December 21/07

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
The Lebanon Blogging Controversy: By: W. Thomas Smith December 20/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for December 20/07
Bush: Patience with Syria's Assad ran out long ago-Reuters
Syria says working for end to Lebanon crisis-Reuters
Syrian Foreign Minister flays US stand in Lebanon's presidential ...Hindu

Muallem Attacks Washington's Role in Lebanon, Backs Hizbullah's 'Basket'-Naharnet
Washington Would Not Allow Syria, Iran a Free Hand in Lebanon-Naharnet
March 14: No to Aoun's Proposal and For Presidential Elections on Friday-Naharnet
Saniora Government to Appoint Gemayel Successor-Naharnet
U.S.-France Renew Calls for Speedy Presidential Elections
Lebanese Want…a 'President' this Christmas-Naharnet
Rice Cancels Visit, March 14 Leaders Warn: Amend Constitution or the Government will Act-Naharnet
Washington Would Not Allow Syria-Iran a Free Hand in Lebanon-Naharnet
2007 Brings More Crisis to Lebanon
-Voice of America
Syria Contacted by Nuclear Black Market
-The Associated Press
The US Senate passed a bill that would help victims of terror ...Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Grand Mufti Kabbani Urges MPs to Elect a President on Saturday-Naharnet
Hariri sees Syria hand in impasse-Gulf Times
Geagea for Expanding the Saniora Government-Naharnet
Rice Cancels Visit, March 14 Leaders Warn: Amend Constitution or the Government will Act-Naharnet
France's Sarkozy Urges Lebanon to Elect President-Voice of America
Muslims mark Eid, but politics takes away from holiday cheer-International Herald Tribune
Sarkozy Demands Syrian Action on Lebanon
Bush to visit Mideast from January 8-16-Gulf times
UN won’t bow to terror: Ban
-Gulf Times

Washington Would Not Allow Syria, Iran a Free Hand in Lebanon
A 10th scheduled attempt to elect a president on Saturday appeared heading to further postponement as no moves have been reported towards amending the constitution and opening the palace gates to Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who also is a prominent figure in the Hizbullah-led opposition, was reported to have prepared a legal study allowing the house, which will be in recess after New Year, to convene, amend the constitution and elect a new head of state.
Details of the study were not disclosed.
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea had called Premier Fouad Saniora's Majority government to adopt a constitutional amendment bill and refer it to parliament for tackling, in an apparent effort aimed at cornering Berri into accepting it or rejecting the bill, in which case he will be held responsible for blocking presidential elections.
The daily al-Hayat quoted Berri as telling visitors he is "less optimistic" regarding convening a parliamentary session scheduled for Saturday to elect a new head of state.
The vague atmosphere prevailed over the presidential crisis after U.S. Undersecretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch concluded a two-day assignment in Beirut aimed at re-assuring the March 14 majority that Washington is anew leading international pressure to facilitate the election of a Lebanese president without foreign intervention.
Al-Hayat quoted senior sources in the majority as saying Welch has outlined that Syrian President Bashar Assad "refuses to facilitate the election of a president in Lebanon."Washington "gave Paris time to carry out a last attempt with Damascus, But French President Nicolas Sarkozy realized that his Syrian counterpart has not delivered on his promises and commitments and that Damascus is hiding behind its allies in the opposition by implying that they are not against electing Suleiman, but they have political demands related to the formation of the government" that should rule when a new head of state assumes power, Welch was quoted as saying.
He added that Washington "did not give up its role in Lebanon, but wanted to give Paris a chance and it appears that the French capital has found out that Damascus does not want any agreement and does not want to re-consider its stand." Welch, by his unscheduled return to Beirut on Tuesday, wanted to "relay a message to Iran and Syria that Washington would not give them a free hand in Lebanon, especially that the presidential crisis is just a step in a long political march," the sources said.
Welch's message was that "the international community would not stand idly by regarding attempts to block the presidential elections and has steps capable of pressuring whoever is blocking the election," the sources added. Washington, Welch said, "would back any steps taken by the majority to prevent continued void in the presidency," noting that Lebanon would be a topic of "special interest" during U.S. President George Bush's forthcoming tour in the Middle East.
Beirut, 20 Dec 07, 09:56

2300 M Street NW, Suite 800 Washington, DC 20037
(202) 416 1819 fax(202) 293 3083
Press release
Dec 20th, 2007
Washington DC, ILC News
The International Lebanese Committee for the Implementation of UNSCR 1559, after having reviewed the circumstances surrounding the Terror assassination of Brigadier General Francois Hajj in Lebanon, after having analyzed the motives and assessed the obstruction of implementation of various related UN resolution declares the follow:
1. Brigadier General Francois Hajj was the chief operations commander in the Lebanese Army. He had coordinated the military operations aimed at interdicting and eliminating the Terrorist group Fatah al Islam, linked to Syrian intelligence. Hence, as a top Lebanese Army officer, Hajj has inflicted a blow to the Jihadi operations sponsored by the Syrian-Iranian "axis" in Lebanon.
2. Brigadier General Francois Hajj was tipped to become the next Commander of the Lebanese Army when and if current Commander Michel Sleiman would be elected as the next President of the Republic. Hajj would have been in charge of implementing UNSCR 1559, UNSCR 1701 and the other relevant resolutions on the military level. Since Hajj has shown his ability to be successful in deterring and defeating one terror organization, the forces of the "axis" projected that he would lead the future deployments of the Lebanese Army with the help of UNIFIL and other international forces to implement these resolutions. Hence the Syrian-Iranian "Terror axis" decided to eliminate him thus sending a message to the Lebanese Army, the future President and Governments and the United Nations that any attempt to implement resolution will be met with violence.
3. Brigadier Francois Hajj was killed to preempt the implementation of UNSCR 1559. Therefore it is of the responsibility of the UN Security Council to direct its assets to investigate the murder and to bring the Terrorists to justice.
4. Therefore the Committee calls on UN authorities to investigate the security and paramilitary networks which operates in Lebanon outside the structure of the Lebanese Army and Security Forces and outside the UNIFIL. These networks are under the control of a main pro-Iranian and pro-Syrian organization called Hezbollah. This group calls itself the "resistance" and openly declares its possession of thousands of rockets, large militias, suicide bombers and intelligence services, all outside the supervision and control of the Lebanese state security and the UNIFIL. The assassination of Brigadier General Hajj must prompt investigations with this Terror network beginning by an investigation with the commander of these forces on Lebanese Territories, secretary general of Hezbollah, Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah.
The UN must act swiftly and promptly to address the Terror campaign in Lebanon before it strikes again. The Security Council has issued resolutions pertaining to this threat and thus it must defend these resolutions and protect those who are in charge of its implementation.
Tom Harb
Secretary General

Muallem Attacks Washington's Role in Lebanon, Backs Hizbullah's 'Basket'
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem on Thursday accused the United States of "blocking a Syrian-French attempt" to settle the ongoing political crisis in Lebanon and criticized Paris for not rejecting Washington's approach. Talking to a group of reporters in Damascus on the Lebanon situation, Muallem also expressed "regret because the French did not commit to distancing themselves from the American role." "Unfortunately, the French did not show a commitment to distancing themselves from the American role that blocked the Syrian-French attempt to reach a solution," Muallem said. However, he said, Syrian-French "contacts regarding Lebanon persist."He claimed that an agreement had been reached between Paris and Damascus on a "declaration of principles that includes the election of a consensus president who is Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman, the formation of a national unity government and amending the election law."
Muallem criticized the recent mission in Lebanon by U.S. Undersecretary of State David Welch, saying Washington "is not for consensus among the Lebanese, but wants a conqueror and a vanquished. "Washington wants the majority to monopolize the decision-making in Lebanon," he charged.
"We believe that forming a national unity government is as important as electing a new president because it would lead to activating all constitutional institutions, end the sit-in and pave the way for a thorough national dialogue," Muallem said in echoing a call by the Hizbullah-led opposition for agreement on a "basket" of conditions prior to facilitating Suleiman's election. "Syria plays a constructive role and does not interfere," Muallem claimed. Beirut, 20 Dec 07, 13:49

March 14: No to Aoun's Proposal and For Presidential Elections on Friday
Leaders of the March 14 majority alliance urged MP's to take part in a parliamentary session scheduled for Friday to elect a new president and rejected a proposal by Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun allowing him to name an interim head of state.
A statement issued after a meeting of the alliance leaders at Beirut's Phoenecia Hotel noted that participation in electing a new head of state is in line with legislators' "constitutional duties." Parliament, the statement noted, is the sole authority that elects a president, chooses premiers and grants governments votes of confidence allowing them to rule. The March 14 forces would not be lured into proposals that urge the following of an unconstitutional path, the statement added in apparent rejection of Aoun's proposal. The March 14 forces "reject any slicing of the president's six-year term in line with article 49 of the constitution," the statement stressed.
The statement noted that the election of a new president puts an end to threats of vacuum and chaos. Beirut, 22 Nov 07, 23:05

Saniora Government to Appoint Gemayel Successor

Minister of Communications Marwan Hamadeh disclosed Thursday that Premier Fouad Saniora's government might appoint a successor to slain minister Pierre Gemayel if presidential elections failed on Saturday. Hamadeh, in an interview with Voice of Lebanon Radio, said a parliamentary session scheduled for Saturday to elect a head of state might fail to convene if Syrian President Bashar Assad persisted with his effort to keep Lebanon a "hostage of the regional crisis."
"If the Saturday session failed, the government would shoulder its responsibilities and activate its efforts," Hamadeh said. Gemayel was gunned down on Nov. 21, 2006 and his seat has been vacant ever since. "The government might apply a limited reshuffle after it has lost martyr minister Pierre Gemayel," Hamadeh said.
Beirut, 20 Dec 07, 13:22

U.S.-France Renew Calls for Speedy Presidential Elections

The United States and France stepped up calls for speedy presidential elections in Lebanon amidst a continuing rift between the majority and opposition that has foiled nine attempts to elect a head of state. U.S. Undersecretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams held separate talks with Christian leaders of the March 14 alliance, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, al-Moustaqbal Movement leader Saad Hariri in the presence of Druze leader Walid Jumblat and Cabinet Minister Nayla Mouawad. Talking to reporters after meeting the Christian leaders at ex-President Amin Gemayel's residence, Welch said his mission reflects the U.S. belief that presidential elections should be held "as soon as possible."The time has come to achieve the Lebanese people's will in the free and democratic election of a president, Welch said. Lebanon, he added, has the right to security and stability without foreign intervention.
Lebanese Forces MP Antoine Zahra, who took part in the meeting with Welch at Gemayel's residence, was quoted as saying the United States and the international community have apparently "realized that the French initiative was erroneously interpreted and Syria felt that Lebanon has been abandoned."
The visit by Welch and Abrams, according to Zahra, apparently aims at correcting this impression and stressing that they support Lebanon and its "democracy."
Welch, who arrived in Beirut on Tuesday on his second visit in four days, has accused the Hizbullah-led opposition of blocking the vote at the behest of foreign powers and urged Berri to shoulder his responsibilities. Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun criticized Welch who has not expressed a desire to meet him.
"U.S. policies represent a danger to Lebanon. Welch's visit is incomplete and will not lead to a solution," he said. Meanwhile, pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat quoted French President Nicolas Sarkozy as warning of "new confrontations and the possible emergence of two (rival) governments" in Beirut if the vote founders again on Saturday. Sarkozy told a group of Arab journalists in Paris that he had telephoned Syrian President Bashar Assad for the third time since November 20 to urge him to press opposition MPs to proceed with a vote. "Saturday is the last chance," Sarkozy was quoted as saying.(Naharnet-AFP) Beirut, 19 Dec 07, 20:13

The Lebanon Blogging Controversy: The Story Behind the Story
W. Thomas Smith Jr.
Many of you by now have some knowledge regarding the controversy surrounding my blog posts for National Review Online while I was in Lebanon in September and October. So I won’t lede with the details, which you will read below in “the story behind the story.” And I urge everyone to refer to the facts here.
There is much that has not been published – and for a variety of reasons – not the least of which is the absolute necessity of my protecting certain sources who are still in Lebanon, the fact that almost no one who has written about this has contacted me for my side of the story, as well as details about what has been said or misstated about my blog posts – which I urge you to read here, since those posts were initially criticized (as well as how that criticism has been reported).
So what happened? Briefly:
· The Huffington Post published a story on December 1st criticizing my blogging while I was in Lebanon. Many other blogs picked up the story, and the story made its way into the mainstream media.
· The criticisms have been based largely on inaccurate representations, misquotations, fabrications, even profanity about what I wrote while in Lebanon. I urge all readers to read what I wrote (see facts here), and then read what has been said that I wrote.
· Few publications – I believe for various reasons – have sought me out for my side of the story.
· My blog posts have strong support among the leaders and members of the pro-democracy movement in Lebanon – here is what has been said here and here (as well as our facts page) – and enormous support from readers, based on the letters pouring into my inbox.
So let me tell you a bit about what's going on from my perspective:
On November 6th, I received a note from Tom Edsall (a correspondent for the New Republic e-mailing with a New Republic e-mail address) saying he was going to write a piece for the Huffington Post, disputing some of my posts from Lebanon and he needed me to respond "quickly."
I responded to his note in writing right away. I also phoned him. I got his voicemail. I left my phone number.
Edsall also e-mailed NRO, referring to me in the subject heading as “W. Scott Thomas Jr.” (Scott Thomas was the name of the New Republic's so-called Baghdad Diarist).
More than three weeks passed and Edsall still had not returned my call.
On November 29th, Edsall again e-mailed. He asked for my phone number, which I had left on his voicemail three weeks earlier. I sent it a second time.
NRO and I then addressed the matter, posting pieces about Edsall's planned story. The story of NRO's and my addressing the matter began running across the blogosphere.
Edsall posted his story at the Huffington Post on December 1st.
After his first piece was published Edsall phoned me (for the first time), telling me he was going to write a second piece, and the story continued to grow.
On December 5th, I made the decision to withdraw from my professional relationship with NRO, and sent them a note stating such. On December 7th, they published my “open letter” announcing my leaving.
I left NRO for three reasons:
1. My attackers were hounding NRO and me relentlessly (regardless of the facts), and it was – I felt – diminishing the focus (certainly my own) on far more critical issues like the forthcoming elections, the global war on terror, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.
2. As long as I was with NRO I could not openly speak without it going through NRO's (understandably) cautious filters, because they too had been attacked, and they had to protect their own interests. They didn't want me to seem defensive. So they asked me not to say much. They wanted me to only say things publicly after going through their filtering process. I understood that. They wanted to take the high road: Let the attackers rant. Meanwhile, NRO would look inward to find their and my own shortcomings. All of that I believed – and still believe – to be honorable in spirit, though I may have disagreed with a few very minor points in terms of how to thwart the attacks – they wanted to remain transparent, I wanted to fight – if that makes sense.
Now that I am separated from NRO, I speak openly.
3. National Review is the house that William F. Buckley built. I had – and will always have – tremendous respect for Mr. Buckley and NR/NRO, and so I decided early on that I could not allow my attackers to use me as a conduit to attack the house he built.
Is this caving in the face of the attackers? No.
I just needed more freedom to control my own situation, and I felt the need to try and deflect the attacks away from NRO, which I personally believe should bear no responsibility for my actions.
Now, what about the accusations? What exactly happened?
First, as a seasoned reporter I know what I saw, heard, witnessed, experienced, learned, etc. in Lebanon. Problem is, while blogging fast and furious, as some of us might say – what I wrote about and had published was not packaged as thoroughly and airtight as it would have been in a regular article. And it should have been. That responsibility can be laid at the feet of no one other than me. Basically, I presented holes for my detractors to exploit (see facts here), and they have done so in a very effective way. Many have made completely false accusations publicly, which spread to those in league with them, and grew (though most of it is basically repeat, repeat, repeat by bloggers and a few reporters who never attempted to speak to me). I also had tremendous access and incredible sources in Lebanon. There were lots of things I didn't blog about – and was amazed that others were not writing or blogging about them either – but what I was writing about and experiencing was often extremely sensitive and deserved better attention than I gave it, especially when it came to providing more detail, providing follow-up, and meticulously distinguishing between what I was actually seeing and experiencing, and the information I was receiving from a variety of sources (even though some of those sources, in that unusual environment, had to remain anonymous).

Secret Meeting In Syria
MEMRI: Yesterday’s headline of the new Turkish daily Taraf read, “A secret meeting in Syria”. The liberal daily wrote that a large Turkish delegation flew to Syria before Turkey began its raids against the terrorist bases in northern Iraq. Officials from the General Staff, the Foreign Ministry and the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), as well as officials from the US, Syria, Iran and Iraq, discussed the details of cooperation against the PKK in northern Iraq. The daily quoted its sources as having said that not only the operation, but also its aftermath was planned out during the top-secret meeting. Meanwhile, another meeting between Turkish officials and representatives of the regional administration of northern Iraq had taken place in Vienna, Taraf wrote.Source: Taraf, Turkey, December 18, 2007