30 June 2009

* Israel Upgrades F-15 Fleet

Iran’s Press TV reported today that Israel has upgraded its fleet of F-15Is enabling them to carry out long-distance attacks, presumably on Iran’s nuclear facilities. The F-15Is are fighter bombers designed for air-to-ground attacks.

According to the report, the F-15Is have also been equipped with advanced weapon systems, identified as Barad Pelada (Steel Hail), and Lightning. The Barad Pelada system was identified as an advanced armament operating like a smart bomb. The new weapon replaces less advanced Inbar system.

The government owned Press TV also links the fighter upgrade and the acquisition of new weapon systems to the reelection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president. Press TV quotes Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi, the Israeli military chief, to show the lineage.
"The reelection of Iran's president, his grave utterances regarding his will to harm the state of Israel and Iran's continual effort to achieve unconventional weapons require us to maintain an army that is coiled and ready to spring into action, and an Air Force that is skilled and sharp as a razor, that will stand up to any enemy and remove any threat from our citizens and residents," said Gen. Ashkenazi


28 June 2009

* Composition of the new Lebanese parliament

The composition of the new Lebanese parliament.
Saad Hariri has pledged to form a cabinet that will unite rival political camps after he was named Lebanon's new prime minister.


* Martine Andrawos, Miss Lebanon 2009

Martine Andrawos, newly crowned Miss Lebanon 2009, fixes her crown after winning the Miss Lebanon 2009 contest, in Adma, north of Beirut.


27 June 2009

* Israeli Army amasses troops and military hardware on Lebanese border

The Israeli Army stepped up its presence along the border with Lebanon deploying armored tanks and setting up fortifications as it intensified airspace violations in the area, Lebanon's state-run National News Agency reported Thursday. In "unusual military activity," the Israeli Army deployed Merkava tanks and soldier carriers, among other armored vehicles, along the barb-wired fence separating Shebaa Farms from liberated Lebanese territories, the NNA said.

Israeli tanks were also amassing along a 5-kilometer area, stretching from Tallat Sobaih army post to Jabal al-Sheikh observatory. Sporadic gunfire was also heard throughout the day, the NNA report said.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Air Force carried out several flights over the regions of the Shebaa Farms, Al-Arqoub villages, Hasbaya, Marjayoun, Western Bekaa and Iqlim al-Tuffah. Israeli helicopters were also spotted over the Shebaa Farms between 6 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.

On the outskirts of the southern village of Abassiya, the Israeli Army set up fortifications and barricades as part of a military workshop around Al-Dohaira post, off the town of Al-Ghajar. Heavy machinery was being used including bulldozers, drills and large cranes. A similar workshop was taking place at Jabal al-Sheikh's observatory with soldiers setting up military equipment.

In other news, an Israeli Army delegation suggested taking Lebanese-Israeli military talks under the auspices of the UN peacekeepers' command to the next stage, As-Safir newspaper reported on Thursday.

The newspaper said that the proposal came during a meeting held between the two sides on the implementation of UN Resolution 1701 in the presence of commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Major General Claudio Graziano in the border town of Naqoura on Wednesday.

Lebanese government sources told As-Safir that the Israeli side proposed to Lebanese Army representatives to move the talks which solely focus on the implementation of the resolution, which put an end to the summer 2006 war, "to the bilateral political level between the governments of Lebanon and Israel."

"If you accept our invitation, all [problems] would be subject to a solution at one time," the head of the Israeli delegation had reportedly told the Lebanese side.

But the Lebanese Army representatives bluntly replied that government instructions limit the tripartite meeting's agenda to issues related to the implementation of Resolution 1701, according to As-Safir.

The delegation "categorically" rejected the Israeli proposal, the daily reported.

The army delegation later informed Prime Minister Fouad Siniora about the results of the tripartite meeting that lasted three hours.

Meanwhile, As-Safir said the UNIFIL command informed Lebanon that the Israeli violation of the Blue Line was removed after the Israeli Army had taken down its flag at an observation post that it erected last week in a restricted area on the outskirts of Kfar Shouba Hills.

However, An-Nahar daily said that the outpost was intact and all that Israel did was to take down the flag.

Kfar Shouba's Mayor Izzat al-Qadri, who inspected the area on Wednesday, told the newspaper that the Israeli violation was ongoing.

"I urge the Lebanese premier, the army command and the UNIFIL leadership to make every effort to end this violation," he said.


26 June 2009

* Nabih Berri re-elected

Lebanon's parliament on Thursday elected Nabih Berri as speaker for the coming four years, extending his 17-year leadership of the chamber in a vote that underlined improved ties between rival politicians...despite the Opposition group's recent election loss, signaling the political factions' determination to work together toward a unity government.


25 June 2009

* Mousavi Was the Butcher of Beirut!

He may yet turn out to be the avatar of Iranian democracy, but three decades ago Mir-Hossein Mousavi was waging a terrorist war on the United States that included bloody attacks on the U.S. embassy and Marine Corps barracks in Beirut.

Mousavi, prime minister for most of the 1980s, personally selected his point man for the Beirut terror campaign, Ali Akbar Mohtashemi-pur, and dispatched him to Damascus as Iran's ambassador, according to former CIA and military officials.

The ambassador in turn hosted several meetings of the cell that would carry out the Beirut attacks, which were overheard by the National Security Agency.

"We had a tap on the Iranian ambassador to Lebanon," retired Navy Admiral James "Ace" Lyons related by telephone Monday. In 1983 Lyons was deputy chief of Naval Operations, and deeply involved in the events in Lebanon.

"The Iranian ambassador received instructions from the foreign minister to have various groups target U.S. personnel in Lebanon, but in particular to carry out a 'spectacular action' against the Marines," said Lyons.

"He was prime minister," Lyons said of Mousavi, "so he didn't get down to the details at the lowest levels. "But he was in a principal position and had to be aware of what was going on."

Lyons, sometimes called "the father" of the Navy SEALs' Red Cell counter-terror unit, also fingered Mousavi for the 1988 truck bombing of the U.S. Navy's Fleet Center in Naples, Italy, that killed five persons, including the first Navy woman to die in a terrorist attack.

Bob Baer agrees that Mousawi, who has been celebrated in the West for sparking street demonstrations against the Teheran regime since he lost the elections, was directing the overall 1980s terror campaign.

But Baer, a former CIA Middle East field officer whose exploits were dramatized in the George Clooney movie "Syriana," places Mousavi even closer to the Beirut bombings.

"He dealt directly with Imad Mughniyah," who ran the Beirut terrorist campaign and was "the man largely held responsible for both attacks," Baer wrote in TIME over the weekend.

"When Mousavi was Prime Minister, he oversaw an office that ran operatives abroad, from Lebanon to Kuwait to Iraq," Baer continued.
"This was the heyday of [Ayatollah] Khomeini's theocratic vision, when Iran thought it really could export its revolution across the Middle East, providing money and arms to anyone who claimed he could upend the old order."

Baer added: "Mousavi was not only swept up into this delusion but also actively pursued it."

Retired Adm. Lyons maintained that he could have destroyed the terrorists at a hideout U.S. intelligence had pinpointed, but he was outmaneuvered by others in the cabinet of President Ronald Reagan.

"I was going to take them apart," Lyons said, "but the secretary of defense," Caspar Weinberger, "sabotaged it."

(CQ Politics)

* The 14th's Mask has Fallen

"Our real enemies are the people who make us feel so good that we are slowly, but inexorably, pulled down into the quicksand of smugness and self-satisfaction": Sydney Harris

Ahead of the elections, Hariri and the rest of 14th group cheered for nothing but Hezbollah arms and the opposing tier in the parliament, plus the position of the parliament head Nabih Berri who closed the parliament for good all the time when Down Town was shutdown with tents and protests...

We heared of huge amounts of money flooding to support  Hariri campaign, amounts $715Mil, $750Mil, and lately $1Bln. It toolk this much money to shut the mouth and stomach of the lebanese people.

But will this be maintained? or Saad has to repeat what his father did? and that his to keep his hands in the mouth of all politicians as he did with Jumblat, Berri and all the remaining small players... who are tycoons today of corruption and abuse?

The mask has fallen... immediately and just after the elections Hariri stripped in front of everyone not minding his allies, not minding his supporters who kept arguing with their friends and compatriots "We don't want Hezbollah... we don't want Iran.... we want Berri out of the parliament... we don't want syira.... we..we..we.. etc....."

-Suddenly and boldly, Nasrallah will be the one who dictates the ministirial memorandum stating whatever he wants in it!

-Berri is again head of parliament..."hurray.."

-Relations with Syria  are restored! For sure after President Obama has decided to send a U.S. ambassador back to Syria, a dramatic sign of reconciliation between the two countries... The announcement is expected to be made this week... So Hariri will follow... this is the price of Prime Minister.

-.. So no more acusations at Syria for the Hariri killing..... the Supreme Court had acquited the four generals and no more clues left..... it will die off unless some evidence from space will appear.... a real evidence, not th elike the ones that were created and bought through!

Who was the smartest? ..... Jumblat!
He was the first to turn over against Hariri 14th group and supported the Mukawma..... everyone laughed and cursed him.......... still after elections, Jumblat met with leader Nasrallah! which gave a stoke to everyone.

How many deputies has Jumbalat in the parliament???? would that give Aoun the majority later???

Anyway, soon Hariri will have to knock his head down and do the same.... no other clues in the sky are showing the opposite.

Yeh indeed, the Sky-is-Blue "sama zar2a" as cheered by the 14th supporters.... The sky is so blue that supporters are still looking at it, while Hariri is redoing his new plan, contradicting all his beleives and promises.


23 June 2009

* A Box Office Success: The Lebanese Elections

Lebanon’s June 7 national election was a box office success. 
It had it all: shady politicians, foreign intrigue, bribes, beautiful women, meddling religious figures, sectarian agitation, recently exposed spy rings, fundamentalists collaborating with capitalists, the poor and oppressed voting for the rich and privileged. It was a brilliantly marketed production with more twists and turns than a Hitchcock thriller, and an unpredictable finale in which the ‘good’ guys (the pro-US, anti-Iran, pro-‘moderate’ Arab, pro-‘peace process,’ March 14 coalition headed by Prime Minister-in-waiting Sa’ad Hariri, son of assassinated former PM Rafiq Hariri) defeated the ‘bad’ guys (the pro-Resistance, pro-‘Axis of Evil,’ anti-corruption Opposition coalition led by Hizbullah and Christian leader Michel Aoun) to retain their Parliamentary majority. All this accomplished with few security problems, record voter turn out, generally magnanimous winners and dignified losers. No wonder Western elections observers were smiling from ear to ear as they proclaimed, “free and fair” from the rooftops. They were, in the words of Jimmy Carter, so “proud” of the natives, who showed that they could be “democratic” and even managed to re-produce the patented “third world” grin and blue-ink-thumb of Iraq 2005 fame.
But what exactly was all the excitement about, and what, if anything, have the elections changed in Lebanon?

Let us review the facts.

First, the electoral law used for the 2009 elections was deeply flawed and designed to preserve elite interests. Lebanon’s ruling political class, across sectarian lines, had earlier rejected meaningful electoral reforms demanded by civil society and supported by a majority of citizens: adopting a system of proportional representation that would reflect Lebanon’s diversity and promote independent candidates; establishing an independent electoral commission to oversee the elections; effectively controlling campaign financing; and using standardized ballot papers rather than pre-printed lists that patrons hand out to their clients well in advance of elections. 

By retaining the regressive majoritarian electoral system and creating small electoral districts, the 2009 electoral law greatly exacerbated sectarian divisions in the country and effectively restricted the electoral contests to a small group within the existing political class. All in all, 80-90% of the parliamentary seats on offer had already been decided de facto prior to election day: most districts with clear Sunni or Shia’a Muslim majorities voted in their districts with frightening uniformity and discipline for the March 14 coalition and the Opposition respectively, and only the mixed Christian districts were genuinely in play with fierce competition between the two sides. The focus on Christian districts, in turn, brought out the kind of jingoism and chauvinism that has long characterized Christian elite discourse and inflated self-regard, with each side insisting it represented and defended the true interests of (Christian) Lebanon. Post-election analysis within elite Christian circles has thus centered on which side had won in the “pure” or “clean” districts, meaning those areas with Christian-majority electorate unsullied by Muslim voters. Under these conditions it is no surprise that fascist-lite candidates, notably from the March 14 Lebanese Forces and Phalanges Party, gained seats by recalling their old project of dividing Lebanon into ‘pure’ sectarian cantons.

Second, within the logic of an overtly sectarian political system and electoral law framework, it is no surprise that the politics of fear and revenge reaped its reward during the 2009 elections. March 14 electoral teams succeeded in mobilizing and disciplining the Sunni electorate across the country—which determined victories in key mixed districts such as the Catholic center of Zahle—largely by drawing on Hizbullah’s ill-conceived triumphalist language on the one year anniversary of the armed May 2008 civil conflict that capped two years of intense political stalemate between the two camps. In little over 24 hours, Hizbullah and its militia allies had basically routed March 14 militias in Beirut. This defeat, in turn, was represented as a perceived humiliation for Sunni leader Sa’ad Hariri who had previously reassured his constituents that he would ‘defend’ Beirut and repel the ‘invaders.’ The compromise agreement reached in Doha, Qatar, in the aftermath of the May 7 street confrontations led to a period of stability as a national unity government was appointed, a consensus President elected, and an impartial and well-respected election expert from civil society (Ziad Baroud) confirmed as the Interior Minister in charge of ensuring a fair election process.

A year, of course, is a long time in politics. The March 14 coalition successfully focused its electoral campaign around two main themes designed to frighten the electorate. The first theme highlighted March 14’s broad support from international donors and patrons in stark contrast to the bleak picture of political and economic isolation that, they hinted, would likely result from an Opposition victory. This picture was backed up by a number of high-profile visits by US officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, who floated the possibility of Lebanon’s diplomatic isolation if March 14 did lose; as well as by a series of orchestrated international accusations of ‘terrorism’ against Hizbullah from Argentina and Germany to Azerbaijan and Egypt. 

The second theme utilized sectarian agitation to encourage, on the one hand, Sunni voters to take their revenge against Hizbullah following the May 7 humiliation and thus halt the rise of perceived Shia’a hegemony in Lebanon; and, on the other hand, convince Christian voters that an Opposition victory would result in an Iranian takeover of Lebanon. Some swing Christian voters were actually convinced that Iranian-style chadors would be imposed on them if the Opposition won, an absurd notion by any objective standard. The Maronite Christian Patriarch’s pronouncement on the eve of the election that Christian voters should vote for March 14 or risk their collective existence as a Christian community was the final coup de grace in this regard. Thus in light of March 14’s effective two-pronged strategy—which we now know was backed up by unexpectedly successful on-the-ground work by their cadres throughout the country as well as by an unprecedented campaign of ‘service provision’ to their electorate such as flying expatriate citizens and their families in to vote—the Opposition’s popular and political momentum and capital, which had peaked at Doha, slowly dissipated as it was forced on the defensive. Out went the Opposition’s anti-corruption and policy themes, its call for change after years of mismanagement, theft of public assets, and lack of strategic vision; and in came a more belligerent, defiant tone symbolized by Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hasan Nassrallah’s triumphalist claim on the anniversary of the May 7 battles that its victory was a “glorious” day for Lebanon. The Opposition’s fate was being slowly sealed.

Third, amidst all the international attention given to elections in Lebanon and the region, it has somehow been forgotten—particularly by the voters themselves—that elections are supposed to be a means to a national end (particularly the potential of improvement in public social welfare and human security) rather than a contest for sectarian and international patron bragging rights. Lebanon, after all, has suffered greatly from nearly two decades of crony capitalism and neoliberal policies that all sectarian leaders have subscribed to since the end of Lebanon’s civil war in 1990. Such policies have resulted in: one of the largest debts in the world (at 180% of GDP); unprecedented dependence on Gulf oil money to stimulate economic activity in limited sectors largely monopolized by the elite (such as large-scale construction projects, real estate speculation, and the power and banking sectors) in parallel with the collapse of Lebanon’s productive sectors; environmental catastrophe; endemic water, sanitation and electricity shortages; soaring poverty rates that have reached nearly 40% of the total population (and tempered only by the vast sums of individual remittances sent home by Lebanese expatriates); manifestly unfair tax policies that effectively transfer wealth from the poor and middle classes to the rich; and massive gaps in social welfare, and thus basic interests, between the haves and have-nots across the country. All this, in turn, has led to growing social alienation and increased religiosity, the rise of gated communities patrolled by private security firms within the richer neighborhoods and embassy districts, and the spread of the discourse of ‘terrorism’ and ‘security islands’ (in the peripheral areas and Palestinian refugee camps) that has increasingly preoccupied western embassies, the UN, as well as state security apparatuses.

In this regard, the re-election of key March 14 leaders to power represents, from a policy perspective, the likely resumption of nearly two decades of unchecked neoliberal, free market ideology tailored to suit Big Business and characterized by the blurring of public and private commercial interests. We can expect that the project of divesting Lebanon’s public assets and natural resources into private hands that began in the 1990s, but stalled during the last few years of political instability, will proceed with renewed vigor. Indeed the formulation of public policy itself has, in some key areas such as entry into the WTO, been privatized and handed over to management consultant companies to avoid any unseemly public debates. 

The Opposition’s likely return as a junior partner in the upcoming cabinet does not change this equation much, as both Hizbullah and General Aoun accept neoliberal logic albeit with a greater distaste for corruption. It should be remembered that it was under a Hizbullah appointed Water Minister that the plan to privatize Lebanon’s public water authorities was passed. Moreover, while Hizbullah is widely acknowledged as not being corrupt, it has a long record of frustrating pragmatism that includes the toleration of corruption among its partners within the Lebanese system as long as this policy helps protect the Resistance’s viability. For his part, General Aoun’s loudly proclaimed anti-corruption rhetoric represents the only potential check on large-scale corruption in Lebanon.

In sum, while Lebanon’s June 2009 elections might have been internationally praised as ‘free and fair,’ it represented a step backwards in terms of long-term, socially progressive reform for the Lebanese themselves. On the one hand it has re-entrenched sectarianism, deepened rifts and mistrust between Sunnis and Shia’a communities, and brought out the chauvinist tendencies within the Christian elite. On the other hand, the elections returned to power politicians committed to crony capitalism and dependency on regional patrons. There are no socially progressive elements in either camp, and there is little hope that the newly elected parliament will address the inherent structural problems in Lebanon’s sectarian system that lead inexorably to conflict. Indeed, the truth is that the current mood of good will and apparent compromise between the election winners and losers is almost entirely a function of regional rapprochements between Syria and Saudi Arabia, and Iran and the US, rather than a collective realization among the newly elected politicians that things must change. This of course means that if and when regional tension returns, Lebanon will likely unravel once again. With the “peace process” train back on track, the Lebanese would be wise to fasten their seatbelts.

Despite this missed opportunity, however, it is not all doom and gloom. In comparison to the anti-democratic and authoritarian regimes in most Arab countries, from Egypt and Saudi Arabia to Syria and the Palestinian Authority, at least Lebanon’s regular elections shows that peaceful transition of parliament and government is indeed possible (even as it preserves elite interests). Civil society played an important role in the technical aspects of the elections, though in general it will have to reverse the worrying trend towards de-politicization, “Ngo-ization,” and infatuation with Western donors to present a genuine check on the political elite. Finally, if Prime Minister in waiting Sa’ad Hariri was the clear winner of Lebanon’s 2009 elections, then the real star was undoubtedly Minister of Interior Ziad Baroud, a genuine reformer in a sea of heavy weight, Machiavellian politicians. He has been universally praised for his impartiality, professionalism and commitment in managing the massive technical aspects of the elections. His likely inclusion in the upcoming cabinet, currently being negotiated, would represent an important reminder to the collective, and very cynical, Lebanese public consciousness that it is indeed possible to be a politician and actually care about the public interest. If Baroud’s star does indeed continue to rise, then Lebanese voters might just decide that they can and should expect more from the other politicians.


20 June 2009

* Secret Services of Bandar behind Eid Killing!

نقل موقع وطن للعرب الأميركيين تصريحات للرائد سمير شحادة قال الموقع أنها وردت في مقابلة تلفزيونية مع قناة TQCفي تورنتو بكندا .
شحادة كما قال الموقع عرف بعلاقته الوثيقة بالتحقيقات الخاصة باغتيال رفيق الحريري وبالاتهامات التي طالته بفبركة الشهود وتزييف أقوالهم ، و نقل موقع وطن عن الرائد اللبناني الذي كان مسؤولا في شعبة معلومات الأمن الداخلي إنه يملك معطيات تجعله يتهم المخابرات السعودية بقيادة بندر بن سلطان باغتيال الرائد وسام عيد قبل أيام في بيروت .

وقال شحادة: أنه ترك لبنان وهرب إلى كندا لأن جماعة سعد الحريري شكته إلى المخابرات السعودية التي تدير شبكات معقدة من السلفيين القادرين لظنهم بأنهم إنما يخدمون القاعدة على تنفيذ عمليات معقدة وخطرة بأسلوب محترف ولأسباب عدة .
أول تلك الأسباب أن السلطات اللبنانية المحكومة من فؤاد السنيورة تسهل عبر الأجهزة نشاطات القاعدة وتغطيها وأحيانا تمولها . ثم تتدخل مخابرات السعودية وتزود مجموعات التنفيذ وبطرق ملتوية بالمعلومات الخاصة اللازمة لعملياتهم الإرهابية معتقدين بأن من يزودهم بتلك المعلومات والمساعدات التقنية المتطورة (تحديد خط سير الهاتف من خلال الهاتف الخليوي مثلا) إنما هو زميلهم في القاعدة بينما هم يعملون جميعا عبر أمرائهم في خدمة المخططات السعودية دون أن يعلموا بذلك .

وأضاف الرائد شحادة بأنه تعرض لمحاولة اغتيال نفذتها المخابرات السعودية عبر أدواتها السلفية وذلك بعد أن وقع الخلاف بينه وبين سعد الحريري على خلفية وجود ضباط إسرائيليين في حمايته في مربع قريطم الأمني داخل بيروت وبمعاونة المخابرات السعودية والأردنية .
تلك المعلومات كان قد وصل إليها ضباط المعلومات الموالين للحريري والمعادين لسوريا يضيف الرائد شحادة لتفلزيون " تي كيو سي " وقد أثارتهم لأنهم و إن كانوا ضد سوريا فهم ليسوا مع إسرائيل وعلى الأقل أنا يقول شحادة ووسام عيد وآخرين بينهم المقدم عبد البديع عيسى من المقربين من سعد الحريري رفضنا هذا الأمر فدفعت أنا ووسام عيد الثمن هو من حياته وأنا نفيا إلى كندا .
الصحافية سألت الرائد شحادة " ولكنهم يقولون أنك في كندا لحمايتك؟
قال " أنا من كنت يحميهم فهل يهرب حامي المسؤولين ؟
موضوع هربي من لبنان له علاقة بواقع مرير وهو أنه كان علي أن أقاتل على جبهتين إحداها في مواجهتي والثانية في ظهري ولا أعرف متى تغدر بي مرة أخرى لهذا رحلت .

وعن الاتهامات التي طالته " بتعذيب الشهود وفبركة بعضهم الآخر " أكد الرائد الهارب بأنه لم يعذب أحدا وأن من قام بفبركة الشهود وتعذيب بعضهم الآخر هو مسؤول الأمن الخاص بتيار المستقبل المدعو فارس خشان وهو صحافي ظاهرا ولكنه رجل الأمن الأول لدى سعد الحريري ومتدرب على الأعمال السرية مع المخابرات الألمانية التي جندته للعمل ضد السوريين منذ فترة طويلة جدا . مضيفا " مروان حمادة ووليد جنبلاط كانا يضعان السيناريوهات وفارس خشان هو من ينفذها ويجبر الشهود المزيفين على حفظها "
وأكد الرائد شحادة بأن زميله وسام عيد تحدث معه قبل أيام وأخبره بأنه يحس بأنه مراقب من قبل السعوديين وأنهم لم يعودوا قادرين على تقبل تلاعبه بهم !!
وأضاف: لا شك لديه بأن وسام عيد توصل إلى كيفية ربط الشبكات الإرهابية بالمخابرات السعودية فقتلوه بعد أن أوصل المعلومات تلك إلى لجنة التحقيق الدولية.
وهل ينوي الشهادة ضد سعد الحريري في المحكمة الدولية بتهمة فبركة الشهود، فأجاب الرائد سمير شحادة " المحكمة الدولية كذبة كبيرة ، ولن يتم كشف الحقيقة أبدا ، ما دام سعد الحريري يخدم الإسرائيليين فسيحمونه من كل التهم ، أنظروا ما الذي حصل مع براميرتس ..لقد أجبره الأميركيون على الاستقالة لأنه توصل بمعاونة وسام عيد إلى حقيقة العلاقة السعودية القاعدية بقضية اغتيال رفيق الحريري "
لماذا وافق على التحدث اليوم وليس في وقت سابق قال الرائد سمير شحادة " هل وليد جنبلاط وحده هو من له الحق بنزع الغشاوة عن عينيه ؟ أنا اليوم وبعد مقتل صديقي وزميلي نزعت الغشاوة نهائيا عن عيني أيضا "


* Lebanon Summer Heats Up With Star-Studded Festivals

Lebanon is due to kick off star-studded summer festivals with the likes of legendary British bands Deep Purple and Jethro Tull set to rock the country as it seeks to break with past turmoil. The first festival opens on Saturday night with an open-air concert by Canadian music icon Loreena McKennitt, who will sing against a backdrop of Phoenician ruins in the ancient port of Byblos north of Beirut. Tull is scheduled to perform in Byblos on July 19.

Summer music and dance festivals usually attract thousands of visitors and are a boon for Lebanon's trademark tourist industry but in past years they often had to be cancelled because of wars and political crises. Lebanon hosts three prestigious festivals which overlap from June to the end of August. "These festivals are a tradition -- Baalbek is still there, against all odds," said Leila Bsat of the Baalbek International Festival, which was halted during the 1975-1990 civil war. The Baalbek International Festival, which was officially launched in 1956 and is the oldest in the Middle East, runs from July 4 to August 13 and is held in the shadows of spectacular Roman temples. The Bejart Ballet of Lausanne will kick off the festival with a tribute to the late choreographer Maurice Bejart, while Deep Purple will play Baalbek on July 25. Vacationers in Lebanon make up a large number of concert-goers and officials foresee a boom in tourism after a year of relative calm that culminated in a general election on June 7. "There is a big difference this year and there are a lot of tourists coming in, first and foremost expatriates," Bsat told AFP. Lebanon is also a popular destination for Arabs from oil-rich Gulf countries in summer. "Last year, the May events hampered the summer season and the festivals, so some bands didn't want to come to Beirut," Bsat said. Tourism in Lebanon had taken a beating in recent years after a string of political assassinations following a Beirut bomb blast that killed ex-premier Rafiq Hariri in February 2005. In 2006, many festivals were called off due to the devastating July-August war between Israel and Hezbollah and again in 2007 over the protracted political crisis and a deadly standoff between the army and Islamist militiamen in a Palestinian refugee camp. Sectarian violence in May 2008 left more than 100 people dead and brought the country close to another civil war before tempers cooled and foreign mediation brought about a degree of stability. But the shows have reclaimed their original popularity this year, organisers say.

Demand is especially high for performers like French crooner Charles Aznavour, whose Armenian roots strike a chord with Lebanon's large Armenian community, and Gabriel Yared, the Oscar-winning composer of Lebanese origin. "Aznavour is fully booked," said Wafa Saab of the Beiteddine Festival's executive committee. "And it's a premier for Yared in Lebanon, where he is going to play the piano." The Beiteddine Festival, from July 2 to August 15, is held in a palatial 19th century residence in the Shouf mountains, an area of green hills and traditional villages southeast of Beirut which is popular with tourists. "It's even better than last year," Saab told AFP. "In fact, it may well be the best season since 2003." Tourism made a dramatic recovery in 2008 with the arrival of 1.3 million visitors to the Mediterranean country and officials hope Lebanon will woo two million tourists by the end of 2009. Arab artists who will perform at the festivals include Iraqi crooner Kazem Saher, the Lebanese dance troupe Caracalla and the Palestine Youth Orchestra. There will also be tributes to the late Egyptian diva Umm Kulthum and to the late Lebanese composer Mansur Rahbani, who left his stamp on scores of enduring songs and musicals.


* Hezbollah MP meets British ambassador

Hezbollah parliamentary leader Mohammad Raad met British ambassador Frances Guy yesterday in the first such contact in Lebanon between the Shia group’s political wing and a senior British official. “The talks covered the recent election and the situation in the region,” Hezbollah said in a statement. “I believe the doors are open to further meetings,” Raad said. The British embassy confirmed that the talks had covered local politics. “Basically the meeting covered the elections and the formation of a new government,” an embassy press officer said.

A Hezbollah-led alliance, backed by Iran and Syria, lost the election to a Western-backed coalition. The meeting also covered UN Security Council Resolution 1701, the press officer said. Resolution 1701, passed unanimously in 2006, ended a devastating 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah. The resolution demanded the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon but Hezbollah has retained its arsenal insisting it is needed for resistance against Israel.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman in London said her country would hold talks with Hezbollah members “who are legitimately involved in Lebanese politics and those who are involved in violence and supporting terrorism. “Our objective with Hezbollah remains unchanged: that they reject violence and play a constructive, democratic and peaceful role in Lebanese politics, in line with the UN Security Council resolutions,” she said.

“We believe that occasional and carefully considered contact with Hezbollah’s politicians, including its MPs, will best advance this objective,” she added.“We will be taking a pragmatic approach to speaking to known moderates, political figures who to the best of our knowledge have no links with acts of violence.” In March, Britain authorised low-level contact with the political wing of Hezbollah to stress the urgency of disbanding militias.


19 June 2009

* Lebanon Swine Flu update

The health ministry announced on Friday that swine flu cases in Lebanon rose to 20 after eight people, including children, were diagnosed with the virus.
The ministry said three more students from a delegation that had visited the United States were infected. One of the students' brother also tested positive with the flu.

The flu was also discovered in two people, including a child, who had arrived in Beirut from Canada. The child's relative was infected too.

Furthermore, the ministry found another case coming from Canada.

It reminded the Lebanese that swine flu cases could increase as more travelers arrive in Beirut during the summer season. 

* Lebanese resilience encourages investors at Project Lebanon

The exceptional resilience of the Lebanese economy to the global financial crisis and the political stability that has been prevailing following the June 7 Parliament elections encouraged a great number of investors to participate in Project Lebanon 2009. "I believe that there is a great potential of investing in Lebanon, and Arabs are going to be much more interested in our country after the stability that has followed the elections," said Mike Kamel, Middle East manager of Simonin.
Simonin is a French company specialized in wood structures and wood roofing systems, and Kamel added that Lebanon's climate is suitable for the kind of wood they are using especially in the mountain areas mostly visited by  tourists.
At a time when development projects are being cancelled or put on hold across the Middle East region, the exhibition brings together Lebanese, international business people, traders, project managers, engineers and professionals to forge partnerships and broker business deals aimed at contributing to the prosperity of the Lebanese construction sector. 
Bouygues, one of the top construction companies in the world, came to Lebanon 10 years ago to develop the waterfront in the solidere area but then disappeared because of the lack in the demand for construction projects back then, said Bouygues Business Development Manager, David Labardin,
"Lebanon is getting more and more politically stabilized, so as we are now building the new Larnaca airport, we are traveling back and forth to keep an eye on Lebanon and grab any opportunities that may come up," said Labardin.
"We are exploring what we can do in Lebanon in terms of new projects. The peaceful end of the elections is a good sign and I believe investors will be more interested in the country now.  Actually, we already have a lot of contacts with Arab investors who are very much interested in doing large projects in Lebanon," he added.
According to the Lebanon economic report issued by Audi Bank, real estate and construction sectors have so far managed to appropriately face the impact of the global crisis. The report said that the construction permits totaled 2,265,006 square meters in the first quarter of 2009, up by 4.4 percent from 2,170,234 square meters in the same period of 2008. 
It added that this increase looks modest when compared to the yearly rise witnessed in the first quarter of 2008, which was close to 35 percent.
Samer Sultan Ajami, chief financial officer at Sultan Steel, believes that there is a good potential for business in Lebanon and that there is a good demand for construction materials but not the same demand that was available two years ago.  "The boom that has happened in the Gulf a couple of years ago before the financial crisis had negative repercussions on our country to a certain extent, and people were seeking to expand from the Gulf to nearby countries," he said.
"Our industry is not booming but just moving. Today we are not seeing too many foreign investors in our field of business but Lebanese investors are working on a steady base," he added.
"We usually supply contractors with steel materials for their projects but what I can say is that there is no great demand nowadays because people were waiting for the end of the elections," he said. "The fact of elections and establishment of the government is taking a big chunk of their decision," he added.
Ajami said that Lebanon's construction sector was not affected by the global financial meltdown as much as the Gulf region, but added that companies that export to the Gulf and other regions such as Sultan Steel have been affected to a certain extent.
However, the Audi Bank report stated that building activity appeared to be maintaining a positive growth according to the statistics of cement deliveries, which increased by 9.1 percent over the first quarter of 2009 as compared to the same period of 2008, reflecting the launch of many construction projects.

18 June 2009

* IISS Middle East Lecture Series - ‘The Implications of the Parliamentary Elections in Lebanon’

On 15 June 2009 Fouad Makhzoumi, Chairman National Dialogue Party of Lebanon; Chairman, Future Pipe Group, spoke on ‘The Implications of the Parliamentary Elections in Lebanon’.

With a political system as divided and complex as its recent history, the success and outcomes of the forthcoming parliamentary elections in Lebanon will serve as a key indicator to its future stability and progress. Fouad Makhzoumi presented a timely analysis on the outcomes and implications of these elections, which took place on 7th June, and discussed the role of Lebanon in regional diplomatic initiatives involving Syria, Israel and the United States. A 30-45 minute question and answer session followed his lecture.

Fouad Makhzoumi is Chairman and founder of the National Dialogue Party of Lebanon, established in 2004 as an independent political party committed to democracy and electoral reform. He is also Chairman of both Future Pipe Group and Future Management Holdings.

Mr Makhzoumi is a leader in charity and philanthropy in Lebanon as Founder and Honorary Chairman of the Makhzoumi Foundation, established in 1997. From 1995 until 1998 he acted as Vice Chairman of the Institute for Social and Economic Policy in the Middle East at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and has been a member of the International Board of the US Council on Foreign Relations: US/Middle East Project since 1996. In 2008 he became a member of the Advisory Board of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

The lecture was chaired by Dr John Chipman CMG, Director-General and Chief Executive, IISS and took place on the Fifth Floor at Arundel House, 13-15 Arundel Street, Temple Place, London WC2R 3D.


16 June 2009

* Hezbolla's Deliberate Loss to Maintain Leadership

The Paris newspaper "News" wrote in today's edition that the issue is settled: Syria and "Hezbollah" intent to avoid winning the elections and succeeded in unintentionally in the ... Loss.

First, Hizbullah, to win in order to avoid what? According to one French expert on Islamic movements in the region of the "news", it is consistent with these movements, the desire to remain outside the government. Only the opposition of Islam to give the dynamics. 

In addition to these pollutants, that all experiences of Islam with the motor to power, were not encouraging. Even led to the clashes of the type which is not the intention of this Islam.. In Algeria, and Palestine. In Turkey has to win to change the fundamental fact that in Islam. Iran, of course, remains the only exception, but exception is not for exportation ... Especially in Lebanon. 

After this initial fixed, there are actually Lebanon. The Lebanese government will be on dates with the pivotal benefits: the negotiation with Israel, the settlement (this is a speech by Netanyahu), the collapse of the monetary situation, but if the movement of foreign remittances by about ten billion dollars a year ... This means increased dependence and deepening impasse mandatory. All of these benefits, prefer "Party of God" not to address them, and certainly do not bear responsibility in the report.

Then there is the regional aspect, Hezbollah remains the Sunni-Shiite strife is a red line. 
Breach sometimes become skirmishes at some points, and sudden incursions recorded lightning within it, such as the events of May 7 ... But are quick to return to the borders of a truce, "the unity of the nation", and to the duties of the search for Joamaha, above all Palestine. In the regional aspect, the people of Paris believed that considerations of Hezbollah notes, even in the form of self-accounts of "the hole" American Iranian desert, and requirements, and not take responsibility for the closure or aborted.

For all these reasons, the opinion of the French, in order to "Hezbollah" to avoid the game;
Remains a "quality"? All the mistakes or lapses back side, or rush to a speech or performance, see Parisian intentional. Hezbollah can not, especially at this level of leadership, that the slide was inadvertently or unintentionally, or ignorance to such errors.

Examples are well known and repeated: glorious day, emphasis on the continuation of the arms,  ... Is the street in the Shi'ite really need to vote for this mobilization? Or that it was a deliberate mobilization of the street opposite? As was the Sheikh Naim Qassem, to postpone its decision to continue the arms a week? Parisian ask. Ahmadinejad even talk about a change in the region if it wins the Lebanese opposition, by the "conspiracy theory Parisian", within the box itself: the question of how to ride the President of Iran? Is it possible that the liquid away from the airspace of certain?

No room for controversy in Paris with the theory adopted. 

One point can be searched by: Michel Aoun. Certainly, says Parisian, was not a "party of God" for the sacrifice's strongest ally, the Christian one. This constant. Therefore, the accounts were very precise, to avoid to win, without falling into the leadership position on the major Christian General.. Is successful formula? The answer is left up to the stage of parliamentary entitlements and government to come.

14 June 2009

* KSA Spent More than $715Mil for Hariri Election Campaign

السعودية دعمت الأكثرية بالانتخابات بأكثر من 715 مليون دولار اي أكثر من كلفة حملة أوباما الرئاسية

في مقال نشرته مجلة «Newsweek» الأميركية في عددها الأخير، سلط الكاتب كريستوفر ديكي الضوء علي حجم التدخل السعودي في الانتخابات وفوز قوى 14 آذار التي تشكل الأكثرية في البرلمان ، والدعم المالي الهائل الذي أنفقته المملكة العربية السعودية لنجاح تحالفرئيس كتلة "المستقبل" النائب سعد الحريري، كما أبرز قلق الدول العربية «حليفة الولايات المتحدة» المتزايد من النفوذ الإيراني، وإيمانهم بأن الصراع الإسرائيلي الفلسطيني هو مدخل إيران الوحيد لاستغلال القضية بشكل سياسي يساهم في إحراج أنظمتهم.
وقال ديكي في مقاله: دعونا لا نتحمس للديمقراطية في الشرق الأوسط، فبالرغم من أن الانتخابات اللبنانية وتطوراتها مرحب بها، حيث تمت هزيمة تحالف حزب الله المرتبط بإيران أمام أكثر قوى ليبرالية مدعومة من الغرب، فلقد شهدنا ذلك من قبل، وفي عام 2005 جرفت الآمال الكثير منا بسبب تدفق الناخبين الشجعان على صناديق الاقتراع في العراق ولبنان ومصر وفلسطين، وبعد ذلك بعام أصبحت العراق أكثر دموية من أي وقت سبق، وشهدنا أيضا سيطرة حركة حماس على البرلمان الفلسطيني ودخول لبنان في حرب مع إسرائيل، وإلقاء السياسي المصري الوحيد الذي تجرأ على تحدي الرئيس حسني مبارك في السجن.
وما يفاجئنا للغاية هنا هو حجم التدخل السعودي والدور الذي تلعبه في المنطقة والذي يعد بدرجة كبيرة غير ديمقراطي لكنه سياسي للغاية، وتلعبه بمستويات مختلفة، فهدف السعودية على المدي الطويل هو الحفاظ على نظامها الحاكم عن طريق إحلال الاستقرار في المنطقة من خلال كل الوسائل الدبلوماسية والسياسية المتاحة لها، والتحدي الحالي الوحيد للسعودية مثلها مثل الولايات المتحدة الأميركية هو إيران ومحاولة وقف نفوذها السياسي المتنامي في السنوات الأخيرة بالمنطقة.
ففي لبنان، قدمت السعودية دعمًا ماليًا ضخمًا للغاية لتحالف سعد الحريري الفائز في الانتخابات اللبنانية الأخيرة، ففي آذار الماضي قال مصدر سعودي رسمي لي وبشكل سري وبفخر واضح «إن السعودية أنفقت على الانتخابات اللبنانية مبلغ أضخم من الذي أنفقه الرئيس الأميركي باراك أوباما في حملته الانتخابية والبالغًا 715 مليون دولار».
ولكن هزيمة حزب الله في صناديق الاقتراع لن تكون سوى انتكاسة صغيرة بالنسبة لحكام إيران إذا لم تقم الولايات المتحدة الأميركية وحلفاؤها العرب؛ وعلى رأسهم السعودية ومصر، بتطوير استراتيجية سياسية موحدة ومتناسقة في المنطقة. ولقد أخبرني وزير الخارجية السعودي سعود الفيصل الأسبوع الماضي عندما قابلته في باريس «إن إسرائيل هي مفتاح إيران لدخول العالم العربي». وإذا كانت إيران تهدد العالم العربي، فإنها تهدده من خلال المشاكل التي تنشأ من الصراع العربي الإسرائيلي».


12 June 2009

* The Outcome of the Elections

Lebanon's parliamentary election results are in, but it is unclear if the Hezbollah-led opposition will retain its veto power.

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.