September 5/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 4,31-37. Jesus then went down to Capernaum, a town of Galilee. He taught them on the sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching because he spoke with authority. In the synagogue there was a man with the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out in a loud voice, Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are--the Holy One of God! Jesus rebuked him and said, "Be quiet! Come out of him!" Then the demon threw the man down in front of them and came out of him without doing him any harm. They were all amazed and said to one another, "What is there about his word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out." And news of him spread everywhere in the surrounding region.

Crossfire War - Fighting Ends at Nahr al-Bared - Iran-Syria ...NewsBlaze. September 4/07
Better late than never: Iraq's prime minister finds a better way to rule.The Daily Star.September 4/07
Make the Palestinians an offer they can't refuse.By Anat Kurz.September 4/07
Searching for a Palestinian Mandela. By Byron Bland.September 4/07
Religion is pluralistic, so let's make sure it stays that way.By Ali Noer Zaman.September 4/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for September 4/07
U.S. denies removing North Korea from terror list.AFP
Kucinich Meets with Lebanon Leaders.Campaigns & Elections (press release) - USA
Chinese peacekeepers return from Lebanon mission
.Xinhua - China
Lebanon says 222 militants killed in camp battle.Reuters
Solana to Hold Talks in Lebanon on Mideast Conference-Naharnet
Drawbacks of Berri initiative.Gulf News
Syria blasts US 'unconstructive role' in Lebanon.Middle East Times
Saniora: Army Commander Will Go Down in History
Through The Eyes of A Lebanese Soldier
Lebanon may gain new authority after camp victory.AFP
For Nahr al-Bared, a light at the end of the tunnel.(AFP)
Aoun confirms candidacy, however Lebanon's presidential election proceeds-Daily Star
Army quashes attack by Fatah al-Islam remnants-Daily Star
Fadlallah urges release of four in Hariri case-Daily Star
Army chief lauds his 'brave men' for triumphing against terro-Daily Star
'Frustration:' the life and times of Shaker al-Abssi-Daily Star
Prosecutor accuses five Palestinians of planning to attack UNIFIL-Daily Star
Smiles all around after army win at Nahr al-Bared-Daily Star
Lebanese partners plan first plush hotel in Iraqi Kurdistan-Daily Star
Tunisian oud virtuoso Anouar Brahem leaves Music Hall audience speechless-Daily Star
Briefly banned play traces sects' political morphings-Daily Star
Olmert 'not sure' deal on principles can be reached with Abbas before summit-Daily Star
Tehran 'will never bow to any intimidation' on nuclear drive.(AFP)
France and Jordan to tackle Mideast crises 'hand-in-hand'. (AFP)
sraelis outline plan for five-year military build-up.(AFP)
Jordan mulls tighter rules for Iraqi refugees.(AFP)
Iran dismisses reports of shelling into Iraq. (AFP)

Saniora: Army Commander Will Go Down in History

Prime Minister Fouad Saniora said army commander Gen. Michel Suleiman will go down in history for winning the war on terror after the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp fell to a final massive assault against diehard Fatah al-Islam militants.
"I tell the army commander that history will write about the battle and the duties that you performed," Saniora said in a statement at the end of a ministerial-security meeting late Monday that focused on the Nahr al-Bared victory.
The daily An Nahar, quoting ministerial sources, said the meeting focused on the need to reequip the Lebanese army as well as to set the standards for the desired performance and define the dangers facing Lebanon.
Saniora said that when the history of these days is written, it will tell about Suleiman's achievement as well as that of the Lebanese army and the Internal Security Forces. "I call on everybody to learn morals and lessons" from the Nahr al-Bared battle, Saniora appealed in the statement that was read by Information Minister Ghazi Aridi. He stressed that the 105-day confrontation at the northern refugee camp was "not a battle against our Palestinian brethren."
The meeting came shortly after Lebanese troops hunted down fugitives, killing four militants hiding in the sewers of the bombed out Nahr al-Bared camp on the outskirts of the northern port city of Tripoli. Lebanese soldiers continued on Monday to sweep the devastated camp for explosives and hunting for any surviving members of Fatah al-Islam, an army officer said.
He said soldiers had also captured four militants in the camp on Monday, including one hiding in an attic. An army spokesman said at least 41 militants had been killed and more than 20 captured in the army assault on the camp, an operation Saniora called the "biggest national victory over terrorists."
Bulldozers cleared sandbags from around Nahr al-Bared, which remained off-limits to civilians on Monday, while troops in armored carriers cordoned off an area south of the camp and traffic on the main coastal highway to neighboring Syria was diverted. AFP correspondents at the camp on the Mediterranean coast saw troops remove at least seven bodies from Nahr al-Bared. An officer said one corpse was also recovered from the sea.
Palestinian clerics added that the dead include at least two Fatah al-Islam spiritual leaders: Abu Baker, a Palestinian-Syrian; and Abu al-Hares, a Saudi.
An Nahar said that a huge military parade will take place in Byblos north of Beirut on Tuesday for the soldiers who took part in the battle.
A total of 163 soldiers died in the confrontation, including five on Sunday, and between 400 to 500 soldiers were wounded, many of them permanently disabled, according to the army spokesman.(Naharnet-AFP) Beirut, 04 Sep 07, 06:52

Syria Slams U.S. for 'Unconstructive' Role in Lebanon
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem has accused Washington of playing an "unconstructive" role in Lebanon where he said upcoming presidential elections would be a chance for reconciliation. "There are parties such as the United States which are still playing an unconstructive role concerning Lebanon," Muallem told the Lebanese opposition newspaper Al-Akhbar while on a visit to powerful regional ally Iran. Both Iran and Syria, under fire by the United States for their alleged meddling in Lebanon and Iraq, are close regional allies with their leaders meeting regularly. "Lebanese leaders should put the interests of Lebanon and the Lebanese people as a first priority, and if this happens - and we hope it does - the presidential elections will be a chance for reconciliation in Lebanon," Muallem said. Muallem, whose country was the main power broker in Lebanon until it was forced under international pressure to end 29 years of military domination in 2005, said "any solution in Lebanon should not be imported." "It has to be Lebanese in order for it to stand. This solution should be based on the formula of 'no winner and no loser,'" he said in an apparent appeal on rival Lebanese sides to accept a compromise solution. Lebanese "Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has announced a Lebanese initiative, which Lebanese parties are still studying, and we hope that they reach an understanding which would help Lebanon avoid plunging into a very uncomfortable situation," he said. Berri has said his Syrian-backed camp was willing to drop a longstanding demand for a unity government if Lebanon's feuding political parties agree on a candidate for the presidency.(AFP) Beirut, 04 Sep 07, 11:12

Solana to Hold Talks in Lebanon on Mideast Conference
European Union Foreign Policy chief Javier Solana arrived in Lebanon on Tuesday for talks with officials on preparations for a major international Middle East peace conference later this year. Solana had a working dinner with Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdel Ilah Khatib on Monday as part of a regional tour to prepare for the U.S.-sponsored meeting for regional peace, an EU spokeswoman from his office told AFP. "He is going to exchange points of view on the international meeting. We can't let the conference fail and we should work to make it succeed," she said. The conference, which is expected in November, was called for by President George Bush as part of U.S. efforts to jumpstart the dormant peace process in the wake of the takeover of Gaza by the Islamist Hamas movement in mid-June.
"His message for the region is that we have an opportunity for peace now and it should be seized by all parties and that we should be realistic and cautiously optimistic about peace in the Middle East." Solana arrived in the Jordanian capital on a brief visit following similar talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials, ahead of a New York meeting of the Quartet of main players in the peace process -- Russia, the United Nations and the United States along with the EU.
"The EU has a role to play in the Middle East peace process," the EU spokeswoman said. He will hold similar talks in Egypt on Tuesday, an EU statement said. Beirut, 04 Sep 07, 10:22

Through The Eyes of A Lebanese Soldier
A Lebanese soldier told of the 105-day battle against an invisible and fearless enemy and how Fatah al-Islam militants in Nahr al-Bared refugee camp would ambush besieging troops almost daily. "They would hide behind small openings they had made in the walls and pick one of us off before we even knew they were there," said the soldier, a member of a commando unit that fought Fatah al-Islam militants holed up in the camp. The 27-year-old, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, was wounded in the leg during the standoff with the Sunni Muslim extremists but later returned to the front line. "When soldiers captured or shot at one of them, five or six would then attack us from left and right," he said outside the camp in the north of the country a day after the army claimed victory over the militants.
A Lebanese army spokesman said 163 soldiers had been killed in the fighting that began on May 20 and that 400 to 500 had been wounded, including many who were now permanently disabled. Snipers accounted for a large number of the soldiers who fell at Nahr al-Bared, according to army sources.
The soldier told AFP that the army command on Sunday had warned troops the Al-Qaeda-inspired militants still inside the camp planned to try and break the siege so their chief Shaker al-Abssi could escape. "Abssi gave money to his militants and told them 'you're on your own'," he said, adding that he had been told this by a militant he captured near the camp on Sunday. "The guy told me he was fighting Jews and Christians, but I told him I was a Sunni Muslim and asked him whether he was battling against Muslims a well," he said. "He never answered me." Despite his training as a commando, the soldier said he sometimes wondered whether the army would finally manage to overcome Fatah al-Islam. "A few days ago my fellow soldiers and I began to wonder how long the battle would last," he said.
"We thought the Lebanese were only concerned about the upcoming presidential elections. 'That's it -- they're going to forget about us', we told ourselves considering that the standoff was in its fourth month."
The soldier said that when helicopters launched air raids against the militants, "they would charge at us because they knew that if they were in close proximity to the troops the helicopters would not open fire." The militants were very well-supplied, he said. "Once we captured an underground shelter and inside we found a large amount of food and power generators," he said. "They were really prepared for battle." The commando said soldiers had fought the militants day and night, taking little time to rest or to think of fallen comrades. "In battle you remove the body of a fellow soldier and you continue fighting," he said. "You don't have time to cry.
"But when I went to the funeral of three fellow soldiers who came from the same village it was just too much," he added, his voice trembling with emotion.(AFP) Beirut, 04 Sep 07, 09:21

Camp Victory Could Give Lebanon New Power

The Lebanese army's victory over an Islamist militia in a Palestinian refugee camp may help the government extend its authority over other off-limits camps, poverty-stricken shantytowns that have become breeding grounds for extremism, analysts said. Troops may have crushed Fatah al-Islam in Nahr al-Bared in a final showdown on Sunday, but fears persist that violence may spread through the country's dozen camps where hardline groups have gained influence as their impoverished residents despair of ever seeing an end to their plight. "Fatah al-Islam has been defeated. But every 'martyr' and every event is a source of inspiration for new jihadists," said Bernard Rougier, a French expert on jihadist movements. "There is no reason for the jihadist movement to stop in Lebanon, or that it is used by some parties for their own interests," he told AFP on a visit to Lebanon on Monday. Fatah al-Islam first surfaced in the seafront camp of Nahr al-Bared late last year, triggering the drawn-out standoff with the army after attacking military posts in and around the camp on May 20. Its fighters, who are said to be inspired by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terror network, are of various Arab nationalities, not just Palestinian.
MP Farid al-Khazen, political science professor at the American University of Beirut, said it was the absence of Lebanese government authority over the camps -- which under a tacit agreement were in the control of armed Palestinian groups -- that allowed a militia like Fatah al-Islam to spawn. "After this costly battle, there cannot be any justification to keep these security islands outside government control, especially as today there is no link between the armed presence inside the camps and the struggle to regain occupied Palestinian lands," he told AFP. But Khazen said extending government control to the camps was not easy to achieve, nor likely in the near future. "It needs a big political momentum. It is a delicate matter that needs a strong government and a more stable situation than today when the country is going through a deep political crisis and is facing looming presidential elections," he said. Prime Minister Fouad Saniora insisted on Sunday that Nahr al-Bared would be under the sole authority of Lebanese security forces.
Lebanon's 12 Palestinian refugee camps have been off-limits to the army for decades under a 1969 accord even though it was annulled by parliament in 1987.
Three days after the fighting erupted, the Palestine Liberation Organization representative in Lebanon, Abbas Ziki, said the PLO would not object if the Lebanese army decided to send troops into the camp. But it took the army weeks of bombardments from outside the camp -- as well as much political wrangling -- before troops moved in to Nahr al-Bared, the first such move by the military in decades. "The PLO leadership as the representative of the Palestinians in Lebanon is adamant that the Palestinians and the camps in Lebanon be under Lebanese authority," Ziki's deputy Kamal Nagi told AFP.
"When the residents of the camp return, we will reach an understanding on all issues, primarily on security," he said. Nagi said "any security breach may drag the camps into troubles, so we will cooperate with the government and the army to prevent any party from harming the security of the camps." But Rougier said threats from Islamist extremists were not exclusive to the Palestinian camps. "Lebanon is not safe from these movements. Lebanon is not safe from terrorism, especially that it is being mentioned by many jihadists, including (al-Qaida's fugitive number two) Ayman Zawahiri," he said.
"But I don't think there will be problems with jihadist movements from inside the other Palestinian camps, as they have become more realistic and have gained experience in the political game," he said. "After what happened in Nahr al-Bared, they will not jeopardize their enclaves, in addition to the fact that there is a lot of vigilance from stabilization forces both inside and outside the camps," he said.(AFP) Beirut, 04 Sep 07, 06:34

Lebanon says 222 militants killed in camp battle
Tue 4 Sep 2007, 7:54 GMT
[-] Text [+] BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon's defence minister said on Tuesday the army killed at least 222 al Qaeda-inspired militants in a 15-week battle at a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon. The army finally took control of the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp on Sunday after more than three months of fierce battles, including air, sea and land bombardment against the entrenched Fatah al-Islam militants.
Defence Minister Elias al-Murr also said 202 militants were captured in the battles while an unknown number were buried in mass graves inside the largely destroyed camp. "This victory uprooted the biggest threat that faced the Lebanese people because Fatah al-Islam was spreading like cancer cells to target each part of the nation," Murr told a news briefing. "The organisation was aiming to isolate the north from Lebanon to create a terrorist emirate," he said.
At least 42 civilians and 163 soldiers died, bringing the death toll to more than 400 - Lebanon's worst internal violence since the civil war ended 17 years ago.
Although Fatah al-Islam has no organisational ties to al-Qaeda, it shares the ideology to Osama bin Laden's network. Most of the militants were foreign Arab fighters and some had fought in Iraq.

Army chief lauds his 'brave men' for triumphing against terror
Suleiman praises military's perseverance against fatah al-islam

By Rym Ghazal
Daily Star staff
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
BEIRUT: Lebanese Army Commander General Michel Suleiman on saluted his "brave men" Monday after the army declared victory in its three-month struggle against Fatah al-Islam militants at the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp. "In the name of national unity, you overthrew terrorism through your victory," the general said in an official address to the army. In what is being hailed as a historic victory for the Lebanese Army against terrorism, Suleiman praised the army's relentless perseverance in the face of the Al-Qaeda-inspired militants, whose leader, Shaker al-Abssi, was confirmed dead Monday after his wife and others identified his body.
"The whole nation now looks up to you with the great pride and confidence ... and this victory is a gift to the spirits of the army and resistance martyrs," said Suleiman.
The Lebanese Army said on Monday it lost 163 soldiers in the battle and between 400 to 500 soldiers were wounded in the fighting, with many of them permanently disabled. The victory, he said, is also a gift to troops wounded in action as well as "to all the Lebanese and Palestinian brethren who rejected the phenomenon of terrorism and stood by your side throughout the confrontation."
Suleiman praised the troops for their "extraordinary" performance in battle, stressing that victory "belongs to the whole Lebanese people."The army commander also called on his troops to "abide by the national principles and adhere to discipline."The commander urged his men to "keep your rifles aimed in the proper direction at the Israeli enemy and at terror ... until it is fully uprooted."He said sacrifices made in the confrontation that broke out on May 20 "remain much less than the price that the nation would have paid had the hand of terror remained loose and continued its meddling."Praise for the army continued to pour in for the second day since its victory Sunday, with and officials across the political spectrum and religious figures phoning and congratulating the head of the army.
Syndicates, professional orders, the Maronite League, the Armenian Tashnak Party, and the vice president of the Higher Shiite Council, Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan, all praised the army and its victory.
Qabalan said the army and the resistance, constitute the "formidable fortress" protecting Lebanon, adding: "The victory proves that our army is unbeatable and is the shield of this country against all plots." The Maronite League called the army the backbone of the constitutional institutions as it is the best representative of the unity needed in the country. "Let politicians learn from the army's unity ... and how that unity serves best in protecting the country," said a statement released by the League.
In an interview with OTV on Sunday night, MP Michel Aoun also praised the army and commented on the "great difficulty" it faced due to years of "neglect."
"It was a costly victory ... the army was not being supported enough to be able to combat terrorism," said Aoun on Sunday night. "We need to accept the reality the army faces ... and the intelligence apparatus that needs to be updated and supported."In addition to Lebanese figures, praise for the army flooded in from Palestinian officials.The head of the Joint Lebanese Palestinian Committee, Khalil Makkawi, praised the army's victory, calling it a victory for "the law," and adding that the army proved its ability to protect Lebanon's sovereignty."Refugee camps will no longer be open to such incidents," Makkawi added. "There will be an internal force in coordination with the army."

'Frustration:' the life and times of Shaker al-Abssi
Compiled by Daily Star staff
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Who was Shaker al-Abssi, this enigmatic figure who spawned Fatah al-Islam - a group of polite, classical-Arabic-speaking, bearded fanatics, prepared for martyrdom, constantly reading the Holy Koran? Abssi was a medical school dropout and trained fighter pilot and squadron leader in at least three air forces, according to the Palestinian Information Center Web site. Back in the 1980s, Abssi served in the secular Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), flew MiG fighter jets for Libya in its war with Chad, and fought Israeli forces which invaded Lebanon to drive out the PLO, his brother Abed said. But later Abssi turned to radical Islam out of both religious conviction and "frustration" over the failure of the Palestinian cause, Doctor Abdel-Razzak al-Abssi, Shaker's brother, said last month. "My brother is an Islamist. He thinks maybe Islam is the way to liberation. Everything else failed," he said.
In addition to being sought by Lebanese troops, Abssi was wanted by both Syria and Jordan for radical activities.
Born in the Ain Sultan refugee camp near the West Bank town of Jericho in 1955, Abssi fled with his family to Jordan after Israeli forces occupied all of the West Bank in the 1967 war. In his youth, Abssi joined Fatah, the main PLO faction, which sent him to Libya to become a pilot of Russian-built MiG fighters at the air force academy in the North African country.
During the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, he fought in the Bekaa Valley as the PLO did not have any aircraft, before returning to serve in the Libyan Air Force.
In 1982 when PLO fighters left Lebanon, Abssi broke away from the main Fatah movement and helped establish a movement known as Fatah al-Intifada.
In 2002, the Syrian authorities threw him in prison for belonging to a banned Islamist group and for plotting attacks. During his three years in jail, a Jordanian court sentenced him to death in absentia for having taken part in organizing the 2002 assassination in Amman of US diplomat Laurence Foley.
Released in 2005 he left for Lebanon, where he was a leader for the Fatah-Intifada group, which was close to Syria, in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in Beirut. But months later he chose the path of radical Islam and led 100 armed men to set up beside the Nahr al-Bared camp. There he founded Fatah al-Islam. In an interview with the New York Times in March, Abssi pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden, the fugitive leader of the Al-Qaeda network, and said that killing American and Israeli civilians is justified."We have every legitimate right to do such acts, for isn't it the US that comes to our region and kills innocents and children? It is our right to hit them in their homes the same as they hit us in our homes," he told the daily. - Agencies

Religion is pluralistic, so let's make sure it stays that way
By Ali Noer Zaman
Commentary by
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
One of the much-debated religious issues in Indonesia today is that of pluralism. Its opponents, such as the Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI), believe that pluralist theology is harmful for Islamic theological foundations, as it would undermine the idea that a particular religion is supreme and that other religious beliefs are apocryphal. A MUI fatwa of 2005, which called for the abolishment of pluralistic theology, alarmed the Muslim community of the danger of pluralist theology. The fatwa did nothing to appease the controversy. It only made the debate fiercer.
Adian Husaini, from the Indonesian Council for Islamic Propagation (or DDII), represents another view also calling for the abandonment of pluralistic theology. The DDII highlights the fear that such theology tends to make Muslims regard Islam as relative, making some fear that Muslims will convert to other religions easily, or at least accept and even adopt other religions' practices, such as attending common prayer sessions or celebrating other religions' holy days.
The plurality of religion is an inevitable fact of humankind. Multiple religions have existed alongside one another throughout history. While recognizing the existence of other faiths, founders of religion and their adherents generally provided guidance on interfaith relations based on their own experiences. Stories of these interactions were usually documented only after years of oral tradition and subject to change. In most holy books, stories of contentious interactions with people of other faiths can be easily misinterpreted or seen as instructive of anti-pluralism.
At present, all such paradigms need to change. High rates of human mobility have brought adherents of various religions into sociable relations within different contexts, such as in the educational or business realms. Multicultural communities are found in the world's big cities. Now with the help of user-friendly information and communication technologies, people have opportunities to get to know others of different faiths through empathy-driven correspondence and dialogue among religions.
For Paul F. Knitter, a Catholic theologian from the United States, different religious teachings and forms of worship can be resources for a dialogue to enrich one's religious experience. Every religion can maintain or deepen its own integrity through encounters with other faiths. Making this materialize, however, requires a shift from the old religious mindset. For example, in Christianity Jesus is divine and the savior of the world. However, in a global context, he is not the only God and savior, because God has also inspired other communities.
Muslims need to apply a similar approach. Muslims should not consider the Koran as the only revelation to hold the absolute religious truth. A human being is merely a limited interpreter, while God is an infinite entity with far more wisdom to impart than the human mind can process. What a human being receives from God is only the reduction of God's word in the frame of an individual's socio-cultural language, which might be incongruent with that of others'. There are revelations other than the Koran, and indeed the Koran itself confirms this. The messages of the Koran, the Bible, the New Testament, and the Vedas, among others, are directed in each case to all humankind and are aimed at creating spiritual prosperity and peace for all. In other words, the aim is not the conversion of other believers, as has been the attempt for centuries.
Let conversion become a personal issue, influenced by a person's own social, cultural and individual considerations. Rather than forbidding someone from leaving his or her faith, conversion should be the result of his or her own decision.
According to John Hick, a British theologian and religious philosopher, pluralist theology tries to understand that different faiths are different responses and perceptions of various communities toward the materialization of God. Pluralist theology wants to change the religious view from focusing on one's own tradition to seeing God as the source of all faiths.
Based on this perspective, one would not judge another faith from one's own religious perspective, but from a universal standpoint. This does not require individual believers to abandon the teachings of their respective traditions. What does need to change, however, is the individual's standpoint toward other traditions. Pluralist theology has no intention of undermining the faith of religious adherents; in fact, it seeks to strengthen it.
Through religious diversity, God has given blessings without any preference. Pluralist theology is a gift with which to eliminate discrimination against fellow humans for their religious beliefs. In such a context, every religious believer has the same opportunity to gain salvation. Pluralist theology, therefore, has no relation to the conspiracy theories upheld by certain groups, such as the DDII, that believe that there are concerted efforts trying to conquer adherents of their faith.
Pluralist theology should be fostered and protected, not abolished.
***Ali Noer Zaman is a writer on socio-religious issues. THE DAILY STAR publishes this commentary in collaboration with the Common Ground News Service.

Crossfire War - Fighting Ends at Nahr al-Bared - Iran-Syria Control Lebanon

By Willard Payne
Crossfire War - TEHRAN - BEIRUT - DAMASCUS WATCH - West Asia Theatre: Tehran - Damascus - Riyadh - Amman - Beirut/Paris - Rome - Jerusalem - Cairo; Lebanon Opposition Ends Demand for Unity Government - US Convinced PM Siniora to Agree and Depart - Berlin Waiting - Fighting at Nahr al-Bared Ends - Syria Congratulates Lebanon as Beirut Now Within Sphere of Influence of Iran-Syria-Riyadh
Night Watch: BEIRUT - Recent events in the past few days have indicated Lebanon is now within the sphere of influence of Tehran-Syria-Riyadh. One of the Lebanese opposition leaders, Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, has just announced the opposition, which has been demonstrating in downtown Beirut since December, has dropped its demand for a Unity Government and will instead agree to a Consensus Candidate. The opposition knows and their state sponsors, Iran-Syria-Saudi Arabia, the candidate will not be Prime Minister Fouad Siniora as a result of the three hour visit a couple of days ago by U. S. Chief of Central Command Admiral William Fallon. It was reported at the time Fallon may be acting under orders to prepare an evacuation of Lebanon's leaders who have close relations with the West. The next day it is then announced Siniora will make a visit to Berlin on Wednesday September 5. I suspect Fallon may have been acting on the recommendations from the French who realize Siniora's position is untenable and perhaps he could be saved before the fighting expands beyond the Palestinian refugee camp-city Nahr al-Bared outside Tripoli in northern Lebanon near Syria's border. The fighting has been preparation for Syria's entry into Lebanon in support of Hezbollah. That is why the war began near Syria's border. [ALJAZEERA]
Having left Lebanon already, realizing a major war is about take place, much more devastating than last summer's is the Ambassadors from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Other embassies and foreign missions have reduced their staff and Damascus told its citizens in Lebanon, right after fighting began May 20, to leave the country. With these agreements Tehran had most of the remaining fighters of the suicide unit Fatah al-Islam, some of whom were from Saudi Arabia, attack a Lebanon army position near the Nahr al-Bared from three directions knowing they would suffer heavy losses and that is enabling Siniora to declare victory and pronounce he will rebuild the destroyed camp. He is fully aware with his departure the last remaining influence of the West in Lebanon departs with him. France Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner may have told Siniora, when he visited Siniora during the fighting, the European forces in UNIFIL were not at all prepared for this and could do nothing to help him, in effect admitting UNIFIL is not a serious security presence, just there. [ALJAZEERA]
Debka is now reporting Lebanon's army, though moving into the camp, will not be in control of the underground bunker complex, which still contains some well-supplied fighters of Fatah al-Islam. East German military engineers constructed the subterranean complex during the 1980s for Yasser Arafat and his Fatah gunmen to protect them from Israeli air strikes. That is why when the fighting began one of Fatah al-Islam's leaders said they could resist for months, since the bunkers probably contain living quarters and huge food-ammunition storage areas, which can be supplied through tunnels. And that is probably the reason the death of Fatah al-Islam's leader cannot be confirmed. [DEBKA]
Lebanon was quickly congratulated by Egypt Foreign Minister Ahmed Abu al-Ghait, which is not surprising because Fatah al-Islam represents political forces in Egypt, which would want to see Egypt's government replaced by one no longer cooperating with the West. But what was especially interesting was the statement by Syria Foreign Minister Walid Muallem congratulating the "army on winning this fight against a terrorist group, which distracted the Lebanese army from their enemy Israel." Syria-Iran and the House of Saud now have control over Lebanon so I suspect the new residents of the underground bunker will be Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, his staff and perhaps their families. This will probably be one of the first targets of Israel's nuclear weapons.
The military footnote UNIFIL will be caught in the crossfire.
Night Watch Information Service

The War of Ideas: Jihad against Democracy

By Walid Phares
New York: Palgrave, 2007
Middle East scholar Walid Phares in his recent book The War of Ideas: Jihad against Democracy outlines the ideological basis in which the jihadists use to perpetuate their anti Western agenda. Phares who was born and raised in Lebanon brings to the table his personal experience as a Middle Easterner as well as his academic career as professor of Middle East Studies and terrorism.
One of the key factors the author reveals here is the methodology whereby the hearts and minds of young students become engrossed in Jihadism which is sold to them in what the author defines as “spiritual yoga.” Moreover, to say that Jihad is “holy war” is too simplistic. The definition of jihad and its meaning has become one the most common misconceptions today as we battle the war of ideas in the war against the jihadists. These debates on whether jihad is a psychological battle or whether it has an actual military connotation have become the center of debate in many university departments specifically in Middle East departments post-September 11th.
The fact of the matter is that Jihad has always had a military connotation despite what many would like us to believe. As David Cook underscores in his study Understanding Jihad, “to maintain that jihad means ‘the effort to lead a good life’ is pathetic and laughable in any case. In all the literature concerning jihad – whether militant or internal jihad – the fundamental idea is to disconnect oneself from the world, to die to the world whether bodily (as in battle) or spiritually (as in internal jihad). The priorities of jihad in Islam here are exactly reversed from the historical and religious realities: the armed struggle - aggressive conquest – came first, and then additional meanings became attached to the term.”[1]
As a result of the above, we have seen the spread of an academic jihad which is growing across North American universities. Consequently, students and donors are blinded by Saudi and Wahabi money which has been fueling the system since the 60’s in an effort to what they consider to be “a fair and honest depiction of the Middle East” – this couldn’t been further from the truth. Phares’ experience as a professor who taught about the Middle East and terrorism is astonishing when one considers what he had to do in order to survive in his department. As he writes, “I have observed with amazement American students stripped of their basic rights to be educated accurately about the main geopolitical and ideological threats to their homeland. Instead of using classroom time to profoundly analyze the rise of what would become al-Qaeda or the Khomeini regime’s long-range strategies, we professors had to ‘clean up’ the diseducating process that blurred the intellectual vision of a whole generation.”[2]
Furthermore, academic freedom has been used as a shield and a "get-out-of-jail-free card" when speakers are dismissed as conservatism-revivalism. The modern notions of free speech and academic freedom stem from John Stuart Mill's On Liberty. Mill argued that free speech originates in society's want to discover the truth. By vetoing a right opinion, we deprive ourselves of the opportunity to exchange an error for truth. But by banning a false opinion, Mill stated, we lose something almost as precious — a clearer perception of truth that is produced by its clash with error. If no foes are available to put your ideas to the test, Mill argues that one should invent arguments against your own beliefs.
Today, whatever goes on in a classroom is deemed protected by "academic freedom," whether it is academic or not. Only sexual harassment appears exempt from this blanket protection. Gradually, the entire campus has become an "academic freedom" zone, where protests and other activities now qualify as academic "speech." The freedom to critique is, predictably, directed mostly at the twin Satans, Israel and America, although efforts to curtail speech that academics find unpleasant and unacceptable have been long standing in the form of "speech codes" and restrictions on "hate speech." Clearly, academic freedom is a one-way street; only those having the correct opinions may claim it.
Finally, Phares’s book is an important contribution to continuing battle against the academic jihad which is infesting university classrooms. His book is an added value to Martin Kramer’s Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America where Kramer chronicled the takeover of American Middle East Studies by a cohort of politicized scholars who blamed the Middle East’s problems on the West and dismissed the threat of Islamist terror.
Winning the war against Jihadism necessitates winning the war of ideas as well as the war on the ground, and Phares book serves as a useful guide to make that happen.
[1] Cook, David. Understanding Jihad, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2005, P. 42.
[2] Phares, Walid. The War of Ideas Jihad against Democracy, New York: Palgrave, 2007, P. 161