An Event and a Regional Trend

The European diplomatic reports which some of the area’s capitals receive, point out the US president Bush may put the possibility of bombing targets in Iran and the option of the Israeli war against Syria, Lebanon and Gaza Strip on the agenda of what is left of his presidential term. A high ranking Arab diplomatic source has attributed to a British report as saying that the probable period for aggression on Iran will be the beginning of next year and that the US satellites have selected 2.500 targets which were positioned on the maps of the US air force.
Some experts consider that the Israeli military movement suggests a serious readiness for such a plan and starts off from the time’s race with the change of the balance of powers in the area in the aftermath of the defeat of the US-Israeli strategy in the July war before the fighters of Hezbollah in Lebanon, and because of the presence of Bush and Cheney in the White House, in addition to the neoconservative team that supports the Israeli military adventures, may not occur again before ten or twenty years due to the course of conditions inside the US that resulted from the Iraq war.
Some Israeli leaders feel a deep anxiety concerning reports by US centers of studies, which hold Israel responsible for the lost adventures of the US despite the size of US supporters in the Democratic Party and among the Congress’s majority. The diplomatic sources said these calculations are based on reports, which say that the Iranian nuclear project may achieve its real goal in 2009 and this date will coincide with big transformations in the Syrian and Lebanese defensive capabilities and in the size of the danger that the Palestinian resistance represents in confronting the Israeli occupation.
A European expert in the area’ affairs said such kinds of reports and beating the drums of war in the area are a political cover to prepare the platforms for compromise and negotiations, which will join Washington, Damascus and Tehran. Therefore, despite putting the worst possibilities into consideration, the coming months may witness surprises that may drop the phantom of war, especially after the Congress’s committees and general organization start the round of accountability with Bush’s administration on the failure in Iraq and Afghanistan.

An Event and a Lebanese Trend

The contradictory information about the reality of the Saudi stand and Representative Saad Hariri’s stand towards Berri’s initiative raise doubts on the real chances to reach a compromise on the presidential merit. The current information about the Saudi side and the circles of the Future Bloc leader refer to two possibilities: either reaching an understanding on the two thirds quorum and opening the door of dialogue to agree on a president, or wasting time until reaching the last ten days of president Lahoud’s term in order to name a president from the loyalists in a parliamentary meeting that violates the constitutional quorum.
The anticipated meeting of March 14 coalition will be the touchstone for extracting preliminary indicators: either the result will be a clear decision by the Future Bloc to commit to the two thirds quorum or the initiative will fall through Hariri’s submission to his two allies, Jumblatt and Samir Geagea, as it happened with the Saudi initiative.
Informed political sources said that some circles in March 14 alliance try to push the discussion on Baabda and Baalbek discourse far from the principle of the quorum through discussing the characteristics of the president in order to preserve the half plus one card that Jumblatt stressed clinging to in order to keep the outlet of the ten last days of the current president’s term.
On the Saudi level, the rejection to pressurize the kingdom’s Lebanese allies suggests a reserved stand towards the initiative, while the tour of the French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner will form an important station in the communications related to the Lebanese conditions.
The opposition leaders believe that the loyalists’ connection to the US stand, which insists on keeping the option of detonation without closing the door of the communications and endeavors that the French lead, is responsible for the obstacles.

Arab and International Press

President Bashar Al-Assad has denied, in an interview with the US CBS television network, Bush’s administration’s claims that Syria allows terrorists to use his country as a bridge to enter Iraq, pointing out that he supports the US if its success in Iraq means achieving stability in this country.
Al-Bayan said in its editorial that with the approach of the international peace conference on the Middle East Israel sens an aggressive message to Syria through violating its airspace.
The Washington Post said in its editorial if President Bush is sympathetic to the Egyptian democratic activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim, he should do what proves this.
Agence France Presse said that in a new step that increases tension between the US and Iran, a US court issued a sentence that holds Tehran responsible for detonating the barracks of the US Marines in Beirut in 1983, demanding 2.65 billion dollars as a compensation for the families of 241 US soldiers, who were killed in the explosion.
Christian Science Monitor said in an article that the US boasts of spreading democracy abroad, but it rejects it if the results do not suit the US interests.
Seymour Hersch said in an interview with Rebelion that the French government has invited Secretary General of Hezbollah to a conference on the Lebanese crisis as a whole, pointing out that Hassan Nasrallah is the most influential character in the Middle East and his popularity is in its climax.

Lebanese Press

An-Nahar said patriarch Sfeir and the mufti Qabbani have warned from boycotting the presidential elections.
As-Safir said patriarch Sfeir stressed that the Vatican has its own word in Lebanon.
Al-Akhbar said Lebanon will be the center of an international meeting in New York.
Al-Hayat said that the Italian prime minister called President Bashar Al-Assad and told him that the European Union opposes excluding Syria from the international conference on peace in the Middle East.

Arab Satellite Stations’ Interviews

Program: Special Covering
Leader of Al-Qaeda organization Ossama Bin Laden said that the US prestige was broken after the September 11 attacks and despite the power of the US, 19 youths have deflected the track of its compass.

Lebanese Television Stations’ News

Al-Manar said the positive meeting between House Speaker Berri and General Michel Aoun stressed the unity of the opposition forces while division appeared among the loyalists.
The NTV said Mi’rab started to take DNA samples for presidential candidates.
The NBN said the domestic arena in Lebanon is stagnant.
The OTV said Jumblatt’s stand is dubious while the silence of the head of the Future Bloc Saad Hariri is continuous.
The LBC said the mystery of the Israeli warplanes’ violation of the Syrian airspace is not solved yet.
The Future said the French movement has already started and Kouchner will visit Beirut at the conclusion of his Arab tour.

Television Stations’ Interviews in Lebanon

Program: The Hours’ Talk
Head of the Lebanese Democratic party Talal Arsalan said if the president is chosen from March 14 alliance, he will not arrive to Baabda, pointing out that Saad Hariri is confused and is waiting for the Saudi and US stands.

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.