IsraelAmerica

IsraelAmerica
IsraelAmerica

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The West's Choice of Strategy: Defending Itself From Terror Attacks or Combating A Radical Strategic Threat?

By Barry Rubin*


There are two basic strategies being put forth in the West and particularly the United States today in regard to the challenge from radical and Islamist forces. The narrower, terror-only strategy is a far more tempting one to follow. It is less expensive, less risky, and makes it far easier to claim success. That’s why it has such enormous appeal and is generally the one being adopted.

The Terror-Only Strategy

In this approach, the problem is defined as direct terror attacks on Western territory and facilities elsewhere like embassies. The enemy is those groups which directly target the West, meaning al-Qaida and its allies plus various independent local self-made terrorists (who are influenced, of course, by Jihadist propaganda).

Since these groups have no major state sponsor, this is a narrow counterterrorism strategy which does not require confrontation or conflict with any other country. It can be handled largely as a police and criminal matter. Success is measured by an ability to keep such attacks to an absolute minimum.

Moreover, it permits the luxury of ignoring attacks on or in other countries—including Israel especially—as not being a matter of much concern. [Even the United States has increasingly taken this stance. After the massive terror attack on Mumbai, India, Pakistan's policy of sponsoring anti-Indian terrorism has been for all practical purposes ignored. U.S. aid to Pakistan climbs steeply with no conditionality about stopping attacks despite the fact that Pakistan has done nothing to punish the terrorists involved, much less the Pakistani intelligence officers who direct them. The Administration has conducted engagement of Syria with no serious reference to Syria's sponsorship of terrorism against Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, or Israel. When Iraq protested Syrian involvement in a bloody recent attack the U.S. government declared its neutrality.

Thus, a whole category of terrorist revolutionary groups and their state sponsors can be ignored. If you don’t bother them, it is hoped, they won’t bother you. (This is not without exception, though, as Western states have been willing to put sanctions on Hamas, though these are under some challenge.)

This strategy also has an internal aspect. Since only those small groups which want to attack on their territory are the problem, it can be argued that the best defense is to work with Islamist groups which, no matter how extreme their ideology and their support for terrorism abroad, don’t engage in violence on your own territory.

While there is a sharp debate over the domestic aspect of the strategy--some countries like Britain and France are ready to work with "moderate" Islamists, others aren't—it has clearly won out on the international front and has been adopted by the Obama Administration.

--The Anti-Islamist Strategy

This seems closer to the Bush Administration’s view and is thus considered discredited in most Western policymaking circles. The concept here is that radical Islamist forces threaten Western strategic interests and pose the principal threat of this era.

The other side here consists, of several different forces: an Iran-led alliance (Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hizballah, Iraqi insurgents); Jihadist terrorist groups (al-Qaida and its various affiliates and the Taliban); the Muslim Brotherhoods; and some countries with radical regimes (Sudan, Libya). The key problem is not whether these forces are engaged in direct violence against Western targets, they are at war with Western interests which they seek to destroy.

In this context, they may well engage in anti-Western violence in future. But more important, they are capable of seizing control of countries or regions thus wielding enormous assets. If they succeed—or are perceived by millions of Muslims as succeeding—the entire strategic balance in the Middle East would shift. Western interests would suffer a huge setback and the imbalance could escalate over time.

Obviously, this latter strategy is far less attractive to policymakers. Why get into a possible confrontation with powerful forces and large countries if that can be avoided? Why set the standard of success so high that you probably cannot reach it?

Of course, the problem is that the larger threat is by far the more serious threat. A shift in the balance of forces in such a strategic region, leading inevitably to the encouragement of subversive and violent forces in one’s own countries, is a far more dangerous situation than the occasional bombing or shooting.

But if you believe that it is adequate to deal only with direct violence against you, it can be argued that the best solution is to engage the radical forces at home and abroad, appease them, and avoid trouble. As President Barack Obama put it, he doesn’t seek victory over Iran but a solution to the problem, which is defined as Iran developing nuclear weapons without some agreement or at all.

Iranian involvement in subverting Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and other countries, or fighting Israel, for example, becomes part of the background which you take for granted. But then so is Tehran’s sponsorship of terrorism against U.S. forces in Iraq or Afghanistan, too.
At home, the problem is three-fold. First, if you strengthen Islamist forces, since their goal is to transform the state and society there is a likelihood that they will be a far bigger problem in future, including involvement in violence.

Second, there are always violent spin-offs from these groups, based on the people they indoctrinate even if the main group refrains from violence. Where do Jihadi terrorists come from except through the ranks of such organizations?

Third, by empowering an Islamist leadership, such individuals and groups are more likely to emerge at the head of all, or most, of the Muslim community. This will defeat assimilationist and moderate tendencies and thus greatly magnify the power of the Islamists. In effect, the government tells Muslims: these groups are your leaders so follow them and their ideology. By doing this, massive damage is being inflicted on the host society.

Terrorism is not a movement or a doctrine or a goal but only a tactic used by revolutionary groups. Their ultimate goal is to seize state power and terrorism is merely one way of trying to do so. The question, then, is whether the problem is the use of a tactic or the goal of destroying existing governments and societies to replace them with a totalitarian regime.

Understandably, this limited terrorism-only strategy is tempting as a policy since it is so hard to do anything to solve the bigger Islamist threat. But doesn’t this choice also put the West in great long-term jeopardy, discourage more moderate Third World clients, and guarantee a far higher level of anti-Western violence in future?

That’s something most Western policymakers prefer not to think about, far less do anything about.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Some on the left are calling for an end to our involvement in Afghanistan.

Some on the left are calling for an end to our involvement in Afghanistan.

We ran an article on “why we can’t leave Iraq” a couple of days ago.

On Senator Tom Hayden’s web site there are real-time counters of the cost of the two wars, Afghanistan and Iraq.

It’s sobering to see it.

Tom Hayden was a hero to much of his generation, dashing, brilliant, self-effacing,

He brought a dignity and romanticism to some of the struggles of the sixties.

Tom Hayden should rethink his policy about Afghanistan.

Let’s just focus, for now, on the bottom line, the significance of the Afghan conflict.

Afghanistan is a complex culture with different nationalities and religions and backgrounds.

A 2001 population estimate was 26,813,057, though the effect of the war—with its casualties and refugees—makes estimating difficult.

In 1999 some 79 percent of the population lived in rural areas. Of the urban dwellers, probably about half lived in Kabul, the capital city. The nomadic population was estimated to be about 2.5 million people. During the war with the Soviets the number of Afghan refugees outside the country escalated dramatically, with as many as 2.5 million to 3 million refugees in Pakistan and another 1.5 million in Iran. About 150,000 Afghans were able to migrate permanently to other countries, including the United States, Australia, and various European countries.

Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 2002. © 1993-2001 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

More than 99 percent of the population of Afghanistan practices Islam.

Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 2002. © 1993-2001 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

At the risk of sounding repetitive, we cannot in good conscience walk away from this situation leaving innocent women and children to being ruled by criminal, although allegedly religious, criminals.

Afghani rulers can be particularly destructive of life for women and girls.

Women are considered property, evil and sinful property.

They must be covered head to foot to hide their shame at being women.

Girls are not allowed an education, at least they weren’t under Taliban rule.

Progressives need to get this situation right.

If we leave Afghanistan, innocent women and children, mothers, daughters, sons, will be subjected to a brutal, criminal regime.

Moral people don’t walk away from this.

They stop it.

We are there now.

We have to protect these innocent people until the day they can run their own affairs and protect themselves.

Twenty years.

We put two generations, including women, through a normal education cycle.

We interact with the people like our soldiers are doing now, and demonstrate that there are better ways to relate to each other.

In 20 years they should be, as the kids say, “Good to go.”

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Why We Can’t Leave Iraq


Michael Moore hecame wealthy by telling the unadorned truth.

And this is shocking, because we have not heard the truth. It’s new to us.

To realize that the government is basically controlled by less than 1% of the population. To realize that they do cynical things for their own profit.

The companies that own the media and have long promoted the idea that the government should not be involved in helping people, immediately had the government bail them out when they needed money.

For all of their wealth, those who make the decisions often make bad decisions, such as the timing of the war in Iraq.

I don’t know why Bush went into Iraq, really, it’s anyone’s guess.

But it was a mistake, a classic mistake, becoming overextended by having too many fronts.

This is elementary.

No doubt Saddam deserved to die.

The brutal humiliation and hanging was not excessive when compared to his crimes.

At the time, I agreed with those who said, about Iraq, “Go in, get Saddam, and get out.”

But we broke it, we’ve got to fix it.

Bush policies broke it, and Obama has to fix it.

Let’s cut thorugh the flowery language and face what we have to do, to safeguard the Iraqi cilvilians, mainly the women and children, who are most vulnerable to the brutality of the various militant criminals.

We need no other reason to be there than that we are protecting innocent people from brutal criminals.

We have to make Iraq a client state.

We run it, for their benefit, but we don’t allow oppression of women or children or brainwashing or any of the other activities for which the militant criminals are justifiably famous.

If we can have a generation or two of education and less exposure to the evil side of Islamic indocrination, they may actually be able to run their own country, with us as staunch allies for as long as needed.

But we can’t leave now.

Even though I want to, and you want to.

The way they will oppress innocent people who just yearn for a normal life, and most particularly women and children, if we leave without putting in place a structure that will protect universally recognized human rights, would be brutal and murderous.

In Iran, right now, clerics are having women raped and executed.

In Afghanistan the Taliban orders women to be covered head to foot, with only a thick guaze peephole to see out of.

In Gaza women are being forced into the dark ages, more and more enforced “dress codes”.

I won’t go into all of it here.

The Sharia way is well known, or should be.

Some will say, it’s not our fight.

Of course it is.

We should have dealt with Afghanistan first but now that we are in Iraq it would be immoral to just walk away.

That’s why we are still there.

I think it is an encouraging sign that President Obama isn’t just pulling out and leaving the people to fend for themselves.

It shows that he is going to do what he believes is right, even if it is not politically expedient.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

General Petraeus: How I see The Afghan Conflict


ARLINGTON, Va. (Oct. 7, 2009_ – As the president reassembles his national security team today as part of his ongoing review of the strategy for Afghanistan, the commander of U.S. Central Command said the decision is likely to hinge on one of three approaches to reversing the insurgency’s gains.

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus yesterday cited three basic ways to “change the equation in an area where insurgents have made progress,” as he conceded they have in Afghanistan.

“One, you can turn bad guys into good guys, or at least neutral guys,” an effort referred to as “reintegration of reconcilables,” he told attendees at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference here. “You can increase the number of host-nation security forces. Or you can increase the number of coalition forces.”

Petraeus resisted defining exactly how many U.S. forces he believes are needed to support the mission — an issue under intense discussion within the administration. About 68,000 U.S. forces will be on the ground there by the end of next month, and Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. and NATO commander on the ground, reportedly has asked for about 40,000 more.

The president will convene his national defense team again today, and later this week, to discuss this and other options for Afghanistan. Petraeus said he and his fellow uniformed participants have had “ample opportunity to provide our best professional military advice.”

McChrystal and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, who previously served as the ground commander in Afghanistan, are participating in the sessions by video teleconference. Anne Patterson, ambassador to Pakistan, also is participating.

“So this has been a very substantial endeavor,” Petraeus said. “It is moving quite rapidly. There is a recognition of the need to move through this.”

Although views of appropriate U.S. troop numbers vary widely, Petraeus said there’s little debate about two general principles: “Afghanistan obviously requires a sustained, substantial commitment” and more Afghan national security forces are needed.

The general resisted putting a precise timeline on when the United States will be able to declare its mission in Afghanistan completed, noting that it depends largely on how quickly Afghan national security forces can become fully developed.

That’s expected to occur by 2013 or 2014, he said, when Afghan security forces will assume the lead for security responsibility. But to be prepared for that transition, the Afghan National Army likely will need to grow to about 400,000 members, he said, more than initially projected.

Building the Afghan security forces isn’t a process that can be rushed, Petraeus told the group. “No question about the need to develop the Afghan national security forces as rapidly as possible, and likely to higher numbers,” he said. “But we have to keep in mind that there are limits to how fast you can accelerate that development,” particularly of commissioned and noncommissioned officer leaders.

Whether that happens as planned depends largely on the security situation, he said, recalling problems he encountered as commander of Multinational Force Iraq. When violence spiked there in mid-2006, “the Iraqi security force effort nosedived,” he said.

Petraeus said he’s committed to preventing a replay of that situation in Afghanistan. “It is hugely important that the security situation not undermine the Afghan security force effort,” he said.

Yet security has deteriorated in several key areas, he acknowledged. Taliban, al-Qaida and other extremist elements that had been defeated and left the country, reconstituted over time and returned to Afghanistan, putting down roots and increasing insurgent activity.

Petraeus said he shares McChrystal’s assessment that the situation is “serious,” but that turning it around is “doable.” Additional troops that have arrived in Regional Command South in recent months already have made some tactical gains, he said.

“Reversing that cycle of violence, arresting the downward spiral in some of these key areas [is] very important,” Petraeus said.

Turning yesterday’s discussion to Iraq, Petraeus cited “very substantial progress,” with violence down to about 15 to 20 attacks a day, compared to a high of 180 in mid-2007.

He attributed the progress to the surge in U.S. troops that helped quell violence and laid the foundation for other progress to take place.

Keith Olberman Takes On the Insurance Companies

Today Keith Olberman came straight out and said what he believed about the insurance industry.

It is a sign that the moderates are making substantial headway against the aristocratRepublican Party, that many centrists are proudly reffering to themselves as “the left”.

Here I think Keith Olberman performs a real public service and tries to make the Health Care debate what it is, a matter of life. And death.

MFB

I could bring up all the other Democrats doing their masters’ bidding in the House or the Senate, all the others who will get an extra thousand from somebody if they just postpone the vote another year, another month, another week, because right now without the competition of a government-funded insurance company, in one hour the health care industries can make so much money that they’d kill you for that extra hour of profit, I could call them all out by name.

But I think you get the point. We don’t need to call the Democrats holding this up Blue Dogs. That one word “Dogs” is perfectly sufficient. But let me speak to them collectively, anyway.I warn you all. You were not elected to create a Democratic majority. You were elected to restore this country. You were not elected to serve the corporations and the trusts who the government has enabled for the last eight years.

You were elected to serve the people. And if you fail to pass or support this legislation, the full wrath of the progressive and the moderate movements in this country will come down on your heads. Explain yourselves not to me, but to them. They elected you, and in the blink of an eye, they will replace you.

If you will behave as if you are Republicans — as if you are the prostitutes of our system –you will be judged as such. And you will lose not merely our respect. You will lose your jobs!

Every poll, every analysis, every vote, every region of this country supports health care reform, and the essential great leveling agent of a government-funded alternative to the unchecked duopoly of profiteering private insurance corporations. Cross us all at your peril.

Because, Congressman Ross, you are not the Representative from Blue Cross. And Mr. Baucus, you are not the Senator from Schering-Plough Global Health Care even if they have already given you $76,000 towards your re-election. And Ms. Lincoln, you are not the Senator from DaVita Dialysis.

Because, ladies and gentlemen, President Lincoln did not promise that this nation shall have a new death of freedom, and that government of the corporation, by the corporation, for the corporation, shall not perish from this earth.

Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/03/olbermann-slams-members-o_n_250580.html

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Women and Girls in Afghanistan

The Taliban is not just bad because of what they did on 9/11, but also for the brutal way they treated women when they were in power.
This is a document released in 1998, when the Taliban was firmly in control in much of afghanistan, their treatment of women was deplorable, as this document shows:

Great Seal logo

Women and Girls in Afghanistan

Fact sheet released by the Senior Coordinator for International Women's Issues, March 10, 1998.

Blue Bar

The Problem

  • Since the Taliban became a military and political force in late 1994, women and girls in Afghanistan have become virtually invisible in Taliban controlled portions of the country. The impact of Taliban imposed restrictions are most acutely felt in the cities where women had enjoyed relatively greater freedoms. In 1996, the University of Kabul reportedly had several thousand women students while thousands of professional women worked in different capacities in the city. Since the Taliban takeover, women are not allowed to attend school and others have been forced to leave their jobs.
  • The Taliban have issued edicts forbidding women from working outside the home, except in limited circumstances in the medical field. Hardest hit have been over 30,000 widows in Kabul and others elsewhere in the country, who are the sole providers for their families.
  • The Taliban prohibit girls from attending school. There are a few home based schools and some schools in rural areas which quietly operate to educate girls. They fear closure.
  • Women and girls are not allowed to appear outside the home unless wearing a head to toe covering called the burqa. A three inch square opening covered with mesh provides the only means for vision. Although the burqa was worn in Kabul before the Taliban took control, it was not an enforced dress code and many women wore only scarves that cover the head. Women are also forbidden from appearing in public with a male who is not their relative.
  • Women’s and girls’ access to medical services has been drastically cut back. Women are treated primarily by female doctors and the number of female doctors has been greatly reduced. It is also dangerous for women to leave their homes. For example, one mother in the city of Farah reportedly was shot by the Taliban militia for appearing in public to take her toddler to a doctor. The child was acutely ill and needed immediate medical attention.
  • Taliban militia mete out punishment for violations of these rules on the spot. For example, women have been beaten on the street if an inch of ankle shows under their burqa. They have been beaten if they are found to move about without an explanation acceptable to the Taliban. They have been beaten if they make noise when they walk. According to one report, a women struggling with two small children and groceries in her arms was reportedly beaten by the Taliban with a car antenna because she had let her face covering slip a fraction.
  • Taliban edicts require that windows in houses that have female occupants be painted over.

United States Response

  • Secretary of State Albright characterized the Taliban’s treatment of women and girls as "despicable" during her recent visit to the Nasir Bagh refugee camp in Pakistan. She said "We are opposed to their [the Taliban] approach to human rights, to their despicable treatment of women and children, and their lack of respect for human dignity, in a way more reminiscent of the past than the future."
  • Promoting the observance of human rights, particularly the rights of women and girls, is one of our highest foreign policy priorities in Afghanistan. We will continue to press the Taliban in public and private, to extend equitable and humanitarian treatment to women and girls. We call upon the Taliban to lift its restrictions on the mobility and employment of women and the schooling of girls; we also call upon the Taliban and all factions to abide by internationally-accepted norms of human rights.
  • The United States is neutral toward the various Afghan factions fighting in that country, but our neutrality does not extend to violations of international norms of behavior. We condemn Taliban human rights violations, particularly against women and girls.
  • The United States does not plan to extend diplomatic recognition to the Taliban or the Northern Alliance. We do not plan to recognize any government unless it is broad-based, representative of all Afghans and respects international norms of behavior in human rights, including the human rights of women and girls.
  • The United States has taken a leadership role in the region and in the United Nations to promote peace in Afghanistan. We believe the United Nations is central to the peace process and support the efforts of the Secretary General’s Special Envoy, Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, and the work of the United Nations Special Mission to Afghanistan. We participate in the Group of Six Plus Two (the six countries bordering Afghanistan: Pakistan, Iran Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China, plus the U.S. and Russia) in a serious attempt to see how progress can be made toward a peaceful negotiated settlement.
  • The United States has a commitment to providing humanitarian assistance to women and girls of Afghanistan. United States officials play a key role in making the issue of assistance to women in Afghanistan a major focus of the donors’ Afghanistan Support Group. In 1997 the United States government contributed $26.4 million to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the World Food Program to run a variety of programs that directly benefit Afghan women and girls. This was nearly a quarter of the total funding for the UNHCR and ICRC programs.
  • In 1997 the United States also provided $1.7 million for non-governmental organizations such as CARE and the International Rescue Committee for health and education programs and services. These programs directly benefit women and girls in Afghanistan and in neighboring refugee camps in Pakistan.
  • The United States recently called for an UNHCR investigation of reports of violence against women and girls in refugee camps in Pakistan. Due to United States efforts, an investigation is now underway. United States funding supports UNHCR procedures to provide protection to women and girls in refugee camps.

New Initiatives

  • The United States is committing up to $2.5 million in new funds for women’s grass roots organizations in Pakistan and for training to improve the skills of women in Afghanistan.
  • In Pakistan, this funding pays for activities such as training health workers and teachers, and training women’s groups to familiarize themselves with and advocate for their legal rights, and to communicate with other organizations, locally and internationally. This training will enable women to provide services in refugee camps, as well as prepare them with skills that they can take with them when they eventually return to Afghanistan. Some of the women have been in these camps for 20 years.
  • In Afghanistan, this training focuses primarily on health such as training local women to be community health workers; training women to be traditional birth attendants; and building the capacity of the local community to deal with basic health issues, particularly diseases that affect children. Funding also supports training women to participate in the development of rural rehabilitation projects. This will allow them to have a say, for example, in determining the location of the water well since the women are the ones who carry the water.

[end of document]

Blue Bar

Return to International Women's Issues || State Department Home Page.

This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the World Wide Web. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Iranian Regime's Charm Plus Western Credulity Equals "Diplomatic Success" in Geneva

By Barry Rubin*

October 2, 2009

http://www.gloria-center.org/Gloria/2009/10/diplomatic-success.html


The United States--along with Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany--met with Iran in Geneva and officials, media, and experts proclaim it a success. Was its nuclear program what Iran defused or merely Western pressure?

It is widely claimed that the meeting in Geneva obtained three great achievements toward ending the long-running Iran nuclear arms’ campaign.

The first point is that the talks were conducted in a polite and civil manner. The Iranian delegates did not shout slogans and throw shoes at the Americans.

This is absurd. With typically short memories, observers forget that Iran conducted years of serious talks with all the participants except the United States. But of course these talks were used to stall for time and divide the foreign opposition. Any commitments made were promptly broken.

What is amusing about this point is that it reveals how behind the screen of Political Correctness and respect for all peoples, it is considered a revelation if Iranians don’t act like stereotyped savages. In fact, Iran has a long and successful history of diplomacy imbued in its political culture.

And of course the regime has a strong vested interest in not engaging in furniture-throwing at the meeting. After all, in every other venue it can continue its ideological extremism, repression, sponsorship of terrorism, and so on merely in exchange for a few hours of making nice in Geneva.

The second claimed success is equally hollow. Iran agreed to allow inspections of its hitherto hidden enrichment facility. Again, memories are short. In fact, the Iranian government announced that it would do so before the meeting in the same statement where it admitted the facility existed.

Let’s take a step back and consider the situation. For four years, Iran built and kept hidden the Qom enrichment plant. This is in complete violation of Iran’s treaty commitments and is one more definitive proof—as if one was needed? Well apparently it is—that the Tehran regime is seeking nuclear weapons as fast as possible.

At last, though, Iran got caught. So it basically said: in exchange for keeping this facility and for no punishment for building it we will allow you to do inspections. This is a clever maneuver, not a huge concession. Indeed, it is a victory for Iran.

The third point is the most significant and interesting. Iran has agreed in principle—note that since this implies that once details are discussed the promises will either be less attractive or not implemented at all—to send much of its nuclear fuel from the Natanz enrichment plant—the one we’ve known about--to Russia where it will be further enriched and then sent to France to be converted into fuel, making it far less suitable for making into weapons.

But guess what? And this is important : Iran's ambassador to Britain has denied that Iran agreed to turn over the nuclear fuel. And this has not even been reported in the Iranian media yet.

Get it? Iran is getting credit for a concession that it has not even made yet and probably doesn't intend to make!

And so when I say: The account we are getting of the meeting's significance is too good to be true there's a lot of evidence for that conclusion.

It’s hard to believe otherwise. After all, one must take into context the nature, history, ideology, policies, and leadership of the Tehran regime as well as its immediate need to consolidate power at home and defuse pressure from abroad. If ever there was a situation that seemed ripe for trickery this is it.

But here’s the best argument: To believe that Iran is ready to act sincerely in giving up its nuclear fuel which can be used to make atomic weapons, you have to conclude that the regime’s goal all along has just been to build nuclear energy power plants, not weapons of mass destruction.

From Tehran’s viewpoint, in just about seven hours of talks it made the threat of sanctions go away for months without taking any actual action of significance. Indeed, Iran and those it met with have a common interest: to make the public and confrontational aspects of the problem go away.

U.S. officials said that the issue of repression in Iran was raised at the meeting—probably very much in passing—but that sanctions were barely mentioned. Of course, the Iranians knew all about the sanctions already but the point here is that the tone of the meeting was to downplay pressure and to give the Iranian regime a chance to “go straight.”

The responses of President Barack Obama show clearly his strategy. He will support Iran doing reprocessing in exchange for the regime pursuing only a peaceful nuclear energy option. Remember that this is what Iran has insisted it has been doing all the time and will go on insisting until the day that nuclear weapons are obtained. In a sense, Obama—to use current jargon—is empowering the Iranian narrative.

But consider this. Let's say that the United States, the Europeans, and Iran agree that Tehran is just seeking peaceful nuclear energy and should get it. What happens when some time in 2010 it becomes clear the regime was lying and that it's made dramatic progress toward getting atomic bombs? Won't this make Obama look to be about the most fooled world leader since Nevil Chamberlain waved that piece of paper saying Hitler only wanted western Czechoslovakia and should get it? How would the administration react in that event?

At any rate, what this may well amount to is a plea: Please fool us better. Do a more persuasive job of hiding your true intentions.

That’s not, of course, what Obama and other Western leaders intend. Here’s what Obama says: He created a framework for resolving the issue by affirming that all nations have the right to peaceful nuclear power as long as they stick by the rules of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. By making clear his commitment for all countries in the world to get rid of nuclear weapons he united the international community behind him. That is what made possible the Geneva meeting.

Obama then presented three demands. First, Iran must allow inspections of the Qom facility, which it already has agreed to do. Second, it must build confidence that it is only seeking peaceful nuclear energy. This is to be done by the transfer of uranium to Russia for reprocessing.

He is thus giving Iran a face-saving way out: keep your program but don’t build nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, sanctions are put off and Iran will be able to talk for months about the details of the Russia reprocessing deal. In a separate but related story, the Iranian automaker Khodro announced a deal with the French company Peugeot to make cars for export. Khodro also has such deals with Mercedes-Benz and the Japanese Suzuki company. It doesn’t sound like they are worried about being isolated internationally.

After the Geneva meeting, they don’t need to be.

Here's a good article by Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post who seems to be the best journalist in the mainstream media writing on U.S. Middle East policy. Most of what you are reading elsewhere in the mass media is nonsense. Diehl's appropriate headline: "The Coming Failure in Iran."


*Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books, go to http://www.gloria-center.org

Friday, October 2, 2009

Thursday, October 1, 2009

JERUSALEM – Israel and Hamas militants announced a deal



JERUSALEM – Israel and Hamas militants announced a deal Wednesday that will see Israel release 20 Palestinian women from prison this week in exchange for a videotape proving that a captive Israeli soldier held in the Gaza Strip is still alive.

The decision was the first tangible sign of movement in more than three years of talks over the release of the soldier, Sgt. Gilad Schalit, who has not been seen since he was captured by Hamas-linked militants in a cross-border raid in June, 2006.

Schalit's release, which does not appear imminent, would defuse a central point of contention and could help ease a crippling Israeli blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

In a statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said Wednesday that it expects Schalit's Hamas captors to release a recent videotape of the soldier. The deal is to be carried out on Friday.

The statement said Israel's Security Cabinet accepted the deal, put forward by Egyptian and German mediators, as a "confidence-building measure." It quoted a senior official in Netanyahu's office as saying the negotiations are still "expected to be long and difficult."

The deal was carried out, the statement said, "ahead of the critical stages in the negotiations for the release of Gilad Schalit and based on Israel's commitment to work with determination to bring him home quickly."

Hamas is demanding that Israel release hundreds of prisoners, many of whom are serving lengthy sentences for violent attacks on Israelis, in exchange for the soldier. Israel has balked at many of Hamas' demands.

In Gaza, a Hamas spokesman using the pseudonym Abu Obeidaconfirmed that 20 female prisoners were expected to be released in the coming days. He made no mention of a videotape of Schalit, saying only that Hamas would respond by "clarifying" the soldier's condition.

"This simple deal is a precursor, God willing, to a comprehensive deal," he said.

He said the prisoners would come from various Palestinian factions, including Hamas, the rival Fatah movement andIslamic Jihad, and that one was from Gaza while the rest were from the Fatah-controlled West Bank.

Israel says that while the women were jailed for security-related offenses they were not directly involved in killing Israelis and are all within two years of the end of their prison sentences. Their names were to be published Wednesday, allowing a legally mandated 48-hour period for court appeals against their release before the deal is carried out.

A senior Egyptian official involved in the mediation said the move was designed to create "an atmosphere of trust."

"There is no doubt that this step will support the efforts of all sides to solve the problem," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity under security guidelines.

Egypt has been trying to mediate a prisoner swap since Hamas-linked militants tunneled into Israel in June 2006 and attacked an Israeli tank, killing two crewmen and capturing Schalit.

The Israeli soldier has not been seen since his capture and the Red Cross has not been allowed to visit him. But several letters and an audio recording have been released by his captors.

Netanyahu believes it is important that the world know Schalit is alive and well and that his safety is Hamas' responsibility, according to the statement from his office.

Both Hamas and Israel appear eager to wrap up a deal.

For Israel, the return of Schalit would end a painful chapter. In a country where military service is mandatory, Israelis have rallied behind the soldier and his family, holding protests calling for his release and decorating their cars with bumper stickers bearing his name. One news anchor even ends his broadcast each night by mentioning how long Schalit has been in captivity.

Hamas, meanwhile, wants to end a painful Israeli-led economic blockade of Gazathat has caused widespread shortages of many basic items. These shortages have prevented Hamas from repairing the massive damage caused in Gaza by an Israeli military offensive last winter.

Israel imposed the blockade after Hamas, a violent group backed by Iran and Syria, seized power in Gaza two years ago. Officials have said the embargo will not be lifted until Schalit comes home.

The closure has led to a bustling smuggling business along Gaza's border with Egypt. On Wednesday, two smugglers were killed and four were injured when a tunnel under the border collapsed. A paramedic said the men were working in a tunnel in an area struck by the Israeli military the night before.

The Israeli army confirmed it targeted three tunnels in response to rocket and mortar fire from Gaza in the previous two days. Israel says the tunnels are used to smuggle weapons into Gaza.

More than 120 people have died in tunnel collapses since 2007.

The Chomsky Hoax

The Chomsky Hoax
Exposing the Dishonesty of Noam Chomsky