Monday, November 27, 2006

Monday Nov 27th 2006 Early Morning Roundup

The Daily Star - Politics - Iran ready to help US in Iraq - if troops withdraw:
Iran ready to help US in Iraq - if troops withdraw

Compiled by Daily Star staff (Lebanon)
Monday, November 27, 2006

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Sunday Iran was ready to help the United States and Britain in Iraq but only if they pledged to change their attitude and withdraw their troops. The remark comes amid growing calls for Washington to engage Iraq's neighbors, Iran and Syria, to help prevent Iraq plunging into civil war.

"The Iranian nation is ready to help you get out of that swamp [in Iraq] on one condition ... you should pledge to correct your attitude," Ahmadinejad said in a televized speech to a parade of the Basij religious militia. ...

Will Turkey Seize Northern Iraq?:
Will Turkey Seize Northern Iraq?
By Hakan Ozoglu

Hakan Ozoglu is the Ayasli Senior Lecturer in Turkish Studies at the University of Chicago.

The fate of Northern Iraq or Iraqi Kurdistan promises to be one of the most sensitive issues that will affect the stability of the region. The political future of these Kurdish districts is of grave importance for the Turks. The Turks suspect a hidden agenda of the Iraqi Kurds and the Coalition Powers, an agenda that might ultimately culminate in the creation of a Kurdish state. The Turks would consider this ill fated, for such a state would “indisputably” endanger the national security and territorial integrity of Turkey by inspiring its own Kurdish population to secede. On the other side of the border, Kurds consider a Turkish interveEarlyntion as a direct threat to Kurdish hopes for a self-rule. Any conceivable conflict between the Turks and the Kurds is also a source of anxiety for the US, as the Bush administration hopes to tranquilize the region lest the old rivalries re-surface and destabilize the Middle East even further. The US is in an awkward position, as it needs the assistance of the two groups whose aspirations are diametrically opposed to each other.
Print Story: Australia's only Iraq war casualty shot himself by accident: report on Yahoo! News:
Australia's only Iraq war casualty shot himself by accident: report

40 minutes ago

The only Australian soldier to be killed in the Iraq war shot himself by mistake while joking around with friends, a military inquiry has concluded, according to media reports.

But the family of the dead soldier, Private Jake Kovco, whose name was earlier this month inscribed on a monument to Australia's war dead, angrily dismissed claims her son had been "skylarking" when he died.

Mystery has surrounded the death of Kovco, 25, since he was shot and killed by a gunshot wound to the head in his barracks in Baghdad on April 21 this year.

But the official board of inquiry into his death concluded that the soldier did not commit suicide and was not murdered, but instead failed to realise that his nine millimeter Browning pistol was loaded, The Australian newspaper said.

Military case: latest British soldier casualty in Basra named — injurywatch:
Military case: latest British soldier casualty in Basra named
from Injurywatch - compensation and injury claims specialists in the UK
by Murdo Maguire — last modified 26-11-2006 01:54

Involved, or know something we don't? Call us FREE on 0800 066 99 07 to tell us more about this story...

A British soldier who died after an operation in the southern Iraqi city of Basra has been named by the MoD.

Sergeant Jonathan Hollingsworth of the Parachute Regiment was injured while carrying out a "search and detention" operation. He was shot during the manoeuvre and was taken to a nearby military hospital, where he later died.

[snip]

The UK has 7,200 troops in the south of Iraq, mostly stationed in and around Basra.

Berlusconi collapses at political rally | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited:
Berlusconi collapses at political rally


· Ex-PM in intensive care with heart irregularity
· Hopes of running in next general election fade

John Hooper in Rome
Monday November 27, 2006
The Guardian

The former Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, was in the intensive care unit of a Milan hospital last night after collapsing at a political rally with what was called a minor heart complaint.

Mr Berlusconi fell to the floor with his eyes closed, 40 minutes into his closing speech to a rally of young supporters in the Tuscan town of Montecatini Terme.
Independent Online Edition > Robert Fisk:
Robert Fisk: 'I think there are enough weapons for the next war'
In his diary of a week which saw yet another assassination, our man in Beirut reflects that the present violence in Lebanon creates longings for a supposedly peaceful past
Published: 26 November 2006

Sunday 19 November

To Khiam, in the far south of Lebanon, to photograph Israeli bomb craters in which a British scientific team say they have found traces of enriched uranium. Spanish troops - along with Indian soldiers - now patrol this dangerous corner of Lebanon, and their UN vehicles hum past us as we drive under a white-bright winter sky.

All of this has a screen of irrelevance over it - journalists writing yesterday's story for tomorrow's paper - as the dangerous political war between supporters of the Lebanese government - Sunni Muslims and Christians - and the pro-Syrian forces opposed to it, especially the Shias, employ increasingly incendiary language. The Shia Hizbollah's leadership demand an end to the democratically-elected Fouad Siniora cabinet, set up after the murder of the ex-prime minister, Rafiq Hariri, last year. The Christians are calling Hizbollah fascists. Tomorrow the cabinet is supposed to sign up to the new UN tribunal to try suspects for Hariri's murder, even though all six Shia ministers (largely pro-Syrian, of course) have resigned.

Monday 20 November

Sure enough, Syria's faithful Lebanese president, Emile Lahoud, claims the cabinet is constitutionally unable to approve the UN's tribunal, which just might point a finger at Emile Lahoud himself.

My driver, Abed, mourns for the French mandate of Lebanon under which he was born. The French, according to Abed, provided a respite between the brutality of the Ottoman Empire - Abed's father was taken from his young bride only days after his marriage to fight for the Turks against General Allenby in Palestine - and the corruption of post-independence Lebanon.

I am not sure I agree with Abed. The French cruelly suppressed riots in Sidon with troops from Senegal and resisted independence. But in these fearful, sectarian days, it's easy to see how the grand boulevards built by the French, the Parisian cafés and boutiques - all exquisitely restored by Hariri after the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war (150,000 dead, no less) - has become a useful myth, an oasis of colonial peace between Oriental massacres.

I visit the BBC office in the city centre to record an interview and talk to their Beirut correspondent, Kim Ghattas. We talk about the demand of the Hizbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, for Shia street demonstrations, and I tell her I fear there will be another political assassination soon. I name two Christian leaders who might be murdered and whose killings could unleash the ghost of the civil war.

Tuesday 21 November

Pierre Gemayel shot and wounded. Minister for Industry. Maronite Christian. I remember my conversation with Ghattas - the two prominent Christians I had identified to her did not include the young Falangist MP. But I should have written about my general suspicions in this morning's Independent. I have 38 minutes to write more than 1,250 words. Pierre Gemayel, son of ex-president Amin Gemayel, nephew of murdered ex-president-elect Bashir Gemayel, uncle of Bashir's murdered two-year-old daughter Maya. Unmarried. Driving almost alone. Three gunmen. The hospital pronouncing him dead. The sixth prominent political figure to be slaughtered in 20 months. How many more before we hear gunfire?

Wed 22 November

Beirut's newspapers are filled with pictures with Gemayel's weeping mother Joyce ("those bullets ripped his face to bits") and his wife Patricia (he was married - I got four phone calls today to point out my error). Drive to the scene of crime. There is Gemayel's Kia in the road, still filled with blood, still backed into the van into which it rolled after Gemayel was shot.

An Australian journalist, Sophie McNeill of SBS Television, is counting the number of bullet holes in the driver's cab (around 12), like a police constable - and probably making a better job of it than the real Lebanese cops, who wander among us, giving totally different accounts of the murder. Five killers in all, it seems. Didn't even wear masks.

McNeill suggests we call a telephone number on the side of the damaged van - the driver must have seen the gunman when Gemayel's car crashed into him. "Our office is closed today," says the recorded voice. "We will be open tomorrow." Like Lebanon.

To Bikfaya, where the dead man's body lies in a closed coffin (yes, his face was indeed shot away). Thousands of Christians - and Sunni Muslims and Druze - in black. No shouting. No calls for revenge. Yet.

Thursday 23 November

Half a million? 250,000? Crowd figures are as reckless here as in London or Washington. There are few Shia. I can think of only six who are attending this massive service for the dead at St George's Cathedral, which stands next to the great Hariri mosque - and one of these is the Speaker of Parliament.

I had asked Rudi Polikavic to come with me, an old Christian militiaman opposed to the Falange in the civil war, with the scars of three bullets on his neck and arms. I receive a call from a friend, Amira Solh, who is with another Al Arabiya crew, asking where I am in the crowd. "I am on the mosque side of the church," I shout, and Polikavic collapses with laughter. " Fisky," he roars, "that really is the story of Lebanon. Aren't we are all now 'on the mosque side of the church'?" Later, Rudi will listen with growing horror to ex-Christian militia leader (and convicted murderer) Samir Geagea, as the crowd applaud what sounds suspiciously like a call for retaliation.

Amin Gemayel, Pierre's grieving father, who so honourably urged restraint rather than revenge in the immediate aftermath of his son's murder, has told a TV interviewer that assassination may now "move to the other side...". Does that, perchance, mean the Shia "side"? This is war-war, not jaw-jaw.

Friday 24 November

Shopkeepers have refused to close for a Chamber of Trade strike, called to protest at the congealed politics of the country's leaders. Hizbollah has postponed its street demonstrations until next week. But Shias blocked the airport road to express their anger at funeral speeches insulting Nasrallah.

Saturday 25 November

I fly out of Beirut for a brief trip abroad. Lebanese army vehicles stand in the darkness beside the airport road, their occupants' cigarettes glowing in the night. Most of the army are Shia. What are they thinking as they drag on their cigarettes?

My flight soars over the dawn Mediterranean and there below me are two German warships, tiny grey arrows sliding through the ocean on UN duty to hinder maritime arms traffic to Hizbollah. But I think Nasrallah has quite enough weapons for another war. With good reason, I check my return ticket coupon to Beirut.

War Whore Alert
Needed: A Big Stick - washingtonpost.com
Needed: A Big Stick
Iran and Syria are waging war in the Middle East. Will the West fight back?

Sunday, November 26, 2006; Page B06

ONE WAY TO understand the deteriorating situation in the Middle East is to contrast last week's assassination of Lebanese Christian leader Pierre Gemayel with the response to it. The assassination was a shockingly audacious attack on Lebanon's democratic forces and their U.S. and European allies. But those Western governments remain in a profound muddle about how to address Iran and Syria, which have been fomenting the destabilization of Lebanon, Iraq and the Palestinian territories.

The killers of Mr. Gemayel have not been identified and may never be. But the attack fits snugly into a pattern of provocations across the region by Iran and Syria, which appear to believe that American reversals in Iraq have given them the opportunity to create what Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad calls "a new Middle East" -- one in which their influence and radical ideology will predominate. They would make their client Hezbollah the power broker in Lebanon, restoring Syrian suzerainty. They would use Hamas to block any progress toward an Israeli-Palestinian settlement and perpetuate a continuing, if low-grade, war on Israel. And they would continue to bleed the United States by supplying insurgents in Iraq with arms and sanctuary. Iran meanwhile presses ahead with its barely disguised nuclear weapons program: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently promised to increase the number of centrifuges enriching uranium from the current 328 to 60,000.

In response to this bold bid for regional hegemony, the United States has apparently resolved . . . to intensively negotiate with itself and its chief European allies about how it might "engage" Mr. Ahmadinejad and Mr. Assad. Should a U.S. ambassador return to Damascus, once the uproar over Mr. Gemayel dies down? Should the administration drop its demand that Iran obey a U.N. resolution ordering it to suspend enrichment before talks can begin? While the debate goes on, the Western effort to sanction Iran for its nuclear program is stalled and all but forgotten. No punitive action against Syria is even being discussed.

Those most focused on rescuing the Iraq mission -- such as the Baker-Hamilton study group -- are most interested in the engagement option. We, too, have supported including Iran and Syria in a regional diplomatic initiative to promote an Iraqi political accord. But it's vital to keep in mind that such an effort has a low probability of ending the bloodshed in the near future, even if all parties cooperate.

What's more, no attempt to reason with Mr. Assad and the Iranian mullahs will succeed unless they perceive that the United States and its allies wield sticks as well as carrots. As long as the Bush administration is unable to win U.N. Security Council approval for sanctions against Iran -- or impose them through an ad hoc coalition -- Tehran will have no incentive to make concessions. Mr. Assad will demand that the West concede him Lebanon and call off the murder investigations that would likely implicate him -- unless he worries that his failure to cooperate will result in fresh international sanctions against Syria.

Iran and Syria are ruthlessly waging war against Western interests in the Middle East. Offering to talk is only a small part of what it will take to stop them.

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