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Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 2,13-15.19-23.
When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him."Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, "Out of Egypt I called my son."When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead." He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there. And because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee.He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, "He shall be called a Nazorean."
Free Opinions and Releases
Misestimating Iran's Nuclear Strategies-Dr. Walid Phares-International Analyst Network-December 30/07
Happy New Terrorism!-By: Mshari Al-Zaydi -Asharq Alawsat-December 30/07
2007: A Global Assessment of the Confrontation.American Thinker - By Walid Phares-December 30/07
A Call for a Coup d'Etat. By: Hassan Haydar. December 30/07
Interview with the Lebanese
MP. Antoine Zahra from Naharnet
Zahra Predicts Arab, European, American Pressures on Syria. Naharnet. December 30/07
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for December 30/07
Arab League to Tackle Lebanon's Presidential Crisis-Naharnet
Saniora Accuses Berri of Seizing Parliament Power, Berri Counter Attacks-Naharnet
UNIFIL steps up supervision to deter Hezbollah re-armament-Ha'aretz
Hezbollah attacks Lebanon ¡®s government-Ya Libnan
Brammertz From Lebanon To Former Yugoslavia-Naharnet
France to boycott Syria over Lebanon crisis-Africasia
UNIFIL steps up supervision activity to deter Hezbollah re-armament-Ha'aretz
Specter, Patrick Kennedy Visit Syria-The Associated Press
Israel Wants to Distance Syria from Hizbullah, Iran-Naharnet
Sarkozy after Meeting Mubarak: France Mission in Lebanon Completed-Naharnet
Hajj Hassan: Government Works to Ensure U.S. Interests-Naharnet
Option Group Holds Opposition Responsible for Power Vacuum-Naharnet
Cabinet Approves 700 Decrees Left Unsigned by Lahoud-Naharnet
LF Warns Berri against turning Lebanon into Parliamentarian Regime-Naharnet
Moussa Fears 'Complicated' Lebanon Situation Could have Impact on Arabs-Naharnet
Aoun: Government is Coordinating with External Powers to Preserve Power-Naharnet
Franjieh: No President before Opposition Obtains Guarantees on Veto Power-Naharnet
Gemayel Warns against Prolonging Presidential Void-Naharnet
By: Lawson Kass Hanna
One of the syrian agents in Lebanon told us yesterday that it is not a problem for the prime minister Seniora to stay.
what does this mean?
it means that the Iranian regime is telling Hezbollah and the Syrian regime to buy some time in Lebanon if they are not able to take over the power.
The Iranian regime is telling their allies to keep the situation stable in Lebanon and not to initiate a war between the Sunni and the Shiite because Iran is in a process of negotiating with the western world a deal where Iran will be the police of the region.
on the other side, the western countries are not allowing the smuggling of weapons from Turkey and Jordan through the Syrian borders to avoid a civil war in Syria which would change the situation in Syria.
in the negotiation, the Iranians are promising the western world that they can create stability in the region. right now they stopped the terrorism in iraq to prove that they can keep the situation under control.
One of the pending issue in the negotiation is the Lebanese situation as the western world is not willing to give up Lebanon as part of the deal with Iran.
Iranian are promising the west that they don't have any bad intention toward Lebanon and they want to help.
at the same time the Iranian are telling their allies to buy some time in Lebanon and keep the situation stable till they finalize their negotiations and get what they want.
The iranians are cheating the west and they have a plan to take over Lebanon, the same way Joseph Staline cheated the western world alliance about the romania and Poland issue during the world war and later on took over these two countries.
to all my friends the Lebanese patriots, i ask you to be very careful.
all Lebanese Patriots,
By: Lawson Kass Hanna
One of the Syrian agents in Lebanon notified us yesterday that there will be no election without certain conditions.
it is very obvious that they will not elect General Michel Suleiman.
Mr. Raymond Eddeh used to tell me in Paris that I have to repeat myself again in order to remind the Lebanese people of the facts.
When the Syrian president Hafez Assad appointed Mr. Elias Harawi as president of Lebanon, he accepted to appoint Lahoud as head of the army.
if Lahoud does not follow orders, the Syrian regime can ask President Harawi to replace him, and if president Harawi messes up with Syrians, they can use the council of minister against him.
this is the same scenario that happened at the time Mr. Amine Jemayel was president. they used the council of ministers against him when he wanted to replace Michel Aoun.
When the Syrian president Hafez Assad appointed Mr. Lahoud as President of Lebanon, he also interviewed Michel Suleiman and other army officers but finally picked Suleiman as head of the army.
if Lahoud messes up with Syrians, they can use the army or the council of ministers against him. the same goes with Suleiman and they can use the president to replace him.
for the Syrian regime nothing has change regardless if they are inside or outside the country. they want a weak President who does not control the army, appoint the army commander and they want to secure their share in the council of ministers in order to control the president.
this has been always the way the Syrian were able to manage and control the country.
this time the Lebanese president is going to reflect what the Lebanese are looking for in a president, and the army commander is going to be based on the people will.
for the Syrian to accept general Michel Suleiman as president, they are asking their ally in Lebanon (Hezbollah) to approve the name of the future army commander and to secure their share in the council of ministers. This has been always the same plan and the way the Syrian were able to manage and control the country.
A Call for a "Coup d'Etat"
Al Hayat - 28/12/07//
There are usually many motives behind the military coups d'etat that third world countries witness, including the Middle East. This is even though the Arabs who belong to this world and to an underdeveloped one have fled from this kind of "policy" a while ago. Some are triggered by military men's belief that rulers are corrupt and there is no way to fix, reform and restore their regime except through armed force. Others are rooted in a political ideology espoused by some officers but not by a wide mass base that is enough to prompt a change through vote ballots, if available. Still others can be inspired by a close or faraway nation which has a certain influence or interests that require protection or reinforcement. Some can be elicited by personal interests and a simple yearning for ruling.
Lebanon has witnessed in its modern history a revolutionary attempt during the era of President Fouad Chehab. It was undertaken by officers belonging to the "Syrian National Party" but it was doomed to failure. Some considered forming a government of military men towards the end of the era of President Amine Gemayel a sort of "a coup d'état" though it was constitutional. But this country is witnessing today a vicious crisis that practically started with the assassination of PM Rafik Hariri and became more prominent when the Shiite Ministers left the government. It is a crisis that paralyzed the institutions and the economy, and hindered the election of a new president for the republic. There doesn't seem to be any solution for it on the horizon as a result of the severe political rift between the ruling majority and the opposition, the prevailing mistrust between them, and the exchange of subjection and monopoly accusations.
The striking factor, however, is that they are all in agreement regarding the candidacy of the Head of the Army General Michel Suleiman for the Presidency. The parliamentary majority upholds his candidacy to date and has called for amending the constitution in the parliament to protect his mandate from any speculation or contestation. The opposition rushed in to confirm that he was their candidate in first place and stood up for this candidacy, not to mention that they praised his deeds and history. Suleiman's candidacy was also praised by France, welcomed by the US, supported by Syria, and acclaimed by Iran. Thus, it seemed that the elections were hours away and were subject to minor negotiations on the way to amend the constitution and its details. However, the Lebanese were surprised to learn that the conflicts between the Lebanese parties transcended the mere election of a president and encompassed all that revolves around politics, economy, and consensus. They also learned that the stream of conditions and counter conditions is endless, and what is publicized is different from what is being harbored and what is said is different from it is being whispered. The reports and statements carry more than one denotation and connotation. They became convinced that it is an open crisis and is probably awaiting the outcome of the Arab summit of Damascus next March. It may also linger until the following summit. Thus, they may have to remain without a president, without an active parliament, and without a full-fledged government until further notice.
In light of this complicated situation that is intertwined and tangled with the local, regional and international situation, it is probably the right of the Lebanese to call for a "military coup d'état" as long as there is an existing consensus to have the head of the army take over the presidency as a fait accompli. This way, he can overcome the rifts and hurdles of the politicians and revive the institutions on a balanced basis. He can form a government of resigned technocrats whose main mission would be to reassure the Lebanese about their future by focusing on their actual, rather created, problems.
But the real questions is: what will the army do then about the other "armies" present on the Lebanese territory, whether local or regional, and will they allow him to fulfill his mission to keep Lebanon at bay of conflicts and their upshots
UNIFIL steps up supervision activity to deter
By Barak Ravid - Haaretz
In the past few weeks UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) forces in South Lebanon have heightened supervision of bridges and passages over the Litani River to deter Hezbollah from moving weapons from the North to the South, particularly in areas bordering Israel. UN forces say UNIFIL commander Maj.-Gen. Claudio Graziano of Italy believes the forces under his control are preventing the entry of heavy weapons into South Lebanon. Israeli officials fear that Lebanon's political instability - the country has not had a president since November 23 - will contribute to a renewal of Hezbollah's power.
For several months Hezbollah has been rebuilding itself, especially in the area north of the Litani. New medium- and long-range rocket units have been digging into positions and bases created in this area. The organization makes no secret of the fact that it wants to be able to move freely south of the river as well, as reflected in the major exercise it held a few months ago. Despite Hezbollah's boasts to the effect that the exercise proved that its military might was restored, Israeli sources stress that it was a command exercise only, without the participation of field units. Advertisement
UN sources note the recent decision to step up supervision of the north-to-south arms routes as well as UNIFIL activity in the Hezbollah "nature reserves" aimed at preventing militants from reoccupying these former strongholds. It must also be noted that UNIFIL has not apprehended any trucks carrying rockets or other heavy armaments.
Israel satisfied with UN force
Israeli military officials express great satisfaction with UNIFIL's activities. A senior Jerusalem official singled out the European units of UNIFIL, particularly the Italian, French and Spanish contingents, for their professional manner of conduct. "They do their job and cause significant discomfort to Hezbollah," he said. "They have had quite a few successes."
Senior Israeli officials who are familiar with events in Lebanon, however, express increasing unease over the effect of the current political crisis in Beirut on South Lebanon. The country's various factions have still not agreed on a presidential candidate and approval for the main candidate, army chief of staff Michel Suleiman, does not appear imminent.
"The political crisis in Lebanon has suspended processes related to UN Security Council Resolution 1701," a senior Israeli official admits. "In the best case scenario, the situation in Lebanon won't improve and in the worst case it will deteriorate. We could see a return to the pre-war situation, in which Hezbollah can become more powerful unobstructed," the source said.
UN officials point an accusatory finger regarding Lebanon's political crisis toward Syria, claiming that "Syria defeats every attempt at an agreement and pushes Hezbollah and its other allies in Lebanon to increase their demands all the time." They say that Syria's President Bashar Assad wants to demonstrate at any price that "nothing moves in Lebanon without him" and predict that as a result the crisis in Lebanon will continue for months to come.
The main problem, as the UN officials see it, is that not enough pressure is being placed on Assad. "He will only move if he senses a threat to the stability of his regime," they said. "If the Americans were, for example, to send ships close to Lebanon's beaches, that would send a clear message to Assad, but they're not doing that."
The Arab world is nearly the only means left for pressuring Assad. Next March an Arab summit is scheduled to convene in Damascus. The hope of many in Europe and in Washington is that prominent Arab states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia will boycott the conference to send Assad a clear message telling him to stop interfering in Lebanon's internal affairs.
Happy New Terrorism!
After every announcement made by Saudi Arabia that a fundamentalist terrorist group has been arrested the same question follows: what is the failing?
On 23 December, it was announced that 28 militants were arrested. This means that over the past two months the Saudi Ministry of Interior has repeatedly announced that it has detained groups of terrorist suspects affiliated to Al-Qaeda.
Last month, the ministry stated that 208 suspects were arrested, which followed the arrest of a terrorist network that was comprised of 172 people. Earlier in the year; January 2007 to be more precise, 10 Al-Qaeda financial supporters were detained in Saudi Arabia.
This is a brief glimpse into the ongoing terror sweeps that are executed by Saudi security, which brings to mind the “long-winded talk” about intellectual and educational confrontation and the repeated campaigns calling for ‘al Munasaha’ committees (advisory committees).
Many have spoken of the crippled state of the organization’s ideology not of its soldiers and cells.
In my opinion, the media clamor that surrounds any great successes [in combating terrorism] and the preoccupation with propagating them has reached a point that has made states, Eastern and Western alike, scramble towards these ‘reformers’ with the intention of exporting the experience.
However; the reality on the ground away from this media parade is that we are barely skimming the surface and not reaching the core of the matter. The reason is clear: Some people are deluded into believing that intellectual confrontation will lead to posing daring questions, the repercussions of which public opinion could not handle. Questions such as: Is the present religious discourse capable of counteracting Al-Qaeda’s ideology and preventing its impact on societies? Do we suffer from an inherent social and religious extremism that has facilitated the spread and impact of Al-Qaeda on those whom it has influenced?
Such questions are always answered in an evasive manner rather than a critical one. Meanwhile, if these questions are not answered frankly this confrontation against ‘terrorist ideology’ will be prolonged and perhaps even evolve in an unprecedented manner that we cannot imagine. I do not claim to have the answers to these questions; however, I am calling for a new way of thinking in Saudi Arabia with which to approach this dilemma that has been destroying society since Al-Qaeda was struck in May 2003.
In light of this; I would like to raise a crucial point: Why do we always think about the results and forget about the introductions? By this I mean; why do we do focus on terrorism, which is inevitably rejected, and yet disregard extremism? Isn’t this extremism the source of terrorism, since every terrorist is necessarily an extremist but the opposite is not necessarily true?
We were conquered early on when the weakest amongst us were conquered; we were lenient towards the decreasing tolerance in our societies which caused more damage with every passing day. Most of us avoided really seeing what was happening and ignored it.
Following are some examples that demonstrate how overlooking the protection of values of tolerance from the start has led to repercussions and facts on the ground that are difficult to change later on. We are embroiled in an endless auction of religious one-upmanships.
I read an article written by Saudi journalist Mamdouh al Meheni in the online newspaper ‘Elaph’ about the transformations that have taken place within the faculty of medicine at the King Saud University in Riyadh over the recent years. The report shocked readers with the magnitude of the changes that had occurred.
The article referred to a crisis that the dean of the faculty of medicine, a religious and conservative man, was enduring. He had introduced new conservative features within the college, such as obliging female students to wear long black skirts, among other new rules. And yet this did not spare him the criticism of those who are more possessive about religion and who call for a “purer” society.
The dean was subjected to a systematic attack because of his insistence upon maintaining a bare minimum of professional and academic requirements in medical study, including enabling students to practice clinical training which entails examining human bodies, male and female alike, to learn medical procedures.
“Fourteen doctors who work under the supervision of the dean had staged a protest after putting pressure on the dean to impose a new policy that states upon forcing male and female medical students at the university to only treat patients of the same sex, forbidding them from examining members of the opposite sex.”
“The purer” doctors succeeded in mobilizing the fundamentalist and conservative opinions in general to the extent that their campaign became an intolerable one that was featured on the internet and in gatherings. It was propagated in a manner that made it seem like the college dean’s only preoccupation was to corrupt public morals, while the university’s obsession transformed from medicine to sex and abstinence.
Al Meheni’s article is an interesting one and apparently, according to a professor friend who teaches political science at King Saud University; it is a common model as well. He said that there were similar ones, in varying degrees, that can be found in other departments at the university.
Such activities work on the infrastructural level of society with the intention of reformulating its taste, culture and consciousness through controlling all the sectors of society, including its universities, colleges and non-profit organizations. This is a known trend among politicized fundamentalist parties or rather, all totalitarian parties.
However, our age-old predicament lies in the fundamentalist parties; through their control of the community and the inherent solutions within it. Thus, the helm of society is managed by a new reality that is imposed upon it and which becomes increasingly difficult for any politician or decision-maker to change. And if such a politician were to attempt to elicit any change, he would need a much greater effort as opposed to taking earlier initiative from the start.
The real issue here is about the transformation of such groups into “religious authorities” that decide what is forbidden in the community, creating new trends that all heed mostly out of conviction but also others decide to just follow the herd or join as a way of avoiding troubles.
But this trait does not only characterize the politicized fundamentalist groups in Saudi Arabia alone, or even the Sunni ones as an exception. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is a pioneer in this slow and gradual tactic. In fact; this trait is the common denominator amongst all extremist parties the most prominent example of which is the other sectarian-driven plot and Lebanese party, Hezbollah, with its ‘Khomeini identity’.
Hezbollah’s opposition today against all parties and the automatic manner by which people join its ranks is attributed amongst other reasons to a long past of preparation and restructuring within Lebanon’s Shia community, in addition to imposing a new “culture” that has led to the creation of the “Hezbollah state” within the state, as stated in Waddah Sharara’s book entitled ‘The Hezbollah State’.
In his book, Sharara talks about the need to spread awareness about the social revolutionary objective of the party from an early stage among its leadership and the affiliated intelligentsia. He quotes Mr. Ibrahim Amin, one of the party’s symbols and the head of the party’s politburo in an interview with the weekly ‘al Shahri’ magazine as saying, “The region should be dominated by Islam again; it should not be governed by man but rather by Islam,” (State of Hezbollah, p.210). Sharara commented by stating that this trend connotes, “the formation of new social and civil ties that revolve around the notion of Islam.”
This ‘Islam’ is that which was conceived of by Khomeini, as the leader of Hezbollah referred to the concept of exporting the Iranian revolution.
In practice, this new reformation of the community and the nation; the nation of Hezbollah, had already taken place on various levels: from the status of women to fashion, restaurants and new terminology, as recorded by Fadi Tawfiq in his book ‘God’s Narrow Land’.
One of the anecdotes recounted by Tawfiq is the story behind the breakaway faction that became Hezbollah after splitting from Amal movement. He maintains that it was because the latter had deviated off Musa al Sadr’s track, even on the level of its leader’s personal appearance; as in the case of head of Amal movement Nabih Berri’s clean shaven face.
The purpose behind such talk is to say that confronting terrorism and getting results is much more difficult than most can imagine. Combating terrorism and social isolation is but the first battlefield so that the people may be protected against the proliferation of terrorism. Any leniency towards extremism means weakening the efficiency of the fight against it.
In the end, this article is not an analysis of terrorism; rather it aims to point out a deficiency in understanding it. Also, what was mentioned above does not necessarily mean that all extremists are terrorists; however it does mean that extremism is a battlefield for an unadulterated ‘ideological’ confrontation.
Unless that were to happen we could very well find ourselves saying at the end of the year: Happy New Terrorism!
By Adar Primor - Haaretz
Israel is thrilled. Since May, the Elysee Palace has been ruled by a president who views the establishment of the Jewish state as "the central event in the 20th century." He has vowed to help stymie the establishment of Hamastan in Gaza, and never to compromise Israel's security.
It may or may not be connected to his "Jewish genes," but Nicolas Sarkozy is perceived as one of ours. He has an Israeli temperament, too, going berserk when probed about personal issues during a television interview, calling his aide an idiot on live TV, and threatening to fight a fisherman who insulted him.
The French are also pleased with their unconventional leader. "The French Republic disappeared somewhere between Cinderella's castle and the roller coaster," a paper wrote this week after Sarkozy revealed his affair with singer-model Carla Bruni at EuroDisney, of all places. He has turned the Elysee into a perpetual reality show, wrote Le Monde. He's a solo contestant on "Big Brother," a soap opera star who began as "Desperate Housewives" and morphed into "The Brave and the Beautiful." The magic kingdom Sarkozy built is one of celebs and camera flashes, the realm of Rolexes, yachts and designer sunglasses.
Some 56 percent of the French support their "tele-president," nicknamed the "bionic president" and the "Speedy Gonzales of international diplomacy." But the former tennis star Yannick Noah - voted the most popular Frenchman of them all in a poll last week - thinks he's nauseating.
"Everything appalls me," he told Le Journal du Dimanche. "The attitude, the tone, the arrogance, the cynicism, the flaunted wealth, his manipulation of the media to present his personal life."
Socialist leader Segolene Royal (who'd won Noah's vote) complains he has forged a dangerous foreign policy, "a policy of appearances" that range from improvisation to provocation, a policy of unexpected turns, frequent contradictions and a tendency to lavish unobtainable promises that impair France's credibility and international status.
During his campaign, Sarkozy vowed that France "would not compromise any more on preserving democracy, respect for human rights and proper administration." In his first speech as president-elect, he vowed to adopt "moral diplomacy" and declared France would stand by the oppressed of the world. He named Bernard Kouchner, a leftist champion of humanitarian action, as foreign minister, and appointed a young Muslim woman of Senegalese origin, Rama Yade, as secretary of state for human rights. These moves led everybody to expect dramatic changes in France's foreign policy, an end to the image of a hypocritical France willing to sell its soul for crude oil.
The higher the expectations, the harder the fall. Two weeks ago a convoy of limousines carrying Muammar Gadhafi paralyzed traffic in Paris as it moved from the Elysee to the Ritz, between the Louvre and the giant khaki tent the Libyan leader had erected in the heart of the city. That traffic shutdown, at the height of International Human Rights Day, upset the French much less than the warm embrace the guest received.
Gadhafi foreswore terrorism and weapons of mass destruction in 2003, condemned al-Qaeda and even compensated the families of those killed in the Pan-Am and UTA plane bombings. He deserves a reward for his conversion, and he was redeemed, partially at least, when the former prime ministers of Britain and Italy, Tony Blair and Silvio Berlusconi, visited Tripoli, and Romano Prodi, as president of the European Commission, received him in Brussels. But they greeted him with clenched lips, while Sarkozy declared his delight in welcoming Gadhafi to the City of Light.
Right before his visit to Paris, the "guide of the Libyan revolution" addressed Portuguese students in Lisbon, where the Euro-African summit was being held. He said one could understand the weak countries that resort to terrorism against the superpowers.
When Yade declared, "Our country is not a rug on which leaders - whether terrorists or not - can wipe their feet of their victims' blood," Sarkozy summoned her to the palace for a 20-minute excoriation, says an Elysee source. Kouchner snubbed the dinner for Gadhafi: By happy coincidence, he said, he had to be in Brussels. But he also told the press, "At these hard times, do our manufacturers have to leave the Libyan market to European competitors?" During Gadhafi's visit, French companies signed contracts worth billions of euros. Sarkozy's policy is diplomacy in the service of trade, The Economist wrote after the visit. Author Pascal Bruckner was sharper: Even when you do business with the devil, you don't have to wallow with him in the muck, he said.
Blinded by interests
"Germany also has economic interests in its relations with other countries, mainly with Russia as a supplier of oil and gas, and China as a gigantic, tempting market," Yossi Sarid wrote for Haaretz. "Yet these interests do not blind Chancellor Angela Merkel ... During a recent visit to Russia, Merkel met with opponents of the regime, to the consternation of her hosts. In September she hosted the Dalai Lama in her office, despite Beijing's threats. Merkel does not allow herself to be silent. She's no George Bush or Gerhard Schroeder ... nor is she Shimon Peres, Ehud Olmert or Ehud Barak, who speak or fall silent at their convenience."
Sarid didn't mention Sarkozy, but Le Monde did it for him. In an editorial, the paper noted the difference between the chancellor, who doesn't shy from addressing human rights and democracy, no matter whom her interlocutor, and the French president, who takes advantage of Europe's inability to formulate a united policy on these issues to stand by leaders with poor human rights records.
Shortly before visiting China in November, Sarkozy ordered Yade to unpack her bags, leaving the human rights secretary home in order not to irritate the Chinese. In Beijing, he appeased his hosts at the expense of the "freest democracy in Asia." "Taiwan is an integral part of China's territory. France does not support its independence," he said when leaving Beijing, contracts worth $20 billion in hand.
Although the European Union deemed the Duma elections crooked, Sarkozy called Vladimir Putin to congratulate him. He was the only western leader to do so.
Hero or joke
He's a friend of Iran's president, and a man whose enmity for the U.S. and the West is legendary. Nevertheless, Hugo Chavez received red-carpet treatment when he visited Paris in November. The Venezuelan president was invited to discuss efforts to secure the release of Colombian-French politician Ingrid Betancourt, who was kidnapped in 2002 by the FARC, the Marxist guerrilla organization. Sarkozy, who said obtaining Betancourt's freedom was top priority, hoped that Chavez, who has ties to the FARC, would obtain her imminent release. In an unusual step, Sarkozy also contacted the FARC leader on video, calling on him to release the captives. Some officials in Paris suggested taking in FARC members imprisoned in Colombia, as part of a deal to secure the release of Betancourt and her friends. The guerrilla movement has rejected the idea, and is calling for the ouster of Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, whom Chavez calls "a marionette of the Americans."
Sarkozy's conduct regarding Betancourt reveals he is a Machiavellian willing even to negotiate with an organization on the EU terror list to achieve his ends. If Sarkozy does indeed achieve his goal, the "leftist bleeding hearts" will shut up and he'll be a hero. If he fails, he'll be a sad joke, a leader whose principles are tenuous to the point of nonexistence.
When Sarkozy threatens
In September 2006, Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal visited the Lebanese parliament. A member of the foreign affairs committee, a Hezbollah representative, compared Israel's occupation of the territories to the Nazi occupation of France. Royal did not react and later claimed she hadn't heard him. Sarkozy and his colleagues on the right exploited the incident to slam her "unforgivable" mistake. They also criticized her meeting with a Hezbollah representative, even though he was an elected member of parliament. "Hitler was also elected, but that didn't make him a respectable interlocutor," Sarkozy said at the time.
Seven months later, in July 2007, Sarkozy's France invited all the Lebanese parliamentary factions to Paris, including Hezbollah. Israel's muted protest, and the French Jews' loud protest, were rejected. "Hezbollah is an important political player in Lebanon," the Elysee Palace stated.
When Royal speaks of Sarkozy's frequent contradictions, she apparently also is referring to his decision to renew dialogue with Damascus, ending the boycott started by Jacques Chirac. Sarkozy has called Bashar Assad three times and sent Kouchner to Beirut seven times, yet Lebanon's stalled presidential elections have been postponed 11 times so far. In their latest conversation, Sarkozy gave Assad an ultimatum: Let Lebanon's election be held by Saturday, December 22, or Sarkozy would speak up and it would hurt. Assad must have laughed: Until then he'd been told to stay out of Lebanon and here he was being asked to wield influence. As his deputy, Farouk Shara, says, Syria's influence has not been so strong since its withdrawal from Lebanon in April 2005.
War, yes and no
When it comes to the Iranian nuclear threat, France has taken the strongest stand in Europe. Sarkozy started the call for European sanctions, to circumvent the Russian and Chinese veto at the UN Security Council. He also stated that they wanted to avoid facing "a dilemma of disasters: an Iranian bomb or bombing Iran" - meaning, he was willing to contemplate war.
But France seems inconsistent: On September 16, Kouchner told the French channel RTL that France was prepared for the worst, namely war. Iran then threatened to cancel a joint project with the French oil company Total, Germany howled about "erroneous threats of war" and even the U.S. Department of State said that for the moment, it was pursuing diplomatic means. Two days later, Kouchner lambasted the press for twisting his words and Sarkozy told the International Herald Tribune that he himself doesn't use the word "war."
On November 18, the day after the International Atomic Energy Agency published a report describing Tehran's growing cooperation, Haaretz asked Kouchner if France would participate in a U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran, should things come to that. The minister adopted Sarkozy's formula of keeping all options open.
"I intend to continue with great determination along this path [of pressuring Iran], which is the only way to bring about an agreed solution and prevent us from having, one day, to be faced with a dilemma of 'an Iranian bomb or bombing Iran,'" he said. The next day he again complained of media manipulations and said the Haaretz headline, "Not ruling out strike on Iran," was "horrible."
Less than a month later, on December 13, it turned out that the word "war" is in Sarkozy's lexicon. Talking with Le Nouvel Observateur, he stated that he never has advocated war, but added that the danger of war with Iran does exist.
Make no mistake - Sarkozy is the most dominant leader in Europe today, and he stands out on the global dais, too. Internally he's pushing reforms that nobody dared try before him. He's the living spirit behind the Lisbon Treaty, a constitution in all but name for Europe. Internationally he's ending a 40-year streak of pro-Arab and anti-America diplomacy, which had aimed to position France as a counterweight to the U.S. Israel attests to a sea change in bilateral relations, too.
Some of Sarkozy's rebuttals to critics make sense. For instance, he calls for embracing errant rulers who repent, and tempering idealism with realism. Indeed, no leader can afford to disavow realpolitik. But as Dominique Moisi wrote in the Financial Times, diplomacy is the art of nuances, and nuances are not Sarkozy's forte. His constant, keen desire to fix the world and his Machiavellian tactics tend to blind him and distance him from his grand promises of a new kind of diplomacy, free of cynicism and narrow interests.
Misestimating Iran's Nuclear Strategies
Dr. Walid Phares
International Analyst Network
28 Dec 2007
The Iran threat NIE has is impacting the war on terror and impacting both the allies (negatively) and the foes (positively) of the US, including the Tehran regime. The new assertion is that Iran has abandoned its nuclear military strategy as of 2003; hence the US would be at fault if it engages in military action against that regime. But was the 2003 Iranian decision a stop in the process of obtaining an atomic weapon? Washington has trapped itself with the best product of its national intelligence. But if anything, this NIE has shown a major systemic problem with national security analysis: America’s ability to detect threats as was the case with the assessments in the 1990s which ignored al Qaeda’s menace. The findings of this NIE, warns us that the systemic crisis the 9/11 Commission warned about is still evolving. Here is why:
1) The NIE concluded that the Iranian regime had abandoned its nuclear strategy, because it stated that they stopped their nuclear program in the fall of 2003. The counter argument is that stopping one process of producing the nuclear weapon is not putting an end to the nuclear strategic policy. A real change in Iranian policy would only be acknowledged if Ayatollah Khamenei s declares an abandonment of military nuclear power. That has not happened; just the opposite. The ruling elite have been boasting about its “intention” of nuclear parity and its right to obtain these weapons and even use them. This is not similar to Moammar Qaddafi’s choice to abandon the pursuit of WMDs or the decisions made by South Africa and Ukraine in the 1990s.
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 nor about the following 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 resumed many other processes to obtain greater results derails US analysis of the enemy’s global strategies. Indeed the real story is that the Iranian regime, reconfiguring its previous nuclear strategy –gradual build up- realized by the end of the summer of 2003 that hostile forces (US led Coalition) have deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, hence altering the ability of pursuing that initial route without expecting a lethal reaction. The Khatemi Government, preferring avoiding an unbalanced confrontation deciding to suspend the open build-up. Meanwhile the Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guard) seized the nuclear program and reconverted it in the underground. Hence, the global strategy wasn’t halted but an alternative strategy was adopted.
3) In 2004 (US election year) the deep American divide over the War in Iraq was perceived by the Iranian hardliners as a factor aiding in re-launching the rapid pace nuclear race. By early 2005, Ahmedinijad was brought to power and greater Syro-Iranian backing of Terror in Iraq aimed at weakening the hostile forces west of Iran. From Tehran’s perspective, the “insurgency’s” goal was to provide time and ability to run faster towards deploying the nuclear weapons-to-be.
4) The NIE failed to explain that the 2003 decision was a change of strategy not a halt to a strategy. For Ahmedinijad wanted to engage the US in Iraq so that it won’t take out Iran’s crucial early stages in the arming process. What was missed in Washington is that Tehran was building the missiles before completing the fissile. As attention was focused on the uranium enrichment process, the Pasdaran were setting up the actual threat system, the delivery weapons. The bomb part of the Iranian nuclear strategy comes to fit perfectly with the missiles. What the Khomeinists need to achieve by the end of 2007 as their missiles are developed is a shock and awe phenomenon in Washington to deter it from acting against the delivery power. Tehran’s other worry is the European based American anti-missiles batteries. Smartly by convincing the American public that Tehran had already abandoned the whole nuclear strategy in 2003, the ability to act against the missiles in Iran and erect counter batteries in Europe is delegitimized. Thus the secret nuclear program would accelerate as the delivery system is being completed.
By the time America would discover it has been duped, not only a nuclear test would terrify the world, but the nukes would be sitting on top of the missiles. All what it takes in Jihadi strategies is to use the enemy’s political systems against it. Hence if the NIE analysts fail to provide the global context and shape it to serve a political agenda over national security priorities, Iran’s Khomeinists wins regardless of who will occupy the White House in January 2008. For that next Presidency would be faced with security crises by far more dramatic than any challenge 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.
29 Dec 2007 11:53:43