Feltman’s response to Al Akhbar

Former US ambassador in Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman responded in the NY Times today to the allegations made in a previous article in the same newspaper on Al Akhbar about waking up every morning and getting upset after reading  Al Akhbar.

Feltman answered! There is something quite desperate in this act. Check the argument: Actually, Al Akhbar is not that heroic because it does not criticize Hizbullah’s SG Nasrallah just like Syrian Tishreen will never criticize Bashar al Assad.

Apart from the fact that no one talked of heroism, well, there is a tiny detail here: Al Akhbar is not owned by Hizbullah, and actually does criticize Hizbullah virultently. Check for example the corruption case of Salah Ezzedine. Needless to say that this point was made in the original NYT article, so what is Feltman babbling about. Does he want attention?

Does it occur to Feltman that defending or supporting Nasrallah may come from a conviction (heroic if he likes this word) that the guy is a leader to be respected, and that this probably reflects a large chunk of the Lebanese population and beyond?

From then on, Feltman’s answer loses all sense of logic and becomes plain stereotyping. Feltman confuses Western journalists, with Al Akhbar ones, lifestyle like drinking wine with political choice of supporting the resistance. This dimension is not even worth it to be explored, it has been done countless times on this blog.

And what did you know about Samir Kassir and Gebran Tueni? Just because they got killed makes them heroic? Is this how you guys work? Now that they are useless as such and can’t do much except through the way their image is being manipulated by your media, yes, they become heroic…

Besides, Feltman forgets that journalists of Al Akhbar and other press outlets as well as TV stations were killed by Israeli fire? Are these considered more or less heroic act? I guess it depends who kills or on which arena you fall.

But above all as I was saying, Feltman’s answer sounds like someone’s desperate for attention. One could hear him shout: “no, someone hear me, I am that ambassador they’re talking about, and I did not have a belly ache, they aren’t so impressive believe me!” Well, someone is angry because he was not ‘received’!

American ambassadors, they come here, don’t understand anything about the politics of the place (except through the specific ideology their administration feeds them to implement). Then they leave, still ignorant, imbued by the stereotypes they could gather from this or that dinner they had the chance to go to, wondering why their projects did not work.

Update: For a more elaborate answer, just found Angry Arab’s.

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Meow …

This report is intended solely for the official use of the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors, or any agency or organization receiving a copy directly from the Office of Inspector General. No secondary distribution may be made, in whole or in part, outside the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors, by them or by other agencies or organizations, without prior authorization by the Inspector General under the U.S. Code, 5 U.S.C. 552. Improper disclosure of this report may result in criminal, civil, or administrative penalties.

Now Lebanon is produced by Quantum Communications, some of whose contracts with the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (originally the Middle East Television Network, but renamed in 2005) are described in the OIG-DOS report sourced above. The report was conducted due to ‘irregularities’ in the contracting process.

MTN/MBN was created in 2003 by the Emergency War Supplemental under the authority and funding of the Board of Broadcasting Governors, a US government-funded ‘independent agency.’ Soon thereafter, al Hurra was on the air. It has a budget of about $100 million a year from the BBG’s total budget of about $700 million (Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Sawa, Radio Farda, Radio Free Asia, Radio Marti, TV Marti, as well as al Hurra). There may also be additional revenue streams, but I am not sure.

Quantum Communications, along with Brand Central (which also received MTN/MBN contracts), Vertical Middle East and Firehorse Films comprise the Quantum Group, which is headed by Eli Khoury, who also directs Saatchi-Levant. He is also a founder of the Lebanese Renaissance Foundation, a DC-based group that lobbies the US federal government. The LRF has paid DLA Piper about $1 million for lobbying services since 2007 (the DOJ’s very incomplete online FARA (Foreign Agent Registration Act) database includes no Lebanese principals — Brazzaville has five!).

Quantum has had a slew of corporate and government clients (Jordan, Lebanon, IDAL, etc.), so it is difficult to know how much of their business comes from the US government. Perhaps very little, perhaps a great deal.

The IOG-DOS refers only to some initial MTN/MBN contracts in 2004 worth some $4.5 million, so it is unclear how much business Quantum has done through al Hurra. Saatchi-Levant also won a State Department contract for the now-defunct Hi Magazine.

Quantum has also been engaged in Iraq. For example, it has produced a series of television ads under the name of a phantom organization, the Future Iraq Assembly. The ads are available on Youtube and are similar to ads that also ran in Lebanon. Most observers believe the spots are funded by either the Defense or State Department.

It is unclear if Quantum was involved in any contracts related to al-Iraqiya. The station, part of the Pentagon “Free Iraq Media” plan, was initially the product of SAIC and served the needs of the Coalition Provisional Authority. In 2004, however, the Pentagon awarded a new contract for Iraq media to the Harris Group, who subcontracted the work out to the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC) and a Kuwaiti media company.

Interestingly, Firehorse Films seems to have been around since the early 1990s, producing documentaries about cultural matters. Anyway, post-2003, it has produced a film about al-Zarqawi for LBC, a documentary about religious minorities in the Middle East (yes, the Maronites play a starring role) for al Jazeera, and a documentary about the life and death of Arab nationalism. While I have no idea if these productions have made up the bulk of its work, they do suggest an interesting political line, no?

Is it art, the ‘market,’ political conviction or government subcontracts that is driving demand? I just cannot say, but imagine that like most collective human endeavors, it is a mixture of all those things.

More to come on the Pravdas of the Pradas.

The same Caspit revealed last week that Obama’s chief of staff and resident Israel expert in the White House, Rahm Emanuel, referred to Netanyahu in closed conversations as a “bullshitter.

An Analysis of Obama’s Speech in Cairo …

Your map of Africa is really quite nice. But my map of Africa lies in Europe. Here is Russia, and here… is France, and we’re in the middle — that’s my map of Africa.

— Otto von Bismarck.


Fath al Islam: a quick update

Itani has a little update on the state of affairs regarding the bad guys in the north and their friends in the south, in the Palestinian camp of Ain el Helweh. I just want to point out one or two things that I think we can conclude from everything that happened pre and post the Nahr el Bared debacle.

1- Syria, Saudi Arabia, and the US voluntarily and involuntarily had a hand in making circumstances ripe for Fath al Islam and other darker versions of “Islamists” militants to emerge. Syria, by kicking “al Qaeda” elements out of its country in order to clean its landscape and throwing it back on us. the US through the Mustaqbal movement, and actually the Mustaqbal movement on its own by trying to co-opt these wild creature and try to tame their zealousness with a bit of cash and status promises, and Saudi Arabia by simply sending official delegations to Lebanon for some conference who never went back. It seems also that the international “Rafic Hariri” airport of Beirut has unfolded red carpets for many of these dudes.

2- When something happens, like a crisis or something, the stupidest thing to say is “he’s the guy responsible for it”. Even in the case of an assassination or the start of a war. What’s important is why in the first place such an event is possible and in this case political circumstances are many, are multi-faceted and at the end of the day, what counts is who gets to gain from it, and who gets to lose.

The obsession

Senior Israeli officials warned yesterday that they were still considering a military strike against Iran, despite a fresh US intelligence report that concluded Tehran was no longer developing nuclear weapons.
(…)
However, it is widely assumed that Israel would need US approval, if not cooperation, for a bombing mission. In particular, its air force would need the US flight codes that would allow its planes to cross into Iran. When Israel requested those codes in 1991 to attack Iraq during the first Gulf war, the United States refused and there was no Israeli strike.