Sunday, January 17, 2010

Noa's Big Screen Debut!

I've been a fan of Achinoam Nini, (Noa) for so many years I won't admit how long.
She truly is an inspirational artist.
This is a trailer of her screen debut:

Analysis: Saudis Seek Illusory "Third Way" in Regional Diplomacy

By Jonathan Spyer *
January 17, 2010
Syrian President Bashar Assad is reportedly scheduled to visit the Saudi capital Riyadh, where he is to meet with Saudi King Abdullah. The meeting is rumored to be a prelude to a three way summit also to involve Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The current round of talks is the latest stage in Syria's return from the cold in terms of its reintegration - on its own terms and with no concessions made - into the mainstream of Arab diplomacy. This process, in turn, is testimony to the current weakness of Saudi Arabia's position.
The two traditional lynchpins of the modern Arab state order - Egypt and Saudi Arabia - today find themselves in an uncomfortable position. The key regional strategic process taking place is the contest between the United States, Israel and their allies on the one hand, and the Islamic Republic of Iran and its clients on the other. This clash between non-Arab-led forces has effectively broken apart the traditional patterns of Arab diplomacy, with Arab states engaged on either side. This split has been perhaps most glaringly - and for the Arabs most embarrassingly - apparent in the Arab-Israeli arena.
During Operation Cast Lead, the Arab League was unable even to assemble a quorum in order to condemn Israel's actions. This was because the split in the Palestinian camp had in effect produced two Palestinian national movements, one aligned with the pro-Iranian regional camp (Hamas), and the other associated with the pro-Western camp. In Operation Cast Lead, Israel went to war with the pro-Iranian Palestinian element.
The Saudis are frightened of the Iranian regime. They are also deeply uncomfortable with a situation in which the great legitimating flag of Islamic and regional opposition to Israel is passing into the hands of the Iranians. They are therefore seeking to re-absorb the two Arab elements who have drawn closest to Teheran - Syria and the Palestinian Islamists - back into the fold of Arab diplomacy.
There is a fatal flaw in the Saudi design. The flaw is Riyadh's weakness. The Saudis can only seek to tempt. They cannot insist, much less coerce. What they wish to present as rapprochement thus ends up looking more like surrender to the pro-Iranian camp.
So since October, Riyadh has been hard at work on the Syrians. The main policy result of this so far has been the foundation of a new government in Lebanon. The new government in Lebanon became possible because the clients of Saudi Arabia conceded the demands of the pro-Iranian, pro-Syrian element in their entirety, following five months of inconsequential bargaining.
The leaders of the new government have since made supplicatory trips to Damascus. They are pledged not to disturb the independent pro-Iranian military force in the country (Hizbullah.)
Riyadh now appears to be trying to perform something similar on the Palestinian track. A flurry of diplomacy is under way. Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal met with the Syrian president in Damascus. Assad on that occasion stressed to Mashaal the importance of Palestinian unity.
The Saudis are subsequently known to have encouraged Abbas to meet with Mashaal in Damascus.It is not yet clear what exactly the Saudis are driving at. But Saudi Arabia's current actions are the latest proof that Syria's policy of disruption works - at least against weak and irresolute enemies. While holding fast to their alliance with the Iranians, and in return for nothing, the Syrians have been invited back to the top table of Arab diplomacy. This, the Saudis hope, will allow for the noble task of trying to put Humpty together again - that is, rebuilding Arab regional diplomacy along the comforting lines of all-together-against-Israel (at least verbally).
The problem with all this is that it won't work. If the Saudis or anyone else believe that the pro-Iranian alliance can be stopped in its tracks by handing it victory, they are sorely mistaken. The result of surrender in Lebanon has not been to restore "normality" to that country - it has been to place it firmly back into the Syrian/Iranian orbit.
It is in any case not at all certain that the senior partner (the Iranians) are interested in Palestinian reunification. The Iranians want to control the frontlines of conflict between Israelis and Islamic forces, as they see it. They currently control fronts to Israel's north (Lebanon) and south (Gaza). It is difficult to see why they would allow one of these to be ceded.
But in any case, current Saudi actions have the feel of an attempt to turn the clock back - to a time when the Arabs could unite in happy inactivity around declarations of support for the Palestinians. Iran's regional ambitions have ended all that, and have produced new and unfamiliar patterns of pragmatic alignment.
These are the products of a reality which shows no sign of changing substantially any time soon. In the Middle East today there is the US-led alliance and the Iran-led alliance. There is no third, Arab way. Offering up gifts to Iran's chief Arab partners, meanwhile, will serve not to satiate the Iran-led bloc, but rather to whet its appetite.
 *Dr. Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Herzliya, Israel

The Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center
Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, P.O. Box 167, Herzliya, 46150, Israel Phone: +972-9-960-2736 - Fax: +972-9-960

Friday, January 8, 2010

Iran Hasn't Won the Cold War Yet

January 7, 2010

The salient strategic fact in the Middle East today is the Iranian drive for regional hegemony. This Iranian objective is being promoted by a rising hardline conservative elite within the Iranian regime, centred on a number of political associations and on the Iranian Revolutionary Guards corps.
This elite, which is personified by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has received the backing of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Their aim is a second Islamic revolution that would revive the original fire of the revolution of 1979. They appear to be aiming for the augmenting of clerical rule with a streamlined, brutal police-security state, under the banner of Islam. Building Iranian power and influence throughout the Middle East is an integral part of their strategy.
The Iranian nuclear program is an aspect of this ambition.
A nuclear capability is meant to form the ultimate insurance for the Iranian regime as it aggressively builds its influence across the region.
This goal of hegemony is being pursued through the assembling of a bloc of states and organisations under Iranian leadership. This bloc, according to Iran, represents authentic Muslim currents within the region, battling against the US and its hirelings. The pro-Iranian bloc includes Syria, Sudan, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas among the Palestinians, and the Houthi rebel forces in northern Yemen.
A de facto rival alliance is emerging, consisting of states that are threatened by Iran and its allies and clients. This rival alliance includes Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait.
Israel, despite lacking official diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, is also a key member of this camp. Unlike the pro-Iranian bloc, which has a simple guiding ideology of resistance to the West, the countries seeking to counter Iran are united by interest only.
The rivalry between these two camps now informs and underlies all-important developments in the Middle East. It is behind the joint Israeli-Egyptian effort to contain the Iran-sponsored Hamas enclave in the Gaza Strip. It is behind the fighting in north Yemen, as Saudi troops take on Shia rebels armed and supported by Iran. The rivalry is behind the face-off between pro-American and pro-Iranian forces in Lebanon. The insurgencies in Afghanistan and in Iraq are also notable for the presence of weaponry traceable to Iran in use by insurgents against Western forces.
Who is winning in this ongoing Middle East cold war? The rhetoric of the Iranians, of course, depicts their advance as unstoppable. The reality is more complex, and the past year has seen gains and losses for both sides.
First, within Iran the electoral victory of Ahmadinejad and the subsequent backing given to him by Khamenei represented a major advance for the Iranian hardline conservatives. Ahmadinejad subsequently confirmed his victory by forming a cabinet that is packed with conservatives and Revolutionary Guardsmen.
But the refusal of large sections of the Iranian people to accept the possibly rigged election and the unprecedented scenes of opposition in the streets of Iranian cities in recent weeks have severely tarnished this achievement.
The ongoing unrest in Iran probably does not constitute an immediate danger to the regime. But it surely indicates that large numbers of Iranians have no desire to see their country turned into the instrument of permanent Islamic revolution and resistance envisaged by the hardline conservatives. The domestic unrest thus hits significantly at the emerging regime's legitimacy, and their ability to promote their regime as a model for governance to the Arab and wider Muslim world.
Iran made major advances in Lebanon last year. The formation of the new Lebanese government in November in essence confirms Hezbollah's domination of the country. Hezbollah is the favoured child of the Iranian regime and its partner in subversive activity globally. There is now no serious internal force in Lebanon able to oppose its will.
In Gaza, the Iranian-sponsored Hamas regime is holding on. The Iranian investment is central to Hamas's ability to stay in power. The movement just announced a budget of $US540 million ($590m) for 2010. Of this, just $US55m is to be raised through taxes and local sources of revenue. The rest is to come from "aid and assistance". Hamas does not reveal the identity of its benefactors. But it is fairly obvious that the bulk of this funding will come from Iran. The Palestinian issue remains the central cause celebre of the Arab and Muslim world. The Iranian regime's goal is to take ownership of it.
But there have been setbacks here too. The Iranian resistance model failed in a straight fight with the Israeli Defence Forces in the early part of the year. Hamas's 100-man "Iranian unit" suffered near destruction in Gaza. The Hamas regime in Gaza managed to kill six IDF soldiers in the entire course of Operation Cast Lead. This is a failure, recorded as such by all regional observers.
In addition, someone or the other appears to be trying to demonstrate to the Iranians that the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy is a two-way street. Hence the killing of 29 Revolutionary Guards in a bombing in October near the Iran-Pakistan border, and the mysterious explosion in Damascus last month that killed a number of Iranian pilgrims.
So at the beginning of 2010, the lines are clearly drawn in the Middle East cold war, and the contest is far from over.
Ultimately, like other totalitarians before them, the Iranian hardline conservatives are likely to fail through overreach. The inefficient, corruption-ridden and oppressive state they are coming to dominate is likely to prove an insufficient instrument to sustain their boundless ambition. Still, this process probably has a long way to run yet. Much will depend on the sense of purpose, will and resourcefulness of the Western and regional countries that this regime has identified as its enemies.
This is a contest for the future of the region. It has almost certainly not yet reached its height.
 *Dr. Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Herzliya, Israel

The Chomsky Hoax

The Chomsky Hoax
Exposing the Dishonesty of Noam Chomsky