October 16/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 17,11-19. As he continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.As he was entering a village, ten lepers met (him). They stood at a distance from him and raised their voice, saying, "Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!" And when he saw them, he said, "Go show yourselves to the priests." As they were going they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, "Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?" Then he said to him, "Stand up and go; your faith has saved you."

Free Opinions & Special Reports
Holy War and Anti War: An Axis against Nature.By Walid Phares.American Thinker - Bellevue,WA,USA. October 15/07
The Guns of the Patriarch.By: Elias Harfouche. Dar Al-Hayat. October 14/07
Colonization and a mediator's bias remain the death knells of peace.The Daily Star. October 14/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for October 15/07
Lebanon detains group for trying to bomb UN troops.ABC Online
Army Arrests Terrorist Cell Targeting UNIFIL-Naharnet
Israel and Lebanon to exchange prisoners.AFP
Hizbullah to Provide Information on Arad. Naharnet
Israel and Lebanon to exchange prisoners.Africasia
MP Wael Abu Faour: Hizbullah Trying to Marginalize the Christians' Political Role-Naharnet

Formation of Joint Christian Committee Hindered as Countdown for ...Naharnet
Sfeir Pleads to Keep Lebanon Symbol of Coexistence
Jumblat Kicks Off 5-Day Visit to U.S.-Naharnet
Israel Silent on Reports of Bombing Within Syria.New York Times-Naharnet
Captive Israeli Soldiers Reportedly In Iranian Custody-Naharnet
Israel and Hizbullah to Exchange Prisoners
Lebanon's Senior Judge to N.Y. to Coordinate Tribunal Formation
Three European Foreign Ministers to Lebanon-Naharnet

Hizbullah, Israel dismiss reports that captured soldiers are in Iranian hands-Daily Star
Sfeir prays Lebanon will 'remain a model of coexistence-Daily Star
Christian rivals set for talks on Lebanon's presidency-Daily Star
Rizk says 12 names have been submitted to UN panel that will pick judges, prosecutors for Hariri tribunal-Daily Star
Opposition figures attack government decision to privatize cellular networks-Daily Star
Lebanese products 'need work to meet European standards-Daily Star
Protesters briefly block return of refugees to Nahr al-Bared-Daily Star

Eid mixes solemn duties with simple fun as faithful mark end of Ramadan
-Daily Star
Universities seek to educate youth on fair trade, globalization-Daily Star
Civil group aims to bring accountability to politics-Daily Star

UNIFIL troops don't just keep the peace - they also prop up South Lebanon's fragile economy.AFP
Lebanon to dispatch its highest ranking judge to UN.Ya Libnan
Captive Israeli soldiers 'held in Iran'.AFP

Rice lowers Mideast talks' expectations. AP
Iran's top cleric calls on Muslims to boycott peace conference. Reuters
Lebanese Leaders Prepare for Presidential Election.AINA
UN peacekeepers prove blessing for south Lebanon economy.AFP
North Korean Official to Visit Syria, Prompting Nuclear Concerns.Voice of America

Report: Israel attacked suspected nuclear reactor in Syria.Al-Bawaba
Preemption, Israeli style.Los Angeles Times
Fight against al-Qaeda ‘unites’ Shia and Sunni groups in Lebanon
. Sunday Herald
'Beirut is the Paris of the Middle East'.Jerusalem Post

Sfeir Pleads to Keep Lebanon Symbol of Coexistence
Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir pleaded to keep Lebanon a symbol of coexistence.
During his Sunday sermon, Sfeir said many Lebanese have flocked to church to ask God to enlighten the minds of the feuding political leaders and rescue the country.
He said that while politicians were on the verge of making "crucial options," people were praying that their leaders "revert to their conscience and remember their true love for their country."Sfeir added that people were also praying that the warring sides would "act responsibly and preserve what God has bestowed on this country from blessings and good fortune, so it remains a symbol of Christian-Muslim coexistence, a homeland of love and peace." Beirut, 15 Oct 07, 08:44
Formation of Joint Christian Committee Hindered as Countdown for Election Day Starts
The formation of a joint Christian committee seeking to reach consensus on a presidential candidate was reportedly hindered Monday as the countdown for Election Day started. The daily An Nahar said the obstacle surfaced after assigning names to the committee revolved in a vicious circle with the Christian opposition team saying it was expecting a call from Bkirki in this regard, when the pro-government camp assured it had chosen two representatives for the meeting.
In turn, Bkirki said it had not received any call from either side to inform Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir of the names that would take part in the committee meetings to try to reach a consensus presidential nominee ahead of an Oct. 23 deadline to elect a successor to President Emile Lahoud.
Meanwhile, the daily As Safir quoted Gen. Michel Aoun as telling Sfeir that he was ready to give up his nomination for any candidate who guarantees that a president by elected by a two-third quorum in parliament. The committee, under Sfeir's auspices, would comprise four members -- two from each of the majority March 14 camp and the opposition March 8. It is to hold regular meetings behind closed doors.
The proposal was agreed in separate meetings between Sfeir and Maronite representatives of both factions on Thursday and Friday. Aoun and former MP Suleiman Franjieh, both representing the Hizbullah-led opposition, met with Sfeir in Bkirki on Thursday. Sfeir on Friday met with the majority March 14 leaders. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri was waiting for the return of MP Saad Hariri from Saudi Arabia, where he is spending Eid el-Fitr with family and friends, to resume talks ahead of the upcoming presidential vote. Berri, who hailed Sfeir's initiative, told As Safir that he we would discuss the names of the presidential candidates during the imminent meeting with Hariri. "This time … it's inevitable (for us) to deal with the names of the nominees because the situation is unbearable and people could lose their patience," Berri said. Berri was also quoted by the daily Al Hayat as saying that he was ready to accept anything agreed upon by the feuding Maronite leaders.
"If the Maronites agree on a name for the presidency, I will go ahead with that and agree immediately," Berri said.Berri's Hizbullah allies warned anew against U.S. meddling in the presidential vote."The new president is a Lebanese issue and should be dealt by the Lebanese," Hizbullah MP Hussein Haj Hassan told a Sunday banquet marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Beirut, 15 Oct 07, 07:21

Israel and Hizbullah to Exchange Prisoners
Israel and Lebanon may carry out a prisoner swap on Monday, with the Jewish state handing over the bodies of two Hizbullah fighters and a Lebanese prisoner in exchange for the body of an Israeli soldier, a security source told Agence France Presse. "An exchange of bodies and a prisoner swap could take place this afternoon at the Naqura crossing betweeen Israel and Lebanon," said the source, who did not wish to be identified. He said the two Hizbullah fighters died during the 34-day war last summer between the Shiite militant group and Israel. It was unclear whether the body of the Israeli soldier belonged to two soldiers captured by Hizbullah in July.(AFP) Beirut, 15 Oct 07, 12:18

Jumblat Kicks Off 5-Day Visit to U.S.
Druze leader Walid Jumblat will start a five-day visit to the United States on Monday with issues of the upcoming presidential election, establishment of the Hariri tribunal and the armament of the Lebanese army to top his agenda. Jumblat was expected to meet upon arrival in New York with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.N. envoy Terry Rod-Larsen. Jumblat was scheduled to hold talks in Washington with senior American officials on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.Jumblat would also be giving a series of lectures. Beirut, 15 Oct 07, 11:28

Captive Israeli Soldiers Reportedly In Iranian Custody
Two Israeli soldiers captured by Hizbullah in 2006 have been handed to Iran and could be freed in a German-brokered swap, the daily Asharq Al-Awsat has reported.
The newspaper quoted a source identified as a high-ranking official in the office of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying they had been transferred by the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards. "The operation to transfer the two Israeli soldiers to (a country) outside Lebanon and then to Iran was executed by a special unit belonging to the Al-Quds Legion," the source said, according to the report published on Sunday by the London-based Saudi-owned paper.
The two soldiers were captured by the Iranian-backed Hizbullah in July last year, triggering Israel's massive offensive against the group in Lebanon during a 34-day war. The source said the operation was led by a general he identified as Al-Quds chief Qassem Sulaimani, who he claimed was based in Lebanon with other high-ranking Guards officers during the Lebanon war. He did not specify when the soldiers -- Ehud Goldwasser, 31, and Eldad Regev, 26 -- were taken from Lebanon, nor name the transit country. Lebanon has land borders only with Israel and with Syria, Iran's main regional ally.
The source claimed that the soldiers could be part of an exchange involving Germany, which decided last week to free an Iranian agent jailed for life for the 1992 murder of four Kurdish dissidents. "The content of the deal is being kept under tight secrecy this time, as it is related to the fate of the two Israeli soldiers," he was quoted as saying. A senior Israeli government official dismissed the report as "nonsense" and said it was an "attempt to disseminate information on this extremely sensitive issue."
He said that negotiations to secure their release were being held through the mediation of the United Nations and Germany. A Hizbullah spokesman refused to confirm or deny the report. He told Lebanon's English language The Daily Star that Hizbullah would not respond to such reports, which he blasted as "media and intelligence games that aim at provoking a response over the soldiers' whereabouts." The spokesman insisted that only a handful of high-ranking Hizbullah officials knew about the soldiers' condition or location. An army report released last December said that the two soldiers were wounded, one seriously and another moderately, in the cross-border attack that led to their capture. Germany on Friday dismissed speculation that a decision to free the jailed agent Kazem Darabi as early as December and deport him to Iran was part of deal with Tehran, which has tried for years to secure his release. His name figured in several rounds of negotiations on potential prisoner swaps, including German-brokered talks over the fate of Israeli air force navigator Ron Arad, who has been missing since October 1986 when his plane was shot down over southern Lebanon.(AFP) Beirut, 15 Oct 07, 07:14

Lebanon's Senior Judge to N.Y. to Coordinate Tribunal Formation

Justice Minister Charles Rizk said Saturday that Lebanon would dispatch its highest ranking judge to New York follow up with U.N. officials formation of the international tribunal. Rizk said senior Judge Antoine Kheir, who heads the highest Judicial Council, would leave for New York over the week end to "coordinate" with U.N. legal officials formation of the tribunal that would try suspects in the 2005 assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes.
Beirut, 13 Oct 07, 19:22


Rice sees no breakthrough in talks
By MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press Writer
JERUSALEM - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice played down expectations for breakthroughs as she opened a critical round of Mideast shuttle diplomacy Sunday. She urged Israel not to take any steps that might erode confidence in the peace process. As she flew into the region from Russia, Rice said she hoped to help narrow gaps between the Israelis and Palestinians, who are trying to forge an outline of an eventual peace deal in a joint statement to be presented at a U.S.-hosted international conference next month. But even before her meetings began, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert antagonized the Palestinians by hinting that such an outline wasn't necessary for the conference to go ahead. The Palestinians said that without such a document, they would skip the meeting altogether.
The U.S. has been trying to revive peace efforts since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June. While the Gaza takeover has left Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas controlling just the West Bank, his expulsion of Hamas from government has, in U.S. eyes, freed the moderate leader to pursue a peace deal that would create a Palestinian state.
Rice said she did not believe her visit would produce the joint Israel-Palestinian statement or bring it to a point where invitations for the conference, expected to held in Annapolis, Md., in late November, could be issued. "I don't expect out of these meetings that there will be any particular outcome in the sense of breakthroughs on the document," she told reporters aboard her plane. At the same time, she said she would urge Israel in particular not to do anything that could threaten the meeting, following its renewal of a road plan that Palestinians fear is intended to tighten Israeli control over strategic West Bank areas near Jerusalem.
Rice said Israeli clarifications that the project was not imminent and meant to ease Palestinian movement did little to ease concerns. "We have to be very careful as we are trying to move toward the establishment of a Palestinian state of actions and statements that erode confidence in the parties' commitment to a two-state solution," she said. "Even if the intentions are good and even if the actual events on the ground are intended to produce a certain kind of outcome, this is a very delicate time," Rice said. "It's just a time to be extremely careful."
Rice said she would shuttle between Israel and the West Bank over the next three days to "help them narrow differences that they may have about what the nature of this document has to be."Speaking to his Cabinet Sunday, Olmert suggested a major difference existed when he hinted Israel did not see a peace deal outline as a crucial element of the meeting. The goal, Olmert said, "is to arrive at a joint statement during the international conference, even though the existence of such a statement was never a condition for holding this conference," he said.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said the Palestinians would not allow Olmert to use the conference as a public relations stunt. "Without a document to resolve this conflict, we can't go to the conference next month," he said. "Olmert is looking for a public relations conference and one that will allow normalization with Arab countries," he said. "We will not help him in this."To build Arab support for the conference, Rice will also make a stop in Egypt on Tuesday and cap her trip in London on Thursday to see King Abdullah of Jordan who will be in the British capital. A planned stop in Amman, Jordan, was canceled because the monarch would not be there.A key measure of the success of the conference will be how far the sides move beforehand toward resolving key areas of dispute, like final borders, sovereignty over disputed Jerusalem and a solution for Palestinian refugees.
So far, the two sides are at odds over how detailed that peace deal framework should be, and both say no written agreement has been forged on any of these issues.
Israel is pressing for a vaguely worded document that would give it more room to maneuver. The Palestinians, by contrast, want a detailed preliminary agreement with a timetable for creating a Palestinian state. Rice said she would be looking for "clarity on where the parties see themselves in the negotiations on their bilateral statement" that she said should at least touch on the key "final status" issues.
"I do think it's important that they address the core issues in some fashion," she said. "I also think it's important that the document be substantive enough that it points that there is a way forward toward the establishment of a Palestinian state." Rice, on her third visit to the region since the Hamas takeover in Gaza, would not rule out presenting suggestions for the two sides to consider but refused to say what those might be.
In recent days, Palestinian officials have said an agreement is nearer than ever, and that swapping Israeli territory for West Bank land could solve the contentious issue of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Olmert has said the time has come to stop letting excuses get in the way of peacemaking, and a top ally has been publicly discussing a subject that was long taboo — sharing sovereignty in Jerusalem. Still, the road project and the two sides' disagreements on the refugee issue are clouding prospects for success.

Iran calls on Muslims to boycott peace conference
By Parisa Hafezi
Sat Oct 13,
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's top cleric urged Muslim countries on Saturday to boycott a U.S.-sponsored international peace conference on Palestinian statehood next month. Opposition to Israel is one of the cornerstones of belief of Shi'ite Iran, which backs Palestinian and Lebanese Islamic militant groups opposed to peace with the Jewish state. "When Palestinians consider this conference as deceitful and refuse to participate, how can Muslim countries take part in that?" Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a sermon broadcast live on state media. "Other (Muslim) countries also should consider it a deceitful conference."
The United States is optimistic Palestinians and Israelis will agree to a joint document on the tough issues that divide them before the conference in November.
Washington has backed the idea of a small territorial exchange between Israel and a future Palestine so that Palestinians would be compensated for Jewish settlement blocs that would remain under Israeli control in any peace deal. Negotiations on core issues such as the borders of a Palestinian state and the future of Jerusalem and millions of Palestinian refugees broke down in 2001 amid surging violence.
Since its 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran refuses to recognize Israel. "Under the name of seizing peace, Americans are trying to impose their will on Palestinians. This conference's aim is to rescue the Zionist regime (Israel)," Khamenei said. Iran's most powerful authority also said the United States and its western allies were to be blamed for instability and the bloodshed in Iraq. "The occupiers of Iraq are the ones to be blamed for the insecurity in Iraq. They are not capable or they do not want to establish security in Iraq," he said. The United States and Israel accuse Iran of "interference" in Iraq, through backing Shi'ite militias, and of sponsoring terrorism, including the Palestinian group Hamas and Hezbollah. Tehran denies the charges. The United States and Iran, who have not had diplomatic ties since shortly after Iran's revolution, are also embroiled in a deepening rift over Tehran's nuclear program, which the West says is a cover to build nuclear weapons. Iran denies it. Khamenei, the spiritual heir of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who led Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, addressed tens of thousands of worshippers who gathered at a large mosque in Tehran to mark the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday ending the Ramadan fasting month in Iran. "America and its allies are responsible for ... human and political catastrophe in Iraq," he said.

Daniel Sharon: Beirut is the Paris of the ME
Daniel Sharon, an Israeli who was arrested in Beirut in September on suspicion of involvement in the murder of a local man and released to German custody on Thursday, says he still sees Beirut as the "Paris of the Middle East." Sharon told Channel 10 that despite his weeks in prison, he still loves Lebanon and in no way regretted his travels there. "It's a beautiful country, the girls are beautiful, the food's great," he said. The dual Israeli-German citizen gave an exclusive interview from Frankfurt, where he is expected to be questioned by Israeli security officials before being allowed to continue his travels. "You can't describe the feeling [of being released] - knowing that your life isn't in danger anymore, knowing that you're not accused of anything. It's like being born again." Sharon also said he understood that, as a prisoner holding German citizenship, he had "gotten off very cheap" during his incarceration. He had been hit a few times, but generally not abused. "You see people around you being tortured, begging for their lives," he said. Sharon was arrested on September 20 after authorities in Beirut questioned a Lebanese security agent about the shooting death of the agent's roommate. The agent claimed to have been with a German friend, later identified as Sharon, at a Beirut hotel at the time of the killing. When authorities questioned Sharon, they discovered he was an Israeli who spoke Ar

Lebanon’s Parliament: Will They Vote or Demolish the House?
Dr. Ghassan Michel Rubeiz
October 13, 2007 06:27 PM
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
It is presidential election countdown time in Lebanon but the parliament that votes is a divided house. Will the legislature vote or demolish the House?
What is the matter? Sectarian power sharing is out of date. Resource management is corrupt. National defense is weak. Foreign powers and neighbors are too active. And there is more danger: an out-of-control budget deficit. Allied with a secular Christian party, Hezbollah leads the opposition and election politics center on its future. In an atmosphere of panic the legislature is due to vote on October 23 for a new chief of the nation. Time is running out for a seamless process of voting.
There is political paralysis. A handicapped cabinet duels robotically with a weary opposition.
Will the elections usher-in new stability to the country or will they lead to renewed civil war? Speculations about the future of Lebanon are wild and confusing. The International Crisis Group report of October 10 may help us unravel the complexity of the situation.
ICG reports that despite the economic pain it has inflicted on society by staging a ten month sit-in strike in the capital, Hezbollah remains uniformly popular among the Shiites and supportable among a significant segment of the Christian community.
However, ICG adds that today Hezbollah, the Resistance, is under growing political and logistical pressures making it more amenable to historic compromise. The ICG argues that Hezbollah would welcome relief from growing challenges that have come its way since the devastating war with Israel in the summer of 2006. The report explains that the Resistance Movement, is now restricted in military mobility by the deployment of the Lebanese army and the UNIFIL in the south.
The Movement has to rebuild the south and the capital suburbs that were hit hard in a horrific war that had no winners. It has to maintain the support of people who have suffered from the war. It has to convince the Lebanese society that it is not sectarian; it has to show that it is defending the entire country; that it has a regional scope of influence; that it is a Lebanese rather than an Iranian agency, or a Syrian stooge. It is worried about a new war with Israel in which Lebanese society may not give it the same warm shelter it received last year.
ICG concludes in the report that Hezbollah is ready to make a deal with the Lebanese government, a deal that would be partially accommodating to the idea of paramilitary resistance but firm on state authority. ICG recommends the following specific measures in a more complicated format:
- Resistance for defense not attack: Hezbollah’s militia is authorized for some limited time to help the Lebanese army in defense against foreign attacks.
- Equidistant president: The rival parties agree on a consensus candidate that would respect the resistance on one hand, and comply with existing international resolutions that guarantee state sovereignty.
- International Court: Acquiescence of all parties to support the work of an international court for investigation of political murder,
- Strong National defense: National defense will be coordinated to strengthen the Lebanese army.
- Respect for and from Syria: Equitable relations with Syria should be set up including defined borders and control of illegal arms’ trafficking.
- Sheba Farm: Government will actively lobby to first reclaim and then liberate Israeli occupied Sheba Farm territory.
These recommendations reveal logic and fairness but since when has Lebanese politics been informed and guided by reason. We have reached the countdown period of the coming elections yet no acceptable candidates have emerged. It is one thing to have failed elections and it is another to have abortive elections leading to civil war. Out of fear of the future, and out of public shame, local politicians are back on a track of dialogue in search of a solution. In recent weeks political rhetoric on both sides has calmed down. Majority leader Rafic Harriri improved the political climate on September 25 when he started a series of contacts with Nabih Berri, Berri playing two contrasting roles: the parliament Speaker and the opposition diplomat. Furthermore, the Maronite church has convened Christian leaders from the opposition and the government side urging them to choose a unifying candidate. Is the Patriarch now massaging Hezbollah’s Christian partner, General Michel Aoun, to abandon his ambition for the presidency in return for a post in the new cabinet?
To understand the total picture one has to look beyond the local scene. We are often reminded that the elections are not only about a choice of a national leader. Lebanese elections reflect local compliance with contradictory foreign pressure: US and Saudi policy from one side and covert dictates of Syria and Iran from another. The Americans, who support the Lebanese government, have zero tolerance for militia formation. But the US government has minimal sensitivity to daily Israeli intrusion into Lebanese air space. A million US made cluster bombs are left unexploded in the south of Lebanon from the Israeli bombardment of last summer. Lebanon is in a sense a victim of contradictory US foreign policy, on one side, and mischievous Syrian/Iranian involvement in Beirut.
More importantly, the US is taking a hard line with Hezbollah’s regional partners, Syria and Iran. There are no signs that Washington is treating Syria with sufficient diplomatic respect. Syria is not invited with warmth to the November Middle East peace conference that will take place in Annapolis, Maryland. The priority concern of Syria is the Israeli occupied Golan Heights. Annapolis will not deal with the Golan. Similarly the US pressure on Iran for its nuclear program is heating up as Washington tries its best to expand future international economic sanctions on Iran.
Syria’s adversaries in Lebanon used to be tame; not any more. Harriri, possible heir apparent to the position of the next prime minister, continues to irritate Syria. Harriri advances steps for the set up of the International Court to investigate his father’s assassination in 2005. For good reasons, the work of the International Court is a threat to Syria; and the hype surrounding this court naturally does not promote Lebanese-Syrian relations. Harriri’s verbal attack on Syria and Iran does not match his recent gestures of diplomacy toward the opposition in Beirut.
As mentioned earlier, Saudi Arabia is also involved in the Lebanese game. On October 11, Speaker Berri announced in public that he wished Syria and Saudi Arabia would resolve their differences over Lebanon. Saudi Arabia and most of the Arab countries are supporting the government and wary of Hezbollah’s militarism.
Manipulative international pressure leads the Lebanese statesmen to work covertly. Let us hope that behind closed doors a deal is being made today or the day after to make the Lebanese elections happen. If the ICG report captures the scene correctly, neither the government nor the opposition is likely to have their most favored candidates screened for the October 23 event, if elections were to occur.
Moderation is the order of the day. Should there be a hidden compromise in the works the chances are slim for the election of General Michel Aoun, the opposition candidate, or Nassib Lahoud and Boutros Harb, the two candidates of the ruling coalition. Three “moderate” independent candidates for the presidency are talked about. Listed in the order of their chances for winning the post of the next president, who by tradition is a Christian, are these three Maronite figures: General Michel Suleiman, Riad Salameh and Robert Ghanem.
Predicting the Lebanese elections is taking too much risk. So far opinions remain frozen and the elections may even have to be postponed again for two weeks or so. When diplomacy fails and when reason falters military solutions gain strength. We have come very close to the election dates without a consensus candidate and without an agreement on new ways of doing “business”. In this deadlock context General Michel Suleiman may have quietly become the candidate of default to maintain law and order and to prevent a messy confrontation of wills. As chief of the army, Suleiman defeated the terror-insurgents in Nahr al Bared this summer.
Moreover, Suleiman is externally friendly to the Syrian regime, and at the same time, he has recently gained respect from Washington for his anti-terror success in face of a sectarian AlQaeda-like insurgency. Washington’s compromise in Lebanon at the end of the day may painfully evolve as a response to the threat of the spread of terrorism should the system collapse. Nahr al Bared was a foretaste of what might happen if political vacuum is institutionalized by abortive elections and its aftermath of chaotic power grabbing.
When society panics the military looks heroic. Has Washington and Damascus finally agreed to let Lebanon skip this round of political unraveling? Or are we to witness more “interesting” times?

The Guns of the Patriarch

Elias Harfouche
Al Hayat - 14/10/07//
The Maronite Patriarch would have preferred to be relieved of the burden of reconciling the Maronite leaders. He is the most cognizant of the constraints of the role he can play in the light of the severe opposition between the Lebanese, of which the conflicts between the Christians are just a miniature version.
How many teams does the Pope have? Stalin once wondered about the capabilities of Pope Pius XII! There are probably many in Lebanon who question today: How many guns and missiles does Patriarch Sfeir own? Goodwill does not solely qualify Bkerke to have a decisive say in the conflicts. Sfeir himself has lately tested the constraints of his role twice. The first time was when he formally bid the President of the Republic Emile Lahoud to submit his resignation as a way out of the impasse. But this request was denied. The second time was when he tried to reconcile former President Amine Gemayel and General Michel Aoun in the Metn elections this summer. This attempt also failed and the two parties embarked upon a fierce battle that reinforced the Christian discord.
To be fair, the reconciliation attempts undertaken by the Patriarch Sfeir do not mean that he is standing in the middle between the feuding parties or that his stance vis-à-vis the issues raised is ambiguous. His sermons, statements, and the reports of the Maronite bishops under the Syrian tutelage testify his clear support of independence and sovereignty. He considers that the one at the helm of Bkerke is the heir of a role played by great patriarchs, most notably Patriarch Elias Houayek. The latter went to the peace conference in Paris in 1920 calling for the independence of "Greater Lebanon," which brought about the annexation of what was known as "the four districts" during the Ottoman rule to a new body. Moreover, the historical visit undertaken by Sfeir to the mountain in the summer of 2001, and which led to the Maronite Druze reconciliation, is considered by many to have paved the way for the about-turn of the stances of the Druze leader Walid Jumblat vis-à-vis the Syrian custody since that time. This was followed, as we recall, by the renowned report of the Maronite Patriarchs, which piercingly criticized the internal political practices and took control of the national decisions.
But the Patriarch knows that the current standoff between the Maronite leaders stems from a disagreement on the political rules pertaining to building the country and the independence of its internal decision-making process. It is a disagreement between two parties that have different perspectives of this independence concept. Each one of them has its own interests and internal and external connections, and Bkerke does not top its priorities. This is not to mention that one of these two parties owns not just the political decision-making but the military one too, which Bkerke surely lacks.
I asked Patriarch Sfeir once on his outlook of his political role in comparison with the role played by the Secretary General of Hezbollah Mr. Hassan Nasrallah and he said to me: we are not political men. We prefer the guiding and spiritual role but the circumstances imposed that role on us. We don't have arms or militias or military stances. Our stance is a matter of principle.
In the name of this guiding role, Patriarch Sfeir took the latest step, which he was quite reluctant to make, to invite the Maronite leaders to his abode in order to reach an understanding on a way out of this political impasse. He did that by risking once again the solemnity of his status and his voice that should be heard during national crises. Some of the attendees stated that the Patriarch was less than enthusiastic and did not propose any solution, but upheld openness between the two parties, focusing on the importance of holding elections without going into details.
Some leaders are murmuring that they were expecting more decisiveness from the Patriarch in view of his moral weight among the Lebanese. They were expecting him to say to the attendees from both parties: Because I am mindful of the national interest and because I am knowledgeable of the characteristics that the new President should have, most importantly that his future should not be ashamed of his past, Bkerke considers "so" the best candidate for the presidency under these circumstances. They were expecting a stance similar to the one taken by Patriarch Boulos Al Meouchi when he supported the candidacy of President Fouad Chehab in view of the Christian frame of mind at the time, because he considered it a move that can save the country. These people wager that had Bkerki done that, it would have opened the door wide for the solution and facilitated the mission of President Nabih Berri who says that he backs up the Patriarch in any presidential move.
Will Patriarch Sfeir make that move? Will he consider that his political role is may be more vital this time than his spiritual role?

A Rock and a Hard Place: The Seduction that Threatens Lebanon…Again!
By Sami Karam

Maybe it’s the same impulse that makes one speak before they think? Like a woman having her way with a man and toying with him like a puppet, then leaving without a honeymoon. Maybe it’s seduction in its purest and most shattering form. What makes a man give up logic, and even change reality, to suit ambition? And what makes a man do this not once, but TWICE!
When General Aoun went to Tunisia in 1989 to gain Syro-Arab support for his presidential ambitions, he was seduced into thinking that it would be his if he defeated his other main Christian rival, Samir Geagea and the Lebanese Forces. This was the Arab plot that would lead us to the Teaf pit hole. His supporters past and present would like to think that he was a man against all militias. That he was a man who wanted to lift the heavy social burden militias may have been inflicting on the population. Many were seduced by the seduced. Yet today we see in General Aoun and his FPM, a group that is allied with the last remaining militia, who is extracting a heavy socio-economic burden on the people of Lebanon through their camps in downtown Beirut and their paralysis of parliament.
On March 14 2005, on the heels of Lebanon’s greatest defining moment in its modern history, General Aoun was set to return after 15 years of exile, to the joys of those seduced 15 years ago. Yet many reports surfaced of secret meetings with Syrian officials, Lebanese allies of current president Emile Lahoud, and more publicized meetings with those who now form the current March 14 alliance. On the other Christian track, Samir Geagea was still in prison and his release was met with solid resistance by Syria’s Lebanese allies, and silence by those who opposed Syria after the death of Rafiq Hariri. Some asked the question, why was the General able to return so quickly before parliamentary elections and Samir Geagea’s release was still in limbo? The answer came after parliamentary elections were concluded and the “tsunami” (as Walid Jumblat predicted) had hit the Lebanese parliament.
Aoun won 22 seats in parliamentary elections through popular Christian support and the support of parties who are historically and presently allied to the regime in Damascus. He refused to take part in a government of national unity, which is ironically; a demand that to this day cripples a nation. The Future Movement and it’s allies now had one option left; to give Geagea a get out of jail card and regain some Christian momentum in their March 14 Alliance. If it were not for the success of Aoun, Geagea may still be in jail to this day. The reality is his comeback was orchestrated with Syrian approval, as they still had heavy influence in the Justice Ministry. As will be discussed later, the Syrian track was attractive to Aoun and his ambitions to become President.
In the coming months the FPM would sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Hizbullah, strengthen ties with pro-Damascus forces, participate in the Hizbullah-led camps that have been erected in downtown Beirut; effectively crippling the tourism driven economy. In addition to this Aoun and his party would give Hizbullah political cover to the June 2006 devastating war with Israel; and be the prime beneficiaries of two political assassinations, by way of bi-election victory in the Metn through Hizbullah sponsored Shiite votes, and a similar demographic forecast to fill the seat of Antoine Ghanem.
Aoun had gone to great lengths, staying the course of the Opposition’s agenda and giving it Christian cover. He was prepared to lose some of his Christian base (as was evident in the Metn bi-election) to shore up his standing in the March 8 Alliance, and become their candidate for the Lebanese Presidency. His supporters argue that if all he wanted was the presidency then he would have allied with March 14.
When one looks closely at his possible reasoning, it is not difficult to see why Aoun may have chosen this path, as he could have just as easily waited out until after the 2005 parliamentary elections. American anxiousness to cool down a heated Iraq, Iranian ambitions for nuclear weapons, Democratic Congress and House victories in the U.S.A 06 elections, and Aoun’s personal ego-shattering experience with American willingness to trade-off Lebanon in settling regional problems. The General figured he would be the compromise candidate of the U.S once they had abandoned March 14 and the Hariri Tribunal in exchange for a stable Iraq and Iranian compromise on their nuclear ambitions. He has backed the horse to come from behind, and if he gets the win, it would surely be noted as a grand maneuver in real-politick.
In all his reasoning, Aoun miscalculated the local and regional players. It has come to light that there are ideologues residing in the Whitehouse that up to this point, deserve more credit than they are receiving on the Lebanese track. Yet his most agonizing reality is that even Aoun’s own allies do not want him to ascend to the presidency. It was a slap in the face remark from Hassan Nasrallah to call for popular presidential elections (knowing full well this would never happen), thinking that it would please Aoun, only to have Hizbullah officials state that he is their candidate, but “not the only candidate.”
Stuck between a rock and a hard place, his reasoning has not manifested and his allies have abandoned his campaign. MP Ibrahim Kenaan of the FPM speaking with Naharnet declared “we could reach agreement and that would be great, and if we did not achieve an agreement lets go to parliament, and we might win or lose at parliament.” This was a drastic change in FPM policy. Knowing he can not become the next president, Aoun has shifted his attitude of being the only truly representative Christian candidate, to finding a compromise and consensus candidate that is not elected by a simple majority. Aoun knows perfectly well that if it comes to a simple majority vote, March 14 will not waste time in electing a president that will work against the Iran-Syria-Hizbullah axis. With the March 14 majority demanding their candidate occupy the Presidency, Aoun has no other choice but to confront them with consensus. If against his will, he succumbs to the pressures of Bkirki and goes to parliament to vote for a March 14 candidate, he may very well find out that the Syrians this time will not allow him to leave into exile, but exit in a coffin.
The main criticism General Aoun makes of his Lebanese adversaries is that they collaborated in the Syrian occupation whilst he was speaking out against it in exile. He is now discovering the ease of speaking from afar and the hard lesson of breathing without oxygen when the Syrian axe is hanging over his head.
As the October 13th anniversary is remembered, the intelligentsia that once feverously supported the General not only abandoned him but are exposing his motives. There are many who felt deeply betrayed by his political turnabout. “Why?” they ask. Why give up 15 years of resistance for the sake of personal ambition for the presidency? Their answer lies in the history pages of 18yrs ago and the removal of emotion from their analysis. He sought the presidency then, and went to war with his own sect to get it. The Syrians knew Aoun would be manipulated in 2005 because he was manipulated in 1989. Those who supported him; thinking he was a statesman guided by principle and nationalistic ideals need to rethink. He was and is a politician, scheming to gain his place, like all politicians. His supporters past and present were unfortunately, seduced by the seduced.
The problem with bending reality to suite your ambitions is that eventually reality comes to light. Often an individual gets married thinking he is the man going on a honeymoon to claim the prize he has waited for his entire life. And when he arrives, warms up the bed and darkens the room the light of reality wakes him to the painful fact that he is no longer the man, but the woman.

Holy War and Anti War: An Axis against Nature
By Walid Phares
The oddest of all factional relationships is the open alliance between the Jihadists and the so-called "antiwar" neo-Left movement in the West. The jumble of causes thrown together is mind-bending: globalization hobnobs with the caliphate, class struggle with Wahabism, proletariat with infidels, and North Korea with Palestine.
While still shedding each others' blood, the Reds (neo-Left) and the Dark Greens (Islamists) are conducting a joint offensive against both democracy-pushing America and the democracy-craving Middle East. They are not letting old or new grudges get in their way.
The Wahabis fiercely fought the Soviet Communists in Afghanistan;
the Muslim Brotherhood and the Marxists have been at each other's throats for decades;
the Salafists butchered left-wing intellectuals in Algeria and assassinated progressive bureaucrats in central Asia after the Soviet collapse;
the Taliban killed socialists and shut down art institutions;
the Khumeinist regime in Iran decimated the Tudeh Communist Party in the 1980's.
Despite all the mutual mayhem across the Mediterranean and throughout the Middle East, an unnatural alliance was established by elites of the two camps, even while blood was being shed in the 1990's. Setting ideologies and history aside, the Islamist tacticians and Left pragmatists gradually converged on a two-lane path against liberal democracies and the specter of a free market and pluralist Middle East.
The Jihadi concern with Western involvement in the region is logical: free societies in the Arab and Muslim world, joined finally to the international community, would shatter fundamentalism's control of the region's political cultures. To have Arab and Iranian youths, in addition to minorities, hooking up directly with the peaceful and prosperous societies of the West would leave the Islamists without a base to recruit from.
Jihadism is joined with the antiwar movement even while promoting "holy war," which is the essence of their rissala (mission). The ideology of the Salafists and Khumeinists is to prepare for, mobilize for, incite, and engage in a constant war of jihad against the infidels, who are supposed to be all those who aren't Islamists, including moderate Muslims.
Theoretically, the jihadi connection to the antiwar concept is impossible. But in the realm of reality, it does occur, mainly because of the mutating "pragmatism" of both of the antidemocratic movements. The radical Islamists, as I argued in Future Jihad, have undergone a strategic mutation that has allowed them to coalesce tactically with ideological foes, among them Baathists, Neo-Marxists, and anarchists. The last group, under an international neo-Left umbrella in the West, created the anti-war movement, which is reminiscent of the old Cold War Communist-controlled "peace movement."
Islamists found it easier to insert themselves as partners in an "antiwar" movement than a "peace" movement. Effectively, in the jihadi aqida (doctrine), seeking permanent peace with others is a non issue, given that jihad is constant, regardless of its form. Jihadism cannot accommodate a peace movement in principle.
However jurisprudence based on al Haja (necessity) would allow the jihadists to accept an interim cessation of war and work in more sophisticated ways to stop wars that they cannot win. Thus it is in the interest of the radical Islamists to stop a war that can't be won by them, at least until the balance of power is restored and a winnable war becomes possible again. They are against the West's war for tactical reasons. But they are not at all in favor of peace until they win.
In the case of the War on Terror, the "political Islamists" joined the "no war" crowd in order to stop the military efforts of the United States and its allies against the terrorist forces of the jihadists. Hence Islamic militants marched in the demonstrations against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as a way to give respite to the Taliban and al Qaeda. The antiwar movement exposed its broken rationale when it marched against some but not all wars. It demonstrated against the military efforts to overthrow the Taliban and Saddam but ignored the wars waged by the Sudanese regime against the African peoples in the south and Darfur; it marched against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, but ignored the Syrian occupation of Lebanon.
Worse, in the eyes of millions of Middle Easterners, were the highly publicized "red buses" filled with antiwar militants who headed to Iraq to "support" dictator Saddam Hussein. They traveled from London, Berlin, and Rome through Eastern Europe without a word in remembrance of its struggle against the Soviet occupation, and crossed Syria without comforting the thousands of political prisoners tortured and assassinated by the Baathist regime.
And for an apex of irony, the buses rolled through sinister Halabja, a Kurdish town gassed by Saddam in 1988, and past the Shiites' mass graves, stopping only to "shield" Saddam's castles, built from oil revenues that rented the buses and lodged their occupants in fancy hotels. This antiwar movement was convenient for the jihadists, as it was a form of war against the rise of democracies in the region. For the movement, mostly bourgeois in nature, never showed up in Darfur, among Berbers in Algeria or Lebanese under Syrian occupation, or to shield women under the Taliban.
Hence it wasn't surprising for viewers around the world to see the Islamist militants in Europe taking to the streets alongside the "bourgeois Neo-Marxists" to protest the governments that supported the War on Terror. In Europe, the most revealing action of the Islamist militants was when -- in the same year as the red buses -- they marched in support of the French government against U.S. intervention in Iraq, and then burned shops and cars in 200 French cities and towns during a "French intifada." The jihadi manipulation of the bourgeois-Neo-Marxist "struggle" has played a central role in the so-called "mass demonstrations" in the West since 2002, and the demonstrations themselves are an important component of the War of Ideas against democracy. On campuses, both in North America and Western Europe, the jihadi-antiwar axis has planted deep roots, and thanks to the skills of university-based anarchist groups, the jihadists have found a cover they can hide under, instead of simply becoming members of the typical Muslim Student Unions. But this "marriage of convenience" with the extreme left has not deterred jihadists from conducting another, simultaneous, wedding with the extreme right. But that's another story.
**Dr Walid Phares is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a visiting scholar at the European Foundation for Democracy. He is the author of War of Ideas.  

Hezbollah attempts to marginalize Lebanon's Christians
Monday, 15 October, 2007 @ 4:54 PM
By Dalia Nehme
Beirut - MP Wael Abu Faour accused Hizbullah of seeking to marginalize the role of Lebanon's Christians in the nation's political system by calling for the election of a president through direct popular vote, thus circumventing parliament. Abu Faour (pictured right), a prominent member of the March 14 coalition and representative of the Progressive Socialist Party in the legislature, made the remark in an interview with Naharnet at the heavily guarded block of Beirut's seaside Phoenicia Hotel, where majority law makers are bastioned to avoid the ongoing death threat targeting Lebanese politicians opposed to Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.
"If the presidential election was toppled this time, it would be a major blow to the Christians in the political system," he said.
"The referendum, direct election (by the people) and opinion polls proposed by Hizbullah put the Christian role in narrowest frame," Abu Faour stressed.
He ridiculed Nasrallah's opinion poll proposal to elect a new head of state saying "as if we are choosing man of the year … a beauty queen or a celebrity. We are electing the president here and the nation has constitutional institutions" that can elect a head of state. "It is the majority's right and duty to safeguard democracy and prevent vacuum in the presidential office," Abu Faour said. Abu Faour pointed out , "Collision is not our option, we want a democratic constitutional election … competition is a political tradition in Lebanon, why don't they want competition in parliament?" He said Hizbullah leader Sayed Hassan Nasralla has "placed Lebanon in the core in regional divisions and conflicts … and changed Lebanon into the boxing sac of a regional conflict."
Nasrallah, according to the PSP representative, "is protecting the Syrian regime by toppling the international tribunal and labeling it an international-Israeli-American tool … He also accused Saudi Arabia of heading towards normalization of relations with Israel … This places Lebanon on a regional collision course."
Nasrallah's policy turns Lebanon into "an arena for the Syrian and Iranian regimes," Abu Faour charged.
The current debate, he said, is not restricted to choosing a presidential candidate "Hizbullah also wants to gain political concessions related to U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701." "Such topics have been discussed by Berri and (Saad) Hariri. Most of the discussions focused on 1559 and 1701."
He warned against repeating the Gaza example in Lebanon, in reference to the take over by force of the Hamas militant faction of the sector from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah. "I think someone is considering repeating the Gaza example in Lebanon. The decisive element in repeating this example is Iran's decision. Would Iran support such an example in Lebanon?"
"If Iran felt threatened, it would use all its regional cards, including the Lebanon card," he added.
The young Druze MP who represents the Hasbaya constituency in the nation's unicameral house said Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri's initiative "reflects a will (to facilitate presidential elections" but lacks capability. He's got the will, but unfortunately he is not capable" of carrying it out.
Berri's Maneuverability "margin was narrowed by Nasrallah's speech. The real decision is in Hizbullah's hands … the spinal cord of the so-called March 8 forces is Hizbullah," according to Au Faour.
He said Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun "managed recently to assess the dimension of the dilemma in which he placed himself … He made a move towards us and we responded cordially, but the effort stumbled, I think due to political considerations related to his relationship with his allies."
Abu Faour rejected charges by Assad and the Hizbullah-led March 8 that the majority was allied with the United States, stressing that "any relation between the government and a foreign power would not be at the expense of Lebanon's Arab belonging."
"It is true that the United States has provided the army with assistance, but other powers have sent missiles to local factions" he said in obvious reference to Iran and Hizbullah. In answering a question as to whether the nation is heading to civil war, Abu Faour said: "We don't want past nightmares awakened. We wouldn't be dragged into war." Asked to comment on meetings between Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir and Maronite Politicians, he said: "I believe the Patriarch is determined on facilitating presidential elections and he wants Christian MPs to shoulder their responsibilities in this regard."
Source: Naharnet