Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Israelis Save Drowning Iranians in Thailand -Reuven Weiss
Shimshon Machani, 60, a former seaman and Tel Aviv lifeguard, and his son, Nimrod, 27, opened a surfboat business for local tourists in Koh Samui, Thailand.
Last week, as the father-son team went out on their daily rowing course, "On the way back, the weather changed all at once. The winds got stronger and the waves grew tall," Shimshon explained.
Suddenly, they noticed two swimmers crying out for help. "Their kayak had overturned in the storm and was swept away, they were left alone in the water," said Shimshon. "They didn't have much of a chance."
"When we reached them they were already at the point of exhaustion," Nimrod noted. "We loaded them on to the surf boat and kept rowing towards the shore, a kilometer away," battling against the winds and the waves.
"When they came around and started talking among themselves, I noticed they were speaking in Persian. I was born in Iran and speak the language. I told them in Persian: 'Don't be scared, you're in good hands'," Shimshon recalls.
When they reached the shore and "we told them we're Israelis, they just got up and fled," Nimrod noted.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Four Hezbollah missles rained on Northern Israel overnight, possibly an answer to leaks related to a potential Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. Hasn't the UN has done a fine job of making sure Hezbollah doesn't rearm? Don't be surprised when you see headlines that read "Israel Hits Lebanon," ignoring the order of events.
Monday, November 28, 2011
Mysterious Explosions Pose Dilemma for Iranian Leaders -Thomas Erdbrink
A massive blast at a missile base operated by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps nearly two weeks ago was the latest in a series of mysterious incidents involving explosions at natural gas transport facilities, oil refineries and military bases - blasts that have caused dozens of deaths and damage to key infrastructure in the past two years.
Iranian officials said the Nov. 12 blast at the missile base was an "accident," and they ruled out any sabotage by the U.S. and its regional allies. But suspicions have been raised by a fivefold increase in explosions at refineries and gas pipelines since 2010.
At least 17 gas pipeline explosions have been reported since last year. At the same time, nearly a dozen major explosions have damaged refineries since 2010. Four key gas pipelines exploded simultaneously in different locations in Qom Province in April.
A Second Iranian Nuclear Facility Has Exploded -Sheera Frankel
An Iranian nuclear facility has been hit by a huge explosion, the second such blast in a month, prompting speculation that Tehran's military and atomic sites are under attack. Satellite imagery seen by The Times confirmed that a blast that rocked the city of Isfahan on Monday struck the uranium enrichment facility there, despite denials by Tehran. The images clearly showed billowing smoke and destruction. Israeli intelligence officials told The Times that there was "no doubt" that the blast struck the nuclear facilities at Isfahan and that it was "no accident."
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland, Israel's former director of national security, told Army Radio that the Isfahan blast was no accident. "There aren't many coincidences, and when there are so many events there is probably some sort of guiding hand, though perhaps it's the hand of God," he said.
Friday, November 25, 2011
|Recent bus protest|
|Recent bus protest|
|What really matters...19 murdered in this bus attack|
Bus Security Is for Self-Defense, Not Inequality -Editorial
Six Palestinians arrested on West Bank buses used by Israelis sought to claim they were acting like the Freedom Riders in the American South in the early 1960s. But this ignores just one minor detail: The black victims of segregation and racism in the American South did not plant bombs on the buses they tried to integrate, did not throw bombs at those buses, did not shoot women and children on those buses, and did not steer those buses off the highway into ravines, killing the buses' passengers.
Palestinians suffer from separate bus lines due to the violent, deliberate, massive, sustained attacks by Palestinians on Israeli buses. We wish it were different. Separate Israeli buses in Palestinian areas are a means of self-defense, not inequality.
Let the Palestinians affirm not only non-violent action on buses, but also lay down their rockets fired into Israel from Gaza and their knives from the West Bank used to butcher Israelis sleeping in their beds.
Then we can talk about equal access to buses.
(Intermountain Jewish News)
Not-So-Easy Riders -Liat Collins
Six Palestinian activists tried to revive memories of the American "freedom riders" of the 1960s, followed by a crowd of some 50 journalists. The protesters pointed out that they cannot travel freely from Ramallah to Jerusalem without the correct permits, or an Israeli identity card.
Jews, of course - no matter what papers they are carrying - cannot travel on a Palestinian-owned bus to Nablus, or Shechem as it's been known in Hebrew ever since the Bible put it on the map. That, apparently, is not considered discrimination.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Egypt the Middle East Fulcrum -Yisrael Ne'eman
[T]he Muslim Brotherhood is the best organized most popular force in Egypt and yes, the Middle East today. The slogan "Islam is the Answer" will be increasingly heard throughout the region even if it is not being pushed at the moment. As the Facebook and Twitter liberal generation are ushered out one can expect a good few decades if not two generations of Islamic control in one form or another. The last several days of massive protests still finds liberals and secularists among the demonstrators but their presence and influence will dwindle. There are those like the Nobel Prize winning liberal and presidential candidate Mohammed ElBaradei who are calling for a national unity government to replace the military regime, but this can only be a temporary measure.
The military is accused of trying to force a legal framework whereby they would continue to hold power and reserve the right to intervene politically if they deem it necessary, something akin to the Ataturk legacy in Turkey until very recently. This is certainly an immediate cause but not necessarily the focus of all anger. Barely mentioned and much less discussed is the army insistence on guaranteeing minority (Christian Copts) and individual rights (women and non-conformists). Now pit that against Muslim Brotherhood demands for Sharia law, even should it not be immediate. Let's be honest, if the military was advocating Sharia law while asserting its right to intervene in civilian matters liberals and secularists might take to the streets but there would not be tens of thousands of Islamists demanding "democracy" and an end to military intervention. Paradoxically some of the liberals are staying away, correctly understanding their future liberties are being defended more by the military than anyone else. Others are playing the democracy game, one which would work very well in Europe or America and are joining the demonstrators.
In the face of rising anarchy, a turning inwards towards Islam appears the only answer. The Islamists are calling on the demonstrators to honor the people's will and move towards next week's elections. The idea is that in a step by step process the military will be sidelined and the Brotherhood can consolidate power.
What Western pro-democracy observers are forgetting is that democracy is not the tyranny of the majority but rather rule by the majority and equal rights for all including minority groups, women and specific groups and/or individuals with a different political, economic or social perspective. What we are seeing is popular anger against the military, yet to demand civilianization of the regime does not necessarily mean one supports democracy as an ideal. If holding elections is the way to gain power, so be it, but the results cannot be foretold as leading to democracy. The Muslim Brotherhood will not hold pro-democracy demonstrations, but rather demand elections to attain power. Should they not win power legally one can expect them to undermine the elected regime until they will succeed.
Egypt may very well go the way of the Iranian revolution although by a different route, a more anarchical one.
Egyptian elections are of no great importance and will only be seen as a technical detail in the long run. The Muslim Brotherhood, the most cohesive grass roots organization can be expected to take power in the not too distant future. One can expect a form of Islamized military at their side when a new Egyptian state solidifies. Egypt's better educated more secular classes will be marginalized or forced to conform. And of course the Middle East will be heavily influenced by what happens in Egypt, the fulcrum of the Arab world.
[Mideast: On Target]
Islamotopia: The Muslim Brotherhood's Idea of Democracy -Uriya Shavit
•Democracy without the Muslim Brotherhood is impossible, but so is democracy under its leadership. There is no doubt that the Brotherhood enjoys broad support in every Arab country that has undergone democratic revolutions or uprisings in the last year. Elections in which the movement is not allowed to participate will therefore lack popular legitimacy.
•The inevitable result of its electoral victory, however, will be the formation of a theocracy. It will not permit the scientific and technological revolution of which Arab societies are in such dire need. Thus, the Muslim Brotherhood must be permitted to run in elections, but not gain power.
•How can the West deal with the very tangible threat that Arab societies will be taken over by Islamist movements? If it confronts them, it will only confirm the Brotherhood's claim that the West conspires to undermine the religious identity of the Muslim world and seize control of it.
•However convoluted the knot may be, Western decision-makers must not ignore the astonishing truth revealed during the previous year: Forces within Arab society yearn for genuine democracy, and understand that the Western form of government embodies a formula for human success and political stability.
•The West must make plain what it holds to be the essence of democracy, why the political ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood are incompatible with it, and, thus, why it cannot offer economic or diplomatic support to Arab states that follow the path of political Islam.
•The West needs to explain, to all who are willing to listen, that the conflict is not between the secular and the religious, the West and the East, the Christians and the Muslims. It is, quite simply, a clash between freedom and tyranny.
The writer teaches Islamic history and theology at Tel Aviv University.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
|Bank Markazi, Iran's Central Bank, gets a pass from President Obama|
Obama refuses to enact stiff economic punishments against Iran -Paul Richter
The Obama administration slapped Iran with a new round of sanctions for its alleged nuclear and terrorist activities, but stopped short of the tough economic punishments favored by many in Congress.
In an announcement coordinated with Britain and Canada, U.S. officials said they are imposing new punishments aimed at Iran's petrochemical sector and organizations involved in the country's nuclear program or terrorism, such as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and its elite Quds Force. The most damaging new step will be to identify Iran as a source of "primary money laundering concern." Officials hope the designation will prompt many international companies to break off business with Iran for fear of damaging their own reputations.
Yet while the administration added another layer to the many existing punishments aimed at isolating Tehran's economy from the world, officials stopped short of imposing full sanctions on the Iranian central bank.
[Jewish World Review]
EU Reaches Deal on New Iran Sanctions
EU governments are expected to discuss proposals by France and Britain for further sanctions, such as targeting the Iranian central bank. France also wants to target the oil industry.
More Half-Measures on Iran -Editorial
On Monday the administration unveiled another series of half-steps against Iran for plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington and for refusing to freeze its nuclear program.
Sanctions were toughened on Iran's oil industry, but there was no move to block its exports. The Iranian banking system was designated "a primary money laundering concern," but the administration declined to directly sanction the central bank.
At the forefront of the Western effort to pressure Tehran is French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who issued a statement calling on "willing countries" to "immediately freeze the assets of Iran's central bank" and suspend purchases of Iranian oil.
Sanctions that stop Iran from exporting oil and importing gasoline could deal a decisive blow to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's dictatorship.
By holding back on such measures, the Obama administration merely makes it more likely that drastic action, such as a military attack, eventually will be taken by Israel, or forced on the U.S.
Only Threat of Military Action Will Stop Iran -Michael Eisenstadt
- The recent plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington should be a wake-up call. It indicates that 30 years of Iranian terrorist attacks on American interests, without a U.S. military response, has convinced Tehran that it can continue to act with impunity - even on U.S. soil. Unless Washington alters Tehran's risk calculus, the U.S. may be targeted again.
- Advocates of containment frequently gloss over the fact that to work, it must be backed up with a credible threat of force; that the costs of a nuclear deterrence failure in a proliferated Middle East may be measured in millions of lives lost; and that the likelihood of a nuclear deterrence failure is not trivial, given the propensity of an embattled and increasingly insular and hard-line regime in Tehran to miscalculate and overreach.
- Paradoxically, to succeed diplomatically and to deter, the U.S.
needs to be ready to use force in response to further acts of terrorism
by Iran, or to an attempt by Iran to build a bomb. For the threat of
force to work, however, it has to be credible, and it has to
dramatically alter Iran's risk calculus. Right now, neither condition is
The writer is a senior fellow and director of the military and security studies program at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Obama Must Act to Stop Hamas-Fatah Deal -Jonathan Tobin
President Obama may be fed up with Israel, but the Palestinian Authority appears to be about to take one step closer to effectively ending all hope for peace in the foreseeable future.
PA leader Mahmoud Abbas has agreed to a key concession that will solidify the Hamas-Fatah unity pact. The result will guarantee a strong Hamas role in the new Palestinian government that will ensure it will be impossible for the PA to agree to any deal with Israel...
It should also be understood that allowing Hamas to get a foothold in the PA has implications for the region as well as the peace process. Hamas is an Iranian ally. A victory for them undermines moderate Arabs everywhere.
The unity pact also demonstrates the bankruptcy of President Obama's Middle East diplomacy. By focusing almost exclusively on trying to badger Netanyahu into concessions on the 1967 borders and settlements, Obama has only reinforced Palestinian intransigence and set the stage for Hamas to gain ground.
But it is not too late for the president to start using the considerable leverage he still holds over Abbas. Were Obama to tell Abbas that he will lose every penny of the hundreds of millions of dollars he gets from the U.S. annually and that Washington will work to cut off every other avenue of aid, that would get the PA's attention. Only by cracking down hard on the PA now is there any hope for averting a deal that will expand the influence of Iran's Islamist terrorist auxiliaries.
[Jewish World Review]
Sunday, November 20, 2011
U.S. Air Force Acquires Giant Bunker-Busting Bombs -W.J. Hennigan
Boeing has delivered the first batch of 30,000-pound bombs, each nearly five tons heavier than anything else in the military's arsenal, to the U.S. Air Force to pulverize underground enemy hide-outs. The weapon's explosive power is 10 times greater than its bunker-buster predecessors.
The military disclosed delivery of the new bombs less than a week after a UN agency warned that Iran was secretly working to develop a nuclear weapon in hidden nuclear complexes buried under mountains.
(Los Angeles Times)
Israel: It's Possible to Stop Iran's Nuclear Project -Herb Keinon
Tehran's fingerprints can be seen in every area of conflict in the region, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon told the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University on Thursday. "The significance of an Iran with nuclear weapons capability is that it could create nuclear chaos in the Middle East, and lead to the use of the nuclear umbrella to encourage terrorism and irredentism, and the transfer of a dirty bomb to Manhattan and Europe," he said.
"One way or another Iran has to be prevented from acquiring a military nuclear capability," he said. "The challenge is not only on our doorstep, it is before the whole free world, led by the U.S." "Our assessment is that it is possible to stop the military nuclear project in Iran if all will cooperate and the Iranians will be faced with the following dilemma: nuclear weapons or survival."
A Credible Military Threat to Iran -Eli Lake (Daily Beast)
As Iran methodically built its nuclear program, Israel has been
assembling a multibillion-dollar array of high-tech weapons that would
allow it to jam, blind, and deafen Tehran's defenses in the case of a
pre-emptive aerial strike.
- A U.S. intelligence assessment this summer concluded that any
Israeli attack on hardened nuclear sites in Iran would likely include
electronic warfare against Iran's electric grid, Internet, cellphone
network, and emergency frequencies for firemen and police officers.
Israel has developed a weapon capable of mimicking a maintenance
cellphone signal that commands a cell network to "sleep," effectively
In a 2007 attack on a Syrian nuclear site, Israeli planes "spoofed" the
country's air-defense radars, at first making it appear that no jets
were in the sky and then in an instant making the radar believe the sky
was filled with hundreds of planes.
- Israel also likely would exploit a vulnerability that U.S. officials detected two years ago in Iran's big-city electric grids, which are connected to the Internet and therefore vulnerable to a Stuxnet-style cyberattack, officials say. The likely delivery method for the electronic elements of this attack would be an unmanned aerial vehicle.
- If past practice is any guide, the Israelis would not likely
strike at the same moment that their officials are discussing the
prospect in the press. In other words, if Israel is openly discussing a
military strike, it is unlikely to be imminent.
But if Israel goes radio silent - like it did when it attacked a
nuclear site in Iraq in 1981 - that may be an early warning sign that a
strike is nearing.
- In 2007, the Israelis presented what they considered to be
rock-solid evidence that Syria was building a covert nuclear facility at
al-Kibar. They asked President Bush to bomb the facility, according to
the new memoir from Condoleezza Rice.
"The president decided against a strike and suggested a diplomatic
course to the Israeli prime minister," she wrote. "Ehud Olmert thanked
us for our input but rejected our advice, and the Israelis then expertly
did the job themselves."
- One American close to the current prime minister said, "When
Netanyahu came into office, the understanding was they will not make the
same mistake that Olmert made and ask for something the president might
say no to. Better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission."
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Iran says missile base blast was not caused by Israeli intelligence -Saeed Kamali Dehghan
Iran has insisted that an explosion that killed the architect of its missile programme was not carried out by Israel or the US, despite widespread reports that it was the work of the Israeli secret service, the Mossad.
On Saturday a huge blast at the Alghadir missile base at Bid Ganeh, 30 miles to the west of Tehran, killed 17 of the country's elite revolutionary guards, including Major General Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, a senior commander described as the pioneer of the regime's missile programme.
A senior Iranian military official denied reports that Israel was linked to the blast.
Firouzabadi said that the explosion has disrupted the production of "a very important product" but the base would resume working soon, without elaborating on the nature of what the base had been making. It is believed that the Alghadir base is a depot for Iran's Shahab-3 missiles, which have a range of 1,200 miles, making them capable of reaching Israel.
After the incident Iran was quick to state publicly that an accident caused the explosion, saying that it happened while ammunitions were being moved. But anonymous sources with close ties to Tel Aviv and Tehran have since spoken to the press alleging that the Mossad was behind it.
Iran regularly points the finger at Israel and the US as the source of internal disputes but this time Tehran leaders are adamant that their enemies are innocent.
In recent years Iran's nuclear programme has experienced a series of dramatic setbacks by the assassination of its scientists and a computer worm believed to have been designed to sabotage the country's enrichment of uranium.
These incidents, seen as part of a covert war against Iran led by Israel, aimed at halting its nuclear activities, have given weight to speculation that Saturday's blast could also be part of a shadow war over Iran's nuclear programme, but this time with the aim of halting the regime's missile progress.
Many analysts believe that Israel and its allies have opted for a covert war instead of a costly military strike, which is believed to be difficult to achieve.
Time magazine reported on Sunday that the Mossad carried out the blast through sabotage, citing western intelligence sources. An Iranian source with close ties to the clerical establishment told the Guardian that Israel was responsible.
If an Israeli link to the blast turns out to be true, the Iranian government would be hugely embarrassed by the extent of the enemy's access to its most sensitive activities.
[The Guardian - UK]
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
|Ahmadinejad does not look worried|
Iran Activists Join Anti-Nuclear Push -Farnaz Fassihi
A group of Iranian dissidents for the first time openly called on their government to suspend uranium enrichment, in an open letter published Monday that adds to the momentum of the international effort to convince Tehran to abandon its nuclear weapons program. "The current deadlock over Iran's nuclear ambitions and empty power play will set the stage for war and the people of Iran will have to pay the price," said the letter signed by 175 expatriate dissidents and publicized by a student activist website inside Iran.
(Wall Street Journal)
Monday, November 14, 2011
With friends like these -Caroline B. Glick
The slurs against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu voiced by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and US President Barack Obama after last week's G-20 summit were revealing as well as repugnant.
Thinking no one other than Obama could hear him, Sarkozy attacked Netanyahu saying, "I can't stand to see him anymore, he's a liar."
Obama responded by whining, "You're fed up with him, but me, I have to deal with him every day."
These statements are interesting both for what they say about the two presidents' characters and for what they say about the way that Israel is perceived by the West more generally.
To understand why this is the case it is necessary to first ask, when has Netanyahu ever lied to Sarkozy and Obama?
This week the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency's report about Iran's nuclear weapons program made clear that Israel — Netanyahu included — has been telling the truth about Iran and its nuclear ambitions all along. In contrast, world leaders have been lying and burying their heads in the sand.
Since Iran's nuclear weapons program was first revealed to the public in 2004, Israel has provided in-depth intelligence information proving Iran's malign intentions to the likes of Sarkozy, Obama and the UN. And for seven years, the US government — Obama included — has claimed that it lacked definitive proof of Iran's intentions.
Obama wasted the first two years of his administration attempting to charm the Iranians out of their nuclear weapons program. He stubbornly ignored the piles of evidence presented to him by Israel that Iran was not interested in cutting a deal.
So if Netanyahu never lied about Iran, what might these two major world leaders think he lies about? Could it be they don't like the way he is managing their beloved "peace process" with the Palestinians?
Only when Netanyahu embraced the false claims of Obama and Sarkozy that it is possible to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians based on the establishment of an independent Palestinian state west of the Jordan River, could it be said that he made false statements.
[T]he Palestinians — not Israel — have been lying all along. They pocketed Israel's territorial concessions and refused to make peace. So why do Sarkozy and Obama hate Netanyahu? Why is he "a liar?" Why don't they pour out their venom on Abbas, who really does lie to them on a regular basis?
The answer is because they prefer to blame Israel than acknowledge that their positive assessments of the Palestinians are nothing more than fantasy.
Scarcely a day goes by when some foreign leader, commentator or activist doesn't say that being pro-Israel doesn't mean being pro-Israeli government. [L]ike Sarkozy's and Obama's vile gossip about Netanyahu, those who make a distinction between the Israeli people and the Israeli government ignore two important facts.
First, Israel is a democracy. Its governments reflect the will of the Israeli people and therefore, are inseparable from the people. If you harbor contempt for Israel's elected leaders, then by definition you harbor contempt for the Israeli public. And this makes you anti-Israel.
The second fact these statements ignore is that Israel is the US's and Europe's stalwart ally.
Sarkozy's and Obama's nasty exchange about Netanyahu, reflect[s] a wider anti-Israel climate.
Outside the Jewish world, Sarkozy's and Obama's hateful, false statements about their ally provoked no outrage. Indeed, it took the media three days to even report their conversation. This indicates that Obama and Sarkozy aren't alone in holding Israel to a double standard. Like Obama and Sarkozy, the media blame Israel for failing to make their peace fantasies come true.
And that is the real message of the Obama-Sarkozy exchange last week. Through it we learn that blaming the Jews and the Jewish state for their enemies' behavior is what passes for polite conversation among Western elites today.
[Jewish World Review]
Why Did Sarkozy and Obama ‘Dis’ Bibi? -Barry Rubin
During a conversation when they thought nobody was listening French President Nicolas Sarkozy and U.S. President Barack Obama said nasty things about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A lot of the analysis about what this tells us I think is rather misleading.
Regarding Sarkozy, French-Israel relations have been good and there have not been major problems with Sarkozy. On one hand, Sarkozy has been far friendlier to Israel than his Gaullist and Socialist predecessors. True, he is surrounded by some hostile advisors, including the career staff at the Foreign Ministry, but on the other hand there is a defense and counterterrorism establishment that admires Israel.
Indeed, Sarkozy helped kill the Palestinian unilateral independence effort in the UN Security Council, a major service to Israel. Yet France voted in favor of the Palesstinian entry into the UNESCO organization.
Why suddenly has Sarkozy turned against Netanyahu? I can’t prove it but I think there is evidence for the following scenario. Sarkozy decided that he was going to broker a major deal at the UN, showing that France was a leading great power in the world. So he went to Netanyahu with a proposal: Israel would accept unilateral independence for Palestine and Sarkozy would get Israel something from the Palestinians (perhaps recognition of a Jewish state?).
Netanyahu played along a bit but, of course, knew that Sarkozy wouldn’t get anything from the Palestinian Authority. Sarkozy’s idea — like that of virtually all the well-intentioned or bad-intentioned, naive or cynical, friendly or hostile to Israel busybodies who think they are going to make peace — just didn’t make real sense.
The deal fell through — it was doomed from the start since the Palestinian Authority wouldn’t compromise — and, of course, he blamed Israel and not the Palestinians. Hence his fury that Netanyahu was a “liar.”
As for Obama, some have explained his remark about frustrations in dealing with Netanyahu every day as just going along with Sarkozy. Others claimed Obama’s remark was justified. This latter point is absurd. The truth is that Netanyahu has done everything Obama has asked while the PA has done nothing at all. If only there was a U.S. president who talked that way. But there’s more, apparently, to be gained by bashing Israel and coddling the PA in words.
Remember, U.S. policy has taken virtually no material action against Israel in terms of bilateral relations. The hostility is all words. Better nasty words and okay actions than the other way around.
If I make the mistake of talking in front of a microphone that I think is “off,” I might get caught complaining that we have to deal with Obama every day.
Tuesday, November 08, 2011
Friendless in the Middle East -Daniel Pipes
The Arab upheavals of 2011 have inspired wildly inconsistent Western responses.
Such ad hockery reflects something deeper than incompetence: the difficulty of devising a constructive policy toward a region where, other than in a few outliers (Cyprus, Israel, and Iran), populations are predominantly hostile to the West. Friends are few, powerless, and with dim prospects of taking control. Democracy therefore translates into hostile relations with unfriendly governments.
[G]iven a free choice, a majority of Middle Easterners vote for Islamists. Dynamic, culturally authentic, and ostensibly democratic, Islamists constitute the only Muslim political movement of consequence.
But Islamism is the third totalitarian ideology (following Fascism and Communism). It preposterously proposes a medieval code to deal with the challenges of modern life. Retrograde and aggressive, it denigrates non-Muslims, oppresses women, and justifies force to spread Muslim rule. Middle Eastern democracy threatens not just the West's security but also its civilization.
That explains why Western leaders (with the brief exception of George W. Bush) shy away from promoting democracy in the Muslim Middle East.
Greedy and cruel tyrants, however, present two problems to the West. By focusing on personal priorities to the detriment of national interests, they lay the groundwork for further problems, from terrorism to separatism to revolution; and by repressing their subjects, they offend the sensibilities of Westerners. How can those who promote freedom, individualism, and the rule of law condone oppression?
Then, last December, a butterfly flapped its wings in the small Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid (population: 40,000), when a policewoman slapped a fruit vendor. The response toppled three tyrants in eleven months, with two more in serious jeopardy.
Summing up the West's policy dilemma vis-à-vis the Middle East:
- Democracy pleases us but brings hostile elements to power.
- Tyranny betrays our principles but leaves pliable rulers in power.
As interest conflicts with principle, consistency goes out the window. Little wonder policy is a mess.
Policy guidelines are needed; here follows my suggested triad:
1. Aim to improve the behavior of tyrants whose lack of ideology or ambition makes them pliable. They will take the easiest road, so join together to pressure them to open up.
2. Always oppose Islamists, whether Al-Qaeda types as in Yemen or the suave and "moderate" ones in Tunisia. They represent the enemy. When tempted otherwise, ask yourself whether cooperation with "moderate" Nazis in the 1930s would have been a good idea.
3. Help the liberal, secular, and modern elements, those who in the first place stirred up the upheavals of 2011. Assist them eventually to come to power, so that they can salvage the politically sick Middle East from its predicament and move it in a democratic and free direction.
[National Review Online]
[National Review Online]
|Islamic Jihad readies a Grad Missile, special delivery|
|A collection of exploded rockets in Sderot, Israel|
Suddenly You See a Rocket Flying Toward You -Hagit Riterman
600,000 Israelis live in the Beersheba metropolitan area. Last Monday evening I was driving into Beersheba, listening to a song on the radio. Through the window I noticed a young girl running fast and looking scared, not sure where she was going. Suddenly I saw that all the cars ahead of me had stopped in the middle of the street. Their occupants were getting out and running. I understood - the air raid sirens.
I ran with the others to take shelter between two buildings. There were women there hugging the concrete walls. Some were crouched down, and one was shaking. Other sat on the ground.
Then someone shouted, "Look up!" and I saw them in the sky. Two bright lights, like balls of fire with tails, almost white, flying in an arch in the sky, coming from afar. I thought they were about to land next to us, but the Grad rockets continued to fly and passed over our heads.
We heard explosions...
[L]ater [we] learned that the Iron Dome missile defense system succeeded in shooting down the two rockets that were aimed at the center of the city.
When I saw the two rockets flying in the air, heading towards us, seconds before they passed overhead, I understood so well the fear that people here are now living with. We're not soldiers in wartime, we're the civilian population. And in the middle of an ordinary day, during a routine drive down the street, suddenly you see a rocket flying in your direction.
(Makor Rishon-Hebrew, 4Nov11)
Monday, November 07, 2011
U.S. Backs Away from Sanctions on Iran Central Bank -Paul Richter
Despite weeks of tough warnings, the Obama administration has backed away from its calls to impose new and potentially crippling economic sanctions against Iran in retaliation for an alleged plot to kill Saudi Arabia's ambassador on U.S. soil, according to diplomats and American officials.
(Los Angeles Times)
Iran at Threshold of Nuclear Capability -Joby Warrick
Intelligence provided to UN nuclear officials shows that Iran's government has mastered the critical steps needed to build a nuclear weapon, receiving assistance from foreign scientists to overcome key technical hurdles, according to Western diplomats and nuclear experts briefed on the findings.
The new disclosures fill out the contours of an apparent secret research program that was more ambitious, more organized and more successful than commonly suspected.
Behind Anti-Iran Rhetoric, Fears of Nuclear Gains -Joby Warrick
A new spike in anti-Iran rhetoric and military threats by Western powers is being fueled by fears that Iran is edging closer to the nuclear "breakout" point, when it acquires all the skills and parts needed to quickly build an atomic bomb if it chooses to, Western diplomats and nuclear experts said.
America's Deadly Dynamics with Iran -David E. Sanger
To admit that Iran may ultimately get a weapon is to admit failure; both George W. Bush and Barack Obama vowed they would never let Iran achieve nuclear arms capability, much less a bomb.
No one expects the UN's revelations about "possible military dimensions" of the nuclear program to prompt more action against Iran. Most governments have had access to this evidence for a while.
For all the talk about how "all options are on the table," Washington says a military strike isn't worth the risk of war; the Israelis say there may be no other choice. The Iranians are digging their plants deeper underground, and enriching uranium at purities that will make it easier to race for a bomb.
When Barack Obama was sworn into office, they had enough fuel on hand to produce a single weapon; today, by the IAEA's own inventory, they have enough for at least four.
(New York Times)
Obama Should Highlight Iran's Human Rights Abuses -Sarah Morgan & Andrew Apostolou
Washington will only neutralize Iran by exploiting the regime's main vulnerability: its false claim to legitimacy. The ayatollahs' hold on power is inherently unstable because they have no popular mandate. Since staging a rigged election in 2009 to keep Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power, they have relied on repression and brutality to silence opposition, jailing journalists, torturing detainees, and executing critics.
By highlighting these crimes on the world stage and actively supporting Iran's dissidents, the United States can place a new, more effective kind of pressure on Tehran and support the movement for democratic change from within.
Wednesday, November 02, 2011
Hizbullah Discusses Operational Plan for War with Israel
-General Dr. Shimon Shapira
According to a source close to Hizbullah, the group's leader, Hasan Nasrallah [pictured], has told his field commanders that in the next military conflict with Israel, Hizbullah will hit Tel Aviv with missiles at the outset of the war, while also dispatching forces to conquer the Galilee.
The operational plan was formulated in tandem with senior Iranian strategic experts and will include a force of 5,000 fighters who have recently trained in Iran, tasked with taking over northern Israeli towns including Nahariya, Shlomi, and Carmiel.
It was said that Hizbullah had equipped itself with "smart" Iranian anti-tank missiles that can disrupt the defensive systems of Israel's Merkava tanks.
Nasrallah's recent escalation of public statements stems from heightened fear in Hizbullah that an Israeli and/or American attack on Iran is drawing nearer. As a strategic arm of Iran, Hizbullah sees itself as Iran's first line of defense against Israel.(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)