Thursday, November 05, 2009

Israeli Navy intercepts Iranian weapons smuggling ship

From The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 4 Nov 2009:

A special Israel Navy force intercepted and boarded a ship 100 miles off the coast of Israel. The ship, carrying the flag of Antigua, was carrying weapons under civilian disguise.

On Tuesday (November 3, 2009) a special naval force detained and boarded a merchant ship carrying the flag of Antigua about 100 miles west of the coast of Israel.

Following an initial inspection, which determined that it was carrying a significant amount of weapons disguised as civilian cargo, the weapons-loaded ship was directed to an Israeli port so as to enable further searches on board and a detailed inspection of the cargo.

...It should be emphasized that IDF forces and the Israel Navy conduct routine intensive operations for security purposes, in order to combat terror and to prevent arms smuggling on various fronts, and the seizure of the ship was carried out as part of this ongoing routine activity.
The largest ship intercepted by Navy forces was the Karine A vessel in 2002. The vessel carried tons of weapons from Iran intended to reach the Gaza Strip.

Since the conclusion of the Second Lebanon War, Iran has intensified efforts to establish itself as the leader of the radical axis. These efforts are manifested in ongoing, wide-scale weapon transfers to Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas, as well as financial assistance, training and more. By providing hostile factions with these weapons, Iran substantially enhances their capabilities, improving their arsenals both qualitatively and quantitatively.

The Quds Force, which is affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, is responsible for Iran's international operations. The force, which answers directly to the Iranian leader, has developed numerous methods of transferring weapons and supplies, relying on aerial, naval and ground channels.

* * *

President Peres stated: "The IDF today successfully intercepted a ship that was apparently en route from Iran to Syria and Hizbullah. Although all the parties deny it, the entire world is today witness to the wide gap between what Syria and Iran say and what they in fact do.

The actions of Iran and Syria contradict all international law. Both Iran and Syria are continuously arming the terrorist organizations, first and foremost Hizbullah and Hamas, and are clearly working to undermine peace in the Middle East.

The interception of the arms ship is of the highest importance in military terms, but also has political importance. No one can argue with facts. This is an important achievement for the army and for the entire State of Israel."


1. Events in which Iranian attempts to smuggle arms have been uncovered

  • December 2001 - The Karine A ...
  • December 2003 - January 2004 - The Iranian Revolutionary Guard directed an aerial convoy to transfer weapons and supplies to Hizbullah via Syria. The aerial convoys were disguised as humanitarian aid ...
  • May 2007 - An Iranian train carrying arms (mortar shells, light arms, rocket launchers and ammunition) was uncovered in Turkey....
  • January 2009 - An arms shipment sent by Iran was intercepted and seized in Cyprus
  • October 2009 -The Hansa India, which sailed from Iran Malta where it was seized and found to be carrying bullets and industrial material intended for the production of weapons, seemingly bound for Syria.

2. UN Resolutions limiting Iranian export and arms trade ...

  • UN Security Council Resolution 1737 (December 23, 2006...
  • UN Security Council Resolution 1747 (March 24, 2007...
  • UN Security Council Resolution 1803 (March 24, 2008) ...
  • UN Security Council Resolution 1835 (September 27, 2008) ...

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Where are the US realists?

From The Asia Times, 3 Nov 2009, by Spengler*:

...America has shed idealist delusion - that imposing the outward form of democracy in Iraq or Afghanistan would implant its content - in favor of an even stranger delusion, which refuses "to elevate one nation or group of people over another", as Obama told the United Nations on September 23.

... those are the idiot twins of American idealism: either one size fits all, or size doesn't matter. I do not propose to draw a moral equivalence between presidents Bush and Obama: Bush wanted to elevate American power and Obama wants to diminish it. Bush had better motives, but he was no less destructive of American influence.

Where are the realists? ...It is easy to confuse "realism" with a widely shared delusion. In the parlance of American foreign policy, "realism" means accepting a howling lie if it is accepted by a large enough number of people. The "realists" during the Ronald Reagan administration insisted that the Soviet Union was a successful, stable and permanent fixture in the world power equation.

Reagan and his advisors saw in Soviet aggression a symptom of imminent internal breakdown. ...Why pursue detente with a Soviet Union that inevitably would collapse of its own incompetence and corruption?

And why ally with Muslim countries sinking into irreversible decline, in some cases civil war? Iran, Turkey and Algeria will age as rapidly as Western European countries, but without the wealth buffer to deal with a burgeoning cohort of dependent elderly.

Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan seem ungovernable. Among the largest Muslim countries only Bangladesh and Indonesia seem stable, but they have little relevance to American policy in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia's influence in the region is expressed mainly by financing fundamentalist madrassas (seminaries) in neighboring countries and writing checks to compliant former American presidents as well as "realist" academics. The Saudis will sell us the oil; we do not need to wash their feet in return.

Reality presented itself to the White House in the course of the current give-and-take over Israel and Palestine in the person of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, perhaps the last functioning realist in the Obama administration.

The Pentagon ...views with realistic horror the possibility that Israel might exchange military technology with Russia and India. ...drone, anti-missile, and other technology are ...a concern. That, there is reason to believe, explains why the US administration abruptly dropped its demand for a complete Israeli freeze on settlement construction and accepted the Israeli offer of a freeze on acquiring new land, once 3,000 homes at present under construction are complete.

That realism: in a world of weapons of mass destruction, very large numbers of poorly educated people make no contribution to military power. Even in the age of edged weapons, Persia's advantage in numbers at Gaugamela posed little threat to Alexander the Great. Despite its declining population, Russia is determined to exercise military power on a world scale through its edge in key military technologies.

Israel's contribution might be decisive in a number of fields, for example avionics and especially drone technology. Among the million Russians who emigrated to Israel during the breakdown of the Soviet Empire are more than 10,000 scientists, including some who designed Russia's best weapons systems. Moscow's impulse to reunite the old team is understandable. Throw Israel into the briar patch, and America might not like the result.

...there is no "realist" school of foreign policy at work in Washington, just the idiot twins of idealism and the majority-rule fantasists. Gates seems capable of realism, at least when the intelligence reports smack him in the face like a dead mackerel. No one in Washington seems to ask the obvious questions:

  • Which countries are inherently friendly, which are inherently hostile, and which are neither friendly nor hostile, but merely self-interested?
  • Which countries are viable partners over a given time horizon, and which are beyond viability?
  • Where can we solve problems, and where must we resign ourselves to contain them at best?
  • Where can we make agreements in mutual self-interest, and where is it impossible to make agreements of any kind?
  • What issues affect American national security in so urgent a fashion that we should employ force if required?

A few suggestions:
China is the fulcrum of American strategy. The world's two largest economies have a natural self-interest in strengthening each other. ...If America wants to promote human rights in China, it should promote open capital markets, immigration of Chinese entrepreneurs, and other benign ways of opening Chinese society to more individual power. China also wants America to remain a power in Asia: China and its neighbors distrust each other more than ever they distrusted the United States.

Russia is a spoiler, but a bargainer. ...Georgia and the Ukraine are respectively last and second-to-last in the world fertility tables and will cease to exist as national entities by mid-century. Why should America make commitments there? ...America should trade away what it does not require (democracy in the "stans") for what it does require, for instance Russian strategic cooperation in non-proliferation, especially where Iran is concerned. This may be the one thing that the Obama administration has done right, although it remains to be seen whether it has done anything at all.

India is a prospective friend. The precedent of nuclear cooperation with India as well as India's common interest in suppressing Muslim terrorists brought the world's largest democracy close to the American camp during the Bush administration. India's economic boom, moreover, increases its links to the American economy.

Iran is past bargaining with; it must be ruined. ...After the Obama administration's unsuccessful attempt to appease Tehran ...Washington still cannot make sense of Iran. I have maintained that Iran faces internal implosion, not only because of the disaffection of its educated youth, but because it will run out of young people and run out of oil at roughly the same time, that is, about 20 years from now .... Iran must act on what it believes to be the Shi'ite moment in world history or be reduced to an aging rump empire. Nuclear weapons would provide it with an umbrella under which to employ terrorism and subversion. Preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons - if this is the case - probably is the one instance in the world where American interest requires the use of force.

America's strategic priorities are:

  • Speeding economic recovery;
  • Maintaining the integrity of the reserve role of the dollar;
  • Preventing rogue states from acquiring nuclear weapons or prospectively rogue states from using them - I refer to Pakistan;
  • Fostering the stability of key countries, especially China and India, and, above all,
  • Maintaining a technological edge of American weaponry so great as to give America strategic flexibility in all theaters.

It has no strategic interest in tilting at such windmills as:

  • Iraqi or Afghani democracy;
  • Palestinian nationhood;
  • Georgian independence;
  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization membership for Ukraine.

To act on these priorities, America requires the cooperation of other countries, and in different ways. China is crucial to economic and monetary success; Russia is crucial to containing nuclear weapons; and India has a key role to play in deterring potential terrorists, including and arming Afghanistan's northern tribes against the Taliban.

In lean times, even hyper-powers cannot indulge themselves in the sort of luxuries that feed their sense of moral superiority...We have to focus on core interests and concentrate on those countries that have the competence and will to assist us in pursuing our core interests. Most of the world will ruin itself quickly enough without our help. Our attention should abide with those countries that demonstrate long-term viability.

*Spengler is channeled by David P Goldman, Senior Editor of First Things (

Goldstone ‘unbalanced, one-sided and basically unacceptable’

Tuesday (Nov. 3): The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved, by a vote of 344 in favour and 36 against, Resolution #867 condemning the UN Goldstone report as “irredeemably biased” against Israel, a day before the United Nations General Assembly convenes to debate it.

Follow this link for the full text of the Resolution.

The following excerpt is from the conclusion:

...Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) considers the ‘Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’ to be irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy;

(2) supports the Administration’s efforts to combat anti-Israel bias at the United Nations, its characterization of the ‘Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’ as ‘unbalanced, one-sided and basically unacceptable’, and its opposition to the resolution on the report;

(3) calls on the President and the Secretary of State to continue to strongly and unequivocally oppose any endorsement of the ‘Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’ in multilateral fora;

(4) calls on the President and the Secretary of State to strongly and unequivocally oppose any further consideration of the ‘Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’ and any other measures stemming from this report in multilateral fora; and

(5) reaffirms its support for the democratic, Jewish State of Israel, for Israel’s security and right to self-defense, and, specifically, for Israel’s right to defend its citizens from violent militant groups and their state sponsors.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Rights Watchdog, Lost in the Mideast

From The New York Times, October 19, 2009, by ROBERT L. BERNSTEIN, former president and chief executive of Random House, and chairman of Human Rights Watch from 1978 to 1998:

AS the founder of Human Rights Watch, its active chairman for 20 years and now founding chairman emeritus, I must do something that I never anticipated: I must publicly join the group’s critics. Human Rights Watch had as its original mission to pry open closed societies, advocate basic freedoms and support dissenters. But recently it has been issuing reports on the Israeli-Arab conflict that are helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.

At Human Rights Watch, we always recognized that open, democratic societies have faults and commit abuses. But we saw that they have the ability to correct them — through vigorous public debate, an adversarial press and many other mechanisms that encourage reform.

That is why we sought to draw a sharp line between the democratic and nondemocratic worlds, in an effort to create clarity in human rights. We wanted to prevent the Soviet Union and its followers from playing a moral equivalence game with the West and to encourage liberalization by drawing attention to dissidents like Andrei Sakharov, Natan Sharansky and those in the Soviet gulag — and the millions in China’s laogai, or labor camps.

When I stepped aside in 1998, Human Rights Watch was active in 70 countries, most of them closed societies. Now the organization, with increasing frequency, casts aside its important distinction between open and closed societies.

Nowhere is this more evident than in its work in the Middle East. The region is populated by authoritarian regimes with appalling human rights records. Yet in recent years Human Rights Watch has written far more condemnations of Israel for violations of international law than of any other country in the region.

Israel, with a population of 7.4 million, is home to at least 80 human rights organizations, a vibrant free press, a democratically elected government, a judiciary that frequently rules against the government, a politically active academia, multiple political parties and, judging by the amount of news coverage, probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world — many of whom are there expressly to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Meanwhile, the Arab and Iranian regimes rule over some 350 million people, and most remain brutal, closed and autocratic, permitting little or no internal dissent. The plight of their citizens who would most benefit from the kind of attention a large and well-financed international human rights organization can provide is being ignored as Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division prepares report after report on Israel.

Human Rights Watch has lost critical perspective on a conflict in which Israel has been repeatedly attacked by Hamas and Hezbollah, organizations that go after Israeli citizens and use their own people as human shields. These groups are supported by the government of Iran, which has openly declared its intention not just to destroy Israel but to murder Jews everywhere. This incitement to genocide is a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Leaders of Human Rights Watch know that Hamas and Hezbollah chose to wage war from densely populated areas, deliberately transforming neighborhoods into battlefields. They know that more and better arms are flowing into both Gaza and Lebanon and are poised to strike again. And they know that this militancy continues to deprive Palestinians of any chance for the peaceful and productive life they deserve. Yet Israel, the repeated victim of aggression, faces the brunt of Human Rights Watch’s criticism.

The organization is expressly concerned mainly with how wars are fought, not with motivations. To be sure, even victims of aggression are bound by the laws of war and must do their utmost to minimize civilian casualties. Nevertheless, there is a difference between wrongs committed in self-defense and those perpetrated intentionally.

But how does Human Rights Watch know that these laws have been violated? In Gaza and elsewhere where there is no access to the battlefield or to the military and political leaders who make strategic decisions, it is extremely difficult to make definitive judgments about war crimes. Reporting often relies on witnesses whose stories cannot be verified and who may testify for political advantage or because they fear retaliation from their own rulers. Significantly, Col. Richard Kemp, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan and an expert on warfare, has said that the Israel Defense Forces in Gaza “did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.”

Only by returning to its founding mission and the spirit of humility that animated it can Human Rights Watch resurrect itself as a moral force in the Middle East and throughout the world. If it fails to do that, its credibility will be seriously undermined and its important role in the world significantly diminished.

Fulfilling the Legacy of Yitzhak Rabin z"l

On 3/11/2009 "Peace Now" will hold a rally in LA entitled "Fulfill the Peace Legacy of Yitzhak Rabin"

Martin Sherman draws attention to the following from Yitzhak Rabin's last address to the Knesset (Oct 5, 1995):

... The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.

And these are the main changes, not all of them, which we envision and want in the permanent solution:

A. First and foremost, united Jerusalem, which will include both Ma'ale Adumim and Givat Ze'ev - as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty, while preserving the rights of the members of the other faiths, Christianity and Islam, to freedom of access and freedom of worship in their holy places, according to the customs of their faiths.

B. The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term.

C. Changes which will include the addition of [the settlements] Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar and other communities, most of which are in the area east of what was the "Green Line" prior to the Six-Day War.

D. The establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria, like the one in Gush Katif...

Does "Peace Now" really endorse the vision that Rabin articulated shortly before his assassination.

Are they really planning to preserve it ... ?