DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 1,39-56. During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled." And Mary said: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever." Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
Lebanon's Leaders in the Cote D'Azur.By: Randa Takieddin.Dar Al-Hayat. August 15/07
Iran's Hot Summer Offensive.Christian Broadcasting Network. August 15/07
Facing up to an army of presidents.By Michael Young. August 15/07
Let the race to clean up Bush's presidential calamities begin.The Daily Star. August 15/07
The Victory Was Like a Defeat-Jihad el-Khazen. August 15/07
Lebanon Terror: The Syrian Moukhabarat Connection. By: Pierre Maroun.Global Politician. August 15/07
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources
for August 15/07
Clashes Erupt in Beirut Following Nasrallah's Speech, 5 Wounded from Stray Bullets-Naharnet
Israeli Minister: Nasrallah Is to Be Taken Seriously-Naharnet
Captured amid the flames of holy war.The Australian
Pro-, Anti-Government Supporters Clash in Beirut Following Nasrallah's Speech
Jumblatt rules out reconciliation with opposition-Daily Star
Army Cites Lack of Heavy Weapons from U.S. as Reason for Long Battle with Fatah al-Islam
Army Chopper Drops Flyers over Nahr al-Bared
Arms smuggling from Syria continues: Israeli officer-People's Daily Online
U.N. Slams Israel for Failing to Provide Details of Ordnance Dropped on Lebanon
Syria, Israel reassure each other.Jerusalem Post
Syria dismisses alleged tension with Iran.Xinhua
Barak: Neither Israel nor Syria want war.Ynetnews
Tired of Energy Ills, Syrians Doubt the West Is to Blame.New York Times
Australians on terrorism charges in Lebanon.ABC Online
Facing up to an army of presidents.Daily Star
Nasrallah vows 'colossal surprise' if Israel attacks.Daily Star
Syria Is Stirring Up Lebanese Civil Strife, Stoking Two Anti ...- Israel
Lebanese militants vow to take battle outside camp-Independent
troops keep south Lebanon calm year after war.Washington Post
Hizbullah's motivation low - IDF.Ynetnews
Syria says it's preparing for war with Israel even though it doesn ...International Herald Tribune
Lebanese army commander denies Fatah al-Islam linked to Syria.Lebanese Lobby
Lebanese army blames lack of heavy weapons from US on long battle ...International Herald Tribune
Aussie faces death in Lebanon-NEWS.com.au
Iran's Hot Summer Offensive.Christian Broadcasting Network
Army tells militants that staying in camp is 'suicidal decision-Daily Star
Fneish accuses acting ministers of causing chaos-Daily Star
Berri meets presidential hopefuls ahead of talks with Sfeir-Daily Star
Southern villagers still homeless 1 year after war-Daily Star
MPs say UK cannot ignore Syria's role in region-Daily Star
Clashes Erupt in
Beirut Following Nasrallah's Speech, 5 Wounded from Stray Bullets
Hizbullah and Amal partisans, rejoicing over a speech by Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah marking the anniversary of the end of last summer's war with Israel, fought pro-government supporters with fists and stones in Beirut before Lebanese troops stepped in to prevent the unrest from spreading.
Media reports said Hizbullah and Amal supporters drove across the streets of the capital and the southern suburbs, or Dahiyeh, at the end of Nasrallah's speech shortly before midnight Tuesday, waving flags and blowing horns. They said one convoy of cars and motorcycles clashed with supporters of MP Saad Hariri's Al-Mustaqbal Movement near Abdul Nasser Mosque on the main Mazraa thoroughfare. The two sides traded insults and hurled stones and rocks at each other. Lebanese army troops quickly cordoned off the area and dispersed the antagonists. When Nasrallah's speech ended, celebratory gunfire and fireworks echoed throughout Beirut and Dahiyeh. LBC television channel said four people were wounded from stray bullets in Dahiyeh and were taken to Rasoul Aazam hospital for treatment. It said a man was also hit in the head by a stray bullet in east Lebanon's city of Baalbek. In his Tuesday evening address, the third in a series of speeches he has made in recent weeks to mark the August 14 anniversay, Nasrallah promised Israel a "big surprise" if it tired to attack Lebanon. "You Zionists. If you think of launching an aggression against Lebanon, I won't promise you surprises like those that have happened, but I promise you the grand surprise that could change the course of war and the destiny of the region, God willing," Nasrallah said. He was addressing a rally of supporters and representatives of allied forces at a soccer stadium in south Beirut marking the first anniversary of Hizbullah's self-declared "divine victory" against Israel in the 34-day war which was halted on Aug. 14, 2006 by U.N. Security Council resolution 1701. Nasrallah appeared on jumbo screens erected at the stadium where tens of thousands of supporters waved Hizbullah flags and chanted for victory and their leader. Nasrallah said he was personally ready along with Hizbullah's Islamic Resistance to "shoulder responsibility of this promise.""I warn them (Israelis) and advise them. Here in Lebanon they face a resistance, an army and a nation that reject humiliation … A nation that fights and is ready for sacrifices and will achieve the historic victory, God willing," Nasrallah said as the crowds chanted "Death to Israel" and "death to America."He added that "any new war on Lebanon will have a high price … I am not looking for war, but I am working on preventing a war," he added. Beirut, 14 Aug 07, 22:55
Arms smuggling from
Syria continues: Israeli officer
August 15, 2007
Israeli intelligence officers on Tuesday expressed concerns over the continued smuggling of arms from Syria to Hezbollah gunmen in Lebanon, while its motivation to act is not high these days. Senior officers of Israeli Northern Command made a briefing to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi during their routine tour of army bases in the area. The smuggling includes the transfer of weapons similar to those used by Hezbollah during the war in addition to more advanced apparatus, the officer was quoted by local daily Yedioth Ahronoth as saying. Meanwhile, Hezbollah's ability to act south of the Litani was hindered, and its gunmen are not allowed to carry arms in that region due to the deployment of UNIFIL following the 2006 Lebanon War, the officer added.
The 34-day military conflict in Lebanon and northern Israel ended when a UN-brokered ceasefire went into effect on Aug.14 2006.
As to the situation on the Israel-Syria front line, the Northern Command officers said that the Syrian military deployment near the Golan Heights area is defensive in nature, apparently for fear of a possible Israeli attack, but added that the Israeli troops is preparing for any scenario.
The Olmert's Office stressed in a statement that the visit had nothing to do with any developments along the northern front, this in order to make certain that it would not lead to any misunderstandings with the Syrians or prompt a military confrontation in the region. Source: Xinhua
'colossal surprise' if Israel attacks
Hizbullah backs berri's initiative
By Mirella Hodeib
Daily Star staff
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
BEIRUT: Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel on Tuesday against launching another war on Lebanon, saying any attempt to attack the country "will be faced with a colossal surprise likely to change the fate of the war and the region." "You might say I am exercising a war of nerves ... This is true yet my war of nerves is based on truthful facts and aims at avoiding any war," Nasrallah told a massive rally in a televised address.
Tens of thousands of Hizbullah supporters flocked to the Raya pitch in the southern suburbs of Beirut to celebrate the "divine victory" over Israel during the 34-day war last year.
Final preparations for the event continued until late Monday night when thousands of chairs were being spread across the field. Several giant screens were set up at the field's corners, to allow the attendants a full view of Nasrallah.
While Nasrallah's address focused on the outcomes and repercussions of the summer 2006 war, domestic issues occupied a small portion of his 90-minute speech.
The Sayyed said his group supported mediation efforts to be undertaken by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri in the upcoming week in a bid to reach a solution to the ten-month-old political impasse.
"We support a compromise in Lebanon and we warn the Lebanese against attempts undertaken by the United States and some Lebanese politicians to hamper any resolutions to the crisis," he said.
Nasrallah was referring to statements made on Saturday by MP Walid Jumblatt, who said that anyone who thinks of reaching a compromise or a settlement with the opposition would be considered a traitor and would be "condemned morally and politically."
Nasrallah renewed his support for the Lebanese Army, saying the US rejected the concept of having a "strong army in Lebanon capable of protecting its land and people before our army stops considering Israel as an enemy."
"The resistance along with the army and the courageous people of Lebanon will achieve a victory every time," he said.
Nasrallah also accused the US and Israel of being terrorist countries, which "throw terrorism accusations, when they never succeeded in defining to us what the true meaning of terrorism is."
Nasrallah has not made any public appearances in political rallies since the victory rally on September 22, 2006.
He dedicate the victory in the summer 2006 war, "to all those oppressed in the world."
"Our victory acted as a ray of light to all those people in the world who are oppressed and alienated and encouraged them to seek change," he added.
Nasrallah addressed the Arabs, rather than their leaders, and thanked them for their "moral support" during the war. "We did not ask for more," he added. Journalists and artists from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Arab countries attended the rally.
"We should all realize that had the resistance lost the war, not only Lebanon, Syria and Palestine would have suffered from the negative repercussions but also Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt."
Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan have condemned Hizbullah's abduction of the two Israeli soldiers on July 12, 2006, describing it as a "rash act."
Directly after Nasrallah finished his speech, gunshots and fireworks were heard all across the capital.
Also commenting on the occasion, Hizbullah's major ally in the opposition, Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) leader Michel Aoun, said Lebanon's victory over Israel during the summer 2006 war, "held valuable meanings."
"Unfortunately," Aoun's Tuesday statement said, "internal skirmishes curtailed such a historical victory and this is only indicative of a very low sense of nationalism."
Aoun said that the memorandum of understanding between the FPM and Hizbullah has grown more solid since it was forged.
He added that the memorandum has "shaped a clear-cut proposal for Lebanon's future and offered a reliable means to shift Lebanon's identity from a sectarian one to a citizenship one."
Army Cites Lack of
Heavy Weapons from U.S. as Reason for Long Battle with Fatah al-Islam
Lebanese army commanders say they could have won the battle against Fatah al-Islam terrorists long ago had they received more sophisticated weapons from the United States. Army commander Gen. Michel Suleiman has lamented the lack of weapons to fight the al-Qaida-inspired Fatah al-Islam militants holed up in Nahr al-Bared. He said the army was looking to other countries to buy weapons. "We need weapons, conventional and advanced ammunition," he said Monday. "We didn't get anything but promises and best wishes and some ammunition, but no equipment. It's as though they are telling us, 'die first and assistance will follow,"' he added, without referring directly to the U.S. The United States dramatically increased its military aid to Lebanon as a show of support for Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's government.
When the battle at Nahr al-Bared began on May 20 -- sparked when Fatah al-Islam terrorists attacked army troops near the base -- Washington rushed supplies to Lebanon, particularly automatic rifle ammunition, helmets, body armor and night-vision goggles.
"What we have been providing is exactly what they have been requesting," a U.S. Embassy official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press on the subject. "We were able to fulfill their requests in a month, far faster than the delivery period for other countries, given the circumstances in the north," he said. But the United States has for decades adhered to an unofficial policy of not arming the Lebanese military with heavy or sophisticated weapons for fear they may be used against Washington's ally Israel, former senior Lebanese military commanders say.
Military experts say the army could have gained a decisive edge early on in the battle if it had sophisticated weapons such as helicopter-launched anti-tank missiles and counter battery radar designed to track the trajectory of incoming artillery and mortar projectiles. The equipment would have allowed them to better pinpoint the fighters in the densely built refugee camp.
Instead, the military has blasted the camp constantly with artillery and tank shells, leveling large swaths of it. Its estimated 30,000 civilian residents fled in the first weeks, leaving the way for troops to slowly move in. The result is deadly fighting in a maze of cinderblock houses and tall buildings. Fatah al-Islam gunmen have shown great resilience, hitting army posts with mortar and grenades. Their snipers have also inflicted heavy losses on the soldiers. More than 130 troops have been killed so far.
Suleiman estimated about 70 Fatah al-Islam fighters remain in the camp, down from the estimate of 360 when the fighting began. Along with them are some 100 women and children believed to be relatives, he said. But the dozens of fighters who remain will be tough to uproot, said Walid Sukariya, a retired Lebanese army brigadier.
"They are now fortified in the rubble and below ground. The camp has been transformed into intertwined concrete blocks," said Sukariya. "The rubble is now protecting the fighters from shells, so it's very difficult for the troops to advance and route them out."
He and other experts say only heavy aerial bombardment can do the job. But Lebanon has no fixed-wing aircraft -- only 33 U.S. and French-made helicopters, largely non-combat. The United Arab Emirates gave Lebanon 10 old French-made Gazelle attack helicopters, but removed their anti-tank missiles before delivering them. The Lebanese army itself stuck machine guns on the aging helicopters. The army also lacks electronic intelligence gathering and communication equipment, said Timur Goksel, a former spokesman for the U.N. peacekeepers in Lebanon who now teaches at the American University in Beirut. Soldiers use mobile phones to communicate with each other. On Tuesday, Gazelle copters struck Fatah al-Islam hideouts in the camp, destroying an underground shelter, as tanks and artillery continued their bombardment, the state-run National News Agency said. The fight could drag on, Goksel said.
"From now on, it's going to be a very tedious task," he said. "It's going to finish meter by meter. Now, they're in one-square kilometer or so."
Suleiman's comments Monday appeared to be a signal to the U.S. and Saniora's government to get more support.
Next month, Lebanon's defense minister is expected to head to Moscow for talks, including on military aid -- another pressure on Washington.
Suleiman's comments "could be a message to America that if they don't give us weapons, we'll look for it elsewhere," said Sukariya. "If America refuses to give us, we have to get it, even if from the devil."(AP) Beirut, 15 Aug 07, 07:16
U.N. Slams Israel for Failing to Provide Details of Ordnance Dropped on Lebanon
The United Nations mine clearance agency slammed Israel for failing to cooperate in providing data on the location of areas where it dropped cluster bombs during last summer's war on Lebanon. "In spite of repeated requests for information, Israel has not provided the required Strike Data -- location of intended target, quantity and type of ordnance dropped or fired -- that is required to quantify the problem," the U.N. Mine Action Coordination Center (MACC) said in a statement issued on Tuesday. "Without this Strike Data, detailed parameters of the size and scope of the problem remain elusive and operational planning is constantly being adjusted to meet the newly found reality on the ground," the statement added. MACC said that one year after the ceasefire that ended the blistering month-long war between Israel and Hizbullah, 126,000 unexploded sub-munitions, or bomblets, had been located and destroyed.
The United Nations believes that of the cluster bomblets dropped by Israel over Lebanon during the war, up to one million failed to detonate on impact.
At least 28 people have been killed and 177 injured by the weapons since the conflict ended on August 14, 2006, according to the UN.
Cluster munitions spread bomblets over a wide area from a single container. The bomblets often do not explode on impact, but can do so later at the slightest touch, making them as deadly as anti-personnel landmines. MACC said clearance operations in the past year had resulted in a marked decrease in civilian casualties and had allowed access to agricultural land.(AFP) Beirut, 15 Aug 07, 09:36
Victory Was Like a Defeat
Jihad el-Khazen -Al-Hayat - 14/08/07//
On the day of the by-elections in Lebanon, I said in this column I would have voted for President Amin Gemayel if I had been a voter in the North Metn and I am still holding the same view after his loss. In addition to the personal, old and lasting relationship with Sheikh Amin, I find that he deserves the victory for different reasons, the most important of which are his high potential and his wide experience. Furthermore, the seat became vacant upon the assassination of his son Pierre, and I do not mean here bequeathing a political office nor do I mean political families. I rather mean scoring a victory for the young martyr by voting against the idea of assassination and those behind it.
The result is well-known and General Michel Aoun won through his candidate Camille Khoury, but the victory was like a defeat. In fact the results have revealed a regression in Aoun's support among the Christians whom he is supposed to represent. Two years ago 70% of them had lent him support in the parliamentary elections, but now this support has receded to 40% of the Christians against 60% for Amin Gemayel. I also heard Minister Michel Murr's speech on TV and I found most of it true. If we consider that Murr's share is around 20000 voters, added to the Armenian voters ranging between 7000 and 9000, and around 5000 Syrian Nationalist voters including Maronites from Al-Ashkar family and others, and naturalialized voters, Aoun's share drops to 20% or less of Christian votes.
Yet, Lebanon is not for the Maronites or the Shiites or any other community. It is either for all its population or it is for no one in particular. After trying to free myself from any personal emotions or inclinations, I note that Sheikh Amin committed mistakes in his electoral campaign, the least of which is not the underestimation of Armenian votes. They voted as a compact group and Sheikh Amin is fully aware of this as they had been the Gemayel's allies over consecutive elections. In spite of this, it seems to me that Sheikh Amin was surprised at their attitude and launched an attack on them after the release of the results. But I see them as the best Lebanese community since they never carried arms against anyone and never offended anyone, though I heard the Tashnag now has an international dimension through Armenia's relations with Iran.
I carry on as much objectivity as possible and I say I wish that Amin Gemayel, instead of attacking the Shiites and criticizing General Aoun for his ties with Hizbullah and with Syria through this party, had submitted a specific platform, and then adhered to what we know of him in terms of keeping the lines open with everybody and in terms of caution in making statements and weighing up each word he says.
The results would not have been of the same significance had the candidate been Sami Amin Gemayel, not the former president himself. I heard the son's name repeated in the initiatives taken by Michel Murr, the Armenians and others, yet such initiatives did not meet with success. Had this been the case, both parties would have engaged in a battle without Amin Gemayel being a candidate, thus keeping his name among the candidates for the presidential elections.
Do I need to say that the country is fractured and agreement is indispensable? The readers have reminded me of the extent of divisions in the country as half of them were for Sheikh Amin whereas almost the other half were against him, along with a small number of neutral voices. La'ek Assad said that Amin Gemayel is the most competent candidate and he started to raise doubts about the cultural standards of the Lebanese people taking into consideration the vile talk by Michel Aoun.
Ahmad Al-Kutami called on Lebanese politicians to listen to reason and considered him a safety valve out of fear of going in the direction of more threatening forms of disagreement and he saw Amin Gemayel as the best candidate.
Ibrahim Isma'il said that if he had been a Lebanese voter, he would have asked for new and young faces in parliament, hoping they would mend the disagreements caused by prominent families.
Aziz Al-Khasawnah said he likes Lebanon and the Lebanese, and he is confused at their fondness with warlords and confessionalism, as well as their reliance on foreign parties.
Yasser disagreed with me over my support for Amin Gemayel without showing any support for Aoun's candidate. Hassan advised me to be neutral and said that my opinion was not objective, and so did Abdo Shankir while Mohammad Al-Moftah criticized Amin Gemayel and talked about rudeness on the part of some pro-government figures such as Walid Jumblat. Hisham Al-Taki welcomed the day of 'great faithfulness to General Aoun who did not sign the May 17 Agreement, did not help in the coming of Syria and Israel, and was not disloyal to his country.'
President Amin Gemayel did not sign the May 17 Agreement and the by-elections are behind us now while the presidential election is scheduled next month unless the process is not disrupted. I do not know who will be the holder of the presidency bit I know who will not. The future president will not belong to either March 14 or March 7. A compromise candidate will be elected otherwise no one will. While each of the two parties has the power to hinder the process, none of them has the ability to impose his views on the other. The entire country is at risk if each party believes it can monopolize the final say in the presidential election. It will only lead the country to a constitutional vacuum that will leave the door wide open to evil as if Lebanon now does not have enough of it, if not more.
Hizbullah has stated that General Michel Aoun is its only candidate for the presidency and I heard a confirmation by party leaders in this regard. This means that General Aoun will not be the coming president, and similarly every pro-March 14 candidate will not be elected president. I personally wish that Nassib Lahoud would be elected president as he combines a rare blend of abilities, integrity, and moderation.
I will not involve the reader in the social talk on the roles of Syria and Iran, or on the vulnerability in the commitment of some MPs belonging to the majority, or the final attitude of Michel Murr, his allies and Joseph Skaff's parliamentary bloc. I will not fabricate options simply to appear as a person who knows what the others are not aware of. All I can say is that several names are put forward, the most prominent of which are Michel Sleiman, Jean Obeid, Fares Boueiz, Ryiad Salameh, and Michel Eddeh. All of these, especially General Sleiman, have a known record which makes them eligible for the presidency, though I prefer that he stays army commander-in-chief for the rare commanding abilities he has displayed so far. As for my own choice between Jean Obeid and Fares Boueiz, I wish them a better luck than Amin Gemayel's in the by-elections, and I also wish Lebanon a better luck
up to an army of presidents
By Michael Young
Daily Star staff
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
If Syria is pushing Lebanon toward an election whose effect will be the elevation of the army commander, Michel Suleiman, to the presidency, then four events in the past week seem to confirm this scenario. The first was Michel Murr's ambiguous expression of support for Michel Aoun as president, issued last Thursday on the "Kalam an-Nass" program, which unambiguously revealed that Murr was really placing his money on Suleiman. The second was Suleiman's visit to Diman on Saturday to visit with Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir. Despite Suleiman's denials, the meeting had everything to do with the presidency. The third was the chilling threat issued by alleged Fatah al-Islam militants, warning that they would launch a terror campaign throughout Lebanon. And the fourth was Suleiman's statement on Monday - in contrast with what Prime Minister Fouad Siniora declared several weeks ago - that Fatah al-Islam was "not affiliated with the Syrian intelligence services." This must have been music to the Assad regime's ears, a test well graded.
Suleiman's presidential ambitions are no longer a secret. On Monday, the former minister Albert Mansour made a statement to this newspaper that the army commander had told him he would accept heading a transitional government if Lebanon's politicians didn't agree over a candidate, provided all sides accepted Suleiman's nomination. More intriguing, Mansour added that if the army commander presided over such a government, this would mean he could dispense with a constitutional amendment necessary for active senior state officials to stand for office.
This is worrying, because if Albert Mansour said what he did, then he almost certainly had a Syrian green light to do so. Far from desiring a vacuum, Syria apparently is seeking to use the threat of a vacuum to push its favorite through. Suleiman is not necessarily the only nominee, but he does seem to be the most likely one, because it's the army that Syria wants to see win out. Michel Murr's recent assertion that only the army can maintain security in Lebanon today, combined with Fatah al-Islam's threats, means the security situation might have to deteriorate first for Suleiman to become more palatable to the parliamentary majority.
That's not to suggest the army commander would be part of such a ploy. Nor is it to suggest that Suleiman would be rejected outright by the majority. The fact that on Saturday Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem backed France's initiative in Lebanon was revealing. It indicated that Damascus is focused on bringing European pressure to bear on the majority to accept its candidate of choice. The tactic may well work. France, Spain and Italy, pillars of UNIFIL all, are determined not to allow a void at the top of the state, and if Suleiman is their way to avert that outcome, the March 14 coalition will find it hard to say no.
The trick for the majority will be to avoid an unconstitutional transfer of authority to a military government led by Suleiman. Such a step would not go smoothly. It would only divide the Lebanese further and cripple Suleiman politically, and with him the army. So the majority must focus on two things: ensuring that a truly democratic election takes place on time and preparing for Suleiman if his candidacy gains momentum because of outside pressure. The army commander has behaved astutely in recent years, his performance during the 2005 Independence Intifada was exemplary, but it will take more to convince the Lebanese that they should embrace another officer as president. Lebanon always distinguished itself from other Arab countries by not chronically resorting to military men in times of strife. Yet now, with Emile Lahoud, Michel Aoun, and Michel Suleiman in play, we find ourselves dodging berets.
If Suleiman cannot take power against the will of the majority, as the general himself recognized, then the March 14 coalition has considerable leverage to shape his policies or those of other presidential contenders. Here are some conditions the majority should impose, if only to consolidate the gains made in 2005 when Syria withdrew from Lebanon.
The first is to insist that any new president publicly abide by the decisions of the national dialogue sessions of 2006, especially full and unconditional support for the Hariri tribunal, and make these a centerpiece of his or her inaugural address and the Cabinet statement. The president would also have to commit to resolving those issues the dialogue participants failed to agree over, particularly Hizbullah's arms. March 14 might ask for a written declaration of purpose, though the document could remain secret to avoid embarrassing the president. It would only be brought out if he or she failed to abide by its terms.
A second condition is that Suleiman's successor as army commander be approved by the parliamentary majority. The commander is appointed by the Council of Ministers, which emanates from Parliament, so it is legitimate for the majority to be afforded a final say over who Lebanon's senior military officer will be. A mechanism will have to be found so that opposition groups have an input into the selection process, but the majority must have the last word on whoever is chosen.
A third condition, and Saad Hariri would have to sign off on it, is that Fouad Siniora be reappointed as prime minister, but only if he proves he is not Suleiman's man as some are beginning to fear. This is important for several reasons. First, Siniora has the experience needed to go through what would undoubtedly be a critical transformation period. Second, Hariri needs to maintain a cushion of deniability between himself and the government at a time of deep polarization, to avoid being discredited if the public mood turns sharply against the government. And third, Siniora is the person best placed to defend the legislative legacy of the current government, which the opposition is still trying to reverse.
In parallel, the majority will have to try to take advantage of Michel Aoun's frustration with being shunted aside as president. Realizing that his political ambitions are about to be wrecked, the general may yet be willing to turn into a kingmaker and come to an agreement with the majority over a candidate with whom both sides feel more content. This bargaining should take place while the majority negotiates with the candidates Syria puts forward, turning March 14 into an arbiter.
The obstacles are immense. If the Syrians don't get their way, they will react brutally. Many Lebanese, and the army itself, won't take kindly to measures portraying Suleiman in a bad light. And Aoun is unlikely to do the smart thing and change direction, even if his allies abandon him on the presidency. But bearing in mind that Syria may be the least pleased with a vacuum - because the Hariri tribunal will advance anyway - the majority may be the one with time on its side. That's why it should act like a majority, be forceful on its priorities, and ensure that 2005 was not just a fantasy.
**Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR.
Hot Summer Offensive
By Erick Stakelbeck
CBN News Terror Analyst
August 14, 2007
CBNNews.com - Leaders from Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas gathered in Damascus last month to discuss their vision for the Middle East.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad summed up the meeting: "We hope that the hot weather of this summer would coincide with similar victories for the region's peoples and with consequent defeat for the region's enemies."
Those enemies include the United States and Israel. Iran is leading a summer offensive against these rivals, but is staying behind the scenes.
"They use proxy fighters," Peter Brookes, from Heritage Foundation, said. "They use Hezbollah in Lebanon. They use Hamas in the Palestinian territories. They're using Shia militias in Iraq. They're using the Taliban in Afghanistan. And they often will allow others to do their dirty work."
Ex-Pentagon and CIA Official Peter Brookes says America and Israel stand in the way of Iran's plan to dominate the Middle East.
The Second Lebanon War: One Year Later
Brookes said the plan involves ".an Iranian arc of influence across the entire Middle East. Across the Sunni Arab world. Going from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea. And that's what they're hoping for."
This Iranian arc begins in Iraq. U.S. officials say Iran backs both Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias. Iranian agents have been captured in Iraq recently and some are members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard.
"There's lots of money going from Iran into Iraq," Brooks said. "They're bank-rolling some politicians, they're bank-rolling some real troublemakers like Muqtada al-Sadr." Military officials say Iran is also responsible for the deadly roadside bombs that killed 23 U.S. soldiers in July.
"There will be consequences for people transporting, delivering EFP's--highly sophisticated IED's that kill Americans in Iraq," President Bush warned.
Weaponry being smuggled into Iraq from Iran and placed in the hands of extremists over which the government has no control is a destabilizing factor. And the goal is to kill innocent lives.
Middle East Expert Walid Phares believes Iran's goal is to force a hasty U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.
"As soon as the last U.S. soldier or Allied soldier would be leaving Iraq, you don't need a political scientist to figure out that the Iranians will overrun--through their miltias and friends and allies--two thirds of Iraq, from Baghdad all the way down to Basra," Phares explained.
Phares, a native of Lebanon, says his home country is the next to fall under the Iranian umbrella, along with Syria.
Last year's war with Israel weakened the Lebanon-based terrorist militia, Hezbollah. But Israeli intelligence says the group is back near full strength thanks to Iran.
"It is not a proxy or an ally or some partner -- it is part of the Iranian regime," Phares said. "It receives hundreds of millions of dollars directly from the Iranian regime. It moves in Lebanon in coordination--in full, absolute coordination--with the Islamic Republic of Iran."
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah boasts the group's missiles can reach any city in Israel. Analysts believe Nasrallah is gearing up for a rematch, but he may first turn his sights closer to home. "Hezbollah's war room today is preparing for the crumbling of the Lebanese government between now and the end of this year," Phares said. "They are taking advantage of presidential elections coming soon--the end of September or early October."
Syria also funnels arms and money to Hezbollah. The Syrians are blamed for a wave of assassinations inside Lebanon. U.N. peacekeeping troops have been unable to stop this Syrian and Iranian meddling.
"The international community must immediately take charge of the Lebanon/Syria borders. Because these borders are allowing Hezbollah to arm, rearm, and rearm again," Phares said. The final sphere in Iran's web of influence is the Gaza Strip. The terrorist group Hamas seized full control there in June. Again, Iran is the main source of weapons and money. This sets the stage for another perfect storm like last summer, in which Israel was attacked from both sides.
"What they're doing basically is heating up Gaza -- arming the Hamas forces, arming the Hezbollah forces," Phares said. "They want to squeeze Israel between two enclaves in Gaza and southern Lebanon." Iran's wild card may be al-Qaeda. Several high-ranking al-Qaeda operatives have been in Iranian custody since fleeing Afghanistan in late 2001. U.S. intelligence officials believe Iran may be providing a safe haven for the group, so it can coordinate attacks.
"As long as it supports Iran's objectives, I think they're willing to have a marriage of convenience, maybe a marriage of necessity," Brooks said. "Because both of them see the United States as the biggest obstacle to what they want to achieve." A senior military intelligence source tells CBN News the Iranian regime is debating whether to unleash chaos in Iraq before summer's end. Some Iranian factions feel it may be better to keep bleeding America slowly until it withdraws.
All of this, of course, continues to shift focus from Iran's nuclear weapons program, which continues full speed ahead.
rules out reconciliation with opposition
Daily Star staff
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
BEIRUT: Head of the Progressive Socialist Party MP Walid Jumblatt reiterated on Tuesday his refusal to forge a compromise or settlement with the opposition, saying "contradictory political currents cannot reach a common agreement." "I don't see any sort of settlement possible before the opposition cut off all sorts of ties with Syria," Jumblatt told Kuwaiti Al- Siyyasa newspaper.
In an interview to survey escalating political developments on the Lebanese political scene, Jumblatt said he was against making any compromises concerning presidential elections, "personally, I am against reconciliation."
"The ruling coalition has to assume its responsibilities at one point or the other ... and constitutional articles are clear concerning presidential elections," Jumblatt said.
The opposition along with President Emile Lahoud had previously threatened that Lahoud would form his own government if the presidential election is not held according to a two-thirds parliamentary quorum. The ruling coalition is calling for an absolute majority in the next presidential election.
Asked whether the March 14 Forces would elect the next president by absolute majority, the Druze leader said: "It is in our own right ... and any talks about the necessity of a two-thirds quorum do not concern me; yet this could not be reflective of the point of view of all my comrades in the March 14 Forces."
On Saturday, Jumblatt warned that anyone within the March 14 alliance who thinks of reaching a compromise or a settlement with the opposition would be considered a traitor and would be "condemned morally and politically."
Lashing out at the opposition, Jumblatt said his opponents worked to fulfill Syrian as well as Iranian interests rather than Lebanese ones.
"How can we reconcile with a group which operates according to a regional agenda, and which refuses to embrace any national steps?" he asked.
The Head of the Democratic Gathering also reiterated his accusation that Hizbullah has established "their own state within the Lebanese state," adding that this contributed "to the widening of the gap between us and the other group."
He also warned of the possibility of renewed violence and political assassinations in Lebanon, "because there is a group working on destroying Lebanon." He saluted Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir describing him as "one of Lebanon's sovereignty pillars."
"This man silently suffers silently for Lebanon's struggles, yet he has always been strong," Jumblatt added. - The Daily Star
Lebanon Terror: The Syrian Moukhabarat Connection
Pierre A. Maroun - 8/16/2007
On August 13, 2007, Lebanese Army General Michael Suleiman shed some light on the military situation in Naher El Bared and the fight against Fateh el Islam terrorist group. In the process, General Suleiman mentioned that such a terrorist group is definitely linked to Al-Qaeda, yet, he added, it has no connection to Syria whatsoever. Such distortion of the truth triggered this document, in which most of its intelligence information came from the same Army that General Suleiman is the commander.
The Palestinians came into Lebanon in two main influxes. The majority of them came in after the establishment of Israel in 1948, while the second influx occurred after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Originally, they were set up in different refugee camps throughout Lebanon. However, over the years many of them moved out of the camps and resided in the main coastal cities of Lebanon especially Beirut, Sidon, Tripoli and Tyre. Currently they number 420,508 out of which 239,736 live inside the camps, with 180,772 spread out through the cities mentioned above. This number constitutes approximately 10% of Lebanon’s population. The Palestinians lived peacefully in Lebanon until 1967. After the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, and with support from most Arab countries, especially Syria, the Palestinians started getting arms shipments into their camps in Lebanon and started training their “guerillas” inside the camps and in some other remote areas of Lebanon.
The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was formed and most of the armed Palestinians factions joined under its umbrella. After their clashes and their defeat by King Hussein of Jordan in 1970, (Black September) there was an enormous influx of armed Palestinians into Lebanon by way of Syria.
It did not take long for the PLO to establish a state within a state and to start interfering in the Lebanese political process as well as in disrupting the daily lives of the Lebanese people. Moreover, the Palestinian camps became training grounds and unreachable havens for most international terrorist groups. This led to several clashes between the Lebanese army and the PLO. These clashes came to an end after the 1973 Cairo agreement between Lebanon and the PLO.
Several security incidents between the Palestinian armed forces and the Lebanese army, as well as with Lebanese citizens, culminated in 1975 into a major deflagration leading to the start of the Lebanese war. During the first seven years of the war, the PLO played a major role in directing the conflict and was responsible for the massacres of thousands of Lebanese and the displacement of tens of thousands more.
Their role was greatly diminished, however, after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. After the end of the Lebanese war in 1990, the Palestinian armed presence was limited to their refugee camps. However, after the death of Yasser Arafat, and the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005, the fundamentalist groups, through Syrian intelligence training, financing, and directing gained momentum and allied themselves with Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which took upon itself the role of the Syrian Mukhabarat (Intelligence.)
Ever since its departure from Lebanon, Syria has been sending hundreds of armed Palestinian militants into Lebanon in order to destabilize the security situation in the country under the pretext of defeating the American-Zionist plan for the new Middle East, which is believed to be a mere “plot” to destabilize the region.
Map of the Palestinian Camps of Lebanon:
I – Camps of South-Lebanon:
These camps are of strategic importance because of many factors among which we mention:
In these camps are based the headquarters of the Fatah organization of Yasser Arafat and his senior officers. These camps are the major human resources reserves of Fatah and other organizations. These camps are poorly influenced by Syria but are infiltrated by Syrian intelligence.
Within these camps are important logistical support facilities and major ammunitions stocks. Islamic extremists of Bin Laden and others find a safe heaven beside the “Ussbat Al Ansar” in these camps.
A – Nabateyeh camp:
This camp is empty from any armed Palestinian organization and has no military or paramilitary activity within it. It is of no interest at security and military levels.
B - Rachideyeh camp (suburbs of Tyre):
It is one of the most important camps in Lebanon. During the past 10 years the Fatah of Yasser Arafat enforced its presence and influence within it. The weapons flow to the camp and to other camps was very intensive during the past three years reaching mainly the Fatah movement and less to the Hamas and the PIJ. Palestinians from different organizations were buying huge quantities of weapons and ammunitions for strategic purposes.
The Fatah headquarters are based in the Rachideyeh camp. The general commander of Fatah in Lebanon is major general Sultan Abul-Aynayn appointed by Arafat himself. Fatah controls 90% of the camp and is supported by the great majority of its population. The remaining 10% are controlled by the Democratic Front of Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) of Mr. Nayef Hawatmeh (Syrian obedient) and by the Popular Front of Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) of former Abu Ali Mustafa (Mustafa Al-Zibri was killed by the Israelis).
In Rachideyeh Hamas and PIJ are nearly absent and have very rare influence. No presence of PFLP-GC has been significantly reported.
C - Borj Al Chamali camp (suburbs of Tyre):
Controlled also by Fatah like Rachideyeh, the distribution of influence is exactly like in Rachideyeh:
90% for Fatah, 10% for DFLP and PFLP. No presence of PFLP-GC, Hamas and PIJ. Within the three camps around the city of Tyre the Fatah can mobilize up to 2500 well trained and well organized men, where as DFLP and PFLP can mobilize a few dozens of men. Syrian influence within these camps is weak but Syrian intelligence covert activities are intensive.
D - Ain El Helweh camp (suburbs of Saida):
The largest Palestinian camp in Lebanon (around 75000 people). The Fatah is controlling 90% of the camp. The Fatah leader in the camp is Colonel Mounir Al Makdeh. This camp is a strategic human resource and a strategic logistical base for the Fatah of Arafat. In Ain El Helweh alone the Fatah can mobilize up to 2500 well trained and well organized men. In this camp is also present the Palestinian Islamic radical organization “Ussbat Al Ansar” ([Islamic] Supporters League”). The leader of this organization is Abdul-Karim Al Saadi “Abu Mohjen”, very well known for his subversive activities in Lebanon and linked openly to Al Jamaa Al Islamya of North-Lebanon, to other Islamic radical small groups in South-Lebanon, and to Bin Laden’s Al Quaida. We strongly believe that Abu Mohjen is the Bin Laden’s appointed leader in Lebanon and that he controls and coordinate the activities of Bin Laden’s men in Beirut, Saida and Tripoli. Abu Mohjen controls around 10% of the camp mainly in an area called Braxat in the suburbs of Ain El Helweh and has a group of 200 armed and very well trained and indoctrinated men.
Furthermore, Abu Mohjen offers logistical and intelligence facilities to Bin Laden’s men. There are doubts about his financial resources that may be from Bin Laden’s. The Hamas and PIJ are present but have no influence; their presence is rather at a propaganda levels. They are making efforts to recruit men and to create goodwill with the help of the Iranian money they get from Hezbollah, with a limited success till now. The PFLP-GC has an office near the camp in a close location to the Saida Governmental Hospital. This office is protected by the Lebanese Army intelligence.
E - Myeh Wmyeh camp (suburbs of Saida):
This camp has not an important military activity within it. The main influence is for the Fatah whose leader is Colonel Mounir Al Makdeh based in Ain El Helweh. Makdeh leaves the camp of Ain El Helweh from time to time under a false identity and meets with senior Palestinian leaders in safe houses in the Metn and Kesrwan area. We don’t know if the Syrian and the Lebanese intelligence know about that matter.
II - Camps of Beirut:
These camps are relatively weak military wise compared to the camps of South-Lebanon and North-Lebanon. They are very influenced by the Syrian intelligence whose activity is very intensive within them. The different Palestinian organizations have extra-camps activities in Beirut. These activities are mainly intelligence and financial. Recently and during the past 5 years the Iranian intelligence started to have intelligence activities within the camps through several organizations like the PFLPGC (Syrian obedience and excellent relationships with Iran. Jihad Jibril [Jaafar], the son of Ahmad Jibril was assassinated in Beirut on May 20, 2002. He used to travel often to Teheran. The PFLP-GC offers military assistance for Hezbollah--training and operational).
Iran is also starting to have some more influence through Hamas and PIJ and is financing them.
A - Borj Al Barajneh camp (southern suburbs of Beirut):
In this camp the situation is special. Palestinian people in there have kept their initial family and tribal belongings since they arrived in 1948. It is a camp of tribes and families among whom the Miliji tribe and the Abul Aynayn family. The main people there came from Gaza strip and its neighborhoods and most of them are supporters of Arafat.
The distribution of influence is estimated to be as follows: Fatah 55%, PFLP 15%, DFLP 10% and the remaining is between PFLP-GC, Hamas and PIJ. The PFLPGC has around 120 armed men in the camp and the other organizations including Fatah and the DFLP combined forces are about 1000 men.
The PFLP-GC has 4 major offices in the camp (very close collaboration with Syrian and Iranian intelligence): One in the Mosque square, another near Jaffa hospital, another in the Anan square and the fourth one near the western entrance of the camp close to Beirut Airport main road. The Hamas activities are mainly concentrated in the suburbs of the camp like in the Mihanyeh square, the Baajour square and the Zeineddine Square.
B – Sabra and Chatila camps (Beirut):
The military activities in these camps are much smaller than during the 70’s and the early 80’s. The total number of armed men within them is estimated to be 600 men distributed as follows: Fatah 300 men, PFLP-GC 150 men, Hamas and Jihad combined forces up to 150 men. The PFLP-GC has intensive intelligence activities outside the camps in the surrounding streets like Fakhani and the suburbs of the Arab University of Beirut in covered offices located in private apartments. The concentration of Hamas groups is around “Al-Shark” cinema and around Gaza hospital inside the camps.
C – Mar Elias camp (Beirut):
It is a small camp without significant military activities. The main influence is for the PFLP-GC that undergoes security activities in 3 offices like one located in the Hamoui roastery building and another one near the camp in the “Audi Bank” building. The PFLP-GC has around 100 armed and trained men; Hamas and PIJ have a small presence. The PFLP and the DFLP have each one an office and totalize both around 150 men. In this camp Fatah doesn’t exist and Arafat is a banned man.
III – Camps of North-Lebanon:
These camps, like their counterparts of South-Lebanon are strategic because they are a human resource reserve and a huge logistical and ammunitions support bases. The difference with the South-Lebanon camps is that the Syrian influence is much more important than in South and that Fatah is not the sole decision maker there. Islamists largely infiltrate these camps. These Islamists are in the different Palestinian organizations and do not constitute a separate group.
A – Beddaoui (northern suburbs of Tripoli) and Nahr El Bared (suburbs of Minyeh) camps: The Fatah of Arafat controls only around 40% of these 2 strategic camps. The PFLP-GC controls around 25% of them where as PIJ and Hamas control 15%. The PFLP and the DFLP are very weak there. In these two camps Syrian are the major power through PFLP-GC, Hamas, and PIJ. These camps are the major ammunitions stocks for the Fatah and the PFLP-GC. The Hamas and PIJ have relationships with the Islamic Lebanese organizations of North-Lebanon. Bin Laden has several safe houses there and that this camp is harboring major groups of his. Another powerful terrorist group is Fateh al Islam, which has a great presence in Nahr el Bared. (See below)
IV - Camps of the Bekaa valley:
A - Wavel camp (Baalbek):
It was an old British army base during World War I and World War II. It is a very weak camp, very much infiltrated by the Syrian intelligence. All Palestinian organizations have small offices there: Fatah controls 10% of the camp. The remaining is distributed between the PFLP-GC, the Saika, DFLP, PFLP, Hamas and PIJ. The camp is not strategic and is totally under Syrian control.
A – The Bekaa:
- In Taalabaya area there are offices and military bases for the DFLP and the PFLP. Their security activities are very intensive there.
- In Koussaya east of Zahleh the PFLP-GC has an important office. In Koussaya the PFLP-GC has a training base, an important ammunitions stock and a full battalion of guerillas (150 - 250 men).
- In The western Bekaa (Kamed Al Lawz, till Marjeyoun area)(look at the Map) more than a full battalion of guerillas of the PFLP-GC is deployed (250 to 500 men).
- In Barr Elias there are offices for the Hamas (behind the Hochaymi Gas Station) and offices for the Fatah al Intifada, which is run from Damascus by Colonel Abu Moussa who runs fortified bases in the Bekaa Valley. These bases were established when the area was controlled by Syria's army which ended its deployment in Lebanon in April 2005. Fatah al Intifada’s activities are mainly located in the Bekaa valley, but also in the Naameh area and in a part of South-Lebanon.
B – Naameh (Mount-Lebanon the coastal part of the Shouf):
A strong artificial cave where are an ammunition stock, a medical facility installation with doctors and nurses with a full guerilla battalion of 250 men for the PFLP-GC.
V -- SUNNI INFLUENCE ZONE
North-Lebanon is traditionally a zone of influence of Sunni Islamic radicalism since the crusades centuries ago. In this area no armed radical organization has any free movement. Syrian intelligence is controlling the area very closely because Damascus is afraid of the spreading of Sunni radicalism to Syria through the Lebanese-Syrian border. The actual existing Sunni radical organization is the Jamaa al Islamya of Sheikh Fathi Yakan, but it is unorganized and unarmed according to the classical standards; it is very popular among the population and can mobilize up to 2000 men regardless of its weak structure. To counterbalance this problem Syria encouraged other Sunni radicals in North-Lebanon to organize themselves and is controlling their organizations very closely: The Ahbache (Jamiyat Al Machari’ al Islamya) of Sheikh Karakirah and the Islamic Tawhid of Ussama Shaabane. Bin Laden found a very favorable popular base in North-Lebanon and the Dennyeh clashes on the eve of the 2000 New Year’s Day between his men and the Lebanese army put an end to his semi-covered activities, but we have specific information that he still has safe houses and allies there.
VI – New Developments and Camps activities:
1. on February 28, 2007, at 14:00 PM, Fares Hamed Terkawi (20 years old, Syrian nationalist) entered the Baddawi camp and was going to Fateh al Islam bureau of security (Lajna Amniyya) of the Camp. He was arrested and interrogated by the Palestinian responsible Khalil Ismaiil Dib. The Syrian guy had a bag in which there was 7000$ + military clothes+ computer and files.
2. Few days ago a big responsible for Fateh al Islam (Abo Khaled al Jaza2iri) arrived to Baddawi camp coming from Ain Helweh. He is training militants in Baddawi and Fateh al Islam is using "counter-fitting machine to forge passports and other documents especially Thailand and Spanish ones. The machine could be placed in the Khachan building inside the camp.
3. There are hundreds of Fateh al Islam militants from different nationalities (Syrians, Tunisians, Iraqis, Yemenis, Saudis...) coming thru Syria to the Baddawi camp. Mohammad Obeid (a.k.a. Abo Hazifa Al Baghdadi) welcomes them and he provides residences in the place of Samed and Taawouniyya in the camp for them. He is also the one training them.
4. Chehab Kaddour (a.k.s. Abou Hourayra) is a 40-year old from Mechmech Akkar. His parents live in Zahriyya, Tripoli. He was a responsible in Haraket Tawhid of Bilal Chaabane and he was arrested for years during the 1985 incidents in Tripoli. Kaddour is very fanatic and he is considered the "mourched el-dineh" [Spiritual Leader] for the group.
He was killed by the Lebanese Internal Security Forces on August 6, 2007 when he failed to stop on a check point in Tripoli, North Lebanon. The Lebanese Army has been battling Fateh al Islam terrorists in Naher El Bared since June 1, 2007 after some of its members slaughtered 30 Lebanese soldiers in their sleep beheading many of them.
5. Abd el Rahman Alia who is married to a Palestinian woman and obtains an American citizenship gives English lessons in different institutions in Tripoli. He used to work with the Syrian State Security Lieutenant Habib al Mohammad. Abd el Rahman alia is currently collecting info about the Palestinians in the Baddawi camp and there are possibilities that he might be a CIA.
6. On March 13, 2007, the Lebanese police have busted a Syria-based terrorist network grouping operatives on charges of carrying out the twin-bus bombings in the mountainous town of Ain Alaq northeast of Beirut last February. While these terrorists hold Syrian and Saudi identification documents, two of them are Palestinian refugees from the camp of Yarmouk near the Syrian capital of Damascus.
Two of the terrorists that remain at large are believed to have been hiding at north Lebanon's Nahr el-Bared refugee camp. Police confiscated a "large quantity of explosives" which were hidden in a Beirut apartment of a Syrian suspect identified as Mustapha Siyor.
Members of the network infiltrated into Lebanon from Syria last November under the cover of the so-called "Fatah-Islam" group, which was set up by Syrian intelligence with the objective of carrying out terrorist attacks to destabilize Lebanon and to block the ratification of the international tribunal which would try suspects of the 2005 assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes.
The daily newspaper al-Moustaqbal reported on Nov. 30 that Syrian President Bashar Assad has sent 200 terrorists to Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon to assassinate 36 Lebanese public figures.
Police reported that Fateh al Islam group is just a "cover" for the terrorist network that operates in Lebanon from bases controlled by the so-called Fatah-Intifada group, a Syrian-controlled faction that broke away from Yasser Arafat's mainstream Fatah early in 1983 as part of an effort by the late Syrian President Hafez Assad to create a substitute for Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO.)
The Palestinian presence in Lebanon has been creating a very unstable situation in Lebanon. Their youth and their armed groups have been manipulated by the Syrian Moukhabarat for decades. First, the Syrian Baath regime used them to destabilize Lebanon and to incite wars. Today, the same Syrian regime has been recruiting them to fight against the coalition forces in order to destabilize Iraq, just as they are using Hamas to destabilize the Palestinian territories, and Hezbollah to destabilize Lebanon.
VIII – Recommendations:
1. Enforce the UNSC resolution 1559 and 1701 along with the Taef accord.
2. Find a permanent solution to the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, taking into consideration, the socio-economic factors and the high population density in the country, as well as the fragile religious and demographic balance. Since most Palestinians are Sunni Muslims, perhaps relocating them to Iraq could serve to balance the Shiites of Iraq and to act as a buffer zone between Iran and the Arabs of the Gulf.
3. Shield Lebanon from the many conflicts of the Middle East to guarantee stability and peace in the country may lead to stabilizing the entire region, including Iraq.
4. Control the Lebanese and Iraqi borders with Syria to prevent movement of more terrorist groups and weapons into these countries.
***Pierre A. Maroun is the Secretary-General American-Lebanese Coordination Council.
Lebanon's Leaders in the Cote D'Azur
Randa Takieddin- Al-Hayat - 15/08/07//
Anyone who passes by the Hotel Du Barry in Monte Carlo would think that he was at the ancient Phoenicia hotel in Lebanon. In the last days of the summer vacation, the French hotel has become crowded with Lebanese, from politicians to several journalists who have come to listen to the latest news pertaining to the Lebanese leadership. Said a Western official spending his vacation in the South of France, "If you want to hear the latest news about the leadership in Lebanon, visit the Hotel Du Barry at 6 pm, and you will find them all talking about and trying to solve the Lebanese issue away from local distractions".
Everyone is preoccupied with the question of the presidency. The topic of the hour among the Lebanese and Arabs at the hotels in Cannes: Who will be the new president of Lebanon? The speculations are numerous and the questions even more so. First and foremost is the question of whether the Parliament Speaker Nabih Berry will actually hold a session to elect a president on September 25th, as he and his Arab and foreign friends have been saying. It appears that the West is now betting on a large role for Berry in this arena; there are those who say he will not initiate naming a candidate, but that if someone like MP Boutrous Harb for example was put forward, he would agree to it. There are those who say that is not true, and that Berry is maneuvering. There are those who say that there are several agendas in front of Berry: The Hezbollah candidate and Syria and Michel Aoun's agenda, the March 14th candidate's agenda, and the American administration's candidate's agenda….etc.
Berry is examining these names and seeing which candidate would answer to more than one agenda, and that is who he will choose. There are many questions over who will be the lucky candidate. Will it be General Michel Sleiman, Lebanese Central Bank governor Riyad Salameh, Jean Obeid, or Fares Bouez, seeing as they do not belong to March 14th or March 8th? Charles Rizk, the minister of justice, since he is accepted in Lebanon as well as internationally? Although this would be vetoed by President Emile Lahoud, who has accused his former friend of treason because he respected international decisions and fought for their implementation, particularly the international tribunal to try the perpetrators of the assassination of the martyred former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and because he stayed in the government even after his actions were held against him.
The stakes are high in this wager, because there are countries that are involved in the agreement over candidates for the Lebanese presidency. However, President Emile Lahoud has made his diplomacy clear, for in case there is no agreement on a name for a new president, Lahoud will hand over the presidency to the army and not to a government he considers to be illegitimate. By saying that he will turn it over to the army, he makes clear the fact that there is a Syrian plan to delay an agreement so that the army could take over the Lebanese presidency. General Michel Sleiman's announcement that he will stay in his position until the presidency is decided and his steadfastness until this eligibility is determined does not contradict the possibility that such a scenario might occur.
There is more than one Lebanese and international and Western side that does not want another military figure in charge of the presidency for reasons specific to each of them. The American administration is hoping that an agreement will be reached on a civilian candidate who will satisfy the Patriarch who neither favors that the Constitution to be amended, nor the presidency to be handed over to the army.
France has previous reservations regarding the General Michel Sleiman and even though it has provided assistance to the Lebanese Army, it nevertheless prefers that an agreement be reached on a conciliatory candidate. More importantly, the Arab brethren do not want a void which will end in instability and Lahoud handing over the presidency to the army; none of them favor the Syrian plan. There is no doubt that the new president should not be anti-Syria or else he will be done for, either through unemployment or suicide. However, under the current regional circumstances, it is not possible for a new Lebanese president to be forced upon the country under Syrian-Iranian patronage; that has become unacceptable regionally as well as internationally. Unfortunately, the Syrian regime is convinced that it has become strengthened and that it is not in the defensive position it was in during the May 2005 elections.
Syria is confident that the American administration's failure in Iraq and in Palestine will enable it to be more resilient in defending its positions. This thought process is dangerous to Lebanon, because Syria neither wants Lebanon to be free nor independent. If it did in fact want that, it would have agreed to the principle of exchanging ambassadors, when all Arab countries are tied together with diplomatic relations and ambassadors. Syria refuses such a concept because it does not recognize a sovereign and independent Lebanese state. For that reason, it will exert the utmost efforts to name a candidate who will be under its patronage. It will not just be satisfied with giving its opinion or with having a candidate who is not against it; it wants a warden president in the likeness of President Emile Lahoud.
Will international pressure succeed in forcing a conciliatory, independent candidate, and if so, which president would embody such a viewpoint? There are numerous Lebanese politicians who are expressing pessimism, saying that conciliation is not possible in the current situation. What if the majority voted for a candidate from this group and the international community recognized him, and in return Lahoud hands the army the presidency? This will undoubtedly mean chaos and instability. The hope is that the consultations that took place on the French Riviera between the Lebanese and Arabs and the international community will bring about results that are in Lebanon's best interests. The hope is also that the arrival of the new French ambassador to Lebanon André Parent, one of France's most skilled diplomats, will symbolize an opportunity for the continuation of France's involvement in a policy initiated by Jacques Chirac and which Nicholas Sarkozy promised to uphold, which is based on Lebanon's independence and sovereignty and not on Syria's custodianship of it