Saturday, February 03, 2007

Clerics announce that killing is prohibited (especially of Muslims)

...and now a report on Lebanese "religious, political and academic" activities, from Ynet News, 2/2/07 ...

....Fearing a slide into civil war, Lebanon's top Sunni Muslim clerics have issued a religious edict prohibiting Muslims killing their fellow countrymen -- especially Muslims -- or attacking private and public property.

Last week, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Shiite Muslim Hizbullah group ... issued a similar fatwa, or religious ruling, following one of the nation's worst violent sectarian clashes in years.

Maronite Christian clerics also called for a "truce among the nation's sons."

"It is religiously prohibited to engage in fighting with fellow Lebanese in general and Muslims in particular and to attack private and public property," said a statement by the Council of Lebanese Scholars, a Sunni body, that was published in Lebanese newspapers Friday.

... Last week's violence that began with a scuffle in the cafeteria of a Beirut university between Sunni Muslims and supporters of the Shiite Hizbullah quickly moved into the surrounding streets where cars were set ablaze and battles raged with homemade clubs and stones. At least three people were killed and dozens were injured before army troops backed by tanks dispersed most rioters. The military then declared Beirut's first curfew since 1996.

The Sunni council statement also called on the opposition to end its sit-in in downtown Beirut and "return to the constitutional institutions to assume political duties." Street protests, it said, "will not produce any results but will only widen divisions." It called on the political leaders to "ameliorate their speeches" in order to avoid a situation that would lead to civil strife. The best way to resolve the current crisis, it said, was to revive the dialogue that was suspended last November.

Local media also reported that Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa will return to Lebanon next week to revive his mediation talks with the rival sides.

...ooh la-la from la-la land

...and now some comedy from Reuters, 2/7/07 ...[This is amazing. A frenchman somewhere woke up, lit a Gauloise and had a flash of inspiration....]

PARIS (Reuters) - Deputies from France's ruling centre-right UMP party have called on President Jacques Chirac to persuade his European colleagues to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization [wow - really?].

...Hezbollah does not appear on the European Union's list of terrorist groups.

In a letter to Chirac, sent earlier this month and released on Friday, some 40 lawmakers said France should "propose the inscription of Hezbollah on the list of terrorist organizations during the next European Union council meeting". [Can I order a video of the debate? It'll be a hoot - SL]

"The situation in the Middle East is explosive," it said. "Hezbollah plays an important role in the Lebanese crisis. Financed and instrumentalized by Iran and Syria, it seriously threatens the possibility of a peace solution in this region."

"We must be clear and admit that Hezbollah is at the origin of multiple attacks, hostage-taking and arms traffic," it said.

There was no comment from Chirac's office....

Friday, February 02, 2007

Iran gets involved in Palestinian "politics"

And now a round-up of reports on Palestinian internal "political and academic" activity

...first from The Australian, 3/2/07, by Abraham Rabinovich ...

Iranians seized in attack on Hamas enclave

JERUSALEM: Seven Iranian weapons experts were seized yesterday in a raid by Fatah-affiliated security forces on the Islamic University, a Hamas stronghold in Gaza eighth Iranian was reported to have committed suicide rather than be taken prisoner.... the Iranians included intelligence and chemical experts and a senior military officer.

The Israeli news site Y-Net quoted a Palestinian source as saying the officer was a general.
Although Hamas and Islamic Jihad are known to have sent agents to Iran for training, this is the first report of Iranian personnel in the Palestinian territories.

....Israel has long claimed members of the Iranian Republican Guard are posted in Lebanon to train Hezbollah fighters.

Violence between Hamas and Fatah has claimed almost 70 lives and left hundreds wounded since last month....

From Reuters, 2/2/07, by Nidal al-Mughrabi ...

GAZA (Reuters) - Fighting between rival Palestinian factions escalated across Gaza on Friday, killing at least 17 people, as Hamas overran compounds used by President Mahmoud Abbas's forces and two major universities were set ablaze.

...Residents of the narrow coastal Gaza Strip, home to 1.5 million Palestinians, hid in their homes instead of attending Friday prayers as the rivals fought running gunbattles with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades from streets and rooftops....."Gaza is being burned down," Arafat Abu Eyad said from his smoke-filled balcony overlooking smoldering buildings.....

Nine fighters loyal to Abbas, four Hamas gunmen and four civilians, including two children, were killed on Friday in a second day of clashes in Gaza that shattered a three-day-old truce between Fatah and the ruling Islamist movement.

Unidentified gunmen also shot at a vehicle carrying Fatah officials, wounding eight people, Palestinian security sources said. Near the West Bank town of Nablus, unidentified militants shot and wounded a Hamas gunman, security sources there said.

At least 23 Palestinians have been killed and more than 200 wounded in the last 24 hours of internecine fighting....

....Hours after Fatah gunmen set ablaze Islamic University, a Hamas stronghold, explosions and fires ripped through the nearby campus of al-Quds University, a Fatah bastion. Hamas denied any involvement in the al-Quds attack.

Hamas also pounded a base used by Abbas's presidential guard with mortar bombs and took it over. Hamas said it seized weapons at the base before setting it on fire.

Ashraf Reziq, who lives a block from the Islamic University, said nobody felt safe. "Gaza has turned into a city of ghosts," the 22-year-old said. "No one is in the streets ... if we have one thing at all, it is fear."

From Ynet News, 2/2/07, by Ali Waked .....

A ceasefire agreed upon by the two rival factions earlier this week collapsed on Thursday, touching off deadly clashes that claimed the lives of 25 people, including four children. Hospital officials said were running out of blood to treat the wounded, who numbered 250....

.... Four Fatah-affiliated security officers, including the intelligence commander in the northern Gaza Strip, who were killed Friday morning in battles with Hamas members in the Gaza Strip. A Hamas member was killed later Friday.

Palestinian officials said an 11-year-old child and the wife of a Palestinian security officer were also among the casualties. A five- and an eight-year-old were also killed.

On Thursday evening, six Palestinians were killed as Fatah-affiliated security officers raided the Islamic University in Gaza, a Hamas stronghold, and arrested at least five Iranian agents.

Fatah officials claimed soon after the raid that the Iranian agents were dispatched by Tehran to Gaza to assist Hamas in building up it military wing and manufacture sophisticated weapons.

Hamas members responded with a counter attack on Friday morning during which over a dozen posts belonging to the Palestinian security forces were seized. Fatah-affiliated security officers were held hostage, and some posts were demolished.

Eyewitnesses reported that during the Hamas raid, heavy exchanges of fire erupted in the Saraya compound, near Abbas' office. The headquarters of most Palestinian security organizations are located in the compound, where Hamas claims Fatah is storing weapon shipments.

...On Thursday evening, before the university raid, Hamas gunmen ambushed what the Islamist group said was a convoy carrying weapons to Abbas' presidential guard unit in the Gaza Strip.

Six Fatah members were killed, more than 70 people were injured and at least 12 gunmen of both rival factions were kidnapped in ensuing clashes.

Not One Thin Dime for Abbas

From The National Review Online, January 31, 2007, by Andrew C. McCarthy [an excllent article, posted in FULL - my own emphasis added]...

When will the madness end? When will the Bush administration and ... State Department finally stop their deranged midwifery of the Palestinian terror state ...?

On Monday, a 21-year-old suicide bomber, Muhammad Faisal al-Siksik, self-detonated at a bakery in the coastal town of Eilat on the Red Sea. Three innocents were killed..... The operation was carried out by the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, working in conjunction with Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The Aqsa Brigades are not just any group of terrorists. They are the most ruthless, accomplished terror wing of Fatah, the organization bequeathed to us by the late Yasser Arafat. The Bush administration delusionally regards Fatah and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas (also known as “Abu Mazen”), as the “moderate” Palestinian faction. There is nothing moderate about them. Yet, the administration appears determined to play this foolish game to its inevitable end because, like its starry-eyed predecessor, it is entranced by the holy grail of Israeli/Palestinian peace.

Peace, of course, would require two sides desirous of coexistence. We’re one short. Palestinians do not seek to coexist with Israel. They seek to destroy Israel. But that may have to await their annihilation of each other, with Fatah and its fellow thug, Hamas, now locked in a struggle for control. Hamas is proudly unyielding in its announced intention to vaporize the “Zionist entity.”

By contrast, Fatah is cagier but no less determined. In the Arafat style, it feints every now and again toward negotiation with Israel. There is, after all, a trough of Western billions for any Palestinian leadership willing to affect aspiration toward the Clinton/Bush nirvana: two states, Israel and “Palestine,” living side-by-side in peace. Fatah needs those billions to keep its operatives loyal. Historically, it is a pervasively corrupt, creakily socialist outfit — a former Soviet client averse to elementary economic development. But the act is just that, an act.

The Fatah constitution still calls for the “eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence[,]” through an “armed revolution” which is to be the “decisive factor in the liberation fight and in uprooting the Zionist existence” — a revolution that “will not cease unless the Zionist state is demolished and Palestine is completely liberated.”

Consistent with this overarching plan, the U.S.-led “peace process” has been a 14-year sham — hence, the intervening Intifada and related terror gambits. Fatah may occasionally say it will live with Israel, but it has demonstrated, repeatedly, that it will never agree to the commonsense requirements of coexistence: It not only demands land and Jerusalem as its national capital; it refuses to disarm terrorist militias and insists on a refugee “right of return” — an influx of well over a million Palestinians that would effectively destroy the tiny Jewish state from within.

By our State Department’s lights, this qualifies as “moderation” — perhaps because Hamas’s direct approach is bereft of diplomatic nicety, while the savvier Fatah seems willing to attrit Israel to death. (Such new gloss on the withering Bush Doctrine is also on display in Baghdad, where the administration now regularly consults with Abdul Azziz al-Hakim, or, as the White House describes him, “His Eminence,” leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq — a creation of Iran).

The murderous Aqsa Brigades, however, put the lie to Fatah’s charade rather embarrassingly. They were officially designated by the United States government as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2002 after executing a series of atrocities conjoined to Arafat’s orchestration of the second Intifada, which began in late 2000 and has never officially ended. There is no question the Brigades are part and parcel of Fatah. Documents seized by the Israeli Defense Force established that Arafat was paying them directly. Moreover, in a 2004 interview with the Arabic daily, Asharq al-Awsat, Fatah’s Ahmed Qurei, then Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, proclaimed: “We have clearly declared that the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are part of Fatah[.]… We are committed to them and Fatah bears full responsibility for the group.” Qurei maintained that they “will not be dismantled,” and that each of the Brigades’ members had “the right to play a political role within the framework of Fatah.”

The Brigades are brazen about their intentions. They have, for example, expressed their “[i]dentification with and overall support of the position and declaration of the Iranian President [Mahmoud Ahmadinejad], who called with all honesty to wipe Israel off the map of the world[,]” adding: “We stress our support of the Iranian president's position toward the fictitious Zionist state, which will disappear with the help of Allah.” This should come as no surprise since, like many terrorist organizations, the Brigades receive financing from Iran and training from Hezbollah, with whom they coordinate attacks. (In fact, the Jerusalem Post reported just a few days ago that Hezbollah has provided Palestinian terror groups with “high-grade explosives that have significantly improved the effectiveness of roadside improvised explosive devices (IED) used against [Israeli Defense Force] patrols.”)

Of a piece with these alliances, the Brigades have recently taken to threatening the United States directly. Last May, while Abbas conferred with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, the Brigades issued a warning that “[w]e won't remain idle in the face of the siege imposed on the Palestinian people by Israel, the U.S. and other countries[.]…We will strike at the economic and civilian interests of these countries, here and abroad.”Abbas keeps close ties to the Brigades. His wary confederation with Marwan Barghouti, a formative Brigades figure currently serving a life sentence in Israel for multiple murders, was essential to his 2004 election as Palestinian Authority president. The support of Barghouti and the Brigades remains key to Abbas’s hold on Fatah’s reins. Indeed, the German weekly Welt am Sonntag reported last March that Abbas has appointed another Aqsa heavyweight, Zakariya Zubeidi, to head the police force in Jenin — only after personally witnessing a demonstration of the wild popularity Zubeidi and the Brigades enjoy in that West Bank cauldron (Hat tip to the Vital Perspective Blog).

Consequently, the revelations recently reported in the Israeli press by one “Abu Ahmed,” a Fatah member and Aqsa Brigades leader, are alarming, albeit predictable. Ahmed explained that Abbas’s claim to recognize Israel’s right to exist was merely a “political calculation,” and that the aims of Fatah and the Brigades remain one and the same: the ultimate destruction of Israel. “The base of our Fatah movement keeps dreaming of Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jaffa and Akko,” he reportedly stated. “There is no change in our position. Abbas recognizes Israel because of pressure that the Zionists and the Americans are exercising on him. We understand this is part of his obligations and political calculations.”

Regrettably, the quixotic quest for Middle East peace has rendered Secretary Rice oblivious to Fatah’s long-entrenched and quite current record of terror. In an October 11, 2006, speech at the inaugural gala for the latest “Task Force on Palestine,” she asserted: If peace and dignity are to prevail in the region, then it is absolutely essential for leaders to be able to show, for moderate leaders to show, that their ideas, and their principles, and their vision for the future can offer a better alternative than violence and terrorism. That is why President Bush asked me to travel last week to the Middle East — to confer with moderate voices, with moderate Arab governments and with moderate leaders, to build a support for those people who are trying and who need our help more than ever now, leaders like ... most especially, of course, President Abbas in the Palestinian territories, from whom we have just heard. It didn’t take long for Abbas to make a mockery out of this gushing tribute. On January 11, 2007, addressing a throng of about 50,000 at Fatah’s 42nd anniversary (after laying a wreath at the hallowed grave of the terror master, Arafat), the “moderate leader” railed: “[W]ith the will and determination of its sons, Fatah has and 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....”

Those “principles” were reaffirmed yet again on Monday. They snuffed out the lives of three ordinary civilians whose great contribution to the “occupation” was to toil at a bakery. It was, once more, the handiwork of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the savages who do Fatah’s dirty work while America swoons.

Remarkably, the Bush administration has asked Congress to fork up $86 million in aid for Fatah’s security forces — forces in which many Brigades members now serve, and into which Fatah envisions someday folding the Brigades. That, evidently, is the “moderate” manner of “dismantling” terrorists: you simply mantle them to the regular police.

It is madness. Congress should give Abbas not one thin dime. Let’s stop making fools of ourselves. Let’s first hear Abbas unambiguously condemn the Aqsa Brigades and purge them from Fatah. Let’s hear Abbas loudly assert that all suicide bombings and other attacks intentionally targeting civilians are unacceptable. Let’s hear Abbas acknowledge that a peaceful settlement cannot realistically include a right of return. How hard can that be for a “moderate”?

— Andrew C. McCarthy directs the Center for Law & Counterterrorism at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Australian anti-semitism hotline

In response to the recent increase in antisemitism in Australia, the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC) has just launched a national antisemitism hotline.... The ADC has found that only a limited number of antisemitic incidents are in fact being reported.

It is essential to report antisemitic incidents within Australia immediately, whether these incidents are verbal or physical assaults. Only then can we be combat this outrageous discrimination.

The new national antisemitism hotline number is:
1300 889 378

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Not Forgotten

...and now something personal: a sequel to a posting last October dedicated to the memory of my father Yisrael ben Zvy [Israel ("Srulec") Lieblich] (6th June 1924 – 30th September 1999). This is from an article on a JewishGen Web site about "The Forgotten Camps". I have just now learned with the assistance of the Mauthausen Museum that this is the camp from which my father was liberated on 9th May 1945....

Ebensee (Austria)
(sub-camp of
by Mark Vadasz

Location: At the southern tip of the Traun lake aprox. 75 kilometers SW of Linz (Austria).
Established: 18 November 1943
Liberated: 9 May 1945
Estimated number of victims: Aprox. 20.000

Together with the Mauthausen sub-camp of Gusen, Ebensee is considered to be one of the most diabolic concentration camps ever built.

Liberation of Ebensee on May 9th, 1945.

The construction of the sub-camp began in late 1943 and the first 1.000 prisoners arrived on 18 November 1943 from the main camp of Mauthausen and other Mauthausen sub-camps. The main purpose of Ebensee was to provide slave labour for the construction of the enormous underground tunnels in which armament works were to be housed.

After rising at 4:30 A.M. the prisoners dug away at the tunnels until 6 P.M. After some months work was done in shifts 24 hours a day. There was nearly no accomodation to protect the first batch of prisoners from the cold Austrian winter. Thus the death toll increased astronomically. Bodies were piled in heaps and every 3-4 days they were taken to the Mauthausen crematorium to be burned. Ebensee did not yet have its own crematorium. The dead were also piled inside the few huts that existed. The smell of the dead, combined with sickness, phlegmon, urine and faeces, was unbearable. The prisoners wore wooden clogs. When the clogs fell apart the prisoners had to go barefoot. Due to this total illtreatment combined with food allocations consisting of , in the morning: half a liter of ersatz coffee, at noon three-quarters of a liter of hot water containing potato peelings, in the evening 150 grams of bread, the death toll continued to rise. Soon lice infested the camp.

The camp was surrounded by a barbed wire fence, small towers with machine guns and shacks for the SS.

The Mauthausen commendant Franz Ziereis sent his most capable and vicious man to head the camp, Georg Bachmayer. After establishing his rule, he once again returned to Mauthausen and left the camp under the command of an Obersturmfûhrer who proved to be totally deranged. The combination of these two became a reign of terror.
Survivors in Ebensee.

One of their favourite methods of torture was to tie a prisoner´s arms behind him, with the hands side by side and thumb to thumb and then suspend him from a tree about eighteen inches off the ground. Bachmayer would then let his favourite dog, an Alsation called "Lord", loose. The prisoner would be left in this unspeakable torture to die a slow and agonizing death.

In early 1944 a new commandant was appointed in Ebensee, Obersturmfûhrer Otto Riemer. During his period the conditions deteriorated even further. He personally beat, shot and tortured prisoners daily. He openly offered extra cigarettes and leave to those sentries who could account for the largest number of deaths. If a sentry at the end of a day had not a sufficient number to his credit, he would knock off the cap of a prisoner and throw it into a forbidden area. When the prisoner went to retrieve it, he would be shot dead.

Riemer like Bachmayer was a great lover of wine and women, and he would often go to wild drinking parties with some of the younger SS. On one occasion, May 18 1944, he returned to camp after an all-night drinking session with 12 of his SS command. They entered the camp shooting wildly with their pistols and roaring with delight as panic stricken prisoners scurried out of their way. 15 prisoners died as a result of this display.

Eventually the camp expanded and prisoner blocks were established. The leader of block 19 was an extreme sadist. He would wait for his prisoners to return from the day´s toil and then compel them to perform exhausting physical exercises far into the night. The following morning after a sleepless night, the men would be forced out to another full days work. Nearly all the members of his block died from exhaustion within ten days. By this sytem of elimination he had succeeded in killing in a most economical manner and was rewarded. When the sub-camp at Wels was constructed, he became the camp leader.

Ebensee also had its own crematorium. It was built apart from the other buildings with an enormous single chimney which rose high into the air.

Block 23 corresponded to the "Bahnhof" at Gusen or the "Russenlager" at Mauthausen. Here the dead and the living dead were flung together in big heaps. When the camp was at full strength, as many as 600 prisoners lay on the bare floor at one time.

When the war was coming to an end, the mass evacuation from other camps put tremendous pressure on the Mauthausen complex which was the last remaining camp in the area of Nazi power.

The 25 Ebensee barracks were designed to hold 100 prisoners each. At the most they held 750 each. To this number one has to add the prisoners being kept in the tunnel systems and outside under the open sky. The creamatorium was of course unable to keep pace with the deaths.

Naked bodies lay stacked up outside the blocks and the crematorium itself. At the closing weeks of the war, the death rate exceeded 350 a day.To reduce congestion, a ditch was dug outside the camp and the bodies were flung into the quicklime. On one day in april 1945, a record number of eighty bodies were removed from block 23 alone. Amongst the pile, feet were seen to be twitching. During this period, the inmate strength reached a new high of 18.000 prisoners.

US troops liberated Ebensee on May 9, 1945. Around May 19, 1945 Bachmayer commited suicide after first shooting his family. Riemer managed to escape.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Liberal Defence of Israel

Check out A Liberal Defence of Israel, a Blog of note. Here is an exerpt from a recent posting ....

This Christmas, the international charity War on Want saw fit to print a seasonal greetings card on which Mary, Joseph and the Christ child were depicted as Palestinians subjected to oppressive treatment by Israeli soldiers beneath the shadow of the security 'wall'. I wrote to them....

...You might have told the story on your card of the abuse of Palestinian children, children taught in school to hate Jews, children trained to become suicide bombers and to aspire to the status of martyr from an early age, children given Kalashnikovs instead of bicycles.

... You might have told the story of how innocent young womenare murdered in the PA territories in honour killings, by their own mothers, fathers, brothers, and cousins: just holding hands with herfiancé was enough to end the life of a young Palestinian woman shotby a Hamas morality patrol earlier this year....No doubt passing through an Israeli checkpoint is many times worse than having to watch every moment in case you look at the wrong young man in the wrong way and are caughtdoing it.

You might have told the story about how gay Palestinian men and women face death and beatings on a regular basis. Or that those who can flee to Israel, where they are taken in and given protection. Instead, you chose to say that instituting checkpoints to prevent terrorist activity is a foul and dishonourable thing.

...You might, indeed, have told the many stories of Israelis of all ages, from all walks of life blown to shreds while out shopping, eating in restaurants, attending bar mitzvahs, having lunch in their university cafeteria, taking the bus home. The people who planted those bombs or who turned themselves into bombs were motivated by hatred, not a love of peace and justice and tolerance.

I take it War on Want condemns killings such as those. Why, then, does it hold up for contempt an image of peace-keeping soldiers doing their best to save lives?

There are many other stories you might have told: anti-Semitism straight from the Third Reich on Arab and Iranian TV screens, calls for the slaughter of Jews in Friday sermons from PA mosques, the clauses from Hamas's Charter that describe all efforts at peace-making, all international conferences, all negotiations, all attemptsto compromise as 'a waste of time'.... Or the story of how Israel is one of the most racially mixed countries in the world (whereas most Arab countries are not), or how Israel is one of the most economically successful countries on the planet, helping the ThirdWorld (remember the Third World) with its technology and medicine....

....You need to do some hard thinking, and you need to start by examiningyour own heart. I am a liberal, probably very like you, and, also probably like you, I believe in taking a moral stance in public matters. We probably want the same things, including a prosperous future for the Palestinian people. You seem to think that this will happen if we support Palestinian intransigence, force Israel to abandon her defences, and maybe even allow Hamas and Hizbullah to fire rockets onto Israeli towns without hindrance. Maybe you don't think that, maybe you really would like to see both sides make peaceand live together. If that's so, then please think twice before you make another card that condemns Israeli security measures and says nothing about the reasons why they have been put there in the firstplace.

...Yours sincerely,
Dr. Denis MacEoin

Eilat attack is tip of the iceberg

From » Israel » Jan. 29, 2007, by YAAKOV KATZ ...

A suicide attack that killed three people Sunday in an Eilat bakery was just the tip of the iceberg ...a high-ranking IDF officer from the Southern Command told reporters. "I am concerned that this is just the beginning and the attacks will continue to happen."

According to the officer, in 2006, the IDF and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) caught over 100 Palestinian terrorists who originated in the Gaza Strip and tried crossing into Israel from the Sinai Desert in Egypt..... security forces also succeeded in dismantling 11 terror rings that had established infrastructure which was used for infiltrations along the border.

Division 80, headed by Brig.-Gen. Imad Faris, is in charge of patrolling the Israeli-Egyptian border which runs for 200 kilometers without a fence or as the officer said: "Any other mental or physical barrier." Three IDF infantry companies, commanded by a Lt.-Col., patrol the border area around Eilat.

...According to the officer, the Egyptians could also do more to assist in preventing the terror infiltrations from Gaza, through the Sinai and into Israel. "Egyptians can also do more just like we can," he said. "But before we look at what they can do, we need to look at what we can do."

Monday, January 29, 2007

Palestinian Politics

al Qaeda cells based in Egypt and Sinai

Israel closes Taba crossing to Egyptian Sinai after first suicide bombing attack in Eilat kills three Israelis Monday, Jan 29
Although two Palestinian groups – Jihad Islami and Fatah-al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed the attack in a bakery in the Red Sea resort - DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources report the mounting suspicion that it was a joint operation by the third group, the Army of Believers – an al Qaeda cover name – and Jihad Islami. This Palestinian group later named the bomber as Mohamed Faisal al-Sahsah, 21, from Gaza, claiming he entered Israel from Jordan. DEBKAfile’s sources believe this is an attempt to divert attention from the Jihad-al Qaeda collaboration. Jihad and al Qaeda cells based in Egypt and Sinai are feared to be embarking on a new suicide campaign inside Israel.

The Taba crossing to Sinai is closed and a terror alert has been declared in all parts of Israel following the Eilat attack. Saturday, a 17-year old from Alexandria, where an al Qaeda cell is believed located, was apprehended in Sinai heading for a suicide bombing in Israel. The Egyptian-Israeli border is wide open to smugglers, terrorists and arms traffickers. The explosive charge the Eilat bomber carried was packed with up to 8 kilos of explosives, but no shrapnel fragments. In its Sinai attacks, Al Qaeda has used large bombs consisting of explosives but no shrapnel, whereas Palestinian terrorists habitually lace their bombs with steel shards to maximize casualties.

The bomber is thought to have crossed from Gaza into Sinai, collected the explosive charge and then infiltrated Israel....

Fingerprints of Palestinian Jihad Islami terrorist ace Muhamed al Hindi on Eilat suicide bombing

Mohamed al Hindi, Jihad Islami leader

DEBKAfile’s military sources disclose that the Jihad Islami leader returned to the Gaza Strip on Jan 19 after a six-month absence in Damascus, Beirut and Tehran, during which his Syrian and Iranian masters appointed him chief of the organization in place of Abdallah Ramadan Shelah.

He arrived in Gaza carrying a large sum of cash allocated by the two governments for building a new terrorist militia in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and Sinai in conjunction with al Qaeda. The Islami Jihad plans to reinvent itself from an underground terrorist group to a military militia, like the Hamas special force. None of the authorities controlling the border terminal to the Gaza Strip, Israeli, Egyptian or European, interfered with al Hindi’s entry.

In Damascus and Beirut, the Jihad leader consulted with Qaeda elements operating in the Palestinian camps of Lebanon, under the title Fatah-Brigades of the Islamic Sword, the coming terror campaign against Israel. The Lebanon-based al Qaeda network maintains close operational ties with al Qaeda’s Gaza cell, which calls itself the Islamic Army and which participated in the kidnap of the Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit last June. The Islamic Army holds joint custody over the Israeli captive with Hamas. In his exchanges, al Hindi most likely worked on the details of the Eilat suicide bombing.

DEBKAfile adds: ... Israel’s non-interference in Gaza’s affairs leaves the field clear for Palestinian and jihadist terrorists to use the Gaza Strip as a base and haven for more attacks in Israel like Eilat’s first suicide bombing Monday, Jan. 29, which left three Israelis dead – not to speak of missile attacks against Israeli civilian locations.

New US strategy on Iran emerges from Davos

From The Times (UK) online, 25 January 2007, by Anatole Kaletsky ...

...the main themes at Davos today were terrorism and Iraq ...about wresting back control of Baghdad from terrorists, with al-Qaeda and Shia death squads bearing equal blame.

...Three strands of policy are now being directed to achieving [an] internal shift in Iranian politics. The first is, obviously, the US effort to reduce violence in Iraq – or failing that, at least to mount a show of strength against the Iranian-backed Shia militias and to remind Tehran that America retains its capacity to deploy overwhelming military power.

The second is the sabre-rattling over Iran’s nuclear programme, especially the semi-public threats of Israeli bombing, perhaps even with tactical nuclear weapons. America’s announcement that two aircraft carrier battle groups will move to the Gulf within a month or so are clearly a reminder that Washington still has plenty of firepower to attack Iran directly or to back Israeli bombing – and also to protect international oil shipments through the Gulf against Iranian retaliation. These deployments and public warnings do not necessarily suggest that an actual attack on Iran is likely but rather that America wants Iran to realise that it is playing for very high stakes in its confrontation with the West.

The third strand of America’s Iranian policy is less visible, but may well turn out to be more important. The idea is to thwart Iran’s threatened hegemony with an economic pincer movement consisting of financial diplomacy on one side and energy policy on the other. The main responsibility for this strand of policy rests not with America or Israel but with the third member of the unlikely new anti-Iranian alliance: Saudi Arabia. The financial diplomacy consists not just of the sanctions against Iran agreed last month by the UN Security Council but also in the donors’ conference for Lebanon in Paris this week. The toughened UN sanctions are beginning to have some impact on Iran’s domestic economy and on its ability to do business and raise money internationally. Meanwhile, the Lebanon conference is demonstrating that the US-Saudi coalition can easily match and exceed the financial subsidies channelled by Iran to Hezbollah, Hamas and its other regional proxies. In doing this the Saudis’ involvement is crucial because of their ability to spend large sums of money without the budgetary and political oversight faced by Washington. At best, Saudi open-handedness would persuade key players, not only in Lebanon but also in Iraq and Syria, to desert the Iranian camp. At a minimum, Saudi efforts to buy support in the region would tempt Tehran into a bidding contest which the Iranian economy could simply not afford.

This brings us to the final and most interesting strand in the anti-Iranian policy nexus: the price of oil. Iran’s economy depends entirely on oil sales, which account for 90 per cent of exports and a roughly equal share of the Government’s budget. Since last July, a barrel of oil has fallen from $78 to just over $50, reducing the Government’s revenues by one third. If the oil price fell into the $35 to $40 range, Iran would shift into deficit, and with access to foreign borrowing cut off by UN sanctions, the Government’s capacity to continue financing foreign proxies would quickly run out. Iran has reacted to this threat by calling on Opec to stabilise prices but, in practice, only one country has the clout to do this: Saudi Arabia. Earlier this month, in a highly significant statement, Ali al-Naimi, the Saudi Oil Minister, publicly opposed Iranian calls for production cuts to halt the decline in prices. Mr Naimi's pronouncement was cast as a technical matter unconnected with politics, but it seemed to confirm private warnings by King Abdullah that his country would try everything to thwart Iran’s hegemony in Iraq and throughout the region, whether by military intervention or more subtle economic means.

This policy was spelt out with surprising precision in an article by Nawaf Obaid, a senior Saudi security adviser, in The Washington Post ...[see below]

...This article attracted huge attention in the Middle East and Washington, but was hardly noticed in the financial markets and the business community. But that was when the bulls still thought that they commanded the oil market and most analysts believed that the only direction for oil prices was up. Maybe they should think again.

This article from the Washington Post, November 29, 2006, by Nawaf Obaid, an adviser to the Saudi government, today has added relevance ....

...Over the past year, a chorus of voices has called for Saudi Arabia to protect the Sunni community in Iraq and thwart Iranian influence there. Senior .... They are supported by a new generation of Saudi royals in strategic government positions who are eager to see the kingdom play a more muscular role in the region.

... Abdullah may decide to strangle Iranian funding of the militias through oil policy. If Saudi Arabia boosted production and cut the price of oil in half, the kingdom could still finance its current spending. But it would be devastating to Iran, which is facing economic difficulties even with today's high prices. The result would be to limit Tehran's ability to continue funneling hundreds of millions each year to Shiite militias in Iraq and elsewhere....

The writer, an adviser to the Saudi government, is managing director of the Saudi National Security Assessment Project in Riyadh and an adjunct fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. The opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect official Saudi policy.