25 January 2009

* Obama's new foreign policy vs Iran

President Obama intends to repudiate the Bush legacy of support for Nazi Iran, Islamist Pakistan, fascist Venezuela and its Trotskyite allies of Bolivia and Nicaragua. Obama's new policy is to rebuild anti-Iran alliances with the Arab states, India, Israel, Russia, and Cuba.

As part of Obama's new foreign policy, he must above all isolate Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who as a Bush appointee is pro-Iran.

As an alternative to Defense Department/CIA/Bush control of foreign policy, Obama intends to empower the State Department under Hillary Clinton.

The outlines of Obama's new foreign policy are now emerging.

Behind the rhetoric of US support for the Middle East peace process, Obama is isolating Iran and reaching out to the Arab states, Fatah, Hezbollah, and Hamas.

Behind the rhetoric of assisting Afghanistan, Obama is reaching out to Russia, as illustrated by Obama's surprise decision this week to rely on Russia in place of Pakistan as the main partner in supplying US forces in Afghanistan.

Behind the rhetoric of US confrontation with Hugo Chavez in Latin America, Obama is reaching out to Cuba and El Salvador in Latin America in a bid to isolate Chavez.

Finally, behind the rhetoric of government reform, Obama intends to strengthen the anti-Iran State Department and weaken the pro-Bush and pro-Iran forces at DoD and CIA.

Thanks to Secretary Gates' connections to CIA, the Defense Department now controls most of the government's intelligence reports. Obama worries that DoD control of intelligence leads to DoD control of US foreign policy.

Obama's primary concern is that Gates has accumulated vast power with which to dominate US foreign policy, at the expense of the State Department and Congress.

In particular, Obama has concerns about this week's revelations on MSNBC describing a massive secret DoD/NSA wiretapping and internal surveillance program. This DoD program goes far beyond the potential of the FBI/CIA wiretapping programs. Obama's progressive supporters will insist that he attack Gates for sponsoring and funding this NSA program.

Obama intends to stop Gates by rebuilding the State Department as an anti-Iran counterweight to Gates and CIA. Obama has strengthened State by naming former Senator George Mitchell and Richard Holbrooke as special envoys. Obama now has three diplomatic superpower heavy hitters on policy at State -- Clinton, Mitchell and Holbrooke -- who can overpower Robert Gates and CIA.

Finally, in view of Gates' excessive power and his wrongheaded pro-Iran policies, Obama should consider asking Robert Gates for his resignation.

At the very least, Obama should put Gates on notice not to oppose his security initiatives, especially his outreach to the Arabs and Russia. After all, Bush lost the election, and Gates should give way to Clinton and Obama.


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Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.