September 3/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 14,1.7-14. On a sabbath he went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully.He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table. When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, 'Give your place to this man,' and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place. Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, 'My friend, move up to a higher position.' Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Then he said to the host who invited him, "When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."


Lebanon: Solution and Consensus.By: Abdallah Iskandar. September 2/07
The Tampa Bombers: Jihadists or "Beach Boys?".By Walid Phares.Counterterrorism Blog. September 2/07
Yes, Mr. Saniora, Hezbollah Has Committed War Crimes.By: Elias Bejjani.World Forum-September 2/07
Lebanon, always Lebanon.By Zvi Barel .Ha'aretz.September 2/07

Follow Israel's interests, not America's.By ALON LIEL Jerusalem Post. September 2/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for September 2/07
Militant-Held Camp Falls to Lebanon Army.The Associated Press
Lebanon army takes control of camp.Reuters
Fighting 'over' at Lebanon camp - Qatar
Lebanese army kills 28 militants. AP

Lebanon So Small for Big Threats. Naharnet
Lebanon: Mixed reaction to Berri's initiative.Ya Libnan
LEBANON: Southern Lebanese await compensation to repair damaged homes
Twenty militants, 2 soldiers killed at Lebanon camp.Reuters
Lebanon army thwarts breakout bid by besieged militants AP

Lebanese army kills 15 militants.AFP
Lebanon, always Lebanon.Ha'aretz

Lebanon refugees yearn to return home once fighting ends.AFP
Hezbollah rejects war criticism.
BBC News - UK
Human Rights Watch comes under fire from Hezbollah over report ...International Herald Tribune
Hezbollah Denounces Watchdog's Report.The Associated Press
An opportunity not to be missed.Gulf News
Crossfire War - Lebanon PM Siniora to Visit (Exile) Berlin Next ...NewsBlaze

Extremists still flocking to Lebanon.Denver Post, CO 
Carasso: Do short-range missiles threaten peace progress?Daily Camera, CO
Bring the Boys Back, Israel
Diabolical Iran: A threat to World peace.Xenox News (satire), Australia
LEBANON: Southern Lebanese await compensation to repair damaged homes.Reuters
White House makes risky push for progress in Mideast.San Jose Mercury News
Lebanon opposition offer 'olive branch' to end feud.Middle East Times
Lebanon still a bazaar for radical ideas, guerrilla fighters and ...Washington Observer Reporter, PA 

Lebanese army kills 28 militants
By SAM F. GHATTAS, Associated Press Writer
BEIRUT, Lebanon - Lebanese troops killed 28 al-Qaida-inspired militants and captured 15 others in a massive gunfight Sunday after they broke out of a northern Palestinian refugee camp devastated by over three months of fighting, a senior security official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because no official casualty figure was released. Heavy gunbattles that began during the dawn breakout continued through early afternoon, with troops engaging Fatah Islam fighters in buildings, fields and roads around Nahr el-Bared camp, residents and television stations reported. In a statement, the military said troops were attacking the remaining militant strongholds inside Nahr el-Bared and "chasing the fugitives outside the camp" who had staged "a desperate attempt to flee." It called on Lebanese citizens to inform the nearest army patrol of any suspected militants in their area, but gave no specifics on casualties excepting saying "a large number" had been killed or captured.
Lebanese security officials, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because no official casualty figures had been released by the military, said two Lebanese soldiers were killed in the fighting, raising to 155 the total number of troops who have died in the conflict. Before Sunday's battle, Lebanese officials had said up to 70 Fatah Islam fighters remained in the camp. When the fighting broke out more than three months ago, the number was estimated at 360. Sunday's developments indicated the battle was almost over for the camp, large parts of which have been reduced to rubble.
According to security officials and television reports, the breakout began early Sunday when a group of militants sneaked through an underground tunnel to an area of the camp under army control and fought with troops. At the same time, another group of militants struck elsewhere to try to escape, reportedly receiving help from militants outside the camp. State-run Lebanese television said the militants inside the camp were aided by outside fighters who arrived in civilian cars to attack army positions around the camp. Residents said troop reinforcements deployed close to the camp and blocked roads to prevent fighters from sneaking out. Helicopters provided aerial reconnaissance.
State television reported Lebanese residents of nearby villages, armed with guns and sticks, fanned out to protect their houses and prevent militants from seeking refuge and melting into the local population. Army officials said they did not know whether Fatah Islam leader Shaker al-Absi was among those who attempted to break out. Al-Absi has not been seen or heard since early in the fighting. His deputy, Abu Hureira, was killed by security forces in Tripoli recently, apparently after escaping the siege. Fighting erupted May 20 between troops and Fatah Islam militants holed up in Nahr el-Bared camp near Tripoli, becoming Lebanon's worst internal violence since the 1975-90 civil war. The battles have killed more than 20 civilians and scores of militants. Families of the militants — women and children — were evacuated late last month, the last civilians to leave the camp. Prior to Sunday, the army had inched its way into the camp under artillery and rocket fire, destroying buildings and capturing militants' fortified positions one by one while facing tough resistance from the Islamic fighters.In recent days, the army has cornered the militants in a small area of the camp and has been pounding it with bombs dropped by helicopters.

Lebanese army kills 15 militants
By SAM F. GHATTAS, Associated Press Writer
BEIRUT, Lebanon - Lebanese troops fought al-Qaida-inspired militants who attempted to flee a besieged Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon on Sunday, killing 15 and capturing 15 others, officials said. In a statement, the military said troops were attacking the remaining strongholds of the Fatah Islam fighters in Nahr el-Bared camp and "chasing the fugitives outside the camp" who had staged "a desperate attempt to flee."It called on Lebanese citizens to inform the nearest army patrol of any suspected militants in their area, but gave no specifics on casualties excepting saying "a large number" had been killed or captured. Lebanese security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because no official casualty figures had been released by the military, said 15 militants were killed and 15 captured, all of whom were wounded
They also said two Lebanese soldiers were killed in the fighting, raising to 155 the total number who have died in the conflict. Before Sunday's battle, Lebanese officials had said up to 70 Fatah Islam fighters remained in the camp. When the fighting broke out more than three months ago, the number was estimated at 360.
Sunday's developments indicated the battle may be nearing its end, and showed that some of the militants succeeded in breaking out from the camp, large parts of which have been reduced to rubble. The breakout attempt began early Sunday when a group of militants sneaked through an underground tunnel to an area of the camp under army control. At the same time, another group of militants struck elsewhere to try to escape.
Residents said troop reinforcements deployed close to the camp and blocked roads to prevent fighters from sneaking out. Helicopters provided aerial reconnaissance.
Army officials said they did not know whether Fatah Islam leader Shaker al-Absi was among those who attempted to break out. Al-Absi has not been seen or heard since early in the fighting. His deputy, Abu Hureira, was killed by security forces in Tripoli recently, apparently after escaping the siege. Fighting erupted May 20 between troops and Fatah Islam militants holed up in Nahr el-Bared camp near Tripoli, becoming Lebanon's worst internal violence since the 1975-90 civil war. The battles have killed more than 20 civilians and scores of militants. The army has since inched its way into the camp under artillery and rocket fire, destroying buildings and capturing militants' fortified positions one by one while facing tough resistance from the Islamic fighters.In recent days, the army has corned the militants in a small area of the camp and has been pounding it with bombs dropped by helicopters.

Lebanon army thwarts breakout bid by besieged militants
NAHR AL-BARED, Lebanon (AFP) - Lebanese troops killed some 20 Islamist fighters on Sunday when they attempted to break out of a besieged refugee camp, an army spokesman told AFP. "The fighters attempted to escape from Nahr al-Bared but around 20 were killed and numerous others were taken prisoner or wounded," the spokesman, who did not want to be identified, said. He said two soldiers were killed in the battles, bringing to 155 the number of troops killed since the standoff between the army and the Fatah al-Islam militants began on May 20. At around 4:00 am (0100 GMT), several militants from outside the camp drove up to an army checkpoint on its eastern edge and began firing at soldiers, aided by fighters from inside, an army source said.
Militants also attacked another checkpoint on the southern edge of the camp. The source said three people who were in the car that attacked the checkpoint were killed. Another nine militants were taken prisoner. Security forces launched a major search operation and the entire area around the camp was cordoned off. Helicopters hovered overhead and fires could be seen around the camp. The nearby road that links the northern city of Tripoli to Syria was closed to traffic. Army checkpoints were set up throughout the region as well as on the main highway linking Tripoli to the capital. The source said the army was concentrating its search in the village of Ayun al-Samak, some five kilometers (three miles) east of Nahr al-Bared. The fighting around the camp has been Lebanon's worst internal violence since the 1975-1990 civil war.
At least 200 people have died, including 155 soldiers. Most of the camp's 31,000 residents fled at the start of the fighting. "We are nearing the end of the standoff," the army spokesman said, adding that soldiers were continuing to clear underground shelters inside the bombed-out camp.
He said the only fighters still inside are believed to be wounded. The army this week refused to allow wounded Fatah al-Islam fighters to be evacuated from the camp calling for the unconditional surrender of all of the estimated 60 besieged militants. On Saturday, troops seized the homes of the Sunni militant group's top leaders, Shaker al-Absi and Abu Hureira, who was killed in July at an army checkpoint. One of Abu Hureira's brothers, who did not wish to be identified, told AFP that the Fatah al-Islam number two was buried on Saturday in a cemetery near his parents' home in Tripoli.  Residents of Abu Hureira's native village of Mishmish in northern Lebanon had refused to allow the family to inter him in the village cemetery. Several Lebanese soldiers killed by Fatah al-Islam are from Mishmish.

Twenty militants, 2 soldiers killed at Lebanon camp
Sun Sep 2, 2007
NAHR AL-BARED, Lebanon (Reuters) - Twenty Islamist militants and two Lebanese soldiers were killed in a battle on Sunday near a Palestinian refugee camp in north Lebanon, a security source said. The Fatah al-Islam militants had been attempting to flee the Nahr al-Bared camp, where they have been battling the army for more than three months in Lebanon's worst internal violence since the 1975-1990 civil war, security sources said.
An army statement said the al Qaeda-inspired militants had staged a "desperate attempt to flee" the camp, which has been reduced to rubble by the battle.
The fighting, which erupted on May 20, has killed more than 300, including at least 154 soldiers, 120 militants and 42 civilians. Most of the camp's 40,000 residents fled in the early days of the battle to a nearby Palestinian refugee camp.

Lebanon: Solution and Consensus
Abdallah Iskandar- Al-Hayat - 02/09/07//
Late former Lebanese President Fouad Chehab refused to run for presidency when the mandate of his successor late Charles Helou ended in 1970. Back then, Chehab was regarded as the perfect man to deal with the Lebanese crisis that erupted because of the armed Palestinian presence and the support it received from the Lebanese Muslim majority.
The man was after all the one who built the army and its institutions, and led it since its formation, after the independence. He was also the perfect image of a constitutional man and the one who returned Lebanon to Arabs, even if he had given priority to the relationship with Abdel Nasser. By Lebanese criteria, he was a great administrative reformer, obsessed with development. It might be for these reasons that his name was agreed upon as a consensual President to succeed Kamil Chamoun after the 1958 crisis. Chehab justified his "rejection" of the presidency in his famous statement by saying that the provisions of the formula and the outcome of the political situation prevent the President from running the country, and solving its crises. Chehab did not put conditions to getting back on his rejection, perhaps because he was convinced then that they would never be answered and that the political circles would object to any serious change in the formula.
Chehab realized that the government in Lebanon would be helpless so long as the severe division between the Lebanese and their confessions originates outside the country. The priority he gave to the relationship with Abdel Nasser aimed at protecting the Lebanese interior from the repercussions of foreign crises. However, the armed Palestinian presence since 1969 and the Cairo agreement which gave it the right to be in Lebanon became a part of the internal equation that creates division and is nurtured by it. It was impossible then to have the minimum common grounds that could help the state to carry out its duties and the agreement of all Lebanese on its continued existence.
Since the earl 1970s and until now, Lebanon still suffers from this big division between its citizens. The division enters around the meaning of the state and its function, as well as the meaning of the relationship with the outside. The bet that the godfathers of independence and writers of the Constitution have made to gather Lebanese around the common grounds to form a state, has failed. This short period witnessed several calm phases, alternating with decades of war, fighting, compromises and set-backs. What we witness today is almost a repetition of that mother-crisis, even if main headlines and issues differ. Apparently, the long years and bitter experiences have not yet fully convinced everyone that all the goodwill in the world is not worth an atom of what brings the people of one country together, and their desire to live together according to rules that everyone commits to.
It would be stupid to ignore the extent of current feuds in Lebanon. It would be an illusion to imagine that there could be a quick solution for the crises that have erupted since the Hariri assassination. But the Lebanese who remain convinced in the necessity of solving these problems peacefully are still attached to the methods of technical and procedural solutions. They consider that the compromises imposed by today's circumstances can be recovered tomorrow, when this context changes. Thus, crises nurture each other.
The spread of the term "consensus" as a solution, confirms the continuance of such methods, especially that the term does not imply organizing common rules for all, that everyone abides by, which would unify the solution process for all political differences. Consensus in this case will only be over the name of the next President, who will not be in a better state than Fouad Chehab in 1970. He will be unable to make any moves, so long as constitutional institutions prolong the political difference. In all cases, the said consensus remains better than confrontation, even if it intends to embarrass the other side

Lebanon ... So Small for Big Threats
Three months after fighting broke out between Lebanese troops and Fatah al-Islam militants in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared, army commander Gen. Michel Suleiman says he now knows whom he is fighting. Fatah al-Islam, he says, "is a branch of the al-Qaida organization that was planning to make Lebanon and Palestinian camps a safe haven," he told a gathering of his officers recently. Al-Qaida wants to launch operations in Lebanon and outside through Fatah al-Islam, he asserted. But his opinion is only one of many. Police officials and some experts say the group that fought in the Nahr el-Bared camp has no direct tie to Osama bin Laden's movement. The U.S. State Department says it's an offshoot of a Syrian-backed militia, Fatah al-Intifada. Some Lebanese officials also say Syria backs the group to try to destabilize Lebanon's government.
But pro-Syrian opposition groups say the Lebanese government's own allies initially funded the fundamentalist Sunni Muslim group to counter the influence of the Shiite Muslim movement Hizbullah. There have also been reports of Saudi money financing Fatah al-Islam and other Sunni jihad groups. Whichever theory is true, they all converge on one central point: Fatah al-Islam and others operate here because, despite having a Western-leaning government, Lebanon remains a marketplace for extremism. It is a trading post for radical ideas, guerrilla fighters and armaments that has fostered chaos elsewhere in the Middle East.
The Palestinian refugee camp of Ein al-Hilweh on the edge of the southern city of Sidon is where most of the Palestinian radical groups are based and where plots against Israel and Western influence in Lebanon - and against Lebanese foes - are believed to be hatched. It's the largest of the 12 camps in Lebanon.
Bearded men in battle fatigues and carrying Kalashnikovs or pistols freely roam around the densely populated camp or guard the offices of the various groups.
Radical Islamic militias in the camp include Asbat al-Ansar ("Band of Partisans"), Jund al-Sham ("Soldiers of the Levant") and the Islamic Struggle Movement. Washington has accused Asbat al-Ansar of being linked to al-Qaida, and it and the Jund al-Sham are said to have close ties to Fatah Islam in the Nahr el-Bared camp.
Membership in each group probably numbers dozens. While the relationship between the Sunni fundamentalist groups and al-Qaida is unclear, at the very least they are inspired by the movement's global appeal and share its philosophy of "jihad" against what it regards as American and Western attempts to dominate the Muslim world.
Timur Goksel, who has observed Lebanon for decades as a U.N. peacekeeping officer and later as a professor, believes the radical groups are wooing al-Qaida, rather than the other way around. "I don't think there is this big drive by al-Qaida to establish as a base (for) themselves in Lebanon, but there are so many willing parties trying to do their bidding here and trying to get into the good grace of al-Qaida," Goksel said.
Retired Lebanese army Gen. Elias Hanna also said the aim of Fatah al-Islam leader Shaker al-Abssi was to be "adopted" by al-Qaida leaders. Hanna said the disparate radical groups in the refugee camps amount to a "new breed of al-Qaida ... maybe third generation al-Qaida."These groups publicly deny any ties or allegiance to al-Qaida, but voice support for its main cause - fighting America. Washington has long been criticized by Arabs for supporting Israel, and its actions in Iraq and Afghanistan are seen by many Muslims as a war against their faith.
"We converge with al-Qaida and approve its role in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Sheik Walid Sharif, spokesman for Asbat al-Ansar. "Sheik Osama is our sheik, may God protect him."Sharif says he has sent more than 300 Palestinian and Lebanese recruits to fight in Iraq alongside Ansar al-Sunnah, an Iraqi group with close links to al-Qaida, and that he has been in contact with al-Qaida in Mesopotamia, which is believed affiliated with bin Laden.
About 25 of his men have died in operations in Iraq, including suicide bombings, Sharif said. Another Palestinian radical leader, Sheik Jamal Khattab of the Islamic Struggle Group, pointed out that not every Muslim fighting American occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan is with al-Qaida. He also sought to distance his group from the loss of innocent lives in Iraq. "We support anyone who fights America or Israel, but we are against ... killing of innocent civilians," he said.
In Lebanon, intelligence officials blame radical Palestinians in Ein al-Hilweh for at least two recent attacks, a rocket fired into Israel in mid-June that caused damage but no casualties and a car bombing a week later that killed six Spanish members of UNIFIL, the peacekeeping unit monitoring the shaky truce between Israel and Hizubullah. The attack on the peacekeepers came nine months after al-Qaida's No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahri, called in a videotape for attacks on the "crusader forces" in Lebanon, an apparent reference to the 13,000-srong U.N. peacekeepers.
More recently, a Web site used by al-Qaida urged militants in Lebanon to defend Fatah al-Islam. "Islamists, rise up and aid your brothers in Nahr al-Bared. This is your religious duty," the statement said. Authorities say members of Fatah la-Islam have confessed to the Feb. 13 twin bus bombings in Ain Alaq north of Beirut in which three people were killed and 20 were wounded, and the government has accused the group of planning other attacks. But the Lebanese army did not move against the group until after its militants ambushed more than 30 army soldiers on May 20.
The group's strength had grown to hundreds of fighters - Palestinians, Lebanese and other Arabs - and the battle with the army was the worst violence Lebanon has suffered since the 1975-90 civil war, killing some 150 soldiers killed, an unknown number of militants and more than 20 civilians.
In Nahr al-Bared and the other refugee camps, the rise of the radical Islamic groups has further cut the influence of the secular Palestine Liberation Organization, which once controlled the camps but saw its power wane after its fighters were driven out by Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon.
Goksel, the former UNIFIL officer, fears the real danger is that the radical Islamic movements will keep recruiting fighters in the poor, overcrowded camps and carry out more attacks until they finally get the backing of their would-be patron, al-Qaida, while authorities miss a chance to squelch the jihadists.
He said the government is not taking the danger seriously because rival political camps and the country's diverse security agencies can't work together to make a realistic judgment of the radical groups. "Information comes in bits and pieces from different agencies which don't share their intelligence," he said. "That's why they're not getting a coherent picture, the real picture of the danger."(AP) Beirut, 02 Sep 07

Lebanon, always Lebanon
By Zvi Barel
Blend may be one of the few bands still rocking in Beirut. Since the Second Lebanon War, most of Lebanon's rock groups have dispersed. The best "emigrated" to Dubai and the others still try to scrape up gigs in Beirut's remaining bars and clubs. But judging by the report in the Lebanese paper Daily Star, most musicians are tired of sweating blood for $40 for a two-hour show, not including the roughly three hours' time spent preparing.
Shuttered bars and clubs are just the most obvious symptom of the war's effect on Lebanon's people. Summer tourism this year is a little better than it was in 2006, the year of the war, but not much. As the summer season nears its close, occupancy rates at Lebanon's hotels are about 50 percent -- but compared with the years before the war, that's pretty thin.
The class of tourists has changed, too. This year, wealthy residents of the Gulf opted for other destinations and Lebanon found itself plied by tourists from Iraq with much less to spend. These visitors prefer two- or three-star hotels, where they can get away with paying about $17 a night. Actually, the term "tourist" may be a misnomer in their case: Most are Iraqis who found sanctuary in Syria, which forces them to periodically leave the country for a while, so as to avoid giving them permanent resident status. So they cross the border, hang out in Lebanon for a few days, then return to Syria.
On Hamra Street, Beirut's equivalent of Fifth Avenue, the stores are closed and so are most of the restaurants. There are no customers, and no less importantly, the electricity supply has become unreliable. In some cases, private generators take the place of the government power service, but they're expensive to run and Lebanese sources say that the cost of maintaining one air conditioner in a store can run to $200 a month.
Domestic tourism, within Lebanon, has been hurt by the security and political situation. Residents of the Christian neighborhoods avoid Muslim areas, and Shi'ites shun the luxurious Christian areas of Beirut. The city's better streets are darker than ever and few cultural events are held, even during what should have been the peak season for cultural creativity.
All this is the result of the explosive political situation, but this time it isn't a purely internal Lebanese matter. How did it come about that little, insignificant Lebanon, a country irrelevant to peace in the Middle East, has become the focus of interest among world leaders, from George Bush to Nicolas Sarkozy, and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to Bashar Assad and Iran's Ahmadinejad?
It seems that Lebanon has become a sort of political-prestige capsule that every leader wants to swallow -- but it's also a poison pill capable of igniting enough rancor to spoil established international relationships, including inter-Arab ones. This week, for example, the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon, Dr. Abd al-Aziz Khujah, was forced to scurry from Beirut after there threats on his life. The ambassador, who holds a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Birmingham University, and a poet as well, denied that was the reason for his sudden departure and added that he'd be back within days. But he didn't deny that he'd been threatened.
Al-Khujah represents Saudi Arabia, which has been working since the murder of Rafik Hariri, in 2005, to have the assassins or their mentors -- suspected to be high officials in the Syrian government -- brought to justice. The spat between Saudi Arabia and Syria reached its shrillest tones last week, when Syrian vice-president Farouk Shara declared, "Saudi Arabia's political functioning in the Middle East is functionally semi-paralyzed." He accused Syria of splitting the Palestinian camp and claimed that the so-called Mecca Accord signed by Fatah and Hamas in February "was born in Damascus." Syria was the one that pressed Khaled Meshal into cooperating with the principles of that pact, Shara claimed.
Granted, mutual loathing between Saudi Arabia and Syria is nothing new, but last August as well, it was Lebanon that soured their relations anew. Speaking in support of Hezbollah in a speech delivered after the Second Lebanon War, Assad annoyed King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia by calling the Arab leaders "half-men" for failing to back the Shi'ite militia. Since then the relations appear to have been mended and Assad was welcomed with all due respect at the Riyadh summit in March. But their mutual mistrust has not abated.
Saudi Arabia, which has itself entered into an agreement with Iran, is angry about the Syrian-Iranian axis and dislikes Syria's close relations with the Shi'ite leadership in Iraq, and the government headed by Nouri al-Maliki. Saudi Arabia views al-Maliki as an Iranian stooge who's turning Iraq into a direct threat to Saudi Arabia.
Syria, on the other hand, received al-Maliki with fanfare last week. Damascus also opened an embassy in Baghdad, something Saudi Arabia so far hasn't done, and is seeking to reopen the Iraqi oil pipeline passing through Syria. In Saudi Arabia's opinion, with these moves Syria is making itself into an integral member of the Shi'ite circle in the Middle East, and is thus acting against the interests of most of the Arab countries.
Saudi Arabia is no paragon of virtue either. It is suspected of aiding Sunni organizations that are undermining the government in Baghdad, and of frustrating the establishment of a unity government in Iraq. Terrorists apparently operating alongside extremist Sunni organizations pass undisturbed into Iraq from Saudi Arabia. But unlike Syria, which is suspected of much the same, Saudi Arabia is a dear friend of Washington.
Now Syria is trying to take revenge on Saudi Arabia through Lebanon. It isn't just a question of any personal umbrage Assad may harbor over Saudi Arabia heading the political group that caused Syria's expulsion from Lebanon in 2005, nor is it just because Saudi Arabia vigorously advocated convening an international court to judge Hariri's killers.
Saudi Arabia has ousted it from every possible body in the Middle East, Syria thinks, and even sabotaged the possibility of its renewing negotiations with Israel. Now Saudi Arabia is supporting the international conference that President George Bush is promoting, to which Syria isn't even invited. Syria, which threw its support behind the Saudi Arabian initiative at the last moment -- and is now using that support as leverage to negotiate for the return of the Golan Heights -- is discovering that the international conference won't be addressing it as an issue at all. The conference mandate is confined to the Palestinians. Lebanon is the only arena left where Syria can flex its muscles.
The U.S. and France were also swept into this maelstrom, the U.S. because of its support for the Saudi stance and France because of its tight ties with the late Rafik Hariri and now with his son Saad, and with his political group, which commands a majority in the Lebanese government.
Lebanon has thus created the first Franco-American alliance since the two countries squabbled over the war in Iraq. In 2004, at France's initiative and with American support, Resolution 1559 (which called for the departure of "foreign forces" from Lebanon) passed, badly upsetting Syria and, says a UN special inquiry, leading to the assassination of Hariri. Sniping at Syria by way Lebanon has not only become policy for some of the political groups in Lebanon since then; it's also become policy of the U.S. and France, which lined up behind the government of Fouad Siniora.
No wonder that if Hezbollah is perceived as Iran's envoy, the Siniora government is considered to be the agent of the U.S. Some people in Lebanon even consider it to be traitorous. The upshot has been the creation of new political and diplomatic axes in Lebanon: the U.S., France and Saudi Arabia on the one hand, versus Syria and Iran on the other, and on yet another front the Arab League is left wringing its hands, dismayed by its own demonstrable impotence at resolving yet another Arab feud.
The latest battle on this heated front is presidential elections, which are supposed to be held in Lebanon in late September or early October. And again, this is not a purely internal Lebanese issue. The poll marks the end of term for Emile Lahoud, an ally of Syia. Washington wants a president who will promote its agenda or at least be anti-Syrian. France, for its part, is willing to compromise if Siniora's government agrees. The Maronite Christians, supported by France, are afraid that Hezbollah will dictate the choice of president: They'd prefer the army commander Michel Suleiman over General Michel Aoun, who's allied with Sheikh Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah. Syria wants Aoun, Saudi Arabia will naturally oppose him, and meanwhile, the opposition and coalition have yet to resolve their disagreement over which should come first: establishing a national unity government or electing a president. And throughout all of this, Lebanon isn't even functioning as a country: Hezbollah pulls the strings, and it seems that what matters most to the growling parties is their battle over influence, instead of restoring Lebanon to a semblance of life.

The Tampa Bombers: Jihadists or "Beach Boys?"
By Walid Phares
Six years after 9/11, the mainstream reading of the war on Terror still circles around the essence of the conflict. Two young men indicted for charges of possession of explosives aren't yet perceived as part of an Urban Jihadist campaign inside the United States, despite the fact that a number of cells and of individuals have been arrested over the past years, all linked to Jihadism. Ahmed Abdellatif Sherif Mohamed, 24 and Youssef Samir Megahed (in Egyptian accent it reads “Mujahid”) 21, are affiliated with South Florida University in Tampa. As one reviews all news reporting (until this day), no link was made yet to an ideology which is the master chain between the perpetrators and their action. The AP story begins with "two Egyptian students at the University of South Florida were indicted Friday on charges of carrying explosive materials across states lines and one was accused of teaching the other how to use them for violent reasons." The News Agency doesn't explain what these violent reasons are. Was it about drugs, social crisis, Palestine, Americans Politics, Egyptian politics, Abortion, or other matters? The mainstream media says "Terrorism," and so advances the Government, so far.

Ahmed Mohamed is an engineering graduate student and teaching assistant at the Tampa-based University. He and Megahed are facing "terrorism" charges for "teaching and demonstrating how to use the explosives." The question is: using them against whom, in which war, by whose instructions, under which doctrine? If none of this information is available how to define the terror factor beyond criminal charges?

According to AP, Mohamed was charged with "distributing information relating to explosives, destructive devices, and weapons of mass destruction, which is a terrorism-related statute, a Justice Department official said. The crime carries a maximum of 20 years in prison." Fine, but the American public needs to know more about the motives. The story doesn't begin with a Police unit stopping them on a highway and charging them of transporting explosives in interstate commerce without permits. This is not a criminal story happening on an ordinary day. The media reports said in South Carolina, where Mohamed and Megahed have been held in the Berkeley County jail, "U.S. Attorney Reginald I. Lloyd praised state and federal authorities for cooperating in the four-week investigation that initially did not look like a terrorism case." So what caused the mutation from crime to Terrorism? The AP writes that "since the Aug. 4 arrest, authorities sought to determine whether Mohamed and Megahed were fledgling terrorists or merely college students headed to the beach with devices made from fireworks they bought at Wal-Mart in their car, as they claimed. The local sheriff in South Carolina said the explosives were “other than fireworks.” A non expert reader would conclude that it is the “type” of explosives that made the case into Terrorism, not the actions, intentions and the combat doctrine of the perpetrators. Had the explosives been licensed, the two men would be free now. Had the material been large fireworks, they would have also been free. So, short of capturing them moving with illegal explosives, they wouldn't have been persons of interest. But is there any other way in our legal system to arrest Terrorists than catching them with explosives? Other than presenting an evidence that they “want” to cause harm, actually there isn't. That's why we weren't able to capture Mohammed Atta and Ziad Jarrah on 9/11 before they dive with the captured airliners. Mohammed and Ziad didn't have illegal explosives in their hands before they board, and not even after they boarded. Because they chose not to use explosives, and yet they were Jihadi Terrorists who have intended to massacre thousands of Americans. So, in fact, as I made the case several times to Government and NGO entities, including legislative committees, our legal system doesn't enable the Government to stop the Terrorists before they are caught armed or with sufficient evidence that they were about to detonate the material. The next question is: can we change the system? The answer is fast and natural: no we can't and we shouldn't on the essence. All persons are presumed innocents until proven guilty.

But what we can and should do is to learn from each case: If we are lucky enough to catch them before they act, at least we have to learn from the operation all what is needed to abort other potential ones. What we must know are the motives, the big picture and the positioning of the perpetrators in the larger war. Are they part of a cell and of a movement? What are their doctrinal beliefs, their ideology, their objectives, the literature and material that indoctrinated them and transformed them into Jihadi Terrorists? Short of this information, we wouldn't (the public, the Government and the experts) be able to assess the “Terror act” and place it in the widest context. If this action is the result of two persons who were planning on having fun blasting explosives, but didn't obtain a license is one thing, with no value related to the ongoing War on Terror; but if Mohamed and Megahed were part of a larger picture, even of a homegrown experiment, this would have tremendous consequences on Homeland Security. So which is the case?

According to the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) Mohamed had "rented a room in a house in Temple Terrace, a suburb of Tampa, which was used as the office for the World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE), a think-tank founded by former USF Professor Sami Al-Arian. In 2006, Al-Arian pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to make or receive contributions of funds, goods or services to or for the benefit of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Evidence presented at his trial showed Al-Arian served on the PIJ governing board.” The next question then is: Are Mohamed and Megahed linked to the activities of Al Arian? Were the activities of the latter linked to them? Is there a wider activity linking both parties in the US? Mohamed and Megahed are Egyptians hence it is less likely that they would be part of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. But they can be Jihadist regardless of not being part of PIJ. So, if a link exists between these two parties, this could also mean that PIJ and the vast Jihadist movement operating in America are connected. We’re advancing these theories because the Salafi Jihadi movement is transnational and is operating against the US and other liberal democracies. These are the conclusions of many counter terrorism authorities such as the Task Force on Future Terrorism of the Department of Homeland Security, the New York Police Department, and recently too the US Air Force report on Terrorism. This and other arrests should be analyzed under the new parameters emerging from various centers in Government and across the specialized NGOs.

Another intriguing development was –according to the Investigative Project- that the Jury in Tampa heard from the representative of a local advocacy Islamist group: CAIR. The question is why would a particular American association testify in a Terrorism case? Logically it would be called upon if it has an expertise on Terrorism, if the two indicted persons were members of the organization, or if the latter was opposing the indictment on the basis of defending the ideology behind the act. In this case, what are the reasons invoked? CAIR isn’t a qualified counter Terrorism association, which leaves the two remaining arguments: membership or advocacy. Answers on both issues are warranted to solve the enigma. But the IPT report said “M. Ahmed Bedier, spokesman for the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), testified under subpoena. Bedier has acted as a family spokesman for the Megahed family.” The next question is to know if M Bedier acted personally or as a representative of his organization. This fact is important as it would open another series of questions as to the relationship between “advocacy groups” and the Jihadist ideology. For the CAIR representative told the Tampa Tribune “that the men were being scrutinized due to their ethnicity.” But as far as it was reported they are Egyptian citizens who have been caught with illegal explosives. There are many Egyptian-Americans, Arab-Americans, and Middle Eastern Americans who are working within Law Enforcement. Actually, when documents are translated by Government in Terrorism cases, it is often that Arab-American translators are the ones tasked with the translation. So how then are the two Egyptians scrutinized “due” to their ethnicity while among those who are protecting the Homeland Security –and often on these cases- are people who belong to the same ethnicity: Law Enforcement, analysts, translators, etc?

"Obviously their heritage and background is playing a major role in blowing this out of proportion," Bedier said. "If these were some good old boys, I doubt this [story] would be played around the world." Actually, it is the other way around. While the Government is not –unfortunately- providing the public with the ideological material leading to the actions, the “advocacy groups” who sympathize with these Jihadists ideologies are attempting to transform any arrest into an “ethnic” case. For one would ask these “groups” why don’t they move with the same vigor if Copts, Sudanese, Assyrians, Kurds, Arab Christians, anti-Jihadist Muslims? If the Islamist advocacy groups are coming to the defense of individuals just for belonging to an ethnic group, the argument is flawed, as CAIR is not representative of an ethnic group, but of a (self described) ideological agenda. But on the other hand, if CAIR comes to the defense of the indicted persons because of their affiliation with a religious group, the argument needs to be made based on statements made by the two Egyptians. That is the link between their alleged religious beliefs and the fact that they had explosives: In fact there was none, for we haven’t read or heard from them or others that they were on a “religious mission.” Hence, CAIR must present another reason for their involvement, assuming that Mr Bedier acts on behalf of the organization in this case.

Which brings the analysis back to the initial question: Did Mohamed and Megahed act as Jihadists or not? US law doesn’t need such an answer. It has them under the charge of possession of explosives. But since CAIR and other advocacy groups are claiming that there something “else” involved, it should be beneficial to the American public –and certainly to the national security planners- to learn more about the ideological context of this case. For failing to address this dimension in the War on Terror would end up being compared with the following –virtual- dramatic interpretation: 1943: Two German young men born in Berlin were arrested in South Carolina for the possession of explosives and willing to use them against the US. While the two men were charged with this crime, regardless of WWII, an advocacy group accused the US Government of being “Germanophobe.” Better, among the Law enforcement that proceeded with the arrest were many German-Americans.
***Dr Walid Phares is the Director of Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the author of The War of Ideas: Jihadism against Democracies. September 1, 2007

Follow Israel's interests, not America's
By ALON LIEL -Jersusalem Post
American peacemaking efforts in the Middle East are now focused on a proposed international conference of moderate forces. But what are the prospects of such a conference leading to a breakthrough, given that none of the hostile forces Israel will have to come to terms with - in particular, Syrian President Bashar Assad - are expected to be invited?
Much has been said about President George W. Bush's fondness for those who comply with American authority, and his loathing for those who defy him. One of Bush's favorite regional players is Saudi Arabia. But the Saudis are not an important player as far as the Arab-Israeli conflict is concerned.
The Saudi Initiative, which requires an Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines in return for general Arab recognition of Israel, relies primarily on three parties to the conflict - Syria, Israel and the Palestinians. Saudi Arabia may be an important player in the Gulf area and in the global oil market, but in the Arab-Israeli conflict it is only a guest.
Assad and even Mahmoud Abbas will not let the Saudis interfere in their negotiations with Israel regarding the implementation of the withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines. Only the parties to the conflict will be directly involved in these deliberations. Saudi Arabia may be able to exercise significant influence, but only by posting an ambassador in Tel Aviv, and doing so fairly soon. And I am quite sure they will take no such step without Palestinian-Syrian approval.
US REPUBLICANS, desperate to show some progress in the Middle East, may be able to score some points with American public opinion if the Saudis attend the planned fall gathering. But the parties directly involved in the conflict will derive very little benefit from the Saudi presence.
Merely a "convention of the docile" could well do away with the last chance for creating a sustainable Palestinian state.
A diplomatic settlement that only Abbas agreed to - without Hamas's support - would be like the peace treaty Israel signed with Amin Gemayel's government in Lebanon in 1984.
If American money and arms could divide and buy off the Palestinian people, then perhaps prime minister Golda Meir's dictum, which I heard in my childhood - that "there is no Palestinian people" - would be proven true.
Inviting the "nice Palestinians" to a party in Washington, where they will be showered with plenty while trying to isolate, boycott and humiliate the "bad Palestinians," will lead - in the best of circumstances - to the creation of two Palestinian states: a pro-American one in the West Bank and a pro-Iranian regime in Gaza. In the worst of cases (if these talks fail), the conference will further entrench the diplomatic stalemate and diminish the chances for the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
IT IS in Israel's interest to revive the dialogue between Fatah and Hamas, just as Russia and Egypt suggest, and not to contribute to a wider rift between the Palestinian organizations, as Washington proposes.
Though the Palestinian situation has become tremendously complicated, a window of opportunity is wide open as far as the Syrians are concerned.
For the past four years Bashar Assad has been hinting that he desires negotiations with Israel. In the past year he has said so overtly, and more than once. At the outset of his eighth year in power, Assad's behavior is more confident and unequivocal. There are many signs that he wishes to negotiate with Israel about the future of the Golan Heights and peace, while also negotiating with the US about his country's future policy in the Middle East.
A nuclear-armed, fundamentalist Iran is no natural ally for Syria. The Syrians are currently interested in an Egyptian-like deal with the US, as well as with Israel. After all, the treaty with Egypt generously compensated Cairo for turning away from the USSR.
The Syrian message must have been understood in Washington, but nevertheless rejected. Bush wants to punish Assad for his support of anti-American elements in the area. This vindictiveness has prevented the White House from understanding this opportunity.
Creating a split between Syria and Iran would be of much greater strategic value than an international conference, already denigrated by Hamas as a mere photo opportunity.
AS ANYONE living in the troubled Middle East knows, windows of opportunity are quickly shut. The Syrian opening may also soon close. This will happen the next time Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits Damascus. The last time the Iranian president visited Syria he handed out checks; on his next visit he will come to reap his harvest. Once Damascus cashes Teheran's checks, Syria will not be strong enough to extricate itself from its alliance with the Iranians. Only an immediate American-Syrian high-level meeting can prevent the closure of the present opening.
But Bush has not authorized such a meeting. "Prime Minister Olmert does not need me in order to make peace with Syria," Bush said in his joint press conference with Olmert in June, proving yet again that he has little insight into the political processes in our area.
With the conference coming up, Israel should be aware of the contradiction between its own interests and those of the US. If Israel blindly follows Washington's policy it can expect prolonged conflicts with Hamas, Hizbullah and Syria.
Washington may be content with consolidating peace solely within the "docile coalition." That's not good enough for Israel, which needs a more inclusive gathering to enhance prospects for a positive outcome.
The writer was director-general of the Foreign Ministry under Ehud Barak. He teaches at Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University and the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. Published in cooperation with