Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dennis Ross on Obama and the Middle East

One is continually amazed by the ability of diplomats and politicians to say so little in so many words.

Last update - 12:57 24/10/2008

Dennis Ross on why he's working for Obama and how he'd talk to Iran

By Natasha Mozgovaya

WASHINGTON - Ahead of the American elections, Dennis Ross, the man who used to work as President Bill Clinton's envoy to the Middle East, has been busy "working" the shuls in Florida, a key battleground state in the presidential election. Aside from sitting on the boards of many different research institutes, Ross also acts as Democratic candidate Barack Obama's Middle East advisor. In addition, he is a leading contender - among some 300 candidates - for the post of secretary of state in an Obama government. This week he sat down and talked to Haaretz.

How was it in Florida? How did people react and what are the main concerns of the local Jewish community?

Ross: "When I was down there a few weeks ago, I think there were many more questions about Senator Obama than what I see among audiences today. The questions that are asked now show that people are beginning to decide that they want to go for him, and they want to be satisfied. I think there's a desire to understand the nature of his relationship to Israel, how he would approach Iran, and [what] he thinks about the peace process. I would say those are the three big questions I was asked in one form or another everywhere I went."

Assuming that the next president's capacity to deal with these issues will be limited because of national debt, two ongoing wars and the recent financial crisis, can he really promise anything - and keep his word?

"In the first instance, [Obama] views the issue of Iran as an urgent priority, because the Bush administration's approach to Iran has failed. I talk about how Obama wants to use our willingness to talk as a means to get others to actually apply more pressure on the Iranians, as a way to ensure the talks' success, but also because the talks themselves send a signal [to] those who fear [that] applying more pressure means you're descending toward a slippery slope of confrontation. This is a way of saying, 'Look, we're trying to see if there's a way to avoid that.' Preventing Iran from going nuclear is a very high priority for him, not only because it's such a threat to Israel, but because it's such a threat to the United States.

"On the question of Israel, I talk about what I saw during his trip to Israel, how I saw his understanding of the relationship with Israel - he would describe it as a commitment of the head and heart. He looks at Israel and sees us as being two countries with common values. But he also looks at Israel and sees that whatever threatens Israel also happens to threaten the United States. So we have a [common] interest, because we end up facing the same threats.

"Regarding the peace process, I think this is an issue where engagement is also crucial, but, much like Iran, it is an engagement without illusions. When you engage, you do so without illusions. But when you don't engage, you leave the way open for your adversaries to actually gain more. The Bush administration wanted to disengage for its first six years in office. [By doing so] they actually strengthened Hamas' hand, because Hamas' argument is [that] there is no possibility for peace. The least you want to do is show that there could be an alternative answer."

What kind of engagement might it be? The Israeli government isn't fond of being under pressure, and some people are very sensitive about the idea of talking to Iran, especially since the Iranian leadership is saying nasty things about Israel.

"Sure, that's why I started by saying that it's an engagement without illusions. With regard to the Iranians, we know that by not talking to Iran the U.S. did not improve the situation. Today Iran is a nuclear power - it doesn't have nuclear weapons yet, but in 2001 it was not yet able to convert uranium or uranium gas, it didn't have a single centrifuge. Now it's stockpiling highly enriched uranium. So the current approach of not talking hasn't worked. There's no guarantee that if you talk you'll succeed, but if you don't talk you will fail."

Does one talk to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

"You don't talk to Ahmadinejad. First of all, he's not the decision maker. When Senator Obama suggests that he would be prepared to meet with him, he says such a meeting first has to be prepared. What he means is that you have to coordinate with your allies - all your allies. Secondly, it means you have to check whether you can put together an agenda for a lower-level meeting. If it becomes clear that you can't put together such an agenda, then you don't hold a meeting at a high level - the presidential level - because it's not going to lead anywhere. But if you can produce something that you know will lead somewhere, then it's silly not to do that.

"And in terms of the peace process, if you don't engage, then by definition, Hamas becomes stronger. We've seen that. Senator Obama won't deal with a non-state actor like Hamas unless Hamas changes its position, unless it's prepared to recognize Israel, unless it makes it clear [that] it gives up on terror, unless it's prepared to recognize previous agreements. So as for non-state actors, he's not willing to deal with them. Engagement without illusion in the peace process means that the U.S. should play a role, the U.S. should be involved, the U.S. should do what it can to promote the peace process and build bridges where it can.

"At the end of the day his position is [that] we cannot impose peace, because an imposed peace isn't peace at all. He's more than willing to invest in the process, but, then again, how he does it and in what ways will depend very much on the circumstances, and obviously there are many other issues out there."

Do you believe Israel and the Palestinians can reach an agreement in the near future? Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she'll do her utmost to try and reach a framework agreement by the end of the Bush administration.

"I think that in the current circumstances, it's difficult to see that happening. It's important for the two sides to do what they can, but I think we need to be realistic as well."

Leaving the sidelines

Not everyone in Washington likes the Israeli talks with Syria. What do you think?

"The fact that Israel is negotiating indirectly with Syria through Turkey is a sign that Israel believes it's worth trying this approach, and I believe we should try it, too. I think it's a mistake not to. Too often when you don't talk - as I said before - you create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Just because you make the effort doesn't mean you'll succeed. But at least you ought to see if you can do it, you ought to do it with your eyes open, without illusions, without naivete, but it's worth probing and testing."

Why and when did you decide to take on an active role in this campaign?

"I decided to take an active part in the campaign because I feel the stakes are so high. I looked at us, especially in the Middle East, and I think we've been on the sidelines everywhere except [in] Iraq. And when the U.S. is on the sidelines, U.S. interests suffer and I think Israel's interests suffer, too. I felt that I just didn't have the luxury of remaining on the sidelines and sitting this one out."

Some of America's image problems didn't start with the Bush administration. Is it possible to repair the damage?

"One of the problems of the last eight years is that too often we've staked out objectives that we could not achieve. The rest of the world watches and looks for several things. The first is whether we are effective in terms of what we do. Secondly they have to see that we don't just lecture, we also listen."

Can you define what constitutes an American interest right now?

"I think our interest at this point around the world is [that] we do have to contend with the radicalists, they do constitute a serious threat to us. But I think we have to realize who our natural partners are and how we can work with both them and our allies so we, in a sense, build our collective leverage against those who constitute threats to us. It's very clear that we have to restore our economic well-being, because you can't be strong internationally if you're not strong at home, and if you're not strong financially."

Is it about the stakes, or Obama's personality and policies?

"It's a combination. First, the stakes were so high, and I think he's also a unique talent. I've sat in on probably 100 meetings with our presidents - those I've worked for and their counterparts. I know what it takes to be an effective, good leader. I saw Senator Obama at work in meetings with leaders. His manner of operation shows me unquestionably that he's someone who grasps issues in their detail, but also strategically, and he understands how to deal with leaders in an effective way, from the standpoint of promoting America's interests and needs. It's a combination of the stakes but also of seeing in Senator Obama a transformational figure at a time when I think the United States needs a transformational figure."

If Obama wins and you are offered the post of secretary of state, would you accept the offer?

"I'm not assuming that. The truth of the matter is that I'm concentrating on helping him through November 4. Whatever happens after that - we'll see."

What in his character impressed you the most, and what does he lack as a leader?

"I think that what impressed me the most is that he has perspective. He's very thoughtful, he knows how to ask the right questions, and he doesn't jump to conclusions. He's careful with his judgments and he's not afraid to ask questions, because he's not afraid to have people ask him questions. I think he has a kind of personal character and the kind of temperament presidents need.

"I've worked on the National Security Council staff of Ronald Reagan's administration, so I was in that White House. I served in a senior State Department position under George H. W. Bush and then I was President Clinton's negotiator on the Middle East - so I've been around a few American presidents. I've witnessed decision processes, I've been around American presidents at times of crisis, and I think I have a pretty good sense of what it takes for someone to be effective as president - in terms of judgment capability, perspective and even wisdom. And I think Senator Obama brings all those to bear. That's why I find him enormously impressive and believe he is just the person we need at this time."

Some progressive groups have expressed disappointment with him, saying that some of his positions are actually more hawkish than those of President Bush. Suddenly his positions regarding Al-Qaida terrorists, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iran are becoming harsher.

"I think he is quite realistic. Contrary to what was commonplace practice in the Bush administration, he doesn't let ideology blind or color his thinking. His assessments are based on looking at the world as it is and understanding the kinds of things we'll need to do to change the world where it needs to be changed."

Taking into account the possible "Bradley effect" [referring to the discrepancies between voter opinion polls and the outcome of U.S. election campaigns], the traditional low voting rate and other "unknowns" - do you think Obama will win?

"I certainly hope he will, and I'm cautiously optimistic."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Philippe Karsenty and the story of Muhammad al Dura

The alleged killing of Palestinian boy Muhammad al-Dura by the Israeli army was used by the Palestinians to fan the flames of violence in 2000. Now it turns out that it may have been a total fabrication, with less relation to reality than the bogus Soviet boy hero, Pavlik Morozov. Thousands of people died in part because of the violence stirred up in the name of this boy. Al Dura became the poster boy of the so called Second Intifada.

If Philippe Karsenty is right, then al-Dura never died - a fantastic claim, but one that is backed by at least some evidence. This case deserves the attention of the Israeli government, whether they back the claims or refute them.

Ami Isseroff


Philippe Karsenty: "We Need to Expose the Muhammad al-Dura Hoax"

Middle East Quarterly
Fall 2008, pp. 57-65

Editors' preface:

Philippe Karsenty

Philippe Karsenty is the founder and president of Media-Ratings (, an online French media watchdog. In November 2004, he published an article entitled "Arlette Chabot and Charles Enderlin Must Be Fired Immediately,"[1] alleging that France 2, the television news station for which Chabot and Enderlin worked, violated journalistic standards by airing footage depicting as fact the alleged shooting of Muhammad al-Dura, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy, by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The Dura tapes showed a 12-year-old boy crouching behind his father while only one bullet whistles and pops in the background; it is clear now that during the fifty-five seconds of aired footage, the boy was not fired at and that, at the end of the film, he remained alive. Karsenty claimed the footage was staged by Palestinian cameraman Talal Abu Rahma, who staged similar scenes elsewhere in the eighteen minutes of the tape that Karsenty viewed.

After France 2 aired the clip as fact and then distributed the footage for free, other networks rebroadcast it. The death of Dura at the hands of the IDF became a cause célèbre throughout the Muslim world, inspiring violence and anti-Semitism.[2]

In the article, Karsenty also announced his readiness to defend his claims in court.[3] Chabot and Enderlin subsequently sued Karsenty for defamation in a French court of law.[4]

The French court, against the recommendation of the public prosecutor who had argued in favor of Karsenty's free speech rights, initially ruled in favor of Chabot and Enderlin and ordered Karsenty to pay a symbolic fine of one euro to each plaintiff, as well as a 1,000 euro fine and 3,000 euros in court costs.[5]

In September 2007, the Eleventh Chamber of the Appeals Court of Paris heard Karsenty's appeal. The judge demanded that France 2 turn over the twenty-seven minutes of raw footage. Enderlin, however, claimed he was not in possession of the rest of the tape. Three French journalists who were invited by France 2 to see the footage testified to seeing twenty-four minutes of film preceding the footage of Dura, in which young Palestinians are performing for the television cameras, falling and getting up when they think that no one is watching.[6] In the end, only eighteen minutes of the entire tape were shown in court, and none depicted Dura being killed. In fact, at the end of the footage shown in court, the boy is still clearly alive.[7]

Karsenty won his appeal on May 21, 2008.[8]

Brooke Goldstein conducted this interview with Karsenty in two parts, the first in New York City on October 4, 2007, and the second, by telephone on May 27, 2008, after Karsenty's victory.

The Lawsuit

Middle East Quarterly: What specifically led France 2 television to sue you for defamation?

Philippe Karsenty: The defamatory words were that the Muhammad al-Dura tapes are fakes, a hoax, that Charles Enderlin was misled, that he misled people, and that he should resign.

MEQ: What is defamation under French law?

Karsenty: Under French law, defamation is the inability to prove the truth of a statement at the time the statement was made. This means that even if France 2 apologizes now and admits fault, I could still not win my case because the court could determine that when I published my statements, I didn't have enough evidence to assert that what I was saying was true. This is an absurd system of law.

MEQ: So truth is not a defense to defamation?

Karsenty: Yes, truth is a defense to defamation, but it has to be a truth known and proven at the time the claim was made. The burden of proof is on the defendant's shoulders. If the Israeli government had sued France 2 for defamation, for example, the situation would have been reversed: France 2 would have had to defend its slander rather than accuse me of defamation.

MEQ: Why don't you sue France 2 for defamation or fraud? Why are you on the defensive?

Karsenty: That case had to be undertaken by the Israeli state, which did not take this opportunity. Shurat Hadin, an Israeli public interest law firm, tried to take away the press credentials of France 2, but the Israeli government refused, and the Israeli Supreme Court has yet to deliver a verdict on that case.

MEQ: Why?

Karsenty: Because the Israeli government, apparently, would rather appease its enemies than fight back.

MEQ: Could you file a lawsuit against France 2 for defamation against you and against the State of Israel?

Karsenty: Under French law, I wouldn't have standing since I was not the one who was defamed.

MEQ: In your first trial, the judge felt that there was no need to enter the Muhammad al-Dura tapes into evidence. What does this say about the right to discovery in French courts and their due process rules? How is the judge supposed to determine anything about the tapes if he does not care to see them?

Karsenty: The court said that since I hadn't seen the tapes at the time, the court should not take them into account. True, I didn't see the tapes, but I knew people who did and who told me of their content, which is why I felt comfortable coming to the conclusion that I did.

MEQ: Your conclusion, however, was based on hearsay.

Karsenty: My first conclusion was based on what I saw from the France 2 news report on Muhammad al-Dura, on allegations by Nahum Shahaf [an Israeli physicist and reservist with the optical intelligence unit of the IDF],[9] and on my subsequent investigation. What they aired to the public was ridiculous. In those minutes, Muhammad al-Dura showed no agony, and none of the actors were hit by any bullet.

MEQ: You said that the majority of the twenty-seven minutes not initially shown to the public are rushes and staged scenes. Laurence Trebucq, the new judge on appeal, ordered the tapes released but only within the court. Why doesn't she release the images to the general public?

Karsenty: We don't know yet.

MEQ: In the ruling against you in the lower court, the judge went against the recommendation of the public prosecutor who said there was no evidence that you acted with personal animosity, but the judge also seemed upset when he read the judgment against you, and he awarded the plaintiff very little. What does this say to you?

Karsenty: That the judge may have felt uncomfortable, received orders, and was not proud of what he was doing.

MEQ: Received orders from whom?

Karsenty: Perhaps instructions or advice from the justice minister or the people around him. By the way, the judges have no expertise in forensic science or ballistics, nor did they draw on any such expertise.

MEQ: Are you saying that the French courts are not independent judiciaries?

Karsenty: I am not saying that all judges are not so independent. All I am saying is that if you read the verdict that was published two years ago, it seems that it is not really an independent judgment.

MEQ: Was there corruption in your case?

Karsenty: Not at all. You don't need to buy people who are completely brainwashed. Charles Enderlin is like the capo di tutti capi; he is a godfather: he is a moral authority. I went against a case defended by the biggest guy in the Middle East journalism corporate world. Enderlin even used to give advice to diplomats. Let me give you an example: A French journalist told me that when Dominique de Villepin was foreign minister and went to Jerusalem, he gathered all the French correspondents at the embassy, and before his speech, he said, "What does Charles think?" It's unbelievable.

MEQ: So Charles Enderlin is the conscience of France when it comes to the Middle East, and you offended their conscience?

Karsenty: You said it, not me.

MEQ: Who is funding your case?

Karsenty: I funded it myself. I used to be a stockbroker, and then I began doing financial consulting with companies. I have also received honoraria for speeches in the United States.

MEQ: Other people have also said that the Muhammad al-Dura tapes are forgeries. Why did France 2 target you and only you?

Karsenty: Yes, Gerard Huber has said that;[10] James Fallows said that the boy was not killed by the IDF, but he did not say that the incident was staged.[11] The reason they targeted me is because at the time I published it, I had credibility through Media-Ratings [the media watchdog group Karsenty founded in 2004], and I had been invited to give comments about all sorts of topics and media inaccuracies.

What Happened to Muhammad al-Dura?

MEQ: There are different theories about the fate of Muhammad al-Dura. Some say he was killed by the Palestinians, and others say he is alive at the end of the tape but are not clear if he is alive now. What is your version of the incident?

Karsenty: We shouldn't talk about theories but about facts and evidence. At the end of the France 2 film, the boy is not dead. He is raising his elbow and looking at the cameraman. These images are available on Richard Landes' website and on Youtube.[12] If you look at the images, you will see that the boy is clearly not dead. There are no bullet wounds or blood. Those images were never broadcast in France, but they were shown in England on the BBC and in Arab countries. What amazes me is that nobody said, "Wait a minute. There is a problem here." It doesn't make sense. In a news report done one year after his son's alleged death, Dura's father says the first bullet hit his son on the right knee,[13] but the tape shows not a single drop of blood there; it is ridiculous. Nothing makes sense in his version, but nobody wanted to look at the images.

Israel's Silence

MEQ: Circumstantial evidence tends to support your case that the Muhammad al-Dura incident was a staged blood libel. For example, CNN refused cameraman Talal Abu Rahma's initial offer to sell the tapes because he would not guarantee them as real. The twenty-seven minutes of rushes looked staged and rehearsed. A Reuters cameraman recorded Rahma filming other staged events. On what basis did the lower court decide against you?

Karsenty: The Israeli government's refusal to question the tapes was important. The court had a letter from [then-]French president Jacques Chirac praising the journalistic integrity of Charles Enderlin. We both had witness testimony, but the plaintiffs brought Palestinians who testified that the Israelis shot at the father and son with planes, helicopters, and antitank missiles although there was no evidence of any of this on the tapes. Although the plaintiffs' witnesses sounded ridiculous, the judge said, "They testified, and we shouldn't dismiss it because they are Palestinian. They were there, and you were not."

MEQ: Why did Chirac write a letter to the court on behalf of Charles Enderlin?

Karsenty: Chirac wrote a letter commending Charles Enderlin and his attention to accuracy[14] in his latest book. Chirac's team knew this letter would be used at the trial, but the letter was not directly about the Muhammad al-Dura footage. Chirac did this to further his idea of France's politique-arabe.

MEQ: After the lower court ruled against you—in part because the Israeli government did not come to your defense—the IDF wrote to Charles Enderlin requesting that he hand over the footage and saying that the court's statement was not an accurate reflection of the IDF position, and that they wanted to see the tapes.[15] Was this a reaction to the court's decision or a 180-degree shift in Israel's public relations position?

Karsenty: We had been working desperately to get this letter from the IDF.

MEQ: What contributed to the change in Israeli governmental policy towards you?

Karsenty: When the government was fighting such a difficult campaign on the ground, it just wanted to put the Muhammad al-Dura affair behind it. But lies endure. If the good name of Israel is besmirched in this case, it will haunt the country for generations. Note that millions of people continue to believe in the anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Muhammad al-Dura postage stamps already exist in Tunisia, Egypt, Iran, and Jordan. Squares in Morocco and Mali and streets in many cities are named for Dura. Daniel Pearl was beheaded with the image of Muhammad al-Dura behind him. We need to expose the Dura hoax now so our children needn't suffer for this lie.

MEQ: It's obvious that Jerusalem should respond. Why doesn't the Israeli government do something now?

Karsenty: Some people who weren't in the Israeli government at the time the mistake was made used their absence as an excuse: "Since we didn't do it, it's not our responsibility to fix it." For others, it's a question of ego. They don't want to admit that they made a mistake in the first place.

MEQ: Why is Daniel Seaman, director of the Israeli government press office, not listening to the public interest law firm Shurat Hadin and stripping France 2 of its press credentials?

Karsenty: Seaman is a great guy; ask him. You can imagine how much pressure the Israeli establishment has put on him.

MEQ: Do you think Israel and the United States are losing the information war?

Karsenty: What war? They've already lost because they didn't even bother to fight.

The French Media

MEQ: Is there any media accountability in France? Is there any independent monitoring?

Karsenty: They have a mediateur [ombudsman] working between France television and the public. When I called him, he covered up the lie but was then replaced four years later. I called his replacement, who at first was excited to meet me but later called to say his boss forbade the meeting. I met perhaps twenty people at France 2, from the very bottom to the very top, before the case came to court.

MEQ: What prevents someone at France 2 from destroying the tape?

Karsenty: I don't know if anyone besides France 2 has copies. Someone from Fox News compared this to the Nixon tapes. The odd thing is the Nixon tapes also had an eighteen-minute gap. It is going to be huge when we confirm that international media used staged and fake footage. When the truth comes out, it will be devastating—that is, if the truth really does come out. Rather than accept responsibility, France 2 may say that I did make my statements in good faith but that I didn't prove the tapes were staged. This may be how they sweep this episode under the rug.

MEQ: Do you think that the French media seek to appease the local Muslim population?

Karsenty: The media go well beyond appeasement to incitement.

MEQ: You are saying France 2 actually sought to incite violence against the Jewish population by airing the Muhammad al-Dura tapes?

Karsenty: Yes, it used this as a form of pressure on Israel. Chirac used the French Jews as hostages. He seemed to say to the State of Israel, "I have 600,000 Jews in France, and if you don't behave correctly towards the Palestinians, we will show this footage and the Jews of France will be assaulted."

MEQ: Do the French people think that this is just your issue or just a Jewish problem? Do they see the larger implications? Are they not insulted that their media is lying to them?

Karsenty: For the French, if it's in the newspaper or on television, it's true. But thanks to this story, things are changing.

MEQ: The French media consistently ignores your case. Why?

Karsenty: I call France the "little U.S.S.R." The difference between the Soviet Union and France, however, is that the Soviets knew they were being lied to while the French think they know the truth.

MEQ: Will Nicolas Sarkozy's presidency change the situation?

Karsenty: He is now responsible. France 2 is state-owned television, which makes Sarkozy its owner. He should have France 2 apologize to the world. I brought him all the documents in 2005. I met two of his advisers in April 2008, who agreed that the incident was fully staged. But Sarkozy hasn't responded to date.

MEQ: How independent is the French media?

Karsenty: Everyone in the private media depends on the state in one way or another, which explains why they refused to report on my trial, even after foreign media began to cover it. When it comes to foreign policy, there is no independence in either public or private media.

MEQ: Do you think the broader press knows they are guilty of over-reliance on Palestinian fixers?

Karsenty: Yes. But it would be revolutionary for them to admit that they are dealing with fixers who are liars. It is the same thing in Iraq and in most Middle East countries.

MEQ: Was there any variation in how the French press covered the case, in what little they did cover?

Karsenty: Most of the media have been against me. The biggest weekly in France, the Nouvel Observateur, issued a petition to support Enderlin's lies. Guess what? Hundreds of journalists, personalities, and simple people signed it.[16]

MEQ: Why does the French media have not only an anti-Israel and anti-U.S. agenda but also a pro-Arab agenda?

Karsenty: The French don't like Arabs at all. The proof? They mistreat them in France, but they feel guilty for the way they treated them in the colonies.

MEQ: Do you sense hostility to Jews?

Karsenty: Yes, the French will never forgive Jews for exposing French collaboration in the Holocaust. This is one motivation for depicting Israel as a Nazi state. It is the French way of saying "We behaved no worse than the Jews do now." It helps the French feel less responsible for their collaboration with the Nazis.

MEQ: What do you think is the future of French news reporting now that France is launching a CNN-like 24-hour news service? Will this network improve French journalism?

Karsenty: No. That would require a major cultural change. It is ironic that the French media complain about U.S. journalists embedding with the U.S. military in Iraq but don't recognize that they themselves have been embedded with the French government in Paris. There is certainly an incestuous relationship between the media and political individuals in Paris.


MEQ: You recently won your appeal?

Karsenty: Yes, we won the case completely; the court decision was clear. The court, however, did not have to rule that the tapes were staged but, rather, said that I could publish what I wanted because I had evidence that it was staged. The written arguments say that I am right, yet all of what the court said intrinsically supported my statement that the incident was staged.

MEQ: Did you get any award for damages, costs, or attorney's fees?

Karsenty: No. The whole process cost me money.

MEQ: Why?

Karsenty: Under the French system, I had to pay success fees to the lawyers, and I liked that. But because of the Israeli government's horrible reaction and attitude, I decided this will be my last fight for Israel. France 2 is even now appealing the verdict to the Supreme Court.

MEQ: What reaction?

Karsenty: The Israeli ambassador and other diplomats don't want this victory. The spokesman for the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that I was a private individual and that the Israeli government didn't ask me to take on this battle, and so I had no right to ask that Israel come to my aid.[17]

MEQ: Has any French media covered your success?

Karsenty: At the beginning, no, of course not, but The Wall Street Journal had a huge piece on it.[18] There was also a short article in Le Monde.[19] Le Monde said that France 2 had lost but not that I had won. There is a difference. And now, Le Figaro published one editorial piece and a confidential note.[20] And we're expecting more to come.

MEQ: What do you think the effect of this decision will be on France 2 and French reporting on the Middle East?

Karsenty: Very little, because the French media is still covering up the lie and because the Israeli government doesn't want to use this victory to take a stand against the lies of the Western media. Things could change if Israeli diplomats were doing their job and if Sarkozy was doing his. He should force France 2 to admit to the fraud and apologize to the whole world.

MEQ: What are the implications of your case for French Jews and Muslims?

Karsenty: People who really care about the Arabs see that I am pro-Arab. Who suffers most in this war with Israel? Arabs. Incitement creates hatred. Chirac was not a friend of the Arab people; rather, he was their worst enemy. He was the best friend of Arab dictators because of business and political deals. Telling Arabs to stop wanting to die for lies helps them to have a better life, and this is also what I tried to do. The Muhammad al-Dura tapes were a lie that created much hatred and violence, contrary to the interests of Arab peoples.

MEQ: Do you see your suit helping to guarantee freedom of speech in France?

Karsenty: No. The French people don't care about this. They think they have freedom of speech because they live in a country where they are allowed to say Chirac is silly. They don't realize how uniform acceptable speech is on foreign issues.

MEQ: Have you considered a defamation suit against Charles Enderlin?

Karsenty: Many people and media outlets defamed me in order to influence the course of justice. I was thinking of suing them, but what is the point? The bottom line is that when I won the trial, instead of winning compensation, I was saddled with legal bills from my lawyers. For these past six years, I have taken physical risks, and it has been exhausting. If I sue them, it will just consume more time. I want to go back to business. And I also respect my adversaries' freedom of speech even when it means they're defaming me. We shouldn't fight defamation through lawsuits but with the truth.

MEQ: What next?

Karsenty: Ultimately, the case will not be solved in a court; it will be solved politically.

MEQ: In the court of public opinion?

Karsenty: No, by Sarkozy. He has to do something. Otherwise, I may have to undertake a campaign to show that Sarkozy doesn't want to reverse the state-sponsored anti-Semitism that Chirac initiated.

[1] "France 2: Arlette Chabot et Charles Enderlin doivent être démis de leurs fonctions immédiatement," Media-Ratings, Nov. 22, 2004.
[2] The Jerusalem Post, May 21, 2008.
[3] "Arlette Chabot et Charles Enderlin," Media-Ratings, Nov. 22, 2004.
[4] "France 2 Counters Accusations with Lawsuits," Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), Boston, Jan. 18, 2007.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Denis Jeambar and Daniel Leconte, interview on French radio station RCJ, Feb. 1, 2005, in "Backgrounder: Mohammed al-Dura, Anatomy of a French Media Scandal," CAMERA, May 21, 2008.
[7] JTA News Service, Nov. 15, 2007; Israel News Agency, Nov. 21, 2007; "Backgrounder: Mohammed al-Dura."
[8] Associated Press, May 21, 2008; The Jerusalem Post, May 21, 2008.
[9] "Backgrounder: Mohammed al-Dura."
[10] Gerard Huber, "Misère de journalistes, misère de républicains," June 14, 2008, accessed June 24, 2008.
[11] James Fallows, "Who Shot Mohammed al-Dura?" Atlantic Monthly, June 2003.
[12] Richard Landes, Al Durah: The Birth of an Icon. What Happened? accessed June 24, 2008; "Al Dura Affair: The 10 Seconds Never Shown by France 2," Youtube, accessed June 24, 2008.
[13] "Personal Testimonies, Jamal Al Durra," transcript of online discussion on, Oct. 30, 2000,
[14] Chirac to Enderlin, Media-Ratings, Feb. 25, 2004, accessed June 11, 2008.
[15] The Jerusalem Post, Sept. 17, 2007.
[16] "Appel: Pour Charles Enderlin," Nouvel Observateur (Paris), June 23, 2008.
[17] The Media Line (New York), May 29, 2008.
[18] Nidra Poller, "A Hoax?" The Wall Street Journal, Europe, May 27, 2008; "Al-Durra Case Revisited," The Wall Street Journal, Europe, May 27, 2008.
[19] Le Monde (Paris), May 24, 2008.
[20] Ivan Rioufol, "Les médias, pouvoir intouchable?" Le Figaro (Paris), June 13, 2008.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Iranian official: Iran proud to support Hezbollah, Hamas

Last update - 22:00 22/10/2008    
 Iranian official: Tehran proud of its support for Hezbollah, Hamas

Iranian speaker of parliament Ali Larijani on Wednesday declared that Iran was proud of its support for the Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah movements, rejecting claims that it could be considered support for terrorism.
He said the support was part of Iran's commitment in the region to assist its neighbors in fighting occupation, and he accused the United States, the West and Israel of contradicting the values of freedom and democracy.
"They are freedom fighters fighting to defend their country and independence, that is not terrorism," he said about Hamas and Hezbollah.

Larijani, who is on a two-day official visit to Bahrain, also accused the U.S. of trying to incite border and sectarian conflict among the countries of the region to use it as an excuse to increase military sales for what he said was an effort to re-take the oil sales revenues.
He reiterated Iran's call to neighbouring Gulf states not to allow U.S. and Western military bases to be erected on their soil, insisting that Iran was never a threat to its neighbors.
"It was the Americans who encouraged Saddam to attack Iran and despite some of the regional countries support for him we nevereza Rice in a personal manner, referring to her not having had children.
"The West needs to reconsider what they say. The top U.S. diplomat Condoleezza Rice, during the Israeli aggression against Lebanon which lasted 33 days, described the war as 'the birth pangs of a new Middle  East'," Larijani was quoted as saying by Al Wasat.
"As a woman who did not try the experience of pregnancy she seems to not have known that a birth needs longer time than that," he said.
Meanwhile the Saudi daily Al-Watan reported that Larijani was due to travel to Iraq and Lebanon in the next few days.
Larijani will convey messages from Iraqi Ayatollah Ali Sistani to Hezbollah Secretary General Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the daily quoted unnamed sources from Iran as saying.
The sources said that the letter carried by Larijani reveals Sistani's position on the security agreement between Iraq and the United States.
The report on the visit coincided with one published by the Iraqi Web site Almalaf on Wednesday that Nasrallah was poisoned last week and that his life was saved by Iranian doctors who were rushed to Lebanon to treat him.
The website quoted diplomatic sources in Beirut as saying that a particularly poisonous chemical substance was used against the Shi'ite militia leader.

Hezbollah goes better with coke

Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg - and it is hardly new - just a reminder of how these groups are financed.
From the Los Angeles Times

Colombian cocaine ring linked to Hezbollah

U.S. and Colombian officials say they have dismantled a South American-based drug ring that helped finance the Lebanon-based Shiite militant group.
By Chris Kraul and Sebastian Rotella

11:19 PM PDT, October 21, 2008

Reported from Bogota, Colombia and Madrid — U.S. and Colombian investigators have dismantled an international cocaine smuggling and money laundering ring that allegedly used part of its profits to finance Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Shiite militia, officials said Tuesday.

Culminating a two-year investigation, authorities arrested at least 36 suspects in recent days, including an accused Lebanese kingpin in Bogota, the Colombian capital. Chekry Harb, who used the alias "Taliban," acted as the hub of an unusual and alarming alliance between South American cocaine traffickers and Middle Eastern militants, Colombian investigators allege.

Authorities accuse Harb of being a "world-class money launderer" whose ring washed hundreds of millions of dollars a year, from Panama to Hong Kong, while paying a percentage to Hezbollah, which is designated as a terrorist group by the United States and Israel. Harb was charged with drug-related crimes in a sealed indictment filed in Miami in July, but terrorism-related charges have not been filed.

The suspects allegedly worked with a Colombian cartel and a paramilitary group to smuggle cocaine to the United States, Europe and the Middle East. Harb traveled extensively to Lebanon, Syria and Egypt and was in phone contact with Hezbollah figures, according to Colombian officials.

"The profits from the sales of drugs went to finance Hezbollah," said Gladys Sanchez, lead investigator for the special prosecutor's office in Bogota, in an interview. "This is an example of how narco-trafficking is a theme of interest to all criminal organizations, the FARC, the paramilitaries and terrorists."

The FARC is the Spanish acronym for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrilla group.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration led the far-flung investigation, playing a central role in nailing down the Hezbollah connection, Sanchez said. U.S. officials in Bogota and Washington declined to discuss details of their evidence.

Iran, Hezbollah's longtime sponsor, and donations from the Lebanese diaspora are two sources for a multimillion-dollar budget that pays for the militia's armed and political wings and for social projects such as hospitals in Beirut. But investigations around the world have shown that Hezbollah also funds itself through drug dealing, arms trafficking, contraband smuggling and other rackets in the Americas, Africa and elsewhere.

Western anti-terrorism agents have expressed concern about an increasing Hezbollah presence in South America. The militia is accused of two major anti-Jewish bombings in Argentina in the 1990s. In June, the U.S. Treasury Department designated two Venezuelans of Lebanese descent, one a diplomat, as Hezbollah financiers and supporters.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's alliance with Iran raises fears that his country could become a base for Hezbollah activity, said U.S. and Israeli anti-terrorist officials who spoke anonymously because of the issue's sensitivity. Venezuela has strongly denied any links to terrorist activity.

Venezuela also serves as the corridor for a third of Colombian cocaine bound for the U.S. and Europe, including some loads moved by Harb's group, Colombian investigators said.

The case unveiled Tuesday began as a money laundering probe, but as agents followed the money they discovered the links between Harb and Hezbollah operatives, investigators said. Harb's group paid Hezbollah 12% of its profits, much of it in cash, the investigators said, without giving a dollar figure.

The inquiry grew into Operation Titan, a two-year case worked by Colombian and U.S. agents that has led to more than 130 arrests and the seizure of $23 million, Sanchez said. Investigators deployed 370 wiretaps and monitored 700,000 conversations.

"This case was brought about by putting undercover agents into the money laundering cycle," said a U.S. government official who was not authorized to comment publicly. "This has given us a window into the worldwide financial enterprise that by dotted lines links traffickers from South America and the United States to West Africa, Europe and Hong Kong."

The drugs were allegedly sent via Panama, Venezuela and Guatemala to the U.S., the Middle East and Europe.

Chinese police this year captured Oscar Cano Alazate, a Colombian accused of setting up dozens of front companies in Hong Kong to launder money for the group. Hong Kong and the Panama free-trade zone served as centers for a scheme whereby drug cash from the U.S. was funneled to firms that use it to buy goods, which are shipped to Colombia and sold to be turned back into cash, investigators said.

The group also used human couriers, fake businesses, international transfers and real estate transactions to launder the money in other locations, including Africa and Canada, Colombian officials said.

On Oct. 13, Colombian police arrested Harb, who lived on a resident's visa in Bogota with his family, after learning that he had an Air France ticket to Syria for the next day and becoming concerned that he might flee. They also arrested the other accused boss, Ali Mohamad Rahim, and Harb's brother, Zacaria, both Lebanese immigrants who had been living in Bogota. Chekry Harb is in his late 50s and Rahim in his early 40s, officials said.

Colombian officials said the three are among 15 of the suspects who will be extradited to the United States.

Harb's key suppliers in Bogota included leaders of the so-called Office of Envigado, according to Colombian authorities. The paramilitary drug trafficking organization headed by Diego Fernando Murillo, known as Don Berna, and other former foot soldiers of the late Medellin cartel boss Pablo Escobar has an international reach.

Kraul and Rotella are Times staff writers.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Lebanon's refugees in Israel & the Lebanese Leaders' Questionable Credibility

Lebanon's refugees in Israel & the Lebanese Leaders' Questionable Credibility
By: Elias Bejjani*

October 22/08

We call on the Lebanese government and parliament to grant unconditional amnesty to the ex-members of the South Lebanon Army (SLA) who sought refuge in neighboring Israel with their families after the unilateral withdrawal of the Israeli troops from South Lebanon in May 2000 in accordance with the UN Resolution 425. A grant of amnesty is justified especially in light of the fact that (after Syrian troops were forced to withdraw from Lebanon in accordance with the UN Resolution 1559) the Lebanese parliament passed in 2005 an amnesty law that pardoned numerous leaders and individuals in a bid to pave the way for a comprehensive national milieu of reconciliation among the country's mosaic, multicultural communities that compose Lebanese society?

In reality, the other Lebanese people throughout Lebanon have not endured the horrible injustice suffered by those Southern Lebanese citizens (Especially those living in the Southern security zone and Jezzine city).

For the last thirty years Lebanon's Southern citizens were and still are victims of alienation, assaults, persecution, expulsion and impoverishment, not only at the hands of terrorists and fundamentalist foreign and local militias, including the Iranian Army of Hezbollah, but most importantly as a result of complete abandonment by all successive Lebanese governments since 1975.

Lebanon's Southern citizens have been left to face all kinds of oppression alone since 1975. One wonders why the successive Lebanese governments and parliamentarians (since 2005) have declined to assume their national responsibilities regarding our refugees in Israel?

The Israeli government disarmed and forced the SLA militia to dismantle in 2000, just a few days before the withdrawal of its army from South Lebanon. Those SLA members who risked their lives and stayed in Lebanon were subjected to vigilantism and unfair trials, which resulted in harsh sentences and death penalties against more than 70 individuals. Others, who left Lebanon were sentenced in absentia and once they return to Lebanon will be arrested. Many of SLA's militia men are still deprived of their civil rights, while suffering persecution and poverty.

With the Israeli pullout in May 2000, nearly 6,500 Lebanese men, along with members of their families, left the South and escaped to Israel and other countries (USA, Australia, Canada, Germany, etc.), forced to leave their homes, villages, and all their properties in fear for their lives.

Before the Israeli withdrawal, Hezbollah waged a merciless and savage media campaign against them. The campaign was aired publicly on all local and international TV and radio stations. The most frightening threats were uttered by Hezbollah's General Secretary Sheik Nasrallah who savagely said, "We will enter their bedrooms, pierce their stomachs, slaughter them and slice their throats."

Since then about 4,000 of them have returned to Lebanon in successive waves during the last eight years. The Lebanese Army arrested the men who returned but let the women and children go. The men were interrogated, humiliated and the majority of them were sentenced to terms of imprisonment on charges of treason, collaboration, contacting an enemy and living in an enemy country. Their trials were a farce, biased and hasty. Many of those sentenced were stripped of their civil rights and forced to abandon their villages and cities. At the present time more than 2,500 remain in Israel, 500 of them have been granted Israeli citizenship and now run the risk of being imprisoned and charged with treason on returning home to Lebanon.

Numerous Lebanese MPs oppose amnesty. They allege, based on their sickening, selfish, psychotic and bizarre criteria--that the ex-SLA members have blood on their hands and should not be involved in any reconciliation process because they have been living in Israel for more than 8 years. They argue that such individuals could be tempted to spy for Israel. Those MPs who are patriotically alienated, hypocrites and Pharisees are sadly members in both, the pro-Lebanon and pro Syria-Iran political blocks (The 8th and the 14th March blocks).

Should former SLA members be pardoned like the rest of the numerous Lebanese militia leaders and members?

Yes, for sure. Not only that, but they should be decorated with medals of honor and welcomed back in their country as heroes. They did not betray Lebanon; they did not abandon their beloved land; they did not succumb to terrorists and terrorism and, in fact, they were the only organized Lebanese Militia that fought terrorists and terrorism since 1975, against the PLO, all the leftists, and Arabists in the early years and afterwards Hezbollah. Their fight was for peace, dignity, human rights and national identity.

The biased and inhumane stance of those against amnesty does not take in consideration that these people, our people of the South, have been forced to flee from their villages in 2000, out of fear that they might be subjected to reprisals on the part of those who accused them of having played the enemy's game.

Sheik Hassan Nasrallah and others deny the fact that SLA was composed of Lebanese citizens from all walks of life, religions and denominations. The Lebanese army helped in its formation in the mid seventies in a bid to defend the southern villages, cities and towns against terrorists and fundamentalists: the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization), leftists and Arabists in the seventies and eighties, and Hezbollah since 1982. The aim of all these organizations was--and continues to be--the destruction of Lebanon's freedoms, democracy and independence and the waging of a terrorist guerrilla war against Israel.

These criminal threats against Lebanon's own were real, clear, unequivocal and are well documented. Those who are now justifying the threats as legitimate war tactics should not dismiss the fact that during the last thirty years the Lebanese people suffered on the hands of Syria, PLO, Hezbollah and Arabists ugly massacres in many villages and cities, e.g. Ayshiya in the South, Kaa in Bekaa, in the capital Beirut, in Kehali, Ebadiea, Araya, Bmariem, in the Mount, and Damour in AlChouf  etc.

Addressing the Issue of our refugees in Israel was a taboo imposed by the Syrian occupier, and the fundamentalists before 2005. But now that Syria does not occupy Lebanon any more, this taboo must and should be washed out and the case re-opened.

We appeal to the Lebanese parliament and to all the Lebanese leadership, without exception, especially to the Christian parties to assume their national and moral responsibilities in regard to our refugees in Israel. We call for the formation of a judicial-parliamentary commission to study this bleeding issue and shed light on all its aspects.

We wonder about the standards of patriotism, collaboration and treason by which our Southern refugees are judged. We ask to be informed accurately on the destiny of those leaders, clergy men, politicians, officials, individuals and groups, especially Hezbollah, if we are to apply these same standards to them after we dissect their actions and their regional relationships and objectives along with all the atrocities their hands have committed, and they are plenty.

Most of those who tag SLA members as traitors are in fact criminals, kidnappers, terrorists and have committed notorious terrorist, anti-human acts of killing, persecution, kidnapping, thievery, bribery, collaboration with foreign powers, beheading and hanging of our fellow citizens.

Because a human must take a stand, the national and human duty requires that all Lebanese leaders and groups publicly declare their clear positions on the issues of our refugees in Israel and the Diaspora. Hidden ruses, internalizations, and clever wordings will not fool the Lebanese anymore; as it was stated in the Bible about halfhearted, Laodicean followers of God in the last days of earth's history: "I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth." (Revelation 3:15-16)

Because the tenants of justice presume that one is innocent until proven guilty, we advise those who have appointed themselves as judges, juries and hangmen, and who have started issuing judgments and verdicts according to their standards and beliefs to fear God and repent, because God is patient but not negligent, and with the Nazarene we tell them loudly; "Who amongst you has no sin, throw the first stone".

Lord, save our homeland, Lebanon, from evil and calamities.
Lord, return all our people to the land of the Cedars, proud and welcomed.
Lord, keep away the diseases of blindness and arrogance from our people.

*Elias Bejjani
Human Rights activist, journalist & political commentator.

Writer's LCCC Web Site:
Writers Face Book LCCC group


Iran: youth still going to hang

This BBC report refutes an erroneous earlier item that claimed that Iran would stop hanging youths. Iran's interpretation of Sharia law mandates hanging of youthful offenders unless families of the victim commute the punishment.  "Just hanging out" has a different meaning in Iran.
A senior judicial figure in Iran has cast doubt on reports that Tehran will stop executing juveniles.
Deputy prosecutor general Hossein Zebhi told a newspaper that under Sharia law only a murder victim's family could commute a death sentence.
He had suggested last week that judges were being told to stop imposing the death penalty on young offenders.
Iran has been widely condemned for being one of the few remaining nations to execute offenders aged under 18.
Amnesty International says at least six youths have been executed in Iran this year alone.
Mr Zebhi was quoted by the daily Etemad-e Melli newspaper as saying: "The principle of retribution... is not up to the government, rather it is up to the private plaintiff."
"Only if the next of kin give their consent can there be a reduction in the punishment," he added.
Blood money
His earlier comments suggesting a possible ban on juvenile execution had been welcomed by human right campaigners, including Amnesty International.
Critics say Iran's practice of handing down the death penalty to juvenile offenders - those aged under 18 at the time of the crime - is explicitly banned by the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Tehran is a signatory.
Many convicted juvenile offenders have been on death row for years, as negotiations continue over whether victims' families will accept blood money - cash to avoid execution.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Iran sanction talks deadlocked

What did you expect?

Iran sanction talks produce no result

Oct. 20, 2008
Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST

Senior diplomats from six world powers discussed on Monday the possibility of imposing new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, but they failed again to reach consensus on how or whether to continue, US officials said.

The talks among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - along with Germany came after the Chinese dropped objections to the consultations, the officials said. China had blocked the discussion for almost two weeks, apparently in retaliation for US arms sales to Taiwan.

The United States had been trying to organize the telephone conference call since the beginning of the month after the Security Council, in late September, passed a new resolution to reaffirm three previous rounds of sanctions on Iran but imposing no new penalties that the United States and its European allies had sought.

On the call, the diplomats said "they remain committed to the dual-track strategy and will remain in close contact on developments over the coming days and weeks," said deputy State Department spokesman Robert Wood. He would not discuss details of the conversation.

The dual-track strategy is the main element of a slow-moving pressure campaign to persuade Iran to give up objectionable parts of its nuclear program. It would offer to Iran incentives to stop enriching uranium but threatens sanctions if Teheran should continue to refuse, which it has done thus far.

Russia and China have balked at additional sanctions.

Egyptian plan gives Hamas veto over peace agreements

It states:
Egypt also said Abbas should continue peace talks with Israel but that any deal needs approval from Hamas and other factions sworn to Israel's destruction.
So let's see. Israel makes concessions to the Palestinian Authority  (== "Fatah") . The Hamas says no, and then Israel must make more concessions. A better plan is to simply negotiate the peace treaty with the Hamas. Hamas of course, will accept no reasonable unity plan, because the plans are proposed by Egypt. Hamas is a pawn of Syria and Iran, who aren't going to let Egypt get credit for any unity deal. Hamas will also say "no" to any peace deal because that would be a success for the United States, and Iran can't allow that either.

Last update - 20:09 20/10/2008       
Egypt presents Fatah, Hamas with Palestinian unity proposal
By Reuters
Egypt on Monday called on rival Palestinian factions to form a unity government and restructure their security forces in a bid to end hostilities that have undermined efforts to reach a statehood deal.
Cairo presented a four-page proposal, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction and Islamist Hamas, outlining steps the groups should take to end their power struggle.
Egypt also said Abbas should continue peace talks with Israel but that any deal needs approval from Hamas and other factions sworn to Israel's destruction.
Egypt drafted the proposal after a series of talks with 13 Palestinian factions. It will be discussed when the groups meet again in Cairo on November 9.
Previous Arab-led initiatives have failed to reconcile the bitter rivals.
The Egyptian proposal calls for the immediate formation of a Palestinian unity government and an agreement on when to hold national elections.
A previous unity government collapsed after Hamas routed Fatah forces to take control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Abbas sacked the Hamas-led government and appointed a Western-backed administration in the West Bank, where Fatah holds sway.
The groups also disagree on when to hold new elections, with Fatah calling for both presidential and parliamentary elections to be held in 2010 and Hamas saying Abbas's term ends in January 2009. Cairo's proposal calls for simultaneous elections.
Egypt said that Hamas and Fatah security forces should be removed from factional politics and be operated at a national level.
The proposal also said any peace deal Abbas reaches with Israel should be brought to a national referendum or presented to a restructured Palestinian Liberation Organization that includes Hamas and other factions that oppose the peace process.

IAEA's El Baradei: Iran not close to nukes

Of course, "close" is a relative concept....  

IAEA chief: Iran not close to developing nuclear weapons
By Haaretz Service and The Associated Press
The head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency said on Monday that Iran remains far from acquiring capabilities to develop nuclear weapons.
In an interview broadcast on Channel 10, the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed ElBaradei, said the Islamic Republic is still lacking the key components to produce an atomic weapon.
"They do not have even the nuclear material, the raw unenriched uranium to develop one nuclear weapon if they decide to do so," ElBaradei said. "Even if you decide to walk out tomorrow from the non-proliferation treaty and you go into a lot of scenarios, we're still not going to see Iran tomorrow having nuclear weapons."
Senior diplomats from six world powers on Monday discussed the possibility of imposing new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, but they failed anew to reach a consensus on how or whether to proceed, U.S. officials said.
The high-level talks among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - along with Germany, came after the Chinese dropped objections to the consultations, the officials said. China had blocked the discussion for nearly two weeks, apparently in retaliation for U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
The United States had been trying to organize the telephone conference call since the beginning of the month after the Security Council, in late September, passed a new resolution reaffirming three previous rounds of sanctions on Iran but imposing no new penalties that the U.S. and its European allies had sought.
On the call, the diplomats said "they remain committed to the dual-track strategy and will remain in close contact on developments over the coming days and weeks," said deputy State Department spokesman Robert Wood. He declined to discuss details of the conversation.
The dual-track strategy is the main element of a slow-moving pressure campaign to persuade Iran to give up objectionable parts of its nuclear program. It calls for offering Iran incentives to stop enriching uranium but imposing sanctions if Tehran refuses, which it has thus far done.
Russia and China have balked at additional sanctions.

Israeli police arrent 9 for attacks on Arabs in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem

Those who perpetrate these attacks are shaming Zionism and Israel. They are engaging in pointless hooliganism and undermining the fabric of Israeli society. They are acting as gentiles once did to Jews.
Last update - 15:52 20/10/2008       
Police arrest 9 Jews over recent assaults on Arabs in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv
By Jonathan Lis and Yuval Goren, Haaretz Correspondent and Reuters
Police have arrested nine Jews suspected of recent assaults against Arabs in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, including several firebombings that set some homes ablaze.
Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said six Jews were arrested on Monday on suspicion of involvement in firebombings of Arab homes in the Hatikva neighborhood in southern Tel Aviv. The attacks, which took place roughly five days ago, caused damage but no injuries.
The remands of two of the suspects, both minors, were extended by four days by a juvenile court in Tel Aviv. The remands of three other suspects were extended by three days. All six suspects deny involvement in the acts.
Police sources said that additional suspects have not yet been arrested, and that one of the minors had been briefly detained roughly one month ago on suspicion of attempting to carry out a similar offense. The same sources expressed fears that such incidents are on the rise in Tel Aviv.
Police arrested three other Jews on Sunday after scuffles with Arabs in Jerusalem, where a garbage truck driven by an Arab was stoned on Bar Ilan Street. The driver was treated at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Kerem for minor injuries.
A total of seven Arabs were injured in clashes with Jews in Jerusalem on Sunday. In a pre-dawn incident, six Arabs were injured in a brawl with a group of Jewish youth.
Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski Sunday criticized the stone-throwing.
"This is the behavior of hooligans, and these loose canons must be judged severely," he said. He added that the incident would not damage the fabric of life in the city.
The violence coincided with rioting last week in the northern city of Acre, where tensions between Jews and Arabs flared after an Arab resident of the city drove into a Jewish neighbourhood on Yom Kippur, when traffic largely comes to a halt.

Iranian danger in South America

Gabriel Calabrese points out the increasing danger for Israel and the United States emanating from the alliance between Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Iran. Actually, Iran has been subverting South American countries for a while. Their Hezbollah bases in South America made possible the attack on the Buenos Aires Jewish Center and on the Israeli embassy. They have converted a large group of Indians to Shia Islam as well.

Iran increasingly seeking to extend its sphere of influence to Latin America
Gabriel Calabrese Published:  10.19.08, 18:38 / Israel Opinion 

The world community is waiting in anticipation to see the next American president's stance on confronting Iran's nuclear threat. Yet it appears that Tehran has decided not to wait and has moved on its own to develop a means of attacking the US from its own backyard.
While the Latin American Left has consistently complained about North American interference in Venezuela's domestic affairs, it has completely ignored the dangerous infiltration of Iran's radical regime.
Over the past six years, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has allowed Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to increasingly meddle in his country's affairs. Putting Venezuela at the center of a new, troublesome initiative, shaping Latin America's future is part of Iran's strategic gamble against the West.
Traditionally considered a "zone of peace," Latin America is mutating into a new sanctuary for those who sympathize with radical Islam.
Hugo Chávez opened Latin America's doors to Iran's fundamentalist regime, sealing the alliance through 11 meetings with Ahmadinejad
and visiting Tehran on six occasions since assuming power. Chávez is a principal champion of Iran's nuclear ambitions and has routinely supported radical groups in the Middle East, even calling Israel's 2006 military offensive in Lebanon a "new Holocaust." But Chávez has not only supported extremist ideologies far from his own country, as some unscrupulous politicians have done in the past: he has woven these movements directly into the Venezuelan landscape.
One of those groups is Hizbullah-Venezuela, which has grown by taking advantage of the discontent and marginalization of indigenous communities. The vacuum that was created after Chávez expelled Christian Evangelicals from the country is used by Hizbullah to indoctrinate the Indian community of Wayuu-Guagira.
One of its leaders, ex-Marxist Teodoro Rafael Darnot, now claims to bring about the kingdom of God in Venezuela through his activities, and works with the Chavez government. The motto appearing on Hizbullah-Venezuela's website states: "The brief enjoyment of life on earth is selfish. The other life is better for those who follow Allah." While Venezuela remains a Christian cultural zone, the government's cooperation with Iran reflects strategic desires, and does not reflect any Venezuelan demographic change.
Iranian threat growing far broader than Mideast
Last November Chávez proposed to his "ideological friend" Ahmadinejad a plan to build a joint "anti-imperialist" army to fight the "Great Satan" and defend the nations from a possible US attack. He also called Iran "a friend to trust" during the sixth Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas summit (ALBA) that took place in Caracas. During the summit, Chávez praised Ahmadinejad's promises to share Iranian scientific developments with Latin America. They also agreed to invest billions of dollars in every country that cuts its ties with the US. "This fund, my brother," Chávez said, "will become a mechanism for liberation."
Confirming the foreseeable repercussions that such statements may trigger, journalist Patricia Poleo reported on July 9 that Venezuelans of Arab ancestry are being recruited under the auspices of Tarek el Ayssami, Venezuela's vice-minister of the interior, for combat training in Hizbullah camps in south Lebanon.
These developments imply a serious shift of alliances in Latin America. Iran and Hizbulllah are now present in the Tri-Border Area that binds Puerto Iguazu (Argentina) Ciudad del Este (Paraguay) and Foz do Iguacu (Brazil); They operate at Maicao in Colombia, in Margarita Island in Venezuela, at Monkey Point in Nicaragua as well as in Bolivia and Ecuador. Chávez's sympathy toward the leftist terrorist group FARC is switching to radical organizations of Islamic backgrounds.
Leftist radical groups are realizing that, after all, their goals are not much different to the ones proposed by Islamic fanatical organizations, and are ready to leave their communist façade and adopt a set of beliefs seemingly in total contradiction to their former causes as long as they provide them the elements and means to overthrow democratic societies.
As a result of North American inattention to its own hemisphere, Iran is finding a new proxy for its global aspirations; without the need to "export" any terrorists, Iran is growing them on Latin American soil. Ahmadinejad has traveled to Latin America three more times than Bush has, leading some Latin American countries to seek a separate accommodation with Iran.
The Iranian threat is growing far broader than the Middle East and will be at the forefront of the next US Administration, no matter which government gets elected. Iran's sphere of influence is systematically filling the gap wherever liberal democracies are leaving a vacuum, be it Gaza, Lebanon, or Venezuela. Unless there is an active policy to counter Iranian strategy, the so- called axis of evil may gain a new member: Venezuela.
Gabriel Calabrese is completing his studies in international relations and Latin American studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Calabrese is doing a traineeship at the Foreign Ministry of Israel and is currently in Washington, D.C. where he is completing an internship at The Israel Project, a strategic communications organization