Tuesday, July 25, 2006




As Israel ramps up the war fever in the Middle East, and Iran and Syria are now being war-pimped as responsible for all the chaos in the region (they're not, of course, but they have to be perceived as the major threat to excuse what comes next), the old alliances of the world continue to shake free of each other, and powerful new alliances are being formed.

For the first time since the end of World War 2, the United States is not being viewed as the key player in these new power structures. In fact, the US, and even the EU, are out of the game for now as far the negotiations for the new regional orders go.

Iran, with or without nukes, is a powerful ally for China and Russia in the Middle East, and the US knows it. Iran is already supplying Russia and China with oil and gas, and China and Russia are both expanding plans to ramp up the country's aging infrastructure.

Then there is, of course, Iran's stunning new alliance with the Shiite-dominated government of Iraq.

It was never supposed to be this way, not for the US at least. China and Russia, however, probably saw it all coming.

A new war across the Middle East now seems inevitable, and there is likely to be some strange or unlikely attack or mystery bombing soon enough that will pull Iran and Syria into the conflict that rages now between Israel and, presumably, a few thousand Hizbullah fighters in Southern Lebanon.

Think the Gulf Of Tomkin incident that the US perpertrated to get themselves into full blown war in Vietnam. Somebody will blow up something and then blame it on someone else.

It's beyond clear that Israel and her allies, or at least the war hawks amongst her allies, wants to go right down to the mat with Iran. But the US, under President, has been reluctant to get this part of the War On Terror truly going. Bush decided diplomacy was the best way to go, and this infuriated the war pigs of Washington and Tel Aviv.

It is clear that Iran and Syria don't want wars with the West (despite the rhetoric), or even a larger conflict with the West's bulldog, Israel, now fully let off its leash. But either Iran or Syria, or both, will most certainly get the blame for the Big Bang that seems likely to be coming soon.

A few soldiers being taken prisoner in a conflict zone seems an unlikely enough excuse for the bigger war about to break out.

And something new will be needed, a more powerful set of images for the world's media than the horrors thrust onto the innocents of Lebanon that are now convincing much of the world that Israel has joined the Rogue States Club, through its targeting of civilians and uniquely civilian infrastructure.

The only way for Israel's actions to stop being seen as completely over the top and brutal is for something far bigger to happen to make everyone forget about a few hundred dead civilians in Lebanon.

It's remarkable that it is Iran and Syria that seems the least willing to Bring It On, as President Bush would say.

Today, it is Israel and the US, and even the UK and Australia, via their leaders and think tanks and opinion makers, who are hammering the case for a full blown war against Iran and Syria, whilst still talking about diplomacy, in a staggered effort to shake up the power structures of the Middle East, and to tell the rest of the world that pre-emptive war is now the norm for the West.

Iraq was the first example, now Lebanon is the second. You don't even need a brutal dicator to be in charge of your country to cop a Pre-Emptive War. Minor hostility towards your Western allied neighbour is now clearly enough.

The message being broadcast is loud : Fall into line or pay the price. What has happened to Lebanon is both a terrifying example of what the US/Israel 'Pre-Emptive War' methodology truly means. It is hard to deny that Lebanon now serves as a visual metaphor of the most powerful kind.

In less than two weeks, Israel's air assault has caused upwards of $10 billion worth of damage to Lebanon, killed almost 500 civilians and displaced some 1 million people.

Two weeks. And the US, the UK, most of Europe, stood by and watched it all happen. A series of attacks that can only be described as terrorist in action, despite the the fact they were carried out by Israel's military.

But this new round of pre-emptive war, as all wars are, is going to be an extremely dangerous game. For the alliances of the world today are far different to what they were last year, or even six months ago.

This new wider war will be as much about the United States, and Israel, holding on to their domination of the Middle East, by proxies, and proxy war, than it will be about fighting terror.

The War On Terror, once again, is the excuse for what comes next.

Iran and Syria, and China and Russia, are being told, "Don't get too comfortable with each other. You can't just get together and form a new new world order and ignore us, the West. Lock us out, cut us off, and let Lebanon become your new reality."

The next few weeks will be the key to how the rest of the year unfolds.

For some background on why the West now feels so threatened by what China, Russia, Iran and Syria, and other former nations of the Soviet Empire, have been up to, this story from the Financial Times is as good a place to start as any :
For the first five years of its existence, the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation was thought of as little more than a talking shop for central Asian leaders.

Yet since the annual summit in Shanghai (in May) of the six-nation group – its members are China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan – diplomats have been trying to decide if the organisation is now becoming an important political entity.

This is partly down to Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, the controversial Iranian president, who visited the Shanghai summit as an observer and talked of his desire for Iran to enter the SCO. His presence prompted speculation that the SCO could provide a diplomatic lifeline to Iran and hamper efforts to persuade Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment programme.

But as high oil prices have intensified the jostling for political power in central Asia, the questions raised by the SCO summit go much deeper. The group appears to underline China’s ever-expanding influence in the region and is taking a more confrontational attitude to the US. Critics in the US have tagged it with labels such as “Oriental Nato” and “Opec with nuclear weapons”.

“The SCO is emerging as a focus of global power which is competing with the US,” says Ariel Cohen, a Russia and Eurasia specialist at the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think-tank in the US.

“Its agenda, especially after Ahmadi-Nejad’s performance, is clear: to dictate to the US how things are done, and at what pace.”

The SCO has its roots in a group called the Shanghai Five set up in 1996 to analyse territorial disputes in central Asia following the collapse of the Soviet Union. It evolved into the SCO in 2001 with a focus on security and economic co-operation.

Diplomats say the SCO is beginning to establish an identity for itself, partly based on opposition to the US making greater inroads into the region.

Iran & China Sign Massive Oil, Gas Deal - Push Further Co-Operation

Sunday, July 23, 2006


When the US went to war against the Taliban in Afghanistan in the weeks following September 11, 2001, they had most of the world on their side. It was seen as a just and necessary war by the West, Al Qaeda training bases had to be destroyed and Afghanistan had to be freed from the absurd and horrific ultra-religious rule of the Taliban.

Half a thousand Special Forces soldiers from the UK, Australia and the US struck fast and hard and deep, backed by the world's most destructive collection of air power. Within fourteen days, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had run out of targets. There's nothing left worth bombing he is said to have complained to commanders in the Pentagon.

That first month of the 'War On Terror' was a triumph. The Taliban were mostly chased out of the capital Kabul, and other population and business centres like Kandahar, and Osama Bin Laden disappeared into the mountains bordering Pakistan. Best of all for the West, military and civilian casualties were low.

There was nation building to do, but the Bush White House wasn't interested. They had already set their plans for a War On Iraq into action. Securing Afghanistan was not going to get in the way of their plans to secure strategic bases in the heart of the Middle East.

Now NATO forces, and US forces, are paying a heavy price for the failure of Bush Co to complete the follow-thru in Afghanistan. The War On Iraq is a disaster, and now Afghanistan is going the same way, the civilian and military death tolls are climbing steadily.

Back in Washington, they just can't stop talking about Iran and Syria.

From the UK Guardian :
The most senior British military commander in Afghanistan yesterday described the situation in the country as "close to anarchy" with feuding foreign agencies and unethical private security companies compounding problems caused by local corruption.

The stark warning came from Lieutenant General David Richards, head of Nato's international security force in Afghanistan, who warned that western forces there were short of equipment and were "running out of time" if they were going to meet the expectations of the Afghan people.

The assumption within Nato countries had been that the environment in Afghanistan after the defeat of the Taliban in 2002 would be benign, Gen Richards said. "That is clearly not the case," he said yesterday. He referred to disputes between tribes crossing the border with Pakistan, and divisions between religious and secular factions cynically manipulated by "anarcho-warlords".

Corrupt local officials were fuelling the problem and Nato's provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan were sending out conflicting signals, Gen Richards told a conference at the Royal United Services Institute in London.

"The situation is close to anarchy," he said, referring in particular to what he called "the lack of unity between different agencies".

Gen Richards will also take command of the 4,500-strong British brigade in Helmand province at the heart of the hostile, poppy-growing south of the country when it comes under Nato's overall authority.

He said yesterday that Nato "could not afford not to succeed" in its attempt to bring long-term stability to Afghanistan and build up the country's national army and security forces. He described the mission as a watershed for Nato, taking on "land combat operations for the first time in its history".

"We Will Defeat Taliban," Rumsfeld Declares But Few Believe Him Anymore

Australia Plans To Send In Another 120 Troops, 240 Already In War Zone

UK Sends Another 850 Troops, More Than 4500 Now Serving In Afghanistan

Good Question : Why Doesn't NATO Just The Afghan Opium Crop To Keep It Out Of The World Market?

Two Canadians Killed By Suicide Bomber In Kandahar, 19 Canadians Killed So Far

Canadian Soldiers Angry, Upset Over Deaths Of Colleagues, Questions Raised About Armoured Military Vehicles



Israel launching one of its biggest military strikes in history may have come as a surprise to millions of people in the Middle East, but for a select group of US media, congressmen and the elite of the most influential think tanks, the smashing of Lebanon was old news before it even began two weeks ago.

Israel made firm plans to strike at Hizballah and to step back into Lebanon more than twelve months ago, and under a strict secrecy agreenment, began briefing those they deemed most important of what they were going to do, and the basics of how they were going to do it.

They told these journalists, politicians and opinion makers what they had in mind, which boiled down to a three week, three stage plan to try and diasrm and disable Hizballah.

This news is interesting and controversial for any number of reasons.

It means that Israel probably would have moved vi9lently on Hizballah and Hamas regardless of whether or not any IDF soldiers were kidnapped.

That IDF soldiers were kidnapped was supposed to be the key to the start of this current bloody confrontation, according to the governments of the US, the UK, Israel and Australia.

In fact, the kidnapping of the soldiers "started it" according to President Bush, Australian Prime Ministe John Howard and UK PM Tony Blair.

They had obviously been fed the script well in advance.

Briefing Israel-sympathetic media, politicians and think tankers also meant that a steady build up to a two front war began in the world's media long before it became a reality.

Reports in the New York Times, the Washington Post and the London Times, for example, are some of the most widely syndicated stories in the world's media. Israel only needed to let a few journos know what it was going to do and they then could see the lights on the horizon for themselves and talk up the "inevitability" of the future actions by Israel.

Such mastery of propaganda also meant that Israel had planted the knowledge in the minds of some very influential people that Hizballah and Hamas would never be seen as legitimate, even if they won elections, which they did, and even if they recieved tacit support from the Bush White House, which they did as well.

It also explains why the US never really pushed Israel to acknowlege the legitimacy of Hamas and Hizballah members being a part of the democratically elected governments of Palestine and Lebanon.

It didn't matter whether or not Hizballah or Hamas stuck to their unofficial truces or not, the script was set in place, and the timeline was counting down.

Whether Hamas or Hizballah laid off Israel through the first of this year, whether they kept up the bombings and the rocket attacks, or if they chose to pull right back and recognise the rights of Israel, they were labelled as terrorists and were therefore doomed to destruction by Israel.

This brings up the essential issue : Hizballah and Hamas were probably going to get smashed by Israel regardless of what they did or didn't do.

So the kidnapping of the IDF soldiers was not the start of Israel's major attempt to crush the two groups but merely the catalyst, the headline-grabber that made it easier for Israel to do what it intended to do and had, in fact, been planning to do for more than twelve months.

From the San Francisco Chronicle :
Israel's military response by air, land and sea to what it considered a provocation last week by Hezbollah militants is unfolding according to a plan finalized more than a year ago.

"Of all of Israel's wars since 1948, this was the one for which Israel was most prepared," said Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University.

More than a year ago, a senior Israeli army officer began giving PowerPoint presentations, on an off-the-record basis, to U.S. and other diplomats, journalists and think tanks, setting out the plan for the current operation in revealing detail. Under the ground rules of the briefings, the officer could not be identified.

In his talks, the officer described a three-week campaign: The first week concentrated on destroying Hezbollah's heavier long-range missiles, bombing its command-and-control centers, and disrupting transportation and communication arteries.

In the second week, the focus shifted to attacks on individual sites of rocket launchers or weapons stores. In the third week, ground forces in large numbers would be introduced, but only in order to knock out targets discovered during reconnaissance missions as the campaign unfolded.

The plan unfolds now much as Israel designed it last year.

At least 3000 IDF troops are inside Lebanon and some 5000 more reserves are said to be now gearing up and fast-training for deployment.

Israel has seized what they term to be a "strategic town" inside Lebanese territory.

After Maroun al-Ras was taken, Israeli soldiers in armored personal carriers traveled to and from the village, but there was no large-scale movement.

The raid was part of Israel's wider strategy of running a "limited" ground operation aimed at destroying Hezbollah's tunnels, hideouts and weapons stashes.

Israeli warplanes also blasted communications and television transmission towers in central and northern Lebanese mountains Saturday, police said.

Fighter bombers fired missiles at the transmission station at Fatqa in the Keserwan mountains, knocking out transmission antennas.

Another airstrike crippled a transmission tower at Terbol in northern Lebanon, police said.

On Friday, Israel knocked out a key bridge on the road to Syria and pummeled Hezbollah positions in the south as long lines of tanks and armored personnel carriers lined up at the border in some places close enough to see Lebanese homes on the other side.

UK journalist Jason Burke is widely regarded as one of the best writers on Al Qaeda and the 'War On Terror'. Here he writes on the spreading power of the Islmaic Shia and the possibility of a Shia Resurgence across the Middle East.

Ten or 15 per cent of the world's 1.4bn Muslims are Shia. The differences with the majority Sunnis are doctrinal, cultural and often political, and date back to a schism over who would succeed the Prophet Muhammad 1,400 years ago.

For much of that time Shias were a persecuted minority, creating a powerful culture of martyrdom. However, there have been several episodes when the Shia, despite their smaller numbers, have been more dominant - most recently in 1979 when the Iranian revolution and the regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini inspired hundreds of millions of Muslims of all denominations worldwide, promoting a re-energised political Islam.

For a short period, all eyes turned to the Shia. In the intervening years their star waned. Now, it is shining bright again.

Five major elements underpin the new Shia revival. The first is the sudden militancy of Iran, which has been led aggressively onto the world stage by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This new Iranian confidence is itself based on internal developments but also three main external factors: the removal of the Taliban from its eastern border in 2001; the removal of Saddam (a chauvinist Sunni) from its border; and vastly increased oil revenues.

The second major element of 'the Shia comeback' is the new power of Iraq's Shia who, though 65 per cent of the population, had been ruled by the Sunni minority for at least 400 years. Now the 'National Unity government' of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad is dominated by Shia friends of Iran.

Iran has profited enormously from chaos in Iraq. A recent report for the American Institute of Peace, a Washington think-tank, pointed out that Iran's leaders meet with Iraq's most influential personality, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who will not meet Americans.

The report continued: 'Iraq's leaders visit to Tehran to negotiate on substantive issues such as border security and joint energy projects. Iranian businessmen are investing heavily in Iraq's overwhelmingly Shia southern regions, and Iran's intelligence operatives are embedded throughout Iraq's nascent security forces and within the Shia militias that have tremendous street power in the south, especially in the city of Basra.'

Israel Bows To International Outrage And Agress To PeaceKeeping Forces

Israel To Agree To "Temporary Peace" As Plans For EU Troops To Go Into Border Region Solidify

Israel Now Ready For Ground War

Robert Fisk : One Week In The Life And Death Of Beirut

Jerusalem Post Editorial : The Weekend The War Got Complicated

Syria Warns It Will Join The War If Israel Gets Too Close To Its Borders

Bush as the College Boy Joker never fails to give the media plenty of "Mock Me!" ammunition. In the vid-capture sequence above, he gives Germany's Chancellor Merkel an unwelcome 'massage'.

A fascinating insider account from Newsweek on how US President Bush handled the eruption of events in the Middle East - Israel Vs Lebanon, Israel Vs Hamas, the world's reaction to Israel's pummelling of the Lebanese - as the G8 in Russia unfolded.

The story is actually more interesting for its glimpses into the interactions between the G8 leaders and the endless dithering and negotiations they all indulge in simply to come up with a short statement on what has exploded between Israel and Hizbullah.

Most people would assume that the world's leaders are in control of the world, as it were, but they are portrayed in this story as almost simply standing by, watching what happens, wondering what to do, and coming up with few answers. You can't help shake the feeling : no-one is driving the bus, and it's heading towards a cliff.

Some essential highlights from the long feature story :

While Washington was sleeping the night before, yet another corner of the Middle East had erupted into violence, after Hizbullah launched a deadly ambush on an Israeli patrol. The summit, which was supposed to focus on Iran's nukes and Russia's democracy, had just been hijacked by the war on terror.

After five years of terrorism and bloodshed, crisis has become a way of life for George W. Bush.

Back home, he usually has the luxury of managing events in private, with his aides close at hand and world leaders a phone call away. This time it's just the opposite: Bush must respond to the violence in the full glare of a global summit, where the leaders like to take each other's measure in front of the cameras.

Over the next several days, Bush huddles with presidents and prime ministers, showing how far he has traveled since 9/11—and also how little he has changed.

Bush thinks the new war vindicates his early vision of the region's struggle: of good versus evil, civilization versus terrorism, freedom versus Islamic fascism. He still believes that when it comes to war and terror, leaders need to decide whose side they are on.

But after Iraq, many of those leaders find it hard to rush to Bush's side, and he has struggled to win them back. Over the past three years, since the invasion, his options have narrowed;
circumstances have taught him to speak the language of diplomacy more fluently.

....Secret Service agents believe the president and his aides are under surveillance at all times. They have ordered White House staffers to hand in their BlackBerrys and cell phones so Russian spies can't track their conversations. Russian security refuses to allow a sweep for bugs at "the cottage"—a McMansion-style villa complete with a pool and weight room.

Hovering above the ground nearby is a white communications balloon that Bush's aides believe is recording everything they say outdoors. The only totally secure place is the president's armored, soundproofed limo, which the White House has airlifted to Russia.

Inside one of the cottage's rooms, the Secret Service has set up a black tent, where aides can handle classified documents out of sight of any cameras buried in the walls or furniture.

Newsweek asks (Bush) whether (Russian president) Putin maintains his dour KGB face in private, or whether he is more relaxed behind closed doors.

Bush looks up at the spy balloon and states clearly, "That's your phrase, not mine."

Bush knows that Russia has a special relationship with Syria and Iran, and he urges Putin to intervene.

"Any time a nation is attacked by terrorism, they have the right to protect themselves," Bush says to Putin, using terms that the Russian president understands well from his own conflict with Chechen rebels. "It will be very useful to remind Syria they have an obligation to rein in these people, and Iran as well."

Bush finds the lengthy summit sessions almost unbearable. The negotiations were concluded long ago, and all that's left is a procession of windy statements—which some of the other leaders endure better than Bush.

The atmosphere turns chilly on the last day in Russia, and not just because the weather grows cold and wet. At their final lunch, the leaders sit down with outsiders, including U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Bush is frustrated that Annan wants an Israeli ceasefire before Hizbullah has returned the abducted soldiers and stopped firing rockets—as the G8 leaders have just agreed.

"What they need to do is get Syria to get Hizbullah to stop doing this shit, and it's over," Bush tells Blair. His comments should have stayed private; instead, they are piped to journalists outside.

But as the crisis in Lebanon deepens, Bush's allies and critics question the depth of his commitment to diplomacy.

Is he really embracing the United Nations or using the slow diplomatic process to buy more time for Israeli forces to destroy Hizbullah? Will the support he has rallied among moderate Arab states survive another week of Israeli airstrikes?

In his own mind, he's simply doing what much of the world has long urged him to do: build a coalition.

Bush : "What you're seeing is a foreign policy that works with friends and allies to solve problems. It takes a while for a problem to occur and it takes a while to solve a problem."

He sure got that right. The discussions between the most powerful leaders of the world, their 'united' statements on the events in the Middle East, and their desires for it all to end quickly, made no difference at all to the people of Israel and Lebanon.

More died in the days after the G8 finished than in the four days of the event itself and a ceasefire, or even a scaling back of the attacks and the violence, is no closer to becoming a reality.

Saturday, July 22, 2006




Democracy takes hold in Iraq, at least within the massively fortified Green Zone, and a growing number of politicians from the new government are demanding the US withdraws its troops.

That was to be expected, particularly as a majority of Iraqis want the occupation forces out of their country.

But Iraqi politicians and government ministers are now also publicly attacking the occupation forces, the US in particular, for the horrifying rise in civilian deaths and untold acts of violence against people they claim had nothing to do with the various insurgency groups.

The speaker of the Iraqi government, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, cut loose with a incredible barrage of accusations at a UN sponsored conference in Baghdad last week, where he claimed the citizens of his country are regarded by US troops as less worthy of respect than dogs.
"Just get your hands off Iraq and the Iraqi people and Muslim countries,
and everything will be all right. What has been done in Iraq is a kind of
butchery of the Iraqi people."

"What we need is reconciliation between Iraqis only, there can be no third party.,.."

He related an anecdote about how American soldiers keep people waiting in lines at checkpoints for hours because they insist on resting their bomb-sniffing dogs.

"The sleep of American dogs is more important than people being stopped in the street for hours," he said.
US military leaders recently floated the possibility that its forces could remain in Iraq up to, and perhaps beyond, 2015.

Construction continues on the 125 acre US embassy on the banks of the River Tigris in Baghdad's CBD, which will become the largest fortified complex of its kind in the world - a city within a city.

The civilian death toll in Baghdad alone is now coming into a clearer light, as Iraqi government ministries and health officials speak out about the 14,000 people who have died in 2006 alone, as a direct result of the ongoing war.

The deputy prime minister of Iraq made an extraordinary claim yesterday, saying the US and Coaltion forces were responsible for half of all the civilian deaths due to "raids, shootings and clashes with insurgents" - more than 1200 civilian deaths a month, on average.
"They came to protect the people and democracy and all the problems we have today are because of them. It is a loss for Iraq..."
The United States, meanwhile, has announced a new deployment of thousands more soldiers into the chaos, just as the Iraqi government is due to announce its plans for national reconciliation, which are expected to include deals that would see insurgency fighters escape prosecution in return for disarming.

Iraq Government Announces Peace Plan Without Foreign Interference

Iraq Struggles To Get Supplies To Its Troops And Police, US Steps Back In

Iraq Government United In Condemnation Of Israel's Brutality In Lebanon

Israel's Attack On Lebanon Seen To Uniting Iraq's Warring Tribes Against US And Israel As Thousands Protest, Show Solidarity In Baghdad

Go Here For A Story From 'Your New Reality' For More On The 'War On Iraq'

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Israel continues to smash the infrastructure of Lebanon and destroy the economic viability of Beirut. At the same time, it issues demands for the return of kidnapped IDF soldiers, the total disarming of Hizbullah, it threatens Syria and Iran for supplying weapons to Hizbullah, but it says it is also ready to negotiate while railing against giving in to terror. But most importantly of all, Israel says it intends to continue its vicious bombing of Lebanon "for weeks".

This swirl of information sandwiched between piles of disinformation and spin is supposed to create confusion and mask the true intentions of Israel : to punish the Lebanese for daring to elect members of Hizbullah during their democratic electi0ns, just as Palestinians are now being hammered for daring to elect members of Hamas to government.

But so shocking has Israel's brutality been that all of its PR hacks and flacks and the power of its mammothic publicity machine can barely hold back a number of world leaders, and huge sections of the world media, from calling Israel a terrorist state.

More than 260 Lebanese civilians have been slaughtered in the past six day, with some 1000 more injured. Israel has taken two dozen dead and a few hundred more with mostly minor injuries.

The world has lost its taste for war, and the branding of the 'War On Terror' continues to be degraded by acts of horrific violence against civilians that are impossible not to be viewed as a form of terrorism. That this terrorism is performed by a major western ally makes the bombing campaigns, with more than 1000 targets hit inside Lebanon, no less terrorising than if the attacks were launched by suicidal Islamists.

From the Washington Times (President Bush's "favourite newspaper") :
Israeli officials said today that their offensive in Lebanon could last several more weeks and involve large numbers of ground forces, casting doubt on diplomatic efforts to broker a cease-fire.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told a visiting U.N. delegation that "Israel will continue to combat Hezbollah and will continue to strike targets of the group" until captured Israeli soldiers are released and Israeli citizens are safe from attacks.

In Belgium, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said any international stabilization force must be "considerably" larger and better armed than the U.N.'s current force in Lebanon, which numbers about 2,000 troops and long has been viewed by all sides in the Middle East as ineffectual and lacking a strong mandate.
Israel's PM Olmert has already rejected the idea of an "international force".

Israel wants to keep bombing for weeks and, incredibly, the US has basically said, "Okay, you've got at least a week more before we have to tell you to reign it in."
The US is giving Israel a window of a week to inflict maximum damage on Hizbullah before weighing in behind international calls for a ceasefire in Lebanon, according to British, European and Israeli sources.

The Bush administration, backed by Britain, has blocked efforts for an immediate halt to the fighting initiated at the UN security council, the G8 summit in St Petersburg and the European foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels.

"It's clear the Americans have given the Israelis the green light. They [the Israeli attacks] will be allowed to go on longer, perhaps for another week," a senior European official said yesterday. Diplomatic sources said there was a clear time limit, partly dictated by fears that a prolonged conflict could spin out of control.

US strategy in allowing Israel this freedom for a limited period has several objectives, one of which is delivering a slap to Iran and Syria, who Washington claims are directing Hizbullah and Hamas militants from behind the scenes.

George Bush last night said that he suspected Syria was trying to reassert its influence in Lebanon. Speaking in Washington, he said: "It's in our interest for Syria to stay out of Lebanon and for this government in Lebanon to succeed and survive. The root cause of the problem is Hizbullah and that problem needs to be addressed."

Israel's current strategy in the Middle East, with the full backing of the United States, was clearly outlined in a document called 'A Clean Break : Securing The Realm' written in the late 1990s by neocons who went on to hold key positions of influence within the White House and State Department.

Iran Tells Hizbullah To Curb Attacks On Israel

Israel Will Not Attack Syria, Iran Despite Both Nations Supplying Hizbullah With Weapons

London Times : The Middle East Isn't On The Brink Of War, It's On The Edge Of Catastrophe

Most Israelis Back Brutal Attacks On Lebanon

US And British Warships Arrive Off Coast Of Lebanon - Evacuations Or Invasion?

Iran Leader Tells US To Contain Israel's "Criminal Regime" Or Face "Dire Fate"

Go To 'Your New Reality' For More

Monday, July 17, 2006


The world's biggest industry keeps getting bigger.

Early estimates on the damage to Lebanon's infrascture by Israel's ceaseless targeting of non-militant assets, along with weapons stores and rocket sites, are reaching almost $US700 million.

That's more than $US100 million per day, ever day, worth of damage to Lebanon's infrastructure and thousands of houses and businesses, for the past six days.

Israel, meanwhile, has suffered barely a few million dollars worth of damage.

And then there's this incredible set of figures : The War On Iraq is set to cost each and every single American - man, woman and child - the equivalent of $1000 each in the next few years.

The War On Iraq is set to become more expensive than Vietnam or the Korean wars.
...the US would maintain troop levels in Iraq at 140,000 next year but quickly begin bringing them home thereafter, with almost all its forces out by the end of 2009. This would still cost taxpayers another $US184billion from next year to 2010.

The alternative scenario is a slower drawdown and a US military presence of 40,000 over the long term. This would cost a further $US406 billion over the next decade, leaving total costs approaching $US700 billion.

Lawrence Lindsey, a former White House economic adviser, was fired after predicting that the war could cost between $US100billion and $US200billion.

Congress has approved $US437billion for military operations and other costs related to the war on terror since the attacks of September 11, 2001. The combined costs of fighting terrorism "could reach $US808 billion by 2016", the report says.

Another analysis from the Congressional Research Service, which looked at how much money had been spent rather than merely authorised since the invasion began, puts the tally for Iraq at $US319 billion, with the war in Afghanistan costing a further $US88 billion.

War Is Business. And Business Is Good.


The United Nations Security Council released a resolution that spelled out how and why North Korea must reign in its missile and nuclear weapons programs. In less than an hour, North Korea told the most powerful, most heavily armed leaders of the world to, basically, go and get fucked, if we can put it so bluntly.

North Korea accused the US, Russia, UK, France, Japan, Germany of acting like a bunch of gangsters with its threats and demands to roll back what North Korea describes as weapons programs aimed solely at self-defence.

With Japan even threatening to strike North Korean missile sites in a localised version of Bush's disastrous pre-emption methodology, and South Korea now cutting food aid to the starving millions across the border, the crisis is escalating, instead of decreasing.

China was supposed to sort out North Korea and show the world that it can deal with its "problem child" effectively, thereby proving just how capable China is as a major world power, and how good it is at diplomacy.

From The Australian :

Rejecting the resolution as a "despicable" attempt to isolate North Korea, UN ambassador Pak Gil-yon said the missile tests breached no international agreements, had an important deterrent value and would continue as part of Pyongyang's legitimate right to self-defence.

Before storming from the council chamber, Mr Pak warned that "strong physical actions" would be taken against nations who threatened Pyongyang over future tests.

The tensions built up during the past 11 days spilled over when US ambassador John Bolton mocked Mr Pak for setting a new record in rejecting a Security Council resolution within 45 minutes of its being adopted.

"I could exercise the right of reply on behalf of the US -- but on the other hand, why bother?" Mr Bolton said.

Earlier he said the resolution -- originally drafted by Japan but massaged into its final format by Britain -- sent an unequivocal, unambiguous and unanimous message to Pyongyang to suspend its ballistic missile program, stop procurement of materials related to WMD, and implement its September 2005 commitment to verifiably dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

Japan's Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Shintaro Ito kept a straight face when he said the council had acted "swiftly and robustly" in response to North Korea's seven missile tests on July 5.

Mr Bolton said North Korea had "recklessly disregarded the will of its neighbours and the world" when it test-fired the missiles, one of them a long-range Taepodong-2 missile capable of reaching parts of the US.

South Korea Cuts Food Aid To North Korea

Nobody really thought South Korea would stick to its promise to cut food aid if North Korea didn't play the game over its missiles and nuclear weapons, but they have. South Korea has denied a request for 500,000 tons of rice. North Korea is furious, tensions increase.

North Korea Becomes China's "Problem Child"

Saturday, July 15, 2006




The Middle East hangs on the edge of all out war. Across the Muslim world, the actions of Israel inside Lebanon are being condemned, and hints are already flowing of retaliatory strikes.

While President Bush and Australia's PM John Howard toe the "Israel has the right to defend itself" line, the leaders of Russia, France, Germany, Indonesia, Iraq, amongst the many, are now calling for Israel to back off and stop killing civilians.

Israel has moved beyond targeting Hezbollah artillery positions and are now trying to assassinate Islamic leaders inside Lebanon, along with port facilities, fuel depots, electricity infrastructure and even hospitals, in both Muslim and Christian areas.

Tens of thousands of civilians from the US, the UK, Australia, Brazil and a dozen other countries are trying to escape the carnage. Israeli cities in the north, who haven't faced rocket fire in decades, are now coming under attack. More than 100 civilians are now dead, with almost 500 wounded.

Israel Launches Heavy Attacks On Beirut, Syria May Be Next
Israeli air strikes hit central Beirut and targets near Lebanon's border with Syria Saturday as Hezbollah forces escalated their rocket barrage into Israel.

The Israeli strikes also included attacks on Tripoli and the Christian cities of Amchit and Junieh, CNN said, citing Lebanese media.

Israeli warplanes also hit an area near the southern city of Tyre, where Hezbollah guerrillas were launching rockets at Israel, the Israel Defense Forces said.

Hezbollah rockets continued to stream into Israel, with officials warning that Tel Aviv could soon be hit.

At least 106 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Lebanon in the four-day Israeli offensive, Lebanese police told CNN. At least 15 Israelis have been killed, four civilians and 11 soldiers, Israeli police said.

Residents on both sides of the Israel-Lebanon border are fleeing the area.

Civilians Told To Flee By Israel Burn To Death When Minivan Destroyed By

A number of internationl wire stories are carrying a particularly disturbing addition to this story of a convoy of civilian vehicles being attacked : that Israel loud speakers had told the civilians to flee the village of Mahaween, for no stated reason. Half a mile out of the village, Israel gunships then opened fire on the convoy.
Eighteen civilians, including nine children, were burnt alive in an Israeli helicopter gunship attack today on residents fleeing border villages in south Lebanon, UN peacekeepers and hospital sources said.

They were killed when a missile struck a car and a minibus near Shamaa, hospital sources said. Rescue workers said the minibus took a direct hit.

Nine of the 18 civilians were children, he said.

A total of 30 civilians were killed and 45 others wounded in a series of Israeli raids across the country today.

Thousands of Lebanese have been fleeing the border area after Israeli shelling and warnings to residents to leave in order to prevent Hizbollah guerrillas from hiding among civilians.

Three people were also killed in another raid today when Israeli jets struck the road leading to the main crossing of Masnaa between Lebanon and Syria, blocking passage across the border, police said.

At least 92 civilians have been killed and some 252 wounded since Israel began its assault on Lebanon after the capture of two soldiers and the killing of eight others
by the Syrian-backed militant group Hizbollah early on Wednesday.

Israel Puts Its Own Cities Under Martial Law

Defense Minister Amir Peretz was expected on Saturday evening to declare a "special security situation" in Israel, enabling certain cities to be subject to martial law.

Under such a situation, the instructions given by the Home Front Command, previously considered recommendations, would become obligatory. Businesses, factories and schools may be ordered to be shut down, while the declaration is in effect.

Claim : Israeli Warship Hit By Iran-Made Silkworm Missile

The disaster that overtook one of the Israeli Navy’s state of the art warships, Ahi-Hanit, was thoroughly planned in advance by an enemy which managed to take Israel’s military commanders by surprise. It has shocked Israel’s military to a degree comparable to the profound effect on US forces of al Qaeda’s 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Aden.

The Saar-5 class corvette, with a crew of 61 seamen and a 10-man helicopter crew, was hit Friday, July 17 at 20:15 hours, while shelling Beirut international airport.

...military sources reveal that the warship was struck from Beirut by an Iran-made C-802 shore-to-sea missile of the Silkworm family. Weighing 715 kilos, with a range of 120km, the missile is armed with a strong anti-jamming capability, which lends it a 98% success rate in escaping interception.

Israel Kills 32 Civilians, Including 15 Children
Israel killed at least 32 civilians on Saturday, including 15 children, in air strikes meant to punish Lebanon for letting Hizbollah guerrillas menace the Jewish state's northern border.

Israel's bombing of Lebanese roads, bridges, ports and airports, as well as Hizbollah targets, is its most destructive onslaught since a 1982 invasion to expel Palestinian forces.

For the first time, ports in Christian areas were bombarded and a helicopter missile hit a lighthouse on Beirut's seafront. Raids on roads, ports and petrol stations in north, east and south Lebanon killed 12 people and wounded 32, security sources said, bringing the death toll in four days of Israeli attacks to 100.

All but four of the dead were civilians.

Israel's assault has choked Lebanon's economy and led to an exodus of tourists and foreigners. Lebanon's main commercial ports of Beirut and Tripoli came under fire, as well as ports in the Christian towns of Jounieh and Amsheet, security sources and witnesses said.
President Bush Rejects Lebanon's Pleas To Pressure Israel For A CeaseFire
"We think it's important that (Israel)....try to limit as much as possible the so-called collateral damage, not only on civilians but also on human lives."
Israel Says It Will Rout Hezbollah
Israeli officials said a defeat of Hezbollah, a radical Shiite militia with strong ties to Syria and Iran, would send an important message to the region and would help Israel in its efforts to undermine the power of Hamas in the Palestinian Authority. They argued it would also help the weak Lebanese government assert control over the entire country.
Bush's Favourite Newspaper, Washington Times, Says : Israel's War "Could Last Many Months"

Trapped Scared Australians In Lebanon Beg To Be Brought Home, Australian Government Says It Can't Help For Now

Friday, July 14, 2006



From the Wall Street Journal :

"Israel's escalating incursion into Lebanon -- with bombing attacks on Beirut's airport and a naval blockade -- could turn its border fight with militant Islamists into a regional war that Israel is openly warning might lead to Syria, and beyond that to Iran.

"Already the violence has engaged the Israeli military on two fronts, against Hezbollah militias in Lebanon to the north and Hamas forces that control the Palestinian government in the Gaza Strip to the west.

"But with Hezbollah sending dozens of rockets into Israel and striking the port city of Haifa, and Israel inflicting extensive infrastructure damage, the stakes have grown starkly higher.

"Israel now is fighting not with Palestinians or Arab nations, as in the past, but with the forces of radical Islam.

"While the Bush administration is largely sympathetic with Israel's plight, and also eager to restrain Iran, it is unlikely to be as keen to directly confront Tehran now.

"With U.S. troops tied down in Iraq and a serious diplomatic drive under way at the United Nations to impose economic sanctions to get Iran to curb its nuclear program, the White House has little desire for a broader regional conflict that could bring a head-on clash with Iran right now.

"It also would be difficult to bring along American allies in a direct confrontation with Iran. Israel has been warning for several years that Iran, much more than Iraq, has emerged as the Middle East's biggest problem and that Tehran's government represents a challenge Israel shouldn't have to confront alone. But it has found few countries willing to share that burden.

"As a result, the Bush administration faces an immediate decision on what it can do to contain the violence while allowing Israel to defend itself and its soldiers, three of whom have been kidnapped in recent days by Hamas and Hezbollah. "

Go to 'Your New Reality' For Recent Updates And Editorial On World's Outrage

Thursday, July 13, 2006





UPDATE : Israel has bombed the road to Damascus (Syria), where thousands of tourists are now fleeing to escape the attacks on Beirut....Brazil has announced at least four of its citizens have been killed in airstrikes....Hizzbulah denies hitting Israel city of Haifa..."Acts Of War" calls from all sides...At least 80 Lebanese civilians dead, 10 Israelis, 300+ wounded...

Lebanon is now copping the early stages of Israel's trademark 'defence' strategy : Collective Punishment.

A massive exchange of rocket fire is underway and the civilian casualties are mounting.

Israel claims to be only trying to rescue its captured soldiers, but it's obvious this is an excuse to, in the brutally honest words of one IDF commander, send Lebanon back twenty years.

From the Associated Press :

"Israel has hit hundreds of targets in Lebanon...

"Hezbollah guerrillas launched more than 80 rockets and mortars into Israel on Thursday.

"Israel intensified its attacks against Lebanon on Thursday, blasting Beirut's airport and two Lebanese army air bases near the Syrian border, and imposing a naval blockade. More than 50 people have died in violence following the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah militants.

"Warplanes punched holes in the runways of Beirut's international airport and two military air bases, attacks that could draw the Lebanese army into the conflict.

"Speaking to reporters, Maj. Gen. Udi Adam, the chief of Israel's northern command, said Israel was targeting infrastructure in Lebanon that held rockets and other arsenals belong to Hezbollah.

Hezbollah guerrillas launched more than 80 rockets and mortars into Israel on Thursday.

"'I imagine over time that we will be able to rid ourselves of this threat entirely,' he said.

"He also said the army was not ruling out sending ground troops into Lebanon.

"Israel's army chief Brig. Gen. Dan Halutz warned that "nothing is safe" in Lebanon...Beirut itself would be a target.

"Two days of Israeli bombings, the heaviest air campaign against its neighbor in 24 years, had killed 47 Lebanese and wounded 103, Health Minister Mohammed Jawad Khalife said. Besides the Israeli civilian, eight Israeli soldiers had also been killed.

"Both sides played a high stakes game following the capture of the two soldiers by Hezbollah: Israel sought to end Hezbollah's presence on the border, while the guerrillas insisted on trading the captured soldiers for Arab prisoners.

"Trapped between the two sides was Lebanon, which Israel said it held responsible for Hezbollah's actions. The Lebanese government insisted it had no prior knowledge of the Hezbollah raid and did not condone it.

"The European Union criticized Israel for using what it called "disproportionate" force in its attacks and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he was planning a peace mission.

"Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned that Israel's Lebanon offensive "is raising our fears of a new regional war" and urged world powers to intervene.

"The eight Israeli soldiers killed so far is the highest death toll for the army in four years

"After hitting roads and bridges in the south all day Wednesday, Israel dramatically expanded its campaign Thursday with their biggest offensive in Lebanon since Israel's 1982 invasion.

"Israeli warships imposed a naval blockade of Lebanese ports, and the Israeli military said it could also target the Beirut-to-Damascus highway, the main land link between Lebanon and the outside world.

"Military jets attacked runways at the Rayak air base in the eastern Bekaa Valley, police said, and at the Qoleiat air base near the Syrian border in the north. Rayak, four miles west of the Syrian border, is home to the country's main military air base and is military headquarters in eastern Lebanon.

"An Israeli missile hit Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV studios in southern Beirut....

"A Lebanese family of 10 and another family of seven were killed in their homes in the village of Dweir, Lebanese officials said.

"Hezbollah fired rockets at the northern Israeli towns of Safed, Nahariya, Kiryat Shmona, and Carmiel, saying it was using a rocket called "Thunder 1" for the first time. The missiles appeared to be more advanced than the inaccurate Katyusha - the standard Hezbollah rocket."

Russia, EU Slam Israel For Violence, Warn Of Escalations

Russia and the European Union said there could be no justification for Israel's air and sea blockade on Lebanon.

"Actions, which are contrary to international humanitarian law, can only aggravate the vicious circle of violence and retribution," the EU presidency said in a statement.

The comments came as a three-strong United Nations team headed to the Middle East in an attempt to defuse the crisis.

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, denounced both Israel's attack on Lebanon and its operations against the occupied Palestinian territories.

"This is a disproportionate response to what has happened and if both sides are going to drive each other into a tight corner then I think that all this will develop in a very dramatic and tragic way," Interfax news agency reported him as saying.
President Bush is expected to face some heavy pressure over the US's backing of Israel in this war when he faces Russia, China and EU countries at the G8 summit in Moscow this weekend.

Iran Tells Israel There Will Be A Fierce Response If They Hit Syria
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday an Israeli strike on Syria would be considered an attack on the whole Islamic world that would bring a "fierce response", state television reported. "If the Zionist regime commits another stupid move and attacks Syria, this will be considered like attacking the whole Islamic world and this regime will receive a very fierce response," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying in a telephone conversation with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Did Bush Give A Warning To Israel Over Escalating The Crises?

2 Million Israelis Under Threat Of Rocket Attacks

Lebanon Says It Doesn't Control Hizzbulah

Wednesday, July 12, 2006





Israel found itself fighting a two front war last night, against Hamas militants in Gaza and now Hizzbulah militants across the border in Lebanon.

Israel has now struck Lebanon less than ten miles from its capital, hitting what it claimed was a militant base. The Lebanese government claimed it wasn't responsible for the actions of Hizzbulah and Israel's strike on Lebanon, as small as it was, is throwing public opinion behind the militants.

But Hizzbulah, in return, has launched at least two mortar attacks on an Israel army base, taking numerous casualties, which Israel has not yet confirmed.

At least two Israel Defence Force soldiers were kidnapped by militants during a massive exchange of fire along the border with Lebanon, during which three IDF soldiers were killed in battle, and four more died when their tank hit a landmine. Another IDF soldier apparently died trying to retrieve the bodies of other soldiers.

Hamas and Hizzbulah both claim they are kidnapping IDF soldiers in order to negotiate release of the thousands of Palestinian men, women and children who are held in Israel's jails, many without charge and never having faced trial.

It's a strategy that seems to be working in some ways, as the international community rails on Hizzbulah and Hamas for kidnapping troops but also slaps down Israel for killing dozens of Palestinian civilians.

"...the events this morning are not terror attacks but actions of a sovereign state that attacked Israel for no reason," said Israel's Prime Minister Elmud Olmert.

Israel has now split Gaza down the middle and Hamas militants, along with Palestinian civilians, are taking heavy casualties.
Israel dropped a quarter-ton bomb on a Gaza home today in an attempt to assassinate top Hamas fugitives, killing nine civilians as Islamic militant leaders got away.

The nine dead were all members of the same family, including the parents and seven of their children, Palestinian officials said. The body of a four-year-old boy was among those pulled out of the rubble.

Head of the UN, Kofi Annan has called any attacks on civilians exactly what they are - "terrorism" :
"The deliberate attack and maiming of unarmed civilians is terrorism pure and simple, whatever the cause," said Annan.

"Very serious measures have to be taken to protect civilians in circumstances like this, and that appeal I hope will be heeded by all sides."

Rabbis have issued a demand for Israel to "exterminate the enemy" :

The Yesha Rabbinical Council blamed the attack on the north on Wednesday morning on a "weakening of our grip on the land of Israel."

The Council called on the IDF to ignore Christian morals and "exterminate the enemy in the north and the south."

They advised that an emergency government be established to "fight the true enemy as is appropriate, and to rescind orders to destroy and evict Jews."

Israeli communities along the northern border with Lebanon have been told to prepare for retaliation strikes from within Lebanon as Israel gets ready to mount a major offensive supposedly to retrieve the two kidnapped IDF soldiers.
Israeli warplanes made their deepest foray into Lebanon in an afternoon strike on a road in the Zahrani region along the Mediterranean coast -- about halfway between the border and the Lebanese capital, Beirut. Anti-aircraft guns opened fire on jets flying over the coastal city of Sidon.
The United States is blaming both Iran and Syria for the actions of Hizzbulah, and unlike Israel's PM Olmert, they regard the kidnapping of two IDF soldiers, and exchange of arms on the border, as "terrorist attacks" :

"We condemn in the strongest terms Hezbollah's unprovoked attack on Israel and the kidnapping of the two Israeli soldiers," National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones said...

"This is a terrorist attack and it is clearly timed to exacerbate already high tensions in the region and sow further violence," Jones said.

"We also hold Syria and Iran -- which directly support Hezbollah -- responsible for this attack and for the ensuing violence," Jones said. "Hezbollah's terrorism is not in Lebanon's interest."

No dice says Syria and Iran. Hizzbulah acts independent of either nation, or so they claim.

Not surprisingly, Syria and Iran appear to be blaming Israel for causing all the trouble now threatening millions of civlians on all sides :
Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa blamed Israel for the escalating violence in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories and denied his country had a role in either abduction.

"It's up to the resistance -- both the Lebanese and the Palestinian -- to decide what they are doing and why are they fighting," he told reporters in Damascus.

The top U.N. official in Lebanon, Geir Pedersen, met with Lebanon's prime minister and denounced Hezbollah's incursion across the border into northern Israel, known as the Blue Line.

"Hezbollah's action escalates the already tense situation along the Blue Line and is an act of very dangerous proportions," he said.

The most powerful leaders in the world, including head honchos of China, the US and Russia, are meeting up this weekend for the G8 summit in Moscow.

Russia and China are expected to both tell President Bush that Israel better pack up its tanks and bombs and gunships and get back into its territory.

While Russia and China both do plenty of business with Israel, neither wants an all ecompassing Middle East War to erupt, and considering the fact that Iran by proxy now has more than 130,000 US troops virtually encircled and locked down in Iraq, it's hard to imagine that the US will tolerate Israel widening the conflict in the Middle East either.

Not that the US would retaliate against Israel in any way, but they may choose not to back Israel if things get completely out of hand.

An excellent summary of all the events in Middle East mini-war can be found in this interview on ABC's Lateline, with a former US ambassador to Israel.

Well worth reading the whole thing for some utterly frightening insights into just how precarious the Israel situation is at the moment, and just how helpless, and hopeless, all out war would be. Even with the option on the table of uncorking a few baby nukes only a few coded key turns away.

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