Hezbollah then Iran

It seems that:

A top State Department official informed Congress on Thursday that Iranian cadre were training Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon.

step one

Gary Leupp interestingly notes:

I also want to believe that, following the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s advice, the governments of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan will request the removal of U.S. bases from their territory. The local rulers of these former Soviet republics in Central Asia were willing to help out against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan but now seem anxious about U.S. use of their soil for an attack on Iran. Russia is heavily invested in Iran’s nuclear industry, while China needs its petroleum.

But the U.S. is applying pressure. Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said “It looks to me like two very large countries were trying to bully some smaller countries.” Rumsfeld has echoed that, stressing that the U.S. makes agreements with nations, not the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Yesterday Rumsfeld was back in Kyrgyzstan, suddenly, for the second time in four months, obviously concerned about the issue of Manas Air Base. Newly elected president Kurmanbek S. Bakiyev, who while campaigning for office called for an end to the U.S. presence, says his government will “do its best to avoid spoiling relations with Washington.” In any case, the U.S. presence in Azerbaijan (not a SCO nation) may be important for war making purposes. Scott Ritter wrote last month that in “Azerbaijan, the US military is preparing a base of operations for a massive military presence that will foretell a major land-based campaign designed to capture Tehran.”

Meanwhile, my pessimism deepens as I read an online excerpt from an article by Philip Giraldi, in the American Conservative. It indicates that:

(1) the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) has been asked to draw up concrete, short term contingency plans for an attack on Iran, to involve “a large-scale air assault employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons” and

(2) that Vice President Cheney’s office has specifically told the Pentagon that the military should be prepared for an attack on Iran in the immediate aftermath of “another 9-11.” That’s “not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States,” notes Geraldi.

step two

US-Israeli relations reach rock bottom

The US is asking for a written apology by Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz over the Chinese Arms sale according to Ze’ev Schiff in Haaretz:

The U.S. wants to see Knesset legislation enacted within 18 months tightening oversight of military exports, and is demanding a memorandum of understanding be signed. The U.S. also wants a written apology from Israel and Mofaz.

And according to Aluf Benn in Haaretz:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is demanding that Naor Gilon, head of the political department at the Israeli embassy in Washington, be interrogated in connection to the Pentagon spy case.
It is possible the FBI will also want to interrogate other Israeli diplomats in connection with Pentagon analyst Lawrence Franklin, an Iran expert under investigation for allegedly passing classified documents to Israel via the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
(…)
The demand to investigate Gilon’s role and possibly also that of other Israeli representatives is the clearest indication that the Americans believe Israel is involved in the Franklin case, which until now has been presented as an internal American affair.
It is also another stumbling block in the ties between Israel and the United States, which have grown less close since President George W. Bush was elected for a second term. The Franklin affair comes on the heels of a crisis between the two countries over Israeli sales of arms to China.

Baby steps… and the FBI is slowly doing it!

Iran revisited

I wrote an article on some of Iran’s challenges. It is very brief but comes from the heart.

How Bush is planning to invade iran

Michael Klare remind us of the obvious in the Nation:

there is no evidence that President Bush has already made the decision to attack Iran. But there are many indications that planning for such a move is well under way–and if the record of Iraq (and other wars) teaches us anything, it is that such planning, once commenced, is very hard to turn around. Hence, we should not wait until after relations with Iran have reached the crisis point to advise against US military action. We should begin acting now, before the march to war becomes irreversible.

The interesting new faces of "Islamic" groups

At last they reveal their true face:
I would predict more nuances of that sort are likely to emerge. And I would not be surprised to see more political maturity evolve across the Middle East and across movement labeled as “Islamists”:

The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, Saturday denounced the explosions in Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh resort as harming the region’s interests.
Hamas said in a statement in Gaza the three blasts in the busy Red Sea resort “damages the security and stability of our countries and harms our national and Islamic interests and causes, especially the Palestinian cause.”
Three powerful blasts rocked Sharm el-Sheikh after midnight, killing at least 75 people, including tourists and Egyptians, and injured more than 120 others.
Reports said an al-Qaida organization claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Hamas insisted that “the real battle is with the Zionist entity, which is the only beneficiary from inciting problems on our lands and region.”

New heights reached in Chinese and US relations

First, a report published by the Pentagon that basically points China as a dangerous entity “well-beyond Taiwan”. AP writer Robert Burns has a good summary of the current China-US stakes.
I guess this came as a reaction to the Chinese general Tour de Force of a couple of days ago.

Second, Washington is successfully countering CNNOC’s bid for UNOCAL by having Chevron raise the bidding amount.

Third, the US is helping India acquire “civilian nuclear energy”. As would put it Howard LaFranchi of the CS monitor, US is helping India becoming a counterforce “to a rising and problematic China”, doing away with plans to regulate the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
May I remind the readers that when Iran is seeking to acquire “civilian nuclear energy”, the stakes of the game are significantly different…

strangely, neoconservatives are already showing hints of their long-term agenda concerning Asia. Max Boot has a radical column in the Los Angeles Times accusing China of using a well-known strategy, that not coincidentally enough, that Al-Qaeda tried to use:

different approaches include financial warfare (subverting banking systems and stock markets), drug warfare (attacking the fabric of society by flooding it with illicit drugs), psychological and media warfare (manipulating perceptions to break down enemy will), international law warfare (blocking enemy actions using multinational organizations), resource warfare (seizing control of vital natural resources), even ecological warfare (creating man-made earthquakes or other natural disasters).

Cols. Qiao and Wang write approvingly of Al Qaeda, Colombian drug lords and computer hackers who operate outside the “bandwidths understood by the American military.” They envision a scenario in which a “network attack against the enemy” — clearly a red, white and blue enemy — would be carried out “so that the civilian electricity network, traffic dispatching network, financial transaction network, telephone communications network and mass media network are completely paralyzed,” leading to “social panic, street riots and a political crisis.” Only then would conventional military force be deployed “until the enemy is forced to sign a dishonorable peace treaty.”

This isn’t just loose talk. There are signs of this strategy being implemented. The anti-Japanese riots that swept China in April? That would be psychological warfare against a major Asian rival. The stage-managed protests in 1999, after the U.S. accidentally bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, fall into the same category.

The bid by the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Co., to acquire Unocal? Resource warfare. Attempts by China’s spy apparatus to infiltrate U.S. high-tech firms and defense contractors? Technological warfare. China siding against the U.S. in the U.N. Security Council over the invasion of Iraq? International law warfare. Gen. Zhu’s threat to nuke the U.S.? Media warfare.

This is interesting. Because it shows readers how ideologies are used to create the existence-of-an-enemy logic. From radical Islam to China there is less differences than one would think if the goal is to come up with a coherent enemy.

China is angry

Meanwhile somewhere very far away, a Chinese general is not so happy about American behavior and has threatened to use nuclear weapons if the US tries to confront China over Taiwan:

China is prepared to use nuclear weapons against the US if it is attacked by Washington during a confrontation over Taiwan, a Chinese general said on Thursday.
“If the Americans draw their missiles and position-guided ammunition on to the target zone on China’s territory, I think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons,” said General Zhu Chenghu.
Gen Zhu was speaking at a function for foreign journalists organised, in part, by the Chinese government. He added that China’s definition of its territory included warships and aircraft.
“If the Americans are determined to interfere [then] we will be determined to respond,” said Gen Zhu, who is also a professor at China’s National Defence University.
“We . . . will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all of the cities east of Xian. Of course the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds . . . of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese.”
Gen Zhu is a self-acknowledged “hawk” who has warned that China could strike the US with long-range missiles. But his threat to use nuclear weapons in a conflict over Taiwan is the most specific by a senior Chinese official in nearly a decade.
However, some US-based China experts cautioned that Gen Zhu probably did not represent the mainstream People’s Liberation Army view.
“He is running way beyond his brief on what China might do in relation to the US if push comes to shove,” said one expert with knowledge of Gen Zhu. “Nobody who is cleared for information on Chinese war scenarios is going to talk like this,” he added.
Gen Zhu’s comments come as the Pentagon prepares to brief Congress next Monday on its annual report on the Chinese military, which is expected to take a harder line than previous years. They are also likely to fuel the mounting anti-China sentiment on Capitol Hill.
In recent months, a string of US officials, including Donald Rumsfeld, defence secretary, have raised concerns about China’s military rise. The Pentagon on Thursday declined to comment on “hypothetical scenarios”.
Rick Fisher, a former senior US congressional official and an authority on the Chinese military, said the specific nature of the threat “is a new addition to China’s public discourse”. China’s official doctrine has called for no first use of nuclear weapons since its first atomic test in 1964. But Gen Zhu is not the first Chinese official to refer to the possibility of using such weapons first in a conflict over Taiwan.
Chas Freeman, a former US assistant secretary of defence, said in 1996 that a PLA official had told him China could respond in kind to a nuclear strike by the US in the event of a conflict with Taiwan. The official is believed to have been Xiong Guangkai, now the PLA’s deputy chief of general staff.
Gen Zhu said his views did not represent official Chinese policy and he did not anticipate war with the US.

Syrians were trying to uncorrupt Lebanese

But eventually failed. Apparently Syria gave preferential rates on Gaz to Lebanon so as to help in the electricity sector but this never changed anything because some Lebanese were still corrupt enough to refuse the deal.
So if anyone tells me that corruption comes from Syria should leave intellectual inquiry for good.

Check out Sibylle RIZK’s “Boutade” that appeared today in L’orient le jour:

La réforme ? Elle était impossible tant que Damas se mêlait de nos affaires. C’est en tout cas le postulat le plus fréquemment entendu à Beyrouth. Pourtant, au détour d’une information, on apprend que la Syrie avait octroyé au Liban des conditions préférentielles pour lui livrer du gaz : le mètre cube lui était concédé à des prix nettement inférieurs à ceux du marché. Jusqu’à ce que Damas décide récemment de suspendre cet accord, au motif que Beyrouth souhaite remettre en cause l’ensemble de ceux qui le lient à la Syrie, les jugeant léonins par nature.
La réaction syrienne n’est certainement pas charitable, de même que le blocage prolongé des camions libanais aux frontières. Ce qui devrait pousser les autorités libanaises à multiplier les efforts pour tenter de rétablir de meilleures relations économiques avec leur voisin.
Mais la question n’est pas là. La livraison de gaz syrien aurait permis depuis des années à Électricité du Liban de réaliser des économies substantielles, évaluées à 150 millions de dollars. Brûler du gaz au lieu du gasoil aurait compensé environ le tiers de ses pertes. Des solutions étaient à portée de main, mais, curieusement, personne ne les a saisies. La faute à Damas ?
Tant que l’on restera dans cette logique, aucune réforme ne sera possible. Les Libanais sont passés maîtres dans l’art de se défausser de toute responsabilité. De la dette publique aux accidents de la route, en passant par l’absence de réseaux d’égouts, ou encore le coût record de notre système de santé… rien ne serait imputable à la légèreté de la classe politique libanaise. Quoi qu’il en soit, depuis qu’elle a recouvré sa souveraineté, elle devient en tout cas redevable de ses actes envers les citoyens. Certains cherchent du côté de Paris, Washington ou Ryad de quoi alléger le poids de cette responsabilité. Espérons que, cette fois, ils ne trouveront pas d’oreille complaisante.

US-Israeli conflict of interests

Ze’ev Schiff has taken the issue of the Chinese arms deal to a higher level by openly criticizing American foreign policy as being discriminatory with regards to the case.
What had to happen finally happened… Now that Israel has a strategic and comparative advantage in manufacturing military weapons of all kind, nothing trying to hinder this expansion of economic opportunity will be accepted.

Specially Designated Nationals

*****THIS POST WAS SUPPOSED TO BE SIGNED BY DAVIDOVICH*****

The U.S. Treasury Department has begun the process of freezing the assets of both Ghazi Kenaan and Rustom Ghazali. Both have been deemed Specially Designated Nationals, pursuant to an executive order from last year.

I remain unaware of the extent of the US assets of either man, but one imagines the move to be little more than a rare combination of diplomatic brinkmanship and the heavy plodding of a US federal agency.

Still the move reminded me of something I have always thought and which has come to mind given recent developments in Lebanon.

Of course, terms like pro-Syrian and Opposition are pretty useless in trying to describe Lebanese politics. More importantly, I think it is likely that a detailed account of Kenaan’s own experience in Lebanon as both overlord and 24-hour telephone operator would demonstrate just how useless such terms are now and have always been.
I think perhaps the classic study of Lebanese politics over the last 25 years will come when someone sits down and compares the Lebanon notes of Kenaan and Uri Lubrani. I think only then will we get a real sense of how things happen in Lebanon. Just a quick thought.