Saturday, February 10, 2007

'Abbas's top concern is avoiding civil war, not compliance'

From THE JERUSALEM POST by Herb Keinon, Feb. 9, 2007 ...

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas wanted a national unity government agreement in Mecca to stave off a Palestinian civil war, even if it meant antagonizing Israel, the US and the EU, according to Western diplomatic assessments.

Israel has articulated its concern in recent days to international leaders that if Abbas were to accept a government that did not denounce terrorism, accept existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, and recognize Israel, then it could fundamentally alter Israel's relationship with him.

The US and Israel have clarified to various international interlocutors that they could not accept a formula whereby only one of the international community's three principles - recognition of previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements - would be included in the unity government's framework.

According to these assessments, however, the international community is in a bind: On the one hand it does not want to water down the three principles, yet on the other it is concerned that if Abbas does not compromise with Hamas there would be no unity government, something that would prolong intra-Palestinian violence and undercut the prospects of renewed Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic efforts.

The widespread feeling in Jerusalem is that the US, along with Britain and Germany, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, would remain adamant about the need for the three Quartet principles to be upheld, while some other states - led by Russia - would push to recognize the unity government even if it did not fully meet the requirements.

....The negotiations in Mecca, according to Western diplomatic sources, were based on an "informal paper" presented as a basis for a unity government. This paper called for the establishment of the unity government to "lift the [international] siege" of the PA. Under this informal paper, the new government would commit itself to the resolutions and agreements signed by the PLO, various Arab summits, and UN resolutions.

As such, recognition of Israel would be implicitly included in acceptance of the 1993 exchange of letters of recognition between Israel and the PLO. There would also be an understanding that the new unity government would not object to negotiations or agreements with Israel.

The informal paper, however, stipulated that the factions in the unity government would not be bound by its commitments. What this means is that while Hamas would be free to continue to deny recognition of Israel, the government - when asked about the issue - would refer questions on this matter to Abbas.

The only "Quartet principle" that was directly addressed in the "informal paper" was the acceptance of previous agreements, and this was the focus of a great deal of the debate between Abbas and Hamas. This argument centered around whether the Arabic iltasama (commit to) or ihtarama (respect) would be used when discussing previous agreements. Abbas wanted Hamas to commit to the previous agreements, but according to initial reports from Mecca Thursday night, Hamas prevailed on this issue.

Hamas, meanwhile, wanted to insert into the document a caveat stating that the previous agreement would be honored "as long as they respect" or "as long as they do not oppose" the higher Palestinian interest, something to which Abbas was opposed.

Regarding the international demand that the new government renounce terrorism, what was discussed instead was the need to maintain the tahdia or cease-fire with Israel in Gaza, and to extend it to the West Bank.

According to Western diplomatic assessments, the Palestinians themselves have no illusions this document would satisfy the Quartet principles.

However, according to these assessments, there was a feeling among the Palestinians that this was the most that could be gotten from Hamas at the present time, and that it was the closest thing available to a Palestinian consensus. Nobody expected that Hamas would change its fundamental positions.

The Western diplomats said that the importance of the agreement was that by accepting the PLO and UN agreements and resolutions, Hamas gave Abbas something they always refused to give Yasser Arafat - a mandate to negotiate with Israel over the establishment of a Palestinian state and a solution to the refugee issue. Were Hamas to stay outside the government, the assessments continued, any agreement reached between Abbas and Israel would be attacked by Hamas and be the possible foundation for a Palestinian civil war.

Bumbling into war

From Caroline Glick, THE JERUSALEM POST, Feb. 8, 2007 ...

... in a manner eerily reminiscent of last spring, we are on the precipice of a new war and our leaders stubbornly reject truth for delusion. Unless they acknowledge reality soon, they will again bar the IDF from fighting effectively, again maneuver us into diplomatic isolation and so again lead Israel to defeat.

... for the past several months the Palestinians have been accelerating their preparations for war. On Monday Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) Director Yuval Diskin revealed some of those preparations.

Diskin said that in 2006, the Palestinians imported 30 tons of explosives into Gaza from Egypt. Hamas has dug 10 tunnels into the western Negev from which it will be able to launch attacks against the IDF or against civilians. The situation along the breached Gaza-Egypt border is even worse. Diskin referred to the weapons and personnel smuggling tunnels there as "one big rabbit warren."

As the Palestinians prepare themselves for battle, this week they invented their justification for attacking the Jews. Just as they did in September 2000, this week Palestinian and Israeli Arab leaders opened their propaganda campaign for war by falsely accusing Israel of conspiring to destroy the mosques on the Temple Mount.

Like its excavation by the Western Wall that has been going on quietly for the past several months, the Israel Antiquities Authority coordinated its salvage dig by the Mughrabi Gate of the Old City with the Islamic Wakf, the Jordanian government and all other relevant authorities before its archeologists began their work this week. Everyone understood that the excavation is being conducted 70 meters away from the Temple Mount and will in no way affect it.
But facts are irrelevant. The Arabs are not interested in the facts. They are interested in war.

Sheikh Abdullah Nimer Darwish, the head of the southern branch of the Israeli Islamic movement, made this point clearly Thursday morning when he told Israel Radio that the war will likely begin when the heads of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh, return from Mecca. It can be reasonably concluded from Darwish's statement that the Fatah-Hamas unity talks taking place in Mecca have more to do with coordinating the coming jihad than with dividing government ministries in their soon-to-be-formed, Saudi-sponsored terrorist unity government.

However the talks conclude, there is no doubt that the PA is gunning for war with Israel. Palestinian television, which Abbas and Fatah control, has been showing incendiary live and archival footage from the Temple Mount for the past three days. The images are interspersed with speeches by Palestinian and pan-Islamic leaders calling on the Muslim world to protect Al Aksa mosque.

As Israel's leaders praise the Saudis for their role in promoting the peace process, Al-Jazeera satellite network is broadcasting live calls to war to the entire Muslim world live from the Temple Mount. While Al-Jazeera reporters have been kicked out of Algeria, Iraq, Sudan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Jordan for calling for war against anyone who doesn't talk like Osama bin Laden, and even the PA closed its offices twice, the Israeli government apparently has no problem with Al-Jazeera reporters calling the Islamic world to launch a genocidal jihad against the Jewish state from the Temple Mount.

On the Lebanese front, the situation is also frighteningly familiar. Just as last summer the Palestinians and Hizbullah worked in close coordination, so the escalation of hostilities along the border with Lebanon this week shows that their coordination remains high. What is new in the current situation is the hostile role being played by the Lebanese military, and what this role tells us about the nature of the coming war.

Last summer many warned Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni that it would be unwise to allow the Lebanese military to deploy to the border. To the extent those forces participated in the last war, they did so on the side of Hizbullah. Lebanese units directed Hizbullah's missile attack against the INS Hanit. They were similarly involved in identifying targets in northern Israel for Hizbullah's rocket units. Forty percent of the soldiers and officers serving in the Lebanese army are Shi'ite and many of them owe their primary allegiance to Hizbullah.

In spite of these warnings, Olmert and Livni did not merely accept the Lebanese army's deployment along the border. They insisted on it. And Wednesday night, when the Lebanese military attacked IDF units operating within sovereign Israel, those who preached caution were proven right. By insisting that the Lebanese army deploy along the border, Olmert and Livni effectively enabled Hizbullah's reassertion of control over south Lebanon.

It should be recalled that the timing of last summer's war was anything but a coincidence. At the time, Iran ordered Hizbullah to attack Israel two days before the G-8 summit where the world leaders were poised to condemn Iran for refusing to cease its uranium enrichment activities, and a week before the International Atomic Energy Agency was scheduled to refer Iran's nuclear program to the UN Security Council.

So too, today, the escalation of enemy incitement and operations is anything but random. On February 21, IAEA inspectors are scheduled to report to the Security Council that in defiance of Resolution 1737 from two months ago, Iran has not ceased its uranium enrichment activities. In the wake of this report, the sanctions set out in the resolution are supposed to be firmly enforced.

On the Iraqi front, hostilities between the US and Iran escalate daily and signs abound that the much awaited US offensive in Baghdad is about to start. If successful, the offensive will seriously weaken Iranian proxy forces in that country and similarly weaken Iran's influence over the Iraqi government.

All in all, a two-front war against Israel would go a long way towards advancing Iran's interests today.

All of this naturally raises the question: What are Israel's leaders doing as our enemies prepare for war?

While demanding that Olmert order the IAA to stop its salvage dig at the Mughrabi Gate, Defense Minister Amir Peretz is preparing to renew his hostilities against his greatest foes - the Israelis who live in Judea and Samaria. Last week Peretz ordered the IDF to draw up plans to destroy several Israeli communities in the areas. As to the Palestinians, Hizbullah and their state sponsors, Peretz has nothing constructive to say.

For her part, Livni continues to applaud her brilliance in negotiating the cease-fire agreement last summer under which Hizbullah has rearmed and reasserted its control over south Lebanon. Then too, Livni continues to act as the spokeswoman for the Fatah terror organization.
In her joint appearance with British Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett on Tuesday, Livni said that Israel and Fatah (which she refers to as the "moderates in the Palestinian Authority"), "are on the same side."

While repeating her vapid mantra distinguishing "moderates" from "extremists," Wednesday Livni claimed that the incitement surrounding the Temple Mount is being carried out by "irresponsible elements" which include "political groups within Israel and extremist elements outside Israel." As is her practice, Livni ignored the fact that her "moderate" friend Abbas stands at the center of those "extremists" inciting for war.

Finally we have Prime Minister Ehud Olmert himself. In his testimony last week before the Winograd Commission which he appointed to investigate last summer's war, Olmert continued to insist that Israel won. This being the case, we oughtn't be concerned about the defeated Hizbullah.

As to the Palestinians, Olmert is now busily preparing for his February 19 meeting with Abbas, the "moderate" terror master, and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He continues to forbid the IDF from striking the burgeoning terror armies and armories in Gaza and refuses to acknowledge the known fact that Fatah is supported by Iran.

This week Olmert again tried to lull us into complacency about the ayatollahs' nuclear weapons program. Speaking to the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations, Olmert enthused that we have ample time to deal with the threat and that anyway, the international community including China and Russia can be counted on to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons through diplomacy.

At this juncture it is worth recalling precisely what was wrong about the Olmert government's handling of the war last summer. While the Winograd Commission writes its report, the citizens of Israel should realize that regardless of what the members of the commission who Olmert appointed say, the war was not merely or mainly a military failure. The central cause of Israel's defeat was the incompetence of our political leaders. Specifically, Olmert and Peretz failed to act to ensure that the IDF achieved the goals they set for it.

Before ordering the IDF to war, Olmert held no discussions regarding the conditions on the ground, and so did not consider whether the war plans he approved were relevant to the achievement of his declared goals.

Olmert and Livni failed to grasp the diplomatic opportunities the war created. Had they been paying attention they would have seen a tangible willingness in Washington to consider a joint Israeli-American strike against the terror headquarters and training bases in Syria that serve not only the Palestinians and Hizbullah, but the insurgents warring against coalition forces in Iraq. The consequences that such a joint operation would have had on both Israeli-US relations and on Syrian-Iranian relations would have changed the face of the region in a dramatic and positive way.

Due to their ignorance of both military and diplomatic affairs, Olmert and colleagues barred the IDF from conquering south Lebanon and so denied the army the only means of achieving the goal of ending the missile attacks on northern Israel and destroying Hizbullah as a fighting force.
When Olmert's, Livni's and Peretz's incompetence last summer is compared to their current behavior, the unavoidable conclusion is that they have learned nothing from their experience and so remain incompetent to contend with the dangers we face today.

And so, as they bumble us into another war while speaking dreamily of their friends in Mecca, at least Olmert, Livni and Peretz cannot say that they weren't warned.

Friday, February 09, 2007

"Remembering the Holocaust: What Have We Learned? What Must We Do?"

From the Keynote Address by Professor Irwin Cotler at the January 29, 2007 Holocaust commemoration of the European Headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva [exerpts only, with my emphasis added; follow the link for the full address]....

... there are things in Jewish history that are too terrible to be believed, but not too terrible to have happened.... Words may ease the pain, but they may also dwarf the tragedy. ....

...we have to ask ourselves, what have we learned and what must we do?

Lesson 1 ...the importance of Zachor, of remembrance itself. For as we remember the six million Jewish victims of the Shoah — defamed, demonized and dehumanized, as prologue or justification for genocide — we have to understand that the mass murder of six million Jews and millions of non-Jews is not a matter of abstract statistics.

For unto each person there is a name — unto each person, there is an identity. Each person is a universe. As our sages tell us: "whoever saves a single life, it is as if he or she has saved an entire universe." Just as whoever has killed a single person, it is as if they have killed an entire universe. And so the abiding imperative — that we are each, wherever we are, the guarantors of each other's destiny.

Lesson 2 ... The Responsibility to Prevent
The enduring lesson of the Holocaust is that the genocide of European Jewry succeeded not only because of the industry of death and the technology of terror, but because of the state-sanctioned ideology of hate. This teaching of contempt, this demonizing of the other, this is where it all began. As the Canadian courts affirmed in upholding the constitutionality of anti-hate legislation, "the Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers — it began with words". ....

May I close with a word to the survivors of the Holocaust — for you are the true heroes of humanity. You witnessed and endured the worst of inhumanity, but somehow you found in the depths of your own humanity the courage to go on, to rebuild your lives ...because of you ... we remember that each person has a name and an identity — that each person is a universe — that in saving one life we save an entire universe.

... we pledge ... that never again will we be indifferent to incitement and hate; that never again will we be silent in the face of evil; that never again will we indulge racism and anti-semitism; that never again will we ignore the plight of the vulnerable; that never again will we be indifferent in the face of mass atrocity and impunity.....

...May this day be not only an act of remembrance, which it is, but let it be a remembrance to act, which it must be.

Professor Cotler is a Canadian member of parliament and former justice minister and attorney general. A longtime board member of UN Watch, Professor Cotler is a distinguished academic and a prominent human rights lawyer, whose dedication to humanitarian causes has earned him the Order of Canada and many other awards. Professor Cotler has represented Andrei Sakharov and Anatoly Sharansky in the Soviet Union, Nelson Mandela in South Africa, Nigerian playwright and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, and most recently Saad Edin Ibrahim, an Egyptian sociologist and democracy advocate whose criticism of Egypt's Mubarak government resulted in his incarceration. Maclean's magazine has referred to Cotler as "Counsel for the Oppressed." He has been a leader in the development of international humanitarian law and has to his credit landmark cases in free speech, freedom of religion, women's rights, minority rights and peace law.

Hamas and Fatah sign unity accord

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Feb. 8, 2007, by Associated Press [my emphasis added]...

Rival Palestinian leaders signed an agreement in principle on a power-sharing government Thursday in Saudi-brokered talks in Mecca. Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, of the mainstream Fatah movement, and Khaled Mashaal, leader of Hamas, signed the accord at a ceremony hosted by Saudi King Abdullah in a palace overlooking the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine.

The deal sets out the principles of the coalition government, including a promise that it will "respect" previous peace deals with Israel, delegates said. It also divvies up Cabinet posts in the new government.

...On the second day of their marathon summit, Fatah and Hamas were still working on the second part of the agreement: to what degree a new government will recognize previous peace deals with Israel. That issue is key to whether any government that emerges from the Mecca conference will be accepted by the United States and Israel. If they judge that Hamas has moderated enough as part of a new government, it could mean the lifting of the painful financial boycott of the Palestinian Authority government and a resumption of the peace process with Israel.

...The wording of the new government's line on the peace accords has become the No. 1 issue, delegates said Thursday. Hamas, which has long rejected Israel's existence, will not accept that the government "commit" itself to the accords, regarding that as tantamount to recognition of the Jewish state. But Hamas will endorse "respect" for the accords. "We don't have a problem in accepting the wording 'respect' the agreements," said Nabil Amr, a spokesman for the Fatah delegation. "We have informed the Saudis and our brothers in Hamas that we are ready to sign any phrasing accepted by the world for the sake of lifting the siege," he added.

...Meanwhile, sources close to Hamas told The Jerusalem Post that the movement's Syria-based leader, Khaled Mashaal, would demand during the summit that he be named deputy chairman of the PLO. Such a move would pave the way for Hamas to join the PLO and turn Mashaal into the second most powerful leader after Abbas, who is also head of the PLO executive committee.
"Hamas is prepared to join the PLO on condition that Mashaal is appointed as Abbas's deputy," the sources said, noting that Hamas has long been demanding that the PLO and its institutions undergo major reforms and reconstruction.

Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.

...meanwhile, from The Australian's Martin Chulov, Middle East correspondent, February 09, 2007 ....

....A unity deal would be a fillip for coming tri-party talks between Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Mr Abbas and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, which are aimed at advancing a Palestinian state.

Israel has not made clear its view on a Palestinian government that pays heed to only two of its key demands, recognising past deals and the legitimacy of the Jewish state.

Israeli leaders had previously insisted that Hamas renounce violence and amend its charter, which calls for Israel to be destroyed and returned to Palestinian control.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

US Jews Demand Apology from Rice

From Bridges for Peace, February 7, 2007, by Ron Ross ...

The Zionist Organisation of America (ZOA) has called on the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to retract a statement she made to reporters at a Berlin press conference on January 18. Rice had described the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas as “a resistance movement.” On its Web site, ZOA has called for a retraction and requested that Rice apologize to victims of Hamas terrorism. Some Middle East analysts fear the phrase was premeditated and may signal a new approach to Hamas by the United States.

The Hamas foundational charter calls for the destruction of Israel. In an agreement drawn up between Fatah and Hamas for a unity government last week, that agenda remains.

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “We respectfully request that Secretary Rice both clarify and apologize to the victims of Hamas terror, which includes 27 Americans killed and 39 wounded and nearly 500 Israelis killed plus the many thousands more maimed in scores of suicide bombings and hundreds of other acts of Hamas terrorism. “Hamas is one of the most murderous terrorist groups in the world and can by no stretch of the imagination be described as a ‘resistance organization.’”

In a statement issued on the ZOA Web site, Rice is criticized for what they call “inappropriate positive spin on troubling aspects of Palestinian Arab society.”

“Is Secretary Rice’s claim that Hamas is a ‘resistance movement’ part of a larger pattern of sanitizing the Palestinian Arabs, their goals and conduct, and thus part of an attempt to force Israel into a path of further, disastrous concessions ...?” the statement asks....

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Hamas, Fatah in last-ditch bid to unite (and fight Israel)

From The Australian, February 07, 2007, by Abraham Rabinovich, Jerusalem ...

WARRING Palestinian leaders gathered in Islam's holiest city last night in a last-ditch attempt to find a political formula that will bring them back from the edge of civil war.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khalid Meshaal, each accompanied by a large delegation, met behind closed doors in Mecca under the patronage of Saudi king Abdullah.

Both sides expressed optimism that they would arrive at an agreement on a national unity government that would put an end to the escalating violence in the Gaza Strip and enable the international community to resume its funding of the hard-pressed Palestinian Authority.
"It is forbidden to fail," said Mr Meshaal in a television interview in Damascus. "I call on all our brothers to restrain themselves and remember our real battle," a reference to Israel.

A leading Fatah official, Qadura Fares, involved in intensive preliminary contacts with Hamas, said the differences between the two groups had in effect been resolved. "Barring any surprises, they will agree this week on a government of national unity," he said.

According to Israeli press reports, the unity government would be headed by the current Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniya, but Hamas would give up the built-in cabinet majority it has had since winning parliamentary elections a year ago. The three key posts that Hamas and Fatah had been arguing over for months - finance, interior and foreign - would go to neither party, but rather to respected independent parliamentarians. The unity government would include 10 Hamas and six Fatah members, six independents and four ministers from smaller factions.

A key point to be resolved in Mecca is the new government's position regarding the conflict with Israel. The Quartet of the US, EU, UN and Russia has withheld recognition of the Hamas Government, demanding that it first recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept previous Palestinian agreements with Israel. King Abdullah has reportedly proposed that Hamas declare that it respects signed Palestinian-Israeli agreements, a formulation that it believes could be seen as implying acceptance of the three conditions laid down by the quartet. Israel would probably reject such a reading but it is not clear what the position of the quartet will be.

Hamas has said for a number of years it is ready to enter into a ceasefire with Israel but wishes to retain the option of resuming its struggle for elimination of the Jewish state at a time of its choosing.

The Saudi sponsorship of the Palestinian summit meeting is part of a newly assertive profile the kingdom has assumed in regional affairs, which has included attempts to head off a civil war in Lebanon, support of Sunnis in Iraq and opposition to growing Iranian power. Saudi influence rests on its oil wealth and on its custody of Islam's holiest sites in Mecca and Medina.
Officials in Riyadh have indicated that King Abdullah intends to use both avenues in an attempt to win a Palestinian compromise.

The Palestinians will reportedly be promised $US1 billion ($1.3billion) if they come to an agreement and the leaders will be asked to pledge to keep the agreement in front of the Kaaba, the holy stone in Mecca towards which the Muslim faithful around the world face in their prayers.

Iran funding Fatah

From Ynet News, 6/2/07, by Neta Sela ...

Yaalon blames Middle East instability on Islamic Republic's backing of Hizbullah, Hamas and Fatah, says 'Muslim world is awaiting the fall of the United States'

Former IDF chief Moshe Yaalon blamed Iran for much of the instability in the Middle East, accusing Tehran of funding extremist groups such as Hizbullah and Hamas.

In an unprecedented revelation, he also included Fatah on Tehran's funding list.

"Many think that problems in the Middle East spring from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That's not true. The source of the problem is Iran. The Iranians are giving money to Hamas, Fatah and Hizbullah," Yaalon told the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem.

President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction has been supported by the United States and other western nations for its opposition to Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel.

...Yaalon slammed the international community for turning a blind eye to Iran's endeavor to threaten Israel's security and making overt threats to wipe out the Jewish state, deeds he said were "the real problem" in the Middle East.

He also said the Muslim world is awaiting the fall of the United States, charging that the 9/11 terror attacks underscored the fact that Muslim extremists are bent on destroying the last remaining super power.

Prof. Lewis, an expert on Islam, said the Iranian regime is apocalyptic, and its determination to seek nuclear technology underscores its intention on using those weapons against the United States. "Iran wants nuclear weapons in order to harm the major world power," he said.

...Lubrani, an adviser to Defense Minister Amir Peretz, expressed concern over Iran's influence over Lebanon's Shiite population, many of whom serve in the Lebanese army but owe their loyalty to Tehran's proxy Hizbullah.

Lubrani urged the United States to show zero flexibility on Iran's nuclear issue, adding that a large segment of Iranians oppose President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's confrontational mantra against the west.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas and the Global Jihad:

The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs has published a study entitled "Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas and the Global Jihad:A New Conflict Paradigm for the West" in January 2007. Authors include Dr. Dore Gold, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Moshe Yaalon, Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, Daniel Diker, Uzi Rubin, Dr. Martin Kramer, Lt. Col. (Res.) Jonathan D. Halevi.

The Arab-Israeli conflict has become increasingly a part of the much larger struggle between radical Islam and the West. Iran is more determined than ever to achieve regional hegemony.

Follow this link to Download Full Report (85pp. - 2M pdf file).

The following excerpt is from the Executive Summary by Dore Gold ...

The Middle East has undergone revolutionary changes in the last few years that require a serious reassessment of how the region's myriad problems should be addressed.

For most of the 1990s it was the conventional wisdom that the key to regional stability was to be found in the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict ....with a diplomatic investment of a few years, it was hoped, it would be possible to conclude a region-wide peace agreement that included Israel, the Palestinians, and the Arab states.

However... it has become clear that radical Islamic militancy, which had been organizationally led by al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, transferred many of its main centers of operation to the Middle East after the fall of the Taliban regime. This was especially noticeable in the area of western Iraq and in several neighboring countries. Thus, it was becoming increasingly difficult to argue that the Arab-Israeli conflict was the root cause of regional instability. Indeed, the immediate historical roots of radical Islam could be traced to two events that had nothing to do with the Arab-Israeli conflict: the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran and the 1989 defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan that spawned al-Qaeda.

Now radical Islam is gaining strength among the Palestinians with the victory of Hamas in the 2006 parliamentary elections of the Palestinian Authority. This was the first time an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood has seized power in the core of the Middle East. The hostility of Hamas toward Israel cannot be ameliorated through diplomacy or by means of a fair territorial compromise. Hamas and its allies completely reject a negotiated solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and align themselves with jihadi organizations across the region. As a result, the Arab-Israeli conflict has become increasingly a part of the much larger struggle between radical Islam and the West.

With the emergence for the first time of a Shiite-dominated Iraq, the Islamic Republic of Iran sensed that it now has an historic opportunity to emerge as the dominant power in the entire Middle East, projecting its influence to neighboring Shiite communities and reaching out to the Sunni Arab street over the heads of current governments....

....The Iranian drive for new great power status has been driven by the ideological orientation of its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has rejuvenated the energy behind the original 1979 Islamic Revolution. He has underscored that he firmly believes in an impending Shiite apocalyptic scenario and, as a result, he does not seem to be influenced by the same considerations of deterrence that affected the calculations of the superpowers during the Cold War. He has put in place an Iranian government manned by fellow former Revolutionary Guards, many of whom share his ideological outlook. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps - and its Quds Force in particular - has been a critical instrument for spreading Iranian political-military influence across the Middle East, from Lebanon to Sudan, and most recently in Iraq.

It would be a cardinal error to see the rise of Sunni and Shiite militancy as completely separate developments that cannot influence one another and do not cooperate. Iran sought to make inroads with the Islamist regime in Sudan in the 1990s. It has backed Sunni organizations like Palestinian Islamic Jihad for years and is now emerging as the most significant source of support for Hamas. The 9/11 Commission details Iranian cooperation with al-Qaeda. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the butcher of Iraqi Shiites during the insurgency, was provided refuge and support by the Iranian regime when he evacuated Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban. In order for Iran to assume a leadership role in the Islamic world, it must reach out beyond the Shiite communities of the world, which account for only 15 percent of all Muslims, and ally itself with Sunni movements, as well.

Yet while Iran seeks greater influence in the Sunni-dominated states, the Iraq War has exacerbated Sunni-Shiite tensions across the Middle East, leading Sunni leaders like Jordan's King Abdullah to openly talk about the dangers of a Shiite crescent encircling the core of the Middle East. And in anticipation of a U.S. pullback from Iraq, the Saudi Arabian leadership has voiced its concern regarding the prospect that Iraqi Shiites intend to ethnically cleanse Iraq of its Sunni minority population with Iranian backing.

As a result, the Sunni-Shiite rivalry is likely to emerge as the central axis of conflict in the Middle East in the years to come. Given this new strategic context, the U.S. and its Western allies have enormous leverage with the threatened Sunni Arab states. As a consequence, the West does not have to pay for their cooperation in Israeli coin. Moreover, Saudi Arabia's continuing support for radical jihadi movements among Sunnis needs to be carefully monitored and addressed.

It is striking that while these revolutionary changes are transpiring, many Western policy-makers seem to be locked into ideas for stabilizing the Middle East that were conceived more than a decade ago under completely different regional circumstances. This problem was particularly glaring in the report of the Iraq Study Group Commission, chaired by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, that sought to accommodate Iran (as well as its Syrian ally) and increase pressure on Israel to reach a settlement with its most radicalized neighbors.

From the analysis that follows, new principles of Western policy become necessary that reflect the new realities of the Middle East:
  1. Iran is more determined than ever to achieve regional hegemony in the Middle East and is fueling regional instability across the entire area. ....
  2. The primary threat to the Sunni Arab states now clearly comes from Iran....Indeed, Israel and the Sunni Arabs may have many common threat perceptions. The resulting coincidence of their security interests ....might warrant low level discussions between Israel and its neighbors about how to address the threats that they face.
  3. There is no short-term diplomatic option for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict....
  4. The stabilization of the Middle East requires the neutralization of any of the components of the current radical Islamic wave. In this sense, it doesn't matter if Sunni or Shiite organizations are defeated, for the failure of any one of the elements in the present wave will weaken the other elements as well. The defeat of Hamas among the Palestinians or Hizballah in Lebanon would constitute an enormous setback for Iran.
  5. Israel has a continuing need for defensible borders. ... were Israel pressured to concede the Jordan Valley, for example, it would likely expose itself to a steep increase in infiltration to the strategic West Bank...the vacuum such a move created would increasingly attract global jihadi groups to Jordan, thereby undermining the stability of the Hashemite kingdom, and ultimately the region as a whole.

Iran's Nuclear Weapons: The Optimistic Scenario

From GLORIA, January 31, 2007, by Barry Rubin ...

... This isn't a matter just of Iran possibly firing atomic-tipped missiles at Israel or more extreme officials handing such weapons to terrorists. These are extremely dangerous outcomes that might or might not happen.

What should be more compelling is what would definitely take place: a gigantic shift in the regional balance of power against Western interests and toward violence and instability.

The first and most obvious situation would be a big boost for Iran's campaign to be the leading power in the Persian Gulf or even in the whole region. For many countries and movements, having a patron with nuclear weapons will be incredibly attractive; for even more, having an enemy with them is too scary to resist. Overnight, Iran will become the most attractive sponsor for political subversion and terrorism in the region. Saudi Arabia will still have money but all those oilfields could--in theory--disappear in a very bright flash if someone in Tehran decided to do so. Is this going to happen? Unlikely. But could the Saudis take that risk by angering Iran?

The same applies to all the other small Persian Gulf Arab states. And if Iran has influence in Iraq now, what would it be like if Tehran had nukes? There is a question that every Arab state would have to ask itself: Can the United States be depended on as a protector? Will America credibly be ready to use its own atomic bombs to counter those of Iran even if it involves killing large numbers of people and getting involved in a terrible, bloody war? The point is that it is not the use of nuclear weapons but a credible willingness to use them--enough to convince rather extremist Iranian leaders--that brings strategic credibility.

If you were a Saudi, Kuwaiti, or Emirati, what would be your choice--to feel secure with an American promise of help or to be safe by yielding to Iranian threats? Suppose, then, that Iran tells Bahrain not to house a U.S. base, or Iraq to kick out American forces, or the Saudis to set an oil price to Iran's liking. Aren't the Gulf Arabs going to yield to their demand? Clear hints are just as effective as rude threats. The nastier the one is who possesses the weapon, the more persuasive the warning.

Then there is the equation's other side. Consider that you are a revolutionary opposition group, Islamist or otherwise, looking for a backer. For such needs, there was Egypt in the 1950s and 1960s, Syria in the 1960s and 1970s, and Iraq in the 1980s and 1990s. In the twenty-first century, however, no one can compete with Iran, as Hizballah and Hamas have already decided.... Tens of thousands of people will die as a result of their enthusiasm for the cause. And a lot of them might be in Europe.

Do you think that anyone will make peace in the Arab-Israeli conflict if they assume--no matter how wrong they turn out to be--that Israel is going to be either erased by Iran's nuclear weapons or intimidated into massive unilateral concessions by them? Do you believe the West will dare act effectively on any regional crisis in the face of Iranian opposition? Would Turkey protest firmly about Iranian involvement in Kurdish or Islamist subversion at home?

This is only the beginning of the problems arising from Iranian possession of nuclear weapons: a bolder, extremist Iran; coercion of the local, relatively more moderate states; a boost for terrorist and revolutionary groups with an upsurge of violence, and intimidation of the West.

And that's the optimistic scenario, without anyone actually using weapons of mass destruction. Keep this in mind as the crisis unfolds.

Barry Rubin is Director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Interdisciplinary Center university.

Jimmy Carter's Book

From the Middle East Quarterly Spring 2007, by Kenneth W. Stein [one of two dozen directors of the Carter center who have resigned in protest over Carter's book]...

... Carter uses his credibility as a former president, Nobel laureate, and key player in the September 1978 Camp David accords and the Egypt-Israel peace treaty to unfold his set of truths and often to criticize U.S. policy.

...But Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid .... Carter's twenty-first book deficient. He does what no non-fiction author should ever do: He allows ideology or opinion to get in the way of facts.

... the narrative aims its attack toward Israel, Israeli politicians, and Israel's supporters. It contains egregious errors of both commission and omission. To suit his desired ends, he manipulates information, redefines facts, and exaggerates conclusions. Falsehoods, when repeated and backed by the prestige of Carter's credentials, can comprise an erroneous baseline for shaping and reinforcing attitudes and policymaking. Rather than bring peace, they can further fuel hostilities, encourage retrenchment, and hamper peacemaking.

I first met Carter at a 1982 reception welcoming him to Emory University. He invited me to serve as the Carter Center's first permanent executive director, a position I held between 1983 and 1986, and as the center's Middle East fellow, an association I continued until December 2006 when I resigned that post over both the inaccuracies in Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid and its message, which contradicts the Carter Center's founding purposes.

...In the book, Carter does not mention the counterproductive judgments made by Palestinian leaders or their embrace of terrorism over the last many years. While nineteenth- and twentieth-century European, Ottoman, Arab, and Zionist leaders all sought at various times to stifle Palestinian self-determination, the claim that the establishment of a Palestinian state rests only in the hands of Jerusalem and Washington is rubbish. By adopting so completely the Palestinian historical narrative, Carter may hamper diplomatic efforts enshrined in the "Road Map" and elsewhere that attempt to compel the Palestinian leadership to accept accountability for its actions. In pursuing this path, Carter violates the advice he gave eighty Palestinian business, religious, and political leaders on March 16, 1983, when, speaking to a gathering at the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, he said, "Unless you take your own destiny into your own hands and stop relying on others," you will not have a state.

...While Carter lauds Begin for his intelligence...his animus toward the late Israeli leader is limitless. This became evident when we were writing The Blood of Abraham, and Carter insisted on asserting that Begin "wanted to expand Israeli borders to both sides of the Jordan River." In fact, this is anachronistic. True, this had been Begin's view prior to Israel's independence in 1948, but it was not, as Carter implied, Begin's position after his twenty-nine years in the Knesset (parliament) or during his premiership. During chapter editing, I brought the error to Carter's attention. He declined to correct it.

During the difficult negotiations between Egypt and Israel, Carter and his advisers tried to get Sadat to engage in a collusive scheme: They would encourage Sadat to make "deliberately exaggerated" demands. The White House would then intervene to "compel" Cairo to scale back its demands in exchange for Israeli concessions. Then-national security advisor Brzezinski explained that Washington would "apply maximum leverage on Israel to accommodate," by keeping the West Bank's political future on the table for future negotiations. That Carter risked possible Israeli-Egyptian peace in an effort to extract greater concessions from Begin underscores the tension in their relationship.

In 1983, the first time Begin met Carter after both had left office, Begin was icy toward the ex-president. Carter surmised that he may have "aggravated him [Begin] more than usual." Begin's personal secretary later said Begin was angry with what he had learned in the books by Brzezinski and National Security Council staff member William B. Quandt about Carter's behind-the-scenes maneuvering. This anger grew after he read the claim in The Blood of Abraham regarding his alleged desire to expand Israeli borders across the Jordan River. On our 1987 trip to Israel, Begin refused to see Carter, citing health reasons, but Begin's personal secretary told me it was because of the way Carter had treated Begin.

...Carter has come to scorn those who disagree with him. On his recent book tour promoting Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, whenever an interviewer disagreed with a premise or challenged Carter's views, he would respond, "It is obvious you did not read my book." This is Carter's way of chiding the interviewer for not accepting his wisdom. When Carter says, "Everything in the book is accurate; it is correct," he seeks acknowledgment that he possesses a privileged understanding of the conflict's fundamental truths and should, therefore, be accepted as someone qualified to apportion blame.

...But Carter is often wrong. Throughout Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, he allows his premises to supplant the facts. His book contains no footnotes, citations, or sources. It contains an appendix and a series of maps, some of which he seems to have mislabeled and taken from Clinton-era negotiator Dennis Ross' The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace. The maps are reconfigured to support Carter's statement that Israel's best offer in the final months of Clinton's presidency was to divide the West Bank into three non-contiguous areas, thus reinforcing Carter's claim of apartheid. Carter dismissed the allegation that he appropriated the maps, saying that he had never seen Ross's book. If true, Carter ignored the most important and detailed memoir yet published on 1990s-era Arab-Israeli negotiations.

In the book, Carter often uses selective remarks by others to advocate his preferences. He uses the literary device "many believe" or "many say" to avoid tying a statement to himself. While implying that the Israeli government practices apartheid vis-à-vis the Palestinians, Carter refrains from calling Israelis racist but highlights and leaves unanswered the late Syrian president Hafez al-Assad's opinion:
Assad asserted that the Jews of the world ... deny that the Palestinians comprise a coherent people even though they have one national identity, one language, one culture, and one history. Many Arabs consider these distinctions to be a form of racism by which Israelis regard Palestinian Arabs as inferiors who are not worthy of basic human rights, often branding them as terrorists if they resist Israel's encroachments.

Nowhere in The Blood of Abraham did Carter cite such an account of Assad's views. Perhaps Carter had an additional communication with Assad, but the notes I have of our three extensive meetings with Assad in 1983, 1987, and 1990 do not support such statements. Regardless, his new emphasis of Assad's views segues with publication of Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, "that Israelis regard Palestinian Arabs as inferiors." If Carter wanted to tar Israel as racist, this was a clever way of doing it.

...A survey of Carter's speeches and writings over the last quarter century reveals the evolution of his views. He has shifted from annoyance to exasperation, from frustration to anger, and from partial blame upon the Palestinians to their exculpation. In recent years, though, he has moved even further, using invented facts to support his desired conclusion.

Evidence of his slide from would-be mediator to unabashed advocate for the Palestinians appears in his partisan rendition of four U.N. resolutions: U.N. Security Council Resolution 465 (1980); U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 (1948); U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 (1967); and U.N. Security Council Resolution 338 (1973).

Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid is the first Carter book to emphasize UNSCR 465, in which the U.N.:
Determines that all measures taken by Israel to change the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure or status of the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, or any part thereof, have no legal validity and that Israel's policy and practices of settling parts of its population and new immigrants in those territories constitute a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Carter's use of UNSCR 465 is an example of how he uses accurate information but omits part of the story to bolster his presentation. He wants to show Israel to be in violation of international law by being present in the territories. While he cites the unanimous passage of UNSCR 465 to suggest that there was universal condemnation of Israel's position with regard to east Jerusalem, he omits that two days after its passage, he himself disavowed the U.S. assent to the resolution. At the time, he said the resolution was a mistake which resulted from a "failure to communicate" between the State Department and Donald F. McHenry, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Carter also omits the possibility that the vote may have certified for Begin his conviction that Carter could not be trusted. Just two hours before the vote, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance had assured the Israeli ambassador, Ephraim Evron, that all references to Jerusalem would be removed.

Carter is also less than complete in his discussion of U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194. Many Palestinians cite the resolution as an unequivocal endorsement by the international community of the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in present-day Israel or be compensated if they choose not to exercise that right. Carter accepts this view and implies its universality. He does not acknowledge the fact that five Arab states—Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria—voted against the resolution in protest of its implied recognition of Israel.

..... in legitimizing a maximalist reading of Resolution 194, Carter flirts with the de-legitimization of Israel as a Jewish state. Hence, within Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Carter is inconsistent about the right of return, at times suggesting it would apply only to the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem while elsewhere suggesting the right of return would enable Palestinians to return to Israel proper. On his book tour, Carter sidestepped the issue by endorsing the implementation of "all relevant U.N. resolutions."

Whereas Carter had earlier written that "Israel would decide unilaterally how many Palestinians" would be admitted to Israel "or could return to Palestine or receive appropriate compensation as a fulfillment of UN Security Resolution 194," his use of the indefinite article "a" in front of "fulfillment" suggests he may harbor multiple interpretations of Palestinian refugee settlement.

Palestinians are less flexible. By demanding Israeli adherence to Resolution 194, Carter ignores the Arabic-language writings of Palestinian officials who say that the Palestinian leadership will never give up the right of return to what is now Israel. In response to Clinton's proposals to allow Palestinian refugees the right to return only to a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, the Palestinian Authority declared:
Resolution 194, which is the basis for a just settlement of the refugee problem, determines the return of the Palestinian refugees "to their homes" and not "to their homeland" or "to historical Palestine." The essence of the right of return is freedom of choice: The Palestinians must be given the right to choose where they live, and that includes returning to the homes out of which they were driven.
Carter, however, scrubs clean Palestinian intransigence.

UNSCR 242 and 338 remain the resolutions around which diplomats center efforts to negotiate a settlement. In its preamble, UNSCR 242 notes "the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war" and, in its operative portion, calls for "withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict." Nowhere in the resolution does it stipulate what or where Israel's borders should be, nor does the resolution mandate Israeli withdrawal from all territories taken in the 1967 war. This is not a parsing of an arbitrary phrase; it took five months to negotiate and endorse the intentional ambiguity embodied in the language of the resolution. Carter revises UNSCR 242, though, saying it "confirmed Israel's existence within its 1949 borders as promised in the Camp David Accords and Oslo Agreement" and that it states "Israel must withdraw from occupied territories." Later, he writes that UNSCR 242 "mandates" and "requires" Israeli withdrawal.

This reinterpretation is invention on Carter's part. He first adopted this revision of UNSCR 242 in his December 10, 2002 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech when he referred to "withdrawal from the occupied territories." Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations on March 2, 2006, he used a similar phrase and added the false claim that Begin had agreed to Carter's reinterpretation of UNSCR 242 at Camp David in 1978. In effect, Carter is changing the "Land for Peace" formula into "Land for Negotiations." The idea that negotiations should only occur subsequent to Israeli withdrawal was the position held by the PLO at the height of its terrorist campaign in the 1970s.

UNSCR 338 receives similar treatment. Carter alters its call for "negotiations between the parties"—a formulation that would require recognition of Israel—into a call for international mediation, a position that would embolden continued Hamas and Islamic Jihad rejectionism.

Excusing Terrorism
Among the most troubling aspects of Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid is Carter's apparent willingness to condone the killing of Israelis. He is deliberate with words. When he writes, "It is imperative that the general Arab community and all significant Palestinian groups make it clear that they will end the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism when international laws and the ultimate goals of the Roadmap for Peace are accepted by Israel," he leaves the impression that it is legitimate to engage in terrorism and suicide bombing against Israelis until Jerusalem accepts his interpretation of international law. In doing so, he ignores the fact that the performance-based formula for advancing Israeli-Palestinian talks, the so-called "Road Map" endorsed by the Quartet in 2003, required immediate cessation of terrorism.

To support Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid's central theme that Israel is intransigent, Carter recasts Hamas as a moderate partner ready to negotiate with Israel. He launders its reputation both with careful word choice and omission. He uses the past tense, for example, to describe Hamas as an "Islamic militant group that opposed recognition of Israel [and] perpetrated acts of violence." Carter adds that he "urged them …to forgo violence." He omits mention that Hamas denies the right of a Jewish state to exist in the Middle East and the group's belief that historical Palestine belongs in its entirety to Muslims. Carter is incorrect when he writes that Hamas has not been responsible for any terrorist acts since August 2004. Hamas on many subsequent occasions claimed responsibility for firing Qassam rockets into Israel and also claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit in June 2006.

Carter also claims that Hamas supports a 2002 Arab summit resolution which advocates a two-state solution, albeit one dependent on the right of return of Palestinian refugees. But Hamas rejects the two-state solution. Carter states that Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, "supports peace talks between Israel and [Palestinian Authority leader] Abbas … [and] accepts the Road Map in its entirety." He does not. Carter adds that Hamas would modify its rejection of Israel if there were a negotiated agreement that the Palestinian people can approve, "an important facet of the Camp David Accords," but the Camp David accords never specified universal Palestinian ratification.

Carter has defended Hamas against charges of intransigence during his Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid book tour. While visiting Tehran on December 8, 2006, Haniyeh said, "We will never recognize the usurper Zionist government and will continue our jihadist movement until Bayt al-Maqdis [Jerusalem] and the Al-Aqsa Mosque are liberated." When asked by a Denver radio host on station KHOW 630 AM six days later about Haniyeh's statement, Carter answered, "No, he didn't. No, he did not do that. I did not hear that."

Carter's resistance to contrary evidence contrasts with the impatience some Palestinians and intellectuals have for Hamas's rejectionism. On June 4, 2006, for example, Palestinian analyst Muhammad Yaghi wrote:
The problem with Hamas' political platform is its rejection of the principle of the two states on the historical land of Palestine ... This position cannot be accepted internationally, and certainly Israel cannot accept it. On the contrary, this position gives the international community the justifications to turn its back to us and gives Israel enough pretexts to refuse withdrawal and continue its attacks and unilateral solutions. Hamas' political platform is political suicide and cannot constitute the basis for any political agreement.

Inventing History
After reading Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, I was troubled by a passage recounting a meeting Carter and I had attended with Assad at his presidential office in March 1990. I revisited my notes and saw discrepancies between them and the story Carter recounts. ....Carter reworded the conversation to suggest that Assad was flexible and the Israelis were not. Assad did not say he would accept a demilitarized zone; to do so would be to sacrifice his sovereignty. Nor did he say he would withdraw deeper from his side of the border. This was not a slip of memory for Carter; Carter received a full set of my notes of the March 1990 trip after its conclusion. These were intentional distortions.

....What Carter stated as his personal opinion in the 1990 press conference, he transmits as fact in 2006 in his book. He puts words in Assad's mouth. Carter invented the substance of this meeting to indicate that Assad was leaning toward flexibility.... These are intentional changes that Carter made for the apparent purpose of misrepresenting Israeli intransigence and Arab state flexibility.

...The best option for peace is perhaps one that was offered thirty years ago when, on March 9, 1977, President Jimmy Carter said "recognized borders have to be mutual … where sovereignty is mutually agreed. Defense lines may or may not conform to those legal borders. There may be extensions of Israeli defense beyond the permanent and recognized borders."Unlike the narrative in Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Carter at that time was accurate, temperate, and practical.

Kenneth W. Stein is professor of contemporary Middle Eastern history and political science and director of the Institute for the Study of Modern Israel at Emory University. He thanks Jonathan Schanzer, Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, and Eran Lehrman for their advice.

President Bush's Iraq Plan

For an excellent analysis of the Bush "surge" plan, and of a Democrat response, by Walid Phares (senior fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) in Washington, D.C.) see World Defense Review, January 29, 2007....

[excerpts only, from the introduction, follow...]

In short, President George W. Bush's plan for "redirecting" the Iraq campaign is logical, in line with the war on terror and targets the correct enemies of Iraq, of democracies and of the United States. But the plan needs to fit within a global vision of winning the global conflict with the Jihadists, on a long term policy, win the support of the new Congress, and be well explained to the American people by the various levels of the administration.

This is where the beef is: On the other hand, the response by the Democratic-led Congress as stated by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) is also logical, touches sensitive issues if the Iraq battlefield, and lays out the normal outcome of a strategic success: that is the return of the troops. So are the White House and Congress in harmony? We will see. Both have advanced what is essentially logical. The President challenge is to make sure his bureaucracy follows him thoroughly, and the Congress' challenge is to make sure the American public sees the big picture the legislators are not revealing yet for the future. Let's wait and see how Washington's new dual approach will fare in the very near future....

Follow the link to the full article.

Shame silences Gaza's media

From The Australian, February 05, 2007, by Abraham Rabinovich...

JERUSALEM: Israeli reporters seeking to query Palestinian journalists in the Gaza Strip by telephone over the weekend on the near civil war between Hamas and Fatah have found it almost impossible to find colleagues willing to return calls. "They're ashamed of what's happening and don't want to talk about it," said an Israel Radio reporter who is normally in close contact with Palestinian journalists.

The slippery slope Palestinians have have been on since Hamas's election victory a year ago has grown more uncertain in recent weeks as the internecine fighting threatens to spin out of control. ... Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya issued an urgent appeal for both sides to respect the battered truce declared on Friday by his Islamist Hamas movement and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas after clashes killed 25 people in just 24 hours.

...Even as gun battles continued, the duelling factions met again and renewed their commitment to the truce -- the second ceasefire to collapse in a week. ....Most of the 1.4million residents of the Gaza Strip have not ventured out of their houses in days as masked gunmen, whose affiliation they cannot readily discern, set up roadblocks at intersections and snipe from rooftops.

....Mahmoud Abed, a Gaza shoe store owner, told a Palestinian reporter.... "They (Hamas and Fatah) should be ashamed of themselves. I believed that Hamas was better than Fatah but I've discovered that they're both bad."

... "... this is a face-off between two conflicting ideologies -- one national-secular and the other religious fundamentalist," said Israeli general Moshe Elad, who had served extensively in the Palestinian territories. "This will only be resolved by a decisive confrontation in which one side will defeat the other."

Indications that such a confrontation may be in the offing emerged last month with reports that Mohammed Dahalan, a charismatic figure who had been head of Yasser Arafat's security forces in the Gaza Strip, had been asked by Mr Abbas to resume that role. He has not been formally appointed as security chief, at least not publicly, but a massive Fatah rally he organised last month highlighted his regained status. It also marked a possible turning point in the Gaza power struggle in which Hamas has, until now, had the upper hand.

...The Fatah rally, in which Mr Dahalan called Hamas "a bunch of murderers and thieves", was followed by the arrival of a convoy bringing a large shipment of rifles and ammunition from Egypt through Israeli territory to forces in the Gaza Strip loyal to Mr Abbas. Hamas spokesmen said the US and Israel were behind the shipment and were bolstering Fatah for a military confrontation in the Gaza Strip.

To the surprise of many, in last week's skirmishing Fatah-affiliated forces often beat Hamas, which showed uncharacteristic indiscipline at times, with fighters ignoring orders of their political leaders. In a major action on Thursday night, hundreds of Fatah fighters overran the Islamic University, a Hamas bastion in Gaza City.

....the current violence has apparently tarnished Hamas's image by depicting it to many Palestinians as just another faction interested in retaining power at any cost.

...a Hamas victory over Fatah is almost certain to end Israeli restraint in view of the extensive build-up by Hamas of advanced weapons since Israel's withdrawal from the strip. "If Gaza becomes 'Hamastan'," General Elad said, "it will without a doubt constitute a strategic threat to Israel."

Additional reporting: AFP

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Use force to bring peace - attack Iran’s influence

From the Arab Times (Kuwait), 3/2/07, by Ahmed Al-Jarallah, Editor-in-Chief [my emphasis added - SL]...

FOUR years after invading and occupying Iraq...the Americans have woken up to the reality ...the democracy they were trying to sell in the land of darkness has not yielded the desired results and they have failed to ensure security or stability. The Americans came to Iraq with their own beliefs and system, based on freedom and democracy.

In their effort to create a new, democratic Iraq the Americans inadvertently opened the doors of that country to terrorists and others, who were thirsting for revenge and keen to divide Iraq according to ethnic groups and sects. This will ultimately endanger the Arab and Islamic worlds.

After realizing they have become hostages of Iran, Syria and other religious groups in Iraq, the Americans have been able to identify their real enemies. Now they have decided to clean Iraq of all intruders, before establishing a new, free, and democratic Iraq with an open economy.

The blood of innocent people has been soaking the soil of Iraq for over four years. After being late to wake up and understand the real facts, the Americans should first attack Iran’s influence and the death squads in Iraq to deliver a clean country to the new Iraqi government. From the beginning the Americans should have realized that Iraq’s neighbours don’t recognize or believe in democracy. People of these countries have had a historical urge to take revenge on the United States. Now the US should hold all its keys together and bring peace and stability to Iraq by force.

If only the United States had followed a firm policy from the beginning, Iraq wouldn’t have been turned into a killing field, where agents of Iran and Syria move freely to implement their mission without any fear. ...Now it is too late to regret. Now the game has to be played according to new rules. If stability and security are to return to Iraq use of overwhelming power is a must.

Only after cleaning and stabilizing Iraq, talk of freedom, democracy, passing laws and the constitution can begin. Three years have been lost and the lives of countless Iraqis have been wasted. It is time the United States used its military might to rectify the situation.

Palestinians: 'We don't deserve a state'

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Feb. 4, 2007, by Khaled Abu Toameh ...

...."Everyone here is disgusted by what's happening in the Gaza Strip," said Shireen Atiyeh, a 30-year-old mother of three working in one of the Palestinian Authority ministries. "We are telling the world that we don't deserve a state because we are murdering each other and destroying our universities, colleges, mosques and hospitals. Today I'm ashamed to say that I'm a Palestinian."

Ayman Abu Khalaf, a 40-year-old businessman, said he was seriously considering moving with his family to Jordan because of the growing state of anarchy and lawlessness in the PA territories. "The situation is very dangerous and many people are afraid to leave their homes," he said. "I'm very worried about the safety of my children. There are many armed gangs and everyone is afraid. If the situation does not improve, I will take my family and go to Jordan. This is not the Palestine we want to live in."

Hafez Barghouti, editor of the PA-funded daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, said .... "Tens of millions of people now look at us as worthless gangsters with no values..." .... Addressing both Hamas and Fatah, he added: "Take Gaza and turn it into a state of the Muslim Brotherhood. Take the West Bank and establish a state of your own there with all the Abu's. Your people no longer want a state. We no longer like our killers and executioners."

Columnist Mahmoud Habbash .... The internal fighting, he said, has distorted the image of the Palestinians in the eyes of the world. "The world is watching how the Palestinians are destroying their institutions and achievements with their own hands. They see how we are mercilessly slaughtering innocent people. ...."

Reflecting the gloomy mood on the Palestinian street, political analyst Ikrimah Thabet said: "There is no reason for optimism. This is a real conflict stemming from two contradictory programs and political and ideological discord. The divisions are so deep that no temporary cease-fire will help....the filthy and painful violence that has claimed the lives of children, activists, leaders and innocent civilians."