Standing before the audience of more than 13,000 people who attended AIPAC's policy conference last week, President B.O. stressed that an Iranian nuclear weapon posed a threat of the highest order.
"A nuclear-armed Iran is completely counter to Israel's security interests. But it is also counter to the national security interests of the United States," he said, a line that earned him not only a standing ovation from the crowd, but the lead of a Tom Friedman column.
Following the AIPAC speech, Friedman wrote in The New York Times ...which still proudly displays Walter Duranty's Pulitzer prize... : "The only question I have when it comes to President B.O. and Israel is whether he is the most pro-Israel president in history or just one of the most."
The combination of Mr. Friedman and the New York Times: not additive or multiplicative, but the square root of their meaningfulness.
Obama also offered, at AIPAC and elsewhere, a string of reasons for concern. They range from sparking an arms race in the Middle East to the disruption of the world's energy supply to passing nuclear material to a terrorist group or to at the very least giving them a protective shield for increasing that terrorist activity.
These arguments, though, often come across as cerebral and distant threats to the American public. But on Tuesday a member of the US military was raising another concern on Capitol Hill: Iran's increasing influence in Latin America, a base that is decidedly closer to the US homeland.
As Gen. Douglas Fraser, commander of the US Southern Command, noted, it is also a region where Tehran has a growing diplomatic presence and its proxies Hizbullah and Hamas, always the voice of sweet reason, are exploiting ties to narco mobs to find sources of revenue, launder money and carry out other nefarious activities.
Planning and executing terror attacks, in either South or North America, aren't out of the question. And Iran's military relationship with Venezuela also poses proliferation challenges, among other issues.
Fraser's testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee is just the latest in a string of statements from inside and outside of the government, from Democrats and Republicans alike, about Iran's role in the Western Hemisphere.
In addition to several other hearings that have focused on the issue, a bill is now making its way through Congress which would require the administration to report on the state of Iran's activities in South America. Meanwhile, ...back at the scene of the crime, Lieutenant Queeg had an idea: there was a simple way to tell whether Manetti had been the triggerman -- just look at his shoes!... think tanks and advocacy groups are touching on the issue with increasing frequency, often with the implication that an Iranian reach into Latin America brings the United States itself within ever closer range.
There are, of course, still differences of opinion about how seriously to take this role and what its policy implications are. The American Enterprise Institute and the Center for Strategic and International Studies have issued dueling reports on the topic. Predictably, the AEI study raises the alarm while the CSIS take on it cautions against over-estimating the threats.
Whatever the shoe size, the cumulative effect of this flurry of focus on Iran's toehold in the hemisphere makes the link between Iran and America much closer than the 10,000-kilometer gap across an ocean would suggest. That makes the threat a more present danger for Americans, who might otherwise assume the risk is far from US shores. That in turn will affect the debate that surrounds what action to take.
The real "fools" attended Mack Wilbourne's little soiree here in Atlanta on Thursday. I snuck in, posing as a member of a catering team. I wasn't able to get a handshake, but I did touch the hem of his garmet.
When I think of Iranians in NA, back in the 1980s there were so many inimical factions that it utterly divided their numbers. So I imagine that even today, were US counterintelligence to recruit among Iranians in the US to work against the regime, any regime supporter who showed up would be quickly identified and narked out.
Ten days ago the United Nations (UN) released its findings from a visit made to Mexico last year in which the UN attempted to tackle the problem of forced disappearances in Mexico.
In a nation where separate government departments can't even agree on the nature of the problem, are the UN's leftist sentiments, unrealistic recommendations and boilerplate condemnations even helpful?
Rantburg.com correspondent Chris Covert attempts to separate the facts from the sentiments contained in the report.
"War, for whatever this means to anyone," says Greek philosopher/author Nicholas A. Biniaris, "is no longer Homer's well-known narrative." As the introductory chapter of Mr. Biniaris's historical novel, "The Call of the Desert," forcefully tells us: "The Third World War has up to now been averted; but we are in the midst of the Fourth."
A quick Google search will produce 319 million results if you type in "peace" and "Middle East" and 733 million results if you type in "war" and "Middle East." Perhaps this is a simple, coincidental mathematical comparison illustrating polity in this part of the world.
Based on various official statements, we can safely conclude that the prerequisites for peace in the Middle East, according to the Turkish foreign policy calculus, are as follows:
1) Israel should remove the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.
2) Israel should surrender its nuclear weapons arsenal.
3) Israel should return to its pre-1967 borders.
4) Turkish cabinet members should be able to pray at the al-Aqsa Mosque in the "Palestinian capital al-Quds (Jerusalem)."
5) The "terrorist state" Israel and the "half-state" Cyprus should end their joint exploration efforts for hydrocarbons in the Mediterranean. But this is not the complete list.
For peace in the Middle East, there is also a not-so-official Turkish wish list:
1) Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad should immediately quit power and the regime should be replaced by "good Sunni Muslim Syrians" who should adore "good Sunni Muslim Turks."
2) The West should keep on negotiating with Tehran, without any sanctions or hard talk, until Iran has officially announced that it has acquired the nuclear bomb, but
3) Shia Iran should not fight a sectarian proxy war against Sunni Turkey.
"And the sooner the "progressives" who want to help them, stop feeding their anti-Semitic vulnerabilities by joining them in demonizing Israel, and help them deal with the problem of self-criticism (a virtue to which the "left" could well afford to renew its commitments), the sooner we are likely to see a real Arab Spring, one that benevolent people the world over can sincerely cheer."
So George Clooney has been arrested outside the Sudanese embassy in Washington. After a week addressing Congress, briefing his president and bringing Sudan back into the limelight, he has taken his awareness-raising campaign to the next level by making sure news crews were on hand to watch him having his hands tied behind his back.
This has been quite the week for African conflicts. First we had the Kony 2012 video, which catapulted a long forgotten war in central Africa to the top of the news schedules. Now we have Clooney doing the same for a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in the Nuba mountains of Sudan, first with his own video and then with Friday's arrest.
"I'm just trying to raise attention. Let your Congress know, let your president know," said Clooney, as he was led away.
Ah yes, just trying to raise attention. The modern campaign mantra. And what could be wrong with that?
Well, quite a lot as it happens. Clooney has long been raising awareness for Sudan. In the past it was the conflict in Darfur. He spearheaded calls for United Nations peacekeepers to be deployed and for President Omar al Bashir to be indicted on war crimes charges.
There has never been such a successful campaign. Not only did he and the Save Darfur coalition mobilise an unprecedented amount of support for ending a war in a previously obscure region, but they actually got what they wished for. A struggling African Union peacekeeping force was given blue hats of the UN. And President Bashir has been charged with 10 counts of war crimes, including genocide.
And none of it made any difference. President Bashir is still in power in Khartoum and the blue hats ran into exactly the same problem as the African force -- finding out the hard way that there is no point deploying peacekeepers if there is no peace to keep.
Clooney had a starring role in the movie Syriana. Harrison Ford was originally asked to take that part and turned it down saying the plot was basically garbage; that is coming from an actor who did take a part in a movie where he survived a nuclear explosion in a refridgerator.
Whoever is trying to beat the drum is doing a horrible job. Clooney, really?
[Dawn] UNHAPPY with the criticism directed at the Pakistain Army in recent days, Gen Kayani ... four star general, current Chief of Army Staff of the Mighty Pak Army. Kayani is the former Director General of ISI... has been quoted in a section of the media as having said that the morale of the troops is being affected. This on the same day that a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry suggested that Pakistain's intelligence agencies were overstepping their domain and the National Assembly passed a unanimous resolution calling for fresh legislation to regulate the role and function of the intelligence and security agencies. To the extent that Gen Kayani was referring to the heroic efforts of Pak soldiers in fighting militancy in harsh and unforgiving terrain being undermined by the perceived lack of public support for the Pakistain Army, he may have a point. In an extremely tough fight against a tenacious foe, the army chief is right to call on the country to pull together.
However, the man who has no enemies isn't anybody and has never done anything... from the context and substance of Gen Kayani's remarks it appears the military chief is upset by what ought to qualify as very legitimate criticism of the army and its intelligence arms: the issue of the disappearances and deaths of dissidents, the ISI's unconstitutional and illegal role in politics, and the army's behind-the-scenes influence on the democratic process. This is unfortunate. History hangs heavy over the Pakistain Army. For decades, it has directly and indirectly influenced the direction of the state far beyond its official remit and treated all other institutions, be it parliament or the superior judiciary, as subordinate. To criticise the army leadership when it overreaches and to demand accountability of those who have violated the constitution and the law of the land is to rise to the defence of democracy and constitutional order, not to undermine the institution.
Perhaps Gen Kayani should reflect on events over the full course of his tenure as army chief so far, and not just the recent past. After becoming COAS he withdrew the army from a direct and decisive role in politics and refocused the institution under his command on its core duty: protecting the territorial integrity and illusory sovereignty of Pakistain from external and internal threats. And for that Gen Kayani was praised by the very sections of the media and society that he is now criticising. What changed is that controversies like 'memogate' and the emergence of the Difaa-e-Pakistain Council on the political front were matched by failures like May 2 and the PNS Mehran attack on the security front. When the army does the job it is mandated to do, the country salutes it. When it dabbles in areas outside its constitutional domain, it rightfully attracts criticism.
[Dawn] IT is tragic that in this country those tasked with enforcing the law or practising it are often the ones who make a complete mockery of it. Lower courts in Bloody Karachi ...formerly the capital of Pakistain, now merely its most important port and financial center. It may be the largest city in the world, with a population of 18 million, most of whom hate each other and many of whom are armed and dangerous... remained shut on Wednesday as judges refused to hear cases in protest against the alleged misbehaviour of some lawyers with a judicial magistrate. The magistrate had convicted a lawyer and her husband of fraud on Tuesday, after which a group of lawyers invaded his courtroom and started chanting slogans against the conviction. Sadly, the past few years have seen several incidents involving the high-handedness of lawyers, including cases of black coats physically assaulting judges as well as one another. Journalists have not escaped their wrath, while coppers, too, have received beatings, as in 2010 when lawyers thrashed a police officer and helped an accused man -- reportedly related to one of the lawyers -- escape custody in Lahore. We must also recall that the offices of an NGO offering free legal aid to prisoners were forcibly shut down by a group of lawyers in Bloody Karachi last year.
While most of those who wield power and influence in Pakistain flout the law at will, those who are supposed to be well-versed in it are expected to uphold and respect it. These actions by sections of the legal community are therefore alarming. But what is equally disturbing is the lack of condemnation coming from within the community. While there has been criticism of such lawlessness from some experienced jurists, many senior practising lawyers have remained silent, careful not to offend members of their fraternity. Such an attitude is unacceptable. It is essential that bar councils and senior lawyers nationwide censure those who indulge in thuggish behaviour to ensure that a few black sheep do not end up defaming the whole legal community.
[Dawn] Know thy box. I mean do you know what box your faith can fit into? You better check that out or you won't be able to vote in general elections. You need to fill out Form IV to register yourself as a voter and if an enumerator has already luckily knocked at your door he would have filled Form 1 and 2 for your family. These and all other forms of the Election Commission include an array of check boxes titled Mohammedan, Hindu, Christian etc. You can't help but fit yourself into one of these and in case of any confusion or hesitation you are awarded a liberal 'Others' box as well.
If you are a Hindu or a Christian your checked box is believed in as such. But if you are a Mohammedan you have to prove it. Don't worry; you won't be asked to walk on fire nor would you need to recite anything from your Islamiat text book. No, not even your deeds or character matter. The procedure has been simplified. All you need to do is sign or thumb impress a special For-Mohammedans-Only Oath declaring that you are not an Ahmadi. If you are not an Ahmadi, you are a Mohammedan for the purpose of and to the satisfaction of the state of Pakistain. All those who sign the Oath can take pride in being constitutionally declared Mohammedans besides being registered voters of the same status. [Reminder: Ahmadis were declared non-Mohammedans through the Fourth Constitutional Amendment in 1974].
Hey, but wait a minute. Why would the Election Commission need to know what religion I believe in? Don't we have joint electorate system where everybody from an area votes for the same set of contestants?
Yes, we currently have the joint system but we have, over time, experimented quite a lot with representation of non-Mohammedans in elected Houses. It has been a debate in this country from day one but the calls for separating voters and contestants on the basis of religion were resisted till Gen Zia's time. The electoral circus of 1985 was the occasion when finally the religious right was granted its long standing wish and this system remained unchanged for the following four elections as well. It took us another general, the puppy-loving, singing and dancing type this time, to revert to the joint electorate system.
The Commission was overwhelmed by the reversal order of 2002 and when it started the campaign to update the voter lists in November 2003, it dropped the column on religion from its Forms and also the For-Mohammedans-Only Oath; soon to be reminded, rather rudely, that it had misread the situation. The 'enlightened' Order issued by President Musharraf in January 2002 was 'moderated' in June declaring that notwithstanding the joint electorate system the status of Ahmadis shall remain the same. This moderation was ostensibly mediated by some visitors to the Presidency with the right length of beards.
The President's words were there but still the poor Commission could not comprehend the utility of those check boxes. The guardians of our faith actually had to seek support of the court to make known who was in charge of matters related to religion over here. A petition in Lahore High Court challenged in January 2004, the Commission's decision to do away with the oath and the column on religion. Soon the Oath made a proud come back followed by a victory march by those sacred boxes.
Ok, they won. But what purpose does this information serve that the state of Pakistain is so obsessed with? I couldn't find a plausible justification until I was helped by a person with the right level of faith.
Suppose a non-Mohammedan, Tariq Pervaiz, a Christian or Abdus Salam, an Ahmadi decide to contest a general seat of National Assembly. Around four lac or so poor electors of that national constituency would never know that they are voting for a non-Mohammedan for his name is very deceptive.
Even worse, the same non-Mohammedan person gets elected by the House as the Prime Minister or God forbid, the President of this nuclear armed fort of Islam. What a shame and what a great constitutional blip that could be.
So more than 80 million voters of Pakistain are made to check one of those boxes and sign that Oath to block that one in 80 trillion chance of a non-Mohammedan deceitfully rising to the highest political office.
Thank you, Election Commission for reminding us that we live in an extremely insecure security state.
Obama silent while Saudi grand mufti targets Christianity
If the pope called for the destruction of all the mosques in Europe, the uproar would be cataclysmic. Pundits would lambaste the church, the White House would rush out a statement of deep concern, and rioters in the Middle East would kill each other in their grief. But when the most influential leader in the Muslim world issues a fatwa to destroy Christian churches, the silence is deafening.
On March 12, Sheik Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, declared that it is "necessary to destroy all the churches of the region."
Rest of the Washington Times editorial at the link. Thank goodness DC has one semi-sane newspaper. Hat tip of course to the Puppy Blender.
Op-ed: instead of focusing on decline of Arab Christianity, Catholic Church chooses to demonize Israel
One most sincerely hopes there is more to the story than seen here.
In a special interview with Die Tagespost last week, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, named by Pope Benedict to represent the Vatican in the Jewish State, declared that "Israel's existence as such has nothing to do with the Bible." He then compared Christians' condition in today's Jerusalem with Jesus' Passion: "We Christians never forget that even our Lord himself suffered and was mocked in Jerusalem."
Twal's position on Israel and the Bible has been embraced at the highest levels in the Catholic Church. The Vatican synod in 2010 declared that Israel cannot use the Biblical concept of a promised land or a chosen people. "We Christians cannot speak about the Promised Land for the Jewish people", the synod's document said. "There is no longer a chosen people. The concept of the promised land cannot be used as a base for the justification of the return of Jews to Israel and the displacement of Paleostinians."
A few days ago, Patriarch Twal responded enthusiastically to the agreement reached between Hamas, always the voice of sweet reason, and Fatah. He also denounced "the Judaization of Jerusalem" and attacked Israel for "trying to transform it into an only Hebrew-Jewish city, excluding the other faiths." Elsewhere, Iraq's Archbishop, Louis Sako, asked to "separate between Judaism and Zionism." Indeed, in the most influential quarters of Christianity, Jews are still regarded as an apostate group not entitled to a sovereign state of its own.
Backed by the Catholic clergy, for the first time in history the Paleostinians asked the United Nations ...aka the Oyster Bay Chowder and Marching Society... ' cultural body to register Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity under the name of "Paleostine." According to Omar Awadallah, who heads the UN department in the PA Foreign Ministry, "Jesus is the Paleostinian prince of hope and peace and Christians all over the world want that church to be a World Heritage site."
In a period when the Vatican's anguish at the catastrophic decline of Arab Christianity should be palpable, the Catholic Church chooses to demonize Israel and to increase its collaboration with the PLO. The confirmation comes from the intensity of high profile meetings in recent weeks and the participation of bishops not only from Arab countries, but from Europe and the United States as well.
'Zionism racially exclusive'
A Vatican delegation comprising Ettore Balestrero, the Holy See's Under-Secretary for Relations with States, and Archbishop Antonio Franco, Apostolic Delegate in Israel, just met in Ramallah with Paleostinian ministers and officials for an agreement with the PLO. Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, in a first-ever interview for a cardinal on al-Jazeera, declared that Israel must adopt "an internationally recognized statute for that part of Jerusalem where the Holy Places of the three monotheistic religions are open to believers."
Meanwhile, ...back at the the conspirators' cleverly concealed hideout the long-awaited message arrived. They quickly got to work with their decoder rings... Catholic and Moslem dignitaries met in Beit Sahour for a conference on "How to live together in a future Paleostinian state." Patriarch Emeritus of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, and Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, attended the event organized by Al-Liqa, a Vatican ecumenical center. Sabbah signed a document condemning Zionism as "racial exclusivity" and "the ideology of empire and colonialism."
Last January, eight Catholic bishops from Europe and North America, including UK Archbishop Patrick Kelly and French Archbishop Michel Dubost, visited Gazoo. "I asked prisoners in the largest prison in Europe (in Evry) to pray for you," Dubost told Gazooks. The inference was clear: Paleostinians are living in a big prison terrified by Israel. In the same period, Father Manuel Musalam, head of Gazoo's Catholics, met with Hamas leader, Mahmoud al Zahar, and declared that "Christians are not threatened by Moslems" but that everyone faces the same problem, that of Israel's "humiliation."
Last November, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, head of Leb's Catholic Church, sent his envoy, Father Abdo Abou Kassem, to Tehran for a conference in support of a "Zionist-free middle east." The conference was also attended by Hezbullies ideologue Mohammad Raad and by Hamas leader, Khaled Mashaal.
If in the wartime period the Vatican had taken a moral stand against Nazism, the outcome might have been different for the Jewish people. But that was 1943. By 2012, the Church should know better. Yet it seems that as was the case in World War II, the Vatican is again pursuing a joint cause with evil forces to buy temporary security.
The Vatican's criminalization of Zionism, which Arab Churches made a basic condition for Moslem-Christian rapprochement, grants the elimination of the Jewish State priority over defending the rights of their own beleaguered communities. After Arab nationalism failed to eliminate Israel, Arab Christianity and the Vatican are now building a Paleostinian identity hostile to Israel and the Jews.
Giulio Meotti, a journalist with Il Foglio, is the author of the book A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel's Victims of Terrorism
The Roman church is caught out in this situation.
There are 23 "Autonomous particular Churches", "of their own law", or self-governing, but in communion with Rome and who recognize the Pope as the leader of the Catholic church.
As a group they are only loosely stitched together, and it is a consensus based juggling act to keep them peaceable when one gets a wild hair. To make it even more challenging, when one adopts a radical position, they couch it in doctrinal terms to put pressure on the others to adopt it.
For example, in this case, doctrinally the Catholics cannot accept that Jews are "the chosen people" or that Israel is "the chosen land", because to do so would be to deny Catholic legitimacy.
They also point out that Israel could very well boot out the Christians after booting out the Muslims, which in my opinion is not that bad an idea from the Israeli point of view, as having others, nations or religions, claiming ownership of part of your country is almost a recipe for contention.
And along with the al-Asqa mosque, this includes the Christian holy sites.
N.B.: The various Christian sects fight each other over the use of these sites, literally down to the minute and square inch, the brawls often turning mildly violent. But all because they have a dangerous "sense of ownership".
Indeed, in the most influential quarters of Christianity, Jews are still regarded as an apostate group
Good catch, Omoluque Hapsburg8162! I missed that when I posted the article. For the record, Judaism came first, by over a millennium; it's all of Christianity and Islam who are the apostates. Not that we care, y'all can believe whatever you want, so long as you leave us in peace.
A person who renounces a religious or political belief or principle.
Abandoning such a belief or principle.
noun. renegade - turncoat - pervert - recreant - backslider
adjective. renegade - recreant
tw, as a Catholic from a long line of Catholics, I was disturbed by the content of the article and I'm afraid I don't have any insight into it. I must not have gotten the memo.
I will tell you, FWIW, that one of my most vivid memories is the first day of attendance at a very Catholic high school, when, within a short time after showing up, the entire entering class was marched into the school auditorium and shown a horrifying movie about the Holocaust, followed by an emphatic lecture by a priest on the significance of what we had just seen.
The Christians who lived under the Saracens as dimmies eventually developed a form of Stockholm Syndrome. Their antisemitism which they share with their overlords, goes right to the bone. How long they are going to stay like that is problematic.
I recently got spooked while visiting the blog of a Roman Catholic where one was commenting on his inability to understand the position of the Roman Catholic Church on the use of barrier contraception, and cited an article where Roman Catholic women were roundly criticized by some high ranking prelate because they had gotten too good at using the Rythmn method. The others jumped on him and demanded he just accept the Position of the Church even when it didn't make sense. I actually read some of the arguments on abortion and birth control, and was amazed at the flaccid excuses employed. One guy, in another post, cited a bible passage from Jesus, and was jumped on by another who merely cited some academics, no scriptures given.
Read the second paragraph of the article: There are scripture passages in the New Testament that not only state that the Jews continue to be the Chosen people, but that God has not forsaken them. The branch of Christianity that is the most fanatical about the literality of the New Testament, the Pentecostal/charismatic wing of Protestantism, almost uniformly to a man (err person), has adopted the same position and believes in the continued chosen-ness of the Jews, and hold that "the concept of the Promised land" still holds (even after two thousand years) because the Same God also promised the continued manifestation of phenomena within the Church that they have reproduced in their own churches. Along with Paul they would say, "So what if you can't reproduce the gifts of the spirit? Does the incompetence of man invalidate the faithfulness of God? Let God be true though every man be a liar."
This is merely the Roman Catholic Church asserting their right to override Scriptural practices and concepts: it's that part of the unending catfight between protestants and catholics that'll never be bridged or papered over. No scriptures supporting their view, no argumentation, just "The Vatican Synond in 2010 declared...", presuming to tell Jews and Christians of all faiths what to think.
This is pure sophilism: the speaking of any sh*t, rational or otherwise, that would convince people to do what the speaker wants. The speaker wins when people do what he says, and he loses when people don't do what he says, simple as that.
Just say no, and refuse to act on what they say.
Congratulations, they not only lose, but you made them lose.
Oh and one more thing: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, all "abrahamic" faiths, have factions having large fractions of their membership holding different ideas, but only Judaism's factions haven't made war against each other. TW, I am absolutely SURE I am not the only one that has noticed this, and I am absoluely sure there is some wonderfully wry and insightful inside joke making the rounds in the synagogues as to why that is so. Could you pleeeeze share with us if there is one?
Ptah, I'm not a regular churchgoer, but my impression talking to a lot of still-regular-churchgoer catholics here is that the church is divided on this subject. For instance, I'm fairly sure that the synod TW linked to earlier was speaking out of its ass when maintaining itself as representing the whole church.
But I have no doubt that they're trying to get there.
Catholic here, and I've never heard Jews spoken of disparagingly in the church. Ever. After all, Jesus was a Jew. They are our cultural and moral brethren.
Posted by: Frank G ||
Could you pleeeeze share with us if there is one?
No joke that I'm aware of, dear Ptah. It's just that, according to Hillel, God assigned us homework*, and we're busy.
* Asked by a pagan to summarise the Torah "while standing on one leg", Hillel responded, "Do not do to others what would be hateful if done to you. That is the whole of the Torah. All the rest is commentary. Now go and study."
[Dawn] BY rejecting Kofi Annan's ...Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh and so far the worst Secretary-General of the UN. Annan and the UN were the co-recipients of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize for something or other that probably sounded good at the time. In December 2004, reports surfaced that Kofi's son Kojo received payments from the Swiss company Cotecna, which had won a lucrative contract under the UN Oil-for-Food Program. Kofi Annan called for an investigation to look into the allegations, which stirred up the expected cesspool but couldn't seem to come up with enough evidence to indict Kofi himself, or even Kojo... "concrete proposals", Hereditary President-for-Life Bashir Pencilneck al-Assad Leveler of Latakia... has slammed the door on a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis. As a representative of the Arab League ...an organization of Arabic-speaking states with 22 member countries and four observers. The League tries to achieve Arab consensus on issues, which usually leaves them doing nothing but a bit of grimacing and mustache cursing... and the United Nations ...an international organization whose stated aims of facilitating interational security involves making sure that nobody with live ammo is offended unless it's a civilized country... , the former secretary-general had proposed negotiations as a solution. But the president said he would not talk to "terrorists". There are reasons why Mr Assad thinks he will be able to ride out the storm. The bastion of his power is the army, and by and large it is loyal to him. There have been individual defections in large numbers, but there have been no wholesale defections by units. In fact, the defeat inflicted on the rebels in Homs and more recently in Idlib would not have been possible if the army high command and the rank and file had not acted with the ruthlessness that was required. A Libya-like foreign intervention is out of the question for a country that is Israel's neighbour, and Jordan and Turkey have refused to enforce no-fly zones in given areas.
The president now wants to hold a general election on May 7, and for the first time it will be a multi-party affair. The election will be held on the basis of a modified constitution the government said was approved in February in a referendum. However, some people cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go... the opposition calls it a hoax and has pledged continued resistance. The result is unabated slaughter and widespread human misery. The number of refugees, including the internally displaced, has crossed 50,000, while the overall corpse count has risen to over 9,000. In this anarchy it will be extremely difficult for the Baathist regime to hold an election that would be accepted by the international community as transparent and reflective of the Syrian people's preferences. The only choice the president has is to invite Arab and other international observers to monitor the electoral process and call off the crackdown. Without an end to the fighting, it is difficult to see how those willing to cast their votes will go to the polling stations in numbers large enough to make the election results appear credible.