Written by Right Side News
4 Av 5768
August 5, 2008
Mysterious Assassination of Syria's Mystery Man
As reported yesterday, a mysterious assassination of a high-ranking Syrian general took place late Aug 1, an event that Damascus tried hard to keep quiet but the Jordanian news site, Al Bawaba, broke the story, Aug. 2nd.
It is known that Suleiman was no minor Syrian official for he had access to every state secret and plan. He was a close confidante to the president; some even called him Assad's right hand man; and was entrusted with a number of highly sensitive security and intelligence issues, including managing weapons transfers for Lebanon-based Shiite group, Hezbollah. No one has claimed responsibiity for the assassination yet, but given the current regional dynamics and Suleiman's support for Syria's peace talks with Israel, Hezbollah is the prime suspect.
The general's assassination comes at a critical time for Syria - just a few months after the assassination of Hezbollah's top commander Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus and in the midst of Syria trying to break out of its diplomatic prison through peace talks with Israel.
The mysterious assassination raises two key possibilities: 1) Either Suleiman's assassination is a sign of an intensifying power struggle in Damascus over al Assad's negotiations with Israel, or 2) Hezbollah (and perhaps its Iranian patrons) are sending a signal to Assad to stop the peace talks.
Suleiman was in charge of ensuring arms shipments to Hezbollah from Syria (and we are told would charge high commissions for these arms deliveries, much to Hezbollah's discontent.) If Syria's negotiations with Israel are to go anywhere, Syria would be expected to cut off Hezbollah's weapons supply and crack down on Hezbollah. Since Suleiman was the main liaison between the Syrian regime and Hezbollah, he would have been the one to carry out the marching orders for Hezbollah's crackdown, beginning with a weapons cutoff, the expected next step for Syria to take as a good faith gesture to Israel that it is serious about peace. Hezbollah would have every reason to strike him.
If Hezbollah did indeed carry out the assassination against Suleiman, the Syrians have some key decisions to make within the next few weeks. Though the president has made a point to schedule highly publicized visits to Tehran and reject any notions of Syria cutting ties with Iran and Hezbollah, there is a great deal of tension behind the scenes.
Iran is visibly disturbed at the prospect of Damascus distancing itself and has privately conveyed to Assad that it has the means to destabilize the Syrian regime if it goes too far in its negotiations with Israel. Though Syria has a powerful security apparatus to guard against such threats, the regime is not completely immune to the number of Iranian and Hezbollah intelligence assets in Syria that are potentially capable of carrying out assassinations against high-ranking Syrian officials like Suleiman.
But Hezbollah would also be taking a risk in carrying out such an attack. Syria is now at a fork in the road: Either it can seriously pursue peace talks with Israel while the Israeli political system is in transition over Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's impending resignation, or it can reaffirm its commitment to old allies like Iran and Hezbollah, and lose an opportunity to break out of diplomatic isolation and secure itself from an unremitting Israeli military threat.
If Syria continues on the peace track with Israel, then Hezbollah may have just overstepped its boundaries with this assassination and given the Syrians a good excuse to crack down sooner, rather than later.
Lebanese Gov't: Hizbollah Has the Right to Arms
The Lebanese government unanimously approved a policy draft that gives Hizbollah the "right to arms and to continue their efforts to liberate territories under Israeli control." The position paper will now be brought before the Lebanese Parliament for its vote of confidence.
In recent days Hizbullah has drawn attention to its newly focused efforts on ending Israeli Air Force sorties over Lebanon.
The clause in question was the main point of contention between the country's political factions as they sought to draft the policy proposal. Section 24 of the draft now assures the "right of Lebanon's people, the army and the resistance(i.e., Hizbollah) to liberate all its territories."
Many officials in the anti-Syrian, pro-Western bloc had argued that statement should not include the word ''resistance'' and that it should make ''liberating the occupied lands'' solely the work of the Lebanese army. But Hizbollah members of the government strongly opposed that position and in the end, they won the day.
Hizbullah said it was satisfied with the decision: "The government's decision proves that the resistance, which won in July 2006, and completed its victory in Operation Radwan (the prisoner-exchange deal with Israel), and is now going from victory to victory," said Lebanese MP for Hizbullah, Hassan Haballah.
Information Minister Tareq Mitri said that four ministers had expressed reservations over the clause related to "resistance against Israel."
Palestinian Student Visas Denied by US
The United States has revoked the visas of three Palestinian Fulbright scholars whose cases were taken up personally by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice after Israel refused to let them leave Gaza for interviews, US officials said Monday.
Visas for the three, along with a fourth Palestinian student from Gaza who had hoped to come to the US under a different program, were approved after Rice intervened in June but were rescinded last week when "new information" about them was received, the officials said.
"There were four Palestinians who were issued visas about whom we then received additional information," State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said. "We decided that we needed to take a closer and harder look at them in light of the additional information we received."
He said the visas were canceled under a "prudential revocation" clause in immigration rules that allows them to be rescinded based on information gleaned about the holders after they were issued. It does not preclude the applicants from reapplying for visas in the future, he said.
Olmert, Abbas to Meet Wednesday
Despite protests from Knesset members, Prime Minister Olmert is going ahead with a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Wednesday in Jerusalem. The meeting will be the first between the two since Olmert, under a cloud of corruption charges, announced he would step down after Kadima selects a new leader in September.
Olmert and Abbas have been holding regular meetings since Israel and the Palestinians launched new peace negotiations at the US-sponsored Annapolis Conference in November of 2007.
Abbas said during a visit to Tunisia last month that the two sides had not agreed on any of the core issues that separate them, such as the borders of a future Palestinian state and the fate of Jerusalem.
Olmert said last week that no deal on Jerusalem, considered the thorniest point of contention, was likely to be reached this year.
Knesset member Limor Livnat approached the High Court requesting that all negotiations be stopped during this transitional time in the government.
High Court Warns Olmert
The High Court of Justice on Monday left open the possibility that Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz might be able to declare Prime Minister Ehud Olmert incapable of fulfilling his duties should the prime minister continue to obstruct the criminal investigations against him.
The ruling was handed down in response to a petition by Yoav Yitzhak, who runs the internet news site News First Class. Yitzhak demanded that Mazuz declare Olmert incapable of serving as prime minister so that he would have time to be interrogated by police on a daily basis.
Olmert is currently undergoing five police investigations. The police have concluded a sixth investigation and handed the material over to the state prosecution with a recommendation to close the file.
Yitzhak added that, short of his main demand, he had called on Mazuz to order Olmert to show up for police questioning "as necessary."
Since the beginning of the Talansky affair, Olmert has rejected several requests to be questioned and determined the number of hours he would make himself available to police, citing his heavy work schedule.
Deputy Supreme Court President Eliezer Rivlin and Justices Asher Grunis and Yoram Danziger rejected the petition but added that "there could be reason for the attorney-general to declare that the prime minister is temporarily incapable of fulfilling his responsibilities should he make it impossible to properly carry out the criminal investigations against him."
Yitzhak, the petitioner, said he was "very happy about the High Court decision. Under the circumstances, I got more than I expected. I hope that on the basis of the verdict, the attorney-general will order investigations to be conducted as quickly as possible even if the police have to question Olmert every day to complete the investigations as quickly as possible and get rid of him."
Israel's Devout Olympian
The Israeli Taekwondo delegate to Beijing, Bat-El Gaterer keeps Shabbat, settles for kosher instant food, and is staying focused on her mission to take home an Olympic medal.
It's not that Gaterer has a poor taste in food. While her companions munch on a protein bar, she makes do with a cup of instant noodles because there are no Kosher protein bars anywhere around. That's how it goes when you're the only Torah observant contestant in the entire Israeli Olympic delegation.
Gaterer's uncompromising nature reaches far beyond kosher matters. Her coach recalled a Taekwondo competition held in Belgium for which the Israeli delegation scraped to find a single hotel room close to where competition was held so that Gaterer wouldn't have to walk all the way there on Shabbat.
But she still got out of bed at four in the morning for fear she wouldn't wake up on time, only to realize she had turned off her cell phone and had no clue what time it was. She couldn't take the elevator or leave the room because both required operating electrical devices on Shabbat. So she sat in her room waiting for he coach Shmida to pick her up. Though she had slept only three hours, she fought in five rounds and took the third prize.
Twenty-year-old Gaterer grew up at the Kochav Yaakov settlement not far from the West Bank city of Ramallah. At the age of nine, she registered for a street fighting class and her coach suggested she focus on footwork. Recognizing her potential, he referred her to the Achi-yehuda Dojang club and its team in Jerusalem. Gaterer began learning Taekwondo when she was 12 and hasn't stopped kicking since. While studying at the girls' seminary in Ofra, she also started training with Israel's national team.
"Everyone at seminary accepted it (Taekwondo practice) and supported me," said the Olympic delegate.
Taekwondo is a Korean martial art primarily based on footwork. In its competitive version, it is a kicking match awarding one point for kicking the rival in the stomach and two points for hitting him in the head. After three rounds of two-minutes each, the one accumulating the highest point score is the winner. Eight years ago, Taekwondo became an official Olympic sport, and the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games is the second time Israel sends a Taekwondo delegate.
Israel Lights Up the World for Tibet
On August 7, 2008, otherwise known as the eve of the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, supporters of freedom for Tibet are planning to light the world on fire - literally. Perhaps just as amazingly, the idea for this special protest has come from Israel.
Fifty-two year old David Califa has started a website that introduce the idea of a "light protest", which has already secured 100 million supporters worldwide. The protest entails the simple lighting of a candle at 9 pm on the evening before the Olympics.
"The light protest invites people to perform a simple task on a certain moment for a specific cause," Califa explained. "It's a global tool for the unification of millions of people worldwide; and it increases the power each of us has for the expression of our own stance.
"A light protest will always stand for a higher cause such as human rights, freedom, thought or faith and will be pro-bono, and non-violent."
Califa invited everyone to join him in lighting a candle and placing it on a windowsill, tabletop, or anywhere else in the home. The protest itself will be broadcast internationally during the games' opening ceremony, and in Israel a light show will be held on Dizengoff Square at 8 pm on August 7.
On the day after the ceremony, Candle for Tibet plans to launch a letter to world leaders in which it will number the amount of people who demonstrated in honor of freedom for Tibet. "We will also send letters to the Chinese government and the UN chief about the level of global participation," Kalifa said. "We're not against the Olympics; we're just working towards freedom, period."
Perhaps the most important supporter of the protest is the Dalai Lama, who has recently officially recognized the campaign."We hope your Candle for Tibet campaign will inspire the Chinese authorities to appreciate the value of freedom of all mankind and the importance of the Tibetan Buddhist culture that is benefiting millions of people and has the potential to serve humanity as a whole, including the Chinese people," said Tsering Tashi, who represents the Dalai Lama.
"Like you, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile is not against the coming Olympics to be held in Beijing," added Tsering Tashi. "We are also not against the Chinese people, who also do not enjoy genuine human rights and freedom that the people in the free world take for granted."
"We are happy and proud to receive the blessing of the Dalai Lama," Califa concluded. "It empowers the action and non-violent protest on which the campaign is based."
He encouraged people worldwide to keep the headlights of their vehicles on during August 8, as a demonstration for global peace and freedom.
Califa's website is linked below. It is in Hebrew but there are portions in English including the location of public lightings around the world.
Shalom and blessings,
The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree; he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of Hashem, they shall flourish in the courts of our G-d.
Even in old age, they shall continue to bear fruit, remaining vigorous and fresh.