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Saturday, December 13, 2008

The limits of a Jewish Battle against evil and injustice.

This comment by a resident of Efrat is well meant, but it is missing a fundamental point in my humble opinion. The obligation to obey the rule of the state and to maintain order does not depend on whether or not a particular rabbi approves in this instance or that instance. If the settlers are part of the Zionist enterprise and recognize the state, then it is not necessary to ask a rabbi about these points, and a rabbi has no authority regarding such issues. This is true even according to Jewish religious law: Dina di Malkhuta Dina. The law of the "kingdom" is the law in non-religious matters.  

Ami Isseroff

The limits of a Jewish Battle against evil and injustice.

Last week the Jerusalem Post published several articles dealing with the events in Hebron during and after  the eviction of the inhabitants of Bet HaShalom in the city.

Among the things I read were remarks of some Hebron rabbi's who told the Jerusalem Post that the youth responsible for the violence and vandalism before and after the eviction, are "out of control".

Other criticism was leveled by Isi Leibler (Exorcise the rot from our midst Jerusalem Post  December 8)) against the  leaders of the Jewish community in Judea and Samaria for not speaking out loud and clear enough  against the extremists in their midst.

Maybe the rabbi's in question do not speak enough with the media about this subject but they do speak to the general public in Judea and Samaria, like this last Shabbat when I read a number of the leaflets dealing with the Torah portion in my local synagogue denouncing the use of violence in the struggle for the survival of the Jewish community in Judea and Samaria.

However this might not convince the people involved in the use of violence, but what might convince them is what the Torah says about this subject, as conveyed by last week's story of the use of violence by Shimon and Levy, against the inhabitants of Shechem after some of them were involved in kidnapping and the rape of their sister Dinah at the outset of Jacob's aliyah to Israel.

In fact the lesson the Torah is teaching us, starts when Jacob rebukes his sons after they killed all the males in Shechem and looted the city, and the brothers respond by pointing out to the evil done to their sister.

From a closer look at the events, following  Jacob's rebuke we might discover the boundaries which the Torah gives us in a battle against evil and injustice in the land of Israel.

First G'D interferes and orders Jacob to leave Shechem and to" go up to Beth-El and dwell there",

From this it is clear that G'D did not approve the events in Shechem.

But Jacob's response to G'D's command is even more telling, he orders all members of his household to discard "all alien gods in their midst" and to "clean themselves and to change clothes".

So they do, and in Beth-El which is Luz and according to our sages Jerusalem, he builds an altar again and then G'D appears to him  and reconfirms that his name will be Israel from now on, it is now clear that this is the right path for Israel.

To discard all alien gods is connected to the events taking place in Shechem, the deeper meaning of which is, not to use the methods of gentiles in battle against evil and injustice.

This is defiling the nation of Israel hence they have to clean themselves, moreover it is bringing shame on the legacy of Israel, and indeed we learn from the continuing story of Levy and Shimon that they have a very reduced portion in the heritage of Israel.

Jacob's blessing to them on his death-bed is telling, and later on when Joshua divides  the land of Israel  among the tribes,  Levy  finds himself without a portion and Shimon gets the desert in the north Negev, but as a  part of the heritage of Judah ,the leader of Israel who will be his guardian.

So the Torah is telling us here what will be the results of using non-Jewish battle methods in reacting to evil and injustice.

In  the case of the events in Hebron it is clear that the violent and vandalistic acts committed by a group of Jewish extremists against the non-Jewish population of Hebron are acts against the Torah and will not advance the case of the Jewish presence in the ancient heartland.

Therefore the other members of the community to which they belong have to rebuke them, and to distance themselves from such methods.

It  might have gone lost in the turbulence following the eviction of the Jews in Beit HaShalom, but the fact that so few from the wider community in Samaria and Judea were present in Hebron at the moment  the eviction took place gives a clear indication about the support for the methods used by those "defending" the house of Peace in Hebron.

The sermon given by a rabbi in my synagogue this Shabbat and the many leaflets distributed to the synagogues in Judea and Samaria dealing with this subject in the weekly Torah reading told me the rest.

Most Rabbi's might not have spoken to the media loudly, but they were certainly speaking with a clear voice to their own community ,  the way of reacting to the injustice done to the Jews of Beit HaShalom was evil and un-Jewish and has damaged the cause of the Jewish community in Judea and Samaria  greatly.

Yochanan  Visser

Resident Efrat

Chairman Israel-Facts monitorgroup

Zayit Shemen 32-10 Efrat

Continued (Permanent Link)

Keeping up with Jones: The plan for Israel?

Caroline Glick tends to yell that the sky is falling quite often. However, sometimes it might really be falling. Israel has hitched itself to the United States, and the United States often has very odd ideas about the Middle East. It is not something that can be changed by electing Benjamin Netanyahu or another politician.

Column One: Netanyahu's grand coalition

Dec. 11, 2008

The "international community" is eagerly anticipating the incoming Obama administration's policy toward Israel. It is widely assumed that as soon as he comes into office, US President-elect Barack Obama will move quickly to place massive pressure on the next Israeli government to withdraw from Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights in the interests of advancing a "peace process" with the Palestinians and the Syrians.

Giving voice to these expectations this week was this year's Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Martti Ahtisaari. The former Finnish prime minister used his prize ceremony to call on Obama to make contending with the Palestinian conflict with Israel his chief focus during his first year in office. This is the same Ahtisaari who recently demanded that the West recognize Hamas as a legitimate political movement.

People who have been in close contact with Obama's foreign policy transition team have privately acknowledged that the widespread belief that Obama will move swiftly to put the screws on Israel is fully justified. According to one source who has spent a great deal of time with the transition team since last month's US elections, Obama's people are "scope-locked" on Israel.

The source reports that Gen. Jim Jones, Obama's designated national security adviser, is Israel's most outspoken critic. The source, who held a two and a half hour meeting with Jones, told his associates that Jones is keen to deploy NATO forces, perhaps including US troops, to Judea and Samaria.

Jones's plan, which is vociferously opposed by the IDF, would make it impossible for the IDF to carry out counterterror operations in the areas. As a practical matter, the lives of hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens who live in the areas would be imperiled. Just as Hizbullah has used UNIFIL forces in south Lebanon as a shield from the IDF behind which it has rearmed and reasserted control over the border zone, so too a NATO force would facilitate an empowerment of Hamas and Fatah, which would unify, arm and organize free from the threat of IDF counterterror operations.

Jones's plan is not new. In a 2002 interview, Samantha Power - who has been one of Obama's closest foreign affairs advisers for years and now serves as a member of his transition team for the State Department - called for US forces to be deployed to Judea and Samaria as "a mammoth protection force" to protect the Palestinians from Israel, which she claimed was guilty of "major human rights abuses."

Obama's team, like its supporters in the international foreign policy establishment, is dismayed by the Israeli opinion polls that show that Likud, led by Binyamin Netanyahu, is favored to win February 10's general elections by a wide margin.

In anticipation of Likud's expected electoral victory, they have been piling on against Netanyahu and the party. This was most recently evident at last week's Middle East policy conclave in Washington organized by the pro-Obama and post-Zionist Saban Middle East Forum at the Brookings Institute. There, both secretary of state-designate Hillary Clinton's surrogate, former president Bill Clinton, and current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice castigated Netanyahu's assertion that peace must be built from the bottom up through the liberalization of Palestinian society, rather than from the top down by giving land to terrorists.

Netanyahu foresees Palestinian liberalization coming through economic development in an "economic peace process."

Both the former US president and Rice attacked his plan, claiming that it is antithetical to the sacrosanct "two-state solution."

As far as they and their many colleagues are concerned, the only thing that remains to be discussed is when Israel will vacate Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. The fact that there is no significant Palestinian constituency willing to peacefully coexist with Israel is irrelevant.

In light of the incoming Obama administration's palpable hostility toward Israel, and particularly toward Israel's political realists, the results of the Likud primary this past Monday were especially significant. In selecting the party's slate of candidates for Knesset, Likud members favored sober-minded politicians who use their common sense to guide them over those with records of support for the fraudulent "peace processes" so favored by the local media, Kadima, Labor and the international jet set.

Likud politicians who warned of the dangers of then-prime minister Ariel Sharon's decision to withdraw from Gaza and expel some 10,000 Israelis from their homes in Gaza and northern Samaria were elected to the top of the Knesset slate. Those who supported Sharon's withdrawal and expulsion plan - which is now widely recognized to have been Israel's most disastrous strategic move in recent history - were either rejected out of hand, or demoted.

The men and women selected by Likud's voters will provide Netanyahu with the political strength to stand up to pressure from the Obama White House. They will support him when he is forced to reject US demands that Israel give away vital territory to Fatah and Hamas militias and to Syria's Iranian-sponsored regime. They will support him when he is compelled to refuse US demands to deploy NATO forces to Judea and Samaria. They will back him when he says that Fatah is not a peace partner for Israel but Hamas's partner for war against Israel.

That the general public shares the sensibilities exhibited by Likud primary voters is made clear by the fact that Likud's standing in the polls has not significantly diminished since the primary. If, as the media warned, the public would reject a list comprised of sober-minded realists, one would have expected that support to drop. Instead, it remains steady even as Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni castigates Likudniks as naysayers and opponents of peace and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert scandalously invites the nations of the world to turn against Israel if Likud wins the elections.

One might have intuited that the striking contrast between the sober-minded Likud party and the delusional and defeatist Kadima and Labor parties that was brought so prominently to the fore by the Likud primary would have been the central message that Netanyahu chose to convey in the days that have followed Monday's vote. But sadly, one would be wrong to think that.

Disturbingly, rather than drawing distinctions between his party and its rivals, Netanyahu has spent the days since the primary drawing distinctions between himself and a minor player in his own party. Both ahead of the primary and in the days since, Netanyahu has devoted the majority of his time to attacking his sharpest critic within the party - Moshe Feiglin, who heads the far-right Jewish Leadership Forum in Likud and won the not-particularly-senior 20th position on Likud's Knesset slate. On Thursday, Netanyahu succeeded in pushing Feiglin down to the 36th spot.

Feiglin has more in common with the Left he abhors than with his party members. Like the Left, Feiglin bases his strategic and economic notions on a complete denial of reality. Whereas the Left ignores the Arabs, Feiglin ignores the West. Feiglin's religious adherence to his views has made him few friends in Likud or elsewhere in Israeli politics. The threat he constitutes to Netanyahu is negligible.

Given Feiglin's inherent weakness, Netanyahu's post-primary focus on him is shocking. Netanyahu has argued that Feiglin will lose votes for Likud. But assuming that is true, the last thing Netanyahu should be doing is placing a spotlight on Feiglin. Rather, Netanyahu should be emphasizing his strongest suit: the clear distinction between Likud on the one hand and Kadima and Labor on the other hand.

In focusing the public's attention on Feiglin, Netanyahu appears to be reacting to foreign pressures rather than domestic ones. One of Netanyahu's most difficult challenges during his tenure as prime minister from 1996 to 1999 was handling his relations with the hostile Clinton administration. From the moment Netanyahu was elected until the moment he left office, the Clinton administration's Israel policy was devoted entirely to bringing down his government. In close collusion with Netanyahu's political opponents and the local media, for three years Clinton worked steadily to overthrow him. Clinton's assault culminated in the 1999 elections when he sent his own campaign managers to Israel to lead the Labor Party's campaign against Netanyahu and Likud.

No doubt, it is in the hopes of building better relations with the incoming Obama administration that Netanyahu now seeks to distance himself from Feiglin and advocates forming a broad governing coalition with his political foes in Kadima and Labor. Apparently, in his view only such a broad coalition will insulate him from a US presidential assault. In the interests of forming such a coalition, while highlighting his disputes with Feiglin, Netanyahu has sought to obfuscate his ideological differences with Kadima and Labor.

Although Netanyahu's motivations are understandable, his mode of operation will bring him results exactly opposed to the ones he seeks. It is true that to withstand pressures and even an all-out assault by the Obama administration Netanyahu will need a broad coalition. But that coalition cannot be based on a simple will to power, as Olmert's coalition and previous leftist coalitions have been. To survive a hostile While House, Netanyahu will require a broad coalition founded on support for his ideas and his party's policies, not a broad coalition populated by political and ideological opponents dedicated to undermining his ideas and policies.

Rather than obfuscate the differences between Likud and Kadima/Labor, Netanyahu must highlight them. He must convince the Israeli electorate to vote for Likud on the basis of these distinctions. Likud must be perceived as the party of commonsense ideas and clear-minded policies that inspire, attract and convince the Israeli public to support it. And Netanyahu and Likud have those ideas and policies.

On a strategic level, Netanyahu and Likud have made clear that they stand for three main principles. First, they are committed to establishing defensible borders for Israel by securing Israeli sovereignty over all of greater Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley, the Samarian Hills and the Golan Heights.

Second, they recognize that the Palestinian society that elected a terror group to lead it is a society that is uninterested in peace with Israel. Consequently, any future negotiations must be preceded by a full reorganization and reform of Palestinian society.

Third, they reject the Kadima/Labor fantasy that foreign militaries and international forces can be expected to protect Israel in place of the IDF.

If Netanyahu runs on these policies, he will not merely win the elections. He will win a clear mandate to govern. And only if Netanyahu runs on these policies will he have a chance of blunting the pressure that will certainly be brought to bear by the Obama administration. For although it is clear that like Clinton, Obama will have no problem opposing the will of an Israeli government, he will be hard pressed to oppose the will of the Israeli people.


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US Espionage against Israel

Poor Jonathan Pollard was put in jail and they threw away the key, after reneging on a plea bargain. But the US spies on Israel with impunity.
Dec. 12, 2008 Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST

The United States routinely attempts to gather information on Israel's assumed atomic arsenal and secret government deliberations, says a new official documentation of Israel's intelligence services, reviewed by Reuters.

While espionage by allies on their friends is not uncommon, a new Israeli state-sponsored publication openly acknowledges it.

The book "Masterpiece: An Inside Look at Sixty Years of Israeli Intelligence," claims American spy agencies use technologies like electronic eavesdropping, and specially trained staff located in the US embassy in Tel Aviv, for "methodical intelligence gathering."

"The United States has been after Israel's non-conventional capabilities and what goes on at the decision-making echelons," says the book in a chapter on counter-espionage written by Barak Ben-Zur, a retired Shin Bet officer.

Asked about the assertions, the US embassy spokesman said only: "We don't comment on intelligence matters."

Israel is widely believed to have been armed with nuclear weapons since the late 1960s, but a policy of "strategic ambiguity" has prevented state officials in the know to confirm or deny the claims.

Declassified Pentagon documents published in a 2004 book about then US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld estimated that Israel had 80 nuclear warheads. Last May, former US President Jimmy Carter put the number of Israeli bombs at around 150. The estimates on Israel's nuclear arsenal range from about 80 to more than 200, as do estimates on its launching capabilities, which apart from ballistic missiles may or may not include special custom-designed torpedoes.

Ben-Zur declined to give Reuters operational details on how the United States might be conducting its espionage on Israel. But he described the effort as largely benign, given the closeness of defense ties between Israel and Washington.

"At the end of the day, the United States does not want to be surprised," he said. "Even by us."

Due out later this month, "Masterpiece" is published by the Israel Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Center and includes prefaces by chiefs of Israel's military intelligence, the domestic Shin Bet and the Mossad spy service active abroad.


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Kastner libel not dead: Zionist hero who saved Jews in World War II was murdered because of revisionist slander campaign

Rudolf Kastner of Kluj Rumania was in an impossible position. As a Jew under Nazi rule, he had to cooperate with the Nazis in extermination of Jews if he was to survive. As a Jew, he had to try to save as many Jews as he could from the claws of Adolph Eichmann. Kastner did succeed in saving large numbers of Jews. Had he refused to cooperate with the Nazis, he would have been replaced by someone else.
But Kastner evoked the enmity of some, and the Revisionist Zionist movement used that enmity to conduct a smear campaign against Kastner and the Zionist movement, that resulted in Kastner's murder. Additionally, the irresponsible and malicious inventions of the revisionists were retailed to an American author, Ben Hecht, who wrote a book called Perfidy. The tale told by Hecht is that the (Labor Zionist controlled) Jewish Agency conspired with Kastner to murder European Jews. This absurdity was eagerly accepted by "true believer" revisionists, and has long since been propagated to anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic journals, pamphlets and Web sites.
Ami Isseroff
 By Ofri Ilani, Haaretz Correspondent

More than 50 years after the murder of Israel (Rudolf) Kastner, the de facto head of the Jewish Aid and Rescue Committee in Budapest, the controversy surrounding him is being rekindled.

Kastner, who made a deal with Adolph Eichmann in 1944 to allow between 1,600 and 1,700 Hungarian Jews to leave for Switzerland in exchange for money, gold and diamonds, was convicted in Israel in 1955 for collaboration with the Nazis. The court ruled that Kastner had indeed "sold his soul to the devil."

Two years later he was murdered outside his home in Tel Aviv.

The affair has spawned more than 10 books, a theater play and a television film. Now a storm has been raised again after the documentary "Killing Kastner" by the American director Gaylen Ross was screened at the Haifa International Film Festival two months ago.

Gideon Levy wrote in Haaretz about the movie that it was time to beg for Kastner's forgiveness. Ten letters to the newspaper in response helped rekindle the 50-year-old controversy. Even today, five decades later, Baruch Tzahor refuses to forget the injustice that was caused to Kastner, who, as Levy wrote, saved more Jews by negotiations than the partisans, Warsaw ghetto rebels or other heroes. At the age of 83, Tzahor, who lives with his wife in moshav Zofit, is still troubled by the affair that shook the young Israeli state.

"All the accusations against Kastner were lies," he says. "I know because he tried to save me."

Tzahor met Kastner in 1945 in the Jewish hospital in Vienna, a few weeks before the Russian occupation. Tzahor (then Weiss), then 20, was hiding with a friend from the Gestapo in the hospital cellar.

Kastner gave him a box of candy and said "in two weeks I'll be here with transportation and take you to Switzerland, out of the Nazi occupation zone." It was the end of March 1945, and the two, who already heard the Soviet army's guns, decided to pass. They were released two weeks later when the Russians marched into the city. Tzahor's family perished in Auschwitz, but he never forgot Kastner.

They met again 10 years later in Kfar Sava. Kastner was then a Mapai functionary who came to campaign for the elections. Tzahor was branch chairman for the Ahdut Ha'avoda (Labor Unity) party, which later joined Mapai to form the Labor party.

This time Kastner was the one in trouble. In 1953 he was accused in a pamphlet published by Malchiel Gruenwald, a journalist from Hungary, of collaborating with the Nazis.

The Israeli government sued Gruenwald for libel on Kastner's behalf, but the trial became a diatribe against Kastner for his activities during the Holocaust. "The press said he only saved rich, connected people. I knew this was not true. He wanted to save me, and didn't ask if I had money," Tzahor related.

Readers' letters to Haaretz repeated the old accusations that Kastner had deceived Hungary's Jews by failing to warn others that the "resettlement" promised by the Nazis was in fact deportation to Auschwitz. He was accused of facilitating the Germans' liquidation of Hungarian Jewry.

"Kastner did not keep quiet," says Tzahor."He sent emissaries to all the communities to tell the Jews not to get on the trains."

"This affair is not dead," says history Professor Yechiam Weitz from the University of Haifa, author of "The man who was murdered twice - the life, trial and death of Dr. Israel Kastner."

"The issue is so loaded that it won't let some people go," says Weitz, who wrote that "with his own two hands Kastner saved more Jews than any Jew before him or since."

Tzahor did not testify on Kastner's behalf in court due to the rivalry between his party and Mapai, Kastner's party. Yisrael Galili, one of Ahdut Ha'avoda's leaders, forbade him to testify. "He said the community needs heroes, not people who collaborated with the Germans," says Tzahor.

Moshe Vartash, 81, of Ramat Hasharon also defended Kastner in a letter to Haaretz. "I think he was a hero," he says. "He could have escaped right when the Germans entered Hungary, but he didn't. My mother, who was in the Budapest ghetto, received a Swiss sponsorship thanks to him. Many Budapest Jews were saved because Kastner's negotiations delayed their deportation," he says.

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Iranian "Militants" attack Saudi airline office to protest peace plan

Iran's state-run newspaper says a militant group has attacked the office of Saudi Arabia's state-owned airline in Tehran over a Saudi-backed peace initiative with Israel.
Iran newspaper says the group - identified as Ikhwan al-Radwan, or Brothers of Heaven in Arabic - attacked the Saudi Arabian Airlines office with several Molotov cocktails Wednesday, causing minor damage to the building.
Saturday's newspaper report quotes a statement by the group saying the reason for the attack was Saudi Arabia's support for an Arab peace initiative.
The initiative offers Israel normal relations with all Arab countries if it withdraws from lands occupied in 1967 Arab-Israeli war and allows the creation of a Palestinian state with a capital in Jerusalem

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Palestinian leaks: Israel wants to annex 6.8% of the West Bank

Please remember this, next time you see, and you will see it, that Israeli peace plans include annexation of 40% of the West Bank. Of course, the annexed area would be compensated by a land swap.
Palestinians: Israel asked to annex 6.8% of West Bank
By News Agencies
Israel proposed to annex 6.8 percent of the West Bank and take in 5,000 Palestinian refugees, the chief Palestinian negotiator said Friday, speaking for the first time in detail about the yearlong U.S.-backed negotiations that failed to produce an agreement.
Israel never revealed its position on the future of Jerusalem, the most contentious issue in the negotiations, said negotiator Ahmed Qureia.
His comments appeared aimed, in part, at providing a record of the Israeli position ahead of leadership changes in Israel and the United States. Israel's elections are scheduled for February 10, and polls suggest Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu is poised to become Israel's next prime minister.
Netanyahu opposes large-scale territorial concessions and has said he would not continue the negotiations in their current format. He has said he would try to focus on improving the Palestinian economy instead.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also faces a leadership challenge from his Hamas rivals, who rule Gaza and say Abbas' term in office ends in January.
The office of outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declined comment Friday on the specifics provided by Qureia. However, Olmert aides noted recent Olmert speeches, in which he said Israel would have to withdraw from much of the land it occupied in the 1967 Mideast War, including the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem.
Qureia told Palestinian reporters on Friday that Israel wants to keep four blocs of Jewish settlements - Ariel, Ma'aleh Adumim, Givat Ze'ev and Efrat-Gush Etzion.
He said Israel initially asked to annex 7.3 percent of the West Bank, then reduced the demand to 6.8 percent. He said Israel presented maps for both offers.
"Israel offered to give some of its own territory as compensation for the annexed areas, but not an equal trade in size and quality," Qureia said.
The negotiator said the Palestinians did not accept the Israeli offer, arguing that some of the areas Israel wants to annex would be vital to the creation of a Palestinian state.
Qureia has said in the past the Palestinians are willing to consider an annexation of some settlements and a land swap, but on a much smaller scale.
He said the Palestinians repeatedly raised their demand for a division of
Jerusalem, but that Israel's chief negotiator, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, never presented an Israeli position.
Olmert has said Israel would have to give up some Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem. However, the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Shas Party, a member of Olmert's coalition, has threatened to quit if Jerusalem is discussed in the negotiations.
Olmert will step down as prime minister after a successor is selected. He has already been replaced by Livni as head and the ruling Kadima party and its next candidate for prime minister.
Qureia said Olmert's offer of 5,000 refugees over five years was rejected, but noted that the Palestinians don't seek the return of all refugees and their descendants, a group of several million.
"To say that not a single refugee would be allowed back or that all the refugees should be allowed back is not a solution," he said. "We should reach a mutual position on this issue."
Israel has adamantly refused to accept large numbers of Palestinians, saying mass repatriation would destroy the Jewish character of the state.
The negotiations were launched a year ago, at a U.S.-hosted Mideast conference in Annapolis, Maryland.
Since then, Qureia and Livni have met repeatedly, in parallel to talks between Olmert and Abbas. Qureia said he last spoke to Livni by phone a month ago.
Olmert paid a farewell visit to outgoing U.S. President George W. Bush in late November, and Abbas is to meet with Bush at the White House next week.
Qureia said he hopes Barack Obama will make solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a priority when he takes over as U.S. president in January. "We hope that we will not have to wait for intensive U.S. involvement," he said.
The Palestinian negotiator said it's possible Netanyahu, if elected, will seek to erase the last year of negotiations. "There is a possibility that if Netanyahu wins, he will begin things from the point of zero," Qureia said, adding that while each side kept notes during the negotiations, there is no joint written record.
Qureia noted that during a term as prime minister in the 1990s, Netanyahu signed two interim agreements with the Palestinians, despite his hard-line positions.
"Therefore, a person in the position of responsibility could change contrary to his position in the opposition," Qureia said. "At the end of the day, we'll deal with anyone who wins the election."
Quartet to discuss Mideast peace at UN headquarters Monday
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said earlier Friday that the diplomatic group on the Middle East peace process, or quartet, will meet Monday at UN headquarters.
"It is a year which I hope will bear fruit in the Middle East," Ban said in a conference in Geneva announcing the quartet meeting in New York.
"Somewhat below the radar, Israelis and Palestinians have been engaged in direct, intensive negotiations, and have created trust and a framework where none existed only two years ago," he said.
"They are setting the stage for peace and are determined to continue," he added. "It is up to the international community to help them realize that long-elusive dream."
Ban said he has invited several Arab governments to take part in the quartet discussions along with the four principals: the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and high-ranking EU officials will attend the meeting under Ban's leadership.
The quartet has called for the establishment of a Palestinian state living in peace alongside Israel. Various security and political steps have to be carried out before the two-state solution is achieved under what is known as a road map to end the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.

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Hope springs eternal: Bush not done working on Israeli-Palestinian issue

An "E" for Effort at least...
Rice: Bush not done working on Israeli-Palestinian issue
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent
United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday that the Bush Administration was not done working on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, especially in light of recent, significant diplomatic developments between the two sides.
Rice's comments came during a meeting with the head of the Geneva Initiative and former Meretz party chair Yossi Beilin.
Rice added that the situation in the West Bank has changed and Israeli and Palestinian positions are becoming closer, something she says she hopes doesn't change after Israeli general elections in February.
Beilin echoed the comment, telling Rice that the outgoing Bush Administration must find a way to ensure that peace talks between the two sides will pick up where it left off, and won't need to start from scratch after the general elections.
On the 19th of December, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will arrive in Washington, D.C. for a meeting with President Bush. Rice is expected to make an additional trip to the Mideast before the Bush administration leaves office.

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Jimmy Carter would love to meet Hezbollah officials

Carter would love to meet Hezbollah officials. They share many common interests I suppose.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said Friday that he would have been delighted to meet Hezbollah officials and that he regrets the meeting didn't take place during his current visit to Lebanon.
Carter spent five days talking to top Lebanese leaders and members of parliamentary blocs but didn't meet with lawmakers from the militant Hezbollah. The Iranian-backed Shiite group is on the U.S. State Department's terrorist list.
The former U.S. leader had said he was ready to meet Hezbollah but they refuse to meet current or former U.S. presidents.
Carter has offered that his Atlanta-based Carter Center monitor Lebanon's parliament elections next year. The vote will be fiercely contested between Western-backed anti-Syrian groups that hold majority seats in the current 128-member parliament and a Hezbollah-led coalition supported by Syria and Iran.
During a lecture at the American University of Beirut at the end of his visit Friday, Carter expressed disappointment that Hezbollah refused to see him.
"We came here with the hope that we can meet with all the political parties and factions in Lebanon," he said. "If the leaders of Hezbollah wanted to meet with me, I would have been delighted."

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Friday, December 12, 2008

USA Nuclear Umbrella? for Israel?


According to reports, the United States is about to offer Israel a nice nuclear umbrella. It is very pretty and colorful. It comes with a vinyl carrying case. The offer was first broached by Hillary Clinton in April 2008 in the Democratic primary campaign.

Well, thanks but no thanks, dear Uncle Sam. We are in an embarrassing position here. It is a bit like a Jew who gets a greeting card from a well meaning neighbor: "Happy Tisha B'av." (Fast day commemorating the destruction of the temples). Well meant perhaps, but not appropriate.

What can be bad about a nice pretty colored nuclear umbrella, you say? After all, NIE report to the contrary notwithstanding, it becomes more and more obvious each month that Iran is constructing nuclear weapons - lock stock and implosion mechanisms.

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US chooses war and force over engagement

This is clearly an outrage. The US government, inensitive to the deep seated causes of this militancy, has turned to brute force in order stop it. Did the Bush administration try to engage the pirates fighters? Offer them concessions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
In any case, isn't it likely that all the pirates are Israeli Mossad agents?

US calls on UN to hunt pirates by land and air

UNITED NATIONS – The U.S. is proposing that the United Nations authorize tracking down Somali pirates not only at sea, but on land and in Somali air space with cooperation from the African country's weak U.N.-backed government.
The United States is circulating a draft U.N. Security Council resolution on the issue, as part of one of the Bush administration's last major foreign policy initiatives. The resolution proposes that all nations and regional groups cooperating with Somalia's government in the fight against piracy and armed robbery "may take all necessary measures ashore in Somalia."
Somalia's government is welcoming the U.S. initiative. Somali government spokesman Abdi Haji Gobdon said Thursday the government will offer any help it can.
If the U.S. military gets involved, it would mark a dramatic turnabout from the U.S. experience in Somalia in 1992-1993 that culminated in a deadly military clash in Mogadishu followed by a humiliating withdrawal of American forces.
U.S. Navy ships already are involved, in small numbers, in patroling the waters off Somalia. A senior administration official in Washington said Thursday that the proposed additional U.N. authority would give the U.S. military more options in confronting the pirates but does not mean the U.S. is planning a ground assault.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks, said the resolution would simply provide the possibility of taking action ashore, including from Somalia's air space, in the event of timely intelligence on the pirates' whereabouts. The official said it should not be assumed that such action would necessarily involve U.S. forces.
Without committing more U.S. Navy ships, the Bush administration wants to tap into what officials see as a growing enthusiasm in Europe and elsewhere for more effective coordinated action against the Somali pirates. Administration officials view the current effort as lacking coherence, as pirates score more and bigger shipping prizes.
The U.S. resolution is to be presented at a session on Somalia Tuesday with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
It proposes that for a year, nations "may take all necessary measures ashore in Somalia, including in its airspace, to interdict those who are using Somali territory to plan, facilitate or undertake acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea and to otherwise prevent those activities."
The draft also says Somalia's government — whose president wrote the U.N. twice this month already seeking help — suffers from a "lack of capacity, domestic legislation, and clarity about how to dispose of pirates after their capture."
Britain agreed Thursday to hand over pirate suspects captured off Somalia's lawless coast to face trial in Kenya, removing a key legal obstacle to prosecuting them, a British diplomat said at a U.N.-organized piracy conference.
In the past, foreign navies patrolling the Somali coast have been reluctant to detain suspects because of uncertainties over where they would face trial as Somalia has no effective central government or legal system.
"Nations are very wary of taking pirates onboard their ships," said Lord Alan West, British undersecretary of state for security and counterterrorism. "It is extremely difficult — where can you put them — if you're not going back to your home country, and even going back to your home country causes immense problems in terms of legal prosecutions."
Britain does not currently have any detained suspects. But in the past some suspects have been released by other members of the international naval coalition despite being found with weapons and boarding equipment such as ladders and grappling hooks.
The agreement is based on an ad hoc deal that saw eight suspected pirates brought to Kenya by a British warship last month. Their trial is expected to take approximately a year. The European Union is currently completing a similar arrangement.
Piracy off Somalia has intensified in recent months, with more attacks against a wider range of targets. There was an unsuccessful assault on a cruise ship in the Gulf of Aden, which links the Mediterranean Sea, the Suez Canal and the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean. In September, pirates seized a Ukrainian freighter loaded with 33 battle tanks and on Nov. 15 they seized a Saudi oil tanker carrying $100 million worth of crude.
About 100 attacks on ships have been reported off the Somali coast this year. Forty vessels have been hijacked, with 14 still remaining in the hands of pirates along with more than 250 crew members, according to maritime officials.
On Thursday, a U.N. anti-piracy conference attended by representatives of more than 40 nations failed to produce a consensual legal framework for tackling piracy but recommended regulation for armed guards on ships and establishing a common policy to discourage ransom payments.
Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula said his government had discussed putting armed guards onboard ships from the navies of friendly nations and had also had approaches from private companies.
The conference also recommended targeting the financial networks that support the pirates and building Somali coast guard forces. Somali pirates have taken in an estimated $30 million in ransom this year.
Associated Press writers Robert Burns and Pauline Jelinek contributed from Washington; Katharine Houreld from Nairobi, Kenya; and Salad Duhul from Mogadishu, Somalia

Continued (Permanent Link)

Dear President Obama

Dear President Obama
Barry Rubin

December 6, 2008

Dear President Obama:

They say that you prefer the name Barry and so it pleases me no end that another Barry is finally president of the United States. In addition, I once worked as a community organizer so we have two things in common.

On that basis, then, I hope you don't mind my making some suggestions about how you might think about the Middle East. I'm not looking for a job in Washington. In fact, as I look back on my life, I note that if I'd been successful in some obsession for a U.S. a government post I would have been a proud participant in such endeavors as the catastrophic mishandling of Iran's revolution, the failed U.S. dispatch of troops to Lebanon, the botched trade of arms for hostages with Iran, the crashed peace process, and the Iraq war.

So don't be misled! Today, everyone's talking about how wonderful you are. Those are the people who want jobs, favors, and access. There are others who want something else from you--like control over Lebanon, Israel, Iraq, or Georgia--who are more likely to be psychopathic than sycophantic.

Your expressed theme for your administration's Middle East policy can be described in one word: conciliation. You think that your predecessors made unnecessary enemies and blocked, rather than furthered, progress. Building on the basis of your perceived popularity and sincere good will, you believe that it is not so heard to make friends with Iran and Syria, soothe grievances that have caused Islamism and terrorism, and solve the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Good luck. We hope you succeed.

But please bear in mind some important points as you go along in this effort.

  • In the Middle East, it is not so useful to think yourself popular and show yourself to be friendly. You have to inspire fear in your enemies and confidence in your friends. And if you don't inspire fear in your enemies--if you're too nice to them--then you will indeed foment fear among your friends.
  • Not everyone thinks the same way. When you talk of "empathy," America's enemies hear the word "fear." When you speak of change, they, too, want change. Unfortunately the change they want means wiping other states off the map, creating radical Islamist dictatorships, and kicking the United States out of the region.

This is no misunderstanding: it's a conflict.

(In the film, "Cool Hand Luke," the noble convict (played by Paul Newman), jokes to the sadistic guards, "What we have here is a lack of communication." The audiences laughed. What everyone has forgotten is that a moment later they shoot him dead. Harvard Law School meets the law of the jungle.

You are going to talk to Iran, negotiate with Syria, and try to buy the Palestinians or press the Israelis into making peace. It's your presidency and many Americans think--whether rightly or not--that this hasn't been tried enough.

But please keep in mind four very important points for when the going gets rough:

  1. How much do you offer them and at who's expense? Not too much, please.
  2. How closely will you monitor whether or not they are keeping their commitments? Be tough please.
  3. At what point will you conclude that they don't want to end existing conflicts or be America's friends? Don't wait too long, please.
  4. What do you do when you figure out this doesn't work? Don't be afraid to admit failure, blame those responsible, and try something else.

Let's take Iraq. You want to withdraw and turn the war over to the Iraqis. Makes sense. But what will you do if Iran escalates in order to make your withdrawal look like a defeat and fill the vacuum--subtly, of course, not too openly.

And what do you do to combat Iranian and Syrian efforts to turn Iraq, Lebanon, and the Gaza Strip, into their sphere of influence? They will pump in money, pump up hatred, and kill anyone who stands in the way. Making a good speech, apologizing for the past, or offering more concessions won't work.

Westerners are eager to resolve conflicts; revolutionaries want to use conflicts. You think grievances can be resolved; their grievances are insatiable. Make a concession, they ignore it and demand another. Withdraw from a territory, they occupy it and turn it into a base for the next advance. Explain that you feel their pain, and they add to your pain.

This is what it is like to deal with extremists and ideologues.

Right now you don't understand why Bill Clinton and George Bush couldn't solve a little thing like the Arab-Israeli conflict. Don't worry. Be patient. You will.

The truth is that an emphasis on Afghanistan is no panacea because Afghanistan is far tougher than Iraq. no one tames Afghanistan, it is a product of geography, ethnic conflict, macho militarism, and degree of development. In Iraq, the majority is very basically on your side and a stable government could definitely emerge, in Afghanistan, it is a permanent holding action or collapse.

I'm not the least bit worried about a good U.S.-Israel relationship, but what about the indirect threat.

What happens when the Europeans hug you, kiss you and then refuse to extend sanctions. Will Austria, Germany and Switzerland cut off their deals with Iran or will you even ask them to toughen up?

How will you convince the Saudis, Jordanians, Egyptians and others that you are their reliable protector against Iranian nukes?.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Is the war in Iraq won?

Kenneth Pollack believes the war in Iraq is not won, despite progress in security and stabilization. He cites various problems of management by the Iraqi government and believes there is a threat of renewed civil. Most Americans have a more optimistic assessment. of the Iraq government. They are so enamored of the model of turning the war against terror over to local authorities, that they want to push this model for Israel and the Palestinians. That seems to be the strategy of Jim Jones, who will evidently be Barack Obama's National Security adviser.
Both analyses ignore geopolitical facts. Civil wars in the Middle East don't just happen. They are manufactured in plants in Damascus and Tehran, as can be seen clearly in Lebanon.
By the time the United States leaves Iraq in 2011, Iran will probably be a nuclear power, as there are no serious plans to stop it. Iran and Syria both have ambitions in Iraq. Iran will have supplanted the US as a regional power, and the US retreat from Iraq will seal the end of U.S. influence in the Gulf. The Iranian government has wisely have decided that since the United States is leaving, there is no point in pressing their war while the Americans are there. Their Jihadists did what they were supposed to do: They got the United States to leave Iraq. "Mission accoplished." After the U.S. leaves Iraq, Iran and Syria will renew the civil war in earnest and then the U.S. will need to make a critical decision about what to do. Juding from past history, Americans will have totally forgotten about Iraq by then, and will be glued to their superbowl and reality TV shows.  
The "solution" that is shaping up for Iraq is rather similar to the one that Henry Kissinger concocted for Vietnam. The U.S. declares victory and departs, the locals take over and then the regime is helpless to save itself against a renewed onslaught.
Ami Isseroff

Volume 12, No. 4 - December 2008, Total Circulation 25,000
Article 1 of 8
Kenneth M. Pollack*

This article discusses the current situation in Iraq and U.S. policy on that country. It discusses current plans for a U.S. withdrawal and Iraqi politics, putting them also in the context of the likely policy of the Obama administration and the coming challenges in Iraq.
All across America, people increasingly seem to believe that the war in Iraq is won. Republicans proclaim it triumphantly. Democrats acknowledge it grudgingly and then try to change the subject to Afghanistan.
There is only one problem. The war in Iraq is not won. Despite the remarkable progress since 2006, the situation in Iraq remains extremely tentative and could easily fall apart again.
The United States--and particularly the U.S. military--will be a critical determinant of whether it is able to build on that progress and leave a stable, functional Iraq that picks its way toward a better future, or squander all of the gains made and lives lost and allow it to sink back into civil war--a civil war that would be deadly for the Persian Gulf and the wider Middle East.
Taken together, however, the perception and the reality create a conundrum for the new Obama Administration. President Obama cannot be seen as "losing" the war that George W. Bush is now increasingly seen as having "won," albeit only after nearly losing it himself. The fact that this perception is inaccurate is also unfortunately irrelevant in the world of politics.
On the other hand, candidate Obama promised a rapid withdrawal from Iraq based on an unconditional timetable--an even faster one than the goals set in the new Status of Force Agreement (SOFA) between the United States and Iraq. He also announced on the campaign trail that Afghanistan, not Iraq, would be the focus of his foreign policy, and he will need to shift troops there if he is going to honor those pledges. Yet the truth is that Afghanistan has little strategic value for the United States, while Iraq is vital. Consequently, jeopardizing the real priority of Iraq for political gains and the lesser priority of Afghanistan would leave the new president vulnerable to a harsh verdict from history and require a lot of explaining during his 2012 reelection bid should he pull the plug on Iraq too soon.
Fortunately, the situation in Iraq is not hopeless for President Obama, although it will be hard. If progress in building a new political foundation in Iraq can proceed at even a fraction of the pace that security has improved since 2006, a reasonably rapid drawdown (albeit hardly the total withdrawal of combat brigades in 16 months he promised during the campaign) should be possible. If, as seems more likely, Iraqi politics encounter problems, a slower pace of withdrawal should still allow the new President to run for reelection having left a secure Iraq and having removed virtually all American combat troops in his first term.
The reason that growing numbers of Americans are reaching the conclusion that the war in Iraq has been won is that the security situation there continues to improve in an impressive fashion. The civil war has been virtually extinguished--there have been close to zero instances of sectarian violence for months. The Sunni insurgency is over. There are still frequent terrorist attacks in Baghdad, Mosul, and other cities, but these are more lethal nuisances than serious threats to the political order of the society. Reflecting this, the numbers of Iraqi casualties have fallen from nearly 4,000 per month in 2006 to about 500 per month over the summer of 2008.
Across much of Iraq, a sense of normality is creeping back. In areas that had previously experienced horrific violence, barriers are being torn down, soldiers replaced by police, and parents are once again allowing their children to play in the streets.
In response, Iraq's micro-economies are beginning to revive in much of the country. With security much improved, traffic--in the cities and on the highways--is thick again. The stores are open, and open for longer, and the markets are bustling. Iraq's macro-economy remains moribund (more on that later), but average Iraqis are having an easier time with many routine tasks of day-to-day life than they once had.
As hoped and predicted, the improvement in security (and, to a much lesser extent, economics) has caused profound changes to Iraqi politics. The logjam that paralyzed Iraqi politics from 2004 through early 2007 has broken wide open. Instead, Iraqi politics today are remarkably fluid, with constant alignments and realignments producing unexpected coalitions. The old ethno-sectarian divisions among Sunnis, Shi'a, and Kurds are not gone, but they are now only one of several different axes around which Iraqi politics are coalescing. In one positive development, a number of the new divisions are driven by policy differences--over federalism, the American presence, relations with Iran, Iraq's oil industry, and the like--which have created important splits within the Sunni and Shi'i camps. Indeed, as of this writing, the most important rivalry in Baghdad is not Sunnis vs. Shi'a, but the alliance between the Shi'i Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) and the two main Kurdish parties on the one hand, pitted against Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Da'wa Party, the Sadrists, and a Shi'i tribal movement that is trying to shape itself into a new political force.
In Iraq today, it is all about politics. All of the remaining problems--and they are still many and daunting--are problems of politics. Integration of the Sons of Iraq (SoIs) into the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), the treatment of thousands of (mostly Sunni) detainees who will be transferred from Coalition custody to the jurisdiction of the (mostly Shi'a) government of Iraq, the status of Kirkuk and wider Kurdish-Arab tensions, the residual violence in Mosul, the potential for a military coup, and Maliki's steady effort to centralize autocratic power in his own hands are the most likely sparks to renewed violence and even a return to civil war. All of them stem from failings of Iraq's political process.
The same is largely true today of Iraq's enduring economic problems. Direct foreign investment in Iraq increased from about $10 million per month in 2007 to roughly $100 million this year. The fact that it is not soaring even higher, like that of the region's other major oil producers, is no longer a product of poor security but increasingly a product of poor governance. In both the ministries of oil and electricity, the security factors affecting basic performance have largely been solved: attacks on pipelines, pumping stations, power lines, transformers, generators, and the like are way down. At this point, the remaining problems (which are very sizable) are the results of incompetence, dysfunctional bureaucratic practices, and the intrusion of venal politics into the provision of services.
For instance, Iraq is now generating roughly the same amount of energy that it did before the invasion and Coalition advisers to the Ministry of Electricity report that the national grid is stable. Instead, the reasons that most Iraqis get only a few hours of electricity per day are about demand and politics. Since 2003, Iraqis have gone on a buying spree, importing air conditioners, freezers, TVs, and all manner of other energy-gobbling appliances. As a result, demand has gone through the roof.
There is no question that Iraq desperately needs to build vast amounts of new generation, distribution, and transmission capacity to meet this new demand (and eventually replace the old grid infrastructure), but Minister of Electricity Karim Wahid al-Hasan is an old-style Saddamist who micromanages, has difficulty delegating authority or making major decisions, and is a non-aligned Shi'a who lacks the political base to back him against stronger foes in the government. His ministry is bloated with huge numbers of useless personnel--friends and cronies of powerful Iraqi leaders looking for sinecures--and too few capable technocrats. He is engaged in a moronic feud with Oil Minister Husayn Sharastani, in which Sharastani refuses to provide fuel for Iraq's generators and Karim retaliates by cutting power to the Bayji refinery.
Meanwhile, Sharastani is guilty of failings of similar scope and dimension, including a baffling failure to repair the main pipeline from Bayji to Baghdad even though there is no security reason not to do so. Add to that unintelligible disputes among Sharastani, Karim, and Finance Minister Bayan Jabr over funding, and it is easy to see Iraq's energy ministries are not doing better despite the improvements in security. Why these various personnel have not been replaced or compelled to do their jobs properly stem from Iraq's dysfunctional politics.
In short, if Iraq reverts back to widespread conflict and/or its economy continues to flounder, the cause will be the failure of Iraqi politics, not security. This means that continued progress in Iraq is now all about politics. That is especially true for 2009, which will see provincial elections at the start of the year, municipal elections in the spring, and then national elections in the winter (probably in December, but possibly in January 2010).
The 2009 Elections
The upcoming elections are critical because Iraqi politics today are in a state of disequilibrium. The fluidity roiling Iraqi politics will not last. Iraqi politics will settle into a more stable pattern, a state of equilibrium, and the elections will play a huge role in determining which type of equilibrium prevails. Many of the imaginable states of equilibrium are very dangerous--the kind of political equations that would likely push Iraq back into all-out civil war, albeit perhaps more slowly and in a different manner than what was happening in 2005-2006. These include a bid by Maliki or someone else to make himself dictator; a coup by the military; or a recrudescence of the monopoly on power by the main Shi'a militia parties--ISCI, the Sadrists, Da'wa, and Fadhila.
All three of these scenarios would likely produce tremendous violence. Anyone attempting to make himself dictator will galvanize all of the other parties to oppose him by force and there is no leader out there who seems to have what it takes to win such a fight and unify the country under his iron fist, at least not for long. It is worth keeping in mind that the only Iraqi dictator who successfully held power for more than a few years was Saddam Hussein, who required genocidal levels of violence to do so. The Iraqi military is not strong or unified enough to pull off a coup, and the effort to do so could easily cause it to fragment. Finally, it was the chauvinistic misrule by an ISCI-Sadrist-Da'wa-Fadhila alliance that was driving Iraq to civil war in the first place in 2006.
There are also some more positive potential outcomes for Iraq's political process. However, it is worth noting that while Iraqi politics could crystallize very quickly--in weeks or months--around one of the bad scenarios, it would take much longer--several years at least--to settle into one of the better scenarios and, even then, Iraq would hardly be Switzerland.
Still, all across Iraq, average Iraqis desperately want political change. They consider the current parties ruling in Baghdad to be thoroughly corrupt, the cause of the violence, the source of their other miseries, unresponsive to their needs, and ultimately unrepresentative of their perspectives and aspirations. The sentiment of "throw the bums out" seems ubiquitous, including among both Shi'a and Kurds. In response, hundreds of new independent political parties and candidates have emerged all across the country (even in Kurdistan), reflecting the desire of the average Iraqi for new leadership.
Of course, the current power-holders in Baghdad have no intention of going gently. Instead, they are fighting back every way they can. To a limited extent, they are trying to deliver good governance and basic services to the people to show that they can be responsive and responsible representatives of their constituents. Yet their main effort has been to subvert the political process as best they can, by killing, intimidating, or buying off potential rivals.  What this means is that many of those "independent" candidates and parties may already be under the thumb or in the pocket of one or another of the big parties.
Nevertheless, there are still several positive scenarios despite this harsh reality. The first is if the people choose--and feel safe enough--to vote for true independents, unaffiliated overtly or covertly with the big parties. Such an eventuality would be a tremendous boon for Iraq, because it would break the monopoly on power held by the current parties. It would force them to begin delivering on political compromises, good governance, and basic services so as to hold onto a (dwindling) share of power in future elections. Over the course of two to three election cycles (eight to twelve years), it might actually produce a reasonably representative Iraqi parliament.
Even if the elections do not produce this most positive of the feasible outcomes, there are other paths toward stability, progress, and pluralism for Iraq. For instance, if significant numbers of independents are elected, even if they are all coopted by one or another of the major parties, this could still maintain the fluidity of Iraqi politics and prevent its crystallization around one of the bad alternatives if the independents are not wedded to one of the major parties.
In other words, if there are large numbers of independents who are always open to the highest bidder and willing to sell out one patron for another, this would make it difficult for any one party to secure the kind of permanent majority they all seek. For instance, in southern Iraq, a new political movement among the Shi'i tribes, claiming to have over a million members, is selling itself to the highest bidder. While it would be much better if they were to form a party of their own and run candidates, as long as they do not become permanent constituents of Da'wa, ISCI, or the Sadrists, and are willing and able to shift their allegiance among them--thereby preventing any one of them from emerging with a clear, permanent majority--they can still play a positive role in Iraqi politics.
Moreover, because so many Iraqis are so desirous of change, even the illusion of change would be better than a clear-cut triumph by the same old parties using the same old methods of intimidation, fear-mongering, bribery, extortion, and violence. Even Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has recognized this by announcing that, unlike in 2005 when he told all Shi'a to vote exclusively for one of the chauvinistically Shi'i parties, in 2008, he believes Iraq's Shi'a should feel free to vote outside the bonds of sectarian loyalty. This too should help secure some change, which is important because no one knows what would happen if the vast majority of Iraqis were disappointed by elections that failed to produce any meaningful change. Whatever their reaction, it certainly would not be positive.
While the problems of Iraq have increasingly become issues of internal politics, that should not be taken as a sign that the United States, and particularly the U.S. military, have done their job and can head home. Quite the contrary is true. Today, American forces and the wider American effort remain absolutely vital, although their role has changed significantly. Today, the refrain heard all over Iraq--from Americans, Iraqis, Europeans, UN personnel, and others--is that the American military is the glue holding the country together. A better metaphor would be that the U.S. military is more like a cast placed on a broken arm that is allowing the fractures to knit together properly, a process that can produce a strong arm again, but only slowly.
The role of American military forces in Iraq has changed significantly since 2007, and continues to evolve. American forces continue to lead the fight against the remnants of al-Qa'ida in Iraq (AQI), in Mosul and other parts of northern Iraq. However, elsewhere, American forces are increasingly shifting over to two different sets of missions: on the one hand, advisors and enablers to Iraqi military formations, and on the other hand, peacekeepers.[1]
The advising and training role was always one foreseen by American commanders, and it remains crucial. Thousands of American soldiers are partnered with Iraqi formations; they provide guidance, occasionally sources of emulation, and often are able to call in critical enablers that only the United States possesses--air power, artillery support, predator drones, intelligence, and surveillance capabilities, even medical evacuation.
However, the second role--as peacekeepers--looms ever larger, especially because of the criticality of Iraqi politics during the next stage of Iraq's reconstruction. American troops are increasingly seen by Iraqis as a neutral force preventing all of Iraq's bad actors (including the government) from employing force against them and one another. It removes violence as a means of resolving disputes among different Iraqi groups, forcing them to try to solve their problems through the political process. It is absolutely essential for moving forward because it gives various Iraqi groups the confidence to "take risks for peace." For instance, in the absence of American military forces it is virtually unimaginable that the Sons of Iraq would have agreed to be paid and controlled by the government of Iraq as it did earlier this fall. The large American military presence gave them the peace of mind to do so, knowing that if the government of Iraq tried to crush them then the United States would step in to protect them.
This American role is emerging across Iraq as the most important one given current circumstances. At Khanaqin earlier this year, Iraqi security forces and Kurdish Peshmerga probably would have come to blows had American military personnel not been present to negotiate a peaceful resolution of the stand-off. The American military presence is also the greatest impediment to a military coup.  Similarly, the most important factor limiting Maliki's efforts to consolidate autocratic power is the United States, and specifically the fact that the U.S. military remains the most powerful force in Iraq. American forces are critical to the economic and political capacity-building missions of both Coalition Provincial Reconstruction Teams, as well as the UN mission to Iraq. American and UN civilians have made clear that without the U.S. military, they cannot operate and if the U.S. military pulls back, they will also do so. American and UN personnel report that they commonly hear average Iraqis asking for American military personnel to be present at the polling places before and during elections because the Iraqis claim that only if the American troops are present will they really be free to vote for whom they want.
A key challenge then for the United States moving forward is how to continue to play this critical role in an era in which American resources and authority in Iraq will decline, perhaps precipitously. Whatever decision President Obama makes about the pace of the U.S. military drawdown from Iraq, it seems certain that there will be a drawdown. Moreover, in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, it seems unlikely that the White House or the Congress will be willing to fund economic reconstruction in Iraq as extravagantly as in the past. Moreover, there will be no "surge" in American civilian personnel to take up the slack as the military reduces its presence. Simply put, there just aren't enough Foreign Service Officers in the world to increase significantly the complement already in Iraq. The UN might be able to tap into the wider pool of international reconstruction workers and NGOs, but, as noted, they see their role as unavoidably dependent on the American presence.
The pull from Washington is also likely to be accompanied by a push from Baghdad. Unfortunately, if it comes--as seems inevitable--it will be for mostly the wrong reasons. It is likely to come from Prime Minister Maliki, who increasingly sees the United States as the main impediment to his consolidation of power, as well as his Sadrist allies, who have always attempted to win support by playing the ultra-nationalist card--which pitted them against the United States from the outset and provoked a consistent American effort to prevent them from acquiring the kind of power they seek.
Indeed, Maliki was reportedly very ambivalent about the new SOFA agreement. In large part because the Iranians successfully (but inaccurately) convinced much of Iraq's Shi'i community that the SOFA would compromise Iraqi sovereignty, Maliki feared that supporting it would tarnish his nationalist credentials. This despite the fact that he had insisted on a SOFA rather than a simple rollover of the UN Security Council resolution as Washington had initially preferred. This coupled with frustration at the American efforts to prevent him from consolidating power left him toying with the idea of allowing the UNSCR to expire without a SOFA--thereby forcing a full American withdrawal.
However, Maliki also recognizes that he cannot allow the country to fall apart. What good is being dictator over a country torn apart by full-scale civil war? In late October 2008, at a dramatic meeting of the Iraqi leadership, Iraq's defense and interior ministers stated flat out that the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) would not be able to hold the country together if the Americans left at the beginning of 2009. Consequently, Maliki was forced to agree to the SOFA, although he used the popular nationalist backlash to extract numerous concessions from the United States that will make it harder for Americans to constrain his actions than in the past.
It is impossible to know how, where, or when the Iraqi government will choose to limit American freedom of action in the future, but it seems sure to do so--and more so over time. Nevertheless, it is still the case that that the United States will remain enormously influential in Iraq for years to come. Indeed, the United States likely will remain the most influential entity in Iraq for some time to come because of the size of its military presence, the ISF's dependence on its presence, and the fact that so many Iraqis do not want to see all American troops removed immediately.
Moreover, there are actions that the United States could take that could potentially increase its leverage with the Iraqis. For instance, because Iraq's economic problems increasingly derive from dysfunctional politics rather than American-caused damage from the invasion or misguided early reconstruction, it would be plausible for the United States to announce that it will no longer pay for economic assistance or capacity-building programs for Iraq's economic ministries. Instead, the United States could propose a new model, perhaps based along the lines of the U.S.-Saudi Joint Economic Commission, to handle American support to Iraq's further economic and ministerial development.[2] In that example, American and Saudi officials jointly assessed Saudi Arabia's developmental needs and identified how best to meet them. In some cases, the U.S. government agreed to provide the expertise and materiel, but the Saudis had to pay for this assistance under a program similar to Foreign Military Sales. In other cases, the commission agreed that private contractors would be best suited to the task--and both countries then identified the right contractor, drew up the terms of service and oversaw the project.
The truth is that the Iraqis still need American assistance, not so much to prevent a further slide into chaos and violence, but to develop into the kind of country they would like to become. Consequently, they would likely want such an arrangement, which would remove the need for the U.S. taxpayer to pay for Iraq's further reconstruction. Perhaps of greater importance, it would reconfigure the relationship from one in which the U.S. attempts to impose upon Iraq the development assistance it needs, to one in which Iraq is unambiguously asking for American assistance. This could be enormously helpful in recasting the relationship in a much more positive light for Iraqis and Americans alike.
There are three broad principles that an Obama administration should derive from this state of affairs in moving forward on Iraq.
Disengage slowly, with an eye on Iraq's stability. One cannot take off the cast until reasonably certain that the bones have healed. Unfortunately, this is where the medical analogy breaks down, because mending a broken society is much harder and more complicated than mending a broken limb. As General Odierno and his lieutenants already intend, the United States is going to have to test the waters continuously to see whether further drawdowns and redeployments can be sustained. U.S. commanders on the ground should test these propositions aggressively, but err on the side of caution whenever the results are ambiguous, because major set-backs simply cannot be afforded. At a tactical level, the United States does not want to have to withdraw from a place or a mission only to find things falling apart and have to reassert themselves. At a strategic level, the United States just cannot afford to allow the country to fall apart.
In particular, the plans of both the military command and the embassy in Baghdad for the drawdown of forces is smart, sensible, and logical, but it is predicated on things continuing to go as well in the next three years as they have over the previous two. As both General Odierno and Ambassador Crocker understand, given the litany of problems plaguing Iraqi politics, that trajectory may prove illusory. Under those circumstances, the command and the administration are going to have to be willing to slow the drawdown to give the Iraqi political process the time that it needs, and give American personnel attempting to deal with the problems the most leverage and options to do so.
 Focus on Iraq's politics. American military forces in Iraq need to help the Iraqis stamp out the last remnants of al-Qa'ida (if at all possible), prevent the re-emergence of Shi'i militias and terrorist groups, and continue to ensure the security of the Iraqi people against all possible threats of violence. However, looking forward, the entire U.S. mission needs to make Iraq's politics its principal concern. As noted, all of Iraq's remaining problems are now tied to the dysfunctions of its political system and therefore all American efforts in Iraq--political, diplomatic, economic, and military--must be structured with an eye toward alleviating or eliminating those problems, and certainly not making them worse. That may mean taking on tasks that do not seem militarily necessary to military officers, or economically sensible to economic advisers.
A prime example of this may be securing Iraq's elections. It is unclear at this time what will be necessary, but given the numbers of Iraqis asking for American troops at the polling places to ensure that they are fair and free, it may prove necessary. Although this would not be a true security mission, the importance of the election to Iraq's political progress means that U.S. military and political leaders must consider it any way.
Prioritize. Given that American resources and authorities will be more constrained in the future than they have been in the past (although the full extent is very unclear), the United States is going to have to do a much better job of determining its priorities and concentrating resources and leverage against the most important ones. This will be an important change for Americans in Iraq. In the past, the United States had unlimited authority and extensive resources and, as a result, it concerned itself with almost everything in Iraq. There was certainly some virtue to that, but it will not be possible in the future regardless of whether it is desirable.
Moreover, to link this to the previous recommendation, many of the highest priorities will have to be those most closely related to ensuring that Iraq's political process develops in a positive, sustainable direction. It will mean ensuring that the ISF does not attempt a coup. It will mean continuing to prevent Prime Minister Maliki from making himself a strongman--or anyone else from doing so for that matter. It is also going to mean preventing the current powerbrokers in Baghdad from cementing their rule permanently by subverting the process.
This last point is important because even within the sphere of politics, some things are going to be more important than others. For instance, at some level the United States might try to determine who is in charge in Baghdad, as in the past. In the resource- and authority-constrained future, however, that is going to be much harder, and probably less necessary. Instead, the United States needs to focus on the political process itself and making sure that Iraq's various political parties are not able to subvert that process, as all of the large, current power holders are attempting. This will mean doing whatever is necessary to prevent them from bribing, blackmailing, intimidating, and killing political opponents--and seeing that those who use such methods are punished.
It will also mean doing whatever is possible to help level the playing field by providing greater support to the newly-emerging leaders and parties hoping to compete in the 2009 elections and displacing the corrupt old parties that have so far failed to deliver what the Iraqi people want or need. That is going to require a much bigger effort than the current programs by National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute.
Another challenge the United States is going to have to overcome to deal with the real problems of Iraq is one of the new administration's own making. Throughout the presidential campaign, whenever the Republicans brought up the success of the "surge" in Iraq, Democrats would retort that Iraq was not the central front in the war on terrorism, that Afghanistan was, and that this required the immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq so that they could be sent to Afghanistan--which was the more important of the two wars. Unfortunately, almost every element of these claims is wrong, and the new administration will have to demonstrate that it is willing to put the best interests of the country ahead of consistency with its campaign message.
Iraq is of far greater significance to American interests than Afghanistan for reasons that include, but go well beyond, the threat of terrorism. Iraq is of intrinsic strategic importance because of its oil wealth. It is of even greater importance because the civil war that threatened to engulf Iraq in 2006 (and which could still reignite despite all of the progress during 2007-2008) also threatened to destabilize the wider Persian Gulf region, whose oil production is economically irreplaceable.
Afghanistan has little intrinsic strategic value to the United States. The war in Afghanistan derives its importance to American interests from three sources. First, the United States did invade the country and topple its government. Second, there is concern that if allowed to fall back into tribalist semi-anarchy, the Taliban might return, and with them, al-Qa'ida might be able to reestablish a presence from which to launch new terrorist attacks. Last, there is the fear that true chaos in Afghanistan would further destabilize Pakistan, which, because of its extremist politics, terrorism, and possession of nuclear weapons, cannot be allowed to deteriorate any farther. None of these arguments is inconsequential; together, they do justify keeping Afghanistan as a major priority for the United States in the years ahead, second only to Iraq in military terms.
It should be noted that the terrorist threat does not reverse U.S. strategic priorities. Simply put, al-Qa'ida central, which remains important for training and motivating terrorists around the world, as well as furnishing the skilled personnel critical to many recent attacks, is in Pakistan, not Afghanistan. Specifically, it is believed to be somewhere in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA). Given the ability to operate from the FATA, it is not clear that al-Qa'ida even need to move back into Afghanistan if it were possible to do so. Moreover, given current NATO force levels in Afghanistan, it is unlikely that the Taliban could carve out enough of a sanctuary there to allow al-Qa'ida to recreate the kind of facilities it had before 9/11. In other words, al-Qa'ida is a Pakistan problem, not an Afghanistan problem.
If the United States were willing to withdraw all of its forces from Iraq and commit them all to Afghanistan, effectively flooding the country with Western troops, it is unlikely to have more than a minimal impact on al-Qa'ida central or its ability to plan and conduct terrorist operations because they are in Pakistan, not Afghanistan.
The problem of the Taliban/al-Qa'ida sanctuary in Pakistan cannot be solved by deploying more American military forces to Afghanistan.  A stronger American presence in Afghanistan might allow for more aggressive cross-border operations into Pakistan, but these are unlikely to eliminate the problem. As the United States learned in Vietnam, mounting cross-border operations--whether small special forces raids or much larger air and ground campaigns--cannot alone solve the sanctuary problem. These kinds of operations famously failed to eliminate Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army sanctuaries in Laos and Cambodia, let alone North Vietnam itself, no matter how big or how protracted the operations.
As for dealing with al-Qa'ida central in Pakistan, doing so can only be accomplished by competent Pakistani forces as part of a wider effort by a legitimate Pakistani government to deal with the country's various internal problems. The kinds of low-intensity conflict operations that have succeeded in Iraq and that the United States is now contemplating for Afghanistan, may well be part of such a program, but they cannot be implemented by American forces alone, and certainly not without Pakistani government approval and assistance.
Thus, rooting out al-Qa'ida from the FATA is only conceivable with the cooperation of the Pakistani government, which so far is not forthcoming. That is a diplomatic challenge for the United States, not a military challenge. At some point, if the Pakistanis actually make a real effort to subdue the FATA and extirpate the Taliban and al-Qa'ida, some cross-border American operations from Afghanistan could be helpful. In fact, if the Pakistanis will countenance it, American combat units deploying alongside their troops might be even more helpful. That day, however, is a long way away, if it ever comes, and certainly does not justify a redeployment of troops from Iraq any time soon.
In addition, it is important to keep in mind that in Iraq, U.S. troops are making a real difference. They remain important today, even as the surge has ended, and even as Iraq's security forces are bearing an increasingly large share of the collective burden. Among other tasks they are helping defeat an al-Qa'ida threat that emerged in the heart of the Arab world after 2003--where it would be far more dangerous than it is in Pakistan or Afghanistan--and are helping preserve a newfound Sunni-Shi'a ceasefire that is crucial to future Middle East stability.
Quickly shifting large numbers of U.S. troops to Afghanistan might or might not produce a major improvement in that situation there, but doing so would have little impact on the most important U.S. national interests and could easily jeopardize the higher priority of building on the gains made in Iraq since 2006.
The strategic calculus should be clear: Iraq is a vital American interest and American troops are critical to its success. American troops may also be critical to Afghanistan's success, but it is a lesser priority than Iraq. Pakistan may or may not be as important as Iraq, but solving the problems of Pakistan is a diplomatic task, not a military one. Consequently, the notion that American troops need to be withdrawn rapidly from Iraq to deal with the "more important" war in Afghanistan is strategically backward.
The war in Iraq is neither won nor is it lost. Great progress has been made and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that it could, over a period of years, achieve sustainable stability, and then at some future date even true pluralism and prosperity.  Yet the quelling of the civil war that had been engulfing the country has brought to the fore the deep political dysfunctions of Iraq, and unless they are adequately resolved, they could easily reignite the same vicious cycle that were feeding that conflict. America's role in Iraq remains absolutely critical although the ability to play that role is becoming more and more complicated. With patience and perseverance, there is no reason that an Obama administration cannot achieve not just a satisfactory outcome in Iraq, but an outright positive one.
*Kenneth M. Pollack is Director of Research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. His most recent book is A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East (Random House, 2008). He most recently visited Iraq in October 2008.

[1] Credit for the initial observation regarding this shift--and what that means for the missions of U.S. forces--should go to Dr. Stephen Biddle, who first raised the issue with this writer in May 2008.
[2] Thanks to Ambassador Ronald Neumann who reached the same conclusion regarding American support to Iraq's economic development and suggested the very useful model of the U.S.-Saudi Joint Economic Commission.
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Continued (Permanent Link)

More (Israel?) spies arrested in Iran

Other repors indicate that there were three arrests, and that the suspects were spying for Israel.
Last update - 17:34 11/12/2008       
Report: Iran arrests nuclear employees suspected of spying
By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service
A number of Iranians working for the Islamic Republic's contentious nuclear program were arrested by state security service agents this week, on suspicion of spying.
The arrests were disclosed in a report released Wednesday by Tabnak, an official Iranian news agency with close ties to the Revolutionary Guard - the body overseeing Iran's nuclear project.
The report did not detail how many people were arrested or on behalf of which states they were suspected of spying. Nor did it say which nuclear project or site the suspects were employed with or what positions they hold.
Last month, Tehran's official radio station announced that Iran had dismantled an espionage network allegedly linked to Israel's Mossad spy agency.
General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the chief of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, said the alleged network was trying to collect information on Iran's nuclear program and the Guards' military operations as well as details on military and security officials.
Also last month, Tehran executed an Iranian businessman convicted of spying on the Islamic Republic's military on behalf of Israel, the judiciary said on Saturday.
Judicial spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi said Ali Ashtari was hanged on November 17 after being sentenced to death on June 30 by a revolutionary court in Tehran.
Ashtari, who was in his mid-40s, was a tradesman in electronic merchandise who supplied military, security and defense centers across the country with electronic devices.
Iranian authorities also recently arrested Hossein Derakhshan, a blogger who visited Israel in 2007, upon his arrival in Tehran from Canada. Derakhshan, who also holds Canadian citizenship, admitted to being involved in espionage for Israel, the Iranian news Website Jahan News reported.

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Israel Air Force may acquire JDAM cruise missile kit ("smart bomb")

IAF mulls purchase of new smart bomb

Dec. 11, 2008

The Israel Air Force is considering purchasing a new and advanced smart bomb with an extended range that would allow fighter jets to hit targets in Damascus and Beirut without leaving Israeli airspace, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The smart bomb Israel is looking into is called the JDAM-ER (Joint Direct Attack Munition-Extended Range) which is under development by Boeing and the Royal Australian Air Force.

The JDAM is a low-cost guidance kit produced by Boeing that converts existing unguided free-fall bombs into precision guided "smart" weapons. The JDAM kit consists of a tail section that contains a Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation System and body improvements for additional stability and lift.

The ER version of the JDAM consists of an additional set of wings that are installed on the bomb and extend its range from just 15 nautical miles to 55.

"This would provide Israel with unprecedented stand-off capabilities," an industry source said this week. "Planes would not even have to leave Israeli airspace to be able to hit targets in Syria and Lebanon."

The ER version would also be helpful in a long-range strike against Iranian nuclear facilities since it would assist IAF jets in avoiding anti-aircraft defense missiles by allowing pilots to fire bombs from an extended standoff position.

Israel became the first foreign customer to purchase the standard JDAM system in 2000. The kits were then added on to Mk-84, 2,000-pound bombs, turning simple iron bombs into precision, satellite guided weapons.

The IAF has also recently received new shipments of JDAMs that are capable of using a laser for guidance as well as the standard GPS. It has also purchased a JDAM that is protected against electronic jamming. In addition, the IAF recently completed an upgrade of its F-15 fleet to enable all models of the aircraft to carry JDAM bombs. Until now, only the F-15I was capable of carrying the smart-bomb.

During the Second Lebanon War, the IAF exhausted its stockpile of JDAM bombs and received emergency shipments of thousands of kits from the United States. The aerial shipments caused an international uproar after one of the planes carrying the kits was routed through Glasgow's Prestwick Airport and reportedly did not fly according to safety and security procedures established by the British Civil Aviation Authority.

JDAM-equipped bombs receive data on the kit's target while still attached to the warplane's computer. After the jet releases it, a satellite takes over and guides it to its target. This relieves the aircraft and crew from the need to remain in enemy territory to "ride the bomb down" to its target. The system's greatest benefit is its accuracy regardless of weather conditions, day or night.

The JDAM-ER was successfully tested by the Australian air force.

Kevin Holt, JDAM-ER program manager for Boeing, said after the test that the JDAM-ER would enter initial production in 2010.

"By increasing range and accuracy, the delivery of the weapon will be more effective, allowing a single aircraft to engage multiple targets while the extended range increases the survivability of the aircrew and the aircraft launching the weapon," said Warren Snowdon, Australian minister for defense science and personnel.

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Christmas in the Holyland: No cheer for Christians

There is almost total media silence about the persecution of Christians in Palestine, particularly in Gaza. This article focuses on Gaza, but it is only the worst manifestation of the phenomenon.

Analysis: Cruelty and silence in Gaza

Dec. 11, 2008
jonathan spyer , THE JERUSALEM POST

Unremarked upon by the Western media, a systematic campaign of persecution is taking place in the Gaza Strip, and to a lesser extent in the West Bank. The general silence surrounding this campaign aids its perpetrators. The victims are Palestinian Christians, in particular the small Christian community of Gaza.

The perpetrators are a variety of Islamist groups, all of which are manifestations of a process of growing Islamic militancy and piety taking place across the region.

The Christian population of the Gaza Strip is small - 2,000-3,000 people. Gazan politics has long been characterized by a conservative, Islamic bent. Gaza's Christians as a result have tended toward political invisibility.

Since the Hamas coup of July 2007, this position has become increasingly untenable. Islamist organizations, empowered by the indifference of the authorities, have begun to target Christian institutions and individuals in Gaza with increasing impunity. Intimidation, assault and the threat of kidnapping are now part of daily reality for Christians.

The trend became noticeable with a series of attacks on the Palestinian Bible Society's "Teacher's Bookshop" in Gaza City last year. The shop was the subject of a bomb attack in April 2007. Its owner, Rami Khader Ayyad, was abducted in broad daylight, and found dead on October 7, 2007.

Over the following year, a series of bomb attacks on Christian institutions in Gaza took place. Particular attention was paid to places of education. The Rahabat al-Wardia school run by nuns in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City, and the American International School in Beit Lahiya were both bombed, most recently in May 2008. The Zahwa Rosary Sisters School and the El-Manara school, both in Gaza City, were also attacked this summer. The YMCA Library was bombed, as was the Commonwealth War Cemetery.

Most of these attacks took place at night, and hence casualties were avoided. In a number of cases guards were the victims of violence.

Who is carrying out these attacks? The perpetrators are thought to be Salafi Islamist groups like Jaish al-Islam, Jaish al-Uma and similar organizations. The larger Popular Resistance Committees terror group has also stated that the Christian presence in Gaza should be eradicated, since it exposes Gazans to a pro-Western, anti-Islamic influence.

Where are the Hamas authorities in all this?

Hamas is officially committed to tolerance toward the Christian community, and spokesmen for the authorities have criticized the attacks. In practice, however, only superficial investigations have taken place, and arrests are rare. In the few cases where arrests have been made, the suspects were not charged and were quickly released. This was the case, for example, with two members of the Jaish al-Islam who were suspected of involvement in the YMCA bombing.

The persecution of Christians is not emerging from a small Islamist fringe. Rather, it is part of a larger process of Islamization taking place in Palestinian society. The rise of Hamas is part of this.

But the cadres of the divided Fatah movement are not immune. The Popular Resistance Committees group, for example, noted above for its anti-Christian stance, was founded by ex-Fatah officers who sought an organization reflecting their religious zeal.

The situation in the West Bank is different, reflecting the larger Christian population and the greater strength of secular forces. Yet here, too, anti-Christian trends are serving to embitter lives.

A recent article in the Palestinian Al-Ayyam newspaper drew attention to the long-simmering issue of "compulsory purchase" of land owned by Christians. This trend has been particularly noticeable in the Bethlehem, Ramallah and al-Bireh areas. Individuals with close links to the Palestinian Authority security forces, or to powerful clans, have adopted a variety of means to lay their hands on Christian-owned land. These have included false registration documents, squatters, and the involvement of senior PA security officers.

The Al-Ayyam columnist who raised this issue, Abd al-Nasser al-Najjar, lamented that no "constructive action" by the authorities to protect the Christians has taken place. Najjar listed the PA authorities, the Palestinian political factions, and the myriad of NGOs present in the West Bank among the bodies who might have been expected to take an interest in this situation, and who have not done so.

The official bodies of Palestinian nationalism continue to claim that the Palestinians are a single nation, with harmony between Christians and Muslims. The official leadership of Palestinian Arab Christianity repeats this claim.

Meanwhile, on the ground, Palestinian Christians are fearful, and are voting with their feet. Bethlehem, for example, has seen its Christian population decline from a 60 percent majority in 1990 to under 20% of the population today. The small and harassed Christian community of Gaza may simply cease to exist in the near future.

These events reflect broader regional processes. Their failure to become known is also part of a larger trend. The foreign media, NGOs on the ground and some Western political leaderships prefer to foster a version of events in the West Bank and Gaza based on illusion and willful ignorance of the evidence. The slow death of an ancient community is one of the fruits of this.

The writer is a senior researcher at the Global Research in International Affairs Center, IDC, Herzliya.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Evidence Iran is making a nuclear weapon

The statement below that Iran has no known space program is untrue. Iran announced a space program a while ago, perhaps as a cover. Here is a description for example. However the evidence regarding the implosion device, if it is as described, may be much more worrisome. Prima facie, it is most unlikely that Iran is NOT making a bomb, as there is no other rationale for investing such a large portion of the national income in acquisitio of nuclear technology. The NIE report of 2007 did not discuss this aspect of the problem, but rather focused narrowly on evidence that Iran had stopped a particular project.
This doesn't sound very peaceful:
Then, in late 2007, IAEA investigators uncovered a detailed Iranian narrative, written in Farsi, that described how a Russian scientist helped the Iranians conduct experiments to help Iranian scientists solve a complex design problem: Configuring high-tension electric bridge wire to detonate at different points less than a fraction of a nanosecond apart. In an implosion-type bomb, this is crucial for properly compressing the nuclear core. As Olli Heinonen, the IAEA's chief inspector explained at a closed-door briefing in February 2008, these Russian-led experiments were "not consistent with any application other than the development of a nuclear weapon."
Ami Isseroff
Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A year has passed since the release of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. In a stunning departure from all the previous estimates dating back to 1997 under Presidents Clinton and Bush, it declared: "We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program."

It also judged, with modest confidence, that Iran had not resumed its quest for nuclear weapons. If correct, this new assessment meant that previous ones, such as the 2004 NIE that also judged with "high confidence" that Iran was expanding its nuclear weapons capabilities under the cover of a civilian energy program, were based on flawed intelligence.

But was this astonishing reversal correct?

The 2007 intelligence estimate proceeded from both a reorganization of the so-called intelligence community and a re-evaluation of information the CIA had gotten on a clandestine nuclear weapon design program code-named by Iran "Project 1-11." Even though Project 1-11 had been in operation since 1997, the CIA did not get wind of it until 2004, when it obtained a stolen Iranian laptop that had been smuggled into Turkey. The computer's hard drive contained thousands of pages of documents describing efforts to design a warhead that would fit in the nose cone of the Iranian Shahab 3 missile and detonate at an altitude of 600 meters (which is too high for any explosion but a nuclear one to be effective).

From the warhead's specifications, which included the kind of high-tension electric bridge wire used in implosion-type nuclear weapons, the CIA deduced that the payload was a nuclear bomb similar to Pakistan's early bomb. Its conclusion that Iran was going nuclear was repeated in all the NIEs through 2006.

By 2007, however, the CIA and reorganized intelligence community re-examined the issue and doubts began to emerge. It turned out that shortly after the stolen laptop compromised Project 1-11, satellite photographs showed that buildings involved in it had been bulldozed, and conversations intercepted by the U.S. indicated that the project was being dismantled. Then a high-level defector from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, General Ali-Reza Asgari, confirmed in his CIA debriefings that Project 1-11 had been terminated in 2003.

After a long review, and "scrubbing" the evidence for signs of deception, the CIA reached its new conclusion that Iran's 1-11 project really had ended by 2004. In the world of clandestine activities, it is hardly unexpected that a super-secret operation such as Project 1-11, once it was compromised, would be officially closed down, and the evidence seems convincing that it was shuttered.

The issue is why. One explanation is that Iran had abandoned its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Another is that Iran no longer needed Project 1-11 because Iran had solved the tricky problem of triggering a nuclear warhead through other means.

Three pieces of the puzzle uncovered by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency cast a surprising light on how Iran has advanced its capabilities independently of Project 11-1. First, there is the digital blueprint circulated by the network of A.Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb. IAEA investigators decoding and analyzing the massive computer files of this network found that it had clandestinely provided clients with a detailed design of a nuclear warhead of the version used by first China then Pakistan.

Since the IAEA knew that Iran had been dealing with the Khan network since at least 2003, and features of that digital blueprint matched those described in the Project 11-1 documents, it was suspected that Iran acquired the digital blueprint, along with other components, from the Khan network. If so, it shortened the task of Project 1-11.

Then, in late 2007, IAEA investigators uncovered a detailed Iranian narrative, written in Farsi, that described how a Russian scientist helped the Iranians conduct experiments to help Iranian scientists solve a complex design problem: Configuring high-tension electric bridge wire to detonate at different points less than a fraction of a nanosecond apart. In an implosion-type bomb, this is crucial for properly compressing the nuclear core. As Olli Heinonen, the IAEA's chief inspector explained at a closed-door briefing in February 2008, these Russian-led experiments were "not consistent with any application other than the development of a nuclear weapon."

Finally, there is the Polonium 210 experiments that Iran conducted prior to 2004. Since Polonium 210 is used to initiate the chain reaction in early-generation nuclear bombs (and used in the Pakistan design), IAEA inspectors attempted up until 2008 to get access to the facility, or "box," in which the Polonium 210 was extracted from radioactive Bismuth.

Iran insisted that the Polonium 210 was only to be used for a civilian purpose - powering batteries on an Iranian spacecraft - and turned down these requests.

Iran had no known space program, but even if the extraction process was for civilian purposes, Iran's success with it meant that it could also produce Polonium 210 to trigger a nuclear bomb of the design furnished by the Khan network. So, even without further work by Project 1-11, it may have acquired all essential design elements for a nuclear weapon.

Design of course is only part of the equation. The other crucial part is obtaining a fissile fuel for the nuclear explosion, such as highly-enriched uranium.

In 1974, Pakistan, with the assistance of A.Q. Khan, had pioneered the path to nuclear proliferation by using centrifuges to enrich gasified uranium into weapon-grade uranium. In this process, the uranium cascades from one rapidly-spinning centrifuge to the next, each gradually increasing the proportion of the fissile isotope Uranium 235, until it becomes first low-enriched uranium for power plants, then, if continued, high-enriched uranium, for weapons. Iran built a similar facility in the massive underground caves at Natanz, able to house up to 50,000 centrifuges, which became operational in 2002.

Iran claimed this facility was intended for the production of low-enriched uranium for the Russian-built nuclear reactor at Bushehr to generate electric power (a facility Russia had agreed to fully supply as long as it operated). But the plant also could be used to produce weapons-grade uranium.

According to the IAEA, which monitors Natanz, by 2008 Iran had 3,800 centrifuges in operation and is adding another 3,000. It has also upgraded many of the older centrifuges, giving it about quadruple the capacity it had in 2003. To date, it has produced and stockpiled 1,380 pounds of low-enriched uranium, which is enough, if further enriched to weapons grade, to build a nuclear bomb.

The 2007 NIE deftly ducked this escalation with a footnote stating it was excluding from its assessment "Iran's declared civil work related to uranium conversion and enrichment," which meant Natanz. However, in light of all the developments in the past year, America's new president will have to confront the reality that Iran now has the capability to change the balance of power in the Gulf, if it so elects to do so, by building a nuclear weapon.

Edward Jay Epstein is an investigative writer and the author of 13 books, including "Deception: The Invisible War Between the KGB and CIA." He is currently writing a book on the 9/11 Commission.

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A questionable model for Israel

This seems to be the wisdom of the Americans these days:
The U.S. is blessed in its geography, says Nagl, whereas Israel lives in a tough neighborhood. Nevertheless, he feels that the U.S. model in Iraq and Afghanistan can also help Israel: "The model of training and equipping them (the local security forces) to provide security and stability is a worthy cause," he says.
The Americans did not win in Afghanistan or Iraq yet, and the Palestinians have a different agenda than al-Qaeda. One would have to be blind to confuse the two issues so thoroughly.
Last update - 08:23 11/12/2008       
'Winning the war on radical Islam will be tough, but can be done'
By Yossi Melman
Lt. Col. John Nagl (Ret.) is trying to explain why "making war upon insurgents is messy and slow, like eating soup with a knife." This imaginative aphorism, however, is not his. It was written by T.E. Lawrence, aka Lawrence of Arabia, the adventurous and romantic British officer, who helped sustain the Arab Revolt against the Turks in 1916-1918. Lawrence's turn of phrase stresses that revolts are complex, chaotic and, at times, slow to take root.
With a little help from Lawrence, Nagl, a visiting counterinsurgency expert, attempts to determine America's chances of conquering counterinsurgency and terror in Iraq and Afghanistan.
His forecast does not bode well for the West. He believes that the wars in the next 50 years will be characterized by "irregular warfare." He says there are no instant solutions to this type of combat. In a conversation with Haaretz, he emphasizes that it will take many more years until we see the end of the struggle against the spearhead of radical Islam. But he is definitely optimistic that the scope of the resistance can be reduced if warfare is approached intelligently.
John Nagl represents the new generation of intelligent and educated U.S. Army officers, who "have learned the hard way," according to Washington Post journalist and author David Ignatius. Even if that wasn't his intention, he learned by trial and error.
Nagl was born in Omaha, Nebraska 40 years ago. After finishing high school, he was accepted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and from there he went to Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship (Bill Clinton was also a Rhodes scholar).
At Oxford, he completed his master's degree and his doctorate. In his doctoral dissertation, "Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malay and Vietnam" (which was later published), he compared the British attempt to suppress the communist rebellion in Malaysia in the 1950s to the U.S. war in Vietnam. In both cases, standing armies tried to confront irregular insurgents. The British army succeeded; the U.S. Army, less so.
Prior to Operation Desert Storm in 1990, Nagl interrupted his studies in England to join the U.S. Army in its war against Saddam Hussein. During his military career, he was the operations officer of a tank battalion task force in the Iraqi war, a military assistant to the U.S. deputy secretary of defense, and commanding officer of the 1st Battalion 34th Armor at Fort Riley, Kansas, where he trained soldiers and officers for their missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A few months ago, he retired from the military with a rank of lieutenant colonel and became a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank, some of whose researchers and fellows are expected to be appointed to various positions in U.S. President-elect Barak Obama's administration. Nagl is also being spoken of as a candidate for office in the new administration.
This is not Nagl's first visit to Israel. He arrived to attend "The Twenty-First Century Wars: Counterinsurgency and the Challenge of Global Terrorism" conference, sponsored by the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.
Life imitating thesis
Nagl says he was surprised to discover from his experience in Iraq that what he had written in his doctorate about fighting insurgents was quite accurate. But he says that "intellectually grasping the concept that fighting insurgents is messy and slow still does not provide the tools for defeating them. Just as knowing how to win is different from knowing how to defeat them; knowing how to win, in turn, is a different thing from implementing the measures required to do it."
He emphasizes that the first thing an army ought to do to win its fight against irregular armies is to adapt it to the task at hand.
He points out that armies are not accustomed to fighting guerrillas, and that teaching them to adapt, which was his final job in the military, is a difficult and unusual challenge.
He supports Obama's stated intention to withdraw American forces from Iraq, but emphasizes that we are not talking about the withdrawal of the entire army. Today there are about 140,000 American soldiers in Iraq. Obama intends to decrease their presence to 50,000-70,000 soldiers, and to change their mission. The tasks of fighting on the front line will gradually be transferred to the Iraqi army, and the American soldiers will remain on as advisers.
Is that possible? Can Iraq be stabilized and become a unified country once again?
Nagl feels that it can. He says that already now we can sense a drastic change taking place in Iraq. The Iraqi army functions better and is assuming more and more powers and tasks.
What about the disputes between Sunnis, Shiites and the government of the Kurds in the north? Nagl asserts that nobody wants Iraq to be divided and unstable. "Nobody would gain from instability in Iraq. Neither the world nor the Middle East nor Israel."
Aren't the Iranians dictating to the Shiites in Iraq what to do?
"There is antipathy between the Shiites of Iraq and Iran. Certainly there is no love between them."
He reminds us that almost 90 percent of the Shiite families in the Basra region in the south have lost a family member in the war against Iran in the 1980s. Nagl points out that there is growing cooperation between the Sunnis and the Shiites in Iraq at all levels of government, and there is also a good integration between the two groups in the army and the security forces.
A question of geography
When asked about the lessons that Israel can learn from the experiences of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, Nagl hesitates to reply, because he says his visit here was too short and he is not familiar with the situation here.
He is willing to say that he agrees with Ignatius, who recently wrote about the relative success of Gen. James Jones - who is slated to be the U.S. national security adviser - in training the Palestinian security forces deployed in Jenin, Nablus and Hebron, among other places.
Nagl points out that there is a difference between Israel and the U.S. The Americans can afford to leave Iraq and Afghanistan even if only 95 percent of the work is done, and to let the Iraqis and Afghanis handle the rest.
He says that when there is a suicide attack in Iraq or in Afghanistan that is terrible, of course, but it's not a threat to America. Israel, on the other hand, lives alongside its enemies and requires 100 percent success in its security activities.
The U.S. is blessed in its geography, says Nagl, whereas Israel lives in a tough neighborhood. Nevertheless, he feels that the U.S. model in Iraq and Afghanistan can also help Israel: "The model of training and equipping them (the local security forces) to provide security and stability is a worthy cause," he says.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tis the season to bash Jews, folalala la la la la

At Easter, passion plays. At Christmas, this sort of thing. 
Ron Prosor, Israel's Ambassador in Britain lashed out against the Church of England on Wednesday for having approved an anti-Israel carol that was sung as part of a service, according to the Times of London.
The carol was part of an "alternative" event called 'Bethlehem Now: Nine Alternative Lessons and Carols' that took place at the end of November in the Wren church of St James's in Central London, and was organized by anti-Israel campaigners, including one liberal Jewish group.
The carol Twelve Days of Christmas was sung as: "Twelve assassinations/Eleven homes demolished/Ten wells obstructed/Nine sniper towers/Eight gunships firing/Seven checkpoints blocking/Six tanks a-rolling/Five settlement rings. Four falling bombs/Three trench guns/Two trampled doves/And an uprooted olive tree."
"It was appalling to see a church allow one of its most endearing seasonal traditions to be hijacked by hatred," Prosor told the Times, accusing the Church of having failed to condemn such a carol which provokes anti-Semitism and disregards years of efforts to bridge gaps between the two religions.
"Unfortunately, the criticism from within the Church of England, that should have echoed with bold moral clarity, has instead sounded like a silent night, but far from holy," he said.
Referring to the carol service, Prosor said: "Such actions strengthen an anti-Israeli agenda, trivialize the political issues and nourish an anti-Semitic culture. This is not because it is wrong to criticize Israeli policy but because such campaigns single out Israel alone for particular opprobrium and censure it above regimes elsewhere in the world which are genocidal in intent and oppressive to the extreme."
The repercussions of the event are already affecting interfaith relations and is threatening to spur disputes within the diplomatic row.
One of the few Christian leaders to denounce the event was former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey of Clifton, who said that anti-Semitism and hostility to Jews still lurks beneath the surface in Christian circles in Britain.
"For 2000 years, the Jewish people suffered persecution because of the accusation of responsibility for the death of Jesus Christ. The carol service deliberately attempted to make a linkage between this notion of deicide and Israel's relations with the Palestinians. It thus perpetuated an anti-Semitic canard that has no place in modern Britain," Prosor added

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hebron, Feiglin, and the self-hating Jews of the right

Despite Burston, and whatever we may think, Likud is still leading the surveys.
You know them. These people who blatantly, instinctively, inveterately trash Israel. These people who miss no opportunity to brand IDF soldiers as Nazis. Who accuse the Shin Bet of human rights violations and defense officials of collective punishment. People who will tell everyone, anyone who will listen - Western journalists in particular - that the government of Israel is committing war crimes.
There's no escaping them. The world over, there are activists, Jewish activists, many of them rabbis, who go out of their way to toast them, host them, butter them up, bed them down, fund them, fete them, flack for them, hang on, bask in and benefit from their every curse against the elected government of the Jewish state.
Chances are, you've had it with them. They will stop at nothing to proclaim, demonstrate and prove - to themselves, at least - that they and they alone hold the moral torch of the otherwise bourgeois, corrupted, indifferent, or ideologically banrupt Jewish people.
They are, in that sense and others, classic self-hating Jews. They are ashamed by Israeli policies and actions. Not in our name, they cry.
They support the Israeli youth who decides to refuse army service. They support the IDF soldier who refuses orders.
Many of them have left Zionism far behind, dismissing it as an obsolete philosophy that is, at present, at odds with Jewish moral values, teaching and tradition. They are post-Zionist, calling the state of Israel the enemy of the Jewish people. They expunge mention of the state of Israel from the Jewish liturgy.
They understand the resort to force, whether against soldiers or civilians, as the imperative of self-defense.
They reserve special contempt for the moderate on their side of the Israeli political spectrum. They hate the American government for standing behind and financing Israeli policy moves, which they denounce as bloodthirsty and genocidal. Many of them hate their own parents, for believing as they believe, but failing to join them on the barricades.
Beginning in the aftermath of the 1967 Six Day War, their court journalists have insisted that the Jewish state has lost its soul, and that only this gutsy, imaginative, indefatigable vanguard has kept the flame, and saved Israel from total and literal ruin.
Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the new self-hating Jew, the New Right, for whom the Torah will come forth from Judea, and the word of God, from Hebron.
In their view, we, the Jewish People, have irrevocably violated our contract with them. And now it is their turn to rip up their contract with us.
In their view, the sins we have sinned against them are beyond counting, beyond pardon. Withdrawal from Sinai, withdrawing from Jericho and Gaza, allowing the return of Arafat, arming the Palestinian Authority, withdrawing from Hebron, withdrawing from Jenin and Nablus and south Lebanon, withdrawing from Amona and Federman's Farm, disengagement, the Clinton Plan, the Bush Vision, the Obama specter.
How curious it is, therefore, that the reaction of pro-settlement militants has been so extreme, as to have had an entirely unintended unifying effect on the Israeli public. In short, nothing since the disengagement has hurt the settlement movement nearly as much as the violence in Hebron. The paskudnyak platoons have given pause even to some of the most consistent apologists for the behavior of Hilltop Youth and other extreme groupings.
Where the boys in the oversize kippot and the overlong tzitit and the quasi-metal mindset and the Shanti/Second Aliya communard lifestyle once played on the sentimentality of the center-left ["they are our children"], the adoption of the dress-code and the ethical values and the methods of Hamas have managed, at long last, to spark a backlash.
Where the girls with the regulation ulpana sleeves and the regulation ulpana skirts and psychedelic shtetl headscarves and the fire-cum-schmaltz of the Revisionist Redux rhetoric once touched the heart of the center-right, the sight of them throwing rocks at soldiers and cursing them as though sailors on shore leave, all the while uttering racist curses at Arabs, has caused once-willing supporters to renege.
This is how it ends, not with the demonstrations of the Israeli left or the boycotts of the Western far-left. What began in Hebron in 1968 is beginning to end in Hebron in 2008. It will be the kids, in the end, who will take the enterprise down - that and the global financial crisis, which will affect crucial supporters like Irwin Moskowitz and others who have long believed that if Israel is unwilling to finance expulsion of Arabs, it is the duty of good Jews in Boca Raton and Brooklyn to do so.
The Likud campaign of Moshe Feiglin, with its more careful rhetoric, but its background strains of transfer and Islam-is-inferior, and retake-the-Temple Mount, suggests the desperation in the bravado of the extreme right. It suggests that the far-right phiolosophy is so isolated that, like a virus, it can only truly grow and reproduce by infecting and thus commandeering a vastly larger host.
The kids somehow sense it too. There is desperation in their actions, the isolation and the sense that a tide may be turning against them.
In Hebron, after all, no one needs a weatherman to see which way the wind blows.

Continued (Permanent Link)

xtra Xtra: Xmas is evil says Muslim who approves of Mumbai attacks

Muslim lawyer Anjem Choudary brands Christmas 'evil'
Muslim preacher Anjem Choudary has branded Christmas "evil" in a sermon posted on the internet.
By Murray Wardrop
Last Updated: 12:39PM GMT 10 Dec 2008
The lawyer, who recently praised the Mumbai terror attacks, urged all Muslims to reject traditional Christmas celebrations, claiming that they are forbidden by Allah.
The 41-year-old shocked Christians and even those of his own faith by branding yuletide festivities as "the pathway to hellfire".
Choudary, who is chairman of the Society of Muslim Lawyers, ruled out all celebrations, including having a Christmas tree, decorating the house or eating turkey.
In the sermon posted on an Islamic website, he said: "In the world today many Muslims, especially those residing in western countries, are exposed to the evil celebration Christmas.
"Many take part in the festival celebrations by having Christmas turkey dinners.
"Decorating the house, purchasing Christmas trees or having Christmas turkey meals are completely prohibited by Allah.
"Many still practise this corrupt celebration as a remembrance of the birth of Jesus.
"How can a Muslim possibly approve or participate in such a practice that bases itself on the notion Allah has an offspring?
"The very concept of Christmas contradicts and conflicts with the foundation of Islam.
"Every Muslim has a responsibility to protect his family from the misguidance of Christmas, because its observance will lead to hellfire. Protect your Paradise from being taken away – protect yourself and your family from Christmas."
Choudary is Principal Lecturer at the London School of Shari'ah and a follower of the Islamist militant leader Omar Bakri Mohammed.
Earlier this year, he led a meeting at the heart of the area where the liquid bombers lived, which warned of a British September 11.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

German left party and Israel: Time for a change?

At least some voices in the European left have broken the chorus of Stalinist hatemongers. Many of those voices seem to be coming from Germany.
Dec. 9, 2008

Although relations between Israel and Germany seem fine on a governmental level, there is very widespread criticism and sometimes hatred of the Jewish state in Germany as well as in all of Europe. This sad fact is often affirmed in polls in which Israel is seen as the greatest threat to world peace, worse than the dictatorial Islamic regime in Iran or the Stalinist succesor monarchy in North Korea.

Criticism of Israel is clearly not a minority opinion which can only be articulated secretly. Nonetheless, opponents of Israel constantly claim to be courageously breaking a taboo. While nearly no one denounces any critique of Israel's policy as anti-Semitic, that is often just what Israel's opponents suggest - thereby avoiding a serious discussion on the relation between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, which, though not identical, often overlap.

DEBATES ON the Middle East in Europe suffer from a distressing ignorance of the subject. Specific to Germany is the additional problem of the history of National Socialism, which constantly and often unconsciously lurks behind discussions on Israel.

One example is a journey by German bishops to Israel and the Palestinian territories not long ago in which they harshly criticized Israeli policy. That is in itself of course not a problem. The problem is how they did it - by evoking the Holocaust and comparing the situation of the Palestinians with that of the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto. Comparing Israel to Nazi Germany is crossing the border of a justified critique of Israel's policy. The list of such examples could be widely extended, and the political Left is no exception in this respect - in fact it often takes the lead in Israel bashing.

THE LEFTIST movement in West Germany completely changed its view of Israel after the war of 1967. Prior to then, its majority was philo-Semitic (in a problematic way); afterward it became staunchly pro-Arab and anti-Israel - if not openly anti-Semitic. Israel was accused of committing the same crimes as Nazi Germany, and the Palestinians were seen as "the Jews of the Jews." This was an easy way for German leftist to get rid of the burden of Auschwitz and make up for the anti-fascist struggle their parents never fought. Due to the constellation of the Cold War, as well as for ideological reasons, the German Democratic Republic was consistently anti-Israel as well. It had a strong relationship with Arab dictatorships, and was one of the leading weapons suppliers of the PLO. Zionism was seen as a racist ideology, and the Jewish state as the spearhead of imperialism and colonialism subjugating the Middle East.

The element connecting the Left in East Germany with that of West Germany was an anti-imperialistic worldview which can still be found among segments of the Left today. Strict Manichaeanism and a simplification of complex geopolitical and societal situations characterize this obsolete ideology whose roots lie in the Cold War.

THAT THIS antiquated ideology is still alive is demonstrated by the mainstream leftist reaction to the Iranian nuclear threat. Either it denies that Iran aspires to get the nuclear bomb, or it views the Iranian bomb as a legitimate means of defense against the US and Israel. This is a view blinded by anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism, ignoring not only the anti-Semitic ideology of the Iranian regime but also the straightforward threats by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and others to destroy Israel. One consequence of the Holocaust is that threats of annihilation must be taken seriously and not deemed irrelevant or a diversion from something else. Anti-Semitic ideologues mean what they say.

Furthermore it should be obvious that the only progressive stance on Iran is to support the democratic, secular opposition in exile and, if possible, within the country itself. Why does the German and the European Left often fail to stand with the women's movement and the labor unions, or the homosexual, lesbian and transgender people killed by the regime? Why do they willingly or unwillingly play into the hands of the repressive mullahs and not call for a fundamental change in Iranian society, meaning liberalization and the pushing back of radical Islam?

The leftist movement in general and the Left Party in particular have to decide whether they want to be a modern Left, as they already are in part, or if they would rather stick to old ideological dogmas, peering at the world through the prism of the Cold War.

This debate has just begun within the party, and will certainly continue for some time. BAK Shalom, a group within the party youth, aims to fight anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, anti-Americanism and regressive anti-capitalism. We try to influence the discussion on these topics and have achieved some progress. Nevertheless there is still a long way to go.

Benjamin-Christopher Kr?ger is federal spokesperson of BAK Shalom. Sebastian Voigt is a doctoral student and former scholarship holder of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation of the Left Party.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iran protest against Egypt-Israel cooperation causes envoy recall

Egypt pays a price for its "peace" with Israel even if it is a poor peace. Need we point out that a similar "spontaneous" demonstration in Iran in 1979 resulted in the US embassy hostage crisis? Of course, Egypt has every reason to take prudent precautions.
Egypt has recalled its diplomatic envoy from Tehran after a protest was held in front of its interest section, Iran's Fars news agency reported Wednesday.

Hundreds of Islamist students staged a gathering on Monday in front of the Egyptian embassy's interest section in Tehran in protest against Egypt's  continued cooperation with political arch-foe Israel over the ongoing siege of the ruling Hamas group in the Gaza Strip.

Despite reassurances by Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi that the diplomatic missions in Tehran were sufficiently secured, Cairo decided to recall its envoy from the Islamic state.

Local political analysts believe the move will further delay the normalization process toward bilateral diplomatic relations, which were severed following Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, Egypt's peace agreement with Israel and its granting of refuge to the Shah of Iran.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Murat Mercan of Turkey: Iran is a threat to Turkey; Veils are not Islamic law

Last update - 02:36 10/12/2008       
Turkish foreign policymaker: Iran poses threat to Turkey
By Zvi Bar'el
"I don't think that a military option against Iran will work," visiting Turkish politician, Murat Mercan, told Haaretz on Sunday. "Sanctions against Iran will be effective if they are applied efficiently. But the truth is, I don't know whether it is realistic to expect full sanctions when countries are still prepared to veto these sanctions."
Mercan is visiting Israel, not for the first time, as a guest of the Shalem Center's Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies, headed by former minister, Natan Sharansky. Mercan, a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), is one of Turkey's most influential foreign policymakers. He chairs the Turkish Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, is a close adviser of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and served in the past as AKP deputy chairman.
He said on Sunday that Turkey believes the entire region should be free of nuclear weapons.

"Israel too?" he was asked.
"I wish Israel would not feel threatened; then it, too, could disarm from nuclear weapons," was his circuitous answer, which allowed him to refrain from commenting directly on whether Israel should disarm. He immediately added that Israel was not the only country that felt threatened by Iran's nuclear plans. "Iran is first and foremost a threat to us," he said. But the feeling of being vulnerable did not prevent Turkey from recently signing a memorandum of understanding with Iran to develop gas fields in southern Iran, not to mention that it still maintains its extensive commercial ties to Tehran.
"We are not diverging from the policy of sanctions," Mercan explained, "because a memorandum of understanding does not mean that anything has actually been done. In general, Turkey will not deviate from any policy that is accepted by the United Nations Security Council with regard to Iran." After a short pause, he added: "You can't expect Turkey to do more than other countries with regard to cooperation with Iran." These remarks were directed primarily at Germany and Switzerland, which have signed major trade agreements with Iran. Two weeks ago, Turkey offered to serve as a mediator between Iran and the new U.S. administration; the Iranian response to the proposal was favorable. "But now we are awaiting Obama's entry to the White House," he said. "Before that, I don't think there is anything that can, or should, be done."
Turkish President Abdullah Gul is due in Israel in January for a three-day state visit. Several joint policies regarding Iran and Syria are expected to be proposed, despite the fact that it is not clear who the Israeli decision makers will be after the elections. With regard to Syria, Mercan believes that until Obama takes over and until the results of the Israeli elections become clear, any indirect talks with Syria, that were promoted by Turkey, should not be expected. "The next stage is direct dialogue between the sides and that is what we are working on," he said. "But a dialogue of this kind will have to wait until after the elections."
"Dialogue" is the key word defining the fronts in which Turkey is involved - whether Iran, Syria or Hamas. Turkey received Hamas with open arms, but was harshly criticized for its actions; as such, Mercan now employs diplomatic caution regarding the group.
"Yes, any attack on civilians is terror," he said with regard to the attacks from the Gaza Strip on Sderot. "I visited Sderot, and I saw how its residents were being attacked, but I also know the tragedy and sorrow in Gaza well. I advise Hamas to stop attacking civilians and propose that Israel stop imposing sanctions on Gaza. After all, how is it possible to imagine the two nations living side by side if each causes the other to suffer tragedies?"
A few weeks ago, Hamas considered turning to Turkey to mediate with Israel over abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier, Gilad Shalit, the release of Palestinian prisoners and the opening of the border crossings, but it seems that Turkey has decided to leave this work in the hands of the Egyptians.
Nevertheless, there is one subject about which Mercan is prepared to speak directly and without diplomatic lingo. "It is forbidden to endanger the ties with Turkey on a subject that should not be discussed by the parliaments but by the historians," he said. He is referring to the definition of the deaths of the Armenians in 1915 as a genocide.
Custom or law?
Mercan was personally in touch at the time with Knesset members to persuade them to abandon the issue. Now he is waiting to see what President Barack Obama's position will be; Obama promised to recognize the event as genocide of the Armenians.
The veil worn by observant Muslim women is once again stirring anger in Egypt over its religious function. Is it a duty or an option? The radical organizations offer all the suitable quotations from the Koran and the important adjudicators to "prove" that Mohammed literally meant for every woman to hide her face and hands, and not to make do merely with a head covering. They believe that the eyes are the gate to the woman's soul and therefore need to be hidden. On the other hand, the sages belonging to the centrist stream of Islam believe that the veil does not appear in any of the precepts of Islam and that, at most, this is a custom which must be permitted. But of course, as usual, this is not a purely religious-legal argument aimed at fixing the way in which Muslim must women appear in public. The argument is political.
At a time when the Egyptian government is investing vast efforts to uproot religious fanaticism and is not merely making do with the arrests of members of the Muslim Brotherhood organization, but is banning women with veils from appearing as announcers on TV programs and postponing the appointment of women as religious instructors because they wear veils, the following initiative is merely the next obvious step on the way to the religious de-legitimization of the veil.
With this, I refer to a new book being published by Egypt's Wakf Ministry, written by cabinet minister, Mohammed Hamdi, who is a religious sage and religious law analyst. In the book, he "proves" through signs and omens that wearing a veil is not a religious edict but rather a custom, and as such it enjoys a lower status; with this, it will soon be possible to call for the custom to be uprooted altogether. The co-authors of the book, which will be distributed to all the imams in Egypt's 140,000 mosques, include the head of the Al-Azhar Mosque, the most important religious institution in Egypt, and the mufti of Egypt. Hamdi explained that the veil is not merely the result of a radical religious point of view, it even creates it.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Polls: Likud ahead, may be fading a bit

It is still too early to assess the impact of the Likud primaries, which elected a large number of extremists, on the Israeli vote. The numbers are also skewed because of the absence of Arabs from the polls. Nonetheless, there are some hints that the  Likud advantage may be fading a bit. It is particularly interesting that the new Religious national party has less support than its two constiuents did. The bottom line of both polls however, is that the Likud part still has a big lead and if elections were held today, the right would form the next government. The headline "National-Religious bloc" is deceptive. The Ultraorthodox parties can and have formed coalitions with the left.

Two polls: Likud ahead of Kadima by 7 - 9 seats, National-Religious bloc
64-65 seats
Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA  10 December 2008

Column # 1 Telephone poll of a representative sample of 488 adult Israeli Jews (the Arabs were not polled because it is a Moslem holiday - their results were assumed to be unchanged from previous poll)  carried out by Dialog poll under the supervision of Prof. Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University on 9 December 2009 - the day after the primaries - and published
in Haaretz on 10 December

Column # 2 Telephone poll of a representative sample of 503 adult Israelis  (including Israeli Arabs)  carried out by Dahaf on 9 December 2009 - the day  after the Likud primaries - and published Yediot Ahronot on 10 December.

Results expressed in Knesset seats.  Current Knesset in [brackets]

#1  #2
27 24  [29] Kadima headed by Livni
12 11  [19] Labor
36 31  [12] Likud
09 11  [12] Shas
09 10  [11] Yisrael Beteinu
04 06  [09] "Jewish Home" (previously Nat'l Union/NRP)
06 07  [06] Yahadut Hatorah
06 07  [05] Meretz
00 03  [00] Green Party
00 00  [00] Social Justice (Gaydamak Party)
00 00  [07] Retirees Party
11 10  [10] Arab parties
00 00  [00] Meimad
00 00  [00] Strong Israel (Efraim Sneh)
00 00  [00] Hatikvah (Eldad)

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Don't close Gitmo yet: Detainees ready to confess

 Gitmo detainees ready to confess 
WASHINGTON: In an unprecedented turn of events, five men charged with plotting the Sept. 11 attacks told a military judge at Guantanamo yesterday that they wanted to immediately confess and plead guilty.
The five defendants — who could be executed if convicted of a role in killing 2,973 people in the 9/11 suicide plane attacks — said they "request an immediate hearing session to announce our confessions."
When the judge at the pretrial hearing, Army Col. Stephen Henley, asked Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — the self-described 'mastermind' of the 9/11 attacks, and his four co-defendants if they were prepared to enter a plea, Mohammed said: "Yes. We don't want to waste time," and gave him a letter which the judge then read aloud in court:
"We all five have reached an agreement to request from the commission an immediate hearing session in order to announce our confessions... with our earnest desire in this regard without being under any kind of pressure, threat, intimidations or promise from any party."
The letter implied they want to plead guilty, but did not specify whether they will admit to any specific charges. It also said they wished to drop all previous defense motions.
Mohammed earlier said he wished to be executed and achieve martyrdom, but still put together a defense.
With time running out on the administration of President George Bush, and with his successor, President-elect Barack Obama, saying he wants to close the Cuban detention facility, analysts said Mohammed and the others may see guilty pleas for the Sept. 11 attacks as the only way they can draw death sentences and die as martyrs.
The Kuwaiti-born suspect also told the judge that he did not trust his military-appointed lawyer.
Mohammed previously told interrogators he was the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Sporting a chest-length gray beard, Mohammed said in English: "I don't trust you."
The defendants had been expected to call the military commissions' former legal adviser, Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, as well as the current legal adviser, Michael Chapman, as witnesses in a bid to dismiss the case due to unlawful political influence over commission proceedings, Human Rights Watch said.
No date has been set for the five men's full military tribunal, and their appearance in court yesterday followed hearings held under a judge who resigned last month.
The pretrial hearings this week could be the last court appearance for the high-profile detainees at Guantanamo Bay. The first US war-crimes trials since World War II face an uncertain future.
President-elect Obama opposes the Guantanamo trials, and pledged to close the detention center which holds some 250 men, soon after he takes office next month.
It's a tough decision. To empty the camp, his team must decide whether to move the detainees at Guantánamo all at once and to where, as well as how to try those accused of crimes and whether to scrap the military commissions.
On Sunday, the Pentagon airlifted 50 reporters to Guantánamo to watch the proceedings, for the first time. The prison is located in a remote patch of a US Navy base on land leased from Cuba.
Also on board were the parents of some of the Sept. 11 victims, killed after hijackers slammed jets into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.
Nine relatives of victims of the 2001 Al-Qaeda attacks were on hand to observe the hearings, but were not visible in video images relayed to a press room nearby. Five were chosen by military lottery and they brought four other relatives with them.
The other co-defendants are:
• Ramzi Binalshibh, a Yemeni described by the US as the coordinator of the 9/11 attacks who, according to intelligence officials, was supposed to have been one of the hijackers, but was unable to get a US visa;
• Mustafa Ahmad Al-Hawsawi, a Saudi man said by US intelligence officials to be one of two key financiers used by Mohammed to arrange the funding for the Sept. 11 hijackings;
• Ali Abd Al-Aziz Ali, also known as Amar Al-Balochi, who is accused of serving as a key lieutenant to Mohammed, his uncle;
• Walid Bin Attash, a Yemeni national who, according to the Pentagon, has admitted masterminding the bombing of the American destroyer USS Cole in Yemen in 2000, and is also accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks.

Continued (Permanent Link)

British Muslim pledges to support Israeli hospital

In Israel, the group's actual experience counteracted any propaganda they had read about Israel. Imam Dr. Mohammed Fahim of the South Woodford Community Center in South Woodford, said he felt proud to be the first British Imam to visit Israel, and that he pledged to raise funds for a multi-faith hospital he visited during the short trip: Poria Hospital outside of Tiberius.

"Before I went I had a completely different idea of what I was going to see," he tells ISRAEL21c. "I saw a hospital where the doctors, nurses and staff were Jews or Palestinians yet all worked together and there was no discrimination against any patients."

The visit to the hospital in particular, was inspiring he says. "We saw how people are living together. There might be problems among a minority of people, but it is largely peaceful... We were treated with dignity and respect wherever we went. It's a beautiful country and I would like to go again, hopefully with many more people from our center."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iran: The best defense is a long range missile?

This is a very strange and opitmistic artice:
In a sign that Iran is taking military measures to ward off the threat of an attack on its nuclear facilities, the country has tripled the number of long-range rockets in its arsenal, Channel 10 reported on Monday.
Nuclear facilities can be defended by short range Surface to Air Missiles. Long range missiles are offensive weapons by any definition.
'Iran rocket arsenal tripled in 2008'
Dec. 8, 2008 Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
In a sign that Iran is taking military measures to ward off the threat of an attack on its nuclear facilities, the country has tripled the number of long-range rockets in its arsenal, Channel 10 reported on Monday.
According to the report, Iran possessed 30 Shihab-3 missiles at the beginning of 2008. Currently, the country claims to have over 100 over long-range missiles capable of hitting Israel.
While the ability of the Islamic Republic to strike any point in Israel has long been known, this latest build-up potentially points to an Iranian intent to launch a protracted counter-strike against those who seek to destroy its nuclear program.
The Jerusalem Post could not confirm the report.
Last summer, Iran held a massive missile exercise during which it claimed to have launched an improved version of the Shihab-3, known to have a range of 1,300 kilometers. The Iranian Fars News Agency Web site reported that the Shihab-3 had recently been equipped with an advanced guidance system that significantly improves the missile's accuracy and can correct its flight plan in midair.

Continued (Permanent Link)

German imports to Iran increasing

All "those people" care about is money. Same old story.
When asked about the increase in exports, the German treasury replied that it is due to increased metal prices, and noted that steel is up 17 percent in Europe.
However, export data show that metals make up only a small part of the increase. Another explanation offered by the German government is that the sanctions on Iran prohibit it from launching large new projects, which means the Iranians are more dependent on spare parts to maintain existing infrastructure.
In fact, the price of many metals has gone down, and the steel and copper industries are in the dumps. Uranium is another story of course...
Last update - 05:51 09/12/2008       
Israeli envoy: Germany increasing exports to Iran, despite sanctions
By Assaf Uni, Haaretz Correspondent
BERLIN - German exports to Iran are up 10 percent this year, prompting Israel's ambassador to Berlin to say the German authorities are "not doing enough" to keep Tehran isolated until it abandons its alleged efforts to develop nuclear arms.
"Germany is doing something [to isolate Iran], but apparently it is not doing enough," Ambassador Yoram Ben Ze'ev told Haaretz last week.
Germany's Federal Statistical Office released data showing the increase occured over the first three quarters of 2008. Germany's exports to Iran are expected to total 4 million euros this year, close to the record it set in 2004 and 2005.
During the first seven months of 2008, the German government approved 1,926 transactions with Iran, a 63 percent increase over last year. This has further cemented Germany's position as Iran's largest trade partner.
"The Germans are providing less insurance for Iran-bound merchandise, and they claim they are making life very difficult for those who want to do business with Iran," Ben Ze'ev said. "This approach may work on businesses that have export targets other than Iran, or on small businesses that cannot afford to invest the effort and resources to overcome the difficulties. But it's doubtful whether these measures will work on large businesses that view trade with Iran as strategically significant."
When asked about the increase in exports, the German treasury replied that it is due to increased metal prices, and noted that steel is up 17 percent in Europe.
However, export data show that metals make up only a small part of the increase. Another explanation offered by the German government is that the sanctions on Iran prohibit it from launching large new projects, which means the Iranians are more dependent on spare parts to maintain existing infrastructure.
"As a result of the tightening sanctions on Iran, our office expects the volume of our exports to Iran to decrease in the future," a spokesman for the treasury said.

Continued (Permanent Link)

The Likud's official Knesset list in full

The Likud's official Knesset list in full
The Jerusalem Post
Dec 9, 2008 4:35 | Updated Dec 9, 2008 4:37

1) Binyamin Netanyahu
2) Gideon Sa'ar
3) Gilad Erdan
4) Reuven Rivlin
5) Bennie Begin
6) Moshe Kahlon
7) Silvan Shalom
8) Moshe Ya'alon
9) Yuval Steinitz
10) Leah Nass
11) Yisrael Katz
12) Yuli Edelstein
13) Limor Livnat
14) Haim Katz
15)Yossi Peled
16) Michael Eitan
17) Dan Meridor
18) Tzipi Hotobeli
19) Gila Gamliel
20) Moshe Feiglin
21) Ze'ev Elkin
22) Yariv Levine
23) Tzion Piyan
24) Michael Ratzon
25) Ayoub Kara
26) Danny Dannon
27) Carmel Shama
28) Ophir Akoonis
29) Ehud Yatom
30) Alali Adamso
31) Yitzhak Danino
32) David Eventzur
33) Keti Sheetrit
34) Miri Regev
35)Sagiv Asulin
36) Boaz Ha'etzni
37) Guy Yifrach
38) Asaf Hefetz
39) Yehiel Leiter
40) Keren Barak
41) Danny Benlulu
42) Uzi Dayan

Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Who financed Mumbai terror by Lashkar-e-Taibe?

Caution - it is one thing to say that some Saudis financed Lashkar e Taibe. It is another to say that the Saudi government is involved. Lashkar-e-Taibe was financed by charity fronts they set up in the United States and Britain. The ostensible purpose of these charities was "humanitarian aid." Many of the donors did not know that the money was going to Lashkar-e-Taibe, the group that carried out the Mumbai attacks. If the CIA knew, why didn't they ban charity contributions to Jamaat ud Dawa?
Ami Isserroff

Shady cash transfers link Saudi charities to Mumbai terror and French bank accounts to Arafat's graft.

In Muridke, Pakistan, there is a toney boarding school set in a neatly trimmed green campus that includes a farm, swimming pool, and even a small hospital. Indian authorities believe this bucolic facility is also the headquarters for the terrorists who carried out the Mumbai attacks.

The school is officially an educational and charitable arm of Jamaat ud Dawa, or JUD, a radical Islamic group that is legal in Pakistan. The campus was originally constructed in 2005 by Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Islamic extremist group that American intelligence has tied to al-Qaeda, and that Pakistan outlawed in 2002 at the Americans' behest. A senior CIA analyst told Whistleblower that Jamaat ud Dawa is only an alias for the banned LeT.

A CIA source says the Agency has known for two years that the school was "funded by the Saudis and protected by the Pakistanis."

The same source says that the school is bankrolled by donations from Saudi Arabia, a disclosure that could complicate the U.S. relationship with one of its few allies in the region. The CIA has known for two years that the school—which teaches Wahhabism, the ultra-conservative strain of Islam practiced by the Saudi royal family--was "funded by the Saudis and protected by the Pakistanis."

The Saudis have told American counterparts that it is difficult for them to stop the flow of money to JUD since the funds are channeled through charitable organizations on both ends: donations collected by Saudi charities or mosques are sent to JUD's philanthropic arm in Pakistan. But U.S intelligence officials are skeptical. Although they concede the Saudis are too smart to directly fund the Pakistan militants, they also believe the Royal family could do much more to control the private donations that end up in the bank accounts of violent extremists.

Attempts to reach Saudi Arabian authorities for comment were unsuccessful. The embassy in Washington DC is closed for a week to observe the Muslim holiday of Eid el-Adha.

Continued (Permanent Link)

A Lebanese hero who deserves our admiration

In all the hypocrisy and cowardice of Lebanon, one voice is unafraid to speak truth to power, consistently, with no discounts. Walid Jumblatt will not let the fear of Syrian assassins or Hezbollah stop him from telling the truth wherever and whenever he can. His father was murdered by the Syrians.
Jumblatt repeats warning that Syria imperils Lebanon's independence
Psp chief says Damascus has divided Palestinians, too
By Hussein Abdallah
Daily Star staff
Monday, December 08, 2008
BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) leader MP Walid Jumblatt said on Sunday that the Syrian regime posed a danger to Lebanon's "independence movement," referring to his anti-Damascus March 14 Forces. "The Syrian regime is the first and last danger that the independence movement is facing," he told his party's general assembly, which was held in the town of Baakline in the Chouf Mountains, southeast of Beirut. 
Jumblatt said that next year's parliamentary elections would decide Lebanon's fate in the near future.
"If the March 14 Forces lose the elections, the country will return to the period of Syrian tutelage," he said.
The PSP chief called on his comrades not to lose faith in their cause and to stay committed to the principles of the March 14 alliance.
"The real reconciliation between the Lebanese people was that of March 14, 2005," he said, referring to the mass gathering in Martyrs Square one month after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.  "We should stay focused to face challenges, especially after the Syrian regime has succeeded in ending its international isolation as heads of states will be rushing to visit Damascus."
Remembering his late father Kamal Jumblatt, the PSP leader told his comrades that he would not change course.
"The Syrians killed Kamal Jumblatt because they wanted to kill the PSP, but in fact nothing changed as I will continue to be my father's son," he said.
Kamal Jumblatt was killed in 1977 and many Lebanese blame his death on Syria.
The PSP chief also accused Damascus of "destroying the unity of the Palestinian people."
"My father was one of the first to fight for the Palestinian cause ... Both Kamal Jumblatt and Yasser Arafat died while trying to keep the Palestinians united," he said referring to the late Palestinian president.
The general assembly was concluded by the re-election of Jumblatt as party leader, a post he has held since the assassination of his father.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Will the Baghdad Pact be resurrected?

Will the Baghdad Pact be resurrected?
By Ahmad Mustafa, Special to Gulf News
Published: December 07, 2008, 23:31
In an editorial, UK daily The Times commented on the conclusion of the Iraq-US security deal as a positive step for the region and the US. The paper concluded that: "The agreement on US troop withdrawal marks a turning point that ought to be recognised by Iraq's neighbours. It is time Arab governments embraced the new democracy in Iraq ... and ceased using Iraq as a pretext to whip up antagonism towards America."
We have been hearing these calls for Arab countries to get involved with Iraq for a long time, and leading 'moderate' Arab countries responded to American pressure by high-profile visits to the Green Zone in Baghdad, restoring full diplomatic representation there and writing-off Iraqi debts.
But it seems that the full Arab support required by the occupation before it leaves Iraq has not yet been achieved. For the US and the UK, Arabs are not yet embracing the "Iraqi Example" as a success that should be followed in the region.
Hegemony under threat
After invasion, and during the occupation of Iraq, Washington and London have been trying to procure Arab support to the "change" made in the country. But the disastrous situation in Iraq made many in the region reluctant to drag their feet in, though they did not stand against the occupation as such.
As the new deal means the "technical" end of occupation by the end of UN mandate in less than a month, an Arab gathering around Iraq reminds us of another grouping that failed half a century ago.
A strong American, and possibly British, security relationship with "'new" Iraq would be more strategically viable through synergy with US military influence elsewhere in the region.
The basis for a military pact in the region is mature, given the military cooperation between the US and Turkey, American military presence or facilitations in some Arab countries and its formidable relationship with Israel.
Forget about the illusive slogans of democratisation and progressive change, the main motive is military and strategic hegemony by a superpower afraid of the possibility that its international influence could dwindle under the current global economic crisis. That brings back memories of the above mentioned pact in 1955, when the British wanted to make up for losing India by consolidating its influence in the Middle East.
The Baghdad Pact was first adopted by Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey and the United Kingdom. The US could not join for internal reasons, but supported the pact and promised help.
The 1955 Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO) was originally named Middle East Treaty Organisation (METO) and latter modelled on the current Nato formula.
The Baghdad Pact failed in the face of a sweeping independence movement in the region, led by Egypt under Jamal Abdul Nasser.
During the last half century, things changed dramatically in the region to the point that main players are now pro-American and have no problem in military cooperation with Washington.
The aim of the Baghdad Pact was to get as many Arab countries as possible to join it, and it failed with even the only Arab country (Iraq) leaving it in 1959.
Nasserite Egypt was blamed for the failure of the joint British-American effort. But Egypt now is a US ally and bound by a peace treaty with Israel - the spearhead of the Western influence in the region. Nationalist trends are almost dead amid regional rivalries that sometimes reached the point of regional wars between Arab countries.
One of the side-effects of American military withdrawal from Iraq could be that the new administration of Barack Obama will turn more attention towards settling the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
What is not being said, but can be understood implicitly, is that it would make it easier for Israel to be part of a new pact in the region. That would make up for the absence of Iran - at least for now.
It might not necessarily be another Baghdad Pact, but the essence is the same. Incorporating Turkey, Iraq, the Gulf and Egypt - possibly even Israel after a peace treaty with Syria and the Palestinians - in a sort of Nato-style formula sponsored by the US and supported by Europe, would achieve what the old Empire failed to do half a century ago.
Dr Ahmad Mustafa is a London-based Arab writer.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Mumbai Why Islamists are anti-Semites and why the NYT doubts it

The wonder over Islamist targeting of Jews is peculiar. The founder of modern Islamism, Sayyid Qutb was very explicit about his hatred for Jews. This has nothing to do with Israel or Palestinians, but rather with the same old "World Jewish Plot" and Jewish influence:  
....explaining the purpose of man and his historical role in philosophical terms ... is one of the tricks played by world Jewry, whose purpose is to eliminate all limitations, especially the limitations imposed by faith and religion, so that Jews may penetrate into body politics of the whole world and then may be free to perpetuate their evil designs. At the top of the list of these activities is usury, the aim of which is that all the wealth of mankind end up in the hands of Jewish financial institutions which run on interest. [Milestones, p.110-111]
The Times Doubts Islamic Terrorists are Anti-Semites. Apparently.
Zachary Thacher
by Zachary Thacher, December 3, 2008
Last week, while Islamic terrorists attacked Mumbai, the New York Times covered the event with a sense of confusion and surprise – mimicking what it must have felt to be on the ground in a city suddenly under fire.
When it became clear Jewish New Yorkers were caught in the attacks, the Times went into overdrive to report the latest twist. Unfortunately the first article they published on the Jewish angle contained language that was so naïve as to be offensive.
Fernanda Santos reported the story, Brooklyn Rabbi and Wife Caught in Attacks, where she stated two items that jumped out.
First: "the Holtzbergs' Chabad house became an unlikely target of the terrorist gunmen…"
I dropped my fork at Thanksgiving dinner as I read this on my BlackBerry. It's "unlikely" that Islamic terrorists attack Jews? Since when?
Then, further down, she wrote: "It is not known if the Jewish center was strategically chosen, or if it was an accidental hostage scene."
Now I was mad. What, exactly, is an accidental hostage situation?
"Oh, hey, I just happened to be an evil Muslim radical carrying this AK-47, and since you look like a helpless civilian, and whoa, you're wearing a yarmulke! Might as well take you hostage."
I mean, really? Is that what she meant?
Fortunately no other article I could find in the Times or CNN opined about the terrorists plans, accidental or otherwise. As the killers stalked from the train station to a movie theater and to the Taj and Oberoi luxury hotels, no one questioned if these were unlikely or accidental targets. They just reported the facts. Except for the Times when it came to Jews.
Why were Ms. Santos and her editors so afraid to make the obvious connection between Islamic terrorists and their unarmed Jewish civilian victims? Is the Times, as a mostly center-left news source, afraid of unfairly demonizing terrorist madmen intent on killing as many civilians as possible? Do they really need protection by the Times? I didn't get it. So I emailed the reporter telling her I was upset and confused.
Fernanda Santos' response:
"It was not my intention to dilute the significance of the attack at the Chabad house. The doubt expressed in my story was solely related to the fact that, at the time, our reporters on the ground had not been able to confirm if the Chabad house had been targeted because it is a place of congregation for people of the Jewish faith, which is what I and my editors immediately suspected (and which is, in fact, the most obvious conclusion) or because it is in the middle of Mumbai's tourist district… It is a subtle, yet important distinction, and one that, in spite of all the evidence that Jews are frequent targets of Islamic militants, we could not make with a comfortable degree of certainty in the six hours I had to report and write my article. I apologize if I offended you in any way. That was by no means my intention."
Ms. Santos is a good person and was kind to reply, but now I'm even more confused about the Times editorial policy. It was clear to her and her editors that the Islamic terrorists, like every other Islamic terrorist in the world, are violent anti-Semites -- by definition I might add. And since she only had six hours to report the article, and couldn't interview terrorists to ask them what their goals are, she retreated into safe language that opined about the likeliness and purposefulness of these Jewish targets. Seems reasonable, right?
So why did the Times not feel the need to wonder if the Taj, Oberoi, movie theater or train station (and remember, the attackers came in by boat) were unlikely or accidental targets? Where are the subtle yet important distinctions not brought up for these locations? Why did no other news source have this same problem that Santos and her editors did?
Apparently there's a double standard when it comes to Jews in this news cycle.
No one should demonize Ms. Santos – by all measure she's a hard working reporter who strives to do the right thing – but she did advocate an Orwellian double-speak for Jewish targets, versus secular Western targets. This isn't only unfair, nor is it really over-cautious, it's just ignorant – and this hurts everyone. It denies the truth to all of us, of every color, religion, nationality and political persuasion, about the nature of Islamic terrorism. If the Times is worried about suggesting that Islamic terrorist target Jews, perhaps they could think of the forty Muslims who were killed that day. (Wikipedia reference.) By now it's clear the most frequent victims of Islamic terrorism are innocent Muslims. They deserve better. We as Jews deserve better. The attackers of both peoples should be named for who they are, and not sheltered in the cautious wording of newsroom editors who either don't know better, or need to be reprimanded by their more senior editors.
Perhaps my polite and ultimately positive exchange with Ms. Santos and this blog post will keep the Times on their toes the next time a Jew is attacked by Muslim terrorists. Unfortunately, it's likely this will happen in the near future, and it won't be by accident.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Jewcy formula for being Jewish has a rank of about 56,000 in Alexa - Not bad at all!
Click the link to watch the video!
Last update - 09:11 08/12/2008    
JEWISH WORLD / To be or not to be Jewish, that is the question
By Haaretz Service and Leadel.NET
The Jewish community needs to undergo drastic organizational changes if it wants to remain a "compelling proposition" for young Jews, says manager Tahl Raz.
Raz, who defines his booming Web site as just a "dot on the map of an interesting and promising Jewish renaissance," believes that the question for young people is no longer how to be Jewish, but why be Jewish.
In this interview with Leadel.NET, Raz urges the Jewish community to stop focusing on the dangers of inter-marriage and "get back to basics, back to rabbis and communities that are helping each other."

Jews today have become "hyperfocused on several issues," says Raz. "There is constant talk about the intermarriage crisis, who is a Jew and how we define a Jew. That doesn't go over well with young Jews trying to figure out whether they want to be a part of this thing or not."
According to Raz, "There is a huge opportunity in the intermarriage trend. These are people who if you show them how vital the community is and how great it is to raise kids Jewish - these people are going to raise their kids Jewish. Ultimately, that's all that matters."
Tahl Raz is the American-born son of Israeli yordim. He wrote for several newspapers before becoming one of the managers of
This is the second edition of Leadel.NET'S 'Living the Vision' series on The Jewish World. Visit leadel.NET for more online interviews with Jewish leaders.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Israel Government criticizes itself for its own policies

This artice in Ha'aretz revals an absurd situation:
"We are aware of the suffering of the Israelis living in the Gaza area communities," the Defense Minister continued. "The fire [against them] is in part a response to successful IDF operations aimed at killing rocket launchers and terror attackers. The large-scale Gaza offensive isn't going anywhere, and the responsibility is, ultimately, mine. We are operating in efforts to make the most accurate decision at the most opportune time, and more than anything, not to make a mistake."
Livni responded that as a foreign minister she operates on political planes, and added "but he who is responsible for [Israel's] security must also take action."
According to Livni, the defense minister has been aware of her position on the issue "since the day he achieved the truce." However, she added, "there is no truce now - Israel must respond when fired upon."
Barak's associates said in response that "Tzipi Livni's idle chatter has crossed the line. With all due respect for her campaign, it is only fitting that Livni show responsibility toward Israel's security instead of the weak messages placed in her mouth."
A Kadima spokesman issued a response to the remarks, saying that Barak is not only not sympathetic, not nice and not trendy [as his campaign ads indicate] but during recent months he is also not a defense minister when it comes to anything to do with Gaza.
Are we to understand that the government is opposed to its own policy, or that Ehud Barak decides the defense policy independently of the government? Is Tzipi Livni in the same government or a different one? And isn't there supposed to be a Prime Minister? Oh yes, Ehud Olmert. Whatever happened to him?
Last update - 20:51 07/12/2008       
IAF bombs Gaza militants preparing to fire Qassams
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent
The Israel Air Force on Sunday bombed a group of Palestinians militants in Gaza as they were preparing to fire Qassam rockets at the western Negev. The Israel Defense Forces reported a direct hit and said casualties were identified.
The strike came just as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's cabinet on Sunday allocated NIS 600 million for the reinforcement of homes in communities near the Gaza Strip border.
The funds, intended to protect buildings in the Qassam-battered towns, will be distributed over the course of three years.
As part of the government program, protected rooms will be constructed in residential buildings and ground-level homes in communities within a 4.5 kilometer radius from the border fence.
Southern Israel was battered by further Qassam rocket fire from Gaza on Sunday afternoon, as residents of the Negev town of Sderot practiced their response to a Qassam alert.
One of the rockets struck at the entrance to Sderot, and two more fell in open areas in the Shaar Hanegev area. There were no casualties damages reported as a result of the rocket fire.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who heads Labor, and the Kadima chief, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, faced off Sunday morning over Israel's response to the ongoing rocket fire.
Livni accused Barak of inaction in the face of aggression from the Gaza Strip, while Barak countered with accusations that Livni is motivated by the upcoming general elections, in which she is one of the lead candidates to become prime minister.
On Saturday, Livni said she intended to convene an urgent meeting with Barak and the prime minister, to reevaluate the cease-fire with Hamas.
Referring a barrage of more than 20 Qassam rockets and mortar shells fired at Israel by Gaza militants over the weekend, Livni said: "The agreement isn't being observed by the other side anyway."
During their meeting on Sunday, Barak said that "some people" were calling for an end to the cease-fire out of political considerations, saying "this is a political season that has brought with it brash remarks. What we need is responsibility and level headedness - not criticism."
"We are aware of the suffering of the Israelis living in the Gaza area communities," the Defense Minister continued. "The fire [against them] is in part a response to successful IDF operations aimed at killing rocket launchers and terror attackers. The large-scale Gaza offensive isn't going anywhere, and the responsibility is, ultimately, mine. We are operating in efforts to make the most accurate decision at the most opportune time, and more than anything, not to make a mistake."
Livni responded that as a foreign minister she operates on political planes, and added "but he who is responsible for [Israel's] security must also take action."
According to Livni, the defense minister has been aware of her position on the issue "since the day he achieved the truce." However, she added, "there is no truce now - Israel must respond when fired upon."
Barak's associates said in response that "Tzipi Livni's idle chatter has crossed the line. With all due respect for her campaign, it is only fitting that Livni show responsibility toward Israel's security instead of the weak messages placed in her mouth."
A Kadima spokesman issued a response to the remarks, saying that Barak is not only not sympathetic, not nice and not trendy [as his campaign ads indicate] but during recent months he is also not a defense minister when it comes to anything to do with Gaza.

Continued (Permanent Link)

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