June 18/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 7,36-50.8,1-3. A Pharisee invited him to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee's house and reclined at table. Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner." Jesus said to him in reply, "Simon, I have something to say to you." "Tell me, teacher," he said. Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days' wages and the other owed fifty. Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both. Which of them will love him more?" Simon said in reply, "The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven." He said to him, "You have judged rightly." Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment. So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little."He said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." The others at table said to themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" But he said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."Afterward he journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources.

Free Opinions
Suicide Bombers Without a Cause: Lebanon and Fatah al-Islam- By: Nahla Chahal (AIC). June 18/07
Deciphering Ahmadinejad's Holocaust George Michael.Middle East Quarterly. June 18/07
Analysis : Will the Tribunal wreak havoc on Lebanon?By Sanaa al Jack. Asharq Al-Awsat.(yalibnan) June 18/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for June 18/06/07
Israel shells south Lebanon after rocket attack-ABC
Rockets fired from Lebanon fall on northern Israel-AP
Anti-Syria sentiment runs high-
Gulf News
Hizbullah Slams Government Over Polls to Replace Slain MPs-Naharnet

Lebanese Army Close to Winning War Against Terrorists-Naharnet
4 Arrested in Connection with Southern Suburb Quarrel-Naharnet
Arabs Urge Return to Dialogue, Western Leaders Adamant in Backing Saniora-Naharnet

Iran's long game sets stage for war-Times Online
By-elections on August 5-Gulf Times
Sources: Italian FM offers Syria help in return for safety of its ...Ha'aretz
FBI team to inspect site of latest bombing-Daily Star
Radical Group Pulls In Sunnis As Lebanon's Muslims Polarize-Washington Post

Abbas moves to freeze out

Lebanese Army Close to Winning War Against Terrorists
The Lebanese army is close to winning the war against Fatah al-Islam terrorists in the northern refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared, the daily An Nahar reported Sunday.
It said "something is going to happen within the coming few days" regarding the confrontation in Nahr al-Bared after troops tightened the noose around the enemy holed up inside the battered camp and the seizure of an ammunition cache recently as well as the militants' deterioration in resistance.
Government troops had already wrested control of major Fatah al-Islam positions in Nahr al-Bared, forcing many extremist fighters to slip away or surrender to the mainstream Fatah movement. An Nahar said the army on Saturday further advanced towards Fatah al-Islam's main strongholds after they were originally positioned in an UNRWA school following heavy daylong gunbattles. It said the UNRWA school building received direct hits when two Lebanese military choppers fired four rockets on Fatah al-Islam hideouts before sundown Saturday. The daily said contacts were underway to isolate Nahr al-Bared from the old southern sector of the camp, where a joint Palestinian security force would be deployed after handing over Fatah al-Islam militants to the Lebanese army, which has made an unflinching commitment to finish off the terrorists. Beirut, 17 Jun 07, 08:39

4 Arrested in Connection with Southern Suburb Quarrel
Police on Sunday reportedly arrested four men in connection with a quarrel in the southern suburbs in which three policemen were briefly kidnapped by Hizbullah gunmen. The daily An Nahar quoted a high-ranking security official as saying the four had already been wanted by police.
The source said the four were seized following collaboration with Hizbullah's security committee. He said that Internal Security Forces have an "unflinching commitment" towards arresting those behind the kidnapping of the three policemen. Hizbullah gunmen on Friday briefly kidnapped three policemen in a patrol car, stripped them of their weapons, interrogated them and then set them free. The police patrol was trying to settle a quarrel between a number of people in the Hadi Nasrallah avenue in Beirut's southern suburbs, a Hizbullah stronghold, when it was intercepted by armed Hizbullah elements. A Lebanese police officer had told Naharnet that Hizbullah gunmen accused the three of entering Hizbullah's so-called Murabba' Amni or security square, which is off limits for Lebanese troops and security forces.
The security square houses Hizbullah's main facilities. Beirut, 17 Jun 07, 11:07

Arabs Urge Return to Dialogue, Western Leaders Adamant in Backing Saniora
Arab foreign ministers on Saturday urged Lebanon's feuding political camps to return to the dialogue table, as Western leaders offered continued backing to Premier Fouad Saniora's government. The ministers also decided to form a delegation to consult with Lebanese authorities as well as regional and international parties to "work towards creating an atmosphere conducive to resuming the Lebanese national dialogue." The delegation, headed by Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa, includes Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Qatar and Egypt. The contacts will shed "light on terrorism, crimes, assassinations, arms trafficking and infiltration of armed men that Lebanon has been subjected to," the ministers said in a statement released after their talks in the Egyptian capital.
Saniora asked on Wednesday for the special meeting, just hours after anti-Syrian lawmaker Walid Eido, his son and eight others were killed in a bomb blast on the Beirut seaside district of Manara. The prime minister on Friday held telephone conversations with U.S. President George Bush, French President Nicholas Sarkozy and European Union Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana.
Bush and Sarkozy condemned Eido's murder and "stressed their backing to Lebanon and the Lebanese government in its battle against terrorism and terrorists," Saniora's office said. The U.S. president congratulated the prime minister and his government for resisting terrorism and offered continued U.S. aid, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said. Saniora thanked the president for his support of Lebanon's armed forces, Stanzel added.
An Nahar daily said that Sarkozy told the prime minister "there won't be any dialogue with Syria until the security situation stabilizes in Lebanon."
Solana also informed Saniora that the EU was backing Lebanon, the prime minister's office said. Eido's killing, reminiscent of the Feb. 2005 assassination of ex-premier Rafik Hariri, drew a fresh chorus of accusations against Damascus, which itself condemned the murder and denied involvement.
Condemning Eido's murder, the Arab ministers called on "all Lebanese political forces to return the negotiating table."
Lebanon has been deadlocked since November when six pro-Syrian cabinet ministers quit Saniora's government.
Speaker Nabih Berri has since refused to convene MPs to ratify government legislation, including proposals for an international court to try suspects in Hariri's murder.
The rump anti-Syrian cabinet has accused the Assad regime of seeking to eliminate members of its parliamentary majority to block trials in the Hariri case.
The Arab ministers also urged "help for Lebanon to control its border with Syria."Anti-Damascus politicians have accused Syrian intelligence services of helping Fatah al-Islam militants, which are locked in gunbattles with the Lebanese army at the northern Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared. Acting Lebanese Foreign Minister Tarek Mitri was present at the talks in Cairo.(Naharnet-AFP) Beirut, 16 Jun 07, 08:01

By-Elections Scheduled for Aug. Five
The Lebanese government set August five a date for by-elections to replace two assassinated MPs, despite opposition from the country's pro-Syrian president, Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said Saturday. "The government has decided to organize legislative elections on August 5 for the two seats left vacant by the assassination of the deputy for Beirut, Walid Eido, and the deputy for Metn, Pierre Gemayel," he said.
"This decision is final and will be applied," he added, in reference to President Emile Lahoud's pledge not to sign any decree ordering by-elections.
Industry Minister Gemayel was murdered in November and Eido was killed on Wednesday in a car bombing in Beirut. Members of Lebanon's anti-Syrian majority have blamed Syria for the assassinations, a charge Damascus denies. Eido was the 12th prominent figure and the fifth member of the parliamentary majority to have been killed in a string of attacks mostly targeting anti-Syrian journalists and politicians in the past two years.
A third MP belonging to the anti-Syrian majority, Gebran Tueni, was assassinated in December 2005. In that case, a by-election was held, and he was succeeded by his father, Ghassan. Lahoud, who was re-elected to office in 2004 after then power-broker Syria forced a constitutional amendment through parliament, insists the government is illegitimate and has no right to order elections. "As guardian of the constitution, I warn this illegitimate government. It does not have the right to exploit the assassination of deputy Eido to violate the constitution," the president said in a statement Friday. "The only solution lies in forming a unity government," he added. Lebanon has been politically paralyzed since November, when six pro-Syrian ministers quit the cabinet charging that it was riding roughshod over the power-sharing arrangements in force since the 1975-90 civil war. Pro-Syrian parliament speaker Nabih Berri has since refused to convene MPs to ratify government legislation, including proposals for an international court to try suspects in the 2005 murder of ex-prime minister Rafik Hariri. The U.N. Security Council has since adopted a resolution imposing the court. The parliamentary majority accuses Syria of Hariri's murder, as well as those of the three MPs, something Damascus denies.
It argues that Syria is seeking to "liquidate" its absolute majority, which would prevent anti-Damascus forces from having the votes necessary to elect a successor to Lahoud. With Eido's death, the ruling majority has seen its margin dropped to only five seats in the 126-member parliament.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 16 Jun 07, 18:05

Lebanon- The inside story of Fatah al Islam’s Shaker al-Absi
Saturday, 16 June, 2007 @ 8:53 PM
Beirut- Started out his professional life as a pilot of Russian MIG fighter planes, then he switched to training of revolutionaries in all types of weapons.
Born in 1955 in the Ain Sultan refugee camp near the city of Ariha (Jericho), in the Palestinian West Bank and in 1967 he emigrated to Jordan following the six day war which led to the Israeli occupation.
His brother Abdel Razzak el Absi ,a surgeon in Amman Jordan is the one telling the story of Shaker al-Absi ( pictured right) . According to Abdel Razzak , Shaker excelled in school and moved to Tunisia to join the medical school, but the medical field was not really what he aspired to … he wanted to get involved in Liberating Palestine one way or the other . He then joined the Fatah organization of Yasser Arafat , which sent him to Libya to study and train to become a pilot. He succeeded in this and piloted MIG 23 fighter planes when Libya attacked Chad.
Shaker visited his brother Abdel Razzak in 1980 (when he was studying at the medical school in Cuba)on his way to Nicaragua where he intended to help the Sandanistas. He remained with the Sandanistas for 4 to 5 months his brother recalls.
In 1982 when Israel invaded Lebanon Shaker fought in the Bekaa valley area of Lebanon with Fatah , because the organization did not own any fighter planes. Then from Lebanon he returned to Libya and from there he went to Yemen and then to Damascus , Syria where he finally settled.
In 2002 Syria arrested Shaker and sent him to jail for his activities with a restricted Islamist organization and accused him of plotting against the Syrian regime. Shaker remained in jail for 3 years , during which he was sentenced to death in absentia by Jordan for participating in planning and executing the murder in 2002 of Lawrence Folly the US ambassador to Jordan at the time.
In 2005 Shaker was set free by Syria and moved to Lebanon to head up Fatah el Intifada a Syrian Intelligence-backed splinter group of the mainstream Fatah movement based at the Shatila camp in Beirut
Few months later Shaker decided to join a strict Islamist group of about 100 other members and settled at the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp . There he formed the Fatah al-Islam extremist Islamist movement
In march 2007 , Shaker told NY times newspaper that he believes in and fully supports the ideas of al-Qaida leader Osman Bin Laden, adding he is not afraid of being called a terrorist.
Shaker added that he” has the right to target American and Israeli civilians anyplace in the world”. He said “ doesn’t America come here to kill our innocents and children . We have the right to attack them at their homes just like they attack us in our homes.”
His brother Abdel Razzak added : “My brother has chosen the strict Islamic way because he was desperate and depressed” . He added “we were all raised as Muslims like everyone else . We are also believers , but Shaker adopted the strict and extremist Islamic way after losing hope “.
Abdel Razzak went on to justify his brothers actions “ After 60 years of Israeli occupation what happened to the Palestinians ? Nothing . The Palestinians adopted various ideologies in their attempts to liberate Palestine , as nationalists, Marxists, Leninists etc...but what did they accomplish ? Nothing ...only more despair ”
“My brother is one of those people who think extremist Islam has all the answers and could lead to liberating his country . Everything else failed , so he things this is the only road left.” Abdel Razzak added
Abdel Razzak did not mention the fact that his brother Shaker is killing Lebanese soldiers in Nahr el Bared . He and his group started the conflict by attacking and slaughtering 27 soldiers during their sleep . Abdel Razzak did not also mention that the Lebanese people have put up with and protected the Palestinians for 60 years , despite the Israeli invasions of Lebanon. Abdel Razzak did not mention that the whole problem with his brother started when his organization Fatah al-Islam bombed 2 busses and killed 3 innocent Lebanese and wounded another 20 in the Ain Alaq town of the northern Metn province in Mount Lebanon.
Abdel Razzak did not mention the fact that Fatah al-Islam robbed a Lebanese bank the night before the conflict started and stole $125,000
Abdel Razzak did not say that the road to Palestine is not Nahr el -Bared nor it is by killing Lebanese soldiers. If any Palestinian wants to fight for Palestine the place is Palestine and not Lebanon. Shaker al-Absi is the story of the making of a terrorist and unfortunately peaceful countries like Lebanon have to suffer the consequences. Obviously Absi is on the wrong track . Instead of saying thank you to a country that adopted him, he is killing those same people that protected him… the Lebanese soldiers and the innocent Lebanese people. Absi is the story of a sick mind that blames his own failures on others . Absi is the story of a coward, who is using Islam and the Palestinian cause to achieve his own evil ambition.

Analysis : Will the Tribunal wreak havoc on Lebanon?
By Sanaa al Jack
Sources: Asharq Al-Awsat
Saturday, 16 June, 2007 @ 11:18 PM
Beirut - On the third day after the UN Security Council’s (UNSC) resolution to set up an international tribunal court took effect, staunch anti-Syrian Lebanese parliamentarian, Walid Eido, and his son Khalid sacrificed their lives for the cause.
The tribunal was established with the intention of investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and a number of assassinations and bombings.
Last Wednesday 13 June, the Lebanese MP and his son, accompanied by two bodyguards and six others were killed after a bomb was planted in Eido’s car in Beirut. [The explosion took place near Beirut’s seafront in the Sunni Muslim western part of the city].
Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon blasted what he called a “terrorist attack” and has urged the Lebanese government to bring the perpetrators to trial and appealed to all Lebanese to unite in the face of "acts of intimidation."
The UNSC issued a statement in which it said, “The Security Council unequivocally condemns the terrorist attack which killed at least nine persons, including MP Walid Eido and injured several others.” It added that council members “condemn any attempt to destabilize Lebanon, including political assassination or other terrorist attacks."
All that the majority of the Lebanese parliament could offer was to call for Arab and international action for the protection of Lebanon and its people from assassinations, and also to focus on running effective parliamentary elections to fill in the vacant seats of the assassinated MPs Walid Eido and Pierre Gamayel before him. However, President Lahoud refused to sign the decrees for that to take into effect.
The first practical step taken towards setting up of the international tribunal was by Lebanon’s Supreme Judicial Council, which at the beginning of this week selected 12 judges (who remain anonymous for security reasons) to be presented by the Lebanese government to Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon who will then select four names to be part of the tribunal’s two committees. The aforementioned committees will review the issues on two levels.
Regarding the mechanism for the selection of the judges, Lebanese Minister of Education Khaled Qabbani told Asharq Al-Awsat, “Appointing the judges will comply with strict international standards that operate on impartiality, objectivity and equity. It will rely upon the agreement that has been reached between Ban Ki-Moon and the Lebanese government. The agreement states that the preliminary tribunal will be comprised of three foreign judges and two Lebanese ones. The Court of Appeal will follow the same structure. In accordance with that, the Lebanese government will submit a list of 12 Lebanese judges, which will be chosen by the Supreme Judicial Council. Immediately following the selection of names, the list will be submitted to the UN Secretary-General who will then advance the process to the next level by appointing the foreign judges, in accordance with the criteria set by the international tribunal court. This will be accompanied by the appointment of a prosecutor and a judge before the tribunal commences, the judge will then receive the case from the Attorney-General. If he finds it satisfactory then he will submit it to court, and if not, then he returns it to the Attorney-General. Additionally, the Lebanese government will propose the appointment of a Lebanese Deputy Attorney-General in cooperation and agreement with Ban Ki-Moon.”
However, Qabbani doubts that the internal political struggle will cause any problems when it comes to the nomination of the judges. “There are no politics involved in the selection of judges as the matter is entrusted to the Supreme Judicial Council. Therefore, politics will not figure into this equation. The appointment of the judges is left to the Supreme Judicial Council, which possess absolute jurisdiction and full freedom and independence in choosing the names that it deems qualified in terms of expertise, knowledge and specialization. This is particularly so since the government's role is limited to the submission of names to the secretary-general of the UN without the right to evaluate, assess or classify,” he said.
And yet the complexities of the situation in the Lebanese political arena have led to the establishment of the Security Council’s international tribunal under Chapter VII [of the UN Charter which states upon ‘action with respect to threats to the peace, breaches of peace, and acts of aggression. It deals with threats to international peace and allows for military enforcement as a basis for resolution].
Qabbani believes that, “the opposition’s silence means that all the Lebanese people are in agreement as to the necessity of setting up the tribunal to serve justice. The biggest concern is to stop this cycle of crime, which has erupted since the assassination of President Hariri and continues to this day. As such, establishing the tribunal is needed to reassure the Lebanese of their future because they will continue to feel threatened until these criminals are stopped. But the problem lies in some of the observations made by the opposition about the tribunal court system. They link these observations to the formation of a national unity government before carefully examining the matter first. Following the UNSC’s setting up of the tribunal came this silent and ambiguous stance amongst some in the opposition.”
The defendants in the Rafik Hariri assassination case are: head of the Syrian Presidential Guard, Mostafa Hamdan; former director-general of Lebanon's Sureté Générale [General Security Directorate], Major-General Jamil al Sayyid; head of the Lebanese Internal Security Force Brigadier, General Ali Salah Haj; and former chief of Lebanese military intelligence, Raymond Azzar. Also involved in the case are bothers Ahmed and Mohammed Abdul-Aal who are affiliated with the Islamic Charitable Projects Association, (ICPA) [also known as Al-Ahbash], in addition to Ayman Tarabay and Mustapha Talal Mesto, who work in a mobile phone shop [in Tripoli] and who are privy to the identity of the persons who bought phone lines and used them to make calls related to the crime. The Syrian Mohammed Zuhair as-Saddiq, who resides in Paris and is wanted by the Lebanese authorities, and Hussam Hussam who had entered into the line of investigations in a manner that evoked much ambiguity and which has yet to be clarified to this day. Moreover, there are witnesses in possession of information whose identities are protected for security reasons and in order to prevent the politicization of their evidence, as was the case with the Syrian witnesses.
Moreover, there is a present fear among the Lebanese that Takfiri cells (Muslims holding other Muslims disbelievers) will be the cause of major blood shed that could lead to the destruction of Lebanon. It is as though the price of the tribunal is reflected in the harrowing battles between Fatah al Islam and the Lebanese army and that perhaps it might only be one in the line of many punishments imposed on Lebanon following the decision to establish the tribunal, which leaves the impression that this tribunal will not fulfill its purpose but rather become a gateway for a new civil war in Lebanon.
The Hezbollah bloc in parliament has asserted that that setting up the UN international tribunal will be succeeded with “destructive repercussion on the country,” and added that, “the country’s national unity, stability and civil peace will be subject to upheaval if the court tribunal did not apply the Chapter VII mandate.
Farid al Khazan deputy of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) Parliamentary bloc (headed General Michel Aoun) told Asharq Al-Awsat, “I reject the argument that establishing the tribunal will destroy the country’s stability. We cannot make that argument; it is neither logical nor humane. There are those who committed murder and Lebanon is witnessing a dire situation. How can it be argued that the tribunal will threaten stability? Why have all the events that have taken place in Lebanon happened?”He added, “There can be no sanctioning in legal issues to choose what we want to keep within the legal framework and what might be best to overlook so that we do not disrupt the situation. If we follow this approach, the county will be lost. There are officials and citizens who have a right to know the truth behind these crimes. It cannot be said that this tribunal will annihilate civil peace. In our present predicament here are smaller issues causing larger problems. How can the tribunal be the issue when all its findings remain hidden and in the hands of Serge Brammertz, Deputy Prosecutor for Investigations of the International Criminal Court, who will need a year to submit his hypothetical report.”
For his part, Dr. Shafik al Masri, legal expert and professor of international law at the American University of Beirut told Asharq Al-Awsat that “in the legal field there is no room for objections against the articles in Chapter VII, however at this stage this chapter is not worrying since it is presently at an application and not punitive. No Lebanese group can stop its impact and the Syrian and Lebanese governments can only abide by it.”
In light of it being the first international judicial mechanism of its kind in the Middle East, al Khazan said, “It is not only the court that is unique within the context of international justice, everything that is taking place in the Lebanese arena does not resemble anything else in the world. However, we in Lebanon are bound to the court and the only thing we can do is cooperate. If there are any signs of lack of cooperation present the Lebanon will bear all the action taken by the Security Council, including punishments. Part of the Lebanese state is cooperating with the government and most parties have supported the tribunal while the government has officially demanded it.”
Syria rushed to refuse abiding with the UNSC court and various Syrian officials have confirmed that Syria has nothing to do with it. Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Miqdad stated, “The Lebanese government has no faith in its legitimacy or its ability to lead the Lebanese people.” He added that “those who are targeting Syria now will not reap anything but failure,” furthermore stressing that “Syria will not be bound except by its own laws.”
Syrian jurists were quick to proclaim the court unconstitutional in their analysis based on the fact that five countries abstained from voting [on the grounds that it bypassed the Lebanese parliament’s constitutional role in approving international agreements], including Russia and China, both of which have veto power.
Such analysis aimed at the tribunal's legitimacy led Lebanese Minister of Culture and Acting Lebanese Foreign Minister Tarek Mitri to state in a televised appearance that, “Those skeptical of the legitimacy of Resolution 1757 counted the populations of Russia and China as those against the tribunal to say that half the world’s population do not support it.”
In terms of the Syrian position regarding the tribunal, Farid al Khazan said, “the tribunal is legitimate as is the UNSC. If Syria rejects its resolutions and questions its legitimacy then it leads us to question the likelihood of its withdrawal from the UN. Part of the UNSC system is that some countries can abstain from voting, this does not nullify the legitimacy of the resolution, which could have been stopped by a veto. Thus, the mechanism utilized is 100 percent legitimate.”
He believes that, “the innocent do not adopt a position of rejection in the face of a tribunal court, despite the crisis situation in Lebanon of which the tribunal is a part of. Not commenting on its establishment creates a problem. If the majority were to take these observations into consideration the situation would have been better. If it was regarded as legitimate then it could proceed, and if not, then it could be removed from Lebanon back to the UNSC using the mechanism that it follows. Nabih Berri proposed an initiative, which was praised by the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon Abdulaziz Khoja, in which Berri proposed that the tribunal should be approved first before the discussing matters related to a new government.”
However, Qabbani was reproachful in his response to that and said, “According to our information, the government accepted Berri’s initiative and the formation of a four-member committee two of which represent the government; Judges Ralph Riachi and Choukry Sader along with two others members from the opposition. The committee is to be entitled with examining and discussing observations in addition to agreeing on the final form of the project. After which it will be followed by the expansion of the government and the setting up of the tribunal simultaneously. However, this did not happen and things stopped at that.”
Ban Ki-Moon’s visit to Damascus last month primarily revolved around the Lebanese issue. He studied the matter of the international tribunal with Syrian officials and extensively studied the Syrian position and the extent of its connection with the Lebanese opposition and its level of determination to not allow the tribunal in Lebanon. But the UN Secretary-General’s visit did not alter the Syrian position regarding the tribunal.
Damascus advised the Secretary-General against setting up the tribunal except in the case of unanimous approval so that the UN would not be supporting one Lebanese side against another, which would only exacerbate the present tension and deadlock. The opposition forces fear the politicization of the tribunal and its exploitation by the US as a tool against parties such as Hezbollah, which is classified as a ‘terrorist organization’ in the eyes of Americans.
But Assistant Secretary for Bureau of International Organizations, Kristen Silverberg, indicated that the matter was different, stressing that the US “will not make any deal with Syria or anyone else in the international community at the expense of the freedom of Lebanon.” He emphasized that the tribunal was impartial and that the US administration did not have a say over it since it was the fruit of a huge cooperation between the UN and Lebanon and that it included Lebanese judges and was in accordance with the Lebanese legislative system.
“I see no contradiction between Lebanese law and international law,” said Qabbani, “because the tribunal is independent and implements international law principles, whilst being familiar with Lebanese laws, including the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Lebanese Penal Code. It will place a system for operation and procedure that is related to the protection of witnesses, defendants and suspects whilst providing all the guarantees so as to ensure their protection. Moreover, lawyers will be appointed to defend them. Therefore, this tribunal’s work is surrounded by legal and judicial guarantees to ensure impartiality, integrity and the protection of the rights of both the accused and those defending them. It will also act in act in accordance with the international standards adopted in this form of court system.”
Likewise, al Khazan has faith in the tribunal. He excluded the politicization of the tribunal because the Security Council will be entitled with strict and precise supervision to monitor its performance. He added that the spotlight was on Lebanon since it is embroiled in the midst of the regional conflict, unlike the situation in Rwanda which is not affected by and does not influence others. It is not a simple matter because it intersects with all the regional problems that occupy the international community. The Lebanese situation is entangled with the Syrian, the Iranian, Israeli and terrorism, he said.
He added, “even if there were attempts to politicize it there is international supervision and international standards available and no judge with a questionable record will be appointed and the international media will not spare anyone on this matter.”
“Russia and China, both of which abstained from voting will be watching all the details of the tribunal closely. It’s true that that this tribunal constitutes a precedent in that it deals with the assassination of Rafik Hariri, however the various bombings and assassinations that followed also contributed to its establishment. The situation is, as we can see, is still open to further events, whether assassinations, bombings or what we are presently witnessing.”
Bechara Menassa, prominent legal counselor and expert in the Lebanese constitution said, “After the situation in Rwanda, the UN felt remorse after the blame that was directed at it for its failure to prevent the escalation of the situation. This is why it rushed to set up the tribunal under Chapter VII amidst its growing fears of those who are using violence to impose their will on the land. After it realized that dialogue will not solve the matter and thus decided that if it did not set up an international tribunal that everyone who dares to take a stance against a political ‘class’ will be in danger.” He hoped that, “Lebanon could avoid entering a maze of military and war-related matters if it does not heed the international resolution. Chapter VII allows for the formation of a Military Staff Committee (MSC) whose mission is to interfere to implement resolutions.
In terms of the level of cooperation required of all parties, al Khazan said, “The tribunal will determine the defendants, suspects and the witnesses after the investigation and it will summon them. This is where lack of response will lead to difficult situations – especially if certain officials are called in. If there is no cooperation from those where evidence proves they are involved, there will be a problem.” He added, “The demarcation line between politics and law is so fine that it’s almost nonexistent. However, emphasizing that separation will depend on strong and precise evidence and information, which no one can refute so that it leaves no room for doubt. The evidence lies in the hands of the judges and it is the required legal weapon.
Al Qabbani concluded, “The tribunal has now been set into motion. There is a commitment by the UNSC and various countries to provide guarantees with the aim of revealing the truth behind the assassination and bombings. It is no longer possible for any group or party to stand in its way.”

Deciphering Ahmadinejad's Holocaust Revisionism
by George Michael
Middle East Quarterly
Summer 2007
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad went beyond previous rhetorical attacks on the United States and Israel when, on December 14, 2005, he suggested that the Holocaust was a myth. Many European officials, among Iran's most lucrative trading partners, were outraged. The German government, for example, condemned his remarks and defended Israel's right to exist.[1] Then, on December 11 and 12, 2006, the Iranian foreign ministry's Institute for Political and International Studies convened a conference promoting Holocaust denial, attended by sixty-seven participants from thirty countries.[2] The fact that a head of state would endorse such a contrarian movement may seem remarkable but, for the Islamic Republic's leadership, it is a deliberate, strategic decision. Not only does the Iranian regime believe that Holocaust denial can propel it into a position of leadership among Islamic countries, but the Iranian regime and Holocaust revisionists have found their relationship to be symbiotic. Each believes a Jewish cabal controls Washington decision-making.[3] Holocaust denial further binds disparate groups who share a critique of Jews and Zionism.

The Roots of Holocaust Denial
Holocaust denial at its roots is a Western phenomenon. In much of the United States and Europe, the Holocaust is viewed as a singularity without comparison and a story whose lessons are of vital importance to both Jews and gentiles alike. While more people perished in Stalin's gulags or Mao's Great Cultural Revolution, the methodical way in which the Holocaust was prosecuted exemplified what Hanna Arendt referred to as the "banality of evil."[4]

The legacy of the Holocaust stigmatized both anti-Semitism and far right political figures and parties. However, in the 1960s, an intellectual atmosphere emerged in which nearly every truth could be challenged. Holocaust revisionism became the extreme right's answer to deconstructionism.[5] For this fringe, Holocaust denial is a necessary step to bring about the revival of the ideologies that led to the extreme nationalism and xenophobia that enabled the Nazi party to set the Holocaust in motion. These early revisionists sought to exculpate the Germans for World War II. They argued that "World Jewry" had declared war on Germany and that Western powers, fearful of Germany's growing military and industrial power, conspired to support Poland, triggering the war.[6] Subsequent Holocaust revisionists suggested the number of Holocaust victims was exaggerated; several argued many Jews had survived and were living either in Europe, Israel, or the United States.[7] Eventually three themes developed among many revisionists: First, they argued there were no gas chambers. Second, they denied six million deaths, and third, they said no Nazi master plan existed.[8] Despite their best efforts, neo-Nazis and revisionists hit a brick wall in the West. Few people outside their own circles were willing to discount history, fact, evidence, and logic. While the impact of Holocaust revisionism in the West has been limited, in recent years, it has found fertile ground in the Middle East.

Historically, anti-Semitism was not as intense in the Middle East as it was in the West. As historian Bernard Lewis observed, Jews under Islam were never free from discrimination but rarely subject to persecution. Their situation was never as bad as in Christendom at its worst and never as good as in Christendom at its best.[9] However, Israel's establishment augmented the vehemence of contemporary Islamic anti-Semitism.

Holocaust denial in the Middle East emerged soon after World War II. In 1955, Lebanese foreign minister Charles Malik dismissed the Jewish Holocaust as Zionist propaganda. Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser once said, "[N]o person, not even the most simple one takes seriously the lie of the six million Jews who were killed."[10] In 1983, Mahmoud Abbas, who would later lead the Palestinian Authority, published a book titled The Other Side: The Secret Relationship between Nazism and the Zionist Movement, which claimed that far fewer that six million Jews had died in the Holocaust.[11] More recently, Hamas has dabbled in Holocaust denial.[12] In Saudi Arabia, anti-Semitic themes—including the blood libel accusation, the putative Jewish control of the U.S. media and government, and Holocaust denial—are popular staples in the media and educational system.[13]

However, the Middle East produced no real scholarly exegeses. Revisionist historians associated with extreme right-wing groups in the West developed a far larger corpus of literature. More often than not, Arabic presses simply translated Western works. Of the various right-wing groups that have reached out to the Arabs, Turks, and Iranians, revisionist historians have been best received. One of the first efforts was in 1980 when Ernst Zündel, a German expatriate in Canada, wrote a pamphlet titled, "The West, War, and Islam," in which he suggested the existence of a conspiracy between Zionists and international bankers to rule the world. He recommended Muslims could better undercut the Jewish state by funding Holocaust revisionism rather than purchasing weapons.[14] Zündel sent the pamphlet to the heads of state of several Middle Eastern states.[15]

Holocaust revisionism has also become increasingly popular in Arab print media. Writing in the Jordanian newspaper, Al-Arab al-Yawm, Mahmoud al-Khatib averred that the "entire Jewish state [was] built on the great Holocaust lie" and that Hitler had killed not six million but only 300,000 Jews because "they betrayed Germany."[16] An editorial in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Akhbar said that Jews fabricated the Holocaust in order to "blackmail the Germans for money as well as to achieve world support."[17] More recently, a narrator on Lebanon's popular New TV announced that "never has there been an issue subject to as many contradictions, lies, and exaggerations regarding the number of victims as the issue of the Jewish Holocaust."[18]

As European countries enacted hate laws limiting Holocaust denial, many Holocaust deniers sought safe haven in the Middle East. Few Arab states have hate speech or liable laws, except where they bear on interpretations of the Qur'an. In November 2000, Jürgen Graf, director of the Swiss revisionist organization Verité et Justice (Truth and justice), fled to Iran to escape a Swiss hate speech conviction.

The Middle East has become a venue of choice to present revisionist theories. In March 2001, the Newport Beach, California-based Institute for Historical Review and Verité et Justice planned a conference in Beirut featuring long-time revisionists Roger Garaudy and Robert Faurisson. Only intense pressure from the U.S. State Department caused the Lebanese government to reconsider its role as host. The organizers simply moved the conference to Amman, Jordan. The Jordanian Writers' Association was happy to sponsor it.[19] While Graf's motives may have been purely anti-Semitic, his Jordanian hosts may have appreciated the geopolitical implications. As Graf explained, "Those countries which are authentically anti-Zionist … should make the breakthrough of Holocaust revisionism their foremost priority. A tank costs millions of dollars, yet one soldier can destroy it with a single missile. The revisionists can provide anti-Zionist freedom fighters with a weapon not even a thousand missiles can destroy."[20]

David Duke, the white supremacist from Louisiana, has been at the forefront of right-wing extremist outreach to the Islamic world. In the fall of 2002, he presented two lectures in Bahrain on "The Global Struggle against Zionism" and the "Israeli Involvement in September 11." That same year, he appeared on an Al-Jazeera satellite network talk show and, in November 2005, he held a news conference in Damascus, Syria, pledging to do his best to convey to the world the "real peace-loving Syrian" positions.[21] According to Duke, during his visit to Syria, he met with a high-profile Syrian journalist, Nidal Kabalan, who gave a copy of Duke's book, Jewish Supremacism: My Awakening to the Jewish Question, to Ahmadinejad, suggesting this may have been the genesis for Ahmadinejad's subsequent Holocaust denial.[22]

Iran: New Center of Holocaust Denial
Anti-Semitism has long been a problem in Iran. European merchants brought blood libel to Iran in the sixteenth century. During the nineteenth century, the Iranian clergy instigated several pogroms. In the early twentieth century, Reza Shah (r. 1925-41) embraced racist theories.[23] After all, the name Iran literally means "land of the Aryans." His sympathy for Nazi Germany led British and Soviet officials to force his abdication during World War II. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who in 1979 would lead the Islamic Revolution, long tinged his writings with anti-Semitism.[24]

Holocaust denial was an outgrowth of Iranian anti-Semitism, propelled by the Islamic Republic's antipathy toward Israel. Long before Ahmadinejad shocked the West with his blunt rhetoric, Supreme Leader ‘Ali Khamenei suggested the Holocaust to be an exaggeration.[25] ‘Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, an Iranian figure often labeled a pragmatist by Western journalists, voiced morale support for Holocaust revisionists in the West, suggesting the West persecuted one prominent denier for "the doubt he cast on Zionist propaganda."[26] However, it was during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, whose rhetorical calls for a dialogue of civilizations won European and U.N. plaudits, that the Islamic Republic became a sanctuary for revisionists. Tehran granted asylum not only to Graf but also to Wolfgang Fröhlick, an Austrian engineer who argued in court under oath that Zyklon-B could not be used to kill humans.[27] Indeed, it was under Khatami that Iranian policy shifted from anti-Zionism to unabashed anti-Semitism.[28]

In August 2003, the Iranian government invited Frederick Töben, a retired German school teacher living in Australia, to speak before the International Conference on the Palestinian Intifada held in Tehran in which he impugned the Holocaust by contending that Auschwitz concentration camp was physically too small for the mass killing of Jews.[29] Ahmadinejad called the Holocaust a myth in December 2005,[30] a move applauded by Hamas and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.[31]

In March 2006, Töben returned to Iran to participate in the "Holocaust: Myth and Reality" conference at Isfahan University where he again argued that Auschwitz was too small to enable mass killings of Jews.[32] According to the official Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting radio, the supreme leader's representatives in Isfahan organized the conference. Alireza Soltanshahi, representing Ahmadinejad, addressed the assembled students and faculty.[33] Ahmadinejad, himself, sponsored and opened an August 2006 exhibition of cartoons denigrating the Holocaust.[34]

Ahmadinejad has become a hero to the extreme right. Kevin Alfred Strom, founder of the white supremacist National Vanguard, expressed solidarity with the Iranian president, especially in his fight against common Jewish and Zionist enemies. He urged Ahmadinejad to use alternative media and advocated for cooperation between the Iranian government and neo-Nazis to reach out to antiwar Americans and break the grip of the "mainstream media monopoly."[35] Right-wing extremists often cast themselves as "alternative media voices." When addressing audiences in Muslim countries, they downplay racist themes and emphasize anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism.[36] This was apparent in interviews the official Mehr News Agency conducted with visiting Holocaust revisionists.[37]

Ahmadinejad appears to have listened. He has made Holocaust denial a central tenet of his administration. Following his September 19, 2006 U.N. General Assembly speech, he granted press availability to representatives of the alternative media, including Michael Collins Piper, a journalist for the extreme right newspaper American Free Press and author of Final Judgment, a book postulating that the Mossad killed President John F. Kennedy.[38] After the conference, a personal friend of Piper, Iranian filmmaker Nader Talebzadeh, introduced him to Ahmadinejad, who actually invited Piper to be his personal guest in Iran.[39] Following his press conference, Ahmadinejad spent half of a 90-minute meeting at the Council on Foreign Relations trying to debunk the Holocaust.[40]

The Tehran Holocaust Conference
Foreign Ministry sponsorship of the "Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision" conference in Tehran was therefore a culmination of a longer process. Leading officials including Ahmadinejad and Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki attended.[41] The conference provided a venue for the who's who of Holocaust denial and revisionism.[42] Duke gave the keynote address. Other prominent participants included Jan Bernhoff, a computer science professor in Sweden; Mattias Chang, a lawyer and an author of conspiracy books from Malaysia; Robert Faurisson, a former literature professor in France and a long-time Holocaust denier; Wolfgang Fröhlich, a Holocaust denier from Austria; Jürgen Graf, a Holocaust denier from Switzerland; Mohammed Hegazi, a pro-Palestinian activist who resides in Australia; George Kadar, originally from Hungary, who now resides in the United States and writes for the far right newspaper, American Free Press; Richard Krege, a Holocaust denier from Australia; Patrick McNally, a Holocaust denier and conspiracy theorist who currently resides in Japan; Michael Collins Piper, a writer for American Free Press; Michele Renouf, an Australian socialite and supporter of Holocaust revisionism; Bradley Smith, an American Holocaust denier who currently resides in Mexico; Georges Thiel, a Holocaust denier from France; Serge Thion, a French sociologist and critic of the politicization of the Holocaust; and Frederick Töben. At the conference, participants agreed to establish a world foundation for Holocaust studies and unanimously appointed Mohammad ‘Ali Ramin as its secretary general.[43] An advisor to President Ahmadinejad, Ramin once lived in Germany and is an ardent defender of Holocaust denial.

As with the Jordanian conference before, anti-Zionism combined with Holocaust revisionism. Former Iranian interior minister ‘Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour conceded that the Nazis "committed horrendous crimes during World War II" but added that "the Zionists' narration of the massacre of the six million Jews at Nazi death camps is far from reality."[44]

Right-wing extremists who participated in the conference expressed satisfaction.[45] By working with Muslims, they hope to dilute the stigma of racism. Rather than characterize themselves as "white supremacist," they now speak of "white separatism," placing themselves within the third-world vocabulary of self-determination and liberation. While associating with a Middle Eastern despot, especially in the aftermath of 9-11, might not seem expedient, neo-Nazi groups may consider that they have little to lose since they are already marginal. That any head of state would embrace them enhances their stature. So, too, did media attention. CNN's Wolf Blitzer granted Duke a platform to discuss his participation in the conference.[46]

The Tehran conference may have provided a boost of adrenalin to neo-Nazis. Erich Gliebe, chairman of the National Alliance, the most prominent U.S. neo-Nazi organization, lauded Ahmadinejad and lamented that Western leaders did not have his "guts." Days after the Tehran conference concluded, he announced that his organization would hold a similar conference at its Hillsboro, West Virginia headquarters.[47] Several revisionists who attended the Tehran conference participated.[48]

In an effort to further isolate Iran, nearly forty European and North American research institutes announced that they had suspended contacts with the Iranian Institute for Political and International Studies—a leading Iranian think-tank that helped organize the conference. Francois Heisbourg, head of the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research, organized the boycott.[49]

Strategic Implications of Holocaust Denial
Although other Middle East figures have dismissed the Nazi Holocaust, Ahmadinejad has changed the discourse with his stridency. His gambit may serve him well amid the increasing polarization between Islamic countries and the United States. His confrontation has elevated him to a central player on the international scene. By championing Holocaust revisionism, Ahmadinejad has demonstrated his bona fides to the Islamic world and tapped into the reservoir of resentment against Israel that transcends sectarian differences. By radicalizing the Middle East, Ahmadinejad seeks to prevent a rapprochement between Israel and conservative Arab states that have a security interest in containing an ascendant Iran. In doing so, Ahmadinejad could conceivably draw support from Sunni radicals that have been traditionally hostile to the Shi‘a.[50]

Domestically, some Iranians fear that Ahmadinejad's provocative rhetoric is isolating their country. However, Khamenei stands by the Iranian president. On March 22, 2007, for example, the supreme leader railed against the "global Zionist conspiracy," rhetoric borrowed directly from The National Vanguard.[51] Some moderates and reformers have urged the Islamic cleric-led regime to rein in the president for fear that his controversial comments may lead to a propaganda campaign against Iran.[52] However, whether for ideological or practical reasons, the Iranian leadership has decided that its natural allies are not liberal Western democracies but rather the right-wing fringe of Western extremism.

George Michael is assistant professor of political science and administration of justice at the University of Virginia's College at Wise. He is the author of The Enemy of My Enemy: The Alarming Convergence of Militant Islam and the Extreme Right (University Press of Kansas, 2006) and Willis Carto and the American Far Right (University Press of Florida, forthcoming, 2008).

[1] The Washington Post, Dec. 15, 2005.
[2] Islamic Republic News Agency (Tehran, IRNA), Dec. 5, 2006.
[3] See, for example, Bernard Wasserstein, "Anti-Semitism and Anti-Americanism," Chronicle of Higher Education, Sept. 28, 2001; Juan Cole, "Pentagon/Israel Spying Case Expands: Fomenting a War on Iran," Informed Comment, Aug. 29, 2004; David Duke, Jewish Supremacism: My Awakening to the Jewish Question (Mandeville, La.: Free Speech Press, 2003).
[4] Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (New York: The Viking Press, 1963), p. 231.
[5] Leonard Weinberg, "The American Radical Right in Comparative Perspective," in Peter H. Merkl and Leonard Weinberg, eds., The Revival of Right-Wing Extremism in the Nineties (London: Frank Cass, 1997), p. 237.
[6] Michael Shermer and Alex Grobman, Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It? (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), p. 40.
[7] Deborah Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (New York: The Free Press, 1993), pp. 51-2; Jerry Bornstein, The Neo-Nazis: The Threat of the Hitler Cult (New York: Julian Messner, 1986), p. 45.
[8] Shermer and Grobman, Denying History, p. 40.
[9] Bernard Lewis, Semites and Anti-Semites: An Inquiry into Conflict and Prejudice (New York: WW. Norton, 1986), p. 121.
[10] Quoted in Walter Laqueur, The Changing Face of Antisemitism: From Ancient Times to the Present Day (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 140-1.
[11] Michelle L. Picheny, "A Fertile Ground: The Expansion of Holocaust Denial into the Arab World," Boston College Third World Law Journal, 1 (2003): 331-58.
[12] Reuven Paz, "Palestinian Holocaust Denial," Peace Watch, no. 255, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Washington, D.C., Apr. 21, 2000.
[13] "Demonizing Jews: Anti-Semitism in the Saudi Media," Anti-Defamation League (ADL), New York, accessed Mar. 12, 2007.
[14] Ernst Zündel, "The West, War, and Islam," Radio Islam, accessed Mar. 23, 2007.
[15] Holocaust Denial in the Middle East: The Latest Anti-Israel, Anti-Semitic Propaganda Theme (New York: Anti-Defamation League, 2001), p. 5.
[16] Ibid., p. 13.
[17] Ibid., p. 15.
[18] "Lebanon's New TV: ‘Contradictions, Lies, and Exaggerations in Number Killed in ‘Jewish Holocaust,'" Special Dispatch Series, no. 1194, Middle East Research Institute, June 29, 2006.
[19] "ADL Comments on Holocaust Denial Conference Held in Jordan," ADL news release, May 15, 2001.
[20] Jürgen Graf, "Holocaust Revisionism and Its Political Consequences," Jan. 2001, accessed Mar. 23, 2007.
[21] "David Duke in Damascus to Express Solidarity with Syria,", Nov. 22, 2005.
[22] "Duke on Irving and Holocaust Conference," audio link on David Duke's website, Dec. 20, 2006, accessed Mar. 23, 2007; David Duke, "Iranian Leader Breaks New Ground in Spiegel Interview," David Duke's website, June 1, 2006, accessed Mar. 23, 2007.
[23] Ali Ansari, Modern Iran since 1921 (London: Longman, 2003), p. 72.
[24] Patrick Clawson and Michael Rubin, Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos (New York: Palgrave, 2005), pp. 26, 63, 72, 130.
[25] The Jerusalem Post, Apr. 25, 2001.
[26] Holocaust Denial in the Middle East, p. 8; Abraham Foxman, Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism (New York: Harper Collins, 2003), pp. 223-4.
[27] Foxman, Never Again?, pp. 222-3.
[28] Babak Ganji, Iran and Israel: Asymmetric Warfare and Regional Strategy (London: Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, 2006), p. 3.
[29] "Revisionist Fredrick Töben Speaks at Iran's Intifada Conference," National Vanguard (Sacramento), Sept. 9, 2003.
[30] The New York Times, Dec. 15, 2005.
[31] Al-Jazeera television (Doha), Dec. 15, 2005; Agence France-Presse, Dec. 22, 2005.
[32] See "The Iranian Holocaust Conference: Toben Explains the Fairy Tale of Auschwitz," accessed Mar. 30, 2007.
[33] Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting News (IRIB), Mar. 7, 2006.
[34] Al-Jazeera, Sept. 3, 2006.
[35] "American Dissident Voices: Kevin Alfred Strom, ‘In the Cause of Peace and Freedom,'" National Vanguard, June 25, 2006.
[36] The Asia Times, Nov. 30, 2004.
[37] "Iran Promotes Holocaust Denial," ADL news release, Feb. 14, 2006.
[38] Michael Collins Piper, Final Judgment: The Missing Link in the JFK Assassination Conspiracy (Washington: Center for Historical Review, 2000).
[39] American Free Press (Washington, D.C.), Oct. 2, 9, 2006.
[40] "How Jew-Friendly Persia Became Anti-Semitic Iran," Moment Magazine, Dec. 14, 2006.
[41] CBS News, Jan. 15, 2006.
[42] "Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision 10-12 December 2006" program, Adelaide Institute website, accessed Mar. 23, 2007; Fars News Agency (Tehran), Dec. 11, 2006.
[43] IRIB News, Dec. 15, 2006.
[44] IRNA, Dec. 12, 2006. Mohtashamipour now serves as the secretary-general of the International Congress to Support the Palestinian Intifada.
[45] See for example, Michael Collins Piper, "What Really Happened in Iran," American Free Press, Jan. 1, 8, 2007.
[46] David Duke interview with Wolf Blitzer, The Situation Room, CNN, Dec. 13, 2006.
[47] "American Dissident Voices: Erich Gliebe, "Leadership of Tomorrow," The National Alliance, July 1, 2006.
[48] Willis Carto, "Holocaust Hoopla," American Free Press, Dec. 25, 2006.
[49] Times Colonist (Victoria, B.C.), Dec. 16, 2006; The New York Times, Dec. 15, 2006.
[50] Ganji, Iran and Israel, pp. 23-5.
[51] Fars News Agency, Mar. 22, 2007.
[52] Associated Press, Dec. 14, 2005; Ganji, Iran and Israel, p. 8.

Radical Group Pulls In Sunnis As Lebanon's Muslims Polarize
By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, June 17, 2007; Page A16
TRIPOLI, Lebanon -- Surrounded in the first hours of their battle with Lebanese forces in this northern Lebanese city, fighters of the Fatah al-Islam group shouted desperately from the windows of their hideouts. "God is great!" one resident, housewife Aziza Ahmed, recalled the fighters yelling. "Come be holy warriors with us!"
Mohammed al-Jasm, a 28-year-old unemployed Lebanese Sunni, received his summons by cellphone on May 20, his family believes.
A Lebanese army tank maneuvers during a clash with al-Qaeda-inspired Fatah al-Islam fighters near Tripoli on Friday. (By Matt Dunham -- Associated Press)
Chunky and unmarried, twice-failed in shopkeeping ventures and increasingly prone to spending his idle hours with fundamentalist friends, Jasm took his gun and rallied to the Sunni group, his brothers said.
He soon made a forlorn cellphone call to his mother: I'm wounded, he told her.
Within hours, Jasm was dead, his body gouged by bullets, his jowly, bearded face pressed into the filthy street. A sister keeps an image of his body captured on a cellphone camera.
To his family, Jasm and a handful of other young Lebanese Sunnis who responded to Fatah al-Islam's appeals died hapless recruits in a conflict that leaders on all sides are promoting between the Muslim world's Sunni majority and Shiite minority.
In Lebanon, the polarization is felt ever more keenly. A governing bloc led by the Sunni-dominated Future Movement of parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora is locked in an eight-month-old standoff with the Shiite movement Hezbollah, led by Hasan Nasrallah and backed by Iran and Syria. Both sides are arming.
In January, Siniora's administration received pledges of $7.6 billion from the United States, Europe and Persian Gulf states, including millions of dollars in military aid. The Bush administration is trying to strengthen Sunni countries it considers moderate, among them Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, to counter Shiite entities such as Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.
In Tripoli, residents say they have watched the expansion of groups dedicated to the more strident forms of Sunnism, especially since Hezbollah's war with Israel last year. This growth includes politicking by leaders of the Salafi sect, a fundamentalist stream of Sunni Islam that traditionally rejects politics as an impious Western concept.
At the same time, prominent figures in the Salafi community here have served as intermediaries between their flock and Hariri. In the mosques, "our preachers call upon the people to become part of the political process," said Daii al-Islam al-Shahal, a member of a prominent Salafi family in Tripoli and founder of a group he describes as dedicated to charity, education and preaching.
"There's a relationship between ourselves and Sheik Saad when it's needed," Shahal said. "The biggest Sunni political power is Hariri. The biggest Sunni religious power are the Salafis. So it's natural."
Hariri denies that promoting Sunni political power trickles down to support for armed groups. "We sponsor culture and education, not terrorism," he said in an interview in Beirut. "I am the son of Rafiq al-Hariri -- we never had blood on our hands and we never will."
I am concerned about Iranian intervention in the affairs of other countries," Hariri added. "But that doesn't mean that we will sponsor Sunni radicalism. Radicalism is not the answer."
The U.S.-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have fed Sunni militancy, and U.S. and European leaders are inciting it anew in the building confrontation with Iran and Hezbollah, said Alistair Crooke, former Middle East adviser under European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
A Lebanese army tank maneuvers during a clash with al-Qaeda-inspired Fatah al-Islam fighters near Tripoli on Friday. (By Matt Dunham -- Associated Press)
With U.S. and European governments encouraging the alignment of Sunnis against Shiites, "it should not be surprising that in November a group of Salafis could think it would be important to come to Lebanon to defend their Sunni people against a growing threat," Crooke said. Fatah al-Islam was founded by Shaker al-Abssi, a Jordanian of Palestinian origin, who arrived in northern Lebanon late last year after serving a prison sentence in Syria.
Abssi reportedly embraces the ideology of Osama bin Laden and seeks to promote Islamic fundamentalism among Palestinians in Lebanon before eventually attacking Israel.
Mustafa al-Jasm, Mohammed's 40-year-old brother, said the younger man was drawn to Fatah al-Islam by the heated rhetoric accompanying the sectarian divide in the region. Some clerics, he said, "are telling Sunnis, 'You have nothing to do here. You might as well go fight Iran, for our Sunni brothers there.' "
"Saad Hariri and all of his Future Movement, the only sect they have in their hand is the Sunnis, and they used religious speech to pump them up," said Mustafa, a bookkeeper in an auto repair shop here. "The tension built, like a bomb waiting to explode. And my brother was part of that."
Across the bare, uncarpeted living room, one of three shared by the 14-member family, Mohammed's 19-year-old brother, Taya, agreed, unsmiling.
"I put the blame on Saad Hariri and Nasrallah -- this is how they have spread their quarrel to the people," said Taya, who wore a polo shirt and baseball cap rather than the beard and checkered kaffiyeh scarf favored by his dead brother.
In another tenement in the same neighborhood of al-Tabineh, the father of a 26-year-old man killed by Lebanese forces in the first week of fighting with Fatah al-Islam insisted there be no such blame in a time of crisis for his sect.
"Shut up!" Riad Mohammed roared, raising the back of his hand, when the slain youth's kerchiefed grandmother ventured a quiet rebuke of Saad Hariri.
"The Sunni people must stand together now," the father insisted.
The short trip up the narrow concrete steps to their apartment made clear what the family looked for in a leader. Their son's thickly bearded face was first, scowling from a photocopied sheet declaring him a martyr. An image of Saad Hariri and Siniora followed, next to a poster of Saddam Hussein with sunlit clouds surrounding his head. "God bless Osama bin Laden," someone had scrawled one flight up.
After sectarian strife in Tripoli earlier this year unrelated to the clashes between Lebanese forces and Fatah al-Islam, Hariri and his political allies rewarded Sunnis who had fought and honored the families of those who had died. Such patronage has long been a part of Lebanon's largely feudal system of clan loyalty.
Abed al-Rahman al-Helo, 30, the owner of an electrical shop in al-Tabineh, was one such fighter. In January, rival demonstrators shot him through the chest in a street battle between Sunnis and minority Allawites, members of a mostly Syrian sect that is doctrinally close to Shiism. The fighting in Tripoli was sparked in part by Shiite-Sunni clashes in Beirut at the same time that left four people dead.
Two lawmakers from Hariri's Future Movement visited Helo in the hospital, he said.
"They were telling me, 'Don't be afraid. We're proud of you. We have our heads up high because of you,' " Helo said.
The Lebanese government paid 80 percent of his hospital bill and Future took care of the rest, he said, but added that he had refused the $200 Hariri's bloc offered for his pharmacy bills, deeming it insultingly low.
Relatives of Bilal al-Hayek, a 28-year-old tow-truck driver shot dead in the same clash, said they had received $5,400 in separate payments from a Future Movement official in Tripoli.
After Hayek's funeral, Hariri summoned the family to Beirut, said Nazha and Fatima, the dead man's sisters. Hariri received them with ceremony, telling them that Hayek and the others killed in the sectarian brawl were "brothers and martyrs," the sisters said.
But the violence sparked by the more radical Fatah al-Islam group seems to have made Sunni leaders more cautious.
Mustafa al-Jasm said none of the families of those who died alongside Fatah al-Islam had received any support from Hariri or other Sunni politicians.
**Special correspondent Alia Ibrahim contributed to this report.

The mystery of the Six Day War
Khaleej Times
17 June 2007
ONE of the biggest Cold War mysteries still remains unsolved and mostly forgotten: Moscow's primary role in triggering the conflict that changed the course of Middle East history.
In the months before the June, 1967 conflict, Israel and Syria fought increasingly violent clashes along their border as Israeli settles pushed into Syrian territory.
Hawkish Israeli generals, led by Moshe Dayan, sought to provoke a limited war with Syria in hopes of grabbing water resources around Lake Tiberias. Palestinian ‘fedayeen' raided across Israel's borders.
As tensions surged, the Soviet Union, then Egypt's close ally, urgently warned Cairo and Damascus that its spy satellites were detecting Israeli armoured formations massing to attack Syria. The Arabs had no independent means of verifying Moscow's warnings, but could not ignore them. Egypt's leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser, believed an Israeli invasion of his close ally Syria was imminent and came under intense pressure from Damascus and his own generals to counter Israel's threat. Egypt's rivals in the Arab World heaped scorn on Nasser for timidity, demanding Cairo take action to defend Syria.
So Nasser ordered four Egyptian divisions into Sinai. They were deployed in defensive formations the middle of the peninsula, well away from Israel's border.
In reality, Israel was not massing troops to attack Syria. Moscow's warnings to Cairo and Damascus of an impending Israeli attack were false. In late 1990, the US used similarly doctored satellite photos to convince the Saudis Iraq had massed troops on its border and was about to invade.
Moscow's disinformation lit the fuse that ignited the second major Arab-Israeli war. Syria, knowing its military forces were useless, was gripped by panic and pleaded with Nasser to deter the imagined Israeli attack by making some powerful demonstration.
Israelis were gripped by panic, believing deployment of Egyptian divisions into Sinai heralded a war that would destroy their young state. Israel's hawkish military establishment seized upon popular panic and urged the government of Golda Meir to activate a long-planned campaign to seize the West Bank and Golan Heights.
Meanwhile, Palestinian spokesman Ahmad Shukairy and other windbags thundered, ‘we will drive the Jews into the sea.' Such empty threats won worldwide sympathy for Israel and provided it with a perfect pretext to launch what it called a ‘self-defensive war of survival.'
As pressure on Nasser intensified, he made a fateful error. Nasser had no intention of going to war. But he desperately sought to dissuade Israel from the attack Moscow warned was coming. Nasser ordered UN troops in Sinai to withdraw, and closed the Strait of Tiran to Israeli shipping. Withdrawing UN troops and closing Israel's access to the Red Sea were mistakenly seen by the outside world as the beginning of an Egyptian offensive into Israel.
Israel's hawks finally convinced PM Golda Meir a major Arab offensive was imminent. She authorised surprise attacks on the Arab states. Nasser had fallen right into a trap. But who had set it?
Two hundred Israeli warplanes quickly destroyed the air forces of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. Satellite information covertly supplied by the United States allowed Israel to evade Egypt's air defence system. Attractive Israeli female spies had seduced Egyptian pilots into revealing the times when their defenses would be most vulnerable.
When the Israeli air attack were launched, Egypt's supreme military commander, Field Marshall Abdul Hakim Amer, who had assured his old friend Nasser that Egyptian forces would crush any Israeli attack, was flying towards Sinai, reportedly smoking hashish.
A US intelligence vessel, the USS ‘Liberty,' off the Sinai coast monitoring the war and Israel's preparations to attack Syria, was repeatedly attacked by waves of Israeli warplanes and torpedo boats and reduced to a burning wreck. Israeli warships even machine-gunned the Liberty's' survivors in the water. President Lyndon Johnson ordered the Israeli attack covered up.
Did Moscow believe its Arab allies could actually defeat Israel? Or did the Soviets think a major defeat might drive the Arabs ever deeper into their embrace? Did pro-Israel KGB officers send the false data? Whatever the case, it was the worst Soviet strategic miscalculation until the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan, and a disaster for all concerned.
**Eric S. Margolis is a veteran American journalist and contributing foreign editor of The Toronto Sun

Iran’s long game sets stage for war

By: Uzi Mahnaimi
From The Sunday Times/June 17, 2007
ISRAEL awoke last Friday to find itself encircled by enemies with its most determined foe, Iran, entrenched on its southern doorstep in Gaza.
Hamas’s stunningly swift victory in a brief civil war has left the Jewish state at its must vulnerable for three decades.
Inspired by a philosophy of militant Islam and backed by Iranian weaponry and military training, Hamas poses a direct threat to Israel and, if left unchecked, will soon be in a position to step up its lethal rocket attacks on towns and villages across the border.
In Lebanon to the north, Israel faces Hezbollah, the militant Syrian-backed militia, which has rebuilt its frontline forces - also with Iranian help - since last summer’s war exposed the shortcomings of the Israeli defence forces. The Lebanese government can do little to curb Hezbollah’s growing strength.
“Tehran has succeeded in planting an Iranian division in the north and now they have a foothold in the south by establishing their southern division - Hamas,” said a source in Israel’s defence ministry.
Then there is Syria, with which Israel is still officially at war. Damascus is demanding the return of the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967. Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, said recently his country did not want war with Syria but warned that a “miscalculation” could spark one.
To the east - beyond Jordan - lie the deeply unstable Iraq and the greatest threat of all in Israeli eyes, Iran. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, has declared that Israel should be “wiped off the map” and continues to advance a nuclear programme in defiance of the United Nations security council.
Israeli intelligence has little doubt that if Israel or the US attacks Iran’s burgeoning uranium enrichment programme, much of the retaliation will come from Tehran’s clients on its borders.
They are also watching a fierce debate inside the US administration between doves led by Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, and hawks such as Vice-President Dick Cheney, on the repercussions of any military strike against Iran.
With the doves seemingly holding the upper hand in Washington, US support for a hardline Israeli response may be fading. But Israeli leaders continue to warn that they will prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Ehud Barak, who is expected to be appointed defence minister tomorrow, met Olmert to agree a crisis plan to deal with the threat of Hamas before Olmert left for Washington to meet President George W Bush this week.
“Israel will not tolerate a Hamastan at its back door,” said one of Barak’s close associates.

Suicide Bombers Without a Cause: Lebanon and Fatah al-Islam
Written by Nahla Chahal for the Alternative Information Center (AIC)

Sunday, 17 June 2007
Despite the complete political silence of Fatah al-Islam indicating its purpose or vision of the world—save for a few empty and hastily composed statements—its fighters’ willingness to die so readily has become well known. Hence, they can be described as those affiliated to a jihadi movement a la al-Qaeda.
Their fighters fought to the end during the Lebanese military attack on those holed up in apartments in Tripoli—some even blew themselves up in the face of the attacking forces. Furthermore, in order to confirm this jihadi characteristic, they have hinted at their multinational forces, which include Palestinians, Lebanese and various other Arabs, some who have ended up here, in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared in northern Lebanon, after they were rejected from joining the fighting in Iraq. This claim has been specifically corroborated by statements made by Washington officials about supporting the government of Fouad Siniora in its “vicious war on terror” to which this group belongs—this world of terror, which seemingly can absorb just about anything. This is in addition to the American statements that grant Mr. Siniora testimony after testimony regarding his belonging to the circle of the war on terror.
Still, there is more to the reality than meets the eye. It reeks of the stench of intelligence intervention from various sources. It also prefigures the result of the accumulation of misery; materially, in terms of the living conditions and psychologically, whereby misery becomes part of any behavior. Today, we should point out to the overall collapse, represented in the loss of standards and meanings and a lack of any structured reference. Politics is no longer politics and religion has not remained religion. A dubious group was able, almost overnight, to take hold of a Palestinian refugee camp in which 40,000 people live and in which, historically all the Palestinian political factions are present. This went on for many months and no one did anything. Neither did the Lebanese government pay it any heed in terms of trying to come to understandings with the Palestinian organizations, until the terrible events took place and the real situation was exposed.

This scenario is completely different from the situation in the Ein al-Hilwa Camp, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, which is located on the outskirts of Sidon. In that case, the situation built up slowly over many years and resulted from the splits in the Palestinian situation in Lebanon after the exit of the PLO leadership following the Israeli invasion of 1982, and because of the events and changes in Lebanon in terms of the Palestinian question. In this sense, regardless of the current chaos in Ein-al Hilwa, the situation there is understandable and explainable. As for what went on in Nahr al-Bared, this is not the case.

In any case, this situation necessitates probing the issue of authority over the camps. The Cairo agreement of 1969 took away this authority from the sponsorship of the Lebanese government and put it under the authority of the PLO. This was a result of the balance in powers that took form after 1982. However, it remained in effect because of the Syrian presence in Lebanon. The situation was never discussed, except in narrow circles known for their hostility and near-racist attitude towards the Palestinians. Moreover, this exception was in one way or another, an expression of the desire to maintain the Palestinians’ “outside-ness” and a record of them being outside the framework of the Lebanese entity, which is plagued by the threat of nationalization. A review of the efficacy of the Cairo Agreement was—and still is—a goal that remains difficult for the Lebanese authority to achieve given how divided and in crisis it is.
However, the explosion of the last few weeks—the high causalities among the Lebanese military and the alleged methods of eliminating some by abducting them from public roads and massacring them, in addition to the fact that this group is using the camp as a backdrop for the spread of arms in various regions, which means there could be killings and explosions carried out in various parts of the country, which would be affiliated to this group—this all raises the question of the conditions in the camps, something which cannot be overstepped by any legitimate justification, except through the Palestinian organizations’ push towards taking responsibility for the camps and arranging mechanisms to administrate them seriously and transparently. Acquired rights diminish if they are not used. And what is more dangerous than this is the arrogant mentality which will quickly lead to a Lebanese/Palestinian split, the characteristics of which have surfaced strongly in this latest crisis. This is not just in the many statements by Lebanese politicians who have joined the ranks of outright hostility towards the Palestinians, calling them “ungrateful” or “the root of all of Lebanon’s problems” and other extremely racist statements in addition to twisting the truth of their behavior. This is also because gunfire was shot from positions in Lebanese areas (villages with a Sunni Muslim population and not “isolators”) at caravans of medical and humanitarian relief headed towards the besieged Nahr al-Bared Camp, and because the displaced from this camp—thousands of them—did not find anyone save other Palestinian camps to receive them.
Still, any Palestinian confrontation of the problem of running the camps presupposes a high capability from the Palestinian leadership to find mutual understanding, arrangements and a system and mode of implementation. This is not easy at all given the accumulated problems that exist and given the absence of a framework of a harmonious Palestinian leadership. It is also due to the absence of a clear political will and because of the muddled relationship with the Lebanese relationship. This means that this file will continue to be a quandary throughout this lengthy and open-ended transitional period, headed towards the unknown. Thus, the Palestinians, both people and cause, will continue to pay the highest prices.
At the Lebanese level of this explosive problem, this has given the government a golden opportunity to behave according to an undeclared state of emergency. The leaderships of the military, security and police have been summoned to ongoing meetings and have been given firm orders, as if they have been given the task of saving the country from a major crisis. It then rallied a huge amount of support and mobilization from the Lebanese people around the military, support which was clear during the battles of Tripoli and then the camp. This may have contributed to motivating them in terms of losses in the ranks of their soldiers. But this is not the only thing. There was an overall rejection that developed to the danger of falling into chaos and the unknown, represented by Fatah al-Islam.
This is in addition to a strong general conviction (to the extent to which no one has actually corroborated the validity of its important) about the fear that this group is connected to Syrian plans to manipulate the Lebanese situation in order to extort regional and international players that are planning general arrangements for the region. Examples of this are approving the international tribunal and other moves regarding Iraq. Have we forgotten that on 28 May, there is an Iranian-American meeting in Baghdad and that is most likely an introduction to a series of negotiations that will challenge the definition of the current balance of power and the ramifications of this balance?
Still, what has been lost on the Lebanese government is that it cannot solve such complicated and complex problems through security measures, regardless of how firm or effective they may be. Furthermore, these arrangements cannot compensate for the current vertical split in the country. Also, in confronting the problem, the government cannot disregard it as if it were secondary. If the government will not form a national salvation government under such conditions, when else would it be appropriate? If a national conciliation government is not formed under such conditions, then will Fatah al-Islam remain the only party who can manipulate the security and fate of the country?
This article was originally published in Arabic in al-Hayat, and translated into English by the Alternative Information Center (AIC) by request of the author.

Syria's opponents in Lebanon remain targets
Saturday, 16 June, 2007 @ 5:28 AM
Sources: Newsweek
by Rana Fil
Beirut - Murder can have unforeseen consequences. Syria's leaders ought to know that by now. A prime example is the car-bomb assassination of the billionaire Lebanese-independence champion Rafik Hariri.
Almost faster than Damascus could deny responsibility for it, his killing launched the Cedar Revolution, a massive Lebanese nationalist uprising that accomplished what Hariri had only dreamed of doing while he lived. Within weeks his death had brought down the pro-Syria puppet government in Beirut. Damascus was forced to withdraw its troops from Lebanon, after 29 years of military occupation.
And yet the killings—and Syria's denials of involvement in any of them—continue. Since Hariri's death, seven anti-Syrian political figures have been killed in Lebanon, including three members of Parliament. The most recent was Walid Eido, 65. Late on the afternoon of June 13, a bomb ripped through his black Mercedes on a side street in Beirut, killing the legislator along with his 35-year-old son, two bodyguards and six passers-by. The death of Eido reduced the Lebanese Parliament's anti-Damascus majority to 68 seats in a total 128—actually a total of 126, since there was one vacancy even before this killing created another. President Emile Lahoud, a holdover from before the Cedar Revolution, has blocked efforts to fill the seat that was held by cabinet minister Pierre Gemayel until he was gunned down in a road ambush last November. The pro-Syrian president's successor is to be chosen in September, and in Lebanon it's the Parliament that does the choosing. Now there's one fewer vote for the anti-Damascus side.
But violence against the Lebanese government has moved beyond assassinations to armed conflict. A small but heavily armed jihadist group calling itself Fatah al-Islam has been battling the Lebanese Army in and around Tripoli since the third weekend in May. The fighting, centered on Nahr el-Bared—the Palestinian refugee camp closest to Syria's border—erupted three days after the United States, France and Great Britain began circulating a draft U.N. resolution for creation of a tribunal for suspects in the Hariri assassination. As always, the Syrians deny any part in the violence, but many Lebanese say the connection is obvious. "Nahr el-Bared is the implementation of Syrian official talk of turning Lebanon into hell if the international tribunal moves ahead," says parliamentarian Elias Atallah, in a comment echoed by others in his bloc.
Fatah al-Islam has an estimated 350 jihadists from all over the Arab world, including Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Tunisia and Morocco. Lebanese police say many of the group's fighters spent time in Iraq before infiltrating into Lebanon via Syria. Hariri's son, Saad Hariri, the Parliament's majority leader, is unwavering in his conviction that Syria is behind Fatah al-Islam. "I would understand if two or three of them arrive at the Damascus Airport and slip through immigration," says Hariri. "But when we're talking of so many, including Syrians, there is a huge question mark on how and why the Syrian intelligence did not intercept them."
Many Fatah al-Islam leaders are said to have spent time in Syrian jails before arriving in Lebanon, according to Gen. Ashraf Rifi, the head of Lebanon's internal security forces. "They were released from Syrian jails by special amnesty,'' Rifi says. Lebanese officials believe the former prisoners got their freedom on condition that they begin working for Syria's intelligence services. The group's leader, a Palestinian named Shaker Absi, served three years behind bars in Syria on weapons charges. In 2004 a Jordanian military court sentenced him in absentia to death for the October 2002 murder of U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley in Amman, but Syria refused to send its prisoner to Jordan. (One of Absi’s codefendants was Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, the bloodthirsty Jordanian-born jihadist who founded and led Al Qaeda in Iraq until his death in an American air strike in 2006.)
Senior Lebanese officials say Fatah al-Islam began as Fatah al-Intifada, a Syrian-aligned group established in the 1980s as an offshoot of Yasir Arafat's Fatah organization. In the summer of 2006, amid the chaos of Israel's war on Hezbollah, Absi showed up in Lebanon's Palestinian refugee camps and Fatah al-Intifada began to grow, according to Ahmad Fatfat, then-acting Interior minister. The new militants worried other camp residents, who wanted no bloodshed around their homes. Nevertheless, fighting finally broke out in September 2006 between Fatah al-Intifada and people in Beddawi, a camp outside Tripoli. After one Palestinian died, Beddawi residents apprehended two Fatah al-Intifada militants and handed them over to Lebanese authorities.
Absi and his followers soon changed their group's name to Fatah al-Islam. Lebanon's Communications minister, Marwan Hamadeh —himself the target of an assassination attempt just months before Hariri was killed—says the renaming came after Lebanese authorities received intelligence that Damascus had begun sending "the same suicide bombers it sends to Iraq" to Lebanon. "They wanted to make it look as if it was a pure Al Qaeda operation," he said. "Some of the elements probably believe they work for Al Qaeda but the command is under Syrian control." Captured Fatah al-Islam fighters have allegedly confessed to receiving military training at bases run by the pro-Syrian radical Palestinian group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. "We have no ties with Fatah al-Islam," says Ramez Mostafa, the PFLP-GC's top man in Lebanon. "The [Lebanese] government is using those events to aim at our weapons."
Syria's parliamentary friends accuse Hariri of having his own militant connections, particularly in the south Lebanon town of Taamir, where the group Jund al-Sham ("Soldiers of Damascus") is based. Hariri says he has given money in Taamir—to help the poor, not the militants. He says he built roads and clinics there to give the inhabitants an alternative to joining the militants. "We worked hard to give people dignity and responsibility in this neighborhood where people live in desperate poverty," he says. "If you give them hope, they see that there is a way out."
Meanwhile, the fighting in the north may actually be helping to bring the people of Lebanon together. Many Palestinians have distanced themselves from the militants, according to Sultan Abu al-Aynayn, the commander of Fatah in Lebanon. And Jihad Zein, opinion editor at an-Nahar newspaper, believes the violence has actually increased support for the army across the Lebanese political spectrum. "Even the nuanced position of Hezbollah does not represent the Shiite public mood, which has traditionally been with the army," he said in an interview. Many observers regard that development as a sign of major progress. "An army is the first building block of a state," says Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. "The reappearance of the national army means the reappearance of the cornerstone of a potential sovereign Lebanese state." Somewhere, Rafik Hariri may be smiling.
Sources: Newsweek