December 09/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 1,26-38. In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, "Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." But Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" And the angel said to her in reply, "The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God." Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.

Releases. Reports & Opinions
Aoun tows Syrian line. By Ahmed Al-Jarallah.Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times. December 08/07
Misestimating Iran’s Nuclear Strategies. By: Walid Phares. December 08/07
Aoun's arguments may be right, but his timing is all wrong. The Daily Star-December 08/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for December 08/07
Lebanon's Geagea sees Suleiman becoming president-Reuters
Feltman: Berri Wants an End to Vacuum-Naharnet
Gates: Iran, not Israel, Destabilizes Lebanon-Naharnet
Washington Regrets Delay in Lebanon's Presidential Election-Naharnet
Iran Facilitates Constitutional Amendment to Elect Gen. Suleiman President-Naharnet
Geagea Predicts New Alliances After Presidential Election
Moussa: Constitutional Amendment is the Priority-Naharnet
US asks Lebanon's parliament to hurry with election of new president-International Herald Tribune-Naharnet
Lebanese leaders put off presidential election again-Daily Star
Fadlallah stresses civil peace and coexistence-Daily Star
Sfeir meets Italian envoys to discuss presidency row
-Daily Star
Assad, Prodi discuss Lebanese political scene-(AFP)
Rival parties closer to consensus on amendment-Daily Star
Salameh sees GDP growth as answer to deficit-Daily Star
Former head of ISF dies in Montreal-Daily Star
Swiss governance system offers lessons in 'compromise-Daily Star
AUB conference addresses methods to improve food safety in Lebanon-Daily Star
Thousands still homeless 16 months after Israeli attacks-(AFP)
Rice warns Israel against new settler homes in Jerusalem-Daily Star
Syria 'not pessimistic' about newly re-launched Middle East peace process-Daily Star
UN rights body voices concern over Iran execution-

Misestimating Iran’s Nuclear Strategies
Walid Phares
Family Security Foundation, Inc.
The release to the US Congress of the NIE Iranian threat report has unleashed a wave of discussions streaming directly into the debate about the war on terror. From there, obviously, the ripple effects of the findings – plus their politicization - are feeding the critics of the War in Iraq; but more importantly, impacting both the friends and the foes of the United States, including principally the Iranian regime.
Basically, Americans and their allies are faced with a new assertion, created by this intelligence estimate, that the decision makers in Tehran had already abandoned their nuclear military strategy as of 2003; and hence, the US and its coalition would be at fault if it engaged in any military action against targets inside Iran. Specifically, due to American intelligence conclusions, the public - both domestic and international - are being led to believe that in the fall of 2003, the Iranian leadership had decided to stop its process of building an atomic weapon; and that further, today, in the fall of 2007, there isn’t an Iranian nuclear threat to America, to the region and to the international community.
Thus, logically, as a conglomeration of various interests is using the NIE findings as tacit approval for shielding the Iranian regime, Washington naively has trapped itself with the product of the best of the best in its national intelligence apparatus. Every word now used by this writer will be put to the task of demonstrating to my readers that, if anything, this NIE Report has revealed a major systemic problem with United States national security analysis; and that further, America’s ability to understand and detect threats against itself has been compromised.
The end product of this top US evaluation of the Khomeinist menace is not so different, unfortunately, from previous assessments in the 1990s which dismissed – or even ignored - the threat posed by our other foes: Jihadists, Salafists in general, and al Qaeda in particular. This NIE report is drawing significant debates at critical times; but the most serious conclusion I would make about its findings is that the systemic crisis, about which the 9/11 Commission warned the US Government and public, is still alive and evolving.
Here are talking points to demonstrate why the message of the report is flawed; how it is being used against US national security interests; and what the consequences will be of this derailment in threat analysis.
1. The NIE findings based their final conclusion - that the Iranian regime had abandoned its nuclear strategy - on information obtained from Iranian officials who stated they’d stopped their nuclear program in the fall of 2003. So, our best senior analysts’ conclusions are based on statements made by Iranian regime cadre known for their deceptive tactics. The document insisted that the findings didn’t attempt to analyze the Iranian regime’s intention but instead were meant merely to assert that Tehran is changing attitude; but yet the key assumptions made by the NIE bosses used the statements of the regime, not the intentions behind these statements, to construct conclusions about a course of action. That would be the equivalent of considering the statements of Adolf Hitler as true when he assured Britain and France that the invasion of Czechoslovakia was the end of his Nazi program in 1938.
My counter argument is that stopping a single production process of a nuclear weapon is not equivalent to putting an end to a strategic policy of obtaining such arms. A real change in Iranian strategy would be indicated only if the office of Ayatollah Khamenei and the central powers of his regime openly would state that they have abandoned the pursuit of military nuclear power. That has not happened; and worse, the opposite has been happening. The ruling elite have been increasingly boasting about their intention to achieve nuclear parity and their right to obtain these weapons and even to use them.
Note well: the NIE’s referral to the 2003 decision by the Khatemi Government to halt its previous method of obtaining the nukes is not the equivalent of Mohammar Qaddafi’s strategic choice to abandon the pursuit of WMDs, or the South African and Ukrainian choice to de-proliferate, as examples.
2.The NIE architects chose not to inform policy makers and the public about the wider context in which that specific 2003 decision was made, or about the subsequent steps in the Iranian nuclear strategy. Such selectiveness crippled the political conclusion of the document. Not to analyze why a foe halted a process, while he resumed many other processes to obtain even greater results, derails US analysis of the enemy’s global strategies.
Indeed the real story is that the Iranian regime reconfigured its previous nuclear strategy - gradual build up – because by the end of the summer 2003, with “hostile forces” (the US-led coalition) deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, they knew if they didn’t alter the pursuit of that initial route, they could expect a lethal reaction. Since the US strategic intentions weren’t clear in the eyes of the Iranian strategists, they acted as if Washington and its allies were moving forward to disarm Iran’s regime. The Khatemi Government, preferring to avoid an unbalanced confrontation, decided to suspend the open build-up of nuclear power, because it simply concluded that the US would be able to strike them from two borders. Hence, the Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guard) seized the nuclear program and reconverted it in the underground. Thus, the global strategy wasn’t halted, but an alternative strategy was begun.
3.In 2004, a US election year, the deep American divide over the War in Iraq was
perceived by the Iranian hardliners as an aid to re-launch the rapid-pace nuclear race. Ironically, it was the efforts of the so called “antiwar” movement within the United States that encouraged the Jihadists of Iran to reignite the military nuclear program. By early 2005 Ahmadinejad was brought to power, and greater Syro-Iranian backing of terror in Iraq was employed to weaken the hostile forces to the west of Iran. From an Iranian perspective, one of the “insurgency’s” goals was to give Tehran the time and the ability to run faster towards deploying the nuclear weapons-to-be.
4. The NIE failed to see and explain that the 2003 decision was a change of strategy not a halt to a strategy; for the Ahmadinejad plan was to ensnare the US in Iraq so that it couldn’t destroy the process of Iran’s shifting the balance of power in its crucial early stages. Tragically, what was missed in Washington is that Tehran was building the missiles before completing the fissile. While attention was focused on the uranium enrichment process, the Pasdaran were setting up the delivery system, i.e., the actual threat system.
The bomb part of the Iranian nuclear strategy was the last stage, while the missiles were the most urgent to acquire first. Strategically it makes sense, because if the Iranians had produced a weapon, it could have been taken out via airpower without the risk of a second strike (since the delivery system would have been absent). But if the missiles were obtained before, the world couldn’t intervene preemptively against them. And when the bombs were ready (through assembly or purchase) they would be locked on the rockets. At that particular time, unilateral strikes against the Iranian weapons would run the risk of Iranian missile counter attacks against the free world.
Tehran played it very wisely and outmaneuvered its enemies in the West; it got away with the missiles, which are now advanced and deployed. Hence all that the Khomeinists need to achieve by the end of 2007, as their delivery systems are developed, is a conclusion in Washington that will deter it from acting against the nukes, the fusion centers, the launching ramps and other types of deployment. The NIE report has paved the way for that decision.
By cleverly convincing the American intelligence community and the public that Tehran had already abandoned the whole nuclear strategy in 2003, Iran has delegitimized America’s ability to act against the missiles. Hence the field is wide open for the secret nuclear program to accelerate, as the delivery system is being completed. By the time America discovers it has been duped, the nukes will be sitting on top of the missiles. All the Jihadi strategic planners had to do was to use America’s political systems against itself. Hence, because the NIE analysts failed to provide the global context of the Iranian strategy and have been pressing for a political agenda over national security priorities, Iran’s Khomeinists are winning, regardless of who will occupy the White House in January 2008.
Our next President will be faced with security crises by far more dramatic and formidable than any challenges we’ve witnessed since 9/11: Iranian missiles with Jihadi bombs aimed at two thirds of the world.
***Dr. Walid Phares is the Director of Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a visiting scholar at the European Foundation for Democracy. He is the author of the War of Ideas
# # Contributing Editor Walid Phares is the director of Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a visiting scholar at the European Foundation for Democracy, and the author of The War of Ideas: Jihadism against Democracy.
read full author bio here

Washington Regrets Delay in Lebanon's Presidential Election
The U.S. State Department expressed regret that a Lebanese parliamentary session to elect a new president was postponed on Friday. "Lebanon's parliament once again failed to elect a president. While a majority of members are ready to vote for a proposed constitutional amendment, a minority in the opposition did not agree to permit the proposed amendment to pass through the cabinet, as the Lebanese constitution requires," department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said in a statement. "The United States regrets the attempts by some MPs to link non-constitutional measures to presidential elections," he said. "It is bad for all of Lebanon's people, and for the sovereignty and freedom of the nation, to be deprived of a president." Gallegos said the U.S. urges Lebanese legislators and ministers to move quickly to elect a new president. Earlier Friday a parliamentary session to elect the country's new president was put off for a seventh time, with a new date set for Tuesday, amid continued wrangling between pro- and anti-Syrian camps.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 08 Dec 07, 10:24

Gates: Iran, not Israel, Destabilizes Lebanon
U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates on Saturday said Iran, not Israel, is the force that is destabilizing Lebanon.
Gates also rejected suggestions that a nuclear-armed Israel would be a threat to Gulf countries and dismissed suggestions that Washington employed dual standards over the Jewish state and Iran. Asked whether he thought Israeli nuclear weapons would be a threat in the same way as Iran having such an arsenal, he told delegates at a regional security conference in Bahrain: "No, I do not." Israel has never officially confirmed that it has a nuclear arsenal but is widely believed to be the only state in the Middle East with such weapons, estimated to number 200. Accused of applying double standards towards Iran and Israel -- Washington's main ally in the region -- Gates responded:
"Israel is not training terrorists to subvert its neighbors, it has not shipped weapons to a place like Iraq to kill thousands of civilians, it has not threatened to destroy any of its neighbors, it is not trying to destabilize the government of Lebanon, so I think there are significant differences in terms of both the history and the behavior of the Israeli and Iranian governments." The leader of Israel's arch-foe, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has called for it to be "wiped off the map."
Tehran has denied sending weapons to neighboring Iraq, however, and has said it would work to help stabilize the country.(AFP) Beirut, 08 Dec 07, 12:23

Feltman: Berri Wants an End to Vacuum
U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Geffrey Feltman said Saturday Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri "wants to see an end to the presidential vacuum as long as possible."
Feltman made the remarks in a dialogue with reporters after meeting Berri at the latter's residence in Beirut. Berri, Feltman said, is looking for ways to hold the presidential election as soon as possible."In answering a question as to whether he believes a parliamentary session scheduled for Tuesday to elect a president would be held on time, Feltman said: "I hope so."The United States, he added, encourages efforts to "find all the ways, in line with the constitution, to hold the presidential election." Beirut, 08 Dec 07, 15:00

Geagea Predicts New Alliances After Presidential Election

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea on Saturday said new alliances would emerge after the election of Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman President.
Geagea, in an interview with Voice of Lebanon radio, said "We are heading to electing a president next week and (former president Emile) Lahoud wouldn't be the last Christian president."He criticized MP Saad Hariri, head of al-Moustaqbal Movement, for announcing the nomination of Gen. Suleiman prior to reaching collective agreement within the March 14 forces, stressing that amending the constitution was the problem and not the army commander in person.
He said the decision to nominate Gen. Suleiman is "purely Lebanese." Geagea accused Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun without mentioning him by name, noting that "some Christian leaders have a unilateral viewpoint that cannot be subject to discussion."Lebanese Forces MPs, Geagea stressed, will take part in a parliamentary session set for next week to vote Gen. Suleiman into the presidential office following adoption of a constitutional amendment that permits his election.
"I stress on the fact that there are no intra-Christian grudges, however there are differences in view points.""Had the Christians been rallied around one stand they would have been the strongest party" in Lebanon, Geagea said. Beirut, 08 Dec 07, 14:26

Iran Facilitates Constitutional Amendment to Elect Gen. Suleiman President!
Feuding Lebanese factions appear heading to a compromise that would facilitate a constitutional amendment allowing the election of Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman president. The settlement, reached during talks between parliamentary bloc leaders on the sidelines of Friday's parliamentary session, sets the mechanism for adopting a constitutional amendment based on a petition signed by 10 MPs from both the majority and opposition camps.
Speaker Nabih Berri would invite parliament to a "legislative session" that the daily newspaper an-Nahar said would convene at 10:00 am on Monday to adopt the proposed amendment of article 49 of the constitution that bans ranking public sector employees from competing for the presidency.
Berri, after the bill is adopted, would refer it to Premier Fouad Saniora's majority cabinet that would tackle the issue on Monday after noon in the presence of the opposition's six ministers who quit more than a year ago.
The opposition ministers would register in the session's minutes their reservations to all decisions adopted by the Saniora government since they quit in November 2006, which gives their political factions the legal right to raise the issue in future meetings of forthcoming cabinets to be formed after the election of a new head of state.
The Saniora cabinet, in line with the constitution, would adopt the amendment bill and refer it to Parliament for final ratification.
The house would convene on Tuesday to ratify the amendment bill into law then hold another session to vote in Gen. Suleiman for the nation's top post.
An-Nahar said all parliamentary blocs would take part in the constitutional amendment parliamentary session, including Gen. Michel Aoun's Change and Reform Bloc.
However, Parliamentary sources told Naharnet that MPs from Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement, which is part of the Change and Reform Bloc, would not take pert in amending the constitution, noting that the movement's objection to constitutional amendments is "a matter of principle."
This, one source said, "does not mean that the FPM is opposing Gen. Suleiman's Nomination. On the contrary FPM MPs would take part in the session set to elect him for the presidency on Tuesday, once the constitutional amendment is adopted."
The rather stalled effort to elect a new head of state was set into motion shortly after French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner wrapped up four days of feverish discussions with Lebanese leaders on settling the presidential crisis and left after telling the Lebanese they may elect a head of state next Tuesday.
"I think that Tuesday you may have a president," Kouchner told reporters at Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport.
"I have accomplished my duty ... but what remains is the last little effort for the opposition and majority to agree on forming a team to amend the constitution so that a president can be elected," Kouchner added.
Berri was quoted by an-Nahar as saying French mediators "exerted great efforts with the various factions …and they have set the fertile ground for maintaining contacts and opening channels of dialogue between the majority and opposition to conclude the presidential election."
An-Nahar reported that Kouchner failed to declare a breakthrough in Lebanon due to "regional" factors, including a meeting held in the Syrian capital of Damascus by some factions of the Lebanese opposition on Friday and did not result in a decision to facilitate the French initiative.
However, an "encouraging sign" appeared from Tehran after Kouchner left Lebanon when Ali Larijani, an advisor to Iran's spiritual leader Ali Khamenei, made a statement saying he congratulates Gen. Suleiman for winning the presidency. Beirut, 08 Dec 07, 09:16

Moussa: Constitutional Amendment is the Priority
Arab League Secretary General Amre Moussa said Lebanon has "achieved a one step progress by achieving consensus on Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman for president."Talking to reporters at the Arab Press Club in Paris, Moussa said he had expected a further postponement of a Parliamentary session set for Friday to elect a new president for Lebanon. However, the Arab League Chief noted: "what is important, to me, is reaching an agreement on a formula to amend the constitution prior to holding the presidential election."He warned against ushering the impasse into "vicious circles" and urged the Lebanese to "grab the chance provided by consensus on the president to vote him into office." Beirut, 08 Dec 07, 10:13

Aoun tows Syrian line
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah

Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times
Kuwait: THOSE who have closely monitored statements issued by Lebanese MP Michel Aoun, especially over the past few days about Lebanese Christians, and a statement by his parliamentary bloc will realize he is towing the Syrian-Iranian line that could propel him to the presidential palace.
He will neither look back nor refrain, at any cost, from agreeing with Syria — whom until yesterday he considered his enemy. Overnight he has become a friend of Syria and the latter his master and the master of his March Eight Group — on issues of Lebanon. This signals the birth of the Al-Baath Party — the ruling party of Syria.
Aoun and his group, after getting support from the Syria-Iran alliance wants to divide the people of Lebanon. If Aoun reaches the presidential palace he will do exactly what his predecessor did — take instructions from foreign parties. The majority of the Members of Parliament and the people were unable to do anything after the former president blocked their moves in the government and the Speaker of the Parliament dissolved the Parliament.
The Syria-Iran loyalists resigned from the government putting in doubt the legitimacy of the government and leading the country on the path to destruction by going to war with Israel in July 2006.
They tried to paint their mistakes — death of scores of people and destruction of government property — with rosy pictures but did not succeed.
The Syria-Iran alliance attempted to win the presidency and came quite close to a victory after Emil Lahoud was asked to form another government in place of the government of Fuad Siniora after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called on Lahoud to take steps to save the country — which could be done by only forming a new government.
But Lahoud was afraid of carrying out the orders of the alliance because he was afraid of the mistakes he had committed during his tenure and instead decided to declare emergency rule. Lahoud left and Aoun and Nasrallah and their alliance lost the game and they tried in vain to resort to the Constitution to get back in power.
It was an embarrassment after the March Eight Group lost and the chief of the army staff Major-General Suleiman was nominated for the presidency. This totally destroyed any hopes for Aoun to take the presidency because Suleiman is well-known for his patriotism and trustworthiness and does not accept foreign dictates. He is not like Lahoud and will not allow any party to deal with him like they did with Lahoud. Suleiman has said he will not compromise his authority which will be given to him by the Constitution. He also said he will consider everyone equal because for him no one is above the law.
After Aoun was left out in the cold, ‘people’ set conditions for the nomination of Suleiman as president because they favored creating a presidential vacuum. The fact is they want the Cabinet to split before a president is nominated to secure their interests in the government which is completely against the Constitution and democratic practices.
The opposition began a political struggle under the title ‘One Basket for Political Solutions’. We believe even if we put all our problems in one basket, the opposition will surely come up with other demands and will want all apples to be put in their basket and continue to disturb political stability in the country.
The Iranian dictators will not succeed because they have always put Lebanon in a dangerous spot. When the people of Lebanon become aware of such developments and people begin to take revenge on those who have always caused problems for them for decades, this move will ensure that injustice has ended forever.