Archive for October, 2012

UTAN NATO BLIR SVERIGE EN MUNSBIT

October 31, 2012

Svenska Dagbladet, Stockholm, publicerade den 28 oktober, 2012, en NATO-vänlig ledare av Claes Arvidsson. Utdrag nedan:

Trots att vi övar artikel 5 – alliansens hårda kärna – tillsammans med Nato ligger en död hand över frågan om Sverige ska bli medlem.

Det som gäller är ett föga statsministeraktigt nej från moderatledaren till att ens undersöka för- och nackdelar med ett medlemskap. Sannolikheten för att den nyss sjösatta Försvarsberedningen – under överinseende av Cecilia Widegren (M) – kommer att pröva frågan faller utanför det tänkbaras gräns.

Enligt Fredrik Reinfeldt kan ett medlemskap bli aktuellt först när Finland går med…

Ett annat sätt att närma sig frågan än det politiskt taktiska är att utgå från Sveriges försvarsförmåga. Armén är så liten att den är expeditionär även på hemmaplan. Flottan är i det närmast utraderad. Flyget är numerärt starkt men i praktiken också det nedrustat. Med andra ord finns inte mycket att hålla i handen om det skulle krisa eller för den delen som avhållande faktor.

Europa behöver…ett starkt Nato – i kraft av att dess förmåga att verka både som global säkerhetsaktör som samarbetar med ett 50-tal länder och försvarsallians där 21 av Natos 28 medlemmar också tillhör EU.

Sverige är med i Partnerskap för fred som bildades 1994 och som för de flesta ingående staterna bara var ett väntrum inför ett riktigt medlemskap. I själva verket sker det mesta samarbetet utanför PFP-ramen genom deltagande i olika Natokommittéer och förstås genom skarp insats. När det nu talas om partnerskap är det snarare ett annat ord för flexibla problemlösningar – och Sverige är en ”premier partner”.

Det senaste exemplet är Island. Det finns majoritet i riksdagen för ett svenskt deltagande i Natos air policing av Island. Eller rättare sagt har Reinfeldt förklarat att Sverige ska delta, men inte i air policing. Sverige ska bidra med luftrumsövervakning medan skarp insats med stridsflyg ska vara förbehållen Nato-länder.

Det är smart men inte bara. Vem utöver möjligtvis den svenska opinionen låter sig lura av den distinktionen? Knappast det Ryssland vars allt mer närvarande flyg är skälet till air policing? Å andra sidan kunde Sverige i enligt med själva idén i Solidaritetsdoktrin inte gärna neka att ställa upp för Island.

Politiken innebär att Sverige blir mer och mer Nato men utan att vara fullvärdig medlem. Det är som om regering och riksdag både vill äta och behålla kakan.

Ett annat problemet är om Sverige ändå uppfattas som en del av Nato, utan att varken ha den säkerhetsgaranti som följer med medlemskapet eller förmåga att stå på egna ben. Sverige blir den svagaste länken i kedjan.

Ett svenskt medlemskap skulle dessutom vara bra för Nato – och det som är bra för Nato gagnar Sveriges säkerhet. Smart defence – specialisering och delade förmågor – är nyckelordet för att möta krympande försvarsbudgetar. Det smarta försvaret innebär också ett försök att få medlemmarna att tänka över nationsgränserna när man skär i försvaret. Här kan Sverige bidra.

Att på det sättet stärka Nato är också ett bidrag till att göra alliansen mer relevant för USA, som nu står för hela 77 procent av Natos samlade försvarskostnader, och länge varit kritisk till hur bördorna fördelas. USA behöver Europa, men det sker en amerikansk omorientering mot Asien. Utan USA blir Nato en papperstiger – och Sverige en munsbit.

Ska Sverige bli medlem i Nato? Svaret är enkelt.

MONITORS CRITICIZE RESULT OF UKRAINE VOTE

October 30, 2012

The Wall Street Journal on October 29, 2012 reported that President Viktor Yanukovych’s ruling Party of Regions in Kiev is on course to form a majority in parliament. Excerpts below:

Western monitors said Ukraine has taken a step away from democracy as President Viktor Yanukovych’s party closed in on a wider-than-expected victory in parliamentary elections.

His Party of Regions is on course to form a majority, tightening Mr. Yanukovych’s hold over this former Soviet republic that seems set to become further isolated from the West.

The U.S. and the European Union had urged the president to ensure free and fair elections as a step toward repairing relations that have soured since the jailing of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister, last fall.

The failure to do so complicates the EU’s hopes of strengthening ties and leaves Mr. Yanukovych with limited ballast to resist Russia’s attempts to draw its neighbor into deeper political and economic alliances.

Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said Monday that the absence from the ballot of Ms. Tymoshenko and one of her top allies, who is also in jail, skewed the election.

“Considering the abuse of power, and the excessive role of money in this election, democratic progress appears to have reversed in Ukraine,” said Swedish MP Walburga Habsburg Douglas, head of the OSCE observation mission.

With more than three-quarters of ballots counted by October 29, Mr. Yanukovych’s Party of Regions led with 32.6% of the popular vote, which will account for half the chamber’s 450 seats. The party is set to win around half the 225 seats from individual races in districts across the country, and is likely to draw on support from the Communist Party and independents to secure a majority.

Ms. Tymoshenko’s Fatherland had 23.6% of the vote. She went on hunger strike Monday to protest alleged falsifications, according to a statement on her website. Another opposition party led by heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko had 13.3% and the nationalist Freedom party had 9.3%. The three parties will claim fewer seats in the single-mandate districts, but may form an opposition alliance in Parliament to challenge Mr. Yanukovych.

Analysts said the new forces in Parliament could reinvigorate opposition to Mr. Yanukovych, which had been weakened by Ms. Tymoshenko’s imprisonment and defections to the ruling party.

Since Mr. Yanukovych took office in 2010, the country has shifted. Ms. Tymoshenko was convicted and jailed on abuse-of-office charges that Western officials said were politically motivated, and journalists complain of increased pressure to toe the official line.

The EU shelved a political-association and free-trade deal last year to protest Ms. Tymoshenko’s incarceration. That deal is unlikely to be revived, given monitors’ negative appraisal of elections, Western officials in Kiev said.

Russia has wooed Ukraine with the offer of less-expensive gas if it were to join a Moscow-led customs union of former Soviet republics.

Western countries are also unlikely to support Ukraine’s attempts to unlock lending from the International Monetary Fund, a senior Western official said.

That loan program was frozen last year after the government failed to increase household gas prices to help the state energy company balance its books.

SENATOR MCCAIN: WHITE HOUSE’S HANDLING OF LIBYA ATTACK A ‘DEBACLE’

October 29, 2012

Washington Times on October 28, 2012, reported Senator John McCain saying that the Obama administration’s handling of the Sept. 11 consulate attack in Benghazi, Libya, has been a “debacle,” and that the White House has engaged in a cover-up worse than the Watergate scandal that forced President Nixon to resign. Excerpts below:

“For literally days and days they told the American people something that had no basis in fact whatsoever. And that is the president of the United States,” the Arizona Republican said in an interview on CBS‘ “Face the Nation.” Mr. Obama “said that he immediately ordered action to be taken no action was taken over seven hours. Now we find out the secretary of defense decided not to take any action.”

“Somebody the other day said to me, ‘This is as bad as Watergate.’ Well, nobody died in Watergate,” Mr. McCain said. “This is either a massive coverup or incompetence that is not acceptable to the American people.”

Mr. McCain and other Republicans have renewed their criticism of the administration after President Obama said repeatedly that his administration would “find out what happened” and punish those responsible, but twice ducked questions about whether U.S. officials denied requests for help.

Republicans have seized on another inconsistency in the administration’s account of what happened during and after the attack.

Mr. Obama, at the last presidential debate, said: “When we received that phone call, I immediately made sure that, No. 1, we did everything we could to secure those Americans who were still in harm’s way.”

But on October 25 Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta said he and other top Pentagon officials decided against putting forces on the ground in Benghazi during the attack because of a lack of reliable intelligence.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said the unanswered questions about the Libyan consulate attack have become one of the top two issues on the campaign trail.

FIFTH TIBETAN IN WEEK SETS SELF ON FIRE, DIES

October 28, 2012

Fox News on October 27, 2012, published an AP report on a 23-year-old man becoming the fifth Tibetan in a week to set himself on fire and die in a county in far western China to protest against Chinese rule, a rights group said. Excerpts below:

Tsewang Kyab set himself on fire on the evening of October 26 on the main street of Amuquhu town in Xiahe county, London-based Free Tibet said.

Earlier, a 24-year-old Tibetan farmer, Lhamo Tseten, died from self-immolation near a military base and a government office in Amuquhu, the group said.

China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported the self-immolation of a Tibetan man by the same name, though details were slightly different. Xinhua said that Lhamo Tseten was a 23-year-old villager and that he set himself on fire near a hospital.

In the past week in Xiahe, which is in Gansu province, a herdsman, a farmer and a man in his late 20s also died after setting themselves on fire.

Dozens of ethnic Tibetans have set themselves on fire in heavily Tibetan regions since March 2011 to protest what activists say is Beijing’s heavy-handed rule in the region.

The protests are coming at a sensitive time, with China’s Community Party planning a once-in-a-decade power transfer in less than two weeks in Beijing.

CIA OPERATORS WERE DENIED REQUEST FOR HELP DURING BENGHAZI ATTACK

October 27, 2012

Fox News on October 26, 2012, reported it had learned from sources who were on the ground in Benghazi that an urgent request from the CIA annex for military back-up during the attack on the U.S. consulate and subsequent attack several hours later on the annex itself was denied by the CIA chain of command — who also told the CIA operators twice to “stand down” rather than help the ambassador’s team when shots were heard at approximately 9:40 p.m. in Benghazi on Sept. 11. Excerpts below:

Former Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods was part of a small team who was at the CIA annex about a mile from the U.S. consulate where Ambassador Chris Stevens and his team came under attack. When he and others heard the shots fired, they informed their higher-ups at the annex to tell them what they were hearing and requested permission to go to the consulate and help out. They were told to “stand down,” according to sources familiar with the exchange. Soon after, they were again told to “stand down.”

Woods and at least two others ignored those orders and made their way to the consulate which at that point was on fire. Shots were exchanged. The rescue team from the CIA annex evacuated those who remained at the consulate and Sean Smith, who had been killed in the initial attack. They could not find the ambassador and returned to the CIA annex at about midnight.

At that point, they called again for military support and help because they were taking fire at the CIA safe house, or annex. The request was denied.

The fighting at the CIA annex went on for more than four hours — enough time for any planes based in Sigonella Air base, just 480 miles away, to arrive. Fox News has also learned that two separate Tier One Special operations forces were told to wait, among them Delta Force operators.

A Special Operations team, or CIF which stands for Commanders in Extremis Force, operating in Central Europe had been moved to Sigonella, Italy, but they were never told to deploy.

According to sources on the ground during the attack, the special operator on the roof of the CIA annex had visual contact and a laser pointing at the Libyan mortar team that was targeting the CIA annex. The operators were calling in coordinates of where the Libyan forces were firing from.

Fox News has learned that there were two military surveillance drones redirected to Benghazi shortly after the attack on the consulate began. They were already in the vicinity. The second surveillance craft was sent to relieve the first drone, perhaps due to fuel issues. Both were capable of sending real time visuals back to U.S. officials in Washington, D.C. Any U.S. official or agency with the proper clearance, including the White House Situation Room, State Department, CIA, Pentagon and others, could call up that video in real time on their computers.

A motorcade of dozens of Libyan vehicles, some mounted with 50 caliber machine guns, belonging to the February 17th Brigades, a Libyan militia which is friendly to the U.S., finally showed up at the CIA annex at approximately 3 a.m. An American Quick Reaction Force sent from Tripoli had arrived at the Benghazi airport at 2 a.m. (four hours after the initial attack on the consulate) and was delayed for 45 minutes at the airport because they could not at first get transportation, allegedly due to confusion among Libyan militias who were supposed to escort them to the annex, according to Benghazi sources.

Fox News has also learned that Stevens was in Benghazi that day to be present at the opening of an English-language school being started by the Libyan farmer who helped save an American pilot who had been shot down by pro-Qaddafi forces during the initial war to overthrow the regime. That farmer saved the life of the American pilot and the ambassador wanted to be present to launch the Libyan rescuer’s new school.

IF SWEDEN CAN DO IT THE UNITED STATES CAN REFORM ENTITLEMENTS, TOO

October 26, 2012

On September 3, 2012 (Vol. 17, No. 47), Weekly Standard published an article by Roland P. Martinsson. He wrote that during his long reign, Tage Erlander, Swedish prime minister between 1946 and 1969, spoke grudgingly of the impending “discontent of growing expectations.” He was referring to how the Swedish labor movement, after decades of expansive welfare reforms, rather than being gratified, seemed incessantly focused on what it had not yet received from the perennial Social Democratic government. Excerpts below:

Erlander’s misgivings turned out to be accurate. The entitlement society is indeed a beast that feeds on itself. From 1959 to 1977 the total tax burden in Sweden grew from a moderate 25.2 percent to a staggering 47.5 percent, topping out in 1990 at 52.3 percent. During the same time, the public sector share of GDP doubled, while private payrolls fell, predictably causing a decline in economic growth. In 1970 Sweden’s growth was second in the world only to Japan’s; in 1990 it was second-lowest in the OECD, even as entitlements and the public sector kept growing. Hence, a familiar choice: Either stop spending, or keep borrowing on the backs of future generations.

But making such a choice is no simple thing. A universal welfare state has consequences that run deeper than the economy, and are more difficult to reverse even than a two-decade-long economic disaster.

Turn, now, to the elated reaction from the Obama campaign when Mitt Romney announced Paul Ryan as his running mate. Essentially, it followed from the combination of two settled convictions. First, that Medicare is the untouchable third rail of American politics, charged with voters’ fear and anxiety. Second, that campaigning is always about making slogans, never about making your case. Sloganizing about “ending Medicare as we know it” seemed a safe bet compared to Romney and Ryan’s task of educating voters on a complex issue.

In other words, the Obama camp’s reaction was a wager that Erlander’s prophecy would come true also in the United States; that the discontent of growing expectations is an emotion too strong to overcome, even in the face of economic emergency, and that the paralysis of dependency would make it impossible to address the nation’s long-term, structural challenges.

So how did it turn out for Sweden? Against all odds, voters defied political expectations. In 1991 they removed the Social Democratic government, and put in place a center-right government that promised to attack the fundamental problems of the welfare state. When the Social Democratic party was voted back in three years later—as a consequence not of the reforms, but because the economic recovery was not coming soon enough—it continued on the road to reform, keeping in place the essential transformations.

The hallmark of this period was a sweeping reform of the social security system, allowing individuals to invest part of their social security tax in private funds. The reform was an across-the-aisle agreement, including the Social Democrats, and secured the solvency of the system for future generations. Today, more than half of the population has, at some point, actively chosen to participate in the private market (the money for those who choose not to participate goes automatically into a state-run investment fund).

Lately, in the midst of a popular uprising around Europe against raising the retirement age to 60 or 62 years, the Swedish prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt (of a center-right government), has even suggested that some people may need to work until the age of 75. While this has caused concern on the left, there is a widespread understanding that the welfare state can survive only if it is managed responsibly by each and every generation.

How was such a transformation possible? Almost every major reform in Sweden over the last 20 years would have been described as a third rail issue in the United States, on exactly the grounds that make Democrats so eager to put Ryan’s plan for Medicare reform at the center of debate—yet voters accepted and embraced the need to make changes.

One reason was that the whole political spectrum acknowledged the failure of the system, which gave voters a sense of confidence. If any major party had decided to embrace fear, with an eye to winning the next election rather than fixing the system, it is quite possible that the Swedish success story never would have occurred.

It is not easy to say whether all of this happened because of good political leadership, or if it was a case of popular sentiment forcing politicians to take action. Either way, a retirement reform with clear similarities to the Ryan plan for Medicare stands as the symbol of a remarkable development in a country that only 30 years ago was on the brink of socializing corporate profits so as to continue down the road to ruin. It is all the more remarkable considering that Sweden was the paradigm of a European entitlement society.

Thus the real question is not whether Erlander’s misgivings about the discontent of growing expectations applies also in the United States—it does, everywhere, most of the time.

Roland Poirier Martinsson is a Swedish author and philosopher

U.S. OFFICIALS EMAILED SOON AFTER BENGHAZI ATTACK

October 25, 2012

The Washington Times on October 24, 2012, reported that U.S. Congressional Republicans spotlighted a newly revealed email that shows Obama administration officials were told within hours of the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that an al Qaeda-inspired militant group had claimed responsibility for the assault. Excerpts below:

After the White House and State Department downplayed the significance of the email, Republican Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte sent a letter to President Obama asking why U.S. officials “described the attack for days afterward as a spontaneous response to an anti-Islam video.”

“These emails make clear that your administration knew within two hours of the attack that it was a terrorist act and that Ansar al-Sharia, a Libyan militant group with links to al Qaeda, had claimed responsibility for it,” the senators’ letter states. “This latest revelation only adds to the confusion surrounding what you and your administration knew about the attacks in Benghazi, when you knew it, and why you responded to those tragic events in the ways that you did.”

The Tunisian government said on October 24 that it had arrested a 28-year-old Tunisian man who is suspected to have participated in the consulate attack. An Interior Ministry spokesman told The Associated Press that Ali Harzi was being held in the nation’s capital, Tunis.

One U.S. intelligence official has described Mr. Harzi as a member of violent extremist networks in the region, according to an article by The Daily Beast, which first reported his arrest on October 23rd.

The developments amplified an already politically charged debate over why the White House was initially unwilling to characterize the Benghazi attack as one carried out by Islamic extremists.

Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the new email undermines “any administration claim to have ever believed in good faith that [the attack occurred] in a ‘spontaneous reaction’ to a film trailer posted on the Internet.” He called on the president to release all intelligence reports and analyses about the attack.

The Benghazi attack happened just hours after demonstrators had stormed the grounds of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Although there has been no evidence of a similar protest preceding the attack in Benghazi, some in the intelligence community continue to say the incidents in Libya and Egypt are connected.

The Times reported Oct. 3 that U.S. military intelligence was spreading the word inside the Pentagon the day after the attack that an al Qaeda-linked group was likely responsible for the assault.

Independent analysts cited confusion Wednesday over the initial email circulated among administration officials on the night of the attack.

Bill Roggio, editor of The Long War Journal and a scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the group may have posted and then deleted a statement on its Facebook page in hopes that the attack would appear as a popular expression of rage rather than a militarized assault that involved at least some planning and reconnaissance.

The statement that did appear on the group’s Facebook page Sept. 12, Mr. Roggio said, “was that their members took part but they were trying to portray it as a popular uprising-type event.”

SÄPO MASKAR UPPGIFTER OM NYLIGEN AVLIDNE TOPPDIPLOMATEN SVERKER ÅSTRÖM

October 24, 2012

Sverker Åström var advokatson från Uppsala och en jurist som kom att spela en mycket omtvistad roll i svensk utrikespolitik. Han tjänstgjorde under andra världskriget på ambassaden i Moskva. En positiv inställning till den sovjetiska diktaturen kom senare att spela en viktig roll för den svenske diplomaten då han tjänstgjorde i Washington DC och i London. Från 1964 till 1970 var han FN-ambassadör och kabinettsekreterare i UD 1972 till 1977.

Åström har av många ansetts vara sovjetisk agent för KGB. Bland annat skulle han ha hjälpt spionen Stig Wennerström att i det längsta klara sig undan gripande. Hans homosexualitet kan ha bidragit till att Sovjet behöll honom under hela det kalla kriget.

Sverker Åström kritiserade aldrig Sovjetunionen under sin långa diplomatiska karriär utom vid de sovjetiska invasionerna av Ungern 1956 och Tjeckoslovakien 1968. Åström samarbetade väl med Östen Undén i samband med att Sverige avstod från att kräva Sovjet på en förklaring 1945 vid bortförandet av Raoul Wallenberg och det är väl känt att Åström aldrig tog upp Wallenbergfallet med den sovjetiska regimen.

Under Olof Palmes tid blev den prosovjetiske Åström en naturlig företrädare för svensk utrikespolitik, som kännetecknades av undfallenhet mot Sovjetunionen.

Med stor sannolikhet låg den svenske toppdiplomaten bakom planläggningen av Sveriges antiamerikanska och antiisraeliska utrikespolitik under socialdemokratiska regeringar. Efter pensioneringen fortsatte Åström att skriv hätska artiklar i svenska dagstidningar mot USA och Israel.

Kammarrätten i Stockholm har i ett avgörande den 17 oktober 2012 tagit ställning till ett överklagande av en journalist av ett Säpo-beslut. Kammarrättens avgörande gäller över 60 års handlingar om Åström. Rätten ansåg att Säpo hade fog för att vägra lämna ut de aktuella handlingarna liksom Åströms personakt.

Med hänvisning till sekretess lämnades enast 72 sidor ur personakten ut till Aftonbladet.

Kammarrätten konstaterade att Sverker Åström avled i juni 2012. Sverker Åström var under lång tid av sitt liv en offentlig person som förekom i omfattande utsträckning i massmedia, vilket innebär att mycket information om honom redan är väl känd. Detta faktum skulle å ena sidan kunna leda till bedömningen att många uppgifter kan lämnas ut trots att det enligt aktuell bestämmelse råder en presumtion för att uppgifterna omfattas av sekretess. Det förhållandet att han var en offentlig person talar å andra sidan även för den motsatta uppfattningen, nämligen att röjande av uppgifter i större utsträckning påverkar hans eftermäle jämfört med en person som inte på ett eller annat sätt tagit del av offentligheten.

Mot denna bakgrund och med hänsyn till de uppgifter som finns i personakten fann kammarrätten att det inte står klart att dessa uppgifter kan röjas utan att den enskilde lider men.

Enligt kammarrätten har Säkerhetspolisen haft fog för sitt beslut att vägra lämna ut de begärda handlingarna. Överklagandet av Aftonbladsjournalisten avslogs därför.

WHY MITT? REALITY OVER FANTASY

October 23, 2012

Union Leader, Manchester, NH, in an editorial of October 21, 2012, commented on the American election in November 2012. The undecided New Hampshire voter has just two weeks to answer this question: Why switch from Barack Obama to Mitt Romney? By now the question is easy to answer if one has been listening to the candidates. Excerpts below:

Barack Obama was in Manchester on October 18. When he came to Veterans Park in 2008, he sold “hope and change.” He was uplifting, inspiring. Last week, that was gone. In its place was the negativity, the deception, the nastiness that Obama once said he wanted to remove from politics.

Obama offered New Hampshire nothing but bitterness and envy. He attacked Romney with a litany of mischaracterizations and deliberate falsehoods.

It was far from the uplifting message Obama delivered four years ago. But four years ago Obama did not have an indefensible record.

He could say that investing billions in high-speed rail and solar energy and electric cars and college loans and road repair was the path to prosperity, and many found it plausible. Now, when he offers the exact same proposals, as he did now, we can look back at the last four years and note that he has done all of those things and they did not work.

What Obama offers America is a fantasy. Sputtering economies are not sparked back to life by government-directed spending on industries hand-chosen by politicians.

The key difference between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama is that Romney understands that crucial economic truth; Barack Obama does not.

While Obama offers rhetoric and pipe dreams, Romney offers a real plan to bring the economy back to life.

Obama had four years — half of them with a Democratic majority in Congress — to try his way. Romney offers a better way, a realistic way, to restore American prosperity. We tried the fantasy. It did not work. Now it is time to stop dreaming and start growing again.

AN ASSASSINATION IN BEIRUT

October 22, 2012

Weekly Standard on October 20, 2012, published a comment on the bomb explosion in Beirut that killed a senior Lebanese security chief along with seven others, while wounding hundreds in Ashrafiyeh, a busy neighborhood in Christian-majority East Beirut. The target, Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan, was close to former prime minister Saad Hariri and his late father, Rafik Hariri. Yesterday evening, Hariri supporters, mostly Sunnis, closed down roads and burned tires in protest against the assassins, almost certainly tied to the Syrian regime and their Lebanese ally Hezbollah. Excerpts below:

The bombing and murder of Hassan marks a return to the period of 2005-2008, when Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and his allies embarked on a campaign of violence, including bombings in residential areas and assassinations of Lebanese figures opposed to the regime in Damascus. That era kicked off with the Feb 14, 2005 assassination of Rafik Hariri, and ended only after Hezbollah’s May 2008 siege of Beirut and the Chouf mountains. This conflict led to the Doha accords, which paved the way for the Shiite militia to take control of the government. The current campaign may turn out to be even bloodier for the stakes are higher—to ensure not only the continuation of Hezbollah’s hegemony, but also the Syrian regime’s survival. Assad is counting on the international community, led by the White House, to rescue him from the twenty-month long uprising that seeks to bring his regime down on his head.

Wissam al-Hassan was chief of the internal security force’s information branch, and the third top officer of the unit to be targeted. The first was Samir Shehade, who survived a bombing in 2006 and left the country. Next was Wissam Eid, whose number-crunching detective work on the Hariri assassination provided the international investigative team with several leads. Eid survived two attempts on his life before he was killed in January 2008. Hassan himself had been threatened repeatedly. Just this week, an editorial in a pro-Syrian Lebanese newspaper identified Hassan as an enemy, likely foreshadowing his murder.

Damascus’s contempt for Hassan was out in the open. Several years ago, the regime issued “arrest warrants” for its Lebanese enemies, the compilation of which was essentially a black list naming those who had crossed Assad and his allies and were likely to pay the price. Along with a number of March 14 political figures, Hassan’s name was also on the list as was that of his boss, ISF chief Ashraf Rifi.

ISF officers are prime targets because the information branch is the only one of the four security outfits inside Lebanon that has been effective in fighting terror—i.e., Hezbollah and Syria. The state security is simply weak and inefficient, while military Intelligence and general security have proved complicit with Hezbollah and Syria. Indeed, it seems that the latter service may bear some responsibility for Hassan’s death. He had just returned from abroad the day before the bombing, passing through the airport, which is controlled by general security, headed by Hezbollah ally, Abbas Ibrahim. Some speculate that general security alerted Hassan’s hunters, who had him followed and killed, a modus operandi matching the murders of parliamentarians Gebran Tueni (killed in 2005) and Antoine Ghanem (killed in 2007), both of them Syrian regime opponents slain shortly after their re-entry into Lebanon.