Saturday, March 24, 2007
Iranian naval vessels seized 15 British sailors and marines Friday in Iraqi waters, the Ministry of Defense said. The British personnel from the frigate HMS Cornwall were "engaged in routine boarding operations of merchant shipping in Iraqi territorial waters," and had completed their inspection of a merchant ship when they were accosted by Iranian vessels, the ministry said in a statement.
"We are urgently pursuing this matter with the Iranian authorities at the highest level and ... the Iranian ambassador has been summoned to the Foreign Office," the ministry said.
"The British government is demanding the immediate and safe return of our people and equipment."
A fisherman who said he was with a group of Iraqis from Basra in the northern area of the Gulf said he witnessed the event. The fisherman declined to be identified because of security concerns. "Two boats, each with a crew of six to eight multinational forces, were searching Iraqi and Iranian boats Friday morning in Ras al-Beesha area in the northern entrance of the Arab Gulf, but big Iranian boats came and took the two boats with their crews to the Iranian waters," said the fisherman.
...BBC reporter Ian Pannell on HMS Cornwall said the sailors had just boarded a dhow when they were accosted. "While they were on board, a number of Iranian boats approached the waters in which they were operating - the Royal Navy are insistent that they were operating in Iraqi waters and not Iranian waters - and essentially captured the Royal Navy and Royal Marine personnel at gunpoint," Pannell said....
meanwhile, also from JPost, 23/3/07, by AMIR MIZROCH ...
Embassies in Teheran prepare escape plans
Several foreign embassies in Teheran are updating their emergency evacuation plans should a Western or Israeli attack on Iran occur. According to foreign sources, foreign diplomats believe a possible attack would take place before the end of 2007. By that time, Iran might have enough enriched uranium to cause a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe from radioactive fallout should its nuclear facilities be damaged or destroyed in an attack.
... foreign sources describe the general atmosphere in Iran as one of heightened preparedness. Recently, several diplomatic missions based in Teheran have begun to reassess their plans, and embassies without permanent security officers have requested them. Embassy experts reportedly are testing various evacuation options and logistics, such as timing routes to different destinations by different types of vehicles. The plans include evacuation for all staff.
Foreign sources say both the United States and Israel, who accuse Iran of wanting to develop nuclear weapons, want to give diplomatic efforts aimed at stopping Iran's nuclear drive the best possible chance to succeed.
But according to these sources, should the West or Israel feel that the time needed for diplomatic efforts is longer than the time it would take for Iran to obtain nuclear independence, they are likely to strike at Iran's main nuclear facilities before the damage done by such an attack would cause serious radiation fallout. Such fallout would likely kill many civilians and render some parts of Iran uninhabitable for an undetermined period of time.
According to this logic, the timing of such an attack would take place just before Iran has enriched an amount of weapons-grade material that, if damaged, would cause such a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe, it could be construed as a nuclear attack.
The assessments posit that Israel and the US will try to delay an attack until the last moment due to the expected Iranian counterattack and regional deterioration.
....In the current standoff with Iran, US pressure on many countries and multinational corporations to divest from Teheran is bearing fruit. But in the final analysis, Iran is not seen likely to stop its nuclear program, and UN sanctions are regarded as likely to take too long to have an effect.
Should it be attacked, Iran is expected to launch missiles against Israel and an offensive against US forces in the Middle East. Teheran is also expected to activate Hizbullah in a full assault against Israel. Israeli security services also expect attacks on Jewish interests and institutions worldwide.
Syria is still deciding if it will go "all the way" with Iran, or abandon its one friend in the world and return to the international fold. Syria's potential role in such a regional conflagration is undetermined. Saudi Arabia has been exerting consistent and mounting pressure on both Syria and Iran to change course.
Former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is making political moves within Iran's Supreme Council to limit the power of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - who many in Iran feel is out of the control of the ruling elite.
At first, the ayatollahs acquiesced to Ahmadinejad's foreign policy line - which has at its core the drive for nuclear power, the ambition to replace Saudi Arabia as Islam's "core state," and the stated aim to destroy Israel - because of the former mayor of Teheran's wide popular support. For approximately the past year, there has been a noticeable growing concern among the ruling elite that Ahmadinejad is slipping out of their control, even though there is little chance he could take over supreme power and authority.
Friday, March 23, 2007
Why was Raymond Johansen, the Norwegian deputy foreign minister, in such a hurry to be the first European representative to meet Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of the new Palestinian unity government in Gaza?
What was the hurry? He certainly read Haniyeh's March 17 speech in which the Hamas chief outlined the Fatah/Hamas government program. Haniyeh said: "The government affirms that resistance is a legitimate right of the Palestinian people." And he knows what Haniyeh means by "resistance" - suicide bombings of cafes and buses, drive-by shootings, rocket launchings.
He knows the new government demands the "right of return" to pre-1967 Israel for millions of Palestinian Arab refugees and their descendents. He knows that that means killing Israel demographically.
Johansen knows that the Fatah/Hamas government does not renounce violence; that it will not honor previous agreements signed by the PLO, and that it will never recognize the right of a sovereign Jewish state to exist anywhere in the Middle East.
So, I asked myself, again, just what was Johansen's rush? Now, I recall that Johansen was quoted back in March 2001 (by the Norwegian news agency NTB) as saying that international law gave the Palestinians the right to fight an "occupier," but he later said that he'd been misquoted....
...It was Norway that, during World War II, produced the original Quisling - Vidkun Quisling. When Germany invaded Norway on April 9, 1940, Quisling announced a pro-Nazi coup. He thus betrayed his king and his country to collaborate with the invading German forces. The very name "Quisling" still stands for a betrayal.
...after World War II was over, the Norwegian government announced that it would agree to re-absorb, within its great land, precisely the same number of Jews as had been living in Norway before 1939 and had been murdered in the Holocaust. But not a single Jew more....
...in 1993, it was the Norwegian government that helped foist the Oslo agreement on us.
Now, after over 2,000 Israelis perished or were maimed by the Palestinian terror which came in the wake of Oslo, the very name "Oslo" has became anathema to most Israelis. ....thanks to Oslo, we turned over most of the West Bank and Gaza to the Palestinian Authority. We brought Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas and the entire enemy command and control from exile in Tunis and set them up in Ramallah.
More recently, we even pulled out entirely the small Jewish communities from Gaza.
Still, our Arab enemies lost no opportunity to work hard, not for for the sake of two independent states, Israel and Palestine, as envisaged in the agreements signed so far, but for a single country, where only those Jews who lived in Palestine before 1918 would be eligible for citizenship.
The whole problem can today be summarized in a few words: There will be no peace as long as the Arabs believe that Israel can be destroyed - and sitting with Hamas reinforces this belief.
As long as Europe allows the Arabs to fantasize about "the right of return" there can be no end to this conflict.
But this message has failed to reach the consciences of the Norwegian government.
So let me appeal to the people of Norway: Tell your government that Israel has a right to live in peace and security. And that to do so, the Palestinian government must recognize the agreements signed between Israel and the PLO; must renounce the threat and use of terrorism against Israelis; and must recognize the right of the Jewish people to live as a sovereign nation in the Middle East.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Throughout the Diaspora there are alienated Jews on the fringe whose primary involvement in Jewish life is centered on undermining the Jewish state.
Now they are seeking to establish themselves as a respectable alternative Jewish voice. This is the price we are paying for having long buried our heads in the sand, failing to isolate from the mainstream Jews who dedicate themselves to delegitimizing and demonizing Israel.
The potential damage they are capable of inflicting upon us cannot be underestimated. ....
....Today those delegitimizing the Jewish state are frequently indulged in respectable Jewish circles. Some Jewish leaders have even suggested that a "pluralistic" community should not discriminate against anti-Israel "dissidents."
Much of the responsibility for misplaced tolerance of those promoting our destruction originates inside Israel. The vilest anti-Israeli propaganda has for years been emanating from tenured academics at Israeli universities.
Now the problem has begun mushrooming out of control. In view of the fact that demonstrating hatred of Israel has become a key prerequisite for eligibility to membership of the "progressive" camp, one finds Jews at the forefront of the vicious campaigns demonizing Israel in virtually every country.
Yet to accuse these renegades of indulging in self-hatred is considered as a cardinal sin in many circles. It is thus legitimate for Jews to defame Israel as an "apartheid state," accuse their kinsmen of behaving like Nazis, apply double-standards to Israeli behavior, accuse Israel of ethnic cleansing, war crimes, even genocide; it's even acceptable to call for dismantling Israel and replacing it with a binational state, or to support the "right of return" for Arab refugees - all in the name of communal tolerance.
Yet to stand up and brand such views as extremist is deemed an expression of "Zionist McCarthyism."
IT IS A pathetic reflection of our times that people such as Tony Judt, Marc Ellis, Norman Finkelstein, Jacqueline Rose and Tony Kushner are considered martyrs, and tolerance of their malicious efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state has become confused with freedom of expression.
What a red herring. Insisting that Jewish demonizers of Israel comprise an extremist fringe and speak only for themselves does not represent suppression of free speech.
Our enemies allege that condemnation of those delegitimizing Israel is designed to cover up and deflect legitimate criticism. Never mind that genuine friends of Israel - indeed, Israelis themselves - are often vociferous critics of this or that Israeli policy. But there's a difference between being critical of a policy and delegitimizing the Jewish state.
Regrettably, efforts to obfuscate these polar opposites have increasingly been endorsed by much of the media.
When American academic Alvin Rosenfeld wrote an essay for the American Jewish Committee exposing the double standards and deviousness of Jews challenging Israel's right of existence, he unleashed a storm and was accused of playing foul for supposedly branding all criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic. That he deliberately avoided using expressions like anti-Semitism and self-hatred was ignored. Yet once so-called liberals misrepresented his views, even mainstream New York Jewish trendies began to join the pack attacking Rosenfeld.
At a time when Israel faces genuine existential threats, the audacity of the Jewish anti-Israeli camp has reached alarming levels. For example, a purportedly "Zionist" body demanded the right to introduce Israeli "refusenik" draftees to American campus students, describing their initiative as a "Zionist act of love," leaving mainstream Jewish campus groups divided whether to support such a bizarre proposal. Elsewhere a number of Jewish organizations which identify themselves as "pro-Israel" have been lobbying Congress to reject the community's mainstream positions, urging instead that Israel be pressured into pursuing policies contrary to its interests.
Meanwhile, in London the head of the only Anglo Jewish think tank cannot comprehend why his publicly stated belief that the Jewish state was a mistake and should be transformed into a binational state makes him ineligible to hold such a position. And the chair of this institute, who is also chair of Anglo Jewry's most important newspaper, has accused those calling for his director's resignation of behaving like McCarthyites.
I recommend that our recently-appointed minister for Diaspora Affairs, Isaac Herzog, place the issue of legitimate versus illegitimate criticism of Israel high on his agenda, and convene a world conference of mainstream Jewish organizations who cherish the name of Israel and all it represents. They should adopt a united stand to expose as a sham the obscene pretensions of Jews who carry out diabolical campaigns to delegitimize Israel - and have the gall to claim that they do it out of a sense of Jewish values and justice!
The writer chairs the Diaspora-Israel Relations Committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and is a veteran international Jewish leader.
The supreme commander of NATO operations in Europe called Israel a "model state."
Gen. John Craddock, who also heads the U.S. European Command, told the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee last week that Israel will receive 93 percent of EUCOM area military aid this year. Craddock called Israel a "critical military partner" in "this entangled seam of the Middle East."
The European Union held its first formal talks with the new Palestinian Authority coalition government.
The E.U. envoy to the Middle East, Marc Otte, met Wednesday with P.A. Finance Minister Salam Fayyad, an independent who the Hamas-led Cabinet hopes will help lift a Western embargo on direct aid.
Earlier this week, a U.S. official held talks with Fayyad, breaking with its policy of shunning the entire P.A. government until it recognizes Israel's right to exist and renounces terrorism. The United Nations was expected to follow suit later Thursday with a meeting between its regional envoy, Alvaro de Soto, and Fayyad. Those talks would mark, effectively, Fayyad's acceptance by all members of the Quartet of foreign mediators in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. The fourth partner, Russia, never agreed to boycott the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Last Friday, March 9, 2007 the UN wrapped up its annual session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
Guess where they found a violation of women's rights?
- Among the hundreds of thousands of women who are dead, dying, mutilated, displaced or raped in Sudan?
- Among the million female migrant workers cowering in the basements of Saudi Arabian villas from the taskmasters who stole their passports the minute they got off the plane?
- Among the women stoned and hanged for "adultery" in Iran?
- The millions of women forcibly aborted in China?
- The thousands murdered or forced to commit suicide for the crime of "dishonoring" their fathers and brothers across the Arab and Muslim world?
... none of the above...
...The UN's lead body charged with promoting and protecting women's rights identifies only one state as violating the rights of women in the world today – Israel. The vote was 40 for and 2 against (the United States and Canada).
The Foreign Ministry canceled a planned Tuesday meeting with a top Norwegian government official in a sign of displeasure the day after he met with Palestinian Authority government leaders from Hamas, Norwegian and Israeli officials said.
Norway's deputy foreign minister, Raymond Johansen met Palestinian Auhtority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas and other government officials on Monday, becoming the first high-ranking Western official to visit Hamas leaders. His spokeswoman, Gry Larsen, said a meeting scheduled at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem for Tuesday had been called off, but she did not give further details.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev ... said ..."There was a Cabinet ruling last year. ...International dignitaries who meet with Hamas officials will not receive meetings with Israeli officials..." ...
The international community imposed a diplomatic and economic boycott on the Hamas government to pressure it to
- explicitly recognize Israel,
- renounce the use of violence and
- endorse previous peace agreements between the Palestinians and Israel.
The Cabinet on Sunday declared it would not deal with any member of the new Palestinian government and called on the international community "to maintain the policy it has taken over the past year, of isolating the Palestinian [Authority] government until it recognizes the three principles of the Quartet."
The Quartet is still appraising the new Haniyeh government and has yet to say whether it intends to change its position.
Norway, which is a member of the UN but not of the EU, recognized the new government the day it was sworn in, raising Israeli hackles. "It is surely a mistake to give legitimacy and recognition to an unreformed extremist (group) and it cannot serve the purposes of peace," Regev said after Johansen met Haniyeh on Monday.
...The Islamic world is entering a cold war period as the divide between Shiites and Sunnis escalates, Israeli experts said during a conference at Tel Aviv University on Tuesday afternoon.
Dr. Uzi Rabi, of the Department of Middle Eastern and African History at Tel Aviv University, said both Iran and Sunni nations were sending envoys to battle it out in Iraq.
"There are many reports of Saudi Arabia indirectly supporting al-Qaeda, in order to prevent a Shiite takeover of Baghdad," Rabi said.
"There is a cold war going on in the Middle East between the agents of Iran and Sunni states," he argued, adding: "pragmatic Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the small Gulf states, have recently joined into a bloc aimed at checking the Shiite phenomenon sweeping the Middle East."
He added that for the first time in Israel's history, there was a possibility for the country to "partially join this Sunni strategic alliance."
Rabi cited Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who said in a speech that Shiites that live in Arab states were disloyal to their home countries, and saved their allegiances for Iran. "Jordan has also warned of the Shiite axis stretching from Iran to the Mediterranean that could split the Arab Muslim heart of the area," Rabi noted.
He stressed a massive growth of anti-Shiite reports in the Sunni media, and an "obsessive" level of coverage on the alleged attempt by Shiites to convert Sunnis to Shiism. "I am amazed by the volume of reports on this," Rabi said.
"There is a sea of articles on the Shiite danger. Sunni states have called for collective action to stop the Shiites, and may even begin nuclear programs to counter the Iranian threat," he added.
Rabi said the Sunni states also used the pretext of a Shiite threat to crack down on radical Sunni opposition groups at home.
"The conflict between Shiites and Sunnis is not a passing phenomenon. This conflict has crossed the borders of Iraq," he concluded.
Iran seeking access to border with Israel
Earlier, Professor David Menshari, an expert on Iran at Tel Aviv University, said the Islamic Republic was seeking to spread its influence to any area in the Middle East that was not strong enough to repel it, with the Palestinian Authority being a prime example of such a region. "Hamas can help Iran link up to the border with Israel," Menshari said. "Wherever the ground gives way, Iran can be found. They go after the soft targets, such as Lebanon, Gaza, and Iraq, but stay away from the strong countries," he stressed.
Menshari added that "to believe that there was homogenous body of Shiites, a unified axis, would be doing ourselves an injustice."
He cited many voices within Iran that were opposed to the government of the ayatollahs, saying: "There is a series of religious leaders in Iran opposed to clerical control of the state."
I attach ... three articles, samples from the immense global press coverage of the WJC over the past few days. Jews everywhere must be distressed at the scandalous nature of the entire saga which continues to provide immense satisfaction to enemies of the Jewish people. Hopefully this disgraceful episode is now finally coming to an end.
The positive aspect is that despite overwhelming odds, people power has triumphed. However, having served the WJC in a senior capacity for over thirty years, I am genuinely saddened that it was only after three years of ongoing scandal that the long overdue decision to dismiss a Jewish leader who had violated his fiduciary duties and misappropriated public funds was implemented. Moreover, even that took place under utterly chaotic circumstances.
Had our insistence three years ago that public funds be considered sacrosanct and our appeal for an independent audit been implemented, this scandal could have been entirely avoided. The WJC would not have been diverted from its mission by the devastating investigation of the New York Attorney General and squandered millions of dollars of public funds in futile efforts to cover up the improprieties.
To avert a total meltdown and ensure that democracy prevails, genuine elections must be held as soon as possible to select new leaders who are not tainted with the scandals and improprieties of the past. They must be committed to healing the divisions and reuniting the organization in a framework of good governance and genuine financial transparency capable of serving as a role model for all Jewish organizations. The WJC could then once again resume its leading global role dealing with the challenges facing the Jewish people during these troubled times.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
GAZA (Reuters) - Palestinian leaders ...met to usher in a unity government intended to halt factional fighting and ease a crippling Western aid embargo. ...Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of the Islamist Hamas movement said the new coalition government upheld the right to "all forms" of resistance against Israel.
Israel again ruled out dealing with the new government, citing Hamas's refusal to accept demands, set by a Quartet of foreign peace mediators a year ago, that it
- forswear violence,
- recognize the Jewish state, and
- accept past interim peace deals.
....The coalition's future may hang on whether it can erode the foreign boycott of the aid-dependent Palestinian Authority, which has been unable to pay its employees in full for a year. The Quartet -- the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations -- suspended direct aid to the government after Hamas beat Fatah in elections and took power last March.
The United States is expected to continue its boycott, but a U.S. official said on Friday that Washington would leave the door open to unofficial contacts with Finance Minister Salam Fayyad, an independent with strong reformist credentials. France has invited new Foreign Minister Ziad Abu Amr to Paris, and Britain plans to allow diplomatic contacts with ministers not from Hamas.
....The Saudi-brokered accord reached by Hamas and Fatah on February 8 pledged "respect" for past peace deals with Israel. Even though those agreements were intended eventually to create a Palestinian state alongside Israel, Hamas says it will never recognize the Jewish state's right to exist.
Hamas officials say the Islamist movement will back the government's political agenda only as a "transitional" phase. "We believe in liberating our land gradually," senior Hamas lawmaker Mushir al-Masri told Reuters. "Any transitional agenda that deals with gradual achievement of our goals on the basis of constant rights is one we can favor."
Sunday, March 18, 2007
This has been a banner week for Syrian diplomacy.
First, together with their big Iranian brothers, the Syrians were given a place at the table alongside US officials at the conference on Iraqi security in Baghdad last weekend.
At the same time as their underlings exchanged recriminations with the US, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and Iranian Defense Minister Mustafa Muhammad Najjar merged the Syrian and Iranian militaries at a summit in Damascus. On Sunday Najjar explained the deal to reporters saying, "We consider the capability of the Syrian defensive forces as our own and believe that expansion of defensive ties would ... help deal with the threats of the enemies." Najjar added that Iran "offers all of its defense capabilities to Syria." The meeting was capped off on Monday when Najjar signed a memorandum of understanding on military cooperation with his Syrian counterpart Hassan Turkmeni.
Tuesday, US Assistant Secretary of State for Refugees Ellen Sauerbrey became the first senior US official to visit Syria since Damascus engineered former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri's assassination in February 2005.
Following closely on Sauerbrey's heels was the EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana. Like Sauerbrey, Solana was the first senior EU official to set foot in the Syrian capital since Hariri was murdered. Unlike Sauerbrey, who came and left without making a sound, Solana used the occasion to drop a diplomatic bomb. Standing next to Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moualem Wednesday, Solana announced, "We would like to work as much as possible to see your country Syria recuperate the territory taken in 1967." .....
Solana's statement that Europe supports the reassertion of Syrian control over the Golan Heights came in the midst of a massive Syrian deployment of offensive weapons systems close to its border with Israel. Early this week, Israeli military commanders revealed that since last September, Syria has deployed between 1,000 and 3,000 missiles and rockets close to that border.
This revelation followed the apparent murder of Russian journalist Ivan Safronov. Safronov, who fell to his death from his fifth floor apartment window in Moscow on March 2, told his editors at the Kommersant newspaper just before his death that he was working on a story exposing Russian sales of advanced Iskander missiles to Syria and jetfighters to Iran.
This week, Michael Maples, the director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, announced that "Syria has a program to develop select biological agents." Maples explained, "Syria's biotechnical infrastructure is capable of supporting limited biological agent development." He added that Syria is seeking to install biological and chemical warheads on its missile arsenal.
Indeed, according to opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu, over the past year Syria has increased its military outlays by a factor of ten.
Syria is using the smokescreen of near weekly protestations of interest in negotiating with Israel to divert attention away from its clear preparations for war. Rather than see these statements for the psychological warfare antics they are, Israeli leftists have pounced on them. Led by the Haaretz newspaper, the Israeli Left is exerting massive pressure on the rudderless Olmert-Livni-Peretz government to force it to open negotiations with Damascus - negotiations that would lead to Israel's surrender of the Golan Heights in exchange for a piece of paper from Iran's Arab colony.
Due to the government's general incompetence, it is unable to formulate a coherent policy towards Syria. The Left's calls for surrender talk consequently dominate the public debate on Syria. This in turn has paralyzed the state bodies responsible for taking measures to prepare the IDF and the public for the prospect of war.
The IDF's public assessment of the Syrian threat is evidence of the confusion. Last month, Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin addressed the Syrian threat at the government's intelligence assessment meeting. Yadlin said, "The chances of a full-scale war initiated by Syria are low, but the chances of Syria reacting militarily against Israeli military moves are high." Yadlin's statement was presented to the public as good news. But it was not good news. Syria will not initiate a full-scale war against Israel because it would lose a full-scale war. Syria's comparative advantage against the IDF is found in the area of low-intensity warfare, and as Yadlin noted, there is every reason to expect that it is this sort of warfare that Syria is preparing to initiate.
Over the past several years, Syria has built up massive artillery, missile and rocket arsenals capable of causing extensive damage to the IDF and to Israeli communities in the Golan Heights and the Galilee. So too, Syria fields a highly trained commando corps capable of exacting physical losses and tactical setbacks to the IDF.
Syria has two good reasons to go to war against Israel. Since 1973, every Arab state and terrorist organization that has gone to war against Israel has benefited from their aggression. Syria no doubt expects for the pattern to continue. In all likelihood, if Syria is able to fight Israel to a stalemate as Hizbullah did last summer, the Israeli Left, the EU and the US can be expected to increase their pressure for an Israeli surrender of the Golan Heights.
Moreover, a war with Israel would shore up Assad's dwindling support at home. Sherko Abbas, a Kurdish-Syrian exile living in the US, heads the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria. He explains that due to Syria's economic weakness and the Assad government's profligate corruption, the regime is widely despised by its Syrian subjects. According to Abbas, the organized domestic opposition to the regime crosses ethnic lines and includes Kurds, Druse, Alawites, and even members of Assad's family clan.
Three years ago, regime-sponsored Sunni thugs attacked Kurdish soccer fans in Dayz az Zawr, a Kurdish city along the border with Iraq. The attack led to three days of Kurdish anti-regime riots. Rioters destroyed regime monuments and burned government offices. Brutally quelled, the riots left 85 Kurds dead, hundreds wounded and thousands imprisoned.
Numbering between 2.5-3 million, Kurds make up some 15 percent of the Syrian population. On Monday, hundreds of thousands of Kurds flocked to cemeteries to publicly commemorate the anniversary of the riots. As Abbas sees it, the fact that the Kurds were unafraid to publicly commemorate their uprising is proof of the regime's weakness.
Most Israeli politicians claim that were the regime to be overthrown, it would be replaced by the Muslim Brotherhood. The specter of an Islamist government arising in Syria is seen as sufficient reason for the Israeli government to do nothing to destabilize the Assad regime despite its strategic partnership with Iran.
Abbas disputes this view. He claims that the Muslim Brotherhood is a spent force in Syria. "If the Brotherhood were capable of replacing the regime, it would have overthrown it when there was a chance in 2004," he argues.
To offset his regime's unpopularity, over the past few years Assad has imported more than 100,000 "immigrants" from Iran. These new Persian-speaking Syrians are keen to influence their adopted society. To this end, they have built new Shi'ite mosques throughout the country and are paying Syrians to convert to Shi'ite Islam.
According to Abbas, the regime has settled its new loyalists in Damascus, Latakiya, Homs and Aleppo. All these areas - in close proximity to Lebanon and Israel - are of strategic importance to the regime.
By the same token, repeated press reports from Syria over the past year indicate that Assad replaced his Syrian security detail with a new presidential protection force comprised of members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and Hizbullah.
With Syria clearly on war footing, there are several moves Israel must make right now. Militarily, Israel must prepare for war. The IDF should be pre-positioning equipment in the Golan Heights, training its reserves and regular forces for war, and updating its doctrine for fighting in the Golan Heights. So too, municipal authorities should be readying their bomb shelters for another war and preparing contingencies to evacuate civilians from the North.
If Syria does initiate hostilities, the IDF's goal must be to destroy the Syrian military and avoid a stalemate at all costs.
Diplomatically, Israel must work to cancel the diplomatic gains that Syria made this week. The goal must be to return Syria to the international isolation it has been relegated to since it engineered Hariri's murder.
Israel must also identify and assist forces in Syria working to undermine and topple the regime. Last week the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee invited Syria's US-based agent Ibrahim Suleiman, who held contacts with the far-left former director-general of the Foreign Ministry Alon Liel, to address its members. That invitation should be rescinded. Rather than Suleiman, the Knesset should invite regime opponents to speak to its members.
Working with the Kurdish opposition, the US-based Center for Democracy in the Middle East operates a satellite television station that runs limited broadcasts into Syria in Kurdish, Arabic and Persian. The station educates its viewers about the regime's corruption, suppression of human rights and democracy. It calls for peaceful coexistence with Israel and the rest of Syria's neighbors. Israel should be helping to fund, expand and run these broadcasts.
For its part, the regime itself announced this week that it is planning to launch a satellite television station that will advance the Syrian-Iranian line to the Arab world. Imagine how refreshing it would be for audiences to have the opportunity to watch something other than jihad on television.
In all its dealings with Syria, Israel must understand that today Syria is a clear enemy whose interests are diametrically opposed to the interests of the Jewish state. As a result, in all arenas and at all times, Israel should be working to weaken and destabilize the regime. There is much it can do to advance this purpose.
Unfortunately, until the current government is replaced, it is hard to imagine how this can happen.
His message. Divest in Iran.....divest, divest, divest.
Each video clip is about 5 minues. If you have only five minutes, go to the Closing Remarks....