Thursday, December 31, 2009

The 'Israelification' of airports: A light unto the nations...


The 'Israelification' of airports: High security, little bother
Cathal Kelly, Toronto Star, 30 December 2009.

While North America's airports groan under the weight of another sea-change in security protocols, one word keeps popping out of the mouths of experts: Israelification.

That is, how can we make our airports more like Israel's, which deal with far greater terror threat with far less inconvenience.

"It is mindboggling for us Israelis to look at what happens in North America, because we went through this 50 years ago," said Rafi Sela, the president of AR Challenges, a global transportation security consultancy. He's worked with the RCMP, the U.S. Navy Seals and airports around the world.

"Israelis, unlike Canadians and Americans, don't take s--- from anybody. When the security agency in Israel (the ISA) started to tighten security and we had to wait in line for — not for hours — but 30 or 40 minutes, all hell broke loose here. We said, 'We're not going to do this. You're going to find a way that will take care of security without touching the efficiency of the airport."

That, in a nutshell is "Israelification" - a system that protects life and limb without annoying you to death.

Despite facing dozens of potential threats each day, the security set-up at Israel's largest hub, Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport, has not been breached since 2002, when a passenger mistakenly carried a handgun onto a flight. How do they manage that?

"The first thing you do is to look at who is coming into your airport," said Sela.

The first layer of actual security that greets travellers at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport is a roadside check. All drivers are stopped and asked two questions: How are you? Where are you coming from?

"Two benign questions. The questions aren't important. The way people act when they answer them is," Sela said.

Officers are looking for nervousness or other signs of "distress" — behavioural profiling. Sela rejects the argument that profiling is discriminatory.

"The word 'profiling' is a political invention by people who don't want to do security," he said. "To us, it doesn't matter if he's black, white, young or old. It's just his behaviour. So what kind of privacy am I really stepping on when I'm doing this?"

Once you've parked your car or gotten off your bus, you pass through the second and third security perimeters.

Armed guards outside the terminal are trained to observe passengers as they move toward the doors, again looking for odd behaviour. At Ben Gurion's half-dozen entrances, another layer of security are watching. At this point, some travellers will be randomly taken aside, and their person and their luggage run through a magnometer.

"This is to see that you don't have heavy metals on you or something that looks suspicious," said Sela.

You are now in the terminal. As you approach your airline check-in desk, a trained interviewer takes your passport and ticket. They ask a series of questions: Who packed your luggage? Has it left your side?

"The whole time, they are looking into your eyes — which is very embarrassing. But this is one of the ways they figure out if you are suspicious or not. It takes 20, 25 seconds," said Sela.

Lines are staggered. People are not allowed to bunch up into inviting targets for a bomber who has gotten this far.

At the check-in desk, your luggage is scanned immediately in a purpose-built area. Sela plays devil's advocate — what if you have escaped the attention of the first four layers of security, and now try to pass a bag with a bomb in it?

"I once put this question to Jacques Duchesneau (the former head of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority): say there is a bag with play-doh in it and two pens stuck in the play-doh. That is 'Bombs 101' to a screener. I asked Ducheneau, 'What would you do?' And he said, 'Evacuate the terminal.' And I said, 'Oh. My. God.'

"Take Pearson. Do you know how many people are in the terminal at all times? Many thousands. Let's say I'm (doing an evacuation) without panic — which will never happen. But let's say this is the case. How long will it take? Nobody thought about it. I said, 'Two days.'"

A screener at Ben-Gurion has a pair of better options.

First, the screening area is surrounded by contoured, blast-proof glass that can contain the detonation of up to 100 kilos of plastic explosive. Only the few dozen people within the screening area need be removed, and only to a point a few metres away.

Second, all the screening areas contain 'bomb boxes'. If a screener spots a suspect bag, he/she is trained to pick it up and place it in the box, which is blast proof. A bomb squad arrives shortly and wheels the box away for further investigation.

"This is a very small simple example of how we can simply stop a problem that would cripple one of your airports," Sela said.

Five security layers down: you now finally arrive at the only one which Ben-Gurion Airport shares with Pearson — the body and hand-luggage check.

"But here it is done completely, absolutely 180 degrees differently than it is done in North America," Sela said.

"First, it's fast — there's almost no line. That's because they're not looking for liquids, they're not looking at your shoes. They're not looking for everything they look for in North America. They just look at you," said Sela. "Even today with the heightened security in North America, they will check your items to death. But they will never look at you, at how you behave. They will never look into your eyes ... and that's how you figure out the bad guys from the good guys."

That's the process — six layers, four hard, two soft. The goal at Ben-Gurion is to move fliers from the parking lot to the airport lounge in a maximum of 25 minutes.

This doesn't begin to cover the off-site security net that failed so spectacularly in targeting would-be Flight 253 bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab — intelligence. In Israel, Sela said, a coordinated intelligence gathering operation produces a constantly evolving series of threat analyses and vulnerability studies.

"There is absolutely no intelligence and threat analysis done in Canada or the United States," Sela said. "Absolutely none."

But even without the intelligence, Sela maintains, Abdulmutallab would not have gotten past Ben Gurion Airport's behavioural profilers.

So. Eight years after 9/11, why are we still so reactive, so un-Israelified?

Working hard to dampen his outrage, Sela first blames our leaders, and then ourselves.

"We have a saying in Hebrew that it's much easier to look for a lost key under the light, than to look for the key where you actually lost it, because it's dark over there. That's exactly how (North American airport security officials) act," Sela said. "You can easily do what we do. You don't have to replace anything. You have to add just a little bit — technology, training. But you have to completely change the way you go about doing airport security. And that is something that the bureaucrats have a problem with. They are very well enclosed in their own concept."

And rather than fear, he suggests that outrage would be a far more powerful spur to provoking that change.

"Do you know why Israelis are so calm? We have brutal terror attacks on our civilians and still, life in Israel is pretty good. The reason is that people trust their defence forces, their police, their response teams and the security agencies. They know they're doing a good job. You can't say the same thing about Americans and Canadians. They don't trust anybody," Sela said. "But they say, 'So far, so good'. Then if something happens, all hell breaks loose and you've spent eight hours in an airport. Which is ridiculous. Not justifiable

"But, what can you do? Americans and Canadians are nice people and they will do anything because they were told to do so and because they don't know any different."



A lie can travel halfway around the world
while the truth is putting its shoes on
                                        Mark Twain

Israel's Right to the 'Disputed' Territories , not "occupied"

The recent statements by the European Union's new foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton criticizing Israel have once again brought international attention to Jerusalem and the settlements. However, little appears to be truly understood about Israel's rights to what are generally called the "occupied territories" but what really are "disputed territories."

That's because the land now known as the West Bank cannot be considered "occupied" in the legal sense of the word as it had not attained recognized sovereignty before Israel's conquest. Contrary to some beliefs there has never been a Palestinian state, and no other nation has ever established Jerusalem as its capital despite it being under Islamic control for hundreds of years.

The name "West Bank" was first used in 1950 by the Jordanians when they annexed the land to differentiate it from the rest of the country, which is on the east bank of the river Jordan. The boundaries of this territory were set only one year before during the armistice agreement between Israel and Jordan that ended the war that began in 1948 when five Arab armies invaded the nascent Jewish State. It was at Jordan's insistence that the 1949 armistice line became not a recognized international border but only a line separating armies. The Armistice Agreement specifically stated: "No provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims, and positions of either Party hereto in the peaceful settlement of the Palestine questions, the provisions of this Agreement being dictated exclusively by military considerations." (Italics added.) This boundary became the famous "Green Line," so named because the military officials during the armistice talks used a green pen to draw the line on the map.

After the Six Day War, when once again Arab armies sought to destroy Israel and the Jewish state subsequently captured the West Bank and other territory, the United Nations sought to create an enduring solution to the conflict. U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 is probably one of the most misunderstood documents in the international arena. While many, especially the Palestinians, push the idea that the document demands that Israel return everything captured over the Green Line, nothing could be further from the truth. The resolution calls for "peace within secure and recognized boundaries," but nowhere does it mention where those boundaries should be.

It is best to understand the intentions of the drafters of the resolution before considering other interpretations. Eugene V. Rostow, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs in 1967 and a drafter of the resolution, stated in 1990: "Security Council Resolution 242 and (subsequent U.N. Security Council Resolution) 338... rest on two principles, Israel may administer the territory until its Arab neighbors make peace; and when peace is made, Israel should withdraw to "secure and recognized borders," which need not be the same as the Armistice Demarcation Lines of 194."

Lord Caradon, the British U.N. Ambassador at the time and the resolution's main drafter who introduced it to the Council, said in 1974 unequivocally that, "It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial."

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. at the time, former Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, made the issue even clearer when he stated in 1973 that, "the resolution speaks of withdrawal from occupied territories without defining the extent of withdrawal." This would encompass "less than a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from occupied territory, inasmuch as Israel's prior frontiers had proven to be notably insecure."

Even the Soviet delegate to the U.N., Vasily Kuznetsov, who fought against the final text, conceded that the resolution gave Israel the right to "withdraw its forces only to those lines it considers appropriate."

After the war in 1967, when Jews started returning to their historic heartland in the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria, as the territory had been known around the world for 2,000 years until the Jordanians renamed it, the issue of settlements arose. However, Rostow found no legal impediment to Jewish settlement in these territories. He maintained that the original British Mandate of Palestine still applies to the West Bank. He said "the Jewish right of settlement in Palestine west of the Jordan River, that is, in Israel, the West Bank, Jerusalem, was made unassailable. That right has never been terminated and cannot be terminated except by a recognized peace between Israel and its neighbors." There is no internationally binding document pertaining to this territory that has nullified this right of Jewish settlement since.

And yet, there is this perception that Israel is occupying stolen land and that the Palestinians are the only party with national, legal and historic rights to it. Not only is this morally and factually incorrect, but the more this narrative is being accepted, the less likely the Palestinians feel the need to come to the negotiating table. Statements like those of Lady Ashton's are not only incorrect; they push a negotiated solution further away.

—Mr. Ayalon is the deputy foreign minister of IsraelPrinted in The Wall Street Journal Europe, page 13

Israel arrests teenager for West Bank mosque attack


JERUSALEM (AP) - Israeli police say a teenager has been arrested in connection with the torching of a West Bank mosque earlier this month.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed on Thursday that a minor was being questioned in the attack, believed to have been the work of Jewish extremists.

Rosenfeld says undercover agents arrested the teen at a West Bank junction. He says it was the first arrest since the December 11 blaze, but had no further details.

Authorities suspect Jewish extremists carried out the attack in retaliation for a government-ordered slowdown in West Bank settlement construction.

The attackers burned prayer carpets and a book stand with Muslim holy texts, leaving Hebrew graffiti on the floor.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Iraqis will have a blast (or two or three) for New Year

Iraq has become invisible to most of the world - a hole in the map of foreign offices, especially the US State Department. But people live there, and they are getting killed pretty regularly.
Hey Barack, are you listening? USA will make peace between Israelis and Palestinians just like they did in Iraq.
Barack Obama may not be listening, but America's allies are. Iraq is an object lesson in what happens to places that Americans get tired of.
Say, what's the latest on Tiger Woods?
Ami Isseroff
Bombs Kill 21 in Iraq's Western Anbar Province
Officials: Bombs kill 21 in Iraq's western Anbar province
The Associated Press
Iraqi police officials say most of the 21 people killed in a pair of bombings in western Iraq were policemen.
Lt. Col. Imad al-Fahdawi said the deputy provincial commander was among the 13 policemen killed by Wednesday's blasts in Ramadi, 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Baghdad. Another police official says the provincial police commander was wounded.
The police official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Al-Fahdawi said many of the policemen were killed by a car bomb at a checkpoint near the local provincial government headquarters. Others died after a suicide bomber detonated his vest as they rushed to respond to the initial explosion.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
BAGHDAD (AP) — Staggered explosions killed 21 people Wednesday and injured the governor of Anbar, Iraqi officials said, in the latest violence to roil a turbulent province that is still struggling to stamp out the remnants of the al-Qaida insurgency.
The western province of Anbar is strategically important because it was once the heartland of support for al-Qaida linked militants before American officials paid Iraqi fighters to join a pro-government force.
Police official Lt. Col. Imad al-Fahdawi said two bombs exploded in Anbar's capital of Ramadi, 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Baghdad. He says a suicide bomber in a car caused the first blast on the main road near the provincial administration buildings.
Gov. Qassim al-Fahdawi, the deputy police chief and other officials came to inspect the damage, the police official said, when a suicide bomber on foot detonated a vest full of explosives nearby.
The deputy police chief was killed and the governor and other officials wounded, al-Fahdawi said. Police have put a curfew in place, he added.
Dr. Ahmed Abid Mohammed said 21 people had been killed and 48 injured. He said the governor had suffered burns on his face, injuries to his abdomen and other areas.
"The leadership in the province have requested support from U.S. forces in response to the attacks near the provincial government center in Ramadi," said military spokesman Lt. Col. Curtis Hill. He said American forces were helping evacuate casualties, establish security and forensic investigation.
There are 18 provincial governors in Iraq. Anbar is primarily Sunni, the same sect of Islam as former dictator Saddam Hussein. The province was the former stronghold of the insurgency before the U.S. military began paying fighters to participate in the pro-government Sons of Iraq program, also known as the Awakening Council.
The Sons of Iraq are widely credited with stabilizing the country after joining up with U.S. and Iraqi forces in the anti-al-Qaida drive about three years ago. But they have been hit by a steady barrage of revenge attacks since then and five of them were killed at a checkpoint Tuesday in central Iraq.
The Sunni fighters have expressed fears that they will be sidelined by the mainly Shiite government after the American forces leave. Shiites are the majority in Iraq, and insurgents have repeatedly bombed Shiite religious processions in an effort to re-ignite the sectarian violence that dragged Iraq to the brink of civil war two years ago.

Egypt: Magdi Hamdi Saqr, denied medical care in prison, life in danger

The State of Emergency law is often used by the Egyptian security services as a pretext for arbitrary arrests of dissident groups or those believed to be members of such groups. In such cases, the victims are detained without legal justification and held for long periods of time without trials based on the assumption that they are a threat to national security. Within the prison themselves, many of these political prisoners are exposed to ill-treatment, humiliation and torture, especially those who require medical care are often denied this basic privilege and in some cases die. On 17 October 2009, the Egyptian authorities arrested Magdi Hamdi Saqr, who suffers from serious health difficulties, and is now detained in Damanhour prison, northern Egypt.
Mr Saqr suffers from several medical conditions, including the hardening of the arteries, failure to the coronary artery and frequent chest pains. Before his arrest, doctors advised him to avoid strenuous activity and to take rest as much as possible. His current state of health is dire, and the living conditions at Damanhour prison have only worsened his condition. Doctors, who are also his inmates, have tried to help; however, they have been unable to do so due to a lack of medical resources. Current fears are that could die if he does not urgently receive medical attention.
A request for his release was last submitted on 5 November 2009, however, the authorities unequivocally refused. Alkarama submitted his case as an urgent appeal to the Special Rapporteur on Summary Executions (SUMX) today, 8 December 2009.
Alkarama calls upon the Egyptian authorities to release Magdi Hamdi Saqr and therefore reminds the authorities that Mr Saqr may die inside Damahour prison due to lack of proper medical care.

Rights Group: Syrian prisoner under arbitrary detention for two years

16 December 2009

Alkarama has received an important update regarding Ziad Wasef Ramadan, a Syrian arrested in 2005. Following Ziad Ramadan's first family-visit in over two years on 23 August 2009, reports now confirm that Mr Ramadan's health has severely deteriorated after being subjected to continuous solitary confinement since September 2007. Ziad Ramadan's family had previously visited him on 22 September 2007, after he was transferred to the Palestinian Branch of Damascus prison, in September 2007. Up until their most recent visit, all visitation requests had been refused.
Mr Ramadan, a native of Homs, Syria, was originally arrested on 20 September 2005 as a suspect in the assassination of Rafiq Al-Hariri, former Lebanese prime minister. Alkarama had sent his case to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) on 14 September 2009, asking them to render an Opinion recognising his detention as arbitrary.
Alkarama is currently working with the UN special procedures as well as other human rights NGOs to ensure that the Syrian authorities respect their obligations under international law with regards to Mr Ramadan.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Intelligence: Iran smuggling 1,350 tons of purified uranium pre

Report: Iran Seeking to Smuggle Raw Uranium

Inteligence Report Says Iran Is Seeking to Smuggle 1,350 Tons of Uranium From Kazakhstan
The Associated Press
Diplomats are concerned about an intelligence report that says Iran is trying to import 1,350 tons of purified uranium ore from Kazakhstan in violation of U.N. Security Council sanctions.
Such a deal would be significant because Tehran appears to be running out of that material, which it needs to feed its uranium enrichment program.
A summary of the report obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday said the deal could be completed within weeks. It said Tehran was willing to pay $450 million, or close to 315 million euros, for the shipment.
An official from the country that drew up the report said Kazakh government employees acting on their own were behind the deal. The official demanded anonymity in exchange for discussing intelligence matters.
After-hours calls put in to offices of Kazatomprom, the Kazak state uranium company, in Kazakhstan and Moscow, were not answered. There was no immediate reaction from Tehran.
Iran is under three sets of Security Council sanctions for refusing to freeze its enrichment program and related activities that could be used to make nuclear weapons. Tehran denies such aspirations.

Monday, December 28, 2009

PM Netanyahu’s Speech at the Knesset Special Session

PM Netanyahu's Speech at the Knesset Special Session

Mr. Speaker,

We're here today because 40 Members of Knesset have called for this special session to discuss the Government's foreign policy so I'd like to address the principles that guide our actions in the realm of foreign affairs and defense.

There are three primary threats facing us today: the nuclear threat, the missile threat and what I call the Goldstone threat.  This is all on top of our mission to resume and then accelerate the peace process with the Palestinians, with the goal of reaching a settlement.  These are our main tasks.  I want to discuss each of them briefly and then say a few words to the Opposition.

2009 ends in just one week, and we're engaged in dialogue with our many friends in the international community about what is happening in Iran.  People are looking differently at Iran now, because of the sequence of recent events – starting with the elections, but even before that, when the Iranian president started to make his goals clear.  And the secret nuclear facility at Qom.  All these things have led to the increased delegitimization of the Iranian regime, its desire to develop nuclear weapons and its stated goal to erase Israel from the map.

That's why there's now a possibility that the international community will impose tight sanctions against Iran.  We're working hard to achieve this goal; not everything can be revealed, but we're working intensely in the international arena to ensure that harsh sanctions are imposed on Iran.  Time will tell if these sanctions will be enough to halt the Iranian nuclear program, but they're a critical and even essential condition.  In my estimate, decisions will be made at beginning of the 2010.  I think in February – at least by the United Nations.

I can't say what the outcome of these efforts will be.   I can only say that I think all Members of Knesset are all united on this issue.  We're making every effort to guarantee a positive outcome.  But of course, the decision will ultimately be made by the members of the Security Council, where even a single member can tip the scales the wrong way.

The threat of missiles and rockets is intensifying.  We're also working here to develop a solution, and to protect those living in the line of fire.  We're working together with the United States on a number of projects – ones that are familiar to you, or certainly to the members of the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, as well as some other projects.  But my government has adopted a very simple policy: we won't tolerate any trickle or drizzle of rockets that later turns into rainfall and then a full-fledged storm.

Any metal cylinder loaded with TNT that's fired, even if it lands in an open field – which thankfully has been the case so far – will result in a response.  Maybe not the next minute or even hour, but it will come quickly and it could be pretty painful.

Finally, Goldstone has become code for a much broader phenomenon: the attempt to negate the legitimacy of our right to self-defense.  It didn't just start now.  The international campaign against Israel has gone on since the Durban Conference in 2000 and since the attempt in 2003 to condemn the security fence that has protected Israeli children – but is condemned just the same – in The Hague.

I know a young man who tried to explain the role of this "awful" fence to a critic.  He said: "There was a girl in my class who didn't come to school one day.  We went looking for her, but didn't have any luck.  Later, we learned that she was killed on a bus by a suicide bomber who crossed the border at a point where he wouldn't have been able to cross today.  Because of the fence."

The fence hasn't been finished yet.  But in 2003, it came before The Hague.  Israel built a fence – only one small section was an actual wall – and was brought before The Hague to answer for this terrible, international crime.  Later, in 2005, General Doron Almog couldn't even travel to London because he would have been arrested for war crimes.  This was in 2005, even before the Second Lebanon War in 2006 and Operation Cast Lead in 2008, which I'll talk about in a minute.  We all have a real problem here.

Ehud Olmert speaks on campuses in the United States, and he's denounced as a war criminal.  Defense Minister Ehud Barak – they want to arrest him in London.  And there's a warrant out against Tzipi Livni, the Opposition leader.  This is the sequence.  You all know the truth in your hearts.  This is an all-out offensive, not just against one Israeli government or another.  And we are taking action to confront it.

Some of the more problematic things derive from our genuine and just struggle to defend ourselves against a new form of warfare: terrorists who attack us while hiding behind their own civilians.  It requires tremendous domestic cohesion.  It takes doing what I did – when I stood here, as leader of the Opposition, and I said that I supported you.  I gave dozens of interviews to the media.  So did my colleagues, who also participated in Knesset delegations that defended our cause.  Nobody looked to point fingers or criticize a government that mobilized to defend the citizens of Israel.  We didn't say that it was all "your fault" just because of the international pressure or response.  Our internal cohesion is so important for our international standing and we shouldn't look for opportunities or cracks to challenge a sitting government.  Both the Government and the Opposition have to act with dignity and responsibility.

This brings me to the Palestinian issue, which is just as clear-cut as the Goldstone matter.  I spelled out two principles that almost everyone in the Knesset can rally around.

The first one is the demand that the State of Israel be recognized as a Jewish state.  This includes relinquishing any claim to a right of return – code for the destruction of the State of Israel – and an end to all other claims.  This will guarantee that peace is genuine and not just a tactic to continue fighting.

The second principle – which comes along with our recognition of the Palestinians' desire for a state of their own – is a demand for full demilitarization, so that things don't go back to the way they were.  Full demilitarization is not a piece of paper.  It's not just an agreement.  And it's not just about some Security Council resolution.  Our problem is that we'll be withdrawing from territory and the void will be immediately filled by Iran or its proxies, or by Iranian and Syrian weapons.

Our problem isn't Hezbollah or our border with Lebanon.  It's the border between Syria and Lebanon.  That's where the weapons are coming from.  And our problem with Hamas isn't a border or a seam between Israel and Gaza.  It's those 12 kilometers between Gaza and Egypt because, again, that's where the weapons are coming from.  That's why the demilitarization problem is a real one, not just about paper.  There will be talk about Security Council Resolution 1701, or about some kind of multi-lateral agreement.  But Gaza has proven that this is indeed a serious problem because most of the weapons aren't manufactured in Gaza, they're imported.  At least the effective ones are.  And they're getting even more so.

That's why we need a real solution to guarantee demilitarization.  I know what the minimal conditions need to be – and we'll discuss them too when the time comes – but were going to have to insist on more than just words.  We can't talk about a solution without talking about these two things, recognition and demilitarization, as fundamental conditions.  What I said at Bar-Ilan University, and what I've said on other occasions, represents a broad consensus that had to be forged and will gives us great strength.

But we didn't settle for mere statements.  Words are important, but actions are even more important.  We said what had to be said, but we also took action.  Member of Knesset Sarsur said the first thing we did was "promise that Judea and Samaria would be a paradise".  Well, I didn't promise it would be paradise, but I did promise economic prosperity.

Hamas turned Gaza into hell on Earth, but Judea and Samaria can be transformed.  Maybe not into paradise, but into one of the world's most prosperous economies.  In absolute terms, and not just relative growth rates.

How?  Why is the Palestinian economy, in today's global economic environment, experiencing growth of 7%, 8%, 9%, or maybe even higher?  How much would it have grown if we hadn't removed those checkpoints and barriers?  I know, we all know that there is more work ahead of us

And we did something else.  From day one, we told the Palestinians, the Americans, the Europeans, the Russians and the entire world that negotiations have to start right away.  From day one.  I think a call was even issued from right here, on the Knesset podium, to the Palestinian Authority.  And it would be an understatement to say that we've never received a response. 

We also took other steps just recently.  The US Secretary of State said they were unprecedented.  It's true.  But in your hearts, you all know the truth that from day one, we demonstrated a real willingness – reflecting the unified will of the people – to jumpstart the peace negotiations.  And I tell you that, even if not everyone agrees, we still have a real desire to complete those negotiations based on the principles I talked about earlier.

What have we gotten from the other side?  The Goldstone Report, complaints about building in Gilo and all kinds of unprecedented and unjustified preconditions.  Let me tell you where it all came from.  From expectations that this government could be branded and blamed for everything, despite these facts that I've shared with you and that you know are true.  And from the belief that conflict and criticism can take the place of the full agreement that we really need.

I'm here to tell you that internal cohesion is the most important thing that will allow us to achieve two tasks: defending ourselves against attacks on our right to self-defense and ensuring that the Palestinian Authority comes to the negotiating table, because we all know the facts.

Mr. Speaker,

This is why I say that we need to fight side-by-side, to counter the false allegations against the State of Israel, just like we've done in the past.  When we take real, unprecedented measures to resume the political process, we have to work together.  Even though we're doing some things that nobody's ever done before, I know that our desire for peace has always been shared by everyone and so, we need to work together on this.

The only real choice before you is to criticize or support.  I'm not asking Members of Knesset for any more than I asked my fellow Opposition members, when I was Opposition leader just a short while ago.  When it comes to the major issues concerning the security and foreign policy of the State of Israel, you really have just one choice.  Not to criticize for the sake of criticizing, or to find all kinds of excuses why you don't support a policy that you know is just and right for Israel at the present time.  You have only one real, responsible choice, and that's to support the Israeli government at this time.

Israeli officials: Iran close to A-Bomb

Israel Says Iran Close to Nuclear Capability
Israel also alarmed by Iran's recent test firing of its longest-range missile, previous threats by Iran's president
Robert Berger | Jerusalem 28 December 2009
Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak says Iran is moving quickly toward the "point of no return."  Speaking behind closed doors to the parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Barak said Iran will have the technology to build a nuclear bomb by early next year and could produce one in 2011.
Cabinet Minister Yuval Steinitz is a former chairman of the committee.
"Iran is trying to gain nuclear weapons.  And if nothing serious, nothing dramatic will be done by the West, it will get there in a year or two," he said.
Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but Steinitz says Israel has proof that the Islamic Republic is building the atom bomb.
"There are good, I would say even excellent evidence and intelligence showing that this is the case.  And this is crystal clear to all Western intelligence services," he added.
Israel is alarmed by Iran's recent test firing of its longest-range missile and previous threats by its president to wipe the Jewish state "off the map."  So Israeli leaders are calling for tougher international sanctions on Iran before it is too late.
But Israel has warned time and again that if diplomacy fails, it might launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Gazan Child Healed in Haifa

A build up of fluid causing pressure within the eyeball is called glaucoma and it's not "Good News". When that condition is present at birth then the baby is blind and requires very intricate surgery.

This is what happened to Halla a little girl from the Gaza Strip who was brought to Carmel Medical Center in Haifa (just 5 mins down the road from where I live) at the age of ten months and blind from birth. Ophthalmologists at the hospital performed two operations one after the other, the first, to drain the fluid and the second and more complicated procedure, to implant microscopic tubes to maintain the drainage process.

The fairy tale ending – Halla can see, she reacts to her surroundings, she smiles, she laughs, she's putting on weight and doing all the things that a ten month old baby should be doing. With all the expenses being met by the Peres Peace Center all her overjoyed parents need to do is take her back home.

This beats all the negative ideology being spewed out on the Gazans radio, TV and newspapers

(Some) Iranians finally understand Mullahs are worse than Shah; Reuters fantasizes

It took Iranians a long time to figure out that a regime that murders people, dictates how they dress, hangs Bahai and homosexuals and risks military confrontation with the US just might be worse than the regime of the Shah.
Latest reports claim as many as ten were killed in the recent demonstrations.
Meanwhile, the Reuters news agency has their own axe to grind. Quoth Reuters:
The post-election turmoil has also made Iranian officials unable to resolve a dispute over Iran's nuclear programme, which the West fears is a cover to build bombs.
Reuters has no evidence at all for any role of the "post-election turmoil" in the Iranian nuclear dispute. The Iranian government has been absolutely consistent, before and after the election, in insisting on its legitimate right to hide nuclear installations from the IAEA and continue with its uranium enrichment program. They never even hinted that they would stop this program.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 10:34 28/12/2009       
Iran opposition leader: Tehran regime worse than the Shah
By Reuters
Reformist Iranian cleric Mehdi Karoubi condemned the killing of eight protesters during Shiite Islam's most important observance a day earlier, saying the government was even more brutal than the cruel regime that was ousted by the Islamic Revolution three decades ago.
Iranian police confirmed that five people died in Tehran and at least another three in the city of Tabriz when pro-reform protesters fought security forces on Sunday, the most violent clashes since a contested June 12 presidential vote sparked political turmoil across the Islamic Republic.
"What has happened to this religious system that it orders the killing of innocent people during the holy day of Ashura?" moderate cleric Karoubi, who came fourth in the election, said in a statement, the Jaras website reported.
The shah, who was overthrown in 1979, was widely hated, and comparing a rival to him is a serious, though common, insult in Iranian politics.
Opposition websites said police opened fire on protesters in central Tehran. Eight people were killed in the capital and other Iranian cities when tens of thousands of opposition backers took to the streets, they said.
The deaths were the first in street protests since the immediate aftermath of the disputed June election.
Among the dead was opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi's nephew, whose death was described as a "martyrdom" by a Mousavi ally. State television said "unknown assailants" killed Ali Habibi Mousavi Khamene.
Police said investigations were under way into the suspicious deaths and that 300 protesters were arrested, adding that dozens of members of the security forces were injured.
State television said in a headline that "police deny involvement in killings", and said that those detained included members of a an exiled opposition group, Mujahideen Khalq Organisation (MKO). It quoted a senior police official as saying security forces had not used weapons.
Jaras said opposition politician Ebrahim Yazdi, leader of the banned Freedom Movement and foreign minister in Iran's first government after the 1979 Islamic revolution that overthrew the U.S.-backed shah, was detained early on Monday at his home.
Yazdi, who was also detained after the June presidential poll, is an important opposition voice in Iran but has no influence on state policy and limited popular support.
Jaras said police shot and killed four protesters in central Tehran on Sunday and that unrest had spread to other parts of Iran, including the holy city of Qom, Shiraz, Isfahan, Najafabad, Mashhad and Babol.
The reports could not be independently verified because foreign media are banned from covering protests.
The White House condemned the "unjust suppression" of civilians by the Iranian government and said the United States was on the side of protesters.
The killings showed that the confrontation between the opposition and the clerical and political establishment had entered a volatile phase, in which the security forces appeared determined to stamp out the reformist movement.
A hardline clerical group in Qom condemned the "sedition by rioters" during the Shi'ite Muslim religious ritual of Ashura, the official IRNA news agency said.
"The association of Qom theologians ... ask officials to identify those behind yesterday's events and take appropriate measures to firmly encounter and punish them according to legal and religious standards," a statement said.
The disputed re-election of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has plunged Iran into its biggest internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution, exposing deepening divisions in its ruling elite and setting off a wave of protests that the opposition says left over 70 people dead.
Officials say the death toll was half that number, including members of a pro-government Islamic militia.
The post-election turmoil has also made Iranian officials unable to resolve a dispute over Iran's nuclear programme, which the West fears is a cover to build bombs. Iran denies this.
(Editing by Jon Boyle)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Reports: 9 dead in Iran protests, Khatami Speech stopped

Quite a day in Iran. New York Times reports that Basiji militia stopped a speech by former President Khatam, and Guardian reports that nine people in total were killed in protests in Tehran and other cities.
Opposition leader Mousavi's nephew 'among the fatalities' as Tehran and other cities erupt in protest and violence on holy day
 Robert Tait, Sunday 27 December 2009 16.18 GMT
The nephew of Iran's reformist opposition leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, was reported to be among at least nine people killed after the streets of Tehran and other cities erupted in violent clashes between security forces and protesters.
Ali Mousavi, 35 and a father of two, was reportedly shot through the heart after police opened fire during disturbances in Tehran's Enghelab Square.
The authorities tonight tried to assert control over Tehran by reportedly declaring a 7pm curfew and outlawing all gatherings of more than three people, a source inside the capital told the Guardian.
The move followed announcements by opposition supporters of plans to meet in some of the city's main squares and parks to mark Sham-e Ghariban, which is part of the Ashura ceremonies.
News of Mousavi's nephew's death, reported by the reformist website Parlemannews, was certain to send shock waves through Iran's opposition Green Movement.
There were reports of at least four other fatalities in Tehran and four more in Tabriz as tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered for the Shia Ashura ceremonies and to voice anger against the government.
Parlemannews reported that Mousavi had gone to Ebn-e Sina Hospital, where the body of his nephew had been taken. He was accompanied by the dead man's parents and fellow reformist politicians.
Rah-e Sabz, another reformist website, reported large crowds of people moving towards Ebn-e Sina Hospital in a show of solidarity with Mousavi after the death.
Rah-e Sabz also reported at least four other people were killed in the capital, including an elderly man who was shot through the forehead at a crossroads in Tehran city centre. Two others were said to have been shot nearby at Kalej bridge, in Enghelab Street. Rah-e Sabz, citing witnesses, said crowds held up the elderly man and started chanting slogans against Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Another person was reportedly killed after being beaten on the head with a baton, according to Rah-e Sabz.
Meanwhile, Rouydad News, another opposition site, reported that four people were killed in the northern city of Tabriz.
Crowds prevented security forces from taking away those wounded in the Tehran shootings. According to other eyewitness reports, members of the hardline Basij militia attacked demonstrators with daggers and knives.
Disturbances were also reported in Isfahan, Shiraz, Masshad, Arak and Najafabad, where the Rah-e Sabz described the situation as "severe".
Najafabad, birthplace of the dissident Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who died last Sunday, has witnessed several outbreaks of unrest in the past week.
Today's religious ceremonies – marking the 7th-century death of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson, Imam Hossein – coincides with the ritual seven-day mourning ceremonies for Montazeri, who had repeatedly criticised the government and denounced President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election last summer as invalid.
Ashura ceremonies commonly feature vast crowds of people marching and beating their chests in memory of Imam Hossein, who is seen as a martyr against oppressive government. This year the opposition pledged to use the holy day to voice continued opposition to the government.
The authorities responded by warning of a huge crackdown. Hospitals and emergency services were put on alert to expect large-scale casualties.
The authorities are taking a risk in using lethal force against protesters during the Islamic month of Moharram, during which war and bloodshed is deemed to be religiously haram, or forbidden. It raises the likelihood of a series of mourning cycles, as required by Shia tradition. It was such a mourning cycle that fatally undermined the Shah's regime when it tried to suppress demonstrations in 1978.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Bahraini Liberal Author Dhiyaa Al-Musawi: We Hang Our Thinkers on the Gallows of Ideology


Bahraini Liberal Author Dhiyaa Al-Musawi: We Hang Our Thinkers on the Gallows of Ideology. I Listen to Music and Placed Pictures of Jesus and Martin Luther King in My Home.

Following are excerpts from an interview with Bahraini intellectual Dhiyaa Al-Musawi, which aired on Abu Dhabi TV on December 29, 2006.

Dhiyaa Al-Musawi: I do not believe in gallows of ideology. Our problem in the Arab world is that we have many gallows of ideology and of accusations of social betrayal, on which we try to hang an intellectual, a thinker, or a poet every day, just like in the case of Naguib Mahfouz and others. We, I'm sad to say, are against creativity and civilization, and against any language that seeks common ground in society.


We must have the courage to get rid of the "backward" cholesterol of ideology, accumulating in the arteries of Arab awareness and the Arab mind. We suffer from backwardness. This is not masochism - the kind psychologists talk about - acts of self-flagellation. This is the truth. We have not developed even to the point of admitting defeat. We [have to] admit our cultural defeat. In the past, we had a civilization in Andalusia and in many other places, but today we are regressing – we export violence, we terrorize whole countries, we threaten national security, and many other things.


We need to reform and to reshape religious thinking, because, in all honesty, the pulpits of our mosques have begun to "booby trap" the people.

Interviewer: In what way?

Dhiyaa Al-Musawi: They booby trap them by generating hatred towards "the other." We have claimed a monopoly over Paradise, and each of us has recorded it in the land registry in his name.

Interviewer: But the pulpits are under government supervision.

Some of them are under government supervision, but in some Arab countries, although they are under government supervision, the government itself encourages the booby trapping. This problem has political reasons, but who pays the price? The country, society, civil society, and the young man, who is being told that the black-eyed virgins await him at the gates of Paradise, and that all he has to do is kill himself, to slaughter himself. He might blow up his family and children to get the virgins of Paradise. This is the language and culture of death. We were not born into this world in order to die this way. The beauty of Man lies in his living for the sake of his homeland, not in dying while booby trapping others.


In the Arab world, we have religious clerics who are beacons [of knowledge], but I think the problem is that we are constantly intimidating the public. We talk only about Hell, and not about Paradise at all. The Koran is balanced. It talks about the fire of Hell and the fruits of Paradise, but we constantly preach about the horrors of Judgment Day, saying that a bald Satan, or a bald serpent, would visit them in the grave. It is constant terror. It is always a dark picture. Why? That is the problem. Unfortunately, some young men – out of a wrong interpretation of religion... The moment he becomes religious, he ceases to smile and to greet others. He accuses some people of heresy and others of sin. He begins all that discourse. He hates music, and refuses to dress neatly. His mind is abducted into the dungeons of ideology, I'm sad to say.

Interviewer: Let me ask you a question. If a Shiite, or even a Sunni, becomes a religious cleric, yet he listens to music, can the Arab public possibly accept him?

Dhiyaa Al-Musawi: In my view, the Arab disposition suffers from many problems. We have destroyed many things, including the beauty of the general disposition. Music is a beautiful thing...

Interviewer: Do you listen to music?

Dhiyaa Al-Musawi: Yes, I listen to music. I listen to classical music, and I think Beethoven's symphonies are very beautiful. They are among the masterpieces of human art. I believe that music develops the spirit of Man and humbles him. What is wrong with that?


As for the policy of non-violence, I'd like to give you the example of Gandhi, whom I consider a hero. If only we could obtain some of Gandhi's genes, and plant them in the brains of our youth in the Arab world...

Interviewer: In your home, you have pictures of Martin Luther King and Jesus on the wall.

Dhiyaa Al-Musawi: In my home, I put up a picture of Jesus, because whenever I look at his picture, worlds of peace and love open up before me. It was Jesus who said: "Love thy enemies, bless them who curse thee." We need this beautiful language in our society. I also have a picture of Gandhi, whom I consider to be a very fine person, and whose [image] we should plant in the minds of our youth.


Some of us say: "May Allah curse the Jews and the Christians, the offspring of apes and pigs." Is this the language of progress? Is this the language of enlightenment and tolerance? If you had been born in Rome, you would have been Christian, if you had been born in Tehran, you would have been Shiite, and if you had been born in Saudi Arabia, you would have been Sunni, and so on. How wonderful it would be if all these people could gather in love around the table of humanity.


Nations that read more are the nations that are most respected, like the Western nations, where people read... When you travel to Switzerland, everywhere you go - on the bus or wherever - you see people reading books. Do you see such sights in the Arab world?


The problem of the Arab youth is that they do not read. As Gustave le Bon wrote in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, the Arab youth sometimes smile while they are taken to the slaughterhouse. Why? Because they lack awareness. We suffer from illiteracy. Today, the Arab world has, according to a U.N. report, close to 70 million illiterate adults – in other words, 70 million people whom you can booby trap, against their country and society, because they do not read.

An Escalating Regional Cold War – Part I: The 2009 Gaza War

February 2, 2009
Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No.492
By: Y. Carmon, Y. Yehoshua, A. Savyon, and H. Migron*

Table of Contents


The 2009 Gaza War: Timeline

The Iranian-Saudi/Shi'ite-Sunni Rivalry in the Wake of the 1979 Islamic Revolution

The Escalation of the Conflict During Ahmadinejad's Presidency

Iran Extends Its Influence Into the Arab World

The Emergence of the Iran-Syria-Qatar-Hizbullah Axis

The 2009 Gaza War Deepens the Schism Between the Two Camps

After The War – The Schism Between the Two Camps is An Acknowledged Fact

The Saudi Camp: Iran Is Responsible for the Rift in the Arab World

"The Trojan Horse" – Qatar's Role in Consolidating the Iranian Axis

Two Camps, Two Contrasting Approaches to the Arab-Israeli Conflict



The recent Gaza war was portrayed by the international media as a local military conflict between Israel and Hamas. However, this war, like the 2006 war in Lebanon and various other military and political events in the last three decades in the Middle East have a common denominator – namely, all stem from the conflict between revolutionary Iran and the Saudi Kingdom and the respective camps of each. This conflict is key to understanding the Middle East in the 21st century.

This Saudi-Iranian conflict, whose various aspects – geostrategic, religious, ethnic, and economic – have been affecting the Middle East for the past 30 years, began with the Islamic Revolution in Iran, led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Since then, there have been lulls (especially during the era of former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami), but the conflict flared up again after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rose to power. The conflict has now escalated into an actual cold war, and is reflected in the emergence of two distinct blocs in the Middle East: the Iranian axis (comprising Iran, Syria, Qatar, Hizbullah and Hamas) and the Saudi-Egyptian camp, with which most of the other Arab countries are identified.

This schism, and cold war, will have a major impact on the local, regional, and international level, severely restricting options for diplomatic activity, to resolve the intra-Palestinian rift, the Israeli-Arab conflict, and the problem of a nuclear Iran.

The 2009 Gaza War: Timeline

The Gaza war broke out on December 27, 2008, after Hamas leader Khaled Mash'al refused – reportedly on orders from Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki[1] – to attend talks for a Cairo-brokered intra-Palestinian agreement. Instead, he announced in Damascus that the tahdia with Israel had ended and would not be renewed, as his men in Gaza fired dozens of rockets into southern Israel.

As soon as the fighting started, Syria and Qatar attempted to convene an emergency Arab League summit in order to help Hamas. This move was blocked by Egypt and Saudi Arabia at the December 31, 2008 Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo, where it was decided only to conduct international diplomatic activity aimed at stopping the hostilities. According to reports, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said at a closed meeting with E.U. foreign ministers that "Hamas must not be allowed to emerge triumphant from the present confrontation."[2]

Nevertheless, Qatar and Syria persisted in their efforts, setting the emergency summit for January 16, 2009, to be attended by anyone who wished. At this point, a campaign of pressure on the other Arab countries was launched by both sides: Iran, Syria, and Qatar urged them to attend, and Saudi Arabia and Egypt pressed them not to.

This clash ended with a victory for the Saudi-Egyptian camp, in that the summit, held in Doha, was convened in the absence of a legal quorum.[3] To the dismay of some Arab countries, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was invited to attend the summit as an observer. Also present as an observer was Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who expressed total support for Hamas.[4]

To reinforce its political victory, the Saudi-Egyptian camp enlisted international support by summoning all European leaders to a special weekend meeting at Sharm Al-Sheikh, on Sunday, January 18, 2009. The summit was attended by the entire European leadership, which rallied to show its endorsement of the Saudi-Egyptian camp.

The following day, January 19, an economic conference that had been planned in advance was held in Kuwait, and part of it was devoted to the war in Gaza. This conference, attended by all Arab leaders, was likewise dominated by the Saudi-Egyptian camp. At the conference, Qatar demanded that the resolution of the Doha conference  -- which called to revoke the peace agreements with Israel and to withdraw the Arab peace initiative – be endorsed, but Saudi Arabia and Egypt rejected its demand, and the conference ended with no resolutions.On January 18, Hamas was compelled to accept the ceasefire declared unilaterally by Israel the day before, as well as Egypt's mediation in the intra-Palestinian talks – two demands it had categorically rejected prior to the war.

It can therefore be said that, unlike the 2006 war in Lebanon and the subsequent clash, in 2008, between Hizbullah and the March 14 Forces, which ended in Lebanon's falling under the control of Hizbullah and the Iranian-Syrian axis,[5] the Gaza war yielded an achievement for the opposite side. It ended with Hamas defeated on the ground and with a political victory for the Saudi-Egyptian camp on the regional level.

The Iranian-Saudi/Shi'ite-Sunni Rivalry in the Wake of the 1979 Islamic Revolution

The Iranian-Saudi conflict is rooted in Iran's aspirations to regional hegemony – both geostrategic and religious – which pose a threat to Saudi Arabia. From the onset of the Islamic Revolution era and Ayatollah Khomeini's rule (1979-89), Iran's attitude to Saudi Arabia was marked by ideological and political enmity, stemming from the centuries-old religious, social, and ethnic rift between the Sunni-Wahhabi Arab society and the Shi'ite Persian one. The Sunnis perceive the Shi'ites as a political sect that seceded from Islam, while the Shi'ites regard the Sunnis, and especially the Wahhabis, as a radical apostate political sect that has taken over the Muslim holy places.

This rivalry, which emanates from revolutionary Iran's competition with Saudi Arabia for the leadership of the Muslim world, reached its height in 1984, when thousands of Iranian pilgrims rioted in the streets of Mecca, calling for the overthrow of the Saudi regime. The Saudis forcibly quelled the riots, closing Mecca to Iranian pilgrims for several years. The Iranian threat also prompted the Saudis to support Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war.

The wave of solidarity with Iran's Islamic Revolution that engulfed the Sunni world prompted Saudi Arabia to exert great efforts in strengthening Sunni Islam in general and Wahhabi Islam in particular. To this end, Saudi Arabia acted mainly on two levels: giving massive support to the jihad in Afghanistan throughout the 1980s until the Soviets were defeated, and investing billions of dollars, over two decades and more, in establishing and maintaining schools, mosques, and other educational and religious institutions in Sunni communities worldwide. These efforts reversed much of the popularity of the Iranian revolution.

Saudi-Iranian enmity declined during the term of Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani, and declined even more during the presidency of his successor, Mohammad Khatami. During Khatami's presidency, Iran strove to rejoin the international community by relaxing its efforts to export the revolution and by seeking to reconcile with its neighbors in the Gulf.

The Escalation of the Conflict During Ahmadinejad's Presidency

With Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's rise to power in 2005, the conflict reemerged, with a vengeance. Ahmadinejad reverted to Iran's previous policy of anti-Saudi hegemony, by pushing the export of the revolution, and promoting a messianic Shi'ite vision that stresses the imminent appearance of the Mahdi and the reestablishment of the great Persian Empire. In his second television appearance following his election, he said: "The message of the [Islamic] Revolution is global, and not restricted to a specific time or place. It is a human message, and it will move forward. Have no doubt... Allah willing, Islam will conquer. Islam will conquer what? It will conquer all the mountaintops of the world."[6]

The message of reviving revolutionary values became a recurring motif in Ahmadinejad's speeches: "In the recent elections, the [Iranian] people proved that they believe in the [Islamic] Revolution and want to see its ideals revived… This revolution was a continuation of the movement of the prophets, and all the political, economic, and cultural goals of the [Iranian] state must therefore be geared towards realizing the Islamic ideals… The followers of this divine school of Islamic thought are doing everything in their power to prepare the ground for the coming [of the Shi'ite messiah, the Mahdi]… It is our duty to guide the people back to these glorious ideals, and to lead the way towards the establishment of an advanced and powerful Islamic society that will be a model [to others]… Iran must emerge as the most powerful and advanced state…"[7]

"The Iranian people, as well as the Iranian government, which has emerged out of the will of the Iranian people, will defend their right to nuclear research and technology... The older people present here surely remember that one of our slogans during the revolution was, 'We will convert the entire world to Islam with our logic.' We are confident that the Islamic logic, culture, and discourse can prove their superiority in all fields over all theories and schools of thought."[8]

In a recent speech at the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini marking the 30th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, Ahmadinejad said: "Even though the revolution took place in Iran, it is not confined to Iran alone... Even after 30 years, [the revolution] is alive. We are [still] at the beginning of our road, and there are great changes still before us. This great revolution will continue until justice is inculcated [throughout the world]."[9]

Ahmadinejad's declarations about restoring the glory of the Shi'ite Persian Empire in the region, and the revival of the revolutionary rhetoric by other Iranian leaders – all backed by the regime's leading ayatollahs – were perceived by the Arab countries, and especially by Saudi Arabia, as a reemergence of the Iranian threat.

The religious-ideological threat was compounded by Iran's attempt to position itself as a regional military superpower, and by its determination to develop nuclear capabilities in addition to its long-range missile capabilities. Iran's insistence on developing nuclear technology despite international opposition was perceived by the Sunni Muslim world as a threat to it.

Iran Extends Its Influence Into the Arab World

Another factor contributing to the conflict was Iran's effort to increase its influence throughout the Arab world. Iran's activity in Iraq following the fall of Saddam Hussein's Sunni regime, and the rise in the Shi'ites' status in that country after the war, intensified Saudi fears, and the fears of other Sunni countries, about the emergence of an "Iranian/Shi'ite crescent" in the very heart of the Sunni world.

Saudi Arabia responded by increasing its support for the Sunni minority in Iraq, for various Muslim and Christian forces in Lebanon, and for others who were confronting Iranian threats in their territory (e.g. in Yemen, Sudan, and Palestine).

The military and political achievements of Hizbullah, Iran's wing in Lebanon, during the 2006 war and in the 2008 Doha agreement (which de facto gave Lebanon to Hizbullah's control) were likewise perceived as part of Iran's bid for regional hegemony – especially in light of statements by Iranian officials. Iranian Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani said after the signing of the Doha agreement: "We see this political victory in the regional arena as a harbinger of [even] greater victories..." He added that Nasrallah had "carried out some of [Khomeini's] teachings."[10] 

After the Lebanon war, Saudi-Sunni concerns about Iran's growing aspirations for regional dominance came under more intensive and open discussion in the Arab world. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit said that the Iranians "were trying to spread [their influence] and impose their idiosyncratic ideology over the region."[11] He also accused Iran of "trying to use Arab cards to realize interests and goals that are not Arab,"[12] and said, "It is necessary to ensure that Iran does not become a nuclear military power."[13]

Similar concerns were also voiced in the Saudi and Egyptian press. In the Saudi government daily Al-Riyadh, Saudi columnist Muhammad bin Ali Al-Mahmoud described Iran's policy under Ahmadinejad, stating: "The change in the Iranian arena has led to the emergence of a Nazi-like atmosphere [there, and to the voicing of] empty slogans that are [even] more violent and bombastic [than those heard] during the first [Iranian] revolution [of 1979]...[14] Sadly, the Iranian threat is not just a theoretical [construct] whose nature and course is a matter of debate among scholars. It has become a reality, and there is no difference between the model [represented by] the terroristic Al-Qaeda and the one [represented by] the Iranian party in Lebanon [i.e., Hizbullah]..."

Al-Mahmoud warned about Iran's "octopus-like expansion," saying: "Iran wants to control the region, not by spreading its ideology... but by maintaining armed organizations [in Arab countries]...  it violates their loyalty to their homelands, replacing it with loyalty to Iran. This, especially since Iran is a country that does not spread tolerance or a culture of moderation, but... a culture of one-sided hegemony, as part of a racist effort to impose a kind of occupation..."[15]      

In an article in the Saudi government daily Al-Watan, Saudi columnist 'Ali Sa'd Al-Moussa wrote that the Arab countries were being subjected to "Persian colonialism," as evidenced by the Iranian "cantons and districts on the map of the Arab world..." He added: "Iran has become a major and central player in Arab politics... Today we are seeing new signs of Persian colonialism. This is a [new], more advanced colonial model: We are no longer talking of troops occupying [certain] regions or of flags [flying] over public buildings. The colonialism of the modern era is manifested by the submission of [various regional forces to Iran]... Iran chose [regions] on the Arab map and attacked them without [even] pulling the trigger. Its entire plan is being implemented by Arabs."[16]

The Emergence of the Iran-Syria-Qatar-Hizbullah Axis

As part of Iran's bid for regional hegemony, a political and military axis has formed, comprising not only Iran and Shi'ites in Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen, but also various Sunni forces that have an interest in opposing Saudi Arabia and Egypt. It was during the 2006 Lebanon war that a distinct Iran-Syria-Qatar-Hizbullah axis first emerged to oppose the Saudi-Egyptian camp.[17] At a later stage, this axis expanded to include Hamas, which has in recent years received increasing support from Iran, as well the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Lately, Syria and Iran have been striving to add Turkey to their ranks, and have met with some cooperation on the part of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.[18]

Saudi Arabia, for its part, has been trying to pry some of Iran's Sunni allies away from it.[19]

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Mu'allem spoke of the "strategic alliance" among members of the Iranian axis, saying: "Our relations with Iran are strategic, and our relations with Turkey are also strategic, and we hope that our relations with the Arabs will be [strategic] as well. Our relations with Qatar are strategic, as are our relations with 'Oman, Algeria, and Libya, and we hope that in the future this [framework will expand] to include additional [countries] as well… We are acting in accordance with our interests and in the service of the Arab national cause and national security. To this end, we are coordinating with Iran and Turkey, and we are not ashamed of this… We coordinate [our efforts] towards our common goal – [which is finding a way] to protect the Palestinian resistance and the national resistance in Lebanon, by creating [strategic] depth for them."[20]

 Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad spoke in a similar vein in a September 2008 interview with Iran's  Al-Alam TV: "The strategic ties [between Syria and Iran] have proved to be of importance for the region in recent decades, but their real results have emerged [only] in the last 10 years. These include the victory of the resistance in Lebanon, and the unswerving fortitude of the resistance in Palestine since the Intifada, which began in 2000… We see before us a black slate dotted with bright spots that were once tiny but are now steadily increasing in size. This underscores the importance of [Syrian-Iranian] cooperation and the correctness of the political policy of Syria and Iran. Many countries that once objected to this policy are now beginning to realize its correctness, and to pursue a similar policy themselves…"[21]

The 2009 Gaza War Deepens the Schism Between the Two Camps

Just prior to its outbreak, the two camps engaged in reciprocal attacks. Syria and Iran accused Saudi Arabia and Egypt of pursuing a pro-Israel and pro-American policy and of sabotaging the efforts of the resistance movements. Saudi King 'Abdallah was branded by Syria as an "infidel" and "collaborator with the Imperialist Satan," while Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was called a "traitor" and a "tyrant" who should be assassinated like Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. Egypt and Saudi Arabia, for their part, claimed that Iran and Syria were striving to destabilize the region by interfering in internal Arab affairs and by nurturing the resistance movements in Lebanon, Iraq, and the Palestinian Authority. They stressed that Syria was trying to divide the Arab ranks and was assisting Iran – a non-Arab country – in taking over the Middle East, to the detriment of Arab interests. [22]

After the war, the Iranian leaders boasted of the support they had given to Hamas – whose actions, they claimed, corresponded to the goals of the Islamic Revolution. The leaders also leveled harsh criticism at the Saudi-Egyptian axis.[23] Iranian Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani said that both Hizbullah's victory in 2006 and Hamas' victory in Gaza were fruits of the "great tree" that is Iran's Islamic Revolution.[24] Iranian Expediency Council Chairman Hashemi Rafsanjani declared at a rally that "the residents of Gaza, [just like] Hizbullah, have managed to defeat the army of the Zionist regime thanks to the beneficial influence of Iran."[25] Guardian Council Chairman Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said in his Friday sermon in Tehran: "[In 2006], the host of Hizbullah [fighters], inspired by Islamic Iran, managed to deliver a crushing blow to Israel, to America and to the other Western countries supporting Israel. Now the same thing has happened in Gaza. Wherever Iran has a toehold, it will save and rescue [the Muslims]..."[26] The Iranian daily Kayhan, which is close to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, stated that Israel's war on Hamas had created a new Middle East, and had proved that the entire alliance consisting of Israel, the U.S., the European Union, Egypt and Saudi Arabia could not defeat a small organization like Hamas, despite the use of massive military force.[27]

The pro-Saudi camp, for its part, accused Hamas of serving Iranian and Syrian interests rather than those of the Palestinians. Egyptian President Mubarak declared that "Egypt will not let anyone make political profits and increase their [regional] influence at the expense of Palestinian blood."[28] Egyptian Foreign Minister Abu Al-Gheit accused Iran of using its Arab proxies to bargain with the U.S. and further its own ends. In an interview with Al-Arabiya TV, he said: "All non-Arab hands should be kept off the Palestinian cause, and even some Arab hands." He added, "Iran... seeks to grab as many Arab bargaining chips as possible, in order to tell the next U.S. administration: If you wish to discuss any subject – especially the security of the Gulf or Iran's nuclear dossier – you will have to speak with us..."[29] Abu Al-Gheit made similar statements in 2007, when he said that Iran's activities had encouraged Hamas to carry out the Gaza coup, and that this "threatened the national security of Egypt, which is only a stone's throw away from Gaza."[30] 

Senior Palestinian Authority officials likewise pointed to Iranian involvement in Gaza. PA Presidency secretary-general Al-Tayyeb 'Abd Al-Rahim stated that Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki had told the Hamas leaders to resume the resistance, and to keep Egypt from playing any role in the Palestinian dialogue. This, Al-Rahim said, was why Hamas refused to renew the tahdia and to continue the dialogue with Fatah.[31] PLO Secretary Yasser 'Abd Rabbo said that Hamas was advancing a regional conspiracy to turn Gaza into an independent entity separate from the West Bank, and to establish an Islamic emirate there, supported by Iran.[32]

Several days before Israel launched its Gaza offensive, the editor of the Egyptian daily Al-Gumhouriyya, MP Muhammad 'Ali Ibrahim, published a series of articles under the title "Hamas-Damascus-Iran – The New Axis of Evil."[33] Once the Israeli offensive had begun, Ibrahim wrote: "Hamas, Hizbullah, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Tehran have decided to put the Palestinian cause and its martyrs into Iran's hands. However, everyone is forgetting one important point – namely, that we will not hand over our people's capabilities to lunatics who hide out in Syria and who fire not a single bullet at Israel... There is a plan to set the entire region ablaze, and to kill as many Palestinian and Lebanese martyrs as possible, in order to expose the helplessness of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the [entire] moderate Arab axis...[34]

After The War – The Schism Between the Two Camps is An Acknowledged Fact

The Western media has largely ignored the new reality in the Middle East – namely, the schism and the escalating cold war between the two camps – as well as its far-reaching political implications. However, in the Arab world, this reality has become a publicly acknowledged fact, and is being intensely discussed.

Nasrallah's deputy Sheikh Na'im Qassem explained that Hizbullah was proud to belong the Iranian axis, which was hostile to the U.S. and its Arab supporters. He stated: "In today's world, there are two mutually opposing camps – the camp of the U.S. and its allies, and the camp of the resistance and its allies. The important point is that the American camp, which includes Israel [and is characterized by] corruption, aggression, and monopoly, is a hostile camp, and we, the resistance camp, must therefore oppose it staunchly and forcefully… [Our camp] will emerge triumphant. It is impossible to express solidarity [with the Palestinians] without supporting the resistance... Today, Gaza is the very embodiment of resistance. Everyone who supported Gaza [during the war] is on the side of the resistance, while everyone who did not support it, but was against it, is on the side of the U.S. and Israel…"

Qassem added: "Some thought that if they malign us [by calling us] allies of Iran, Syria, and Hamas, it would bother us. [Well], let me say that you can add Chavez and Bolivia [to the list of our allies], and all the free peoples in the world. We will [all] form a united front against the U.S. and Israel…"[35] 

Dr. Majed Abu Madhi, columnist for the Syrian government daily Al-Ba'ath and lecturer at the University of Damascus, argued that the war in Gaza had exposed not only the rift in the Arab world between the regimes that support the resistance and those that oppose it, but also the conflict between the rulers who object to the resistance, and their peoples who support it. He wrote: "It has become patently clear which countries support the resistance. It has also become patently clear which [Arab] regimes are the ones that the U.S. calls 'moderate' –[those that] oppose the resistance and even conspire against it. In addition, there is another kind of division, [namely,] between countries where the position of the government and the political leadership is aligned with that of the general public, and countries in which the position of the government and the leaders is at odds with that of the public. We have discovered a gap – nay, a deep abyss – between the wishes of the rulers [who reject the resistance] and those of their people [who support it]."[36]

The Saudi Camp: Iran Is Responsible for the Rift in the Arab World

The pro-Saudi camp accused Iran of causing the rift in the Arab world. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal said that the current disagreement among the Arabs was the result of "intervention by non-Arab forces" in Arab affairs – referring to Iran.[37] During the Kuwait summit, Egyptian President Mubarak likewise hinted at Iranian interference, when he accused "internal and external" forces of dividing and weakening the Arab world.[38]

Editorials in newspapers associated with the Saudi-Egyptian camp stated that Iran was sowing division in the Arab world as part of its plan to achieve regional hegemony, and accused Arab forces such as Syria and Qatar of cooperating with this plan. Osama Saraya, editor-in-chief of the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram, wrote: "Like the Persians in all [past] eras, the contemporary [Iranian] clerics think that [all] the Arabs, from the ocean to the Gulf, are a bunch of camel herders or ignoramuses. [Therefore, they think] that they can still market illusions that hide their true intentions, which are to take control of our region and to annex it to the empire they hope [to reestablish]... You must stop spreading your religion [in other countries, and confine these efforts] to your land alone. You must respect the [other] Muslim countries and the treaties signed between the Sunnis and Shi'ites [in which they agreed] to refrain from spreading [their respective] religions and from taking over [each other's] lands."[39]

The editor of the Egyptian daily Al-Gumhouriyya, MP Muhammad 'Ali Ibrahim, wrote in his daily column: "Iran's ideology advocates eliminating [all] nationalities and national borders... The problem with the Iranian ideas is that [Iran] has passed them on to its followers in the Middle East... And the most dangerous [problem] with this Iranian philosophy... is that it calls for establishing states within states... This philosophy has indeed borne fruit in some parts of the Arab world. We have several examples of this: Hizbullah won the elections in Lebanon, and its state [within a state] was naturally stronger than Lebanon [itself]. [Furthermore], its militias were stronger than the government's armed forces. [The same thing] has happened with Hamas... [and with] the Shi'ites in Bahrain, who are wreaking havoc in their country [in an attempt to establish] a Shi'ite state alongside the Sunni Bahraini kingdom. In Kuwait, Egypt, and Jordan, the Muslim Brotherhood is using its representation in parliament to try and take over the government and the leadership of the state... It is a dangerous and destructive idea to sacrifice the country for the sake of religion..."[40]

"The Trojan Horse" – Qatar's Role in Consolidating the Iranian Axis

It should be noted that Qatar has played a crucial role in exacerbating the rift in the Arab world by initiating the January 16, 2009 Doha summit, to the dismay of Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Qatar's inviting of Iranian President Ahmadinejad to the summit against the will of several Arab countries (such as the UAE, which responded by canceling its participation) clearly identified the summit as a convention of the Iranian-Syrian axis. The summit's pro-Iranian and anti-Saudi orientation was underscored by the fact that it called on Egypt to revoke its peace agreement with Israel, and on Saudi Arabia to withdraw its initiative for peace with it.

After the war ended, Hamas leader Khaled Mash'al thanked Qatar for its support for his movement during the fighting. In a speech in Doha, he said: "Two weeks ago, we came to you and asked you to stand by our side, and today we thank Qatar, its Emir, and its people [for responding to this request]."

Galal Dweidar, former editor-in-chief of the Egyptian government daily Al-Akhbar, characterized the Doha summit as "a conference in support of the Persian [expansionist] ambitions" and called Qatar "a Trojan horse designed to pave the way for the Shi'ite Persian invasion of [the lands belonging to] Muhammad's nation and the Sunnis."[41]

Al-Ahram editor Osama Saraya wrote in a similar vein: "By calling the Doha summit, Qatar hoped not only to undermine all the Arab actions, but also to deepen the rift among the Arabs and to put the joint Arab action in the hands of the axis of destruction and evil… [i.e. in the hands of] the Iranian axis – whose role was exposed and rendered completely transparent during the recent events in the region, and in the wake of Israel's Gaza offensive."[42]

Two Camps, Two Contrasting Approaches to the Arab-Israeli Conflict

Iran's and Syria's support of the resistance, as well as Egypt's and Saudi Arabia's support of a peace agreement with Israel, can both be understood in light of the Iranian – Saudi schism.

The Saudi camp's opposition to Hizbullah during the 2006 war, and its opposition to Hamas during the Gaza war, were both part of its conflict with Iran. Likewise, the Saudi camp's determination to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is meant to strengthen its position vis-à-vis Iran and its allies. Egypt is demanding to sponsor the intra-Palestinian dialogue and the current arrangements between Gaza and Israel, in order to prevent Iran from taking over Gaza via Hamas. Saudi Arabia, for its part, is striving to promote its peace initiative with Israel as a strategic option that will consolidate its position vis-à-vis the Iranian axis – at the same time as this axis attempts to undermine the Saudi position through its support for the resistance against Israel.

In fact, the Iranian axis has called to revoke all initiatives for peace with Israel and all manifestations of normalization with it – which it terms "collaboration" by the Arab regimes with Israel and the U.S. As part of this approach, Qatar and Mauritania announced at the Doha summit that they were severing diplomatic ties with Israel. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei even equated the moderate Arab leaders who maintain ties with Israel with the Jews at the time of the Prophet Muhammad who were considered to be his enemies. In a letter to Hamas leader Isma'il Haniya, Khamenei said: "The Arab traitors must realize that their fate will be no better than that of the Jews at the Battle of Al-Ahzab [i.e. the Jews of the Al-Quraidha tribe who were killed for allegedly conspiring against the Prophet]."[43]

The Iranian axis contends that the correct course of action vis-à-vis Israel is resistance. Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad declared the Arab Peace Initiative "dead," and coined a new phrase by defining the resistance as "a way to achieve peace," explaining that "peace without resistance is surrender."[44]

Editor of the Syrian government daily Teshreen Samira Al-Masalma explained that the disagreement between the camps was profound and could not be bridged: "The dispute between the Arabs is no longer a matter of different positions or different approaches to the solution, as was the case in the past. [Today,] the dispute is about the fundamentals, the means, the [proper] conduct and the practical approach to the crucial issues. This is what makes the disagreements so blatant.

"Both in July 2006 and during the aggression against Gaza… two [different] positions emerged among the official Arab regimes... According to one position, there is no peace without resistance, while according to the other, surrender is the key to peace and resistance is but meaningless 'adventurism.' These two positions are not merely theoretical. The [proponents of] the former support the resistance in every possible way, while the [proponents of] the latter are openly involved in destroying it."[45]

Furthermore, spokesmen for the Iranian-Syrian axis hinted at the possibility of a further escalation in the region. Syrian President Al-Assad said: "It was the 1982 [Lebanon-Israel] war that gave birth to the resistance in its present form and brought about the liberation [of Lebanon]. The 2002 massacre in Jenin [sparked] a situation of resistance in Palestine. In 2006, the same thing happened [in Lebanon], and today [in 2009] we see the same thing [in Gaza]... There are displays of resistance, and each of these [further] consolidates the course of the resistance and the validity of its ideologies... These are small victories that are part of a great triumph. They will continue in the future, and undoubtedly there will be further confrontations in one form or another – not all of them necessarily armed. But these victories are like steps on a ladder leading to further victories, and we cannot attain the final victory without them."[46]

Ibrahim Al-Amin, chairman of the pro-Syrian and pro-Hizbullah Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, claimed that the Doha summit had provided a new impetus for the resistance, which would now become the preferred strategy not only of the resistance organizations themselves but also of certain Arab regimes. He wrote: "The most important point is that the Arab-Israeli conflict has entered a new phase… The meeting in Doha served as a lever for the camp that advocates resistance, [and resistance] has now become a dominant part of the operation methods employed [vis-à-vis Israel] – also by the [Arab] regimes and governments. This will have repercussions for relations with Europe and the U.S. It will also affect the situation in Iraq, which is the largest Arab country under U.S. occupation…"

Al-Amin contended that "the Arab world would [now] face a spell of score-settling even worse than the one witnessed by Lebanon in 2006 in the wake of the [Israeli] aggression."[47]

Hizbullah deputy leader Sheikh Na'im Qassem said: "We believe in resistance as a means [of bringing about] liberation and change... [for] the land and the people cannot be liberated from the force of arrogance [i.e. the U.S.] and from its pampered protectorate, Israel, in any other way... We carry out this resistance with our own hands in order to take back our rights. We do not [intend to count on] the [U.N.] Security Council or the superpowers; we will liberate our lands with our [own] weapons, as we did in the past and will [continue] to do [in the future]... The resistance we mean [to carry out] is military, and we say to the world: We will arm ourselves more and more, and we call to arm all the resistance [movements] that fight the enemy who occupies the land..."[48]

 The Saudi-Egyptian camp, on the other hand, opposed the resistance strategy, and rejected calls to sever ties with Israel or withdraw the Arab Peace Initiative. The Saudi foreign minister said, "The Arab Initiative is still relevant," adding that it "places Israel under considerable pressure."[49]

Some even called to return to the original version of the Saudi Peace Initiative, before amendments were introduced in 2002 in response to demands by Syria, such as a clause acknowledging the Palestinian right of return. An editorial in the Lebanese daily Al-Mustaqbal stated: "The Arab Peace Initiative, especially in its original form, before it was injected with Syrian-Lahoudian[50] corruption during the 2002 Beirut summit [meaning the inclusion of the right of return for the Palestinian refugees], was a comprehensive strategic vision... Lasting peace is a condition for the success of the programs for reform in all the Arab countries. For the sake of all this, the Arab peace initiative was and still is alive and well, and is the only strategy that the Arabs can propose in today's world."

The daily also called "to remove the Syrian-Lahoudian flaws from the Arab Peace Initiative, and to reintroduce as it was it in its original form."[51]

*Y. Carmon is the President of MEMRI; Y. Yehoshua is Director of Research at MEMRI; A. Savyon is director of MEMRI's Iranian Media Project; and H. Migron is a Research Fellow at MEMRI


[1] Al-Tayyeb 'Abd Al-Rahim, secretary-general of the Palestinian Authority Presidency, stated that during a visit to Damascus, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki had told the Hamas leaders to resume the resistance, and to keep Egypt from playing any role in the Palestinian dialogue. Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), January 1, 2009.

[2] Ha'aretz (Israel), January 6, 2009.

[3] According to the Arab League charter, an emergency meeting must be convened by a quorum of at least 15 member states. Consequently, each of the Arab countries was forced to take a side in the conflict by either supporting the initiative of the emergency summit or rejecting it, and thus effectively declaring its membership in one camp or the other.

The summit in Doha was eventually attended by Syria, Sudan, Algeria, Lebanon (whose president, according to Hizbullah, made a great show of attending under duress), Comoro Islands, Mauritania, Iraq, Oman, Libya, Morocco, and Djibouti. It should be mentioned that PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas, who is cooperating with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, did not attend. Conversely, representatives of several Palestinian factions, namely Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Democratic Front – General Command, did arrive, in the Qatari Emir's private jet. 

[4] Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit explained in an interview with Orbit TV that Egypt had thwarted attempts to hold an emergency Arab League summit because "the Arab actions cannot be contingent upon the consent of [non-Arab] countries like Comoro Islands..." He added: "Where are the large and influential countries in the region, like Egypt and Saudi Arabia?" Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), January 29, 2009.

[5] The 2008 confrontation between Hizbullah and the March 14 Forces ended with a victory for the former, since the organization's major demands were met: a one-third majority in cabinet giving it control over government decisions, and the nomination of a president approved by the organization. In addition, the government of Prime Minister Fuad Al-Siniora reversed its May 6, 2008 decisions which had been the immediate trigger for the clash between Hizbullah and the March 14 Forces – namely, the decision to declare Hizbullah's private communications network an illegal enterprise undermining Lebanon's sovereignty and to charge those responsible for establishing it, as well as the decision to fire Beirut airport security chief Wafiq Shuqair, who is affiliated with Hizbullah. Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), May 15, 2008.

Hizbullah's takeover of Lebanon was facilitated by Qatar, who convened the May 21, 2008 Doha summit, in which the political achievements of Hizbullah and the Iranian-Syrian-Qatari axis were consolidated.

[6], July 25, 2005.

[7] Sharq, IRNA (Iran), November 15, 2005.

[8] See MEMRI TV Clip No. 782,

[9] IRNA (Iran), January 31, 2009

[10] Al-Hayat (London), May 29, 2008.

[11] Al-Hayat (London), December 15, 2008.

[12] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), August 3, 2007.

[13] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), December 19, 2006.

[14] Ahmadinejad's rise to power is sometimes referred to as the "Second Islamic Revolution." See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 229, "Iran's 'Second Islamic Revolution': Fulfilled by Election of Conservative President," June 28, 2005, and MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 253, "The 'Second Islamic Revolution' in Iran: Power Struggle at the Top," November 17, 2005,

[15] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), May 29, 2008.

[16] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), May 15, 2008.

[17] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1249, "Arab Media Accuses Iran and Syria of Direct Involvement in Lebanon War," August 15, 2006,  

[18] Sunni countries and forces, such as Syria, Qatar, Turkey, and Hamas, have various motivations in joining the axis of Shi'ite Iran. Syria, whose standing in the Arab world is at odds with its self-perception as the cradle of Arab civilization and of pan-Arab ideology, sees the Iranian axis as a framework for enhancing its regional status. In addition, it is probably motivated by considerations of political survival. Faced with the danger of conviction by the international tribunal for the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri, Syria hopes that its alliance with Iran will provide it with some backing against this tribunal (like the backing extended by the Arab countries to Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir). See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 490, "Recent Attempts to Form Strategic Regional Bloc: Syria, Turkey and Iran," January 6, 2009,

Qatar likewise sees the Iranian axis as a platform for elevating its regional status and also for challenging Saudi Arabia's dominance in the Arabian Peninsula. The policy of Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani is one of blatant opposition to Saudi Arabia, which did not support him in his 1995 coup attempt against his father. To counterbalance the fact that Qatar is home to the largest U.S. air base in the Middle East, and has ties with Israel, the Qatari Emir uses Al-Jazeera TV – his long arm in the Arab and Muslim world – to attack the Arab regimes and the U.S., and to support the global jihad organizations, the ideology of resistance, and the Nasserist pan-Arab ideology.

In the past few years, Qatar has been actively supporting Syria, Iran and the resistance movements. In 2006, it assisted Hizbullah in the passing of U.N. Resolution 1701 for ending the Lebanon war, and, unlike the other Gulf states, it refrained from condemning Hamas' 2007 takeover of Gaza. Additionally, in an attempt to prevent the isolation of Syria, it was the only Arab country that abstained in the vote on Security Council Resolution 1737 on establishing an international tribunal for the Al-Hariri assassination. Finally, it served Iran's interests by inviting Ahmadinejad to the December 2007 GCC summit in Doha – to the astonishment and consternation of the Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia – in an attempt to break up the anti-Iranian Gulf bloc. See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 416, "The Collapse of the Saudi Sunni Bloc against Iran's Aspirations for Regional Hegemony in the Gulf," January 11, 2008, (A further report on Qatar's policy will be published by MEMRI in the near future).

Hamas likewise regards the Iranian axis as a suitable framework of operation, since its political goals are at odds with the positions of the Saudi-Egyptian axis.

As for Turkey, in the past few years it too has been inclining towards the Iranian axis. During the 2009 Gaza war, it expressed solidarity with Hamas, and Prime Minister Erdogan attended only the forum of the Iranian axis (e.g. the Doha Summit) and did not attend the summit at Sharm Al-Sheikh. He offered to mediate between the Palestinian factions in coordination with Syria, but not in coordination with Egypt. On the recent Turkish-Iranian rapprochement, see MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 490, "Recent Attempts to Form Strategic Regional Bloc: Syria, Turkey and Iran," January 6, 2009,

[19] In 2007 and in 2009, Saudi Arabia tried but failed to bring Syria and Hamas back into the Arab Saudi-Egyptian fold.

[20] Al-Manar TV, January 7, 2009.

[21] Al-Thawra (Syria), September 18, 2008.

[22] See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 485, "Rising Inter-Arab Tensions: Saudi Arabia and Egypt versus Syria and Iran, Part I – Deepening Crisis in Saudi-Syrian Relations," December 22, 2008,;  Inquiry and Analysis No. 486, "Rising Inter-Arab Tensions: Saudi Arabia and Egypt versus Syria and Iran, Part II – Egypt Trades Accusations with Hamas, Syria, Iran," December 22, 2008,; Inquiry and Analysis No. 487, "Rising Inter-Arab Tensions: Saudi Arabia and Egypt versus Syria and Iran, Part III – Syria, Saudi Arabia Clash over Fath Al-Islam," December 22, 2008,                

[23] In demonstrations in Tehran, strong accusations were made against the Arab regimes, particularly Egypt and Saudi Arabia.  During the war, and even before it, there were calls to bring down the Egyptian regime and assassinate Mubarak, like Sadat. See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 479, "Calls in Iran to Topple Egyptian, Saudi Regimes," December 12, 2008,

[24] IRNA (Iran), January 22, 2009; Ayandenews News (Iran), January 21, 2009.

[25] IRNA (Iran), January 31, 2009.

[26] ISNA (Iran), January 16, 2009.

[27] Kayhan (Iran), January 27, 2009.

[28] Al-Ahram (Egypt), December 31, 2008.

[29], January 1, 2009.

[30] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), June 20, 2007.

[31] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), January 1, 2009.

[32] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), January 23, 2009.

[33] The articles appeared on December 22, 23, and 24, 2008.

[34] Al-Gumhouriyya (Egypt), December 29, 2008.

[35], January 17, 2009.

[36] Al-Ba'ath (Syria), January 19, 2009.

[37] Al-Siyassa (Kuwait), January 18, 2009.

[38] Al-Ahram (Egypt), January 20, 2009.

[39] Al-Ahram (Egypt), January 16, 2009.

[40] Al-Gumhouriyya (Egypt), December 19, 2008.

[41] Al-Akhbar (Egypt), January 18, 2009.

[42] Al-Ahram (Egypt), January 16, 2009.

[43] Fars (Iran), January 15, 2009. In a recent Friday sermon, Ayatollah Jannati called Saudi Arabia "a U.S. puppet" and Egypt "an ally of Israel," adding that the heads of those countries should fear an uprising by their people and the wrath of God. ISNA (Iran), January 16, 2009.

[44] Al-Ba'ath (Syria), January 17, 2009.

[45] Teshreen (Syria), January 17, 2009.

[46] Al-Thawra (Syria), January 27, 2009.

[47] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), January 17, 2009.

[48], January 17, 2009.

[49] Al-Siyassa (Kuwait), January 17, 2009.

[50] A reference to then-Lebanese president Emil Lahoud. 

[51] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), January 17, 2009.