An Event and a Regional Trend

Some diplomatic sources said the US secretary of state Condoleeza Rice decided to bring with her in her Middle Eastern tour secretary of defense Robert Gates in the aftermath of an initial US decision to reduce forces in Iraq, which should start next September due to the pressure of the Congress that asked Bush’s administration to take practical steps to put an end to the failure of Bush’s plans and especially what is called as Baghdad plan that causes an increasing death toll among US soldiers and reveals an inability to control the ground.
Rice and Gates will meet the foreign ministers of some Arab states, especially the ministers of the quartet which consists of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates in the presence of the intelligence officials. The topic of discussion in this meeting will be preparations for the reduction of the US forces, and maybe the US commitment to a withdrawal timetable due to the approach of presidential elections, which control many of the administration’s and the Congress’s calculations amid increasing calls in the US press to activate Baker-Hamilton’s initiative.
An Arab diplomat said the Israeli cake is present on all the US tables in the area and this time Rice and Gates will ask Arab partners to directly participate in the plan of invading Gaza, that Ehud Barak prepares, whether with intelligence information or logistic cooperation and that releaving Israel from the danger of resistance is the title of preparation for the stage which follows the US withdrawal from Iraq.

An Event and a Lebanese Trend

The leaks related to the background of Tripoli bloc stand towards the issue of constitutional quorum have led to some reactions. March 14 group condemned the bloc’s stand,doubting that the bloc and its leader Mohamed As-Safadi received promises from France or the opposition in return for this stand. The opposition described the bloc’s stand as a beginning of an ice ball which will lead to the formation of a moderate bloc as a result of a number of representatives’ desertion of the March 14 alliance. But the loyals retaliated against this description by saying that this stand is a mere maneuver controlled by the loyal alliance.
Informed sources confirm that the clerks of the Us embassy and ambassador Jeffrey Feltman exerted condensed pressures that included threats to prevent traveling and impose sanctions on anyone who supports the stand which says the two thirds quorum is obligatory in electing the president. The source added that the meeting between the ambassador and representative Botrous Harb was dedicated to this topic, while some of the Maronite representatives sought the protection of Bkirki to face the pressure of the US embassy and March 14 group.
Despite all this gossip, an informed parliamentary source said he expects that the number of representatives who will move to the position formed by Tripoli bloc’s stand will reach 20.

Arab and International Press

The Israeli paper Ha’aretz said some obstacles obstruct the deal of exchanging captives with Hezbollah and Hamas accusing Iran of obstructing the two deals. For its part Ma’ariv pointed out that president Najad asked secretary general of Hezbolla Hassan Nasrallah and head of Hamas political office Khaled Mashal to freeze the exchange deal until the end of this Summer because Israel may launch an attack on Syria or the US may attack Iran at that time. Arab and international press agencies said Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh warned that any early elections will widen the political and geographical gap between Gaza and the West Bank.
Arab and international press said French president Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced a series of joint initiatives like their readiness to visit Darfur region together.
Arab and international press agencies said president of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan stressed during his talks with French president Sarkozy yesterday the importance of holding a conference on peace in the Middle East in order to reach a just and a comprehensive solution that enhances stability in the area.
Arab and international press focused on releasing 250 Palestinian captives from the Israeli prisons saying most of them are from Fateh.
The Emirate paper Al-Khaleej said the Israeli television attacked what it described as the horrible strategic alliance between Iran and Syria pointing out that if Israel knew that secretary general of Hezbollah will visit Syria to meet president Najad, orders would have been issued to assassinate him on the road.
Arab papers quoted observers as saying that the Pakistani president Musharraf’s regime received a deadly blow after ten judges from 13 at the higher judiciary council issued a historic sentence to reappoint the ousted judge Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry in his position.
The writer Makram Mohammad Ahmad said in an article published in the Egyptian paper Al-Ahram that the issue of the US conditions related to the US grant to Egypt require a comprehensive review.

Lebanese Press

An-Nahar quoted official circles as saying that the merit of the by-elections and their tendency to competition prove the legitimacy of the political system and the government.
Lebanese press said the Future Trend nominated Mohamed Al-Ameen al-Eitani in Beirut.
Lebanese press said while the country prepares for the by-elections, the army’s operations continue in Nahr Al-Bared camp.
An-Nahar said the army brought enhancements, established fortifications and opened roads that lead to the fighters positions.
Ad-Diyar said the meeting between representative Saad Al-Hariri and general Michel Aoun is still proposed, pointing out that France intends to hold the dialogue forum again at the French embassy in Beirut.

Television News in Lebanon

Al-Manar said the by-elections move towards a political battle after the failure of the phalanges party Ameen Gemayel to reach an agreement with the Liberal Trend.
The NTV said Lebanon is living an electoral enthusiasm
The NBN said in the shadow of the Lebanese internal arena’s silence the French envoy Jean-Claude Cousseran continues his shuttle diplomacy that aims at solving the complicated crisis.
The LBC said by-elections in al-Matn are more than by-elections and losing them will have a big significance contrary to winning them

Television Stations Interviews in Lebanon

Program : The Hours Talk
Head of the solidarity party Émile Rahmé said secretary general of Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah preserved the game of internal balance when he said victory in July war is for everybody.
The journalist Saad Kiwan said Hezbollah committed a mistake in directing the investment of its victory in July war, pointing out that the opposition was wrong in dealing with the internal affair.

Tendencies is a daily political watch newsletter about the Near East, issued by New Orient News agency in Beirut, Lebanon. It is available on in Arabic, English and French languages. Also worth a read is Indicators, the daily Near East economic watch newsletter, available in Arabic and English.