LCCC NEWS BULLETIN
Click Here to listen to President Bush's interview with Al Mustakbal TV
Below news from miscellaneous
sources for 12/03/06
Bush Warns Iran, Syria Against Meddling-Washington Post
Bush Urges Lebanon to Control Own Country-The Kindred Times
Analysis: Lebanon dialogue must succeed- (UPI)
Lebanese parties to resume embittered crisis talks-Khaleej Times
US sanctions Syrian bank in terror deal-Monsters and Critics.com
Pressure Seems to Ease on Syria - Esther Pan
UK under pressure over foreigners suspected of security threat-Financial Times -
Syrian FM to visit Moscow, discuss Hariri killing-Jerusalem Post
Lebanon nabs al-Qaida-affiliated cell-Jerusalem Post - Israel
Demarcation" of the Syrian Intervention-Dar Al-Hayat
Forbidden Failure and Miracle Agreement-Dar Al-Haya
Middle East conflicts nearing 'boiling point,' UN envoy warns-UN News Centre
"Demarcation" of the Syrian Intervention
Walid Choucair Al-Hayat - 11/03/06//
In early May 2000, a Lebanese pole allied to Syria - still an ally till now - said in a private gathering: "If they (the Syrians) insist on keeping the Southern front (in Lebanon) open after the Israeli pullout, I better quit politics."
In a moment of contemplation, the mentioned pole was pointing out to undisclosed discussions that were taking place at the time with respect to the post-Israeli pullout from the South, completed on May 24 of the same year. These discussions were actively ongoing within a restricted circle concerned with the Lebanese situation in Damascus, and the restricted Lebanese circle, closely tied to the ruling Damascus circle.
When the wager of the Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq Shareh on the fact that Israel will not withdraw from Lebanon fell down, and with the failure in promoting the concept that the Israeli pullout is an Israeli "conspiracy," because Damascus wanted the pullout to come in the framework of an agreement that includes the Golan, the members of the two circles united to form one front stressing that the pullout was the first Arab victory against Israel. Indeed, it was the first time Israel withdraws from an occupied Arab territory by the efforts of the resistance, even if the fact weakens the possibility of using South Lebanon as a platform for security and military pressure on Israel, to negotiate over the Golan heights.
However, parallel to approving the victory that was heard in all parts of the Arab and Islamic worlds and shook Israel, the members of the restricted circle in Beirut and Damascus pulled the Shebaa farms card. "The Israeli pullout from Lebanon is not complete since the farms are Lebanese and are still occupied." As such, they went beyond the global maps Syria sees as related to UN resolution 242 and relied on this card to maintain the resistance against occupation. President Emile Lahoud embraced the idea, while some close allies of Damascus started to express their irritation.
The Lebanese irritation from keeping the South and Lebanon pending on the Shebaa farms issue, included a debate within "Hezbollah" itself, among some middle cadres, who raised questions about the interest of Lebanon in sustaining an atmosphere of alertness and sacrifices, and about the need to capitalize on the current victory, following the suffering the South and its people underwent for 30 years. They believed in the necessity of restoring stability, development, and relief. The debate reached the Secretary General of the party Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. Moreover, some allies of Damascus conveyed to the Syrian leadership their "irritation" from keeping Lebanon in a state of war. The answer was, "The history of your country is marked by wars and you can tolerate a bit further…"
Late president Hafez Assad was still alive. Hence, his aura contributed to convincing the reluctant allies of Damascus to accept the card of the Shebaa farms as a tool to maintain the connection between the situation in Lebanon and the developments of the Arab-Israeli struggle, especially the Golan issue. Lahoud had preceded them. This is despite the fact that the previous governments, succeeding over more than three decades, never filed any request mentioning the Shabaa farms.
The disappointment was not confined to the reluctance of the donor countries to offer aid to rebuild the South, the scarcity of loans to fund some development efforts and the refrain from investing this victory in stimulating the Lebanese economy, despite the efforts of martyr PM Rafik Hariri who was back at the helm of the Cabinet after the pullout…. In fact, despite the assent of a broad base of Damascus' allies, and some of its opponents, over the need to maintain the resistance in order to liberate the farms, while another view believed that diplomatic means should be used to restore them, the "Syrian need" for a Lebanese authority that upholds the resistance to reclaim them justified, over the past years, all forms of direct intervention in the affairs of this authority, its details, administration, and relationship between its poles. This also led to justify the extension of Lahoud's mandate by saying that it was an extension of what Syrian officials dubbed as "blunders" committed in Lebanon, should they admit any offense…This rationale justified many policies and practices; it was at the basis of the control imposed on many public institutions and political factions, leading to the "emergence" of political symbols.
It is no coincidence to see an Arab and international agreement over the request of demarcating the borders in Shebaa between Lebanon and Syria, in order to sever the Lebanese military link with the developments of the Arab-Israeli conflict, restricting the link to the political field, with the insistence of some internal Lebanese parties on this demarcation. The demarcation is synonymous and equivalent to the request of putting an end to the intervention of Syria in the internal Lebanese affairs, as stipulated by UN resolution 1559. The prompt Arab endorsement of the request also stems from the implication of Iran therein.
Lebanese parties to resume embittered crisis talks
(AFP)11 March 2006
BEIRUT - Talks between Lebanese leaders aimed at digging the country out of political quagmire are to resume Monday amid persistent divisions, which caused the meeting to break off mid-way. The political roundtable, the first of its kind since the end of Lebanon’s civil war (1975-1990) and the April 2005 departure of Syrian troops, was designed to insulate Lebanese leaders from external pressures so they could forge a so far elusive unity. Debates have focused on the future of pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, UN Security Council demands for the disarmament of Palestinian militias and the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, and tense relations with Syria.
The week-long talks -- involving 14 factions, some loyal to and some opposed to Syria -- kicked off on March 2 but were broken off several days later after Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, a staunch opponent of Damascus -- appealed in Washington for US support in efforts against Lebanon’s eastern neighbour.
Jumblatt asked US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for ”political and moral support” and “protection against aggressions by the Syrian regime and its Iranian extension,” and also renewed calls for Hezbollah to disarm. Rice said she hoped for a “free and fair” presidential election in Lebanon, in a swipe at Lahoud’s controversially prolonged three-year mandate, which was backed by then powerbroker Syria in 2004. Jumblatt is a key figure in the anti-Syrian alliance that has controlled parliament and led the government since elections last year that were the first in three decades free of the presence of Syrian troops.
His remarks led to heated recriminations and Lebanese officials scrambled to reassure the public that the pause in the national conference did not spell its imminent collapse. Parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri, the conference’s official spokesman, said Jumblatt’s comments were “nothing new and are not the reason for the delay”. “Some parties asked for a pause so they could consult with their leaders before taking definitive decisions... We’re simply taking some time out for reflection in order to reach an agreement.” However, the postponement led Lebanese media to speculate that the talks were doomed.
Jumblatt, who returns to Lebanon this weekend, has said he does not want the talks to collapse, but refuses to back down on his positions even if he has to “go it alone.”
Furthermore, the potential for compromise on the hot-button issues seems distant, as Lahoud has consistently refused to step down despite multiplying calls for his resignation, and Hezbollah has refused to lay down its arms despite the passage of a UN resolution calling for militia disarmament. The question of renewing ties with Syria has also proved a sticking point for Lebanon’s deeply divided political elite.Representing Damascus’s allies are Shiite leaders Berri, who heads the Amal movement, and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah. Halfway between Damascus and Washington is Christian ex-general Michel Aoun who harbors presidential ambitions and recently formed an alliance with Hezbollah.
Leaders of the parliamentary majority include Saad Hariri, the son of the ex-premier Rafiq Hariri who was killed in a bomb blast last year; the fiercely outspoken Jumblatt; and Samir Geagea who heads the Lebanese Forces, once allied with Israel.
Amid such political antagonisms, the Lebanese weekly Magazine said the conference wasted no time transforming itself into a ”Dialogue of Dupes.”
But the conference, which was hailed by UN chief Kofi Annan, has drawn appeals for bold steps from Lebanese business leaders who fear a worsening economic crisis if it fails. The powerful Federation of Chambers of Commerce warned Friday that political divisions had now “reached such a pitch they threaten to weaken political, economic and social structures.”The national dialogue conference was the one “glimmer of hope” that “could save the country from the dangers that threaten it,” it warned.
Bush Warns Iran, Syria on Iraq Meddling
By DEB RIECHMANN-The Associated Press
Saturday, March 11, 2006; 11:35 AM
WASHINGTON -- Playing down predictions that Iraq is headed toward civil war, President Bush said Saturday that he's optimistic a new government will unify the nation. He denounced any moves by Iran or Syria to interfere in Iraq's effort to build a democracy. "I'm optimistic that the leadership recognizes that sectarian violence will undermine the capacity for them to self-govern," Bush said. "I believe we'll have a unity government in place that will help move the process forward."
President Bush speaks at the National Newspaper Association Government Affairs Conference Friday, March 10, 2006 in Washington. President Bush said Friday he was troubled by the political storm that forced the reversal of a deal allowing a company in Dubai to take over take over operations of six American ports, saying it sent a bad message to U.S. allies in the Middle East. The president's hopeful words came a day after Iraqi President Jalal Talabani called the new parliament into session March 19 for the first time since it was elected nearly three months ago. Talabani said he feared "catastrophe" and "civil war" if politicians could not put aside their differences.
Also on Friday, the State Department announced the discovery of the body of Tom Fox, 54, of Clear Brook, Va., one of four Christian Peacemakers activists kidnapped last year in Iraq.
"I fully recognize that the nature of the enemy is such that they want to convince the world that we cannot succeed in Iraq," Bush said Saturday about the continuing violence in Iraq. "I know we're going to succeed if we don't lose our will."
The president also said that while Iraq's security forces need more training, they performed well after the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite mosque, which led to the deaths of hundreds and pushed the country to the brink of civil war.
"There are some people trying to, obviously, foment sectarian violence _ some have called it civil war _ but it didn't work," Bush said. "Secondly, I'm optimistic that the Iraqi security forces performed _ in most cases _ really well to provide security. All but two provinces after the blowing up of the mosque were settled."
Bush spoke in the Roosevelt Room at the White House after receiving a briefing about the remote-controlled, homemade bombs that Iraqi insurgents conceal in cars or set off along roads. The devices are the leading killer of U.S. troops in Iraq.
Joining the president were Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Montgomery Meigs, a retired Army general who is leading the effort to find ways to counter the devices.
The United States alleges that the Syrians are aiding the insurgency by allowing foreign fighters to cross their border into western Iraq. Washington also claims the Iranians are encouraging radicalism among Iraq's Shiites and permitting bomb-making materials to cross its border "If the Iranians are trying to influence the outcome of the political process, or the outcome of the security situation there, we're letting them know our displeasure," Bush said. "Our call is for those in the neighborhood to allow Iraq to develop a democracy, and that includes our call to Iran as well as to Syria."
Analysis: Lebanon dialogue must succeed
By SANA ABDALLAH
AMMAN, Jordan, March 11 (UPI) -- Lebanon's national dialogue to resolve the country's crisis has been marred with disputes that led to its temporary suspension, but all the factions agree its success is the only alternative to avoid slipping into another civil strife - the last thing the turbulent Middle East needs. Described as the most important meeting of Lebanon's political leaders since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war, the dialogue was launched in Beirut on March 2 to discuss and agree on thorny issues that have divided the country since the February 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in a powerful explosion in the capital. The roundtable meeting brought together the different political players, namely the March 14 Forces, or the anti-Syrian alliance, and the supposed pro-Syrian March 8 Forces. They acquired these titles last year in the aftermath of Hariri's assassination when the pro-Syrians staged a massive demonstration in Beirut on March 8 and the anti-Syrians held an even larger one on March 14 to accuse the Syrian regime of having killed the former premier and to demand its withdrawal from Lebanon. The two sides began their negotiations to stop hurling insults at each other through the media and to settle two main disputed issues: The fate of pro-Syrian Emile Lahoud, whose six-year term was extended for another three years under Syrian pressure in 2004, and the weapons of the Shiite Hezbollah organization.
Lahoud, who is not party to the dialogue, insists on remaining in his position despite widespread calls for his resignation that grew after the Syrian withdrawal in late April.
Although the anti-Syrians hold a majority in the 128-seat Parliament, they don't hold a two-thirds majority required to oust the president. Analysts say the March 14 alliance was cornered into this dialogue to find an alternative to Lahoud and a way to eject him. They add that Hezbollah, backed by Iran and Syria, and its allies were forced to come to the talks to avoid a confrontation with the United States and the international community since U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 calls for the disarmament of all Lebanon's militias, in obvious reference to the Shiite organization and the Palestinian factions.
While little information was made available on the substance of discussions in the closed-door meetings, leaks to the Lebanese press and unconfirmed reports said that deals were being concocted to "exchange Lahoud for Hezbollah's weapons."
Yet five days into the talks, sponsored by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a Hezbollah ally, the dialogue was abruptly stopped after Druze leader Walid Jumblatt said from Washington that Hezbollah no longer needed its weapons and described Lahoud as a Syrian "puppet" who must go.
Speaking at Brookings Institute in the U.S. capital and in news conferences, Jumblatt, who leads the Progressive Socialist Party, even asked for American help to "liberate our country" from Syrian influence.
Jumblatt's comments were seen as an attempt to sabotage the dialogue that was intended to be "purely Lebanese" without any outside interference; neither from the Syrians or the Americans. The former Druze warlord said that Hezbollah, credited for its armed resistance that ended the 1982-2000 Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, no longer needed to be armed since the Shebaa Farms, a small area occupied by Israel, were not Lebanese, but considered as Syrian by the U.N.
Angered Hezbollah leader Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, generally well-respected in his country and the rest of the Arab world, left the talks on March 7 on the grounds that he did not want to negotiate with "second-grade" politicians representing Jumblatt, in reference to Information Minister Ghazi Aridi, while his boss was in Washington.
But other Hezbollah officials were not as diplomatic as Nasrallah. They said they could not understand how a party in the dialogue would go to the United States "knowing the U.S. political strategy in the region is managed by the Zionists."
They complained that Jumblatt attacked the resistance and denied the Lebanese identity of the Shebaa Farms from an American institute "affiliated with the Zionist lobby." The officials said he described Hezbollah as a "militia" although the militias "are the warlords who perpetrated genocides and killed innocent people," in reference to the killing sprees of the Lebanese factions during the bloody civil war, in which Hezbollah is credited for not having turned its weapons against other Lebanese.
Nevertheless, all the parties involved in the national dialogue will resume the talks on Monday when Jumblatt, whose March 14 allies could not explain his intentions, is expected to participate and clarify his statements hurled from Washington, where he met with top U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The Druze leader, who's been virtually confined to his home in the Chouf mountains under tight security for the past 14 months for fear of being assassinated by the Syrians, is expected to stick to his position that Hezbollah has done its job by ending the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon and no longer needs to be armed, that Shebaa is not Lebanese and that Lahoud must be replaced by another president independent of the Syrians.
But analysts say if his tone is going to be inflexible and show no compromise on how to go about these demands, he will be blamed for sabotaging the dialogue and ensure its failure - a risk that Lebanon cannot afford at this stage as it has been practically in a political and economic standstill since Hariri's assassination and on the verge of factional explosion.
Jumblatt, who represents a small Druze minority with just 17 members in his Democratic Front bloc in Parliament, also risks his own standing within the March 14 alliance.
Lebanese and Arab analysts warn he may end up completely isolated and outcast as someone who is not serious about ending his country's crisis, who is trying to invite American intervention and even attempting to pull the country into another civil war.
But a civil war is precisely what everyone wants to avoid through this national dialogue and the Lebanese people have made it clear they will not forgive their leaders if they foiled these talks. That's why Lebanon's key players say they will not leave the negotiating table no matter how long it takes to agree on solutions to the disputed issues. However, they will have to compromise their political egos to achieve success because they know the alternative will be disastrous for their country and the rest of the region.
Bush Urges Lebanon to Control Own Country
Staff and agencies-10 March, 2006
By BARRY SCHWEID, AP Diplomatic Writer 4 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - President Bush called on the people of Lebanon "to be courageous" and take control of their country from remaining Syrian influence. Bush said the United States can pressure Syria , "but what we can‘t do is to force people to be courageous in the name of peace. That‘s up to Lebanon‘s people themselves." He commented in an interview with Future Television of Lebanon, which was founded by assassinated former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
"I think the president ought to be somebody who is independent-minded, somebody who focuses on the future of the country, somebody who understands that foreign influence inside of a country can be very negative," Bush said.
Under joint pressure from the United States and France in the U.N. Security Council U.N. Security Council, Syria has withdrawn its troops from Lebanon, but it remains a dominant political force.
In the south, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, armed by Iran through Syria, has conducted a cross-border war with Israel . Bush, however, said that "armed militia should disarm, and it‘s very important to understand you can‘t have a democracy if political parties have their own armed force." Bush‘s remarks coincided with a campaign for free presidential elections by Walid Jumblatt, a senior Lebanese politician and rival of Lahoud. Bush and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan boosted Jumblatt‘s stock with high-profile meetings this week. Next week, meanwhile, the United Nations receives the first report from Serge Brammertz, the new U.N. chief investigator probing the February 2005 assassination of Hariri, a powerful and wealthy anti-Syrian figure. An initial report implicated senior Syrian officials in the Beirut assassination. Syria denied involvement.
U.S. sanctions Syrian bank in terror deal
Mar 11, 2006,
WASHINGTON, DC, United States (UPI) -- The U.S. Treasury Friday sanctioned the Commercial Bank of Syria, forcing all U.S. banks to sever ties with the Damascus-based financial house. A Treasury spokesman said the bank had been used to move terrorist cash and launder money from 'illicit' Iraqi oil sales, the BBC reported.The ruling bars any U.S. bank or financial group from opening or maintaining an account at the state-owned bank or its subsidiary, the Syrian Lebanese Commercial Bank.
Pressure Seems to Ease on Syria - Esther Pan
It's been more than a year since the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri shook the status quo in the Middle East. The massive demonstrations in Lebanon that followed Hariri's death, combined with intense international pressure, forced Syrian troops out of Lebanon after nearly thirty years of occupation. But after a UN investigation seemed to set the stage for action against Damascus, the pressure on President Bashar al-Assad's regime appears to be easing. Middle East analyst Mona Yacoubian tells cfr.org's Bernard Gwertzman that after a year of unrelenting pressure from the United Nations and the international community over Syria's role in the Hariri assassination, Syrians "really don't believe that they have anything to fear at this time."
Yacoubian and Scott Lasensky, both of the U.S. Institute of Peace, write that despite growing rifts in Syria's ruling Alawi elite, an increasingly emboldened opposition, and the rising strength of the Muslim Brotherhood, there is no unified opposition ready to take over power from President Assad. In a December briefing, they write that, while Syrians may not like Assad's regime, they prefer its stability to the chaos they see in neighboring Iraq.
Assad himself is facing an array of problems at home. A report by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) says the Syrian economy has stalled under Assad, who has failed to institute promised economic and political reforms. An International Crisis Group report says the threat of violence in both Syria and Lebanon is still very real. This CFR Background Q&A examines how Assad made a series of missteps that contributed to Syria's political and economic decline.
In Lebanon, the momentary unity of the protest movement shattered once Syria withdrew, leaving the same sectarian divisions—among Christians, Sunnis, and Shiites—that led to Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war. Many young people, disillusioned after a year in which dozens of notable figures were assassinated by car bombs, say sectarian tension is now higher than ever (BBC). Syria-watcher Joshua Landis writes in his blog that Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt doesn't believe the national dialogue currently underway in Lebanon will be able to change anything. Jumblatt believes only Washington can help oust the Syria-backed Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and disarm Hezbollah, steps he calls necessary to end Syrian influence in Lebanon. UN Resolution 1559 (PDF), passed in September 2004, calls for the withdrawal of foreign forces—i.e. Syria—from Lebanon, and the disarming of all militias—i.e. Hezbollah. But Hanna Avraham, a research associate at MEMRI, writes the Lebanese public is still divided on the issue of disarming Hezbollah.
Esther Pan is a staff writer for cfr.org, covering Asia, the Middle East, and beyond, She has written for Newsweek magazine, Newsweek International, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Anchorage Daily News, and other publications.
Council on Foreign Relations
UK under pressure over foreigners suspected of security threat
By Jimmy Burns and Roula Khalaf in London
Published: March 11 2006 02:00
The British government is coming under pressure from North African countries to clamp down on opposition figures in the UK as part of any agreement on an anti-terrorist strategy.
Tunisia and Algeria are believed to be pressing the UK for legal arrangements, including extradition treaties, that would make it easier to arrest and prosecute foreign nationals living in the UK but wanted in their home country. The countries' insistence on what they describe as "reciprocity" has emerged in talks with the British Foreign Office, which has been trying to get Algeria and Tunisia to sign memorandums of understanding that any foreign national deported as a threat to national security would be treated fairly.
Such memorandums, al-ready signed with Jordan, Libya and Lebanon, include a commitment by the signatory countries that deportees would be treated in a "humane manner in accordance with internationally accepted standards" and would not face the death penalty.
Human rights groups claim such memorandums are not worth the paper they are written on. Given the human rights record of the countries involved, organisations say the inclusion of a mechanism for independent monitoring and oversight of suspects once they are de-ported cannot compensate for the risk of ill treatment and torture. Human rights advocates argue that the MOUs would not prevent torture and, that on the contrary, their formulation is a tacit admission that torture is practised in the countries involved, put-ting UK deportees at risk.
Yesterday the British government faced the latest in a series of legal challenges from defence lawyers for Algerians whom the UK has been either unable or unwilling to prosecute but who have been detained without trial after being labelled security threats. Algeria and Tunisia are now also trying to use the negotiations over the memorandums to put pressure on the UK to sign up to a broader agreement that would give them easier access to political dissidents who have sought refuge in Britain.
"We believe any memorandum of understanding with the UK should only be signed if it's of a much wider legal and consular agreement, including a bilateral extradition deal that does not exist at the moment," an Algerian government official said.
The Tunisian government, according to aides, has been reluctant to sign a memorandum that implies that the country's human rights record requires independent monitoring and guarantees against mistreatment.
The government claims its human rights record is better than that of any other country in North Africa and the Middle East. But international human rights organisations have detailed a long history of abuses.
Syrian FM to visit Moscow, discuss Hariri killing
By ASSOCIATED PRESS-MOSCOW
Russia will press Syria to ensure cooperation with the UN inquiry into the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri during talks next week with the Syrian foreign minister, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Saturday.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem is expected in Moscow on Monday, the Foreign Ministry said.
Syria last Sunday pledged to fully cooperate with the UN investigation, saying the terms of the cooperation had been agreed upon with the new head of the UN inquiry, Serge Brammertz.
The UN Security Council has twice accused Syria of failing to cooperate fully with the investigation, which has implicated Syrian intelligence officials. Brammertz's first report to the Security Council is due in mid-March.
The top UN envoy for Syria and Lebanon, Terje Roed-Larsen, will also be in Moscow for talks at the same time as the Syrian foreign minister, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.
Lebanon nabs al-Qaida-affiliated cell
By JPOST.COM STAFF
Lebanese security sources revealed Saturday that they discovered a terror network which was responsible for firing rockets at Israel, the Lebanese daily A-Saffir reported. According to the article, a cell comprised of both Palestinian and Lebanese terrorists had amassed large quantities of weapons for use against Israeli targets. According to the reports in Lebanese newspapers, the cell was led by a Palestinian who had strong ties to al-Qaida.
Among the weapons found in the cell's possession were mortars, missiles capable of hitting Israel, and explosive materials. The cell's leader would be tried, Lebanese sources said, in a Beirut military court.
In January, an Internet statement in the name of the al-Qaida in Iraq terror group took credit for firing a barrage of rockets from Lebanon into northern Israel on December 27, provoking Israeli air strikes on a Palestinian base in central Lebanon.
The statement by the group's leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was posted Monday in text and audio tape on an Islamic Web site known for publishing extremist material. The authenticity could not be confirmed, but the tape sounded like the Jordanian-born Zarqawi. He said the attacks were 'the beginning of the blessed work of striking deep into the Zionist enemy, according to instructions of Osama bin Laden,' the leader of the global al-Qaida network.
Two weeks ago, OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh said that al-Qaida cells based in Jordan have stepped up their attempts to infiltrate Israel and are in close contact with Palestinian terror cells based in the West Bank, revealed on Wednesday. 'We recently caught several local terror cells that were in touch with the international Global Jihad based in Jordan,' Naveh told a closed meeting at the Jerusalem Center of Public Affairs. He would not say for certain that the al-Qaida camp in Jordan worked under the direction of the movement's Iraqi leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, but he said 'al-Qaida was working to tighten its grip on the ground' in Jordan and Israel.
Forbidden Failure and Miracle Agreement
Zouheir Kseibati Al-Hayat - 11/03/06//
Good for the Druze leader Walid Jumblatt should he succeed in convincing the President of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz, to offer a "gift" to facilitate the projects of Beirut-I Conference. He may clear his Iraqi page for being part of the team which drafted the Iraqi invasion project.
Good for Jumblatt should he also succeed in reminding Henry Kissinger during their meeting in New York that Lebanon, which the former US Secretary used as a "bargaining" card in the US relations with the countries of the region, will not remain a "geographical surplus." the dialogue meeting of the poles in Beirut stands witness for the "first" attempt to outline the new Lebanon, without the presence of "strangers," whether foes, friends or brethren. Yet is still a mere hope!
As for the setback-break that gave the poles five days "off" from Nejmeh Square to report back to their leaderships, it may rather be an indication that the participants have reached the maturity phase of grasping the realities of geography and history. The chief one is that, despite everything and although they are upholding the national aspect of the dialogue process since it is purely Lebanese, they are still in dire need of the advices of Arab brethren and foreign friends to "bravely" settle the crucial decisions. The simplest example is to settle the "battle" over the identity of Shebaa farms. Will it fall only within the framework of the dialogue meeting, while its subsequent referral to the UN will require an understanding of the great nations, in addition to Syria's understanding of the need to renounce the farms' card as a token of "bona fide" to pave the way for opening a new page in the relations with Lebanon.
Yet, this alone seems an extreme simplification of the bigger problem: Lebanon's implementation of UN resolution 1559 the resistance considers as being offensive, while the March 14 forces deem it a fundamental clause. They stress that success will not be achieved unless they reach an understanding over dealing with its internal "traps." If some alluded to the fact that President Emile Lahoud's dismissal issue has been settled, as though the President was waiting in Baabda to congratulate the poles at the end of the meeting sessions and will leave right after, the focal term for all "axes," including March 8 and 14 forces, is the resistance's arms. As long as these arms represent the other facet of the "battle" of the farms' identity, and as long as Shebaa is Lebanese requiring a resistance, or Syrian as evidenced by the maps of Jumblatt, the poles seem to be rather arguing over the absurd, regardless of any accusation of discounting a part of national territory.
Each of them has his "national" fundamentals. In fact, most of the Lebanese cannot claim that the leaders are seizing the citizens will and their aspirations for an independent and stable country, as the militias leaders did upon the outbreak of the war in 1975. It is indubitable that the poles rift - without which there wouldn't be a need for a dialogue meeting - is a mirror image of a rift in the country that led Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah to admit with much courage the absence of consensus over the resistance's arms.
Nasrallah has his fundamentals and Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir has his obsessions too, which prevent taking the dialogue to the streets…As for Speaker Nabih Berri, who failed to curb the infiltrations before Tuesday's setback during the ninth session, he outperformed in the arbitrator role on the table. He is the party insisting that "failure is forbidden."
Waiting for the tenth session and the return of Walid Jumblatt from the US where he "bombed" the meeting and was accused of "offending parties" as though he was talking in the name of the Higher Authority after meeting with White House officials and the head of diplomacy, Condoleezza Rice, who dreams of the next phase of the battle to consolidate the Lebanese independence… Everyone is waiting for Jumblatt to return, conveying the "key word".
No one doubts the brinkmanship of the Socialist leader in grasping the global and regional changes, even by making expeditious 180-degree swings. There are still, among the Lebanese, those who still wager on his cleverness to prove his innocence from any US "tutelage," albeit returning from his meetings with top US officials… This is not a request to prove his national identity, since none of the participants in the Nejmeh Square dialogue still needs a proof of nationalism. This is particularly true of Nasrallah since he always supported peace for Lebanon impaired by years of self-centered politicians, after he supported the captivated South until its liberation. Another example is Saad Hariri, who upholds moderation, since loyalty to the Martyr entails first and foremost putting an end to the convoy of martyrs, regardless of the identity of the conspirators.
Wishful thinking and dreaming? Rather the last opportunity for Lebanon and all its poles. May they realize that nations are not built with bloodsheds, no matter how noble the goals and fundamentals are and how policies and interests change.