Sunday, November 1, 2009

Are Palestinians doing a political suicide bombing?

The United States is bankrolling the Palestinian Authority and the Obama administration put itself way out on a limb to support Palestinian statehood and the peace process. So it is really not the wisest move, perhaps, for the Palestinians to accuse the US of killing peace prospects.
One good rule to observe regarding US politics is "don't get Hillary Clinton mad at you." Israel's foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman did it, and learned the rule. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu learned the rule too it seems. Now it is the turn of Mr. Abbas.
Ami Isseroff
Palestinians accuse U.S. of killing peace prospects
Sun Nov 1, 2009 7:51pm EST

By Jeffrey Heller
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Pointing an accusing finger at the United States, the Palestinians on Sunday said Washington's backing for Israeli refusal to halt Jewish settlement expansion had killed any hope of reviving peace negotiations soon.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, buoyed by new-found support from the Obama administration, urged the Palestinians to "get a grip" and drop their settlement freeze precondition for restarting talks suspended since December.
On a one-day Middle East visit on Saturday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton endorsed Israel's view that settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank should not be a bar to resuming negotiations -- contradicting the Palestinian position.
Netanyahu has proposed limiting building for now to some 3,000 settler homes already approved by Israel in the West Bank. He does not regard building in occupied East Jerusalem, annexed in defiance of international opposition, as settlement.
U.S. President Barack Obama himself, after persuading Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in September to meet Netanyahu in New York, called only for "restraint" in settlement, not the "freeze" he had previously proposed.
Stung by Obama's about-face and Clinton's remarks, the Palestinians voiced their frustration.
"The negotiations are in a state of paralysis, and the result of Israel's intransigence and America's back-pedaling is that there is no hope of negotiations on the horizon," Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah said.
He said the Palestinians were calling for the Arab League to formulate a "unified Palestinian-Arab position" on the stalled peace process.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said it was a "critical moment" and insisted settlement must halt to revive peace moves.
"Pressuring Palestinians to make further concessions to accommodate Israeli intransigence is not the answer," he said.
Netanyahu told his cabinet that U.S. envoy George Mitchell would continue efforts on Sunday to revive negotiations.
"We hope very much that the Palestinians will get a grip and engage in the diplomatic process," Netanyahu said. "It is in the interests of Israel and the Palestinians."
Abbas faces intense domestic pressure from Hamas Islamists who control the Gaza Strip, and any compromise on settlements could hurt him politically in a run-up to Palestinian elections he has scheduled for January 24. Hamas has rejected holding a vote.
Some 500,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem alongside 2.8 million Palestinians. Israel captured the territories in a 1967 war with its Arab neighbors. Palestinians say settlements could deny them a viable state.
Netanyahu's coalition, including pro-settler groups, does not believe Abbas is strong enough to deliver Israeli security in any deal. Some analysts see Netanyahu's cooperation with Obama's demand for a resumption of talks on establishing a Palestinian state as intended mainly to ensure U.S. support against Iran.
Palestinians warn that popular frustration with the failure to produce statehood deal could spill over into an upsurge in violence, even if few have appetite for a broad new uprising.
George Giacaman, a political analyst at Birzeit University in the West Bank said, "The Palestinian Authority is weak and has not been achieving any results.
"I believe we are at a dangerous stage. With no credible political process, this could create a political vacuum that might lead to violence."
Nadir Saeed, at the same institution, said Abbas had little option but to try and keep talking with Israel and the Americans, adding: "It is no better for him to come back to his public empty-handed.
"(Abbas) has built his career on the idea of negotiations. He cannot credibly back away."
(Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta and Erika Solomon in Ramallah and Tom Perry and Ori Lewis in Jerusalem; Editing by Alastair Macdonald)

Afghanistan elections: Karzai vs Karzai, as Abdullah withdraws

 The United States, which is attempting to teach democracy in Afghanistan is apparently intent on giving a very interesting lesson in that form of government. Following the withdrawal of the opposition candidate, it seems the US wants to simply "elect" the incumbent Karzai, with no run off election:
On Saturday the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said a decision by Abdullah to pull out would not affect the vote's legitimacy.
A little detail like having only one candidate should not effect the legitimacy, claims Clinton. She is not alone:
Waheed Omar, Karzai's campaign spokesman, said the "election has to go ahead and the people of Afghanistan have to be given the right to vote".
His view was echoed by the IEC chairman, Azizullah Ludin, who said "there was no alternative under the law" to a second round.
The right to vote? The right to choose between Karzai and Karzai? Will he campaign against himself? That should be interesting to watch.
Ami Isseroff

Afghanistan's western backers are pushing for a rapid coronation of Hamid Karzai as president without going through with a second round of voting after the Afghan president's closest rival pulled out of the race today.
Abdullah Abdullah withdrew from the runoff vote after the rejection of nearly all of his demands for changes to the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the suspension of government ministers, which he said would have reduced the risk of massive fraud in the next round of voting. The announcement threw the election into disarray, with some analysts labelling the fiasco "a shocking failure" of efforts by the west and other international communities to build a democracy in Afghanistan. A legitimate Afghan leader is seen as essential to western war aims, and has prevented Barack Obama from being able to make a decision on whether to send up to 40,000 more US troops to Afghanistan.
To cheers and applause, an emotional Dr Abdullah told thousands of his supporters gathered in an enormous tent in Kabul that he had no choice but to bow out "because of the action taken by this government and the action taken by the Independent Election Commission".
But despite Abdullah's announcement both Karzai's campaign and the IEC said the runoff vote should go ahead because there was no other legal method for choosing the president.
The former foreign minister's supporters know that Karzai now faces two unenviable choices. He could either go ahead and win a mandate based on a second round which is likely to attract even fewer participants than the first vote in August. Or he could be simply be appointed as leader without the 50% of votes the constitution says the president requires to be elected. "Whatever he does he will not be legitimate," said Ahmed Wali Massoud, a leading political figure and a senior member of Abdullah's campaign team.
Nick Horne, a former UN political officer who resigned over the organisation's handling of the elections, said a second round without Abdullah would give Karzai an "exceptionally weak mandate" with which to counter the Taliban insurgency.
Haroun Mir, head of the Centre for Research and Policy Studies in Kabul, said that the Afghan state could even risk losing control over the northern areas where Abdullah's supporters could refuse to recognise the authority of Karzai. But Waheed Omar, Karzai's campaign spokesman, said the "election has to go ahead and the people of Afghanistan have to be given the right to vote".
His view was echoed by the IEC chairman, Azizullah Ludin, who said "there was no alternative under the law" to a second round.
But a UN spokesman said: "It's difficult to see how you can have a runoff with only one candidate."
Senior diplomats privately say they do not want to risk their troops' lives in order to protect another election. They say there is enough ambiguity in Afghanistan's constitution that would allow the country's Supreme Court to rule that a second round is not necessary and that Karzai should be elected on the basis that he received the highest number of votes in the first.
Many Afghan and western lawyers strongly disagree, however, saying that the Supreme Court does not have the power to interpret the constitution to the degree necessary.
On Saturday the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said a decision by Abdullah to pull out would not affect the vote's legitimacy. But another senior Abdullah campaign member, Nadjib Yussufi, said that if Karzai had any "political wisdom" he would back the establishment of an interim government and reform of the IEC which would allow Abdullah to participate in elections in the spring.
Both Massoud and Abdullah hinted yesterday that he would consider re-entering the race if conditions for a runoff vote were made fairer.
But western diplomats believe that would simply prolong Afghanistan's political limbo. During the 108 days since the campaign period officially began in July the government has been unable to take major decisions.
A spring election would prevent the government from taking steps which foreign diplomats hope will start to deal with the country's many problems, including corruption and declining security.
With so many unpalatable options confronting them, diplomats pushed until late on Saturday evening for a power-sharing deal between Karzai and Abdullah.
The negotiations, led by UN chief Kai Eide and US ambassador Karl Eikenberry, appeared to have made a breakthrough with western diplomats saying Abdullah would concede defeat in return for being given a say in the appointment of key cabinet ministers.
Although the talks finally broke down, Abdullah did not call for a boycott of the election as some had feared, instead saying he would merely "not participate" in the process.
He also said he had told his supporters to remain calm and not to protest, or even to come together in large gatherings.

Ahmadinejad calling the shots?

Iranian Presiden Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asserted that Iran now deals with the West from a position of power. The enemies of Iran are like a mosquito, according to him. Nations of shopkeepers. Paper Tigers. Springtime for Iran and the IRGC, Winter for the USA, EU, GCC countries and Israel.   Ahmadinejad and Iran have joined an exclusive club of people and countries  who have dealt with the United States, Britain and France from a position of power. The club includes Kaiser Wilhelm II, Adolph Hitler and Germany, Benito Mussolini and Fascist Italy, the former USSR, and of course, Saddam Hussein  They all dealt with the the West from a position of power, for quite a while,
Nov 1, 2009 11:07 | Updated Nov 1, 2009 11:10
Ahmadinejad: We now deal with West from position of power
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday comparing the power of Iran's enemies to a "mosquito," saying Iran now deals with the West over its nuclear activities from a position of power.
The comment from Ahmadinejad comes as Iran is negotiating with the West over a UN-backed proposal to ship its uranium abroad for further enrichment.
The UN-brokered plan would require Iran to send 1.2 tons (or 1,100 kilograms) of low-enriched uranium - around 70 percent of its stockpile - to Russia in one batch by year's end, for processing to create more refined fuel for a Teheran research reactor.
But senior Iranian lawmakers on Saturday rejected the plan, raising further doubts about the likelihood Teheran will finally approve the deal.
Iran has made clear that, at most, it may agree to send only part of its stockpile in several shipments.

Iran to try Bahai's as spies for Israel and for blasphemy

Iranian murder of Bahai schoolteachers just for being Bahai schoolteachers produced too much revulsion. "Spying for Israel" sounds like a better excuse, doesn't it? Well yes, they are also being tried for blasphemy. That charge at least can be "proven."
Last update - 14:04 01/11/2009       
Report: Iran to try seven Baha'is accused of spying for Israel
By Reuters
Seven detained Baha'i believers accused of spying for Israel and blasphemy will soon go on trial in Iran, an official was quoted as saying on Sunday.
"I believe they will be tried in the near future," Alireza Avaie, head of Tehran's justice department, said, according to the official IRNA news agency. It did not give further details.
Six of the seven Baha'is were detained in May, 2008 on security-related charges and a seventh in March of that year.
The trial was postponed in August at the request of defense lawyers, who said they needed more time to prepare.
Iran had previously linked the group to Israel, saying they had received orders from Israel to undertake measures against the Islamic system. Iran has refused since its 1979 Islamic revolution to recognize Israel.
The Baha'i International Community, which represents the faith worldwide, has denied the charges against the group, saying they were members of a committee that tends to the needs of Baha'is in Iran.
Exiled Baha'i leaders allege that hundreds of followers have been jailed and executed in Iran in the past three decades. The government denies it has detained or executed people for their religion.
The Baha'i faith was founded by Shi'ite clergymen in Iran in the 19th century and more than 300,000 live in the Islamic state.
Iran's Shi'ite religious establishment considers the faith a heretical offshoot of Islam.