Friday, March 14, 2008

McCain says al Qaeda might try to tip U.S. election

SPRINGFIELD, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate John McCain said on Friday he fears that al Qaeda or another extremist group might attempt spectacular attacks in Iraq to try to tilt the U.S. election against him.

McCain, at a town hall meeting in this Philadelphia suburb, was asked if he had concerns that anti-American militants in Iraq might ratchet up their activities in Iraq to try to increase casualties in September or October and tip the November election against him.

"Yes, I worry about it," McCain said. "And I know they pay attention because of the intercepts we have of their communications ... The hardest thing in warfare is to counter someone or a group of individuals who are willing to take their own lives in order to take others."

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Iran-Israel war has already begun

by Yossi Klein Halevi
When will Israel and Iran go to war? They already have.
Post Date Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Immediately after the massacre of eight students in a yeshiva library in Jerusalem last week, speculation began within the Israeli security establishment and the media about who had dispatched the lone murderer. Was it Hamas? Hezbollah? Perhaps a new, unknown organization claiming to act on behalf of the "liberation" of the Galilee? In fact, the speculation was pointless. Regardless of the affiliation of the actual perpetrator, the ultimate responsibility for this attack, as for almost all the terror attacks on Israel in recent years, lies with Iran.
The Palestinian struggle is no longer about creating an independent state. It is about being a front-line participant in the Iranian-led jihad to destroy Israel, evolving from a nationalist to a religious war. The thousands of celebrants in Gaza who, following the yeshiva massacre, offered prayers of thanksgiving in the mosques and distributed candies to passersby weren't only indulging in feelings of revenge for Israel's recent military incursion but heralding the coming jihadist victory over the enemies of God. A real solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict can only be reached by dealing with its primary instigator: Iran.
Israel's seventh war began in September 2000, and was launched by Yasser Arafat, who transformed Fatah into a quasi-Islamist movement, nurturing the rhetoric and martyrology of jihad. Arafat no doubt assumed he could manipulate Islamist trappings for nationalist aims. But then he went one step farther: He initiated an alliance with Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. Until then, Iran's only client within the Palestinian national movement had been the Islamic Jihad, the smallest of the Palestinian terrorist factions. According to a former chief of Israeli military intelligence, Arafat promised the Iranians that he would turn Gaza into a second southern Lebanon, and Iran began providing weapons and funds to Arafat's Fatah. But then, in January 2002, Israel intercepted the Karine A, a ship carrying Iranian-supplied Katyusha rockets and mortars and C-4 explosives for use in suicide bombings. Exposed and under international pressure, Arafat severed the connection.
Ironically, Hamas was initially more reluctant than Fatah to enter into an Iranian alliance, precisely because the Sunni Hamas takes religion more seriously than Fatah and was loathe to accept the authority of the Iranian Shiites. But that squeamishness ended three years ago with a formal alliance, orchestrated by the Damascus-based Hamas leader, Khaled Meshal, and today Hamas is an integral part of the Iranian war against Israel. Iran has trained hundreds of Hamas operatives--and, according to the former intelligence chief, continues to fund individual members of Fatah's Al Aqsa Brigades. Iran's goal is twofold: to extend its influence in the Arab world, and to transform itself, via proxies, into a frontline confrontation state with Israel.
The jihadist war against Israel has shifted from one front to another--suicide bombings inside Israeli cities until 2004, Katyushas on Haifa in the north in 2006, and now Katyushas on Ashkelon in the south. All are battles in the same war. So far, it is a war without an all-encompassing name, and that linguistic failure reflects a larger Israeli failure to treat this as a unified conflict. We still refer to the suicide bombings of 2000-2004 by the Palestinians' misnomer, "the second intifada"--which falsely implies a popular uprising, like the first intifada, rather the orchestrated slew of terror attacks that it was. Awkwardly, we call the 2006 battle against Hezbollah "the second Lebanon War," a name that places the conflict in the wrong context--the first Lebanon War against Palestinian nationalist terrorism in the early 1980s rather than one more front in the Iranian war against Israel. And now we are calling the daily rocket attacks against southern Israel "the war of the Qassams," even as the Qassams are augmented by the far more deadly Katyushas
In contending with Hezbollah and Hamas, Israel is trying to treat the symptoms, rather than the cause. Not surprisingly, it finds itself repeatedly stymied in efforts to stop the attacks on the home front. All of Israel's options in dealing with Hamas seem unbearable. Allowing rockets to continue to fall on southern towns creates despair among Israelis, who see their nation's sovereignty unraveling. Engaging in limited but costly military operations in Gaza, as Israel did last week, creates international outrage and little lasting security gain. Re-conquering Gaza and its dense refugee camps will result in a devastating number of causalities, both among Israeli soldiers and Palestinian civilians. And even if Israel succeeds in destroying the Hamas infrastructure, Israelis will confront the same dilemmas that forced them to leave Gaza two years ago.  
A ceasefire with Hamas--which Prime Minister Ehud Olmert seems to be implementing even as he denies it--may well be the worst option of all. Hamas will likely use that interim period to turn itself into a second Hezbollah, equipped with Iranian weapons. And when Hamas feels empowered to break the ceasefire and resume its attacks, Israel will face a far more formidable enemy.
To deal effectively with the jihad requires an awareness that Israel is in fact at war with the Iranian regime, which manipulates proxies along Israel's borders, supplying them with weapons and training, and energizing them with the promise of imminent victory.
Understandably, Israel has avoided a confrontation with Iran, which could result in the most devastating war Israel has fought. But as the siege around Israel's borders tightens and as the Iranian nuclear program quickens, that direct confrontation becomes increasingly likely.
According to a just-released strategic assessment by the Israeli intelligence community, 2008 will be the "Year of Iran." The Lebanese government, warns the assessment, could collapse in the coming months, allowing Hezbollah to take power. Meanwhile, Hezbollah and Hamas are considering a coordinated rocket assault on Israeli population centers, almost all of which are within rocket range of either group. And, according to the strategic assessment, sometime within the coming year, or by early 2009 at the latest, Iran will achieve nuclear capability. The threat that emerges from the intelligence assessment may well be the most acute that Israel has ever faced.
Following the yeshiva massacre, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown speculated that the gunman was attempting to "derail" the peace process. Brown's implication, widely shared in the West, is that the best way to defeat the jihadists is to create a Palestinian state.
But a viable Palestinian state living peacefully beside Israel will not be possible without disconnecting Iran from these groups who are attacking Israel on its behalf. This may require destabilizing the Iranian regime--hopefully through intensified sanctions against its nuclear program, and by military force against its nuclear installations if sanctions fail. Without stopping the momentum of the Iranian-led jihad against Israel, the appeal of Hamas among Palestinians will grow. So long as the international community tries to create a Palestinian state without seriously confronting the jihadists, Iran and its proxies will continue to make peace impossible--not by "derailing" negotiations, but by making those negotiations irrelevant.
Yossi Klein Halevi is a contributing editor of The New Republic and a senior fellow at the Adelson Center for Strategic Studies of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The kafkaesque trial of Bangladesh dissident Sallah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury continues

Despite promises, Bangladesh authothorities have not stopped the "judicial" process against freedom fighter journalist Salahuddin Shoaib Choudhoury, who angered them because of his opposition to Islamist extremism and his support for Israel. Lacking evidence, the government has dragged the process out for several years with endless continuations and a never-ending supply of new court dates.
Ami Isseroff

Memo to Bangladeshi Metropolitan Session Judge Mohammad Momin Ullah:
  By Judi McLeod  Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Memo to Mohammed Momin Ullah, Metropolitan Session Judge, Dhaka, Bangladesh: "We know.  Canada Free Press (CFP) knows that the charges brought up against Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury by the previous Islamist alliance government in Bangladesh, come up in your court, tomorrow."

And publications with much more international influence than CFP know that a lone journalist who forecast the rise of radical Islam in Bangladesh will stand in your court just when world attention is focused on other matters.

Choudhury, who stands charged with treason, sedition and blasphemy, has friends in the United States of America, including Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Professor Richard Benkin, who were promised by then-Bangladeshi Ambassador to Washington Shamsher M. Chowdhury that self-described "Muslim Zionist" Shoaib Choudhury would have all charges dropped against him.

Courageous Choudhury has Canadian friends in his corner, notably including the Honourable Irwin Cotler (MP Mount Royal), a world-renowned humanitarian and civil-rights scholar, and one of the best and brightest legal minds in the English-speaking world, who now stands as Choudhury's counsel.

With American attention on disgraced Eliot Spitzer and the fierce fight between Democrat presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, Choudhury faces a trial whose penalties include only execution or imprisonment.

These are the words on the official document demanding Choudhury's March 12th court appearance:

     "The State Prosecution has brought allegation (s) against you, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury stating that, being the editor and owner of Blitz newspaper, you sent an article titled, `Hello Tel Aviv' to USA Today newspaper published from Washington.  Furthermore, in 2003, while attempting to travel to Israel to attend a conference titled `Education towards Culture of Peace', organized between 1st December to 3rd December 2003, you appeared at the Zia International Airport on the 29th November 2003 and the Immigration police arrested you and found the copy of the speech you prepared to deliver in the conference.  In that speech, you have made offensive comments on (the) Muslim world, Islam and Muslims in Bangladesh and commented about (the) existence of al Qaeda and other Islamist militant groups, by which you have tarnished the image of Bangladesh in the outside world.  Furthermore, you have made (a) conspiracy of spreading anti-state news through that speech and you by sending that speech to (the) outside world, you have played (an) offensive role to Bangladesh's security, public discipline and adverse
role towards Bangladesh's relations with the outside world.  In you (sic) report, you have mentioned about guerilla training in the
Bangladeshi madrassas, by which you have influenced the religious sentiments and made imaginary stories abroad about jihadist training in favor of Laden (sic), Arafat and Saddam, by which you have put Bangladesh's foreign relations to threat and through this you have caused offense under Penal Code section 505 (A), 295 (A) and 120 (B).

"The allegations were read before the accused and he claimed to be innocent (not guilty) and prayed for justice."

In his response to Metropolitan Session Judge Md. Momin Ullah, Choudhury wrote, "it is well known to the international community and even to the Bangladeshi government that there are guerilla trainings in various Madrassas in the country.

"The previous government captured a few hundred such elements from various Madrassas belonging to an Islamist terrorist group named JMB. The kingpins of this group were accorded the death penalty by Bangladeshi courts and were subsequently hanged.

"But I am facing the charges of forecasting the existence of such elements in Bangladeshi Madrassas.  Why?

"I have never sent any article titled `Hello Tel Aviv', nor was it ever printed in any US or international newspaper.  This is a bogus and imaginary allegation brought against me by the government.  The prosecution does not have any evidence of such allegation."

Choudhury asks "How many more years will I have to suffer from these false and ridiculous charges?

"I am continuing to spend money and energy in this case since 2003.  Is it justice to let an innocent journalist suffer for years, just because he forecasted the rise of radical Islam and confronted it?"

Choudhury, who was beaten, imprisoned, denied medication for glaucoma, forbidden to attend his mother's funeral, had his office bombed and his children followed to school, has spent hundreds of hours preparing forand attending court sessions which the government promised to drop.

"People keep asking me what is it that the Bangladeshi government wants," says Choudhury.

"They want to appease the Islamists by continuing the case and even by convicting me.  Many of the top policymakers of the governments are angry with me because I am a Zionist and I continue to defend Jews and Christians as well as combating radical Islam.  They are also angry with me because I demand relations between Israel and Muslim nations."

Choudhury fully understands the possibilities of a horrific fate tomorrow before the Bangladeshi court with international attention
turned elsewhere.

"Please pray for me on March 12," he asked friends living in the free world on the eve of his court appearance.

But even though Bangladeshi Islamists have continued the harassment of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury at will, they at least cannot count on the privilege of finishing the job off under cover of darkness.

CFP and others, who know, await the outcome.

US top Iraq and Afghanistan commander quits, reportedly over policy disagreements

From The Times
March 12, 2008
Tim Reid in Washington
The top US military commander for Iraq and Afghanistan resigned last night after weeks of behind-the-scenes disagreements with the White House over the direction of American foreign policy.
Admiral William Fallon, the head of US Central Command, left his post a week after a profile in Esquire magazine portrayed him as a dove opposed to President's Bush's Iran policy.
The article, entitled The Man Between War and Peace, described Admiral Fallon as as a lone voice against taking military action to stop the Iranian nuclear programme.
Announcing the resignation, Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, dismissed as "ridiculous" any notion that the departure signalled that the US was planning to go to war with Iran. He said there was a "misperception" that Admiral Fallon disagreed with the Bush Administration's approach to Iran. "I don't think there were any differences at all," Mr Gates insisted.
Pentagon insiders said that Admiral Fallon's departure was more the result of a turf battle between him and General David Petraeus, the US ground commander in Iraq. Admiral Fallon was General Petraeus's commanding officer but for months Mr Bush has deferred to General Petraeus, against the objections of Admiral Fallon, who is believed to have been advocating a speedier withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.
Admiral Fallon is also understood to have been pressing for a greater allocation of troops to Afghanistan, but has been frustrated at the reluctance of the Administration — and General Petraeus — to withdraw significant numbers from Iraq in the short term.
In a resignation statement from Admiral Fallon read out by Mr Gates, he said: "Recent press reports suggesting a disconnect between my views and the President's policy objectives have become a distraction at a critical time and hamper efforts in the Centcom region."
Admiral Fallon added: "And although I don't believe there have ever been any differences about the objectives of our policy in the Central Command area of responsibility, the simple perception that there is makes it difficult for me to effectively serve America's interests there."
Mr Gates said that he had reluctantly agreed to the resignation but that it was "the right thing to do". Admiral Fallon, the first naval officer to head Central Command, took up the post in March 2007, succeeding General John Abizaid.
Until a permanent replacement is nominated and confirmed by the Senate, Admiral Fallon's deputy, Lieutenant-General Martin Dempsey, of the US Army, would take over Centcom.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Ibn Warraq on the Superiority of Western Values

We should not be afraid to assert the superiority of Western Values

This is the text of a speech given by Ibn Warraq, the author of, amongst other things, Why I am Not A Muslim, as part of a discussion of the significance of Western values in London on 09 October 2007. He was opposed by, amongst others, Charles Glass and Tariq Ramadan, but his opening statement was outstanding, and once he had finished, the argument was all but over. The full step-by-step point and rebuttal, followed by questions from the audience, can be obtained from the Spectator website.


We should not be afraid to assert the superiority of Western values

Ibn Warraq – October 09 2007

The great ideas of the West – rationalism, self-criticism, the disinterested search for truth, the separation of church and state, the rule of law, equality before the law, freedom of conscience, thought and expression, human rights and liberal democracy, quite an achievement surely, for any civilisation, remain the best and perhaps the only means for all people, no matter what race or creed, to reach their full potential and live in freedom.

That is why Western values, on which its self evident economic, social, political, scientific and cultural success is based, are clearly superior to any other devised by humankind. However, when these values have been adopted by other societies, similar benefits have accrued to its citizens, as in Japan and South Korea. Liberty, the second great panel in the triptych, is also an immense human idea. It is embodied in the magnificent creation of human rights.

Human rights are, I believe, universal. They transcend local or ethnocentric values, and confer equal dignity and value to all humanity, regardless of sex, ethnicity, sexual preferences and religion. I also believe it is in the West that they are most respected; it is the West that has liberated women, racial minorities, religious minorities, gays and lesbians, to an extent unimaginable sixty years ago. It is in the West that their rights are recognised and defended. In the West we are free to think what we want, to read what we want, to practice our religion, to live lives of our own choosing. The notions of human rights and freedom were, I believe [there], the dawn of Western civilization, as ideals at least, and [they were] further developed during the Enlightenment, but are only now coming to fruition in the twenty-first century, as a result of a series of supreme acts of self-criticism. [These were] acts of self-criticism that led to greater freedom for a greater number of people.

It was the West that took steps to abolish slavery. The calls for the abolition of slavery did not resonate in black Africa, where rival African tribes took black prisoners to be sold in the West. By contrast, stoning to death someone for adultery is a clear violation of the human rights of the individuals concerned. Punishments, laws concerning inheritance, and the rights of women prescribed by the Sharia'h Islamic law also flagrantly violate the human rights of individuals. Under [Sharia'h] Islamic law, women are not free to marry whom they wish, homosexuals are killed, apostates are to be executed. The Koran is not a rights-respecting document.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, define succinctly the attractiveness and superiority of Western civilisation. We are free in the West to choose. We have real choice to pursue our own desires. We are free to set the goals and contents of our own lives. The West is made up of individuals who are free to decide what meaning to give to their lives.

In short, the glory of the West is that life is an open book, while under Islam, life is a closed book. Everything has been decided for you. God and the Holy Law set limits on the possible agenda of your life. In many non-Western countries, especially Islamic ones, we are not free to read what we want. In Saudi Arabia, Muslims are not free to convert to Christianity, and Christians are not free to practice their faith - all clear violations of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This desire for knowledge, no matter where it leads, inherited from the Greeks, has led to another institution that is unequalled, or very rarely equalled outside the West – the University. Here the outside world recognises this superiority. It comes to the West to learn not only about sciences, developed in the West in the last five hundred years, in all departments of physics, biology and chemistry, but also of their own culture. They come to the West to learn of the Eastern civilisation and languages. Easterners come to Oxford, Cambridge, or Harvard and Yale, the Sorbonne or Heidelberg to receive their doctorates, because they confer prestige unrivalled by similar doctorates from the third world countries.

A culture that gave the world the spiritual creations of classical music, of Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner and Schubert, the paintings of Michelangelo, Raphael, Da Vinci and Rembrandt, does not need lessons from societies whose idea of spirituality is a heaven peopled with female virgins for the use of men whose idea of heaven resembles a cosmic brothel. The West has given the world […..]

To paraphrase Alan Coors, instead of the rigid, inhuman caste system of India, we have unparalleled social mobility in the West. Western society is a society of ever-richer, more varied, more productive, more self-defined, and more satisfying lives. It is a society of boundless private charity; it is a society that broke of behalf of merit the seemingly eternal chains of station by birth.

The West has given us the liberal miracle of individual rights, individual responsibility, merit and human satisfaction, in contrast to the mind-numbing certainties and rules of Islam, Western civilisation offers what Russell once called liberating doubt, which leads to the methodological principles of scientific scepticism. Politics, as much as science, proceeds by tentative steps of trial and error, open discussion, criticism and self-correction. One could characterise the difference between the West and the rest as a difference is epistemological principles. Western institutions such as universities, research institutes and libraries are at least ideally independent academies which enshrine these epistemological norms and where the pursuit of truth is conducted in a spirit of disinterested enquiry, free from political pressures.

In other words, behind the success of modern Western societies, with their science and technology and their open institutions, lies a distinct way of looking at the world, interpreting it and the recognition and rectifying of the problems besetting them. Problems are lifted out of the religious sphere and treated as empirical problems whose solutions lie in rational procedures and open to rational [inter]subjective criticism, not in appeal to revelation.

The whole edifice of modern science and its methodology is one of Western man's greatest gifts to the world. But the West did not only give us just about every scientific discovery for the last five hundred years, from electricity to computers, but gave us, thanks to its humanitarian impulses, the Red Cross, Doctors without Frontiers or Borders, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. It is the West that provides the bulk of the aid to beleaguered Darfur. Islamic countries are conspicuous by their absence.

The West does not need lectures on the superior virtue of societies in which women are kept in subjection, endure genital mutilation, are stoned to death for alleged adultery, have acid thrown on their faces, are married off against their will at the age of nine, or where the human rights of those who are considered to belong to lower castes are denied.

The West does not need sanctimonious homilies from societies that cannot provide clean drinking water for its citizens, that cannot provide sewage systems, that cannot educate its citizens to within forty to fifty per cent literacy, that makes no provisions for the handicapped, from societies that have no sense of the common good, civic duty, civic responsibility, and civic accountability, from societies that are riddled with corruption.

Moreover, the rest of the world recognises the superiority of the West. It is to the West that refugees from theocratic, totalitarian regimes flee, appreciating the West's tolerance and political freedom. Millions risk their lives trying to get to the West, not to Saudi Arabia, or Iran or Pakistan.

[Also], no Western politician would be able to get away with the kind of racist remarks made by [Mohammed Mahathir] the Malaysian leader. No Western politician could survive in office; there would be calls for his or her resignation from third world leaders themselves, but also Western media and other intellectuals.

Yet we tolerate Mahathir's anti-Semitic diatribes – double standards? Yes, but also a tacit acknowledgement that we expect higher ethical standards from the West. There are no jokes in Islam, as Ayatollah Khomeini once famously said. The West is able to look at its foibles and laugh, to make fun of its fundamental principles, but there is no equivalent as yet of Monty Python's "Life of Brian." Can we look forward to the "Life of Mo?" or – "Half a Mo?"

Finally, when Chinese students cried and died for democracy in Tiananmen Square, they brought with them not representations of Confucius, or Buddha, but a model of the Statue of Liberty.

Thank you.

Ibn Warraq - October 09, 2007

Monday, March 10, 2008

Diesel Fuel To Be Rationed In Iran Starting Next Week

Diesel Fuel To Be Rationed In Iran Starting Next Week

The Iranian government has announced that starting next week, the sale of diesel fuel is to be rationed.

The announcement added that residents will only be able to purchase diesel fuel using "smart cards" that have been distributed to them.

Source: Rooz, Iran, March 10, 2008

Posted at: 2008-03-10