August 25/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 1,45-51. Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth." But Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come from Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, "Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him."Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree."Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel."Jesus answered and said to him, "Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this."And he said to him, "Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."

Fiasco in Lebanon. By P. David Hornik. FrontPage August 24/07
Syria Attacks Saudi Arabia to Reaffirm Its Control of Lebanon.By: Huda al Husseini .Asharq Alawsat. August 24/07
America's armchair generals get another reality check in Iraq.Daily Star. August 24/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for August 24/07
UNIFIL Mandate Extended-Naharnet
Families of Fatah al-Islam Terrorists Evacuated.Naharnet
Russian Arms For Syria.FrontPage
Aoun Puzzled by Silence of Lebanon's Patriarch, Grand Mufti.Naharnet
Hizbullah Defends Berri, Attacks Jumblat-Naharnet
Report: Hezbollah to move its Beirut HQ to a secret location.Ha'aretz
Mine expert dies in Lebanon blast.BBC News

Portuguese FM Urges Feuding Parties to Resolve Differences-Naharnet
Aoun Says He Will No Longer Listen to Lebanon's Clerics-Naharnet
Fatah al-Islam Families to Leave Nahr al-Bared This Afternoon-Naharnet
Lebanese Army Demolishes Fatah al-Islam Bunker at Nahr al-Bared-Naharnet
Jumblat for a President By Simple Majority, Amal Hits Back-Naharnet
Berri Slams Jumblat for Dubbing Him 'Mail Box'-Naharnet
Cousseran Prepares For Kouchner's Talks-Naharnet
Egyptian Charged by Turkey with Qaida-Hizbullah Links-Naharnet
US predicts further nuclear development in Iran.Guardian Unlimited
Cluster Bomb Kills Lebanese.Guardian Unlimited
Portuguese foreign minister urges Lebanese politicians to resolve ...International Herald Tribune
Pro-Hezbollah Group Will Demonstrate in Brussels on 9/11.Canada Free Press
Leaving the home front out of range.Ha'aretz
In a World Ruled by Renegade Creatives, Ahmadinejad Puts Funyuns ...Adrants

Mediators await word from Fatah al-Islam on evacuation.Daily Star  
Cousseran resumes diplomatic initiative to break deadlock.Daily Star  
Saudi daily blames Syria for assassinations.Daily Star  
Kadima MPs mull bailing before Olmert ship sinks.Daily Star  
Berri accuses Jumblatt of jeopardizing accord.Daily Star  
Cluster bombs kill de-mining specialist, wound three others.Daily Star  
Every one can see that the emperor has no clothes.Daily Star  
Authorities arrest 2 Palestinian suspects in UNIFIL attacks.Daily Star  
Political stalemate takes heavy toll on Lebanese economy.Daily Star
Metn forests 'under threat' from coal companies.Daily Star  
200 Al-Qaeda fighters assault Iraqi town.Daily Star
Blacklisting Iran's Guards is 'dangerous' move.(AFP)
Saudi Arabia beheads convicted murderer.(AFP)
Sarkozy's wife to steer clear of Libya inquiry.(AFP)
Israeli air force to buy advanced Patriot missiles.(AFP)

Lahoud for a Government to Assume the President's Powers
President Emile Lahoud called Thursday for consensus between the various factions to elect a new head of state or the formation of a new government to assume the president's powers when his term expires on Nov. 24."If the Lebanese fail to elect a new president by consensus and a two-third quorum, the exit will be a government that would assume the president's powers, that is a government accepted by both sides," Lahoud said. "Electing a president by simple majority will lead to a major problem," the state run National News Agency (NNA) quoted Lahoud as saying. He accused those seeking to elect a president by simple majority of trying to "stir productive chaos."He was commenting on a threat by Druze leader Walid Jumblat that the Mach 14 majority alliance would elect a president by simple majority to succeed Lahoud whose extended term expires on Nov. 24. Beirut, 23 Aug 07, 16:46

Aoun Says He Will No Longer Listen to Lebanon's Clerics
Free Patriotic Movement leader Gen. Michel Aoun criticized Lebanon's clergymen, including the Maronite Patriarch and the Grand Mufti, for their "dreadful" silence regarding the heated political bickering, threatening that he would no longer listen to them. Speaking to his supporters, Aoun demanded a response from deputy Saad Hariri's Al-Mustaqbal Movement as to whether the group supports partitioning Lebanon.
"And if they are against partitioning, do they endorse a call by MP Walid Jumblat and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea which is aimed at disuniting Lebanon? Aoun asked. "… Is this a Sunni policy?" He urged Hariri a swift response "because the situation is no longer bearable."
Aoun assured Lebanon's Sunnis that "no one wants to wipe them out.""This principle should be applied to everyone," he told fans who visited his residence at Rabieh on Thursday evening."I will not ask whether or not Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir is with or against this policy," Aoun went on. "He is free to voice his opinion or refrain (from expressing his opinion).""I will not ask the Grand Mufti (Sheikh Mohammed Qabbani for his opinion). "I am not going to listen to clergymen who daily interfere in politics and give their views. "But then again, their silence is dreadful," Aoun said. "Let it be known to everyone that from now on we will not hush up and we will not accept anyone to hide behind silence," Aoun threatened. Addressing the pro-government camp, Aoun said: "They want partitioning, let it be. Why should we kill one another? Let us divide!" "They want unity? Unity cannot be established by (violent) means … We do not dread any settlement. But we refuse to reach any deal through bloodshed." Beirut, 24 Aug 07, 07:18

Portuguese FM Urges Feuding Parties to Resolve Differences

Portugal Foreign Minister, whose country holds the European Union's presidency, urged Lebanese politicians Thursday to resolve the country's deepening political crisis.Luis Amado was on a one-day visit to Lebanon, where he met with senior officials, including Prime Minister Fouad Saniora and Foreign Minister Fawzi Saloukh, and offered European assistance to help stabilize the country. "This is a very important country in the region, a very important country for the development of relations with the European Union, and we want to contribute to stabilize the situation in this country as we have been doing during the last year," Amado said after his meeting with Saloukh. The foreign minister was referring to last year's deployment of U.N. peacekeepers, including Europeans, in southern Lebanon after a 34-day war between Israel and the militant Hizbullah group.Amado's visit comes as Lebanon is suffering its worst internal crisis since the end of the 1975-90 civil war, with the Western-backed government of Saniora locked in a bitter power struggle with the Hezbollah-led opposition.One of the opposition's key demands, that is rejected by Saniora, is the creation of a new national unity government in which it has veto power.(AP-Naharnet) Beirut, 24 Aug 07, 12:27

Fatah al-Islam Families to Leave Nahr al-Bared This Afternoon

Fatah al-Islam families are set to leave the battered Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared on Friday, an army spokesman told AFP.
"The evacuation will take place this afternoon at a yet to be determined time," said the spokesman. "Once we reach agreement on the time and place, the army will impose a ceasefire one hour before the evacuation." A Palestinian cleric mediating efforts to evacuate the civilians said that his group had reestablished contact with the Islamists overnight. "Abu Salim Taha contacted us again overnight and said that the civilians are ready to leave the camp and that they number 63 -- 22 women and 41 children," Sheikh Mohammed Hajj said. He said Taha, who is acting as spokesman for the Fatah al-Islam militia, contacted him again before midday on Friday.
The Palestine Red Crescent and the Lebanese Red Cross are set to help with the evacuation. Negotiations to evacuate the civilians began overnight Monday after Taha contacted the clerics seeking a way out for the civilians who have been inside the camp since May 20, when the clashes between the army and Fatah al-Islam erupted. According to a source close to the negotiations, among those to be evacuated are the wife of Fatah al-Islam chief Shaker al-Abssi and the widow of his number two, Abu Hureira, who was killed in recent weeks. The remaining militants, thought to number about 70, have been holed up inside the camp since May 20. At least 200 people, including 142 soldiers, have been killed in the fighting.(AFP) Beirut, 24 Aug 07, 11:28

Cluster Bombs Kill One, Wound Three
Cluster bombs killed one de-mining specialist and wounded three on Thursday as efforts continued to clear the unexploded munitions dropped by Israel on south Lebanon in its war with Hizbullah last year. The casualties were inflicted in two accidents, one in the village of Kfar Rumman, in the Nabatiyah region where the British Mine Advisory Group is working. MAG official Andy Gleeson told AFP that one man was killed and two seriously wounded in the blast. All three were Lebanese.
A Swedish man, working to clear munitions in Qaaqaiyat al-Jisr village, in the same region, was wounded in a similar blast, Lebanese police said.
Nabatiyah, some 15 kilometers (10 miles) north of the Israeli frontier, is one of the most heavily munitions-polluted districts in Lebanon. An estimated one million cluster bombs dropped by Israel failed to explode during its 34-day war with Hizbullah. The United Nations anti-mines centre, which coordinates clearance work, says 126,000 cluster bombs have been cleared in the past year. Around 30 people have been killed and 180 wounded by them since the end of the war last August. The centre has several times criticized lack of cooperation from Israel, which refuses to provide maps of target areas for the cluster bombs or the numbers dropped, something which considerably slows down the clearance work.(AFP) Beirut, 23 Aug 07, 16:31

Cousseran Prepares For Kouchner's Talks
French envoy Jean-Claude Cousseran arrived in Lebanon Thursday to pave the way for a visit by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner to try to break a political deadlock that has paralyzed the country. Cousseran told reporters after meeting Prime Minister Fouad Saniora that Kouchner would soon be visiting Lebanon but he did not specify a date. "My mission here is a simple one aimed at laying the groundwork for an upcoming visit by Mr. Kouchner to Beirut and to hear out the different Lebanese factions," the French envoy said. Later on Thursday Cousseran was due to meet parliament speaker Nabih Berri, who is part of the Syrian-backed Hizbullah-led opposition. He is also due to meet with other political leaders on Friday.
His visit comes amid efforts by Paris to broker an end to a nine-month political standoff in Lebanon that threatens to scuttle a looming presidential ballot and plunge the divided country further into disarray. Kouchner met Lebanese leaders in Beirut at the end of July but failed to make significant headway.
The resignation last November of six pro-Syrian ministers, five of them Shiites, sparked the current political standoff, the country's worst since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war. Hizbullah, bolstered by what it called its victory during last year's 34-day war with Israel, is pushing for the opposition to be better represented in government in order to give it veto power. Failure by the parties to resolve their differences in the coming weeks could spark a dangerous power vacuum or lead to the formation of two rival governments. France has taken the lead in trying to resolve the crisis, gathering all the parties for a conference near Paris in July and sending Cousseran to the region for consultations with the key players. Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Amado, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, also held talks with the Lebanese premier on Thursday. "In the name of the European Union, I appeal to all Lebanese leaders to reach agreement on the country's future and create the conditions for political and constitutional normalization," Amado said after the meeting.(AFP) Beirut, 23 Aug 07, 18:52

France Renews Lebanon Mediation

Top French envoy Jean-Claude Cousseran returns to Lebanon on Thursday on a new mission to try to break a nine-month deadlock among Lebanon's feuding political parties, a diplomatic source told Agence France Presse. Cousseran's visit comes as the country prepares for a presidential election due to be held between September 25 and November 24, when the mandate of current pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud ends. During his three-day mission that ends on Saturday Cousseran is due to meet Prime Minister Fouad Saniora and parliament speaker Nabih Berri, who is allied with the Hizbullah-led opposition backed by Syria and Iran.
France's envoy is also due to hold talks with other Lebanese leaders. His visit comes amid efforts by Paris to broker an end to the political standoff in Lebanon that threatens to scuttle the upcoming presidential ballot and plunge the divided country further into disarray. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner met Lebanese leaders in Beirut at the end of July but failed to make significant headway. The resignation last November of six pro-Syrian ministers, five of them Shiites, sparked the current political standoff, the country's worst since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.
Hizbullah, bolstered by what it called its victory during last year's 34-day war with Israel, is pushing for the opposition to be better represented in government in order to give it veto power. But the majority insists that this can only happen if Hizbullah agrees to stop blocking parliamentary sessions in order to ensure the quorum needed for the presidential election. Failure by the parties to resolve their differences in the coming weeks could spark a dangerous power vacuum or even the creation of two rival governments. France has taken the lead in trying to resolve the crisis, gathering all the parties for a conference near Paris in July and sending Cousseran to the region for consultations with the key players.(AFP) Beirut, 22 Aug 07, 18:30

Jumblat for a President By Simple Majority, Amal Hits Back
Druze leader Walid Jumblat declared Wednesday that the March 14 majority alliance would elect a new president by simple majority at any venue outside parliament and rejected the principle of choosing a head of state by consensus. Jumblat, in an interview with the youth supplement of the daily an-Nahar to be published Thursday said "We will elect a president for the republic from the March 124 ranks by simple majority and in any venue outside parliament because the constitution permits this after the 14th of October."Amal MP Ali Hassan Khalil hit back at Jumblat, saying his "words mean a total coup against the constitution and the political institutions."
Khalil said Jumblat's comments were also a clear indication that the Druze MP was "imposing a status quo that is contrary to the covenant."
Excerpts of Jumblat's interview were distributed by the state-run National News Agency (NNA).Jumblat stressed on rejecting a new head of state by consensus saying: "If we accept the principle of consensus with the other side, which I term the foe that doesn't believe in the principles of the Cedars Revolution, we would waste the sacrifices of all our martyrs."He accused Hizbullah of seeking to establish "a mini state" through purchasing property by "Iranian backing."
"They want to establish political, military and economic control over the nation," Jumblat said of Hizbullah. He said the "great battle" would be fought over choosing the team of Lebanese judges to the international tribunal that would try suspects in the 2005 killing of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes.
He accused Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri of becoming a "mail box for (Hizbullah leader) Hassan Nasrallah.""Unfortunately Berri has finished himself with his own hands," he added. Beirut, 22 Aug 07, 19:58

Egyptian Charged by Turkey with Qaida-Hizbullah Links

A Turkish court on Thursday charged an Egyptian of Palestinian descent with alleged ties to Al-Qaida, Hizbullah and a Turkish accomplice over the hijacking of a plane carrying more than 140 people, the Anatolia news agency reported. The two men said in their testimonies they had planned to divert the plane to Iran and then travel on to the "jihad region" in Afghanistan with the help of radical Islamist groups Hizbullah and Hamas, judicial officials told Anatolia.
The court in the southern city of Antalya charged Momen Abdul Aziz Talikh, an Egyptian passport-holder of Palestinian descent, and Mehmet Resat Ozlu with "hijacking a plane, being members of an armed terrorist organization and restricting personal freedom." Talikh and Ozlu were sent to the local prison pending trial.
The pair on Saturday commandeered the plane operated by Turkish private carrier Atlas Jet shortly after it took off from the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) for Istanbul. Claiming they were Al-Qaida members and wielding a fake bomb made of clay, the hijackers demanded the plane be diverted to Iran or Syria, but the pilots landed in Antalya on the ground that they had to refuel. The pilots fled from the cockpit and most of the passengers escaped from the rear door as the hijackers were releasing women and children through the front exit. A few passengers and crew remained hostage for several hours before the hijackers surrendered. "I received training at Al-Qaida but I have not taken part in any (violent) act," the 33-year-old Talikh was quoted as saying in his testimony.
"I was sure that Hamas and Hizbullah would help us in Iran" to avoid imprisonment and go to Afghanistan, he said.
Talikh was described as the son of a Palestinian father and an Egyptian mother, whose family currently resides in Saudi Arabia. He said he met with Ozlu in the TRNC, where he moved last year to join his brother, a university student in the breakaway state. The two began to share a flat in the port city of Kyrenia in July.
Officials told Anatolia that Talikh appeared to be "a hard line (Palestinian) nationalist rather than a religious extremist." The two hijackers told the prosecutor that Turkey was not their target and that they regretted their act. Citing police sources, Anatolia said that Talikh had been trained in an Al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan in 2004 and had spent two months in a Saudi prison after being detained for participating in a rally in Yemen.
During his time in jail Talikh met several Al-Qaida members. The agency did not specify what rally Talikh attended and when he had served time in Saudi Arabia.
Turkish police have contacted Interpol and other international organizations to get more information on Talikh and his alleged ties to Al-Qaida.(AFP)
Beirut, 23 Aug 07, 15:36

Fiasco in Lebanon
By P. David Hornik | 8/24/2007
This weekend the UN Security Council is scheduled to renew the mandate for its Resolution 1701, which was supposed to stabilize the situation in Lebanon in the wake of last summer’s war between Israel and Hezbollah. In so doing the Security Council will be ratifying something that is even worse than a farce.
A declassified Israeli intelligence report on Lebanon published last week by Israel’s Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, whose main points were presented here on Friday by David Bedein, could be seen as a primer on what not to do in foreign and security affairs, especially for a small, isolated country like Israel.
In its dry, factual way, the report explodes—sometimes even, seemingly, in spite of itself—every optimistic assumption about the new, 1701-mandated regime in Lebanon, in which enhanced UNIFIL and Lebanese-army forces were supposed to ensure tranquility and prevent Hezbollah from recouping its losses in the war.
The report takes on special resonance at a time when parts of the Israeli Left and the Israeli government are infatuated with the idea of withdrawing the Israeli army to indefensible borders, or keeping it there, and substituting it with foreign forces in the West Bank and Gaza.
The report starts by saying the implementation of 1701 has been “equivocal,” implying a mix of success and failure. But after citing the ostensible achievements of 1701 since last summer, the report goes on to show that every one of them is illusory, at best a camouflage for increased power for Hezbollah and its Syrian and Iranian backers.
In north Lebanon, the complete failure of the 1701 regime in stopping the flow of weapons from Iran and Syria to Hezbollah is already known and has elicited “concern” from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and more recently from the Security Council itself.
As for Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, the two Israeli soldiers whose abduction by Hezbollah last summer sparked the war, the report notes that, despite
1701’s preamble’s call for their “unconditional release,” they “have not been released, Hezbollah has released no information whatsoever about their wellbeing and the Lebanese government does nothing to secure their release.”
Also familiar is the political deterioration in Lebanon since the war, with Hezbollah able to openly challenge the rule of the relatively moderate Siniora government and Syria continuing a string of assassinations of anti-Syrian Lebanese figures.
But what of south Lebanon, the area from which Hezbollah has launched most of its attacks on Israel and where, since the war, the Lebanese army and UNIFIL have deployed?
“For the first time,” the report says, “a significant number of Lebanese army soldiers supported by an upgraded UNIFIL force deployed south of the Litani River. Hezbollah was deprived of its status as the dominant force in south Lebanon. . . . South Lebanon is relatively calm” (emphasis in original, here and elsewhere).
Indeed, the Lebanese army has “deployed in the south an unprecedentedly large force of four brigades and 10,000 soldiers.” As for UNIFIL, its “13,000 soldiers in eight battalions are massively deployed in the area south of the Litani River.”
The report says hopefully, “Security Council Resolution 1701 completely changed the situation on the ground in south Lebanon from what it had been before the . . . war…. Hezbollah has refrained from attacking Israel…. [This] year-long abstinence . . . is unprecedented in the organization’s 25-year history….”
Sounds good—until you get to the qualifiers. The report says the “most essential provisions [of 1701] have been left unattended” and “South Lebanon was not demilitarized and Hezbollah and the other terrorist organizations remained and were not disarmed.”
How could that be if the Lebanese army and UNIFIL have deployed there in such force, and the area has been quiet without Hezbollah attacks on Israel?
For one thing,
both the Lebanese government and the Lebanese army, for internal political reasons, are careful to follow the unwritten rules set down by Hezbollah and refrain from causing friction or confronting the organization. The army. . .focuses on dealing with visible weapons and avoids the networks hidden, for the most part, within Shi’ite villages and those in rural areas (including the tunnels, bunkers, shelters, and command and infantry posts). In certain instances the Lebanese army even collaborates with Hezbollah on the basis of the unwritten rules.
And what of UNIFIL? The report says that its
interpretation of Resolution 1701 is partial and its actions are basically limited to providing support and guidance for the Lebanese army. It refrains from actions which might confront Hezbollah, such as entering villages where Hezbollah’s military networks are located and searching for weapons hidden in populated areas.
But not only that:
UNIFIL also maintains a certain level of coordination with Hezbollah, including occasional meetings between senior UNIFIL officers and Hezbollah commanders, to work out understandings regarding UNIFIL activity. Conspicuous in that regard was the Hezbollah-UNIFIL coordination after the attack on the Spanish soldiers. . . . UNIFIL’s policies are a direct result of those of the Lebanese government and of the apprehension felt by UNIFIL and the countries which sent the troops regarding the safety of the soldiers should there be confrontations with Hezbollah.
In other words, UNIFIL does not actually want to enforce security in south Lebanon to the point that any of its soldiers would get hurt. As for the attack on the Spanish soldiers, it occurred last June 24, when
terrorists detonated a car bomb parked at the side of the road between Marjayoun and al-Khayam as patrolling soldiers [of the Spanish battalion] passed by. Six soldiers were killed and two wounded…. It can be learned from an analysis of the modus operandi that such a sophisticated attack is beyond the capabilities of global jihad elements in Lebanon. That reinforces the suspicion that Hezbollah was involved in the attacks against the Spanish battalion, which was perceived as too active against the organization south of the Litani River.
Since then there have been no further such attacks, and no need for them: UNIFIL has learned its lessons and made sure to stick more closely to the ground rules it has worked out with Hezbollah.
And so, notwithstanding its initial, seeming optimism, the report does not mince words in summing up:
The upshot is that the Lebanese army and UNIFIL do not actually enforce the security measures stipulated by Security Council Resolution 1701 for the area south of the Litani River. . . . In the year since the end of the second Lebanon war Hezbollah has rehabilitated most of its military network both north and south of the . . . River. . . . [In both areas,] in our assessment Hezbollah has rockets whose range is between 40 and 110 kilometers (25-68 miles). South of the Litani . . . there are hundreds of anti-tank rockets and rocket launchers (including advanced weapons), hundreds of personal anti-aircraft missiles, dozens of anti-aircraft cannons and a large quantity of explosive devices. Most of the above are hidden in Hezbollah-supporting Shi’ite towns and villages.
As for the “quiet” in south Lebanon and Hezbollah’s avoidance of attacking Israel, the report attributes it to two factors:
The first is that Hezbollah needs a period of quiet to rehabilitate its forces and replenish its arsenal without interference from Israel , UNIFIL or the Lebanese government.. . . The second is Hezbollah’s focus on its political struggle against Fuad Siniora’s government, and it is in its interest not to get dragged into confrontations with UNIFIL and the Lebanese army which might ignite internal Lebanese criticism.
It is not clear in retrospect how much Israel would have achieved militarily against Hezbollah if the United Nations had not put a stop to the fighting with this resolution. Elements in the Israeli government itself, particularly Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, favored the UN-enforced ceasefire and thought Resolution 1701 held great promise for Israel.
But what is clear—and was clear to some commentators from the start (for example, here and here)—is that Israel should never have entrusted its security, or the stabilization of the situation, to the Lebanese army or the United Nations, two actors by no means clearly aligned with civilization against the jihad and certainly something less than loyal friends of Israel.
Something would have been gained if it could be assumed that certain elements in Israel would finally learn from this fiasco not to place Israel’s security in the hands of foreign forces, but that is hardly the case. As for the prices to be paid, they are entailed by the further encouragement and strengthening of the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Hamas axis and go well beyond Israel itself.