Commerce may be too busy to take the census, having to leave that onerous task to Rahm Emmanuel. But it’s not too busy to waive sanctions on a previously rejected request to have Boeing service the Syrian national airline. The business will be welcome at Boeing, but the focus must surely be on what the US will do for an encore? Forbes reports on the 747 servicing deal.


News emerged this week that the U.S. Department of Commerce has just approved a license allowing Boeing (nyse: BA – news – people ) to go ahead with major overhauls of two 747 jetliners belonging to Syria’s state-owned Syrian Arab Airlines. The administration itself has been coy on the subject. In response to my query, a Commerce spokesman e-mailed a statement that such license requests are granted on a case-by-case basis, and Commerce cannot comment on specific instances. More eagerly, Syria’s state news agency hustled out an announcement on Tuesday, Feb. 10, saying that the “U.S. Trade Department agrees to provide spare parts for rehabilitating Syrian Airlines.”

The lifting of sanctions doesn’t make much sense unless there is a diplomatic ‘iniative’ in the works. It’s a prelude to something, but the question is what. This month marks the anniversary of Rafik Hariri’s death and the return of Netanyahu to power in Israel. It also marks a period of a new Taliban upsurge in a country whose only alternative commercial link to the sea is via Teheran. On a whole slew of fronts there are possibilities — and the possibility for sellouts — galore in any equation that involves Syria and by extension, Iran and Israel. The only question is, in what chain of links does the Boeing deal fit?


February 2009 is the month in which the UN special prosecutor may choose or not choose to name Syria in the death of Rafik Hariri.  Joshua Hammer in the Atlantic notes how three prosecutors and a variety of shifting alliances have been maneuver to decide what happened four years ago.

The investigation into the 2005 assassination of the Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri is nearing its end—and a trial in international court looms. Insiders say the trail of evidence leads, ultimately, to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But having spent three years fearing for their lives, the investigators are now grappling with a different fear: that Western concerns about regional stability will prevent the naming of the biggest names.

Whatever happened four years ago hasn’t been decided quite yet. The operative questions will probably center around whether there is any usefulness to justice being served. The parties involved are not to be trifled with. The Obama administration has quietly decided that the last NIE finding that Iran has stopped nuclear weapons development was wrong. The Ayatollah’s want the bomb after all. Tigerhawk notices this LA Times report:

Little more than a year after U.S. spy agencies concluded that Iran had halted work on a nuclear weapon, the Obama administration has made it clear that it believes there is no question that Tehran is seeking the bomb.

In his news conference this week, President Obama went so far as to describe Iran’s “development of a nuclear weapon” before correcting himself to refer to its “pursuit” of weapons capability.

Obama’s nominee to serve as CIA director, Leon E. Panetta, left little doubt about his view last week when he testified on Capitol Hill. “From all the information I’ve seen,” Panetta said, “I think there is no question that they are seeking that capability.”


What a difference a day makes, as the song goes. Twenty four little hours. So, what’s going to happen? Open thread.


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