Germany's EIH bank funneled 9 billion euros to Iran
I have discussed Germany's Europäisch-Iranische Handelsbank in Hamburg several times on this blog, most recently here. Thus far, the German government, which continues to claim that its national interest includes Israel's security, has refused to shut down the bank, which is one of Iran's last links to the European banking system. Now, it has been disclosed that in February, the bank cleared some 9 billion euros in Iranian oil transactions via EIH and Germany's central bank.
According to a front-page story in the main German business daily The Handelsblatt, “although President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s country is subject to strict economic sanctions by the EU and USA, Germany helps in circumventing them.”
Handelsblatt wrote that the Foreign Ministry – run by the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) – “rubber stamped” massive Iran oil transactions. The FDP is the party of German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.
India’s central bank informed Germany in February that it intends to conduct Iranian oil financial transaction worth 9 billion euros via the Bundesbank.
India has been transferring the funds in connection with its purchase of Iranian crude oil for several weeks to the Bundesbank, which serves as the international conduit for the EIH in Germany.
“Israel’s position remains: The EIH should be shut down,” Yinam Cohen, a spokesman for Israel’s Embassy in Berlin, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
According to the US Treasury department, the EIH, is “one of Iran’s few remaining access points to the European financial system. EIH has facilitated a tremendous volume of transactions for Iranian banks previously [blacklisted] for proliferation.”
In addition to financing Iran’s nuclear program, the Treasury Department asserts the EIH is also involved in Iran’s missile program.
When asked whether the Bundesbank is financing Iran’s nuclear program, Magnus Mäkelä, a spokesman for the Bundesbank, wrote the Post by e-mail on Thursday, “If an account holder asks the German Central Bank to make a payment that is permissible under these European Union regulations, the German Central Bank is required to carry out the transaction.”
Mäkelä declined to immediately answer Post’s questions via telephone and email regarding whether the Federal Bank has a responsibility toward the security of Israel and the international community. He said the Central Bank’s board of directors is reviewing the Post’s questions about the Bank’s Iran business and the deals endangering the security of Israel – as well as the Bank’s ostensible refusal to honor the German government’s security pledge toward the Jewish state because of the Holocaust.
Read the whole thing. These sanctions are a farce. Iran continues to push for nuclear weapons and the world pretends that shutting down everyone else's trade with Iran (except for 'ours') is going to solve the problem all but itself.
Ahava forced to move out of swanky London neighborhood
Pro-'Palestinian' thugs have forced the Ahava cosmetics store to move out of London's swanky Covent Garden neighborhood.
The owner of the shop, currently in Monmouth Street, Covent Garden, is looking for other sites after owners of neighbouring stores complained to the landlord following protests.
Supporters claim it has been "chased out" of its location by regular "noisy and intimidating" demonstrations.
A spokeswoman for Shaftesbury PLC, which owns the property as well as several others in the Seven Dials area, said: "When Ahava's lease expires in September, we will not offer them a new one."
Pro-Palestinian protesters have been demonstrating fortnightly outside the shop, which opened in April 2007, for more than two years. A counter group of pro-Israeli supporters also demonstrate outside.
Police were drafted in to control the protests and set up a meeting last October between the protesters and other shop managers.
Last week, four demonstrators stood trial for aggravated trespass after they chained themselves to a concrete block inside the store last year.
Colin George, manager of clothes shop The Loft, next door to Ahava, said: "I'm pleased Ahava is leaving. It's brought the street down. I've complained to the landlords, as has everyone here. Everyone would like them to leave. I wish they had left two years ago.
"Protesters are just going to follow them around, wherever they go. Maybe they should be an online business instead."
Richard Millett, who attends the counter-demonstrations, said: "Maybe the neighbours could have had a more positive role and spoken to the protesters, rather than take it out on Ahava.
"It's sad that this country will allow a lawfully trading shop to be chased out because of the politics of people who disagree with Israel's basic existence."
Isn't it great how commerce is free in Britain? What could go wrong?
Passover is coming up in a few weeks, and the 'Palestinians' are trying in their own unique way to get into the Holiday spirit: They are honoring the family of the imprisoned terrorist who planned the Seder night massacre nine years ago.
The photo in the PA daily shows the PA minister handing the family an honorary plaque from the PA. Terrorist Al-Sayid's name and the PA logo are visible on the plaque. (In the photo the rest of the print is too small to read.)
"Minister of Prisoners' Affairs, Issa Karake, and a delegation from the Ministry of Prisoners' Affairs visited the home of [the family of] prisoner Abbas Al-Sayid in Tulkarem. Al-Sayid has maintained an unlimited hunger strike for the past 21 days, and has been transferred from solitary confinement at the Ramon prison to solitary confinement at the Israeli hospital in Ramle. Karake warned of the severity of prisoner Al-Sayid's condition, following a deterioration of his health in the wake of the strike. He placed the responsibility for [Sayid's] life and health upon the Israeli government and the prison administration, and called for a response to the demands for an end to his solitary confinement, which has continued for over six months, in difficult conditions." [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 29, 2011]
Thirty Israelis were murdered in the Seder night massacre. You can read Naomi Regan's chilling account of it (she was there) starting here.
The IHH - the Turkish terror group that tried to run Israel's legal blockade of Gaza last May - has taken a group of Gazan children to Turkey, where one of the highlights of their trip was a chance to board the Mavi Marmara terror ship.
The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), the extremist Islamic group which organized the Turkish flotilla to Gaza in 2010, hosted a group of Palestinian children over the weekend.
During the visit, the children from Gaza were given a tour of the "Mavi Marmara", the ship that was raided by Israeli commandoes on May 31....
Nine-year-old Nur Sa'ad said while touring the vessel that "the Turkish nation supports the Palestinians financially, and Turks sacrificed their lives on the 'Marmara'."
Bisan Saga, also nine, thanked IHH and the entire Turkish nation for the chance to leave Gaza and see the world. "We left a cage. Inshallah (god willing), all of Gaza's children will leave the cage one day," he said.
His friend Bilal said, "The day will come when all ships will be able to reach Gaza freely."
What a great education those kids are getting. What could go wrong?
Disgusting: Turkey's 'photo of the year' a bleeding IDF soldier
What a despicable excuse for a country.
This photo (which is shown uncensored on Turkish web sites) of a beaten and bloodied IDF soldier aboard the Mavi Marmara won the 'photo of the year' in the news category in Turkey (Hat Tip: Joshua I).
Photojournalism award, Turkish-style: The picture of a bleeding IDF soldier aboard the Marmara won Turkey's 2010 Photo of the Year Award in the News category; the contest was held by the Turkish photojournalism association.
The photograph shows a beaten up IDF soldier with his face and head bloodied while three Marmara passengers grab him and twisting his arm. The picture was shot by a Turkish photographer who hid copies in a hidden pocket and managed to smuggle them out of Israel.
Turkish media outlets did not blur the blood stains or the Israeli soldier's face.
The winning pictures were chosen out of 1,632 photos in six different categories. Prizes were handed out in the beginning of the month with Turkey's parliament speaker, deputy prime minister and various parliamentarians among those in attendance.
What despicable excuses for human beings....
UPDATE 7:28 PM
The original picture (with the IDF soldier's face showing) is here.
More so than the conflicts in Tunisia, Libya, and Bahrain, and perhaps even more than the fall of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, the recent violence in Syria has posed a challenge to the Obama administration's strategy in the Middle East. The conflicting impulses within the administration can be seen in recent statements made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; days ago, she described Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as a "reformer"; in London on March 29, she issued a "strong condemnation of the Syrian government's brutal repression of demonstrators." Which view of Assad prevails, and how the United States responds to events in Syria, will go a long way toward determining how deeply US.. policy in the Middle East is altered by the recent turmoil there.
One of the key departures President Obama made from his predecessor's policy in the Middle East was in his approach toward Syria. Rather than continuing to heap pressure on the Syrian regime, the Obama Administration returned to the policy of engaging Syria practiced by past administrations. The reasons behind this shift were manifold: the pressure policy was perceived as not working and engagement with hostile regimes broadly was seen as holding diplomatic promise.
Perhaps most importantly, however, Syria was seen as key to making progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace. Damascus not only hosted the headquarters of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and therefore in theory held leverage over these groups, but its own negotiations with Israel were essential to achieving the "comprehensive peace" that the administration sought.
After two years, this approach to Syria has borne no fruit. Syria has not increased its compliance with the IAEA investigation into its clandestine nuclear activities, decreased its cooperation with Iran and Hizballah, or reduced its interference in Lebanon or increased its cooperation with the Hariri Tribunal. On the domestic front, far from being a reformer, Assad oversees a regime rated worse for political rights than was Hosni Mubarak's Egypt. And there has been no progress on the Syrian-Israeli track, nor has Syria played a role in the frozen Israeli-Palestinian talks (though granted, those talks have faltered for reasons quite independent of Syrian policies).
In Egypt, the division among the administration was reflected in conflicting statements issued by the White House (which couldn't make up its mind what it wanted) and the State Department (which wanted to try to save Mubarak's regime). In Syria, Singh shows that the State Department itself is bothered by the fact that Assad is a repressive thug, but not bothered enough to actually do something about him.
There is no conflict about Assad. For now, at least, the Obama administration is content to give him a free pass. One has to wonder what he did to deserve it.
I would not have gotten involved in Libya in the first place, but I think Alana Goodman is right on this.
As Qaddafi’s options grows bleaker by the day, and Americans become more anxious for President Obama to outline an exit strategy for the war in Libya, allowing him an escape hatch might begin to look increasingly attractive. But this isn’t an alternative we can afford right now. There are other dictators like Qaddafi currently struggling to suppress similar uprisings – and they are keeping a close eye on his fate. If Qaddafi is able to massacre thousands of his people, drive his country into civil war, force the U.S. and its allies to intervene militarily, and then slip out of the country with no repercussions, then others will believe they can do the same.
Yeah, that's you Bashar. If Obama ever gets up the you-know-what's to come and get you.
While President Obama has insisted that no American ground troops join in the Libyan campaign, small groups of C.I.A. operatives have been working in Libya for several weeks and are part of a shadow force of Westerners that the Obama administration hopes can help set back Colonel Qaddafi’s military, the officials said.
This is coming from US officials. Why? Why now?
There is a war over the war-we’re-not-calling-a-war within the administration.
And I’d be willing to bet that these CIA operatives aren’t the only American bootspennyloafersgators shoes of indeterminate structure on the ground in Libya.
Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri returned to Iran in July 2010 after defecting to the United States. In January, I reported that he had been tortured. Now comes word that he has been imprisoned and charged with treason and could face the death penalty.
Shahram Amiri, who returned to Iran in July after apparently defecting to the US, is under investigation for divulging secrets about Iran's clandestine uranium-enrichment program, The Times has learnt.
Sources inside Iran have confirmed Mr Amiri's arrest. If convicted of treason, he will almost certainly be executed.
The physicist vanished during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in June 2009. He had worked at Tehran's Malek Ashtar University, closely connected with the Revolutionary Guard and a centre for nuclear research.
US media reported he had defected in a long-planned CIA operation. Tehran accused Saudi intelligence of kidnapping Mr Amiri and handing him to the Americans. The CIA declined to comment. The operation blundered when US intelligence failed to extract Mr Amiri's wife and son to join him.
I was among the group of journalists gathered outside the Iranian interests section on Washington's Wisconsin Avenue last July as Amiri was inside preparing the paperwork he needed to return to Iran. Inside the mini embassy, Amiri also gave telephone interviews to Iranian state television insisting he had been kidnapped and taken to the United States against his will. Amiri, who was reported to have been relocated to Tucson, Arizona after his 2009 defection, had however conducted another interview with a station connected to Iran's Press TV the day before at a U.S. safe house in Virginia, and apparently been dropped off at the Iran interests section at his request by U.S. officials.
"Amiri made his own decisions," a U.S. official told me last July on condition of anonymity. "He chose of his own accord to come to the United States and to leave the United States."
"He provided useful information on the Iranian nuclear program," the official continued. "Now Iran has to manage him. You be the judge as to who got the better end of the deal."
Sorry but if the reason his wife and child didn't join him in the US (one of the big mysteries in this case) was that the CIA messed up the operation (as the first link implies), I don't think any "U.S. official" has any place saying "he made his choices."
OMG: Charles Johnson now claims Rather didn't know Bush memos were false
One of the events that put the blogosphere on the map seven years ago was the takedown of CBS News anchor Dan Rather for using falsified memos regarding George W. Bush's National Guard service during the Vietnam era. The blogger who led that charge was Little Green Footballs' Charles Johnson.
Now Tim Blair reports that someone is claiming that CBS News wasn't pushing something they knew to be false. That someone is none other than a reformed Charles Johnson.
That someone is reborn leftoid Charles Johnson, whose involvement in the case helped bring down Rather. He seems to regret it. As Daedalus reports:
Charles is now distancing himself … he is disavowing his role …
Charles Johnson, you are the new Dan Rather.
As long as Charles insists on riding the Way Back Machine, here's hoping he goes all the way back to being a Jazz musician who occasionally blogs about computer issues. Watching him do politics has become too painful to bear.
Sammy Levine really knows how to get under the skin of Leftist Jews: Remind them that Israel's strongest supporters are Christian Conservatives.
You see, to so many Christians on the right, support for Israel is a religious imperative, a command from God. This is why their support is so rock solid and unwavering. Jews should be able to relate to this as Judaism abounds with commandments of our own. Although many Jews are not religious, they still give generously to charities because it is a commandment from God—a moral and religious imperative. This is why support for Israel (and charity contributions) is greater on the right, as conservatives tend to be more religious than liberals. In a debate with Alan Dershowitz, Dennis Prager brilliantly explains how the left’s support of Israel is more fickle than the right’s.
For those on the left who do support Israel, hate of the right supersedes love of the tiny Jewish country. Dennis Prager wrote a very instructive column on this sad fact a couple years ago with regard to the dissolution of an anti-nuclear Iran rally because of Hillary Clinton’s hatred of Sarah Palin:
“What was alarming was the realization that for much of the Jewish left — not leftists who happen to be Jews and for whom the welfare of the Jewish people is not particularly significant, but left-wing Jews who claim to care deeply about Jewish survival — fighting Palin is of greater importance than fighting Ahmadinejad.”
Despite these facts, the left mocks and belittles the Christian right’s love of Israel. A couple weeks ago Chris Matthews mocked the Religious Right’s support of Israel:
“This coalition between the right and Israel…is not founded on personal friendships or anything like that, or even values. Its founded on some sort of right-wing thing, where you just high-five each other over there at the Western Wall.”
The third nation on the Moon is going to be... Israel?
If all goes well, sometime in December 2012, three young Israelis will land a tiny spacecraft on the moon, which will explore the lunar surface, and transmitted live video back to earth, thereby scooping up a $20 million prize (the Google Lunar X Prize). And they're doing it in their spare time at a cost of less than $10 million.
The three engineers – Yariv Bash (electronics and computers), Kfir Damari (communication systems), and Yonatan Winetraub (satellite systems) all have high-level day jobs in the Israeli science and technology world, and also both teach and study. They all had heard of the Google Lunar X Prize independently, before being introduced by mutual friends who, as Yonatan puts it “thought we were all crazy enough to do it, so we should meet each other.”
By the end of November 2010 they had sketched together a novel plan to win the prize and submitted it to organizers. Only on December 21 (10 days before the December 31 deadline) did they set about raising the $50,000 entry fee. “Like good Israelis we left it to the last minute,” Yonatan laughs.
Since then they’ve recruited around 50 volunteers from across the Israeli science and technology community and have gained support from academic institutions, including the prestigious Weizmann Institute of Science (founded in 1933 by Chaim Weizmann, himself a successful chemist who went on to become Israel’s first president). They’re operating as a non-profit (“we’re looking for stakeholders,” says Project Coordinator Ronna Rubinstein), and any winnings will be invested in promoting science among Israeli youth.
The X Prize’s organizers say their competition is intended to attract “mavericks” who “take new approaches and think creatively about difficult problems, resulting in truly innovative breakthroughs.” They see the moon as a largely untapped resource, and believe that “inexpensive, regular access to the Moon is a critical stepping stone for further exploration.”
Maverick and creative thinkers the Israeli trio appear to be: According to the X Prize organizers, the 29 competing teams will spend between $15 million and $100 million on the project, with the earliest launch not scheduled until 2013. The Israelis aim to spend less than that (around $10 million) and to launch before 2013.
“One of reasons that we’re able to do this,” Kfir (who started programming aged six and wrote his first computer virus aged 11) explains, “is because of our different perspective. Most space missions aim to last many years and so have to be built in a certain way. Ours doesn’t have to last as long. This saves cost.”
Oy vey: University of California at Irvine introduces its students to Hamas under Jewish Federation sponsorship
The Olive Tree Initiative aims to promote dialogue about the Middle East by introducing students to neutral Israeli and Arab speakers. Its slogan is 'grassroots dialogue about the Arab-Israeli conflict' and its slick web page features a huge picture of students meeting with someone who looks like a senior IDF officer (although the web site describes him as a soldier). OTI has three chapters - the Universities of California at Irvine, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is already the subject of a federal anti-Semitism complaint, and you all recall what happened when Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Michael Oren tried to speak at Irvine.
Perhaps in an effort to be thought of as “fair” or “good,” the organizers of this endeavor made alliances with groups that can only be described as totalitarian.
One of those is the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) — an organization whose name and behavior reeks of the communist fronts of the 1930s. This was the group that — in the name of peace and justice — encouraged Rachel Corrie, Tom Hurndall and Tristan Anderson to go to Gaza to be killed or injured in violent demonstrations. An Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs report implicates ISM in the Mike’s Place terror attack of 2003. More recently they were spokespeople in the “Free Gaza Flotilla” of May 2010. (Lee Kaplan explains their etiology here.)
Not surprisingly then, many of the supposedly neutral speakers brought to address the students on their overseas trips turned out to be not so neutral after all. One of them was Aziz Duwaik of Hamas, who met with the students in secret inside the West Bank, far from the supposedly-impartial forum of the college campus where such meetings might be deemed appropriate. [Duwaik is the speaker of the 'Palestinian parliament,' which has not met since Hamas took over Gaza in 2007. CiJ]
And here the story turns back to UCI and the education of our children at one of our country’s most esteemed public universities.
From a October 2009 letter — just released via a FOIA – from Jewish Federation of Orange County leaders to UCI Chancellor Michael V. Drake, M. D.
We were further distressed to learn that, ostensibly, the students were asked to keep this meeting a secret. We have been informed, by OTI student participants, that they were instructed by [name redacted] ‘not to tell anyone about’ the meeting with Duwaik. According to the information we received, the students were given two reasons to keep the meeting under wraps: (1) to avoid being detained upon reentering Israel from the West Bank or being held at the airport before leaving the country: (2) to avoid confrontation with anyone who would have disagreed with this meeting had they known about it advance – namely, Orange County Jewish community and leadership, and UCI administration. Yet we know the decision to meet with Duwaik was not made in a vacuum. One UCI faculty member and two UCI doctoral candidates were in charge of arrangements on the ground. [Name redacted] was well aware of Jewish Federation’s ‘red lines’ – what could and could not be done on an OTI trip. Taking UCI to meet a Hamas leader crossed those red lines, and the University and Jewish Federation in a precarious situation. We are deply troubled that this incident could, potentially, derail the substantial progress we have made together in building multicultural bridges at UCI.
No kidding… And no surprise it took a FOIA to get this letter released to the public. (There’s plenty more at the link — including reference to a MSA fundraiser for George Galloway on the campus in May 2009 — and I encourage you to read it.)
But the question arises what was the Jewish Federation and its Rose Project doing writing the chancellor of UCI about this? Well, sad to say. the Jewish Federation of Orange County was one of the sponsors of these trips. Hillel of OC was also involved. TheHa’Emet (“The Truth”) website has plenty more about this, as well as a petition you might want to sign.
And I'm sure you'll all be shocked - just shocked - to hear that OTI is trying to silence its critics.
Look, the Olive Tree Initiative was set up as a front organization for the Muslim Students Association. The MSA in turn is a U.S. branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the original ideological and Islamist foundation for Hamas. But everything's so politically correct that it takes Freedom of Information Requests to get the truth out there. Shame on UCI! Faculty and graduate students are organizing student organizing junkets for Palestinian terrorism! Jeez, something's the matter with that, you think? But no, backers of the Olive Tree Initiative are working feverishly to silence critics of the group --- as recently as last week, it turns out. See the Jewish Journal, "Groups clash over public discussion of Olive Tree Initiative."
I am so happy that I don't live in the US and don't have to send my kids to college there....
Some of you may have been surprised by this post, which puts Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg in cahoots with Samantha Power in attempting to undermine Israel's existence. After all, if, like me, you grew up in America in the '60's and '70's, you undoubtedly lapped up the notion that Democrats were pro-Israel with your mother's milk. Until Jimmy Carter at least.
But in fact, Caroline's anti-Israel activities just prove the old salt that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree (Hat Tip: NY Nana). After all, it's no secret that Caroline's grandfather, Joseph Kennedy, was one of the biggest anti-Semites ever to grace the US diplomatic corps. It turns out that her 'pro-Israel' father did just what he needed to do to get elected.
Fortunately for Kennedy, the Middle East at the time was going through a rare period of calm; even the Israeli front was quiet as Egypt and Syria were distracted by internal matters and inter-Arab politics. Unaffected by the placid state of affairs, however, was the American fascination with Gamal Abdel Nasser: Like their predecessors in the Eisenhower administration, Kennedy's chief foreign policy aides were obsessed with befriending the Egyptian president.
Where Kennedy differed from Eisenhower in courting Nasser was in the assumption that Arab nationalism, far from being a breeding ground for Soviet influence and infiltration, might actually constitute a bulwark against Russian advances in the region.
"Only a few years ago," said Undersecretary of State Chester Bowles in 1961, "all thoughtful observers were clearly concerned about Soviet penetration into the Middle East. Many thought that Egypt...was on the road to Soviet control. Yet today Nasser's nationalism fiercely combats internal Communism and his relations with the U.S.S.R. grow increasingly cool."
As part of his all-out effort to win Nasser's affection, Kennedy pushed hard for large increases in aid to Egypt, and in early 1962, following an Israeli retaliatory strike in Syria, instructed his UN ambassador to vote to condemn Israel in the Security Council.
Nasser rewarded Kennedy a few months later by publicizing the contents of an extraordinarily craven letter he had received from the American president. The letter's disclosure was a humiliation for Kennedy, not only for its tone of abject supplication, but also for its suggestion that Kennedy supported the tough measures Eisenhower had employed against Israel during the Suez crisis six years earlier.
"I am...proud of the real encouragement which my government and the American people have in the past given to your aspirations and those of your countrymen, especially in the critical days of 1956," Kennedy wrote Nasser, directly contradicting his previous public statements on the matter, particularly those made during his campaign for the White House.
Fortunately for Israel, one of the things Kennedy needed to do to get elected was to choose Lyndon Johnson as his running mate.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gave a defiant speech in Damascus on Wednesday that should make clear to everyone that he has no intention of stepping down - peacefully or otherwise.
The reference to sects is perhaps evidence of Assad’s sense of irony, since his own regime rests on the support of the minority Alawi sect, who comprise 12% of the population.
The protesters, meanwhile, hail overwhelmingly from Syria’s 75% Sunni Muslim majority.
But Assad’s irony is no laughing matter. This reference, and the remark about an attempt to “divide” Syria, signal that the regime is accusing the protesters of two of the cardinal sins in the professed Arab nationalist viewpoint of the Baathist regime in Syria.
It matters little whether Assad himself takes seriously his own rhetoric. The point is that this type of terminology has the sound of a regime preparing for a long and ruthless fight against an internal enemy which it is seeking to characterize in the most negative terms at its disposal.
The reference to 2005 is instructive in another way. In that year, the Syrian regime was on the ropes, with some commentators predicting its imminent demise. By citing it, Assad is also reminding his listeners and the world of his staying power. By its favored methods of clandestine violence and intimidation, the Assad family dictatorship bounced back hard from the doldrums in the subsequent years. Bashar believes it can do so again.
Hence the tone of defiance that summed up the speech.
Here the dictator’s feline sense of humor was on display again. “We don’t seek battles,” said Bashar (an assertion which would come as news to the peoples of Israel, Lebanon and Iraq, frequent targets of the myriad proxy military groups maintained by the Syrian regime).
“But if a battle is imposed on us today – ahlan wasahlan – welcome.” Syria would fight the “domino project,” and make it fall.
So there it all was. Israeli plots, domino projects for fragmentation and division.
Armed gangs, chaos, and a welcoming of the battle by the Syrian dictator, casting himself in the nationalist-tragic mode which is the style of stifling rhetoric that he and other regional leaders of his stripe prefer. All by way of a not-soveiled threat.
This time against his own people.
This was the authentic voice of the Arab old order – or at least the military dictatorial part of it. Intoning its old certainties.
No mention of reform or change. “Stability” said Assad, was the number one interest.
And Hillary Clinton continues to fool herself that Assad is a 'reformer' and claims that the Congress agrees with her. If I were a Republican in Congress, I'd be all over that.
Michael Totten (pictured) finds someone he trusts on the ground in Benghazi and asks about the Libyan rebels.
Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof is on the ground in Benghazi, Libya, working with the Shabakat Group which she says “has an extensive network in country amongst the transitional government, tribal chiefs, rebel forces, former Qaddafi officials, and the civilian populace.”
I don’t know her personally, but we have many friends and colleagues in common, people I trust more than anyone else in this business. So when I found out she was over there and had embedded, so to speak, with the anti-Qaddafi rebels, I had to ask her some questions that hardly anyone seems to have an answer to yet.
MJT: Who, exactly, are these rebels you’ve met? Are they democrats? Tribal leaders? Islamists? All of the above? What?
Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof: The rebels I’ve met so far are mainly young, educated, middle class, urban people with a powerful wish for democracy.
If you look at the demographics in Libya, 82.6 percent of the people are literate, an estimated 88 percent live in cities—mostly in Benghazi and Tripoli—and about half the population is under the age of 15. So the young urban rebels in Benghazi may be fairly representative.
The tribes exist here, but they’re more of a cultural phenomenon than a political one. I don’t think anyone here imagines, or wants, the tribes stepping up to power, though this may differ somewhat between regions.
About the Islamists—there are radical elements amongst the rebels, to be sure, but they are a minority, and they’re all grateful to the West at the moment. You would be amazed to see the number of people around here waving Western flags and thanking the West, especially France.
In Benghazi, every person I’ve met so far has insisted on showing me the bridge in town where the Qaddafi troops arrived and started firing—and that bridge is actually inside Benghazi—saying he would cleanse the city “street by street, and house by house.” They all say, “Allah saved us, he sent us French and British and American planes like angels, Alhamdulillah.”
Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa has defected to the United Kingdom.
The UK Foreign Office statement on Musa Kusa is as follows:
“We can confirm that Musa Kusa arrived at Farnborough Airport on 30 March from Tunisia. He travelled here under his own free will. He has told us that he is resigning his post. We are discussing this with him and we will release further detail in due course.
“Musa Kusa is one of the most senior figures in Qadhafi’s government and his role was to represent the regime internationally – something that he is no longer willing to do.
“We encourage those around Qadhafi to abandon him and embrace a better future for Libya that allows political transition and real reform that meets the aspirations of the Libyan people.”
Elliott Abrams adds:
I wonder how the British will now treat the man probably responsible for the Lockerbie bombing, the act of terrorism that brought down Pan Am 103 in 1988. Libya has long claimed that Iran was responsible for this act of terror, and if Kusa can prove that he’ll be worth listening to.
His defection is a serious blow to Gaddafi. This is the first loss of such a close comrade, and Kusa may well have a great deal of useful information about other potential defectors. In fact his ability to defect, to secure a plane and fly off to England under Gaddafi’s nose, suggests that the regime is falling apart despite its battlefield victories in the last two days.
For those who can, defecting from Libya is about the smartest thing that can be done today. Unfortunately, most cannot defect.
Iran on Wednesday received well a recent proposal by Egypt's newly appointed Foreign Minister Nabil al-Arabi for the promotion of the bilateral ties between the two sides, and said it is ready to resume relations with Cairo.
"There have been many ups and downs in the two countries' relations and we hope that under the new conditions we will witness further expansion of relations between the two great nations," Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said.
He also underlined that there is no doubt that good ties between the two countries would help restore stability, security and development to the entire region.
Salehi said that the Egyptian people strived to materialize their justice seeking moves which was regarded as a new chapter in the country's history.
"We would like to once again congratulate them on the occasion," he concluded.
Al-Arabi in his first press conference on Tuesday announced Cairo's preparedness to open "a new page with Iran".
Hey Barack, how's that change working out? Aren't you glad you got rid of Mubarak?
Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and Samantha Power invite you to "The Delegitimiztion of Israel: An Ongoing Project of Carr Center and Harvard University
The MARO Project and the National Security and Human Rights Program will host Clifford H. Bernath, Senior Advisor for Rule of Law and International Humanitarian Policy for the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (OUSD-Policy) at the Pentagon. Thursday, March 31, 2011, 3:00 pm, Carr Center Conference Room.
Meeting 5 of the Human Rights and Transitional Justice Study Group. Topics: Tribunals & Criminal Prosecutions, Reparations. Wednesday, April 6, 2011, 4:00 pm, HKS Library, G-21A.
President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing covert U.S. government support for rebel forces seeking to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, government officials told Reuters on Wednesday.
Obama signed the order, known as a presidential "finding", within the last two or three weeks, according to government sources familiar with the matter.
Such findings are a principal form of presidential directive used to authorize secret operations by the Central Intelligence Agency. This is a necessary legal step before such action can take place but does not mean that it will.
As is common practice for this and all administrations, I am not going to comment on intelligence matters," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement. "I will reiterate what the president said yesterday -- no decision has been made about providing arms to the opposition or to any group in Libya."
The CIA declined comment.
People familiar with U.S. intelligence procedures said that Presidential covert action "findings" are normally crafted to provide broad authorization for a range of potential U.S. government actions to support a particular covert objective.
In order for specific operations to be carried out under the provisions of such a broad authorization -- for example the delivery of cash or weapons to anti-Gaddafi forces -- the White House also would have to give additional "permission" allowing such activities to proceed.
Former officials say these follow-up authorizations are known in the intelligence world as "'Mother may I' findings."
In 2009 Obama gave a similar authorization for the expansion of covert U.S. counter-terrorism actions by the CIA in Yemen. The White House does not normally confirm such orders have been issued.
Sending in weapons would arguably violate an arms embargo on Libya by the U.N. Security Council imposed on February 26, although British, U.S. and French officials have suggested there may be a loophole.
Getting a waiver would require the agreement of all 15 council members, which is unlikely at this stage. Diplomats say any countries that decided to arm the rebels would be unlikely to seek formal council approval.
U.S. officials also have said that Saudi Arabia and Qatar, whose leaders despise Gaddafi, have indicated a willingness to supply Libyan rebels with weapons.
Members of Congress have expressed anxiety about U.S. government activities in Libya. Some have recalled that weapons provided by the U.S. and Saudis to mujahedeen fighting Soviet occupation forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s later ended up in the hands of anti-American militants.
There are fears that the same thing could happen in Libya unless the U.S. is sure who it is dealing with. The chairman of the House intelligence committee, Rep. Mike Rogers, said on Wednesday he opposed supplying arms to the Libyan rebels fighting Gaddafi "at this time."
"We need to understand more about the opposition before I would support passing out guns and advanced weapons to them," Rogers said in a statement.
But who says Rogers and his committee will be asked? Obama didn't ask Congress' permission before starting to enforce the no-fly zone. What could go wrong?
WaPo publishes map of Hezbullah bunkers in Lebanon
Israeli intelligence has quietly mapped out what military officials describe as roughly 1,000 underground bunkers and hidden weapons storage facilities and monitoring sites built by Hezbollah in south Lebanon. The Washington Post publishes the maps.
There were two maps published by the Post, which I assume got them directly from Israeli intelligence. Israel wanted these maps published. The one above is a message to Hezbullah. We know where you are. We know exactly what to hit and how hard we need to hit it. If you start with us, we have enough targets prepared that we will wipe you out and destroy your country. No one here will apologize for destroying Lebanese infrastructure that's been taken over by Hezbullah. No one.
And that brings us to the second map, a map of the village of el-Khiam. Does the name ring a bell? Itshould.
The key here is the legend at bottom right and if you can't see it clearly, by all means click through and look at the map on the Post's site. This map is directed at the West and what it shows is how Hezbullah has woven its bunkers in among hospitals, schools and mosques in the hope of encouraging civilian casualties. Israel is showing the world that when Hezbullah makes war against us - God forbid - there will be civilian casualties because Hezbullah is going out of its way to create them. Will it make a difference that Israel is warning the world in advance? I doubt it. But if I were living in Lebanon and saw this map, I would try to move elsewhere as soon as possible. Of course, that may not be possible. It's no secret that Hezbullah prevents civilians from leaving southern Lebanon to move elsewhere precisely so that they will remain human shields.
Lee Smith ties it all together for you: The dispute between Israel and the 'Palestinians,' the recent terror attacks in Israel, and the 'Arab spring' going on in countries all around the region.
Now the notion that the genie of revolution in the Arab world can be put back in the bottle by blaming Israel is laughable. Even Arab populations with no special love for the Jewish state know that the regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and now Syria were not loved or hated by their people because of their adherence or opposition to the Palestinian cause. In fact, one of the most baffling things about the current wave of Arab revolutions to professional Middle East watchers must be the complete absence of any mention of the Palestinians in popular demonstrations and regime counter-propaganda alike.
However there is a clear connection between the Palestinian cause and the wave of popular discontent that has upended the foundations of Arab politics. By pushing the centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the past four decades, the West has helped to underwrite Arab repression at home. The rationale behind the emergency laws in places like Syria and Egypt (even now after Cairo’s “revolution”) is that because of the war with Israel, the Arab security states must be ever-vigilant and therefore forbid their people from exercising basic rights like freedom of speech—or, in the words of Gamal Abdel Nasser, “no voice louder than the cry of battle”—diktats that they enforce through torture and murder.
If the recent wave of revolutions in Arab countries has proven anything it is that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process isn’t even a convenient fiction by which Washington can make nice to the Arabs. Rather, it has been a recipe for failure on a grand scale—social, political, and economic—that has now been laid bare. While the Arab regimes are being held responsible for their failures by their fed-up populations, Washington seems to feel no need to hold itself accountable for the collapse of a set of enabling fictions that has greatly diminished our position in a region that is of crucial strategic importance for the United States both militarily and economically.
The real question here is given the analysis above (which I believe is indisputable), why is the Obama administration continuing to push the narrative that the 'peace process' is central to resolving all of the Middle East's issues. I believe that there are two ways to explain it. One is the soft racism of lower expectations - Obama and the policymakers in Washington don't believe Arabs are capable or deserving of anything better than being cannon fodder in a holy war against the Jews. The other way to explain this administration's continued obsession (see the previous link) with the 'peace process' is good old fashioned anti-Semitism, and yes, I believe that Obama and Co. have plenty of that.
Of course, it could also be a combination of the two.
At a moment like this, the Obama administration should be taking every reasonable step to encourage the Syrian uprising and undermine the regime. In his remarks on Libya the other night, the president cheered "the fact that history is on the move in the Middle East and North Africa," and promised (in words reminiscent of his predecessor) that "wherever people long to be free, they will find a friend in the United States."
If Obama is serious, why has there been no White House denunciation of the murder of protesters by Syrian security forces? Why haven't US officials publicly exhorted the Security Council and the Arab League to take as strong a stand against Assad as they did against Qaddafi? Why hasn't the president ordered Ambassador Robert Ford, the new US envoy to Syria, to demonstrate American solidarity with the demonstrators by traveling to Daraa, where dozens of them have been killed, and demanding an international investigation?
Rather than intensify the pressure on a regime that is every bit as odious as Qaddafi's, and that arguably has more American blood on its hands that any other government in the Arab world, the Obama administration is bending over backward to reassure Assad. On the Sunday talk shows, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton actually gave Assad her seal of approval. "Members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he's a reformer," she said. Reformer! Her characterization would be hilarious if it weren't so sickeningly perverse.
Assad is no reformer. He is a totalitarian criminal and an enemy of the United States, and his downfall should be an explicit American aim. Surely we owe the tens of thousands of Syrians bravely confronting their vicious government at least the same encouragement we gave Mubarak's opponents in Egypt. All Americans, from the White House down, should be cheering as Syria's people shake the House That Assad Built. Nothing could be more salutary than to see that awful, bloodstained dungeon come tumbling down at last.
Obviously, the whole point of sending Robert Ford to Syria was so that Obama could suck up to another Muslim regime.
If Obama supports war in Libya, why did he oppose it in Iraq?
In an address to the (American) nation the other night, President Obama laid out his rationale for going to war in Libya.
After denouncing the Iraq war "bluntly," as he said, President Obama hailed the "core principles that have guided us through many storms: our opposition to violence directed against one's own citizens; our support for a set of universal rights, including the freedom for people to express themselves and choose their leaders; our support for governments that are ultimately responsive to the aspirations of the people."
But every one of those criteria was met in Iraq.
For him the problem is that the U.S. decision to remove Saddam Hussein met all of President Obama's conditions: Saddam killed more than 400,000 of his own citizens - a figure Gaddafi will have to work long and hard to match - including poison gas attacks on the Kurds of the north and the Shiite Marsh Arabs, and damming the rivers to dry up the southern marshes, decimating the population and turning tens of thousands of people into refugees. Iraq now has a government that, while not perfect, does permit people to express themselves and choose their leaders; it is perhaps the freest government in the Arab Middle East.
No, the real reason Barack Obama opposed the war in Iraq is that it was started by George W. Bush. And that, in fact, is the problem with the Obama administration. More than two years after taking office, he still has no foreign policy except to do the opposite of what George W. Bush did.
Hezbollah is a political party with a militia. That’s a big problem. Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Shas party has an outsized influence over Israel because of coalition politics. That’s a problem. The Muslim Brotherhood will loom large in a free Egypt because it has an organizational head start. That may be a problem. Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party is a brilliant political machine with a ruthless bent. That’s a problem, too.
Funny. I don't think Shas even has a 'military wing.'
You just knew that these two clowns would stick together (Hat Tip: Joshua I).
Turkey is ramping up communications with Syria amid the ongoing unrest there, with its intelligence chief visiting the neighboring country Sunday and its prime minister urging the Syrian leader to move toward reforms.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Monday that he had talked to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad twice in the last three days and conveyed Turkey’s “sensitivity” on recent events in Syria.
“We advised Mr. Assad that responding to the people’s years-old demands positively, with a reformist approach, would help Syria overcome the problems more easily,” Erdoğan told reporters in a press conference before embarking on a visit to Iraq.
He added that the head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization, or MİT, Hakan Fidan, had visited Syria on Sunday.
Erdoğan said he advised al-Assad to “answer the people’s calls with a reformist, positive approach.”
“I did not get a ‘no’ answer,” he said. “We have a border of 800 kilometers [with Syria] and we have family relations. We cannot remain silent.”
So is Erdogan afraid that the Arab spring will come to Islamist Turkey? Hmmm.
Fighting a war with one hand tied behind your back
The US war plan in Libya sounds like a disaster in the making. But given that the Turks have killed more people in Kurdistan than Gadhafi has killed in Libya anyway (yes, really) is it a war the US ought to be fighting?
The officers' biggest fear is of an overly loose, open-ended definition of the mission. For that reason it was decided at the outset that the command, and the headaches, would be handed off to someone else - presumably NATO, though that wasn't clear - within "days, not weeks."
NATO has no armed forces of its own. It has command headquarters that control the forces of member states. The commander of Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn, U.S. Navy Adm. Sam Locklear, is hosting on the command ship, the USS Mount Whitney, senior naval officers from participating countries.
Locklear is commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and Allied Joint Force Command, Naples. He is subordinate to Adm. James Stavridis, who is both Supreme Allied Commander Europe and commander of the U.S. European Command, and Gen. Carter Ham, the commander of the U.S. African Command.
Africom is a bluff. There is no command. It is a military-diplomatic organization, with an emphasis on development, consulting and economic cooperation, created at the end of the Bush era to signal an interest in Africa. Missions from other regional commands were expropriated to it and it was given the entire continent with the exception of Egypt, which remained in the Central Command. Israel, which from the U.S. perspective is in the European Command, participates in NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue, together with Central Command members Egypt and Jordan and Africom members Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Mauritania. Planning and operations cross three separate commands.
Africom has no forces, with the exception of the Horn of Africa. Its headquarters are in Stuttgart because no African capital was willing to host a U.S. military command - a synonym for occupation, aggression and foreign rule. by powers.
From the start, the U.S. army has treated the Libyan mission like a kind of hit-and-run accident: missile strikes against stationary ground-to-air and ground-to-ground missile batteries; an aerial strike on an armored vehicle; a gradual westward crawl along the coast, but not yet to Tripoli; limited air support for the rebels.
The weakness of the operational plan is completely the result of allowing Gadhafi to maintain the initiative. If he is crazy enough to take a pilot prisoner, to use chemical weapons or to dispatch terrorists to carry out attacks overseas, the mission will be expanded to include the targeted assassination of him and his family. But if he scales back his defense, that would take the wind out of the politicians' sails. Last week NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that Stavridis was deploying NATO ships and aircraft in the central Mediterranean, "to monitor, report and, if needed, interdict vessels suspected of carrying illegal arms or mercenaries" for Gadhafi's forces.
Half of Stavridis' authority comes from NATO, but the greater half is from Obama and from Gates, who before his retirement will advise Obama on his choice for the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Stavridis is a leading candidate. Like Gates, he has a university doctorate, as well as a Ph.D. in life sciences in political Washington. Gadhafi, if he acts in accordance with his own logic, not the logic attributed to him at the White House, will outlast them.
Jeffrey Goldberg wrote a post claiming that J Street is a Zionist organization. Reader Racquel R has shared with me (via email) her lengthy response to Goldberg's post.
I am writing to you in response to your recent column on J Street, seen here.
I would like to go through your article to explain where I believe you are deeply misguided.
But: J Street is still a Zionist organization. I believe it is fighting for Shimon Peres's vision of what Israel should be, and Yitzhak Rabin's, and more to the point, it is fighting for the vision espoused by Israel's George Washington, David Ben-Gurion. Commit this to memory: While many Israelis were ecstatic about the victory over the genocidal Arab armies of 1967, Ben-Gurion issued a warning: This will not work. Ben-Gurion said that Israel cannot be an occupier of Arabs. He was right then, and J Street is right now.
I am not sure what you are getting at. In 1967, the Israeli government also believed that it did not want to 'occupy' Arabs, even as Arabs were occupying Jewish land they confiscated in 1948 and 1929 from Jews who have lived in Jerusalem and Hebron (amongst other cities) for hundreds - if not thousands of years. In fact, the Israeli government offered to return this land, and the famous "Three Nos" were issued in Khartoum. However heart-wrenching the "occupation" may be, in fact this land has been historically Jewish, and it is all the more heart wrenching (and openly racist) to make it Judenrein (while of course not for a second considering expelling Arab Israelis from 1967 borders). And of course, doing such a thing and not getting peace means giving up the high ground (which is what Itamar, Ariel, and much of Judea/Samaria sits on consists of) to terrorists. This means that rockets can be sent to Ben Gurion Airport and Tel Aviv, which would cripple the country. There are real security reasons to keep this territory, and I don't understand why you dismiss those concerns.
If Shimon Peres is to be considered a Zionist; if Rabin is considered to have been a Zionist; and if David Ben-Gurion is to have been considered a Zionist, well, then J Street is Zionist as well. It is not heroic in the manner of these men, but neither are most of Israel's current leaders, and nor are the leaders of American Jewry today.
Being a "Zionist" implies you have Israel's interests at heart. Even assuming that the settlements are a problem, it is not "pro-Israel" to gather the USA and "international community" against Israel (which J Street has done, by backing a UN security counsel resolution against Israel). It is not "pro-Israel" to have as your primary position one of using leverage to get the American president to threaten and attack Israel. It is not "pro-Israel" to refuse to even back Cast Lead, one of the most obviously moral wars in Israel's history, or to back the Goldstone Report. It is one thing to try to make change from within - i.e., for the Labor party in Israel to exist, which is emphatically anti-settlement, but would not go on international stages to denounce the country. That is arguably a pro-Israel, even as I disagree with it. That is not what J Street is doing, and it is astonishing that you don't see the distinction.
I would like to add that J Street is also linked up with the Iranian Regime lobby - the National Iranian American Council (NIAC). This lobby is a shill for the Iranian regime, and Mr. Trita Parsi regularly speaks at J Street events as a panelist. This is an organization that is Zionist?
The Knesset is debating whether or not J Street is Zionist. This is a farce. The prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, refuses to meet with J Street. This, too, is a farce. The Prime Minister, in fact, will meet with Sarah Palin (whose politics are favored by a tiny minority of American Jews) but he will not meet with J Street. He should argue with J Street, yell at J Street, grapple with J Street, but most of all meet with J Street. Those Israelis, and those American Jews, who believe that J Street, and the spirit it represents, are fleeting phenemona have absolutely no idea what is happening in the Jewish world.
Why is this a farce? Vast numbers of American Jews also are leaders in the anti-Israel movement. Medea Benjamin of Code Pink is Jewish. Jewish Voice for Peace (which is part of the BDS movement) is made of Jews. Norm Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky are Jewish. Should Bibi meet with them, simply because they are Jewish? But regardless of that, what would happen if Bibi met with J Street? At a certain point, meeting with groups such as J Street accomplish little other than providing a forum for the public excoriation of someone who is excoriated enough in public. I mean, for God's sake, Dennis Ross, not known as a conservative, spoke at J Street, and was excoriated for it by J Streeters. It is not clear that his words were listened to whatsoever. So what would Bibi's meeting with J Street do, other than legitimize this institution? It surely won't change minds.
One last point. It might well be that many American Jews have a nadir of love for Israel at the moment, and if anything, are more sympathetic with the Arab viewpoint. This is a black mark on these American Jews, many of whom sadly have passed into anti-Zionist territory, but hardly evidence that J Street is a Zionist organization.
On Tuesday, YNet reported that 'Rightists' slammed new General Security Service chief Yoram Cohen, the first religious Jew to lead the agency, on the grounds that he would bend over backward to show he was not biased toward the religious Jewish (and by implication revenant) community.
"The feeling is that he will be worse than all his predecessors because of the media attack against him, because supposedly he is an emissary of the right," one source said. "He will try anything to prove that he isn't one."
The elements noted in a conversation with Ynet that this would not be the first time that religious Shin Bet officials cracked down on right-wing activists.
"We have a bitter experience with skull cap-wearers in senior ranks, who dedicated a large part of their operations to prove that they are not rightists," one source said. "We are already preparing the (protest) signs against him."
But on Wednesday, there's a different tune being sung regarding Cohen's appointment.
No small matter has been made of the fact that Cohen, if approved, will be the first kippa-wearing Shin Bet head and that he is the latest in a line of religious men appointed to high-ranking security positions. Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh, who, like Cohen, graduated from a yeshiva high school, was recently tapped to serve as deputy chief of the General Staff and will probably compete for the top spot when Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz completes his term in three years. Ya’acov Amidror, who went to a national religious public school, was recently appointed head of the National Security Council.
Extensive media coverage was also devoted to reports that rabbinic figures supposedly lobbied Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu not to appoint Y., a leading competitor for the top Shin Bet position. Apparently Y., who until a few months ago was responsible for, among other tasks, monitoring potential Jewish terrorism, had developed bad relations with leading religious Zionist rabbis and leaders.
The increased attention that religious Zionist leaders are paying to security matters and the fact that Cohen, Naveh and Amidror are religious reflect the changing personnel makeup of our security services. According to rough estimates, for some time now about a quarter of soldiers graduating officers’ training courses for combat units have been Orthodox, even though they make up no more than 15 percent of the total manpower. In some elite combat units such as Shaldag, a reconnaissance unit that works on the ground with the air force, and the Golani Brigade’s reconnaissance unit, where Cohen served, percentages are even higher.
In part, this is a result of religious Zionist rabbis’ educational messages. A study published in the August 2010 edition of Maarachot, the IDF’s magazine, noted that the religious Zionist educational system, and particularly the post-high school pre-military Orthodox academies, were contributing significantly to the rise in the number of religious officers and soldiers serving in elite combat units. For many religious young men, military service is seen as a fundamentally positive and important undertaking, even a mitzva, which combines religious conviction with civic responsibility.
Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, asks a question that should be on all of our minds: What would Libya look like today if Muammar Gadhafi had obtained nuclear weapons? That scenario would be nightmarish (Hat Tip: Daily Alert).
Gadhafi unilaterally forfeited his nuclear weapons program by 2004, turning over uranium-enriching centrifuges and warhead designs. A dictator like him—capable of ordering the murders of 259 civilians aboard Pan Am Flight 103 and countless others in many countries including his own—would not easily concede the ultimate weapon. Gadhafi did so because he believed he was less secure with the bomb than he would be after relinquishing it. He feared that the U.S., which had recently invaded Iraq, would deal with him much as it had Saddam Hussein.
A similar fear, many intelligence experts in the U.S. and elsewhere believe, impelled the Iranian regime to suspend its own nuclear weapons program in 2003. According to these analysts, the program resumed only when the threat of military intervention receded. It continues to make steady progress today.
The Iranian regime is the pre- eminent sponsor of terror in the world, a danger to pro-Western states, and the enemy of its own people who strive for democracy. It poses all of these hazards without nuclear weapons. Imagine the catastrophes it could inflict with them.
America's policy, like Israel's, is that "all options are on the table." We know that only a credible threat of military intervention can convince nondemocratic regimes to abandon their pursuit of nuclear weapons. Sanctions alone are unlikely to prove effective unless backed by measures capable of convincing the Iranian regime that the military option is real. It is the very threat of such force that reduces the danger that it will ever have to be used.
The critical question then becomes: Does anybody in Tehran believe that all options are truly on the table today? Based on Iran's brazen pronouncements, the answer appears to be no. And while the allied intercession in Libya may send a message of determination to Iran, it might also stoke the Iranian regime's desire to become a nuclear power and so avoid Gadhafi's fate. For that reason it is especially vital now to substantiate the "all options" policy.
Now is the moment to dissuade the Iranian regime from obtaining a nuclear weapon that might deter any Libya-like intervention or provide the ayatollahs with a doomsday option. If Gadhafi had not surrendered his centrifuges in 2004 and he were now surrounded in his bunker with nothing left but a button, would he push it?
You will recall that back in November Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri put on a game face and said that he didn't believe that Bashar al-Assad had anything to do with his late father Rafik.
You will also recall that in January, when the Lebanese government fell apart, Assad was furious with Hariri, which had to make you wonder how sincere their reconciliation was in the first place. Now, it turns out, that Hariri wasn't very sincere about making up with Assad either. It seems that Hariri is supporting the anti-Assad forces in Syria.
Syrian government TV channel reports that senior Syrian officials suspect that the weapons boats caught off Syria's coast were sent from Tripoli by activists from the Lebanese Al-Mustaqbal movement.
Al-Mustaqbal is headed by Sa'd Al-Hariri.
The Lebanese Al-Safir daily reports that Syria sent a harsh message to the main political stream in the new Lebanese opposition [i.e. to Al-Mustaqbal] saying that it had information on the involvement of Lebanese elements in the unrest in Der'a and Latakiya, and clarified that it would take a serious view of any harm to Syrian security.
Al-Mustaqbal secretary-general Ahmad Al-Hariri said that Syrian TV's claim harms Lebanon and asked that the group not be linked to events in Syria. He said that as far as Al-Mustaqbal was concerned, Syria's and Lebanon's stability were one and the same.
I am an Orthodox Jew - some would even call me 'ultra-Orthodox.' Born in Boston, I was a corporate and securities attorney in New York City for seven years before making aliya to Israel in 1991 (I don't look it but I really am that old :-). I have been happily married to the same woman for thirty-five years, and we have eight children (bli ayin hara) ranging in age from 12 to 33 years and eight grandchildren. Three of our children are married and a fourth is engaged! Before I started blogging I was a heavy contributor on a number of email lists and ran an email list called the Matzav from 2000-2004. You can contact me at: IsraelMatzav at gmail dot com