Saturday, August 8, 2009

Arab response to Obama peace initiative?

The Egyptian government supported newspaper Al Gomhouriya has shown the response of one of the closest United States Arab allies to the Obama peace initiative, calling on the Palestinians to adhere to "resistance" (terrorism).
Egyptian Government Daily 'Al-Gumhouriyya': The Palestinian People, All of It, Should Adhere to the Path of Resistance

In response to statements byPalestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the sixth Fatah conference regarding the Palestinians' right to resistance, [1] the Egyptian government daily Al-Gumhouriyya published a short editorial supporting his position and calling on the Palestinians to persist in resistance in order to obtain their rights.

The following is a translation of the editorial: [2]

"PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas provoked the wrath of the radical racists who rule Israel when he mentioned, at the Fatah conference, that the Palestinians have a right to resistance [muqawama] if the peace process has failed to restore their historic rights, and especially [their right] to their stolen land, to an independent state and to the return of the refugees.

"The angry racists in Israel have deluded themselves [into thinking] that the Palestinian people have laid down their arms, to which they clung so steadfastly throughout their exhausting and noble struggle, and have capitulated to the illusion of the peace process and the [empty] talk of the negotiation tables. The Palestinian people has gained nothing [from the peace process] except strife among comrades-in-arms, which are [now] divided into [two camps] - the fighters and the negotiators; while the Israelis have gained time to carry out their plans to Judaize Jerusalem and settle the West Bank, and to prepare for throwing those whom they call 'Israeli Arabs' over the Green Line.

"The Palestinian people, all of it, has no choice but to cling to the path of resistance, like all the oppressed people who seized their freedom and rights through force and steadfastness, struggle and unity..."

[1] See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 538, "Fatah Members: The Principle of Resistance and Armed Struggle Must Not Be Relinquished," August 6, 2009,

[2] Al-Gumhouriyya (Egypt), August 7, 2009.

Friday, August 7, 2009

A miltary option in Iran?

Of course there is a military option in Iran, as there is always a military option. The questions are, who is willing to pay the price, and what is the alternative? It is quite true that raising the possibility of miltary action makes it clear to Iran that the USA means business about stopping Iranian weapons programs. It can also scare everyone half to death.

AUGUST 6, 2009, 11:35 P.M. ET
There Is a Military Option on Iran
U.S. Air Force and Naval forces could do serious damage to Tehran's nuclear facilities if diplomacy fails.
In a policy address at the Council on Foreign Relations last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said of Iran, "We cannot be afraid or unwilling to engage." But the Iranian government has yet to accept President Obama's outstretched hand. Even if Tehran suddenly acceded to talks, U.S. policy makers must prepare for the eventuality that diplomacy fails. While there has been much discussion of economic sanctions, we cannot neglect the military's role in a Plan B.
There has been a lack of serious public discussion of the military tools available to us. Any mention of them is either met with accusations of warmongering or hushed with concerns over sharing sensitive information. It is important to discuss, within legal limits, such a serious issue as openly as possible. Discussion strengthens our democracy and dispels misinformation.
The military can play an important role in solving this complex problem without firing a single shot. Publicly signaling serious preparation for a military strike might obviate the need for one if deployments force Tehran to recognize the costs of its nuclear defiance. Mr. Obama might consider, for example, the deployment of additional carrier battle groups and minesweepers to the waters off Iran, and the conduct of military exercises with allies.
If such pressure fails to impress Iranian leadership, the U.S. Navy could move to blockade Iranian ports. A blockade—which is an act of war—would effectively cut off Iran's gasoline imports, which constitute about one-third of its consumption. Especially in the aftermath of post-election protests, the Iranian leadership must worry about the economic dislocations and political impact of such action.
Should these measures not compel Tehran to reverse course on its nuclear program, and only after all other diplomatic avenues and economic pressures have been exhausted, the U.S. military is capable of launching a devastating attack on Iranian nuclear and military facilities.
Many policy makers and journalists dismiss the military option on the basis of a false sense of futility. They assume that the U.S. military is already overstretched, that we lack adequate intelligence about the location of covert nuclear sites, and that known sites are too heavily fortified.
Such assumptions are false.
An attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would mostly involve air assets, primarily Air Force and Navy, that are not strained by operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, the presence of U.S. forces in countries that border Iran offers distinct advantages. Special Forces and intelligence personnel already in the region can easily move to protect key assets or perform clandestine operations. It would be prudent to emplace additional missile-defense capabilities in the region, upgrade both regional facilities and allied militaries, and expand strategic partnerships with countries such as Azerbaijan and Georgia to pressure Iran from all directions.
Conflict may reveal previously undetected Iranian facilities as Iranian forces move to protect them. Moreover, nuclear sites buried underground may survive sustained bombing, but their entrances and exits will not.
Of course, there are huge risks to military action: U.S. and allied casualties; rallying Iranians around an unstable and oppressive regime; Iranian reprisals be they direct or by proxy against us and our allies; and Iranian-instigated unrest in the Persian Gulf states, first and foremost in Iraq.
Furthermore, while a successful bombing campaign would set back Iranian nuclear development, Iran would undoubtedly retain its nuclear knowhow. An attack would also necessitate years of continued vigilance, both to retain the ability to strike previously undiscovered sites and to ensure that Iran does not revive its nuclear program.
But the risks of military action must be weighed against those of doing nothing. If the Iranian regime continues to advance its nuclear program despite the best efforts of Mr. Obama and other world leaders, we risk Iranian domination of the oil-rich Persian Gulf, threats to U.S.-allied Arab regimes, the emboldening of radicals in the region, the creation of an existential threat to Israel, the destabilization of Iraq, the shutdown of the Israel-Palestinian peace process, and a regional nuclear-arms race.
A peaceful resolution of the threat posed by Iran's nuclear ambitions would certainly be the best possible outcome. But should diplomacy and economic pressure fail, a U.S. military strike against Iran is a technically feasible and credible option.
Gen. Wald (U.S. Air Force four-star, retired) was the air commander for the initial stages of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and deputy commander of the U.S. European Command. He was also a participant in the Bipartisan Policy Center's project on U.S. policy toward Iran, "Meeting the Challenge."

Oslo Revisited: Are the Fundamental Assumptions still Valid?

INSS Insight No. 122, August 7, 2009
Shalom, Zaki 

In a Newsweek interview on June 22, 2009, former prime minister Ehud Olmert stated that in his talks with Mahmoud Abbas, he had made fairly detailed offers towards an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, including:

a.       Willingness by Israel to give the Palestinians 93.5-93.7 percent of the territories. The Palestinians would receive an additional 5.8 percent as part of a land swap.

b.      A safe passage between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Olmert did not state who would have sovereignty and control over this passage.

c.       Israel is not willing to accept the Palestinian demand for the right of return. At the same time, in the framework of a humanitarian gesture, Israel would be willing to accept the return of a defined number of refugees. Olmert did not specify a number, but made it clear that it would be "a very, very limited number."

d.      On Jerusalem, Olmert proposed that the Holy Basin be under no national sovereignty and be managed jointly by Israel, Jordan, the Palestinians, Saudi Arabia, and the United States.

Saeb Erekat, who was responsible for negotiating on behalf of the Palestinians, confirmed that Olmert's statements were correct.

There can be no doubt that this was a far reaching proposal, perhaps more so than all other offers ever made to the Palestinian leadership. Commentator Aluf Benn wrote (Haaretz, June 26, 2009) that Olmert offered to internationalize the Old City and its environs, i.e., he was willing to concede Israeli sovereignty over the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Mount of Olives, and perhaps even the City of David, and hand it over to a consortium with an Arab majority. No Israeli leader before Olmert supported internationalization of any part of Jerusalem. Even Yossi Beilin's Geneva accord spoke of dividing sovereignty in the Old City between Israel and a Palestinian state, not handing it over to an international entity.

The rejection of Olmert's offer as well as previous offers by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David (July 2000) and the Clinton parameters cast a heavy shadow of doubt over fundamental assumptions underlying the Oslo process. Two of these assumptions were:

a.       The Palestinian Authority, represented by the PLO, was working to realize the Palestinians' right to self-determination by forming a Palestinian state on territory conquered by Israel in the Six Day War.

b.      The Palestinian Authority was willing to reach an historic – and territorial – compromise with the State of Israel and the Zionist movement.

The rejection of the Barak and Olmert offers reflects what much of Israeli public opinion has long felt, namely, at critical moments the Palestinians find it difficult to make a decision in favor of a pragmatic compromise and almost perforce miss opportunities to realize their national aspirations. They thereby confirm the longstanding Israeli line, "The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity." This assessment contrasts sharply with the model of the Zionist movement, which in its desire to obtain any territory whatsoever for the persecuted and existentially threatened Jewish people adopted a radically pragmatic attitude and was willing to accept almost any diplomatic plan, provided only that a sovereign Jewish state would be established in its framework.

The Palestinian leadership has demonstrated a radically different approach and seemingly operates on the principle of all or nothing. This questions the sincerity of the drive to establish an independent Palestinian state as a concrete political plan, as opposed to a vision for future generations. It is hard not to wonder whether the Palestinian leadership is intentionally blinding itself, thereby ignoring the fact that the dream of a Palestinian state is rapidly evaporating – although certain Palestinian leaders have admitted in recent months that the goal of establishing a Palestinian state is running aground on the shoals of reality.

Jewish communities in the West Bank have grown by major proportions. These communities have expanded under all Israeli governments, including significantly left wing governments. This clearly demonstrates that the process of Jewish settlement in the territories is deeply rooted within Israeli society, governing institutions, bureaucratic labyrinths, and political systems. Realistically, the Palestinians must conclude that barring anything drastic in the near future, Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria will expand with time, while the dream of a Palestinian state will consequently wither.

Following the withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000 and the disengagement from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, the belief among much of the Israeli public in the land-for-peace formula has eroded. In contrast to the original optimism, withdrawal led to escalation and two bloody military confrontations. The results of Israel's February elections likely reflect this turnaround.

Any move towards a settlement that includes the formation of a Palestinian state, however small, will almost certainly require the evacuation of about 100,000 Israelis from the West Bank. The political reality in Israel gives rise to serious doubts regarding the likelihood of any government in the foreseeable future that would be able to carry out such a measure in the Israeli political arena.

Rejection of the Olmert plan may indicate that the Palestinian leadership regards the establishment of a state as part of its long term national vision, but not as an element in its concrete work plan. If (and this is a significant "if") this is indeed the Palestinian leadership's position, it can be explained in part by its serious concern that establishment of a Palestinian state will necessarily be accompanied by an almost complete withdrawal of IDF forces from Judea and Samaria. This would mean that the massive preventative actions conducted daily by the IDF and other security forces against terrorist organizations throughout the West Bank would be almost completely halted. In these circumstances, the status of the current Palestinian leadership would be greatly weakened. It is very likely that within a short time Hamas would succeed in driving it out of power. Therefore, the current leadership would presumably try to preempt any such scenario, even though it will never be able to admit this.

Another possible explanation is that the Palestinian leadership believes that time is on its side. From an historical perspective, the Palestinian national leadership can look back at recent decades with great satisfaction. The combination of diplomacy and violence brought a national movement that was rejected and ostracized both internationally and in the Arab world to the status of a powerful organization that frequently receives a highly significant place on the global agenda. This organization has to a great extent redesigned the political map in Israel, and was perhaps responsible more than any other factor for the rise and fall of Israeli leaders in recent decades. It caused a dramatic movement on the Israeli right towards the center and even to the left. The speeches by Palestinian leaders at the Fatah summit (August 2009) demonstrate that they continue to endorse the combination of political activity with popular resistance as a winning formula.

It is thus possible that the Palestinian leadership believes it has no reason to accept a compromise, even an offer as magnanimous as Olmert's; after all, historic experience indicates continual erosion in Israeli positions with respect to "the territories." In these circumstances, they might believe that future Israeli governments will have to make much more generous offers to the Palestinians. President Obama's determined efforts to halt Jewish settlement in the West Bank, including Jerusalem while ignoring understandings on this issue with the preceding US administration, and the erosion in the Likud's position on the issue of the establishment of a Palestinian state, as reflected in Binyamin Netanyahu's speech at Bar Ilan University, are likely to reinforce these Palestinian assessments.

In any case, the rejection of the Olmert proposals questions the validity of the assumptions regarding the willingness of the Palestinian leadership to reach an historic territorial compromise with Israel – assumptions that formed the basis of the decision to embark on the Oslo process. The phrase "territorial compromise" is basically an abstract concept that is difficult to translate into concrete physical terms. What many Israelis regard as a compromise, even a far reaching one, is not necessarily regarded as such by the Palestinians. Moreover, for significant parts of the Israeli public, the Olmert plan presumably represents less of a compromise and more of a yielding to the dictates of the Palestinian Authority.   

Good news about Iran?

Iran will require a least four more years to produce weapons grade uranium, according to experts. That is good news, as it gives everyone in the Middle East time to do essential things like write their wills - we have at least four more years to live, all other things being equal. Of course, experts have been wrong before. It is important to realize that the reality, whatever it is, did not change, only the pronouncements of experts. In 2001, the experts would have assured us that Iran had no uranium enrichment program at all, and the experts would have been wrong.
These experts are the same sort of people who could not see the Islamic revolution coming in Iran. They are the same experts who did not predict 9-11, and who insisted that there were WMD in Iraq. Quite a good record! So we had better believe them, right?
Another cause for confidence is that the report was prepared by Dennis C. Blair. Blair is the fellow who tried to appoint Arab lobbyist Charles Freeman to an important intelligence post. Freeman is the guy who said that the Tibet protests against Chinese occupation were race riots, and approved of the Tienanmen massacre, which he claimed was too tardy. So we know that Blair has excellent judgement.
Ami Isseroff
Iran Years From Fuel For Bomb, Report Says
U.S. Analysts Also Discount Strength Of Russian Military
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 7, 2009
Despite Iran's progress since 2007 toward producing enriched uranium, the State Department's intelligence analysts continue to think that Tehran will not be able to produce weapons-grade material before 2013, according to a newly disclosed congressional document.
The updated assessment, by the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, emphasizes that the analysis is based on Iran's technical capability and is not a judgment about "when Iran might make any political decision" to produce highly enriched uranium.
The intelligence community agrees that a political decision has not yet been made. According to the assessment, State Department analysts think such a decision is unlikely to be made "for at least as long as international scrutiny and pressure persist."
The views on Iran's nuclear program are contained among answers in a document supplied by Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence after a hearing in February. Steven Aftergood, a senior research analyst at the Federation of American Scientists, obtained the document through a Freedom of Information Act request and published it Thursday on his Web site.
Among items included in the document is an analysis of Russia's military status. Blair concluded the Russian military "is a shadow of its Soviet predecessor." Its conventional forces are "not a direct military threat to central or western Europe," and its ability to project large forces abroad "is very limited."
In fact, according to the intelligence analysis, Moscow appears to be emphasizing the creation of a "smaller, more professional, mobile, survivable, highly technical military," one more adapted to deal with countries on its borders, except for China. The analysis describes recent Russian naval activities in the Mediterranean, the Indian and Pacific oceans, and the North Atlantic as "show the flag" exercises.
As a sign of the limitations, Moscow has "consistently" kept its defense spending to less than 3 percent of its gross national product in recent years. U.S. defense spending this year is around 4.7 percent of its gross domestic product.
The collapse of world oil prices, along with the worldwide economic slowdown, has helped curb Russia's defense spending. The intelligence report says that the country faces its first recession in years and that its companies are about $450 billion in debt to Western financial institutions.
Closer to home, Blair said that the intelligence community continues to look for al-Qaeda sleeper cells in the United States and that the FBI is particularly interested in people with contacts with "militants in Pakistan's FATA," the area near the Afghanistan border.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Secret of Zionist conspiratorial success revealed: The Other Israel

Don't reveal this pernicious Zionist plot to anyone.  
'War-torn' land is in fact economic, scientific, cultural powerhouse
Yoram Ettinger
Published:  08.07.09, 00:15 / Israel Opinion
1. Bankruptcy rate in Israel is one of the lowest in the world (19% increase during the first half of 2009), compared with the US - 45% increase, Spain - 58%, Spain - 75% and Switzerland - 15% (Yedioth Ahronoth, July 27, 2009).
2. The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange has rebounded to its September 10, 2008 (meltdown) level, scoring a 50% surge (Yedioth Ahronoth, July 27).
3. Sequoia Capital and Tanya Capital led a $15.5MN round of private placement by Israel's Kontera (Globes, July 24). Intel Capital, Cisco, Greylock Ventures and Menlo Ventures participated in a $13MN round by Israel's AeroScout (Globes, June 29). The Boston-based media giant, Medtronics, invested over $10MN in the Israeli VC fund, TriVentures (Globes, June 23). Motorola Ventures, Stata Venture Partners, Argonaut and Walden participated in a $10MN 4th round by Israel's Amimon (Globes, July 15). Arts Alliance Digital Ventures invested $9MN in Israel' YCD Multimedia (Globes, June 23). Innogest, Italy's largest venture capital fund, invested $8MN in the Israeli-Italian company, beeTV (Globes, June 4). The Boston-based Globespan Capital and Spark Capital invested $7.5MN in Israel's 5min, their 3rd investment in Israel (Globes, July 24).
4. Intel Vice President for Technology and Manufacturing Group and General Manager of Intel Israel (6 plants, 6,500 employees!), Maxine Fassberg: "We have developed breakthroughs in Israel that have changed the face of computerization…In Israel, we are developing and manufacturing network and communication products as well as microprocessors – in parallel to spearheading the mobile domain in Intel Corp. Among the technologies developed here are MMX, which constitutes the basis of the Pentium processor, platforms for Intel Centrino mobile computers and the Intel Core 2Duo processor. In addition, the first fast Ethernet and first wireless LAN (Local Area Network) were developed here…(Jerusalem Post, May 23, 2009).
5. The Med's best-kept secret (excerpts of Willy Stern, The Weekly Standard, July 27, 2009):
"Perhaps nowhere else on the globe does there exist a greater discrepancy between perception and reality than Israel. The press portrays the country as a savage land racked by war and terrorism... The reality, though, is a country of 7.4 million people whose stock market and economy are humming along quite nicely (at least in contrast to the rest of the globe) and whose citizens revel in their chic Mediterranean lifestyle…
"In Israel, life goes on. The Western newspapers just don't notice… Israel today has become a vibrant, functioning jewel of a nation tucked into the eastern flank of the Mediterranean. Tel Aviv looks more like San Diego or Barcelona than Baghdad or Kabul. On a recent five-mile run along Tel Aviv's Gordon Beach, I saw Israeli yuppies cycling the boardwalk on $1,500 Italian mountain bikes, teenagers in full-body wetsuits surfing the breakers, a deep-cleavaged Russian model (nobody seemed to know her name) doing a photo shoot in a skimpy bikini whilst middle-aged Israeli men with potbellies and hairy chests shamelessly gawked, rows of high-priced yachts docked at the Tel Aviv marina, an endless stream of private planes on final approach to small Sde Dov Airport, and two Israeli soldiers in drab green uniforms making out in the sand and drinking Heineken. A nation at war? It seemed more like high season at Coney Island…
"Israel has a world class cultural scene. Want to see Franco Zeffirelli and Daniel Barenboim? No problem. The Alvin Ailey Dance Company visits. The opera plays to audiences at 97 percent capacity. Even at lower pay, (Israel) attracts the best talents from around the globe…
"Israel enjoys top universities, upscale restaurants, million-dollar homes, hoity-toity architecture, and the like. In the fourth quarter last year, when the global economy went all to hell, Israel's annual, quarter-over-quarter rate of GDP was only off 0.5 percent, the best figure in the industrialized world. (The United States was off 6.3 percent and Japan 12.1 percent.) 'Think about the resistance of our economy in recent times,' suggests Zvi Eckstein, deputy governor of the Bank of Israel. 'Our prime minister (has a stroke). The war in Gaza. The war in Lebanon. The government gets replaced. But we've maintained a stable macroeconomic structure and a strong high-tech sector…'
What's the secret? A very conservative banking system…No mortgage crisis…A current account surplus since 2003…Negligible inflation…Prudent governmental fiscal policy… Healthy integration into the world economy. Last year, 483 Israeli high-tech companies raised a whopping $2.08BN (only US companies raised more). All the major tech players – Google, Microsoft, IBM – have large research centers in Israel. They go where the talent is…'Israel is today the third-hottest spot (after Silicon Valley and Boston) for high-tech venture capital in the world…' Israel produces more science papers per capita than any other country. Israel lags behind only the United States in number of companies listed on NASDAQ. Twenty-four percent of Israel's workforce has a university degree; only the United States and Holland have a higher number. Israel leads the world in scientists and technicians per capita…
"The cell phone? Developed in Israel. Ditto for most of the Windows NT operating system and for voice mail technology. Pentium MMX Chip technology? Designed in Israel. AOL Instant Messenger? Developed in Israel. The list goes on. Firewall security software originated in Israel. The latest breakthrough is the "PillCam," a video camera that can be swallowed and aids physicians in diagnosing intestinal cancer…it seems the other Israel - the land not of terrorists but of milk and honey and goats - may finally be being discovered."

Smoking the sewage pipe

Palestinian boys walking past a canal pumping sewage directly into the Mediterranean in Gaza City. Photo by Wissam Nassar/Flash90.
The concept of achieving peace through pipes may have originated with Native Americans, but today, unbeknownst to most of us, Israelis and Gazans are seeking peace through sewage pipes.

It was a wild idea back in 1997, and perhaps it is even more unrealistic today. However, against the odds - and working around their governments - the mayors of the Israeli city of Ashkelon and the Palestinian Authority's Gaza City have taken it upon themselves to try to cooperate with each other.

Ten years ago the vehicle was an educational project in high-tech. Today, they're coming together over waste water.

By car, the two cities are only about a 20-minute drive away from each other. But in fact, they are worlds apart. Most people in both cities have never met one another.

The only thing they can be sure that they have in common is a beautiful coastline that follows the Mediterranean Sea from Lebanon all the way down to Egypt. But that shining sea is heavily polluted, since Gaza has no water infrastructure and its raw sewage pours directly into the sea.

Thanks to one man's vision, the two cities will soon be working together. Ilan Juran, an American-Israeli specialist in urban infrastructure, is seeing to it that the residents of Gaza will be equipped with the same sanitation and sewage systems that are enjoyed by their neighbors in their sister city on the coast.

Partners in the hoped-for project include the mayors of Ashkelon and Gaza, the Israeli water company Mekorot, the Palestinian Water Authority, the United Nations and local municipalities.

All that remains is for Hamas to approve the plan

Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin is working in full cooperation with Gaza Mayor Maged Abu Ramadan to put Juran's vision to the test. Vaknin went to Brazil to present the idea to the XVII International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East, a conference on Middle East peacemaking co-hosted by the United Nations' Department of Public Information and the Brazilian government at the end of July.

The plan being presented in Brazil is to build a new recycling and water management system for Gaza City and its surrounding villages based on the existing Israeli system.

It was hoped that officials from both sides would sign the agreement in Rio de Janeiro, but despite permits to travel being arranged by the Israeli side, two days before the conference, Abu Ramadan and his officials were refused permission to travel by Hamas.

Palestinians from the West Bank and East Jerusalem did attend the event, however, and they signed their names on the water works plan, without the consent of Hamas officials.

Expected to cost more than $50 million, which Vaknin believes can be raised through donations; the plant will be modelled on the eight-year old water treatment facility in Ashkelon. Gaza will receive the blueprints and Israeli specialists.

The last hurdle, according to Galit Amzallag, director of international relations for the city of Ashkelon, will be to convince the Hamas government in Gaza to agree.

Polluted water in Gaza is making kids sick

"We will raise the money and Benny [Vaknin] will give the plans of our water system, and our specialists will assist them. The only problem is when will Hamas step aside . . . They are sabotaging it. It's frustrating because we worked so hard," Amzallag sighs.

Since the most recent wave of conflict this past December, the people of Gaza have been bemoaning their city's lack of sewage treatment plants.

Not only is the sewage polluting one of their few sources of recreation - the beach - but according to journalist Rami Almeghari who reports from Gaza, small lakes of sewage are building up and creating polluted lagoons that threaten peoples' health. Kids are getting sick.

Ashkelon, a port city, that receives a sewage stream from Gaza, obviously has more than one interest in the Gaza facility, which would treat and divert the wastewater to be used for agriculture in Gaza.

But that shouldn't detract from Ashkelon's determination to go full steam ahead with the project, which in addition to clean water would also achieve improved quality of life for Gazans.

So far their Gaza counterparts have been very cooperative. When the new mayor of Gaza assumed office he readily understood the value of partnering with the Israeli side, says Amzallag, who has worked closely with Mayor Vaknin for over a decade.

Past success grants hope

Amzallag has been to Gaza City about 10 times, she says. The first time was for the joint Israel-Gaza high-tech training distance learning project.

That project rested on the cooperation between the late Mayor of Gaza City Awn al-Shawa and Mayor Vaknin. In the framework of that program teenage kids from both societies were taught computer and high-tech skills, which they in turn passed on to their younger peers. It worked well until the intifada hit.

Despite the uprising, Vaknin urged the Gaza mayor to join him on a fundraising mission to the World Bank and the United Nations in New York. A million dollars was raised and a study site complete with facilities was built in Germany. There was even enough money to pay for air fare for the participants.

With the means and neutral territory secured the project was saved and youths from Israel and Gaza learned high-tech together at month-long sessions in Germany.

Beyond water, there are other dreams for cooperation between the two cities. One is to build a railway between Egypt and Ashkelon with stops in Gaza. A second dream is to build a recycling center on the border between the two regions. If all flows well with the water project, perhaps shared railways and recycling will be a reality too.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Basic information about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - A rare commodity

It's amazing what people don't know about the Middle East. In 2001 I set out to clear a small lighted path in that darkness when I began creating the MidEastWeb History of the Israeli-Palestinian Confict (now continued in a second part at History of the Israeli-Palestinian Confict Part II,
I am pleased to relate that the generosity of an anonymous donor has now made it possible to translate the history into Arabic:

تاريخ النزاع الإسرائيلي الفلسطيني، الجزء الأول    تاريخ النزاع الإسرائيلي الفلسطيني، الجزء الثاني

Please help us spread the word. We will be glad to fix any errors!

Ami Isseroff

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Iran - A kiss on the robe can be quite presidential

One of the conservatives who ran for the Iranian elections, Mohsen Rezaei, said Tuesday that he participated in the official nomination of incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for a second presidential term "out of respect to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and not out of recognition of Ahmadinejad's presidency."
Rezaei, a conservative, was previously commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Reformist candidates Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi did not participate in the ceremony.
On Monday, Iran's supreme leader bestowed his formal endorsement on Ahmadinejad's second term as president but withheld a powerful symbolic gesture - the kisses and close embrace that portrayed their bond four years ago.

The awkward and halting moment came when Ahmadinejad leaned forward to kiss Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But the supreme leader raised his left hand and momentarily stopped Ahmadinejad, who spoke a few words and then kissed Khamenei's robe.
Both now are battered and bound together against the pro-reform backlash. But it's still a potentially testy relationship.
Khamenei appeared to signal he is willing to stand by Ahmadinejad - as he has since the election - but that the supercharged political climate requires new sensitivities to public opinion.
Ahmadinejad also crossed a political line last month by resisting Khamenei's calls to dismiss a top aide - whom Ahmadinejad eventually dumped.
After Ahmadinejad's surprise election in 2005, Khamenei allowed him to kiss his hand in a show of profound loyalty. Then Khamenei drew him close and kissed him on both cheeks with a benevolent smile.
This time, Ahmadinejad moved toward Khamenei but was offered only the chance to kiss the leader's robe - a gesture of respect but far more restrained than four years ago.
"It's as if Khamenei was saying, 'Hey, listen. Don't think that we are this close team we once were,'" said Patrick Clawson, deputy director at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
The state Islamic Republic News Agency reported that Ahmadinejad had a cold, suggesting this could be the cause for the more cautious reception.
Examination of  livers was used to predict the future in the Roman Empire. It is not clear which method gives better results.

Dark clouds in Northern Afghanistan

By Matthias Gebauer and Shoib Najafizada in Kabul
Taliban fighters are returning to an area in northern Afghanistan just days after being driven off in a combined Afghan-German military operation. There's growing concern that the Taliban -- and al-Qaida fighters -- are forming strongholds in what had been the relatively peaceful north.
You could hear the consternation in Wahid Omar Khel's voice. "The Taliban are back," the head of the troubled district of Chahar Dara whispered into the telephone. "They're in control of the whole of southern Chahar Dara again."
Between Thursday night and Friday morning, up to 100 Taliban fighters made their way back into the area on motorcycles and Toyota pick-up trucks, said Khel. Chahar Dara is the area near Kunduz that has been the center of a recent Taliban insurgency in the once relatively quiet northern Afghanistan. "They stood with weapons slung on the market squares of the villages and seemed as happy as if they had just won a victory," he said.
Bad news has been coming out of the region in recent days following the joint Operation Adler, or Eagle, by Afghan and German armed forces to flush out Taliban militants. German officers have heard numerous Afghan reports that the Taliban have been holding virtual victory celebrations in Chahar Dara, the Taliban stronghold in the north.
The main aim of the operation of the last two weeks was to seize the area from the Taliban in order to make it safe for upcoming elections. Operation Adler appeared successful in briefly clearing out the armed insurgents. But it didn't beat them into a lasting retreat. By late last week, parts of the area were again under the "complete control of the Taliban," district chief Khel says.
In addition to the Taliban fighters, an increasing number of foreign combatants are also moving into northern Afghanistan, some of whom have either close contacts to the leadership of al-Qaida or have been deployed by them directly. Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the BND, believes that as many as 60 such fighters are currently present in the Kunduz area. Local residents claim Arab fighters are being sheltered in Pashtun villages, and the BND has also obtained evidence of Uzbeki fighters.
Pre-Election Attacks against Germans?
In recent months, several propaganda videos have been published condemning the Bundeswehr's mission in Afghanistan, and the BND is also anticipating insurgent attacks against German soldiers. The videos have repeatedly mentioned the Sept. 27 date of the federal election in Germany. Officials are warning that there's a growing threat of attacks against German forces in an effort to influence the election back home, where a majority of people oppose the Afghanistan deployment.
The commander of the ISAF international security force in Afghanistan, US General Stanley McChrystal, is also expressing deep concern about the deteriorating situation in Kunduz. Last Wednesday, McChrystal flew to northern Afghanistan to discuss the precarious situation with German and Afghan officials in charge of military operations in the area. After his visit, McChrystal told SPIEGEL ONLINE he was "concerned" about the changing situation. He said Kunduz now warranted "serious scrutiny."
McChrystal said that the groups were supported in their efforts to build "enclaves in the north" by fighters in the south of the country where the Taliban-led insurgency has plagued ISAF efforts to establish security and rebuild the country. ISAF officials believe the insurgents are taking aim at the security force's new supply routes in the north that go through Kunduz.
The general called on the German and Afghan forces to conduct further operations like last month's in Charah Dara, west of the German base. While there had been some "operational successes" in the counter-insurgency missions, McChrystal said after a meeting with officers to discuss the operations of the past two weeks, a "single operation will never have a decisive effect" and the fight against the Taliban requires a "prolonged effort with multiple successes." He said the battle against the Taliban should not be neglected. "If we don't get in front of the situations, the situation will get in front of us," the ISAF chief said.
"We Are Back"
It appears he is correct. After Afghan troops pulled out of the parts of Chahar Dara they had largely won back last week, the Taliban returned and resumed control.
On Friday, Afghan General Murad Ali Murad said that 600 Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers had been stationed in Chahar Dara to keep the Taliban from returning. But on Saturday, district chief Khel said only about 300 remained further to the north to keep the Taliban from returning.
The Taliban appears to be going on the offensive. "We are back," Commander Mullah Shamslullah, a man considered to be one of the Taliban's leaders in Chahar Dara, said by telephone, "everything is going to be the same as it was earlier." His fighters could be heard in the background shouting "God is great." Shamslullah said the Taliban had their base back and that more than 150 Talib fighters had returned after briefly going into hiding.
Of course, Shamslullah's statements are part of the insurgency's propaganda efforts, but they also seem to be supported by the findings of the Bundeswehr. The Germans have also been noting a return of the insurgents to their stronghold -- undeterred by the Afghan army. The area is far too large to be controlled by a contingent of 300 ANA soldiers. But the German army isn't in a position to stop them, either. They're being forced to watch as the Taliban return to a stronghold located just a 15-minute drive away from the German camp.
History Repeating Itself?
The reports coming from the Kunduz area raise doubts about the success of Operation Adler. The Afghan Army said it wouldn't repeat the mistake made in past offensives that troops were removed too quickly, enabling the enemy to quickly return to the area. But it appeared to have done exactly that last week.
At the German base in Kunduz, sources even said that ANA General Murad Ali Murad wanted to withdraw his troops completely at the start of the week.
The withdrawal of Afghan troops is reminiscent of a failure often made by the US army that it now admits was a mistake: After beating away the Taliban from their strongholds in southern Afghanistan, the Americans often withdrew too quickly. They left the local populations to their own devices in dealing with returning Taliban, and local people lost faith in the international security force as a result.
The same could now happen in areas where German soldiers have been deployed. At the same time, the Taliban's return also creates a greater threat for the German army. Now back and presumably rearmed with weapons and explosives, the Taliban could seek revenge on the Afghan army, but also the Bundeswehr. Three hundred German soldiers as well as ISAF fight jets helped their Afghan army colleagues in Operation Adler, and the Bundeswehr could quickly become a target.
On Thursday, two rockets were fired near the German base. And for the coming days and weeks, the German forces are bracing for new attacks -- ones that could be better targeted and organized than before.
Nevertheless, neither the Germans nor the Afghans want to cede the area around Kunduz. They want to make it safe enough so locals can participate in national elections scheduled for August 20.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Obama Middle East policy

Barry Rubin is certainly right that too many people are trying to "explain" US Middle East policy. If it was working, there would be no need to explain. How does one explain pressing Israel for concessions while Arabs remain intransigent and the Fatah prepares for a conference that promises to bolster every anti-peace position in the Palestinian polity, in order to out Hamas the Hamas?  

How does the USA explain that despite its "unbreakable bond" with Israel, it never bothered itself to recognize that even West Jerusalem is a part of Israel?

Obama Middle East Policy: Clueless is an Understatement

By Barry Rubin

The best thing to read about Western Middle East policy is Richard Dowden writing about some of the anti-AIDS campaigns in Africa, in his book Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles. The difference is that in Africa there are also some good anti-AIDS campaigns. He explains:

"It is these vital cultural perceptions that outsiders miss when they rush to save Africa from the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The bring with them quick, slick jingles and images thought up in…New York, London or Paris and try to impose them on…rural and shanty-town Africa. Often they do not even know they are imposing anything. They have no idea that they are in a different cultural world. When the results don't work, they become frustrated and angry and start muttering about stupid Africans."

Well, there are some differences. The problems with the Middle East are not just cultural but also ideological, historical, and political, too. And when the results don't work, they start muttering about stupid Israelis.

And the amazing thing is that they never learn. Here is President Obama's Middle East envoy, as quoted in the New York Times:

"George J. Mitchell likes to remind people that he labored for 700 days before reaching the Good Friday accord that brought peace to Northern Ireland. So the fact that Mr. Mitchell has shuttled back and forth to the Middle East for the last 190 days without any breakthroughs, he said, does not mean that President Obama's push for peace there is stalled."

True, the length of time alone does not prove failure, though it can be an indication. For the record, U.S. policymakers have been working on Israeli-Palestinian peace since 1974 which is roughly 12,775 days. Moreover, there is the not unimportant detail that in Northern Ireland, both sides wanted peace while in the Middle East only Israel (along with the Egyptian and Jordanian governments) does...
Mitchell explains:

"One of the public misimpressions is that it's all been about settlements. It is completely inaccurate to portray this as, 'We're only asking the Israelis to do things.' We are asking everybody to do things." Continued - Obama Middle East Policy: Clueless is an Understatement

Blow to family values? Jordan bans hymen examinations for would-be brides

Last update - 14:41 03/08/2009       
Jordan bans hymen examinations for would-be brides
A top-level panel of Islamic scholars in Jordan have issued a judgement that bans the examination of a bride-to-be's virginity even if it is requested by her fiance, local newspapers reported Monday.
"The examination of hymens is taboo because the genitals of both men and women should not be exposed except out of necessity," according to the judgement issued by the state-funded Council of Eftaa and Islamic Studies.
However, the Jordanian council permitted such examination of a woman's hymen if it were requested by "judicial authorities" for the resolution of disputes.
The panel said that it adopted this opinion in response to reports of an increasing number of cases of citizens asking the country's National Forensic Centre (NFC) to conduct virginity tests.
The NFC reportedly dealt with at least 1,200 such cases last year.
According to strict Islamic teachings, women are barred from sexual intercourse before marriage.

Christians in Muslim society - once again

Is there any place in the Muslim world that offers a welcome to Christians comparable to the rights they enjoy in Israel ?
GOJRA, Pakistan — The blistered black walls of the Hameed family's bedroom tell of an unspeakable crime. Seven family members died here on Saturday, six of them burned to death by a mob that had broken into their house and shot the grandfather dead, just because they were Christian.
The family had huddled in the bedroom, talking in whispers with their backs pressed against the door, as the mob taunted them.
"They said, 'If you come out, we'll kill you,' " said Ikhlaq Hameed, 22, who escaped. Among the dead were two children, Musa, 6, and Umaya, 13.
The attack in this shabby town in central Pakistan — the culmination of several days of rioting over a claim that a Koran had been defiled — shows how precarious life is for the tiny Christian minority in Pakistan.
More than 100 Christian houses were burned and looted on Saturday in a rampage that lasted about eight hours by a crowd the authorities estimate was as large as 20,000 strong. In addition to the seven members of the Hameed family who were killed, about 20 people were wounded.
The authorities, who said the Koran accusation was spurious, filed criminal charges in the case late Sunday and apprehended at least 12 people. Officials said a banned Sunni militant group, Sipah-e-Sohaba, was among those responsible for the attacks, the third convulsion of anti-Christian mob violence in the region in the past four weeks.
Christians, who make up less than 5 percent of the entire population, are often treated as second-class citizens in Pakistan, where Islam is the official religion. Non-Muslims are constitutionally barred from becoming president or prime minister.
While some Christians rise to become government officials or run businesses, the poorest work the country's worst jobs, as toilet cleaners and street sweepers.
It was the poorest class who lived in Christian Colony, a small enclave of bare brick houses where the mob struck Saturday. Its residents work as day laborers and peddlers in the market, often earning far less than the minimum wage, $75 a month.
The Hameeds were having breakfast when the mob descended, wielding guns, hurling stones and shouting insults ("Dogs!" "American agents!") through their window. The Hameeds did not appear to have been singled out but had the misfortune of living where the mob entered the neighborhood and happened to be home at the time.
When the grandfather, Hameed Pannun Khan, 75, a house painter, opened the door to see what was happening, he was shot in the temple and crumpled to the ground. The crowd then pushed inside, and the rest of the family — at least 10 people — fled to the back bedroom and locked themselves inside. They listened from behind the door as the mob looted the house, dragging away a refrigerator and a cupboard.
Then came the smoke, thick white plumes under the door.
"Everyone was shouting to escape," said Umer Hameed, 18. "There was no oxygen."
They waited as long as they could, until they thought it was safe, and then made a run for it, but not everybody made it. Three women, the two children and a man were trapped when the roof collapsed in flames.
As he ran, Ikhlaq Hameed glanced back and saw his aunt. "She tried to come out, but the fire caught her," he said. "The fire was on her face."
The rampage began Thursday in a nearby village when Christians at a wedding party were accused of burning a Koran. Few here believed that, and state and federal officials who looked into the case said it was false. Still, local mullahs seized on the news, filing a blasphemy case against the Christian family.
"We were afraid because the clerics had been railing against us in the mosques," said Riaz Masih, a Christian and retired math teacher whose house was gutted. "They said, 'Let's teach them a lesson.' "
Pakistan's blasphemy law has been criticized as too broad, and many legal experts say it has been badly misused since its introduction in the 1980s by the military dictator Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq. Anyone can file a charge, which is then often used to stir hatred and to justify sectarian violence.
"The blasphemy law is being used to terrorize minorities in Pakistan," said Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan's minister of minority affairs, in an interview in Gojra on Sunday.
The attackers here left a singed trail of destruction in their wake. The Hameeds' house was a charred shell, its central room a heap of twisted fans, bicycles, children's toys and a collapsed cage that had kept pet parrots. The kitchen was empty except for a teapot and a half-burned English dictionary open to the word "immoral."
Their neighbor, a grain seller, Iqbal Masih (whose surname means "a follower of Jesus"), stood looking dazed, his dried corn spilled on the heap of twisted metal wheels that had been his sales cart. A chest for his daughter's dowry had been destroyed.
Typical of such attacks, the police, overwhelmed by the mob, did little to stand in its way.
Christians here protested all day on Sunday, blocking the roads and refusing to bury the Hameeds until the authorities filed a criminal case. Late Sunday the authorities did, and the bodies were buried. That was little comfort to the Hameeds.
"Everything is gone now," said Ikhlaq, his hand and arm blistered. "Our family. Our house. We don't want to live here anymore."
Waqar Gillani contributed reporting.

About Jerusalem: Poor misunderstood George Mitchell and Uncle Sam

US Mideast envoy George Mitchell believes people are misinterpreting the Obama administration's pressure on Israel as well as the Arab response to Washington's regional peace push.

"One of the public misimpressions is that it's all been about settlements," Mitchell told the New York Times in an interview published Sunday. "It is completely inaccurate to portray this as, 'We're only asking the Israelis to do things.' We are asking everybody to do things."


"These are discussions among friends, not disputes among adversaries."

Like the song says, "I'm just a soul whose intentions are good; please don't let me be misunderstood."

There are two types of quarrels: Those based on misunderstanding, and those based on understanding only too well.

What George Mitchell is asking Israel to do is to give up its capital city. What are friends for after all, if not to oblige other friends with little favors like that? This is an even handed policy. The Saudis are asked to allow Israeli overflights (and refuse) and Israel is asked to renounce sovereignty over its capital city. Everybody is asked to do something for the cause, and to please smile while doing it.

The heart of the disagreement is that the US insists that Jerusalem is just another "settlement," that the US does not recognize Israeli sovereignty in any part of Jerusalem, and that they can and should dictate to Israel what policies to adopt in Jerusalem and when and where to build. The most recent "misunderstanding" was a public and ugly US protest against removal of illegal Palestinian occupants squatting in propery owned by Jews. It may not be wise for Israel to build in areas that might be subject to future negotiations, but it certainly understandable that Israel will enforce Israeli law, backed by a supreme court decision, in an area that is declared by Israel to be under its sovereignty. There is no misunderstanding. The problem is not that the United States wants Israel to negotiate, but rather that the US is telling Israel and the world that there is nothing to negotiate about in Jerusalem, since the city does not belong to Israel according to them, but to a hypothetical international administration or Palestinian state. This is not a disagreement among friends. It is a hostile diplomatic act. In the 19 years of illegal Jordanian occupation of East Jerusalem, the United States did not once protest any Jordanian action, including the building of King Hussein's summer house, or the wrecking of the last remnants of the Jewish quarter and the Jewish cemetery in the Mount of Olives.

There is no misunderstanding of US policy in this regard whatever and the policy is unmistakable.  The United States does not recognize any part of Jerusalem, East or West, as part of Israel, and certainly not as Israel's capital city. UN Security Council Resolution 250 condemned Israel for holding a military parade (the Independence Day parade) in Jerusalem in 1968. The parade was held in West Jerusalem only. The United States did not veto the resolution. The Web site of the United States Conuslate in Jerusalem  is all about Palestinian Arabs - in the West Bank and in Gaza. Not a word about Jews, though Jerusalem  has a Jewish majority. The consulate refuses to recognize that there are Jews living in any part of Jerusalem it seems.  Are they trying to tell us something?

Perhaps some of the misunderstanding is caused by the reticence of the Israeli government, which has never openly protested against the hostile policy of the United States. On the one hand, Israeli governments grandiosely proclaim that "United Jerusalem is the Eternal Capital of Israel." On the other hand, no Israeli government has seriously tried to get the United States to recognize even Kiriat Hayovel and Rehavia as part of Israel.

West Jerusalem, of course, has been part of Israel since 1948, but the US, to placate Arab opinion, continues to pretend that the internationalization of Jerusalem mandated by the UN in 1947 is a reality. The policy of the United States government regarding Jerusalem is contrary to its own laws, since the 1995: Jerusalem Embassy Act mandated that the United States recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and mandated that the embassy must be moved there and that US citizens born in Jerusalem be registered as having been born in Israel. Using a hypocritical loophole, the law has been ignored by successive presidents. If you think this policy is bizarre, you can write to the consulate at and to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:,  U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20520, 202-647-4000

Ami Isseroff


Fresh rumors and leaks of Iran Sanctions

It is hard to know if this NYT article about contemplated sanctions says anything new or genuine. The fuel sanctions against Iran have been discussed and the congressional bill is public knowledge. Likewise, the supposed September deadline is also public knowledge. Considering that the United States has done nothing about Iran whatever in recent months, that's a lot of publicity for a non-policy that does nothing, and the New York Times observation that "The White House has been extraordinarily tight-lipped about its Iran strategy, and has not publicly discussed the legislation" is simply untrue. On the contrary, it is much ado about nothing whatever so far.
In a humorous twist, the bill to give President Obama the power to impose fuel sanctions, which was sponsored by the Obama administration, was condemned by an anti-Israel "Jewish" lobby, which urged its members to "Support President Obama" by protesting the legislation! How could opposition to a bill that enlarges presidential power be construed as "support for the President?
After the US and other countries frittered away the time for several years, the following comment is really an insult to our intelligence:
"The question we have to face," one American diplomat said, "is whether any sanction at this point can really deter them, given how close they are now."
The accurate description of the "Iran Strategy" seems to be to wait until it's too late to do anything, and then say, "Well it's too late to do anything."
The article is below.
Ami Isseroff
August 3, 2009
U.S. Weighs Iran Sanctions if Talks Are Rejected
The Obama administration is talking with allies and Congress about the possibility of imposing an extreme economic sanction against Iran if it fails to respond to President Obama's offer to negotiate on its nuclear program: cutting off the country's imports of gasoline and other refined oil products.

The option of acting against companies around the world that supply Iran with 40 percent of its gasoline has been broached with European allies and Israel, officials from those countries said. Legislation that would give Mr. Obama that authority already has 71 sponsors in the Senate and similar legislation is expected to sail through the House.
In a visit to Israel last week, Mr. Obama's national security adviser, James L. Jones, mentioned the prospect to Israeli officials, they said.
The White House refused Sunday to confirm or deny the contents of Mr. Jones's discussions. But other administration officials said that they believed his goal was to reinforce Mr. Obama's argument that the Israeli government should stop dropping hints about conducting a military attack against Iran's nuclear facilities if no progress is made this year, and to give the administration time to impose what Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton calls "crippling sanctions" that might force Iran to negotiate.
The Bush administration considered, and rejected, trying to engineer a cutoff of gasoline to Iran, which produces oil but does not have enough refining capacity to meet its own needs for gasoline.
But enforcing what would amount to a gasoline embargo has long been considered risky and extremely difficult; it would require the participation of Russia and China, among others that profit from trade with Iran. Iran has threatened to respond by cutting off oil exports and closing shipping traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, at a moment that the world economy is highly vulnerable.
Mr. Obama has said nothing in public about the possibility since a presidential debate last October with Senator John McCain of Arizona. "If we can prevent them from importing the gasoline that they need, and the refined petroleum products, that starts changing their cost-benefit analysis," Mr. Obama said at the time. "That starts putting the squeeze on them."
Now, the White House will not discuss the issue at all. Denis McDonough, a deputy national security adviser, said the administration would not comment on any of its private discussions with allies. But European diplomats confirm that in recent weeks they have held private talks with administration officials about whether to move toward such a sanction if Iran ignores Mr. Obama's deadline to begin talks by the opening of the United Nations session in mid-September.
Assessing how effective such a cutoff might be — even if Russia, China and most of Europe went along — has been complicated by the political turmoil inside Iran.
Some analysts have argued that the action could further destabilize a weakened regime; others say it could be exploited by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to change the subject from the still-challenged presidential election to Iran's confrontation with the West.
"Draconian sanctions did not make sense in 2005 and 2006," said R. Nicholas Burns, who led the Bush administration's Iran strategy as under secretary of state for policy. "But given the new weakness and vulnerability of the Ahmadinejad government, much tougher sanctions make sense now, with one caveat," he said in an interview. Congress, he said, must give Mr. Obama complete flexibility to threaten, impose or waive the sanctions, if he has any hope of holding together a coalition of countries.
Mr. Burns and other Iran experts testified last week at a hearing held by the Senate Banking Committee, whose chairman, Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, declared that "our job is to arm the president with a comprehensive set of tough sanctions designed to ratchet up pressure on the Iranian regime."
Some of the co-sponsors say the Senate bill, the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, is a more prudent way to deal with Iran's nuclear program than authorizing the president to use military means if necessary, as the Senate did for President George W. Bush when he was confronting Saddam Hussein.
There is similar legislation in the House, and Representative Jane Harman, a California Democrat active in intelligence and national security issues, said over the weekend that "most people think that this is how you really hurt Iran." She predicted the bill would "breeze through" both houses of Congress.
But easy passage would not make the sanctions any easier to carry out. As the Bush administration discovered as it pushed through three mild sanctions resolutions at the United Nations, Iran has enormous leverage over companies and countries dependent on its oil production. As Mr. Burns warned, "If Americans are the only ones sanctioning, those sanctions will not succeed."
One of the Iran experts who testified last week, Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institution, cautioned that Iran was so porous it could circumvent an oil cutoff, and that the potential for confrontation would be high. "The Iranians are not terribly good at capitulation," Ms. Maloney said. "This is a regime that tends to believe the best defense is a good offense."
The legislation would impose sanctions on any company that sold or delivered gasoline to Iran, cutting it off from selling to the United States government and seeking to freeze its financing or shipping insurance. But many experts fear that true enforcement would require patrols off the Iranian coast, and that could lead to confrontations with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
The White House has been extraordinarily tight-lipped about its Iran strategy, and has not publicly discussed the legislation. But already it has become part of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering with Israel. Israeli officials have argued in recent weeks that the American unwillingness to confront North Korea more forcefully as it develops a nuclear program was evidence that the United States might be willing to tolerate an Iranian nuclear weapons capability.
Mr. Obama's aides, in return, worry that the Israelis are trying to force action too soon by shortening their estimate of how long it would take Iran to manufacture a weapon. In fact, no one knows how quickly it might be able to do so, but it has already solved many of the technological problems.
"The question we have to face," one American diplomat said, "is whether any sanction at this point can really deter them, given how close they are now."

Cheery News: Iran can build a nuclear weapon any time they want

Many have long suspected that Iran can build a nuclear weapon. The Sunday Times claims they have some proof.  Of course, the ability to "build a bomb" does not guarantee that it is a practical bomb that could fit in a warhead. The Iranians may have a primitive detonation mechanism for a heavy and crude "gun" type bomb, but not a sophisticated implosion detonator. The difference is that the gun type device would require a much larger quantity of fissionable material (80-90% highly enriched Uranium-235 or Plutonum-239)  to get to critical mass - about 50 KG ,and the entire device would not be usable in a missile warhead. An implosion device would push all the fissionable material together at once, and would require much less than 10 KG of fissile uranium.
Now it is seems that that is precisely the claim being made by the Sunday Times, which claims Iran has perfected a "multipoint initiation system" Multipoint initiation systems are usually associated with non-nuclear fragmentation explosives, but  could apparently be used to build an implosion system for a nuclear device. 
Sunday Times has in the past predicted several Israeli attacks on Iran that never happened, and is responsible for many other canards, but this report cannot be ignored, because in fact, it is at least partly corroborated by previous IAEA evidence as well as US National Intelligence Estimate information.  Hopefully, if there are such British intelligence sources, they have also been talking to the Americans. But that is not necessarily the case. British Intelligence was rather surprised at the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that announced that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons.
An earlier New York Times story described a secret part of the NIE that supposedly reported on Iranian activities that were unmonitored and could be nuclear weapons development sites:
The public version made only glancing reference to evidence described at great length in the 140-page classified version of the assessment: the suspicion that Iran had 10 or 15 other nuclear-related facilities, never opened to international inspectors, where enrichment activity, weapons work or the manufacturing of centrifuges might be taking place.
According to the Sunday Times story:
James Hider, Richard Beeston in Tel Aviv and Michael Evans, Defence Editor
Iran has perfected the technology to create and detonate a nuclear warhead and is merely awaiting the word from its Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to produce its first bomb, Western intelligence sources have told The Times.
The sources said that Iran completed a research programme to create weaponised uranium in the summer of 2003 and that it could feasibly make a bomb within a year of an order from its Supreme Leader.
A US National Intelligence Estimate two years ago concluded that Iran had ended its nuclear arms research programme in 2003 because of the threat from the American invasion of Iraq. But intelligence sources have told The Times that Tehran had halted the research because it had achieved its aim — to find a way of detonating a warhead that could be launched on its long-range Shehab-3 missiles.
They said that, should Ayatollah Khamenei approve the building of a nuclear device, it would take six months to enrich enough uranium and another six months to assemble the warhead. The Iranian Defence Ministry has been running a covert nuclear research department for years, employing hundreds of scientists, researchers and metallurgists in a multibillion-dollar programme to develop nuclear technology alongside the civilian nuclear programme.
"The main thing (in 2003) was the lack of fissile material, so it was best to slow it down," the sources said. "We think that the leader himself decided back then (to halt the programme), after the good results."
Iran's scientists have been trying to master a method of detonating a bomb known as the "multipoint initiation system" — wrapping highly enriched uranium in high explosives and then detonating it. The sources said that the Iranian Defence Ministry had used a secret internal agency called Amad ("Supply" in Farsi), led by Mohsin Fakhri Zadeh, a physics professor and senior member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Council.
The system operates by creating a series of explosive grooves on a metal hemisphere covering the uranium, which links explosives-filled holes opening onto a layer of high explosives enveloping the uranium. By detonating the explosives at either pole at the same time, the method ensures simultaneous impact around the sphere to achieve critical density.
"If the Supreme Leader takes the decision (to build a bomb), we assess they have to enrich low-enriched uranium to highly-enriched uranium at the Natanz plant, which could take six months, depending on how many centrifuges are operating. We don't know if the decision was made yet," said the intelligence sources, adding that Iran could have created smaller, secret facilities, other than those at the heavily guarded bunker at Natanz to develop materials for a first bomb. Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency only keep tabs on fissile material produced at monitored sites and not the number of centrifuges that Iran has built.
Washington has given Iran until next month to open talks on resolving the nuclear crisis, although hopes of any constructive engagement have dimmed since the regime's crackdown on pro-reformist protesters after June's disputed presidential elections.
Ehud Barak, Israel's Defence Minister, last week reiterated that a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities was still an option, should the talks fail. Israeli officials estimate that a raid on Natanz and a nuclear facility at Arak, in central Iran, would set Iran's nuclear programme back by two to three years.
An Israeli official said that Iran had poured billions of dollars over three decades into a two-pronged "master plan" to build a nuclear bomb. He said that Iran had enriched 1,010kg of uranium to 3.9 per cent, which would be sufficient for 30kg of highly enriched uranium at 95 per cent. About 30kg is needed to build one bomb.
British intelligence services are familiar with the secret information about Iran's experiments, sources at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said. Although British agencies did not have their own "independent evidence" that Iran had successfully tested the explosive component of a nuclear warhead, they said there was no reason to doubt the assessment.
If Iran's leader does decide to build a bomb, he will have two choices, intelligence sources said. One would be to take the high-risk approach of kicking out the international inspectors and making a sprint to complete Iran's first bomb, as the country weathered international sanctions or possible air strikes in the ensuing crisis. The other would be to covertly develop the materials needed for an arsenal in secret desert facilities.
The suspicion is not new. An IAEA report in 2008 cited similar evidence:

The first charge is that Iran is suspected of conducting high explosives testing. This includes work with exploding bridgewire (EBW) detonators and a detonator firing unit, which could be used for triggering a nuclear weapon; 500 EBW detonators were tested.

In addition, a five-page document described experiments for a "complex multipoint initiation system" to "detonate a substantial amount of high explosive in hemispherical geometry" that could be employed in an implosion-type nuclear device.

Both Israeli and Western intelligence have claimed that Iran would not have a bomb plus delivery system until 2014. In addition to the implosion detonator and the required quantity of fissile material, the Iranians would require a delivery system. Recently tested solid state long range missiles may provide that piece of the puzzle, and may be ready sooner than was previously thought. It is true that recent instability might make the regime more vulnerable to sanctions, but it also may cause the regime to adopt an agressive line against the west in order to promote national unity and restore its legitimacy.

Ami Isseroff

Sunday, August 2, 2009

South Lebanon Arms cache: Hezbollah Runs Lebanon's Foreign Ministry

Actually, it seems we have to conclude that Hezbollah runs much more than just the Lebanese Foreign Ministry.
August 02/09

It has become clear even to the blind that the Lebanese state is massively dominated by the Hezbollah Mullah's leadership. This terrorist militant organization boldly dictates its Iranian decrees on all the Lebanese officials and institutions, manipulates their activities and greatly influences the whole country's decision making process through cancerous infiltration, intimidation, and multifold tactics of terrorism. Not even one decision could be made by the Lebanese government or any of its institutions without Hezbollah's approval.
In this context, Hezbollah forced the Lebanese state to adopt all its derailed concepts, vicious justifications, bizarre explanations and plain fabrications in a bid to camouflage and cover up the actual causes of the massive series of explosions that occurred on July 14/09 in the southern Lebanese town of Khirbat Silm, located about 10 miles north of the Israeli-Lebanese border. In fact, Khirbat Silm was hit seriously due to a series of Hezbollah's huge underground weaponry caches.
Observers and local residents have confirmed that the Hezbollah militiamen did not allow the Lebanese army or the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to approach the scene of the blast until after they had removed all the burned weapons and ammunition, and transferred all the weapons that did not explode to nearby depots located in a number of civilian houses in the town itself.
The Hezbollah civilian militiamen with their families in the town attacked the UNIFIL soldiers (French contingent) with stones when they tried to search the houses close to the explosion location injuring 14 of them and aborting their search assignment.
At a time when Hezbollah leaders boast and brag openly that their stockpiles of missiles have doubled, their military capabilities are increasing and that they are militarily still as strong in the southern region adjacent to the Israeli borders as they were before the war in July 2006, the Lebanese state only buries its head in the sand and adopts stances that are childish, forged, naive and void from any kind of actuality or credibility.
Official statements issued by the UNIFIL forces confirmed clearly and explicitly that the weaponry caches that exploded in the town of Khirbat Silm belonged to Hezbollah and tagged the incident as a serious violation of  UN Security Council Resolution 1701, notably the provision stating that there should be no presence of unauthorized assets or weapons in the area of its operations between the Litani River and the Blue Line.
In spite of the solid facts that the UNIFIL statements presented, the Lebanese authorities turned a blind eye on all the infringements that were committed by Hezbollah, not only in regard to the explosion of its weaponry caches, but also on the two others incidents that targeted the UNIFIL forces afterwards that were engineered and executed by Hezbollah
In the first incident, about 100 of Hezbollah's civilians from the residents of the town of Khirbat Silm threw stones at the UNIFIL soldiers and injured 14 of them. In the second incident, a group of Hezbollah civilians crossed the Green Line of the Israeli-Lebanese border near Shabaa Farms and overran a non-guarded Israeli post.
Meanwhile, the letter that the Lebanese Foreign Ministry sent to the United Nations regarding the Khirbat Silm explosions and the incidents that followed was void of any credibility, childish, and a mere mouthpiece for Hezbollah's stances. Anyone who had thoroughly read the letter would have known immediately that it was written by the Hezbollah leadership and not by the Lebanese Foreign Affairs diplomats.
The Lebanese political analyst, Bechara
Charbel, described the letter as a "diplomatic joke" and said: "It would be great to know who is that genius diplomat that wrote the letter to the United Nations addressing the Khirbat Silm explosions because it is so bad and so fake that he in return deserves to be stripped of his university degrees, fired from his job, slapped on the face and  kicked on the back".
The letter alleged that the explosions were due to a fire breaking out in an abandoned building that housed un­exploded munitions from the summer 2006 war with Israel.  It stressed that cooperation between the Lebanese Army and  UNIFIL was strong, adding that Lebanon was fully committed to the implementation of Resolution 1701,  and that an investigation committee was formed by the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL officers to supervise the scene of the explosion.  According to the letter, the investigations had been launched the day after the explosion, "because experts judged working the first day to be too dangerous since explosions continued until late July 14". The letter said that the Lebanese soldiers stayed on location despite possible hazards, adding that one soldier had been injured.
The letter goes on to say that the investigations had revealed that the unexploded ammunitions bore writings in Hebrew and were of the type used during the summer 2006 war. It slammed Israel's claims that Hezbollah endangered civilians by storing its weapons in populated areas. "Israel is trying to justify any future deliberate attack on Lebanese civilians," the letter said.  
Regarding the July 18 incident in which a UNIFIL team investigating the blast was hampered by civilians from the Khirbat Silm town, the Foreign Ministry's letter revealed the Lebanese Army had decided to investigate leaks that unexploded ammunitions might have been transferred to three houses in Khirbet Silim.  "UNIFIL was informed and decided to crack down on the three houses without being escorted by the Lebanese Army," the letter said. "Clashes with the residents ensued," it added.
"As a result, 14 UNIFIL personnel were slightly injured". 
The letter is not only diplomatic nonsense, but also a stupid joke and a mere forgery of the facts. For heaven sake, is there any sane individual that would take such a report seriously and grant any kind of credibility to those who wrote it and to the Lebanese government that adopted it? Definitely no one if we exclude Hezbollah and its Iranian masters, the Mullahs.
It is sad, shameful and heretical that the Lebanese Foreign Minister, Mr. Fawzi Salloukh, is actually Hezbollah's Minister for Foreign Affairs and has nothing to do with Lebanon.  He is Hezbollah's man and its diplomatic mouthpiece.

In conclusion, Lebanon will remain a mere hostage, and will not become a free, democratic, and independent country again until the terrorist organization Hezbollah is dismantled and disarmed

Elias Bejjani
Canadian-Lebanese Human Rights activist, journalist and political commentator

Web sites &