Saturday, August 23, 2008

Russian Spoiler

From The New York Times, August 22, 2008, by PETER BAKER:

The president of Syria spent two days this week in Russia with a shopping list of sophisticated weapons he wanted to buy. The visit may prove a worrisome preview of things to come.

Russian soldiers in Igoeti, Georgia, on Thursday, 22/8/08

If Russia’s invasion of Georgia ushers in a sustained period of renewed animosity with the West, Washington fears that a newly emboldened but estranged Moscow could use its influence, money, energy resources, United Nations Security Council veto and, yes, its arms industry to undermine American interests around the world.

...The list of ways a more hostile Russia could cause problems for the United States extends far beyond Syria and the mountains of Georgia. In addition to escalated arms sales to other anti-American states like Iran and Venezuela, policy makers and specialists in Washington envision a freeze on counterterrorism and nuclear nonproliferation cooperation, manipulation of oil and natural gas supplies, pressure against United States military bases in Central Asia and the collapse of efforts to extend cold war-era arms control treaties.

...Russia may yet hold back from some of the more disruptive options depending on how both sides play these next few weeks and months. Many in Washington hope Russia will restrain itself out of its own self-interest; Moscow, for instance, does not want Iran to have nuclear weapons, nor does it want the Taliban to regain power in Afghanistan....

...Moscow may also be checked by the desire of its economic elite to remain on the path to integration with the rest of the world. The main Russian stock index fell sharply in recent days, costing investors $10 billion — many with close ties to the circle of Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin.

.... Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, wants to throw Russia out of the Group of 8 major powers. Such a move would effectively admit the failure of 17 years of bipartisan policy aimed at incorporating Russia into the international order.

Yet Washington’s menu of options pales by comparison to Moscow’s. Masha Lipman, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said “there’s a lot more” that the United States needed from Russia than the other way around, citing efforts to secure old Soviet nuclear arms, support the war effort in Afghanistan and force Iran and North Korea to give up nuclear programs. “Hence Russia has all the leverage,” she said.

In forecasting Russia’s potential for causing headaches, most specialists look first to Ukraine, which wants to join NATO. The nightmare scenario circulating in recent days is an attempt by Moscow to claim the strategic Crimean peninsula to secure access to the Black Sea. Ukrainian lawmakers are investigating reports that Russia has been granting passports en masse to ethnic Russians living in Crimea, a tactic Moscow used in the Georgian breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia to justify intervention to protect its citizens.

Arms sales, as Mr. Assad’s visit underscored, represent another way Russia could create problems. Israeli and Western governments have already been alarmed about reports that the first elements of the Russian-built S-300 antiaircraft missile system are now being delivered to Iran, which could use them to shoot down any American or Israeli planes that seek to bomb nuclear facilities should that ever be attempted.

...Russia could also revoke its decision in April to allow NATO to send nonlethal supplies overland through its territory en route to Afghanistan.

Russia could also turn up pressure on Kyrgyzstan to evict American forces that support operations in Afghanistan and could block any large-scale return to Uzbekistan, which expelled the Americans in 2005. “The argument would be, ‘Why help NATO?’ ” said Celeste A. Wallander, a Russia scholar at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service.

Even beyond the dispute over Iran, Russia could obstruct the United States at the United Nations Security Council on a variety of other issues. Just last month, Russia vetoed sanctions against Zimbabwe’s government, a move seen as a slap at Washington.

“If Russia’s feeling churlish, they can pretty much bring to a grinding halt any kind of coercive actions, like economic sanctions or anything else,” said Peter D. Feaver, a former strategic adviser at the National Security Council.

Russia could also accelerate its withdrawal from arms control structures. It already has suspended the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty to protest American missile defense plans and threatened to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty. Renewed tension could fray a recently signed civilian nuclear cooperation agreement and doom negotiations to extend soon-to-expire strategic arms control verification programs.

“Ironically, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, there’s always been the concern about Russia becoming a spoiler,” said Ms. Stent, of Georgetown, “and now we could see the realization of that.”

Friday, August 22, 2008

Move to block Hezbollah's 'terror TV'

From The Age, August 21, 2008, by Barney Zwartz, with Sarah Smiles and AFP:

AUTHORITIES are trying to stop an anti-Semitic satellite TV station broadcasting into Australia from Indonesia — which has already rejected US efforts to take the channel off the air.

It is the third time Australia has acted against al-Manar, a channel owned by Hezbollah, the militant Shiite Muslim Lebanese political party. The United States lists it as a banned terrorist organisation. Australia lists only its armed wing, the External Security Organisation.

Al-Manar promotes and raises money for terrorism, particularly against Israel. It has just started broadcasting again into Asia and the Pacific from Indonesia, using a company part-owned by the Indonesian Government, and is available to people with satellite dishes.The station is viciously anti-Semitic — perpetuating the medieval "blood libel" that Jews use the blood of Christian children in their Passover meals — as well as anti-Israel and anti-US.

....Australian Arabic Council chairman Roland Jabbour said it was hypocritical for a government that believed in freedom of speech to ban al-Manar. He said the channel was very popular and widely watched by Arabic speakers in Australia."Hezbollah's political wing represents many people in the Lebanese Parliament, and there's nothing military about the television station," he said. He added that "nearly every television channel from the Middle East" can be viewed in Australia, and that others were more likely to advocate violence.

Australia-Israel Review editor Tzvi Fleischer said al-Manar's reappearance was of deep concern."It's not only a fund-raising and recruiting tool for a terrorist organisation but is very anti-Semitic, with some very nasty stuff. We hope the authorities look hard at whether they can stop it."

Alerted by The Age this week to al-Manar's presence, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) yesterday confirmed it had begun inquiries.

Al-Manar is banned in the US. A US embassy spokesman in Jakarta last week confirmed it had made representations to Indonesia about the station."The US Government has expressed, and will continue to express, its concerns about Hezbollah and al-Manar television worldwide, and remains firmly opposed to their exploitation of the media to promote terrorist acts," he said.

...The Indonesian Government owns 14% of the satellite company and has the right to veto strategic decisions, according to a media report.

In 2004 ACMA stopped a Sydney-based provider transmitting al-Manar as part of a package of Arab stations. In January this year ACMA alerted a Thai company that was broadcasting al-Manar into Australia. The company dropped the station.

Yesterday ACMA spokesman Donald Robertson said the authority imposed program standards on terror-related content after investigating al-Manar in 2004.

Mr Robertson could not say exactly what ACMA proposed to do about the Indosat broadcasts. He said the authority's legal power to enforce anti-terrorism standards was not confined to Australia. "ACMA may still issue a notice to an overseas service provider directing it to comply with the act," he said.

A spokesman for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the minister was aware of ACMA's inquiry and he would work with the authority as the matter developed.

According to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, al-Manar, launched in 1991, transmits 24 hours a day worldwide and is bankrolled by the Iranian Government. The station regularly broadcasts speeches by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and fatwas (Muslim legal rulings) endorsing suicide bombing as legitimate....

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Australia's moment of truth

An Analysis in THE JERUSALEM POST, Aug. 20, 2008, by EFRAIM ZUROFF, Israel director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center:

The decision by Perth Magistrate Barbara Lane on Wednesday to allow the extradition of Karoly (Charles) Zentai to Hungary to stand trial for the murder of Jewish teenager Peter Balazs in Budapest on November 8, 1944, paves the way for an unprecedented, historic victory for Holocaust justice in Australia.

Assuming, as expected, that Zentai's appeals against the decision will be rejected, all that will be missing will be the signature of Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus for Australia to succeed for the first time ever in taking successful legal action against a Holocaust perpetrator living in the country.

This long and difficult process began 22 years ago when the Australian government initiated the Menzies Review to investigate allegations that numerous East European Nazi collaborators had gained entry to the country posing as innocent refugees from Communism. The Review confirmed these claims and recommended that legal action be taken against these criminals. In 1989 parliament passed an amendment allowing the prosecution of Holocaust perpetrators in Australian courts. But for variety of reasons, all three prosecutions mounted by Australia's "Special Investigations Unit" failed and the prosecution effort for all practical purposes was shut down on June 30, 1992.

This was particularly unfortunate since the prospects of successes at this point had become much better due to the breakup of the Soviet Union and the greater access to witnesses and documents regarding the crimes committed by the suspects living in Australia, all of whom hailed from Eastern Europe. But the initial outlay of A$19 million for the operations of the unit and its initial failures evoked considerable political opposition and led to its premature closure.
Since that fateful decision, Australia has had two concrete opportunities to act against Nazi war criminals residing in the country. In both cases, the initiative came from the country in which the suspect committed his crimes. The first was that of Konrad Kalejs, who served as an officer in the infamous Arajs Kommando, a Latvian murder squad that killed at least 30,000 Jews in Latvia alone. (It was later sent to Belarus to assist in the murder of Jews there.)

At the end of World War II Kalejs moved to Denmark, and he emigrated to Australia in 1950, where he initially served as an immigration screening officer. He later moved to the United States, Canada and Great Britain, all of which expelled him when his wartime activities in the Arajs Kommando were revealed, only to return to Australia each time.

When Latvia finally was convinced to ask for his extradition, which was approved in an Australian court, it appeared that justice would be achieved. But Kalejs died in Melbourne in 2001 before he could be extradited, one of many Nazi killers who escaped to Australia who were able to elude justice.

That leave the case of Karoly Zentai who was discovered in late 2004 living in Perth, after evidence of his crimes was sent to the Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem by the brother of his victim. Zentai served in a unit of the Hungarian army that was active in hunts for Jews in Budapest in the fall of 1944 (when the fascist Arrow Cross came to power) and played a major role in the murder of 18 year old Peter Balazs whom he caught without the requisite yellow star on a streetcar in Budapest on November 8, 1944. (He and Zentai grew up in the suburb of Budafolk, so the latter knew that the former was Jewish.)

Shortly after I submitted the evidence of Zentai's crimes to prosecutors in Budapest, Hungary asked for his extradition to stand trial. But Zentai has been able until today to postpone his extradition via a variety of legal maneuvers that had absolutely nothing to do with his case. Now that Magistrate Lane has ruled that the extradition can proceed, the final moment of truth has arrived, not only for Zentai but also for Australia.

A Shift in the Iranian Portrayal of Israel

From THE BEGIN-SADAT CENTER FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES, BAR-ILAN UNIVERSITY, Mideast Security and Policy Studies No. 78 (very brief excerpts only with emphasis added - follow the link for the full paper):

From Omnipotence to Impotence: A Shift in the Iranian Portrayal of the "Zionist Regime" by Ze'ev Maghen

...Attempting to defuse the diplomatic tension occasioned by newly elected President Ahmadinejad’s call for Israel’s destruction at the previous month’s “World without Zionism” conference, Khamene’i concluded his uncharacteristically moderate sermon with the following ringing remarks:
“We Iranians intend no harm to any nation, nor will we be the first to attack any nation. We do not deny the right of any polity in any place on God’s earth to exist and prosper. We are a peace-loving country whose only wish is to live, and to let live, in peace.”
Without missing a beat or evincing even a hint of irony, the reporter who had covered the event continued:
“The congregation of worshippers, some seven thousand in number, expressed their unanimous support for the Supreme Leader’s words by repeatedly chanting: ...‘Death to America, Death to Israel!’”
... This is not as strange as it sounds. Chanting “Death to America, Death to Israel!” has been the way Iranians applaud for over a quarter of a century....

...What does such widespread and persistent indoctrination, imbibed ...(...with mother’s milk) and drummed by rote into the consciousnesses of the Iranian citizenry throughout their lives, mean for the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic? What should it mean for Israeli foreign policy?...

...[according to 'Iran experts'] ... the answer to both of these questions is: nothing.

... they demand ... that we distinguish between image and reality, between ideology and strategy, between the fiery rhetoric of preachers and street-mobs and the sober goals of an eminently pragmatic regime. Indeed, they point out, even the purportedly impassioned chest-beaters of mosque and madrasa are only engaging in drone-like repetition of slogans that have long since lost all significance in their minds: they are just going through the motions.

... “Calls for Israel’s destruction,” maintains international relations expert Homayun-e-Esaghpour, “whether they emanate from the Iranian street or from the mouths of the political
elite, must not be taken at face value. They are weary old catechisms, nothing more.”...

...the analysts go on to emphasize that there is no rational reason for the eruption of hostilities between Iran and Israel....Iran and Israel do not share a common border (this argument
continues), and their national and economic interests are in no manner opposed to one another....
In the same way that many have asserted that Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is, in the end, little more than a tool or bargaining chip, so with Iranian Israel-bashing: it is perceived
by these commentators as nothing but propaganda and posturing, which the Iranians themselves do not take seriously; why, then, should the Israelis take it seriously?...

...The analysts claim that the daily drill of Israel-damning in Iran has become a tired exercise, a formalistic ceremony that is no longer accompanied by genuine passion or serious intent – and they are correct. This understanding is even reinforced by our own opening anecdote: oblivious to the content of their own words, and of the extent to which those words contradicted the moderate message Khamene’i was striving to convey, the thousands of mosque-goers mouthed the demand for the demise of America and Israel for the tenthousandth time in their lives....

...But herein lies the rub: is, in the end, often far more dangerous not to mean it than to mean it....the really horrific atrocities in human history – the enslavements, the inquisitions, the terrorisms, the genocides – have been perpetrated not in hot blood, but in cold blood: not as a result of immanent feeling, but in the name of transcendent ideology.

...What is true for Nazi storm troopers and al-Qa‘ida operatives is true for today’s fundamentalist Shi‘ites.

The Iranian tradition of condemning Israel is, for most of the population and even most of their leaders, little more than lip service: the hostility of the militant members of the Iranian population to Israel is never really the result of some current, identifiable, truly heinous act on the part of the Jewish state ...and such hostility is thus also in no way a function of immediate, genuine, blood-boiling rage. It is, unfortunately, far more durable and deeply implanted than that.

That Israel is the devil, the root of all evil, a criminal cancer that must be excised from the Muslim body politic ...are for Iranian Muslims eternal truths (not ephemeral feelings!) that have gradually, through endless tantra-like repetition, been installed down underneath the level of conscious meaning, in the place where basic instincts, automatic assumptions and ontological verities reside....

The accession of Mahmud Ahmadinejad to the presidency of the Islamic Republic has been accompanied by a sharp transformation in the Iranian attitude to, and depiction of, the State of Israel.

This change includes not only an amplification of the traditional hostility toward the Jewish polity, but also – and perhaps most ominously – a new conception of that polity as weak and unstable, an easy target for a united Muslim (or even just united Shi‘ite) offensive.

The prevailing opinion among Middle East experts and Iran watchers, however, is that the revised rhetoric ...harbors no significant ramifications for policy making in Israel, the region, or the world. Vociferous Iranian declarations about the need to erase Israel from the map are seen by such commentators as nothing more than a means toward achieving certain pragmatic goals, such as eventual d├ętente with the West.

This essay argues that, on the contrary, Iranian-Islamist threats to Israel’s existence are sincere and constitute tenaciously sought ends in themselves. They must be treated by the Israeli government and by the West at large with the utmost seriousness.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Explaining Israel's PR failure

From Ynet News, 18/8/08, by Martin Sherman:

...For many, both in Israel and abroad, the failure of Israeli diplomacy and public relations (Hasbara) is difficult to understand. After all, the Jewish State has many features that, prime facie, should bestow on it the unqualified support of Western democracies: Free fair (and frequent) elections, general gender equality, religious freedom, an open press, tolerance of sexual preferences and so on. Even if in everyday practice there are flaws and imperfections in some of these areas, they are certainly far closer to the desired ideal than in any of its Muslim adversaries and certainly more so than the areas under Palestinian rule (or misrule.)

...In assessing the motivation and resolve of an organization to achieve a certain goal, one of the most significant measures is the quantity of resources that it allocates for that purpose. In the case of Israeli Hasbara, the official budget barely the equivalent of what a medium-to-large commercial corporation would allot for advertizing.

The reason for this excessive thrift cannot be attributed to lack of funds. After all, whenever the government of Israel wishes to implement some unbudgeted project, somehow it always manages to find the financial resources to do so. For example, when the decision was taken to construct the "security barrier", the billions of shekels required were made available without great difficulty. Likewise, when the "Disengagement" from Gaza was decided on, the billions of dollars needed for its implementation were not considered a significant impediment. Moreover, when the proposed "Convergence" from Judea and Samaria was being seriously considered, the fact that tens of billions of dollars would be necessary for its execution did in anyway not deter its enthusiastic proponents.

The regrettable, but unavoidable, conclusion must therefore be that for national policy makers, Israel's international image and the promotion of its case abroad is not an important priority on the national agenda – for if it was, far more resources would surely be devoted to this objective

...Why does the official Israeli establishment display such lethargy, such passivity, such impotency, such defeatism on the media front and in the battle for the hearts and minds in the of the public – both at home and abroad[?] The answer to this is rooted in the structure of Israeli society ... it turns out that in many - if not most aspects – the results of Knesset elections have little relevance.

For example, Ariel Sharon was elected on the explicit rejection of a policy of unilateral withdrawal, but after being elected was coerced into implementing measures he had previously dismissed as entirely unacceptable.

Likewise, Yitzhak Rabin was elected on the basis of ...
  • No to negotiations with the PLO;
  • No relinquishing the Jordan Valley;
  • No to the division of Jerusalem

.... Yet, after his election he adopted an entirely different policy, which in essence meant transforming all these resolute ..."No's" into concessionary ..."Aye's" – in spite of the fact that precisely such policy had been proposed by [others] ...and had been rejected at the polls.

...the ability to understand the realities in Israel and how they are produced is contingent on the recognition that ...influential elites hold a common worldview... that it is the Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria (and previously Gaza) that is the root of all evil in the region – if not the entire universe.

This perception – accompanied by a vitriolic enmity towards the settlements across the 1967 Green Line, and settlers who reside in them ...prevents it[s] adherents and all those under their considerable influence from portraying the Arabs in general, and the Palestinians in particular, in their true light. This reticence to drawing attention to the real nature of the Arab world – to the brutality and to the corruption, to the fanaticism and the backwardness; to the repression of women, the suppression of Christians, and oppression of homosexuals, to the hounding out of dissident journalists and the hunting down of political opponents - prevents Israel from persuasively presenting its case and the dire dangers that it faces in contending with such adversaries....

...if Arabs are portrayed in the negative light they so richly deserve, it makes an absolute mockery of any policy which in effect advocates:

1. creating a new international border for Israel only a few thousand meters from the national parliament and from virtually all the government ministries;
2. exposing the country's only international airport to attack from primitive weapons already being used from within territories that have been abandoned;
3. making its major rail and road links vulnerable to attack by little more than small arms fire, risking paralysis of the land transport system;
4. abandoning the control of crucial water sources (about one third of the total national supply) to Palestinian control;
5. bringing principal infrastructure installations such as the Hadera power station together with 80% of the civilian population and the economic activity of the country within the range of rockets and missiles presently being launched against Israel.

... This obsessive ... delusional and desperate quest for the one "last mythological concession," the explanation for Israel's abysmal performance in the fight for public opinion....

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Old Domino Game

This Dry Bones cartoon was first published in 1978. Back then the West was worried about USSR domination of the countries on its borders....


U.S.S.R. in Russian is C.C.C.P.

The character is Leonid Brezhnev, then the leader of the Soviet Union.)

Jordan restores relations with Hamas

From Ynet News 15/8/08, by Ali Waked:

The Hamas movement on Friday released a statement welcoming the restoration of its ties with Jordan, following a series of meetings held over the past weeks between a Hamas delegation and representatives of the Jordanian government.

... About two years ago, Jordan accused Hamas of a mass weapon smuggling attempt into the kingdom using a ship, a claim which the movement has strongly denied.

At the end of the second meeting between the sides Thursday, it appeared that the Jordan-Hamas relations were about to be restored, although it was unclear whether Hamas would reopen its offices in the kingdom at this stage.

Fauzi Barhum, a spokesman for Hamas, said that the decision marked Jordan's recognition in the Palestinian legitimization and Hamas' legitimization. He said that the meetings between the sides were held as part of the Arab and Islamic world's attempt to open up to Hamas and remove the siege and isolation imposed on the movement....

Lebanese monitoring group: Hizbullah is violating 1701

From THE JERUSALEM POST , Aug. 17, 2008 by Brenda Gazzar:

An independent monitoring group in Lebanon has disputed a claim made by the commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) last week that Hizbullah has honored Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the Second Lebanon War, and called the UN forces "hostages of Hizbullah."

Toni Nissi, the general coordinator of the international-Lebanese Committee for UN Security Council Resolution 1559, told reporters on Saturday that all parties involved - particularly Hizbullah - were violating Resolution 1701.

Resolution "1701 also calls for the implementation of [Security Council Resolution] 1559, especially the disarmament of the militias, and calls for sealing the border between Lebanon and Syria and forbidding the entering of arms and weapons via the border, especially to Hizbullah," Nissi said. "So Hizbullah is violating 1701 big time, and not only by hiding its weapons in warehouses in the south.

Also, we haven't seen any weapons coming out of the south after the War of 2006, so did Hizbullah throw its weapons used in the 2006 war into the sea?"

Nissi's volunteer committee, which has representatives in Lebanon and several other countries, monitors the implementation of several UN resolutions, including Resolution 1701. The committee acts as a consultative body to the UN and has been registered with the office of the UN Secretary General since September 2005, he said.

...On Friday, Dan Carmon, acting head of the Israeli delegation to the United Nations, reprimanded UNIFIL's commander, [Italian Maj.-Gen. Claudio] Graziano during a personal meeting for ignoring Hizbullah violations. Nissi also criticized UNIFIL for "coordinating with Hizbullah and not with the Lebanese government." Resolution "1701 says clearly: No arms south of the Litani [River]. No militias south of the Litani. That is why UNIFIL is here," he said.

...IDF Military Intelligence, various media reports and Nissi's committee say Hizbullah has been rebuilding its forces and acquiring additional weapons south of the Litani....

JTA and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report