DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 19,23-30. Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, "Who then can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible." Then Peter said to him in reply, "We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?" Jesus said to them, "Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.
Suleiman is the dark horse. By Sami Moubayed, Gulf News. August 21/07
Al Qaeda's Travel Agent. By: By JOSEPH LIEBERMAN. August 21/07
Islam doesn't strive for a mullah-led theocracy.By Mohammad Habash. August 21/07
Maliki walks a fine line in his recent efforts to put Iraq first.The Daily Star. August 21/07
Controlling the Syrian Lebanese borders is a MUST for peace.World Forum
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources
for August 21/07
Iraqi Prime Minister Holds High-Level Talks in Syria.Voice of America
Suleiman is the dark horse-Gulf News
Aoun: US Reassessing Policy Toward Lebanon. Naharnet
Hizbullah Trained Mehdi Fighters in Lebanon. Naharnet
Syrian newspaper: US pushing Israel to war. Ynet
French police detain Lebanese in break up of luxury prostitution ring in Cannes-Daily Star
Army steps up siege of Nahr al-Bared, former general assures militants are 'doomed-Daily Star'
March 14 vows to block foreign bid to pick president-Daily Star
UNIFIL unwilling to monitor Syrian border, Israeli officials say-Daily Star
Berri discusses political scene with French envoy-Daily Star
Rights group lashes out at Interior Ministry-Daily Star
Government honors Al-Kafaat Foundation-Daily Star
Hizbullah official hits out at Siniora-Daily Star
Military branch of PLO deploys to boost security in Ain al-Hilweh-Daily Star
FPM supporters involved in shooting of Phalange loyalist-Daily Star
IDAL chief asserts insecurity cost Lebanon foreign investment-Daily Star
Patriarch Douaihy in final stages of beatification.-Daily Star
Militant groups lure Tripoli's impoverished youth with cash-Daily Star
Al Qaeda's Travel
By JOSEPH LIEBERMAN
August 20, 2007; Page A11
The United States is at last making significant progress against al Qaeda in Iraq -- but the road to victory now requires cutting off al Qaeda's road to Iraq through Damascus.
Thanks to Gen. David Petraeus's new counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq, and the strength and skill of the American soldiers fighting there, al Qaeda in Iraq is now being routed from its former strongholds in Anbar and Diyala provinces. Many of Iraq's Sunni Arabs, meanwhile, are uniting with us against al Qaeda, alienated by the barbarism and brutality of their erstwhile allies.
As Gen. Petraeus recently said of al Qaeda in Iraq: "We have them off plan."
But defeating al Qaeda in Iraq requires not only that we continue pressing the offensive against its leadership and infrastructure inside the country. We must also aggressively target its links to "global" al Qaeda and close off the routes its foreign fighters are using to get into Iraq.
Recently declassified American intelligence reveals just how much al Qaeda in Iraq is dependent for its survival on the support it receives from the broader, global al Qaeda network, and how most of that support flows into Iraq through one country -- Syria. Al Qaeda in Iraq is sustained by a transnational network of facilitators and human smugglers, who replenish its supply of suicide bombers -- approximately 60 to 80 Islamist extremists, recruited every month from across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, and sent to meet their al Qaeda handlers in Syria, from where they are taken to Iraq to blow themselves up to kill countless others.
Although small in number, these foreign fighters are a vital strategic asset to al Qaeda in Iraq, providing it with the essential human ammunition it needs to conduct high-visibility, mass-casualty suicide bombings, such as we saw last week in northern Iraq. In fact, the U.S. military estimates that between 80% and 90% of suicide attacks in Iraq are perpetrated by foreign fighters, making them the deadliest weapon in al Qaeda's war arsenal. Without them, al Qaeda in Iraq would be critically, perhaps even fatally, weakened.
That is why we now must focus on disrupting this flow of suicide bombers -- and that means focusing on Syria, through which up to 80% of the Iraq-bound extremists transit. Indeed, even terrorists from countries that directly border Iraq travel by land via Syria to Iraq, instead of directly from their home countries, because of the permissive environment for terrorism that the Syrian government has fostered. Syria refuses to tighten its visa regime for individuals transiting its territory.
Coalition forces have spent considerable time and energy trying to tighten Syria's land border with Iraq against terrorist infiltration. But given the length and topography of that border, the success of these efforts is likely to remain uneven at best, particularly without the support of the Damascus regime.
Before al Qaeda's foreign fighters can make their way across the Syrian border into Iraq, however, they must first reach Syria -- and the overwhelming majority does so, according to U.S. intelligence estimates, by flying into Damascus International Airport, making the airport the central hub of al Qaeda travel in the Middle East, and the most vulnerable chokepoint in al Qaeda's war against Iraq and the U.S. in Iraq.
Syrian President Bashar al Assad cannot seriously claim that he is incapable of exercising effective control over the main airport in his capital city. Syria is a police state, with sprawling domestic intelligence and security services. The notion that al Qaeda recruits are slipping into and through the Damascus airport unbeknownst to the local Mukhabarat is totally unbelievable.
This is not the first use of the Damascus airport by terrorists. It has long been the central transit point for Iranian weapons en route to Hezbollah, in violation of United Nations Security Council sanctions, as well as for al Qaeda operatives moving into and out of Lebanon.
Now the Damascus airport is the point of entry into Iraq for most of the suicide bombers who are killing innocent Iraqi citizens and American soldiers, and trying to break America's will in this war. It is therefore time to demand that the Syrian regime stop playing travel agent for al Qaeda in Iraq.
When Congress reconvenes next month, we should set aside whatever differences divide us on Iraq and send a clear and unambiguous message to the Syrian regime, as we did last month to the Iranian regime, that the transit of al Qaeda suicide bombers through Syria on their way to Iraq is completely unacceptable, and it must stop.
We in the U.S. government should also begin developing a range of options to consider taking against Damascus International, unless the Syrian government takes appropriate action, and soon.
Responsible air carriers should be asked to stop flights into Damascus International, as long as it remains the main terminal of international terror. Despite its use by al Qaeda and Hezbollah terrorists, the airport continues to be serviced by many major non-U.S. carriers, including Alitalia, Air France, and British Airways.
Interrupting the flow of foreign fighters would mean countless fewer suicide bombings in Iraq, and countless fewer innocent people murdered by the barbaric enemy we are fighting there. At a time when the al Qaeda network in Iraq is already under heavy stress thanks to American and Iraqi military operations, closing off the supply line through which al Qaeda in Iraq is armed with its most deadly weapons -- suicide bombers -- would be devastating to the terrorists' cause.
Simply put, for the U.S. and our Iraqi allies, defeating al Qaeda in Iraq means locking shut Syria's "Open Door" policy to terrorists. It is past time for Syria to do so.
Mr. Lieberman is an Independent Democratic senator from Connecticut.
Reassessing Policy Toward Lebanon
Free Patriotic Movement leader General Michel Aoun said he got a "sense of understanding" from an account that the United States was reassessing its policy towards Lebanon."…There is an American reassessment of the Lebanese situation, and we sensed some understanding which we hope will develop and produce practical initiatives," Aoun told reporters on Monday. He also uncovered that sources in Washington informed him of "a new (U.S.) approach" towards Lebanon.
Aoun read out a letter addressed five months ago to U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon in which he accused the international community of "taking sides and meddling in strictly Lebanese affairs.""We urge you to deal with the situation in Lebanon with more objectivity and start dialogue with various Lebanese factions," said the letter, which Aoun thought was good to shed light on at present. Aoun lashed out at Christian politicians from the majority March 14 Forces who gathered in Merab for a first meeting on Monday aimed at agreeing on a common candidate for the 2007 presidential election, saying they are not "decision-makers."
In a statement issued after six hours of talks at the residence of Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea in Merab north of Beirut, the conferees said they had decided "to choose, at the opportune moment, a single candidate who will represent us in the presidential election." The delegates at the meeting insisted on "the necessity of organizing the presidential election on the date provided for in the constitution" -- between September 25 and November 24 -- and said the election would allow Christians "to play an active role in Lebanese politics once again." Beirut, 21 Aug 07, 06:44
Hizbullah Trained Mehdi Fighters in Lebanon
Mehdi fighters from Iraq have confessed to being trained by Hizbullah in Lebanon in advanced guerrilla warfare tactics, The Independent said.
The British daily quoted members of Muqtada al-Sadr's powerful militia as saying they had received instruction from fellow Hizbullah fighters, who fought a month-long battle with Israel's army last summer. One Iraqi militiaman, who asked to be named only as Abu Muhannad, told The Independent he had spent a month in southern Lebanon, a Hizbullah stronghold. "I was one of the experienced fighters from the Mehdi army to go for training there," he said. "We learned how to take advantage of an armored vehicle's weakness, and how to wait and kill the soldiers who try to escape," he said.
The paper said the 39-year-old Abu Muhannad from Suwayrah, a city 40 km south of Baghdad was one of several fighters to confirm the links between the two groups. The United States has long charged that Hizbullah, Iraq's Shiites and Iran have formed a broad alliance opposed to Israel, the U.S. and its Middle Eastern allies. The U.S. military said earlier this year that it had captured a Hizbullah fighter in southern Iraq on charges of involvement in the abduction and murder of American soldiers.Hizbollah has a reputation of being able to carry out such complex operations, in contrast to the more amateurish Mehdi Army, the report said.
It said that during last summer's war, Hizbullah proved itself equal to the Israeli army, staging well-organized, textbook ambushes on tanks. Israel attacked Lebanon in an effort to wipe out Hizbullah, but the war ended in stalemate, surprising military observers and allowing the fighters to claim a victory, The Independent said.
It quoted another Mehdi Army fighter, a 26-year-old who asked to be identified as Abu Nasser, as saying that he and 100 other group members traveled to Lebanon in December 2005. "They didn't teach us anything about suicide bombings, they showed us real tactics and taught our snipers," he said.
Speaking in Tufa in Iraq, Muqtada al-Sadr, the head of the Mehdi Army, admitted to "formal links" with Hizbullah.
"We have formal links with Hizbullah, we do exchange ideas and discuss the situation facing Shiites in both countries," stressed al-Sadr.
"It is natural that we would want to improve ourselves by learning from each other. We copy Hizbullah in the way they fight and their tactics, we teach each other and we are getting better through this."Al-Sadr also admitted that members of the Mehdi Army had traveled to Lebanon, and confirmed that they would continue to do so.
"We go and discuss what Israel's future plans are in the Middle East because we are part of whatever will happen," he added.
Beirut, 21 Aug 07, 06:44
Suleiman is the dark horse
By Sami Moubayed, Special to Gulf News
Published: August 20, 2007, 23:37
There is serious talk coming out of Beirut that the new president of Lebanon is going to be another officer, this time, Army Commander General Michel Suleiman.
Suleiman has always been a potential candidate, but few took his candidacy seriously given the large number of potential politicians who have had their eyes set on Ba'abda Palace from the minute it was occupied by the current president Emille Lahoud in 1998.
It was believed that Suleiman would never stand a chance before the ambitions of more established, and office-hungry men such as General Michel Aoun or former president Ameen Gemayel.
Today, more so than ever, Suleiman's chances look bright. Aoun has clearly been vetoed by the United States and the March 14 Coalition that is headed by Sa'ad Al Harriri. Gemayel's chances got ruined when he was defeated earlier this month in the parliamentary by-elections, by an unknown candidate from the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) that is headed by Aoun. Other names put forward by March 14, such as Bourtos Harb or Robert Ghanem, are too controversial and will never be accepted by the Hezbollah-led opposition.
The French, who are jump-starting their diplomacy in Lebanon, have seemingly resigned themselves to the fact that neither a pro-Syrian president would do, nor would an anti-Syrian one be accepted by the opposition. An independent - if there is such a thing in Lebanon - would have to be found, or created.
Michel Suleiman (59) was born in Amchit in 1948 and became commander of the Lebanese Army in December 1998, taking over from General Emille Lahoud, who became president of the republic. After studying political science, he joined the Lebanese Army in October 1967, three months after the collective Arab defeat against Israel; a war that Lebanon did not join. He drifted from one military post to another, becoming commander of the Mount Lebanon region in 1991, after the Civil War. During the years of hostility, he did not take sides with any of the warring factions.
The French recently brought up the idea of General Suleiman, who would rule Lebanon for a transition period of up to two years. That was echoed by Lahoud himself, who trusts and likes Suleiman, and who announced if all parties do not agree on a candidate by the time of elections in late September 2007, then he would hand over presidential powers to a Military Command, headed by the Army Commander. To date, March 14 has not vetoed this proposal, although it certainly is not what they had in mind. The Syrians have also not objected to it. Naturally, neither has Hezbollah. Each said yes - or gave a preliminary okay - for different reasons. The Syrians believe that this is the best they can get because bringing someone who is completely pro-Syrian is close to impossible.
For similar reasons, Hezbollah accepted, believing that Suleiman would allow the guerrilla group continue operation, and give them a greater political role in government. At best, his new government would revoke previous measures taken by Prime Minister Fouad Al Siniora, like approving the international tribunal in the Harriri Affair under Article 7 of the UN Charter. The Maronite Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir has also accepted Suleiman's nomination, which requires amending the Lebanese Constitution. Sfeir, who has been trying to come up with creative solutions, along with Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri and Saudi Ambassador Abdulaziz Khoja, expressed his reservations, however, at having to resort to a military man - again - to answer all of Lebanon's worries.
He fears that once his interim period of two years is over, the new president - having enjoyed the seat of power for 24-months -will seek another term in office (which is exactly what happened with Lahoud). Berri and Sfeir fear that this agreement, which spares Lebanon future hostility, is too good to last. They are afraid that March 14 will make a last minute U-turn and veto Suleiman's candidacy, since the name is not fully endorsed by Saudi Arabia.
Washington DC after all, is not too enthusiastic about Suleiman. He is politically independent - to independent for Washington's taste - and yet comes across as firmly committed both to the combating of Israel and the targeting of Syria.
His one slogan has been "Israel is the enemy" something that pleases Hezbollah but is frowned upon by March 14. If elected to office, he would certainly work for a greater role for Hezbollah in government, and might even turn a blind eye to their activities in South Lebanon, as the case with Lahoud in 1998-2006.
Also to March 14's displeasure was a recent remark by the Army Commander, saying: "Fatah Al Islam is linked to Al Qaida not Syria."
This caused uproar in government circles, where a variety of March 14 leaders have been blaming the conflict in northern Lebanon on Syria, claiming that the radical Islamic group Fatah Al Islam, is a product of Damascus. By coming out in Syria's defence, Suleiman clearly has not intention either of upsetting the Syrians, or Hezbollah.
Other parties, like Aoun himself, will write off Suleiman's candidacy, seeing himself as more fit for the job. He will work with any party, be it March 14 or Hezbollah, to bring down Suleiman.
The situation resembles several others in Lebanon's modern history. One is when Army Commander Fouad Shehab refused to take part in internal hostility in 1958, known as the first civil war, then became president of Lebanon.
The other is when Aoun did the same in 1988, having also refrained from taking sides in the second civil war. Shehab went on to become president in 1958 - one of the finest in Lebanon's history - but Aoun failed in 1988 to reach the presidency. He has been trying ever since to reach Ba'abda. He will torpedo Suleiman - or anyone - who will oppose him.
Will Suleiman become another Fouad Shehab, or Michel Aoun?
***Sami Moubayed is a Syrian political analyst.