Wednesday, September 27, 2006

MAPS - Lebanon Toll after a month of war - NYTimes / Sami Doun

The Toll After a Month of War

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Aug. 12 - In the first 30 days of the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, more than 400 cities, towns and villages have been attacked, more than 50 in northern Israel and 350 across all of Lebanon.

Despite mounting an overwhelming number of strikes on infrastructure and people, Israeli forces have been unable to slow the daily barrage of rockets fired by Hezbollah.

The Israeli death toll is now more than 100. The number of Lebanese deaths, which officials put at more than 1,000, has been more difficult for officials to pin down because of inaccurate initial reporting, as well as because bodies are still being recovered. ARCHIE TSE NYTIMES

A small percentage of strikes could not be located on the map.

New York Times Interactive Page [ LINK ]
Attacks in Lebanon from [ LINK ]
Attacks in Israel are from [ LINK ]

Iranian Clerics’ Angling Stirs Worry on Absolute Rule

Iranian Clerics’ Angling Stirs Worry on Absolute Rule

TEHRAN, Sept. 24 — Political jockeying by fundamentalist Iranian clerics for the coming election of the Assembly of Experts, the group charged with overseeing the country’s supreme leader, is raising concerns that the government will move further toward authoritarianism.

As in the last elections for the assembly eight years ago, the watchdog Guardian Council has barred reformist clerics. And this year, some clerics and some newspapers have been suggesting that a senior fundamentalist cleric who is President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s mentor, Muhammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, may be trying to expand his already growing power by packing the assembly with loyalists trained at his education center in Qum.

Mr. Mesbah Yazdi, 72, is close to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and he directly influences the government through loyalists appointed to high posts after Mr. Ahmadinejad took power last year. His followers also have great sway among Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and the Basij volunteer paramilitary force.

The Iranian Constitution adopted after the 1979 revolution led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini provided for a system of checks and balances meant to ensure that the government would not move toward authoritarianism. So even as it enshrined a supreme leader, who has the final word on all matters, it created an Assembly of Experts, or religious jurisprudence, to oversee his activities.

But after the death of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989, a system of vetting election candidates was put in place to eliminate any threat to the rule of the supreme leader.

At least on paper, the official powers of the Assembly of Experts include the ability to replace the supreme leader if he acts against Islam or the Constitution.

However, Mr. Mesbah Yazdi and Ayatollah Khamenei are allies — the ayatollah finances Mr. Mesbah Yazdi’s school in Qum — and the likeliest outcome of a power play by Mr. Mesbah Yazdi would be to strengthen the supreme leader, even at the expense of the Assembly of Experts.

Mohsen Kadivar, a senior reformist cleric who was barred from running in the last election, said, “The fight in the election will be between the traditional clerics and the fundamentalists.” He identified the traditionalists as those who considered the Assembly of Experts a higher authority than the supreme leader.

Mr. Mesbah Yazdi is a particularly aggressive defender of the supreme leader’s absolute power, and he was a strong critic of the previous president, Mohammad Khatami, who tried to introduce modest social and political changes. He has long held that democracy and elections are not compatible with Islam.

“Democracy means if the people want something that is against God’s will, then they should forget about God and religion,” he said in July 1998. “Be careful not to be deceived. Accepting Islam is not compatible with democracy.”

And in November 2002, the daily Aftab-e-Yazd quoted him as saying: “Who are the majority of people who vote: a bunch of hooligans who drink vodka and are paid to vote. Whatever they say cannot become the law of the country and Islam.”

He has criticized democracy more cautiously since the election of Mr. Ahmadinejad, but his disdain for the election process to fill the Assembly of Experts was evident in a speech in Mashhad this month, in which the news agency ISNA quoted him as saying it was like the vote of the “ignorant for the learned.”

Mr. Mesbah Yazdi was a founder of the modern Haghani School, a religious school in Qum where most Iranian officials were trained.

After Ayatollah Khomeini died, Mr. Mesbah Yazdi founded the Imam Khomeini Education and Research Institute. Since then, he has grown close to Ayatollah Khamenei.

Through the school, he has educated more than 700 students who are extremely loyal to him, according to people who work in Qum, but, out of fear of retribution, would speak only on the condition of anonymity. Many of his followers are believed to be running for the Assembly of Experts.

These protégés are clerics but have studied the humanities, and many have received degrees from Western universities like McGill in Montreal and Manchester in London.

The elections for the Assembly of Experts, the fourth since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, is scheduled for Dec. 15. Many of Mr. Mesbah Yazdi’s young and seemingly modern clerics are believed to be running, but as independent candidates to avoid announcing their affiliation to Mr. Mesbah Yazdi. However, it is difficult to be sure exactly how many, or which, candidates are allied with him because of the secrecy that often blankets elective matters here.

Some analysts say the competition this year is likely to be between Mr. Mesbah Yazdi and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president who packed the assembly elected in 1990 and 1998 with traditional clerics with whom he had influence.

But Mr. Rafsanjani, who represents more moderate and pragmatist views, has not announced his candidacy, and some political analysts say he may not run if the prospect of winning the prestigious position of the leader of the assembly seems dim. He lost to Mr. Ahmadinejad in last year’s presidential elections and suffered a defeat in parliamentary elections six years ago. His son, Mehdi Hashemi, said Mr. Rafsanjani had “set a condition and his participation depends on that.” But he declined to specify the condition.

Turnout was a low 37 percent in the second assembly election, in 1990, in part because voters felt little connection to it.

“People have not received any reports about the activities of the Assembly of Experts, and no one can even imagine the supreme leader can be replaced,” said Mohammad Atrianfar, a close aide to Mr. Rafsanjani and the publisher of the daily newspaper Shargh, which was shut down this month. “People have no positive or negative reaction toward the assembly.”

In 1998, 46 percent voted after the landslide presidential victory in 1997 of Mr. Khatami, who urged people to vote in the assembly elections.

This year, to bolster turnout, the election authorities decided to hold the assembly vote at the same time as local elections. But requiring the candidates to be approved by the Guardian Council, some analysts say, undermines the point of the vote.

“If the members are independent and genuinely carry out their duty, the Islamic Republic can become democratic,” said Emadedin Baghi, a reformist journalist who studied religion for many years. “But vetting its candidates has put a cancerous tumor in the assembly which does not allow it to function properly.”

New Law on Iranian Citizenship

TEHRAN, Sept. 24 (Reuters) — Iran’s Parliament passed a law on Sunday allowing children of an Iranian mother and a foreign father, whose marriage has been officially registered, to acquire Iranian citizenship, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Iran, like many other countries in the Middle East, has traditionally based citizenship on paternity alone and has been reluctant to grant it to people seen as outsiders.

“The children born in Iran from a foreigner father and an Iranian mother can apply for citizenship after they reach 18,” the new law says, according to IRNA. Since Iran does not recognize dual citizenship, applicants would have to be willing to forgo citizenship elsewhere.

the web site of ayatullah Mesbah Yazdi [

Russian Nuclear Fuel by March

Russian Nuclear Fuel by March

MOSCOW, Sept. 26--Russia will ship fuel to an atomic power plant it is building in Iran by March under an agreement signed Tuesday--a deal that should allay Iranian suspicions that Moscow is dragging its feet.

With the European Union’s foreign policy chief slated to meet Iran’s top nuclear negotiator soon for talks over a six-nation incentive package, the agreement signed by senior Russian and Iranian nuclear officials in Moscow represents a small victory for Iran, which insists its nuclear efforts are peaceful and aimed solely at generating electricity, AP reported.

Russian news agencies reported that Sergei Shmatko, head of the state-run company Atomstroiexport, and Mahmoud Hanatian, vice president of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, signed an additional protocol setting out a timeframe for starting up the US$800 million Bushehr nuclear plant--Iran’s first.

“The document provides for supplying Russian fuel for the atomic energy plant in March, physical startup in September 2007 and electric generation by November 2007,“ Hanatian was quoted as saying by ITAR-Tass.

Shmatko said about 80 tons of fuel would be supplied, according to Interfax and ITAR-Tass.

In an effort to ease western concerns over Bushehr, Russia has agreed with Iran that Tehran will ship spent fuel back to Russia. However, Iran has resisted Russia’s proposal to conduct all of Iran’s uranium enrichment on Russian soil.

Later, at a meeting with Russian Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov, Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aqazadeh said Tehran was satisfied with the agreement.
“We reached a good agreement...on completing construction of the atomic energy plant at Bushehr, including agreement on a concrete date for directing atomic fuel to Iran,“ said Aqazadeh, who is head of Iran’s nuclear organization.

Ivanov insisted again on a diplomatic solution to international concerns over Tehran’s nuclear program and said Moscow would comply through its terms for the deal on the Bushehr plant.

“We will strictly fulfill our obligations,“ he said.

Javier Solana, the EU’s foreign policy chief, and Ali Larijani, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, are scheduled to hold another round of talks soon over a package of incentives put forward by six key nations, though Tehran has refused to suspend its enrichment program as a precondition.


Atomstroiexport, Iran's AEO discuss Bushehr NPP construction
RIA Novosti

In-Depth Coverage 23/08/2006 14:25

MOSCOW, August 23 (RIA Novosti) - Atomstroiexport and Iran's Atomic Energy Organization discussed Tuesday the implementation of the Bushehr nuclear power plant construction schedule, the Russian nuclear power equipment and service export monopoly said Wednesday.

Russia is helping to build an $800 million plant in Bushehr, 400 kilometers (250 miles) southwest of Tehran, which was previously scheduled to become operational by the end of 2006.

Atomstroiexport's news release said the talks also touched on equipment deliveries, start-up operations and the training of personnel, as well as the production of NPP equipment directly in Iranian enterprises.

Atomstroiexport is building the Bushehr NPP's first power unit under a $1 billion contract signed by Russia and Iran in 1995. In line with the renewed schedule, the plant's commissioning is scheduled for the second half of 2007.

Atomstroiexport is a leading Russian organization implementing intergovernmental agreements on the construction of nuclear facilities abroad. The company is currently building five power plants in China, India and Iran.

Announcing The Fajr-27 Cannon, Iran launches production of dual-purpose cannon

Iran launches production of dual-purpose cannon
The Associated Press

Published: September 27, 2006

TEHRAN, Iran Iran launched production of its most advanced cannon on Wednesday, state television reported.

"The cannon Fajr-27 has the capability of automatically firing 85 76-milimeter bullets per minute," Gen. Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, Iran's defense minister, told the broadcast.

He said the cannon has an aerial range of 7,010 meters (23,000 feet) and a 17-kilometer (10.5-mile) surface range.

Mohammad-Najjar said the gun could swiftly react against any surface or air strikes. Footage showed the minister inspecting the large cannon.

During large-scale military maneuvers in August, Iran test-fired short range surface-to-surface and sub-to-surface missiles, a new air defense system, fighter planes, laser bombs and a 2,000-pound guided bomb.

After decades of relying on foreign weapons purchases, Iran now says it is increasingly self-sufficient in its military equipment, claiming it annually exports more than US$100 million (€81 million) worth of military equipment to more than 50 countries.

Since 1992, Iran has produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers and missiles. In 2005, the government said that it had begun producing torpedoes.

TEHRAN, Iran Iran launched production of its most advanced cannon on Wednesday, state television reported.

"The cannon Fajr-27 has the capability of automatically firing 85 76-milimeter bullets per minute," Gen. Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, Iran's defense minister, told the broadcast.

He said the cannon has an aerial range of 7,010 meters (23,000 feet) and a 17-kilometer (10.5-mile) surface range.

Mohammad-Najjar said the gun could swiftly react against any surface or air strikes. Footage showed the minister inspecting the large cannon.

During large-scale military maneuvers in August, Iran test-fired short range surface-to-surface and sub-to-surface missiles, a new air defense system, fighter planes, laser bombs and a 2,000-pound guided bomb.

After decades of relying on foreign weapons purchases, Iran now says it is increasingly self-sufficient in its military equipment, claiming it annually exports more than US$100 million (€81 million) worth of military equipment to more than 50 countries.

Since 1992, Iran has produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers and missiles. In 2005, the government said that it had begun producing torpedoes.


Ayatollah Khamenei: Military might a great objective for Iranian nation

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, stressed that military power is a big objective for Iran. On the eve of the Sacred Defense Week the leader took part in the 4th graduation ceremonies of cadets in Noshahr, north of Iran, where he pointed to Iran’s sublime goals to progress in the scientific, spiritual, economic, and cultural fields. He said experience has shown that a peace-seeking nation that takes steps in line with self-edification, dignity and human ideals should have a defensive might in the face of international invaders and bullying powers. The commander in chief of the armed forces said the brave Iranian nation especially its youth has in the past 27 years not allowed the enemy to carry out any threats against it, but Iran’s armed forces must always be ready for any multilateral confrontation with any threat. He termed Iran’s future promising and pointing to the nation’s awareness and energy and the officials’ high faith and motivation to serve the people emphasized that today Iran’s enemies and friends admit to the country’s national dignity. In this ceremony the missile launching vessel, Joshan, that has been designed and made by Iranian experts with the latest technology, officially joined the Islamic Republic of Iran’s naval forces. The Fajr 27 Cannon, also designed and made by Iranian experts, with remote control and based on the latest international standards was also used for the first time. Iran is the 3rd country that has attained this technology.

The Tehran-Baghdad-Kabul Alliance

September 27, 2006: Russia is selling Iran five Tu-204 airliners. The 210 passenger, two engine, aircraft is one of the new generation of post-Cold War transports developed in Russia. It's been difficult to get export orders because of the competition from Boeing and Airbus. But this deal is worth nearly a billion dollars to Russia, and very important for keeping Russian civil aviation companies in business.

September 25, 2006: Russia is negotiating to sell Iran more anti-aircraft missile system, including long range (300 kilometers) S-300 ones. Russia has already sold Iran short range TOR-M1 systems. All of these systems are intended to guard Iran's nuclear weapons facilities.

September 24, 2006: There's a Tehran-Baghdad-Kabul Triangle developing. Recent exchanges of visits by the respective presidents and prime ministers of Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan, which have led to agreements on economic, security, and other ties, have been viewed with some alarm by the U.S. These agreements are viewed as part of an expansionist foreign policy on Iran's part, and this is inherently anti-American.

But in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the ties are seen differently. Iraq's Shia majority sees Iran as an ally against the Sunni Arab nationalist terrorists, whether in its al Qaeda-sponsored religious form or Baathist secular form, and, not incidentally, as a way of helping defuse more radical elements in the Shia community. The country's most revered Shia religious leader, the moderately inclined Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Husaini al-Sistani, is actually an ethnic Iranian. Afghanistan also sees Iran as a potential ally, given its hostility to al Qaeda and the Taliban. Despite being openly anti-American, the Iranian regime quietly supported US and Coalition military operations in Afghanistan against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in 2001-2002.

So the short-term results of having improved ties with Iran may be an improvement in the internal security situation of both Iraq and Afghanistan. Naturally there are some potential political dangers, if Iranian influence becomes too great. But there are obstacles to that happening; a majority of Iraqis may be Shia, but they are secularized, and as Arabs are wary of Iranian imperial ambitions, while most Afghans are Sunni, and not necessarily inclined to submit to Iranian influence.

Monday, September 25, 2006

SPIEGEL Interview with Syrian President Bashar Assad "America Must Listen"

SPIEGEL ONLINE - September 24, 2006, 12:01 PM

Syrian President Bashar Assad: "Those who ask this US government about its vision don't receive answers anymore."


SPIEGEL Interview with Syrian President Bashar Assad
"America Must Listen"

The Middle East, says Syrian President Bashar Assad, 40, seems to be teetering on the brink of chaos. He spoke with SPIEGEL about his country's difficult relationship with the United States, the pressure to go to war, and the consequences of the wars in Lebanon and Iraq.

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, the foiled attack on the US embassy in Damascus killed six people and has once again focused the world's attention on Syria's complicated relationship with the United States. What do you know about the background of the attack?

Assad: It was a terrorist attack -- which, on the face of it, says very little. Terrorism today is a state of mind that on the one hand has to do with ignorance and, on the other hand, can be attributed to a feeling of desperation over the political situation, which at some point takes the form of revenge. This appears to have been the background of this attack: a reaction to America's policies in Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan.

SPIEGEL: One of the attackers was still alive for a short time after the attack. Did your intelligence services manage to interrogate him?

Assad: No, he was in a coma before he died. Our conclusions are based on data that was in the attackers' computers and on information from their private sphere. They were essentially from the same intellectual mould: men who call Osama bin Laden the "Lion of Islam." Al-Qaida people -- not in a hierarchical sense, but in terms of their worldview. Isolated young men from the Damascus suburbs -- which is what makes the whole thing so dangerous. We can fight a terrorist group, but these isolated cells suggest that such ideas are widespread.

SPIEGEL: United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice thanked Syria for its role in preventing the attack. In return, however, you sharply criticized America's Middle East policies. Why didn't you take advantage of this rare gesture of goodwill?

Assad: Ms. Rice didn't thank us for our policies, only for our response to the attack. But this attack happened precisely because of American policies in our region.

SPIEGEL: Why should the Americans be at fault?

Assad: Because they contribute to hopelessness in our country, and to silencing the dialogue between cultures. And then there is the condescending language -- the expression "islamofascism," which President Bush used, is a prime example. The pope's recent comments are also part of it. Such statements complicate the situation and create this need for revenge.

SPIEGEL: A need for revenge could be understandable in Iraq or Palestine -- but in Syria?

Assad: There are close ties among our peoples, whether in Iraq, Syria or Palestine. We have the same feelings, the same habits and the same pride. Look at Damascus. There are 500,000 refugees from the occupied Golan Heights, about 500,000 from Palestine and about 100,000 from Iraq living here. We tend to the needs of these people, but all we get from the West is rejection.

SPIEGEL: What has to happen for Syria and the United States to reconcile?

Assad: America must listen. It must listen to the interests of others. But the US government has no interest in similarities, no matter how obvious. Think of the war against terrorism. In my view, Washington's approach can be compared to a doctor constantly banging away at a tumor instead of removing it surgically. Terrorism is growing instead of declining. We both suffer from it, but the United States doesn't want to cooperate with us.

SPIEGEL: The situation was different for a brief time after Sept. 11, 2001.

Assad: Yes, after the attacks I wrote a letter to President Bush and offered greater cooperation on security matters. It worked for quite a while and together, as the then CIA Director George Tenet confirmed to the US Congress, we saved many American lives. Then the Iraq war began to take shape and America started making many mistakes. And our cooperation ended.

SPIEGEL: After the most recent attack, too, there has been contact between US diplomats and Syrian officials.

Assad: Yes, but whether these meetings amount to anything will depend on the will of the Americans. What kinds of issues should we be discussing? Do we want to sit there drinking coffee and talk about the weather? Or do we want to achieve something in Iraq, in Lebanon and in the Middle East peace process? Those who ask this US government about its vision don't receive answers anymore.

SPIEGEL: There was a vision: democracy in Iraq -- a model for the region.

Assad: And where is this democracy today? Simply naming objectives isn't sufficient for a vision. If I say that I'm going to build a large palace, but I don't have any money to do so, then that is not a vision -- it's an illusion.

SPIEGEL: You are very pessimistic when it comes to Iraq. What can the countries of the Middle East do for Iraq?

Assad: I was already very pessimistic before the war. I told the Americans: There is no doubt that you will win this war, but then you will sink into a quagmire. What has now happened is worse than I expected. The two main problems are, first, the constitution and the issue of federalism, which is at the center of the great dispute between Sunnis and Shiites and, second, Kirkuk and the civil war that is developing between Kurds and Arabs. These problems must be addressed. It doesn't help for the Americans to point to the elections they brought about or to the higher standard of living. Those are cosmetic issues.

SPIEGEL: What would be the consequences of partition into a Kurdish north, a Shiite south and a Sunni region in central Iraq?

Assad: It would be harmful, not just for Iraq, but for the entire region, from Syria across the Gulf and into Central Asia. Imagine snapping a necklace and all the pearls fall to the ground. Almost all countries have natural dividing lines, and when ethnic and religious partition occurs in one country, it'll soon happen elsewhere. It would be like the end of the Soviet Union -- only far worse. Major wars, minor wars, no one will be capable of keeping the consequences under control.

SPIEGEL: So you would be in favor of a strong man who could hold Iraq together?

Assad: Not necessarily one man, but certainly a strong central authority. It has to be left to the Iraqis to determine exactly what this would look like. A secular authority is certainly best-equipped for maintaining stability in this ethnic and religious mosaic -- but it should also be of a strong national character. Those who arrived on America's tanks are not credible in Iraq.

SPIEGEL: After the cease-fire between Israel and the Hezbollah militia, you gave a much-noted speech on the situation in the Middle East. In your speech, you mentioned a "critical stage of the history of Syria and the region." Wherein lies the opportunity?

Assad: First of all, it's clear to everyone that the status quo of war and conflict and instability is no longer acceptable. Now America enters the picture, because only America, because of its weight, can be the main broker for peace in the Middle East. But the Bush administration is under pressure. It's being accused of not having managed to bring about peace in six years. This pressure is good. Europe's foreign policy role is also growing. We specifically do not want a special role for the Europeans. We expect them to work together with America to achieve peace, and to do so on the basis of a vision America must develop.

SPIEGEL: What is Syria's role?

Assad: There can be no peace in the Middle East without Syria. The Lebanon and the Palestinian conflicts are inextricably linked with Syria. I have already mentioned the 500,000 Palestinian refugees. Were we to resolve our territorial dispute with Israel over the Golan Heights alone, we wouldn't achieve stability. We would only be taking away the Palestinians' hope and would be turning them from refugees into resistance fighters. This is why Syria is so determined to achieve a comprehensive peaceful solution.

SPIEGEL: What exactly will happen to the Palestinian refugees? To where should they return?
Assad: They have the right of return, at least to Palestine...

SPIEGEL: ... to Palestine or Israel?

Assad: You would have to talk to the Palestinians about that. What we are talking about now is their return to the Palestinian state -- which is something George W. Bush also speaks about. But it raises questions. What sort of state is this at all? A sovereign state or just a few specks of land covering a few square kilometers? Incidentally, I do not believe that the majority of the refugees want to return to Israel. Most of them want to go back to a Palestine within the borders of 1967. The problem is that at the moment Israel is even rejecting this return. This is unacceptable to us.

SPIEGEL: In your speech, your tone was quite a bit different. In it, you called Israel an "enemy" and praised the "glorious battles" of Hezbollah. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier cancelled his trip to Damascus as a result.

Assad: Whenever you Germans come to Syria, you talk about freedom of opinion. Why don't you allow me to have my opinion? But seriously: politicians should listen carefully. In my speech, I used the word "peace" 57 times. And if this speech was bellicose, how should one interpret the fact that Germany sends a submarine to the Israelis every other year?

SPIEGEL: Were you disappointed when Steinmeier cancelled his trip?

Assad: Of course, but the German foreign minister remains in contact with our foreign minister and has said that he wants to make up the trip. There's another thing: The majority of my people think the way I spoke. We all have to have consideration for public opinion in our countries: the Europeans for theirs, and I for public opinion in Syria.

SPIEGEL: Public opinion in Germany would not have accepted it had the foreign minister not reacted to your having called Israel an enemy.

Assad: But Israel occupies a part of my country - of course Israel is an enemy. If you want to play a role in our region, then you have to be able to see things from our point of view. That's also true for the classification of Hezbollah as a "terrorist organization." That cannot remain so. In 2004, Germany played an important role during the prisoner exchange between Israel and Hezbollah. That's exactly the point: to work within the realities that exist in this part of the world.

SPIEGEL: Germany's history also plays a role. Do you accept that Germany has a special responsibility for Israel?

Assad: Do you mean that Israel is allowed to kill Palestinians and Arabs because Jews at that time were killed in Germany?

SPIEGEL: No, of course not. We're talking about Israel's right to exist.

Assad: But why don't you also protect our right to exist? For us, the balance is important, and there, Europe is much closer to us than America. Europe knows our world.

SPIEGEL: Not long from now, German ships will begin patrolling off the Lebanese coast. What do you think of the German military mission in the Middle East?

Assad: That depends on the mission. Germany is supposed to prevent weapons from reaching Hezbollah. History teaches us that nobody can prevent a resistance group from arming when it has the support of the people.

SPIEGEL: Mission Impossible for the German navy?

Assad: As long as the public support for Hezbollah remains as high as it is today, yes, it is a Mission Impossible. The majority here sees the resistance against Israel as legitimate. I would advise the Europeans: Don't waste your time, address the roots of the problem.

SPIEGEL: How does Syria support Hezbollah? With weapons?

Assad: As a resistance organization, Hezbollah has a right to arm itself - and they have more than enough weapons. In Syria, we wouldn't make ourselves the target of an Israeli attack by delivering arms. We support Hezbollah by helping with the reconstruction of Lebanon or by opening up our universities to its students.

SPIEGEL: At the moment, Syria enjoys excellent relations with Iran. Do you agree with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's demand that Israel be "wiped off the map?"

Assad: The statement is so famous because nobody believes any more in Israel's peaceful intentions. An entire generation is growing up today with the conviction that only strength and war will lead to peace.

SPIEGEL: Do you believe that too?

Assad: I don't believe in war, I believe in the principle of deterrence.

SPIEGEL: That's not, though, what Ahmadinejad means.

Assad: I don't say that Israel should be wiped off the map. We want to make peace - peace with Israel.

SPIEGEL: So you have a different point of view than Ahmadinejad?

Assad: To be honest, I've never discussed this point with him personally. But even my personal opinion, my hope for peace, could change one day. And when the hope disappears, then maybe war really is the only solution.

SPIEGEL: Israel is strong - but weakened by the war in Lebanon. America is strong - but weakened by Iraq. Syria and Hezbollah have been strengthened by the recent conflict. According to your logic, isn't now the moment for peace?

Assad: Many people asked me during the war: "Why are you always talking about peace? Why don't we go to war? Let's go the way of the resistance - Hezbollah is finding success with it." That's the mood here. One should know that in the West.

SPIEGEL: Under your father, Syria and Israel came very close to a peace treaty. Will you one day sit down at the same table with Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert?

Assad: Diplomats would likely have to sit down together for a long time - like 10 years ago when we negotiated with Israel under the mediation of President Bill Clinton. But if peace comes, then everything will change. Peace has a lot of strength. Whether I will ever sit down with Olmert, whether I ever shake his hand, I'll decide that when the time comes.

SPIEGEL: During our last discussion a year ago, you denied that Syrians had anything to do with the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Assad: And I'm even more convinced of that today than I was then. It was unfortunately a German, UN investigator Detlev Mehlis, who accused us of being behind the attack. But he never presented concrete evidence.

SPIEGEL: Mehlis's successor Serge Brammertz will soon present his interim report.

Assad: We are not concerned. What can one accuse us of? The only thing we know is that it was a suicide attack, similar to the attack on the US Embassy in Damascus. We don't know if there was someone big behind this crime.

SPIEGEL: Six years ago, you took office as a reformer. Are you disappointed that you haven't really made any progress?

Assad: My primary goal is to create prosperity. But today - mostly because of the war in Iraq - security is our highest priority and we have fallen behind schedule when it comes to modernization. This year, we have 5 percent growth - and that's too little. Soon, we are going to open the first private television channel and a private newsmagazine. But we have to remain careful. The way our neighborhood looks, we are always teetering on the brink of chaos. And we don't want this chaos.

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, thank you very much for this interview.

Interview conducted by Martin Doerry, Gerhard Spörl and Bernhard Zand

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

What Would War Look Like?

Military ships and helicopters of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards during maneuvers April 6, 2006 off Larak Island in the Gulf Sea.
What Would War Look Like?

A flurry of military maneuvers in the Middle East increases speculation that conflict with Iran is no longer quite so unthinkable. Here's how the U.S. would fight such a war--and the huge price it would have to pay to win it

The first message was routine enough: a "Prepare to Deploy" order sent through naval communications channels to a submarine, an Aegis-class cruiser, two minesweepers and two mine hunters. The orders didn't actually command the ships out of port; they just said to be ready to move by Oct. 1. But inside the Navy those messages generated more buzz than usual last week when a second request, from the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), asked for fresh eyes on long-standing U.S. plans to blockade two Iranian oil ports on the Persian Gulf. The CNO had asked for a rundown on how a blockade of those strategic targets might work. When he didn't like the analysis he received, he ordered his troops to work the lash up once again.

What's going on? The two orders offered tantalizing clues. There are only a few places in the world where minesweepers top the list of U.S. naval requirements. And every sailor, petroleum engineer and hedge-fund manager knows the name of the most important: the Strait of Hormuz, the 20-mile-wide bottleneck in the Persian Gulf through which roughly 40% of the world's oil needs to pass each day. Coupled with the CNO's request for a blockade review, a deployment of minesweepers to the west coast of Iran would seem to suggest that a much discussed--but until now largely theoretical--prospect has become real: that the U.S. may be preparing for war with Iran.

No one knows whether--let alone when--a military confrontation with Tehran will come to pass. The fact that admirals are reviewing plans for blockades is hardly proof of their intentions. The U.S. military routinely makes plans for scores of scenarios, the vast majority of which will never be put into practice. "Planners always plan," says a Pentagon official. Asked about the orders, a second official said only that the Navy is stepping up its "listening and learning" in the Persian Gulf but nothing more--a prudent step, he added, after Iran tested surface-to-ship missiles there in August during a two-week military exercise. And yet from the State Department to the White House to the highest reaches of the military command, there is a growing sense that a showdown with Iran--over its suspected quest for nuclear weapons, its threats against Israel and its bid for dominance of the world's richest oil region--may be impossible to avoid. The chief of the U.S. Central Command (Centcom), General John Abizaid, has called a commanders conference for later this month in the Persian Gulf--sessions he holds at least quarterly--and Iran is on the agenda.

On its face, of course, the notion of a war with Iran seems absurd. By any rational measure, the last thing the U.S. can afford is another war. Two unfinished wars--one on Iran's eastern border, the other on its western flank--are daily depleting America's treasury and overworked armed forces. Most of Washington's allies in those adventures have made it clear they will not join another gamble overseas. What's more, the Bush team, led by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, has done more diplomatic spadework on Iran than on any other project in its 51/2 years in office. For more than 18 months, Rice has kept the Administration's hard-line faction at bay while leading a coalition that includes four other members of the U.N. Security Council and is trying to force Tehran to halt its suspicious nuclear ambitions. Even Iran's former President, Mohammed Khatami, was in Washington this month calling for a "dialogue" between the two nations.

But superpowers don't always get to choose their enemies or the timing of their confrontations. The fact that all sides would risk losing so much in armed conflict doesn't mean they won't stumble into one anyway. And for all the good arguments against any war now, much less this one, there are just as many indications that a genuine, eyeball-to-eyeball crisis between the U.S. and Iran may be looming, and sooner than many realize. "At the moment," says Ali Ansari, a top Iran authority at London's Chatham House, a foreign-policy think tank, "we are headed for conflict."

So what would it look like? Interviews with dozens of experts and government officials in Washington, Tehran and elsewhere in the Middle East paint a sobering picture: military action against Iran's nuclear facilities would have a decent chance of succeeding, but at a staggering cost. And therein lies the excruciating calculus facing the U.S. and its allies: Is the cost of confronting Iran greater than the dangers of living with a nuclear Iran? And can anything short of war persuade Tehran's fundamentalist regime to give up its dangerous game?


The crisis with Iran has been years in the making. Over the past decade, Iran has acquired many of the pieces, parts and plants needed to make a nuclear device. Although Iranian officials insist that Iran's ambitions are limited to nuclear energy, the regime has asserted its right to develop nuclear power and enrich uranium that could be used in bombs as an end in itself--a symbol of sovereign pride, not to mention a useful prop for politicking. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has crisscrossed the country in recent months making Iran's right to a nuclear program a national cause and trying to solidify his base of hard-line support in the Revolutionary Guards. The nuclear program is popular with average Iranians and the élites as well. "Iranian leaders have this sense of past glory, this belief that Iran should play a lofty role in the world," says Nasser Hadian, professor of political science at Tehran University.

But the nuclear program isn't Washington's only worry about Iran. While stoking nationalism at home, Tehran has dramatically consolidated its reach in the region. Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran has sponsored terrorist groups in a handful of countries, but its backing of Hizballah, the militant group that took Lebanon to war with Israel this summer, seems to be changing the Middle East balance of power. There is circumstantial evidence that Iran ordered Hizballah to provoke this summer's war, in part to demonstrate that Tehran can stir up big trouble if pushed to the brink. The precise extent of coordination between Hizballah and Tehran is unknown. But no longer in dispute after the standoff in July is Iran's ability to project power right up to the borders of Israel. It is no coincidence that the talk in Washington about what to do with Iran became more focused after Hizballah fought the Israeli army to a virtual standstill this summer.

And yet the West has been unable to compel Iran to comply with its demands. Despite all the work Rice has put into her coalition, diplomatic efforts are moving too slowly, some believe, to stop the Iranians before they acquire the makings of a nuclear device. And Iran has played its hand shrewdly so far. Tehran took weeks to reply to a formal proposal from the U.N. Security Council calling on a halt to uranium enrichment. When it did, its official response was a mosaic of half-steps, conditions and boilerplate that suggested Tehran has little intention of backing down. "The Iranians," says a Western diplomat in Washington, "are very able negotiators."

That doesn't make war inevitable. But at some point the U.S. and its allies may have to confront the ultimate choice. The Bush Administration has said it won't tolerate Iran having a nuclear weapon. Once it does, the regime will have the capacity to carry out Ahmadinejad's threats to eliminate Israel. And in practical terms, the U.S. would have to consider military action long before Iran had an actual bomb. In military circles, there is a debate about where--and when--to draw that line. U.S. intelligence chief John Negroponte told TIME in April that Iran is five years away from having a nuclear weapon. But some nonproliferation experts worry about a different moment: when Iran is able to enrich enough uranium to fuel a bomb--a point that comes well before engineers actually assemble a nuclear device. Many believe that is when a country becomes a nuclear power. That red line, experts say, could be just a year away.


The answer is yes and no.

No one is talking about a ground invasion of Iran. Too many U.S. troops are tied down elsewhere to make it possible, and besides, it isn't necessary. If the U.S. goal is simply to stunt Iran's nuclear program, it can be done better and more safely by air. An attack limited to Iran's nuclear facilities would nonetheless require a massive campaign. Experts say that Iran has between 18 and 30 nuclear-related facilities. The sites are dispersed around the country--some in the open, some cloaked in the guise of conventional factories, some buried deep underground.

A Pentagon official says that among the known sites there are 1,500 different "aim points," which means the campaign could well require the involvement of almost every type of aircraft in the U.S. arsenal: Stealth bombers and fighters, B-1s and B-2s, as well as F-15s and F-16s operating from land and F-18s from aircraft carriers.

GPS-guided munitions and laser-targeted bombs--sighted by satellite, spotter aircraft and unmanned vehicles--would do most of the bunker busting. But because many of the targets are hardened under several feet of reinforced concrete, most would have to be hit over and over to ensure that they were destroyed or sufficiently damaged. The U.S. would have to mount the usual aerial ballet, refueling tankers as well as search-and-rescue helicopters in case pilots were shot down by Iran's aging but possibly still effective air defenses. U.S. submarines and ships could launch cruise missiles as well, but their warheads are generally too small to do much damage to reinforced concrete--and might be used for secondary targets. An operation of that size would hardly be surgical. Many sites are in highly populated areas, so civilian casualties would be a certainty.

Whatever the order of battle, a U.S. strike would have a lasting impression on Iran's rulers. U.S. officials believe that a campaign of several days, involving hundreds or even thousands of sorties, could set back Iran's nuclear program by two to three years. Hit hard enough, some believe, Iranians might develop second thoughts about their government's designs as a regional nuclear power. Some U.S. foes of Iran's regime believe that the crisis of legitimacy that the ruling clerics would face in the wake of a U.S. attack could trigger their downfall, although others are convinced it would unite the population with the government in anti-American rage.

But it is also likely that the U.S. could carry out a massive attack and still leave Iran with some part of its nuclear program intact. It's possible that U.S. warplanes could destroy every known nuclear site--while Tehran's nuclear wizards, operating at other, undiscovered sites even deeper underground, continued their work. "We don't know where it all is," said a White House official, "so we can't get it all."


No one who has spent any time thinking about an attack on Iran doubts that a U.S. operation would reap a whirlwind. The only mystery is what kind. "It's not a question of whether we can do a strike or not and whether the strike could be effective," says retired Marine General Anthony Zinni. "It certainly would be, to some degree. But are you prepared for all that follows?"

Retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner, who taught strategy at the National War College, has been conducting a mock U.S.-Iran war game for American policymakers for the past five years. Virtually every time he runs the game, Gardiner says, a similar nightmare scenario unfolds: the U.S. attack, no matter how successful, spawns a variety of asymmetrical retaliations by Tehran. First comes terrorism: Iran's initial reaction to air strikes might be to authorize a Hizballah attack on Israel, in order to draw Israel into the war and rally public support at home.

Next, Iran might try to foment as much mayhem as possible inside the two nations on its flanks, Afghanistan and Iraq, where more than 160,000 U.S. troops hold a tenuous grip on local populations. Iran has already dabbled in partnership with warlords in western Afghanistan, where U.S. military authority has never been strong; it would be a small step to lend aid to Taliban forces gaining strength in the south. Meanwhile, Tehran has links to the main factions in Iraq, which would welcome a boost in money and weapons, if just to strengthen their hand against rivals. Analysts generally believe that Iran could in a short time orchestrate a dramatic increase in the number and severity of attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq. As Syed Ayad, a secular Shi'ite cleric and Iraqi Member of Parliament says, "America owns the sky of Iraq with their Apaches, but Iran owns the ground."

Next, there is oil. The Persian Gulf, a traffic jam on good days, would become a parking lot. Iran could plant mines and launch dozens of armed boats into the bottleneck, choking off the shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz and causing a massive disruption of oil-tanker traffic. A low-key Iranian mining operation in 1987 forced the U.S. to reflag Kuwaiti oil tankers and escort them, in slow-moving files of one and two, up and down the Persian Gulf. A more intense operation would probably send oil prices soaring above $100 per bbl.--which may explain why the Navy wants to be sure its small fleet of minesweepers is ready to go into action at a moment's notice. It is unlikely that Iran would turn off its own oil spigot or halt its exports through pipelines overland, but it could direct its proxies in Iraq and Saudi Arabia to attack pipelines, wells and shipment points inside those countries, further choking supply and driving up prices.

That kind of retaliation could quickly transform a relatively limited U.S. mission in Iran into a much more complicated one involving regime change. An Iran determined to use all its available weapons to counterattack the U.S. and its allies would present a challenge to American prestige that no Commander in Chief would be likely to tolerate for long. Zinni, for one, believes an attack on Iran could eventually lead to U.S. troops on the ground. "You've got to be careful with your assumptions," he says. "In Iraq, the assumption was that it would be a liberation, not an occupation. You've got to be prepared for the worst case, and the worst case involving Iran takes you down to boots on the ground." All that, he says, makes an attack on Iran a "dumb idea." Abizaid, the current Centcom boss, chose his words carefully last May. "Look, any war with a country that is as big as Iran, that has a terrorist capability along its borders, that has a missile capability that is external to its own borders and that has the ability to affect the world's oil markets is something that everyone needs to contemplate with a great degree of clarity."


Given the chaos that a war might unleash, what options does the world have to avoid it? One approach would be for the U.S. to accept Iran as a nuclear power and learn to live with an Iranian bomb, focusing its efforts on deterrence rather than pre-emption. The risk is that a nuclear-armed Iran would use its regional primacy to become the dominant foreign power in Iraq, threaten Israel and make it harder for Washington to exert its will in the region. And it could provoke Sunni countries in the region, like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, to start nuclear programs of their own to contain rising Shi'ite power.

Those equally unappetizing prospects--war or a new arms race in the Middle East--explain why the White House is kicking up its efforts to resolve the Iran problem before it gets that far. Washington is doing everything it can to make Iran think twice about its ongoing game of stonewall. It is a measure of the Administration's unity on Iran that confrontationalists like Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have lately not wandered off the rhetorical reservation. Everyone has been careful--for now--to stick to Rice's diplomatic emphasis. "Nobody is considering a military option at this point," says an Administration official. "We're trying to prevent a situation in which the President finds himself having to decide between a nuclear-armed Iran or going to war. The best hope of avoiding that dilemma is hard-nosed diplomacy, one that has serious consequences."

Rice continues to try for that. This week in New York City, she will push her partners to get behind a new sanctions resolution that would ban Iranian imports of dual-use technologies, like parts for its centrifuge cascades for uranium enrichment, and bar travel overseas by certain government officials. The next step would be restrictions on government purchases of computer software and hardware, office supplies, tires and auto parts--steps Russia and China have signaled some reluctance to endorse. But even Rice's advisers don't believe that Iran can be persuaded to completely abandon its ambitions. Instead, they hope to tie Iran up in a series of suspensions, delays and negotiations until a more pragmatic faction of leadership in Tehran gains the upper hand.

At the moment, that sounds as much like a prayer as a strategy. A former CIA director, asked not long ago whether a moderate faction will ever emerge in Tehran, quipped, "I don't think I've ever met an Iranian moderate--not at the top of the government, anyway." But if sanctions don't work, what might? Outside the Administration, a growing group of foreign-policy hands from both parties have called on the U.S. to bring Tehran into direct negotiations in the hope of striking a grand bargain. Under that formula, the U.S. might offer Iran some security guarantees-- such as forswearing efforts to topple Iran's theocratic regime--in exchange for Iran's agreeing to open its facilities to international inspectors and abandon weapons-related projects. It would be painful for any U.S. Administration to recognize the legitimacy of a regime that sponsors terrorism and calls for Israel's destruction--but the time may come when that's the only bargaining chip short of war the U.S. has left. And still that may not be enough. "[The Iranians] would give up nuclear power if they truly believed the U.S. would accept Iran as it is," says a university professor in Tehran who asked not to be identified. "But the mistrust runs too deep for them to believe that is possible."

Such distrust runs both ways and is getting deeper. Unless the U.S., its allies and Iran can find a way to make diplomacy work, the whispers of blockades and minesweepers in the Persian Gulf may soon be drowned out by the cries of war. And if the U.S. has learned anything over the past five years, it's that war in the Middle East rarely goes according to plan.

TIME MAGAZINE With reporting by Reported by Brian Bennett/Baghdad, James Graff/Paris, Scott MacLeod/ Cairo, J.F.O. McAllister/ London, Tim McGirk/ Jerusalem, Azadeh Moaveni/ Tehran, Mike Allen, SALLY B. DONNELLY, Elaine Shannon, MARK THOMPSON, DOUGLAS WALLER, MICHAEL WEISSKOPF, Adam Zagorin/ Washington

This is a article courtesy of

Monday, September 18, 2006

Can Karen Hughes change America’s image? She’s trying

Can Karen Hughes change America’s image? She’s trying
by Morton Kondracke, Roll Call

Charlie Wick, the ex-Hollywood agent and producer, took no end of guff when then-President Ronald Reagan appointed him to head the U.S. Information Agency. But Wick proved his critics wrong.

He had Reagan’s ear, he had energy and he understood the importance of communication in Reagan’s ideological struggle against communism’s “evil empire.”

Wick won huge increases in USIA’s budget, expanded exchange programs, launched a global satellite TV network and founded RadioMarti, which broadcasts to Cuba. Even jaded government bureaucrats ended up cheering his achievements.

Unfortunately, when the Cold War was won and it looked as though ideological struggle was passe, the Clinton administration helped right-wing Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., kill the USIA by folding it into the State Department, where public diplomacy was a backwater.

But now, the Charlie Wick spirit is back in the person of Karen Hughes, President Bush’s former White House communications director, who last year became undersecretary of state for public diplomacy.

Critics, as they did with Wick, are laughing at the idea of a presidential crony, an alleged foreign-policy naif, trying to combat an international adversary with images — in this case, fighting terrorists by visiting with Muslim women and getting the president to talk respectfully about Islam.

But, like Wick, Hughes has the president’s ear. She has energy. She understands that what people overseas think is a vital part of foreign policy. She’s television-savvy, and she’s launched a stream of initiatives designed to improve America’s position in what Bush calls “the great ideological struggle of the 21st century.”

The initiatives include, for the first time, giving American ambassadors and military commanders overseas a daily, one-page Rapid Response set of talking points on hot topics in the world, encouraging U.S. diplomats to get on television and organizing a top-level interagency committee to combat terrorist ideology.

She also got Bush’s former White House personnel chief, Dina Powell, an Egyptian-American, to head up an expanding international exchange program aimed at inviting strategic personalities, such as clerics, teachers and journalists, to visit the United States.

Hughes is planning to launch a large-scale program to foster the teaching of English to children around the world, giving them both a key economic tool and means to access American messaging.

In a controversial move within the administration, Hughes and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice seem to have persuaded Bush — temporarily, at least — to drop the label “Islamic fascism” from his speeches; diplomats say that Muslims hear it as an attack on their religion, thereby validating the extremists’ false charge that the United States is at war with Islam.

Unfortunately, unlike Wick, Hughes is serving as the nation’s top propagandist at a time when enemy ideology is ascendant in the world. In Wick’s day, communism was headed for the ash heap of history, even if only Reagan recognized the fact at the time.

“I like her and respect her a lot,” said one Member of Congress who oversees Hughes’ activities. “But what she’s doing is like fighting an apartment fire with one hose. In fact, the whole world is on fire.”

The latest Pew Global Attitudes survey showed that only 21 percent of Jordanians have a favorable attitude toward the United States, as do 23 percent in Turkey and Pakistan.

A top official at America’s two leading broadcasting channels to the Arab world, Radio Sawa and Alhurra television, told me he thinks the United States definitely is “losing” the ideological struggle with radical Islam.

For one thing, the United States broadcasts no television to much of the non-Arab Islamic world, relying on radio broadcasts by the Voice of America.

And, even though Sawa and Alhurra are gaining audiences in the Arab world, they are far outdistanced by Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, which broadcast nonstop anti-U.S. propaganda, much of it almost pornographically drenched in blood and body parts.

The message, delivered with continual scenes of violence, is that the United States wants to control Middle East oil, wants to humiliate Muslims and is conducting a “crusade” against Islam.

When I asked Hughes whether she thought the United States was losing the ideological war, she said, “I’m an optimistic person. I think we have a long way to go. We have a lot more to do.”

Hughes commissioned a huge, 18,000-person poll in 14 countries, which showed high rates of disapproval of the United States — but a willingness almost everywhere to change their mind if the United States showed respect for their views and values and partnered with them in solving joint problems. Respect for other countries was not a hallmark of Bush’s first term. It is becoming more so in the second, thanks in no small part to Rice and Hughes.

Morton Kondracke is executive editor of Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill.

Time Magazine Interview Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "We Do Not Need Attacks"

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

"We Do Not Need Attacks"

Exclusive: On the eve of a visit to the U.S., Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks to TIME's Scott MacLeod about debating President Bush, pursuing nuclear energy and denying the Holocaust


TIME: What were your impressions of New York during your visit to the U.S. last year?

Ahmadinejad: Unfortunately we didn't have any contact with the people of the United States. We were not in touch with the people. But my general impression is that the people of the United States are good people. Everywhere in the world, people are good.

TIME: Did you visit the site of the World Trade Center?

Ahmadinejad: It was not necessary. It was widely covered in the media.

TIME: You recently invited President Bush to a televised debate. If he were sitting where I am sitting, what would you say, man to man?

Ahmadinejad: The issues which are of interest to us are the international issues and how to manage them. I gave some recommendations to President Bush in my personal letter, and I hope that he will take note of them. I would ask him, Are rationalism, spirituality and humanitarianism and logic�are they bad things for human beings? Why more conflict? Why should we go for hostilities? Why should we develop weapons of mass destruction? Everybody can love one another.

TIME: Do you feel any connection with President Bush, since he is also a religious man, a strong Christian?

Ahmadinejad: I've heard about that. But there are many things which take place and are inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ in this world.

TIME: Why do your supporters chant "Death to America"?

Ahmadinejad: When they chanted that slogan, it means they hate aggression, and they hate bullying tactics, and they hate violations of the rights of nations and discrimination. I recommended to President Bush that he can change his behavior, then everything will change.

TIME: How do you think the American people feel when they hear Iranians shouting "Death to America" and the President of Iran does not criticize this?

Ahmadinejad: The nations do not have any problems. What is the role of the American people in what is happening in the world? The people of the United States are also seeking peace, love, friendship and justice.

TIME: But if Americans shouted "Death to Iran," Iranians would feel insulted.

Ahmadinejad: If the government of Iran acted in such a way, then [the American people] have this right.

TIME: Are America and Iran fated to be in conflict?

Ahmadinejad: No, this is not fate. And this can come to an end. I have said we can run the world through logic. We are living our own lives. The U.S. government should not interfere in our affairs. They should live their own lives. They should serve the interests of the U.S. people. They should not interfere in our affairs. Then there would be no problems with that.

TIME: Are you ready to open direct negotiations with the U.S.?

Ahmadinejad: We have given them a letter, a lengthy letter. We say the U.S. Administration should change its behavior, and then everything will be solved. It was the U.S. which broke up relations with us. We didn't take that position. And then they should make up for it.

TIME: Does Iran have the right to nuclear weapons?

Ahmadinejad: We are opposed to nuclear weapons. We think it has been developed just to kill human beings. It is not in the service of human beings. For that reason, last year in my address to the U.N. General Assembly, I suggested that a committee should be set up in order to disarm all the countries that possess nuclear weapons.

TIME: But you were attacked with weapons of mass destruction by Iraq. You say the u.s. threatens you, and you are surrounded by countries that have nuclear weapons.

Ahmadinejad: Today nuclear weapons are a blunt instrument. We don't have any problems with Pakistan or India. Actually they are friends of Iran, and throughout history they have been friends. The Zionist regime is not capable of using nuclear weapons. Problems cannot be solved through bombs. Bombs are of little use today. We need logic.

TIME: Why won't you agree to suspend enrichment of uranium as a confidence-building measure?

Ahmadinejad: Whose confidence should be built?

TIME: The world's?

Ahmadinejad: The world? The world? Who is the world? The United States? The U.S. Administration is not the entire world. Europe does not account for one-twentieth of the entire world. When I studied the provisions of the npt [Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty], nowhere did I see it written that in order to produce nuclear fuel, we need to win the support or the confidence of the United States and some European countries.

TIME: How far will Iran go in defying Western demands? Will you wait until you are attacked and your nuclear installations are destroyed?

Ahmadinejad: Do you think the u.s. administration would be so irrational?

TIME: You tell me.

Ahmadinejad: I hope that is not the case. I said that we need logic. We do not need attacks.

TIME: Are you worried about an attack?

Ahmadinejad: No.

TIME: You have been quoted as saying Israel should be wiped off the map. Was that merely rhetoric, or do you mean it?

Ahmadinejad: People in the world are free to think the way they wish. We do not insist they should change their views. Our position toward the Palestinian question is clear: we say that a nation has been displaced from its own land. Palestinian people are killed in their own lands, by those who are not original inhabitants, and they have come from far areas of the world and have occupied those homes. Our suggestion is that the 5 million Palestinian refugees come back to their homes, and then the entire people on those lands hold a referendum and choose their own system of government. This is a democratic and popular way. Do you have any other suggestions?

TIME: Do you believe the Jewish people have a right to their own state?

Ahmadinejad: We do not oppose it. In any country in which the people are ready to vote for the Jews to come to power, it is up to them. In our country, the Jews are living and they are represented in our Parliament. But Zionists are different from Jews.

TIME: Have you considered that Iranian Jews are hurt by your comments denying that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust?

Ahmadinejad: As to the Holocaust, I just raised a few questions. And I didn't receive any answers to my questions. I said that during World War II, around 60 million were killed. All were human beings and had their own dignities. Why only 6 million? And if it had happened, then it is a historical event. Then why do they not allow independent research?

TIME: But massive research has been done.

Ahmadinejad: They put in prison those who try to do research. About historical events everybody should be free to conduct research. Let's assume that it has taken place. Where did it take place? So what is the fault of the Palestinian people? These questions are quite clear. We are waiting for answers.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Phares on Radio America: "Syria's regime wants to gain time from the US to better prepare against the latter"

Phares on Radio America: "Syria's regime wants to gain time from the US to better prepare against the latter"

FDD Senior Fellow Walid Phares told Radio America's Greg Corombos on "Date Line Washington" that the Syrian regime is attempting to gain time from Washington to better prepare itself for an upcoming confrontation with the US over the imoplementation of UNSCR 1559 and 1701. The Terrorist attack in Damascus was "allowed" by the regime so that it would look good in the eyes of the American public."

Sep 14, 2006, 19:33

Friday, September 15, 2006

Nadim Gemayel's Speech on the 24th Anniversy Memorial

الآلاف احيوا الذكرى الـ 24 لاغتيال بشير ... وجعجع يشارك للمرة الاولى
Written by راغدة بهنام- البلد
نديم الجميل: قواعد التعايش لا تسمح لأي طائفة ان تقرر وحدها مصير لبنان

Check the photo gallery pictures of the 14th of September event.

Click here to hear Sheikh Nadim Speech of the event

في يوم عيد ارتفاع الصليب منذ اربعة وعشرين عاما رفع لبنان على الصليب هو أيضا مع اغتيال رئيسه بشير الجميل. رئيسه الذي كان بدأ بتأسيس الدولة القادرة، دولة المؤسسات والحريات تحت شعار "لبنان اولا"، اغتيل يومها. بشير الذي انجز في 24 يوما ما لم يستطع احد انجازه في 24 عاما، قتلوه في ذلك اليوم، وقتلوا معه الحلم بلبنان القادر القوي الموحّد.

في كل عام في الرابع عشر من أيلول يتجمع البشيريون والقواتيون في الاشرفية في ساحة كنيسة الايقونة العجائبية لاحياء ذكرى اغتيال الرئيس الشهيد بشير الجميل. في كل عام يهتف الحاضرون "بشير حي فينا" ويجددون وعدهم للقائد الذي جاء كالحلم ورحل عنهم كالحلم أيضا. وعدهم بالحفاظ على لبنان الـ 10452 كلم2، وعدهم بالحفاظ على لبنان دولة المؤسسات ودولة الحريات ...

هذا العام لم تختلف المناسبة ولم تتغير الوعود. ولكن حدثا بأهمية احياء الذكرى كان حاضرا بقوة. القائد الذي خلف بشير الجميل والذي شبهه كثيرون به لناحية حزمه وقدرته على القيادة ورؤيته النافذة للامور، هذا القائد "الحكيم" كان حاضرا شخصيا، جسديا وروحيا، للمرة الاولى وشارك في احياء ذكرى بشير. في الاعوام السابقة، كان حضوره أشبه بحلم هو أيضا. في كل عام كان يهتف محبوه باسمه متمنين أن يأتي اليوم الذي يشاركهم فيه هذه الصلاة. أمس تحقق حلمهم. الحلم الذي اراد البعض التأكد من انه أصبح حقيقة، فراحوا يتدافعون ويقفزون فوق الحواجز الحديدية متخطين عناصر الامن الخاصين، فقط في محاولة منهم لرؤية الحكيم عن قرب ولمسه. كثيرون حاولوا الاقتراب منه ولكن رجال امن الحكيم الذين انتشروا بين الجموع مرتدين اللباس الاسود والنظارات الداكنة، كانوا لهم بالمرصاد.

الشاب العشريني الذي قفز فوق الحاجز لحظة مرور جعجع في باحة الكنيسة متوجها الى الداخل، لم يتمكن من رؤية الحكيم شخصيا، بل وقع في ايدي اربعة رجال أمن حملوه واعادوه الى مكانه بين الجموع. لم تعنيهم تضرعاته لرؤية الحكيم للمرة الاولى في حياته. قال انه حاول المرور من دون احداث شغب ولكن لم يسمحوا له. الحكيم بالامس كان "النجم". الترحيب الذي لقيه من مناصريه كان استثنائيا والتهليل له كان فريدا والحشد الذي تجمّع في باحة الكنيسة وفي محيطها كان ايضا كبيرا. كيف لا وهو يشارك للمرة الأولى في احياء ذكرى بشير الجميل. وللمرة الاولى يشارك مناصريه احتفالا مهما بالنسبة اليهم بعد خروجه من السجن. هتفوا له كثيرا بقدر ما هتفوا لبشير. ورفعوا صوره الى جانب صور القائد الراحل. وتجمعوا في شوارع الاشرفية بالآلاف فأغلقوا الكثير من منافذها. عشرات الباصات ومئات السيارات المزينة بأعلام الكتائب والقوات اللبنانية وفدت أمس الى الاشرفية قادمة من كل المناطق.


أمس لم يكن حضور جعجع المتغير الوحيد مقارنة بالسنوات الماضية. فالهتافات أيضا برزت فيها متغيرات. هتافات جديدة اضيفت الى تلك القديمة. ففي الماضي، كان الهتاف ضد سورية أمرا محسوما. اليوم، اصبح الهتاف ضد ايران وحزب الله وميشال عون، اساسياً ايضا، بحسب القواتيين. علما ان الهتافات ضد عون حصرت عندما طلب اليهم نديم الجميل عدم تكرارها. اليافطات التي تحمل كلاما جديدا كان لا بدّ منها أيضا، بحسب حامليها، خصوصا بعد "حرب تموز 2006" وبعد الخطابات النارية لامين عام حزب الله حسن نصرالله. فالتهديد، حسب احد الحاضرين المتحمسين، لا بدّ ان يقابله تهديد آخر، ولذلك ربما رفعت يافطة كتب عليها: "نحن قديسو هذا الشرق وشياطينه قادرون على احراقه ان أحرقوا أصابعنا".

مقتطفات خطابات بشير التي بثت بعد القداس، كان لا بدّ ان تتلاءم أيضا مع الواقع الذي نعيشه اليوم. فصوت بشير الحازم والذي يطالب برئيس قوي يرضى عنه اللبنانيون، كان يصدح في باحة الكنيسة : "الرئيس اللي بدو يجي اذا بدو ياه العالم كلو ... حتى الفاتيكان ... اذا هالرئيس ما بيناسبنا ما بيجي".


على وقع الهتافات والتصفيق المرحبة بالدكتور سمير جعجع، رفعت الصلوات في الساعة الرابعة، بعد عشر دقائق وأربعة وعشرين سنة على استشهاد بشير. الكلمتان اللتان القيتا في المناسبة، كلمة المحتفل بالذبيحة الالهية المطران بولس مطر، وكلمة نجل الرئيس الشهيد نديم الجميل، ركزتا على ضرورة وجود الدولة القوية القادرة ودور المسيحيين فيه.

مطر الذي استرجع في كلمته صفات بشير، قال: "بشير الذي تحول الى رمز مشرق لهذا الوطن القادر على النهوض والذي سينهض باذنه تعالى، وسيكون علامة من علامات التقدم والخلاص لا لابنائه وحسب بل لمنطقته كلها وللعالم بأسره". واضاف : "انبرى هذا الرئيس في تخطيه منطق الحرب وفي توديع زمن السلاح ابنا بارا للبنان مؤمنا بوحدة بنيه ومدافعا عن كيان الـ10452 كلم2 ...". ودعا مطر الى عدم تعطيل الدولة التي بنيناها طوال عقود وقال : "دولتنا هي عصارة تضحيات قمنا بها على مسار التاريخ واشترك في صنعها الجميع قادة وافرادا، فمن غير المعقول ان نعطل دولتنا بأيدينا عائدين الى الوراء...".

نديم الجميل

نديم الذي القى كلمة بعد انتهاء القداس في الباحة الخارجية للكنيسة، بدأ كلمته متوجها الى والده، وقال : "هذه السنة افتقدناك قائدا يصنع مصير لبنان ويجسد حضوره المسيحي الفاعل فلا يدع أحداً يهمش دور المسيحيين في بناء لبنان المستقبل... سنظل نفتقدك يا بشير ما لم تطل من معاناة هذا الشعب قيادة تحاور كما أنت حاورت ...".

وقال نديم ان ما يميز ذكرى هذا العام انها "تعقب حربا تدميرية على لبنان اعادته سنوات الى الوراء من الناحية الاقتصادية، وعقوداً من الناحية الوطنية". واضاف ان "هذه الحرب مستمرة ما دامت اسبابها لم تعالج بشكل نهائي. ان قواعد التعايش في دولة واحدة لا تسمح لاي طائفة او مذهب او حزب او فئة ان تقرر وحدها مصير لبنان وان تتفرد في قرار السلم والحرب". وقوطع نديم بالتصفيق الحار والهتاف المعادي لايران وحزب الله لدى قوله : "لا هذه الحرب كانت حربنا ولا هذا السلام هو سلامنا". وتحدث عن تغييب المسييحين في القرارات اليوم وقال ان سببها استمرار رئيس الجمهورية في منصبه وهو "مطعون بشرعيته". وشدد على ان الدور المسيحي "هو ضمان للكيان اللبناني وللوحدة الوطنية والسلام الاهلي"، وقال ان "أي مس به يهدد امن لبنان والمنطقة". واضاف : "لا يجوز لاي احد في لبنان ان يفكر بأمنه الذاتي وبمصيره الذاتي حين تكون الدولة موجودة متحررة قوية وفاعلة... ولا يجوز للمسيحيين ان يتشاركوا في الوطن الا مع المسلمين اللبنانيين". وحذّر نديم من ان "يعتبر احد ان ايماننا بهذه المسلمات يجيز له قضم دورنا الريادي في لبنان"، داعيا كل الاطراف المسيحيين الى وقف السجالات والاتهامات المتبادلة. بعد ذلك، توجهت عقيلة الرئيس الشهيد النائبة صولانج وولديها والدكتور جعجع الى مكان الاغتيال امام بيت الكتائب في الاشرفية ووضعوا اكاليل من الزهر.

14 آذار شاركت

وغاب التمثيل الرسمي للتيار

حضر القداس الى جانب النائبة صولانج الجميل وولديها نديم ويمنى وافراد العائلة، رئيس الهيئة التنفيذية في القوات اللبنانية الدكتور سمير جعجع، الرئيس الاعلى لحزب الكتائب امين الجميل وعقيلته جويس، رئيس حزب الكتائب كريم بقرادوني، وزيرة الشؤون الاجتماعية نايلة معوض، وزير الصناعة بيار الجميل، وزير الدولة ميشال فرعون، النواب : جورج عدوان، فريد حبيب، انطوان غانم، سيرج طورسركيسيان، عاطف مجدلاني، آغوب بقرادونيان، عبدالله فرحات، روبير غانم، أكرم شهيب، هنري حلو، غطاس خوري، اضافة الى القيادي السابق في التيار الوطني الحر الياس الزغبي، ومسعود الاشقر ودافيد عيسى، ونقيب الصحافة محمد البعلبكي، وحشد من الشخصيات السياسية والدينية والحزبية. اشارة الى ان العماد ميشال عون لم يكن ممثلا في القداس على عكس العام الماضي حيث تميز بحضور عدد كبير من نواب الاصلاح والتغيير، واقتصر الحضور هذا العام على القياديين في التيار ألان عون وميشال شدرفيان.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

US embassy: Assad allows attack, offer "protection" and aim at confusion

US embassy: Assad allows attack, offer "protection" and aim at confusion
By Walid Phares

According to well informed Syrian sources, today's Terrorist attack against the US embassy in Damascus is one of the "Machiavellian" Assad operations. Let's remind ourselves that the Syrian regime's senior strategists and intelligence officers were trained by the sophisticated "intox" schools of the former Soviet's KGB. One of the main tactics of this old school, refined by Hafez Assad during his rule of Syria is based on the following concept: If the equation is to your disadvantage, create a new problem, offer to solve it, obtain recognition; and by that you'd change the equation.

The strategic objective of the Assad regime today is to deter Washington from further pressures against Syria, in the form of the Hariri investigation, the US pressure through the Security Council to deploy forces along the borders with Lebanon and the American ongoing support to the anti-Syrian Government in Beirut. Tehran-Damascus-Hezbollah axis is in dire need to "contain" Washington's pressures and gain time, as much possible of time. Why would they need time? Because they have to rearm Hezbollah, crumble the Lebanese Government, and face off with UN pressures on the nuclear. Syria has the marching orders to disorient the United States, and hence it adopted a twin approach:

a. "Allow" a Jihadist-type terror attack to take place against a US interest in Damascus. And how can that be possible? The seasoned experts on Syria knows all too well that the Assad Mukhabarat are in control of, or have "access" to the overwhelming Terrorist organizations in Syria and Lebanon. They've had thirty years of deep involvement to accomplish this take over. In addition to Shiia Hezbollah, Syria has a control, a remote-control of, or an access to Sunni Salafists groups, including networks that connects with al Qaeda. In short, Syria's intelligence services can prepare the ground to "persuade" Jihadists to strike at some point. The Jihadists have an ideological and strategic enmity with the US; the Assad regime has the ability to have the "mob" unleash attacks, in the same way the Baath regime of Syria has "allowed" thousands of Jihadists to cross the border to Iraq to kill US and coalition troops. Assad the father also "allowed" Jihadis to attack U.S and French interests in Lebanon during the 1980s. More recently, Assad "allowed' violent demonstrations to attack embassies in Damascus. Knowing that Syria's State police controls the country with an iron hand, these precedents are too bright to ignore. In today's apparatus two men dominate the Terror web from their security intelligence positions: Mohammed Nassif, the director of State Security and Ali Yunis, the assistant of Asaf Shawkat, the regime's security commander. Nassif and Yunis are the team that controls and connects with the Jihadist underworld in the Levant.

b. Stage the "protection" : After the operation happens, the regime allows some of their men to be killed in action against the "Terrorists." Obviously, this move will be hard to absorb by Western and American public psychologically. Maybe Hollywood movies writers can. In short (as an analytical projection) the regime "allowed" the operation to happen, "knew" it would happen, and let the security guards on the ground sacrifice themselves in the line of diplomatic duty.

The Dividends:

1. Sending a message to the U.S as follow: al Qaeda can strike you in our midst (Syria and Lebanon) and we can't do much about, except the classical protection once the "cells" would be about to engage or have already engaged. In short we are extending the measures under international laws, not more.

2. "But, can stop them." Meaning that our "powerful" intelligence and security agencies can go after these Terrorists (who aren't Syria's friends to start with) and "offer them to you," as we used to do in the good old days: We'd send Hezbollah to kill your Marines in Lebanon and allow the Salafists to kill the Marines again in Iraq, but at the same time we can do business with you and "protect your" embassies from the Terrorists we are harboring anyway. Yes a good Levantine maze.

3. Your public, via international media, "saw" that we are defending your embassy and have "lost" security guards while defending it. So what are you going to tell your public? That we, the Syrian regime, "are" the terrorists? It will look bad when after we sacrificed our men for your diplomats, your diplomats would call us Terrorists.

4. Secretary Rice "had" to issue a statement to "thanking" Syria. In Assad's mind, it would be an embarrassment for the U.S to attack Syria for being a harbor to Terrorism when Damascus has just being thanked for fighting those Terrorists. This, basically, would gain some more "time" for Assad. Enough time needed to:

5. Rearm Hezbollah, prepare attacks against UN and other multinational forces to come closer to the Syrian borders, and of course to allow the other pressures to recede.

6. Extra dividend: Unleash the school that supports "dialogue and friendship" with the Syrian regime in Washington to advance its arguments in this regard.

A question has been fusing in the media about Zawahiri's calls for the Levant Jihadists, including the Jund al Sham to attack targets in Syria and Lebanon. Are these video messages coordinated with Syria and Iran. While no evidence is surfacing yet, but these are two Jihadi wars taking place against the US and its allies at the same time. In the midst of an Al Qaeda war and of a Khumeinist-Baathist campaign, both directed against democracies in the region, overlapping actions aren't impossible. Otherwise, how to explain that al Qaeda waited so long before it issued a direct Jihad-guideline on Lebanon and Syria after 14 years of war on the US and three years war in Iraq? Why would the no 2 of al Qaeda suddenly develop an interest in the Lebanese-Syrian battlefield, immediately after the cease fire was concluded between Hezbollah and Israel? Who needed whom to begin the next stage in troubles after the issuing of UNSCR 1701?

Let's call it the quiz of the month: you'd find your answer in Machiavelli's writings.

Dr Walid Phares is a Senior Fellow and the director of Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a visiting fellow with the European Foundation for Democracy and the author of Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against America

Transcript of FT interview with Kofi Annan

Transcript of FT interview with Kofi Annan

FT interview with Kofi Annan, at the end of his tour of the Middle East.

Quentin Peel: Why did you launch this diplomatic initiative? Wasn't it very high risk, because it would raise high expectations?

Kofi Annan: I felt that we had a very short window and that we had an opportunity to consolidate the ceasefire and stabilise the situation in Lebanon by rallying the regional and international community around it. When the cessation of hostilities was finally adopted, many people didn't think it would work, including some in my organisation… but I had a strong feeling that it would hold, and that we should and could make it hold. That if we could make it hold, we would really be able to turn the situation around. I think by the time the cessation of hostilities came around, which I believed could have come earlier, the parties had realised that they were not going to achieve their objectives.

QP: There was a turning point, wasn't there, when they probably both – Israel and Hizbollah – realised it wasn't going anywhere?

KA: In fact, in a way (UN Security Council resolution) 1701 was a ladder for both of them to climb back from the precipice.

QP: What have you really achieved, apart from rallying everyone around?

KA: First of all I have been able to work effectively with the countries – don't forget my first stop was Brussels – to generate a force for south Lebanon. I have been able to underpin strong support for (resolution) 1701 both in Europe, and in the region, and round Asia as well. I have also been able to get people to accept that the war in Lebanon was a wake-up call. I was extremely concerned that not only could it spread, others could get involved. It was a wake-up call in the sense that everywhere we have been they all said: ‘Let us work on the real problem of bringing peace to the region, the Palestinian problem, the Syrian problem and the Lebanese problem.' It interests me to stabilise peace in Lebanon, and build on it to achieve a comprehensive peace in the region. This was even the feeling when we went to Ramallah. They said: ‘We hope that we will get the same attention.' I did not get the feeling they were saying they had been forgotten. They felt what was happening in Lebanon would be extended to their problems.

I also believe that I was able to talk to countries that nobody, or not many people, are talking to: Syria and Iran. It is important for them to work with the international community, to settle the crisis in Lebanon and the wider Middle East. I got the sense that they themselves would want this, to be seen to be accepted as full members of the family of nations. But for that to happen they will have to take some responsibilities.

QP: What worries me is that Syria and Iran seem to revel in their pariah status.

KA: I am not sure they revel in it. It is a question of having no choice. Syria's behaviour has isolated itself. But I think it is bravado. I think they are very keen to be accepted. I think Iran is [also] very keen to be accepted and have normal relations with Europe and the rest of the world.

QP: What about President Ahmadi-Nejad?

KA: Maybe not him, but he is not representative of the entire body politic. They are living with this fear that they may be attacked. Their economy is not so strong. They are not making as much progress as other countries. They travel, too… When they travel in the region, going to Qatar, going to Abu Dhabi, they see how even smaller countries around the Gulf are moving on. But they have sanctions, they are isolated, they are having plane crashes because they can't get spare parts. Who will say: this is the way we want to be? A country that is a major oil producer doesn't have a single oil refinery. It doesn't make sense.

QP: But how worried are you that the nuclear confrontation will get worse?

KA: I am worried about it because I think we are headed for a confrontation, unless we find a way to get all the people to step back a bit and reflect. Because the position in a nutshell is that the 5 + 1 (the five permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany) are saying suspend (uranium enrichment) and we will negotiate; Iran is saying negotiate, and then maybe we will suspend. On the surface it seems they are not too far apart. But I am not sure how much room for flexibility either side is going to give.

All the leaders we met are scared stiff of another crisis. This region cannot take another crisis.

QP: Yet Iran does have support, from countries like South Africa and Brazil, who say they are absolutely within their rights.

KA: Iran is very confident, rightly or wrongly; they will not bend, and are prepared for the worst. They tell you they have not broken any rules; they are within their rights. They suspended (enrichment) for a long period. And this idea that ‘we don't trust you, and we decide which country we trust, and even facilitate and help, like India, and which country is a naughty boy, and will have to be disciplined', is something that they find very offensive. So I am worried.

QP: Let us go back to America and the Middle East and America and the UN, the relationship that is so much at the heart of everything you have to deal with. Has America opened up a Pandora's box in the Middle East with the invasion of Iraq? Is that how you see it?

KA: That is correct, and it is the feeling of the leaders in the region that we spoke to. Iraq has really caused a problem. It has radicalised the region. We have two sets of reactions. On the question of whether the Americans should withdraw, are they doing any good, you have two schools. Most leaders say America has a responsibility to get Iraq right before it leaves. President Ahmadi-Nejad said: ‘Their presence is the source of the problem, and they should leave, and if they decide to leave we will help them leave. And I mean it seriously, we will help.'

America is in a situation now where it cannot stay and it cannot leave. Because some argue that its presence is a problem, the other side, that if it leaves, the situation will get much worse, particularly if Iraqi security forces are not properly structured, trained, and an effective force. So whatever the US has to do, the timing of any withdrawal must be optimal, in the sense that it will do least harm, and will not trigger disintegration of Iraq, when the region and the world will blame the US.

QP: I have a feeling that the departure of the US will be dictated by internal American reasons, and have nothing to do with Iraq.

KA: I tend to agree with you.

QP: You have served 10 years as secretary-general in this extraordinary post-Cold War era. America seems in this time to be blowing its role as the global sheriff. Or has blown it. Do you agree?

KA: The leaders we spoke to in the region, who by and large see themselves as friends of the US, are worried about the strong feelings in this region towards the US, and this democratisation in general. This is all because of the developments in Iraq.

QP: I met a young Turkish journalist in Ankara who said that if Condi Rice had been the person asking Turkey to send troops to Lebanon, and not Kofi Annan, the Turkish parliament would have rejected it.

KA: When we started (talking about the UN force for Lebanon), some said: ‘We don't want a UN force. We want a multinational force.' I said be careful. (If we have) a multi-national force in Lebanon, close to Iraq, we are going to start another Iraq and the crazies will come in. The Lebanese didn't want it. The governments who were contemplating (sending) troops didn't want it. They would only go provided it was a UN force. So in a way I could rally the governments, and generate a force for Lebanon, in a way the US could not.

QP: Do you fear that if Syria doesn't do what it has promised, and allows arms into Lebanon to rearm Hizbollah, Israel will choose to fight a war it can win, and attack Syria?

KA: I have heard that debate going on, but I am not sure Israel would want to now. Would it be in Israel's interest to engage in another war, whether conventional or otherwise? I don't think, at a time when we are trying to mop up the aftermath of the Lebanese war, they would want to get into another war, to gain a reputation of a super-warmonger, which would do such harm to its reputation, and destabilise a whole region. And to be quite frank I don't think Syria would want to do anything of the kind that would provoke that kind of reaction.

I think with the measures we are going to take on the border, with technical assistance from the Germans, and monitoring mechanisms, we may be able to contain (the arms flow). And quite frankly I think that Hizbollah itself would have to consider … its future. I think using armed means as a means of power and strength within Lebanon is a spent policy, after what happened in Lebanon with the destruction. The people are not stupid, they may say: ‘What was this war for? Why did we get our homes destroyed?' Nasrallah, who is not a fool, has apologised in a way by saying: ‘If we had known that the abduction of the two soldiers would lead to this, we would not have done it.' He is going to find it much more difficult to have the Lebanese communities, and the villages, accepting men with weapons with open arms, particularly if we proceed and eventually manage to solve the Shebaa farm problems, what basis do they have to carry weapons? My advice to them is to join other Lebanese and pursue this national dialogue on disarmament, and transform themselves into a full-fledged political party. Not a party with an armed wing. They have a grass-roots organisation, they seem to have organisational ability, and with those grass roots they should do well, and work with the other Lebanese to give up their arms.

QP: You are coming to the end of your term as secretary-general. There doesn't seem time to get the peace process really going again. What would you most like to be remembered for in your 10 years as secretary-general?

KA: I have four more months to go, and I am going to work until midnight on December 31. On July 11 I did not know this crisis would erupt, and I would be doing what I am doing. I don't know what will happen in the next four months. But let me say that I hope at the end of my term it will be said that the UN works a little better than it did when I took over, that we made a genuine effort to make multilateralism work, to get governments to work across national lines, that we opened the UN up to other major constituencies, to civil society, the private sector, universities and foundations, using this partnership to expand the capacity of the organisation. That we also brought, in addition to developing the peace and security issues, we brought developmental questions, and the fight against poverty, and infectious diseases like HIV/Aids, to the centre of international policy. And we pushed for human rights and the rule of law, arguing that the three pillars of the United Nations should be peace and security, economic and social liberalism, human rights and respect for the rule of law.

Don't forget the Millennium Development Goals. I will leave in December fully satisfied that the member states have embraced these three pillars as the basis of our work.