Petrodollars going into arms purchases Israel warns

during a conference at an Israeli Think-Tank, especially Syria was pointed at:

Syria is poised to begin talks on major arms purchases in light of expectations of increased revenue due to rising oil prices, Military Intelligence chief Major General Amos Yadlin hinted at a lecture at the intelligence community’s heritage center in Glilot, north of Tel Aviv. Yadlin said larger oil producers like Iran and Saudi Arabia were also channeling their oil revenues into arms deals.

Oh and of course don’t forget that piece of information:

Some of these weapons are apparently being transfered to Hezbollah, including the array Hezbollah has deployed along the border between Lebanon and Israel. (…) Syria reportedly has pinpointed a weakness in the U.S. because of its complications in Iraq and is urging Hezbollah not to give in to the demand to disarm.

And just for you to rest assured that there is not something fishy going on:

Meanwhile, the defense establishment is closely following tensions between Jordan, Syria and Hamas.

Yet there are still some more or less interesting thoughts here:

It is also believed that the Hamas cell may have been working under orders from the Syrian regime. Yet another scenario is that Hamas is cooperating with the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, and this has Amman very worried.
Jordan’s accusations against Hamas may also be a way of justifying the cold shoulder it has given the organization since its election victory in the PA.

So either all this Hamas accusation story is a scam (US and Israeli interference, sending wrong intelligence reports, etc.) or Arab governments are really acting with great incompetence. But I wonder if it’s Jordan or Syria lighting the fire.
Any thoughts on this one friends and relatives??

Thank you Sweden

Sweden protests Israeli role in drill

Sweden withdrew from an international air force drill to protest Israel’s participation.
Sweden and Israel were among nine countries due to take part in next month’s Spring Flag air exercises in Sardinia, intended to boost cooperation for peacekeeping operations.
But the Foreign Ministry in Stockholm announced this week that the Swedish delegation would not take part because of the Israeli Air Force’s involvement.
“Our analysis of the situation for the time being is that an Israeli participation in this kind of peacekeeping effort is unlikely given the political situation in the Middle East,” ministry spokesman Christian Carlsson told Swedish Radio.

French foreign diplomacy

Hey friends and relatives,

Check out the competence of the French Foreign Affairs Minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, when dealing with Middle Eastern issues from Lebanon to Iran. This article is truely hilarious… (Thank you M.S. for referring it to me)
Just to give an example:

La presse israélienne, éberluée, l’a suivi jusqu’au musée Yad Vashem de la Shoah, à Jérusalem. Long arrêt devant une carte d’Europe qui présente chaque pays en deux colonnes figurant l’importance des communautés juives “avant et après” la seconde guerre mondiale. Le ministre français : “Il n’y a pas eu de juifs tués en Angleterre ?” Réponse gênée du conservateur du musée : “Mais, M. le ministre, l’Angleterre n’a pas été occupée par les nazis.” M. Douste-Blazy n’a pas sourcillé et a repris : “Mais il n’y a pas de juifs expulsés d’Angleterre ?”

If the political “14 of March” establishment take advice (actually orders…) from guys like that, good luck Lebanon, and for that matter good luck the Middle East!

The possible privatization of security

or the on-going distrust in the State
Something to work with dear friends, something to be wary of:
Nadim Gemayel has opened a new “house” (bayt) in Ashrafieh, as we have “houses” of Phalangist here and there in the country. It may be a benign action (Nadim fares badly relative to the leadership and mobilization skills his father Bachir had), but still what worries me is the motives behind such a move, signaling an ongoing disease in Lebanese civil society.

According to this article in Annahar, following the “attacks on Ashrafieh” that happened earlier this year, referring to the bunch of lunatics coming from the north of Lebanon to destroy the Danish consulate, Gemayel and his followers decided to take ‘appropriate actions’ in order to cope with such ‘practices’. The extent of the meaning of these terms is at best vague, but still it shows a clear distrust in the apparatus of the state as the provider of security. Meaning that, we’re back to square one. Square one meaning right before 1975.

This is should be read the same way you read that the Lebanese Forces are re-arming themselves. Other sources held that Hariri house already has a private militia. Notwithstanding private security companies here and there, and the fragile cohesion of the army, where can we head for from here?

Like in the good old days!

Iran to help Cuban oil industry

TEHRAN, April 25 (UPI) — Iran and Cuba have signed wherein the Islamic republic will help Havana modernize its oil industry, IRNA reported.
The deal, signed by Iran’s Agriculture Jihad Minister Mohammad Eskandari and Cuba State Minister Ricardo Cabrisas, in Tehran last Saturday, came as part of an economic cooperation agreement at the end of Iran-Cuba joint 11th Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation Commission, IRNA said in a Monday report.
Among other things, the two sides agreed to cooperate in building and modernizing refineries and in oil exploration activities.
Cabrisas called the meeting a “success.”
Cuba is one of the few nations in the Caribbean region to have significant oil and gas reserves, according to the U.S. Energy Department Energy Information Administration. Still, it is heavily dependent on petroleum imports from Venezuela sold at a discounted rate.
Iran has the world’s second-largest proven oil reserves, after Saudi Arabia.

That’s another reason why the US will be very determined to intervene in Iran.

Solidere in the line of fire

Finally some interesting movements in Lebanon’s dormant civil society. Solidere wanting to extend its term, and illegal foundations of its work should be researched and publicized much more oftenly.

The economy and the Syrian presence

An interesting article by Renoud Leenders (who wrote an interesting chapter of the latest edited book by Steven Heydemann “Networks of Privilege”) translated in the Lebanese daily Al Safir (cannot find the original source) assesses the link all-to-often made between economic problems in Lebanon and the Syrian presence there. He bases his analysis on the recent works of two Lebanese scholars, Samir Makdissi and Toufic Gaspard.
Although a bit vague and not very deep in its assessment of the past and current economic linkages, It still is a must read article that, once and for all, critically separates between administrative impotence and “foreign presence” in Lebanon as variables that affects growth rates and the overall level of development.

An impression of deja-vu

Look at them… don’t they look like they’re straight out of a nazi history movie?
Check how orderly they are, these docile little fascists. What about the banners on the side of the room? Remember how the Swastika use to drop down huge walls. Is it just deja vu or history repeating itself?

A little reminder of basic American foreign policy

Robert Dreyffus has an excellent article on Dick Cheney and his team, with some updates to the classical information we have on neocons and their friends:

A former official at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a pro-Zionist think tank founded by the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, [John] Hannah is a neoconservative ideologue who, after the resignation of Irving Lewis “Scooter” Libby, moved up to become Vice President Dick Cheney’s top adviser on national security.
Hannah moved instantly to undermine Abdullah’s influence. Not only should the United States not deal with Hamas, but Abbas, Fatah, and the entire Palestinian Authority were no longer relevant, he argued, according to intelligence insiders. Speaking for the vice president’s office, Hannah instead sought to align U.S. policy with the go-it-alone strategy of Israel’s hard-liners, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his stricken patron and predecessor, Ariel Sharon. Olmert soon stunned observers by declaring that Israel would unilaterally set final borders in the West Bank, annexing large swaths of occupied land, by the year 2010. His declaration precisely mirrored Hannah’s argument that Israel should act alone.
Whether that viewpoint will prevail in the United States is unclear, but early indications are that the Bush administration is swinging in that direction. Hannah’s intervention is typical of how the OVP staff has engaged at all levels of the U.S. policy-making process to overcome opposition from professionals in the State Department, the intelligence community, and even the National Security Council (NSC) itself.

And just to put things into perspective:

For the Cheneyites, Middle East policy is tied to China, and in their view China’s appetite for oil makes it a strategic competitor to the United States in the Persian Gulf region. Thus, they regard the control of the Gulf as a zero-sum game. They believe that the invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. military buildup in Central Asia, the invasion of Iraq, and the expansion of the U.S. military presence in the Gulf states have combined to check China’s role in the region. In particular, the toppling of Saddam Hussein and the creation of a pro-American regime in Baghdad was, for at least 10 years before 2003, a top neoconservative goal, one that united both the anti-China crowd and far-right supporters of Israel’s Likud. Both saw the invasion of Iraq as the prelude to an assault on neighboring Iran.

energy price hikes

this is a phenomenon (among so many others) that could result in a serious limitation to your levels of freedom my dear citizens and not some vague account of nationalistic differences. So start diminishing your liberty-hungry expectations because you misrepresented your true enemy.
At the end of the day, that’s what ideology is all about.

The Syrian National News Agency

I just love the guys working at SANA (Syrian Arab News Agency). Look at what they picked to publish on their english version website:

Portuguese, Greek Communist Parties Stress Solidarity with Syria
Wednesday, April 19, 2006 – 12:35 PM
Damascus (SANA)-
Member of the International Relations at the Portuguese Communist Party Luis Cribinia expressed solidarity with Syria and highlighted its positive role in the Middle East.
Mr. Cribinia, who is attending the General Congress of the Syrian Communist Party in Damascus, said in a statement to SANA staff writer Wednesday that the U.S. has created several problems in the region to cover up its own economic and structural dilemma.
Member of the International Relations Committee at the Greek Communist Party Nicholas Sirtakis, who is also attending the Congress, expressed in a similar statement support to Syria in facing up to foreign pressures.
He added that Syria’s stances helps boost stability and security in the Middle East and the world.
Mr. Sirtakis voiced appreciation of the development process underway in Syria in all fields, adding that his party seeks to enhance relations between Syria and Greece.

Isn’t this cute? finally Syria can rest at ease because it has some friends out there! Me, the portuguese and the greek communists support Syria and criticize the US, you can sleep now Syria and continue stagnating forever.

oil for guns

No it is not Saudi Arabia we’re talking about… but Algeria, and its new found business partner Russia.

Algeria has decided to spend some of its recent oil and gas fortunes on an array of Russian weapons including MiG fighter planes and other military gadgetry.
In return, Russia has earned the rights to Algeria’s lucrative oil and gas reserves in a deal some consider crucial to the former Soviet Union’s aspirations to become a world leader in the gas industry.

This is what I would call making friends (and relatives) in the Middle East.

Meaniwhile in Brazil…

Yes Brazil, friends and relatives, they’re enriching uranium just like our friends and relatives in Iran, although the US has declared that there doing it for peaceful purposes..
I wonder what’s the criteria to judge if a country’s violation of the treaty on non-proliferation is acceptable for ‘peaceful purposes’. Maybe because Iranian clerics have beards that cannot be trusted. but hey, Lula has a beard too!

this time of the year

Hey friends,
just to remind those who don’t live in Beirut or Lebanon for that matter that they can rest at ease: the good smells from the slaughter houses in Dora have resurfaced like every year with the coming of the spring. Right now, I am smelling the vivid inorganic remains of cows and goats while typing this post.

Does anyone know if Lebanese “statesmen” have discussed this issue during the national reconciliation rounds? I am really curious. I think that the cedar on the Lebanese flag should be replaced by the picture of a piece of cow shit, because it symbolizes much more what’s prevalent in our country. Seriously.

Lebanese media: A reflection of foolish and dangerous pride

Please check this post by Angry Arab on an article published in Annahar by Nabil Bu Munsif. He summarizes all the symptoms found in how Lebanese wrongly pictures themselves in the world.

Hamas in a dilemma

I have to agree with this Haaretz article arguing that Hamas is in an incovenient situation after the attacks performed by the Jihad.
I actually wonder how is this going to test the changing nature of Islamic political parties to new position of influence and power. Hamas will grow further apart from the Jihad that’s for sure, even if for now the prevalent division is between Fatah and Hamas.

Iran here we come

US bent towards serious confrontation.

Just added that part: Seymour Hersh’s latest article on the possible US-Iran confrontation. Contains a lot of inside information on the imminent attacks.

The deteriorating security situation in Iraq

It seems that Baghdad is getting worse than specific regions of the US!
Another devastating account of what people have come down to in order to get on with their lives. Check this out:

With chipped, painted fingernails, Nahrawan al-Janabi picked up a cartridge and slid it into the chamber.
“Like this,” she said, loading her new Glock pistol with a loud, satisfying click. “You see, like this.”
Akram Abdulzahra now keeps his revolver handy at his job in an Internet cafe. Haidar Hussein, a Baghdad bookseller, just bought a fully automatic assault rifle and has been teaching his wife how to shoot.

But they have a democracy their free! This is truely sad. Again the image of a Lebanese coming to me and saying “I was oppressed by Syrian rule in Lebanon, back from Anjar” still disturbs me.
This is oppression my friend, having to buy a gun in order to go out. Oppression is not being frustrated because your ideas and beliefs are not being mirrored in reality. The latter phenomenon to which you are enslaved and to which many Lebanese suffer from is called: “the Sequel of Propaganda”! or simply pedantic thoughts.

IDF military expert at WINEP target Hezbollah

Al Manar (Hezbollah’s information medium) has published an article on a paper written by Michael Herzog a “fellow” of somekind at the very “neutral” Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) helping us find solutions to the disarmament of Hezbollah.
The paper was removed and put back on WINEP’s website a couple of times, to be finally removed as of this date. I browsed through Herzog’s publications but could not find anything titled “The Hezbollah Conundrum”.
It is interesting to see that this Israeli military figure has exactly the same ideas than the one shared by the 14th of March forces. Freaky to say the least. This is a guy that actually writes papers titled: “Target Aid to help Hamas Fail“. Although this money could go to useful ends (not like when Fatah was in power…), the hell with it. Let’s cut it, impoverish more people just because they thought the only people that could represent them are ready to be easy on Israel.
These people are occasionally published in the Daily Star by the way. And I would not be surprised to find their articles printed in Al Nahar too.

The Chomsky case

I found Chomsky’s answer to the Walt-Mearsheimer thesis intriguing. He is very ambiguous in his response. I am now convinced that the answer is very political. Something keeps Chomsky away from giving to much importance to the Israeli lobby. My own little theory is that he does not want to create crystallized enemies. I don’t really agree with such full blown critique of Chomsky’s text, although it could contain some interesting elements.
I would more agree with the realistic accounts of a Justin Raimondo.
I especially like this part:

(…) the big problem for Chomsky and his co-thinkers on the Left is that their reasoning is dizzyingly circular. They ascribe everything to the machinations of a “corporate” cabal, but their case is stated in terms of the broadest generalities, leaving the details to the imagination.
It is the lack of details, however, that is most telling. Because wars are started not by abstract “forces” nor by ideological constructs floating in mid-air, but by individuals – not corporate entities, but specific government officials, their advisers and employees. One could say that, in the abstract, the “stovepiping” of false information about Iraq’s alleged WMD was the result of late capitalism’s moral corruption and the “class interests” of Scooter Libby, but most people would find such a formulation baffling – and it is certainly inadequate.
The question of how and why we were lied into war is a matter of fact, not ideology. Abstract “forces” had nothing to do with it: specific individuals carried out specific acts. The misinformation that was deliberately planted was produced not by decaying capitalism, but by the decayed moral sense of certain government officials.

But everything Chomsky argues shows that the Walt-Mearsheimer thesis, even if it contains specific internal argumentative weaknesses is more or less politically relevant.
Check this interview Chomsky did a year ago where he talks of the Israeli lobby in these terms:

It is impossible to give a measure to the influence of the Israeli lobby, but in my opinion it is more of a swing factor than an independently decisive one. It is important to bear in mind that it is not neoconservatives, or Jewish. Friedman, for example, is a liberal in the US system. The union leadership, often strong supporters of Israeli crimes, are protypical liberals, not neocons. The self-styled “democratic socialists” who modestly call themselves “the decent left” have compiled an unusually ugly record in support of Israeli government actions ever since Israel’s massive victory in 1967, which won it many friends in left-liberal circles, for a variety of reasons. The Christian right is a huge voting bloc, plainly not Jewish, and in fact to a significant extent anti-Semitic, but welcomed by the government of Israel and its supporters because they support Israel’s atrocities, violence, and aggression, for their own reasons. It is a varied and large group, which happens also to constitute a substantial part of the intellectual elite, hence the media elite, so of course there is ideological influence. However, these groups rarely distance themselves far from what they know to be authentic power: state-corporate power. If US government policy would shift, they would shift along with it, maybe with some snapping at the heels of the powerful, but never daring too much. That has been fairly consistent in the past, and I think there is good reason to expect similar behavior in the future. Privilege and rewards do not come from confronting power, but by serving it, perhaps with some complaints at the margins while pouring out lies and slanders against anyone who strays a few millimeters to far from doctrinal orthodoxy, a primary function of respectable intellectuals throughout history. Particularly since its 1967 victory, state power has generally regarded Israel as a very important “strategic asset,” by now virtually an offshore military base and militarized high-tech center closely linked to the US and major regional US allies, particularly Turkey. That opens the way for the ideological influence to exert itself – lined up with real power. The story is far more complex than anyone can describe in a few words, but my feeling is that the essentials are pretty much like that. That is true of domestic lobbies quite generally, in a state capitalist society with very close ties between state and corporate power, a very obedient intellectual class, and a narrow political spectrum primarily reflecting the interests of power and privilege.

Chomsky here discusses standard interest group politics that could include other than purely economic interests. This contrast with his more recent answer.

Israeli lobby paper

It seems that Noam Chomsky questioned the rigorousness of the Walt & Mearsheimer paper. Can somebody tell me why? I can’t find Noam Chomsky’s comment on it:

It is a view endorsed by journalist Christopher Hitchens, who has accused the authors of an exercise in Jewish ‘name listing’, and perhaps – most surprisingly – by Noam Chomsky, the Nobel-prize winning academic who has written on the pro-Israeli bias of the US media.

‘Recognising that Mearsheimer-Walt took a courageous stand which merits praise,’ he wrote for online magazine ZNet last week, ‘we still have to ask how convincing their thesis is. Not very, in my opinion.’

Finally somebody speaks

An interesting news amidst the overflow of boring petty political quarrels has finally made it on print. An official reminds us that banks are heavily profiting from the Lebanese debt and throws the debate of the Hariri reconstruction process back on the discussion table.
A piece everybody who call himself “Lebanese” should read.
Strange though that it appeared on the Daily Star. Not strange is the fact that nobody signed!