Saturday, June 7, 2008

U.S. cool on Iran strike

While Israel PM Olmert and Defence Minister Mofaz were talking up the probability of a US strike on Iran, US officials quickly poured lukewarm water on the idea. Who gains when Israeli officials turn the Iran issue into an Israel issue, and who loses?
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Friday that the United States was committed to solving the Iranian nuclear threat through diplomatic multilateral means.
Perino was responding to comments made earlier Friday by Transportation Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz, who said that an Israeli attack on Iran appeared "unavoidable" given the apparent failure of sanctions to deny Tehran technology with bomb-making potential.
"I understand that Israel is very concerned about their future and their safety when they have a neighbor in their region - Iran - that says they want to wipe them off the map," Perino told reporters. "We are trying to solve this diplomatically," she explained.
Asked whether the United States was keeping military options open as a last resort with Iran, she said U.S. President George W. Bush had always said he "would never take any options off the table" but that Washington was pursuing multilateral diplomacy.
"The international community deserves to have the verification that that is true," she said of Iran's assertions that its nuclear ambitions are peaceful.
Earlier, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel, asked specifically whether the United States would support an Israeli strike on Iran, said, "I'm not going to talk about hypotheticals. I think we've been pretty clear in recent weeks and months about our approach on Iran."
The Bush administration has repeatedly said it wants to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue through diplomacy but has made clear that military options remain on the table as a last resort.
Iran has defied Western pressure to abandon its uranium enrichment projects, which it says are for peaceful electricity generation.
Tehran has also threatened to retaliate against Israel, believed to have the Middle East's only atomic arsenal, and U.S. targets in the Gulf if there is any attack on Iran.
Earlier Friday, the mass-circulation Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper quoted Mofaz as saying "if Iran continues with its program for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack it. The sanctions are ineffective."
"Attacking Iran, in order to stop its nuclear plans, will be unavoidable," the former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff who later served as defense minister told the newspaper.
It was the most explicit threat yet against Iran from a member of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government, which, like the Bush administration, has preferred to hint at force as a last resort should United Nations Security Council sanctions fail to achieve the desired abandonment of nuclear development by Tehran.
Mofaz also said in the interview that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel to be wiped off the map, "would disappear before Israel does."
Mofaz's remarks came as he and several other senior members of Olmert's Kadima Party prepare for a possible run for top office should a corruption scandal force the Israeli prime minister to step down.
Iranian-born Mofaz has been a main party rival of the Israeli prime minister, particularly following the 2006 elections when Olmert was forced to hand the defence portfolio to Labor, his main coalition partner, at Mofaz's expense.
Mofaz, who is also designated as a deputy prime minister, has remained privy to Israel's defense planning. He is a member of Olmert's security cabinet and leads regular strategic coordination talks with the U.S. State Department.
Israel sent warplanes to destroy Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981.
A similar Israeli sortie over Syria last September razed what the U.S. administration said was a nascent nuclear reactor built with North Korean help. Syria denied having any such facility.
Independent analysts have questioned, however, whether Israel's armed forces can take on Iran alone, as its nuclear sites are numerous, distant and well-fortified

Friday, June 6, 2008

Muslim brotherhood expert: Muslim Brotherhood hopes Obama will help change their image

The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in the 1920s with the aim of imposing fundamentalist Islamist Sharia government in Muslim countries, reestablishing the Caliphate and the Muslim empire and combatting the west. Intially it was a terrorist group. Following severe repression by the Egyptian government, the Muslim brotherhood splintered and mutated into several other groups, including Al-Qaeda. The Muslim Brotherhood group itself is split into a more moderate "new guard" and a more militant old guard. the "new guard, has apparently been holding talks with western leaders, and is hopeful that Barack Obama as US President will help them achieve their ends, according to an article at the official Web site of the Muslim Brotherhood, IkhwanWeb:  
Gina Abdou, an expert in Islamic movements, confirmed that there is a conflict between "the old guard" and "the new guard" inside the Muslim Brotherhood. She revealed that this "new guard" holds quasi periodical meetings with the US administration and many European governments and that Islamic movements in the world hope that Obama manages to win the White House race because they think that this may enable them to expand dialogue with his administration and change the dominant image that they are terrorist movements.
Ami Isseroff


Thursday, June 5, 2008

The chic of Araby

To Palestinian-American designer Nemi Jamal, the controversy surrounding the kaffiyeh, a traditional Arab headdress, worn by television celebrity cook Rachael Ray in an ad for iced coffee, is just a disgrace.
Dunkin' Donuts pulled the ad last week after critics said the kaffiyeh worn by the Food Network star symbolized Muslim extremism and terrorism.
Not to Jamal, born in Jericho and now living in New City, New York, who said the kaffiyeh is no fashion faux pas but a symbol of nationalism. She is among the Arab-Americans who say the comments are inaccurate and show prejudice.
"The Palestinian people consider this their flag," said Jamal, who has designed jeans, pocketbooks and neck ties with kaffiyehs. "People often have these in their cars and on key rings. It is about pride and class struggle and nothing else. To say it stands for what they've said is just a disgrace."
Once the trademark headwear of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, the hatta, as the kaffiyeh is also called, dates back centuries and is used to shield those who live in the desert from the relentless sun and dust storms. Some wear the cotton cloth as a turban, while others wear it draped against their back and shoulders.
The traditional headdress became symbolic during the Palestinian uprising
against the British occupation from 1936 to 1939, and has been a symbol of nationalism ever since, according to Rochelle Davis, an assistant professor of culture and society at Georgetown University's Center for Contemporary Arab Studies.
Ray's scarf had a paisley design and was selected by a stylist intending
absolutely no symbolism, according to a statement issued by Canton,
Massachusetts-based Dunkin' Brands Inc.
Laila Al-Qatami, communications director for the American-Arab
Anti-Discrimination Committee, said that while she thought it was wrong of Dunkin' Donuts to cave under the pressure, she understood the franchise did not want the issue to detract from its marketing campaign to sell coffee.
She added that the recent controversy is the strongest backlash she has seen regarding a cultural article of clothing or an accessory.
"The only thing I can possibly liken to this is if someone were to say that anyone who wears a sombrero is a supporter of illegal immigration," she said. "It's ridiculous."
Zead Ramadan, vice president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in New York, said he was outraged by what bloggers and critics alluded to.
"People are trying to label Arabs, and are trying to do so with clothing items," Ramadan said. "It's intentional propaganda that has been created to mislead unknowing people about a cultural item. Terrorism is not something you wear; it's a state of mind."
Despite the controversy, Jamal said she does not expect any type of backlash to her own business. Determined to make the kaffiyeh the new bandanna, Jamal has transformed them into flowing skirts and low-cut halter-tops that have been worn by a beauty queen in a Miss USA pageant, a popular stand-up comedian, and Sarah Jessica Parker on an episode of Sex and the City.
"People will always say things, but you just have to ignore it and keep doing what you're doing," she said. "There are enough people that respect it for what it is."

Reconciliation in Saudi Arabia

 From Saudi Arabia, a headline that says it all: Six Gunned Down at Reconciliation Talks
Wael Abdullah, Arab News  
JEDDAH, 4 June 2008 — A man walked in with a machine gun and opened fire on a group of people holding talks to reconcile an ongoing land dispute in Al-Sail near Taif, killing six and injuring seven others on Tuesday, police said yesterday.

The incident took place during reconciliation talks between two tribes involved in the dispute. The man was arrested shortly after the killing spree. Capt. Turki Al-Shahri, spokesman of the Taif police, yesterday declined to provide more details, citing sensitivities related to the dispute.

According to an eyewitness, the man killed three brothers and another man on the spot, while two others succumbed to gunshot wounds at King Abdul Aziz Hospital in Taif later.

Reconciliation talks are common in Saudi Arabia. They are often conducted — with the help of a government committee or nongovernmental mediators — in situations related to negotiating blood money and settling inter-tribal feuds.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

There Is a Military Solution to Terror

Perhaps it should be "There is sometimes a military solution to terror."

There Is a Military Solution to Terror
June 3, 2008; Page A19

Sadr City in Baghdad, the northeastern districts of Sri Lanka and the Guaviare province of Colombia have little in common culturally, historically or politically. But they are crucial reference points on a global map in which long-running insurgencies suddenly find themselves on the verge of defeat.

For the week of May 16-23, there were 300 "violent incidents" in Iraq. That's down from 1,600 last June and the lowest recorded since March 2004. Al Qaeda has been crushed by a combination of U.S. arms and Sunni tribal resistance. On the Shiite side, Moqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army was routed by Iraqi troops in Basra and later crumbled in its Sadr City stronghold.

In Colombia, the 44-year-old FARC guerrilla movement is now at its lowest ebb. Three of its top commanders died in March, and the number of FARC attacks is down by more than two-thirds since 2002. In the face of a stepped-up campaign by the Colombian military (funded, equipped and trained by the U.S.), the group is now experiencing mass desertions. Former FARC leaders describe a movement that is losing any semblance of ideological coherence and operational effectiveness.

In Sri Lanka, a military offensive by the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has wrested control of seven of the nine districts previously held by the rebel group LTTE, better known as the Tamil Tigers. Mr. Rajapaksa now promises victory by the end of the year, even as the Tigers continue to launch high-profile terrorist attacks.

All this is good news in its own right. Better yet, it explodes the mindless shibboleth that there is "no military solution" when it comes to dealing with insurgencies. On the contrary, it turns out that the best way to end an insurgency is, quite simply, to beat it.

Why was this not obvious before? When military strategies fail – as they did in Vietnam while the U.S. pursued the tactics of attrition, or in Iraq prior to the surge – the idea that there can be no military solution has a way of taking hold with civilians and generals eager to deflect blame. This is how we arrived at the notion that "political reconciliation" is a precondition of military success, not a result of it.

There's also a tendency to misjudge the aims and ambitions of the insurgents: To think they can be mollified via one political concession or another. Former Colombian president Andres Pastrana sought to appease the FARC by ceding to them a territory the size of Switzerland. The predictable result was to embolden the guerrillas, who were adept at sensing and exploiting weakness.

The deeper problem here is the belief that the best way to deal with insurgents is to address the "root causes" of the grievance that purportedly prompted them to take up arms. But what most of these insurgencies seek isn't social or moral redress: It's absolute power. Like other "liberation movements" (the PLO comes to mind), the Tigers are notorious for killing other Tamils seen as less than hard line in their views of the conflict. The failure to defeat these insurgencies thus becomes the primary obstacle to achieving a reasonable political settlement acceptable to both sides.

This isn't to say that political strategies shouldn't be pursued in tandem with military ones. Gen. David Petraeus was shrewd to exploit the growing enmity between al Qaeda and their Sunni hosts by offering former insurgents a place in the country's security forces as "Sons of Iraq." (The liberal use of "emergency funds," aka political bribes, also helped.) Colombian President Álvaro Uribe has more than just extended amnesty for "demobilized" guerrillas; he's also given them jobs in the army.

But these political approaches only work when the intended beneficiaries can be reasonably confident that they are joining the winning side. Nobody was abandoning the FARC when Mr. Pastrana lay prostrate before it. It was only after Mr. Uribe turned the guerrilla lifestyle into a day-and-night nightmare that the movement's luster finally started to fade.

Defeating an insurgency is never easy even with the best strategies and circumstances. Insurgents rarely declare surrender, and breakaway factions can create a perception of menace even when their actual strength is minuscule. It helps when the top insurgent leaders are killed or captured: Peru's Shining Path, for instance, mostly collapsed with the capture of Abimael Guzmán. Yet the Kurdish PKK is now resurgent nine years after the imprisonment of Abdullah Ocalan, thanks to the sanctuary it enjoys in Northern Iraq.

Still, it's no small thing that neither the PKK nor the Shining Path are capable of killing tens of thousands of people and terrorizing whole societies, as they were in the 1980s. Among other things, beating an insurgency allows a genuine process of reconciliation and redress to take place, and in a spirit of malice toward none. But those are words best spoken after the terrible swift sword has done its work.

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Monday, June 2, 2008

The Nasrallah speech: Hezbollah ruled, the West is fooled

The Nasrallah speech: Hezbollah ruled, the West is fooled
By Walid Phares, Ph.D.
June 02/08

In the next days a major battle in the War of Ideas will be unfolding worldwide and particularly through the international media. We are now witnessing a massive campaign by Hezbollah's strategic communication machine (as our Western jargon likes to describe it) to frame the outcome of the battle for Lebanon, significantly lost by the United States, the West and the forces of Democracies in the region. The main issue at hand in the Iranian funded war room is not about convincing the international community and the Arab and Muslim world that Hezbollah has defeated its opponents in that small but strategically located republic, but that an overwhelming majority of Lebanese are now firmly standing behind Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in his vision for the future of the Eastern Mediterranean and probably the Greater Middle East.

The propaganda machine, living off Khomeinist Petrodollars, enlists not only the traditional Hezbollah outlets such as al Manar but also an networks of friends in the multi-layered world of the foreign press and active pens in a plethora of news rooms around the world. The power of the Iranian Oil lobbies is almost as influential as the power of the Wahabi Petro pressures group. We'll come back to revisit this world later.

In his more than significant speech today, secretary general of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah uncovered the bulk of his agenda for Lebanon, the region and perhaps his international open alignment with Tehran's ambitions. This speech, delivered after the invasion of West Beirut and southern Mount Lebanon and collapse of the Seniora Government is indeed a declaration of victory. Usually, Hezbollah's commander produces these benchmark-speeches when a new era is already underway. The first lesson thus is that the Tehran-backed militia in Lebanon has already scored its victory on the ground, in the institutions and diplomatically. What the political architects of the "axis" are working on as we write is a push to present the situation in Lebanon as marching towards stability and reconciliation. This is not unusual to "coups" aftermath. The winners always try to set the agenda of the debate and later on their pens will try to rewrite history. But one has to admit that Western public is hardly absorbing the too many sudden Lebanon-related events that took place over the last few weeks. Strategic realities were that Hezbollah and its allies overran Beirut and crumbled the foundations of the democratically elected Government of Fuad Seniora; the Lebanese Army headed by the now President of Lebanon, General Michel Sleiman did not confront Hezbollah then nor after; the March 14 coalition backing the Government couldn't resist Hezbollah without the protection by the Lebanese Army or a Western intervention; both needed moves didn't happen; hence the March 14 accepted to participate in conference in Doha to cut a deal with Hezbollah under the auspices of the Qatar regime, a friend of all, including more importantly of Tehran and Syria.

Now the reader can understand the rest of the story. In Qatar, it wasn't a national reconciliation that took place, but a crushing defeat to the March 14 coalition, which � rightly or wrongly � felt abandoned by Washington and by Arab moderates. Details will be reviewed later. The Qatari regime brokered a deal, saving the face of the anti-Syrian politicians and providing them with enough oxygen for a year or so. But the lion's share was granted to the Syro-Iranian forces in Lebanon. Hezbollah emerged as the main real power in Lebanon, with a veto power inside the Government, eleven ministers, the sanctity of its Iranian weapons and enough legitimacy to shield it from being disarmed at any time under UNSCR 1559. If this is not a astounding victory, I don't know how to describe it accurately.

And on top of it, Hezbollah welcomed � in fact hurried � the election of General Suleiman as the new President of the Republic. You don't need to be a political genius to figure out that Tehran would have shaken the Earth under Lebanon if the candidate was not who it wanted at this particular conjuncture. The rest is an amazing cooking of the story by the "axis kitchen." The version � available via the international news agencies and the networks it feeds � is a celestial tale: The Lebanese opposition (read Hezbollah) finally pressured the Government into making concessions; the Lebanese Army stood neutral between the "opposition" and the "loyalists;" a brotherly Arab initiative convinced "both parties" to come solve the problems calmly in Doha; hence both sides decided to make concessions and come up with a national reconciliation document. This version of the events would have needed an entire process of analysis but another rapid volley of events followed and shifted attention to the current stage of affairs.

As analysts were still evaluating the Hezbollah offensive, the March 14 weakening and the real attitudes of Washington and Paris leading to the Qatar meetings world attention was suddenly hijacked to Beirut where a Presidential election took place under the eyes of many diplomatic representatives from the Arab world and the West. How did the international community shift from supporting the Cedars Revolution to backing a renewed influence by Iran and Syria in Lebanon in few days? Well, the "story" rapidly moved to the rosy painting that, now Lebanon has a President and we shouldn't be looking back, meaning at how Hezbollah began the operations on May 7 leading to the crumbling of the Seniora Government and the coming of General Sleiman. Now "Peace" has come to Lebanon after assassinations and a summer war, so let's not look back at an era where Lebanon was a battlefield with Terrorism and its Iranian and Syrian backers.

The media coverage of these blitz-stories has moved even faster to re-baptize Hezbollah as a force of stability. Indeed, a respectable international English-broadcasting network, based out of Europe said today "Hezbollah head urges co-existence." A reminder of the Munich media coverage in the 1930s, today's depicting that the Doha declaration "saved the Peace of Lebanon," and that "Hezbollah got all what it wanted, it won't ask for more, is chilling. And who best than the Secretary General of the victorious organization to confirm our fears that the world is being duped on Lebanon, but public opinion is not being informed about it.

As carried live by Hezbollah-owned al Manar TV, and posted on its web site later, the speech by Sayyed Nasrallah today says it clearly:

We have won that war in Lebanon.
We have defeated the Democracy movement in this country and the Government it has produced.
The United States and its allies knows that they cannot defeat us in Lebanon or in Iran by military means.
We showed Washington that it cannot move forward with its freedom strategy, particularly from Lebanon.
We have now seized power in this country (Lebanon) but we don't have to make it formal.
The Lebanese Army will never be used to disarm us. Its commander, our ally, is now the President of the Republic.v
We will fight any international move to disarm us.
We will grow militarily in Lebanon with the backing of Iran, in parallel to the Lebanese Army.
We have offered a successful model of military confrontation, thus we won't accept diplomatic solutions.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad will continue their Terror operations against Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
We support the armed insurrection against the political process in Iraq.
We are proud of being under the Vilayet e-Faqih of Iran, in other words, Jihadi-Khomeinist.
Obviously, these assertions are not well reported by the international media. Nasrallah said in his speech that "his wars" are "insuring peace." Probably many ears wants to hear the second part of his statement and certainly the oil-funded media consulting of the axis wants the West to hear that portion as well. We've seen this in Munich before.

Now to the main points of the speech:

1. Hezbollah "offers its Strategy" to all Arabs

Nasrallah said Hezbollah is as ready to fight in Lebanon as it was during the July 2006 war with Israel. He called on the "Arab Peoples and Governments to study the seriousness of the defense and liberation strategies of the organization and the new balance of power in Lebanon." In other words, the victory achieved in Lebanon against the democratically elected Government and the deterrence against the United Nations and the West is a strategic option to follow for all other radicals in the region. He predicted that because of these strategies, Hezbollah's prisoners in Israel will be returned soon.

2. Hezbollah's weapons are untouchable

He said: For what use were the other weapons in Lebanon? He meant the light weapons owned by Lebanese citizens not supporting Hezbollah. In other words Hezbollah cannot accept that any other citizen resistance to terror could form in Lebanon. The only "resistance" is Hezbollah and no other Lebanese group can arm itself against the Iranian-backed force. In addition, Nasrallah threatened that the Lebanese Government should not use its regular forces to settle scores with its opposition. In reality he meant that no Lebanese Government will be allowed to use the Army and the Security Forces to disarm Hezbollah. Explicitly he said: "The Lebanese Army and Internal Security Forces cannot be used against Hezbollah (the so-called resistance)."

3. Hezbollah's friends

Nasrallah particularly thanked the Qatar's regime for the diplomatic help it extended. In fact Doha's representatives at the Security Council have indeed blocked every single attempt to take the Lebanese crisis to the Security Council and implement the various resolutions under Chapter 7 of the Charter. Qatar was the fastest regime to oppose the internationalization of the crisis when Hezbollah invaded Beirut. It stated that the crisis is exclusively internal, read Iran and Syria are not behind the offensive. So it was natural that Nasrallah would gratify Qatar, in addition to the warm thank you to the Iranian and Syrian regimes who "helped in producing Doha's agreement."

4. Sleiman in Hezbollah's eyes

Nasrallah said the election of General Sleiman as President "renews hopes among Lebanese for a new beginning. He added that Sleiman's inauguration speech "expresses the spirit of consensus." How to translate this Hezbollah admiration for the new President? It is simple: The General committed to protect the "resistance's" weapons, practically, the military power of Hezbollah. Better, the new President didn't even mention UNSCR 1559 which expressly calls for the disarming of militias, that is Hezbollah. Hence Nasrallah's satisfaction is understandable. Since September 2004, the Iranian funded militia lived in the uncertainty of a UN backed decommission of their arms. Now and for the next six years (Lebanon's Presidential term) the 30,000 missiles and rockets and the 300 millions Petrodollars (plus) will be under the protection of a new President and of perhaps a Hezbollah even more dominated cabinet as of 2009.

5. America's "dream" has been shattered

The conqueror of West Beirut and of Mount Lebanon in 2008 and the champion of the 2006 regional war, said his dream is to provide Lebanon with a "peaceful and calm summer" (sic) but "America's dream is for a summer war." He called all to "cooperate against the dreams of the enemy," hence assimilating the United States to an "enemy."

6. "Reconstruction and Violence" at the same time

Moving swiftly in an attempt to reconcile with the Hariri legacy, Nasrallah offered the supporters of the slain Prime Minister (mostly Sunnis who were attacked by Hezbollah few weeks ago), an opportunity to go back to the better era of the 1990s. "Rafiq Hariri," remarked the head of Hezbollah, "had a strategic thinking. His great mind was able to support the projects of "resistance" and "reconstruction". What Mr. Nasrallah is hoping for is a change of policy by the Future Movement of his son Saad Hariri from opposing Syria and Iran to a new deal with the axis, whereby a Hariri Government would conduct business at will while the business of military force would be left exclusively to the pro-Iranian militia. For in the mind of Nasrallah, his forces would conduct wars -with all the subsequent destructions- and Beirut entrepreneurs would rebuild afterwards.

7. Hezbollah's sectarian clones

Uncovering the next stage of Hezbollah's agenda inside Lebanon, the master of the Party of Allah declared that not all 11 members of his bloc inside the next Lebanese Government will necessarily be from his organization or even Shiites. This statement is among the most important points made in the speech. To use his impressive quota in the forthcoming cabinet so that Hezbollah allies from the Sunni, Druze and Christian communities emerge in Government is a Machiavellian move. What better than non-Shia cabinet members promoting the Iranian group inside the country and worldwide?

8. Hezbollah will re-open the wounds later

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah paused long before he informed his audience that he will not open the wound now. He meant by "wound" the reasons for why he launched his attack on Beirut on May 7. He argued that reopening it now may inflame passions. He promised to address the matter in the era following the election of General Michel Sleiman "who obtained such a national, Arab and international support." An expert reading of Nasrallah's calibrated words tells us that he doesn't want to criticize further his enemies (most Sunnis, Druze and Christian leaders) at this particular time, but in fact he will come back to denounce them, and maybe more, later. Why? Because of a delicate calculation. Indeed, Hezbollah won a short military battle but was about top lose the long term one has events resumed. His battlefield surge was instantly transformed into a political victory in Doha by his friends in Qatar and his allies in Damascus and Tehran. He came back to Beirut to collect enormous dividends: 11 ministries in the Government, veto power, a friendly President and an insulted America. What else he could dream of at this stage? Hence, Nasrallah doesn't want to jeopardize this. If he reopen these "wounds" now, he will force his foes to re-engage in battle again, and this time Hezbollah may not keep all its credibility intact. Thus he will settle scores with his opponents at his discretion, later.

9. The real fear of Hezbollah: Lebanon's Army

In this speech, Nasrallah revealed the deepest secret his organization has kept for years from public debate: The fear that a confrontation between the Lebanese Army and Hezbollah could take place. In contrast with most analysis on the subject, I have argued for years that if the Lebanese Army begins the process of disarming Hezbollah, unlike what most commentators and analysts have advanced, on a medium range the national Army will gradually isolate the radical group. That of course if this Army is backed by its commanders, its Government and the international community. Hezbollah intimidates Lebanon's politicians, Arab leaders, and has been successful in relatively defeating Israel psychologically. The suicide bombers of this organization have created a myth of invincibility since the massacre of the US Marines and French fusiliers in 1983. But ironically, in every time the heavily armed and hugely funded militia by Iran face off with other Lebanese, they weren't exactly a superpower. During Hezbollah's war against Israel's occupation in southern Lebanon, the group was not as successful against the local SLA militia then against Israeli media. In the recent incidents, Hezbollah might was repelled by Druze peasants and Nasrallah hesitated before he gave the orders to assault the Christian areas. A long occupation of Sunni neighborhood may not be very healthy for the Khomeinist militia. Regarding the Lebanese Army, surely Hezbollah can influence about 25% of the personnel to quit the institution if the Army is asked to contain the militia. But what about the remaining 75% of the officers and soldiers. It is not about the weapons it is about the emotions. It would be almost impossible for Tehran's militia in Lebanon to fight a core of the Lebanese Army in addition of a majority of the population, and win, despite the 30,000 rockets and their suicide bombers. Nasrallah knows it well, perhaps better than his enemies inside the country. Hence, his nightmare scenario isn't an Israel offensive or a US landing but simply a clash between the Lebanese Army and his forces. Thus this one single short sentence: "we want to save Lebanon (i.e. his own militia) from a fight between the Army and the Resistance (Hezbollah). In fact Nasrallah's real mega-victory was to neutralize the Lebanese Army by co-opting the election of its commander as the new President. Under this new equation, the Iranian militia in Lebanon won't fear a move by the Army.

10. Hezbollah, member in Iran's regime

Perhaps one of the most noticed statements made by Sayyed Nasrallah was his unequivocal admittance that he -and thus his party- are proud members of Iran's regime. "I am proud of being a member in the Vilayet e Faqih Party" declared the Hezbollah Secretary General in front of the international media, shattering every bit of questioning about his affiliation with the Khomeinist regime in Tehran. Observers may ask why would Nasrallah state in public -in an astounding way- that he is part of the Iranian regime? The answer is simple: Because he believe he won the war irreversibly and that the Cedars Revolution was crushed and the United States humiliated. Thus this is a victory speech where he can tell the world where his real affiliation is.

11. Hezbollah's road to power

In his speech Nasrallah also explained his road map to power in Lebanon. He said: "all victorious resistance movements in history either seized power or claimed it." But in a magnanimous gesture, the head of Hezbollah added "we are not interested in power and we don't want it. Now, how would experienced experts read this statement with enough background on the group? Just the opposite. Hezbollah is extremely interested in power and definitely wants it. If it is not surrendering one inch of the power it already has to the Lebanese Government, not decreasing its weaponry system and invading parts of Lebanon to expand, this definitely is the evidence that Nasrallah aim at supreme power in the country. But why is he not stating so? Because these types of totalitarian Jihadist forces won't declare their ultimate goals before they have reached them. If they do prematurely they will lose allies and unite their enemies. If anything, Nasrallah's statement about his disinterest in power indicates that the final victory was not achieved yet. This also indicates that there are enough forces inside Lebanon which still have the potential of countering and eventually reversing his group's grip on power.

12. Hezbollah losses

Interestingly, Nasrallah minimized the losses of his militia during the fights against fellow Lebanese, particularly in Mount Lebanon against the Druzes. he said his organization lost 14 "martyrs" and his allies from the Amal Movement, the Syrian National-Social Party, and others also lost fighters. Obviously, Sayyed Hassan is not being candid here. There were way more burial services in several villages and neighborhoods controlled by Hezbollah. According to Druze and Sunni sources and other observers, more than 70 armed elements from that militia were killed as they stormed the opponents positions. More than 14 were lost by Hezbollah on the unfamous "888 Hill," as sources said weeks ago. It is then to believe that the "Secretary General" doesn't want to reveal to the world, and his followers that -in a three days period- Hezbollah lost more fighters in battles against lightly armed citizens than against the mighty Israeli forces. Minimizing the losses to the extreme is indicative of a discovery made by the Iranian War room in Lebanon. Attacking Lebanon's civil society head on with sheer military power can be an unsustainable expedition.

13. Hezbollah doesn't need consensus on its weapons

Not only he asserted that he is part of Iran's regime (Wilayat al Faqih) but Nasrallah dismissed any Lebanese consensus on his organizations weapons. "The Resistance � i.e. Hezbollah � doesn't wait for national and political consensus but it carries weapons and march to implement the goals of liberation with arms and blood." This powerful statement is very clear: Hezbollah will not accept in any form or shape surrendering its weapons to any Lebanese Government until, of course, it becomes the Government. No democratic majority, no national consensus will remove Hezbollah weapons, as we understand Nasrallah's speech. Hence how many question marks must we put on the so-called "Doha Agreement" and on the statements made here and there by Western and Arab voices hoping Lebanon's dialogue and the newly elected President can convince the Iranian militia of Lebanon to ay down its weapons. I'd say too may.

14. No to US intervention, yes to Iran's

Going on the defensive, Nasrallah denied that his allies Iran and Syria are "imposing any decisions" on the organization. Then leaping on the offensive, he criticized his critics for not addressing the American and Western interference in the country. Such an assertion shows that Hezbollah wasn't so comfortable for being attacked as stooge of the Mullahs. The Party felt a growing discontent by a majority of Lebanese because of the collaboration with Tehran and Damascus regimes. Under the previous Syrian occupation of Lebanon 1976-2005 this "privileged" relationship with the axis was part of the de facto situation in the country. But Hezbollah abhorred the accusation, which since the departure of the "brotherly forces" was leveled against his leadership. In other words Nasrallah is attempting to bring the country back to a status quo ante. In his book, collaboration with the Syrian-Iranian axis is part of a needed strategy. But the United Nations Security Council Resolutions and their initiators, Washington and Paris, are to be considered as foes and unacceptable.

15. After Hezbollah, Gaza

After he asserted the victory of Hezbollah in Lebanon, against both his adversaries and Iran's opponents, Nasrallah underlined that his "strategy" in Lebanon has also been working in Gaza. In addition to fighting with Israel -which is the norm for radicals- it is in fact the crumbling of sitting authorities that constitute the "defense strategy" of Iran's allies. As in Gaza will be in Lebanon, meaning a coup, and as in Lebanon will be in Gaza, meaning future wars. More than ever the long range apparatus of Iran's regime on the Eastern Mediterranean seem to be centered on Hezbollah and Hamas and the basis for Tehran's forthcoming expansion are the rest of Lebanon and the West Bank.

16. Hezbollah's Iraq strategy

After Palestine, Nasrallah moved to Iraq to reveal clearly that Hezbollah is part of the insurgency against the Iraqi Government and the Coalition forces. In an unprecedented manner, the man who dealt a blow to the Cedars Revolution in Lebanon declared his unmitigated support to Jihadi Terror in Mesopotamia. "In the name of the Arab and Muslim world I am calling on the Iraqi people to support the resistance and adopt the "strategy of liberation." He added: "We in Hezbollah naturally side with the Resistance in Iraq." In other words Nasrallah is backing the Terror insurgency in Iraq, both against the Iraqi Government and the US-led Coalition. This by itself is as clear as one would investigate the real regional role of Hezbollah: Seizing power in Lebanon, crumbling the Peace Process between Palestinians and Israelis and fueling Terror against the political process in Iraq. If you couple this statement with intelligence reports accusing Hezbollah of training insurgents in Iraq, Nasrallah's Iraq strategy cannot be clearer: strike in Iraq in the same way you strike in Lebanon and Gaza; bring down the Iraqi Government in the same manner the (first) Seniora Government and the Mahmoud Abbas Authority were brought down in Beirut and Gaza.

17. Bush and the "axis"

One day after pro-Syrian speaker of the Lebanese Parliament Nabih Berri blasted the United States and predicted that its dream of spreading Democracy from Lebanon is now shattered, Nasrallah escalated the attack. "The Contemporary Pharaoh George Bush, who is departing by God will, poured his anger against the 'resistance movements' in Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq and against the countries (regimes) that support and supply the 'resistance.' What do we take from here? In a sum, Hezbollah shows that it is indeed part of a regional axis aimed at defeating the United States efforts against Terrorism (with my reservation as to the name of that war) and more importantly, American support for Democracy. Tehran's (and Damascus' as well) most urgent goals are to break the US-led efforts to support democracy forces in the region. Hezbollah was tasked to do its part mainly in Lebanon, but also in the region.

18. Terror is our choice

"We as Arabs, Umma and Muslims," said Nasrallah, we have one choice, that is resistance (Terrorism) its methodology, its culture, its will and its action." With this conclusion, now the international community, democracies, the Arab and Muslim world and most Lebanese realize who they are up against and what they are facing in Lebanon: a powerful, determined and highly armed force, which has seized the control of the country's destiny (for now) and which has the full support of the neighboring Syrian regime and an Oil power, Iran, seeking to rapidly becoming a nuclear one. Far from the erroneous reporting by prominent international media calling this speech "a step towards coexistence," what we have heard, saw and read was nothing less than a full fledge declaration of Terror, mollified to Western ears by a powerfu and sophisticated propaganda machine.

� Dr. Walid Phares is Director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) in Washington, D.C., and a visiting scholar at the European Foundation for Democracy in Brussels. He is the author of the recently released book, The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad; and of Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against the West (2006) and The War of Ideas: Terrorist Strategies against the West (2007), available at
Dr. Phares holds degrees in law and political science from Saint Joseph University and the Lebanese University in Beirut, a Masters in international law from the Universite de Lyons in France and a Ph.D. in international relations and strategic studies from the University of Miami.
He has taught and lectured at numerous universities worldwide, practiced law in Beirut, and served as publisher of Sawt el-Mashreq and Mashrek International. He has taught Middle East political issues, ethnic and religious conflict, and comparative politics at Florida Atlantic University until 2006. He has been teaching Jihadi strategies at the National Defense University since 2007.
Dr. Phares has written eight books on the Middle East and published hundreds of articles in newspapers and scholarly publications such as Global Affairs, Middle East Quarterly, the Journal of South Asian and Middle East Studies and the Journal of International Security. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, BBC, al Jazeera, al Hurra, al Arabiya, as well as on many radio broadcasts.
Aside from serving on the boards of several national and international think tanks and human rights associations, Dr. Phares has testified before the US Senate Subcommittees on the Middle East and South East Asia, the House Committees on International Relations and Homeland Security and regularly conducts congressional and State Department as well as European Parliament and UN Security Council briefings.

Visit Dr. Phares on the web at and

© 2008 Walid Phares

Walid Phares story archive


Hiding persecution of Christians in Arab countries

Actually, they were protesting "what they said" was government inaction in the face of repeated attacks by Muslims against their community." As the article explains:

Angry Egyptian Christians demonstrated in the southern town of Mallawi yesterday against what they said was government inaction in the face of repeated attacks by Muslims against their community.

At least 300 Coptic Christians gathered outside the main church in Mallawi a day after gunmen stormed a historic monastery and kidnapped three monks sparking clashes that left one person dead and four wounded.

We have been quiet for too long. We regularly have problems and always forgive but we've had enough," one of the demonstrators, Hanna Ibrahim, told AFP.

If there is no action by the state, or the people responsible (for the monastery attack) are not brought to justice, we will not remain quiet much longer," he shouted.

Surrounded by hundreds of black-clad security forces, protestors chanted: "With our blood and soul, we will defend the cross," and appealed to President Hosni Mubarak to intervene because "Coptic hearts are on fire.

The clashes between Muslims and Christians broke out on Saturday when the monks at the ancient Abu Fana monastery began building a wall around neighbouring property after receiving final approval earlier this year.

Muslim residents of the area claim the agricultural land on which the wall is being built as theirs, and say it is damaging their crops.

A security official confirmed to AFP that three monks had been kidnapped by Muslims during the clashes and were released on Sunday morning and taken to hospital for treatment.

Father Bulous, a priest at the Mallawi church, managed to visit the three monks in hospital. "They said they were tortured, tied up and beaten and humiliated," he told AFP.

One monk was hit with the back of a rifle and had his leg broken," he said.
Father Dumadius, who was at the Abu Fana monastery on Saturday when the attack took place, said that at least 60 men carrying weapons stormed the monastery.

They split into several groups. One group proceeded to destroy the wall. Others entered a chapel used by the monks and destroyed and burned property," he told AFP.

Dumadius said Saturday's was the the 18th attack on the monastery, the most recent one being in January this year.

No one was arrested. It's not the first time. Every time we lodge a complaint with the police, it is ignored," he said....

Someone should do something about persecution of Christians in Muslim countries, especially in Egypt, which receives nearly $2 Billion a year in US aid. But that is not my point here. Persecution of Copts in Egypt is old news for those who follow Middle East news. See for example: If I were a Copt.

What is most interesting is how AFP handled the headline. Suppose that in Israel, Jews were beating up Christians and desecrating church property and the government and police did nothing? What would the AFP headline be? What would the UN special rapporteur say?

Ami Isseroff

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Israel Boycott - Think outside the box

This is from Irene Lancaster. You will like it, but I wish Irene would avoid literal URLs (I converted them) :

Tonight is the start of Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day).

Yesterday, in honour of this day, we listened to a humdinger of a sermon by Rabbi YY Rubinstein, one of the most sought-after rabbis in the world:

After giving his opinion on the recent decision taken at Manchester University to boycott Israeli academics (yet again), Rabbi YY related his experience at a recent meeting of university chaplains from all over the country, including some imams. This meeting took place at Church House in Manchester. The subject was how to deal with anti-semitism on campus, although it was billed somewhat differently. The meeting had been arranged jointly by the Council of Christians and Jews and the Christian-Muslim Forum.

According to Rabbi YY, people were awfully nice and friendly and he wondered whether to change the address he had already prepared. But he decided against this option, and spoke to his fellow Christian and Muslim chaplains as follows: 

'...The New Anti Semitism is in reality the old anti Semitism. When I walk in the street or Campus and someone shouts "Jew" or "Palestine" at me, they have not asked me whether or not I am an Israeli or a Zionist, I am in fact neither, they simply see a Jew and one Jew is guilty of the crimes or perceived crimes of all the Jews… In medieval Europe I killed Jesus. In the New Anti Semitism I am guilty of every alleged crime of Israel, although I have never oppressed a Palestinian or a Muslim in my life… and that is Anti Semitism.

But let me here be frank. Since the founding of the State in 1948 it has created untold suffering. It has been responsible for a massive transfer of population and  a huge refugee problem. It was carved out of an existing State and was set up specifically to be the home of one religious group. It is Nuclear armed and has been the cause of several wars with its neighbours, any one of which could have escalated and dragged the world into a third world war. It's politicians and government are generally believed to be corrupt… But personally I wish Pakistan and it's people well.'

After the general intake of breath at this .... (call it what you will), Rabbi YY went on to say:

Now if you thought I was taking about Israel, that s because you suffer from Anti Semitism. To single out one person for criticism and disapproval while ignoring the exact same faults in others in bigotry and prejudice. Against Jews it has historically been called Anti Semitism and that is exactly what it is today.  

Rabbi YY went on to talk about George Orwell's remarkable 1945 essay: Anti-Semitism in Britain:

"George Orwell in an essay on Anti Semitism wrote the following…

'I defy any modern intellectual to look closely and honestly into his own mind without coming upon nationalistic loyalties and hatreds of one kind or another. It is the fact that he can feel the emotional tug of such things, and yet see them dispassionately for what they are, that gives him his status as an intellectual. It will be seen, therefore, that the starting point for any investigation of anti-Semitism should not be "Why does this obviously irrational belief appeal to other people?" but "Why does anti-Semitism appeal TO ME? What is there about it that I feel to be true?" If one asks this question one at least discovers one's own rationationalisations, and it may be possible to find out what lies beneath them. Anti-Semitism should be investigated ... and I will not say by anti-Semites, but at any rate by people who know that they are not immune to that kind of emotion."'

Meanwhile this was my own contribution to how well Jews, Christians and Muslims (not to mention Bahais and Druze) get on in Haifa, Israel. It is published in the Council of Christians and Jews' journal 'Common Ground', which I'm delighted to see is now available on line. Just scroll down to the article entitled Melting Pot:

Haifa University was the focus of the earlier attempt by the universities' union to boycott Israel.

Continued here: The British universities' boycott of Israel and thinking outside the box


The UCU Boycott and stopping it


In their advice [pdf] to the Stop the Boycott campaign on the legal status of the UCU boycott motion (subsequently adopted by the UCU conference on May 28, 2008), Michael Beloff QC and Pushpinder Saini QC of Blackstone Chambers, London, refer to the provisions of the Race Relations Amendment Act 2003 against the creation of a hostile environment. This section of the Act defines harassment as follows:

3A. - (1) A person subjects another to harassment in any circumstances relevant for the purposes of any provision referred to in section 1(1B) where, on grounds of race or ethnic or national origins, he engages in unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of –
(a) violating that other person's dignity, or
(b) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for him.
(2) Conduct shall be regarded as having the effect specified in paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (1) only if, having regard to all the circumstances, including in particular the perception of that other person, it should reasonably be considered as having that effect.
The principle that the Act formulates is uncontroversial across a broad spectrum of opinion within the anti-racist consensus. People have the right to live and work in an environment in which they are not subjected to racial abuse, where such behaviour consists in expressing hostility based on race, national origin, or ethnic background (and, it should be added, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, although these are not enumerated in the Act). But while the principle is clear and commendable, its application raises serious problems of interpretation. Specifically, when is an action an instance of racist harassment, as opposed to a legitimate, if offensive, exercise of free speech?

It is difficult, if not impossible, to construct non-defeasible criteria for making this distinction in entirely general terms. There seems to be no alternative to considering particular cases on their merits in order to develop paradigms of each kind, as the basis for distinguishing classes of actions which can reasonably be construed as generating a hostile environment from those which cannot. For purposes of concreteness, let's situate the discussion in the context of university life.

Assume that a lecturer in social psychology gives a talk in which he/she purports to show that general human intelligence is largely determined by heritable racial or gender properties. This view is offensive, and it has been shown to be unsupported by serious genetic evidence. However, it is very doubtful that we can use the notion of a hostile environment here to prevent the lecturer from presenting his/her arguments, such as they are. The reasonable response is a robust critique of the empirical mistakes and errors in reasoning that infect his/her claims. By contrast, if someone presents a paper describing the members of an entire racial or ethnic group as inferior, criminal, deviant, etc., then there are good grounds for seeing this as racial abuse.

What about the boycott of Israeli academics? If an individual endorses the proposal for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, then he/she expresses a view which is misguided and, to many of us, deeply unpleasant. This does not suffice to place it in the category of harassment. However, if someone denies access to academic forums to Israelis simply because they live and work in Israel, or have Israeli citizenship, then they are not only generating a hostile environment. They are engaging in racist (in the extended sense of nationality-based) discrimination.

It is worth recalling a relevant incident in this context. In 2002 Mona Baker, then a lecturer in translation studies at UMIST, dismissed two Israelis from editorial boards of journals which she owns and publishes, because of her objections to Israeli Government policies in the occupied Palestinian territories. This was an act of blatant discrimination.

On December 16 the Guardian published a letter by five former presidents of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain (LAGB) objecting to UMIST's investigation into Baker's actions and defending her right to 'engage in political' action outside the University as an issue for [her] 'own individual judgment'. A colleague, Jonathan Ginzburg, and I published a reply the following day in which we pointed out that we are British-Israeli linguists teaching at a UK university. We asked if the authors of the letter would also endorse the right of boycott supporters to exclude us from academic activities in Britain. We received no reply to this question from the people who wrote the letter, or from our other colleagues who supported the boycott.

Shortly after this exchange another Israeli linguist teaching in the UK approached the serving president of the LAGB and asked that the Association officially distance itself from the original Guardian letter. This request was refused, and the president would not respond to further correspondence on the issue. As a result of these and related events, I and a number of other Israeli linguists in Britain experienced a deep break with the LAGB and much of the field in Britain that it represents. We were particularly struck by the fact that, while many of our colleagues privately expressed opposition or indifference to the boycott campaign, virtually none of them took a public stand against the fact that five former presidents of the LAGB spoke in their name, defending Mona Baker's right to discriminate against Israeli linguists.

This would seem to be a clear case of a hostile environment. While the letter defending Mona Baker's right to dismiss Israelis from her editorial boards is obviously protected as free speech, its effect was to offer legitimation to an act of discrimination from some of the most senior people in the field, who had occupied leadership positions in its official professional association. The fact that the then president of the LAGB rejected an appeal to issue a statement indicating that the letter did not express the Association's policy permitted the authors' claim to 'speak for a large body of opinion' in the field of linguistics to stand unopposed. The relative silence of the membership gave this assertion additional credibility. What began as an expression of opinion by a group of senior linguists quickly became an ugly exercise in embarrassed silence and collaboration that alienated those of us on the receiving end from active involvement with large parts of our own field.

The real damage caused by events of this kind is their corrosive impact on the normal course of academic life. If many of our colleagues are prepared to accept a boycott of Israeli academics living in Israel and they are not willing to rule out exclusion of Israeli academics working in the UK, then how can we trust decisions on research grants, promotion, journal articles, etc? How can we interact freely with colleagues who have publicly endorsed the principle that acts of discrimination against Israeli academics are a matter for a person's 'own individual judgment'?

Continued:  UCU Boycott