February 16/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark 8,27-33. Now Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?"They said in reply, "John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets." And he asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter said to him in reply, "You are the Messiah." Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him. He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."

Free Opinions.
Is the Cedar Revolution doomed? By: -By Nicholas Blanford 16.02.07
A new chapter in Syria's fortunes? By Michael Young 16.02.07
Lebanon must emulate Rafik Hariri, not just honor his memory-Daily Star 16.02.07

Latest News Reports From miscellaneous sources For 16/02/07
Bush Supports Calls by Lebanon's Majority Leaders for Hariri Tribunal-Naharnet
Ban Committed to Uncover Truth Behind Hariri's Assassination-Naharnet
Assad Attacked, Hizbullah Mocked on Hariri's Assassination Anniversary-Naharnet

Eleven hurt in Lebanon clash-
Middle East Online-Naharnet
Relatives of Kidnapped Israeli Soldiers Seek Pope's Help-Naharnet
Murr Vows to Change 'Structure' of Security Apparatus after Bus Blasts-Naharnet

Hizbullah, Lahoud Slam March 14-
Muslim Peacekeeping Force under Consideration-Naharnet
French Police Arrest 11 in Recruitment for Al Qaeda-
New York Times

Huge crowd marks second anniversary of Lebanese former premier's ...International Herald Tribune
Huge crowd marks Hariri anniversary in Lebanon
-Jerusalem Post
Larijani Makes Second Visit to Riyadh in a Month-Naharnet
Saudi Confirms Talks With Russia on Weapons and Nuclear Power

Bush: Iran is source of deadly weapons-Ap
Bush says Iran supplying weapons in Iraq-AP
French judge warns of terror threat in Europe-AP

Iraq shuts borders with Iran, Syria

Lebanese peace rally seeks to bring Christians and Muslims together-Ekklesia - UK

Relatives of Kidnapped Israeli Soldiers Seek Pope's Help
Relatives seeking information on two Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hizbullah on July 12 met Wednesday with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican.
The pope listened to the appeal by relatives of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, who are making a two-day visit to Italy and the Vatican as part of a campaign to enlist foreign help to obtain information on the soldiers and secure their release, said Oded Ben-Hur, Israel's ambassador to the Holy See.
Hizbullah has not released any details on the condition of the soldiers since they were kidnapped in a deadly cross-border raid that sparked the July-August Israeli offensive on Lebanon. The group of relatives, including Regev's brother and Goldwassers' parents and wife, spoke briefly with Benedict XVI during his weekly public audience and gave him a booklet with paintings from the Bible and photos of the captive soldiers, Ben-Hur said.
"You could see he was very touched," Ben-Hur said. The relatives met with top Italian officials later Wednesday, including Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema. "Italy should let its voice be heard in Europe and become the flagbearer of our cause," the soldier's wife, Karnit Goldwasser, told the ANSA news agency before the meeting with D'Alema. The ministry said in a statement later that D'Alema had pledged to "encourage" initiatives to facilitate the soldiers' release.(AP-Naharnet) Beirut, 15 Feb 07, 10:02

Ban Committed to Uncover Truth Behind Hariri's Assassination
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon marked the second anniversary of ex-premier Rafik Hariri's murder by renewing the world body's commitment to helping Lebanon uncover the truth and bring the perpetrators to justice."On the second anniversary of the terrorist attack which took the lives of Rafik Hariri and 22 others, the United Nations reaffirms its commitment to assisting Lebanon in its efforts to uncover the truth and bring to justice the perpetrators of this despicable act," he said in a statement issued Wednesday by his spokeswoman Michele Montas.
"At this critical point for Lebanon, is important that all sides return to dialogue and seek the reconciliation, national unity and stability for which Rafik Hariri worked during his lifetime," Ban said.Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese massed at Martyrs' Square in downtown Beirut on Wednesday to mark the Hariri slaying. Behind bullet-proof glass, a succession of anti-Syrian leaders blamed the Assad regime for the assassination and other attacks in the past two years but appealed for unity to end a deep political crisis between the Hizbullah-led opposition and the pro-government camp.
A U.N. probe has directly implicated senior Syrian officials over the murder although Damascus has strongly denied any involvement.
The U.N. earlier this month signed a draft accord with the government of Prime Minister Fouad Saniora to set up an international court to prosecute the suspected killers of Hariri and other crimes.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 15 Feb 07, 07:36

Bush Supports Calls by Lebanon's Majority Leaders for Hariri Tribunal
U.S. President George Bush has backed up calls by Lebanon's majority leaders for creating an international tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri. "The United States joins the Lebanese people in demanding the truth behind Prime Minister Hariri's murder and calling for the establishment of a Special Tribunal for Lebanon to bring to justice those who murdered Rafik Hairi and others who stood for Lebanese sovereignty and independence," Bush said. "The Lebanese people's greatest tribute to Rafik Hariri, Minister Basil Fuleihan, and others who gave their lives for a free Lebanon, would be to come together across sectarian divides to build the free, stable, and prosperous Lebanon that Prime Minister Rafik Hariri dedicated his life to create," said Bush. The statement released by the White House on Wednesday came as Lebanon's majority leaders told a sea of supporters marking Hariri's murder that agreeing on the international court to bring to justice those who murdered Hariri is the only gateway to dialogue and unity.
Hundreds of thousands of March 14 supporters streamed from north, east, central and south Lebanon to Martyrs' Square in cars, busses, and boats waving Lebanese flags and chanting slogans against Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The March 14 majority coalition accuses the Assad regime of masterminding Hariri's murder on Feb. 14 2005 and the serial assassinations, the latest of which killed three civilians and wounded 23 in a twin bombing that targeted commuting buses northeast of Beirut on Tuesday. Parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri, addressing the Hizbullah-led Opposition, stressed that "we are ready for any brave decision in favor of Lebanon … but the international tribunal is the sole gateway to any solution." "We adhere to justice to punish the murderers" who committed the Hariri killing and related crimes, he said, adding that the tribunal will "stop the cycle of terrorism, blood and assassination that has struck our country for the past 30 years."
Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat agreed with Hariri, saying: "This year will witness the creation of the international tribunal, justice will be served and the punishment will be a death sentence." Jumblat also stressed that "we adhere to international (U.N. Security Council) resolutions. All international resolutions," in reference to resolution 1559 which was adopted in the year 2004 and called for disbanding and disarming all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, a reference to Hizbullah and pro-Syrian Palestinian factions operating in Lebanon.
Bush said that on the second anniversary of Hariri's assassinationi, the United States "reaffirms its support for a free and democratic Lebanon that is able to chart its own course." "Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of yesterday's bus bombings outside Beirut. The evil perpetrators of these attacks will not silence the Lebanese people's demands for justice and democracy in an independent Lebanon," said Bush.
In a separate statement, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the Lebanese people "deserve to know the truth" about Hariri's murder.
"We encourage all parties to honor the memories of former Prime Minister Hariri and all others who have been targeted by such acts of terrorism in Lebanon, by resuming dialogue and pursuing peaceful means to resolve their differences," she said.(Naharnet-AFP) Beirut, 15 Feb 07, 08:13

Assad Attacked, Hizbullah Mocked on Hariri's Assassination Anniversary
Lebanon's majority leaders told a sea of supporters marking the second anniversary of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri's assassination in Beirut that agreeing on the international tribunal to try his murderers is the only gateway to dialogue and unity.
Hundreds of thousands of March 14 supporters streamed from north, east, central and south Lebanon to Martyrs' Square in cars, busses, and boats raising Lebanese flags and chanting slogans against Syrian President Bashar Assad. The March 14 majority coalition accuses the Assad regime of masterminding the Hariri assassination on Feb. 14 2005 and the serial assassinations, the latest of which killed three civilians and wounded 23 in a twin bombing that targeted commuting buses northeast of Beirut on Tuesday. Lebanese Forces Leader Samir Geagea said the international tribunal, which Syria reportedly rejects, "will certainly be created." He stressed that "whoever fights against what is right will be knocked out … The international tribunal will certainly be created." Geagea escalated the confrontation with Hizbullah pledging that "henceforth, we will not accept any weapons outside the Lebanese army's frame of control...The Lebanese army is the resistance, the Lebanese government is the resistance, the Lebanese people is the resistance." Geagea's words drew thundering chants of support that echoed across the whole of Beirut and reached the ears of protestors taking part in a Hizbullah-led sit in at the nearby Riad Solh Square since Dec. 1 with the declared objective of toppling Premier Fouad Saniora's majority government.
Addressing President Emile Lahoud, whose term in office was extended for three years under Syrian pressure in 2004, Geagea said: "History has settled its account with any tyrant …at the end (of your term) you will go away to history's garbage dump."
At 12:55 p.m., the exact time of the one-ton explosion that killed Hariri two years ago, an angry crowd fell silent as church bells tolled and mosque minarets blared Allah Akbar chants. Progressive Socialist Party Leader Walid Jumblat stressed in his address that the year 2007 will see the creation of the international tribunal to try suspects in the Hariri murder and related crimes. "We will not surrender to terrorism and to authoritarian parties, be they Syrian or otherwise," Jumblat said as the crowd applauded and shouted slogans attacking Assad, his regime and his Lebanese allies in the Hizbullah-led opposition. Addressing Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah without mentioning him by name, Jumblat said: "Give the weapons to the Lebanese army and the hay to your allies."
He was referring to Hizbullah weapons confiscated last week concealed in a truck loaded with hay. The government delivered the weapons to the Lebanese army in south Lebanon, ignoring calls by Hizbullah which claims the weapons are needed by its resistance arm. Jumblat stressed that "from now on there will be no weapons except what is controlled by the Lebanese army."He was obviously escalating calls to disarm Hizbullah.
Jumblat also stressed that "we adhere to international (U.N. Security Council) resolutions. All international resolutions," in reference to resolution 1559 which was adopted in the year 2004 and called for disbanding and disarming all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, a reference to Hizbullah and pro-Syrian Palestinian factions operating in Lebanon.
Jumblat launched a vehement attack on Assad terming him "a snake .. a beast .. an Israeli product .. a liar .. a criminal."
"This year will witness the creation of the international tribunal, justice will be served and the punishment will be a death sentence," Jumblat pledged.
Parliamentary Majority leader Saad Hariri, son of the slain ex-premier, delivered an emotional speech in which he thanked all those who took part in the ceremony and stressed that the Lebanese are "committed to freedom, independence, the truth, justice and the international tribunal."
"We adhere to justice to punish the murderers" who committed the Hariri killings and related crimes, he said.
He condemned recent "aggressions on peaceful neighborhoods" by masked followers of the Hizbullah-led opposition on Jan. 23.
"Despite all that, we are in the final phase of the march to create the international tribunal soon, very soon," Hariri said.
"Lebanon will be victorious and Lebanon's enemies will be defeated," he pledged. Hariri's speech was interrupted with applause and chants attacking the Assad regime. The majority leader concluded by stressing that "we are ready for any brave decision in favor of Lebanon … but the international tribunal is the sole gateway to any solution." Beirut, 14 Feb 07, 09:38 -Naharnet

Murr Vows to Change 'Structure' of Security Apparatus after Bus Blasts
Defense Minister Elias Murr has pledged to change the makeup of the security apparatus in Lebanon, a day after twin bus bombings left three people killed. "I assure the Lebanese that we will be changing the structure of the security apparatus in the country … as the current security status of the country can't go on like this," Murr told reporters after a late night meeting on Wednesday with U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman.
"Innocent people are now paying the price," Murr said. "I will personally oversee and look after the restructuring of the security apparatus … and how it should be employed to serve the citizen," Murr added. He said that he will be working in his capacity as deputy prime minister and not as defense minister.
"When I was interior minister we had 3,000 policemen and citizens would safely return home," Murr said. "Now we have 60,000 (Lebanese) army soldiers and a 20,000-strong security force, and people cannot travel or ride vans," Murr said in reference to the twin bombings that targeted two commuting minibuses in the town of Ain Alaq northeast of Beirut on Tuesday, killing three people and wounding 23 others. He said the blasts were a "message to every Lebanese who wants a free, sovereign country." Beirut, 15 Feb 07, 10:21

10 Wounded in Clashes between Pro, Anti-Government Activists
Stones tossed at government supporters returning from a rally marking Hariri's second assassination anniversary quickly developed into a shootout in the eastern Bekaa town of Labweh, the National News Agency reported. Police said Thursday ten people were wounded in the fighting.
NNA said unknown assailants threw stones at demonstrators returning in vans from Martyrs' Square in downtown Beirut at dusk following a massive rally to commemorate the second anniversary of former Prime Minister Raffik Hariri. It said seven people were wounded, including a man injured by gunshots. But police sources told Naharnet that 10 people were wounded in the clashes. Agence France Presse, however, said the clashes pitted followers of parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri and opposition supporters. It quoted police as saying that the incident started when opposition supporters threw stones on Hariri supporters returning from Beirut following the rally. Shortly after outbreak of violence, Hariri called for calm.
A statement issued by his office said some of his supporters had been stoned and insulted on their way back to the Bekaa. Four people were killed and more than 160 wounded when Hariri supporters clashed with Opposition followers in Beirut last month.(Naharnet-AFP) Beirut, 15 Feb 07, 12:45

Hizbullah, Lahoud Slam March 14
Hizbullah has accused the pro-government camp of trying to scuttle initiatives aimed at finding a solution to the country's ongoing political crisis.
Hizbullah legislator Hussein Hajj Hassan said that speeches made by pro-government leaders of the March 14 coalition at a massive rally Wednesday were "aimed at scuttling the Saudi-Iranian and Arab initiatives."Lebanon's majority leaders told a sea of supporters at Martyrs' Square who gathered to mark the second assassination anniversary of former Premier Rafik Hariri that agreeing on the international tribunal to try Hariri's murderers is the only gateway to dialogue and unity. They also attacked the Assad regime in Damascus which they accuse of involvement in Hariri's killing. Syria denies it had anything to do with the Feb. 14, 2005 assassination. "We are with a political settlement to the Lebanese crisis and with the creation of the international tribunal, but only after studying the draft and introducing necessary amendments," Hajj Hassan said in remarks published Thursday.
He slammed Druze leader Walid Jumblat, saying his words were "not suitable for a man of his stature."
Jumblat launched a vehement attack on Syrian President Bashar Assad terming him "a snake .. a beast .. an Israeli product .. a liar .. a criminal."
Addressing Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah without mentioning him by name, Jumblat said: "Give the weapons to the Lebanese army and the hay to your allies."He was referring to Hizbullah weapons concealed in a truck loaded with hay that was confiscated by Lebanese authorities last week.
The government delivered the weapons to the Lebanese army in south Lebanon, ignoring calls by Hizbullah which claims the munitions are needed by its resistance arm. But Hajj Hassan stressed that Hizbullah will not use its arms "domestically."
Meanwhile, President Emile Lahoud also criticized Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea who said in his Wednesday speech that "history has settled its account with any tyrant …at the end (of your term) you will go away to history's garbage dump."
"The Lebanese have not forgotten that the man speaking to them about a free, sovereign and capable state today was himself among those who crippled the state…" Lahoud said in a statement published by several Lebanese newspapers on Thursday. Beirut, 15 Feb 07, 11:30

Is the Cedar Revolution doomed?
the Associated Press-By Nicholas Blanford
Christian Science Monitor
BEIRUT, Lebanon (Feb 15, 2007)
It's called the Cedar Revolution. Triggered by the murder of a former prime minister two years ago, its birth inspired hope for a new era of prosperity.
But today Lebanon is bitterly divided, paralyzed by political strife.
Even as it prepared to mark the second anniversary of Rafik Hariri's assassination yesterday, explosions killed three people in a town near Beirut on Tuesday.It was another sad sign that Lebanon's hope for stability and peace are far from being realized.
"We are being dragged into a big regional conflict and power play," said Druze leader Walid Jumblatt.
"On one side we are trying to establish ... independence and on the other side we are confronted by the state of Hezbollah backed by the Syrians and the Iranians."
At stake is the survival of the government -- one the West holds up as an example for democratic reform in the region -- said Prime Minister Fouad Siniora in an interview at the Ottoman-era Grand Serail, the government building that overlooks downtown Beirut.
"We are a government defending real democracy and real independence, which is unique in this part of the world," Siniora added.
Tuesday's bombings in a Christian town targeted commuter buses that were hired to transport participants to yesterday's rally.
Saad Hariri, son and political heir of the slain former prime minister, described the bombings as terrorism.
"It's part of the criminal series of assassinations that have been happening in Lebanon," he said.
"It's a message to put fear into people's hearts before the memorial to my late father."
The attacks come as the U.S.-backed government remains locked in a political battle with the opposition, led by the militant Shiite group Hezbollah.
That struggle has seen hundreds of anti-government protesters camped out in central Beirut and street clashes between rival factions that have left at least nine people dead and more than 300 wounded.
Tens of thousands turned out peacefully yesterday to honour Hariri, who died in a massive truck bomb blast in Beirut along with 22 other people in 2005.
The gathering beside his tomb was as much a gesture of support for the beleaguered government as a commemoration.
"We don't believe Rafik Hariri would like to see a bloodbath on his commemoration day," said Marwan Hamade, a government minister.
The crisis began after Israel's 34-day onslaught against Lebanon last summer.
Hezbollah sparked the war after it abducted two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid (the soldiers are still being held).
And it has accused the government of tacitly co-operating with the United States and Israel in seeking Hezbollah's destruction.
In November, six ministers, including all five Shiites, quit the cabinet prior to a vote on approving a United Nations draft resolution on forming an international tribunal to try Hariri's killers.
Sheikh Naim Qassem, Hezbollah's deputy leader, admits that Hezbollah is concerned the tribunal will be used by its enemies to settle old scores against the Shiite organization and its Syrian ally.
"We have no problem with the international tribunal if it stays within the limits of the criminal investigation," he said.
"But we refuse that this tribunal be used in a political context to finish America's outstanding issues with certain parties in the region."
The March 14 coalition, which forms the backbone of the government, says that scuttling the international tribunal is key to the opposition campaign.
"It is the crux of the matter," said Siniora. "We never really wanted it to be used in any manner against anybody -- Syrian or non-Syrian. Definitely, this is creating certain discomfort among certain people." The political deadlock has left the government running at half speed.
Several initiatives have been aired by Lebanese leaders from both sides of the political divide, as well as from the Arab League that has attempted to mediate a solution. The government, however, appears determined to withstand the opposition campaign, buoyed by public support that at least matches that of the opposition. The crisis has left many Lebanese acknowledging that the country's fate rests on the outcome of a regional struggle pitting the U.S. and its Sunni Arab allies against Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah. Last month, Iran and Saudi Arabia held rare high-level talks to tone down regional tensions between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. According to a Lebanese political source close to the Saudi leadership, Lebanon was the "litmus test" for Saudi-Iranian co-operation.Saudi Arabia told Iran the Lebanese government was willing to compromise with the opposition, but not at the expense of the international tribunal, the source said.
Ali Larijani, the Iranian national security adviser, travelled twice to Damascus apparently to persuade the Syrian leadership to relent on its opposition to the tribunal, but was unsuccessful. "The Syrians have made it clear to everyone that they will not accept the tribunal being formed," the political source said.
Although Syria disengaged from Lebanon nearly two years ago, it still wields wide-ranging influence in the country. Siniora acknowledged that for a small nation like Lebanon, Syria is an inescapable fact of life. "We are sister countries and we have to make very clear that we want to have good relations with Syria," he said. Syria, though, "has to get used to the idea that Lebanon is a sovereign and independent country."
The opposition here, however, disputes that Lebanon really is independent -- arguing that Syrian hegemony has simply been replaced by Western, chiefly American, dominance. "The U.S., France and some Arab countries very clearly support the March 14 bloc and use the U.N. Security Council to promote certain positions outside Lebanese law," said Hezbollah's Sheikh Qassem. Lebanon, too, has become an unexpected cornerstone of U.S. President George W. Bush's bid to foster democracy in the Arab world after Iraq slipped into continuous bloodshed and sectarian conflict.
The U.S. was key in gathering some 41 countries in Paris last month for a donor conference for Lebanon that raised pledges of $7.6 billion to help revive the economy. U.S. support for Lebanon has soared from roughly $50 million a year to $1 billion since the end of last summer's war.
"I don't think we need to be embarrassed by what we are doing here," said U.S. ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman. "There is an overlap where we hope Lebanon will go and where Siniora and the March 14 (coalition) want it to go."But for some, U.S. support is a poisoned chalice.They point out that the Bush administration gave full backing to Israel and delayed calling for a ceasefire during during the devastating Hezbollah-Israel war last summer. Just as Tehran and Damascus are attempting through their local allies to deny the U.S. a Levantine toehold, Washington hopes to check Iranian and Syrian ambitions in Lebanon and bolster the Western-friendly Lebanese government, analysts say. That reality has left Siniora gloomily pondering how Lebanon has once more become a "battlefield for the wars of others.""We have spent years and years and wasted thousands of lives on this point," he said. Still, Elie Khoury, one of the architects of the Cedar Revolution, urges patience.The long-term prospects for Lebanon are bright, he believes. "Revolutions don't happen in one day," he said."The Cedar Revolution is not over."

A new chapter in Syria's fortunes?
By Michael Young -Daily Star staff
Thursday, February 15, 2007
The two bus attacks near Bikfaya on Tuesday morning were the latest demonstrations of how far opponents of the Hariri tribunal are willing to go to prevent its establishment. However, on this the second anniversary of Rafik Hariri's death, it is becoming apparent that Syrian intransigence may be leading toward an unintended consequence: passage of the tribunal under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.
None of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council is enthusiastic about going to Chapter VII. Creating a court under its authority would take time, it could substantially alter the nature of Lebanese participation in the judicial process, and it would set a precedent that few if any of the permanent five is likely to be happy with. However, with Syrian officials bluntly declaring their opposition to the tribunal before various interlocutors, including Turkish Prime Minister Reccep Tayyip Erdogan, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the Iranians, the Russians, and, on Tuesday, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, we are nearing the stage where the international community's credibility will be at stake.
Damascus is precipitating a crisis it could have avoided. One year ago, a senior March 14 politician who had just returned from Saudi Arabia told me the regime there was reluctant to move ahead on the tribunal. Since then, the mood in the kingdom has changed completely. As Syria built up its ties with Iran in the past year, as it began destabilizing the situation in Lebanon, the tribunal became a valuable stick to use against Bashar Assad. The Syrian president has squandered one opportunity after another to dig himself out of the quicksand provoked by Rafik Hariri's assassination. He now finds himself being sucked deeper into it.
Assad would do well not to rely too heavily on the Russians. There is nothing Moscow would like more than for the tribunal to vanish, as it fears the consequences of the Syrian backlash. Russia will cry murder before it agrees to Chapter VII. However, several informed sources believe that if the Security Council moves in that direction, if Syria leaves the international community with no alternative, then the Russians will not thwart the procedure. As one person put it: "At the end of the day, if there is agreement at the top level, I doubt this is where Russia would seek a confrontation through the use of a veto. It's not in its national interest."
What will happen in the coming months is that all sides will continue to give priority to a Lebanese solution. At the same time, deliberations over resorting to Chapter VII will gain momentum if the tribunal remains stalled in Lebanon. The permanent members of the Security Council are not yet there. However, as the source put it, "there have been informal discussions. The word 'Chapter VII' is now being used."
There has been some talk of amending the tribunal's statutes as a way out of the deadlock, particularly Article 3, paragraph 2, defining responsibility for Hariri's murder. The passage states that "a superior shall be criminally responsible for any of the crimes [being investigated] committed by subordinates under his or her effective authority and control, as a result of his or her failure to exercise control properly over such subordinates ..." The Syrians have said that this poses a major problem for them. Under such terms, Syria's top leadership could be held accountable.
Yet even respected crisis-management organizations, such as the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, have misread the implications of Syria's uneasiness. In its latest report on Lebanon, for example, the ICG proposed "a revision of Article 3.2 of the tribunal's statutes to clarify - and narrow - the presently very broadly defined circumstances under which a superior can be held responsible for crimes committed by a subordinate."
However, those advocating this measure fail to see that the Assad regime has already shown that it doesn't think amending Article 3.2 is enough. By rejecting all concessions; by refusing to offer Lebanon any guarantees for its sovereignty or the security of its politicians; by blocking a comprehensive quid pro quo on the tribunal - when leading figures in the March 14 coalition would probably be willing to arrive at one - Syria has all but admitted that altering the tribunal's statutes is secondary. Syrian leaders seem to believe that in a system as rigidly hierarchical as theirs, it would be impossible to limit responsibility to the lower rungs of decision-making when it comes to Hariri's assassination. In that context, everything becomes a zero-sum game: Either the tribunal is scuttled, or Syria's regime goes down. This rigid reading, however, is preventing Assad from considering median solutions that may still be feasible, but that would also involve his making substantial concessions in Lebanon.
The Syrians can continue to hold Lebanese political life hostage to their obstinacy. However, this is damaging Syria's closest allies. In Lebanon, Hizbullah and Amal have paid a high price in the last two months for a Syrian-induced standoff that has taken the country to the brink of sectarian warfare. Iran, which has adopted the Syrian position on the tribunal and won't readily dump its alliance with Damascus, does not want to see its complex array of Middle Eastern calculations overcome by the single issue of the tribunal. Russia is little inclined to expend political capital protecting Syria at the UN, particularly against a tribunal that it helped create. Sooner or later Syria must give something up in order to gain something in exchange. Otherwise, it may find itself all alone. Syria's mistake is to assume that the international community will just abandon the Hariri tribunal. The Syrians are imposing a fight on the UN - one which the organization has little desire to engage in, but even less of a willingness to lose. Assad lost the fight he picked over Resolution 1559; his regime's chances of winning this one are rapidly diminishing.
***Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR

Lebanon must emulate Rafik Hariri, not just honor his memory
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Editorial-Daily Star
Wednesday's second anniversary of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's assassination was another late-winter day in Beirut with hundreds of thousands of flag-waving Lebanese peacefully manifesting their sentiments on several counts. They affirmed their appreciation for the life and work of Hariri and those who worked with him to build and rebuild Lebanon and its institutions. They came from all corners of the land to defy and curse the hidden killers who have bombed and murdered 16 times in the last two years. Many hurled accusations against Syria and its friends in Lebanon. All of them expressed their strong support for the Lebanese-international tribunal to try the accused in Hariri's and other deaths. It was impressive, moving, and powerful. But in the final analysis, it did not change the score, or even shift the momentum of the political contest under way in the country. This was not a virtual demonstration, for real people and powerful emotions were involved. But it was - as every new mass demonstration by either side has become - a predictable show of strong numbers and sentiments, with little new impact.
The backing for the Siniora government and the March 14 movement emphasized again the substantial support that this political line enjoys among public opinion. This rally in the heart of Beirut, however, was different from the half-dozen previous ones of the same tone. This one occurred with huge barriers of barbed wire and army soldiers separating the demonstrators from the opposition demonstrators who have been camped in their urban tent village for over two months. Sensibly, all sides committed to a peaceful day. Luckily, neither an accident nor a local or non-Lebanese agent provocateur made mischief to spark violent confrontations between the opposing camps. The peaceful demonstration was in sharp contrast to the tense political atmosphere that defines Downtown Beirut, and all Lebanese politics.
Wednesday was also a reminder, though, that special individuals can overcome the tribal and ideological deficiencies of the masses and the passions and occasional irrationalities of the crowd. Hariri was such a person, as both sides affirmed yesterday. The demonstrators said so with their presence and decorum, and Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said so in a newspaper commentary the same day - including explicitly remembering Hariri as the only person who bridged divides in the country, with Syria, and with the world. Amid the tensions symbolized by the troops and barricades in central Beirut, we must always remember that Hariri is adulated because he was a nation-builder. He worked quietly to build human capabilities, and was a catalyst for constructing a good and productive society, unlike many of the politicians today who seem to relish frolicking in the mud of gutter politics and scathing personal accusations.
People on both sides of the barbed wire want the killers of Hariri and the others who have died here brought to justice. They also both want to see Lebanon's politicians get down from their bully pulpits and instead get to work on building a modern state. Some conciliatory words amid the rancor yesterday perhaps offer a bit of hope. More hope will come, though, from everyone emulating Hariri's record of building a new country, rather than merely fondly recalling his name and character.


For Immediate Release -
American Lebanese Coalition

ALC statement on the February 13th Bombings in Lebanon
Washington DC
February 13, 2007
The forces of terror, in their continuing mission to oppose freedom and democracy in the Middle East, chose a small town in the heart of Lebanon to convey their latest bloody message. The exploding of two buses carrying common citizens to their work bares a chilling similarity to the daily massacres taking place in Iraq at the hands of terrorists financed and supported by the Syrian and Iranian regimes. Since the assassination of Lebanese political leaders, the deflagration of a destructive war with Israel and the spreading of anarchy in the streets of Beirut did not seem to erode the will of the Lebanese people, these regimes have directed their murderous sights on the innocent civilians.
Recognizing that these events are part of the ongoing global battle between tyrannical extremism and democratic freedom, we ask the free world to continue its staunch support of the Lebanese government. By the same token, we expect the Lebanese government to find and bring the perpetrators to justice promptly. Most importantly, we implore those Lebanese who are still deceived by the so called Lebanese opposition’s message to realize that they are being exploited to promote the goals of Iran and Syria at the cost of losing Lebanon.
Our condolences and heartfelt regrets go to the families of the fallen, along with our promise to continue our relentless support for the cause of democracy and freedom until the free, sovereign and democratic Lebanon for which they died is restored.
- END -
Joseph Gebeily, MD
American Lebanese Coalition

Radical Islam's Dupes
By Julia Gorin | February 14, 2007
It is somewhat pathetic that even after 9/11, and even after a nearly four-year trial at the Hague disproving “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” of Albanians in Kosovo (something the late reporter Daniel Pearl uncovered as early as 1999), the Jewish community still insists on being used to promote the agenda of the Albanian lobby that allied us with the al Qaeda-trained Kosovo Liberation Army in 1999.
As part of his PR push to see the West seal its 1999 blunder that resulted in the ethnic cleansing of Serbs, Jews, Roma and other non-Albanians from Kosovo--which is a hair away from being an ethnically and religiously pure state of Saudi-financed mosques—former Republican congressman and ethnic Albanian Joe DioGuardi has been placing press releases disguised as articles in Jewish newspapers reminding American Jews of the lead they took “in pressing President [Bill] Clinton to bomb Serbia, because they instinctively understood the nature of genocide and were determined to keep it from being repeated,” as he recently told the New York Jewish Week.
Knowing that publication to be the largest-circulation Jewish weekly, and knowing that Jews shouldn’t be supporting a Muslim land grab in Europe, I called the managing editor and suggested the paper run an opposing article, which the editor agreed to let me write. A month later, the piece is finally scheduled to appear this week. But that month gave DioGuardi enough time to place a similar piece in The Forward. So I emailed the editor at The Forward to offer a rebuttal piece as well. Predictably, I didn’t hear back. I proceeded to contact every yidiot paper I knew of on the eastern seaboard to let them know of this dangerous PR push and offer a counter article: New Jersey Jewish Standard, Baltimore Jewish Times, Washington Jewish Week, the Jewish Press, Boston Jewish Advocate and the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent. Silence. They prefer to be sitting ducks until the Albanian lobby gets to them.
So here is what these Jews Without Clues should know. Rather than “instinctively [understanding] the nature of genocide” and being determined to keep it from being repeated,” the reason American Jews took the lead in our Kosovo misadventure is that Albanians hired PR firms to lie to Jews that Kosovo was another “genocide”—just as the Bosnians and Croats had done:
In 1993, President of Ruder Finn Global Public Affairs, James Harff, gave a candid interview to French journalist Jacques Merlino, which was reprinted in Midstream magazine. In response to Merlino’s question, “What achievement were you most proud of,” Harff answered:
To have managed to move the Jewish opinion to our side. This was extremely delicate, as…[Bosnian] President Izetbegovic…strongly supported the creation of a fundamentalist Islamic state. Moreover, the Croatian and Bosnian past was marked by a real and cruel anti-Semitism. Tens of thousands of Jews perished in Croatian camps.
We outwitted three big Jewish organizations. B’Nai Brith Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Committee, and the American Jewish Congress. We suggested to them to publish an advertisement in the New York Times and to organize demonstrations outside the U.N. This was a tremendous coup. When the Jewish organizations entered the game on the side of the (Muslim) Bosnians, we could promptly equate the Serbs with the Nazis in the public mind…DioGuardi is asking the Jews to repeat what Holocaust survivor John Ranz has called “our greatest shame,” and to continue buying into this colossal hoax which will end in the establishment this year of a narco-Islamo-terrorist gangster state in Europe . He wants us to believe that independence is “the only way to secure stability in the Balkans.” This is in fact a veiled threat. Kosovo Albanians have been using violence against NATO peacekeepers and the UN starting the year after we did their bidding, as a means of persuading the international community that there can be only one acceptable outcome to Kosovo’s final status: complete independence without border compromises.
Stability is precisely what has suffered by our signing on to Muslim land grabs in the Balkans, which emboldened Albanian separatists in Macedonia, Montenegro and southern Serbia. An independent Kosovo will serve as a nod to secessionists worldwide.
Bosnia and Kosovo have been part of Islam’s current divide-and-conquer approach. Israeli Colonel Dr. Shaul Shay, author of Islamic Terror and the Balkans, explains the significance of the Kosovo, Albania and Bosnia region that Americans ignore: “In the eyes of the radical Islamic circles, the establishment of an independent Islamic territory including Bosnia, Kosovo and Albania along the Adriatic Coast, is one of the most prominent achievements of Islam since the siege of Vienna in 1683. Islamic penetration into Europe through the Balkans is one of the main achievements of Islam in the twentieth century.”
The Balkans also have given Islam its long-sought gateway into Europe, as the Kosovo connection to the terrorist attacks in Madrid and London demonstrate. (According to Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily and German intelligence, the explosives used in both bombings came from Kosovo, and just last week the Greek Kathimerini news service reported that the missile fired on the U.S. embassy in Athens a few weeks ago appears to have come from Kosovo.) Albanians argue that their fight for Kosovo is not an Islamic movement but a national one. (DioGuardi himself is Christian.) Palestinians, of course, make the same claim. But the big picture is the same: jihad. The day that Kosovo becomes “Kosova” (the Muslims’, nationalists’, dhimmis’ and Mr. DioGuardi’s invented pronunciation) is the day we’ve lost a key battle in the war on terror.
If the international community is “backing away from prompt implementation of independence for Kosovo,” as DioGuardi observes, it isn’t “out of a misguided inclination to appease Serbia ,” as he disingenously told Jewish Week. Rather than a state to be appeased, Serbia is still seen as a pariah, including by itself. The recent wariness about Kosovo independence is a result of both the terror connections and the daily attacks against the remaining Serb minority.
So the Albanians have once again turned to the famously gullible Jewish community. In its current leg of the PR campaign to get the Jews on board, the Albanian lobby is peddling the story that Albania was the only European country that didn’t turn over any Jews in WWII and saved 2,000 Jews during the German occupation of Albania . Indeed, on the eve of World War II, there were 600 Jews in Albania , 400 of whom were refugees from outside the country. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, the Italians—who were occupying Albania-- “rejected the Final Solution….Consequently, many historians believe it was the Italian occupation of Albania that ‘rescued’ the Jews rather than the local population.” Once the Germans took over Albania and annexed Kosovo to create “Greater Albania,” Albanians volunteered to form the SS Skanderbeg Division, which committed atrocities against Serbs and Jews in Kosovo and helped round up 400 Jews who were later sent to Bergen-Belsen . In all, 600 Jews from Kosovo died in concentration camps. In more recent history, Albanians pushed the Jews out with the rest of the non-Albanians after NATO occupied Kosovo in 1999. (I profiled one such Jewish family for The Jerusalem Report in 1999, and Jared Israel of carried an interview with the last Jew to leave Kosovo, with nothing but his Talmud in hand.) Today, Albania and Kosovo are virtually Judenfrei.
Happily for Kosovo , Albania and Islam, they’re getting what they want with or without Jewish help. The UN envoy to Kosovo Martti Ahtisaari, who last year said that “the Serbs are guilty as a people,” has just unveiled his plan which will give Kosovo de facto independence by allowing whatever countries want to recognize it to do so, and by giving Kosovo the right to have a flag, anthem, constitution and to make international agreements, as well as the right to membership in international organizations. The plan specifically blocks Kosovo from joining with Albania to form a “Greater Albania.” Of course, in 1999 UN Resolution 1244 blocked Kosovo from ever becoming independent; such provisions are accepted by the Albanian side with a wink and a nod.
As Albania proper’s Foreign Minister Besnik Mustafaj said of Ahtisaari’s plan, "This is no doubt a historical moment for Kosovo, as well as for the whole region." Kosovo’s president Fatmir Sejdiu also hailed the plan, which he correctly sees as a fast track to independence.
Indeed, that’s been the point all along. In a stunning cover article of the current issue of The New Individualist magazine, managing editor Sherrie Gossett writes:
“The failure of the UN to insist that Kosovo meet minimal civilized standards has convinced some critics that the negotiations are a sham, that Kosovo’s final status has already been decided by the ‘Contact Group,’” which is composed of the U.S., Britain, Germany, Italy, France and Russia.
An email that Gossett received last February 28 from a foreign military officer stationed in Kosovo warned that the powers were orchestrating the stepping down of moderate Kosovo Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi, whom they viewed as too soft, in favor of a hardliner who would insist on independence, Agim Ceku. “Truly amazing,” wrote the officer, “the butcher of Serbs in Croatia .” Further according to the email, a skilled politico named Lufti Haziri was assigned to tutor Ceku in playing politics so that he could push independence through: “Lufti Haziri will be [h]is deputy, lufti will mentor ceku, because lufti knows how to play politics.”
Continues Gossett: “The day after the email was received, Kosumi resigned and was replaced by hardliner Ceku, who refuses compromise and insists on independence.” Gossett’s source said he believed the move to be part of a deliberate strategy to outrage the Serbs and provoke Belgrade away from the negotiating table, forfeiting a say in the proceedings. This tactic recalls the Rambouillet “peace treaty” that was presented to Belgrade in 1999 and stipulated full occupation of Yugoslavia by NATO, the alliance knowing full well that no sovereign could sign such a document and that a NATO offensive would be the only resolution. So the strategy is still in play today, but rather than being shocked away from the process, Serbia has been toughing it out.
The reason for the U.S.-led push for independence and nothing in between may seem unfathomable, but American policy on Kosovo—spanning two presidential administrations--has been to bury this hot potato. For the same reason, the ineffectiveness of the NATO force in Kosovo is no accident, according to former OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) official Thomas Gambill, who in 2005 blew the whistle on the mess that is the UN Mission in Kosovo.
When Serbs and even NATO troops are shot at by Albanians, the NATO peacekeepers steer clear of engaging. (Recall reports about the 2004 March pogrom describing the peacekeepers as being “helpless” to stop the mobs.) A firefight would escalate the situation and draw world attention to the region, to the fact that it’s unstable and that there is the threat of violence should Albanians not get what they want. As Brooklyn-based gun-runner and KLA fundraiser Florin Krasniqi made clear in a documentary aired on PBS in 2005, the Albanians are armed and ready: “No one can disarm Albanians…Just in case NATO pulls out, or we don’t get our independence peacefully, then we’ll use those weapons…Don’t underestimate what we can do.” If anyone needs a refresher on the KLA, our partners in the 1999 intervention, it was an amalgam of tribal clansmen operating on the blood code principle and Maoists, Marxist-Leninists and university students who spent the 80s promoting the “class struggle”—all committed to violence. The KLA’s opening salvos were attacks on police, a classic Communist tactic.
Throughout, the State Department policy on Kosovo has been one of looking the other way, of digging the hole deeper, for we can’t extricate ourselves from it any other way. Fortunately for the policymakers, they know that nary a journalist, blogger or member of the public will take notice of anything that happens in an obscure and small place called Kosovo, which no one even remembers was the site of our last war, nor takes notice that the investigations of the Madrid , London and Athens attacks have led there.
Add to that the intermittent reports of armed “masked men” setting up ad hoc checkpoints in Kosovo, as well as the repeated comments from the UN, from Wesley Clark and from the Soros-affiliated International Crisis Group that “if there is no independence, Kosovo will explode”--and you get the picture: Wash our hands of it, and anything that happens after independence isn’t our doing. This is how foreign policy is conducted when no one is watching.
Toronto Star columnist Richard Gwyn said it best yesterday in "Kosovo's Quiet Road to Sovereignty":
Kosovo is about to become independent while at the same time everyone involved will be able to claim their fingers were not on the button when this happens. The process by which this is happening is so creative and skilled, and devious and guileful that, shifted over a thousand or so kilometres, it might conceivably achieve [a Palestinian state].
The key is a scheme cooked up by the European Union by which Kosovo itself will simply declare itself to be independent; afterwards, other countries can recognize it as they choose.
In the wonderful phrase of a European Union official, "It's for a state to determine whether it's a state and for others to recognize it or not."
Better yet, the UN doesn't need to do anything, thus avoiding the certainty of Russia using its Security Council veto to block the move…What Kosovo is about to do, any state or region can do….it's easy to imagine a Quebec separatist premier following up a referendum win by re-quoting that EU official: "It's for a state to determine whether it's a state."
Quebec , California , Miami , and so on. Whereas policies like the one we’re promoting in Kosovo are usually interpreted and criticized as giving in to blackmail and the use of violence to achieve an objective, when it comes to the Serbs, there is always room for an exception.
As usual, Serbia has no say about its fate or the terrorist neighbor being thrust upon it. When Serbia objects, it is accused of “nationalism” and “intransigence” and told to “start being reasonable.” That’s right: the only side that’s willing to compromise—for example with a partition or with “more than autonomy and less than independence”—is the “intransigent” one while the side that won’t even discuss anything short of full independence while alternately threatening war is our partner for “peace,” and is not criticized. This is very fishy. There is a long list of alternative solutions full of the usually favored shades of gray, so why the insistence on just one? The answer is obvious, and it’s ugly.
“Meanwhile,” continues Gossett’s exposé, “European media investigations and statements from law enforcement officials describe how Kosovo has become an open market for terrorists looking for weapons and explosives, a key global player in heroin trafficking, and the world’s most notorious center for sex-slave trafficking.
“Into this vacuum of lawlessness have come radical Wahhabi Muslim groups from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates . These groups flooded into the area after the bombing and invasion, offering financial aid to Albanians, sometimes on strict conditions: ‘They had to wear the head scarf and bow to Mecca five times a day, or allow the Wahhabis to build a mosque,’ [Gambill] recounts. The burly ex-Marine also showed this author security records logging complaints by Albanian school teachers who said they were being kicked out of their classrooms for hours at a time, so that Wahhabis could teach the Koran to their students.”
When the world--American Jewry included--sided with Albanians, Bosnians and Croats against Serbs in the Balkan civil wars, Israel was a notable exception. But the PR blitz in support of “Kosova” has done its work: Last week the Kosovo Democratic Party chairman and notoriously ruthless KLA commander Hashim Thaci was received by Shimon Peres, and claims to have gotten assurances that Israel will support an independent Kosovo and will influence other countries to do the same. If true, this means that Israel is endorsing a precedent for immediate Palestinian statehood.
Aptly enough, Voice of America last week carried the headline “US Backs UN Envoy's Efforts for a Final Solution in Kosovo.”
As a Jew who expects people to do their homework before taking a position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I became committed to doing my homework on the Balkans in 1999. It’s too bad that, eight years later, my fellow Jews still haven’t bothered.
If they had, they would see that the Serbs have been the canary's canary. What the world is trying to do to Israel is what it succeeded in doing to Serbia, which no longer has sovereignty, border integrity (the international community decides what is and isn’t Serbia’s), the right to protect its borders and to defend its citizens. And when Serbia dares to utter a peep of protest to these criminal infringements, it gets piled on by politicians and media alike (most consistently by The Wall St. Journal).
Let’s recall that our war on behalf of the tribalistic Albanians started with manipulated images, one-sided news reports, and international outrage over what was perceived to be a “disproportionate response.” As Israel and its supporters ask: “Who are you to judge, from a distance and with no experience of a daily existential threat, what constitutes an appropriate response?” Granted, if you compare the Serb response to the Israeli response, it appears heavy-handed. But what we didn’t and still don’t understand is that in the Balkans, everything is relative. And in Kosovo, reports of the Serb response were overstated. Gossett again:
“Spanish forensic investigator Emilio Perez Pujol headed a large team of pathologists and police specialists. The search for mass graves, he explained to the [ London ] Sunday Times, was ‘a semantic pirouette by the war propaganda machines, because we did not find one—not one—mass grave…’ Pujol told the El Pais newspaper, ‘We had been working with two parallel problems. One was the propaganda war. This allowed them to lie, to fake photographs for the press, to publish pictures of mass graves, or whatever they had to influence world opinion…There never was a genocide in Kosovo,’ he concluded. ‘It was dishonest and wrong for western leaders to adopt the term in the beginning to give moral authority to the operation.’”
In a recent speech at an Americans for a Safe Israel event in New York, titled “We’re all in this Together,” retired Boston Herald columnist Don Feder said, “When Zionists start caring about the fate of Serbs in Kosovo, when Hindus support Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria (designated the West Bank), when Serbs stand up for Indian Kashmir, then we will begin making progress.”
So much for that. Indeed, considering how magnified the writing on the wall is, the fact that Jews still insist on supporting the Muslim side and walking into doom, it’s a miracle we lost only one-third of our people last century.
As America ’s best minds opine daily on the war on terror while ignoring the most relevant region closest to us and refusing to examine it in anything but a vacuum of context, history will show what no one cares to understand: the current world war began officially in Yugoslavia .
It’s a realization that should have been driven home to us on four commercial jetliners on a September day in 2001. For that day to not have changed our course in the Balkans, for us to still be proceeding in the same direction this far post-9/11 rather than admit what the 9/11 Commission found—that the foundations for the current worldwide jihad were laid in 1990s Bosnia—is our fatal mistake. Yet we seem determined to continue it. America in the Balkans—on which there is zero debate in this country—is the sin that keeps on sinning. If this is World War III, the question is: Why are America and American Jews siding with the Axis Powers?

Bush Declares Iran’s Arms Role in Iraq Is Certain
Doug Mills/The New York Times
President Bush left Wednesday after his news conference at the White House, in which he talked about Iran and North Korea, among other topics.
Published: February 15, 2007
WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 — President Bush said Wednesday that he was certain that factions within the Iranian government had supplied Shiite militants in Iraq with deadly roadside bombs that had killed American troops. But he said he did not know whether Iran’s highest officials had directed the attacks.
Why Accuse Iran of Meddling Now? U.S. Officials Explain (February 15, 2007) Mr. Bush’s remarks amounted to his most specific accusation to date that Iran was undermining security in Iraq. They appeared to be part of a concerted effort by the White House to present a clearer, more direct case that Iran was supplying the potent weapons — and to push back against criticism that the intelligence used in reaching the conclusions was not credible.
Speaking at a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Mr. Bush dismissed as “preposterous” the contention by some skeptics that the United States was drawing unwarranted conclusions about Iran’s role. He publicly endorsed assertions that had until now been presented only by anonymous military and intelligence officials, who have said that an elite branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps known as the Quds Force has provided Shiite militias in Iraq with the sophisticated weapons that have been responsible for killing at least 170 American soldiers and wounding more than 600.
“I can say with certainty that the Quds Force, a part of the Iranian government, has provided these sophisticated I.E.D.’s that have harmed our troops,” Mr. Bush said, using the abbreviation for improvised explosive device. “And I’d like to repeat, I do not know whether or not the Quds Force was ordered from the top echelons of the government. But my point is, what’s worse, them ordering it and it happening, or them not ordering it and its happening?”The House of Representatives is debating a resolution disapproving of Mr. Bush’s plan to send more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq. And so Mr. Bush used his appearance to defend that decision as necessary in the face of deteriorating security in Baghdad. Asked about a possible American response to Iranian interference, he said, “We will continue to protect our troops.” With skeptics asking why the intelligence about Iran’s meddling is coming to light now, a number of possibilities have been raised, including the increase in attacks and American casualties in recent months.
American intelligence officials have said they think that top leaders in Iran must have approved of the attacks on the American forces, in part because the Quds Force has historically reported to the country’s top religious leaders. But aides to Mr. Bush, mindful of the criticism about its use of intelligence before the Iraq war, said the White House wanted to be careful not to make that kind of accusation without hard proof.
As Mr. Bush discussed Iran in Washington, the chief American military spokesman in Baghdad provided a more detailed, on-the-record account of how the administration believed the weapons, particularly lethal explosive devices known as explosively formed penetrators, or E.F.P.’s, got to Iraq. The spokesman, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, was also careful not to link the actions of the Quds Force directly to Iran’s top leaders. He said American assertions about a link between the weapons and the force were based on information obtained from people, including Iranians, detained in Iraq in the past 60 days.
“They in fact have told us that the Quds Force provides support to extremist groups here in Iraq in the forms of both money and weaponry,” General Caldwell said. He added: “They have talked about how there are extremist elements that are given this material in Iran and then it is smuggled into Iraq. We have in fact stopped some at the border and discovered it there, coming from Iran into Iraq.”
The coordinated messages out of Baghdad and Washington were an effort by the White House to tamp down reports of divisions within the American government about who in Iran should be held responsible for the weapons shipments. A senior Defense analyst said at a briefing in Baghdad over the weekend that the effort was being directed “from the highest levels of the Iranian government.” But Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered a contradictory account this week, telling The Associated Press that while some bomb materials were made in Iran, “that does not translate that the Iranian government, per se, for sure, is directly involved in doing this.”At Wednesday’s news conference, Mr. Bush suggested that it did not matter whether senior leaders were involved. “What matters is, is that we’re responding,” Mr. Bush said. He said that if the United States found either networks or individuals “who are moving these devices into Iraq, we will deal with them.”
Some experts said the question of Iran’s responsibility remained important. “There’s a big difference between saying that there is a rogue element doing things and then asking the Iranian government to rein it in, as opposed to saying this is a calculated deliberate strategy of the Iranian government,” said Vali Nasr, a Middle East scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations. “That has very different implications in terms of how do you hold Iran culpable.”
The administration’s claims about Iran have been met with intense skepticism, from Democrats in Congress and from experts like David Kay, who led the search for illicit weapons in Iraq. Some critics have said the White House is using Iran as a scapegoat for its problems in Iraq, and some have suggested that the administration, which has been trying to pressure Iran into abandoning its nuclear program, is laying the foundation for another war.
On Wednesday, a leading contender for the Democratic nomination for president, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, took to the Senate floor to call on Mr. Bush to seek authorization for any military action against Iran. “We cannot and we must not allow recent history to repeat itself,” she said.
Mr. Bush has said that he has no intention of invading Iran and that any suggestion that he was trying to provoke Iran “is just a wrong way to characterize the commander in chief’s decision to do what is necessary to protect our soldiers in harm’s way.” But experts say that the ratcheting up of accusations could provoke a confrontation. Gary Sick, an expert on Iran at Columbia University, said there was a “danger of accidental war.” He said, “If anything goes wrong, if something happens, there’s an unexplained explosion and we kidnap an Iranian, and the Iranians respond to that somehow, this could get out of control.”
Mr. Bush has also refused to meet with Iran’s leaders, and he said Wednesday that he did not believe that it would be an effective way of persuading the Iranians to give up their nuclear goals. “This is a world in which people say, ‘Meet! Sit down and meet!’ ” he said. “And my answer is, if it yields results, that’s what I’m interested in.”
**Sheryl Gay Stolberg reported from Washington, and Marc Santora from Baghdad.

A Prewar Slide Show Cast Iraq in Rosy Hues
Published: February 15, 2007
WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 — When Gen. Tommy R. Franks and his top officers gathered in August 2002 to review an invasion plan for Iraq, it reflected a decidedly upbeat vision of what the country would look like four years after Saddam Hussein was ousted from power.
A broadly representative Iraqi government would be in place. The Iraqi Army would be working to keep the peace. And the United States would have as few as 5,000 troops in the country.
Military slides obtained by the National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act outline the command’s PowerPoint projection of the stable, pro-American and democratic Iraq that was to be.
The general optimism and some details of General Franks’s planning session have been disclosed in the copious postwar literature. But the slides from the once classified briefing provide a firsthand look at how far the violent reality of Iraq today has deviated from assumptions that once laid the basis for an exercise in pre-emptive war.
The archive, an independent research institute at George Washington University, has posted the slides on its Web site,
August 2002 was an important time for developing the strategy. President Bush had yet to go to the United Nations to declare Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons programs a menace to international security, but the war planning was well under way. The tumultuous upheaval that would follow the toppling of the Hussein government was known antiseptically in planning sessions as “Phase IV.” As is clear from the slides, it was the least defined part of the strategy. General Franks had told his officers that it was his supposition that the State Department would have the primary responsibility for rebuilding Iraq’s political institutions. “D.O.S. will promote creation of a broad-based, credible provisional government — prior to D-Day,” noted a slide on “key planning assumptions.” That was military jargon for the notion that the Department of State would assemble a viable Iraqi governing coalition before the invasion even began. “It was a way of forcing the discussion, to get clarity of how we and State were going to deal with the governance issue,” Col. John Agoglia, a Central Command planner at the time, said in an interview.
As it turned out, it was months before the command’s planners began to receive some of the clarification they were hoping for. The Bush administration put aside the idea of establishing a prewar provisional government for fear it would marginalize Iraqi leaders who had not gone into exile. Colonel Agoglia said he did not begin to get a sense of what the postwar arrangements would be until Jay Garner, a retired three-star general, was tapped by the Bush administration in January 2003 to serve as the first civilian administrator in postwar Iraq.
Another assumption spelled out in the PowerPoint presentation was that “co-opted” Iraqi Army units would heed the American appeals to stay in their garrisons and later help United States to secure the country. Based on this and other hopeful suppositions, the command’s planners projected what the American occupation of Iraq might look like. After the main fighting was over, there was to be a two- to three-month “stabilization” phase, then an 18- to 24-month “recovery” phase.That was to be followed by a 12- to 18-month “transition” phase. At the end of this stage — 32 to 45 months after the invasion began — it was projected that the United States would have only 5,000 troops in Iraq.
Now, those projections seem startlingly unrealistic given the current troop buildup, in which the United States currently has about 132,000 troops in Iraq and is adding about 20,000 more. But the projections, former military planners say, were intended to send the message to civilian policy makers that the invasion of Iraq would be a multiyear proposition, not an easy in-and-out war.
As it turned out, the assumptions on Iraqi and American forces were quickly overturned, partly as a result of new American policy decisions. Instead of staying in garrisons, many of the Iraqi soldiers fled after the war began. Senior American commanders hoped to quickly recall the Iraqi troops to duty anyway, but that option vanished in May 2003 when L. Paul Bremer III, Mr. Garner’s successor, issued an edict formally disbanding the Iraqi Army.
The message that the United States should gird itself for a substantial multiyear occupation seemed to be superseded when General Franks issued new guidance to his commanders a week after the fall of Baghdad on April 9 that they should be prepared to reduce the American troops in Iraq to a little more than a division by September 2003 — some 30,000 troops.
A series of ad hoc decisions and strategy changes followed as the insurgency grew and security deteriorated. A new military plan is now being put into effect, which the White House asserts may yet salvage a positive outcome. Almost four years after the invasion, however, the “stable democratic Iraqi government” the United States once hoped for seems to exist only in the command’s old planning slides.

Lebanese peace rally seeks to bring Christians and Muslims together
Lebanese peace rally seeks to bring Christians and Muslims together-Ekklesia - UK
More than 300,000 Lebanese people took part in a huge unity rally in Beirut, the country's capital, on 14 February 2007. They were there to mark the anniversary of the murder of parliamentarian Rafik Hariri, reports Independent Catholic News. The peaceful demonstration began with welcoming words from Ghassan Tueni, who invited the crowd to repeat the oath pronounced by his own son Gibran - who was also assassinated in December 2005 - after Hariri's murder: "Never again war between Christians and Muslims."Waving flags, handkerchiefs and balloons in the blue colour of Lebanon's coalition administration, some in the crowd shouted slogans against Syria and its Lebanese allies - widely understood to be behind the wave of killings. But the atmosphere was largely positive and united in opposition to sectarian politics and communal hatred. At exactly 12:55 - the time of Hariri's assassination - the crowd fell silent, apart from a muezzin making the Islamic call to prayer and the tolling of church bells in the background. Meanwhile, reports VIS, Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone sent a telegram of condolence, in the Pope's name, to His Beatitude Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, Patriarch of Antioch of the Lebanese Maronites, Lebanon - for the victims of the 13 February bomb attack north of Beirut in which three people were killed and around 20 injured. The message read: "Profoundly grieved by the terrible attack that struck Lebanon this morning, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI asks Your Beatitude to express his spiritual closeness to the injured and to the relatives of the victims, and give them assurances of his prayers."
It continued: "Entrusting to divine providence those who died so tragically, the Holy Father... calls upon the Lebanese people and their representatives to unanimously reject violence and hopes that, in this dramatic event, they may find the motivation for a commitment in favour of national unity and the common good."

How Canada can help contain the Iranian threat
National Post
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Iran is an increasing danger to global security, and it demands the serious attention of Stephen Harper and his government.
In recent years, Tehran has expanded its sponsorship of terror in the Middle East through it proxies in Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian Authority; undertaken aggressive foreign operations through Hezbollah, from Europe to South America; grossly violated the rights of its citizens, especially women and students; curtailed press freedoms; and murdered a Canadian, Zahra Kazemi. Earlier this month, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defiantly boasted that his theocracy now operates 3,000 centrifuges at its Natanz nuclear facility. This could well mean sufficient weapons-grade uranium for an atomic bomb by year-end.
Once such weapons become available, the regime will likely share them with its Hezbollah proxies, whose sympathizers and agents are active all over the world, including in Canada. Meanwhile, other countries in the Middle East will seek their own nuclear capabilities in an attempt to deter an apocalyptic aggressor.
As a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) signatory, Canada must recognize that Iran's nuclear enrichment and bomb-design program will destroy the foundations upon which the NPT was established. The Treaty's stature as a guarantor of international peace and stability has already been seriously eroded, thanks largely to proliferation of nuclear weapons by Pakistan and North Korean. The world is at a pivotal point, and action must be taken to enforce the NPT before Iran triggers a cataclysm.

Canada has a unique opportunity by constructively confronting Iran. From intelligence reports, we know Iran's troubled economy and needlessly provocative foreign policies have emboldened its student activists and political opposition. This is the stuff of leverage. Canada can bring additional pressure by imposing economic sanctions, and immediately suspending its $300-million in annual bilateral trade with Iran.
Ottawa should block Canadian investment in Iran's oil and gas fields, and ban Iranian bankers from Canada's financial markets. Canadian investors and public sector pension fund managers should be strongly encouraged to divest from Iran and from companies doing business with the regime. As demonstrated with apartheid-era South Africa, economic sanctions work.
In addition, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader, former Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani, and their children are thought to have millions of dollars invested in Canada. Some of this money could well have been misappropriated from Iranians. The Harper government should freeze such Canadian based assets.
Moreover, a travel ban should be imposed on all of Iran's state officials and their kin. Iranians who desire freedom will come to know that Canadians will not stand by and allow the Islamist regime's officials to prosper while their people suffer and the world is held hostage to the ayatollahs' belligerence. Finally, if there is to be hope for avoiding war, Canada must support Iranians who want change.
Ms. Kazemi was not the brutal theocracy's lone victim: Students, journalists, women and writers are regularly arrested, tortured, raped and executed. Victims are held for years under barbaric conditions, without hope of rescue by an independent judiciary. And those who try to speak up are targeted for abuse. Canadian officials at the UN Human Rights Council and other international bodies must press Iran immediately to release political prisoners. Ottawa should actively assist Iranian activists in Canada to publish names of such prisoners, as a means of securing their release.
In years to come, Canadians will look back on the coming months and reflect whether the international community showed sufficient resolve to avert a catastrophe. By keeping all options on the table, and working decisively with our allies, Prime Minister Stephen Harper can help ensure that the international community's efforts will not be found wanting. In truth, he -- and we --have no choice.
- David Harris is a lawyer, senior fellow for national security at the Canadian Coalition for Democracies (CCD), and former Canadian Security and Intelligence Service chief of strategic planning. He is counsel to the CCD. Sayeh Hassan is an articling student and a democracy activist who was born in Iran.
© National Post 2007