DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 16,13-19. When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Lebanon: The Crimes of the Arab League.Etienne Sacre (Abu Arz). June 30/07
Al-Qaeda and the deadly Robert Fisk agenda. By Talal Nizaneddin ĖJune 30/07
Not over yet. By: Lucy Fielder- Al-Ahram Weekly June 30/07
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources
for June 30/06/07
Two Soldiers Killed in Nahr al-Bared and Two on the Road to It-Naharnet
Nahr-Al Bared's Battle Continues-Naharnet
Palestinians In Lebanon Protest Fighting At Refugee Camp, Army ...AHN - USA
Lebanon army kills demonstrator-BBC News - UK
All available means-Jerusalem Post
Abul Aynain Urges Palestinian Forces to Help Army Finish Off Terrorists-Naharnet
UN blames Israel, Iran, Syria for south Lebanon truce failure-Yalibnan
Ban Makes Clear Syria, Iran Should Respect Hizbullah Arms Embargo-Naharnet
Saniora, Vatican's No. 2 Stress Dialogue to Overcome Lebanon Crisis-Naharnet
Saniora Meets Zapatero in Madrid-Naharnet
Heirs of Hariri Bodyguards Demand Judge Dismissal-Naharnet
Five Australians Detained in Terror Crackdown in Northern Lebanon-Naharnet
Saniora Seeking Renewal of U.N. Force's Mandate-Naharnet
Iran's letter to Hezbollah torpedoed Moussa's Lebanon mission-Ya Libnan
Brown's new Foreign Minister criticized the Israeli attack on ...European Jewish Press
CIA Terror Bombings, Bob Gates, and The Rise of Hezbollah-Huffington Post
Siniora vows to find 'terrorists' who killed Spanish UN troops-Daily Star
Hariri case frozen pending request to remove judge-Daily Star
Lebanese troops kill 6 militants near Tripoli-Daily Star
Qassem accuses ruling coalition of not being serious in quest for solution-Daily Star
UNIFIL 'committed more than ever' - Graziano-Daily Star
Conference seeks to plug Lebanese 'brain drain'-Daily Star
Al-Qaeda and the deadly Robert Fisk agenda-Daily Star
Activists protest plans to demolish traditional home in Nabatieh-Daily Star
NGOs back films focusing on youth social problems-Daily Star
US praises Siniora's resilience in face of crises-ABC News
UN blames Israel,
Iran, Syria for south Lebanon truce failure
Friday, 29 June, 2007
Beirut- Almost a year since Israel went to war with Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon, UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Thursday deplored the failure to arrive at a permanent ceasefire. In his fourth report since Security Council resolution 1701 was adopted last August to end the conflict, the secretary general also lamented the lack of progress in obtaining the release of abducted Israeli soldiers and in securing an end to Israeli incursions into Lebanese airspace.
The July 12 2006 killing of eight Israeli soldiers and the abduction of two others by Hezbollah guerrillas precipitated a conflict that left nearly 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis dead, much of Lebanon's infrastructure destroyed and caused severe economic damage to both countries.
"I would call on Lebanon, Israel and key states such as Syria and Iran ... to support the implementation of all aspects of Resolution 1701," Ban said.
He stressed that persistent reports of breaches of the arms embargo along the Lebanon-Syria border "constitute a major impediment to the establishment of a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution as envisaged in Resolution 1701."
He pointed to a report released earlier this week by a UN assessment team recently back from Lebanon that urged the deployment of "international border security experts" to help a new Lebanese border force stop arms smuggling from neighboring Syria.
Ban made it clear that Syria, other regional states and Iran "have a particular responsibility to ensure that the provisions related to the arms embargo are fully respected."
The secretary general also said the beefed-up UN force (UNIFIL) deployed in south Lebanon last August reported "a significant increase" in Israeli air incursions into Lebanese airspace. "Israeli overflights ... constitute repeated violations of that and other relevant Security Council resolutions and also undermine the credibility" of both UNIFIL and the Lebanese armed forces in the eyes of the local population. Ban deplored Sunday's bomb attack which claimed the lives of six peacekeepers serving with a Spanish UN contingent. He expressed disappointment at the failure of Syria and Lebanon to demarcate their common border and again urged them to take steps to do so.
And he specifically asked Damascus to reconsider its position that a resolution of the dispute over the Shebaa Farms would be possible only after a peace treaty with Israel. Lebanon, backed by Damascus, is claiming sovereignty over the Shebaa Farms, the 25 square kilometers (10 square miles) of land located along the Lebanon-Syria-Israeli borders which Israel captured from Syria during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and then annexed along with the rest of the Golan Heights.
The UN has offered to manage the territory, which has been a central pretext for Hezbollah's battle against the Jewish state after Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, until a final settlement is negotiated. Ban said he intends to ask the Security Council to approve Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's request for a one-year extension of UNIFIL's mandate, which expires August 31. The report put current UNIFIL strength at 13,313.
Lebanon: The Crimes of the Arab League
Etienne Sacre (Abu Arz)
June 29, 2007
The failure of the Arab delegationís mission to Lebanon was no surprise. In fact, its success would have been a surprise given the attributes of impotence, cowardice, and collusion that accompanied the Arab League since its inception in the mid-1940s and to this day. Impotence, because that is the historical record. Cowardice, because it never had the courage to call things by their name, relying instead of evasiveness, trickery and bias to hide the truth. Collusion, because its silence over the deeds of criminals encouraged the latter to continue in their crimes and, in so doing, the League became an accomplice in violation of the Good Samaritan Law which says that to see the crime and remain silent is to be an accomplice to it.
For this reason, we believe the government erred in seeking the help of the Arab League in stemming the Syrian onslaught on Lebanon, unless this was done so the government can say it tried, or for distraction and killing time while waiting for the international tribunal to initiate its proceedings.
But for the Secretary General of the Arab League to say that Lebanon is an Arab responsibility, it only pushes the Lebanese to more anxiety rather than tranquility, and it makes them fear the loss of their country by the Arabs like Palestine was lost. These words are not meant to slander or offend or exaggerate; but Lebanon has suffered for so long because of the Arab League, which bears a great deal of responsibility with the corrupt Lebanese establishment for the near collapse of Lebanon.
Isnít it this Arab League that dispatched, out of ignorance or deliberately, the Syrian forces to Lebanon in 1976 and gave them a broad cover of Arab legitimacy? Isnít it this Arab League that remained silent over the atrocities and massacres that the Syrian forces committed against the Lebanese for 30 full years, leading to the exhaustion and dismemberment of Lebanon, the destruction of its constitutional institutions, and the undermining of its very existence as is happening at this very moment in Lebanonís history?
What useful dialogue is possible with a Lebanese leadership that have sold themselves to the occupation and participated with it in destroying the country, pilfering its resources and starving its people, and to this day continue to be unable or incapable of freeing themselves from their ties to the regime in Damascus?
We are convinced that the majority of the Arabs are not serious about finding effective solutions for the Lebanese question, even if they could, because for Lebanon to remain a stage for regional conflicts alleviates the burden of most Arab regimes, provided that the Lebanese flames remain within the borders of the country and do not reach their own borders. Also, the return of Lebanon to its previous glory and prosperity worries many an Arab country because that return may take away from them the development, financial and economic achievements that they accomplished at Lebanonís expense.
The question that begs itself in this context is: Until when will Lebanon continue to burn in lieu of the Arabs? Until when will it remain a ball that is tossed around by regional interests? And the answer is: When the Lebanese themselves realize that their salvation begins with the internationalization of their cause, the declaration of Lebanonís neutrality, and its withdrawal from all Arab and regional organizations and alliances.
Etienne Sacre (Abu Arz)June 29, 2007
Ban Makes Clear Syria, Iran Should Respect Hizbullah Arms Embargo
After nearly a year to the end of the Israel-Hizbullah war, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon deplored failure to arrive at a permanent ceasefire in south Lebanon and said Syria and Iran should respect an arms embargo against Hizbullah. In his fourth report since Security Council resolution 1701 was adopted last August to end the conflict, the secretary general also lamented the lack of progress in obtaining the release of abducted Israeli soldiers and in securing an end to Israeli incursions into Lebanese airspace. The July 12, 2006 killing of eight Israeli soldiers and the abduction of two others by Hizbullah precipitated a conflict that left nearly 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis dead, much of Lebanon's infrastructure destroyed and caused severe economic damage to both countries.
"I would call on Lebanon, Israel and key states such as Syria and Iran ... to support the implementation of all aspects of Resolution 1701," Ban said on Thursday.
He stressed that persistent reports of breaches of the arms embargo along the Lebanon-Syria border "constitute a major impediment to the establishment of a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution as envisaged in Resolution 1701."
He pointed to a report released earlier this week by a U.N. assessment team recently back from Lebanon that urged the deployment of "international border security experts" to help a new Lebanese border force stop arms smuggling from neighboring Syria. Ban made it clear that Syria, other regional states and Iran "have a particular responsibility to ensure that the provisions related to the arms embargo are fully respected." The secretary general also said the beefed-up U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) deployed in the south last August reported "a significant increase" in Israeli air incursions into Lebanese airspace.
"Israeli overflights ... constitute repeated violations of that and other relevant Security Council resolutions and also undermine the credibility" of both UNIFIL and the Lebanese armed forces in the eyes of the local population.
Ban deplored Sunday's bomb attack which claimed the lives of six peacekeepers serving with a Spanish U.N. contingent. He expressed disappointment at the failure of Syria and Lebanon to demarcate their common border and again urged them to take steps to do so. And he specifically asked Damascus to reconsider its position that a resolution of the dispute over the Shabaa Farms would be possible only after a peace treaty with Israel. Lebanon, backed by Damascus, is claiming sovereignty over the Shabaa Farms, the 25 square kilometers of land located along the Lebanon-Syria-Israeli borders which Israel captured from Syria during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and then annexed along with the rest of the Golan Heights. The U.N. has offered to manage the territory, which has been a central pretext for Hizbullah's battle against the Jewish state after Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, until a final settlement is negotiated.
Ban said he intends to ask the Security Council to approve Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's request for a one-year extension of UNIFIL's mandate, which expires August 31. The report put current UNIFIL strength at 13,313.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 29 Jun 07, 06:31
Saniora, Vatican's No. 2 Stress Dialogue to Overcome Lebanon Crisis
Premier Fouad Saniora met Thursday with Pope Benedict XVI's top aide Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to discuss the crisis threatening Lebanon's security, and both stressed the need for all sides in the conflict to engage in dialogue, the Vatican said.
Saniora and the Holy See's Secretary of State, Bertone, reviewed the Middle East situation and "Lebanon's political difficulties, the grave threats to its security and initiatives under way to try to overcome the present crisis," the Vatican said in a statement.
In particular, the talks stressed "the need to re-launch dialogue among all components of (Lebanese) society, each one of which called to contribute to the common good of the country," the statement said.
Lebanon is facing its most serious political crisis since the end of the 1975-90 civil war, with Saniora's government and the Hizbullah-led opposition locked in a fierce power struggle. Rival Lebanese politicians have not met since a national dialogue ended last year without an agreement.
"The international community is called on to accompany and support such efforts, decisive for Lebanon and all the Middle East," the Vatican said.
The prime minister has been touring European capitals to try to drum up international support for peace efforts for his country.
Saniora met his Spanish counterpart Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in Madrid Thursday, just days after Spanish troops were killed in a car bombing in south Lebanon.
On Wednesday, Saniora said he has asked the U.N. to renew the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), following the deadly weekend attack. The 13,000-member UNIFIL was deployed nearly a year ago as part of a Security Council resolution that ended the 34-day war between Israel and Hizbullah. The force's mandate, which expires in August, called for creating an area free of weapons in southern Lebanon and bringing peace to the Lebanon-Israel border.(AP-Naharnet) Beirut, 29 Jun 07, 09:30
Heirs of Hariri Bodyguards Demand Judge Dismissal
The heirs of four slain bodyguards who died in the 2005 car bombing that killed former Premier Rafik Hariri have demanded the dismissal of Judge Elias Eid as investigating magistrate in the case. Mohammad Mattar, the lawyer for the heirs, on Wednesday filed a request that Judge Eid be replaced.
Mattar cited Eid's alleged "intention" to release former security officials Brig. Gen. Jamil Sayyed and Brig. Gen. Raymond Azar, before the conclusion of investigations, The Daily Star said. It said Mattar also cited Eid's "overly friendly relations" with the lawyers and families of the four officers charged with involvement in the Hariri assassination. They are, in addition to Sayyed, the former head of Lebanon's General Security Department, and Azar, former commander of the army's intelligence service, Brig. Gen. Ali Hajj, ex-commander of the Internal Security Forces, and Brig. Gen. Mostafa Hamdan, commander of the army Presidential Guard Brigade.
Mattar said Eid's ability to continue with the case was further thrown into doubt after his recent admittance to hospital for stress reasons.
Judge Jihad al-Wadi, head of the Court of Appeals, on Thursday referred Mattar's request to the head of the 10th District, Judge Sami Mansour, who in turn informed Eid, the paper said. Eid will have to respond to the request Ė either by stepping down or by rejecting it -- within three days.
The follow-up committee of the Hizbullah-led opposition said the motion was a clear attempt to improperly influence a judge. Sayyed submitted a new memorandum to Eid Thursday through his lawyer Akram Azouri. The memorandum detailed what he referred to as "factors hindering justice" in the case. Sayyed demanded that Eid look into previously submitted requests that he be released from prison. Beirut, 29 Jun 07, 08:30
accuses ruling coalition of not being serious in quest for solution
By Mirella Hodeib -Daily Star staff
Friday, June 29, 2007
BEIRUT: Hizbullah's second-in-command, Sheikh Naim Qassem, said Thursday the ruling coalition was not "serious" in its calls for a resolution to the country's ongoing political deadlock. "Had the ruling majority been keen on finding a solution to the crisis, they would have approved the formation of a national unity government a long time ago," Qassem said during a meeting for Hizbullah educators in Haret Hreik.
Qassem's remarks came as part of a broad exchange of ideas between the country's two main political camps on the roots of Lebanon's current misery. Opposition forces accused the ruling coalition of working to place Lebanon under foreign hegemony, while the majority accused its rivals of breaching the Constitution with attempts to form a parallel government.
Qassem said the opposition was "keen" on taking part in presidential polls in September, "for we want to be partners in choosing the next president."
"However," he asked, "if a national unity government is not formed by then, how will presidential elections run smoothly?"
Qassem said Hizbullah had informed Arab League chief Amr Moussa last week that "the key to ensuring true partnership and consequently to solving all pending issues in Lebanon is a national unity government."
Following Moussa's four-day diplomatic mission to Beirut last week, the ruling coalition and the opposition blamed each other for the failure of the Arab initiative. Various opposition figures and newspapers accused Moussa of being biased toward the majority, and thus being unable to fulfill his role as an intermediary. The majority, on the other hand, see the opposition's accusations as a way of hampering political dialogue.
During his speech, Qassem accused the ruling coalition of working to govern Lebanon through "international support and international laws rather than Lebanese public support." Echoing Qassem's remarks, the opposition follow-up committee accused the majority on Thursday of exploiting Sunday's deadly attack on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to "internationalize Lebanon's security."
"The ruling majority took advantage of the recent attack in order to fulfill the US interest in internationalizing the security in Lebanon, by assigning more responsibilities to UNIFIL and having it deploy along the borders with Syria" a statement issued following the meeting said.
The opposition "strictly" condemned the attack. Six members of UNIFIL's Spanish contingent were killed last Sunday in a car-bomb attack in South Lebanon while patrolling between the towns of Marjayoun and Khiam, some 10 kilometers from the Israeli border.
The opposition said the ruling majority was executing a strategy put forth by the US administration that aimed at "cornering the resistance in Lebanon and Syria together.""Premier Fouad Siniora's direct accusations to Syria of allowing the smuggling of arms to Lebanon, during his visit to Paris Wednesday, are to be read as an appeal for the international community to endorse the deployment of international peacekeeping forces along the borders with Syria," the opposition statement said.
The opposition described Siniora's visit to Paris as "yet another attempt to hamper any dialogue initiatives in Lebanon."
Also commenting on Siniora's trip to Paris this week, Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh said the visit gave Lebanon a "big boost on the international level," and dismissed the opposition's characterizations of the visit.
During an interview from Paris with Voice of Lebanon radio, Hamadeh defended Siniora's comments about Syria and the smuggling of arms, saying the premier "wanted to draw attention to the fact that Lebanon was subject to a multi-faceted attack - aimed at jeopardizing independence, stability and economy - from both Israel and Syria. Hamadeh also refuted claims made by the opposition about the "internationalization" of the situation in Lebanon.
"We did not commit murders which resulted in the formation of an international tribunal to try suspects in such murders, neither did we behave in a certain manner that resulted in the issuing of Resolution 1701, and we do not import terrorists and illegal arms into Lebanon," Hamadeh said, referring to the resolution that halted hostilities in last summer's war with Israel and to alleged Hizbullah activity. Hamadeh added that the international community was taking necessary measures to protect Lebanon from "all such negative influences."The minister said the formation of a parallel government in Lebanon was "just impossible."
CIA Terror Bombings, Bob Gates, and The Rise of Hezbollah
Posted June 28, 2007
Today is a banner day for aficionados of the CIA. After a 15-year Freedom of Information Act struggle, the National Security Archive has finally forced the CIA to reveal the "family jewels" -- a 702 page treasure trove of documents characterized in The New York Times as a "catalog of domestic wiretapping operations, failed assassination plots, mind-control experiments and spying on journalists."
Whether or not you wade through the dense coverage of this frightening archive, we all need to keep our perspective on the role of the CIA in U.S. government activities. While the atrocities reported in the "family jewels" are certainly atrocious in their own right, they are actually a tiny corner of a larger history that includes all manner of crimes against humanity, from mayhem against individuals to full fledged state terrorism.
And there is one thing that the "family jewels" will not reveal: how this decades-long criminal history has impacted international politics. Here is a simple summary: most of the world's current man-made disasters are in some way or another "blowback" from past crimes committed by the CIA and its brethren in the "intelligence," "security," or "defense" apparatuses of the United States government. Sadly, this includes (of course) the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, also the multiplex crises in the rest of the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, South Asia, East Asia and...wherever.
A good way to see this is to read Roger Morris' beautifully presented history three part history of the CIA on TomDispatch, which focuses on the ways in which Secretary of Defense Robert Gates shaped and was shaped by his career in the CIA. I will repeat one example Morris' comprehensive account that captures so much of the way in which the U.S. has created so much of the ugliness that currently disgraces our world.
This a story about Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia group that successfully fended off what American and Israeli military planners expected to be an overwhelming onslaught of air power, an onslaught that killed thousands, flattened whole cities, and compromised the Lebanon's infrastructure.
Many of us remember that in 1983, during a previous crisis there, an American military barracks was bombed, killing 241 marines who were part of an international peacekeeping force sent there in 1982. That bombing was, as Morris tells the story "itself a bloody reprisal for earlier American acts of intervention and diplomatic betrayal in Lebanon's civil war" which had been raging since 1975.
No one in the American intelligence community knew for sure (and no one knows to this day) who was actually responsible for the bombing, but CIA director William Casey decided nevertheless to undertake reprisals. He chose as his target a Shia cleric, Muhammad Husain Fadlallah, "because of his reputation for fiery sermons in favor of social justice and national independence -- and because allied spy agencies -- Israel's Mossad, Saudi Arabia's GID, and Phalangist informers -- claimed he led a militant Shiite group that bore responsibility for the attack on the Marines."
That was enough evidence for Casey to commission an attack on Fadlallah. It was also enough for his top deputy, Robert Gates, Head of the Directorate of Intelligence, and in charge of processing all the best information the Agency could gather. As the rumors of the coming attack on Fadlallah spread through the agency, Gates' agents tried to warn him about the lack of evidence against the cleric (does this sound familiar?). Here is Morris' story of their efforts:
"In our shop, we knew what Casey would be looking for in revenge for the barracks bombing and what the Israelis and Saudis were pushing," related one analyst who would later become a senior Agency official. "We laid out all the unknowables and caveats and how we were being whipsawed [by allied spy agencies], and we sent it upstairs for Gates to give to Casey, and we recommended it be bootlegged to the NSC and White House and even to Defense if it came to that."
When there was no sign that Gates had done anything with their warning, two of the analysts confronted the deputy director. "This is terrible," one of them told him.
"We are not here to pick a fight with the boss," Gates answered dismissively. "I'm not particularly concerned about some set-to in Lebanon."
The CIA did not just try to assassinate Muhammad Husain Fadlallah. Instead the Agency carbombed his entire neighborhood with an explosion that was felt "miles away in the Chouf Mountains and well out in the Mediterranean." Whether or not the cleric was the perpetrator, the message would be clear to all concerned: attacks on American marines would result in retribution against the whole offending community. It was, in short, an act of state terrorism. Eighty-one people were killed and over 200 wounded in the crowded impoverished Bir El-Abed neighborhood where Fadlallah lived. (Fadlallah himself was unhurt -- he had been delayed arriving home that evening because he stopped on the street "to speak to an elderly woman.")
Though this incident was barely news in the US--and there was not even a hint that the CIA had authored the carbombing -- the message was received in Bir El-Abed. The next day, "a notice hung over the devastated area where grief-stricken families were still digging the bodies of loved ones out of the rubble. It read: "Made in the USA.""
But the people of Bir El-Abed and the surrounding Shia communities extracted the "wrong" conclusion from this message: instead being overwhelmed by the display of American government slaughter, they set out to develop a countervailing violence of their own:
Among those of Fadlallah's bodyguards not killed in the explosion, 22 year-old Imad Mugniyah would join the emerging Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah and, over the next decade, as a shadowy chief of security, direct a series of reprisal attacks against Americans in a bloody chain reaction of terror and counter-terror. Among Fadlallah's admirers, outraged by the bombing and ever after distrustful of the Americans he had once admired, was a round-faced, 25 year-old theology student of already recognized charisma and organizational skills. He would rise to become Hezbollah's leader -- and, after his forces fought the Israeli invasion of Lebanon to a standstill in the summer of 2006, one of the most popular figures in the Arab world: Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.
This incident took place 20 years ago, long enough for us to track the connection to current mayhem in Lebanon. The public display of the CIA's "family jewels" should remind us that the myriad CIA actions chronicled there are not isolated incidents. They are a coordinated system that has delivered violence like that perpetrated in Bir El-Abed to every corner of the world in the past 40 years, in myriad forms and under many disguises. These actions have ended the lives hundreds of thousands (in Iraq alone!), ruined the lives of millions, and earned the hatred of tens of millions. By now, the impact of our government's action is so pervasive, that even the most distant and seemingly disconnected acts of violence are in some way consequences of, or reactions to, the activities of the U.S. government.
All in our names. We really need to stop them.
Not over yet
By: Lucy Fielder-Al-Ahram Weekly
Lebanon declared the Nahr Al-Bared Camp fighting over, but renewed fighting, a bomb attack on UN troops and an army shoot-out with militants heralded a protracted battle, Lucy Fielder reports
Late last week, Defence Minister Elias Al-Murr declared victory over Fatah Al-Islam militants holed up in the Palestinian camp of Nahr Al-Bared, north of Tripoli. But, he said, the siege would continue until the Sunni radicals gave themselves up. It was unclear what had prompted the statement, given that surrender was a sticking point in negotiations between Fatah Al-Islam and the army, mediated by Palestinian religious and political figures, and had yet to be achieved.
Victory, the army later clarified, meant that it had seized Fatah Al-Islam's positions, headquarters and command centres in the "new camp" area on Nahr Al-Bared's outskirts. But those manning them had retreated into the southern part of the heavily fortified "old camp". Some observers say that the area is inhabited by approximately 2,000 civilians still left inside, out of the original population of 40,000.
Amal Saad-Ghorayeb of the Carnegie Endowment's Beirut- based Middle East Centre, said the announcement appeared to reflect that the leadership "wanted a change of discourse" and to reassure the public, after five weeks of announcing daily "progress" and that the army was "advancing" into the camp, which some observers estimate measures one square kilometre. Within a day, fighting had resumed.
A bitterly divided Lebanese society has maintained near- blanket support for the army, despite the unexpected lengthiness of the siege. As in most crises, this sentiment was expressed on billboards -- one of the most common showing the Lebanese flag, with the central cedar tree in camouflage colours.
But it is unclear how long army casualties can continue to climb before more questions are asked. Lebanon's worst internal fighting since the civil war ended in 1990 has so far claimed the lives of at least 83 soldiers, 60 militants and 37 civilians. This may explain the need to give the public some good news, even if not borne out by events on the ground.
Any long-suffering Lebanese who were buoyed by the fleeting victory received another blow on Saturday night, when a midnight army raid on a house in Tripoli sparked an all-night gunfight which killed 10 people, including a 10-year-old girl. The raid was instigated on information obtained from Fatah Al-Islam detainees, the army said.
"This is an alarming development which shows that controlling Nahr Al-Bared Camp will not change anything, there are sleeping militant cells all over the country," said Hilal Khashan, professor of political science at the American University in Beirut. "Lebanon has become part of the battlefield for Al-Qaeda."
Khashan said he believed the mainstream Palestinian Fatah movement was now fighting alongside the Lebanese army in the camp, indicating how the crisis might end. "I think the final chapter in the Nahr Al-Bared battle will see Fatah taking control of the old camp," he said. Nahr Al-Bared is considered by many observers to be one of the few camps outside the grip of either Fatah or Hamas. But Khashan expected a "protracted" siege before reaching that point.
The impression Lebanon's battle with Al-Qaeda-inspired militants had barely started was strengthened when a bomb killed six peacekeepers from the United Nations force in the south on Sunday. Fatah Al-Islam leaders had threatened to attack UNIFIL, and Al-Qaeda number two Ayman Al-Zawahri called for such attacks last year. The local media reported that Fatah Al-Islam captives confessed to plans of attacking UNIFIL. But this was the first attack since the force expanded with a strengthened mandate after last summer's war between Israel and Hizbullah.
Hizbullah immediately condemned the attack that took place between the southern towns of Marjayoun and Khiam. There have been few tensions between the guerrillas and UNIFIL, with Hizbullah keeping a low-key presence since the war ended last August.
Most analysts believe that an Al-Qaeda-type group is most likely behind the attack, although unusually, there has been no claim of responsibility so far. The anti-Syrian government of Prime Minister Fouad Al-Siniora points the finger at Damascus, accusing it of backing the perpetrators, even if they are also Al-Qaeda.
"The reasoning behind the attacks is to show that when Hizbullah controlled the south, this didn't happen," Saad- Ghorayeb said. She said the targeting of a powerful European contingent of the force and the firing of four rockets from southern Lebanon at northern Israel last week, one of which misfired, both aimed to destabilise the south.
UNIFIL has patrolled and monitored southern Lebanon since 1978, but the force was beefed up after last summer's war with Israel. In recent weeks there has been growing talk about expanding the force's mandate to police the border with Syria, which Damascus and its allies in Lebanon vehemently reject.
The United Nations as a whole is seen as increasingly embroiled in Lebanon, and critics accuse it of adopting the anti- Syrian side. An international tribunal into Rafik Al-Hariri's killing, ratified under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, came into force on 10 June. The world body regularly declares its backing for the government.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Israeli concerns about the force's mandate after the Katyushas landed in Israel. The Israeli media has also written of Hizbullah building fortified bunkers south of the Litani, under the nose of the UN peacekeepers. If Israel had hopes the force would disarm Hizbullah's guerrillas, they were frustrated.
Haaretz quoted a senior northern Israeli commander as saying the rockets proved Israeli complaints about weapons entering south Lebanon were justified. "I hope that UNIFIL will fulfil its mandate in South Lebanon and that the Lebanese Army will take responsibility for what happens in its territory," he said. Hizbullah denied responsibility and the Israeli army said it believed a Palestinian group launched the Katyushas.
Nahr Al-Bared and a string of bomb attacks in and around Beirut have overshadowed a long-running, bitter political crisis between the ruling "14 March" movement and opponents led by Hizbullah and Christian leader Michel Aoun, who demand a national unity government. Arab League Secretary- General Amr Moussa left Beirut empty-handed earlier this month after attempting to initiate a dialogue. Al-Siniora flew to Paris this week to meet US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-Moon, but it is unlikely there are any new initiatives in the offing.
© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved
Al-Qaeda and the deadly Robert Fisk agenda
By Talal Nizaneddin -Friday, June 29, 2007
Alarm bells start ringing whenever a journalist is singled out for criticism or attack because of a collective belief that considers press freedoms to be sacred. When a government attempts to silence or expel a journalist it is usually a sign of a slide toward authoritarianism and repression.
But are journalists infallible? Is it a legitimate question to ask what would happen if a journalist exploits that protective veil to deliberately deceive public opinion or in extreme cases puts lives in danger? In rare cases we hear all over the world of doctors or holy men and other individuals in a position of influence whose actions have led to harm either by deliberate intent or sheer carelessness.
As an observer of the Lebanese crisis I have been perplexed and sometimes shocked at the writings of the British correspondent Robert Fisk, who has proudly informed us in several articles in the past few months that he has been based in Beirut for over 30 years. It is justifiably an achievement he should be proud of as it is testament to the hospitality Lebanon offers to international journalists, placing aside the chaos of the Civil War years.
Lebanon still boasts the most free press and media in the Arab world despite all its troubles. It is a long tradition that the Lebanese are proud of and is a reflection of the still existing diversity and plurality of Lebanon's society that makes this country unique in the region. It is the reason why Western correspondents such as Fisk base themselves in Beirut and not Damascus, Cairo or Riyadh. It is doubtful if Fisk had been based in Damascus and written things about the regime there that he has written about the government here whether he would have lasted three years, never mind 30.
That is not the issue though. No one in Lebanon, hopefully, seriously wants to restrict press freedoms to fall in line with the Arab norm. The problem is that Lebanon's leniency and openness in these delicate times has cleared the way for parasitical and hypocritical journalists to flout basic principles of honest writing, mislead public opinion and sow the seeds of sectarian conflict.
Let us take the example of a recent article by Fisk dated June 25 on the murder of six UN peacekeepers in Khiam, in South Lebanon. In almost each paragraph there is reference to "Sunni" Muslim group or "Sunni" areas, which of course are all intended to add weight to his pet theory of the past few years that Al-Qaeda has become a popular and widespread force in the Middle East as a reaction to the US occupation of Iraq. In trying to cover up this fact, as the Fisk conspiracy theory goes, Washington has deliberately invented the emergence of Iran, Hizbullah and Syria as threats to the region. This play is most eloquently acted out on the fractured and vulnerable stage that is Lebanon, with Shiite Hizbullah being singled out to divert attention from the Sunni Al-Qaeda.
What was most striking in this particular article was the brutal directness of some of the language, whereas in his past writings the arguments were thrown in with snide covert remarks and inferences. For example, I have heard Fisk in one of his saintly preachings in a Beirut university recently castigate the Western media, mainly with reference to Iraq, for their irresponsibly liberal use of terms such as "Shiite areas" and "Sunni areas" and ditto for groups or murderers or murdered to highlight the sectarian divide and perpetuate the cycle of bloodshed that we have become accustomed to. Fisk almost alludes to a deliberate effort to propagate this by the US administration, presumably to satisfy its vampirical lust for blood and oil. Yet in writing about Lebanon Fisk has no qualms about repeatedly highlighting the differences between Shiite and Sunni.
In Fisk's world, Shiite Hizbullah is kind charitable organization, born out of the natural and historically repressed aspirations of the Lebanese Shiite population to defend them from Lebanese militia killers such as Samir Geagea - yes, Fisk actually has in his writings recently described the Lebanese Forces leader as "killer Geagea."
Most strikingly for a professional journalist, Fisk is certain that that Sunni "semi-Al-Qaeda-satellites," whatever that may be, were behind the bombing that killed the UN soldiers, breaching security in the Lebanese Hizbullah stronghold. Inexplicably, Fisk suggests that many Lebanese consider the UNIFIL forces to be really a NATO force.
Fisk's intrepid reporting reveals to us that a secret meeting between French, Spanish and Italian officers and Hizbullah officials took place three weeks before the bombing, in which the latter assured the UN that they would do their best to protect its soldiers on the ground. Alas, the "Al-Qaeda-type groups" were too clever and the tragic result was six dead peacekeepers. Now Fisk states with confidence: "We shall now find out if America believes this - and it is the truth - or whether Western governments decide to blame Iran by claiming Hizbullah was behind the bombing of the UN troops." For the readers that missed it, Fisk writes "AND IT IS THE TRUTH." The capitalization is for effect but the result is the same. Our long-serving Beirut correspondent has in the mist and fog of Middle East politics seen the light. He knows the truth.
This is all extremely worrying. Fisk's writings have consistently tried to absolve Iran, Syria and Hizbullah in the same way others have blamed them for everything. His reluctant descriptions of Al-Qaeda accept an increasing recognition that it is not a single tangible group with a defined structure operating from above the clouds somewhere. With the leadership driven out of Sudan and then severely restricted in Afghanistan, what is left is in fact a loose network of extremist cells that needed another state structure to provide it with cover, logistical support and intelligence guidance. Each cell invents a name for itself, tagging on the words Islam or Jihad for added value, and then claims allegiance to Al-Qaeda. A simple but seemingly successful formula by states that need proxy groups to fight their battles against stronger opponents.
We therefore find an emerging unholy alliance between militant Islam (both Sunni and Shiite) and the secular anti-Western forces in the region. The tactic is to create violent anarchy in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories and terrify the international community out of the Middle East. The motive of all these cells and the state or states that sponsor them is one and the same: to violently eliminate all reform-minded elements and to keep the region in the dark ages of tyranny. Robert Fisk's dubious journalism, under the comforting sheepskin guise of anti-war campaigner, makes his motives more difficult to grasp.
**Political scientist Talal Nizameddin is writing a book on Russia and the Middle East