December 2006 Archives

December 31, 2006

The Saddam Execution Video

Mashable! social networking 2.0 says  Saddam’s Execution Video Makes it to Google Video, YouTube, Revver. I watched it. It's not the best quality but somebody captured the event. Rest assured, the official video of the execution will surface on Internet one day.

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Saddam Buried In Awja, Near Tikrit, Iraq

Although Aljazeera reported December 30, 2006, that "A source close to the family [of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who was executed in Baghdad on December 30, 2006] said his daughter, Raghdad [Hussein], "is asking that his body be buried in Yemen temporarily until Iraq is liberated and it can be reburied in Iraq," he has instead "been buried in a family plot in Awja, close to Tikrit," Iraq, according to Aljazeera. See "Saddam buried in Awja."

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December 30, 2006

The Guardian Surveys Some Arab Blogs For Views On Saddam's Execution

Simon Jeffery  at the Guardian news blog reported December 30, 2006, that "On English language Arab blogs there is little mourning" for former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein "but plenty of qualms about his execution." See "Arab blogs on the Saddam hanging" for details.

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Recommended: 'Top Ten Ways The US Enabled Saddam Hussein'

University of Michigan History Professor Juan Cole, who offers his opinions daily at Informed Comment, contends that, "The tendency to treat Saddam and Iraq in a historical vacuum, and in isolation from the superpowers ... has hidden from Americans their own culpability in the horror show that has been Iraq for the past few decades."

"Initially," he writes in a December 6, 2006, post, "the US used the Baath Party as a nationalist foil to the Communists. Then Washington used it against Iran. The welfare of Iraqis themselves appears to have been on no one's mind, either in Washington or in Baghdad."

To read more, please see "For Whom the Bell Tolls: Top Ten Ways the US Enabled Saddam Hussein." Also see Mr. Cole's article at Salon.com headlined "Saddam: The death of a dictator."

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Will Saddam Be Buried In Yemen?

Aljazeera reported December 30, 2006, that "A source close to the family [of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who was executed in Baghdad on December 30, 2006] said his daughter, Raghd, "is asking that his body be buried in Yemen temporarily until Iraq is liberated and it can be reburied in Iraq". See "Saddam hanged at dawn."

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U.S. President Bush's Statement On Saddam's Execution

(NOTE: President George W. Bush, seen in a June 13, 2006, photo taken at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, issued a December 29, 2006, statement on the execution of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The statement can be found at http://www.whitehouse.gov. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is at right).

Today, Saddam Hussein was executed after receiving a fair trial -- the kind of justice he denied the victims of his brutal regime.

Fair trials were unimaginable under Saddam Hussein's tyrannical rule. It is a testament to the Iraqi people's resolve to    move forward after decades of oppression that, despite his terrible crimes against his own people, Saddam Hussein received a fair trial. This would not have been possible without the Iraqi people's determination to create a society governed by the rule of law.

Saddam Hussein's execution comes at the end of a difficult year for the Iraqi people and for our troops. Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain, and defend itself, and be an ally in the War on Terror.

We are reminded today of how far the Iraqi people have come since the end of Saddam Hussein's rule - and that the progress they have made would not have been possible without the continued service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform.

Many difficult choices and further sacrifices lie ahead. Yet the safety and security of the American people require that we not relent in ensuring that Iraq's young democracy continues to progress.

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Saddam's Execution Wasn't 'An Iraqi Operation From A to Z'

In its report on the December 30, 2006, execution of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, United Press International (UPI) quotes Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq's national security adviser, as saying:

He just gave up. We were astonished. It was strange. He just gave up. (See "Saddam 'just gave up' at the end).

What was he expected to do when he was shackled and being led to the gallows by armed men backed by the mightiest army in the world? Make a break for it.

CNN quotes Rubaie as saying the execution was  "an Iraqi operation from A to Z.  The Americans were not present during the hour of the execution. They weren't even in the building."

As for the execution being an "an Iraqi operation from A to Z," that's for the gullible. Sure, the hangman may have been Iraqi, but the execution was carried out with the consent of the Bush Administration. And you can bet U.S. troops were just around the corner, if not across the street.

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Father, Sons and Grandsons

The Bush Administration has overseen the deposing a former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the occupation of his country, his trial and execution.

Not only that, the administration is responsible for the deaths of his sons and a grandson. I'm surprised the daughters are still alive.

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December 28, 2006

Will U.S. policy In The Horn of Africa Aid al-Qaida?

Back on December 22, 2006, Jonathan S. Landay and Shashank Bengali noted in a dispatch from Nairobi, Kenya, that:

The Bush administration has publicly denounced the Islamists who control most of southern Somalia as al-Qaida puppets, reinforcing a widespread belief that the United States tacitly supports Christian-ruled Ethiopia's intervention into the overwhelmingly Muslim country.

The outbreak of fighting has focused new attention on U.S. policy in the region, which Western diplomats and regional experts say has been riddled with inconsistencies and missteps. The experts say U.S. handling of Somalia and Ethiopia is a tale of flawed intelligence, inadequate U.S. government attention and overheated rhetoric, with a measure of domestic U.S. politics thrown in.

The reporters said, "Earlier this year, Washington provided covert aid to an alliance of secular Somali warlords in a failed bid to prevent the Islamists from seizing Mogadishu, the capital. U.S. officials confirmed to McClatchy Newspapers that one recipient of the CIA payments was a leader of a Somali militia that killed 18 U.S. troops in 1993 in fighting in Mogadishu, which was portrayed in the film "Black Hawk Down."

To read more, please see "U.S. policy in the Horn of Africa may aid al-Qaida, experts warn.  By the way, don't be surprised by foreign intervention everywhere independent-minded Muslims attempt to come to power during the next decade. 

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The Uneasy Political Shift In Somalia: A Christian Science Monitor Analysis

 Christian Science Monitor correspondent Rob Crilly noted  in an article in the December 29, 2006, issue of the Boston-based publication that  Mogadishu, the Somali capital,  "echoed with gunfire as clan-based militias returned to the streets, settling old scores and looting. Residents said they feared a return to 15 years of anarchy that ended with the rise of the Union of Islamic Courts, which took over just six months ago," he wrote in a dispatch datelined Nairobi, Kenya.

Mr. Crilly said, "The quick victory over the Islamists, analysts warn, leaves a dangerous vacuum in a country that has only recently seen calm." 

"Without a political strategy for winning the peace," he added, "they say, Somalia risks becoming a quagmire that sucks in neighboring countries. If the Ethiopians keep their word and withdraw quickly, radical elements within the courts - such as the young fighters of the Shabbab, led by Afghanistan-trained Aden Hashi Ayro - might run a guerrilla campaign, drawing in foreign fighters."

"The risks are that if Ethiopia and Somalia are unable to politically consolidate their military victory, then we are back at square one with the conditions that gave rise to the courts in the first place," Mr. Crilly quotes Matt Bryden, a consultant to the International Crisis Group, as saying.

To read more, please see "Uneasy political shift in Somalia.'

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The 'Somali Crisis In Perspective'

Els De Temmerman, Editor-In-Chief of The New Vision,  "Uganda's largest daily and Sunday newspaper, puts the "Somali Crisis in Perspective."

Meanwhile, the  Shabelle Media Network in Somalia reports that, "With Islamists entirely withdrawn from Mogadishu, looters could be seen stealing Islamist-reserved arms in their main headquarters in the northern part of the capital," Aweys Osman Yusuf reported from Mogadishu, the Somali capital on December 28, 2006. See "Somalia: Banditry, Insecurity Rage in Mogadishu As Islamists Leave."

Mr. Yusuf said, "The Union of Islamic Courts, which was militarily powerful and in firm control of the capital, withdrew from Mogadishu late on Wednesday afternoon [December 27, 2006]. It surrendered all battlewagons known as "technicals" back to local clans that gave their backing to Islamists in the first place," he added.

Look for Somali warlords to try to regain their power. Also, look for a government that can't exist without the presence of Ethiopian forces return to kowtowing to the warlords.

The sad thing about the return to the status quo is that Somalia people will again know chaos, death and destruction as the various clans resume their struggle for power.

Meanwhile, I think The Islamic Courts are to be commended for not putting Somalis in Mogadishu in the cross-fire by fighting government troops and their Ethiopian protectors for control of the city.

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December 26, 2006

U.S. Wants Uganda To Get Involved In Somalia

"The United States has urged Uganda to play a key role in the East African peacekeeping mission expected to protect the beleaguered Somali government based in the southern town of Baidoa," The Monitor of Uganda reported December 25, 2006.

The publication said U.S Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice who met Ugandan foreign minister Sam Kutesa in Washington on Friday [December 23, 2006], said she believes that al-Qaeda elements are backing the rebel Islamic Courts Union."

If the Ugandan Government is wise it will not let itself become a U.S. proxy in the conflict.

To read the Monitor report, please see "U.S. Urges Uganda to Engage in Somalia.

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Ethiopia May Come To Regret Its Intervention in Somali

"Ethiopia's attacks against Islamic forces in Somalia may have delivered a short-term military victory, but analysts warned that a longer offensive could present the U.S. ally with some of the same challenges facing American forces in Iraq," Los Angles Times correspondent  Edmund Sanders reported in a December 25, 2006, disptach from Nairobi, Kenya.

One would think that a nation whose people are always on the brink of starvation wouldn't be so eager to waste money  and other resource on war.

To read Mr. Sanders report, please see "Ethiopian offensive in Somalia could mirror Iraq war."

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December 23, 2006

The 'End Of The Neo-Con Dream:' A BBC Analysis

"The ambitions proclaimed when the neo-cons' mission statement "The Project for the New American Century" was declared in 1997 have turned into disappointment and recriminations as the crisis in Iraq has grown," BBC World Affairs Correspondent Paul Reynolds reported December 20, 2006.

He said, "The Project for the New American Century" has been reduced to a voice-mail box and a ghostly website. A single employee has been left to wrap things up," he added.

Mr. Reynolds noted that, The idea of the "Project" was to project American power and influence around the world."

To read his entire analysis, see "End of the neo-con dream.

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December 21, 2006

The Pentagon Wants Additional $99.7 Billion For More War In Iraq

"Overall, the war in Iraq has cost about $350 billion," according to a December 21, 2006,  article by Associated Press writer Andrew Taylor. He added: "Combined with the conflict in Afghanistan and operations against terrorism elsewhere, the cost has topped $500 billion, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service."

Now, the Pentagon wants "an additional $99.7 billion" to fund its wars. For more, please see "AP: Pentagon wants $99.7B more for wars."

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December 19, 2006

Amr Mussa Will Try Again To End Lebanon's Political Crisis

Middle East Online's Rouba Kabbara reported December 19, 2006, from Beirut that, "Arab League chief Amr Mussa returned to Beirut Tuesday [December 19, 2006] in a new bid to find a way out of the crisis gripping Lebanon after the pro-Syrian opposition raised the stakes with a call for early elections." See "Arab League chief in new Lebanon talks" and "Lebanon opposition demands early elections."

The League doesn't have a great diplomatic track record in Lebanon or anywhere else, so there's nothing to suggest that Mr. Mussa will succeed in his current foray in Beirut. That is if Hezbollah doesn't want him to succeed in ending the current political crisis. See "Hamadeh accuses Hezbollah of trying to scuttle League deal."

Also see "Verbal War Continues Between Pro-, Anti-Government Leaders.

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Why U.S. Training Of Iraqi Troops Is Likely to Fail

"American effort to train the Iraqi forces is likely to fail," Andrew Exum, a former U.S. Army Ranger who fought in Iraq in 2003 and is now a "Soref fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says in a commentary he wrote for the December 19, 2006, edition of The Daily Star of Lebanon. He added:

American mistakes aside, Iraq is in the midst of a civil war. And as another American officer told me, every Iraqi officer knows that as soon as the Americans withdraw, as is widely feared, he and his family may be killed. Thus, there is little motivation to try and build up the army into a cohesive, lasting fighting force.

The graduate of the American University of Beirut said, "For the American effort to succeed in training the Iraqi Army, therefore, a long-term presence is required not only to prepare soldiers and build up the military into a national institution, but also to provide security until the army can take over."

To read Mr. Exum's analysis, see "Don't expect an able Iraqi Army soon."

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The Strain On The U.S. Military

In a December 18, 2006, post headlined "Responding to the "strains" on the US military," esteemed Just Word News proprietor and Christian Science Monitor columnist Helena Cobban told her readers that consequences of the U.S. invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003,  "are more and more clearly revealing themselves as disastrous for all concerned, including the U.S. military, we are hearing many more military-related voices-- and this time, some also from within the serving military-- arguing loud and clear that continued pursuit of the present course in Iraq "is breaking the U.S. army." (Q.v., Colin Powell, Kevin Ryan, etc.)" She added:

Many of these people link their warnings about the precarious current situation of the US Army to two strong policy prescriptions: (1) The US needs to find a way to effect a significant drawdown of troops from Iraq, and

(2) The US anyway needs to raise and fund an increased total force strength in the Army.I sympathize very strongly with the first of these prescriptions-- indeed, I want a troop withdrawal from Iraq that is total and speedy-- and I respect the realist and generally "conservative" outlook that many of these military people bring to their view of strategy and the use of force.

"However," Ms. Cobban wrote, "I am also very strongly indeed opposed to the idea that, because of the current crisis in the US military, what our country needs to do is increase the size of the military."

Ms. Cobban, who has vast experience in the Middle East, raises an interesting argument. It's worth reading.

A FEW RELATED LINKS

White House: no rift with military on Iraq troops --- Reuters Alert, United Kingdom

Mission Possible: How the US Will Win in Iraq --- TCS Daily, Washington, DC, USA 

US military overextended, ‘about broken’ in Iraq --- Daily Times, Pakistan 

Powell: US Should Relinquish Security Responsibility to Baghdad --- Washington Post, USA

The Real Meaning of Military Transformation --- Foreign Affairs Magazine, USA 

White House, Joint Chiefs At Odds on Adding Troops --- Washington Post, USA

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Did U.S. Neo-Con's Push Israel To Invade Syria Last Summer?

Did "Neo-conservative hawks in and outside the administration of U.S. President George W Bush" want Israel to attack Syria during Israel's ill-fated war in Lebanon during the summer of 2006?

The answer is yes, according to an article by InterPress Service News Agency's Jim Lobe published in the December 19, 2006, edition of Asia Times Online.

To read why it never occurred, see Mr. Lobe's fascinating backstory headlined "How Syria dodged a neo-con bullet."

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Some Arab Press Opinion On Palestinian Political Crisis

The BBC reported December 19, 2006, that, "With the cease-fire between the main Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, looking increasingly shaky on Tuesday [December 19, 2006], the region's press is divided on how to resolve a conflict many fear could spark civil war."

To read some of that opinion, please see "Press split on Palestinian infighting."

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Hamas Government May Go Down, But So Will Mahmoud Abbas

The New York Times' Steven Erlanger contends in the December 19, 2006, edition of The Times that:

The call for early elections by Mahmoud Abbas, the moderate Palestinian Authority president (in Wikipedia photo below), is part of a Western-backed effort to revive the Middle East peace process in hopes of driving the radical Hamas party, which favors Israel’s destruction, out of power." See "In Abbas, Western Hopes Hang on Thin Reed."

But Mr. Abbas today is a weak reed, with little power to carry out his decrees or his will.

That adequately sums up the beleaguered president's position. He, like the Palestinians in general, is a victim of the    U.S. and Israel's attempt to punish the Palestinians for daring to elect Hamas to lead them over their objections. After Mahmoud AbbasHamas was elected, and refused to say it recognize Israel, the Bush Administration retaliated with devastating sanctions, at the request of Israel. The Administration threatened to punish any nation that came to the Palestinians' aid. Not even Muslim and Arab nations leaders dared to openly help for fear of sanctions.

The Israelis punished the Palestinians by tightening the screws on them by withholding taxes . They also resumed killing Hamas leaders. With money running out, Hamas couldn't pay civil servants and many Palestinians started selling their gold and heirlooms just to eat. Some started scavenging through garbage heaps looking for food and other useful items. It was reminiscent of the sanctions the U.S. and the United Nations imposed on Iraq after former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990.

Some European union officials just followed the U.S. and Israeli lead on Hamas although French President Jacques Chirac opposed sanctions. On March 6, 2006, he was quoted as saying at a news conference in Saudi Arabia:

I know well that there some who envisage sanctions. For my part, I am hostile to sanctions in general and in this case in particular... basically the Palestinian people would bear the brunt of it.
Others blamed a democratically elected Hamas for the suffering brought on by the sanctions. As late as December 3, 2006, European Union Foreign Policy chief Javier Solana claimed 'Hamas blew chance to end sanctions' by refusing to say Israel has a right to exist on Palestinian land taken in 1948 and subsequent years.  

The sanctions have, as The Telegraph of London reported,  "squeeze the life out of West Bank." They and the failure to form a unity government have also increased tensions between Hamas and Fatah. See "Lethal tensions everywhere in Gaza.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya even offered to quit if it will end the sanctions. It did no good. Talks broke down between Hamas and Fatah broke down and the guns came out. Today, the Palestinians are engaged in their own civil war despite a cease-fire negotiated earlier. See "Another Mideast civil war."

Mr. Abbas' calls for new elections, which the U.S. backs, hasn't helped relations between the two sides. See "Abbas insists on holding early elections" and " US tentatively endorses Abbas call for new Palestinian elections.

As might be expected, some westerns leaders desperately want Mr. Abbas to prevail. See "Blair: Strengthen Mahmoud Abbas and Blair calls on world to back Abbas. However, it may be too late. See "West may be too late to save weakened Abbas.

The bottom line is that, as Dr. Azzam Tamimi, director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought (IIPT) in London, writes in the December 19, 2006, edition of The Guardian of London, "Only an end to sanctions can halt Palestine's crisis"

The article was originally published December 18, 2006, at Comment is Free under the headline "Another bid to break Hamas. To date, it has generated more than 200 thought-provoking comments.

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December 18, 2006

Dave Winer: '...The Press No Longer Supports The War'

On December 17, 2006, Dave Winer, blogging pioneer, software developer and proprietor of Scripting News, made a pertinent observation about the Iraq War when he wrote:

One thing that's become clear -- the press no longer supports the war. They did, for a long time, and should take their share of the responsibility. But they won't let this war go on much longer, and they have the power. They can show us the human side of the war, here at home. Profiles of dead soldiers and their families.

Mr. Winer said, "They know how to pull the mass heart strings. It's hard to imagine what will make them flip back to carrying water for Bush."

I agree. The press should start pulling the heart string before President Bush sends 50,000 more troops to Iraq, to fight in a war that can't be won by an invader and occupier. Only a political settlement can end it. But right now, Mr. Bush doesn't seem inclined to take the route. Hopefully, he will surprise us.

NOTE: This post can also be found at The Blogging Journalist, one of my other blogs.

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December 15, 2006

British, U.S. Lies About Iraq Invasion Just Won't Go Away

The British "Government's case for going to war in Iraq has been torn apart by the publication of previously suppressed evidence that Tony Blair lied over Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction," The Independent of London and other publications are reporting today, December 15, 2006.

"A devastating attack on Mr Blair's justification for military action by Carne Ross, Britain's key negotiator at the UN, has been kept under wraps until now because he was threatened with being charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act," writes reporters Colin Brown and Andy McSmith in a post headlined "Diplomat's suppressed document lays bare the lies behind Iraq war."

The reporters said, "His hitherto secret evidence threatens to reopen the row over the legality of the conflict, under which Mr Blair has sought to draw a line as the internecine bloodshed in Iraq has worsened."

A FEW RELATED LINKS

The Iraqi Flim-Flam: Bush-Blair Lies Confirmed Again --- Empire Burlesque, United Kingdom 

Saddam "never a threat to UK", Iraq inquiry told --- Kuwait News Agency, Kuwait

Secret evidence shows no case for Iraq war --- Irish Times, Ireland 

Saddam 'never a threat to Britain' --- Guardian Unlimited, United Kingdom 

UK's Iraq invasion questioned again --- Aljazeera.net, Qatar

Secret evidence deals blow to Blair’s case for Iraq War Aljazeera.com 

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December 14, 2006

Kyl and Woolsey's Open Letter To President Bush

Israel Insider has published a December 14, 2006, open letter to U.S. President George W. Bush from Senator Jon Kyl (Republican from Arizona) and former U.S. Central Intelligence Agency director Robert James Woolsey.

Of course, it's about the  "report of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group (ISG) with its 79 recommendations for policy changes, force redeployments and other course corrections with respect to the conflict in Iraq."

To read the letter, see "Open letter to Bush from US Senator and ex-CIA chief." 

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Raimondo: Olmert Let Israel's Nuclear Cat Out Of The Bag

Antiwar.com's highly opinionated columnist and editorial director, Justin Raimondo, one of the best analysts of International affairs I've read in 40-years of following global issues, notes in a December 13, 2006, post:

Israel's long-standing policy of nuclear ambiguity came to an end the other day when Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in answer to a question about his country's rumored WMD arsenal, replied,

"Iran openly, explicitly, and publicly threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Can you say that this is the same level, when they [the Iranians] are aspiring to have nuclear weapons, as America, France, Israel, Russia?"

"Ha'aretz avers," contends Mr. Raimondo. "It is not clear whether this was a slip of the tongue on the part of Olmert or an intended statement" – and his aides and supporters are certainly scrambling to explain his comments away as a linguistic mix-up. Yet, taken in context – not only the context of the interview, but the context of Israel's present position – I would argue the Israeli Prime Minister was sending a message not only to Iran, but also to the U.S."

To read why Mr. Raimondo thinks this is the case, see "Israel, Alone: The nuclear cat is out of the bag – and Olmert issues a warning…"

By the way, the best book I've read on Israel's acquisition of nuclear weapons is Dr. Avner Cohen's 1998 book Israel And The Bomb. However, I'm sure there many more good ones out there.

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What Intrusive Facts?

Jed Babbin, a "deputy undersecretary of defense in the George H.W. Bush administration," argues in the December 14, 2006, edition of Chicago-based RealClearPolitics, a stellar aggregator of political news and analysis, that:

In the midst of about three hours of Pentagon briefings Tuesday a few seemingly disjointed facts emerged. Each is a major data point that exposes the vacuity of the Baker-Hamilton ISG's recommendation to negotiate with Syria and Iran.

"There is simply no evidence to support the ISG's [Iraq Study Group] assertion that both Iran and Syria have an interest in a stable and peaceful Iraq that is not torn apart by sectarian violence," Mr. Babbin contends." He added:

As I wrote earlier this week, each of those nations - Syria, by running a jihadi welcome wagon to help terrorists coming from all over the world to transit through Syria into Iraq and Iran by funding, arming and providing every other support of Shia terrorist organizations in Iraq - have demonstrated convincingly that they want an unstable Iraq to fall prey to their proxy forces."

Question: Why should Syria and Iraq be expected to support U.S. policy towards Iraq instead of their own? After all, they have interests too. What they do in Iraq may benefit the U.S. but it will more likely benefit them more in the long-run. It's not about bailing the U.S. out but extending their own influence, which is quite legitimate.

To read Mr. Babbin's entire analysis, see "Intrusive Facts."  By the way, RearClearPolitics belongs on any serious analyst's favorite or bookmark list. It's a valuable resource.

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The U.S. Should Engage With Iran, Syria About Iraq

Christian Science Monitor contributing columnist Helena Cobban asks in the December 14, 2006 edition:

Why did the 10 very experienced members of the Iraq Study Group lay such great stress on the need to engage politically with Iran and Syria? First, because after studying the situation in Iraq for nine long months they understood clearly that it is both "grave" and "deteriorating."

Second, because they see the need for a large-scale drawdown of the vulnerable US troop presence in Iraq, they also recognized the close link between the need for the US to move combat troops out of there "responsibly" and the need for urgent new diplomatic efforts in Iraq and the region.

Ms. Cobban, proprietor of the informative Just World News blog, said, "A glance at a map will show why any "responsible" drawdown of US troops from Iraq requires Iran's cooperation. Iran has the longest border with Iraq and dominates Iraq's heavily populated east," she noted, adding: "In a crisis, it could easily close the sea lanes through which most US military supplies reach Iraq. It has longstanding relations with a broad range of Iraqi political groups," Ms. Cobban also noted.

To read her entire analysis, see "The importance of US engagement with Iran and Syria."

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December 13, 2006

Is Saudi Arabia Planning To Aid Sunnis In Iraq?

"Saudi Arabia would respond to an American withdrawal from Iraq by funding and arming Sunni insurgents to prevent them being massacred by Shia militias, the kingdom has told the White House," according to Toby Harnden,  a Washington correspondent for the Telegraph of London. See "We'll arm Sunni insurgents in Iraq, say Saudis."

Mr. Harnden said, "The blunt warning, which diplomatic sources said was delivered by King Abdullah to Vice President Dick Cheney in Riyadh just over a fortnight ago, raises the spectre of an Iraqi civil war triggering a conflict between Sunni and Shia states across the Middle East."

Suzanne Goldenberg, a Washington correspondent for the Guardian of London said the "The conversation, during a visit by Mr Cheney to Riyadh last month, was the most serious indication to date of Saudi concerns about a possible massacre of the minority Sunni community in Iraq in the event o f a withdrawal of US forces, as well as rising Iranian influence in Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories." See "If US leaves Iraq we will arm Sunni militias, Saudis say." She added:

Saudi Arabia has been concerned for months about rising domestic pressure on George Bush to bring US troops home from Iraq, despite the administration's avowals that it has no plans for a troop withdrawal. Those fears were exacerbated by the Iraq Study Group's report, which recommends the withdrawal of combat forces in Iraq in early 2008 as well as the opening of diplomatic negotiations between the US and Syria and Iran.

The Times of London is also weighing in on the issue. In a December 14, 2006, leader headlined "Anxious Ally," the publication told its readers:
There have been clear signs in recent weeks that Saudi Arabia, America’s principal Arab ally in the Middle East, has become deeply concerned at the trend of events in Iraq. The Baker report came as a shock in Riyadh, where it was seen as a pointer to a change in US policy — a change that has unwelcome implications for the Saudis. They are already bracing themselves for a fresh confrontation with Iran — over Iraq, but also over Tehran’s determination to develop a nuclear weapon. And Saudi Arabia, like much of the Arab world, is beginning to suffer the effects of the confrontation between Sunnis and Shias in Iraq, and is rightly fearful of the destabilisation that this violence could bring to the region.

The Times said, "White House has denied reports that King Abdullah warned the Bush Administration two weeks ago that Saudi Arabia might provide financial aid to the Sunni minority in Iraq if American troops were withdrawn. But the denial does little to undermine the assumption that Riyadh will have to come to the aid of beleaguered fellow Sunnis in Iraq."

On December 13, 2006, White House Press Spokesman Tony Snow was asked about this potential move by the Saudis during a press briefing. According to a White House transcript, it went this way:

 Q: Can I just ask one more on a slightly different subject, on the Saudis? The Times reports that essentially, the Saudis told the Vice President, we'll help the insurgents if you pull out. But the Hadley memo, which came to light, whether he liked it or not, makes clear that that sort of support for the insurgency by the Saudis is already going on, is already an issue of concern for this administration. So I'm wondering what kind of communication there's been in the Saudi government to essentially say, stop it, and stop it now?

MR. SNOW: Well, let me break this into two pieces. Number one, that was a representation of conversations the Vice President had with the King. I've spoken with the Vice President's Office, and they say, there's no way that anybody is going to know what the Vice President said to the King because that is kept in the strictest confidence.

And the second point, in talking to our NSC folks who are tasked to it: Number one, that's not Saudi policy. Number two, the Saudis are rightfully and rightly concerned about the adventurism of Iranians in Iraq. And we share that concern. And furthermore, they understand that were the United States to leave without an Iraqi democracy that could sustain, govern and defend itself, that it would create a vacuum -- a power vacuum that would have dangerous consequences.

But in addition, the Saudis also understand that there were Shia within Iraq who fought against Iran in the war the two nations had, and they made distinctions between Arabs and Persians. And so I would caution against reading too much into that press account. The fact is the government of Saudi Arabia understands the importance of having an Iraq not only that stands up and is free, but also one that respects the rights of everybody -- Sunni, Shia, Kurd and so on -- and that they have the ability to exist peacefully within the region. So they share a lot of the same concerns that we have.

Meanwhile, "A group of prominent Saudi clerics have called on Sunni Muslims around the world to mobilise against Shi'ites in Iraq, although a statement they issued fell short of calling for a jihad, or holy war," according to a December 11, 2006, Reuters report. See "Saudi Clerics call for help for Sunnis in Iraq."

Reuters said, "The statement appearing on Saudi Islamist Web sites on Monday said Sunni Muslims were being murdered and marginalised by Shi'ites, backed by Iran, and the U.S.-led forces."

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Turki al-Faisal Is No Longer Saudi Envoy To The U.S.: Why?

An Agence France Press (AFP) report in the December 13, 2006, edition of the Gulf Times of Qatar said, "Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington, Prince Turki al-Faisal, abruptly resigned and flew out of the U.S. after only 15 months on the job, a source close to him said in the Saudi capital yesterday," December 12, 2006. See "Prince Turki quits as Saudi envoy to US."

The Times said, "The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was confirming a report in the Washington Post."

"He said it was not clear when the move would be officially published," according to The Gulf Times.

Steve Clemons at The Washington Note, an influential diplomatic affairs blog, reported December 12, 2006, that:

Sources report that the Ambassador's decision has come after a long bout of battles with anti-reformers in the Saudi government. Turki, according to one source, believes that these are critical times and that the kind of intrigue that others in Saudi political circles want to play is a waste of his time, energy, and beneath him.
Mr. Clemons added: "Prince Turki, however, has been a significant "truth-teller" to the Bush administration and has been one of the key players in resurrecting the Saudi proposal on Palestine-Israel negotiations. He is the two-decade long former chief of Saudi intelligence and is considered by many in the Saudi establishment to be one of the sharpest and shrewdest among Saudi elites."

To read Mr. Clemon's in-depth analysis of this development, see "Saudi Ambassador to the US Turki al-Faisal Resigns."

A FEW RELATED LINKS

Prince Turki al-Faisal resigns from post as ambassador to US --- Arab Monitor, Italy 

Saudi envoy leaves US after post not renewed --- Times Online, United Kingdom 

Transcript of interview with Prince Turki al-Faisal --- Princeton University, The Daily Princetonian,  United States 

Turki resigns as Saudi envoy to Washington --- Gulf News, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Saudi ambassador to Washington submits his resignation --- International Herald Tribune, Paris, France

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December 11, 2006

Ria Novosti's Pyotr Goncharov: 'Only Iran Can Help Bush In The Middle East'

RIA Novosti political commentator Pyotr Goncharov of Russia contends in a December 11, 2006, news analysis, that:

The Bush administration now faces a difficult and extremely unpleasant decision: should it, and can it, involve Iran in the effort to stabilize the Middle East, notably Iraq?
Mr. Goncharov's conclusion is that, "the Bush administration should probably acknowledge that the U.S. does not have a clear stand on any Middle East developments, whether it is the situation in Lebanon or Israeli-Palestinian relations. Its position on Iraq also needs a major adjustment," he asserts, adding: "The key to many problems might be found in Iran, but this will not be an easy task."

To read more of his analysis, see "Only Iran can help Bush in the Middle East."

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Can Gap Between Iraq Study Group's Vision And Bush Be Closed?

Howard LaFranchi, a Washington, D.C.-based staff writer at The Christian Science Monitor, reported December 11, 2006, that. "With [U.S.] President [George W.] Bush turning a cold shoulder to key recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, one explanation is the wide gulf between the group's prescription for addressing the Middle East and the president's vision for the region."

To read Mr.  LaFranchi's analysis, see "Bush and Iraq Study Group: Competing visions for Middle East."

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Bush's Iraq War Has Produced Thousands Of Iraqi Refugees

As Iraq deteriotates further into nihilism, look for leaders in surrounding states to demand that the U.S. to leave Iraq immediately to prevent their governments from being economically and politically destabilized by the presence of thousands of Iraqi refugees in their cities. Millions have left Iraq as a result of the violence spawned by the U.S. invasion and occupation of the country. See "Iraqi exodus could test Bush policy."

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Der Spiegel: Bush Capitulates To Reality In The Middle East

Der Spiegel's Georg Mascolo and Bernhard Zand reported December 11, 2006, that "US President George W. Bush doesn't have much time to implement a change in strategy in Iraq. And anything he does is likely to be questioned in the Middle East," they wrote, noting that "reactions from the region have been full of skepticism." See "Bush Capitulates to Reality in the Middle East." Also see "News Analysis: A Blueprint for Iraq: Will It Work in the White House?"

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Sudanese Envoy: Nasrallah Has Accepted A Deal To End Lebanon Crisis

Leila Hatoum, staff writer for The Daily Star of Lebanon, reported December 11, 2006, that, "Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has accepted an Arab League plan to resolve the political crisis in Lebanon, an Arab official said on Sunday," December 10, 2006.

Ms. Hatoum added: "Mustafa Ismail, an envoy from the Sudanese president, "was informed in Damascus today of the Hizbullah leader's acceptance of the proposals submitted to him," Ismail told AFP in Riyadh on Sunday." 

On December 11, 2006, Mr. Ismail, "arrived in the Lebanese capital from neighboring Syria to meet with Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and leaders of the Hezbollah-led opposition factions," according to Ya Libnan (O Lebanon). See "Arab diplomatic move to end Lebanon crisis."

To read more of Ms. Hatoum's report, please see "Sudanese envoy says Nasrallah has accepted a deal."

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Reuters: Iraq Sectarian Violence Casts Shadow Over Lebanon'

"Unrelenting violence in Iraq has raised sectarian tensions across the Middle East and is polarising communities in Lebanon, a volatile country peppered with political and religious divisions," reports Reuters' Crispian Balmer in a December 11, 2006, dispatch from Beirut. Those divisions are reflected in the huge, Hezbollah-sponsored protests in Beirut that have  entered the 10th day.

To read why Mr. Balmer thinks violence in Iraq is affecting Lebanon, see "Iraq sectarian violence casts shadow over Lebanon

A FEW RELATED LINKS

Both sides appear cornered in Beirut --- Los Angeles Times, California, USA 

Mass Beirut sit-in stokes fears of renewed civil war --- Times Online, United Kingdom

Conflicting mass rallies deepens Lebanon's political crisis --- Xinhua, Beijing, China

Huge Beirut rally piles pressure on Siniora to quit --- Gulf News, United Arab Emirates 

Lebanese Protesters Demand Siniora Cede Power or Resign --- The Moscow Times, Russia

Siniora calls Nasrallah allegation of wartime collaboration 'foolish' --- The Daily Star, Beirut, Lebanon

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December 6, 2006

Will Mr. Bush Heed The Recommendations Of The Iraq Study Group?

The Economist, the authoritative British weekly that has offered news and opinion on international affairs for an erudite crowd since September 1843,  argues in a December 6, 2006, news analysis:

THE 9/11 Commission set the standard, in recent memory, for a group of grandees advising a president. The commissioners’ political weight, and the support of victims’ families, made their policy recommendations hard to ignore. Some, like a reorganisation of intelligence, are now law, despite initial opposition from George Bush’s administration.

It is a different story today. On Wednesday December 6th some details emerged from the long-awaited report of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan commission headed by James A. Baker, a former secretary of state, and Lee Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman. The group was due, later the same day, to release a set of recommendations on the conflict in Iraq. These appeared—according to ABC News—to include suggestions that American troops should withdraw from combat operations and instead just offer support to Iraqi soldiers, and that America “must not make open-ended commitments to keep large numbers of troops there in Iraq”. The latter may be a cumbersome way of arguing that many soldiers should be pulled out of the country, perhaps in 2008.

"But there is little evidence that Mr Bush will listen," The Economist said. To read the entire analysis, please see "Seeking a graceful exit."
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Walter Isaacson: Is Baker A 'Wise Man' Or A Wannabe?"

"James A. Baker III has one great goal left as he hones his legacy: trying to make sure that the words "American statesman" appear in his newspaper obituary before the words "Florida recount," Walter Isaacson, a former TIME and CNN executive, wrote in a December 3, 2006, Los Angeles Times Op-Ed piece on Baker.

"That's one reason he's so eager to make the findings of the Iraq Study Group, which he co-chairs, sagacious and bipartisan enough to ensconce him firmly in the pantheon of American "Wise Men," added the "chief executive of the Aspen Institute," and "the coauthor with Evan Thomas of "The Wise Men: S ix Friends and the World They Made." 

To read the entire post, see "Is Baker a 'Wise Man' or a wannabe?"

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Is The Iraqi Study Group Report For An Audience Of One?

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer Doyle McManus contends in a December 4, 2006, news analysis that, "Some bipartisan commissions try to change public opinion on contentious national issues; others try to help Congress find compromise solutions to thorny problems."

"The Iraq Study Group led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Rep. Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.) had a different — and unusual — goal: persuading President[George W.] Bush to change his mind about staying the course in Iraq," McManus asserts.

To read the full analysis, see "Blunt talk for an audience of one."

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New York Times Editorial: 'The Un-Rumsfeld'

"The nearly universal (and bipartisan) relief at the departure of Donald Rumsfeld ensured that Robert Gates would have an easy confirmation hearing," asserts The New York Times in a December 6, 2006, editorial. "And Mr. Gates played the role of the un-Rumsfeld masterfully yesterday. He offered just enough candor and conciliation to persuade most senators that he plans to be a very different sort of defense secretary, while deftly holding back any real information about how he plans to clean up President Bush’s mess in Iraq."

To read the editorial, see "The Un-Rumsfeld.

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USA Today: 'A More Honest Assessment Of Iraq Draws Cheers'

USA Today opines in a December 6, 2006, editorial: "After almost four years of prickly denials from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that anything was wrong with the Pentagon's plan in Iraq, it was refreshing Tuesday [December 5, 2006] to hear his successor acknowledge that things are not going so well. During a Senate confirmation hearing, Robert Gates conceded that U.S. forces aren't winning and that new approaches need to be considered."

To read the entire editorial, please see "A more honest assessment of Iraq draws cheers."

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San Jose Mercury News: 'Bush's Only Valid Choice: Change Course'

The Mercury News of San Jose, California  says in a December 6, 2006, editorial: "Robert Gates admitted Tuesday [December 5, 2006] what President Bush has refused to admit and what fired Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld would concede only in a leaked classified memo: The United States is failing to win the war in Iraq."

The paper added: "Gates' blunt acknowledgment, at his Senate confirmation hearing to replace Rumsfeld, adds pressure on a stubborn president to change tactics, including a new diplomatic initiative he has spurned. The options offered to him -- by Rumsfeld, the military chiefs of staff and the Iraq Study Group, which issues its report today -- are varied and sometimes incompatible. There is no clear path toward reversing the bleak situation in Iraq anytime soon. The United States no longer has leverage in Baghdad. Shiites and Sunnis are now in a civil war impervious to U.S. influence.

To read the editorial, please see "Bush's only valid choice: Change course."

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December 5, 2006

Laisenia Qarase Thinks Fiji's President, Josefa Ilo, Backed Coup

The World Today, an Australia ABC Local Radio program "broadcast around Australia" at 12:10 p.m. daily, interviewed Fiji's ousted prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, a few hours before he was overthrow in a the island's fourth coup d'état in less than 20 years. He thinks President Josefa Ilo gave the military the Ok to takeover the government.

To read his views, see "Qarase waits for army's next move."

Question: Will Australia or New Zealand oust the coup leaders? Only time will tell. A few mercenaries could do it.

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Fiji Experiences Fourth 'Coup d'état In Nearly 20 Years'

Nick Squires,  a Christian Science Monitor Correspondent in the Fiji Islands, notes in a report in the December 06, 2006, edition of The Monitor that, "Four coups d'état in nearly 20 years have spilled little blood on this archipelago {The Fiji Islands], whose thriving agricultural and tourism sectors makes it one of the South Pacific's wealthiest island nations."

"But even as Christian hymns and heartfelt prayers were offered outside the premier's home Tuesday [December 5, 2006], Fiji's elected leader, Laisenia Qarase, could do little to save himself from the same fate as his predecessors," Mr. Squires wrote from Suva, Fiji.

To read his dispatch, see "Fiji's business-as-usual coup d'état."

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December 3, 2006

Are Saudis Under Pressure To Intervene In Iraq To Protect Sunnis

Nawaf Obaid, described by The Washington Post as "an adviser to the Saudi government," and "managing director of the Saudi National Security Assessment Project in Riyadh and an adjunct fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, made the following, important observation in a November 29, 2006, article in The Post:

Over the past year, a chorus of voices has called for Saudi Arabia to protect the Sunni community in Iraq and thwart Iranian influence there. Senior Iraqi tribal and religious figures, along with the leaders of Egypt, Jordan and other Arab and Muslim countries, have petitioned the Saudi leadership to provide Iraqi Sunnis with weapons and financial support. Moreover, domestic pressure to intervene is intense. Major Saudi tribal confederations, which have extremely close historical and communal ties with their counterparts in Iraq, are demanding action. They are supported by a new generation of Saudi royals in strategic government positions who are eager to see the kingdom play a more muscular role in the region.

Mr. Obaid said, "The opinions expressed in Stepping Into Iraq: Saudi Arabia Will Protect Sunnis if the U.S. Leaves "are his own and do not reflect official Saudi policy."

Maybe so, but you can bet they reflect the thinking of some officials in the Saudi government. Remember, the Saudi Government lets others do the dirty work. They just finance it.

A FEW RELATED LINKS

S.Arabia says no truth in adviser's Iraq article --- Reuters AlertNet, United Kingdom 

Playing sectarian game is dangerous --- Gulf News, United Arab Emirates

Saudi Arabia quietly working to curb Iran's influence in the ... International Herald Tribune, Paris, France

The dangerous consequences of defeat --- Gulf News, United Arab Emirates 

Iraqi Shias angry at Saudi remark on Sunnis --- Khaleej Times, United Arab Emirates 

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A Few Observations About The Political Situation In Lebanon

Joshua Landis, "co-director of the Center for Peace Studies at the International Programs Center and Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern Studies in the School of International and Area Studies at the University of Oklahoma, has a good roundup of news on Lebanon over at Syria Comment.com, his informative blog on Syria and Lebanon. 

He also has a rather interesting post headlined "The Babes of Hizbullah. It's about young, beautiful women in Lebanon taking part in Hezbollah-initiated demonstrations to force the resignation of the Fouad Saniora government.

On a more serious note, The Daily Star of Lebanon observes in a December 4, 2006, editorial that:

The escalating political tensions and street confrontations in Lebanon are not a new problem for the country, but it is useful to note that this is not a purely Lebanese phenomenon either. Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine all face historic challenges and trying circumstances. In all three the answer must be to affirm and manifest a commitment to the rule of law and constitutional order, rather than to resort to street fighting or unilateral threats and ultimatums. (See "Street confrontations and constitutional remedies in the Arab realm for more of the editorial).

Omar Raad at Ya Libnan (O Lebanon) contends "There appears to be an increasingly obvious pattern between tragic events in Lebanon and the mood of the regime in Damascus." See his December 1, 2006, post headlined "Connecting the dots in Lebanon."

As'ad AbuKhalil at The Angry Arab News Service made this observation in a December 3, 2006, post: "LBC-TV's (link added) correspondent (the Lebanese Forces' fanatic, Bassam Abu Zayd) entered the church in downtown Beirut hoping to prove (the thesis of LBC-TV and Future-TV) that all the demonstrators in downtown Beirut are Shi`ites (you see, in Lebanese politics, the Shi`ites don't count as Lebanese." Read the entire post.

A FEW RELATED LINKS

Hizballah's Show of Strength Highlights the Government's Weakness --- TIME, United States

Can Lebanon survive yet another blow? --- The Daily Star, Beirut, Lebanon, 

The tragedy of Lebanon --- Bangkok Post, Thailand

Fears grow Lebanon protests may turn bloody - Malaysia Star, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Lebanon crisis is serious - Mousa --- Gulf News, United Arab Emirates

Analysis: protests will further paralyse Lebanon --- Times Online, United Kingdom

No sign of solution to Lebanon protests deadlock --- Euronews.net, France

Israeli officials fear fall of Lebanese government could lead to war --- International Herald Tribune, Paris, France

Lebanon's sovereignty must be recognised, says German FM --- Gulf News, United Arab Emirates 

Europe expresses support for independent Lebanon --- Euronews.net, France

Russia urges Lebanon leaders to avoid confrontation --- RIA Novosti, Russia 

Controversial ads mock Lebanon's sectarian leanings --- Houston Chronicle, United States 

In the midst of Lebanon's turmoil, a tiny figure sings on --- International Herald Tribune, Paris, France

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Is It's Getting Difficult to Ignore Palestine?

Adel Safty, described by Gulf News as a "distinguished Visiting Professor at the Siberian Academy of Public Administration" in  Russia, opines in a December 4, 2006, Special to Gulf News:

American influential opinion makers, who generally managed to remain indifferent to the plight of the Palestinian people, are finding that ignoring Palestine is getting harder everyday.

This is largely the result, not of a fundamental change in how the influential media in the US views the Palestine tragedy, but of the unease produced by the remarkable insensitivity of the Bush administration and the political establishment, republicans and democrats alike, in the face of sustained and growing Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights and distressing disregard for Palestinian lives.

Mr. Safty added: In a November report about Jewish colonies, the Israeli Peace Now movement showed how "Israel has effectively stolen privately owned Palestinian lands for the purpose of construction settlements..."

To read more of his views, see "It's difficult to ignore Palestine."

A FEW RELATED EDITORIALS AND OPINION

Israel-Palestine conflict core source of Anti-Americanism --- Aljazeera.com, United Kingdom

War of words in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine --- Arab American News, Detroit, Michigan, USA

Editorial: Words from Palestine --- The Capital Times, Madison, Wisconsin, USA 

Reform and peace are interdependent in Palestine --- Middle East Online, United Kingdom 

Forum: Is Peace Possible in Israel and Palestine? --- Stanford Review, Standford, California, USA

Palestine Peace Not Apartheid --- FrontPage magazine.com, California, USA 

Reform and peace are interdependent in Palestine --- The Daily Star, Beirut - Lebanon

Note: This post can also be found at The Editorial Observer, which periodically offers diverse, thought-provoking editorials, columns, informed opinion and comments on international affairs.

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December 2, 2006

Xinhua: Beirut Street Demonstrations Spark Battle Among The Press

Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, says "Mass street demonstration in Beirut sparks "battle" among press." Surely, that's no surprise. The press is as diverse as the citizenry.

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Bush To Meet With Iraq's Abdelaziz Hakim And Tariq Hashimi

Is this desperation? U.S. President George W. Bush plans to meet December 4, 2006, "with Abdelaziz Hakim, leader of one of the main two parties in the United Iraqi Alliance, the majority Shiite Muslim governing bloc, and in January with Iraqi Vice President Tariq Hashimi, the head of the largest party representing Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority," reports the Los Angeles Times' James Gerstenzang in a December 2, 2006, post headlined "Bush set to meet Iraqi Shiite leader with ties to Iran." Numerous publications are also reporting the same.

As Wikipedia notes, Mr. Hakim "was a member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council and served as its president in December 2003." He leads the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).

Mr. al-Hashimi is head of the Iraqi Islamic Party (Hizb al-Islami al-Airaqi), which has been around since 1960.

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Bush: 'I Recognize Recent Violence In Iraq Has Been Unsettling'

During his December 2, 2006, radio address, U.S. President George W. Bush, who just returned from the Middle East, said, among other things:

I recognize that the recent violence in Iraq has been unsettling. Many people in our country are wondering about the way forward. The work ahead will not be easy, yet by helping [Iraqi] Prime Minister [Nouri al] Maliki strengthen Iraq's democratic institutions and promote national reconciliation, our military leaders and diplomats can help put Iraq on a solid path to liberty and democracy. The decisions we make in Iraq will be felt across the broader Middle East.

The best decision the administration can make is to leave. Now. Mr. Bush should swallow his pride, admit defeat and end the U.S. role in the carnage initiated by the March 20, 2003, invasion of Iraq. Let the Iraqis have their civil war, which they are currently engaged in, thanks to the U.S. invasion that overthrew the government of former President Saddam Hussein and unleashed forces that had been brutally kept under check, a tactic any U.S. president would use if insurrection broke out in America.

 And when its all over, give the Iraqis the funds to rebuild their country since ours set in motion the forces that is destroying it. Don't use Iraqi oil money to do it. If we can spend billions to destroy Iraq and impose elections in an effort to get regimes favorable to the U.S., surely we ought to spend billions to rebuild it when the dust settles. Its called reparations. Iraq was forced to pay reparations after Mr. Hussein foolishly invaded neighboring Kuwait on August 2, 1990, certainly the same rule applies to the U.S., or does it?

To read more of Mr. Bush address, see this White House Transcript. There is also an Audio link.

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Hezbollah's Lebanese Demonstration Has Mubarak Worried: Why?

"Egypt warned Saturday [December 2, 2006] that the standoff between[Lebanese] Premier Fouad Saniora's cabinet and anti-government demonstrators risked provoking foreign interference that could erupt into violence," according to an Agence France-Press/Naharnet report at Lebanon's Naharnet.com

"Following a meeting in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, President Hosni Mubarak criticized the mass protest led by pro-Syrian Hizbullah to topple Saniora's government," the news services said.

Could it be that Mubarak is worried that Egyptians could be inspired to launch similarly demonstrations? Just asking.

To read more about Mubarak's concerns, see "Mubarak Criticizes 'Unwise' Protests, Fears Broadening of Lebanon Crisis."

A FEW RELATED LINKS

The Messages on the protest banners --- The Daily Star, Beirut, Lebanon 

Two sides with a single message --- Houston Chronicle from The Washington Post, USA

Hezbollah puts US power to test --- Pakistan Dawn, Pakistan

US Says Hezbollah Aims to Oust Elected Lebanese Government --- Voice of America

Hezbollah goes to the brink --- Melbourne Herald Sun, Australia 

Pro-Syrian Demonstrators Seek Lebanese PM Resignation --- Zaman Online, Turkey 

Hezbollah sit-in has Beirut at a standstill --- Los Angeles Times, USA

Hezbollah backers camp in Beirut to pressure government --- USA Today, Virginia, USA 

Lebanese opposition continues protest against Siniora --- Ynetnews, Israel 

British Foreign Minister Beckett backs Seniora's government --- Monsters and Critics.com, UK

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