Saturday, August 16, 2008

Lithuania: ignoring and repeating the past

From The Simon Wiesenthal Center, August 11, 2008:

Wiesenthal Center to Lithuanian Ambassador: Ignoring Past and Present Anti-Semitism Paved the Way for Yesterday’s Vandalization of Vilnius Jewish Community

Jerusalem – The Simon Wiesenthal Center today demanded prompt action from the Lithuanian government to identify and punish those responsible for the vandalization yesterday of the offices of the Jewish community in central Vilnius.

In a letter sent today to the Lithuanian ambassador in Israel Mrs. Asta Skaisgiryté-Liauskienè, the Center’s chief Nazi-hunter, Israel director Dr. Efraim Zuroff, accused the Lithuanian authorities of failing to adequately respond to recent several anti-Semitic provocations as well as to protecting local Nazi war criminals from prosecution and instead harassing Jewish anti-Nazi Soviet partisans, all of which paved the way for yesterday’s attack on the Vilnius Jewish community

According to Zuroff:

“Given the woefully inadequate response by the government to the neo-Nazi march through the center of Vilnius less than half a year ago, I believe that the time has come for unequivocal, resolute and immediate action to identify and punish those responsible for this anti-Semitic attack.

“There is no doubt in my mind that these outbreaks of anti-Jewish violence are the direct result of Lithuania’s failure to punish its Nazi collaborators, the recent campaign against Soviet Jewish partisans and the ongoing efforts to minimize the role of Lithuanians in the mass murder of their Jewish neighbors during the Holocaust. Today’s anti-Semitic violence is the direct result of ignoring the crimes of the past.”

Not amusing

From Middle East Strategy at Harvard, Olin Institute : Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, by Josef Joffe:

... Captain Sayyed Shahada, a member of the Egyptian Unique Mustache Association ... opined as follows on Egyptian TV on July 11, 2008 (the clip may be viewed at the end of this post):

I respect the mustache of this Hitler, because he humiliated the most despicable sect in the world. He subdued the people who subdued the whole world—him with his ‘11′ mustache.… The generation of this Hitler… When I was little, my father, may he rest in peace, grew that kind of mustache, and so did all his classmates. They all had this ‘11′ mustache. That was in the days of Hitler.
... deeply rooted and pervasive antisemitism.

...Classical European antisemitism—blood libel, world domination and all—has migrated to the Arab Middle East. Interestingly, it got there way before the founding of Israel, let alone the taking of the West Bank. And so did the admiration of Adolf Hitler....

...The Israelis have vacated Gaza, they might yet pull out of the West Bank, but how will they, qua Jews, ever manage to escape from the obsession-filled mind of Captain Shahada and millions of his kind? ...

One Response to “Can antisemitism be amusing?” on 08 Aug 2008:

... Can there be a more powerful confirmation of how ordinary, and therefore how basic and deep, antisemitism is in the Arab world? And how widespread? ...

... Jokes aren’t funny in a society unless there’s a general recognition of, and usually an agreement with, their premises. Captain Shahada’s premises—that the Jews are “the most despicable sect in the world,” that before Hitler they’d “subdued the whole world,” and that Hitler is to be praised for having had the guts to kill them—are considered quite ordinary by more than a few people in the Arab world. If they weren’t considered ordinary, they wouldn’t provoke laughter.

...the fact that antisemitism is so pervasive in the Arab world makes the possibility of a lasting peace with Israel, and a lasting acceptance of the Jewish state, all the more challenging.

Diplomatic geniuses who think that a durable Arab-Israeli peace will be achieved simply by signing agreements on borders and on the status of Jerusalem and refugees are, to some extent, whistling into the winds of history, religion, culture and deep prejudice.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Russia Digs In - "Cold War" embers re-ignite

From The new York Times, August 15, 2008, by CLIFFORD J. LEVY*:

MOSCOW — Russia issued a rebuke to President Bush on Thursday over the conflict in neighboring Georgia, refusing an immediate withdrawal of its troops there, affirming its support for two separatist enclaves and warning the United States to avoid doing anything that would encourage its Georgian ally to reignite hostilities.

In response, in the most pointed language yet from a Bush administration official, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates declared that Russia’s actions now required a full reassessment of administration efforts to create “an ongoing and long-term strategic dialogue with Russia.”

At a Pentagon briefing, Mr. Gates said, “Russia’s behavior over the past week has called into question the entire premise of that dialogue and has profound implications for our security relationship going forward, both bilaterally and with NATO. If Russia does not step back from its aggressive posture and actions in Georgia, the U.S.-Russian relationship could be adversely affected for years to come.”

Still, he ruled out the use of American military force in connection with the conflict. “I don’t see any prospect for the use of military force by the United States in this situation,” Mr. Gates said. “Clear enough?”

On the ground in Georgia, both sides appeared to take tentative steps to back away from further fighting and adhere to the framework of a cease-fire brokered on Wednesday. But by the end of the day, Russian troops continued to hold their positions, and conditions were largely unchanged.
A day after Mr. Bush demanded that Russia pull its forces from Georgia and sent humanitarian aid there, it was clear that tensions between the two powers were not subsiding.

Russia’s president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, held a televised meeting with the leaders of the two breakaway regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and pledged that Russia would provide whatever they needed to secede lawfully from Georgia.

Follow This Link to see a map of the conflict.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, said separately in a radio interview that Georgia “can forget about” its territorial integrity because the Georgian government under President Mikheil Saakashvili had committed so many atrocities that the two breakaway regions could never live under Georgian rule.

Russian defense officials raised questions about the nature of the humanitarian aid that the United States military has begun airlifting to Tbilisi, the Georgian capital. And the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Washington should avoid steps that might prompt new fighting and “lead to the repetition of a tragic scenario.”

For their part, American and Georgian officials reiterated that Russia was the aggressor. Mr. Saakashvili, a fluent English speaker who was educated in the United States, has made a string of appearances in recent days on American television networks intended to rally support for his country.

The Russian military action in Georgia, which erupted a week ago, underscored the Kremlin’s determination to maintain influence over other former Soviet republics and ward off expansion of NATO, which Georgia wants to join. The conflict has caused perhaps the greatest strain in relations between the United States and Russia since
Vladimir V. Putin took power here in 2000 and began seeking to revive Russia’s standing.

Mr. Gates suggested that Russia’s goal was not really peacekeeping and the protection of pro-Russian inhabitants of South Ossetia. Rather, he said, it was to send a message to Georgia and other former Soviet states that they should think twice before “daring to try to integrate with the West.”

The Russian reaction came as Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice headed to the region to work for a settlement and to show support for Mr. Saakashvili, a close friend of the United States.
She was sent by Mr. Bush, who declared Wednesday that if Russia did not abide by the cease-fire, it would risk its place in “the diplomatic, political, economic and security structures of the 21st century.”

....In Georgia on Thursday, Russian forces briefly allowed Georgian police to return to the city of Gori as Russian troops appeared to prepare to pull out. But joint patrols were canceled three hours later and the city returned to full Russian control.

Gori was the focus of international protest after Russia shelled it and occupied it on Wednesday. The attempt at joint patrols on Thursday at first suggested the conflict had ebbed. The city is just 40 miles from Tbilisi, and rumors had circulated on Wednesday of a possible advance on the city....

*Reporting was contributed by Ellen Barry from Moscow; C.J. Chivers from Gori, Georgia; Michael Schwirtz from Poti, Georgia; and David Stout from Washington.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Iranian minister's Oxford degree 'a fake' - the president a joke

From Ynet News, 13/8/08, by Associated Press:

British university denies claim it bestowed honorary doctorate on Tehran interior minister, who, in turn, displays forged degree certificate riddled with errors as 'proof' [Ahmadinejad dismisses degrees as "not necessary for serving the people"]

Iran's new interior minister [Ali Kordan] has raised an uproar among lawmakers and Iranian media over an apparently fake claim that he holds an honorary doctorate from Britain's Oxford University. To back his case, he's shown off a degree certificate riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes.... the certificate, "entitled" is misspelled "intitled," and it says Kordan was granted the degree "to be benefitted from its scientific privileges.".... Oxford said in its statement that it "has no record of Mr. Ali Kordan receiving an honorary doctorate or any other degree from the university." It added that the three professors whose alleged signatures are on the certificate have all held posts at the university at some stage but none of them work in the field of law and none would sign degree certificates.

Tehran shuts down news website
The alleged fake has been heavily covered in several Iranian newspapers and Web sites... The Tehran prosecutors office announced Wednesday that the Alef news Web site, which has carried several reports questioning the degree, has been "banned based on complaints by legal entities" ... Interior Ministry officials could not be reached Wednesday for comment on the Oxford statement.

... Ahmadinejad defended Kordan amid the debates, dismissing degrees in general as "torn paper" not necessary for serving the people...

Before the Gunfire, Cyberattacks

From The New York Times, August 13, 2008, by JOHN MARKOFF:

Weeks before bombs started falling on Georgia, a security researcher in suburban Massachusetts was watching an attack against the country in cyberspace...

...Other Internet experts in the United States said the attacks against Georgia’s Internet infrastructure began as early as July 20, with coordinated barrages of millions of requests — known as distributed denial of service, or D.D.O.S., attacks — that overloaded and effectively shut down Georgian servers.

An image from the Web site of the Georgian Parliament after it had been defaced.
... the Web site of the Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, had been rendered inoperable for 24 hours by multiple D.D.O.S. attacks. ...
...As it turns out, the July attack may have been a dress rehearsal for an all-out cyberwar once the shooting started between Georgia and Russia....
...Bill Woodcock, the research director of the Packet Clearing House, a nonprofit organization that tracks Internet traffic...said cyberattacks are so inexpensive and easy to mount, with few fingerprints, they will almost certainly remain a feature of modern warfare.

...Exactly who was behind the cyberattack is not known. The Georgian government blamed Russia for the attacks, but the Russian government said it was not involved. ...

In Georgia, media, communications and transportation companies were also attacked, according to security researchers. Shadowserver saw the attack against Georgia spread to computers throughout the government after Russian troops entered the Georgian province of South Ossetia. The National Bank of Georgia’s Web site was defaced at one point. Images of 20th-century dictators as well as an image of Georgia’s president, Mr. Saakashvili, were placed on the site.....

...In addition to D.D.O.S. attacks that crippled Georgia’s limited Internet infrastructure, researchers said there was evidence of redirection of Internet traffic through Russian telecommunications firms beginning last weekend. The attacks continued on Tuesday, controlled by software programs that were located in hosting centers controlled by a Russian telecommunications firms. A Russian-language Web site,, also continued to operate and offer software for download used for D.D.O.S. attacks.

Over the weekend a number of American computer security researchers tracking malicious programs known as botnets, which were blasting streams of useless data at Georgian computers, said they saw clear evidence of a shadowy St. Petersburg-based criminal gang known as the Russian Business Network, or R.B.N.

“The attackers are using the same tools and the same attack commands that have been used by the R.B.N. and in some cases the attacks are being launched from computers they are known to control,” said Don Jackson, director of threat intelligence for SecureWorks, a computer security firm based in Atlanta.

He noted that in the run-up to the start of the war over the weekend, computer researchers had watched as botnets were “staged” in preparation for the attack, and then activated shortly before Russian air strikes began on Saturday.

The evidence on R.B.N. and whether it is controlled by, or coordinating with the Russian government remains unclear. The group has been linked to online criminal activities including child pornography, malware, identity theft, phishing and spam. ...
... A Russian government spokesman said that it was possible that individuals in Russia or elsewhere had taken it upon themselves to start the attacks. “I cannot exclude this possibility,” Yevgeniy Khorishko, a spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Washington, said. ...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Deadly Love Triangle: Why Iran and Hamas adore Darfur's genocidal dictator.

From The Weekly Standard (Washington, DC), by Jonathan Schanzer* 6/8/08:

THE HEAD OF HAMAS'S POLITBURO in Damascus, Khalid Mash'al, recently telephoned Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and denounced the International Criminal Court's accusations against him, according to an article that appeared on the Palestinian Maan News Agency website. The "armed wing" of Hamas also proclaimed Bashir's innocence on their website.

Without addressing the allegations, Mash'al decried the submission of international organizations to U.S. pressure. He confirmed Hamas's solidarity with Sudan, its leadership and people "in confronting this new conspiracy targeting Sudan through its head of state."

The Islamic Republic of Iran also defends Bashir. Last year, as international pressure mounted over the slaughter in Darfur, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad described Sudan as a second home full of "dear, pious and revolutionary brothers."

Iran and Hamas like to cast themselves as defenders of "resistance." Indeed, both claim to fight for justice and the downtrodden. How can they defend mass murder?

The story begins in 1989, when an Islamist-inspired coup brought Brigadier Omar al-Bashir to power. Within months, Islamists tied to the National Islamic Front (NIF) held key posts in the government, security services, and other important sectors. As journalist Judith Miller noted, Sudan became "the only Sunni Arab state to have embraced absolutist, militant Islamic rule." Weapons and oil supplies began to arrive from Iran. The two states, despite the Sunni-Shiite divide, became fast allies.

Allegations soon surfaced regarding Sudanese support for terrorism. To the consternation of the West, Sudan provided shelter to the infamous terrorist Carlos the Jackal, and also allowed Osama bin Laden and his nascent al Qaeda organization to train and operate out of Sudan for the first half of the 1990s.

In November 1991, Bashir banned mixed dancing and required women to dress according to Islamic standards. Transportation was also segregated. Finally, the government instated the Islamic hudud penalties (stonings, amputations, lashings, and even executions).

In December 1991, Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani paid an official visit to Khartoum, accompanied by more than 150 Iranian officials. "The Islamic Revolution of Sudan," he proclaimed, "alongside Iran's pioneer revolution, can doubtless be the source of movement and revolution throughout the Islamic world." Iran pledged $17 million in financial aid to Sudan, and arranged for an additional $300 million in Chinese weapons to be delivered there. Iran further pledged one million tons of oil each year.

Next, it was reported that Iran sent up to 2,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Sudan. Iran's Defense Minister, Ali Akbar Torkan also met with the commander of the Sudanese armed forces to discuss assistance and personnel exchange. By the end of 1992, Sudan's Popular Defense Forces were unveiled. Sudan modeled its army after Iran's Revolutionary Guards, who had trained them. Like their Iranian counterparts, the PDF marched with guns while reciting the Koran.

The West grew increasingly nervous over reports of terrorist training in Sudan. It was estimated that there were at least 10 paramilitary training camps in Sudan providing training to Palestinian Hamas and other Iran-backed terrorist groups. In 1993, the U.S. Department of State named Sudan a state sponsor of terror for, among other things, harboring bin Laden, and training Hamas with Iranian backing.

In November 1995, a military delegation from Iran visited Khartoum in order to make a new assessment of Sudan's military needs, yielding Sudan a windfall of armored cars, heavy artillery, and radar equipment. In May of the following year, the two countries signed an agreement to broaden the scope of their cooperation.

The key broker for this relationship was an Islamist ideologue named Hassan al-Turabi. As one analyst noted, "the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Sudan is Turabi and Turabi is the movement." By the late 1990s, however, Bashir removed Turabi from office in a power struggle.
While the West held out hope that Sudan was about to turn a corner, Bashir reiterated his commitment to sharia. As one academic observed, "the Islamist agenda has been pursued farther in Sudan than in many of the better-known examples of contemporary Islamic republics..."

Today, the U.S. State Department maintains that Sudan is a state sponsor of terrorism. Khartoum maintains close ties with Iran. But, the chief reason for designation is support for Hamas.

The three-way ties over nearly two decades explains the current Hamas and Iranian support for Bashir, and why they ignore the incontrovertible evidence of genocide. This yields two key observations.

First, both Sunni and Shiite Islamists are hypocritical and inconsistent when they proclaim that they seek justice.

More broadly, the Islamist support for the Darfur genocide reveals much about the dangers of Islamism, and must not be ignored.

*Jonathan Schanzer, a former Treasury intelligence analyst, is the director of policy for the Jewish Policy Center. He is author of "Hamas vs Fatah: The Struggle for Palestine" (Palgrave, Nov. 2008).

Qassam lands in Sderot

From Ynet News, 11/8/08, by Shmulik Hadad:

A Qassam rocket fired from northern Gaza landed in an open area adjacent to a kindergarten in the town of Sderot on Monday afternoon. No injuries were reported and no damage was caused.

...Though the area has been relatively quiet since Israel signed a ceasefire agreement with Hamas and other Palestinian groups in Gaza in June, intermittent rocket and mortar fire has been recorded every several days. Two rockets landed in the same region last week, also causing no injuries.

... Yesha Council Spokesman Yishai Hollander ...[said] that "Those who thought the disengagement would enable us to get away from terror realized that terror is chasing them," he said.

Iraq is getting better

From The Australian, Christopher Hitchens, columnist for Vanity Fair and Slate Magazine August 13, 2008:

... consider last week's astonishing report about the Iraqi budget surplus ... Largely attributable to the bonanza in oil prices, to new discoveries of oil since the eviction of Saddam Hussein and to the increasing success of Iraqi exports via the pipelines to Turkey, this surplus could amount to as much as $79 billion by the end of this year.

...may we take a moment to apologise to Paul Wolfowitz? Of all the many slanders hurled at this advocate for Iraq's liberation and former deputy secretary of defence, probably none was more gleefully bandied about than his congressional testimony that Iraq's recovery from decades of war and fascism could be self-financing.

... what used to happen to Iraq's oil wealth...[it] was prostituted through a UN program and diverted to such noble causes as the subsidy of suicide bombers in Gaza and the financing of pro-Saddam and "anti-war" politicians in London, Paris and Moscow.

While this criminal enrichment of Iraqi and overseas elites was taking place, the population of the country was living on garbage and drinking tainted water as a result of the UN-mandated international sanctions.

I think we should be glad that the luridly sadistic and aggressive Saddam regime is no longer in power to be the beneficiary of the rise in oil prices and thus able to share its wealth with the terrorists, crooks and demagogues on its secret payroll.

I think we should also be glad that its private ownership of Iraq's armed forces, and its control over a party monopoly called the Baath, has been irrecoverably smashed.

Iraq's resources are no longer at the disposal of an aggressive, parasitic oligarchy. Its retrained and re-equipped army is being deployed, not in wars of invasion against its neighbours and genocide against its inhabitants, but in cleanup campaigns against al-Qa'ida and the Mahdi Army. An improvement. A distinct improvement.

It is in no spirit of revenge that I remind you that, as little as a year ago, the whole of smart liberal opinion believed that the dissolution of Baathism and militarism had been a mistake, that Iraq itself was a bottomless pit of wasted dollars and pointless casualties and that the only option was to withdraw as fast as possible and let the inevitable civil war burn itself out.

To the left of that liberal consensus, people of the calibre and quality of Michael Moore were describing the nihilist "insurgents" as the moral equivalent of the Minutemen, and to the right of the same consensus, people such as Pat Buchanan were hinting that we had been cheated into the whole enterprise by a certain minority whose collective name began with the letter J.

Had any of this sinister nonsense been heeded, it wouldn't even be Saddam's goons who were getting their hands on that fantastic wealth in such a strategic country. It would have been the gruesome militias who answer either to fanatical Wahhabism on one wing or to fanatical Shiaism on another, and who are the instruments of tyrannical forces in neighbouring countries. Hardly a prospect to be viewed with indifference. I still reel when I remember how many supposedly responsible people advocated surrendering Iraq without a fight.

... If there is any Iraqi nostalgia for the old party and the old army, it is remarkably well-concealed. Iraq no longer plays deceptive games with weapons of mass destruction or plays host to international terrorist groups.

It is no longer subject to sanctions that punish its people and enrich its rulers. Its religious and ethnic minorities -- together a majority -- are no longer treated like disposable trash.
Its most bitter internal argument is about the timing of the next provincial and national elections.

Surely it is those who opposed every step of this emancipation, rather than those who advocated it, who should be asked to explain and justify themselves.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Post-Zionism’s fatal flaw

From Ynet News, 12/8/08,by Martin Sherman:

If Israel is not Zionist, it won’t be Jewish; if it’s not Jewish it won’t be democratic

... it takes only the most elementary analytical skill to identify the glaring flaw in the logic of post–Zionist positions which - allegedly in the name of enlightened liberal values - call for the conversion of Israel from a "Jewish State" to a "state of all its citizens."

It requires no extraordinary intellect to grasp the fact that should such a change indeed take place, the resulting realities would in fact be the exact antithesis of the values invoked for making it.

Indeed, it is not difficult to foresee the inevitable chain of events that such a move would trigger.

...should Israel be re-defined as a "state of all its citizens...” ...there will neither be rhyme nor reason why any Jew ...would choose to live their life in a "non-Jewish Israel" rather than in any other "state of all its citizens" where the rigors of daily life are less demanding and less stressful....

Accordingly, not only would there be a dramatic increase in the number of Jews who leave the country ... There would be no mass "aliyah" ...

... there would be little grounds for preventing the massive influx of migrants from neighboring lands from pouring into the country – whether to fulfill the "right of return" or merely to make a better living – since, initially, the chances of finding a more lucrative livelihood would still be higher here rather than there.

Inevitably, these processes will bring about a continual erosion of the Jewish population. As the composition of the population in the land becomes similar to that in the other states of the region, there is no reason to suppose that the realities that prevails in it will not also become similar to those prevailing in those states – including the level of economic development, standard of living and lifestyle, status of women, nature of the regime, and the liberties it allows those living under it.

It is difficult to imagine that even the post-Zionists, with their bias and selective view of the world, are unaware of the fact that that in the entire Arab world - from Casablanca to Kuwait - there is no semblance of any "liberal democratic state in the Western mode" for which they allegedly yearn with such passion.

...all those genuinely desirous of "liberal democratic state in the Western mode" in this neck of the woods must recognize a basic inescapable truth: If Israel is not Zionist, it will not be Jewish; if it is not Jewish it will not be democratic.

If Not Peace Now, What?

From Moment magazine, July/August 2008:

Many Israelis, perhaps even a majority according to some polls, believe that the time has come for Israel to follow the 2003 Road Map to create two states—one Jewish, the other Palestinian.

Yet, others in Israel and in the diaspora caution that the pursuit of peace at this time is hopeless, foolhardy, even dangerous. ...Moment posed the following question to a spectrum of such critics:

“If the peace process does not or cannot work, what do you envision happening in Israel over the next decade?”

Judea Pearl, Meyrav Wurmser, Benny Morris, Morton Klein, Shlomo Riskin, Daniel Gordis, Daniel Pipes, Shoshana Bryen and Steven Emerson offer us an honest look at their fears and hopes for Israel’s future.—Eileen Lavine

Follow the link to read the opinions of each of these commentators.

Russia Presses Into Georgia

From The New York Times, August 12, 2008, by MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ, ANNE BARNARD and ANDREW E. KRAMER*:

SENAKI, Georgia — Russian armored vehicles rolled 25 miles into western Georgia and took up positions at a military base here early Monday after issuing an ultimatum to Georgia to disarm its troops, along the boundary with the separatist territory of Abkhazia.

The Russian military advances represented the first time Russian forces invaded Georgia proper in the four-day-old conflict, which has unnerved the West and resurrected some Cold War anxieties. Georgian officials said Russian troops had moved into several other cities in western Georgia, holding out the prospect that fighting could escalate on a second front.

President Bush, in his sharpest comments about the conflict thus far, said Russia’s offensive was “unacceptable in the 21st century” and had “substantially damaged Russia’s standing in the world,” as well as harmed relations between Washington and Moscow....“The Russian government must respect Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” he said. But he did not suggest what the United States would do if Russia kept up its campaign in Georgia.

...There were numerous but unconfirmed reports that Russian forces had occupied a major town just south of South Ossetia, Gori, which sits astride the country’s main east-west road and is home to a major military installation. Russia denied its troops were there.

In Senaki, south of the Abhaz border, two Russian tanks were parked inside the gate of a refurbished military base that until two days ago had been a Georgian military outpost. Russian soldiers who identified themselves as peacekeepers said that they now controlled the downtown base, located well outside the United Nations-designated zone in which Russian peacekeepers are allowed to operate tanks and heavy guns. An armored personnel carrier patrolled the village.
Residents said the Georgian military had fled without shooting. But bombs pounded the area, and residents said soldiers had told them they would not hurt civilians but would “annihilate” anyone in a uniform. By the end of the day, both the Russian and Georgian sides said the Russians had left Senaki, news agencies reported.

...President Mikheil Saakashvili addressed the nation, saying Russian troops had reached the main east-west road. “The situation in Georgia is very difficult because Russia is doing everything possible to occupy the country,” Mr. Saakashvili told the Georgian Security Council.

...Twice during the day, Mr. Saakashvili fled a location for safety.

...Residents were also fleeing the port city of Poti...

...Russian officials say Georgia provoked the assault on its troops by attacking South Ossetia, causing heavy civilian casualties. The Kremlin said its actions since then were intended to strike at Georgian military forces that had fired on its peacekeeping troops in South Ossetia and it did not intend a broader offensive deeper into Georgia.

However, Georgian officials said that over the weekend Russia had expanded its attacks on Georgia, moving tanks and troops through South Ossetia and advancing toward Gori. That maneuver, the Russian bombing of Tbilisi, and then the occupation of a Georgian military base in Senaki seemed to suggest that Russia’s aims in the conflict after four days of fighting had gone beyond securing South Ossetia and Abkhazia to weakening the armed forces of Georgia, a former Soviet republic and an ally of the United States whose Western leanings have long irritated the Kremlin.

...The French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, has been trying to arrange a cease-fire and Mr. Saakashvili said Georgia had signed one....

...On Monday, an Abkhaz official said that Abkhaz forces, backed by Russian paratroopers, would kill Georgian troops if they did not leave Kodori Gorge, the only part of the territory where Georgia has military forces. ...

...The fighting raised tensions between Russia and its former cold-war foes to their highest level in decades. President Bush has promoted Georgia as a bastion of democracy, helped strengthen its military and urged that NATO grant the country to membership. Georgia serves as a major conduit for oil flowing from Russia and Central Asia to the West.

But Russia, emboldened by windfall profits from oil exports, is showing a resolve to reassert its dominance ...The military action, which has involved air, naval and missile attacks, is the largest engagement by Russian forces outside its borders since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Strong diplomatic warnings from Mr. Bush and European leaders have been ignored, underscoring the limits of Western influence over Russia at a time when the rest of Europe depends heavily on Russian natural gas and the United States needs Moscow’s cooperation if it hopes to curtail what it believes is a nuclear weapons threat from Iran.

Vice President Dick Cheney, in a telephone conversation with the Georgian president on Monday, said “that Russian aggression must not go unanswered, and that its continuation would have serious consequences for its relations with the United States, as well as the broader international community...”

*Michael Schwirtz reported from Senaki, Georgia, Andrew E. Kramer from Gori, Georgia; and Anne Barnard from Moscow. Reporting was contributed by David Stout and Helene Cooper from Washington; Nicholas Kulish from Tbilisi, Georgia; and Joseph Sywenkiy from Gori, Georgia.

Will Russia Get Away With It?

If you read nothing else this week, read this important analysis from The New York Times, August 11, 2008, by WILLIAM KRISTOL, Op-Ed Columnist (Posted in full, with my own emphasis added - SL):

In August 1924, the small nation of Georgia, occupied by Soviet Russia since 1921, rose up against Soviet rule. On Sept. 16, 1924, The Times of London reported on an appeal by the president of the Georgian Republic to the League of Nations. While “sympathetic reference to his country’s efforts was made” in the Assembly, the Times said, “it is realized that the League is incapable of rendering material aid, and that the moral influence which may be a powerful force with civilized countries is unlikely to make any impression upon Soviet Russia.”

“Unlikely” was an understatement. Georgians did not enjoy freedom again until 1991. Today, the Vladimir Putins and Hu Jintaos and Mahmoud Ahmadinejads of the world — to say nothing of their junior counterparts in places like Sudan, Zimbabwe, Burma and North Korea — are no more likely than were Soviet leaders in 1924 to be swayed by “moral influence.”

Dictators aren’t moved by the claims of justice unarmed; aggressors aren’t intimidated by diplomacy absent the credible threat of force; fanatics aren’t deterred by the disapproval of men of moderation or refinement.

... 2008 has been, in one respect, an auspicious year for freedom and democracy. In Iraq, we and our Iraqi allies are on the verge of a strategic victory over the jihadists in what they have called the central front of their struggle. This joint victory has the potential to weaken the jihadist impulse throughout the Middle East.

On the other hand, the ability of Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas to get away with murder (literally), and above all the ability of Iran to pursue its nuclear ambitions effectively unchecked, are setbacks for hopes of peace and progress.

And there is no evidence that China’s hosting of the Olympics has led to moderation of its authoritarianism. Meanwhile, Russia has sent troops and tanks across an international border, and now seems to be widening its war against Georgia more than its original — and in any case illegitimate — casus belli would justify.

Will the United States put real pressure on Russia to stop? In a news analysis on Sunday, the New York Times reporter Helene Cooper accurately captured what I gather is the prevailing view in our State Department: “While America considers Georgia its strongest ally in the bloc of former Soviet countries, Washington needs Russia too much on big issues like Iran to risk it all to defend Georgia.”

But Georgia, a nation of about 4.6 million, has had the third-largest military presence — about 2,000 troops — fighting along with U.S. soldiers and marines in Iraq. For this reason alone, we owe Georgia a serious effort to defend its sovereignty. Surely we cannot simply stand by as an autocratic aggressor gobbles up part of — and perhaps destabilizes all of — a friendly democratic nation that we were sponsoring for NATO membership a few months ago.

For that matter, consider the implications of our turning away from Georgia for other aspiring pro-Western governments in the neighborhood, like Ukraine’s. Shouldn’t we therefore now insist that normal relations with Russia are impossible as long as the aggression continues, strongly reiterate our commitment to the territorial integrity of Georgia and Ukraine, and offer emergency military aid to Georgia?

Incidentally, has Russia really been helping much on Iran? It has gone along with — while delaying — three United Nations Security Council resolutions that have imposed mild sanctions on Iran. But it has also supplied material for Iran’s nuclear program, and is now selling Iran antiaircraft systems to protect military and nuclear installations.

It’s striking that dictatorial and aggressive and fanatical regimes — whatever their differences — seem happy to work together to weaken the influence of the United States and its democratic allies.

  • So Russia helps Iran.
  • Iran and North Korea help Syria.
  • Russia and China block Security Council sanctions against Zimbabwe.
  • China props up the regimes in Burma and North Korea.
The United States, of course, is not without resources and allies to deal with these problems and threats. But at times we seem oddly timid and uncertain.

When the “civilized world” expostulated with Russia about Georgia in 1924, the Soviet regime was still weak. In Germany, Hitler was in jail. Only 16 years later, Britain stood virtually alone against a Nazi-Soviet axis.

Is it not true today, as it was in the 1920s and ’30s, that delay and irresolution on the part of the democracies simply invite future threats and graver dangers?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

War in Georgia

The following excerpts from three articles in this weekend's New York Times is a crash course on the war on the Black Sea.

GORI, Georgia — The conflict between Russia and the former Soviet republic of Georgia moved toward all-out war on Saturday as Russia prepared to land ground troops on Georgia’s coast and broadened its bombing campaign both within Georgia and in the disputed territory of Abkhazia.
The fighting that began when Georgian forces tried to retake the capital of South Ossetia, a pro-Russian region that won de facto autonomy from Georgia in the early 1990s, appeared to be developing into the worst clashes between Russia and a foreign military since the 1980s war in Afghanistan.

Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, declared that Georgia was in a state of war, ordering government offices to work around the clock, and said that Russia was planning a full-scale invasion of his country.

Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, eclipsing the authority of President Dmitri A. Medvedev, left the Olympics in China and arrived Saturday evening in Vladikavkaz, a city in southern Russia just over the border that is a military staging area. State-controlled news broadcasts showed Mr. Putin meeting generals, suggesting that he was in charge of the operations on Georgian soil.

...Russian armored vehicles continued to stream into South Ossetia, and Russian officials said that 1,500 civilians had been killed in South Ossetia and that 12 Russian soldiers had died. A Georgian government spokesman said that 60 civilians had been killed in airstrikes on the city of Gori. Each side’s figures were impossible to confirm independently.

Attending the Olympic Games in Beijing, President Bush directly called on Russia on Saturday to stop bombing Georgian territory, expressing strong support for Georgia in a direct challenge to Russia’s leaders. “Georgia is a sovereign nation, and its territorial integrity must be respected,” Mr. Bush said in a hastily arranged appearance at his hotel in Beijing. “We have urged an immediate halt to the violence and a stand-down by all troops. We call for the end of the Russian bombings.”

...The fighting, and the Kremlin’s confidence in the face of Western outcry, had wide international implications, as both Russian and Georgian officials placed it squarely in the context of renewed cold war-style tensions and an East-West struggle for influence on Russia’s borders. The East and West were stuck in diplomatic impasse, even as reports from both sides of heavy civilian casualties indicated that the humanitarian toll was climbing.

...Alexander Lomaya, secretary of Georgia’s National Security Council, said ...conflict arose because Russia sought to “thwart its neighbors’ movement toward Western society and Western values....Russia has clearly decided to redraw the borders of the Eastern Europe map of the post-cold war situation....If the world is not able to stop Russia here, then Russian tanks and Russian paratroopers can appear in every European capital.”

In the early 1990s, he said, Russia began cultivating separatist movements along the outer limits of its territory — in Moldova, Georgia and the Baltic states — in an attempt to consolidate its sphere of influence. Russia has funneled military and financial support to large ethnic-Russian populations in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia....
...For years, the Russians have claimed that Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, has been preparing to retake the disputed regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and have warned that they would use force to block such a bid. Mr. Saakashvili, for his part, describes today’s Russia as a belligerent power ruthlessly pressing at its borders, implacably hostile to democratic neighbors like Georgia and Ukraine. He has thrown in his lot with the West, and has campaigned ardently for membership in NATO.....
...while Russia has a massive advantage in firepower, Georgia, an open, free-market, more-or-less-democratic nation that sees itself as a distant outpost of Europe, enjoys a decisive rhetorical and political edge. In recent conversations there, President Saakashvili compared Georgia to Czechoslovakia in 1938, trusting the West to save it from a ravenous neighbor. “If Georgia fails,” he said to me darkly two months ago, “it will send a message to everyone that this path doesn’t work.”
During a 10-day visit to Georgia in June, I heard the 1938 analogy again and again, as well as another to 1921, when Bolshevik troops crushed Georgia’s thrilling, and brief, first experiment with liberal rule.

Georgians...have good reason to fear the ambitions, and the wrath, of a rejuvenated Russia seeking to regain lost power. Indeed, a renascent and increasingly bellicose Russia is an ominous spectacle for the West too. While China preaches, and largely practices, the doctrine of “peaceful rise,” avoiding confrontation abroad in order to focus on development at home, Russia acts increasingly like an expansionist 19th-century power, pressing at its borders. Most strikingly, Russia has bluntly deployed its vast oil and gas resources to punish refractory neighbors like Ukraine, and reward compliant ones like Armenia....

...Modern Georgian history is a record of submission to superior Russian power. Threatened by the expanding Persian empire, in 1783 the Georgians formally accepted the protection of Russia; this polite fiction ended when Russia annexed Georgia in 1801. The chaos of the Russian Revolution finally gave Georgia a chance to restore its sovereignty a century later. ...
... Stalin, though himself Georgian, kept the republic subdued through brutal purges. The head of the Georgian Communist party was Lavrenti Beria, a cold-blooded killer who would become the master architect of Stalin’s terror. The Georgians, though helpless, never accepted their Soviet identity, and preserved their language, culture, religious practice and sense of national identity, as they had under the czars. And when, at last, the Soviet empire collapsed as the czarist one had, Georgia immediately broke away and declared its independence, in 1991.

The infant country spent the next decade stagnating under the Soviet-style rule of Eduard Shevardnadze, the former foreign minister to Mikhail Gorbachev.
But in 2003, Mr. Shevardnadze was peacefully overthrown in what came to be known as the Rose Revolution. Mr. Saakashvili was elected the following year. Since then, Georgia has become a poster child for Westernization. The growth rate has reached 12 percent. The countryside remains impoverished, but ...Tbilisi is a charming city, its ancient Orthodox churches restored to life, the lanes of the old city lined with cafes and art galleries. Mr. Saakashvili has also made Georgia one of the world’s most — or few — pro-American countries. ....

It was, of course, at this very moment that another ambitious young figure was reshaping Russia’s politics, economy and self-image. The combination of Vladimir Putin’s reforms and the dizzying rise in the price of oil and gas have rapidly restored Russia to the status of world power. And Mr. Putin has harnessed that power in the service of aggressive nationalism.

...Mr. Putin has established a “petrostate,” in which oil and gas are strategically deployed as punishments, rewards and threats. ...Mr. Putin has gone [to great lengths] to retain control over the delivery of natural gas from Central Asia to the West. A proposed alternative pipeline would skirt Russia and run through Georgia, as an oil pipeline now does. ...If Georgia collapses in turmoil...investors will not put up the money for a bypass pipeline. And so....Mr. Putin has done his best to destabilize the Saakashvili regime.

But economic considerations alone scarcely account for what appears to be an obsession with Georgia. The “color revolutions” that swept across Ukraine, the Balkans and the Caucasus in the first years of the new century plainly unnerved Mr. Putin, who has denounced America’s policy of “democracy promotion” and stifled foreign organizations seeking to promote human rights in Russia. Georgia, with its open embrace of the West, thus represents a threat to the legitimacy of Russia’s authoritarian model. And this challenge is immensely compounded by Georgia’s fervent aspiration to join NATO, one of Russia’s red lines.
Russian officials frequently recall that President Bill Clinton promised Boris Yeltsin that NATO would not expand beyond Eastern Europe. Of course NATO is no longer an anti-Soviet alliance, and the fact that Russia views NATO’s eastward expansion as a threat to its security is a vivid sign of the deep-rooted cold war mentality of Mr. Putin and his circle.

Still, they seem to mean it. Both Mr. Putin and his successor as president, Dmitri Medvedev, have reserved their starkest rhetoric for this subject. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has threatened that Georgia’s ambition to join NATO “will lead to renewed bloodshed,” adding, as if that weren’t enough, “we will do anything not to allow Georgia and Ukraine to join NATO.”
After Mr. Saakashvili, then 37, became president, Mr. Putin made no attempt to court him, and Mr. Saakashvili, made a point of showing the regional hegemon no deference. The open struggle began in late 2005 and early 2006, when Russia imposed an embargo on Georgia’s agricultural products, then on wine and mineral water — virtually Georgia’s entire export market. After Georgia very publicly and dramatically expelled Russian diplomats accused of espionage, Mr. Putin cut off all land, sea, air and rail links to Georgia, as well as postal service. And then, for good measure, he cut off natural gas supplies in the dead of winter.

This new round of bellicosity struck Georgians as frighteningly familiar. Alexander Rondeli, the director of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies, recited to me a thought he attributed to the diplomat-scholar George F. Kennan: “Russia can have at its borders only enemies or vassals.” Here, for him, was further proof, as if it were needed, that imperialist expansion and brute subjugation are coded in Russia’s DNA.
The Georgian elite came to view Russia as an unappeasable power imbued with the paranoia of the K.G.B., from which Mr. Putin and his closest associates rose, and fueled by the national sense of humiliation over Russia’s helplessness in the 1990s. “You should understand,” Mr. Saakashvili said, mocking the Europeans who urge forbearance on him, “that the crocodile is hungry. Well, from the point of view of someone who wants to keep his own leg, that’s hard to accept.” ...
There is real alarm in the West about the deteriorating situation in the Caucasus. Diplomats from Washington and the major European capitals, as well as from the United Nations, the European Union and NATO, have been crisscrossing the region trying to bring the parties together.
....What is striking, though, is the growing consensus about Russian behavior. The United Nations, the European Union and NATO have all sided with Georgia in the disputes over Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Mr. Saakashvili was deeply disappointed when NATO declined in early April to put Georgia and Ukraine on the path to membership, but he says that the German chancellor, Angela Merkel ... “gets it” about Russia — “because she knows Russia from her own experience.”

...People of all political persuasion now seem to get it about Russia. ...Robert Kagan, the neoconservative foreign policy expert who is advising John McCain, writes of Mr. Putin and his coterie: “Their grand ambition is to undo the post-cold war settlement and to re-establish Russia as a dominant power in Eurasia.” Michael McFaul, a Russia expert at Stanford who is advising Barack Obama, also views Russia as a premodern, sphere-of-influence power. He attributes Russia’s hostility to further NATO expansion less to geostrategic calculations than to what he says is Mr. Putin’s cold war mentality. The essential Russian calculus, he says, is, “Anything we can do to weaken the U.S. is good for Russia.” ...
Administration officials have regularly cautioned Mr. Saakashvili to be patient on Abkhazia and South Ossetia, even as they have given private and public reassurances about NATO membership.
It would, in fact, be surprising if Georgia had consciously provoked a war in South Ossetia, since Mr. Saakashvili understands that doing so would almost certainly put an end to the NATO bid; indeed, Russia may well calculate that NATO will continue to exclude Georgia so long as the country is embroiled in hostilities along its border.

...Russia threatens Georgia, but Georgia threatens Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia looks like a crocodile to Georgia, but Georgia looks to Russia like the cats’ paw of the West. One party has all the hard power it could want, the other all the soft. And now, while the world was looking elsewhere, the frozen conflict between them has thawed and cracked.....
From a New York Times Analysis, August 9, 2008, by HELENE COOPER:
... While America considers Georgia its strongest ally in the bloc of former Soviet countries, Washington needs Russia too much on big issues like Iran to risk it all to defend Georgia.
And State Department officials made it clear on Saturday that there was no chance the United States would intervene militarily.

Mr. Bush did use tough language, demanding that Russia stop bombing. And Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice demanded that Russia “respect Georgia’s territorial integrity.”

What did Mr. Putin do? First, he repudiated President Nicolas Sarkozy of France ...when [he]tried to dissuade Russia from its military operation. ...

Then, Mr. Putin flew from Beijing to a region that borders South Ossetia, arriving after an announcement that Georgia was pulling its troops out of the capital of the breakaway region. ...the Russian message was clear: This is our sphere of influence; others stay out.

“What the Russians just did is, for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union, they have taken a decisive military action and imposed a military reality,” said George Friedman, chief executive of Stratfor, a geopolitical analysis and intelligence company. “They’ve done it unilaterally, and all of the countries that have been looking to the West to intimidate the Russians are now forced into a position to consider what just happened.”

And Bush administration officials acknowledged that the outside world, and the United States in particular, had little leverage over Russian actions. “There is no possibility of drawing NATO or the international community into this,” said a senior State Department official in a conference call with reporters.

.... one Security Council diplomat said it remained uncertain whether much could be done.
“Strategically, the Russians have been sending signals that they really wanted to flex their muscles, and they’re upset about Kosovo,” the diplomat said. He was alluding to Russia’s anger at the West for recognizing Kosovo’s independence from Serbia.

...For the Bush administration, the choice now becomes whether backing Georgia — which, more than any other former Soviet republic has allied with the United States — on the South Ossetia issue is worth alienating Russia at a time when getting Russia’s help to rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions is at the top of the United States’ foreign policy agenda.

... there is a growing feeling among some officials in the Bush administration that perhaps the United States cannot have it all, and may have to choose its priorities, particularly when it comes to Russia.

The Bush administration’s strong support for Georgia — including the training of Georgia’s military and arms support — came, in part, as a reward for its support of the United States in Iraq. The United States has held Georgia up as a beacon of democracy in the former Soviet Union; it was supposed to be an example to other former Soviet republics of the benefits of tilting to the West...

...Russia’s emerging aggressiveness is now also timed with America’s preoccupation with Iraq and Afghanistan, and the looming confrontation with Iran. These counterbalancing considerations mean that Moscow is in the driver’s seat, administration officials acknowledged.
“We’ve placed ourselves in a position that globally we don’t have the wherewithal to do anything,” Mr. Friedman of Stratfor said....