March 25/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 7,40-53. Some in the crowd who heard these words said, "This is truly the Prophet."Others said, "This is the Messiah." But others said, "The Messiah will not come from Galilee, will he? Does not scripture say that the Messiah will be of David's family and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?" So a division occurred in the crowd because of him. Some of them even wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. So the guards went to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, "Why did you not bring him?" The guards answered, "Never before has anyone spoken like this one." So the Pharisees answered them, "Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, which does not know the law, is accursed." Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to him earlier, said to them, Does our law condemn a person before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing? They answered and said to him, "You are not from Galilee also, are you? Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee." Then each went to his own house,

Free Opinion
Royal Navy Incident: Iran's Larger Plan. By: Dr. Walid Phares. March 25/07
Time for Anglo-American-Iranian dynamics to get more realistic

Latest News Reports From miscellaneous sources For March 24/07
March 14 Forces Determined to Continue Dialogue, Reject Opposition Veto Power-Naharnet
Fatah al-Islam Militants Train 'to Combat Jews in Palestine'-Naharnet
Syrian-Sponsored Scheme to Control the International Tribunal through Lebanese Allies-Naharnet
Saniora Sets Zero Hour for Political Showdown with Opposition-Naharnet
Hopes For Lebanon Deal Ahead of Arab Summit Fade-Naharnet
Egyptian Authorities Bust Three Tons of TNT-Naharnet
Rice in Egypt to Discuss Arab Peace Initiative-Naharnet
Ban in Cairo Prior to Meeting Rice in Israel-Naharnet
Ban Urges Palestinians to Comply with International Demands-Naharnet
Asharq Al-Awsa: What are Hezbollah's reservations
Report: Syria rejects Israeli overtures-
Jerusalem Post
Out of the ashes-Guardian Unlimited

Political Crisis Still Grips Lebanon-
Hezbollah Nearly Destroyed Israeli Seaport Last Summer-All Headline News
Peres: Israeli army was not ready for war on Hezbollah-Gulf News
Blame It on the Bloggers? Israel Lost the Media War-Jewish Exponent
A Cluster Bomb Treaty: Again, It's the US v. the World-Foreign Policy In Focus

Latest News Reports From the Daily Star For March 24/07
Hope fades for Lebanon deal ahead of Arab summit
European Union is turning 50

Cabinet reminds Lebanese to set clocks forward
Israeli forces reinforce new base in Ghajar
Nigerian militants abduct 2 Lebanese, 1 Dutchman
Khazen: Berri speech paved way to solution
Hizbullah says Peres' remarks on war amount to 'declaration of defeat'
Qabbani urges MPs to ratify Hariri court
Aley mayor vows to block new highway to Syria
Activists fear electoral law will face last-minute rush
Together since 1957
Weather to be cloudy, cool this weekend
Fire breaks out at Lebanese American University
USJ event takes up role of Christianity in politics
Doctors face charges for dispensing expired drugs
Prosthetics center in South strives to meet post-war demand
MTC Touch holds luncheon in honor of all Lebanese mothers

Aley mayor vows to block new highway to Syria
A proposal for a new "Arab highway" linking Beirut to Syria ran into opposition on Friday from residents of the Aley region of Abbadieh, with the area's Mayor saying the highway would divide the region and hurt tourism. "We will do our best to hamper the achievement of the project because it will destroy Abbadieh's social and natural aspects," Kamal Hamdan told The Daily Star. "The municipality, in cooperation with the area's MPs, is trying to stop the project." Hamdan said the highway would be 3,700 meters long and 32 meters wide.
"It requires digging new infrastructure and building walls along it," he said.
"But enlarging the main road would only require the digging of 16 additional meters, without any infrastructure or walls," Hamdan said. "In this case, the state can save 80 percent of the cost of the highway."According to Hamdan, the highway will affect the tourist season since it will be built near a number of homes belonging to Gulf tourists who spend summers in Abbadieh. "It will even pass through several mansions of Lebanese, Qatari and Kuwaiti tourists," he said. Tourists from the Arab world had made large investments in the area, Hamdan said. "Some Qatari people have built mansions and villas worth billions of dollars," he said. "Some of the Arab tourists are also planning to build residential buildings that match with the area's traditional aspects," he said. "The highway will render Abbadieh a dead town." Hamdan called on all those behind the Arab highway project to take the municipality's remarks into consideration."Otherwise, we will be forced to hold a protest in a bid to settle the issue," he said.The Daily Star

March 14 Forces Determined to Continue Dialogue, Reject Opposition Veto Power
Leaders of the March 14 forces have stressed their determination to continue dialogue with the opposition to end Lebanon's crippling political crisis.
"The March 14 forces who were among the first calling for national unity and the adoption of dialogue…stress their resolve to continue dialogue despite irresponsive speeches made by representatives of the March 8 camp during the past days," said a statement after a meeting of the pro-government camp in Koreitem late Friday. On Tuesday, opposition Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri accused the ruling majority of blocking efforts for a settlement to the ongoing crisis that has crippled Lebanon for nearly four months.
He doubted in remarks published in An Nahar daily on Saturday that problems will be solved before the upcoming Arab Summit. But said he had no doubts that dialogue between him and legislator Saad Hariri would resume "before or even after the summit" that will be held in the Saudi Capital Riyadh on March 28-29. Berri said only dialogue can solve Lebanon's crisis and reiterated that "our hands will remain stretched" for talks.
On the international tribunal that will try the suspects of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri's murder and related crimes, the March 14 coalition said it will not accept any fundamental change in the court's plan. It reiterated its rejection to give the anti-government camp a veto power in a cabinet of national unity according to a formula of 19-11 "because that would mean giving up its responsibilities toward the Lebanese people."The March 14 groups also stressed their determination to "reactivate" parliament to issue major decisions.Pro-government MPs rallied inside the legislature on Tuesday to urge Berri to convene a session to endorse the formation of the international tribunal. Beirut, 24 Mar 07, 08:17

Saniora Sets Zero Hour for Political Showdown with Opposition
Premier Fouad Saniora said Saturday he would refer a bill creating the international tribunal to Parliament for ratification after the forthcoming Arab Summit Conference in the Saudi Capital of Riyadh. Saniora, in an interview with al-Arabiya satellite television network, said he had informed Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa of the decision to refer the bill to Parliament after Speaker Nabih Berri said Tuesday that he cannot summon the house to deliberate the issue because he has not received the bill. Saniora said Moussa, who had been mediating in the Lebanese conflict for nearly two months, "had asked me to delay referring the bill to Parliament" to give Berri time to work out differences between the Hizbullah-led opposition and the Majority, represented by MP Saad Hariri.
"However, after hearing what Speaker Berri has said, I called Secretary General Moussa and informed him that the commitment I gave him is no more binding and I will refer the bill to Parliament.""We should exert maximum effort to ratify the tribunal's bill at Parliament, we have an interest in that," Saniora said. What if Lebanon failed to deliberate the tribunal's bill at parliament? Saniora was asked? Would it be created by the U.N. Security Council under chapter seven of the international organization's charter? He replied: "lets put aside any reference to chapter seven for now, and lets realize that the world insists, like we insist, on implementing security council resolutions."
The U.N. Security Council had decided to create an international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of ex-premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes. The March 14 Majority alliance that backs the Saniora government blames the crimes on Syria. Damascus opposes, so far, the international tribunal and its Lebanese allies in the Hizbullah-led opposition have refused to accept the bill without amendments that have not been disclosed.
Berri considers the Saniora Majority government illegitimate after the resignation of six ministers representing the opposition.
However, Saniora noted that he has been invited to the Riyadh Summit, which means that "the Arab Community, The Arab Summit and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia consider this government legitimate and constitutional." Asked whether Lebanon would be represented at the summit by two delegations, one headed by the pro-opposition President Emile Lahoud and the other headed by Saniora, the premier said:
"We are keen on reaching an agreement, but there are (several) view points in Lebanon that we want to express … We want to reach an agreement through dialogue and not through any other channel … a sit-in (by the opposition) for more than 100 days has not led to any agreement."
He was referring to the protest staged by the Hizbullah-led opposition to topple the majority government.
Saniora said his government would seek support from the Arab Summit to the international tribunal as well as to its efforts aimed at settling the status of the Israeli-occupied Shebaa farms. The Saniora Government seeks U.N. control of the 252-square-kilometer farms pending the demarcation of the Lebanese-Syrian borders. Israel occupied the farms from Syrian control in the 1967 war. The Beirut government says the farms are Lebanese territory, but Syria refuses to conclude an agreement supporting Lebanon's claim. Beirut, 24 Mar 07, 18:15

Fatah al-Islam Militants Train 'to Combat Jews in Palestine'
Bearded young Palestinians parade with rocket-launchers during training in north Lebanon organized by Fatah al-Islam, a tiny group accused of terror attacks. The new recruits also carry assault rifles and heavy machine guns as they march alongside militant Abu Salim, who hides his face under a red-and-white headscarf. "Our main objective is to combat the Jews in Palestine. We want to plant the banner of Islam in Palestine," Abu Salim told Agence France Presse. He said Fatah al-Islam "offers military training to young Palestinians" in a field near the sea at the Nahr al-Bared camp that houses about 22,000 refugees. The training generally takes place at night to maintain secrecy. The recruits learn how to handle the arms near one of the group's offices in the camp under the watchful eye of black-clad guards.
In a hangar, the militants are introduced to medium and heavy weaponry, including anti-tank rocket launchers and cannons.
The Palestinian group counts about 150 militants among its ranks, some of whom have fought against the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. The group also has the largest arsenal among the various armed factions in Nahr al-Bared. Lebanese Interior Minister Hassan Sabaa said last week that detained members of Fatah al-Islam had admitted carrying out deadly bus bombings in the town of Ain Alaq on February 13.But Fatah al-Islam denied any involvement in the attacks, and accused the government of preparing to launch an offensive against the dozen camps which house about half of the 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. The Lebanese armed forces do not have access to the camps which are controlled by Palestinian armed factions.
A member of Fatah al-Islam was killed and four other people wounded in clashes in Nahr al-Bared on Monday.
Abu Salim, who refuses to give exact figures about the group's arsenal, boasts that the militants were attracting a growing number of recruits from Nahr al-Bared and the 11 other Palestinian camps across the country. "Young Palestinians who believe that Islam is their priority in life are attracted by our 'Jihad' (holy struggle). They come to take military courses and listen to our preachers," Abu Salim said. About 20 youngsters stood outside a Fatah al-Islam office where the group's militants were accepting condolences for the militant killed in Monday's clashes.
Asked who the enemies of Fatah al-Islam were, one recruit replied: "All those who do not believe in the Koran and the Sharia," or Islamic teachings.
Ayman, holding a school bag in one hand, said he was "fascinated" by the Islamist group. "The headquarters (of Fatah-al-Islam) are on the way from school -- I go there on my way to and from lessons."The group seems to have adequate financing, but Abu Salim insisted that the main reason new recruits were attracted was Fatah al-Islam's religious message.
The group's flag is black, bearing a sole inscription: "There is no God but God, and Mohammed is the prophet of God."(AFP) (AP photo shows a masked gunman from Fatah al-Islam holding his AK 47 rifle as he looks at his slain colleague at the Nahr al-Bared camp) Beirut, 24 Mar 07, 09:23
Syrian-Sponsored Scheme to Control the International Tribunal through Lebanese Allies
Syria has agreed with its major Lebanese allies, Hizbullah and AMAL, on a pre-emptive move to deal a blow to the international court that would try suspects in the 2005 assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes, a Kuwaiti newspaper reported Friday.
Al-Rai newspaper said the plan was adopted during a recent meeting in Damascus grouping Syrian Maj. Gen. Mohammed Nassif, reputed as Abu Wael, and Hizbullah-AMAL representatives who were not named. Date of the meeting was not disclosed. The scheme, according to the report, is based on a "single amendment" to the judicial accord signed by the Lebanese government and the United Nations to create the international tribunal.
Such an amendment wants the tribunal made up of four Lebanese and three international, or non-Lebanese judges, while the initial agreement stated that the tribunal should be made up of four international and three Lebanese judges, the report explained.
The proposed amendment, the report said, would be "a real surprise" when announced and it could be presented to the Lebanese and international public opinions as a "simple detail," related to maintaining Lebanon's sovereignty over its judicial affairs. The pro-government majority believes that such an amendment aims at blocking the creation of the international court in the first place because it requires a revision of the basic related agreement between Lebanon and the United Nations. And when linked to the opposition's demand of controlling veto powers in any new government, it would strip Lebanon of its ability to name judges to the international tribunal unless they were chosen from the pro-Syria circle supported by the opposition. The report quoted unnamed Iranian sources as saying such a scheme aims at "surprising" the ruling majority during a proposed meeting by a bipartisan committee to draft amendments to the international tribunal's by-laws. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said Tuesday that one of the points he and legislator Saad Hariri agreed on during their talks to find a settlement to the ongoing political crisis was the formation of a committee to draft "specific" amendments to the tribunal by-laws and not the basic Lebanon-U.N. judicial accord so that Lebanese leaders can meet in Saudi Arabia and sign an agreement on a settlement to the political crisis. Al-Rai said that the "Abu Wael strategy as dubbed by the Iranian sources" allows the pro-Syrian opposition to control the "Lebanonized" court. Beirut, 23 Mar 07, 11:46

Blame It on the Bloggers? Israel Lost the Media War
March 22, 2007 -Anshel Pfeffer
An important study on last summer's war between Israel and Hezbollah has been published by the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. It is the first to give a comprehensive explanation of how, in an asymmetrical war "between a state [Israel] and a militant, secretive, religiously fundamentalist sect or faction [Hezbollah]," the fight is just as much about information and image as it is about military gains. This insightful work, written by veteran reporter, author and broadcaster Marvin Kalb, makes real sense of what Israelis were doing during those fateful 34 days.
Kalb writes that Lebanon was "the first really 'live' war in history."
The two wars in Iraq, with broadcasts of the bombing of Baghdad and reporters "embedded" with advancing units, were a mere taste of what technology has to offer. This time, every aspect of warfare -- the troops going in and out of the battlefield, bombs and missiles falling, the dead, the wounded, the refugees -- was brought to viewers in real time, "as though the world had a front-row seat on the blood and gore of modern warfare."
The implications of this are only now beginning to be understood. Miniaturization, wireless broadcasting and high-speed links enable news organizations to overcome technical obstacles. Censorship and intimidation, however, still remain -- which means that democratic societies living by the ideals of a free and unfettered press will always be at a disadvantage to dictatorships and oppressive ideologies adept at manipulating the media.
Israel's campaign was remarkably transparent: Journalists achieved unprecedented levels of access to its forces. As a result, every failure and mishap on the battlefield -- and relative chaos on the home front -- was highlighted.
On the other other side, Hezbollah controlled the journalists covering the situation in Lebanon with an iron fist. Media tours of Hezbollah-controlled areas, where the Israel Defense Force's bombing was concentrated, were tightly managed, with foreign reporters being sternly warned against wandering off and talking to local residents unsupervised.
Infringement of these rules would be punished by the confiscation of cameras and disbarment from any further visits or access to Hezbollah members.
According to Kalb, only CNN's Anderson Cooper openly admitted to having operated under these rules.
Hezbollah also forbade any photographs of its fighters. Cameramen were warned never to show men with guns or ammunition. The only armed personnel seen during this war were IDF soldiers; Hezbollah remained throughout a phantom army.
Another scene almost never shown was the hundreds of Hezbollah firing positions and missile-launch sites within residential areas and private homes -- the cause of many civilian deaths and a violation of international law.
These methods, Kalb writes, created "a narrative that depicted a selfless movement touched by God and blessed by a religious fervor and determination to resist the enemy, the infidel, and ultimately achieve a 'divine victory,' no matter the cost in life and treasure. The narrative contained no mention of Hezbollah's dependence upon Iran and Syria for a steady flow of arms and financial resources."
Not that there was any shortage of footage coming out of Lebanon.
But it dealt almost exclusively with the results of the IDF bombing and the Lebanese civilian casualties. Few news organizations made an effort to balance these pictures with those of the damage from Hezbollah's indiscriminate bombing of Israeli civilians. Neither was any effort made to show that Israel's attacks were concentrated on areas of Hezbollah activity, leaving the rest of Beirut and other Lebanese cities relatively unscathed.
This style of coverage is what changed the general tone of reporting.
Kalb describes the "combustible mix of 24/7 cable news, call-in radio and television programs, Internet bloggers and online Web sites, cellphones and iPods" which has deeply influenced much of the mainstream media, giving it a populist slant, and transforming it "from objective observer to fiery advocate, becoming in fact a weapon of modern warfare."
The unavoidable conclusion as Kalb sees it -- and it is very difficult to argue with him -- is that "in strictly military terms, Israel did not lose to Hezbollah in this war, but it clearly did not win. In the war of information, news and propaganda, the battlefield central to Hezbollah's strategy, Israel lost this war."
**Anshel Pfeffer is a columnist for The Jerusalem Post

Exclusive: Royal Navy Incident: Iran's Larger Plan
Walid Phares
Source: The Family Security Foundation, Inc.
Date: March 24, 2007
The capture of British Navy servicemen by Iranian forces is not simply an incident over sea sovereignty in the Persian Gulf. It is a calculated move on behalf of Teheran's Jihadi chess players to provoke a "projected" counter move by London and its American allies. It is all happening in a regional context, carefully engineered by the Mullahs’ strategic planners. FSM Contributing Editor Dr. Walid Phares explains how.
The Iranian regime's master plan is to wait out the remainder of Tony Blair's mandate (a few more months) and the remaining "real time" of President Bush (till about the end of 2007). The consensus of thought in Tehran, based on the influence of Western consultants, believes that Washington and London have reached the end of the rope and they will have only till 2008 to do something major to destabilize the Ahmedinijad regime.
As explained by a notorious propagandist on al Jazeera today, the move is precisely to respond to the Anglo-American attempt to "stir trouble" inside Iran. Anis Naccash, a Lebanese intellectual supporter of the Ayatollahs’ regime appeared from Tehran a few hours ago on the Qatari-based satellite and "explained" that the "US and the UK must understand that Iran is at war with these two powers inasmuch as they support the rise of movements and security and instability inside Iran."
He added that Khamenei is clear on the regime's decision to strike: "we will be at war with you on all levels: secret, diplomatic, military and other." Pro-Iranian propagandists in the region, via media and online, rushed to warn that this movement is part of Iran's counter-strike against any attempt to destabilize the regime. Two major tracks emerge from these statements, the Iranian military maneuvers and the capture of British Navy personnel.
1) Iran's domestic front is putting pressure on the Ahmedinijad regime.
From internal reporting, dissidents and anti-Ahmedinijad forces from various social sectors are practically in slow motion eruption against the authorities. Students, women, workers and political activists have been demonstrating and sometimes clashing with the regime's security apparatus. Western media didn't report proportionally on these events over the past few weeks. In addition, ethnic minority areas have been witnessing several incidents, including violence against the "Revolutionary Guards," including in the Arab and Baluch areas. And last but not least, the defection of a major intelligence-military figure early this month to the West was, according to internal sources, a "massive loss" to the regime and a possible first one in a series.
2) The regime "needs" an external clash to crush the domestic challenge.
As in many comparable cases worldwide, when an authoritarian regime is faced with severe internal opposition it attempts to deflect the crisis onto the outside world. Hence, Teheran's all out campaign against the US and its allies in Iraq, Lebanon and the region is in fact a repositioning of Iran's shield against the expected rising opposition inside the country. Hence the Khomeinist Mullahs’ plan seems to be projected as follows:
a. Engage in the diplomatic realm to project a realist approach worldwide, but refrain from offering real results
b. Continue, along with the Syrian regime, in supporting the "Jihadi" Terror operations (including sectarian ones) inside Iraq
c. Widen the propaganda campaign against the US and its allies via a number of PR companies within the West to portray Iran as "a victim" of an "upcoming war provoked by the US."
d. Engage in skirmishes in the Gulf (and possibly in other spots) with US and British elements claiming these actions as "defensive," while planning thoroughly ahead of time.
3) The regime plan is to drag its opponents into a trap
Teheran's master planners intend to drag the "Coalition" into steps of engagement, at the timing of, and in the field of control of, Iran's apparatus. Multiple options and scenarios are projected.
a. British military counter measures take place, supported by the US. Iran's regime believes that only "limited" action by the allies is possible, according to their analysis of the domestic constraints inside the two powerful democracies.
b. Tehran moves to a second wave of activities, at its own pace, hoping to draw a higher level of classical counter strikes by US and UK forces. The dosing by Iran's leadership is expected to stretch the game in time, until the departure of Blair and of the Bush Administration by its political opponents inside the country's institutions and public debate.
In a short conclusion, the "War room" in Tehran has engaged itself in an alley of tactical moves it feels it can control. But the Iranian regime, with all its "political chess" expertise, may find itself in a precarious and risky situation. For while it feels that it can control the tactical battlefield in the region and fuel the propaganda pressure inside the West with its Petro-dollars, it may not be able to contain the internal forces in Iran, because of which it has decided to go on the offense.
The Ahmedinijad regime wishes to crumble the international consensus to avoid the financial sanctions: that is true. But as important, if not more, it wants to be able to crush the revolt before it pounds the doors to the Mullahs’ palaces. Contributing Editor Dr. Walid Phares is a Senior Fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington and the director of its Future Terrorism Project. He is author of the newly released “The War of Ideas: Jihadism Against Democracy”.
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