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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Faster, faster: Syrian rebels threaten Nasrallah

Sytrian rebel leaders are warning Hezbullah chieftain Hassan Nasrallah that they will settle scores with him for sending mercenaries to shoot Syrians.
The secretary general of the Free Syria Army's military council warned that Syrian rebels will settle the score with Nasrallah and his group at court once the Syrian leader is deposed.

In an interview with the London-based Sharq al-Awsat, the rebel leader urged Nasrallah to put an end to the killing of Syrians, who he said "embraced the Lebanese people during the Second Lebanon War."

He added that it was the Syrian people, rather than Assad's regime, that opened the door to the Lebanese people and to Hezbollah members.
Faster, faster....

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Rick Santorum: Time for America to lead from the front

Rick Santorum spoke in a synagogue in Boca Raton, Florida on Monday night, and although I don't (yet) have a video, I do have the text and it's dynamite.
We Must Lead From The Front
Speech as Prepared to Be Given

The Orthodox Union Presidential Forum
The Boca Raton Synagogue
January 30, 2012

The president says "the threat of war is receding" but he’s wrong. The war is on, and its front lines are advancing towards us and our allies, above all toward Israel.

We're facing a global alliance that includes Russia, North Korea, China, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador and of course Cuba. They are outspoken in their desire to weaken us and drive us out of their regions. Some of them--Iran, and the radical Islamists whose rise to power has been facilitated by this president--speak eagerly of destroying us, and our allies, especially Israel.

We have no strategy to deal with this gathering storm. Indeed, our leaders act as if things are getting better every day.

President Obama seems to believe that sanctions on Iran will compel the fanatical rulers in Tehran to abandon their nuclear weapons program, fearing they will lose power if our sanctions continue and intensify. Has he considered the case of North Korea? Fanatical rulers do not care if their people go hungry. Indeed they do not care about their people at all. If their people complain, they go to prison or to the torturer or the hangman. And then they laugh at us, and organize thousands of people to chant "Death to America!"

What does President Obama think they mean? It certainly doesn't mean "yes, America, you are right, let's reason together."

It means, we're going to keep killing your men and women wherever we can, from Iraq to Afghanistan. And why not? We have yet to make them pay a price for the slaughter.

Indeed, our political leaders never talk about that. They talk about nukes, and nukes alone, as if that were the only issue. But it isn't.

The Iranians and their creatures throughout the Middle East and deep into our hemisphere are killing and wounding Americans every day. And even as the president preens himself for sanctions that he reluctantly accepted when Congress demanded them, and which he delays whenever he can, Hezbollah is training and indoctrinating terrorists to our south, Iran and its allies are assembling weapons--including drones and missiles--in Venezuela, and a steady flow of Iranian military and intelligence personnel flows into hostile Latin nations on direct flights from Tehran.

A couple of weeks ago Univision presented an excellent documentary on “The Iranian Threat,” which told one frightening story after another about Iranian-Venezuelan-Cuban plans to attack the United States. The most famous of these was the plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Washington, but another one—a two-step operation for a cyber attack, and then a physical assault, against American targets—precipitated the expulsion of Venezuela's consul general in Miami.

That’s a rare event, and it shows the gravity of the crisis we face. That global network weakens us in many ways, and threatens our security very directly. That network enables Iran and Syria to mitigate many of our sanctions. Money flows east, to Chinese banks, as the Europeans join us in blocking transactions with the Iranian Central Bank. Money gets laundered through Russia and Latin America. Weapons move from Russia to Venezuela, and then to Iran and Syria, enabling the Russians to pretend they are not arming the Middle Eastern fanatics.

And yet the president says the tide of war is receding.

Any concerned American looking at the facts must conclude that the tide of war is swelling. Iran has been at war with us since 1979, and is planning to escalate. That is why the global anti-American alliance was created. Shi'ite mosques in Venezuela are not the reflection of the religious convictions of the Venezuelan people; they are there so that Iranian agents can plan attacks against America.

When President Ahmadinejad recently toured the capitals of Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Ecuador, it was not a form of cultural diplomacy; it was primarily to increase the tempo of preparations for the war against America.

It is long past time for us to respond, but instead our president declares imminent victory.

We must respond, and even the Washington Post knows what is at stake: if you want an end to the Iranian nuclear weapons program, the Post's editorialists recently wrote, you have to bring down the regime in Tehran. This regime is not going to give up the dream of becoming a nuclear power. And everyone here knows what the Iranian leaders intend to do with the atomic bombs: they intend to remove Israel from the map, and then bring their jihad to the United States.

Some say that this means we have to launch a military attack against Iran. I don't believe that. I think most Iranian people want to be free of their evil regime, and millions of them have taken to the streets, in the face of security forces all too happy to kill them, to show their contempt for their leaders. It's a revolutionary force, and we should support it.

We defeated the Soviet Union without using military means. We supported the Soviet dissidents and refuseniks, and the Soviet regime collapsed. I believe we can do the same thing in Iran.

Supporting those who fight for freedom in Iran is both strategically smart and morally just, and any president with moral and strategic vision would do it.

But we don't. On the contrary, at the crucial moment a couple of years ago, President Obama reached out to the regime, not to the Iranian people. That was a shameful moment, and the shame continues. Neither the president nor the secretary of state, indeed not a single Administration official, has said "the regime must go." That language was reserved for long-time American friends like Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. Even in Syria, an enemy, the president reluctantly called for a new government only after the slaughter had reached such a level that even the Arab League said change seemed necessary.

Paradoxically, President Obama’s constant call for open negotiations with Iran only convinces them that they can do anything they wish—even kill Americans, or take them hostage, or frame them for espionage, as they have just done with a young Marine, and we will do nothing to threaten their rule. So our failure to move against the regime itself actually makes military conflict more likely.

What would a serious president do about Iran? What would I do?

I would do six things right away:

1. First and foremost, publicly embrace the opposition, and call for regime change. We need a president and a secretary of state with the political courage to say, "Khamenei and Ahmadinejad must go. The Iranian people must freely choose their form of government and freely choose their leaders."

2. Publicly condemn the regime's repression, the ghastly human rights violations, the systematic misogyny, the censorship of press, internet, access to international broadcasting (including VOA, Farda, etc.).

We need a president who will deliver the contemporary equivalent of President Reagan’s “Evil Empire” speech, which inspired a generation of Soviet dissidents and freedom fighters. And we need a president with the political courage to take action against the Iranian regime.

For example, we should take action to end the jamming of our (and other free countries') broadcasts. Meanwhile, we should deny Iran the ability to broadcast to the United States. A president who really understood the gravity of the crisis would shut down Press TV on the basis of reciprocity, just as the British Government has.

3. We must publicly support freedom for Iranian workers, and then work with international trade union organizations to build a strike fund, just as we did for the Solidarity trade union in Poland in the last years of the Cold War.

4. We must help members of the opposition to safely communicate with one another. During the Cold War, we provided fax machines to Solidarity and Soviet dissidents; today the equivalent technologies include anti-filtering software built into cell phones and computers. They may also include safe portals for Iranians to enter...these technologies will change constantly; we need to work with the smartest techies to stay ahead of the Iranian/Chinese censors and listeners.

5. We have to talk to the dissident leaders. This is tricky. The Green Movement insists that they have NO spokesmen or representatives outside the country. We need to establish reliable channels into Iran. It is best to do this without public attention, obviously, but it can be done.

6. We need a campaign of public support for Iran’s political prisoners. We must identify them individually, by name. American diplomats attending international meetings and conferences should have a list of political prisoners, and call for their release and humane treatment.

Even the Nazis found it more difficult to kill prisoners who were publicly named. It's easier to kill those who are anonymous, who don't receive mail, who aren't publicly supported. Once again, our strategic and moral imperatives coincide. We only lack a president with the courage to do what is right and necessary.

I want to close with a reiteration of what I said at the debate; not only does our President not have the courage to do what is right and necessary, in his efforts to appease our enemies he actually has sided with them against our allies.

Our policy in Central and South America under this administration has been abysmal. Take Honduras as an example. When the country’s legislature and judiciary exercised their constitutional right to protect the integrity of their democracy, President Obama said that their efforts were “not legal and that President Zelaya remains the president of Honduras.” This is after Zelaya, an ally of Chavez and outspoken critic of America, tried to abrogate its constitution and change it to seek re-election beyond his four-year term.

Instead of standing behind the parliament we sided with the despots in region who have been aligned with Iran. This administration has had a consistent policy of siding with the leftists and appeasing those who threaten our security. We haven’t stood up for our friends like Colombia, we haven’t undertaken the effort necessary to build the relational capital and trust necessary to develop a regional economic alignment to compete with the European Union. The EU understands in a global economy the only way to compete it to build economic alliances, why has this escaped our leadership?

I am committed to one of my first trips abroad as President to be to Central and South America, and I am committed to visiting it repeatedly. With the threat of radical Islam growing in the region, the parallels with the Cold War are even clearer. And with this radical ideology comes a new virulent strain of anti-Semitism that is taking hold in our hemisphere. We need a President who understand this threat and takes it seriously.

In closing, instead of leading the forces of democracy, this president lags behind the course of events. "Leading from behind"; waiting for others to make the hard choices and take the hard actions, and then jumping on board. We see this in the Middle East. We see this in Central and South America.

I reject this. I don't think we should wait until Israel is attacked, or until Israel, out of desperation and despair that the United States will not act, moves against Iran. We can’t with until a missile is placed in Venezuela that can reach our soil and then cry fowl. [I think that should be "can't wait" CiJ]

We can’t wait for our friends to do the hard things, when we are better placed, have greater power, and have better options.

I will lead from the front, which is America's mission.
This guy should be President. Unfortunately, he probably won't be, but we can hope.

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Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Tuesday, January 31.
1) Will Israel be illegal in Iraq?
A new bill before the Iraqi parliament would make travel to Israel illegal (via memeorandum):
The bill was proposed following a number of incidents at the Bagdad airport. A local security officer working there said the passport had caught a number of Iraqi officials carrying passports with Israeli entry visas. The officer, speaking on a condition of anonymity, reported that the passports of some nine high-profile Iraqi politicians were clearly marked with Ben-Gurion Airport stamps as well.
According to the source, the politicians made their first trips to Israel after the Iraqi elections, held on January 2010, until around October that same year. The officer claimed that during questioning of the Iraqis, it was discovered that they were operating as envoys to Israel on behalf of Iraqi politicians.
For all of the concern about reform in the Arab world, the one issue that is ignored is the Arab view of Israel. One of the surest signs that a society was opening up would be the acceptance of Israel. This is something we have not seen at all during the "Arab spring."

Will those who ask whether Americans should be risking lives for Israel, now ask if risking American lives for another antisemitic Middle Eastern government was worth it? Will those who decry the supposed antidemocratic direction that Israel's Knesset is taking object to this law?

Shortly after Saddam fell, an Iraqi baby was sent to Israel for an operation under the auspices of Save a Child's Heart. Apparently the Iraqi government would like to prevent any further such life saving operations. One former parliamentarian would have objected is Mithal al-Alusi, who advocated for closer ties with Israel. His advocacy for true liberalism cost him his two sons.

2) Caring for CAIR

The recent revelation that the New York Police Department showed The Third Jihad to its officers has become a minor scandal. The New York Times is in high dudgeon condemning the Hateful film.
There is absolutely no excuse for the New York Police Department’s decision to show a hate-filled film about Muslims to more than 1,400 city police officers.
I have seen The Third Jihad and it's hard to see what's objectionable about it, unless one is associated with CAIR or similar organizations, which are implicated by the film for having an agenda that is more radical than what they usually acknowledge.

The New York Times is not the least bit concerned about CAIR. Last year it was announced that the FBI was cutting its ties with CAIR. An Oklahoma TV station reported:
"There has been nothing that has connected CAIR to anything illegal. If there was anything found to be illegal they would have been prosecuted," said Awad.
But Ghassan Elashi, a former volunteer at CAIR's Texas-based chapter, is serving 65 years in prison after a federal court found he funneled nearly $12 million to the terrorist group Hamas. The court case also named CAIR as an unidentified co-conspirator.
That is a big part of the reason the FBI said they have cut ties to CAIR. The group said the decision has had a negative impact on their efforts to sway public opinion.
About the same time, Rep. Peter King was holding a series of hearings on the radicalization of elements of the American Muslim community. Here's how the New York Times REPORTED about CAIR:
Mr. Awad said Thursday’s hearing, called by Mr. King, was “political theater” intended to score points, not to elucidate facts. “No one is more concerned about terrorism in the United States than we are,” Mr. Awad said. This is in part because Muslim Americans face a backlash every time a Muslim is accused of plotting or carrying out terrorism in the United States.
“We have nothing to do with radicalizing young men,” he said.
Indeed, some of the statements about CAIR at the hearing were oversimplified at best. Mr. King noted, for example, that CAIR was listed as an “unindicted co-conspirator or joint venturer” in a terrorism financing case against a charity, the Holy Land Foundation — but so were more than 200 other groups and individuals. CAIR was not accused of a crime.
No doubt if 200 members of Nixon administration were found to have been unindicted co-conspirators in Watergate, the New York Times would have cited that as proof that Nixon did nothing wrong.

The New York Times would never portray someone in a hateful manner, even if they disagreed with him. Would it? (h/t Ed Lasky)

Abigail Esman responds (h/t Oren Kessler):
In fact, in an editorial, the Times, sounding appalled, says “the film shows some of the grisliest terrorist attacks in recent years and argues that the real agenda for Islamists in America is to infiltrate and dominate the country.”
Yet interestingly, that’s what many Muslims say, too — Muslims who are not extremists, Muslims who are integrated into Western life, Muslims who are at much at risk of death and destruction from these same Islamist leaders – and, indeed, the Muslim who narrated “The Third Jihad,” Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser. Would the Times then argue that they are “self-hating Muslims” for wanting these fanatics exposed? Should we ignore the fact that pious Muslims — like Zuhdi Jasser — are regularly targeted by these Islamists for assassination? Or do they not recognize the difference between Islam and Islamism? Do they think all Muslims are Islamists?
I have news for them: They aren’t. And the Times should apologize to the entire American Muslim community for suggesting otherwise.
3) Time for more confidence building measures and pressure on Israel
Con Coughlin writes (h/t Daily Alert):
For example, I am told by a Western diplomat working for the Quartet that when the Israeli delegation arrived for a meeting last weekend in Amman, the Jordanian capital, to present their latest security proposals, Mr Erekat simply refused to enter the room.
My man in the Jordan conference room says that he was surprised at Mr Erekat's behaviour, especially as the topic under discussion was supposed to be one of the two main topics the Palestinian delegation wanted on the agenda for the Jordan talks, which are a precursor for the more formal talks that are supposed to take place once both sides have agreed a negotiating framework.
Mr Erekat's refusal to enter the negotiating room and hear what the Israelis had to say does not bode well for the Quartet's attempts to get the two sides to resume full negotiations, and raises questions about just how serious the Palestinians are about getting a peace deal. With Israel feeling increasingly isolated as world attention focuses on the fall-out from the recent revolts in Libya, Egypt and Syria, there is a growing suspicion among Western diplomats that the Palestinians are working on the basis that, if they draw out the process, they will be able to strike a better deal with Israel.
If you recall, the New York Times provided a pretext for Erakat's refusal to negotiate, rather than portraying him as unreasonable. I'd disagree here in that I don't believe that the Palestinians are holding out for a better deal, they simply don't want a deal.

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Iran renaming ships to avoid sanctions

When a ship carries the flag of one country, is owned by nationals of another country and is chartered by nationals of a third country to carry cargo from a fourth country to a fifth country, whose ship is it? That's typically how seaborne shipping works, and Iran is taking advantage of that fact to try to evade Western sanctions.
According to the report, the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line (IRISL) has renamed a total of 90 out of its 123 ships since 2008. The company also reflagged a significant percentage of its fleet, which dropped off the list of the top 100 fleets in the world last April. It previously was ranked as the 23rdlargest container line in the world.

...

“The Iranian ships are being shuffled like a deck of cards in a Las Vegas casino,” explained Hugh Griffiths, one of the authors of the report and an arms trafficking expert at SIPRI.

“There is a constant game of cat and mouse being played and the renaming and reflagging of vessels of different states is a way of trying to avoid inspection because of sanctions.”

The report, Griffiths said, was the culmination of two years of work by SIPRI during which it created the Vessel and Maritime Incident Database, which contains information on countries and shipping lines suspected of illicit activity.

According to the SIPRI report, in October 2010 Germany removed ships suspected of being owned by IRISL from its shipping registry after the European Union imposed sanctions on the state-owned shipping company.

The report claims, however, that despite the sanctions, other EU member states, including Cyprus and Malta, continue to have Iranian ships on their registries.
This is going to make sanctions less effective, and less likely to work, increasing the probability of war.

What could go wrong?

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The window is closing?

At least some 'Israeli officials' are whispering that the window for Israel to strike Iran will close this summer, and that we must strike before then if we are to be effective.
Key Israeli defense officials believe that the time to strike, if such a decision is made, would have to be by the middle of this year.

Complicating the task is the assessment that Iran is stepping up efforts to move its work on enriching uranium deep underground.

Several officials at the heart of the decision-making structure, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were discussing some of Israel's deepest secrets, said they feel compelled to give the sanctions time.

In this way, somewhat paradoxically, the new economic sanctions the US and Europe are imposing – while meeting a repeated Israeli request – have emerged as an obstacle to military action.

An Israeli strike would risk shattering the US-led diplomatic front that has imposed four additional rounds of sanctions on Iran and jolt the shaky world economy by causing oil prices to spike. Still, the officials said that if Israel feels no alternative but to take military action, it will do so.

The US has sold Israel dozens of 100 GBU-28 laser-guided "bunker-buster" bombs. The 2.5-ton bombs are capable of penetrating more than 20 feet of solid concrete.

It's not clear how much damage the bunker-busters could actually do. Iran's main enrichment site at Natanz is believed to be about 25 feet (6 meters) underground and protected by two concrete walls.

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told The Wall Street Journal last week that even more sophisticated US bunker-busters aren't powerful enough to penetrate all of Iran's defenses.

...

A one-time surgical strike, the most likely attack by Israel, "can't do more than politically declare that we aren't willing to tolerate" a nuclear Iran, Shapir said.

That has raised speculation that Israel's veiled threats are no more than attempts to get Iran to back down.
Read the whole thing.

I don't expect Iran to stop unless they are forced to stop, and it seems that Israel can delay them at best. But if no one else does anything, we may have no choice but to try.

What could go wrong?

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Which Republican candidate is the most pro-Israel?

Yes, Florida, with the exception of Ron Paul, all of the Republican candidates for the Presidency are pro-Israel and would be a huge improvement over Barack Hussein Obama. But there are differences between them.
Former Pennsylvania Governor Rick Santorum, whose campaign has been struggling recently, was questioned by a young voter about the Palestinians right to an independent state in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Santorum responded sharply, saying, “There is no Palestinian people” and defending Israel’s right to call as its own land won in a defensive war (The 1967 Six Day War).

Similarly, Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has referred to the Palestinians as “an invented people” that was never a nation, and, elaborating on this at an ABC News debate added, “Somebody ought to have the courage to tell the truth. These people are terrorists. They teach terrorism in their schools. They have textbooks that say 'if there are 13 Jews and 9 Jews are killed, how many Jews are left?' We pay for those textbooks through our aid money. It’s time for somebody to say: enough lying about the Middle East.”

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is on record defending Israel’s right to decide how to negotiate and has said that all disagreements between Israel and the United States should be discussed in private. He also has criticized President Obama for “throwing Israel under the bus” (a nice cliché) and said, “I will stand by our friend Israel” (another nice cliché). In the most recent debate in Florida, Romney criticized Obama for failures in the peace negotiations, but didn’t criticize the so-called Palestinians.

In that same debate, Gingrich blasted the Palestinian leadership for enabling and/or allowing continued rocket attacks and pledged that on his first day in office, he would issue an executive order moving the Israeli Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The differences between the two leading candidates are actually fairly substantial. Romney has made quite a few positive statements about the importance of the USA-Israel relationship, but has been carefully avoiding taking positions that might change the “land for peace” process (actually - land for a meaningless piece of paper) and the status quo of the “two-state solution” or that might offend the Palestinian Authority. Furthermore, Romney was quite critical of Gingrich for making his “invented people” statement, saying that we shouldn’t “get ahead of our ally Israel.”

After years of American pressure, much of Israel’s leadership is endorsing suicidal positions that would hand over its strategic heartland, in which most of the biblical sites are located, to the Hamas, Fatah, and Islamic Jihadists for an independent state. Is Romney suggesting that a true friend should let its ally commit suicide?
Personally, I'd rank Santorum number 1, Gingrich number 2, and Romney number 3. If God forbid Ron Paul is the nominee, I won't vote.

Read the whole thing.

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Richard Silverstein goes off the deep end

On Sunday, an Israeli Heron drone crashed in Gedera.
The Heron TP, Israel’s most advanced unmanned aerial vehicle, crashed on Sunday morning during a test flight near the Tel Nof Air Force Base outside Rehovot.

The Israel Air Force opened an investigation. According to initial findings, the crash occurred after the UAV performed a maneuver beyond its capabilities, causing one of its wings to break off. The aircraft was flying with a new navigation component that, the IAF suspects, might have disrupted the drone’s automatic flight systems.

The Heron TP is the largest UAV in the IAF. It has a 26- meter wingspan – the same as a Boeing 737 – and can stay airborne for up to 45 hours. It can carry a 1,000 kg. payload, making it capable of conducting a wide variety of missions.

According to foreign reports, it can also fire missiles, and in Israel it is often referred to as the UAV “that can reach Iran.”

The flight on Sunday was overseen by Israel Aerospace Industries and was held in conjunction with the IAF.
The crash was not at all kept a secret here. In fact, it was reported on the radio almost immediately.

Let's go to the videotape.

video

Also on Sunday, I got a tweet telling me about a new Twitter account. The account is anonymous (I have nothing to do with it and I don't know who is running it) called @tikkunolame. As some of you might guess, @tikkunolame is a parody of Richard Silverstein's Tikkun Olam. It seems that Silverstein has taken to posting parodies on his site to keep up.
An exclusive report from a confidential highly-placed Israeli source says that a booby-trapped drone crashed and exploded at the top-secret Israeli airbase Sdot Micha. Sdot Micha (also profiled here) is the home of the Israeli missile arsenal including its long-range Jerichos capable of striking Iran. There were civilian and military eyewitnesses to the crash, which happened within the perimeter fence of the facility, which covers a large area just outside Bet Shemesh.

The eyewitnesses and Israel’s wish to avoid pressure to retaliate against the Iranians, necessitated the publication of a media cover story. The story claims an advanced Israeli drone crashed near the Yesodot moshav, 10 miles from Sdot Micha. Israel also claims the drone took off from Tel Nof airbase. Eyewitnesses may be able to produce video documentation of the precise location of the crash unless it is impounded by the IDF.
I think that video is the one I posted above. It doesn't sound much like Richard's story, does it? And we know how reliable Richard's sources are, don't we?

And in an update to his sensationalist story, Silverstein all but admits it's false.
None of this means I can knowingly report stories that are false (nor would I ever do so). On the other hand, I am reporting stories that aren’t (and usually can’t be) corroborated by second or third independent sources. That in turn means that the mainstream media is too conservative and cautious to publish my original reporting. This may save them from reporting a story that turns out to be criticized or unsubstantiated; but it also causes them to lose out when I report major stories embarrassing to the Israeli military-intelligence community. That’s why you’ll never see Reider or GRN breaking the story of Anat Kamm, Dirar Abusisi, Ameer Makhoul, the Eilat terror attacks, or Shamai Leibowitz.

My critics fundamentally misunderstand what I do. My primary job isn’t to be an oracular James Reston or Walter Cronkite and only report what is scientifically, verifiably true and be right 100% of the time. My primary job is to be right as often as I can while staying true to the reasons I write this blog in the first place: to promote transparency in Israeli military-intelligence matters, Israeli democracy, and to oppose military adventurism. This is a tightrope act, one that is difficult to negotiate since there are so many unknowns, so much concealed information.

The goal of the national security state is to render its affairs as opaque as possible. It is to shut off information to journalists, bloggers and even its own citizens. That’s why it’s sometimes so damn hard to know if you got it right. But if anyone thinks I’m going to be deterred by the fact that every once in a while the I’s aren’t dotted or the T’s aren’t crossed or that even, God forbid, my source may get it wrong (which I do not concede in this instance), they’re sorely mistaken. I’ll accept the brickbats of Dimi Reider, Dapna Baram and others for the sake of the greater good of exposing the dangers a rampant Israel may pose to the region and the world.
The difference between Silverstein and the rest of us is that when we report something that's speculation, we don't report it as fact. We report that it's speculation. And we don't do it from 9,000 miles away where whatever we get is much more likely to be unverified and unverifiable.

But then, we wouldn't want Richard to make aliya, would we?

Better cut the dose of hallucinogens Richard. Heh.

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Even Turkey won't take them

Poor Hamas. Even Erdogan's Turkey won't take them in.
Turkish government spokesman and Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç told a news conference on Monday following a Cabinet meeting that Mashaal’s being based out of Turkey is out of question. He added that news reports claiming the Turkish government would give the Palestinian group some millions of dollars in aid are also not true.

In a response to a question about Hamas moving to Turkey after leaving Damascus, Arınç said Hamas is an organization that has been recognized by Turkey and has formed a government in the Palestinian territories following democratic elections in 2006. “Khaled Mashaal’s stay in Turkey is out of question,” Arınç told reporters.

Mashaal recently visited Turkey which, unlike its fellow NATO members, recognizes Hamas as a legal political party.

Some diplomatic sources had stated that Turkey promised to provide Gazan Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's administration with $300 million to support its annual budget. The Turkish Foreign Ministry had earlier dismissed such reports.

...

Diplomatic and intelligence sources say Mashaal no longer spends much time in Syria, where over 5,000 people have been killed in 10 months of conflict. However, Hamas said in a statement in recent days that Mashaal's absence from Damascus was due only to security concerns in that country at the moment and denied that it had moved its leadership or headquarters out of Syria for good.
BWAHAHAHAHA!

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It's Obama's fault!

If you want to know why the Amman talks have failed (yes, I know, they are to continue until March, but the reality is that they have already failed), you need look no further than US President Barack Hussein Obama writes Jonathan Tobin at Commentary.
By stating that a Middle East peace deal should be negotiated on the basis of the 1967 lines, Obama strengthened the Palestinians’ belief that their demands for a complete Israeli retreat and the eviction of every Jew living in the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem had America’s tacit backing. Though Obama quickly followed up with a reassurance that he backed the idea of territorial swaps that would allow Israel to try to keep some settlements, the Palestinians viewed that as inconsequential, as the president had buttressed their position that a return to the status quo of June 4, 1967 was an imperative.

The Palestinians approach the West Bank–an area to which no sovereign nation had a claim that the world recognized in 1967–as theirs without any need to negotiate. Indeed, they are even incredulous at the notion that Israel has any claim or rights. Israel’s position is the West Bank is disputed territory, not Palestinian. By speaking of 1967 as the starting point, Obama tacitly endorsed the Palestinian position that the West Bank was “stolen” from them, even though they never owned it in the first place.

...

The irony is that although the Obama administration has always wanted to further peace talks, its every effort to achieve that goal has made it more difficult. Just as the president’s unprecedented demands for an Israeli building freeze even in Jerusalem made it impossible for the Palestinians to negotiate for anything less, so, too has Obama’s borders blunder given the PA an excuse to avoid talking about creating a viable border between Israel and a putative Palestinian state.
Indeed.

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Pigs fly, Norway apologizes to Jews

It's been a while since I last broke out the flying pig, but I think this one rates. After 70 years, Norway has apologized for its role in sending Jews to death camps during the Holocaust.
Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg on Friday apologized for Norway's deportations of Jews during the Second World War

"Without relieving the Nazis of their responsibility, it is time for us to acknowledge that Norwegian policemen and other Norwegians took part in the arrest and deportation of Jews," Stoltenberg said.

"Today, I feel it is fitting for me to express our deepest apologies that this could happen on Norwegian soil," the prime minister added, standing on the exact spot where 532 Jews boarded the cargo ship Donau to be taken to the concentration camps.

After Nazi troops invaded Norway on April 9, 1940, it was ruled by a collaborationist government headed by Vidkun Quisling, whose name has since been synonymous with "traitor."

About 772 Jews were deported from Nazi-occupied Norway during the war. Only 34 of them survived.

"The murders were unquestionably carried out by the Nazis," Stoltenberg said, "but it was Norwegians who carried out the arrests, it was Norwegians who drove the trucks ... and it happened in Norway."

"No one, no individual, no minority, should have to live in fear in this country."
Let's see that last sentence put into practice.

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Take a #dayoff!

To celebrate the launch of the all-new 2012 CR-V, Honda brought Ferris Bueller's Day Off back in a big game commercial. We cast Matthew Broderick as himself, skipping out on a day of acting work and living it up in his all-new CR-V. Relive movie history with Honda's fresh twist and wonderful homage to this '80s classic.

Think you're a true fan of Ferris Bueller's Day Off? We hid over two dozen references to the movie throughout the commercial. Some are obvious, some are VERY subtle. See how many you can find. #dayoff

Let's go to the videotape (Hat Tip: Gary P).



Now tell me the truth: Wasn't that a great way to start your day?

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Overnight music video

Next Tuesday night and Wednesday are Tu b'Shvat, a holiday on which we celebrate our connection to the land of Israel.

Here's Mendy Jerusfi with Eretz Asher Tamid (A land that God always watches over).

Let's go to the videotape.

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More than 4,000 Americans died so a democratic Iraq could help Iran beat sanctions

This is an even more infuriating piece of news than the last post I did on Iraq. More than 4,000 Americans gave their lives so that a democratic Iraq could help Iran beat international sanctions by launching a joint shipping line (Hat Tip: Will).
Iran and Iraq reached an agreement on launching a joint shipping line to enhance their marine cooperation, Managing-Director of Iran's Ports and Maritime Organization (PMO) Seyed Ataollah Sadr announced on Sunday.

Speaking to FNA, Sadr underlined that launching a joint shipping line between Iran and Iraq will provide the ground for both countries' private companies to set up a joint company to increase their cooperation.

"Iran can have desirable cooperation in maritime and port fields with the friendly and brotherly country of Iraq," he added.

Sadr also expressed the hope that Tehran and Baghdad would activate a joint committee in the near future for maritime cooperation.
And since there are no international sanctions in effect against Iraq anymore....

Aren't you glad Obama didn't let the American troops finish the job? What could go wrong?

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Guess who can't tell Barack Obama from Mitt Romney

Is he getting old, or are there really so few differences between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney?

Let's go to the videotape (Hat Tip: American Power).



Hmmm.

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Another reason Obama can be proud he forced out Hosni Mubarak

I'm sure that Barack Hussein Obama is very proud of the role that he played to force out Hosni Mubarak and make way for the Egyptian Democrats Islamists. After all, Obama is proud of everything he does, justifiably or not. And I'm sure that a group of American kids that is holed up in the US embassy in Cairo, fearing arrest and torture (or worse), shares Obama's pride. Well, maybe they don't.
"A handful of U.S. citizens opted to stay at the U.S. embassy compound while waiting for permission to leave Egypt," State Department spokesman Noel Clay told FOX News Channel.

The irregular action, which effectively protects the Americans from being arrested (because the embassy is considered to be on U.S. soil), was taken after several U.S. workers at non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were barred from flying out of Cairo a week ago.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's son Sam LaHood, the director of the Egyptian program for the International Republican Institute (IRI), is among those on the Egyptian government's "no fly list."

...

A State Department official told The Washington Post, who first reported the story, that it was not believed the "handful" of NGO staff who had decided to take shelter at the Cairo embassy were in "immediate physical danger."

Several Washington lobbyists announced Saturday they are ending their contract with the Egyptian government, as the controversy deepens over raids conducted on the offices of American advocacy groups.

Sam LaHood told FOX by phone Friday that an Egyptian judge claims he, along with the other Americans barred from leaving the country, worked for an unregistered NGO and took a salary.

"We're kind of expecting the worst," LaHood said. "There hasn't been a lot of movement nothing has really changed. If it does go to trial, a trial could last up to one year in a case that's as wide-ranging as this one is. But the penalty for that is six months to five years in jail so these are very serious charges."

Meanwhile, a group of senior Egyptian generals landed in Washington on Sunday to try to mend the rift between the two countries, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The US is actually quite concerned for these people's safety.
The United States is worried of the fate of its citizens barred by the Cairo regime from leaving Egypt, which has criticized their lobbying activities. The new crisis in American-Egyptian relations comes during a new stage of elections, this time for the upper house of the parliament.

At least 10 American citizens were employed by three US-based firms that lobbied the American government on behalf of Egypt but which abruptly canceled their contracts with Egypt last Friday, following deteriorating relations with the regime in Cairo. It had criticized the lobbyists for having defended the government of Hosni Mubarak in its first raids on protesters last year.

One of the lobbyists who cannot get out of Egypt is Sam LaHood, the son of President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood. The three lobbying firms are run by former Congressmen and a powerful lobby group with close ties to the Obama administration.
Well, I sure hope that those being held know who their Congressmen are. Maybe the US would like to trade a few F-16's?

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Allen West tells Obama to 'get out'

Representative Allen West had a message for Barack Hussein Obama and some of his cronies on Saturday: Get out.

Let's go to the videotape.



More here.

Someone please tell me that West is someone we're going to hear from nationally and soon.

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A very weird notion of free speech

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has some weird ideas about free speech. Where did she get them? I'm going to tell you, but first, you have to be in the mood so....

Let's go to the videotape.



US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced that the United States will not recognize the Armenian genocide (has anyone told Congress?) because the US doesn't want to 'compromise free speech.'

Maybe this has something to do with it?



Don't they look happy together?

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4,000 Americans died so a democratic Iraq could ban travel to Israel

More than 4,000 Americans died so that Iraq could have a parliament, and one of the first actions that parliament is taking is to ban travel to Israel.
The bill was proposed following a number of incidents at the Bagdad airport. A local security officer working there said the passport had caught a number of Iraqi officials carrying passports with Israeli entry visas. The officer, speaking on a condition of anonymity, reported that the passports of some nine high-profile Iraqi politicians were clearly marked with Ben-Gurion Airport stamps as well.

According to the source, the politicians made their first trips to Israel after the Iraqi elections, held on January 2010, until around October that same year. The officer claimed that during questioning of the Iraqis, it was discovered that they were operating as envoys to Israel on behalf of Iraqi politicians.

In response to the report, Iraqi Parliament Member from the National Iraqi Alliance Mohammad Redha al-Khafaji declared that some 50 parliament members have already put their John Hancock to a bill proposing to ban such trips to Israel. Khafaji emphasized that in the past, Iraqi senior officials had visited Israel secretly.

Meanwhile, a member of the parliament's judicial committee said these signatures do not necessarily mean that such a law should be passed.

Forbidding a citizen from traveling is against the Iraqis' right to freedom, as written in the constitution. However banning travel to Israel has nothing to do with politics, she told Al Jazeera, explaining that Iraq has never had any diplomatic or political relations with Israel, nor has it acknowledged the State of Israel.
The West suffers from two delusions. One is that having elections means you have a democracy. And the other is that if an Arab or Muslim country has a democracy, it will no longer seek to destroy Israel.

They forget that after World War II, the allied powers occupied Japan and Germany for a number of years to root out the toxic effects of Nazism and fascism, before turning those countries over to their own citizens who were ready to behave in a democratic way. Neither of those occupations had any time limit, but when it was time to end them, the allies (at least on the Western side of the Berlin Wall and in Japan) ended them.

Of course, to be able to do that without turning your troops into target practice dummies you first have to utterly defeat the other side militarily to the point of surrender. Has any country surrendered to a Western power since Japan? Not that I can recall.

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Video: The Last Day

February 2013. An Iranian nuclear bomb hits Israel.

Let's go to the videotape.



No need to comment. But I will tell you that at least part of this was filmed in Jerusalem not far from my home.

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Any Firefox experts

Is anyone out there an expert in Firefox? If so, could you please drop me an email. My screen has a Windows Media bar in the middle (that doesnot work anyway) and I cannot get rid of it. It is making posting very difficult (see screen cap below).

Thanks.

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Abu Mazen agrees to talk until March

Army Radio is reporting that the 'Palestinians' have agreed to continue talking until March.
According to the report, the Palestinian representative to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean announced the Palestinian intention to continue the talks until March during the organization's 19th bureau meeting in Amman on Monday.

"The Palestinian Authority decided to continue talks with Israel, being conducted by Saeb Erekat and Prime Minister [Binyamin Netanyahu]'s representative Yitzhak Molcho, until March," Army Radio quoted him as saying.

The Jerusalem Post could not independently verify this report.
What could go wrong?

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Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Monday, January 30.
1) Khaled in Jordan

The New York Times reports Hamas Leader Takes Rare Trip to Jordan about Khaled Meshal's recent visit to Jordan:
Jordan wants to restore relations with Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that controls Gaza, because the group is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose Islamist allies are forming new governments around the Arab world, and because Jordan wants to remain an influential go-between in the region, especially in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But Jordan does not want to damage its relationship with Hamas’s chief rival, President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party, nor to anger Jordan’s allies, Israel and the United States, which consider Hamas a terrorist group.
Hamas, likewise, is eager to distance itself from the increasingly bloodstained government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, but does not want to provoke Syria or its powerful political and financial patron, Iran.
After the Hamas delegation led by Mr. Meshal met with King Abdullah on Sunday, the royal palace issued a statement repeating Jordan’s nuanced positions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, supporting a negotiated solution based on two states and citing “the importance of unity among the Palestinians groups.”
If King Abdullah is calling for "...unity among the Palestinian groups" - a unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah - then his position is hardly nuanced. As long as Hamas is still committed to jihad against Israel (h/t Elder of Ziyon) then promoting unity is working against peace.
Khaled Hroub of Cambridge University, who studies Islamist movements, said leaving Syria fit with a “paradigm shift” in Hamas — led by Mr. Meshal, over some resistance from hardliners in Gaza — away from an armed campaign and toward less violent popular resistance to Israel.
“They have decided for the time being that nonviolence is the strategy,” Dr. Hroub said of the Hamas leaders. “The whole nonviolent strategy has shown its effectiveness: the Arab Spring has proved this with the fall of strong governments in Egypt and Tunisia.
“With newly emerging governments in the post-Arab-Spring era, many of them Islamist, Hamas wants to be hosted and embraced and have offices in these countries, so they want to establish a distance from the old Hamas. This will make it easier for countries like Egypt and Tunisia to deal with them, without having problems with the Americans and the West.”
It's interesting that the reporter calls the Hamas leadership in Gaza "hardliners," that's usually been the description of the Syrian based leadership. The arbitrary use of the word is meaningless in describing the different wings of Hamas. (They're both hardline.)
Dr. Hroub could be saying that Hamas's moderation is simply an external pose; his comment about "Americans and the West" suggests this.

At the end the reporter interviews an Israeli:
In Israel, Brig. Gen. Shalom Harari, a former adviser to the defense ministry on Palestinian affairs, said it had become impossible for Hamas to remain based in Damascus while the Assad government, dominated by Syria’s Alawite Muslim minority, was killing fellow Sunni Arabs.
He said it made sense for Hamas to lower its profile at a time when its Islamist allies want to be seen in a better light in the West. He said the clearest sign of Hamas’s sensitivity to changing regional winds was that it had bowed to pressure last year from the new Egyptian government to release Gilad Shalit, a captive Israeli soldier it held for more than five years.
“The decision is to smother themselves in low profile,” General Harari said of Hamas, though he warned that the group would resume “the armed struggle, guns and bombs, when the time is right — and the time could be right within months.”
Harari is correct that Hamas is simply striking a pose because it is useful to act moderate now until the need to (pretend to) be moderate is over. And moderation, when describing Hamas, And moderation when describing Hamas is a relative term.

2) Khaled vs. Ha'aretz

An editorial in Ha'aretz Israel is using Iran to sidestep Mideast peace talks asserts:
Netanyahu might know that his refusal to present a map based on the June 4, 1967 borders and a realistic land-swap proposal is a surefire recipe for a continued freeze in the negotiations. Any rational person understands that a territorial plan of lesser scope and quality than the one the two previous prime ministers, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, presented the Palestinians is doomed to diplomatic failure and deteriorating security. But worryingly, the diplomatic process, whose purpose is to ensure Israel's very existence as a Jewish and democratic state, is being shunted to the sidelines of the political and media discourse.
Any rational person understands that if the Palestinians know that if they lose nothing by rejecting peace proposals and get Israel blamed for the lack negotiating progress, they will continue to do so. Ha'aretz is simply rewarding Palestinian intransigence.

The editorial concludes:
The death certificate of negotiations based on the two-state solution is a badge of shame for Israeli society. It's hard to understand how a society that has so impressively brought social injustice to the top of the agenda has fallen victim to our nationalist-religious leaders' criminal ploy and the irresponsible opposition's helplessness.
As noted above, there are still efforts to bring unity between Hamas and Fatah. Why isn't that a "death certificate of negotiations?" What Israeli society has "fallen victim" to, is democracy. Israeli people saw that the country's concrete and risky concessions were not met with a commensurate effort on the part of the Palestinians to come to terms, they voted against those who pushed negotiations at all costs.

It is Ha'aretz that is irresponsibly condemning Israeli society. Given the margins of Israeli society that its editors (and many reporters) inhabit, Ha'aretz is ridiculously considered an influential newspaper by many outside Israel. Its words are given weight that they don't deserve. Yet it recklessly defames the very society in which it exists.

In contrast, Khaled Abu Toameh shows some rational thought when writing about The Palestinians' Two Camps:
Yet this week, following the fifth session of Israeli-Palestinian talks in Jordan, where Abbas's representatives demanded a full withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, several Palestinian radical groups, including, of course Hamas, rushed to condemn the demand.
The radicals announced that Abbas does not have a mandate to ask for a state "only" in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. The radicals want all the land - from the "sea to the river." They want Haifa and Jaffa before Ramallah and Gaza.
Given the fact that the radical camp does not represent a tiny minority, it is obvious that any agreement signed today with Abbas and Fayyad will be rejected by many Palestinians. In other words, the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem will not end the Israeli-Arab conflict.
Wake up call to the editors of Ha'aretz - Iran is not a distraction and the peace process wasn't killed by Israel. Given the strength of Hamas the peace process likely won't lead to peace either.

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Iraq angry over US sky patrol

Now that the Obama administration has pulled all US troops out of Iraq, the United States is using drones to protect American contractors who are still present in the country. And the Iraqis are said to be furious (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
American contractors say they have been told that the State Department is considering to field unarmed surveillance drones in the future in a handful of other potentially “high-threat” countries, including Indonesia and Pakistan, and in Afghanistan after the bulk of American troops leave in the next two years. State Department officials say that no decisions have been made beyond the drone operations in Iraq.

The drones are the latest example of the State Department’s efforts to take over functions in Iraq that the military used to perform. Some 5,000 private security contractors now protect the embassy’s 11,000-person staff, for example, and typically drive around in heavily armored military vehicles.

When embassy personnel move throughout the country, small helicopters buzz over the convoys to provide support in case of an attack. Often, two contractors armed with machine guns are tethered to the outside of the helicopters. The State Department began operating some drones in Iraq last year on a trial basis, and stepped up their use after the last American troops left Iraq in December, taking the military drones with them.

The United States, which will soon begin taking bids to manage drone operations in Iraq over the next five years, needs formal approval from the Iraqi government to use such aircraft here, Iraqi officials said. Such approval may be untenable given the political tensions between the two countries. Now that the troops are gone, Iraqi politicians often denounce the United States in an effort to rally support from their followers.

A senior American official said that negotiations were under way to obtain authorization for the current drone operations, but Ali al-Mosawi, a top adviser to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki; Iraq’s national security adviser, Falih al-Fayadh; and the acting minister of interior, Adnan al-Asadi, all said in interviews that they had not been consulted by the Americans.

Mr. Asadi said that he opposed the drone program: “Our sky is our sky, not the U.S.A.’s sky.”
If the US stops these drone missions, we have a clear shot at Iran.

Heh.

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Syria claims 'terrorists' blew up gas pipeline on Lebanese border

Syrian news agency SANA is reporting that 'terrorists' have blown up a gas pipeline along its border with Lebanon.
SANA said the pipeline carries gas from the central province of Homs to an area near the border with Lebanon. Further details on Monday's blast were not released.

There have been several pipeline attacks since the Syrian uprising began in mid-March, but it is not clear who is behind them.

President Bashar Assad's regime blames "terrorists" for the country's 10-month-old uprising.
Hmmm.

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Iranian students claim Israeli strike would strengthen regime

Two Iranian student leaders who are visiting in Israel believe that an Israeli strike on Iran would strengthen the Islamist regime.
“An attack would be a blessing for the Islamic Republic, a gift from God for them because then they could use this type of attack to play the victim around the world,” said Amir Abbas Fakhravar of the Confederation of Iranian Students (CIS).

Fakhravar added that an Israeli attack would not bring about a regime change in Tehran, and instead would bring Iran new sympathetic allies and would give it legitimacy in the eyes of the public it lost after the contested 2009 presidential elections.

“After 2009 and the [pro-democracy] Green Movement they lost their legitimacy in the country. It’s not hard to regain this legitimacy after an Israeli attack,” Fakhravar said.

He added that for a regime devoted to paranoid conspiracies blaming Israel for all of its peoples’ hardships, an Israeli attack would be all the proof that Tehran needs to focus the eyes of the public on Israel, effectively silencing dissent within Iran.
The students advocate sanctions instead.
Instead of military action, Fakhravar believes that if the international community ensures tougher sanctions against Iran it can stop the drive for a nuclear weapon.

He said the central component in Iran is oil dollars, which give the regime the cash it needs to pay Basij militiamen and Revolutionary Guard soldiers. If the money dries up, according to Fakhravar’s logic, the regime would lack the means to pay its foot soldiers to crack down on unarmed demonstrators.

Fakhravar is in Israel along with CIS spokeswoman Saghar Erica Kasraie.
Sorry, but it's almost not relevant whether the Iranian people back the regime. First, there is no indication that the sanctions are having any effect on stopping Iran. Even if they 'can't pay the foot soldiers,' they will be able to bring in Hezbullah mercenaries from Lebanon as they did in 2009. And the mercenaries - who speak Arabic and not Persian - are likely to be even more ruthless to the local populace.

Second, it's late for sanctions. Strong sanctions might have had an effect if they had been implemented two or three years ago when the Obama administration was wasting time trying to 'engage' with Ahmadinejad. Instead, that time was wasted, and just in the last couple months (and over Obama's objections) we are seeing sanctions against Iranian oil. It may - likely is - too little too late.

Third, if we reach the point where we have to strike Iran or accept a nuclear-armed Iran, what the Iranian people think and whether they will resent Israel is irrelevant. Iran will have to be stopped. And if the US and the rest of the relatively free world won't do it, Israel will have no choice but to try.

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Video: Sh*t Jews say to converts

The next time you're around a convert, please watch what you say.

Let's go to the videotape (Hat Tip: Lance K).

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Syrian rebels prevent Assad's wife from escaping

So much for that report that Bashar al-Assad's wife and kids are in London. Asma al-Assad and her kids are in Syria, and they were recently prevented from leaving by Syrian rebels.
Sources within the Syrian opposition said that the Free Syrian Army forces managed to prevent the escape of the first lady of Syria and additional relatives through Damascus airport.

According to the Egyptian daily, the sources claimed that Asma Assad, her children, Bashar Assad's mother and his cousin were all in a convoy on the way to the airport when rebel forces under the command of a former senior officer in the Syrian army, blocked the their path.

After heavy exchanges of fire, the presidential security forces managed to get the convoy back to the presidential palace. The opposition sources alleged that Assad's security forces pursued the deserter general, Mahmoud Halouf, former head of the Palestine branch of Syrian intelligence.

...

The general's unit, all former soldiers who deserted with him, 300 in total, said that when they saw the convoy the believed it was an attempt to smuggle senior officials out of the country – which is why they blocked the convoy's path.

...

If the report about Asma Assad's attempted escape is true, it would not be the first time during the Arab Spring that relatives of a failing ruler find a way to escape. Last August Muammar Gaddafi's wife and three of his children managed to escape war-torn Libya and reach Algeria. Gaddafi was killed not long after.

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Panetta admits Iran will be nuclear within a year

In an appearance on CBS's 60 Minutes on Sunday night, US Secretary of Defense LeonLink Panetta admitted that Iran will likely have nuclear weapons within a year, and the means of delivering them within a year or two after that.

Of course, Panetta claims that the US will do 'whatever it takes' to stop Iran.

Let's go to the videotape.



I have two issues with what Panetta said. First, don't we have evidence now that they are developing a nuclear weapon? Didn't the IAEA admit that in November? Note also that he won't utter the words "including military action," and instead he just says that 'all options' are on the table.

Here's more from YNet.
In a report issued in November, the International Atomic Energy Agency said intelligence from more than 10 countries and its own sources "indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear device."

It detailed 12 suspicious areas such as testing explosives in a steel container at a military base and studies on Shahab-3 ballistic missile warheads that the IAEA said were "highly relevant to a nuclear weapon program." Iran rejected the dossier as based on forgeries.

The Islamic Republic has come under unprecedented international pressure since the publication of the report, with Washington and the European Union targeting its oil sector and central bank.

In his State of the Union message Tuesday, Obama said a peaceful outcome was still possible with Iran over its nuclear ambitions, but he declined to rule out the military option.

"The regime is more isolated than ever before; its leaders are faced with crippling sanctions, and as long as they shirk their responsibilities, this pressure will not relent," Obama said.

"Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal," the president declared, triggering a standing ovation.
What could go wrong?

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Why I got a call from Bibi

Yes, the Netanyahu campaign is in a panic about Jerusalem.
Netanyahu made a point of calling key central committee members in Jerusalem, where a political deal could end up helping his competition, Likud activist Moshe Feiglin. There are 8,700 Likud members in Jerusalem, which is the party’s largest branch.

About 1,400 Likud members in Jerusalem were recruited to the party by Feiglin’s Manhigut Yehudit organization.

Netanyahu’s allies expressed concern that due to the deal, the Feiglin supporters who vote could outnumber the rest of the Likud members in the capital who show up at the polls.

“Netanyahu needs to make sure there are 3,000 people who come to vote in Jerusalem,” said the current head of the branch, Mishael Ben-Ami. “Even if he wins the election nationwide by a landslide, it would be a real blow if he loses in Jerusalem. Netanyahu’s enemy is not Feiglin, who is not taken so seriously. Netanyahu’s main enemy is complacency.”

No Manhigut Yehudit members from Jerusalem were elected to the central committee the last time an election was held for the committee nearly a decade ago, due to deals that were made and broken. This time, Feiglin’s supporters have made sure they will be well represented.

Feiglin’s representative in Jerusalem, Dr. Nitza Kahane, worked out a deal with a group of Jerusalem vote contractors led by Dudu Amsalem, Yisrael Yehoshua, amd Yitzhak Kaufman.

...

Kahane said the deal was intended to ensure the revival of the Likud’s Jerusalem branch, which has had almost no political activity for nearly 10 years.

“There is a lot of hatred and bad blood in the branch,” she said. “A lot came from divisiveness in the branch. Our goal was to end the tension in the branch.”
There hasn't been an election for the Central Committee in ten years because Netanyahu - and before him Sharon - feared losing. That tells you all you need to know about democracy in the Likud. Enough is enough.

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Netanyahu finds a talking point

Could this be the issue that finally switches the impetus to act to the 'Palestinian' side?

For the last three years, Israel has been under constant pressure to be the party to make the move to get the 'peace process' going. Abu Mazen has been able to sit back and just keep saying "Israel hasn't made a proposal." "It's Israel's fault." And unfortunately most of the world believes him. Now, Israel has finally identified an issue that should resonate with the West. It's an issue we could have found a long time ago, but only now is it being brought front and center and only now is it being squarely laid in the court of the 'Palestinian Authority.' Only now are we beginning to fight with two hands. The issue is incitement.
Palestinian Authority incitement is poisoning the atmosphere and is tantamount to “confidence destroying measures,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told visiting Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore on Sunday.

Netanyahu’s comments came just hours after he sounded particularly downbeat in the cabinet regarding the diplomatic process, informing his ministers that signs of progress were not “especially good.”

...

Speaking before a meeting with Gilmore, Netanyahu cited the PA’s official television broadcast of a program this week in which the terrorists who murdered five members of the Fogel family in Itamar last March were glorified.

The PA television program, he said, portrayed the terrorists as martyrs and heroes, just days after the PA’s mufti in Jerusalem quoted from a Muslim text calling for the murder of Jews.

“I think this is the wrong way to go. We demand a prompt condemnation; I hope you demand a condemnation because the only way to move to peace is to prepare our people for peace and not for brutal terror,” the prime minister said.

Later, during the meeting with Gilmore, Netanyahu said that while many ask Israel to take confidence building measures toward the Palestinians, the type of incitement being aired in the PA was destroying Israel’s confidence.

...

A similar message was relayed in a meeting later with visiting Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird. At that meeting, Netanyahu said the international community should urge the PA not to form a unity government with Hamas. He also praised President Shimon Peres for saying at the World Economic forum in Davos on Saturday that Turkey was providing Hamas with hundreds of millions of dollars.

“This is a matter of concern for us,” Netanyahu said.
So will we finally begin to stick up for ourselves? Time will tell.

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Bibi's calling

I had a call on Sunday night from someone who claimed that they were calling for the Likud. My daughter (who is well-trained) came into my 'office,' and said that there was someone who said that they are from the Likud on the phone, and do I want to take the call. I gave her a disgusted look and took the call.

The caller was a woman with a very high-pitched voice. She asked if I knew that there are Likud elections on Tuesday, and I said that I did and asked her to confirm that our polling place is Binyanei HaUma (the National Buildings - a place across from the Central Bus Station) as in the past, and she confirmed that the elections are there. (That's quite interesting because there's a wine-tasting festival in Binyanei HaUma on Monday and Tuesday. Hmmm). She asked if I was planning to vote and I said that I was. She asked whether I was planning to vote for Binyamin Netanyahu, and I said that no, I am planning to vote for Moshe Feiglin. She sighed, thanked me and hung up the phone.

Do you think that Bibi is getting worried?

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Say it isn't so: Israel's Foreign Ministry praises Muslim Brotherhood

I don't know who in Israel's foreign ministry thought up this brilliant idea, but they ought to be fired. Israel has congratulated and praised the Muslim Brotherhood on winning the Egyptian elections (Hat Tip: Catholic Lisa via Twitter and Voice of the Copts).
Israel apparently has decided not to go head-to-head against an Egyptian regime headed by the radical Muslim Brotherhood and has congratulated it for its efforts to achieve freedom, democracy and economic development.

...

The Israel Foreign Ministry has decided to take an optimistic view, at least publicly, and stated, “We send the new parliament our wishes of constructive and fruitful work for the well-being of the Egyptian public. We trust Egypt will continue to uphold the importance of peace and stability in our region.”
What the heck are they thinking? What could go wrong?

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Overnight music video

Here's Baruch Levine with Tov Lachsos (It is good to seek shelter in God).

Let's go to the videotape.

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Iran: Obama's favorite color is pink

Iran has sent President Obama a replica of the American RQ-170 drone that it captured a few weeks ago. The replica is pink because "that is Obama's favorite color."

Let's go to the videotape (Hat Tip: Will).



Obama plays the 98-pound weakling again. He's an embarrassment to the United States.

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Turkey denies promising Hamas $300 million

I wonder why they changed their minds....
“Turkey has been one of the strongest advocates of the Palestinian case,” President Abdullah Gül was quoted as saying by the Cihan news agency on Sunday. “Hamas is a political body that entered into elections in the Palestinian region of Gaza and came to power through the votes of the people,” Gül said, countering Western claims that Hamas draws its power from terrorist activity. “Our contact [with Hamas] has been constant, but we will have to wait and see what has come out of the frequent visits,” he added, without overlooking the possibility that Hamas might be more engaged with Turkey in the future.

As Hamas gets ready to leave Syria for good, its final decision on where to set up camp has begun to draw the attention of the international media, which recently speculated that Gazan Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, on his first visit to Turkey in early January, was promised that Turkey would give Hamas around $300 million to make up for the void created by suspended financial aid from Iran, which stopped flowing in August, according to Reuters.

Officials from Turkey's Foreign Ministry approached by Today's Zaman on Sunday denied allegations that Turkey is offering millions of dollars to Hamas, saying that news featuring these allegations was made up and did not reflect the truth.

“There is no cash aid to Hamas, but Turkey is, of course, engaged in projects to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza,” officials said and added, “A $40 million hospital project is one of them, but the construction material for the hospital is not allowed into Gaza.” Turkey frequently complains about an Israeli blockade of Gaza that Israel says is needed to block weapons from reaching Hamas, which Israel considers its archenemy, but which in reality chokes the Gazan economy and keeps Gazans underserved and underdeveloped.

Hamas has made it public that it is mulling over where it will call home next, and Turkey, along with Egypt, Qatar and Jordan, have been included on the list of possible hosts.
No cash. Heh.

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Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Sunday, January 29.
1)To strike or not to strike
One of the most discussed articles is today's New York Times Magazine cover story, Will Israel Attack Iran? by Ronen Bergman.

Jeffrey Goldberg (via memeorandum) makes an interesting observation:
I write this, of course, as someone who thought, based on interviewing many of the same people Bergman interviewed, that there was a very good chance that Israel would have struck Iran by last summer. The success of the Stuxnet virus, which operated against Iranian centrifuges, altered the calculus in that case. And so I wouldn't be at all surprised if Bergman's analysis is premature. I certainly hope it is premature -- I think an attack on Iran would be disastrous for Israel, in part because condition number two (above) does not yet obtain.
Of course we could go back to 2007 when Daniel Pipes wrote Israeli Jets vs. Iranian nukes:
Barring a "catastrophic development," Middle East Newsline reports, George Bush has decided not to attack Iran. An administration source explains that Washington deems Iran's cooperation "needed for a withdrawal [of U.S. forces] from Iraq."
If correct, this implies the Jewish state stands alone against a regime that threatens to "wipe Israel off the map" and is building the nuclear weapons to do so. Israeli leaders are hinting that their patience is running out; Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz just warned that "diplomatic efforts should bear results by the end of 2007."
Pipes was writing about a study that dealt with the technical (not political) feasibility of an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. Minister Mofaz's warning sounds not different from what we're hearing now. Is Israel's leadership consistently wrong about the imminence of a nuclear Iran or is there something else in play?
Barry Rubin argues:
I think the answer is simple: Israeli leaders are not announcing that they are about to attack Iran. They are sending a message that the United States and Europe should act more decisively so that Israel does not feel the need to attack Iran in the future.
The problem with the Israeli approach is that its leaders then get pegged as out of control war mongers. (The problem may be less with what Israel's leaders say than the way their statements are interpreted.)

Elder of Ziyon and Israel Matzav have also blogged about it.

2) No Hedges

Last week I cited a post by David Bernstein regarding Neil Lewis's defense of the New York Times' coverage of Israel. Bernstein wrote that Chris Hedges was Middle East Bureau Chief of the New York Times at the time Deborah Sontag was reporting from Israel. Lewis has sent a correction to Bernstein:
the facts: chris hedges, heartily disliked by fervent supporters of israel, was not debbie sontag’s superior or supervisor. ever. he was, for a time, the correspondent based in cairo (and i am not sure their times much overlapped if at all).
There's more to the correction and Bernstein's analysis of what it shows about Lewis's premises.

Bernstein observes:
...while I can understand why Lewis was annoyed by my misstatement of fact, it’s a long way from such a misstatement to being “ignoran[t]” and having a “conspiracy spinning mind” incapable of “intelligent discussion.”
It reminds me of this exchange between Sherlock Holmes and Count Silvius:
"It's all here, Count. The real facts as to the death of old Mrs. Harold, who left you the Blymer estate, which you so rapidly gambled away."
"You are dreaming!"
"And the complete life history of Miss Minnie Warrender."
"Tut! You will make nothing of that!"
"Plenty more here, Count. Here is the robbery in the train de-luxe to the Riviera on February 13, 1892. Here is the forged check in the same year on the Credit Lyonnais."
"No, you're wrong there."
"Then I am right on the others! Now, Count, you are a card-player. When the other fellow has all the trumps, it saves time to throw down your hand."
Sometimes pointing out a critic's mistake, is a way of acknowledging the accuracy of other charges.

3) I'll take motives for $300, Alex

Recently Barry Rubin wrote:
Leaving that aside, it is true that much of the analysis of Islam, Islamism, and Middle East politics on the right is too crude. Yet in part this is a reaction to the failure of the mass media, experts, the government, and the policy establishment to offer a reasonable picture. By portraying Islam as a perfect “religion of peace” and revolutionary Islamism as moderate, these institutions have created a suspicious opposition ready to go to another extreme.
Keep that in mind when reading this recent headline:
Motive of shooter who targeted military sites is unclear
If you read the article you learn:
Before police foiled the plan in June, the vandalism was to be Melaku’s sixth attack, months after he went on a mysterious shooting spree that targeted the Pentagon, the National Museum of the Marine Corps and two other military buildings in Northern Virginia. A video found after Melaku’s arrest showed him wearing a black mask and shooting a 9mm handgun out of his Acura’s passenger window as he drove along Interstate 95, shouting “Allahu Akbar!”
Maybe I'm naive, but I'd assume that there's a religious component to Melaku's actions.

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