The Zardari Government is making peace with the Taliban which is hanging amputated bodies from electric poles.
AMIR MATEEN analyses the dangers for Pakistan
THE ONE-TIME tourist heaven of Swat looks like a ghost valley today. The people have still not recovered from the gory nightmare that was unleashed by the local Taliban. The last one-and-a-half year has seen a population of 1.5 million people being held hostage by a ragtag force of some 2,500 Taliban. They are under the leadership of Maulvi Fazalullah, popularly known as Mullah Radio for his jihad-inflected sermons, aired through his illegal FM radio. Fazalullah's men have fought bloody battles with the army over the past two years. They virtually took control of most of Swat last year. Over 1,200 civilians have died so far and around 350,000 hapless locals forced to leave through rough mountain terrain.
The rich have left for Peshawar — 70 miles away, and the richer for more posh Islamabad — 100 miles in the south. The poor, with no place to go, suffered the trauma that makes Hollywood horrors look like a picnic. Intelligence sources dubbed as 'spies' and government officials — particularly from law-enforcing agencies — were specifically targeted by the Taliban. They were abducted and maimed and their killing turned into a gruesome spectacle in order to send a message to others.
The reign of terror is symbolised by what has come to be known as Khooni Chowk — the Crossing of Blood. A band of Taliban would, late at night, block the central crossing in the city centre of Mingora, the district headquarters the size of Srinagar and no less beautiful. They hung amputated bodies — some headless — on an electrical pole in the middle of the crossing, with notes giving their name and details of their 'misdeeds' against Islam. The bodies were not to be removed before a given date. Anybody violating this dictat could do so only at the risk of being himself put up headless.
THIS SCENE — perpetuated for days and weeks — is not from the Wild West of the cowboys. It happened in the Swat valley, which once took pride in having the most peaceful and bettereducated residents not just in the frontier province alone, but all over Pakistan. The princely state — annexed by Pakistan in 1969 — had better schools, hospitals and police stations than anybody else. It had an airport, and attractions like ski resorts and trout fishing on the meandering River Swat, which used to attract hordes of tourists every year. No more.
A majority of the police force has either run away, resigned or simply not turned up for work. Local newspapers are filled with advertisements from policemen declaring that they have left their jobs, and hence they be spared "in the name of their small children." A new force of 600 locals was recruited for special commando training to combat what is actually an insurgency. The story goes that 450 of them disappeared during the training itself, and another 148 did not appear on the date of joining. The two men left in the force have not ventured outside their office in uniform since.
This left the entire populace at the mercy of the wolves that are masquerading as saviours of religion. People have seen throats being slit. Those who violate the Taliban code are either lashed or hanged in public jirgas (gatherings). Events where masked gunmen with the latest weaponry went on the rampage were skillfully orchestrated, and then their videos released in order to instill fear in the public. This took a severe toll on the psyche of the public, already hard pressed thanks to unemployment and hunger.
Life has come to a standstill for 80 percent of the people whose earnings came from tourism. Orchids have become rotten in the absence of labour and markets; and the fields lie barren. People go without fire, food, and electricity for days. The only cinema in Mingora was forced to down shutters, television and music has been banned, and CD shops have been closed. Even barbershops were shutdown as shaving, according to the interpretation of the Taliban, is un-Islamic.
It has been particularly hard for women, children and the handicapped because of the problems of age or sickness. Over 200 schools have been blown up as they were giving "western education." Girls are barred from schooling. Over 100,000 Swati girls stand to lose their chance of education and, consequently, any career or professional life. This is happening in a place where the ratio of women in literacy and the job market was one of the highest in the province. The new edict may allow girls an education till the fourth grade, but with a revised curriculum. Also, they must always wear scarves on their heads. In any case, it will take awhile as most schools have been destroyed.
Women have been rendered prisoner in their own homes as they are now barred from going out in public, something that even Saudi Arabia has not tried. The central bazaar for women — with items like cosmetics and bangles, when partially open — today gives an image of a haunted place without shoppers. But then, cosmetics are a lesser priority when your children sleep hungry. Women are not allowed to work. Even women doctors are not permitted to carry on with their jobs. Stories abound where women lost babies because of the non-availability of doctors. Many others have died because of the lack of medicines and medical treatment.
The question is — how did over a million people accept the inhuman dictates of a bunch of jihadi thugs who do not fit into any Islamic school of thought? Well, they have not. They voted liberal parties to power in the last election. But these parties did not have either the political muscle, or the will, to protect them from the evil of the Taliban.
But how did the Taliban gain ascendancy? The system of justice under the princely state was more efficient than what followed. The people, therefore, wanted Sharia courts to be established as a way of achieving quick justice and dispensing with the long delays and corruption of the civil courts. But the Taliban, who had a different agenda, hijacked their demand. For ordinary people, in the absence of the writ of the state, it's just a matter of choosing a lesser evil.
All hopes now hinge upon Maulana Sufi Mohammad, the father-in-law of Fazalullah. Sufi Mohammad is no angel himself. He is a radical cleric freed in 2008 after spending six years in jail for leading 10,000 Pashtun tribesmen to fight the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Nearly 7,000 died in the bombing and he ran back for his life. The people whose children he took with him after indoctrinating them, leading to their being killed, hate him. He has now been resurrected in order to persuade Fazalullah to accept the government's offer of a ceasefire, which he has agreed to partially. How long this respite will last, only time will tell.
The ceasefire agreement with the Taliban has raised questions as to whether it is a victory for the Pakistan Government, capitulation before the Taliban who want to recreate a 1,500-year-old replica of Islamic rule, or a strategic retreat by the military.
IT IS ironic that Frontier Chief Minister Ameer Khan Hoti, the great grandson of the champion of nonviolence, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan — the Frontier Gandhi — has signed the agreement. He has justified it saying, "I have done this to stop violence and to fulfill my electoral promise of restoring peace." His uncle and Awami National Party Chief Asfand Yar Wali — whose party runs the troubled province bordering Afghanistan — is under attack from the Taliban. He survived a suicide bomb attack three months ago while most of his party members are on the run because of constant threats to their life.
The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Government at the Centre is playing it safe. President Asif Zardari's position is that he will decide when the agreement will come to him for his signature. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood has tried to pacify the Americans while on a tour of Washington, saying, "it's a local remedy to a local problem." The PPP has neither accepted the agreement nor rejected it. Obviously, the PPP Government would like to see what the outcome will be in a couple of months, if not earlier, before taking a stand. In the meantime, PPP spinmasters are arguing that the Sharia courts are not the same as strict Islamic law. The new laws, for instance, would not ban education of women or impose other strict tenets espoused by the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
LIBERAL CIRCLES in Pakistan and abroad are fuming over what they call "the sellout." Some, like human rights activist Iqbal Haider, have described it as a deal with the devil. "How can you sit with the very people who have maimed hundreds of people," he protested. "It's a matter of principle which should be supreme. These people should be tried for crimes against humanity."
The liberals have a valid argument that the agreement will now be a model for the rest of the Taliban. They will demand similar Sharia in other parts of the province. "Now they know that militancy is the way to coerce the government into submission," said senior analyst Saleem Khilji. They have a point, as the agreement extends the scope of their power. The government has conceded that the new Sharia will be extended beyond Swat to the other five districts of Malakand division also.
The Pakistan Army has taken refuge behind the government, saying that it is following orders to stay out till further notice. They should be the happiest lot if this agreement were to result in peace. They have taken the brunt of the fight. Media reports say army casualties number more than a hundred dead but the Taliban claims that it might be much higher.
The issue is that the Pakistan Army has been trained to fight with India, and it may not be comfortable with counterinsurgency operations. It does not have sufficient experience of that except for the Balochistan insurgency in the 1970s, unlike its Indian rival, which has consistently countered insurgencies in Kashmir, Nagaland and Mizoram.
The army will remain stationed in Swat to deal with the fallout. The underlying assumption is that either Sufi Mohammad will deliver peace or fight with his son-inlaw. This will be a tactical victory. Instead of the army fighting the Taliban, it would be the militants fighting each other.
But then there is a counter-theory — the two factions might use the time to regroup, consolidate their power and fight later with even more ferocity. There are already signs of this happening. An indicator is that the price of arms in the tribal belt has almost doubled because of the massive demand.
In any case, the agreement is simply not implementable. Each party has a different interpretation of it. The governments in the Frontier and Islamabad think that the Sharia court is old wine in a new bottle. Sufi Mohammad believes that his mandate is to provide Sharia courts where religious scholars will be independent judges and not advisers to the regular civil judges like in the earlier agreement of six years ago. "The choice of judges will be ours and they will be all-powerful," said Maulana Izzat, spokes man of Sufi Mohammad, in a telephonic interview.
Fazalullah wants the complete domination of the Sharia, encompassing all sectors beyond the judiciary. "We shall run the entire area in accordance with the holy book, "countered Muslim Khan, another spokesman for Fazalullah. "We don't accept any system but our own and will inshallah spread it to other parts of Pakistan very soon."
The legal and administrative intricacies involved in merging the old system with the new are something beyond these clerics. The Taliban have simply ceased fire but not surrendered. Both sides are waiting for the next round to start with bated breath. It almost came to that when a newly-appointed senior district official was kidnapped by militants two days after the ceasefire. After a tense standoff lasting hours, the official, Kushal Khan, was freed.
Later, it was disclosed that his release had been the result of a swap: Pakistani authorities released two militants who had been picked up a day earlier in Peshawar. Next time around, it is possible that some freed militants like this might renew the fighting while both sides continue to sit in the trenches.
Swat is different from other trouble spots like Bahaur, Waziristan and Khyber. It is the only trouble spot that is not a federal (FATA) but a provincial tribal area (PATA). It is wrong to generalise about the Taliban and the Swat situation in particular.
FAZALULLAH, A barely-literate former lift operator, was an indigenous product. He does not come from the ranks of Taliban or Al-Qaeda, but was later accepted by them and adopted as the commander of the area looking after his hold in the area. It is only in Swat that schools have been closed in an organised manner, otherwise the Taliban have not done so in FATA, except for occasional episodes. The Taliban have generally refrained from killing hostages, except for spies or the recent Polish engineer in Waziristan. The Swat Talibans have slit throats of hostages and security forces with ruthless abandon.
Swat is the only place which has been completely taken over by the Taliban. This may be because of its geography — it is a bowl-shaped valley. The Swat terrain makes it strategically easier for Taliban to hold power against numerical odds. There is one major communication artery along the Swat River that could easily be blocked from anywhere. In Bajaur, Khyber and Waziristan, the Taliban are dominant, but they do not run those agencies. Swat is also the only hotspot that does not border Afghanistan. In fact, it remained aloof and generally peaceful during the war with Afghanistan.
Swat has a past of peace and culture where thousands thronged from all over Pakistan and abroad every summer. Its capital, Mingora, happens to be much bigger than any other town in any of the troubled agencies.
Also, it houses the elite of Pashtun tribes, and is the abode of the royal, sophisticated Yousafzais of Tana, whereas the other agencies have a history of warring tribes. The impact of Swat's takeover, like in the classical Clausewitzian centre of gravity, has been immense on the psyche of Pashtuns.
If the impression goes out that it's a victory for the Taliban, it will encourage militancy elsewhere, in the rest of Pakistan. It becomes more alarming when seen in the larger context where the Waziristan commanders, pro-Pakistan Mullah Nazir and anti-state Baitullah Mehsud, along with Haji Gul Bahadur, have patched up differences in Waziristan to become a formidable force; Bajaur Taliban now expect similar Sharia in their area, and Hamimullah is blocking NATO supplies in Khyber. The Taliban seem to be on the ascendant, which should be a source of worry for not just Pakistan, but also the entire region and the world.
If the social fabric continues to be torn apart as it has in Swat, this will lead to the rise of more non-state actors who are not under the control of anyone. Since all of these commanders are connected to each other, including the militants in Kashmir, the genie is threatening to become ever more dangerous. The question is not just about the outcome of the investigation into the Mumbai attack. A more serious question is: what will happen if there is another attack of a similar nature?
Mateen is an Islamabad-based journalist
From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 9, Dated Mar 07, 2009
Friday, March 6, 2009
Posted by News Service at 12:07 PM
Monday 5 January 2009 04:08.
January 4, 2009 (PARIS) — Abdel Wahid Al-Nur, the leader of the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement, condemned the killing of civilians in both Gaza and Israel, and appealed to the warring parties to take into account the security of civilians, and the observance of international humanitarian laws.
- Abdel-Wahid Al-Nur
However, Al-Nur denounced the double standards of the League of Arab States and Organization of the Islamic Conference in this regard. He said if the Arab and Islamic countries mobilized 10% of what they are doing now for Gaza they could have prevented the "genocide" committed by Khartoum in Darfur against innocent and unarmed citizens.
He also underscored that Darfur people had and still have been subjected to the killing and oppression. "Khartoum deserves to be condemned for the genocide and war crimes committed" in the troubled western Sudan region, he said.
He also said that the number of people killed in Darfur — death toll rose past 300.000 according to the UN — exceeds the number of populations of certain states member of the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
Darfur rebels have been angered and disappointed by the blind support of Arab states to the Sudanese government about the conflict of Darfur.
The Arab League with the support of the African and its participation tasked the Qatar with the organization of new peace talks between the government and the rebel groups.
However, the Qatari initiative received a cool reception from the rebel movements. None of the rebel groups announced clearly its intention to take part in these talks.
The rebels perceive the belated Arab involvement as bid to save the Sudanese president from an arrest warrant that the ICC is expected to issue for Omer Al-Bashir.
Gleaned from: http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/
Posted by News Service at 11:56 AM
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Published: 03.04.09, 00:37 / Israel News
Part of the delivery was made via high-ranking Iranian officials, and the details regarding the transfer were kept classified until recently as the Iranian election scene heats up and the opposition revealed the massive transfer of funds to Hizbullah.
The report says that after the Second Lebanon War, Iran sent Hizbullah USD 500 million in urgent monetary aid. News of the transfer drew the ire and criticism of Iranian moderates, who accused the regime of rashly giving away the money while ignoring the economic plight of Iranian citizens.
'Terror groups thriving during financial crisis'
"With the fall of Wall Street, investors in the Gulf were quick to withdraw their funds. Since local investment opportunities are limited, a lot of liquid wealth had accumulated there.
Posted by News Service at 12:13 PM
Manuchehr Honarmand was a witness to the developing Iranian-Venezuelan relationship. Mr. Honarmand is a Dutch citizen who used to write columns for the opposition daily Kayhan International, based in London. An Iranian dissident journalist, Honarmand decided to go to the US to expand the newspaper's distribution. In December 2002 he visited South America for tourism and while in transit at the Caracas airport, waiting for a connecting flight, he was approached by two Iranians who asked him to provide information about himself. They were soon joined by two Venezuelan policemen.
After learning who he was, they handcuffed him and brought him to an office behind the transit area where he was beaten and forced to sign papers in Spanish, which he did not understand. A few hours later, Honarmand was thrown into a cell where he was told that he had been charged with drug trafficking.
Furthermore, he was refused contact with the Dutch Embassy. A Venezuelan National Guard report stated that his "drug - filled suitcase" was found in a Copa Airlines flight even though Honarmand had been traveling on KLM.
Mr. Honarmand's luggage, money and papers were stolen and his Dutch passport was confiscated by the Venezuelan police. While he was in jail, he was able to contact Houshang Vaziri, his editor in chief, who promised to help but soon disappeared and was later found dead in Paris. Honarmand was freed in 2005, thanks to the Dutch government's pressures. During his time in Caracas he spoke with discontented insiders of Chavez's regime who informed him about the presence of Iranian officials in every sector of the economy and that they occupied high positions in the National Guard and the police. They also told Honarmand that Iranian officials are actually proselytizing in the poorest sectors of Venezuelan society to attract followers. However, what has many insiders worried is the possibility of radicals holding government positions. The recent designation of Tarek El – Aissami as Minster of Interior and Justice of Venezuela has raised concerns because of his connections with extremist groups.
Mr. El – Aissami is a Venezuelan national of Syrian descent who, before becoming Minster of Interior and Justice, occupied the position of Deputy Interior Minister for Public Security. His father, Carlos Aissami, is the head of the Venezuelan branch of the Iraqi Baath political party. Before the invasion of Iraq, he held a press conference in which he described himself as a Taliban and called Osama Bin Laden, "the great Mujahedeen, Sheik Osama bin Laden." Tarek's great-uncle Shibli el-Aissami was a prominent ideologist and assistant to the party's secretary general in Baghdad during the Saddam Hussein regime.
It was discovered that in 2003 El Aissami was appointed, along with another radical student leader from the University of the Andes in the city of Mérida, Hugo Cabezas, to head the country's passport and naturalization service, the Onidex (Identification and Immigration Office). The choice came as a surprise precisely because of their ties with guerrilla movements at Universidad de Los Andes (ULA). Evidence has surfaced that during this time both men illegally issued Venezuelan passports and identity documents to members of Hezbollah and Hamas. Mr. Cabezas is now the government candidate for governor of the Andean state of Trujillo in elections due to be held on November 23, 2008 and is a founding member of Utopia, an armed group that has connections with the Bolivarian Liberation Front.
While a student leader at ULA, Aissami had political control of the university residences (dorms), which were used to hide stolen vehicles and conduct drug deals and had managed to get members of the guerillas into the dorms. According to reports, of the 1,122 people living in one of the University's residences, only 387 were active students and more than 600 had nothing to do with the university.
Venezuelan investigative journalist, Patricia Poleo, who escaped Venezuela and currently lives in Miami says that Mr. Aissami together with others affiliated with Hezbollah, such as Lebanon-born Gahzi Nasserddine, currently the Business Liaison at the Venezuelan embassy in Damascus, and his brother, Ghasan Atef Salameh Nasserddi, are in charge of recruiting young Venezuelan Arabs affiliated with the 'Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela' or PSUV (Chavez's Socialist Party), to be sent to South Lebanon for combat training in Hezbollah camps preparing them for 'asymmetrical war' against the United States. Once back in Venezuela, they are greeted by radical members of the Venezuelan Socialist Party affiliated with UNEFA (the university run by the Armed Forces) and the Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela (Venezuelan Bolivarian University) and continue with their training in firearms, explosives and munitions. The training camps are located in the states of Monagas, Miranda, el Páramo, Falcon, Yaracuy, Yumare, and Trujillo and the districts of Maturin, Los Teques, El Jari, Churuguara and Sierra de San Luis. These groups and individuals are supervised by the Hezbollah Organization in Venezuela, along with al-Qaeda Iraqis currently living in the country and by the Palestinian Democratic Front, headed by Salid Ahmed Rahman, whose office is located in Caracas's Central Park.
Since Chavez assumed the Presidency, Hezbollah, Hamas and al-Qaeda have used Venezuela as their bridge to other Latin American countries. There is information that a group of Iraqi activists belonging to al-Qaeda are currently in Caracas. Their names are: Mohammed Adnan Yasin, Falah Amin Taha and Muhi Alwan Mohammed Al Qaisi. They all arrived in Caracas with temporary visas granted and approved by the heads of Onidex (Cabezas and Aissami) and are believed to be very dangerous. They oversee the activities of these terrorist organizations in the tri – border region, and in Nicaragua and Argentina.
Other Hezbollah members in Venezuela with these same visas are: explosives expert Lebanese Abdul Ghani Suleiman Wanked, Hassan Nasrallah's right-hand man.; Rada Ramel Assad, born in Barranquilla, Colombia and Abouchanab Daichoum Dani who is the organizer of the group.
We have to be very careful about what is going on in Venezuela. Independent media outlets have warned that the Chávez regime was issuing ID documents to Islamic radicals, enabling them to operate and move freely to other countries. It is extremely worrisome and dangerous to appoint a radical such as Aissami as the official in charge of issuing identity cards and passports but this serves the goals of the Iranian and Venezuelan presidents in their joint efforts to radicalize the region and build terrorist networks.
Other articles written by the staff of The America's Report that can be referenced to in relation with this story are: "The Iranian threat already in the US' backyard", February 14, 2008 by Nicole M. Ferrand; "Latin America's radical grassroots", by Luis Fleischman and Nicole M. Ferrand from March 27, 2007; "The Radical Grassroots in Latin America II", by Luis Fleischman and Nicole M. Ferrand from April 11, 2007; "The Latin American Radical Grassroots III", by Luis Fleischman and Nicole M. Ferrand).
*Nicole M. Ferrand is the editor of "The Americas Report" of the Menges Hemispheric Security Project. She is a graduate of Columbia University in Economics and Political Science with a background in Law from Peruvian University, UNIFE and in Corporate Finance from Georgetown University.
 Al Arabiya – Ibid.
 Jihad in Venezuela. November 29, 2003. Jihad Watch.
 Memri – Ibid.
 Hezbollah and Al Qaeda in Venezuela. June 12, 2008 The Jungle Hut.
 Unholy alliance between Caracas and Tehran. January 13, 2008. Al Arabiya News.
Posted by News Service at 10:42 AM
described the Jewish state as a "cancerous tumor."
"Even the new president of America, who has come to power with slogans about changing Bush's policies, is defending state terrorism by talking about unconditional commitment to Israel's security," Khamenei said.
Posted by News Service at 1:22 AM
Posted by News Service at 1:13 AM
Journalist, Columnist, Author & Peace Activist
Editor & Publisher, Weekly Blitz www.weeklyblitz.net
PEN USA Freedom to Write Award 2005; AJC Moral Courage Award 2006
Key to the Englewood City, USA [Highest Honor] 2007; Monaco Media Award, 2007
Posted by News Service at 12:40 AM
Monday, March 2, 2009
Afghan Outrage at U.S. Raid Highlights Challenges Facing New Military Push
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, March 2, 2009; A01
Posted by News Service at 3:52 AM
Sunday, March 1, 2009
TEHRAN, Iran, (AP) – An adviser to Iran's president on Sunday demanded an apology from a team of visiting Hollywood actors and movie industry officials, including Annette Bening, saying films such as "300" and "The Wrestler" were "insulting" to Iranians.
Without an apology, members of Iran's film industry should refuse to meet with representatives from the nine-member team, said Javad Shamaqdari, the art and cinema adviser to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"In my viewpoint, it is a failure to have an official meeting with one who is insulting," Shamaqdari told The Associated Press.
The film "300," portrays the battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C., in which a force of 300 Spartans held off a massive Persian army at a mountain pass in Greece for three days. It angered many Iranians for the way Persians are depicted as decadent, sexually flamboyant and evil in contrast to the noble Greeks.
Posted by News Service at 2:06 PM
CAIRO (AP) - The United Arab Emirates' official news agency says the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company has announced it will cut oil shipments to customers starting in April, a move aimed at shoring up crude prices as the global downturn eats away at demand.
WAM reported Thursday that ADNOC will enact 15 to 17 percent cuts in supplies of its various crude grades, including Murban.
Posted by News Service at 1:52 PM
Editor, as-Sharq al-Awsat
Tariq Alhomayed is the Editor-in-Chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, the youngest person to be appointed that position. Mr. Alhomayed has an acclaimed and distinguished career as a Journalist and has held many key positions in the field including; Assistant Editor-in-Chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, Managing Editor of Asharq Al-Awsat in Saudi Arabia, Head of Asharq Al-Awsat Newspaper's Bureau-Jeddah, Correspondent for Al - Madina Newspaper in Washington D.C. from 1998 to Aug 2000. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs including: the BBC, German TV, Al Arabiya, Al- Hurra, LBC and the acclaimed Imad Live's four-part series on terrorism and reformation in Saudi Arabia. He is also the first Journalist to conduct an interview with Osama Bin Ladin's Mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a BA degree in Media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, and has also completed his Introductory courses towards a Master's degree from George Washington University in Washington D.C. He is based in London.
Posted by News Service at 1:43 PM
There are many political envoys in the administration of the new American President, Barack Obama. But assigning diplomat Dennis Ross the dossier of Iran and the Gulf means that his [mission] is the most serious and important of all. Despite the importance of the Arab-Israeli conflict and its historic value, it remains confined to a 35-year-old case, counting the years from the last war that changed the political situation. It can continue as it is, with its disputes and wars confined in the area of its conflicts. As for Afghanistan and its neighbor Pakistan, and with them Al-Qaeda organization, it is true that this is a problem capable of exploding but it is similarly confined to its area.
the general manager of Al -Arabiya television. Mr. Al Rashed is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al- Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine, Al Majalla. He is also a senior Columnist in the daily newspapers of Al Madina and Al Bilad. He is a US post-graduate degree in mass communications. He has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.
Posted by News Service at 1:38 PM
Friday 27 February 2009
By Amir Taheri
Although the Iranian presidential election campaign is not due to open until the end of May, two things are already certain. The campaign has started; and it is unusually dirty. One could expect piles of dirty laundry to be washed in public, affecting major figures of the regime. Even "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenehi, hitherto kept outside the mud hole, is being dragged in.
Posted by News Service at 1:30 PM
Are the Iranians seeking to attain nuclear weapons?
There is overwhelming evidence in support of a "yes" answer to this question. The Iranians have continued to defy the IAEA and enrich uranium, a vital part of the process of making nuclear weapons. They have claimed that they are enriching the uranium for civilian purposes, but highly respected non-proliferation expert David Albright of ISIS points to the fact that the Iranians have at their disposal enough raw-material, "yellowcake", for the making of nuclear weapons but not for the creation of a domestic electrical energy program. Clearly, their enrichment program is for nuclear weapons purposes. They also have a heavy water plant at Arak, and the large plant at Bushehr, the pilot plant of which is to be inaugurated in late February 2009.
While the supreme Iranian leader Khamenaei has said the use of weapons of mass destruction is forbidden by Islamic law, other leaders, including former President Rafsanjani, have threatened Israel with a nuclear exchange.
There are many geopolitical reasons for Iran to wish to attain nuclear weapons. Among these are its being surrounded by nuclear neighbors Pakistan, India and Israel. The Iranians also see the attaining of nuclear weapons as enhancing their prestige and as means of extending their power in the Middle East.
How close are the Iranians to attaining nuclear weapons?
Former American Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton says the Iranians have mastered all the technical difficulties involved in creating a nuclear weapon. It is generally acknowledged that the most difficult part of the process is the enriching of the uranium. The Iranians have increased the number of centrifuges in their Natanz plant to four thousand and Albright believes that they will have enough enriched material for at least one nuclear bomb in 2009. He also believes that the "weaponization" process can be carried out quite swiftly.
Once Iran has enough enriched uranium it can, in effect, be said to have nuclear weapons.
The Iranians have the missile capacity not only to reach every point in the Middle East, but also in southern Europe. That is to say that all US bases in the Middle East may soon be in range of Iranian nuclear weapons.
How can Iran possibly go to the final stage of the process, weaponization, when it is being observed and supervised by the UN?
Yaakov Lappin, in a February 22, 2009, article in the Jerusalem Post, cites a report of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency claiming Iran has produced 1,010 kg. of low-enriched uranium. The figure is a third more than Iran had previously disclosed. Moreover, Prof. Raymond Tanter, President of the Washington-based Iran Policy Committee, told the Post, "Because it takes more time to create LEU (low-enriched uranium) than to go from LEU to HEU (highly enriched uranium), the discovery of the additional LEU suggest that the Iranian regime has accelerated its quest for nuclear weapons capability."
Tanter also claims that Iran has a secret underground facility in its military complex at Lavizan 2, in northeastern Tehran, where the weaponization process can take place. The UN is not permitted to inspect military facilities like this one.
Is Iran likely to transfer its nuclear weapons to Hizbullah, Hamas or any of its other surrogates in the world?
There are those who point out that Iran has a WMD capacity with chemical and biological weapons, but has never transferred them to its surrogates. They argue it is extremely unlikely that Iran would give the surrogates the power to initiate an action, the reaction to which might bring great harm to Iran. Yet, it is impossible to be certain about this, as Iran has in the past used surrogates in terror attacks, in order to cover its own tracks.
Does Iran intend to use its nuclear weapons against Israel?
Many argue that Iran would not risk this, as they understand that Israel and the United States have the capacity to level Tehran, destroy the heart of their civilization. They contend that no matter how hate-filled the regime is in relation to Israel, it is not suicidal. So the general consensus is that Iran would not try a first strike against Israel. But there is, of course, no way of knowing for certain that this is the case.
Will the United States - when it understands it is being strung along, deceived by Iran - decide on nuclear preemption?
The Obama Administration will do everything it possibly can to avoid taking military action. It will show a great deal of good-will and understanding towards Iran. It will attempt to lure it into a dialogue. Iran will probably engage in such a dialogue, but not at the price of halting its nuclear program. It will continue its pursuit of nuclear weapons and will not accept the alternatives the US offers it. But it will delay and deceive, making promises it won't keep. And it will probably string the Obama Administration along for a long time. Yet, at some point it is likely the American patience will run out. In this, it would seem that Iran and the US are on an inevitable collision course.
The confrontation now seems certainly to happen after Iran has acquired a nuclear capability. In other words, an open clash might mean a nuclear war and massive destruction. The United States may then simply take the military option off the table. My guess is that for many of Barack Obama's closest foreign policy advisors, it has never been on the table.
It should be remembered that the Bush Administration promised repeatedly to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, yet Iran proceeded unimpeded towards this goal during the Bush years. That President Obama will be true to his promise of preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed power is thus extremely doubtful.
If the United States does not preempt Iran, must Israel do so?
It is conceivable that an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would do more harm than good. This would be the case if Iran does have the capacity to strike Israel with a nuclear weapon. That is, to be successful any Israeli strike has to not only destroy the Iranian nuclear facilities and its capacity to manufacture new weapons, it must also ensure that no Iranian weapon is used in retaliation. All this suggests that the decision for Israel is a complex one and cannot be made simply.
New York Times correspondent David Sanger reported on January 2009 that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert requested from President George Bush in 2008 permission to fly over Iraq and was refused. Bush also reportedly refused an Israeli request for an advanced kind of bunker-buster ordnance and new refueling technology. All this suggests that an Israeli operation is almost a mission impossible.
How should Israel respond to an Iranian attack?
It is to be hoped that we would be able to preempt it, or if not, to intercept the missiles. But if not, it is not true, as former Iranian President Rafsanjani claims, that in a nuclear exchange Iran would survive and Israel would not. Most likely, both societies would survive and be terribly crippled. Only an insane, messianically driven Iranian leadership would dictate such an outcome. But for deterrence purposes, the Israeli leadership must make it one-hundred-percent clear that any attack on Israel will be met with a devastatingly disproportional response.
Posted by News Service at 8:07 AM