Posts Tagged ‘U.S.’

"Mr. Hariri, why don’t you disarm Hezbollah?……."

May 26th, 2010 Comments off

The CABLE/ here

When Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri met with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday, his main message was not about Syria, Hezbollah, or even Iran. He told the assembled lawmakers that the U.S. had to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before it could make progress on those other pressing regional issues.

“He feels that the growth of terrorism and the instability in his country and elsewhere is still an outgrowth of the inability to find peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and that the lack of progress there continues to jeopardize not only Lebanon but other states as well,” the committee’s ranking Republican Richard Lugar, R-IN, told The Cable upon exiting the meeting.

Hariri made a plea for more military assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces, a subject of internal administration debate in Washington, but did not comment on concerns that Syria is transferring new long-range missiles to Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group that Washington has designated a terrorist organization.

“He did not accuse the Syrians but he did acknowledge that Hezbollah does have arms,” said Lugar. “When asked ‘Why don’t you disarm them?’ he responded, ‘That would lead to civil war.'” Lawmakers, many of whom have a personal affinity for Hariri and travel to Beirut often, decided not to press the issue.

“We did not get into the specific armaments that Syria has given Hezbollah,” Lugar said. “It didn’t happen to arise in this conversation.”…….. lawmakers didn’t ask Hariri to do anything specific to advance that objective, Kerry said. “I think he’s been an enormously helpful partner with respect to the issues in the region.”

Not everyone thinks the Lebanese prime minister has been so helpful, especially when he reportedly said last month, “Threats that Lebanon now has huge missiles are similar to what they used to say about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.”…

Kerry, who just returned from a trip to Syria, declined to say if he had made any progress with the government there. “I just had discussions about the normal things,” he said.

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McChrystal: "Marjah (the ‘predictor’ for success at Kandahar) is a ‘Blleding Ulcer’ …."

May 25th, 2010 Comments off

Pat Lang said the ‘clock is ticking’ and the Taliban hear it too well! McClatchy’s/ here

“…….. “You’ve got to be patient,” Lt. Col. Brian Christmas told McChrystal. “We’ve only been here 90 days.” “How many days do you think we have before we run out of support by the international community?” McChrystal replied.

“I can’t tell you, sir,” the tall, towheaded, Fort Bragg, N.C., native finally answered.”I’m telling you,” McChrystal said. “We don’t have as many days as we’d like.”

The operation in Marjah is supposed to be the first blow in a decisive campaign to oust the Taliban from their spiritual homeland in adjacent Kandahar province, one that McChrystal had hoped would bring security and stability to Marjah and begin to convey an “irreversible sense of momentum” in the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan.

Instead, a tour last week of Marjah and the nearby Nad Ali district, during which McClatchy had rare access to meetings between McChrystal and top Western strategists, drove home the hard fact that President Barack Obama’s plan to begin pulling American troops out of Afghanistan in July 2011 is colliding with the realities of the war…. “You don’t feel it here,” he said during a 10-hour front-line strategy review, “but I’ll tell you, it’s a bleeding ulcer outside.”……. McChrystal expressed impatience with the pace of operations, echoing the mounting pressure he’s under from his civilian bosses in Washington and Europe to start showing progress.

Progress in Marjah has been slow, however, in part because no one who planned the operation realized how hard it would be to convince residents that they could trust representatives of an Afghan government that had sent them corrupt police and inept leaders before they turned to the Taliban……..

“By day there is government,” he said. “By night it’s the Taliban.” (more/here)

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Swaps, swaps & more …swaps!

May 25th, 2010 Comments off
Swaps happened …


Last week, as Iranian officials allowed the mothers of three American hikers imprisoned in Tehran to visit them, Iraqi authorities released two Iranians who had been detained by American forces in Iraq in 2004 and 2007 to the Iranian embassy. “A U.S. military spokesman confirmed that the two, Ahmad Barazandeh and Ali Abdulmaliki, had been arrested by American forces in Iraq but had been transferred to Iraqi custody in June and October 2009 respectively,” the AFP reported.

“Barazandeh was captured in March of 2004 and Abdulmaliki was captured in Nov of 2007,” the spokesman said, according to the AFP. The release of the two Iranians to the Iranian embassy in Baghdad came as the mothers of Shane Bauer, 27, Josh Fattal 27, and Sarah Shourd, 31, were permitted to visit them in Tehran. The three University of California Berkeley graduates were hiking in northern Iraq in July when they were taken into Iranian custody. They have been held in Tehran’s Evin prison without charge for more than nine months. Cindy Hickey, the mother of Bauer, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” today that Bauer and Shourd are engaged, after Bauer proposed during one of the two daily meetings Shourd is allowed with her friends. The rest of the time she is held in solitary confinement.

Iran’s intelligence minister suggested on Sunday the three might be swapped for Iranians being held in the West, Iranian media reported. The U.S. says such a swap is out of the question, but it is willing to provide consular access and answer any concerns Iran has about Iranians in U.S. custody.

It also denied any role in the release of the two Iranians in Iraq last week, saying that’s a matter between the Iraqi and Iranian governments. “They were held by the Iraqis,” State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said. “We are not holding any Iranian prisoners in Iraq.”

Under the terms of an agreement between the U.S. and Iraqi governments, the U.S. military had to turn over all remaining prisoners in its custody to Iraq last year. Last year, the U.S. military turned over to Iraqi authorities an Iraqi Shiite insurgent, Qais al-Khazali, believed involved in a 2006 attack that killed five American GIs in Karbala. Hours after Iraqi authorities freed al-Khazali in December, a British computer consultant, Peter Moore, taken hostage at Iraq’s Finance Ministry in 2007, was released unharmed.

Earlier this month, France insisted there was no deal when Iran earlier this month released a French researcher, Clotilde Reiss, who had been arrested in the post-elections protests and held under modified house arrest at the French embassy in Tehran. Earlier this month, a French prosecutor ordered the release of Majid Kakavand, an Iranian engineer and businessman sought by the United States on arms export control violations. Shortly after Reiss’s return to France, a French court ordered the expulsion of Ali Vakili Rad, an Iranian serving a life prison sentence in France for the 1991 assassination of former Iranian prime minister Shahpour Bakhtiar.

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"The damage caused by Netanyahu is worse than the threat of a nuclear Iran…"

May 24th, 2010 Comments off

Eldar/ Haaretz/ here

In an overtly self-deprecating comment last week during a meeting with Jewish congressmen, U.S. President Barack Obama said he had stepped on a few mines as he took his first steps in the Middle East. The delegation left the White House assuaged, feeling perhaps that a president who has been hurt by mines would be wary of much bigger bombs. It appears that the Obama administration has realized that it will not succeed where its predecessors have failed. If no peace with the Arabs emerges from the president’s initiative, why should he fight with the Jews? When Republicans are threatening to take over the House of Representatives in six months, it’s not so bad if the Israeli occupation continues for another 43 years.

Obama’s efforts to woo Jewish politicians are like our secular politicians who make a pilgrimage to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. The meeting with the congressmen was preceded by one with Elie Wiesel – his dinner with the president after the Nobel peace laureate called on the administration to remove Jerusalem from the negotiations. Also, two senior members of the National Security Council at the White House were sent to calm the leadership of the Anti-Defamation League. And White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel held private talks with a group of concerned rabbis. All went home pleased; they were promised that Obama would not pressure Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to give back land. In simpler words: They don’t want peace; there is no need for it.

It’s possible that Obama’s withdrawal from his vision of peace (“when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims …. It is time for these settlements to stop …. T he continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security,” Cairo address, June 4, 2009 ) will open the purses of a handful of Jewish donors to his party. However, it’s not at all certain that a business-as-usual approach toward a right-wing government in Israel will improve Obama’s lot among Jewish voters . The vast majority of them are not interested in the ethnic origin of their congressmen. Very few know the names of the Jewish congressmen who are being presented to them by Obama and his aides.

In his flight out of the Middle Eastern minefield, the U.S. president stepped on a homemade mine. He failed to address the steady weakening of the link between the Jewish community in the United States and the Jewish community in Israel. The vast majority (78 percent ) of Jewish voters voted for Obama and Democratic candidates for Congress. Peter Beinart, who comes from an Orthodox Jewish family, describes in the New York Review of Books the growing alienation of American Jews from the Zionist idea. These are mostly the young ones.

Obama’s Jewish camp is not buying the message of the poor weakling that the right wing is selling with some success in the local market. A Jewish student at Princeton feels greater affinity to his Muslim classmates than to Effi Eitam, Netanyahu’s public-relations messenger to U.S. university campuses who is calling for the eviction of Arab MKs from the Knesset. A Jewish lawyer in Los Angeles doesn’t see which justice serves as the basis for throwing a Palestinian family, refugees from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Katamon, out of their home in Sheikh Jarrah, only to put in their place settlers from the extreme right. The Jewish lecturer in Boston finds it hard to explain to his children why Israelis prevented his colleague, Prof. Noam Chomsky, from speaking at Bir Zeit University.

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Unfortunately, Obama’s mine is our bomb; over the years, U.S. Jewry has become one of the Zionist movement’s most strategic assets. This influential community’s link to the historic homeland and its influence on centers of power in the United States is one of the cornerstones of Israel’s deterrence. The damage caused by the Netanyahu government to this core support of American Jews is no better than the threat of a nuclear Iran.

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"The only way to stop Iran is for the US to shut down Iran’s electric generation for a period …"

May 24th, 2010 Comments off

Washington Times/ here

“…. Israel is now in a position to send scores of F-16Is and F-15Is on the 1,000-mile penetration of Iranian airspace to try …..
But a U.S. air-war planner in the Persian Gulf War tells The Washington Times he does not think Israel’ has the firepower to properly hit all the necessary Iranian targets.
The only real way to stop Iran’s atomic bomb, said retired Air Force Col. John Warden, is for the U.S. to shut down Iran’s electric generation for the foreseeable future — a strategy not currently on the Pentagon’s table…”

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Clinton, Geithner arrive in Beijing for talks

May 23rd, 2010 Comments off

UPDATE 3: U.S. secretary of state lands in Chinese capital ahead of talks with leaders on trade, security.
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Pakistani suspect back in jail in Chile

May 23rd, 2010 Comments off

UPDATE 4: Court orders back to jail Pakistani man charged after explosives found on him at U.S. embassy.
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‘Said’ Hariri in the Israeli media: "Quietly asks UNSC P5 not to vote on Iran sanctions … while Lebanon presides…"

May 22nd, 2010 Comments off

Taking cues from WINEP, Haaretz, here & Yediot, here

“… Analysts expect Obama to be more encouraging in tone than demanding of results when he meets Hariri, who heads a national unity government that includes Hezbollah …. Another official said Washington would ask Hariri to continue to support efforts “toward comprehensive regional peace.” Hariri has also denied Israel’s accusations, while his government has said it backs the right of the guerrilla group to keep its weapons to deter Israeli attacks…. Obama and Hariri are also expected to discuss U.S.-led international efforts to isolate Iran … Diplomats said Beirut had quietly asked the permanent members of the Security Council – Britain, France, Russia, China and the United States – not to push for a vote on a new Iran sanctions resolution while it held the presidency. Lebanon is expected to abstain in any vote because Iranian-backed Hezbollah is in its government, diplomats said.

Jon Alterman, a Middle East expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said Lebanon no longer enjoyed the status it had under the Bush administration …”

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Saturday lashed out at Israel’s defense exercises and said they ran counter to current Middle East peace efforts.

Israel has to go to the negotiating table in order to achieve peace. To launch military exercises at such a time runs counter to peace efforts, …. How can you launch peace negotiations with the Palestinians while holding military maneuvers?” asked Hariri …”

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Abbas: no progress in indirect talks with Israel (AP)

May 22nd, 2010 Comments off

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas , center, speaks during a media event for the campaign to boycott to ban Israeli settlement products from the Palestinian territories, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Saturday, May 22, 2010.  Abbas says he's ready to swap some land with Israel but that gaps remain on how much territory is to be traded. Abbas spoke Saturday after two rounds of indirect, U.S.-mediated peace talks with Israel. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)AP – The Palestinians are ready to swap some land with Israel, although differences remain over the amount of territory to be traded, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday after two rounds of U.S.-led indirect peace talks.

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Maura Connelly, next US Ambassador to Lebanon?

May 22nd, 2010 Comments off

“…diplomatic sources say Maura Connelly, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the State Department Near Eastern Affairs bureau, and former charge d’affaires in Damascus, will be nominated to be the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon. Administration officials didn’t immediately respond….

Connelly traveled with State counter terrorism coordinator Dan Benjamin to Syria last week….She’s due to speak next month at the Middle East Institute on the Obama administration’s Lebanon policy …”

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