Saturday, October 18, 2008

Canard? Cossiga accusations of Italian involvement in Palestinian terror

In an article entitled The convenient war against the Jews, Caroline Glick cites the allegations made last August in Corriere De La Sera  by former Italian President Cossiga, that the Palestinian terrorists had made a deal with the Italian government that would allow them to operate against Israel. Additionally, Cossiga intimated to Yediot Ahronot reporter Menachem Ganz that Italian PM Berlusconi is an anti-Semite. This seems improbable, given that Berlusconi is known for his pro-Israel policies.
Some of Cossiga's allegations may be based on fact. However, he is the author of a 9-11 conspiracy theory and is himself evidently an "anti-Zionist." Previously Cossiga had told Correre Del la Serra regarding an Osama Bin Laden tape circulated by a Berlusconi media outlet that the 9-11 attacks were carried out by the Mossad and the CIA with the aid of world Zionism. Here is the original Italian and the translation:
.... «Da ambienti vicini a Palazzo Chigi, centro nevralgico di direzione dell'intelligence italiana, si fa notare che la non autenticità del video è testimoniata dal fatto che Osama Bin Laden in esso 'confessa' che Al Qaeda sarebbe stato l'autore dell'attentato dell'11 settembre alle due torri in New York, mentre tutti gli ambienti democratici d'America e d'Europa, con in prima linea quelli del centrosinistra italiano, sanno ormai bene che il disastroso attentato è stato pianificato e realizzato dalla Cia americana e dal Mossad con l'aiuto del mondo sionista per mettere sotto accusa i Paesi arabi e per indurre le potenze occidentali ad intervenire sia in Iraq sia in Afghanistan. Per questo - conclude Cossiga - nessuna parola di solidarietà è giunta a Silvio Berlusconi, che sarebbe l'ideatore della geniale falsificazione, né dal Quirinale, né da Palazzo Chigi né da esponenti del centrosinistra!».
... "From circles close to the Palazzo Chigi, nerve center of Italian intelligence direction, it is noted that the non-authenticity of the video is proven by the fact that Osama Bin Laden in it 'confessed' that Al Qaeda was responsible for the 11 September attacks on the twin towers in New York, while all democratic circles of America and Europe, along with those at the forefront of Italian center, now know well that the disastrous attack was planned and carried out by the CIA and the U.S. Mossad with the help of the Zionist world to put under accusation the Arab countries and to encourage Western powers to intervene in Iraq and in Afghanistan. For this - concludes Cossiga - no word of solidarity came to Silvio Berlusconi, who is the creator of the brilliant falsification, neither from the Quirinale, nor from Palazzo Chigi, nor from representatives of the center. "
Cossiga's accusations against the "Zionists" are grist for the mill of various anti-Semites. His accusations against Berlusconi and the Italian government, on the other hand, were found to be useful by Caroline Glick, Ted Belman, Israel National News and others. But we should not choose to believe that which is convenient only because it is convenient.
Our understanding of the Middle East is not enhanced by uncritical circulation of shady political rumors.
Ami Isseroff

Hizbullah refuses to comply with UN Security Council resolutions

Actually, wasn't the report given by Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the UN, and not just by Terje Roed-Larsen?
Nasrallah's deputy slams report claiming Shiite group threatens regional security, says ' those trying to come between Lebanon and the resistance will lose'
Roee Nahmias
Published:  10.18.08, 14:03 / Israel News
Hizbullah Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassem denounced on Saturday a report issued by UN Middle East envoy Terje Roed-Larsen describing the Shiite group as a threat to Middle East security.
Speaking in Beirut's Dahiya quarter, a Hizbullah stronghold, Qassem said it was Israel that posed a threat to the region, adding "those who believe they can suppress our resistance by pressuring us are mistaken.

"We must address Terje Roed-Larsen's report, which claims that the resistance jeopardizes Lebanon's regime and security," he said.
The sheikh referred to Roed-Larsen's report as "incitement" and called the UN envoy "one of the last remnants of Israel's defeat", adding that "those trying to come between (Lebanon) and the resistance will lose.

"Roed-Larsen condemned Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace. Is Israel only violating (Lebanon's airspace), or is it attacking, destroying and kidnapping?" Qassem said.

He continued to say that "Israel, which annihilated the Palestinians in 1948 and killed (12-year-old) Muhammad al-Dura in front of the world's media outlets, is the real danger to our region.
"As long as Israel is the enemy situated along our border, we will prevent it from implementing its plans," the sheikh said.

Iran denied non-permanent UN Security Council seat

While this has been lauded as a "victory" for Israel, it should be noted that Israel has never been a non-permanent member of the Security Council, and will not even be a candidate for many  more years.
Iranian bid to secure non-permanent Security Council seat denied by huge majority; Japan wins Asian seat with 158 votes, compared to Iran's 32. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni lauds UN's decision
Associated Press
Published:  10.17.08, 19:48 / Israel News
Iran and Iceland failed Friday to win non-permanent seats on the United Nations Security council.
Austria and Turkey beat Iceland in the battle for the two non-permanent European seats on the 15-member council in voting at a meeting of the UN General Assembly while Iran lost out to Japan for the council's Asian seat.
The other two seats went to Mexico, which will represent Latin America, and Uganda, which will represent Africa; both ran unopposed.
Kadima Chairman Tzipi Livni lauded the decision, congratulated Japan for being elected, and added that "Iran's very candidacy was unthinkable."

Livni added that the UN averted disgrace by preventing Iran from joining the Security Council, stressing that international activity vis-à-vis Iran and the threat it represents "must continue at all levels and with greater force."

Iran receives 32 votes
General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann said after the balloting that Austria received 133 votes, Turkey 151 votes, Japan 158 votes, Uganda 181 votes and Mexico 185.
Iran received only 32 votes from the U.N. members, Iceland, which had been considered by many to be a strong candidate until the recent economic crisis, received only 87 votes.
The five new non-permanent members of the council will serve two-year terms.
Ten of the council's 15 seats are filled by the regional groups for two-year stretches. The other five are occupied by its veto-wielding permanent members: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.
 The five countries elected to the Council will take their seats on Jan. 1, 2009, replacing Belgium, Indonesia, Italy, Panama and South Africa. The five countries elected last year - Libya, Vietnam, Burkina Faso, Costa Rica and Croatia - will remain on the Council until Jan. 1, 2010.
Attila Somfalvi contributed to the story

Friday, October 17, 2008

Allah be praised - hacking American and Zionist Web sites is "Hallal"

Hacking websites is not as certain to get you into heaven as blowing yourself up, but it's a poor man's Jihad I guess. Of course, you can hack websites and then blow yourself up.

Cairo, 16 Oct. (AKI) - Attacking American and Israeli websites by hacking and sabotage is allowed under Islamic law and is a form of 'Jihad' or holy war, top Muslim scholars have decreed.
The religious edict (fatwa) issued by a committee from the highest authority in Sunni Islam, Egypt's Al-Azhar University in Cairo, was published on the website of the Islamist Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood movement on Thursday.
"This is considered a type of lawful Jihad that helps Islam by paralysing the information systems used by our enemies for their evil aims," said the fatwa.
"This Jihad is not different from the armed one. In fact, it might be more important if you consider the global dimensions of the Internet.
"Whoever wins this war will become the strongest in the realm of information," the fatwa continued.
The Muslim Brotherhood praised the fatwa, which comes in response to dozens of questions from radicals asking to be allowed to destroy Israeli and United States websites.
Last week, the news website of Dubai-based Arabic TV network al-Arabiya was attacked by suspected Shia hackers, who posted a burning Israeli flag to the site.
Beneath the flag, a message in Arabic and English read: 'Serious Warning - if attacks on Shia websites continue, none of your websites will be safe.'

Iran: Thanking God for small favors

And best wishes to you as well, dear Ayatollah. Don't confuse this fellow with Muhammad Khatami, reformist former president of Iran.
Ayatollah Khatami in Iran Friday Sermon: U.S. Lust for Power To Blame For 'Economic Tsunami' ; Crisis Is Result of Moral Fiasco of Liberal Democracy; "Thank God Economic Crisis Hit The U.S. Itself"

Delivering the Friday sermon at the TehranUniversity campus, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami focused on the global financial crisis, saying that the U.S.'s "lust for power" had set off an economic tsunami and calling the crisis the result of "liberal democracy." The sermon was covered by multiple Iranian news agencies, with IRIBnews headlining its report "Economic Crisis Result of Moral Fiasco of Liberal Democracy." In addition, Khatami said that the defeat of the U.S. is a moral defeat of liberal democracy, and advised Europe to distance itself from the U.S. He also discussed the upcoming 10th Iranian presidential elections.

The following are excerpts from his sermon. [1]

U.S. Power Lust Behind 'Economic Tsunami'; Crisis Marks Failure Of Liberal Democratic System

In his sermon, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said that Washington's lust for power was the main reason behind the "economic tsunami" in the U.S. economy. He added that the crisis, now hitting the globe, marks the failure of the liberal democratic system.

Khatami told worshipers, "Following the U.S. financial crisis, Europe and the U.S. allies too have been hit by an 'economic tsunami' and are shaken. Perhaps they had never experienced such a shock. Certain people used to name Americans' liberal democracy as their utopia at the end of the history of mankind, claiming that the U.S. is master of the said utopia; however, we are today witnessing defects in the utopia and its crushing failure."

He added, "The Bush administration's aggressive policies in Iraq and Afghanistan are the main cause of America's financial angst and distress."

Americans Themselves Say It's the Beginning of the End for U.S. Hegemony

"Americans have over the past eight years attacked anywhere on Earth they wished under the pretext of democracy, bringing nothing but death to the countries and poverty for their own people. Friends of (U.S. President George W.) Bush admit that the U.S. used to have a budget surplus eight years ago, but now it faces a budget deficit, as it has now spread to China too."

Khatami noted that the economic crisis is a big fiasco for the U.S. statesmen, as Bush's party colleagues announce their disavowal of him, and added that in their own analyses, the Americans are saying that they have come to the beginning of the end of American hegemony in the world.

Europe Should Distance Itself From The U.S.

Khatami said, "The Islamic Republic of Iran has time and again announced that Europe should distance [itself] from the U.S. because Europe practically collaborated with the U.S. and is now in the midst of crisis. Now, Arab states which used to link themselves with the U.S. are put in the trouble."

He said, "The U.S. had over recent months used all its efforts and the U.N. Security Council too, which served as a tool for the U.S. against Iran, issued a resolution against us so as to make us economically turbulent, but thank God, economic crisis hit the U.S. itself."

He continued, "They wished to fan economic crisis in Iran to raise public fury but Iranian people tolerated it with patience and officials too are kindly active in the field," he concluded.

Iranian Presidential Candidates Should Not Undermine Islamic Revolution's Values

Elsewhere in his sermon, Khatami urged hopefuls in Iran's 10th presidential elections not to run the race at the cost of undermining the Islamic Revolution's principles and values.

He said that the presidential elections candidates should avoid backbiting and bickering, distorting image of their rivals.

"Elections are in fact a kind of political celebration, especially in Iran, which had for long years been experiencing dictatorship and monarchical systems," Ayatollah Khatami said.

He said that the elections is an issue which cannot easily be overlooked by a Friday prayer leader either, and that free, legal, moral and popular elections are what the Islamic Republic establishment deserves, and that all should make efforts to guarantee its success.

[1] IRIBnews, IRNA, Press TV (Iran), October 17, 2008

A salute to Brave Zionists in Acco

This is Brave Zionism in action. It is what Zionism ought to be. what being a Zionist and an Israeli ought to mean and does mean to a lot of Israelis. It has nothing to do with settlements, or occupation or "racism."  The young men and women of Ayalim should be positive role models for Jewish Identity. When you think about Zionism, remember the youth of Ayalim who insist on making Israeli democracy work.
Ami Isseroff

In the eye of the storm

Oct. 16, 2008

When a handful of masked young Arab men threw gasoline-drenched pieces of burning cloth into an apartment used by the Ayalim organization in Acre's Old City last week, it was an Arab neighbor who chased them angrily away and put out the fire.

"We're not here to make Acre Jewish," says 27-year-old Guy Maoz, logistical coordinator for the Ayalim student village in the heart of Acre's Old City, an almost entirely Arab neighborhood. "We're simply here to develop the city to the level of a modern tourist town where people will want to live," he says.

Ayalim is a nationwide organization that has placed over 500 students in 11 "villages" in the country's North and South. There they spend a year working on social projects to develop the areas and help stem the flow of young, educated residents to Israel's center.

These are not peacenik idealists - "not that there's anything wrong with those types," insists Michal Heskelovich, manager of Ayalim's Acre branch - but busy students, the majority majoring in engineering and medicine, who want to be part of the very practical, dirty work of changing the country for the better.

Most of Ayalim's student villages are tiny settlements in the Negev or Galilee where the students live in temporary caravans and work on social projects in nearby villages and towns.

But another type of village developed after the Second Lebanon War, when an Ayalim group setting up near Kiryat Shmona was not permitted to live in temporary structures because they were deemed too dangerous in light of the rocket barrages that covered northern Israeli towns during the war.

So the group sought another housing solution and found apartments in one of the worst neighborhoods in the poor northern town. That was Ayalim's first "urban village." Acre is its second.

Whatever the world may think of ethnic relations in Acre, those living in the center of the storm are optimistic.

The Arab neighbors are "extremely curious about us," says Maoz. "In their culture they don't live inside the house, but outside, chatting in the streets," so the Jewish students and Arab residents meet several times each day, exchanging pleasantries and, more often than not, humor.

Walking through the narrow alleyways of Acre on Wednesday, 27-year-old Heskelovich, a cheerful blonde with a degree in education who seems exotic against the cobblestones of the old Mediterranean port, is greeted by an old Arab man who detains her for long minutes to discover why she was gone from the neighborhood for nearly two weeks during the holidays.

Barely extricated from his interrogation, she is forced to repeat the process with another half-dozen residents before reaching the organization's front door.

"The ones who live near us know what we're about and appreciate us," explains Maoz.

But not everyone accepted the group at first.

Ayalim's work of developing the periphery is similar to, and sometimes corresponds with efforts to "Judaize" Galilee regions by encouraging Jews to move to areas with large Arab populations.

The apartments and financial support in Acre are contributed by the Jewish Agency.

When Arab community leaders in Acre protested the entry of young Jews into their neighborhood, the tensions between the two groups forced the municipality to step in and arrange a meeting between the heads of Ayalim and the Islamic Movement in Acre.

At the meeting, the student group managed to convince the local Muslim leadership that the development of Acre was their primary goal, and its greatest beneficiaries would be the poor Arab community in the town.

"There's a lot of crime and drugs in this neighborhood," says Heskelovich, but a little marketing could go a long way to changing that. "If you can 'brand' the Old City as a socio-economically strong, young and fun place, a place next to the sea where young people do interesting things, then you can change the place in real terms. You'll get an influx of cafes, artists, an educated population."

To achieve that goal, Ayalim is tackling the Arab-Jewish divide head-on.

For Heskelovich and Maoz, this doesn't come from a specific commitment to coexistence, but simply because you cannot escape the problem if you want to do economic development work in mixed cities.

The first step in coexistence is to deal with the tensions within the group itself. Last year's group had both Arab and Jewish student participants, and the unresolved tensions between them "hurt the cooperation within the group," Heskelovich says. "It was hard to talk about Zionism or any other nationalism."

Three Arab students will be part of the 24-member group that begins the new academic year in Acre's Old City early next month. This year, "we're going to focus on creating a cooperative life together," insists Heskelovich.

Meanwhile, the group arriving in November will face a stiff challenge. Before deciding how they will spend thousands of hours of community work - each participant must give up to 500 hours over the year - the students will go door-to-door, introducing themselves to their neighbors and finding out from the residents what the community needs from them.

Some of the projects being offered: a beautician among the students hopes to offer cosmetics classes to local women, and Heskelovich hopes to establish a Salvation Army-style second-hand clothing store in the Old City.

The ethnic tensions that flared this month in the town will likely remain, Maoz and Heskelovich believe.

But "we don't need perfect harmony to do our work," insists Maoz, "as long as everyone knows where the boundaries are."


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Russia suspected of secretly delivering arms to Hezbollah

Russia suspected of secretly delivering arms to Hezbollah
Liberation (france) 16 October 2008
[Translation - MidEastWeb - Middle East ] Outside local newspapers, the event went unnoticed: On July 4, the Angela, a cargo ship flying the flag of Gibraltar was the subject of a thorough search in the Bulgarian port of Varna where it stopped.

In two containers, police and customs officers discovered dual use, metal pipes - both civilian and military products in Russia. The grooves on both sides of the tubes suggest that these parts were for the assembly of missiles. These did not correspond to anyything mentioned in the cargo manifest.

Missiles. According to a source close to the investigation, contacted by phone, the papers indicate that the boat came from Ukraine and was destined to travel to Port Said (Egypt), via Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey. Questioned for seventeen hours, the captain, a Lithuanian, eventually confessed that the vessel was destined for Latakia, a major Syrian pors. The Angela eventually departed, the crew was not found responsible for its load. Eight of sixty containers have been retained  by Bulgarian customs.
Why such a clandestine delivery, while Moscow and Damascus are linked by  military cooperation agreements, and the Russian fleet even has a naval base in Tartus, the second largest Syrian port? Unless the final destination of the material seized in Varna is not Syria. According to Western military sources, if these missiles are assembled in
Syria, part of them is destined for
Hezbollah. Therefore, Damascus must hide these weapons purchases under penalty of being  in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 which called for the disarming of Hezbollah.

Pressures.  The case of Angela complicated the affairs of Damascus. On 21 and 22 August, during the visit of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Moscow, his counterpart Dimitri Medvedev had made him party to concerns
that Washington and European countries were now exercising pressure on Moscow to prevent such secret .deliveries During the
Second Lebanon War, the "party of God" fired thousands of Soviet manufactured missiles on the cities of the Jewish state. Today, in its established strongholds north of the Litani River, Hezbollah has replenished its arsenal and has about 40,000 rockets and missiles.

Pakistan tries to ban YouTube, creates a mess

YouTube.comNo matter what you may think of YouTube, the idea that Pakistan could take down the site globally is frightening in it's ramifications for the Internet as a whole.

The whole debacle started on Friday when Pakistan ordered access to YouTube be blocked due to videos including the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that caused such a stir last year.  When the telecoms did as the Pakistani government ordered, all traffic requests for YouTube were sent to a virtual black hole where the data was discarded.  The problem became global when somehow their traffic redirect got sent out to one of the twenty largest data carriers, PCCW of Hong Kong.

As this was a new request for a data reroute, from a known source, PCCW updated their databases accordingly, and that sent the data out to smaller data centers, propagating the problem on a global scale.  Todd Underwood, vice president and general manager of Internet community services at Renesys, told the Associated Press that, basically, Pakistan accidentally told the world they were YouTube, and hence all traffic for YouTube was directed to their black hole of data.

This whole situation scares the living heck out of me.  If a global redirect was accomplished this easily, what is to stop cyber terrorists from doing something bigger, and grander?  Redirecting the IRS website for when you pay your taxes?  Redirecting government traffic during a national emergency?  Sending cat lovers to a dog lovers site?  The potential problems this makes one ponder are endless.

British sex on beach pair jailed in Dubai

Not so liberal and modern after all.
By Bassam Za'za, Senior Reporter
Published: October 16, 2008, 09:16
Dubai: Two Britons, who were accused of having sex on a Dubai beach, have been sentenced to three months in jail by the Dubai Court of Misdemeanours on Thursday.
V.A., A British man who was visiting the emirate at the time of the incident, and M.P., a British female resident of Dubai were also fined Dh1,000 and will be deported after serving their jail terms.
Hasan Mattar, defence lawyer for the pair, said they would be appealing against the ruling.
The pair were charged with engaging in sexual activity in public, committing an indecent gesture in public and consuming alcohol after they were caught on a public beach in Jumeirah, Dubai, on July 5, 2008.
During the trial Mattar said: "The Public Prosecution failed to produce corroborative evidence against my clients concerning having consensual sex and committing indecent gestures in public.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

New U.S. intelligence report warns 'victory' not certain in Iraq

New U.S. intelligence report warns 'victory' not certain in Iraq

By Jonathan S. Landay, Warren P. Strobel and Nancy A. Youssef | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — A nearly completed high-level U.S. intelligence analysis warns that unresolved ethnic and sectarian tensions in Iraq could unleash a new wave of violence, potentially reversing the major security and political gains achieved over the last year.

U.S. officials familiar with the new National Intelligence Estimate said they were unsure when the top-secret report would be completed and whether it would be published before the Nov. 4 presidential election.

More than a half-dozen officials spoke to McClatchy on condition of anonymity because NIE's, the most authoritative analyses produced by the U.S. intelligence community, are restricted to the president, his senior aides and members of Congress except in rare instances when just the key findings are made public.

The new NIE, which reflects the consensus of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, has significant implications for Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, whose differences over the Iraq war are a major issue in the presidential campaign.

The findings seem to cast doubts on McCain's frequent assertions that the United States is "on a path to victory" in Iraq by underscoring the deep uncertainties of the situation despite the 30,000-strong U.S. troop surge for which he was the leading congressional advocate.

But McCain could also use the findings to try to strengthen his argument for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq until conditions stabilize.

For Obama, the report raises questions about whether he could fulfill his pledge to withdraw most of the remaining 152,000 U.S. troops _ he would leave some there to deal with al Qaida and to protect U.S. diplomats and civilians _ within 16 months of taking office so that more U.S. forces could be sent to battle the growing Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.

Word of the draft NIE comes at a time when Iraq is enjoying its lowest levels of violent incidents since early 2004 and a 77 percent drop in civilian deaths in June through August 2008 over the same period in 2007, according to the Defense Department.

U.S. officials say last year's surge of 30,000 troops, all of whom have been withdrawn, was just one reason for the improvements. Other factors include the truce declared by anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al Sadr, the leader of an Iran-backed Shiite Muslim militia; and the enlistment of former Sunni insurgents in Awakening groups created by the U.S. military to fight al Qaida in Iraq and other extremists.

The draft NIE, however, warns that the improvements in security and political progress, like the recent passage of a provincial election law, are threatened by lingering disputes between the majority Shiite Arabs, Sunni Arabs, Kurds and other minorities, the U.S. officials said.

Sources of tension identified by the NIE, they said, include a struggle between Sunni Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen for control of the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk; and the Shiite-led central government's unfulfilled vows to hire former Sunni insurgents who joined Awakening groups.

A spokesman for Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, whose office compiled the estimate, declined comment, saying the agency does not discuss NIE's.

The findings of the intelligence estimate appear to be reflected in recent statements by Army Gen. David Petraeus, the former top U.S. commander in Iraq, who has called the situation "fragile" and "reversible" and said he will never declare victory there.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice echoed that tone on Monday during a State Department awards ceremony for Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker.

"Ladies and gentlemen, nothing is certain in this life. And success in Iraq is not a sure thing," Rice said in an uncharacteristically downbeat comment.

The NIE findings parallel a Defense Department assessment last month that warned that despite "promising developments, security gains in Iraq remain fragile. A number of issues have the potential to upset progress."

Trouble spots include whether the former Sunni insurgents, also known as the Sons of Iraq, find permanent employment; provincial elections scheduled for January; Kirkuk's status; the fate of internally displaced people and returning refugees; and "malign Iranian influence," the unclassified Pentagon report said.

The intelligence agencies' estimate also raises worries about what would happen if Sadr, the anti-U.S. cleric, attempts to reassert himself, according to senior intelligence officials familiar with its contents.

If Sadr abandons his cease-fire, it is unclear whether his former followers would rejoin his cause or whether his movement is permanently fractured, and thus harder to control.

The embattled Sons of Iraq program may prove to be the ultimate challenge to sustained stability in Iraq. The U.S. program to pay mostly Sunni former insurgents to protect their neighborhoods or in some cases to stop shooting at Americans is now moving into the hands of the Shiite-led government.

Many of the roughly 100,000 men of the mostly Sunni paramilitary groups have fled to Syria, while others remain in Iraq, worried that the Shiite government will disband and detain the men. The U.S. military has promised not to abandon the men, of whom about 54,000 were transferred to Iraqi government control this month.

(Leila Fadel contributed from Baghdad.)

Iraqi VP: U.S., Iraq won't reach accord on troops this year

Iraqi VP: U.S., Iraq won't reach accord on troops this year

By Leila Fadel | McClatchy Newspapers

BAGHDAD — Time's running out for reaching a security agreement with the U.S., and an accord is unlikely before the end of this year, Iraq's Sunni Muslim vice president said Monday.

The United Nations mandate that authorizes the U.S. military presence in Iraq will expire on Dec. 31 and without a so-called status of forces agreement, it's questionable whether the U.S. will have a legitimate right to maintain its troops in Iraq, Vice President Tariq al Hashimi told McClatchy.

Hashimi also expressed strong concern that the improved security situation in Iraq could deteriorate just as the U.N. mandate runs out.

Hashimi's statement on the agreement contradicted more upbeat comments from Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte during a recent visit to Iraq and from Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari, who's said that a deal is close.

Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki said in an interview with the London Times newspaper Monday that if there was no agreement and no renewal of the U.N. mandate, "the U.S. forces will be confined to their bases and have to withdraw from Iraq." But he added that "a sudden withdrawal may harm security."

Susan Ziadeh, a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman, said the talks are still under way. "Both sides are working hard to come to an agreement, and we should leave the discussions to those who are negotiating," she said.

However, Hashimi said that even if the two negotiating teams can agree on a final text, the draft must then win the approval of Iraq's cabinet, a special political council for national security and the parliament. "I'm not sure that the time we have left is enough for all of these organizations to study it, revise it and agree on the text," he said.

The main point of contention is jurisdiction. Maliki has been pressing for jurisdiction to prosecute U.S. troops when they aren't on their bases, which the U.S. has so far refused to permit.

"The impression of the Iraqi people is that American troops from time to time exaggerate their reactions, use excessive force and irresponsible behavior," Hashimi said. "We would like to put an end to that. When this happens in the future there must be prosecution of those who are exceeding the limit of the authorities given to them."

The U.S. government has said that the mandate must be renewed if no agreement is reached, or U.S. forces will withdraw, Hashimi said. But it takes time to pull out more 130,000 troops, presenting a new problem about who'd have jurisdiction during a technically illegal occupation.

Hashimi also warned that the security situation could worsen by the end if 2008, due to upcoming provincial elections and an unsure future for a U.S. sponsored mostly Sunni paramilitary groups

Among the signs of increased violence is that al Qaida in Iraq, whose attacks dropped over the past year, is growing stronger as frustrations in the Sunni community fester, he said. That's mostly due to the Iraqi government's reluctance to absorb the more than 100,000-strong U.S. sponsored mostly Sunni paramilitary into government jobs and the Iraqi Security Forces, he said.

Senior officials in the Shiite-led government seem to have a sectarian agenda as they deal with the embattled Sons of Iraq or Awakening councils, mostly former Sunni insurgents that are or were being paid by the U.S. military, with a sectarian agenda, he said. If it fails, sectarian violence will once again envelop Iraq.

"People are not tolerating that the Iraqi government is not rewarding those groups," he said. "In fact, after all the sacrifices they have suffered, this is a really risky and highly dangerous attitude," he said.

There was a slight uptick in violence in September, and assassinations seem to be on the rise with weapons equipped with silencers and magnetic bombs attached to people's cars.

Hashimi cited violence in Mosul and a perceived targeting of Sunnis by Shiite-dominated security forces in Diyala and Basra as signs of changes for the worse. His party members in the southern city of Basra were being detained based on testimony by secret witnesses, and the judiciary system was sectarian, he said.

"We expect it will be a tough election this time," he said. "We do have a problem. Iraq is not going to survive if we don't get rid of sectarian behavior."

If the agreement between the two nations isn't completed by the end of the year and Iraq doesn't request a renewal of the mandate, Iraq may be faced with a hasty withdrawal of American troops.

"I have a lot of concern about the future," he said.

Iran conditions for US engagement: Abandon the Middle East and Israel

These two conditions are of course tantamount to US surrender:
    "If the United States does not move out of the middle east and the U.S. government does not give up its support for the Zionist regime, we do not think the talks between Iran and the United States would be advisable," Kalhor said.
Report: Iran has two conditions for talks with U.S.  
2008-10-11 22:40:46     
    TEHRAN, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- Iran's president media consultant Mehdi Kalhor said here Saturday that Iran has two conditions for talks with the United States, the official IRNA news agency reported.
    "If the United States does not move out of the middle east and the U.S. government does not give up its support for the Zionist regime, we do not think the talks between Iran and the United States would be advisable," Kalhor said.
    "Today, it is the United States that needs to have relations with Iran," Kalhor told IRNA, adding that "We believe that our religion accepts repentance."
    He also pointed out that the relations with the United States and the nuclear issue, which are beyond the president's responsibility, require the Iranian Supreme Leader's and Iranian people's opinion.
    While U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declined to confirm or deny these two conditions but said that Washington was eager to allow more Iranians to visit the States.
    Earlier at a news briefing Tuesday, U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey also reiterated that despite its differences with the Iranian government, the United States was looking for ways to reach out to Iran's citizens.
    The two countries severed diplomatic ties in 1979 when the Islamic revolution took place in Iran.
    Several media reported in June that the United States was considering setting an interest institution in Tehran to process Iranian visa applications and to serve as an American cultural center after almost 30 years of severed ties between the two countries.
    Currently, the Swiss embassy in Tehran houses a U.S. special interest section to communicate messages from Washington to Iran and to handle the affairs of U.S. citizens inside the Islamic Republic.
    Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said in July in New York that Tehran will consider the plan if the United States presents the proposal officially.
    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also said in July that he was ready to talk with U.S. President George W. Bush directly.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Christians flee Mosul

Neither the UN nor American presence in Iraq can save the Christians!
Attacks in the Iraqi city of Mosul have forced nearly 1,000 Christians, including 500 families, from their homes in just the past week, the governor of the northern Ninawa province says.
Duraid Mohammed Kashmoula on Saturday said most have taken shelter over the past 24 hours in schools, churches, monasteries and the homes of relatives in the northern and eastern fringes of Ninawa. [That's Nineveh, isn't it?]  
The flight came as Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako said Iraq's Christians were facing a campaign of "liquidation" and called on the US military to do more to protect them.
A wave of attacks religiously targeted killings have left at least 11 Christians dead since September 28.
Major displacement
In a telephone interview with The Associated Press news agency, Kashmoula described the last seven days as a period of "major displacement".
He said provincial security officials were meeting with Christian leaders to protect the community "from the terrorists, the killers".
The violence in Mosul is occurring despite US-Iraqi operations launched over the summer aimed at routing al-Qaeda in Iraq and other fighters from remaining strongholds north of the capital.
A convoy carrying an official from Iraq's largest Sunni political party was targeted on Saturday while travelling through Mosul, but no one was hurt, police said.
Mosul killings
A civilian and an armed man were killed in random gunfire in a Mosul market, a policeman said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to media.
Iraqi police in the city located 360km northwest of Baghdad have reported finding the bullet-riddled bodies of seven Christians in separate attacks so far this month, the latest a day labourer found on Wednesday.
The Christian community has been estimated at three per cent of Iraq's 26 million people, or about 800,000 Christians, and has a significant presence in the northern Ninawa.

Syrian blogger: "I'm leaving and I'm not coming back"

Someone should be paying more attention to human rights in the Middle East  - not just Israel.

Alexandra Sandels (Apn)  

Two years ago, Mohammad Al-Abdallah's brother Omar was sentenced to five years in prison by the Syrian authorities for criticizing the policies of his national government on an Internet forumblog. In December last year, Mohammad's father Ali Abdallah was arrested when he called for political reform in Syria as a member of the 'Damascus Declaration', a Syrian activist group urging 'democratic and radical change'. He is still in detainment in Syria's Adra prison and suffers from poor health. Now Mohammad speaks out about human rights abuses, censorship, and political corruption in his home country on his newly started blog "I'm leaving and I'm not coming back". APN met with Mohammed in Beirut.

APN: Why do you blog?
: The idea of starting a blog came when I was asked to give a talk on Internet practices in Syria at a conference in Beirut organized by the Samir Kassir Foundation earlier this year. I've had my blog for approximately four months now. I first set up a blog on blogspot but I recently changed it to wordpress since blogspot is blocked in Syria. It's very important for me to reach out to readers inside Syria. I see it as a continuation of what my brother did before he was arrested and imprisoned. Just like him, I mainly write about political and human rights issues in Syria. Also, sometimes you receive important information that you want to share with the world, but you don't have anywhere to publish it. Perhaps you are the first to find out that an activist or a writer has been arrested in Syria, for example. Writing about it on your blog is an excellent way of sharing it with the world.

APN: Do you think blogging can change the world and the situation in your country?
: No one can say with certainty that blogging can or cannot change the situation in a country. I don't know if what we bloggers are doing is "big" or "small" so to say. But I do think that we are having an affect considering the fact that the authorities are doing their best to their keep Internet activists at bay. When a Syrian activist recently was arrested no was talking about his ordeal except the bloggers. They were the ones who first noticed it and the story rose from the blogs.

APN: What do you see as the difference between a blogger and a journalist in your country?
: For me, the biggest difference between bloggers and journalists is that there are no rules or censorship in blogging. You don't have to worry about the word count of your article and editors hanging over your shoulder telling you what's good and bad. Most importantly, you publish exactly what you want. No one picks your words except yourself. Your writings are not subject to censorship before publication which is the case with newspapers. In Syria, journalists are subject to extensive censorship. There are no independent newspapers in Syria. They are all governmental in one way or another.

APN: Do you practice self-censorship?
: I don't practice self-censorship because I don't blog from within Syria. But if I were there, I wouldn't be able to write the way I do. I remember when I was still living in Syria how I used to rewrite some of my pieces, making sure I use the correct titles for high-level politicians when mentioning them in my writings. If you are unlucky, you can actually get persecuted for not doing so. So yes, self-censorship, even among bloggers, is widespread in Syria. At times, I notice how people who are blogging from inside Syria remove comments I've left on their blogs out of fear.

APN: What topics are considered taboo to write about in Syria then?
: The biggest taboo-labeled subjects are, of course, the President and his family, the Syrian security services, the political opposition, and anything that concerns Syria's relations with Hezbollah.

APN: That's a whole lot. How do the Syrian people find out what is ACTUALLY happening in their country?
: The whole concept of 'right to information' does simply not exist in Syria. You will never find out the truth about what is really happening on a governmental level. Blogs are helpful sources of information though.

APN: What topics inspire you?
: My background as a human rights activist inspire me to write about human rights and politics in Syria. I also write extensively on the situation of bloggers in the Arab world.

APN: Have you ever been subject to harassment or intimidation for your activism?
: Not personally since I'm not blogging from inside Syria. My brother, however, is currently serving a five-year prison sentence along with six other Syrian students for criticizing the Syrian authorities on their blog. He has been held in a military prison for two and a half years now. I haven't been able to talk to him since March 2006. Am I scared of being persecuted for my work? That's something you should ask the bloggers in Syria, not me. I'm sure they are scared.

APN: Is there a difference between blogging in English and Arabic in Syria?
: If you're a blogger in Syria and write in English, no one from the authorities will give you a problem. What they don't want is the Syrians reading your criticism of the government, they don't care that much about the outside world. So writing in Arabic, which most of Syrian bloggers do, is what gets you into trouble.

APN: What are your future plans? Do you see yourself continue to blog?
: I will definitely continue blogging. I have no plans to stop. In terms of future plans, I hope to improve my writing skills in English and actually start blogging more in English so that I can reach out to people in Europe and the US. My goal is to continue blogging in both Arabic and English.

Alexandra Sandels is a Beirut-based Swedish journalist
This article comes from the Arab Press Network: