Across the Bay

Friday, April 28, 2006

New Syrian Threats

I always joked how every single statement by every single Syrian official cannot help but have at least one threat in it, if not in each sentence.

This time it comes in the form of a letter to the UN Secretary General and the President of the Security Council:

REPORTER: Mr. Ambassador, the letter the Syrian government had sent to the Secretary General and to the President of the Security Council, the letter says, "Pushing the Security Council by some parties to adopt new resolutions or statements "

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: That would be us I take it?

REPORTER: (inaudible) "will not lead to calm down the situation in Lebanon or the region, but to the contrary it will escalate the situation of instability and tension." (Emphasis added.)

I remember Bashar making a statement on Russian TV, back on December 11, threatening that he would destabilize the region if "the situation in Syria isn't good" -- in reference to possible sanctions on Syria, on the eve of the second Mehlis report -- adding, "the whole world will pay for that."

"The following day," I wrote in my article, "Gibran Tueni, editor of the leading Lebanese daily al-Nahar and a recently elected MP (on the Hariri list in Beirut) was assassinated shortly after returning to the country from a long sojourn in Paris. 'It looks as if the destabilization has started,' Jumblatt commented afterwards,[37] echoing the suspicions of most Lebanese."

This time there was a specific reference to the destabilization of Lebanon alongside the broader one about instability and tension in "the region." Does this mean we should expect more bombs and other goodies in Lebanon, some more attacks in Israel, and more stirrings in Jordan? Let's wait and see what Bashar has in store.

As I've said repeatedly, it won't end as long this thug and his crime syndicate of a family/regime are in power.

Update: The Syrian regime has now taken its threat directly to the UNSC. Also, according to al-Hayat, the regime has declared Terje Roed-Larsen persona non grata in Syria.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

A Petition for... Himself

I must admit, Cole's twisted tactics are even more twisted than I had first imagined! Actually, not quite.

I speculated that the reason Cole has made such a stink about one particular quote that he singled out from the John Fund piece (and ignored all the other damning ones) was because it was the perfect quote for him to use as a red herring (and to continue to ignore all the other damning ones) to claim that indeed "Likudniks" are trying to smear him for criticizing "the policies of Ariel Sharon," and thus abusing the label of anti-Semitism.

I had also wanted to note that the quote Cole chose to single out had the potential of hooking up with the Walt and Mearsheimer piece in its reference to Israel being "the most dangerous regime to US interests in the Middle East." I decided to leave it out, but I should've known better. I should've known that this man would try to hitch his bandwagon to the Walt and Mearsheimer fiasco, and use it for his own benefit (and get the additional bonus of basking in "realist" glory, by coopting their mantle). This is vintage Cole.

So what does he do? He launches a petition, exclusively for college and university teachers (are you guys at Yale paying attention?), in defense of Walt and Mearsheimer!

This is pure Cole for you. Marvel at the depth of this man's disingenuousness. He's leaching on to the big fish, to launch a petition on behalf of no one else but himself. As I said, Yale or bust. He will do anything to get there.

Cole provided a definition of anti-Semitism (which he implicitly wants us to hold up against the quote he's singling out). OK Juan, but does, e.g., accusing the American Sephardic Jewish community of spying on behalf of the Mossad count!?

Behold the pathetic spectaCole.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Yale or Bust!

I see our favorite Professor is in a bit of a crisis again. What now, you ask. Head on over to Solomonia for your answers.

Here's the brief background. Cole wants to go to Yale... badly. He sees it as the crowning achievement of his illustrious career as a scholar blogger.

He wants it so badly, in fact, that he's willing to sue anyone who stands in his way. That means you Michael Oren (see here). You too, Michael Rubin, so help me God! As for Martin Kramer, well, that one goes way back! In fact, if you listen carefully, you can still hear the echo of Don Juan in the hallways of UMich: Voglio vendetta!

Now John Fund of the WSJ has been added to the list. In fact, Juan has posted two nearly identical back to back posts denouncing Fund, and claiming that he never said what was attributed to him, namely that he wrote that Israel was "the most dangerous regime" in the Middle East. He even dared his readers to search his site, assuring them they wouldn't find anything resembling it.

At first I thought, well that's easy! Cole must've pulled one of his Juanderous tricks and deleted or edited the thing. But then again I thought, nah, not after Martin Kramer and I nailed and embarrassed him, repeatedly, when he tried to pull such cheap tricks (and our posts were everywhere on the blogosphere).

Furthermore, someone must've told him that Solomonia did dig up the quote no problem! Yet the Chief Inspector persisted with the challenge. And, for all you who don't know the Chief Inspector, for him "the greater the odds, the greater the challenge." And, as always, he accepts the challenge!

So what's the deal? Why make a stand on this one particular quote? Well, it's elementary, but it's a testament to the Cole M.O. Find an escape hatch through which you could, if you tried hard enough, contort and pretzel-twist yourself out, and tell your Yale committee: you see?!

Here's how I think it'll go down. I'll bet you $20 he'll say that what he did write was "the most dangerous regime to US interests in the ME," and not a general description. And then, if that's not enough, he'll claim that he didn't say "Israel" was the most dangerous regime, but that it was "Ariel Sharon's regime" that was the most dangerous. Ah haaaaa!!!

Of course, we'll leave out the time he accused the American Sephardic Jewish community of being infiltrated by the Mossad for another time, and focus on "Sharon and the Likud" for now. The dual-loyalty of the Jewish community has to wait. He has an appointment waiting at Yale, after all.

He wouldn't be raising the stakes like he's doing now unless he was setting the stage for a reply like that. I'm putting $20 on it. This is Cole after all! This is the perfect quote for him to use. That is why he singled it out, as a red herring, from the entire stock of damning quotes in the Fund piece and elsewhere, and "innocently" ignored all the others.

So what will the Chief Inspector do? How will he get out of it? Stay tuned!

More on Arabism and Islam in Syria

Let's add this contribution by the incomparable Syrian FM (who is not to be confused with the incomparable Syrian VP and former FM Farouq Sharaa) to my earlier post on Arabism and Islam in Syria:

I assure you that the [Arab] nationalist project cannot stand if there isn't an interconnection between Arabism and Islam. We all know how we had periods of conflict between the [Arab] nationalist current and the Islamist current under silly and meaningless slogans.
Arabism is the large pot and Islam is the spirit that builds the society and strengthens its cohesion on the basis of religious tolerance and coexistence.
The [Arab] nationalist current had turned its back on the Islamist current, and the Islamist current had turned its back on the [Arab] nationalist current. Today the Americans are plotting a conflict between the [Arab] nationalist current and the Islamist current. Our response, and it is a return to the roots, is that this region is the region of Arabism and Islam. (Emphases added.)

I rest my case.

Cauldron of Instability

I was always amused when hearing how Syria was an element of "stability" in the ME. It always drew a chuckle from me.

We've also pointed out how one of the ways the Syrian regime is able to preserve a semblance of stability at home, beside brutal repression, was to export its own instability to its neighbors:

It is worthwhile to note that a state fearful of sectarian conflict runs a regional policy in Lebanon, Iraq, and Israel that aims to provoke elsewhere its own worst nightmares at home.

The destabilization of Lebanon and Iraq are well known. But in recent days Syria's destabilizing role surfaced again in the Tel Aviv bombing:

"The order for the Tel Aviv suicide bombing came from Damascus and when the operation was complete the report went back to Damascus," Olmert told a visiting group of US senators, according to his office.

He noted that the Iranians, using Syria as a mediator, were funding and guiding terrorism against Israel. He also mentioned the strengthening ties between the two states and Hamas. "There is a channel of communication between Iran, Syria and the Palestinian Authority," claimed Olmert.

It is interesting to note how Syria's role as Iranian proxy is now commonly acknowledged (see my post below).

Syria's role surfaced once more in neigboring Jordan, long a target of Syrian destabilization.

Relations with the Jordanians have been bad for a while, especially after Bashar publicly ridiculed Jordan's "Jordan first" policy (and of course, the "Lebanon first" policy) in his speech at the Arab Lawyers Conference in Damascus. He charged that it was a cover for (what else?) servitude to the Israelis and Americans. The Syrian "newspapers" followed with the usual over-the-top Arabist garbage, slamming Jordan (and Lebanon) left and right.

That immediately developed into a mini-crisis. However the Jordanians did not reply officially. Instead, they let their papers do the talking. Indeed, Jordanian writers ripped Bashar and his regime to shreds. The Syrians offered an official pseudo-apology.

But that was peanuts in comparison to the latest development:

Jordan said on Tuesday a group of Hamas militants arrested last week were close to staging attacks inside the kingdom on orders from the Palestinian group's Syrian-based leadership.
"Security interrogations with the detained suspects had proven they received instructions to execute operations from leaders of Hamas and specifically one of the military officials of Hamas currently based in Syria," government spokesperson Nasser Joudeh told Reuters.
Jordan said last week that rocket launchers and highly combustible explosives seized from a secret Hamas arms cache in the kingdom had been smuggled from Syria, where the Palestinian militant groups' exiled leadership is based.

An Arabic AFP report had more from Nasser Joudeh:

"Security services have monitored movement and operations over a long period of time, and they seized weapons and explosives that were stored and attempted to be smuggled from a neighboring state [i.e. Syria], and the smuggling was foiled." He added, "we did not declare each time weapons were seized that they came from Syria. We declared the last episode. There may have been other incidents."

As I said, there's a long history there. To watch this dynamic between Syria, Syrian-based radical Palestinian groups, and Jordan, is to watch a rerun. In fact, the Iran-led axis, in which Syria, Hezbollah, and the Palestinian rejectionists are all proxies, is itself a throwback to the ME of 40 years ago. Bashar's rhetoric, as well as his policies, are unmistakably from that era. Who said the Baath doesn't recycle its garbage?

Only this time instead of Nasser leading the freak show, we have Ahmadinejad.

Addendum: Speaking of freak shows, here's something for your viewing pleasure.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Breaking Iran's Levantine Expansion

As a follow-up to Ammar's case for regime change in Syria, I'm posting this recent WSJ op-ed by Michael Young, which makes a similar argument.


The Mullahs’ Neighborhood

By Michael Young
Wednesday April 12, 2006
Pg. A13

With the occupation of Iraq, the U.S. practically overnight became the natural counterweight to Iran in the Persian Gulf. Those now demanding an American withdrawal from Iraq ignore the regional implications of a power vacuum there. Tehran would profit the most and would use that leverage, and its nuclear program that yesterday announced that it had begun enriching uranium, in a bid for regional hegemony. Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt said it best when remarking about the Iranians, “Those who weave carpets are very patient.”

The Bush administration has few attractive options in containing Iran. A military strike against nuclear facilities would create more problems than it would solve, particularly as America’s latitude to wage war in the Middle East has been greatly eroded due to Iraq. However, Iranian vulnerabilities are hardly negligible. It has a weak and isolated ally in Syria’s Baath regime. By working to create alternatives to President Bashar Assad in Damascus, the U.S. could break that organic link, as well as the one which, via Syria, allows Iran to arm Hezbollah in Lebanon. And at home, Iranian leaders oversee a corrupt and autocratic system. If there is one place where determined American-led democratization efforts would be taken seriously, it is in Iran. But before the U.S. can act on these pressure points, it must first reconsider the merit of its Arab friends.

The Iranian regime is wagering on two things in extending its power: American irresolution in Iraq and Arab weakness. Confirming the reality of the first better allows it to exploit the second. But for a moment let’s consider the weaker link in this chain, the frailty of the Arab states, because that will determine how much influence the U.S. can maintain in Iran’s vicinity. The signs are that within the coming decade, everything else remaining constant, key Arab states, and particularly the traditional power brokers in the region, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, will play increasingly marginal roles in shaping regional policy. Rather, it is the Middle East’s peripheral states—Iran, Israel and Turkey—that seem most likely to impose their agendas.

The main source of Arab weakness is that the various regimes have imposed illegitimate social contracts on their societies. Order has come with a heavy price tag of despotism, the absence of rule of law, uneven or negligible economic growth and bankruptcy in the succession process (in Syria, formally a “republic,” Hafez Assad handed power over to his son; Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak seeks to do the same.) Even order is no longer certain, with regimes facing greater domestic travails than ever before.

Such systems have little institutional vigor to compete with the expanding power and military might of the peripheral states. Arab nationalists (though not the anxious Middle Eastern regimes themselves) naively imagine an Iranian bomb would offset Israel’s nuclear arsenal. They don’t ponder how exposed a non-nuclear Arab world would be, caught between two nuclear states and a third, non-nuclear Turkey, integrating into the European Union and enjoying the protection of a nuclear umbrella through NATO. This imposes tough choices on the U.S., whose regional policy still very much rests on the twin pillars of Saudi Arabia and Egypt. If you look more closely, however, you’ll notice stress marks.

Take the standoff between the Bush administration and Syria. Since the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, the U.S., along with France, has backed an international investigation of the crime. Three U.N. reports have explicitly affirmed that Damascus played a crucial role in Hariri’s killing. The inquiry continues, but the consensus in the Middle East and at the U.N. is that the order came from Syria’s top leadership. But Saudi Arabia and Egypt are little concerned about justice; they are concerned that if the truth about Syria’s involvement emerges, it could not only destabilize Mr. Assad’s regime but harm their own interests as well.

Why are Mr. Mubarak and King Abdullah so worried? No Arab ruler likes to see a comrade fall, but more specifically the Egyptian regime doesn’t want Syrian Islamists to take over power in Damascus because it would bolster Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. As for the Saudis, they fear Syria’s ally Iran might use the kingdom’s Shiite community to stir up trouble in the country if Riyadh were to abandon Mr. Assad. The Saudis also fear that a cornered leadership in Damascus might unleash the same Sunni Islamists against them that Syria has used to destabilize Iraq and Lebanon. And so, while the Egyptians and Saudis have publicly welcomed the U.N. investigation, they privately hope it fails, and are pushing the Lebanese to be more accommodating with Syria.

The Syrian president, realizing the Arab states won’t subvert his authority, has brazenly strengthened his relationship with Iran, substantially undermining Egyptian and Saudi sway. Last January, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Damascus, where he met, among others, the secretary general of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah.

If Egypt and Saudi Arabia have shown no backbone in the Hariri inquiry, they can be little expected to do more in the far rougher contest of helping the U.S. inhibit Iran. Indeed, they have not even managed to mold an Arab consensus against an Iranian bomb, an effort absent from the recent Arab League summit in Khartoum. Can Washington therefore afford to keep its relationships with the two Arab states unchanged? If they are resolutely heading toward greater irrelevance, then their value as American strategic partners against Iran is limited.

This is why the U.S. must reconsider its Syria policy and persist in its regional democratization efforts. The Bush administration must break Syria’s ability to manipulate Saudi and Egyptian trepidation when it comes to accepting change in Damascus, but it must also get over its own nervousness toward a post-Assad order. Unless a concerted process to replace the regime in Damascus is implemented, the Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah axis will remain a serious thorn in the American as well as the Egyptian and Saudi sides. Islamists won’t necessarily take over in Syria. The society is complex, the merchant class is probably willing to back a credible alternative, and the Assads are discredited. But Washington must push hard for this and compel Egypt and Saudi Arabia to go along.

If Mr. Assad were ousted, the shock to Iran would be serious while Hezbollah would be isolated in a Lebanese society largely fed up with the fact that it still retains its weapons. But Tehran would probably be able to absorb that blow. More difficult for the Iranian regime to parry, however, would be what it has managed only imperfectly to suffocate at home: democracy. Now, more than ever, the U.S. must use democratization both against the Islamic Republic and to reinvigorate its anemic Arab allies. The process will take time, U.S. foes will win in places, but it must be given priority. Only rug weavers need apply. A U.S. allied with a democratic Syria, a democratic Lebanon, and a stabilized, pluralistic Iraq, would force the Saudis and Egyptians to change, or become superfluous.

Legitimate Arab regimes would be valuable allies in denying Iran the ability to dominate its surroundings, particularly if it is armed with the bomb. But more importantly, they would allow the U.S. to hedge against the transitory nature of current Arab dictatorships, and plan an enduring future in the region. There will be setbacks, but the alternative is Arab “allies” that are more a burden than a boon.

Mr. Young, a Lebanese national, is opinion editor at the Daily Star in Beirut and a contributing editor at Reason.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Who's Your Client?

Bashar Asad continues to solidify his status as Iran's client. I've made this argument before:

This is something I said in my article on Syrian-Saudi relations after Hariri, that Bashar has already made his strategic choice with Iran. What we're seeing in terms of attempts by some Arab states at buying him off away from Iran are truly misguided. Bashar made that choice clear the day after he murdered Hariri. He is not up for grabs, as, say, Qatar, or some parties in Saudi Arabia, may think.
Bashar, I think, may have figured this out [the irrelevance of the Arab order esp. should Iran get the bomb], and he believes it benefits him more to be an Iranian client/proxy. It certainly fits with his preference for brinkmanship, and is quite clear from his hardline ideological rhetoric, which essentially parrots Ahmadinejad's.

Asad seized upon Hashemi Rafsanjani's visit to Damascus (Al-Hayat original here) to do precisely what I laid out above: solidify his role as client and parrot Ahmadinejad's rhetoric:

President Bashar Asad declared that Iran joining the nuclear club has relieved the hearts of Syrians, and considered that the pressure exerted by the great powers against his country on the Lebanese file was a psychological war but that it would not push Syria to surrender. Syria will continue the march towards its goals.
According to sources, Asad considered that the peoples of the region possess an deep-rooted civilization, and that occupiers such as Israel and America will one day leave this region, and then only the region's indigenous peoples will remain.

As for the Palestinian and Iraqi files, sources quoted Asad as saying that the victory of Hamas in the legislative elections has angered enemies but made friends rejoice. (Emphasis added.)

He had done the same act in that pathetic interview with Charlie Rose in March (in which Landis, playing the role of Asad PR manager, thought he did "fairly well"!), when he let out all the anti-Semitic goods!

It's quite amusing to see Asad behave vis à vis Tehran like his pitbulls in Lebanon behave vis à vis him!

So again, I repeat, Asad's role now is as Iran's client/proxy, and he understands there is no turning back. As far as the Arab states are concerned, they're trying to square the circle: frightened by the trouble Asad and Iran can do in their Shiite populations (Remember HA's Naim Qasem al-Jazeera interview in November, where he made a thinly veiled threat to KSA, referring to it by name) on the one hand, and by the US ME agenda on the other, they figured they may be able to hold off both and maintain the status quo, and decided that they would try to draw Bashar away from Iran. Incidents like the one I highlighted should disspell any such silly thoughts.

I think Mark Steyn nailed it in a recent article:

The degeneration of Baby Assad’s supposedly “secular” Baathist tyranny into full-blown client status and the replacement of Arafat’s depraved “secular” kleptocrat terrorists by Hamas’s even more depraved Islamist terrorists can also be seen as symptoms of Iranification.

He gets it. But, more importantly, thinking that Bashar could be "snatched" and "brought back to the fold" is the real delusion.

Update: Let's not leave out Syria's FM Walid Moallem: "The double-standard (policy) practiced against Iran and Syria is regretfully the reason for the confusion in the international arena," Moallem told reporters after meeting with former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani. ... Moallem said the U.S. Pressures are because of the two countries' "stands and policies that serve their peoples' interests and do not serve hegemony and occupation."

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Arabism and Islam in Syria

Syria's Baathism has come full circle. You may have seen Michael Slackman's recent NYT article where he pointed out the regime's attempts at courting religion in order to undercut the Muslim Brotherhood (among other things).

A couple of days ago as-Safir reported that the ruling "secular" Arab Socialist Baath party has begun preparations for a conference of Islamic parties, to be hosted by Damascus for the first time in its history.

The report quoted Baathist reformer Ayman Abdel Nour as saying: "the party's foreign policy is in harmony with the policies of Islamist parties in the Arab world and outside it," especially when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict and Iraq. (Abdel Nour, as the Slackman piece notes, has become so disillusioned with the "reformist" policies of Bashar that he's decided to leave Syria, especially after Bashar has launched a campaign to purge "reformist Baathists." You know, they were holding back his "reformist impulses" like the "old guard." But now that he's "consolidated power" just watch all the ensuing reform and be amazed!)

In fact, the last conference of Arab parties (where Bashar's speech was laced with Islamic overtones, and specifically laid out the amalgamation of Islam and Arabism) also included a bunch of Islamic parties.

But the report put it well, noting that there was a political direction in the Baathist leadership to ally "the concepts of Arabism and Islam."

Of course, this is nothing new. As this report in Levant News notes, Saddam tried similar tactics, and there are others that the report doesn't note. (I would add how Egypt has been doing this for decades despite being billed as "secular Arab nationalist." The fact is that they have completely handed the social and cultural spaces to the clerical establishment.)

It's certainly nothing new as far as Syria is concerned. Whether it was Bashar instructing mosques to declare Jihad on the Americans in Iraq, or his amalgamation of Arabism in Islam in practically every speech he's made, or whether it was the Sunnification of the Alawis under Hafez Asad as well as the establishment of the most mosques and religious schools in Syrian history, the Asads have always ceded to Islam. And it wasn't, as Josh Landis so stupidly put it in a recent post, that Hafez, having failed to "convert Syrians to liberalism," turned to Sunnifying the Alawis! I mean, with all due respect to Hafez's glorious history of liberalism and all! (I mean, really, Josh... Do read however his paper on religious education in "secular" Syria. That was when he was still writing useful and readable material).

Readers of my blog know that this amalgamation of Arabism and Islam is a hallmark of Arab nationalism and of Baathism (see, e.g., this earlier post. See also this old piece Lee Smith).

But more specifically, as I've argued repeatedly on this blog (see here, and here), the dominant discourse in the region has indeed been an amalgamation of Arabism and Islam, which I and Chuck Freund have called (Pan-)Arabist Islam(ism).

This is the dominant category that people still ignore today due to the ridiculous artificial and anachronistic categories dictated by the orthodoxy of ME studies. This is the discourse of the Khomeinist Shiite Hezbollah, the Sunni Islamist Hamas, and the Syrian Baathist regime. It appropriates all the anti-Western, Third Worldist, Arab nationalist rhetoric, but reframes it in a way that makes more explicit what Aflaq and Rida had already proposed earlier in the 20th c.

It's the logical trajectory of Baathism coming full circle in none other than Bashar Asad (who Landis was assuring us was no "real" Baathist).

Addendum: See this (French) article on Islam in Syria from the Lebanese French-language Magazine. It's got a lot of nonsense, but also some interesting stuff. The part on Jund al-Sham is mainly nonsense. Jund al-Sham is likely either a creation of the regime, or at the very least, an organization deeply penetrated by the regime's intelligence services (as are various Islamist organizations in Lebanon).

Update: More on the regime's resort to religion from Ibrahim Hamidi in al-Hayat. He notes the establishment of a faculty for Shari'a in Aleppo and the licensing of three Islamic banks among other things.

Hamidi writes that the main reason behind these moves is the attempt to counter the Muslim Brotherhood. He quotes an anonymous source splitting the finest of hairs in comparing the MB to Hamas, and rationalizing why the regime embraces Hamas (and its logic) in foreign policy but bans the MB at home: "there's a big difference between the MB and Hamas. The latter is a mujahid movement of resistance. There's a difference between politicizing religion and between having religion in the heart of resistance action."

That answer actually perfectly captures the regime's ideology and, as I noted before, the core of "(Pan-)Arabist Islam(ism)."

Monday, April 03, 2006

On Sovereignty and Hypocrisy

I just heard this story on the radio and found this short report at Naharnet:

Syrian border patrol shot at a Lebanese farmer in the eastern region of Zamrani near the frontier between the two countries, the National News Agency reported Monday.

"Mohammed al-Hujairi from the village of Irsal suffered four gunshot wounds while planting trees along with several farmers in the region of Zamrani that is five kilometers deep into Lebanese territory," the NNA said.

Needless to say, this is hardly the first time this kind of thing has happened, and it comes in a long list of offenses, such as the smuggling of arms to pro-Syrian thugs inside Lebanon. But just imagine had this happened on the border with Israel instead. What statement and/or action would this have drawn from Hezbollah's Hasan Nasrallah who keeps ranting about the need to maintain his party's arsenal in order to "protect Lebanon" from "Israeli aggression"?

Every time an Israeli plane flies overhead, or an Israeli bulldozer crosses the Blue Line, Lebanon submits a complaint to the UN (that is when Hezbollah does not launch attacks). I'd like to see Nasrallah lead the effort now, you know, to protect Lebanon's sovereignty and the security of its citizens (the man was shot 5 kilometers inside Lebanon) from the acts of aggression coming from the east and north, not the south.

But then again, what's a few killings among "brothers" (could we please finally dispense with this pre-modern, kinship terminology when it comes to inter-state relations, especially when these two states are Syria and Lebanon)? We have to worry about the "real" aggression. Of course! What was I thinking?