January 1/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 2,41-52.
Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, "Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety." And he said to them, "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced (in) wisdom and age and favor before God and man.

Free Opinions

2007: Strategic Thinking Needed in Fighting Global Jihad- By Jeffrey Imm -Counterterrorism Blog 01/01/07
Media Decline in Lebanon?By: Walid Choucair-Dar Al-Hayat 01.01.07

Latest news from Miscellaneous sources for January 01/07
France Reaffirms Support for Saniora's 'Elected' Government-Naharnet
Fadlallah Warns of Discord Among Muslims after Saddam's Execution-Naharnet

Lebanese Cardinal Warns Street Protests Can Easily Turn Into ...AINA -
France stresses its support for Lebanon government-Ya Libnan
Lahoud: Lebanon on 'Same Track' with Iran, Syria-Naharnet
Somalia as an allegory-Ha'aretz
Shiites push for power after Lebanon war-Pioneer Press
Fraser was warned on Lebanese migrants-The Australian
The Lebanonization of Gaza-Israel Today
Messing Up the Middle East-New California Media
Syrian journalist: Israel should brace for terror in Golan-Ynetnews
Syria expert: Assad's overtures serious-Jerusalem Post
Lebanon's President pledges allegiance to Syria and Iran-Ya Libnan
Crackdown as Lebanese refugee program gets out of hand-The Age - Melbourne,Victoria,Australia
JABARA: Hired Killers Get The Rope, Criminals Walk Free!Jihad Unspun - West Vancouver,British Columbia,Canada
Americans Think Saudi Arabia, Israel Are American Allies-Arutz Sheva
Lebanon wasn'ta failure?Ha'aretz
Risks, Perils and Potential Disasters of 2007-Iran Press Service
2007: LOOKING AHEAD-Houston Chronicle
Execution of justice: New year, new goals with Saddam gone-Boston Herald - United States
In the IDF's backyard-Ha'aretz
Saddam's illicit billions still missing-United Press International

France Reaffirms Support for Saniora's 'Elected' Government
France on Sunday reaffirmed its support for the "elected" government of Premier Fouad Saniora, stressing that Lebanon's stability is an "important contribution to world stability."The remark was made by visiting French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie after separate talks with her Lebanese counterpart Elias al-Murr and Saniora. "Stability in Lebanon is stability for the region (Middle East), but it also is an important contribution to world stability … France will maintain its serious efforts to help Lebanon and its government," she announced. Alliot-Marie said her visit to Lebanon had "two goals: First to express France's support for Premier Saniora and the elected Lebanese government which enjoys the full legitimacy to safeguard Lebanon's sovereignty."
The visit's second goal, she added, was "to provide our support in the defense issue." Alliot-Marie discussed with Murr and Saniora "needs of the Lebanese army, which we seek to provide by direct French support as well as by French effort to convince other states to participate in providing such needs."
"What we do at the defense level coincides with what would happen at the Pasris-3 conference (of donors) at the economic and social levels. We hope the whole international community would take part in supporting the economic and social status in Lebanon." The Paris-3 conference is scheduled for Jan. 25. Irrespective of the ongoing political crisis in Lebanon, Alliot-Marie said, the donors' conference should be held "because we cannot address a government crisis by adding a socio-economic crisis to it." She said the11,700 present troop level of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was "sufficient to support the (15.000-strong) Lebanese Army contingent deployed in south Lebanon … it is a relatively small area and citizens should not feel that there is a soldier for every four civilians" there.
U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 which ended a 34-day war between Hizbullah and Israel last Aug. 14 had set UNIFIL troop level at 15.000 soldiers.
"This means that we cannot go beyond 15.000 soldiers … The present troop level is sufficient to guarantee a stable situation and there is no need for more troops" in the territory that was held by Hizbullah when the war broke out on July 12, Alliot-Marie stressed.
She said the United Nations had asked France to deploy some un-manned reconnaissance planes in Lebanon and "we are considering the matter, but no decision has been taken."France is a major contributor to UNIFIL along with 20 other nations. Beirut, 31 Dec 06, 16:37

Fadlallah Warns of Discord Among Muslims after Saddam's Execution
The United States is using the execution of Saddam Hussein to sow discord among Muslims, a leading Lebanese Shiite cleric said Sunday.
"Some countries are trying to exploit yesterday's execution of the dictator Saddam Hussein, who is Sunni, in order to provoke discord between Sunnis and Shiites," ٍSayed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah said in a message marking Eid al-Adha or the feast of the sacrifice. "Beware of such discord because it's what the Americans want -- seeking revenge from the Muslim world and the destruction of Islam by launching a cultural, political, economic and security war," said Fadlallah who has followers throughout the Shiite Muslim world. "Some say that Saddam was Sunni, but in fact he was a dictator who persecuted his own people and his adversaries without regard to their confession," Sunni or Shiite, he said. Saddam, whose Sunni-dominated regime was replaced by an elected Shiite-led government after he was toppled in 2003, was hanged on Saturday for ordering the death of 148 Shiite men and boys from the village of Dujail after a 1982 attempt on his life there.
Iraq is in the grip of an increasingly bloody conflict between Sunnis and Shiites in what some have called a civil war.(AFP)
Beirut, 31 Dec 06, 15:56

Media Decline in Lebanon?
Walid Choucair Al-Hayat - 31/12/06//
Are we witnessing the decline of the Lebanese media, because of the way it has dealt with the crisis of the small country, whose media leadership, among other factors and elements, some of which are more important, made it a pioneer in its region and, therefore, greater than its real size?
It is difficult for any one who belongs to this profession to write about or criticize its flaws to the extent that he may take a swipe at his colleagues, even if he does not mention specific names. Given the professional code of ethics and the deep solidarity, among those professionals whose affiliation to this profession, whatever their political orientations are, is beyond a shadow of doubt, it rarely happened that the journalists breached that code of practice, because they shoulder the historical burden of professional traditions. If this happened, it would be considered as strange and bizarre behavior that the Elders of the profession would immediately put an end to.
It is certain that the fixed rule that blames the Lebanese media for the crises that have befallen the country, which is favored by some, is sheer injustice. However, it is favored by some politicians who believe that restricting the media is one solution to crises, which has been proved a failure because gagging the media does not eliminate the causes of the crisis.
The Lebanese media has been through structural crises and smear campaigns based on the other golden, correct rule which says that media is the mirror of the society whose problems, contradictions and crises are depicted in it. The Civil War, which lasted through the mid-1970s and early 1990s, was one of those crises that the Lebanese media overcame with great difficulty. The succession of other crises, however, was met with the renewal of blood in the profession at the level of institutions and individuals. The golden rule may help explain what happened during the Lebanese wars.
Nevertheless, the current political crisis in Lebanon encompassed the media and brought a severe and destructive effect on the country. Instead of the war, which usually imposes itself on the behavior of media institutions, the media has become a military means but without warfare.
And because many aspects of the current crisis are fabricated, many of the slogans were designed to cover up the reality of the crisis, which some political forces do not dare to announce, and political mobilization most of the time turns into sectarian and factional mobilization; the damages to the credibility of the Lebanese media are now greater than the damage inflicted on the economy.
Instead of the partisan and factional media institutions being influenced by the public media institutions that target a wider audience, so that they moderate their views to win over some audience, the opposite has happened. Public media institutions became subordinate to partisan media institutions. They are striving to overtake them in order to win the support of the public, which has been mobilized for sectarian and factional reasons.
If some partisan media institutions have gone to the extent of incitement to murder, even if the charges they allege are fabricated, because of a political tactic they need, after the fashion of the dictatorial regimes that set up their enemies to stir the public against them and to justify their attack on them in preparation for liquidating them, some independent media institutions were lured to play the game of propaganda in order to overtake their opponents. Writers affiliated to these institutions tend to overuse expressions that have some sense of credibility to depict the fabricated charges as unquestionable political facts. They come up with analyses based on politically motivated lies as facts.
In light of the current Lebanese crisis, the thin line, which is indispensable to the media, that separates affiliation and independence, courage and rudeness, shrewdness and maliciousness, and humor and charm, has been cut off.
If absolute neutrality is one of the impossibilities, the effort exerted by the media to win some neutrality, leads to granting it a high degree of objectivity. Also, uncontrolled sentiments of alignment and affiliation lead to what is even worse than the loss of credibility, which is governed by professional rules. Consequently, the media becomes a means to increase ugly hatred.
The Lebanese media has become involved in the dirty game to the extent that if the Lebanese economic losses over the past months equal a 5% decrease in economic growth, the media will lose part of a professional generation that was brought up on traditions that have nothing to do with the profession. This will be too difficult to make up for.
When the media becomes a substitute for the actual war, it means that some figureheads and staff working in institutions have become deviant, something that is not easy to fix. It also means that some institutions, including some that work for different affiliations, are full of hatred, rancor and intrigues that distort their professionalism. Therefore, the decline of such institutions along with the entire profession no longer seems strange.

2007: Strategic Thinking Needed in Fighting Global Jihad
By Jeffrey Imm -Counterterrorism blog 31/12/06
The United States of America has some of the smartest leaders in government, military, and business in the world. Yet the American government has failed to collectively use this formidable brain-power 5+ years after the attack by Jihadists on the American homeland to develop a truly strategic plan to fight the global threat of Jihad and Islamist extremism. In one of the most complex wars in American history, rather than starting with holistic, big-picture thinking towards the challenges and prioritizing resources and actions accordingly, America has spent much of the past five years after 9/11 in reactive and bureaucratic churning.
The recent reports about a lack of understanding of the role of individual Islamic groups in Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda by the new House Intelligence Panel Chairman and lack of knowledge of Sunni/Shiite groups by some FBI counterterrorism executives are not "isolated incidents". Nor is the limited number of FBI agents with Arabic language skills - five years after 9/11 - an "isolated problem". While these stories may exaggerate the limitations and educational challenges in such groups, they highlight the problem for American government in prioritization of education and resources, due to lack of a fundamental blueprint and analysis in understanding the larger problem of Jihad and global Islamist extremism. This lack of a blueprint prevents the government leadership from effectively evaluating options and priorities.
Recently, Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark O. Schissler has stated that the fight against Islamist extremism will be a "generational war" with both military and ideological components comparable to the Cold War against Communism. However, what Brig. General Schissler does not share is the national blueprint that America needs to be using for this generational war, that has been reviewed and analyzed by national leaders and scholars of Jihad and global Islamist extremism, that is needed for such a long-term effort, which is vastly more than simply military and "counterterrorism" activities. As Douglas Farah has pointed out, "[t]here is very little work being done in looking at the 10 to 20 year horizon on where Islamists are now", but mostly 3 to 5 year horizon thinking typically done n the Pentagon and Intelligence Community. This is yet another symptom of the larger problem in the lack of any larger, overall national strategic blueprint that focuses on all aspects of the global challenge.
The American government has been able to develop a group to investigate and issue a report on the 9/11 attacks, resulting in a 9/11 Commission Report, and now an Iraq Study Group, but it has yet to develop a cross-section of American scholars and leaders to research and develop a strategy on national countermeasures against global Jihad and Islamist extremist activity. There is no "Islamist Study Group" or "Jihadist Study Group" as a blueprint for government countermeasures in the larger global war, which requires greater political fortitude to face up to. As a result, American policy is focused on individual tactics in military battles in individual countries, and strategic assumptions related to "counterterrorism" and "homeland security" tactics - all of which, while more politically correct, provide a false sense of accomplishment. None of these tactical focuses can replace the need for a larger, strategic vision that encompasses all tactical aspects of the war, including but not limited to: cultural, demographic, economic, energy, educational, communications, intelligence (domestic and foreign), preparedness, law enforcement, and military areas.
Individuals have provided ground-breaking efforts to provide components of such a blueprint. For example, Walid Phares has provided a thorough analysis of Islamist groups in his book "Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies Against America", and has been promoting more thorough education on Jihad. Mark Steyn has provided an incisive analysis of cultural and demographic challenges in his recent book "America Alone". Steven Emerson provided ground-breaking work in analyzing the Jihadist groups in America in his book "American Jihad". Robert Spencer has provided in depth analysis of the Islamist basis for Jihad in his many books. Numerous other scholars have provided valuable educational components to be used in a national blueprint that is yet to be created to guide America's efforts in fighting Jihadists. But the blueprint effort has not yet started, and it must be a priority for the American government in 2007.
In 2004, the Netherlands government published a study, "From Dawa to Jihad", detailing the threats from radical Islam. The value of this type of study is in its focus towards studying the concepts of such Islamist extremism as a basis for a national debate on potential countermeasures. The American government needs these types of studies and a national debate on the larger strategic issues of the global Jihadist and Islamist challenge in 2007.
While the Jihadists and Islamists have no singular approach, the diverse factions of the enemy have a consistency in a long-term strategy towards imposing Sharia on an ever-expanding Islamist world or in establishing a caliphate. The ability of Jihadists and Islamists to focus on long-term, strategic planning is what the USA lacks in countering such challenges on a global basis, ranging from the more parochial objectives of Islamists in individual nations who seek to establish Islamist governments to the Al-Qaeda "20 year plan".
Why has the United States government been so incapable of addressing this national blueprint and study group for addressing Jihadist and Islamist threat?
There are multiple problems here:
1. Reactive, tactical thinking for quick-fix approaches to the Jihadist problem and achieving "homeland security". As virtually all of the government planning regarding the Jihadist problem has been a reaction to the 9/11 attacks, it is predictable that such thinking would be highly tactical, reactive, and focused on near-term protective and military measures. This was perhaps excusable or at least understandable 1 to 6 months after the 9/11 attacks. It is now 5+ years after 9/11 attacks, however, and this excuse has long since run its course. But the government approach towards addressing the Jihadist problem is no more robust or strategic than it was in the early months of 2002. The organizational approach to "homeland security" is based on such reactive thinking, and has developed a bureaucracy based on such organization. Yet there has been no determination as to what the term "homeland security" even means in a larger sense other than a reaction to the 9/11 attacks, and certainly not as a component in a larger government blueprint regarding Jihad and global Islamism. Thus, there is no "homeland security" for the economy, culture, demographics, and dozens of other war components vital for winning the long term war.
2. Believing that fighting "terrorism" itself is an end, when terrorism is only one tactic in a larger, global Jihadist strategy. Thus, we have a "War on Terror", and neither the true enemy nor the true threat is clearly identified. Furthermore, the focus on both military objectives and "counterterrorism" lack context within a well-defined war strategy and blueprint regarding Jihad and global Islamism, which has uses many other tactics other than terrorism to meet its objectives. While it is acknowledged that no terrorist attacks have taken place on the American homeland since 9/11, Jihadists have been and continue to use communications tactics, demographic tactics, political tactics, and economic tactics quite effectively against the USA and the rest of the world. We are hampered by the language which makes "counterterrorism" and "counterintelligence" sound unnecessarily robust, when we are really only addressing measures against a single tactic of war in both cases. We would not fight a military war with only anti-tank or anti-aircraft measures. Moreover, we would not fight any war solely on a military front. But in this war, the American government has thus far only prioritized military and counterterrorism activities.
3. Institutional failure in investigating what the Jihadist problem is and fully understanding it or developing a shared understanding that can be used for strategic planning. The American government seems to believe any serious investigation into Jihad and Islamism will be counterproductive to winning the hearts and minds of Moderate Muslims in fighting terrorism. This argument makes sense if America is only fighting "terrorists" and "terrorist activity". But the facts are that Jihadist terrorist activity is funded, supported, and based on larger Islamist organizations - ranging from educational centers to charities to political groups. Ignoring the basis for Jihadist terrorism leads to an endless pursuit of trying to cure symptoms without ever acknowledging or treating the source of the symptoms. America did not fear offending Germans in fighting Nazism or offending Russians in fighting Communism. Like past wars in fighting totalitarian ideologies, a thorough understanding is needed of these and a comprehensive, strategic war plan against every tactic is needed against such Jihad.
4. Mistaking the use of strategic assumptions in tactical approaches to issues as "strategic thinking" on the larger threat. For example, Michael Chertoff has frequently indicated that one of the strategic assumptions of DHS is to prevent a nuclear attack on American soil, with appropriate tactical emphasis on this. Such strategic assumptions in general tactics in an element of a war are not the same as an overall strategic thinking in fighting the larger war, and looking at all aspects of the war (economic, energy, communications, cultural, demographic, etc.). But this surface-level of strategic assumptions in both counterterrorism and in military engagements are as far as the American government is currently going. Situational strategic assumptions are not the same as a long-term, big-picture, war strategy.
Objections to strategic thinking and planning are plentiful and well-rationalized. The multitude and rationalization for these objections, however, do not make them any less wrong. And it is precisely this lack of strategic thinking and planning that Jihadists are truly counting on. As Bin Laden has repeatedly stated, he hopes that America will bankrupt itself pursuing individual avenues of military conflict against Jihadists: "We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy. Allah willing, and nothing is too great for Allah".
In 2007, it is time for the American government to step back, evaluate and identify the scope of the threat of global Jihad and Islamism, and wisely prioritize the best way to use our limited resources to fight this generational war. The fight against Jihad is a marathon, not a sprint, and America needs to fight smarter to win.
December 31, 2006

France stresses its support for Lebanon government
Sunday, 31 December, 2006 @ 4:19 PM
Beirut- French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie has reaffirmed France's support for the government of Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and the people of Lebanon, during a visit to its capital Beirut. "I have come to reaffirm France's support for the legitimate government of Lebanon," she told reporters after meeting her Lebanese counterpart Elias Murr on Sunday. The French minister, who arrived in Beirut on Saturday for a 48-hour visit, later met Prime Minister Siniora before heading to south Lebanon for New Year's Eve with the French contingent of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
Alliot-Marie also stressed Paris's backing for the Beirut government to "exercise its complete sovereignty ".
She also stressed French support for the Lebanese army "We have fully cooperated with the Lebanese army by providing the proper training and support to allow it to spread its authority throughout the country" Lebanon is undergoing a political crisis with the pro- Syrian and Iranian opposition led by Shiite movement Hezbollah seeking to bring down Siniora's government and install a government of national unity. The French UNIFIL troops are stationed about 20 KM (12 miles) east of the port city of Tyre ( Sour), at Deir Kifa. With a 1,600-strong force, France is the second largest contributor to UNIFIL, after Italy.  France will transfer shortly the command of the 11,000-strong UNIFIL force to Italy, the largest contributor with 2,300 soldiers Source: Agencies, Ya Libnan

Lahoud: Lebanon on 'Same Track' with Iran, Syria
President Emile Lahoud said in remarks published Sunday that Lebanon was on the same political track with Iran and Syria.
"We are with Iran and Syria because they are on the same track as ours and they support us politically," Lahoud was quoted by the daily Al Balad as saying.
He said the anti-Syrian majority camp "claims that we, together with the resistance (Hizbullah), are protégés of external powers. I tell them they are wrong. They are the protégés because they are fulfilling America's interest and consequently Israel's." "As for us, we only achieve what is good for Lebanon," Lahoud added.
Beirut, 31 Dec 06, 10:06

Lebanese Cardinal Warns Street Protests Can Easily Turn Into Mayhem
Posted GMT 12-29-2006 6:25:9 Beirut -- Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir said Thursday that the protests currently taking place in Lebanon can very easily engender chaos. Speaking during a meeting with a delegation of residents from the Bekaa regions of Baalbek and Deir al-Ahmar, Sfeir said that "protests like these are unfortunately allowed in Lebanon and if we look around us, we can see none of the countries allow their citizens to do what the Lebanese are doing these days.""Protests sometimes turn into mayhem, which we do not want," he added. The prelate said he hoped "Lebanon recovers its prosperity, security and peace."
The prelate also met with Reform and Change bloc MP Ibrahim Kenaan, who discussed with him the latest developments in the country. "The current crisis needs a solution rather than political disputes," Kenaan said. "The opposition, our parliamentary bloc and the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) stress the need to promote partnership and balance in the country through a true participation in authority," he added. The FPM member said that "this will be the starting point to a solution [to the current political deadlock]." Praising the "declaration of principles" issued by the Council of Maronite Bishops earlier in the month, Kenaan said that "we should shift from an oral support for the declaration to a practical one.""All the Lebanese, especially the Christians, should put that declaration into effect," he said.
Headed by Sfeir, the council issued a conciliatory statement earlier in December in which it provided for the divided Lebanese groups to follow to end the political crisis. The bishops' declaration included the implementation of "a code of honor" that would apply to all parties, the creation of an international tribunal to try former Premier Rafik Hariri's assassins, a new electoral law, and the formation of a "reconciliation" government that would hold early presidential elections.
Later in the day, Sfeir met with Education Minister Khaled Qabbani.
After the meeting, Qabbani said "the patriarch's voice is the voice of love and conscience, which unites all the Lebanese."Sfeir also met with Future Movement MP Hadi Hobeish."We support all the political stands taken up by Sfeir," Hobeish said. Several high-profile figures continued to flock to Bkirki on the occasion of Christmas. Internal Security Forces chief Major General Ashraf Rifi and Reform and Change bloc MP Ghassan Mokheiber held separate meetings with Sfeir. No comments were released after the meeting. Addressing popular delegations that also came to Bkirki from several Lebanese regions to extend their greetings, Sfeir said he hoped the coming days would bring "security and stability to this country."
"Lebanon cannot bear new crises in addition to the one it is living in," Sfeir said. "Every Lebanese has a role to play in the construction of the country."
Meanwhile, Future Movement MP Atef Majdalani said Thursday he expected "political storms" to continue, urging the Lebanese to avoid resorting to the streets and to "return home.""Will the current crisis continue to plague the country, especially with Hizbullah and its allies sticking to their stubbornness and demands?" Majdalani asked Voice of Lebanon radio.Stressing that the parliamentary majority has already asked the opposition to hold discussions about its demands, Majdalani said that "our hand is extended [to any initiative]."
By Maroun Khoury
Daily Star, Lebanon
© 2006, Assyrian International News Agency. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use.

Somalia as an allegory
By Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz Correspondent
Madeleine Albright, then United States ambassador to the United Nations and later secretary of state, commented in the summer of 1993: 'The decision we must make is whether to pull up stakes and allow Somalia to fall back into the abyss or to stay the course and help lift the country and its people from the category of a failed state into that of an emerging democracy.' This reads like a page from current President George W. Bush's book. And it is but one anecdotal example of the way Somalia could serve as an allegory for the state of the world.
The United States decided to 'stay the course' in Somalia of the early 1990s, just as in today?s Iraq; until it crashed into the bloodbath known today as 'Black Hawk Down.' The Somali militias intercepted two helicopters, slaughtered the Delta Force soldiers aboard and drove the superpower out with its tail between its legs. The Americans fled, but the chaos remained. Last week, as happens periodically between its bouts of oblivion, Somalia was again in the headlines. The Ethiopian army invaded it to drive the Union of Islamic Courts, which had taken over almost the entire country, out of the capital, Mogadishu.
The ongoing conflict in west Africa is complicated; it consists of tribal, religious, national and global struggles. Somalia was a pawn on the superpowers? game board in the days of the Cold War, and today it is a battlefield in another struggle, whose borders are blurrier. Many unique characteristics distinguish it from other battlefields, but there are many similarities as well. Like in the Palestinian Authority, the local population received some benefits from the Islamists? takeover: It received order instead of chaos, relatively proper conduct instead of rampaging corruption. And, like in Israel?s war in Lebanon, Ethiopia is acting in Somalia with the blessing of the Americans, who hope that it will defeat the Islamists, who are supported by global Jihad movements.
Somalia, which is riven among tribes and armed militias, is even more convenient than Lebanon for conducting such proxy wars. This is what happened between the U.S. and the Union of Islamic Courts; first using local militias, then through a friendly state. This is also what happened between Somalia's neighbors, Eritrea and Ethiopia, which are using its territory to settle other accounts, just as Iran, Syria and Israel did in Lebanon.
Like in the Gaza Strip, Iraq and Lebanon, forces greater than Somalia are involved in the struggles there. The temporary government, which is recognized by the West and was brought back to the capital by the American-trained Ethiopian army, is an extreme model of a wretched central government that cannot control the state of which it is nominally in charge. It is weaker than Mahmoud Abbas, shakier than Fouad Siniora and more isolated than Nuri al-Maliki. But the consequences of its weakness endanger the region in amazingly similar ways.
The ongoing arguments about the policy needed to restore a measure of quiet and sanity to the region are also painfully familiar. The U.S. and Europe deliberated and disagreed, for example, on whether the preferred approach was dialogue with the Islamists or trying to crush them. The possible involvement of an international force raises questions as to what mandate it would be given and who its members would be. Regional stability is also an issue. Could the clash in Somalia overflow and turn the entire region into a battlefield? How would a dangerous flare-up in a region adjacent to global oil routes affect the world?
The problems are similar, the actions are similar and the failures are similar. The Security Council has been shown up as incompetent, as it was in Darfur and Iran. The neighbors appear to be helpless, as they were in Lebanon and Palestine. America is being dragged straight into the heart of the great darkness.
'We can get in,' said the first George Bush?s national security advisor, Brent Scowcroft, when the question of sending American soldiers to Somalia was first raised. 'But how do we get out?'
At the beginning of last summer, in his testimony before the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations, Ted Dagne of the Congressional Research Service gave an answer that was appropriate to Somalia, but also to some of the other battlefields mentioned here. His answer should bring all the drafters of plans, writers of papers and planners of revolutions back to earth.
'The options for the United States are limited, and success largely depends on how Somalis manage their own affairs,' he said

Shiites push for power after Lebanon war
Associated Press
BEIRUT, Lebanon - Iraq's Shiites owe their new power over the government to the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein nearly four years ago. Many Lebanese Shiites would similarly like Israel's summer war with Hezbollah to be the seed of their political ascendancy.
Hezbollah's performance against a far superior Israeli army has bolstered the militia's standing within Lebanon's Shiite community, and across the Arab world.
Now, filling the center of Beirut with daily rallies, Hezbollah is pressing for a larger say in the running of Lebanon and an end to the Shiites' history of being poor and oppressed. "Hezbollah wants to change the political role of the Shiites from being led to leading and having a greater influence on decision-making," said Magnus Ranstorp, a Middle East expert who monitors the Lebanese group.
However, granting Shiites more power could mean rearranging the delicate political balance struck to bring an end to Lebanon's 15 years of civil war in 1990. And Christians and Sunni Muslims - some of them deeply upset that Hezbollah provoked the summer war by capturing two Israeli soldiers on Israel's own territory - strongly oppose any such change.
Some fear the push for more Shiite power could re-ignite the civil war. The struggle for power also could affect the wider Middle East since events in Lebanon - with just 4 million people - seem to have outsized consequences. Its 1975-90 civil war at various times drew in Israelis, Syrians, Iranians and military forces from the U.S. and several European nations.
And while Hezbollah has Christian allies on its side, the fight over Lebanon's future still is seen largely as a proxy battle between Iran, a Shiite theocracy backing Hezbollah, and the United States, which is supporting the government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, a Sunni.
Shiites complain that the power-sharing formula ending the civil war - an updating of the 1940s scheme melding various Christian and Muslim faiths into an independent Lebanon - doesn't match the reality of the Shiites as the largest single sect, perhaps a third of the population.
"What we have in Lebanon now is a sectarian formula, and that is the real problem Lebanon is facing," said a senior Hezbollah official, Sheik Mohammed Kawtharani. "The pact (that ended the civil war) is like a time bomb."
The current formula requires that the president be a Maronite Catholic, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of parliament - the weakest of the leadership posts - a Shiite.
To increase Shiite power, Hezbollah and its allies are demanding a veto-wielding share in a "national unity" government. On Dec. 1, they set out to force change, staging a massive sit-in outside government offices in Beirut and an open-ended series of demonstrations since.
"We are a people that will not be defeated in the battle of wills," Hezbollah's charismatic leader, Hassan Nasrallah, told hundreds of thousands of supporters in early December. "We will not leave the streets before achieving the goal that saves Lebanon."
Lebanon's Shiites have grown more assertive partly because of the new power of their fellow Shiites in Iraq. In the aftermath of last summer's war, too, Hezbollah became synonymous with Lebanon's Shiites more than ever. The other main Shiite group, the more secular and older Amal Movement, was largely eclipsed.
But critics caution that Hezbollah could strive too hard, too fast and falter in Lebanon's often treacherous politics.
Hezbollah's opponents already have accused it of serving the interest its patrons, Iran and Syria, more than of Lebanon. "We don't want Lebanon to be an arena of the wars of others," Prime Minister Saniora said earlier this month.
Critics also charge that Hezbollah's kidnapping of Israeli soldiers spurred widespread Israeli bombing of Lebanon's highways, bridges and electrical system. The extent of the damage also could force Hezbollah to avoid picking another fight with Israel for years, stopping it from using the military prowess on which it built its reputation. Sateh Noureddine, a Shiite expert on Hezbollah and managing editor of Beirut's As-Safir newspaper, sees Hezbollah facing many challenges as the business of war becomes the more complicated business of politics. At peace, Noureddine said, "Hezbollah is a much smaller force than it seems at times of war."

Fraser was warned on Lebanese migrants
Matthew Franklin
January 01, 2007
IMMIGRATION authorities warned the Fraser government in 1976 it was accepting too many Lebanese Muslim refugees without "the required qualities" for successful integration. The Fraser cabinet was also told many of the refugees were unskilled, illiterate and had questionable character and standards of personal hygiene. Cabinet documents released today by the National Archives under the 30-year rule reveal how Australia's decision to accept thousands of Lebanese Muslims fleeing Lebanon's 1976 civil war led to a temporary collapse of normal eligibility standards.
The emergence of the documents raises the question of whether the temporary relaxation might have contributed to contemporary racial tensions in Sydney's southwest, which exploded a year ago into race-based riots in Cronulla. Former prime minister Malcolm Fraser rejected yesterday any link and said modern Muslim youth felt alienated because governments had not done enough to help them integrate into the general community. "I suspect the schools weren't equipped (and) I suspect the communities weren't equipped," Mr Fraser told The Australian. But demographer Bob Birrell said the relatively depressed nature of Sydney's Muslim community could easily be linked to the lack of education and work skills of the 1970s migrants.
John Howard was accused of inflaming public hatred towards the Islamic community last February when he warned that aspects of Muslim culture posed an unprecedented challenge for Australia's immigration program. The Prime Minister said while he remained confident the overwhelming majority of Muslims would be successfully integrated, there were unique problems that previous intakes of migrants from Europe and Asia did not have.
"I do think there is this particular complication because there is a fragment which is utterly antagonistic to our kind of society, and that is a difficulty," he told The Australian then. "You can't find any equivalent in Italian, Greek, or Lebanese, or Chinese or Baltic immigration to Australia. There is no equivalent of raving on about jihad, but that is the major problem.
"I think some of the associated attitudes towards women (are also) a problem."
Mr Fraser's first full year in office, revealed in the papers released today, saw a frenzy of decision-making, with the cabinet making more than 2000 decisions and receiving more than 50,000 pages in submissions - twice the workload shouldered the year before by the Whitlam government. Troubled by a deteriorating economy, the government unleashed a razor gang to slash spending. The abrupt ideological shift from free-wheeling Labor idealism to economically dour conservatism triggered cabinet policy tensions and an epic battle between Mr Fraser and the bureaucracy on economic policy.
In September 1976, as a humanitarian response to the civil war raging at the time between Lebanese Christians and Muslims, cabinet agreed to relax rules requiring immigrants to be healthy, of good character and to have a work qualification. The war claimed 50,000 lives and displaced 600,000 people, many of whom fled to Cyprus, where Australia set up processing facilities in the capital, Nicosia. Australia accepted 4000 Lebanese immigrants in 1976.
A cabinet submission of November 30 called for a return to the normal arrangements. The Fraser government boosted immigration numbers from 55,000 in 1975-76 to 70,000 in 1976-77. Mr Fraser told The Australian that cabinet had relaxed entry qualifications as a humanitarian response to the Lebanese civil war in line with Australia's international responsibilities.
He said it would be wrong to assert that current tensions in the Muslim community came about because his government had allowed "bad people" to enter the country. Current racial tensions related to people born in Australia - not the immigrant refugees, he said. "From my point of view, I think the education system and the community have got to take a pretty fair part of the blame (for current problems)," Mr Fraser said. "If there were known to be problems in relation to the Lebanese, maybe the very pertinent question is: why weren't some special efforts made to ward off future difficulties?"
Immigration minister Michael MacKellar told colleagues in 1976 officials had cited concerns about health and character requirements, personal qualities and the migrants' ability to integrate. Whereas earlier Lebanese intakes had involved an even split of Christians and Muslims, the submission said 90 per cent of the migrants were Muslims and that a high percentage were illiterate and unskilled.
The officials had warned that many refugees were misrepresenting their background during interviews in "deliberate attempts to conceal vital information", Mr MacKellar reported. And he said most of the applicants were being sponsored by relatives living in Sydney's southwest, where overcrowding was emerging along with evidence that husbands were leaving wives and children "without adequate support" to travel to Lebanon seeking displaced relatives.
The Commonwealth Employment Service and Department of Social Security had reported difficulties at Campsie, in Sydney's southwest, which had a high proportion of migrants. Half were unemployed, and local schools were reporting fears they would run out of classrooms.
Cabinet agreed with Mr MacKellar and authorised him to issue a press release attributing the decision on curbing the intake to concerns about a lack of work opportunities for the migrants. Mr Fraser said he would be surprised if no mistakes had been made by immigration officials over the years, but that Australia had "done pretty well" out of therefugee intakes from areas of civil conflict.
Dr Birrell, who heads Monash University's Centre for Population and Urban Research, said a study last year had shown Lebanese Muslims in southwest Sydney were less well-off economically than Lebanese Christians. Dr Birrell said this reflected the lack of work skills and education of many of the refugees who arrived in the 1970s.

Messing Up the Middle East
The Arab American News, Commentary, Jonathan Cook, Posted: Dec 31, 2006
NAZARETH, Israel – The era of the Middle East strongman, propped up by and enforcing Western policy, appears to be over. His power is being replaced with rule by civil war, apparently now the Bush administration's favored model across the region. Fratricidal fighting is threatening to engulf, or already engulfing, the occupied Palestinian territories, Lebanon and Iraq. Both Syria and Iran could soon be next, torn apart by attacks Israel is reportedly planning on behalf of the U.S. Western politicians like to portray civil war as a consequence of the West's failure to intervene more effectively in the Middle East. The implication being, of course, that, without the West's benevolent guidance, Arab societies are incapable of dragging themselves out of their primal state of barbarity.
But in fact, each of these breakdowns of social order appears to have been engineered either by the United States or by Israel. In Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq, sectarian difference is less important than a clash of
political ideologies and interests as rival factions disagree about whether to submit to, or resist, American and Israeli interference. Where the factions derive their funding and legitimacy from - increasingly a choice between the U.S. or Iran - seems to determine where they stand in this confrontation.
Palestine is in ferment because ordinary Palestinians are torn between their democratic wish to see Israeli occupation resisted - in free elections they showed they believed Hamas the party best placed to realize that goal - and the basic need to put food on the table for their families. The combined Israeli and international economic siege of the Hamas government and the Palestinian population, has made a bitter internal struggle for control of resources inevitable.
Lebanon is falling apart because the Lebanese are divided: some believe that the country's future lies with attracting Western capital and welcoming Washington's embrace, while others regard America's interest as cover for Israel realizing its long-standing design to turn Lebanon into a vassal
state, with or without a military occupation. Which side the Lebanese choose in the current stand-off reflects their judgment of how plausible are claims of Western and Israeli benevolence.
And the slaughter in Iraq is not simply the result of lawlessness - as is commonly portrayed - but also about rival groups, the nebulous "insurgents," employing various brutal and conflicting strategies: trying to oust the Anglo-American occupiers and punish local Iraqis suspected of collaborating with them; extracting benefits from the puppet Iraqi regime; and jockeying for positions of influence before the inevitable grand American exit.
The obvious question, then, is why would the U.S. want and intend civil war raging across the Middle East, apparently threatening strategic interests like oil supplies and the security of a key regional ally, Israel?
The answer appears to be related to the rise of the neocons, who finally grasped power with the election of President Bush.
The neocons' vision of American global supremacy is intimately tied to, and dependent on, Israel's regional supremacy. It is not so much that the neocons choose to promote Israel's interests above those of America as that they see the two nations' interests as inseparable and identical.
Decades of controlling and oppressing Palestinian society allowed Israel to develop a different approach to divide and rule: what might be termed organized chaos, or the "discord" model, one that came to dominate first its thinking and later that of the neocons.
Neocons talk a great deal about changing maps in the Middle East. Like Israel's dismemberment of the Occupied Territories into ever-smaller ghettos, Iraq is being severed into feuding mini-states. Civil war, it is hoped, will redirect Iraqis' energies away from resistance to the U.S. occupation and into more negative outcomes.
Similar fates appear to be awaiting Iran and Syria, at least if the neocons, despite their waning influence, manage to realize their vision in Bush's last two years.
The reason is that a chaotic and feuding Middle East, although it would be a disaster in the view of most informed observers, appears to be greatly desired by Israel and its neocon allies. They believe that the whole Middle East can be run successfully the way Israel has run its Palestinian populations inside the Occupied Territories, where religious and secular divisions have been accentuated, and inside Israel itself, where for many decades Arab citizens were "de-Palestinianized" and turned into identity-starved and quiescent Muslims, Christians, Druze and Bedouin.
That conclusion may look foolhardy, but then again so does the White House's view that it is engaged in a "clash of civilizations" which it can win with a "war on terror."
All states are capable of acting in an irrational or self-destructive manner, but Israel and its supporters may be more vulnerable to this failing than most. That is because Israelis' perception of their region and their future has been grossly distorted by the official state ideology, Zionism, with its belief in Israel's inalienable right to preserve itself as an ethnic state; its confused messianic assumptions, strange for a secular ideology, about Jews returning to a land promised by God; and its contempt for, and
refusal to understand, everything Arab or Muslim.
If we expect rational behavior from Israel or its neocon allies, more fool us.