August 31/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 24,42-51. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come. Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant, whom the master has put in charge of his household to distribute to them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so. Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property. But if that wicked servant says to himself, 'My master is long delayed,' and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eat and drink with drunkards, the servant's master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

Should we worry about the Hariri camp? By Michael Young.August 30/07
Gul faces the task of convincing skeptics he aims to take Turkey into a new era.The Daily Star.August 30/07
Gul's election consolidates Turkey's transformation.By Soli Ozel.August 30/07
In democracy's name, the US has helped cede Iraq to Iran.
By David Ignatius. August 30/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for August 30/07
Feltman: Washington For a Lebanese President In Line with 1559
Mideast Top U.S. Forces Commander Meets Lebanese Leaders
Two Soldiers Killed in Nahr al-Bared
Jumblat: Majority Has Right to Meet 'Anywhere' to Elect New President
Harb Says His Candidacy is Conditional to National Consensus on Quorum Issue
Lebanese Army Gets 130 Humvees from U.S.
Investigation Launched in Video Game about liquidating Saniora and his Ministers
Israel: Shi'ites in Lebanon military helping Syria rearm Hizbullah.World Tribune
Man wounded in Second Lebanon War dies.Ynetnews
US delivers 130 armored vehicles to Lebanese Army
-Daily Star
March 14 MP says 'gentlemen's agreement' on presidency due soon
-Daily Star
Preparations under way to mark Sadr's disappearance
-Daily Star
Resistance justifications for attacks 'had no legal basis under laws of war'
-Daily Star
Siniora, Hizbullah criticize HRW report on 2006 war-Daily Star
Former AUB dean of students dies in Toronto
-Daily Star
Army demands surrender before evacuating militants
-Daily Star
Attorneys call for release of detained security chiefs
-Daily Star
Visiting Italian defense minister reveals plans for major security meeting in South
-Daily Star
It's the end of Lebanon as we know it
-Daily Star
International Committee of the Red Cross says 17,000 Lebanese missing since start of 1975-90 Civil War
-Daily Star

Resistance justifications for attacks 'had no legal basis under laws of war'

Thursday, August 30, 2007
Report by Human rights watch
Editor's note: The following is a summary released by Human Rights Watch outlining the main points of their newly published report on the 2006 war.
During the 2006 war, Hizbullah fired thousands of rockets indiscriminately and at times deliberately at civilian areas in northern Israel, killing at least 39 civilians, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released today.
HRW said that Hizbullah's justifications for its attacks on Israeli towns - as a response to indiscriminate Israeli fire into Southern Lebanon and to draw Israel into a ground war - had no legal basis under the laws of war.
The 128-page report, "Civilians under Assault: Hizbullah's Rocket Attacks on Israel in
the 2006 War," presents more than 20 case studies based on extensive field research in northern Israel into rocket attacks that killed or wounded civilians in Jewish, Arab and mixed villages, towns and cities. It also draws evidence of Hizbullah's intent behind these rocket attacks from more than 100 Hizbullah communiques and declarations.
"Hizbullah's explanations for why it fired rockets at Israel's civilian population utterly fail to justify these unlawful attacks," said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa division.
In their statements, Hizbullah leaders repeatedly threatened to attack Israeli towns
and settlements in retaliation for Israeli attacks on Lebanese towns - a rationale that under international humanitarian law does not justify deliberate or indiscriminate attacks on civilians. Hizbullah also claimed responsibility for specific attacks on Israeli towns and settlements, even as they voiced support for the principle of sparing civilians. Statements by lea-ders in the military chain of command indicating intent to fire indiscriminately toward civilian areas are evidence of war crimes.
Hizbullah rockets, some carrying anti-personnel steel spheres, repeatedly hit populated areas in northern Israel. Human Rights Watch found that numerous rockets were fired in which there was no apparent legitimate military target in the vicinity at the time of the attack, indicating that civilians were deliberately attacked. For example, hundreds of rockets struck inside Karmiel, Nahariya and Kiryat Shmona, cities containing no significant military assets. In other cases, a military objective was located in the vicinity, but even assuming that Hizbullah had intended to hit the military target instead of civilians, the inaccurate rockets it used were incapable of distinguishing between the two, making the attack indiscriminate.
Hizbullah rockets killed at least 39 Israeli civilians during the conflict and inflicted moderate or serious injuries on 101 more. They struck three hospitals, an elementary school in Kiryat Yam, and a post office in Haifa. Hizbullah's rocket campaign crippled economic activity and daily life in much of northern Israel, forcing several hundred thousand civilians either to flee south or to hide in shelters and "safe rooms."
Hizbullah stated that it targeted and hit Israeli military objectives more than is known, and blamed Israeli censorship for covering up the extent of such attacks. However, Hizbullah attacks on legitimate military objectives, whatever their extent, do not justify the attacks that were indiscriminate or deliberately targeted civilians.
Hizbullah forces fired long-range, unguided rockets, referred to as "Katyushas," that were highly inaccurate and could not distinguish between civilians and military objectives. Fired toward cities and towns, such attacks showed, at minimum, a reckless disregard for civilians, and frequently hit civilians and civilian objects deliberately or indiscriminately.
Many rockets that hit the most densely populated coastal areas - the city of Haifa and the string of its suburbs to the north and east known as HaKrayot - were 220 millimeter rockets packed with thousands of 6 millimeter steel spheres that when released in an explosion are devastating anti-personnel weapons. Incapable of inflicting serious damage to hard military structures or materiel, they penetrate human flesh and organs within a wide radius of the warhead blast. Hizbullah also fired into civilian areas cluster munition rockets loaded with submunitions that are designed to disperse, on impact, 3 millimeter steel spheres over a wide area. The Israel Police says that it examined 118 rocket strikes with cluster munitions.
In other reports, Human Rights Watch has addressed other aspects of the conflict, including violations by Israel in its conduct of hostilities. A major Human Rights Watch study, titled "Why They Died: Civilian Deaths in Lebanon during the 2006 Israel-Hizbullah War," will be released in September. Human Rights Watch at all times measures each party's compliance with its obligations under the laws of war, rather than compare the behavior of one side with the conduct of other parties to the conflict. Under those laws, violations by one party to a conflict do not excuse or mitigate violations committed by the other.
In "Civilians under Assault," Human Rights Watch urges Hizbullah, as a matter of practice and doctrine, to cease all attacks that deliberately target civilians, as well as those that cannot discriminate between civilians and combatants, and to renounce publicly the argument that attacks on Israeli civilians are permissible as reprisals for Israeli attacks on Lebanese civilians. The report calls on the government of Lebanon to interdict the delivery of rockets to Hizbullah so long as it uses them, or subscribes to a doctrine that would permit use of them, to fire deliberately or indiscriminately into civilian areas.
The report also urges the governments of Syria and Iran not to permit the transfer to Hizbullah of materiel, including rockets that Hizbullah has used in violation of international humanitarian law.
Human Rights Watch said that in some instances Israel located its own fixed and mobile military assets in or near civilian areas of northern Israel, raising questions of whether it complied fully with the norm requiring it to avoid, to the extent feasible, locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas and to adequately protect all citizens residing near military assets. While this practice did not diminish Hizbullah's responsibility to discriminate at all times between noncombatants and legitimate military targets, Human Rights Watch urges the government of Israel to take all feasible steps to locate military objectives away from densely populated areas and to ensure adequate measures to protect all civilians, on an equal basis, who may be at increased risk of enemy fire due to their proximity to Israeli military assets.
Finally, noting that both the Lebanese and Israeli governments have failed so far to investigate violations of international humanitarian law committed in the course of the 2006 war, Human Rights Watch recommends that the United Nations secretary general establish an international commission of inquiry to investigate reports of violations of international humanitarian law, including possible war crimes, in Lebanon and Israel and to formulate recommendations with a view to holding accountable those who violated the law.
"Hizbullah, like Israel, must respect the laws of war," said Whitson. "Unless those responsible on both sides are held accountable for their actions, instead of being allowed to hide behind the violations of their adversary, we fear that civilians inevitably will continue to pay a costly price."

Feltman: Washington For a Lebanese President In Line with 1559
U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman stressed to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri Thursday that Washington supports the holding of presidential elections within the constitutional schedule, in line with the constitution and without foreign intervention. Feltman, talking to reporters after a meeting with Berri, said his talks with the Parliament speaker remain confidential. However, the U.S. Ambassador said that he reiterated to Berri Washington's stand which adheres to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 of 2004 that called for the election of a head of state without foreign intervention and in line with Lebanon's constitution.
Feltman also stressed that it is the responsibility of the Lebanese Parliament to elect a president without foreign intervention, including that of the United States.
He said it is not for the United States to name candidates, and expressed confidence that parliament would elect a president committed to Lebanon's independence, democracy, sovereignty, unity and plurality. Asked whether he supports the election of a new head of state by simple majority, Feltman said the United States supports the election of a new president in line with the Lebanese constitution, stressing that interpreting the constitution is up to the Lebanese. "This is your constitution, not ours." In answering a question as to whether the United States supports the election of a president from the March 14 alliance ranks or on a consensus base, Feltman said Washington does not want to get involved in what should be a Lebanese decision. Beirut, 30 Aug 07, 19:02

Two Soldiers Killed in Nahr al-Bared
Two Lebanese soldiers were killed Thursday in battles with Islamists at a northern refugee camp as the army launched air strikes to rout the militants from the last area they control. An army spokesman told Agence France Presse that the death of the soldiers at Nahr al-Bared camp in northern Lebanon brought to 152 the number of troops killed since the standoff with Fatah al-Islam terrorists broke out on May 20. Beginning at dawn Thursday the army resumed its air strikes on the camp, dropping 250- and 400-kilogram bombs, an AFP correspondent observed. Soldiers meanwhile proceeded with de-mining operations inside the bombed-out camp, focusing on subterranean shelters now under army control as well as other positions previously held by the Al-Qaida-inspired militants.
The fighters, thought to number about 60, have been trying to negotiate all week to have some of their wounded evacuated, but the army has steadfastly refused calling for the unconditional surrender of everyone. "War is war and they can't ask us to stop the fighting to evacuate their injured," a high-ranking military official who requested anonymity told AFP. "It's total surrender or nothing." He said of the militants still inside the camp, some 30 to 35 are believed injured, nine of them seriously. An additional 20 men are fugitives sought for various crimes and not necessarily related to Fatah al-Islam, the official said.
He said one reason the army was having such a hard time in ending the three-month standoff was that it was poorly equipped and was dealing with a well-prepared and well-armed enemy willing to fight to death. "We need new weapons such as guided missiles, precision weapons and helicopters that can shoot missiles," he said.
Nahr al-Bared is located along the Mediterranean. The vast majority of the camp's 30,000 residents fled at the start of the fighting.
The Lebanese army has been stretched thin since its deployment to the border with Israel last year for the first time in nearly four decades after the devastating summer war between the Jewish state and guerrillas of Lebanon's Shiite movement Hizbullah. The United States has said that its aid to the army this year would exceed 270 million dollars, or five times more than last year.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 30 Aug 07, 20:12

Jumblat: Majority Has Right to Meet 'Anywhere' to Elect New President

Druze leader Walid Jumblat warned that in the event that Parliament doors remained shut, the majority has the right to meet "anywhere" to elect a new President for Lebanon. "The constitution does not require an (electoral) session to be held in parliament," Jumblat told Al Jazeera news network. "There are precedents in this regard where Presidents Bashir Gemayel, Elias Sarkis and Rene Mouawad were elected at different venues," Jumblat said. "Yes. It is our constitutional right to meet as parliamentary majority to elect a new president anywhere we please if the doors of parliament were shut on us, as they were closed two months ago" Jumblat stressed. He described the concern over electing a head of state with a two-thirds simple majority vote as a "constitutional innovation," reiterating his rejection to constitutional amendments that would serve the interest of individuals. Jumblat also brought to mind comments made by Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir on Tuesday in which he warned that boycotting presidential elections would be unfair and ruinous to Lebanon Beirut, 30 Aug 07, 06:46

Investigation Launched in Video Game about liquidating Saniora and his Ministers
Prosecutor General Saeed Mirza on Thursday ordered police to launch an investigation into a video game about the storming of Premier Fouad Saniora's government compound and the killing of all the ministers. The state-run National News Agency, which distributed the terse report, did not disclose further details.
The pro-opposition newspaper as-Safir carried an exclusive report on the game Wednesday noting that it was designed in France by a Lebanese citizen who was identified by the code name of Ziad al-Hajj. The Hizbullah-led opposition has erected scores of tents in Beirut's Riyadh al-Solh square, a few meters off the government compound since Dec. 1 with the declared objective of toppling the Saniora government.
There has been a chain of rumors about alleged plans by the opposition to storm the government compound, fenced in bared wire and protected by tanks and three army and police battalions. The game, according to as-Safir is made up of three chapters, the first centers on killing all the "militias" that guard the compound, in reference to the regular forces. The second phase of the video battle starts in the lobby where attackers discover tunnels leading to the U.S. embassy in suburban awkar, 17 kilometers north of Beirut. Hizbullah leader Sayed Hassan Nasralla has termed the Saniora government "The Feltman Cabinet" in reference to the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman, whom he accuses of controlling the March 14 Majority that backs the government.
Attackers also fight a battle with "militiamen" in the lobby who are allegedly supervised by Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and al-Moustaqbal Movement leader Saad Hariri, as well as Saniora himself. The last and third chapter of the "game" involves the storming of the main hall where Saniora is presiding over a meeting of his cabinet and the killing of "all the traitors and thieves," in reference to the premiere and his ministers.
The game ends with the phrase: "Game over, congratulations" when the player succeeds in "liquidating" all those in the government compound, the report noted.
Hajj was quoted as saying he designed the game to "express the wishes of many Lebanese" in storming the government compound. "I gave them what they want." Beirut, 30 Aug 07, 17:53

Mideast Top U.S. Forces Commander Meets Lebanese Leaders
The top commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, Adm. William Fallon, met with Lebanese officials as Washington reassured Beirut of support for the Lebanese army's fight with Fatah al-Islam militants in northern Lebanon. Fallon, head of the U.S. Central Command, met separately with Prime Minister Fouad Saniora and Defense Minister Elias Murr during an hours-long visit to Lebanon on Wednesday. In a statement after the meetings, U.S. Ambassador to Beirut Jeffrey Feltman praised Lebanon's efforts and reiterated "the strength of the strategic partnership between the United States and Lebanon." Fallon made no comments after his meetings. The statement said the U.S. remains committed to providing the Lebanese army with the "supplies they need to battle -- and conquer -- the armed extremists in the North. And the United States is delivering on our promise." The Lebanese army has been locked for over three months in fierce battles with Fatah al-Islam militants holed up in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared on the outskirts of the northern port city of Tripoli. A total of 148 soldiers have been killed in the confrontation. Washington and some of its Arab allies have airlifted supplies, mostly of ammunition, to the Lebanese army in the early days of the fighting. The military in Lebanon is an all-volunteer force of 56,000, with about 220 battle tanks, no effective air power and no air defense system. After last year's war between Israel and Hizbullah, the U.S. decided to increase military aid to Lebanon to U.S.$40 million a year.(AP) Beirut, 30 Aug 07, 09:16

Harb Says His Candidacy is Conditional to National Consensus on Quorum Issue
Presidential hopeful Butros Harb on Thursday presented his presidential platform and said his candidacy is conditional to national consensus on the quorum issue, or else he would pull out of the 2007 election race. The Batroun Deputy, who is a lawyer, was the first to officially declare his candidacy for the President.
During a two-hour briefing at Parliament Headquarters in downtown Beirut, Harb touched on topics such as national dialogue, reconciliation as well as relations with foreign and Arab countries. Harb called for Syrian-Lebanese dialogue and the establishment of "historical ties" between the two neighboring countries.
He also touched on Hizbullah weapons along the lines of an "honorable solution (to merge) the Resistance into the (Lebanese) army within the framework of a defense strategy."Issues concerning political, economic and social reforms as well as matters like environment, education and immigrants were also on Harb's presidential bid. Beirut, 30 Aug 07, 15:31

Lebanese Army Gets 130 Humvees from U.S.
The Lebanese army took delivery of 130 Humvee armored vehicles as part of increased U.S. military aid to the country.
The vehicles were delivered to army commander General Michel Suleiman at a ceremony attended by Defense Minister Elias Murr, U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman and the visiting head of U.S. Central Command, Admiral William Fallon. Feltman said U.S. aid in 2007 would exceed 270 million dollars, or five times more than that last year.The under-equipped Lebanese army deployed to the border with Israel last year for the first time in nearly four decades after the devastating summer war between the Jewish state and Hizbullah. And since May of this year, it has been battling Fatah al-Islam militants holed up in a Palestinian refugee camp at Nahr al-Bared on the outskirts of the northern port city. Feltman said: "Our partnership includes the commitment of the United States to provide the (armed forces) with the supplies they need to battle -- and conquer -- the armed extremists in the north. "We are supplying the Lebanese Armed Forces with the equipment, armament, and training necessary to protect Lebanon and the Lebanese people from threats foreign and domestic," he said in a statement. During his visit to Lebanon, Admiral Fallon also met with Prime Minister Fouad Saniora, who stressed the "need to adopt peaceful solutions to resolve the problems of the region," according to a statement from the premier's office.(AFP) Beirut, 30 Aug 07, 11:14

March 14 MP says 'gentlemen's agreement' on presidency due soon
Bloc insists American position unchanged regarding election

By Hani M. Bathish - Daily Star staff
Thursday, August 30, 2007
BEIRUT: As Speaker Nabih Berri waited for the US to respond to a request to state its position the upcoming presidential election in Lebanon, the ruling coalition insisted on Wednesday that the American position is unchanged and remains in harmony with the French and Arab positions in calling for the vote to be held within the constitutional time frame. Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh told Voice of Lebanon radio on Wednesday that the March 14 Forces will agree on a common candidate, but said it is too early to announce what he called a "gentleman's agreement" between the bloc's presidential hopefuls.
"They will agree over the one candidate who manages to get the most votes from the majority bloc and perhaps a number of votes from the opposition as well," Hamadeh said.
Hamadeh said that after his meeting with US Ambassador to Lebanon Jeffery Feltman he did not sense any change in the US position toward Lebanon.
"Their position remains similar to the French and Arab positions, in that they follow the presidential elections, not to name candidates, but to insist that elections are held within the constitutional time frame," he said.
He said an expanded meeting for March 14 Forces would be held soon but said it would likely be postponed until a series of internal and external meetings and talks are completed. Among these meetings will be a meeting in the Vatican, where Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir is due to hold talks next month.
"What we saw from the comments of the patriarch and the Tripoli Gathering Tuesday is they demand a quorum of two thirds in the first session, which we also accept," Hamadeh said. "But if we see in the first session that MPs boycotting the session intend to hinder the election of a new president, then the majority with half-plus-one of MPs would be the constitutionally authorized body" to elect the next president.
Meanwhile, Democratic Gathering leader MP Walid Jumblatt insisted the parliamentary majority has the right to elect a president "anytime it likes" in the event the Chamber of Deputies is closed to them. In comments made to Al Jazeera satellite news channel, Jumblatt reiterated his previous position rejecting amending the Constitution for the sake of individuals.
"The Constitution does not require an electoral session to be held in Parliament, the election of presidents Bashir Gemayel, Elias Sarkis and Rene Mouawad all took place at other venues," he said. "It is our constitutional right to meet as a parliamentary majority wherever we please if the doors of the Chamber of Deputies were closed to us, as they were closed two months ago, and elect a new president."
In an apparent attack aimed at Berri, Jumblatt said the paralysis in the country is due to the closure of Parliament, stressing the need to meet to elect a new president. He also recalled Sfeir's comments on Tuesday in which the patriarch said that boycotting presidential election would be unfair and disastrous for the country.
Former Deputy Speaker Elie Ferzly, addressing an Amal rally in South Lebanon on Wednesday, said a quorum of two thirds has been a requirement for presidential electoral sessions of Parliament since 1926.
"The speaker of Parliament is the only one with the authority to convene an electoral session of Parliament to elect a new president," Ferzly said.
He added that some politicians' claims that MPs' refusal to attend or vote in such a session as being undemocratic is nonsense, "abstention or non-participation of MPs in the session is a constitutional right."
Change and Reform Bloc MP Nabil Nicholas stressed the need to stop marginalizing the presidency and said only a strong president who represents his people can preserve the president's powers.
In a television interview Wednesday, Nicholas said bringing a weak president to power will leave Lebanon exposed and encourage chaos, asking the US to stop its meddling in Lebanese affairs and support all the Lebanese, not just one group.
UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Geir Pedersen, met Wednesday Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea. The one-and-a-half hour meeting focused on the presidency and the Shebaa Farms issue.
The LBC, quoting unidentified sources, said that during the meeting Pedersen told Geagea the international community insists on holding presidential elections on time and in accordance with the Constitution. Pedersen later met Change and Reform Bloc MP Michel Murr and Hizbullah's resigned Energy Minister Mohammad Fneish.
Hizbullah MP Hussein al- Hajj Hassan, speaking at an educational conference Wednesday, said Lebanon thrives as long as there is partnership between its people and shrivels when one group monopolizes power.
"Today we hear them say there is no time to form a national unity government before presidential elections. They are the same ones who have over the past year opposed the establishment of such a government," Hajj Hassan said, adding that the majority are opposed to a national unity government out of principle.
"Will a group that rejected a national unity government before presidential elections accept it afterward?" he asked. "[The ruling coalition] insists on equating national partnership with suicide and equates reaching a consensus with treason, threatening anyone from their camp who thinks of reaching a consensus with political and morale execution."
He chided the ruling coalition for turning against Berri and Army Commander General Michel Suleiman when the speaker tried to solve the impasse and when Suleiman said what they did not want to hear.

Should we worry about the Hariri camp?
By Michael Young

Daily Star staff
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Half of politics is being there; the other half is knowing what to do once you are there. Many of the better-known figures of the Future movement, including Saad Hariri, have neither been in Lebanon in recent weeks nor have they been particularly adept at advancing their agenda when they are. It's dawning on a number of groups in the majority that the Hariri camp may be the strongest yet also the most vulnerable component in the March 14 coalition, and that the repercussions of this paradox will determine what happens in Lebanon for years to come.
Let's start with vacation. That Hariri and his parliamentarians are entitled to one is obvious. That they feel their lives are threatened in Beirut is natural after the murder of Walid Eido. But spending several weeks out of the country at so sensitive a moment, much of that time at the opulent Hotel de Paris in Monaco, is foolish politics. Soldiers are still being killed in Nahr al-Bared, many of their families stalwarts of Hariri support in the Akkar; conditions in the country are uncertain, with people growing increasingly exasperated with basic tribulations such as power outages; and Lebanon's liberal future is being decided at this very moment, with Hariri and his parliamentary retinue nowhere to be seen. You don't build a durable political movement on poorly-timed absences.
There are several problems confronting what can broadly be called the Hariri movement. First, there is a personal disconnect between Saad Hariri and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, reflecting a disconnect between the movement and the state. The government has seemed devoid of vigor in recent months, partly because of its ambiguous relationship with the majority, particularly the Hariri entourage. The symbiosis between the Hariri movement and state institutions, a cornerstone of Rafik Hariri's power, is today lacking. Saad Hariri should know that without a state project to buttress his efforts, these efforts will falter. The Hariri strategy always transcended patron-client relationships to encompass a national vision (albeit a flawed one at times), but Saad Hariri doesn't seem to be offering fresh ideas about how the state should develop. Most Sunnis support him, but without a long-term plan to consolidate that support by anchoring it in the state, the Hariris will lose ground to others.
This is evident in the North. What is being done to lay down a network of support in the Akkar, to ensure the region doesn't slip deeper into the marginalization that has long been its destiny? The Hariri camp doesn't seem to realize that the Akkar, because of the fighting in Nahr al-Bared, is going through a transformational experience. Young men and their families are paying a heavy price on behalf of the state. Will the state respond in kind? And if the state comes up short, will it not be up to Saad Hariri to fill the vacuum so as to secure his own political survival?
For the moment little decisive is being done on the ground. The issuing of scholarships, for example, has reportedly been suspended by the Hariris, which means that youths from the region are seeing their horizons contract. The people of the Akkar are also surveying what is happening elsewhere in the country - in fact just over the mountains in the Baalbek-Hermel district, where Hizbullah is growing ever more powerful militarily. There is a combustible mix there. If the Akkar Sunnis, like the equally poor Sunnis of Dinniyeh, are offered no improvement in their lives, they will become - even more so than today - vulnerable to mobilization by Sunni Islamist groups, some of them violent, who will play on a fear of Shiites. Without rural Sunni support, the Future movement would lose its vital force nationally, and its reservoir of mass backing.
Saad Hariri is also not around at an essential moment in Lebanese history: the lead-up to the most important presidential election Lebanon has ever had to face. In recent months, the Aounists have managed to limit Hariri's input into Christian politics, including the choice of a new president. They have done so by playing on Christian fear of Sunnis, confirming that Michel Aoun, despite his pretenses of being a national leader, is little more than a sectarian firestarter. Hariri, instead of fighting back by putting in motion a comprehensive opening to Christians, has maintained a low profile, ceding valuable ground to the opposition.
By not being around today Hariri is sending two messages, neither of them intentional, neither of which does him any good. The first is that he has no say on the presidency and therefore doesn't need to be in on the pre-election maneuvering; the second is that Hariri doesn't take seriously the September 25 deadline set by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri to elect a new president. The first message implies that Hariri is not a player; the second makes it seem he is not interested in guaranteeing an election will take place on time, as soon as possible. Hariri cannot be effective if the public views him as unconcerned with the outcome of the presidency, though he is surely as concerned as any politician can possibly be.
A serious question arises more than two years after the assassination of Rafik Hariri. Has Saad Hariri truly put his own mark on the Future Movement? Has he created a network of personal loyalties with which he can feel comfortable? There are those in March 14 who argue that his representatives in some areas of Lebanon are not up to the task. It is often unclear whether different members of the Hariri family are on the same political wavelength. What does it mean when a leading figure of the Hariri camp such as Bahije Tabbara openly declares his support, in an opposition newspaper like As-Safir, for a two-thirds quorum to elect the president, in contrast to the strategy adopted by March 14? It means that Saad Hariri does not control his parliamentary bloc, or that someone in the Hariri camp mistreated Tabbara, who felt he had to get one back.
The fate of the Hariri camp will determine the outcome of the independence struggle that began in 2005 and that has yet to reach any sort of finality today. Syria only lost its hold on Lebanon when the Sunni community turned against it after Rafik Hariri's assassination. But the impact of the crime will not be eternal. There is much work the Hariri camp must urgently engage in to firm up the consequences of that historic Sunni reversal. Otherwise, others will try to fill the void and their ambitions may be very different than Saad Hariri's. Lebanon could be distorted as a result, and with it a liberal Lebanon lost.
**Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR.

Phares on Fox News Radio
The success of the surge depends on sustaining the pressure on Tehran

New York, August 29, 2007. 4:35 PM. Mideast Newswire
In an interview on Fox News Radio, Terrorism expert Walid Phares said the "surge in Baghdad and in Iraq is working, but the strategic success of the move depends on the US determination to pursue its pressures against al Qaeda and the pro Iranian militias as well as containing the Iranian and Syrian regimes." Phares, a senior fellow at the Foundation fore the Defense of Democracies in Washington, said "the Iranian regime is on the offensive in the region. It is behind the activities aiming at crumbling the political process in Iraq, behind Hezbollah's terror in Lebanon and is racing to obtain the nuclear bomb as soon as it can. The only force blocking Ahmedinijad's ambitions is the United States presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. If America is forced by its own Government to pull out abruptly, without leaving behind an Iraqi Government to withstand the Iranian-Syria axis, Iranian power will stretch from Afghanistan to Lebanon, and the Mullahs nuclear bomb will be threatening the region, Europe and beyond."
Phares, the author of the War of Ideas said the decision of al Sadr forces to play it low profile for few months is a direct result of the recent US surge. "The maneuvers by the Coalition emboldened the Iraqi forces. The Sadr militia wanted to test the latter in Shia areas. Iraq's security forces surprised al Sadr militias with their determination to fight them head on in Karbala and other spots. Which compelled the Sadrists to chose another tactic. They will try to find other plans to retaliate, but this indicates that the US messages to the Iranian regime, the listing of the Pasdaran on the Terror list and ordering commanders to confront the Iranian operatives in Iraq shows that Tehran can be contained but only if the US can sustain a policy of strategic response to the Iranian Mullahs for many months."
Phares on Radio Free Iraq
Iraqi soldiers and social activists are fighting the Terrorists
Prague, Baghdad. Mideast Newswire. August 28, 2007
In an interview in Arabic on Radio Free Iraq, Mideast expert Walid Phares said the strategic operation in the Greater Baghdad area is on its way for a qualitative success. Dr Phares, a senior fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington said his organization (NGO) has been analyzing the development of the surge and other efforts in Iraq over the past few months. "The reports we've been getting from civil society inside the country and from the Coalition shows that the pressure on the terrorist groups is now coming from a combined efforts generated within the civil society, popular forces, tribes and other elements in addition to daily work by the growing Iraqi forces. The US operation known as "surge" has triggered energies untapped before, which led to the mobilization of many sectors in Iraq. The efforts to isolate al Qaeda -which will take some time- will be paralleled by efforts to contain and isolate the pro-Iranian militias as well. This will allow Shiia moderates to join the heart of the political process."
Phares, the author of The War of Ideas, told Radio Iraq that the success cannot be measured by the debate within the ruling political class in Baghdad. "For as in Italy or Chile, politics are hot and crisis were frequent. This is a normal transition to a future Iraqi political class, emerging from the post Saddam era. It will take probably a generation or so. Today's advances are bottom up. Iraqi soldiers and social elements are moving forward to defend this emerging democracy from the forces of terror. The measurement is by realizing how opposed most Iraqis are to the establishment of an al Qaeda state, the return of the Baath, or an Iranian like Republic."

Opinion — Lebanon: Damascus 1 — Washington 0

By Alain-Michel Ayache, Special to The Suburban
It was obvious! The victory of Dr. Kamil Khoury, General Michel Aoun’s candidate, over his competitor Amin Gemayel, former president of the Lebanese Republic, was foreseeable. What was not, was the difference in votes which carried the Aoun Front Patriotic Movement’s candidate towards victory.
Indeed, the 418 votes which separate Khoury from Gemayel are indicative on more than one level. The first being proof once again that Aoun still has supporters in the Christian areas. Second, that he lost the majority of them as one can deduct from these results. From the 70 percent of Christian votes, Maronites in particular who supported him during the last national legislative elections, a minor percentage remains in his favour!
This loss of popularity in the Christian camp finds its origin in the alliance the General made with Hizballah and Syria during his 15 years of exile in France— he represented for the Christians Maronites in particular the spearhead of Lebanese nationalism and “ anti-Syrianism.” However, since his return to Lebanon in 2005, and in the name of a “national union,” he multiplied political errors while betting on the wrong players...
His detractors, forming the current majority of the Lebanese government, are criticizing his political stands and his alignment on the Syrian policy against the interests of Lebanon. Aoun however defends the position of the presidency of the Republic. A main position which he seeks to occupy under the pretext of consolidating the presidential powers vis-a-vis an extremely centralizing Sunni Prime Minister. A government that he considers as being a carbon copy of that under the Syrian occupation, mainly because the majority of the ministers in question were Syrian allies at that time. However, if this “safeguard” of the presidential position is considered to be important by the Lebanese Church, it is nonetheless clear that the General is more than ever perceived today by Christians and the clergy as an inappropriate person to fill it.
The Maronite Patriarch sought at several times to close the breach between Aoun and Gemayel, but lamentably failed, mainly because of Aoun’s stubbornness, his personality and his lack of respect for the Gemayel family. That aggressive attitude was translated more than once throughout Aoun’s televised declarations whose level of respect against Gemayel approached more the level of a Syrian Moukhabarat agent rather than one of a General of the military Establishment, or even of a person aspiring to the supreme office in the country!
One realizes that the voices which brought Aoun’s candidate to victory are mainly those of the Armenian camp, although only partly. The FPM also got the full support of the pro-Syrian Progressive Social National Party, closely tied to Damascus and depending on Syrian funds. Aoun’s candidate also benefited from the votes of the “naturalized” Lebanese who came from Damascus by buses “to fulfill their civic rights”.
Of course, a part of the Christians have also voted for the Aounist candidate. They are the followers of Michel Murr, former Minister of Interior and vice Prime Minister under the Syrian occupation of Lebanon.
Ironically, Michel Murr’s son abstained from electing any of the candidates. He is the current Minister of Defence and had been a victim of an assassination attempt by the same people who killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
For the observers and analysts of the Lebanese political scene, the success of the Aoun “Patriotic Current” (Tayyar) in these by-elections shows the capacity of the latter to obstruct the government’s plans for Lebanon. A government he sees as unconstitutional and non-representative of the will of the Lebanese people. However, these results are only the preview of the electoral “fight” to come that Christians in particular will have to carry out for the presidency of the Republic. The candidacy of Michel Aoun for the presidency of the Lebanese Second Republic, although announced, will undoubtedly not receive any support from the Christian population that it is supposed to represent. The major problem for the Maronites becomes then, finding an acceptable alternative to Aoun.
Right now the American analysts think that the presidency of the Republic will form the next round of the continuous bras de fer between the American administration and Damascus.
However, Washington seems to have taken the initiative after this “victory” of Aoun over the Siniora government by announcing the blocking and seizing of all the accounts of American citizens and known American companies that granted financial support to General Aoun. Thus, and until the next presidential elections which should take place at the end of September, the two camps seem to be ready for one of the hottest autumns in Lebanon. Some are even speaking of armed confrontations based on the continuous rearmament of Syria’s allies in Lebanon...
**Alain-Michel Ayache is a Middle East expert and teaches in the Department of Political Science at the University of Quebec in Montreal.