31 July 2009

* Fox News View of the Middle East

Notice the location of Egypt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

* Emaar 1.3Bil Loss

A handout picture made available by developers Emaar in April 2008 shows an aerial view of the Downtown Burj Dubai complex. Dubai property giant Emaar posted a second-quarter net loss of 1.3 billion dirhams (350 million dollars) as a slowdown in the American real estate market forced it to write off the entire value of its US unit John Laing Homes. 

29 July 2009

* Israeli spy cells aimed to destroy Hizbullah

The guiding objectives behind Israel’s spy network in Lebanon were to “destroy” the Hizbullah-led resistance and kill its leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, As-Safir newspaper quoted well-informed sources as saying on Tuesday.

Though Israeli spy operations first emerged shortly after Tel Aviv declared independence in May 1948, Israel’s failure to obliterate Hizbullah when the two engaged in a 34-day war in July-August 2006 apparently prompted Tel Aviv to step up its covert operations in Lebanon.

Israel considered “the only way to make up for the 2006 defeat and to avoid a third war with Lebanon was to get rid of [Hizbullah chief Sayyed] Hassan Nasrallah” and to destroy “everything related to” Hizbullah, sources studying the spy networks told As-Safir. Those recruited not only reported on Hizbullah operations but also delivered information about the group’s ties with Syria and Iran and Lebanese national security measures, a Lebanese security source said. Collaborators were also expected to renew relations with former spies and reactivate dormant networks.

Lebanon has arrested more than 70 people since January on suspicion of spying for Israel’s intelligence service, Mossad, in a high-profile campaign to dismantle spy cells operating in the country. Around 40 of those individuals – 37 Lebanese, two Palestinians and one Egyptian – are now in custody, according to AFP, including a number of Lebanese government officials.

Poor coordination between Lebanon’s military and security services have allowed a number of spies to flee, the security source told the paper. Lebanese authorities admit that a handful of suspected collaborators have crossed into Israel.

According to the unidentified sources, Israel recruited spies by placing job adverts in local news­papers, through Lebanese collaborators who sought refuge in Israel in 2000, or by luring them in with money and wo­men. Once initiated, collaborators would meet with their Is­raeli liaison officers in Lebanese towns or further afield such as in Cyprus, Hong Kong or Belgium. Spies mostly communicated with cell phones and emails.

In May, Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces displayed what appeared to be sophisticated espionage equipment, including a water cooler equipped with a mapping device, a stereo concealing USB storage capabilities and hi-tech cameras and detection gadgets. Lebanon’s civil and political sectors should “immunize themselves to the highest degree because the spies recruited came from various backgrounds: military officers, housewives, farmers, immigrants, taxi drivers,” and so on, one security source urged.

“Social burdens weigh upon everyone, but the fate of these spies will serve as a lesson to those thinking about working for Israel. Everyone should be on the lookout,” the source warned, citing national unity as the best way to combat covert Israeli operations in Lebanon.

Beirut considers itself in a state of war with Israel, and Lebanese citizens are prohibited from having contact with Israelis or from visiting Israel. Those convicted of spying or high treason in Lebanon can be sentenced to death or life imprisonment with hard labor. 


* Is Israel Preparing to Attack Lebanon?

General (Ret) James David wrote the intro to the following article as he is mentioned on the cover of the third edition of former Republican Congressman Paul Findley’s ‘They Dare Speak Out’ book about the power/influence of the pro-Israel lobby (AIPAC and similar) on the US political system and media (CNN’s Wolf Blitzer is an example as he has been associated with AIPAC as well!) – keep in mind that Israel going after Hezbollah in Lebanon would be in accordance with the ‘A Clean Break’ agenda that the Iraq invasion was based on.


The official Lebanese news agency reported on Tuesday that the Lebanese army had declared a state of high alert and deployed forces along the border with Israel.According to the report, the high alert was declared in response to the advancing of Israeli tanks in the Shaba farms area. Reportedly, four Israeli tanks had advanced toward an area called Hassan Kasar, where there is an entrance gate to Lebanon.The news agency said that the Lebanese army deployed its forces in order to “be prepared to face the Israeli enemy.”

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) also responded to the moves and raised its alert level in the area while monitoring the situation from both sides, the news agency said.
Furthermore, the news agency went on to report, six Israeli aircraft had entered Lebanese airspace and circled the area.
The Hezbollah-linked television network Al Manar reported meanwhile that the commander of the UNIFIL forces, Claudio Graziano, met on Monday with southern Lebanese community leaders and two parliament members affiliated with Hezbollah and the Shi’ite Amal movement.
According to the report, the meeting was convened in order to voice criticism over UNIFIL’s conduct following an explosion at an arms cache near the border earlier this month. Israel has argued that the explosion was caused by “an arms cache that consisted of Hezbollah arms, including rockets, mortars, artillery shells, grenades, and additional ammunition which had been brought to the area following the Second Lebanon War.” Lebanon, on the other hand, now says that the explosion took place at an uncompleted structure in the village that stored “arms left behind by the Israelis” during the 34-day war.
During the meeting, Al Manar went on to say, Hezbollah representatives warned the UNIFIL commander that southern Lebanon was under the sole authority of the Lebanese army and the Lebanese government, not UNIFIL. The criticism comes after UNIFIL complained that the Lebanese army blocked its troops from the site of the explosion following the incident.
The report also said that upon the conclusion of the meeting, those in attendance met with local residents in effort to restore the good relations between UNIFIL and the locals in southern Lebanon.

28 July 2009

* Government Selections - SCOOP

الاسماء المرتقبة في التشكيلة الحكومية المقبلة بعد التوفق على صيغة 15-10-5.
أسماء وزراء تكتل "التغيير والاصلاح": عصام ابو جمرا، جبران باسيل، الياس سكاف، سليمان فرنجية او من يمثله ومن المرجح ان يكون يوسف سعادة، آلان طابوريان أو سيبوه هوفنانيان وطلال ارسلان.
اما الوزراء الشيعة، فهم 4 يتم تقاسمهم بين حركة "أمل" و"حزب الله".
وفي حصة "الاشتراكي" 3 وزراء، يرجح ان يكونوا غازي العريضي ووائل بوفاعور إضافة الى وزير ثالث غير درزي.
أما الوزير الياس المر، فهو باق في وزارة الدفاع.
أما وزارة الداخلية، فهي لا تزال موضع تنافس بين "التغيير والاصلاح" و"المستقبل"، وإذا كانت من حصة "التغيير والاصلاح"، فمن المرجح ان يكون سليمان فرنجية.
ومن المرجح ان تتمثل الكتائب إما بالنائب سامي الجميل أو الوزير ايلي ماروني.
أما حصة رئيس الجمهورية، الوزير السني سيكون إما عدنان القصار أو غالب محمصاني، والوزير زياد بارود الذي من المتوقع ان يبقى في التشكيلة الحكومية المقبلة فهو الوزير الماروني من حصة الرئيس.
أما الوزير الكاثوليكي من حصة الرئيس، فالاسم المرجح هو روجيه نسناس.
والوزير الشيعي عو عدنان السيد حسين.

* Makhzoumi warned to keep the country in standstill and paralysis

Party leader of the "national dialogue" Fouad Makhzoumi, after visiting President Michel Suleiman at Baabda, called to "accelerate the formation of the government in the future because the country is facing a number of challenges, especially the continuing Israeli threats, which can not be the conduct of business of the Government to address them, valuing the positions of the President Republic and the encouragement of the political forces of the establishment of a charter combine the various Lebanese factions. 

Makhzoumi and circulation with the internal developments in the Suleiman in the consultations by the Prime Minister in charge of Saad Hariri, called for "careful to keep the country in a state of standstill and paralysis of the various sectors, especially economic."

* Summer Heats Up in Lebanon

Six weeks after the pro-West March 14 coalition defeated the Hizballah-led alliance in Lebanon's parliamentary elections, no new government has been formed in Beirut. Although March 14 leader Saad Hariri was given a mandate back in early June to become prime minister and form a cabinet, he has still not completed the sensitive and contentious negotiations with the opposition. Hariri's difficulties in allocating seats among his coalition allies and political adversaries were anticipated, and to a certain extent are routine for Lebanon. But the calm that followed the free and fair elections is eroding, as Hizballah and its allies in Damascus press for more political concessions from Hariri. These developments, coupled with the apparent failure of Saudi-Syrian reconciliation efforts, are elevating tensions, threatening a banner tourism season, and raising the possibility of a return to violence in Beirut.

On June 7, Lebanese voters went to the polls for the first parliamentary elections since 2005. In a stunning outcome, the March 14 incumbents defeated the heavily favored Hizballah-led March 8 alliance, garnering 71 of 128 parliamentary seats and the right to form a new government. Although Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah said he would "accept the will of the people," senior officials of the organization have insisted on the establishment of a "national unity government" that provides the opposition with "effective and decisive participation" in the decisionmaking process -- a euphemism generally understood as a demand for veto power in the cabinet. The veto power, known as a "blocking third" -- control over one-third plus one of the cabinet ministries -- would enable Hizballah and its allies to stymie all major government initiatives.
To date, Hariri has resisted pressures to provide the opposition with this perquisite. Instead, he is believed to favor a formula that would give his majority sixteen seats, the opposition ten -- just one short of the blocking third -- and President Michel Suleiman four picks of his own. Even this compromise, which is unacceptable to Hizballah, is problematic for March 14; if just one of Suleiman's cabinet picks is sympathetic to the Shiite militia, the March 8 alliance would achieve its coveted veto.

Saudi-Syrian Rapprochement
Last March, Egypt, Kuwait, and Syria attended a mini-summit hosted by Saudi Arabia, aimed at improving Riyadh's ties with Damascus, which deteriorated significantly after the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese premier (and Saudi national) Rafiq Hariri. Over the past four months, discussions have continued between Riyadh and Damascus, and reports in the Arab press suggested that the two states might be on the verge of a rapprochement. In early July, this trend seemed to be confirmed by Saudi Arabia's appointment of a new ambassador to Damascus, a post that had been vacant since 2008.
This summer, discussions between Riyadh and Damascus focused on postelection politics in Beirut, specifically on the composition of the Lebanese government. During these talks, Syria reportedly advocated for a blocking third for its Lebanese allies as well as for some kind of formal agreement that would legitimize a Syrian role in Lebanon along the lines of the 1989 Taif Accord. Damascus was apparently seeking to leverage its rapprochement with Riyadh to reinstitute the previous "condominium" arrangement that left the management of economic matters to Saudi Arabia and its Lebanese allies, and security-related affairs to Syria and Hizballah.
By the end of June, the Lebanese Broadcasting Company was reporting that a Saudi-Syrian summit was in the offing, to be attended by Saudi king Abdullah, Syrian president Bashar al-Asad, and Saad Hariri. But then the detente hit a snag, as Hariri was unwilling to accept the Syrian-March 8 demands. Not only would the deal have effectively erased March 14's election victory, it would have given the impression, via Hariri's trip to Damascus, of Syrian innocence in the murder of his father, Rafiq. Still others, however, are blaming Cairo -- frustrated with Syria's role in obstructing the Egyptian-brokered effort to foster a Hamas-Fatah national unity government -- for the aborted reconciliation. Regardless of the reason, by late July, Lebanese sources indicated that a visit from the Saudi monarch to Syria was off the table.
Meanwhile, the al-Asad regime is frustrated with the pace of diplomatic progress with the United States and appears to be sending Washington the message that it can play a potent spoiler role. Accordingly, in mid-July, in the wake of a spate of suicide bombings in Mosul, four armed men with Syrian passports were arrested in northern Iraq. On the same day the arrests were announced, al-Asad met in Damascus with Muqtada al-Sadr, an anti-American Iraqi Shiite militia leader with close ties to Tehran. Syria likewise continues to play an unproductive role vis-a-vis a potential Hamas-Fatah reconciliation. Most recently, some have speculated that Damascus encouraged its ally, Fatah leader Faruq Qaddumi, to issue the explosive claim on al-Jazeera that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas conspired to assassinate longtime Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat.

Hizballah Ups the Ante
Predictably, as cabinet negotiations in Beirut drag on, Lebanon's southern border with Israel is heating up. On July 14, a large explosion rocked Khirbet Slim, a small village nine miles north of the Israeli border. The explosion was alternately described as occurring at either a Hizballah arms cache or an advanced defensive position. When the investigating UN Interim Forces (UNIFIL) tried to ascertain whether the detonation was in any way a violation of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1701, residents of the village -- reportedly at the instigation of Hizballah -- threw stones, burned tires, and fought the peacekeepers to prevent the inspection. The soldiers were eventually turned away.
Then on July 17, Nasrallah delivered a speech marking the one-year anniversary of the release of the Israeli-detained "dean of the prisoners," Samir Kuntar, an event precipitated by a Hizballah kidnapping raid that sparked the 2006 summer war with Israel. During his speech, Nasrallah praised the kidnapping operation for returning Lebanese captives, and then raised yet another grievance -- and perhaps a casus belli -- against Israel. "Now what remains," he said, "is the file of Yahya Skaff," a terrorist killed in the 1978 Coastal Road massacre in Israel. Although Israel has rendered Skaff's remains to Lebanon, the DNA results, according to Nasrallah, were inconclusive and the family maintains he is "still alive in Israeli prisons." Noting that Hizballah was "committed to the family's decision," Nasrallah added, "We have a responsibility to these people, to liberate them."
Adding to the tensions along the blue line, the same day Nasrallah gave his speech, fifteen Lebanese civilians crossed over the frontier and planted Hizballah and Lebanese flags on Israeli soil -- indeed, atop an unmanned Israeli observation post -- a violation that allegedly was witnessed by UNIFIL solders. This incident prompted a formal Israeli complaint to the UN as well as a debate in Lebanon about the authority and efficacy of 1701. UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams described the border crossing and the Khirbet Slim clashes as a "clear violation" of UNSCR 1701. Meanwhile, Hizballah parliamentarian Nawaf Mussawi claimed that "It is not within UNIFIL's mandate to conduct investigations." In any event, the Shiite militia is hinting of more to come. On July 22, Sheikh Nabil Kaouk, the senior Hizballah official responsible for the south, told the Lebanese daily al-Nahar, "We are not waiting for UNSCR 1701 to liberate the occupied lands."
Hizballah activities are not solely responsible for increased tensions in the south. On July 21, the Lebanese Armed Forces announced that it had arrested ten people -- allegedly tied to Fatah al-Islam -- suspected of targeting UNIFIL. If rumors prove true of impending European troop withdrawals from UNIFIL -- to fulfill peacekeeping commitments in Afghanistan -- it would further erode confidence in the already embattled force.

After a brief postelection respite, tensions in Lebanon are on the rise. Despite reports that prime-minister-designate Saad Hariri is making progress toward forming a government, Hizballah and Syrian-generated pressures are complicating the already difficult task, raising the specter that March 14 will fail to consolidate the gains of its impressive June 7 election victory. While cabinet negotiations are a domestic Lebanese affair, the Obama administration should leverage its diplomatic engagement with Damascus to prevent and/or mitigate egregious Syrian meddling in the process, thus insulating March 14 from external pressures. Yet even with a diminished Syrian role, March 14 will still be left to contend with Hizballah. Regrettably, even in a best-case scenario where Hariri and March 14 hold their political ground, given Hizballah's track record, the summer boon in Beirut -- like the previous three -- may soon go up in smoke. 


25 July 2009

* Army arrests gang in Aramoun

The Lebanese Army arrested 8 armed gang members during a shootout in Aramoun on Saturday.
The arrested were eight wanted criminals, including the group's leader, Hassan Ahmed Safwan, known as Hassan al-Jurdi.

Safwan and the other members of the network are wanted for involvement in several criminal activities, including shooting to death a Lebanese man named Talal Khaled Khalil in Beirut's Saint Michel neighborhood, the communique said.

The gang is also wanted for wounding several individuals, opening fire on security forces, involvement in drug trade and driving stolen vehicles, according to the army command.

23 July 2009

* Malek Maktabi's 'Red Line' Lands Saudi Man in Jail

A Saudi man has been arrested for boasting about his sex life on Lebanon's LBCI TV network, the English-language daily Arab News reported on Thursday.
Jeddah resident Mazen Abdul Jawad was arrested after he appeared last week on "Red Line," a program presented by Malek Maktabi on LBCI, the newspaper said.

In the program, Jawad said he first had sex with a neighbor when he was 14, and he also described in detail some of his later adventures.

He explained how he uses the Bluetooth function on his cellphone to try to pick up Saudi women, who are forbidden to mix with or reveal their faces to men who are not related to them. He also gave a recipe for an aphrodisiac.

The segment sparked about 100 complaints to local justice officials, leading to his arrest, the paper said.

Jawad could face charges under Saudi Arabia's strict Islamic sharia law of speaking openly about vice and admitting he engaged in pre-marital sex, it said, adding that if convicted he could be jailed and flogged.

"The program presents anomalies and deviancy in society that are unacceptable and immoral and should be punished according to sharia," Arab News quoted Ahmed Qasim al-Ghamdi, Mecca head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the religious police, as saying.

* Iran reactor to be switched on this year

MOSCOW – Russian news agencies quote the country's nuclear agency chief as saying a Russian-built nuclear power reactor in Iran is still set to be switched on this year.

State-run RIA-Novosti and ITAR-Tass quote Sergei Kiriyenko as saying plans remain for a start-up of the reactor near the Iranian city of Bushehr by the end of the year.

Russia is helping Iran build its first nuclear power plant as part of a program Iran says is purely peaceful. The United States and Israel say it is meant to develop atomic weapons.

Officials in Russia and Iran had previously announced plans to switch the reactor on this year. But that was cast in doubt last month when reports quoted the head of the Russian company building the plant as saying there had been problems with financing.

22 July 2009

* Regional trend: Israeli-Syrian normalization

The Israeli-Syrian negotiations are unlikely to gain much traction in the coming quarter. The Israeli government is too fractured to form a coherent policy on the issue and will focus its attention on the Iranian threat while it has an opportunity to nudge the United States into taking a harder line on Tehran. Before Israel commits to any negotiations with Syria, it will first want to see what comes out of Syria's diplomatic engagements with Washington and Riyadh.

Syria will have its hands full in the coming quarter. Damascus laid the intelligence groundwork last quarter to reassert its influence in the newly-elected Lebanese government. The Syrian regime created a diplomatic opportunity from Lebanon's elections by carefully balancing its support between the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition and the Western- and Saudi-backed March 14 coalition. Syria does not mind if Hezbollah is limited to being in opposition. In fact, it gives Syria a chip it can use with Washington and Riyadh: that Damascus deserves hegemony in Lebanon since it can demonstrate Hezbollah's (and by extension Iran's) political containment.

Saudi Arabia and the United States are cautiously pleased with how Syria handled the Lebanese elections and will send their ambassadors back to Syria in the next quarter to give Damascus the diplomatic recognition it so earnestly seeks. Syria conducts such negotiations in piecemeal fashion, however, and will resist pressure to make any definitive moves, such as
breaking publicly with Iran and Hezbollah. Syria's slow-going rapprochement with Saudi Arabia and the United States will nonetheless add a great deal of strain to Syria's already rocky relationships with Tehran and Hezbollah.


* The global recession and the Middle East

Most of the Persian Gulf's oil economies are coping relatively well with the global economic slowdown and the resulting slump in oil prices. Smaller Gulf states with more limited cash reserves are struggling more in balancing their budgets and maintaining infrastructure growth, but regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia is well on the way to recovery and is using its windfall
revenues from 2008 to move ahead with strategic development projects, such as expanding the country's refining capacity which will allow it to move up the value chain and secure more reliable income. Iran, under the weight of sanctions and diplomatic isolation, lags far behind its Persian Gulf counterparts in developing its energy industry, but the country's economic ailments are unlikely to induce any meaningful shifts in Iranian foreign policy in the near term.

Though Turkey's financial sector was relatively insulated from the global financial turmoil, the Turkish economy has taken a beating from a slump in exports to the country's main trading partners in Europe (half of Turkey's exports are sold to the EU states). Considering that the Europeans are just now realizing the depth of their banking crisis, Turkey is unlikely to see much economic relief in the next quarter.


* Lebanon Real Estate Report - July 09

* Secrets of the relationship between Nayla Tueni and Malek

الرأي – متابعة: ثمة أمر مثير للانتباه في السياسة اللبنانية يتعلق بعمل النائبات تحديدا، فهن يتعرضن في حياتهن السياسية للشائعات اكثر من الفنانات، والشائعات التي تطالهن غالبا ما ترتبط بمواضيع خاصة(مثل العلاقة الغرامية او الزواج) لحرقهن في السياسة، ومن يتابع مسار السياسة اللبنانية خلال الأعوام الاخيرة يعرف ان "قذائف" الشائعات اصابت معظم النائبات اللبنانيات من ستريدا جعجع الى نايلة معوض وغنوة جلول والآن نايلة نويني. فقد نقلت جريدة "القدس العربي" اللندنية ان الساحة اللبنانية اليوم بخبر ارتباط نايلة جبران تويني بعلاقة حب بالإعلامي مالك مكتبي مقدم برنامج "أحمر بالخط العريض" على شاشة المؤسسة اللبنانية للارسال.
وكان خصوم تويني في الاشرفية تحدثوا عن زواجها من شاب مسلم، وكادت هذه الشائعات تؤثر على نتيجة الانتخابات. ولم تقتصر الحملات على تسريب هذا الخبر بل أبرزت صورة جواز سفر لتويني يحمل تأشيرة دخول الى المملكة العربية السعودية كتب عليها الى جانب المذهب "مسلمة".(دونت التأشيرة خطأ في الأمن العام ووظفت في السياسة).

وجاء في مؤتمر صحافي لتويني رداً على هذه الحملات "للأسف ان هناك من استغل خطأ حصل معي على طلب فيزا قدمته، حيث كتب في خانة الديانة: مسلمة، على الرغم من أني احترم كافة الديانات. فقالوا إنها خرجت عن دينها وأنها تكذب على أهلها في الأشرفية والرميل والصيفي وعلى جميع اللبنانيين. ظنوا أنني مثلهم انقلبت على ذاتي وعلى تاريخي الاستقلالي وعلى حلفاء الأمس وحتى على كل القيم المسيحية"

والواقع أن التباسا وقع فيه البعض ومن بينهم الجنرال ميشال عون الذي ظهر قبل الانتخابات على التلفزيون وهو يتكلم مع النائب سليمان فرنجية عن زواج نايلة تويني من الصحافي فراس الأمين الذي كان مستشارا اعلاميا للرئيس اللبناني السابق اميل لحود في قصر بعبدا وشوهد بجانبها في مراسم تشييع والدها جبران تويني بعد اغتياله. وكانت سرت شائعات كثيرة عن خطوبة تويني من فراس الأمين لكن هذا الأخير تزوج أكثر من مرة بعد الشائعات وهو الان يعمل في دبي. ومن قبل فراس الامين تحدثت بعض الاوساط الفنية عن علاقة تجمع نايلة تويني بالموسيقي غي ماونوكيان الذي كان مرتبطا بالمطربة الشهيرة اليسا قبل ان يحصل شباك بينمها وينفصلا. وعلمت "الرأي" ان ثمة معلومات كانت تحدثت عن تقاربها مع النائب سامي الجميل نجل الرئيس السابق امين الجميل لكن الخبر بقي في اطاره الضيق.

بعد دخولها سدة البرلمان لم تهدأ وسائل الاعلام من ملاحقة "قلب" نايلة تويني، فقد اكدت بعض وسائل الاعلام ان تويني تستعد لإعلان خطوبتهما قريباً من دون أن تغيّر دينها حيث تتجه الى عقد زواج مدني تحافظ فيه على دينها(النافل ان جدة نايلة من الطائفة الدرزية وهي ناديا تويني شقيقة النائب مروان حمادة).
وبحسب بعض المتابعين، كانت قصة حب تويني تظهرت خلال حلقة تلفزيونية يقدمها مكتبي حول تعدد الزوجات عندما تلقى هدية من "مجهولة" كانت عبارة عن ورود حمراء، وخاتم خطوبة. وقيل وقتها إن صاحبة الهدية هي النائبة نايلة تويني. ولدى سؤال مكتبي اذا كانت تويني هي صاحبة الهدية إكتفى بالقول "هناك حب في حياتي، لكن أموري الشخصية أحمر بالخط العريض". وقد وضع مكتبي الخاتم مبتسماً. ونُقل عن مصدر قريب من تويني أن ما حدث كان مقلبا دبّره عدد من أصدقاء مكتبي كانوا يشاهدون الحلقة، ومن بينهم تويني، بهدف إحراج مكتبي أثناء تقديم الحلقة.
وكان مكتبي استضاف في حلقة تحت عنوان "الفتيات المستقلات" الاعلامية نايلة تويني بصفتها المدير العام المساعد في جريدة "النهار" لتتحدث عن استقلاليتها، تحدياتها، مسؤولياتها الجديدة، وعن حياتها الشخصية. ومن هنا، بدأ الناس يحلّلون كيف ولماذا كانت تويني توافق على الظهور على شاشة "ال بي سي" في برنامج "أحمر بالخط العريض".
والسؤال اليس لنايلة تويني حواسها كي لا تعيش الحب؟

* Foreign Pipeline Plan Matters

-- Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Turkey signed an agreement last Monday in the Turkish capital Ankara that cleared a key hurdle blocking the construction of the Nabucco natural gas pipeline, designed to stretch 2,000 miles from the Caspian Sea through Turkey to Austria.

-- Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced at the Ankara ceremony that Baghdad would supply the proposed Nabucco line with 15 billion cubic meters of gas a year by 2015. That would fill half the line's capacity and start to address the project's greatest obstacle: not enough committed gas so far to make it viable.

The goal in building Nabucco is to diversify Europe's natural gas supplies by using Middle Eastern and Central Asian gas reserves that would not pass through Russia or be controlled by its Russian energy giant Gazprom. Until al-Maliki's offer, Azerbaijan was the only country considered to be a serious potential supplier to Nabucco.

Other countries with natural gas supplies -- Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Iran -- are not viable possibilities. Using Iranian gas is impossible because of Tehran's pursuit of nuclear weapons; significant political and technological roadblocks prevent getting gas from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan into a Nabucco pipeline.

This puts Iraq in the right place at the right time.

Many challenges remain before construction on the pipeline can begin. The list is long:

Nabucco still has no formally committed suppliers; al-Maliki's offer is not a firm promise. Iraq needs energy laws. And while Baghdad wants to expand its gas production, it needs foreign help. A first round of deals on participation earlier this month went poorly; there will be a second round later this year.

But al-Maliki's offer to supply half of Nabucco's gas shows that Baghdad understands it must convince governments and companies that it is serious about its energy future.

The U.S. administration can do something important to support the Nabucco project by working to make concrete al-Maliki's offer of gas for the pipeline. Just as American backing of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline (which critics said would never be built but today brings oil from the Caspian through Turkey to world markets) was crucial to its creation, Washington can play a decisive role in making Nabucco a reality.

This pipeline would have at least three benefits for the U.S. beyond increasing global gas supplies:

-- America's European allies and friends would diversify their gas supplies and not be so dependent on Russia.

-- The pipeline would be a positive development in the relationship between Europe and Turkey.

-- By participating, Iraq would take another vital step toward economic success and stability. Plus, Nabucco executives say significant amounts of gas could be available for the pipeline from Kurdish areas in northern Iraq, a possible basis for further Turkish-Kurdish reconciliation.

Getting Nabucco built and more Caspian gas flowing to world markets as part of a coherent Western energy strategy based on an East-West energy corridor has, thanks to the signing in Ankara and the far-sighted offer from Baghdad, become an opportunity for America.

President Barack Obama appointed Ambassador Richard Morningstar as special envoy for Eurasian energy in April. Morningstar, along with Sen. Richard Lugar, attended the Ankara signing. The ambassador's marching orders are now clear.

Dallas Morning News)
By Simon Henderson and Marc Grossman
Simon Henderson is Baker Fellow and director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Marc Grossman is a vice chair of The Cohen Group and a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey.

18 July 2009

* Car-Stripping on Masna3 rd, piece by piece


«إذا كنت تفكر أن أحداً لا يراك فان الله يراك ولا مفر لك من عذابه»، عبارة وضعت على أطلال ما تبقى من سيارة «رينو» «نفضها» سارقون بالكامل، ليل أمس، أثناء توقفها على الطريق الدولية التي تربط لبنان وسوريا في منطقة المصنع الحدودية. لم يترك السارقون شيئاً إلاّ ونهبوه من السيارة التي تحمل نمرة سعودية (أري 5219) وتعود ملكيتها لكارول جورج صعب بدران التي تعمل وتقيم في السعودية.

كان من المفترض أن يتم شحن السيارة يوم أمس إلى السعودية بعد أن تم تخريجها من لبنان بالطرق القانونية. وكان مكتب الشحن ينتظر تفريغ شاحنة محملة بسيارات خليجية آتية من السعودية إلى لبنان، لتنقلها إلى كارول في طريق العودة. وفوجئ السائقون وأصحاب الشاحنات المتوقفة على الحدود بعملية سرقة محتويات السيارة بدءاً من الإطارات والفرامل والأبواب إلى المقاعد والبطارية وبعض الأجهزة الميكانيكية والكهربائية وكل شيء يمكن «فكفكته». ولم يسلم من السيارة سوى هيكلها الذي تحول إلى فرجة لكل عابر على الحدود اللبنانية، شاهداً على فصل جديد من فصول السرقة التي تشهدها منطقة البقاع. وحتى أمس لم تتحرك الأجهزة الأمنية والعسكرية اللبنانية للتحقيق في الموضوع، ولم يقدم احد من المولجين بأمن المنطقة الحدودية والإجراءات الأمنية والإدارية جواباً يوضح ما الذي يحصل. 

17 July 2009

* Google Lebanon new HeadQuarter

(no comment!)

* Qaraoun fight claimed the lives of a young man and injured another

Hamza, a young sheep were killed after being hit with two bullets. This was in the town square, before the grief that hangs over the area Qaraoun, booed to the sudden death.
In the details of the incident, the argument began at the sixth night, the day before, against the background of personal, between a group of young men, one in front of stores online. But it did not stop at this point, but turned to Saddam, at different times and in the same place, similar to the hit-and-run between the two parties to the conflict. 

Qaraoun the town square has become the scene of street fighting. The reporting of rumors that the people of the town to take a political fight. Thus, as the policy of every wedding entered on-line in an incident the day before yesterday. However, there was no wedding at all. In the second quarter after ten and midnight, the conflict had reached the peak. Witnesses said: «came to the scene of the bus color white. Got him to hold two guns, and trampling feet as soon as the ground began to fire indiscriminately, killing Hamza people ». Died unjustly, and transferred to a hospital in Hamid Jeb Jenin, and wounded the young Hisham h. Shot in the head, while he was in his house.
And attended the military force of the Lebanese army, after the cease-fire, and imposed a security cordon at the entrances of the town, in the same arena which saw the death, also attended the elements of the judicial police, internal security and opened an investigation into the incident. The security official told «News», that the identity of the perpetrators has become clear to the security forces, two of the sons of the town, and believe it unlikely that the incident has no political or partisan tails, and expected to be completed at this point, in anticipation that the course of justice.
As commented in the Future Movement MP Ziad Kadiri on the subject, asking to leave the rule of law take its course, «and the lifting of political cover for the murderers, not to kill the victim and funeral Sir», a security official confirmed that, during the investigation, it was found that both the dead and wounded, nothing to do with the problematic at all, does not belong to any of the partisan trends, just fell as victims only.


* Jumblatt: Secretariat General of 14 March is in another world

If the MP Walid Jumblatt, did not notice yesterday to the absence of a representative of the Secretariat of the Group of 14 March, he commented on the statement of the Secretariat, saying: «it seems that young people in another world, had never heard of Israeli violations and if they knew that the event was to invite the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Arabs to normalize relations with Israel with what it means ». 

The Junbulat in contact with the «News», that did not submit an offer to be the Democratic Forum of Ministers of the guarantee of the opposition. But he said that things look good in terms of combinations of government, and hoped that the Co-Speaker Nabih Berri and Saad Hariri, has reached a positive thing, but added to the restoration of dialogue, Saudi Arabia, Syrian temperature.

A number of political forces had responded to the recent positions of Jumblatt, said the commander of the Lebanese Forces, Samir Geagea that there is some discontent among some grass-roots to the forces of March 14 the result of the Word of Junbulat «The vague image of the other part of the Rules».

And talk about reconciliation Junbulat Islamic Geagea said «We have Vtaatni inter incorrect that the Islamic scene is the foundation», stressing that the base in Lebanon, which is «the national scene, the most important arenas of the Islamic and Christian».

In turn, announced by Deputy Sami Gemayel, in a television interview that «the Lebanese Phalange Party, the Christian believes in partnership as the Druze believe in the overall national partnership». The «We started the reconciliation with the Attorney Junbulat since 2000 because we are convinced that prohibited the return of past tragedies and massacres, and must return the soul and life to the mountain regions and the stabilization of the co-existence, which is the basis for us». But the beautiful description of the recent talk Junbulat Balastvzazi, considering that he «will not affect the impact of strategic themes. He is trying to create tension Phalange Party absorbed ».

Gemayel, Jumblatt called on to «stop the provocation, and talk about the Islamic and non-Christians as if we were to map the Lebanese and the defense of Lebanon does not need to Christians, so asking them to put an end to these attitudes as they affect the public in particular», not wishing to be attitudes Junbulat price for rapprochement with Syria.
The beautiful «We will continue to absorb the Junbulat limits unless on the basis of 14 March in the relationship with Syria and the weapons of Hezbollah and the Palestinian presence. The problem is not in convergence with Junbulat, we call upon Syria to normalize relations with it, but we want to address the outstanding issues between the two countries first ». In response to a charge Junbulat Palanazali, Gemayel said that «they were those who wanted to call to defend the sovereignty and independence of their homeland, so Palanazali».

He revealed that he had received the Attorney beautiful security agencies information about the security threat is paid to take security precautions a few days ago and drew attention to his movements.


15 July 2009

* Three Years Later, The Core Issues in Lebanon Remain Unsolved

Three years have passed since the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pointed out this week that the cease-fire which ended the war on August 14, 2006, remains fragile. The core issues which triggered the fighting remain unresolved. Since the guns fell silent, both sides have been busy seeking to learn the lessons of their successes and failures, on the assumption that another round is at some stage inevitable.

For Israel, the war served as a wake-up call that a new chapter in the Arab-Israeli conflict had begun.

In the two decades prior to 2006, the main focus of the IDF ground forces had been on counter-insurgency in the West Bank and Gaza. The result was that the IDF's war-fighting capabilities grew rusty.

The reports of the committee headed by Judge Eliyahu Winograd were harshly critical of the performance of both the political and military leaderships during the war. Winograd noted a failure to understand and internalize the requirements of war, as opposed to those of low-intensity operations. His reports were critical of the setting of unrealistic goals by the political leadership, the pursuit of goals in an unsuitable way (for example through excessive reliance on air power and illogical and half-hearted use of ground forces), and the lack of readiness of some IDF units.

The result, he concluded, was that the war represented a "great and grave missed opportunity" for Israel. The decay in some parts of Israel's defense structures that the 2006 war revealed derived from a misapplication of resources. This, in turn, was the result of a conceptual failure.

The faulty pre-war conception held that Israel was unlikely to be called upon to engage in conventional warfare in the foreseeable future. There was an accompanying belief that future wars would involve mainly air power and small groups of highly trained specialists on the ground. The 2006 war, however, ended the notion that the Arab-Israeli conflict was engaged in a long process of gradually winding down. It lifted the veil on a new mutation of the conflict, in which Islamist forces, armed, trained and aided by Iran, are engaged in a long war strategy of seeking to inflict a "death by a thousand cuts" on Israel.

But despite the failures of the Israeli military and political systems in the 2006 war, the results were hardly a ringing success for Hizbullah and its Iranian masters. The movement sustained very heavy casualties (over 500 men killed), and the loss of a large amount of sophisticated and costly Iranian equipment - most importantly, the Zelzal and Fajr missile systems destroyed by the IAF at an early stage of the war. The south of Lebanon was decimated, and efforts by Iran and Hizbullah to rebuild the damaged areas have proved sluggish and inefficient. The terms of Security Council Resolution 1701 significantly complicated the movement's deployment south of the Litani River.

Hizbullah went on to significantly overplay its political hand as a result of the war. The movement imagined it could translate its self-proclaimed "divine victory" into increased political power, and engaged in a series of adventures which saw it turning its guns on fellow Lebanese, and attempting to bring down the government in Beirut. The results of last month's elections showed the discontent of many Lebanese at Hizbullah's desire to turn the country into a front line in an Islamist war to the death with Israel.

Since the Second Lebanon War, both sides have been preparing for the next round. The performance of the IDF in Operation Cast Lead showed that Israel has internalized some of the lessons outlined by Winograd.

The Gaza operation saw a better integration of political and military objectives, and a far more logical and effective use of ground forces. Hamas's leaders believed that they would be able to maintain a level of attrition that would force Israel back. They were wrong.

Hizbullah, meanwhile, is rearming. The movement is now thought to possess 40,000 missiles north of the Litani. It has tripled the number of C-802 ground-to-sea missiles in its possession, is attempting (reportedly with some difficulty) to recruit and train new fighters, and has created an anti-aircraft unit.

The northern border, three years after the war, is pastoral and quiet. The quiet is deceptive.

Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah admitted that had he known the Israeli response to the kidnappings that began the war, he would never have carried them out. The result of this miscalculation, we are told, has been stronger Iranian supervision of their Lebanese proxy.
Hizbullah's creator and most enthusiastic backer - The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps - is emerging as the victor in the power struggle under way in Iran. Hizbullah is a key asset for Iran in its ongoing bid for regional hegemony. The larger struggle of which the 2006 war was an episode is still under way.

The reactivation of the northern front at some time in some future turn of events thus remains likely. The most meaningful form of remembrance of the dead of 2006 is in ensuring that when that time comes, the systems tasked with defending Israel are properly prepared and properly led.


* Israeli warships in Suez are latest signal to Iran

It would be exaggerative to say that the sight of Israeli naval vessels sailing the Suez Canal is nothing unusual, and such passages in recent months have caused considerable interest in the international community.
    The latest reported journeys through the canal were confirmed on Tuesday by Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit. At least one of the vessels making the journey was a Saar class missile-carrying frigate, one of Israel's most advanced. Earlier this month, the Israeli navy confirmed that an Israeli submarine traversed the canal in June.
    Some Israeli analysts suggested the fact that the passages among the news headlines was a clear attempt by Israel to show Tehran that Israel is serious in its military intentions and will not tolerate a nuclear Iran.
    Officially, the Jewish state said that it is simply trying to cut out any weapons smuggling to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. However, this also has an Iranian dimension, as Israel has long been claiming that Iran is arming Hamas.
    An Iranian ship was torpedoed off the Sudanese coast in April, according to the Egyptian media. The ship was reportedly filled with arms and headed for Gaza. Various claims were made as to who was behind the attack, but there was a distinct feeling that Israel played a major role in the operation. Likewise, it is believed that Israeli aircraft was behind a strike against an arms convoy in Sudan in January, reported local daily Ha'aretz.
    Israeli ships have occasionally traversed the Suez since Israel and Egypt signed a peace agreement in 1979. Israeli naval vessels based in the southernmost city of Eilat on the Red Sea coast need to sail the canal in order to return to naval headquarters on the Mediterranean Sea coast.
    What is different this year is the media attention these journeys generated. It is unclear whether details of the journeys are being released by Israel, Egypt, the United States or any other player, but the effect is what is important, according to Zvi Mazel, a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt.
    "First and foremost, it shows that Israel and Egypt have a good, discreet dialogue concerning all events in the Middle East, especially terror, the Palestinian issue and clearly Iran," said Mazel.
    News of the sailing came as the international community continues to disagree as to how to proceed in talks with Iran over its nuclear program. Israel's official position is that it favors talks and sanctions, yet there is a definite school of thought in Israel that supports the idea of a military strike against Iran's nuclear installations.
    U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden made what appeared to be a faux pas two weeks ago during an interview with an American TV program. Biden said it was not for the United States to dictate what other countries should or should not do when they are "existentially threatened." A day later, a State Department official clarified that Biden's comments were not a "green light" for an Israeli strike against Iran.
    Egypt is also very concerned by the Iranian threat. It said that it has successfully thwarted various efforts of the Iran-backed Hezbollah organization to launch attacks on the Egyptian soil. In April, Cairo said it busted a Hezbollah cell that, among other things, was planning to attack ships in the Suez.
    It is not clear whether the alleged cell was intended to attack randomly on all traffic or to target American and Israeli ships.
    The international intelligence community believe that Hezbollah could not operate without approval from Iran, particularly when it was not on its native Lebanese soil.
    If Iran was behind the cell, which had at least 25 members, then the events in April were just the latest in a series between Tehran and Cairo since Iran's Islamic Revolution, which took place in the same year with the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement.
    Iran accused Egypt of selling out when the latter signed the Camp David agreement with Israel. Egypt is also perceived as the leading nation in the Sunni Muslim world, which is at odds with Shiism, which dominates in Iran.
    Iran is becoming the glue that binds Israel and the Arab world. There were reports earlier this month that Saudi Arabia has agreed to allow Israeli jets to fly over its airspace should Israel decide to attack Iran. Riyadh denied the claim, but this is also a sign that the Arabs and Israelis have realized that they now have a common enemy.
    Noting that the Iranian threat to the Arab world has its roots in the 1979 revolution, Mazel said that Iran has a clear policy of spreading its Shiite influence across the region. It began working in Lebanon, but Iran wants to see its proxies controlling much of the rest of the Middle East, he said.
    This week's passage through the Suez by two Israeli warships is in itself not that significant, but coupled with all the other developments in the region, particularly those surrounding Iran, the reportage of Tuesday's sailings is a highly significant joint message from Israel and Egypt. These one-time enemies are united in their belief that the international community needs to take the Iranian threat seriously; if not, at least one regional player will be forced to act alone.


04 July 2009

* Paris Hilton in Beirut

Paris Hilton arrives to host a party in Beirut, dances and autographs.


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.