Friday, June 29, 2007

Conference seeks to plug Lebanese 'brain drain'

Conference seeks to plug Lebanese 'brain drain'
By Farah Aridi
Special to The Daily Star

BEIRUT: With the one-year anniversary of the start of the summer 2006 war with Israel approaching, academics and diplomats gathered Thursday to assess the war's impact on a perennial trend of Lebanese life: the tendency of talented professionals and ambitious youths to leave the country in pursuit of opportunities abroad. About 120,000 Lebanese emigrated after the recent war, according to statistics presented at the conference, entitled "Emigration as a Deterrent for Socio-economic Development and the Emigration of Intellects." Perhaps most striking was the proportion of Lebanese intellectuals who now live abroad, which Jihad Aael, president of Welfare of Emigrants and Emigration, put at 70 percent. "We are becoming victims at the mercy of Third World countries monopolizing our intellects," Aael said at the conference, held at UNESCO Palace under the auspices of the Foreign Ministry. The ministry's director general for emigration issues, Haitham Jomaa, said new education was needed to encourage a union of politics and intellect in Lebanon and to help reverse the trend of intellectual flight. "We need a strategy connected to the attempts at preserving our youth and intellects, not one fixed to capriciousness of politics," he said.

Conference attendees disagreed on the extent to which emigration might benefit Lebanon, in that some citizens who gain expertise abroad eventually return home. All speakers agreed, however, that more incentives were needed to encourage Lebanese youth trained abroad to return. Michel Abes said there was a danger that emigrants would train themselves right out of the job market. "Today, our children are diagnosed by something called 'overqualified syndrome'" he said. "Constantly being asked about the reason for their return, they become overqualified in working in their own country." Issam Noureddine characterized the brain drain on the country as a "tragedy." "We are on the verge of a humanitarian tragedy," he said. Former Ambassador Latif Abul-Husn delivered a talk on the problems faced by emigrants when they go abroad. "The National Security Fund in Australia pays about [$440,000] to educate one Australian doctor. In the case of a Lebanese student or any other foreigner, the Australian Government does not pay as much as a penny out of its own pockets" said Abul-Husn. "A better opportunity, a safe and stable environment are given in return" he added, expressing his hope that the Lebanese government might be able to create such an environment to encourage more people to stay.

In the span of 10 years, the number of people leaving the country has risen by 34 percent, according to Guita Hourani, head of the Lebanese Emigration Research Center at Notre Dame University. Journalist Lulu Sbayaa proposed an awareness campaign starting in schools and universities to entice youth to stay in Lebanon. "They leave because they have no hope," she said. Noureddine said that sectarianism in Lebanon must be reined in and a true rule of law be established before emigration could be stanched. "Give us back our children" he said. The general director of the Center Statistics Bureau, Mural Totlian, focused on the loss of "human capital." He later announced that the center had benefited from technical expertise provided by the European Union through what is know as MEDSTAT 2, in addition to national and global workshops. "We will be able to find out the reasons behind such vast emigration rates in the past few years depending on socio-economic factors," Totlian said.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Is Nahr al-Bared just a small taste of even worse to come?

Is Nahr al-Bared just a small taste of even worse to come?
By Agence France Presse (AFP)

BEIRUT: Foreign Islamic extremists appear to have heeded a call made by Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahri for fighters to flood Lebanon, analysts monitoring jihadist groups in the country sayd. The Egyptian Zawahri had exhorted Muslims during last summer's war with Israel to "transfer the jihad to the borders of Palestine with the aid of God." Since 2003, insurgents have been coming and going between Lebanon and Iraq, using Lebanon as a base for rest and recuperation and to train, the Lebanese and foreign analysts said. Additionally, a previously unknown organization calling itself Fatah al-Islam espousing views similar to those of Al-Qaeda announced its presence in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in North Lebanon following last summer's war. Grouping radical Lebanese Sunnis, veterans of the Iraq insurgency and foreign extremists, Fatah al-Islam has engaged in heavy fighting with the Lebanese Army at Nahr al-Bared in a continuing standoff that so far has killed at least 150 people, including at least 80 soldiers and more than 55 militants.

But the Lebanese authorities and foreign analysts based in Beirut say the Nahr al-Bared siege could represent just the tip of the iceberg regarding the presence of Al-Qaeda and similar groups in Lebanon. Overnight on Saturday, Lebanese security forces raided the apartment of an Islamist in the Northern port city of Tripoli, sparking a firefight with Fatah al-Islam that resulted in the deaths of 12 people, including six Islamists. "Al-Qaeda is present in Lebanon," said Defense Minister Elias Murr. "There are terrorist cells ready to strike," he warned, "and there are threats of new attacks." "Nahr al-Bared could make things worse," added one Western diplomat in Beirut who spoke to Agence France Presse on condition of anonymity. "Ninety percent of Lebanese support their army, but an active minority will be susceptible to radical propaganda. "On the Internet, they call the Christian head of state the 'crusader general,' and the impact of pictures of US planes with cargoes of weapons at Beirut's airport has been devastating," the diplomat said.

Washington has supplied military equipment to the Lebanese Army in an effort to assist in the continuing battle against Fatah al-Islam. Additionally, rumors are circulating throughout jihadist Internet forums that ships from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon patrolling the coast after last summer's war have fired on Islamist positions in Nahr al-Bared. "It's false, of course," said the diplomat. "But if enough people believe it, that doesn't matter - the effect is the same." In Tripoli, a man close to local Sunni radicals who asked not to be identified told AFP that some of the militants who fought against the Lebanese Army in Dinniyeh in December 1999 are also fighting in Nahr al-Bared. The Dinniyeh battle killed 30 people, among them 11 soldiers and 15 Sunni militants. "I know that Fatah al-Islam has cells in Tripoli," the man added. "They are keeping a low profile, so they are not discovered. They are being monitored, but they are still at liberty. What are they planning exactly?"

Retired Lebanese Army General Wehbe Qatisha described the current situation in Lebanon as troubling. "From now on the military will try to prevent the militants from basing themselves inside secure areas such as some Palestinian refugee camps," he added. "Drain the water to expose the fish. There may be isolated cells inside [the camps]." By longstanding convention, the Lebanese Army cannot enter the 12 official Palestinian refugee camps in the country, leaving security in the camps to Palestinian factions. Retired General Elias Hanna told AFP that the army "gave a deterrent example in Nahr al-Bared for other groups." "It was a good base, close to the Syrian border, easy to manipulate for Damascus," Hanna added. "It's not going to be so easy in other camps, where Palestine Liberation Organization influence is stronger." "Lebanon is no longer a base in the rear," the Western diplomat added. "It is the front line. The seed has been planted. Nahr al-Bared will radicalize some groups and enable their plans to take root." The diplomat also said that "if the Fatah al-Islam leaders never come out, they will become legends, new Zarqawis," referring to the former head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, killed by a US air strike last year. - AFP

Monday, June 25, 2007

Adieu Liban (Fouad Saad)

Adieu Liban
de Fouad Saad,
dans De Sable et de Neige

Mon père m'avait appris comme elle était douce
cette montagne de lait de miel et de sources
de palmes et de pins verts comme ses souvenir
le Liban a changé et mon père va mourir.
Il m'avait raconté son enfance au village
un paradis perdu de jeux et de plaisir
aujourd'hui devasté par la haine et la rage
la montagne est blessée et mon père va mourir
Les Bacchantes ont pleuré la mort des éphèbes
la beauté de leurs corps inutiles de martyrs
elles ont dansé mimant sur un rythme superbe
et la fin d'une époque et la chute d'un empire
Que la mer était belle au temps de ta jeunesse
comme une femme offerte ou comme l'aventure
la vigne avait tenu le vin de ses promesses
et les fruitsd étaient mûrs aux branches du futur.
Rammène ta barque au port millénaire
Même le bateau de Rimbaud est rentré
La vie fut un long voyage pour Cythère
Le moment est venu de nous la raconter
et que les baisers les larmes et l'éspoir
le sourire des amis les yeux de nos amantes
ton village et ma rue dans la même tourmente
soient ballayés par le vent de l'Histoire
Mais ma voix s'éteint et si ta voix se meurt
un troubadour d'exil au luth levantin
chantera aprés nous dans la langue de l'heure
ce Liban de fruits de fleurs et de parfums.

Cabinet faces crucifixion for canceling Good Friday

Cabinet faces crucifixion for canceling Good Friday
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: The Cabinet's decision to no longer acknowledge Good Friday as an official national holiday triggered an outcry from a number of prominent Lebanese Christians over the weekend. Good Friday is "a central day in Christian culture," Jbeil Maronite Archbishop Bishara Raii said during an interview with the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC) Saturday. "Canceling it as a holiday is a violation of Christian norms. "The government should have consulted with various Christian religious figures before issuing any decisions. Christians would never allow such a key day to be simply left off calendars," Raii said. Tourism Minister Joe Sarkis had defended the move, saying that the government had intended to make Lebanon's holidays "the same as those of other Arab countries." In response, Raii said the holidays celebrated in Lebanon should not be compared with other Arab countries, because it is "known that Lebanon has particular demographic and religious characteristics that ought to be preserved." The Cabinet had voted in December to alter the official schedule of holidays, but the decision was only published in the Official Gazette last week. The Cabinet had also approved other changes to the official holiday schedule - making the Monday after Easter a holiday and removing one day from the two-day Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

In a bid to clarify the stance of Christian ministers concerning the matter, Culture Minister Tarek Mitri called Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir to brief him on the decision, telling the prelate that the move "in no way stems from political or sectarian considerations." Local daily An-Nahar quoted Mitri in an article published Sunday as saying that he had informed Sfeir of the government's willingness to "modify its decree to abide by any decision the Christian clerics make." Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea expressed concern that Christian ministers did not show "much vigilance" regarding the issue of the distribution of holidays, given "all the meanings associated with Good Friday." The opposition "is manipulating Good Friday," Geagea said on LBC Sunday morning. "They want to give the decision political dimensions." Geagea also rejected media reports that blamed Premier Fouad Siniora for the move, saying: "Siniora did not cancel the holiday ... No one person can. " The government is trying to promote the economy by decreasing the number of holidays for both Muslims and Christians," Geagea said. Former MP Suleiman Franjieh's Marada Movement condemned Sunday the Cabinet's actions as "yet another step undertaken by the Siniora government to marginalize Christians even more," and called on the government to apologize for their "sin." - The Daily Star

Bombing in South Lebanon kills five peacekeeping troops

Bombing in South Lebanon kills five peacekeeping troops
By Rym Ghazal
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: Five members of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) were killed on Sunday when a bomb struck their convoy between the towns of Khiam and Marjayoun. Initial reports diverged about the nature of the attack and the nationalities of the dead peacekeepers, but it was clearly the deadliest incident involving UNIFIL since an Israeli air strike killed four observers at a UN post in Khiam during last summer's war. Lebanese security sources told The Daily Star that a bomb had been placed inside an empty Renault Rapid and was detonated by remote control, while the Reuters news agency reported that a suicide bomber had carried out the attack. "No blood has been found inside the booby-trapped car," the Lebanese source said.

According to a statement released by the Spanish Defense Ministry, two of its soldiers and three Colombian peacekeepers were killed in the attack. Earlier reports had put the number of dead at four - all Spaniards. The blast targeted an armored vehicle from UNIFIL's Spanish contingent during a regular patrol around 2 p.m. along the main road between Khiam and Marjayoun. Witnesses reported hearing another explosion shortly afterward, believed to have been either ammunition or the vehicle's fuel tank, security sources said.

A UNIFIL spokeswoman confirmed that a blast had occurred and caused casualties, but gave no details. As The Daily Star went to press, no one had claimed responsibility for the bombing. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora condemned the attack and called Spanish officials to pay his condolences for those killed. "This is a terrorist act that ... targets Lebanon's stability and especially the South, as well as the UN," he said in a statement released by his office. Hizbullah also condemned the attack, saying it was designed to destabilize the country. "Hizbullah vigorously condemns the attack [and] considers it a suspicious act which hurts Lebanon and its inhabitants," the group's Al-Manar television reported. "The attack hurts the people of the South and of Lebanon," the statement added. Parliamentary majority leader MP Saad Hariri also deplored the incident. "This criminal act is an attempt to hamper UN Resolution 1701 and is part of a campaign to destabilize Lebanon," Hariri said, referring to the resolution that ended last summer's war.

In Paris, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice issued a joint condemnation of the attack in South Lebanon. There have been warnings that the peacekeepers could come under terror attacks, particularly from Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahri, who earlier this year called on "brothers of Islam" to resist and "not accept" the presence of "international and Crusaders forces in the South." Media reports earlier this month said interrogations by Lebanese authorities of captured militants had indicated that plots to attack the force were under way. - With additional reporting by Mohammed Zaatari

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Militant group claims rocket attack on Israel

Militant group claims rocket attack on Israel
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: A previously unknown militant group claimed responsibility Monday for a rocket attack a day earlier on northern Israel. A group calling itself the "Jihadi Badr Brigade-Lebanon branch" vowed in a statement faxed to the offices of The Associated Press in Beirut to continue attacks on Israel, saying: "We had promised our people jihad. Here, we again strike the Zionists when a group from the Jihadi Badr Brigades struck the Zionists in the occupied Palestinian territory." Two Katyusha rockets fired from Lebanon landed Sunday in northern Israel, causing damage but no casualties.

The AP said the authenticity of the group's claim could not be immediately confirmed. The special representative of the UN Secretary General in Lebanon, Geir Pedersen, called Sunday's attack "dangerous." "On Sunday, we witnessed a dangerous violation of the Blue Line; the most dangerous since the end of the war last summer, and an attempt to damage Lebanon's security" said Pedersen after a meeting with the secretary general of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Hisham Dimashkieh. Asked whether missiles fired Sunday were done so by the Palestinians and whether the act had any relation to ongoing fighting between the Lebanese Army and the Fatah al-Islam militant group at the Nahr Al-Bared camp, Pedersen said he would wait for the results of investigations. It was still early to "identify" groups that stand behind the attacks, he said.

Russia also expressed "serious concerns" about the Sunday Katyusha attacks. "Unfortunately, we are extremely worried about what happened in the South Sunday," said Russian Ambassador Sergei Boukine after a meeting with Premier Fouad Siniora at the Grand Serail on Monday. Boukine said his country had contributed to crafting the UN resolution that ended the 2006 war, and "consequently we consider any violation of Resolution 1701 as strictly impermissible." In addition to ending 34 days of hostilities, Resolution 1701 called for the disarmament of militias in Lebanon, including Hizbullah and various Palestinian factions, and the setting up of an arms-free buffer zone south of the Litani River.

Israel said Sunday Hizbullah was not involved in the attack, which it blamed on an unidentified Palestinian organization. - The Daily Star, with AP

Monday, June 18, 2007

Our Army Heroes

Check out this link for pictures and bios of our heroes in the Lebanese Army:

May they all Rest in Peace!

Two rockets hit Israel from South Lebanon

Two rockets hit Israel from South Lebanon
By Rym Ghazal
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: Two Katyusha rockets were fired from South Lebanon into Israel on Sunday, and Israeli troops launched five shells into Lebanon in retaliation. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon condemned the rocket attack as a "serious violation" of Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended last summer's war with Israel. The two rockets fell on the town of Kiryat Shmona and caused no casualties. A third failed to cross the border. The rockets, 122-millimeter Katyushas with a range of about 20 kilometers, were fired from Khaleh, between Adaysseh and Taibeh, about 4 kilometers from the border. They were the first rockets to be fired from Lebanon into Israel since the war.

Lebanese security sources and Israeli officials said Palestinian militant fired the rockets. Hizbullah immediately released a statement in which it denied "any relation with the launching of rockets today toward occupied Palestine." The Israeli Army responded with five shells fired at the mountainous areas of Birkat Naqqar and Jabal Saddaneh near the village of Shebaa. There were no reports of casualties.

The Lebanese Army said it stopped another rocket from being fired. "Army forces immediately searched the area ... and found a fourth rocket, which was ready to be launched with a timer," said an army statement. A number of pro-Syrian Palestinian groups which maintain bases in Lebanon have been previously accused of firing rockets at northern Israel. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora vowed that the government will track down the assailants. "The state, through all its security services, will not spare any effort to find the party behind this act which aims at destabilizing Lebanon," he said in a statement. - With agencies

Friday, June 15, 2007

Fatah al-Islam planned to assassinate Siniora, Jumblatt

Fatah al-Islam planned to assassinate Siniora, Jumblatt
Senior member outlines plot in interview

Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: A Fatah al-Islam leader said the militant group had planned to assassinate a number of Lebanese figures, including Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt. In a telephone interview with Ash-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper published Wednesday, Abu Musaab, a 30-year-old Palestinian, said one of Fatah al-Islam's plans was to assassinate Lebanese officials using booby-trapped motorcycles and explosive charges, should the group be challenged by the government. Speaking from his hideout in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in North Lebanon, Abu Musaab said 25 Saudi nationals had been enlisted in different spots inside and outside the camp. As soon as the fighting broke out with the Lebanese Army in the North, hundreds of military-trained men started to appear in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, said Abu Musaab. "Some 350 militants whom I have never seen before emerged in the camp soon after the fighting with the Lebanese Army erupted," Abu Musaab said. The Lebanese Army and Fatah al-Islam militants have been engaged in fierce battles at the Nahr al-Bared camp near Tripoli since May 20.

The Fatah al-Islam official also said the group was being provided with "tremendous" military equipment and millions of dollars, although he did not specify the source of the support. "The Internet is the most successful means to enlist great numbers of youths from different Arab and Islamic countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Yemen, Algeria, Morocco and Syria," Abu Musaab said. "My job consists of enlisting new members under the pretext of training them to fight in Iraq." Abu Musaab said Fatah al-Islam had exploited religious slogans to mobilize new fighters. "We have called for Jihad in Iraq and fighting the Jews and the United Sates, in order to attract new militants," he said. Abu Musaab added Saudi national Shahine Shahine had taken command of the group after the disappearance of its commander Shaker al-Abssi and his deputy Abu Hureira. Abu Musaab said he was the one to approve all of Abssi's statements delivered via media outlets, because he is responsible for the group's finances. "Shahine, nicknamed Abu Salma, is also a Fatah al-Islam spokesman and military official," Abu Musaab said. "Shahine came from Morocco," he added. "He is surrounded by four veiled Saudis and Yemenis. He is the one charged with linking Fatah al-Islam to Al-Qaeda." - The Daily Star

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Assafir article: are some of the explosive detectors used in Lebanon only toys?

Assafir link
also posted in

حاجة إلى رقابة جدية في ظل تقارير عن عمليات احتيال تستغل الوضع الأمني
هل بعض أجهزة كشف المتفجرات المستخدمة في لبنان مجرد ألعاب؟
قد يكون العنصر البشري أكثر فعالية في التدقيق من بعض الأجهزة (م.ع.م)
زينب غصن

يطالعك عند باب مركز تجاري أو موقف للسيارات رجل أمن يحمل في يده جهازاً أشبه بعلبة صغيرة موصولة بهوائي. يمررها حول السيارات ثم يعطيك الإذن بالدخول. هذا الجهاز يفترض أنه قادر على اكتشاف أي مواد متفجرة فيما لو كانت مخبأة داخل السيارة بسبب حساسية الهوائي لهذه المتفجرات مما يجعله يتحرك باتجاهها في حال اكتشفها. هذا نظرياً. وعلى هذا الأساس يعتمد الكثير من اللبنانيين في شعورهم بالأمان وهم يخضعون لهذا النوع من الاختبار كلما دخلوا موقف سيارات ما. فالحالة الأمنية لا تسمح بأي تلاعب أو تساهل. لكن هذا أيضاً نظرياً لأن بحثاً معمقاً حول طبيعة هذه الأجهزة ومدى فعاليتها ينسف تقريباً كل إحساس خاطئ بالأمان كان يمكن أن يشعر به أحدهم برؤيتها. بل أن هذا البحث يطرح أسئلة حول مدى تحول لبنان بسبب الأحداث الأمنية إلى مرتع خصب لبيع أجهزة لا فائدة منها إلا أنها تلعب على وتر قلق اللبنانيين وتجني الأرباح من ورائه!
إذ تشير المعطيات المتوفرة إلى أن هناك عدداً من الأجهزة المتشابهة تحت مسميات مختلفة يتم تداولها في لبنان كوسائل لكشف المتفجرات. وهذه الأجهزة تحمل أسماء: Sniffex، Quadro tracker، Alpha6, وMOLE detector. لكن البحث حول حقيقتها يودي إلى مكان واحد: الشك.
والبحث عن طبيعة هذه الأجهزة يحيل إلى كم هائل من المعطيات والنقاشات حول فعاليتها حتى أن جهاز «سنايفكس» مثلا خصصت له مدونة خاصة تتجمّع فيها غالبية المعلومات والأسئلة والتقارير حوله وكلها تصبّ في خانة نفي فعاليته. لكننا آثرنا عدم الاعتماد على مواقع المدونات والمواقع الشخصية على الإنترنت للاستناد عليها كدليل على عدم الفائدة هذه الأجهزة، لعل لأصحاب هذه المواقع «ثأر قديم» مع الشركات المصنعة للأجهزة أو أنهم منافسون لها يختبئون تحت مسميات خبراء في المتفجرات وأجهزة الأمن من أجل ضربها.
غير أن تقريراً نشرته صحيفة «دالاس مورنيغ نيوز» ( الصادرة في ولاية تكساس الأميركية يطرح أسئلة حول جهاز «سنايفكس» sniffex من منطلق الحرص على الأموال العامة متسائلاً عن الأسباب التي دفعت «إدارة الدفاع» إلى شراء ثمانية أجهزة من هذا النوع مؤخراً بقيمة 50 ألف دولار بالرغم من أن اختباراً أجرته البحرية الأميركية على هذا الجهاز أظهر فشله في كشف المتفجرات.. لا سيما و«أن «وكالة الأمن والبورصة» تحقق اليوم في إمكانية أن تكون الشركة قد تلاعبت بقيمة أسهمها من خلال إرسال رسائل تضليلية بالفاكس والبريد الإلكتروني لمستثمرين لدفعهم إلى شراء هذه الأسهم».
ويشير تقرير الصحيفة أيضاً، والصادر يوم 16 نيسان ,2007 إلى أنه وبعد تفجيرات المترو في لندن في العام 2005 قامت البحرية الأميركية بإجراء اختبار على جهاز «سنايفكس» وانتهت إلى «أن هذا الجهاز كان مصيباً في 23 في المئة فقط من الحالات مما يجعل أداءه ليس أفضل من المصادفة... فمكتشف المتفجرات المحمول هذا لا يعمل. ولم يكن هناك أي مؤشرات أن الجهاز يتوافق مع أي من ادعاءات البائعين». وأشار التقرير أيضاً بحسب الصحيفة إلى أن «سنايفكس» لا يحتوي أي مصدر للطاقة قادرة على إرسال إشارات وهو يتألف من بضع قطع هي جسم الجهاز وبعض الأحجار المغناطيسية وهوائي. ويشير تقرير البحرية الأميركية الذي يعود إلى أيلول 2005 ويحمل عنوان "Test Report: The Detection Capability of the SNIFFEX Handheld Explosives Detector." إلى أن اختبار الجهاز تم على كميات من المتفجرات أعلى بكثير من تلك التي قال المصنعون أنه قادر على اكتشافها لكنه يخلص إلى أنه «بالاستناد إلى نتائج الاختبار فإن جهاز سنايفكس المحمول لكشف المتفجرات ليس قادراً على اكتشاف المتفجرات بغض النظر عن المسافة التي تفصله عن أي كمية منها...»، هذا الفشل عزاه بول ب. جونسون مدير الشركة التي تسوق سنايفكس واسمها "Homeland Safety International Inc. إلى أن البحرية الأميركية اختبرت الجهاز في منطقة تحتوي على الكثير من بقايا المتفجرات مما يمكن أن يكون قد شوش عليه مشيراً إلى أن هذا الجهاز صمم للعمل في بيئة أكثر نظافة كالمطارات مثلاً. وأضاف جونسون للصحيفة أن الجهاز نجح في اختبار أجراه معهد نيو ميكسيكو للألغام والتكنولوجيا New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology . ويتوفر هذا التقرير كاملاً على موقع شركة «نايفكس» الشرق الأوسط على الانترنت لكن الصحيفة الأميركية تشير إلى أنها حاولت الحصول على تعليق من مسؤولي المعهد على سنايفكس لكنهم رفضوا.
وقد تم اختراع هذا الجهاز في بلغاريا من قبل أحد المهندسين البلغاريين قبل أن تشتري الشركة حق تسويقه. وهي قامت ببيعه خارج الولايات المتحدة في استونيا وتركيا وروسيا والشرق الأوسط بحسب ما قال جونسون للصحيفة الأميركية.
أما في ما خص جهاز Quadro tracker أو Quadro QRS 250G فهو أيضاً عبارة عن علبة مشابهة لـ «سنايفكس» وتحمل هوائياً. ويشير تقرير صادر عن «المعهد الوطني للقضاء» التابع لوزارة العدل الأميركية ويحمل عنوان "Guide for the Selection of Commercial Explosives detection systems for Law enforcement Applications" أن عدداً من الأجهزة التي كانت تستخدم في البحث عن المياه بالاعتماد على حركة قطعتين معدنيتين تحملان في اليد وتتحركان وتلتقيان عندما تصادفان وجود المياه أصبحت تستخدم لاحقاً من قبل الباحثين عن الكنوز من ذهب وفضة. وشهدت السنوات القليلة الماضية محاولات من قبل بعض مصنعيها للانتقال من البحث عن الكنوز إلى مجالات أخرى كاكتشاف التهريب والبحث والإنقاذ وتطبيق القوانين. ويقول التقرير «يشكل جهاز Quadro tracker مثالاً بارزاً لهذه المحاولات. إذ تم تسويق هذا الجهاز باعتباره يعتمد على تكنولوجيا جدية (لاكتشاف المتفجرات) مع وصف واقعي يمكن تصديقه حول كيفية عمله (أظهر فحص دقيق أخطاء خطيرة في وصفه العلمي). ولحسن الحظ فقد حقق «المعهد الوطني للقضاء» حول هذه الشركة وأوقف بيع الجهاز للأهداف الآنفة الذكر، ولكن ليس قبل أن يهدر عدد من أجهزة تطبيق القوانين ومدارس المقاطعات الأموال العامة في شراء هذه الأجهزة».
وتصنع هذا الجهاز شركة تدعى Quadro Corp. في مدينة هارليفيل في ولاية كارولينا الجنوبية وقد حوكمت الشركة وأربعة من مسؤوليها من قبل محكمة في مدينة «بومونت» في تكساس بتهمة التآمر والاحتيال عبر البريد في بيع أجهزة بين آذار 1993 وكانون الثاني 1996 وبأنها احتالت على مؤسسات حكومية وعرضت للخطر تحقيقات قضائية وانتهكت الحقوق الدستورية للمواطنين الأبرياء. وبحسب الهيئة الاتهامية فقد سوقت الشركة الجهاز على أنه جهاز يعتمد على رقاقات إلكترونية ترصد انبعاثات الجزيئات من المخدرات وحتى المتفجرات. غير أن التحاليل العلمية للجهاز بينت أنه عبارة عن علبة فارغة موصول بها هوائي راديو أما «الرقاقة» فهي عبارة عن قطعة من الورق بين قطعتي بلاستيك! وفي نيسان من العام 1996 أصدر القاضي ثاد هارتفيلد قراراً منع بموجبه نهائياً الشركة من إنتاج الجهاز وبيعه.
وكانت «مختبرات سانديا الوطنية» في نيو ميكسيكو والتابعة لشركة «لوكهيد ـ مارتن» قد أخبرت الجهاز أيضاً في اكتوبر من العام 1995 خلال اختبارها جهازاً آخر شبيه به ويدعى "MOLE Programmable detection system" . وبين الاختبار أن الفرق الوحيد بين الجهازين هو في الاسم المكتوب على كل منهما و«الرقاقة»، حيث هي ثابتة في جهاز MOLE ومتحركة في Quadro tracker.
وكان الاختبار الذي أجرته مختبرات سانديا لجهاز MOLE في 29 كانون الثاني من العام 2002 تم بتكليف من «مركز تكنولوجيا تنفيذ القوانين والتأديب» في دنفر بولاية كولورادو قد توصل إلى استنتاج نهائي «بأن أداء جهاز MOLE (تصنعه شركة Global Technical Ltd في منطقة «كنت» في المملكة المتحدة) لا يعمل أفضل من أي اختيار عشوائي لأماكن وجود المتفجرات»، بحسب التقرير الصادر عنه بعنوان "Double-Blind Field Evaluation of the MOLE Programmable Detection System"
كل هذه المعطيات تبعث للتساؤل حول مدى فعالية الأجهزة المستخدمة في لبنان ومن يراقبها؟ ومن يراقب شركات الأمن التي تبيعها ومدى جديتها؟ بل من يراقب ما إذا كان اللبنانيون لا يتعرّضون لعمليات احتيال مستمرة في هذا الخصوص؟ وما هو دور «نقابة محترفي الحماية والسلامة في لبنان» في ملاحقة المخالفين؟ لعل المسؤولين عن الأمن في الأماكن العامة والمؤسسات يتنبهون لهذه القضية ويتخذون إجراءات أكثر حذراً عند شراء أي منتج يسوّق في لبنان فيتأكدون مئة مرة من جديته قبل أن يشتروه. ولعله أيضاً من الأفضل لو اعتمدت هذه الشركات على التفتيش البشري اليدوي أو الكلاب المدربة بالإضافة إلى أجهزة الرصد الالكترونية عل قدرتها على النجاح في طمأنة اللبنانيين تزيد.
لمزيد من المعلومات:
Double-Blind Field Evaluation of the MOLE Programmable Detection System-1
Dale Murray - Entry Control and Contraband Detection Department
Sandia National Laboratories - Albuquerque, New Mexico
4ـ "Sniffing" Bomb Detector stinks" by Noah Shachtman - WIRED blog magazine - 21 February 2007-

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Car bomb kills anti-Syrian MP, 9 others in Beirut

Car bomb kills anti-Syrian MP, 9 others in Beirut
By Tom Perry and Yara Bayoumy

A powerful car bomb killed anti-Syrian Lebanese politician Walid Eido and nine other people on Wednesday in the sixth blast to strike the Beirut area in less than four weeks, security sources said. The bomb, concealed in a parked vehicle, detonated as Eido's car drove by near the seafront in the Lebanese capital. One of his sons was among the dead. At least 11 people were wounded. Eido, 64, belonged to the majority anti-Syrian parliamentary bloc of Saad al-Hariri, which controls the government. He had been a vocal opponent of Syrian influence in Lebanon and an ally of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, who was assassinated by a suicide truck bomber in February 2005 on the same seafront corniche just over a kilometer away. Eido was killed just three days after a U.N. Security Council resolution came into effect setting up an international tribunal to try suspects in Hariri's assassination.

Saad al-Hariri and his political allies say Syria was behind the ex-prime minister's killing and later attacks. Damascus denies any involvement. Eido's death brought to seven the number of anti-Syrian figures killed in Lebanon since 2005. The United States and France deplored Eido's assassination. "We stand with the people of Lebanon and Prime Minister (Fouad) Siniora's government as they battle extremists who are trying to derail Lebanon's march to peace, prosperity and a lasting democracy," said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the White House National Security Council. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said his country stood by Lebanon "in the face of these repeated attempts at destabilization." He urged the Lebanese to resume dialogue.

The blast hit near an amusement park and a football club, setting a car ablaze and shattering windows at a nearby restaurant. It hurled the bodies of Eido and his son across the road and into a football ground, witnesses said. The bomb was stronger than the five that had exploded in and around Beirut in the past month, security sources said. Those blasts killed two people.

Eido's death was likely to fuel tension between Siniora's Western-backed government and the pro-Damascus opposition led by the Shi'ite Muslim Hezbollah group. Parliamentarian deputy Wael Abou-Faour accused Syria of killing his colleague. "Walid Eido was a symbol of democracy in Lebanon. (He) was assassinated because there is a decision by the Syrian regime to terminate the March 14 bloc," Abou-Faour told Al Arabiya television, referring to the Hariri-led coalition. "The Assad regime did not have enough of the blood of the free in Lebanon." Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who is a pro-Syrian ally of Hezbollah, condemned the killing. "No individual, group, organization or party using terrorism and organized crime will be able to make Lebanon an arena for unrest, strife, wars and score-settling," he said. Tension was already high in Lebanon, where the army has been battling Islamist militants at a Palestinian refugee camp in the north for more than three weeks.

Two Lebanese soldiers were killed in fresh fighting at the Nahr al-Bared camp on Wednesday, security sources said. Al Qaeda-inspired Fatah al-Islam militants attacked Lebanese army posts set up at newly seized territory in the outskirts of Nahr al-Bared camp overnight and in the early morning, they said. Army units, which had seized two militant positions in heavy fighting on Tuesday, responded with dozens of artillery rounds, sending smoke rising from the camp's cinderblock buildings. The battle for the camp, Lebanon's bloodiest internal violence since the 1975-1990 civil war, has killed 144 people -- 62 soldiers, 50 militants and 32 civilians -- since May 20.

(Additional reporting by Nadim Ladki and Laila Bassam)

الأمن الداخلي يعتبر الحديث عن وجود حقائب مفخّخة مجرّد اشاعات

الأمن الداخلي يعتبر الحديث عن وجود حقائب مفخّخة مجرّد اشاعات

اعتبرت قوى الأمن الداخلي ان "البلاد تجتاحها منذ أيام موجة من الشائعات حول مواضيع أمنية، منها العثور على حقائب مفخخة هنا أو هناك، أو توقيف مجموعات إرهابية في مدن أو قرى غير تلك التي تشهد أعمالا عسكرية أو أمنية. واعتبرت هذه القوى في بيان لها أن كل هذه الأخبار ملفقة ولا أساس لها من الصحة، وقد تكون مفبركة لغايات وأهداف معينة وطلبت من المواطنين عدم تداول الأخبار الأمنية وأخذها على محمل الجد ما لم تثبت صحتها، وعدم التردد في طلب رقم النجدة 112 من أي هاتف ثابت أو خليوي للتحقق من صحة أي موضوع يرد إلى مسامعهم

Army pushes Fatah al-Islam back, prepares to use heavier artillery

Army pushes Fatah al-Islam back, prepares to use heavier artillery
Magistrate interrogates detainees on plans for terrorist bombings
By Hani M. Bathish
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army advanced from the northeast against Fatah al-Islam positions inside the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp on Tuesday amid a heavy artillery barrage, which reached a crescendo at about 6 p.m. The southern road to the camp, which had been used by humanitarian agencies to deliver aid, came under fire Tuesday morning when Fatah al-Islam tried to infiltrate the area. The army continued to tighten its grip on the camp as army engineers continued clearing camp buildings of possible booby traps ahead of the troops' advance. Militants' mobile phones have also been disconnected since Monday, the army said. The Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC) reported on Tuesday that the army had taken control of and confiscated many documents from the Nawras compound, at the northern edge of the camp, which included an office where Fatah al-Islam militants used to meet. Heavier-caliber, 240-millimeter artillery shells will be brought into the fight against the militants by Wednesday, according to the LBC report. The heaviest caliber used by the army has been 155-millimeter. The army, while it continued to respond to sources of hostile fire from inside the camp, said it tried to avoid hitting places of worship. The army statement warned militants not to launch attacks from locations such as Al-Quds Mosque.

While the army registered no casualties on Tuesday, it announced the names of the three soldiers who died in fighting on Monday: Sergeant Major Mustafa Ali al-Dahi, Sergeant Shadi Halim al-Jalbout and Corporal Mohammad Othman al-Hussein. The army denied that two of its members had been kidnapped in Tripoli by Fatah al-Islam members, as some local media reports said. Military Investigative Magistrate Rashid Mezher interviewed one of the key Fatah al-Islam detainees, Lebanese national Ahmad Merhi, about the latter's role in the organization and the plans that he and his comrades intended to carry out in Lebanon, according to judicial sources. Mohammad Merhi, Ahmad's brother and another Fatah al-Islam member were detained and interrogated earlier. Mohammad Merhi reportedly revealed bomb plots and named potential targets selected to destabilize Lebanon to allow the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in the North. The statements of the brothers also confirmed the smuggling of fighters from Iraq to Lebanon via Syria, recruiting fighters in Lebanon and training them, the sources said.

Following a security sweep late Monday, army intelligence detained three suspects in Bar Elias in the Bekaa Valley - two Palestinians and one Syrian - and confiscated documents during a raid on a home there. Abu Hassan al-Badoun, a spokesman for the Islamic Action Front, told The Daily Star on Tuesday that mediation efforts with Fatah al-Islam are continuing, and that the group is asking for a neutral investigation into the events of May 20, when a Fatah al-Islam attack on army posts outside the camp provoked the battle. "They believe they were taken to a place they never wanted to go and that the trap was laid for them as well as for the army. They want a neutral investigation to determine who is responsible," Badoun said, adding that the organization is capable and ready to continue fighting. He also argued that it was not useful to refer to the group as a criminal gang that would be swept away by the army. Badoun said many were trying to oversimplify the matter, which is much more complex. "First, we need to know what the intentions of the expatriate Arabs in the organization are," Badoun said, such as whether they share goals with Al-Qaeda. Responding to events in Nahr al-Bared, a Syria-based, Al-Qaeda-inspired group called Tawhid and Jihad in Syria has threatened to "kidnap, shoot and chop the heads of Lebanese" if the Lebanese Army does not stop bombarding Fatah al-Islam positions inside Nahr al-Bared, according to an AFP report. Tawhid and Jihad first emerged in November last year when its former leader, Omar Abdullah, clashed with Syrian security forces and blew himself up on the Syrian-Lebanese border. The group posted its warning on a Web forum often used by militants. "We warn the Lebanese government that its vital interests, officials and sons will be moving targets for us, if it does not lift its siege of the camp," the statement said.

Sheikh Mohammad al-Haj, a member of the League of Palestinian Clerics trying to mediate a peaceful settlement to the fighting in Nahr al-Bared, told the Associated Press that his meeting on Monday with Fatah al-Islam spokesman Shahine Shahine was positive and Shahine showed flexibility. Haj said the delegation of Palestinian clerics continued its mediation efforts on Tuesday with Fatah al-Islam leaders to avoid a military resolution to the standoff with the army, according to a report by the National News Agency. Haj, who was shot in the leg on Monday, said mediation efforts will continue whether or not he personally goes into the camp, adding that talks have made major progress. He said the man who shot him was a "well known member of a Palestinian faction." - With agencies

LBCI dismisses LF's 'unfounded, illegal' demands

LBCI dismisses LF's 'unfounded, illegal' demands
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. International (LBCI) does not have any "legal" association with the Lebanese Forces (LF), the television's board of directors said in a statement issued on Tuesday. A meeting of the LBCI board rejected the conditions set out in a memo previously sent by the LF to the station's management. The LF memo warned the LBCI board of directors against conducting any fiscal transactions or buying and selling shares without the previous consent of the LF. "The demands of the LF are unfounded and illegal," the LBCI statement said. "LBCI is not affiliated with the Lebanese Forces nor with any other political group in Lebanon, and the only person entitled to make or approve decisions concerning the station is the head of the board of directors of LBCI, Pierre Daher. The statement added that LBCI "did not have any legal or administrative affiliation with the LF."

Founded in August 1985, LBCI was the first private TV station in Lebanon. The channel launched satellite broadcasts in 1996, and it now has several channels covering the Middle East, Europe, North America and Australia. LBCI was originally the brainchild of President-elect and LF founder Bashir Gemayel, assassinated in 1982. In a speech shortly after he was released from 11 years of imprisonment, LF leader Samir Geagea said his party was planning to "reclaim" all of its properties that had been confiscated during the preceding years of Syrian tutelage. - The Daily Star

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Unemployment and insecurity emptying Lebanon of Lebanese

Unemployment and insecurity emptying Lebanon of Lebanese
'We're suffering a huge brain drain'
The Daily Star

BEIRUT: Economic instability and persistent security threats are driving ever younger and more educated Lebanese abroad, creating a brain drain that threatens the country's economic and social future, researchers say. "We're suffering a huge brain drain," Kamal Hamdan, head of the Lebanese Center of Research and Studies, told IRIN. "Those who have the brains take their diplomas and leave. They are the young people who would go on to be middle executives and entrepreneurs. In the long term, their absence means we may face a serious shortage of policy developers and managers." About 30 percent of Lebanese - nearly one in three people - want to emigrate abroad, and the figure rises to 60 percent in the 18-25 age bracket, according to a poll published in April and conducted by Information International, an independent Beirut-based research center. The poll also found that almost 12 percent of undergraduates want to emigrate, along with more than 15 percent of the country's professionals. The survey polled 997 Lebanese citizens of varying ages and creeds from across the country in February. Nearly half of all Maronites, the largest Christian denomination in the country, said they were considering emigrating, while some 22 percent of Shiites and 26 percent of Sunnis say they are considering moving abroad.

In addition, economist Elie Yachoui, board member of the National Council of Scientific Research in Lebanon, estimated that more than 50 percent of those who graduated from college in the past two years have left the country. Lebanon is home to approximately four million citizens, but some 16 million people of Lebanese descent live abroad, with the largest communities in South America, West Africa, the US, Canada and Australia.

Almost since gaining independence in 1943, Lebanon has been plagued by regular political assassinations, and the country has been slipping in and out of turmoil since the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005. In the last month, eight explosions have ripped through Beirut and its environs. Abdo Asmar, 24, has been trying to leave Lebanon for years without any success. He has found work as a security guard for a private company, in what he says is "a flourishing career in Lebanon, given the circumstances." Asmar recently received a job offer that would finally allow him to leave, but it is not the destination he was hoping for. "I received a job offer to work as a security officer in the Green Zone in Baghdad, for 10 times the salary I'm paid now," he said. "Why would I bother to stay? If I'm going to die anyway, I'd rather die rich." Hadi Sabaa, 27, is equally pessimistic about the future of his country, even though he has a steady job at a local newspaper. Like many other journalism graduates, he is trying to leave for Dubai, "where reporters are appreciated, respected and decently paid. There, at least, I will not have to worry about where my children are at the time of the next explosion."

Political sensitivities have long hampered efforts to record data on actual numbers of emigres. No official census has been taken since 1932, for fear of upsetting the delicate power-sharing agreement between Lebanon's rival sects. "We haven't been allowed to conduct serious research for over 16 years now, because in Lebanon this subject is taboo, due to official fear of revealing the new confessional and religious make-up of the population," said Hamdan, whose own three children have left and do not have plans to return. Hamdan accused successive governments of "deliberately neglecting the need for an organized database, so that we don't know who left and who came back." The minimum wage in Lebanon is less than $200 per month and has not changed since 1996.

A report issued by the World Bank this May found that nearly 26 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) - or about $5.6 billion - comes from emigrants, based on a calculation of the balance of payments for 2006. The report also showed that 45 percent of these transactions come from the 400,000 Lebanese residing in the Gulf, in particular those living in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. Yachoui blamed the high rates of brain drain on "bad policies, undertaken by successive governments, which failed to produce economic growth as the public debt skyrocketed." He told IRIN that, in addition to the current deteriorating security, the country's massive indebtedness also stands in the way of achieving economic growth. According to estimates, Lebanon's public debt in 2006 stood at slightly more than $40 billion, which is the equivalent of about 180 percent of GDP, one of the highest ratios in the world. Billions of dollars pledged to Lebanon at the Paris III international donor conference in January will go simply to service public-debt repayments, and many pledges for project financing have yet to be approved because of the current political stalemate that has seen Parliament closed all year. "Lebanon has three sources of revenue," said Yachoui. "One is natural, the second monetary, and the third - the most important - is our human resources. When this disappears, we lose the capability of managing the first two."

For some, though, even successful economic reforms and a better salary would not entice them to stay. "I don't care if they fix the situation now or ever," said journalist Sabaa. "What good will economic reform do me if, on my way to buy some bread, a car bomb blows me away?" - IRIN

Monday, June 11, 2007

Bombing in Zouk Mosbeh takes heavy toll on the struggling industrial sector

Bombing in Zouk Mosbeh takes heavy toll on the struggling industrial sector
Owners of factories hope to receive swift government compensation

By Osama Habib
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: Lebanese industry, still reeling from the devastating Israeli war in July of last year, received another blow on Thursday when a bomb explosion in Zouk Mosbeh, 20 kilometers from Beirut, leaving dozens of small- and medium-sized factories in total ruins. Nicholas Abi Naser, the head of Kaesroun industrial association, told The Daily Star that most of the factories and workshops in Zouk Mosbh were either destroyed or damaged. "We have not assessed the value of the damages. But we hope to get a good idea next week," Abi Naser said. He added that the owners of these damaged factories expect the government to provide them with badly needed financial assistance to help rebuild these installations. Paint and gas cylinder plants in Zouk Mosbh ignited fires following the explosion and the owner of one of workshops died instantly from the blaze. "Terrorists have declared an open war on Lebanon and the industrial sector is one of the victims of this war." But Abi Naser was not too upbeat about the prospects of aid from the government in the near future. "The factories that were hit during the July-August war did not receive a penny from the government, despite numerous promises."

Fadi Abboud, the President of the Industrial Association, estimated the cost of war on industry at more than $200 million. Lebanon received more than $950 million from the donor countries that met in Stockholm in August 2005 but the industrialists say they did receive any of this money. Abi Naser warned that the industrial association will resort to different means to induce the government to compensate the industrialists.The industrial zone in Zouk Mosbh is considered one of the main manufacturing complexes in the Kaesroun Mountain. Investments in the industrial sector in Kaesroun area alone exceed $1 billion. "Trust me. If the Lebanese industrialists could haul the machines and investments in a wheel they would not have hesitated to leave the country," Abi Naser said. He added that local manufacturers have little choice here. "We can't simply give up and pack our things because most of the manufacturers have commitments such as loans to commercial banks." He added that the industrialists are asking the government and the banks to re schedule existing loans with lower interest rates. "Most of the industries are already struggling as a result of the economic stagnation and this spate of bombings is making our lives more difficult." He stressed that industrialists can barely break even. Abi Nasr said that government should embrace the industry just like any other sector. "Industry provides lot of jobs in the market as well as improves the balance of payments."

Monday, June 04, 2007

Sharon's Bastille Day Dream Materializes: Lebanon and the Planned US Airbase at Kleiaat

May 30, 2007
Sharon's Bastille Day Dream Materializes
Lebanon and the Planned US Airbase at Kleiaat


Bibnin Akkar, Lebanon, site of proposed US Airbase
Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee Camp

On July 14, 1982, (Bastille Day) the late Bashir Gemayel sat with Ariel Sharon, Raphael Eytan, and Danny Yalon at the French flag draped Le Chef Restaurant in Ashifeyih, east Beirut for one of their working lunches. As was by now their habit, the Israelis were inclined to pressure their recently anointed selection for Lebanon's next president. They were there to present a request for one more favor from the handsome 'golden boy' of the Phalange movement, as their army tightened its noose around west Beirut. There was a good chance they would succeed . After all, Bashir was beholding to the Zionists, for their many 'considerations', including the arms for drugs arrangements, the weapons skimmed from what the US reflectively shipped to Israel on demand, the intelligence sharing and assassinations of Palestinians who Bashir could not abide. The trio lunching with him that day, under the celebratory French flags in this francophone neighborhood could easily destroy Bashir Gemayel and he knew it. Yet, despite their intimidating talk, the self described 'cream of the IDF', exhibiting what Bashir had often explained to his nerdy younger brother Amin, who, unexpectedly was to become his successor as President of Lebanon, and to some of his aids, was a case of 'congenital arrogance' erred that day. They seriously underestimated the Palestinian hating, Muslim despising, would be Phoenecian Prince, Le sheik Bashir. In misjudging the charismatic Maronite, the Israeli trio had failed to appreciate that, on any day of the week, the average Lebanese is rather more sophisticated, clever, descent, and patriotic than many Israeli or American politicians give them credit for. The same obtains today. Sharon pulled out a piece of paper from his chest pocket, as one Phalange security person who guarded the restaurant door recalls, and shoved it across the table to Bashir. Written on it was Israel's 'one last request' which contained one word: Kleiaat. The Israelis studied Bashir's face for a sign of his reaction as he picked up the small piece of paper. Bashir, appearing to suppress a yawn, had heard this 'one last request' hustle many times and had long felt contempt for what he called "these pressure lunches." Yet, former alter boy that he was, the martyred, and still much loved Lebanese patriot, pressed his lips together and listened politely as is the Lebanese custom, as Sharon expounded on the details. Bashir, fuming inside and about to erupt in anger as he had sometimes done previously when he felt squeezed by Sharon, instead smiled at the anxious trio. He leaned forward and whispered with a voice they still say in his Bekfayya neighborhood, would make women swoon: 'you will not be disappointed, my dear friends". Sharon was delirious with Bashir's response and slapped him on the back, a gesture of friendship that the former parish crucifier found deeply offensive. Returning to his Achharifeh Headquarters, bounding up the stairs to his office to meet with aids, where less than two months later, he would die from an assassins' bomb which would level the building and killed and wounded more than 200, Bashir bellowed as he entered his office, " An Israeli air base in Lebanon? Those crazy sons of bitches won't get one grain of sand from Kleiaat."

As residents of Bibnin Akkar, less than two miles from the site of the proposed US base and the Lebanese daily newspaper Aldiyar speculate, construction of a US airbase on the grounds of the largely abandoned airbase at Klieaat in northern Lebanon may begin late this year. To make the project more palpable, it is being promoted as a 'US/NATO' base that will serve as the headquarters of a NATO rapid deployment force, helicopter squadrons, and Special Forces units. The base will provide training for the Lebanese army and security forces fighting Salafi, Islamist fundamentalists and other needs. The Pentagon and NATO HQ in Belgium have given the project which, will sit along the Lebanese-Syrian border, using this vast area "as a base for fast intervention troops", a name. It is to be called The Lebanese Army and Security training centre". Kleiaat, a nearly now abandoned small airport, was used by Middle East Airlines for a period for commuter flights between Beirut and Tripoli. Residents of the area report than during the Civil War (1975-1990) a commuter Helicopter service was also operated due to road closures. The proposed base was measured by this observer to be roughly two and one-half miles down the beach from Nahr al-Bared Palestinian Camp. Both share pristine Mediterranean beachfront. Kleiaat is an expanse of gently undulating sandy dunes covered with long prairie grass and brush. Despite opposition from Lebanon's anemic environmental movement, that argues that the pristine area should be left to its many varieties of birds and wildlife, the local community is watching closely.

Not much activity is going on as of May 29, 2007. About 20 Quonset huts, some recently driven stakes, no evidence of heavy equipment or building material. The three man army outpost fellows appeared bored and did not even ask for ID as I toured the whole area on the back of a fine new BMW 2200cc motorcycle courtesy of one of the local militia sniper guys who until two days ago was firing into Nahr al-Bared until the Lebanese army stopped him after the PLO leadership complained. Lebanese entrepreneurs at Bibnin Akkar, a Sunni community loyal to the Hariri's, and who will be the chief financial winners from the project, see opportunities with thousands of new construction and related jobs coming. One kind fellow who hooked me up last night to intermittent internet via a jerry rigged dial up arrangement on one of his shop's two computers envisages running a fine new internet café with at least 50 wireless computers. Hotels, restaurants and businesses of various sorts are planning expansions to meet the demand of the expected workforce. Who will not benefit from the building boom will be the 40,000+ Palestinians from Nahr al-Bared which is literally next door to the anticipated project These refugees, who were driven from their homes a in Palestine in 1948 and 1967, from Telezatter by the Phalanges in 1975, and others who came as a result of Israeli attacks on Lebanon in 1978, 1982, 1993, 1996, and 2006, will gain no work from Kleiaat. The reason is that the 70 top trades and professions in Lebanon are denied to the Palestinians under Lebanese law. Even if the 20,000 Palestinians displaced by the current conflict with Fatah al-Islam are allowed to return, which I expect will be the case, and even if Palestinian fears that the Camps will be demolished are unrealized, as I believe, they will remain destitute, according to UNWRA who considers 10,000 of them 'special hardship cases".

As reported by the NATO headquarters in Brussels, as well as by residents in Bibnin Akkar on May 28, 2007, an American-German-Turkish military delegation toured and surveyed Akkar region. US Embassy 'staff' have reportedly visited Kleiaat airport earlier this year to look over the site. David Welch also had a quick look at the site during his recent visit. A Lebanese journalist who opposes the base commented on May 28, 2007, "The Bush administration has been warning Lebanon about the presence of Al Qaeda teams in northern Lebanon. And the base is needed to deal with this threat. Low and behold, a new "terrorist group" called Fatah al-Islam appears near Kleiaat at al-Bared camp". The Pentagon argues that the military base will contribute to the development and the economic recovery in the region, advising the Lebanese government to focus on the financial aspect and positive reflection on the population (95% Sunni) of the region. Contenders for the billion dollar project, according to the Pentagon procurement office could be Bechtel and Halliburton and other Contractors currently doing projects in Iraq.

The martyred Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, saw potential for the Kleiaat airport as well. But he opposed a US airbase. Instead, Hariri, which the green grocer who sells fruits and vegetables to the Lebanese army patrolling the Tripoli-Syria four lane road in front of Nahr al-Bared, commented, " Rafik Hariri, may he rest in peace, loved Lebanon. But he never saw a piece of real estate he didn't want to develop!" Hariri envisaged a billion dollar Free Commercial Zone and a port, despite Syrian opposition, and had investors lined up before he was murdered. Damascus was opposed to the Hariri dream because the new Port and Free Zone would drain the revenues from the nearby Syrian Port at Lathikiya. According to Washington observers watching developments, the base has been pushed by elements in the office of the US Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the urging of Israeli operative Elliot Abrams. AIPAC can be expected to do the necessary work in Congress and with House Foreign Affairs, Appropriations, Intelligence, and Armed Service committees hermetically sealed by stalwarts of the Israel Lobby, it can be expected that it will be added as a rider to an unsuspecting House bill coming along. "We need to get this base built as quickly as possible as a forward thrust point against Al Qaeda and other (read Hezbollah) terrorists", according to AIPAC staffer Rachael Cohen. Asked if Israel will offer training and advisors to the Lebanese army, Ms. Cohen replied, "we will see what we will see, Lebanon, smezzanon its not about them, its about stopping the terrorists stupid!" "The question for Lebanon is whether the Lebanese people will allow the base to be built. Few in North Lebanon doubt that Israel will have access to the base " according to Oathman Bader, a community leader who lives in Bahr al-Bared but has fled to Badawi. Fatah al-Islam and their allies have pledged martyrdom operations to stop the project, according to the Fatah Intifada, the group that expelled Fatah al-Islam from their camp on November 27, 2006. According to a columnist at Beirut's Al-Akbar newspaper," a US project like that would split Lebanon apart. No way will Lebanon allow it. Probably every group in Lebanon would oppose it, from the Salafi, Islamists fundamentalist to moderate Sunnis to Hezbollah. Can you imagine the Syrian reaction?" Commenting on this project, one Arab-American from Boston, doing volunteer work at the Palestinian Red Crescent Hospital, Safad, noted: "Hopefully the US pro Middle East peace, pro-Palestinian, and pro-Lebanon organizations with better phone and internet connections that exist locally, will join the opposition in Lebanon to this base and fight it in Congress. Welch and the US Embassy in Beirut should be questioned about it"

Franklin Lamb's just released book, The Price We Pay: A Quarter Century of Israel's Use of American Weapons in Lebanon is available at His volume, Hezbollah: a Brief Guide for Beginners is due out in early summer, 2007. He can be reached at

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Fighting spreads as battles engulf Lebanon camp

Fighting spreads as battles engulf Lebanon camp
By Jamal Saidi

Lebanese troops directed artillery and tank barrages at al Qaeda-inspired militants dug in at a Palestinian refugee camp on Sunday, the third day of an intensified assault to crush the gunmen. But the Fatah al Islam militants at the Nahr al-Bared camp, who have vowed to fight to the death, put up stiff resistance and fought back with mortar bombs and rocket-propelled grenades. "If the army continues attacking, Nahr al-Bared will be, God willing, a graveyard for them," Abu Hurayra, one of the group's senior members, told Reuters by telephone from inside the camp. After 12 days of sporadic shelling, the army on Friday attacked Fatah al-Islam positions at the entrances of the camp with the declared aim of wiping out the militants. The fighting, which erupted on May 20, is Lebanon's worst internal violence since the 1975-1990 civil war. About 111 people have been killed and thousands have fled their homes. The government says militants triggered the siege by attacking army positions around the camp and in Lebanon's second largest city, Tripoli, in north Lebanon. In an indication that violence could engulf other parts of Lebanon, Islamist militants attacked an army checkpoint at another camp, Ain al-Hilweh in south Lebanon. That attack sparked fierce exchanges of rifle fire and grenades between soldiers and Jund al-Sham militants. The army brought in reinforcements and armored vehicles mounted with heavy machine guns but the clash ended some two hours later after mediation by other Palestinian factions. They said two people were wounded and scores of civilians, with their belongings in plastic bags, fled the scene. One shop and a home at the edge of the camp were burnt.


In northern Lebanon, troops seized and destroyed several positions of the Fatah al-Islam group and tightened their siege of Nahr al-Bared, which lies 100 km (60 miles) north of Beirut. Machine gun fire and shelling reverberated over the camp, while plumes of smoke rose from bombed-out buildings. "There is no square meter that has not been hit by a shell," one camp resident told Reuters by telephone. "We can't leave the building we are in, let alone the street, to find out the full extent of the devastation." An army source said the militants had fired at least two grenades at army positions from a mosque inside the camp. Security sources said 10 soldiers had been killed since Friday. Palestinian sources said a militant commander, Naim Ghali aka Abu Riyadh, was killed by an army sniper on Saturday. Since Friday, more than 16 people -- militants and civilians -- have died in the camp. The group said it lost five fighters. At least 25,000 of Nahr al-Bared's 40,000 population have fled to other refugee camps over the past two weeks. Lebanon's anti-Syrian government says Fatah al-Islam is a Syrian tool, but Damascus denies any links to the group and says its leader, Shaker al-Abssi, is on Syria's wanted list. Abssi and his comrades say they are inspired by al Qaeda's ideology. Lebanon has been split by a seven-month-old political crisis over the opposition's demands for more say in government. The opposition includes Syria's allies, led by Hezbollah. While the army has not entered the camp's official boundaries, it has captured the militants' positions on its outskirts, confining militants to about a third of the camp. A 1969 agreement prevents the army from entering Lebanon's 12 Palestinian camps, home to 400,000 refugees.

(Additional reporting by Yara Bayoumy, Nadim Ladki and Laila Bassam)

Naharnet Lebanon News

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