One of the most troubling aspects of the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister Rafik Hariri is the uncertainty over who is responsible. Syria, Iran and Al Qaeda elements in Saudi Arabia are suspects.
A RETURN TO THE BAD OLD DAYS?
To some, Rafik Hariri's murder in Beirut looked like a Middle Eastern regional replay of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, the senseless murder which triggered the chain of events leading to World War I. If that seems like an exaggeration, the goal may nevertheless have been to create chaos. Although Syria is an obvious suspect, it is not politically naive, and it has little to gain from unifying Lebanon's opposition. It is equally possible that the terrorists may have wanted to destabilize the region, while calling the Bush administration's bluff. Despite weeks of saber rattling against Syria, the Pentagon does not have the resources to take on another war. Consequently, U.S. threats against Syria are likely to seem hollow, or risk pushing an overstretched U.S. military beyond the breaking point. The Economist noted that the attack had all the signs of a professional hit:"The blast was sophisticated enough to defeat jamming mechanisms, which the billionaire Mr Hariri’s convoy always used while traveling, to forestall such remotely triggered attacks. "(Economist, February 15, 2005)
-HARIRI'S BIO IN BEIRUT DAILY STAR
-Jim Lehrer talks analyzes the situation with a recent U.S. ambassador to Syria and with a Syrian scholar at George Washington University
-OFFICIAL REACTIONS IN BEIRUT
(Beirut Daily Star, February 15, 2005)
-THE U.S. RECALLS ITS AMBASSADOR TO SYRIA (William Brannigan, Washington Post, February 15, 2005)
-FALLOUT IN WASHINGTON (Richard tompkins, UPI)
-IN BEIRUT'S CURRENT PARANOIA, ISRAEL WAS ALSO A SUSPECT(HAARETZ, February 15, 2005)
-The Saudis hold a conference to crackdown on domestic terrorism A rising number of domestic attacks have finally convinced the Kingdom's elite that a crackdown is essential to regime survival.(Ehsan Ahrari, Asia Times, February 12, 2005)
IRAQ'S ELECTIONS FOLLOW ETHNIC LINES
Although Shiites received a majority of the seats in Iraq's new parliament, they will need a two-thirds majority to form a new government. That means a forced alliance with Iraq's Kurds who received nearly a quarter of the vote. The losers in the election, besides the Sunnis, were secular politicians who tried to base their campaigns on abstract secular political concepts. (Economist, February 14, 2005)
-Juan Cole on Iraq's latest political jockeying for power
ATTACKS ON BRITISH JEWISH COMMUNITY UP 42% IN 2004
The Community Security Trust, which represents Britain's 290,000-strong Jewish community on security matters, said there had been 532 "anti-Semitic incidents" - defined as malicious acts toward Jews - in 2004, including a record 83 assaults. (Haaretz, February 11, 2005)
U.S. SPACE WAR PROGRAM WARPED BY THINKING BASED ON 'WORST CASE' SCENARIOS
The case being argued by space weapon enthusiasts goes like this: U.S. space assets are vulnerable, potential adversaries have woken up to this fact, therefore, actual threats (enemy systems to attack our satellites based on newly available technologies) will inevitably emerge – thus, U.S. space weapons are required to counter those threats. (Theresa Hitchens, Center for Defense Information, February 14, 2005)
BRITISH REALITY SHOW EXPLORES TORTURE AT GUANTANAMO
Britain's fascination with the Pentagon's sudden infatuation with interrogation techniques that rely on sexual depravity, personal humiliation and physical "stress" has led to the ultimate reality TV show, in which American interrogators try to see how much a gaggle of English volunteers can stand before they crack. Out of an initial cast of seven, two have already dropped out. The show goes on the air at the end of February. ( AFP, February 9, 2005)
-Custer Battles accused of negligence and deaths of Iraqi civilians(MSNBC, February 15, 2005)
RICHARD CLARKE'S MEMO WARNING OF AL QAEDA
The National Security Archives has published the full text of the memo from Richard Clarke to Condoleeza Rice in January 2001, warning of the growing Al Qaeda threat and requesting an urgent meeting. It took Rice until a week before the attacks on 9/11 to get the meeting together. During that time, the President had spent roughly 40% of his time in office on vacation. Although the memo was discussed in Congressional hearings, the full text was only released to the public after Rice's confirmation as U.S. Secretary of State. (National Security Archives, February 10, 2005)
THE FUTURE OF U.S. TRADE
With China increasingly competitive, and the next Doha round on the horizon, the Center for strategic and International Studies organized a discussion of future prospects with former U.S. trade representatives. (CSIS, February 9, 2005)
AFRICA POLICY OUTLOOK
While 2005 may turn out to be a decisive year for Africa, the risk is that it will become another victim of "compassionate showmanship" rather than the recipient of meaningful assistance from the U.S. (Ann-Louise Colgan, Africa Action, January 26, 2005)
CHECHEN PEACE DEMANDS FORCE RUSSIANS INTO ADMITTING SERIOUSNESS OF THE WAR
Aslan Mashkhadov's offers of a stand down in the war between Russia and Chechnya caught Moscow offguard. After months of insisting that there was no war, the Russians are now at pains to explain why it is impossible to negotiate in good faith with a man who had caused so much damage to their side. (Jamestown Foundation, February 9, 2005)
Interview with Mashkhadov
FRAYING EDGES OF THE NORTH CAUCUSUS
Not so long ago, observers worried that the conflict in Chechnya would spill across its borders. Now the question is not whether it will spread, but where the spreading will end. “The explosive potential of Chechnya,” says Enver Kisriev, a Dagestani academic, “is being dispersed through the north Caucasus.” Even by Russian standards, the beautiful but benighted region's difficulties are extreme. But they are extreme versions of problems that afflict the country as a whole: poverty, fissiparousness and poor governance. And the explosive tendency of the north Caucasus may ultimately threaten the integrity of that whole. (The Economist, February 10, 2005)
CNN news chief Eason Jordan was forced to resign after off-the-record remarks at Davos set off a firestorm from right-wing internet bloggers
BLOGGERS VERSUS THE MEDIA ESTABLISHMENT
The resignation of CNN's news chief, Eason Jordan, over the weekend, has triggered a lively debate over the rising influence and corresponding lack of responsibility of internet bloggers. Jordan allegedly made an off-the-record remark at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to the effect that the Iraqi insurgency isn't the only group targeting journalists, and that the U.S. was responsible for around a dozen deaths as well. Jordan quickly backed away from the statement, but it was already too late. An angry mob of neo-con bloggers were already swarming CNN with hate-filled traffic. In fact, of more than 30 journalists and interpreters killed in Iraq, the U.S. has so far only been responsible for the death of nine, despite the fact that early on a U.S. tank fired at point blank range into a hotel known to house most of the foreign press corps in Baghdad. Much of the discussion of Jordan's fate has centered on the uncontrolled nature of information on the internet. In fact, it has far more to do with the wobbly management of AOL-Time Warner and other corporate media giants who, after imposing "infotainment" and "news U-can use" on the country, have adopted an attitude that is roughly akin to the old joke, "There goes the crowd. I have to follow them. I am their leader." Just about everyone involved with the Davos affair felt that Jordan's resignation was excessive. CNN, determined to play it safe, did not want to take a chance.
The real problem is not free expression on the internet. It is more a failure of the established media to provide a meaningful context at a time when political radicals, who have momentarily gained the upper hand, are straying further and further from reality.
-Terence Smith, David Gergen, Jay Rosen and Jim Geraghty discuss the issue on PBS' NewsHour
-Howard Kurtz interviews Gergen and Jeff Jarvis (BuzzMachine.com) on CNN
NICHOLAS LEMANN ON THE GROWING NERVOUSNESS OF NEWSPAPER EDITORS
Lemann, in a thoughtful report in the New Yorker notes: " Journalism that is inquisitive and intellectually honest, that surprises and unsettles, didn’t always exist. There is no law saying that it must exist forever, and there are political and business interests that would be better off if it didn’t exist and that have worked hard to undermine it..." (Nicholas Lemann, The New Yorker, February 14, 2005)
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