The Struggle for the New Middle East

The Struggle for the New Middle East:
A Domestic Perspective

By Nassim Yaziji

In the context of the international and regional struggle for the new Middle East, where freedom, democracy and peace have the chance for the first time in the Middle East's history to replace totalitarianism, authoritarianism and violence which came from the pre-2003 regional regimes' interdependent authoritarian system. The remnants of this system represented by the totalitarian regimes and entities are fighting to survive after the Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and the semi-liberation of Lebanon in 2005 aiming to restore their previous stability through deliberate instability in the region.

Methodology through Essential Facts

The empirical approach with a comprehensive geopolitical perspective, in my view, is indispensable to find out the basic relations and rules controlling the Middle East political occurrences and then to develop the appropriate policy to cope with them in the comprehensive geopolitical scene.

We need to know more about the key facts and the key players in the Middle East starting from their domestic affairs and internal structure including the power structure, which are the essential context to their foreign policies, to find out about their political choices and the realistic potentiality of their political choices. This eventually will help us to understand the regional events and conceive a perspective about the region's dynamics and, finally, to have a transparent empirical insight into the Middle East affairs and geopolitics.

Any regime's foreign policy depends on the nature and the interests of this regime. The connection between totalitarian regimes and destabilizing and destructive efforts and policies is natural in contexts in which the historical hospitable environment of these regimes changes especially at the regional level, and this is the case of the post-Iraq Middle East. This is a genuine political phenomenon in terms of totalitarian political systems.

It is extremely important, in my view, to make distinction between what is 'pragmatic' and what is 'existential' in political choices for the Middle East regional players to define their political scope. This will explain and clear many regional occurrences and enlighten the Middle East policy-making process. The basis of classifying the 'pragmatic' and the 'existential' is the rationality of political determination for the concerned regimes. This rationality is fundamentally defined by the regime's interests at the first place and dictated by the ultimate objective of regime's continuation or survival which has a determinant quality in decision-making.

Empirical Induction

It becomes clearer day by day that the fate of the Middle East will be determined by the outcomes of the struggle between the Middle East totalitarians or the Middle East Totalitarian Axis led by Iran and international and regional powers supporting the Middle East-international stabilizing democratic integration.

The Middle East Totalitarian Axis, as already became obvious and in public, consists of the Iranian regime as leader and the remnants of al-Baath party in Syria (or the 'last Baath' as I would love to call) besides Hezbullah and Hamas.

To be accurate about stressing on the totalitarian regimes and entities, this is because of the fact that the general authoritarian Arab states are weaker than taking a leading position in this struggle.

Therefore, there should be more decisive international and, particularly, U.S. policies in the Middle East; some decisions should be made and some vagueness should be cleared toward the Middle East Totalitarian Axis. The regional-approach policy should be assertive and progressive motivated by a group of definite objectives. For now, it is not about what so-called "engagement," which means in the political sense of the current context in the Middle East moving back; this will be ultimately disastrous. It is rather about playing the whole game, the geopolitical game under one essential consideration that the pre-9/11 and Cold War Middle East status quo should be changed towards integrating this region into the rest of the world through the anti-totalitarian stabilizing democratic process.

It is totally wrong and misleading to think of this strategy as a moral option, it is rather a geopolitical necessity. The Middle East issues have never been of geopolitical nature as they are now; it is critical to realize that, in the current Middle East, geopolitics does matter.

Thanks to the historical experience with the Soviet Union and the Cold War, we do know that pressure constitutes the indispensable context for any productive 'engagement' with totalitarian regimes and entities and for any successful policy considering the necessity of the realistic policy resting on geopolitical sense.

Therefore, staying the course on the Middle East democracy, strategically at least, and cutting the geographical and regional extent and extension of the Middle East Totalitarian Axis alongside keeping it under international pressure are crucial pivots for an efficient deal with the Middle East issues and for a winning strategy in the struggle for the new Middle East.

The Strategic Axis: Iraq

I stress the regional dimension, and in many places and meanings, the regional nature of the Iraqi issue as I always stressed that the U.S. Middle East policy should deal regionally with the Iraqi issue.

It is quite clear that without foreign support the insurgency in Iraq cannot be sustainable or politically effective. As the Iraq's insurgency has its domestic roots, the foreign (regional) input and intervention were essential in turning its efficacy from the security level to the political level. Here I should remind that the insurgency course in Iraq was in reverse that the violence advanced or led the political issue or problem and not the political strife what produced the violence. That indicates that there are external roles and players taking their parts in this whole operation and manipulate the course of events there.

Therefore, as we should be totally aware of the domestic roots of the insurgency in Iraq, we should also be aware that it is definitely a regional issue and a deliberate war on the democratic world on behalf of the totalitarianism in the Middle East, especially the Iraq's two neighboring totalitarian regimes. Thus, the new 'regional' move in the new strategy through the acknowledgment of the regional active role in Iraq's instability and violence is really an indispensable step forward that will activate the regional dimension in the U.S. Iraq strategy as an essential element.

There is also a very important demonstration by the U.S. new strategy should be mentioned that the US has not accepted the blackmail of the regional totalitarian despotic regimes trying to save their heads after the geo-strategic change in the post-Iraq Middle East accompanying the beginning of the democratic movement in the region. If the US consented to that blackmail, ― as it did before in the past ― the consequences would be more than disastrous to the region and to the US and its interests in this region and to us, the peoples of the Middle East, especially the democratic intellectuals and activists.

Key Battles and Contested Future

While we should keep our close attention to two key battles, may form the future of the struggle for the new Middle East, are about the Iranian nuclear program and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, it should be clear that changing the strategic course in the Middle East after Iraq and blowing up the nascent democratic course there on behalf of totalitarian rogue regimes and their regional system of despotism, violence and extremism will be more than a huge historic mistake that no one can take.


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Chances of a Special Tribunal for Lebanon

The United Nations has signed an agreement with Lebanon setting up a Special Tribunal to prosecute the suspected killers of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. It is now just waiting for the final ratification by Lebanon.

In spite of the deadly efforts performed by the suspected killers and their associates and proxies in Lebanon to preclude this special tribunal as we saw in the latest months, it is obvious that the process of setting up this tribunal is going ahead. Apparently, that those parties are willing and able to ruin Lebanon and even to wage local or regional wars not to mention the wide wave of political crimes and killings to stop this process and finally preclude the tribunal and therefore the long-awaited justice and international protection for Lebanon and Lebanese cadres. Those threats by the anti-tribunal forces are serious and may jeopardize Lebanon and the region, so they should be taken seriously by the international community.

However, I can say that establishing a legal process for justice in the case of the killing of PM Hariri is definite because of the existence of the international investigation, especially after the adoption of a "tribunal of an International character" for these crimes by the Security Council in its resolutions 1644 and 1664. It is definite since there are an international political crime and an international mandated investigation into this crime and finally suspected killers. Actually, the international community has no chances to put up with these political terrorist crimes at this stage since this would constitute a breach of the very nature of the international system and organization and then the international and regional security in the Middle East.

Therefore, the international community should act on this question totally considering the serious counter-strategy and plans of the anti-tribunal parties. Here, some balancing cards should be played. Since the resort to the chapter VΙΙ in adopting and setting up an international tribunal has no much enthusiasm by the Security Council members for various reasons and also it entails some long and somehow complicated processes, and in case that the Lebanese Government is prohibited from making the final ratification on the agreement with the UN, the international community should consider a very consistent and applicable option is to refer this case to the International Criminal Court by the Security Council given that the investigation has provided the legal foundation for that referral with finding out the connection between the series of attacks including the Hariri one, the matter that will provide a legal basis to mark those crimes as crimes against humanity.

To explain this extremely important point in legal terms I will quote from the section C of "subject matter jurisdiction" of the Secretary General's report to the Security Council on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon:

(Quote begins)
23. In keeping with the Security Council mandate requesting the Secretary-General to establish a tribunal of an international character and in the circumstancesof Lebanon where a pattern of terrorist attacks seems to have emerged, it was considered whether to qualify the crimes as crimes against humanity and to define them, for the purpose of this statute, as murder or other inhumane acts of similar gravity causing great suffering or serious injury to body or to mental health, when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against the civilian population.

24. Mindful of the differences in scope and number of victims between the series of terrorist attacks committed in Lebanon and the killings and executions perpetrated on a large and massive scale in other parts of the world subject to the jurisdiction of any of the existing international criminal jurisdictions, it was nevertheless considered that the 14 attacks committed in Lebanon could meet the prima facie definition of the crime, as developed in the jurisprudence of international criminal tribunals. The attacks that occurred in Lebanon since 1 October 2004 could reveal a “pattern” or “methodical plan” of attacks against a civilian population, albeit not in its entirety. They could be “collective” in nature, or “a multiple commission of acts” and, as such, exclude a single, isolated or random conduct of an individual acting alone. For the crime of murder, as part of a systematic attack against a civilian population, to qualify as a “crime against humanity”, its massive scale is not an indispensable element.

25. However, considering the views expressed by interested members of the Security Council, there was insufficient support for the inclusion of crimes against humanity within the subject matter jurisdiction of the tribunal. For this reason, therefore, the qualification of the crimes was limited to common crimes under the Lebanese Criminal Code.
(End of quote)

For documentation, I will post here the historic letter of the Security Council in which the Security Council eventually approved the statute of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

You can obtain the Statute of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon from MIDDLE EAST POLICY here.


Letter dated 21 November 2006 from the President of the Security Council addressed to the Secretary-General

November 2006

The members of the Security Council have carefully considered your report onthe establishment of a special tribunal for Lebanon (S/2006/893), submitted in accordance with resolution 1664 (2006), as well as the attached presentation** by your Legal Counsel.

They welcome the conclusion of the negotiation with the Government of Lebanon, as requested in resolution 1664 (2006).

The members of the Security Council are satisfied with the Agreement annexed to the report, including the Statute of the Special Tribunal.

With regard to the financing of the Special Tribunal, they support option 2, asset out in paragraph 49 of your report, and recommend therefore the inclusion in the Agreement of the corresponding article, which would read:

The expenses of the Special Tribunal shall be borne in the following manner:

(a) Fifty-one per cent of the expenses of the Tribunal shall be borne by voluntary contributions from States;
(b) Forty-nine per cent of the expenses of the Tribunal shall be borne by the Government of Lebanon.

It is understood that the Secretary-General will commence the process of establishing the Tribunal when he has sufficient contributions in hand tofinance the establishment of the Tribunal and twelve months of its operations, plus pledges equal to the anticipated expenses of the following twenty-fourmonths of the Tribunal’s operation. Should voluntary contributions be insufficient for the Tribunal to implement its mandate, the Secretary-Generaland the Security Council shall explore alternate means of financing the Tribunal.

The members of the Security Council invite you to proceed, together with the Government of Lebanon, in conformity with the Constitution of Lebanon, with the final steps for the conclusion of the Agreement.

They look forward to being kept informed of developments regarding the establishment of the Special Tribunal.

(Signed) Jorge Voto-Bernales
President of the Security Council


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The Strategic Waves of Iraq's Liberation

Following is an interesting article on the geopolitical and strategic changes of Iraq's liberation; some articles of mine related to this subject can be found at:

- Iraq Victory: Middle East Salvation

- Lebanon's Independence and Democracy

- Defining the Iraqi Question

The Strategic Waves of Iraq's Liberation

By Walid Phares

World Defense Review
May 1, 2006

In a previous analysis of the War in Iraq, I argued that in the middle of a conflict, one cannot pronounce the final verdict yet, but detect the trends of successes and failures.

Between 2003 and 2006, the U.S. led coalition, was winning by points while al Qaida wasn't able to reverse the process, yet. The ending of Saddam's regime, the rise of a political consensus, the deployment of new Iraqi forces and the three popular votes is a string of coalition victories. The Salafists and Khumeinists weren't yet able to crumble the Sistani-backed Iraqi consensus.

Hence in Iraq itself, and despite the all-out war by the Jihadists and the omnipresence of Iranian heavy influence, fact is that the equation hasn't been reversed yet. That alone is telling: Until the Iraqi Government is forced to break down, the Iraqi army to divide and disperse, and the Salafis and Khumeinists forces take over in their areas of influence, the Iraq supported by the Coalition is still up and running.

We'll judge on the long-term outcome as we are watching the regional context evolving. For we do not negate the possibility of a general crumbling of the U.S.-led efforts in the Middle East, if Washington's current strategic objectives are changed, or are not well prosecuted. But until this happen, America and the democracy forces are winning, point-by-point.

However, these waves of geopolitical changes have bypassed the borders of Iraq. Three years after the fall of Saddam, let's contemplate the bigger picture for US efforts in the region:

1. Iraq: The Baathist army of 2003 and its projected re-armament for the decade are gone. In a zero sum game the defunct dictatorship won't be able to throw divisions in future battlefields of its choice, nor use restructured non-conventional weapons against neighbors and beyond. More important, as I argue in my book Future Jihad, any projected axis of terror in the region will operate without a surviving Saddam. In today's analytical terms, Iran's Ahmedinijad and Syrian's Assad can't factor Iraq as a regional power that can converge against "common enemies" anymore. Even better, with patience a "new Iraq" will fight along with the alliance and against the axis of Baathism-Jihadism. That alone is an undisputed change in the map setting.

2. Removing the Syrian army from Lebanon, even partially, would have been hard, had five layers of radicals, Hezbollah, and the four regimes of Lahoud, Assad, Saddam and Ahmedinijad, have been able to form a continuum from the Mediterranean to Pakistan. But with the Baath removed from Iraq, Iran got surrounded, and Assad lost his eastern strategic depth to face off with the US sixth fleet. Hence, without one single shot, he had to pull his forces out of Lebanon. The mere presence of the US forces in Iraq liberated not one, but two countries, though partially still.

3. The US move in Iraq alienated the French Government. But the Lebanese issue, moved back Paris to the Western alliance against Syria's regime, Hezbollah and Iran. Without that Iraq-generated Lebanon opportunity, France and its European partners wouldn't have put their weight in the balance. Ironically, the march of US Marines towards Baghdad, paved the way for France's diplomats to follow (along with their US counterparts) the road to UNSCR 1559 in New York.

4. With Lebanon slowly emerging from decades of Syrian occupation, a new balance of power is in the making in that small but strategic country: Hezbollah is not the sole power anymore. With the Syrian forces out, the Iran-dominated terror organization has to keep an eye on its rear-guard pressed by the one million marchers of the Cedars Revolution. Thus, without the change in Iraq, that revolution wasn't expected to happen soon, or even to happen at all bloodlessly. The weight of US presence in Iraq, freed the energies of another civil society in the region: Lebanon. Evidently, Hezbollah and its regional backers are counter attacking the Cedars Revolution. It is all up to Lebanon's civil society and the international community not to let Lebanon be left to the slaughter again. Meanwhile, and in contrast with the 1990s, today there is a space to widen freedom out of Lebanon.

5. The domino effect reached Iran: With US forces in Afghanistan protecting a rising democracy, coalition forces in Iraq, coaching an expanding democracy, and a UN backed civil revolution struggling in Beirut, Tehran's environment has been altered: Its strategists are attempting to accommodate evolving situations to their east (Afghanistan), west (Syria) and far west (Lebanon). US soldiers taking back Fallujah and training Iraqis are changing the strategic landscape of the Mullahs threat.

6. The cataclysmic changes in Iraq caused yet remote developments: Gaddafi's regime surrendered his designs on nuclear weapons, affecting the threat of rogue regimes; Sudan's Islamist regime moderated its stance on the South, and began to deal with an international initiative in Darfur. Absent of the Iraq campaign, it would have been less likely to see Tripoli offering concessions and a window for international attempts to stop the Genocide in Sudan.

7. In the war of ideas, the change in Iraq, mobilized the region's dissident forces. Watching the rise of 120 political parties in Iraq, women voting in Afghanistan, demonstrators in Beirut, thousands of democracy activists have spread online and in many Arab countries. Another indirect consequence of the sacrifices consented by young men and women from America's little towns and mega-cities.

The ripple effects of the US campaign, is amazingly wider quantitatively and qualitatively than the Iraq-only results. The seven effects above mentioned are only a limited version of the earthquake striking the region and awakening its underdogs to freedom. In the final analysis all perception depends on the understanding of this conflict by average Americans and soon to be by Europeans and Middle Eastern alike. It is about to be or not to be conscious about it. The ability of the reader, viewer, and student in the United States to understand the far meaning of Iraq's geopolitical changes can insure these changes are for real and the Middle East chances for greater freedoms possible.

Walid Phares teaches Middle East political issues, ethnic and religious conflict, and comparative politics at Florida Atlantic University. Dr. Phares has written seven books on the Middle East and published hundreds of articles in newspapers and scholarly publications.

Some related posts and articles:

- U.S. Middle East strategy

- The U.S. New Iraq Strategy

- The Neo-Internationalism After 9/11 and Middle East Democratization

- Totalitarianism, Violence and Terror

- Middle East Totalitarian Axis

- Middle East Salvation

- The International 'New Deal' of the Middle East


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UN Arab Human Development Report 2005

The UN Arab Human Development Report 2005: Toward the rise of women in the Arab world argues that women in the Arab world are not realizing their full potential and are still denied equality of opportunity. The report affirms that some achievements have been secured; most Arab countries now have a parliament, a cabinet or a local council in which at least one woman participates. However, Arab women must be given greater access to education, employment, health care and public life. The report also contends that Islamic movements have been in many cases at the vanguard of women's empowerment.

Following is an introduction to The UN Arab Human Development Report 2005:

Arab Human Development Report Launch
06 December 2006

Women in the Arab world are not realizing their full potential and are still denied equality of opportunity, says the Arab Human Development Report 2005: Toward the rise of women in the Arab world, arguing that this represents not just a problem for women, but a barrier to progress and prosperity in Arab societies as a whole.

The Report commends some Arab states for “significant, progressive changes” in addressing the fundamental gender biases prevalent in the region. Yet the authors cite a range of obstacles to equitable development, from cosmetic reforms with little real effect to violent conflict, foreign occupations and terrorism, which cast a shadow over the tantalizing hints of progress glimpsed in the Report’s pages.

In 2002, the first Arab Human Development Report identified women’s disempowerment as one of three critical deficits crippling Arab nations in their quest to return to the first rank of world leaders of commerce, learning and culture. Now, four years later, the unequivocal necessity of securing for Arab women a fair chance to thrive has reached primacy as a precondition for development.

“Human development requires more than economic growth alone. The fight against poverty is not a campaign of charity - it is a mission of empowerment. This is especially true as regards women, given that, of the world’s one billion poorest people, three-fifths are women and girls. Full participation and empowerment of women, as citizens, as producers, as mothers and sisters, will be a source of strength for Arab Nations and will allow the Arab World to reach greater prosperity, greater influence and higher levels of human development,” said United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Kemal Derviş. UNDP sponsored the Report.

This final report in the four-part series examines the situation of women in the region, with a special emphasis on health, education, and political participation. The 2005 Report also assesses the advancement of women by analysing Arab society’s desire for such progress, and the kinds of social action that are needed to achieve the goal of gender equality in the Arab states.

“To embrace the courage and activism of women in the Arab world is to champion the catalysts of human development. Hard-won gains in women’s rights are the culmination of decades of committed engagement by generations of women’s rights campaigners and their allies in Governments across the region,” said Amat Al Alim Alsoswa, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Arab States.

The Report asserts that despite Arab women’s equal status under international law, their demonstrated talents and achievements in different spheres of human activity, and their priceless contributions to their families and society, many are not encouraged to develop and use their capabilities on an equal footing with men. In public life, cultural, legal, social, economic and political factors impede women’s equal access to education, health, job opportunities, citizens’ rights and representation, the Report contends. In private life, the Report says, traditional patterns of upbringing and discriminatory family and personal-status laws perpetuate inequality and subordination.

At the level of culture, the Report maintains, the fundamental obstacle to the rise of women remains how to deal with certain conflicts between the requirement of a productive economy and internationally agreed standards on the one hand and traditions and customs on the other.

The Report contends that the strongest inhibitors of development for many Arab citizens, women and men, have been foreign occupations and the ‘war on terror.’ “Women have endured a double portion of suffering under foreign occupation,” the Report says, and in many cases, the basic rights and freedoms of Arab citizens, extending from the right to life through civil and political rights to economic and social rights, have continued to be violated.

This negative environment—in conjunction with the spectre of extremist terrorism, which the Report condemns in the strongest possible terms—damages the prospects for a broad revival in the Arab world by impeding reform and obstructing opportunities for peaceful and just solutions to the occupation of Arab lands and the restriction of Arab freedoms and rights. A continued impasse over these matters, the Report argues, may push the region further towards extremism and violent protest in the absence of a fair system of governance at the global level that ensures security and prosperity for all.

However, the Report affirms, some achievements have been secured; most Arab countries now have a parliament, a cabinet or a local council in whose assigned tasks at least one woman participates effectively. Still, the Report warns that political reform, at every level, must go beyond the cosmetic and the symbolic: “In all cases…real decisions in the Arab world are, at all levels, in the hands of men.”

Islamic movements, often characterized in the West as uniformly malevolent forces, have, the Report contends, in reality been in many cases at the vanguard of women’s empowerment. “In the last five decades, the internal dynamics of these movements, their relationship to mainstream society and their positions on vital societal issues, on human rights and on good governance and democracy have undergone significant, progressive changes,” the Report explains.

Most of the mainstream Islamic movements, according to the AHDR, are witnessing notable growth of an enlightened leadership among their relatively younger generations. In addition, there is a growing grass-roots mandate for greater internal democracy, the Report says. However, these positive developments have not canceled out other currents outside mainstream Arab society that could seek to curtail freedom and democracy if they came to power, especially with regard to women.

Another reason for optimism can be found in the results of the public-opinion polls commissioned for the Report. The polls reveal a broad desire for a level of gender equality higher than that found today, and certainly higher that that which will result if societal obstacles to the rise of Arab women remain in place.

The Report affirms that a transformation is taking place in the Arab world, as women’s issues are increasingly permeating intellectual and cultural discourse: “Contemporary media forms such as the Internet, chat rooms, satellite television channels and their specialised programmes are based on the power of open public dialogue, quick communication and accessible communities of thought and practice. For women, they open up a new avenue of liberation that allows them to occupy spaces that they could not have entered through the conventional print media.”

Still, the modern Arab women’s movement is too often misconstrued as an import from the West; in reality, the concept of gender equality has deep roots in the region. Egypt’s first “women’s educational society” was founded in 1881, with raising public awareness of women’s rights as a key objective. The 1940s, under colonialism, saw a surge in women’s organizations, most of which dedicated themselves to issues like polygamy and women’s right to education.

The Arab Human Development Report 2005 concludes that the rise of women in the Arab world requires, first, that all Arab women be afforded full opportunities to acquire essential health, and knowledge on an equal footing with male counterparts. Second, “full opportunities must be given to Arab women to participate as they see fit in all types of human activity outside the family on an equal footing with men.”

In line with the calls in previous reports for comprehensive, rights-based societal reforms, the AHDR asserts that the rise of Arab women entails:

- Total respect for the rights of citizenship of all Arab women.
- The protection of women’s rights in the area of personal affairs and family relations.
- Guarantees of total respect for women’s personal rights and freedoms.

In addition, the Report calls for the temporary adoption of affirmative action in expanding the participation of Arab women to all fields of human activity. This will allow the dismantling of the centuries-old structures of discrimination against women.

The Report maintains that the rise of women requires a wide and effective movement in Arab civil society aimed at achieving human development for all. Such a movement, the Report asserts, will be the means by which Arab women may empower themselves and their male supporters. It will have two levels. The first is national and will involve all levels of society in every country. The second is regional and will be founded on trans-border networks for co-ordination and support of regional efforts to empower women.


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Lebanon Fighting Middle East Totalitarianism

Beirut, 14 Feb 07

Lebanon's majority leaders told a sea of supporters marking the second anniversary of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri's assassination in Beirut that agreeing on the international tribunal to try his murderers is the only gateway to dialogue and unity. Hundreds of thousands of March 14 supporters streamed from north, east, central and south Lebanon to Martyrs' Square in cars, busses, and boats raising Lebanese flags and chanting slogans against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The March 14 majority coalition accuses the Assad regime of masterminding the Hariri assassination on Feb. 14 2005 and the serial assassinations, the latest of which killed three civilians and wounded 23 in a twin bombing that targeted commuting buses northeast of Beirut on Tuesday.

Lebanese Forces Leader Samir Geagea said the international tribunal, which Syria reportedly rejects, "will certainly be created."

He stressed that "whoever fights against what is right will be knocked out … The international tribunal will certainly be created."

Geagea escalated the confrontation with Hizbullah pledging that "henceforth, we will not accept any weapons outside the Lebanese army's frame of control...The Lebanese army is the resistance, the Lebanese government is the resistance, the Lebanese people is the resistance."

Geagea's words drew thundering chants of support that echoed across the whole of Beirut and reached the ears of protestors taking part in a Hizbullah-led sit in at the nearby Riad Solh Square since Dec. 1 with the declared objective of toppling Premier Fouad Saniora's majority government.

Addressing President Emile Lahoud, whose term in office was extended for three years under Syrian pressure in 2004, Geagea said: "History has settled its account with any tyrant …at the end (of your term) you will go away to history's garbage dump."

At 12:55 p.m., the exact time of the one-ton explosion that killed Hariri two years ago, an angry crowd fell silent as church bells tolled and mosque minarets blared Allah Akbar chants.

Progressive Socialist Party Leader Walid Jumblat stressed in his address that the year 2007 will see the creation of the international tribunal to try suspects in the Hariri murder and related crimes.

"We will not surrender to terrorism and to authoritarian parties, be they Syrian or otherwise," Jumblat said as the crowd applauded and shouted slogans attacking Assad, his regime and his Lebanese allies in the Hizbullah-led opposition.

Addressing Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah without mentioning him by name, Jumblat said: "Give the weapons to the Lebanese army and the hay to your allies."

He was referring to Hizbullah weapons confiscated last week concealed in a truck loaded with hay.

The government delivered the weapons to the Lebanese army in south Lebanon, ignoring calls by Hizbullah which claims the weapons are needed by its resistance arm.

Jumblat stressed that "from now on there will be no weapons except what is controlled by the Lebanese army."

He was obviously escalating calls to disarm Hizbullah.

Jumblat also stressed that "we adhere to international (U.N. Security Council) resolutions. All international resolutions," in reference to resolution 1559 which was adopted in the year 2004 and called for disbanding and disarming all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, a reference to Hizbullah and pro-Syrian Palestinian factions operating in Lebanon.

Jumblat launched a vehement attack on Assad terming him "a snake .. a beast .. an Israeli product .. a liar .. a criminal."

"This year will witness the creation of the international tribunal, justice will be served and the punishment will be a death sentence," Jumblat pledged.

Parliamentary Majority leader Saad Hariri, son of the slain ex-premier, delivered an emotional speech in which he thanked all those who took part in the ceremony and stressed that the Lebanese are "committed to freedom, independence, the truth, justice and the international tribunal."

"We adhere to justice to punish the murderers" who committed the Hariri killings and related crimes, he said.

He condemned recent "aggressions on peaceful neighborhoods" by masked followers of the Hizbullah-led opposition on Jan. 23.

"Despite all that, we are in the final phase of the march to create the international tribunal soon, very soon," Hariri said.

"Lebanon will be victorious and Lebanon's enemies will be defeated," he pledged.

Hariri's speech was interrupted with applause and chants attacking the Assad regime.

The majority leader concluded by stressing that "we are ready for any brave decision in favor of Lebanon … but the international tribunal is the sole gateway to any solution."


Lebanese March 14 Forces Calls for Sanctions on Syrian Regime

Beirut, 13 Feb 07

Premier Fouad Saniora said the bus blasts that killed three people and wounded 23 on Tuesday "wouldn't terrorize us" and the March 14 majority coalition blamed the crime on the Syrian regime, calling for sanctions on Damascus.

Saniora, in an address to the Lebanese on the eve of the second anniversary of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri's assassination, said the bomb blasts in commuting buses northeast of Beirut were "criminal acts of violence."

"We will not be terrorized and we will not be scared off. We will chase the criminals," he pledged.

Saniora said "we will not give up our commitment to serve justice" in the 2005 Hariri assassination and related crimes.

Addressing families of the three people who were killed in the bus blasts in Ain Alaq earlier in the day, Saniora said: "Their rights will not be lost irrespective of the cost."

"We will not succumb … we are not a sphere of influence for anyone…The Lebanese will not compromise on their freedoms, security and safety… and the nature of their regime," he added.

In a related development, the majority March 14 coalition which backs the Saniora government said in a statement the bus blasts are "a new massacre … targeting innocent civilians."

"We hold the Syrian regime fully responsible for this crime and we charge this regime of attempting to change Lebanon into another Iraq to destroy its security and stability in order to torpedo efforts aimed at setting up an international tribunal" that should try suspects in the Hariri assassination and related crimes.

The alliance, in a statement after an emergency meeting, urged the Arab League, the U.N. Security Council and the international community to "shoulder your responsibilities in lifting the Syrian regime's aggression off Lebanon."

The statement called for imposing sanctions on Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime and for dispatching U.N. peacekeepers to "control the Lebanese-Syrian borders that would halt the flow of weapons to tools of this (Syrian) regime."

It also urged major factions in the opposition, in reference to Hizbullah and Amal, to "shoulder your responsibility in confronting efforts by the Syrian regime to change Lebanon into another Iraq by immediately approving the creation of the international tribunal and returning to the dialogue table."

The alliance also called on its supporters to take part in the popular ceremony scheduled for Wednesday to commemorate the second anniversary of the Hariri assassination in Beirut's Martyrs' Square.


Some related posts and articles:

- Lebanon's Independence and Democracy

- Lebanon Under Attack

- Beirut and Iranian Gangs

- Syria's Role in Lebanon

- Totalitarianism, Violence and Terror

- Middle East Totalitarian Axis

- Hariri Assassination Suspects and Independence Government

- Middle East Salvation

- The International 'New Deal' of the Middle East

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Arab Security Services and Democratic Change

This is an interesting article on a reality of Arab authoritarian states. It helps in demonstrating one of the main problems and obstacles to Arab reform and democratization.

Arab Security Services and the Crisis in Democratic Change

By Amr Hamzawy
The Daily Star, June 9, 2006

The lack of democratic breakthroughs worthy of mention in Arab countries has spurred debate about barriers to change. Much of this debate has focused on economic, social, and cultural factors, or on the fragility of political forces demanding democracy. The debate would be incomplete, however, without a discussion of the means by which authoritarian Arab regimes control their societies, particularly the critical roles performed by security services with their quasi-military and intelligence components.

First, the security services restrict opposition political mobilization with a mixture of pre-emptive and repressive practices. Opposition groups often cannot hold mass meetings, demonstrations or get their supporters to polling places, and are prohibited from legitimate political gains by falsified electoral results. The degree of oppression, and whether it is constant or episodic, varies from Syria to Egypt to Morocco. In any case, the result of the security services' oppressive role is the continuation of ruling regimes, many of which lack popular support, and a culture of fear and aversion to political participation among citizens.

Second, a cursory glance at Arab regimes reveals the hegemony of the security services over executive authority. This phenomenon is not limited to modern republics, founded by militaries that view the security apparatus as an extension of the regular army, but also extends to monarchies. While the unchecked hegemony of the security services in Saudi Arabia and Libya results from the almost complete absence of a political apparatus, in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen the same phenomenon can be explained by the relative weakness of the ruling parties in the face of the organizational efficiency of the police and intelligence agencies.

Moreover, the proliferation of emergency laws and special tribunals frees the hand of the security apparatus from judicial restraints in dealing with domestic political matters. Recent experiences in Egypt - the regime's reliance on security brutality against voters in order to salvage the 2005 elections in the face of Muslim Brotherhood gains, and the vicious manner in which the security services dealt with liberal opposition figure Ayman Nour - illustrate the phenomenon. Because Arab regimes lack effective political tools for exerting influence over society, even when claiming reformist intentions they often resort to their most effective weapon, oppression by security forces.

Third, officials with security backgrounds are overrepresented among the Arab ruling elites in comparison to other groups such as technocrats, businessmen, and university professors. Although there are fewer ministers with security backgrounds than there used to be in many Arab countries (with the important exceptions of Syria and Algeria), their penetration is still clear. One need only look at the provinces of Morocco, the governorates of Egypt, or the Saudi local councils to witness their heavy presence.

Even more insidious is the fact that security services have been able to exercise influence - in some cases veto power - over appointments to leadership positions in legislative or judicial institutions. This security veto creates a structural bias within the Arab elite to the benefit of those desiring to preserve the status quo and against reformist elements, even those essentially loyal to the regime but striving to reform its institutions.

Those emanating from the security apparatus fear nothing on this earth more than the call for change. The security veto, which represents a fundamental block to movement and renewal within the Arab elite, leaves Arab regimes either with a fragile band of true reformers with no real power, or with larger groups of phony reformers who advance in proportion to their adherence to the security mentality. Understanding this phenomenon can explain in large measure the schizophrenia of the Moroccan, Egyptian, and Jordanian political elites in recent years.

There remains the question of whether the security services are themselves beset by the same crushing social and economic crises that beset the majority of Arabs, and whether they too are lured by the siren song of political Islam. Or are security services merely a blind instrument for autocratic control, perpetually removed from society itself?

Outsiders can venture only a few modest observations, based on limited evidence, as security apparatuses are generally a black box. Despite differences between low- and high-ranking members, security personnel all enjoy higher pay and better services than other segments of society, and are thus protected from unemployment and poverty. In addition, despite recent stories of Saudi security personnel belonging to radical Islamist organizations and of the sympathy of some Egyptian officers for the Muslim Brotherhood, in both cases those involved were either killed or purged.

Thus far, it seems that opposition inroads are extremely limited and that security apparatuses continue to serve as an effective tool for the authoritarian control of society.


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News Concerning Middle East Reform

This is the news section of the latest issue of Arab Reform Bulletin (December 2006) Published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace:


  • Egypt: Constitutional Amendments; Muslim Brothers Released; Blog Writers Arrested
  • Bahrain: New Cabinet and Consultative Council after Elections
  • Syria: Human Rights Trials
  • Saudi Arabia: Human Rights Watch Visit
  • Yemen: Anti-Corruption Draft Law; Editors Imprisoned
  • Palestine: Debate over Early Elections
  • Jordan: Cabinet Reshuffle; New Public Opinion Poll; Anti-Corruption Law
  • Libya: Another Critic Detained; U.S. Call for Al Jahmi Release Reiterated
  • Morocco: Party of Justice and Development Prepares for Elections
  • Upcoming Political Events


Egypt: Constitutional Amendments; Muslim Brothers Released; Blog Writers Arrested

Egypt’s Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif announced on December 4 an 18-month timetable for constitutional amendments. According to Nazif, the government will present proposed changes to parliament in the coming months, with a referendum on those changes expected in the summer of 2007. The ruling National Democratic Party is expected to propose constitutional amendments that would relax rules for political parties to nominate candidates for presidential elections, increase parliamentary oversight powers, and pave the way for a new counter- terrorism law to replace the state of emergency in place since 1981.

A Cairo court released on December 10 the two most senior Muslim Brotherhood officials in detention, overruling a move by prosecutors to keep them under house arrest. Essam Al Erian and Muhammad Morsi were among more than 500 members detained by authorities in May when several demonstrations were held in support of two reformist judges facing disciplinary action. In August, a lower court ordered their release after they spent three months in jail without being charged, but two days later a higher court overturned that decision.

Egyptian authorities are cracking down on blog commentators who post material critical of the government. Rami Siyam was arrested in Cairo on November 19 and Abdel Karim Sulaiman Amer was detained in Alexandria on November 6. Amer is charged with “spreading information disruptive of public order,” “incitement against Muslims,” and “defaming the president.” Click here for more details.

Bahrain: New Cabinet and Consultative Council after Elections

King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa formed a new cabinet on December 11, appointing a Shiite Muslim, Jawad bin Salem Al Oraied, as a deputy prime minister for the first time in Bahrain’s history. The other two deputies of Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa are members of the ruling family. The cabinet’s key portfolios were unchanged. A new portfolio, oil and gas, was given to the head of the National Oil and Gas Authority, Abdul Hussain bin Ali Mirza. Click here for a list of members.

The king also appointed a new 40-member consultative council (the upper house of parliament) on December 5. Observers believe the king appointed mainly liberal candidates to offset the victory of Islamists in elections to the lower house. The new members include 10 women. Click here for a full list of members.

Islamist candidates swept legislative and municipal elections held on November 25 and December 2. Bahrain’s largest political society and the main opposition group, the Shiite Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, won 17 of the lower house’s 40 seats. Sunni Islamist parties Al Manbar National Islamic Society and Al Asala Islamic Society won 7 and 5 seats respectively. Other pro-government candidates won 10 seats. A liberal candidate allied with Al Wefaq won one seat. The secular National Democratic Action Society failed to win any seats. Although the 206 candidates included 16 women, only Latifa Al Gaoud, a pro-government female candidate who ran unopposed, was able to win a seat. Click here for detailed results. According to the Supreme Elections Commission, the turnout rate was 72 percent. Election monitors from the Bahrain Human Rights Society pointed to circumstantial evidence that pro-government Sunni Muslims used fraud to win a majority of seats. Three liberal opposition candidates filed lawsuits seeking to overturn the results but Bahrain’s highest court rejected their cases.

Syria: Human Rights Trials

Syria's State Security Court (SSSC) sentenced four citizens to prison terms ranging from 45 days to five years on December 3 for alleged membership of the Islamic Liberation Party, according to the National Organization for Human Rights.

The SSSC held the first trial on November 28 of eight students arrested nine months ago for founding a public discussion group. The court has accused seven of the eight students of “subjecting the state to the risk of hostile acts” and “publishing false news that may offend the dignity of the state.” According to the Syrian Youth for Justice group, the students have been held incommunicado and without access to legal counsel since their arrest.

On November 19, the SSSC sentenced Nizar Restanawi, founding member of the Syrian branch of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, to four years’ imprisonment for “spreading false news” and “insulting the president.” Ristnawi was arrested on 18 April 2005 and detained incommunicado until August 2005. Click here for more details.

Saudi Arabia: Human Rights Watch Visit

A delegation from the New York-based Human Rights Watch began on December 1 the group’s first significant fact-finding mission in Saudi Arabia. During the three-week visit, the delegation will interview government officials, organizations, and individuals and will focus on the criminal justice system, political rights, the status of women, and foreign workers’ rights. Amnesty International is scheduled to make its first major visit to the kingdom in late January 2007.

Yemen: Anti- Corruption Draft Law; Editors Imprisoned

Yemen’s parliament is debating an anti-corruption draft law which, if passed, will establish a National Authority for Fighting Corruption to investigate corruption in state institutions. According to the draft law, Yemen’s elected lower house of parliament would elect 11 members from a list of 30 candidates (including civil society representatives, private sector representatives, and women) submitted by the appointed upper house of parliament.The law also stipulates that those convicted of involvement in corruption will face prison sentences of at least five years and a fine of no more than YR 5 million (US $28,593).

Yemeni courts are prosecuting editors for reprinting cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad that first appeared in a Danish daily in September 2005. On December 6, a court fined Mohammad Al Assadi (editor-in-chief of the English daily Yemen Observer) 500,000 rials ($2,859) for denigrating Islam. In November a court sentenced Kamal Al Aalafi (editor of Al Rai Al Aam newspaper) to a year in jail for reprinting the cartoons. The editor of another publication, Al Hurriya, faces similar charges.

Palestine: Debate over Early Elections

President Mahmoud Abbas might call for early elections if negotiations with Hamas over the formation of a national unity government remain deadlocked, according to members of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s executive committee. Prime Minister Ismail Haniyya warned on December 10 that early elections would exacerbate tensions and accused Abbas of trying to force Hamas out of government. It is unclear whether Abbas has the legal right to call for early elections. Abbas’s advisors claim that the president is allowed to dissolve parliament if he also submits to the vote. Constitutional law experts argue that parliamentary elections before 2010 would require that the Palestinian Basic Law—the interim constitution for the Palestinian authority—be amended. Please click here for a guide to the powers of the Palestinian president by Carnegie Senior Associate Nathan J. Brown.

Jordan: Cabinet Reshuffle; New Public Opinion Poll; Anti-Corruption Law

On November 22, King Abdullah reshuffled the cabinet, which had been in office for a year, bringing in three former ministers and six newcomers. According to Prime Minister Marouf Al Bakhit, the reshuffle is intended to bolster the government’s program of political and economic reforms. Click here for a full list of the new cabinet.

A public opinion poll released by the University of Jordan’s Center for Strategic Studies (CSS) on December 6 showed that economic concerns (unemployment, poverty, and rising cost of living) top the issues citizens would like to see the new government tackle immediately. The poll showed that roughly half of respondents thought the previous government successful in promoting political reform and freedom of expression. Click here to access the poll results in Arabic.

King Abdullah on December 4 approved legislation passed by parliament to fight corruption through the creation of a “financially and administratively autonomous” six-member commission tasked with investigating corruption, including suspects among current and former officials. Jordan is one of six Arab countries—Egypt, Yemen. Libya, Algeria, and Djibouti—that have ratified the UN Convention against Corruption, adopted by the UN General Assembly in October 2003.

Libya: Another Critic Detained; U.S. Call for Al Jahmi Release Reiterated

Libya’s internal security agency has held Idrees Muhammad Boufayed, a critic of Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi, in incommunicado detention since November 5. Under Libyan law, the police can hold a detainee for up to 48 hours and the prosecution has up to six days to file charges, although a judge can extend this period for up to 30 days. Click here for more details.

Amid questions about whether Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to Tripoli, the U.S. Department of State spokesman on November 16 reiterated calls on the Libyan government to release Fathi Al Jahmi, a leading human rights activist. Al Jahmi is charged with holding an unauthorized meeting with a foreign official (believed to be a U.S. diplomat). He was initially arrested in October 2002 after delivering a speech at a conference in Tripoli calling for democracy, and then released in March 2004, after U.S. Senator Joseph Biden advocated on his behalf during a meeting with Qadhafi. Libyan authorities detained Al Jahmi again two weeks later, after he reiterated calls for reform in several international media interviews. Click here to read the U.S. statement.

Morocco: Party of Justice and Development Prepares for Elections

The Secretary General of Morocco’s Islamist Party of Justice and Development (PJD) Saad Eddin Al Othmani announced on November 20 that his party will run candidates in most districts in the 2007 parliamentary elections. The PJD gained the third-highest number of seats in parliament in the 2002 elections, despite the fact that it ran in only 55 of Morocco’s 91 constituencies. In an interview in Ash Sharq Al Awsat (Arabic text) Othmani dismissed the possibility of his party winning a majority, citing the “nature of the Moroccan political scene.” The electoral system and the large number of political parties make it nearly impossible for one party to capture a majority of seats.

Upcoming Political Events

  • United Arab Emirates: Elections to the Federal National Council, December 16, 2006.


Nassim Yaziji's Neo-Internationalism

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The Regional Dimension of the U.S. Iraq Strategy

There is an important regional dimension in the U.S. new Iraq strategy as I explained before. Here are two related analyses by the Council on Foreign Relations.

Some related posts and articles:

- U.S. Middle East strategy

- The U.S. New Iraq Strategy

- Explaining Bush's Plan to Secure Baghdad

- The Neo-Internationalism After 9/11 and Middle East Democratization

- Defining the Iraqi Question

- Totalitarianism, Violence and Terror

- Iraq Victory: Middle East Salvation

- Middle East Totalitarians and Existential Choice

- Middle East Totalitarian Axis

- Middle East Salvation

- Lebanon's Independence and Democracy

- The International 'New Deal' of the Middle East

On Course for Iran

January 16, 2007
Prepared by: Michael Moran

Nearly a week since President Bush’s vow to “surge” U.S. forces into Baghdad, a surge of a different kind got underway in the direction of Iran. The carrier Stennis (NYT) and its battle group will join the USS Eisenhower and its escorts in the Arabian Sea by early February. Britain, too, has added naval forces (The Australian).

Bush’s otherwise Iraq-centric speech included explicit threats directed at Iran and Syria, accusing them of “allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory” and vowing to “destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.” Asked for clarifications, administration officials say nothing is imminent, but nothing is ruled out, either. Is the administration planning to, as one op-ed writer put it, “exit Iraq through Iran?” (BosGlobe) Last week’s detention by U.S. forces of six alleged Iranian gunrunners (AP) at Tehran’s consulate in Irbil angered not only Tehran but the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government, which appears eager to cultivate good relations with Iran (LAT).

Still, ambiguity remains the byword. All Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would really tell the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week on the topic is that nothing is off the table. Her appearance included a telling exchange with Sen. Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-DE), the panel’s chairman, in which Biden asserted the 2002 congressional authorization for war with Iraq would not cover (Haaretz) expanding the war to Iran. “I just want to set that marker,” Biden added. Not surprisingly, Rice declined to commit to that analysis.

More recently, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, who counseled in favor of a more open diplomatic approach to Iran before joining the administration, told reporters during a visit to Brussels Monday he now views Iran’s recent behavior “in a very negative way” (WashTimes). Another official previously skeptical of Iran’s alleged support for violence in Iraq, CIA Director Gen. Michael V. Hayden, recently told Congress intelligence he has seen changed his mind, giving him “the zeal of a convert” (NYT) on the issue.

At the very least, the latest policy shift in Washington forecloses on independent recommendations that Iran and Syria be engaged diplomatically. That idea, promoted most recently by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, rests on the hope that talks and incentives could play on mutual interests in stabilizing Iraq. Gates agreed with that premise in 2004 when he cochaired a CFR Independent Task Force on Iran. CFR President Richard N. Haass reiterated it this summer in a CFR.org interview.

Despite some UN Security Council action, efforts to curb Iran and Syria through multilateral pressure have been limited, with Tehran defying demands that it desist from enriching uranium, and Syria continuing to stymie (Daily Star) the investigation into its role in the death of former Lebanese President Rafik Hariri. A more unilateral approach now looms. Earlier this week, Washington imposed sanctions (FT) on an Iranian bank.

A wide range of experts at a day-long symposium on Iran last spring agreed with the assertions of CFR Senior Fellow Steven Simon, a terrorism expert and former senior director for transnational threats at the National Security Council: “The moment the first U.S. warheads detonate over an Iranian nuclear installation, the United States will be at war (WashPost) with the Islamic Republic."


Iraq's Unruly Neighbors

January 12, 2007
Prepared by: Michael Moran

With so much riding on the Bush administration’s tactical shifts in Iraq, and with so little by way of domestic political support, naturally the military and political impact of the “surge” in troop levels has captivated the media. Yet Bush’s Wednesday evening speech included explicit threats directed at Iran and Syria, accusing them of “allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory” and vowing to “destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.” And, he added for good measure: “I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier-strike group to the region.” The carrier Stennis and its battle group joins the USS Eisenhower and its escorts in the Arabian Sea by early February.

The deployment may or may not imply imminent action against Iran or Syria, which both denounced the new plan (AP). But in a raid in the Kurdish city of Irbil on Thursday, U.S. troops seized six Iranians (BBC) from a building Tehran claims to be its local consulate, suggesting a new, more aggressive approach. The president’s words on Iran and Syria remain deliberately ambiguous. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, during her testy appearance Thursday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, insisted the U.S. would rule out nothing (BosGlobe) with regard to the two nations.

Nonetheless, the bellicose words appear to foreclose on independent recommendations that Iran and Syria be engaged diplomatically. That idea, promoted most recently by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, rests on the hope that talks and incentives could convert these important regional players into constructive partners, at least in regard to the common interest of stabilizing Iraq. It’s an idea that was firmly embraced by new Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates when he cochaired a CFR Independent Task Force on Iran in 2004. CFR President Richard N. Haass reiterated it this summer in a CFR.org interview.

Despite some UN Security Council action, efforts to curb Iran and Syria through multilateral pressure have been limited, with Tehran defying demands that it desist from enriching uranium, and Syria continuing to stymie the investigation (Daily Star) into its role in the death of former Lebanese President Rafik Hariri. A more unilateral approach now looms. Earlier this week, Washington imposed sanctions (FT) on an Iranian bank.

Yet as powerful as U.S. carrier battle groups may be, experts fear no limited options truly exist when it comes to striking Iran or its putative nuclear arms program. Unlike Serbia or even Saddam’s Iraq—recent recipients of air strikes and the Tomahawk missile approach to such problems—Iran possesses the means to strike back. Others warn Iran has grown into a political and regional military force too powerful to be isolated. Suggestions to the contrary, writes CFR Senior Fellow Ray Takeyh in his new book, Hidden Iran, “are grounded in emotion, ideology, or wishful thinking.”

A wide range of experts at a day-long symposium on Iran last spring agreed with the assertions of Takeyh and CFR Senior Fellow Steven Simon, a terrorism expert and former senior director for transnational threats at the National Security Council: “The moment the first U.S. warheads detonate over an Iranian nuclear installation, the United States will be at war (WashPost) with the Islamic Republic."


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