in the large Shi’a suburb of Dayaa (as they spell it) and that I have circled in blue.
In addition to these two zones, Tsahal has exploded a nine-storied building that housed Hezbollah’s command, in Beirut’s city center, above and slightly to the left (to the north west) of Haret Hreik on the map. It was Nasrallah’s “perch” inside the city, whereby he asserted his presence and domination over us. A depot of Syrian arms in the port, two army radars that the Shiite officers had put at the Hezb’s disposal, and a truck suspected of transporting arms, in the Christian quarter of Ashrafieh.
Moreover the road and airport infrastructures were put out of working order : they served to provide Hezbollah with arms and munitions. Apart from that, Tsahal has neither hit nor deteriorated anything, and all those who speak of the “destruction of Beirut” are either liars, Iranians, anti-Semites or absent. Even the houses situated one alley’s distance from the targets I mentioned have not been hit, they have not even suffered a scratch; on contemplating these results of this work you understand the meaning of the concept “surgical strikes” and you can admire the dexterity of the Jewish pilots.
Satellite map of Beirut (Google Earth)
Circled in red, the razed area, in blue, area where the dwellings belonging to the terrorist organization’s top brass have been destroyed (Michael Béhé)
Beirut, all the rest of Beirut, 95% of Beirut, lives and breathes better than a fortnight ago. All those who have not sided with terrorism know they have strictly nothing to fear from the Israeli planes, on the contrary! One example: last night the restaurant where I went to eat was jammed full and I had to wait until 9:30 pm to get a table. Everyone was smiling, relaxed, but no one filmed them: a strange destruction of Beirut, is it not?
Of course, there are some 500,000 refugees from the south who are experiencing a veritable tragedy and who are not smiling. But Jean [Tsadik. Editor’s note], who has his eyes fixed on Kfar Kileh, and from whom I have learned to believe each word he says, assures me that practically all the houses of the aforesaid refugees are intact. So they will be able to come back as soon as Hezbollah is vanquished.
The defeat of the Shi’a fundamentalists of Iranian allegiance is imminent. The figures communicated by Nasrallah’s minions and by the Lebanese Red-Cross are deceiving: firstly, of the 400 dead declared by Lebanon, only 150 are real collateral civilian victims of the war, the others were militiamen without uniform serving Iran. The photographic report “Les Civils des bilans libanais” made by Stéphane Juffa for our agency constitutes, to this day, the unique tangible evidence of this gigantic morbid manipulation. Which makes this document eminently important.
Moreover, Hassan Nasrallah’s organization has not lost 200 combatants, as Tsahal claims. This figure only concerns the combats taking place on the border and even then the Israelis underestimate it, for a reason that escapes me, by about a hundred militiamen eliminated. The real count of Hezbollah’s casualties, that includes those dead in Beirut, the Bekaa Valley, Baalbek and their other camps, rocket and missile launchers and arms and munition depots amounts to 1,100 supplementary Hezbollah militiamen who have definitively ceased to terrorize and humiliate my country.
Like the overwhelming majority of Lebanese, I pray that no one puts an end to the Israeli attack before it finishes shattering the terrorists. I pray that the Hebrew soldiers will penetrate all the hidden recesses of southern Lebanon and will hunt out, in our stead, the vermin that has taken root there. Like the overwhelming majority of Lebanese, I have put the champagne ready in the refrigerator to celebrate the Israeli victory.
But contrary to them – and to paraphrase Michel Sardou [a French singer. Translator’s note] –, I recognize that they are also fighting for our liberty, another battle “where you were not present”! And in the name of my people, I wish to express my infinite gratitude to the relatives of the Israeli victims – civilian and military – whose loved ones have fallen so that I can live standing upright in my identity. They should know that I weep with them.
As for the pathetic clique that thrives at the head of my country, it is time for them to understand that after this war, after our natural allies have rid us of those who are hindering us from rebuilding a nation, a cease-fire or an armistice will not suffice. To ensure the future of Lebanon, it is time to make peace with those we have no reason to go to war against. In fact, only peace will ensure peace. Someone must tell them because in this country we have not learnt what a truism is.
Note :  Michael Béhé is alluding to the book Le Horla, by Guy de Maupassant [Editor’s note].
Mideast fight may grow without diplomacy
By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA, Associated Press Writer 40 minutes ago
Israeli forces took control of the strategic southern hub of Marjayoun on Thursday and warned that its fight against Hezbollah could grow wider and more severe if diplomacy fails. Israel's defense minister, Amir Peretz, said the military would use "all of the tools" to cripple the Islamic guerrillas if attempts for a cease-fire pact collapse at the United Nations. Israel's leaders have authorized a major new ground offensive going deeper into Lebanon, but held off to give international negotiators more time. There were clear signals, however, that Israel was already setting its sights on Lebanon's capital and beyond.
In Beirut, Israeli warplanes blanketed downtown with leaflets that threatened a "painful and strong" response to Hezbollah attacks and warned residents to evacuate three southern suburbs. Other warnings dropped from planes said any trucks on a key northern highway to Syria would be considered targets for attack.
Earlier, missiles from Israeli helicopter gunships blasted the top of a historic lighthouse in central Beirut in an apparent attempt to knock out a broadcast antenna for Lebanese state television. The seizure of the southern town of Marjayoun and nearby areas overnight appeared to be an attempt to consolidate bases in southern Lebanon before any possible push northward. It gives Israel an important foothold for any deeper drives into the country.
Marjayoun — a mostly Christian city about five miles from the Israeli border — was used as the command center for the Israeli army and its allied Lebanese militia during an 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon that ended in 2000. The high ground around Marjayoun, including the village of Blatt, overlook the Litani River valley, one of the staging sites for the relentless Hezbollah rocket assault on northern Israel.
Israel suffered its worst one-day military losses on Wednesday, with 15 soldiers killed, most in other areas of the south away from the Marjayoun area.
Taking command of Marjayoun was not considered a key battlefield victory since the city gives little support to Hezbollah. But reaching the site required passing through Hezbollah country, the scene of fierce fighting.
Hezbollah claimed it destroyed 13 Israeli tanks. Israel did not immediately give a tally of its losses.
Israeli gunners used their new vantage points as payback: pounding Hezbollah-led areas such as the plain around the nearby town of Khiam, which has been used as a rocket site for the militants. Still, Hezbollah was defiant. It fired 110 rockets into northern Israel by mid-afternoon, including one that hit Haifa, Israeli police said. An Arab Israeli mother and her young daughter were killed in the village of Deir al-Assad. Lebanese officials reported at least four civilian deaths Thursday.
On Wednesday, Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah warned in a television address that Israeli Arabs in Haifa should flee for their own safety and threatened more strikes on the port city, already hit repeatedly by Hezbollah rockets.
More than 800 people in Lebanon and Israel have died since fighting erupted.
In Ibl el-Saqi, a village about two miles east of Marjayoun, the mayor said nearly all residents had fled to the north.
"They all left this morning. There was very intense shelling last night," said Riad Abou Samra.
But it seemed fewer and fewer areas of Lebanon were safe from the threat of Israeli attacks, including the relatively untouched heart of Beirut.
The leaflets that fluttered down over Beirut Thursday said "the Israeli Defense Forces intend to expand their operations in Beirut." They said the decision came after statements from "the leader of the gang" — an apparent reference to Nasrallah's television address.
Israel also extended its warnings to areas north of Beirut. Leaflets said trucks "of any kind" would face attack after 8 p.m. along the northern coast road to Syria.
A round-the-clock road curfew has been in force across southern Lebanon since early Tuesday.
Israeli warplanes pounded a coastal highway junction connecting three major southern cities — Sidon, Tyre and Nabatiyeh. The junction already had been nearly cut off in a strike on July 12 — the first day of fighting — which spared only a single lane. It was not clear if the road was completely severed in Thursday's hits.
The strike at the historic lighthouse, built early last century during French colonial rule, was the first in central Beirut since a warning Aug. 3 by Nasrallah that such a move would bring retaliation against Tel Aviv.
The capture of Marjayoun came just hours before a senior Israeli official, Rafi Eitan, announced an expansion of the ground offensive would be delayed to give diplomats at the United Nations time for cease-fire deal. Lebanon and its Arab allies demand Israel withdraw its forces as part of any cease-fire.
The planned offensive would thrust toward the Litani River valley, 18 miles north of the border — aimed at crippling Hezbollah before a possible cease-fire.
The offensive is expected to last a month and eliminate 70 to 80 percent of Hezbollah's short-range rocket launchers, but not its long-range launchers, senior military officials said.
However, Trade Minister Eli Yishai, who abstained in Wednesday's vote, said the assessment is too optimistic. "I think it will take a lot longer," he said.
Israel is now waiting to see whether Arab and Western diplomats can find a solution to end the monthlong conflict.
"There are diplomatic considerations. There is still a chance that an international force will arrive in the area. We have no interest in being in south Lebanon. We have an interest in peace on our borders," Eitan told Israel Radio.
The U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, Jeffrey Feltman, met three times Thursday with Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, whose aides reported no progress on negotiations to find a cease-fire.
In other developments:
• The European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, travels to the Middle East Friday. He plans to visit Beirut before traveling to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
• Richard Huguenin, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said Israel has repeatedly denied requests to reach Lebanese civilians, including a family believed trapped in an abandoned orphanage in Maarub, about 12 miles from Tyre. The Red Cross estimates roughly 33,000 people are still living in villages in south Lebanon, another 27,000 in Tyre and 40,000 Palestinians in four camps in the south.
• In Geneva, the top U.N. humanitarian official, Jan Egeland, said it was a "disgrace" that both Israel and Hezbollah have hindered relief efforts.
• The World Food Program's coordinator in Lebanon, Zlatan Milisic, said Israeli bombing of bridges and roads is creating huge obstacles for aid convoys to reach tens of thousands of displaced Lebanese.
Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.
Israel tells south Beirut residents to get out
by Salim Yassine
Israeli forces have hit the heart of the Lebanese capital for the first time in three weeks and dropped warning leaflets that sent thousands of residents of southern suburbs fleeing their homes. Hundreds of families were leaving the southern suburbs Thursday, some in cars and others ferried away on state-owned buses from the Shiyah district to the Armenian quarter of Burj Hammud, north of the capital. Loudspeakers urged panicked Shiyah residents without access to private transport to gather at a square nearby to board the buses. Israeli air strikes on Monday killed 32 civilians in Shiyah.
On Thursday, Israeli aircraft dropped leaflets on south Beirut telling residents still living in three districts to get out, according to a copy seen by AFP.
"To residents of Hay El-Sollum, Burj El-Barajneh and Shiyah, for your own safety, you must immediately evacuate these areas, and evacuate all areas from which Hezbollah elements perform terrorist acts," the tract read. The southern suburbs are a Hezbollah stronghold which has been devastated by bombing raids since e start of the Israeli offensive a month ago, and thousands of residents have already fled for safer havens.
However Hay El-Sollum had been relatively spared by the bombardments while the district of Shiyah was considered a place of refuge until it was hit by the Israeli air strikes on Monday. The strike on the heart of the Lebanese capital on Thursday hit a state radio relay antenna on an old lighthouse, triggering panic in a densely-packed residential area.
The tip of the disused lighthouse, in an open field in the Koreitem neighbourhood of central Beirut, was damaged by the Israeli gunboat fire, according to Lebanese army troops based in the area. A security official told AFP that the lighthouse included a relay for the Radio Liban state station. He said another relay station in the northern coastal village of Amshit was also hit by Israeli fire.
Fuad Hamdan, the director of Radio Liban, told AFP that the relay at the lighthouse had been disused for over 30 years, while the one in Amshit was out of use since a similar Israeli strike on July 15.
Two people were slightly wounded in Koreitem, rescue workers said.
The explosions triggered panic among residents of the capital's upscale neighborhood where windows of several cars, houses and apartments were shattered, an AFP correspondent on the scene said.
Army troops cordoned off the area.
The old lighthouse is located in a heavily-guarded neighbourhood housing the Saudi embassy compound, the Lebanese American University, a French school and the residence of the family of slain former prime minister Rafiq Hariri.
It was the first time that central Beirut has been hit in three weeks during Israel's massive military offensive on Lebanon, launched after the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers on July 12.
On July 19, Israeli helicopters fired four rockets on water-bore drilling equipment mounted on two trucks in a residential Christian neighborhood of central Beirut, without inflicting casualties.
Three days earlier, a series of deadly Israeli air raids targeted the country's main Mediterranean sea ports and coastal radar system, including strikes on the Beirut port and lighthouse.
On August 4, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah threatened to strike at Tel Aviv if Beirut was again hit by Israeli strikes.
"If you bombard our capital we will bombard the capital of your aggressive entity," he said.
Copyright © 2006 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AFP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Agence France Presse.
UN attacks Lebanon aid 'disgrace'
The UN's top humanitarian official has criticised Israel and Hezbollah for hindering access to southern Lebanon, calling the situation a "disgrace".
Jan Egeland said both sides could give aid agencies access in a "heartbeat". Hospitals in south Lebanon are also said to be low on food and fuel.
The warning came amid more violence across the Israel-Lebanon border.
Hezbollah rockets killed two Israeli Arabs, as Israel continued air strikes.
Israeli planes also dropped leaflets on southern Beirut, warning residents of three districts to leave immediately.
More than 1,000 Lebanese, most of them civilians, have now been killed in the hostilities, the Lebanese government has said. Some 121 Israelis, most of them soldiers, have also been killed.
Speaking at UN offices in Geneva, Switzerland, Mr Egeland said Israel and Hezbollah were preventing relief workers from saving people's lives.
"It is a disgrace really. We have not had any access for many days to the besieged population of southern Lebanon," he said.
The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) also called on both sides to allow humanitarian aid through.
"Our aid operation is like a patient starved of oxygen facing paralysis, verging on death " said Zlatan Milisic, WFP emergency co-ordinator in Lebanon.
Mr Milisic said about 100,000 people were stranded south of the Litani River.
WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume said relief supplies reached the coastal city of Sidon on Wednesday but the Israeli Defense Forces had not granted permission for a convoy to go to Nabatiyeh, north of the river.
Medical aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has meanwhile warned that hospitals in south Lebanon are running out of food, fuel and medical supplies.
As the humanitarian crisis deepened, violence between Hezbollah and Israel showed no sign of easing.
Among the main developments:
Hezbollah fired scores more rockets into Israeli, killing a woman and a two-year-old girl in the Israeli Arab village of Deir al-Assad
Israeli forces clashed with Hezbollah around the mostly Christian town of Marjayoun in south Lebanon
Israel fired around 1,000 artillery shells at the Hezbollah stronghold of Khiam, with ground battles also reported in the area
Israeli rocketed a disused lighthouse tower carrying a television mast in west Beirut
Israeli aircraft dropped leaflets on Beirut, warning residents in Shiyah, Burj al-Barajneh and Hay al-Sulloum districts to leave immediately.
On Wednesday the Israeli cabinet approved a plan to thrust deeper into Lebanon, towards the Litani River, up to 30km (18 miles) from the Israeli border.
Israeli officials however say the plan has been delayed.
The BBC's Christian Fraser in Beirut says it seems the timing for that push depends to a large extent on what is happening in New York, where the UN Security Council is working on a ceasefire resolution.
The council's five permanent members are due to hold further talks to try to resolve the remaining obstacles to a final text.
The dispute is over a timetable for Israel's withdrawal from south Lebanon - France thinks Israel should pull out as Lebanese troops take over, while the US supports Israel's contention that it must stay put until a new international force can be deployed.
The BBC's Daniel Lak in New York says both sides are now talking about moving closer together.
Privately, diplomats say the worsening humanitarian situation and mounting casualties are concentrating minds on the council, our correspondent adds.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/08/10 15:44:00 GMT