Saturday, September 16, 2006

Lebanon - a reassessment

THE JERUSALEM POST, Sep. 13, 2006, by ASHER SUSSER, Director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University....

... the war with Hizbullah and its consequences are being discussed in Lebanon and the broader Arab world in a ... views vary from the one extreme, which sees the ultimate victory of the Arabs in more missiles and rockets that will surely bring Israel to its knees in the not too distant future, to those at the other end of the spectrum, according to whom Hizbullah, Lebanon and the Arabs have, in fact, been defeated.

... as the war came to its conclusion and life in Israel returned pretty much to normal, opinion in the Arab world has shifted to more sober analysis, as Lebanon, Hizbullah and the Shi'ites face the daunting task of what will probably be years of multi-billion dollar reconstruction.

.... Hizbullah's status in Lebanon has changed for the worse, as many Lebanese come to the rather shocking realization that the south of their country, unknown to them, had in fact been transformed into an Iranian and Syrian launching pad against Israel posing an existential threat to their own livelihoods and to their entire country. Hizbullah is now on the defensive, trying to protect its political assets against a more assertive Lebanese domestic majority, that seems more determined than ever to contain Hizbullah's "state within a state," so that they are not drawn again into a destructive war with Israel, without as much as a word of consultation.
Many in Lebanon, especially non-Shi'ites, but also some important Shi'ite spokespersons, are calling for an end to the armed phase of Hizbullah's development ..... In other words, they are demanding the disarming of Hizbullah.

Muna Fayyad, a Shi'ite professor at the University of Lebanon, and the Mufti of Tyre, Sayyid Ali al-Amin, for example, both questioned the right of Hizbullah to bring disaster on the Shi'ites of Lebanon, by dragging them into an ill considered adventure they never wanted, in the interests of a foreign power like Iran, about whom they were never consulted.

NASRALLAH NOW has to contend with his newly constructed image as the destroyer of Lebanon rather than its protector, as he himself regularly claimed before the war, as a main justification for the very existence of his militia. His recent interview (explaining that he would not have ordered the abduction of the two Israeli soldiers had he expected such a ferocious Israeli response) is indicative of this new predicament.

Arab commentators are considerably less impressed with Nasrallah's strategic genius than some of their Israeli counterparts seem to be in their moments of self-critical excess. They question the wisdom of his decision-making, as they wryly ridicule his claims of victory. A poll conducted in Lebanon in late August revealed that two thirds of the non-Shi'ite public believed that Hizbullah had actually been defeated in the war.

Hazim Saghiya, writing in Al-Hayat, questioned whether victory could be celebrated on the ruins of Lebanon by a leader who had to remain in hiding. Another commentator in Al-Hayat, Hasan Haydar, compared Nasrallah's interview of apology to Egyptian president Gamal Nasser's admission of defeat in 1967. The Arabs, he noted, were still paying for the defeat in 1967, and he wondered for how long the Lebanese and the Arabs would be paying for Nasrallah's "ill-considered 'victory.'"

Abd al-Mun'im Sa'id, the Director of the Al-Ahram's Center for Political and Strategic Studies, urged the Arabs to follow Israel's example and set up a commission of inquiry to establish how Nasrallah could have dragged Lebanon into war without the country and the home front having being at all prepared. He dismissed Nasrallah's contention that preparation of the home front was the responsibility of the state, arguing that the state could hardly prepare for a war about which it had no advance knowledge. As opposed to Israeli journalists, who tended to glorify Nasrallah's credibility, Abd al-Mun'im questioned why Hizbullah had failed to fire its long-range rockets after Israel had repeatedly bombed Beirut, even though Nasrallah had vowed to do so. And what about the relative ineffectiveness of the short range rockets? The damage they caused was limited, and a significant proportion of the Israeli casualties were actually Arabs.

ALL OF the above have emboldened the Lebanese government to deploy its army in the South, which it had not done for over 30 years, and to accept the stationing of a more robust international force there as well. Neither of these had hitherto been acceptable to Hizbullah. These forces will not disarm Hizbullah, which will no doubt make every effort to rearm and replenish its depleted stocks. All the same, they do serve the purpose of reasserting the sovereignty of the Lebanese state in all of its territory. This in turn adds to all the other factors seeking to reduce Hizbullah's freedom of action to operate militarily against Israel from the South.

None of this would have happened had it not been for the severe damage Israel inflicted upon Hizbullah's civilian, political and military infrastructure. The civilian backbone of Hizbullah, the Shi'ite community of Lebanon, has incurred heavy loss of life and enormous property damage, which will take years to repair. The period of reconstruction might not be free of criticism for the leadership that led the community to this disaster.

And once rehabilitated would the Shi'ites of Beirut and the South be ready to endanger everything and go through their recent ordeal all over again, for what Hizbullah might feel required to do in the service of Iran and Syria? Moreover, a new Shi'ite middle class has emerged during the last generation and they are eager to integrate into the mainstream if Lebanese politics, something they might not be able to achieve as long as Hizbullah is perceived to be serving the interests of foreign powers.

IN DIRECT military terms Hizbullah's losses were heavy and will not be easily replenished either. Key installations and command and control centers were totally destroyed in the Dahiya area of Southern Beirut and in the South of the country. Fortified positions, bunkers and stores in close proximity to the border with Israel have been demolished, and it is highly unlikely that Israel will allow their reconstruction under any circumstances.

The organization lost between a quarter to a third of its fighting men. Bravado aside, in numerous encounters Hizbullah fighters fled the field of battle, leaving their equipment behind, to avoid direct confrontation with Israeli ground forces.

Much of Hizbullah's long and medium range rocketry has been destroyed. They still have large stocks of the short-range rockets, which were the great majority of the over 4,000 rockets fired during the war into Northern Israel. But their effectiveness is limited. It is true that the North of the country was almost brought to a standstill and the trauma of hundreds of thousands of Israelis in shelters or living as internal refuges in other parts of the country will not be forgotten. But .... The Iranian strategic outpost that had been built up for future use against Israel has been defanged, at least for the meantime. It must have cost hundreds of millions to construct and has been lost prematurely, spent not very effectively and not at a time of Iran's choosing.

...Hizbullah, at this stage, is observing the cease-fire. They do not want a second round now.....

....AN EGYPTIAN commentator, Ali al-Ibrahim, noted recently that the Arabs had learned to differentiate between victories on television and real victories in the field. .....Israel's achievements in the war should not be underestimated, all the more so because they were attained despite the unbelievably incompetent and indecisive handling of the military campaign by the triumvirate of Olmert, Peretz and Halutz.......

....Whether the achievements of the war prove lasting or not is another question. Can the Lebanese led by Fuad Seniora's government build on the new political realities that the war has created? Will they be able to withstand the pressure that is bound to come from the Iran-Syria-Hizbullah axis that will seek to undo the consequences of the war and reestablish the status quo ante? Only time will tell, but these are questions that would not even have been asked had it not been for the war against Hizbullah.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Amir Peretz refuses to rule out freeing a convicted terrorist

From Arutz Sheva, Wednesday, September 13, 2006 / 20 Elul 5766 ...

Amir Peretz's refusal to rule out freeing a convicted terrorist has shocked coalition MKs. His statement....places his Labor party leadership in question.

The Defense Minister said Wednesday he does not rule out freeing terrorist Samir Kantar in a deal to return kidnapped IDF soldiers. "There is no doubt that Samir Kantar is one of the central questions being dealt with in any negotiation of this type [and] I suggest that we allow this issue to be dealt with in a very, very secret, very serious, very significant manner," he told Voice of Israel government radio.

Kantar was convicted for the brutal 1979 killing of a four-year-old girl and her father in an attack in northern Israel. He shot the man in front of the daughter and then killed her by smashing her head with his rifle butt. Another daughter, aged 2, died when the man's wife covered her baby's mouth to prevent her from screaming and revealing their hiding place.

Kantar is serving prison terms totaling 542 years, and Peretz's refusal to rule out freeing him in exchange for kidnapped soldiers is in direct opposition to a government policy not to free terrorists "with blood on their hands." Political analyst Hanan Kristal told Voice of Israel government radio Wednesday that Labor party chairman Peretz's days are numbered.

Tzachi HaNegbi, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and a leader in the Kadima coalition with Labor, said that freeing Kantar would represent a victory for Hizbullah terrorist leader Hassan Nasrallah. He wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Peretz, "Freeing the murderer as a direct result of the kidnapping would decidedly crown Nasrallah...and raise a question on justifying the sacrifice of 159 victims" in the war against Hizbullah.

Labor Knesset Member Ami Ayalon, who has said he will challenge the Labor chairman in the next party primaries, publicly called on him Wednesday to quit his ministerial post. "There are those in the political echelon who are responsible [for failures in the war], and I think Peretz needs to own up to this responsibility and resign," he said. MK Ayalon made the remarks in response to the announcement of the head of the Northern Command, Brigadier General Udi Adam, that he is quitting his military career in order to set an example that leaders must take responsibility for mistakes.....

Israeli Arabs claim publc lynching is "self defence"

From Ynet, 14/9/06, by Ahiya Raved...

Seven suspects, who were arrested for allegedly lynching Jewish terrorist Eded Natan-Zada after he killed four Arab citizens in bus in Shfaram, released from house arrest

The Haifa Magistrate's Court on Wednesday issued an order to release seven Shfaram residents from house arrest. The seven were arrested at the beginning of June for allegedly being involved in the 2005 lynching of the Jewish terrorist. After three weeks in prison, the seven were transferred to house arrest under limiting conditions.

Maher Talhami, who represents one of the suspects, said that a few days ago the entire dossier was transferred to the State Prosecutor's Office, a step which indicates that the investigation was over. "The house arrest was supposed to end on Friday, but because the investigation was over...the court ordered their release and the lifting of all restrictions," he said.

During the 13 months since the lynching of Natan-Zada, the police were investigating those who killed the Jewish terrorist and trying to bring to their indictment.

The arrest of the seven, which was highly publicized, was severely criticized by the residents of Shfaram, who said that even if the suspects were involved in killing Natan-Zada, they were acting in self defense. The police, however, maintained they were involved in murder. The prosecution will decide if there is sufficient evidence in the material obtained by the police to indict the suspects and to what degree.

Also see Killer's last moments (Ynetnews, 7/8/05) in which an Arab photographer captures Shfaram terrorist bound by his hands, moments before the angry mob kills him.

Iran 'aggressively seeking atom bomb'

From The Australian correspondents in Vienna, Austria 14 Septembr 06 ...

IRAN is "aggressively" trying to build atomic bombs and the time has come for sanctions to back diplomacy aimed at reining in Tehran, the US told the UN nuclear watchdog's board of governors today.

"Given Iran's history of deception, lack of transparency, provocative behaviour and disregard for its international obligations, we must take further steps to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions," US envoy Gregory Schulte said in a board debate.

"We are convinced that Iran is aggressively pursuing the technology, material and know-how to build nuclear weapons," Mr Schulte told the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35 nation board of governors in Vienna. "The time has come for the (UN) security council to back international diplomacy with international sanctions ...... Sanctions will not signal an end to diplomacy" aimed at getting Iran to stop enriching uranium in exchange for trade incentives, he said. "Iran's leaders must understand that their choices have consequences and that their best choice remains the course of cooperation. The United States remains committed to a diplomatic solution. But the world cannot accept a nuclear-armed Iran."

.....Mr Schulte spoke on the eve of last-chance talks between the European Union and Iran, expected to be held in Paris and aimed at creating a basis for formal negotiations that could head off sanctions action by Western powers in the Security Council.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Zentai extradition grinds on ...

From The West Australian, 13/9/06, by Roy Gibson [not available on the Web, except to subscribers] ...

Accused nazi war criminal Charles Zentai has failed in a legal bid to stop extradition .... to Hundary to face a murder charge ... an allegation [that] he murdered a Jewish teenager in Budapest in 1944 ....

Yesterday federal Court judge Tony Siopis rejected submissions ... that it was unlawful for WA Magistratesto carry out extradition proceedings under the Commonwealth Extradition Act.

....Mr Zentai is next due to appear in Perth Magistrates Court on September 22 ... a hearing date could be set for the extradition proceedings.

It is now more than 18 months since a Hungarian military tribunal issued an international arrest warrant for Mr Zentai....

Anti-Iraq war progressives are part of the problem

From The Australian, September 13, 2006, by Paul Kelly [emphasis added] These are excerpts only, from an excellent analysis. Follow the link for the full article...

Anti-Iraq war progressives can't accept the real lesson of 9/11: there's a global Islamist movement bent on the destruction of the West

THE fifth anniversary of 9/11 offers a brilliant study of the progressive neurosis, commemorating an event while denying its origins, nature and cause.....

The anniversary has become an extravaganza in Bush bashing.... But John Howard nailed the problem on Four Corners when he said: "It's a very strange thing to start the dialogue with Iraq rather than start the dialogue with the attack on the 11th of September."

.... This is the progressive mind in action....the source of the problem is Bush. The real story is the Iraq war. The dynamic driving the terrorists is Bush's aggressive tactics. So where else would you start and end but Iraq?

...The progressive mind, supreme in our media, treats 9/11 as a human interest tragedy that inspires homilies on the meaning of life. This conceals the reality: 9/11 is an epoch-changing event not because nearly 3000 died (more people have died in many other events) but because it was a transforming political, cultural and strategic event.

.....It begins with the enemy. Yes, there was an enemy, though, of course, it offends polite company to admit this. The truth was summarised in the US 9/11 commission report...: "The enemy is not just terrorism.... It is the threat posed by Islamist terrorism, especially the al-Qa'ida networks, its affiliates and its ideology."

The 9/11 commission argues the challenge is more than a war on terrorism. The enemy (of which al-Qa'ida is a manifestation) is a global ideological movement. The threat is millennial: "Bin Laden and Islamist terrorists mean exactly what they say: to them America is the font of all evil, the 'head of the snake', and it must be converted or destroyed."

For the progressive mind, this is hysterical or an exaggeration or both. The progressives (witness the civil liberty lobby in Australia) cling ferociously to the claim that terrorism has been around for years and nothing much different is happening now. Their entire position depends on such a fiction. The more the origins of 9/11 are documented, the more this is exposed. So, better stick with Iraq.

Consider the causes. The more the causes of 9/11 are revealed in a global ideological movement operating in the mosques and the schools and feeding off deep-seated resentment across the Muslim world towards the US, all implanted well before Bush's Iraqi venture and even before Bush entered the White House, the more difficult it is to sheet home responsibility to Bush. So, better stick with Iraq.

Consider the consequences. The more the strategic implications of 9/11 are ventilated -- the fact al-Qa'ida wants to acquire a nuclear capacity; that Osama bin Laden met Pakistani nuclear officials to plan further attacks; that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and bin Laden considered but decided against striking US nuclear facilities "for now"; that Harvard University's Graham Allison, after his forensic analysis, concludes that a "dirty bomb attack is overdue"; and that Bush, above all, in everything he has done, has been driven by his fear of an attack by weapons of mass destruction -- the more apparent is the unprecedented danger and the more understandable is the strength of Bush's reaction. So, better stick with Iraq.

Consider the moral dimension. The more the Islamist attack against the West is depicted as a plan to kill as many innocent men, women and children as possible in a self-declared war against US power and ideology, the more the US seems wronged rather than guilty. So, better stick with Iraq.

Consider the cultural dimension. For bin Laden, the ideological fixation is against the US as a cultural and religious entity ("the worst civilisation witnessed by the history of mankind"), while for Bush the war is not against Islam but against the Islamist terror groups. This distinction, central to the meaning of 9/11, is blurred by Bush's misconceived Iraq war. So, better stick with Iraq.

In my view, the criticism mounted by US former counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke about the disastrous consequences of the Iraq war is convincing. The evidence from Iraq and Afghanistan is that the jihadists are re-energised. But neither the Iraq conflict nor Bush's mistakes define or explain the larger war between the West and Islamist terrorism that is symbolised by the 9/11 attacks and will continue after a resolution in Iraq.

The West remains ... polarised between the radical conservative reaction .... and the mind-set of denial typified by their progressive opponents. ...[It]has succeeded in the mechanics of tighter security, intelligence and policing. But it has failed in the battle of ideas, the proof being the ongoing recruitment to jihadist ranks in its own societies.

Bin Laden has won a dividend he never expected. This is the divide between Bush-Blair-Howard executive governments and their progressive critics, whose final denial is their refusal to admit they are part of the problem.

Winning the war against al-Qa'ida

Exerpts from The Australian Editorial, September 13, 2006 ...

Osama bin Laden's stocks with Muslims are diminishing

ACCORDING to the conventional wisdom of breast-beating critics of US President George W. Bush, the war on terror has only hurt the West and aided al-Qa'ida..... Five years on from the September 11, 2001, attacks, the Wahhabist terror organisation has failed to win the hearts and minds of the world's Muslims. Al-Qa'ida's remaining leaders hide in remote caves.

The organisation's state-of-the-art terrorist training infrastructure in Afghanistan has been dismantled. Its around 4000-strong membership has been decimated, with at least 3000 al-Qa'ida cadres from 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed down killed or captured in 102 countries worldwide.

The Bush administration's rigorous homeland security strategy to protect Americans at home has prevented a fresh assault on the continental US. And according to some experts, the remaining leadership of the organisation is racked with division over whether bin Laden overplayed his hand in murdering nearly 3000 civilians. .... Instead of producing a groundswell of support from within the Islamic world, continuing wanton violence orchestrated by al-Qa'ida has resulted in the opposite: growing discomfort about the association between Islam and violence and an increasing split between the Sunnis and the Shia – and not just in Iraq.

.... a report issued by the London-based foreign affairs think tank Chatham House earlier this month makes clear, the terror group's recent strikes at the soft heart of Islam in Saudi Arabia and Jordan have just intensified the unease of mainstream Muslims. Rather than winning recruits, notes the report's author, Maha Azzam, al-Qai'da is facing a "very serious challenge to its legitimacy" as a result of Muslim distaste at atrocities such as the bombing of weddings at Amman hotels last year, killing at least 60. As well as losing popular support, these attacks are only bracing thoughtful Sunni leadership across the region against terrorist forces.

.... Hussein's regime, even if lacking weapons of mass destruction, posed a risk the world could not afford to take. Would Iraq under Saddam have used nuclear weapons if it had them? an incubator for al-Qa'ida and a refuge for its terrorists on the run, Iraq posed a serious world threat..... Taken together with what we now know about Pakistani nuclear scientist AQ Khan's role in spreading atomic weapons technology to rogue states, a plot by Iraq-based terrorists to detonate the dirty "Islamic bomb" bin Laden has called for in a Western city could not be discounted.

Perversely, the conflict within Iraq has concentrated al-Qa'ida's efforts within its borders, allowing the disabling of its operations elsewhere. In Indonesia, for example, the terror crackdown by the Government of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has broken up Jemaah Islamiah, the terror group behind the Bali bombings and the attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta. Many of those responsible are behind bars awaiting firing squads. JI bomb-maker Azahari Husin was killed in a raid last year, while Hambali, the mastermind behind the Bali bombings, is incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay after being captured by the CIA in Thailand in 2003.

In putting Hambali out of action, the CIA at the same time cut the link between JI and al-Qa'ida. Similar crackdowns have taken place in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The wildcard in the terrorists' pack is the rise of homegrown radicalism in the West ... the misguided middle class, Western-born son or daughter of migrant parents, or perhaps a convert.

Terrorism as we know it today began not with the September 11, 2001, attacks and the White House's response, but with the 1979 coup against Iran's shah. This crisis launched radical Islam's rise in the region and underpinned more than a generation of Middle East instability. The first World Trade Centre attack in 1993, the bombing of the American embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in 1998, and the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000, all preceded the war on terror.

Five years on from 9/11, the view from the cave of an ageing and possibly sick bin Laden is not of victory but of his plans for a caliphate stretching across the Islamic world disintegrating.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Black September - How terrorism got its start

From National Review Online, September 11, 2006, by Aaron Mannes ...

Before September 11, there was Black September.

Those earlier terrorists, spouting anti-imperialist third-world rhetoric, seem almost trivial in comparison to the religiously inspired mass murder we have since come to know. Yet, as America remembers 9/11, we should also remember the Black September terror attacks from decades ago, which set the stage for that awful day five years ago. Having failed in their efforts to launch a traditional insurgency against Israel (due to a combination of incompetence and a lack of interest on the part of the West Bank Palestinians), the PLO and its affiliates initiated the age of modern terrorism. The Black September attacks do not compare to the destruction of 9/11 — but they were harbingers of the terror to come.

The 1970 hijackings shocked the world, but it was a hostage crisis, not suicidal mass murder. On September 6, 1970, two planes were hijacked and taken to Dawson’s Field, an airstrip in Jordan. A third was taken to Cairo, where it was blown up after the crew and passengers were released. The terrorists attempted to hijack a fourth airliner, an El Al flight, and the passengers fought back and overpowered the hijackers. One hijacker was killed. The lead hijacker, Leila Khaled (a young woman who was celebrated in the international press as “Deadly Beauty”), was arrested when the plane landed at Heathrow.The hijackings were conducted to obtain the release of Palestinians held by the Israeli, Swiss, and German governments. To emphasize their seriousness, Palestinian terrorists hijacked another plane the next day and diverted it to Jordan.

On September 12, the three planes in Jordan were blown up. The hostages were no longer on them, yet the world was shocked nonetheless — it was a more innocent time.

Ultimately, the British government released Khaled to obtain the release of the hostages.The hijacking triggered a civil war in Jordan. King Hussein, worried about the establishment of a PLO mini-state in his country, turned on the Palestinian terrorists. In two weeks of bloody fighting, as many as 10,000 Palestinians were killed, and the PLO and its factions were forced to relocate to Lebanon. In Lebanon, the PLO unbalanced the fragile sectarian democracy, thereafter cursing Lebanon to decades of civil war. Lebanon became a training ground for terrorists from all over the world. It was also in Lebanon, under the direction of former PLO operative Imad Mughniyah, where Hezbollah introduced the world to suicide bombing.

To avenge the expulsion from Jordan the PLO founded a secretive front group, Black September. Black September’s first victim was Jordanian Prime Minister Wasfi al-Tal, who was gunned down in November 1971 at a Cairo Hotel. Newspapers around the world reported that one of the assassins lapped up al-Tal’s blood from the hotel floor — foreshadowing today’s grisly beheading videos.

However, it was in September 1972 at the Munich Olympics, where Black September took the Israeli athletes hostage, that terrorists learned the tremendous power of television. Although the 1970 hijackings were covered extensively in the world press, it was the Munich hostage crisis when the terrorists really began how easily they could use the mass media to their advantage. With TV crews from around the world already present in Munich to cover the Olympics, the crisis quickly became a media circus, and people everywhere were glued to their television screens.

Black September’s operations foreshadowed 9/11: in targeting airplanes, in bloodthirsty viciousness, and in holding the gaze of the international media. Five years ago these elements, combined with the innovation of suicide bombing, brought the world to a standstill. It was unprecedented, but its roots were in the events of Black September nearly three decades earlier.

— Aaron Mannes, author of the TerrorBlog and Profiles in Terror: The Guide to Middle East Terrorist Organizations, researches terrorism at the Maryland Information and Network Dynamics Laboratory at the University of Maryland and is a Contributing Expert to the Counterterrorism Blog. Opinions expressed here are his own.

Iran's Investment Just Went Down the Tubes

From GLORIA (IDC, Herzliya, by Cameron S. Brown (A version of this article was published in Hebrew in Ha'aretz on September 10, 2006) [emphasis added]...

Even before the fighting ended, many in Israel and abroad were convinced that the strategic position of Hizballah and its sponsors in Tehran and Damascus will improve following the war.
Going even further, the well-known columnist Charles Krauthammer claimed that Israel's failure to flatten Hizballah decisively could lead to a reduction in Israel's value in the eyes of American policymakers.

A deeper examination, however, makes it clear that the opposite is true: After investing billions of dollars in the organization over the past two decades, Hizballah has lost its strategic value for Iran. Moreover, Iran will now have to multiply its investment 10-20 times in order simply to hold onto the support of Lebanon's Shi'a.

The key to understanding the new strategic environment is to realize that Hizballah is no longer able to play the crucial role Iran had hoped should the United States or Israel strike Iran's nuclear program. As a senior Iranian source told the Arabic daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat last April, one key element in Iran's attempt to deter such a strike was the threat of thousands of rockets falling on northern Israel in retaliation. Yet, if such an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities takes place in the next year, Hizballah will find its hands tied. As recent reports inside Lebanon have made clear, if Lebanon is dragged into another war with Israel anytime soon, such a development would be extremely unpopular inside Lebanon, and could drastically undermine Hizballah's shaky position there. Hizballah's opponents would use the opportunity to press their claim that Hizballah is simply an Iranian proxy--a claim Hasan Nasrallah tried strenuously to deny in his speeches during the war.

If Hizballah cannot be part of Iran's response--or even pester Israel along the border for fear that it could lead to renewed war--then Iran has invested billions of dollars on an organization that can no longer provide it with material benefits. This is especially important now because, while until today Iran could support Hizballah for a mere $100-200 million per year, it will now have to sink billions of dollars over the next few years on reconstruction efforts. (And these billions do not even include the investment in rearming Hizballah.) Yet if Iran should fail to rebuild people's homes, even Lebanon's Shi'a population will become resentful for having been abandoned by its patron.

Even if willing to concede that Iran has lost the material benefits of its ally, many would argue that Iran's "soft power" in Lebanon and the broader Arab world has been bolstered following Hizballah's supposed victory in this recent war. Yet, here again, a deeper examination leads us to see that the opposite may be the case.

First, it is important to remember that even if Hizballah were to single-handedly destroy the State of Israel, neither it nor Iran will ever gain significant influence in non-Shi'a sectors of Lebanon. On the one hand, this is because no Christian or Druze wants to live in the mullah-run theocracy Hizballah advocates. On the other hand, even those few Sunnis in Lebanon who do dream of an Islamist-run government would never agree to have a Shi'a leader rule such a regime, as Sunni tolerance for "heretical" Shi'ism is minimal even in the best of times.

Indeed, this is exactly what happened after Israel's pullout from South Lebanon. Despite the willingness of many in Lebanon to wave Hizballah's flag immediately after, almost no one outside of the Shi'a community voted for the party in any of the national or local elections held since. This wariness is even more acutely felt regarding Iran. With Lebanese nationalists still battling the remnants of Syrian influence, few in Lebanon want to see Iran take Syria's place. The Lebanese are sick and tired of being other people's satellite.

Second, looking at the region as a whole, despite the temporary boost in popularity for Iran and Syria amongst the masses, this war actually convinced many of the Sunni regimes that they must act to balance Iran. For the first time since 1988, an anti-Iranian alliance emerged, led by Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt. Having become convinced of Iran's threatening nature, it is entirely possible these countries will start lobbying side-by-side with the United States for the imposition of sanctions on Iran if it does not give up its nuclear weapons program.

Even if Hizballah performed impressively against Israel, given these changes in the strategic environment, it is hard to see what Iran actually gained from this war.

Cameron S. Brown is the Deputy Director of the GLORIA Center, a research center at the Interdisciplinary Center University in Herzliya, Israel.

Iran wants to be nuclear empire

From Ynet News, 11/9/06, by Yaakov Lappin ...

Global terrorism conference at Interdisciplinary Center examines regional, global implications of Hizbullah war; experts: Lebanon war was a new kind of confrontation with emerging Islamist revolutionary axis

A number of experts at the Sixth Annual International Conference on Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya said Monday that Israel's war with Hizbullah was a new kind of confrontation with an emerging Islamist revolutionary axis. The conference, organized by the Interdisciplinary Center's (IDC) Institute for Counter-Terrorism, brought together leading military figures and analysts from Israel and abroad to dissect terrorism's global impact, and the implications of the recent clash with Hizbullah. While much of the first day saw domestic Israeli soul-seeking by military figures over the management and outcome of the war, attention was also given to the radical Shiite and Sunni Islamist ambitions threatening the State of Israel.

Professor Uriel Reichman , founding President of the IDC, launched the four-day conference with an analysis of the causes and aftermath of the second Lebanon war.

"Around 20 years ago, on February 16, 1985, Hizbullah's platform was published. The organization wrote that the struggle with Israel would end only when 'this entity is torn to shreds,'" Reichman said. "We do not recognize any kind of understanding with Israel, neither a ceasefire nor a peace agreement," Reichman added, quoting the Hizbullah document. "In 2005, Nasrallah stood in front of an excited crowd. I quote: 'Israel is our enemy. This is an aggressive, illegal, illegitimate state that has no future on our lands… death to Israel.' The crowd proceeded to chant: death to Israel." The IDC president said Hizbullah was an organization with a religious ideology, whose goal was to "eventually destroy an entire country."

He added that Hizbullah's ongoing confrontation with Israel served to strengthen it and "foreign interests," and moved on to address "the Iranian element."

"Hizbullah's charter included a clause saying Hizbullah would obey only one leader, and that is (former Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah) Khomeini. The control by the Iranian leadership, the religious and operational, of Hizbullah, goes on today. The Iranians built up the Hizbullah force, invested around a billion dollars in it, trained its fighters, and gave them the most advanced intelligence gathering tools," Reichman said.

He outlined Tehran's aspiration to "realize the vision of an Iranian empire, through which the Lebanese Shiite base is supposed to connect through Syria with Iraq, and then to Iran."

In the past, the Iranians viewed Israel as a sponge to absorb Sunni Muslim hatred, taking the heat off Shiite Iran, and Tehran encouraged the Arab Israeli conflict in order to continue distract attention away from itself, Reichman said. He added, however, that today it was "doubtful whether Iran is not interested in Israel's destruction, following its nuclear arms program. The things have been said clearly more than once by Iranian President Ahmadinejad, and they are a part of the religious fanaticism of the civilian leadership of this state, with the indoctrination of the masses with hatred of Israel."

'Israel facing imperial ambitions'
"Iran's imperial ambitions, and its perception of Israel as an arrowhead and a regional power, could interfere with its attempt to realize its aspirations. Iran's hostile activity is expressed not only through the building up of Hizbullah's power, but also by providing millions of dollars in funds to the Islamic Jihad, and of a series of covert activities," he added. Reichman predicted that an Iranian nuclear empire would change the balance of power, as well as threaten Sunni Muslim countries.

Yossi Kuperwasser, former Head of IDF Intelligence Research Division, identified Hizbullah as a "prominent part of the campaign of radical sources in the Middle East. It operates through Iranian instructions and monitoring, and Syrian aid… in order to advance the agenda of radicals in the region, which is: The prevention of Western influence in the Middle East, and the destruction of the State of Israel."

Kuperwasser said radicals hoped to "restore Islam to its days of glory, and take up its defense position against the whole world. It does this through the acceptable ways to radicals, in other words, terror."

He described Lebanon as a "microcosm of the battle between radicals and moderate reformists in the Arab world."

Israel was not alone in being targeted by radicals, according to Kuperwasser, as moderate opponents to radical Islamist forces were also in the crosshairs.

Kuperwasser said Hizbullah's original role as instructed by Iran was to return fire on Israel if Iran was attacked, but it ended up using the "silver bullets prepared by Iran for different reasons." He concluded that Hizbullah was a "Shiite strategic component in Lebanon," which could enforce its will on the country, but also had to come up with excuses to justify its existence. Knowing that most justifications would be temporary, Nasrallah cited Israel's existence as a cause to continue the war.

Ephraim Sneh, Chairman of the Labor faction, said Israel's mistake in the past was not responding to Hizbullah's clear and mounting threat. "On a missile parade in Iran, there were two slogans: 'Israel must be wiped out,' and 'the US can do nothing,' he said. Sneh added that Iran was serious about Israel being wiped out, and said that those who claimed that the international community would deal with Iran did not believe their own comments. "Who believes this? Those that say it know the truth. We must be ready, for the sake of our existence. If we do that, the painful awakening by (Hassan) Nasrallah won't be for nothing," Sneh said.

'British terrorists long-term danger'
Jonathan S. Paris, an analyst of Islamic movements, and a specialist on radical Islam in Britain, addressed the problem of European Sunni terrorism, and argued that British extremist Muslims could form some of the most implacable ideological breeding grounds for jihadists.

Speaking to Ynetnews, Paris said: "The farther you are from the Middle East, the less perspective and less reality you have. An Islamist living in Hebron knows about the IDF. He knows what an Israeli soldier looks like. He knows that an Israeli soldier can kill him. He knows that Israel is not about to disappear. A British Muslim of Pakistani descent in Leeds can easily say, 'well according to Koran, there shouldn't be any Israel, therefore Israel's illegitimate, therefore it should not exist, therefore it soon will not exist.' So they tend to be far more radical. They're more Palestinian than the Palestinians," Paris said.

"They're not grounded in reality. So I conclude from that, that in the future, the last radicals to compromise, the most dangerous in the long-term future, are not going to be Islamists in the region, they're going to be Islamists in places like Pakistan, Indonesia, but especially in Europe."

Monday, September 11, 2006

Helen Clark for UN?

From Ynet news, 11/9/06, by Andrew Blitz ...

UN will soon elect Annan's substitute. New Zealand's prime minister might be a good choice; after all, she has history of bias against Israel

Wanted: A new secretary-general for the United Nations from January 2007. The ideal candidate will be an experienced politician from an Asian pacific nation. Female gender and the history of bias against Israel will be a selection advantage. New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark is an unofficial contender for this position.... Clark has dismissed suggestions of her candidacy as “fiction”, yet speculation regarding her emergence as a serious applicant is now rife.

Ruling against Israel
On 5 September 2006 a motion in the New Zealand Parliament was granted leave, and passed unanimously at the start of Parliamentary Question Time. The motion read as follows:
“That this House ......calls for the immediate and unconditional release of the Palestinian Speaker Abdelaiziz El-Dweik, the Deputy Prime Minister Naser al-Shaer, and the other arrested Ministers and members of the Palestinian Parliament.”

....The motion ....passed through the channels of regular Government business without dissent. ...New Zealand has effectively declared that that the arrested members of the Hamas Government are political hostages, a signal that will also appeal to the selection committee at the United Nations.

Helen Clark ...knows how to apply a double standard to affairs concerning Israel... without reference to the fact that Hamas has publicly claimed responsibility for the abduction of Gilad Shalit, and without regard to the nature and political ambitions of the movement.

....Israeli’s should be concerned by the NZ Parliamentary motion for its broader implications. Although Clark has rejected local speculation that she is interested in the UN Post, the suggestion has garnered non-partisan political support from across New Zealand. Amongst an auspicious list of potential candidates, Clark has a sufficient track record of stirring up anti-Israeli sentiment, capitalizing on Israel’s diplomatic shortcomings, and taking mileage from every political opportunity that is available to her at Israel’s expense. Clark may be seen by many of Israel’s adversaries to be suitably qualified to maintain the entrenched and obsessive anti-Israel bias that is inherent within the UN.

This motion passed within the New Zealand Parliament must not be taken lightly in the context of Israel’s recently reconstructed foreign relations with that country. The motion should be seen as far more than a morally repugnant statement, sponsored by a mere politician and political party that have maintained an anti-Israel stance since its formation. It is emerging proof that mainstream and significant holders of political office can leverage off ignorance-based Israel bashing to advance their international political standing to the hostile majority.....

Andrew Blitz is a freelance writer and former New Zealander now residing in [Perth] Australia

UK Media Anti-Semitism

From Honest Reporting UK, 11/9/06 ....

The comprehensive report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Semitism in the UK has been published. The aims of the inquiry were:
  • To consider evidence on the nature of contemporary anti-Semitism;
  • To evaluate current efforts to confront it;
  • To consider further measures that might usefully be introduced.

Specifically regarding the role of the media in the rise of anti-Semitism, the inquiry concluded:

The spread of antisemitism on the internet and in the media is a problem with wider ramifications for society. In the modern world of instant globalised news and interactive opinion, the media has a responsibility to present a fair and balanced picture of world events and not to use inciteful or irresponsible language, the effect of which is to increase tensions between Britain?s minority communities.

The report states that a "legitimate opinion on the political decisions of the Israeli state may be expressed in an antisemitic manner, even if its author did not intend it to be, if it uses phrases and imagery which tap into antisemitic discourse...."....

HonestReporting UK wishes to state clearly its belief that rational criticism of Israel is perfectly legitimate and we take issue with those who charge that pointing out anti-Semitism in the media, whether intentional or not, is a means to silence debate on Israel's policies or actions.

The report concludes:
that a discussion needs to take place within the media on the impact of language and imagery in current discourse on Judaism, anti-Zionism and Israel and we call upon them to show sensitivity and balance in their reporting of international events and recognise that the way in which they report the news has significant consequences on the interaction between communities in Britain.

.... Melanie Phillips, reacting to the report, states that the "media in Britain bear a heavy responsibility for perpetrating these libels and thus creating hatred of both the Jewish state and the Jews." Referring to the "Kosher Conspiracy" front cover, Phillips takes issue with the report's analysis, arguing that: this does not imply a decline in awareness of a Jewish racial stereotype so much as a belief in that Jewish racial stereotype. The Statesman ran the image of the Star of David impaling a UK Union flag because it perfectly expressed its view that there might be a Jewish conspiracy against British interests. The media use the iconography of classical antisemitism because it fits their prejudices.

HonestReporting UK recommends that subscribers read the Parliamentary Inquiry's report in full to examine the issue of anti-Semitism in Britain today......

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Released Prisoners Later Carried Out Fatal Attacks

From Arutz Sheva, Friday, September 8, 2006 / 15 Elul 5766 ...

A terror victims group published a report Thursday on Arab security prisoners “without blood on their hands,” who were released by Israel and returned to prison with “much blood on their hands.”

The report, by the Almagor Terror Victims Association, demonstrates that at least 14 of the major terrorist attacks in recent years were carried out by terrorists released from prison in the context of various “good will gestures” and Israeli prisoner deals. All of them were released with assurances to the public that they did not have “blood on their hands,” – a euphemism for those prisoners whose deadly attacks failed to prove fatal.

Between the years 1993-1999, in the context of “confidence building measures” and prisoner deals, Israel released 6,912 terrorists. 854 of them (14%) were arrested subsequently for murder, attempted or otherwise. There are no statistics available for those who returned to non-fatal terrorist activities, instruction or logistical support. “The mass killing due to these attacks included 123 murdered Israeli citizens, a huge number of victims with disabilities due to the attack and many other victims,” the report concludes. “In all the previous death-bargains, the overwhelming majority of those released returned to terrorist activities, at the cost of a huge destruction of life.”

Follow the link for a sampling of the report.

UN Implicated in Kidnapping

From Arutz Sheva, Thursday, September 7, 2006 / 14 Elul 5766 ...

The film of the kidnapping of the 3 IDF soldiers on the Lebanese border in 2000, simulcast in Lebanon and Israel this week, lacks the parts implicating the UN in the affair, says the father of one.

Chaim Avraham is the father of Benny Avraham, who was one of the three soldiers kidnapped and murdered by Hizbullah in October 2000. He produced a photograph today further implicating the UN in at least indirect involvement in the violent abduction.Videotapes of the kidnapping, filmed by UNIFIL sources, have long been known to exist, though the UN originally denied it for months. Finally, the UN acknowledged that it had two tapes, but allowed the families and Israeli officials to see only an edited version - claiming it had to maintain objectivity.The film broadcast publicly this week shows how Hizbullah terrorists trained for the kidnapping, and then the abduction itself: the arrival of the unescorted IDF jeep, explosions, terrorists running to the site, gunfire, the actual taking of two soldiers into a dark-colored car, and the car's get-away into Lebanon.

However, Chaim Avraham says, it does not show a white car that he knows took part in the kidnapping - a car that "stars," he told Arutz-7 today, in the original movie he and the other families saw a few years ago. "The car became stuck, and the movie shows how a UN vehicle towed it away. Inside that car were found items with the blood of my son and of Adi Avitan."More significantly, in terms of the UN's involvement in the kidnapping, the car had two dismantled license plates reading "UNIFIL 2707" in the back. Avraham has long had a photograph of this, and he released it for publication today. Why today? "Because it wasn't in the film that everyone saw on TV," he told Israel Radio today, and "[UN Middle East envoy] Terje Larsen called me and demanded to know why I was making claims against the UN - so I said I would bring a proof. The car wasn't in the film that everyone saw on TV, I said I would show proof, and here it is."

Avraham says he found, on the internet, a description of UNIFIL vehicle 2707: "The description shows clearly that the vehicle was used by the UN, was always on alert, and was responsible for monitoring Israeli patrols," Avraham said. Arutz-7 has found, interestingly, that the site on which Avraham found this information (cached here) is a personal one belonging to a former Norwegian member of the UNIFIL force. The former peacekeeper - who later married a Lebanese woman and considers Lebanon his "second homeland" - uploaded a picture of the original UNIFIL 2707, with this description: "This old vehicle served as the platoon HQ [headquarters] immediate response vehicle. The crew were on a 2 minute state of readiness, and were tasked with tailing GSS and IDF patrols within [the Lebanese area] Blat, as well as reinforcing the CP if necessary." Speaking with Arutz-7 today, Avraham did not wish to offer a conjecture as to how the UNIFIL plates found their way into the kidnapping car. He would say only that UNIFIL-marked cars were very familiar and unsuspicious to the Israeli forces. However, Avraham has long accused the UN of acting with partiality against Israel throughout the entire affair. In Dec. 2001, when UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan received the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, the families of the soldiers were on hand to protest. They maintained that the UN soldiers turned a blind eye to the terrorists' preparations for the kidnapping. This appears to be verified in the film broadcast in Israel and Lebanon this week, which shows the terrorists training for the abduction and the kidnappers making their way through territory controlled by an Indian contingent of the UNIFIL force.

In short, Chaim Avraham feels, the full story of the extent of the UN involvement in the kidnapping of his son and two friends has not yet been told.Hizbullah pretended for close to a year that the soldiers were alive, until the Chief Rabbinate of the IDF declared, based on evidence and testimony, that the three were dead. Their bodies were returned to Israeli in early 2004, together with kidnapped civilian Elchanan Tenenbaum, in exchange for over 400 Arab terrorist prisoners held in Israel.