"Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid" - Ronald Reagan

New York

New Lebanon War?

From Amir Taheri.

IS Syria preparing to seize the opportunity provided by the global financial crisis and the US presidential campaign to invade Lebanon?

For the last week or so, Syria has been moving heavily armed elite military units to the Lebanese border - with up to 25,000 massed there by early last week. Backed by tanks, armored vehicles and attack helicopters, the units were on "maximum war footing," eyewitnesses say.

Damascus says the build-up is a response to smuggling rings that run the black market in the Syrian capital and major provincial centers. My Lebanese contacts call that explanation "laughable" - noting that Syrian elite itself runs the black market in both countries through the security services.

The buildup covers only the northern portion of the Syria-Lebanon border, leaving the eastern portions in the hands of the Iran-financed (and thus Syria-allied) Hezbollah militia.

And Lebanese analysts say the type of force Syria is massing is better suited for a classical invasion than for chasing small and scattered groups of bandits along the border.

What will EU or America do to prevent a possible invasion?

President Assad might well be tempted to remedy his humiliation in 2005, when he was forced to withdraw his army from Lebanon after 29 years of occupation.

If so, he may well be eyeing a brief window of opportunity right now. America is preoccupied by the financial crisis and the presidential campaign. And Europe, led by Sarkozy, has just committed itself to rehabilitating Syria and doesn't want to jeopardize the supposed gains of its "positive dialogue" with Damascus.

Turkey would be in no position to criticize a Syrian incursion into Lebanon - Turkish forces have repeatedly entered Iraq, ostensibly to hunt down Kurdish rebels. And Russia - grateful for Syria's support in the recent war with Georgia - wouldn't frown at a Syrian move to topple the pro-Western regime in Beirut. Israel, politically paralyzed and possibly heading for early elections, is in no position to oppose a Syrian invasion.

So far, Syria's military gesticulations on the Lebanese border haven't elicited warnings from the United States or the European Union, encouraging the hard-line faction in Damascus that is pressing for a "return to Lebanon."

For a full read, click here.

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Assad warns North Lebanon has become base for extremism, poses danger to Syria

From The Daily Star.

Syrian President Bashar Assad told the head of Lebanon's Journalists Union Melhem Karam Monday that North Lebanon had become "a real base for extremism and constitutes a danger for Syria." Syria denounced the bomb attack in the restive Northern Lebanese city of Tripoli Monday that killed five soldiers, two days after a deadly car bombing in the Syrian capital.

"Syria condemns the terrorist and criminal act which targeted Lebanese soldiers and civilians," a Syrian official said, according to the state-run SANA news agency.

"Syria expresses its solidarity with brotherly Lebanon in the face of parties who are undermining the country's security and stability," the official said.

A few days ago, Syria deployed forces along the northern Lebanese border. One wonders if Syria will unilaterally go into northern Lebanon to "assist" Lebanon with it extremists in northern Lebanon and just stay in Lebanon since they are there?

For a full read, click here.

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Report: Syria Deploys Troops On Lebanese Border


The Lebanese daily Al-Mustaqbal reports that Syria has massively deployed army troops on the northern part of its border with Lebanon.

It was also reported that the main force is positioned in the Al-Dabousiya area, overlooking the nearby border crossing.

Sources in the region assessed that judging by the earthworks and tents, the move is not temporary.

Things that make you go Hmmmm.

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Profile: General Michel Suleiman

From the BBC.

The head of Lebanon's army is regarded by the country's rival political factions as a relatively neutral figure, and in times of political crisis he has been credited with keeping the army on the sidelines.

He has called on the 56,000-strong army to ignore politics and "listen to the call of duty".

Until relatively recently, Gen Suleiman kept a low public profile.

With his election as President, profiles are good to have. One thing about President Suleiman is he is considered neutral with regards to March 14 forces and Hezbollah. However, when it comes to the Lebanese Army, he is no neutral. He will continue to build the Army which is what is needed to keep Hezbollah at bay.

For a full read, click here.

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Lebanon's "300"

From Walid Phares writing for the Counterterrorism Blog.

While the West is busy living its daily life, a beast is busy killing the freedom of a small community on the East Mediterranean: Lebanon. Indeed, as of last week, the mighty Hezbollah, armed to the teeth with 30,000 rockets and missiles and aligning thousands of self described “Divine soldiers” has been marching across the capital, terrorizing its population, shutting down media, taking its politicians and the Prime Minister as hostages, and looting at will. The hordes of Lebanon’s “Khomeinist Janjaweeds” have conquered already half of the Middle East’s cultural capital, Beirut. As I have reported before, Hezbollah has occupied West Beirut and has since sent its storm troops in multiple directions to resume the blitz.

Lebanon is falling to Hezbollah slowly and surely.

For a full read, click here.

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ANALYSIS: Syrian-Israeli contacts worry Iran, Hezbollah

From M & C.

'Will there be another war this summer?' is a question frequently heard in Arab capitals these days....

Secret, indirect peace talks between Syria and Israel - held since April 2007 with Turkish mediation and publicly confirmed by Turkey and Syria for the first time last week - make no sense at all in this context. Or do they?

Arab commentators conjecture that Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is negotiating with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over the return of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights in order to break Syria's tight embrace with Iran, Israel's archenemy.

A commentator from the pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat wrote that by concluding a peace treaty with Syria, Israel could 'strike Iran in the middle of the heart' and also weaken Hezbollah, which is said to be still getting Iranian weapons via Syria.

If this peace treaty is successful, Assad would get the Golan Heights back, end international isolation, and possibly stave off any further investigation of the Rafik Hariri murder. Israel would get a peace treaty with a as yet unfriendly neighbor to the northeast which would theoretically also weaken Hezbollah in Lebanon resulting in a secure north. There exists a lot of win-win in this agreement for both sides. The fact that a deal has not been struck between the two parties has probably less to do with the benefits both sides would gain from a treaty then the distrust of each of the participants for the other side.

The treaty with Syria would allow Israel to focus on the Iranian nuclear issue without worrying about attacks from the North since Syria would theoretically not violate a new agreement and risk loosing the Golan Heights again. In turn, Hezbollah's power would be greatly reduced without a big brother resupplying them. We need not forget the fact that while Hezbollah did a good job of thwarting an Israeli offensive, they themselves never went on the offensive. Specifically, Hezbollah is a purely defensive entity. The only thing they could do to Israel is fire a whole bunch of rockets into Israel. Doing so without Syrian support would be risky. Once Israel finished with Iran, they could turn their Air Force back onto southern Lebanon.

Undoubtedly, Iran knew these negotiations were ongoing which begs the question. What was their reaction? Amir Taheri reported earlier that PM Maliki did not move into Basra on the offensive, but it was instead a defensive maneuver aimed at limiting Iranian consolidation of power in the south. If true, Iran's reaction was to consolidate power across Southern Iraq extending the Persian reach to Jordan in its quest westward towards the Mediterranean. If successful, this advance would have surely reduced the likelihood of Assad negotiating a peace with Israel. However, it proved unsuccessful. Iran is now weakened and within a few weeks, we hear of secret negotiations between Syria and Israel. In addition, attacks against Iranian sponsored groups, namely the Mahdi Army, continue in their strongholds of Sadr City and Basra, further weakening Iranian efforts across Iraq.

Turkey is not only a mediator, but it is an active participant as it cleans up the PKK problem in the north. While no state in the region wants a fully independent Kurdistan, one which is part of a greater Iraq is less threatening and acceptable for not only states, but apparently the Kurds also. Complete independence for Kurds can be something worked out in decades to come.

Last December (2007) PM Maliki's government signed a "memorandum of agreement" with the Kurdish and Sunni leaders which layed the groundwork for the continuation of PM Maliki reign after national elections in 2009. His recent action into Basra not only further consolidated his power in Iraq with the Kurds and Sunnis, but also limited Iranian influenced control in the South which is why the Sunnis just came back to the government.

Currently, Iraqi diplomats are in Iran proving to the government Iranian sponsored unrest in Iraq. While Iran can continue to deny, the fact that Iraqi officials are showing the Iranian leaders what proof they have is significant in and of itself. It shows the international community, and more importantly Sunni dominated countries bordering Iraq in the Middle East, that while Iraq will be Shiite dominated from now on, it will not be a puppet of Iran. Why is all this important?

In order for a Shiite led Iraq to persist for decades to come, the Iraqi leadership has to show its neighbors it is not a puppet of Iran else it will be in constant conflict with its Sunni neighbors, most notably Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, and Turkey. Preventing Iranian control in the south clearly showed Sunni neighbors this fact which is why Iraqi Sunnis shortly afterward returned to the government. Showing Iran directly further proves this point, not to Iran who knows darn well what it is doing in Iraq, but to Iraqi's Sunni neighbors. The uncertainty of continued US presence in the region is only intensifying this diplomacy since that the US sponsored surge has allowed the Iraqi government the breathing room to consolidate power and grow its Army to defend not only its borders, but its interior.

I have stated before The Battle of Basra completely changed the dynamics in the region. The new dynamics are now starting to show themselves. Iran is becoming further isolated which is what all Middle East players wanted. Iraq is showing its independence from Iran and is building up its future role as a mediator between Sunni dominated governments and Iran in the future. No government, not even an uncommitted US has the military to take over Iran; hence, the only way to prevent further confrontation in the Middle East is to continue diplomatic pressure on Iran to further isolate it, just like Syria for the last few years. Syria, seeing the writing on the wall, is closer to peace with Israel in hopes of resecuring control of the Golan Height.

The sacrificial lambs in these latest developments are the Mahdi Army, Hezbollah, the PKK, and Al Qaeda. The beneficiaries are a stable democratic Iraq, a stable democratic Lebanon, a stable Turkish southern border which is doing a banner business with the Kurdish north who can focus its efforts on getting into the EU, a Syria which will be allowed back in the international community, Saudi Arabia and Jordan which no longer have to worry about a strong extremist salafist movement within their borders or a strong Shiite Theocracy in the east, and finally a free-independent Israel which can in the near term focus on Iranian nuclear aspirations and then later on an independent West Bank now that it has a new peace treaty with a former unfriendly neighbor, Syria.

While none of this could have been planned in March 2003 when the United States went to war in Iraq, it was a major tenet of the Bush Doctrine that a democracy in the heart of the Middle East would lead to a more friendly and stable Middle East. If even half of the above comes to pass, the invasion of Iraq would have accomplished its objectives.

The trouble makers of the Middle East will have been tamed. Iraq was made into a democracy. Syria is being turned away from Iran. Iran is being further isolated with not only enemies on its borders, but now US friendly enemies on its borders. Israel is seeing more friendly neighbors in a democractic Lebanon, a peace wanting Syria, and a Saudi government who, below the scenes, is cooperating with them against terrorists. Saudi Arabia is also able for the first time to confront Wallabism as intellectual turbulence created by a violent Al Qaeda has Muslims the world over wondering how they created a force which kills not only fellow Muslims but also innocent women and children. Simultaneously, the Great Satan, the United States, has gained international respect since it is shouldering the military burden of cleaning up the mess which was the Middle East.

Not a bad two terms for President Bush to say the least. The battles currently ongoing are either part of World War IV, continuing battles of the Cold War, or the final battles of World War II, but that is for another article. Whichever proves to be correct, it is why I have always stated that we are doing the Lord's work in with military operations Iraq and Afghanistan and diplomatic operations in the Middle East. Thank God President Bush had enough faith to not listen to defeatist liberals who wanted to pull defeat from the jaws of victory and defiantly executed a surge of forces in Iraq which again, by everything above, has been a resounding success, not only for Iraq, but the greater Middle East, which by the way, was exactly what was intended as part of his Greater Middle East Initiative, which most pundits would say failed, or has it.....

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Israel begins largest-ever home-front emergency drill

From Monsters and Critics.

With fears of Iran's nuclear programme very much in mind, Israel embarked on its largest-ever home-front emergency drill Sunday, meant to simulate responses to war and other emergency situations, such as a large-scale terrorist attack.

The operative part of the five-day drill, dubbed 'Turning Point 2,' will begin Monday and will include, among other scenarios, simulated missile attacks on towns in populated areas.

For a full read, click here.

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Cairo official: Gaza Strip conflict serves Syrian interests

From Haaretz.

According to Egyptian sources, the heads of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, currently based in Damascus, are the only ones authorized to make a decision regarding a cease-fire with Israel, and it is possible that the Syrian government is behind the failure of truce negotiations thus far. "All the evidence points to the fact that Syria wants to divert attention from Lebanon and point the spotlight on Gaza," the Egyptian official said.

"The current escalation [of violence] in the Palestinian arena serves the Syrian interests," they said, explaining that the embarrassment caused by continuing violence in Gaza to Arab Leaders may prompt the Arab nations to send high-level representation to the upcoming Arab summit hosted by Syria later this month, after having threatened that state leaders will not attend if Syria continues to interfere in the political crisis in Lebanon.

For a full read, click here.

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USS Cole and Hizballah

From the Counterterrorism Blog.

On February 28, the USS Cole was deployed off the coast of Lebanon. Ostensibly, the presence of the warship is intended to demonstrate Washington's ongoing commitment to the democratically elected pro-West government vis-à-vis the Hizballah-led opposition and ally, Damascus. Hizballah and Syria are currently preventing presidential elections in Lebanon; the office has been vacant since November 2007....

Senior Hizballah officials have described the USS Cole as "a threat." In October 2007, Hizballah officials threatened that if US troops ventured onto Lebanese soil, they would be treated as “occupation forces” and attacked. UNIFIL has been attacked three times since its deployment in 2006.

Even more significant than it being any warship is the fact it is the USS Cole which was attacked by terrorists in a boat in a Yemeni port in October 2000. If that does not help in showing America's resolve to a democratically elected Lebanon, nothing will.

For a full read, click here.

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Mugniyah behind establishment of Mahdi Army

From Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal.

Imad Mugniyah, the senior Hezbollah military commander who was killed in Syria earlier this month, helped form the Mahdi Army, the military wing of the radical Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr, according to an Iraqi intelligence official. He was described as a “co-founder” of the Mahdi Army, Naharnet reported, based on a translation from the Iraqi daily Al Zaman.

Mugniyah helped form the Mahdi Army after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in April 2003. He recruited from the Shia communities in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and then sent the recruits to Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley for training. “The 300 fighters were trained on the use of assault rifles, booby-trapping and kidnapping operations,” the unnamed intelligence official told Al Zaman.

Another excellent analysis by Mr. Roggio.

For a full read, click here.

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Iran: Slain Hezbollah military chief's widow points the finger at Syria

From Adnkronos International.

The wife of assassinated militant leader Imad Mughniyeh, claims that Syria was behind the killing of her husband, reported Alborz, a pro-Iranian government source.

Her husband, Imad Mughniyeh was killed in a bombing in Damascus on 13 February and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, Syria and Iran have blamed Israel for assassinating him.

Mughniyeh was the intelligence chief of Hezbollah's secretive military wing, the Islamic Resistance. "

The Syrian traitors assisted in my husband's murder," said the wife.

Very Interesting.

For a full read, click here.

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Why was Mughniyah so important?

From Al-Ahram Weekly.

The Americans described Imad Mughniyah as one of the deadliest enemies of the United States. Even before 9/11, he had more American blood on his hands than any other militant in the world. Many in the Arab world had not heard of him before because he never gave interviews or speeches, and changed his appearance several times through plastic surgery to avoid Israeli reprisal. The Americans had a $25 million bounty on his head, and he was on the FBI's most wanted list. Mughniyah was accused of masterminding the April 1983 bombing of the US Embassy and six months later the bombing of the US Marines Barracks in Beirut during the days of Ronald Reagan.

Ms. Fielder continues,

This is when Mughniyah became good friends with Nasrallah, who was two years his senior. Robert Baer, an ex-CIA official who has been tracking Mughniyah for years, commented: "This is a personal loss for Nasrallah. They are basically the ones who made Hizbullah."....

In 2006, he is believed to have played a part in the border operation that led to the capturing of two Israeli soldiers, an act that triggered the latest war between Hizbullah and Israel....

Many in Lebanon believe that Mughniyah was killed by the Americans because in recent months he had been operating out of Basra with the aim of re- structuring the Mahdi Army in Iraq. He had been charged with revamping the troops of Muqtada Al-Sadr into a more disciplined military force, modelled after Hizbullah. This might explain why Sadr has been calling for repeated freezes on activities of the Mahdi Army, with the aim of filtering and fine-tuning the troops into a Hizbullah-like force.

All around, Mughniyah was a bad character who was responsible for the deaths of several innocent people. If the above story is correct, his death will not only hurt Hezbollah, but will have stymied the formation of the Madhi Army into another Hezbollah type organization.

For a full read, click here.

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Was Syria involved in Mugnieh's death?

From the Middle East Times.

February 12 marked a point against radical Islam. The killing of Hezbollah's mastermind and legend, Imad Mughnieh, in Damascus should be considered a great victory. The death of one of the most sophisticated and bloody terror masters that had been in "business" for 25 years makes the world a much better place, commented a U.S. State Department spokesman. The question remains: who is ultimately responsible for this?

Increasingly, it seems that maybe Syria was behind the attack. Indeed, on Feb. 17, Mike McConnell, the director of National Intelligence, told Fox News: "There's some evidence that it may have been internal Hezbollah. It may have been Syria."

Olivier Guitta provides an interesting arguments about why Syria would want Mughnieh dead.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraq Sadr declare 3day mourning for Mughniye

From Alsumaria.

Spokesman for Cleric Moqtada Al Sadr Salah Al Ubaidi announced that Sayyed Al Sadr has issued a statement in which he declared three-day mourning in Sadrist bloc offices in Iraq for the martyrdom of Hezbollah military commander Imad Mughniye who was assassinated on Tuesday due to a car bomb explosion in the Syrian Capital, Damascus. Al Ubaidi added that Al Sadr Bloc condemns the assassination and reject it completely.

If this declaration does not express where Al Sadr's loyalties ride, nothing does. While Sadr has withdrawn from the government, put his militia into a cease fire, and is undergoing training to become an ayatollah, he is only biding his time awaiting for US forces to withdraw from Iraq. Afterwards, his organization is wanting to mirror Hezbollah in Lebanon.

However, unlike Hezbollah, the Badr Organization is a strong pro-government militia that is currently keeping and will keep his organization in check.

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Mughniyah's Assasination

From the American Thinker.

When the news reported that Imad Mughniyah was assassinated I was stunned. This is equivalent to killing Bin Laden. Except that locating and successfully executing an attack on "Mughsy" was a much more difficult task.

To say he had a heightened security posture would be the understatement of the year. He is/was the mythological equivalent of the unicorn, something that has always been talked about but never actually seen. To illustrate this point, most of the pictures Mughniyah were taken very early in his life (his late teens/early 20s... he is now roughly 45). He was vital to Iranian interests in Lebanon because he was someone the Iranians could depend on to execute Tehran's will. He demonstrated that back in 1983 when he orchestrated the Marine Corps Barracks bombing. He was vital to Hezb'allah because of his trusted status with Tehran and the weapons, finance, and training they provided.

For a full read, click here.

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Hezbollah terrorist leader Imad Mugniyah killed in Syria

From Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal.

Imad Mugniyah, the leader of Hezbollah’s military wing and a senior officer in Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, was killed in yesterday’s car bombing in Damascus, Syria. Mugniyah was behind multiple terror attacks against US, Israel, and other nations, and most famously the 1983 Beirut suicide attacks which killed 241 US Marines and 58 French paratroopers. Hezbollah has confirmed Mugniyah’s death....

An excellent examination of this terrorist is provided by Mr. Roggio. It is a must read.

For a full read, click here.

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Becoming an Ayatollah: The New Iraqi Politics of Moqtada al-Sadr

From the Jamestown Foundation.

As a political and military force, Iraq’s Shiite Sadrist movement has undergone a number of radical transformations since 2003, when its leader, Moqtada al-Sadr, surprisingly emerged as a leading political figure. Al-Sadr’s recent decision to continue with his seminary studies and graduate as an ayatollah at the conservative seminary school of Najaf underpins a major change in the movement’s structure that could have serious repercussions for the future of Iraq. Against the backdrop of changing political alliances between Kurds and Sunnis, al-Sadr is transforming his movement into a new political phenomenon with implications for the country’s political structure and security dynamics. The consequences are also immense for Shiite Iraq, posing serious challenges to the conservative clerical establishment in Najaf.

Once an ayatollah, Sadr would be able to wield a large amount of power in Iraq and also receive a lot of money in the future. While in the short term, Sadr realizes he cannot regain power due to his inability to directly confront the American military, he is now looking longterm in Iraq. The article notes,

With Hezbollah of Lebanon serving as a model for the new JaM, the result could be an impressive, newly equipped and armed military force, unlike its origin as a populist militia with limited abilities

For now, Sadr will contain his militia as he continues his studies in the effort to fill in the void left by Sistani who will not live forever. It is notable that many Shiites in Lebanon also follow the teachings of Sistani much to Nasrallah's dismay. Both he and Sadr are looking to fill his void in their respective countries.

Once can only hope that democracy will become pre-eminent in Iraq with Sadr able to influence, but not control, the forward progression of the democracy as it grows.

For a full read, click here.

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Al-Qaeda and Fatah al-Islam Launch New Series of Attacks in Lebanon

From The Jamestown Foundation.

Recent terrorist attacks targeting the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and U.S. embassy personnel in Beirut come as security measures are heightened in response to a series of assassinations and a rapidly deteriorating political crisis in the country. While UNIFIL forces have been targeted previously since their deployment under UN Security Council Resolution 1701 in 2006, the attempt to hit U.S. embassy personnel is the first attack on U.S. interests in 23 years. The targeting of foreign entities in Lebanon presents additional challenges for a country already facing a litany of threats to its own security.

For a full read, click here.

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Cleric warns of more Beirut unrest

From Yahoo/AP.

A top Shiite cleric warned Monday that violence in Beirut could spin out of control, a day after seven protesters died in rioting and clashes in the city's southern suburbs that were reminiscent of Lebanon's 15-year civil war.

But the area was calm Monday as troops patrolled and Shiite Muslims buried their dead.

Some things never make sense to me and this story is one of them. The title warns that violence that can spin out of control after seven protestors (Hezbollah supporters) were killed when they turned violent towards Lebanese troops. Yet, the day after, calm reigned. Why?

It is simple, Hezbollah and Amal leaders, wanting to force March 14 forces hand, attempted to incite a riot. Seven of their supporters were killed. It is of special note that no other group had dead supporters implying the Lebanese Army took well aimed shots vice spraying gunfire into the crowd. How did the violence start?

A hand grenade tossed by rioters into that district, Ein el-Rummaneh, injured four people, and an opposition TV station claimed some shooting may have come from the opposing Christian side, and not only from the army.

That's right, a hand grenade was thrown at the Lebanese Army. We are not talking billy clubs or rocks, but a hand grenade. Who were two of the people killed?

One of the people killed was a local official with the Amal opposition group, Ahmed Hamzeh, who had been working with the army to reduce tensions, security officials and the party said. Another was a paramedic of a Muslim ambulance service affiliated with Hezbollah.

So an Amal opposition group leader, who had been working to reduce tensions was killed. How convenient. It would be interesting to know what he died from.

Why was a Muslim ambulance on site? Probably because Hezbollah knew they were going to start a riot and wanted emotional pictures of wounded being carted off. Unfortunately, they did not get their show as the paramedic was also killed.

Yet today, there is calm. There is calm because the riot did not go down as Hezbollah intended, probably except for the death of Ahmed Hamzeh. The Lebanese Army stood its ground and quelled the riot with patience and discipline. Hezbollah will definitely take notice of this fact as it seeks other methods to force the hand of March 14 forces for veto power in the government.

For a full read, click here.

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Explosion rocks Beirut, 5 dead

From Yahoo/AP.

A car bomb exploded in a Christian neighborhood of Beirut on Friday killing at least five people, including a top police official who dealt with terrorist bombings and had previously been targeted, authorities said.

The blast in Hazmieh on the Lebanese capital's Christian eastern edge set dozens of vehicles ablaze and ripped a giant crater in the asphalt.

The national police chief, Brig. Gen. Ashraf Rifi, said one of those killed was Capt. Wissam Eid, a senior police intelligence official. Eid was an engineer who was handling "very important" files, including "all those having to do with the terrorist bombings" in Lebanon, Rifi said.

For a full read, click here.

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"Syria's Jihadists and Hezbollah are two arms of one body"

From Walid Phares at Counterterrorism Blog commenting on who targeted Ambassador Feltman.

Following the bombing of a US embassy car in Beirut this week many analysis were made available about the authors of this terror attack. Several thesis struggled with what they coined different and opposed possibilities. One main option being Hezbollah and the other option being Jihadi groups controlled by Syria. I argued that as long as it is either Hezbollah or Syrian-controlled Jihadists executing the operation, these two networks are two arms of one body. The decision-making process is at the "axis" level, that is Tehran and Damascus joint war room in the region.

Dr Phares cites Stratfor analysis of the attack which states it is unlikely to be Hezbollah which executed the attack, but instead believes the attack was executed by Jihadist forces. He points out that these two forces are linked.

"What is strange in the analysis is that it says that Hezbollah is unlikely to carry an attack against US target, but Jihadists controlled by Syria are very likely to do so. But these are two arms from one Terror body, the Syro-Iranian axis."

I concur with Dr. Phares. The two groups are different arms of the same body. They are all ultimately controlled by Iran.

For a full read, click here.

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A Message for Departing Ambassador Feltman

From Counterterrorism Blog.

Yesterday’s car bomb attack on a US embassy convoy in Beirut comes just days before US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman returns to Washington. The bomb, which killed three Lebanese civilians and injured dozens—purportedly at least one of whom was a host country national employee of the embassy—appears to have been intended for the Ambassador. According to press reports, the carbomb hit the wrong group of cars: Ambassador Feltman was traveling in another convoy and escaped injury.

Given the operational capabilities and extensive intelligence networks of the groups that most likely perpetrated this outrage (i.e., Hizballah, Syria, Fatah al Islam) it’s difficult to imagine that this was a failed operation. An alternative and perhaps more convincing explanation is that this attack intentionally missed the Ambassador. In this context, the bombing was intended as a message to Ambassador Feltman—who was a key driver of the robust US policy in Lebanon backing the democratically-elected anti-Syrian March 14th Government—and his successor, Ambassador Sison, who was confirmed by Congress last week and heads out to Beirut in February. Quite simply, this message is: “stay out of internal Lebanese politics.”

Lebanon is a dangerous diplomatic post for US personnel, and is increasingly becoming a dangerous locale for international deployed forces: UNIFIL has been attacked three times in the past year. The attack on the US Embassy and the increasing frequency of attacks targeting the international community are cause for serious concern. In the past, the response to these kind of developments has been for the US and the international community to draw down and scale back. Obviously, this response is what those who seek to destabilize Lebanon most want.

To counter this dangerous trend, it is increasingly important for Washington and the international community to strengthen the commitment to Lebanon. A good demonstration of this commitment would be to press forward expeditiously with the seemingly stalled UN-mandated international tribunal to prosecute the murderers of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri. Movement on the tribunal stands a chance of changing the current dynamic in Lebanon. At the very least, it would put the Syrians and their allies in Lebanon—who currently hold the initiative—on the defensive. (emphasis added)

David Schenker makes a great point. This could have been a message and should be followed up by an appropriate response. Expediting the international tribunal for the Hariri assassination should be the first step in a U.S. response.

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Iran & Hezbollah Targeted U.S. Embassy Officials in Lebanon

From Andrew Cochran at Counterterrorism Blog.

Today's bombing which targeted a U.S. Embassy car in a northern Beirut neighborhood most likely was an assassination attempt by Hezbollah and their Iranian superiors on the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, Jeffrey Feltman, or senior embassy personnel. The blast killed three Lebanese and injured a local embassy employee as Amb. Feltman was getting ready to attend farewell reception for him before his next assignment. Our special correspondent in Lebanon, "Karim," who has provided valuable information for us here before, reports, "Apparently the bombers didn't know which car in the convoy was his, this one turned off the main road, they assumed it was his and blew it up." He discounts another theory, that a judge on the Hariri tribunal was targeted: "Usually to assassinate a Lebanese judge, they would blow up his car or shoot him to send a message to others."

Retired Lebanese Col. Charbel Barakat, speaking on behalf of the World Council of the Cedars Revolution, considers this terrorist act as directed by Hezbollah's war room against the United States and Lebanese citizens. "It is an act of terror ordered by Tehran's Pasdaran against a U.S. diplomatic target in Lebanon as President Bush is visiting the region. It should be investigated by both Lebanese and international authorities." Col. Barakat warns of further terrorist attacks by Hezbollah against U.S. personnel and targets in Lebanon.

It is interesting they would choose to assassinate an ambassador who is leaving Lebanon. This would lead one to believe it was a vendeta against Ambassador Feltman, himself.

Taking a quick look at Wikipedia lends to a possible motive for the attack.

In a speech following the Israeli failed invasion of Lebanon in 2006, the "Secretary-General" of Hizbollah, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, dubbed Fouad Siniora's government in Lebanon as Feltman's Government. Nasrallah's label stressed what Hizbullah sees as Feltman's deep influence on the Lebanese government's decisions. The title of "Feltman's Government" has since been widely used among several opposition parties in Lebanon whenever referring to Siniora's government.

This assassination attempt should be thoroughly investigated. If it can be tied to Hezbollah, we should strike a Hezbollah target itself in retaliation to send a message.

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Middle East indebted to Bush

From Salim Mansur at the Toronto Sun.

This week's journey of U.S. President George W. Bush to the Middle East -- the itinerary beginning with Israel includes visits to the Palestinian territories, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt -- is greatly significant and yet, in keeping with his temper, a low-keyed affair as the last remaining months of his presidency unfold.

We likely can surmise there is one more visit to the region still to be made by Bush.

This will be a visit to Baghdad with an address to Iraq's democratically elected parliament before Bush takes leave from the White House for his ranch in Crawford, Tex.

When Bush stepped into the Oval Office -- a long time ago now it seems on that cold January morning in 2001 -- the Arab-Muslim world was furthest from his mind as it was from the minds of most Americans.

But the malignancy of the Middle East, ignored by the West and the previous occupants of the White House, would strike New York City, bringing the Arab-Muslim world's politics of fanatical hate, deep-seated resentment and a mountain of grievances to the shores of the United States.

The Arabs had squandered the 20th century just as they slept through much of the previous four centuries, while the West created a whole new world of science and democracy.

The independence won for the Arabs from the rule of the Ottoman Turks by Britain and France at the end of the First World War eventually became a cruel mockery with a people -- despite the resources and goodwill available -- incapable of lifting themselves up from the broken ruins of their tribal culture.

This is the root cause of Arab failure, and instead of embracing the modern world by reforming its culture the Arab political class has indulged in blaming others, most particularly Jews and Israel.

George Bush could have remained indifferent to the Arab-Muslim world's malignancy, mouthing pieties as members of the ever fashionable lib-left political class in the West endlessly does, while watching the Arabs sink deeper into the political squalor of their making.

Instead, Bush struck directly at the most rotten core of the Middle East -- Iraq, the land of two rivers, choked to death by the vilest of Arab tyrants in recent memory, Saddam Hussein -- to give the Arabs an opportunity one more time to make a better future.

Regime change in Baghdad has brought a new Iraq to emerge with American support despite the fanatical opposition of the most backward tribal warriors of the Arab-Muslim world.

Iraqis -- Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds -- now bear responsibility that comes with freedom to write a new history for Arabs as, for instance, the far more populous and ethnically diverse people of India are doing.

The Arab leaders greeting Bush remain frozen in their hypocrisy, unable to say publicly what they will say privately, being relieved in knowing the United States remains committed to maintaining order and security in the Persian Gulf region.

But free Iraq looms large in the capitals of the Arab states, and if Iraqis keep progressing in freedom their example will be an irresistible attraction for the Arab-Muslim world spread between the Atlantic and the Persian Gulf.

A democratic Iraq is George Bush's formidable legacy, and the Arabs will be talking about him long after his contemporary critics bite the dust and are forgotten

I could not have said it any better myself.

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Hezbollah's Billion Petrodollars

Walid Phares delivers his assessment of activities inside of Lebanon in this Human Events article. He discusses two major changes occurring inside Hezbollah.

The first change is a shift in leadership responsibilities. A report published initially in the Saudi owned Sharq al Awsat said the office of Ayatollah Khomenei appointed deputy secretary general Sheikh Naim Qassim as the new supreme commander of Hezbollah forces and the personal representative of the Ayatollah in Lebanon.

Why did Khomenei change leadership of Hezbollah forces?

They said it was in preparation for a potential massive move by Hezbollah to seize more power in Lebanon and before a possible clash with the Lebanese Government and the United Nations over the disarmament process.

Mr. Phares cites General Hajj's assassination as proof of this fact.

Sources believe the assassination of Brigadier General Francois Hajj, director of operations in the Lebanese Army was another preemptive measure ordered by the Pasdaran command in Lebanon. Hajj was slated to become the next commander of the Lebanese Army. The latter was to deploy across Lebanon and eventually begin the collection of weapons. Hence, believe the observers, a Syro-Iranian order was issued to preempt and eliminate a man who could have become the military commander to force Hezbollah to disarm.

The second major change in Hezbollah is a huge increase in its operating budget.

Hezbollah’s funding was elevated from $400 million US to $1 billion. This ballistic leap would enable the organization to crush any opponent inside Lebanon and engage in worldwide operations against Western Democracies and Arab moderates. According to experts in Lebanon, the $400 millions figure was enough to pay for hundreds of social centers and thousands of salaries enough to insure a full control over the Shia community, its representatives in Parliament and buy significant influence inside the Sunni, Druze and particularly Christian community. One hundred million dollars alone, could pay for the activities of movements opposed to the Cedars Revolution and the democratically elected Government of Seniora.

Mr. Phares notes that a billion dollars gives Iran a fleet to counterbalance the US Naval Fleet in the Middle East.

A month ago as I was participating in a cross fire program on al Jazeera facing off with a coordinator of Iranian propaganda in the Arab world, I was asked why the US maintains a Navy in the Middle East. "Where are Iran's fleets," he asked. I replied that the Iranian regime maintains land fleets. "Hezbollah's 30,000 rockets and its millions of dollars is an Iranian fleet" I answered.

For a full read, click here.

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Hizbullah Leader Nasrallah: 10 Days To Resolve Lebanon Crisis – Or Else

MEMRI is reporting that Nasrallah has given Al-Siniora's March 14 government 10 days to resolve the crisis in Lebanon or they will take,

"legitimate civilian measures, and will not promise that matters will not descend into the streets."

Since Lebanese have not been able to agree on a President, Siniora has become the defacto President in accordance with the constitution. Hezbullah wants over 1/3 of the parlimentary seats in the new government which would allow it to effectively veto any March 14 legislation. Siniora and Lebanese Druze Leader Walid Jumblatt have stated they will not give into Hezbullah's demands as it would give

the opposition the justice portfolio would endanger the establishment of the international tribunal for the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri.

The battle in Lebanon is a crucial political battle in the War on Terror. Success of the March 14 government will severely weaken Syria and Iran. Since Nasrallah is now not in charge of the Hezbullah Army, he can only conduct "civilian measures" in hopes of gaining ground, unless Kassam orders the Army into action. However, this would put Hezbullah in direct confrontation with the Lebanese Army which is deployed throughout Beruit; possibly inciting another civil war.

We will keep a watch on this area to see what develops.

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