Half Full
Friday, April 16, 2004
  An excellent editorial from Lebanon : thanks Google news
Bush to rest of world: Y'all just follow the leader, now

By Mayssam Zaaroura
Daily Star staff
Saturday, April 17, 2004

"All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near." - Sun Tzu's "The Art of War."

What is currently happening in the Middle East is merely a modified mutation of warfare, one suited to a more aware and cynical public. As Sun Tzu stated more than 2,000 years ago, the key in this - as with any kind of effective warfare - is deception.

In many cases, war also entails taking a high-stakes gamble.

The headlines in today's major newspapers have been buzzing with the latest collaboration and camaraderie between US President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Analyses, news reports and editorials have claimed that this would be a "major gamble for the Israelis and a scam to the Palestinians," who once again have been handed the short end of a burning stick. But look, don't listen to me, I'm a biased Palestinian. Read the papers, judge for yourselves.

Sharon presented a plan to Bush - the "Disengagement Plan" or simply, the Sharon Plan - and Israel was given the huge, Texan "thumbs up" to impose a settlement of its choosing on the Palestinians. However, the sticking point that has several nations wriggling in consternation is that Bush has formalized this plan. This proposal is not something new and has been vaguely discussed. However, it is the first time it has been the official policy of the US.

In said plan, Sharon has requested backing for unilaterally withdrawing from the Gaza Strip, acceptance for maintaining parts of the West Bank and the refusal of the Palestinians' right of return.

The request was officially granted, thank you very much, as Bush acted solo - not something new since his "election." And the rest of the world? The leader of the free world might as well have said: "Y'all just follow the leader, now."

And despite "the UN and Europe's criticism of Sharon and Bush's agreement," and Blair's "spurned plea to Bush," follow the leader they will.

According to The Guardian, this announcement by Bush has made Blair "uncomfortable." A Reuters' headline stated that Blair hopes this new Middle East plan will "change dynamics and build momentum toward a new peace deal."

Sure, refuse the Palestinians' right to return unless it's to a Palestinian state co-existing peacefully with Israel (which seems one of the least likely miracles on Earth), keep some four million of them as refugees in countless countries that don't want them (where they can't work, own homes or vote) and sure, you got yourself an air-tight peace deal, Blair.

It just really baffles me how a couple of men can have so much power to simply rearrange the world to suit their interests. Where is the public? Where is their voice?

Legal adviser to the Palestinian Liberation Organization Michael Tarazi said: "Imagine if Palestine said: 'Okay, we give California to Canada'."

Yeah, what then? You could be sure someone would speak up!

Meanwhile, speaking of warfare tactics on the opposite side of situation, Sun Tzu again comes to mind:

"If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them."

In his latest tape, which the CIA claims is more than likely authentic, businessman-cum-terrorist Osama bin Laden handed Europe a bizarre olive branch by saying that Al-Qaeda will spare those countries who "withdraw their troops from Arab lands and stop interfering with our affairs."

This strategy of divide and conquer, however, has been unanimously rejected and ridiculed.

According to a report by The Washington Post, "Maha Azzam, an associate fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, said bin Laden and his aides likely concluded 'that something was paying off, that perhaps there was a real rift between the United States and Europe'."

Azzam added that bin Laden was "trying to create not only a wedge between the United States and Europe," but also was telling Europeans that "your politicians are not necessarily following your interests. They're ignoring problems that exist in Palestine and Israel and the Muslim world."

But wait, that has been going on for quite some time now. Just not in the West. Role reversal has now taken place. Whereas prior to the events of the previous few years, the Middle East was seen as a dangerous place to be, I have heard countless foreigners and natives now claiming otherwise.

One Spanish woman said to me: "It's safer to be here now than in Europe. They wouldn't hit Lebanon but in the West, although you don't know where is going to be hit next, it's a guarantee not a possibility."

Soon, however, I fear nowhere will be considered a possible target, but a guaranteed hit.

Mayssam Zaaroura is a member of the Daily star staff
Thursday, April 15, 2004
  Shoot to Thrill
Marines were broadcasting messages by loudspeaker in the city to agitate insurgents, announcing ``You are cowards for hiding behind women and children. Come out and fight,'' and blaring heavy metal music, including AC/DC's ``Shoot to Thrill,'' said Marine Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne.
Wednesday, April 14, 2004
  Bush Endorses Sharon's Gaza Pullout Plan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush implicitly recognized Israel's claim to some West Bank settlements on Wednesday and backed a Gaza Strip pullout plan in a historic U.S. policy shift that drew immediate condemnation from the Palestinians.

Bush's support for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will go down well with conservative and Jewish voters in the U.S. presidential election but was likely to inflame the Arab world and further complicate efforts to stabilize Iraq.

"In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949," Bush said during a news conference with Sharon.

The announcement marked a shift from the decades-old U.S. policy of viewing the Jewish settlements as an obstacle to peace and was greeted with anger by Palestinian officials.

"Bush is the first U.S. president to give legitimacy to Jewish settlements on Palestinian land. We reject this. We will not accept it," Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie told reporters at his West Bank home.

The statement and letters Bush and Sharon exchanged could go a long way toward helping the Israeli leader push his plan to scrap 21 Jewish settlements in Gaza and four in the West Bank through a binding vote in his right-wing Likud party on May 2.

"These are historic and courageous actions," Bush said about the Gaza withdrawal. "If all parties choose to embrace this moment, they can open the door to progress and put an end to one of the world's longest-running conflicts."

The president also appeared to negate any right of return of Palestinian refugees to what is now Israel, saying they should be resettled in a future Palestinian state instead.

A beaming Sharon told Bush: "I was encouraged by your positive response and your support for my plan.
Sunday, April 11, 2004
  Special Analysis: Iran's Power Play
As Rohan Gunaratna notes in Inside al-Qaeda, bin Laden has long sought to entrap the US in a protracted guerrilla conflict out of the belief that his minions can defeat us in the same manner they did the Soviet Union. That is precisely why al-Qaeda is pulling resources from Afghanistan or calling in the international brigades of the Harakat ul-Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba, as well as fighters from Chechnya. And in case this issue is brought up, the much-maligned refusal of the US to place Afghanistan under direct military occupation but rather to subcontract that duty to the Northern Alliance is the only reason they haven't done it there. Ultimately, this is more about defeating the United States than any particular location, which is why resources previously allocated to the Taliban in Afghanistan are now being diverted to Iraq just as Mullah Omar's thugs were starting to have some semblance of success in briefly retaking a few border districts (think counties) in Zabul province.


A self-fullfilling prophecy?

Ultimately, claims that this is the beginning of the end for the US occupation in Iraq or the start of the long-anticipated sectarian civil war (the latter being particularly odd in light of apparent cooperation across Shi'ite/Sunni divide) are inaccurate at this phase. Ultimately, the success or failure of the Iranian strategy with regard to the US in Iraq will depend on whether or not the United States and its allies retain the collective national will to defeat the insurgents. The question of whether or not Iraq will become a second Vietnam (i.e. a US defeat) is probably best answered, "No, and it won't be as long as we don't let it."

  Fallujah, the Uprising, and Silver Linings in Iraq
As a political incident the lynching at Falluja will likely have more impact in the United States than it does in Iraq. In Iraq it gives Coalition forces a legitimate reason to clean up the rats' nest of Falluja.

Enemy Mistakes
The most important thing that happened in the last few days is that many of the most dangerous people in Iraq gave us an excuse to destroy them. CENTCOM won't throw this opportunity away.
  Iraqi Elections

Now we see why Sistani was against local caucus for choosing interim government.
Deep in the marshlands of the Euphrates, the town of 15,000 people was the first to rise against Saddam Hussein in the abortive intifada of 1991. Now it was holding the first genuine election in its history.

The poll was the latest in a series which this overwhelmingly Shia province has held in the past six weeks, and the results have been surprising. Seventeen towns have voted, and in almost every case secular independents and representatives of non-religious parties did better than the Islamists.

News with a postive spin.

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