Saturday, 26 September 2009

Ahmadinejad: Israel Will Not Dare Attack Iran

Ahmadinejad: Israel Will Not Dare Attack Iran
Readers Number : 348

26/09/2009 US President Barack Obama said that if Iran could not be persuaded to "come clean" about its nuclear program via diplomacy, the US will consider other options.

Speaking at a press conference at the conclusion of a G-20 summit, Obama said that, "When we find that diplomacy does not work, we will be in a much stronger position to, for example, apply sanctions that have bite. That's not the preferred course of action. I would love nothing more than to see Iran choose the responsible path."

Obama joined the leaders of Britain and France in accusing the Islamic Republic of clandestinely building an underground plant to make nuclear fuel that could be used to build an atomic bomb.
"Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow. The size and configuration of this facility is inconsistent with a peaceful program," the American president said.
Iranian officials however acknowledged the facility but insisted it had been reported to nuclear authorities as required.

Asked about the prospect of using military force to stop Iran from getting the bomb, Obama said: "With respect to the military, I've always said that we do not rule out any options when it comes to US security interests, but I will also re-emphasize that my preferred course of action is to resolve this in a diplomatic fashion. It's up to the Iranians to respond."

Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Friday that Israel "will not dare attack Iran" and that if Israel does, "the Iranians can defend themselves."

"We are not concerned about an Israeli attack. Iran is a very big country. Much larger and bigger than what some people think and imagine," Ahmadinejad told a news conference.

Ahmadinejad's statement came hours after he said the United States, Britain and France would "regret" accusing Iran of hiding a nuclear fuel facility, saying it was not a secret site.

Ahmadinejad, speaking at a New York news conference, said Iran had informed the International Atomic Energy Agency early about the facility.

"It's not a secret site. If it was, why would we have informed the IAEA about it a year ahead of time," Ahmadinejad said. "They the United States, Britain and France will regret this announcement."

The statement came after Ahmadinejad said Iran was not obliged to tell the Obama administration of every uranium enrichment plant it has.

"This does not mean we must inform Mr. Obama's administration of every facility that we have," he told Time magazine in an interview when asked about Obama's charge that a nuclear fuel plant had been built secretly.

"We have no secrecy, we work within the framework of the IAEA," Ahmadinejad told Time in a reference to the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"We are counting on Iran - particularly in light of the newly revealed information about the construction of a new enrichment plant - to provide convincing evidence of its intention to seek to develop nuclear energy with purely peaceful aims," Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in the statement. However, he did not mention sanctions or any other consequences Iran could face “if it refuses to fall in line.”

China responded to news of the secret neactor by saying that they hope Iran "will cooperate with the IAEA on this matter."

Egypt's foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in an interview Friday with the Associated Press that Iran has a right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy but it must be verified by the UN nuclear agency.
Aboul Gheit said Israel is assumed to possess nuclear weapons, and if Iran is also acquiring a nuclear capability many countries in the Middle East would be uneasy, triggering an arms race.

Obama's 'unplanned' Iran news


LR, at POLITICO, here

" ....... behind the scenes, the Obama administration was furiously preparing for a major public intelligence disclosure that it had not planned to make: that the U.S. had known for years about a previously undisclosed clandestine nuclear enrichment facility Iran has been building since 2005 in a mountain near Qom.

Interviews with administration and international officials, diplomats, non-proliferation and Iran experts suggest the administration had no plans to announce its suspicions before beginning international talks with Iran next week. But its hand was forced after learning some time during the week of a letter Iran had sent the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency in Vienna acknowledging construction of a previously undisclosed facility.

"We became aware, we were told by the IAEA that Iran had provided them with this letter," a senior administration official said at a briefing Friday. "I think that it's very clear that the Iranian letter to the IAEA is too little too late, given the history of the construction of this facility, given the obligations they have, both to the IAEA and to the U.N. Security Council."

..... a hurried round of briefings took place in Europe, Washington and New York. On Wednesday, intelligence officials from the U.S., Britain and France briefed IAEA officials in Vienna on what they knew about the Qom facility. That same day, in New York, Obama briefed Russian president Dmitry Medvedev. Then on Thursdays, intelligence officials briefed congressional leadership in Washington, while Chinese president Hu Jintao was informed in New York.

Shortly before Obama's announcement Friday morning, the IAEA sent out a press statement confirming that it had received a letter from Iran. “I can confirm that on 21 September Iran informed the IAEA in a letter that a new pilot fuel enrichment plant is under construction in the country,” an IAEA spokesman said in a statement. ..... “We learned earlier this week that Iran has sent the IAEA a letter indicating that it is constructing an enrichment facility but providing no detailed information that would enable the IAEA to monitor the site,” that White House-provided guidance said.

Why would the White House have preferred not to publicly disclose its Qom evidence, seemingly something of a smoking gun for the case that Iran hasn’t been transparent about even its current nuclear activities? Why was it only prompted to make the announcement after it learned of Iran’s letter to the IAEA?

“Because the Iranians are trying to get in front and create an argument that they didn't do anything wrong,” the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s George Perkovich told POLITICO. “So to try to block that, Obama had to get [it] out. We would have been better off not announcing and keeping it as leverage and a way to see if the Iranians kept their word in a future deal.”

Posted by G, Z, or B at 12:05 PM

What Obama needs to do for Mideast peace



United States President Barack Obama failed at the New York summit. In Jerusalem, Ramallah, Tel Aviv and Hebron, his call for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was like raindrops streaming down an opaque window. Obama spoke of the critical importance of "solving this issue," as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas looked on with evident disinterest. Obama did not succeed in breaking through the walls of indifference, distrust and frustration of two peoples who know no other way of life but national conflict.

More than other leaders, Obama must know that revolutions need people capable of bringing about change. He was elected to the presidency because his call for change excited millions of Americans who believed him. This has not happened in the Middle East. Here, Obama is perceived not as an exciting revolutionary, but as a nuisance, recycling slogans borrowed from his predecessors. This is what enables the prime minister of Israel and the president of the Palestinian Authority to procrastinate, using attrition maneuvers and blaming each other.

Obama has not succeeded in enlisting even one supporter in Israel's public arena or political establishment, who will stand up to Netanyahu and call upon him to accept the president's initiative and gallop toward a "two-state solution." The Israelis don't think establishment of a state headed by Abbas will improve their situation in any way. The hard-core ideological left is fighting the Israel Defense Forces in the name of pacifism, and striving for a binational state in the name of equality and liberalism. The right is striving for a binational state in the name of the Greater Land of Israel, fulfillment of the Bible's promises and the security afforded by dominating the hilltops.

The Israeli political center, which stretches from Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat and Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar of the Likud party, through MKs Tzipi Livni and Shaul Mofaz of Kadima to President Shimon Peres (most recently of Kadima) and Defense Minister Ehud Barak of Labor, in effect accepts the assessment of Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman that a solution to the problem is not possible, that the Arabs will never recognize a Jewish state and that Israel's only strategic option is deterrence backed by the use of force.

On Wednesday at the United Nations General Assembly, Obama spoke of the "girl in Sderot who closes her eyes in fear that a rocket will take her life in the night." His concern is touching, but most Israelis believe that Operation Cast Lead reassured the children of Sderot far more than the peace process Obama proposes.

The public opinion polls Netanyahu reads indicate a clear trend: Most Israelis these days are more troubled by domestic issues, like education and violence, than by Jewish settlements in the territories or even the Iranian threat. The public wants the government to improve its quality of life, not to hold more peace conferences. Abbas is perceived as recalcitrant, not as a partner to an agreement.

Only one thing does bother the Israelis, according to the polls: fear of a diplomatic embargo and an international boycott. The Goldstone Report and the International Court of Justice in The Hague are arousing concern and interest, far more than Obama's peace speeches. However, as long as relations with the rest of the world are satisfactory, Israelis see no reason to emerge from indifference and listen to the president of the United States.

No sense of urgency

The left's long-standing argument that education and personal security will improve only if we rid ourselves of the settlements and end the occupation does not convince the Israeli public. The right's argument that things only got worse when Israel pulled out of Gaza is more widely accepted.

Nor are the Palestinians thrilled by Obama. A survey published this week by the International Peace Institute, headed by Terje Larsen, the former mediator from the time of the Oslo cords, has found that 70 percent of Palestinians do not support the U.S. president, and 56 percent do not expect Obama to achieve progress in the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. And this in a public opinion poll in which most of the respondents expressed support for Abbas, not Hamas.

Obama is right in saying that success depends on a sense of urgency. However, the Israelis and the Palestinians do not sense urgency, and Obama is not succeeding in convincing them that they are mistaken. Obama expressed his frustration to Netanyahu and Abbas in a public rebuke and in his closed talks with them, and has set an accelerated timetable for talks on resuming the negotiations. His frustration and dwindling patience express a sincere assessment of reality, but the president of the superpower was elected to lead, not to grumble or compete with us, the commentators.

And in order to lead, he must articulate a clear path that everyone in Israel and the territories can support. His decline in public opinion polls and the loss of the messianic aura he enjoyed when he was elected derive from the vagueness and abstruseness of his messages. It is easy to identify with change and with the slogan "Yes, we can" from the days of the campaign, but not with the complex formulations Obama presented in his health plan or with unclear goals of the war in Afghanistan.

Risk-free slogans

The principles Obama presented for resolving the conflict in the Middle East at the three-way summit on Tuesday and in his speech to the General Assembly the following day did not require special sophistication. They suffered from the chronic illness of American peace initiatives in this region, "constructive ambiguity," in Henry Kissinger's definition. Instead of proposing practical solutions to real problems, slogans are used that ostensibly satisfy the demands of the opposing sides. In this way, the United States remains in the middle, projecting involvement and caring with minimum risk or political price.

Here are two examples: Obama has said - following in the footsteps of former president George W. Bush - that the Palestinian state will lead "to the end of the occupation that began in 1967." Netanyahu and his buddies on the right, who completely reject the claim that there is an occupation, would supposedly be angry and insulted. But the American formula does not say that occupation is wrong or improper, only that it will end of its own accord if a Palestinian state is established within some kind of border. This leaves tremendous scope for territorial and procedural flexibility, without really offering a solution.

Obama said he "emphasizes" that "America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements." There is no doubt that a statement like this will not bring him supporters in the Yesha Council of settlers or the protest tents of the right wing, but it is as hollow as his talk about ending the occupation. One can understand from it, for example, that the United States does accept the legitimacy of the settlements built until now. It is also not clear what is meant by "does not accept the legitimacy." That it is necessary to dismantle the settlements? That no new housing should be built in them? That the settlers are bad people? Or that the president of the United States just wants his opposition to the settlements to become a matter of record, without quarrelling with Israel and its supporters in America?

In his vague formulations, Obama is acknowledging that he has no idea how to resolve the conflict, and that there is no backing for his claim that a solution is possible. He has given up on the "confidence-building measures" he had hoped to achieve - a settlement freeze in return for El Al being allowed to overfly Saudi Arabia - and is now urging the sides to renew negotiations quickly, "without prior conditions."

Netanyahu interprets this as a victory: Construction in the settlements will continue and Israel will go into talks without promising the Palestinians anything. There is no danger to the integrity of the coalition and the unity of Likud. Obama, too, is minimizing his political risk by delegating the negotiations to his rival, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Here is an elegant way to attribute the expected failure to her and to damage her chances of a rematch against Obama.

Some say that Obama quite simply erred in issuing the invitations to the summit. Imagine what would have happened in Israeli public opinion, said one political advisor this week, if instead of Abbas, we had seen Syrian President Bashar Assad sitting next to Netanyahu.


Obama comes to aid of Israel over UN war crimes charges

By Jean Shaoul

An authoritative and highly critical United Nations inquiry released last week concluded that Israel “committed actions amounting to war crimes, possibly crimes against humanity” during its three-week offensive against Gaza in December last year.

The report is one of the most damning ever made of Israel’s government and armed forces. Whereas in 1982, Israel betrayed its duty to protect the Palestinian refugees in Sabra and Shatilla in Beirut and was indirectly responsible for the massacre of more than 800 people by its Phalange allies, this time Israel was the direct perpetrator of war crimes.

The inquiry recommended that the UN Security Council call on Israel to conduct its own independent investigations into the military’s conduct, and that the council refer the findings to the International Criminal Court if it fails to do so within six months. The ICC is a treaty body set up to try war crimes and is separate from the International Court of Justice, a UN body to settle disputes between countries.

The report predictably elicited a furious counteroffensive from Israel, denouncing its findings. The campaign was waged throughout the media, including in the nominally liberal press. Britain’s Guardian, for example, gave space to Dan Koski, who works for an organisation dedicated to countering the arguments of human rights organisations critical of Israel, to mount a defence of Israel’s actions.

But Tel Aviv’s success in avoiding accountability for its criminal actions rests more properly on the active support of the United States and silent complicity of the major European powers, all of whom are anxious to avoid being brought to book for their own contempt for international law. The Security Council—dominated as it is by the US and the European powers that hold the power of veto—was the only body that could refer the case to the ICC, as Israel is not a signatory to the court.

The inquiry was forced upon the UN following international condemnation of Israel’s disproportionate and brutal force against an essentially unarmed population.

Israel launched a massive 22-day offensive against an unprotected population. It faced almost no opposition in Gaza as evidenced by the huge disparity in casualties. On the Palestinian side, 1,400 people—the majority of them civilians, including 400 women and children—were killed, at least 5,000 people injured, and 21,000 homes destroyed as well as much of the vital infrastructure. On the Israeli side, 13 people died, and several of these were the result of “friendly fire.”

Operation Cast Lead was a criminal venture from the very start. On the first day of the war, Yoav Galant, Israel’s Southern Front Commander, declared that the military would try to “send Gaza decades into the past” in terms of weapons capabilities, while achieving “the maximum number of enemy casualties and keeping Israel Defence Forces casualties at a minimum.”

The Israeli government knew this was illegal and made extensive preparations to evade prosecution. It refused to allow reporters into Gaza, where there were few international journalists after the BBC’s Alan Johnston was held captive for four months by Hamas, to ensure that the military’s conduct was shielded from public scrutiny. With only journalists “embedded” in Israel’s armed forces allowed to report, the sole on the spot independent coverage was provided by Al Jazeera.

Israel refused to allow the publication of photos or names of soldiers in Operation Cast Lead. It made official commitments at the highest levels to shield soldiers from charges of war crimes and declared that it will pay all legal expenses abroad. Officers who travel abroad have first to get approval for their trip.

The four-member inquiry panel, set up by the UN Human Rights Council, was chaired by someone of the highest credentials: the South African judge Richard Goldstone, who was the chief prosecutor in war crimes involving the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and is himself Jewish and a lifelong supporter of Israel.

He insisted that the inquiry deal with the run-up to the war and Hamas’s actions, so that the investigation would be seen as both “even handed” and comprehensive. When Israel refused to cooperate with his inquiry and prevented the panel from taking evidence in Israel and the West Bank, Goldstone held public hearings in Gaza and talked to Palestinians and Israelis in Geneva. The panel interviewed 188 people and read 300 reports.

The inquiry rejected Israel’s arguments that Hamas, which controls Gaza, was to blame and that Operation Cast Lead was a legitimate act of self-defence in response to rocket fire on Israeli towns and villages launched by militants from Gaza. The war was, it said, “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorise a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself and to force upon it an ever-increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability” (emphasis added).

It accused Israel of using Palestinians as human shields and said that Israel’s economic blockade of Gaza amounted to “collective punishment intentionally inflicted by the government of Israel on the people of the Gaza Strip.”

Israel’s actions deprived Gazans of means of subsistence, employment, housing and water, denied their freedom of movement and “could lead a competent court to find that the crime of persecution, a crime against humanity, had been committed.”

The investigation also condemned Hamas, stating that rocket attacks, aimed at civilian targets, “would constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity.” It criticised Gazan security forces for carrying out extrajudicial executions and the arbitrary arrest, detention and ill-treatment of its political opponents. The report also called for the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured in Gaza in July 2006. But it insisted that there could be no equation of the power of Israel, the occupying force, and that of the Palestinian people or its representatives, Hamas.

The report also said that all those countries that had signed the 1949 Geneva Conventions had a duty to search for and prosecute those responsible, using their “universal jurisdiction” to prosecute war criminals.

But while the UN human rights council in Geneva is expected to discuss the report on September 29, nothing will come of it.

The Obama administration came almost immediately to the aid of Tel Aviv, sharply criticising the report as unfair to Israel and for supposedly failing to deal fully with Hamas’s role before and during the conflict. The recommendation that Israel be referred to the ICC was summarily dismissed.

The US and other major imperialist powers have always sought to prevent any action being taken against Israel either through the ICC or by countries using “universal jurisdiction” to launch a prosecution in their own courts.

Belgium was bullied into changing its legislation based on universal jurisdiction after it attempted in February 2002 to charge then prime minister Ariel Sharon for war crimes in relation to Sabra and Shatilla. The then US Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld even threatened to move the NATO headquarters out of Brussels.

When a Spanish court earlier this year attempted to open a criminal investigation under international law into the assassination of a Hamas leader in Gaza City by Israel in 2002, the investigation was dropped and the legislation amended, limiting it to cases involving Spanish victims or suspects present on Spanish soil.

As Richard Falk, the UN special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories and a professor of international public law, said, “But politically I think it [a referral to the ICC] is highly unlikely because the US and probably some European governments will create effective impunity for Israel by preventing the referral.”

At stake in such interventions is not simply a desire to protect a major US ally. The concerns of the Washington elite, and the political class in Europe, fall closer to home. Israel’s prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu spelled out very publicly why world leaders should quash the report and so allow Israel to plan and commit further crimes against the Palestinians and whomever else it chooses.

He warned that prosecuting Israel for war crimes could serve as a precedent for prosecutions against other countries. “It’s not just our problem,” Netanyahu told the media. “If they accused IDF [Israeli Defence Force] officers, IDF commanders, IDF soldiers, IDF pilots and even leaders, they will accuse you too. What, NATO isn’t fighting in various places? What, Russia isn’t fighting in various places?”

There is another factor that enables Israel to act with impunity, unlike 1982 when hundreds of thousands of Israelis demonstrated against their government’s complicity in the massacre of Sabra and Shatilla and demanded an independent inquiry.

Today, the widespread revulsion among the Israeli population at the murderous campaigns of the IDF against the Palestinians cannot find even the most limited political expression. The peace movement has collapsed and the Labour Party now sits in coalition with Netanyahu, after earlier occupying a government role alongside Kadima. Its leader Ehud Barak, then acting as minister of defence, was responsible for directing the assault in Gaza.


Posted by JNOUBIYEH at 9:33 PM

Haneyya gov't condemns Mizrahi's tour, desecration of Ibrahimi Mosque


[ 26/09/2009 - 07:56 AM ]

GAZA, (PIC)-- The Palestinian government of Ismail Haneyya has condemned the tour of Avi Mizrahi, the commander of the Israeli occupation forces' (IOF) central region, in Bethlehem accompanied and escorted by Palestinian security officers.

Taher Al-Nunu, the government's spokesman, said in a statement on Friday that the few hours visit, which was protected by Palestinian security forces, clearly displayed those forces affiliation with the IOF.

He regretted that those forces provide protection for the IOF commanders and troops but track down and liquidate Palestinian resistance fighters.

Nunu noted that the step followed a declaration by Israeli occupation authority (IOA) leaders that the Ramallah authority had urged the IOF to continue its war on Gaza, displaying full cooperation with the IOA against the Palestinian people in favor of financial and partisan interests.

The government also denounced the IOF for providing protection for Jewish settlers who desecrated the tomb of Prophet Ishaq inside the Ibrahimi Mosque in Al-Khalil on Friday.

It charged that the step was in provocation of Muslims' feelings and a flagrant violation of their holy places.

The government asked the Islamic countries to shoulder their responsibilities towards holy shrines in Palestine and to immediately intervene to protect them and prevent the Israeli attempts to judaize them.

Mizrahi tours Bethlehem

Thursday September 24, 2009 09:43 by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies

Avi Mizrahi, head of the Central Command of the Israeli Army, and a number of senior Israeli military officials, toured Bethlehem on Wednesday along with Palestinian security forces and senior security officers.

Mizrahi was in one of four Israeli military jeeps accompanied by a number of Palestinian security forces vehicles.

The Israeli Radio reported on Thursday that Mizrahi conducted the tour after an extended meeting with Palestinian security officials in Bethlehem.

An Israeli security official stated that Mizrahi toured recently several Palestinian cities in coordination with the Palestinian Authority of president Mahmoud Abbas.

Palestinian security forces, Israeli soldiers, tour Bethlehem

Wed, 23 Sep 2009 22:15:05

Palestinian security sources reported Wednesday that Palestinian security forces accompanied by Israeli soldiers toured Bethlehem city, which is under Palestinian security control.

Four Israeli military jeeps, accompanied by a number of Palestinian security vehicles, drove through several roads in Bethlehem city, while Palestinian security personnel were deployed on main junctions.

Bethlehem governor, Abdul-Fattah Hamayil, told the Maan News Agency, that this is a traditional event and refused to provide any further details.

Maan added that according to some sources, Israel intends to hand the security control over some areas in the Bethlehem district to the Palestinian Authority. The report was not confirmed by any official.

Palestinian and Israeli security forces used to conduct these routine drives in the Bethlehem area before the outbreak of the Al Aqsa Intifada in late September 2000.

Image by Maan News Agency

Thursday September 24, 2009 09:43 by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies

Avi Mizrahi, head of the Central Command of the Israeli Army, and a number of senior Israeli military officials, toured Bethlehem on Wednesday along with Palestinian security forces and senior security officers.

Mizrahi was in one of four Israeli military jeeps accompanied by a number of Palestinian security forces vehicles.

The Israeli Radio reported on Thursday that Mizrahi conducted the tour after an extended meeting with Palestinian security officials in Bethlehem.

An Israeli security official stated that Mizrahi toured recently several Palestinian cities in coordination with the Palestinian Authority of president Mahmoud Abbas.

Palestinian security forces, Israeli soldiers, tour Bethlehem

Wed, 23 Sep 2009 22:15:05

Palestinian security sources reported Wednesday that Palestinian security forces accompanied by Israeli soldiers toured Bethlehem city, which is under Palestinian security control.

Four Israeli military jeeps, accompanied by a number of Palestinian security vehicles, drove through several roads in Bethlehem city, while Palestinian security personnel were deployed on main junctions.

Bethlehem governor, Abdul-Fattah Hamayil, told the Maan News Agency, that this is a traditional event and refused to provide any further details.

Maan added that according to some sources, Israel intends to hand the security control over some areas in the Bethlehem district to the Palestinian Authority. The report was not confirmed by any official.

Palestinian and Israeli security forces used to conduct these routine drives in the Bethlehem area before the outbreak of the Al Aqsa Intifada in late September 2000.

Hundreds of Israeli settlers desecrate Ishaq's tomb in the Ibrahimi Mosque


[ 25/09/2009 - 08:35 PM ]

AL-KHALIL, (PIC)-- Close to 150 fanatic Israeli settlers have stormed Friday the Muslim sacred Ibrahimi Mosque in Al-Khalil city, south of the West Bank, and desecrated the tomb of Prophet Ishaq peace be upon him, local Palestinian sources confirmed.

According to the sources, the Israeli settlers stormed the sacred Muslim place under the protection of tens of fully-geared Israeli soldiers who watched the settlers performing Talmudic rites in the holy place without preventing them.

The directorate of the Islamic Awkaf in the city confirmed that the incident was the first time the settlers savagely stormed the Muslim holy place since the massacre in the Ibrahimi Mosque in 1994 when fanatic Israeli settler Barouch Goldstein murdered tens of pious Muslims while praying in the Mosque.

The Awkaf also added that the incident comes few days after the Israeli occupation authority (IOA) prohibited Athan (call for prayer) in the Mosque, alleging it was disturbing the settlers.

The Awkaf described the incident as "extremely serious", and warned it could entail adverse repercussions if not halted, urging an Arab and international intervention to protect the Mosque and to prevent the recurrence of another massacre inside it.

The IOA frequently closes the Mosque before Muslim worshippers, and allows fanatic Jews to go inside and desecrate it.

McChrystal: "500,000 US-NATO troops needed in Afghanistan over the next five years..........."


SST/ here

Perhaps there was such a letter, perhaps. It is odd that Marcus Flavinius did not have three names. I suspect that this is apocrypha. There is another such letter supposedly written from Dacia by another Roman soldier. In it, the writer complains that every time his unit learns how to perform its mission, the mission is changed or they are re-organized or whatever it is that fits the subject of the Army schools class in which it is quoted.

I am concerned that the legions and their commanders are becoming more politically active and resistent to civilian authority than is good for them or the country.

McChrystal's estimate is a case in point:

- This paper presents the president with only one option on a "take it or leave it" basis. I realize that Stanley M. is a subordinate theater commander and a full general but he is still the president's subordinate and he serves at the pleasure of the president/commander in chief. In all the Army schools that I attended (Infantry Officer Basic Course to the US Army War College), it was more or less customary to present the commander with several options in the way of "courses of action." If you do not do that then you are clearly seeking to limit the freedom of action of the commander. This is insubordinate in spirit.

- There is considerable log-rolling going on to bring Stanley and Dave back from their commands to Washington so that they can talk it up around town. When Petraeus testified before Congress on behalf of the AEI/Keene Iraq strategy he was justifying GW Bush's policy. That was bad enough in that it made him a player in the political process, but in this case the Republicans and the AEI crowd clearly want these two gentlemen back here so that they can be used to undercut the possibility of an independent policy decision by their constitutional civilian commander. The Republicans seem to have forgotten that the wheel of history is turning and that soon they will have a Republican president in the White House whose authority may be challenged on the basis of the precedent they seek.

- It has been blogged (not by me) that people on Stanley M's staff claim that he has the thought that he might ask to be relieved if not given what he wants. I do not know if that is true. If it is, and he follows through on that hoping for an "Old Soldiers never die..." moment, then he ought to be retired in his permanent grade.

- Andrea Mitchell reportedly (In the Huffington's) said today that one of the redacted secret parts of the Stanley M. estimate says that 500,000 US/NATO troops will be needed in Afghanistan over the next five years. I presume that means that 500,000 troops would be rotated through the country in that time frame. Given one year tours for US Army units and seven month deployments for marines, that is going to be a tough thing to do. The National guard should expect a lot of duty there. The British have a small army (125,000 or so), the Canadians even smaller. Someone should ask Stanley M. what he expects will be the peak in country strength for US/NATO forces.

The legions are not exactly angry yet, but they wll be." pl

Posted by G, Z, or B at 6:22 PM

" ... Iran Disclosure Is Twofold ..."


Kessler, In the WaPo, here

"The disclosure of a second uranium enrichment site in Iran is at once a setback and a way forward for the Obama administration.

It effectively spells the end of the engagement effort that President Obama had pledged to pursue upon taking office. But it also presents a clear path toward building an international consensus for sterner action against Tehran, as Obama can forcefully press the case that Iran has been caught, red-handed, in yet another violation of international rules.

Negotiations will continue, but at next week's meeting in Geneva, the United States and its allies will have more evidence to demand that Iran fully disclose its nuclear activities by the end of the year.

Indeed, Russia's initial reaction to the new Iranian disclosure was unusually forceful and blunt on Friday. "Iran's construction of a uranium enrichment plant violates decisions of the United Nations Security Council," according to an official statement from the Kremlin, which demanded that the International Atomic Energy Agency "investigate this site immediately" and that Iran "cooperate with this investigation." ..... Now the question is whether Russia will be prepared to take even tougher action if Iran resists full disclosure, such as canceling fuel shipments to the Bushehr reactor that Moscow constructed.

China probably remains the most difficult obstacle to broad international sanctions. The Chinese reaction on Friday was much weaker than the Kremlin statement......... the vice minister for foreign affairs, stressed the need for negotiations. "You talk about punishment, and personally I don't like the word 'punishment,' and I think all issues can only be solved through dialogue and negotiation," he told reporters at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh.

The Financial Times reported Tuesday that Chinese state companies this month began supplying refined gasoline to Iran and now provide up to one-third of the country's imports, effectively filling the gap left by such companies as British Petroleum and Reliance of India as they stopped selling gasoline to Iran in the past year. Iran is one of the world's oil producers, but it does not have enough refiners to produce its gasoline, requiring it to rely increasingly on imports...."

Posted by G, Z, or B at 6:10 PM

Resheq: Results of trilateral meeting big blow to Abbas and retinue


[ 25/09/2009 - 08:11 PM ]

DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Ezzat Al-Resheq, member of the Hamas political bureau, has described results of the trilateral meeting between former PA chief Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli premier Binyamin Netanyahu, and US president Barack Obama as big blow to Abbas and his associates, and to all those wagering on the futile negotiations with the Zionist entity.

In a press statement on Thursday, Resheq called on Abbas to free himself from fancies, and to stop the policy of compromise.

"The outcomes of the Abbas-Netanyahu-Obama meeting were indeed a big blow to the first, victory to the second, and an achievement to the third, and categorically refute the rumors on a rift in the US-Israeli relationship after Netanyahu refused to heed US call to freeze settlement activities on the occupied Palestinian lands", Resheq pointed out.

He added that the summit was a good chance for leaders of the White House, in the presence of Abbas, to confirm their commitment to the security of the Zionist entity and of their understanding of its hostile policies towards the Palestinian people, noting that both Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman and Netanyahu have hailed the meeting and expressed comfort about the results.

Moreover, Resheq charged that the speech of Obama at the United Nations about the Middle East was deceptive and in the same way his predecessor George W. Bush used to mislead and sell illusions.

"The fact that Obama failed to pressure the Zionist entity to freeze settlement activities in the West Bank and in Jerusalem while urging the Palestinians to go ahead with the negotiations without preconditions meant to give more time to the Israeli party to continue the settlement activities and to impose facts on the ground that would make creating an independent and viable Palestinian state something impossible", Resheq stressed.

Resheq called on the Arab and Muslim countries not to fall for the American bait, urging them to bolster the steadfastness of the Palestinian people and to break the unjust siege on them.

He also invited Abbas to refrain from dealing with US and Israeli promises, adding that it is about time for Abbas to listen to national interests of the Palestinian people and that he should work sincerely to end the Palestinian political division.

In Israel, intermarriage viewed as treason


Jonathan Cook, The Electronic Intifada, 25 September 2009

A local authority in Israel has announced that it is establishing a special team of youth counsellors and psychologists whose job it will be to identify young Jewish women who are dating Arab men and "rescue" them.

The move by the municipality of Petah Tikva, a city close to Tel Aviv, is the latest in a series of separate -- and little discussed -- initiatives from official bodies, rabbis, private organizations and groups of Israeli residents to try to prevent interracial dating and marriage.

In a related development, the Israeli media reported this month that residents of Pisgat Zeev, a large Jewish settlement in the midst of Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, had formed a vigilante-style patrol to stop Arab men from mixing with local Jewish girls.

Hostility to intimate relationships developing across Israel's ethnic divide is shared by many Israeli Jews, who regard such behavior as a threat to the state's Jewishness. One of the few polls on the subject, in 2007, found that more than half of Israeli Jews believed intermarriage should be equated with "national treason."

Since the state's founding in 1948, analysts have noted, a series of legal and administrative measures have been taken by Israel to limit the possibilities of close links developing between Jewish and Arab citizens, the latter comprising a fifth of the population.

Largely segregated communities and separate education systems mean that there are few opportunities for young Arabs and Jews to become familiarized with each other. Even in the handful of "mixed cities," Arab residents are usually confined to separate neighborhoods.

In addition, civil marriage is banned in Israel, meaning that in the small number of cases where Jews and Arabs want to wed, they can do so only by leaving the country for a ceremony abroad. The marriage is recognized on the couple's return.

Yuval Yonay, a sociologist at Haifa University, said the number of interracial marriages was "too small to be studied." "Separation between Jews and Arabs is so ingrained in Israeli society, it is surprising that anyone manages to escape these central controls."

The team in Petah Tikva, a Jewish city of 200,000 residents, was created in direct response to news that two Jewish girls, aged 17 and 19, were accompanying a group of young Arab men when they allegedly beat a Jewish man, Leonard Karp, to death last month on a Tel Aviv beach. The older girl was from Petah Tikva.

The girls' involvement with the Arab youths has revived general concern that a once-firm taboo against interracial dating is beginning to erode among some young people.

In sentiments widely shared, Hezi Hakak, a spokesman for Petah Tikva municipality, said "Russian girls" -- young Jewish women whose parents arrived in Israel over the past two decades, since the collapse of the former Soviet Union -- were particularly vulnerable to the attention of Arab men.

Dr. Yonay said Russian women were less closed to the idea of relationships with Arab men because they "did not undergo the religious and Zionist education" to which more established Israeli Jews were subject.

Hakak said the municipality had created a hotline that parents and friends of the Jewish women could use to inform on them.

"We can't tell the girls what to do but we can send a psychologist to their home to offer them and their parents advice," he said.

Motti Zaft, the deputy mayor, told the Ynet website that the municipality was also cracking down on city homeowners who illegally subdivide apartments to rent them cheaply to single Arab men looking for work in the Tel Aviv area. He estimated that several hundred Arab men had moved into the city as a result.

Petah Tikva's hostility to Arab men mixing with local Jewish women is shared by other communities.

In Pisgat Zeev, a settlement of 40,000 Jews, some 35 Jewish men are reported to belong to a patrol known as "Fire for Judaism" that tries to stop interracial dating.

One member, who identified himself as Moshe to The Jerusalem Post newspaper, said: "Our goal is to be in contact with these girls and try to explain to them the dangers of what they're getting themselves into. In the last 10 years, 60 girls from Pisgat Zeev have gone into [Palestinian] villages [in the West Bank]. And most of them aren't heard from after that."

He denied that violence or threats were used against Arab men.

Last year, the municipality of Kiryat Gat, a town of 50,000 Jews in southern Israel, launched a program in schools to warn Jewish girls of the dangers of dating local Bedouin men. The girls were shown a video titled Sleeping with the Enemy, which describes mixed couples as an "unnatural phenomenon."

Haim Shalom, head of the municipality's welfare department, is filmed saying: "The girls, in their innocence, go with the exploitative Arab." A police representative also warns that the Bedouin men's "goal is to take advantage of the girls. There is no element of love or an innocent friendly relationship here."

In 2004, posters sprang up all over the northern town of Safed warning Jewish women that dating Arab men would lead to "beatings, hard drugs, prostitution and crime."

Safed's chief rabbi, Shmuel Eliyahu, told a local newspaper that the "seducing" of Jewish girls was "another form of war" by Arab men.

Both Kiryat Gat and Safed's campaigns were supported by a religious organization called Yad L'achim, which runs an anti-assimilation team publicly dedicated to "saving" Jewish women.

According to its website, the organization receives more than 100 calls a month about Jewish women living with Arab men, both in Israel and the West Bank. It launches "military-like rescues [of the women] from hostile Arab villages" in coordination with the police and army.

"The Jewish soul is a precious, all-too-rare resource, and we are not prepared to give up on even a single one," says the website.

Yad L'achim's founder, Rabbi Shlomo Dov Lifschitz, is quoted on the site saying: "People must understand that Jewish-Arab marriages are part of the larger Israeli-Arab conflict. ... They [Arab men] see it as their goal to marry them [Jewish women] and ensure that their children aren't raised as Jews. This is their revenge against the Jewish people. They feel that if they can't defeat us in war, they can wipe us out this way."

The degree of general opposition in Israel to interracial marriage was suggested by a government-backed television ad campaign earlier this month that urged Israeli Jews to inform on relatives abroad who were in danger of marrying a non-Jew. The ads were hastily withdrawn by surprised Israeli officials after many US Jews took offense.

In her book Birthing the Nation, Rhoda Kanaaneh, a Middle East scholar at New York University, points out that "politicians frequently attack 'peace' or 'dialogue' programs for promoting miscegenation" in fear that it will lead to Jewish assimilation.

She also notes that Israel's adoption and surrogacy laws require that adoptive parents be of the same ethnic group as the biological mother.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is

A version of this article originally appeared in
The National, published in Abu Dhabi.

Emanuel: "...If you don't make progress you give Hamas and Hezbollah & Iran ... a veto"


Eldar, in Haaretz/ here

"... According to Emanuel, whose father is Israeli, Obama told both parties: "First of all, I have a lot of other challenges. I don't have an inexhaustible amount of time, but I'm going to spend whatever time it takes to help. But not more than you're willing to take."

"I will spend political capital, as [I did] in the heart of the Arab world, in Cairo," Emanuel quoted the president as saying. "Talk about the right of the state of Israel to exist in that region, as a secure country. And America will always have that friendship, and it runs deep."

Obama "also said he is willing to challenge the Israeli government and friends when he thinks they're wrong, as he has shown on the settlement[s], in a public way as well as in private," Emanuel added. This, he said, ensures that both sides trust Obama "to be an honest broker; don't miss that opportunity in his story."
Obama, Emanuel said, believes Israeli settlements "can be provocative to a peace process, in a negative sense."

But even more importantly, he believes that both parties, Israeli and Palestinian, need to "put aside the negotiations about the negotiations and begin their negotiations," Emanuel told interviewer Charlie Rose. "And you can't start as if there hasn't been a process." "If you don't make progress and engage in the process of making peace," he continued, "you give Hamas and Hezbollah and Iran, who are enemies of the peace process, and vocal opponents of it, a veto."

Referring to Netanyahu, Emanuel said Obama views the prime minister as a "practical person," adding that Netanyahu "has shown" this "in the past," at the Wye Plantation talks in 1998. "He'll take risks," Emanuel said of the prime minister. And "the risk[s] for peace, in the president's view, are less than the risks of not making peace." ..."

Posted by G, Z, or B at 10:54 AM

Zahi Khouri – Think Again: Palestine


By Haitham Sabbah • Sep 25th, 2009 at 18:35 • Category: Analysis, Haitham's Choice, Israel, Newswire, Opinions and Letters, Palestine, Zionism

Illustration By Carlos Latuff

Illustration By Carlos Latuff

President Obama got the leaders of Israel and Palestine to shake hands this week. But a meeting in Midtown does not a Palestinian deal make. Here’s why.

By Zahi Khouri *

"Economic Peace Is Possible."

No. Neither sustainable economic development nor peace is possible without political freedom.

The idea of "economic peace" suggests an economic conflict, and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is certainly not that. Although economic issues do figure into Palestinian concerns, they are not nearly as important as addressing the rights of Palestinian refugees, terminating Israel's occupation of Palestinian land, and establishing a viable, independent, and sovereign Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital. To suggest that economics are what this is about would be to sideline history and to willfully ignore the reality of Israel's occupation. This conflict is political and it calls for a solution that is political.

Besides, even if economic growth were issue No. 1, the greatest impediment to economic development and opportunity for Palestinians is not the absence of industrial parks as advocated by the Israeli government under its model of "economic peace." Rather, it is the denial of basic freedoms and rights to Palestinians under occupation and the myriad restrictions Israel imposes on the free movement of Palestinian goods and people within, and in and out of, the occupied Palestinian territory. It is the inability of Palestinians to access the 60 percent of the occupied West Bank under Area C (Israeli control), including the 40 percent that Israel claims for its settlement enterprise. And it is the forced isolation of occupied East Jerusalem, long the economic heart of the Palestinian economy, from the rest of the West Bank. All these economic constraints are fundamental to the architecture of Israel's occupation.

In short, "economic peace" is a slogan designed to give the appearance of positive movement while distracting from the real issues and the ongoing dispossession of Palestinians. It does not mean, nor does it promise, an end to Israel's occupation. Rather, it offers economic crumbs in an effort to normalize and better manage the occupation.

"As with Gaza, a West Bank Withdrawal Endangers Israel."

Wrong. Israel argues that its withdrawal from Gaza was rewarded with rocket attacks by Hamas. The attraction of such an argument lies in its simplicity. But just as "economic peace" is designed to divert attention away from the real issues, the argument that a Gaza withdrawal was dangerous for the Israelis is designed to mask the reality that Israel never stopped occupying the Gaza Strip.

Contrary to popular belief, Israel's unilateral disengagement from Gaza in 2005 did not bring about an end to the occupation. Yes, Israel removed its settlers (who, in many cases, relocated to settlements in the West Bank). And yes, Israel withdrew its troops — though only as far as the border. From that close distance, Israel has imposed a medieval-style siege on Gaza that continues to this day. Israel remains an occupying power under international law because it retains effective control over Gaza's borders and its land, sea, and airspace, allowing it to suffocate and starve Gaza as it is doing today.

The scale of the humanitarian crisis that Israel has created in Gaza is hard to convey. Even before the election of Hamas in 2006, there were severe restrictions on the amount of food, water, fuel, and other essentials allowed to enter the Gaza Strip. In 2006, then-senior Israeli government advisor Dov Weisglass callously claimed that "the idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger." The result was that by the end of 2007, well over 80 percent of Gaza's population lived below the poverty line. Authorities have also clamped down on Gaza's imports and exports, suffocating the Palestinian economy. By November 2007, the U.N. World Food Program was already warning that less than half of Gaza's food import needs were being met. Following the election of Hamas, Israel tightened these economic restrictions further to enforce a complete closure, further compounding the humanitarian crisis. It is within this context that Israel's disengagement from Gaza must be judged.

Of course, rocket attacks from Gaza are not a proper response to Israel's harsh policies. Palestine is a just cause fought for in the name of rights, universal principles, and international law; its actions must be faithful to that. The lesson that should be drawn from Gaza is that the only guarantee of security for Israel is a full end to its occupation and domination — not just an end in name. The only form of withdrawal carrying the promise of peace is a full withdrawal — from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, along with Gaza — that allows for the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state.

"Arab Intransigence Blocks Peace."

Four words: the Arab Peace Initiative. First proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002 and subsequently endorsed by 57 Arab and Islamic states, the Arab Peace Initiative offers full normalization of relations with Israel in exchange for Israel's full withdrawal from all territory occupied in 1967, as well as a just and agreed upon solution for Palestinian refugees in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194. That resolution, in essence, says to Israel: Do what is required of you under international law and U.N. resolutions, and the Arab and Islamic world will normalize relations in return. Israel's response so far has been to ignore the Arab Peace Initiative, squandering what is a historic opportunity.

As for the Palestinians, President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad are the most accommodating Palestinian leaders ever to hold office. Yet Israel is frittering away their time at the helm; Israeli leaders evidently feel no urgency to negotiate. Eventually, this window of opportunity will close. As settlers flock to the territories, Palestinians will determine that a Palestinian state is no longer viable. When the debated solution turns from two states to one state with equal rights for all, Israel may well regret it did not seize multiple opportunities to return all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem as part of a peace deal.

"Settlements Are Not the Issue."

They are crucial. Israeli settlement activity is precisely the undertaking that is foreclosing the possibility of a Palestinian state. Recent U.S. efforts to restart meaningful negotiations have faltered around Israel's refusal to implement a comprehensive settlement freeze in keeping with obligations under both international law and the "road map." Israel's refusal to comply has undermined the credibility of the peace process and eroded Palestinian public confidence in the ability of negotiations to bring tangible results.

Rather than favoring Palestinians or Israelis, a credible peace process holds both accountable to commitments made in the name of peace. The true test of meaningful negotiations, as distinct from negotiations for their own sake, is what happens on the ground. The faux freeze Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now proposing — build units already in the pipeline and then implement a brief six-month freeze, all the while continuing pell-mell with construction in East Jerusalem — is powerful on-the-ground evidence that Netanyahu and his coalition intend to build greater Israel at the expense of Palestinians.

Israeli settlements pose the greatest threat to the two-state solution. Settlements and their related infrastructure, like settler bypass roads, account for more than 40 percent of the West Bank, fragmenting the territory, monopolizing freshwater resources, and confining Palestinians to a series of disconnected cantons where unemployment, poverty, and hopelessness have reached endemic levels. Settlements run counter to the very principle of "land for peace" on which the Middle East peace process is built, and they make a viable and sovereign Palestinian state a physical impossibility. Without a viable and sovereign Palestinian state, there is no two-state solution.

"Israel's Occupation Is Not Apartheid."

It is. In fact, it would be most accurate to call it occupation, colonialism, and apartheid all rolled into one. This is the conclusion reached in a recent report commissioned by the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa, titled "Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid?", that brought together a team of international scholars and legal experts to assess Israel's occupation vis-à-vis international law.

On apartheid, the report identifies a series of discriminatory laws, standards, and practices that Israel applies exclusively to Palestinians living under occupation — laws, standards, and practices which do not apply to Israeli settlers living in the occupied West Bank and that are intended to "maintain [Israel's] domination over Palestinians in the OPT [occupied Palestinian territories] and to suppress opposition of any form."

In particular, the report identifies three pillars of apartheid as it existed in South Africa, noting that they also exist in the occupied Palestinian territory today. The first pillar consists of laws and policies that "establish Jewish identity for purposes of law and afford a preferential legal status and material benefits to Jews over non-Jews." The ramifications of this include the massive disparity in terms of the rights and privileges enjoyed by Israeli settlers compared with Palestinians, such as the denial of the right of return for Palestinian refugees compared with the 1950 Law of Return allowing all Jews to immigrate to Israel or, since 1967, the occupied Palestinian territory.

The second pillar concerns Israeli policies intended to segregate the population along racial lines. These policies center on the confinement of Palestinians to areas that resemble "Bantustans" (the largest being Israel's complete closure on Gaza), policed by Israel using a network of walls, roadblocks, checkpoints, and a special permit regime. Meanwhile, the Israelis construct settlements and a separate road system to service them, all built on confiscated Palestinian land that Palestinians can no longer access.

The final pillar focuses on repressive measures initiated under the rubric of "security." For example, Palestinians are subject to arbitrary arrest, administrative detention, extrajudicial killings, torture, and an oppressive code of military laws and military courts that fall short of international standards for a fair trial. These measures are reinforced by restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly, association, movement, and so on, which are ultimately designed to suppress Palestinian dissent while reinforcing Israeli control.

In short, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who grew up in the Jim Crow South, has it right when he uses the term apartheid to describe Israel's policies in the occupied Palestinian territory. And the facts are increasingly on the table. Whether the Barack Obama administration, already saddled with a brutal fight over health care, has the courage to challenge Israel's "economic peace," siege of Gaza, intransigence, settlements, and apartheid remains to be seen.

* Zahi Khouri is chief executive of the Palestinian National Beverage Co. (a Coca-Cola franchisee), chairman of the Palestinian Tourism Investment Co., and chairman of the board of the NGO Development Center, a Palestinian nongovernmental organization.

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Haitham Sabbah is an uprooted Palestinian blogger. He is the webmaster and editor of Palestine Blogs, also webmaster and co-editor of Palestine Think Tank. His personal blog is Sabbah's Blog:
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Iran tells IAEA it is building 2nd enrichment plant ... after 'Western intelligence agencies penetrate the secrecy veiling the site...'


Reuters, here

"Iran has told the U.N. nuclear watchdog it has a second uranium enrichment plant under construction, a belated disclosure sure to heighten Western fears of an Iranian bid for atom bombs.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said on Friday Iran had revealed the existence of the plant to IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei on Monday, just as six world powers and Iran prepare to discuss its disputed nuclear drive on October 1......

Iran was previously known to have one enrichment plant, a vast underground hall at Natanz where it has stockpiled low-enriched uranium in a rapidly expanding operation with almost 9,000 centrifuges installed.... The Natanz plant is under daily surveillance by IAEA inspectors. Iran concealed the site and other sensitive aspects of its enrichment program from U.N. non-proliferation inspectors until the Iranian exiles blew the whistle in 2002....

A U.S. official also confirmed a New York Times report that said Washington had been tracking the secret project for years and Obama decided to go public after Iran learned in recent weeks that Western intelligence agencies had penetrated the secrecy veiling the site..."

Former blogger 'b' comments:

Probably a smart move.

1. Under the NPT obligations Iran signed it has to announce nuclear facilities to the IAEA only 6 month before introducing nuclear material to such a facility. The alleged "secrecy" is thereby a non issue as the facility is not yet in use and was announced to the IAEA on Monday.

2. The NYT says it is a small site for only 3,000 centrifuges. Such a site does NOT make sense to be used as a secondary for the big 50,000 centrifuges (planned end state) site in Natanz.

3. Ahmedinejad asked yesterday for U.S. supply for the Tehran research reactor which was launched with U.S. help in 1968. That 5 MW reactor has medical and scientific use. It runs with medium enriched Uranium - i.e. 18-20% enrichment - and is under IAEA control.

4. Iran can not make, without some serious re engineering, such fuel in Natanz.

5. An extra 3,000 centrifuge site makes perfect sense to enrich especially for the Tehran research reactor.

6. Now Iran can say: "Either sell us fuel for the research reactor or we, unfortunately, will have to make that fuel ourselves at the new site."

Clever chessplayers ...

Posted by G, Z, or B at 7:11 AM

"Hezbollah remains strong in South Lebanon"


On the tail of M Bazzi (the Ajami-Wannabe, according to As'ad Abukhalil) Miss. Taylor is basically saying, that unless "we" want Hezbollah to become hugely powerful, we need to act fast! A strong central government with Saad Hariri at the helm or a reinvigorated IDF... no matter! Via TWN/ here

"The rocket fire from a southern Lebanese village into Israel a little over a week ago by a relatively unknown militant group, the Ziad Jarrah Division of the Abdullah Azzam Brigade, is the most recent reminder of the tenuous peace across the Blue Line.

Hezbollah quickly denied any responsibility for the rocket attack, a fact that some have taken to indicate that Hezbollah does not exert as much control over its territory as previously believed. World Politics Review columnist, Frida Ghitis, also warns of a growing competition between Hezbollah and Al Qaeda elements in Lebanon, emphasizing that the implications of the recent attack are to "undercut the perception that Hezbollah is the only real power in southern Lebanon."

Yet it is premature to claim Hezbollah has lost control of its territory. Instability and a lack of external control are not new and, rather, characterize Palestinian camps in Lebanon.

In October 2007, violence broke out between militants from Fatah al-Islam and the Lebanese Armed Forces in the Nahr al-Bared Refugee Camp north of Tripoli. And since the end of hostilities in 2006, there have been sporadic rockets fired at Israel from Hezbollah's territory within Lebanon; these incidents have mainly been attributed to Palestinian militant groups, especially during Israel's operation in Gaza last winter.

According to this 2009 International Crisis Group report: "Lebanon's weak central state, combined with the camp's institutional, security and political vacuum," created conditions that have allowed the camps to serve as both "a safe haven for fugitives and a travel agency for jihadi volunteers."

Indeed, these attacks are isolated incidents, and do not represent an erosion of Hezbollah's power. The power relationship between Hezbollah and these actors better resembles the situation in Gaza between Salafist groups and Hamas.

An important indication of Hezbollah's undiminished status is actually the Israeli response to last Friday's events. Israel returned fire, but hostilities did not escalate further despite Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's statements that Israel would hold the Lebanese government as a whole responsible for any aggression originating from Lebanese territory. This shows that small militant groups, such as the Ziad Jarrah Division, do not alone have the power to provoke Israel and Lebanon into a war.

We should not assume that Hezbollah's power is diminishing just because they neither launched nor prevented the rocket attack. Reportedly, Hezbollah's weapons caches and capabilities are only growing. Hezbollah's ability to flout the arms ban established by Resolution 1701, despite the efforts of UNIFIL, indicates that Hezbollah retains firm control of the south.

The role of Hezbollah is still crucial, especially against the backdrop of a governance crisis in Lebanon. As the Council on Foreign Relation's Mohamad Bazzi argues in a recent article, the inability of PM designate (yet again) Saad Hariri to overcome wrangling with opposition leaders and form a government since the June elections reveals the opposite problem: the existence of a Hezbollah "shadow government." Bazzi writes that, "This political vacuum gives Hezbollah free rein to continue building up its military and escalating its rhetoric of war. In the absence of a strong central state, Hezbollah will remain the most powerful force in Lebanon -- and its weapons will guarantee its dominance."

Posted by G, Z, or B at 5:40 PM