Morning Report: February 17, 2005

Lebanon asks for foreign help in Hariri case. The Lebanese government has asked for foreign assistance in investigating the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, VOA reports. Hariri was killed in an apparent suicide bombing in Beirut on Monday, which claimed the lives of 14 other people as well. The Lebanese leader was seen as a symbol of popular resistance to the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. Syria is widely suspected in the blast, and the United States has recalled its ambassador to Syria in protest. (VOA)

Iraq election update. From Debka: 'Shiite United Iraqi Alliance’s 140 lawmakers hold secret ballot Friday on premiership nominee. Top members failed Wednesday to choose between al Daawa’s Jaafari, who pledges to ask US troops to stay, and secular Iraq National Congress leader Chalabi. Kurds will back winner in return for presidency.' (Debka)

Sunnis admit election boycott was a blunder. The Command Post carries an article from the Guardian indicating that Iraqi Sunnis who boycotted the January 30 election now regard the boycott as a mistake, and see value in participating in the political process: '"Our view is that this election was a step towards democracy and ending the occupation," said Ayad al-Samaray, the assistant general secretary of the Iraqi Islamic party. He said unnamed Sunni leaders blundered in depicting the election as a deepening of the occupation.' Full story and comments available at link. (Command Post, Guardian)

Testimony on security issues. The Belmont Club critiques the testimony before Congress of various officials regarding strategic threats to the United States. 'All in all, the intelligence briefings painted a picture of an enemy that had not yet realized its power potential. It had been stayed, but not fatally wounded. On the contrary, if it could overcome its disorganization and mend fences with enablers it could become even more dangerous.' Wretchard concludes that 'of the testimonies is that Rumsfeld alone, of all the witnesses, articulated a complete grand strategic view. In particular, he understood that the threat, so well described in component by the representatives of intelligence and finance, menaced the world  as a whole and not simply the United States and that it had been emerging over a long period of time.' (Belmont Club)

Varying accounts of Iran blast. Last Wednesday, an explosion shook the southern Iranian city of Dailam, Bushehr province, in the vicinity of a nuclear facility. Beyond that, there seems to be little agreement as to what happened. Free Iran news carries a roundup of media reports and commentary. (Free Iran)