30 April 2009

* The 4 Suspects in PM Hariri’s Death Released

A judge ordered the release of four high-ranking Lebanese security officials on Wednesday, all being held here in connection with the 2005 killing of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri. The decision was seen here as a blow for the political movement led by Mr. Hariri’s son.

The judge, Daniel Fransen, said there was not enough evidence to keep holding the four men, who have been detained without charge since September 2005 and are widely believed to have had some knowledge of or involvement in the killing. They were the only suspects in custody of the Hague-based international tribunalUnited Nations auspices after Mr. Hariri’s death in a major car bombing on Feb. 14, 2005.

The announcement was met with wild volleys of celebratory gunfire from the generals’ supporters in Beirut and in the southern suburb that is the stronghold of Hezbollah, Mr. Hariri’s political adversary.

“Some Lebanese are not relieved by this decision,” said Saad Hariri, the former prime minister’s son, grim-faced during a news conference here after the decision. But he added that he welcomed any decision from the tribunal in The Hague. He also said releasing the generals would disprove recurring accusations that the tribunal was politicized in favor of Mr. Hariri’s allies.

The four — Jamil Sayyed, Ali Hajj, Raymond Azar, and Mustafa Hamdan — directed the chief security and intelligence services and the presidential guard. They were widely seen as henchmen for Syria, which occupied Lebanon militarily for three decades. Widely believed to have ordered Rafik Hariri’s killing, Syria was forced out of Lebanon under local and international pressure a few months later.

The decision in The Hague comes just seven weeks before a crucial parliamentary election here in which Saad Hariri and his political allies, now in the majority, are facing an alliance led by Hezbollah. Many here believe the tribunal’s decision could cut into Mr. Hariri’s votes by spreading the impression that Syria would escape being brought to account for the assassination of his father and be emboldened to rebuild its influence here.

Lebanese officials had lobbied to have the decision delayed until after the elections, but tribunal judicial figures refused, saying they could not take political considerations into account, said a senior court official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the court’s inner workings.

The first prosecutor in the case, Detlev Mehlis, released a report in 2005 that the assassination was planned by high-level Syrian and Lebanese officials, including some in the inner circle of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. At the time, the tribunal was widely seen as a vehicle for the widespread anger here and in the West over Syria’s role in Lebanon. A string of other political assassinations took place in the following years, and they could still be included as part of the tribunal’s work if they are proved to be related to Rafik Hariri’s killing, in which 22 others also died.

The tribunal has always been controversial in Lebanon. Many supporters have seen it as a way to punish Syria and its proxies here, which they tend to blame for all the assassinations since 2005. By contrast, those in the political opposition — including Hezbollah — see it more as a political weapon aimed at their Syrian ally. They also ask why such a tribunal is warranted for a billionaire politician and not for the victims of the many massacres and assassinations that have taken place here in recent decades.

Disagreements over the tribunal led to a walkout by opposition cabinet ministers in late 2006, setting off a political showdown that crippled Lebanon’s government for 18 months and led it to the brink of another civil war.

Recently, the tribunal appears to have moved more slowly, and the prosecutors who followed Mr. Mehlis have not named any suspects. A key witness retracted a statement that implicated the four generals, undermining the case against them. Their release became almost inevitable after two senior investigators with the tribunal reported that there was not enough evidence to hold the men. The tribunal gained jurisdiction over them when it formally opened on March 1.

The tribunal’s prosecutor, Daniel Bellemare, emphasized that the case was bigger than the four generals, who could be called as witnesses or even rearrested if more evidence is found. Tribunal officials have said that indictments could be issued later this year.

But many Lebanese seemed to view the generals’ release as a sign that the tribunal might never bring Mr. Hariri’s killers to justice.

“It is a shock,” said Samir Frangieh, one of Mr. Hariri’s parliamentary allies. “Everyone knows who these men were and what they did.” In contrast was the current of joy among the generals’ allies, including former president Émile Lahoud, who sent an entourage to the prison to greet Mr. Hamdan, his former bodyguard. At the home of Mr. Sayyed, supporters shouted and hugged each other as news of his impending release was announced.

“We want the truth behind Hariri’s killing,” said Faisal Hamdan, Mr. Sayyed’s brother-in-law, echoing a phrase used by Mr. Hariri’s own supporters to promote their demands for justice. “We want the truth as it really is.”









(nyt)


29 April 2009

* Elections - low profile update


اللافت اليوم هو ما أبرزته جريدة "السفير في "المانشيت" والذي يقول "واشنطن تراهن على كتلة رئاسية تضم بري وجنبلاط وميقاتي والصفدي!" بالإضافة إلى بعض النواب المستقلين وهو ما نقلته عن مصدر في وزارة الخارجية الأميركية. وهو ما يفسِّر اكتفاء هيلاري كلينتون بلقاء الرئيس سليمان حصراً عند زيارتها بيروت. وإذا كانت الصحيفة نقلت عن المصدر عينه أن هنالك اهتمام أميركي خاص بالصعود السياسي للرئيس ميقاتي والدور الذي قد يلعبه بعد الانتخابات النيابية، فإن تقريراً آخر في جريدة "الأخبار" كتبه إبراهيم الأمين ويشير فيه إلى أنه بعد سقوط فكرة "الكتلة الوسطية" هنالك من يزيّن للرئيس سليمان "أن الحاجة إليه ستزيد، ومن جانب حلفاء عون قبل خصومه، وإن الولايات المتحدة تقصّدت أن تقتصر زيارة كلينتون على الرئيس للقول إنها ستتعامل معه وحده، وإن اجتماعها مع سعد الحريري لم يكن مقرراً وكان رمزياً يتصل بالموقف من المحكمة، وبناءً على إلحاح من جيفري فيلتمان. ولكن لأصحاب هذا الرأي المزيد من الإبداع، مثل أن سوريا وحزب الله لا يمكنهما تحمّل ميشال عون زعيماً قوياً ومطلق اليد في الوسط المسيحي، وأن الخلاف القائم الآن بين بري وعون هو إشارة إلى أن الجبهة الإقليمية ستضطر إلى تعزيز موقع رئيس الجمهورية لتحقيق توازن مع عون".
·       رأى وزير العدل إبراهيم نجار بأن إخلاء سبيل الضباط الأربعة لا يعني التبرئة "فلا علاقة بين إخلاء السبيل والبراءة، والعكس صحيح، بمعنى أن إبقاء الضباط موقوفين لا يعني أنهم محكوم عليهم سلفاً".
·   أكد النائب ميشال عون أنه والرئيس نبيه بري وحزب الله والمعارضة "متفقون على آلية معينة، وموضوع جزين نستطيع حله بالاحتكام إلى أهالي جزين لا بالتصادم مؤكداً أن "الخلاف كله حول مقعد نيابي ولن نفك كل ما بنيناه على مقعد نيابي".
·   قال نائب رئيس "الجماعة الإسلامية" إبراهيم المصري إن التفاوض متوقف حالياً، بين "الجماعة" والنائب سعد الحريري وبالتالي فإن الأمور تراوح مكانها إلا أنه أضاف أنه لم يجر إعلان لائحة بيروت الثالثة، حتى الآن، وبالتالي "نعتبر أن فرص التفاهم ما زالت واردة بنسبة كبيرة جداً بيننا وبين النائب الحريري". ونقلت "الأخبار" عن مصادر في "الجماعة" قولها إن "الشعرة الانتخابية مع المستقبل قطعت، وكل ما نحاوله إبقاء الشعرة السياسية". وكشفت أن الرئيس فؤاد السنيورة عرض على الجماعة رئاسة بلدية صيدا بعد تحالفها و"تيار المستقبل"، مقابل قبولها بالعرض المقدّم إليها، فردّت أن هذا الموضوع غير قابل للبحث الآن.  
·   أشارت "الأخبار" إلى أن النائب وليد جنبلاط كرّر في مجالسه الخاصة كلاماً إيجابياً عن العماد ميشال عون. وأبدى تلمّسه أن "في قلب كل مسيحي عونيّاً". ولم ينف جنبلاط وجود بعض الوسطاء بينه وبين عون. وأضافت عُلم أنه أوعز لمقرّبيه بعدم المشاركة، حالياً، في أي نقاش بشأن العلاقة مع الحلفاء ومصير تحالف 14 آذار، وطلب تأجيل ذلك إلى ما بعد الانتخابات النيابية.


23 April 2009

* Security Middle East Show (SMES)



Lebanon's special police division raid a bus as part of a hostage rescue drill during a military manoeuvre at a security conference organised by the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA) in Beirut.

 

-Lebanon's special police division arrest a man posing as a bus hijacker during a military manoeuvre at a security conference organised by the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA) in Beirut.
-A police sniper poses for photographers after a show of skills, during the Security Middle East Show (SMES), a security exhibition in Beirut.

(reuters)

18 April 2009

* Syria Asks Sharjah to Arrest Siddiq and Extradite Him

Mohammed Zuhair Siddiq, a Syrian army deserter often described by the Arab media as the 'King Witness' in the Hariri murder case, was reportedly arrested in the United Arab Emirates.
Reliable sources told As Safir newspaper that Syria lately asked the authorities of the Sharjah emirate through Interpol to arrest Siddiq and extradite him.

The sources said the man had a forged Syrian passport and was living in the city of Sharjah.

As Safir on Saturday quoted sources following the Siddiq case as saying several arrest warrants were issued in Lebanon and Syria against the man for providing false testimonies in the assassination case of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri.

The sources also said that Siddiq had lately become a burden on the political sides that at one stage were providing cover for him. Even sources in the Lebanese majority expected Siddiq to be jailed after it turned out that he was a "big lie."

Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar told LBC TV station that the Lebanese government has no information about Siddiq's arrest.

Siddiq, who was under an international arrest warrant requested by a Lebanese prosecutor, was detained in October 2005 in a Paris suburb on grounds he gave false evidence to U.N. investigators.

He had been living in France under house arrest until he disappeared a year ago.

Newspaper reports in 2006 quoted Siddiq as saying that Syrian President Bashar Assad and his then Lebanese counterpart Emile Lahoud ordered Hariri's killing in a massive Beirut car bombing.

King witness legally means an accomplice in a crime who turns against his partners, revealing their role in exchange for state pardon.

(naharnet)

* Jumblat caught on video - cursing all!


15 April 2009

* العميد المتقاعد اديب العلم رأس شبكة التجسس الاسرائيلية

تتواصل التحقيقاتُ مع العميد المتقاعد اديب العلم وزوجتِه حياة الصالومي في اطار الشبكة التجسسية الاسرائيلية المكتشفة التي اكد مصدرٌ امني رفيعُ المستوى للمنار ان العميدَ العميلَ هو رأسُها، وقد ادت التحقيقاتُ الى مداهمةِ منزل ابنِ شقيق العلم في بلدة رميش الجنوبية وهو ايضاً من عناصرِ الامن العام اللبناني.

ففي شارع السيدة في منطقة سن الفيل شرقي العاصمة اللبنانية بيروت يقع منزل العميد المتقاعد اديب العلم وزوجته حياة الصالومي المتهميّن بالتعامل مع العدو الاسرائيلي.

وبالقرب من المنزل تقع مؤسسة دوغلاس للخدمات العامة وتأمين الوظائف وفرص العمل الخاصة بالعلم، التي كانت ستاراً امنياً لعمله التجسسي منذ قرابة العامين.

الصدمة تخيم على سكان الحي الذين لم يتوقعوا ان يكون جارهم الستيني وزوجته الودودة جزءاً من شبكة استخباراتية تعمل لمصلحة العدو، اديب وحياة لا اولاد لهما وهما لا يتدخلان بشؤون احد في المنطقة، بحسب جيرانهم الذين رفضوا التحدث امام الكاميرا.

الصدمة في سن الفيل امتدت الى بلدة رميش الجنوبية لاسيما ان العميل العلم هو خال الشهيد اللواء الركن فرنسوا الحاج.

كاميرا المنار تمكنت من رصد مداهمة عناصر فرع المعلومات لمنزل ابن شقيق العلم في رميش، وهو مؤهل اول في جهاز الامن العام، وقد تمت المداهمة في اطار التحقيقات والاعترافات التي ادلى بها العلم وزوجته.

وبحسب المعلومات لم يكن العميد العميل كثير الترداد على بلدته، فهو لم يكن يقصدها الا في المناسبات الخاصة، كما انه لم يشيد منزلاً فيها الا بعد التحرير، لكن المعلومات الامنية اكدت ان زوجته حياة الصالومي هي من كانت تتردد بكثرة الى البلدة قبل التحرير، حيث ترجح المعلومات انها كانت تتواصل مع احد كبار العملاء الفارين الى فلسطين المحتلة العميل نقولا حبيب.

الاجهزة الامنية كشفت ان العميل العلم بدأ التعامل مع جهاز الموساد منذ العام 84 اي منذ بدايات تدرجه في جهاز الامن العام حيث بلغ لاحقاً مراتب عليا منها رئاسة دائرة جوازات السفر و دائرة الاجانب.

خمسة وعشرون عاماً من التعامل، رجحت معها المصادر الامنية ان يكون العميد الموقوف قد سلم جزءاً كبيراً من ارشيف الدولة اللبنانية الى العدو بحكم موقعه في جهاز الامن العام.

مصدر امني رفيع المستوى كشف للمنار ان الاجهزة الامنية كانت تتابع هذه القضية منذ ثلاث سنوات، وهي التي كانت تمتلك ما تصفه بطرف خيط، لكنها لم تتمكن من تحقيق اي تقدم لغياب الثغرات الامنية من قبل هذه الشبكة المحترفة امنياً.

وبحسب المعلومات ارتكبت هذه الشبكة هفوة بسيطة اول السنة الحالية، شكلت الثغرة التي ادت الى القاء القبض على العميد المتقاعد.

ويذكر ان عملية متابعة العميل وزوجته استمرت شهوراً عدة حيث تم رصد اتصالات الضابط المتقاعد وزوجته فتبين أنهما يتلقيان اتصالات دورية من أرقام في أوروبا الشرقية أو جنوب أفريقيا، اتضح بعد التدقيق أنها ارقام اسرائيلية.

وقد وصف المصدر الامني الرفيع للمنار اديب العلم، فقال: أنه رأس شبكة التجسس المكتشفة.



(tayyar)

* Drug barons face off Lebanese army


An alliance of Shiite families involved in Lebanon’s hashish trade attacked an army patrol in the far eastern Beqaa Valley yesterday, killing at least four soldiers and wounding 13.

Members of the Jafar family set an ambush for an army patrol as it returned to its base on the outskirts of Baalbak yesterday morning, using rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns in one of the worst incidents of violence towards the army since the 2007 siege of the Nahr al Bared refugee camp. The family claims the attack was retaliation for the army’s killing of a key member of the family at the end of March.

In response to yesterday’s attack, the Lebanese Army deployed Special Forces commandos throughout Baalbak and sealed the highways into the city as they stepped up operations against the three largest families involved in the production of hashish in the predominately Shiite area, also a base of support for Hizbollah. By Monday evening, the army was moving large numbers of armoured vehicles, tanks and artillery into the area in anticipation of an armed response, according to witnesses.

Over the past three months, a series of raids and arrests have increased pressure on the Zoitar, Jafar and Mouwla families over their involvement in both the drug trade and a wave of carjackings throughout Lebanon. These families dominate the farming and production of hashish in eastern Lebanon and can summon thousands of well-armed family members in the rural and mountainous region.

Yesterday’s successful attack on an army patrol immediately drew condemnation from Lebanese officials, who vowed revenge on the families.

“The military is a red line that should not be crossed by anyone,” said Ziad Baroud, the interior minister. “It is unacceptable that the military be dealt with in the manner it was today. We shall strike with an iron fist to prevent this from happening again.”

Yesterday’s deaths came after months of small-scale attacks by the family members on army patrols as well as retaliatory raids by the army that began, not due to drug trafficking but in a clampdown on gangs accused in the carjackings.

According to Abu Ali, a former drug baron in Beqaa who knows the trade and the clans that control it, the problem began when younger members of the Jafar and Zoitar clans began using automatic weapons to steal expensive cars on the main highways throughout the region.

“It has always been accepted that some of the families in Beqaa will grow hashish,” Abu Ali said. “The farmers are too poor, and growing normal crops will not be enough to survive so both the army and Hizbollah allow these families to grow hashish for sale. They pay bribes to the right people and are left alone as long as they stay quiet.”

But this system came under strain as the carjacking gangs moved closer to Beirut, eventually setting up bases in two suburbs controlled by Hizbollah, which traditionally refuses to allow the Lebanese police to carry out arrests in their areas of control.

Abu Ali, who left the drug trade a decade ago and has since joined Hizbollah, described this protection of the hashish farmers as political expediency for a group with major domestic concerns in rural Lebanon.

“Hizbollah is the most powerful Shiite movement in Lebanon but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to keep people happy,” he said. “Even though they hate these families, the sectarian system in Lebanon forces them to protect huge Shiite families in the heart of their main areas, like Baalbak.”

In the past few months, however, the drug dealing and carjackings became increasingly brazen. They culminated when Ali Zoitar, a young gang leader based outside Beirut, assaulted and robbed the son of Imad Mughniyeh, a famed Hizbollah commander who was assassinated in Feb 2008 in a Damascus car bombing.

“Ali Zoitar and his boys robbed Mughniyeh’s son,” Abu Ali said. “Even when he told them he was the son of a famous martyr and a fighter for Hizbollah himself, they cursed him and took the car anyway. When they saw how arrogant these boys had become, Hizbollah withdrew its protection of these families.”

As a result, the Lebanese police were then authorised for the first time by the group to begin arrests and operations in militant controlled areas, so long as police only targeted drugs and car theft.

“Drugs are fine, cars are fine but the police have been told that if they enter a house looking for drugs and find 50 machine guns or RPGs, they had better pretend like they didn’t see anything,” a Hizbollah member confirmed. “Weapons are for the resistance.”

Without Hizbollah’s political protection, a Lebanese Army officer warned Noah Zoitar, the 39-year old warlord who controls thousands of hectares of cannabis fields, to end the car thefts and turn over some of the suspects to police. Noah agreed but Ali Zoitar refused and immediately targeted the same officer’s wife, robbing her in her home a few days later.

“Noah was told by the army that the carjacking had to stop,” Abu Ali said. “He was told that no one had any interest in hurting the farmers but that political pressure was forcing a crackdown on the car thieves. He was told to order his boys to stop, and was asked to turn over a few offenders to the police. But Ali refused and robbed the officer’s wife.”

A now infuriated Lebanese Army swept into the Zoitar clan’s village of Kneisse, occupying Noah Zoitar’s home and dispatched teams to hunt down Ali Zoitar. In late March, they found and killed him in a shoot-out near Beirut and a few days later an army patrol ambushed Ali Abbas Jafar outside of Baalbak, killing him and several comrades.





(thenational)

* Last sunday in Budda Bar (Pacha ibiza dancers)



14 April 2009

* Shame on Mubarak?



* The Shift Toward an Israeli-Syrian Agreement

...According to the existing understanding of the region’s geopolitical structure, an Israeli-Syrian peace deal is impossible.
  • The United States and Iran are locked into talks over the future of Iraq, and both regularly use their respective allies in Israel and Syria to shape those negotiations. An Israeli-Syrian peace would at the very least inconvenience American and Iranian plans.
  • Any peace deal would require defanging Hezbollah. But Hezbollah is not simply a Syrian proxy with an independent streak, it is also an Iranian proxy. So long as Iran is Syria’s only real ally in the Muslim world, such a step seems inimical to Syrian interests.
  • Hezbollah is also deeply entwined into the economic life of Lebanon — and in Lebanon’s drug production and distribution network — and threatening the relationship with Hezbollah would massively impact Damascus’ bottom line.
  • From the other side, Syria cannot accept a peace that does not restore its control over the Golan Heights, captured during the 1967 war. Since this patch of ground overlooks some of Israel’s most densely populated regions, it seems unnatural that Israel ever would even consider such a trade.

Forget issues of Zionism or jihadism, or even simple bad blood; the reality is that any deal between Israel and Syria clashes with the strategic interests of both sides, making peace is impossible. Or is it? Talks are happening nonetheless, meaning one of two things is true: Either Olmert and Assad have lost it, or this view of reality is wrong.
Let’s reground this discussion away from what everyone — ourselves included — thinks they know and go back to the basics, namely, the geopolitical realities in which Israel and Syria exist.

..


The Basis of a Deal

Israel and Syria’s geopolitical interests diverge less than it might appear. By itself, Syria poses no conventional threat to Israel. Syria is dangerous only in the context of a coalition with Egypt. In 1973, fighting on two fronts, the Syrians were a threat. With Egypt neutralized now and behind the buffer in the Sinai, Syria poses no threat. As for unconventional weapons, the Israelis indicated with their bombing of the Syrian research facility in September 2007 that they know full well how — and are perfectly willing unilaterally — to take that option off Damascus’ table.

Since neither side wants a war with the other — Israel does not want to replace the Alawites, and the Alawites are not enamored of being replaced — the issue boils down to whether Israel and Syria can coordinate their interests in Lebanon. Israel has no real economic interests in Lebanon. Its primary interest is security — to make certain that forces hostile to Israel cannot use Lebanon as a base for launching attacks. Syria has no real security interests so long its economic primacy is guaranteed. And neither country wants to see an independent Palestinian state.


The issue boils down to Lebanon. In a sense, the Israelis had an accommodation with Syria over Lebanon when Israel withdrew. It ceded economic pre-eminence in Lebanon to the Syrians. In return, the Syrians controlled Hezbollah and in effect took responsibility for Israeli security in return for economic power. It was only after Syria withdrew from Lebanon under U.S. pressure that Hezbollah evolved into a threat to Israel, precipitating the 2006 conflict.
This was a point on which Israel and the United States didn’t agree. The United States, fighting in Iraq, wanted an additional lever with which to try to control Syrian support for militants fighting in Iraq. They saw Lebanon as a way to punish Syria for actions in Iraq. But the Israelis saw themselves as having to live with the consequences of that withdrawal. Israel understood that Syria’s withdrawal shifted the burden of controlling Hezbollah to Israel — something that could not be achieved without an occupation.

What appears to be under consideration between the supposed archrivals, therefore, is the restoration of the 2005 status quo in Lebanon. The Syrians would reclaim their position in Lebanon, unopposed by Israel. In return, the Syrians would control Hezbollah. For the Syrians, this has the added benefit that by controlling Hezbollah and restraining it in the south, Syria would have both additional strength on the ground in Lebanon, as well as closer economic collaboration — on more favorable terms — with Hezbollah. For Syria, Hezbollah is worth more as a puppet than as a heroic anti-Israeli force.

This is something Israel understands. In the last fight between Israel and Syria in Lebanon, there were different local allies: Israel had the South Lebanese Army. The Syrians were allied with the Christian Franjieh clan. In the end, both countries dumped their allies. Syria and Israel have permanent interests in Lebanon. They do not have permanent allies.

The Other Players

The big loser in this game, of course, would be the Lebanese. But that is more complicated than it appears. Many of the Lebanese factions — including most of the Christian clans — have close relations with the Syrians. Moreover, the period of informal Syrian occupation was a prosperous time. Lebanon is a country of businessmen and militia, sometimes the same. The stability the Syrians imposed was good for business.
The one faction that would clearly oppose this would be Hezbollah. It would be squeezed on all sides. Ideologically speaking, constrained from confronting Israel, its place in the Islamic sun would be undermined. Economically speaking, Hezbollah would be forced into less favorable economic relations with the Syrians than it enjoyed on its own. And politically speaking, Hezbollah would have the choice of fighting the Syrians (not an attractive option) or of becoming a Syrian tool. Either way, Hezbollah would have to do something in response to any rumors floating about of a Syrian deal with the Israelis. And given the quality of Syrian intelligence in these matters, key Hezbollah operatives opposed to such a deal might find themselves blown up. Perhaps they already have.

Iran will not be happy about all this. Tehran has invested a fair amount of resources in bulking up Hezbollah, and will not be pleased to see the militia shift from Syrian management to Syrian control. But in the end, what can Iran do? It cannot support Hezbollah directly, and even if it were to attempt to undermine Damascus, those Syrians most susceptible to Tehran’s Shiite-flavored entreaties are the Alawites themselves.

The other player that at the very least would be uneasy about all of this is the United States. The American view of Syria remains extremely negative, still driven by the sense that the Syrians continue to empower militants in Iraq. Certainly that aid — and that negative U.S. feeling — is not as intense as it was two years ago, but the Americans might not feel that this is the right time for such a deal. Thus, the release of the information on the Syrian reactor might well have been an attempt to throw a spoke in the wheel of the Israeli-Syrian negotiations.

That might not be necessary. Nothing disappears faster than Syrian-Israeli negotiations. In this case, however, both countries have fundamental geopolitical interests at stake. Israel wants to secure its northern frontier without committing its troops into Lebanon. The Syrians want to guarantee their access to the economic possibilities in Lebanon. Neither care about the Golan Heights. The Israelis don’t care what happens in Lebanon so long as it doesn’t explode in Israel. The Syrians don’t care what happens to the Palestinians so long as it doesn’t spread onto their turf.

Deals have been made on less. Israel and Syria are moving toward a deal that would leave a lot of players in the region — including Iran — quite unhappy. Given this deal has lots of uneasy observers, including Iran, the United States, Hezbollah, the Palestinians and others, it could blow apart with the best will in the world. And given that this is Syria and Israel, the best will isn’t exactly in abundant supply.




(st.for)

13 April 2009

* Drug War..still!

A file photo of Lebanese soldiers on patrol in Tripoli in May 2008. Four Lebanese soldiers were killed in an apparently drugs-related ambush on an army patrol in the east of the country on Monday, a security official said.


(afp/yahoo)

06 April 2009

* Emirates 50% one way: الإمارات: نصف حجوزات سفر الوافدين في الصيف بلا عودة

قالت مصادر مطلعة في شركات الطيران إن معدلات حجوزات الاتجاه الواحد طغت على حجوزات الصيف لهذا العام في الإمارات، ووصل معدل حجز الاتجاه الواحد "ون واي" إلى نصف الحجوزات التي تمت حتى الآن.

وأوضحت المصادر لوكالة الأنباء الكويتية "كونا"، أن سبب هذه الحجوزات يعود لإفرازات الأزمة المالية وفقدان الكثير من الأجانب العاملين في الإمارات وظائفهم أو خشيتهم من فقدانها، ما دفعهم إلى الحجز باتجاه واحد إلى بلادهم دون عودة.

وذكرت أن غالبية هذه الحجوزات هي لأسر المقيمين، حيث عمد كثير من العاملين في الدولة إلى حجز تذاكر سفر الإجازة باتجاه واحد لجميع أفراد الأسرة، وله بالاتجاهين، بسبب خشيتهم من فقدان وظائفهم.


(arabianbusiness)

05 April 2009

* Rami Makhzoumi

President and Chief Executive Officer
Future Pipe Industries
United Arab Emirates

Mr. Rami Makhzoumi received his Bachelors of Science in Business Studies from the University of Buckingham in 1998 and in 2003, achieved the Young Professional Program Executive Diploma from the London Business School. In January 1999 he assumed the role of Group Vice-President, Business Development for Future Pipe Industries. 

In 2001, he became the Chief Operating Officer of the company until October 2003 when he was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer. Rami Makhzoumi has led the drive to change the organization from within by launching a group-wide restructuring effort known as "The Evolution and Revolution" Strategic Initiatives. Since his appointment, he has managed to expand the business into new segments and territories, and has more than tripled the sales of the group, whilst growing the bottom line at even higher rates, by virtue of his migration of the Group into a Global Operating Model, and the application of innovative management techniques.


He is currently a lifetime member of the Institute of Directors UK, a member of the Arab-Deutsche Chamber of Commerce, a member of the International Desalination Association, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

In addition, Mr. Makhzoumi serves as a Regional Board Member of the Young Arab Leaders and is also a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization. Makhzoumi is a featured speaker at numerous Family Business Forums, Regional Leadership conferences, as well as on Socio-Economic based programs. 

In addition to his business posts he also sits as Vice-President of the Makhzoumi Foundation, a philanthropic organization, based in Lebanon, which through its vocational, micro-credit, health and awareness programs has seen over 75,000 beneficiaries.


(wartondubai)

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.