Saturday, September 09, 2006
Five years on, the war on terror is as real as ever
ON September 11, 2001 .... the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, where hijacked planes were flown into the heart of US commerce and confidence, killing more than 3000 people, changed things forever.
Despite some revisionist wishful thinking, the 9/11 attacks remain the defining moment of the past half century. The repercussions continue to reverberate around the globe. The world's most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden, remains at large, still boasting and taunting his pursuers. Further attacks have been successfully mounted in London, Madrid, Indonesia and elsewhere, while others have been thwarted. The world has been forced to tighten its defences in anticipation of worse to come. The very notion of suicide attacks confounds security planners who fear terrorist groups will make good their threat to access, and use, a nuclear bomb.
Al-Qa'ida's motivation, often misunderstood in the West, is to reclaim a historical dominance. .... Bin Laden's ultimate aim is to revive an Islamic caliphate, restoring, among other things, the lands of Spain and Portugal that were fully reconquered from the Moors in 1492.
.... the West is involved in a long and deadly struggle, a war on terror that cannot be wished away. Naysayers in Australia who play down the threat of terrorism against this country's citizens are ignoring the facts. Al-Qa'ida was already reaching into the region to target Australians as the planes slammed into the World Trade Centre....
....Some continue to doubt the war on terror, preferring instead to believe the US has brought the conflict on itself. But those who, sometimes secretly, cheer al-Qa'ida from the sidelines misunderstand the threat......
......On the anniversary of September 11, there is cause to reflect on the scope of the challenge at hand. There remains a need for vigilance and understanding that the fight is real and that a false sense of security can breed deadly consequences.
Most of us can remember exactly where we were nearly five years ago, on the morning of Sept. 11. I was in small-town America, where the guys in the local doughnut shop - watching the endless TV replay of the burning Twin Towers - were ready to get their shotguns and go to war.
Are Americans still willing to do that today? The flags that fluttered everywhere in the autumn of 2001 have long since thinned out. A weariness has crept deep into our political debate, in which it is widely assumed that, in taking this war to Afghanistan and Iraq, we have already done enough - or even too much....
....With congressional elections just ahead, President Bush delivers a series of speeches explaining in detail the menace of our deadliest enemies - and is accused by his critics of beating the tom-toms of war.
If anything, the president in recent years has not beaten those tom-toms enough. War drums are appropriate. ..... We are in a war. We have already been attacked at home on a massive scale. And whether we classify the enemy as an axis of evil or a web of Islamo-fascists and tyrannical affiliates, we face very real foes, who watch and learn from each other.
The paradox is that, in this war, we have done just enough so far to be in serious danger of becoming victims of our own success. Sept. 11 brought us in hideous close-up the landscape of war: the wreckage, burning and body count. Wisely, we took the fight abroad. With that, we have so far been spared further massive horrors in our own streets. Apart from the brave Americans who have served on the front lines, most of us have had no direct experience of this conflict. And although we will be deluged in coming days with commemorations and footage of the attack that burst upon our Eastern Seaboard in 2001, most of us enjoy a level of ease that makes it hard to believe we are still seriously threatened.
....We live with low-grade fear of the next big attack. But day to day, we relax into the false confidence that because one plot after another has been cracked, it may not happen here again.
Almost certainly, it will. In the long lull we have enjoyed, our political debate has been delivering such astounding falsehoods as the idea that it is beyond America's ability to take on Iran or fight North Korea. In terms of resources, that is dangerous nonsense, all too likely to encourage the next attack.
We forget how powerful America truly is, and what we can do if we must. We live in a country with a $12 trillion annual gross national product - more than 70 times the wealth generated yearly by Iran's politically oppressed oil patch. Unlike the terror masters of the Middle East, we derive our riches not from oil wells monopolized by state thugs, but from the immense human potential nourished by a democratic system that lets us pursue almost any productive path our talents and ambitions might favor. In the war of ideas, we field the world's most powerful creed - if we are willing without apology to celebrate and defend it.
In taking this war to our enemies, to date, during the years of combat in Afghanistan, Iraq, and operations in a roster of less prominent spots including the Philippines, Djibouti, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan and Yemen, total American fatalities, according to the Department of Defense have numbered just under 3,000. We are right to honor and mourn every life sacrificed. But it is also important to recognize that this total is dwarfed by the numbers lost in wars fought by earlier generations to bequeath us the freedoms we enjoy today.
America did not cause the current conflict, and did not seek it. But whether we call it the War on Terror, the war against Islamo-fascists, World War III or World War IV, it is real and it is far from over. Sept. 11 is a day not only to mourn, but to remind our enemies - and ourselves - that we have just begun to fight.
Claudia Rosett (email@example.com) is journalist in residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington. Her blog, The Rosett Report, is at http://claudiarosett.pajamasmedia.com/.
Five years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Americans have not been slaughtered a second time on U.S. soil. That is no small achievement. It has come about not because our enemies have been merciful or because they consider our behavior improved. It has come about because we have begun to understand that we have enemies, that they pose a serious threat, and that we must fight them.
Most Americans did not comprehend that on Sept. 10, 2001. When the Cold War ended with a whimper, we wanted to believe peace would prevail. We shrank the military and encouraged the intelligence community to give up such unsavory practices as running spies, sparking coups and making life dangerous for despots....
....It required thousands of deaths on a single day to demolish such fantasies. Few still doubt that terrorists — claiming to derive their legitimacy from Islamic doctrine — seek America's destruction and believe that access to high technology provides them a means not available to previous generations. But the arguments over what we must do to defend ourselves remain intense, bitter and partisan.
On Tuesday, the White House released what it called an “updated” National Strategy for Combating Terrorism. The document asserts — rightly, I believe — that America is “at war with a transnational movement ... extremist organizations, networks and individuals — and their state and non-state supporters — which have in common that they exploit Islam and use terrorism for ideological ends.” ....
The “updated” Strategy calls advancing democracy a “long-term antidote to the ideology of terrorism.” Left unspoken is an acknowledgment that, in the short run, Islamists have skillfully used increased freedom and democratic reforms to expand their power and deprive non-Islamists of civil rights.
Finally, however, the White House Strategy gets to the heart of the matter: the need to use force against those who understand nothing else. It states bluntly that to win this war, the United States must do everything possible to ‘kill or capture the terrorists; deny them safe haven and control of any nation; prevent them from gaining access to WMDs.
Speaking to U.S. military officers this week, President Bush added that those plotting against America and other free nations “have made their intentions as clear as Lenin and Hitler before them. The question is: Will we listen? Will we pay attention to what these evil men say?”Prior to Sept. 11, 2001, few people were paying attention, and those who did misunderstood what they heard. Five years later, it would be useful if Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, Americans and Europeans, could spend less energy fighting one another and more defending their common civilization from its mortal enemies. If anyone has a better plan than the “updated” Strategy that Bush has offered, now would be a good time to reveal it.
— Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
TONY Blair is being forced to adopt what aides have long been calling the "Bill Clinton strategy" for his departure. A document circulated in No10 Downing Street several months ago urged him to clarify the likely date he would step down, saying that attention would then focus on Gordon Brown and allow the Prime Minister to chart a course to calmer political waters.
Aides say it was striking how Mr Clinton's popularity recovered after the Monica Lewinsky scandal once the spotlight had switched to Al Gore and his looming clash with Mr Bush in 2000. Under the Clinton strategy, Mr Blair would cede more of the domestic political agenda to Mr Brown and increasingly concentrate on big foreign-policy initiatives that he relishes.
...Mr Blair is expected to travel to the Middle East in the next few days. ...He helped persuade George W.Bush to back Palestinian statehood in 2002, but is known to have been disappointed by the lack of a follow-through by the US administration. British government sources say the White House is "at least listening" on the subject once more.....
Friday, September 08, 2006
Prime Minister meets with Russian Foreign Minister regarding Syria, blockade on Lebanon, importance of releasing Israeli soldiers. Lavrov: Soldiers should be released as soon as possible
["...as soon as possible..." is too lame for my taste. Note that Olmert does not make the lifting of the blockade contingent on release of our kidnapped soldiers - SL]Thursday evening, in a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who is visiting in Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that "until the kidnapped soldiers are released, there will not be full implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1701. Israel is implementing its side of the resolution, and thus, Lebanon must do the same and release the two kidnapped soldiers immediately."[...or....what? - SL]
.... During the meeting, Olmert spoke of the removal of the aerial blockade on Lebanon and said that the naval blockade currently would remain in effect. It was decided, in coordination with UN forces, to postpone the lifting of the naval blockade because Israel is still waiting for the arrival of the international forces to implement the weapons embargo along the coast, he said. Olmert expressed hopes that preparations of Italian, Greek and French forces would be as expedient as possible and that they will soon come replace IDF forces in monitoring the Lebanon coast.
Lavrov and Olmert also spoke of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, the soldiers kidnapped by Hizbullah. Lavrov stated that UNSCR 1701 would be implemented in its entirety by all sides.
He said that he hoped for the quick release of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers in Lebanon, as well as Gilad Shalit. Lavrov expressed President Putin's empathy regarding the issue and said that he hoped that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's efforts would come to fruition..........
- From July 13 to August 13, the Israel Police reported 4,228 rocket impacts inside Israel from rockets fired by Hizballah. No geographical area in the world has sustained such a large quantity of rocket strikes since the Iran-Iraq war in the early 1980s.
- Most rockets fired by Hizballah at Israel were taken from the Syrian arsenal rather than from Iran. On most occasions, the rocket warhead contained anti-personnel munitions, a mixture of explosives and steel balls or fragments that were lethal to all those caught outside.
- One-fourth of the rockets that landed within Israel landed within built-up areas. During the first two weeks, rocket attacks averaged about 100 per day. Then in early August, Hizballah proceeded to double its rate of fire to a daily average of 200 rocket attacks. There was a decline during the final week, but on August 13, the day before the cease-fire, 250 rockets landed in Israel. Israeli counterattacks apparently had no serious influence on Hizballah's rate of fire, but had an effect on the accuracy and geography of the attacks.
- Israel's losses and damage from Hizballah rocket attacks include 53 fatalities, 250 severely wounded, and 2,000 lightly wounded. There was extensive damage to hundreds of dwellings, several public utilities, and dozens of industrial plants. One million Israelis lived near or in shelters or security rooms, with some 250,000 civilians evacuating the north and relocating to other areas of the country.
- Early Warning sirens provided timely alarms, saving innumerable lives. Israel's long-standing policy of constructing public shelters, combined with building codes that require reinforced spaces in private dwellings, proved to be generally effective as a system of passive defense against most of the rockets fired by Hizballah. Nearly 80 percent of fatalities involved persons caught in the open.
- Rockets and rocket launchers emerged as one of the defining weapons of the second Lebanon War and will remain so in the foreseeable future. This impacts on the security of U.S. and Western interests in the Middle East. Effective response measures must be devised and deployed as soon as possible. Two objectives should be pursued: first, to reduce the "Flash to Bang" (Hizballah rocket launch to Israeli response) cycle time to a few seconds from the time of launcher location pinpointing; and second, to develop and deploy effective and affordable active defense against rockets to protect vital civilian and military installations.
Follow the link to the full article, which includes maps and photographic evidence of the damage in northern Israel.
Uzi Rubin has been involved in Israeli military research, development, and engineering programs for almost forty years. Between 1991 and 1999 he served as head of Israel's Missile Defense Organization, and in that capacity he oversaw the development of Israel's Arrow anti-missile defense system. He was awarded the Israel Defense Prize in 1996. He is the author of "The Global Range of Iran's Ballistic Missile Program," Jerusalem Issue Brief 5-26 (June 20, 2006).
Following U.N. Resolution 1701 and the ceasefire in Lebanon, the Arab media published differing assessments regarding the outcomes of the war. Many writers declared that Hizbullah had won, and that its resistance is a source of pride for the Arab and Muslim nations. Others stated that both Hizbullah and Lebanon had received a crushing blow in this war, which had been conducted indirectly by Syria and Iran, and denounced the lack of self-criticism in the Arab world.
Follow this link to the MEMRI article which provides excerpts from the Arab press under the following headings:
Hizbullah Won the War
*If All the Neighboring Countries Fired Rockets on Israel Simultaneously, It Would Cease to Exist ...
Hizbullah and Lebanon Lost the War
*Everybody Lost the War ...
*Nasrallah Himself Admitted That the Kidnapping was a Mistake ...
*"The Destruction of Lebanon Can Never Be Described as a Victory for Hizbullah" ...
*"Israel Can Only Be Defeated Through Science and Knowledge" ...
Criticism of Those Claiming a Hizbullah Victory
*"The Arab Intellectuals Have a Serious Problem [in Defining] the Criteria for Victory and Defeat" ....
*"Israel Sees the War Realistically While the Arabs Continue to Market Illusions" ....
*The Lebanese are Refusing to Admit Defeat in Order to Avoid Responsibility ....
*"There is a Need to Form an Arab Investigation Committee" ....
Accusations Against Syria and Iran
*Syria's and Iran's Declarations of Victory Prove Their Involvement in the War ....
*Hizbullah Must Sever Its Ties With Syria and Iran for Lebanon's Sake ...
*"The U.N. Resolution Does Not Prevent the Resistance From Continuing" ....
Thursday, September 07, 2006
[This article was published by GLORIA in the current June edition of their Journal MERIA, but is particularly relevant in the increasing US political environment leading up to mid-term elections.]
Iraq is most likely to see a protracted internal war and economic difficulties for years to come. A mildly optimistic scenario is possible but so are some outcomes that would be destabilizing for the region, unpleasant for Iraq, and detrimental for U.S. interests.
Iraq's difficulties are disappointing to the Iraqi people, who so hoped that the American invasion would at least mean a return to peace after 23 years of war and near-war. The violent insurgency now raging is not likely to end any time soon; neither the government nor the insurgents are strong enough to win a decisive victory. Instead, the war is likely to continue for some years, and--especially if the forces behind the current government prevail--the fighting is likely to phase down rather than to end abruptly.
The interesting question to ask is what will be the situation five to ten years from now, for that is a time frame long enough that one or the other side could have become strong enough to prevail. It is possible that by then, modest democratic forces will have prevailed. Yet the most likely future is that Iraq will remain a weak and fragile society challenged by an insurgency. However, it is also possible that an Islamist state will emerge. Also, there is always the outside chance Iraq will split apart.
[The article then describes several scenarios in some detail:
- A MODERATELY DEMOCRATIC REGIME
- THE STATUS QUO: A WEAK AND FRAGILE STATE CHALLENGED BY INSURGENCY
- ISLAMIST TAKEOVER (Insurgent Victory or [more likely] Islamist Takeover of the New Government Institutions)
- A DIVIDED IRAQ (several alternative scenarios) ]
IRAQ'S NEW PROBLEMS--AND ITS OLD ONES
In our concern about the instability from a weak central government in Iraq, we would do well to bear in mind that the alternative of a strong central government has been the main problem in modern Iraqi history....The oil income allows a ruler to create a powerful state bureaucracy--including security services that repress the people and an army that threatens regional stability.....
When Iraq is so weak and divided, it may seem perverse to worry about the old problem of too powerful a central state, but consider the implications of a successful suppression of the current insurgency. Such success will come only if the United States trains and equips an Iraqi military that is incomparably stronger than that of other Arab states or Iran--a military hardened by battle, well versed in American military ethos..... No wonder some of Iraq's neighbors would not mind if Iraq's central government were threatened by separatist forces that kept Iraq preoccupied.
The challenge is to find a way for Iraq to function well with a weak central government, presumably through a federal system with powerful regional and local governments. It would be a grave error to embrace some new savior on horseback who promises to bring stability by restoring all power to Baghdad. That might solve our current concerns, but at the expense of bringing a worse future for Iraqis, who would be the first victims of totalitarian tendencies, and for the region, which would suffer from the overweening ambitions of any Iraqi strongman.
The prospects for Iraq are not particularly attractive. The most likely attainable outcomes would still leave a weak and divided society, not just a fragile government. ...... there is little prospect that for many, many decades to come Iraq will be able to recover the same position relative to its neighbors that it had when Saddam came to power. His rule effectively ruined Iraq's chances for regional leadership for a century.
That is the best case. Much worse cases are quite possible. Most troubling for the international community is the situation in which Iraq becomes once again a source of regional instability, this time due to unrest, terrorism, and communitarian violence spilling over from Iraq onto its neighbors. It is striking how little Iraq's neighbors are doing to counter such a threat. Indeed, Syria and most especially Iran are feeding the flames that may one day engulf them.
The difficult situation in Iraq was almost certainly made worse by errors in the U.S.-led occupation. That said, the fundamental cause of the problems is the social destruction during Saddam's days, which drove Iraqis to seek security in elemental communal structures of sect and ethnic group. Saddam hollowed the government and the other social institutions of the Iraqi middle class. He empowered radicals of many sorts, including in his last decade intolerant Islamists. No matter how his rule ended, Iraq would have been a mess afterwards.
[For a wealth of analysis from the IDC in Herziliya go to MERIA HOMEPAGE. For the current issue contents with links to all articles and back issues follow this link. For back issues go to MERIA Journal Previous Issues]
US PRESIDENT George W. Bush has branded Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a tyrant and compared the Tehran leaders to al-Qa'ida terrorists who cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons.In a speech before the Military Officers Association of America, Mr Bush abandoned his practice of not mentioning Osama bin Laden, repeatedly quoting the al-Qa'ida leader to highlight the group's "totalitarian" aims, which he said recalled the evil ambitions of Vladimir Lenin and Adolf Hitler.
He said al-Qa'ida wanted to transform Iraq into the capital of an Islamic caliphate spanning much of the globe, and that Shia Muslim extremists, including the leaders of Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, had similar goals. "Like al-Qa'ida and the Sunni extremists, the Iranian regime has clear aims," he said. "They want to drive America out of the region, to destroy Israel, and to dominate the broader Middle East.
"America will not bow down to tyrants," Mr Bush said in the second of a series of election-year speeches defending his handling of the war on terrorism and Iraq. "The world's free nations will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon."
....The US President said Shia extremists had done something al-Qa'ida could only dream of doing - taking over Iran in 1979 and "subjugating its proud people to a regime of tyranny, and using that nation's resources to fund the spread of terror and to pursue their radical agenda".
"The Iranian regime and its terrorist proxies have demonstrated their willingness to kill Americans, and now the Iranian regime is pursuing nuclear weapons," he said.
In the speech and an updated national security strategy report on combating terrorism, Mr Bush renewed a push to bolster support among Americans weary of the war in Iraq by portraying the conflict as part of a more expansive war on terrorism. White House officials denied the President's security report and speech were driven by election-year politics - in which Mr Bush is accusing Democrats of being soft on terrorism - and said the report had been the product of months of work.
But the remarks came less than a week before the nation observes the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and two months before mid-term elections in which the Bush administration's national security strategy and competence loom as pivotal questions. "Bin Laden and his terrorist allies have made their intentions as clear as Lenin and Hitler before them. The question is: will we listen? Will we pay attention to what these evil men say?" Mr Bush said, adding that at the White House, "we're taking the words of the enemy seriously".
He said Islamic radicals would like to obtain nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction to "blackmail the free world and spread their ideologies of hate and raise a mortal threat to the American people". "If we allow them to do this, if we retreat from Iraq, if we don't uphold our duty to support those who are desirous to live in liberty, then 50 years from now, history will look back on our time with unforgiving clarity and demand to know why we did not act," Mr Bush said.
"I'm not going to allow this to happen, and no future American president can allow it either."
The updated White House counter-terrorism strategy outlined yesterday in a 23-page report says significant progress has been made against a degraded but still dangerous al-Qa'ida network, but states: "The enemy we face today in the war on terror is not the same enemy we faced on September 11. Our effective counter-terrorist efforts in part have forced the terrorists to evolve."
AP, AFP, Reuters
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
...The global nuclear monitoring agency deepened suspicions on Thursday about Iran’s nuclear program, reporting that inspectors had discovered new traces of highly enriched uranium at an Iranian facility. Inspectors have found such uranium, which at extreme enrichment levels can fuel bombs, twice in the past. The International Atomic Energy Agency concluded that at least some of those samples came from contaminated equipment that Iran had obtained from Pakistan.
But in this case, the nuclear fingerprint of the particles did not match the other samples, an official familiar with the inspections said, raising questions about their origin. In a six-page report to the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, the agency withheld judgment about where the material came from and whether it could be linked to a secret nuclear program.
.....As in the past, the nuclear agency painted a confusing and incomplete picture of the state of Iran’s nuclear program, underscoring the limits of outside inspectors whose access to Iran’s nuclear sites was curtailed by Iran early this year. On one hand, the report makes clear that, as the official familiar with the inspections said, “Inspectors have not uncovered any concrete proof that Iran’s nuclear program is of a military nature.” On the other hand, the report captures the long pattern of confusion, stonewalling, partial disclosure of information and a minimum of cooperation under Iran’s international obligations to the agency and details new suspicious activities.
Since February, when the agency referred the Iran dossier to the Security Council, Iran has drastically reduced the access of the international inspectors. The decision has limited or blocked inspections of hundreds of the country’s atomic sites, programs and personnel; the result is more uncertainty and less information about Iran’s progress in mastering the basics of uranium and plutonium, the foundations for both producing electricity and building bombs.
Most noteworthy in the report was the discovery of particles of highly enriched uranium on a container at a waste storage facility at Karaj, not far from Tehran.
......Robert Joseph, the under secretary of state for arms control and international security, was cautious in talking about the new evidence, but said, “We need to be very concerned that Iran may well be undertaking experiments, and may be undertaking the construction of centrifuge machines, out of sight of I.A.E.A. inspectors.”
.....The report also faulted Iran for once again failing to answer questions and provide documents and access on a wide range of issues, some of which have been outstanding for more than three years. “There is a standstill” in resolving these issues, said the official.... The agency, he added, is losing confidence that it can give the world assurances about the “completeness” of Iran’s program.
William J. Broad and David E. Sanger contributed reporting from Washington for this article.
Diplomacy to resolve concerns over Iran's nuclear program continues with no clear resolution in sight. Most officials seek to avoid military confrontation. After receiving Iran's refusal to demands that it suspend uranium enrichment, both Moscow and Paris urged Washington not to escalate the dispute.
Serious U.S. analysts agree with the costs of military action. The Iranian government could ratchet up its sponsorship of terror, U.S. troops in Iraq could be vulnerable to Tehran's proxy militias, ordinary Iranian citizens could rally around the nationalist flag, and targeted bombing of Iranian facilities could delay the Islamic Republic's program, not end it.
But will diplomacy be enough to stop the Islamic Republic's acquisition of nuclear weapons? What enables diplomacy is trust that the opposing side will honor its commitments. Tehran's track record does not create confidence. In its formative revolutionary years, the reformist heyday, and even today, the Iranian leadership has had a consistent record of antipathy toward diplomatic convention and violation of agreements.....
....[a detailed history of Iranian duplicity in negotiations is provided]....
While diplomacy necessarily involves talking to adversaries, it is dangerous to assume that both Washington and Tehran operate from the same set of ground rules. From its very inception, the Islamic Republic eschewed the convention of international relations and diplomacy. Khomeini sought to establish a theocracy on Shi‘ite religious principles. As such, his writings are illuminating. In several essays, he spoke of the Shi‘ite concept of taqiya, religious dissimulation. Railing against the plots of the West in a series of lectures delivered in Najaf in 1970, Khomeini spoke of the necessity to engage in such religiously sanctioned lying. While many analysts are unaware of taqiya and many academics stigmatize discussion of its extent and derivations for fear of portraying Iran in a negative light, the concept nonetheless influences Tehran's diplomacy. If the Islamic Republic perceives itself as under threat, its leaders may not only feel compelled to lie, but may also feel justified in so doing. From a religious and political perspective, the ends justify the means. .... Tehran may still conduct diplomacy to fish for incentive and reward--and they may demand apologies and use the rhetoric of victimization to win further concessions and position--but, at its core, Iranian diplomacy is insincere. The Iranian leadership will say anything and do anything to buy the time necessary to acquire nuclear capability.
Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at AEI. AEI research assistant Jeffrey Azarva provided research assistance and editorial associate Nicole Passan worked with Mr. Rubin to edit and produce this Middle Eastern Outlook.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Two terrorists cells are on the prowl in Sinai for mega-attacks on Americans, Israelis and Egyptians. US units are on high alert; Israeli holidaymakers are advised to leave at once.
The smaller group of three Palestinian suicide killers penetrated the Egyptian territory from Gaza on the last day of August heading for a large-scale murder-cum-kidnap operation against Israelis.
The second is the largest al Qaeda terrorist team ever tasked in this part of the world for a string of major attacks on American and Egyptian military targets, tourist resorts and Israeli civilians. DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources estimate the group as 70-strong with 5 commanders. Most unusually, all its members are Egyptians hailing from the port town of Alexandria.
...According to DEBKAfile’s sources, the Egyptians were led to believe that the al Qaeda team was raised in Alexandria to fight Americans forces in Iraq. It departed on July 26 and reached Sinai two days later armed with forged Egyptian passports made out in false identities.
But they were never meant to reach Iraq; their missions were in Sinai. On arrival, the al Qaeda group split up into small groups, one of which picked up weapons and explosives form a local cache. Their orders are to strike the two American brigades stationed in Sinai – one at the Multinational Force based at Gora near El Arish in the north, the other at Sharm e-Sheikh. They will also try and hit the US warships and naval units docked in the bay.
All three US units are on high alert for al Qaeda attacks.
Israeli tourists, although urgently warned to leave Sinai without delay are still heading for their favorite haunts at the desert resorts at the rate of 1,000 a day.
Monday, September 04, 2006
IT appears Iran has opened three fronts in the eastern part of the Middle East and is increasing or decreasing the heat in Iraq, Lebanon, and the Gulf region depending on the pressure on its nuclear program. Currently all these fronts are on high alert as Iran’s confrontation with the international community has reached a peak ....
Tehran’s battlefront in Iraq extends all the way to the south. The recent firing along Kuwait’s borders with Iraq... is raising suspicions. Ahmadinejad’s choice of the Cold War language indicates Iran’s internal situation is dangerous because of its economy, which is in crisis. With his extremist methods and by creating international and regional disputes the Iranian President is trying to divert the attention of his people from the internal crisis. This was evident when Ahmadinejad accused Gulf states of standing with the international community and threatened to burn the entire Gulf region if people of the region dared to stand in the way of Tehran’s nuclear program.
.... We see his threats as a “killing arrogance,” which will eventually end him.... All of us remember how the Gulf states stood against the Shah of Iran when he was trying to play the role of a regional policeman. We also remember how the Ayatollah Ali Al-Khomeini’s Islamic revolution ended the Shah’s dreams. Now Ahmadinejad wants to play the same role while trying to convince us that the Islamic Revolution in Iran was not meant to implement the aggressive and greedy policies of Tehran to expand its influence all over the Gulf.....
..... We don’t want Iran to become a victim of its own arrogance and meet the same fate of Japan, which was defeated in the World War II following the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Iran should know even a small spark can ignite a huge fire. World War I was the result of the assassination of the Austrian Crown Prince and World War II was sparked by the ambitions of Adolf Hitler. We don’t want Ahmadinejad’s name to be included in the list of those, who caused the killing of their own people or participated in crimes against humanity. We are sorry to note that in such an important region, which is rich in oil and natural gas, some adventurous leaders are willing to jeopardize peace by accusing others of being agents without any proof. These leaders must remember arrogance is a very dangerous disease.
..... In trying to establish a National Unity government, to replace Fouad Al-Siniora’s government, Hassan Nasrallah and Michael Aoun are acting according to the instructions of Damascus to bring back the days when Lebanon was ruled by Syrian intelligence.
Syrian President Dr Bashar Al-Assad recently promised UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to redraw Syria’s borders with Lebanon, exchange diplomatic representatives, and help patrol the borders between the two countries to end the smuggling of weapons to Hezbollah. Al-Assad also pledged to comply with UN resolution 1701. However, the Syrian President’s promises vanished into thin air when the Information Minister of Syria said “Al-Assad’s pledges will be implemented under suitable circumstances.” This means Al-Assad has two faces and speaks two languages. We wonder how anybody can trust the President of Syria, who contradicts himself and appears to be eccentric. We still remember Al-Assad’s words when he told the Foreign Minister of Spain that he would use his authority to exert pressure on Hezbollah to end the war. The Syrian President’s words were forgotten in the morning after Syrian officials denied Al-Assad had made any such promise.
Many Lebanese politicians have started to pull out from the contradictions of Syria... head of the Amal Movement Nabih Berri ...has described Hezbollah as an “imposed regime which represents Persian Shiites and not the Lebanese or other Arabs.”
The people of Lebanon need national personalities such as Nabih Berri, who has taken a courageous and patriotic stand representing Lebanese of the Jafari Sect. Berri has proved the religious beliefs of the Jafari Sect do not depend on being loyal to Iran or getting trapped in the theories of Persian scholars at Qom. The stand taken by Berri will keep Syria from interfering in the affairs of Lebanon. It will also help the international community to get rid of the regime of lies and derail the plans of the Nasrallah-Aoun alliance, which is trying hard to pave the way for Syria to rule Lebanon once again.
Extending talks only plays into Ahmadinejad's hands
IN watching the slow dance between Iran and the rest of the world over Tehran's nuclear program, two things are becoming ever more clear: Iran's theocratic despots are hell-bent on acquiring atomic weapons with which to threaten Israel and control events in the Middle East and beyond, and large swaths of the world appear prepared to let them have their wish.
After the expiration of the UN Security Council deadline demanding Iran halt its uranium enrichment program, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana offered Tehran another fortnight for "clarification talks". Meanwhile UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is in Tehran to ask President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to back UN resolutions calling for the disarming of Hezbollah and to discuss Iran's nuclear ambitions. We're not holding our breath for a breakthrough.
The fact is that this latest two-week extension is only one of a series of attempts to cajole Iran into dropping its nuclear ambitions, even as Tehran cynically plays for time to develop its plans to the point where they are unstoppable by force or sanction. The pattern of blown deadlines and further extensions has become a bad joke....with every day that ticks by, Tehran comes that much closer to being able to build either a dirty bomb or a full-scale atomic fission weapon.
The repeated insistence by the Iranian regime's mouthpieces that the country's nuclear program is being developed for peaceful purposes is a lie of the first order. As one of the world's biggest oil producers, with several centuries' supply of liquefied natural gas, energy security is not an issue for Tehran. And a nuclear medicine program does not require a network of heavy water plants and uranium enrichment facilities.
The fact is that a nuclear-armed Iran would be a disaster for the world, not just Israel and the West. A hegemonic Iran in the Middle East would be hugely destabilising to the Sunni Arab world as well, and would extinguish movements towards reform, openness and democracy. Iran's history of involvement in Lebanon, played out through its Syrian and Hezbollah proxies, demonstrates that the mullahs' regime in Tehran is bent on exporting sectarian violence, terrorism and misery. Hezbollah is thought to have been behind the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people, making it the worst single anti-Semitic attack since the Holocaust. Imagine what such a group could do with nuclear weapons.
It may well be that diplomacy will be unable to find a solution to this rapidly gathering crisis. The faith of the West's foreign policy mandarins that if only an acceptable form of words can be found and the right set of incentives developed, Iran will mothball its nuclear ambitions is touching but naive. On several levels, Mr Ahmadinejad has too much at stake to abandon his nuclear quest. His regime and its fans around the world are shortsightedly counting on Iran's development into a nuclear superpower to counterbalance the perceived malign influence of the US. In this regard the current climate feels reminiscent of the late 1930s, when many in the West supported Germany's right to rearm having had its pride wounded by the Treaty of Versailles, or even the 1940s when some felt the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour was simply blowback for US oil sanctions on Imperial Japan.
Most chillingly, Mr Ahmadinejad's speeches are peppered not only with threats to eliminate Israel and Judaism but also millenarian Shia rhetoric about the 12th, or "hidden", imam whose reappearance will herald the end of the world. Some analysts believe Mr Ahmadinejad feels he is the 12th imam. Under such circumstances, diplomatic threats and sanctions could have the perverse effect of emboldening Mr Ahmadinejad. If so, the world's only option is military, though the window of opportunity for strikes against Iran's nuclear program is rapidly closing as the regime plays for time and hardens its facilities. US President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert may each have been weakened by mistakes and miscalculations in Iraq and Lebanon respectively. But they may also have no choice but to act, since no one else in the world seems prepared to. The successful destruction of Iran's nuclear program would put paid to the defeatist thinking of the Western Left, who believe Hezbollah is an authentic movement of freedom fighters, rather than a violent gang of religious and anti-Semitic fanatics. Anyone who cares about the future of humanity should be concerned that nuclear weapons do not fall into Iranian hands.