Across the Bay

Monday, November 27, 2006

I Told You So!

A few days ago, I made the following prediction:

Some genius in Syria (or one of its Lebanese pitbulls) will soon make a "brilliant" forensic connection, tying the use of silencers in the murder of Gemayel with a "report" that appeared days ago (before the murder) in the pro-Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah paper Al-Akhbar (as well as a spectacularly hilarious "open letter" published in another pro-Syrian rag, Ad-Diyar, one day before the Al-Akhbar report, by sheer coincidence of course), which was all too innocently picked up by the Bashar internet tool Cham Press, which "reported" that the US embassy has smuggled (you guessed it) silencers!

It was rather obvious that this would come true. Sure enough, the biggest "genius" of the Syrian regime, the rabid Bouthaina Shaaban -- a personal favorite -- has not disappointed!

In her column in Asharq al-Awsat today, this troll put her forensic and analytical genius (which is regularly on show, mind you) on full display.

The Syrian regime's Nancy Drew reported her sleuthing prowess, and unveiled (as predicted) an astounding "clue":

When I read that a weapon equipped with silencers was used by the criminals to assassinate Pierre Gemayel, in broad daylight in Beirut ... the term "silencers" caught my attention. I remembered the news which I read about a package seized in Beirut's airport which contained silencers, and which appeared in some Lebanese media and disappeared like a passing summer's cloud without any follow-up, and without a trace. The news appeared once, and the media did not pay it any attention, investigation, or follow-up, despite the danger of such a news story in a country that's being pushed to civil war.

Yes, quite a coincidence. So glad you picked up that obscure, passing cloud, which was only covered in the pro-Syrian rags for several days in a row, on the front pages. I will spare the non-Arabic readers the rest of Bouthi Drew's "brilliant" analysis. Suffice it to say that she basically accuses US, French and Israeli intelligence services of being behind the crime, naturally. The funny thing is that she doesn't even try to deviate from the basic line and connections made in the stories published in the pro-Syrian rags and Cham Press (you kind of realize now where these stories come from). Just read my earlier post and you'll get it.

The Syrians planted a story in their rags in Lebanon to set up the murder. And now, miraculously, it's being picked up by one of regime's most repugnant, rabid functionaries. As I said before, these thugs are not big on subtlety.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Talking from Every Side of One's Mouth

To follow up on my earlier post about "experts." This particular one has an atrocious track record of double talk, distortion, and duplicity.

The new propaganda line now is the following:

We saw this summer Israel try to assassinate the leading Shiite leaders and to destroy Hezbollah in order to keep Lebanon firmly in America's orbit and to keep this government, the Siniora government, firmly in power. That failed. Now we see the other side shoving back.

Let's leave aside for a second the implicit acknowledgement that it was indeed Syria that was behind Gemayel's assassination. How, pray tell, does one square that with this earlier propaganda line (emphasis mine):

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.
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.
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.
The Irony is that Syria is not breaking Lebanon. Israel and the US are.

So which one is it? You can't maintain both arguments... unless of course your interest is propaganda, not serious analysis.

The Kindergarten School of Politics

Let me start with a warning. This NYT editorial is not suitable for children. It might also frighten the faint-hearted. So please, excercise caution.

The NYT editorial board amassed the entirety of its impressive foreign policy genius, and came out with this terrifyingly awesome statement:

Damascus must also be told that it will pay a high price — in scorn, isolation and sanctions — if it is found to have ordered Mr. Gemayel’s death, or the deaths or maiming of a half-dozen other anti-Syrian politicians and journalists. Hezbollah must be told that it will be shunned if it tries to grab power through further violence or intimidation.

Did they just say "scorn"? Oh snap! Wait, and they got away with "shunning" Hezbollah?! They could do that?! Damn... that is cold! Take that Nasrallah and Khamenei! How you feel about that?!

This is what a friend of mine calls "the kindergarten school of politics." Bad boys to the corner! No friends for bullies! This editorial might as well have been written by a grade-schooler.

Russel Berman actually thinks the NYT editorial only "looks clean," but in fact masks ignorance, political amateurism ("kindergarten school of politics") and maybe worse. I tend to agree:

In other words: talk with Syria while denying its key policy objectives. Hardly realistic. The NYT advocates selling out democracy (in Iraq and elsewhere), while trying to keep its hands clean, presumably hoping to be able to leave the dirty dealing to the State Department. (The suggestion that the Europeans might carry this message is almost as hilarious as the suggestion that Putin will talk tough to Assad. What is that editorial board smoking?)

Berman is right in questioning the "realism" of this approach. I and others have been doing the same. There is nothing "realist" about this. In fact, one could argue that this approach is antithetical to realism. It's what I've recently called "missionary work."

Berman's remark about the regime's objectives are on the mark. This was also noted by David Schenker:

[W]hat Syria wants, their priority is an end to the Hariri investigation and the international tribunal.

Naturally, the by-product of this is the re-domination of Lebanon.

Those points and more were also articulated well by Michael Young in two recent pieces (one, which proved prescient, was published before Gemayel's murder by the Syrians), as well as in a very good piece by Michael Glackin.

Michael Young's WSJ piece is particularly relevant when considering the NYT's really laughable editorial from November 15. The name Rafik Hariri, or the term "tribunal" does not even appear in the text! Such is the depth of the NYT's understanding of power politics and "realism" (naturally, this is not even to mention rule of law or support for democracy!).

You could contrast that with the Washington Post's editorial from that same day. They understood exactly what's at stake. (The NY Sun's editorial today is also worth a look.)

It seems lost on people (the kindergarten and/or missionary variety who would like to flatter themselves by calling themselves realists) that this is, as Lee Smith recently put it, how Syria "dialogues."

Unlike the geniuses of the NYT editorial board, they don't put a dunce cap on your head. They bust a cap in your and your friends' heads. So please, enough with the idiocy.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Guess Who's Back!

When in need, call up your fake, pseudo-jihadist terrorist group.

It turns out that a group has claimed responsibility for Gemayel's assassination. A statement was sent to Lebanese media, and published by An-Nahar, signed by none other than "the Strugglers for the Unity and Freedom of the Levant."

The group, a fake one, was the same (hitherto unknown) group that claimed responsibility for the murder of Gebran Tueni a year ago. Also, it's the same fake group that threatened to kill the successor of then-UN prosecutor Detlev Mehlis. On a side note, Mehlis told a German paper that he thinks it's obvious that Syria or its proxies were behind Gemayel's killing.

Part of the fake group's statement read: "God has helped us today also in the liquidation of the agent Pierre Gemayel, one of those who never ceased spreading their poison against Syria and the resistance [Hezbollah], without shame."

But I have a better one for you. Here's a prediction: some genius in Syria (or one of its Lebanese pitbulls) will soon make a "brilliant" forensic connection, tying the use of silencers in the murder of Gemayel with a "report" that appeared days ago (before the murder) in the pro-Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah paper Al-Akhbar (as well as a spectacularly hilarious "open letter" published in another pro-Syrian rag, Ad-Diyar, one day before the Al-Akhbar report, by sheer coincidence of course), which was all too innocently picked up by the Bashar internet tool Cham Press, which "reported" that the US embassy has smuggled (you guessed it) silencers!

However, the prize must go to Ad-Diyar's open letter. A constant target of these rags is US Amb. Jeffrey Feltman, and it's no coincidence that Hezbollah has been bashing him at every turn, and that Nasrallah labeled the Seniora government the "Feltman government." Sure enough, he was targeted in these "reports." But Ad-Diyar's creativity went one notch above the rest, when it "confirmed" as "common knowledge" that David Satterfield was "busy training the cadres and leaders of Lebanese militias."

I'll give you a moment to wipe your tears. Mark my words, some luminary is bound to make the suggestion, or should I call it "analysis."

Addendum: I swear, when I was writing this post, I actually typed up that some idiot might also point to the "Strugglers" statement and/or make a connection with the "al-Qaeda" statement that had appeared days ago threatening to attack the government (I posted on that here). I decided last minute to drop it and just go with the silencers story. I should've known. The funnier thing is that it comes from a regime flack (scroll to bottom). I expected it to be pathetic. I didn't expect it to be this pathetic. But given the source, it's hardly surprising, especially when you hear the thuggish threat he made in another media appearance: "America, I think, is going to be forced to bend to that. If it continues to resist, we're going to see more violence."

It just goes to prove, to paraphrase Michael Young (writing about none other than Faysal Mekdad), "how even the tedious functionaries of despotisms end up sounding like the thugs they represent."

Words of Wisdom

The assassination of Pierre Gemayel has brought out the "best" in the so-called Mideast "experts," these wondrous luminaries of our time.

Here's a summary:

Helena Cobban: Syrians murder Lebanese Christian leader. Conclusion: Lebanese Christians are murderers who may massacre people.

Rami Khoury: Syrians murder Lebanese Christian leader. Conclusion: We must stop this "cycle of violence."

Juan Cole: Syrians murder Lebanese Christian leader. Conclusion: The evil George Bush wants the Lebanese moderates to crush poor innocent Hezbollah.

Joshua Landis: Syrians murder Lebanese Christian leader. Conclusion: The US should make a concession to Syria to let Hezbollah run Lebanon.

And all agree: Syrians murder Lebanese Christian leader. Conclusion: This proves we should forget about the last time they murdered a Lebanese leader!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

It's the Tribunal, Stupid!

One has to give it to Syria's deputy foreign minister, the despicable Faysal Mekdad, for his candor!

For those who don't remember, Faysal Mekdad was the lovely Baathist pitbull who, when the international tribunal was first requested by the Lebanese government (yes, funny coincidence that) after Assad's thugs murdered Gebran Tueni, expressed his lovely sentiments in all candor to an Arab diplomat at the UN during a closed-door council session (I covered this story and its aftermath back then):

"So now every time that a dog dies in Beirut there will be an international investigation?"

So the "Dog Whisperer" is back, his "honesty" intact. In another closed session today, Mekdad reportedly made the following rather telling remark to his select (by invitation only) audience members:

"Syria will not accept to present any of its citizens before an international court because we are confident in our own judiciary."

He contrasted Syria's "honest and independent judiciary" (more on that below) to the "collapsed judiciary" of other countries where the UN set up international courts, "like Sierra Leone and Yugoslavia." Consequently, Syria would not accept to hand over any Syrian to an international court. For "if any Syrian citizen is involved in this crime -- although Syria is 100% innocent -- then he is a criminal who would be punished like any other criminal, by the just Syrian judiciary."

He added that forming an international tribunal, "would place Syria under political pressure":

"When a tribunal arrives before the investigation reach any results, then the tribunal will be able to summon any person and the country would be placed under political pressure, and Syria would be condemned before public opinion even if it was judicially exonerated."

Furthermore, he told his audience, Syria's international lawyers have assured Syria that they were "100% confident of Syria's innocence"! Naturally!

He then invented his own interpretation of Brammertz's report, saying that Brammertz pointed to other possibilities, like "internal Lebanese forces, or other hired killers, or Arab parties, or [Islamic] extremists." And then Mekdad proposed that Brammertz's "professional" reports -- or his own delusional reading thereof -- be taught at Syrian universities! Oh and he made sure to reiterate his government's support for Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah, whose latest speech (in which he called the Lebanese government "the government of [US Ambassador Jeffrey] Feltman" and labeled them agents of Israel and America that need to be toppled), Mekdad said "expresses our position." He also repeated Syria's support for the toppling of the current government, all with the typical bitchy condescension towards Lebanon and the Lebanese.

Now, a word about that Syrian "independent" judiciary. It was recently blasted by Syrian dissidents Michel Kilo and Anwar Bunni, both languishing in jail by order of Bashar Assad (for more on them and their colleagues, check The Syria Monitor).

Kilo dissected the blatant (and routine) abuse of the joke known as the Syrian judiciary by the regime and its security apparatus. A judge had recently approved Kilo's release on bail to await trial, but direct interference from a "prominent figure from the first rank of the Syrian regime" reversed the order, and kept Kilo in jail.

Earlier, Kilo was slandered by a regime-hired pen (and some say, mistress of Maher Assad, Bashar's brother) who accused him of receiving money from Lebanese anti-Syrian minister Marwan Hamade (whom the Syrians tried to kill before they killed Hariri, and whose case will be covered by the intl. tribunal) in order to "finance terrorist activity" in Syria. Kilo and his jailed comrades wanted to sue that hired pen and the state-run newspaper that published her piece. Again, a telephone call from Maher Assad's office (er, "a prominent figure from the first rank of the regime") made sure the case was thrown out.

So yes, what was the UN thinking establishing an intl. tribunal!? Besides, there will not be any such petty interferences in this case. As Bashar Assad has made abundantly clear, any Syrian found to be involved in the Hariri assassination (aside from him, his brother, his brother-in-law, and any high-ranking official of course) will be treated like a traitor, and, therefore, killed! Case closed!

You gotta love the thugs of the Syrian regime, from Bashar down to the lowest functionary, like that caricature-thug, Imad Moustapha. But Mekdad's comments seem to validate Walid Jumblat's remark earlier today: "Only the tribunal will deter the killer in Damascus. Bashar is scared. That is why he opted for killing to avoid punishment."

Addendum: More from Jumblat: "Jumblat said Assad could not afford to allow the court to be formed and press ahead with charges against Syrian officials 'because he knows that if a single corporal, a single individual, in Syria is involved in the crimes ... the totalitarian system (in Syria) is all involved'."

Syria Murders Pierre Gemayel

A few days ago, LF leader Samir Geagea expressed his fears that Syria would attempt to assassinate three ministers in order to deprive the majority of the ability to convene the required two thirds quorum to ratify the international tribunal.

Geagea seems to have been proved right, as anti-Syrian industry minister Pierre Gemayel, son of former president Amin Gemayel and member of the March 14 coalition, was targeted and assassinated earlier today. His convoy was attacked and shot at.

This comes as the UN is set to approve the intl. tribunal today to send it back to Lebanon to be ratified. It also comes at the same time as Hezbollah and the other Syrian agents prepare to take to the streets for a coup d'état to protect the Syrian regime from the tribunal.

This assassination will likely ensure that if such street rallies do take place, clashes would erupt, as it's clear that the Syrians are set on that. (Just another reminder for the idiots who believe Syria is a force of "stability.")

Syria has a primary objective that outweighs everything else: kill the Hariri tribunal, and redominate Lebanon at any cost. This is nothing short than a fight to the death for the Syrians. And, as these thugs have done throughout their bloody history, they will kill anyone.

My fear is that they will go after a couple more ministers to ensure the government falls.

We know what the Lebanese are prepared to do. Now, what is the Intl. Community prepared to do?

Addendum: More from Abu Kais.

Update: Reports are coming out that another March 14 minister came under attack, but was unharmed. This supports the theory that the target is indeed to eliminate enough ministers to topple the government.

Furthermore, given that the targeted ministers are Christians, it would be consistent with the same tactic the Syrians adopted after they killed Hariri when they targeted exclusively Christian figures and Christian areas. The hope is to spark sectarian clashes that would send the country into a vacuum, which is why Amin Gemayel and Walid Jumblat have urged restraint. An additional benefit for the Syrians and Iranians and Hezbollah would be the killing of UNR 1701 and the UNIFIL deployment in southern Lebanon.

Update 2: Iraq the Model puts its finger on an essential truth: "Syria thinks that just because they made a "friendly" gesture towards Iraq yesterday they would have the right to unleash their dogs in Lebanon today. That's their definition for dialogue."

This is certainly part of it. All this useless noise about "engaging" Syria has led to this. It has been interpreted by Syria as a license to kill, to make its move in Lebanon. And this is the result of the mere chatter about "engagement," that has no real policy substance! This is Syria for you. And people still act surprised, and luminaries still call for "talking" to Syria, and want to tell it what its "real interest" is, and convince themselves that Syria really is not interested in chaos. Destabilization is inherent to the Syrian regime's nature. It is their interest.

Update 3: Statement by President Bush: "The United States remains fully committed to supporting Lebanon's independence and democracy in the face of attempts by Syria, Iran, and their allies within Lebanon to foment instability and violence. Syria's refusal to cease and desist from its continuing efforts to destabilize Lebanon's democratically elected government is a repeated violation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701. The United States will continue its efforts with allied nations and democratic forces in Lebanon to resist these efforts and protect Lebanon's sovereignty and democratic institutions."

Update 4: I just received notice that the UN passed the Presidential statement, and they got the letter of agreement on the tribunal passed. Now it goes back to Lebanon for approval by Parliament. If Gemayel's assassination is an indication, expect more destabilization by Syria and its pitbulls in the next few days.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Pajamas Media Podcast

Michael Totten has posted his podcast interview with me on Pajamas Media. The interview was done several days ago, before the current cabinet crisis in Lebanon.

The interview is a bit on the long side (35 mins) and goes in some detail about issues relating to Lebanon and Syria, so be warned.

I'd like to add a little note that I didn't get a chance to explore in the interivew. When we go into realism, Michael rightly points out the issue of the internal constitution of regimes.

I spent my time discussing the balance of powers aspect, but I would like to address the internal nature of the Syrian regime as well, as I think it matters. It's an issue that President Bush recently raised with regards to Syria ("form of government does matter"), and I think he's right. However, he's right in an additional way (i.e., not just about "democratic" vs. "totalitarian" forms of government) when it comes to Syria.

The nature of the regime matters in Syria because it's 1- a minority Alawite regime, and 2- because it's based on a minoritarian, supra-national ideology: radical Arab nationalism. As such, the issue is the inherent structure, nature, interests, ideology, and the sources of legitimacy of the regime that make it inherently destabilizing. That's why it needs to project itself on its neighbors, subversively. It exports its own instability abroad. And that's why, if we're going to make comparisons as to what kind of outcome we hope to see, Bashar can never be, say, a Sadat.

It is inherently tied to the fact that Assad is an Alawite autocrat of a majority Sunni state, which is why he needs to cling to the supra-nationalist, Arabist (now Islamic-Arabist) ideology. (It is also related to Syria's own definition as a nation-state, but I'll save that for another time.)

It is hardly a surprise then that Assad's is basically a state sponsor of Islamist jihadists. It is directly linked to the nature of the regime.

Finally, a couple of additional lines on the issue of diplomacy which I also touch on in the interview.

1. Bashar knows his own interests and has been pursuing them rationally as he defines them and according to his worldview. Subversion and anti-Americanism is his interest! The idea that US diplomats can show him where his best interests really lie is not diplomacy. To believe that one can show him the "true" nature of his interests is missionary work. Christian missionaries failed spectacularly in the ME and this approach will fail also.

2. The problem isn't in talking to your enemies but in forgetting that it is your enemy you are considering talking to. So, you need to seriously figure out how talking might hurt your position and strengthen your enemy's.

Monday, November 13, 2006

NYT Ignorance and Cliches

Lebanon is probably the most misrepresented and misunderstood of all the Arab states, but some people aren't even trying. The latest example comes from Michael Slackman in Sunday's Times highlighting the amount of laziness and ignorance that permeates reporting (and even scholarship) on Lebanon.

This piece raises a timely question: if the Baker realists are supposed to "solve" all the problems the neocons caused in Iraq, then who will save the liberal intelligentsia's paper of record from making itself look stupid with its Middle East coverage?

Slackman starts off on the wrong foot, asserting that Lebanon was "[c]arved out by the French as a haven for Christians." For one, Slackman completely cuts off Lebanese history to fit the anti-colonialist narrative, ignoring the preludes in Ottoman times. And second, never was there a formula of a "haven for Christians." Maybe Slackman confused this with the actual slogan, "haven for minorities," not just Christians. In fact, the autonomous 19th c. Mount Lebanon polity had a system that very much prefigured the current system of power sharing which, regardless of actual demographic distribution in Mt. Lebanon, included representation for all sects. The post-French mandate Lebanon was also not designed as "a haven for Christians." If it were so, then it wouldn't have encompassed the largely Sunni cities of Tripoli and Sidon, or the predominantly Shiite areas in the south. Those Christians, like Emile Edde, who advocated against including the Sunni cities and Shiite areas in order to maintain the Christian character of the state, did not prevail.

Next, he writes that "now the Taif era is widely regarded as over, with a handoff from Sunni to Shiite control well under way, although some Christians are still searching for a way to preserve the status quo."

What evidence does the Times have to support any of this? Who believes that Taif is over? Moreover, what's this about a handoff from Sunni to Shiite control? Does the NYT Middle East correspondent not understand what is currently taking place in Lebanon? It is not a handoff; Hezbollah is trying to bring down a democratically elected government and make it submit to the fanatical thugocracy next door and its Iranian patron. But maybe in the Times Middle East lexicon, "handoff" is how they describe a militia that wants to seize control of all state institutions and turn the country into a garrison state.

And then of course there are "demographics," the most frequently manipulated of all Lebanese political instruments that allow anyone to project their own anxieties and fantasies onto Lebanon. It once again validates the excellent insight made by Lebanon scholar Theodor Hanf, which I have quoted before:

The lack of census figures stimulated not only political, but also social fantasies. And the products usually correlated with the analyst's political convictions. From the mid-1970s onwards, a number of authors more or less equated social class and community in Lebanon, and interpreted conflicts between these communities as class struggles. Of course, this thesis was an effective mobilizer. It also satisfied the desire of some media for simple explanations of complex situations. The cliché of 'rich Christians' and 'poor Muslims', has had a brilliant journalistic career -- and it may not be over yet.

Slackman may not have a political agenda, so his vacuum of ignorance is ably filled by others, like Hilal Khashan, a political science professor at the American University in Beirut, who appears to have become Slackman's number one Lebanon expert (along with Judith Palmer Harik. Others prefer Hezbollah flak Amal Saad-Ghorayeb. Take your pick.): "A census will show the Christians are a clear minority," and, he adds, "Nobody wants to know the extent of their decline. Some think they don’t even make up 25 percent of the population."

Never mind that Khashan is advancing his own agenda, an aspect of Middle Eastern politics that the Times has proven itself ignorant of time and again. And never mind that Khashan's statement directly contradicts Slackman's note about the lack of a census. So what is the basis of Khashan's statement, or for that matter, Slackman's categorical "everyone knows," other than pure speculation? "Some think"? Well, "others beg to differ." Does any sane person really believe the reason there is no census is solely on account of the Christians (the historical bête noire)?

The funny thing is that the same day the Times published this piece of nonsense, An-Nahar, Lebanon's leading daily, ran a story about a new study by Yousef Doueihi that provided the following demographic statistics: 35% Christians, 29% Sunnis, 29% Shiites, 5% Druze. (It turns out that my fellow Lebanese blogger Mustapha laid out the chart over at Beirut Spring.)

It's hardly a surprise the Times is ignorant of Arab media, but the results from this study (which I might come back to later to discuss in detail) seem within ballpark range of what the serious studies and scholars (see, e.g., William Harris) have postulated. Basically, there is demographic balance in Lebanon between Christians, Sunnis, and Shiites (in many ways validating the "haven of minorities" formula, as no single group represents a majority). Overall, although politically irrelevant, the Muslim-Christian ratio is closer to the 60-40 range, and this study has it at 64,29% to 35,33%. Of course The New York Times could've checked their quotes against the CIA factbook number, 59.7% to 39%, (as opposed to, say, relying on sources like Khashan's "some think," or Slackman's "everyone knows") but that would've entailed reporting and a certain amount of skepticism of its Middle Eastern sources and its stringers.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Syria Unleashes al-Qaeda

During the recent war in Lebanon, I made sure to collect and publicize for the record all the Syrian threats about al-Qaeda in Lebanon, and how they would be unleashed against the UNIFIL and the Lebanese government. The obvious target, aside from re-dominating Lebanon, is to kill the Hariri tribunal and UNR 1701.

So, as the draft of the international tribunal was finished and was sent to Lebanon to be approved, Hezbollah and Amal withdrew from government (as they did back in December when the decision to form the tribunal was adopted by the cabinet after the Syrian regime murdered MP Gebran Tueni).

But -- funny coincidence -- two interesting news items appear the day after the withdrawal of the HA/Amal ministers. First, longtime Syrian hired pen, Charles Ayyub of the pro-regime rag ad-Diyar, penned a typically rambling piece, which, as with all regime officials, flaks and hired hands, contained a number of threats. The threats aren't just the usual ones against the March 14 forces. This time they directly threatened the UNIFIL and the implementation of UNR 1701.

On the same day -- for the Syrian threat which I laid out months ago to be fully revealed -- a statement from "al-Qaeda Lebanon" (previously unknown) in the (Syrian-penetrated) Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, suddenly (!) surfaced vowing simply to "destroy the corrupt cabinet that takes orders from the US administration" (phrasing identical to daily Syrian propaganda).

Put two and two together and the Syrian threats from back in July (starting with Bashar himself, down to Walid Moallem and Mohsen Bilal, all the way to Amr Salem) are now under way.

The set-up -- as the Syrians always do, which is what they did with Hariri too -- had been ongoing in the pro-Syrian rags, especially in al-Akhbar. The line was that any security disturbances will be caused by March 14 and the Americans (accusing, in al-Akhbar and ad-Diyar, the American embassy of smuggling weapons to Lebanon and training "special forces" on embassy grounds).

The order has gone out, it seems, from the state sponsor of al-Qaeda and terrorism, which is Bashar Assad's Syria (Sec. Rice wasn't kidding when she said that it was a "dangerous state" and "not a state that contributes to stability in the Middle East"). But no matter, the tribunal isn't going away, regardless of the "engagement" chatter.

Addendum: We should probably connect the "Al-Qaeda" appearance in Lebanon with what Mohsen Bilal told UPI a few days ago that the US made a big mistake in ejecting the Syrians from Lebanon because "Lebanon was one of the few states that had 100% security because of Syrian presence." They're not big on subtlety, these thugs.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Best... Picture... Ever!

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