Posts Tagged ‘UN’




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.

RELATED:
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

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The talk gets louder….

Based on months of interviews, I have come to believe that the administration knows it is a near-certainty that Israel will act against Iran soon if nothing or no one else stops the nuclear program; and Obama knows—as his aides, and others in the State and Defense departments made clear to me—that a nuclear-armed Iran is a serious threat to the interests of the United States, which include his dream of a world without nuclear weapons. Earlier this year, I agreed with those, including many Israelis, Arabs—and Iranians—who believe there is no chance that Obama would ever resort to force to stop Iran; I still don’t believe there is a great chance he will take military action in the near future—for one thing, the Pentagon is notably unenthusiastic about the idea. But Obama is clearly seized by the issue. And understanding that perhaps the best way to obviate a military strike on Iran is to make the threat of a strike by the Americans seem real, the Obama administration seems to be purposefully raising the stakes. A few weeks ago, Denis McDonough, the chief of staff of the National Security Council, told me, “What you see in Iran is the intersection of a number of leading priorities of the president, who sees a serious threat to the global nonproliferation regime, a threat of cascading nuclear activities in a volatile region, and a threat to a close friend of the United States, Israel. I think you see the several streams coming together, which accounts for why it is so important to us.”

The Point of No Return – Magazine – The Atlantic




Behind the Headlines: The seizure of the Gaza flotilla

31 May 2010
Israeli naval personnel boarded a flotilla of six vessels attempting to violate the maritime blockage on Gaza. Militants onboard attacked them with live fire and light weaponry including guns, knives and clubs. The attack on the Israeli soldiers was premeditated.
Weapons prepared on the Mavi Marmara (Photo: IDF Spokesperson)
Weapons prepared on the Mavi Marmara (Photo: IDF Spokesperson)


Overnight (30-31 May), Israeli naval personnel boarded a flotilla of six vessels attempting to violate the maritime blockage on Gaza. Militants onboard the Mavi Marmara attacked Israeli naval personnel with live fire and light weaponry including guns, knives and clubs. Seven Israeli soldiers were injured as a result of the extremely violent ambush, two of them seriously while three are in moderate condition. Nine militants aboard the ship were killed. Those vessels that reacted peacefully to the operation were escorted unharmed to Israel, as had happened with previous vessels that tried to violate the maritime blockade.
IDF forces: “We came to speak, they came to fight.”


Weapons recovered on the Mavi Marmaris (Photos: IDF Spokesperson)
Weapons recovered on the Mavi Marmara (Photos: IDF Spokesperson)

Several facts are already clear:
The intent of the militants was violent, the methods they employed were violent, and unfortunately, the result was violent.
The attack on the Israeli soldiers was premeditated. The weapons used had been prepared in advance. Huwaida Arraf, a flotilla organizer, foreshadowed the violence with her statement that: “They [the Israelis] are going to have to forcefully stop us.” Bulent Yildirim, the leader of the IHH, one of the primary organizers of the flotilla, announced just prior to boarding: “We are going to resist and resistance will win.” The militants whipped up the boarding crowd by chanting “Intifada, intifada, intifada!”

Video taken by IDF naval boat shows the passengers of the Mavi Marmara violently attacking IDF soldiers who were trying to board the ship after having sent repeated requests for the boat to change course.
It should be noted that the Turkish organizing group, IHH, has a radical anti-Western orientation. Alongside its humanitarian activities, it supports radical Islamic networks such as Hamas, and at least in the past has supported global jihad elements, such as al-Qaeda.
Israel was justified under international law in acting against the flotilla. A state of armed conflict exists between Israel and the Hamas regime that controls Gaza. Hamas has launched 10,000 rockets against Israeli civilians. At present, it is engaged in smuggling arms and military supplies into Gaza, by land and sea, in order to fortify its positions and continue its attacks.
Under international law, Israel has the right to protect the lives of its civilians from Hamas attacks. Consequently, it has undertaken measures to defend itself, including the imposition of a maritime blockade to curb Hamas rearmament. Israel cannot allow a sea-corridor to open to Gaza, a corridor which would allow weapons and terrorists to freely enter the Strip.
The flotilla organizers made clear that their primary goal was to target the maritime blockage. Greta Berlin, a flotilla spokesperson, told AFT news-agency on 27 May that “this mission is not about delivering humanitarian supplies, it’s about breaking Israel’s siege.” This fact is demonstrated not only by their words, but by their actions. Flotilla organizers turned down repeated Israeli offers to land the vessels in the Israeli port of Ashdod, and to transfer their aid through the existing land crossings, in accordance with established procedures.
Moreover, while the organizers claim to have humanitarian concern for the residents of Gaza they did not have similar concerns for the fate of the abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, and when asked, refused to make a public call to allow him to be visited in Gaza by the Red Cross.
Under international maritime law, when a maritime blockade is in effect, no vessels – either civilian or enemy – can enter the blockaded area. In line with Israel’s obligations under international law, the ships participating in the protest flotilla were warned time and again that a maritime blockade is in effect off the coast of Gaza.
When it became clear that the protest flotilla intended to violate the blockade despite the repeated warnings, Israeli naval personnel boarded the vessels of the flotilla, and redirected them to Ashdod. Due to the desire to avoid casualties and operational needs, including the large number of vessels participating in the flotilla, it was necessary to undertake measures to enforce the blockade a certain distance from the area of the blockade.
The soldiers who boarded the vessels did not carry arms openly, but were met with a violent ambush. Two soldiers were shot, one was stabbed and others were injured as they were set upon with clubs, knives, axes and heavy objects. They were in mortal danger and had to act accordingly in self-defense.

During a search aboard the maritime vessel Mavi Marmara, IDF forces uncovered a cache of weapons including many knives, slingshots, rocks, smoke bombs, metal rods, improvised sharp metal objects, sticks and clubs, 5KG hammers, firebombs and gas masks in case IDF forces fired riot dispersal means at the activists as they violently attacked the soldiers. These weapons were used against Israeli Navy personnel as they attempted to board the ship.
The flotilla’s cargo was off-loaded in Ashdod and the humanitarian items transferred overland to the Gaza crossings in accordance with standard operating procedures. The participants of the flotilla who need assistance are being treated in Israeli medical facilities. The rest will be subjected to immigration procedures applicable in cases of attempted illegal entry.

* * *

Flotilla leaders stated on Sunday (May 30) that violence was premeditated:

The organizers of the Gaza flotilla announced in advance their intention of using violence against Israeli forces if the latter tried to prevent the ships from reaching Gaza. This intention was expressed in interviews given by the head of the IHH, Bulent Yildirim, to Turkish television stations on the last night of the voyage, as the ships approached the coast. Following are two examples. The interviews can be find in the archive of the IHH website: http://tinyurl.com/IHHViolence

Interview on Turkish Television Channel NTV broadcast on the evening of May 30, 2010:

Interview with Bulent Yildirim, head of IHH
Interviewer: Welcome; we have a small guest as well.
Yildirim.: We’ve now entered the critical hours. What we’re really talking about here is humanitarian aid, and this small child will always remember this journey in the future. The boy’s picture will certainly pique Israeli public opinion.
Interviewer: What makes this voyage so critical?
Yildirim: The reason stems from Israel’s aggressive position, which has unnecessarily inflated the whole matter. We checked out the place that was declared a firing area; their ships are sailing around freely there. They are deceiving the nation and the entire world. This is the first time that a country has ever announced maneuvers without giving prior notification of the exact date. I am sure that Israel is now headed for many problems. They are using their naval fleet against women, children and elderly people. Civil rights organization representatives are here, and the whole world will see what’s happening here. We will definitely resist and we will not allow the Israelis to enter here.
(see the first three minutes of the video)


2. Interview on the Turkish state television channel TRT 1, broadcast the evening of 30 May 2010:



Bulent Yildirim: The Israelis think that the more soldiers they send, the less casualties there will be among the activists. On this ship there are also women and children. The whole world knows this. We’ll show them what is means to board the ship. If Israel wants to board this ship, it will meet strong resistance.
(see min. 96:00 of the video)

Behind the Headlines: The seizure of the Gaza flotilla 31-May-2010

____________________________________
 The MasterBlog


Guest Post: 
Clash On Israel-Lebanon Border Holds Potential For Strategic Escalation

Submitted by Yossef Bodansky for www.oilprice.com


The August 3, 2010, armed clash along the Israeli-Lebanese border was a significant strategic incident.

On Thursday, July 29, 2010, Israel notified UNIFIL that a few Israeli soldiers would be crossing the security fence in order to cut a tree and remove a few shrubs in Israeli territory but near the Blue Line (the actual border between Israel and Lebanon). This foliage blocks the view of Israeli security cameras positioned deep inside Israel. Israel also notified UNIFIL that these soldiers would be escorted by a small patrol which would stay south of the security fence.

The Israeli notification was in accordance with UNSC resolution 1701. UNIFIL then informed the nearby positions of the Lebanese Armed Forces about the planned Israeli activities in order to ensure that there was no misunderstanding. The Lebanese Army notified the local HizbAllah force.

Significantly, the Lebanese Army unit deployed along the border with Israel is the 9th Division, whose commanders and troops are Shi’ites and recruited from the same manpower pool as the HizbAllah.

Around 10:30am on August 3, 2010, about 10 Israeli soldiers with saws crossed the gate in the security fence on foot. This detachment was covered by an Israeli patrol which included a few tanks, armored vehicles, and a command vehicle. As UNIFIL had been informed, the patrol stayed 200-300 meters south of the fence.

When the soldiers approached the tree, they were attacked by small arms automatic fire from both the Lebanese Army’s position just across the border and “civilians” (HizbAllah fighters) in the nearby village of Adissyeh.

Immediately, a few Israeli commanders ran from the command vehicle toward the fence to see what was happening. Snipers hiding in the bush adjacent to the Lebanese Army position fired on them, killing the Israeli battalion commander (a lieutenant-colonel) and critically wounding the company commander (a captain). The sniper fire came from a professional ambush that had been organized on the basis of the advance warning provided by UNIFIL.

Meanwhile, the shooting at the Israeli soldiers north of the fence intensified. Israeli forces opened small-arms and mortar fire on the sources of fire in the Lebanese Army position and in a couple of unfinished houses in Adissyeh. Two Israeli tanks and an armored personnel carrier moved forward toward the fence in order to evacuate the stranded soldiers. At this point a UNIFIL patrol arrived on the scene and the UN officers urged both sides to ceasefire. The firing stopped a few minutes later.

Escorted by the UN patrol, the two Israeli tanks and the armored personnel carrier continued to advance toward the gate in the fence in order to evacuate the soldiers. Suddenly an anti-tank missile was fired from either the Lebanese Army position or the bush immediately near it. The missile barely missed the UNIFIL vehicle and the tanks. The Israeli tanks opened fire on the missile launcher.

Major activity followed. Intense fire — small arms, heavy machineguns, mortars, and RPGs — was opened from both several Lebanese Army positions as well as HizbAllah positions in Adissyeh. Israel rushed additional tanks and artillery to the area and started bombarding all Lebanese positions. One or two Katyusha rockets were launched toward Israel, impacted in open space and caused no damage.

A pair of Israeli combat helicopters arrived on the scene. They attacked the main Lebanese Army position near Adissyeh, and subsequently the Lebanese Army battalion headquarters in the village of Al-Taybeh. The helicopters also attacked and destroyed several Lebanese Army armored vehicles which were parked near the headquarters. Three Lebanese soldiers and a journalist (from the pro-HizbAllah newspaper Al-Akhbar) who was with the troops in Al-Taybeh were killed. Another soldier was killed in the position near Adissyeh. A total of five to six soldiers were wounded. There is no reliable information about HizbAllah casualties.

The fire subsided after little over two and a half hours.

This was a very serious incident for two reasons:

1. The incident started as a pre-planned pre-meditated provocation against the Israeli patrol on the basis of information provided via UNIFIL. The mere invitation by the Army of the Al-Akhbar correspondent to cover the clash suggests that this was a pre-planned incident. The incident was conducted jointly by Lebanese Army forces and HizbAllah forces, proving that the close cooperation which HizbAllah leader Hassan Nasrallah had boasted about repeatedly is indeed working (at least with the Army’s Shi’ite units such as the 9th Division).

2. Earlier, on Monday, August 2, 2010, HizbAllah and Iranian media warned that the Israeli cabinet had considered “the prospects of an upcoming war on the Lebanese, Syrian and Gaza fronts in anticipation of tensions on the Lebanese domestic scene” because of the impending indictment of senior HizbAllah officials by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL). The HizbAllah, Syria, and Iran are calling on all Lebanese to ignore the STL and instead rally and close ranks behind the “Resistance” in order to confront the Israeli threat. Under these circumstances, the incident on the Israeli-Lebanese border should be considered a made-to-order “proof” of the HizbAllah and Iranian warnings.

Indeed, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman denounced the fighting and urged the Army and all Lebanese to “stand up to Israel’s violation of Resolution 1701, whatever the price”. According to the Syrian Arab News Agency, Syrian Pres. Bashar al-Assad stated that the “Israeli attack proves once again that Israel is constantly working to destabilize security in Lebanon and the region. Syria stresses that it is standing by its sister Lebanon in the face of the criminal Israeli aggression and calls on the UN to condemn and stop this aggression.”

However, the main event in the aftermath of the clash is an anticipated major speech by Hassan Nasrallah. The speech was scheduled for 20:30 on August 3, 2010 (Lebanon time), but its exact time was being constantly changed. Senior HizbAllah officials predict that Nasrallah’s speech “will mark a turning point” for Lebanon and the entire Middle East. They explained that Nasrallah would “focus on the national and Islamic dimension of the July [2006] war” and its implications for the current situation in the entire region. Nasrallah’s speech, the Senior HizbAllah officials stress, “will mainly be devoted to talk about the meaning of victory against Israel” in both past wars and in the historic confrontation still to come.

Given the above, the August 2, 2010, rocket firing from southern Sinai of Aqaba, Eilat, and a base of the US-led Multinational Force & Observers Organization in Sinai might also be part of this kind of made-to-order “proof” of Israeli aggression. Significantly, the six 122mm GRAD rockets fired from Sinai were made in Iran or North Korea, strongly suggesting that the perpetrators were Iran-sponsored main group rather than a Palestinian fringe entity.

Source: http://oilprice.com/Geo-Politics/Middle-East/Clash-on-Israel-Lebanon-Border-Holds-Potential-for-Strategic-Escalation.html

by Yossef Bodansky for OilPrice.com who offer detailed analysis on Oil, alternative Energy, Commodities, Finance and Geopolitics. They also provide free Geopolitical intelligence to help investors gain a greater understanding of world events and the impact they have on certain regions and sectors. Visit: http://www.oilprice.com

View article…



The Israeli-Lebanese border is exceptionally calm and uniquely dangerous, both for the same reason: fear that a new round of hostilities would be far more violent and could spill over regionally.

Drums of War: Israel and the “Axis of Resistance”, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines developments since the indecisive 2006 confrontation. It focuses on the de facto deterrence regime that has helped keep the peace: all parties now know that a next conflict would not spare civilians and could escalate into broader regional warfare. However, the process this regime perpetuates mutually reinforcing military preparations; enhanced military cooperation among Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbollah; escalating Israeli threats – pulls in the opposite direction and could trigger the very outcome it has averted so far.

Drums of War: Israel and the “Axis of Resistance”

Beirut/Jerusalem/Damascus/Washington/Brussels

MENA Report Nº972 Aug 2010
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Of all the explanations why calm has prevailed in the Israeli-Lebanese arena since the end of the 2006 war, the principal one also should be cause for greatest concern: fear among the parties that the next confrontation would be far more devastating and broader in scope. None of the most directly relevant actors – Israel, Hizbollah, Syria and Iran – relishes this prospect, so all, for now, are intent on keeping their powder dry. But the political roots of the crisis remain unaddressed, the underlying dynamics are still explosive, and miscalculations cannot be ruled out. The only truly effective approach is one that would seek to resume – and conclude – meaningful Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Lebanese peace talks. There is no other answer to the Hizbollah dilemma and, for now, few better ways to affect Tehran’s calculations. Short of such an initiative, deeper political involvement by the international community is needed to enhance communications between the parties, defuse tensions and avoid costly missteps.
Four years after the last war, the situation in the Levant is paradoxical. It is exceptionally quiet and uniquely dangerous, both for the same reason. The build-up in military forces and threats of an all-out war that would spare neither civilians nor civilian infrastructure, together with the worrisome prospect of its regionalisation, are effectively deterring all sides. Today, none of the parties can soberly contemplate the prospect of a conflict that would be uncontrolled, unprecedented and unscripted.
Should hostilities break out, Israel will want to hit hard and fast to avoid duplicating the 2006 scenario. It will be less likely than in the past to distinguish between Hizbollah and a Lebanese government of which the Shiite movement is an integral part and more likely to take aim at Syria – both because it is the more vulnerable target and because it is Hizbollah’s principal supplier of military and logistical support. Meanwhile, as tensions have risen, the so-called “axis of resistance” – Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbollah – has been busy intensifying security ties. Involvement by one in the event of attack against another no longer can be dismissed as idle speculation.
Other restraining elements are at play. UN Security Council Resolution 1701 led to a thickening of the Lebanese and international armed presence in southern Lebanon after the 2006 war, which has constrained Hizbollah’s freedom of action while simultaneously putting the brakes on any potential Israeli military ambition. Even as both sides routinely criticise and violate the resolution – which concurrently called for the end of arms transfers to Lebanon’s non-governmental forces, disarmament of its armed groups and full respect for the country’s sovereignty – they continue to value the framework defined by it as an integral component of the status quo.
Hizbollah’s enhanced political status in Lebanon is an additional inhibiting factor, discouraging it from initiatives that could imperil those gains. Israel’s current government – its reputation notwithstanding – appears less inclined at this point to take the risk twice taken by its more centrist predecessor of initiating hostilities, seeking to prove it can maintain stability and worried about a more hostile international environment. Despite voicing alarm at Hizbollah’s military growth, it has displayed restraint. U.S. President Barack Obama, likewise, far from the one-time dream of a new Middle East harboured by his predecessor, has no appetite for a conflagration that would jeopardise his peace efforts and attempts to restore U.S. credibility in the region. All of which explains why the border area has witnessed fewer violent incidents than at any time in decades.
But that is only the better half of the story. Beneath the surface, tensions are mounting with no obvious safety valve. The deterrence regime has helped keep the peace, but the process it perpetuates – mutually reinforcing military preparations; Hizbollah’s growing and more sophisticated arsenal; escalating Israeli threats – pulls in the opposite direction and could trigger the very outcome it has averted so far. If Israel would not like a war, it does not like what it is seeing either.

It is not clear what would constitute a red line whose crossing by the Shiite movement would prompt Israeli military action, but that lack of clarity provides additional cause for anxiety. Unlike in the 1990s, when the Israel-Lebanon Monitoring Group, operating with U.S., French and Syrian participation, ensured some form of inter-party contacts and minimal adherence to agreed rules of the game, and when Washington and Damascus were involved in intensive dialogue, today there is no effective forum for communication and thus ample room for misunderstanding and misperception.

Meanwhile, an underground war of espionage and assassinations has been raging, for now a substitute for more open confrontation. The parties might not want a full-scale shooting war, but under these circumstances one or the other could provoke an unwanted one. Further contributing to a sense of paralysis has been lack of movement on any 1701-related file, from the seemingly easiest – Israel’s withdrawal from the northern (Lebanese) part of the village of Ghajar – to the most complex, including policing the Lebanese-Syrian border, resolving the status of Shebaa Farms, disarming Hizbollah and ending Israeli over-flights. Such paralysis feeds scepticism that anything can be achieved and, over time, could wear down the commitment of contributors to the UN peacekeeping force (UNIFIL).
The key to unlocking this situation is – without neglecting the central Israeli-Palestinian track – to resume meaningful negotiations between Israel on the one hand and Syria and Lebanon on the other. This is the only realistic way to shift underlying dynamics and, in particular, affect Syria’s calculations. Without that, Damascus will continue to transfer weapons to Hizbollah, the Shiite movement will successfully resist pressure to disarm and Israel will keep on violating Lebanon’s sovereignty.
There is scant reason for optimism on the peace front, however. That means little can be achieved, not that nothing can be done. The most urgent tasks are to restore momentum on 1701 by focusing on the most realistic goals and to establish consultative mechanisms to defuse tensions, clarify red lines and minimise risks of an accidental confrontation. Better channels of communication would help. At present, the U.S. is talking mainly to one side (Israel), keeping another at arm’s length (Syria), ignoring a third (Hizbollah) and confronting the fourth (Iran). The UN might not have that problem, but it has others. It has too many overlapping and uncoordinated missions and offices dealing with Lebanon and the peace process and thus lacks policy coherence. One option would be to empower its mission in Lebanon so that it can play a more effective political role.

Nobody should be under the illusion that solving Ghajar, beefing up the UN’s role or even finding new, creative means of communication between Israel, Syria and, indirectly, Hizbollah, would make a lasting or decisive difference. They undoubtedly would help. But Lebanon’s crises for the most part are derivative of broader regional tensions; until serious efforts are mounted to resolve the latter, the former will persist. In the meantime, the world should cross its fingers that fear of a catastrophic conflict will continue to be reason enough for the parties not to provoke one.

RECOMMENDATIONS
To the U.S. Government:
1. Intensify efforts, including at the presidential level, to re-launch Israeli-Syrian and, as a consequence, Israeli-Lebanese peace negotiations in parallel to Israeli-Palestinian talks, persuading Prime Minister Netanyahu to reiterate the commitment made by past Israeli leaders to a full withdrawal to the lines of 1967 assuming all other Israeli needs are met.
2. Initiate a high-level and sustained dialogue with Syria aimed at defining both a clear and credible pathway toward improved bilateral relations and a compelling regional role for Damascus in the aftermath of a peace agreement.
3. Press, in the context of resumed peace talks, Syria to halt weapons transfers to Hizbollah and Israel to cease actions in violation of Lebanese sovereignty.
To the UN Security Council:
4. Ask the Secretary-General to review the various missions and offices dealing with Lebanon and the Middle East peace process, with the aim of developing a more coherent and comprehensive policy and enhancing coordination among them.
To the UN Secretariat:
5. Consider, in the interim, consolidating implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701 in the office of the Special Coordinator (UNSCOL), with a view to more effective engagement with the various parties.
To the UN and the Governments of Israel and Lebanon:
6. Revive momentum toward implementation of Resolution 1701, focusing on the most immediately achievable goals, by:
a) pursuing discussions toward resolution of the status of Ghajar, under which Israel would withdraw from the northern (Lebanese) part, and UNIFIL would assume control, with a Lebanese army presence; and
b) using such discussions to initiate talks on conditions necessary for attaining a formal ceasefire.
To UNIFIL troop contributing countries, particularly those in Europe:
7. Reaffirm commitments to maintain the current level of troop contributions.
8. Pursue a policy of active patrolling, in order to prevent any overt Hizbollah presence in its area of responsibility, while conducting outreach efforts to the civilian population.
9. Investigate, publicly condemn and take appropriate action against flagrant violations of Resolution 1701, particularly attempts to resupply Hizbollah and Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty.


To the UN and the Governments of the U.S., France, Turkey, Israel, Syria and Lebanon:
10. Consider establishing a Contact Group or, alternatively, more informal consultative mechanisms, to discuss implementation of Resolution 1701 and address potential flashpoints, focusing on:
a) a commitment by relevant parties to refrain from provocative statements and actions;
b) an end to implicit or explicit threats to harm civilians or damage civilian infrastructure in any future war;
c) a halt to targeted assassinations; and
d) immediate intervention in the event of a violent incident so as to de-escalate the crisis.
To the Government of Lebanon and Hizbollah:
11. Make every effort to discourage and prevent hostile action by the civilian population against UN personnel and property.
To the Government of Lebanon:
12. Substantially increase the number of troops deployed in the South and provide them with enhanced training and equipment.

Beirut/Jerusalem/Damascus/Washington/Brussels, 2 August 2010


The War: A Trillion Can Be Cheap

From The New York Times:

The high-tech nature of modern warfare has made the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq among the costliest in American history.

http://nyti.ms/9bj07S

Get The New York Times on your iPhone for free by visiting http://itunes.com/apps/nytimes

Sent from my iPad



Obama’s choice of Petraeus a ‘masterstroke’

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Fareed Zakaria: Real question about McChrystal was whether he was successful in his role
  • He says his comments and those of his team displayed disrespect for civilian authority
  • Zakaria says Petraeus showed in Iraq the importance of working with civilians to carry out strategy
  • He says current strategy needs to be rethought given lack of central government authority in Afghanistan
Editor’s note: Fareed Zakaria is an author and foreign affairs analyst who hosts “Fareed Zakaria GPS” on CNN U.S. on Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET and CNN International at 2 and 10 p.m. Central European Time / 5 p.m. Abu Dhabi / 9 p.m. Hong Kong.
New York (CNN) — President Obama’s decision to replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal with Gen. David Petraeus is “a masterstroke,” says analyst Fareed Zakaria.
The president announced Wednesday that he had accepted McChrystal’s resignation after the publication of a Rolling Stone article that contained disparaging remarks by the general and his staff about officials in the Obama administration. Obama chose Petraeus, the head of the U.S. Central Command, to replace McChrystal.
Zakaria said the controversy over McChrystal’s comments raised questions about how effectively he was doing his job, and Petraeus is superbly equipped for the role of leading the NATO force in Afghanistan.
The author and host of CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” spoke to CNN on Wednesday. Here is an edited transcript:
CNN: What do you think of the president’s decision?
Fareed Zakaria: This is a masterstroke. Petraeus needs no on-the-job training, knows the theater, and is beloved by the troops. He understands COIN [counter-insurgency strategy], literally wrote the book on it, and most important — knows how to execute it. He has superb political skills and understands that a close working relationship with his civilian counterparts from the State Department, White House, and other agencies is not a bother but at the heart of the mission’s success.
CNN: What was at stake in the controversy over Gen. McChrystal?
Zakaria: I think there is one issue which has really been focused on by the press, which is the insubordination of Gen. McChrystal and his lack of respect for the civilian chain of command in general and a few of the civilians in particular in this White House, including the vice president, the ambassador to Afghanistan, and that’s an important issue but I think in most cases that was about personality clashes.
This is not like [Gen. Douglas] MacArthur, the historical analogy everyone makes. MacArthur basically publicly disagreed with Truman’s policy and in order to assert the supremacy of his policy, President Truman decided to fire Gen. MacArthur. This is more a case of insubordination in terms of showing disrespect to civilian authority, which is serious but doesn’t quite rise to that level.
The question I have, which in some ways is greater, is not whether Gen. McChrystal is guilty of insubordination but of incompetence.
CNN: In what way?
Zakaria: What I mean by that is this — the counterinsurgency strategy depends upon a very close joint implementation of military, political, economic and diplomatic efforts. That is at the heart of it.
What you see in Gen. McChrystal is someone who is openly disdainful of and sets himself up almost in opposition to the U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan, the State Department high representative Richard Holbrooke, the national security adviser, the vice president.
So you have to ask yourself how would it be possible that they would actually be implementing a counterinsurgency strategy with that level of disconnect and friction between the military and civilian authorities. If McChrystal and his team are so contemptuous of these other people whose support is absolutely critical to the success of the mission, then he’s failing at his mission. This is not about his manners, this is about his ability to effectively execute the task he’s been asked to execute.
If you compare McChrystal’s attitude toward his civilian counterparts with that of Gen. Petraeus in Iraq, it’s night and day. Petraeus was extremely respectful of Ryan Crocker, the ambassador, extremely respectful of the State Department, always talking about how he really admired and appreciated their efforts and wanted them more involved, held almost all his briefings along with Crocker. And that clearly was a crucial part of why the surge succeeded, because the whole premise of the surge is that the military part is not by itself going to be enough. You need a great deal of activity on the political, economic, social and diplomatic fronts.
CNN: So you don’t agree with those who describe McChrystal as indispensable to executing the strategy?
Zakaria: No, I think he may be a great warrior and by all accounts he is, but the heart of the counterinsurgency doctrine is that you need a lot more than being a great warrior. You need to be a great diplomat, a great politician, a great nation builder. And I don’t see much evidence of that. And in fact that has been the major failing of the counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan. There was a kind of facile assumption that if you cleared [territory], you would be able to hold.
Gen. McChrystal said his strategy was going to work, because once they defeated Taliban in any area, they would have government in a box that they could roll out. The idea that government in Afghanistan is some kind of technocratic Lego set that you could just put in a box and bring to Marja and open and it’s all ready, is naïve in the extreme. If government in Afghanistan can be put in a box, it’s a jack in the box and you open it, it hits you in the face.
CNN: So what needs to be done now?
Zakaria: The key here is if you’re going to do counter insurgency, you have to have a hell of a lot more coordination between the military and the civilian, with the allies. The contempt that McChrystal betrayed toward the French is another part of the problem. The idea that these expressions of irritation and condescension are just done privately is probably not true. What you say and think in private ends up coming out and colors the relationship. So my guess is the relationship between McChrystal and his staff and the allied governments is probably not very good.
Then there is the broader issue, which is the attempt to implement the counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan in the first place.
CNN: Why is that in question?
Zakaria: Afghanistan is the the third-poorest country in world, it has had 30 years of almost unrelenting civil war. It is a deeply tribal society which lacks any developed government authority. … You’re not trying to rebuild a nation or a state but to build one for the first time in history.
I’ve always been more sympathetic to Vice President Joe Biden’s counterinsurgency strategy, which says you should reduce the troop levels down to some significant number which would be able to engage in effective counterinsurgency and deny the Taliban any major territorial advances. But you leave open the possibility that there will be political accommodations worked out at local levels between the Taliban and the government, because in the in long run, that’s the only viable strategy.
In the long run, the Pashtuns who make up the Taliban — Pashtuns make up 50 percent of Afghanistan and 100 percent of the insurgency — are not going anywhere. They’re not foreigners, they’re not aliens, so you’re going to have to live with them. So some kind of political deal making needs to start happening.
CNN: Do you think McChrystal was standing in the way of that?
Zakaria: No, I don’t think he was standing in the way of that. But this [current] counterinsurgency strategy is premised on the idea that you can create a stable nation with loyalty to the central government, and that seems to be a strategy that does not take into account the very low level of political development in Afghanistan in the first place.
In Iraq, a crucial phenomenon that took place while COIN was being implemented was the “Sunni Awakening,” the switching of sides by dozens of Sunni tribes, once enemies of the government, who chose to ally with it. This was at the heart of the success of the surge. Something similar has to happen in Afghanistan. Elements of the Taliban have to move over and support the government. The key task for Gen. Petraeus is to figure out what it will take to make that happen.
Links referenced within this article

Obama’s choice of Petraeus a ‘masterstroke’ – CNN.com

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