Friday, October 26, 2007

New US Sanctions on Iran

From The Australian, October 26, 2007:

WASHINGTON: The Bush administration has imposed sweeping new sanctions against Iran's Defence Ministry, its Revolutionary Guard Corps and a number of banks ....

The measures, announced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, cover some of the Iranian Government's largest military and financial institutions, which Washington blames for supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan and Shia insurgent groups in Iraq, along with the Hamas and Hezbollah organisations.

The sanctions will cut off more than 20 Iranian entities, including individuals and companies owned or controlled by the Revolutionary Guards, from the US financial system and are likely to have a ripple effect through the international banking community.

The Quds Force - a part of the Revolutionary Guard Corps that Washington accuses of providing weapons, including powerful bomb-making material blamed for the deaths of soldiers in Iraq - and banks will be identified as "specially designated global terrorist" groups for their activities in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East.

The sanctions are the toughest the US has levied against Tehran since the 1979 takeover of the US embassy in the Iranian capital.

"What this means is that no US citizen or a private organisation will be allowed to engage in financial transactions with these persons and entities," Dr Rice said last night. "These actions will help to protect the international financial system from the illicit activities of the Iranian Government."

The announcement of the sanctions is likely to fuel speculation that the US is readying military action against Iran for its nuclear program. But a senior official said the action complemented diplomatic efforts. The Secretary of State told the US Congress on Wednesday that Iran constituted "perhaps the single greatest challenge" for US security. President George W.Bush suggested last week a nuclear-armed Iran could trigger "World War III"....

Thursday, October 25, 2007

New tough sanctions on Iran

From DEBKAfile October 25, 2007:

Washington is set to unveil a new package of extra-tough sanctions for Iran

It will be announced jointly by secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and treasury secretary Henry Paulson and include branding Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and the al Qods Brigade sponsor of terrorists.

These steps are unprecedented. DEBKAfile’s Iranian sources recall that the Islamic regime announced in advance that approval of these measures would be deemed tantamount to an American declaration of war on Iran and call forth retaliation. Tehran would target US interests in the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan or Israel by means of Special Groups, i.e. Iran’s foreign intelligence networks, Hizballah or Hamas.

DEBKAfile’s sources reveal that these reprisals may be delayed some days because of a profound power struggle taking place in Iran’s leadership. However, since the supreme ruler, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is directly affected as commander-in-chief of Iran’s armed forces, including the IRGC and its al Qods Brigade, Tehran cannot afford to let Washington’s accusations go unanswered.

The new sanctions package includes US financial penalties for any world firms trading with the Revolutionary Guards. They would apply to more than 1,000 companies in Europe, the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and Asia. Our Iranian sources note that since IRGC-owned companies control more than 35 percent of Iran’s economic activities, the new sanctions will have a crippling effect on its national economy. This is already hard hit by Washington’s systematic blockage of Iran’s dealings with international banks, which has left Tehran seriously short of cash flow, foreign currency and basic commodities.

According to DEBKAfile’s sources, Iran very recently sent Indonesia an “emergency appeal” for gasoline and heavy oil, because it has run out of currency to pay for imported refined oil products. Tehran offered to reward Jakarta with a concession for building big new oil refineries, which Iran lacks.

Indonesia has not yet replied. Its government must take into account that no serious world oil enterprise would be willing to cooperate in a refinery project in Iran for fear of a backlash from the American boycott.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The ME ‘Peace Process’ Corpse Twitches

From the Arab News (Saudi Arabia), Tuesday 23 October 2007, by Gwynne Dyer:

“We are at the beginning of a process,” said US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice after her four-day tour of the countries closely involved in the Arab-Israeli confrontation. But the “peace process” really began with the Oslo accords in 1993, and it died when Ariel Sharon became prime minister of Israel in 2001. The last nail was hammered into its coffin with the takeover of the Gaza Strip this year by Hamas, which flatly rejects the idea of Palestinian and Israeli states living side by side. Rice can make the corpse twitch, but she cannot make it walk.

....The Islamist parties and groups that are the main opposition to the existing regimes in most Arab countries have always condemned the idea of making peace with Israel. Their organizations are illegal in many countries, but their views on Israel are very popular. In some 30 years of trying the Islamists have not managed to win power in any Arab country, either through elections (where that is theoretically possible) or by revolution, but now they have the wind in their sails. The exploits of the Islamists who have come to dominate the anti-American insurgency in Iraq, and more recently Hezbollah’s success in withstanding the Israeli assault in southern Lebanon last year, have made them the heroes of the Arab street, and given Islamist parties everywhere a better chance of gaining power.

It has already happened in the Gaza Strip. Hamas’ seizure of power there last June has effectively split the Palestinian proto-state in two — and Hamas refuses to accept the permanent division of Palestine into Jewish and Palestinian states. How can Israel do a deal with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, when he only controls the West Bank and cannot deliver Hamas’ consent to the deal?

Even those Israelis who genuinely want a deal are increasingly reluctant to hand over territory in return for peace, since they cannot be sure that the regimes they are dealing with will stay in power. What if Israel finally gave the Golan Heights back to Syria in return for a peace treaty, and then a few years later President Bashar was overthrown by Islamists who repudiated the treaty and remilitarized the Golan?

Even existing peace treaties are at risk. What if the Islamists were to come to power in Egypt one day? In the 2005 election the semi-legal Muslim Brotherhood (it can run candidates in elections, but only as “independents”) increased its seats in Parliament fivefold, from 17 to 88, despite the usual vote-rigging, media manipulation and intimidation. One of its promises, if it was elected, was to hold an immediate referendum on the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty of 1979. In such a referendum, Egyptians would probably vote to cancel the treaty.

It really is over: There will be no comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace deal in this decade. In the next decade, there could even be a war.

Olmert, Sarkozy see eye-to-eye

From Yahoo News, by Ron Bousso Mon Oct 22 2007:

PARIS (AFP) - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday that France and Israel share "identical" views on the threat posed by Iran's nuclear programme following talks in Paris with President Nicolas Sarkozy.

"I couldn't have heard on the Iranian issue things that could more fall in line with my expectations," Olmert told reporters after his 90-minute meeting with Sarkozy. The talks were "excellent and extremely frank and show an impressive level of similar views, even identical views, on parts of the issues on the agenda," said Olmert.

...He said that they did not discuss military action to stop Iran's nuclear programme, focusing instead on the need for tougher sanctions. "We focused on how to succeed on a wide range of actions that are not necessarily extremes," Olmert said, adding: "I believe we can succeed with them," referring to sanctions.

France has considerably toughened its position on Iran since Sarkozy was elected five months ago and has called for new sanctions. The UN Security Council plans to discuss the matter before the end of the year.

French presidential spokesman David Martinon echoed the Israeli prime minister's upbeat assessment of the meeting, the first between the two leaders since Sarkozy took office in May.
"Israel and France share the view that the Iranian nuclear programme must be implemented with the greatest transparency and for peaceful ends," Martinon said. "A nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable for France and for Israel," he said.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner angered Tehran last month when he said the world had to prepare for war over Iran's atomic drive, and has been pushing fellow European states to adopt their own sanctions.In his first major foreign policy speech, Sarkozy singled out Iran as the world's most dangerous problem and said a diplomatic push was needed to avoid "the Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran."

...Olmert's visit could usher in a major shift as France appears poised to replace Britain as Israel's closest European ally, given [British Prime Minister] Brown's apparent attempt to distance himself from the fraught world of Middle East diplomacy.

Israel has also welcomed the tough lines Sarkozy has adopted against the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas and the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah militia, with which the Jewish state fought a devastating war last year....

Hamas creating humanitarian crisis

From, Oct 22, 2007, by YAAKOV KATZ :

Hamas is unnecessarily endangering Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip by generating phony humanitarian crises, head of the Gaza Coordination Liaison Administration (CLA) Col. Nir Press said Monday.

On Sunday night, Gaza's Shifa Hospital claimed that due to tight Israeli restrictions on imports into Gaza, it had run out of anesthetic for surgeries, and as a result had canceled all but the most critical procedures.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Monday, Press dismissed the claims and said that in a meeting he held Sunday afternoon with Palestinian Health Ministry officials he was informed that the hospitals were running "low" on the anesthetic. On Monday morning, less than 24 hours after making the request, Israel transferred 151 nitrous oxide gas balloons to Shifa Hospital.

"It is the Palestinians' responsibility to order the supplies," Press said, noting that despite the daily rocket attacks on Israeli towns - on Monday 10 rockets and shells pounded the western Negev - Israel continued to transfer medical goods and supplies into Gaza whenever they were ordered.

Press said that orders were usually placed by the Palestinians days in advance and that Sunday's sudden announcement "was a spin by Hamas and an attempt to put pressure on Israel by creating a humanitarian crisis."

He said that the incident resembled Palestinian claims a few months ago that due to Israeli restrictions on the crossings they ran out of gas needed to operate the Gaza power plant and as a result large parts of the Strip were left without electricity for several days. Also then, Press said, Hamas unnecessarily disrupted Palestinian civilians' lives to try to create an image that a humanitarian crisis was developing in Gaza.

"These are examples of how Hamas wants to create humanitarian crisis," he explained. "They wait until the last moment and then tell us they are running out of supplies so they can create this image of a crisis." ...

No Convictions in Trial Against Muslim Charity

From The new York Times, October 22, 2007, by LESLIE EATON:
A federal jury today failed to convict any of the former leaders of a Muslim charity charged with financing Middle Eastern terrorists.

DALLAS, Oct. 22 — A deadlocked federal jury here did not convict any leaders of a Muslim charity who were charged with supporting Middle Eastern terrorists, and the judge today declared a mistrial in what has been widely viewed as the government’s flagship terror-financing case.
The case, involving the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development and five of its backers, is the government’s largest and most complex legal effort to shut down what it contends is American financing for terrorist organizations in the Middle East. President Bush announced he was freezing the charity’s assets in 2001, saying that the radical Islamic group Hamas had “obtained much of the money it pays for murder abroad right here in the United States.”

But at the trial, the government did not allege that the foundation, which was based in a Dallas suburb, paid directly for suicide bombings. Instead, the prosecution said, the foundation supported terrorism by sending more than $12 million to charitable groups, known as zakat committees, which build hospitals and feed the poor.

The prosecution said the committees were controlled by Hamas and contributed to terrorism by helping Hamas spread its ideology and recruit supporters....
...After 19 days of deliberations, the jury acquitted one of the five individual defendants on all but one charge, on which it deadlocked. A majority of the jurors also appeared ready to acquit two other defendants of most charges, and could not reach a verdict on charges against the two principal organizers and the foundation itself, which had been the largest Muslim charity in the United States until the government froze its assets in late 2001.

The decision today is “a stunning setback for the government, there’s no other way of looking at it,” said Matthew D. Orwig, a partner at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal here who was, until recently, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas. .... “If this doesn’t get their attention, they are just in complete denial,” he said of Justice Department officials, whom he said may not have recognized how difficult such cases are to prosecute.

... Jimmy Gurulé , who was an undersecretary of the Treasury when that agency froze Holy Land’s assets, described the outcome as “the continuation of what I now see as a trend of disappointing legal defeats” in terror-financing cases. Two previous cases, in Illinois and in Florida, ended with hung juries and relatively minor plea deals, he said.

In the Holy Land case, lawyers for defendants told the jury that their clients did not support terrorism but were humanitarians trying to lessen suffering among impoverished Palestinians. Though their clients might have expressed support for Hamas, the defense argued, that was before the United States government designated it as a terrorist organization in 1995.

....James T. Jacks, the first assistant United States Attorney, said in court that the government would retry the case. Both prosecutors and defense lawyers have been barred from discussing the case in the press, and Judge Fish said that order continued in force.....

Gretel C. Kovach contributed reporting.

Without Illusions

From GLORIA, by Barry Rubin, October 22, 2007:

The alternative Western view of Middle East strategy--so influential in academic, media, and to some extent diplomatic circles—has a six-point program that boils down as:
Make deals with Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hizballah; ally with Muslim Brotherhoods; and split Iran and Syria.

Those more extreme who advocate this approach are sympathetic to these forces, seeing them as more misunderstood victim than aggressive oppressor; the more moderate among them merely think the radicals can be moderated through concessions and confidence-building measures. In other words, they are not really adversaries but either already good guys or can be converted into playing that role.

By this analysis, those who claim these radical regimes and movements are dangerous due to their radical ideology, violent methods, and totalitarian goals are standing in the way of solving issues quickly, painlessly, and peacefully. They are warmongers perpetrating needless conflicts.
This analysis generates tremendous anger against the United States and Israel or anyone else who tries to explain that this approach will not work. Through this transformation, those who generate grievances that create terrorists or don’t want to give in to the terrorists’ demands are the real villains.

....let’s focus today on two of these points: the Muslim Brotherhoods and the Syrian-Iran alliance.

The Brotherhoods, particularly those in Egypt and Jordan, are said to be moderate because they do not directly commit terrorist violence (though they do endorse it) and participate in elections. This does not prove, however, that they are moderate but merely that they are not stupid. Rather, they abstain from a terrorist strategy because they fear the local regimes which keep a tight hold on them. And they participate in elections because they realize that this furthers their cause, not because they are devotees of democracy. Moreover, it is laughably easy to show the contrast between their English-language interviews or websites and the continuing radicalism of their Arabic statements, doctrine, and goals.

Now the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has produced a political platform providing its vision for Egypt. And it looks even more like Islamist Iran than one would have suspected. The key proposal is for a committee of Muslim clerics to pass on the validity of all legislation and government policies, just as it is done in Tehran. By this definition, then, Islamic law—as interpreted by the clerics—would govern Egypt. This in itself shows that its goal is an Islamist state and not a pluralist or democratically governed one.

In addition, neither a woman nor a non-Muslim can be either president or prime minister. And the peace treaty with Israel would be abrogated.

But this was not, contrary to media reports, the first such platform. The 2004 version states: "Our mission is to implement a comprehensive reform in order to uphold God's law in secular as well as religious matters."

The program includes the following points
  • "The media should be cleansed of anything that disagrees with the decrees of Islam."
  • "The economic system should be "derived from Islam."
  • "The focus of education should be on learning the Quran by heart."
  • "The Zakah [Islamic private charitable] institutions should be in charge of distributing wealth and income."
  • "Women should only hold the kind of posts that would preserve their virtue."
  • "Our culture has to be derived from Islamic sources."

As for the Syria-Iran alliance, the West has been trying to break it for a quarter-century without success. ...But Damascus and Tehran both understand how mutually beneficial, natural, and long-term is their partnership.

Writing in 1989, Patrick Seale, Hafiz al-Assad’s scribe, described the alliance as a masterstroke creating, an "axis from Tehran through Damascus to South Lebanon. From the moment Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini took power in early 1979 Asad judged it a supreme Arab interest to befriend him."

Obviously this was no impulsive error which Syrian or Iranian leaders are eager to correct.
Someone who understands Middle East politics better than naןve Western observers is Saad Hariri, a leader of Lebanon’s Sunni Muslims and of the government coalition, whose father was murdered by the Syrians. The West, Hariri explained, might as well "engage with al-Qae¬da." By being so eager to appease the extremists, Hariri warned, "The message that is being sent today to our part of the world is you can" subvert neighboring regimes through terrorism "and get away with it." The result would be "There will only be terrorism and extremist regimes like Syria will flourish."

"Shari'a-friendly" investments

From Jewish World Review Oct. 23, 2007 / 11 Mar-Cheshvan 5768, by Caroline B. Glick, senior Middle East Fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, DC and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post [my emphasis added - SL]:

Monday the verdict in the largest terror finance case in US history was read in a Texas courtroom. The case against the Holyland Foundation for Relief and Development and five of its principal leaders — which ended in a mistrial — was predicated on the interconnection between terrorism and international finance. The five men were accused of financing Hamas by transferring millions of dollars to organizations in Judea, Samaria and Gaza that served as distributors of charitable or zakat contributions to Hamas members and entities.

Perhaps the greatest problem with the term "war on terror" is that it confuses both the public and those charged with prosecuting the war on all levels about the nature of the enemy we face. The jihadists who seek to dominate the world in the name of Islam are not merely involved in violent activities. Organizations like Hamas, Hizbullah and al-Qaida devote the majority of their efforts to spreading the message of jihad by proselytizing fellow Muslims through propaganda, educational and welfare activities. These actions are vital for building popular support both for their terror activities and for their larger political goals.

Essential to the aims of the jihadists is the Muslim sacrament of zakat. Zakat, one of the pillars of Islam, requires Muslims to donate 2.5 percent of their incomes to charity.

As the indictment in the Holyland Foundation case showed, most of the money that the five defendants transferred to Hamas was transferred through zakat committees in Palestinian cities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. These committees then transferred the monies to Hamas terrorists, their family members, political leaders and terror cells.

...curbing terror funding has been a central pillar of the US war effort. And targeting supposedly charitable organizations registered in the US, which like the Holyland Foundation served as conduits for money laundering and terror financing was one of the first courses of action that the Bush administration embarked on in its campaign against the global jihadist network.

The targeting of these organizations has been strongly criticized by self-styled Muslim civil rights organizations which protest the government's actions by claiming they are anti-Muslim. Some of the main organizations that have adopted this line were themselves identified as unindicted co-conspirators in the Holyland Foundation case. Specifically, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Islamic Society of North America, which both US government agencies and the US media have treated as credible groups were named in the Holyland indictment as unindicted co-conspirators with Hamas's US front group.

... Today terror analysts fear that a new means has been found to skirt anti-terror laws and finance terror while rendering the financial systems of the West vulnerable to Islamic manipulation and control. The fear is that through the burgeoning presence of Shari'a-compliant investment houses, jihadist groups and financiers will be able to raise enormous sums of money to fund their nefarious activities aimed at global domination.

Islamic clerics tout Shari'a-finance as one of the central components of Islam. But this is untrue. Shari'a economics did not exist until the founders of the Muslim Brotherhood Maulana Abul Ala Mawdudi and Sayyd Qutb invented it them in the 1940s and 1950s. ... the purpose of Shari'a finance is religious and political, not financial.
Shari'a finance became a significant factor in the Muslim world in the aftermath of the 1973 OPEC oil embargo which raised Arab oil revenues a hundredfold in under a decade. The first Shari'a-compliant banks were established in 1975 with the opening of the Saudi-controlled Islamic Development Bank and the Islamic Bank of Dubai. Today the International Monetary Fund estimates that there are some 300 Shari'a-compliant banks operating in some 75 countries. Arab estimates place the number at 400. Close to a trillion dollars are under Shari'a-compliant management.

ASIDE FROM these Shari'a-based financial institutions in the Islamic world, the new trend in the West is for Western financial institutions to offer Shari'a-compliant investment opportunities. So excited is Britain, for instance about the financial benefit to be gained by attracting oil-rich Islamic investors that in January Britain's Treasury Minister Ed Balls announced his government's intention to turn London into the center of global Islamic finance.

....In order for investments to be defined as Shari'a-compliant, they must receive the approval of Shari'a advisors. Only certain Islamic entities are entitled to issue religious rulings or fatwas that can recognize investments as Shari'a-compliant. These entities include the Fiqh Academy in Jedda, Saudi Arabia, which is associated with the Saudi-dominated Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC); the European Council for Fatwa Research, and the Fatwa Council of North America. All of these entities are associated with the radical pro-jihadist Wahabi and Salafi schools of Islam adhered to by groups such as al-Qaida and Hamas.

.... radicals, supported by jihad-supporting Islamic institutions constitute an effective cartel in Shari'a-finance. ...With a trillion dollars now invested in Shari'a-compliant investments, the amount of money available for zakat is staggering.

Islamic financial kingpin Sheikh Saleh Kamel, a Saudi multi-billionaire, founder of the Dallah al-Baraka Islamic banking group and alleged terror financier recently suggested ... that one central institution be established that will distribute all zakat contributions from Shari'a-compliant financial institutions.

...."On April 30, the OIC…established the clerical International Commission for Zakat, replacing more than 20,000 organizations that previously collected the money. [The] Islamic clerics' "expert committee" in Malaysia now supervises and distributes those funds."

On October 24 and 25th, the New York law firm Gersten Savage will host a major conference in New York on Shari'a-compliant investments.

MANY NEW YORK investment houses, banks and hedge funds have indicated their interest in expanding their services to include Shari'a-compliant investments. These organizations should carefully consider the likely moral and criminal implications of enabling Shari'a advisors associated with radical Islamic theologians and a foreign body on record for supporting terror, anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism to determine both the composition of their investments and the utilization of 2.5 percent of the revenues stemming from those investments.

It may work out that by bringing what is essentially a cartel sympathetic to jihad into their institutions, they will inadvertently be picking up the slack caused by the shuttering of non-profits like the Holyland Foundation. Like the heads of Islamic charities, these banks also will be held accountable for their actions.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The world is at war

From Detroit Jewish News, October 19, 2007, by Robert Sklar:

....political analyst Daniel Pipes: The civilized world is at war. And American Jews are engaged on two distinct fronts: against Islamists who hate the West and against Jew-haters who despise Zionism.

Pipes helped crystallize why there's something to the belief that diplomacy doesn't end wars - victory by one side over the other does. I'm not willing to scuttle hope that compromise won't resolve America's war against Iraqi insurgents or Israel's conflict with Palestinian terrorists. But I understand that if you don't win a war, you lose it by default.

"We need to win our war and Israel needs to win its war," Pipes said ..."By winning, I mean imposing one's will on the enemy and causing them to give up hope, causing them to see their movement and their goals as forlorn and defeated - no longer able to continue the fight."

As I listened, it hit me that the common enemy is not terrorism, which is a tactic, or Islam, which is a faith. It's radical Islam, which Pipes calls a totalitarian political ideology. His disconcerting drumbeat doesn't mean the Arab-Israeli conflict can't be resolved. ....

...Pipes foresees that either the Palestinians, both Hamas and Fatah led, accept Israel's right to exist and prosper, or the Israelis acquiesce to some form of Palestinian rule and suffer the consequences. The first option obviously is the best, but I think it'll take at least a generation before conditions are ripe for that. The Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute reported just last week that the Hamas children's magazine Al-Fateh continues to incite to jihad, glorify terror, describe Jews as "murderers of the prophets" and laud parents who encourage their sons to kill Jews for Allah.

The second option just isn't practical. Israeli Jews either would submit to the rule of terror mongers who want them dead or would flee to accepting lands. Who really believes these Jews would abandon Israel as it nears the 60th anniversary of gaining statehood in the shadows of the Holocaust?

Pipes argues that the U.S. should stop aiding the Palestinian Authority, saying there's little difference between Fatah and Hamas; they share the ultimate goal of claiming Eretz Yisrael [Land of Israel] as theirs.

In the same vein, Pipes said, Israel should wake up to the reality of its off-again, on-again "negotiations" with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Mahmoud Abbas, puppet president of the Palestinian Authority. As Pipes put it: "The idea that Abbas is our ally, in some fashion working for our goals, and has a vision that is consonant with that of ours, is patently absurd. Everything about this individual and the organization that he heads is in the opposite direction ....."

...Extrapolating from our discussion, the Palestinians as a people remain committed to believing they can achieve statehood without forgoing aid, arms or land. If there's no risk to allay, why should they acknowledge an avowed enemy? ....

...The negotiations since the ill-fated 1993 Oslo Accords have exhilarated the Palestinians, imbuing them with an air of optimism. "Unwittingly, the Israelis are enfranchising and empowering the enemy," Pipes said. "The Israelis have convinced themselves that by trying to negotiate, and America is happy to go along, they are defanging the enemy - causing them to lose interest. Rather, the Palestinians are far more enraged today than they were at the bottom of their political fortunes back in the early 1990s."

Compounding Israel's predicament is the likelihood of Hamas and Fatah reuniting. The motivation exists - their differing vision, personnel and tactics notwithstanding. Historically, they have worked together and fought each other cyclically. "There's nothing to say that in a year or two, they won't be back working together," Pipes said. ....

It’s too late for sanctions

From DEBKAfile, October 22, 2007:

Olmert sounds alarm: Iran has crossed red line for developing a nuclear weapon. It’s too late for sanctions.

This is the message prime minister Ehud Olmert is carrying urgently to French President Nicolas Sarkozy Monday and British premier Gordon Brown Tuesday, according to DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources.

Last week, Olmert placed the Israeli intelligence warning of an Iranian nuclear breakthrough before Russian president Vladimir Putin, while Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak presented the updated intelligence on the advances Iran has made towards its goal of a nuclear weapon to American officials in Washington, including President Bush.

Olmert will be telling Sarkozy and Brown that the moment for diplomacy or even tough sanctions has passed. Iran can only be stopped now from going all the way to its goal by direct, military action.

Information of the Iranian breakthrough prompted the latest spate of hard-hitting US statements. Sunday, Oct. 21, US vice president Cheney said: "Our country, and the entire international community, cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its grandest ambitions.''

Friday, the incoming Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen said US forces are capable of operations against Iran’s nuclear facilities or other targets. At his first news conference, he said: “I don’t think we’re stretched in that regard.”

It is worth noting that whereas Olmert’s visits are officially tagged as part of Israel’s campaign for harsher sanctions against Iran, his trips are devoted to preaching to the converted, leaders who advocate tough measures including a military option; he has avoided government heads who need persuading, like German Chancellor Angela Merkel or Italian prime minister Romano Prodi.

The Israeli prime minister hurried over to Moscow last Thursday after he was briefed on the hard words exchanged between Putin and Iran’s supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran Tuesday, Oct. 16.

According to DEBKAfile’s sources, the Russian leader warned the ayatollah that the latest development in Iran’s nuclear program prevented him from protecting Tehran from international penalties any longer; the clerical regime’s options were now reduced, he said, to halting its clandestine nuclear activities or else facing tough sanctions, or even military action.
The Russian ruler’s private tone of speech was in flat contrast to his public denial of knowledge of Iranian work on a nuclear weapon. It convinced Olmert to include Moscow in his European itinerary.

Our sources in Iran and Moscow report that Putin’s dressing-down of Khamenei followed by his three-hour conversation with the Israeli prime minister acted as catalysts for Iranian hardliners’s abrupt action in sweeping aside senior nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani Saturday, Oct. 20 and the Revolutionary Guards General Mahmoud Chaharbaghi’s threat to fire 11,000 rockets and mortars at enemy targets the minute after Iran comes under attack.

Our military sources say Tehran could not manage to shoot off this number of projectiles on its own. Iran would have to co-opt allies and surrogates, Syria, Hizballah, Hamas and pro-Tehran militias in Iraq to the assault.

DEBKAfile’s US military sources disclosed previously that if, as widely reported, Syria is in the process of building a small reactor capable of producing plutonium on the North Korean model, Iran must certainly have acquired one of these reactors before Syria, and would then be in a more advanced stage of plutonium production at a secret underground location.

Dinner conversation

From The New York Sun, October 19, 2007, by AMANDA GORDON [about the inaugural Scholar-Statesman Award Dinner of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on Wednesday evening]:

...."It's misleading to say we are engaged in a war against terrorism," [emeritus professor at Princeton University, Bernard Lewis] said. "If Churchill had told us that we were engaged in a war against submarines and war craft, we'd be in a different world today. Terrorism is a tactic, it is not the enemy." The enemy, he said, is Islamism, which he placed as the third in a sequence of ideological deformations that have taken place in his lifetime, the first two being Nazism and Bolshevism.

"There is only one way to deal with Islamism: to mobilize the Muslims themselves on our side," Mr. Lewis said. "Nazism and Bolshevism were a curse to their own people before they became a threat to the world. We must strive for the same situation. … Perhaps it is our only solution. We must free them or they will destroy us." Mr. Lewis said his optimism in facing Islamism derives from his expectation of foolishness and error on the part of our adversaries, noting historical examples such as Hitler's exile of his best scientists.

...[former secretary of state, George Shultz] had plenty to say.... On the challenge of radical Islam: "I fear that to a certain extent we're going to sleep on it. In the Reagan years, we had a strategy, we had an idea, and a way of going about it, but we don't seem to have such an idea right now," he said. He proposed going back to the three key words that guided him during the Reagan administration: realism, strength, and diplomacy. "If you have ideas, you're going to get somewhere. The ideas are your compass," he said.

Mr. Shultz also addressed the role of lobbyists. "Lobbies are a good thing, but it's up to the government to take all this in and decide what's in the best interests of the U.S," Mr. Shultz said. Asked about the book "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, Mr. Shultz said: "I don't even want to talk about the book. It's a disgrace. And to call Israel an apartheid society is also a disgrace."....

Isi Leibler in Melbourne

From an interview of Isi Leibler by Peter Kohn, Australian Jewish News, published October 18, 2007:

...What are some of the developments in the Australian Jewish community that have struck you on this latest visit?
I see a government and Opposition consensus on providing security for kids at school as perhaps the beginning of a general process of recognizing that the government should be taking some role in supporting people who go to Jewish day schools, which should not have to carry the whole burden themselves. The reason for Australian Jewry's success is it s day-school movement, and if that becomes squeezed, with more and more sacrifices being demanded of middle-income people to give two or three kids a Jewish day school education, the only way this can be made up in the long term is if the state becomes more involved in at least backing up the secular studies.

You've come at a significant time, with an election date being announced. How do you think the two sides shape up in terms of their policies on the Middle East?
You're asking a very difficult and sensitive question. All I can say is that John Howard has probably been the most outstanding friend that Israel has ever had as a statesman… Hitherto there has never been anyone on the political map as a leader who has been as good to us, in a principled manner, as Howard. Having said that, I must say that I regard the alternative, Kevin Rudd, as a Christian Zionist and as a genuine friend of Israel. Whether he can maintain the same standard of support Israel has received from the Howard-Downer Government remains to be seen … I had the opportunity to meet again with Kevin Rudd, at a function set up by the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, and renewed relations with him, as I'd met him already in Israel. We had a lengthy dinner together then and I was most impressed … But if you're asking me how people should vote, I certainly wouldn't dare suggest how they should vote....

....Looking at the Middle East, what should be done about the looming threat of nuclear proliferation in Iran?
There are two things. To alert and encourage the world not to repeat the appeasement that paved the way for Nazism. But equally as important, Israel must demonstrate – and I believe they've started doing that (Israel's reported raid on a partly completed Syrian nuclear reactor) - that there is a deterrent, and if anyone starts messing around with Israel in a big way … if anyone thinks Israel is going to go like a lamb to the slaughter, they should be disillusioned. Even if there are a few lunatics in Iran, very few will want to take on a power that will give it back double-fold and strongly.

With regard to Israel and the Palestinians, can talks with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and the PA have any effect?
You need to have a peace partner to make peace. Abbas is impotent, corrupt and has no base. Whereas the Americans may want to show theoretical progress, the reality is that we don't have someone we can make peace with.

How should Israel approach Hamas, now that the organization controls Gaza?
Israel should begin to behave like a normal country. The majority of Israelis feel that if a regime is hurling rockets at you, you don't continue to provide them with electricity and other facilities.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Does the Prospective Purchase of British Gas from Gaza's Coastal Waters

From JCPA Vol. 7, No. 17, 19 October 2007, by Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Moshe Yaalon:


  • British Gas is supposed to be the crown jewel of the Palestinian economy, and provide part of the solution to Israel's pressing energy needs. The British energy giant, now called the "BG Group," and its local partners - the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas and the private, Palestinian-owned Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC) - are currently involved in advanced negotiations to sell to Israel massive amounts of natural gas - reserves of nearly 1.4 trillion cubic feet - that BG first discovered in 2000 off the Gaza coast. The market value of the gas has been estimated at $4 billion. Therefore, sale of the gas to Israel would mean a billion-dollar windfall for the PA and, potentially, for the Palestinian people.
  • Unfortunately, British assessments, including those of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, that Gaza gas can be a key driver of an economically more viable Palestinian state, are misguided. Proceeds of a Palestinian gas sale to Israel would likely not trickle down to help an impoverished Palestinian public. Rather, based on Israel's past experience, the proceeds will likely serve to fund further terror attacks against Israel. No less threatening is the fact that terror organizations associated with the global Jihad, like al-Qaeda, will be highly motivated to attack any British Gas installation off Gaza's shores that provided fuel to Israel.
  • For Israel, the need for BG's gas may have already taken a toll. It is possible that the prospect of an Israeli gas purchase may have played a role in influencing the Olmert cabinet to avoid ordering a major IDF ground operation in Gaza, despite at least 1,000 rocket and mortar attacks against southern Israel since the Hamas takeover of Gaza in June 2007.
  • Clearly, Israel needs additional natural gas sources, while the Palestinian people sorely need new sources of revenue. However, with Gaza currently a radical Islamic stronghold, and the West Bank in danger of becoming the next one, Israel's funneling a billion dollars into local or international bank accounts on behalf of the Palestinian Authority would be tantamount to Israel's bankrolling terror against itself. Therefore, an urgent review is required of the far-reaching security implications of an Israeli decision to purchase Gaza gas.....

Follow the link to read the full text of the article


....Conduct a Thorough Security Assessment Before Approving the British Gas Deal
The multiple dangers lurking behind Israel's potential natural gas purchase from BG have not deterred another attempt at finalizing a deal, due in large part to the redoubled efforts of Quartet envoy Tony Blair. The latest indications are that the BG Group, with the full backing of the British government, intends to finalize a multi-year agreement with Israel before the end of 2007.
The dangers inherent in Israel's potential purchase of British Gas from the marine reserves off Gaza require an immediate, comprehensive, interagency security assessment by the IDF, Israeli Security Agency, Mossad, and other organs. This type of interagency assessment did not take place when I was IDF Chief of Staff from 2002 to 2005. Since then, to the best of my understanding, no comprehensive security assessment has occurred, despite the intention of the parties to sign an agreement in the coming weeks.
Regional and local security conditions have worsened since 2005, and Israel must be prepared to face a possible two-front war against Hamas in Gaza, and Syria and Hizbullah in the north. Therefore, Israel will pay a painful price in its security if the British Gas transaction were to take place in the foreseeable future.
Israel needs additional sources of energy, including natural gas, and the Palestinians clearly need to create a peaceful civil society and a self-sustaining economy. However, with Gaza currently a radical Islamic stronghold, and the West Bank in danger of becoming the next one, Israel's funneling a billion dollars into local or international bank accounts on behalf of the Palestinian Authority would be tantamount to Israel's bankrolling terror against itself. Therefore, an urgent review is required of the far-reaching security implications of an Israeli decision to purchase Gaza gas by the State Comptroller's office or another external review panel.

Olmert to Putin: Increase sanctions against Iran

From Haaretz, 19/10/07, by Barak Ravid:

Economic sanctions against Iran are working, but it is necessary to go further with them to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow yesterday. Israel fears that both Iran and Syria are seeking to acquire nuclear arms, Olmert added.

According to a senior defense official involved in the Iranian issue, the prime minister's hastily scheduled visit to Russia stemmed from a situation assessment two weeks ago that discerned a "significant retreat in Russia's position on continued diplomatic activity to impose sanctions on Iran via the Security Council." But senior government officials said yesterday that Putin expressed great understanding for Israel's positions on all the issues discussed....

.... Putin briefed Olmert on his visit to Tehran earlier this week, while Olmert briefed the Russian president on Israel's intelligence assessments of Iran's nuclear program. Olmert said economic sanctions could persuade Tehran to halt uranium enrichment and its drive to acquire nuclear weapons, but to do so, they must be stepped up.

.... Meanwhile, President Shimon Peres said yesterday that Iran is developing nuclear weapons to sow war and destruction. "Everyone knows what its true intentions are, and many intelligence organizations worldwide have clear evidence of this," the president said in a press statement. "Even if Russian President Vladimir Putin says he is not convinced that Iran is developing nuclear capabilities for the purpose of war, everyone knows what its intentions are." "The world must open its eyes wide, before it is too late. Many times in history, it was already too late to prevent man-made horrors and bloodshed. That was the case with Stalin and Hitler, and now, we are approaching a similar situation with Ahmadinejad..."

Ahmadinejad’s Aggressive Nuclear Policy Prevails in Tehran

From DEBKAfile , October 20, 2007:

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has laid down the gauntlet.

Having prevailed over the more pragmatic elements of the Islamic Republican regime headed by supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, he and his Revolutionary Guards are challenging the United States to do its worst.

Saturday, Oct. 20, the fire-eating president succeeded in removing the formidable Iranian nuclear negotiator, head of the National Security Council, Ali Larijani, from his path. He then sent the Revolutionary Guards missile and artillery commander, Gen. Mahmoud Chaharbaghshe, to warn that, in the first minute of an attack on Iran, the Islamic Republic would fire 11,000 missiles and mortars against enemy (US and Israeli) bases. The scale of ordnance threatened implied Tehran’s certainty that Syria, Hizballah, Hamas and the pro-Iranian militias in Iraq would join the assault.

DEBKAfile’s Iran sources report that the president’s venture into brinkmanship points to his confidence that neither the US not Israel can or will dare to strike at Iran’s clandestine nuclear facilities. Khamenei has shown no sign as yet of reining him in.

The Russian president Vladimir Putin’s visit last week to Tehran was a disappointment to the clerical rulers. Contracts for the Russians to complete the Bushehr atomic reactor and supply the fuel for its activation were not signed during that visit, although they had been drawn up previously between Larijani and the head of the Russian Nuclear Energy Commission Sergei Kiriyenko in Moscow.

At the last minute, Ahmadinejad, backed up by the IRGC chiefs, put his foot down against Putin’s pre-condition which was incorporated in the contract for a joint Russian-Iranian mechanism to oversee the reactor and guarantee its non-use for weapons production.
Putin made a last attempt to talk Tehran round in a long conversation with the supreme ruler Wednesday, Oct. 17, before he flew out of Tehran.

Initially, there were reports that the Russian president had presented new proposals for solving the crisis, which Khamenei promised to seriously examine. The Iranian News Agency IRNA then quoted Khamenei as saying noncommittally: “We will ponder your words and proposal.”
However, on Friday, Oct. 19, Ahmadinejad made remarks which contradicted statements by the supreme ruler and Larijani. He denied that Putin had brought any new proposals to Tehran on the Bushehr nuclear reactor. This denial had the effect of presenting Larijani as a failure. His efforts to achieve a new set of Iranian-Russian nuclear contracts and a breakthrough for Tehran that would have kept Moscow in the international camp opposed to tougher UN Security Council sanctions were shown up as useless.

The Iranian president had manipulated the episode in such a way as to leave the nuclear negotiator no option but to quit. In contrast to the ultra-radicals, Larijani is described by DEBKAfile’s Iranian sources as a practical diplomat who believed in a compromise that would let Iran continue its uranium enrichment process and develop its nuclear program, up to the point of weapons capability, without taking the final step of actually making a bomb.

His humiliation marks the further rise in Ahmadinejad’s influence and his unimpeded drive to go all the way to a military showdown with the United States and Israel over Iran’s nuclear ambitions. In private conversations in Tehran, the president argues that neither is in a position to go to war against the Islamic Republic.

Our military sources stress that the Iranian nuclear program no longer relies exclusively on uranium enrichment to attain a weapon, but has also turned to plutonium as an alternative path to a weapons capacity. The Bushehr reactor is a matter or national pride in Iran, but whether or not it is activating does not affect its military nuclear plans one way or another.

The production of plutonium for weapons is relatively simple and cheap, a fact that was exposed by Israel’s air strike in northern Syria on Sept. 6. If even Syria can build a small nuclear reactor for plutonium production with North Korean help, there is no reason to assume that Iran has not built an active reactor of this kind and is hiding it underground.

While much has been made of North Korea’s input for Syrian’s nuclear activities, little has been said about Iran’s assistance, which DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources estimate as far more substantial. In other words, North Korea is not the only nuclear proliferators; Iran is consistently violating its commitments under the Non-Proliferation Accord by passing its military nuclear secrets to Syria.