October 14/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 11,27-28. While he was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed."He replied, "Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it."

Free Opinions & Special Reports
The Truth of "Distinguishing" between Damascus and Tehran. By: Raghida Dergahm.Dar Al-Hayat. 13/07
Why Muslim Women Can't Marry Non-Muslim Men.By: MEMRI. FrontPage. October 13/07
Scholars for Wahhabism.By: October 13/07
Alms for Jihad.By: Robert L. Houbeck, October 13/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for October 13/07
European envoys seek to diffuse Lebanese crisis in upcoming trip.EUbusiness/press release
Political Threats Decrease Lebanon's Security.Associated Content
Analysts Find Israel Struck a Nuclear Project Inside Syria
.New York Times
Bkirki Supervises Intra-Maronite Dialogue Between Majority and Opposition
Sfeir: Only God Can Help Solve Lebanon's Crisis-Naharnet
Gates Criticizes Russian Arms Sales to Hizbullah Allies
Hizbullah Forms Militia to Fight Civil Strife-Naharnet
Saad Hariri on Lebanon's Future.Newsweek
News report: High-level NKorean official leaves for visit to Syria
.International Herald Tribune
Fadlallah Criticizes Cheney for Hostility Toward Iran-Naharnet
Amid political crisis, Lebanon celebrates the end of Ramadan.International Herald Tribune
DEBKAfile Exclusive: Syrian Civil Defense Services Placed on the Ready
DEBKAfile Exclusive: The US plans new military presence in Lebanon including big air installation close by Syrian border
Jumblatt: Hizbullah might invade Beirut.Ya Libnan
Brazil Won't Extradite Lebanese Banker.The Associated Press
Sfeir tries to bring together divided Christians to find a new
Refugees return home to destroyed Lebanon camp-Gulf Times
Canadian trio jailed in Syria demand open inquiry.Reuters Canada
Cyprus unhappy over controversial Syria ferry link to north.AFP
Gore and UN panel win Nobel Peace Prize
Vatican welcomes Muslim initiative-Gulf times
Russia, US at odds over missile shield. Gulf times
Turkey Threatens Repercussions for US.By: Associated Press
The Republic of Ambiguity.Ahmed Al-Rabei

By: Dr. Walid Phares
Because it takes time for historians to research and register
It was 6:55 AM, October 13, 1990..
Lebanon, 17 years ago
A jet sound shrieked in the skies over Beirut and the Presidential Palace in Baabda. It was flying over the mountainous Matn and Baabda districts; a Soviet built Suhkoi bomber heading towards the Ministry of Defense and the seat of the interim Government, then headed by General Michel Aoun. The Syrian Air force, for the first time ever, had flown its jet over Lebanon in two waves to bombard the enclave still resisting its occupation army since June 1976. The last round of confrontation between the Syrian forces and the Lebanese Army had begun in March 1989. Fierce battles have taken place for the control of Lebanon. Hafez Assad was determined –along with his Iranian allies- to occupy the last free areas of his neighbor. In September 1990, Secretary of State James Baker gave the green light to the Syrian dictator to launch an invasion into Mount Lebanon in return of his participation in the Gulf War against Saddam. By October 12, twenty thousand Syrian troops with hundreds of Special Forces, dozens of artillery batteries, 300 tanks and with the support of pro-Syrian militias and Hezbollah have encircled the enclave. The Lebanese Army, trained mostly by the US had lined up about 4,000 soldiers and few old tanks with the support of batteries, dispersed in the valleys.  
At 7 AM the full fledged invasion began. After the Sukhoi raids, a Syrian barrage covered almost every position of the Lebanese Army. The latter resisted on all fronts and counter attacked at least on the main axis of Jamhour, north of Yarze (Ministry of Defense). The Soviet-trained Syrian commandos assaulted the Lebanese Special Forces, Maghaweer, in Beit Mery. Until 8 AM, not one single front was pierced despite the massive bombardment. At 8:10 AM the Lebanese state radio aired a brief statement by Prime Minister Michel Aoun. He –stunningly- gave the orders to his army to surrender to the Syrians. Practically he asked them to follow the Syrian appointed commander of the surrogate Lebanese Army, none else than General Emile Lahoud, who will be gratified eight years later by being selected as the pro-Syrian President of Lebanon. A page in Lebanon’s history has turned by 8:30 AM that day. Not yet.
For in the following eight hours a battle will ensue between the headless Lebanese Army and the invading forces: A battle which will be led by anonymous officers who refused to surrender to a regime sponsoring terror and about to conquer another country member of the United Nations. That day a short war with terrorism lasted few more hours but would allow the Lebanese soldiers and officers who refused abdication to resist the onslaught and to show –without witnesses though- that a determined, small but brave force can do miracles. Indeed, despite the orders to surrender given by Aoun, young officers decided to continue the war on their own. On the Beit Mery axis, the Syrian Special Forces were pushed back down the valley. Meanwhile the Lebanese artillery was waging a counter battery forcing the Syrian armor to stop. But the most illustrious episode took place at Dahr al Wahsh, east of the Presidential Palace. The Lebanese units executed a maneuver, allowing the advancing Baathist forces to move forward before they were encircled and destroyed. More than 300 Syrian attackers were eliminated, their ranks broke, and the Lebanese units were on the counter attack. Regardless of the fact that Aoun and his two ministers took refuge in the French embassy in East Beirut, a war room was still operating at Yarze (Ministry of Defense) until about 3 PM. From the headquarters of the Syrian headquarters in Anjar in the Bekaa valley, Syrian intelligence chief Brigadier Ghazi Kanaan (he allegedly committed suicide in Damascus in 2005) was extremely nervous as President Hafez Assad was awaiting a full victory phone call in Damascus. No one in the pro-Syrian camp in Lebanon seemed to believe that a headless Lebanese Army was still fighting the giant Syrian force and the pro-Iranian Terrorist organizations. At a very high altitude, two Israeli jets were observing the fight without intervening.
According to Lebanese army officers the night before, resisting the Syrian offensive for 72 hours would suffice to break the will of the attackers. But with a balance of power 5 to 1, and all supplies roads cut off by land, air and sea, the Lebanese Army had no reason to survive the blitzkrieg. However in reality the battle of October 13, 1990 showed that those units were able to withstand the Syrian and Hezbollah forces combined, even without the guidance of a commander in chief who quit the battlefield and considered the war over. Undoubtedly, historical documents will explain to those interested why did the General leave his Palace at 7:30 AM and surrendered at 8:10 AM that day. There are lots of versions, but this would be left to future discussions. But what would be interesting to learn about from military historians is how were few battalions of the Lebanese Army capable of holding the lines –after the surrender order by Aoun- against all odds and the entire Syrian expeditionary corps in Lebanon, flanked by Hezbollah, the pro-Syrian paramilitaries and local militias opposed to Aoun at the time. For until 3 PM that day, and despite a cataclysmic shelling by hundreds of artillery pieces of all civilians areas and military zones, the Syrian offensive had failed and the first 12 of the 72 hours were about to pass as a victory by Lebanese military. Besides, by that evening, had the Lebanese military opposition to the Baathists and their allies persisted, a civilian resistance was about to emerge in many neighborhoods. It would have been odd to see a free enclave still up and running on October 14, while it’s Government has sought political asylum at the French embassy. But the Lebanese didn't wake up to see such an ironic situation.
As of 2:30 PM phone calls were being made to the Lebanese officers who were holding their positions or commanding the artillery units. They were told that “their” Government was disbanded and that the Prime Minister has left his office and took refuge in the French embassy, that the Syrian were sending more forces to join the battle, that Hezbollah controls the lines south east of Baabda, and more importantly that no international force would come to their rescue. The phone calls made also to the remaining war room in the Ministry of Defense said the United States had blessed the Syrian operation and no one else from the free world would come to help the resistance against Assad’s terror regime. At that point, the decision was made by these anonymous officers (their names will be revealed in a historical documentation) to stop. Some among them, we were told, spoke to their former commander at the French embassy and confirmed that the fight was really over.
But the drama was not over yet. The Syrian forces have a tradition of reigning terror and revenge after they capture enemy positions. At first, they used Lebanese military under their control (and commanded by the future President Lahoud) to convince the Lebanese Army to surrender to the Syrians. However, as soon as they did, particularly in Dahr al Wahsh, the Syrian officers and soldiers lined up the Lebanese prisoners and executed them. Reports from that time mentioned torture against a number of Lebanese officers and their troops. Hundreds of civilians, including two monks, were kidnapped, tortured and killed. Many citizens and soldiers were transferred to the notorious Syrian jails, some have vanished since.
October 13, 1990, seventeen years later, remains a moment in the history of that little country deserving re-reading: A dictatorship sent its army and terrorist forces to invade a free country with the blessing of the leader of the free world (or at least their diplomats at the time). A small brave force, resisted the onslaught, despite being abandoned by the international community and by its own Government. A real story from a war with terror that has begun 11 years before Bin laden attacks New York. But history is a strange phenomenon. Seventeen years later, a second generation of that same brave little force engages al Qaeda in Nahr al Bared and defeats the terrorist group, at least the local cells in that area. But now things have changed: The Lebanese Army is praised by Washington and Paris; it is supported by its Government and has won that challenge despite Hezbollah's warning not to enter the camp or else. 
 ***Dr Walid Phares is the director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington. He was one of the architects of UNSCR 1559       

Jumblat: Iran Might Assign Hizbullah to Occupy Beirut
Progressive Socialist Party Leader Walid Jumblat warned that Hizbullah wants to seize power in Lebanon, describing the party as a chapter of Iran's revolutionary Guards Corps which is working on setting up a Farsi area of influence stretching from Iran to Lebanon via Iraq and Syria.
In an interview with the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Anbaa, jumblat also sounded the alarm that "if Lebanon fell to the Persians (Iranians) the (Arab) Gulf states would face a mounting threat."He expressed hope that Lebanon's Christians would unite around a presidential candidate who "recognizes all international resolutions regarding Lebanon, topped by U.N. Security Council resolution 1559."He said a Parliamentary session set for Oct. 23 to elect a new head of state would be "a mirage." He was indicating that the session would not result in electing a new head of state. "Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri can drag us to parliament every day irrespective of risks," he was quoted as saying. Asked whether March 14 majority legislators would elect a new head of state at Beirut's seaside Phoenicia Hotel, Jumblat said: "We have the right to elect a president anywhere. A president should be elected. We have information that Iran might allow Hizbullah to overrun the Government compound and occupy Beirut."He stressed that the March 14 candidates for the presidential elections are MPs Nassib Lahoud and Butros Harb "and no one else."
He expressed concern that Syrian-backed president Emile Lahoud might refuse to turn over the presidential palace to a new elected head of state, stressing that the army "should carry out orders of the president-elect and remove him (lahoud)." Beirut, 13 Oct 07, 13:18

Sfeir: Only God Can Help Solve Lebanon's Crisis
Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir Said Saturday that only "heaven" can help solve Lebanon's ongoing political crisis. "Our affairs appear to be extremely complicated and no one can solve them for us unless we plead with God," Sfeir told reporters. He also urged the Lebanese to "pray so that heaven can have mercy on us."Sfeir had held separate meetings with Maronite leaders of both majority and opposition factions in an effort to arrange a settlement to the ongoing political crisis. Beirut, 13 Oct 07, 16:22

Bkirki Supervises Intra-Maronite Dialogue Between Majority and Opposition
Christian leaders of the majority and the opposition have agreed with Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir on the formation of a joint committee to try reach consensus on a presidential candidate. The committee, according to reliable sources, would comprise two or three members from each of the March 14 Majority and March 8 opposition and would hold meetings behind closed doors to try reach consensus on a presidential candidate under the Sfeir's auspices.
The proposal was agreed in separate meetings between Sfeir and Maronite representatives of both factions on Thursday and Friday.
Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun and former MP Suleiman Franjieh, both representing the Hizbullah-led opposition, met Sfeir at the latter's seat in Bkirki Thursday. The Patriarch met March 14 representative Friday. The newspaper al-Hayat said Sfeir reiterated in both meetings his stand that the presidential election should be held within the constitutional schedule and in line with the constitution to avoid vacuum that could lead to serious repercussions. Sfeir, according to the report, also reminded Aoun and Franjieh of the Maronite Bishops' statement, issued last September, which stressed that boycotting the presidential election session is tantamount to "boycotting the homeland." Aoun, the newspaper said, expressed readiness to negotiate with the majority. Franjieh backed Aoun's trend.
March 14 representatives, on their part, stressed to the Patriarch that electing a new head of state by simple majority was only the last option to avoid vacuum in the presidency and would be adopted only if the opposition rejected attempts to reach consensus on a presidential candidate. However, March 14 representatives doubted Aoun's ability to reach consensus with the majority, the report said. "Franjieh's decision is taken by Damascus and Aoun's trend is linked to that of Hizbullah and the party threatens to resort to field measures that would prevent presidential elections if its candidate was not accepted," the March 14 officials were quoted as saying.
Ex-President Amin Gemayel, a prominent March 14 leader, said the Bkirki initiative "sets the stage for the needed settlement … We are looking for a president made in Lebanon without pressures from any side." Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea told reporters the meetings "would persist, but you wouldn't be informed of them."
He said remarks by some Hizbullah officials "indicate that they are preparing to kidnap Israeli soldiers or carry out some secret operation" if the majority elected a president by simple majority."The presidential election campaign, according to Geagea, centers on electing a head of state "who is not under Syrian influence."
Possibilities of reaching consensus, Geagea said, "are not high, but we will keep trying and we will not lose hope." Beirut, 13 Oct 07, 12:08

Gates Criticizes Russian Arms Sales to Hizbullah Allies
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates reassured Russia on Saturday that the Pentagon will not put military bases in ex-Soviet Georgia and Ukraine, but criticized Moscow for arms sales to U.S. foes Iran and Syria that back Lebanon's Hizbullah. Speaking at the Military Academy of General Staff, at the end of a tense two-day visit to Moscow, Gates said there would be no U.S. bases in either Georgia or Ukraine. The Pentagon would not station troops there "even if we were to be invited," Gates told Russian officers. The issue is of high sensitivity in Moscow, which has seen its longtime dominance of neighboring countries severely diminished since the 1991 Soviet collapse. Both Georgia and Ukraine now have pro-Western leaderships that desire to join NATO. However, Gates criticized Moscow's weapons sales, accusing Iran of having "made no secret of its expansionist ambitions," and claiming that Syria is a conduit for weapons to Hizbullah operatives. "The best way to describe it, is that at the end we decided to agree to disagree," Gates said of the issue, which was raised during meetings with his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov and other officials. His speech came at the end of a visit dominated by a bitter U.S.-Russian dispute over U.S. missile defense plans which is unsettling bedrock arms control regimes that helped stabilize Europe during the Cold War. In a conciliatory tone, Gates said that "no nation suffered more from the last century's carnage and miscalculations than Russia." "And today, arguably no nation stands to gain more from this century's possibilities," he said. "We are prepared to work with Russia -- and with the Russian military -- to try to turn possibility into reality for the peoples of both nations." During talks here, in which he was accompanied by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Gates offered what he called "new ideas" for Russian participation in a regional missile defense system to protect both Russia and the West from ballistic missile attack. They included joint monitoring of missile early warning data and the stationing of Russian liaison officers at missile defense sites in the United States and Americans at sites in Russia, senior U.S. officials said.(AFP) Beirut, 13 Oct 07, 16:37

Hizbullah Forms Militia to Fight Civil Strife
Naharnet/ October 13/07
Hizbullah has formed a 50.000-strong militia to fight an internal dispute if the ongoing political crisis in Lebanon was not settled, the Kuwaiti newspaper as-Siyassah reported. It also said Hizbullah has constructed 500 kilometers of roads linking its power bases in east, central and south Lebanon in preparation for such a confrontation with the March 14 forces and to enable the party confront an Israeli attack. The newspaper attributed the information to a Syrian website identified as al-haqiqah, Arabic for the truth. The report quoted an unnamed Hizbullah source as saying the idea of setting up a militia, which is a separate structure from the party's Islamic Resistance, crystallized after the Iranian-backed group obtained information about a "serious intent to drag it into an internal armed confrontation if the political crisis was not settled.""This is what we've been trying to avoid and we'll continue trying to avoid irrespective of the coast," the Hizbullah source was quoted as saying.
"Getting involved in a domestic confrontation isn't as sensitive an issue to Hizbullah as it used to be, especially if it is imposed on us."He accused the March 14 majority of planning to drag Hizbullah into a domestic confrontation. The new militia, he said, "would be capable of settling any internal confrontation in a relatively short period … without having to go into a long civil war similar to the previous" Lebanese civil war that lasted from 1975 to 1990. In a related development, the report said Hizbullah constructed 500 kilometers of roads in south Lebanon, the central Bekaa valley and its eastern flank to link its strongholds In case of any domestic confrontation or even to confront an Israeli invasion. Druze leader Walid Jumblat had warned that Iran might assign Hizbullah to occupy Beirut and usurp power in Lebanon. Beirut, 13 Oct 07, 15:58

Fadlallah Criticizes Cheney for Hostility Toward Iran
Lebanon's top Shiite cleric criticized U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney on Friday, saying he backs a military strike against Iran that would "bring destruction to the region."Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah made his comments during Friday prayers in Beirut's southern suburb of Haret Hreik.
His statements came as many Lebanese celebrated the first day of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
"We see that America's Vice President Dick Cheney favors a major aerial, naval and missile strike against Iran, specifically against all its military and civilian infrastructure in addition to the oil, telecommunication and transportation sectors by March at the latest," Fadlallah said in comments distributed by his office. The cleric did not provide specific evidence for his claim."This man (Cheney) ... has toured the region to convince Arab countries, mainly Gulf states, to convince them that Iran is considered a dangerous enemy that should be boycotted and fought," Fadlallah said, referring to a visit by Cheney to the region several months ago.
Fadlallah, the top religious authority for Lebanon's 1.2 million Shiites, warned that any such attack will not succeed.
Some Arabs fear that the United States or Israel, or both, may strike predominantly Shiite Iran over fears that the country is using its nuclear program as cover for weapons development. Iran denies the claim and says the program is for civilian purposes.
U.S. President George W. Bush has refused to take the military option of the table, and many view Cheney as one of the more hawkish officials toward Iran in the White House.The vice president warned Iran sharply in May from an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf that the U.S. will not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons or dominate the Middle East.Fadlallah said that "we believe that the American plan will not achieve much success in its expected aggression but it will bring destruction to the region that houses American military bases and oil wealth."(AP-Naharnet) Beirut, 13 Oct 07, 13:19

The Republic of Ambiguity
Ahmed Al-Rabei
Has Syria become a republic of ambiguity? Has the Syrian government made the decision to remain silent and not provide any information on what took place in Syria?
Does the Syrian citizen, and those following the events in Syria from outside of the country, have to wait for Israeli radio and press or international news agencies in order to know the truth, that is, what really happened in Syria [at the hands of Israel]? The attack on the military barracks has remained a mystery to this day since no official in Syria has offered an explanation for the incident. Israelis, Americans and others have discussed the Israeli bombing on Syria, while Syria remained the quietist on the subject. A former Israeli intelligence director said that if the truth behind the bombardment was revealed, the world would be amazed. The military planes that attacked one of the Damascene districts gave rise to speculation in light of the “official” Syrian silence. Previously, this policy was practiced in Russia and in a number of former Soviet republics. This is what led people to listen to news about their country from foreign sources, to the point that people no longer trusted official reports [in their respective country]. Syria would be making a mistake if the policy of remaining silent and hiding information continues to prevail. Syria should not blame anyone who oversteps the boundaries in their analyses of events and misinterprets them, as the concerned party does not speak, see, or hear.
In fact, it is not possible to know what is taking place in ambiguous Syria unless one has established strong ties with Tehran or foreign intelligence agencies. It is a confusing situation for Syria let alone anyone else.

DEBKAfile Exclusive: Syrian Civil Defense Services Placed on the Ready

October 12, 2007, Syrian forces stay calm on the front line
Our military sources report exclusively that Thursday night, Oct. 11, Syria placed its civil defense services on a state of preparedness and mobilized their reservists.
Government and military hospitals across Syria have also been alerted. These measures were ordered Tuesday, Oct. 9, and were in place within three days. In contrast, there is no change in the deployment of Syrian forces along the border with Israel on Golan and Mt. Hermon. Thursday, Syrian defense minister Gen. Hassan Turkmani published a message to the armed forces calling for “readiness to withstand all aggression.”
A day earlier, the Syrian chief of staff, Gen. Ali Habib, said at an officers’ passing-out parade: “Syria is capable of beating off any conspiracies” against the country.
All these measures and this rhetoric strongly indicate the Syrian regime is convinced that either an American or Israeli assault, or attacks by both against Syria and Iran are due shortly. Syrian president Bashar Assad articulated this fear in an interview published by the Tunisian daily Al-Shorouk Thursday. He said: I am working on the premise that the Americans will attack Iran,” explaining that this was the answer he received when he asked the Iranians how they evaluated the situation.
DEBKAfile’s sources note that the only two Iranian personalities he would have talked to would be supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Assad went on to say to the Tunisian interviewer: This means we are facing a force (the Americans) which has no respect for international laws and values, exactly as in Iraq. The United States,” he continued,” backs the enemy Israel absolutely which prevents us from perceiving the US in any other light that an enemy.” An attack on Iran will harm the whole world but as we have seen in the Iraq War, the Americans do not enter into such calculations. “I cannot play games of anticipation,” said the Syrian ruler. “I must be ready for any US or Israeli operation against Iran or Syria.”

DEBKAfile Exclusive: The US plans new military presence in Lebanon including big air installation close by Syrian border

October 9, 2007, 8:58 AM (GMT+02:00)
The air base, according to DEBKAfile’s military sources, will be located at Kleiat in northern Lebanon roughly 75 air miles from Damascus, which these days doubles as a shared Syrian-Iranian military hub and Tehran’s eastern Mediterranean forward base. The American air installation will also lie 22 air miles from Tartous, Syria’s main naval base and the Russian Mediterranean fleet’s command center. And the aircraft posted there will be minutes away from the joint Syrian-Iranian arms and missiles industries at Homs and Hamma. DEBKAfile’s source report the Bush administration’s drastic change of policy on Lebanon was settled in consultations at the Pentagon and National Security Council after the talks the chief of the US Central Command Adm. William Fallon held with Lebanese government heads on July 29.
This new direction was confirmed after the Israeli air raid over Syria of Sept. 6. It brings the American military back to Lebanon after a 25-year absence. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan pulled US troops out of the country after Syrian military intelligence orchestrated terrorist bombing attacks on the US embassy and Marines headquarters in Beirut, which left more than 300 soldiers, diplomats and CIA agents dead.
The first stage of construction will reactivate the small defunct air base at Kleiat as a joint US-Lebanese venture. Prime minister Fouad Siniora will explain that the four months of bloody fighting to crush the Fatah al-Islam revolt in the northern Nahar al-Bared camp demonstrated how badly the Lebanese army needs an operational air base in the region. US Air Force engineers and technicians have begun work on the new air field. At a later stage, it will be expanded for American military use

The Truth of "Distinguishing" between Damascus and Tehran regarding the Presidential Elections in Leban
Raghida Dergahm - Al-Hayat - 13/10/07//

NEW YORK - Conditions in Iraq require, at this historical juncture, a bilateral relationship with the US that takes the place of the Chapter 7 relationship between Iraq and the United Nations.

Conditions in Lebanon require the international community to share in the consequences that will result if Lebanon slips into a political vacuum caused by the blocking of presidential elections, at the least because the chaos in Lebanon is a threat to the beefed-up UNIFIL forces in the south.

At this stage of developments in Iraq, there is an interesting combination underway: we are seeing the new Iraq undergo a necessary divorce from international resolutions that have punished the country for the adventures of its former president, by invading Kuwait, while on the other hand, there is a desire to see a wedding "engagement" between today's Iraq and the UN, in the wake of re-defining and -regulating the bilateral relationship with the US. This is what the Iraqi government is thinking about; it's working to achieve a new Security Council resolution before the end of the year.
Meanwhile, developments in Lebanon are now forcing the UN to play a role in securing presidential elections that are free of foreign meddling. This is because political assassinations have turned Lebanon into an international project, by virtue of Article 7 of the UN Charter. Lebanon will experience one of its most difficult stages during the coming days and weeks; therefore, thinking has begun on a precedent, in the manner of the precedent of Resolution 1559, which caused an earthquake in Syria's relationship to Lebanon and brought Lebanon into a unique relationship with the UN. Such a resolution might not prevent other political assassinations to prevent the parliamentary majority from electing a president from the ranks of the 14 March group, which supports the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, and the Lebanese Army. However, it will certainly increase the punishment. Today, several events are coinciding in Lebanon, from the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp, which has produced confessions by individuals and Syrians about the role of leading influential figures in the Syrian regime with events in the camp, to reports by an international commission to investigate the political assassinations that had earlier linked some of these figures to the assassinations.

Today, the international tribunal to try those involved in these terrorist crimes has become a reality that cannot be reversed. Today, there is evidence about more than one person implicated in more than one operation, which means that it is practically impossible for states to ignore the matter.

Today, the US administration and the Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, are serious about dealing with Lebanon and rejecting giving Syria any "ticket to a dialogue" so that it can avoid being held accountable.

Today, there is a qualitative change in the American relationship and the Israeli relationship with Syria, for reasons having to do with the strategic balance after what was revealed by the recent Israeli strike against Syria. There is new American and European thinking about settling matters with Iran, even militarily. Lebanon and Iraq are a part of this, and they constitute truly key components of this at this juncture.

Regarding Iraq, those with knowledge of the US-Iraqi dialogue say that there is a bilateral "security partnership" agreement that will "reassure the public" in Iraq and send a message to neighboring countries, and particularly Syria and Iran. This security partnership will regulate the US-Iraqi relationship based on the needs of this bilateral relationship, instead of leaving it with multi-national force countries in terms of prerogatives and duration in the hands of the Security Council. Thus, the Iraqi government is working on lifting Chapter 7, through a new resolution, and is working toward a security agreement for many years, which will relieve the pressure of a timetable for an American withdrawal from Iraq.

This will affect US forces in Iraq and their mission, as well as the immunity enjoyed by companies like Blackwater, which provides security services to the troops. According to sources playing a direct role in drafting this relationship, "the Americans are staying, and they won't even make gradual withdrawals," since the security partnership "will regulate the relationship in precise fashion such that the military presence redeployed, whether in bases or camps, from the north to the south, east or west."

The US forces are now operating under Chapter 7, under a mandate from the Security Council, and this mandate should be renewed every six months. "This method no longer works," the source said, "and we need security arrangements with a strategic partnership and over the long run, because this is in Iraq's interest." At that time, US forces will be redeployed to cover their withdrawal from cities, whether by building, supporting or training the Iraqi military, and particularly the Air Force.

The Iraqi government is now thinking about moving toward the issuing of a new Security Council resolution by the end of the year, so that the mandate of the multi-national troops is extended, for one … and final time. The importance of the bilateral US-Iraqi security partnership strategy is clear on this score, among the most prominent elements being the strategy directed against Iraqi neighbors, led by Syria and Iran.

According to those familiar with the current thinking at high levels of the US administration, Lebanon has taken on an "organic relationship" with the thinking of the administration and the Congress about Syria and Iran, and Palestine as well.

What's new in Congress is that many Democrats and Republicans have begun abandoning their enthusiasm about dialogue with Iran and Syria as a way to save the US from its predicament in Iraq. What's new is that Lebanon has become a part of US national security for this group.

The equation doesn't involve the repercussions of preventing Syrian intervention, preserving the status quo and getting involved in dialogue in order to buy time or grant it to the other side. The choice today involves seeing a sovereign and independent Lebanon in which victory triumphs over extremism, versus seeing Lebanon turn into an Iranian base on the Mediterranean.

The discussion underway has a different tone, which has led one person to say: "The call for dialogue and getting involved with Syria has died." Preventing the fall of Lebanon into Iran's hands is not a demagogic threat; it has become a central item in the discussions between members of Congress and the White House, and the former includes those who had earlier taken contrary positions. Syria has no become, in the viewpoint of this group, a means of sabotage used by Iran, and it will not be permitted to do as it wishes. After the recent Israeli strike against positions in Syria, Israel has lifted the cover of complete protection that it had earlier insisted on providing to the Syrians, considering it "weak" and a "buffer zone" that would prevent the Muslim Brotherhood or others from reaching power. Damascus crossed the red lines, in the view of the US and Israeli military establishments, when it entered into a relationship of banned weapons with Iran and North Korea, and thus altered the strategic equation.
Observers of the details of the Iranian and Syrian positions vis-à-vis Lebanon are talking about "distinguishing" between the two regarding the upcoming Lebanese presidential elections. They say that "Syria wants a vacuum and chaos; it wants to burn the country," while the Iranians don't see any interest for themselves or Hizbullah in such a scenario.

One observer quoted a high-level Arab diplomat who said he had heard the Iranian leadership acknowledge the following about the Iranian-Syrian relationship in Lebanon: We will not be an obstacle in the face of Syria's vital interests in Lebanon, but we won't let Syria damage our vital interests in Lebanon.

Tehran has begun to sense the determination by the US and Europe to use military strikes to destroy the regime's infrastructure, while Damascus has begun to sense the important change in its own position; it was coddled by senior figures in the US and Israel and is now feeling that it is also a candidate to see its regime's fingers clipped. Both Syria and Iran are anxious, although they pretend to be unafraid and unconcerned. Some believe that Iran and Syria have decided to allow the election of a Lebanese president in order to bypass this losing battle for them and their allies. In parallel, they and their allies are preparing themselves for a counter-strategy of buying time to escape the pressure and punishment that will befall them if they continue with a confrontation over the presidential election issue at this time.

On the other hand, some believe that it is useful today to distinguish between the Iranian and Syrian positions, in order to generate Arab and international pressure to the utmost, to prevent Syrian intervention in the election. They want the international community to notify Damascus that it is being monitored and will be subject to measures if it continues to block the election. This group wants to see all deterrent measures taken to prevent additional assassinations of members of Parliament. Among these measures is preparing a Security Council resolution that, in practical terms, warns of the consequences if it continues to violate Resolution 1701, which required states to prevent smuggling weapons to any Lebanese party; this group wants the UN to shoulder its responsibilities regarding the presidential elections.
The Lebanese government has prepared a report for the Arab League and the UN in which it lists Syria's violations of 1701, from exporting weapons across the Syrian-Lebanese border to financing and arming training camps and fighters. In addition, the confessions of those involved in acts of sabotage in Lebanon have said the orders were given by Syrian officials. There is "evidence" that can be added to what the international investigation committee already has regarding political assassinations. There are many indications that Syria has been determined to strike at Lebanon's stability and see a vacuum, by blocking presidential elections.

The chaos scenario in Lebanon is dangerous not only for Lebanon, but also for the multinational forces in the south. Losing the Lebanese Army will be dangerous, if conditions lead to two governments and two presidents, a result of the failure to hold the presidential election on time and in accordance with the Constitution. Therefore, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and the Security Council are obliged to think, based on the concept of partnership with the Lebanese state, about preventing a slide into chaos. This is because this chaos will be very costly for them as well, and because the presidential election is at the forefront of developments, as the UN finds itself forced to deal with these elections as if they are not a purely domestic issue - international troops have become part of the balance of domestic developments in Lebanon.

In other words, the UN doesn't have the option of an immediate withdrawal of these troops, if chaos and instability prevail, since these forces are an indivisible part of the "cessation of conflict" between Lebanon and Israel, according to 1701. This resolution, adopted by the Security Council under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, talks about states being committed to not sending arms to Lebanese groups, and means that Security Council members cannot be silent about violations, since these violations form a threat to UN troops in the south. The UN, and particularly the Security Council, might be forced to think about deploying international forces on the Lebanese-Syrian border to prevent the flow of fighters and weapons that are threatening the Lebanese state, the Lebanese Army and international troops in the south.

The UN forces won't hide in the face of the strategy to target them, whether directly or indirectly. They are obliged to preserve the "cessation of conflicts" and the UN as a while is obliged to think about how to protect them, through deterrence, preventative action, punishment or sanctions. States, and perhaps the UN's Secretariat General, have begun to think about ending the policy of bargaining and deals, after they experienced Damascus' stalling in implementing commitments. If Damascus is serious and honest about following through on its promises and the messages it sends, it should immediately begin to do what it promised to Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, in its cryptic letter about the Shebaa Farms, and present documents to the UN to support its position that the farms are Lebanese; it should inform the UN immediately, and not through a third party, of its support for putting these farms under UN custodianship if sovereignty over them cannot be settled, and until the matter is settled, one way or another.

Perhaps Moratinos and other European foreign ministers, and the general coordinator of European foreign policy, Javier Solana, might play a very useful role if they truly pressure Israel, using the available means, to agree to place Shebaa, which it occupies, under UN custodianship as a transitional phase. Thus, the pretext of resistance by Hizbullah and its partners in Damascus and Tehran would be removed. Through such a step, the European Union would be assisting the south Lebanon-based UN force, to which a number of European countries provide troops. The battle in Lebanon is not just one among Lebanese. It is a battle to prevent Lebanon from becoming an Iranian base, and slipping into chaos, which will serve Syria's interest.

It is the battle of all Arabs, especially regarding the Arab-Iranian equation, and it is also a battle of the west, since Lebanon is a test case for democracy. Therefore, there must be a single voice - Arab and international - that says: We are here and we are determined. There is no other course but firm, clear and decisive pressure on both Syria and Iran. The tactic of separating between them, in a battle here, or a policy there, might serve a specific objective, but it will remain a mere transitory tactic before the cohesive relationship of the two regimes' strategy.

The Syrian-Iranian duo and their partners in Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq, are no longer in a position that lets them ignore their coming punishment for policies that are no longer acceptable regionally and internationally. They are hearing their own heartbeats, along with the heartbeats of their partners Hizbullah, Hamas and Iraqi militias and terror factions, with which they have a suspicious relationship. The duo is under the microscope, not just because of its actions, but also because of what the two countries are carrying out via allies and mercenaries. Their anxiety will grow even more, after the policy of cozying up to them has ended