Thursday, February 28, 2013

Americans Are United on Iran

Next, I am going to read you a list of possible threats to the vital interests of the United States in the next 10 years. For each one, please tell me if you see this as a critical threat, an important but not critical threat, or not an important threat at all. February 2013 results
The Gallop poll question and results

99% of Americans Believe Iran Is a Threat to the U.S.

We’re always hearing that American society is terribly polarized and you can’t get most Americans to agree that the sun rises in the east. But, apparently there is something that unites almost all Americans: the opinion that Iran is a threat. In fact, the latest Gallup poll shows that 99 percent of Americans believe that the development of nuclear weapons by Iran is a “critical” or “important” threat to the vital interests of the United States. Iran ranked as the top threat, followed by North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and international terrorism.

Commendably, UPI covered the story.  However, no other major national media outlet that felt this story merited coverage. The Chicago Tribune ran an analysis piece that mentioned Americans’ concerns, only to completely discount them as “a totally irrational fear.” Apparently, writer William Pfaff knows more about Iran’s nuclear program than the IAEA and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Or possibly, like 99 percent of Americans, Mr. Ban and IAEA inspectors are “irrational.”

Just the fact that 99 percent of Americans agree about anything makes this poll – in and of itself – worth reporting. Unless... the other one percent consists of members of the media. How else can one answer the perennial question... Where’s the coverage?


Poll: 9 in 10 Americans Have Unfavorable View of Iran -Haviv Rettig Gur

A February Gallup poll found that nearly 9 in 10 Americans hold an unfavorable view of Iran. Only 9% had a positive view. 

Iran was the least favorable country out of 22 measured.

(Times of Israel)

Arabs Increasingly Hostile toward Iran -Marc Lynch

Iran is now viewed unfavorably in a majority of Arab countries, according to a survey conducted by James Zogby of 20 Arab and Muslim-majority countries. Iran's appeal to mainstream Arab public opinion has virtually collapsed from its 2006 peak, he found, in part because of its violent suppression of protests following the 2009 presidential election. "Syria is the nail in the coffin of Iran's favorable rating in the region," Zogby concluded.

Iran is viewed unfavorably in 11 out of 17 Arab countries, and large majorities of Arab publics sided with the opposition Green Movement over the Iranian government and disapprove of Iran's role in Syria, Iraq, and the Gulf.

These findings should put an end to the conceit that Iran is on the march or that Arabs have the slightest interest in aligning with Tehran with or without a nuclear bomb.
(Foreign Policy)

U.S. Poll: 64% Say Military Action Preferable to an Iranian Nuke    

A national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted March 13-17, found that 64% of Americans favor stopping Iran's nuclear program, even if it means taking military action.
(Pew Research Center)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Simmering Pot: Abbas Cooking a Stew for Obama

Abbas' Palestinian Authority is cooking up a crisis prior to President Obama's visit to Israel.  Abbas has a strong interest in shifting Obama's discussion with Israel from the Iranian threat.

Gaza Palestinians Fire Rocket at Ashkelon -Yaakov Lappin

Palestinian terrorists broke a three-month ceasefire and fired a rocket from Gaza at Ashkelon, causing damage to a road, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades took responsibilty for the attack.   
(Jerusalem Post)

Palestinian Rioters Attack Israeli Soldiers -Khaled Abu Toameh

At Rachel's Tomb near Bethlehem some 150 Palestinians hurled firebombs and rocks at IDF soldiers. Rioters also hurled improvised grenades, which endangered the lives of worshipers at the scene, security sources said. The IDF confirmed that a 16-year-old Palestinian, who was shot in the head by a rubber bullet, was part of a group trying to set the guard tower by Rachel's Tomb on fire. Another Palestinian seen hurling a grenade was shot in the leg.
(Jerusalem Post)

Abbas' Gamble - Editorial

The unfortunate death of Arafat Jaradat, a Palestinian arrested last week for throwing rocks at Israeli cars, has triggered violence around the West Bank. An autopsy performed by the Health Ministry found that Jaradat died of heart failure and that signs of violence on his body, including broken ribs, were from resuscitation attempts.

Instigating violence on the West Bank will not change the underlying causes of the stalled peace process. While limited rioting could get the U.S. and Europe to renew pressure on Israel, if Abbas plays his hand wrong and the unrest deteriorates into a third intifada, he could lose control of the situation, lose the presidency and ruin any chances for peace for years to come.
(Jerusalem Post)

Abbas Fans the Flames  -Dan Margalit

There is no reason to doubt the findings of the autopsy on Palestinian detainee Arafat Jaradat conducted at Israel's Abu Kabir Forensic Institute. There are no signs that he was tortured during his interrogation. However, this fact did not prevent the PA from announcing that Jaradat was tortured by the Israelis. Even if Abbas wants to resume negotiations with Israel, the steps he has taken recently have pushed that goal farther away.
(Israel Hayom)

Palestinian Authority Orchestrating West Bank Unrest -Ron Ben-Yishai

The current unrest in the territories is being orchestrated, to a large extent, by the Palestinian Authority. Fatah, which is the PA's political base, fears losing its dominance over the West Bank, so it must appear to be just as militant as Hamas in Gaza. The reason the unrest has intensified recently is that the Palestinians want to create an explosive situation ahead of President Obama's upcoming visit to the region. Abbas is interested in creating an atmosphere that will force Netanyahu and Obama to discuss the Palestinian demands.

At the same time, memories of the second intifada are restraining the street. Most of the rioters are young people who were children during the second intifada. Most of those who remember the events of that period are not rushing to the streets. For now, the unrest has yet to develop into a popular uprising. At the same time, the IDF is much better prepared to effectively deal with the rioters.
(Ynet News)


No Evidence Palestinian Inmate Was Victim of Violence
- Judy Siegel-Itzkovich

There was no evidence of poisoning or physical violence against Arafat Jaradat, the Palestinian prisoner who was found dead in his Megiddo Prison cell last week, according to an autopsy report released by the Israel Health Ministry on.

Fractures in the ribs and hemorrhages on the skin were typical of people who undergo intensive resuscitation in an attempt to save their lives. Resuscitation was performed for 50 minutes by prison physicians and Magen David Adom paramedics. PA President Mahmoud Abbas called for an international inquiry into Jaradat's death, saying he had been "assassinated" and was tortured.
(Jerusalem Post)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Arab Riots Welcome Obama to the MidEast: Jihadi Sleazeball is the New Hero of Palestinian Authority

Samer Issawi's sister [center] holds cake with her brother's impression on it.  She is flanked by photos of him.  The Palestinian Authority is painting Issawi as a hero, but he is simply a jihadi sleazeball. 

Prisoner Protests Mark PA Effort to Start a "Popular Intifada" -Elhanan Miller

With little prospect of success on the reconciliation front with Hamas, and on the verge of bankruptcy, the Palestinian Authority has been instrumental in orchestrating the escalating series of popular demonstrations in recent weeks, held in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Thousands of Palestinians demonstrated at the Beitunia military checkpoint near the Ofer Prison outside Ramallah.

"The PA is incessantly searching for issues to mobilize the public," said Hillel Frisch of Bar-Ilan University's BESA Center. "If it weren't prisoners, the PA would find another issue. This is a highly planned, top-down mobilization." PA President Mahmoud Abbas has praised the protests and Samer Issawi's hunger strike, calling them "an honorable example of our people's struggle for freedom and independence."

Yet, Frisch said, the protest movement lacks two essential components for success: an effective organizational framework and middle-ranking commanders. "Violence can flare," Frisch said, "but without organization and middle command it won't persist."

Shalom Harari, a former adviser on Arab affairs at Israel's Defense Ministry, added, "The Arab World and the West are beginning to forget the Palestinian issue. So the PA has decided to employ a policy of 'soft violence,' which isn't necessarily so soft."
 (Times of Israel)

Sympathy for a Palestinian Terrorist? -Tamar Sternthal

Palestinian demonstrations and NGO activity on behalf of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner Samer Issawi have intensified. Who is Samer Issawi and why had he been imprisoned?

According to the Israel Prison Service, Samer Issawi of Issawiyeh, Jerusalem, was arrested in April 2002 and sentenced to 26 years for attempted murder, belonging to a terror organization, military training, and possession of weapons, arms and explosive materials. Issawi was one of the 477 Palestinian prisoners released in the first stage of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange in October 2011. Issawi was convicted of firing a gun at a civilian vehicle in October 2001, indiscriminately firing an AK47 assault rifle at civilian buses, and manufacturing and distributing pipe bombs used in attacks on Israeli civilians.

As part of the Shalit deal, a condition of Issawi's release was that he was banned from entering the West Bank, but he violated the terms of his release by entering the West Bank three times after he was freed, and was therefore rearrested. As for his 200-day hunger strike, the Palestinian minister of prisoner affairs, Issa Qaraqe, said Issawi began his fast in August and has been observing it intermittently. Prison spokesman Sivan Weizman said he eats periodically.

Palestinians Plan Violence to Force the U.S. to Extract Concessions from Israel
-Khaled Abu Toameh

There are many signs that the Palestinian Authority is seeking to escalate tensions in the West Bank ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to the region next month. Some PA officials in Ramallah believe that a "mini-intifada" would serve the Palestinians' interests, hoping that scenes of daily clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians will prompt Obama to exert pressure on the Israeli government to make far-reaching concessions.

Now the PA is using the issue of Palestinian prisoners as an excuse to call for street protests and clashes. Before that, the PA used the issue of settlements as an excuse for protests. Before that, the PA leadership encouraged Palestinians to protest against Israeli "plans" to destroy the Aqsa Mosque.
(Gatestone Institute)


Israel Demands PA Curb Protests

Israel demanded the Palestinian Authority stem a surge of anti-Israeli protests ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to the region next month.

Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli Defense Ministry official, questioned whether the protests were just a tactical move by the Palestinians to draw international attention before Obama's visit to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan. However, he told Israel Radio: "Things can get out of control."
(Reuters-Ynet News)

West Bank Tension Escalates as Obama's Visit Draws Nearer -Amos Harel

Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank are closer to the boiling point than they have been in many years. For the first time since 2007, it seems that the Palestinian Authority has an interest in making waves. First, diverting attention away from the PA's ongoing failure to reach a reconciliation agreement with Hamas to the plight of the Palestinian prisoners creates a much needed issue of consensus. That is apparently why senior Palestinian officials like Qadura Fares and Jibril Rajoub are active behind the scenes in the current protests. Second, in light of the PA's worsening economic situation, controlled clashes with Israel could persuade the Arab world to renew donations to the PA.

Obama's Intifada Welcoming Committee -Jonathan S. Tobin

The whole point of renewed Palestinian unrest is to manufacture a sense of crisis that requires U.S. intervention. Any escalation of violence, no matter how much it is the product of a political decision rather than a popular protest, will generate a lot of negative press for Israel. Even the most restrained measures of Israeli self-defense will be denounced as disproportionate.

But although the Palestinians are certainly capable of churning up enough violence and suffering to get more attention for their cause, their obvious disinclination in making peace on any terms makes it difficult to sustain the interest of even the most sympathetic of foreign leaders. Their refusal to return to the negotiating table with the Israelis even after Obama had pressured Prime Minister Netanyahu to freeze West Bank settlement building and their decision to abandon the U.S.-led process in favor of a dead-end bid for UN recognition may have finally made it obvious to the administration that any political capital expended on them would be wasted.

Nor, even under U.S. duress, is there much chance that Israel will consent to a West Bank withdrawal that is likely to duplicate the situation in Gaza, where Hamas terrorists used land vacated by the Israelis to create a terrorist state. This means that while the Palestinians have the capacity to make themselves troublesome, they do not have the ability to take advantage of the good will felt for them by many in the administration.

Another intifada will be a trial for the Israelis and an annoyance for President Obama. But it will be a tragedy for the people of the West Bank. Until they are ready to throw off a leadership that is incapable of ending the conflict or recognizing a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn, they will continue to suffer.

Iran Sanctions Are Failing

Are Iran Sanctions Working? -Elliott Abrams 

  • It's a commonplace to say that sanctions against Iran are tighter than ever and are working. The problem is that sanctions appear to be having no impact on Iran's nuclear weapons program, which is after all their purpose.
  • The damage to Iran's economy is visible, foreign exchange reserves are down from $100 billion to $75 billion, but that is not economic collapse.
  • A foreign ambassador stationed in Iran recently told me that the depressed value of the currency means that a middle class family can no longer afford an annual vacation in Turkey and now has to vacation inside Iran. But that's hardly the kind of thing that produces rioting and it isn't going to produce a change in the Supreme Leader's nuclear policy.
  • Reuters' Middle East economics editor recently wrote that sanctions "are not close to having the 'crippling' effect envisaged by Washington. The Iranian government has found ways to soften the impact."
  • So sanctions are hurting Iran's economy, and are hurting many Iranians - though the richest can take care of themselves, and the poorest are protected by the government with subsidies for food. But there is no crisis, and it seems to be wishful thinking that the ayatollahs will abandon their nuclear program because the economic pain is too great.
The writer is a Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at CFR.
(Council on Foreign Relations)


No Shift in Nuclear Behavior -Joby Warrick & Anne Gearan

Nine months after Iran was hit with the toughest restrictions in its history, the nation's economy appears to have settled into a slow, downward glide, hemorrhaging jobs and hard currency but appearing to be in no immediate danger of collapse, Western diplomats and analysts say.

At the same time, the hardships have not triggered significant domestic protests or produced a single concession by Iran on its nuclear program. Marine Gen. James Mattis, head of U.S. Central Command, said Iran has accelerated its nuclear program in the past year, despite the diplomatic and economic pressure.
(Washington Post)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Palestinian Victimization at the Hands of Fellow Arabs

The unique video above reframes the discussion about Palestinian victimization and places blame on their fellow Arabs
[Hat tip: Michael K]

My Husband Beat Me...And It's Israel's Fault

Israel Made Me Beat My Wife -Simon Plosker 

The Guardian looked at the status of women in Gaza and reported the following interview:

"My husband used to make good money working in Israel.... When he can't find any work and we have nothing to eat, he blames me....If he had a job, he wouldn't beat me."

So let's get this straight - Israel is the reason that Palestinian men beat their wives.

Maybe The Guardian's journalist might like to consider that violence against women might very well be a by-product of a society that glorifies violence and terrorism, where children learn jihadi skills at Hamas summer camps.    
(Honest Reporting)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Reflections on Arab-Israeli Conflict

Reflections on Refugees, New Jersey & Broken Cameras
by Joel B.


Much has been written and said about the Palestinian refugee problem, and much blame has been cast at Israel for not allowing those “refugees” to “return” to their old homes in Israel. However, in the context of Palestinian Arabs,“refugee” is a propaganda term with no basis in law or fact. According to international law, there are no Palestinian refugees.

"Refugee" is defined by the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, adopted in Geneva under the auspices of the United Nations. "A refugee, according to the Convention, is someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion." (Introductory note by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.)
With regard to Palestinian Arabs who, in 1948-1949, left their homes in areas that became the State of Israel, there are two crucial elements in the definition of refugee: (a) "country of origin", with emphasis on the word "country", and (b) "fear of being persecuted".

Let's examine these elements, starting with the reason for the inability of the so-called refugees to return to their former homes.

The reason they can't return to their homes in what is now Israel is not that they fear persecution. Supposedly, they want to return to their former homes. At least, that's what the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Palestinian Authority, and much of the international community are claiming. Presumably, those who insist on a "right of return" are not calling for these "refugees" to go back to places where they would be persecuted.
The reason these people can't return to their former homes is not because they fear persecution — it's because they don't have Israeli citizenship.

Which brings us to "country of origin". The country of origin of the so-called refugees is Palestine. Although not an independent state, Palestine, through the Palestinian Authority, consists of territory over which its Arab residents possess a degree of self-government and autonomy. Clearly, there is a country of Palestine. Consequently, the so-called refugees have a country of origin to which they can return, namely, the areas under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority. Accordingly, these so-called "refugees" are not actually refugees as the term is defined by the Geneva Convention and is generally understood under international law.
So, why, 64 years later, are Palestinian Arabs still in "refugee" camps? And, how is it that Palestinian Arabs living in the territory of the Palestinian Authority, i.e., living in their own country, can be considered refugees?
Moreover, "refugee" is not an inheritable status. Even if, for the sake of argument, you consider Arabs who fled from Jaffa or Haifa in 1949 to be refugees, their children and grandchildren are not refugees under any definition in the Geneva Convention.

If you argue that these so-called refugees should have the right to "return" to homes that are now in Israel, you're contradicting the concept of Palestinian nationality. If you consider an Arab who once lived in Jaffa, or Haifa, or Lod (or whose grandparents once lived there) to be a refugee even though he's living in the Palestinian West Bank or Gaza, you're saying that he's not really a Palestinian; rather, he's a Jaffa-ite, or a Haifa-ite, or a Lod-ite.

Consider a parallel situation. My grandparents fled Russia. Let's assume that I wanted to move into my grandfather's old home in Russia. The Russian authorities could rightfully insist, "You can't move here --you're not a Russian citizen." Would I be considered a refugee? Of course not! Having been born in the United States, I have American nationality and citizenship. Although my grandparents were born in Russia, Russia isn't my "country of origin", the United States is.

Consider another parallel. In 1947, British India was partitioned into a Muslim state (Pakistan) and a Hindu state (the Union of India). Millions of Hindus left their ancestral homes in Pakistan to become Indian citizens, and millions of Muslims left their ancestral homes in India to become Pakistani citizens. Although displaced, they did not become refugees, even if their displacement was the result of duress or violence. Certainly their descendants are not considered refugees.

Another interesting parallel: millions of Muslims remained in India and accepted Indian citizenship, just as thousands of Arabs remain in Israel and accepted Israeli citizenship. Muslim Pakistan was not so hospitable to keeping a Hindu minority, just as the Muslim Arab states were not amenable to keeping their Jewish minorities.

Then there are the thousands of Americans who were displaced from New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. They can't go back to their ancestral homes in New Orleans — they have to make their homes elsewhere in the United States.

Also, thousand of American families have lost their homes to foreclosure and have had to settle elsewhere. And what about those who have been evicted because their homes have been seized by the authorities as a result of eminent domain
The inability to go back to your old house or to your old hometown does not make you a refugee, as long as you can dwell someplace else within your country.

Five Broken Cameras

I haven't seen the new film documentary "Five Broken Cameras" yet, but I've read enough about it to get the gist — that Israeli soldiers and Jewish residents the Bil'in area behaved atrociously toward their Arab neighbors.

No one can condone the destruction of Mr. Burnat's cameras or Bil'in's loss of some agricultural land. But before we use this documentary as justification to indict Israel, Israelis, and Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, we should consider that implacable conflicts over land exist everywhere. Here in our own State of New Jersey, entire communities have been wantonly destroyed in the name of public policy.

Example: In 2002, a modest neighborhood in Long Branch was uprooted to make way for "Pier Village", an upscale development of trendy retail shops, fancy restaurants and luxury apartments. Under the guise of "eminent domain", the properties of these long-time homeowners were turned over to a private developer. The hapless homeowners were forced to accept modest compensation, and then were left to find other homes in one of the highest cost areas in New Jersey.
How could such an injustice take place in the United States, where eminent domain had always been understood to refer to the taking of private property for a public purpose, and not for appropriation by another private owner?
In 2000, the city of New London, Connecticut decided that private developers could make better use of the Fort Trumbull neighborhood than those who had been living there for years. One resident had been born there in a house that had been in her family for over 100 years. Nevertheless, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. New London that the "Takings Clause" of Article V of the Constitution did not protect the private property rights of the Fort Trumbull residents. Their homes were seized and turned over to private developers. (In the parlance of the Middle East, I guess the displaced residents of New London, Conn., and Long Branch, N.J., should be considered refugees, as should their children and grandchildren.)

Now let's compare the situation in Bil'in. The residents of Bil'in were able to go to the Israeli Supreme Court and argue that the route of the security barrier constitution an illegal appropriation of their land. The Israeli Supreme Court accepted their argument, and the barrier was re-routed.
It's too bad that the residents of Fort Trumbull and of the Long Branch pier area did not have access to the Israeli Supreme Court.
And, it's too bad that these New Jersey and Connecticut villagers did not attract the attention of a filmmaker as skilled as Guy Davidi to publicize their plight to the world. Perhaps international opprobrium would have been focused on New Jersey and Connecticut and their insupportable policies of "eminent domain", and those homes on the front line of corporate expansionism would have been saved.
One has to be careful in making judgments about places where we don't live.

I am imagining that there is an award-winning documentary out of Brazil consisting of home movies by a peaceful Amerindian villager in which he recorded heartwarming moments with this family and nasty confrontations with white loggers, ranchers and Brazilian soldiers, who smashed five of his cameras. Why do we react to "5 Broken Cameras" differently than we would respond to "Cinco Câmeras Quebradas"?

Maybe it's this:

Notwithstanding the atrocious treatment of Brazil's minorities, I haven't heard of any calls for Brazil to be wiped off the map or for white Brazilians to go back to Portugal and turn the entire country over to Amerindians, who, after all, were there first. There's no international boycott or divestment movement directed at Brazil. Artists don't cancel concert tours to Brazil because of oppression of indigenous peoples; Brazilian academics aren't barred from international conferences or banned from European universities.

Some Brazilians can do unjust things to other Brazilians without the legitimacy of entire nation being challenged.

Then, there's Israel ...
Joel B. provided this original content material; it is used with permission.
[Bruce's MidEast Soundbites]

Thursday, February 14, 2013

International Sleaze: Russia & Iran

Russia's Putin & Iran's Ahmadinejad

Iran, Russia Building "Strategic Partnership" -Amir Taheri  

Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi arrived in Moscow this week after Iran and Russia signed a security treaty last month.

A group of officers from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard has also arrived in Russia for a crash course in crowd control and civil unrest. They're expected to return to Iran by May and be "operational" in time for the June presidential

The new security pact provides for cooperation in intelligence gathering and the fight "against terrorism." It commits Russia to train and equip Iranian security forces to deal with civil unrest.

Under the agreement, Moscow will help Tehran create special police units patterned on the 500,000-strong "internal army" controlled by the Russian Interior Ministry.

In addition, last week, Iran played host to Russian warships visiting Bandar Abbas on the Strait of Hormuz in what looks like the opening gambit for a Russian naval presence in the strategic waterway.

Both Moscow and Tehran see a U.S. strategic retreat under President Obama as an opportunity. They think that with the U.S. out, no other power has the capacity to check their regional ambitions.    
(New York Post)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Iran & North Korea: Unholy Alliance

North Korean Nuke Test May Also Be Iranian -Yaakov Lappin

Dr. Alon Levdowitz
North Korea's nuclear test on Tuesday may have also been carried out on behalf of Iran, and in the presence of Iranian atomic scientists, Dr. Alon Levkowitz [pictured right], coordinator of Bar-Ilan University's Asian Studies Program and a member of the BESA Center for Strategic Studies, said.

"The most disturbing question is whether the Iranians are using North Korea as a backdoor plan for their own nuclear program. The Iranians didn't carry out a nuclear test in Iran, but they may have done so in North Korea," Levkowitz said. During North Korea's previous two nuclear detonations, Iranian nuclear scientists were present, he said.
(Jerusalem Post)


North Korea Upgrading, Possibly with Iran's Help

North Korea is upgrading one of its two major missile launch sites, apparently to handle much bigger rockets, and some design features suggest it is getting help from Iran, a U.S. research institute said Thursday. An analysis written for "38 North," the website of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, indicates that North Korea has made significant progress since October in constructing a new launchpad and other facilities at Tonghae.

The assessment, based on commercial satellite photos, says design features, including a flame trench covering that protects large rockets from the hot exhaust gases they emit on takeoff, is similar to one at a launch complex in Semnan, Iran, and hasn't been used by North Korea before.
(AP-Washington Post)

Why Iran Already Has the Bomb - Lee Smith

If North Korea has the bomb, then for all practical purposes Iran does, too. Consider the history of extensive North Korean-Iranian cooperation on a host of military and defense issues, including ballistic missiles and nuclear development. "The North Koreans have been cooperating with Iran for about a decade on nuclear and missile issues, and the Iranians have several full-time weapons engineers on site in North Korea," said Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center in Washington, D.C.

Cooperation includes North Korean sales of technology and arms, like the BM-25, a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and reaching Western Europe. Iran's Shahab 3 missile is based on North Korea's Nodong-1 and is able to reach Israel.

As one senior U.S. official told the New York Times, "the North Koreans are testing for two countries." If Tehran has paid for access to North Korea's program, it will also pay for a bomb. At this point, it could be only a matter of haggling over the price.

The widespread belief is that the North Koreans tested an enriched uranium device this time, while the first two tests used plutonium. Some experts suspect that if the bomb detonated Tuesday was using enriched uranium, this is yet another piece of evidence that Iran is likely "using North Korea as a backdoor plan for their own nuclear program."
The writer is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Iran-North Korea Pact Draws Concern - Jay Solomon

Obama administration officials are raising alarms about a scientific-cooperation pact between North Korea and Iran that officials said could advance the nuclear and missile programs of both countries. The agreement, reached in September, bears a close resemblance to one North Korea signed with Syria in 2002. Washington is concerned that the two military allies will seek to use the agreement to advance their nuclear capabilities, just as they have jointly developed missile systems, according to U.S. and UN officials.

North Korea has emerged as a principal supplier of missile components to Tehran. Iran's medium-range Shahab-3 missile is based on the design of North Korea's Nodong-1. North Korea could provide Iran with a range of supplies for its nuclear program, including uranium ore, centrifuge machines and enriched uranium. Pyongyang also is seen as being ahead of Iran in developing the technologies needed to place an atomic warhead on a missile. 
(Wall Street Journal)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Rubin: Obama Will Distort MidEast Gains

Obama: I'm Backing Democracy & Human Rights...Not True -Barry Rubin, PhD

In giving his State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama will presumably brag about his greatest supposed achievement in the Middle East: Support for democracy and human rights.

But consider this amazing fact. Exactly two years ago there were massive demonstrations in Egypt against the Mubarak regime, which was a U.S. ally. Today there are massive demonstrations in Egypt against the Mursi, Muslim Brotherhood regime, which hates the United States and opposes its interests. The Mursi regime has killed more demonstrators than the Mubarak regime did during the comparable period.

Yet what a difference in U.S. policy! Two years ago the Obama Administration found this repression to be unacceptable. It demanded Mubarak’s immediate resignation and spoke of human rights and democratic norms. Today we hear none of that. On the contrary, the Mursi regime is praised by the White House and advanced arms are given as presents to it without delay.
[The Rubin Report]

Syrian Threat to Israel?

Will the Al-Qaeda Affiliates Ousting Assad Turn to Israel Next? -Mitch Ginsburg

Last week Islamist fighters in Syria released a video showing masked Jabhat al-Nusra fighters saying: "We will put our hands on" Assad's biological and chemical arsenal. "We will attack and take over those sites and then use them against the Zionists, from Syrian territory, until we reach Jerusalem."

The U.S. State Department called Jabhat al-Nusra an alias for Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and added it to the U.S. list of foreign terror organizations. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the organization represents 9% of the rebel forces in Syria.
(Times of Israel)

Saudi Academic Nails the Arab Israeli Conflict

Know Your Enemy -Amal Al-Hazzani

Israel is a small state but stronger than the Arab world. Just browse some Internet sites and observe the number of pages Israel has posted with both Arabic and Hebrew-language support. Look at the number of Israeli newspapers and magazines with Arabic-language versions. 

The spokesman of the Israeli ministry of defense is a thirty-year-old man who speaks Arabic fluently. During every Islamic religious occasion he tweets the Israeli army's congratulations to Muslims and says "may you have a happy Eid, may your fast be accepted and may your pilgrimage be blessed."

The Arabs have been preoccupied with rage and blind hatred since 1967. During this time, Israel has managed to build eight public universities and 200 museums that receive nearly 4 million tourists a year. It has also become a rival to the U.S. in the programming and software industry. Israel's annual GDP is $240 billion. Annual U.S. aid does not exceed 1.5% of this figure.

We must understand the Israelis to know how we compare. Wars cannot be won by sentiments of hatred alone; otherwise the Arabs would have dominated the world long ago. Know your enemy so as not to suffer greater losses. This is all that I am saying.

The writer is an assistant professor at King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
(Asharq Alawsat-UK)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Hamas May Be Assisting Egypt's Moslem Brotherhood Setting Up Militia

A Militia to Protect the Egyptian Regime - Zvi Mazel

According to the Kuwaiti daily Al-Qabas, the head of the al-Quds Force, the elite force of the Revolutionary Guards of Iran, visited Egypt secretly some weeks ago.

He had apparently been invited to demonstrate how to set up a special, elite unit - distinct from the army - faithful to President Morsi's regime.

There have been reports in recent months that the Muslim Brotherhood was forming a special militia to protect the regime and tackle its opponents and that it was already operational.
(Jerusalem Post)

The Hamas-Egyptian Alliance  -Khaled Abu Toameh

Reports in a number of Egyptian opposition media outlets claim that Hamas dispatched 7,000 militiamen from Gaza to Egypt to protect President Mohamed Morsi, who is currently facing a popular uprising.

The Gulf newspaper Akhbar Al-Khaleej published what it described as "secret documents" proving that Hamas, with the financial backing of Qatar, had plans to send hundreds of militiamen to Egypt to help Morsi's regime.

The reports have been strongly denied by Hamas officials. Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar lost his temper during an interview with an Egyptian TV station, accusing supporters of the Mubarak regime of being behind the reports depicting Hamas as a terrorist organization helping President Morsi to kill Egyptians.

Nevertheless, the repeated accusations against Hamas show that many Egyptians continue to see the radical Islamist movement as a threat to their national security.

During last week's street clashes in Cairo, anti-Morsi demonstrators torched Hamas and Qatari flags. They also chanted slogans condemning Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood for bringing Hamas militiamen to suppress Egyptian protesters.    
(Gatestone Institute)

Iran Will Not Stand Down

A billboard circa 1980

The Ayatollah Always Says No -Editorial

Why does Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei keep saying no? The conventional wisdom is that previous U.S. offers weren't generous enough, or that the wrong president was in the White House, or that Iran wants only to deal directly with the U.S. and not in multilateral forums. Each of these theories has been tested and shown to be false.

A more persuasive explanation is that Iran really wants a bomb. The regime believes that Gaddafi would still be in power had he not given up his nuclear program in 2003. Khamenei also fears a "velvet revolution" scenario, in which more normal ties with the West threaten the ideological foundations of the Islamic Republic. Confrontation with America is in this regime's DNA. 
(Wall Street Journal)

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Girl Who Took on Taliban Survives & Speaks Out

The young girl who took on the Taliban in Pakistan is featured in the video above.  She appears mostly recovered from her wounds and as determined as ever to press forward with her advocacy for the education of girls.