The War in Context Christopher Dickey quote
  Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives     
Beyond Lebanon
By Brent Scowcroft, Washington Post, July 30, 2006

The eastern shore of the Mediterranean is in turmoil from end to end, a repetition of continuing conflicts in one part or another since the abortive attempts of the United Nations to create separate Israeli and Palestinian states in 1948. The current conflagration has energized the world. Now, perhaps more than ever, we have an opportunity to harness that concern and energy to achieve a comprehensive resolution of the entire 58-year-old tragedy. Only the United States can lead the effort required to seize this opportunity.

The outlines of a comprehensive settlement have been apparent since President Bill Clinton's efforts collapsed in 2000. The major elements would include:

· A Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, with minor rectifications agreed upon between Palestine and Israel.

· Palestinians giving up the right of return and Israel reciprocating by removing its settlements in the West Bank, again with rectifications as mutually agreed. Those displaced on both sides would receive compensation from the international community.

· King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia unambiguously reconfirming his 2002 pledge that the Arab world is prepared to enter into full normal relations with Israel upon its withdrawal from the lands occupied in 1967.

· Egypt and Saudi Arabia working with the Palestinian Authority to put together a government along the lines of the 18-point agreement reached between Hamas and Fatah prisoners in Israeli jails in June. This government would negotiate for the Authority.

· Deployment, as part of a cease-fire, of a robust international force in southern Lebanon.

· Deployment of another international force to facilitate and supervise traffic to and from Gaza and the West Bank.

· Designation of Jerusalem as the shared capital of Israel and Palestine, with appropriate international guarantees of freedom of movement and civic life in the city. [complete article]

Comment -- In the past five years, the United States has moved from having a pro-Israel bias, to demonstrating a mindless loyalty to Israeli interests as defined by the Israel Lobby. Yet if Washington was to stop prostituting itself in this way, perhaps Israel would finally acquire the maturity to recognize that it must work with its neighbors. Blind American support is the principal obstacle to Israel's growth.
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Saying no to being a 'disposable animal'
By Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star, July 29, 2006

Many Western analysts - especially Americans - tend to discuss the Arab world in the vocabulary and dynamics of the 1960s, when angry street demonstrators and wily colonels routinely overthrew incumbent regimes. But the nature and impact of mass Arab political anger have changed radically in recent decades. Since the late 1980s, angry Arabs have not bothered much with street demonstrations or attempted coups against the prevailing Arab political order that is seen to be subservient to the US and acquiescent to Israeli dictates. Instead, ordinary Arabs have done something far more significant: They have simply de-legitimized their Arab regimes and political orders, and left them behind.

Arab public opinion in many places has built a parallel, more credible, order that is based on the twin pillars of resistance and affirmation, in the twin contexts of Arabism and Islamism. Hizbullah and Hamas are its two most dramatic expressions, and social and political Islamism its more widespread foundation in society. [complete article]
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Hezbollah politicians back peace package
AP (via USA Today), July 28, 2006

Hezbollah politicians, while expressing reservations, have joined their critics in the government in agreeing to a peace package that includes strengthening an international force in south Lebanon and disarming the guerrillas, the government said.

The agreement -- reached after a heated six-hour Cabinet meeting -- was the first time that Hezbollah has signed onto a proposal for ending the crisis that includes the deploying of international forces.

The package falls short of American and Israeli demands in that it calls for an immediate cease-fire before working out details of a force and includes other conditions.

But European Union officials said Friday the proposals form a basis for an agreement, increasing the pressure on the United States to call for a cease-fire. [complete article]

See also, Rice: Hezbollah comments a 'positive step' (WP).

Israel rejects peace offer
By Rone Tempest and Laura King, Los Angeles Times, July 29, 2006

After more than two weeks of fierce fighting between Israeli forces and Hezbollah guerrillas, leaders from the Middle East to Washington and the United Nations signaled a sense of urgency Friday to end the conflict.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice returns to the region today for the second round of diplomacy in a week. In the hours before her arrival, Hezbollah political leaders here reversed course and agreed to join a Lebanese government proposal aimed at stopping the fighting in the country's south.

Israel dismissed Hezbollah's offer as disingenuous and said it was an indication of the guerrillas' weakness on the battlefield. But the Shiite Muslim militia's willingness to participate in the initiative shows a flexibility to negotiate not previously evident as the fighting raged in southern Lebanon. [complete article]
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Israeli planes pound targets in Lebanon
AP (via NYT), July 29, 2006

Israeli troops pulled back from a Lebanese border town Saturday after a weeklong battle with Hezbollah, the bloodiest ground fighting of the 18-day Israeli offensive. Also Saturday, Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah threatened in a TV broadcast to attack more cities in central Israel.

Elsewhere, Israeli warplanes blasted bridges and demolished houses, killing seven people, including a woman and her five children.

The battle for Bint Jbail has symbolized Israel's difficulty in pushing guerrillas back from the border, whether by air bombardment or ground assault. Hezbollah on Friday escalated its cross-border attacks, firing longer-range missiles deeper into Israel than ever before. [complete article]

Israelis continue to back strong military response
By Dion Nissenbaum, McClatchy, July 29, 2006

Rafael Ezra's artillery is pounding unseen targets miles away with blast after deafening blast. But the 21-year-old Israeli soldier isn't too concerned about whether the shells are killing Hezbollah fighters or innocent civilians.

"Most of the people killed in Lebanon lived in Hezbollah neighborhoods," Ezra said while getting his hair shaved and listening to Arabic music as shells soared over a nearby hillside. "So I think they need to choose better where they live. People should know better."

In the two weeks since Hezbollah sparked the clash by kidnapping two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border ambush, Israeli retaliation has killed hundreds of civilians and sparked mounting international criticism.

Few Israelis, however, are shedding many tears for the civilians dying in Lebanon or wondering whether their country's tactics might make it harder rather than easier to reach a peace that would last longer than a few weeks or months. [complete article]

Comment -- To be under attack is to experience fear, vulnerability, and a sense of powerlessness. To go on the attack is the easiest way of refinding ones power. It doesn't work but there will never be a shortage of pundits, politicians and leaders eager to drum up support for the righteous cause.
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Israel ends Gaza raid, leaving a trail of death and destruction
By Ashraf Khalil, Los Angeles Times, July 29, 2006

Israeli tanks pulled out of the Gaza Strip early Friday morning, ending an incursion that began Wednesday and left 30 Palestinians dead and a trail of damaged homes, crushed cars and uprooted trees.

On the eastern edges of Gaza City's Shaaf district, deep trenches of churned earth surrounded by newly pockmarked buildings clearly showed the path taken by an estimated 50 Israeli tanks and armored bulldozers.

"This used to be all olive and fruit trees," said Shaaf resident Yusuf Hamad, pointing to a wide patch of barren earth.

The incursion targeted orchards used by militants for launching rockets over the border, the Israeli army said. Within hours of the tanks' withdrawal, the military wing of Islamic Jihad launched several rockets that landed near the southern Israeli town of Sderot and wounded two children, an Israeli army spokesman said. [complete article]
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Between Hezbollah and hell
By Paul McGeough, Sydney Morning Herald, July 29, 2006

As he juggles two mobile telephones and two cigarette lighters, Dr Ali Fayyad explains he has recently presented Hezbollah's submission on urgently needed electoral reform to the Lebanese Government.

Hezbollah is a key part of that Government - it has three ministries; it has 14 seats in the national parliament; and it controls more than a third of the country's municipal councils. Fayyad is a senior member of Hezbollah's executive committee.

At the modern Al-Rassoul Hospital, Ahmad Talal, 33, enters a small office wearing theatre scrubs. Al-Rassoul was built and is run by Hezbollah. Talal is on stand-by to receive the latest victims of Israeli attacks but, digressing, he reveals his pride in the hospital's No. 2 rating on Lebanon's accreditation of health institutions. And, God willing, he vows, next year it will be No. 1.

Across town Ibrahim al-Mussawi guides the Herald to a dark corner in the lobby of another hotel. Urbane and intense, his languid frame folds into an armchair and he proceeds to analyse Hezbollah's split personality in the global media - in the West, they are terrorists; in the Arab and Islamic worlds, freedom fighters. Mussawi is circumspect, but others observe he has to be close to the centre of Hezbollah power to be trusted as the face of the militia for foreign TV audiences.

All three attend to their tasks in the capital with all the aplomb of lobbyists, technocrats and spin doctors the world over. At the same time their leader, the bearded and turbaned Nasrallah, choreographs the Lebanon end of a brutal war with Israel. [complete article]

As the shells fall around them, Hizbullah men await the Israelis
By Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, The Guardian, July 29, 2006

Inside a well-furnished apartment in a village on the outskirts of Tyre, with shelves of books piled from floor to ceiling, a black turbaned cleric and three men sit sipping bitter coffee. By the door is a pile of Kalashnikovs and ammunition boxes; handguns are tucked into the men's trousers. The four are Hizbullah fighters, waiting for the Israelis.

"Patience is our main virtue, we can wait for days, weeks, months before we attack. The Israelis are always impatient in battle and in strategy," says the cleric, Sayed Ali, who claims to be a descendant of the prophet. "I know them very well."

As if to make his point, the sound of Israeli shells blasting the surrounding hills shakes the door and shutters every few minutes. Ali does know the Israelis. He started fighting them at the age of 17 when they invaded Lebanon in 1982. Three years later he was arrested with two of his comrades and spent a few months in an Israeli prison. Within weeks of his release he was fighting them again.That's what he did for the next six years.

For the last five years he has been finishing his theology studies in Tehran. A month ago, he was asked by Hizbullah to return to southern Lebanon. He arrived a week before the fighting began.

Standing at the window, he points to the banana plantations between us and the blue Mediterranean. "I have fought for years in these groves. We used to sit and wait for them [the Israelis] to make a move and then we would hit. They always moved too quickly, too soon." [complete article]
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Lebanon oil slick 'worst environmental disaster' in Mediterranean
By Sammy Ketz, AFP (via Yahoo), July 29, 2006

The Mediterranean is threatened by its worst ever environmental disaster after Israel's bombing of a power plant in Lebanon sent thousands of tonnes of fuel gushing into the sea, the environment minister charged.

"Up until now 10,000-15,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil have spilled out into the sea," after Israel's bombing of the power station in Jiyeh two weeks ago, Lebanese Environment Minister Yacub Sarraf told AFP Saturday.

"It's without doubt the biggest environmental catastrophe that the Mediterranean has known and it risks having terrible consequences not only for our country but for all the countries of the eastern Mediterranean." [complete article]

Casualties of war: Lebanon's trees, air and sea
By Hassan M. Fattah, New York Times, July 29, 2006

As Israel continues the bombing campaign that has turned parts of Lebanon into rubble, environmentalists are warning of widespread and lasting damage.

Spilled and burning oil, along with forest fires, toxic waste flows and growing garbage heaps have gone from nuisances to threats to people and wildlife, they say, marring a country traditionally known for its clean air and scenic greenery. Many of Lebanon's once pristine beaches and much of its coastline have been coated with a thick sludge that threatens marine life.

As smoke billowed overhead on Friday, turning day into dusk, Ali Saeed, a resident, recounted how war has changed this small industrial town about 15 miles south of Beirut.

Most people have left, he said. It is virtually impossible to drive on the roads, and almost everyone hides behind sealed windows.

"There's nowhere to run," Mr. Saeed said, showing off the black speckles on his skin that have turned everything white here into gray. "It's dripping fuel from the sky." [complete article]
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War in Middle East puts U.S.-European warming trend on hold
By Molly Moore, Washington Post, July 29, 2006

Just when President Bush was starting to mend the political rift between the United States and Europe, the latest Middle East conflict has reopened the transatlantic divide, on the streets and in government.

Across Europe, leaders and citizens are expressing growing alarm over Washington's refusal to rein in Israel's bombing of Lebanon and appear increasingly fearful of the pro-Hezbollah sentiment unleashed in the Middle East by the daily scenes of destruction and civilian deaths. Many officials said they worry about backlashes in their own restive Muslim and Arab communities. [complete article]

U.N. deaths 'threaten peacekeeping'
BBC News, July 29, 2006

The UN has warned the deaths of four of its personnel in southern Lebanon may deter countries from contributing to a future peacekeeping force in the area.

UN deputy chief Mark Malloch-Brown said they accepted Israel's apology for the losses to Israeli fire, but still had "serious concerns" about what happened.

The UN has called for a three-day truce to let aid enter Lebanon, but Israel has rejected the request. [complete article]
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Shiite cleric calls Maliki visit to U.S. a betrayal
By Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times, July 29, 2006

In a sermon rich with bloody imagery and religious struggle, an influential Shiite Muslim cleric Friday condemned Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's trip to Washington this week as a betrayal of Islam and a humiliation to his people at the hands of U.S. and Israeli aggressors.

Sheik Aws Khafaji intertwined the bloodshed in Iraq and Lebanon, calling it a design by Christians and Jews to defeat the Muslim world. He criticized Maliki's speech before the U.S. Congress and asked: "What forced you to eat with the occupiers? Is that your reward? You know more than anybody else that the car bombings, terrorism, explosions and bloodletting in Iraq are under the protection of Zionist-American plans."

The sermon during Friday prayers in Baghdad came as U.S. and Iraqi forces planned a wider crackdown to stop the unrelenting sectarian violence that has pushed this nation into an undeclared civil war. Khafaji's comments also added another sensitive dynamic to Iraqi politics — the sheik is a confidant of Muqtada Sadr, a radical Shiite cleric whose movement controls a well-armed militia and 30 seats in parliament. [complete article]

Blasts in Baghdad as U.S. faces Shiite resistance
By David Clark, AFP (via Yahoo), July 29, 2006

Bomb blasts echoed around Baghdad as sectarian death squads pursued their bloody work and the US military warned that it was facing stiffer opposition in formerly cooperative Shiite areas.

The US troops' most deadly foe remains Sunni insurgents -- four marines were killed in the mainly Sunni province of Anbar Thursday -- but the coalition is now drawn increasingly into clashes with powerful Shiite militias.

This trend is all the more ominous given that US commanders have decided to put around 4,000 additional troops into the mainly-Shiite capital to try to halt a surge in murderous bomb and gun attacks by rival sectarian gangs. [complete article]

Iraqi official warns against coup attempt
By Joshua Partlow and Saad Sarhan, Washington Post, July 29, 2006

A Shiite Muslim political leader said Friday that rumors were circulating of an impending coup attempt against the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and warned that "we will not allow it."

Hadi al-Amiri, a member of parliament from Iraq's most powerful political party, said in a speech in the holy city of Najaf that "some tongues" were talking about toppling Maliki's Shiite-led government and replacing it with a "national salvation government, which we call a military coup government." He did not detail the allegation.

A new government would mean "canceling the constitution, canceling the results of the elections and going back to square one ... and we will not accept that," he said. Amiri is also a top official in the Badr Organization, the armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which is the leading member of a coalition of Shiite political parties governing Iraq. [complete article]
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You're all targets, Israel tells Lebanese in South
By Harry de Quetteville, The Telegraph, July 28, 2006

Everyone remaining in southern Lebanon will be regarded as a terrorist, Israel's justice minister said yesterday as the military prepared to employ "huge firepower" from the air in its campaign to crush Hizbollah.

Haim Ramon issued the warning as the Israeli government decided against expanding ground operations after the death of nine soldiers in fighting on Wednesday.

"What we should do in southern Lebanon is employ huge firepower before a ground force goes in," Mr Ramon said at a security cabinet meeting headed by Ehud Olmert, the prime minister. "Everyone in southern Lebanon is a terrorist and is connected to Hizbollah. Our great advantage vis-a-vis Hizbollah is our firepower, not in face-to-face combat." [complete article]

Comment -- Israel has always been happy to employ the thuggish logic of George Bush's war on terrorism: you're either for us or against us; we make no distinction between the terrorists and those who harbor them.

The war on civilization is, indeed, now in full swing but the joint endeavors of Israel and the United States pose a much larger threat than any two-bit jihadist could ever muster!
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The "hiding among civilians" myth
By Mitch Prothero, Salon, July 28, 2006

Throughout this now 16-day-old war, Israeli planes high above civilian areas make decisions on what to bomb. They send huge bombs capable of killing things for hundreds of meters around those targets to destroy them, and then blame the inevitable civilian deaths -- the Lebanese government says 600 civilians have been killed so far -- on "terrorists" who callously use the civilian infrastructure for protection.

But this claim is almost always false. My own reporting and that of other journalists reveals that in fact Hezbollah fighters -- as opposed to the much more numerous Hezbollah political members, and the vastly more numerous Hezbollah sympathizers -- avoid civilians like the plague. Much smarter and better trained than the PLO and Hamas fighters, they know that if they mingle with civilians, they will sooner or later be betrayed by collaborators -- as so many Palestinian militants have been.

For their part, the Israelis seem to think that if they keep pounding civilians, they'll get some fighters, too. The almost nightly airstrikes on the southern suburbs of Beirut could be seen as making some sense, as the Israelis appear convinced there are command and control bunkers underneath the continually smoldering rubble. There were some civilian casualties the first few nights in places like Haret Hreik, but people quickly left the area to the Hezbollah fighters with their radios and motorbikes.

But other attacks seem gratuitous, fishing expeditions, or simply intended to punish anything and anyone even vaguely connected to Hezbollah. Lighthouses, grain elevators, milk factories, bridges in the north used by refugees, apartment buildings partially occupied by members of Hezbollah's political wing -- all have been reduced to rubble. [complete article]
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The Middle East and the barbarism of war from the air
By Tom Englehardt, TomDispatch, July 28, 2006

On our we/they planet, most groups don't consider themselves barbarians. Nonetheless, we have largely achieved non-barbaric status in an interesting way -- by removing the most essential aspect of the American (and, right now, Israeli) way of war from the category of the barbaric. I'm talking, of course, about air power, about raining destruction down on the earth from the skies, and about the belief -- so common, so long-lasting, so deep-seated -- that bombing others, including civilian populations, is a "strategic" thing to do; that air power can, in relatively swift measure, break the "will" not just of the enemy, but of that enemy's society; and that such a way of war is the royal path to victory. [complete article]
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Only Hizbullah can defend against an Israeli invasion
By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, July 28, 2006

A rally of well-dressed middle-class ladies, perhaps 40 in all, protested outside the UN's offices here on Wednesday, calling for a ceasefire. Representing the Lebanese Council of Women, they handed out leaflets appealing to Kofi Annan to get something done.

They were fewer in number than the recent anti-war demonstrators in Tel Aviv, but more representative. While today's peaceniks in Israel are a lonely, though perhaps slowly growing, minority, the cry for a ceasefire is overwhelming in Lebanon. Why bother to demonstrate when the issue is so obvious?

So my strongest impression of the rally came from Lamia Osseiran, one of its organisers: "The Israelis are radicalising Lebanon, even liberal democrats like me. I took part in last year's demonstrations against Syria. I was a critic of Hizbullah. Now I cannot help but support Hizbullah's fighters who are defending our country." What about Hizbullah's rocket attacks on Haifa? "It's right," she replied. "It's not only Lebanese who should have to suffer. Are human rights available only to Israelis? You can't have winter and summer on the same roof." [complete article]

Tide of Arab opinion turns to support for Hezbollah
By Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, July 28, 2006

At the onset of the Lebanese crisis, Arab governments, starting with Saudi Arabia, slammed Hezbollah for recklessly provoking a war, providing what the United States and Israel took as a wink and a nod to continue the fight.

Now, with hundreds of Lebanese dead and Hezbollah holding out against the vaunted Israeli military for more than two weeks, the tide of public opinion across the Arab world is surging behind the organization, transforming the Shiite group's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, into a folk hero and forcing a change in official statements.

The Saudi royal family and King Abdullah II of Jordan, who were initially more worried about the rising power of Shiite Iran, Hezbollah's main sponsor, are scrambling to distance themselves from Washington.

An outpouring of newspaper columns, cartoons, blogs and public poetry readings have showered praise on Hezbollah while attacking the United States and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for trumpeting American plans for a "new Middle East" that they say has led only to violence and repression. [complete article]

Israeli strikes may boost Hizbullah base
By Nicholas Blanford, Christian Science Monitor, July 28, 2006

The ferocity of Israel's onslaught in southern Lebanon and Hizbullah's stubborn battles against Israeli ground forces may be working in the militant group's favor.

"They want to shatter the myth of Israeli invincibility," says Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a leading Lebanese expert on Hizbullah. "Being victorious means not allowing Israel to achieve their aims, and so far that is the case." [complete article]
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The 'Arab system' is dying in Lebanon
By David Hirst, The Guardian, July 28, 2006

It has long been whispered against Shia that they don't really share their Sunni compatriots' devotion to pan-Arab causes. So it is deeply disconcerting for the Sunni Arab establishment that a purely Shia organization, Hizbullah, should so heroically assume the championship of the main one, Palestine. And it only adds to its embarrassment that the other non-state actor, the purely Sunni Hamas, not merely fails to share that view of Hizbullah, but, under Iranian auspices, operates in growing partnership with it.

The longer Hizbullah holds out, the more blows it deals the awesome Israeli military machine, the more Hassan Nasrallah will stir the Arab public, be they Sunni or Shia, against their paralytic kings and presidents. It was Sunni Muslims who demonstrated in the streets of Cairo, Amman, Damascus last week, Egypt's Sunni Muslim Brother movement that gave voice to what everyone, secular or Islamist, in the Arab world is saying: "Hizbullah, with its modest capabilities, achieved what several Arab governments, with their organized state armies, did not - as they contented themselves with mere silence about the slaughter of our Palestinian brethren." From his bunker beneath the bombs, Nasrallah - composed, charismatic, brilliantly articulate - quietly suggested to the Umma - or "Muslim nation" - that if their leaders were not up to their jobs, then their peoples could, like him, do the jobs in their place. [complete article]

See also, Strength in unity (Jim Lobe).
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Let's declare victory and start talking
By Ze'ev Sternhell, Haaretz, July 28, 2006

If Israel really did embark on the war in order to force Lebanon to impose its authority on the south, which is in Hezbollah's hands - or in other words, to force the Lebanese government to begin a civil war in the service of Israel - that is a sign that it is dominated by thinking even more primitive than the thinking that led Ariel Sharon to Beirut about a quarter of a century ago.

But this time, we have exacerbated the problem: At the beginning of the third week of fighting, in spite of the determination and courage of the attacking soldiers, the war seems only to be beginning. That is why we should achieve a cease-fire before the campaign gets out of control, claims victims in vain and, in the long run, even turns into a strategic failure. [complete article]
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The alternative to Hezbollah may be occupation
By Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz, July 28, 2006

Naim Qassem, the deputy of Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, said in an article published in Al-Nahar on Thursday that the group will consider it a victory if Lebanon does not become an American bridgehead in the Middle East. This does not reflect merely an ideological aspiration, but a real opposition to the deployment of a NATO force controlled by the United States in southern Lebanon. As for disarmament, if at all, Hezbollah would like to leave this issue to domestic discussions between the group and the government, without any external interference or dictates.

The question now is whether it will be possible to obtain a declaration of intent from Israel and the United States. In short, will Israel agree, in advance, to withdraw from Shaba Farms, if Syria transfers an official document confirming it to be Lebanese, and if the Lebanese army deploys there in place of the Israel Defense Forces? Will Israel agree to negotiations with the government of Lebanon, and not Hezbollah, over an exchange of prisoners? These two issues are directly relevant to the way the results of this war will be viewed, because any declarations of intent on these points will be considered Hezbollah achievements.

On the other hand, if Israel decides that it can register achievements without cooperating with the Lebanese government - that is, without allowing Hezbollah any gains - it may find itself faced with Lebanese unity of the kind that it experienced during its years of occupation. In that case, Israel might find itself caught in a situation similar to the one it has faced in the territories since it chose to give up its partner: a direct, long-term occupation. [complete article]
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How the Lebanon crisis complicates U.S. prospects in Iraq
By Tony Karon,, July 27, 2006

In spite of the escalating carnage and instability in Baghdad, the Bush Administration continues to view the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as the best hope for achieving an acceptable outcome in Iraq. But that doesn't appear to be getting any closer: Sectarian violence continues at a steady clip, and the Bush administration appears to have acknowledged the failure of its recent crackdown in Baghdad by announcing that U.S. troops will be moved from outlying provinces to the bloody streets of the capital.

But if U.S. congressional leaders have learned not to expect quick fixes in Iraq, many were shocked that Maliki, in the course of a visit to Washington seeking greater assistance, publicly broke with the Administration's position on Lebanon. Maliki, addressing the media, was very clear that he blamed the crisis on "Israeli aggression," and he declined to criticize Hizballah.

Maliki's stance highlighted a major problem facing the Bush Administration's Middle East crisis: The U.S. has viewed Israel's fight with Hizballah as an opportunity to rally Arab support against growing Iranian influence in the Middle East. But it is not even able to rally the support of Iraq, an Arab government dependent for its security on U.S. troops. [complete article]
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Nasrallah's other fight
By Olivier Guitta, Asia Times, July 29, 2006

Nasrallah's biography explains how he got close to prominent clerics in Lebanon, Iran and Iraq, in particular the Sadr family. In 1975, when he was only 15, Nasrallah joined the ranks of the Lebanese Shi'ite movement Amal - which Hezbollah broke from after its creation in 1982 - led by Musa al-Sadr.

From 1976 to 1978 he was sent to study in Najaf, Iraq, at the famed Shi'ite seminary the Hawze. There he met most of his mentors, starting with Iranian ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (leader of the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979) and also his tutor, ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr (Muqtada al-Sadr's father). He also was in close contact with Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani (the leading Shi'ite spiritual force in Iraq today).

And finally, he was groomed by future Hezbollah leader Abbas al-Musawi, whom he succeeded after Musawi was killed by the Israelis in 1992. Those two years in Najaf definitely left a huge imprint on Nasrallah's psyche.

And that's why, when it was time to help his Shi'ite brothers in Iraq after the US intervention in 2003, and especially Muqtada, Nasrallah responded. Nasrallah, using the 1982 model of what had worked in Lebanon to kick out the multinational force, adapted some of his tactics in Iraq. [complete article]
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Blair to tell Bush: we need a ceasefire
By Ewen MacAskill, Simon Tisdall and Michael White, The Guardian, July 28, 2006

Tony Blair will press George Bush today to support "as a matter of urgency" a ceasefire in Lebanon as part of a UN security council resolution next week, according to Downing Street sources.

At a White House meeting, the prime minister will express his concern that pro-western Arab governments are "getting squeezed" by the crisis and the longer it continues, the more squeezed they will be, giving militants a boost. The private view from No 10 is that the US is "prevaricating" over the resolution and allowing the conflict to run on too long.

But diplomatic sources in Washington suggest the US and Israel believe serious damage has been inflicted on Hizbullah, so the White House is ready to back a ceasefire resolution at the UN next week. Today Mr Bush and Mr Blair will discuss a version of the resolution that has been circulating in Washington and London. [complete article]

Britain lets more U.S. arms flights land in Scotland
By hilip Webster, The Times, July 28, 2006

The [British] Government will allow more American aircraft carrying arms to Israel to stop over in Britain despite private concerns that the Pentagon was "playing fast and loose".

The US has asked the Government to let two aircraft with missiles and bombs on board stop at Prestwick in the next fortnight. However, Labour MPs are furious with the US for breaking the rules governing the use of British airports as staging posts when demands on Israel for a ceasefire in Lebanon are growing stronger.

The Times has been told that two aircraft that landed at Prestwick last weekend carrying "bunker-busting" bombs had been designated as civilian flights and that the US failed to notify authorities in advance of their hazardous cargoes, as the rules demand. [complete article]

The Condoleezza two step
By Robert Rosenberg, Ariga, July 28, 2006

Israel was sending messages every way it can to Damascus, telling Syria it does not want war with it. Former defense minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Home Front Commander Maj. Gen. Gershon Yitzhak, and the entire press said as much this morning. But at the same time, Army Radio reported that top officials from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were in Damascus this week for meetings with Syrian officials, Hizbollah leaders, and officials from the various Palestinian rejectionist groups based in Damascus. And Israeli public statements about the multinational force -- for which nobody is yet volunteering -- include mention of the need for some force with authority to monitor and prevent arms deliveries over the Syrian border into Lebanon.

The call-up of reserve troops -- enough, the army believes, to occupy Lebanon’s south -- is also being regarded as a message to Syria as well as to the international community to speed up its efforts to arrange a deal that satisfies Israeli demands. In other words, there are mixed signals coming from Israel about Syria, and with President George Bush constantly pointing out that the Syrians are to blame for the situation, no wonder the Syrian armed forces are said to be on high alert. Syria has hundreds of Scud missiles, able to reach anywhere in the country. There are reports that the army has deployed Patriot anti-missile missile systems in strategic locations, and the Home Front Commander said that his troops -- and all the emergency services from police to Magen David Adom that are subject to his command in case of an attack on the rear -- are prepared for attacks on the center of the country, a euphemism for Tel Aviv and its metropolitan area. [complete article]
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Tying the hands of the United Nations
By Simon Tisdall, The Guardian, July 28, 2006

In the week preceding Hizbullah's July 12 cross-border raid into Israel that sparked the Lebanon war, the UN security council was wrestling with a draft resolution on Gaza. Sponsored by Arab countries, it called for the unconditional release of an Israeli soldier captured by Palestinian militants on June 25, an end to the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel, and a halt to Israel's "disproportionate" military response that was killing and injuring dozens of Palestinian civilians.

In the event, the US vetoed the Gaza resolution on the grounds that it was "unbalanced" and, ironically in the light of subsequent events, would have exacerbated regional tensions. John Bolton, the US ambassador, said the draft "places demands on one side of the Middle East conflict but not the other". In a taste of things to come, Britain abstained from voting.

The security council's failure during the period beginning June 25 to offer even a statement of concern about events in Gaza is one possible reason why Hizbullah took the incendiary action it did on July 12, capturing two more Israeli soldiers and killing several others. The Lebanese Shia militia doubtless had other motives, too. But it appeared determined to stand up for the Palestinians when the international community was evidently unwilling or unable to do so. [complete article]
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Israel nixes major U.N. role in Lebanon
By Nick Wadhams, AP (via Yahoo), July 27, 2006

Israel's U.N. ambassador on Thursday ruled out major U.N. involvement in any potential international force in Lebanon, saying more professional and better-trained troops were needed for such a volatile situation.

Dan Gillerman also said Israel would not allow the United Nations to join in an investigation of an Israeli airstrike that demolished a post belonging to the current U.N. peacekeeping mission in Lebanon. Four U.N. observers were killed in the Tuesday strike.

"Israel has never agreed to a joint investigation, and I don't think that if anything happened in this country, or in Britain or in Italy or in France, the government of that country would agree to a joint investigation," Gillerman said. [complete article]

Comment -- Is the Israeli ambassador as oblivious to the notion of sovereignty as he appears, or is merely expressing Israel's longstanding tendency to believe that it possesses a self-declared territorial jurisdiction outside its own borders? The U.N. post was in Lebanon - not Israel - but hey, what's the difference?

As for Israel's stated interest in having NATO put troops into a buffer zone, why exactly should any government not believe that sooner or later their troops would end up coming under Israeli fire? Perhaps this willingness to internationalize the issue is simply another ruse for extending the conflict, it being reasonable for the Israelis to assume that the formation of such a force will only come about after protracted negotiations.

Anatomy of an attack
By Michael Meyer, Newsweek, July 27, 2006

U.N. observers reported that fighter-delivered aerial bombs and artillery shells began falling around their compound early Tuesday afternoon. The first, an aerial bomb, fell roughly 200 meters away at 1:20 p.m., or 1320 by the U.N. mission's military-style timekeeping.

Another hit at 1324. Yet another five minutes later at 1329 and still another at 1335. Two more struck at 1428 as the barrage continued, with bombs landing near the compound at 1436, 1442, 1451, 1632 and 1829. Also at 1829—6:29 p.m.—the U.N. official says, four artillery shells struck within the U.N. compound's perimeter. Three more landed within 100 meters at 1916. At 1930 -- six hours after the barrage began -- the fatal aerial bomb, released from an Israeli jet, struck the post and killed the four U.N. observers -- Canadian, Austrian, Finnish and Chinese.

Over that six-hour period, U.N. officials say they made at least a dozen phone calls to Israeli commanders. Early on, Annan himself called Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to protest and was personally assured, the secretary-general said in a statement, that "U.N. positions would be spared Israeli fire."

Senior U.N. officials also placed calls to Gillerman and his deputy at the Israeli Mission in New York, while in southern Lebanon the commander of the U.N. force, Alain Pellegrini, made 10 calls to his counterpart, the head of the Israeli Defense Force's Northern Command. "Pellegrini repeatedly asked them to stop. 'Shells are falling on our position,' he told them," according to Annan’s aide. "We gave them the precise coordinates" where the U.N. personnel were located. Each time, in Lebanon as well as in New York, they were given assurances that the U.N. post would not be struck, Annan's aide told NEWSWEEK. [complete article]

U.N. Council "dismayed" by Israeli firing on U.N. posts
By Evelyn Leopold, Reuters, July 27, 2006

The U.N. Security Council adopted a statement on Thursday expressing shock and distress at Israel's bombing of a U.N. outpost in Lebanon that killed four unarmed U.N. peacekeepers.

The policy statement, which carries less weight than a resolution, was weaker than one proposed by China and other nations, after more than a day of negotiations and objections from the United States, which wanted to make sure Israel was not directly or indirectly blamed for the attack.

China, expressing frustration at the delay, earlier warned the United States its opposition to the statement could jeopardize U.N. negotiations on a resolution ordering Iran to stop its nuclear enrichment. [complete article]
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Israel steps up "psy-ops" in Lebanon
By Peter Feuilherade, BBC, July 26, 2006

According to US and UK media outlets, Israel has reactivated a radio station to broadcast messages urging residents of southern Lebanon to evacuate the region.

Some reports have named the station as the Voice of the South.

The South Lebanon Army, a Christian militia backed by Israel, operated a radio station called Voice of the South from Kfar Killa in southern Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s.

The station closed down in May 2000 when Israeli forces withdrew from southern Lebanon.

The Israeli newspaper Maariv on Sunday reported the appearance of a website called All 4 Lebanon which offered payment for tip-offs from Lebanese citizens "that could help Israel in the fight against Hezbollah". [complete article]
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History repeats with a vengeance
By Jim Muir, BBC News, July 28, 2006

When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, the initial pretext - reflected in the codename given to the operation, Peace for Galilee - was to push PLO guns about 40km (25 miles) back from the border, beyond range of northern Israel.

The goal sounds familiar today, as Hezbollah rockets hail down on Israel's northern cities.

But the real agenda of then-Defence Minister Ariel Sharon in 1982 swiftly became clear, as Israeli forces raced to Beirut and besieged an Arab capital for the first time.

It was far more ambitious: to decapitate the Palestinian movement by destroying the PLO, to eject Syrian troops from Lebanon, and install a friendly government in Beirut which would make peace with Israel.

The Israelis failed to destroy the PLO, but succeeded in squeezing it out. Yasser Arafat and his fighters were obliged to evacuate on ships and be taken off to Tunis.

But even that was a pyrrhic victory. Yasser Arafat ended up returning to his homeland and died as President of the Palestinian Authority. [complete article]
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Pander and run
By Peter Beinart, Washington Post, July 28, 2006

The Democratic Party's single biggest foreign policy liability is not that Americans think Democrats are soft. It is that Americans think Democrats stand for nothing, that they have no principles beyond political expedience. And given the party's behavior over the past several months, it is not hard to understand why. [complete article]
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Detainee abuse charges feared
By R. Jeffrey Smith, Washington Post, July 28, 2006

An obscure law approved by a Republican-controlled Congress a decade ago has made the Bush administration nervous that officials and troops involved in handling detainee matters might be accused of committing war crimes, and prosecuted at some point in U.S. courts.

Senior officials have responded by drafting legislation that would grant U.S. personnel involved in the terrorism fight new protections against prosecution for past violations of the War Crimes Act of 1996. That law criminalizes violations of the Geneva Conventions governing conduct in war and threatens the death penalty if U.S.-held detainees die in custody from abusive treatment.

In light of a recent Supreme Court ruling that the international Conventions apply to the treatment of detainees in the terrorism fight, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has spoken privately with Republican lawmakers about the need for such "protections," according to someone who heard his remarks last week. [complete article]
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Sergeant tells of plot to kill Iraqi detainees
By Robert F. Worth, New York Times, July 28, 2006

For more than a month after the killings, Sgt. Lemuel Lemus stuck to his story.

"Proper escalation of force was used," he told an investigator, describing how members of his unit shot and killed three Iraqi prisoners who had lashed out at their captors and tried to escape after a raid northwest of Baghdad on May 9.

Then, on June 15, Sergeant Lemus offered a new and much darker account.

In a lengthy sworn statement, he said he had witnessed a deliberate plot by his fellow soldiers to kill the three handcuffed Iraqis and a cover-up in which one soldier cut another to bolster their story. The squad leader threatened to kill anyone who talked. Later, one guilt-stricken soldier complained of nightmares and "couldn't stop talking" about what happened, Sergeant Lemus said. [complete article]

General explains Baghdad buildup
By Julian E. Barnes, Los Angeles Times, July 27, 2006

For months, American commanders in Iraq have talked of their desire to withdraw most U.S. troops from Baghdad's dangerous streets and pull them back to the relative safety of big, wellguarded bases outside the capital.

In an interview Wednesday, the commander of day-to-day U.S. military operations in Iraq explained why he plans to do the opposite -- push more American troops into the city's neighborhoods, making them responsible for stopping sectarian violence.

Army Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli also said he wants U.S. soldiers to oversee an army of Iraqis digging water and sewer lines and other public works to create jobs for Baghdad's residents. Military officials plan to start with a budget of about $75 million to $100 million for the projects. [complete article]

Series of woes mar Iraq project hailed as model
By James Glanz, New York Times, July 28, 2006

The United States is dropping Bechtel, the American construction giant, from a project to build a high-tech children’s hospital in the southern Iraqi city of Basra after the project fell nearly a year behind schedule and exceeded its expected cost by as much as 150 percent.

Called the Basra Children’s Hospital, the project has been consistently championed by the first lady, Laura Bush, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and was designed to house sophisticated equipment for treating childhood cancer.

Now it becomes the latest in a series of American taxpayer-financed health projects in Iraq to face overruns, delays and cancellations. Earlier this year, the Army Corps of Engineers canceled more than $300 million in contracts held by Parsons, another American contractor, to build and refurbish hospitals and clinics across Iraq. [complete article]
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Israeli troops battle an unbending foe
By Charles A. Radin and Alon Tuval, Boston Globe, July 27, 2006

"In my opinion the Hezbollah fighter is much tougher than the Israeli one," said a member of the Israeli special forces who was hitchhiking yesterday from his post on the northern border to his home in the Galilee. "I've seen them face to face, they shot at me and I at them, and I killed more than one.

"They wait for you, they ambush you on every occasion. ... Compared to them, the Palestinians are nothing," said the soldier, who like other soldiers interviewed yesterday spoke on condition of anonymity because he was commenting without the permission of his commanders.

A reservist from an elite unit of airborne foot soldiers, who was preparing to enter combat along the northern border, said that in addition to being good shots and skillful guerrillas, Hezbollah fighters have the power of religious fervor behind them.

"Death is almost welcomed by them," he said. "A soldier that is trained well and has religious zeal, even if his capabilities are mediocre, is a serious fighter. They are not at the level of the Israeli special forces, but their zealousness is a very important factor."

This soldier -- and most others interviewed -- said that Israel's ground troops are fully capable of dealing with Hezbollah, but that defeating the group will require house-to-house warfare, of which there has been little so far. "We have been training for years for a scenario like this one, but we have not been deployed yet," the soldier said.

Former senior officials and analysts said that Israel's initial approach to the conflict was overly influenced by the desire to minimize casualties in the Israeli ranks, and that this approach is failing. [complete article]

Comment -- Both commentators and reporters never tire of reminding us that Hezbollah is "dedicated to the destruction of Israel." Are we to conclude that if Hezbollah is able to claim some kind of victory in this war then Israel's days are numbered? As the Boston Globe reports, "Behind the increasing calls for a major ground offensive, analysts say, is a spreading recognition among Israeli citizens that this is a conflict Israel must win decisively, or find itself in mortal peril."

Mortal peril? Would the return of Lebanese prisoners and a withdrawal from Sheba Farms threaten the existence of the state of Israel? I think not, but what would be at peril is Israel's ability to pursue unilateralist policies even when they enjoy unequivocal and uncritical support from Washington. Israel's future may not be at stake, yet the humiliation of some form of defeat might push the Jewish state to realize that it can no longer afford to regard its adversaries with contempt. The bitter pill that Israel might be forced to swallow is accepting that its future depends on its willingness to find an equitable accommodation through which it can peacefully co-exist with neighboring states and the Palestinian population.
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Let it bleed
By Christopher Dickey, Newsweek, July 26, 2006

Worthy-sounding meetings of ministers, like the International Conference for Lebanon held in Rome today, rarely get very much done. The participants here were high-powered, to be sure: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the prime minister of the country in question, Fouad Siniora, plus a slew of Europeans and Arabs (but no Israelis or Hizbullahis). Instigated by Washington, it was all for show.

The assembled dignitaries expressed their "determination to work immediately to reach with the utmost urgency a ceasefire" in the war that started two weeks ago today when the Hizbullah militia crossed the border to capture two Israeli soldiers, and Israel responded with a massive counterattack the length and breadth of Lebanon. But, at American insistence, the ceasefire would have to be one that's "lasting, permanent and sustainable." Which means the flames searing Lebanon, threatening Israel and endangering the most volatile region in the world will go on for weeks, if not months, to come. The consolation prize: a promise of "immediate humanitarian aid." [complete article]

Comment -- As the emissary of peace-postponed, Condoleezza Rice might fittingly come to be known as the Angel of Death*. If she is right in saying that peace can come too soon, then every death that precedes the durable peace she seeks must in some perverse sense be a timely death. This is America's new message to the new Middle East: For the sake of a sustainable peace, let the killing continue. And since America's allies buckled under pressure to do nothing, not surprisingly, the Israelis now claim that "the world" has given its consent for the fighting to continue.

The ultimate irony in Israel's ability to engage in unrestrained violence is this: All those who imagined that Israel just needed the freedom to fight on its own terms without being shackled by concerns about international opinion, also imagined that once the Israeli military was let loose, it could easily dispatch its enemy. Now, with each passing day Israel's aura of invisibility diminishes while that of Hezbollah grows in strength.

*In the same spirit that Richard Perle came to be known as the Prince of Darkness.
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Israel seeks to align public expectations with reality
By Laura King, Los Angeles Times, July 27, 2006

Even before Wednesday's bruising day on the battlefields of south Lebanon, Israel's leaders had begun scaling back public expectations of a decisive -- or a quick -- victory over the guerrillas of Hezbollah.

Heading into the confrontation, senior Israeli officials had declared that the Shiite Muslim militia would be dealt a blow from which it could not recover. Its arsenal would be destroyed and its fighters driven out of south Lebanon, the officials said.

Some spoke openly of killing Hezbollah's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, who triggered the confrontation two weeks ago by sending guerrillas on a deadly cross-border raid that led to the capture of two Israeli soldiers.

"We intend to break this organization," Defense Minister Amir Peretz said of Hezbollah during the conflict's first days.

The army's chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, declared that Israel wanted to make it clear to the Lebanese "that they've swallowed a cancer and have to vomit it up."

With the fighting in its third week, however, Israelis are being told that Hezbollah can be weakened but not eradicated, that Israeli forces will not be able to police the border zone themselves, and that Hezbollah's rockets continue to pose a threat to Israeli towns.

"The target is not to totally dismantle Hezbollah," said Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, a former head of Shin Bet, Israel's domestic security service. "What we are doing now is to try to send a message to Hezbollah." [complete article]

Israel OKs call-up of 30,000 soldiers
By Ravi Nessman, AP (via Yahoo), July 27, 2006

Israel's government decided Thursday not to expand its battle with Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon for now, but authorized the army to call up 30,000 reserve soldiers in case the fighting intensified. The Lebanese health minister said up to 600 civilians have been killed in the campaign, including as many as 200 still buried in the rubble of destroyed buildings.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, meanwhile, said she was "willing and ready" to return to the region to work for a sustainable peace agreement. But President Bush suggested he would support the offensive for as long as it would take to cripple Hezbollah. [complete article]

Israel debates strategy shift after truce talks fail
By Greg Myre and John O'Neil, New York Times, July 27, 2006

Israel's security cabinet today decided against expanding its ground offensive in Lebanon, a day after the heaviest fighting in the two-week-old conflict killed 9 Israeli soldiers and dozens of Hezbollah fighters.

Before the meeting, Israeli officials said they regarded the failure of an international conference to reach agreement on a cease-fire plan as clearing the way for further assaults on Hezbollah. [complete article]

Time won't help Israel disarm Hizbullah
By Augustus Richard Norton, Christian Science Monitor, July 27, 2006

With the Bush administration providing diplomatic cover, Israel is playing for time. Israel's premise is that the longer its war continues, the more it will wear down Hizbullah. The Israeli military is fighting intense battles to capture border villages with a view to re-creating a buffer zone. Hizbullah fighters, honed by two decades of Israeli occupation, are defending their soil fiercely.

Despite international demands for a cease-fire, and the anguished pleas of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insists that conditions need to be "right" before the US will endorse one. But the idea that time favors Israel's goal of disarming Hizbullah is dubious for five reasons: [complete article]
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Syria will emerge stronger from the Lebanon debacle
By Joshua Landis, Syria Comment, July 26, 2006

The present Israeli campaign in Lebanon will strengthen the Syrian regime. Many analysts are beginning to come to this conclusion. Why?

1. The three states in which the US has promised to create democracy and a better future – Palestine, Iraq, and Lebanon – have experienced chaos, growing radicalism and a decline in their economies. Syrians see this and will cling tighter to their regime, whether they like it or not.

2. Democracy, the American export, has been further discredited in the eyes of Middle Easterners. The US promised Lebanon’s new anti-Syrian democratic coalition that it would be protected and backed by Washington in its struggle with Damascus. This turns out to have been a false promise. Democracy led to weakness and division in the Lebanese government. Washington and Israel lost patience with the Lebanese government after little more than a year and chose to punish it for not showing the characteristics of a powerful dictatorship that can destroy opposition groups. Washington has turned against its own democratic experiment. The lesson is that Washington cannot be trusted, is not sincere about democracy, and will not back its Arab allies against Israel. [complete article]

Try talking with Syria
By David W. Lesch, Washington Post, July 27, 2006

...Assad is more securely in power and more confident in his leadership today than he has ever been -- although perhaps, as recent events have shown, maybe a bit overconfident. He has weeded out most of the "old guard" from his father's reign, and he funneled the international pressure related to the Hariri assassination and subsequent withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon into a nationalistic response that has coalesced in support of the regime.

From Assad's point of view, the United States is stuck in a quagmire in Iraq. It is also deeply concerned about Iran. Meanwhile, President Bush's democracy promotion has hit a brick wall. But Assad continues to talk to practically no one from a Western government. [complete article]
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The third week begins
By Robert Rosenberg, Ariga, July 27, 2006

The progress of the war is clearly disappointing to at least the Israeli media. Soldiers interviewed in the wake of operations -- even after yesterday’s difficult battle -- show very high morale and eagerness to go back into battle, with no doubts expressed about how their commanders are leading them. But ex-generals are showing up on TV, explaining how when they were in charge, they did things differently. Amos Yaron, for example, was on TV the other night saying that when he led a corps into Lebanon in 1982, it only took him four days to reach Beirut, a comment that seemed to say that the current military leadership is not effective.

Some military commentators have pointed to the fact that the chief of staff and the head of military intelligence are both from the air force, with complaints that they don't appreciate the need for detailed ground intelligence of the kind that supposedly would have prevented the events yesterday. [complete article]

Israel using chemical weapons: doctors
Sydney Morning Herald, July 27, 2006

Lebanon is investigating reports from doctors that Israel has used weapons in its 15-day-old bombardment of southern Lebanon that have caused wounds they have never seen before.

"We are sending off samples tomorrow, but we have no confirmation yet that illegal weapons have been used," Health Minister Mohammed Khalife said.

The Israeli army said it had used only conventional weapons and ammunition in attacks aimed at Hizbollah guerrillas and nothing contravening international law. [complete article]

Israelis ignored repeated warnings before killing U.N. observers
By Rory McCarthy, Suzanne Goldenberg and Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian, July 27, 2006

Israel came under mounting pressure last night to explain why its military ignored repeated warnings and bombed a prominent UN post in southern Lebanon, killing four unarmed international observers.

The four UN soldiers, from China, Austria, Finland and Canada, were taking shelter in a bunker at the white, three-storey building in Khiyam on Tuesday after at least six hours of Israeli bombing and shelling, when it was destroyed by what UN sources say was a precision-guided aerial bomb.

The UN contacted Israeli forces up to 10 times about the strikes. The UN's deputy general secretary, Mark Malloch Brown, made several calls to the Israelis to protest at the shelling and to call for it to stop, he told the security council yesterday.

In response, Israel reportedly promised to halt the firing. An Irish army officer warned the Israelis six times. [complete article]

West fears Hezbollah's organized fighting style
By Rowan Scarborough, Washington Times, July 27, 2006

Hezbollah's display of coordinated attacks and small-unit action is surprising the world community and making Western nations think twice about agreeing to put peacekeeping troops between the militant Lebanese Shi'ite group and aggressive Israeli forces, military analysts say.

"It's not that they are fanatical," said retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales Jr., a decorated Vietnam combat veteran. "But in many ways, they are quite deliberate. It shows reasonable command and control and training in small-unit action. ... In terms of enemy combatants, the most military competent enemy combatant is Hezbollah." [complete article]
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Americans showing isolationist streak, poll finds
By Jim Rutenberg and Megan C. Thee, New York Times, July 27, 2006

Americans are overwhelmingly pessimistic about the state of affairs in the Middle East, with majorities doubtful there will ever be peace between Israel and its neighbors, or that American troops will be able to leave Iraq anytime soon, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

A majority said the war between Israel and Hezbollah will lead to a wider war. And while almost half of those polled approved of President Bush’s handling of the crisis, a majority said they preferred the United States leave it to others to resolve.

Over all, the poll found a strong isolationist streak in a nation clearly rattled by more than four years of war, underscoring the challenge for Mr. Bush as he tries to maintain public support for his effort to stabilize Iraq and spread democracy through the Middle East. [complete article]

See also, Analysis: Bush foreign policy struggling (AP).
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An estimated 800,000 people uprooted by attacks, says Lebanese body
IRIN, Reuters, July 26, 2006

An estimated 800,000 people have been affected in Lebanon by the current crisis, with hundreds of thousands forced to leave their homes, according to the Lebanese Higher Relief Council established by the Lebanese government to deal with the crisis.

A spokeswoman for the Council, Mouna Souccarieh, told IRIN on Wednesday that some 100,000 were foreigners who were evacuated, including some Lebanese with dual nationality. Around 150,000 more people, mainly Syrian, Lebanese and other foreigners, crossed the border into Syria since the Israeli attacks began on 12 July, she said. [complete article]

Israel's "New Middle East"
By Tanya Reinhart, Electronic Lebanon, July 26, 2006

Beirut is burning, hundreds of Lebanese die, hundreds of thousands lose all they ever owned and become refugees, and all the world is doing is rescuing the "foreign passport" residents of what was just two weeks ago "the Paris of the Middle East". Lebanon must die now, because "Israel has the right to defend itself", so goes the U.S. mantra, used to block any international attempt to impose a cease fire.

Israel, backed by the U.S., portrays its war on Lebanon as a war of self-defense. It is easy to sell this message to mainstream media, because the residents of the north of Israel are also in shelters, bombarded and endangered. Israel's claim that no country would let such an attack on its residents unanswered, finds many sympathetic ears. But let us reconstruct exactly how it all started. [complete article]

Haifa, suddenly vulnerable, by turns is stoic and fearful, stir-crazy and looking to fight
By Steven Erlanger, New York Times, July 27, 2006

Haifa, a city of 250,000 people, beautifully rising along a mountain, on Wednesday looked like a Hollywood set during an actors’ strike. The streets were almost empty, the shops shuttered, the gas stations closed, the street lights blinking their cycle of stop and go for no particular reason.

There have been periods of threat before, especially farther north in Nahariya and smaller towns, but missiles had never reached Haifa. Now, with Hezbollah employing more sophisticated and longer-range Syrian and Iranian missiles, this multiethnic city, one of Israel’s jewels, is suddenly vulnerable.

Dozens of missiles have struck Haifa in recent days, completely paralyzing it. They have driven residents into shelters or out of the city, and many who have stayed have sent their children farther south, where the missiles have not yet reached. [complete article]
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Palestinians in Gaza worry about becoming the 'forgotten war'
By Joshua Mitnick, Christian Science Monitor, July 27, 2006

As fighting between Israel and Hizbullah continues to rage in Lebanon and northern Israel, Palestinians find themselves at the margins of a regional conflict that has shifted attention away from their six-year uprising for the first time.

The two-week war between Israel with the radical Shiite militia has also highlighted the Hizbullah-Iran alliance as a major Middle East flashpoint that has overshadowed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And at times, a resolution to the ongoing Gaza clashes has been seen as contingent upon an eventual cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hizbullah.

"The Palestinians have to prove that they are not in the same basket, and that they should not be punished for the Lebanese cause," said Omar Shaban, a Gaza-based political analyst. "We have our own political agenda. We need a political solution. What is going on in Lebanon is different. Hizbullah has no political agenda. Lebanon is not occupied by Israel." [complete article]

Babies among dead on Gaza front line
By Anne Penketh and Daniel Howden, The Independent, July 27, 2006

Only the bloodstains on their white shrouds spoke of the tragedy that had unfolded. Two Palestinian girls, one just eight months old, were dead. They were killed when an Israeli tank shell struck a house near Jabalya in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Yesterday marked the end of Cpl Gilad Shalit's first month in captivity and Israel stepped up operations inside the Strip in an operation codenamed Sampson's Pillar.

The ferocity of the response to that kidnapping, and the determination of operations to stop Palestinian militants' rockets, saw a barrage of air strikes and raids yesterday that killed at least 19 Palestinians, including three children and a handicapped man. [complete article]
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Congress expects Islamic Dawa to support Israel, condemn Hizbullah
By Juan Cole, July 26, 2006

The US Congress, aside from a strange inability to recognize the disproportionate use of force when it sees it, does not seem to realize that the Dawa Party of Iraq, from which Nuri al-Maliki hails, is a revolutionary Shiite religious party not that much different from the Lebanese Hizbullah.

The members of Congress also don't seem to realize that the Iraqi Dawa helped to form the Lebanese Hizbullah back in the early 1980s. The Dawa was in exile in Tehran, Damascus and Beirut and it formed a shadowy terror wing called, generically, Islamic Jihad. The IJ cell of the Dawa attacked the US and French embassies in Kuwait in 1983, in an operation probably directed by the Tehran branch, which was close to Khomeini.

My understanding is that Nuri al-Maliki was the bureau chief of the Dawa cell in Damascus in the 1980s. He must have been closely involved with the Iraqi Dawa in Beirut, which in turn was intimately involved in Hizbullah. I am not saying he himself did anything wrong. I don't know what he was doing in specific, other than trying to overthrow Saddam, which was heroic. But, did they really think he was going to condemn Hizbullah and take Israel's side? [complete article]

Dean calls Iraqi PM an 'anti-Semite'
By Brian Skoloff, AP (via Yahoo), July 27, 2006

Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean on Wednesday called Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki an "anti-Semite" for failing to denounce Hezbollah for its attacks against Israel.

Al-Maliki has condemned Israel's offensive, prompting several Democrats to boycott his address to a joint meeting of Congress and others to criticize him. Dean's comments were the strongest to date.

"The Iraqi prime minister is an anti-Semite," the Democratic leader told a gathering of business leaders in Florida. "We don't need to spend $200 and $300 and $500 billion dollars bringing democracy to Iraq to turn it over to people who believe that Israel doesn't have a right to defend itself and who refuse to condemn Hezbollah." [complete article]

Foes take aim at McKinney in surprise Georgia race
By Jennifer Siegel, The Forward, July 28, 2006

A surprisingly close race involving one of the pro-Israel community's least favorite lawmakers, Rep. Cynthia McKinney, is poised to become a Middle East proxy fight.

McKinney, a left-wing Georgia Democrat with a long history of criticizing Israel, finds herself in an unexpected run-off election after failing to win a majority in her July 18 primary. A defeat in the August 8 runoff would be McKinney's second ouster from Congress in four years and cap a series of major gaffes, including her delayed apology after allegedly hitting a Capitol Hill police officer in March.

For months, McKinney, whose district includes parts of the Atlanta suburbs, has been raising out-of-state money from Muslim and Arab Americans. Now, with her stumble in the primary, the legislator's pro-Israel critics are quickly rallying behind her rival, former DeKalb County Commissioner Hank Johnson. Like McKinney, Johnson is an African-American. [complete article]

Christian Right steps up pro-Israel lobbying
By Bill Berkowitz, IPS (via Antiwar), July 27, 2006

Over the past two decades, as the Christian Right has grown in political power in the United States, there has been a parallel growth in support for Israel. Organizations made up of conservative evangelical and Jewish leaders have been founded, and millions of dollars have been raised and donated to charities in Israel.

Now, a new group plans to take it up a notch, becoming a significant presence in any political policy debates involving Israel.

Last week, while the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict continued to escalate, Christians United for Israel (CUFI) – an organization founded less than six months ago by Texas evangelist Rev. John C. Hagee, pastor of the 18,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, and the author of Jerusalem Countdown, a 2006 book about a nuclear-armed Iran – rolled into Washington for its first major get-together. [complete article]
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Making enemies
By Michael Hirsh, Newsweek, July 26, 2006

Reading "Fiasco," Thomas Ricks's devastating new book about the Iraq war, brought back memories for me. Memories of going on night raids in Samarra in January 2004, in the heart of the Sunni Triangle, with the Fourth Infantry Division units that Ricks describes. During these raids, confused young Americans would burst into Iraqi homes, overturn beds, dump out drawers, and summarily arrest all military-age men -- actions that made them unwitting recruits for the insurgency. For American soldiers battling the resistance throughout Iraq, the unspoken rule was that all Iraqis were guilty until proven innocent. Arrests, beatings and sometimes killings were arbitrary, often based on the flimsiest intelligence, and Iraqis had no recourse whatever to justice. Imagine the sense of helpless rage that emerges from this sort of treatment. Apply three years of it and you have one furious, traumatized population. And a country out of control.

As most U.S. military experts now acknowledge, these tactics violated the most basic principles of counterinsurgency, which require winning over the local population, thus depriving the bad guys of a base of support within which to hide. Such rules were apparently unknown to the 4th ID commander, Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno. The general is a particular and deserving target of Ricks's book, which is perhaps the most exhaustive account to date of all that went wrong with Iraq. Nonetheless -- according to that iron law of the Bush administration under which incompetence is rewarded with promotion, as long as it is accompanied by loyalty -- Odierno will soon be returning to Iraq as America's No. 2 commander there, the man who will oversee day-to-day military operations. (Odierno, asked by Ricks to respond to criticism, replied that he had studied the insurgency and "adapted quickly.") [complete article]

False consciousness about Iraq
By Fred Kaplan, Slate, July 26, 2006

...Maliki's speech [to Congress], which he must have read half-ashamed, half-relieved that almost nobody back home would be listening. It was a speech right out of George W. Bush's playbook. It painted the war in Iraq as a struggle between democracy and terrorism. "Iraq is free," he said, "and the terrorists cannot stand this." Those who killed thousands of Americans on Sept. 11 are "the same terrorists" as those killing innocent Iraqis today. "Iraqis are your allies in the war on terror," and Iraq is this war's "front line."

He expressed gratitude to Congress for standing with the Iraqi people -- a line that drew the loudest and longest of several standing ovations (self-righteousness being the favorite sentiment on Capitol Hill). He described Iraq as a country where people "rely on dialogue to resolve their differences," where "women are equal to men" (in the constitution anyway), and where he plans very soon to establish a free-market economy and to loosen restrictions on foreign investment. These fairy tales, too, triggered what the transcripts of speeches before the Soviet Union's Central Committee used to call "stormy applause." [complete article]

31 people die in upscale Baghdad district
By Ryan Lenz, AP (via Yahoo), July 27, 2006

Mortars, rockets and a car bomb blasted Baghdad's upscale Karradah district Thursday, killing at least 31 people and wounding 153, police said. The explosions occurred at midmorning in the religiously mixed neighborhood controlled by a major Shiite party, as the United States and Iraq prepared to send more troops to fight rising sectarian violence in the capital. [complete article]

'Waiting to get blown up'
By Joshua Partlow, Washington Post, July 27, 2006

Army Staff Sgt. Jose Sixtos considered the simple question about morale for more than an hour. But not until his convoy of armored Humvees had finally rumbled back into the Baghdad military base, and the soldiers emptied the ammunition from their machine guns, and passed off the bomb-detecting robot to another patrol, did he turn around in his seat and give his answer.

"Think of what you hate most about your job. Then think of doing what you hate most for five straight hours, every single day, sometimes twice a day, in 120-degree heat," he said. "Then ask how morale is."

Frustrated? "You have no idea," he said.

As President Bush plans to deploy more troops in Baghdad, U.S. soldiers who have been patrolling the capital for months describe a deadly and infuriating mission in which the enemy is elusive and success hard to find. Each day, convoys of Humvees and Bradley Fighting Vehicles leave Forward Operating Base Falcon in southern Baghdad with the goal of stopping violence between warring Iraqi religious sects, training the Iraqi army and police to take over the duty, and reporting back on the availability of basic services for Iraqi civilians.

But some soldiers in the 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division -- interviewed over four days on base and on patrols -- say they have grown increasingly disillusioned about their ability to quell the violence and their reason for fighting. The battalion of more than 750 people arrived in Baghdad from Kuwait in March, and since then, six soldiers have been killed and 21 wounded. [complete article]
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Lebanon to sue Israel for "barbaric destruction" - PM
Reuters, July 26, 2006

Lebanon will sue Israel and demand compensation for the "barbaric destruction" suffered by its people, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said on Wednesday.

In an emotional speech at an international conference on Lebanon in Rome, Siniora called for an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire after 15 days of fighting between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas based in southern Lebanon.

"Is the value of human rights in Lebanon less than that of citizens elsewhere? Are we children of a lesser God? Is an Israel teardrop worth more than a drop of Lebanese blood?," the Lebanese leader asked world diplomats.

"The more we delay the ceasefire, the more we are going to witness more being killed, more destruction and more aggression against the civilians in Lebanon," he said.

Siniora's demands including the withdrawal of Israeli forces to allow displaced Lebanese to return to their villages, and compensation from Israel.

"Israel cannot go on indefinitely disregarding international law," he said.

"It must be made to pay and we shall commence legal proceedings and spare no avenue to make Israel compensate the Lebanese people for the barbaric destruction it has inflicted and continues to inflict upon us." [complete article]
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Condi in diplomatic disneyland
By Tony Karon,, July 26, 2006

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice faced a thankless, all but impossible task in trying to sell the Arab world on the U.S. policy of delaying a cease-fire so that the Israeli military can continue its anti-Hizballah campaign. But her case was hardly helped when she explained that the violence that has already killed more than 400 Lebanese and turned more than a half million into refugees represents the "birth pangs of a new Middle East." Phrases like that -- and her rejection of the call for an immediate cease-fire on the grounds that "whatever we do, we have to be certain that we're pushing forward to the new Middle East, not going back to the old Middle East" -- carry a revolutionary ring that scares the hell out of America's allies in the region. It was revolutionaries like Lenin and Mao, after all, who rationalized violence and suffering as the wages of progress, in the way a doctor might rationalize surgery -- painful, bloody, even risking the life of the patient, but ultimately necessary. Social engineering is not surgery, however, and its victims find little comfort in the homilies of its authors.

Arab leaders, moreover, have learned to be suspicious of Rice's revolutionary ambitions -- just a year ago, she spoke of spreading "creative chaos" in the region. Iraq, after all, is Exhibit A of the Bush Administration's "New Middle East," and it's a bloody mess that is growing worse by the day. Now, for Act 2, the Arabs are being told to sit quietly while Israel tears Lebanon apart, after months of watching it slowly throttle Gaza through a U.S.-backed economic blockade, and then bomb it for weeks on end. Hardly surprising that the Arabs -- from the U.S.-backed autocrats to the beleaguered liberal democrats and the rising Islamists -- see little to cheer in the Bush Administration's "new Middle East." [complete article]

See also, Allies losing patience with U.S. terms for cease-fire (LAT).

Comment -- The thing about the revolutionary rhetoric that comes out of the Bush administration is that it's coming out of the mouths of revolutionary poseurs. You can't really be a revolutionary if you don't have followers -- real followers, willing to give their lives to the cause and not merely parrot the latest feel-good slogan.
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Hizbollah may be winning battle for hearts and minds
By Roula Khalaf, Financial Times, July 25, 2006

The US considers Hizbollah a conventional terrorist organisation like al-Qaeda that is ripe for obliteration. But in Lebanon it is viewed as a legitimate resistance movement that forced Israel out of southern Lebanon in 2000. As well as being one of the country's largest political parties, it is also its most organised.

The US this week proposed the deployment of an international force alongside the Lebanese army south of the Litani River, which runs some 25 miles from the Lebanon-Israeli border, in order to push the guerrillas and their arsenal of rockets away from Israeli cities and towns.

Lebanese officials, however, know Hizbollah would reject such proposals out of hand. They fear that attempts to enforce them could lead to a renewal of the internal sectarian conflict that ended only in 1991, after 16 years of war.

In the Grand Serail, the former Ottoman barracks that act as the seat of government, Fouad Siniora, the country's mild-mannered prime minister who has appealed for an end to the Israeli offensive, says a resolution to the conflict requires a comprehensive deal that addresses all the outstanding disputes between Lebanon and Israel, and gives the government cards to negotiate with Hizbollah.

This deal, he says, would include a prisoners' swap as well as the settlement of the dispute over Shebaa farms, a strip of occupied border land over which Lebanon claims sovereignty but the UN and Israel consider part of the Golan Heights, the Syrian territory Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East war.

So far, at least, Hizbollah has not felt under pressure to negotiate an end to the conflict. Israel's offensive has entered a new phase, emptying Lebanese areas close to its borders of residents and sending troops on missions to take over Hizbollah strongholds.

The group, however, has perhaps 5,000 fighters but many more reservists – and, Israel suspects, more longer-range missiles than it has deployed so far. As Anthony Cordesman, security expert at Washington's Centre for Strategic and International Studies, says, Hizbollah can easily disperse, replace its fighters, then regroup and improve its ambush techniques.

His assessment is that Israel's strategy could only succeed if the Shia population turned against the group, something which he and many analysts in Beirut believe is unlikely.

Lebanese analysts who know Hizbollah well say that even the government's sweeping package would prove hard to sell to the group. International initiatives, says Talal Salman, editor of Beirut's as-Safir newspaper, do not "take into account the reality and the support for Hizbollah on the ground". [complete article]

Comment -- The Bush administration's problem in dealing with Hezbollah is, first and foremost, an ideological issue. While I imagine that a few members of the administration may recognize that Hezbollah is a nationalist resistance movement and not a terrorist organization similar to al Qaeda, this perspective simply doesn't jive with the ideology of the "war on terrorism." Trying to argue that the administration is hamstrung by its own insistence on lumping all terrorist groups together would be nothing less than a breach of faith in the administration's core doctrine. Couple this with the apparent need that everyone in Washington feels to express their undying allegiance to Israel, and if there is anyone who might be capable of steering the administration on a wise course they must be equally aware that in their efforts they would almost certainly be committing political suicide.
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Israel plans to occupy strip inside Lebanon
By Greg Myre and Helene Cooper, New York Times, July 25, 2006

Almost two weeks into its military assault on Hezbollah, Israel said Tuesday that it would occupy a strip inside southern Lebanon with ground troops until an international force could take its place. The announcement raised the prospect of a more protracted Israeli involvement in Lebanon than the political and military leadership previously signaled or publicly sought.

Officials have talked about limited raids into Lebanon but now they seem ready to commit ground forces for at least weeks, if not months. They said the zone would be much smaller than the swath of southern Lebanon roughly 15 miles deep that Israel occupied for nearly two decades before withdrawing in 2000. [complete article]

Comment -- The outlines of Israel's folly are now starting to come into focus. By the time the shooting stops, Israel will have created a "security zone" that Hezbollah can easily fire missiles over, and come the day that another Israeli soldier gets snatched no international border will need to be crossed.
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Dissent grows in Israel over Lebanon
By Ian Black, The Guardian, July 26, 2006

Two weeks into the fighting, growing unease about a wide range of war-related issues has burst into the open with a series of anxious comments by politicians, former officers and leading experts and pundits.

Few Israelis are protesting against the war, as they did in their hundreds of thousands after the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Apart from small demonstrations by Israeli Arabs and Jewish leftwingers, there is broad support for hitting back at the Shia guerrillas after their border raid and abduction of two Israeli soldiers. But what is becoming clear is the deep concern about the conduct and progress of the campaign.

Moshe Arens, a hawkish former Likud defence minister, issued a stark warning that Hizbullah and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, could emerge from the conflict undefeated. "This will be a disaster for Israel," he told the Ha'aretz newspaper. "Nasrallah will be seen as someone who fired thousands of katyushas at Israeli communities for weeks and came out unscathed."

Experts say Israel's much-vaunted intelligence services have underestimated Hizbullah capabilities, especially in not knowing it had an Iranian-made missile capable of hitting an Israeli naval vessel off Beirut.

The air force has also come under scrutiny after the loss of three US-built Apache helicopters and an F16 jet, with one helicopter reportedly downed by friendly fire. Five Israeli soldiers have also been killed by friendly fire. [complete article]
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The turnabout will come quickly
By Meron Benvenisti, Haaretz, July 26, 2006

No one can predict when the reversal will come, when all the experts will begin competing for first place in revealing the failures of the war: mistaken strategy, political dilettantism and shooting from the hip; the weakness disguised as courageous determination; the illusions, arrogance and boasting; the addiction to an impulse of revenge; the cruelty and the lack of moral inhibitions.

But the manipulators and the self-declared heroes should not delude themselves, nor should the naive, or those who are drunk with patriotism or those who consider themselves experts: the moment will arrive more quickly than they imagine and within a short while everyone will be hiding behind the pose of "we told you so" when they know which way the wind is blowing. [complete article]
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'Save us,' she screamed as another shell landed
By Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, July 26, 2006

It is their feet that tell their story. They are bloody, swollen and bandaged after carrying them over mountains and under rocket barrages as Israel's war against Hizbullah erased the lives behind them.

In their villages lay ancestral houses crushed by bombs, family heirlooms abandoned mid-flight, the elderly and the frail, and of course the dead, their bodies trapped beneath the rubble. All that belonged to the past now.

The awful present was here in Tibnin General Hospital, a modest facility even in ordinary times, whose doors yesterday opened on a vision of hell: as many as 1,600 desperate and terrified refugees caught up in Lebanon's deepening humanitarian crisis.

They were men, women, children and newborn babies, forced to abandon their homes as the frontline drew nearer, and stranded in this hospital for days. There was no running water or electricity, no doctors or medicines, little food and even less hope. [complete article]

Annan: Israel bombed UN base for hours
The Guardian, July 26, 2006

The UN general secretary, Kofi Annan, today accused the Israeli military of carrying out a sustained bombing of the UN base on the Lebanon-Israel border that culminated in the killing of four unarmed monitors.

Mr Annan said he had suggested to the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, that they carry out a joint investigation into the events that led to the shelling of the "well-established and well marked" Unifil (UN interim force in Lebanon) post in the town of Khiyam.

"I spoke to Mr Olmert and he definitely believes it was a mistake and has expressed his deep sorrow, " Mr Annan told a press conference in Rome.

"But the shelling started in the morning and went on until after 7pm. You cannot imagine the anguish of the unarmed men and women peacekeepers who were there." [complete article]
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Eight IDF soldiers killed in bitter Bint Jbail fighting
By Amos Harel and Gideon Alon, Haaretz, July 26, 2006

Eight Israel Defense Forces soldiers were killed Wednesday and another 22 were wounded in fierce gun battles with Hezbollah in the southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbail. [complete article]

After Israeli onslaught, Hezbollah fighters back in place
By Hannah Allam, McClatchy, July 25, 2006

Hezbollah guards armed with shiny machine guns reappeared at their posts at the mouth of Beirut's southern suburbs Tuesday, days after Israeli warplanes began bombing one of Lebanon's most densely populated enclaves.

Hezbollah watchmen tracked visitors through an elaborate lattice of young men who whiz through the rubble on scooters and trade intelligence on walkie-talkies, which run on batteries and are harder for the Israelis to eavesdrop on than cell phones or longer-range radios.

So far, locals say, the militant Islamic group has detained at least 33 suspects for offenses ranging from spying for Israel to looting television sets from the rubble. If anyone doubts that Hezbollah still rules its crumbling urban fiefdom, spokesman Hussein Naboulsi offers foreign reporters daily tours in defiance of the Israeli drones that hover overhead. [complete article]

Israel's war with Hizbollah part of wider U.S. plan
By Alistair Lyon, Reuters, July 25, 2006

The United States and Israel are dictating truce terms to Hizbollah, but the Lebanese Shi'ite guerrilla group rejects them and is sticking to its own demands, unbowed by two weeks of war.

The United States wants to cut Hizbollah down to size, partly to prevent it from menacing Israel but also to humble the group's founding patron Iran and its ally Syria, whose actions Washington says threaten the entire Middle East.

But Hizbollah has long prepared for renewed conflict with Israel in the mainly Shi'ite south, where it fought Israeli troops for 18 years before they withdrew in 2000, and is unlikely to agree to anything that smacks of capitulation. [complete article]

Hezbollah chief vows to fire rockets into heart of Israel: Beyond Haifa phase has begun
AFP (Daily Star), July 26, 2006

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah vowed Wednesday that his guerrillas will fire rockets into the heart of Israel and counter Israeli military advances inside southern Lebanon.

"We are entering a new phase in the confrontation, the phase of (striking) beyond Haifa," Nasrallah said in a televised speech referring to Israel's main northern city.

A senior Israeli official said the threat of rockets being fired further into the country's heart was real, but added that Israel was prepared for the eventuality. [complete article]

Israel finding a difficult foe in Hezbollah
By Steven Erlanger and Thom Shanker, New York Times, July 26, 2006

A week ago, Israeli officials said their military had knocked out up to half of Hezbollah’s rocket launchers and suggested that another week or two would finish the job of incapacitating the Lebanese militia. That talk has largely stopped.

Hezbollah is still launching 100 rockets a day at Israel, nearly as many as it did at the start of the war. Soldiers return from forays into Lebanon saying the network of bunkers and tunnels is more sophisticated than expected. And Iranian-made long-range missiles apparently capable of hitting Tel Aviv remain in the Hezbollah arsenal.

"Two weeks after Israel set out to defeat Hezbollah, its military achievements are pretty limited," lamented Yoel Marcus, a columnist and supporter of the war, in the daily Haaretz on Tuesday. [complete article]

Hezbollah: Israeli response unexpected
Aljazeera, July 26, 2006

A senior Hezbollah official has said that he did not expect Israel to react so strongly to the group's capture of two Israeli soldiers two weeks ago.

"The truth is... let me say this clearly... we didn't even expect [this] response ... that [Israel] would exploit this operation for this big war against us," Mahmoud Komati, the deputy chief of the Hezbollah politburo, told the Associated Press. [complete article]
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Saudi says Israel attacks threaten wider war
By Andrew Hammond, Reuters, July 25, 2006

Egypt and Saudi Arabia, facing popular anger over Israel's offensive in Lebanon, toughened their stance on Tuesday, warning the United States that Israeli militarism could lead to a wider conflict in the region.

"Saudi Arabia warns everybody that if the peace option fails because of Israeli arrogance, there will be no other option but war," state-owned media quoted Saudi's King Abdullah as saying before a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

His remarks were unusually forthright for the world's top oil exporter, which has called for ceasefire but blamed Lebanon's Hizbollah guerrilla group for the crisis that has so far killed at least 413 people in Lebanon and 42 Israelis. [complete article]

Saudi unveils huge Mideast aid package, warns of war
AFP, July 25, 2006

Regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia, a key US ally in the Middle East, warned that Israel's devastating assaults on Gaza and Lebanon could spark regional war as it announced huge aid packages on Tuesday.

The oil-rich kingdom pledged one billion dollars to support Lebanon’s battered currency, 500 million dollars to fund reconstruction of its shattered infrastructure and 50 million dollars in immediate relief for its citizens.

They also promised 250 million dollars for reconstruction in the Palestinian territories, reeling under a Western aid boycott of the Hamas-led government as well as the offensive on Gaza which began almost a month ago. [complete article]
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Damascus moves back into the center as Lebanon is turned into a failed state
By Joshua Landis, Syria Comment, July 24, 2006

If the US should have learnt one thing over the last several years, it is that failed and weak states cannot halt militias and "terrorists" from filling the vacuum of absent state authority. They become breading grounds for the widespread anger that has taken root in Middle Eastern societies. Afghanistan and Iraq are the two obvious examples of this.

Lebanon may well join this category. The weak state could not close down Hizbullah. The national dialogue of March and April failed to place the state on the firm footing needed to guarantee that Hizbullah would not provoke the conflict we are seeing today. In fact it did the reverse. It angered Hizbullah and Syria's allies by excluding them from Lebanon's future, without taking any steps to weaken them. This was the worst of all worlds, because it angered the government's enemies without rendering them incapable of taking their anger out on Lebanon's Future Movement.

The other choice for the Future Movement would have been to accept Aoun as the future president of Lebanon, even though he is now slightly pro-Syrian. This would have brought the broad coalition of pro-Syrian and pro-Hizbullah forces into the center of the government and given them a stake in peace and quite. Had Siniora, Hariri and the pro-American forces in Lebanon been able to bridge the terrible divide in Lebanon's political geography, Israel would not be on the march today.

The US must bear some of the blame for Hariri's unwillingness to compromise with the other half of Lebanon, the pro-Hizbullah half. Hariri was being told by the US not to accept efforts by Egypt and Saudi Arabia to patch up relations between Syria and Lebanon. Hariri was being promised US aid and eventual victory over Hizbullah, if he stood fast in opposing Syria. Now look where he stands. The US has abandoned him for an Israeli solution to its problems. One that is surely to fail. And one that will bring the Syrians back into Lebanon - not as a military force, but as a political force. Many Lebanese will forget their anger at Syria in their anger at Israel and America. They will forget the UN investigation into Rafiq Hariri's murder. They will ask themselves if they weren't better off under Syria's protective umbrella, which they exchanged for a US umbrella only to bombed into backwardness by Israel. [complete article]
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Israel's barrier to peace
By Chris Hedges, Truthdig, July 25, 2006

The rage and extremism of the Islamic militants in Lebanon and the occupied territories in the West Bank and Gaza appear incomprehensible to the outside world. The wanton murder, the raw anti-Semitism, the callous disregard for human life, including the lives of children and other innocents, permit those on the outside to thrust these militant fighters in another moral universe, to certify them as incomprehensible.

But this branding of these militants as something less than human, as something that reasonable people cannot hope to understand, is possible only because we have ignored and disregarded the decades of repression, the crushing weight of occupation, the abject humiliation and violence, unleashed on Lebanese and Palestinians by Israel because of our silence and indifference. It is the Israeli penchant for violence and occupation that slowly created and formed these frightening groups.

The failure by the outside world to react to the years of brutal repression, the refusal by the United States to intercede on behalf of the occupied Lebanese and Palestinians, gradually formed and galvanized the radicals who now occupy the stage with Israel, answering death for death, atrocity for atrocity.

Those inside these zones of occupation pleaded over the years for help. We refused to listen. And once they burst through these barriers, enraged, bloodied, bent on revenge, we recoiled in horror, unable to see our complicity. We asked them to be quiet, to be reasonable, to calm down, and when they did not, their blood heated by years of abuse and neglect, we condemned them to their fate. [complete article]
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Israel kills 16 Palestinians in Gaza
By Nidal al-Mughrabi, Reuters, July 26, July 26, 2006

Israeli forces killed 16 Palestinians in fighting across the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, including at least nine militants, a three-year-old girl and a handicapped man, medics and witnesses said.

Israel has stepped up air strikes and launched raids into Gaza to stop rocket attacks and recover a soldier captured by militants on June 25. The army has killed 137 Palestinians since it began its assault. About half were civilians. [complete article]

NGO says Israel may be using cluster bombs in Gaza
AFP (via Daily Star), July 26, 2006

Injuries caused to Palestinians by the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip are unusually severe, a French humanitarian group said Tuesday after one of their doctors raised the possibility that the Jewish state was using cluster bombs. "Our emergency doctor, Regis Garrigues, who has traveled regularly to Gaza for several years has noted the particular gravity and severity of injuries," said Eric Chevallier, director of international operations at Paris-based Medecins du Monde.

"Amputations of both limbs are being carried out, which is relatively rare. This indicates injuries that are particularly serious. The impact appears to be very violent," he said.

Chevallier refused to be drawn on what type of weapons could cause such wounds.

The comments were a step back from affirmations made by Garrigues to Liberation newspaper in which he said the injuries resembled those caused by cluster bombs. [complete article]

Terrorist donkey joins family in death
By Sami Abu Salem, Electronic Intifada, July 25, 2006

The paramedics and witnesses could not differentiate between the pieces of flesh of the eleven-year-old Nadi al-Attar, and those of his grandmother, 57-year-old Khairiyya, or the donkey's, scattered on the branches of lemon and boxthorn trees on both sides of the dusty road in Beit Lahia, north Gaza.

Yesterday, the old woman and her three grandsons Nadi, Shadi (14), and Ahmed (17) were riding a donkey cart, heading to their field to collect ripe figs that fetch a good price in Gaza's markets when Israeli rocket hit their cart and blasted two of them into small pieces.

The smell of burned flesh filled the area where several people were still collecting pieces stuck to the trees and fences of the nearby orchards. The corpse of the donkey lay near the broken cart, where a teenager phoned emergency services to inform them of the remains. [complete article]
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Maliki's mission in the U.S.
By Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor, July 26, 2006

President Bush probably had a different atmosphere in mind when he invited Iraq's first democratically elected prime minister since Saddam Hussein's fall, Nouri al-Maliki, for a White House visit.

But Mr. Maliki Tuesday returned the favor of Mr. Bush's surprise trip to Baghdad six weeks ago at a time of deepening crisis in the Middle East, with the president's vision of a region transformed by democracy under intensifying fire.

Not only does Iraq teeter closer to full-scale civil war since Maliki assumed his office in May, but the crisis in Lebanon is adding to and in many ways overshadowing the difficulties in Iraq. With Israel battling a US-listed terror group in Lebanon - but one enthusiastically elected to representative government by Lebanon's Shiites - America's Middle East policy is at its most difficult moment of the Bush presidency. [complete article]
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Baghdad chaos pushes Bush to shift U.S. troops
By Jim Rutenberg, New York Times, July 26, 2006

Saying the security situation in Baghdad remained “terrible,” President Bush announced an agreement with Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki on Tuesday to significantly strengthen the United States military presence in the city.

The announcement, presented at a joint news conference during Mr. Maliki’s first visit to the White House since taking office in May, was a tacit admission that the Iraqi government had not succeeded in bringing stability to the capital, and that any major withdrawal of American troops soon remained unlikely.

Under the new security plan, devised by American military commanders in consultation with the Iraqis, some 4,000 United States troops would move into Baghdad, to join the same number of Iraqi counterparts. The United States has about 128,000 troops in Iraq, approximately 7,200 of them in Baghdad, according to military officials there. [complete article]
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Morality is not on our side
By Ze'ev Maoz, Haaretz, July 25, 2006

This war is not a just war. Israel is using excessive force without distinguishing between civilian population and enemy, whose sole purpose is extortion. That is not to say that morality and justice are on Hezbollah's side. Most certainly not. But the fact that Hezbollah "started it" when it kidnapped soldiers from across an international border does not even begin to tilt the scales of justice toward our side.

Let's start with a few facts. We invaded a sovereign state, and occupied its capital in 1982. In the process of this occupation, we dropped several tons of bombs from the air, ground and sea, while wounding and killing thousands of civilians. Approximately 14,000 civilians were killed between June and September of 1982, according to a conservative estimate. The majority of these civilians had nothing to do with the PLO, which provided the official pretext for the war.

In Operations Accountability and Grapes of Wrath, we caused the mass flight of about 500,000 refugees from southern Lebanon on each occasion. There are no exact data on the number of casualties in these operations, but one can recall that in Operation Grapes of Wrath, we bombed a shelter in the village of Kafr Kana which killed 103 civilians. The bombing may have been accidental, but that did not make the operation any more moral.

On July 28, 1989, we kidnapped Sheikh Obeid, and on May 12, 1994, we kidnapped Mustafa Dirani, who had captured Ron Arad. Israel held these two people and another 20-odd Lebanese detainees without trial, as "negotiating chips." That which is permissible to us is, of course, forbidden to Hezbollah. [complete article]
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Why Israel is losing
By Ashraf Isma'il, Counterpunch, July 25, 2006

The world is witnessing what could be a critical turning point in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Israel is now engaged in a war that could permanently undermine the efficacy of its much-vaunted military apparatus.

Ironically, there are several reasons for believing that Israel's destruction of southern Lebanon and southern Beirut will weaken its bargaining position relative to its adversaries, and will strengthen its adversaries' hands.

First, Israel has no clearly defined tactical or strategic objective, and so the Israeli offensive fails the first test of military logic: there is no way that Israel's actions can improve its position relative to Hamas or Hizballah, much less Syria or Iran.

The logic of power politics also implies that a no-win situation for Israel is a definite loss, because Israel is the stronger party and thus has the most to lose. In an asymmetric war, the stronger party always has the most to lose, in terms of reputation and in terms of its ability to project its will through the instruments of force.

The lack of any clearly defined objective is a major miscalculation by Israel and its American patron. [complete article]
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More questions than answers
By Robert Rosenberg, Ariga, July 25, 2006

While Condoleezza Rice was meeting with Ehud Olmert, Amir Peretz and later Mahmoud Abbas, the popular consensus in favor of the war seemed to be cracking -- at least judging from the radio talk shows this morning. Israel Radio's Gabi Gazit, for example, devoted his popular current events program to discuss how hundreds of thousands of Israelis who have not been able to go to work for the last two weeks -- and apparently won't get to work in the coming week or two -- will be paid.

The government, Histadrut and Manufacturers' Association are holding marathon meetings to solve the problem, but they can only solve the problem of employees, not the tens of thousands of small businesses or the self-employed. The government says it will make sure everyone is compensated, but for cash poor businesses that rely on credit from even poorer customers, the promises of compensation some time in an unknown future are not satisfactory. As Gazit said, 'the support for the war is very brittle, and it could break very easily.' One obvious result of the two weeks of rockets hitting northern Israel is that the only people remaining in the north are either the super-patriotic or those without the money to move south, to Tel Aviv or further south, for a few weeks. Hotels in Eilat, for example, are said to be completely booked, indeed, there are complaints of price gouging. [complete article]
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Firepower versus brainpower
By Yoel Marcus, Haaretz, July 25, 2006

Bush and the public assumed that the army knew what it was doing, and that Israel, with its superiority in manpower, weaponry and technology, would be able to put an end to Hezbollah as a menace to Israel. Little by little, however, a worrying picture has begun to emerge: Instead of an army that is small but smart, we are catching glimpses of an army that is big, rich and dumb.

Take the bizarre appearances of IDF top brass on television: The commander of the Home Front, who stands there handing out high marks to the Israeli public, seemingly unaware that the moment people sense the army is not functioning, they will take to their heels - not only leaving their homes but fleeing the country, following tens of thousands of tourists who have already hightailed it out of here. The chief of staff, who had to say that "we're going to turn Lebanon back into what it was 20 years ago," and now threatens to blow up a 10-floor building for every missile. The district commander who declares: "We don't do body counts in the middle of a war," an improved version of the comment of Benny Gantz, who was a brigadier general in 2001: "When you chop down trees, splinters fly," totally forgetting that the splinters are human beings.

We have a chief of staff who looks like he gets up every morning and agonizes over what to wear - his blue uniform or his khakis. A chief of staff who delivers state-of-the-union addresses that should be the job of the prime minister, and spends whole days touring with Channel 2 correspondent Ronny Daniel. In his observations to the media, Brigadier General (res.) Rafi Noy is right when he says that Hezbollah, with its hidden arsenals, continues to enjoy the upper hand, while the mighty IDF still has far to go to knock it out of commission. [complete article]
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Israeli missiles rip into medics' esprit de corps
By Megan K. Stack, Los Angeles Times, July 25, 2006

In the burning haze of the missile strike, Qasim Chaalan thought he had died. But piece by piece, he noticed that he was still there, inside the ambulance. He could still feel his body. He opened his eyes, and discovered he could see.

He and the other medics were lucky: They had survived the blow of an Israeli missile. Dazed and slow, one of the men fumbled for the radio and began, "We have an accident.... " He didn't finish the sentence. A second missile smashed with a roar into the ambulance behind them.

Six Red Cross volunteers were wounded in the Sunday attack, and the injured family they were ferrying to safety suffered fresh agonies. A middle-age man lost his leg from the knee down. His mother was partially paralyzed. A little boy's head was hammered by shrapnel.

Perhaps most dangerous of all, the attack blunted the zeal of the band of gonzo ambulance drivers who have doggedly plugged away as Red Cross volunteers. Young men and women with easy grins and a breezy disregard for their own safety, they have remained as the last visible strand of social structure intact after days of Israeli bombardment. [complete article]

Lebanon aid appeal launched as first UNICEF supplies arrive
By Jane O'Brien, UNICEF, July 25, 2006

UNICEF is asking for $23.8 million as part of a wider UN appeal of $150 million for emergency aid to Lebanon. Launched simultaneously in Beirut and at United Nations headquarters in New York, the appeal urges the global community to help displaced and refugee children and families in their hour of critical need.

As the hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah continue, more than a third of those already killed and injured have been children. And of the estimated 700,000 Lebanese people forced to flee their homes to Syria and other parts of Lebanon, almost half are thought to be children. [complete article]

Rockets, airstrikes hit both sides of border
CNN, July 25, 2006

Hezbollah rockets destroyed homes and lives in northern Israel on Tuesday, as Israeli forces bombarded Lebanese villages across the border.

One Katyusha rocket killed a 15-year-old girl in the village of Meghar in the Galilee region, Israeli police and medical service officials said.

At least 18 people were injured when more than a dozen Hezbollah rockets landed in three or four places in Haifa, officials said. [complete article]

Lebanon's civilian death toll reaches 400 as fighting intensifies
By Hannah Allam and Dion Nissenbaum, McClatchy, July 24, 2006

In a stance backed by the United States, Israeli officials so far have rejected calls for a cease-fire, saying the bombardment won't end until Israel is free from the threat of the militants' rocket attacks, which have killed 41 Israelis - 24 soldiers and 17 civilians - since the conflict began.
The two-week death toll passed 400 Monday, and about half of those killed in the Israeli strikes were children, Sami Haddad, Lebanon's economy minister, said in Beirut. The violence has displaced at least 600,000 Lebanese, and the government estimates at least $1 billion in damage to the country's infrastructure. [complete article]

Comment -- If war is reduced to a score sheet and the "good guys" are distinguished from the "bad guys" because the violence of the latter is much more indiscriminate, what does that tell us about this war? More than half of the casualties inflicted by Hezbollah have been Israeli soldiers killed in combat. On the Lebanese side not only are the numbers disproportionately large -- about ten times the number of Israel deaths -- but the majority are civilians and a third (or maybe even half) of those are children.
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Hezbollah is nobody's puppet
By Reza Aslan, Los Angeles Times, July 25, 2006

Over the last few years, Hezbollah has achieved enormous political success in Lebanon by transforming itself from an agent of foreign regimes into an agent of domestic reform. Hezbollah made it to parliament on a political platform focused solely on nationalist politics. Its candidates advocate civic duty and responsible governance over theology or the imposition of Islamic law. This is partly because of smart campaigning, as the Lebanese are among the most secularized people in the Arab world. But the truth is that Hezbollah has never advocated a pan-nationalist ideology. Though created by Shiite Iran and sustained by Arab Syria, it has eschewed any pan-Arabist, pan-Islamist or even pan-Shiite ties. Hezbollah has provided no significant military, financial or even spiritual assistance to its Shiite brethren in Iraq.

True, when Syria was forced out of Lebanon after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Hezbollah rallied in support of its ally and patron. Yet what was most remarkable about that rally was not its pro-Syrian sentiments but its brazen display of Lebanese nationalism. The half a million Hezbollah supporters who flooded into Beirut in March 2005 were draped in the colors of Lebanon, not Syria. And since Syria's withdrawal, Hezbollah has continued to advocate protecting Lebanese territory and working across religious and sectarian lines to promote Lebanese unity, even forming a political partnership with Christian leader Michel Aoun.

The point is that despite its terrorist tactics, Hezbollah has successfully recast itself as a legitimate political party. It is unlikely that it would risk that popular support by seeming to favor its foreign benefactors to the detriment of its domestic constituents. That is why the Bush administration is so misguided in suggesting that Hezbollah's incursion into northern Israel was carried out at the behest of either Syria, which sought to stir up trouble in the region, or Iran, which wanted to divert international attention from its disputed nuclear program. All politics -- even Islamist politics -- are local. One need look no further than the internal dynamics of Lebanon to understand why Hezbollah would so recklessly cross the border and attack Israeli troops. [complete article]

Lebanese tell Rice bluntly that U.S. must step up
By Paul Richter and Ken Ellingwood, Los Angeles Times, July 25, 2006

As Israeli troops drove deeper into southern Lebanon on Monday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flew into Beirut for a five-hour surprise visit with Lebanese leaders, who expressed growing frustration over the U.S. role in the conflict.

Rice, who later flew to Jerusalem, told reporters that she began her Mideast trip in Beirut "because I'm deeply concerned about the Lebanese people and what they're enduring. President Bush wanted me to make this the first stop."

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and other senior officials made it clear to Rice that they wanted an immediate cease-fire and expressed dismay with what they saw as America's implicit endorsement of Israel's continued bombardment of Hezbollah targets around the country, Lebanese officials said. [complete article]

Outside help would be a welcome relief for Israel
By Simon Tisdall, The Guardian, July 25, 2006

Israel's decision to back the deployment of an international stabilisation force in southern Lebanon may prove a crucial part of the peace jigsaw that was slowly being assembled yesterday. But it is also suits Israel's changing objectives. At one time, it strongly resisted any attempt to "internationalise" its conflicts with its neighbours. Yet as the costs of occupation have risen, Israel has increasingly sought outside help in restraining and containing its enemies beyond unilaterally demarcated borders. Since 9/11, its leaders have been remarkably successful, with US help, in portraying its struggles as part of the global "war on terror".

Uninspiring precedents for what is now proposed in southern Lebanon can be found on the Golan Heights, seized from Syria in 1967 and annexed by Israel in 1981. More than 1,000 troops belonging to the UN's disengagement observer force have patrolled the area since 1974. Their mandate was renewed again last month, because "a comprehensive settlement covering all aspects of the Middle East problem" was lacking.

Last year's Israeli withdrawal from Gaza was also underwritten in part by EU border monitors deployed along the border with Egypt. Their neutral status has not prevented them being sucked into renewed tension between Israelis and Palestinians. That too may be the fate of any new Lebanon force. [complete article]
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A war crime?
By Robert Fisk, The Independent, July 24, 2006

They are in the schools, in empty hospitals, in halls and mosques and in the streets. The Shia Muslim refugees of southern Lebanon, driven from their homes by the Israelis, are arriving in Sidon by the thousand, cared for by Sunni Muslims and then sent north to join the 600,000 displaced Lebanese in Beirut. More than 34,000 have passed through here in the past four days alone, a tide of misery and anger. It will take years to heal their wounds, and billions of dollars to repair their damaged property.

And who can blame them for their flight? For the second time in eight days, the Israelis committed a war crime yesterday. They ordered the villagers of Taire, near the border, to leave their homes and then - as their convoy of cars and minibuses obediently trailed northwards - the Israeli air force fired a missile into the rear minibus, killing three refugees and seriously wounding 13 other civilians. The rocket that killed them is believed to have been a Hellfire missile made by Lockheed Martin in Florida.

Nine days ago, the Israeli army ordered the inhabitants of a neighbouring village, Marwaheen, to leave their homes and then fired rockets into one of their evacuation trucks, blasting the women and children inside to their deaths. And this is the same Israeli air force which was praised last week by one of Israel's greatest defenders - Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz - because it "takes extraordinary steps to minimise civilian casualties". [complete article]

Comment -- Everyday, an American broadcast reporter dutifully points out that the missiles raining down on Haifa are "Iranian-made", yet is it unimaginable that another American reporter describing the humanitarian disaster in Lebanon might not also, in the interest of that much-revered journalistic value, "balance," also point out that much of the death and destruction around them resulted from American-made armaments? Perhaps that would mean risking ones job, but perhaps that's a risk worth taking?

In Beirut, an abyss between elegance and chaos
By Sabrina Tavernise, New York Times, July 25, 2006

The Paul Restaurant is still serving elegant lunches of prosciutto and chevre. At the Printania, an elegant hotel on a hill east of the capital, stylish guests sip Arabic coffee near a glass display case of éclairs and chilled chocolate mousse.

Some miles away, in the southern suburbs, the destruction from Israeli airstrikes is more earthquake than war zone. Streets have entirely disappeared. Rubble from bombed buildings in some areas is piled several stories high. City blocks, or what is left of them, are ghostly.

In the days since Israeli planes began to bomb Lebanon, this seaside capital has been almost physically split in two, with its largely Shiite flank mutilated by Israeli airstrikes and most of the rest of the city remaining relatively unscathed, if quieter and emptier than usual. [complete article]

Lebanese families find shelter at Palestinian camp
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, July 25, 2006

From the beginning, Hassan Madani was already a casualty of war.

For six years, the lanky 35-year-old welder had coped with a frail state of mind. Then the bombs started falling nearly two weeks ago, and his family grew worried. They tried to bring him to the hospital, but the roads snaking out of their town of Deir Qanun al-Nahr were too perilous. They tried to soothe his nerves, but he began to break.

In a night of especially fierce bombing, he climbed a cellular tower and screamed: "Don't hurt me, my son or my wife." He circled around his disabled son, they recalled. "God protect you," he muttered. As the war wore on, Madani tried halfheartedly to kill himself, drawing a black plastic bag over his head.

"We were worried what he might do," his wife, Sikna Ali Ahmed, said Monday, her eyes swollen red.

His brother, Adnan, nodded. He recalled a sense of foreboding. "The war brought us here," he said.

Here is Rashidiya, where Madani's family and more than 1,000 other Lebanese have fled their homes to seek shelter in a Palestinian refugee camp, its 18,000 inhabitants themselves exiles for nearly six decades. They began arriving a week ago by foot, minibus and car, from villages like Marwaheen, Qlaile and Mansuri. They trudged through streets shaded by bird's nests of electricity wires and sought shelter in homes and U.N.-run schools. Now they wait, abandoned, in a camp whose residents already feel forgotten.

"It's kind of an irony really. It's almost a joke what's going on," said Ibrahim al-Ali, a 26-year-old Palestinian social worker in the camp. "The irony is that refugees are accepting citizens from their own country." [complete article]
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Bush, Maliki agree on more U.S. troops for Baghdad
By Steve Holland, Reuters, July 25, 2006

President George W. Bush and Iraq's prime minister said on Tuesday more U.S. and Iraqi troops will go to Baghdad to try to slow sectarian violence in talks that exposed gaps between them on the Middle East.

"God willing, there will be no civil war in Iraq," Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said.

Bush, at a joint news conference with Maliki that lacked a great deal of warmth, said those going to Baghdad would be pulled from areas in Iraq that are deemed relatively free of violence. [complete article]

Some Democrats say will shun Maliki speech
By Vicki Allen, Reuters, July 25, 2006

U.S. congressional Democrats voiced alarm on Tuesday over Iraq's denunciation of Israel in the Middle East conflict, and some said Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's upcoming address to Congress should be canceled unless he apologizes.

A group of House of Representatives Democrats was circulating a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert urging the Illinois Republican to secure an apology from Maliki or cancel the address on Wednesday to a joint meeting of Congress.

A number of Senate and House Democrats said they planned to protest Maliki's speech by not attending, or were waiting first to hear if he apologized. [complete article]

Comment -- In today's news conference with President Bush, Prime Minister Maliki reiterated his concerns about Lebanon:
I also discussed with the president the issue of Lebanon, in all seriousness, in a way that matches the importance of the size of the destructions that happened to the Lebanese people as a result of the military air and ground attacks.

And I also emphasized the importance of immediate cease-fire and call on the international community to support the Lebanese government and support the Lebanese people to overcome the damage and destruction that happened.
Bush and Maliki were asked:
How can you get Arab nations to apply pressure to stop the fighting in the Middle East if allies like the prime minister won't condemn Hezbollah?

And, Mr. Prime Minister, what exactly is your position on Hezbollah?
Predictably, each ducked his half of the question.
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Shiite party leader outlines 4 steps for Iraq to curb violence
By Andy Mosher and Naseer Mehdawi, Washington Post, July 25, 2006

The leader of Iraq's most powerful political party said Monday that Iraqis should band together and take up arms to protect their homes and neighborhoods against widespread lawlessness.

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, whose Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq is the leading member of the coalition of Shiite Muslim parties governing Iraq, said the formation of so-called people's committees was one of four essential steps the country must take to curb rampant violence.

As Hakim spoke in an interview at his home on the Tigris River, the head of Iraq's government, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, was en route to Washington for talks with President Bush that are expected to focus on security in Iraq.

Hakim's prescription for restoring security was not, he said, intended to supplant efforts by Maliki's government. He voiced strong support for the prime minister's program to bring Iraq's various factions together to reconcile their differences through dialogue and said it was the first of the four steps essential to restoring security. Iraqis, Hakim said, "have to understand each other." [complete article]
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Iran activist 'snubs White House'
By Daryoush Homaee, BBC News, July 25, 2006

Iranian dissident Akbar Ganji declined to meet White House officials during a visit to the US, he has told the BBC.

Mr Ganji said he had been invited to discuss the current situation in Iran. The White House declined to comment.

He said he rejected the offer because he believed current US policies could not help promote democracy in Iran.

In a speech last week in Washington DC, he also criticised US policy in Iraq, saying: "You cannot bring democracy to a country by attacking it". [complete article]

See also, Akbar Ganji on why he refused to meet President Bush and the dangers of a US invasion of Iran (Democracy Now).
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U.S. says it knew of Pakistani reactor plan
By Joby Warrick, Washington Post, July 25, 2006

The Bush administration acknowledged yesterday that it had long known about Pakistan's plans to build a large plutonium-production reactor, but it said the White House was working to dissuade Pakistan from using the plant to expand its nuclear arsenal.

"We discourage military use of the facility," White House spokesman Tony Snow said of a powerful heavy-water reactor under construction at Pakistan's Khushab nuclear site in Punjab state.

The reactor, which reportedly will be capable of producing enough plutonium for as many as 50 bombs each year, was brought to light on Sunday by independent analysts who spotted the partially completed plant in commercial-satellite photos. Snow said the administration had "known of these plans for some time." [complete article]
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A lethal non sequitur
By Paul Woodward, The War in Context, July 25, 2006

In the art of political communication there is one technique that has come to reign supreme: the art of crafting a message that will stifle thought and shut down debate. No finer example exists than the assertion, Israel has the right to defend itself. As a measure of how successfully this has been made into the touchstone for understanding the war between Israel and Lebanon, not only do Israel's supporters reiterate Israel's sacred right but likewise most critics also feel that in order to avoid being branded as extremists, they too must dutifully affirm their belief in Israel's right to defend itself.

On July 16, while attending the G8 summit in St. Petersburg, Condoleezza Rice astutely observed, "I don't think there is anyone here who would say Israel does not have the right to defend itself." Quite so. And not only is this right accepted by the G8, but I have yet to find a single case in which anyone with any sense seriously presses the argument that Israel does not have the right to defend itself.

In the absence of such a counter-argument, it becomes apparent that the assertion, Israel has the right to defend itself, is really a kind of Trojan horse; a truth that deftly transports a lie. The lie is that by killing hundreds of Lebanese civilians and destroying the country's infrastructure, Israel is engaged in nothing more than an act of self-defense.

Those who defend Israel's onslaught on Lebanon argue that while the loss of innocent life is regrettable, Israel is in the grip of a fight for its life; Hezbollah poses nothing less than an existential threat. As Isaac Herzog, a member of Israel's security cabinet, writes in today's Guardian, "This is not a political issue, it is not an ideological issue; it is a matter of survival."

At the same time, in its approach to Hezbollah, Israel is applying a core principal in America's war on terrorism: we will not distinguish between the terrorists and those who harbor them. But now that post-9/11 rhetoric has lost some of its passion, this explicit sanctioning of collective punishment generally goes unstated. Instead, it comes in slightly toned-down forms, such as Richard Cohen's bleak warning that we have to "make the Lebanese or the Palestinians understand that if they, no matter how reluctantly, host those rockets, they will pay a very, very steep price."

But what about the threat to Israel's existence? Is it real? Yes and no. I have no doubt that many people inside and outside Israel sincerely believe that Israel's existence has remained under threat ever since 1948. In this belief we can see an amalgam of the effects of the trauma of the Holocaust; the string of wars that have defined Israel as a nation perpetually at war; along with the abiding bitterness and hatred of Israel that colors the perceptions of Palestinians and many others across the Middle East.

Israel is currently under attack, but while Katyusha rockets clearly destroy peace and disrupt civilian life, they do not constitute a threat to Israel's existence. If they did, then a ceasefire would obviously be the first step towards removing that threat. This however is what the U.S. and Israel have defined as an untenable peace - a cessation of hostility almost guaranteed to be followed by further violence.

The solution, we were being told until just a few days ago, would require the complete destruction of Hezbollah. This goal was then qualified as meaning the disarmament and dismantling of Hezbollah as a militia. Yet a consensus is gradually emerging that this too is an unrealistic objective. Thus, the immediate objective now is simply to push Hezbollah far enough away from the Israeli border that its rockets are out of range. A buffer zone manned by yet-to-be-chosen forces is then meant to hold Hezbollah back. Some military experts doubt that even this objective can be achieved. But even if it is, how long will it be before Hezbollah is able to extend the range of its arsenal?

So what should we conclude? Even those who have most vigorously been asserting that Hezbollah threatens the survival of Israel will soon start inching towards what most Israelis have long understood but recently forgotten: sixty years of threats to Israel's survival have so far done little to undermine its prosperity. Israel will continue to effectively defend its existence but in the process it also seems destined to sacrifice the possibility of peace on the altar of security.

Right now, if any nation has legitimate reasons for feeling that it faces an existential threat it is surely Lebanon.
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Lebanese don't have much faith in Rice's show of 'support'
Editorial, Daily Star, July 25, 2006

After aggressively supporting Israel's siege of Lebanon - a brutal military campaign that has threatened the very existence of the Lebanese state - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice came to Beirut to profess American "support" for the Lebanese government. Rice's arrival in Beirut - but failure to demand an immediate cease-fire - was not seen by many here as a sincere show of concern for their alarming humanitarian situation.

Admittedly, Rice did not have time during her brief visit to tour the scenes of destruction. Perhaps she would have had a greater sense of the utter devastation in Lebanon had she seen the many civilian neighborhoods, bridges and factories that have been reduced to rubble, or visited the more than 800,000 terrified refugees who are huddled in tents and schools around the country. Perhaps then she would have realized the human toll of Israel's military actions and would have recognized the need to expedite a cease-fire, not just with haste, but with urgency. Instead, Rice met with members of a Lebanese government that is reaching the point of near-collapse under the pressure of growing social tensions and a burgeoning humanitarian disaster. [complete article]
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When bombs stir a Shiite political revival
By Augustus Richard Norton, Daily Star, July 25, 2006

Lebanon's Shiites, believed to be the largest confessional group in the country, have borne the brunt of the Israeli assault. Other Lebanese have died and suffered, especially in the South. I think of the Maronites of Rmeish, the Druze of Hasbayya, the Greek Orthodox of Khiam, the Greek Catholics of Marjayoun, among others; but the biggest burden is upon the Shiites of the South, the Bekaa Valley and Beirut's southern suburbs.

When this war concludes, one hopes in the coming days, but more probably in early August, where will those Shiites turn politically and religiously? In this sense, [America's inaction during the crushing of the Shiite uprising in southern Iraq in] 1991 is instructive. Will the Shiites turn away from Hizbullah? There is little doubt that the horrendous tragedy for Lebanon stems from misjudgment by the party's leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. He admitted as much in an interview last week with Al-Jazeera. The early evidence suggests strongly that Shiites will emerge from this war even more politicized than before July 12, when the Israeli onslaught began. This war is consolidating sectarian loyalties, reinforcing the role of religious institutions and only heightening distrust of the US and major Arab states - most prominently Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Just because many tens of thousands of Lebanese Shiites may have to live in tents does not mean that they are going to emerge from this war a diminished political force. I expect the contrary to be true. There will be two beneficiaries of their politicization: Hizbullah and Iran. [complete article]
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Bush orders humanitarian aid to Lebanon, but opposes cease-fire
AP (via USA Today), July 24, 2006

President Bush has ordered helicopters and ships to Lebanon to provide humanitarian aid, but he still opposes an immediate cease-fire that could give relief from a 13-day-old Israeli bombing campaign.

Announcing the assistance program, White House press secretary Tony Snow said Monday there was no reason to believe an immediate cease-fire would stop violence in the Mideast and said instead the world should confront the destabilizing force of Hezbollah and its practice of using the Lebanese people as "human shields."

Israel's bombardment has demolished Lebanon's infrastructure and killed hundreds. It began after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers.

"At the order of the president, humanitarian supplies will start arriving in Lebanon tomorrow by helicopter and by ship," Snow announced at the White House. "We are working with Israel and Lebanon to open up humanitarian corridors." [complete article]

Comment -- Is this the Bush administration's idea of full-service war support: bombs and bandages. We're helping to kill your civilians but we also want to help take care of those who survive.
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A new Middle East, or Rice's fantasy ride?
By Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star, July 24, 2006

American officials are very good at vernacular descriptions, but lousy at history and political reality in the Middle East. As US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sets off Sunday on her short trip to a Middle East that is increasingly engulfed in violent confrontations and political turmoil, she has described the massive destruction, dislocation and human suffering in Lebanon as an inevitable part of the "birth pangs of a new Middle East."

From my perspective here in Beirut, watching American-supplied Israeli jets smash this country to smithereens, what she describes as "birth pangs" look much more like a wicked hangover from a decades-old American orgy of diplomatic intoxication with the enticements of pro-Israeli politics.

We shall find out in the coming years if indeed a new Middle Easy is being born, or - as I suspect - we are witnessing the initial dying gasps of the Western-made political order that has defined this region and focused primarily on Israeli national dictates for most of the past half-century. The way to a truly new and stable Middle East is to apply policies that deliver equal rights to all concerned, not to favor Israel as having greater rights than Arabs. [complete article]
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U.S. won't push for immediate cease-fire
By Nedra Pickler, AP (via Yahoo), July 24, 2006

White House officials said President Bush remains opposed to an immediate cease-fire to stop violence in the Middle East, despite personal pleas from ally Saudi Arabia that he help stop the bloodshed.

Saudi King Abdullah beseeched Bush to intervene in Israel's military campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon, where the death toll is approaching 400 after less than two weeks of bombing. Abdullah's request was hand-delivered to Bush by Saudi officials who requested a meeting Sunday at the White House.

"We requested a cease-fire to allow for a cessation of hostilities," Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told reporters as he departed the West Wing.

"I have brought a letter from the Saudi king to stop the bleeding in Lebanon, and there has been an agreement to save Lebanese lives, Lebanese properties and what the Lebanese have built, and to save this country from the ordeal it is facing," Saud said. [complete article]

See also, Rice makes surprise visit in Beirut (AP).
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Bush's Middle East democracy flop
By Anatol Lieven, Los Angeles Times, July 23, 2006

The Bush administration's plan to bring democracy to the Middle East is now in ruins. In a nation where political responsibility still counted for something, the architects of that strategy would be forced to resign.

Remember the argument for the Iraq war -- that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein would lead to a stable, democratic Iraq and bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians? Remember the argument that the key problem in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was lack of Palestinian democracy? Remember Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's promise that the U.S. would "support the new Lebanon"?

In truth, reliance on democratization was always not so much a strategy as an excuse for the lack of one. It provided a flimsy cover for the Bush administration's inability or unwillingness to address the key challenges and opportunities of the region. These failures included walking away from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and refusing to consider deals with Iran and Syria when, in the wake of 9/11, these regimes were extremely eager for compromise. As investigative reporter Seymour Hersh and Mideast scholar Flynt Leverett, among others, have argued, Bush forfeited the chance to recruit these two states as allies in the fight against Al Qaeda and the Sunni extremist world, which the Syrian and Iranian regimes have their own good reasons to hate.

Instead, the administration, backed by most of the Democratic leadership, has supported the Israeli government in its plan for a unilateral solution that would confine the Palestinians to Bantustans. It has treated Iran and Syria with unremitting hostility, trying to undermine the Syrian economy and impose sanctions on Iran, demanding concessions while openly proclaiming its desire to overthrow both states. [complete article]
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Sectarian break-up of Iraq is now inevitable, admit officials
By Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, July 24, 2006

The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, meets Tony Blair in London today as violence in Iraq reaches a new crescendo and senior Iraqi officials say the break up of the country is inevitable.

A car bomb in a market in the Shia stronghold of Sadr City in Baghdad yesterday killed 34 people and wounded a further 60 and was followed by a second bomb in the same area two hours later that left a further eight dead. Another car bomb outside a court house in Kirkuk killed a further 20 and injured 70 people.

"Iraq as a political project is finished," a senior government official was quoted as saying, adding: "The parties have moved to plan B." He said that the Shia, Sunni and Kurdish parties were now looking at ways to divide Iraq between them and to decide the future of Baghdad, where there is a mixed population. "There is serious talk of Baghdad being divided into [Shia] east and [Sunni] west," he said. [complete article]

Seeking safety, Iraqis turn to militias
By Dan Murphy and Awadh al-Taiee, Christian Science Monitor, July 24, 2006

A floundering government campaign to crack down on militias and increasing sectarian killings have many Shiites turning to militias for protection, particularly radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's violent Mahdi Army.

The US and British military have stepped up raids on its leadership after growing impatient with the new government's failure to arrest the militia's commanders.

But Sunday, two suicide car bombs in the capital and one in the troubled northern oil city of Kirkuk killed a total of 60 Iraqis, as new Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki jetted off to Britain and the US for talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George Bush on Iraq's crumbling security situation.

Such violence only strengthens the hand of the militias. [complete article]
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Desolation won't bring any peace
By Julie Flint, Daily Star, July 24, 2006

Let's call a spade a spade. This is a turkey shoot in Lebanon, every bit as much as a war on Hizbullah "terror." Unable to see its enemy clearly, the Israeli armed forces are flattening, quite literally, a wide swathe of South Lebanon. But this is not 1982, and Hizbullah is not the PLO. Hizbullah's fighters are not firing rockets from the houses Israel is destroying. Israel is targeting non-combatants.

This is a war Israel cannot win. Have the Israelis forgotten the lesson of 1982 - that force resolves nothing? Yes, the Palestine Liberation Organization sailed out in the end. But Hizbullah rode in and is still fighting the Israelis 20 years later, more determined and more organized than Yasser Arafat's men ever were. The war crimes of 1982, climaxing in the Sabra and Shatila massacres, will forever sully Israel and its army. Already today, in only the second week of this new war, the central debate here is no longer about whether Hizbullah's provocative attack across the Blue Line on July 12 was a calculation or a miscalculation, an initiative ordered from Tehran or Haret Hreik. Israel is committing a new round of war crimes for which it must be called to account, and for which a whole new generation of Lebanese will hate it. [complete article]
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Letting Lebanon burn
By the editors, MERIP, July 21, 2006

Israel is raining destruction upon Lebanon in a purely defensive operation, according to the White House and most of Congress. Even some CNN anchors, habituated to mechanical reporting of "Middle East violence," sound slightly incredulous. With over 300 Lebanese dead and easily 500,000 displaced, with the Beirut airport, bridges and power plants disabled, the enormous assault is more than a "disproportionate response" to Hizballah's July 12 seizure of two soldiers and killing of three others on Israeli soil. It is more than the "excessive use of force" that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan decries. The aerial assault dwarfs the damage done by Hizballah's rocket attacks on Israeli towns. Entire villages in south Lebanon lie in ruins, unknown numbers of their inhabitants buried in the rubble and tens of others incinerated in their vehicles by Israeli missiles as they attempted to escape northward. As it awaits the promised "humanitarian corridor," Lebanon remains almost entirely cut off from the outside world by air, sea and land. As of July 20, thousands of Israeli troops have moved across the UN-demarcated Blue Line. Yet virtually the entire American political class actively resists international calls for an immediate ceasefire, preferring to wait for an Israeli victory. [complete article]
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U.S. must deal with Damascus and Hezbollah to ease Mideast crisis, Syrian says
By Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, July 24, 2006

The Bush administration's approach of indirectly pressuring Syria to end its support for Hezbollah is doomed to failure, a top Syrian minister said Thursday.

Buthaina Shaaban, the minister of expatriates and a close adviser to President Bashar al-Assad, said the chaos engulfing the region could be reduced only if Damascus and Hezbollah were directly involved in any negotiations. Washington has a policy of isolating Syria.

Further, she said, Washington is ignoring reality if it thinks groups like Hezbollah and Hamas can be purged by allowing Israel to bomb at will, or that extremism can be curbed in any way besides solving the Arab-Israeli dispute.

"The United States has to get realistic about addressing issues in the region instead of taking steps that only make things worse," Mrs. Shaaban said in an interview. "They don't have a vision about what is happening in the Middle East. They don't have a plan for the region. They are losing credibility." [complete article]

Can Syria really rein in Hizbullah?
By Rhonda Roumani, Christian Science Monitor, July 24, 2006

Since Israel began bombing Lebanon two weeks ago, posters displaying Syrian President Bashar al-Assad flanked by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah have seemingly doubled on the Damascus street.

Throughout the city, Hizbullah flags flutter out of car windows. Crowds hail Mr. Nasrallah as the only real " zaim," or leader, left in the Arab world willing to directly confront Israel. Not only are Messrs. Assad and Ahmadinejad united in their support for the Lebanese militia, together with Hizbullah they are celebrated as symbols of resistance against the US and Israel.

But while Hizbullah has broad popular support across Syria and the backing of Damascus, the question is how much influence Mr. Assad's regime has - and whether it can leverage it over the Shiite militant group to rein it in and possibly negotiate a cease-fire. [complete article]
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Iraqi Shi'ite militia ready to join fight
By Sharon Behn, Washington Times, July 24, 2006

A senior member of Muqtada al-Sadr's Iraqi Shi'ite militia, the Mahdi Army, says the group is forming a squadron of up to 1,500 elite fighters to go to Lebanon.

The plan reflects the potential of the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah to strengthen radical elements in Iraq and neighboring countries and to draw other regional players into the Lebanon conflict.

"We are choosing the men right now," said Abu Mujtaba, who works in the loosely organized following of radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. "We are preparing the right men for the job."

Mr. Mujtaba, who was interviewed in Baghdad, said some of the men have had special training but did not specify what kind.

Sheik al-Sadr's black-clad armed militia numbers in the thousands, operates throughout central and southern Iraq and is thought to be responsible for numerous killings of Sunnis.

A rival Sunni cleric, Abdul Rahman al-Duleimi, said he knew about the militia's recruiting effort and that he had appealed to his own followers to fight Israel.

"We know that the Mahdi militia is on this issue since the Lebanon-Israeli crisis started," said Sheik al-Duleimi, whose house in Baghdad contains a large portrait of former ruler Saddam Hussein. The cleric is not related to Adnan al-Dulaimi, also a Sunni cleric and leader of a major faction in parliament.

Sheik al-Duleimi said that during prayers on Friday, he "called the people to volunteer, and if they cannot, they should donate anything. I called on people to donate even one bullet, because maybe this one bullet will kill one Israeli." [complete article]
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U.N. appalled by Beirut devastation
BBC News, July 24, 2006

The UN's Jan Egeland has condemned the devastation caused by Israeli air strikes in Beirut, saying it is a violation of humanitarian law.

Mr Egeland, the UN's emergency relief chief, described the destruction as "horrific" as he toured the city.

He arrived hours after another Israeli strike on Beirut. Israel also hit Sidon, a port city in the south crammed with refugees, for the first time. [complete article]

U.K. calls Israeli attacks 'disproportionate'
By Donald Macintyre and Eric Silver, The Independent, July 24, 2006

The British Foreign Office minister Kim Howells yesterday stood by his criticisms of the 12-day bombardment of Lebanon with a warning that Israel had to win the "political battle" as well as confronting Hizbollah militarily.

Mr Howells, whose weekend remarks in Beirut and here yesterday appeared to reflect an emerging difference - at the very least in tone - between the UK and US governments over Israel's conduct of the war, repeated that Israel had to "think very hard" about the loss of civilian life and the impact on Lebanon's infrastructure. The minister was speaking after touring the main Rambam hospital in Haifa where two men - including an Arab carpentry worker - were killed yesterday in repeated volleys of around 80 Katyusha rockets which Hizbollah fired throughout the day on northern Israel. [complete article]
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Weighing foreign forces: Sea change for Israel
By Steven Erlanger, New York Times, July 24, 2006

For decades, Arab -- particularly Palestinian -- leaders have sought international intervention in their conflicts with Israel, while Israeli leaders spurned foreign forces as unreliable and likely to be biased against Israeli interests.

Now, in a sudden turnabout, Israel is embracing the possibility of an aggressive international force on its northern border with Lebanon to bolster its security in its struggle with Hezbollah.

"In a way, we're playing an old Palestine Liberation Organization game," said Michael Oren of the center-right Shalem Center, a research institute in Jerusalem, "to precipitate regional instability and then try to bring in international intervention. We fought against it in the past, but Israel now realizes it can't do things alone. And Israel feels here it has a friend in America and some greater understanding in Europe." [complete article]

See also, Israel open to NATO troops along border (LAT).
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The West's moral erosion has undermined the war on terror
By Max Hastings, The Guardian, July 24, 2006

Morality in foreign policy is often subjective. The US administration is confident that it represents the forces of democracy and freedom, and thus feels free to do whatever it judges best to promote these fine things. Israel perceives Palestinians and Arabs as committed to its destruction, justifying any action taken against them. Some in the Muslim world see no prospect of frustrating western cultural, economic and military dominance on western terms of engagement, and so choose other methods - such as suicide-bombing - that better suit their weakness.

Many Americans and Israelis believe that virtue is anyway unimportant, that the Arab world - and indeed the world at large - chiefly respects the successful use of power. Yet the weakness of this argument is laid bare in Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere. The US, Israel and their backers - prominently including Tony Blair, if not the British people - are perceived both as behaving immorally, and using force ineffectually.

In a recent article for the International Institute for Strategic Studies journal, Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the School of Public Policy at Singapore University, analysed the precipitous decline of perceived western legitimacy. His principal argument was that it is essential for the US and its allies to be seen to abide by the same rules that they seek to impose on others. He proposed a recasting of the post-1945 Truman consensus, within which most nations acknowledged that the US sought to exercise its might for the welfare of all. Urging the US to renew its commitment to making the UN a real force, Mahbubani acknowledged the justice of giving large powers large voices through the security council. He argued, however, that its members' special influence must be matched by a special sense of responsibility, which is today perceived as lacking.

The world is unimpressed, he said, by US attempts to limit the rising power of China. Osama bin Laden has "successfully delegitimised American power in the eyes of hundreds of millions of Muslims ... One of the key factors in the growing delegitimisation ... is [US] indifference to its impact and to how it is perceived in the eyes of the 6 billion people in the rest of the world." The principle of political and economic even-handedness is key, and is being flouted. [complete article]
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Fleeing civilian vehicles hit by Israeli missiles
By Nicholas Blanford and Ned Parker, The Times, July 24, 2006

With an expression of utmost calm on her blood-masked face, the woman allowed herself to be gently lowered from the minibus into the waiting arms of two Lebanese Red Cross volunteers.

The rescue workers had extracted her through a jagged hole in the roof of the crumpled bus, created by a missile fired minutes earlier by an Israeli helicopter that had blasted the vehicle off the road. Left behind in the vehicle, slumped over each other and soaked in blood, were the bodies of three people.

The narrow roads that meander through the valleys and undulating chalky hills east of Tyre were a place of terror and death yesterday as Israeli helicopters attacked civilian vehicles fleeing Israel's 11-day onslaught in south Lebanon.

Dr Ahmad Mrowe, director of the Jabal Amel hospital in Tyre, said: "Today is the day of the cars. It has been very bad."

By early evening, the Jabal Amel hospital alone had received 41 wounded, most of them serious, according to hospital sources, all thought to be civilians seeking refuge north of the Litani river after heeding Israeli warnings to leave the area. [complete article]

Flight of 700,000 refugees puts massive strain on Syria
By Paul Cochrane, The Independent, July 24, 2006

With nearly 370 killed and 700,000 Lebanese displaced following Israel's 12-day bombardment of Lebanon, tens of thousands of people are trying to flee across the border to Syria. Lebanon's border crossings with Syria to the north and east have been inundated with people, with up to a million Lebanese seeking refuge, according to state-run Syria TV. The Lebanese government and the United Nations yesterday warned that there is an impending humanitarian crisis in Lebanon.

The exodus is putting a serious strain on Syria, which has 300,000 Palestinian refugees and over 450,000 Iraqis who fled Iraq after the US-led invasion in 2003. With hotels full in Damascus, people are staying in orphanages, schools and university dormitories, or travelling to neighbouring Jordan, or to other Syrian cities. Flights out of Syria are booked up for at least five days, despite airlines increasing the number of outward flights. [complete article]

Islamist and NGO aid to Lebanon outweighs Egyptian government's
IRIN, July 24, 2006

The Egyptian government and its Red Crescent have been criticised by opponents and the media for responding relatively slowly to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Lebanon.

It took until 23 July, the twelfth day of bombing in Lebanon, for the Egyptian Red Crescent to send emergency assistance to Lebanon, according to the semi-official Al-Ahram newspaper. The Egyptian government did send two planes bearing goods early on in the crisis, but has done very little else since, it said.

"Unlike the local NGO community and the Muslim Brotherhood, the government and the Red Crescent have been incredibly slow to plan any emergency assistance for Lebanon," says Gamal Essam El-Din, veteran Egyptian journalist and analyst.

On the other hand, the Arab Doctors' Union, dominated by members of the Muslim Brotherhood an Islamic social and political group born in Egypt in 1928, has been instrumental in co-ordinating relief efforts from Egypt and across the region, where its members are based. It immediately dispatched a team of doctors to the country which is being attacked by Israel, to assess needs. [complete article]
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Heavy fighting continues deeper in Lebanon
By Kathy Gannon, AP (via Yahoo), July 24, 2006

Israeli ground forces pushed deeper into the country in heavy fighting with Hezbollah guerrillas on Monday, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a surprise visit to Lebanon to launch diplomatic efforts aimed at ending 13 days of warfare.

Rice met with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, who greeted her with a kiss on both cheeks. Rice told him, "Thank you for your courage and steadfastness." [complete article]

Israel set war plan more than a year ago
By Matthew Kalman, San Francisco Chronicle, July 21, 2006

More than a year ago, a senior Israeli army officer began giving PowerPoint presentations, on an off-the-record basis, to U.S. and other diplomats, journalists and think tanks, setting out the plan for the current operation in revealing detail. Under the ground rules of the briefings, the officer could not be identified.

In his talks, the officer described a three-week campaign: The first week concentrated on destroying Hezbollah's heavier long-range missiles, bombing its command-and-control centers, and disrupting transportation and communication arteries. In the second week, the focus shifted to attacks on individual sites of rocket launchers or weapons stores. In the third week, ground forces in large numbers would be introduced, but only in order to knock out targets discovered during reconnaissance missions as the campaign unfolded. There was no plan, according to this scenario, to reoccupy southern Lebanon on a long-term basis. [complete article]

Hezbollah using Viet Cong-style defences: Jane's Defence Weekly
AFP (via DNA), July 21, 2006

Hezbollah is proving a tough opponent for Israel because of their Viet Cong-style network of tunnels in southern Lebanon, the authoritative Jane's Defence Weekly magazine said on Friday.

The Shiite Muslim militia has launched hundreds of rockets on towns in northern Israel and is seemingly still capable to carry on with the rocket strikes despite a punishing bombardment by the Jewish state, Jane's said.

The Israel Defence Force (IDF) has acknowledged that the number of Hezbollah casualties is low, estimated at no more than several dozen out of the nearly 340 killed in Lebanon since the fighting started, the magazine said. [complete article]
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Pakistan expanding nuclear program
By Joby Warrick, Washington Post, July 24, 2006

Pakistan has begun building what independent analysts say is a powerful new reactor for producing plutonium, a move that, if verified, would signal a major expansion of the country's nuclear weapons capabilities and a potential new escalation in the region's arms race.

Satellite photos of Pakistan's Khushab nuclear site show what appears to be a partially completed heavy-water reactor capable of producing enough plutonium for 40 to 50 nuclear weapons a year, a 20-fold increase from Pakistan's current capabilities, according to a technical assessment by Washington-based nuclear experts.

The construction site is adjacent to Pakistan's only plutonium production reactor, a modest, 50-megawatt unit that began operating in 1998. By contrast, the dimensions of the new reactor suggest a capacity of 1,000 megawatts or more, according to the analysis by the Institute for Science and International Security. Pakistan is believed to have 30 to 50 uranium warheads, which tend to be heavier and more difficult than plutonium warheads to mount on missiles. [complete article]
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Six fallacies of the U.S. Hizballah campaign
By Tony Karon, Rootless Cosmopolitan, July 23, 2006

People outraged by the hundreds of Lebanese killed in Israeli bombing raids over the past week may be tempted to see in the U.S. rush to ship Israel extra supplies of bombs and missiles to rain down on Lebanon, and in its diplomatic effort to prolong rather than end the conflict in the hope that Israel can achieve its battlefield objectives, evidence that the offensive is part of another club-footed U.S. effort to remake the region. But it's not that simple. In fact, it may be no more true than the idea that because Iran funds, trains and arms Hizballah, it was Tehran that took the decision to escalate the conflict on Israel's northern border. Client states and proxy forces tend to act autonomously of their backers, even if they share many of the same objectives -- if they didn't have their own separate interests they wouldn't be proxies or clients, they would simply be satellites.

It's well established that Israel acts independently of the U.S., and what distinguishes the current U.S. administration from its predecessors is the extent to which it simply follows Israel's lead. Smart and well-informed Iran-watchers such as Trita Parsi challenge the the conventional wisdom in much of the media that Iran took the decision to seize the two Israeli soldiers, and suggest the focus on Iran comes from those who would like to see the U.S. take on Iran. I spoke to Parsi last week, and he suggested that the escalation in Lebanon actually undermined Iran's interests, and that Hizballah acts autonomously from its backer, particularly on a tactical level. "On grander strategic actions, Hizballah would probably seek consent or approval from Tehran, but not necessarily on tactical operations. And its not clear that they saw the capture of those soldiers as having strategic consequences, or whether they just saw it as a tactical opportunity to press for the release of prisoners." [complete article]
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For Hezbollah, survival may mean victory
By Hamza Hendawi, AP (via Yahoo), July 23, 2006

Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah acknowledges that Israeli troops can sweep across south Lebanon. But if he and his militants can survive and keep fighting, he will cement his image as the unlikely new hero of Arab nationalism.

Israeli troops backed by tanks fought their way into southern Lebanon Saturday at the start of a ground assault to drive the Islamic guerrilla group away from the border and put Israeli cities beyond the reach of its rockets.

"I don't want to raise expectations. I never said that the Israelis cannot reach any place in southern Lebanon," says Nasrallah, a black-turbaned Shiite cleric whom Israel has tried repeatedly to kill.

"Our dogma and strategy is when the Israelis come, they must pay a high price. This is what we promise and this is what we will achieve, God willing." [complete article]

Hezbollah's apocalypse now
By Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, Washington Post, July 23, 2006

Domestically, Hezbollah has succeeded in integrating itself into the Lebanese political system, with its two government ministers and 14 MPs. But the party has also been keen to convince others of the importance of its resistance and of its unrivaled efficacy as a deterrent to the threat posed by Israel.

And Israel's current onslaught has unwittingly provided Hezbollah with the opportunity to demonstrate both -- that Israel remains Lebanon's gravest enemy, and that Hezbollah is the only force capable of confronting it. The Lebanese government's ineptitude in handling the crisis, coupled with the army's sitting-duck status, only underscores that point.

Hezbollah has succeeded in elevating its regional importance, positioning itself alongside Iran, Syria and Hamas -- the axis of terrorism in Israel's lexicon. In this light, Hezbollah's face-off with Israel is not only a defensive war of survival (in response to the declared Israeli and U.S. objective of eliminating the organization), but also an attempt to shatter the myth of Israeli invincibility (which explains why Israel also views this conflict in existential terms).

Most of all, though, Hezbollah hopes to set a new precedent in the Arab world, as its leader Hasan Nasrallah revealed in his latest televised speech: He characterized his movement as a "spearhead of the [Islamic] umma" and declared the conflict as "surpassing Lebanon... it is the conflict of the umma," whose success or failure will reverberate in the entire region. In other words, Hezbollah is to serve as an inspiration, as an exemplar of bold action against Israel and, by extension, against Arab regimes that have allied themselves with the United States and Israel. [complete article]

See also, Israel will accept a disarmed Hezbollah (WP) and Interview with Hezbollah Secretary General Hasan Nasrallah (Aljazeera).
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Torn to shreds
By Christopher Dickey and Babak Dehghanpisheh, Newsweek, July 31, 2006

Early in the evening, Capt. Roger Harrfouche talked to his brother on the phone from his unit's home base at Jamhour, south of Beirut. "I hope they don't target the Lebanese Army," the burly 40-year-old officer said. "Do you think they'll target the Lebanese Army?" No, his brother said, that wouldn't make sense. The captain's public-works regiment was helping repair bridges and other bits of the country's blasted infrastructure, not fighting anyone.

The first Israeli bomb hit after most troops at the base had gone to sleep. The captain rushed out of his barracks to help the wounded. An ambulance raced toward the burning buildings. Another bomb hit, and the ambulance exploded. When the attack ended, Harrfouche and 10 other soldiers had been killed.

Last week's attack on Jamhour added bafflement to horror in Beirut. What sense could be made of this conflagration in which Israel, under merciless attack from Hizbullah rockets, demanded that the Lebanese Army take responsibility for disarming Hizbullah militias—then bombed the Army, too? The Lebanese government—supported by Washington as a promising democracy—is crumbling beneath an Israeli military assault—also supported by Washington. "What is the United States doing? What is Israel doing?" asks Saad Hariri, a Lebanese member of Parliament whose father was assassinated last year while trying to free the country from Syrian domination. "You promote democracy and then you allow it to be destroyed." [complete article]

Missiles hit a Lebanese TV station hard
By Sam F. Ghattis, AP (via Seattle P-I), July 22, 2006

Israel has been unable to silence Hezbollah's television station, its powerful voice at home and in the Arab world, despite 11 days of bombing. But warplanes on Saturday did knock a Lebanese station often critical of the guerrillas off the air in parts of the country.

Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. TV appeared to have gotten caught in Israel's campaign to prevent Hezbollah from communicating among its fighters and spreading its word in a war that has played out on television to viewers across the Middle East - bumping even the violence in Iraq. [complete article]
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U.S. plan seeks to wedge Syria from Iran
By Helene Cooper and David E. Sanger, New York Times, July 23, 2006

As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice heads to Israel on Sunday, Bush administration officials say they recognize Syria is central to any plans to resolve the crisis in the Middle East, and they are seeking ways to peel Syria away from its alliance of convenience with Iran.

In interviews, senior administration officials said they had no plans right now to resume direct talks with the Syrian government. President Bush recalled his ambassador to Syria, Margaret Scobey, after the assassination of Rafik Hariri, a former Lebanese prime minister, in February 2005. Since then, America’s contacts with Damascus have been few, and the administration has imposed an array of sanctions on Syria’s government and banks, and frozen the assets of Syrian officials implicated in Mr. Hariri’s killing.

But officials said this week that they were at the beginning stages of a plan to encourage Saudi Arabia and Egypt to make the case to the Syrians that they must turn against Hezbollah. [complete article]

Comment -- Syria's connections with Hezbollah and Iran are arguably the only thing that gives it any leverage right now. So what is Syria supposed to get in return for throwing away this power? An indirect promise from the U.S. - now we'll be nice to you? Perhaps the only credible promise on offer might be - trust us, we've given up on the democracy project. Now all we want is to cripple Islamism. It turns out, authoritarian regimes aren't so bad after all.
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Syria 'would resist Lebanon invasion'
AFP (via The Australian), July 23, 2006

A Syrian minister warned Israel in an interview published today that a major ground incursion into Lebanon would draw his country into the Middle East conflict.

"If Israel makes a land entry into Lebanon, they can get to within 20km of Damascus," Information Minister Moshen Bilal told the Spanish newspaper ABC.

"What will we do? Stand by with our arms folded? Absolutely not. Without any doubt Syria will intervene in the conflict." [complete article]

Israel believes U.S. will grant it a week to end incursion
By Aluf Benn, Shmuel Rosner and Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz, July 23, 2006

The two Israel Defense Forces soldiers abducted by Hezbollah on July 12 are "in good health," Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh said Sunday.

On the eve of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit to Jerusalem, senior officials believe Israel has received American approval to continue operations against Hezbollah at least until next Sunday.

Rice will first explore ways with Israel's leadership to end the crisis and begin to shape a new order in Lebanon. She will return next Sunday to try to implement a cease-fire. [complete article]

A united, worried Israel
By Eric Silver, Open Democracy, July 21, 2006

In summer 1982, more than 100,000 Israelis gathered in a Tel Aviv square to demand an end to the first Lebanon war. Dissenters picketed the Jerusalem residence of the then prime minister Menachem Begin with placards, updated daily, starkly reminding him of the Israeli (let alone the Lebanese) death toll. Politicians and journalists were flooded with anti-war phone calls and letters.

Eli Geva, a high-flying armoured brigade commander, resigned his commission rather than obey an order to shell Beirut. "For the first time in Israel's unfortunately rich history of conflict", wrote Hirsh Goodman, the Jerusalem Post's military correspondent, "there was an almost total breakdown of trust between those giving orders and those being asked to put their own lives and the lives of their men on the line."

Twenty-four years later, with the Israeli air force bombing Beirut around the clock and artillery pounding southern Lebanon, signs of protest are few and far between. [complete article]

One prisoner - Samir Kuntar - plays important role in conflict
By Matthew Schofield, McClatchy, July 22, 2006

It came as no surprise when Hezbollah's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, said that if Israelis wanted their two captured soldiers returned, they'd have to release Samir Kuntar.

Kuntar's release was first demanded during the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise liner Achille Lauro. Since then, Palestinian and Lebanese groups have repeated the demand whenever a prisoner exchange has been discussed.

On Saturday evening, several Arabic stations reported about him, and the Hezbollah television station al Manar ran a feature about him that asked, "Isn't he worth a war?" [complete article]
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Militants disagree on Gaza ceasefire
By Abraham Rabinovich, The Australian, July 23, 2006

Senior Fatah sources said at the weekend that Hamas and other militant Palestinian factions had agreed to unilaterally stop firing rockets into Israel as the first stage of a process leading to the release of prisoners by both sides and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip.

The ceasefire was to have gone into effect at midnight on Saturday but three rockets were fired into Israel yesterday morning after several militant factions said they did not accept a ceasefire.

Nevertheless, the initiative, which the Hamas political leadership in Gaza had accepted, could be a significant indication of moderation in the Palestinian camp in the wake of unremitting Israeli pressure on the Gaza Strip. [complete article]

With the spotlight on Lebanon, Gaza feels left in dark
By Ashraf Khalil, Los Angeles Times, July 23, 2006

"The world doesn't speak about 10,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, but everyone stands on their heads over one Israeli soldier," said Mohammed Aishee, a Gaza City grocery store owner. "Before Lebanon happened, we were the center of attention. But what did it get us? Nothing. And even if they were paying attention, what's the point? It's not saving the Lebanese."

Some fear the lack of world attention presents a more dangerous scenario: the possibility that the Lebanon offensive is a distraction to give Israel a free hand in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. [complete article]
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In politicians' pro-Israel din, Arab Americans go unheard
By Noam N. Levey, Los Angeles Times, July 23, 2006

When President Bush and Democratic challenger Sen. John F. Kerry were looking for precious votes in 2004 battleground states, they courted a community long accustomed to being overlooked: Arab Americans.

But just two years later, the small but growing voter bloc appears to have slipped back into political obscurity as a new wave of violence in the Middle East galvanizes American officials' support for Israel.

Despite recent calls from Arab American leaders for greater U.S. efforts to secure a cease-fire, the president and Congress have made it clear that they do not intend to try to stop Israel from taking on its Hezbollah and Hamas foes. [complete article]
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Iran's Ahmadinejad tells Israel to pack up and go
AFP (via Yahoo), July 23, 2006

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Sunday told arch-foe Israel to "pack up" and move somewhere outside the Middle East.

"I advise them to pack up and move out of the region before being caught in the fire they have started in Lebanon," said Ahmadinejad, who has repeatedly called for the Jewish state to be relocated elsewhere on the planet, the state news agency IRNA reported Sunday.

Iran refuses to recognise Israel and opposes any two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ahmadinejad has in the past called for Israel to be "wiped off the map" or relocated as far away as Alaska. [complete article]

Russian opposition threatens unity on Iran
By George Jahn, AP (via The State), July 22, 2006

Unexpected Russian opposition to key wording of a U.S.-backed Security Council draft resolution is straining international unity on how to deal with Iran's nuclear defiance, U.N. diplomats said Saturday.

The apparent change of heart is the latest obstacle in the months-long attempt to pressure Iran's hardline Islamic government to suspend uranium enrichment, which many countries fear Tehran wants to use for a nuclear program. [complete article]

Iran prepared for nuclear talks without preconditions - official
RIA Novosti, July 23, 2006

Iran is prepared to hold negotiations on its nuclear program without any preconditions, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Sunday.

Iran's nuclear program has been a source of major controversy since the beginning of the year, as many countries suspect the Islamic Republic of pursuing a covert weapons program under the pretext of civilian research, despite its claims to the contrary.

Asefi said Iran would not give up its legitimate rights in the nuclear sphere and believed all problems should be resolved through negotiations without any preliminary conditions. [complete article]
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Maliki rejects Shiite bloc's calls to cancel U.S. visit
By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times, July 23, 2006

Lawmakers from Iraq's main Shiite Muslim coalition urged Prime Minister Nouri Maliki on Saturday to cancel his trip to the United States to protest Washington's support for Israel's military actions in Lebanon.

But Maliki, speaking at a news conference, said he would proceed with his long-planned visit, which includes meetings with President Bush and other U.S. officials. He said that after he arrives July 25, he will press for an end to "Israeli aggression" against Lebanon. [complete article]

Comment -- One has to wonder whether the White House will automatically dismiss Maliki's protests as some kind of knee-jerk expression of Muslim solidarity or whether word has managed to filter around Washington yet, that connections between the Shia in Iraq and Hezbollah in Lebanon are not superficial. The founder of Amal (and its offshoot, Hezbollah) was Musa al-Sadr, whose cousin was the grandfather of Moqtada al-Sadr. The ties between the Shia leadership in Lebanon and the Shia leadership in Iraq are actually quite close.
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U.S.: Soldiers tell of detainee abuse in Iraq
Human Rights Watch, July 23, 2006

Torture and other abuses against detainees in U.S. custody in Iraq were authorized and routine, even after the 2004 Abu Ghraib scandal, according to new accounts from soldiers in a Human Rights Watch report released today. The new report, containing first-hand accounts by U.S. military personnel interviewed by Human Rights Watch, details detainee abuses at an off-limits facility at Baghdad airport and at other detention centers throughout Iraq.

In the 53-page report, "No Blood, No Foul: Soldiers' Accounts of Detainee Abuse in Iraq," soldiers describe how detainees were routinely subjected to severe beatings, painful stress positions, severe sleep deprivation, and exposure to extreme cold and hot temperatures. The accounts come from interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch, supplemented by memoranda and sworn statements contained in declassified documents.

"Soldiers were told that the Geneva Conventions did not apply, and that interrogators could use abusive techniques to get detainees to talk," said John Sifton, the author of the report and the senior researcher on terrorism and counterterrorism at Human Rights Watch. "These accounts rebut U.S. government claims that torture and abuse in Iraq was unauthorized and exceptional – on the contrary, it was condoned and commonly used." [complete article]
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Bombs kill 64 as Iraq peace hopes rocked
By Wissam Al-Ukaili, AFP (via Yahoo), July 23, 2006

Bombers have killed at least 64 people, striking a bloody blow against Iraq's fledgling hopes for peace just one day after the government launched national reconciliation talks.

A suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden minibus amid a crowd of day labourers seeking work in a crowded market in Baghdad's mainly Shiite district of Sadr City at 9:20 am (0520 GMT) Sunday, killing at least 34 people.

This was followed by a bomb attack in front of the area's town hall, which killed eight, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office said in a statement.

Three hours later a one-tonne car bomb exploded outside a courthouse in the mixed northern city of Kirkuk, leaving at least 22 dead and 100 injured, according to Kirkuk police chief General Borhan Habib Tayeb. [complete article]
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In Iraq, military forgot lessons of Vietnam
By Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post, July 23, 2006

The real war in Iraq -- the one to determine the future of the country -- began on Aug. 7, 2003, when a car bomb exploded outside the Jordanian Embassy, killing 11 and wounding more than 50.

That bombing came almost exactly four months after the U.S. military thought it had prevailed in Iraq, and it launched the insurgency, the bloody and protracted struggle with guerrilla fighters that has tied the United States down to this day.

There is some evidence that Saddam Hussein's government knew it couldn't win a conventional war, and some captured documents indicate that it may have intended some sort of rear-guard campaign of subversion against occupation. The stockpiling of weapons, distribution of arms caches, the revolutionary roots of the Baathist Party, and the movement of money and people to Syria either before or during the war all indicate some planning for an insurgency.

But there is also strong evidence, based on a review of thousands of military documents and hundreds of interviews with military personnel, that the U.S. approach to pacifying Iraq in the months after the collapse of Hussein helped spur the insurgency and made it bigger and stronger than it might have been. [complete article]
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Iraqi reconciliation panel optimistic
By Andy Mosher, Washington Post, July 23, 2006

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's program to bridge the widening divisions among Iraq's religious, ethnic and political factions took its first concrete step forward Saturday. A high-level reconciliation panel held its first meeting, with its members voicing optimism about the task ahead while offering fresh evidence of how difficult it could prove.

The Supreme Committee for Reconciliation and National Dialogue, intended to bring together representatives from the widest possible cross-section of Iraqi society, met inside Baghdad's fortified Green Zone. Afterward Maliki, President Jalal Talabani and Parliamentary Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani met with reporters, and the prime minister proclaimed that "coordination and dialogue based on democracy had found their way to the light." [complete article]

Iraqi speaker decries U.S. 'butchery'
Aljazeera, July 22, 2006

Mahmoud al-Mashhadani was speaking on Saturday at a UN-sponsored conference on transitional justice and reconciliation in Baghdad.

"Just get your hands off Iraq and the Iraqi people and Muslim countries, and everything will be all right," he said in a speech as the conference opened.

"What has been done in Iraq is a kind of butchery of the Iraqi people."

He also criticised US support for Israeli attacks against Lebanon. [complete article]

Comment -- So Aljazeera does a pretty good job of making the Washington Post's reporter sound like a dummy. Being able to jot down notes at the news conference is one thing, but it can't beat being able to understand Arabic!
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Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:

Israel's 'war of choice'
By Gideon Levy, Haaretz, July 16, 2006

Why is Israel destroying Lebanon?
By Patrick Seale, Al-Hayat, July 21, 2006

The army protects the home front - not the other way around
By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz, July 19, 2006

Bush's profanity shows he has no clue about Arabs
By Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star, July 22, 2006

Time to start talking
By Robert Malley, Time, July 16, 2006

Why three Arab regimes are publicly aligning themselves against Hezbollah and Iran
By Marc Lynch, The American Prospect, July 20, 2006

Middle East united against the U.S., Israel
By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times, July 20, 2006

Hezbollah's skill more military than militia
By Peter Spiegel and Sebastian Rotella, Los Angeles Times, July 20, 2006

Examining Israel's 'right to defend itself'
By Michael Byers, Toronto Star, July 16, 2006

It's not just about Hezbollah
By Trita Parsi, Asia Times, July 20, 2006

The convergence of diplomacy and war
By Robert Blecher, MERIP, July 18, 2006

A divide deepens in Arab world
By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times, July 17, 2006

Will Syria get respect?
By Joshua Landis, Syria Comment, July 15, 2006

The Middle East aflame and the Bush administration adrift
By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch, July 17, 2006

The price of success in Iraq
By Anthony H. Cordesman, Washington Post, July 18, 2006

Iraq's Muqtada Al-Sadr: Spoiler or stabiliser?
International Crisis Group, July 11, 2006

Interview with authors of "The Israel Lobby"
Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer interviewed by Paige Austin, Mother Jones, July 18, 2006

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