February 21/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark 9,30-37. They left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it. He was teaching his disciples and telling them, "The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death he will rise." But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him. They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, "What were you arguing about on the way?"But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all." Taking a child he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it he said to them, Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me.

Very Interesting New Free Opinions
Syria's terror networks. By Farid N. Ghadry. Washington Times February 20, 2007
Lebanon's politicians can learn a lot from its army commander-Daily Star 21.02.07
Iran and the talent for making enemies.
By Paul Salem 21.02.07

Latest News Reports From miscellaneous sources For 21/02/07
LEBANON: "No politics please - we're Lebanese," say traders-Reuters
Syrian Navy Kills Lebanese Fisherman-Naharnet
Chirac Urges Unity at Ceremony Honoring Hariri in Paris
Berri to Expose Those Hampering Hariri Tribunal-Naharnet
Explosive Charge Dismantled in Beirut-Naharnet
Hoss: Assad Supports International Tribunal-Naharnet
Demand for Lebanese Armored Vehicles on the Rise-Naharnet
Rice Fails to Achieve Breakthrough with Olmert, Abbas-Naharnet
45 Countries Seek International Ban on Cluster Bombs-Naharnet
Syria's terror networks-Washington Times
Syria relaxes restrictions-France24
US pushes Syria into the arms of Iran-Gulf News
Presidential Hopeful Edwards Urges Direct Talks With Iran, Syria-All Headline News
Syria, Iran Stress Identical Views-Fars News Agency
Syria, Iran to work against US & 'Zionists': report-IranMania News
Syria urges dialogue with US on all issues-Middle East Online
Palestinian group in Syria hails end to infighting, rejects Israel-Monsters and
Slow recovery in south Lebanon-BBC News

Syria Rejects Limited Talks With US-CBS News

Latest News Reports From the Daily Star For  20/02/07
Iran's Revolutionary Guards send message with war games
Iran televises public hanging of convicted bomber

Lebanon's opposition mulls civil disobedience
Italian senators air concern over threat to UNIFIL
India's UNIFIL contingent to provide prosthetic limbs
March 11 delegation visits Maronite patriarch
Yaroun mukhtar says Israel is occupying his land
Hariri court is 'not a means ... to seek revenge' - Rizk
Hoss holds talks with Assad in Damascus
Aoun's bloc accuses Justice Ministry of 'negligence'
Suleiman laments sectarian rift, lauds military's performance
Eco-tourism sector struggles to recover from wounds of war
Metn village asks for help to deal with washed out roads
Lebanese industrialists eye greener pastures abroad

Berri to Expose Those Hampering Hariri Tribunal
Naharnet: Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said that unless a settlement to the political impasse was reached soon, he will expose those obstructing the creation of an international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri. "If the situation remains like this, and things were not worked out, and we failed to find compromises, I will hold a news conference before the end of February to explain to the Lebanese everything from a to z," Berri said. "In short, I will expose those who are hampering the creation of the international tribunal and the formation of a national unity government because it is my duty to enlighten the Lebanese about these details," Berri said in an interview with the daily An Nahar published Tuesday.
Berri, who also heads the Amal movement, is one of the leaders making up the Hizbullah-led Opposition which has been staging an open-ended sit-in in downtown Beirut since Dec. 1 in an effort to topple Premier Fouad Saniora's government. Beirut, 20 Feb 07, 08:28

Explosive Charge Dismantled in Beirut
Naharnet: Security forces safely dismantled an explosive charge concealed in a tire near the Hajj Hussein Ouwaini Palace in Beirut, the National News Agency reported Tuesday. It said the explosive was discovered at noon at a tire repair shop just a few meters away from the palace in the Bir Hassan neighborhood on the airport road. NNA said a junk vendor who was only identified by his initials came in asking the shopkeeper to change his tire.
As he removed the rim, the shop owner found the explosive attached to an alarm and immediately called security forces who cordoned off the area and dismantled the charge, NNA said. It said police arrested the junk vendor for interrogation. Footage from New TV showed Lebanese army troops and a police jeep near the Ouwaini palace. Beirut, 20 Feb 07, 14:27

Syrian Navy Kills Lebanese Fisherman
Naharnet: The Syrian navy has shot and killed a Lebanese fisherman as he sailed by boat in Syrian territorial waters, the National News Agency reported Tuesday. It said the Syrian navy opened fire on the boat, killing Diab Ahmed Ouyza. NNA said his brother, Nimr, who was on the boat with him, escaped unharmed. It said the Lebanese navy towed the boat to the northern port of Tripoli.NNA said investigation was underway. Beirut, 20 Feb 07, 13:02

Chirac Urges Unity at Ceremony Honoring Hariri in Paris
Naharnet: French President Jacques Chirac has expressed regret that the "ghost of discord" is threatening Lebanon and urged unity among Lebanese.
Chirac, at a ceremony in memory of slain ex-Premier Rafik Hariri at the "Institut du Monde Arabe" in Paris late Monday, said "the ghost of discord and confrontations is once again laying its menacing shadows over Lebanon.""No one wants to live this nightmare again," the French president said.
He warned that unless the "Lebanese make efforts" to resolve the ongoing political crisis, Lebanon will be dragged into a "deadly slide."
"I urge all Lebanese to return to the path of unity" to avoid sliding into civil war," Chirac said at the ceremony which was also attended by his wife Bernadette, Hariri's widow Nazek and other Hariri family members. Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh as well as other Lebanese leaders and Arab ambassadors were present at the "Institut du Monde Arabe." Beirut, 20 Feb 07, 10:42

Hoss: Assad Supports International Tribunal
Naharnet: Former Premier Salim Hoss said after a visit to Damascus that Syrian President Bashar Assad supports the creation of an international tribunal to prosecute suspects in the murder of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri. Hoss told state-run TeleLiban channel (TL) after winding a one-day visit to Damascus on Monday that Assad "informed me he is not against the international tribunal and that he is with everything the Lebanese agree upon."
The Syrian Arab News Agency, SANA, said Hoss and Assad discussed the repercussions of tensions in both Iraq and the Palestinian territories as well as security situations in Lebanon and Syria. Hoss, who met with King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, stressed that he was not acting as a mediator between the feuding Lebanese sides. He said that he asked King Abdullah whether there was a possibility to sponsor an agreement similar to that of Mecca between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniya last week.Hoss told TL that he will also be visiting Tehran "very soon." Beirut, 20 Feb 07, 11:01

Demand for Lebanese Armored Vehicles on the Rise
Wars, bombings and chronic insecurity in the Middle East are driving a multi-million dollar boom in business for Lebanese companies that specialize in manufacturing armored vehicles. "Between Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan, we have excellent business, in the millions of dollars," said the manager of one armored vehicles company who did not wish to reveal his identity. The sector's business took a sharp turn for the better after the region went into a period of instability following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Dozens of armored vehicles have since been assembled in Lebanon, with prices ranging between 100,000 dollars and 200,000 dollars. "Since 2003, I sold more than 100 cars in Iraq, including 47 to the U.S. embassy" in Baghdad, said Patrick Awad, manager at Yaka Group which has an annual turnover of three million dollars.
Awad's client base includes foreign embassies, Iraqi officials, multinational companies, private security firms and U.N. peacekeepers.
"It is easier and cheaper for them to bring the car from Lebanon, instead of the United States," he said, adding that the Middle East's share in the global market for armored vehicles has been on the rise since the 2003 Iraq war. Awad, who drives an armored four-wheel-drive, expects business to boom in Iraq even more with the arrival of an additional 21,000 U.S. soldiers to the war-torn country. In Lebanon, demand has been on the rise since the November 2006 assassination of Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel as well as deadly street clashes last month between opposition and government followers. Clients are mostly government ministers, MPs and businessmen.
"In the last two months, we registered a rise in demand by between 60 and 70 percent," said the manager of the security company who requested anonymity. "Every time there is a verbal dispute (between the opposition and the government), we are swarmed by calls, even from simple citizens who want to know the price of an armored vehicle," he said. And demand is expected to further rise after the twin bus bombings last week which left three people killed in the town of Ain Alaq northeast of Beirut. Awad said the Beirut embassy of an Arab country has offered two armored vehicles to two MPs from a pro-government Christian party, but declined further specifics.
Demand ranges from bullet-proof windows to the assembly of a completely armored body in order for the vehicle to resist gunshots and explosions. Clients also ask for tires that will keep rolling even when pierced. Over a period of between four to six weeks, a vehicle can be taken apart and reassembled piece by piece with armored materials. It will eventually weigh between 700 kilograms and a ton. As a quality guarantee, security firms offer authenticity certificates for materials imported from the United States, Germany and Italy. The security firms also offer armored vehicles for rent, starting at 1,000 dollars a day with a driver. Lured by the rising profits of the market, some mechanics in Beirut's suburbs have also started assembling armored vehicles."They are killing prices, but the clients should be cautious. Security costs money," said a mechanic.(AFP) Beirut, 20 Feb 07, 07:38

From Amil Imani
Thursday, February 15, 2007 -
Time and again we are told by the politically correct “experts” not to worry about Islam posing a threat to our way of life. We are repeatedly lectured that only a very small minority of Muslims are troublemakers who are giving the peaceful masses of Muslims a bad name. We are also informed that the terrorists, who happened to be Muslims, are the disaffected and the young. And not to worry, since as the fire of youth turns to ashes of old age the rebellious will mellow, as they always have.
With heavy assurances like this, coming from so many know-it-all authoritative figures, we can sleep soundly without the aid of sleeping pills. After all, people reason that these pundits are “experts” whose job is to know and tell it like it is. Those who voice contrary views must be a bunch of racist, alarmist hate mongers. Who is right?
Wouldn’t it be more prudent to let the facts settle the matter, rather than blindly accepting either position? Of course it would, except for one huge problem. In the face of threats, people tend to go to the mind’s medicine cabinet and take a few denial and rationalization pills, in the same way that it is the aspirin bottle they turn to when a headache strikes. Why not? We are the Easy Species. We love effortless, quick and simple solutions. And that’s not invariably bad. It has given us all kinds of labor and time saving devices.
Yet, the Islam problem is very real and deadly. Neither the pronouncements of the experts, nor the tranquilizing pills of the mind can make it go away. It is here and it shows every sign of imposing itself on us. Let us look at some of the facts.
* Not every Muslim wears an explosive vest ready to detonate in the midst of a crowd of innocent civilians, yet there are more volunteers for the mission than there are explosive vests. The Islamic Republic of Iran, for instance, hasn’t even officially joined this form of jihad. Yet, by its own admission, it has over 10,000 volunteers trained ready to be deployed, and thousands more queuing to join in. This time around, the jihadists heading for Allah’s heaven might come fitted with nice little suitcases of dirty bombs instead of the bulky explosive vests. Recall that it took only 19 of these killers to launch the aerial mass murder of 9/11 that killed 3,000 people, shattered our open trusting way of life, and cost us billions of dollars.
* The jihadists are not confined to a minority of disaffected Muslim youth. How young are Bin Laden, his deputy doctor of death Al Zawahiri, mullah Omar of the Taliban, Khamenei and Refsanjani of Iran, just to name a few? How disaffected are they? Muhammad Ata, leader of the 19 airborne thugs and the decapitator of Wall Street Journal reporter Pearl were somewhat younger, yet well-healed and Western educated.
* Just coin some terms such as the “Melting Pot,” or “Multiculturalism” and you have the problem solved? Roll out the red carpet for the immigrant Muslims, treat them as you would your own citizens, give them stipends, medical care, and free education and they will integrate seamlessly into the society? No such thing at all. The idea of Melting Pot may work with people who come from different lands to make the new country their home. The Islamists, on the other hand, come with the belief that they already own the place and want to make it part of the Ummeh. Some forty percent of second and third generation Muslim Britons reject British democracy, express their allegiance to Islam and want to live under Sharia. So much for the Melting Pot comfort pill.
* The new Islamist arrivals take advantage of the provisions of the most benign system known to humanity, democracy, to implode it from within. Muslims, by sheer numbers, will soon be in a position to vote out democracy in many countries. They are already doing that in bits and pieces. They are imposing many of their values, in a number of societies, even while they are in the minority. Politicians, hungry for votes and devoted to the practice of political correctness bend backward to accede to Islamists’ demands.
* As for Multiculturalism, it is even more of a delusion than the Melting Pot myth. It is a second generation Comfort Pill. Since the Melting Pot proved to be worse than a placebo, the politically correct gave us the new pill. A glance at Europe shows how Multiculturalism in fact has served as the incubator of Islamism in no time at all. Europe’s Multiculturalism is rapidly birthing a Uniculturalism, if the Islamists’ medieval way of life can be dignified as a culture.
* Respect for diversity, separation of religion and state, freedom of belief and expression, are pillars of democracy, yet anathema to Islam. In no Islamic land do you find an ecumenical organization. It is only in non-Islamic countries that the shameless duplicitous Muslim, be he an imam, a mullah, or a regular run-of-the- mill faithful of Allah, meekly participates in ecumenical feel-good gatherings.
* To Muslims, no other religion is deemed worthy of recognition, much less accommodation. There is not a single church or synagogue or a Buddhist temple in all of Saudi Arabia. They are barred. The Islamic Republic of Iran’s raft of genocidal pogroms includes the heinous practice of bulldozing even the cemeteries of its Baha’i religious minority. The Islamic tyranny of the mullahs imprisons Christian Iranians for celebrating Christmas. Egypt denies its own citizens identity cards for refusing to lie and fake their religious belief or disbelief. The ID cards are required for education, securing work, receiving medical care and just about every right of citizenship. Without it, a citizen is literally subjected to slow death.
* In Islam only Muslim men, and, to a lesser extent, Muslim women, are entitled to certain rights. All non-Muslims, including the so-called people of the book, namely Christians and Jews, are at best second-class subject, subjects who must pay the back-breaking Jezyyeh, poll tax, for their “sin” of not converting to Islam. So, as Islam makes its inroads in new lands, as its membership swells through explosive birth and conversion, secular democracies will be inevitably replaced by Islamism with its stone-age Sharia laws. The best offer that Islam will make is to spare the non-Muslim’s life if he puts on the heavy yoke of Jezyyeh for the rest of his living days.
* Not to worry about the horrific things that are happening on the other side of the world? If Muslims act heinously toward non-Muslims, it is just the way things are in those countries and it is hardly any of our business? This is the same attitude that set Islamization of Europe on a seemingly irreversible track. One European country after another is rapidly buckling under the weight of Islamism.
* Most importantly, not to worry about Islamization of our country? After all, Muslims are about 6-7 million minority in a population of nearly 300 million, you reason? That even a smaller number of these Muslims are hothead radicals, while the majority is just like everyone else? But small minorities can overwhelm the majority by use of coercion and deadly force. Islamists are notorious for their dedication to the use of force for achieving their aims. The Taliban were a very small minority in Afghanistan, the Islamists were a tiny faction in the 1979 Islamic Revolution of Iran. Both overwhelmed the masses and imposed their reign of terror. The terrorist Hamas is also a “minority” in number, yet it rules the Palestinian Territory. Hizbollah of Lebanon is a minority, yet it has taken the country to the verge of destruction.
* Islamists are Islam’s locomotive that takes the wrecking-ball Islamic train on its demolition course. Islam and democracy are incompatible. As democracies practice their magnificent accommodating belief, they knowingly or unknowingly lay the track for the advancing wrecking train of Islam. We, in the United States of America must resist Islamism while it is still gathering momentum, unless we wish to end up in the same fix as the Europeans.
* We, in the United States, further need to embark on a comprehensive legal, educational, and social campaign to eradicate the deadly plague of Islam. By effective action, we even save those peaceful Muslims from their own affliction. I am not hatemongering. I would love to see all Muslims become ex-Muslims and full-fledged members of a diverse tolerant democratic society. It is a statement of fact about what Islam is. Islam is a highly communicable pandemic violent disease that demands urgent and serious containment.
Europe is already badly infected with Islamism. It is the coal-miners’ canary. It is telling us that the next stop is America. We must act and act now. We must not sacrifice our cherished way of life and the lives of our children at the altar of political correctness: the incubator of Islamofascism.
Amil Imani is an Iranian-born American citizen and pro-democracy activist residing in the United States of America. He maintains a website, Amil Imani

How Canada can help contain the Iranian threat
David Harris and Sayeh Hassan - 2/19/2007
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.

Lebanon's politicians can learn a lot from its army commander
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
The commander of Lebanon's armed forces has little in common with the vast majority of the country's politicians: General Michel Suleiman speaks only infrequently to the media - and when he does, he seems to have actually thought about the impact his words might have. Both the pro- and anti-government camps would do well, therefore, to heed the advice - and imitate the tone - contained in remarks attributed to the general by An-Nahar newspaper on Monday. Having demonstrated a rare sense of honor by offering his resignation after the violent clashes in Beirut last month (an offer that Defense Minister Elias Murr summarily and sensibly rejected), Suleiman used the interview to defend the military's role, to acknowledge its deficiencies, and to articulate its potential as a catalyst for the creation of a Lebanese identity. It is no surprise that his appraisal of the armed forces was more realistic than those bandied about by unqualified civilian politicians, but it was refreshing to hear him outdo them on other matters as well.
Suleiman may have been stating the obvious when he noted that the country needs a unified defense policy, but dozens of such "no-brainier" observations have eluded Lebanese politicians for generations. His explanation that some donations of equipment have to be turned down for lack of maintenance capacity had to be sobering for the armchair generals who have ignorantly and irresponsibly castigated the army's performance during the January riots. Unlike them, he also understands that only when Lebanon has a viable defense doctrine in place can it intelligently go about the business of obtaining the appropriate hardware. And he knows that only when Lebanese politicians stop seeing the military as a partisan player in their endless squabbles will soldiers be able to carry out their mission of defending the Lebanese people against foreign threats. Until then, Suleiman seems rightly determined to use the forces at his disposal to protect those same people from one another - and from reckless politicking.
In essence, the general is asking the military's civilian masters to help him help them - and their constituents. The political mind that fails to appreciate the necessity of a solid, professional and non-politicized military will also be incapable of seeing the utility in a restructuring of the state, full implementation of the Taif Accord, a sensible electoral law and various other missing pillars on which the Lebanese might build a genuinely democratic country whose inhabitants can start seeing themselves as something other than members of individual tribes.
Lebanon's politicians can help by ending unhelpful pressure on the army to play a partisan role. Lebanon's allies, including everyone from the Americans to the Iranians, can do the same by revisiting their respective approaches in order to ensure that their assistance is of a sort that solves problems instead of creating and/or exacerbating them.

Syria's terror networks
By Farid N. Ghadry
February 20, 2007
The Syrian regime is just as complicit as Iran in moving forward hostile activities specifically designed to kill Americans. The evidence is there and widely acknowledged by those in the know, but U.S. political and military leadership have proved hesitant to publicly pursue a tandem case against both Iran and Syria, despite the very prominent linkages that exist between the two in fermenting a wide spectrum of terror operations targeting U.S. forces.
The recent implication of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Qods Force in facilitating the movement of deadly weapons and "super" IEDs specially designed to inflict maximum casualties and penetrate armor speaks to only one half of the real story.
Regional intelligence services and inside sources from within Sunni officer corps opposed to the Assad regime have identified major foreign-fighter training camps in northern Syria and just outside Damascus overseen by Syrian Military Intelligence and run by former Iraqi Ba'athi Generals and senior Saddam Fedayeen commanders.
One major foreign fighter camp exists in the Latakia province in northern Syria, a mountainous area replete with Syrian Military Intelligence facilities and wide swaths of ostensibly government property closed to the public. The Iraqi officer in charge there is one Maj. Gen. Majid Sulayman. Yet another such camp exists 40 kilometers to the west of the border town of Qamishli, which lies in the Kurdish area in the northeastern tip of Syria bordering Iraq and Turkey; it is run by Maj. Gen. Qays al-Adhami. The al-Shaybani camp lies 30 kilometers south of Damascus and also trains foreign fighters. The al-Ikhals camp lies in the heart of the Qaysun mountain range near Damascus.
The al Qaeda connection is not that far removed. Arab papers report that the recent movement of large numbers of al Qaeda in Iraq fighters from Syria into Palestinian refugee camps in northern Lebanon and Beirut are sounding alarm bells that the Syrian security services are preparing to use these heavily armed and visibly well-funded cells to launch attacks against the anti-Syrian democratic government of Lebanon.
These cells are directed by Syrian extremists such as Shakir Absi, Abu Qa Qa, Sheikh Hashem Minqara and Abu-Khalid Imlah, who have historical ties with Syrian intelligence; all were formerly imprisoned in special detention centers run by the Political Security Directorate and then suddenly released by the good graces of Syrian security around the same time in 2005. Absi and Imlah maintain the strongest ties to Syrian intelligence. Absi -- a former officer in the Syrian air force -- and Imlah -- the former head of SMI -- supported Fatah al-Intifadah -- who later created his own Fatah al-Islam offshoot.
What's more, European security services are warning that senior al Qaeda leadership figures Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi and Atiyah Abdul-Rahman have tasked al Qaeda assets in the Levant to prepare for major international operations targeting Western Europe and even the U.S homeland. Operational planning is said to be progressing with potential targets already cased out. And these are just the Sunni extremists that the Syrians support.
Mr. Chizari, one of the major IRGC commanders netted by Coalition Forces in December, was present in Damascus a month prior to his capture where he was meeting with senior Syrian leadership and the Lebanese Hezbollah officials in charge of a specially designated "Force 2800" which focuses on supporting fellow radical Shi'ite groups like the ones responsible for the recent kidnapping and execution of four U.S. soldiers in Karbala.
Mr. Chizari is the deputy for Iraq operations to Brig. Gen. Qasim Soleimani, who in turn heads Qods Force external operations and is strategic guide to IRGC activities in the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. The super IEDs, also known as explosive formed penetrators, would never have proliferated so widely in Iraq had it not been for the work of IRGC officials like Gen. Soleimani and Mr. Chizari. Gen. Soleimani's other right-hand man, Ja'afar al-Ibrahimi, aka Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, also attended these meetings. Muhandis is a senior Badr Brigade operator with close ties to Hezbollah and a central node to the IRGC supply network to anti-U.S. Shi'ite militias in Iraq. Mr. Muhandis was also recently identified by the United States as being behind the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Kuwait in the early 1980s as well.
The Syrian-Iranian regime terror connection is further underscored by Gen. Soleimani's participation in high-level discussions on a monthly basis with Syrian leadership, including Assad's brother and brother-in law.
Imad Mugniyeh, the infamous Hezbollah special operations super-terrorist who still retains a $5 million bounty on his head -- placed by the FBI due to his role in planning the Marine barrack and embassy bombings in Beirut in 1982 -- is also said to attend these meetings. Sources say that Mugniyeh was designated by Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah as the head of Force 2800.
The case is apparent and it goes beyond the circumstantial. The Syrian regime is not merely dabbling in terror sponsorship in an ad hoc manner. This is a concerted and strategic effort designed to inflict the maximum punishment upon the United States and its allies, not just in the region but across the globe.
The full scope and depth of regime involvement in enabling acts of self-sustaining terror might never be known. But enough indicators have subsequently arisen within the shadow of Iran's own pernicious designs against the United States and struggling democratic allies in the Arab world, to realize that, left unchecked, we might find ourselves suddenly overwhelmed and outflanked by an enemy that, for the sake of expediency, was ignored.
**Farid N. Ghadry is president of the Reform Party of Syria.

Iran and the talent for making enemies
By Paul Salem
Commentary by
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
America's decision to target Iranian agents in Iraq who may be involved in supporting violent militias is but another sign of the massive influence Iran is exercising in that troubled country. But the United States in fact facilitated Iran's growing influence by toppling Saddam Hussein's regime and that of the Taliban in Afghanistan, thus removing two factors that had kept the Iranian regime hemmed in for the last two decades. Moreover, high oil prices have filled the Iranian national treasury, and Iran is benefiting from the opportunity created by America's being bogged down in Iraq and the growing international weight of Russia and China.
Iran is also reaping the returns of long-term investments. It has supported Iraqi Shiite groups since the early 1980s and has an equally longstanding alliance with Syria. In Lebanon, Iran helped create Hizbullah, which recently survived a head-on war with Israel and is the leading opponent of the anti-Syrian, Western-backed government. Iran's investment in Palestine is more recent, but its backing for the Hamas-led government, which has been frustrated elsewhere, is no less significant. A country of 70 million, Iran also has potential influence over Shiite communities in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates.
Iran's rise is causing alarm in the Arab Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia and Jordan, but also in Egypt. Though a Shiite country in an overwhelmingly Sunni region, Iran's radical Islamism resonates with the politicized Islamism that is energizing most Arab opposition movements, and its militant opposition to the US and support for groups that engage Israel in battle is very popular in the so-called "Arab street" and in the Arab media. At another level, Iran's rise, reinforced by its suspected bid for nuclear weapons, threatens to awaken historical hostilities between Sunnis and Shiites and between Persians and Arabs.
Both Iran and the Arab countries are struggling to come to terms with the consequences of Iran's newfound assertiveness. To be sure, Iran's longstanding support for regional Shiite groups is paying off. But its successes in Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine are creating great anxiety, and even hostility, in some quarters. The rapid Shiite rise has already turned into a sectarian civil war in Iraq and recently has threatened to generate the same outcome in Lebanon.
If Iran does not properly manage its growing power, it could unwittingly trigger a drawn-out sectarian war throughout the region, a nuclear arms race with Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and war with Israel, the US, or both. The ensuing crises could change the behavior of major Sunni powers, such as Egypt and Turkey, which have at times been dominant in the region, but lately have been disengaged. Too many Iranian successes, and too many Sunni debacles, could also lead to immense pressure in Syria, where a minority Alawite regime dominates a Sunni majority. The loss of Damascus would cost Iran its influence in Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine in one go.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's administration is maintaining its radical rhetoric, perhaps looking ahead to a post-Bush era, when the US has withdrawn from Iraq and Iran has developed nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, Iran also feels a need for accommodation with its adversaries. For example, while Iran may not be happy with the American presence in Iraq, it realizes how close the country is to full-scale civil war. As a result, it has expressed a willingness to cooperate with the US on finding a soft landing for Iraq. Likewise, while Iran supports Hizbullah, it has also held the party back from measures that might trigger a further Sunni backlash in the region. In the Gulf, Iran has tried to reassure its Arab neighbors that Iranian power is not aimed against them and can, in fact, be a pillar of Gulf security.
But the Arab world is divided over how to deal with the sudden rise in Iranian power. The tension is particularly acute in Saudi Arabia, which has warned the US about the dangers of Iraq's possible collapse and now finds itself in an unequal face-off with Iran. Some in the kingdom argue that Saudi Arabia must confront Iran, stand up for Sunni Arab interests, and become a hands-on regional power. Other Saudis believe that confrontation will only lead to wider wars and are urging dialogue and accommodation. In their view the US, not Iran, was behind the region's current problems.
Iran's regional foreign policy has not yet caught up with its new pre-eminence; it is making as many enemies as it is gaining friends, and it might squander the windfall gains that it made in the past three years. If Iran and the Arab countries - and alongside them the US and the international community - do not manage today's tensions wisely, the region could enter a period of protracted warfare.
But there is a way forward, because all players in the region share an interest in security and stability. Leaders in Tehran, Riyadh, Washington, and other key capitals must realize the costs of further mismanagement, step back from the brink, and work toward cooperative solutions before it is too late.
**Paul Salem is the director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. THE DAILY STAR publishes this commentary in collaboration with Project Syndicate (