Axis of Bail Our Ass
US Smitten With Iran, Syria
From the UK Independent: Robert Gates, the new US Defence Secretary, is an advocate of
dialogue with Tehran to enlist its help in extricating allied forces
from Iraq. Tony Blair, who wants Iran to help stop cross-border attacks
on UK troops, backs this, setting the scene for demise of Bush's
neoconservative policy. But Iran is now in the grip of a hardline
leadership, headed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is defiant over its
nuclear programme. Iran faces UN sanctions. Ahmadinejad will aim to
make Bush and Blair sweat before he agrees to help. President Bashar al-Assad, flush with success of Syria's proxy militia in Lebanon, holds the key to success in Iraq and Middle East peace. Courted by Bush and Blair, whom he upbraided at their last meeting. Syria harbours a leader of the radical Palestinian Hamas movement, and is a supplier of Hizbollah. Assad will play hardball on the UN's case against Syrian officials accused of assassinating former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. And there is the Golan Heights, seized by Israel in 1967."
But Bush was quick to unholster the very kind of stubborn idiocy that has led him to a 37 percent approval rating and lost him Congress over Iraq: "Bush's warnings against talks with Syria and Iran came as British Prime
Minister Tony Blair called for a Middle East strategy that could
involve a "new partnership" with Iran. The Iraq Study Group is also considering whether greater U.S. involvement with Iraq's neighbors could aid the American effort," the LATimes reported. "Bush discussed Iran at a White House meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and told reporters afterward that any dealings were contingent on Tehran halting its uranium enrichment program." Because that's how Bush is going to get his new ideas: By discussing Mideast peace with the only elected leader in the world with a lower approval rating than his.
Supporting Israel Is "God's Foreign Policy"
Back in July the Wall Street Journal featured the madness of Rev. John Hagee and his evangelical warmongering on behalf of Israel and the GOP. The post-Jayson Blair Times, four months late, retreads the story, at times word for word, or paraphrase for paraphrase. One excuse: it's never too late to show the duplicity and unquestionably unchristian foundations of the modern evangelical movement: "As Israeli bombs fell on Lebanon for a second week last July, the Rev. John Hagee of San Antonio arrived in Washington with 3,500 evangelicals for the first annual conference of his newly founded organization, Christians United For Israel. At a dinner addressed by the Israeli ambassador, a handful of Republican senators and the chairman of the Republican Party, Mr. Hagee read greetings from President Bush and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel and dispatched the crowd with a message for their representatives in Congress. Tell them “to let Israel do their job” of destroying the Lebanese militia, Hezbollah, Mr. Hagee said. He called the conflict “a battle between good and evil” and said support for Israel was “God’s foreign policy.” The next day he took the same message to the White House. Many conservative Christians say they believe that the president’s support for Israel fulfills a biblical injunction to protect the Jewish state, which some of them think will play a pivotal role in the second coming. Many on the left, in turn, fear that such theology may influence decisions the administration makes toward Israel and the Middle East." The full story...
This Just In
No Clash of Civilization
From the Christian Science Monitor: "A UN-sponsored group called the Alliance of Civilizations, created last year to find ways to bridge the growing divide between Muslim and Western societies, released a first report Monday that says the conflict over Israel and the Palestinian territories is the central driver in global tensions.
"Our emphasis on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not meant to imply that it is the overt cause of all tensions between Muslim and Western societies," write the report's authors, a group of academics and present and former government officials from 19 different countries. "Nevertheless, it is our view that the Israeli-Palestinian issue has taken on a symbolic value that colors cross cultural and political relations ... well beyond its limited geographic scope."
But while the authors hope their report will invigorate and create cross-cultural dialogue, its tone implies that it is unlikely to be well received by the United States and Israel, focusing as it does on allegations of double standards by those two nations while giving less time to the faults of the Palestinians or specific Muslim governments. Criticism of US policies, though at times oblique, is a major feature of the document and hits on themes that have angered representatives of the Bush administration in the past. For instance, in a discussion of Al Qaeda's attack on the US on Sept. 11, the report states: "Later, these attacks were presented as one of the justifications for the invasion of Iraq, whose link with them has never been demonstrated, feeding a perception among Muslim societies of unjust aggression stemming from the West." The Full story...
From the Economist Intelligence Unit: Confrontation between rival political groups seems increasingly likely: The Lebanese prime minister, Fouad Siniora, has called the bluff of his political opponents by mustering his resignation-depleted cabinet to approve a UN draft statute for the establishment of an international tribunal to try those accused of involvement in the February 2005 assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri. The decision takes Lebanon one step closer to an open confrontation between rival blocs, broadly defined by sect and external association. Mr Siniora has UN legitimacy, the US, Europe and a solid parliamentary majority behind him; his opponents' assets include the populist appeal of Hizbullah and of Michel Aoun (a former general, who won a sizeable chunk of the Christian vote in last year's election), and the political and military support of Syria and Iran. The speaker of parliament, Nabih Berri, who is also the leader of Amal, has indicated that he has not given up hope of a political compromise, but there appears to be little room left for manoeuvre.
Nasrallah Wants Civil War
"Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah in comments published Tuesday called on his supporters not to shy from a new civil war. In a speech he gave on Monday before thousands in south Beirut Nasrallah said "some are trying to frighten us with this option [of a civil war] ... but I tell you - the weak are behind this scare campaign," he said," Haaretz reports. "
In the comments published on the Lebanese Arab language daily A-Safir, the Hezbollah chief reassured that his organization would act to maintain stability in Lebanon. "This country is our country, and we have sacrificed tens of thousands of fatalities, casualties, prisoners and mutilated individuals and our most prized possessions to protect it and its honor. We will not turn our backs on it and will uphold peace between the residents as well as stability." The full story...
At any rate, it was fun while it lasted. The Democrats' honeymoon is over. The Swiftboats have been launched. Nancy Pelosy and John Murtha are in their scops. From the LA Times: "Democrats returned to Capitol Hill on Monday to prepare for a transfer
of power in Congress, but their postelection emphasis on unity quickly
dissolved into power struggles and jockeying over the spoils of victory.
Much of the squabbling stemmed from the decision over the weekend by presumed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to endorse a longtime loyalist to be her second-in-command. In backing Iraq war critic Rep. John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania for the post, Pelosi, of San Francisco, turned her back on another Democrat who is in line for the job and is favored by many of her party's more moderate members." The full story...
The Congo's Genocidal Rapes
From the Guardian: "Hundreds of thousands of women and girls have been raped over the past
decade by soldiers, rebels and ethnic militias in the Democratic
Republic of Congo. The scale of the assaults has become increasingly evident over recent months as growing numbers of women have emerged for treatment with the reduction in fighting ahead of presidential elections, and because medical workers have been able to reach areas in the east of the country long cut off by conflict. The survivors have given accounts of villages subjected to repeated
assaults in which many women and girls were serially raped and men
killed. Although there are no comprehensive statistics, in one province alone, South Kivu, about 42,000 women were treated in health clinics for serious sexual assaults last year, according to statistics collected by the human rights group, Global Rights." The full story...