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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Unsilenced Voices
The road to Damascus

Harold's List
National Review Online
By Nir Boms

With increasing international pressure over the U.N. investigation into the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, Syria's young president, Bashar al-Assad, has taken the identification of his country with the Assad name to new levels. In a recent speech he defiantly stated: "It will not be President Assad who will bow his head nor the head of his country. We only bow to God almighty." As he desperately calls for an emergency meeting of the Arab league that might help alleviate the growing international pressures, Assad is trying to reassert control in a troubled country that now must handle parallel attacks from the United Nations, United States, and, increasingly, the Syrian opposition.

Just hours before the reported suicide of Syrian interior minister Ghazi Kanaan in his Damascus office, President al-Assad vehemently denied that his administration was linked to the February assassination of Rafik Hariri. "Any Syrian involved in the killing," said Assad, "would be guilty of treason." Kanaan, who ran the powerful network of Syrian agents that dominated Lebanese politics for most of the past 25 years, reportedly shot himself in his office following the release of Lebanese reports implicating him in fraud and corruption, and three weeks after he was questioned by a U.N. team investigating the Hariri assassination. It may be the case that Kanaan independently understood that treason in Syria is punishable by death. But recent evidence seems to indicate that somebody else in Syria understood this for him.

Kanaan had information that could have reached the wrong ears. One of his key rivals was none other than Assef Shawkat, the head of the Syrian military intelligence and a brother-in-law of the Syrian president. Shawkat is now considered one of the key suspects in the Hariri plot, according to a recently released U.N. report. Syrian sources noted that Kanaan's liquidation was possibly a direct result of fears amongst Shawkat and his subordinates that the U.N. indictment would lead to Kanaan's trying to remove Shawkat and his followers from power.

The U.N. report implicating Damascus in the Hariri murder is clearly disrupting Syrian domestic politics, stating as it does that "many leads point directly towards Syrian security officials as being involved with the assassination." "In Damascus, fear is now in the camp of power, the camp of Bashar," a senior official told the Washington Post. All this has not escaped notice by the Syrian opposition.

The Syrian opposition, a term that was a misnomer just two years ago, now has over 20 visible outlets with an increasing number of political activists who meet regularly inside and outside Syria. The Syrian Democratic Coalition — a dynamic group of ten Syrian opposition organizations led by Farid Ghadry — held a recent conference in Paris with representatives from political parties, human-rights organizations, tribes, and religious groups. The conference unveiled a registry for Syrians who are interested in voting and establishing a parliament-in-exile. The next conference — scheduled for mid-December — is expected to be the largest gathering of liberal Syrian activists, most of whom are under the age of 40. Ghadry is not the only one. Riyad al-Turk, a leading opposition politician publicly called on President Assad and his government to resign, and Rifaat al-Assad, the exiled uncle of Syria's current leader, is also positioning himself as possible successor to his nephew.

Inside Syria, a coalition of oppositions groups issued the "Damascus declaration." The declaration, signed by a number of opposition groups, including the extremist Islamic Brotherhood, calls for an end to Syria's emergency laws and other forms of political repression, and for a national conference on democratic change. The Brotherhood, however, was quick to release other statements against the participation of Kurds, Alawaites, and Syrian exiles in the process. The Syrian police responded with a series of raids on the opposition. Soon after the police arrested Kamal Labwani, a Syrian human-rights activist who had just returned from a trip to the U.S. Labwani, who is also the chairman of the Democratic Liberal Gathering in Syria was charged with spreading news outside the country that "threatened national unity."

But the opposition grows and the Assad regime is losing its grip on power. The United States should sit tight as President Assad, caught in a trap of his own making, will struggle to give answers to the U.N. prosecutor on the one hand, and to his growing circle of critics on the other. In the meantime Europe and the United States should pay attention and listen to the new Syrian voices. Unlike Assad, they belong to the future.

— Nir Boms is the vice president of the Center for Freedom in the Middle East.

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Interview with Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi

Harold's List
Al-Sharqiyah TV

The moderator begins by asking Chalabi about the forthcoming elections on 15 December and what he and the Iraqi National Congress (INC) list are counting on. Chalabi says: "We are not acting or counting on anything. We are working to convince the Iraqi voters that the INC list deserves their trust; that the INC platform is applicable to the issues of security, services, economic development, combating administrative corruption and enhancing Iraqi sovereignty; and that there are people who can implement this platform." Asked if he aspires to becoming the new prime minister in Iraq, Chalabi says: "I now aspire to becoming a member of the National Assembly and to working to render the INC list a success. As for what will take place after this, the National Assembly will be the one to decide."


The moderator asks Chalabi which candidate he would vote for. He says: "I am a candidate in the elections and cannot give my opinion on other candidates." Asked about the economic issues he will try to tackle, Chalabi says: "The economic programme I intend to implement is to increase the oil output in the next stage and we can do this. We have started in this direction and we believe that we can achieve this increase with God's help. We can increase the oil export by around 1 million bpd." Asked why this has not been achieved already, while he is deputy prime minister, Chalabi says: "This is because we need time but work in this field has already started and we have actually exported oil from the northern oil fields for some time and we will do this again. We have had a programme to increase oil exports by increasing oil production from the southern fields for some time and we are working on this." Chalabi then discusses the measures the government has been taking to improve the standard of living, including, among others, increasing the price of rice and wheat it purchases directly from the farmers and increasing salaries. Chalabi adds that the "government must increase oil output to be able to implement more projects".

Chalabi continues to speak about the measures the government is taking to reactivate the economy. He says: "I have just met a group of Iraqi businessmen who said that there is an active trade movement in Iraq and that the private sector's imports will exceed 2bn dollars in 2005." He adds: "What does this mean? This means that there purchasing power and people can buy these goods that the private sector imports." Chalabi says: "All this shows that the Iraqi people can improve their standard of living." Speaking about the ration card, Chalabi says: "As we promised the Iraqi people, we will pay monetary compensation for those staples in the ration card that have not been distributed during 2005. After the Trade Ministry studied the issue, we earmarked 610bn Iraqi dinars to be distributed to the people in the governorates in accordance with the shortage in each governorate."

Chalabi then discusses a project under which the Iraqis themselves and not the state will become the owners of the oil resources and the revenues from resources will be distributed equally among all Iraqis. Chalabi says that he also proposes the distribution of state-owned land to people for construction purposes. Chalabi says: "There is a great demand for housing in Iraq at present and there is unemployment. The state owns vast areas of land and the state can distribute plots of land to Iraqis in accordance with the law," adding that "the state will not build houses. Individuals will do this. For this purpose, the state will establish a modern real estate credit institution with big capital." Chalabi adds: "This project can be carried out in Iraq if we produce an additional one million bpd. We can then fund such a project - and can you imagine the impact this will have on unemployment when approximately half a million houses are being built in Iraq? This will end unemployment, and the labour force will be busy with construction, engineering works, planning and financing. All this will become an active part of the Iraqi economy and Iraq can then create job opportunities for millions of Iraqis, not through the government but through the private sector."

Relations with neighbours

The moderator then asks Chalabi about Iraq's relations with neighbouring Arab countries and world countries and what he wants these relations to be like. Chalabi says: "I want Iraq to be an effective member of the international community, a centre of stability and security in the region, and to enjoy good and close relations with all its neighbours on the basis of mutual respect, respect for sovereignty and non-interference in the affairs of other countries. I also want Iraq to have extensive and strong relations with all the countries in the world, the friendly countries. Iraq must be a centre of stability. Iraq should not be a base or passage-way for conspiracies against any side. We also want Iraq to establish economic relations and benefit from the experience of others in the field of development and in economic advancement. We can benefit from the experience of others and reach an understanding with them in this respect. I want Iraq to be a market for world investments and Iraq should have the chance to invest in the world."

Visit to USA

The moderator asks Chalabi if his recent visit to the United States was in his capacity as deputy prime minister or as an Iraqi politician. Chalabi says: "I visited the United States as a government official, as the deputy prime minister. I met the United States officials. As Iraqi deputy prime minister, I met the US vice-president, the secretary of state, the defence secretary, the minister of the treasury, the national security adviser, the minister of commerce, the minister of agriculture, and Democrat and Republican members from the Senate and the House of Representatives."

Asked about his meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice after which he told the press "that the meeting was fruitful, while Condoleezza Rice declined to make any statement about the meeting. Why did Condoleezza Rice opt for silence about this meeting?" Chalabi says: "I do not know what Condoleezza Rice said and I did not know that she preferred to remain silent about this meeting. The meeting was good and fruitful and achieved many things. The meeting clarified important matters for us and the US side. I believe it was a very successful meeting." Asked once again to explain why Rice remained silent, Chalabi says: "It might be that the US Administration has decided not to interfere in the elections. They could interpret any statements she might have made as interference. I cannot say why. Rice has not made any statements after meeting Iraqi officials recently."

The moderator asks him about the results of his meetings with Donald Rumsfeld and the secretary of the treasury. Chalabi says: "I met the secretary of defence and we discussed the issue of reducing the number of US troops, the dates for the withdrawal of the US forces, and arming and equipping the Iraqi army. I told the US secretary of defence that in the past year we squandered too much money on purchasing, or trying to purchase, weapons from the Eastern bloc. I told him that Iraqi army officers and commanders now prefer to buy US weapons and Iraq can purchase weapons from the United States so that the Iraqi army can be better prepared and equipped to perform its tasks. I also spoke to him about the need to release people who are in detention camps run by the multinational forces in Iraq and the need to respect the legal procedures for releasing those who were not charged by the Iraqi judicial authorities."

The moderator asks Chalabi to comment on a statement by a senior Iraqi official, whom the moderator does not name, that the United States refuses to arm the Iraqi army or the security forces with good weapons or to let them have efficient firepower capacity equal to that of the foreign forces in Iraq, and that the issue of armament will continue to depend on the will of the United States. Chalabi says: "This issue is subject to change and is not fixed. The Americans have now become convinced about what we have been requesting, even before the war. We used to say that no interruption in the sovereignty of the Iraqis over Iraq should take place even for one day. We also called for keeping the Iraqi Armed Forces and not disbanding them. But the Americans were not convinced by what we said then and did not take any measures to keep the Iraqi army. They submitted Resolution 1483 on the occupation of Iraq. The Americans have found out now, just as we warned them, that the Iraqi people accept getting rid of Saddam but reject the occupation."

Chalabi continues: "We met Congress members. I met the chairman of the Senate Committee on Defence Affairs and a senior Democratic member on this committee and discussed with them issues related to the situation of the US forces in Iraq. The Senate approved a resolution saying that 2006 will be the year when complete sovereignty will be handed over to the Iraqis. The Iraqi forces, encouraged by them, will gradually assume greater responsibilities for security and for combating terrorism in Iraq. We welcome this decision and it is completely in line with our stand. We want to train the Iraqi forces to assume the responsibility gradually until the multinational forces withdraw completely and an effective Iraqi force is established that can defend this homeland."

Cairo meeting

Asked about his stand on the Cairo national accord meeting, Chalabi says: "I have my stand on this issue. I say that it is unacceptable for the Iraqis to meet outside Iraq while there is an elected National Assembly, not to mention that a House of Deputies is to be elected. I say that the Iraqis who discuss Iraqi affairs and Iraq's future should be chosen by Iraqi quarters through elections and not by foreign countries or parties that will name the Iraqis with whom they want to hold a dialogue." The moderator tells Chalabi that the Arab countries, represented by the Arab League, have chosen the Iraqi officials who will attend the conference. Chalabi says: "I say that the Arab League is not Iraq. Iraq is a member of the Arab League but the Arab League does not interfere in the affairs of its members and this is mentioned in the Arab League Charter. I would like to add: Why then should we have a House of Deputies if the Iraqis and the Iraqi leaders hold a dialogue outside parliament? Why hold elections if the House of Deputies is not authorized and cannot choose the people [who will participate in] the dialogue? I say that the House of Deputies or the current National Assembly should be the real venue for this dialogue. What was agreed in Cairo? There was a big difference between the interpretations of various parties. They mentioned, for example, a timetable for the withdrawal but did not set a timetable. What is the point of launching slogans without any content? I did not participate in this meeting for these reasons." Chalabi adds: "I support and call for dialogue and reaching an understanding. I say that the problems in Iraq, the security problems, will not be solved through the use of force but they will be solved through dialogue among the parties." He gives as examples the situation in Al-Najaf, Al-Fallujah and Tall Afar and notes that military solutions did not solve the problems in these three cities and that "the problems in Al-Najaf were not settled through violence, but were rather settled through political dialogue". Chalabi affirms that past problems in Iraq have been settled "through political agreement. I say that this is the course of action we must adopt. If we want to entrench security, we must have recourse to political dialogue and not use force as a first option."

The moderator asks Chalabi to explain why he was the only candidate to have asked the Baghdad Municipality for permission to display election posters. Chalabi says: "We abide by law and order and so we asked permission from the Baghdad Municipality because it is the relevant party and we respect the municipality and its role."

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Daily terrorist activity

Terrorist and counter-terrorist activity for November 30th 2005


Interfax News Agency reports of a large weapons cache discovered in Ingushetia by Russian security forces following an anonymous tip.


Belgian and UK launch anti-terrorism raids

Belgian and UK police conducted raids overnnight and arrested a number of people believed to be connected to international terrorism. In Belgium, links between residents and a belgian woman who carried out suicide attack on a US convoy in Iraq. The unnamed woman had converted to Islam and used her Belgian passport to enter Iraq via Turkey.

In Hertfordshire, England, anti-terrorism police arrested a 28 year old man in connection with providing weapons linked to international terrorism.

South Asia:

Police in Bangladesh conducted raids that netted 22 suspected Islamist militants following suicide bombings that killed nine people.

Uttar Pradesh, an Indian politician, was shot and killed yesterday in the Gazipur District of India. His death is linked to his accused mafia ties.

35 Islamists militants surrender in North Waziristan, Pakistan after peace deal was signed.

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The CIA's bloggers

THE CIA now has its own bloggers. In a bow to the rise of internet-era secrets hidden in plain view, the agency has started hosting weblogs with the latest information on topics including North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il's public visit to a military installation (his 38th this year) and the Burmese media's silence on a ministry reshuffle. It even has a blog on blogs, dedicated to finding useful information in the rapidly expanding milieu of online journals and weird electronic memorabilia on the net.

The blogs are posted on an unclassified, government-wide website, part of a rechristened CIA office for monitoring, translating and analysing publicly available information, called the DNI Open Source Centre. The centre, which made its debut this month, marks the latest wave of reorganisation in response to the failures of intelligence collection before the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Analysis of those failures pointed to insufficient efforts to tap into the huge realm of information on the internet, as well as a climate of disdain for such information among spy agencies. "There are still people who believe if it's not top secret it's not worth reading," says an outside expert who works with government intelligence agencies.

By adding the new centre, "they've changed the strategic visibility", says the centre's director, Douglas Naquin, a CIA veteran. "All of a sudden open source is at the table." But he acknowledges that "managing the world's unclassified knowledge [is] much bigger than any one organisation can do".

The DNI Open Source Centre began life in 1941 as the Foreign Broadcast Information Service - FBIS to insiders - which was charged with monitoring publicly available media and translating their output. Its pastel-hued booklets became a familiar presence throughout government. At the height of the Cold War, it was FBIS translators who pored over Izvestia and Pravda from the Soviet Union, providing the little hints such as a word change that might signal something broader for the CIA's Kremlinologists.

By the 1990s, the office had fallen on hard times. Some advocated abolishing it, saying it was irrelevant in the age of 24-hour cable news. It survived, but had its staff slashed by 60 per cent, Naquin says. September 11 gave it new purpose, as "open source" became an intelligence buzzword. Across government, policymakers began to debate how to find the nuggets of genuine information hidden in the internet avalanche.

Even before the Open Source Centre officially opened it had added a video database that makes its archives available online, and rolled out an upgraded website with blogs and homepages on topics such as Osama bin Laden, Iraq insurgency leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, China and bird flu.

The centre sees itself as a repository of what Naquin calls "open-source tradecraft" in a self-conscious echo of his clandestine colleagues. It teaches courses such as Advanced Internet Exploitation to intelligence analysts.

Perhaps the toughest challenge for the new centre is proving its mettle inside the sceptical world of intelligence, where the stolen secret has long been prized above the publicly available gem. Although the centre's website is unclassified and available across the government, so far it has only 6500 users with active accounts, Naquin says.

"Rarely is there the 'aha!', the 'oh-you-solved-this or you-prevented-this"' moment, Naquin acknowledges.

"The reluctance to use it is astounding to me," says Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA's bin Laden unit. "Nobody wants to go back in response to an assignment and say, 'Oh, my Open Source Centre found this on a server in Belgium."'

The culture clash isn't likely to disappear soon - especially when intelligence services still classify material that can be found easily on the internet. Not long ago, says a former senior government terrorism analyst, he was teaching a class to future CIA intelligence analysts that included a PowerPoint presentation on the evolution of al-Qaeda since September 11, with images taken from the internet.

Two men at the back of the class came up to the instructor after the presentation. Where, they asked, had he got a particular image from Iraq? It's classified, they insisted. The former analyst laughed. He had taken it from a gruesome website that compiles terrorist atrocity videos along with pornography.

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DoD To Narrow Competitors For High-Power Laser Work

The Pentagon is soon expected to select two competitors to continue working on the development of high-power laser technology that could be used for a range of purposes including anti-satellite efforts and weaponry for unmanned aircraft.

In the current phase of the Joint High Power Solid-State Laser Program, three companies and one research laboratory have contracts with the directed energy office of the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) that are worth a combined total of $27 million, said AFRL spokeswoman Judy Johnston.

The current participants are Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory of Livermore, Calif.; Northrop Grumman Space Technology of Redondo Beach, Calif.; Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems of El Segundo, Calif.; and Textron Inc. of Providence, R.I.

No more than two of them are expected to continue into the next phase, said Art Stephenson, Northrop Grumman’s director of directed energy systems. Under the next phase, which will be managed by the U.S. Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command, companies are expected to work towards the development of 100-kilowatt lasers after having built 25-kilowatt hardware under the current phase, Stephenson said.

One industry source said that the decision, which is expected to be announced shortly, will result in Northrop and Textron continuing to work on the program. Johnston deferred comment on the matter to the Army.

At press time, Marco Morales, a spokesman for Army Space and Missile Defense Command in Arlington, Va., had not returned a request for comment regarding the status of the competition and the expected value of the awards in the next phase of the program.

High-power laser technology is much more mature with chemical-powered systems, according to Jackie Gish, director of technology development for directed energy systems at Northrop Grumman.

However, solid-state hardware offers the benefit of requiring far less logistical support to power the laser, she said.

Northrop Grumman recently conducted testing where it fired a 27-kilowatt beam for almost six minutes into a target that absorbs the laser’s energy, Gish said. The large laser the company used was in a laboratory setting and will likely need to be shrunk down by a factor of 10 before it could be used operationally, Gish said.

Bob Yamamoto, program manager for solid-state heat capacity laser work at Lawrence Livermore, said that Lawrence Livermore had conducted tests in recent weeks where it fired a 25-kilowatt laser for 10 seconds. While this time was much shorter than that of the test conducted by Northrop Grumman, Yamamoto noted that Lawrence Livermore uses different laser technology.

Lawrence Livermore is using a pulse laser, rather than a continuous-flow system, Yamamoto said. The pulsing nature of the beam puts more heat on the target in a shorter period of time, potentially allowing it to disable or destroy something much faster, he said.

Even a brief period like 10 seconds with a 25-kilowatt laser could be long enough to disable or destroy a target during a clear day where conditions like fog or a sandstorm do not disrupt the beam at a range of 1 kilometer or less, Yamamoto said. With the objective 100-kilowatt laser, the same damage could be done in 10 seconds or less at a range of 3 to 5 kilometers on a clear day, he said.

The high-power solid-state laser technology has the potential for a wide variety of military uses against targets on the ground, air and space, according to the industry officials.

Due to the challenge of shrinking the size of the laser hardware, initial applications would likely focus on equipping ships, ground vehicles and large aircraft, Gish said. As the hardware size is reduced, the lasers could be added to smaller fighter aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles, she said.

One mission that the military might want to use the lasers for is clearing minefields, Yamamoto said. The lasers could cause the mines to explode, or sizzle them in such a way that it does not cause a large hole in the ground that needs to be filled in with dirt if vehicles are to pass over, he said.

A high-power solid-state laser also could be used in a similar fashion to the chemical system on the Airborne Laser, an aircraft under development by Boeing Co. to destroy ballistic missiles in their boost phase, Yamamoto said. A laser-equipped aircraft also could disable or destroy satellites used by enemies, he said.

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India Test-Fires Supersonic Cruise Missile

India on Wednesday successfully test-fired an army version of its supersonic BrahMos cruise missile that was jointly developed with Russia, a defense officer said.

The missile was tested from Indias Chandipur-on-sea site, 200 kilometers (125 miles) northeast of Bhubaneswar, the capital of the southeastern state of Orissa, the officer, who declined to be named, said.

”The flight trial met all the mission objectives, officer said.

The missile has a range of 290 kilometers (181 miles) and can carry a 300-kilogram (660 pounds) conventional warhead and can be launched from land, ships, submarines and aircraft, the officer said.

The eight-meter (26-foot) missile weighs about three metric ton.

The missile, first tested in June 2001, is named after India’s Brahmaputra River and Russia’s Moskva River.

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Revolutionary Guardsman Gets Top Post in Iran

The deputy chief of Iran’s hardline Revolutionary Guards has been appointed as deputy interior minister for security and police, the official news agency IRNA said Nov. 30.

Mohammad Bagher Zolghadr, 50, becomes the most senior member of the ideological army to join the government of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — himself a veteran of the powerful force.

But the head of the Revolutionary Guards, General Yahya Rahim Safavi, dismissed concerns over the force’s increased involvement in national politics and fears of a militarization of the Islamic regime.

”Only idiotic politicians make such comments,” IRNA quoted him as saying.

”The Revolutionary Guards will help the government to assure lasting security in the country and the presence in governors offices takes U.S. in this direction,” Safavi said, confirming a string of similar appointments.

The Revolutionary Guards Corps was set up in the wake of the 1979 revolution to defend the Islamic republic from “internal and external threats”. It is now one of Iran’s most powerful institutions.

Zolghadr has been deputy head of the force for the past eight years, previously serving as its chief of staff. During the 1980-88 war with Iraq, he headed military training and guerilla operations.

Ahmadinejad’s cabinet already includes several guard veterans, notably Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Mohammad-Hossein Saffar-Harandi.

”The nomination of certain brothers who served at the frontlines during the war should be a source of pride and not worry,” the guards’ political department, Abbas Haji Najari, said recently.

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Israel's Peres may leave Labor, join Sharon

ISN SECURITY WATCH (30/11/05) - The transformation of the Israeli political landscape continues as former prime minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres is expected to announce his departure from the Labor party, his political home for the last 61 years.

The 82-year-old Peres is said to have accepted an offer from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to join a future Sharon-led government as a minister with responsibility for overseeing peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Under the deal, Peres would endorse, but not join, Sharon’s new Kadima (Forward) party.

Earlier this month, the Labor Party quit its role as junior coalition partner in the Sharon government. Sharon responded the next day by leaving the governing Likud Party to form a new centrist list, having tendered his resignation.

Should Peres refrain from running for the Israeli parliament (the Knesset), it would end a record 46 years in which he was a Knesset member. Sharon could appoint Peres to be minister even if he is not elected to serve in the Knesset.

Peres has not yet made an official announcement on the issue, but has hinted that his time in the Labor party is over. Speaking to reporters in Barcelona, Peres said “the real change is not in the Labor Party”.

Fuelling speculation that he will depart Labor, Peres was full of praise for Sharon, declaring that “Mr. Sharon took a different direction for a Palestinian state. He wants to continue the peace process”.

Israeli commentators have been speculating that Peres might join forces with Sharon ever since his shock defeat to trade union leader Amir Peretz in an internal Labor election for chairman earlier this month.

Before the Labor vote, Peres had campaigned for continued political cooperation with Sharon. He was visibly bitter at his loss to former ally Peretz and refused for over 24 hours to congratulate the new party leader.

Relations between Peres and Peretz publicly deteriorated on Monday, when Peres’ brother Gigi compared the new Labor leader to Spanish dictator Francisco Franco: “Amir Peretz and his people are a foreign body in the Labor Party, like General Franco in Spain.”

“Like Franco, he recruited militias from North Africa,” Gigi Peres said, referring to Peretz’s Moroccan background.

While the comments drew widespread condemnation from across the political spectrum, including Peres’ office, commentators are certain Peres’ departure from Labor is imminent.

Earlier this week, Labor Member of Knesset (MK) Dalia Itzik, a close confidante of Peres, announced her decision to leave Labor and join Sharon’s centrist Kadima party.

The move was seen as a clear indication of Peres’ intentions. Analysts consider it unlikely that Itzik would have joined Kadima without a guarantee that Peres would follow suit.

Peres’ anticipated move is only one of many draftings that seem to have transformed Israeli politics into a party marketplace. Ever since the Labor chairman elections and the creation of the Kadima party, Sharon and Peretz have been busy adding prominent Israeli names to their party membership lists.

Peretz has succeeded in convincing a number of new high-profile faces to join Labor, including a well-known news broadcaster, the president of Ben Gurion University, several musicians and artists, and other prominent social activists and peace advocates. He is also scheduled to meet former IDF deputy chief of staff Uzi Dayan later on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Sharon has secured the support of several politicians from his former Likud party, as well as Labor and other centrist figures. His new Kadima party also has the backing of numerous members of the security establishment.

A public endorsement of Kadima by Shimon Peres would be seen as a major defeat for the Labor party under Peretz. However, commentators have questioned whether bringing in Peres - widely regarded in Israel as an “eternal loser” due to his poor election record - would indeed help Sharon.

Akiva Eldar, a diplomatic affairs analyst for the Israeli daily Ha’aretz newspaper, told ISN Security Watch that Sharon should urge Peres to retire, rather than join forces with the prime minister. “Peres won’t be a great asset to Sharon,” he added.

As Labor and Kadima struggle over securing the support of Peres and other renowned figures, the Likud, abandoned by Sharon only weeks ago and embroiled in a bitter contest over its future leadership, continues to plummet. Recent polls suggest it could lose up to 30 of its current 40 seats in the Knesset and end up as the country’s fourth-largest party.

(By Jonathan Landau in Zurich)

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Suing the PA

The Jerusalem Post
Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld

Victims of Palestinian terrorism should take note of Palestinian Authority finance minister Salam Fayad's recent resignation. Fayad is said to be particularly upset because PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei arranged that the $350 million being donated to the PA in 2005 is paying to employ 60,000 people in the security services. Among these are Palestinian terrorists serving time in Israeli prisons. The prisoners include those who murdered Israelis, suicide bomber dispatchers, and suicide bombers caught en route.

"We don't know if 10-15,000 of these people are even still working or not," said the head of the parliament's economic committee, Azmi Shuabi.

Saadi al-Wahidi, a senior official at the PA's Civil Service Administration, told the Palestinian newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda on November 16 that the PA has created a special committee to determine the pension eligibility of all members of Palestinian armed organizations such as the Aksa Martyrs Brigade, the Kassam Brigade, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The payments will be retroactive and include current and former Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons.

This committee was established following the September 3 announcement by the Palestinian Minister for Prisoner Affairs, Sufayan Abu Zayda, that his office deposits salaries of $400 to $500 a month for each prisoner, in addition to a $50 monthly payment each for expenses in the prison canteen. The Palestinian Prison Affairs office also funds current prisoners' legal expenses, medical treatment, etc.

All together, Abu Zayda said, his office receives $4 million a month from the PA to support Palestinian terrorists held in Israeli prisons.

THE PA'S open financial support for terrorists builds on the official legal recognition and responsibility taken for all Palestinian terrorists by the PA, made for the first time on August 21 by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Praising the terrorists who died, Abbas said that their families "need to be truly cared for, not just by [Palestinian] society but [also] by the Palestinian Authority, and therefore we have decided to allocate 5% of all government positions to them."

In his statement to Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, Abu Zayda noted that an additional $100,000 is dedicated to tuition for every terrorist prisoner who seeks higher education, regardless of his organizational affiliation or crimes.

On September 7, in a follow-up interview with Al Quds, another Palestinian daily, Abu Zayda reported that another decision had been taken by the PA to increase the salaries of all Palestinian security forces. Since the Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons are considered part of these forces, their income will also rise.

According to this new decision, those who have served the longest terms in Israeli prisons - i.e., those who have committed the most heinous crimes - will receive the highest compensation. Thus a prisoner who spent 25 years in Israeli prison will receive about $900 a month. Prisoners who are residents of Jerusalem will receive an extra $50 monthly.

This generous sponsorship of Palestinian terrorists past and present by the PA should now enable all victims of Palestinian terrorist groups to sue the PA for compensation. However, they are likely to face great difficulties enforcing judgments against the PA.

As Gary M. Osen, a leading expert in terror financing litigation, observed: "Court victories against the Palestinian Authority are necessary and important, but at the same time, because most of the world's governments shield the PA's assets, collecting on a judgment against the PA is still very difficult."

Moreover, while the international community, including the European Union and the United States, shield Palestinian assets, they continue to fund the PA. The abrupt and angry resignation of Fayad, who was seen by all as the symbol of a new Palestinian system of financial reform, should have resulted in immediate sanctions against the massive corruption in the PA. But the international community has set out to create a Palestinian state, and nothing - not even the PA's admitted sponsorship of convicted terrorists - is likely to stop it.

The writer, author of Funding Evil; How Terrorism Is Financed - and How to Stop It, is director of American Center for Democracy (www.public-integrity.org) and a member of the Committee on the Present Danger.

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Al Qaeda Killed Kenny!
Carting Cartman off to war.

Harold's List
National Review on Line
By R. James, Suzanne, Robert, Daniel, and Benjamin Woolsey

In their insightful and offbeat Freakonomics Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner tell the remarkable story of Stetson Kennedy's important role in preventing a substantial national revival of the Ku Klux Klan following World War II. Kennedy first infiltrated the Klan on his own and learned its secret structure, terminology, and passwords and then, in a stroke of genius, provided these to . . . The Adventures of Superman radio show. The script writers made great sport of the Klan's goofy terminology (“Exalted Cyclopses,” “Kleagles,” “Klaverns,” etc.) as Superman battled against them. Very soon all over the country children were playing Superman vs. The Klan and mocking the Klan's bizarre and murderous thuggery. Members began to leave in droves.

Kennedy's success demonstrates that it is much more difficult to strike fear into a society when its children are laughing at you. Some six decades later the comic geniuses behind South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, have on occasion turned their attention to a different set of bizarre and murderous thugs. In an episode shortly after 9/11, “Osama bin Laden Has Farty Pants” (originally titled “Osama bin Laden Has a Tiny Penis”) the potty-mouthed South Park kids go to Afghanistan. Bin Laden does not come off well. Then in their first full-length film ( South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut ) Parker and Stone explore the implications of a hilariously romantic involvement between Saddam Hussein and the Devil.

But to date the piece de resistance of axis-of-evil mockery is their side-splitting latest film, Team America: World Police. An all-marionette musical, the film satirizes everybody within reach and is, well, gross (both characteristics are constants in Parker's and Stone's work). For example, the three-man two-woman American team of terror fighters is composed of good-hearted and brave but naïve and corny bumblers equipped with the highest technology, which they tend to misuse — accidentally destroying, say, Paris. They lapse into psychobabble with one another while discussing their relationships (“I have feelings for you, too”). All authority figures are fair game for these two. And an edited version of the film is available for those of tender sensibilities who might want to give a pass to the most scatological marionette sex scene in the history of film.

In the film, Team America battles Kim Jong Il, a wonderfully nasty, pompous, tyrant who wears his heart on his sleeve and is the mastermind behind the world's terrorists. (Many of the latter are from Durkadurkastan and say “Durka Durka” a lot.) Kim's principal sidekicks — Lenin would have called them useful idiots — are a bevy of remarkably life-like marionettes of Hollywood liberals, headed by Alec Baldwin. Parker and Stone give Kim a unique accent that combines Elmer Fudd's (“wicked wabbit”) with some confusion between “l's” and “r's” so his angry song about the Hollywood stars' failure to live up to his expectations comes out, “Ooo are worfwess, Arec Bardwin.” Kim's melodic lament, “I'm So Ronery,” is similarly, uh, memorable, and concludes:

I work wery hard and I'm physicary fit

But nobody here seems to wearize it

When I wule the world maybe they'rr notice me

But untir then I'rr just be

Ronery, so ronery

Pool witter me.

After seeing Team America it is virtually impossible, for any of the five of us anyway, to see a picture of Kim Jong Il or even hear his name without the goofy South Park puppet leaping to mind.

Parker's and Stone's special gift is to see the pompous, the absurd, and the self-important through the eyes of the young and to caricature these with Chaplinesque comic sensibility. The Middle East — where there is plenty of pomposity, absurdity, and self-importance — is a place where satire and ridicule can be particularly powerful weapons, especially with young people. We should not fight the spirit of rebelliousness of the region's youth but go with it. It is now the case, and sometimes we even deserve it, that we are that spirit's target, but we should do our best to help it focus heavily on the real and entrenched enemies of young people's freedom: the Middle East's pompous totalitarians.

Instead our current public diplomacy seems to stress broadcasting to the young people of the Middle East bowdlerized songs from Britney Spears and Eminem, a few talk shows and offering pictures of American life such as the State Department Magazine Hi's now-famous article for young Arab readers on American metrosexuals (“Real men moisturize.”) Rather than just playing records on the air and branding ourselves as folks who really care about guys getting pedicures, maybe we should try to liven up the Middle East's airwaves with some of Parker's and Stone's inspired irreverence.

In World War II our most talented writers, directors, and actors helped the war effort. This time around we might similarly challenge young, creative Americans who understand the streets of the Middle East, the humor of the young there, and what forms of ridicule could really work against the Baathists, the Shiite theocrats in Tehran, al Qaeda, and the Wahhabis. It should be possible to figure out how such a team could be guided by Parker's and Stone's genius. But this would have to be an undertaking of the young, by the young, for the young.

Recently one of us was testifying on Iran before a Senate Committee and was asked, in effect, what steps short of force might help undercut the authority of Iran's hideous government. The response — see if you can encourage the creators of South Park to go after Ahmadinejad and Khamenei they way they went after Kim Jong Il in Team America: World Police — produced an interesting reaction. The younger Senate staffers, reporters, and members of the audience giggled and grinned wickedly. Everyone over 40 looked absolutely clueless. Definitely the right demographics.

The Woolsey family, led by its younger members, are South Park fans.

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To Win A War, You Must Be Willing To Look 'Bad'

Harold's List
Human Events Online
by Rabbi Aryeh Spero

Listening to the media, the talking heads, and many in Congress, one gets the sense that the most important element in our war against jihadist terrorism is not victory but who can show that he cares more than the other guy about the comfort and "rights" of terrorist detainees. In other words, who can boast that he is more "ethical" than the rest of us.

This is no way to win a war.

Instead of determining what best can achieve immediate victory, our preoccupation has been more about feeding detainees the Islamic food of their choice; safeguarding the Koran more than our own Bible; trying them not in military courts where they should be tried but in civil courts so they can have the best lawyers and chance at acquittal; providing them with all the Constitutional rights reserved for those born here who wish not to destroy our Constitution; and instituting anti-torture standards whose definition judges can expand so that effective interrogation will be impossible.

Better for a million Americans to be incinerated, avant garde thinking goes, than use on known terrorists procedures that might elicit dates, time and place of imminent bombings of U.S. cities and citizens.

It is not that the country has gone moral, it has gone crazy.

It reminds me of the administration of Mayor David Dinkins in New York City between 1988-1992, where the purpose of government city services was not to supply the service but push affirmative action at all costs and various "feel good" social engineering schemes. For many in today's chattering classes, the army is not allowed to be used for its purpose of winning wars but for demonstrating our "compassion."

Worse, more effort is spent dangerously telling our troops what they cannot do than empowering them to do what they must to save their comrades and defeat the enemy. No doubt our young field soldier is at risk when in the back of his mind is a picture of a liberal lawyer eager to throw him into jail if he acts like a soldier instead of a nurse. The ACLUnik attorney who puts him in this danger couldn't care less, since his sons, relatives, and bourgeois friends rarely serve in the military.

If we loose this war and our lives, it will be because people cared more about "not looking bad" than our own survival. But morality dictates that you save the lives of your family and fellow citizens before agonizing over the sensitivities of those coming to saw your head off your body. We may loose precisely because liberalism forced us to adopt a demented view of morality, one that is classically immoral.

No question, we are witnessing how perverted values engender perverted definitions and decisions. Current liberalism has destroyed our moral compass and replaced it with its own foolish and destructive value system.

How did this happen? When a nation becomes tentative about its own identity, it adopts a new "morality" to furnish identity. Such is the reality when people throw off age-old moral surety and replace it with "ersatz" morality.

Only men who have lost their masculinity care more about how others will perceive them over what it takes to achieve a crushing victory. My grandfather and his friends, who lived way before the ubiquitous effeminate male, lived their lives based on more than how other people saw them.

"What will the other countries and people think of us" is the refrain we so often hear from the Woody Allenized male members of Congress. Those who don't have the stomach to do what military victory demands find their cover and justification for weakness in "morality." Sending another 100,000 troops means nothing if they are not deployed to do what armies are trained to do -- demolish the enemy.

Truth be told, there are many in Congress who feel guilty having to support war, military means. They want, therefore, to be able to "stand above it" by saying they approve of no aspect that can be criticized. They don't want to be soiled by it.

My grandmother had a Yiddish phrase that described moral midgets such as these who never took a position that could make them look "bad." They were sarcastically referred to as finer mentshen, too good to get their hands dirty. She also would have been appalled by our post-60s masculinized women whose leftist ideology results more in rage at their own country than gratitude to it for protecting hearth and home.

While our President has the correct convictions, often his tenacity atrophies. I sometimes wonder if too much focus is placed upon not harming the "innocents" among the Religion of Peace as opposed to more pressing battle imperatives. We could have been victorious in this war a while back if not for this new "Compassionate War" theology, plaguing even the President.

If the United States is unwilling to fight a war with every ounce of its power, it should not go to war, for then it is not the United States at war but some reduced power at war. Yes, the rules of war must be different than those that govern everyday civic life. Even the Bible says so.

Instead, we are allowing the ACLU and other leftists to run our wars. We are permitting newly-hatched domestic "humanitarian" organizations -- comprised of a director, staff of three, a fax, and a Soros-type sugar daddy -- to downsize the effectiveness and capability of the U.S. military.

Those liberal members of Congress who have become finer mentshen, caring more about how refined and politically correct they appear, are not made of the pluck to lead. We should therefore not follow. Those who exploit this bogus "morality" as a means for America to loose a war in order to topple a President so they can regain power are treasonous. Those who think that the terrorists will go easy on us if we simply announce our proscription against torture are showing that in their mind our safety depends on the goodwill of the enemy. If so, we might as well already raise the white flag.

As for the ACLUniks, the Kuntsler-type lawyers, and the perverted lefties who always prefer our enemies over us -- how about reinstating a special draft just for them so that for once in their life they could serve their country instead of diminishing it.

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"Europe is no longer Europe, it is 'Eurabia,' a colony of Islam, where the Islamic invasion does not proceed only in a physical sense, but also in a mental and cultural sense. Servility to the invaders has poisoned democracy, with obvious consequences for the freedom of thought, and for the concept itself of liberty." Oriana Fallaci

FALLACI! on AtlasShrugs Blog

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The Balkans, ten years on

THE Balkans, said Otto von Bismarck, are not worth the healthy bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier. A century and a quarter after that famous brush-off, Europe's richer, smugger parts are still tempted to turn their backs on their continent's most unstable and wildest corner.

To a European Union that views itself as part of the world's elite—a huge, if rather sluggish, economic power that can be rather choosy about who it deals with—its squalid Balkan backyard is an embarrassment. Indeed, there are questions about whether it is part of Europe at all. Serious politicians in France, Germany and Austria were saying, only a decade ago, that countries with an Ottoman or Byzantine heritage—such as Romania, Bulgaria and most of ex-Yugoslavia—weren't really heirs to the glories of European civilisation.

If west Europeans feels uneasy about the Balkans, that is partly because of the blunders they have made. For all his detachment, Bismarck was a master of Balkan diplomacy, but modern Europe has lacked his touch. When old Yugoslavia broke up, it was initially seen, absurdly, as a little local difficulty which Europe could handle with no help from anyone else. Then, when the horrors began, they were dismissed as too intractable to stop.

In fact, as became clear in the final chapters of the conflicts in Bosnia—which ended in a peace agreement exactly a decade ago—and then Kosovo, Balkan wars are as easy to control as people want them to be; but they stop only when America and all the main European powers act together, instead of scoring points off one another. Now, the Balkan guns have mostly fallen silent, and the region and its queasy European friends are at another crossroads (see article). In a year's time, Kosovo may be independent. Bosnia is gradually turning into a functioning state. Montenegro may vote in a referendum to break with Serbia. The accord that saved Macedonia from civil war seems to be holding. An era of intensive care, in which Kosovo was run by Finns or Danes, and Bosnia by Austrians and Brits, may be ending.

So what does rich Europe do now? For a half-exhausted, introverted EU with many problems nearer home to worry about, it is tempting to walk away altogether, at least from the places which seem incorrigible. The Union has proved good at teaching governance to countries like Bulgaria and Romania where politicians want to learn and will get a nice prize—early membership—in return. Among the six republics of old Yugoslavia, there is only one European super-star, Slovenia; and Croatia is back on a European track after wobbling off it.

But as for the other countries of the region—all scarred by war, anarchy or criminal nationalism—a sceptic could make a decent case for writing them off. In Albania and much of ex-Yugoslavia, the forces ranged against the state—crime syndicates and armed nationalists—are often more than a match for legitimate business and politics. Government, in so far as its writ runs at all, is frequently worse than useless: customs barriers and regulations simply obstruct legal business, offer bribe opportunities for bureaucrats and abet crime.

Given that the total population of the Balkans' most problematic parts is barely 20m, and their per head income is barely a fifth of the EU average, why not just quarantine them until they start behaving like potential members of a rich, respectable club? That, in a way, is what Europe managed to do during Bosnia's horrors: the Vienna stock exchange hardly flickered as massacres occurred a couple of hours' drive away.

To find out why that is not an option, ask the British police who, with help from the UN police in Kosovo and several other countries, have just cracked a people-smuggling ring that originated in Turkey and may have spirited as many as 200,000 desperate folk (mostly from eastern Turkey) into the Union's richer places. Or consult a report by Europol, the European police agency, which has traced the activities of Balkan-based crime syndicates. Albanian gangs spirit people into Britain and Germany; guns are reaching Britain from Croatia and points south; the stolen-vehicle trade in the Netherlands is dominated by Serbs; and Chinese syndicates based in ex-Yugoslavia send illegal migrants to Finland. It was once said of the Balkans that they produce more history than can be consumed locally; it is even more true that the region is a big net exporter of crime.

Hard as things are now, they would be worse if rich Europeans tried—and inevitably failed—to seal the Balkans off. The less access the people of south-eastern Europe have to EU markets for goods and labour, the easier it will be for organised crime to tighten its grip on the region and spread mayhem elsewhere. Especially in places like Kosovo where the population is rising fast and underemployed, there is huge unspent energy which will find malign outlets unless a healthy, outward-looking economy can put idle hands to work. Putting a wall round the Balkans will have the opposite effect.

In need of a better future to bury the past

That is one reason why Europe's fate is intertwined with the Balkans. Rich Europeans cannot ignore the region, any more than wealthy citizens of France (or any other European country) can shrug off the problems of compatriots whose poverty and alien speech or faith makes them awkward neighbours.

Another reason to avoid a massive turning of backs on the Balkans is that events there can have repercussions in unexpected places, in part because of religious solidarity. Neither the French riots nor the Balkan wars were mainly the result of clashing faiths. But in this ultra-sensitive area, actions (or non-actions) by European governments send ripples round the world. Just as French mishandling of immigrant youths reverberates in Jakarta and Algiers, so the fate of Bosnia's Muslims caused rage in Malaysia and Pakistan. The effects of any new failures in the Balkans will be felt well beyond the region.

Like it or not, west Europeans must remain engaged in their squalid south-east, offering advice, money and the ultimate prize of admission to the EU club. Otherwise the woes of the Balkans will come to them, just as the French slum-dwellers have rattled nerves in the smart districts of Paris.

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How to Deal with Kidnappings in Iraq

Harold's List
by Michael Rubin and Suzanne Gershowitz
Rivista di Intelligence
(Publication of Rome’s Center for International and Strategic Studies, www.cesint.org)
December 2005

On March 4, 2005, tragedy struck as U.S. troops fired on a car speeding toward a checkpoint near Baghdad International Airport, killing Nicola Calipari, an Italian secret service agent experienced in hostage negotiation, and wounding Giuliana Sgrena, the hostage freed after a month in captivity. The incident strained relations between Washington and Rome. The Sgrena kidnapping was not isolated, though, nor was the controversy surrounding her release unique. For more than a quarter century, kidnapping has been a tactic of choice among terrorists. In Iraq, though, terrorists have refined hostage-taking into a tactic of choice. Their strategy is multifold: They seek to terrorize the population, humiliate their opponents, and win political concessions from their adversaries. With its willingness to negotiate with and perhaps even paying ransom to the terrorists, the Italian government and others have compounded the problem.

The Motivation of Hostage-Takings

When Western governments and the media discuss security, it is often in the context of force protection and terrorism. When Iraqis speak of security, as often they mean freedom from violent and organized crime. While insurgents, terrorists, and criminals have kidnapped a number of foreigners, they have seized an even greater number of Iraqis. Within Iraq, the causes of kidnapping are multiple.

The majority of hostage-takers in Iraq are criminal. The Baath Party ruled Iraq with an iron fist. Initially, corruption was less rampant in Iraq than in the rest of the Arab world. But, with the long war against Iraq, the invasion of Kuwait, and the imposition of United Nations sanctions in 1990, government officials at all levels began to use their offices for personal enrichment. Sanctions and war created an environment where profiteering, black-marketeering, and organized crime thrived.[1] Kidnapping for ransom ballooned in the immediate aftermath of the war. Within hours of a seizure, the kidnappers contact the family to negotiate a ransom. Many Iraqis say they do not involve the police, many of whom they suspect are complicit. Because the kidnappings did not initially involve Coalition personnel, both the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Multi-National Forces declined to be involved. Hostages would be treated as a commodity, sometimes bought and sold between rival gangs. With time, political cells entered the fray, sometimes taking captives themselves, and other times purchasing foreigners seized by criminal gangs. The purchase of foreigners suggests ample funding rather than rag-tag bands of amateur Jihadists.

Terrorism is a tactic. While some foreign businessmen have been kidnapped for ransom, the motivation of kidnapping foreigners is primarily political. Terrorists target civilians because, in their calculation, the tactic works. Every operation has a cost. Whenever a terror cell surveys and grabs a target, it becomes vulnerable to exposure. Every terrorist operation provides forensic evidence which counter terror specialists can use to root out and roll up cells. Hostage-taking, therefore, only becomes a successful strategy when terrorists feel that the gains of their operation outweigh the costs.

Terrorists use the press to further their aims. With the airing of videotapes and repeated scenes of carnage, Arab and Western media have granted terrorists a platform. While terrorists once issued press statements from hijacked airliners, the growth of 24-hour satellite television and the internet has amplified their impact further. "To some extent, terrorists have the power we grant them—if we give them our attention, if our political choices are hostage to them," Johns Hopkins University professor and Middle East specialist Fouad Ajami observed.[2] Bulgarian Interior Ministry Chief Secretary General Boyko Borisov was more explicit when discussing then-ongoing discussions regarding Bulgarian hostages in Iraq. "You are part of the terrorists' game," he told reporters. "Every journalist should know that he is directly responsible for the hostages' fate."[3]

Kidnapping: An Effective Tactic

Hostage-taking has become a particularly effective tactic. Terrorists crave an audience. With the spread of terrorism in the late twentieth century, audiences became inured to violence. Suicide bombings which might once have garnered headlines and commentary for a week now pass with bare mention. For a bombing or slaughter to win significant public attention, it must either target children—the Palestine Liberation Organization's slaughter of school children in Ma'alot in 1974, or Chechen Jihadists seizure of a Beslan school thirty years later—or result in several thousand casualties, such as occurred in the East Africa embassy bombings in 1998 and on 9-11.

Kidnapping can bypass this dynamic by drawing out media attention and by allowing reporters to personalize the victim and humanize their story. For journalists, an assassination or bombing is anti-climatic; the press only begins its coverage after the operation has ended. But uncertainty about whether a hostage remains alive creates the suspense necessary for a good news story.

Terrorists and their sponsors have long exploited hostage-taking for political and diplomat gain. Hostage-taking rose to prominence with the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by radicals loyal to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. For 444 days, Khomeini's followers held 52 American diplomats. While Washington did not offer concessions, the crisis brought immediate political benefit. They not only disrupted the bilateral rapprochement which had started three days earlier when the U.S. National Security Advisor met with Islamic Republic moderates in Algiers, but also used the crisis to purge the revolutionary movement of moderates.

Once the Islamic Republic released its hostages, the Western media ended its constant coverage of events in Iran and the grievances of the new government. The horrific deaths generated by the Iran-Iraq War received scant exposure in the West, nor did the various bombings, purges, and economic depression which marked the first year of the theocracy's rule. The Islamic Re public reversed this neglect, though, when its terrorists proxies in Lebanon begin kidnapping Americans. As Tehran positioned itself as a channel for the release of the hostages, Washington again examined its bilateral problems with Iran. Tehran sought to leverage the hostages for diplomatic and material gain, although the affair ended badly in what became known as the Iran-Contra affair after Iranian authorities leaked word of the secret contacts to a Syrian newspaper.

Syrian president Hafez al-Assad followed the Iranian lead by using hostages seized by in Lebanon to bolster his own diplomatic position vis-à-vis the United States.[4] After a U.S. investigation linked the Syrian government to the April 1983 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut, Assad organized the release of the acting president of the American University of Beirut who had been kidnapped the previous year by a Syrian-backed group. The White House publicly thanked the Syrian government, rewarding its duplicitous behavior.

Assad likewise exploited the 1985 Syrian-orchestrated release of captured of U.S. Navy pilot Lieutenant Robert Goodman and passengers taken hostage on TWA flight 847 in order to paint himself as a rational peace-maker, rather than as a terror sponsor. His involvement in the release of hostages for whose seizure he was in part responsible enabled him to undercut diplomatic and perhaps military consequences for Syrian complicity in the 1983 U.S. Marine barracks bombing in Beirut and the TWA hijacking.

While many terrorists are backed by states, radical Islamism has changed the dynamics of terrorism. While some states still furnish jihadists and groups like al-Qaeda with aid,[5] state sponsors of terrorism are less able to restrain Islamist groups to narrow diplomatic goals. "There is no truce in Jihad against the enemies of Allah," Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing, declared.[6] Jihadists have broader ideological goals that preclude compromise. Hostages become not pawns in a diplomatic struggle, but rather chits with which terrorists can both shock the outside world and appeal to their own constituency.

Whereas liberation movement terrorists seized hostages, they did not always seek to humiliate them. Islamist terrorists, however, humiliate those they perceive to be enemies as defined by their own intolerant definition of human worth.

In 1998, Chechen rebels broadcast their slaughter of a captured Russian soldier.[7] Counterterrorist officials who saw the complete video—unlike many lacking full sound—still comment on the horror generated by the sound of his aspiration upon the severing of his windpipe. The video, while not broadcast widely in the Western media, was an important propaganda tool for Chechens and Islamists both, for it signaled weakness of the Russian military.

Similarly, before decapitating Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, his captors forced him to state, "I am a Jew. My mother is a Jew." Among Islamists, conspiracy theories thrive, reinforced by influential preachers unschooled in the ways of the West. Pearl's confession was meant to humiliate him, and undercut the global Zionist conspiracy imagined by Islamist preachers. More recently within Iraq, terrorists have dressed their hostages in orange jumpsuits reminiscent of those worn by detainees in U.S. military prisons. Sheer brutality is effective. The video of the beheading of U.S. traveler Nicholas Berg circulated around the world shocking the Iraqis and Westerners alike. Chechen Islamists captivated the world not only by seizing a school in Beslan, Russia, but also by videotaping the hundreds of terrified school children whom they took hostage.

How effective are such tactics? By painting ruling parties as weak, terrorists paralyze society. The silent majority of ordinary citizens do not stick their heads out if they fear retribution. In Iraq, persistent security fears have undercut reconstruction and undercut the reputation of the interim Iraqi government in the eyes of ordinary Iraqis.

With regard to recruitment, they are not especially valuable. While Jihadist kidnappings terrorize, they do not attract recruits. The humiliation and slaughter of hostages is gratuitous. In Iraq and elsewhere, few citizens join terrorist groups out of admiration for their acts of violence. Many of the Jihadists, on the other hand, who join such groups have already been brainwashed by Salafist or Deobandi mosques. Only when the terrorists are successful in winning ransom, can they convert the funds received into payment for new recruits and operations. In March 2000, for example, Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi paid an estimated $25 million ransom to win the release of priests, teachers, and children seized from a school on Basilan Island. Within months, Abu Sayyaf expanded from a couple hundred to more than a thousand members. The group used the influx of cash to upgrade their equipment. The ransom paid for speedboats and weapons used in subsequent kidnappings.[8]

How to Combat Hostage-Takers

Politicians tend to think and act in the short-term. Terrorists photograph or video tape their humiliated or fearful victims in order to agitate the public and pressure politicians to make a deal. In 1979, Iranian hostage-takers blindfolded and photographed their captives increasing public pressure on the Carter administration. Videos of pleading hostages, regardless of their nationality, augment pressure on governments to negotiate.

While negotiating may successfully address the short-term objective of freeing the hostage, it can increase terrorism in the long-term. Dialogue is dangerous. The very act of negotiating, whether directly or through intermediaries, legitimizes the perpetrators and the act. On the twenty-fifth anniversary of the U.S. embassy seizure in Iran, many former hostages reflected upon their ordeal. According to David Roeder, one of the captives, "If we had done something other than just walked away [from Iran at the conclusion of the ordeal], I keep thinking maybe, just maybe, we wouldn't have planted the seed that terrorism is a profitable thing."[9] Terrorism has been very profitable. Kidnapping of Westerners in Lebanon increased in the 1980s after the U.S. and Iran entered into secret talks to win their release.[10] Hindsight is always twenty-twenty. While President Ronald Reagan responded effectively to terrorist bombings—retaliating against Libya in 1986, for example—his administration failed in its strategy toward hostage-takers. Washington did learn the lesson, though. The George W. Bush administration concluded that the U.S. government cannot obsess about hostages.[11]

Hostage negotiation has also backfired in Israel. Despite Jerusalem's oft-stated "no negotiations" policy, the Israeli government has engaged terrorists to win the release of hostages, or the repatriation of their bodies. Boaz Ganor, executive director of the International Policy Institute for Counterterrorism in Herzliya, Israel, explained that, as a democracy, Israel "is more prone to the influence of public opinion in general and that of families of victims in particular" than more authoritarian countries like Russia, Following every deal, though, with Hezbollah or Palestinian terror groups, kidnappings and terror attacks increased.[12]

In Iraq, hostage negotiation has consistently backfired. On July 7, 2004, insurgents kidnapped a Filipino truck driver in Iraq. The hostage-takers demanded that the Filipino soldiers leave Iraq by July 31, a demand with which the Philippine President Gloria Arroyo complied. Terrorism and hostage-taking skyrocketed. Foreign workers are dead because Arroyo's decision to comply with the kidnappers' demands demonstrated that terrorism worked.

The French and Italian government's decision to ransom their hostages has encouraged further hostage taking. In August 2004, the Iraqi Islamic Army seized two French journalists. Contradicting official denials, a high official in the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure, France's secret service, confirmed that ransom had been paid.[13] Serge July, editor of left-leaning Liberation questioned whether the cost of Chirac's political gestures was too high.[14] The willingness of French officials to grovel on al-Jazeera[15] and to discuss political concessions encouraged further kidnapping. French unilateralism in response to the kidnapping undercut press safety in Iraq.

One week after the French foreign minister appeared on al-Jazeera to remind the insurgents of how "pro-Arab" French policy was, insurgents kidnapped Italian journalists Simona Torretta and Simona Pari. The terrorists rightly calculated that European leaders were weak. They were right. While the Italian government denied the payment of any ransom, Gustavo Selvo, the head of an Italian parliamentary foreign affairs committee, said that there had been a payment of $1 million. He told France's RTL radio, "The lives of the girls was the most important thing. In principle, we shouldn't give in to blackmail, but this time we had to."[16] On August 25, 2005, Maurizio Scelli, the outgoing chief of the Italian Red Cross, said that the Italian government provided four wanted Iraqi terrorists and their children with medical care in exchange for the hostage release.[17]

Whatever the actual terms, the Italian government's decision to reward terrorism contributed to further violence. Following the accidental shooting of Calipari, additional reports surfaced about Italian hostage release strategy. Senior Italian officials acknowledged that Italian authorities regularly paid hostage-takers.[18]

How then should Western governments respond to the seizure of hostages? With firmness calculated to defend the long-term safety of both their own citizens and Iraqis. Shifting tactics has characterized the Iraqi insurgency. Their have been waves of political assassinations, attacks directed against Coalition military personnel, targeting of policemen, and car bombings. The terrorists shift tactics when they cease to be effective. With regard to bombings, both the Coalition military and the Iraqis made their vehicles and buildings less vulnerable. Terrorists do not employ ineffective tactics. The key to defeating the scourge of kidnapping is to make it unprofitable.

Fabrizio Quattrocchi, a 36-year-old security guard kidnapped in Iraq, undermined the terrorists with his defiance. In contrast to Kenneth Bigley, the British hostage who never let up begging Prime Minister Tony Blair for his life, Quattrocchi refused to be humiliated. "I will show you how an Italian dies!" he declared in the second before terrorists murdered him. Rather than kneel before his grave, he rose in defiance. Canadian columnist Mark Steyn observed, "He ruined the movie for his killers. As a snuff video and recruitment tool, it was all but useless, so much so that the Arabic TV stations declined to show it."[19] This incident simply shows the power of defiance.

Quattrocchi had extraordinary courage. Many hostages may not. But their governments should. While terrorists have killed many American hostages, the lack of concession has made Americans an unattractive target. So too has been the U.S. response. On September 8, 2005, U.S. forces freed hostage Roy Hallums after nearly ten months in captivity. Coalition forces have also tracked and captured terrorists responsible for the murder of hostages, such as those who killed an Egyptian diplomat. Should Coalition forces track—and kill—the terrorists responsible, hostage-taking would cease to be an effective tactic.

History is remarkably consistent. Appeasing terror fails; so too does neglect of terror. Left alone, terrorism metastasizes. The only way to defeat terror is to raise the cost of the tactic. In Iraq, this means not ransoming hostages, but confronting the hostage-takers. The terrorists are responsible for their actions, but as the security situation deteriorates in Iraq, European politicians should take more care that they do no harm.

[1] For the growth of corruption and organized crime in Iraq, see: Kanan Makiya. "All Levels of the Iraqi Government were Complicit." Middle East Quarterly. Spring 2005. Pages 81-82. www.meforum.org/article/718
[2] Elaine Sciolino. "Out of Sight… Giving Terror the Silent Treatment." The New York Times. February 23, 1997.
[3] "Bulgarian Media 'Part of Terrorists' Game' over Iraq Hostages—Official." Bulgarian News Agency BGNES website. July 19, 2004.
[4] Daniel Pipes highlighted the examples which follow in: "Assad's Cunning Game." The Washington Post. November 4, 1986.
[5] 9-11 Commission Report. (Washington: the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United Staets, July 22, 2004), Pages 60-61, 240-241.
[6] William Helmreich. "No sense negotiating with terrorists." Newsday (New York). June 30, 2004.
[7] Timothy Furnish. "Beheading in the Name of Islam." Middle East Quarterly. Spring 2005. Page 51. www.meforum.org/article/713
[8] "Abu Sayyaf History." U.S. Pacific Command. March 5, 2002. www.pacom.mil/piupdates/abusayyafhist_pf.html
[9] Beth Whitehorse. "A Mark on Your Soul." Newsday (New York). November 4, 2004.
[10] Barry Rubin. "U.S. Policy and the Middle East, 1985-1988." U.S. Middle East Policy Database. Middle East Review of International Affairs. http://meria.idc.ac.il/us-policy/data1985.html
[11] Collin Levey. "Lessons from Lebanon." The Wall Street Journal. October 11, 2001.
[12] Caroline Glick. "Column One: Negotiating with Terrorists." The Jerusalem Post. November 7, 2003.
[13] Le Monde, Dec. 22, 2004. This episode is discussed more thoroughly in Oliver Guitta. "The Chirac Doctrine." Middle East Quarterly. Autumn 2005.
[14] Agence France-Presse, Jan. 25, 2005.
[15] Interview with French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier, Al-Jazeera, Sept. 1, 2004.
[16] "Ransom Row after Italian Freed." CNN.com. September 29, 2004.
[17] "Italian Red Cross Chief Describes ‘Concealing' Iraq Hostage Release from US." La Stampa (Turin), August 25, 2005, page 3; Richard Owen and Daniel McGrory. "Secret Red Cross ‘Deal' Freed Italians." The Times (London). August 26, 2005.
[18] Richard Owen. "Italy Critised over alleged ransom to free hostage." The Times. March 9, 2005.
[19] Mark Steyn. "The Quality of Mersey," SteynOnline.com, October 11, 2004.

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Iran and nuclear diplomacy

Will Russia help, or just get in the way?

COULD Russia yet succeed where the European trio of Britain, France and Germany seem to have failed, in getting Iran to give up its plans to enrich uranium? Or has President Vladimir Putin just offered the Iranians a reprieve from the diplomatic pressure that has been building ever since their long-hidden nuclear activities were first discovered three years ago?

In September, the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's nuclear watchdog, formally found Iran “in non-compliance” with nuclear safeguards. The board will meet again next week. Its own statutes say the next step ought to be to refer Iran's transgressions to the UN Security Council. Iran wants to avoid that. But it wants to keep its nuclear programme intact too.

Russia's idea—for Iran to continue converting natural uranium into gas at its restarted conversion plant at Isfahan, but then ship the stuff to Russia for enrichment—is not new. The Europeans, for their part, had hoped for better: to persuade Iran out of the uranium-dabbling business altogether. But in August, Iran's new government abruptly waved away their proffered inducements, restarted work in Isfahan and so brought negotiations to a halt.

When Igor Ivanov, chief of Mr Putin's national security council, took Russia's compromise to Tehran a week ago, he also got a public brush-off. Iran insists it will enrich its own uranium, for fuel for (as yet unbuilt) power reactors, even though almost everyone else suspects it of wanting to use the same technology for bomb-making. But Iran has since signalled that it will give Russia's idea more thought.

Western diplomats are sceptical that Iran intends any compromise. Such a deal would anyway be hard to achieve: there must be cast-iron guarantees that Iran would not gain access to dangerous enrichment skills through a joint venture with Russia. In the past, Russian scientists have quietly helped Iran with dubious technologies—including blueprints for a heavy-water “research” reactor that would be too big for its stated purpose, too small for electricity generation, but about ideal for making plutonium—another bomb ingredient. A number of Russian companies have been penalised under American law for aiding Iran's missile-building too.

By supposedly considering the Russian idea, Iran may simply hope to escape further IAEA censure. A new inspectors' report on November 18th was expected to show that it has been a bit more forthcoming. But inspectors have more questions, especially about potentially militarily useful help Iran received in the past, including from the network run by Pakistan's Abdul Qadeer Khan. America, meanwhile, has again been showing around documents that purport to be Iranian design work on a missile nose-cone of a sort that that could carry a nuclear warhead. Not reassuring.

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Muslim Brotherhood make gains in Egypt

The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) made further gains in the second of three rounds in Egypt's parliamentary election, despite increasingly desperate measures by the authorities to limit the advances of the technically banned Islamist group. The MB's gains have been in contrast to the dismal performance of the recognised opposition parties. The self-styled modernising wing of the National Democratic Party (NDP) of the president, Hosni Mubarak, has also failed to make as strong an impact as it had hoped. The MB is now likely to campaign for reforms that would enable it to establish a political party.

The tally after two rounds stands at 195 seats for the NDP, out of 302 decided (voting is to be rerun for six seats), 76 for the MB, eight for opposition parties and 23 for independents with no party or group affiliation. So far the MB has only put up candidates for 110 seats, meaning that its success rate has been 69% in the seats that it has contested. It has 50 candidates primed to contest the final round, which involves 136 seats. A repeat of the performance in the first two rounds would leave the MB with more than 100 seats, or roughly 25% of the parliament.

Dirty tactics

The MB was given unprecedented licence to campaign for the current elections--previously it has been forced to adopt a low profile, and many of its better-known figures have tended to be arrested before polling day. However, once the scale of the MB advance became clear after the first-round votes were counted, the authorities and the NDP party bosses appear to have reverted to the heavy-handed approach of the past. Even the state-run press has reported rampant vote-buying and intimidation of voters, and the MB claims that hundreds of its supporters were arrested during the second round. In many areas where the MB was expected to do well, police closed voting stations. In one notorious case, in the Delta town of Demanhour, the state-appointed legal monitor testified that the result had been blatantly falsified to award the seat to a prominent NDP figure after the count had shown an overwhelming victory for the MB candidate. The obvious abuses prompted a team of EU parliamentary observers to abandon their mission.

With the pattern of the election well established in the first two rounds, the final phase, which will end with run-offs on December 7th is unlikely to change the overall picture. The liberal opposition, whether this be from within the NDP or from parties such as the New Wafd or Al Ghad, has emerged as the big losers. This has been because of the powerful popular appeal of the MB (allied to good organisation) and owing to the tenacity with which the machine politicians of the NDP old guard have fought their corner.

Brothers in search of a policy

The MB has offered little in the way of policy prescription, relying instead on widespread disaffection with the government and on the identification of majority of Egyptians with Islamic principles to advance its cause at the ballot box. As a banned organisation the MB also faces practical constraints on drawing up a policy programme. The MB's spiritual guide, Mohammed Mehdi Akef, said that the group was determined to form a political party, following its success in the election. However, he said that before this could happen, the law on political parties would have to be repealed. He ruled out seeking to secure a licence to form a political party under the current system, which entails applying to a committee attached to the upper house of parliament.

Mr Mubarak made a significant concession to campaigners for political reform at the start of 2005 when he pushed through an amendment to the constitution so as to allow for Egypt's first freely contested presidential election. However, changing the law to enable to MB to form a political party would require a much larger shift. It would also open up the possibility of the MB putting forward a candidate for the next presidential election, which is scheduled to take place in 2011.

Making a dramatic concession to the MB would be out of character for the Mubarak regime. A more likely approach would be to make selective minor concessions while probing for possibilities to foment splits in the group's ranks. The MB is also likely to face further harassment from the security services. However, the government will have to consider carefully the risk of a serious popular backlash should it opt to carry out a major crackdown on the Islamist group.

SOURCE: ViewsWire Middle East

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Monday, November 28, 2005

Leader's Islamic leanings seen as threat to EU bid

Harold's List
By Andrew Borowiec

NICOSIA, Cyprus -- A series of pro-Islamic statements and decisions by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have considerably chilled his relations with the country's military leaders.

In a confidential memorandum available to some diplomats, the military guardians of Turkey's secular system apparently cautioned the prime minister against damaging the country's image and its European aspirations. In October 2004, the European Union agreed to start membership negotiations with Turkey likely to last a number of years.

Warnings have also been issued by some of the leading Turkish civilian secularists, who feel that Mr. Erdogan has yet to shed his Islamic sympathies from the days when he belonged to a now-banned religious party.

Particularly alarming was Mr. Erdogan's proposal that Turkey's "Ulema," or a council of Islamic scholars, decide on the advantages or disadvantages of the ban on the wearing of head scarves by female university students.

While the headgear is part of Islamic tradition, the government considers its wearing at universities and official functions as a political provocation, clashing with Turkey's European ambition.

The council of the Ulema lost its official role when secularism was established in Turkey in the 1920s, and Mr. Erdogan's reference to it alarmed secular forces, both civilian and military.

Equally alarming to some was a decision to build a mosque in an Istanbul park and permission for regional administrators to regulate the consumption of alcohol according to their wishes. Until now, sales and consumption of alcohol were banned only in areas within 50 yards of a mosque.

According to Ankara commentator Burak Bekdil, such acts "are at odds with Turkey's European aspirations" and show that "Erdogan speaks from the heart, which has remained Islamic."

Following its approval of Turkey's candidacy, the EU issued a favorable report on the country's economic reforms, but cautioned that more had to be done to stamp out torture and "ethnic discrimination" -- meaning the treatment of the restive Kurdish minority.

Rioting and clashes with police recently cost four lives among the Kurds in southeastern Turkey, spreading the unrest to some suburbs of Istanbul. Last week, Mr. Erdogan traveled to the town of Semdinli, where the population accused security forces of summary executions. Mr. Erdogan pledged a thorough investigation of the charges.

"Hate will bring nothing for us," he said. "Let's be calm in the face of these incidents."

At the same time, human rights activists have accused Turkey of violating its newly revised legal code by going ahead with the trial of a book publisher and author on charges of "denigrating the state."

The publisher, Fatih Tas, recently printed the book "Spoils of War" by U.S. author John Tirman, which contained interviews with Kurdish rebels, considered by Turkey to be terrorists.

Facing similar charges is novelist Orhan Pamuk, who wrote about the Armenian genocide during the last stages of World War I, an atrocity Turkey denies.

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Iran Revolutionary Guards chief vows to defeat U.S. in Iraq

Harold's List
Iran Focus

Tehran, Iran, Nov. 28 – The Commandant of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) declared that Iran was exporting its Islamic revolution to other Muslim countries including Iraq which would inevitably bring about the downfall of the United States in the Middle East, state dailies reported on Monday.

Speaking at a gathering of the IRGC’s Navy commanders on Sunday, Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi said, “The impoverished people’s Bassij force was formed on the orders of the Imam [Ruhollah Khomeini] following the siege of the American spies’ den [U.S. embassy in Tehran] on November 4, 1979 and the arrest of the spies of that country to fight any possible threat from the enemies”.

Safavi said that the para-military Bassij force, an offshoot of the IRGC, was invaluable during Iran’s 1980-88 war with Iraq.

Safavi said that the U.S. had failed to prevent Tehran from exporting its Islamic revolution to other countries in the region. “Following the victory of the [1979] Islamic revolution, America tried with all its might to contain the Iranian people’s Islamic revolution inside the geographical borders of Iran and to thwart the export of the revolution. But, the activities in Lebanon, Palestine, and present-day Iraq, as well as Islamic and freedom-seeking nations of the world proved the opposite”.

“America seeks to dictate its own world order and wants the world’s politics, economics, security, and culture to be under its rule, so that it can rule the world”, the IRGC Commandant added.

“Following the downfall of Communism, today, only Islam stands against America’s imperialism. The U.S., well aware of the potentials of the Islamic world and the Islamic revolution, is afraid of the merciful culture of the Islamic revolution becoming a model for the whole world. It fears the creation of an Islamic world superpower with 1.5 billion Muslims in the key and strategic region geographically stretching from Southeast Asia to the north of Africa and the Middle East, with its ample economic resources”.

Safavi said that Khomeini’s ideology had awoken Muslims all over the world.

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Tree-Cutting "Libel" - Once Again, Jews Stand Accused

Israel National News
By Hillel Fendel

Once again, reports that Jewish settlers cut down Arab-owned olive trees are suspected to be a "left-wing provocation" against the Jews of Judea and Samaria.

It was widely reported Sunday, in the name of Arab sources in the Palestinian Authority-controlled areas, that Jewish settlers from the Shomron had chopped down 200 olive trees owned by Arabs. The Ynet site, for instance, wrote, "Palestinian sources reported that settlers from an outpost near Elon Moreh had cut down" the trees.

The reports were immediately followed by condemnations of the Jewish population in the Shomron and Israel's rule there. The extremist left-wing organization "Peace Now" released a statement saying that the incident was a direct result of the lack of law enforcement in the areas and the continuing "problem of the [Jewish] outposts."

However, the Yesha Council looked into the matter and said that though "we condemn all violence, including harming Palestinian property," it had found that the incident was apparently a provocation staged by extreme left-wing activists who "wish to sully their Jewish brothers, while at the same time extending their hand to terrorists."

The residents of Elon Moreh, in a statement, "wish to emphasize that we have no connection with this incident, which is based on the testimony of a single Arab."

A widely-published AP photo of an Arab woman weeping and embracing an allegedly chopped-down tree (similar photos were taken by Reuters, AFP, and others] shows that the trunk is intact, and that only the top branches are cut off - as if it had been purposely pruned. In fact, the Haifa-based Land of Israel Task Force says that this is exactly what happened.

"The left-wingers and Arabs pulled the same trick last year," Task Force head Aviad Visuly said, "and using the same method." Photos of the trees show that the branches were sawed off in a manner that is beneficial to the trees. "Why would vandals bother sawing off each individual branch? Wouldn't they just cut down the trunk?"

The branches begin growing back 2-3 months after they are cut, and grow to full size within two years. "In the meanwhile," Visuly said, "the orchard owners receive stipends from the Saudis, via the PA."

Visuly said that left-wing activists look for trees that have been pruned, and then blame the Jews for cutting them. "They have even admitted to the police that they do this," he said, "such as in the case of Ein Avus near Hawara [south of Shechem]. In that incident, they blamed the people of [nearby] Yitzhar, because Yitzhar was a convenient media target. Two Jews were arrested for five days and were then released with no charges whatsoever. Today, it's convenient for them to accuse the people of Elon Moreh. If the police had an investigator who was half-fair, he would throw the case out."

Two years ago, a similar story on Arutz-7 began as follows: "It led to anti-settler headlines, international embarrassment for the State of Israel, condemnations, and apologetics - and yet it all may have been one big bluff, or worse." At the time, international media reported as fact that Jews had destroyed the Arab trees, and President Katzav and Prime Minister Sharon issued statements implying that the Jews were responsible. Even the Yesha Council said that the tree-cutting had "defamed the entire sector of Jews living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza."

What went under-reported was that the police began to suspect that left-wing Israelis and Arabs were behind the incident. The police even asked Rabbi Arik Asherman of the Reform Movement and an Arab who filed charges against Jewish Yesha residents to submit to lie-detector tests - but it was reported at the time that the two had refused.

A Jewish National Fund expert brought in by the police concluded that no lasting damage was done to the trees, and that the tree-cutters did not "cut down" the trees, but rather "pruned" them.

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Secret EU report slams Israeli Jerusalem policy

A confidential report prepared by top EU diplomats has slammed rapid Israeli expansion of Jewish settlements in and around east Jerusalem.

The report, leaked to British and American media, accuses Israel of illegal constructions which could sabotage the peace process with Palestine.

"Israeli measures also risk radicalising the hitherto relatively quiescent Palestinian population of East Jerusalem," the EU report said.

It concluded a two-state solution is being eroded by Israel's "deliberate policy," which is in breach of international law.

The document has been prepared by British and EU representatives in Jerusalem and Ramallah under the British EU presidency.

The 11-page paper was presented to EU foreign ministers in Brussels earlier this week, but they vetoed a planned publication of the study.

Ministers decided to delay the release in order not to damage the recent warming up of relations between Israel and Europe, including the launch of the first European Union police mission to the area.

On Saturday EU observers are expected to start monitoring Plaestine's Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza.

Israel is making it increasingly harder for Palestinians to travel between East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the report pointed out.

"Israel's main motivation ... is almost certainly demographic - to reduce the Palestinian population of Jerusalem, while exerting efforts to boost the number of Jewish Israelis living in the city," the paper stated.

EU foreign ministers are set to discuss the report on 12 December.

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