The Exiled Shalash

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

al-Maliki in Washington (3 of series)

Text of the Bush/al-Maliki press conference, Tuesday, July 25, 2006.

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BUSH: Thank you all. Please be seated.

Mr. Prime Minister, welcome to the White House.

I just had a very constructive meeting with the leader of a government that has been chosen by the Iraqi people in free and fair elections.

I appreciate your vision for a free Iraq, and I appreciate your briefing me on a strategy to reduce violence and to rebuild your country.

You have a strong partner in the United States of America, and I'm honored to stand here with you, Mr. Prime Minister.

It's a remarkable, historical moment, as far as I'm concerned, to welcome a freely elected leader of Iraq to the White House.

We discussed a lot of issues. The prime minister's laid out a comprehensive plan. That's what leaders do: They see problems, they address problems and they lay out a plan to solve the problems.

The prime minister understands he's got challenges. And he's identified priorities.

Our priority is to help this government succeed. It's in the national interests of the United States that a unity government, based upon a constitution that is advanced and modern, succeed.

And that's what I told the prime minister. You know, he comes wondering whether or not we're committed. He hears all kinds of stories here in the United States.

And I assured him that this government stands with the Iraqi people.

We're impressed by your courage, Mr. Prime Minister, and we're impressed by the courage of the Iraqi people. And we want to help you.

We talked about security in Baghdad. There's no question the terrorists and extremists are brutal.

These are people that just kill innocent people to achieve an objective, which is to destabilize this government.

The prime minister tells me that he and his government are not shaken by these actions. They're concerned about them; they're not shaken by them.

The Iraqi people want to succeed. They want to end this violence.

Our strategy is to remain on the offense, including in Baghdad.

Under the prime minister's leadership, coalition and Iraqi leaders are modifying their operational concept to bring greater security to the Iraqi capital. Coalition and Iraqi forces will secure individual neighborhoods, will ensure the existence of an Iraqi security presence in the neighborhoods, and gradually expand the security presence as Iraqi citizens help them root out those who instigate violence.

This plan will involve embedding more U.S. military police with Iraqi police units to make them more effective.

The prime minister advised me that, to support this plan, he and General Casey have agreed to deploy additional American troops and Iraqi security personnel in Baghdad in the coming weeks. These will come from other areas of the country.

Our military commanders tell me that this deployment will better reflect the current conditions on the ground in Iraq.

We also agreed that Iraqi security forces need better tools to do their job. And so we'll work with them to equip them with greater mobility, fire power and protection.

We still face challenges in Baghdad, yet we see progress elsewhere in Iraq. Iraqi security forces are growing in strength and capability, and recently a key province in southern Iraq was transferred to full Iraqi civilian control.

In the midst of all the violence in Baghdad, sometimes success is obscured, and this transfer of a key province is the beginning of other provinces to be transferred to full Iraqi control.

It's a sign of progress.

No question it's tough in Baghdad. And no question it's tough in other parts of Iraq. But there are also places where progress is being made. And the prime minister and I talked about that progress.

The prime minister and I agreed to establish a joint committee to achieve Iraqi self-reliance. It's a new partnership. We'll seek to ensure the smoothest and most effective assumption of security responsibility by Iraqi forces.

Prime Minister Maliki was very clear this morning. He said he does not want American troops to leave his country until his government can protect the Iraqi people.

And I assured him that America will not abandon the Iraqi people.

Tomorrow, the prime minister and I will travel to Fort Belvoir in Virginia to visit with American troops and their families so we can thank them for their courage and their sacrifice.

And we in the United States need to recognize the enormous sacrifice of the Iraqi people. The people are suffering hardships.

These terrorists and killers are trying to shake the will of the Iraqi people. But despite large casualties, both civilian and military, the Iraqi people continue to stand for public office, enlist in their security forces and, through their actions, demonstrate every day that they want to raise their families and live their lives like other free people around the world.

And I'm impressed by the courage of the Iraqi citizens, Mr. Prime Minister.

Citizens continue to believe in the future of their country and to subscribe to the notion upon which America is also founded: that the freedom of their country is worth fighting for. America's proud to be allied with such people.

It's important the Iraqi people hear of our pride and our determination, Mr. Prime Minister.

We also discussed several new initiatives we're undertaking to create opportunity for the Iraqi people, and one of them is called the Iraqi Leaders Initiative. And starting next summer, 200 high school and university students from all regions of Iraq and all sectors of Iraqi society will come to America to study at local institutions and build personal friendships with the people of our country.

This is going to be the largest program of its kind. And it will help build the next generation of leaders for a free and democratic Iraq.

The prime minister and I spent time talking about Lebanon. And we had a frank exchange of views on this situation. I listened closely to the prime minister and I valued a chance to hear his perspective.

I heard him on the seriousness of the humanitarian crisis in Lebanon and the need to do more for the Lebanese people.

I told him that Secretary Rice has announced greater humanitarian measures for Lebanon, to include $30 million in aid.

America is concerned about the women and children who suffer in that country, concerned about the loss of innocent life.

I reminded him and told him that Condi's over there working to establish corridors to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid and essential relief supplies.

I told him I support a sustainable cease-fire that will bring about an end to violence. And I talked about the importance of strengthening the Lebanese government and supporting the Lebanese people.

The prime minister and I also discussed his proposal for an international compact for Iraq. The compact would outline Iraq's commitment to specific economic reforms and the international community's commitment to support those reforms.

We expect the international compact will be signed later this year. And I told the prime minister that the United States will work to encourage other countries to support the compact and for other countries that have made pledges to Iraq to make good on their pledges.

In light of the recent violence in the Middle East, some are questioning whether democracy can take root in the region.

I believe that the Iraqi people are showing us their answer. They're making enormous sacrifices to secure their freedom.

And they've elected leaders who are making tough decisions.

And, Mr. Prime Minister, you're such a leader, and I welcome you here to the White House. Thanks for coming.

AL-MALIKI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Thank you very much.

In the name of God, the most merciful, the passionate, I would like to thank President George Bush.

Mr. President, I would like to thank you for your invitation to come here and visit the United States of America. And I would like to thank you for the warm welcome that myself and my delegation received.

And, also, I appreciate very much your interest in the situation in Iraq and the responsible spirit that have dominated our discussions today.

We have discussed with President Bush clearly and frankly all the current challenges and the horizon and the future and ways of cooperation between our two country in order to build a democratic, united, flourishing Iraq that enjoys its full national sovereignty.

We have agreed that building the security and military institutions in Iraq - in terms of numbers, equipment, firearms, and as quickly as possible - represents the fundamental base in order to stabilize the country and to have security and defeat terrorism.

I reaffirmed to the president Iraq's needs to the cooperation from the international community and your cooperation, and I have seen a great deal of understanding for this very vital issue from the president.

I also expressed my appreciation to the role that's been played by the multinational forces and the exerted efforts to support us and to help us in building our security organizations to allow our organizations to fully be in control of the security position and the security circumstances.

I agreed with the president to form a joint committee of experts and technicians in order to achieve the self-sufficiency for the Iraqi forces. This will allow these forces to bear the responsibility of protecting security and confronting terrorism in our country.

And, in this field, we have achieved our first and initial success when our forces assumed the responsibility in the Muthanna governorate. This is a very important step. It will be followed by similar steps in many other governorates in Iraq.

We are determined to defeat terrorism. And the security plan for Baghdad has entered the second phase, and it's achieving its objectives in hunting the terrorist networks and eliminating it.

I have informed the president about the national reconciliation plan, which I have launched in order to attract more Iraqi forces which have not engaged in the political process yet. This initiative represents, in addition to building the Iraqi armed forces, one of the initiatives that will contribute to choking terrorism and defeating terrorism in Iraq.

On the economic sphere and the reconstruction of Iraq, I have seen support from President Bush to ensure the success of the international impact, which we hope that, through it, we'll be able to have the support the world community in reconstructing Iraq and improving the services that the government is providing to its own Iraqi people.

We hope that many other countries will participate and contribute in that conference that will be convened in the next few months in order to sign this international compact.

I assured the president of Iraq's readiness to make this conference a success and accept the mutual commitments between Iraq and those who will sign the compact.

The president reaffirmed his administration's commitment to encourage as many countries as possible to support this compact.

I also discussed with the president the issue of Lebanon, in all seriousness, in a way that matches the importance of the size of the destructions that happened to the Lebanese people as a result of the military air and ground attacks.

And I also emphasized the importance of immediate cease-fire and call on the international community to support the Lebanese government and support the Lebanese people to overcome the damage and destruction that happened.

I also expressed to the president about Iraq's desire and Iraq's political leadership's desire to merge into the international community and its institutions and to participate effectively in the various issues on the basis of mutual interest and to be committed to the policy of not interfering or intervening in the domestic policies of other countries.

I also reaffirm the importance of approaching every issue through peaceful and diplomatic means to deal with the problems that exist in our region.

These chronic problems require a great deal of wisdom and patience and perseverance in order to find the just and successful and fair solution.

Mr. President, I thank you once again for your kind invitation and for your very warm hospitality and generosity.

BUSH: This side, starting with you.

Q: Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, why should one expect this new security crackdown of Baghdad to succeed when all previous ones have failed?

And, Mr. President, you've said before that withdrawal of U.S. troops would depend on conditions on the ground. What do conditions on the ground now in Baghdad suggest in terms of whether there can be a significant withdrawal of American forces by the end of the year?

BUSH: I'll start. OK, you start. Do you want to start? Go ahead.

AL-MALIKI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Actually, the circumstances that Baghdad's security plans or other plans related to Basra and other places are different in terms of circumstances from the previous plans.

Today, Iraq has a national unity government that it is basically composed of all elements of the Iraqi people are represented in this government. Iraq has a parliament. It has a constitution to face all these challenges.

So what the Baghdad security plan gains in terms of support, is support from all over the segments of the Iraqi population.

Secondly, by monitoring the reality on the ground, we will be able to ensure the success, especially what happens against the innocent people. The Baghdad security forces was able to eliminate many hotspots of crimes and troubles in Baghdad.

BUSH: One of the things that's important is for - and one of the reasons why you trust the commanders on the ground - is because there needs to be flexibility. And I explained to the prime minister that I'll be making my decisions based upon the recommendations of General Casey.

And obviously the violence in Baghdad is still terrible, and therefore there needs to be more troops.

In other words, the commander said, What more can we do? How best to address conditions on the ground?

And they have recommended, as a result of working with the prime minister, based upon his recommendation, that we increase the number of U.S. troops in Baghdad alongside of Iraqi troops. And we're going to do that.

The second request that the prime minister made was that he needs more equipment for this troops. And General Dempsey, along with General Casey, have reviewed his request and his ideas. And, you know, I told the prime minister, if this is what these generals recommend, that's what I support.

Conditions change inside a country, and the question is are we going to be facile enough to change with it; will we be nimble enough? Will we be able to deal with the circumstances on the ground? And the answer is, yes, we will.

Mr. Prime Minister, would you like to call on somebody? There you go.

Q: I have two questions. One, President Bush. The first one: Is there an obvious change that could be made to the security strategy particularly in Baghdad right now?

And the second question for you. (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Mr. Prime Minister, you said in a press conference in Baghdad, that your visit to Washington, you will cross the t's and dot the i's, especially regarding the security needs. Did you cross the t's and dot the i's in your discussion with President Bush?

BUSH: (inaudible) a lot of time talking about security, and I can understand why. There are people who are willing to destroy innocent life to achieve a political objective.

And the prime minister is deeply concerned about the lives of his fellow citizens. And I appreciate that concern. I would be very worried if a prime minister came to talk about his country and did not mention first and foremost protecting people's lives. That's, after all, the most important responsibility of government.

And he believes, and I believe, that there needs to be more forces inside Baghdad who are willing to hold people to account. In other words, if you find somebody who's kidnapping and murdering, the murderer ought to be held to account. And it ought to be clear in society that that kind of behavior is not tolerated. And that's the attitude of the prime minister.

And my attitude is: We shouldn't try to gauge whether or not someone is justified or not. We ought to be saying that, if you murder, you're responsible for your actions. And I think the Iraqi people appreciate that type of attitude.

And so we're not only talking about adjusting a Baghdad plan, at the prime minister's request, to make it more effective; we're also talking about how to make the Iraqi army more effective.

The truth of the matter is: The Iraqi army is becoming a highly professional force that will help bring confidence to the people inside Iraq that the government has got the capacity to protect them.

AL-MALIKI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Thank you, Mr. President.

Actually, successful acts and large (inaudible) and through the serious discussion and the clear and the frank conversation that I had with President George Bush, that we are truly crossing the t's and dotting the i's in terms of enhancing the security and supporting the reconstruction.

Through the discussion, we were able to go through the details of the vision that will cover the future, because we are not talking here about a specific phase of the reconstruction, but we are facing the necessity of continuous work in order to make sure that the entire political experiment will succeed.

I believe, with a great deal of confidence, that I have reaffirmed through this and I became convinced that I have full confidence of victory, and we will be highly capable of defeating terrorism in Iraq.

Q: (inaudible) you had a frank exchange on the Middle East. How can you get Arab nations to apply pressure to stop the fighting in the Middle East if allies like the prime minister won't condemn Hezbollah?

And, Mr. Prime Minister, what exactly is your position on Hezbollah?

BUSH: The terrorists are afraid of democracies. And what you've witnessed in Israel, in my judgment, is the act of a terrorist organization trying to stop the advance of democracy in the region.

I assured the prime minister that I care deeply about the suffering that takes place, that we understand the anguish of leaders in the region who see innocent people losing their life.

I also assured him that Condi Rice's mission is to help get humanitarian aid to the Lebanese people. She's working on not only air corridors, but sea corridors and land corridors, to get aid to the people. And the United States will participate, as will other nations.

I also talked about making sure that we adhere to U.N. Resolution 1559, which basically - not basically, but strongly urges political parties not to be armed.

A key part of our strategy is to support democracy. And so not only do we support democracy in the Palestinian territory, we also support the Lebanese democracy.

I think the prime minister was pleased to hear my strong support for the Saniora government.

So Condi goes with the following messages: We support the Saniora government. We care about the people. We will help to get aid to the people. And that we want a sustainable cease-fire. We don't want something that's, you know, short term in duration.

We want to address the root causes of the violence in the area. And, therefore, our mission and our goal is to have a lasting peace, not a temporary peace, but something that lasts.

And I believe that - I believe that Iraq, in some ways, faces the same difficulty. And that is, a new democracy's emerging and there are people who are willing to use terrorist techniques to stop it.

It's what the murder is all about. People fear democracy, if your vision is based upon kind of a totalitarian view of the world.

And that's the ultimate challenge facing Iraq and Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. And that is: Will the free world and the neighborhood work in concert to help develop sustainable democracy?

Iraq took a long step along - big step on that path when they developed a constitution that was ratified by the Iraqi people. And it's a modern constitution. And it's a landmark moment in the history of freedom advancing in the Middle East.

I believe that deep in everybody's soul, Mr. Prime Minister, is the desire to be free. And when 12 million Iraqis went to the polls and said, I want to be free, it was an amazing moment. I know it seems like a long, long time ago that that happened. But it was a powerful statement about what is possible in terms of achieving peace.

AL-MALIKI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Thank you.

Here, actually, we're talking about the suffering of a people in a country. And we are not in the process of reviewing one issue or another, or any government position.

The important thing here is what we are trying to do is to stop the killing and the destruction. And then we leave the room and the way for the international and diplomatic efforts and international organizations to play the role to be there.

We are not here facing a situation only in Lebanon, but we'll be facing a variety of issues in different countries.

I'm talking here about the approach that should be used in order to stop this process of promoting hatred. There has to be superior decisions coming from above in order to protect these experiments, particularly democratic experiments, that should be protected by those who are trying to oppose it.

Q (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister.

General Abizaid said that the danger that Iraq is facing is the religious danger. Do you agree with his assessment? And do you see that is there any security plan that can really curb the religious violence?

Q: (inaudible) humanitarian aid to Lebanon, yet there are also reports that your administration are speeding up delivery of laser-guided missiles to Israel and bunker-buster bombs.

And do you see this - if this is true, do you see it as contradictory? On one hand you're allowing Israel to kill people, and civilians in particular, and on the other hand you're trying to aid the very people that have been suffering and killed as a result?

BUSH: No, I don't see a contradiction in us honoring commitments we made prior to Hezbollah attacks into Israeli territory.

And, like the prime minister, I'm concerned about loss of innocent life. And we will do everything we can to help move equipment - I mean, food and medicines to help the people who have been displaced and the people who suffer.

AL-MALIKI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Yes, I do not reduce the risk and the danger of the religious feelings, especially through some of the organizations - they are trying to promote this hatred. And there are some of the events that are on the basis of religious divide.

But I would like to assure the political, religious leaders and civil societies that the Iraqi parties, politicians, religious leaders, are rising to the responsibility and they are condemning those who are cooperating with al-Qaida and those who are trying to start a civil war.

The most important element in the security plan is to curb the religious violence, because we will not allow any Iraqis to use this background. That's one of the main objectives of the security plan.

It is the policy of the government. There is no killing or discrimination against anyone. Everything is by law. And everything is based on the constitution and the law.

The government responsibility is to protect all Iraqis regardless of their ethnic or religious background. It's important to say that we are shedding the lights against those who are calling for sectarian and religious, because we feel that this is a great danger to Iraq.

And, God willing, there will be no civil war in Iraq.

Thank you very much.

END

AP

al-Maliki in Washington (2 of series)

I speculated earlier in this post what al-Maliki wants to say to Bush and what he actually will say. As it turns out, I've only been half-right so far or maybe even a quarter right and three quarters wrong. He did not say that he wishes every last Jew would be thrown in the sea (which he wants to say), but he wasn't neutral about the Israeli-Lebanese crisis. He should have been neautral of course because this is the same Hassan Nassrallah who opposed any military attack against Saddam. It just so happened that the military attack was something that led al-Maliki to a position he never thought he would reach, not even in his sweetest dreams. In fact the return of the Mahdi was more likely than al-Maliki becoming the Prime Minister of Iraq, that's right I said it!

al-Maliki, in my judgement made a huge mistake, a moral wrongdoing. al-Maliki failed during yesterday's press conference with Bush to thank the United States for liberating Iraq, he failed to acknowledge the sacrifces of the men and women of the United States armed forces. I normally would say, "fire the speechwriter," but I know better. It was deliberate and absurd is the only word that comes to my mind. While he can remedy that by saying something to the joint session that he is supposed to address today, it is still something he should have said in the first appearance.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Lebanon Update 12

In Search of the Right Adjective:

Everyone seems to agree that there needs to be a cease-fire for the ongoing Lebanon-Israel conflict. But what kind of cease-fire?

"Immediate," says the international community. Israel's response to that? ANTI-SEMITIC. That's right, "immediate" is now an adjective used by anti-Semites only.

Nuri al-Maliki whose first official trip to Washington has gotten him in trouble did not stop at "immediate," he denounced Israel for its attacks on Lebanon and refused to condemn Hizbollah. I am shocked that a Shi'a theocrat has failed t condemn a fellow Shi'a theocrat!

As it turns out, representative Rosa DeLauro has threatened to boycott attending al-Maliki's remarks to a joint session tomorrow. That's right, the al-Da'wa Party member, once deemed as a terrorist by the U.S. government will have the podium tomorrow before the elected members of the United States congress, talk about tables turning. As it happens, DeLauro and some of her democratic colleagues want an apology from al-Maliki. Stay tuned for udates, I live fr these things.

Back to the adjectives.

"Immediate" needs a description, or so thinks the Bush administration. So how do they describe it, you guessed it, by another adjective, "premature." An "immediate" cease-fire is a "premature" cease-fire. So what is the alternative?

Neutrals opted fr "urgent" which means, take your time if you have to, but pretend that you're looking for a solution. That comes from the not-so-neautral Dr. Rice.

But Dr. Rice and her boss have the perfect adjective, "sustainable." As it turns out, "sustainable" is not attached to any timetable and so as long as Hizbollah continues to be armed, then there is no "urgent" need for a cease-fire, because then it would be "pre-mature."

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Iraq's Interior Miinistry

It may seem weird to Americana that the cabinet post of the Interior in Iraq is among the most important. The Department of the Interior in the United States has very little power. The Interior ministry in Iraq, on the other hand is in charge of counter-insurgency, hence responsible for granting multi-million dollar contracts to those they deem fit and by "fit," I mean those who share the profit in half.

Under the governing council, this important position went, strangely enough to Mr. Samir al-Sumaeda'i. Samir is not closely affiliated with any of the major blocs, but being a Sunni liberal was apparently enough for a clearance by L. Paul Bremer III. Samir al-Sumaida'i has since served as Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations and as of a few months ago as the Iraqi ambassador to Washington. He is eloquent, but beyond that I am not so sure about his qualifications or his loyalties for that matter. There were a few people who behaved rather well by keeping a low profile after having been blessed by Bremer and they continued to stay in positions of power, Samir al-Sumaida'i is certainly one of those few people. He is not a politician in the Iraqi sense of the word because a politician in Iraq has to come from within the ranks of one of the major political parties.

Under Prime Minister Allawi, the post was given to Falah Hassan al-Naqib, yet another Sunni. But unlike al-Sumaida'i, al-Naqib was far more controversial. There were accusations that he sympathized with the insurgency, whether true or not, there are no doubts about the fact that al-Naqib did a horrible job at bringing security to the Iraqis. He recruited Ba'thists to the ministry at a time when school teachers were losing their jobs because of de-Ba'thification. Under Allawi, de-Ba'thification and re-Ba'thification occurred at the same time!

Hassan al-Naqib, like many of his colleagues were let go when the Shi'a/Kurdish government swept the January 30 elections. That Interior ministry was then given to one of the worst nightmares of the New Iraq, Bayan Solagh Jabr of the SCIRI.

Mr. Jabr was so sectarian that immediately after taking over the ministry, most Sunnis were expelled from the ministry. This happened infront of the Americans who, having just celebrated the monumental elections in Iraq thought that the UIA can do no wrong. What started with expelling Sunnis soon developed into a militia called Maghawir al-Dakhiliyyah, to say nothing of the detention centers all over Baghdad, most notably that of al-Jadirriyyah. In these detention centers, Sunnis (not all terrorists) were tortured and many killed.

while Bayan Jabr lost that job after the December 15 elections, he got a better one, finance minister. The ministry is now in the hands of Jawad al-Bolani, the 45 year old engineer who knows nothing about policing or security. The lower ranks continue to be occupied by those appointed by Jabr and so it is highly unlikely to see any major changes in the next four years.

The ministry needs a shake up very badly. The bad apples need to go and a set of non-sectarian bureaucrats need to take over the ministry. That is mere wishful thinking though, none of that is likely to happen.

Hate Mail 1 of -

After posting the Nuri al-Maliki entry, I received this email from an Iraqi Shi'a:

Shalash

I know who you are, you can stop hiding behind that pen name, you filthy self-hating Shi'te.

If you know who I am, why the hell are you addressing me by me pen name?

You said yourself that you don't know anything about Dr. Maliki so why do you say that he is sectarian?

"Dr. Maliki?" Did he get a PhD in the philosophy of backwardness? Was his thesis on the glorification of polygomy or a defense of marriage for 8 year old girls?

Maybe Saddam was better for you, maybe you deserve Saddam.

Maybe.

If I ever see you in Baghdad, you better watch out.

I am shaking...


Friday, July 21, 2006

Nuri al-Maliki in Washington

Our Prime Minister, Mr. Nuri al-Maliki about whom I know next to nothing (that is a scary thing my friends because if there is one thing at which I am good is that I know these clowns pretty damned well) will be visiting Washington to meet with Bush.

If there were no rules to these meetings, if there was no such thing called diplomacy and if al-Maliki had balls, he would say something along the following lines to the leader of the free world:

George, I swear to you by Abi 'Abdullahi al-Husayn (peace be upon him) that the Lebanese Islamic resistance led by Sayyid Hassan Nassrallah is the most noble movement. The Jews (may God exterminate them) have been killing Shi'as in southern Lebanon since 1982 and the only man who stands for them is Sayyid Hassan Nassrallah. You see Texan boy, we're not against tyranny per se, we might have seemed to you that we were liberal democrats when we were condemning Saddam, but that's because Saddam was a Sunni. Have you ever seen us condemn Iran? No, and you never will because the Islamic Republic is a Shi'a republic and soon we'll turn Iraq into something that looks like Iran. Don't worry George, we won't be bullies in the neighborhood, but we certainly won't be a model for the region either.

Instead, he will say something like this:

Thank you Mr. President for your invitation. I would like to take advantage of this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to the men and women of the United States armed forces who so selflessly liberated us from Saddam's evil regime. We've made tremendous progress in fighting the insurgency, we killed al-Zarqawi...

Ahhhh diplomacy.

My point is, why the hell does al-Maliki need to come to Washington? What will he say that we don't already know? Why should the U.S. taxpayers pay for this man's visit who, by the way will be visiting with no less than 50 people with him (this is how Ja'fari used to visit)? al-Maliki will formally ask the United States to stay in Iraq until the job is done so that Bush can say, "the Eye-Rakis are asking us to stay..." I pity these fools, I pity them all.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Lebanon Update 11



Prayer for Lebanon:

I pray to the gods that Lebanon will see more images like the one of the Shi'a lady mourning over the late Gibran Ghassan Gibran Tueni and less images of war such as the one shown here of PLO terrorists killing a resident of Damour infront of his whole family in 1976.

Lebanon Update 10

Western Beirut:

The population of western Beirut has tripled over the past seven days, going from 500,000 to close to 1.5 million people. West Beirut is predominantly Sunni and it is now becoming home, for the duration of this crisis to many many Shi'as from al-Dhahiyyeh (southern Suburb of Beirut) and Southern Lebanon who are escaping the targeted areas. This was reported to me by a friend who is in Western Beirut now.

Maronite Zeal and Shia Zeal:

In an interview with al-Jazeera TV years ago, the late Georges Hawi, the General Secretary of the Lebanese Communist Party said, I paraphrase, the last Civil War was a result of Maronite zeal, but the next one can be because of Shia or Sunni zeal.

More than 150,000 people were killed in the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990). Those who caused these deaths are now and have been since the end of the war, part of the Lebanese government or at least have not been penalized for their crimes. Some of the men in the Lebanese political class are war criminals, most have Lebanese blood on their hands, all have worked for Syria, Israel and others. So it is no surprise that Hassan Nasrallah works for Iran, that seems to be the traditional prerequisite.

Here are some names that should be at the Hague:

1- General Michel Aoun, Lebanese Forces
2- Dr. Samir Geagea, Lebanese Forces
3- Nabih Berri, AMAL
4- Walid Jumblat, Progressive Socialist Party, PSP

The above four warlords are not only in Lebanon, but are powerful and Michel Aoun wants to become the president of Lebanon.

There are more:

Phalnge warlords worked closely with Israel and cheered the Israeli occupation of Lebanon while never shutting up about the independence of Lebanon. It was not their Christianity or self-hatred as Arabs that led them to slaughter Palestinians and Lebanese during the war, it was simply greed because Michel Aoun is responsible for the Syrian presence in Lebanon which ended just last year. Syria's allies in Beirut have always been from the elite maronite class, even today, President Emile Lahud, a Maronite is a close friend of Syria's.

Nothing was done against the warlords of the civil war. Elie Hobeika, who is responsible for carrying out, among other atrocities, the Sabra and Shatila massacres which took the lives of some 700 Palestinian refugees in the outskirts of Beirut, was named, after the war, Minister of Displaced Persons. He also served as Minister of the Disabled. The irony is that Hobeika had played a major role in displacing and handicapping the people of Lebanon.

The truth ought to be told about Lebanon, this society needs a truth and reconciliation commission more than anything else.

It is a pity that a society this cultured, this sophisticated should have politicians who follow their fathers' footsteps to enter the political scene. Bachir Gemayel, Amin Gemayel and other neo-Gemayels are deified by some Maronites because of Pierre Gemayel, the founder of the Phalange. Walid Jumblatt, the son of the Druze leader, Kamal Jumblatt is referred to by the Druze as al-Walid, "The Walid." And even Sa'ad Hariri entered Lebanese politics immediately after his father's assassination in February of last year.

Lebanon deserves better than these clowns and criminals, so at a time when all the focus is on Hassan Nasrallah, we should be looking at other Lebanese politicians who are equally guilty.

Lebanon Update 9

When Israel allowed the Lebanese phalange to carry out massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Western Beirut, thousands of Israelis took to the streets in protest of what they called a crime committed against Palestinian civilians by right-wing Lebanese christians, but under the watch of General Ariel Sharon. Israel should forever be proud of that moment when its men and women protested crimes against civilians and screamed, "NOT IN OUR NAME."

But the above picture shows a different Israel, a little girl writes messages on rockets. Absurdity at its zenith! How will this girl recall this moment? How will she tell it to her children?

It is moments like these that bring us closer to a point of no hope.

You disappoint me, Israel!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Lebanon Update 8

Analysis From Yours Truly:

It goes without saying that I hate Hizbollah and everything for which it stands. That said, what has Hizbollah done in the past few days? It has proved itself as a reliable Iranian subcontractor and a regional player to which the world must now listen. Let me explain.

On the first day of this crisis, Hassan Nassrallah was threatening Israel that if they continue to target Beirut, he would order attacks on Haifa. What does that mean? He wants to say to the world that Beirut is his and that Siniora's government doesn't matter. When Hassan Nassrallah begins to speak on behalf of all of Lebanon, it greatly undermines the fragile democratic government in Beirut. Today, Hassan Nassrallah has only gotten tougher, talking about "open war" and "Haifa and beyond." This man is getting points from Tehran and the winner at the end is, surprise, surprise, Iran.

The Jewish state found itself trapped in this crisis. For Israel, it all began when Hizbollah rockets killed some of its soldiers and kidnapped two of them. But the all-out war against Lebanon that Israel declared was no justification for two soldiers, so they upped the stakes, calling for Hizbollah to disarm and Bush, like a cheerleader echoed that demand, calling upon Hizbollah to disarm.

It is now too late for Israel to back away and be satisfied with the return of its two soldiers, they have started something they need to finish. It is justifiable, in a military sense to cut the enemy's supply routes, but in this case, that just happens to affect millions of non-concerned Lebanese civilians, not to mention the tourists who found themselves trapped.

Winners and Losers in this Crisis:

Before the Crisis:

Winners: Israel, the Lebanese government, the United States

Because the Lebanese government would gradually become a solid democracy backed by the United States and would eventually undermine Hizbollah and Israel would just sit back and enjoy the benefits.

Losers: Iran, Syria and Hizbollah

Because without this crisis, Iran would keep getting pressure on its nukes project, would be forced to find a way to come to terms with the fact that a prosperous, pluralistic Lebanon would eventually undermine Hizbollah. As for Syria, the strengthening of this anti-Syrian Lebanese government would further distance Syria from the Lebanese scene.

During this Crisis:

Winners: Hizbollah, Iran and Syria

Because Hizbollah now is Lebanon and Lebanon is Hizbollah, courtesy of Iranian and Syrian weapons and support.

Losers: Israel, Lebanese government and the United States

Because at a time when the very idea of Bush's democratization project is being questioned, the only Arab democracy is pleading for a cease-fire while its airports and highways are getting hit by Israeli rockets. The Lebanese government has been exposed to the whole world that it has no control over Hizbollah and that it is now at the mercy of Hassan Nassrallah. As for Israel, it has opened another front during an already tense time.

After the Crisis:

If...

Hizbollah is defeated and or disarmed

then...

Winners: U.S., Israel

Because that would be a blow to global terrorism and Iran. Israel would once and for all rid itself of its northern enemy.

Losers: Iran, Syria and the Lebanese government

Iran and Syria would lose their militant ally in Lebanon. But also the Lebanese government would have to start from scratch while Syria's allies in Beirut would attempt to score a comeback, hence, bringing Lebanon back to the pre-Hariri assassination days.

If...

a premature cease-fire was to be agreed upon

then...

Winners: Iran, Syria and Hizbollah

Because Iran would then say that they can disrupt the region whenever they want and if you think $87 is a lot for a barrel of oil, then just wait until Iran orders hitting Haifa or Tel Aviv with rockets. Hizbollah would become a stronger player in Beirut and Syria would laugh at Beirut's politicians and say to them, "did you really think you could do it without us?"

Losers: United States, Lebanese government and Israel

Because as Iran becomes more powerful, Iraq's prospects of becoming a democracy automatically weaken and with mid-term elections around the corner, Republican candidates for '08 would begin looking for ways to exiting Iraq, of course, prematurely. The Lebanese government would lower its head before the grand master, Hassan Nassrallah who can take all of Lebanon to war whenever he or his bosses in Iran please. As for Israel, it would have to be more cautious of the area it unilaterally withdrew from six years ago, southern Lebanon

I know I am a genius...

Lebanon Update 7

Jordan and Egypt Join Saudi Arabia:

Jordan and Egypt, al-Hayat is reporting have joined Saudi Arabia in calling Hizbollah's actions as irresponsble and adventurous.

West Asian Championship Is Postponed:

According to al-Arabiyyah news channel, the West Asian Soccer Championship which was to be hosted be Lebanon have been postponed.

Kuwaiti Reaction:

The Kuwaiti News Agnecy is reorting that the Prime Minister utterly condemns the actions of the "Israeli enemy" on the people of Lebanon. Ahhhh Kuwait...

"Haifa and Beyond" Says Nassrallah:

al-Quds al-Arabi, the newspaper whose chief editor, Abdulbari Atwan should be in prison for publicaly praising men like Zarqawi and Bin Laden is reporting that Hassan Nassrallah, secretary general of Hizbollah is threatening that the surprises are yet to come and that they would start targeting Haifa and beyond.

Walid Jumblat:

Walid Jumblat, the Druze warlord who more often than not speaks under the influence of heavey drugs said, according to an-Nahr newspaper that Syria and Israel have an agreement to destroy Lebanon!

United Arab Emirates Reaction:

Unlike Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, but like Kuwait, the UAE remains in solidarity with terrorism in the name of "helping the brethern of Lebanon." al-Khaleej newspaper has dedicated a whole section of its website to the crisis and it is called, "the Tsunami of Zionist Terror Hits Lebanon."

Lebanon Update 6

35 More Lebanese Dead:

The Israelis have not stopped their attacks on Beirut, in fact, they have intensified and expanded them. 35 more Lebanese civilians have been killed. Here's a Reuters report.

Iran:

Tehran Times, the not-so-independent Iranian site in English is calling Israel's actions, "Zionist crimes."

Unconfirmed reports are suggesting that as many as 200 Iranian Revolutionary Guards are operating inside Lebanon.

Israel says that Iran helped Hizbollah with the attack on the Israeli warship.

Mr. Siniora Says "HELP:"

Fuad Siniora's Lebanon's Prime Minister in a speech today called for an "Arab plan" to resolve this issue and he declared Lebanon, "a disaster zone."

Not Even Lip-Service:

The foreign ministers of the Arab countries met today in Cairo and to the surprise of the Arab journalists waiting outside of the meeting, there was no unanimous condemnation against Israel, there was no unanimous solidarity for Hizbollah. The Arab League was only good for uttering empty words, they've even stopped that, good.

Bush Says:

"The best way to stop the violence is for Hizbollah to lay down its arms."

Friday, July 14, 2006

Visiting Iraq

In May of 2003, I visited Iraq after a long absence. I did not go there with Americans or Iraqis, I went there alone, at my own expense, to visit my parents, my sister and whatever was left of a life I once so dearly cherished.

I remember when I landed in Amman at dawn, I started having some feelings that I can only describe as having never sensed them before in my life. I was going to an Iraq where there was no Saddam. The bus ride to Baghdad was very memorable, it was packed with mostly Iraqi expats and two young men returning from Lebanon were singing the whole way there. I wanted, despite my awful voice to join them, but something stopped me. When in Baghdad, I surprised my folks by showing up as though I was coming from the market. Our street looked very much the same, I remember vividly the last time I was there before I fled. I did not recognize any of the neighbors whom I ran into before entering our house.

Being the first of my exiled siblings to visit post-Saddam Iraq, that first night was truly something, before September 11, I never thought was possible. I was there, in Baghdad, with my folks and my only sibling who remained in Iraq, a younger sister. It was surreal and "surreal" barely does any justice to what it really was like to be doing something you had giving up all hope of ever doing.

Only in my sweetest dreams did I think that returning to Baghdad would ever be possible again. I had not gone to Baghdad to stay, I thought I was only visiting. But one extension of my vacation after another made what was supposed to be a one month visit, a permanent stay. I had left behind very little in the West and there was no reason for me to leave my country again.

I helped my dad with his shop while I spent the remainder of my time going through his books that survived the sanctions. You see many Baghdadi families were forced to sell their books in the 1990s due to terrible economic conditions. Surely I missed my books, which were in storage in the East Coast, but being in Baghdad was worth being away from my books.

Sometimes at night, my little sister and I would drive around and get lost, because with all the road closings and the checkpoints, we usually had no idea where we were going, but it was safe. We would look at the lights of Baghdad and bet how long it would take before this or that neighborhood would lose power, I was damned good at that game.

The so called insurgency started to get stronger every day. It was no longer safe to drive at night nor was it safe to visit certain neighborhoods. People started getting killed. News of random rape, kidnapping and murder started to surface. At night, we would hear gun shots and we would know they were not celebratory because they were accompanied by sounds of RPGs. My sweet Baghdad was no longer fun.

Some of my friends began to leave for Jordan, Kurdistan or Syria. I stayed until my folks convinced me to leave. My next-door neighbor whom I had helped with his English homework several times and with whom I had shared numerous stories about life in America informed the insurgents that I was an "American agent." Despite the numerous opportunities, I never once even thought of working with the Iraqi or US government because I wanted to help my father with his shop, but that didn't matter to Sunni militants who were looking for any excuse to behead a Shi'a Iraqi returning from exile.

Time had come for me to once again flee Iraq, just like I fled Saddam's Iraq. I arrived in the United States depressed, waiting every day for a miracle that would end the insurgency so that I can return to Baghdad. But days turned into weeks and weeks into months. My neighbor who had informed on me apologized to my parents before one day, they told me that he had been killed.

I forgive him for taking me away from Baghdad and not because he's dead, but because 35 years of Saddam's Iraq had changed the very culture of the country.

A few months ago, I decided to once again go to Baghdad, this time through Kurdistan. Being in Arbil International Airport was like being in a different country, it didn't feel like Iraq. I took an Iraqi Airlines flight from Arbil to Baghdad.

Baghdad has changed since the last time I was there, everywhere you go, you can see that this city is at war with itself, demolished buildings, dirty streets, pick-up trucks with machine guns on top of them, rumors, conspiracy theories and generally news about murder, rape etc... What's most extraordinary though is that very seldom can one find a smiling man or woman. Everywhere you go, there are sad people who have no idea where their lives are going.

I left Baghdad almost without hope, I say "almost" because otherwise, what is the point?

High Times for al-Qaeda

When the US embassies in Africa were bombed, I recall talking to a Shi'a friend who said, "this will switch focus from Shi'a terrorism to Sunni terrorism." I say "Shi'a friend" only because he is a practicing and proud Shi'a as opposed to me who sees his Shi'aism as a mere accident of birth, no more, no less. He was right, in the years that followed, Hizbollah was no longer the center of attention in Washington and failure to deal with this organization resulted in its legitimacy as it became part of the Lebanese government.

On other fronts, SCIRI and al-Da'awa became U.S. allies in the most important foreign policy decision since WWII, the Iraq project. So all in all, the religious Shi'a groups were off the hook and prospering in the region while, Bin Laden and other Sunni terrorists were hiding in caves.

Hizbollah's recent actions against Israel force Washington once again to rethink its policy vis-a-vis the fundemntalist Shi'a groups. Sooner or later, Washington will realize that its democratization project will fail if the sub-contractors for the project are men like Abdulaziz al-Hakim and Nuri al-Maliki, not to mention, the Sadrists who go around Baghdad killing people on identity on a DAILY BASIS.

Hassan Nassrallah, Abdulaziz al-Hakim, Ibrahim al-Ja'afari, Muqtada al-Sadr, Nuri al-Maliki, Mahmud Ahmadinajad, Ali Khamna'i all want the same thing, strong mullacracies in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon (or at least southern Lebanon). Their differences concern the importance of Najaf over Karbala or Qum, not over whether it is right for an 8 year old girl to be married in a court of law, that they agree on.

So as Washington is firmly suporting its ally, Israel against the Shi'a, Bin Laden, somewhere is smiling. It is ironic (or is it) that Saudi Arabia and Bin Laden are probably the only two parties who can potentially benefit from the ongoing crisis in Lebanon.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Lebanon Update 5

Australia Closes Its Embassy:

The Australian embassy in Beirut has been closed and according to the Age, some 25,000 Australians are feared to be trapped in Lebanon as the country continues to suffer from the sins of Hizbollah and the agression of the IDF.

The UN:

The most useless international organization, U.N. is to convene on Friday to discuss the ongoing crisis. This came after pleas from the Lebanese government which feels trapped in the middle of a crisis it did not know anything about prior to its occurance.

HARD FACT:

The Lebanese government admits it does not control Hizbollah. Oh the shame!

Three Killed and 29 Injured:

al-Jazeera is reporting that the airport has been bombed once more this morning. Also the bombing of the southern suburb of Beirut has resulted in three deaths and 29 injuries. I cannot confirm this, all al-Jazeera news have to be confirmed.

NYTimes Article:

The New York Times
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July 14, 2006
Beirut

Violence Opens Old Wounds From Lebanon’s Past

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Friday, July 14 — Lebanon found itself virtually cut off from the world Thursday as the main highway linking Beirut and Damascus, Syria, the last major artery left intact after attacks by Israeli warplanes, was bombed late Thursday night.

With Israeli warships patrolling Lebanon’s shores and the runways at Rafik Hariri International Airport bombed Thursday and other parts bombed early Friday, the country was fully blockaded.

As the roar of warplanes and the occasional boom of missiles rattled nerves, many Lebanese began re-enacting the rituals learned during 15 years of civil war. They hoarded canned foods, spare batteries and candles. Some prepared bomb shelters and others hunkered down for a protracted siege.

The Lebanese cabinet met Thursday, called for “national unity” and condemned the Israeli assault, demanding that the “international community help secure a cease-fire.”

The attack strained the fragile ties binding Lebanon, whose population of Sunni and Shiite Muslims, Christians and Druse, had begun recovering from the wounds of civil war. Lebanese reactions varied, in many cases along sectarian lines.

In Beirut’s Shiite-dominated southern suburbs, where residents handed out sweets to celebrate the seizures of the Israeli soldiers on Wednesday, residents supported Hezbollah, a Shiite group with close ties to Iran, and insisted that they were ready to sacrifice for the cause. Many pledged their allegiance to Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader. “If things did not escalate to this, nothing would ever be solved,” said Rania al-Faris as she waited for a bus.

But in many other parts of the city, many expressed indignation at having to pay for what they saw as a ruinous escapade. “I’m not anxious because I guess I am just used to war,” admitted Sirine Ahmad, 47, as she stocked up on supplies in the religiously mixed Hamra section. “But this time I feel bitterness, anger and rage because Hezbollah does not have the right to decide to take us back into war.”

The crisis has underscored the weakness of the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who for the past year has struggled to build legitimacy and focus the country inward, hoping to settle growing sectarian squabbles and improve the Lebanese economy.

Israel has long demanded that the Lebanese government disarm Hezbollah, in keeping with a United Nations resolution. But Hezbollah is a powerful force in Lebanon. Two members are part of the Lebanese cabinet, and Hezbollah effectively controls parts of southern Lebanon. Instead of outright confrontation with Hezbollah, Mr. Siniora has tried to goad the group into aligning its agenda with the government’s. For the past several months, he has held what he called a national dialogue to try to find a way to come to a settlement on Hezbollah’s weapons.

But Hezbollah’s attack, and Israel’s response, underline the tensions tearing at Lebanon — a consuming hatred of Israel, which occupied southern Lebanon for 18 years, gratitude to Hezbollah, which drove Israel out, and fear of being plunged into chaos again.

“You can bet that non-Shiites probably hate Hezbollah now,” said Amal Saad Ghorayeb, professor of political science at Lebanese American University and an expert on Hezbollah. “But those same people have also been reminded that Israel is the enemy.”

Timur Goksel, a lecturer at Lebanese American University and a former senior United Nations official in southern Lebanon, said: “The cost of this is high and will continue to get higher. But the highest cost in the end will be in explaining to the Lebanese why this incident occurred.”

Lebanese are also bracing for the economic toll of the fighting. The civil war ravaged Beirut and other parts of the country, but Lebanon invested tens of billions of dollars in a new downtown. Arab tourists, feeling unwelcome in Europe and the United States after the 9/11 attacks, have flocked to Beirut in recent years. Now they are fleeing.

Joseph Khouri, a cabdriver, stood before a scrum of Saudi tourists boarding buses bound for Damascus.

He was proud of Hezbollah’s strike against Israel, he said. But he also realized there would be a price. Tourism contributes up to $4 billion of Lebanon’s $23 billion gross domestic product, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. “Do all these people deserve this?” Mr. Khouri said as he helped load his clients’ bags on the bus. “If they wanted to get the kidnappers, why didn’t they just focus on the kidnappers, not the innocent people?”

The land border with Syria, the sole exit from the country, was backed up for miles by midday. Many Westerners, for whom Syrian visas have become much more difficult to get, were stranded in hotels.

“This is terrifying,” said Abdullah al-Sudairi, a Saudi tourist who cut short his vacation and boarded a bus to Damascus. “I mean it’s a resort, not a war zone.” Perhaps, he said, he would come back, but not for a while.

After the lessons of Lebanon’s past, this siege was an especially unnecessary one, some said. “I have never been as scared in my whole life as I am now,” Mona Karaoui, 24, said. “No one wants to resist against anyone. We just want to live a normal life after all these years of wars and death and misery.”

By nightfall, Beirut had grown quiet as the panic buying ended. Residents stayed home, bracing for worse news to come.

Nada Bakri contributed reporting for this article.


 
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