Saturday, June 17, 2006

Iran, Syria sign miltary agreement

From Ynet News, 16/6/06, from AFP ...

...Defense ministers from close allies Iran and Syria have signed an agreement for military cooperation against what they called the "common threats" presented by Israel and the United States.

In a joint press conference, Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar and visiting Syrian counterpart Hassan Turkmani said their talks had been aimed at consolidating their defense efforts and strengthening support for one another.

"Our cooperation is based on a strategic pact and unity against common threats. We can have a common front against Israel's threats," Turkmani told reporters ....

According to the London-based Arabic newspaper al-Hayat, the Syrian minister told his Iranian counterpart that his country was interested in purchasing antiaircraft missiles, T-72 tanks, short-range Scud missiles and missile launchers from Tehran.

...The defense ministry statement also said they discussed "ridding the region of weapons of mass destruction," in an apparent reference to the widely held belief that Israel possesses nuclear warheads.

United against 'US threats'
Asked about US threats against Damascus and Tehran, both top brass brushed off the importance of such threats. "This is nothing new, we will resist these threats," the Syrian defense minister said.

....Although the two refused to give specifics about the agreement for military cooperation, Najjar said Iran "considers Syria's security its own security, and we consider our defense capabilities to be those of Syria."

'Iran no danger to region'
Najjar also shrugged off reports that Iran could pose a threat to the region. "Iran is ready to sign a non aggression pact with regional countries," he said. "Our military warfare equipment is based on deterrent policies and strategy.

Enemies should know about our capabilities and should not even think about an assault against us," he said in response to a question about the optimization process going on for the medium range Shahab-3 missile. Iran's Shahab-3 missiles have a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,280 miles), capable of hitting arch-enemy Israel and US bases across the Middle East.

Najjar added that the Syrian side has purchased some Iranian military equipment, but did not elaborate on the purchased items ....

Roee Nahmias contributed to the report

Thursday, June 15, 2006

War Till Bitter End

From Arutz Sheva, Jun 14, '06 by Debbie Berman ...

Israeli journalist Carolyn Glick criticized PM Olmert’s intent to transfer land to Hamas and Al-Qaeda, and said that Israeli is unwilling to see the reality of its threatened national security.

... She stated, "... Whether Olmert wants to recognize it or not, whether the general staff of the army wants to recognize it or not. The fact is that there is a war being fought against us. Our enemies want to destroy us, they make it absolutely clear that they don't care where Israel is located, how big it is or how small it is, whether there are Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria or Jewish settlements in the Dan region. They don't want us here. We are on the precipice of our own physical annihilation."

Glick was quick to label Olmert's convergence or re-alignment plan an Israeli surrender, "It's surrender. It's the transfer of Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem to Hamas and Al-Qaeda. He's pushing an Israeli surrender; he's pushing the national destruction of Israel, that's what he pushing."

In Glick's estimation, Olmert's recent trip to the U.S. was an abysmal failure. She noted, "In the final analysis his mission to the United States failed and failed completely. It failed because he thought he was going to be going there and getting American support, both politically and economically for his plan to create an Al-Qaeda State in the West Bank of the Jordan River, something that would destabilize Israel, destroy Jordan and ensure American defeat in the global Jihad that they're fighting in Afghanistan, Iran and throughout the world."

According to Glick, Israelis have been denying the seriousness of the threat presented by the PA Arabs who she claims are nothing more than proxies of other hostile Arab countries. "Israelis are ignoring the basic reality of our security situation. They refuse to acknowledge the fact that the Palestinians do not stand by themselves, that Fatah, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad are proxies of Iran, Saudi Arabia and that just about every other Arab country in the world is involved in Palestinian violence against Israel. We are ignoring this. We are pretending that the Palestinian conflict with Israel is limited in scope and can be appeased, that Israel can give them land and it'll all go away. The Palestinian Jihad against Israel is part of a larger global struggle."

Glick believes that Israeli actions like unilateral withdrawal only serve to encourage and strengthen the global Jihad. "Every time Israel leaves territory, we give them hope that they're winning. I think about the 1500 Israelis who have been killed since 1993, since Oslo, I think all of them would still be alive today. It's self-inflicted, we did this to ourselves, and we brought the PLO in. Every time Israel gives up land, it's not just Israelis that get killed, it's Americans in Iran, Shiites and Christians in Pakistan, and it's Canadian Muslims who get incited to believe that they'll be able to overthrow Canada, or British Muslims who believe they will be able to turn the houses of Parliament into a mosque. Because they see that the forces of Jihad are on the march and the forces of freedom, the forces of democracy, the forces of western civilization are on a retreat."

Despite her frustrations, Glick indicated that she remains hopeful for the triumph of those forces, "I'm hopeful because we have three things going for us, one is that we're right. It doesn't matter how much people want to deny reality, reality is what it is and eventually people are going to have to see the truth. Second, today in Israel there are people who want another Holocaust and seek to annihilate the Jewish people. But today we are much stronger, even with all our weaknesses, than we were in 1939. We have to make sure to remain strong. The third thing is that we thought that the tiger of the free world woke up after 9/11, and maybe it did for five minutes and then proceeded to go back to sleep. At the end of the day people want to be free. It doesn't matter how many people are on the side of Jihad or what kind of weapons they have - they'll be no match for freedom and we'll win."

Divorce the Palestinians

From Ynet News, 15/6/06, by Guy Bechor ...

IDF may be out of Gaza, but Israel hasn't really left. Time has come to get out of Gaza for good

.... On one hand, Israel continues to support Gaza economically, as if it weren't foreign territory: Israel supplies water and electricity, the shekel is legal currency there, and Israel's defense minister is trying to bring Palestinian workers back to Israel. Peretz even sends condolences over the deaths of Palestinian civilians, in the hope they will increase Palestinian love for Israel.

.... On the other hand, Israel is in the midst of a war with the Gaza Strip, and is getting more and more sucked in by the day. The day is not far off when the IDF returns to Gaza, in the latest replay of the Lebanon Syndrome: Commando raids at first to achieve immediate goals, followed by a full invasion, including tank divisions and re-occupation of territory. This would be a tremendous victory for Hamas and Palestinian terror, who want to see the IDF mired deep in Palestinian refugee camps.

... It wasn't by chance that former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon labeled the Gaza pullout "disengagement." The word suggests a irreversible line separating us from the Palestinians. Disengagement means divorce.

... On the basis of this policy Israel must bring all hints of aid to the Gaza Strip to a halt over the coming months. Not in revenge, but rather as a more that would indicate the end of the road, the end of occupation. From Israel's perspective, there need not be any difference between Gaza cities in Syria or Jordan. These places are outside our jurisdiction, and they have nothing to do with us.

... Because Gaza has an open, dry land border with Egypt, the Egyptians will help any international body wanting to help, if they want. It is their issue.

Israel must also announce a cut-off date, after which it will no longer honor the shekels currently in circulation in Gaza, and will no longer accept Palestinian workers. As long as Palestinians have hope of finding work in Israel, they will have no inspiration to look for work in other places such as the Persian Gulf states or Europe.

... We have tried everything with the Palestinians. We've been from war to peace and back to war again. We've entertained sweet fantasies and had them cruelly dashed. We've sacrificed our loved ones and fought determinedly. The time has come to understand that emotional distance is the other side of the disengagement coin.

The time has come for a divorce.

French Jews set up own defense league

from J Post, Jun. 14, 2006 By ASSOCIATED PRESS PARIS . . .

When a wave of rioting erupted across France last fall, a Jewish youth group swung into action to guard synagogues and community centers from possible anti-Semitic spillover violence.
. . ..Formed in 2000, the Jewish Defense League - which has no ties to the U.S. Jewish Defense League - groups about 100 to 150 Jewish teens and young men to protect their community, experts say.

"Jews are fed up," said a league member named Maxime who refused to give his full name, saying he feared for his safety. "We've been nice for 30 years. Now, we gather and fight back."
Maxime, a 22-year-old waiter, admits his group is not afraid to take justice into its own hands if need be. He bragged about a 2003 incident in which a Jewish Defense League member beat up pro-Palestinian university students, injuring one.

"If a (Jewish) kid gets beaten up at school a few times, we go there and talk to the guy who beat him up," he said. "If he does it again, we go back and it's another story.""Investigations are useless," Maxime said. "We're a second police."

Group members are unarmed but train in Krav-maga, a form of close combat developed by the predecessor of the Israeli Army. Apparently tolerated by authorities, they patrol Jewish neighborhoods such as Paris' Marais and keep watch in community centers and even synagogues to keep any subversives at bay. . . .

.....Jean-Yves Camus, a researcher with the European Center of Research and Action on Racism and Anti-Semitism, said the group epitomizes a new generation of young Jews. "LDJ is the symbol of a generation that says: 'We won't bow our heads,"' Camus said in an interview.
Analysts say the anti-Semitism threat is evolving. For years, far-right groups were the greatest concern. Now, the epicenter of anti-Semitism is reported to be among immigrants from North Africa and their French-born children.

League leaders fault what they say is the powerlessness of mainstream associations in stemming the periodic waves of anti-Semitism.Early this year, a young Jewish man was kidnapped, tortured and left for dead by a gang allegedly led by a man from Ivory Coast. Last month, a group of militant young black men who call themselves the Ka Tribe swarmed into Paris' Jewish quarter shouting anti-Semitic slogans and scrapping for a fight with league members.
Celine Ruimy, a 45-year-old housewife in the Jewish quarter, is glad the group exists."It's important to show that there are some things we can't accept and there are things we are not willing to live through again," she said. Butcher shop owner Linda Saada, 47, agrees."I told my nephews, who are religious, to wear a cap instead of a kipah," she said. "I think it's more prudent," she said.

Roger Cukierman, who heads the umbrella Representative Council of Jewish Organizations in France, refused to comment on the Jewish Defense League.

Shrapnel from beach blast not Israel's

from The Australian, June 15, 2006, by Martin Chulov, Middle East correspondent . . .

ISRAEL has formally denied that its artillery killed seven members of a Palestinian family on a Gazabeach last Friday after a military inquiry found the bomb shrapnel did not come from one of its shells.

...Mr Peretz said records showed artillery had ceased fire minutes before the beach explosion.
General Dan Halutz said the firing zone had been 700m away. He also said that every Israeli shell fired on Friday afternoon could be accounted for. "We checked each and every shell that was fired from the sea, the air and from the artillery on the land and we found out that we can track each and every one according to a timetable and according to the accuracy of where they hit the ground," General Halutz said.

Palestinians dismissed the Israeli claim last night after Human Rights Watch researcher and former Pentagon analyst Marc Galasco said evidence he had seen suggested a 155mm shell fired by Israel had caused the carnage. Speaking from Gaza, he said: "Based on what I have seen, I'd be shocked if it was anything other than that."

Israeli Defence officials, speaking anonymously, suggested that the killings had been caused by a mine, an old shell, or a booby-trap hidden under the beach sand by militants to strike at Israeli forces that had been secretly operating in the area. Three weeks earlier, an Israeli naval commando team had successfully infiltrated Gaza and attacked a team of Islamic Jihad militants as they prepared to launch Qassam rockets at Israel. Three militants were killed before the commandos withdrew by sea.

The London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat last night was reporting comments from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that cast serious doubt on the Israeli claims. "The Israeli claim that the beach blast was caused by an explosive charge at the site sounds strange to me," Mr Annan is quoted as saying, in sharply critical remarks. "I don't believe it is plausible that the Palestinians planted charges in a place where civilians often spend their time." Mr Annan said a UN investigation into the incident was unlikely to get results, because neither side was likely to co-operate fully.

The Palestinian Authority has refused to hand over evidence from the scene of the explosion.
The shrapnel samples being held by Israel have been retrieved from victims being treated in Israeli hospitals.

Mr Peretz said intelligence officials were holding other information that supported the Israeli claims, which could not be released without compromising crucial sources. "We have enough findings confirming our big suspicion that the attempt to portray the incident as an Israeli incident is not true," he said. "I know this is very difficult to explain, but the facts accumulating prove that this was not caused by an Israeli incident." . . .

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Alexander Downer: Carry on the battle ...

From The Australian, 13/6/06, June 13, 2006 ...

From Iraq to Solomon Islands, Australians have a special duty to help extend the blessings of liberty and democracy across the world, argues the Foreign Minister

AUSTRALIANS have a laconic attitude to patriotism. Our love of our country is no less fierce because of the understated way we display it. Our commitment to Australian values is no less passionate because of the casual way we express it as a fair go for all.

We are similarly coy about how we express our attitude towards freedom and democracy, despite our strong support for these principles. We are squeamish about the more jingoistic style of some American pronouncements on the spread of freedom and democracy. Yet we are committed to the same goals.

Australia continues to be a significant force for the spread of freedom and democracy. We have fought wars for these values in the past, we continue to fight for them now and we will work in many ways to achieve the same outcomes in the future.

In doing so we are not simply working for an ideal. We are supporting values that deliver practical success for ordinary people. We are delivering tangible outcomes for people who deserve the opportunity to forge a future of their own. And we are looking after our national interests.

We must not lose sight of these goals. We have seen freedom triumph over tyranny in world wars and at the conclusion of the Cold War. But we now confront a new struggle. The extremists of al-Qa'ida, Jemaah Islamiah and their fellow travellers seek to impose another kind of tyranny, the kind we saw under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

To most Australians a Taliban-style regime is almost incomprehensible. Free speech is nonexistent, girls are not allowed to attend school, women cannot leave home without being fully covered and accompanied by a male, music and modern technology are banned and people are stoned to death for minor transgressions. Yet this is what the extremist terrorists want to impose on all Islamic countries, if not others, eventually.

Our freedom is at stake and to preserve it we need to promote moderation at the expense of extremism. We need to foster societies where there is tolerance for everyone except the intolerant. In this battle on behalf of moderation and tolerance, democracy plays a vital role.
The suppression of people and their will by governments leads to extremism. Whether the anti-democratic government is militaristic, authoritarian or theocratic, it will certainly be non-responsive. And, in the end, these governments become deeply unpopular with the people they govern.

In democracies, people can freely express their disagreements with governments. They can exercise their right to influence governments and hold them to standards of accountability through public comment, political activism and, ultimately, by voting. In non-democracies a government's unpopularity only festers into resentment. This resentment fosters the conditions in which extremism emerges. People who are disenchanted with the system can easily fall prey to the propaganda of the extremists.

We have seen this trend emerge in many countries, where undemocratic, non-responsive governments have led to a rise in extremism. The bloodshed, corruption and chaos in Afghanistan that preceded the rise of the Taliban is the clearest and most tragic example.
Unsurprisingly, the crucible of Islamic extremism, the Middle East, is home to many countries where some of these preconditions for extremism have long existed.

Many Middle Eastern governments are autocratic rather than democratic. There are often restrictions on media and public debate. Even economies are closed and managed, rather than open and competitive.

The great challenge of Iraq is to overcome this pattern; to replace the repressive and brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein with an open and accountable democracy. The Iraqi people have shown tremendous courage by turning out in increasing numbers to vote in three elections throughout this process.
They deserve a society in which they not only choose the government but interact with it in a free and open media. They deserve the economic benefits of a free-market economy. They deserve to have the religious beliefs of all their citizens accorded appropriate respect and they deserve to have the rule of law subsume the rule of extremist violence.

If we can assist the Iraqi people and the international community to realise this goal, we will have made a vital contribution to democracy, stability and security in the Middle East and the globe. To take the other approach and abandon Iraq would be to surrender to extremists and invite them to spread their evil tactics farther afield.....

...No matter how we express it, or the many ways we tackle it, support for freedom and democracy has to be an enduring aim of our foreign policy. And it will continue to be our guiding principle.

This is an edited extract from Alexander Downer's article in the Liberal Party journal Looking Forward, out today.

Palestinians Mourn Zarqawi

From Fundamentally Freund, 12/6/06 ...

Chances slim that IDF shell killed Gazans on beach

From Jpost, Jun. 13, 2006, by JPOST.COM STAFF ...

The IDF probe investigating the deaths of seven Palestinian civilians, caused by an explosion on a beach in Gaza on Friday evening, concluded that chances were slim that the accident was caused by IDF shelling.

According to Channel 2, the findings, expected to be formally released on Tuesday, showed an inconsistency between the shrapnel found in the body of one of the wounded babies and the metal used in IDF artillery.

Moreover, the investigation noted the absence of a large enough crater at the site of the explosion, as would be expected if an IDF shell had landed there.

The third observation casting doubt on the possibility of IDF shelling was the gap between the time when the army shot the artillery and when the commotion on the beach began. According to the probe's findings, several minutes past after the shelling, before the Palestinians on the beach reacted.

On Saturday evening Gaza Division Commander Brig.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi insisted that the sites that were shelled by the IDF were the places from where Kassam rockets were launched. He noted those places were frequently targeted by the IDF, and were known to be dangerous places.

The leading theory currently entertained, suggested that an explosive charge, buried by Palestinians on the Gaza beach to prevent Israeli infiltration, was behind the explosion.

Throughout the whole investigation, army officials complained about the lack of Palestinian cooperation. Unconfirmed reports further suggested attempts by Palestinians to remove shrapnel from the bodies of the wounded, treated in Israeli hospitals, thus impeding the investigation....

Iran welcome in China's new sphere

From The Australian, by Rowan Callick, China correspondent, June 13, 2006 [emphasis added]. . .

IRAN'S controversial President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is flying to Shanghai tomorrow to take part in a summit that will seal China's plans to lead an Asian rival to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

The Shanghai Co-operation Organisation - whose meeting has forced the shutdown of much of the city this week - is celebrating its fifth anniversary, and is preparing to expand its membership well beyond the present China, Russia and four strategic central Asian states: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Li Hui refused at a briefing yesterday to disclose the countries that wished to become observers or full members, beyond saying: "A lot of countries in Asia and other continents have applied, demonstrating the SCO is broadening its influence."

Other leaders who will attend the summit include the presidents of Pakistan and Mongolia - formal observer states, like Iran and India - and Afghanistan. Most of the members share a huge potential - and, in China's case, an appetite - for increased energy production. India is sending its Oil and Gas Minister.

In the past, they have also shared a focus on combating Islamist terror. But Iran's participation in this summit and its eagerness to become a full member appear to point the organisation in a different direction: a corral of countries capable of countering Western influence.

Mr Li, while claiming the organisation was "very transparent", was unable to disclose items on the agenda. He said he had not been briefed on whether China, Russia and Iran would discuss separately the current international controversy over Iran's nuclear ambitions. "To China, this is one of the most important diplomatic events of this year. The organisation is developing and getting stronger," he said. President Hu Jintao will chair the summit.

The group's foreign and defence ministers and parliamentary speakers have already held meetings this year, as the pace of enmeshment accelerates. The organisation's members have begun holding joint military exercises, most recently in March in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and next year in Russia. Such exercises are "crucial for combat against the three evil forces", said Mr Li - separatism, terrorism and extremism.

Last week SCO secretary-general Zhang Deguang told journalists in Beijing, when questioned about the participation of Iran: "We cannot abide other countries calling our observer nations sponsors of terror. We would not have invited them if we believed they sponsored terror."

The SCO's charter speaks of creating "a new international political and economic order". David Wall, a research associate for Cambridge University's East Asia Institute, wrote recently in The Japan Times that the SCO states' "only common denominators are a communist past or present, and autocratic to ruthless dictatorial governments". He said it had become "an important multilateral institution of global geopolitical significance". At last year's summit, Beijing and Moscow initiated discussion about the fate of American bases in central Asia. The resulting statement said: "As the active military phase in the anti-terror operation in Afghanistan is nearing completion, it is time to decide on the deadline for the use of temporary infrastructure and for their military contingents' presence" in member countries. Uzbekistan has since asked the US military to leave but Kyrgyzstan continues to host a base.

Through the SCO, China has developed connections that will ensure at least some of the massive oil and gas reserves in central Asia flow east and not west. It has extended loans and made growing investments in the "-stan" economies, as part of its careful cultivation of the region, and is stepping up its purchases of Iranian oil, this year reaching 13per cent of all its oil imports.

Mr Hu and President Saparmurat Niazov of Turkmenistan, a country not yet in the SCO, recently signed an agreement on a pipeline to take gas to China via Uzbekistan.
A gas pipeline is also being built from Kazakhstan to China. And China is building a railway linking Uzbekistan to its own western Xinjiang province, passing through Kyrgyzstan.

Monday, June 12, 2006

15 Kassams land in Sderot and W. Negev

From JPost, Jun. 12, 2006, by TOVAH LAZAROFF ...

A total of 15 Kassam rockets have rained down on Sderot and the western Negev since midnight Sunday, following an unprecedented day of rocket fire in which one person was seriously wounded by shrapnel and a number of buildings damaged.

'Destroy Beit Hanun or Sderot will become a ghost town', was the message Sderot mayor Eli Moyal on Sunday delivered personally to Ra'anan Dinur, the director-general of the Prime Minister's Office.

...Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter caused waves when he made a similar suggestion regarding Beit Hanun in a cabinet meeting only a week ago. At the time, both Peretz and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert objected to such action.

At this Sunday's cabinet meeting, Olmert said, "This firing is very serious. It strikes at the fabric of life in communities in southern Israel and threatens people's lives."

...The communities near Gaza have sustained more than 500 rocket attacks since Israel withdrew from Gaza in August 2006 ... more than 3,000 rocket attacks have been launched against the area since April 2001......