September 14/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 6,27-38. But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit (is) that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as (also) your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you."

Learning compromise from the Lebanon of Europe. By Michael Young. September 13/07
Lebanon's problems begin at home with a dysfunctional political class.The Daily Star. September 13/07
Commentary: Hamas, Hezbollah - the Al Qaeda alternatives.Middle East Times. September 13/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for September 13/07
Former Lebanese MP announces his candidacy for presidency.Monsters and
March 14 Okays Berri Initiative to Resolve Lebanon's Political Crisis-Naharnet
Authorities Following Up Border Mishap with Wahhab-Naharnet
Saudi Says Berri Proposal Could Lead to Breakthrough-Naharnet
N. Korea, Syria May Be at Work on Nuclear Facility.Washington Post
Saudi sees hope for Beirut deal.Gulf Times
French FM in Lebanon as election looms.AFP
Kouchner touts progress in Palestinian-Israeli contacts.Daily Star
Learning compromise from the Lebanon of Europe.Daily Star
Lebanon's problems begin at home with a dysfunctional political class.Daily Star
Still no response from Israel on fuel tank row, Syria gets vocal ...Today's Zaman
Syria closes its doors to Iraqis.MSNBC
Germany extends naval deployment off Lebanon for a year.Jerusalem Post
EU agreement with Damascus just waiting for political skies to clear.(AFP
Syrian dissident freed after more than two years.(AFP)
Saudi Arabia waves off US accusations of complacency in fight against terror.Daily Star
Campaign gets under way to secure equal nationality rights for women
-Daily Star
Tourism Ministry backs new promotional campaign
-Daily Star
Lebanese Army, UNIFIL team up for emergency drill
-Daily Star
March 14 keeps country guessing on Berri's plan
-Daily Star
Saudi Arabia sees speaker's initiative as chance to break political deadlock
-Daily Star
Beirut cleared of Hizbullah communications cabling
-Daily Star
Sfeir supports consensus among various groups on next Lebanese president-Daily Star
UN delegation enters Nahr al-Bared to assess damage
-Daily Star
UN experts enter Lebanon battle camp.AFP
Compromise sought in Lebanon's political crisis.International Herald Tribune
Lebanon says illegal Hezbollah network cables removed.Middle East Times
Israel keeps up blackout on mystery Syria air strike.AFP
Petraeus Says Iran Wants Iraqi 'Hezbollah' Force.Voice of America
Syria brushes off report that IAF struck targets.Ynetnews
Sfeir: no names for the next Head of State, but he will indicate a ... - Italy
Israel raid on Syria triggered by arms fears, say US sources
.Reuters UK
EU waiting for right political climate to seal Syria accord.AFP

Dr. Mustafa Visit Beirut.Sudanese Media Center
U.S. Officials Begin Crafting Iran Bombing Plan. Fox News

Walid Phares comments on Bashir Gemayel's legacy
"His assassins must be tried"
Exclusive to Cedars Revolution News. Washington DC, September 14, 2007.
Commenting on assassinated Lebanese President Bashir Gemayel (killed by operatives from the Syrian National-Social Party on September 14, 1982) Dr Walid Phares said "it is against all logic and norms of international and national laws that the assassins of President Bashir Gemayel are still at large inside Lebanon and in Syria as well." Phares, who knew Gemayel personally from the early 1970s, said "while the Lebanese justice system knows very well who committed this terror act, which organization was behind it, and which regime was involved in it, no Lebanese Government since 1982 has proceeded to arrest the perpetrators and asked the court system to begin the trial."
Phares, who remembers Bashir Gemayel as a teacher in a high school in the early 1970s, later met him during the process that led to the issuing of UNSCR 436 in October 1978 calling on the Syrians to cease the shelling of civilian areas and withdraw from many zones in Lebanon. "Bashir Gemayel wanted to see Lebanon becoming again a free, pluralistic and democratic country. He was committed to fight Terrorism and had been resisting the Syrian occupation and the terrorist organizations long time before Western democracies realized the dimension of the threat after 2001. Even before the Lebanese war, He was warning politicians that a crisis was to occur if the Lebanese Army wasn't empowered by the Government to seize the control of all terror camps in the country. Unfortunately for Lebanon, that crisis exploded and lasted 15 years. He was killed by the Terrorists for the same reasons Gebran Tueni, Pierre Gemayel, Rafiq Hariri, Walid Eido, Samir Qassir, George Hawi, Kamal Jumblat, Rene Mouawad, Mufti Hassan Khaled and Riad Taha were assassinated: maintaining Lebanon under Syrian (and Iranian) control."
"Had Bashir survived the crime," continued Phares, he would have asked the UN to issue resolutions similar to UNSCR 1559 to call on Syria to withdraw, on the militias to disarm, and even on the Iranian Pasdaran to leave the country. He would have worked on national reconciliation, decentralization and on Peace. Lebanon would have already rejoined the international community as a prosperous country by the end of the 1980s. And had Bashir been alive these days he would have certainly been with the Cedars Revolution and March 14. There is no doubt about that. He would have been with an ally to the free world in the War on Terror. Every politician has issues and he can be criticized for many matters, but Bashir Gemayel sacrificed his life for the freedom of his people. A freedom still to be regained."

Compromise sought in Lebanon's political crisis
The speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, said Wednesday that he was pushing a proposal for choosing a new president, warning that Lebanon was headed toward "chaos" if a deal was not reached soon.
By Michael Slackman Published: September 12, 2007
BEIRUT: Lebanon's speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, said Wednesday that he was pushing a proposal aimed at defusing the country's paralyzing political crisis while also warning that Lebanon was headed toward "chaos" if a deal on electing a new president was not reached soon.
The proposal by Berri, a leader in the Iran-Syria-aligned opposition, aims to have all political factions agree on a new president by Sept. 25, and he said that in return the opposition would drop its demand for what it calls a national unity government.
But the proposal has already become mired in the familiar back-and-forth between the opposition and the American-backed majority. Both sides say they want to compromise for the benefit of Lebanon, and both accuse the other of presenting unreasonable demands that threaten to push this sliver of a nation into the "abyss," as Berri said Wednesday.
"Why am I in a hurry?" Berri, leader of the Shiite Amal movement, said during a rare interview with reporters from The New York Times and the French newspaper Le Figaro in his Beirut office. "I don't like this situation around Lebanon. Here we are on top of a volcano."
Lebanon has been paralyzed for months, caught between a demand for more power by the Hezbollah-led opposition and an American-backed government that has struggled to maintain its authority.
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The two settled into an uneasy, peaceful limbo after the clash appeared headed toward sectarian violence earlier this year. But the issues between the two were never resolved, and now the calm promises to be broken because a decision will have to be made: President Emile Lahoud's term ends in November.
If a new president is not chosen by Parliament 10 days before his term ends, the Constitution would trigger a series of events that many here believe could divide the country, lead to the creation of two governments and perhaps ignite factional violence.
So far, there is little public optimism that a deal will be reached, though there have been intense behind-the-scenes negotiations with many foreign diplomats visiting Beirut to head off a crisis.
"There isn't any movement, any creative energy - there is no new item offered on the agenda, no movement worth noticing on it," said Osama Safa, head of the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies. "Berri has the power to push for a deal, but we cannot forget that he is a partisan actor."
Berri has tried to present himself as the peacemaker with a deal that he says is straightforward and, most important, the last chance. But he has also made it clear that he thinks the majority is reluctant to compromise because it has support of the United States.
"They have help from your government and from the Security Council," he said. "If I know that my father is going to help me, I don't care about my brother."
Without saying it, Berri's proposal also offers the opposition - in particular, Hezbollah - a face-saving way out of the immediate standoff. Hezbollah organized an open-ended protest in the center of Beirut that it promised to keep active until the government fell. The government never folded, but the protesters' tents are still crippling the center of the city.
Berri's proposal also has a catch, according to the majority: He will allow Parliament to convene only if two-thirds of the members attend. He says that is a constitutional requirement, but the majority says all that is needed is a simple majority.
It is a technical distinction, perhaps, but it cuts to the core of the problem: Can both sides come to agreement on a consensus candidate in advance?
Berri's ideas may not sit well with the majority, especially since aides to the retired general Michel Aoun, a Christian leader who split the Christian factions when he aligned with Hezbollah, have said he is a potential consensus candidate.
"It not necessary that the consensual candidate be neutral," Berri said during the interview.
"He can be from the majority and he can be from the minority. As long as there is a consensus around him, then he will be the strongest."
Elias Atallah, a member of Parliament in the majority bloc, said that the governing coalition of Sunni, Druze and Christian factions "will agree on the initiative but with our conditions." He also said that "it is impossible that we agree on General Aoun as a consensus candidate."
The majority at one point offered the opposition its demand for a national unity government, with veto power over all decisions, so long as all issues were resolved together - including the choice of a president, and support for an international tribunal that would investigate the bombing that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the many bombings and that have occurred in the two years since.
The opposition did not accept that offer.
*Nada Bakri contributed reporting.

March 14 Okays Berri Initiative to Resolve Lebanon Crisis
The ruling March 14 alliance on Thursday accepted a proposal by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri to resolve Lebanon's deep political crisis and called for cancellation of reciprocal conditions. "March 14 Forces urge the opposition … to spare the country the dilemma of reciprocal conditions which hampers the dialogue and does not guarantee avoiding a presidential vacuum," said the statement read at daybreak by MP Saad Hariri.
"March 14 welcomes the principles of dialogue and agreement and stresses that dialogue is the Lebanese' only salvation and (the only way) to rebuild trust in their nation, state and institutions," the statement said at the end of a late-night meeting of March 14 leaders at the residence of former President Amin Gemayel in Bikfaya.
It said March 14 considers the upcoming presidential election a "fundamental point" in restoring political stability and implementing decisions previously adopted by all-party national talks as well as U.N. Security Council resolutions. The statement urged the Hizbullah-led opposition to go to the roundtable meeting "without any guns, excuses or intimidation." "Let's not say we want elections (on the basis) of a half-plus-one vote and let them (opposition) not block elections under the pretext of a two-third quorum," March 14 pleaded. "Let's all dedicate ourselves to rescuing the presidential election from the unknown," the statement concluded.
Berri had announced that the opposition was willing to drop its demand for a national unity government on condition the country's feuding political parties agreed on a consensus presidential candidate. Beirut, 13 Sep 07, 07:02

Authorities Following Up Border Mishap with Wahhab
Naharnet/Lebanese authorities were following up a border mishap with former cabinet minister Wiab Wahhab, Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said.
Aridi told reporters after a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday that security forces were "pursuing the truth" in the report that Wahhab refused to be searched at a border checkpoint as he returned to Lebanon, coming from Syria a few days ago. "No one has the right to prevent any security apparatus or officer from doing their duty," Aridi stressed.Wahhab responded by playing down the mishap, branding it a "silly accident." Beirut, 13 Sep 07, 09:20

Saudi Says Berri Proposal Could Lead to Breakthrough
Saudi Arabia said a proposal by House Speaker Nabih Berri offers a chance of breaking the political deadlock in Lebanon and electing a new president.
"After the initiative announced by Mr Nabih Berri, there is cautious optimism. There is a chance," Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told reporters in the Red Sea city of Jeddah. The proposal marks "a change from the previous position" of the pro-Syrian opposition, "and this could lead to a solution," he said.
Oil powerhouse Saudi Arabia, which is close to Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's government, has been involved in efforts to end the impasse in Lebanon ahead of presidential elections due later this month. Berri announced two weeks ago that the Hizbullah-led opposition was ready to drop its demand for a unity government if all Lebanese factions could agree on a consensus candidate for the presidency. Berri also officially called for a special session of parliament on September 25 to elect a new head of state. The vote for a successor to Syrian-backed President Emile Lahoud has exacerbated Lebanon's nine-month-old political crisis which has split Beirut into pro- and anti-Damascus camps. "There must be trust among all parties... so that they interact with the content of (Berri's) initiative," Saud said.
"If this happens, it will open the way for the election of a consensus president, and this would be the first step toward resolving the crisis, God willing," he added.
Berri's proposal came amid concerns of deeper divisions after statements by rival leaders raised fears of two governments and two presidents, a stark reminder of the chaos of the country's 1975-1990 civil war. While the anti-Syrian camp holds the majority in parliament, the opposition led by the Hizbullah party walked out of the Saniora cabinet in November, leaving the government paralyzed.(AFP) Beirut, 13 Sep 07, 08:07

Learning compromise from the Lebanon of Europe

By Michael Young
Commentary by
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Recently, amid reports that Hizbullah was creating closed-off security zones north of the Litani River and establishing a system of telephone lines parallel to that of the state, some politicians and commentators began mentioning Lebanon's partition. The majority accused Hizbullah of working toward de facto partition; the party threw the accusation back at the majority; and in a disturbing number of living rooms the idea of divvying the country up was discussed as something desirable.
Partition is always a measure of last resort, a divorce, and like most divorces it usually is very messy. In Pakistan and India, Palestine, Cyprus, and the former Yugoslavia, partition, whether successful or not, was invariably a bloody process. The partition of Lebanon would be so horrific given the mixtures of populations, so absurd for being imposed on a society that even during the height of the 1975-1990 Civil War never seriously contemplated formal and complete separation, that the debate itself seems to have merit only as a substitute for something far different: a statement that Lebanon's current social contract does not resolve the many problems facing this unstable, multi-communal society.
Rejecting partition should not prevent pondering such a new social contract. Recently, the Swiss Foreign Ministry invited Lebanese journalists to visit Switzerland and learn about the political order there. The point was not to advance a federal project in Lebanon, nor is that realistic at present, but to show how a once-divided society found its equilibrium through a system of political compromise. For if Lebanon is not the Switzerland of the Middle East, despite what the brochures say, Switzerland was very much the Lebanon of Europe for centuries - a land torn apart by rivalries between Catholic and Protestant French-speaking, German-speaking, Italian-speaking, and Romansh-speaking populations, all of them manipulated by surrounding European powers.
In many respects Switzerland is like Arabic grammar: all complex rules made even more complex by countless exceptions. The canton of Grisons, for example, is organized differently than the others, with its intricacy making it look like a miniature Switzerland; the city of Basel forms a different canton than its nearby countryside because of past enmity between the urban and rural populations; in the midst of the Catholic, French-speaking bastion of Freiburg lies the German-speaking, Protestant commune of Morat, where a representative of the town can still complain that in the cantonal Parliament, parliamentarians speaking in German are likely to be ignored by their French-speaking colleagues.
Only the wearing down of history, the acceptance of a common interest in unification, could turn that infernal hodgepodge into a nation. Lebanon is not at that historical moment yet. Perhaps its culture makes the creation of a stable power-sharing mechanism impossible. However, several principles buttressing the Swiss system might have a place in Lebanon. We can identify four of them: decentralization; the dissolution of religious identity through recognition of religious diversity; institutional flexibility; and the de-personalization, even the "de-ideologization," of politics.
Lebanon has already toyed with decentralizing administrative authority, and the idea has been integrated into the Taif Accord. In Switzerland, however, the move was much more radical, so that at both the cantonal and communal levels, communities have substantial power with respect to the federal government, which essentially deals with such "national" issues as defense, federal finances, and foreign affairs. Cantonal powers are being reduced somewhat, but that doesn't alter the fact that at the level of the commune or the canton, there is a substantial margin to decide on such vital issues as education, taxation, local development, and the like. This makes decision-making much more efficient, while bringing choices much closer to the population. That philosophy can apply just as well in Lebanon, where few are the real advantages of maintaining a centralized, cumbersome, Jacobin bureaucracy in Beirut, which remains the final arbiter on decisions taken at the distant local and regional levels.
A second Swiss innovation is that reinforcing religious and cultural diversity in a given space paradoxically helps water down differences rather than exacerbate them. Obviously, this takes time, but rather than imposing a single national identity on its people, as centralized states do, the Swiss confederation did the precise opposite. As a result, identity in the country is now defined much less by religious differences than by linguistic ones. While this obliges all Swiss to learn a second or even a third language to communicate with their countrymen, the result is that religion as a basis of identification has been, happily, transcended.
Nothing so clear-cut is likely to occur in Lebanon, where religious institutions still hold suffocating sway over the society. However, it is worth considering that as decentralization takes hold, the prospects for political polarization nationally will diminish, so that religious communities will become more confident of their status. This could erode their reliance on religion as a primary source of identity, since the priorities of individuals would shift to the local and regional levels.
A third Swiss notion to consider is that only flexible institutions can systematically absorb the contending stakes in the population. Constitutional amendments are frequent, in some regions the system actively encourages the consolidation of municipal lines, and religious symbolism is allowed in some places and not in others. Only a system that is agile can adapt to ambient diversity. In Lebanon, the Constitution has too often been altered for political reasons, however institutions remain inflexible, obdurate, so that virtually all adjustments are regarded as existential threats to one side or the other. This stifles renewal, preventing the society from adapting to new circumstances.
Finally, the most remarkable aspect of the Swiss system is that national political power resides in institutions more than in individuals. Federalism already disseminates much power to the cantonal or communal levels, but even at the federal level the system prevents an accumulation of power. The country's executive authority is a seven-member government reflecting the distribution of power in the national Parliament, with each member holding portfolios. Its president is the first among equals, serves for a year, and all decisions are taken by majority vote. Because decisions require the building of coalitions within this executive committee, because a president is rotated out of office within a year and is not regarded as the representative of Switzerland (the committee is, collectively), politics are necessarily a product of constant compromises. Personalities are important, but never paramount.
Within such a system ideology takes a back seat, since measures require deal-making with committee members of different political persuasions. A party can advance specific agendas, especially if its minister stays in office for years. However, because there is no government and opposition split, this takes time. Programs can never be imposed through political writ.
The de-personalization of politics is probably the most difficult objective for the Lebanese to achieve. It would require that institutions be stronger than political leaders and informal communal social structures. The Lebanese live in an ideological country, in an ideological region, where political ideas tend to be absolutist in nature. Lebanon is no Switzerland, but like the Swiss, the Lebanese know that diffusing state power is the key to coexistence in a plural society. That's a good start.
Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR.

Commentary: Hamas, Hezbollah - the Al Qaeda alternatives

Waleed Sadi
September 12, 2007
Al Qaeda is generally viewed as a global threat bent on changing the world order at any cost. This hybrid movement has its distant and various roots in the Muslim Brotherhood movement that the late Hassan Al Bana founded in Egypt, more-than-half-a-century ago and in Wahabism and, perhaps, Sufism. It will be recalled that all these three Islamic movements condoned militancy to further their political aims and serve their religious agendas.
Bana, for example, was revolted by the Western way of life, and determined to rid his people and fellow Muslims of all vestiges of this "decadence." His ultimate aim and objective was to cleanse Muslims from non-Muslim modes of life. Both Wahabism and Sufism share similar outlooks.
Al Qaeda appears to follow in the footsteps of these conservative movements by adopting a posture of cleansing Muslims and the Muslim world from all Western mores, even if that entails the elimination of fellow Muslims, as seems to be the case in Iraq. Yet neither the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, nor the Wahabis and Sufis of Saudi Arabia ever preached or condoned indiscriminate killing, even if they utilized violence in the name of religion. Al Qaeda, however, appears to thrive on indiscriminate killing, including of its own people, in order to score political points or promote its own version of Islam.
The Iraqi theater is a good example of the methods adopted by Al Qaeda. Children, women, and innocent-and-non-combatant men are purposely targeted on a daily basis, to worsen conditions in the country. While Al Qaeda aims to make life more difficult for the US and its forces deployed in Iraq, it is also making life miserable for the Iraqi people.
Al Qaeda's primary tactic appears to be to drive a wedge between the Shiite and Sunni communities, in a bid to make the conditions in the country and, perhaps, beyond, ungovernable for Washington and its allies, and unbearable for fellow Muslims who do not share its version of Islam. Judging by unfolding events in Iraq, Al Qaeda even prides itself on killing the innocent, because it calculates that, through chaos and lawlessness, it will gain not only more strength in different parts of the Arab and Islamic worlds, but also cleanses Islam of Muslims who disagree with its message. Killing fellow Muslims who do not adhere to Al Qaeda's understanding of Islam has become necessary in the minds of the organization's leaders, because this fits in with their cleansing policy.
It is counterintuitive that such nihilism should win many adherents. Yet Al Qaeda appears to be winning new supporters in far-flung places, and all attempts at eradicating the group have failed.
The list of options has not been exhausted, however. What better way to arrest the expansion of Al Qaeda's ideology than for another Islamic movement to compete with it for the hearts and minds of Muslims? There are two that fit the bill perfectly: Hamas and Hezbollah. Both have proved their Islamic credentials in ideology and conduct. Both are moderate with respect to their understanding of social relations. Both have proven their mettle in their armed resistance to Israel. Neither has the same creed of indiscriminate killing and nihilism of Al Qaeda.
Hamas and Hezbollah, therefore, must not be written off as evildoers or spoilers of peace in the region. Rather, they should be viewed against the backdrop of the bigger picture in the Middle East. Both of these Islamic groups could be utilized to checkmate Al Qaeda, and end its monopoly and supremacy in attracting the support of zealots and hard-liners. In order to be able to do so, however, they must not be placed in the same category as Al Qaeda.
Perhaps this is a long shot, but it is worth considering as an effective way to arrest the advances of Al Qaeda in the war for the hearts and minds of Muslim people around the world. Of course, this does not mean the two Islamic factions must fight Al Qaeda head-on. What Hamas and Hezbollah can do is prevent the further expansion of the Al Qaeda network to areas under their control. By so doing, the international community can expect to contain Al Qaeda and erode its designs for expansion. Once the tide has turned, then, perhaps, the battle can be taken to Al Qaeda's own turf, in Iraq.
**Waleed Sadi is a former Jordanian ambassador to Turkey, the UN, and other international organizations in Geneva. He is currently a Columnist for the Jordan Times and Al Rai newspapers. This commentary was featured on Acknowledgement to

Lebanon and the Planned US Airbase at Kleiaat
by Dr. Franklin Lamb
Global Research, September 11, 2007
CounterPunch - 2007-05-30
n July 14, 1982, (Bastille Day) the late Bashir Gemayel sat with Ariel Sharon, Raphael Eytan, and Danny Yalon at the French flag draped Le Chef Restaurant in Ashifeyih, east Beirut for one of their working lunches.
As was by now their habit, the Israelis were inclined to pressure their recently anointed selection for Lebanon's next president. They were there to present a request for one more favor from the handsome 'golden boy' of the Phalange movement, as their army tightened its noose around west Beirut.
There was a good chance they would succeed . After all, Bashir was beholding to the Zionists, for their many 'considerations', including the arms for drugs arrangements, the weapons skimmed from what the US reflectively shipped to Israel on demand, the intelligence sharing and assassinations of Palestinians who Bashir could not abide. The trio lunching with him that day, under the celebratory French flags in this francophone neighborhood could easily destroy Bashir Gemayel and he knew it.
Yet, despite their intimidating talk, the self described 'cream of the IDF', exhibiting what Bashir had often explained to his nerdy younger brother Amin, who, unexpectedly was to become his successor as President of Lebanon, and to some of his aids, was a case of 'congenital arrogance' erred that day.
They seriously underestimated the Palestinian hating, Muslim despising, would be Phoenecian Prince, Le sheik Bashir. In misjudging the charismatic Maronite, the Israeli trio had failed to appreciate that, on any day of the week, the average Lebanese is rather more sophisticated, clever, descent, and patriotic than many Israeli or American politicians give them credit for. The same obtains today.
Sharon pulled out a piece of paper from his chest pocket, as one Phalange security person who guarded the restaurant door recalls, and shoved it across the table to Bashir. Written on it was Israel's 'one last request' which contained one word: Kleiaat
The Israelis studied Bashir's face for a sign of his reaction as he picked up the small piece of paper. Bashir, appearing to suppress a yawn, had heard this 'one last request' hustle many times and had long felt contempt for what he called "these pressure lunches." Yet, former alter boy that he was, the martyred, and still much loved Lebanese patriot, pressed his lips together and listened politely as is the Lebanese custom, as Sharon expounded on the details.
Bashir, fuming inside and about to erupt in anger as he had sometimes done previously when he felt squeezed by Sharon, instead smiled at the anxious trio. He leaned forward and whispered with a voice they still say in his Bekfayya neighborhood, would make women swoon: 'you will not be disappointed, my dear friends".
Sharon was delirious with Bashir's response and slapped him on the back, a gesture of friendship that the former parish crucifier found deeply offensive.
Returning to his Achharifeh Headquarters, bounding up the stairs to his office to meet with aids, where less than two months later, he would die from an assassins' bomb which would level the building and killed and wounded more than 200, Bashir bellowed as he entered his office, "An Israeli air base in Lebanon? Those crazy sons of bitches won't get one grain of sand from Kleiaat."
As residents of Bibnin Akkar, less than two miles from the site of the proposed US base and the Lebanese daily newspaper Aldiyar speculate, construction of a US airbase on the grounds of the largely abandoned airbase at Klieaat in northern Lebanon may begin late this year. To make the project more palpable, it is being promoted as a 'US/NATO' base that will serve as the headquarters of a NATO rapid deployment force, helicopter squadrons, and Special Forces units.
The base will provide training for the Lebanese army and security forces fighting Salafi, Islamist fundamentalists and other needs.
The Pentagon and NATO HQ in Belgium have given the project which, will sit along the Lebanese-Syrian border, using this vast area "as a base for fast intervention troops", a name. It is to be called The Lebanese Army and Security training centre".
Kleiaat, a nearly now abandoned small airport, was used by Middle East Airlines for a period for commuter flights between Beirut and Tripoli. Residents of the area report than during the Civil War (1975-1990) a commuter Helicopter service was also operated due to road closures.
The proposed base was measured by this observer to be roughly two and one-half miles down the beach from Nahr al-Bared Palestinian Camp. Both share pristine Mediterranean beachfront. Kleiaat is an expanse of gently undulating sandy dunes covered with long prairie grass and brush.
Despite opposition from Lebanon's anemic environmental movement, that argues that the pristine area should be left to its many varieties of birds and wildlife, the local community is watching closely.
Not much activity is going on as of May 29, 2007. About 20 Quonset huts, some recently driven stakes, no evidence of heavy equipment or building material. The three man army outpost fellows appeared bored and did not even ask for ID as I toured the whole area on the back of a fine new BMW 2200cc motorcycle courtesy of one of the local militia sniper guys who until two days ago was firing into Nahr al-Bared until the Lebanese army stopped him after the PLO leadership complained.
Lebanese entrepreneurs at Bibnin Akkar, a Sunni community loyal to the Hariri's, and who will be the chief financial winners from the project, see opportunities with thousands of new construction and related jobs coming. One kind fellow who hooked me up last night to intermittent internet via a jerry rigged dial up arrangement on one of his shop's two computers envisages running a fine new internet café with at least 50 wireless computers. Hotels, restaurants and businesses of various sorts are planning expansions to meet the demand of the expected workforce.
Who will not benefit from the building boom will be the 40,000+ Palestinians from Nahr al-Bared which is literally next door to the anticipated project These refugees, who were driven from their homes a in Palestine in 1948 and 1967, from Telezatter by the Phalanges in 1975, and others who came as a result of Israeli attacks on Lebanon in 1978, 1982, 1993, 1996, and 2006, will gain no work from Kleiaat. The reason is that the 70 top trades and professions in Lebanon are denied to the Palestinians under Lebanese law.
Even if the 20,000 Palestinians displaced by the current conflict with Fatah al-Islam are allowed to return, which I expect will be the case, and even if Palestinian fears that the Camps will be demolished are unrealized, as I believe, they will remain destitute, according to UNWRA who considers 10,000 of them 'special hardship cases".
As reported by the NATO headquarters in Brussels, as well as by residents in Bibnin Akkar on May 28, 2007, an American-German-Turkish military delegation toured and surveyed Akkar region. US Embassy 'staff' have reportedly visited Kleiaat airport earlier this year to look over the site. David Welch also had a quick look at the site during his recent visit.
A Lebanese journalist who opposes the base commented on May 28, 2007, "The Bush administration has been warning Lebanon about the presence of Al Qaeda teams in northern Lebanon. And the base is needed to deal with this threat. Low and behold, a new "terrorist group" called Fatah al-Islam appears near Kleiaat at al-Bared camp".
The Pentagon argues that the military base will contribute to the development and the economic recovery in the region, advising the Lebanese government to focus on the financial aspect and positive reflection on the population (95% Sunni) of the region.
Contenders for the billion dollar project, according to the Pentagon procurement office could be Bechtel and Halliburton and other Contractors currently doing projects in Iraq.
The martyred Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, saw potential for the Kleiaat airport as well. But he opposed a US airbase. Instead, Hariri, which the green grocer who sells fruits and vegetables to the Lebanese army patrolling the Tripoli-Syria four lane road in front of Nahr al-Bared, commented, " Rafik Hariri, may he rest in peace, loved Lebanon. But he never saw a piece of real estate he didn't want to develop!" Hariri envisaged a billion dollar Free Commercial Zone and a port, despite Syrian opposition, and had investors lined up before he was murdered. Damascus was opposed to the Hariri dream because the new Port and Free Zone would drain the revenues from the nearby Syrian Port at Lathikiya.
According to Washington observers watching developments, the base has been pushed by elements in the office of the US Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the urging of Israeli operative Elliot Abrams. AIPAC can be expected to do the necessary work in Congress and with House Foreign Affairs, Appropriations, Intelligence, and Armed Service committees hermetically sealed by stalwarts of the Israel Lobby, it can be expected that it will be added as a rider to an unsuspecting House bill coming along.
"We need to get this base built as quickly as possible as a forward thrust point against Al Qaeda and other (read Hezbollah) terrorists", according to AIPAC staffer Rachael Cohen. Asked if Israel will offer training and advisors to the Lebanese army, Ms. Cohen replied, "we will see what we will see, Lebanon, smezzanon its not about them, its about stopping the terrorists stupid!"
"The question for Lebanon is whether the Lebanese people will allow the base to be built. Few in North Lebanon doubt that Israel will have access to the base " according to Oathman Bader, a community leader who lives in Bahr al-Bared but has fled to Badawi.
Fatah al-Islam and their allies have pledged martyrdom operations to stop the project, according to the Fatah Intifada, the group that expelled Fatah al-Islam from their camp on November 27, 2006.
According to a columnist at Beirut's Al-Akbar newspaper," a US project like that would split Lebanon apart. No way will Lebanon allow it. Probably every group in Lebanon would oppose it , from the Salafi, Islamists fundamentalist to moderate Sunnis to Hezbollah. Can you imagine the Syrian reaction?"
Commenting on this project, one Arab-American from Boston, doing volunteer work at the Palestinian Red Crescent Hospital, Safad, noted:
"Hopefully the US pro Middle East peace, pro-Palestinian, and pro-Lebanon organizations with better phone and internet connections that exist locally, will join the opposition in Lebanon to this base and fight it in Congress. Welch and the US Embassy in Beirut should be questioned about it"
**Franklin Lamb's just released book, The Price We Pay: A Quarter Century of Israel's Use of American Weapons in Lebanon is available at His volume, Hezbollah: a Brief Guide for Beginners is due out in early summer, 2007. He can be reached at