Saturday, March 31, 2007

Bush: Democratic delgation to Syria bad, Republican one good

Editor's note: I am moving to post at the secondary blog(also see new articles below).
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White House Official Criticizes Pelosi Visit to Syria (Update1)

By Laura Litvan and Brendan Murray

March 30 (Bloomberg) -- A White House spokeswoman denounced a plan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to visit officials in Syria as part of a trip to the Middle East.

Pelosi's outreach to a state sponsor of terrorism is a ``really bad idea,'' White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said at a briefing in Washington. ``Someone should take a step back and think about the message that it sends and the message that it sends to our allies.''

Perino's remarks come as a group of Republican lawmakers has embarked on their own trip to Syria. Michael Lowry, a spokesman for Representative Robert Aderholt, said that the Alabama lawmaker will visit Syria as part of a Republican delegation led by Representative Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican. Wolf is the top Republican on the House appropriations subcommittee that funds the State Department.

Perino wasn't available to comment about that trip.

Pelosi's office today announced that she will visit Israel and address the Israeli Knesset on Sunday, and late today confirmed the planned stop in Syria as part of the trip with five other lawmakers. Her spokesman, Brendan Daly, said that the Iraq Study Group led by former Secretary of State James Baker last year recommended that the Bush administration hold talks with Syria and Iran without conditions to help stabilize Iraq.

``As recommended by the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan delegation led by Speaker Pelosi intends to discuss a wide range of security issues affecting the United States and the Middle East with representatives of governments in the region, including Syria,'' Daly said in a prepared statement.

Perino said it was unclear whether anyone in the Bush administration has been in contact with Pelosi about her travel plans.

Others on Trip

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell went to Syria in the spring of 2003, but top-level officials have generally shunned visits there. Pelosi, who made history in January when she was elected the first woman to serve as House Speaker, also traveled to Iraq and other Middle East countries that month as part of a congressional delegation.

Pelosi's trip to the Middle East this time includes five other lawmakers, including House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, a California Democrat. One Republican, Representative David Hobson of Ohio, is also on the trip.

Baghdad Conference

Earlier this month, the U.S. attended a conference on Iraq that Syria and Iran joined. The meeting marked the first time that the U.S. has sat in Baghdad with representatives of Syria and Iran to discuss Iraq's future.

The U.S. has refused to conduct direct talks with Syria and Iran about Iraq's security, saying those governments are fomenting sectarian violence there and aiding attacks on U.S. troops. The U.S. has blamed Syria for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, and accuses it of being a state sponsor of terrorism.

The Bush administration also says Syria is backing Hezbollah, the anti-Israel Islamic political movement and militia in Lebanon. Hezbollah is listed by the State Department as a terrorist organization.

To contact the reporter on this story: Laura Litvan in Washington at llitvan@bloomberg.net and Brendan Murray in Washington at brmurray@bloomberg.net

Last Updated: March 30, 2007 17:25 EDT

First member of inner circle to break so publicly with the Bush

The chief 2004 campaign strategist for President Bush said he was disappointed with Mr. Bush’s leadership, becoming the first member of an inner circle to break so publicly with the president.
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April 1, 2007

Ex-Aide Details a Loss of Faith in the President

AUSTIN, Tex., March 29 — In 1999, Matthew Dowd became a symbol of George W. Bush’s early success at positioning himself as a Republican with Democratic appeal.

A top strategist for the Texas Democrats who was disappointed by the Bill Clinton years, Mr. Dowd was impressed by the pledge of Mr. Bush, then governor of Texas, to bring a spirit of cooperation to Washington. He switched parties, joined Mr. Bush’s political brain trust and dedicated the next six years to getting him to the Oval Office and keeping him there. In 2004, he was appointed the president’s chief campaign strategist.

Looking back, Mr. Dowd now says his faith in Mr. Bush was misplaced.

In a wide-ranging interview here, Mr. Dowd called for a withdrawal from Iraq and expressed his disappointment in Mr. Bush’s leadership.

By JIM RUTENBERG

--MORE--

FBI chief errs on Patriot Act provision

Scary, isn't it?
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By MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN, Associated Press Writer Fri Mar 30, 7:22 PM ET

FBI Director Robert Mueller blames poor training and supervision for the bureau's Patriot Act abuses and promises new training programs. He might want to sign up for the first class himself.

Mueller misstated a key provision of the act in appealing to Congress this week for new authority that was actually granted last year.

"I think he was using old talking points," joked Georgetown law professor Viet Dinh, who drafted the original Patriot Act in 2001 while serving in the Justice Department.

The director's gaffe came during a high-stakes moment for the FBI and for him.

Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine found 48 violations of law or rules during 2003-2005 in the bureau's use of documents known as national security letters to acquire telephone, e-mail and financial records about Americans and foreigners without a judge's approval.

Fine estimated there could be 3,000 more such violations among the more than 143,000 requests for information during that period.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Mueller labored to persuade skeptical senators that they didn't need to reduce the bureau's authority under the Patriot Act to fix the problems.

He emphasized that the inspector general found no intentional violations but instead attributed them to "mistakes, carelessness, confusion, sloppiness, lack of training, lack of adequate guidance and lack of adequate oversight."

Mueller assured senators he could curb the violations by providing better training and supervision, among other steps. And he shouldered some blame himself, particularly for not instituting compliance audits to be sure proper procedures were being followed.

Then Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (news, bio, voting record), D-R.I., asked him if it would be useful to adopt some procedures used for issuing administrative subpoenas, which agents can use to demand records in health care fraud or drug diversion cases without prior judicial approval.

"I would give up NSLs for administrative subpoenas," Mueller responded. "I say that because, in the regime of administrative subpoenas, there is generally opportunity for the recipient to contest it in court, on a variety of reasons. But there also is the opportunity for the government to enforce it in court. We do not have an enforcement mechanism for national security letters."

But the reauthorization of the Patriot Act a year ago provided just such an enforcement mechanism. It said that if a company refused to deliver the requested records, the Justice Department could get a federal court order requiring compliance and contempt of court penalties for further resistance.

"He misspoke," said FBI spokesman John Miller. "He was operating on the standard that existed before the renewal where the enforcement mechanism was not clearly defined." Miller added that Mueller knows the law was changed, but "it just slipped his mind for that moment."

James Dempsey, policy director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a civil liberties group that wants prior judicial approval for the letters, thought the error undercut some of Mueller's case.

"The FBI director doesn't know the law that he's enforcing," Dempsey said. The inspector general and Mueller are arguing that this is a problem of poorly trained lower level agents, "and the guy responsible for implementing the law and the inspector general's recommendations still doesn't understand the law."

Mueller's statement would have been accurate before the Patriot Act renewal.

Although not widely known, before then, if the FBI sent a national security letter demanding records, the recipient was free to ignore the request. Not that that was a big problem.

"Only the librarians ever fought them," said Dempsey. "No bank or telephone company would say `no' when an agent comes in and says this is needed for a national security investigation."

The FBI dropped its request for records of a computer at a Connecticut library after the librarians resisted last year.

National security letters, first authorized in 1986, can be used to acquire e-mail, telephone and travel records and financial information, such as credit and bank transactions.

In 2001, the Patriot Act eliminated any requirement that the records belong to someone under suspicion. Now an innocent person's records can be obtained if FBI field agents consider them relevant to a terrorism or spying investigation.

___

On the Net:

Federal Bureau of Investigation: http://www.fbi.gov

How Palestine became “Israel’s Land”

March 30, 2007

By Sonja Karkar of Women for Palestine

For Palestinians, theirs is not the land of conquest, but the land of their roots going back to time immemorial. Such a lineage does not rely on a biblical promise like the Jewish claim that God promised the land to Abraham and his descendants, and is therefore, the historical site of the Jewish kingdom of Israel. It belongs to the people of Palestine by the simple fact of their continuous residence repeated through birth and possession going back to the earliest Canaanites and even those people living there before recorded history. They were there when the Israelites invaded the land, occupied it, and held it intermittently as wave after wave of other conquerors came and went, and they were still there when the Romans put an end to Jewish Palestine by destroying Jerusalem in 135AD. If a religious basis is sought, then the Palestinians can lay claim to being the descendants of Abraham’s son Ishmael who is regarded the forefather of the Arabs. But actually, Palestinian rights are enshrined in the universally accepted principle that land belongs to its indigenous inhabitants. Thus, the modern day struggle for this land by European Jewish immigrants who have no connection with Palestine other than through their religion is a colonial enterprise that seeks sovereignty for an “external Jewish population” to the exclusion of the indigenous Palestinians who, regardless of faith – Jewish, Christian or Muslim – have lived together for centuries.

Although eager to accept the UN Partition Plan of 1947 which recommended that 56% of the land be set aside for a Jewish State, 42% for an Arab state and 2% for an internationalised Jerusalem and its surrounds, the world has not said a word about the land that was seized by Zionist terrorists before the State of Israel was proclaimed on 14 May 1948. Through a series of shocking massacres, the territory assigned to the Jews suddenly became 77% resulting in more than 750,000 Palestinians being forcibly expelled and dispossessed of their homes, personal property and their homeland. The Jewish State then came into being without waiting for the United Nations Commission - prescribed in the Partition resolution - to hand authority progressively over to the Jewish and Arab leaders for their respective states. And after the 1948 war, Israel declared Jerusalem its capital in contravention of its internationally-recognised status of corpus separatum – a status that is still recognised. Effectively, the new state of Israel was not only created in violation of, it continued to violate, the very resolution which Israelis now look to as giving them sovereignty. The Arab state imposed by the UN Partition Plan without consultation and in contradiction to the UN charter - which should have upheld the majority indigenous Palestinians’ right to self-determination - has since been deliberately and methodically whittled away by Israel, leaving nothing but isolated non-contiguous parcels of land to some 4 million Palestinians.

Around 170,000 Palestinians remained in what became Israel, the largest number of whom resided in the Galilee area, originally a designated part of the Arab state under the Partition Plan. These Palestinians also became the victims of Israel’s land grab policy. Over 438,000 acres, which was more than the total Jewish land holdings at the time, were confiscated and a further 400,000 acres were marked for confiscation. After Israel won the 1967 war, the total territory of Palestine came under Israel’s rule. It annexed East Jerusalem, despite the Holy City’s internationally recognised status and began implementing its Jewish settlement program with a vengeance. The Palestinians in Israel were increasingly aware of their precarious position politically and declared a national strike, known as “Land Day” on 30 March 1976 against Israel’s continuing ruthless land expropriation. An affinity was quickly felt between Palestinians everywhere and “Land Day” was adopted as a sort of national Palestinian day which is commemorated by Palestinians and their supporters around the world each year. This awakening of national consciousness had an unequivocal political message: end the occupation and allow self-determination of the Palestinians in a sovereign state living in peace side by side with Israel.

Thirty-one years later, the message is till resonating, but the Palestinians are further away from seeing a solution than ever before. Daily, Israel is taking a bit of land here and a bit of land there, to make all of Palestine “Israel’s Land”. The problem then will be, what to do with 5 million Palestinians with no land? There are only a few possible, but criminal solutions - transfer, collective imprisonment, apartheid, and/or ethnic cleansing. Alternatively, Israel can disengage from the West Bank to the 1967 borders or agree on a single, democratic state for all. Without a just solution, the struggle for Palestine’s land will continue.

Russian media reports imminent US strike on Iran

Related
Brits in the Gulf and a Doctored British Map? - UPDATED
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Compiled by Daily Star staff
Friday, March 30, 2007

Russia told the United States on Thursday it must take care not to aggravate tensions over Iran with its naval presence in the Gulf, amid Russian press reports of an imminent US strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. The US Navy has this week been conducting its biggest exercises in Gulf waters for four years. The Pentagon said the war games were brought forward because of mounting tensions between Iran and Western states.

"The Persian Gulf is today in such an agitated state that any action in this region, especially one that involves the navy or other military forces, must take into account the need not to aggravate the situation even further," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters.

Al-Arabiyya reported on its Web site on Thursday that the Bush administration is preparing to launch a military operation, dubbed "The Sting," to strike 20 Iranian nuclear plants, disabling Iran's atomic program for at least five to seven years.
http://www.dailystar.com.lb

"The Unites States will launch a military operation ... on Iran starting 4 a.m. of April 6 till 4 p.m.," Al-Arabiyya said, quoting Russia's RIA-Novosti news agency.

The report said the operation will target "the hidden part of the nuclear program," launching missile strikes from warplanes and gunships, RIA-Novosti said, adding that the operation will not attack the Bushehr nuclear plant being built by Russia.

RIA-Novosti quoted an unidentified "high-ranking security official" as saying the military games could be more than flexing muscles.

"The latest military intelligence data points to heightened US military preparations for both an air and ground operation against Iran," the official said. - Reuters, The Daily Star

Avoiding Secret Testimony

March 31, 2007
Editorial

The House Judiciary Committee has begun conducting closed-door interviews with some of the key officials involved in the Bush administration’s purge of United States attorneys. The interviews may be harmless as long as they are merely a first step in the investigation. But they must not become a substitute for what this investigation really requires: sworn public testimony under oath by Karl Rove, the presidential adviser; Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel; and everyone else involved.

--MORE--

Editor's note: also see March 30th articles at the the secondary blog

And more coming up here.

The secondary blog.

See Thursday, March 29, 2007 articles at the overflow blog.

You are looking at the primary blog.

Fired blogger wins claim against former employer

Sacked "petite anglaise" blogger wins compensation claim

Fri Mar 30, 4:52 PM ET

A British secretary sacked for blogging on the job under the pseudonym of "La Petite Anglaise" has won a compensation claim case against the Paris office of British accounting firm Dixon Wilson.

A Paris labour tribunal, or "prud'hommes", ruled on Thursday that the firm pay Catherine Sanderson, 34, 44,000 euros (58,800 US dollars), tantamount to a year's salary, following her dismissal last April for alleged misconduct.

Sanderson's blog about daily life built up a sizeable international following, with many people reading her diary-style accounts about work, relationships and the travails of single-motherhood.

"I'm so relieved that good sense has prevailed," Sanderson told AFP on Friday.

The reasons behind the tribunal's decision in the case, one of the first of its kind in France, will be released in two weeks.

Sanderson said managers had discovered from reading the blog that on two occasions she had lied about having nanny problems to take the afternoon off. They also objected to her using the computer in office hours to write the blog.

"I always felt that my dismissal was an unnecessarily harsh sanction and clearly the prud'hommes shared my view,"she said.

Dixon Wilson, which offers tax and financial advice to private clients in Britain and France, refused to comment on Friday. The company has a month to appeal.

Sadr City: Tripwire to the Iraq Inferno

Related

Sadr lambasts US for Iraq woes
Sadr calls for massive anti-US demonstrations in Najaf on April 9(arabic).

Sadr City: Tripwire to the Iraq Inferno

New America Media , News Analysis, Amir Soltani Sheikholeslami, Posted: Mar 31, 2007

Editor’s Note: In an effort to bring the Iraq war to a close, Iranian writer Amir Soltani Sheikholeslami argues that President Bush has set a tripwire for a much larger one.

President Bush’s security plan for Baghdad can triggera dormant Shia insurgency that will expand the war in Iraq into Iran. Although the plan is barely a fewweeks old, there are eerie, desperate echoes of thepremature gloating of “mission accomplished” days.Once again, the administration is compensating for itsstrategic myopia with military blunders.

Forget the Iraq fiasco. Prepare for the Iraq inferno.

The troop surge has swept into Sadr city, a suburb ofBaghdad ruled by Muqtada Sadr’s Shia Mahdi army. Recently the chief U.S. military spokesman, Maj. Gen.William Caldwell, announced that Muqtada Sadr has fledIraq. Linking the war in Iraq to tensions with Iran he declared - without offering proof - that “all indications are, in fact, that he is in Iran.” With a Shia population larger than that of Lebanon, the surgethreatens to trigger a Shia insurgency in Sadr city. This means that Sadr city is now the eastern front of the war on terror. Any abduction, assault or massacre of American troops there could serve as the trigger for launching the “Iran plan”, pre-emptive orretaliatory military strikes designed to decapitate the Islamic Republic and prevent the rising power of what the U.S. government calls “the Shia crescent.”

Simultaneous concerns make Sadr city a tripwire. TheU.S. and Iran are locked in a diplomatic impasse overIran’s nuclear program, the Arab-Israeli peaceprocess, Iran’s support for Hezbullah and Hamas, and more recently, allegations that Iran is supplying theIraqi insurgency with sophisticated roadside bombs that kill American troops. As a result, any shift, real or imagined, in regional tectonics can triggerthe Sadr city tripwire. With perception shaping facts and fear driving policy, the slightest spark in Sadrcity can get magnified into a firestorm that will burn much more than Baghdad.

Although Iranian officials have vehemently denied it, the legal justification for a military strike against Iran will be the allegation that Iranian leaders are providing a terrorist base for Muqtada Sadr and the Mahdi Army. Providing a terrorist base for Bin Ladenand al-Qaeda was the argument used to justify the invasion of Afghanistan.

Single-handedly, President Bush has converted Muqtada Sadr into a giant. A political neophyte dismissed by Iraqis as a zatut (an ignoramous), lacking religious standing or academic credentials, condemned for issuing fatwas sanctifying looting in Baghdad and suspected of the murder of Ayatollah Khoei’s son, Muqtada Sadr would not have a tongue or a leg to stand on were it not for his ability to conceal his own crimes under a vast pool of blood. After every military confrontation-- even those where the Mahdi’s army incurred heavy losses in Najaf and Karbala in 2004--he has been able to capitalize on the corpse of the dead to boost his power, popularity and prestige. Poor political and military decisions have provided Sadr and the insurgency with the arguments and ammunition—the martyrs--to undermine the legitimacy of the much cooler, albeit Iranian, Grand Ayatollah Sistani.

Frankly, it is not American troops but Ayatollah Sistani, who has kept the peace in Iraq by preventing its descent into a full-scale civil and religious war. He rejected Mr. Bremer’s plan to rule Iraq by fiat with a fatwa drawing on his religious authority to convert the price of Islamic ideals of innocence and justice into constitutional principles investing the state with a fig leaf of political legitimacy. He has stood between the US military and Iraq’s Shia majority by drawing on his immense following to put a lid on Muqtada Sadr’s extremism.

The Ayatollah ejected Sadr and his turbulent army out of Najaf with a local “security plan” that flooded the city with peaceful demonstrations. He risked his religious legitimacy and standing to sanctify a tenuous democracy and peace by facing down aggression and stupidity from all sides. Without his calls for restraint and reconciliation, everyone in Iraq—Sunni and Shia, Arab and Kurd, American and British--would be drowning under a sea of blood. He is Iraq's Gandhi, capable of transcending sectarian hatred with his spiritual authority. Yet, despite the presence of a religious figure, a Gandalf who has held not only Iraq, but life itself intact, with nothing more than the authority invested in his religious staff, President Bush appears intent on pushing the Ayatollah, Iraq and the region into a deeper abyss with his plan to have American soldiers leap into a hornet’s nest—Sadr city.

By risking a confrontation with Muqtada Sadr and Iran, the Bush administration is making Sadr city the focal point for a full scale Shia insurgency. He will trigger a civil, regional and ideological war which Ayatollah Sistani and conservative clerics in Najaf have been able to prevent. A massacre in Sadr city would permit Muqtada Sadr and his death squads to undermine the religious authority of Ayatollah Sistani and shatter the political authority of Prime Minister Al-Maliki. As the political and military base of the Mahdi’s army, Sadr city will become the seat of resistance against US military occupation. Baghdad and Basra, and quite possibly Najaf and Karbala would get drawn into an insurgency that would draw Iran and the U.S. closer to war. Without barriers separating extremists from the majority of Iraq’s Shia, the U.S.’s military and political position in Iraq would crumble. Everyone would lose.

A sudden U.S. panic attack in the heart of Baghdad is a poor substitute for a diplomatic and political transition based on a dignified and deliberate withdrawal plan that has local, regional and international support. A setback in Sadr city would present Bush with two choices: a precipitous withdrawal that would draw regional powers into open confrontation in Iraq, or a rapid regional escalation that would do to the U.S. what the invasion of Afghanistan did to the Soviet empire. Either way, Bush is leading America into another dangerous trap—a tripwire that can make faith in the dollar and democracy plummet faster than the ruble and communism.

Top Rabbi resigns for stealing ties


Brazzil Magazine
Top Brazilian rabbi resigns over allegations he stole ties
Monsters and Critics.com, UK - 10 hours ago
Sobel was arrested for a day in the United States, allegedly for stealing ties in Palm Beach, Florida on March 23, reports said. ...
Brazil Rabbi Accused of Tie Theft Hospitalized Javno.hr
Rabbi charged in thefts resigns from congregation Sun-Sentinel.com
Top Rabbi suspended for stealing ties Tarankai Daily News
all 65 news articles »

Deadliest bomb in Iraq war kills 152

By Mussab Al-Khairalla

Reuters
Saturday, March 31, 2007; 12:01 PM

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The Iraqi government raised the death toll on Saturday from a truck bomb in the town of Tal Afar to 152, making it the deadliest single bombing of the four-year-old war.

Interior Ministry spokesman Brigadier Abdul Kareem Khalaf said 347 people were wounded in Tuesday's attack on a Shi'ite area. There was another truck bomb in the mixed northwestern town on Tuesday, but it was small.

Khalaf said 100 homes had been destroyed in the main blast, which officials have blamed on al Qaeda. The explosion left a 23-meter (75-ft)-wide crater.

"It took us a while to recover all the bodies from underneath the rubble of the homes ... what did they achieve by using two tons of explosive to kill and wound 500 in a residential area?" Khalaf asked at a news conference.

The past week has been the bloodiest in Iraq since the government launched a security crackdown in Baghdad in February aimed at halting the country's slide toward civil war.

Bombings blamed on Sunni Islamist al Qaeda have killed 400 people in Shi'ite areas across the country in the past week.

Car bombs killed nine people on Saturday, police said.

Officials had earlier this week said 85 people died in the Tal Afar bombing, which triggered reprisal attacks by gunmen and police in a Sunni neighborhood of the town hours later.

Officials said earlier up to 70 were killed in the revenge attacks, but Khalaf put the number at 47. He said most of the attackers were police. Much of the force is made up of Shi'ites.

Only a year ago President Bush held up Tal Afar as a beacon of hope for Iraq after al Qaeda militants were ousted in a U.S. offensive a year earlier.

Newly appointed U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker reiterated Washington's support for Maliki's government.

"He (Bush) has been very clear and very determined that he will continue his full support for the government and the people," Crocker said in his first news conference.

"We've seen encouraging signals of progress but we have to keep moving forward."

BLAST OUTSIDE HOSPITAL

In Baghdad, a car bomb outside a hospital in a Shi'ite stronghold killed five people and wounded 22, police said. Four people were killed and 20 wounded by a car bomb in the Shi'ite city of Hilla, south of Baghdad.

Gunmen ambushed a vehicle carrying civilian workers employed at an Iraqi military base near Hawija, 70 km (45 miles) southwest of Kirkuk, killing eight and wounding two, police said. Four brothers were among the dead.

Amid fears the country is being dragged to the brink of all-out civil war, Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called for restraint on Friday, urging Iraqis not to allow themselves to be divided by "evildoers."

President Jalal Talabani said the government was talking to armed groups, although he gave no details. Iraqi officials have said in the past negotiations have been held with Sunni Arab insurgents. Such talks have been preliminary.

"There are many armed groups that have started talks with the Iraqi government," Talabani told reporters without elaborating.

Before leaving Iraq last Monday at the end of his assignment, U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said U.S. and Iraqi officials had held contacts with Sunni Arab insurgent groups to build an alliance against al Qaeda.

The Riyadh Summit

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Al-Hayat leads its Riyadh-summit coverage with this:
High-level sources participating in the Arab solidarity summit that started yesterday in Riyadh told Al-Hayat that the summit "Launched a climate aimed at reclaiming Arab "qaraar" [word meaning in this case "firm decision-making power"], which in the past had been eroded in a way that led to a multiplication of foreign interventions and allowed the initiative to fall into non-Arab hands". And the sources added: "Exchanges in the sessions and between sessions all indicated a common desire to regain the initiative in all of the open files, from Palestine to Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan and Somalia, and this involves unifying our discourse in addressing the great powers, and also in addressing the neighboring states.

This atmosphere of taking back Arab decision-making powers appeared in the opening statement [of the Saudi king] ...when he said: "When credibility returns, a new wind of hope will begin to blow over the ummah, and we will not allow powers foreign to our region to design the future of our region. No flags will fly in Arab lands but Arab flags". And the king touched on the need to end the oppressive blockage against our brothers the Palestinian people, at the earliest possible time. And he took up too the "illegal foreign occupation" of Iraq, and the "hateful sectarianism which threatens the unity of its people".
The theme of the conference, in other words, according to Al-Hayat, was a common desire to see the Arab regimes take control of strategic decision-making in the region, with the implicit admission that their credibility in this had reached a very low ebb. On this reading, the reference to the illegal foreign occupation of Iraq was not really an about-face in Saudi policy vis-a-vis the Bush administration. Rather it was part of a attempt by the Saudi king to show leadership in permitting the Arab regimes to claw back some degree of credibility in the Arab world. The king "took up" the issue of the illegal American occupation of Iraq in the same way that he "took up" the problem of "hateful sectarianism" in that country, and the need to lift the Palestinian blockade: These are problems that have resulted from foreign interventions in our region (so goes this reading); we leaders have in the past been lax in allowing openings for these foreign interventions to occur; we recognize that; and from now on we will be making our own decisions, to roll this back and make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen again. Given the fact that the "foreign interventions" can be understood as Iranian in addition to American, this isn't a theme from which policy moves automatically flow. It is a general statement of principle.


Al-Quds al-Arabi, for its part, adds to its summit coverage this:
Israeli newspaper Yehdioth Ahrunoth reported on Wednesday that the Saudi Arabia, the US and Israel have held secret meetings at which they have drawn up a new proposal for solving the question of Palestinian refugees. The paper said this includes a proposal for financial compensation for refugees displaced in the 1948 war, in exchange for their staying in the countries where they currently reside. And the paper said the proposal would permit those who didn't agree [to the financial compensation offer] to return to Palestine. And it said the US and Saudi and other Gulf states would provice multi-billion-dollar financing to improve the quality of life of those who choose to stay in the countries where they now live.
The reporter doesn't comment on the YA report, limiting himself to background on the number of refugees involved, and so on. I haven't seen the YA story referred to anywhere else.

The Al-Quds al-Arabi lead editorial says the important practical effect of the Riyadh summit has been to initiate a new stage in the process aimed at Arab-country recognition of Israel, a crucial step, the editorialist says, in laying the groundwork for confrontation with Iran "whether political or military", in his words. Specifically, on the Israel-recognition question, the editorialist says this:
If reports are true about a joint meeting of the foreign ministers of the "international quartet" with those of the "Arab quartet", along with the contending parties Israel and Palestine, then we can expect the start of an unprecedented new round of normalization [of Arab states with Israel]. This is because the Arab quartet includes two states that don't currently have relations with Israel, namely Saudi Arabia and the UAE..."
Similarly, the editorialist says, the Rice meetings with Abbas and Olmert, quite apart from any substance, have had as their aim the further creation of a climate of opinion putting Israel on the side of the Arab states ahead of an eventual confrontation with Iran.

So there you have part of the assortment of Arab views on the Riyadh summit, from the regimes pulling up their socks to regain credibility (Al-Hayat), to another step in the adoption of Israel as an ally against Iran (Al-Quds al-Arabi).

The American coverage puts all of this in kids-story mode. While King Abdullah did call the US occupation "illegal", the NYT misleadingly implies this was some kind of a policy about-face, lifting it out of its context of overall self-criticism. The more-colorful Juan Cole writes: "King Abdullah is hopping mad to talk this way...It augurs ill for US-Saudi relations....[The king] is so angry he sounds a bit like Harith Al-Dhari, who is connected in some shadowy way with the Sunni guerillas fighting the US," focusing on this as if it was meant as a specific threat to the Green-Zone government.

Applying the golden rule

Herbert C. Kelman

The Boston Globe
Friday, March 30, 2007

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts:

An early return to the Middle East negotiating table is not a favor to the Palestinians, but an urgent requirement for protecting the vital interests of both Palestinians and Israelis.

That is because the long-term survival of Israel as a Jewish-majority state, giving political expression to the national identity of the Jewish people, depends on negotiating a fair two-state solution that establishes an independent, viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, with its capital in East Jerusalem.


Herbert C. Kelman is professor emeritus of social ethics and co-chairman of the Middle East Seminar at Harvard University.

U.S. steps up campaign against Syrian government

Posted on Fri, Mar. 30, 2007
MIDEAST


McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration has launched a campaign to isolate and embarrass Syrian President Bashar Assad, using parliamentary elections in late April as a lever, according to State Department officials and Syrian exiles.

The campaign, which some officials fear is aimed at destabilizing Syria, has been in the works for months.

It involves escalating attacks on Syria's human rights record, which is generally regarded as abysmal, as well as White House-approved support for Syrian bloggers and election monitors inside and outside the country to highlight the nation's lack of freedom, the officials and others said.

The State Department in recent weeks has issued a series of rhetorical broadsides against Syria, using language harsher than that usually reserved for U.S. adversaries. On Friday, the administration criticized a planned visit there by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif..

"It's the new Cuba - no language is too tough," said one of the officials, who like others insisted on anonymity to discuss internal government planning.

The campaign appears to fly in the face of the recommendations last December of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which urged President Bush to engage diplomatically with Syria to stabilize Iraq and address the Arab-Israeli conflict. The White House largely ignored that recommendation, agreeing only to talk with Syria about Iraqi refugees and to attend a Baghdad conference where envoys from Iran and Syria were present.

Some officials who are aware of the campaign say they fear its real aim is to weaken or even overthrow Assad and to ensure that he can't thwart the creation of an international tribunal to investigate the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. A U.N. report has implicated Syrian and Lebanese officials in the murder.

The officials say the campaign bears the imprint of Elliott Abrams, a conservative White House aide in charge of pushing Bush's global democracy agenda.

The plan's defenders say the effort to support democracy and speak out against repression in Syria is no different from similar U.S. efforts aimed at governments in Cuba, Iran, Zimbabwe and elsewhere.

The parliamentary elections scheduled for April 22 appear certain to be rigged, according to experts on Syria and critics of Assad's authoritarian regime.

Almost three-quarters of the seats in parliament are set aside for members of the Ba'ath Party, which has ruled Syria since a 1963 coup, and its allies. New campaign spending rules appear designed to undercut the few truly independent candidates.

"Our objective is to have real elections in Syria. . . . It's important to get that kind of message across and, number two, to expose what's happening in Syria," said Najib Ghadbian, who's affiliated with the National Salvation Front, a loose coalition of mostly exiled Syrian government opponents. The group gets no U.S. funding, he said.

Joshua Landis, a University of Oklahoma assistant professor who studies Syria, agreed that the election outcome isn't in doubt, but said U.S. pressure will have little impact. "The problem is, America's such a discredited bully pulpit for this kind of thing," he said.

Indeed, U.S. efforts to isolate Syria received a setback at this week's Arab summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi leadership, which has ostracized Assad since the Hariri assassination, appeared to welcome him back into the fold.

Ahmed Salkini, a Syrian embassy spokesman, said, "There is nothing not free" about the upcoming elections, and he called U.S. criticisms hypocritical in light of alleged U.S. rights abuses at the Guantanamo prison.

McClatchy Newspapers is withholding some details about Syrian groups and individuals involved in monitoring the April elections because their followers could face arrest in Syria.

But a classified government document that surfaced in December proposed a covert election-monitoring effort that would be funded by a State Department-run democracy promotion program known as the Middle East Partnership Initiative. MEPI has set aside $5 million for activities aimed at Syria.

U.S. officials confirmed the existence of the document, which was first reported by Time magazine.

The document identified the U.S. government-funded International Republican Institute as a potential partner in the effort. An IRI spokeswoman declined comment this week.

At least some elements of the plan appear to have gone forward.

Several Internet sites have been created to monitor and discuss the April elections, which are to be followed in May by a referendum on Assad's rule. One, largely in Arabic, is www.transparentsyria.com.

As McClatchy Newspapers first reported last year, the Bush administration also has orchestrated meetings of Syrian opposition figures under the auspices of the Aspen Institute's Berlin offices. White House officials have met with representatives of the National Salvation Front, a broad umbrella group that includes Islamists from the Muslim Brotherhood and former Syrian Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam.

In Washington, meanwhile, the State Department's verbal attacks on Syria have gotten harsher.

On March 8, in what several officials said was an opening volley, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack issued a statement urging Assad to allow full media coverage of the elections and permit independent monitors. "The United States is deeply concerned that the Syrian regime will again fail its people by not holding free and fair elections," he said.

On Thursday, McCormack issued another statement, expressing concern over two imprisoned human rights activists in Syria, Anwar al-Bunni and Kamal al-Labwani. Al-Labwani was arrested in November 2005 after returning from a trip that included a meeting with a top White House adviser.

Israeli founding father is unmasked as British agent

Friday March 30th 2007

ISRAEL is reeling from the revelation that one of its founding fathers was a British spy who betrayed Jewish freedom fighters in the turbulent years before the state's creation in 1948.

Teddy Kollek, who later served as mayor of Jerusalem for almost 30 years, fed sensitive information to MI5 when Britain ran Palestine under a League of Nations mandate.

Evidence of Kollek's secret past has been revealed in documents discovered at the Public Record Office in Kew by Ronen Bergman, an investigative journalist working for the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

"From all the documents it is clear he worked very closely with British intelligence between 1943 and 1947," Mr Bergman said.

While there is no clear evidence that Kollek's leaks led to anyone's death, he certainly caused dozens of Jewish activists to be arrested and detained for lengthy periods.

Coming just a few months after Kollek's own death in January at the age of 95, the furore is likely to radically alter his place in Israel's national hall of fame. Additionally, the fact that his secret past has only come to light now has added to the controversy, with some commentators suggesting that the Israeli state has connived to suppress the information until he passed away. Mr Bergman explained that Kollek's decision to help the British came at a time of deep divisions among Jews trying to create their own homeland.

As the occupying power, Britain's occasionally ambivalent attitude towards the Zionist cause had led to deep frustrations, with more radical Jewish groups adopting terrorist tactics.

Kollek represented the more moderate, mainstream Zionism of the Jewish Agency, which embarked on what is still referred to as the "hunting season", when it sought to neutralise the radicals' bombing and murder campaigns.

The internecine fighting of the hunting season stirs bitter memories in Israel even today - memories that will be reactivated by the revelation.

When Kollek died in January tributes flooded in from around the world. He was praised for the 28 years he served as mayor of Jerusalem, overseeing a period of building and expansion as Israel sought to adopt the city as its capital.

Further revelations are expected when remaining papers in his personal MI5 file are declassified. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

Tim Butcher

© Irish Independent

Jerusalem church leaders call for support to end embargo

30 March 2007 | 07-0263 |

Jerusalem (ENI). Leaders of churches in Jerusalem in an Easter message have urged Christians around the world to work to end an international financial boycott of the Palestinian government imposed after the Islamist Hamas movement came to power in 2006.

SPURIOUS EQUIVALENCE: THE ABSENCE OF ISRAEL'S OCCUPATION IN THE PRESS

SPURIOUS EQUIVALENCE: THE ABSENCE OF ISRAEL'S OCCUPATION IN THE PRESS
Recently, the Glasgow University Media Group released a study suggesting that press coverage obscures, rather than facilitates; popular understanding of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This is perhaps best evidenced by the general failure of the press to describe the conflict within the accurate context of an occupation. Rather than presenting the conflict as one between an "occupier" and an "occupied," the conflict is presented as one between two equal parties with equal rights to "disputed" land that Israel "captured" in 1967.

Treasuries roiled by Iran attack report

Treasuries roiled by Bahrain rumours

By Michael Mackenzie, Tony Tassell and Kevin Morrison

Published: March 30 2007 18:10 | Last updated: March 30 2007 18:10

The US Treasury bond market swung wildly on Friday on a report suggesting the US was preparing military action against Iran.

US government bonds, a traditional haven in times of turmoil, soared on a rumour published by the Debkafile website - later denied by the White House - that American citizens in Bahrain had been advised to leave the country.

Bond prices leapt while the yield on the two-year Treasury note plunged to 4.52 per cent from 4.64 per cent as traders reacted to the report. However, yields bounced back after White House officials told new agencies that they were unaware of anything about Americans being told to leave Bahrain.

At mid-afternoon 2-year yield was at 4.58% and 10-year yield was at 4.65%

”You don’t want to go home for the weekend not owning Treasuries,” said Rick Klingman, head of rates trading at ABN Amro.

The yield on the 10-year note fell to 4.61 per cent from 4.67 per cent and was last at 4.63 per cent.

”When you throw something like that out there, you will get a reaction,” said Jim Caron, co-head of global interest rate strategy at Morgan Stanley.

Oil prices also firmed further on the report. West Texas Intermediate spiked to an intra-day high of $66.70 a barrel before sliding back to $66.45 a barrel, still 42 cents up on the day.

US equities were also buffetted. The S&P 500 index fell to an intra-day low of 1,408 before recovering to 1,415.51, down 0.49 per cent on the day.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

Related
U.S. ready to strike Iran in early April - intelligence source -1 (30/ 03/ 2007)

Killing the Children of Iraq

March 30th, 2007

The immediacy of the unfolding tragedy in Iraq at times makes one forget that prior to the war, the nation had already endured twelve years of devastation sanctions, where the highest price was paid by the children of Iraq. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, 567,000 children had died already by the end of 1995 from the effects of the sanctions. Two courageous officials — Dennis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck — resigned their posts at the UN because they were unwilling to carry out a genocide masquerading as foreign policy.

To the American secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, this price was “worth it”. Here is, “Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq”, John Pilger’s moving portrait of the devastation wrought on the Iraqi society by the UN on behalf of US and UK.



Related

Lancing the Spin

The best available scientific estimate of deaths due to the invasion and occupation of Iraq is 655,000, as of July 2006. Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, wrote in Comment is Free earlier this week about the misuse of scientific advice by the government, and its attempts to discredit the research published in his journal.

A report on the BBC FOIA request, that revealed the government machinations in detail, can be read here.

Posted by andrew on 2:58 PM 30/03/07 under 6 War in Iraq | Comments (2)

Iraq’s Death Squads US Supported: Video

Dahr Jamail reports from the streets of Bagdhad, where death squads terrorize civilians.

Full written confession published in advance of the crimes

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Another current and rather obvious mistake based entirely on faulty models of understanding is that the dispute over the British sailors captured in Iranian waters is part of an Anglo-American plan to provoke an attack on Iran. Nonsense! If the analysts can get their minds off their stupidities and their heads out of their asses about the inevitability of an attack, and, for once, look at the facts (I’m getting tired of being the only one who does so), it is glaringly apparent that the London response is completely ad-libbed. B-liar is getting pounded by the Iranian propaganda, and the British lies aren’t even close to believable. Don’t you think it obvious that a real calculated provocation would have with it a pre-planned media war against the Iranians? The fact that the British are obviously making this up as they go along – and not too well, I might add – proves that London, at least, was not part of a conspiracy. There are two options left: 1) it was a mistake (the captain’s negligence); or 2) some cowboy local commander, working on his own agenda, decided to cross the line (both literally and figuratively). B-liar now manages the complete trifecta, looking stupid, weak, and lying, all at the same time. This was no plan.

As I’ve said all along, the ‘Clean Break’ document (Realm=Empire) is the blueprint for the Zionist Plan for the Middle East (note my comments on the real role of oil), and the neocons, weakened but certainly still dangerous, continue to follow it to the letter. The ‘Iran talk’ from the Israeli right (aped by their employees in the United States), now fading, was just a distraction to divert attention from the Lebanon debacle (Iran is hardly mentioned in the ‘Clean Break’ document). Despite recent American diplomatic contact, Syria, as always, is back on the agenda:

“The Bush administration has launched a campaign to isolate and embarrass Syrian President Bashar Assad, using parliamentary elections in late April as a lever, according to State Department officials and Syrian exiles.

The campaign, which some officials fear is aimed at destabilizing Syria, has been in the works for months.

It involves escalating attacks on Syria's human rights record, which is generally regarded as abysmal, as well as White House-approved support for Syrian bloggers and election monitors inside and outside the country to highlight the nation's lack of freedom, the officials and others said.

The State Department in recent weeks has issued a series of rhetorical broadsides against Syria, using language harsher than that usually reserved for U.S. adversaries. On Friday, the administration criticized a planned visit there by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif..

‘It's the new Cuba - no language is too tough,’ said one of the officials, who like others insisted on anonymity to discuss internal government planning.”

and (my emphasis in red blood dripping from his fangs):

The officials say the campaign bears the imprint of Elliott Abrams, a conservative White House aide in charge of pushing Bush's global democracy agenda.

The first parts of the Plan are to break up Iraq, break up Lebanon, and attack Syria. If you get confused by Iran talk, you’ll miss what they are really up to. The Plan hasn’t been going all that well. Iraq isn’t breaking up, Israel was defeated in Lebanon, the Americans didn’t take the bait last summer and attack Syria (representing the awakening of the American Establishment to the fact their government was being run by traitors like Abrams), the Saudis have belatedly woken up to the fact that Israel is not their friend and the Americans are out of control, and the current Zionist attack on Syria has had the unwanted effect of reconciling Syria with the Saudis:

“Indeed, U.S. efforts to isolate Syria received a setback at this week's Arab summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi leadership, which has ostracized Assad since the Hariri assassination, appeared to welcome him back into the fold.”

Despite all these setbacks, the Washington neocons know only one thing, and continue to follow the Plan religiously.

I find it amazing that Americans still continue to resist the idea that their government is under the control of Zionist traitors, particularly given that the ‘Clean Break’ document, being obsessively followed by the people who wrote it like Perle, Wurmser, and Feith (note in particular the actions of Feith in creating a complex system of lie creation and dissemination which led directly to the attack on Iraq he advocated, but that Israel could not possibly have done, in the ‘Clean Break’ document!), constitutes one of those extreme rarities in conspiracy theory, a full written confession of the complete details of the conspiracy, a document which is still being followed in Washington by the actual conspirators who wrote it!

Iraq/Iran Maritime Boundaries; Iranian Diplomat: I Was Misquoted Over UK Sailors Trial

Iranian Diplomat: I Was Misquoted Over UK Sailors Trial
---
Iraq/Iran Maritime Boundaries
March 30, 2007

Craig Murray

Foreign Policy magazine has a blog which has just published an article calling me a "gadfly" and saying I am "missing the point". The point being a highly contentious statement by former Bahraini government legal adviser Kaiyan Kaikobad that the maritime boundary drawn by the UK MOD has become part of international law by usage.

Actually, I hadn't missed this point at all. Kaikobad's view is quoted in the LA Times, and I spent rather a lot of time explaining to the journalist writing the artcle what was wrong with his argument. Whether the LA Times carried any of my points I do not know.

The Foreign Policy blog article follows, with the rejoinder I have sent them:

Obviously, the seizure of 15 British marines and sailors and the Iranians' use of them as pawns in a propaganda game is a deadly serious business. Yet there's also plenty of farce amid the danger:

The Iranians also blundered in diplomatic talks by giving the British their own compass reference for the place where they said the 14 men and one woman had been seized. When Britain plotted these on a map and pointed out that the spot was in Iraq’s maritime area, the Iranians came up with a new set of coordinates, putting the seizure in their own waters.

Whoops. Turns out, though, that the border issue isn't as black and white as either side claims. King's College of London's Richard Schofield, an expert on the Iran-Iraq border, explained in a telephone interview that although "basically, there is a boundary" nowadays along the Shatt al-Arab, that's not the case further out in the Persian Gulf where the British sailors and marines were taken prisoner. Below is the map presented by the UK Ministry of Defense (MoD):

That's what lends the claims of gadfly Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, a whiff of plausibility. Murray, who also headed the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office from 1989 to 1992, writes on his website that "there is no agreed maritime boundary between Iraq and Iran in the Persian Gulf," a milder version of his earlier argument that the boundary used by the MoD "is a fake with no legal force."

Murray is missing the point. True, as Schofield says, "the boundary that [the MoD] showed further south was a little disingenuous, because it doesn't have the same legal force or weighting, by any means, as the Iran-Iraq boundary." Explains Schofield, "It's more just a provisional indication of what Iraq's territorial water claims might be." But what's good for the goose is good for the gander; if there's no clear border, then Iran doesn't have a case, either. And as Kaiyan Kaikobad, an associate professor of international law at Durham University, observes in the LA Times, "If you can show that over a reasonably long period of time, that this was the line that both countries actually agreed on, there's lots of rules in international law that allow that line to become not only a de facto line, but a de jure line." So the MoD could be right after all.

Rather than seizing the opportunity to chalk the whole thing up to a misunderstanding about maritime law, though, the Iranians keep digging themselves into a deeper diplomatic hole, and the British are happy to hand them the shovel. It's clear from the Iranian actions that this isn't really about territorial waters, in any case. After all, the Iranians could have politely notified the British Navy that their boat was in the wrong spot, and the two sides could have worked it out like gentlemen. Instead, we get an absurd hostage situation and a diplomatic crisis. So what's it about? http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/node/4230

I have replied:

I am rather unable to understand why you should be so gratuitously rude about me in your blog, first calling me a "gadfly", then saying that I am "missing the point".

Firstly, I am not missing the point at all - that neither Britan, Iraq nor Iran has a plain case is precisely my point. You give the impression that I support Iranian claims and actions, which I most certainly do not.

Secondly, I am unsure why you should choose to take the view that Kaiiyan Kaikobad's view is more valid than the practically identical views of Richard Schofield and I

There are major problems with Kaikobad's view that state practice can result in a de jure as well as a de facto line.

Firstly, there are no judgements that enshrine that view in the area of maritime boundaries since the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea entered into force.

Secondly UNCLOS provides that, in the absence of an agreed boundary, neither side should attempt to enforce territorial water claims beyond a median line. It is very plain that this is for the purpose of conflict avoidance, and does not prejudice either state's rights in the eventual resolution of the boundary dispute.

So Kaikobad's view that working accommodation does bring de jure permanent solution is incompatible with UNCLOS, which is becoming generally accepted as enshrining customary international law in this area.

Thirdly, the wisdom of UNCLOS in this regard is demonstrated if you consider the ramifications of Kaikobad's view. If going along with a working arrangement would lead to its acceptance as de jure, then the only way a state could maintain a quite legitimate claim would be by the exercise of force to show it did not go along. Kaikobad's view is a recipe for conflict. If you think about it logically, if Kaikobad's view were true, then the Iranians would have to initiate some sort of military action or lose their claim. Is that desirable?

Kaikobad is an interesting man of strong views, but not an entirely definitive authority.

Look, it is a free country and you are perfectly entitled to publish about me what you like. But to disagree with a point is not to miss it, and I hope this convinces you that was an unfair characterisation.

Posted by craig on 11:02 PM 30/03/07 under 7 War and Iran? | Comments (4)

Craig Murray
Writer and broadcaster

As Britain's outspoken Ambassador to the Central Asian Republic of Uzbekistan, Craig Murray helped expose vicious human rights abuses by the US-funded regime of Islam Karimov. He is now
a prominent critic of Western policy in the region.

Report: ADL, BBI reps were at Rosen event: Prosecutors say they received classified info


Representatives of ADL and B'nai B'rith reportedly are refusing to cooperate with the defense in the classified information case against two former AIPAC staffers.

Representatives of ADL and B'nai B'rith reportedly are refusing to cooperate with the defense in the classified information case against two former AIPAC staffers.

Jess Hordes, Washington director of the Anti-Defamation League, and Dan Mariaschin, executive vice president of B'nai B'rith International, were present with Steve Rosen, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's former foreign policy chief, at a 2003 briefing with Anthony Zinni, the former top U.S. envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the Forward reported this week. Neither man commented to the Forward.

Rosen's defense wants to call Zinni, Mariaschin and Hordes to testify that the meeting was routine and did not involve the divulgence of classified information, as the prosecution contends. The ADL and B'nai B'rith fear being drawn into a case that already has complicated AIPAC's mission in Washington.

Zinni has told JTA that the meeting was inconsequential. "I met Mr. Rosen once at a dinner while I was the envoy,” the retired Marines general and former head of U.S. Central Command wrote in an e-mail to JTA a year ago, when his name first emerged as a possible witness. “It was a casual event and we discussed the process I was then involved in. The dinner was with four others.” The fourth person at the dinner is not known.

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Unravelling The US Political-Military Paradox

March 29, 2007

By Jim Kirwan

What got us into this nightmare was a lengthy string of mega-lies that originated within the twisted plans of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, back in the 1970’s. The U.S. presidents that have come and gone since then, have each played their part, in bringing us kicking and screaming to this decision point. There are several major parallax-views that have led the public to misunderstand and misinterpret the political events and military actions in the Middle-East: Actions that have kept our invasions going, and that now threaten to up-end the world—if these lies are allowed to serve, yet again; for another cover-story that can only end in chaos!

The November elections set the stage for this final confrontation between the desires of the public and the needs of the Outlaws: when it comes to funding and perpetuating our illegal and unilateral military responses to circumstances and to the control of those powers and resources that have become the global stance which has always underpinned the players in their intrigues in the Middle-East. Many nations now are involved to the point of self-extermination in the literal outcomes of how our continued presence there is handled.

It has taken almost forty years to get to the point where the United States government could be reduced from a single government consisting of three branches—to a cabal that has absolute power and that speaks for not only the other two branches, but who is totally opposed to the preferences and the well-being of the people of the United States as well!

One indication of this paradox is the recent behavior of Nancy Pelosi, in her capacity as the Speaker of the US House of Representatives. If George W. Bush launches a pre-emptive war on Iran, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will bear full moral responsibility for that war; and her hands will always have the bloodstains of millions of lives upon them – so long as she lives!

“For it was Pelosi who quietly agreed to strip out of the $100 billion funding bill for Iraq a provision that would have required President Bush to seek congressional approval before launching any new war on Iran. "'It would take away perhaps the most important tool the U.S. has when it comes to Iran,' she said of the now-abandoned provision.

"'I don't think it was a very wise idea to take things off the table if you're trying to get people to modify their behavior and normalize in a civilized way,' said Gary Ackerman of New York." According to John Nichols of The Nation, Pelosi's decision to strip the provision barring Bush from attacking Iran without Congress' approval "sends the worst possible signal to the White House."

"The speaker has erred dangerously and dramatically," writes Nichols. Her "disastrous misstep could haunt her and the Congress for years to come." Nichols does not exaggerate.

If Bush now launches war on Iran, he can credibly say Congress and the Democrats gave him a green light. For Pelosi, by removing a provision saying Bush does not have the authority, de facto concedes he does have the authority. Bush and Cheney need now not worry about Congress. They have been flashed the go-sign for war on Iran.

Nothing in the provision would have prevented Bush, as commander in chief, from responding to an Iranian attack or engaging in hot pursuit of an enemy found in Iraq. Nor would the provision have prevented Bush from threatening Iran. It would simply have required him to come to Congress -- before launching all-out war. Now Pelosi has, in effect, ceded Bush carte blanche to take out Iran's nuclear facilities. It's all up to him and Cheney.” (1)

The Second Indication that something is dangerously amiss – are the numbers in the surge. The original demand was for 21,000. That number has since been added to, twice; and now it looks more like 40,000 total. There was never any attempt to comply with the wishes of the electorate or the congress, because the Decider acted immediately upon the announcement of his stated decision – as though no approval was required, from either the people or the congress: This, despite the fact that the public, the congress, and the world had all registered strong disapproval for his plans from the moment he announced them. If The Decider is determined to ‘act as a president and not a Dictator—he has a direct obligation to respond to obvious opposition, with something besides contempt!

But that’s only a sideshow: The real point is how these ‘surged’ troops will now be used. The Decider says they will be assigned to Baghdad. But it’s far more likely that these are the same troops that a Russian Satellite has just spotted, massing along the Iran border with Iraq—troops that will now be used to pre-emptively invade Iran. (2) Bush is lying to the world one more time, to create yet another WAR-Without-Reason: except of course to keep him, his friends, and his supporters out of jail and still in office—until he can disappear into Paraguay, without a backward glance. He’s lied to the world so many times before, what’s one-more-LIE, when the world has apparently swallowed so many of his lies already?

The Third Indication is the immediate reactions by those in the area, to what is obviously about to be. There were supposed to be US war games taking place yesterday and today in the Gulf: last night the media had “film at eleven” of two US aircraft carriers conducting war-games just beyond the territorial limits of Iran, in the Gulf. An Iranian Admiral has just denied that any such actions ever happened. (3) The Brits are also making warlike noises over the detention of 15 British Sailors and Marines, captured by Iran, in what Iran claims were Iranian waters. Tony Blair says otherwise and is demanding their release. So now there are two clay pigeons sitting outside or inside Iran either or both of which can be used as the next “Tonkin Gulf incident” for Iran.

The Fourth Paradox is perhaps the most complex and dangerous element: yet in an ironic twist of potentials, this one may just offer a possible way out, if it doesn’t become the actual reason to launch this operation—for in the twisted minds of the rabid American and Israeli war-mongers they absolutely want these new wars to happen!

“DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: The president of the United Arab Emirates forbade the U.S. military from using bases in his country to attack or spy on Iran as mammoth U.S. Navy maneuvers in the Gulf entered their second day. Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who leads this key U.S. ally, said Tuesday that the Emirates had assured Iran that it was not siding with Washington in its dispute over Tehran's nuclear program.

Leaders of Arab nations around the Gulf have grown increasingly uneasy with the tough U.S. stance toward Iran, believing any outbreak of war would bring Iranian retaliation on their own soil, which lies in easy reach of Iranian missiles. On Wednesday, the U.S. Navy continued its largest show of force in the Gulf since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, with 15 ships, 125 aircraft and 13,000 sailors taking part in an exercise that veered within a few dozen miles of Iran's coast.” (4) However it should be noted that Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey, along with a host of other states would also be drawn, one way or another, into any new war on Iran.

“The Russians and the Chinese for their part are also concerned, beyond their strictly commercial interests in that nation. “Russia's Foreign Ministry has sharply criticized the United States for what it called over-reliance on force and warned Washington against military action against Iran, The Associated Press reported. Russia criticized what it called "the creeping American strategy of dragging the global community into a large-scale crisis around Iran," saying that Tehran helps maintain stability in Afghanistan and Central Asia.” In an already scrubbed report, Russian and China had also warned the US that Washington must sit down at the table with Iran and solve this dilemma diplomatically. Simultaneously they also told Iran that they needed to back down from their hard line position on developing nuclear facilities. It would appear that these two major nuclear powers want this stand-off defanged, so that the world can return to that time before the USA began to behave like the Hulk-of-all-Superpowers that has become overly enchanted with their own purely-macho approach to international affairs.

This is the totality of what’s on the table now, and thanks to Nancy Pelosi, there is no congressional way to stop the Bushwhackers from shattering the Middle-East—like the proverbial PiƱata that floats above the banquet-table of the war-mongers—drooling over the ‘possibilities’ that await their next and perhaps final move to empower Israel, and to capture the entire Middle-East, for the Corporatocracy and the Oil, in a bold and savage move.

The only final Paradox that remains, is that in all of this American Military planners have failed to account for what they may actually face with this new attack—exactly as they did when Rummy ran his dog & pony show into Baghdad in 2003. No matter how many times the lies of this administration are repeated—it does not make them true! As the intensity of the bloodlust in their greed does not insure success; so too the half-hearted assessments of the defense of Iran, will not change the outcomes of the trajectories of Iranian missiles one iota. If this misguided and criminal attack gets underway—at any time—the world will suffer for this crime: for decades to come if any of us survive at all. Congress is now irrelevant—again—but the rest of the planet is apparently awakening to the reality that now threatened people everywhere. Why not add your voice to those of the other peoples that oppose this Nightmare NOW! (6)

kirwanstudios@sbcglobal.net

1) The AIPAC Girl, Nancy Pelosi Leaves Iran War in Bush/Cheney Hands

http://www.postchronicle.com:80/commentary/article_21270952.shtml

2) Russian intelligence sees U.S. military buildup on Iran border

http://en.rian.ru/russia/20070327/62697703.html

3) Iran Admiral – US War Games Claims – False

http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=4137&sectionid=3510101

4) Gulf Arabs distance themselves from U.S. Treats against Iran

http://www.iht.com:80/articles/ap/2007/03/28/africa/ME-GEN-Arabs-US-Iran.php

5) Easter Surprise Attack on Iran, new 9/11. . . Or Worse

http://www.wakeupfromyourslumber.com:80/node/1052

6) Accept Peace or Face War, Israel told

http://mparent7777.blogspot.com/2007/03/accept-peace-plan-or-face-war-israel.html

Housing Crisis Knocks Loudly in Michigan

Credit Markets
Why Soft Landings are Impossible in Property Booms
The Ultimate Subprime Lender
---
Foreclosures Hit Record Numbers as Region Continues to Lose Jobs

By Dina ElBoghdady
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 31, 2007; A01

DEARBORN HEIGHTS, Mich. -- Janet Laitis leaned on a chain-link fence in her front yard, dragged on a cigarette and pointed to the homes on her block that lenders have seized in just the past two weeks.

"There. There. There," said Laitis, 70, pointing across the street, down the street and then to the modest ranch house next door. "This neighborhood is deteriorating before my eyes."

Within a square mile of Laitis's house in this bedroom community outside Detroit, more than half the 96 homes on the market are foreclosed properties. The situation is not uncommon in pockets of the industrial Midwest, where a record number of people are missing their mortgage payments and losing their homes.

While lax lending policies have been blamed for the unfolding home-mortgage crisis across the country, the distress in the Midwest has been exacerbated by fundamental problems with the economy. The region has been devastated by a severe drop in manufacturing jobs as the U.S. automobile industry shrinks.

"There's a structural shift going on that's undermining the unionized, industrialized states, and Michigan is leading the way," said Donald Grimes, a senior research specialist at the University of Michigan. "When you talk to people in Michigan, you can tell from their voice and their demeanor that they are just depressed."

The housing bubble of recent years has burst and home prices are under pressure in many parts of the country. How far they fall will be determined in large measure by the strength of the economy, experts say, since job and income growth ultimately determine how much people can pay for housing. The U.S. economy is growing, but the pace of growth has slowed markedly of late.

States like Michigan and Ohio, struggling with their particular economic problems, illustrate just how bad things could get in the housing sector if the national economy falls into a recession. They are, moreover, politically important swing states; rising anger there over the housing situation could help determine the outcome of the 2008 presidential election.

Michigan has lost 305,000 jobs since 2001. Economists estimate that 40 percent of the cuts came from automakers and their suppliers, who have shed jobs each of the past six years as they have tried to regain their competitive edge.

About 65,000 people moved out of Michigan from July 2005 to July 2006, the U.S. Census Bureau reported. The migration eroded already weak demand for houses, which in turn hurt prices. In the last three months of 2006, Michigan was the only state in the nation where home prices fell, dropping 0.4 percent from the same time in 2005.

Even during the first half of the decade, when home prices jumped in most of the country, Michigan's stagnated. Dana Johnson, chief economist at Comerica Bank, said home prices typically outpaced income in most of the nation during the housing boom. But in Michigan, income plummeted and dragged housing down with it.

Cash-strapped homeowners could no longer sell their homes or refinance their way out of trouble. Many got stuck with adjustable-rate mortgages offering low teaser rates that spiked in later years. Now many borrowers are struggling.

"It's been a spillover from the weak economy to the housing sector," Johnson said. "What we've seen here is a one-state recession."

Losing Jobs and Value

Brian Minjares, 40, is living that recession first-hand. His story is proof that no one in Michigan is immune to the state's financial woes.

Three years ago, he left his job at a financial services firm to start his own practice with a partner in the Detroit suburb of Southfield. Minjares took out a home equity line of credit to finance the business. At the time, his house was appraised at $350,000 and he owed $275,000, he said. The bank gave him a loan equal to 100 percent of his equity.

As the housing crisis worsened, the value of his home dropped to $260,000. Minjares could not afford to sell it because he owed more than it was worth. He could not afford to keep it because, as the rates on his loans adjusted, his monthly payments jumped to $3,000 from $2,100.

Meanwhile, his client roster was drying up. With the auto industry in decline, many of his customers' businesses crumbled. "So they had no money to give me to invest for them," Minjares said. He coped by running up credit-card debt.

But he fell behind on his payments and the bank foreclosed on his Colonial in Flat Rock, not far from Detroit. Minjares shut down his business and now sells cleaning products. He rents a condominium from his brother.

"You just have to cut your losses and run," Minjares said. "You have to take into consideration your marriage and your health and you say to yourself: 'It's just a house.' "

Ralph Newkirk, an agent with the Michigan brokerage Real Estate One, hears similar stories every day. The foreclosure situation is so extreme that his firm created a division two years ago with 25 agents who sell only foreclosed homes; Newkirk heads it.

Back then, the average sales price on foreclosed homes was about $70,000. Since then, the price has more than doubled, suggesting the problem is no longer confined to low-income neighborhoods in Detroit. "The problem is moving out to the suburbs," Newkirk said. "It's spreading like a cancer."

A Tangible Form of Pain

Michigan's strong tie to the auto sector has been a source of pain before. Strikes damaged its economy in 1967 and high oil prices crippled Detroit in the 1980s.

But Michigan's most recent trouble is "the most severe crisis in the state's existence," defying the pattern of past economic cycles, when Michigan bounced back quickly, said David Littmann, senior economist at the Michigan's Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

This time, the rest of the country recovered from the 2001 recession, but Michigan's per capita income remains 7 percent below the national average, Littmann said. For the first time since the Great Depression, Michigan is a poor state relative to the rest of the nation.

"This is not a cyclical problem anymore, and housing is the most tangible form of the pain," Littmann said.

For most of the past year, Michigan has ranked among the three states with the highest percentage of late mortgage payments and foreclosures, surveys by the Mortgage Bankers Association show. In the fourth quarter, it came in third, behind Ohio and Indiana, with 2.39 percent of its loans in foreclosure.

Many economists say, and union officers agree, that those hardest hit are not auto workers who lost jobs. Many received buyouts that should keep them afloat for a while. And because they tend to be older, some have paid off their mortgages.

Those feeling the worst squeeze, rather, are workers at the auto supply companies, such as Max, 44, an engineer who spoke on condition that his last name not be used because he is embarrassed by his situation.

Max bought a condominium in the Detroit suburb of Plymouth using a traditional fixed-rate mortgage more than five years ago. But three years later, his firm took away company cars from its workers, hiked insurance premiums and cut raises and bonuses -- raising Max's monthly living expenses and reducing his pay.

Max responded by refinancing his condo twice. Though he did not realize it then, the second loan was adjustable. Over time, his monthly payments rose from $1,500 to $1,800 to $1,950.

"I wasn't even reading the paperwork," said Max, who makes $106,000 a year.

Weeks ago, Max turned in his keys to his lender. The bank paid him $500 and took possession of the condo earlier than it otherwise could under Michigan law.

In fact, across the country, official foreclosure numbers do not capture the full scope of the mortgage problem, since many people are doing what Max did. Others are signing over their deeds to the bank in lieu of foreclosure to lessen the damage to their credit records. Some have been granted permission from their lenders to sell the property for less than they owe on the loan.

Signs of Trouble

As the problems grow, at least one type of business is booming in Michigan -- those that help manage foreclosed property. Take the case of Property Maintenance Inc., which changes keys, mows lawns, shovels snow and repairs foreclosed-upon homes in Michigan so that they are ready for sale.

Deanna Simmons, who created the company in 2002, said the revenue of her six-employee firm shot up from $20,000 in the first year to $1.6 million last year.

Driving through the streets of a working-class neighborhood in Dearborn Heights, Simmons points out the tell-tale signs of a foreclosed house: mail boxes overflowing, fliers piling up, shades drawn.

Once inside, she can tell which people left angry. They're the ones who leave all the water faucets running or take the door knobs with them. "They do anything they can to make it difficult for the mortgage companies, like they're trying to get back at them," she said.

Simmons spots the home next door to Laitis, the Dearborn Heights resident alarmed by the foreclosures on her street. The white ranch house is not for sale yet, but the tell-tale signs are there.

Laitis said her neighbors, a couple in their 40s, left recently after they learned their house would be foreclosed upon. The husband, a carpenter, had lost his job. The wife did not work. They crammed what they could into their white Bonneville and drove off without saying goodbye.

Laitis said the house was paid for at some point but the couple took out a $75,000 home equity line of credit to buy a car and build a garage, now half-finished.

Lots of people can't afford their mortgage or can't afford rising property taxes, Laitis said. For her, the taxes have become onerous. She wondered aloud if she could lose her house for failure to pay them. She could.

"Maybe I'm going to be the next one out of here," she said.