Saturday, April 12, 2008

Iranian 'secret launch site' revealed

From The Times Online (UK), April 11, 2008, by Michael Evans:

The secret site where Iran is suspected of developing long-range ballistic missiles capable of reaching targets in Europe has been uncovered by new satellite photographs.

A close examination of the photographs has indicated that the Iranians are following the same path as North Korea

The imagery has pinpointed the facility from where the Iranians launched their Kavoshgar 1 “research rocket” on February 4, claiming that it was in connection with their space programme.
Analysis of the photographs taken by the Digital Globe QuickBird satellite four days after the launch has revealed a number of intriguing features that indicate to experts that it is the same site where Iran is focusing its efforts on developing a ballistic missile with a range of about 6,000km (4,000 miles).

A previously unknown missile location, the site, about 230km southeast of Tehran, and the link with Iran's long-range programme, was revealed by Jane's Intelligence Review after a study of the imagery by a former Iraq weapons inspector. A close examination of the photographs has indicated that the Iranians are following the same path as North Korea, pursuing a space programme that enables Tehran to acquire expertise in long-range missile technology.

Geoffrey Forden, a research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that there was a recently constructed building on the site, about 40 metres in length, which was similar in form and size to the Taepodong long-range missile assembly facility in North Korea.
Avital Johanan, the editor of Jane's Proliferation, said that the analysis of the Iranian site indicated that Tehran may be about five years away from developing a 6,000km ballistic missile. This would tie in with American intelligence estimates and underlines why President Bush wants the Polish and Czech components of the US missile defence system to be up and running by 2013.

The Czech Republic has now agreed to have a special radar system on its soil and the Polish Government is still negotiating with Washington over the American request to site ten interceptor missiles in Poland.

The Kavoshgar 1 rocket that was launched in the presence of President Ahmadinejad of Iran was based on the Shahab 3B missile, a version of the North Korean Nodong liquid-propellant missile.
Dr Forden said that the Kavoshgar launch did not demonstrate any significant advances in ballistic missile technology. “But it does reveal the likely future development of Iran's missile programme,” he said.

At a meeting on February 25 between the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Iranians, UN inspectors confronted them with evidence of design studies for mounting nuclear warheads on long-range missiles. The Iranians denied any such aspirations.

However, according to Jane's Intelligence Review, the satellite photographs prove that the Kavoshgar 1 rocket was not part of a civilian space centre project but was consistent with Iran's clandestine programme to develop longer-range missiles....

Bush warns Iran

From The Wekend Australian, April 12, 2008, by Greg Sheridan, Foreign editor:

EVERY day it becomes clearer that one of the fundamental conflicts of Iraq, and of the broader Middle East, is between the US and Iran.

Now a new missile site has been discovered at which Iran is building ballistic missiles that could hit Europe. Soon enough, Iran will have nuclear weapons to put on those missiles.

This week, General David Petraeus, the commander of US troops in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, Washington's ambassador in Baghdad, fingered Iran as supplying weapons, training, money and fighters to keep the conflict in Iraq boiling. Petraeus said that Iran's interference was the single biggest threat to the emergence of a democratic, viable Iraq.

Now US President George W.Bush has gone further. He has said that Iraq is the centre for two of the biggest threats the US will face this century - al-Qa'ida and Iran.

Bush warned Iran starkly. In an important speech, he said to Tehran that it had the choice of living with Iraq in peace, or it could keep funding and training militant groups that terrorise Iraqi people and destabilise the nation. If Iran makes the wrong choice, Bush said, then "America will act to protect our interests, and our troops, and our Iraqi partners".

Anybody who discounts a threat by Bush to use force is a fool. The Iranians should realise that there is still a serious threat of a US military strike on Iranian nuclear and missile facilities before the end of the Bush administration. Bush has shown he will use the power of his office to the full and will not be deterred from actions he believes are strategically necessary.

Almost no one in the US power structure supported the troop surge in Iraq - not Defence Secretary Robert Gates nor Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice nor the joint chiefs of staff.
Bush and Cheney supported it. And carried it out. And it worked.

The decline in violence in Iraq in recent months has had three causes - the surge, the so-called Sunni awakening in which Sunni groups, sometimes funded by the US, have turned against al-Qa'ida, and the ceasefire observed by Moqtada al-Sadr's militia.

It is that ceasefire which has partly broken down in recent weeks, and there is no doubt that the Iranians are fishing in troubled waters among the Shia militias.

Of course, whether Bush strikes Iran or not, the next US president will face the same fundamental clash of interests between the US and Iran. This conflict has a long way to go.

Islamofascism rears its head in Sydney

From The Weekend Australian, April 12, 2008, by Natalie O'Brien and Sanna Trad:

A RADICAL Islamist magazine pushing anti-Israeli sentiments is being sold on university campuses in Sydney...the organisation believed to be behind the booklet ...[is] Hizb ut-Tahrir....

The idialogue, a 42-page glossy magazine, was yesterday being sold to students as they left Friday prayers at the University of Technology Sydney, the University of NSW and the University of Sydney.

...The Sydney-based media officer for Hizb ut-Tahrir, Wassim Doureihi, is writing for the magazine, and other members of Hizb ut-Tahrir are involved in its production....

...The first edition opens with a message from the editorial team which says in part "we launch this initiative at a time when strong political messages should not be shied away from by the Muslim community ... and the ideological onslaught against Islam is evident on every level of society".

The magazine pushes a strong anti-Israeli message focusing on the issue of the Palestinian territories, saying "the holiest of Islamic lands is in the hands of the unholiest - the illegal and illegitimate state of Israel". It also reproduces a 1935 fatwa issued by the religious scholars of Palestine against the selling of lands to Zionists.

Hizb ut-Tahrir is a secretive organisation which promotes the destruction of Western civilisation and the overthrow of governments and their replacement by Islamic rule ["Islamofascism" - SL]. The group is banned in much of Europe, China and Saudi Arabia but remains legal in Britain and Australia.

Five years ago, most Western observers did not consider Hizb ut-Tahrir a serious threat, but its influence has grown and it now has branches in about 45 countries. The group has twice been investigated by ASIO.

The role of Hizb ut-Tahrir in the radicalisation of young Muslims was revealed last year when four of the seven suspects in failed terror attacks on London and Glasgow were found to have had links to a Hizb ut-Tahrir cell in Cambridge.

A research paper produced last year in Australia warned the organisation was a conveyor belt for extremists.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Honouring Betar at Warsaw Ghetto

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Apr. 8, 2008, by Greer Fay Cashman:

CORRECTING AN historical omission next week will be Prof. Moshe Arens, who will be in Poland for the 65th anniversary of the of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Most of the historical material related to the uprising documents the heroism of Mordechai Anielewicz and members of left-wing Jewish organizations, but makes little or no reference to the heroism of right-wing individuals and movements.

So while Peres, who will also be in Poland next week - both on a state visit and for the commemoration - goes to Mila Street to pay tribute to Anielewicz and those who fought with him, Arens and a delegation of Betar and the Irgun Zvai Leumi (Etzel) will go to Muranowska Square, to what was once the headquarters of the Revisionist led Jewish Military Unit Zydowski Zwiazek Wojskowy, generally known as the ZZW, to unveil a plaque to the long unsung heroes of the right. Arens has done intensive research on the ZZW. The outcome has been numerous articles and a book which have righted an historical wrong....

Also see JIW posting of 25/4/06 on this subject and Jerusalem Post article of Apr 20, 2006 by ABRAHAM RABINOVICH entitled "The first casualty in war" for a detailed account of the Uprising.

Honoring ANZACs in Israel

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Apr. 8, 2008, by Greer Fay Cashman:

AUSTRALIAN AMBASSADOR James Larsen is extremely busy this month making preparations for the annual ANZAC Day ceremony at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery on Mount Scopus, to be followed soon after by the dedication of the Park of the Australian Soldier in Beersheba. The park is yet another project of the Melbourne-based Pratt Foundation, which has set up numerous projects here. Its centerpiece is a life-size bronze memorial by noted Australian sculptor Peter Corlett, commemorating the charge of the Australian Light Horse on October 31, 1917.

Corlett is currently here to oversee the installation of the sculpture depicting a mounted horseman with drawn bayonet leaping over Turkish sandbags.....

The park, developed in cooperation with the Beersheba Municipality and the Beersheba Foundation...will be officially dedicated on April 28 at a ceremony to be attended by President Shimon Peres, Australian Governor General Maj.-Gen. Michael Jeffrey and other Israeli and Australian dignitaries....

Murder at the border

From THE JERUSALEM POST Editorial, Apr. 9, 2008:

Our enemies in Gaza expect Israelis to feel compassion, and the international community to feel outrage, over the deprivations suffered by Gazans - lack of fuel, for instance - even as they try to kill us at every opportunity. That's the bitter reality underlined by the latest terrorist attack, on Wednesday afternoon at the Nahal Oz fuel depot on the border between Gaza and Israel.

Palestinian terrorists, under mortar cover, infiltrated the crossing just after Israeli tankers had delivered the latest consignment of fuel for Gaza, financed by the European Union. The apparent aim was to kidnap more Israeli soldiers. Most, if not all, of the terrorists were killed, but not before they had murdered two innocent Israelis.

Earlier yesterday, Palestinian terrorists had also managed to mortally wound a member of an elite IDF unit, 21-year-old St.-Sgt. Bisan Sayef from the Druse town of Jatt in the Galilee, whose squad was operating against the Hamas-fostered terrorist infrastructure in the southern Gaza Strip.

IDF soldiers have been conducting small-scale operations in Gaza in an effort to end the Kassam attacks against Sderot and the surrounding area, and to halt sniper shootings against Israeli farmers and other civilians.

Earlier in the week, a tunnel shaft roughly 3.5 meters deep was located in a building 700 meters from the security fence. The tunnel had been dug not to smuggle food into the Strip - that's mostly supplied by Israel - but to export death and destruction.

ON TUESDAY night, Israel's Channel 10 news aired a report showing how Palestinian drivers in Gaza found themselves forced to sleep in their vehicles due to long lines at gas stations caused by the fuel shortages. Strange, then, you might think, that the Palestinians would target the very depot that brings them gasoline for their cars and diesel for their hospital generators.

But the Palestinian leadership adamantly places "resistance" - read: killing Israeli civilians and soldiers - over providing food, shelter and the prospect of a better life for its people. And it has ruthlessly exploited any and every vulnerable target where Israel tries to partner with Gazans for their own benefit - including joint industrial zones, supply depots and border crossings - to carry out such killings.

Almost every day, dozens of truckloads of humanitarian aid and supplies are transferred into the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom, Sufa and Karni crossings. On a typical day last week, dozens of trucks brought cocoa, powered milk, jam, oil, peas, tissues, diapers, toilet paper, medical supplies, wheat, corn, sesame and grain. Others brought dairy products, sugar, fruit, meat, rice, flour, oil, carrots, pasta, garlic, fish, eggs, salt, tea, medical supplies, ketchup and vegetables. On that same typical day, also, an observer - assuming he was not being shot at by Palestinian snipers - would have noted long convoys of tankers delivering fuel and gas through the Nahal Oz crossing.

Thousands upon thousands of tons of humanitarian aid have been transferred by Israel to an entity that is at war with us - a state of war unaffected, indeed often intensified, by Israel's 2005 removal of all vestiges of its civilian and military presence in Gaza. Israel insistently maintains this aid supply, enabling an enemy government that targets our civilians to continue to rule, because, despite everything, it cannot bear to see ordinary Palestinians starving. Israel does so, too, because that's what the civilized world expects from the only democracy in the Middle East. But Israel must have its limits.

Hamas rules Gaza. The Palestinian people elected Hamas, and polls suggest they would elect Hamas again were elections held today. Though other terror organizations claimed responsibility for yesterday's attack, it is Hamas that Israel correctly holds responsible.

Israel cannot be expected to deliver food and fuel to an enemy that won't stop shooting at its civilians and trying to kidnap or kill its soldiers. It cannot maintain points of contact with Gaza when terrorists cynically utilize the necessary vulnerability of such points of contact to commit murder.

If all the international community is prepared to do is issue ineffectual denunciations of the "cycle of violence" rather than of its instigators, and if it persists in equating Israeli retaliation with Palestinian aggression, it too will remain part of the problem. The Quartet - the EU, UN, US and Russia - should, rather, demand an immediate halt to Palestinian violations of Israel's border. And it should firmly support Israel in conditioning ongoing assistance to Gaza on a halt to such attacks.

Hamas in Largest Arms Buildup Yet

From The New York Times, April 10, 2008, by ETHAN BRONNER*:

JERUSALEM — An Israeli study says Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, is engaged in the broadest and most significant military buildup in its history with help from Syria and Iran. It adds that Hamas is restructuring more hierarchically and using more and more powerful weapons, especially longer-range rockets against Israel’s southern communities.

The study, by an independent research group with close ties to the Israeli military establishment, says that though the buildup will take some years to complete, it is in an intensive phase that has already led to better infiltration into Israel and a rise in the breadth and precision of rocket fire.

“This is the first comprehensive analysis of the Hamas buildup,” said Reuven Erlich, a retired colonel in military intelligence who heads the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, the institute that produced the study. “It is based on a wide range of sources. And what is very clear is that Hamas, like Hezbollah in Lebanon, is aiming to use rocket fire to draw the Israeli military in.”

The 52-page study, to be released publicly on Thursday, says that after Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005, Hamas began a consolidation of power. It won the Palestinian elections against the more secular Fatah party in 2006, after sharing power uneasily with Fatah, then routed Fatah forces from Gaza last summer.

A copy of the study was provided to The New York Times.

According to a report by the Shin Bet internal security services quoted in the study, Hamas has smuggled at least 80 tons of explosives into Gaza since last summer. That smuggling accounts for more than half the amount moved into Gaza since Israel’s withdrawal, evidence of the intensification, the study asserts.

The study also says Hamas has obtained advanced anti-tank devices like those used by Hezbollah against Israel in its war in 2006, as well as powerful roadside bombs for use in border areas where Israeli vehicles might be expected to pass in pursuit of rocket launchers. It added that hundreds of fighters had been trained in Iran, Lebanon and Syria. ....

....The study... asserts that any kind of truce would allow Hamas to build its military structure further, although it also says Hamas’s big worry is that Israel will reinvade Gaza. Such a concern is one motivation for the buildup, the study says.

A senior Israeli official in the prime minister’s office, who agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity, said that what he took from the report was that when there was relative quiet in Gaza, Israel ran the risk of playing into Hamas’s hands by allowing it to continue its military buildup....

....It also says the military buildup is being run largely from Damascus, where Hamas has a base, because there is better access there to Syrian and Iranian money and weapons. Nonetheless, it says, political power within Hamas is increasingly moving to the Gaza Strip.

One focus of the study is the improved nature of the rockets available in Gaza as a result of smuggling through Egypt and dozens of underground tunnels leading from Egypt into Gaza. The report does not accuse Egypt of cooperating in the smuggling, only of ineffectiveness in stopping it.

Some rockets, it says, are clearly made outside Gaza, factory-produced with larger diameters and ranges, probably in Iran. Israel has been very worried by rockets that can reach into major population centers in the south like Ashkelon and Ashdod. Simpler rockets are made in Gaza from material, like piping, that is brought in legally or illegally from Israel or Egypt.
The study also says Hamas has gotten more clever at hiding rockets in densely populated neighborhoods. Its tactic, the study suggests, will be to fight only lightly when Israeli units enter Gazan territory, then lure them into the heavily populated areas where booby-traps and roadside bombs will be waiting.

*Taghreed al-Khodary contributed reporting from Gaza.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Iranian nuclear challenge

From Spero news, Monday, April 07, 2008, by Efraim Inbar, professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University and director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies (Israel):

.... Today’s Iran is imperial power, just as Persia was once an imperial power toward the Middle East and other parts of the world. It is also a regional power, one of the largest states in the Middle East demographically (66 million people), along with Turkey, Egypt, and Israel. Iran has long had aspirations to lead the region, not just under the current regime. The current regime represents another, Islamic layer in Iran’s identity as a state. This layer has been very clear since the Islamic Revolution in 1979; Iran propagates a particular, very radical version of Islam, and has a jihadist agenda to spread this version of Islam everywhere—not only to Palestine but also to Andalusia (Spain of today), once the domain of the Islamic empire....

...Why does Iran want nuclear weapons? First, as an insurance policy for the regime, which fully understands that it is more difficult to destabilize a country armed with nuclear weapons. .... They believe that their past entitles them to have a nuclear bomb and to put them in the same rank as the large, important powers of the world...

... Iran’s nuclear program is also designed to try to block Western influence in the region. ....

...The Iranians’ nuclear strategy is simple: it’s to talk and build. ...and we all know the result of the talk and diplomacy. It’s basically a North Korean model; North Korea adopted the same strategy and was successful. Tehran is ready to talk to the Europeans, the International Agency on Atomic Energy, but its goal is to gain time. It wants to bring about a fait accompli and present the world with an Iranian bomb.

An Iranian nuclear bomb would be very dangerous. A nuclear Iran will be a clear threat to anyone in the radius of its range—they now have a missile with a range exceeding 2000-2500 km, within which is the whole Middle East, Eastern Europe, India, Pakistan, even part of China. It is a real threat to a very large area. ..... Nuclear weapons will give Iran tremendous influence over the energy sector of the world economy. Not only is Iran situated along the Gulf, but it also is located along the Caspian Sea. We can speak about an energy ellipse which encompasses the Caspian Basin and the Gulf area that includes some 70-80 percent of the world’s oil reserves. Nuclear weapons will give them great influence over the countries in that region and a much greater voice in the area of energy. As long as the world consumes oil and gas, as it will have to for some time to come, I don’t think it’s a good idea to give the Iranians even a larger voice in that sector.

A nuclear Iran will also embolden all radicals, Islamists as well as others, and allow them to feel that they have a nuclear umbrella, a strong country they can rely upon that plays an important role in world affairs. At the regional level, nuclear weapons will greatly strengthen the regime. Few attempts have been made to destabilize this regime, and after Iran becomes nuclear there will be even less. We will see regional hegemony, many countries around Iran will bandwagon—they’ll get closer to Iran rather than ally against it. We see already a cozier relationship between Egypt and Iran, the Gulf states trying to get closer to Iran, because they’re afraid that if they ally against Iran, they will pay a heavy price. The alliance of Sunnis against Shiites exists more on paper. We don’t really see much action in the Middle East of the Sunnis allying against the Shiite threat coming from Iran. Indeed, nuclear weapons will help Iran export its Islamic revolution, particularly to the Shiites in the Gulf—Bahrain and Iraq. Of course, Iran already has great influence in southern Iraq, and it will gain influence in Saudi Arabia, where most of the oil is in the northeastern province, which is populated by Shiites.

A nuclear Iran will strengthen all its regional radical allies, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine, who will feel much more secure with a strong patron.

Another important repercussion of a nuclear Iran concerns Turkey, which is now undergoing an identity crisis. We see in recent years that a more Islamic party is gaining power, and there is a real struggle over the country’s future identity over to what extent the Islamic dimension will be part of modern Turkey. In the past we’ve seen the Iranians attempt to help terrorist organizations against Turkey, because Turkey is anathema to Iran. Secular Turkey is an alternative model for the Muslim world. While Tehran espouses “Islam is the solution,” the Turks have a different view on how the Muslim world should modernize. Of course the ayatollahs think their model should be emulated, and after the nuclearization of Iran we may see greater attempts on part of Iran to destabilize Turkey, which is a very important country. If Turkey fell under Islamic rule, it would be very bad news to the West. Turkey is playing a difficult game nowadays with this type of government, but it is definitely in danger should Iran become nuclear.

Another area where the West will lose is Central Asia. Since gaining independence after the end of the cold war, most of the new republics adopted some kind of pro-Western orientation, which was strengthened after 9/11 and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. A nuclear Iran will put an end to this orientation. The countries in Central Asia will either bandwagon, becoming closer to Iran, or alternatively, try to find some nuclear umbrella in powers which are much closer to the region—Russia and China. A nuclear Iran could well bring about the elimination of Western influence in Central Asia.

The West will lose the Great Game. A nuclear Iran would also affect the subcontinent. The Iranians are very close to India, which is just 300 km away. It will have a domino effect on the precarious Indian-Pakistani nuclear balance. Pakistan, which borders Iran, will have to adjust its nuclear posture to a nuclear Iran. Whatever it does will influence India. This is the basic security dilemma we teach in International Relations courses. So we may see a negative influence on the India-Pakistan nuclear balance, which could reverberate even to China, and we shouldn’t forget that India and Pakistan were close to a nuclear exchange during the Kargil war.

A nuclear Iran may not hesitate to transfer nuclear technology to other bad guys in the region. It’s not likely, but we may even see the transfer of nuclear weapons to terrorists or radical states. The danger of nuclear bombs falling in the hands of extremists if chaos comes to Iran is obviously something we have to think about. The most important repercussion of a nuclear Iran is that it would heighten threat perception in the Middle East. In contrast to other parts of the world, in the Middle East, threat perceptions are very high. It’s not only the Israelis who are concerned about security, Jordanians are afraid of the Syrians and Iraqis, the Syrians are afraid of the Turks and Israelis, and the Saudis are afraid of everybody. A nuclear Iran will only heighten those threat perceptions and bring about nuclear proliferation in this region. We see already the first steps of many countries trying to gain some nuclear technology. Turkey has renewed its civilian nuclear program, which uses the same technology as nuclear weapons. Egypt is doing the same. We cannot be sure that the Pakistanis will not supply weapons to the Saudis, who have subsidized part of their nuclear program. Nuclear proliferation in the Middle East is a nightmare, because a nuclear Middle East cannot be stable.

It is very dangerous to believe that the type of nuclear stability that existed between the Soviet Union and United States can be easily emulated in the Middle East. ...

..... Therefore, there is a regional consensus that Iran must be stopped. There is wide agreement across the Middle East that a nuclear Iran is very bad news. So what can be done? Diplomacy has just about run its course. ....I don’t think economic sanctions alone would be effective, because Iranians are willing to pay a heavy price to get the bomb. The record is not encouraging. Cuba is still under sanctions, Saddam Hussein was under sanctions and he did not care .... The same is true in Iran. If they had no refined oil and gas, the ayatollahs would reconcile to seeing their people ride donkeys rather than in cars.

As to regime change, don’t hold your breath. We are talking about a police state. It’s true that this type of state does not last forever, but the Iranian police state has been successful so far at staying in power even though it’s not very well liked. There don’t seem too many courageous Iranians fighting the regime within Iran. I see opposition here and in Los Angeles, but to be in opposition in Iran is a different story.

That leaves us with two options. One is a credible threat to act militarily, which I hoped could be effective in supporting the diplomacy, but since the NIE report I think the only thing we really have left is military action....

...After the NIE, the Iranians are at ease, believing that they’re off the hook. So what is really left is only military action to try to destroy parts of the program which will slow down the Iranian attempt and to gain time. Gaining time is an important goal of foreign policy, it’s doable by the U.S. if it wants to. The U.S. is close in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan, it has tremendous military power.

If the U.S. doesn’t do this, and I preempt the question already, the Israelis will have to think seriously about whether to do it on their own. Israel has done such a military feat in the past on Osirak in 1981. This is a different type of operation nowadays, it’s much more complicated, but it can be done. In my view as a former paratrooper there is no such thing as an impregnable target. We just have to be ready to pay the price.

War of Attrition on Gaza border

From DEBKAfile, April 9, 2008, 10:54 PM (GMT+02:00):

Oleg Lipson, 37, Lev Cerniak, 55, were murdered by Palestinian gunmen raiding the Israel-Gaza fuel terminal Wednesday

The two men, both from Beersheba, were employed by the Israeli Dor Energy company to guard the Nahal Oz fuel terminal. DEBKAfile’s military sources report they were shot dead in their cars by 4 Palestinian gunmen, who breached the border fence on April 9 in a well-planned raid under cover of heavy mortar and rocket fire at Nahal and Alumim kibbutzim.

Israeli forces returned the fire killing two of the assailants. The other two fled into Gaza - one was later killed, the second injured - as Israeli tanks drove into the territory in hot pursuit with air support.

Israeli civilians were told to stay indoors for several hours as the heavy fire continued. Security forces were posted at the entrances to all the region’s towns and villages. Goods traffic into the Gaza Strip was halted until further notice.

Israeli spokesmen said Hamas, as the governing authority of the Gaza Strip, is held responsible for the attack on the terminal, through which 4 million liters of fuel, petrol and heavy oil pass every week from Israel to Gaza. Hamas and Palestinian leaders have no cause to complain about an Israeli blockade, particularly when they destroy their own energy lifeline.

...Military experts warn that Palestinian terror planners are no longer waiting for Israel to finally launch its long-deferred major military offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. They have run ahead with their own scenario, a war of attrition made up of small-scale hit-and-run sorties synchronized with missile and rocket attacks on the Israeli towns of Sderot and Ashkelon and strategic installations, like the Nahal Oz fuel terminal. Israel forces will have to re-configure their tactics to cope with this form of warfare.

From DEBKAfile, April 9, 2008, 11:22 AM (GMT+02:00):

1st Sgt Seif Bitan, 21, from Jat, was killed, two soldiers injured in Gaza Wednesday

Members of the elite Egoz unit were attacked by Palestinian gunmen in southern Gaza early Wednesday, April 9, on an operation to halt the gunfire plaguing Israeli farmers working their fields. The Palestinians fired RPGs and autonomic rifles. Israel struck back with an air strike which killed one gunman and injured four. The Palestinians then shelled the Israeli side with mortars.

DEBKAfile reports a new surge in Palestinian attacks and attempted infiltrations from Gaza. Tuesday, Palestinians fired 7 Qassam missiles at Israel civilians; four landed south of Ashkelon. In northern Gaza, a concealed tunnel opening was found, apparently for terrorists to steal into Israel under the border.

Carter plans meeting with Mashaal

From Ynet News, 10/4/08, by Yitzhak Benhorin:

According to reports Carter to visit Syria in April, possibly meet with exiled Hamas leader. Head of Jewish group objects, claiming Carter's meeting with terrorist organization head unacceptable

Jimmy Carter
Photo: AFP

WASHINGTON – US network Fox reported Wednesday that former US president Jimmy Carter was preparing for an unprecedented meeting with Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal.
The Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat reported Tuesday that Carter was planning a trip to Syria for mid-April, during which he would meet with Mashaal, the exiled head of the Islamist group, on April 18....

.... Deanna Congileo, Carter’s press secretary, confirmed in an e-mail to FOX network that Carter will be in the Mideast in April. Pressed for comment, Congileo did not deny that the former president is considering visiting Mashaal.

The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) responded to the reports by calling upon presidential candidates John McCain, Barack Obama, and Hilary Clinton to object to Carter's plan to meet with Mashaal, claiming that as head of a terrorist organization it would be illegal for an American official to meet with him.

In a press statement, Executive Director of the RJC Matthew Brooks slammed the reported meeting, saying that it was unacceptable for a former American president to glorify a terrorist organization by meeting with its leader.

He said that Hamas denies Israel's right to exist, and is involved with the kidnapping of its soldiers, in addition to which it led celebrations in the streets of Gaza following the 9/11 attacks. He added that Mashaal has praised the Iranian president for his 'bravery' in denying the Holocaust.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Ahmadinejabberwocky - lying and denying

From DEBKAfile, April 8, 2008, 10:04 PM (GMT+02:00):

Ahmadinejad denies al Qaeda’s 9/11 attack on America

In his most provocative anti-US speech to date, Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad raised doubts about whether al Qaeda's Sept. 11, 2001 attack on New York actually took place. He was addressing Iran’s Nuclear Technology day, April 8.... He went on to ask why the US had never released the names of the thousands of dead in the Trade Center attacks and how the most advanced security, intelligence and tracking devices in the world had failed to detect the hijackers’ planes before they struck the two New York towers.

Ahmadinejad is famous also for denying the Nazi Holocaust.

Announcing earlier that Iran had begun installing 6,000 new advanced (P2) centrifuges for uranium enrichment at Natanz, the Iranian president claimed his country’s nuclear program had passed the point of no-return technologically and politically.

America is disintegrating politically, militarily and economically, according to Ahmadinejad, who boasted that Iran’s nuclear achievement is a turning-point in history that will change the international order prevailing since World War II....

...By going full steam ahead with uranium enrichment, Iran is flouting three UN Security Council resolutions and standing fast against threats, sanctions and incentives offered by the West to halt a process capable of producing nuclear weapons. Instead, Tehran is installing a new generation of advanced P2 centrifuges to replace the older P-1 machines and accelerate enrichment. He claims they are five times cheaper than the commercial machines.

The five Security Council members and Germany meet later this month for their umpteenth discussion on Iran’s nuclear activities. However, aside from “sweetening” their incentives package and tighter sanctions, they have run out of ideas for curbing Iran’s rapidly-advancing nuclear plans.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Too much deference

A reality check, from Jewish World Review April 7, 2008 / 2 Nissan 5768 by Jonathan Rosenblum:

....deference to world opinion has been taken way too far by our current government to the point that Israel is unwittingly helping to fuel the international campaign of delegitimization against it.

That campaign led by the unholy of trinity of NGOs, the United Nations, and major Western media outlets, the BBC chief among them, was the subject of a day-long symposium, featuring an impressive array of experts, sponsored by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs last week.

Not discussed, however, was the impact of Israeli government policy on the delegitimization of Israel. Since the first Oslo Accords, successive Israeli governments have adopted the position that Israel's security is better served through diplomacy than by ensuring that Israel maintains defensible borders.

Yet those diplomatic efforts and the various attempts to subcontract our defense to outside parties — to Yasir Arafat under Oslo, to the U.N. in Lebanon, and to Egypt in the Philadephi Corridor — have only harmed our international standing, which is demonstrably lower today than at the start of the Oslo process. Any fleeting good will generated by such actions as the Gaza withdrawal is soon lost — and then some — when Israel is forced to respond to the consequences of its concessions.

Whenever Israel acts out fear of becoming a pariah state by exercising greater restraint or making further concessions, it only convinces its critics' that even Israelis know that they are the villains in this piece. For example, this week's decision to remove 45 West Bank roadblocks and checkpoints, in response to pressure from Secretary of State Rice, gave credence to Palestinian claims sthat the purpose of those roadblocks was to imprison Palestinians, not protect Israeli civilians. (It was only 15 minutes before the first Israeli civilian was attacked by a knife-wielding Palestinian just beyond a recently dismantled roadblock.) For knowingly endangering its own citizens, all Israel received from Secretary of State Rice was the frosty message, "We'll be watching you."

Israeli's tend to observe Prime Minister Olmert's antic efforts to remain in power with a certain bemused fascination, and to view as a harmless fantasy his negotiations with the Palestinians over a "shelf agreement," which will not be implemented until such time as the Palestinians actually do something to stop terrorism and incitement against Jews. That, however, is a mistake.

Leaks from the negotiations suggest that the declaration of priniciples will include a provision that the 1949 Armistice Lines constitute the starting point of negotiations over borders. That represents a retreat both from U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, which recognized Israel's right to "secure" borders, and from President Bush's much touted promise to Prime Minister Sharon that Israel would hold on to security blocs in any final agreement.

Israel is being forced to enunciate its final positions with regard to unknown future circumstances, without the Palestinians having yet made a single concession. One does not conduct negotiations will one's cards face up on the table. Entering into negotiations at the present time with the PA only reinforces the perception of Israel as the guilty party in its own eyes, and further convinces the Palestinians that past breeches of agreements carry no penalty.

Why should we be talking with Abbas at all after he declared a 3-day mourning period for arch-terrrorist George Habash and the Fatah newspaper splashed a front-page picture of the "martyred" murderer of 8 yeshiva students? One good indication of the success of the PA anti-incitement "efforts" is the recent New York Times poll that 84% of Palestinians supported the murders at Mercaz Harav. Yet the PA's manifest failures receive no criticism from the U.S. State Department — only Jewish building — because we have adopted the posture of obsequious supplicants.

There is no assurance that the "shelf agreement" will remain on the shelf forever. It will be the Americans, as much as Israel, who will determine when it is time to dust it off. And if Israel disagrees that the circumstances are propitious for granting the Palestinians the power to paralyze the coastal region with missiles aimed at Israel's center — home to 80% of its population — from the high ground of the West Bank, it may find itself on a collision course with the Americans.

Every Israeli offer — even those that are rejected — eventually wends its way back into future negotiations. The rejected Israeli proposals at Taba continuously resurface, despite President Clinton's assurances that they were off the table. The past is never past in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Our obsession with "peace" treaties with our neighbors — treaties for which the purchase price is always further territorial concessions — has blinded us to the larger strategic threat facing us — i.e., Iran's emergence as the leading regional power and the noose of Iranian proxies closing around our necks. Consider the absurdity of Israel sending Syria twenty peace feelers, at the very time that half the members of the Arab League were boycotting a Damascus summit Syria because of Syria's continued obstructionism in Lebanon and close ties with Iran.

Finally, Olmert is undermining Israel's still strong support in the United States. One cannot expect Americans to be more supportive of Israel than the Israeli government. President Bush has repeatedly said that he is only pushing for the "final" agreement Israel says it wants. When he talks to Bush, Olmert is like a little kid afraid to rat on a bullying older sister (Condoleeza Rice) for fear of being pounded later if he does.

A SELF-RESPECTING ISRAELI STANCE would begin by pointing out that twice in the past century the world community affirmed the right of the Jewish people to reconstitute its ancient homeland in the Holy Land. It would counter every discussion of Palestinian refugees with a discussion of the equal [sic - actually GREATER - SL] number of Jewish refugees from 1948. It would seek the right for Jews to live in security in a future Palestinian state just as Arabs live as citizens with full rights in Israel. It would scoff at the concept of international law that applies to only one country in the world. And it would never tire of pointing out the double standard inherent in the world's lack of concern with the execution of 100 Buddhist monks in Chinese-occupied Tibet, or the deliberate extermination of hundreds of thousands of black Muslims in Darfur.

But our leaders are incapable of making this case, for they are not truly convinced that we Jews have any real claims in the Holy Land or that we should not be happy with whatever the Arabs grant us. They are products of an educational system that Nobel Laureate Aaron Ciechanover described recently as failing to provide its products with any reason to live here: "We have . . . attempted to copy, unsuccessfully, the developed countries of the West, in an effort to be like every other nation."

When David Ben-Gurion was asked from where the Jews derived the right to live in the Holy Land, he would hold up Bible. He conducted a Bible study group in his home. How absurd to imagine today, observes Ciechanover, "that one of this country's leaders would study and teach the Bible in his home. . . "

How many different ways can you spell hypocrite?

From Jewish World Review April 8, 2008 / 3 Nissan 5768 by Jackie Mason [yes - prepare to laugh] & Raoul Felder:

Don't get us wrong! We have no love for Eliot Spitzer.....

.....The reason we believe he got a raw deal was that Bill Clinton, who admittedly committed perjury and obstruction of justice, ended up being a rock star. It is well known that when you commit perjury or obstruction of justice, you will receive jail time, since these are acts that go to the very heart of our system of justice that is based on people telling the truth under oath. Clinton, thanks to DNA and a girl who didn't bother going to a dry cleaner, was clearly guilty of both — perjury and obstruction of justice. This is all not to mention his other crimes of a sexual nature. Just ask Juanita Broaddrick and Kathleen Willey. But we were never particularly upset by Clinton committing adultery because, after all, it only took him about 15 minutes to commit adultery, and he had the rest of the day to be President (excluding the amount of time it took him to run from motel to motel).

The commentators say Spitzer committed crimes in connection with his visit from a prostitute. This is nonsense, as any prosecutor can tell you. The Mann Act which he allegedly violated — taking a girl across state lines for sexual purposes — has only been used in cases of commercialized prostitution such as running a prostitution ring, or organized crime. Neither was true in his case. The talking heads said he was guilty of a crime called "structuring," which means if you deal in amounts of less than $10,000 with a bank to avoid the Federal Regulation of reporting any transactions $10,000 or over, it is a crime. However, this is aimed at people who are utilizing illegal funds such as in cases of illegal money laundering. Spitzer, a very wealthy man, simply used his own money. It is strictly between his wife and himself if he wants to have an item in his family budget for hookers.

The difference between Clinton and Spitzer was that nobody seemed to like Spitzer. He acted in a nasty and arrogant fashion — but this is not a criminal offense. This certainly should not be the reason why he had to give up his job — for which he was elected by the largest plurality in New York history — for acts of a private nature, much less serious than those of the President.

Mrs. Clinton, who was complicit, or at least covered up for the President, is now running for President herself. By these standards, Mrs. Spitzer should be Emperor.

War of words

From DEBKAfile, April 7, 2008, 3:56 PM (GMT+02:00):

Israeli minister hurls unprecedented threat at Iran

National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said Monday, April 7: “An Iranian strike on Israel would result in an Israeli response that would devastate the Iranian nation.” On a visit to the national defense exercise’s situation room, Ben-Eliezer also warned: “An Initial strike on Israel would see hundreds of missiles hit us… all of Israel will be within range of Syrian and Hizballah missiles.”

...In all of its 60 years, no Israeli leader has ever threatened to destroy another nation, however belligerent - even when Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Israel should be “wiped off the map.”

His words directly contradict the soothing statements made by prime minister Ehud Olmert and defense minister Ehud Barak that the defense exercise is in no way intended as a threat or an escalation of war tensions. The minister’s wild rhetoric, apparently off the top of his head, could be interpreted as a threat of Israeli nuclear retaliation to a potential Iranian attack.

Ben Eliezer continued in slightly more measured tones when he said: The Iranians won’t be rushing to attack Israel because they are well aware of our strength, but they bait us by providing weapons to Syria and Hizballah, which we need to deal with.”....
...and from THE JERUSALEM POST, Apr. 7, 2008, by yaakov katz and gil hoffman:

Israel is not interested in an escalation with its neighbors, Defense Minister Ehud Barak declared Monday, as a fellow cabinet minister threatened to destroy Iran if Israel is attacked by the Islamic Republic.

...As Barak tried to reduce tensions between Israel and its neighbors, National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said ...that Israel would destroy Iran if it was attacked first. "An Iranian attack will prompt a severe reaction from Israel, which will destroy the Iranian nation," Ben-Eliezer said. Teheran, he added, "is definitely aware of our strength. Even so, they are teasing us with their alliances with Syria and Hizbullah, and supplying them with many weapons, and we have to deal with that."

A minister criticized National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer for threatening Iran, saying that what Ben-Eliezer said was "unnecessary and harmful."

According to the minister, "the reality in the future is likely to be many times more severe than that with which we are familiar. We are facing a reality in which the home front will become the battlefield." ...

...Ben-Eliezer [said]..."In a future war, it will be much safer to live in Nahariya or Shlomi than in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Because I foresee that during the opening blow, hundreds of missiles will rain on Israel. No place in the country will be outside the range of Syria and Hizbullah's missiles and rockets." ...

...and from DEBKAfile April 7, 2008, 10:43 PM (GMT+02:00):

Ahmadinejad to respond to Israeli minister's threat on Iranian Atom Day

Iranian sources report that Tehran’s response to Israeli Infrastructure minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer’s warning that a Tehran attack on Israel would call forth a response that “will devastate Iran” is expected to be incorporated in president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech Tuesday [8 April 2008] on the occasion of Iranian Atom Day.

Israeli intelligence sources were highly critical of the remarks the minister made during a visit to the national defense exercise’s situation room Monday, April 7. They say he should have known better than to provide easy propaganda fodder for Tehran’s Atom Day celebrations. He handed Iranian leaders an opening for their claim that Israel’s defense exercise was part of the Jewish state’s plans for a nuclear attack on their country, thus diverting international opprobrium away from their own covert nuclear plans....

.... The military situation in the region is fraught enough, the sources said, and there was no need to add fuel to the fire.

Barak: We are watching Hamas, Syria, and Lebanon

From Ynet News, 8/4/08, by Roni Sofer:

Defense minister attends memorial service for soldier killed on Gaza border, blames Hamas for his death and 'every rocket fired from Gaza'

Israel continues to send messages to Damascus, and this time from the mouth of Defense Minister Ehud Barak. He participated in a memorial service for First Sergeant Major Liran Banai, a Givati Brigade soldier who was killed a month ago by an explosive device on the Gaza border. Banai served as his deaf-mute parents' eyes and ears, so his loss was especially painful.

"We are ready, and have our eyes on Syria and Lebanon," [said] Barak

"...I have made it very clear that Israel is the strongest country in the region...We have no interest in fighting, and I believe the Syrians understand this..." ...

"...I don't think anyone can truthfully say it's over. It's not over, but eventually we will bring peace to the residents of Sderot, Ashkelon, and the Gaza border. The fight against terrorism in Gaza is not over yet...." ...

"...I ascribe the relative quiet to the heavy blow we dealt Hamas during 'Warm Winter' operation. They received a bigger blow than they first thought. I have no doubt that the closure on Gaza also helped...." ...

..."There has been a definite improvement in measures taken by the Egyptians to prevent the smuggling of weapons and terrorist activities at the border....the Egyptians didn't like what they saw at the Rafah Crossing – thousands of Palestinians bursting through the border. These days they have been working against this. Still, I don't think they carry the bulk of the responsibility for the calm."

.... Barak remarked that he believed Hamas was responsible for every rocket fired across the border, and for every explosive device, including the one that killed Banai.

"Hamas is sovereign in Gaza, and therefore must pay the price. We will continue to act against them," Barak concluded.

Israel won't cooperate with UN security fence watchdog

From THE JERUSALEM POST Apr. 7, 2008, by Michal Lando, New York:

Israel will not cooperate with the head of a UN body surveying Palestinian damages resulting from the West Bank security barrier, an official in the Israeli Mission to the UN said Monday.

"This body is yet another body which is the result of the automatic majority in the General Assembly," the Israeli official said. "At the end of the day, this mandate is not helpful to Palestinians, as others are not, especially when the Israeli legal establishment does give remedy to Palestinians who claim they have been damaged by the security fence. Israel has stated since the beginning of this procedure that we are not cooperating with this UN body."

Vladimir Goryayev, the head of the UN body charged with collecting Palestinian claims of damages from the barrier, arrived in the region Sunday for a week long visit to begin establishing contacts and reviewing the situation on the ground....

...The United Nations Register of Damage, which was established in 2006 in spite of objections from Israel, the United States and five other countries, calls for the establishment of the register and an office to serve as a comprehensive record of the damage caused as a result of the wall's construction.

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood calls for election boycott

From ABC online, by Reuters 7/4/08:

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest opposition force, has called on Egyptians overnight (Australian time) to boycott local council elections due tomorrow in protest at the disqualification of most of its candidates.

....Husain Mohamed Ibrahim, deputy leader of the Brotherhood's parliamentary block, said:"... we call on our public to boycott these rigged elections, which the judiciary has already ruled should not be held."

"Participating in this farcical theatre would have given it legitimacy," Brotherhood lawmaker Mohamed El-Beltaugi told a news conference to announce the boycott.

The Government calls the Brotherhood a banned organisation but allows it to operate within limits. The Islamist movement won about a fifth of the seats in parliament in 2005, making it the de facto leading opposition group.

Founded in 1928, it advocates turning Egypt into an Islamic state through the ballot box.
The local councils have little power, but the Brotherhood would need to have seats on provincial councils if it ever wanted to field an independent candidate for the Egyptian presidency.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

A Town Under Fire Becomes a Symbol for Israel

From The New York Times, April 5, 2008, by ETHAN BRONNER:

SDEROT, Israel — This long neglected immigrant town a mile from Gaza, pounded by Palestinian rockets for the past seven years, is taking on a new identity, edging into the center of Zionist consciousness as a symbol of the nation’s unofficial motto: “Never Again.” Like the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, Sderot is now a must-see stop for those who support Israel or are being urged to do so. Several groups have set up offices to arrange visits to a damaged home or a trauma center. Foreign diplomats have been bused here by the government; a United Nations officer says he has brought top officials here five times; Senator John McCain came last month; Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, residents say, cannot be far behind.

Israelis and their supporters are lining up to volunteer. Money is pouring in for bomb shelters, social services and an Orthodox religious seminary. “For years, the government and others thought of Sderot not as a national problem but a local one,” Mayor Eli Moyal said, just before the ribbon-cutting for an elegant first aid and ambulance center built with money donated largely by American Jews. “They now understand that if Sderot falls, Israel falls.” The sense that Sderot is actually Israel’s front line in its battle for legitimacy and self-respect has gained real currency...

...the conviction of Sderot’s importance began growing with the huge increase in rocket fire since the 2005 Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and after the 2006 war with Hezbollah, which sent thousands of rockets into northern Israel. With both Hamas and Hezbollah gaining strength on Israel’s borders and developing rockets with longer ranges, Sderot, its advocates say, is a bitter sample of what more prosperous and distant parts of Israel may face if the threat here is ignored. And to a growing number across the political spectrum, it has inspired a collective rescue operation. “In Tel Aviv, you have great cafes, nice clothes and you live an illusion as if everything is all right,” reflected Ilanit Swissa, a theater director and one of about a dozen liberal intellectuals setting up camp in Sderot who moved here a few months ago to work with high school actors. “But it is not true. Here I feel like I am contributing something. We are at war and you feel it here.”

Surrounded by orange groves and wheat fields, guarded above by a military blimp that sets off an alert with each rocket launched from Gaza, Sderot has been a tough place to live. There have been days when more than 50 rockets have landed in or near the town, bringing panic, destruction and occasionally death to a town of 20,000 that is heavily populated with Israeli minority groups — Moroccans, refugees from Central Asia and Ethiopians. Panic is widespread. Businesses have closed. Three thousand residents have left. Residents have grown accustomed to — though hardly comfortable with — the constant sound of a townwide alert known as “Code Red,” produced when the blimp detects an incoming rocket. Once the alarm has gone off, there is 20 seconds to get to a shelter before the rocket hits. Given such a short warning, kindergartners are kept inside all day rather than risk their failing to move quickly.

Hundreds of rockets are on grim display in the courtyard of the police station. The town itself, while typical of many its size in Israel, is now pockmarked with rocket holes and shelters and has developed a fierce black humor about its predicament, with sculptures made of rockets in a number of places. A sense of pride in Sderot’s gritty refusal to yield and an interest in finding ways to protect and enhance the town have spread rapidly.

---for Rabbi David Fendel, who has run a 500-student yeshiva here for years, the rockets are proof that withdrawing Israeli settlers and soldiers from Gaza was foolish. He has raised millions of dollars to build a new yeshiva. The point of his project is to make a statement to those who wish Israel ill. “The Palestinians are trying to turn this into a ghost town,” he said as he stepped through the construction site of his school. “We’re not going to let them. We’re going to make it a dynamic center of Zionism, Torah and building.” The building here is a bit unusual — the new yeshiva study hall will have 1,500 tons of concrete in its ceiling as protection against the crude homemade rockets known as Qassams and other rockets that assault the city on a nearly daily basis from Gaza.

Rabbi Fendel recognizes that there is plenty of work ahead. He is marrying off his eldest of seven children in the coming weeks. But even though his son and future daughter-in-law will live here at the yeshiva, the wedding will not be here because so many guests are afraid to come. Avi Farhan, who was a settler in the Sinai before it was returned to Egypt and then in Gaza before the Israelis withdrew, said he agreed with Rabbi Fendel that the withdrawal was a mistake. Standing on a bluff near his new apartment, he can see what remains of his former Gaza settlement, now a staging ground for rocket fire. “From my old house, they can now shell my new house,” he said ruefully.