Saturday, January 20, 2007

Chinese can hit enemies where it hurts

From The Weekend Australian, January 20, 2007, by Greg Sheridan ...

IF China is going to shoot anything down, it is better that it be one of its own satellites. The Chinese action is instructive on several levels. It proves definitively that China can take out satellites if it wants to. We are reminded, once again, of China's burgeoning technological capabilities.....

....Now we know that it is also looking very, very closely at the US's satellite vulnerability. This is nothing new to strategic analysts, but to have China confirm it so dramatically is an important new development.

For years, critics of the US Star Wars program, which involves shooting down fast-travelling multiple missiles, have noted that it might work against a rogue state like North Korea. But it would not work against a big powerful state like China or Russia because they could shoot down the US satellites down that control such systems.

China's latest action has exposed a more general US military vulnerability. Most US military hi-tech equipment is deeply integrated through satellites, computers and the most advanced IT capacity. It is this "system of systems" that constitutes the much ballyhooed revolution in military affairs. But such deep reliance on hi-tech creates its own vulnerability....

..... whereas the war on terror has shown that against non-state actors it is US soldiers on the ground who are most important, in a conventional conflict against another big power like China, even a limited conflict focused on Taiwan, US military assets would be greatly compromised if its satellites were attacked. In particular, the US technical intelligence capacity could be swiftly and devastatingly degraded and it is this operational intelligence superiority that is at the heart of much US military power.

Calls to demilitarise space are fairly meaningless. It is inconceivable that nations could be in military conflict with each other and observe a protocol that allowed them to kill each other's soldiers, and perhaps each other's civilians as collateral damage, but not touch each other's satellites. Whatever anyone says about the demilitarisation of space, whatever protocols are signed, if there is ever, God forbid, a conflict between two technically proficient big powers like the US and China, it will be fearsomely destructive and satellites will be among the first targets.

....China's action reminds us that hard power trumps soft power every time, and that the nations of Asia are collectively engaged in a big arms build-up....

Friday, January 19, 2007

'Jihad' sheik to face new police probe

From The Australian, January 19, 2007, by Simon Kearney ...

THE firebrand cleric who went overseas just days before some of his cohorts were rounded up in the nation's biggest counter-terrorism raid is the subject of a new police investigation, after a call for children to join jihad as holy warriors appeared in a DVD being sold in Australia.

Sydney-born Sheik Feiz Mohamed's radical sermons - available on the internet and on DVDs and videos - have become popular with Muslims around the world. In one video, running on the hugely popular website YouTube, he admonishes his followers in English for not "sacrificing a drop of blood" as martyrs.

Australian Federal Police said yesterday they had begun inquiries into Sheik Feiz's DVD encouraging jihad, which is believed to be unclassified in Australia and illegal to sell.
NSW Premier Morris Iemma accused the cleric yesterday of inciting terrorism. "This DVD goes a lot further than vilification," he said. "The sort of incitement that the DVD encourages is incitement to acts of violence and acts of terror."

Sheik Feiz, a member of Sunni Islam's fundamentalist Wahhabi sect, left Australia for Lebanon in late 2004, just days before federal and state police and ASIO conducted raids in Sydney and Melbourne, arresting 23 people on terror-related charges. The cleric calls two of the accused terrorists close friends and knew all of the Sydney men arrested. He has links to almost every notable member of Australia's Islamic community and continues to direct his Global Islamic Youth Centre - the nerve centre of Islamic youth in Sydney, setting the tone for 4000 youths, their families and fraternities.

Along with Sheik Mohammed Omran in Melbourne and Sydney's Sheik Abdul Salem Mohammed Zoud, he is considered one of Australia's leading radical clerics. Unlike Sheik Omran and Sheik Zoud, Sheik Feiz preaches in English with a strong Australian accent rather than Arabic.

In the video running on YouTube, which could not be dated, he criticises Muslims in Australia for not sacrificing their blood as martyrs and for putting lifestyle ahead of action in response to massacres of Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine......In that and another series called Signs of the Hour, made about four years ago, Sheik Feiz labelled Jews "pigs" and exhorted children to jihad. "We want to have children and offer them as soldiers defending Islam," he says. "Teach them this: there is nothing more beloved to me than wanting to die as a mujahid. Put in their soft, tender hearts the zeal of jihad and a love of martyrdom."

....Acting Attorney-General Kevin Andrews said the matter was being investigated by the relevant authorities. "It's offensive to the Australian people, it's reprehensible, it's particularly outrageous that certain groups in Australia, such as the Jewish community, have been highlighted in these comments and we condemn the comments," he said......

Additional reporting: Martin Chulov, Simon Hayes

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Iran: the region’s ‘black sheep’

From The Arab Times (Kuwait), 18th Jan 2007 : Web Edition No: 12766, by Ahmed Al-Jarallah Editor-in-Chief....

BY exaggerating its capabilities, Iran is hallucinating and thinking that it can do more than it is able to. Tehran believes it is God’s regime and acts under the orders of the Almighty. Iran’s imagination is running wild making it believe in its own myth. Gulf countries have come to the conclusion that Iran has become an uncontrollable power which can harm not only itself but also its neighbors.

As a country infected with such dangerous imagination, Iran sees itself capable of taking on the mighty United States. It thinks it can control the region and force its policies on its supporters.This explains the behavior of Tehran in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. It also explains the current visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Latin American countries, which are well-known for their anti-US policies. If Iran wants to nominate itself as a leader of the region, then we must awake it from its dream and remind it that all Gulf countries are united.

Iran’s dreams of expanding its power have brought it under the scrutiny of the United States, which is closely monitoring Tehran’s activities in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine where it is creating chaos and instability.

In this tense atmosphere, Ahmadinejad has angered Americans by visiting countries located in their backyard. The Iranian President has donated two billion dollars to the President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez for a fund to support countries which are against Washington....Iran is declaring war against the United States and trying to drag the Gulf countries into it without any thought for the tragic consequences of this dangerous game.

Tehran continues to stand against the international community, ignore warnings to abandon its nuclear program and insist on teasing superpowers. In 2003 as a part of its preemptive strike policy the US attacked Iraq, which was thought to have nuclear warheads. We wonder what Iran is trying to do by angering and challenging the United States.In our opinion a US strike on Iran is imminent to correct Tehran’s misguided policies, and prevent that country from becoming a black sheep in the Middle East...

Jimmy Carter Interceded on Behalf of a Nazi Murderer

From Arutz Sheva, Wednesday, January 17, 2007 ....

A former U.S. Justice Department official disclosed to Arutz-7 that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter ... interceded on behalf of a Nazi SS man.

Neil Sher, a veteran of the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigation, described a letter he received from Carter in 1987 in an interview with Israel National Radio’s Tovia Singer. The letter, written and signed by Carter, asked that Sher show “special consideration” for a man proven to have murdered Jews in the Mauthausen death camp in Austria.“

In 1987, Carter had been out of office for seven years or so,” Sher recalled. “It was a very active period for my office. We had just barred Kurt Waldheim – he was then president of Austria and former head of the United Nations – from entering the U.S. because of his Nazi past and his involvement in the persecution of civilians during the war. We had just deported an Estonian Nazi Commandant back to the Soviet Union .... “Also around that time, in the spring of 1987, we deported a series of SS guards from concentration camps, whose names nobody would know.

One such character we sent back to Austria was a man named Martin Bartesch.”Bartesch, who had immigrated to the U.S. and lived in Chicago, admitted to Sher’s office and the court that he had voluntarily joined the Waffen SS and had served in the notorious SS Death’s Head Division at the Mauthausen concentration camp where, at the hands of Bartesch and his cohorts, many thousands of prisoners were gassed, shot, starved and worked to death. He also confessed to having concealed his service at the infamous camp from U.S. immigration officials.

“We had an extraordinary piece of evidence against him – a book that was kept by the SS and captured by the American armed forces when they liberated Mauthausen,” Sher said. “We called it the death book. It was a roster that the Germans required them to keep that identified SS guards as they extended weapons to murder the inmates and prisoners.” An entry in the book for October 10, 1943 registered the shooting death of Max Oschorn, a French Jewish prisoner. His murderer was also recorded: SS guard Martin Bartesch. “It was a most chilling document,” Sher recalled. The same evidence was used by the U.S. military in postwar trials as the basis for execution or long prison sentences for many identified SS guards. “We kicked him out and he went back to Austria.

In the meantime, his family – he had adult kids – went on a campaign, also supported by his church, to try to get special treatment. In so doing they attacked the activities of our office and me personally. They claimed we used phony evidence from the Soviet Union – which was nonsense. They claimed he was a young man of only 17 or 18 when he joined the Nazi forces, asking for some sympathetic treatment and defense from our office, which they claimed was just after vengeance.”The family approached several members of Congress. “The congressmen would, very understandably, forward their claims over to our office and when they learned the facts they would invariably drop the case,” Sher recalled.

But there was one politician who accepted the claims without asking for any further information. “One day, in the fall of ’87, my secretary walks in and gives me a letter with a Georgia return address reading ‘Jimmy Carter.’ .....“On the upper corner of the letter was a note signed by Jimmy Carter saying that in cases such as this, he wanted ‘special consideration for the family for humanitarian reasons.’

“I didn’t respond to the letter – the case was already over and he was out of the country – but it always stuck in my craw. A former president who didn’t do what I would expect him to do - with a full staff at his disposal – to find out the facts before he took up the side of this person. But I wasn’t going to pick a fight with a former president. We had enough on our plate.”

Now, following Carter’s book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Sher has decided to go public with the hope that a public made aware of Carter’s support and defense of a Nazi SS man will help illustrate why the arbiter of the Camp David Accords came out with a book defending the Palestinians after the landslide election of the Islamist Hamas terror group. “It always bothered me, but I didn’t go public with it until recently, when he wrote this book and let it spill out where his sentiments really lie,” Sher said. “Here was Jimmy Carter jumping in on behalf of someone who did not deserve in any way, shape or form special consideration. And the things he has now said about the Jewish lobby really exposes where his heart really lies.”

Click here to listen to Tovia Singer’s interview with Sher on Israel National Radio.

Radical Islamic cleric sparks outrage in Australia

From Ynet News, 18/1/07, from Associated Press ....

In series of videotaped lectures Sheik Feiz Mohammed urges children to become martyrs for Islam, says Jews pigs on their way to hell

A radical Australian cleric drew widespread condemnation Thursday over videos in which he encourages children to become martyrs for Islam and ridicules Jews as pigs. Sheik Feiz Mohammed, head of the Global Islamic Youth Center in western Sydney, made the remarks on a series of videotaped lectures for sale in Australia and overseas.

“We want to have children and offer them as soldiers to the jihad,” the Australian-born cleric said on a portion of one of the tapes, aired on Australian television. ... “...Teach them this: There is nothing more beloved to me than wanting to die as a mujahid,” or holy warrior.

He also ridicules Jews as pigs, snorting and saying they will go to hell.

The sheik, who has spent the past year living in Lebanon, was not immediately available to comment. Calls went unanswered Thursday at the youth center, a volunteer-run organization that sponsors pajama parties, ping pong matches and rock climbing expeditions for young Muslims.

....His remarks have sparked a firestorm of condemnation in Australia.

Kevin Rudd, the opposition Labor Party leader, said the sheik should not return to Australia.
“These are appalling statements and they have no place in Australia,” Rudd told reporters. “As I see it Sheik Mohammed’s statements add up to incitement to terrorism.”

A senior government minister, Kevin Andrews, agreed. “All good-minded people, regardless of their religious beliefs or faith or none, I believe, would find these comments to be reprehensible and offensive - that is certainly the view of the Australian government,” said Andrews, the minister for workplace relations.

The chairman of the non-government Community Relations Commission, Stepan Kerkyasharian, said the sheik should be investigated under Australia’s strict anti-terror laws for possibly inciting violence....

Diplomacy in the Middle

From National Review Online, January 16, 2007, by The Editors ...

Arab diplomats like to say that 80 percent of the Middle East’s problems would disappear with a resolution of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. This is a fiction, and a self-serving one: It lets Arab rulers off the hook for their own malfeasance, and implies that America’s Middle East policy should start and end in Jerusalem. Condoleezza Rice seemed to bow to this reasoning by announcing Monday that she would attend a three-way summit with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in order to reboot the “peace process.” But Rice’s diplomatic mission needn’t be utterly a fool’s errand — depending on how the administration pursues its objectives beyond the borders of Gaza and the West Bank.

Within those borders, the diplomacy will probably accomplish nothing. Israel cannot make peace until it has a negotiating partner that both accepts its right to exist in security and enjoys sufficient power to keep in check those terroristic forces who don’t. Mahmoud Abbas may or may not be a reasonable man, but there is no question of his powerlessness. He holds no sway over the democratically elected murderers of Hamas, and he has lost much of his traditional control over the Fatah faction, which now vies with Hamas in a low-grade Palestinian civil war. Hardly the right conditions for a “final settlement.”

On the other hand, the diplomatic push is unlikely to make things much worse. Israel will never negotiate away its security; nor will the Bush administration — more attuned to Israel’s needs than any presidency in history — ask it to do so. What the talks might accomplish is a marginal increase in the Arab world’s perception that the United States is working to create a Palestinian state; and this might in turn better position the U.S. to win the cooperation of Arab states in pursuing its other, more important objectives.

.... if the U.S. is perceived as striving in earnest to resolve the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, Arab leaders will perhaps feel greater latitude to assist America in its more important priorities.

Precisely because these priorities — its new Iraq strategy and its adoption of a more aggressive stance toward Iran and Syria — are more important, the Bush administration must keep them front and center. The administration should use Rice’s mission as a justification to ask for Arab concessions on these fronts: “You want us to be more involved in the peace process? Fine. Now let’s talk about the rest of the Middle East.”

There are many things Arab states could do to be helpful: cracking down on terrorists and terrorist financing; forgiving Iraqi debt; supporting American diplomacy against Iran’s nuclear program; trying to peel Damascus away from Tehran.

.....It is unrealistic to hope that a new summit will produce solutions where decades of summits have failed. But diplomacy can occasionally achieve something even when it achieves nothing. And that is the best that can be said of Secretary Rice’s venture this week.

Ahmadinejad undermined

From The Guardian Tuesday January 16, 2007, by Robert Tait in Tehran ...

Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has suffered a potentially fatal blow to his authority after the country's supreme leader gave an apparent green light for MPs to attack his economic policies.

In an unprecedented rebuke, 150 parliamentarians signed a letter blaming Mr Ahmadinejad for raging inflation and high unemployment and criticising his government's failure to deliver the budget on time. They also condemned him for embarking on a tour of Latin America - from which he returns tomorrow - at a time of mounting crisis. The signatories included a majority of the president's former fundamentalist allies, now apparently seeking to distance themselves as his prestige wanes.

MPs also criticised Mr Ahmadinejad's role in the UN security council dispute over Iran's nuclear programme amid growing evidence that the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has ordered him to stay silent on the issue.

The supreme leader, who was hitherto loyal to the president, is said to blame Mr Ahmadinejad for last month's UN resolution imposing sanctions over Iran's refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment. Ayatollah Khamenei has ultimate authority on foreign policy, and is rumoured to be so disillusioned with Mr Ahmadinejad's performance that he has refused to meet him on occasion.

In a further indicator, Mohammad Reza Bahonar, the leader of parliament's fundamentalists and a former lieutenant who helped the president choose his cabinet, denounced Mr Ahmadinejad's economic policies as "wrong" and told him to stop blaming others.

The mounting criticism is fuelling speculation that Mr Ahmadinejad is politically doomed. Observers have even suggested he might be impeached and removed from office.
"Ahmadinejad's golden era is over and his honeymoon with the supreme leader is finished. He has problems even meeting the supreme leader," said an Iranian political commentator, Eesa Saharkhiz. "The countdown to his dismissal has already begun. There is a probability that he cannot even finish his current four-year period."

Signs of Mr Ahmadinejad's declining stock have emerged less than a month after a crushing defeat in local authority elections, when only a fifth of his supporters won seats. His most powerful political rival, Hashemi Rafsanjani, also topped the poll in elections to the expert's assembly, a body empowered to appoint and supervise the supreme leader. Mr Rafsanjani has been a vocal critic of the president's strident anti-western rhetoric and has urged compromise on the nuclear issue.

.... Iran's deepening economic woes, which prompted Sunday's letter from MPs, suggest that the worst may have yet to come for a man elected on promises to raise living standards and distribute the nation's oil wealth more evenly. Those pledges jar with increasingly grim realities. Inflation is higher than when Mr Ahmadinejad took office 17 months ago, while unemployment, officially estimated at 12% but probably much higher, has not improved. Uncontrolled inflation has resulted in soaring food prices and has had a drastic effect on the housing market. Anecdotal evidence suggests house prices and rents in Tehran have risen 50% in six months.

In a poignant development, the government plans to ration petrol to cut rising import costs incurred by Iran's lack of refinery capacity. The proposal gives an ironic twist to Mr Ahmadinejad's election promise to put the country's oil wealth "on people's tables".

....Critics believe the economic situation is urgent and that Mr Ahmadinejad's place is at home and not in Latin America.

One hundred and fifty of Iran's 290 MPs signed the letter condemning President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's economic policies. Government figures put the inflation rate at 10-15%. Anecdotal experience suggests that the figure is higher. More than 17 million Iranians voted for the president in his election victory over Hashemi Rafsanjani in June 2005. However, the country's supreme leader - the most powerful figure in its theocratic system - is chosen by clerics. The supreme leader has the final say on foreign affairs, military matters and a range of other areas. Mr Ahmadinejad's four-day tour of Latin America took him to Venezuela, to meet President Hugo Chávez, to Nicaragua, where he met President Daniel Ortega, and to Ecuador, where he attended President Rafael Correa's inauguration. All three men share the Iranian president's hostility to Washington and President George Bush.

Just who exactly is a 'moderate' Arab leader?

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Jan. 16, 2007, by Michael Freund [my emphasis added - SL]...

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has come and gone on her latest visit to the Middle East, but about the only thing she left behind was a trail of confusion and bewilderment.

Prior to Rice's arrival, her trip was billed as an effort to bolster "moderate Arab leaders" in the area. On January 9, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters that one of the secretary's goals would be to "support those forces of moderation in the region." That sounds reasonable enough. After all, the Middle East could certainly use a healthy dose of restraint.

But after watching Ms. Rice's performance over the past few days, it should now be clear that her idea of what constitutes a "moderate Arab leader" is way off the mark, and this should leave us all deeply concerned about the future.

Take, for example, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whom Rice put forward as a model of moderation. Standing next to Abbas at a press conference in Ramallah on Sunday, the secretary of state practically gushed with enthusiasm when she said in her opening remarks, "I want everyone to know, particularly the Palestinian people, how much we admire the leadership of President Abbas as a leader of the Palestinian people."

And yet, it was just last Thursday, three days prior to meeting with Rice, that Abbas publicly called upon Palestinians to attack Israel. SPEAKING at a rally to mark the 42nd anniversary of the founding of Fatah, Abbas told a huge crowd gathered in Ramallah, "With the will and determination of its sons, Fatah will continue. We will not give up our principles and we have said that rifles should be directed against the occupation.....We have a legitimate right to direct our guns against Israeli occupation..." .

Is this the kind of "moderation" Rice had in mind? Indeed, despite Abbas's outrageous call to arms, Rice did not say a word - not a single, solitary word! - about it during her joint press conference with him. She did not see fit to demand a retraction from Abbas of this outrageous invitation to violence, nor did she press him to refrain from inciting further bloodshed. Instead, Rice chose to heap additional praise on Abbas, telling the assembled journalists that "we've made a lot of progress over recent years, in particular because of the hard work of President Abbas."


What progress is she referring to? To the ongoing Palestinian rocket attacks against southern Israel? To the kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Shalit? Or perhaps to the growing popularity of Hamas and Islamic Jihad among the Palestinian electorate? To be sure, when one compares Abbas with the "genocide now" crowd over at Hamas, he might appear to be a tad bit less extreme. But the gap between "less extreme" and "moderate" is vast, and the two cannot and should not be confused.

AND THEREIN lies the problem with Rice's misguided compliments to Abbas. By embracing him rather than rebuking him, she encouraged the Palestinian leader to believe that he can openly call for violence against Jews without paying any political price for doing so. Her actions also sent a dangerous message to Palestinians, who might start to think that America's top diplomat sees nothing wrong with their leader's plea to start using their rifles against the Jewish state.

Rice's confused idea of "moderation" was further on display in Egypt, where she met on Monday with Egyptian autocrat Hosni Mubarak and his foreign minister, Aboul Gheit. Later, at a press conference with Gheit, Rice again had nothing but praise for her hosts, asserting that, "Egypt is really a partner." What she neglected to mention, of course, was that Mr. Mubarak rules his domain in the finest tradition of the Pharaohs, suppressing dissent, tossing his political opponents into prison, and fixing the outcome of elections to his liking. Egypt has also allowed untold quantities of weapons to be smuggled freely into Gaza, into the waiting arms of terrorist groups, and it has refused to crack down on the flow of funds to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Some "partner."

We are sure to be treated to a continuation of this spectacle in the coming days, as Rice travels to the Gulf to meet with other "moderates" such as the terror-sponsoring Saudis and some of their Israel-boycotting neighbors.

AND THAT should have us all deeply worried, because the issue of just who is a moderate Arab leader is far more than just one of semantics. It goes to the very root of US foreign policy in the region. For by misidentifying or mischaracterizing various Arab leaders as "moderates," Rice and others do real harm to the very cause they seek to advance. Rather than encouraging moderation, they are in fact unwittingly promoting extremism by failing to call to account leaders such as Abbas, Mubarak and others.

And by blurring the definition of true moderation, they have allowed these men to continue to pursue policies that are antithetical to Israel and the West, all while continuing to bask in the undeserved political support they receive from abroad. The question of "just who exactly is a moderate Arab leader," and whether any really exist, remains open to debate. But by conferring this title upon despots and dictators, and those who sponsor terror, the US secretary of state is doing far more damage than good.

'Now Peretz and Olmert must go'

From, Jan. 17, 2007, by JPOST.COM STAFF ...

Politicians from the left, right, and center said Chief of General Staff Dan Halutz's sudden resignation provided an opportunity for much-needed rehabilitation within the IDF following the summer's fighting with Hizbullah. (See The second Lebanon war: special report)

Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor) said the resignation of Halutz was "part of an inevitable process," and expressed hope that it was "the first step in remedying the crisis of confidence facing the army and the defense establishment, and an opportunity to build from anew the IDF's deterrence."
MK Arye Eldad (NU-NRP) said that it was a "shame that [Halutz] wasted four precious months needed to rehabilitate the IDF."

"Now, [Defense Minister] Amir Peretz and [Prime Minister] Ehud Olmert have to go, because the entire country, and not just the IDF, needs to be purified." Gilad Arden (Likud) said the defense minister and the prime minister should be excluded from this rebuilding process, and that Halutz's replacements should be chosen by a panel of experts appointed by the Knesset.
"Olmert's and Peretz's understanding of national security is close to nil, and their input on the selection of the next chief of staff, at this point, would likely be based on political calculations."

Knesset Member Zeheva Gal-On (Meretz) concurred: "the prime minister and defense minister lack the ethical validity to appoint the next chief of staff [because] the responsibility for the failures of the Second Lebanon War can not be attributed solely to the military's upper echelons, but also to the politicians that made irresponsible decisions during the fighting."

"In a framework where there are so many problems from top to bottom, at the end of the day responsibility lies with the individual at the top of the pyramid, just as in any other profession, reservist protest leader Roni Tzvangenboim said of Halutz's resignation. However, Tzvangenboim said the sudden resignation signinified only a partial realization of the movement's goals and that the struggle would continue. "I don't sleep at night for fear of the nextwar. We are not interested in right or left, we are sick of politics, scandals, and failures. We need a complete overhaul from the leadership in the last war, period," Tzvangenboim said.

The protest movement of the families echoed his sentiments, saying that Halutz's resignation was only the first goal in battle to have those responsible for the war's failures be held accountable. "158 deaths should have been good enough reasons for the chief of general staff, defense minister, and the prime minister to resign," the families said in a statement.
"We call on the Prime Minister to give the bereaved families, and to the Israeli nation, a chance to recover from his leadership."

Halutz: I made my decision out of loyalty to the IDF

From JPost, Jan. 17, 2007, by JPOST.COM STAFF ....

In his first public appearance since he handed in his resignation, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. -Gen. Dan Halutz spoke during a ceremony marking the graduation of Naval commanders in Haifa, saying that he made the decision "based on deep-rooted values, those of strong ethics, loyalty to the organization and integrity.....I served the army responsibly for over four decades, and this responsibility continued in the last few months. It is this responsibility that led me to announce my resignation."

Defense Minister Amir Peretz, also present at the ceremony, praised Halutz as a soldier and a commander and stressed that the new chief of staff would be chosen without delay. "I have begun the process necessary for choosing the next chief of staff. This process will be swift, legal and responsible. The only consideration facing me is Israel's security," Peretz said.
Peretz praised Halutz's conduct following the war. "The chief of general staff has conducted the process necessary to transform the crisis of the Lebanon war into leverage for change.....The scope and depth of the probes is unprecedented. The probes retain a high level of clarity towards Israel's security establishment as well as the public."

Peretz said Halutz's decision was "premature. I am sorry he won't be with us to complete the task" of rejuvinating the army after the failures of the summer's war in Lebanon. "We have much work to do, said Peretz, adding "I say to the chief of staff: I lament your decision but respect it."

Peretz also sent out a warning to Israel's enemies: "Do not misinterpret the chief of staff's resignation. Do not make the mistake of seeing this as a sign of weakness - it is a sign of our national strength."

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

New far-right "group" in EU assembly

From Reuters, Tue Jan 16, 2007, by Darren Ennis ...

STRASBOURG, France - A European Parliament committee is to investigate the legality of the assembly's first ever far-right political group just hours after its formation, officials said on Tuesday.

The new group -- called Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty (ITS) -- took to the legislature's floor for the first time on Tuesday and has managed to cause 24 hours of chaos within the assembly which is sitting in the French city of Strasbourg. Numerous lawmakers led by German socialist leader Martin Schulz called for a boycott of the new group and question their legitimacy.
Others said that while they did not agree with the group of Eurosceptic and anti-immigration deputies, they were democratically entitled to form a group.

But Schulz has asked the parliament's constitutional affairs committee to investigate on the grounds that it is a "technical" rather than a "political" grouping which would be in breach of the parliament's rules, assembly officials told Reuters.....

....This argument was upheld in 2001 by the European Court of Justice - the EU's highest court - when a like-minded group was formed. The court ruled that the Technical Group of Independents did not have a common political platform.

Setting up such a group means deputies such as Bruno Gollnisch, facing charges for denying the Holocaust and Alessandro Mussolini, grand-daughter of Benito Mussolini, will get more speaking time and more seats on parliamentary committees. They will also receive more funding, worth in the region of 50,000 euros ($64,860) for each member. "I will do whatever I can to stop this sort of group getting any power," Schulz told a news conference.

But ITS leader Gollnisch, from France's Front National party, said such a move was undemocratic. "Every member should have the same rights and the rules are the same," he told reporters. The group which plans to campaign against the EU constitution, immigration and Turkish membership of the bloc is entitled to at least two vice-presidents on the assembly's various committees due to be voted upon next week.

The European People's Party -- parliament's largest group -- and the third largest Liberal grouping have both said they will not vote for any members nominated by the new group.
But it accepted that it was entitled to exist under the rules.

Groups in the parliament, representing different political interests, control the EU legislature's agenda, voting pacts, speaking time and seats on powerful parliamentary committees, where much of the work is done. The EU assembly has become increasingly more powerful in drafting legislation in key areas such as transport, the internal market and environment.

Russia confirms weapons sale to Iran

From Associated Press, THE JERUSALEM POST , Jan. 16, 2007....

Russia's defense minister said Tuesday that Russia has sold Tor-M1 air defense missile systems to Iran. It was the first high-level confirmation that such a sale took place.

"We sent Tor-M1 missiles to Iran in accordance with the contract," Sergei Ivanov told reporters. Previous reports had cited unnamed officials reporting the sale.

Also see Jerusalem Post's Burning Issues #18: Is Russia an ally of Iran?

Ivanov did not specify how many missile systems had been delivered, but a ministry official speaking on condition of anonymity said not all the systems contracted for had been delivered.
Ministry officials have previously said Moscow would supply 29 of the sophisticated missile systems to Iran under a $700 million contract signed in December, according to Russian media reports. "If the Iranian leadership has a desire to purchase more defense weapons, we would do that," Ivanov said, without elaborating.

....Russian media have reported previously that Moscow had conducted talks on selling even more powerful long-range S-300 air defense missiles, but Russian officials have denied that.
Moscow already has a lucrative, $800 million contract to build Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, which is nearly complete.

Russia strongly supports Iran's right to nuclear energy but has joined the United States and Europe in demanding it halt enrichment to ease concerns.

No government officials involved in secret Syria talks

From Haaretz, 16/01/2007 ...

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday that no government officials were involved in secret contacts with Syria, responding to a Haaretz report that understandings on a peace agreement between Jerusalem and Damascus were formulated in a series of secret meetings in Europe between September 2004 and July 2006.

"No one in the government was involved in this matter," Olmert told reporters in northern Israel. "It was a private initiative on the part of an individual who spoke with himself. From what I read, his interlocutor was an eccentric from the U.S., someone not serious or dignified." The Syrian Foreign Ministry also rejected the report.

"No negotiations took place, the Haaretz report is completely false," a Syrian Foreign Ministry official said in Damascus.....

.... "This is the first we have heard of the talks, we have never sanctioned anybody to speak to the Syrians and the prime minister first learned of these conversations through the newspaper report this morning," said Olmert's spokeswoman Miri Eisin.

.....Former foreign minister Silvan Shalom said that he first learned of the talks by reading Tuesday's paper. He said the last contact Israel had with a Syrian representative was in 2003.

....A figure described as a very senior official in the office of then-prime minister Ariel Sharon was quoted as saying that "there was no reports to Sharon, there were no reports to his office, ... this never happened....This is absolute nonsense."

Allied naval force sails for Gulf

From The Times, January 16, 2007, by Richard Beeston, Diplomatic Editor...

Britain is joining an American military campaign to blunt Iranian influence in Iraq and the Gulf. In a move likely to heighten tension in an already volatile part of the world, US forces have been ordered to detain Iranian agents in Iraq and to strengthen substantially America’s military presence in the Gulf.

Two Royal Navy minehunters have arrived in the Gulf to reinforce a naval frigate on patrol in the area. “We are going after their [Iran’s] networks in Iraq,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the outgoing US Ambassador to Baghdad, said. The aim was to change the behaviour of the Islamic regime in Tehran, he added.

Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, accused Tehran of “very negative behaviour”.
Twice in the past few weeks US forces have detained Iranian officials in Iraq, first in Baghdad and last week in the northern city of Arbil..... Although Mr Gates was recently an advocate of opening dialogue with Iran, as recommended by the Iraq Study Group, he told a Nato meeting yesterday that now is not the time to talk. Tehran’s behaviour justified America’s decision to beef up its presence. “We are simply reaffirming that statement of the importance of the Gulf region to the United States and our determination to be an ongoing strong presence in the area for a long time into the future,” said Mr Gates.

The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier group entered the Gulf in December.
It will be joined by the USS John C. Stennis carrier group. This is the first time since the invasion of Iraq four years ago that the US has deployed two carrier strike groups in the Gulf at one time.

In addition, President Bush has ordered the deployment of an air defence battalion equipped with Patriot missile batteries to protect America’s Gulf Arab allies from possible air attack from Iran. Britain’s contribution is two minehunters HMS Blyth and HMS Ramsey, which will remain in the Gulf for an unusually-long two-year mission to keep shipping routes open in the event that Iran attempts to block oil exports.

....In spite of Iran’s defiant stand, there were reports yesterday that Tehran wanted to ease tensions with Washington. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad reportedly sent a letter to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia asking him to relay a goodwill message to Dr Rice, who arrived in Riyadh last night.

The US military build-up is seen as an attempt by Washington to ease concerns among its traditional Arab allies in the region, like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, whose leaders have spoken out repeatedly against the danger of Iran extending its influence across the Middle East.

....Referring to Iran’s refusal to accept repeated international calls to stop elements of its nuclear programme, Mr Gates said: “My view is that when the Iranians are prepared to play a constructive role in dealing with some of these problems, then there might be opportunities for engagement.”

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Expert Searches for Jewish issues

From Zionism on the Web ....

....Searches for Zionism and on Zionism or Israel related topics tend to give rather nasty results. This is a result of a small number of antisemitic sites who work closely with each other, combined with a dose of far left anti-Zionism mixed with propoganda from Arab states.....

.....Google works on an algorithm, without human intervention to check the sources and filter out the rotten apples, this algorithm treats David Irving's views on the Holocaust as equally valid to those of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Authority. Given that Irving was found by a UK court of law to be lying in his "Holocaust Research" and intentionally misleading the public (all this before he was jailed for Holocaust denial in Austria), and given that Yad Vashem is the leading authority on the Holocaust in the World... there is clearly something wrong with relying on Google's algorithm. A side effect of the algorithm is that minority opinions gets a much higher ranking. This is simply becuase there are less places people wanting to talk about these opinions can link to. the way the google algorithm works, 10 people all linking to each other makes those sites rank much more highly than 100 people each linking to 10 out ofthe hundred sites.....

There are a number of ways of adding this search to your site. Go to the Zionism on the Web site to add thier expert search engine to your site.

Hamas will never recognize Israel

From Reuters, Mon Jan 15, 2007 ...

GAZA (Reuters) - Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said on Monday the Islamist militant group Hamas would never recognize Israel.

Haniyeh, a Hamas leader, said in an interview from Gaza with Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah's al-Manar television station: "Hamas will never recognize the legitimacy of the occupation (Israel)....Hamas will never show flexibility over the issue of recognizing the legitimacy of the occupation..." ....

....Last week, the movement's exiled leader Khaled Meshaal told Reuters in an interview in Damascus where he is based that Hamas does "not talk about recognizing Israel or accepting it as a reality"....

Monday, January 15, 2007

U.S targets Iran, Syria networks in Iraq

From Reuters, Mon Jan 15, 2007 ...

BAGHDAD - The United States plans to "go after" what it said were networks of Iranian and Syrian agents in Iraq, U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said on Monday.

"We're going after their networks in Iraq," he told a news conference, as he laid out the new U.S. and Iraqi strategy to end sectarian violence -- by both Sunnis and Shi'ites -- at what Khalilzad called a "defining moment" for Iraq.

U.S. forces are holding five Iranians following a raid on an Iranian government office in Arbil last week -- the second such operation in recent weeks......."We will target these networks in the ..... expectation of changing the behavior of these states," Khalilzad said. He said some of the five arrested in Arbil were members of the Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, which he said was directly involved in supplying weapons to militants in Iraq.

U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said on Sunday that there would probably be more such operations against suspected foreign agents.

A Christian Exodus From the Arab World

Doron draws our attention to this, from the Assyrian International News Agency (ANINA), 11/1/07, by Amira El Ahl, Daniel Steinvorth, Volkhard Windfuhr and Bernhard Zand ....

Violence, terrorism and the Islamists' growing influence pose a threat to Christianity in the Middle East. In some countries, members of an unpopular Christian minority are already fighting for their survival -- or fleeing for their lives.

....Christians have lived in the Arab world for the past 2,000 years. They were there before the Muslims. Their current predicament is not the first crisis they have faced and, compared to the massacres of the past, it is certainly not the most severe in Middle Eastern Christianity. But in some countries, it could be the last one. Even the pope, in his Christmas address, mentioned the "small flock" of the faithful in the Middle East, who he said are forced to live with "little light and too much shadow," and demanded that they be given more rights.

There are no reliable figures on the size of Christian minorities in the Middle East. This is partly attributable to an absence of statistics, and partly to the politically charged nature of producing such statistics in the first place. Lebanon's last census was taken 74 years ago. Saddam Hussein, a Sunni who is himself part of a minority, was fundamentally opposed to compiling denominational statistics. In Egypt the number of Christians fluctuates between five and 12 million, depending on who is counting.

Given the lack of hard numbers, demographers must rely on estimates, whereby Christians make up about 40 percent of the population in Lebanon, less than 10 percent in Egypt and Syria, two to four percent in Jordan and Iraq and less than one percent in North Africa. But the major political changes that are currently affecting the Middle East have led to shrinking Christian minorities.

In East Jerusalem, where half of the population was Christian until 1948, the year of the first Arab-Israeli war, less than five percent of residents are Christian today. In neighboring Jordan, the number of Christians was reduced by half between the 1967 Six Day War and the 1990s. There were only 500,000 Christians still living in Iraq until recently, compared to 750,000 after the 1991 Gulf War. Wassim, one of the seminary students now fleeing to Kurdistan, estimates that half of those remaining Christians have emigrated since the 2003 US invasion, most of them in the last six months.

Demographics have accelerated this development. Christians, often better educated and more affluent than their Muslim neighbors, have fewer children. Because the wave of emigration has been going on for decades, many Middle Eastern Christians now have relatives in Europe, North America and Australia who help them emigrate. Their high level of education increases their chances of obtaining visas. Those who leave are primarily members of the elite: doctors, lawyers and engineers.

But there are deeper-seated reasons behind the most recent exodus: the demise of secular movements and the growing influence of political Islam in the Middle East.

It was a Syrian Christian, Michel Aflaq, who founded the nationalist Baath movement in 1940, a career ladder for Iraqi Christians until 2003 and still a political safe haven for many Syrian Christians today. Former Egyptian President Gamal Abd al-Nasser had no qualms about paying homage to the Virgin Mary, who supposedly appeared on a church roof in a Cairo suburb after Egypt's defeat in its 1967 war with Israel. And former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, who died in 2004, insisted on sitting in the first row in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity during the annual Christmas service.

But those days are gone. The last prominent Christians -- Chaldean Tariq Aziz, Saddam's foreign minister for many years, and Hanan Ashrawi, Arafat's education minister -- have vanished from the political stage in the Middle East. And since the election victories of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas in the Palestinian Authority, the rise of Hezbollah in Lebanon and the bloody power struggles between Sunni and Shiite militias in Iraq, the illusion that Christian politicians could still play an important role in the Arab world is gone once and for all.

Bolton: Sanctions won't stop Iran

From The Australian, January 15, 2007, by Sarah Baxter, Washington [my emphasis added - SL]....

AS America's ambassador to the UN, John Bolton was no tame diplomat..... He is a free man now and eager to have his say.

Bolton engaged in tortuous negotiations over sanctions for Iran and North Korea's nuclear programs with little confidence they would work. "I wouldn't have engaged in negotiations with Iran in the first place," he said, evidently disdainful of Britain, France and Germany's years of reaching out to Iran. "The policy has failed. Sanctions won't stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons."

.....Bolton's disillusion with the UN is such that he would like it to face competition from other international organisations. "The choice is to fix it or go somewhere else," he said.
He favours building up NATO as a rival in the belief that it could expand into a "caucus of democracies" - a permanent coalition of the willing. ....."I think NATO should go global. There is no reason why Japan and Australia shouldn't join."

NATO could also make room for Israel. "Why not?" he said. "It's a European country, fundamentally. Turkey is a European country and it is further east."

Bolton believes that Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, is wasting her time trying to restart the Middle East peace process. The Arab-Israeli conflict was "not a priority", he added. "I don't see linkage to Iraq, and Hamas and Fatah are in a state of civil war."

....In Bolton's view, America needs to take the lead in global affairs rather than the ineffectual UN because "who else will?".

Now back at the American Enterprise Institute, an old perch, he has taken over the office of the late Jeanne Kirkpatrick, another outspoken UN ambassador, who was every bit as ardent a defender of the perceived national interest.

One of his greatest concerns is the threat to Israel and the West posed by Iran's nuclear program. Regime change is "preferable" to striking Iran's sites, he noted, but "the only course worse than the use of force is an Iran with nuclear weapons".

"There are all kinds of ways to change the regime," Bolton added, citing covert and overt means to topple the theocracy. "We have an extensive diaspora of people with Iranian heritage in America who we don't use effectively."

Once that is sorted out, there is still the problem of what to do with Iraq. Unlike Bush, Bolton believes Iraq is already at war with itself: "The fundamental point is whether the civil war that exists is going to continue."

Bolton has often been mistaken for a neocon, but while he considers democracy preferable to other forms of government, he does not consider it America's duty to spread it. The shape and form of the nation is irrelevant: what matters is that Iraq is either tolerably pro-Western or de-fanged. He has no regrets about the removal of Saddam Hussein; now it is up to the Iraqis if they want to engage in "fratricide". The same goes for partition: "If the future of Iraq is to stay together, that's fine. If not, I couldn't care less from a strategic perspective."

In that sense, he is the authentic voice of the pre-September 11 Bush, before the President chose spreading the "fire of freedom" as the best way to protect his country from terrorism. Will America revert to its traditional moorings? Bolton is out of the UN but he could fit in with the new conservative thinking.

The Sunday Times

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The blight of corrosive corruption

From Jerusalem Post, January 14, 2007, by Isi Leibler ...

Of late, many of us have been warning that corruption poses a greater threat to our future than our external adversaries and that, unless reversed, like a cancer it will ultimately destroy the Zionist dream.

Alas, today the stench of corruption has become all-pervasive. We are drowning in a sea of moral turpitude. Even as we abide by the principal of presumption of innocence until convicted in a court of law, too much is going on for us not to be sickened by what surrounds us. Each time we think we have reached the bottom, another layer of sleaze is exposed. Our rage, contempt and disillusionment grow daily. Morale has reached an all-time low.

The government, civil service, business sector and all levels of society have become degraded by leaders willing to forgo ethical norms and decency because of greed and the selfish pursuit of personal agendas. The collapse of public morality was undoubtedly a major factor contributing to the leadership breakdown during the bungled Lebanon war.....

....We also face problems with our law enforcement authorities. The moment the police possesses potentially incriminating information, it seems predisposed to leak the details to the media even before the suspect has been indicted. .... There have been cases where, following police leaks, reputations were permanently tarnished when individuals accused in the media of criminal behavior were not indicted, yet unable to exonerate themselves.

The fault lies with the attorney-general. He should realize that a presumption of innocence until conviction remains the hallowed hallmark of a democracy. He must insist that leaks to the media from the police result in severe disciplinary action....

....There are now genuine grounds for hoping that we will soon witness an end to the sleaze. Once the present dysfunctional government goes - which is only a matter of time - the next prime minister will be obliged to make the elimination of corruption a central objective. Binyamin Netanyahu, one of the main contenders, has already publicly confronted the Likud Central Committee and demanded reforms. Our responsibility as concerned citizens is to continue exerting pressure to achieve governance, financial transparency and trust, in order to ensure that Israel remains a viable democratic state.

The writer chairs the Diaspora-Israel relations committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and is a veteran international Jewish leader.