Posts Tagged ‘freedom’


Pakistan and the U.S. Exit From Afghanistan

By George Friedman

Bob Woodward has released another book, this one on the debate over Afghanistan strategy in the Obama administration. As all his books do, the book has riveted Washington. It reveals that intense debate occurred over what course to take, that the president sought alternative strategies and that compromises were reached. But while knowing the details of these things is interesting, what would have been shocking is if they hadn’t taken place.
It is interesting to reflect on the institutional inevitability of these disagreements. The military is involved in a war. It is institutionally and emotionally committed to victory in the theater of combat. It will demand all available resources for executing the war under way. For a soldier who has bled in that war, questioning the importance of the war is obscene. A war must be fought relentlessly and with all available means.
But while the military’s top generals and senior civilian leadership are responsible for providing the president with sound, clearheaded advice on all military matters including the highest levels of grand strategy, they are ultimately responsible for the pursuit of military objectives to which the commander-in-chief directs them. Generals must think about how to win the war they are fighting. Presidents must think about whether the war is worth fighting. The president is responsible for America’s global posture. He must consider what an unlimited commitment to a particular conflict might mean in other regions of the world where forces would be unavailable.
A president must take a more dispassionate view than his generals. He must calculate not only whether victory is possible but also the value of the victory relative to the cost. Given the nature of the war in Afghanistan, U.S. President Barack Obama and Gen. David Petraeus — first the U.S. Central Command chief and now the top commander in Afghanistan — had to view it differently. This is unavoidable. This is natural. And only one of the two is ultimately in charge.

The Nature of Guerrilla Warfare
In thinking about Afghanistan, it is essential that we begin by thinking about the nature of guerrilla warfare against an occupying force. The guerrilla lives in the country. He isn’t going anywhere else, as he has nowhere to go. By contrast, the foreigner has a place to which he can return. This is the core weakness of the occupier and the strength of the guerrilla. The former can leave and in all likelihood, his nation will survive. The guerrilla can’t. And having alternatives undermines the foreigner’s will to fight regardless of the importance of the war to him.
The strategy of the guerrilla is to make the option to withdraw more attractive. In order to do this, his strategic goal is simply to survive and fight on whatever level he can. His patience is built into who he is and what he is fighting for. The occupier’s patience is calculated against the cost of the occupation and its opportunity costs, thus, while troops are committed in this country, what is happening elsewhere?
Tactically, the guerrilla survives by being elusive. He disperses in small groups. He operates in hostile terrain. He denies the enemy intelligence on his location and capabilities. He forms political alliances with civilians who provide him supplies and intelligence on the occupation forces and misleads the occupiers about his own location. The guerrilla uses this intelligence network to decline combat on the enemy’s terms and to strike the enemy when he is least prepared. The guerrilla’s goal is not to seize and hold ground but to survive, evade and strike, imposing casualties on the occupier. Above all, the guerrilla must never form a center of gravity that, if struck, would lead to his defeat. He thus actively avoids anything that could be construed as a decisive contact.
The occupation force is normally a more conventional army. Its strength is superior firepower, resources and organization. If it knows where the guerrilla is and can strike before the guerrilla can disperse, the occupying force will defeat the guerrilla. The occupier’s problems are that his intelligence is normally inferior to that of the guerrillas; the guerrillas rarely mass in ways that permit decisive combat and normally can disperse faster than the occupier can pinpoint and deploy forces against them; and the guerrillas’ superior tactical capabilities allow them to impose a constant low rate of casualties on the occupier. Indeed, the massive amount of resources the occupier requires and the inflexibility of a military institution not solely committed to the particular theater of operations can actually work against the occupier by creating logistical vulnerabilities susceptible to guerrilla attacks and difficulty adapting at a rate sufficient to keep pace with the guerrilla. The occupation force will always win engagements, but that is never the measure of victory. If the guerrillas operate by doctrine, defeats in unplanned engagements will not undermine their basic goal of survival. While the occupier is not winning decisively, even while suffering only some casualties, he is losing. While the guerrilla is not losing decisively, even if suffering significant casualties, he is winning. Since the guerrilla is not going anywhere, he can afford far higher casualties than the occupier, who ultimately has the alternative of withdrawal.
The asymmetry of this warfare favors the guerrilla. This is particularly true when the strategic value of the war to the occupier is ambiguous, where the occupier does not possess sufficient force and patience to systematically overwhelm the guerrillas, and where either political or military constraints prevent operations against sanctuaries. This is a truth as relevant to David’s insurgency against the Philistines as it is to the U.S. experience in Vietnam or the Russian occupation of Afghanistan.
There has long been a myth about the unwillingness of Americans to absorb casualties for very long in guerrilla wars. In reality, the United States fought in Vietnam for at least seven years (depending on when you count the start and stop) and has now fought in Afghanistan for nine years. The idea that Americans can’t endure the long war has no empirical basis. What the United States has difficulty with — along with imperial and colonial powers before it — is a war in which the ability to impose one’s will on the enemy through force of arms is lacking and when it is not clear that the failure of previous years to win the war will be solved in the years ahead.
Far more relevant than casualties to whether Americans continue a war is the question of the conflict’s strategic importance, for which the president is ultimately responsible. This divides into several parts. This first is whether the United States has the ability with available force to achieve its political goals through prosecuting the war (since all war is fought for some political goal, from regime change to policy shift) and whether the force the United States is willing to dedicate suffices to achieve these goals. To address this question in Afghanistan, we have to focus on the political goal.
The Evolution of the U.S. Political Goal in Afghanistan
Washington’s primary goal at the initiation of the conflict was to destroy or disrupt al Qaeda in Afghanistan to protect the U.S. homeland from follow-on attacks to 9/11. But if Afghanistan were completely pacified, the threat of Islamist-fueled transnational terrorism would remain at issue because it is no longer just an issue of a single organization — al Qaeda — but a series of fragmented groups conducting operations in Pakistan, IraqYemenNorth AfricaSomalia and elsewhere.
Today, al Qaeda is simply one manifestation of the threat of this transnational jihadist phenomenon. It is important to stop and consider al Qaeda — and the transnational jihadist phenomenon in general — in terms of guerrillas, and to think of the phenomenon as a guerrilla force in its own right operating by the very same rules on a global basis. Thus, where the Taliban apply guerrilla principles to Afghanistan, today’s transnational jihadist applies them to the Islamic world and beyond. The transnational jihadists are not leaving and are not giving up. Like the Taliban in Afghanistan, they will decline combat against larger American forces and strike vulnerable targets when they can.
There are certainly more players and more complexity to the global phenomenon than in a localized insurgency. Many governments across North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia have no interest in seeing these movements set up shop and stir up unrest in their territory. And al Qaeda’s devolution has seen frustrations as well as successes as it spreads. But the underlying principles of guerrilla warfare remain at issue. Whenever the Americans concentrate force in one area, al Qaeda disengages, disperses and regroups elsewhere and, perhaps more important, the ideology that underpins the phenomenon continues to exist. The threat will undoubtedly continue to evolve and face challenges, but in the end, it will continue to exist along the lines of the guerrilla acting against the United States.
There is another important way in which the global guerrilla analogy is apt. STRATFOR has long held that Islamist-fueled transnational terrorism does not represent a strategic, existential threat to the United States. While acts of transnational terrorism target civilians, they are not attacks — have not been and are not evolving into attacks — that endanger the territorial integrity of the United States or the way of life of the American people. They are dangerous and must be defended against, but transnational terrorism is and remains a tactical problem that for nearly a decade has been treated as if it were the pre-eminent strategic threat to the United States.
Nietzsche wrote that, “The most fundamental form of human stupidity is forgetting what we were trying to do in the first place.” The stated U.S. goal in Afghanistan was the destruction of al Qaeda. While al Qaeda as it existed in 2001 has certainly been disrupted and degraded, al Qaeda’s evolution and migration means that disrupting and degrading it — to say nothing of destroying it — can no longer be achieved by waging a war in Afghanistan. The guerrilla does not rely on a single piece of real estate (in this case Afghanistan) but rather on his ability to move seamlessly across terrain to evade decisive combat in any specific location. Islamist-fueled transnational terrorism is not centered on Afghanistan and does not need Afghanistan, so no matter how successful that war might be, it would make little difference in the larger fight against transnational jihadism.
Thus far, the United States has chosen to carry on fighting the war in Afghanistan. As al Qaeda has fled Afghanistan, the overall political goal for the United States in the country has evolved to include the creation of a democratic and uncorrupt Afghanistan. It is not clear that anyone knows how to do this, particularly given that most Afghans consider the ruling government of President Hamid Karzai — with which the United States is allied — as the heart of the corruption problem, and beyond Kabul most Afghans do not regard their way of making political and social arrangements to be corrupt.
Simply withdrawing from Afghanistan carries its own strategic and political costs, however. The strategic problem is that simply terminating the war after nine years would destabilize the Islamic world. The United States has managed to block al Qaeda’s goal of triggering a series of uprisings against existing regimes and replacing them with jihadist regimes. It did this by displaying a willingness to intervene where necessary. Of course, the idea that U.S. intervention destabilized the region raises the question of what regional stability would look like had it not intervened. The danger of withdrawal is that the network of relationships the United States created and imposed at the regime level could unravel if it withdrew. America would be seen as having lost the war, the prestige of radical Islamists and thereby the foundation of the ideology that underpins their movement would surge, and this could destabilize regimes and undermine American interests.
The political problem is domestic. Obama’s approval rating now stands at 42 percent. This is not unprecedented, but it means he is politically weak. One of the charges against him, fair or not, is that he is inherently anti-war by background and so not fully committed to the war effort. Where a Republican would face charges of being a warmonger, which would make withdrawal easier, Obama faces charges of being too soft. Since a president must maintain political support to be effective, withdrawal becomes even harder. Therefore, strategic analysis aside, the president is not going to order a complete withdrawal of all combat forces any time soon — the national (and international) political alignment won’t support such a step. At the same time, remaining in Afghanistan is unlikely to achieve any goal and leaves potential rivals like China andRussia freer rein.
The American Solution
The American solution, one that we suspect is already under way, is the Pakistanization of the war. By this, we do not mean extending the war into Pakistan but rather extending Pakistan into Afghanistan. The Taliban phenomenon has extended into Pakistan in ways that seriously complicate Pakistani efforts to regain their bearing in Afghanistan. It has created a major security problem for Islamabad, which, coupled with the severe deterioration of the country’s economy and now the floods, has weakened the Pakistanis’ ability to manage Afghanistan. In other words, the moment that the Pakistanis have been waiting for — American agreement and support for the Pakistanization of the war — has come at a time when the Pakistanis are not in an ideal position to capitalize on it.
In the past, the United States has endeavored to keep the Taliban in Afghanistan and the regime in Pakistan separate. (The Taliban movements in Afghanistan and Pakistan are not one and the same.) Washington has not succeeded in this regard, with the Pakistanis continuing to hedge their bets and maintain a relationship across the border. Still, U.S. opposition has been the single greatest impediment to Pakistan’s consolidation of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and abandoning this opposition leaves important avenues open for Islamabad.
The Pakistani relationship to the Taliban, which was a liability for the United States in the past, now becomes an advantage for Washington because it creates a trusted channel for meaningful communication with the Taliban. Logic suggests this channel is quite active now.
The Vietnam War ended with the Paris peace talks. Those formal talks were not where the real bargaining took place but rather where the results were ultimately confirmed. If talks are under way, a similar venue for the formal manifestation of the talks is needed — and Islamabad is as good a place as any.
Pakistan is an American ally which the United States needs, both to balance growing Chinese influence in and partnership with Pakistan, and to contain India. Pakistan needs the United States for the same reason. Meanwhile, the Taliban want to run Afghanistan. The United States has no strong national interest in how Afghanistan is run so long as it does not support and espouse transnational jihadism. But it needs its withdrawal to take place in a manner that strengthens its influence rather than weakens it, and Pakistan can provide the cover for turning a retreat into a negotiated settlement.
Pakistan has every reason to play this role. It needs the United States over the long term to balance against India. It must have a stable or relatively stable Afghanistan to secure its western frontier. It needs an end to U.S. forays into Pakistan that are destabilizing the regime. And playing this role would enhance Pakistan’s status in the Islamic world, something the United States could benefit from, too. We suspect that all sides are moving toward this end.
The United States isn’t going to defeat the Taliban. The original goal of the war is irrelevant, and the current goal is rather difficult to take seriously. Even a victory, whatever that would look like, would make little difference in the fight against transnational jihad, but a defeat could harm U.S. interests. Therefore, the United States needs a withdrawal that is not a defeat. Such a strategic shift is not without profound political complexity and difficulties. But the disparity between — and increasingly, the incompatibility of — the struggle with transnational terrorism and the war effort geographically rooted in Afghanistan is only becoming more apparent — even to the American public.



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Photo by: AP [file]
PA bans Hamas clerics from preaching
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH29/08/2010
Police raid two mosques near Hebron, stopping sermons.
Palestinian Authority security personnel used force to prevent two prominent Hamas figures from delivering sermons during Friday prayers, triggering clashes with worshipers.

The violence erupted after dozens of PA policemen raided two mosques in the Hebron area where Hamas legislators Nayef Rajoub and Muhammad Abu Jhaisheh were supposed to deliver the Friday khutba (sermon).

The clashes prompted the PA to close down the mosques, forcing enraged worshipers to search for alternative prayer sites.

Rajoub, who was minister for Wakf affairs in the Hamas-led unity government with Fatah more than three years ago, said that policemen in plain clothes approached him soon after he entered a mosque in his home village of Dura and warned him not to deliver the sermon.

“When I asked them for a written order, they assaulted me,” he said. “When some of the people inside the mosque tried to intervene, the policemen also beat them, and arrested some of them.”

Rajoub, who was released from an Israeli prison on June 20 after serving a 50-month sentence, accused the PA of waging a “war against mosques and Islam in collusion with Israel.”

Rajoub said that he has been serving as a preacher for nearly 30 years. He added that despite the ban, he would continue to lead Friday prayers and deliver sermons.

“Jewish settlers are torching mosques, the Israeli army is demolishing mosques and the Palestinian Authority is expelling preachers,” he said.

Nayef Rajoub is the brother of Jibril Rajoub, a former PA security commander and one of the prominent leaders of Fatah in the West Bank, who was one of the first to conduct security coordination with Israel. The former security commander is known for his ruthless crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank.

The second incident took place in the village of Idna, also in the Hebron area.

Eyewitnesses said that Palestinian security agents stopped Abu Jhaisheh shortly after he entered a mosque and demanded that he refrain from delivering the sermon.

Last week, Hamas accused the PA of “waging war on Islam and Allah” by arresting and firing hundreds of preachers and imams, closing down mosques and Islamic religious centers and imposing restrictions on religious figures suspected of being affiliated with Hamas.



Adnan Damiri, spokesman for the Fatah-dominated security forces in the West Bank, confirmed that his men had entered the mosques to prevent Rajoub and Abu Jhaisheh from addressing worshipers.

“These mosques don’t belong to Hamas,” he said, denying that the police had beaten anyone.

He also denied that the two mosques had been closed down.

Damiri said that the move against the mosques was taken in light of information suggesting that Hamas was preparing to export its “coup” to the West Bank.

“They are operating on instructions from [Hamas leader] Khaled Mashaal,” he said. “They want to create chaos that would start in the mosques. Their goal is to take over the West Bank.”

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The “in your face” gruesome picture seen around the world

August 19, 2010

(Reality is unpublishable)

When El Nacional published the very gruesome picture of the Caracas morgue in response to the cynical and hysterical laughs of Andres Izarra, President of Chavez’ pet international propaganda TV station Telesur, reactions were mixed. The comments section of this blog flared up with disparate positions. Curiously, my concern when I thought about whether to publish it or not in my blog, was that some may find it offensive. But this seemed to be the minority position. A larger fraction seemed more concerned with the publication of the picture backfiring against those that oppose Hugo Chavez (I am trying to differentiate them from the “opposition”)
But El Nacional’s picture, through the missteps of the Government, some cooperation from other media, and yes, some luck, has become the “in your face” picture seen around the world, that has revealed the lack of respect of Chavez and his cohorts for the right to life and freedom of the press. In fact, even VTV reporters have already spoken against the very clear act of censorship by the Judge who banned printed media from publishing violent pictures.
Things got complicated right off the bat, when, while you could still hear Izarra’s hyenic hysterics, a woman from Hong Kong’s team got shot by a stray bullet in the World Women’s Baseball tournament being played of all places at a Caracas military fort. As even the Vice-President tried to explain away this event as unusual, most Venezuelans who live in the barrios likely stared at their TV screens wondering where does Mr. Jaua live, as both specific purpose and stray bullets are part of the daily life of poor Venezuelans, where the strength of Chavismo happens to live.
On that same day, a bus filled with 69 campers was hijacked and all of their possessions stolen, as the 20 adults accompanying and protecting them also were forced to hand out their valuables.
The Government was caught off guard by theeffects of the “in your face” picture. As the picture went around the world, newspapers reported on the injunction on El Nacional not to publish similar pictures. The whole thing may have died there, but then Tal Cual also published the picture in its front page, accompanying its Editorial. The Government then also issued an injunction against Tal Cual, using the sensitivity of children as an excuse, but it began stumbling when a Judge then prohibited all printed media from printing violent, bloody or gruesome pictures.
It is unclear who or why the Judge ordered this, but his decision is so transparently political and cynical, that his order of censorship is only temporary, it expires in four weeks, as if the sensitivity of kids will harden a week before the upcoming National Assembly elections, just when campaigning ends.
And the significant impact of the “in your face” picture was such, that it forced Hugo Chavez to speak on the problem of crime and homicides for the first time, a subject he has consistently avoided and has always failed to address.
And the improvised response has been absolutely terrible and uninspired, for a Government well known for selling any explanation for its missteps, no matter how absurd they may be.
Because once again those living in the barrios will not buy the excuse that the criminals were raised during the IVth. Republic and that it is capitalistic desires that drive crime. Because each and everyone of the inhabitants of the barrios has been in contact with the crime, the deaths and the abuses, in the absence of a Government that has now been in power for eleven years. And it is precisely their desires to lead a better life that have been hampered by crime. Thus, blaming the messenger or calling the picture mediatic pornography, is very unlikely to sell well in the areas Catia or Caricuao, or in the mountains of Mérida.
140,000 people have been murdered in Venezuela since Chavez took power in 1999. Where have you been all these years Hugo? Its clear the Dictator no longer has the magic touch or is in touch with the people.
And meanwhile the cries of “Censorship” have also been heard around the world, as Oliver Stone and Sean Penn are probably wondering why the hell they had to make a defense of free speech being present in Venezuela. Being a Hollywood star makes no one an expert on democracy in far off lands.
And even the Investigative police and the Prosecutor act harshly, showing up at El Nacional at peak time, just as the newspaper is being composed, pretending to have 100 reporters and photographers leave the newspaper, so they can retrieve the memory card with the infamous picture to determine when it was taken. In the face of that crowd, already predisposed against them, and not ready to even consider obeying the order, the cops and the prosecutors decided not to create another show and simply left. Sans card!
Thus, thanks to Izarrita’s sordid and fake laugh and the picture, the Government, for once, has not been setting the agenda for the last few days, attempting to contain the effects of the picture. This distraction follows that of Pudreval, which has been forgotten only because of the “picture”, except that crime is more important an issue than food, more so among the poor.
And when Chavez says that in 20 years there will be no crime, it brings people back to the old promise of no kids in the streets in five years, a promise made 12 long years ago, as well as the promise of eliminating corruption, as the inhabitants of the barrios see their Chavista leadership move around with expensive cars and body guards, making them immune to the crime problem.
Which goes back to a post I wrote recently. I noted that Diego Arria and Alvarez Paz, had been more effective at challenging and making the Government react than the opposition, by confronting the Government with new issues or responding directly to the absurd arguments of the Chavistas.
The picture has been a wonderful example of that. It may have been unintended, but a Government with no scruples, used to winning every argument, has trapped itself in explaining away the problem that it has never cared about. And it was not ready for it.
In your face Hugo!

The “in your face” gruesome picture seen around the world « The Devil’s Excrement

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A refugee bombshell
By ZVI MAZEL
23/07/2010
Proposal to grant rights to Palestinian refugees in Lebanon would violate unanimous Arab consensus that they must return to Palestine.
Walid Jumblatt, the Lebanese Druse leader who crossed the lines a year ago and left the pro- Western coalition to join the Syrian camp, has thrown another bombshell into the political arena. The aim is further exacerbating tensions and conflicts within Lebanese society. On June 19 he stunned the political community by submitting to parliament four bills which, if adopted, would grant Palestinian refugees a number of rights – not including citizenship.

They would be given the right to own a place of residence outside refugee camps, to be free to gain employment in whatever field they chose and to enjoy attendant social benefits such as health insurance and retirement plans.

The move was sure to heighten hostilities between Christians and Muslims and it did not fail. All Christian political parties – including that of Michel Aoun, the Christian general who joined the opposition led by Hizbullah – opposed the proposals and managed to send them to various parliamentary committees for further consideration. As to the Muslim parties, Hizbullah included, their reaction was muted and they let it be known they were open to discussion.

At the core of the problem is the fear shared by all that granting rights to Palestinian refugees would not only ultimately lead to their settling in Lebanon for good – thus destroying the fragile equilibrium between all communities – but also violate the unanimous Arab consensus against settling refugees in host countries, since they must return to Palestine.

According to UNRWA there are 425,000 Palestinian refugees – a number which includes those who fled in 1948 and their descendants – living in 12 camps scattered all over Lebanon. The number is probably inflated, since many managed to move to other Arab countries or to the West to find suitable employment.

FOLLOWING THE 1969 Cairo Agreement between the Lebanese government and the PLO and other understandings reached over the years between the Lebanese government and the PLO/Fatah under Yasser Arafat, the refugees must live in the camps, where they enjoy administrative autonomy, are allowed to have weapons and to “train toward the liberation of Palestine.” Lebanese security forces do not enter the camps but are posted around them.

Created in 1949, UNRWA sees to the welfare of the denizens of the camps, provides education and health services as well as food; however its budget is steadily shrinking. Buildings have replaced tents, but the refugees cannot leave to find work or buy a home outside, and the camps have turned into slums whose inhabitants are exploited by a number of Palestinian organizations with their own agendas. Fatah rules most of the camps, but Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and all the other groups are there; more recently jihadist organizations loosely affiliated with al- Qaida have also moved in. Quarrels often turn violent and can degenerate into gunfights.

It is from some of the camps that jihadist organizations planned their operations before going outside to fire rockets into Israel.

Lebanese authorities are forbidden to enter the camps and they can only watch helplessly. But in 2007 extremist elements in the Al-Barad camp near Tripoli, doing Syria’s bidding, planned a series of terror operations in northern Lebanon to further destabilize the country. Syria wanted to pressure the Lebanese government into stopping the operation of the international court of justice it had set up with the UN Security Council to investigate the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. Damascus is the prime suspect.

There ensued three months of bloody fighting between the extremists and the Lebanese army, leaving 400 dead, including 168 soldiers. The camp was totally destroyed and tens of thousands of refugees were left homeless.

Pro-Syrian Palestinian factions, such as Ahmed Jibril’s PFLP-General Command, also set up fortified positions outside the camps, mainly in the eastern part of the Bekaa Valley along the Syrian border. The Syrians are using these positions, where the Lebanese army dares not enter, to stockpile ammunition and to train Jibril’s militants, who bear arms openly, to carry out subversive operations against Lebanon.

The overall picture is bleak, but no one in Lebanon or in the Arab world will acknowledge the fact that this situation is the result of the deliberate Arab policy not to settle the refugees in neighboring Arab states to preclude any attempt at putting an end to the conflict born of the Arab refusal to accept the partition plan which would have provided for a Palestinian state. It was the concerted attempt of Arab states to destroy the newly born State of Israel that created the plight of the Palestinian refugees.

MORE THAN 60 years later, Lebanon is the main victim of this impossible state of affairs that threatens its very existence.

Putting the refugees into camps was supposed to be a temporary solution. Successive Lebanese governments repeated that the refugees would ultimately go back to Palestine and refused to let them settle in the country. This was set in the constitution and included in the Taif agreement of 1989 that ended the Lebanese civil war.

The agreement also stipulated that all militias outside the camps – Hizbullah and Jibril’s organization included – would be stripped of their weapons. It did not happen. No Lebanese government was able to enforce that part of the agreement.

Poverty, terror and lack of hope have turned the camps not only into a festering sore in the heart of the country, but also a powder keg which could explode at any time, throwing Lebanon into chaos and threatening to splinter into a myriad of warring units.

All parties understand that this can’t go on much longer and that “something” has to be done. So far Lebanon is clinging to the so-called Saudi/Arab initiative which reiterated that the refugees would not be settled in their host countries – an empty statement by all accounts.

Now Jumblatt has dropped his bombshell, knowing full well that his country alone cannot solve the problem, and that even discussing it will only deepen the chasm between the communities and weaken the government.

The committee for legal affairs to which the proposals were submitted first postponed the debate, then scheduled it for July 15. The refugees, however, are restless and they held a mass demonstration in Beirut demanding civil rights “to be able to live decently.” Hamas chairman Khaled Mashaal told Palestinian students in Damascus that Palestinians must be given full civil rights, while adding that this by no means meant that the refugees would be settled in Lebanon, since the Palestinians would never give up their right of return.

UNRWA chairman Filippo Grandi, who was in the Lebanese capital at the end of June, also called on the Lebanese government to grant civil rights to the refugees, claiming that creating a stable Palestinian society was in the interest of Lebanon.

The purpose of his visit had been to collect funds to rebuild the Al-Barad camp, which had been destroyed in the fighting.




In a press conference he said that he had only been able to raise half of the $450 million needed. In other words, in spite of all the problems the UN is willing to rebuild the camp, thus perpetuating the refugee status of the Palestinians.

Christian political parties are standing firm in their opposition. Aoun declared at a recent congress of his party that he will never agree to a measure which would let Palestinians buy real estate in his country.

It is worth mentioning no human rights organization has seen fit to comment on the plight of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Arab countries feel bad about a situation which is of their making, and choose not to interfere.

The end of June also saw a meeting of the Lebanese-Palestinian dialogue committee in Beirut. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas sent a delegation headed by Azzam al-Ahmed, a member of the Fatah central committee, which was joined by representatives of the PLO in Lebanon. The delegation met with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister Saad Hariri as well as with Christian party representatives Amin Gemayel and Aoun. They had the same message for all: Palestinian refugees would remain guests in Lebanon according to the laws of the country and would not abandon their right of return – but they demanded civil rights to enable them to live decently.

All were waiting to see what the prime minister would have to say when he rose to speak at the meeting. They were disappointed: There was nothing new in his speech. Hariri repeated that though the Lebanese government was responsible for the Palestinians living in Lebanon, the international community must assume its share and ensure that they are given their right to return to Palestine.

He added that the government and the parliament would do what they have to do, but the world must do the same.

The Lebanese prime minister has no miracle solution and is in deep trouble.

Granting refugees the right to buy real estate throughout the country and to work in whichever profession they choose would be a blow to young Lebanese who are trying to buy a home and find a job. It would also be a first step toward settling in Lebanon for good. The Christian parties are opposed to such a move and the Muslim parties are not keen either: They know only too well that it would only deepen Christian antagonism and could lead to a renewed civil war. Tearing the country apart is just what the Syrians want because it would leave Lebanon weak and helpless.

Nobody knows how to deal with Jumblatt’s bombshell or how to defuse it. For the present, the Lebanese will deal with it in the traditional way – by doing nothing and hoping that the camps do not blow up in their face.

The writer is a former ambassador to Egypt and Sweden.

A refugee bombshell

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Lebanon: Palestinian refugees can work 
By GIL HOFFMAN AND AP

18/08/2010

Danny Ayalon hopes move is first step toward citizenship.



The Lebanese parliament voted on Tuesday to grant the country’s 400,000 Palestinian refugees the right to work in the same professions as other foreigners, lifting a decades-old ban that had relegated the refugees to the most menial jobs.

The bill was intended to transform Lebanese policies toward the refugees, although Palestinian leaders in Lebanon and human rights workers say it was only a first step that leaves significant stumbling blocks in place.

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Opinion: A refugee bombshell
Palestinian refugees protest for rights in Beirut

The Palestinians living in Lebanon are isolated from the rest of the country in refugee camps to a higher degree than anywhere else in the Arab world.

“I was born in Lebanon and I have never known Palestine,” said Ahmed al- Mehdawi, 45, a taxi driver who lives in the Ein el- Hilweh refugee camp, which is notorious for its lawlessness.

“What we want is to live like Lebanese. We are human beings and we need civil rights.”

Ein el-Hilweh, the largest camp in Lebanon with about 70,000 inhabitants, is located on the outskirts of Sidon.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon (Israel Beiteinu) praised the Lebanese parliament’s decision and expressed hope that Lebanon and other Arab states would give the Palestinians living in their countries full rights.

There was no reason for them to be considered refugees after 62 years, he said.

“This is only a small step that is long overdue on the way to completely naturalizing them in Lebanon and in other places around the world that host Palestinians,” Ayalon said. “History shows that displaced people eventually get adopted where they live.”

Ayalon wrote an article that was published in The Wall Street Journal’s American, European and Asian editions on July 29 in which he highlighted the poor treatment of Palestinians in Lebanon at a time when a Lebanese flotilla was said to be bound for the Gaza Strip.

“Today, there are more than 400,000 Palestinians in Lebanon who are deprived of their most basic rights,” Ayalon wrote. “The Lebanese government has a list of tens of professions that a Palestinian is forbidden from being engaged in, including professions such as medicine, law and engineering. Palestinians are forbidden from owning property and need a special permit to leave their towns. Unlike all other foreign nationals in Lebanon, they are denied access to the health-care system.”

Ayalon said he could not assess whether his article and the international pressure on Lebanon it caused had a significant impact on the parliament’s decision, but he said that “even if the impact was marginal, I am satisfied.”

According to UN figures, around 4.7 million Palestinians claiming to be refugees – who fled or were driven from their homes during the 1948-9 and 1967 wars – and their descendants are scattered across the Middle East. They live mostly in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

Palestinian negotiators have demanded at least partial repatriation, but Israel has refused, saying an influx of refugees would dilute its Jewish majority and threaten the existence of the state.

Unlike in neighboring Syria and Jordan, where Palestinians enjoy more rights, the refugees in Lebanon live mostly on UN handouts and payments from the rival Palestinian factions. Those who do work are generally either employed by the UN agency UNRWA or as laborers at menial jobs such as construction.

Parliament on Tuesday lifted the restrictions that kept Palestinians almost entirely out of the formal labor market, although they are still subject to the same regulations as other foreign workers.

Lebanon’s National News agency said the lawmakers amended a segment of the labor law that dates back to 1946.

But the laws governing foreign workers in Lebanon pose a unique problem for Palestinians, who are stateless.

Lebanese law restricts some professions only to Lebanese, while many other professions – such as law, medicine and engineering – require the employees to be members of the relevant professional association.

But most of these associations say foreign membership depends on reciprocity in their home country – which effectively bars Palestinians, who don’t have one.

“If you’re a Palestinian born and raised in Lebanon and your dream is to become a doctor, you’re out of luck,” said Nadim Houry, the Beirut director at Human Rights Watch.



Houry said Tuesday’s vote was a welcome step, but more needed to be done.

Ali Hamdan, an aide to the speaker of Lebanon’s parliament, Nabih Berri, said Tuesday’s vote would legalize much of the work that many Palestinians already were doing and open up positions in fields such as insurance and banking.

“For the first time, Lebanon, which is a small country, is trying to solve a historic crisis for the Palestinian refugees,” Hamdan said.

Lebanon: Palestinian refugees can work

The MasterFeeds


From The New York Times:
OP-ED COLUMNIST: Broadway and the Mosque
A concert of Broadway show tunes sung by a diverse cast brings to mind reasons why it is O.K. to build a mosque near the World Trade Center site.
I totally agree!!! This is how you show the world the meaning of liberal ideas! Through inclusion, not by outlawing it.
http://nyti.ms/cxfrqt

Sent from my iPad



The Picture by Teodoro Petkoff

August 16, 2010
from The Devil’s Excrement
tal

The Picture by Teodoro Petkoff in Tal Cual

Thus, the problem is the picture. The problem is not that of the 16,000 murders a year, 95% of which remain unpunished, the problem is not the 400 or so dead, set aside in the prisons, the problem is not the thousands of vehicles stolen each year, not hundreds of apartment assaulted by gangs of thieves, the problem is not the thousands of express kidnappings, and of the other type, which take place each year, nor are the protection money that guerrilla and paramilitary gangs force people to pay at the border and it is much less those countless purse snatches, which are no longer even reported because they have become banal. This is not the problem. The problem is the picture published by El Nacional.
Nor is the problem of the police overwhelmed by the criminals, underpaid, poorly trained and even infiltrated by criminals, let alone is a slow judiciary, of poor quality, most of whose judges are provisional, members of Chavez party PSUV, and who live afraid of issuing decisions that do not please the mighty. None of this is the problem. The problem is the picture published by El Nacional.
The former head of the PTJ spoke to let us know that now the floors of the morgue are brand new linoleum and there are ultra modern gurneys. That picture is old. The horrifying spectacle of hundreds of bodies that now enjoy new beds and lie on a floor again, and may be even polished, is not their problem. His problem is the “morbid” picture. Not the killiings that the picture captured. The ineffable Prosecutor of the Republic has already announced actions, but not against criminals, but against El Nacional. The Commission for the Protection of Minors, or whatever its name is, also mobilized itself.
Since acted against Tal Cua forl the horrendous crime against the “privacy of a minor” which was to publishthe name of the President’s daughter, that agency had not given any signs of life. Now out of its lethargy, as “child advocacate” whose “minds may be affected by the picture.” The hundreds of children who die hit by stray bullets, the young kids and adolescents who go through the horrible experience of seeing their parents or older siblings murdered before his eyes frightened, do upset the dreams of the people of the Defence Commission for the Protection of Minors. What matters to them is the picture.

All of the self-righteousness, hypocrisy, which permeates to the core of this regime has shone ominously in this episode of the picture of El Nacional. What worries the adulators is not that there’s violence, but that people know about it. Here we understand the publishing of this picture as an appropriate response to laughter, not necessarily less miserable and despicable, that whippersnapper who heads Telesur, who issued a hyena laugh while at his side while a Venezuelan expert on the issue of violence was informing us about the unbearable levels of violence reached in our country. The issue of crime makes you laugh, Izarrita, you make fun of the matter, do you think it’s an invention of the opposition? Laugh, then at this picture, you little preppy.

This entry was posted on August 16, 2010 at 2:54 pm and is filed under Venezuela.





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