Making nice for the inauguration
I am so grateful to Israel for agreeing to a cease fire during Obama's inauguration. It would have been tacky for our nation's client state in the Middle East to be committing acts of genocide once the weekend parties in Washington had commenced. Who knows, perhaps some bumpkin from the 18th Congressional District of California, sipping Gallo's finest vintages at the suburban Annapolis home of Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Maryland, might utter a question about it, causing consternation amid celebration. Wir mussen die Ordnung haben. Unfortunately, our arms dealers are losing a little money this weekend, but that's the price of democracy and time in on their side. After all, the defenseless Palestinians of Gaza aren't going anywhere, because they can't. The slaughter can begin again as Washington recovers from its hangover after Obama has made his speech about hope and change in our time and the Democrats begin gathering the spoils of office.
World leaders push for lasting end to Gaza fighting...Heba Saleh in Cairo and Tobias Buck and Andrew England in Jerusalem
World leaders on Sunday rushed to shore up the fragile ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, after both Israel and the Islamist Hamas group said they would end hostilities after three weeks of bloody fighting.
The leaders of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Turkey met Hosni Mubarak, Egyptian president, in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to push for a durable end to the war. They called for an opening of the strip’s border crossings, offered to help in the rebuilding of Gaza, and promised to aid Egyptian efforts to put an end to weapons smuggling into the strip – an Israeli demand.
Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, said European leaders would tell Israel “that we are at its side to assure its right to security but [it] must indicate clearly that if the rocket firing stops, the Israeli army will leave Gaza”.
Hamas on Sunday followed Israel in declaring a ceasefire, offering the best chance yet to end a conflict that has claimed the lives of at least 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis. However, the Islamist group, along with other militant Palestinian factions in Gaza, said Israeli troops had to leave the territory within a week.
Gaza-based groups had fired at least 20 rockets on nearby Israeli towns in the hours leading up to the Hamas announcement, but the ceasefire appeared to hold in the afternoon and evening.
The move came in response to Israel’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire on Saturday night. Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, said the country’s offensive had achieved all its goals. He added that Israeli troops would remain in the Gaza Strip for the time being, but would withdraw if Hamas held fire as well.
A spokesman for Mr Olmert declined to comment on Hamas’s one-week ultimatum, saying the government was not in negotiations with the group. However, he added that Israel had “no intention” of staying in the Gaza Strip for long, and that a withdrawal could take place quickly.
The Sharm el-Sheikh conference also provided an opportunity to try to shore up the credibility of Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority. The PA, which was ousted from Gaza by Hamas in 2007, has been largely sidelined during the conflict, and Mr Abbas has faced criticism from Palestinians for not responding decisively to the crisis. He took part in the gathering and addressed the press alongside the European leaders.
The presence of international leaders offered support for Mr Mubarak, who has faced intense pressure from Arab countries such as Syria and Qatar for Egypt’s close ties with Israel and his refusal to open the country’s border with Gaza to help the beleaguered population.
Thousands of Californians making the pilgrimage East for inauguration...MICHAEL DOYLE Sun-Star Washington Bureau
...Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, for instance, will be hosting some of the more politically experienced Californians at his suburban Maryland home, in an afternoon reception honoring in part Darrell Steinberg, the president pro tem of the California state Senate...
Israel's Next War: Today the Gaza Strip, Tomorrow Lebanon?...Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
The March to War: Today the Gaza Strip, Tomorrow Lebanon...
In the Middle East, it is widely believed that the war against Gaza is an extension of the 2006 war against Lebanon. Without question, the war in the Gaza Strip is a part of the same conflict.
Moreover, since the Israeli defeat in 2006, Tel Aviv and Washington have not abandoned their design to turn Lebanon into a client state.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, in so many words, during his visit to Tel Aviv in early January that today Israel was attacking Hamas in the Gaza Strip and that tomorrow it would be fighting Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Lebanon is still in the cross-hairs. Israel is searching for a justification or a pretext to launch another war against Lebanon.
Washington and Tel Aviv had initially hoped to control Beirut through client political forces in the March 14 Alliance. When it became apparent that these political forces could not dominate Lebanon politically the Israeli military was unleashed on Lebanon with a goal of bringing about the ultimate downfall of Hezbollah and its political allies.  Areas where support for Hezbollah and its political allies were strongest saw the harshest Israeli attacks in 2006 as part of an attempt to reduce, if not remove, popular support for them.
After the 2006 war, the second Israeli defeat in Lebanon, Washington and Tel Aviv with the help of Jordan, the U.A.E., Egypt, and Saudi Arabia started arming their clients in Lebanon to wield an internal armed option against Hezbollah and its allies. In the wake of both the short-lived internal violence between the Lebanese National Opposition and the March 14 Alliance and the Doha Accord, which was reached in Qatar on May 21, 2008 as a result of the failure of this internal armed option against Hezbollah and its allies, the Israeli-U.S. objective to subdue Lebanon has been dramatically impaired.
A "national unity government" was formed in which the Lebanese National Opposition — not just Hezbollah — held veto power through one-third of the cabinet chairs, including that of the post of deputy-prime minister.
The objective in Lebanon is "regime change" and to repress all forms of political opposition. But how to bring it about? The forecast of the 2009 general-elections in Lebanon does not look favourable for the March 14 Alliance. Without an internal political or armed option in Lebanon, which could result in the installation of a U.S.-sponsored "democracy," Washington and its indefictible Israeli ally have chosen the only avenue available: a military solution, another war on Lebanon. 
Crossing Arms III: Israel Simulates a Two-Front War against Lebanon and Syria
This war is already in the advanced planning stage. In November 2008, barely a month before Tel Aviv started its massacre in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military held drills for a two-front war against Lebanon and Syria called Shiluv Zro’ot III (Crossing Arms III).
The military exercise included a massive simulated invasion of both Syria and Lebanon. Several months before the Israeli invasion drills, Tel Aviv had also warned Beirut that it would declare war on the whole of Lebanon and not just Hezbollah.
Israel's justification for these war preparations was that Hezbollah has grown stronger and become a partner in the Lebanese government since the Doha Accord. The latter was signed in Qatar between the March 14 Alliance and the Lebanese National Opposition. It is worth noting that Hezbollah was a member of the Lebanese coaltion government prior to the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon.
No doubt, Tel Aviv will also point to Hezbollah's support of Hamas in Gaza as another pretext to wage under the banner of combating Islamic terrorism a pre-emptive war on Lebanon. In this context, Dell Lee Dailey the head of the counter-terrorism section of the U.S. State Department, had told Al-Hayat in an interview that an Israeli attack on Lebanon was "imminent" as part of the fight against terrorism. 
Blitzkrieg in the Making
Tel Aviv has been mapping a large-scale blitzkrieg against Lebanon as a whole, which includes an immediate land invasion.  Just before the Israeli massacre in the Gaza Strip started, Israeli officials and generals had promised that no Lebanese village would be immune from the wrath of Israeli aerial bombardments, regardless of religion, sect, and/or political orientation. 
In substance, Tel Aviv has promised to totally destroy Lebanon. Israel has also confirmed that in any future war against Lebanon, the entire country rather than Hezbollah will be the target. In practice, this was already the case in 2006’s Israeli aerial attacks on Lebanon. 
The Jerusalem Post quotes Brigadier-General Michael Ben-Baruch, one of the individuals overseeing the invasion drills, as saying, "In the last war, we fired to disrupt Hezbollah activity," and, "The next time we will fire to destroy." 
In the wake of Israel's 2006 defeat, the Israeli government admitted that its "big mistake" was it exercised restraint rather than attacking Lebanon with the full strength of its military. Israeli officials have intimated that in the case of a future war against the Lebanese that all civilian and state infrastructure will be targeted.
Beirut’s New Defence Doctrine: A Threat to Israeli Interests and Objectives to Control Lebanon
Why is Lebanon in the cross-hairs again?
The answer is geo-political and strategic. It is also related to the political consensus process and the upcoming 2009 general-elections in Lebanon. Following the formation of a unity government in Beirut under a new president, Michel Suleiman (Sleiman), a new proactive defence doctrine for the country was contemplated. The objective of this defence doctrine is to keep Israel at bay and bring political stability and security to the country.
At the "National Defence Strategy" dialogue, held by the 14 Lebanese signatories of the Doha Accord, all sides have agreed that Israel is a threat to Lebanon.
In the months prior to the Israeli military campaign against Gaza, important diplomatic and political steps were taken by Beirut. President Michel Suleiman accompanied by several cabinet ministers visited Damascus (his first bilateral state visit; August 13-14, 2008) and Tehran (November 24-25, 2008).
In turn, General Jean Qahwaji (Kahwaji) the commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces was also in Damascus (November 29, 2008) for consultations with his Syrian counterpart General Al-Habib. While in Damascus, General Qahwaji also met with General Hassan Tourkmani, the defence minister of Syria, and the Syrian President.  His trip followed the visit of Lebanon's interior minister, Ziad Baroud, to Syria and was within the same framework.  Meanwhile, Lebanon’s defence minister, Elias Murr, went on an official visit to Moscow (December 16, 2008).
What started to emerge from these talks was that both Moscow and Tehran would provide weaponry to the Lebanese Armed Forces, which previously had been the recipients of lower-end U.S. made ordinance. The U.S. has always forbidden the Lebanese military from purchasing any heavy weapons that could challenge Israel's military strength.
It was also revealed that Russia would donate 10 MiG-29 fighter jets to Beirut in line with Lebanon's new defence strategy.  The use of the Russian MiG-29s would also entail the required installation of early warning and radar systems. Russian tanks, anti-tank rockets, armoured vehicles, and military helicopters are also being sought by Lebanon. 
Iran has offered to supply the Lebanese military with medium-range missiles as part of a five-year Iranian-Lebanese defence agreement.  While in Iran, Michel Suleiman held talks with Iranian defence officials and went to an Iranian defence industry exposition.
While the talks with Moscow and Tehran aimed at arming the Lebanese Armed Forces, the talks with the Syrians were geared towards establishing and strengthening a joint security and defence framework directed against Israeli aggression. 
Integrating Hezbollah into the Lebanese Armed Forces
Moreover, Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement and the Reform and Change Bloc in the Lebanese Parliament also visited Tehran (October 12-16, 2008; ahead of Michel Suleiman's official visit), and later Damascus (December 3-7, 2008).  Michel Aoun who is a central figure in the "political consensus" has endorsed and reaffirmed his political alliance with Hezbollah.
While calling for the peaceful disarmament of Hezbollah within a Lebanese defence strategy, he has accepted that Hezbollah fighters will eventally integrate into Lebanon's army. This disarmement process would only occur when the time is right and Israel no longer poses a threat to Lebanon. Hezbollah has broadly agreed to this, if and when there no longer exists an Israeli threat to the country's security. This position on Hezbollah's arms is spelled out in clause 10 (The Protection of Lebanon) of the February 6, 2006 memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Hezbollah that Michel Aoun signed on behalf of his political party, the Free Patriotic Movement.
Following his return from Tehran, Aoun also presented his case for the formation of a new Lebanese defence strategy and promised that the outcome of his visit to Iran would materialize in about six months. Aoun has also said that Iran, as the "major regional power between Lebanon and China" is of strategic importance to Lebanese interests. 
Washington's political cohorts in Lebanon are alarmed at the direction Lebanon is taking under its new defence strategy. They have criticized weapons purchases from Iran and defensive cooperation with Syria. This includes attacks on General Jean Qahwaji's visit to Syria, which was mandated by the entire Lebanese cabinet.  Additionally, within these pro-U.S. forces in Lebanon there has been a push for a "Swiss-like" "neutral defence policy" for Lebanon within the Middle East. Such a "neutral" position would benefit the U.S. and Israel geo-politically and strategically. Needless to say, with the threat of Israeli military aggression looming, this position is proving to be rather unpopular within Lebanon.
Ending Israeli-American pressure on Beirut to Naturalize Palestinian Refugees
The formation of a new proactive defence doctrine implies that Hezbollah fighters would be incorporated in the Lebanese Armed Forces and that the existing paramilitary forces of Hezbollah would be disbanded once certain conditions are met.
Therefore, one of Lebanon’s key political questions would be resolved. With the integration of Hezbollah fighters into the country's army together with military aid from Russia and Iran, Lebanon would acquire defensive capabilities, which would enable it to confront the threat of Israeli military aggression. These developments, which go against the prevailing pattern of U.S. client regimes in the Middle East modelled on Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have sounded an alarm bell in Tel Aviv, Washington, and London.
In response to Lebanon's rapprochement with Russia and Iran, two senior US State Department officials were rushed to Beirut in December. During this mission, Dell Lee Dailey and David Hale, respectively Coordinator of the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism and Deputy-assistant Secretary responsible for Middle Eastern affairs, renewed the veiled threats of an Israeli attack against Lebanon, while casually placing the blame on Hezbollah. These threats are aimed at Lebanon as a whole. They are intended to disrupt the creation of Lebanon's new defence doctrine.
The clock is ticking for Israel, the U.S., and NATO to obstruct the implementation of Beirut's new national defense doctrine.
Israel would no longer have any justifications for carrying out military incursions into Lebanon if Hezbollah were to become a full political party under a new Lebanese defence strategy. Moreover, if Beirut were able, under a new defence arrangement, to protect its borders against Israeli military threats it would not only end Tel Aviv’s ambitions to politically and economically dominate Lebanon, but it would also end Israeli pressure on Lebanon to naturalize the Palestinian war refugees waiting to return to their ancestoral lands that are occupied by Israel.
The issue of Palestinian naturalization in Lebanon is also tied to Lebanon's political consensus process and new defence strategy and was discussed by Michel Suleiman with Iranian officials in Tehran. 
The Middle Eastern Powder Keg: A World War III Scenario?
In 2006, when Israel attacked Lebanon, the war was presented to international public opinion as a conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. In essence the 2006 war was an Israeli attack on all of Lebanon. The Beirut government failed to take a stance, declared its "neutrality" and Lebanon's military forces were instructed not to intervene against the Israeli invaders. The reason for this was that the political parties of the Hariri-led March 14 Alliance that dominated the Lebanese government were expecting the war to end quickly and for Hezbollah (their political rival) to be defeated, and eventually excluded from playing a meaningful role on the Lebanese domestic political scene. Exactly the opposite has occurred since 2006.
Moreover, had the Lebanese government declared war on Israel, in response to Israeli aggression, Syria would have been obligated through a Lebanese-Syrian bilateral treaty, signed in 1991, to intervene in support of Lebanon.
In the case of a future Israeli war against Lebanon, the structure of military alliances is crucial. Syria could indeed intervene on the side of Lebanon. If Syria enters into the conflict, Damascus could seek the support of Tehran in the context of a bilateral military cooperation agreement with Iran.
A scenario of escalation is, therefore, possible, which could potentially spin out of control.
If Iran were to enter on the side of Lebanon and Syria in a defensive war against Israel, the U.S. and NATO would also intervene leading us into a broader war.
Both Iran and Syria have military cooperation agreements with Russia. Iran also has bilateral military cooperation agreements with China. Iran is also an observer member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Iran’s allies including Russia, China, the member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) could all be drawn into the broader conflict.
 'We’re fed up with empty gestures’, The Jerusalem Post, January 6, 2009.
 The militarization of Lebanon, extinguishing an credible armed resistance in Lebanon to Israel, and targeting Syria were also all factors for the Israeli attacks in 2006.
 It should be noted that the fighting between Hamas and Fatah and the Israeli campaign against the Gaza Strip that started on December 27, 2008 has obstructed the Palestinian electoral process.
 Amos Harel, IDF concludes large drill simulating double-front war in North, Haaretz, November 6, 2008.
 Barak Ravid, Israel: Lebanon is responsable for Hezbollah’s actions, Haaretz, August 8, 2008.
 "Hezbollah Terrorist Group; War with Israel Imminent", Al-Manar, December 17, 2008
 Yakkov Katz, Preparing for a possible confrontation with Hizbullah, The Jerusalem Post, December 11, 2008.
 Andrew Wander, Top Israeli officer says Hizbullah will be destroyed in five days 'next time', The Daily Star (Lebanon), December 17, 2008.
 Yakkov Katz, Preparing for a possible, Op. cit.
 Ahmed Fathi Zahar et al., President al-Assad Receives General Qahwaji, Underlines Role of Lebanese Army in Defending Lebanon's Security and Stability, Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), November 29, 2008.
 Lebanese army commander pays visit to Syria, Xinhua News Agency, November 30, 2008.
 Wang Yan, Russian donation of 10 Mig-29 fighters to Lebanon raises suspicions, Xinhua News Agency, December, 17, 2008; Yoav Stern, Russia to supply Lebanon with 10 MiG-29 fighter jets, Haaretz, December 17, 208; Russia 'to give' Lebanon war jets, British Broadcasting Corporation News (BBC News), December 17, 2008.
 Lebanon defense minister to talk arms in Moscow, Russian News and Information Agency (RIA Novosti), December 15, 2008.
 Zheng E, Lebanese president requests medium weapons from Iran, Xinhua News Agency, November 26, 2008; Kahwaji stresses LAF role, while politicians bicker some more, The Daily Star (Lebanon), November 27, 2008; Russian donation, Op. cit.
 Sun, Lebanese army commander returns from Syria, Xinhua News Agency, November 30, 2008.
 Sami Moubayed, Former foe a celebrity in Damascus, Gulf News, December 4, 2008.
 Aoun: Iran, most powerful country, Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), October 21, 2008.
 Lebanese ctiticizes army commander's visit to Syria [sic.], Xinhua News Agency, December 1, 2008.
 More praise for Russia's promise of 'free' MiGs, Agence France-Presse (AFP) and The Daily Star (Lebanon), December 18, 2008.
 War with Israel Imminent, Op. cit.; US envoy warns against rearming Lebanon's Hezbollah, Deutsche Presse-Agentur/German Press Agency (DPA), December 17, 2008.
 Kahwaji stresses LAF role, Op. cit.
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
Agence France Press
Rice, Livni sign anti-arms smuggling deal for Gaza
WASHINGTON (AFP) — US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Friday signed a deal aimed at halting arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip in a bid to clinch a ceasefire in the Hamas-run enclave.
The memorandum of understanding "provides a series of the steps that the US and Israel will take to stem the flow of weapons and explosives into Gaza," Rice said. "The MOU we sign today is ... a vital component for the cessation of hostilities," Livni added.
The White House Moron Stumbles to the Finish
The Humiliation of America...PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS
“Early Friday morning the secretary of state was considering bringing the cease-fire resolution to a UNSC vote and we didn’t want her to vote for it,” Olmert said. “I said ‘get President Bush on the phone.’ They tried and told me he was in the middle of a lecture in Philadelphia. I said ‘I’m not interested, I need to speak to him now.’ He got down from the podium, went out and took the phone call.”
"Let me see if I understand this,” wrote a friend in response to news reports that Israeli Prime Minister Olmert ordered President Bush from the podium where he was giving a speech to receive Israel’s instructions about how the United States had to vote on the UN resolution. “On September 11th, President Bush is interrupted while reading a story to school children and told the World Trade Center had been hit--and he went on reading. Now, Olmert calls about a UN resolution when Bush is giving a speech and Bush leaves the stage to take the call. There exists no greater example of a master-servant relationship.”
Olmert gloated as he told Israelis how he had shamed US Secretary of State Condi Rice by preventing the American Secretary of State from supporting a resolution that she had helped to craft. Olmert proudly related how he had interrupted President Bush’s speech in order to give Bush his marching orders on the UN vote.
Israeli politicians have been bragging for decades about the control they exercise over the US government. In his final press conference, President Bush, deluded to the very end, said that the whole world respects America. In fact, when the world looks at America, what it sees is an Israeli colony.
Responding to mounting reports from the Red Cross and human rights organizations of Israel’s massive war crimes in Gaza, the United Nations Human Rights Council voted 33-1 on January 12 to condemn Israel for grave offenses against human rights.
On January 13, the London Times reported that Israelis have gathered on a hillside overlooking Gaza to enjoy the slaughter of Palestinians in what the Times calls “the ultimate spectator sport.”
It is American supplied F-16 fighter jets, helicopter gunships, missiles, and bombs that are destroying the civilian infrastructure of Gaza and murdering the Palestinians who have been packed into the tiny strip of land. What is happening to the Palestinians herded into the Gaza Ghetto is happening because of American money and weapons. It is just as much an attack by the United States as an attack by Israel. The US government is complicit in the war crimes.
Yet in his farewell press conference on January 12, Bush said that the world respects America for its compassion.
The compassion of bombing a UN school for girls?
The compassion of herding 100 Palestinians into one house and then shelling it?
The compassion of bombing hospitals and mosques?
The compassion of depriving 1.5 million Palestinians of food, medicine, and energy?
The compassion of violently overthrowing the democratically elected Hamas government?
The compassion of blowing up the infrastructure of one of the poorest and most deprived people on earth?
The compassion of abstaining from a Security Council vote condemning these actions?
And this is a repeat of what the Israelis and Americans did to Lebanon in 2006, what the Americans did to Iraqis for six years and are continuing to do to Afghans after seven years. And still hope to do to the Iranians and Syrians.
In 2002 I designated George W. Bush “the White House Moron.” If there ever was any doubt about this designation, Bush’s final press conference dispelled it.
Bush talked about connecting the dots, but Bush has failed to connect any dots for eight solid years. “Our” president was a puppet for a cabal led by Dick Cheney and a handful of Jewish neoconservatives, who took control of the Pentagon, the State Department, the National Security Council, the CIA, and “Homeland Security.” From these power positions, the neocon cabal used lies and deception to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, pointless wars that have cost Americans $3 trillion, while millions of Americans lose their jobs, their pensions, and their access to health care.
“These obviously very difficult economic times,” Bush said in his press conference, “started before my presidency.”
Bush has plenty of liberal company in failing to connect a $3 trillion dollar war with hard times. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities blames Bush’s tax cut, not the wars, for “the fiscal deterioration.”
Bush told the White House Press Corps, a useless collection of non-journalists, that the two mistakes of his invasion of Iraq were: (1) Putting up the “mission accomplished” banner on the aircraft carrier, which, he said, “sent the wrong message,” and (2) the absence of the alleged weapons of mass destruction that he used to justify the invasion.
Although Bush now admits that there were not any such weapons in Iraq, Bush said that the invasion was still the right thing to do.
The deaths of 1.25 million Iraqis, the displacement of 4 million Iraqis, and the destruction of a country’s infrastructure and economy are merely the collateral damage associated with “bringing freedom and democracy” to the Middle East.
Unless George W. Bush is the best actor in human history, he truly believes what he told the White House Press Corps.
What Bush did not explain is how America is respected when its people put a moron in charge for eight years.
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com