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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Hillary Clinton hopes Egyptian protests aren't hijacked by 'extremists'

Hillary Clinton hopes that the new Egyptian protests aren't hijacked by 'extremists,' and that we don't see the return of dictatorial rule, because after all the Muslim Brotherhood is oh, so 'moderate' and 'democratic.'

Let's go to the videotape (Hat Tip: Shy Guy via Jawa Report).

Keep this one in case she tries to come back in four years and run for President....

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Israel spits in the 'human rights council's face

Earlier on Thursday, the United Nations 'human rights council' continued its war on Israel by releasing a report that threatened to take the Jewish state to the International Criminal Court due to its 'settlement policies.' The response was not long in coming.

This evening, Leftist Defense Minister Ehud Barak (who may yet be the ambassador to the United States in a few months) announced the approval of 346 new housing units in Nokdim and Tekoa. Although both towns are part of the Etzion bloc, they also fall outside the 'security fence,' which many believed would be Israel's bottom line position in any permanent status arrangement with the 'Palestinians.' Now, it appears we're going to allow towns and villages outside the fence to build new houses.
The plans for 200 new homes in Tekoa and 146 in Nokdim were pushed forward a few weeks ago, but he and the council only publicized the information on Thursday, he said.
The news broke at the same time that the UN Human Rights Council lifted its embargo on a report condemning Israeli settlement building and calling on Israel to withdraw from the West Bank.
Israel considers Gush Etzion to be a settlement bloc that will remain part of the country in any final-status agreement with the Palestinians for a two-state solution.
But the Nokdim and Tekoa settlements are located in the eastern part of that region, outside the boundaries of the security barrier.
Somewhere in Heaven, Yitzchak Shamir (whom the Americans complained would unveil a new 'settlement' every time James Baker came to visit) is cheering.

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Hagel hearing a 'disaster'

It seems that there's a Chuck Roast going on at the Senate Armed Services Committee. Leftists on Twitter are calling the hearing a disaster.
Read the whole thing



International law and 'human rights' v. Israel

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Thursday, January 31.
International law and human rights vs. Israel 

Yesterday the New York Times published an op-ed, Why Palestine should bring Israel to court in the Hague by George Bisharat. Elder of Ziyon cited Professor Eugene Kontorovich, an expert on international law, exposing a number of fallacies of Bisharat's op-ed:

1) The ICC can only act when the home state refuses to investigate crimes; that is not the case for any Israeli acts in Gaza or the territories. 2) ICC has never prosecuted a case referred by a country against nationals of a non-member state. Such an action would terrify US officials and permanently sour American relations with the Court, as it would expose U.S. military and civilian officials to liability for U.S. armed action anywhere in the world, and particularly for the controversial drone strikes program of President Obama. 3) The ICC has never even considered taking a case that does not involve killing and personal violence; a settlements suit would be far outside the kind of things they've dealt with in the past. 4) The relevant actions would have to be on the territory of Palestine, which is a problem since they do not have defined territory, and most of what the op-ed talks about precedes their nominal statehood, so that would be out of bounds. 5) The ICC would also have jurisdiction over all Palestinian war crimes.
Bisharat, who is a professor of law, is very much an activist in service of a cause. Another professor of law, William Jacobson, showed that Bisharat is a poseur, who uses a false family history to justify his campaign against Israel.
Yet much of Bisharat’s family narrative is exaggerated, at a minimum. I previously documented Bisharat’s claim that his father was forced to abandon an art show at a Jewish-owned art gallery due to his father having spoken up for Palestinian rights. That claim, made by Bisharat long after both his father and the gallery owner had died, leaving no witnesses, was disputed by people affiliated with the gallery.
Bisharat regularly and for decades has played upon his family history as forming his narrative of Israel’s lack of legitimacy, and his call for a single state encompassing what now is Israel, the West Bank and Gaza ...
Jacobson has critiqued Bisharat and his views other times too.

Today, the Times takes another angle to use international law as a cudgel with which to beat Israel, an editorial, titled Israel Ducks on Human Rights.

Yisrael Medad and Daled Amos both identify the contradiction at the heart of the editorial.

The third paragraph reads:
In May, Israel said it planned to stop participating because the council was a “political tool” for those who wanted to “bash and demonize” Israel. The council, whose 47 members are elected by the United Nations General Assembly, is clearly not without faults. More than half of the resolutions passed by the council since it started work in 2006 have focused on Israel and its treatment of Palestinians, and Israel is the only country that is a standing item on the agenda for the council’s biannual meetings.
But two paragraphs later, the editors tells that "universal standards" in human rights are important!
Human rights reviews are an important tool for judging all countries by universal standards and nudging them to make positive changes. By opting out, Israel shows not only an unwillingness to undergo the same scrutiny as all other countries, but it deprives itself of an opportunity to defend against abuse charges. The decision could also undermine the entire review process by providing an excuse for states with terrible human rights records — like North Korea, Iran and Zimbabwe — to withdraw as well. It certainly will make it harder for Washington to argue for reviews when an ally rejects the process.
It would be one thing for the New York Times to acknowledge that the Human Rights Council is flawed and that Israel should submit to its authority, if the flaws were not relevant to Israel's standing. But one of the flaws that the Times itself acknowledged is the council's obsession with Israel, meaning that Israel will not be judged by the "universal standards" it claims to champion.

Israel Matzav outlines the degree to which the editorial downplays the rather substantial flaws of the Human Rights Council.
The Times' willful blindness to what the 'council' is and what it represents is beyond appalling. The 'council' has nothing to do with the protection of human rights (note - without the scare quotes this time) and everything to do with promoting the use of 'human rights' as a means of bashing Israel as was decided at the Durban I conference in 2001. That is why the 'council' has had nothing to say while 60,000 Syrians have been murdered by the Assad regime in the last two years, and that is why the 'council' had nothing to say about the green revolution in Iran in 2009 (behavior in which the Obama administration was unfortunately and shamefully complicit).
There is no reason for countries like North Korea, Iran and Zimbabwe to skip their universal periodic reviews because, unlike Israel, which is the only democracy in the Middle East and the only place in the world in which Arab Christians and Muslims have human rights, countries like North Korea, Iran and Zimbabwe will benefit from the automatic pass of the Organization of Islamic Countries at the Council.
He also cites a recent article by Anne Bayefsky, telling how Syria fared at the Human Rights Council:
So here’s how the UPR rubber hit the road of crimes against humanity in Syria. On October 7, 2011, the Syrian vice-minister of foreign affairs and his entourage took their places in the Council chamber. And then the Cubans said: “the Syrian government is working for the human rights of its people.” The North Koreans said: “we commend Syria on its efforts taken to maintain security and stability.” The Iranians said: “we appreciate the efforts of the government of Syria to promote and protect human rights.” Ditto Sudan, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Algeria, Lebanon, China, Zimbabwe, Burma/Myanmar, and so on.
Four days later, on behalf of the three countries charged with compiling recommendations, Mexico reported to the Council: “Syria received a total of 179 recommendations…It is a pleasure to inform you that 98 recommendations were accepted and 26 shall be considered.” Among the recommendations that "did not enjoy the support" of Syria were “immediately end attacks on peaceful protesters and bring violators to account,” “put an end to secret detentions” and “allow journalists to freely exercise their profession.” At the end of this stage of the UPR, the President of the Council turned to Syria and signed off with “I thank both you and your delegation for your participation in the UPR.”
At the time, there were 2,600 dead Syrian citizens at the hands of their own government. And Assad got the message about the human rights bona fides of the UN.
In fact, just using the name "human rights" in an organization's title does nothing to ensure that it supports human rights. That appears to be the operating assumption of the New York Times.

Of course it's entirely possible that there's no reason to assume that the editors of the Times are naive. On successive days they've published an op-ed filled with bogus legal jargon written by a known anti-Israel activist and an editorial lacking in logical coherence. The only reason to publish both, short of editorial malfeasance, is that the New York Times is leading a campaign to "bash and demonize" Israel.

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Don't you think that resume is a little thin?

My friend Ed Morrissey reports that Chuck Hagel, President Hussein Obama's nominee to be Secretary of Defense, has a resume that's a little thin... (Hat Tip: Shy Guy).
Hegseth says that Hagel’s status as a veteran and experience in working with veterans’ groups would make Hagel a good choice for Secretary of Veteran Affairs, but not to run the Pentagon.  Nor, for that matter, does his two terms in the Senate.  When Hagel belonged to the club, he wasn’t exactly its most clubby member.  Hagel wasn’t known for his ability to network and build coalitions; he was more known for his predilection for going his own way.  That quality has its uses in politics, but not in bureaucracies, and certainly not at the top of one.  Successful executives build teams and reach out for broad support for initiatives.


As late as 2009, Hagel opposed sanctions, and opposed a military option on Iran.  Obama’s selection of Hagel sends a deeply and dangerously unserious message to Tehran.  Hagel’s views on Israel are a sideshow; Iran should be the focus of today’s hearing.
I doubt that Hagel will have much trouble getting confirmed today.  Chuck Schumer’s support for Hagel on a floor vote probably cinched the confirmation, and unless Hagel foams at the mouth or eats an American flag in the middle of the hearing, there is zero chance that the committee won’t recommend confirmation to the full Senate.  That doesn’t mean that Hagel should be allowed to avoid the question of Iran and his past positions that put him well to the left of the administration he’ll soon be joining.
Read the whole thing. I would amend Ed's penultimate paragraph to say "As late as two weeks ago, Hagel opposed sanctions, and opposed a military option on Iran. Until he met with Chuck Schumer, I never heard Hagel come out for either of those things, including when he was under discussion to replace Bob Gates in 2010.

But with only one Republican having come out in favor of Hagel's nomination, Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin believes that it could still be filibustered.
For Hagel's opposition, the best-case scenario is that only a few Republicans break ranks and a couple of Democrats do break ranks, giving the Hagel opposition the 40 votes needed to filibuster the vote on the nomination. They recognize that is unlikely and a filibuster of a cabinet nominee is extremely rare, but they plan to continue their effort well past Hagel's confirmation hearing, hoping that more embarrassing quotes from Hagel's past surface or a new scandal comes to light.
"There's a lot of White House spin about Hagel's clear path to confirmation, but they have a real fight on their hands -- and they know it," one GOP source close to the committee said.
For the team of officials, staffers, and outsiders working to bolster the Hagel nomination, they believe that Hagel's Thursday testimony will take the wind out of the sails of the opposition and set the record straight on the former senator's views.
"It's unfortunate that you have a number of senators that decided to take a very public very aggressive position weeks ahead of the confirmation hearing without actually speaking to the nominee," one Hagel supporter close to the process told The Cable. "This hearing is the first honest opportunity for Hagel to explain his positions, defend his record out in the open, and he will forcefully address much of the misinformation about his record that has been advanced by a small minority of folks on the Hill."
"We think we are in a good, strong position going forward, but nobody takes anything for granted in this business," an official working on behalf of the confirmation effort added.
There's a very good reason to have taken a public stance against Hagel weeks ahead of the confirmation hearing: His record. For the last three weeks, Hagel has said all the right things and the White House has done a good job of spinning his record. But that doesn't change the fact that Hagel is probably the most anti-Israel Senator to serve since Charles Percy and JW Fulbright (both Senators in my youth). Can a leopard change its spots? No, but apparently Chuck Hagel can hide them for a few weeks.

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Hamas terrorist released in Shalit deal directing terror activities in Israel from Qatar

The IDF and the General Security Service have broken up an attempt to establish a Hamas terror cell in Hebron. But here's the most curious part: The cell was being run by a terrorist in Qatar who was released as part of the terrorists for Gilad trade in October 2011.
The investigation concluded that the terrorists were assisted by Hamas operatives abroad, who provided them with guidance and funding. Their primary contact person abroad was Husam Badran, one of the prisoners released in the exchange that secured the return of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
In 2004, Badran was sentenced to 17 years of imprisonment for his involvement in the execution of terror attacks during the Second Intifada. Upon his release in October 2011, he was exiled to Qatar.
Qatar needs to be reminded that the Mossad has long arms....

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Surprise, Syria is lying UPDATED

As noted by Shy Guy in the comments, Israel's Channel 2 is now confirming that the IAF did not hit a 'military research facility' outside of Damascus. If that facility was hit, it was by Syrian rebels and not by the IAF.

However, Israel has confirmed that it hit a convoy carrying SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles near the Syrian-Lebanese border on its way to Hezbullah.

The Assad regime lied about the hit because they believe that the Russians will be very upset with them for shipping weapons out of Syria to Hezbullah.

My guess is that Israel chose to go public with the story because of the condemnation issued by the Russians earlier on Thursday.  This disclosure takes the steam out of that condemnation.


Israel Radio carried the same story in its 6:00 pm newscast and said it was based on this report in the Miami Herald. 
As with much of what takes place in Syria, there were few sources of independent information to help explain the events. Rami Abdurrahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based group that tracks violence in Syria, said he’d confirmed that an airstrike had taken place in the Jamraya area, about 20 miles west of Damascus on the road to Beirut, but that he hadn’t yet determined what the target had been.
What was certain, however, was that Israel, whose officials have expressed concern for months that Syrian weapons would fall into the hands of either Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group or al Qaida-linked Islamists among Syria’s rebel groups, had felt compelled to act.
Indeed, Israel’s action was considered serious enough that the country’s military intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, traveled to Washington earlier this week to discuss the move in advance, according to an Israeli intelligence officer who spoke to McClatchy only on the condition that he not be identified.
"Kochavi directly relayed our concerns to the Americans,” the officer said.
Another Israeli intelligence officer, based on the country’s northern border, told McClatchy that the target of the attack had been Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles and other weapons systems that were being taken from Syria into Lebanon. He said that the weapons, which included advanced electronic systems that could disable a variety of Israeli aircraft, would have been a “game changer” had they fallen under Hezbollah’s control.
"Israel relies heavily on the strength of our air force, and its strategic deterrence," the officer said. "Weapons systems that make our air force vulnerable will not be allowed to fall into the hands of terrorist groups."

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/01/30/3208972/israeli-aircraft-strike-syrian.html#storylink=misearch#storylink=cpy

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Iran planning to upgrade centrifuges at Natanz

Iran has sent a letter to the IAEA informing it that it plans to use more modern, faster centrifuges to enrich uranium (but 'only' to 5%) at its Natanz facility outside Tehran.
The letter said that Iran would use the new centrifuges - a model called IR2m - at a unit in the Natanz plant where Iran is enriching uranium to a fissile concentration of up to five percent, according to an IAEA communication to member states seen by Reuters.
"The Secretariat of the Agency received a letter from the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) dated 23 January 2013 informing the Agency that 'centrifuge machines type IR2m will be used in Unit A-22' at the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at Natanz," the IAEA communication said.
Iran says it refines uranium to power a planned network of nuclear power stations. But the West fears that the material, if enriched much further to 90 percent, could be used for weapons. Iran says its nuclear program has only peaceful goals.
The Islamic republic has for years been trying to develop more centrifuges that are more efficient than the breakdown-prone 1970s IR-1 models it now uses for production.
The sanctions are really having an effect on Iran's desire to pursue a nuclear weapon, aren't they? What could go wrong?

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Syria, Iran, Hezbullah and Russia all threaten Israel

Back in the real world (outside the surreality of the 'human rights council'), Syria and Iran have threatened to retaliate against 'Tel Aviv' (which they refer to as our capital), while Hezbullah and Russia have condemned what they have all decided to call an Israeli strike on a 'military research facility' in Syria.
Syria's ambassador to Lebanon said on Thursday that Damascus had the option of a "surprise decision" to respond to what it said was an Israeli air strike on a research center on the outskirts of the Syrian capital on Wednesday.
Syria could take "a surprise decision to respond to the aggression of the Israeli warplanes," Ali Abdul Karim Ali was quoted as telling a Hezbollah-run news website.
"Syria is engaged in defending its sovereignty and its land," he added, without spelling out what the response might entail. Syria and Israel have fought several wars and in 2007 Israeli jets bombed a suspected Syrian nuclear site, without retaliation.
In the wake of reported Israeli air strike on a Syrian weapons center, Iran also issued a threat to Israel on Thursday.
The Iranian regime's English language mouthpiece, Press TV, quoted a deputy foreign minister as saying that the "strike on Syria will have serious consequences for Tel Aviv." The official did not elaborate.


Meanwhile, Lebanon's militant group Hezbollah condemned on Thursday an Israeli attack which it said targeted a Syrian research center, saying it was an attempt to thwart Arab military capabilities and pledging to stand by its ally President Bashar Assad.
"Hezbollah strongly condemns this new Zionist aggression on Syria,” the group said in a statement, calling for "wide-scale condemnation from the international community," the group said in a statement.

Russia said on Thursday it was very concerned about reports of an Israeli air attack deep inside Syria near Damascus and that any such action, if confirmed, would amount to unacceptable military interference in the war-ravaged country.
"If this information is confirmed, then we are dealing with unprovoked attacks on targets on the territory of a sovereign country, which blatantly violates the UN Charter and is unacceptable, no matter the motives to justify it," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
I don't see anything coming from any of these threats... except maybe a UN condemnation. But if the IAF ever admits to this, I would love to see the surveillance video (I'm sure one was made).


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'human rights council' threatens to send Israel to International Criminal Court for 'settlement activity'

They have nothing to say about 60,000 Syrians being murdered by the Assad regime. They have nothing to say about thousands of Iranians being tortured and murdered by the Khameni/Ahmadinejad regime.They have nothing to say about thousands of Egyptians and Sudanese being murdered by their respective governments. And they have nothing to say about thousands of North Koreans being starved to death in their little gulag off the Sea of Japan.

But the United Nations' 'human rights council' is threatening to refer little Israel to the International Criminal Court for something called 'settlement activity.'
In the probe's conclusions, the mission’s report stated that Israel had an obligation under international law not to transfer its population into the Palestinian territories.
“The Rome Statute establishes the International Criminal Court's jurisdiction over the deportation or transfer, directly or indirectly, by the occupying Power of parts of its own population into the territory it occupies, or the deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory,” the report stated.
It added, “ratification of the Statute by Palestine may lead to accountability for gross violations of human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law and justice for victims.”
For this to happen. the imaginary state of 'Palestine' would first have to ratify the Rome Statute (how would they do that? Via the 'legislature' whose term expired four years ago?) so that they would become a 'state party' to the International Criminal Court treaty.

The full report may be found here. Did I mention that it includes 'east' Jerusalem?

This entire sordid tale can be traced back to the Obama administration's insistence of treating the 'human rights council' as something other than a kangaroo court.

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Justice for January's victims

Here's a video that was tweeted to me by Ronen Feiner, 3rd year Leeds Uni student studying Theology and Religious Studies. Ex uni chair of leeds JSoc. As you will soon see, Ronen was likely involved in making the video.

Let's go to the videotape. I'll have some comments after the video.

I actually watched the video a second time to see whether my friend Yechezkel "Hezi" Goldberg, HY"D (May God Avenge his blood), who was murdered in the suicide bombing of the #19 bus in Jerusalem on January 29, 2004, was included.  He was not.

Just my humble opinion, but I would let the videos go on longer with all the names - I think the effect is much greater when people realize how many people that is.

But this is a great idea, and I assume (unfortunately) that we will have 11 more to post - God willing without any new victims.


Satellite images show no sign of emergency response at Fordow

The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) has published the satellite image above, which shows the Fordow uranium enrichment plant in Iran on January 22, 2013, the day after there was allegedly an explosion at the same plant. 

ISIS adds the following comments:
On January 25, 2013, news website WND published a report claiming that on January 21, the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant near the Iranian city of Qom was the target of a major explosion, thought to be an act of sabotage.  The website claimed the explosion partially destroyed the site and trapped 240 people underground.  ISIS obtained from Astrium commercial satellite imagery of the site taken the day after the explosion (figure 1).  The imagery shows no exterior signs of an explosion or major damage.  Although an underground explosion may not leave visible exterior signs of damage, ISIS observed no intensified activity in the form of emergency or cleanup vehicles that one would expect to see around the site in the wake of an incident of this magnitude (figure 1).  The lack of clarity at very high magnification does leave some doubt on whether a set of three white marks near one of the entrances of the southernmost tunnel could indeed be three vehicles. However, an emergency response would be expected to have been prompt and to have involved many more vehicles, particularly given the national importance of the gas centrifuge site and especially of the personnel working underground.
During the last few days, Iranian, Israeli, and U.S. officials denied that sabotage or a major incident occurred and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concurred
 Well, if it didn't happen, that would definitely be a disappointment.


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And again: Israel under attack at 'human rights council' and in the New York Times

A special commission of the United Nations' 'human rights council' - the 6th in the last 6.5 years to deal with Israel - is to release a report late Thursday morning regarding the effects of the Jewish villages in Judea and Samaria on the 'human rights' of the 'Palestinians' who also live in Judea and Samaria. Because Israel did not cooperate with the commission (and does not cooperate with the 'council'), and did not allow its members to enter 'Area C,' which is where the Jewish population of Judea and Samaria lives, or anyplace within the 1949 armistice lines, I am violating one of my own blogging rules by doing a post regarding the fact that the report is being released rather than waiting for the report itself. Of course, the question that needs to be asked is why the Government of Israel chose to let the commission into Areas A and B (where 'Palestinians' live) given that we control their borders....
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said that the best way to address the issue of settlements was through a negotiated peace process, but that the Palestinians have refused to talk directly with Israel.
“The question of settlements, as everyone knows, is one of the core issues between Israel and the Palestinians. It will not find any solution outside the framework of negotiations,” he said.
If the council wants to contribute to human rights, it should do its utmost to enable the resumption of peace talk, he said.
“Publishing a one-sided and biased report will only add insult to injury, and confusion to the distortion,” he said.
The three-member panel on the fact-finding mission, Christine Chanet of France, Asma Jahangir of Pakistan and Unity Dow of Botswana, plan to hold a press conference in Geneva on Thursday to discuss their report.
The Human Rights Council is set to debate the report on March 18.
Meanwhile, the New York  Times continues to hammer away at Israel. The paper, whose motto seems to be 'all the anti-Semitism that's unfit to print,' followed up on Wednesday's one-sided op-ed by radical 'Palestinian' professor George Bisharat by publishing an editorial taking Israel to task for refusing to cooperate with its 'universal periodic review' at the 'human rights council,' and accusing it of 'ducking' on 'human rights' (Hat Tip: Soccer Dad).
The council hasn’t always been an effective human rights champion. But its record, including naming human rights rapporteurs for Iran and Sudan and supporting gay and lesbian rights, has improved since President Obama, reversing policy of the George W. Bush administration, had the United States join the council in 2009.
Human rights reviews are an important tool for judging all countries by universal standards and nudging them to make positive changes. By opting out, Israel shows not only an unwillingness to undergo the same scrutiny as all other countries, but it deprives itself of an opportunity to defend against abuse charges. The decision could also undermine the entire review process by providing an excuse for states with terrible human rights records — like North Korea, Iran and Zimbabwe — to withdraw as well. It certainly will make it harder for Washington to argue for reviews when an ally rejects the process.
If the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hoped to avoid criticism by this move, it failed. Fortunately, there is still a chance to make the right decision. In an extraordinary move, the council agreed to give Israel until November to reverse course. Any new governing coalition that emerges from Israel’s recent elections should realize that there’s a cost to standing apart.
The Times'  willful blindness to what the 'council' is and what it represents is beyond appalling. The 'council' has nothing to do with the protection of human rights (note - without the scare quotes this time) and everything to do with promoting the use of 'human rights' as a means of bashing Israel as was decided at the Durban I conference in 2001. That is why the 'council' has had nothing to say while 60,000 Syrians have been murdered by the Assad regime in the last two years, and that is why the 'council' had nothing to say about the green revolution in Iran in 2009 (behavior in which the Obama administration was unfortunately and shamefully complicit). .

There is no reason for countries like North Korea, Iran and Zimbabwe to skip their universal periodic reviews because, unlike Israel, which is the only democracy in the Middle East and the only place in the world in which Arab Christians and Muslims have human rights, countries like North Korea, Iran and Zimbabwe will benefit from the automatic pass of the Organization of Islamic Countries at the Council. For example, look at this description of Syria's last universal periodic review by Anne Bayefsky:
So here’s how the UPR rubber hit the road of crimes against humanity in Syria. On October 7, 2011, the Syrian vice-minister of foreign affairs and his entourage took their places in the Council chamber.  And then the Cubans said: “the Syrian government is working for the human rights of its people.”  The North Koreans said: “we commend Syria on its efforts taken to maintain security and stability.” The Iranians said: “we appreciate the efforts of the government of Syria to promote and protect human rights.”  Ditto Sudan, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Algeria, Lebanon, China, Zimbabwe, Burma/Myanmar, and so on.  
Four days later, on behalf of the three countries charged with compiling recommendations, Mexico reported to the Council:  “Syria received a total of 179 recommendations…It is a pleasure to inform you that 98 recommendations were accepted and 26 shall be considered.” Among the recommendations that "did not enjoy the support" of Syria were “immediately end attacks on peaceful protesters and bring violators to account,” “put an end to secret detentions” and “allow journalists to freely exercise their profession.” At the end of this stage of the UPR, the President of the Council turned to Syria and signed off with “I thank both you and your delegation for your participation in the UPR.”
At the time, there were 2,600 dead Syrian citizens at the hands of their own government. And Assad got the message about the human rights bona fides of the UN.  
The next and final stage of the UPR took place in Geneva on March 15, 2012 – by which time there were 11,000 dead.  On that occasion, the Council formally adopted the so-called “outcome” of the UPR – a report containing no findings and no decision to take action.  It was gaveled through without comment from the President with these words:  “May I now propose that the Council adopts the decision on the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Syria?”  I see no objection.”
There are now over 60,000 dead in Syria.
And the Times is 'worried' that Israel not showing up will lead North Korea, Iran and Zimbabwe not to show up? Why? 

The Torah warns us that the Jewish people are not counted among the nations of the world (Numbers 23:9). Historically the Jewish people have been willing to be isolated, and have been willing to stand apart when it was the right and moral thing to do, but we have never been willing to do the wrong thing just because the world wants us to do the wrong thing. Having our 'human rights' record reviewed by a hostile 'council' in which our friends are automatically outvoted is destructive and not constructive. Contrary to the Times' claim, the standards applied are not universal, as can be seen from Ms. Bayefsky's summary of the Syrian review above.

Taking a moral stand against the outrageous behavior of the 'human rights council' is the right and moral thing to do, even if the self-proclaimed protectors of morality at the New York Times cannot see it. We can only hope and pray that any new government that takes charge in Israel between now and November will not see fit to debase itself or the Jewish people in the immoral slime of the 'human rights council.'

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Report: Assad has transferred chemcial weapons to Hezbullah

Israel Radio is reporting (9:00 am) that Kuwaiti daily al-Watan reported in Thursday's editions that Syria has already transferred chemical weapons to Syria, including more than two tons of mustard gas. According to the report, Syria has also transferred missiles with a 300-kilometer range that are capable of delivering the chemical weapons. The use of the weapons is being supervised by high-ranking Syrian officers stationed in Lebanon.

There is no confirmation of the report from other sources.

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US officials say Israel notified them of Syrian attack, target was sophisticated SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles

Although, Israel has not confirmed it, American officials have told the New York Times that Israel notified the US that it attacked a convoy of weapons headed for Hezbullah in Lebanon. The weapons in question were sophisticated SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles (Hat Tip: Herb G).
The American officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Israel had notified the United States about the attack, which the Syrian government condemned as an act of “arrogance and aggression.” Israel’s move demonstrated its determination to ensure that Hezbollah — its arch foe in the north — is unable to take advantage of the chaos in Syria to bolster its arsenal significantly.
The predawn strike was the first time in more than five years that Israel’s air force had attacked a target in Syria. While there was no expectation that the beleaguered Assad government had an interest in retaliating, the strike raised concerns that the Syrian civil war had continued to spread beyond its border.
In a statement, the Syrian military denied that a convoy had been struck. It said the attack had hit a scientific research facility in the Damascus suburbs that was used to improve Syria’s defenses, and called the attack “a flagrant breach of Syrian sovereignty and airspace.”
Israeli officials would not confirm the airstrike, a common tactic here. But it came after days of intense security consultations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding the possible movement of chemical and other weapons around Syria, and warnings that Jerusalem would take action to thwart any possible transfers to Hezbollah.
Thousands of Israelis have crowded gas-mask distribution centers over the last two days. On Sunday, Israel deployed its Iron Dome missile defense system in the north, near Haifa, which was heavily bombed during the 2006 war with Lebanon.
But a full scale war does not look likely.
“It is necessary and correct to prepare for deterioration — that scenario exists,” Danny Yatom, a former chief of the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, told Ynet, a news Web site. “But in my assessment, there will not be a reaction, because neither Hezbollah nor the Syrians have an interest in retaliating.”
Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, “is deep in his own troubles,” Mr. Yatom said, “and Hezbollah is making a great effort to assist him, in parallel with its efforts to obtain weapons, so they won’t want to broaden the circle of fighting.”
Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy explains why the SA-17's matter.
“Israel is able to fly reconnaissance flights over Lebanon with impunity right now,” Mr. Levitt said. “This could cut into its ability to conduct aerial intelligence. The passing along of weapons to Hezbollah by the regime is a real concern.” 
And what's so special about the SA-17?
The SA-17 is an advanced antiaircraft missile with a low radar signature, which makes it difficult to target it. It possesses a range of approximately 25 kilometers, and the IAF considers them a danger to its freedom of operation in the region.

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Assad regime claims Israel attacked 'military research center,' rebels deny it

The Syrian government is now claiming that the IAF attacked a 'military research center' in the town of Jamarya along Syria's border with Lebanon.Syria claims that two people were killed and five were wounded in the strike. But Syrian rebel forces - who have no more love for Israel than the Syrian government - are denying the story, claiming that the facility came under mortar fire from rebels and nothing more.
Israeli warplanes attacked a military research center in Damascus province at dawn on Wednesday, Syria's military command said, denying reports that the planes had struck a convoy carrying weapons from Syria to Lebanon.
Two people were killed and five wounded in the attack on the site in Jamraya, which it described as one of a number of "scientific research centers aimed at raising the level of resistance and self-defense."
The building was destroyed, the military command said in a statement carried by state media.
It said the planes crossed into Syria below the radar level, just north of Mount Hermon, and returned the same way.
It did not mention specific retaliation but said "these criminal acts" would not weaken Syria's support for Palestinians and other groups engaged in "resistance" to Israel.
Several rebel sources, however, including a commander in the Damascus area, accused the authorities of lying and said the only attacks at Jamraya had been mortar attacks by insurgents.
Is Syria trying to provoke Iran - which last week said that an attack on Syria is an attack on it - into attacking Israel? Hmmm.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

As Obama fiddles, Syria burns

The Washington Post writes that President Obama has passed on numerous opportunities to do something to improve the situation in Syria.
The logic at work here — the longer the Assad regime holds on, the worse the consequences — was acknowledged by senior Obama administration officials nearly a year ago. The incoming secretary of state, John F. Kerry, repeated it at his confirmation hearing last week: “Every day that goes by, it gets worse.” From that follows a logical conclusion, stated Monday by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius: “If we don’t give the means to the Syrian people to go achieve their freedom, there is a risk . . . that massacres and antagonisms amplify, and that extremism and terrorism prevail.”
The Obama administration nevertheless appears stuck on Syria, unable to decide even on simple measures to help the opposition. Not only does it refuse to provide weapons to moderate rebel fighting units — which complain of shortages even as materiel pours in to jihadist groups — but it claims it is legally barred from giving even non-lethal aid directly to the Syrian National Coalition. U.S. humanitarian aid goes to private groups such as the Red Crescent or, worse, the United Nations, which passes much of it along to the regime.
In speaking about Syria in recent days, Mr. Kerry and President Obama described not a strategy for stopping a bloodbath that threatens vital U.S. interests but rather a series of excuses for inaction. In an interview with the New Republic published over the weekend, Mr. Obama wondered how to “weigh” the thousands dying in Syria against the thousands being killed in the Congo, as if all wars are of equal importance to the United States or the inability to solve every problem means America should not help even where it can.
Not for the first time, Mr. Obama also asked whether U.S. intervention could “trigger even worse violence or the use of chemical weapons.” The president asked the same question a year ago, and the answer is now known: In the absence of U.S. action, the violence grew far worse and the Assad regime moved dangerously close to using chemical arms.
The United States could do much to shape the course of events in Syria without using American troops. It could begin providing aid directly to Syrian refu­gee organizations and civilian councils inside the country, as France has done for months. It could provide arms to moderate rebel factions, so that they can compete with the jihadists and so that they will look to the United States when the war is over. Continued passivity will ensure that the crisis in Syria continues to worsen — along with the consequences for the United States.
The picture here is of a President who is too timid to pull the trigger. I disagree. I think what we have here is a President who is purposely degrading American power in a way that will castrate the United States for decades, if not longer. You asked for it America. We warned you and you voted with your eyes wide closed. You have no one but yourself to blame.

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Chuck and Upchuck got Eisenhower very, very wrong

In an earlier post, I noted Chuck Hagel's admiration for the 34th President of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower, specifically for Eisenhower's handling of what's known in Israel as the Sinai campaign (the 1956 war between Israel, Britain and France on one side and Egypt on the other). I also reported that Hagel had it all wrong, because Eisenhower later believed that making Israel withdraw from Sinai was the biggest mistake of his Presidency.

Lee Smith has a lot more details about Eisenhower's regrets over the Sinai campaign.

In fact, Eisenhower came to believe that Suez had been the “biggest foreign-policy blunder of his administration.” In hindsight, it’s not hard to see why. He ruined the position of two longtime allies, effectively driving Britain out of the Middle East once and for all, and without any benefit to American interests. If Eisenhower expected Nasser to be grateful, he was sorely mistaken.
“From Nasser’s perspective, he played the superpowers against each other and came out the winner,” says Michael Doran, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy. “What Ike thought he was doing was laying the groundwork for a new order in the Middle East, a third course between the re-imposition of European colonialism and the Soviet Union. But all Eisenhower did was strengthen Nasser and destabilize the region.”
Doran, a former George W. Bush Administration National Security Council staffer in charge of the Middle East, is finishing a book about Eisenhower and the Middle East that looks at how Eisenhower’s understanding of the region changed over time. “Eisenhower slammed his allies and aided his enemies at Suez,” Doran explains, “because his policy was based on certain key assumptions of how the Arab world worked. The most important of these was the notion of Arab unity. He believed they would respond as a bloc to certain stimuli.”

Chief among them, Eisenhower and his Secretary of State John Foster Dulles believed, was the Arab-Israeli conflict. They saw the role of the United States then as playing the honest broker, mediating between Israel on one side and the Arab world on the other. If this conceit is still popular today with American policymakers, says Doran, “it’s partly because some Arab officials continue to talk this way. The idea is, to win over the Arabs we have to stop being so sympathetic to Israel.”
But in the wake of Suez, Eisenhower came to see the region through a different lens. He paid more attention to what Arab leaders actually did, rather than what they said. “Between March 1957 and July 1958, Eisenhower got the equivalent of the Arab spring,” says Doran. “It was a revolutionary wave around the region and for Ike a tutorial on Arab politics. There was upheaval after upheaval, in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and then the Iraqi revolution of 1958 that toppled an American ally. All of them were internal conflicts, tantamount to Arab civil wars, and had nothing to do with Israel. With this, Eisenhower recognized that the image he had of the Arab world had nothing to do with the political realities of the Middle East.”
Read the whole thing.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Obama has the same mistaken conception of the Middle East that Eisenhower had in 1956. Today's it's known as linkage. By 1958, Eisenhower had dismissed it as a policy strategy. Don't bet on Obama doing the same.

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Israeli strike on Syrian side of border destroyed anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles

IAF warplanes destroyed a convoy of anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles that were heading for Hezbullah in Lebanon during the early hours of Wednesday morning. There were no chemical weapons involved. The attack took place just inside the Syrian side of the border in an area where the border is not well delineated.
"The target was a truck loaded with weapons, heading from Syria to Lebanon," said one Western diplomat, adding that the consignment seemed unlikely to have included chemical weapons.
A source among rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad said an air strike around dawn (0430 GMT) blasted a convoy on a mountain track about 5 kilometers (3 miles) south of where the main Damascus-Beirut highway crosses the border. Its load probably included high-tech anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles.
"It attacked trucks carrying sophisticated weapons from the regime to Hezbollah," the source said, adding that it took place inside Syria, though the border is poorly defined in the area.
A security official in the region also placed the attack on the Syrian side. A Lebanese security official denied any strike in Lebanon. It was not clear whether special forces took part.
The Israeli government declined comment on the issue.
Such a strike would fit its existing policy of pre-emptive covert and overt action to curb Iranian-backed Hezbollah and does not necessarily indicate a major escalation of the war in Syria. It does, however, indicate how the erosion of Assad's family rule after 42 years is seen by Israel as posing a threat.
Some analysts suggested Hezbollah was moving its own arms caches from stores in Syria, fearing rebels would overrun them.
Those of you who have been longtime readers might recall that during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, Israel attacked supply convoys being sent from Bashar al-Assad to Hezbullah just inside the Lebanese side of the border. At the time, the Bush administration was encouraging Israel to attack Syria, but then-Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert was afraid to do it. Olmert could have saved a lot of Syrian lives by deposing Assad then.

Now, the situation is different. The IDF would rather attack in a weakened Syria than run the risk of giving Hebzullah an excuse for a distraction from the ongoing Syrian civil war. But our government still seems determined to stand firm and not allow Hezbullah to obtain advanced weapons or weapons of mass destruction.

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Caroline Glick on why the Obama administration is putting women in combat units

Caroline Glick has a different perspective on the Obama administration's plan to put women in combat units than do most prominent women in the media. She spent five and a half years as an officer in the IDF, and she was an embedded reporter with an all-male American infantry unit during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. So what does she think about putting American women in combat units?
As to the US military, as David Horowitz wrote back in 1992, the movement to assign women to frontline combat unit is not about advancing women. It is about destroying the US military. The fact that Obama didn't even need for Hagel to enter office before taking his first swipe at the military shows just how grandiose his plans for gutting US military capabilities in his second term are. 

To be clear, as a woman who served as an officer in the IDF for 5 and a half years, and worked as an embedded reporter with an all male US infantry unit in Iraq, I have to say that I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with women serving in combat. But the purpose of last week's decision wasn't about permitting women to fight on the battlefield. They already do. It was about social engineering and weakening the esprit d'corps of the US military. As Saul Alinsky taught his followers the goal is never what you say it is. The goal is always the revolution.

Delegitimizing and weakening Israel is only one part of the "revolution." Israel will survive Obama and Hagel and Kerry and Brennan. 

But that doesn't mean we and our supporters in the US should keep silent about their hostility just because we know we can't block their appointments. By pointing out their radicalism, we are at a minimum sending out the necessary warning about what their future plans will likely involve. And that is important, because the more they are criticized the weaker they will feel. 
Read the whole thing

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Danny Ayalon: The magic of Jerusalem

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon has made another video: The Magic of Jerusalem.

Let's go to the videotape.

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Party of terror

In a piece that was mercifully rescued from behind the Times of London's paywall by the World Jewish Congress, former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar and former first minister of Northern Ireland Lord Trimble, who are co-founders of the Friends of Israel Initiative, explain why Europe ought to designate Hezbullah as a terror organization.
In July last year a bus full of Israeli tourists was blown to pieces by a young suicide bomber in Burgas, Bulgaria — five Israelis and the Bulgarian bus driver were killed. All the evidence points to it being a plot conceived and executed by Hezbollah.
Yet despite this atrocity some European governments are not willing to declare Hezbollah a security threat and put it on the EU terrorist list. This refusal is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of the group. Hezbollah is not just a Lebanese militia group and political party. It is the long arm of Iran. From its conception by Tehran in 1982, it has been committed to the revolutionary goals of the international expansion of Shia Islam, as dreamt of by the Ayatollah Khomeini.
The fact that it holds seats in the Lebanese Parliament and posts in the Cabinet does not mean that its leaders see themselves as just another Lebanese faction — albeit one that murders its political opponents (a UN tribunal found that the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister was a Hezbollah plot).
On the contrary Hezbollah has a global vision and reach. It has perpetrated attacks in places as distant as Argentina, Georgia, Israel, Thailand, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, as well as Lebanon. It has been involved in illegal but very lucrative activities in Latin America and West Africa. For instance, it has run drug-trafficking and money-laundering operations in the jungle of Colombia under the control of the FARC. According to US officials, Hezbollah is heavily involved in smuggling drugs into Europe.
Some argue that there is a difference between Hezbollah’s military wing, its political wing and its charitable activities. They are wrong — it is one single body and every part plays a role in the overall strategy. The leaders in charge of its hospitals and schools, the military leader and the political representatives all sit together under the secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah. His deputy, Naim Qassem, was quoted as recently as October, saying: “We don’t have a military wing and a political wing. We don’t have the Party of Allah and the Party of Resistance. These differences do not exist and are rejected.”
Hezbollah is committed to violent revolution. It sees itself as being in total confrontation with our way of life. The idea that engaging Hezbollah through the Lebanese political process and institutions would moderate it has proved to be a dangerous illusion. And today it is actively intervening in Syria on behalf of Bashar al-Assad; we will know soon about the atrocities conducted by its militants there.
 Read the whole thing.

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Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Wednesday, January 30.
1) Defining terror down; defining occupation up

In a New York Times op-ed nearly two years ago, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas wrote:

Palestine’s admission to the United Nations would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one. It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice.
Now a pro-Palestinian activist, George Bisharat has filled in details as to how this process will work. In Why Palestine should take Israel to court in the Hague he writes:
The Palestinians’ first attempt to join the I.C.C. was thwarted last April when the court’s chief prosecutor at the time, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, declined the request on the grounds that Palestine was not a state. That ambiguity has since diminished with the United Nations’ conferral of nonmember state status on Palestine in November. Israel’s frantic opposition to the elevation of Palestine’s status at the United Nations was motivated precisely by the fear that it would soon lead to I.C.C. jurisdiction over Palestinian claims of war crimes.
Israeli leaders are unnerved for good reason. The I.C.C. could prosecute major international crimes committed on Palestinian soil anytime after the court’s founding on July 1, 2002.
 Bisharat then cites Col. Daniel Reisner, the one time head of the IDF's legal department:
The former head of the Israeli military’s international law division, Daniel Reisner, asserted in 2009: “International law progresses through violations. We invented the targeted assassination thesis and we had to push it. At first there were protrusions that made it hard to insert easily into the legal molds. Eight years later it is in the center of the bounds of legitimacy.”
From the complete context, it's pretty clear that Reisner didn't mean violations as much as ill defined areas of the law. (Bisharat's implication is clear: the United States should be subject to ICC prosecution for targeted killings in Pakistan and Yemen.)

Bisharat makes a dubious claim here:
And it has treated civilian employees of Hamas — including police officers, judges, clerks, journalists and others — as combatants because they allegedly support a “terrorist infrastructure.” Never mind that contemporary international law deems civilians “combatants” only when they actually take up arms.
Elder of Ziyon has addressed the issue of the police officers in some detail.
This is a critical paragraph, and it highlights Goldstone's credulity. There is a clear statement from the police spokesman saying that the police were instructed to face the enemy, which is not a very ambiguous statement. Months later, when he is reached by commission members to explain this problematic statement, he seizes the opportunity to "clarify" that he only meant that they should be doing normal police duties.
And Goldstone believes him.
Not only that, his "proof" is an absurd statement that no policemen were killed in combat (presumably during the ground invasion.) This is a lie. According to PCHR and my research, 16 policemen were killed from January 4th and on, 34 policemen were killed, and my research indicates that at least 16 of them were members of terror organizations.
What international law "deems" can be fluid.

Even the concept of "occupation," on which Bisharat rests much of his case isn't as clear cut as he presumes. Eugene Kontorovich wrote recently:
I recently came across a discussion in the U.N.’s International Law Commission from 1950, as part of the drafting of the Draft Declaration on Rights and Duties of States. There were quibbles from countries such as France about whether annexation is always banned, or whether there might be various exceptions.
In response, the Secretary observed: “It might be suggested that in order to constitute a crime under international law an annexation must be carried out through the use of armed force, with a view to destroying the territorial integrity of another State.” [See I Yearbook of Int. Law Comm. 137 (1950).]
Indeed, it was not surprising that there was some confusion and concern about the extent of an annexation norm, since as the delegates admitted, there were some “frontier adjustments” made by the Allies after WWII.
The larger problem is that the New York Times continues to promote the Palestinian effort to avoid negotiations and have a settlement imposed on Israel internationally, with no editorial objections.

Please also see Seth Mandel's The Shameful Attack on Israel from Amnesty International
2) Iran and Hagel

At the end of a long analysis of the behavior of the Iranian regime, Michael Rubin writes in Deciphering Iranian decision making and strategy today:
Wars in the Middle East are caused not by oil or water but by overconfidence. In 1988, an Iranian mine damaged a US guided missile cruiser. In retaliation, President Ronald Reagan ordered Operation Praying Mantis to destroy Iranian oil terminals. The US Navy decimated its Iranian challengers in the ensuing battle, the largest US naval surface engagement since World War II. The red line Reagan established created a tacit understanding that governed US-Iranian relations for another 15 years. As the Iranian leadership has concluded that it could—literally—get away with murder in Iraq and Afghanistan, that American red lines were ephemeral, and that the United States was not prepared to stop its nuclear program, Tehran has grown bolder. Iranian diplomats might talk, but the powers that be will not abide by any deal. The IRGC and its proxies will continue to test American red lines until the United States forcibly pushes back.
This is not calling for America declaring war on Iran, though, I suppose, some would consider it such. But if red lines are necessary for limiting the spread of Iranian influence, what does it mean that President Obama has nominated Sen. Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense?

Seth Mandel asks (and answers)Are Hagel and Obama “Soul Mates” on Defense Policy?
They would travel to Iraq together, where Hagel was dismissive and suspicious of the military’s top brass. Obama would take office and do the same. Hagel would speak out against tough Iran sanctions, and Obama would work against them from the White House, opposing several iterations of them and finally watering them down when he couldn’t prevent sanctions from passing Congress. Hagel would loudly criticize even the contemplation of military action against Iran, and Obama would have his secretary of defense deliver a similar message to Israel. It is this pattern that has led Hagel’s critics to express concern about his nomination to be secretary of defense. Many worry Obama shares Hagel’s views; Obama’s defenders assure us he does not. The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward says the critics are right, and relays a conversation Obama and Hagel had at the beginning of Obama’s first term:
Mandel quotes a recent op-ed by Bob Woodward answering the question in the affirmative.

The AP reports:
Iran's elite Quds Force and Hezbollah militants are learning from a series of botched terror attacks over the past two years and pose a growing threat to the U.S. and other Western targets as well as Israel, a prominent counterterrorism expert says. Operating both independently and together, the militant groups are escalating their activities around the world, fueling worries in the U.S. that they increasingly have the ability and the willingness to attack the U.S., according to a report by Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Studies. His report points to two attacks last year -- one successful and one foiled by U.S. authorities -- as indications that the militants are adapting and are determined to take revenge on the West for efforts to disrupt Tehran's nuclear program and other perceived offenses. The report's conclusions expand on comments late last year from U.S. terrorism officials who told Congress that the Quds Force and Hezbollah, which often coordinate efforts, have become "a significant source of concern" for the U.S. The Quds Force is an elite wing of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard, the defenders of Iran's ruling clerics and their hold on power.
At a time where it appears that Iran will be more aggressive, President Obama has nominated someone who will be hesitant to fight back or establish red lines.

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It starts: Israel strikes convoy on Lebanon-Syria border

Israel is quite serious about keeping chemical weapons out of the hands of the al-Qaeda dominated Free Syrian Army and Hezbullah. JPost is reporting based on a 'western diplomat' and 'three regional security sources' that Israel struck a convoy on the Lebanese-Syrian border overnight.
The sources, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, had no further information about what might have been hit or where precisely the attack happened, but the news website Al-Monitor quoted unnamed sources as saying that the target had been an arms convoy in Syria, close to the Lebanon border.
A Western diplomat in the region who asked about the strike said "something has happened", without elaborating.
An unnamed security source told AFP: "The Israeli air force blew up a convoy which had just crossed the border from Syria into Lebanon."
An activist in Syria who works with a network of opposition groups around the country said that she had heard of a strike in southern Syria from her colleagues but could not confirm.
The IDF has declined to comment on reports of a strike on the Syrian-Lebanese border. "We do not comment on reports of this kind," an IDF spokeswoman said.
Reports of incursions into Lebanese air space and the alleged strike follow a flurry of international visits by Israel's top brass.
YNet adds:

According to the report, the jets flew over the En Nakura area for several hours, leaving Lebanese airspace at around 2 am. The report, citing military sources, said that the first incursion took place at around 4:30 pm, when two jets flew over the village of Ramish, leaving at 9:05 pm.

As the duo was leaving – according to the Lebanese report – two other IAF jets entered Beirut's airspace, towards En Nakura, leaving at 2 am.

A Lebanese Army statement said that "Four Israeli planes entered Lebanese air space at 4:30 pm on Tuesday. They were replaced four hours later by another group of planes which overflew southern Lebanon until 2 am and a third mission took over, finally leaving at 7:55 am on Wednesday morning."

The statement made no mention of planes entering Syrian airspace.

A western diplomat and a security source said Wednesday that "Israeli forces have attacked a target on the Syrian-Lebanese border overnight."

Despite the ambiguity of Lebanon's reports, the diplomat – who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue – insisted that "There was definitely a hit in the border area."

The US-based Al-Monitor website reported Tuesday that IDF Intelligence Chief Maj-Gen. Aviv Kochavi traveled to Washington for closed-door consultations with American officials. Israeli officials would not comment on the matter.

Among those Kochavi met with at the Pentagon was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, the report said.  
According to Al-Monitor The IDF declined comment on the MI chief's visit, saying that "Israel does not comment on the working visits of IDF officers."

However, the website qouted an anonymous Israeli official as saying that "Some people say (the) IDF wouldn’t object to (the) opportunity to set the record straight vis-à-vis Hizballah... Also, there's the idea of putting them out of play, as done with Hamas recently."

Better this than a full scale war. If it's enough to keep Hezbullah in line, that's great. But I suspect it won't be....

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