Farid sends this item which refers to a recent Guardian article - however Tim comments: "I've just had an exchange with Ian Cobain of the Guardian where I simply asked that he and the Guardian ensured that we were told which intelligence agency took responsibility for leaking 'intelligence assessments' so we could make our own mind up on their value (see Guardian story on alleged Iranian WMD acquisition in the Guardian today). I really do not know why we should not know that the Cabinet Office dumps this stuff on us when it suits them."
"Saudi Arabia and Egypt have been working around the clock to save the Assad regime by advising Baschar that he needs to admit to the killing of Hariri (Rustum Ghazali’s statement of yesterday when he said “I will die as a martyr if asked to” is an indication that Assad may be considering an exit strategy). They have convinced France of the futility of regime change for Syria for obvious reasons that it may directly influence their rule in their respective countries and possibly other Arab dictators in the region. A “Libyan” turnaround is an impossible scenario in Syria because of several compelling reasons the most important of which is that Libya did not have a “Big Brother” to sway or convince Qaddafi against such move but Assad has Iran. The two nations are umbilically connected as much in ideology as is in political interests. The minority rule of the Alawite community trusts more the Shia’a of Iran than the Sunnis of Saudi Arabia and that what makes this chess game of gunmanship indeed dangerous. Those who want to save Assad are not trusted. Syria’s Assad cannot afford to turn against the will and wishes of the Mullahs in Iran at this moment of history nor will he abandon Hezbollah or any other terrorist organization that use violence, as he does, to achieve political gains. His choices are limited and his capacity to maneuver is restricted. Assad, the last three years, has seen Iran get stronger, new threats emanating from a democratic Iraq, Lebanon becoming free, on the surface, achieved utterly against his will, and more importantly a new international pressure that is partially economic and entirely political to undermine his response to the new realities around him but no resolve for regime change for Syria. He is cornered between a stronger Iran and a less determined international community; any wonder that he is betting with Iran and will continue on that strategy refusing a “Libya” deal? Nonetheless, countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt are scrambling to push for the unpushable. Bandar bin Sultan, the ex- Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the US, has embarked on an impossible mission Assad is convinced is not in his best interests. In the meantime, he is using the Arab neighboring countries’ goodwill and allowing announcements out of Damascus, which incidentally he does not intend to honor, simply to buy more time; a strategy he confessed to in late 2005 with his infamous CNN interview. Buying time gives Assad options that would entitle him not only to survive George Bush but also to build a nuclear program. In yesterday’s morning edition of the Guardian of London, Ian Cobain and Ian Traynor wrote an article disclosing that Syria (alongside Iran and Pakistan) is in pursuit of nuclear materials in Europe according to an intelligence report. The 55-page report, which draws on material from Western intelligence agencies from Britain, France, Germany, and Belgium, offers names and locations of suspected players in the global trade in components needed to build weapons of mass destruction. The report also concluded that Syria has been scouring the marketplace for technology and chemicals needed to enrich uranium and develop rocket programs. If Assad wanted to play the game Moammar Qaddafhi played, he would have done it so much sooner and would certainly not be pushing, as the Iranians have, to build a nuclear program.The endgame in all of this happens at a crossroad called Damascus. On that crossroad, the interests of 50 million Arabs living in constant fear and danger intersect with the larger goal of the United States to help remove all obstacles to freedoms in the Middle East. This convergence that is limiting the possibilities and the options available either to the US or the people of that region dictates that Baschar al-Assad be brought to justice by the UN as Milosevic was brought to justice for crimes against humanity. Forget a “Libyan” turnaround and forget a strategy of appeasement or of fear that the alternative could be worse. There is nothing worse than the situation we find ourselves in today: a violent Assad, on a killing spree against peaceful people, in pursuit of a nuclear program."