July 18/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 11,20-24. Then he began to reproach the towns where most of his mighty deeds had been done, since they had not repented. Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes.But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And as for you, Capernaum: 'Will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to the netherworld.' For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you."

A Republic for the General!-By: Elias Harfoush.Dar Al-Hayat. July 18/07
Preventing the West from Understanding Jihad-American Thinker. July 18/07
Hezbollah shadow over UN Lebanon troops BBC News- July 18/07
The Lebanese need more than vague, symbolic promises from their leaders-Daily Star 18/07/07
Push for peace on the Golan Heights.
By Stuart Reigeluth and Pilar Sanchez-Bella. 18/07/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for July 18/07
PFLP-GC Fighters Surrender in Nahr al-Bared-Naharnet
Geagea Sets Dual Red Line-Naharnet

4 Soldiers Killed in Lebanon Fighting-Washington Post

1st Visit by Sarkozy Administration Official to Damascus
Illegal Arab Immigrants Arrested in Tyre after Attack on U.N.-Naharnet
Army Making 'Significant' Gains in Nahr al-Bared-Naharnet
Paris talks fail to break Lebanon deadlock-Focus News

Hizbullah Denies Telling Kouchner that Israeli Soldiers are Alive-Naharnet
Bush Doesn't Spare Hizbullah from Criticism in Peace Conference Speech-Naharnet
UN's Ban offers to help start Israel-Syria peace talks-Ha'aretz
Aoun Accuses Government of 'Negligence' Over Nahr al-Bared Battle-Naharnet
Safadi's Presidential Vote Conditional on Two-Third Quorum-Naharnet
Is it useful to classify Hezbollah as terrorist?Le Figaro, France
Analyst Says Iran, Syria Pulling Al-Qaeda's Strings-AINA
Defense or offense? Ha'aretz
IDF Preparing for War with Syria-Arutz Sheva
Lebanon battle kills 100th
Army death toll tops 100 as battle at Nahr al-Bared intensifies
-Daily Star
Rival parties keen to pursue dialogue after Paris meeting
-Daily Star
Roadside bomb explodes near UNIFIL peacekeepers in South Lebanon
-Daily Star 
Aoun stresses need to re-impose visa requirements for Arab nationals-Daily Star
Sfeir insists presidential vote must abide by Constitution-Daily Star
Judicial vacation to begin Monday
-Daily Star
Joseph Mansour Asmar to run for MP in Metn
-Daily Star
Hariri denies report that he may have met Olmert
-Daily Star
Hizbullah denies discussing captured soldiers in Paris-Daily Star
Environmental group condemns government's handling of oil spill
-Daily Star
Two Israeli journalists scrap ethics for scoop
-Daily Star
Us Vs. Them -- But Who Are They?CBS News
Views of conflict through the lenses of Palestinian and Israeli teenagers
-Daily Star
45% of jehadis in Iraq from S Arabia-Times of India
Syria's President sworn
France's role-Le Figaro

1st Visit by Sarkozy Administration Official to Damascus
French envoy Jean-Claude Cousseran will reportedly meet Syrian leaders in Damascus on Tuesday in the first such contact between a high-ranking French official from the Sarkozy administration and the Syrian regime.The daily As Safir, citing diplomatic sources in Paris, said Cousseran's Damascus visit will focus on the Lebanon situation. The sources said Cousseran, who will arrive in Damascus on Tuesday, will meet in and Syrian Vice President Farouk Sharaa as well as Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem. As Safir said Cousseran will head to Beirut on Wednesday for meetings with Lebanese politicians in preparation for the scheduled visit by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner to the Lebanese capital on July 28. The daily An Nahar, however, said Cousseran will not visit Beirut on Wednesday as was announced by Kouchner at a Sunday press conference, but a few days later. According to information obtained by An Nahar, it said Cousseran will hold talks with "most" of the politicians who took part in the weekend meeting at Saint-Cloud.
It said Kouchner telephoned Prime Minister Fouad Saniora Monday evening to inform him of the outcome of the Lebanon dialogue and discussed the ideas proposed regarding the follow-up meetings to be held by the rival parties in Beirut. Meanwhile, Arab League Chief Amr Moussa said France was keen to a "great extent" to coordinate with the Arab League in efforts aimed at easing eight months of political deadlock since pro-Syrian ministers quit the cabinet.
Beirut, 17 Jul 07, 07:31

Hizbullah Denies Telling Kouchner that Israeli Soldiers are Alive
France raised the issue of two Israeli soldiers captured by Hizbullah but was not given any information on their fate during the inter-party talks between Lebanese parties in Paris, a senior Hizbullah official said Tuesday. Mohammed Fneish, one of six pro-Syrian cabinet ministers who resigned last November and who led the Shiite militant group's team to Paris for the weekend talks, said: "The fate of the two prisoners was not raised, neither from near nor far...
"On the sidelines of the last session …(French Foreign Minister Bernard) Kouchner said to me: 'I promised the families to raise the question with you'," Fneish told Agence France Presse. "I replied that there are negotiations on this issue with the United Nations. There are problems with the Israelis but the negotiations continue. If France wants to play a role to facilitate the exchange, we do not have any objections."  Hizbullah, demanding the release of Arab prisoners held by Israel, captured Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev in a cross-border raid in which eight other soldiers were killed on July 12, 2006, sparking a devastating 34-day war.
Kouchner said on Sunday that he was told by Hizbullah officials attending the Paris talks on Lebanon's political crisis that the soldiers were alive, after being asked about their condition at a closing news conference. "I really understood yes," said the French foreign minister, whose country was condemned by Jewish groups for hosting Hizbullah, which is branded a terrorist organization in the United States.(AFP) Beirut, 17 Jul 07, 15:58

Illegal Arab Immigrants Arrested in Tyre after Attack on U.N.
Ten illegal Arab immigrants have been arrested in the southern port city of Tyre, police announced on Tuesday, a day after a roadside bombing targeted a U.N. peacekeeping vehicle in Qassmiyeh. A police spokesman said eight Sudanese and two Iraqis were detained in a raid by the army's intelligence service Monday night as they slept in an apartment building under construction on the outskirts of Tyre. He declined to link the arrests to the bombing in which a vehicle of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was damaged at Qassmiyeh bridge north of Tyre, without causing casualties.
The blast came less than a month after a car bomb killed three Spanish and three Colombian peacekeepers on June 24. The attack was linked to the deadly fighting in northern Lebanon between the Lebanese army and al-Qaida-inspired Fatah al-Islam militants from a number of Arab states.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 17 Jul 07, 10:59

Lebanese Army Inching In Across Nahr al-Bared
The Lebanese Army advanced towards Fatah al-Islam's enclave in the northern camp of Nahr al-Bared Monday and lost three soldiers in the fire fight.
That brought to 100 the regular force's overall death toll in the eight-week confrontation. The state-run National News Agency said army troops have advanced across half of the camp's main street, closing in on outposts held by Fatah al-Islam terrorists. Heavy clashes were underway after sunset as the army tried to push in to complete its control over the camp's main street, NNA added. An army spokesman told Agence France Presse three soldiers were killed in the ongoing battle for control of the camp, 12 kilometers north of the town of Tripoli. That brought to 189 the overall reported death toll since the clashes broke out on May 20. Scores of Fatah al-Islam terrorists have been killed but their bodies could not be evacuated from the camp due to intensity of the clashes.
Soldiers and Fatah al-Islam militants dueled with machinegun fire as army gunners pounded enemy positions with howitzers and tank cannons.
"We are continuing to make advances on the ground, and we continue to tighten the noose on the gunmen," said the army spokesman, who was not identified.
The Islamists, who are now believed to number a few dozen, have responded by firing back rockets, five of which crashed into fields north of the camp without causing any casualties, according to police. The army has reported significant progress in its battle against the gunmen since Saturday, raising Lebanese flags on buildings seized from the Islamists in the battered camp on the Mediterranean coast. An army spokesman said the militiamen now controlled an area only 300 meters (yards) by 600 meters on a small hill inside the camp, left in ruins by the bloodiest internal clashes since the 15-year civil war came to an end in 1990.
The fighting erupted when the Islamist militants launched a string of attacks on soldiers, killing 27 of them around the Palestinian refugee camp and in the nearby northern port city of Tripoli, the army says. The government has vowed to eradicate Fatah al-Islam, a shadowy band which first surfaced in the camp late last year and which includes extremists from various Arab countries. Beirut, 16 Jul 07, 18:46

Safadi's Presidential Vote Conditional on Two-Third Quorum
Public Works Minister and member of the Tripoli Gathering Mohammed Safadi said Monday the group would not participate in presidential elections if a two-third quorum was not available. In an interview with the daily As Safir, Safadi said his stance "does not mean breaking away" from the stand allegedly adopted by the March 14 Forces. Safadi, however, insisted that there was a distinction between the presidential elections' issue and that of the national unity government.
Asked if there was any "disagreement" with March 14 that led the Gathering to take such a decision, Safadi said: "We've always had differences with the others, but no one ever recognized us as an independent group." Beirut, 16 Jul 07, 13:24

Army Making 'Significant' Gains in Nahr al-Bared
The Lebanese army is making "significant" gains in its battle against diehard Fatah al-Islam militants holding out inside the northern Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared, security officials said Tuesday. But a senior military official said four soldiers were killed in fighting Monday. The body of a missing soldier also has been found, he said. Lebanese army commandos traded small arms with Fatah al-Islam militants on Tuesday as they closed in on their hideouts inside
Nahr al-Bared. The Lebanese flag was hoisted over a small strategic hill captured on Monday, apparently leaving only the Hay Saasaa area deep inside the camp still in the hands of Fatah al-Islam fighters. Troops also destroyed a number of rocket launchers and hideouts used by Fatah al-Islam to attack soldiers, the state-run National News Agency said. It added that three snipers were reported killed overnight.NNA said Tuesday's confrontations focused around Hay Saasaa.
The latest deaths raise to 101 the army's death toll since the fighting broke out May 20. Dozens of militants have been killed, but the exact number is unknown as the group can not be contacted. The security officials reported "significant progress" by the Lebanese troops, saying that Fatah al-Islam militants were now encircled in an area thought to be no bigger than 500 square meters.They did not elaborate.
Witnesses said the army was using armored bulldozers to push its way into the area where militants are thought to be still holed up. But gunfire and the impact of rocket-propelled grenades could still be heard from inside the camp Tuesday, suggesting that the militants continued to resist the army's advance.
The military reported that two Fatah al-Islam militants and two fighters of the Syrian-backed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) surrendered on Monday. Among them was Abu Nabil, PFLP-GC's Nahr al-Bared commander. NNA said Abu Hureira, Fatah al-Islam second in command, was killed during the battles with the army, according to Abu Nabil.  The fighting erupted when the militants launched a string of attacks on soldiers, killing 27 troops around the Palestinian camp and in the nearby northern port city of Tripoli. The Islamists, now believed to number a few dozen, on Monday fired off Katyusha-type rockets, five of which struck fields north of the camp without causing any casualties, police said.
Fatah al-Islam has been firing rockets since last week's evacuation from the camp of militants of the mainstream Palestinian group, Fatah, after having apparently seized their abandoned arsenal. Fatah and local officials have condemned the action as acts of desperation.(Naharnet-AP-AFP) eirut, 17 Jul 07, 10:43

Bush Doesn't Spare Hizbullah from Criticism in Peace Conference Speech
U.S. President George Bush did not spare Hizbullah and its main backers Syria and Iran from criticism in a speech Monday during which he called for an international conference to revive stalled Middle East peace talks. "The conflict in Gaza and the West Bank today is a struggle between extremists and moderates. And these are not the only places where the forces of radicalism and violence threaten freedom and peace," Bush said. "The struggle between extremists and moderates is also playing out in Lebanon -- where Hizbullah and Syria and Iran are trying to destabilize the popularly elected government," he added. Bush also warned Palestinians that backing Hamas would "crush" their hopes for their own state.
He said support for the Islamist movement would be a victory for the group's "foreign sponsors" in Syria and Iran. The main aim of his speech at the White House was to call Israel, the Palestinians and others in the region to a peace conference. Bush said the conference, open to countries in the region that support a two-state solution to the long Israeli-Palestinian standoff, would be headed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Beirut, 17 Jul 07, 08:01

Aoun Accuses Government of 'Negligence' Over Nahr al-Bared Battle

Gen. Michel Aoun has accused Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's government of "negligence" in the handling of the Nahr al-Bared battle, urging authorities to impose entry visa requirements on Arab nationals. Aoun also accused the government of conspiring along with Israel against Lebanon in last summer's war between the Jewish state and Hizbullah. He hinted that the July-Aug 2006 confrontation has left the impression that there had been an "understanding and coordination between the Lebanese government and Israel," urging to eliminate this thought through the formation of a national unity cabinet.
His remarks were made after a weekly meeting of the Reform and Change parliamentary bloc on Monday.
Addressing the government, Aoun, who is part of the Hibullah-led opposition, said there was "negligence and collusion" in the fighting at the northern Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared between the Lebanese army and militants of the Fatah al-Islam group.
Aoun demanded that the Lebanese foreign ministry tighten up visa requirements on Arab citizens, given that a number of Fatah al-Islam fighters killed in the Nahr al-Bared clashes were of Arab origin and that other Fatah al-Islam members who took part in recent terrorist attacks in and around Beirut were non-Lebanese, too.
Aoun said that the latest report issued by Chief U.N. investigator Serge Brammertz has hinted at the possibility of having "terrorist groups involved in the assassination" of former Premier Rafik Hariri. The government was quick to retort to Aoun, describing his statement as "shameful," according to the daily An Nahar on Tuesday.
It quoted a government source as expressing astonishment, particularly since Aoun is a former army general. "Are statements about collusion rewarding to the (Lebanese) army?" the source asked. On the issue of fighters entering Lebanon, the source said "only a little number" came into the country through legal crossing, while the rest infiltrated into Lebanon across the Syria border. Beirut, 17 Jul 07, 11:41

Hezbollah shadow over UN Lebanon troops
Unifil troops are meant to prevent Hezbollah bearing arm
Martin Asser has been reporting from Lebanon, a year after he covered the war between Hezbollah and Israel for the BBC News website. Here he examines the performance of the beefed-up UN peacekeeping operation. Touring southern Lebanon these days, it is not long before you come across a convoy of white-painted vehicles from the UN peacekeeping force Unifil. There may be just two or three soft-skinned vehicles, or it could be a long column including heavy armour, container trucks, ambulances and trucks full of peacekeepers in blue helmets, berets or turbans. They trundle over the steep mountain passes and rolling plains between Israel and the Litani river, a visible sign of international determination to avoid another bloody conflict. [Hezbollah are] everywhere, even here. If they wanted Unifil out, they'd be gone in two days Christian resident of Ayn Ebl In pictures: On patrol with Unifil Unifil was established in Lebanon 30 years ago, after Israel's first invasion, but had little impact on events - having no mandate to prevent attacks on Israel from Lebanon, or vice versa.
After the July 2006 war, the force received new orders and thousands of reinforcements under the ceasefire resolution 1701, which also stipulated the deployment of the Lebanese army in the area. Previously the area had become the fiefdom of Hezbollah, the Shia Islamist and militant movement whose cross-border raid on 12 July - snatching two Israeli soldiers - was the catalyst for the 34-day conflict. The post-conflict objective was for Unifil to help the Lebanese government extend its sovereignty to the southern frontier, so Hezbollah's armed wing would no longer be free to menace nearby Israeli towns or troops patrolling the border.
Since last year, Unifil has been transformed from an observational force of just 2,000 soldiers to the current 13,600 battle-ready force, including a 2,000-strong naval component. French peacekeepers are ready for trouble with their battle tanks
To Unifil's great satisfaction, under the new mandate, southern Lebanon has enjoyed its most stable and peaceful period in many years.
The most serious violation of the ceasefire has been against Unifil itself, when a roadside bomb killed three Spaniards and three Colombians from the Spanish peacekeeping force. The perpetrators remain unidentified, but suspicion has fallen on al-Qaeda-linked Jihadists who have been causing mayhem in a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon. Three weeks later, Lebanese troops still seal off the long straight road at Dardara, between Khiyam and Marjayoun, where the attack happened, but from the roadblock you can still see the damage to the tarmac and surrounding trees and undergrowth. South Lebanon is full of places like this, where the natural environment provides ample cover for ambushes, as the Israeli army discovered to its cost during its long occupation that ended in 2000.
Political links
Troops from the al-Tiri base near Bint Jbeil, headquarters of the French battalion, Unifil's third strongest after Italy and Spain, now always wear helmets and body armour when they go out on the road.
Peacekeepers receive a warm welcome from the Lebanese
Protective gear is only removed when they alight from their vehicles for village foot patrols. "We were deeply affected by what happened to the Spanish battalion, but our mission is unaffected," says Capt Arnaud Rudelle. "We are soldiers and we will do whatever we must to fulfil it." Like much of the south, most of the French operational area is strongly pro-Hezbollah. Its yellow flags, martyr's posters and pictures of leader Hassan Nasrallah are everywhere - the exception being in the handful of Christian villages. Capt Rudelle explains under the resolution 1701 it is not Unifil's responsibility to confront Hezbollah when the latter is performing its role a legitimate political party in Lebanon. "Our job is to support the Lebanese army and see that there is no other armed activity in our area."
They are happy to establish links with community leaders, whether they are Hezbollah or not. The fact that the movement should hand over its weapons (under another UN resolution, 1559) is not Unifil's concern.
Popular sympathy
Unifil's popularity has not been harmed, with it becoming a major employer in this economically depressed area, with 1,000 local staff at its Naqqoura HQ alone, and supporting regeneration projects. They were just babies, those young men who died. Shame... they didn't come here to be killed, they came to help us keep the peace
Resident of Khiyam on the recent killing of six Unifil soldiers Ordinary civilians I spoke to in Hezbollah's heartlands say initial doubts about the new mandate have proved unfounded. "At first we were unhappy, we thought it was just for Israel's protection, but now we see that is not so," said one resident in Khiyam.
The Dardara bombing had made people more sympathetic, she said. "They were just babies, those young men who died. Ya haram (shame), they didn't come here to be killed, they came to help us keep the peace." But the popular perception is clearly that the peacekeepers only remain with the tacit permission of Hezbollah's military wing. Hezbollah fighters are masters of concealment and guerrilla warfare - their weapons were never on show before the war, so they are unlikely to be caught red-handed by Unifil or Lebanese troops now. I spoke to a seasoned resident of the Christian village of Ayn Ebl - no friend of Hezbollah - who told me:
"They're everywhere, even here. If they wanted Unifil out, they'd be gone in two days," he said, snapping his fingers.

A Republic for the General!
Elias Harfoush - Al-Hayat - 17/07/07//
How can one enter a democratic process, such as electing a president of the Republic, in the absence of democrats? How can the growth of sectarian and religious politics be confronted with sectarian and religious politicians? How can we arrive at what has come to be called consensus, in the absence of anything that can be agreed upon among Lebanese?
Among the benefits and conditions of democracy is that those who take part in the "game" either already respect its conditions and outcomes, and do so on the basis of their convictions that they are equal in standing and value with those who compete against them, and that the options of people, or their representatives in the case of the president of the Republic, are what decide between the competitors. But when this conviction is absent and one of the parties is above accountability, in a better position than others ("more honorable and cleaner"), the hidden intentions of this participation in democracy become something that invites doubt.
Thus it is correct to inquire about the justifications that prompt some parties in the Lebanese opposition to merely accept this democratic participation, while its leaders believe that their people and their options are the best to lead the country, and that anyone else, should he take power, will lead them to destruction. Sharing this conviction are General Michel Aoun and his allies in Hizbullah, who don't only doubt the right of the majority to hold power, based on their belief that this group's political choices are bad, but also go as far as to consider their "guardianship" of the public is the only way to bring about salvation and a bright future. Parallel to the speeches in which Hizbullah leaders affirm their support for the peaceful option, which the country must head for, they do not hesitate, when things head toward escalation, to call the other side's leaders traitors and accuse them of bowing to what they term foreign tutelage. Their ally General Aoun has not continued to consider himself the only candidate who should become president of the Republic. If not, let the Republic go to blazes!
In a recent interview, Aoun said that "I cannot guarantee any other person. I know my country and I know our politicians, and I don't want a mistake to be made." In his estimation, of course, the MPs will commit a mistake if they choose someone other than him as president. As for the characteristics that the general sees in himself as the "key to the solution," as he modestly described it himself, they are: independence and a love of Lebanon as a free man, one without a foreign capital behind him.
In addition, Aoun directly attacked the team with which he signed a document of understanding, namely Hizbullah, which does not deny that a "foreign capital" stands behind it, or in front of it. Aoun challenges the competence of other presidential candidates, whom he dispossesses in a single statement all possibility of independence or freedom, not to speak of love of Lebanon, and monopolizes himself!
The general does not only deny that other candidates are "patriotically competent" but also opposes the principle of consensus on the president. This is a principle that his allies in Hizbullah do not oppose, at least openly, as they consider it a reasonable exit from the current predicament. Aoun believes that any consensus candidate that is the result of a settlement between the majority and the opposition will be a "weak president," whose election will lead "the destruction of the country."
It's not surprising to hear this kind of rhetoric from the general, who invented the trait of "elimination" when he launched it during the civil war of the past, a campaign that ended the way it did. However, what is also recorded in his history, despite is supposed patriotic slogans, is that the base he currently relies upon to request the status of za'im (leader) among Christians and his attacks on other Christian leaders have only a purely religious basis. His criticism of other Christian leaders is that they won their seats with the votes of Muslims. Thus, instead of such a choice representing a peaceful road to national fusion, in Aoun's eyes it is a defect for which MPs should be punished. Meanwhile, he is proud that the votes he won with members of his parliamentary bloc were primarily Christian, and unblemished!
A purely sectarian flavor with a deep inclination toward self-centeredness, and deriding democratic action, are thus present in Aoun's rhetoric. In both cases, he does not stray far from his allies in Hizbullah; perhaps what attracts him to them are these common traits, which are deeper than the other "understandings" that one assumes are to be in effect between the two sides

From Now Lebanon
Blue helmet blues

Is UNIFIL's mission being compromised by efforts to protect its troops?
Nicholas Blanford, July 16, 2007
When Master Corporal Fabio Corleone patrols the narrow dusty roads of South Lebanon in his lightly armored Puma troop carrier, he cannot help but dwell on the fate of six peacekeeping colleagues killed in a car bomb last month.
"Yes, I think about it, we all do," the Italian soldier said, moments before leading an armored patrol of eight soldiers along the Lebanon-Israel border.
Like every rock was a potential bomb to Israeli troops occupying South Lebanon in the 1990s, so every parked car on the side of the road now spells potential death for the troops serving with the 13,500-strong United Nations peacekeeping force known as UNIFIL. These fears were once again justified on Monday, when a small bomb targeted a UNIFIL military police vehicle at Qasimiyeh, 10 kilometers north of Tyre.
It wasn't supposed to be like this.
When UNIFIL's strength was boosted nearly a year ago from a caretaker force of 2,000 armed observers, the main concern was the reaction of Hezbollah, which emerged from the month-long war with Israel claiming a "divine victory."
The UN gave assurances that the new UNIFIL would be a "robust" force with several leading European countries dispatching crack troops and armor to give it teeth and credibility. Still, it was principally for show – the last thing the governments of the troop-contributing states desired was for their soldiers to take on Hezbollah or Israel.
It became evident early on that Hezbollah was choosing not to confront UNIFIL and would grudgingly accept UN Resolution 1701 which helped end the fighting. Instead, Hezbollah abandoned its positions and bunkers in the UNIFIL area and regrouped to a new line of defense north of the Litani river.
Certainly, Hezbollah men remain in the villages where they live and keep a close eye on UNIFIL, especially the European contingents with their reconnaissance drones and heavy armored vehicles.
UNIFIL sources say that patrols are occasionally followed by civilians in cars or on foot. Sometimes, these individuals take photographs of the soldiers, although there have been no incidents of violence between them.
As Lebanon's political crisis began to worsen after the war, worrying signals emerge that UNIFIL could be a tempting target for al-Qaeda or groups inspired by Osama bin Laden. Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's number two, referred to UNIFIL twice in speeches, claiming that the "international crusader forces" were blocking the "mujahadeen" from reaching the border to fight Israel.
The emergence of Fatah al-Islam and its two-month confrontation with the Lebanese army also heightened the fear of attack on UNIFIL.
The expected attack finally came on June 24, when a Spanish BMR armored vehicle was hit by a bomb packed inside a Renault Rapide parked on the side of the road.
A military source familiar with the investigation into the bombing said that the attack was very carefully planned and the perpetrators would have spent weeks, possibly months, in preparation. The location of the bomb ambush – on a north-south road running just west of Khiam – was selected for its numerous line-of-sight opportunities. From the high ground flanking the valley on both sides, the triggerman would have had a clear view of the targeted vehicle as it approached the car bomb. Furthermore, it is a religiously mixed area of Christian, Druze and Shia towns where Hezbollah’s pervasive grip is weaker than in purely Shia districts where the arrival of strangers is quickly noted.
Investigators believe that the bomb, which was configured to direct the blast laterally against the target, weighed as much as 60 kilograms of military grade explosive (one source thinks it was closer to 100 kilograms) packed with aluminum powder to augment the fireball effect. The blast spun the 14 ton, six-wheeler BMR armored vehicle 180 degrees and knocked it off the road, igniting ammunition inside the vehicle and fuel canisters tied to the outside. Six soldiers were killed in the explosion, although two others, who had been standing through the rear turrets, were thrown clear by the blast and miraculously survived.
According to the military source, the bomb ambush was a "real accomplishment" similar to some car bombs used recently in Afghanistan. It was the work of experienced and technically proficient bomb makers, the source said.
Still, the first attack came as no surprise given the mounting intelligence of threats against the force. Just two days before the deadly bombing, UNIFIL received a warning of a possible suicide bomber targeting its headquarters in Naqoura.
Although al-Qaeda did not take responsibility for the attack – no one has yet – Zawahiri did praise the bombing in a taped statement released last week.
The only good news, perhaps, for UNIFIL in all this is that the sophistication of the bomb and planning that went into the operation suggests that attacks of this magnitude won't be a common occurrence. However, Monday's explosion, though much smaller, indicates that a sustained bombing campaign against the peacekeepers is underway.
A troubling consequence of this heightened threat to UNIFIL by radical jihadi groups is that some of the troop-contributing countries have begun turning to Hezbollah, hoping to enlist the cooperation of the Shia group in protecting their soldiers. UNIFIL contingents are not supposed to have any direct contact with Hezbollah – or any other Lebanese political groups as their official channel of communication is through the Lebanese army.
"It's highly forbidden," said Major General Claudio Graziano, UNIFIL's commander. "I have a relationship with the [Lebanese] government through the Lebanese army. I have no relations with Hezbollah in terms of security."
Still, three months ago, intelligence agents from France, Italy and Spain met with Hezbollah representatives in Saida. As a result of that meeting, some Spanish UNIFIL patrols are now "escorted" by Hezbollah militants in cars. Following last month's bombing, Spanish UNIFIL officers met with local Hezbollah officials, according to a South Lebanon-based party official.
But in fact, there is nothing new about UNIFIL's liaison channels with Hezbollah. When the Shia group began to consolidate its presence in South Lebanon in the late 1980s  and clashed several times with UNIFIL discreet contacts were made between the peacekeepers and Hezbollah to reduce misunderstandings and hostility. That arrangement continued and strengthened during the 1990s. Hezbollah liaison officers were regularly invited to attend UNIFIL medal parades.
Timur Goksel, who served with UNIFIL from 1979-2003, said in an interview published in the current edition of the Journal of Palestine Studies, that "one of the inherent weakness of any multi-national command which is always worse in a UN command is that the contingents make local deals with the forces on the ground, without telling headquarters.
A year on from their arrival, it seems that the new contributors to UNIFIL are learning that peacekeeping in Lebanon is as much about nuance, compromise and dialogue as displaying a "robust" military presence with tanks and armored vehicles.
However, they would do well to keep in mind a final piece of advice from Goksel: These [deals] always come back to haunt you.
****Nicholas Blanford is a Beirut-based journalist and author of "Killing Mr. Lebanon “ The Assassination of Rafik Hariri and its Impact on the Middle East."

July 17, 2007

Preventing the West from nderstanding Jihad
By Walid Phares
In the years that followed 9/11, two phenomena characterized the Western public's understanding of the terrorists' ideology. The first characteristic stemmed from the statements made by the jihadists themselves. More than ever, Islamist militants and jihadi cadres didn't waste any opportunity to declare, clarify, explain, and detail the meaning of their aqida (doctrine) and their intentions to apply Jihadism by all means possible. Unfortunately for them, though, those extremely violent means changed the international public opinion: the public now was convinced that there was an ideology of Jihadism, and that its adherents meant business worldwide.
From Ayman al Zawahiri in Arabic to Azzam al Amriki in American English, via all of the videotapes made by "martyrs" in Britain, Iraq, and Afghanistan, the public obtained all the evidence necessary. Against all the faulty academic literature of the 1990's, the statements by the jihadists themselves were very convincing.
The second phenomenon of help to the public was the surfacing of a new literature produced by alternative scholars, analysts, journalists, experts, and researchers who, from different backgrounds and countries, filled in some of the gaps is "jihadi studies." Producing books, articles, and blogs from Europe, India, the Middle East, and North America, a combination of Third World-born and Western-issued scholarship began to provide the "missing link" as to what Jihadism is all about. These factors came together to shift the debate from "Jihad is spiritual yoga" to "Why didn't we know it was something else as well?" And this triggered in response one of the last attempts to prevent jihad from being understood.
In the 1990's, apologist literature attempted to convince readers and audiences in the West that jihad was a "spiritual experience only, and not a menace." [1] That explanation has now been shattered by Bin Laden and Ahmedinijad. So in the post-9/11 age, a second strategy to delay public understanding of Jihadism and thereby gain time for its adherents to achieve their goals has evolved. It might be called the "good cop, bad cop" strategy. Over the past few years, a new story began to make inroads in Washington and the rest of the national defense apparatus. A group of academics and interest groups are circulating the idea that in reality jihad can develop in two forms: good jihad and bad jihad.
The practice of not using "Jihad" and "Jihadism" was lately defended by two academics at the National Defense University [2] who based their arguments on a study published by a Washington lobbyist, Jim Guirard.[3] On June 22, 2006, Jim Garamone, writing for the American Forces Press Service, published the study of Douglas Streusand and Harry Tunnel under the title "Loosly Interpreted Arabic terms can promote enemy ideology." Streusand told CNN that "Jihad is a term of great and positive import in Islam. It is commonly defined as striving or struggle, and can mean an internal or external struggle for faith." [4]
The article was posted under the title "Cultural Ignorance Leads to Misuse of Islamic Terms" by the US-based Islamist organization CAIR. [5] Since then the "concept" of deflecting attention away from the study of Jihadism has penetrated large segments of the defense newsletters and is omnipresent in Academia. More troubling though, is the fact that scholars who have seen the strategic threat of al Qaeda and Hezbollah have unfortunately fallen for the fallacy of the Hiraba. Professor Michael Waller of the Institute of World Politics in Washington wrote recently that "Jihad has been hijacked" as he bases his argument on Jim Guirard's lobbying pieces.[6] Satisfied with this trend taking root in the Defense intelligentsia of America, Islamist intellectuals and activists are hurrying to support this new tactic.
The good holy war is when the right religious and political authorities declare it against the correct enemy and at the right time. The bad jihad, called also Hiraba, is the wrong war, declared by bad (and irresponsible) people against the wrong enemy (for the moment), and without an appropriate authorization by the "real" Muslim leadership. According to this thesis, those Muslims who wage a Hiraba, a wrong war, are called Mufsidoon, from the Arabic word for "spoilers." The advocates of this ruse recommend that the United States and its allies stop calling the jihadists by that name and identifying the concept of Jihadism as the problem. In short, they argue that "jihad is good, but the Mufsidoon, the bad guys and the terrorists, spoiled the original legitimate sense."[7]
When researched, it turns out that this theory was produced by clerics of the Wahabi regime in Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood, as a plan to prevent jihad and Jihadism from being depicted by the West and the international community as an illegal and therefore sanctioned activity. It was then forwarded to American- and Western-based interest groups to be spread within the Untied States, particularly within the defense and security apparatus. Such a deception further confuses U.S. national security perception of the enemy and plunges democracies back into the "black hole" of the 1990's. This last attempt to blur the vision of democracies can be exposed with knowledge of the jihadi terror strategies and tactics, one of which is known as Taqiya, the doctrine on deception and deflection. [8]
First, the argument of "good jihad" raises the question of how there can be a legitimate concept of religious war in the twenty-first century to start with. Jihad historically was as "good" as any other religious war over the last 2,000 years. If a "good jihad" is the one authorized by a caliph and directed under his auspices, then other world leaders also can wage a "good crusade" at will, as long as it is licensed by the proper authority. But in fact, all religious wars are proscribed by international law, period.
Second, the authors of this lobbyist-concocted theory claim that a wrong jihad is called a Hiraba. But in Arab Muslim history, a Hiraba (unauthorized warring) was when a group of warriors launched itself against the enemy without orders from the real commander. Obviously, this implies that a "genuine" war against a real enemy does exist and that these hotheaded soldiers have simply acted without orders. Hence this cunning explanation puts "spin" on jihad but leaves the core idea of jihadism completely intact. The "spoilers" depart from the plan, attack prematurely, and cause damage to the caliphate's long-terms plans. These Mufsidoon "fail" their commanders by unleashing a war of their own, instead of waiting for orders.
This scenario fits the relations of the global jihadists, who are the regimes and international groups slowly planning to gain power against the infidels and the "hotheaded" Osama bin Laden. Thus the promoters of this theory of Hiraba and Mufsidoon are representing the views of classical Wahabis and the Muslim Brotherhood in their criticism of the "great leap forward" made by bin Laden. But by convincing Westerners that al Qaeda and its allies are not the real jihadists but some renegades, the advocates of this school would be causing the vision of Western defense to become blurred again so that more time could be gained by a larger, more powerful wave of Jihadism that is biding its time to strike when it chooses, under a coherent international leadership.

**/Dr Walid Phares is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a visiting scholar at the European Foundation for Democracy. This piece was adapted from his recently published book The War of Ideas: Jihadism against Democracy.
[1] See John Esposito, The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality? 3rd edition. (New York: Oxford University Press) 1999.
[2] May 23, 2006
[3] "Hiraba Versus Jihad," the American Muslim. August 2003.
[4] See Henry Shuster, "Words in War," CNN, October 19, 2006.
[5] Quoting the American Forces Press Service on June 29, 2006.
[6] Michael Waller. "Making Jihad Work for America." The Journal for International Security Affairs. Spring 2006
[7] (7) See James Fallows, "Declaring Victory," Atlantic Monthly (September 2006).
[8] (8) According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Taqiya: "spelled Taqiyah, Arabic Taqiyah ("self-protection"), in Islam, [is] the practice of concealing one's belief and foregoing ordinary religious duties when under threat of death or injury to oneself or one's fellow Muslims. The Qu'ran allows Muslims to profess friendship with the unbelievers (3:28) and even outwardly to deny their faith (16:106), if doing so would save them from imminent danger," on the condition that their hearts remain attached to faith. Also see Larry Stirling, "On Taqiya' and ‘Fatwas,'" San Diego Source, September 25, 2006; also Walid Phares, "al-Taqiyah: The Muslim Method of Conquest," Freeman Center for Strategic Studies, December 1997.