Lebanon’s historic accord

For the Los Angeles Times, Borzou Daragahi and Raed Rafei reported: “The Doha accord comes 18 years after the agreement signed in the Saudi Arabian resort town of Taif that ended the civil war. That agreement cemented the role of Lebanon’s Sunni Arab community as an ascendant force, and the latest deal could mark the emergence of Lebanon’s Shia as a potent political force.

“The deal also delivered a blow to Saudi Arabia, the primary patron of Lebanon’s Sunnis, as its long time Qatari rivals upstaged Riyadh as a diplomatic powerhouse. The Qataris accomplished in a week what the French and the Arab League were unable to do in months of talks.”

In Time magazine, Andrew Lee Butters wrote: “The US government may find a Hizbollah-dominated Lebanon hard to swallow. Disarming Hizbollah and securing Lebanon’s independence from Syrian and Iranian influence was one of the Bush administration’s major Middle East policies; it garnered broad support among European governments, including France, that were not on board in Iraq. Nor will Israel be keen to live with the fact that its most formidable adversary is now in de facto control of almost an entire country, with a sophisticated banking system, an international airport, and a varied mountainous terrain in which to train and prepare for war. But Israel and America have few options. They can’t isolate Lebanon like the Hamas-controlled Gaza strip, and the last two Israeli invasions of Lebanon were disasters. Like the American-backed government, they may have to admit defeat in Lebanon.”

US on the outside in peace efforts

Just days after President Bush returned from the Middle East, the Middle East is moving beyond the Bush administration.

Two major peace efforts — a surprise announcement of indirect talks between Israel and Syria brokered by Turkey and an eleventh-hour deal to prevent a new Lebanese war brokered by Qatar — were launched without an American role, and both counter U.S. strategy in the region.

For years, the Bush administration has resisted overtures from Jerusalem and Damascus to participate in revived peace efforts over the Golan Heights. The administration balked at including Syria in the Annapolis conference on Middle East peace last year, relenting only under pressure from allies, according to Western officials.

Israel prime minister fighting for peace and his political life

Ehud Olmert, the fiercely competitive distance runner who governs Israel, leaned back in his tall leather chair and pondered a question about his race against time.

The prime minister is having a trying month. Prosecutors spoiled the mood at Israel’s 60th anniversary festivities by disclosing that he was under investigation again, this time on suspicion of taking envelopes stuffed with cash bribes.

Then a rocket from the Gaza Strip slammed into a shopping mall in southern Israel, wounding 16 and drawing an angry crowd that shouted, “Olmert resign!” Rivals, including his foreign minister and defense minister, began maneuvering for possible early elections.

The last roundup

According to a senior government official who served with high-level security clearances in five administrations, “There exists a database of Americans, who, often for the slightest and most trivial reason, are considered unfriendly, and who, in a time of panic, might be incarcerated. The database can identify and locate perceived ‘enemies of the state’ almost instantaneously.” He and other sources tell Radar that the database is sometimes referred to by the code name Main Core. One knowledgeable source claims that 8 million Americans are now listed in Main Core as potentially suspect. In the event of a national emergency, these people could be subject to everything from heightened surveillance and tracking to direct questioning and possibly even detention.

China earthquake pushes Tibet to sidelines

As the Dalai Lama toured European capitals this week, the British prime minister closed the door to 10 Downing Street and agreed to meet him only as part of an “interfaith dialogue.” In Germany, most government officials declined to talk with him at all.

It was a precipitous comedown from just a few weeks ago, when Tibetans and their supporters unexpectedly upstaged Beijing’s elaborate global torch relay and catapulted Tibet’s cause to the forefront of the world’s human rights agenda. The German and British leaders let it be known then that they would skip the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

The shift is, partly, tectonic. An earthquake in China’s Sichuan Province killed tens of thousands of Chinese, evoking an outpouring of global sympathy for China and turning it overnight from victimizer to victim.

Deal reached with militants

Pakistan’s new government yesterday agreed to pull its forces out of a restive region near the Afghan border and allow elements of Islamic Shariah law to be imposed there in return for a promise by local Islamic militants to end a wave of terror and arrest foreign terrorists operating in the area.

The accord came a day after Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte expressed deep reservations about such accords, noting that a similar deal struck by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in 2006 had allowed Taliban and al Qaeda forces to recruit and rearm.

The United States and Afghanistan charge that Islamist fighters have used poorly policed tribal regions in Pakistan as a staging ground for attacks against Afghan and international forces. Many think al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden is holed up somewhere along the border.

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