Weak links

Very interesting discussion of the war over at the Head Heeb, who considers Lebanon the weakest link in the conflict and worries about a possible return to civil war there -- which he rightly argues would destabilize the region so much as to jeopardize any chance of regional peace for years. Let's hope that won't happen, and for now I don't think it will. Now, obviously my views on these things are quite different from Jonathan's -- I have come to believe over the last few years that peace is not an Israeli foreign policy goal, only lack of aggression against it is (something that can and hopefully will change). There are three probable possibilities now: 1) after another week of fighting Israel occupies a sliver of South Lebanon, but a ceasefire is negotiated and eventually a peacekeeping force replaces the Israeli army, and Hizbullah agrees to no longer fire rockets at northern Israel (unlikely); 2) Hizbullah's fierce resistance in the South (as seen recently) means Israel is not able to sustain the occupation of even a sliver of the South, but a fragile ceasefire is negotiated anyway (more probable); 3) Israel refuses to stop the war after it has been unable to carry out its objectives in three weeks and thus continues it (what a lot of Israeli editorialists worrying about the army's performance so far think it should do.) The irony of outcome number 2, the one I think looks like the likeliest for now if pressure is brought to bear on Israel over the next week, is that while it will be a failure for stated Israeli and US goals it has the potential of forcing Israel into peace negotiations with various parties and finally solve the whole crisis. Yes, it would be seen as many in Israel as a failure, but maybe that is what is needed to push them to the negotiating table. It's unlikely, I know, and will have been very costly (especially for Lebanon), but I think it might be a small ray of hope out of this mess. And while Israel's pride may be damaged, it would still emerge mostly unscathed (in terms of human and other damage) and with its role in the region finally normalized and secured. The other side of outcome number 2 would be that it is merely viewed as an Israeli defeat rather than an opportunity, and that it makes everyone just more bellicose. Then, the fragile ceasefire is sure to be broken sooner or later and lead to an even greater war. Which is why we need the regional superpower to act boldly and fairly, and then it will really be able to claim that we were seeing the pangs of birth of a new Middle East -- one chosen by the region's players rather than imposed from outside.
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Hizbullah's psy-ops in Israel?

Hossam beat me to posting about the great BBC article on Israeli psy-ops (the stuff about Al Manar's satellite feed being hacked is especially fascinating, since they are all Arab or Iranian owned), but I will beat him at his own game:
Dozens of Israeli customers of the Orange cellular service provider received unexpected SMS messages on their phones Wednesday evening, with the English message: "Now Now Now...Go out from your home Hizballah willing shelling of the area, Israel Government Cheating you And refuse recognition Defeat.” It was not yet clear whether Hizbullah operatives were in fact behind the messages of intimidation, or whether the messages were no more than a joke in poor taste by other network subscribers. . . . Rani Rahav, a spokesperson for Orange, responded that the text messages were coming from a small service provider “somewhere out there in the Pacific Ocean. We are working right now to block the provider from transmitting further messages to Orange customers.”
This will be remembered in Israel as "the Micronesian betrayal."
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Sadr to send Hizbullah more troops from Iraq?

Does anyone know whether this has any credibility?
A senior member of Muqtada al-Sadr's Iraqi Shi'ite militia, the Mahdi Army, says the group is forming a squadron of up to 1,500 elite fighters to go to Lebanon. The plan reflects the potential of the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah to strengthen radical elements in Iraq and neighboring countries and to draw other regional players into the Lebanon conflict. "We are choosing the men right now," said Abu Mujtaba, who works in the loosely organized following of radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. "We are preparing the right men for the job."
It is the Washington Times after all...
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Et la communauté internationale dans tout ça?

Un excellent editorial dans Le Figaro: (sorry, no time to translate)
En faisant porter la responsabilité des violences d'aujourd'hui aux seuls Hamas et Hezbollah, la communauté internationale se fait le relais en connaissance de cause du discours israélien. Un redoutable engrenage est pourtant en train de se mettre en place dont nul ne connaît le terme. Le gouvernement d'Israël n'est-il pas comme par le passé en train de pousser ses adversaires à commettre des actes qui ne lui apporteront qu'une justification de plus auprès de la communauté internationale pour de nouvelles initiatives qui, à leur tour, entraîneront de nouvelles violences ? Du Hamas et de Gaza, nous sommes passés au Hezbollah et au Liban. Le terme de cette course folle se trouve-t-il en réalité à Damas ou même à Téhéran ? George Bush voit le terme de son mandat approcher et la communauté internationale est actuellement dans une phase de tension avec la Syrie comme avec l'Iran. Cette conjonction, maintenant que l'Irak est à terre, sera-t-elle saisie comme une occasion par le gouvernement israélien pour régler à sa manière la question de ses voisins les plus encombrants ? À quel prix pour le reste du monde ? Les Palestiniens, une nouvelle fois, auront été en «zugzwang», comme aux échecs obligés par le gouvernement israélien de jouer un coup perdant. La communauté internationale se laissera-t-elle entraîner à son tour dans pareille stratégie ?
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A lightning history of the Suez Canal, Part II

Below is the second part of a look at the history of the Suez Canal. Part I is here. In 1854, de Lesseps went back to Egypt for the first time in 15 years to see Said. He presented the idea of the canal, and how Egypt stood to gain from it in power, money and glory. Unlike his predecessors, who had rejected the idea, Said embraced it: de Lesseps was an excellent salesman, and one that was convinced of the merits of his own product. "The names of the Egyptian sovereigns who erected the Pyramids, those useless monuments of human pride, will be ignored," he told Said. "The name of the prince who will have opened the grand canal through Suez will be blessed century after century for posterity." By the of the year, he was officially granted the concession to pierce the canal and promised financial support as well as a supply of workers through the traditional corvée, a type of forced labour then commonly used for public works such as irrigation. Actual work on the canal would not begin until years later. Even though he has Said's approval, there were powerful forces that opposed the canal. The British Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, felt that the canal would enhance French power at the expense of the British. The Sublime Porte, as the Ottoman sultan was called, worried that a canal would allow Egypt to entirely escape Ottoman control, and did not like feeling stuck between French and British pressure on the question. Scientists throughout Europe condemned de Lessep's idea of a direct canal, and referred back to the work of Enfantin and Le Pere to argue for an indirect route. For five years de Lesseps ceaselessly travelled between Cairo, Istanbul, Paris, London and even New York to make his case for the canal and generate public enthusiasm. He portrayed the enterprise as one that would help the spread of modernity throughout the world, uniting East and West, as well as a potentially great boon for trade. In the context of the worship of progress that was common in the nineteenth century, it was an easy idea to sell. De Lesseps countered off his opponents and secured the unwavering support of powerful men such as Napoleon III. By 1858, he began the formation of a "Universal Company for a Maritime Canal" and launched the largest initial public offering of his days. Reluctant to have the project stuck in the hands of a few financiers, he designed the company so that it would be owned by as many people as possible. Although he fell short of that aim, Said has promised to buy any unsold shares, an expensive undertaking that made him the canal's largest shareholder but at a great cost to the Egyptian treasury. It was the first of several moves towards indebtedness towards Europeans that was to doom the reign of his successor Ismail and allow Egypt to fall into the hands of the British. Most of the shareholders, though, were middlc class Frenchmen and other Europeans who had bought one or two shares and were proud to have a small part in the greatest engineering project of their time. When the work on the canal began in 1859, it was mostly carried out by corvée labourers -- peasants from the Nile Delta that would dig out the trenches for the canal by hand. Work was slow, but they were many: at its peak de Lesseps had over 60,000 labourers working on the canal -- 20,000 coming, 20,000 digging, and 20,000 going. This was in addition to thousands of Europeans who had come to work as engineers, surveyors, contractors and other jobs, attracted by the prestige of the enterprise and the high salaries the Suez Canal Company offered. Many of these stayed on after the completion of works and until the 1950s the entire Suez Canal area had a cosmopolitan feel not found elsewhere in Egypt. Although cheap, the corvée was by no means efficient. If de Lesseps had not been forced to abandon it later on, he would have never finished the canal in the amount of time. The decision to end the corvée was forced upon him, but in the end turned out to be what saved the project. When Said died in 1863, his successor, Ismail made the dramatic announcement that he would put an end of the corvée, which he denounced as a form of slavery. The announcement was in tune with its time -- the United States was in the middle of a civil war over slavery and Tsar Alexander II would abolish serfdom a few years later -- but it presented de Lesseps with a serious problem. Although some amount of corvée labour would continue, it forced him to resort to new digging and dredging machines that were being developed in Europe. These were big, lumbering steam and coal powered machines, but at the time they were at the cutting edge of technology. They were also very expensive, and drove up the costs of the project, forcing the company to issue a bond to replenish its coffers. Because Said has promised corvée labourers, de Lesseps felt the company was entitled to compensation, which he eventually got after an prolonged, intense dispute that ended up with Napoleon III (hardly a detached observer) having to mediate between the company and Egypt's government. The results of the mediation drove Ismail further into debt, but the Egyptian ruler, confident that he would see quick results on his investment into the canal and other infrastructure projects, nevertheless continued to spend away on the modernisation of Egypt. By that point, Egypt had invested too much into the project to begin opposing it in any serious way, and Ismail began to spend even more money to prepare for the celebrations for the opening of the canal in 1869 -- which included building several new palaces (including one to host Empress Eugenie, with whom it was said that Ismail had developed an affair) and building an entirely new area of Cairo modelled on Paris. Meeting the 1869 deadline for the completion of canal was a race against time. De Lesseps' personal reputation, as well as the prosperity of the company whose shares had dipped amidst rumours that it would not be completed in time, were staked on it. Yet, working overtime and devising ways to maximise utilisation of the dredging machines along with bringing back manual labourers, the canal was finally finished. The waters of the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, which some predicted would create a disaster when coming into contact, mingled without an incident. No flood occurred, and the current created by the difference in height of the two seas was barely noticeable. Has he put it in his commemoration speech, de Lesseps had succeeded in "parting the desert." Within two decades, despite the prodigious wealth that the canal created by attracting the traffic of ships that otherwise would have to circumnavigate the Cape of Good Hope, the main backers of the canal were in trouble. De Lesseps had acquired wealth and fame, but he died in ignominy after being involved in one of the biggest financial scandal of the time: the bankruptcy of the Panama Canal Company, which de Lesseps had hoped would do the same thing for the Atlantic and Pacific oceans that the Suez Canal had done for the Red an Mediterranean seas. The fate of Ismail, and Egypt in general, was even worse. The debt incurred by the construction of the canal and other modernisation projects delivered the country into the hands of the England. In a deft move, England's prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli, bought Ismail's share of the canal at a low price. Later on, as the country was still unable to pay its debt, he was forced to accept Dual Control, a policy that placed the budget of the Egyptian state in the hands of the English. In April 1879, he was deposed in a coup by his own ministers, who had the backing of the Ottoman sultan. Egypt was left with no stake in the canal, mounting debt, and under the de facto control of a foreign power -- a situation that lasted until the Suez crisis of 1956, when President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalised the canal to finance the construction of the Aswan Dam, provoking a British-French-Israeli invasion. The US intervened to force the aggressors to back off, which finally returned the canal into Egyptian hands. Resentful at years of foreign domination, the citizens of Port Said gathered around de Lesseps' statue and dynamited it off its pedestal, which remains empty to this day.
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Misr Digital on resistance week

Wael Abbass of MisrDigital has posted a fantastic virtual coverage of solidarity demos in Cairo accross last week. As always, Wael takes good pix and videos of the protests, clashes, portraits of security officials present when abuses happen. The most interesting video this time was one taken of a CSF conscript mumbling "Amen" as pro-resistance demonstrators were praying for Israel's and America's defeat. Wael also said his blog has been recently coming under attacks from Israeli hackers, so he sent them the following post card...
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Thousands demonstrate in support of resistance

Thousands of Muslim Brothers activists took part in demos following Fri prayers today in Giza and Shoubra. Around five thousands supporters of Egypt's largest Islamist opposition group prayed and demonstrated in front of Istiqama mosque in Giza, according to Photographer Nasser Nouri. The protestors were surrounded by CSF, who banned them from marching to the nearby Israeli embassy, but no arrests were reported. In el-Khazendar mosque in Shoubra, around a thousand MB supporters, half of them children, demonstrated for an hour after the Friday prayers, according to a photographer present in the scene. The mosque was surrounded by CSF, who made sure the demo did not turn into a march. Ten children were detained by security, according to Ikhwan Web. (You can find a slideshow of the two demos here.) Here's a good dpa roundup by Jano Charbel of the protests in (the above-mentioned) Giza, and another two in Al-Azhar Mosque and Mansoura province. Jano puts the number of Giza demonstrators at less than what Nasser Nouri said, however.
Around 4,000 Egyptians protest against Israel in three demonstrations Cairo, July 28 (dpa) - Nearly 4,000 Egyptians protested Israel's military operations against Lebanon and the Gaza Strip following Friday noontime prayers in three separate demonstrations, one in Cairo's al-Azhar Mosque another in the Giza Square, and a third in the northern city of Mansoura. The demonstration in the al-Azhar Mosque, organized by the Labor Party and members of other opposition movements, involved over 1,000 protestors who chanted slogans in support of Hizbollah and Hamas while denouncing the "barbaric aggressions targeting civilians" perpetrated by "the Zionist enemy." These demonstrators were sealed in by thousands of Egyptian security forces as they protested inside the large mosque. Beyond their denouncement of Israel and the US, the demonstrators condemned "the silence of Arab leaders" whom they described as being traitors, cowards and US agents. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordanian King Abdallah II, and the King of Saudi Arabia Abdallah Ben Abdel Aziz were singled out for criticism. These three Arab leaders, and especially Mubarak, were criticized for their repeated censuring of Hizbollah. The protestors waved the flags of Hizbollah, Palestine, and Lebanon while others carried pictures of Hassan Nasrallah. They chanted "God bless you Nasrallah," "Dear Nasrallah, in whom we believe, go on and destroy Tel Aviv," and "1...2... Where have the Arab armies gone to?" Scuffles took place between the protestors and security forces who prevented the demonstrators from taking to the streets; no arrests were reported. The Moslem Brotherhood were conducting their own protest, at nearly the same time as the al-Azhar demonstration, following the conclusion of Friday noontime prayers in Giza's al-Istiqama Mosque, in which around 2,000 demonstrated against Israel. The Moslem Brotherhood moved from the mosque to the nearby Giza Square where they were cordoned in by over 5,000 members of the Egyptian security forces. They chanted "May God grant Hizbollah and Hamas their victory" and "death to Israel" amongst a number of Islamic slogans. A number of demonstrators carried Lebanese and Palestinian flags as well as photos of Hassan Nasrallah, while others carried placards reading "Yesterday was Iraq, today Lebanon, who's next?" and placards displaying "Flag of Israel = Swastika." The demonstrators had reportedly intended to march forward in order to demonstrate outside the Israeli embassy in Giza, but the security forces prevented them from doing so. No scuffles or arrests were reported at the Giza Square. Nearly 500 others protested at a third demonstration in solidarity with the people of Lebanon and Palestine that was staged in the northern Nile Delta City of al-Mansoura. This demonstration was also conducted following the conclusion of Friday prayers and was also organized by the Moslem Brotherhood. Earlier, on Thursday evening, nearly 100 protestors held an anti-Israel demonstration outside Cairo's journalists' syndicate. This demonstration was organized by the Nasserist Party and the (Nasserist) Karama Party. These Nasserist protestors carried photos of the champion of Pan-Arab nationalism, former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, and photos of Hassan Nasrallah along with the flags of Hizbollah, Lebanon and Palestine. The Nasserists swore to deny Condoleezza Rice of her envisioned plan of "a new Middle East" which they said was "a new Middle East in the interests of only Israel and the US, at the expense of the entire Arab World." In a related development, the General Federation of Professional Syndicates in Egypt, presented the Egyptian government, on Friday, with a petition demanding the expulsion of the American and Israeli ambassadors from the country. Further demonstrations in solidarity with Lebanon and Palestine are scheduled for Sunday and Monday.
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Detaining Egypt

Ma’at Center for Legal and Constitutional Studies will organize a conference, Monday 31 July, on "Conditions of Detention in Egypt." Several speakers will take part including Dr. Diaa Rashwan of Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, Hussein Ibrahim, the deputy head of the Muslim Brothers’ parliamentary block, in addition to some detainees’ family members and a number of recently released detainees. The conference will start at 1pm, in Hor Mohebb Hotel, in Haram Street in Giza. RELATED POSTINGS: Chain of hatred A letter from a former Islamist detainee
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وداعاً رمسيس

So finally Ramses is gonna escape the polution, dust, fumes, and garbage hills of downtown Cairo, to assume his new position in front of the new Egyptian Museum, currently under construction. As happy as I am we are saving this valuable piece of our country's history, but I know I and many Cairenes will miss it. May Ramses find some peace now in his new home by the Giza Pyramids... Here is a slideshow of the mock transferring process that took place last night. The Antiquities' authorities moved a replica of the statue, to see if the experiment was going to work.. and it did.. UPDATE: The actual tranfer of the original Ramses statue will take place on October 6, according to Al-Masr Al-Youm If you are interested in more background information on the new Egyptian Museum, check out this story I wrote for the LA Times last year. MUSEUMS Tut, tut: Egypt sorely in need of new site Planned grand space will replace the current hodgepodge. U.S. tour will help fund it. By Hossam Hamalawy Times Staff Writer August 8, 2005 CAIRO -- It wasn't exactly what Jonathan and Mary Brown were expecting. The British couple were shocked by their first visit to the old Egyptian Museum, set in the heart of Cairo's busiest downtown square. "It breaks my heart seeing the monuments kept that way," said Jonathan Brown, a retired real estate investor. "I got into the museum and didn't know which way to go. I couldn't find user-friendly maps, no illustrations. It's also very noisy here. I felt I was at a circus, not a museum." When the Egyptian Museum was built about 100 years ago, it was host to only 10,000 artifacts. The architecture was French colonial, with a lush, cozy garden and a Nile view. Today, the museum is surrounded by a concrete jungle of overpasses, skyscrapers, five-star hotels and an endless stream of cars. Moreover, it holds at least 150,000 antiquities from Pharaonic, Greco-Roman, Coptic and Islamic civilizations. The rooms in the King Tut exhibition area were brushed up and supplied with air-conditioning a few years ago. But many others still lack ventilation and humidity control, and some even have their windows open wide, allowing the noise and smoke of the streets to pour in. "Our museums have been nothing but storage sites, where antiquities are just crumbled over one another," said Zahi Hawass, the head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. "It was so depressing, but things are changing now." Miles to the west of Cairo, near the Giza pyramids, a team of 25 architects, together with 350 construction workers, is busy working on what will be a huge antiquities museum, to be built on a plot of land of 117 feddans, a measurement roughly equivalent to 121 acres. Egypt has launched a global campaign to raise the project's estimated $550-million budget. The first money-making effort is "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs," now at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where visitors are paying $15 to $30 a person for regular tickets and up to $75 for VIP admission. For the Egyptian government, it's well worthwhile. The Grand Museum of Egypt is expected to open its doors to visitors on the Giza plains by 2009, exhibiting at least 100,000 artifacts from the Pharaonic and Greco-Roman periods. The government is gambling that the museum will lure an additional 3 million tourists to Egypt every year. That would give a badly needed boost to the country's $6-billion annual tourism industry, whose short-term future has been thrown into doubt by recent bombings in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik. The decision to build the museum was issued by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 1992 but faced almost a decade-long stalemate because of extensive studies, lack of funding and Egypt's notorious bureaucracy. Yasser Mansour, the 48-year-old chief architect, was initially skeptical about the project when the country's culture minister asked him to get involved in 2001. But "I felt it was a national duty, and I couldn't decline to be part of this giant project that will revolutionize our tourism sector and protect our national treasures," he said. "We now have full government backing to proceed ahead." Mansour, who worked for several years in the U.S., came back to Egypt shortly before he was called to join in the project, designed by Heneghan.Peng Architects, an Irish firm that won the international bid for designing the museum's model. "I don't know how the pharaohs managed with such heat," he jokingly said, wiping the sweat off his forehead under Giza's blazing sun. The museum, Mansour said, will occupy a desert plateau at the edge of the Nile valley, within sight of the Giza pyramids, one of the world's ancient wonders. The blueprints for the project show an ambitious design with an alabaster facade and a roof in alignment with the pyramids. A large triangular gate in the facade will lead into the museum, where an 83-ton statue of Ramses II — which stands today in the heavily polluted Cairo square that bears the pharaoh's name — will greet visitors. More important, the museum will display King Tut's mummy and other artifacts found in the young pharaoh's tomb. The mummy now lies in its tomb in Egypt's Valley of the Kings. "That will be the crown of the new museum," Hawass said. "The collection will not be exhibited as it is now in the Egyptian Museum, with items packed one over the other. I'd imagine that each item should deserve a room for itself, exhibited in a civilized way." The U.S. portion of the traveling King Tut exhibition is expected to raise more than $36 million for the new museum, Hawass said in a recent interview. The tour, organized jointly with commercial entertainment firms, represents the increasing drive to use private capital to market the country's archeological scene. Still, revenue from the tour falls far short of financing the new museum's huge cost. With only $100 million coming from the Egyptian Culture Ministry, Mansour hopes international cultural institutions and foreign governments will step in with the rest of the money the project needs. Negotiations are continuing between the Japanese Bank for International Development and the Egyptian government to get a low-interest loan for $300 million. "Money is always the big problem," Mansour said. "Museums are rich in contents, poor in resources. But our friends understand well, this new museum is a good investment. It will revolutionize the cradle of Egyptology."
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Israeli psy-ops in Lebanon

The BBC ran a report on the current Israeli psyops in Southern Lebanon…
Israel steps up "psy-ops" in Lebanon By Peter Feuilherade BBC Monitoring From mass targeting of mobile phones with voice and text messages to old-fashioned radio broadcasts warning of imminent attacks, Israel is deploying a range of old and new technologies in Lebanon as part of the psychological operations ("psyops") campaign supplementing its military attacks. According to US and UK media outlets, Israel has reactivated a radio station to broadcast messages urging residents of southern Lebanon to evacuate the region. Some reports have named the station as the Voice of the South.
The South Lebanon Army, a Christian militia backed by Israel, operated a radio station called Voice of the South from Kfar Killa in southern Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s. The station closed down in May 2000 when Israeli forces withdrew from southern Lebanon. Cash for tip-offs The Israeli newspaper Maariv on Sunday reported the appearance of a website called All 4 Lebanon which offered payment for tip-offs from Lebanese citizens "that could help Israel in the fight against Hezbollah". According to Maariv, the site, with content in Arabic, English and French, had been set up by Israeli intelligence. "We appeal to everyone who has the ability and the desire to uproot the sore called Hezbollah from your heart and from the heart of Lebanon," the paper quoted the website as saying in Arabic. On its English-language page, the site says: "Whoever is able and willing to help Lebanon eradicate Hezbollah's evil and get back its independence, freedom and prosperity is hereby invited to contact us." It adds: "For your own safety, please contact us from places where no-one knows you." The Arabic wording is identical to that on leaflets which Israeli aircraft have been dropping over Beirut and the south of Lebanon. The leaflets called on people to "remove the sore known as Hezbollah from the heart of Lebanon". The rewards "could be a range of things, such as cash or a house", according to an Israel Defence Forces spokeswoman quoted by Reuters news agency. It was not clear how such items would be delivered or exactly what information Israel wanted, Reuters noted. Mobile aggression On Friday, residents of southern Lebanon reported receiving recorded messages on their mobile phones from an unknown caller. The speaker identified himself as an Israeli and warned people in the area to leave their homes and head north. Dubai-based news channel al-Arabiya TV reported that the recorded messages also said they "held the Lebanese government responsible for the abduction of the two Israeli soldiers, and called on Lebanon to set them free". Inquiries by Lebanon's communications ministry revealed that the calls had come from exchanges in Italy and Canada, but had originated in Israel. According to US magazine Time, Israel has been targeting SMS text messages at local officials in southern Lebanon, urging them to move north of the Litani river before Israeli military operations intensified. The UK's Guardian newspaper said mobile phone users in Lebanon were regularly receiving messages to their phones which purported to be news updates, attempting to discredit Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah or his party. Satellite warfare next? As Israel broadens its psyops activities, it also continues to attack media targets using conventional military means. Air raids on Saturday hit transmission stations used by Hezbollah's al-Manar TV, Future TV and the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC). A technician working for LBC was reported to have been killed. The next day, a convoy of journalists from Lebanese and pan-Arab TV channels was attacked by Israeli planes while on a tour of southern Lebanon; no injuries were reported. According to an unconfirmed report by Egypt's Middle East News Agency, Israel managed on Sunday "to intercept the satellite transmissions of Hezbollah's al-Manar TV channel for the third successive day, replacing it with Israeli transmissions that reportedly showed Hezbollah command sites and rocket launching pads which Israel claimed it has raided". Replacing a TV station's picture with output you want the audience to see is more difficult to achieve than jamming. Al-Manar TV has three satellite signals, one on ArabSat 2B at 30.5 degrees east, one on Badr 3 at 26 degrees east and one on NileSat 102 at 7 degrees west. On Badr 3 and NileSat, al-Manar is broadcast alongside other TV stations in a multiplexed or combined digital signal. While it would be technically feasible to replace one station's output, all the other stations in the multiplex would be taken off the air too. The technical parameters of the original station would need to be exactly duplicated by the interloper.
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The war on Lebanon and the battle for oil

I received this interesting article form my friend Ryan O’Kane, a postgraduate historian in London, who specializes in the strategic framework behind US foreign interventions. The article, followed by Ryan’s comment, exposes some facts that can in part explain the current Israeli war on Lebanon, with some more far-reaching contribution to Rice’s recently announced (Not-That)-New-Middle-East plan.
The War on Lebanon and the Battle for Oil by Michel Chossudovsky July 26, 2006 GlobalResearch.ca “Is there a relationship between the bombing of Lebanon and the inauguration of the World's largest strategic pipeline, which will channel more a million barrels of oil a day to Western markets? Virtually unnoticed, the inauguration of the Ceyhan-Tblisi-Baku (BTC) oil pipeline, which links the Caspian Sea to the Eastern Mediterranean, took place on the 13th of July, at the very outset of the Israeli sponsored bombings of Lebanon… The BTC pipeline totally bypasses the territory of the Russian Federation. It transits through the former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Georgia, both of which have become US "protectorates", firmly integrated into a military alliance with the US and NATO. Moreover, both Azerbaijan and Georgia have longstanding military cooperation agreements with Israel. In 2005, Georgian companies received some $24 million in military contracts funded out of U.S. military assistance to Israel under the so-called ‘Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program’…. The bombing of Lebanon is part of a carefully planned and coordinated military road map. The extension of the war into Syria and Iran has already been contemplated by US and Israeli military planners. This broader military agenda is intimately related to strategic oil and oil pipelines. It is supported by the Western oil giants which control the pipeline corridors. In the context of the war on Lebanon, it seeks Israeli territorial control over the East Mediterranean coastline.�
You can read the full article here. Ryan had also few thoughts to share on the subject...
The BTC route is the most strategically important pipeline route in the West’s energy security plan. It effectively neuters Russian moves to re-establish its Soviet sphere of influence and dominate the energy rich Caspian region. Such moves would make Europe utterly dependent on Russia for its energy supplies, create a Russian strategic alliance extending beyond Central Asia into Iran and the Gulf, and thereby give it a cheap and secure energy route to Asia – deepening the strategic rapprochement between Russia and China (and potentially India, Pakistan and Afghanistan). These potentials are hugely worrying for the supremacy of the transatlantic alliance led by America and potentially catastrophic for the oil/dollar dominated global economic status quo. The Bush administration’s new ‘great game’ is being played as a zero-sum game. In an age of energy scarcity, each gain for ‘them’ is an economic, political and security loss for ‘us’. With such high stakes it should be unsurprising that “energy security� has become the new buzzword in foreign policy circles throughout the world. The commercial construction of strategic pipelines like the BTC have therefore become fully integrated with political and military strategies for securing their routes. The BTC serves the immediate goal of reducing European dependence on Russian energy supplies, but the full potential of the route can only be realised through a parallel political strategy. Blocking the Russia-Iran-China strategic energy alliance requires the political and economic isolation of Iran. In addition to the threat to oil prices a globally enforced sanctions regime would require Russian and Chinese consent and is therefore unlikely. Military intervention, involving the “protection� of Iranian oil flows, or political pressure exerted by the threat of military action seem to be the only two options left on the table. Israel’s attempt to castrate Hezbollah and Syria is certainly satisfying the latter and could plausibly escalate into the former if Iran refuses to play ball. Yet, as the article above points out, the plan to link the BTC with Israel’s Red Sea port Eilat is a further level of integration between the BTC energy security strategy and the current bombardment of Lebanon. An integration that could position Israel as a major stakeholder in the coming BTC energy bonanza. The zero-sum great game is a race, in this case between Russia and America, to see who can organise their sphere of influence quicker to deliver a safe route from the Caspian to the fastest growing energy markets in the world – Europe and Asia. Russia already got a head start with Europe, America is not about to allow that to happen again with Asia. [Also keep yours eyes on the emerging conflicts in Georgia and in Somalia – both of these take place on the same “greater� BTC route…]
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'Shut up, you barefaced liar'

Here’s an article from Haaretz on the Arab journalists’ experiences in interviewing “the Israeli.� The interviewed journalists talk of mixed feelings between the need to be “professional� and letting out one’s own feelings about the subject he/she is covering. There is also the constant pressure from the viewers who expect from (and usually won’t accept anything but) the Arab journalist to “embarrass� and be critical of Israeli interviewees.
'Shut up, you barefaced liar' By Zvi Bar'el "The war against Lebanon caught us completely unprepared," an editor on Jordan's television station told Haaretz. "All of us were focused on what was happening in Palestine or Iraq. I know that the majority of Arab stations, except for news channels like Al Jazeera and Al-Arabiya didn't even have permanent correspondents in Lebanon after the completion of the Syrian withdrawal, and after the elections in May-June 2005. "Lebanon wasn't an object of interest. And then all of a sudden - war. How are we supposed to relate to it? How are we supposed to define Hezbollah? What is the official line we are supposed to take on the kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers? What vocabulary should we be using? Everything needed to be rethought. Even the system to which we answer didn't quite know how to deal with it." Yet now, even after a week and a half of warfare, no one on the Jordanian station seems too troubled by the fighting. The same is the case on the Libyan and Moroccan networks, and most especially so on the Iraqi network. After all, Iraq has a large daily dose of death, with numbers several times higher than those in Lebanon. This war has also rekindled the question of what format the reporter's interviews should take, and primarily how to relate to Israeli interviewees.
"There are times when I am forced to suppress a voice that rises within me, and which wants me to tell the Israeli interviewee: shut your mouth, you barefaced liar," says Mai al-Sharabani, a newscaster on the Al-Arabiya network, in an interview with Ibrahim Totanji, a reporter for Al-Hayat, the Arabic-language newspaper published in London. "The newscaster has to always be ready to make the Israeli interviewee uncomfortable, to pin him down in the narrow alleys of his lies," declares al-Sharabani, who began her career at Egyptian television, from which she moved three years ago to the Al-Arabiya network. The problem is that you don't have enough time to prepare for interviews with "the Israeli," and events dictate both the pace and the length of the interviews, explains al-Sharabani. Nevertheless, when they simply can't restrain themselves any longer, the newscasters have at their disposal those precious final seconds of the interview, in which they can make a venomous remark that will not garner any response by the interviewee, for the simple reason that it is the end of the conversation. "Newscasters understand the magnitude of the responsibility placed on them in interviewing Israelis. Millions of Arabs watch them, waiting to see how we will embarrass them or crush them in an interview." says Mohammed Abu Obeid, another al-Arabiya journalist, who claims that he knows how to deal with Israelis, due to having worked in Palestine in the past. Ibrahim Totanji, the writer of the article, has his own feelings on the subject. "Nobody wants to hear the Israeli drivel. But that is professionalism and its obligations. This is the 'curse' of democracy, of one opinion and of the other opinion that you can't avoid." Interviewing Israelis, which has over time become an inseparable part of Arab news programming, broke a taboo that went back decades. "The curse of democracy," as Totanji calls it, continues to elicit protests from Arab listeners: They send letters in response to the Arab networks' Web sites, in which they express revulsion, a "sense of betrayal" and at times, abusive language over the fact that the networks devote their airtime to "Zionist propaganda," and especially at such a sensitive and difficult time as the days of war in Lebanon. The breakthrough Al Jazeera network, the network that interviews the most Israelis, has not only generated competition among several other Arab networks, but has also provoked a proper response by Israeli PR spinners in the office of the IDF Spokesman and at the Foreign Ministry. These two institutions now dispatch articulate spokesmen who are fluent in Arabic, but who do not usually succeed in breaking through the familiar sheaf of cliches. However, sharing airtime on Arab television with Israelis isn't the only thing drawing criticism. With the outbreak of war in Lebanon, there has also been a rise in sensitivity toward the vocabulary employed by newcasters on the various stations to describe the war. Egyptian television is the object of the most strident criticism, for example, for not broadcasting martial overtures before the news programs, or for not playing songs by Fairuz or other national Lebanese songs, as was the case during the first Lebanon War and even at the start of the Palestinian Intifada.
This is interesting…
In addition, the Egyptian vocabulary has been softened, and broadcasters on state-run Nile Television seem to have been given instructions by the station manager, Hala Hashish, not to use the term "aggression against Lebanon" to describe IDF attacks, but to make do with the softer sounding "siege of Lebanon." Similarly, greater use has been made of the words "tension" and "military dispute" in place of "war." This vocabulary is fundamentally similar to that employed by the government newspaper Al Ahram, which quotes Mubarak talking about "military activities" and not about "aggression." The terminology closely reflects the diplomatic consensus reached between Mubarak, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and King Abdullah of Jordan. Because they consider Hezbollah to be the source of all evil, any war against it cannot take on the air of an Arab war against Israel. But what is even more vexing is what is seen as the apathy of television stations outside Lebanon to what is going on in the country. Again, the Egyptian stations are the main target of criticism, because of the excessively brief news coverage they offer about Lebanon and the fact that they have not, so far, adjusted their broadcast schedule to the war. "It's as if no Arab country was being attacked. As if there is no war here," read an e-mail to the Web site of a station in the Persian Gulf. Another writer wondered how the Lebanese satellite TV station, LBC, terms those who have been killed in Israel by Katyushas "victims," and why Lebanese civilians killed by Israeli bombs are termed either "victims" or "casualties," but not shahids [martyrs].
And I don't know if I should laugh or cry. But yeah, I can so see the following happening...
One of the most infuriating but amusing episodes took place on Egypt's Channel 1: The hostess of a light entertainment show said, "The war in Lebanon seems to be once again reviving the Arab dream of Arab unity... To that end, we have invited to the studio an important researcher in the interpretation of dreams."
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CPJ: Israel targeting TV crews in South Lebanon

Just got this:
LEBANON: TV crews allege targeting by Israeli warplanes in the south New York, July 27, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists expressed concern today over allegations by several television crews that Israeli warplanes had attacked them, effectively shutting down live television coverage from southeast Lebanon. Crews from four Arab television stations told CPJ that Israeli aircraft fired missiles within 80 yards (75 meters) of them on July 22 to prevent them from covering the effects of Israel’s bombardment of the area around the town of Khiam, in the eastern sector of the Israel-Lebanon border “Israeli aircraft targeted in an air raid TV crews, especially Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabiya and Al-Manar,”said Ghassan Benjeddou, Al-Jazeera’s Lebanon bureau chief. “It’s a miracle that our crew survived the attack,” he told CPJ.
An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman denied that Israel was targeting journalists. “We are targeting the roads because Hezbollah uses those roads; under no circumstances do we target civilians, including the media,” Capt. Jacob Dallal told CPJ. “Journalists working in those areas are knowingly taking a risk,” he added. Reuters reported at least 434 Lebanese and 51 Israelis have been killed in conflict. Israel launched an offensive in south Lebanon 16 days ago after a cross-border raid by the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah. “We are disturbed by these allegations and request an immediate investigation,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Journalists have a right to work in conflict zones and are entitled to the same protection as all other civilians, meaning that they cannot be deliberately targeted.” While journalists based in Israel have generally been able to cover IDF operations, live television pictures of the Israeli operation along the border from the Lebanese side is now virtually impossible, journalists said. Broadcasters said a few individual TV journalists and media support staff remained in some southern Lebanese towns and villages but getting TV footage out was extremely difficult. Several international broadcasters and news organizations told CPJ that they had made the Mediterranean port of Tyre their base in the south. Journalists in the city, which is 55 miles (90 kilometers) south of Beirut, said any vehicles, including TV vehicles, traveling between towns and villages were targeted by Israeli planes if spotted on the road. One journalist who ventured into the area was Layal Najib, 23, a freelance photographer for the Lebanese magazine Al-Jaras and Agence France-Presse. She was killed July 23 by an Israeli missile while traveling in a taxi to cover Lebanese fleeing north. She was the first journalist fatality of the fighting. By July 22, most TV crews with satellite uplink trucks had pulled out of the strategic southern town of Marjeyoun. Those that remained included the international satellite channels Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera, the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC), and Al-Manar, the satellite channel affiliated with Hezbollah. Israel has acknowledged targeting Al-Manar installations, accusing the station of propaganda and incitement. Three vehicles from LBC, which set out from Marjeyoun ahead of the other teams, reached the village of Hasb Bayah, were the Lebanese Red Cross had a presence. But a convoy of Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabiya and Al-Manar vehicles was chased by Israeli fighter aircraft which fired missiles on the road behind them as they approached an already bombed-out bridge. The journalists said they managed to get away on back roads but the planes followed and again trapped the vehicles by firing missiles at the road ahead of them and behind them. The journalists and technicians abandoned their vehicles and walked to Hasb Bayah. The following day peacekeepers from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon repaired the road and the crews were able to drive back to Beirut, the journalists said. “Their cars were clearly marked ‘Press’ and ‘TV’,” Nabil Khatib, Executive Editor of Al Arabiya, told CPJ. Radio broadcasts in Arabic accused several journalists of helping Hezbollah. The radio, Al-Mashraqiyeh, which the journalists believe broadcasts out of Israel, is affiliated with exiled members of the South Lebanon Army, Israel’s military ally during its occupation of south Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s. The radio singled out Al-Jazeera correspondents Katia Nasser and Abbas Nasser, and Al-Arabiya correspondent Ali Noon. CPJ heard a recording of the broadcast against Katia Nasser and Abbas Nasser, in which they were accused of aiding Hezbollah. Abbas was accused of giving Hezbollah favorable coverage in order to secure a job with Al-Manar. The Al-Mashraqiyeh radio announcer said, “the noble Lebanese will hold those who supported Hezbollah in destroying Lebanon to account.” CPJ is a New York–based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit www.cpj.org.
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Photos of Israeli girls confirmed as real

Remember of the photos of young Israeli girls writing messages on artillery shells that I posted (here and on Flickr) a while back? Well, despite all the people in the comments saying they couldn't possibly be true, they have have now been confirmed by the IDF as real:
Questions over the photos' authenticity have been put to rest by authorities that were present during the incident, which occurred on July 17 near the northern border. The mostly local children had been brought to see the shells by their parents. Although it remains unclear who encouraged them to write the messages, their colorful scribbles, including a Star of David, hearts, and "From Israel, with Love," have appeared in dozens of blogs, or on-line journals, and on-line photo hosting sites. Although the IDF has failed to issue a response to the incident, a spokesman from the IDF said it "appeared as though the situation occurred unofficially." Although an officer was present during the incident, the soldiers, and the IDF as a whole, did not condone or condemn the incident. An official close to Israel's public relations campaign said that there was "no way" to spin the incident in a positive light. "Some people are simply irresponsible," said the official. On-line, the photos are being called "horrifying," "disgusting" and "despicable." "I still cannot understand why or how anyone would allow their young children to walk up to missiles or other explosives. The militarization of children is always a crime," said one user by the name of "aviv2b" on the Guardian Web site, which ran a lengthy discussion about the photos. Another reader, by the name barbicanangel posted that "I still say Israel is right in this war, however, the picture of young Jewish girls signing the shells is quite disturbing." Although the photos were first taken by professional photographers from AFP, Associated Press, and Haaretz, they were circulated on-line through the popular photo-hosting Web site Flickr.com. That site republished the photos, bringing them to the attention of hundreds who later posted them on their own personal sites.
All hail Flickr!
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Lebanon link dump

Since I criticized HRW last week, I should highlight that they are now condemning Israel's use of cluster bombs in Lebanon. I worked on the use of cluster bomb in Kosovo in the late 1990s -- these are extremely nasty weapons that can cause damage long after the initial bombing. All cluster bombs, which as their name indicates contain smaller ordnance that spreads over a wide area, has a certain number of duds that do not detonate immediately. Because these are often brightly colored and spread widely, children have been regularly killed or severely wounded weeks and months after a conflict by detonating them accidentally. In other words, they create small minefields. It's a weapon that should be banned, and it's particularly disgusting to use them in civilian areas. I hope to see more serious work like this from HRW, especially when they were much quicker to condemn Hizbullah than Israel. Read frequent Arabist reader Praktike on the Dream Palace of the Americans. I am very jealous of his clever title, and have a comment under his post. And speaking of Fouad Ajami In other news: Muammar Qadhafi is still insane, and now claims to have been very close to building a nuclear bomb. Lebanese writer Elias Khouri on the invasions of Lebanon. A petition for academics condemning Israel's aggression. Not about Lebanon, but here is Gush Shalom's debunking of Ehud Barak's "generous" 2000 offer. (To bookmark and send to the next idiot who mentions it.)
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