An Event and a Regional Trend

The New York Times editorial talked about approving a plan for the US forces’ withdrawal from Iraq at the beginning of next year, saying that this trend was decided at the White House circles and formed the most important international and regional event. All the Arab press and political circles were looking forward to the US decision in this respect in the light of the continuous US failure in Iraq and Israel’s defeats.
The real dimensions of the recent movements of US secretary of state Rice and her colleague secretary of Defense Robert Gates became clear in this climate. Their central goal is protecting Israel before the US forces’ withdrawal through establishing two safety belts: the first one is finding a Palestinian partner, who accepts giving up the right to return and putting the Palestinian entity under the joint Israeli-Jordanian tutelage and chasing the Palestinian resistance factions to eliminate them under the title of security arrangements. The second belt is the US administration’s forcing of all the Arab allied governments, especially Saudi Arabia, to establish direct economic, security and diplomatic relations with Israel and that is what president Bush is aspiring to achieve in the international conference that Riyadh agreed to attend and which will be held under the title of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The date of the US forces withdrawal from Iraq will be the beginning of next year, two months after the conference which Bush will chair to guarantee Israel’s security, the New York Times editorial concluded.

An Event and a Lebanese Trend

The current communications concerning the presidential merit refer to an increasing number of candidates from the loyalists’ ranks. This pushed the members of this coalition to call for a meeting to choose one candidate, but the circulated information talk about disputes resulted not only from the increasing number of the nominees who were promised by Walid Jumblatt and Saad Hariri that their nomination will be supported, but also from differences on ways of dealing with the topic of the constitutional quorum after a group of the loyalists have decided to adopt the theory of the two thirds quorum while other loyalists adopted a new theory which is holding the electoral session with the present representatives if it is difficult to secure the presence of the half plus one.
Informed political circles talked about proposing the nomination of the army’s leader Michel Suleiman as a conciliatory president but the complex that faced the European explorers, whose countries expressed relief for this choice, is the stand of the prime minister Fouad Siniora, who informed his Western visitors that if they want to change the constitution to elect Michel Suleiman or the head of the bank under the title of the conciliation, thy should search for another prime minister.
The opposition sources said Fouad Siniora’s stand is an extension to his endeavors to keep his ruling team in the position of procedural authority and keeping the presidential vacuum. This bet obstructs all the possibilities of compromises and especially what can be based on the agreement of the opposition and the loyalists on a specific presidential candidate.

Arab and International Press

The Israeli press published a report prepared by the division of the land force in the Israeli army which revealed that 75% of those who are obliged to be in the military service were mobilized in the army in 2006, and this is the lowest rate in the country.
The report added that the army fights to restore its status after its defeats in Lebanon and Gaza while many Israelis reject to join the army. Head of the Middle East Economies at Crown center for Middle Eastern Studies Nader Habibi said in an article published in Boston Globe paper that another round of talks between Iran and the US on the level of ambassadors and higher levels may take place in the coming months, pointing out that Saudi Arabia supports the Sunni resistance groups through ignoring the Saudi clerics’ call for their followers to go to Iraq to fight foreign forces. He added that what serves the US interests is inviting Saudi Arabia to join these talks.
Reuters said that the Dutch government informed the UN secretary General Ban Ki-moon about its agreement to host the international tribunal concerning the assassination of the Lebanese former premier Rafiq al-Hariri.
The Israeli paper Haaretz quoted Israeli press sources as saying that Israel wants recognition from the Arab league and political relations with Arab states instead of normalization which is rejected by all Arab states.
The Emirate paper Al-Khaleej said in a news report that the importance of the revolutionary guard in Iran is derived from its military, cultural and social defense of the Iranian regime.
The Russian press agency Novosti said that Syria has started to receive Russian anti-aircraft systems, called Banister or the shield. Press reports said that Syria may hand Iran ten of these systems, but the Russian expert Vitali Shlikov said this is impossible because Russia sets as a condition for signing such deals namely; not handing the weapon for a third party.
The press said that Israel started a campaign against deploying these missiles systems.
Leader of the Iranian revolutionary Guard Raheem Safawi warned France and the US from imposing sanctions on his forces, threatening to target the US bases in the Gulf and Oman Sea.

Lebanese Press

Lebanese press focused on the anticipated presidential merit in the light of the new contest between Syria and Saudi Arabia.
Representative Saad Hariri said the campaign on Saudi Arabia is connected to activating the file of the international tribunal concerning his father’s assassination.
An-Nahar said the Christians of the March 14 alliance will meet to agree on a presidential candidate.
As-Safir said the Syrian- Saudi confrontation casts its shadow on Lebanon and may obstruct all the efforts to solve the crisis.

Arab Satellite Stations News

Program: A Special Statement
Former Syrian information minister and head of the research and studies center Mahdi Dakhlalah said: relations between Saudi Arabia and Syria are good and developed and there should be many communications channels to know the reality of the press statements about the existence of disputes.

Lebanese Television Stations’ News

Al-Manar said many persons aspire to occupy the presidential chair and the most important thing in this respect is what patriarch Sfeir said to As-Safir paper.
The NTV said: suddenly the March 14 alliance started to defend Saudi Arabia against Syria, saying it is better if they had defended three Saudi initiatives to solve the Lebanese crisis.
The NBN said house speaker Nabih Berri called for enhancing Lebanon’s national unity.
The OTV said the Lebanese constitution contains clear items concerning the election of the republic’s president, but what happens in reality is appointing a president through contacts with foreign ambassadors.
The LBC said the internal arena is preoccupied with the dispute between Syria and Saudi Arabia and the patriarch Sfeir’s talk about modifying the constitution.
The Future said the UN secretary General received, two days ago, a message from the Dutch prime minister who agreed on hosting the international tribunal concerning the case of Rafiq Hariri’s murder.

Lebanese Television Stations’ Interviews

Program: The Hour’s Talk
Former Lebanese minister Wiam Wahhab said the opposition will not bring for presidency a clerk for Hariri family, pointing out that the opposition’s candidate is Michel Aoun.
He added that Nassib Lahoud is from March 14 group’s extremists and will not be a president for Lebanon.

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.