Former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon died at a hospital near Tel Aviv last night, aged 85, after spending eight years in a coma. He was one of Israel's more popular leaders as a fierce defender of the Jewish nation, but was loathed by Palestinians and other regional powers who dubbed him the "the Butcher of Beirut". Israel is in mourning. Twitter is reacting. NPR reflects on his life as being one of a warrior's journey to peace.
Syria Options Go From Bad To Worse
As reports have surfaced of possible use of sarin gas in the Syrian civil war, calls by long-time proponents of U.S. intervention on behalf of the anti-Assad rebels have grown to a fever pitch. These same voices, both at home and abroad, have evoked the administration’s previously stated “red line” on use of chemical weapons. But even assuming that reports of WMD usage in Syria turn out to be true, the Obama Administration’s position may be far more nuanced than previously thought.[more inside]
It's been five years since the death of Hezbollah terrorist Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus. No one ever claimed responsibility for killing him. Hezbollah publicly blames Israel's Mossad, a charge they unsurprisingly deny. So, who killed The Driver? [more inside]
Lebanon has one tourist attraction that's making money, the Hezbollah financed "Landmark of the Resistance", a theme park commemorating multiple wars with Israel.
The Digital Archaeological Atlas of the Holy Land is a comprehensive spatially-referenced database of current archaeological knowledge of all periods of Levantine history and prehistory. Spatial search is a good entry point, as are the Palestine Exploration Fund historic maps. You can also search by time period or dig into the many ancient Empires of the area. Or just look at everything in the database. The site is a work in progress, but a cool one powered by a consortium of over 30 professional archaeologists. May require Google Maps. via
22 basic suggested readings on the Middle East from history professor and informed commenter on Middle Eastern affairs Juan Cole.
Human Rights Watch, Watched "Who will guard the guardians?" asked Roman satirist Juvenal. Now we must ask, who is watching Human Rights Watch, one of the world's best-financed and most influential human rights organizations? It turns out that they cook the books about facts, cheat on interviews, and put out pre-determined conclusions that are driven more by their ideology than by evidence. These are serious accusations, and they are demonstrably true.
In the days after Hezbollah crossed from Lebanon into Israel, on July 12th, to kidnap two soldiers, triggering an Israeli air attack on Lebanon and a full-scale war, the Bush Administration seemed strangely passive... The Bush Administration, however, was closely involved in the planning of Israel’s retaliatory attacks. President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were convinced, current and former intelligence and diplomatic officials told me, that a successful Israeli Air Force bombing campaign against Hezbollah’s heavily fortified underground-missile and command-and-control complexes in Lebanon could ease Israel’s security concerns and also serve as a prelude to a potential American preëmptive attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations, some of which are also buried deep underground.Test Case
Not just another news blip; UN Security Council passes Lebanon cease-fire resolution. The resolution calls for a "full cessation of hostilities" and tells Hezbollah to stop all attacks immediately and Israel to end "all offensive operations". Let's hope this brings about an end to all the madness.
This Saturday, an aid convoy of internationals and civilians plans to make a political statement by risking their own lives to deliver desperately needed aid from Beirut to the south of Lebanon in defiance of the Israeli military. Israeli threats to bomb any moving traffic have put a halt to aid convoys through traditional channels and curtailed the ability of journalists to cover the conflict. But the activists are hoping extensive media coverage of their "non-violent direct action" generates political pressure to protect them as they head for the "no-drive" zone without any guarantee of safety from the Israeli government.
What peace did Hezbollah Shatter? asks Anders Stringberg in the Christian Science Monitor, a paper that has won the Pulitzer seven times and is particularly well-known for its in-depth coverage of the Middle East. Relying on the most recent United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL) report , Strindberg believes that Hezbollah's attacks stem from Israeli incursions into Lebanon. In the same publication, another commentator says that the latest Levantine crisis is a 'moment of opportunity' but only if the U.S. asks Israel the hard questions.
THEL (Tactical High Energy Laser) is an anti-missile weapon jointly developed by the US and Israel (at great expense) to track and destroy incoming Katyusha rockets. It had even been recently suggested to deploy it in Iraq. Unfortunately, it seems that the program was shelved in September 'cause it doesn't work. You know the rest
How To Put Your Thumb on the Scales of World Opinion. In the past week nearly 5,000 members of the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) have downloaded special “megaphone” software that alerts them to anti-Israeli chatrooms or internet polls to enable them to post contrary viewpoints. A student team in Jerusalem combs the web in a host of different languages to flag the sites so that those who have signed up can influence an opinion survey or the course of a debate.
Who hates who in the Middle East. An interactive chart from Slate. Click the graphic on the page to access the chart. Click on any cell for more details.
500,000 Lebanese citizens are now homeless. That's out of a population of 3.8 million, according to Juan Cole. People in Southern Lebanon have received leaflets warning them to leave, but are trapped in their villages under Israeli bombings. The IDF has opened a 60-km front on the border, using tanks to probe Hezbollah. Meanwhile, a ceasefire remains... elusive. I normally take the position that both sides are excessively violent, but this is a pretty sad picture of what's going on in Lebanon.
PINR presents a well educated guess over what is going to happen with the Israel - Hezbollah conflict. They also offer significant background and insight into the mood and motives of some surrounding states.
Propagenda? By now most have seen the pics of the Israeli Girls whom were said to be writing --english--messages on Israeli missles that would soon be headed into Lebanon. But how many know the details behind it?
In this episode of the George & Tony Show the President and the Prime Minister are in Russia eating brie, discussing geopolitics, leaving their mics open, and whatnot.
Tony Bourdain trapped in Lebanon. (On Jason Perlow's very good blog; also seen in the NYPost via TFS Appetizers.)
Official confirms that Syria allowing Qaida to operate in Lebanon Ok Israeli intelligence so I assume some will dismiss this as propaganda, though clearly US knows of this and works along with Israeli intelligence. And Syria occupies Lebanon with thousands of troops and thus runs the country. Meanwhile, we will (or will not) busy ourselves with Iraq.
Middle East war predictions "..what we are witnessing looks like joint preparations by the Palestinian Authority, Syria, its Lebanese client, Iraq, and Iran, for war on a regional scale, against both Israel and U.S. interests. I fear we may face a major, sudden, external assault on Israel, meant to precede U.S. action against the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, and indeed prevent the U.S. from going there by enmiring it in the defence of Israel. [From The Ottowa Citizen, lead link in today's Wall Street Journal Best of the Web]