Behind the Sources (I): The One-Stop Shop

A one-week sample of reports by major western media in the Levant revealed that commentary was often provided by the same single source (photo: Haitham al-Moussawi)

Boxes & Briefs examines the ubiquitous “experts” cited by mainstream western media, who – more often than not – tell reporters covering the Arab region what they want to hear.

Once upon a time, Hezbollah parliamentarian Ali Fayyad was a much coveted interlocutor for western journalists passing through Beirut to do a story on America’s formidable enemy. Fayyad – urbane despite his membership in an Islamist movement, it was recurrently reported – spoke impeccable English, smoked cigars, and ate generous helpings of ice cream.

These apparently curious details provided the mandatory “color” to many a report from Beirut.

But no more.

For the past year at least, Hezbollah has imposed a moratorium on interviews with western media. One consequence of this “blackout” has been the ever increasing reliance of western reporters on a miniscule pool of English-speaking “experts” who feign proximity to, or knowledge of, the party.

In the following three-part series, Al-Akhbar’s Boxes & Briefs team takes a hard look at the sources providing insight and analysis for the mainstream media.

The One-Stop Opinion Shop

Hilal Khashan, professor of political science at the American University of Beirut, is a one-stop shop for foreign reporters seeking commentary on a myriad of actors and issues – including, of course, insight into the inner workings of Lebanon’s premier resistance group, Hezbollah.

In a sample of major western media stories from October 18 to 26 – admittedly an unusually busy week for reporters stationed in Beirut, due to the explosion in Achrafieh and subsequent street violence – Khashan was cited by the AFP, Reuters, the Washington Post, the Financial Times, and Voice of America, to name but a few outlets.

During that week, the Washington Post solicited Khashan’s commentary for no less than three separate articles, on October 18, 19 and 26.

On October 18, the newspaper’s Liz Sly interviewed Khashan, in Beirut, for a story about Syrian Alawis, who are allegedly turning against the regime in droves.

The following day, Sly again sought comment from Khashan, this time in regard to the assassination of Wissam al-Hassan. Apart from a Hariri spokesperson and an eyewitness only identified as “George Azzi” (a hilariously common name), Khashan was the only source interviewed and cited in this article:

After Friday’s killing, Lebanese braced for the fallout as angry Sunnis, some of them armed, took to the streets in several Sunni areas across Lebanon to protest the killing. Streets in the capital emptied and a brief gun battle was reported in Tripoli between Sunnis and members of the Alawite minority to which Assad belongs.
“There will be repercussions, they will be severe, and I’m afraid the Sunni community will not accept this,” predicted Hilal Khashan.

A week later, Khashan’s hackneyed observations again made their way into the paper:

“You know how we find out that Hezbollah is under pressure?” asked Hilal Khashan, a professor in the political science department at the American University of Beirut. “They remain quiet. They are keeping a very low profile during these days. There is already pressure on Hezbollah and the pressure is mounting.”

Voice of America also cited Khashan in three separate articles on Syria and Lebanon – two of them filed from Cairo. In one of the stories, he appears to be the only source interviewed outside of official statements made to other media.

The Financial Times fared slightly better with only two recent Khashan citations (though Beirut correspondent Abigail Fielding-Smith has cited his insights in eight articles since the end of May), including one for a story on Hezbollah’s rumored participation in the fighting in Syria.

In addition, both the widely-cited newswires Reuters and AFP, whose stories are reprinted by thousands of outlets, quoted Khashan that week: the French agency published his rather trite observation that the Eid ceasefire in Syria would in all likelihood fail.

One former stringer for a major US newspaper explained to Al-Akhbar that Khashan was such a delectable source for western reporters, because he is always available to give comment and speaks English.

But aside from the digestible truisms he reliably supplies, Al-Akhbar has uncovered that Khashan also moonlights as an informer for the US-based, private global intelligence agency, Stratfor.

And he is not just any informer.

Stratfor’s “analysis” of events in the Levant, according to a cache of the company’s internal emails obtained by WikiLeaks earlier this year, is primarily reliant on the insights and alleged “human intelligence” that an operative codenamed “ME1” provides for a steep fee.

Even within Stratfor, ME1's identity is a closely-guarded secret.

Based on analysis of Stratfor’s email cache, Al-Akhbar has established that ME1 is none other than Hilal Khashan.

Incidentally, some of the same media outlets that regularly seek out Khashan’s views on a range of subjects also bolster their coverage of the region with Stratfor’s insights, which are – unbeknownst to them – often gleaned from the same professor.

Yazan al-Saadi has the story on Stratfor’s top Middle East source below.


“ME1” Unmasked: Stratfor’s Star Informer


“The Informer” (1935), directed by John Ford.

Yazan al-Saadi

In the shadowy world of intelligence, a well-placed source is king. For Stratfor, a Texas-based private intelligence firm, “ME1” was and continues to be a crucial supplier of intelligence regarding Hezbollah, Syria, and the rest of the Middle East. Through extensive examinations, Al-Akhbar has determined the identity of Stratfor’s indispensable Middle Eastern source.

Earlier this year, WikiLeaks, working with more than twenty media partners including Al-Akhbar, released some of Stratfor’s private emails in a project dubbed the “Global Intelligence Files.” In relation to Lebanon and the rest of the Middle East, the emails instantaneously showed that Stratfor placed singular importance on one source, codenamed ME1.

Prior to connecting the dots and uncovering ME1’s identity, Al-Akhbar blogged about him in a March 26 post entitled “Our Man in Beirut,” with evidence gleaned from the “GI Files”:

For the Levant, Senior Analyst for the Middle East and South Asia (MESA), Reva Bhalla, gains the bulk of her human insights from a single main source. Codenamed ME1, the identity of this valuable source is protected even in Stratfor’s own internal source listings (All the files listing the informants names and contact information were conveniently entitled “source lists.”) We don’t yet know who ME1 is, but Reva describes her relationship with him as follows:

“I have been working with ME1 for more than 4 years now. He needs ego stroking and is very defensive, but very well connected. I have caught several instances though where what he has reported is in the OS verbatim. When you inquire about it, he shows classic defensive tactics. He has great sources, but his source information can be difficult to evaluate b/c I can't tell when he might be fabricating the information to justify his pay. Known since 2003. Tempermental [sic]. Sometimes his immediate reaction is suspect. Often good info but hard to tell when it is and isn't. Emphasized quantity over quality.”

Previous readings by Al-Akhbar reported that ME1 was an active source at least as far back as 2006. The Stratfor emails also indicated that he was a major link, connecting the private intelligence firm to other sources, which allegedly included military, academic, diplomatic and media figures in Lebanon and elsewhere.

Moreover, ME1’s importance to Stratfor was made evident by the fact that he received a significant pay raise last October, which brought his salary up from $3,000 to $6,000 per month, making him one of the highest paid contractors for the so-called “Shadow CIA.”

Upon deeper examinations of the GI Files, ME1’s identity was uncovered: Hilal Khashan. Khashan is the author of a number of written works, notably a book titled “Inside the Lebanese Confessional Mind” – described by the notorious neocon Daniel Pipes as “a stunningly original study on the political attitudes of Lebanese.” (Khashan is also a fellow and regular contributor to Pipes' Middle East Quarterly.)

Khashan first appears within the Stratfor files in November 2004. Corresponding with Anthony Sullivan, a recruiter for the firm, Khashan wrote about his “great interest” in Stratfor founder George Friedman’s article scrutinizing the CIA, and added, “I am writing this note to express to you my interest in cooperating in this worthwhile effort.” (doc-id 5488035)

A month later, Khashan sent his CV to Sullivan, who in turn passed it on to other senior employees within Stratfor’s Special Operations department. (doc-id 5315732)

While Director of Special Operations Bob Rushing expressed concern over the new recruit’s ability to gain access as an academic, Sullivan assured him: “Khashan has knowledge of Muslim movements and connections with Muslim personalities in Lebanon and elsewhere [in] the Levant.” That seemed to put to rest any doubts over Khashan’s merits as a provider of “human intelligence.” (doc-id 5338445)

The use of the codename ME1 appears to have begun in 2006. Most of these early reports by ME1 concentrated on Lebanon, with a particular focus on Hezbollah.

In one case, ME1 recounted intelligence received through his own informant regarding a “live-fire” incident between the German navy and Israeli jets along Lebanon’s southern coast, which differed from official German and Israeli versions. (doc-id 5338291)

Nevertheless, ME1’s analyses and predictions were mostly generic and occasionally grossly off-the-mark. For example, in response to a question sent by Bhalla on 4 November 2006 regarding Hezbollah’s objectives during the early stages of negotiations with Israel over the release of two captured Israeli soldiers, ME1 predicted: “The negotiations will drag on for a considerable period of time and I am certain that the Israeli soldier held in Gaza will be released first.” (doc-id 5278972)

Hezbollah and Israel agreed to a prisoner swap by 2008, while Hamas and Israel’s prisoner swap occurred only last year. Despite his shortcomings, the relationship between ME1 and Stratfor continued to grow.

With time, ME1’s reports expanded to include insights on Syrian military mobilizations, and political developments within Lebanon, Palestine and Iran. (doc-id 62654, doc-id 62734, doc-id 63303, doc-id 63417, doc-id 63057)

Similarly, ME1’s range of alleged sub-sources in 2008 expanded to include individuals such as the owner of a Beirut-based newspaper, a “Hezbollah” college student, a Fatah military source, a Syrian closely connected to the Assad government through the Makhlouf family, a source closely connected to Saad al-Hariri, and a UNIFIL member from the Finn-Irish Battalion. These sub-sources are what allows Stratfor to claim the plural “sources in Lebanon” in its analysis, though their “insights” are all communicated through ME1.

According to the Stratfor cache, "ME1" used some of his students as sub-sources. Photo: American University of Beirut campus (Marwan Tahtah, Al-Akhbar).

By 2011, ME1’s claimed sources included a number of Arab diplomats, the Egyptian ambassador in Lebanon, a Lebanese military general, the head of Lebanon’s internal security forces, an international law expert involved in the United Nations Special Tribunal in Lebanon, and more. (doc-id 5430752, doc-id 103613, doc-id 103501, doc-id 103543, doc-id 67951, doc-id 220792, doc-id 3652040, doc-id 282856, doc-id 75432, doc-id 180039, doc-id 944505)

ME1’s identity appeared to be a closely guarded secret, known only to a few within Stratfor.

What's in a Codename?

Equally as abrupt as ME1’s appearance in 2006, references to Hilal Khashan vanished in the emails until 19 March 2008. On this day, Bhalla sent three emails: two to Egyptian professors and one to the Ahram Center. In all three, Bhalla stressed that she was a “close colleague of Hilal Khashan,” seemingly in an attempt to invoke his name to develop connections during her trip to Cairo. (doc-id 75391, doc-id 73724, doc-id 75408)

The emails sent in 2009 offered some more clues to his identity. In response to Burton’s query on how secure Beirut was at the time, ME1 wrote, “I am a resident of Beirut and I see no reason for alarm. I have three young American female students in my seminar and they lead a normal life in Beirut.” (doc-id 5280279)

Other telltale signs arose in emails covering 2010-2011. In early December 2011 Khashan actually visited the firm’s offices in Texas for three days, during which time he met extensively with the company’s heads, (doc-id 2995852) though most of the low-level analysts he met with were unaware that they were standing face-to-face with ME1.(doc-id 3649340)

What finally clinched the link between ME1 and Hilal Khashan was the money trail.

As mentioned earlier, ME1 received a pay increase on 17 October 2011. An email sent by Rob Bassetti, Stratfor’s accounting manager, to Don Kuykendall, Stratfor’s current president and Chief Financial Officer, noted, “[ME1] has been receiving $3000/month for several years as one of our contractors. Meredith mentioned that his role would be expanding, with a lot of work being done for Stratcap.” (doc-id 1423106)

Stratcap, conceived by Stratfor board of directors member Morenz, aims to exploit intelligence gathered worldwide in order to tap into a range of lucrative investments such as government bonds, currencies, and so on within emerging markets.

There are multiple emails – all dated prior to ME1’s pay increase – which show bank transfers from Stratfor’s account at Texas Capital Bank wired directly to Hilal Khashan’s HSBC account in Beirut, each wire amounting to exactly $3,000 either at the very end or beginning of a given month.

For example, a PDF attachment sent on 1 February 2011 detailing Stratfor’s commercial checking account activities shows that Khashan was the only recipient of $3,000. This is correlated with another email sent on 1 March 2011 with a similar PDF attachment listing payments; Khashan once again received exactly $3,000 (doc-id 2821258, doc-id 1428022). Likewise in Stratfor’s departmental budget, where “ME1” is listed on the monthly payroll, he is the only overseas recipient of a $3,000 salary (doc-id 1406671, doc-id 411151).

Based on the email trail above and other email messages, Al-Akhbar has concluded that Hilal Khashan is almost certainly ME1.

He has been a source for Stratfor for more than half a decade, providing much of what Stratfor passes off as “intelligence,” but what appears to be mostly easily accessible Arabic media reports with some generic theorizing thrown in.

Al-Akhbar contacted Khashan regarding these revelations; he adamantly denied that he was an employee of the private intelligence firm.

“I provided articles and gave two lectures, two and four years ago, on Hezbollah and the Arab Spring. I am not an employee [but] I know the people there, including the founder. They offered employment and I turned it down because I did not have time for them,” he told Al-Akhbar. Khashan also stated that he only keeps a casual correspondence with Stratfor’s employees and that the relationship was purely academic.

While he noted that he did visit the firm last December, he added that he had denied their repeated requests for employment and had received a letter from them saying that they were sorry that he did not work for them.

However, the extensive internal correspondence and substantial monthly money transfers appear to contradict Khashan’s claims.

In one regard, Khashan does, however, agree with Al-Akhbar’s assessment of Stratfor: “I do analyses for them. Their IQ is not very high... they know shit about nothing.”

Comments

I got the link throught the 3 Hello Emails the lady sent

I thought someone else would also have figured out besides me. I have 99% certainty that the ME1 is HK.

ME1 = Middle East 1? Could someone give comment. Might as well unravel S4 as much as possible.

Level of certainty

How did you determine the 99% level of certainty?

You are very perceptive

I agree with you. ME1 is HK. I thought Henry Kissinger had better things to do.

Transparency?

The article gives the impression to contribute to transparency.
However, why was the text written anonymous? Who are the authors? According to one commentary, the authors are Yazan al-Saadi and Jamal Ghosn. Why do they hide their identity?
What is the purpose of the text? Why is in an article about the “expert” Hilal Khashas the word “expert” written in quotation mark? Is somebody who has written numerous books and peer reviewed articles about the region not an expert?
The whole matter shows an interesting understanding of the freedom of press: an anonymous piece of work is criticizing a well respected professor for being contacted by leading international newspapers. Can he influence who is contacting him? No, it’s a result of his expertise. Should he only talk to media with particular political views? No, as an academic he serves the public with his knowledge not along political lines.
For me as a foreigner the aggressive tone in some of the reader comments are shocking but maybe normal for this country. However, they are a logic result of this article.

No conspiracy here

The "article" is, in fact, a blog post by the staff-run Boxes & Briefs blog team, as it says. None of the blog posts on the blog are signed. Nowhere is Khashan blamed for being quoted by the media. Although, as a foreigner – to borrow a gratuitous invocation from you – I have been asked many times by foreign media to comment on issues I had no first-hand insight into and simply said as much. They ordinarily don't care. It's an industry that rewards lazy-thinking.

It doesn't matter if it's an

It doesn't matter if it's an "article" or "blog post", if you're going to play investigative journalist at least put your name(s) on the piece.

Reading comprehension?

The piece -- the investigative part-- is signed. I see a name... oh, there it is: twice!

Your point?

Yeah, I figured. No point. "For me as a foreigner...." I am incensed by the natives and open my mouth to complain before reading. Not once. But twice!

Halalun lana wa haramun 'ala ghayrina

Khashan was on the payroll of Stratfor for a few thousands dollars and thuwar Nato, Iran and Hezbollah's allies, in Afghanistan and Iraq took billions from the West and rode their tanks into power with nary a word from Iran or Hezbollah and they demand that anti-Bashar Syrians stand with Bashar no matter what when they didn't apply this principle to themselves, so how believable is your bogus takhween?

Apple doesn't fall far from the tree

Hey, you anonymous Khashan's son, talking about "eloquence": calling Stratfor "a website" and apparently thinking Wikileaks are some hackers shows your own eloquence more than enough.

bottom line

The bottom line is that whatever you think of Al-Akhbar's reporting, or that giving 'views' or 'analyses' to Stratfor whether through "external" or "internal" conduits, secret emails or talks and conferences, Stratfor does try to sell this information as "intelligence" to government agencies. And this is not the only problem, the problem is that, and this is clear from the article, the predictions, analyses, observations, and so on, of Khashan, are silly, stereotypical and simplistic. And that's without reading any hacked emails...

Also, it is evident from the above that the emails exist, and the monthly transfer did take place. One need not be very clever to do the math. Although we can still consider that it is great to work for Stratfor. Whatever the nature of the deal between Stratfor and Khashan, there was one, and he was getting paid 3000 dollars for it, selling what a taxi driver in Lebanon could have easily said...

This is an example of better

This is an example of better journalism using the same sources: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/feb/28/wikileaks...

As a former student of Hilal

As a former student of Hilal Khashan’s, I must say I never really got along with him, or appreciated his political views. I am also withholding from making a moral judgement on his decision to accept funding from an organization like Stratfor, mainly because if one looked closely at any Arab university, one would find many questionable funding as well as institutional relationships. But I have to say that this article comes up with a startling conclusion, that Hilal Khashan is on a monthly payroll at Statfor and is their main Middle East ‘informant’ (offering political analysis), based on inconclusive evidence (and this is something he denies). There is proof that Khashan received funds from Stratfor (this he accepts as true), but it remains unclear how the link was made that Khashan is ME1, and that he is on a monthly payroll as a permanent employee. How are they sure of that? Is there any information to support that which was not provided in the article? The journalists themselves say that Khashan is “almost certainly” ME1– almost is not enough to write such a vindictive article that might potentially ruin someone’s career. Journalists should be more responsible than that - I assume the authors of this article are young and new to their careers, so the editor is essentially responsible for approving such content. I am also left wondering what the purpose of the article was - as it was mainly concerned that Khashan was speaking with people at Stratfor (deemed problematic because of its ties to the US government and military), it could have instead offered an intelligent critique of the relationship between academia and intelligence or other foreign funding agencies.

I was very sad to read.......

I was very sad to read your article which attempts to discredit Hllal Khashan. I was equally disappointed to see that you had tried to discredit Joshua Landis. Can we assume that you don't like Fouad Ajami, either?

As a journalist, based in Lebanon for 20 years, my goal was always to find facts, information and truth. Hilal Khashan is one of those rare, intellectually honest academics, who is not afraid to tell the truth. Perhaps he is wrong, from time to time, but he has never tried to lie to me.

Unfortunately, in Lebanon, I cannot say the same thing for many other people. Jibran Tueni was one man I could always count on to tell the truth. Sadly, someone blew him up. Albert Moukheiber was another person whom I could also count on to tell the truth. Unfortunately, he got old and died.

Above all, I was intrigued by your lengthy investigation into Hilal Khashan's bank account. Clearly, you must have solid access to Lebanon's banking system. For this reason, I was curious to know who owns your newspaper and which bank you use? In which currency do they pay you?

Your newspaper appears to be particularly fond of the Syrian government. For this reason, I want you to know that the Syrian News Agency SANA is now joining forces with the Iranian News Agency IRNA. As they strengthen their news team, you should perhaps consider joining them, too.

Best wishes,
Edward Yeranian

Where's the controversy?

So what charge is al-akhbar levying here? What I get by the end of this article is that Kashan is giving information which Al-akhbar does not deem credible to Stratfor -information which is similar to that he's giving publically to news journalists. "Generic" info available in popular news sources is making its way to an online website that adds neo-conservative analysis to its news. Does this become controversial once words like "intelligence", "codename", and "moneytrail" are used?

The article begins by implying the limited number of sources (english-speaking sources to be specific) lead to a misrepresentation of affairs in the ME. Then the article tries to incriminate Kashan for "revealing" info to the West. Is the problem misrepresentation or representation?

The point is if Khashan has been providing vital information to Stratfor, the act of which has had consequences on Lebanese affairs, then that would be a serious issue. Although this article seems to hint at this, al-akhbar does not give any evidence to such an inference and if anything, most visibly in their conclusion, seem to argue the contrary. Al-akhbar has dressed up Khashan as a treacherous informant. They now must either prove the shoe fits or pubilcally apologize to Khashan.

Obsession

Have you ever actually read anything that Stratfor has published? It seems that you are obsessed with rummaging through internal emails in search of tidbits to create some sensationalist story. I'd suggest working on criticizing things they actually publish as I'm sure your own internal emails wouldn't look very pretty if displayed to the world.

Witch Hunt Article

This "article" makes a lot of conjecture about some type of wrong-doing perpetrated by Hilal Khashan that is based upon very little evidence. What is the point of this article again? To character assassinate the man? Perhaps , the real point of this article is to attack Stratfor, but, unable to do this job directly, al-Akhbar has decided to go ahead and choose a more local target : Hilal Khashan.

Khashan is asked for a quote by several Western journalists because he has established a reputation for being a reliable analyst of the region. Does this make him any different than Imad Salamey of LAU, or, going to the Western countries, from Fawez Gerges at the London School of Economics, Randa Slim at the Middle East Institute, or Joshua Landis of the University of Oklahoma? Khashan, like these academics, is a frequent commentator on Syria/Lebanon, and like them he is right more than he is wrong in his commentary.

In the do-eat-dog world of foreign journalists, the greatest sin is to use an unreliable source of information. A journalist that uses a person as a source, especially a named source, that is inaccurate in their statement or analysis, will lead to the dismissal of that journalist. No questions asked by the news agency paying the journalist, their plane tickets, their rent, and their per diem and sometimes danger pay. If the info is bad, the journalist is bad, and someone else gets the job.

I've seen it several times myself in Beirut: a Western, locally-based reporter uses a bad source, writes a story laced with certainty, has the story proven inaccurate, and then is dismissed. Khashan is a "good bet" for journalists in Beirut: he isn't afraid to voice his opinions, he is well-read, and he knows a lot of people that know a lot of things. That's that. No conspiracy here at all.

I have read through all the documents related to Stratfor provided by this article, and I see no compelling evidence that Hilal Khashan is a Stratfor employee; only that he received compensation for consulting with the firm. What is the significance of this to his credibility as an academic or an analyst? Nothing at all. Academics have a long tradition of being brought in by government and private companies to serve as knowledgeable informants, this is nothing new and it is nothing to attack Khashan's credibility over.

Oh, you mean like Nicholas

Oh, you mean like Nicholas Blanford and his phantom interview?

Kashan Junior, Meet Your Dad

Dear Kashan Junior: It isn't easy, for sure. No one wants their own dad's reputation to be trashed in mud. But there isn't much one can do when one's old man, of the latter's own choosing, is just happily and proudly bathing in trash. Regardless of what you think of Al-Akhbar, the story is based on Wikileaks transcripts. The facts speak for themselves, no matter how much your old man denies it. Local Lebanese politics notwithstanding (of which your dad is a major footsoldier of the Hariri juvenile), I understand that your dad had to pay the bills, most likely including yours so you could show off your nice car on Bliss Street when you were 18.

Time to have a talk with your dad, Junior.

-I.A.A.
P.S. AUB, BTW, is below average in comparison with most American universities, academically and culturally speaking. Oh, and you can take all that self-serving "unabashed" advocacy "of liberal Western education" and shove it. One can be liberal with a critical mind in support of freedom of expression without having to be a Western servile lackey.

You can't even spell Khashan, let alone get the facts straight.

I could not be anymore proud of my father, just as the crackpots at al-Akhbar could not be any more bitter about their station in life. I imagine it's quite lonely in the town of Irrelevance, where you've pitched your tent. So I understand why you would perceive anyone whose opinion is sought after as a lackey. I'm not going to comment on the quality of an AUB education. Although there have been a number of deluded and uninspiring individuals who have studied there, tried without success to work there or had brief stints at the University that they could not extend. You can find them on the staff of al-Akhbar: As'ad AbuKhalil and Omar Nahsabe (he now teaches at LAU--perhaps that institution impresses you).
The charge that my father is a Hariri foot solider is further evidence of your barren intellect. My father is Palestinian and there is no place for him in the racist and confessional tapestry of Lebanese politics. If you knew anything about him--besides that he is a successful and highly sought academic--you would know about his deep contempt for the Lebanese Confessional Mind. He even wrote a book about it. He concluded an article he published last year called "Saad Hariri's Moment of Truth" with: "The Lebanese never miss an opportunity to complain that their neighbors do not leave them alone. But the fact that Lebanon's sectarian leaders do not know how to play politics without having a foreign sponsor attests to the sad truth that the roots of the country's lack of sovereignty are primarily internal and are embedded in its anachronistic, confessional political system." Those are hardly the words of a foot soldier, but they do demonstrate that you either have very poor reading comprehension or that you simply do not read. If only they made Imodium for the mouth.

A Dime-A-Dozen Scholarship

So I misspelled your last name, Junior, while typing on my cell phone -- how's that relevant to the debate about your dad's informant-for-hire analysis -- oops, "consultancy" -- trying to misspell events in Lebanon to influence what in turn Stratfor sells as mediocre intelligence for U.S. national security. Quite glorious, I must say, for an AUB instructor. Yes, LAU is a piece of crap, like the rest of higher learning institutions in Lebanon and the region. Yet neither does it serve your points to elevate AUB by downgrading other crappy institutions, nor does it to elevate your dad by putting down Nashabe (a closet a-hole) or Abu-Khalil (a wannabee). BTW, you misspelled "Nahsabe."

Journo Edward Yeranian, joining the defense chorus, expressed his shock at the potential of criticizing other infallible untouchables Fouad Ajami and Joshua Landis. Though I despise the former's homiletics to American Zionism, I do have profound respect for his eloquent prose and literary prowess. As for Landis, let's not waste our breath (or mine) here. But all that Junior could muster is an equally "barren" quote from his dad's article (I haven't read it -- please post the link if you care to) about confessionalism, dependency politics, and foreign sponsorship in Lebanon. You think this passes for earth-shattering revelation and serious scholarship? That's a tired subject. Every trash collector and migrant domestic worker noticed this on top of rampant racism and genuflection-to-Westerners on day one in Lebanon, without even the need for AUB tenure. About being Palestinian, I fail to see how that matters to the issue being discussed. Unless Junior is showing off a little dash of racist stereotyping by alluding that confessionalism and dependency politics are a Lebanese specialty, therefore defacto excluding his dad. Enter the likes of Abbas and his PA chorus, and lately Hamas sitting in Qatar's lap, the beacon of democracy -- so much for independent politics and free agency.

I do give a credit to Junior for equating the Hariri juvenile with racism and confessionalism and naturally situating Saad in the same phrase.

Nowadays "intellectually honest academics" come a dime a dozen, and their supply is made easy by Wahabi petrodollars -- not unlike the Stratfor payroll. And H. Khashan, as one of those "intellectually honest academics," joins a host of "intellectually honest" neoliberals across other sectors of the intellectual-honesty-business, including media loudmouths, who in a former life were in the progressive camp but nowadays also masquerade as "intellectually honest" journalists working for Al-Hayat newspaper, Al-Arabia TV, Al-Jazeerah (the list is too long). Not to mention March 14 pseudo-politicians whose company your dad enjoys in the same bed (I feel your temptation to criticize March 8 politicians just to put a halo around the 14ers). The joint Qatari-Saudi dictatorship enterprise, as a proud sponsor of the Islamic Brotherhood, Salafis, Al-Qaeda, Jihadists, thugs, and almost every other obscurant takfeeri outfit, along with March 14ners and the "intellectually honest" breed of petrodollar apologists, is also one of the "intellectually honest" sponsors of democracy in Syria; go figure! Your dad is solid like a rock in that camp.

For a progressive dose of authentic "intellectually honest academics," ditch your dad's pseudo-scholarship and start reading Edward Said. A Palestinian too, since that somehow matters to you.

Look, having said all this, I do understand that you are trying to defend your dad; that's natural, but none of your points pass for objective. My advice: stick with your old man for emotional reasons; just don't rub it too much in public.

-I.A.A.

hypocrites of the "mumana'a"

This is how deranged the so-called "mumana'a" is in their takhween, attacking Hamas as "traitors" and getting close to Qatar and taking millions from it, while they were almost totally silent on their allies, "thuwar Nato", in Afghanistan and Iraq, who tooks billions from the Americans and Hamas are bigger traitors than Karzai, Chalabi, Maliki, etc.

Your analogy is weak

The Resistance Axis did not support the NATO invasion of Afghanistan or Iraq, and indeed, actively supported the right of the people to resist. This is a well documented fact. Hassan Nasrallah himself encouraged the occupied people to resist militarily. Iran is known to have facilitated such resistance. Nobody every proclaimed Karzai or Chalabi and company to be worthy of leading. In other words, your comparison is a false one.

-Atlasturns

The analogy of the "Resistance"

Atlasturns, I refuted your lies elsewhere and you slithered way as typical of your ilk and you continue to repeat your lies. Show me where Iran and Hezbollah declared Karzai, Chalabi, Maliki, etc. as traitors as they have done with all of the Syrian opposition from day one? Nay, Iran fought on the ground with the Americans:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2001_uprising_in_Herat
and now the "Resistance" have revealed their true colours, declaring Hamas to be more treacherous than Karzai, Maliki, Chalabi and Talebani, so do you agree?

False Claims

I don't recall you refuting anything. All I recall is you repeatedly copying and pasting your same lame and baseless accusations which are rooted in a hatred of all things Shia and all things Iranian. The good news is, I don't think you're alone in having that deep rooted hatred. The bad news is, I think that particular group will ultimately face the fate of one of their great leaders, Saddam Hussein.

Here's one video of Hassan Nasrallah clearly endorsing military resistance in Iraq: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_R8rjtjL5A8 . I am sure there are more but unfortunately, no government is paying me to write these comments, so I have to get back to my real job.

If you expect the Resistance Axis to deliberately call the cowards Karzai, Chalabi, etc out by name- you have to be kidding me. Why would they do that, and completely isolate themselves from the populations of Iraq and Afghanistan, which would undoubtedly be offended by "Iranian meddling", when the rest of the region is no better? Why would Iran do that when the rest of the backstabbing Arab leaders are even worse?

Your Wikipedia article, which for all I know, you could have written yourself, doesn't seem to have its strongest accusations against Iran very well sourced. In fact, one of the sources says: " a (US) Army Special Forces officer, says Iranians in the Northern Alliance stronghold of Mazar-e-Sharif were sabotaging U.S. efforts ". In other words, credible sources indicate the exact opposite of what you claim. If you have more specific evidence, please cite.

In other words, your accusation that Iran fought on the ground with Western troops is a complete and utter lie. Obviously in the midst of an invasion by the West, Iran would be expected to have assets on the ground (which are routinely accused of aiding resistance fighters and/or "undermining peace" in Afghanistan). Iran is not only a neighbor of Afghanistan, it also has far more in common with the Afghan people than do the illiterate primitive foreign Salafis that helped turn Afghanistan into a real-life museum of the 10th century.

-Atlasturns

Sectarian to the bone

"I don't recall you refuting anything. All I recall is you repeatedly copying and pasting your same lame and baseless accusations"

Thats what all you hypocrites of the "Resistance" thinking you can whitewash Hezbollah and Iran's deafening silence towards their buddies who rode to power on American tanks in Afghanistan and Iraq. As-suqoot 'alamat ar-ridha.

"which are rooted in a hatred of all things Shia and all things Iranian. The good news is, I don't think you're alone in having that deep rooted hatred."

So why doesn't Umar and Salah ad-Din's liberation of Palestine amount to anything from the Shi'ites?

"The bad news is, I think that particular group will ultimately face the fate of one of their great leaders, Saddam Hussein."

No, thats reserved for Bashar.

'Here's one video of Hassan Nasrallah clearly endorsing military resistance in Iraq: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_R8rjtjL5A8 . I am sure there are more but unfortunately, no government is paying me to write these comments, so I have to get back to my real job."

No government is paying me to write these comments, my impetus to write is the hypocrites of the "Resistance" accusing all Sunnis of of opposing Bashar as "traitors" and you didn't answer my question, where is the takhween of Hasan Nasrallah and Iran towards thuwar Nato in Afghanistan and Iraq?

"If you expect the Resistance Axis to deliberately call the cowards Karzai, Chalabi, etc out by name- you have to be kidding me. Why would they do that, and completely isolate themselves from the populations of Iraq and Afghanistan, which would undoubtedly be offended by "Iranian meddling", when the rest of the region is no better? Why would Iran do that when the rest of the backstabbing Arab leaders are even worse?"

Case closed, you just exposed your hypocrisy, the propaganda apparatus of the "Resistance"(Hezbollah and Iran) have declared all Syrians and Sunnis who oppose Bashar as traitors from day one of the Syrian uprising, inlcuding naming names, while they were totally silent on thuwar Nato in Afghanistan and Iraq, proving their brazen hypocrisy and sectarianism. Your copout denial doesn't amount to a wing of a fly. Also, Sunnis don't need lessons in self-criticism on the question of mumana'a from the hypocrites of the "Resistance".

"Your Wikipedia article, which for all I know, you could have written yourself, doesn't seem to have its strongest accusations against Iran very well sourced. In fact, one of the sources says: " a (US) Army Special Forces officer, says Iranians in the Northern Alliance stronghold of Mazar-e-Sharif were sabotaging U.S. efforts ". In other words, credible sources indicate the exact opposite of what you claim. If you have more specific evidence, please cite."

Who said that the Wikipedia article is the only proof of this, have you forgotten the words of Abtahi and Rafsanjani who admitted this and your denial isn't worth nothing compared to their admittance.

"In other words, your accusation that Iran fought on the ground with Western troops is a complete and utter lie"

No it isn't and this from "shwayyit i'waas".

You didn't answer my original question is Hamas more treacherous than Chalabi, Maliki, Karzai and Jalal Talebani as many of the "Resistance" are saying and insinuating?

... and let us never forget

... and let us never forget ... who rode to Baghdad on American tanks ... takhween, takhween, mumana'a. Does this guy have a life of his own?

The feeling is mutual

Keep snickering and I feel the same way towards your "mumana'a" buddies who have declared anybody who opposes Bashar as a traitor.

Stratfor is CIA disinformation wall to wall.

Half truth is often a great lie... Benjamin Franklin

Stratfor is CIA disinformation wall to wall, Texas funded and Texas based. No credibility whatsoever should be accorded to Stratfor, it's like Debkafile....with this one, the CIA disinformation machine scored a home run. It has been picked up by hundreds of websites....

Debka is a fraud. It should be completely ignored. Every time someone goes to the site, he is giving money to a bunch of scam artists. Debka invents fake news in order to get eyeballs....
To the best of my knowledge its one or two private people exploiting people’s interest in middle east related news. They make money from ads as the content is all invented by them. They are quite creative and make sure their stories do not sound crazy but it is all fiction with no real news.

Reliable info

So when al akhbar asks him, Khashan denies having worked for Stratfor, and in the comment section he admits having worked for them. I wonder who has a problem of reliability!

Behind the Jealousy

Lest anyone mistake this trashy tabloid for an objective journalistic enterprise, one should note its raison d'etre, as articulated by its editor in chief, is to upset. A real newspaper's objective, of course, is to investigate and inform. But the staff of al-Akhbar know nothing about newspapers or reality.
I had not heard of this tabloid until my father, Hilal Khashan, mentioned that Yazan al-Saadi,a writer at al-Akhbar, and Jamal Ghosn, an editor there, had contacted him to inform him that they would run a story that discussed him. The story stems from their baffling fixation with a private business and geopolitics intelligence gathering Web site called Stratfor that was the subject of a Wikileaks hack.
The editor, a master of the run-on sentence and a slave to ineloquent thoughts, told him the objective of this article is to explore the western media's reliance on single sources. He could not understand why Stratfor and countless Western media outlets seek my father's opinion. It's really quite simple: he is a leader in his field. More importantly, he enjoys talking to people because it gives him fresh insight. He learns something from everyone he talks to.
He has nothing to hide in this matter. He has presented two papers at Stratfor with the full knowledge of his employer, the American University of Beirut--an institution that is also the subject of al-Akhbar's ire. For the record, he has also presented papers in India, the Vatican, Egypt, Jordan, Germany, Canada, the US, Lebanon, Japan, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Australia and many others. He also frequently appears on Iran's Press TV. In fact, Jamal Ghosn interviewed him during his time at Press TV. al-Akhbar should ask Press TV why they seek him out so much.
My father will talk to anybody. He even answered the phone when the dimwits from al-Akhbar called.
Relying on single sources would be a huge step forward for al-Akhbar. A quick look through their "articles" reveals that most of them do not site a single first hand source. In fact, in this sloppy piece they devoted to criticizing Western media for quoting my father, al-Akhbar interviewed absolutely no one, save for an anonymous journalist. I might have cut them some slack if they presented themselves as what they are--an opinion publication--but these novices bill their tabloid as "an independent forum for critical coverage of the Middle East and beyond."I was most amused when I discovered an opinion page, as if there is a shred of anything else on their Web site.
My father is a first-rate educator and researcher. He has always pushed his students and children to be critical thinkers, eager learners and avid explorers. He is an unabashed advocate of liberal Western education with its emphasis on inquisitiveness, freedom of expression and critical analysis. These things are only possible if people are willing to talk to individuals across divides, if they ask provoking questions and if they carefully consider questions that are presented to them. In the acknowledgements section of a book he published in 2000, my father thanked the students he has taught over the years for their "insightful questions" which "mightily contributed to the the presentation of [that book]."
I do not ordinarily meddle in my father's professional affairs. But this is personal. I live in the United States and fear for his safety whenever there are reports of unrest or explosions in Lebanon. I will not countenance a toilet paper publication jeopardizing his safety by inflaming trigger happy morons with falsely leading sensational stories.
al-Akhbar should find a beat that's more their speed, like hooka reviews. It's much more in keeping with their intellectual capabilities, and far more forgiving on their amateurish style.

Behind the Sources

What can I say about this publication whose writers are devoid of compunction, human decency and professional ethics! It is unmistakably obvious that the publishers and writers of this report are driven by hate and the desire to injure successful people with whom they cannot possibly compete. I take issue with each and every allegation they make in this report. This publication outlet is evidently driven by a compulsive desire to score a scoop without complying with the very basics of journalistic inquiry, let alone work ethics. They clearly do not understand, and refuse to make an effort to understand, the nature of my relationship with Stratfor, which I tried to explain to them. I developed a mutually rewarding relationship with Stratfor, whereby they support my research in exchange for sharing with them the outcome of my inquiry. There is nothing I can do about it if they are incapable or unwilling to understand. Stratfor has indeed supported my research. How they itemize their contributions in their budgeting process is completely their business, and I am not accountable for their internal organization and institutional decision-making. The fact that they managed to put their hands on Stratfor’s internal emails does not mean that I will volunteer information they do not deserve to access it. It is not my intention to reward thieves who steal personal information and maliciously put words in my mouth. Let them be consumed by their hate.

I'm trying to believe you

Professor Khashan, I'm trying to give you the benefit of the doubt, but your emotional response makes it hard. I can't know whether the writers "hate" you or not, but your allegation that they have a "desire to injure successful people with whom they cannot possibly compete" does not seem likely. I do not know many journalists who consider themselves to be in competition with academics, so unless the writers are professors who are competing for the same funding as you, this seems like a pretty weak attempt to defend yourself. In fact, it kind of reminds me of Stratfor's description of ME1 as being someone who "needs ego stroking and is very defensive".

Does the evidence show that you are undoubtedly, or even beyond a reasonable doubt, ME1? Perhaps not. But in the US, such a high standard is generally only used in criminal cases. To my knowledge, being written about in Al-Akhbar is not equivalent to being brought up on criminal charges.

However, it can be argued that the evidence compiled would lead an ordinary, reasonable person to conclude by the preponderance of the evidence that you are ME1. And in the US, that is the legal standard used for non-criminal cases.

If you care to weaken their position in the eyes of readers, I suggest you address some of their more detailed points, rather than generally calling them hateful, insinuating that they're jealous, etc.

-Atlasturns

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