Saturday, September 15, 2007

Power Politics Needed

From GLORIA, September 10, 2007, by Barry Rubin [my own emphasis added - SL]:

... Iran recently held a summit meeting bringing together Palestinian leaders. Hamas was there, of course, and Islamic Jihad, too. No surprise that. But there was someone else participating in the gathering: Farouq Qaddumi.....veteran Fatah and PLO bureaucrat who now heads the former group. He is one of three men--the other two were Yasir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas--who represented Fatah on the PLO Executive Committee. He has never accepted even the 1993 Oslo agreement. In most ways, he is more representative of Fatah leadership than the Palestinian Authority's relatively moderate two heads, Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad.

What was Qaddumi doing in Tehran? Well, he has long been an ally of Syria which is Tehran's closest ally. But there is something else going on here which is of historic importance and which shows the difference between reality and what is said in the Western media or governments. Not Egypt, not Saudi Arabia but Iran is now the mediator between Hamas and Fatah.

The Egyptians spent a lot of time negotiating with the two groups but never pushed very hard or achieved anything. The Saudis thought they had ensured cooperation with the recent Mecca agreement. But Hamas, another ally of Iran, used the deal to seize full power in the Gaza Strip and kick out Fatah altogether.

So it makes perfect sense for Palestinian leaders to see Iran holding the cards. If anyone is going to persuade Hamas to make up with Fatah it would be Tehran, the Islamist group's sponsor. Of course, Iran is not going to do it but it can play games with Fatah, perhaps find Fatah people who, in exchange for power and money, might accept second place as a junior Palestinian partner of Hamas and Tehran.

Perhaps you thought the United States is now Fatah's sponsor and good buddy. Well, Fatah is an equal-opportunity embezzler. Again, let me make clear my support for a strategy of talking with Fatah and helping it survive in the West Bank in exchange for its clamping down on terrorism and incitement. Fatah is preferable to Hamas. But a strong dose of cynicism and some tough bargaining is needed in this policy, which has been adopted by the United States, Israel, and (with a bit more ambiguity, yearning for the chance to appease Hamas) Europe.

.... U.S. policy .... has a new mantra, economic development....[However].....a combination of rewards (only in return for actual deeds) and punishments would be more effective. This is called power diplomacy and politicians or diplomats seem to understand it perfectly well except when it comes to the Middle East...... flattering Mahmoud Abbas, showering money and arms on Fatah, and thinking one can turn the West Bank into a showcase of economic progress isn't going to work. Nor will persuading the Arab world that America and Europe care about the Palestinians, want to give them a state, and don't like Israel.

A reasonable strategy requires showing how unprofitable it is to be an enemy while helping those on the other side only to the extent that they cooperate. It means not having to apologize but getting those who flout your interests to apologize to you. It requires taking into account regional realities rather than sentimentalizing them into morality plays. It includes not expecting to solve neatly problems which have no solution.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Israel targeted arms destined for Hezbollah

From Haaretz, 12/9/07, by Barak Ravid, Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel:

Israel targeted weapons intended for delivery to Hezbollah inside Syria a week ago, the CNN television network reported Tuesday. Senior correspondent Christian Amanpour, citing Middle Eastern and Washington sources, said aircraft and ground forces, which directed the planes to their target, took part in the operation. The attack left "a big hole in the desert," the report said.

CNN quoted American sources as saying that the air strike had targeted a weapons shipment from Syria to Hezbollah, or from Iran to Hezbollah, passing through Syria. "The Israeli government is very happy with the success of the operation," CNN reported, citing sources both in the United States and the region. U.S. government and military sources said they were "happy to have Israel convey to both Syria and Iran the message that they can get in and out and strike when necessary."

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's aides said they were not interested in commenting on the incident....

.... Syria complained Tuesday to the United Nations about "aggression and violation of sovereignty," the country's ambassador to the UN said. Syria's UN envoy, Bashar al-Jaafari .....said Israel had violated Syrian air space and dropped munitions. But he denied that Israel had landed troops on the ground inside Syria. "This is absolutely not true," he said, adding the reports were an attempt to show that Israel could land troops wherever it wants.

.... The silence of the Untied States, Europe and especially the Arab world .... raises questions. Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia did not denounce Israel, nor did they issue any statement on the subject. The only countries who expressed solidarity with Syria were Iran and North Korea. Russia issued a condemnation of sorts. Turkey issued a critical statement and requested clarifications. In Ankara's case, however, its close strategic cooperation with Israel makes it unlikely the Turks were really surprised by the incident.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Toward a year of renewal

From The JPost, by Isi Leibler, September 11, 2007:

There is no denying that 5767 was another awful year. But as we usher in the new year on Wednesday evening, let us restrain our masochistic inclinations and - without detracting from the very real threats confronting us - end the prevailing atmosphere of gloom and doom.

The existential threat from a nuclear Iran is very real. But New York, London and all major capital cities are no less subject to nuclear terrorism than Tel Aviv. Besides, notwithstanding the messianic delusions of Ahmadinejad, the Iranians would hesitate before employing nuclear weapons against a state that has the capacity to respond in kind. The Olmert government should perhaps place greater emphasis on the fact that that the distance between Teheran to Tel Aviv is the same as that from Tel Aviv to Teheran.

Despite daily predictions of an impending war, our position today is unquestionably better than in the years immediately following the Oslo catastrophe. And certainly there is no comparison to 1967 or 1973, when we genuinely faced annihilation.

In time, the Hamas putsch in Gaza may even prove to have been a blessing in disguise. After all, "moderate" Fatah terrorists murdered far more Israelis than did Hamas. The difference was that duplicitous Fatah leaders - including Mahmoud Abbas - paid lip service to "peace" while continuing to sanctify terror. In contrast, Hamas explicitly proclaims its objective of destroying Israel. In doing so, it deprives apologists for the Palestinians from promoting moral equivalence, babbling about cycles of violence, and obfuscating the distinctions between victims and killers.

ALTHOUGH Hizbullah has not dared to fire a single missile against us since the end of hostilities, we still remain under the cloud of the disastrous Second Lebanon War. But we must remind ourselves that the failures were due to our inept leaders, not the people, who displayed extraordinary courage and determination. And if our military leaders had become complacent, there is no doubt that the IDF is now undergoing a dramatic reformation.

Besides if, God forbid, unlike the conflict with Hizbullah, we were to face a full scale war, it would be with our enemies' knowledge that we have the firepower capacity to pulverize them.

Indeed, history may well define the Second Lebanon War as a wake-up call which shook us from our lethargy and obliged us to restore the IDF's place as one of the world's most outstanding citizen armies. Had we not confronted Hizbullah, we would to this day probably still be hesitating about employing deterrence. Furthermore, an unprepared IDF would at a later stage inevitably have faced a tougher confrontation with far more advanced adversaries, which might have culminated in disaster.

IN THE Diaspora, anti-Semitism continues to mushroom. Yet we now realize that the absence of anti-Semitism in the wake of the Shoah was illusory. When the opportunity arose to demonize Israel as a surrogate for individual Jews, anti-Semites swarmed out of the closet. But to suggest that the pariah status of Jews in some Diaspora communities represents existential threats comparable to the 1930s is palpable nonsense.

Today, a Jewish state exists which has the capacity to defend and grant haven to Jews everywhere.

True, within Israel we still face serious problems. But one of our greatest weaknesses is an inclination to exaggerate shortcomings and failures.

Corruption did indeed reach obscene levels. But the tide has unquestionably turned. When a president, a prime minister and the most powerful citizens of the nation are obliged to undergo more intense scrutiny than common citizens, it signals that people power is becoming effective.
The ongoing presence of failed political leaders is Israel's Achilles heel. But their days are numbered. More importantly, a sea change in public opinion has occurred; most notably there is a belated recognition that the greatest threat to the nation emanates from within.

Israelis are beginning to appreciate that secular draft dodgers, and the commitment and volunteerism prevailing in religious Zionist circles, are all by-products of contrasting educational systems.

The dilution of Jewish values and national pride and the infiltration of post-Zionist ideas have paved the way for post-modernism, hedonism and nihilism. Now there are calls for strengthening Jewish heritage and Zionism within the educational system. If that leads toward reinforcing Jewish identity and national self-esteem among the next generation of Israelis, it will neutralize the greatest threat to our long-term future.

ON ROSH HASHANA it is incumbent to remind ourselves that despite all our problems, we remain the most fortunate and blessed Jewish generation in over 2,000 years of exile and persecution, and that Israel still stands out as the greatest success story of our century past.
Who could have dreamed that half a century after Hitler, the descendents of penniless Holocaust survivors and refugees from Arab countries would succeed in creating a vibrant Jewish state with one of the most powerful armies in the world, not to mention a thriving metropolis and dynamic economy?

There was never a period in Jewish history when we did not face adversaries. Yet we always triumphed.

As we enter 5768 and move toward celebrating Israel's 60th anniversary, we share no illusions about achieving peace in our time. However we can exult in the realization that we are better able to defend ourselves against those who seek our destruction than at any time in Jewish history.

Instead of groaning, we should concentrate on creating a just society based on Jewish values and endeavor to achieve our original goal of becoming a Light unto the Nations.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Islamists slip in Moroccan elections

From The Christian Science Monitor, September 10, 2007, by Jill Carroll:

A Friday vote was seen as a regional test for political Islam in the Arab world.

The Islamists had expected to make unprecedented gains in Morocco's parliamentary vote Friday. Even though political parties based on religion are illegal, the officially nonreligious but Islamic-inspired Justice and Development Party (PJD) was predicted to become the largest bloc in the 325-member chamber, as it had gained support by campaigning to tackle corruption in the north African country's government.

Instead, the PJD garnered only about five seats, for a total of 47, and came in second, behind the right-leaning and secular Istiqlal (Independence) party, which won 52 seats in the lower house of parliament, according to preliminary results released Saturday.

The surprisingly low showing for the PJD was a blow to the party's long-held strategy of taking a carefully measured path to power in a region with a history of harsh crackdowns on Islamist political groups on the verge of electoral success. "Islamist parties and governments are watching very closely the Moroccan elections. Moderate Islamist parties in Algeria, Egypt, Syria, and some Gulf countries will have to be part of any reformist agenda in the region," wrote Abdeslam Maghraoui, visiting associate professor in political science at Duke University in Durham, N.C., in an e-mailed response to questions.

The PJD has gained support in recent years by tapping disillusionment with a government seen as removed from voters' needs, focusing on the poor and jobless youths. Nearly 5 million of Morocco's 33 million people live on less than $2 a day, according to the World Bank.
Across the Arab world, Islamist groups of various stripes have become the most potent opposition forces to the authoritarian governments of the region......

....The PJD's showing might be a sign the party is struggling to maintain its tightrope walk between participating in the political system while not being contaminated by the system's image for corruption and inability to bring about changes Moroccans want.

Morocco has been held up as one of the most reform-minded nations in the Arab world. It has a diversity of civil-society groups, has passed a code of women's rights, and, accord-ing to observers, held relatively fair elections in 2002....

Students suspected of spying for Iran

From The Australian, by Richard Kerbaj September 10, 2007:

NATIONAL security agents are closely monitoring Iranians at Australian universities, fearing some of the students are doubling as spies and reporting to Tehran.

State and federal security authorities are also keeping a close eye on Iranian students in Australia who are interested in becoming residents or citizens, amid growing suspicions that some may be intent on establishing an espionage foothold.

It is understood their concerns about Iranian students were sparked by calls to the National Security Hotline and information from local Persian leaders.

....The number of Iranian students studying in Australia has multiplied almost five-fold in the past five years. Most study engineering and surveying.

....Australia's Iranian community of 25,000 is largely made up of Shia Muslim migrants who left their homeland after 1979 to escape the Islamic revolution. Security sources said the Iranian Government was intent on monitoring them, fearing it was being undermined by their ideological and financial support of groups opposed to Tehran's regime.

Persian Cultural Foundation of Australia president Homer Abramian accused the Iranian regime of sending its agents to Australia under the guise of students, in some instances, and in other cases paying students to report back on local community affairs.

....Iranian youth leader Nosrat Hosseini said she believed some international Iranian students in Melbourne were spying on local community members opposed to the Tehran Government.
The Melbourne-based secretary of the Iranian Womens Association said the students often used the Faulkner Mosque, a Shia place of worship in Melbourne's north, as an entry point to community affairs and functions. She said the students were often interested in finding out information about the general sentiment held by the local community towards the Iranian regime.....

Can Iran be stopped?

From Ynet News, 10/9/07, by Zalman Shoval, former Israel ambassador to the US:

Regional summit likely to establish Tehran's hegemony over entire Middle East

A new pessimistic report jointly compiled by 16 American intelligence agencies noted that all efforts to halt or impede Iran's nuclear development have failed, as have the measures to end the support Tehran is granting various terror organizations in the Middle East, including Hizbullah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Shiite terrorists in Iraq.

American intelligence agencies and other sources found that the economic measures the international community has adopted to coerce Iran to change its ways are futile. Although Iranian banks found it temporarily difficult to close international transactions, it appears that they have overcome the hurdle.

Even trading between oil-rich Iran and other countries of the world hasn’t significantly slowed down, if at all. Although the initiatives taken to halt or cancel direct and indirect investments in the Iranian economy bore some fruit, they were insufficient to undermine the regime's stability.

American intelligence has reached the conclusion that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will continue to be the undisputed leader of his country. Of course it can be argued that this implies that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not the supreme ruler of his country, but there is no indication that there is any gap between the political and military objectives of the abovementioned two.

The US and its western allies have announced their plans to impose further sanctions on Iran via the Security Council within the coming weeks. However, based on past experience and considering the new political line adopted by Russia, these sanctions are unlikely to have any effect.

Hamas rule in Gaza brings Iran closer
Another player that is not exactly filling a positive role regarding Iran's nuclear development is the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA,) which has been appointed by the UN to handle the world's nuclear issues.

It's hard to shake off the impression that this organization is cooperating, albeit out of helplessness, with Iran's delusional games. This is how the new agreement was reached, according to which within the "next few months" Tehran will provide additional information regarding its nuclear plans, as if there is any doubt as to the real nature of these plans.

In addition to the direct threat that a nuclear Iran poses to Israel, Iran's strategic plans to penetrate our neighbors presents other immediate implications. The Gaza Strip under Hamas rule has already become the Ayatollahs' front line, and the West Bank may follow suit. If the reports regarding the Israeli government's intentions to hand over close to 100 percent of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians, including a "safe crossing" from Gaza, come true, Iran will be here – and not only in the ideological sense.

Government spokespersons will argue that that the Israeli and American support given to Mahmoud Abbas and the plans for the establishment of a Palestinian state are aimed at preventing such an eventuality, but in fact there is no such guarantee.

The theory guiding both Jerusalem and Washington is that the "moderate" Arab world, led by Saudi Arabia - due to fear of Iran's intentions - will coerce the Palestinians to peacefully settle the conflict with Israel. Yet judging by the statements made by Arab spokespersons or by the "Arab Peace Plan," which is likely to constitute the focal point at the international conference, its real intentions are to push Arab unity into demanding unilateral concessions from Israel.

Obviously Tehran will publicly condemn the conference, but deep down it will rejoice vis-à-vis the steps that are likely to pave the way to establishing its hegemony over the entire Middle East.

Strategic Moves

From DEBKAfile, September 10, 2007:

Two US carrier-strike groups are bound for Persian Gulf region, bringing number back to three

... from the third week of July, the only American strike force- carrier in the Persian Gulf-Arabian Sea region was the USS Enterprise. By the end of September, it will be joined by the USS Nimitz and the USS Truman Strike Groups.... three American naval, air and marine forces will again confront Iranian shores at a time of crisis in the military and civilian leadership of Iran - signaled by the abrupt change of Revolutionary Guards Corps commanders, rising Israel-Syrian tensions and a troubled situation in Lebanon.

....In the last week of August, the USS Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group took up position opposite the Lebanese coast amid trepidation over the September presidential election....aboard the group’s vessels are members of the 22nds Marine special operations-capable Expeditionary Unit, who are ready to execute landings on Lebanese beaches.