December 11/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 5,17-26. One day as Jesus was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem, and the power of the Lord was with him for healing. And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed; they were trying to bring him in and set (him) in his presence. But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles into the middle in front of Jesus. When he saw their faith, he said, "As for you, your sins are forgiven."  Then the scribes and Pharisees began to ask themselves, "Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who but God alone can forgive sins?" Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them in reply, "What are you thinking in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins''--he said to the man who was paralyzed, "I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home." He stood up immediately before them, picked up what he had been lying on, and went home, glorifying God. Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God, and, struck with awe, they said, "We have seen incredible things today."

Interview with A Lebanese MP
Al-Moustaqbal's Mustafa Alloush: March 14 Opposed Nomination of Suleiman Based on No Amendment Principle/Naharnet. December 10/07

Releases. Reports & Opinions
The Uranium President? By: Zuheir Kseibati. Dar Al-Hayat. December 10/07
It took a singer to voice what Lebanon really needed to hear- The Daily Star-December 10/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for December 10/07
Aoun: No Election Likely before Holidays-Naharnet
Top level talks on Lebanon crisis-BBC News

Hariri: Constitutional Amendment Must Pass through Government-Naharnet
Saniora: No Amendment without Government-Naharnet
Suleiman Not Sure About Tuesday's Presidential Election Session-Naharnet
Lebanon president vote set for yet another delay-Reuters
Tueni Remembered with Prize on Second Assassination Anniversary-Naharnet

Iran Will Support Any Lebanon-Made Solution-Naharnet
Slain Lebanon press magnate remembered with prize-AFP
Sfeir: Constitutional Amendment Better than Political Vacuum-Naharnet
Playing with matches in unstable Lebanon-GulfNews
Lebanon closer to electing army chief as president-Asharq Alawsat
Almost ready:' MPs from both sides polish amendment to open door for Suleiman-Daily Star
Amendment in Berri's hands - Ghanem- AFP
Mitri blames political paralysis in Lebanon on proxy contests-AFP
Suleiman's hometown stands by its general-AFP
Kouchner the environmental violator
-Daily Star
Thousands walk against climate change
-Daily Star
National Food Festival celebrates tastes of Lebanon
-Daily Star
Michel Georgiou receives Gebran Tueni Award at ceremony honoring assassinated journalist
-Daily Star
More of Sidon dump slides into sea
-Daily Star
Iranian students protest detention of colleagues-AFP
US intelligence under assault over Iran, destruction of interrogation videotapes-AFP
The Declaration of Human Rights after 60 years--Daily Star

The Uranium President?
Zuheir Kseibati
Al-Hayat - 10/12/07//
Tomorrow Lebanon has a date with a new era, the era of President (and General) Michel Suleiman, unless the opposition insists on the resignation of the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, even if only an hour before the election of the general, to prevent it from endorsing the election to end the vacuum at the top of the Lebanese state.
Since the regional and international winds are blowing in the direction of seeing the president move to Baabda Palace this week, the opposition won't adhere to its resistance "in the last few minutes of the game" without giving up on extending its battle against the decisions of the "illegitimate government" in the term of General Suleiman and the first Cabinet of his presidency.
Naturally, Suleiman does not aspire to be a crisis-management president, even assuming that a major conflict will not break out, as Dr. Samir Geagea expects, over the formation of the new government. The last few days and difficult mediation, especially by France, demonstrate that the opposition accommodated itself to the regional-international understandings but responded to the call of dealing with things piecemeal, due to the pressure, on two levels:
- The domestic conditions set down for any deal, after the talk by the majority about the future of the weapons of the resistance died down, while the opposition continued to defend the demand of "participation" and its shares in the political make-up (of the Cabinet).
- The external conditions, linked to the share of Damascus and Tehran in this new political make-up, within the framework of affecting decision-making, until big settlements in the region are concluded, and without abolishing the fact that the opposition is flustered when it comes to dealing with the intersection of calculations and interests by Syria and Iran, especially in the post-Annapolis regional environment.
More simply put, the opposition won't raise the white flag by merely seeing Prime Minister Siniora leave the Government Serail, after its hopes to bring down the Cabinet in the street were frustrated, and after a year-long sit-in in downtown Beirut and the campaigns it waged, which were considered a precedent in Lebanese political life. The opposition will not raise the white flag even to facilitate the election of General Suleiman, or else it will appear to be the loser in the street, which has suffered from complete paralysis and economic disaster due to this desire to bring down the government, even in "the last few minutes of the game."
There was no mistake on the part of those who laid down the following challenge to the political groups that used the slogan of "participation:" announce openly whether their final goal involved doing away with the Taif Accord and its Constitution. These forces tried once again to do this by searching for ways to eliminate the obstacle of the constitutional amendment required to elect Suleiman president. Perhaps a related goal involves reviving the demands of "Christian rights," which goes beyond the phrase "marginalization" during the Syrian era in Lebanon. If the core of the Lebanese predicament, over the past few years, has been the effort to amend the rights of each sect, as proven in Taif, it is difficult to be hopeful about a new spring in a country where diversity is a treasure, while problems are renewed every decade or so.
If this is the predicament today, can we expect the opposition to hang up its slogans, just like it will fold its tents in downtown Beirut, just because a regional-international consensus has obliged it to accommodate itself with the requirements of a cooling-off period in the region, and with the interests of external parties consecrating their diversity in Lebanon? Does the opposition have the power to coexist with two contraries: the Syrian-French opening and the French-Iranian crisis, which is pushing Tehran to link the facilitation of installing the new Lebanese president to a halt to Paris' rush to stop Iran's enrichment of uranium?
The opposition cannot be envied over facing such a test, which practically equals the one faced by 14 March. "While pressure was requested on Damascus to halt its obstructionism in Lebanon, the pressure is on 14 March to pay one price after another, and then fall back," as a leading member of Walid Jumblatt's bloc put it - this individual had been way out in front in expecting a new regional political map requiring a withdrawal "so that Lebanese don't pay the price," and saw no shame in the transformation.
And there is no shame in this, although the majority of Lebanese, in and around the 8 March and 14 March groups are asking why the price was paid in the blood of martyrs, all martyrs, from the south the north and the Bekaa and the Metn and Beirut? After the election of the president there will be a new map of alliances, and new battles over the government and its ministerial statement, and appointments, and perhaps the identity of Israel and the fate of the resistance.
The predicament involves Lebanon's resistance, or immunity. What has happened has happened, and the region will change. President Nicolas Sarkozy is coming to Beirut to celebrate the settlement. Why not Bush, too

Al-Moustaqbal's Mustafa Alloush: March 14 Opposed Nomination of Suleiman Based on No Amendment Principle
By Dalia Nemeh
Al Moustaqbal Movement MP Mustafa Alloush said the majority March 14 alliance had originally opposed the nomination of Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman based on a principle of rejecting any constitutional amendment, and not against him personally "because the constitution should not be modified for the sake of a person no matter how important he was."
In an interview with Naharnet, Alloush said: "We wanted to prove that we wanted to accept a compromise so we made that offer (acceptance of Suleiman's nomination for the presidency) in the hopes that the agreements that will take place in the new era and the regional changes that will come about in the area and guarantees that we take from everybody will at least consolidate the Lebanese entity."
"We were left with two choices: either the disappearance of the Lebanese entity or its preservation in order to plunge into a second battle in the future," Alloush said. "But we chose to keep the entity and go into the future battle."
He said that the constitutional amendment mechanism "calls for presenting a draft that must be signed by 10 MPs – five from the majority and five from the opposition – then it should be approved by the government by two-thirds after the Shiite ministers, or some of them, rejoin the cabinet and make their reservations on all previous decisions. After that, the draft would be submitted to parliament.
Alloush believed Free Patriotic Movement leader Gen. Michel Aoun "needs to be more humble."
He stressed that electing a "new consensus president is essential for conducting dialogue among the Lebanese on the basis that he is a neutral authority."
He said that "dialogue ahead of elections would prolong the crisis for many months, maybe a year, particularly having no president to steer the dialogue process."
On the talks between Speaker Nabih Berri and MP Saad Hariri at parliament on Friday, Alloush said that the two leaders agreed on the mechanism for amending the constitution, particularly after Aoun stressed that "any mechanism should be produced in such a way that the wolf does not kill the sheep."
In response to a question on which parliamentary blocs will attend a parliament session to amend the constitution, Alloush said that all the blocs appeared to be willing to go to parliament.
Alloush, however, could not confirm whether Aoun's Reform and Change bloc would go to that session.
"The announcement by Gen. Aoun that he would add up a term to his initiative every day is tantamount to a hostage-taker who says: 'I will kill one (hostage) a day.' Yet (Aoun) did not spell out any" term since then.
Alloush said Aoun "needs to be more humble in his demands and I believe that he'd better accept the compromise or else he will find himself outside the political game."
He said the FPM is made up of 21 MPs which entitles them between 15 to 17 percent representation in the government. "Therefore, their share is supposed to be between four to five cabinet ministers, and this is a basic principle if we should bear in mind a national unity government."
Alloush said the FPM demanded three opposition portfolios -- interior, foreign and finance ministries.
Asked: Don't you believe that postponing the issue of discussing the conflict would put off the crisis until after elections, Alloush replied:
"I don' think the crisis would last that long. I believe we will reach a phase where each group would demand the share it believes is right for her and after electing a president for the republic there could be a reclassification of the factions and this is natural."
"I would like to put (the question this way). Would failure to elect a president end the crisis now? Of course not," Alloush said. "The new consensus president is necessary for conducting dialogue among the Lebanese on the basis that he is a neutral authority."
"If we wanted to engage in dialogue before achieving the other matter, we have no objection. We as March 14 Forces suggested … to continue negotiations on pending issues. But now if we want to go through this, then the presidential election issue would drag for many months, maybe a year, particularly having no president to steer the dialogue process.
."At least a parliamentary majority exists and that provides a balance. That's why we will plunge into it and I believe that just as we reached understandings in the past that we are able to reach understandings in the near future.
Asked if March 14 feared that President Emile Lahoud's era would recur after Suleiman is elected new head of state, especially that the army commander had been appointed to the top military post during the Syrian presence in Lebanon, Alloush said:
"I believe Gen. Emile Lahoud himself would not have behaved that way had all those changes not take place in Lebanon. Gen. Emile Lahoud became, towards the end of his era, in the arms of the Syrian intelligence. The security thought that had dominated him and the illusions that he had regarding the ability of turning the Lebanon regime into a Syrian one and continue to be the decisive guardian on Lebanon the same as in Syria.
"It's true that Gen. Michel Suleiman was appointed during that period and had the Syrian regime not have confidence in him he would not have got that post, but I confirm that some March 14 leaders were in conformity with the Syrian presence. But after the change that occurred following the assassination of Premier Rafik Hariri and after the extension of (Lahoud's term), there has been change in status, even in key decisions like the relation with the Syrian regime.
"I don't believe that the conduct of any official in Lebanon following the withdrawal of the Syrian forces and with international guarantees that have been given to the new regime would make any official in Lebanon deal with matters the same way as during the presence of the Syrian regime, especially since the Syrian presence had had international support, particularly from America and the Arabs.
On March 14's reservations, Alloush said that besides the constitutional amendment issue was that of the experience with the military, adding that "despite all that and to prove that we accept a compromise we offered that issue in the hopes that the agreements that will take place in the new era and the regional changes that will come about in the area and guarantees that we take from everybody will at least consolidate the Lebanese entity." Beirut, 09 Dec 07, 21:40

Suleiman Not Sure About Tuesday's Presidential Election Session
Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman said Monday after meeting Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir that he is not sure whether a presidential session scheduled for Tuesday would take place or not. Local newspapers predicted Monday that the long-awaited parliamentary session was unlikely to take place on Tuesday after Speaker Nabih Berri has reportedly set new conditions on a draft petition for an amendment to the constitution to allow the election of Suleiman as president.
The daily An Nahar said the new obstacles "raised big suspicions" about the possibility that the session could be held on Tuesday. As Safir newspaper agreed, saying the session could be delayed until next Friday. The new obstacle emerged after Berri conditioned that the constitutional amendment pass without going through the government, a move rejected by the ruling majority. March 14 sources labeled Berri's shift a "very big and serious attempt" by the opposition aimed at "twisting the majority's arm." The sources accused the opposition of attempting to blackmail the majority over the presidential vacuum issue to "register a political victory."
The NBN television station had quoted a high-ranking political source close to Berri as saying that the Speaker agrees to a suggestion made by former Speaker Hussein Husseini which allows parliamentary approval for the amendment without passing through the "illegitimate" government of Prime Minister Fouad Saniora as deemed by the opposition. The sources said Husseini's offer came in harmony with French statements as well as with Constitutional Council decisions, particularly Decree 2 of 1997 and Decree 4 of 1996. Berri has blocked normal parliamentary sessions in the absence of six opposition ministers, with the assembly only meeting recently to try to agree on a constitutional amendment to allow Suleiman to assume the vacant presidency. In light of Berri's new terms, the majority MPs suspended their signature gathering. A draft petition was handed over to Berri on Saturday by MP Robert Ghanem, head of parliament's legal commission, and former Justice Minister Bahige Tabbara. Beirut, 10 Dec 07, 08:53

Hariri: Constitutional Amendment Must Pass through Government

MP Saad Hariri said a constitutional amendment to allow the election of Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman as president must pass through the government.
"We brought forward the solution to parliament doors, but the others, unfortunately, did not value this initiative highly," Hariri told the daily As Safir in remarks published Monday. "We are with a constitutional amendment in order to salvage the country, but we will not accept a violation of the constitution for the sake of political wrangling." In response to a question about the opposition's stance from the "illegitimate" government of Prime Minister Fouad Saniora, Hariri said: "The dispute over (legitimacy of) the government is a waste of time." He pointed to the reshuffling made by resigned opposition Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh, adding that many of the resigned cabinet ministers show up to work and use their ministerial privileges. Hariri said the only resigned minister who abided by his resignation was Mohammed Fneish. On Gen. Michel Aoun's demands, Hariri said: "This is not my problem. It is the problem of Michel Aoun's allies." Hariri stressed that March 14 MPs will sign the petition. Beirut, 10 Dec 07, 08:22

Iran Will Support Any Lebanon-Made Solution
Iran stressed that resolving the political crisis in Lebanon should be Lebanon-made and said Tehran will back any solution the various factions agree on.
The Islamic Republic News Agency, IRNA, quoted Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Husseini as saying during his weekly press conference that he assured all Lebanese political factions he contacts that a solution to the crisis "should be Lebanese and would surely enjoy Tehran's backing."
Meanwhile, there were reports that Iran's Foreign Ministry's Director-General Ali Asghar Mohammadi arrived in Beirut Sunday evening. No other details were given. Beirut, 10 Dec 07, 13:45

Saniora: No Amendment without Government

Prime Minister Fouad Saniora said he will not accept any constitutional amendment that does not pass through the government. Saniora told visitors that he will also reject suggestions for a cabinet resignation before presidential elections take place. Beirut, 10 Dec 07, 12:37

NIE/Not Inherently Everything Geoff Metcalf

Published 12/10/2007 -
Geoff Metcalf
Dr. Walid Phares, Director of Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, observes “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.” He goes on to outline talking points to demonstrate why the message of the recent NIE is flawed; how it is being used against US national security interests; and what the consequences will be of this derailment in threat analysis.
Years ago I was told of an alleged battle between two polar factions within the CIA. It was classic conspiratorial fodder (Robert Ludlum plot stuff) and may or may not have been credible. However, ‘Operation Mockingbird’ was a CIA initiative that was very real and very clearly documented.
More on Operation Mockingbird
Katherine Graham, the late matriarch of The Washington Post, once told a 1988 group of CIA recruits, “We live in a dirty and dangerous world. There are some things the general public does not need to know, and shouldn’t. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.”
The greatest challenge for us ‘normal folk’ when it comes to interpreting what we are or are not told by the intelligence community (or the press) is to distinguish between what is real and what is not. Disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda are cornerstones of the intelligence pyramid, and for good or ill, the press if a frequent collaborator.
In addition to collecting and analyzing data, various intelligence agencies can and will engage is lying. Frankly, it is a key component of their skill set. I have been suspiciously critical of Russian honcho Vladimir Putin because of his deep KGB roots. I have observed (archaic reference to ‘West Side Story’) that “When you’re a Jet you’re a Jet all the way…from your first cigarette to your last dying day…” That axiom is true for any intelligence operative.
The conventional wisdom of our premature entrance into Iraq suggests that President Bush, all those neo-cons, AND the congressional libs, were provided with inaccurate and incorrect intelligence. Not surprisingly, like a computer: ‘garbage in garbage out’ resulted.
The intelligence community (full of lifelong careerists) was pimp slapped over their alleged malfeasance in misdirecting policy decisions. Not surprisingly, they did not like the rebuke (individually or collectively).
Now, after years of beating the drum over Iranian imminent nuclear capabilities and the potential for a multi-megaton spark over oceans of oil, the spooks are calling ‘do over’. “Whoops! We were wrong…”
However, the latest controversial NIE (National Intelligence Estimate), and yes, it IS, by definition, an ‘ESTIMATE’, begs the seminal question that courtroom lawyers salivate over being able to deploy. “Are you lying now…or were you lying before?” Because clearly, they can’t have it both ways.
“In a background briefing, intelligence officials said they had concluded it was ‘possible’, but not ‘likely’ the new information they were relying on was deception,” said John Bolton to the Congressional Quarterly recently.
If you embrace the position that they made an error, and nobly admitted their error, it doesn’t obviate the empirical reality that they have admitted they are not omniscient or incapable of error. And if they admit they can (and have been) wrong…what evidence do they submit to counter critics that they could be wrong this time?
The consequences of being wrong are pretty significant. The epic scar of 9/11 will forever be testimony that there are consequences to what we do AND don’t do.
Sun Tzu, in ‘The Art of War’ says, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
It is becoming increasingly clear, the administration and their supporting intelligence community does not have a clear picture of our enemies or our own national identity. For sure, we are not that generation of melting pot survivors of the great depression that won WWII.
We as a country are so divided, sectioned and parsed that the potential for consonance (on almost anything) is impossible. We are so diversified; p.c.-ized, fragmented and accommodating that most of the preparation of the battlefield heavy lifting has already been done for any potential and patient enemy.
Walt Kelly, creator of the Pogo comic strip, nailed it in 1970, he later used in a two panel 1971 version with Pogo and Porky in a trash filled swamp. "YEP, SON, WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US."