Friday, December 3, 2010

Vice President Biden Rewrites History - To Our and Our Allies' Peril

by Peter Huessy

Why does the new START treaty hang in the balance? In part, because missile defense advocates, who spent years pressing the US to adopt such weapons, are now ridiculed as having pushed the wrong systems with the wrong countries -- even though all currently planned defenses are precisely those first acquired and deployed by these same missile defense advocates.

The administration, including the Vice President, has ironically adopted, in large part, the regional missile defense program and policy of the Bush administration, while rejecting key aspects of its national defense of our continental United States.

As the Vice President wrote (Wall Street Journal, November 24 ), the administration's new NATO-wide missile defense plan protects more countries from more ballistic missile threats than the plan of the previous administration and is therefore proof of the benefits of our "reset" policy with Russia. He further explains that missile defense and arms control go together, further proving the correctness of administration's policy.

Things are not so simple. A certain amount of rewriting history goes on in any administration, but wholesale invention does not constitute a justifiable defense policy.

What has been left out of the Vice President's retelling of history is that the European system, killed by this administration, was planned to protect all of Europe and America -- not from Iranian short- and medium-range missiles but from long-range Iranian missiles. The argument from missile defense critics, including from then-Senator Biden and many of his colleagues, was that Iran was not building such missiles. Therefore, they said, there was no need to build a defense as had been planned for Poland, along with complimentary radar for the Czech Republic.

What the administration has done is to delay any further deployment in Europe that would deal with long-range Iranian missiles until 2020 at the earliest.

In the view of many, Russia sees missile defenses, whether by NATO collectively or by the US singularly, as a threat to its hegemonic aims. Ten years ago, Congressman Weldon proposed that the US encourage Russia to look westward and seek friendship and alliance with America and her allies. On balance, Russia has certainly not gone in that direction. Its nuclear weapons doctrine is scary; and its bullying of its neighbors continues, as do its threats to deploy nuclear weapons aimed at or NATO ally, Poland.

The defense of Europe from Iranian medium- and short-range ballistic missiles -- generally with a range upwards of 2500 kilometers -- is to be achieved through the deployment of Navy Aegis cruisers in the Mediterranean, Black, Adriatic and/or Baltic Seas, along with "navy Aegis ashore." This is true, as the Vice President states, but was all proposed by President George W. Bush.

Let us go back a few years. At a missile defense conference in the summer of 2000, then-Senator Biden called missile defense unnecessary and a waste of defense dollars. Standing just feet away, he claimed that any missile strike aimed at the United States would be met with massive US retaliation. Deterrence, he assured us, was fully capable of defending the United States from ballistic missile threats. Missile defenses, he warned, were incompatible with arms control, especially reductions in nuclear weapons. The need to deploy such defenses, he said, was simply not justified.

Let us have a close look. The Aegis cruisers and their standard missile interceptors -- the backbone of the NATO-wide phased adaptive missile defense now being proposed -- were first deployed and first acquired by the Bush administration. Countless efforts by such members of Congress as Senator Jon Kyl, the current minority whip in the US Senate, and former Representative Congressman Curt Weldon, then chair of a key subcommittee on the Armed Services Committee, to add funding to the Aegis accounts were repeatedly opposed by missile defense critics. Now these opponents are taking credit for what they once opposed. Welcome aboard, Mr. Vice President.

The creative proposal to take Aegis interceptors and place them on land -- simpler and more cost-effective -- was proposed in the FY2007 defense budget by former Director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) General Trey Obering. That proposal, says the Vice President, will bear fruit sometime around 2018-2020 -- later than envisioned by the previous administration but nonetheless going forward. – and another old proposal for which the current administration is now taking credit.

It is true such systems are to be complimented through the deployment of Army-centric systems such as THAAD and Patriot, with our Gulf State allies and our NATO partners, either as US deployed systems on US military bases or as NATO-member owned and operated systems. Yet it should be noted that all this was planned, proposed and funded by the previous administration, although some additional or expanded deployments have been agreed to.

The current administration has indeed secured NATO's blessing for such deployments, which is to be commended, just as the previous administration secured both NATO's concurrence that all ballistic missile threats needed to be addressed by all NATO countries, and that NATO should begin planning and developing a doctrine and policy to deploy necessary missile defenses.

We should remember that when the Bush administration took office in 2000, the US inventory of ballistic missile interceptors was zero. NATO had no regional deployments. At the end of 2008, however, the number of interceptors deployed by the US and its allies approached 1000-1200; and, under its final defense budget plans, was to reach in excess of 1400-1600 interceptors, worldwide, including for our allies.

One current senior administration official at the time described the proposed deployment as nothing more than a "high school science project". Another high-ranking official now in the White House then actively worked in Europe to stop the deployment. Some US critics even said the Czech radar would cause birth defects in children. (MDA says the planned two-stage rocket interceptor for Poland did "work").

Most critics joined with the Russians in claiming the proposed 10 interceptors in Poland would actually undermine Russia's strategic deterrent. However, as General Obering said repeatedly at the time, the interceptors could not physically intercept Russian missiles even if we tried to do so. In simulations, the missiles were not even given a firing solution by the computers because no such interception was possible. The computers understood what missile defense critics did not.

While any administration leaves defense plans for the next administration, the Bush joint proposal with Poland and the Czech Republic, if not delayed by its critics, could have been deployed by 2015, some five years earlier than the new plan now being put on the table. This is significant in that a United States Air Force assessment has determined that Iran will have both an intercontinental ballistic missile (long-range capability) and a nuclear weapons capability by 2015.

Not only did the administration eliminate the deal with Poland and the Czech Republic, it also curtailed the existing missile defense interceptors in California and Alaska. That deployment was cut from 54 planned missiles to 30, a not insignificant reduction. Nowhere in the Vice President's essay was there any reference to providing further protection of the continental United States from Iranian missiles than the batteries we now have. And that is the real change in administration missile defense policy that is in part at the heart of the Senate concerns over the new START treaty.

Ironically, just above Mr. Biden's essay on page A17 of the Wall Street Journal of November 24, was an extraordinary essay by Will Toby and Michael Green--former senior Bush administration officials--, which reveals the extent to which US policy repeatedly, downplayed the North Korean nuclear threat. The essay brings into stark relief how US policy has done the same with respect to the Mullahs missiles.

That then brings us to the role of Russia, and others certainly, in helping the US stop Iran's missile and nuclear programs. And true, it is certainly to the administration's credit that Russia has both cooperated in allowing its airspace to be used for our resupply of forces in Afghanistan and pulled back from supplying Iran with its S-300 air defenses. And Russia voted in the UN for additional sanctions on Iran. All good things.

But the rest of the story needs to be told as well. According to Ilan Berman, Vice President of the American Foreign Policy Council, Russia deliberately interfered with our existing Afghani supply routes so are offering help to a problem it deliberately created. Russia built the Bushehr nuclear reactor, which Tehran cites as a reason for its uranium enrichment facility. Russia supplied military radar equipment to Iran through intermediaries Belarus and Venezuela, according to Stratfor. And according to Global Security Newswire, Russia has repeatedly helped Iran and North Korea with ballistic missiles and nuclear technology. In addition, Russia was part of a plot to supply $300 million in arms to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela for the use of FARC and Hezbollah, while also supplying major military weapons to Syria, a US designated state sponsor of terrorism. "Reset celebrations" may be premature.

Although it is true, as the Vice President writes, that the proposed reductions in deployed nuclear warheads under the new START treaty to 1550 would bring our weapons down to levels not seen since the 1950s, this was also true of the reductions secured by the 2002 Moscow treaty agreed to by Russia and the United States during the previous administration. It was the Bush administration that proved, to the consternation of its critics, that robust missile defenses could be deployed while also significantly reducing nuclear weapons. The Moscow Treaty, we should remember, cut deployed nuclear weapons by 3800 or nearly 70%, while the new START treaty cuts deployed warheads 650 warheads, or by 16% of the previous number. At the same time, these reductions in nuclear weapons paralleled a rise in deployed missile defenses that have now are scheduled to reach over 1000.

Russia was repeatedly offered a cooperative role in the US and NATO missile defense deployments planned in the previous administration, but they apparently could not make up their minds what to do. When Putin implored President Bush for an arms control treaty to give Russia some breathing space, the US responded positively. Although it is true that we also at the same time pulled out of the ABM treaty, threats from rogue states such as North Korea and Iran were emerging, and no US President could accept limits on our defenses while such threats were imminent..

Russia now says there is no missile threat from Iran. Some analysts suggest Moscow is referring only to long-range threats. But even if that is so, Russia insists on being in control of such threat assessments and having an "equal share" in any missile defense deployments, while also complaining that its finger will not be on the "interceptor button."

While further nuclear weapons reductions may indeed be warranted, the most recent Moscow Treaty reductions -- now nearly fully implemented -- were considerably greater in scope but are invariably described as somehow part of a "decade of neglect." Perhaps part of a successful START ratification process would result if our recollection of history were more generous and less partisan, with an acknowledgment that even our political adversaries -- yesterday and today -- have accomplished some crucially important things.

Peter Huessy

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

The Centrality of Tradition in Sunni Muslim Society

by Hagai Mazuz

Although there is a debate among scholars of Islam and the Muslim world as to whether Islam is the most important factor in the daily lives of all Muslims, irrespective of nationality, people in the Western world find it hard to accept that medieval texts can dictate the daily routine of other societies -- a result of mirror imaging, of assuming that everyone is "just like us," from which Westerners suffer when they try to understand the Muslim world.

For Muslims, Muḥammed was the ideal Muslim. Sunni Muslims believe that they should model their behavior and pattern their lives after his. This means blindly imitating his habits, practices, and lifestyle whether they understand why he did what he did or not. This is called the Sunna (in Arabic, The Way of Life). In it, how the perfect man – Muhammed -- acted is how all Muslims should act; those who imitate Muḥammed are called Sunnis.

Nevertheless, the second Caliph, 'Umar, who reigned from 634-644, did not accept these givens at face value. According to one Muslim tradition, for example, he went to the Ka'ba during the Hajj -- the required pilgrimage to Mecca -- and, addressing the square, stone Ka'ba around which one os supposed to walk three times, said: "Oh Allah! I know that you [the Ka'ba] are nothing but a stone, which cannot harm and cannot help, but since I saw the Messenger of Allah [Muḥammed] touching and kissing you, I am also doing this just because he did so. Then he said: "This is something that Muḥammed did and we will never not abandon it." [Saḥiḥ al-Bukhari, volume II (Cairo, 1953), p. 419].

Why did the Muslims not hide this strange and embarrassing tradition? 'Umar's reaction could make others question it and could lead them to apostasy or internal dissent within the young Muslim community.

After all, circumambulating and touching the Ka'ba is a central part of the Ḥajj, and constitutes one of the five basic pillars of Islam. Non-Muslims could easily use this curious tradition in their polemical arguments against Islam

The purpose of this ḥadīth [Muslim tradition] is to teach the Muslims that although 'Umar understood this problem as a contradiction between logic and faith, he preferred to follow the faith in the Sunna of Muḥammed -- which is what all Muslims are instructed to do: to accept things on faith, even if these things might appear odd or irrational.

People would later ask the great Muslim scholar, Ibn Taymiyya, why did he refuse to eat watermelon? He would reply that this was because he could not find any tradition that described how Muḥammed handled watermelon seeds. Ibn Taymiyya apparently decided it was best not to eat watermelon -- avoiding the problem altogether.

Lately, Mahmoud Abu Tir, a senior Hamas leader recently released from an Israeli prison, told an Israeli TV reporter that the reason he dyes his beard with henna is because this is what Muḥammed did: Muslim tradition teaches that Muḥammed ordered the Muslims to dye their beards with henna to differentiate themselves from the Jews and the Christians, who did not do so.

Another example of the power of following Muḥammed's Sunna occurred a few years ago in Bahrain. According to Bahraini law, girls cannot be married before the age of 16. When one man in his 30s married a 10-year-old girl, the authorities put him on trial. In court, the defendant showed the judge a ḥadīth according to which Muḥammed married his favorite wife, 'Aisha, when she was only eight years old (some say nine). "If Muḥammed did it," the defendant told the judge, "clearly a Muslim is allowed to marry a 10-year-old girl." Further, the defendant told the judge: "If you are saying that what I have done is wrong, then you are basically saying that what Muḥammed did was wrong." The judge acquitted the defendant. Sunna law trumped Bahraini secular law. The International Center for Research on Women estimates that there are 51 million child-brides; almost all of these marriages take place in Muslim countries.

These are only a few anecdotes which demonstrate the strength and influence of the Sunna in the lives of the Muslims. Muhammed created the Muslim community in his image: Islam is the embodiment of Muḥammed's actions, character and soul.

Islam deals with every aspect of Muslim life; as such, it is not just a guide for purely religious matters such as prayer, charity, and pilgrimage. It also deals with political, social, and business matters, and even enters the bedroom.

People in the West believe in the separation of church (religion) and state; people in Islam do not. Islam dominates all aspects of life. Allah's truth is final, as are Allah's demands, which he transmitted to mankind via his messenger, Muḥammed.

The desire to imitate Muḥammed's lifestyle explains both Muslim attitudes towards non-Muslims, and how institutions like Jihād were created. From the time Muḥammed fled Mecca for Medina in 622 until his death in 632, he and his followers engaged in military campaigns against those who refused to accept him as a prophet. The Islamic nation (the Umma) was forged in war, led by Muḥammed, whom Muslims strive to imitate with all their hearts and souls.

With the fundamentalists' view of Muḥammed, it is hard to see how, given the present circumstances, Islam and the non-Muslim world can come to a compromise in which both sides live peacefully together. Sadly, if things continue as they are, we may well witness a major confrontation between the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds, as already can be seen in the current persecutions of Christians in, for example, the Sudan, Egypt and Iraq.

Only after such confrontations, and a defeat for the Muslim fundamentalists, maybe then, and only then, can Muslims who do not view Muḥammed as their sole model, and who wish to implement other views, have a chance to do so.

Hagai Mazuz

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Al-Shabaab's New Recruitment Video

by IPT News

Al-Shabaab, the Somali terrorist group that has recruited members in several U.S. cities, has broadened its appeal in a new recruiting video.
"O' Muslim youth around the world, do not forget the call of your brothers in Somalia, as their condition calls out, 'O' emigrants, O' emigrants. So is there anyone to respond?" said the voice of Shaykh Saleh Al-Nubhani, also known as Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, the deceased leader of Al-Shabaab.

Al-Shabaab's latest recruitment video, "An Invitation to the Lands of Jihad and Ribat," is dubbed in English and Somali to resonate with Muslim youth abroad. Although this is not Al-Shabaab's first video appeal to attract foreign fighters, it shows a new emphasis on targeting vulnerable youth from the Somali exile as well as East African nationals inspired by Al-Shabaab's vision of an Islamic state.

It's also not a call to liberate the country from the Ethiopian army invasion in 2009, a cause that had broad appeal among many groups of Somalis, or a typical al-Qaida style video calling for attacks on America. Such clips have been released by American Al-Shabaab recruiter, Omar Hammami, for several years now. In combination with personal recruiting, these videos have drawn Somali youth from as far as Minnesota and Australia. However, they have been limited to audience that is already drawn to the message of jihad.

The new clip represents a different tactic, one that broadens the appeal of a life of jihad to a new audience. The clips of military training and triumphant victory parades are also overlaid with fighters from all over the world calling out to their religious brothers in English, Swedish, Swahili and many other languages.

They talk about defending the rights of Muslims, but not of bringing the fight to America's shores. They also talk about creating an ideal society based on Islamic law. However, despite differences in the speakers' languages and presentation, the overall message is consistent. The West is fighting a war against Islam and Somalia needs help at the frontline.

"What are you waiting for O' youth?" Al-Nubhani said on the video. "If you do not fight Jihad today then when will you? O Muslim youth, free your brothers from the darkness of oppression and the brutality of the enemy blows. Search for death and you will attain life. Come to jihad, you will gain honor in this life and the next."

The appeals to fight against the enemies of the Muslims in Somalia have already drawn young men from a variety of places and communities. In particular, the effect on the Somali Diaspora community has been persuasive, where dozens of youth have abandoned their adopted nationalities and returned to protect their ancestral homeland.

This video takes recruiting Somali exiles and foreigners to a new level.
Al-Shabaab's current spokesman, Ali Mohammad Rage, welcomes those fighters who have already arrived and praises them as family. "Allah has blessed us out of His bounty with a handful of noble Muhajireen, emigrants," he declares. "We rejoice at their arrival and are happy to honor them… we pledge to Allah to protect them with our blood, and to carry them upon our shoulders, and protect them from that which we protect ourselves and our families."

Islamist warrior Abu Dayana also pulls on the heartstrings of other English speakers, laying out the significance of the fight in a thick British accent. His speech is, above all, a personal declaration. "I'd like to take my time to talk about the blessings of living in the land of jihad," he preached. "First of all, before some of us came here, we were living in a society where people were enslaved by their desires... then Allah guided us in coming to this land, so we may have a part in establishing a society where the laws of Allah will be implemented."

For him, Somalia was an Islamist paradise, "a place where our freedom and wealth won't be taken away from us because of our beliefs and working for our beliefs."
Beyond praising the glories of battle, Abu Dayana stresses the need for youth to take action. "I would like to take this opportunity to… invite all the Muslims that are living in the lands of disbelief, the lands of oppression, to make hijra [migration] to the land of glory, to the land of izza [power], to the land of jihad."

Alongside this invitation, which is repeated also in native tongues of East Africa and Pakistan, is the familiar voice of jihadist legend Abdullah Azzam. Not only does the video include audio of one of his speeches exhorting others to fight, but several speakers repeat messages that he popularized.
Azzam preached that jihad is a fard 'ayn, an individual obligation as important as daily prayer, which must be practiced by all Muslims.

He also derived the innovative concept that jihad was not a duty that stood apart from the pillars of Islamic practice, including prayer and pilgrimage, but rather that it was the highest form of worship.
It was his words that speakers like Abu Ja'far of Kenya declared, "Why don't you leap forth for this act of worship? Join us so that we can together fight the forces of Kufr, just as they have united together to fight the religion of Allah."

The same message is echoed in an audio clip by al-Qaida scholar Abu Yahya al-Libi.
Other lecturers in the video stress the general call to the front, but appeal most strongly to other East Africans. Abu Mu'adh calls upon Ethiopian Muslims, which include a large section of ethnic Somalis, "to cross the borders into Somalia and participate in jihad alongside your Muslim brothers." Kenyans speak of the need for Muslims to unite around Somalia, while a Sudanese warrior urges the Muslims of his home country to join the fight "until we end in Palestine."

One of the few fighters to address taking the fight to the West, in addition to coming to Somalia, is Abu Zaid of Sweden. In a mixture of Swedish and Arabic, he threatens Danish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who became the target of death threats for drawing the Islamic prophet Muhammad. "And I say to Lars Vilks, that where you are, if not today or tomorrow, know that we haven't yet forgotten about you." Drawing his finger across his throat, Abu Zaid threatened, "Know what awaits you, as it will be nothing but this, slaughter… and to my brothers and sisters, I call you to make Hijra [emigrate] Inshallah, and if you can, kill this dog Lars Vilks. Then you will receive a great reward from Allah."

Al-Shabaab spokesman Ali Muhammad Rage closes the video with a declaration. "We say to our family in East Africa, Welcome to Somalia. Hakuna Matata [there are no worries]."

IPT News

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Israeli Firms See a Global Market for Their Anti-terrorism Know-how

by Edmund Sanders and Batsheva Sobelman

As the threat of terrorism spreads, Israel has turned domestic security technology into one of its biggest exports.

More than 400 Israeli companies export about $1.5 billion annually in domestic security goods and technology, including biometric devices, tear gas canisters, anti-intrusion systems, airport screening machines, explosives detectors and remote-controlled vehicles.

Among the offerings at a recent security expo in Tel Aviv was document-scanning software from IntuView that not only translates Arabic text but also searches for key words and phrases, including names, dates and Koranic verses commonly cited by extremists. Software engineer Amit Seker said the U.S. Army has bought the software.

"The proximity of Israeli culture to Islamic culture produces a better understanding of the issues," said Doron Havazelet, director of the new Homeland Security Institute at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Edmund Sanders and Batsheva Sobelman (Los Angeles Times)

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Israel, Gulf States Conducted Secret Diplomacy

by Eli Lake

Israel and its adversaries in the Persian Gulf in recent years carried out extensive secret diplomacy to coordinate policy and exchange information on the threat posed by Iran, despite both sides' public posture of mutual hostility.

A classified 2009 diplomatic cable disclosed this week provides a rare glimpse into the secret and often high-level diplomacy between Israel and Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, all countries that officially do not recognize the Jewish state.

Contrary to the condemnatory rhetoric opposing Israel in public, Arab diplomats behind the scenes have asked Israel to carry messages to the U.S. government and urged tougher action on Iran.

The March 19, 2009, cable quotes Yacov Hadas, deputy director of Israels Foreign Ministry, as telling an American diplomat: "The Gulf Arabs believe in Israel's role because of their perception of Israel's close relationship with the U.S., but also due to their sense that they can count on Israel against Iran."

Mr. Hadas then says, "They believe Israel can work magic."

Israel and the Gulf states have grown increasingly concerned in recent years about Iran's nuclear program and that country's support for radical political movements and terrorism throughout the Middle East.

The new disclosures by the website WikiLeaks coincide with other classified cables made public in recent days that show Arab leaders have been urging U.S. officials to take military action against Iran.

Throughout Israel's history, the state has maintained back channels to Arab governments, even on the eve of war and during a cold peace. Nonetheless, Jordan and Egypt are the only two Arab states that maintain formal diplomatic ties with Israel with full representation at the ambassador level.

That said, nearly every Arab state has had less-formal ties with Israel on and off since the beginning of the Oslo peace process in the 1990s, but those ties began to sever in 2000 with the collapse of the peace process.

Aaron David Miller, who has been a senior Middle East adviser to six secretaries of state, said every Arab country with the exception of Iraq under Saddam Hussein and Libya has had some diplomatic channel to Israel.

"With the exception of Iraq and Libya, I believe every member of the Arab League had some form of contact, informal or otherwise, with Israel up to 1996," Mr. Miller said. "This was through multilateral fora in some cases, the Middle East North African Economic Summit, for example, it was interest sections, and it was quiet contacts as well."

In January 2009, after Israel launched "Operation Cast Lead" against Hamas in Gaza, Qatar, the last Arab Gulf state to have open ties with Israel closed an Israeli trade office, leaving Israel with no open diplomatic channels to the Persian Gulf states that it used during the 1990s.

But as the 2009 cable shows, by March of that year, the Qataris already invited an Israeli delegation back to Doha to discuss reopening the trade mission.

Nonetheless, that same month, the queen of Qatar, Mozah Bint Nasser al Missned, hired a U.S. public relations firm, Fenton Communications, to run a public-awareness campaign in America to highlight the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza.

Mr. Hadas argued that Qatar's position on Iran was less than ideal, but did not reflect a fundamental change in its foreign policy. He even noted that Egyptian and Saudi pressure on Qatar seemed to be having an effect on the kingdom's approach to Iran.

Israel has had access to the highest levels of the Qatari government. The memo discloses, for example, that Israel has contacts with Qatar's emir, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, also known as Prince Hamad.

"Prince Hamad had told the Israelis in October 2006 that he believed Iran was determined to develop a nuclear bomb no matter the cost," the cable says. "According to Hadas, Hamad complained at the time that he felt the U.S. would not listen to him and tended to believe what it heard from Iran."

The leaked cable says former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni had "good personal relations" with Sheik Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Mr. Hadas said the UAE was "increasingly hostile" to Iran, but also noted that the Emirates allowed Iran to launder its money and had extensive financial dealings with the country. The Emiratis are "not ready to do publicly what they say in private," the cable quotes Mr. Hadas as saying.

In February, the police chief of Dubai, an emirate in the UAE, publicly accused Israel's Mossad of assassinating a Hamas arms dealer named Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.

Diplomats from the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia declined to comment for this article. A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy also declined to comment.

Other Israeli diplomats did, however, tell The Washington Times that Israeli officials have looked to coordinate some aspects of Iran policy with Arab states in private meetings in Europe and on the sidelines of international meetings. For example, Israelis have shared information with Gulf states on weapons and high-tech shipments bound for Iran, these diplomats said.

At the end of the cable, the American diplomat told Mr. Hadas that Arab leaders tell the United States that progress in the peace process "would make it easier for them to publicly engage Israel."

Mr. Hadas countered, "The Israeli-Palestinian track should not serve as an excuse for the Gulf to avoid action, whether against Iran or through practical steps to support the Palestinian Authority."

Mr. Miller said the secret contacts Arabs have maintained with Israel have some value, but not too much.

"In a sense, the Arabs are getting the best of both worlds: They get points with the Americans for carrying out quiet contacts with the Israelis, but they don't get hammered by their own press or their regional rivals. That is how they prefer it," he said.

In response to the disclosures this week, the White House announced it would be moving to change the classification procedures. In the past, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper said the recent leaking may spell the end for the intelligence-sharing reforms instituted after the 9/11 attacks.

Meanwhile,, which lent some of its server space to WikiLeaks, took the group off its servers after government pressure.

Eli Lake

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Possible Syrian Nuke Facility Identified by Satellite

by Yaakov Katz

A compound in western Syria with buildings and hundreds of missile-shaped items has been identified as functionally related to a nuclear reactor Israel destroyed northeast of Damascus in 2007.

Satellite footage of the site in Masyaf was obtained by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security and shows a compound built in a ravine and surrounded by what appears to be a line of trenches.

While there are no security measures visible in the commercial satellite imagery, ISIS said building a facility in a ravine was a common method of providing general protection and isolation.

Several years ago, a military base near Masyaf was mentioned as a possible hiding place for weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein might have sent to Syria before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

ISIS head David Albright, who analyzed the satellite footage, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that the site at Masyaf could be a military storage facility. Hundreds of items seen stored in rows out in the open could be missiles or truck beds, he said.

“We have identified one site and learned the approximate locations of three other sites as well,” Albright said.

On Thursday, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s governing board convened in Vienna to discuss Syria’s continued refusal to allow inspectors to visit the site of the al-Kibar reactor, in Syria’s Deir Alzour region, that was destroyed by Israel in September 2007, or other sites, like the one near Masyaf that are suspected of being functionally related to the reactor. When the IAF bombed the reactor it was two-to-three weeks away from becoming operational and it would have been capable of producing plutonium for nuclear weapons.

IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano told the board on Thursday that he recently sent a letter to Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem urging him to grant inspectors access to the sites.

“Syria has not cooperated with the agency since June 2008 in connection with the unresolved issues related to the Deir Alzour site and some other locations,” Amano said. “As a consequence, the agency has not been able to make progress towards resolving the outstanding issues related to those sites.”

Albright said that he commissioned the satellite photos of the suspected site near Masyaf to raise awareness of Syria’s continued violations ahead of the IAEA meeting.

“The issue needs more attention and there needs to be a special inspection by the IAEA at al-Kibar and other sites that are relevant,” he said. “The issue is not getting enough attention and Syria can destroy evidence and can get away with it by stonewalling the IAEA.”

Yaakov Katz

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PA Removes Controversial Kotel Report From Website

by Khaled Abu Toameh, Jordana Horn and Hilary Krei

A Palestinian Authority “study” that rejects Jews’ claim to the Western Wall disappeared on Wednesday from the official website of the Palestinian Ministry of Information.

The ministry said in a statement in Arabic that its website had been “penetrated by unknown persons.”

However, a senior PA official in Ramallah revealed that the controversial report was cut at the request of the United States.

The ministry said that despite the alleged attack by hackers, it was “determined to show the truth and relay all what’s happening in Palestine to the world.”

Despite the claim about a hacker attack, the ministry’s website did not seem to be affected at all and was continuing to publish new material all day.

The paper about the Western Wall, which was first reported by The Jerusalem Post on November 22, had appeared on the site until Tuesday night.

It was removed the first time almost immediately after the US criticized the Palestinians for issuing it.

The Prime Minister’s Office responded to the PA’s decision to take down its “study” denying any Jewish connection to the Western Wall off the website, by saying it was notenough [sic] for the PA to pretend this never happened, but was important that the leadership denounce it publicly.

“It is important for confidence building that the Palestinian Authority publicly prepare people for peace and reconciliation, and that can only be done if Palestinian leaders publicly disassociate themselves from such remarks and condemn all statements that call Israel fundamentally illegitimate,” one official in the Prime Minister’s Office said.

“As long as the Jewish state remains illegitimate in Palestinian eyes, peace will not be real,” he said.

Although Israel denounced the “study” and called for the Palestinian leadership to disassociate itself from it immediately after news of it appeared in the Post, the PA only took it off its website after the Americans registered a public protest. Israeli sources said this was not a good sign, since the Middle East road map obligates the PA to fight incitement, and the issue “must be important to them.”

The “study” was prepared by Al-Mutawakel Taha, a senior official with the Ministry of Information in Ramallah and a renowned poet and writer with close ties to the PA leadership.

Taha’s paper claimed that the Western Wall, or Al-Buraq Wall as it is known to Muslims, is Wakf trust property owned by an Algerian-Moroccan Muslim family.

“The Zionist occupation falsely and unjustly claims that it owns this wall that it calls the Western Wall or Kotel,” Taha wrote in his document.

“The Al-Buraq Wall is in fact the western wall of the Aksa Mosque.”

He said that Jews never used the site for worship until the Balfour Declaration of 1917.

“This wall was never part of the so-called Temple Mount, but Muslim tolerance allowed the Jews to stand in front of it and weep over its destruction,” he wrote.

“During the British Mandate in Palestine, the number of Jews who visited the wall increased to a point where the Muslims felt threatened and then there was the Al-Buraq Revolution on August 23, 1929, where dozens of Muslims were martyred and a large number of Jews were killed.”

Taha said on Wednesday that he was not aware that his “study” had been removed from the ministry’s website. He also backtracked on his earlier assertion that it reflected the official position of the PA.

The US on Tuesday night again criticized the document.

“We strongly condemn these comments and fully reject them as factually incorrect, insensitive and highly provocative,” a US State Department spokesman said.

“We have repeatedly raised with the Palestinian Authority leadership the need to consistently combat all forms of delegitimization of Israel, including denying historic Jewish connections to the land.”

The chairman of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Rep. Howard Berman (D-California), also decried Taha’s claim, calling it “provocative and inciteful.”

“I strongly condemn the [claim] that the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem has no religious significance to Jews,” Berman said.

“[The PA’s] President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad know the spiritual importance of the Western Wall to the global Jewish community,” he said, calling on Abbas to denounce Taha’s study and clarify that the remarks were not the official position of the PA.

Jewish leaders applauded the US administration’s strong stance on the Western Wall.

In a statement, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations leaders Alan Solow and Malcolm Hoenlein said the Palestinian claim is one that “undermine[ s] the chances for peace.”

“This ongoing process of delegitimization of Israel and the ancient Jewish connection to the land is part of an ongoing campaign that damages confidence in the willingness of the PA to negotiate a solution that accepts Israel,” they said in a statement.

Many US Jewish groups also reiterated the historical inaccuracy of the Palestinian report.

“Maintaining historical accuracy and integrity is critical, and the Western Wall’s origin as the outer wall of the Jewish Second Temple is irrefutable,” American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites Shmuel Rabinovitch praised the US reactions to the PA announcement, which, he added, “distorted history and claimed the Western Wall is not a site sanctified to the Jews.”

“The foolish attempt to offer an alternative historical narrative to the sanctities of Israel damaged not only the speakers’ reliability and the dignity of history, but primarily the efforts to bring peace to the Middle East,” Rabinovitch said in a statement.

Khaled Abu Toameh, Jordana Horn and Hilary Krei
Jonah Mandel and Hilary Leila Krieger contributed to this report.

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Egypt’s Electoral Unrest

by Frank Crimi

Amidst accusations [1] that their government was engaging in rampant acts of voter intimidation and electoral fraud — allegations that sparked violent encounters between police and protesters nationwide — Egyptians went to the polls on November 28 to vote in the nation’s first round of parliamentary elections. While it took several days to certify the results, the country’s ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) is headed [2] for an overwhelming victory, claiming the majority of seats in the Egyptian People’s Assembly.

The NDP won 209 of the 508 seats being contested, with a December 5 run-off scheduled for seats where no one received more than 50 percent of the vote. The NDP will run candidates in 275 of the 283 scheduled run-off votes, mostly against other NDP candidates.

Despite charges of widespread electoral malfeasance, the Egyptian government has claimed [3] the election was a “success.” While acknowledging some electoral irregularities may have occurred, the government described them as minor in both nature and in consequence. According [3] to Egyptian Minister of Information Anas El-Fekky, “The Government is confident that they have not affected the overall conduct and integrity of the elections.”

This may have come as news to the vast number of election monitors and opposition groups, who reported an election rife with countless acts of vote-rigging, violence, and harassment of opposition candidates. This feeling was best summed up by Magdy Abdel-Hamid, a spokesperson for an Egyptian local rights group, who declared [4], “There was no election. There was chaos, there were acts of thuggery and there was violence.”

Unfortunately, the entire parliamentarian campaign itself was plagued with charges of electoral corruption, violent street clashes, and mass arrests, so it wasn’t too surprising to see election day culminate in chaotic upheaval.

While Egypt’s ruling National Democratic Party is no stranger to charges of electoral abuse, its actions throughout this political campaign, however, have served to exacerbate an already tense and uncertain political climate.

Feeding this uncertainty has been the news [5] that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in power since 1981, is preparing to run for a sixth term in next year’s presidential election, despite concerns [5] over both his health and doubts about who will be his chosen successor.

Additionally, there is growing angst among Egypt’s secular liberals that the electoral misdeeds of Mubarak’s NDP are stifling any chance at democratic reforms, leaving the nation vulnerable to internal religious forces. One very formidable force has been the Muslim Brotherhood [6] (MB), a radical Islamist organization that has long sought the imposition of Sharia law onto all aspects of Egyptian politics and society.

Despite being officially outlawed since 1954, the MB has been able to circumvent the government ban by running its members as independent candidates and, as a result, has enjoyed [7] some recent political success, winning 88 seats in the 2005 parliamentary election.

However, the 2010 election results showed [8] that the MB lost the vast majority of those same seats, leaving only 26 of its candidates slated to compete in the December 5 run-off election.

Of course, none of the election results comes as much of a surprise to the MB, which, as the main opposition group to the NDP, has been the chief target of recent government efforts to rid the Islamist group of its power prior to next year’s presidential election.

A glaring example of such efforts occurred just before the election, when Saad el-Katani, a senior leader of the MB, was set upon by an armed mob of NDP supporters after he accused [9] the Egyptian government of “rigging the vote” in advance of the parliamentary election.

Although el-Katani was not seriously hurt in the attack, it was just one of dozens of violent clashes between MB members and government forces that resulted [10] in over 1200 arrests.

While the MB cited these incidents as proof the government was “sending a message that there will be no election,” those notions were quickly countered [9] by Interior Minister Habib el-Adly, who said the MB was deliberately provoking confrontations in order to “try to implement their agenda, which violates the interests of the state.”

Charges of electoral transgressions against the Egyptian government have long been voiced, with accusations ranging from ballot stuffing to vote rigging, to use of outdated voter rolls.

Despite government assurances of electoral compliance in this election, many Egyptians are doubtful. According [11] to one analyst, Amr Hamzawy, the government’s actions have been proof-positive that it has no intention of opening up the political system and that “NDP will continue its dominance over the legislative process.”

The result has been to create what critics call [11] a “culture of despair’ among the Egyptian people, which makes a great deal of sense given the populace has been under the despotic rule of the same man and party for close to 30 years.

However, there are optimists who believe that international scrutiny of the 2010 election may actually hasten democratic reforms in Egypt.

Saad Eddin Ibrahim, an Egyptian-American democracy activist, says, [11] “Egypt is the biggest Arab country in the Middle East. It is the center of the Arab world. It has always led culturally and politically and if the election is carried out freely and fairly, Egypt can hope to lead the democratic transformation of the region.”

However, what type of transformation that entails ultimately hinges on the fate of Mubarak and the man who succeeds him. While speculation has centered on Mubarak’s youngest son Gamal as the most likely candidate, others discount it, noting [12] the angry protests that erupted when news of his rumored succession first surfaced.

Even Gamal himself, a forty six year old investment banker, has seemed to rule out a presidential run, stating [12] unequivocally, “Despite what people think, I have no personal ambition.”

Of course, in the murky world [13] of Egyptian politics, nobody beyond Mubarak’s inner circle really has a clear sense of who will succeed him or what that process will even look like.

So, without a named successor, fears have begun to ratchet up that once Mubarak’s death comes and no clear successor is forthcoming, political chaos will soon follow. Such an upheaval would have enormous consequences far beyond Egypt’s own borders.

Since the Camp David accords of 1979, the security of the region has rested on Egypt’s willingness to maintain peaceful relations with Israel. In exchange, the Egyptian military has been the recipient [13] of over $40 billion dollars in US aid. However, the aid has depended on Egypt’s promise not to utilize its military in regional affairs, but limit its role to protecting the regime and its own borders. Any electoral gains by the viciously anti-Israel MB threaten the delicate political landscape of the entire region.

Some believe that the rise of the MB to full power is still far-off down the road. They argue that the MB is just marking time, content to use the following years to increase its power to that of the NDP, meanwhile spreading its Islamist message and working its vast social network of charities. According [14] to one former Bush official, the MB thinks that “in 10 or 15 years, they will own Egypt.”

While the MB’s ascendency is uncertain at this time, it’s very clear that Egypt now stands at a political crossroads: a growing Islamist movement, an intractable authoritarian regime, and a large segment of reform-minded secularists are all jockeying to determine what road to take.

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Frank Crimi

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Iranian Air Force Officer Defects

by Ryan Mauro

A former pilot for the Iranian Air Force has defected to the Green Wave Movement that hopes to bring together all the Iranian democratic opposition groups. He did so to fight for regime change and testify that the military is ready to turn on the government. The Green Wave is drawing up plans to make that happen, warning the West that regional war will erupt if the regime is not taken down.

Lieutenant Behzad Masoumi Legwan was tortured [1] in 2001 after he was accused of sedition. He was discharged from the military in 2007 and he began making plans to defect with the help of other dissident officers. He made contact with the Kurdish Democratic Party and the Green Wave Movement to prepare for his escape to Kurdistan in northern Iraq. Once there, the Iranian regime tried [2] to get the Iraqis to arrest and hand him over to no avail, allowing him to arrive in France.

Legwan made his first public appearance alongside Mohammad Reza Heydari, the former Iranian consul in Norway who defected in January and became executive-director of the Green Embassies Campaign, as well as Amir Hossein Jahanchahi, the billionaire founding chairman of the Green Wave.

“It is a fact that the overwhelming majority of the officer corps are in no way obedient followers of the regime. On the contrary, they are looking for the first opportunity whereby they can openly display their true sentiments by standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Iran,” Legwan said. He says [2] that he has contacts in the Iranian military, including senior members of the air force and Revolutionary Guards.

Jahanchahi says [3] that he doesn’t want the Green Wave to be a political party or organization, but a “constellation” containing all of the democratic opposition groups. His father was the finance minister when the Shah was overthrown. After Khomeini took power, Jahanchahi fled to Europe. He compares Ahmadinejad to Hitler and says all of the region’s instability is fomented by Iran.

“My position is very simple that the people who go to the streets in order to change the regime need the backing of people from inside the system. That’s why I am contacting and seeking the support of people who say ‘we will go with you’ when the time of protests comes,” he says. [4]

Jahanchahi says [2] that he and his colleagues are in a rush against time to bring down the regime before it sparks a “destructive regional war with unimaginable consequences for international peace and security.” He says [5] that this scenario is unavoidable unless the regime falls because “if Israel does not attack, there will be war; but if Israel does attack, it would be the biggest gift the Ahmadinejad regime could ever receive and would send the entire region into war.”

The Green Wave specifically aims to reach out to dissident elements of the government and military in the hopes of getting them to switch sides. This is a very achievable goal as there is significant dissent [6] in the Revolutionary Guards, the security force created to keep the regime in power. A documentary interviewed [7] four former members of the Revolutionary Guards testifying to this fact. It’s also been reported [8] that in the past six months, about 700 disloyal members of the Basiji militia and Revolutionary Guards have been killed for allegedly trafficking narcotics.

“The Iranian people are ready to accept the truth that this regime will not be changed by a velvet revolution. It has to be changed by force,” Jahanchahi states. His plan includes helping defectors escape the country, building a radio station to beam news into Iran, setting up an exile government, and funding strikes in the transportation sector. The objective [9] is to “transform the cells of discontent into cells of resistance.”

The deteriorating situation in Iran opens the window for such action to take place. The bazaar merchants have turned [10] against the regime, sporadic protests by students and activists continue, and there is a huge amount of worker discontent. [11] The regime’s plan to cut subsidies for fuel and food is causing uproar and international sanctions are hurting. [12] A secret report [13] sent to Supreme Leader Khamenei in September warns of “significant risks of financial collapse within a year” if sanctions continue. It warns him that he must take “drastic measures to prevent a major crisis.”

The debate about U.S. policy towards Iran’s nuclear program and support for terrorism is almost always deduced to two options: Military action or a combination of diplomacy and sanctions. A much more appealing third option of supporting the opposition seems to be obvious to Iranians but is absent from the national debate. At the very least, such a strategy can enhance the chances of either option’s success. It is time that the American people require that our elected officials and potential presidential candidates outline how they’ll help the Iranian people win their freedom.

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Ryan Mauro

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The Saudi Problem

by Rich Trzupek

It shouldn’t have needed confirmation, but the latest WikiLeaks release affirmed what astute observers of the Middle East have known for a long time: Saudi Arabia is a most dangerous ally. On the one hand, King Abdullah is reported [1] as having urged America to “cut off the head of the snake,” referring to the radical fundamentalist regime in Iran. On the other hand, another cable states that [2] “Saudi donors remain the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like al-Qaida.” Neither bit of news is terribly surprising, but it puts new focus on the troubling, entangling and often hypocritical alliance between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Obama administration, like administrations before it, surely understands the complexity of the Saudi problem. The question is: how to solve it? Given Obama’s lamentable foreign policy track record, it would seem that America is farther away than ever from formulating a plan to deal with the Saudi monarchy.

There are multiple challenges in dealing with the Saudis and they’re all intertwined. Oil is at the root of the problem of course. As much as we love to dream of a world in which Saudi crude doesn’t matter, that’s not the world we live in. Nor will we live in such a world in the foreseeable future. No amount of cornfields or wind farms are going to supplant crude in any meaningful way. A stable, reliable global petroleum supply chain is essential to America’s economic health, and the nation that churns out twenty per cent of the world’s crude oil is the most critical aspect of that supply chain. So, in the case of Saudi Arabia, we are choosing the devil we know and hope we can make the relationship work. Yet, the larger problem inherent in dealing with Saudi Arabia is that we’re not dealing with the interests of a nation, but rather those of a family.

Estimates vary, but the Royal House of Saud [3], which has ruled the kingdom since unification in 1932, has between 7,000 and 20,000 members. In a nation of 25 million [4], a stunning amount of national wealth flows through the hands of the Sauds – around forty percent of GDP by some estimates. Over $200 billion per year is under the control of one extended family. The princes of the House of Saud and their families live very well and they know it. They are also very aware that the foundation of their authority rests on two very shaky pillars: their continued control of the kingdom’s vast oil reserves, and keeping the restless and often resentful populace of the nation in check. Those two over-riding goals of the royal family manifest themselves in two very contradictory policies when it comes to relations with the United States of America.

Keeping control of the source of the family’s wealth (those enormous oil reserves) means ensuring that none of Saudi Arabia’s more dangerous, covetous neighbors get their hands on it. Thus, King Fahd was happy to help American during the First Gulf War in order to thwart Saddam Hussein’s naked ambitions — even if doing so meant suffering the undying enmity of Islamic purists like Osama bin Laden. In the same vein, which nation in the region represents the greatest threat to the royal family today? Iran, and in particular, a nuclear-capable Iran. Thus, King Abdullah’s wish that America use its military might to cut off the head of the kingdom’s latest threat comes as no surprise. The King could hardly be expected to hope for anything else.

While America protects the Kingdom from external threats, internal threats are every bit as dangerous to the House of Saud. Managing those threats means that America, Saudi Arabia’s ally behind the scenes, must be made the public scapegoat [5] for all the ills that millions of ordinary Saudis suffer (along with Israel, of course). However many handshakes that Saudi and American diplomats privately exchange, or however many bows Barack Obama publicly offers to Saudi royalty, the fact of the matter is that the average Saudi Arabian despises America — and the Saudi royal family is quite happy with that arrangement.

I speak from experience. In the late nineties, I did a significant amount of work in the kingdom as one of the many expatriates who keep the wheels of industry turning in Saudi Arabia. The English language newspaper in the kingdom, the Arab Times, was constantly filled with virulent anti-American and anti-Israeli propaganda. (I can’t even imagine what was published in the Arabic-language newspapers.) Most – though not entirely all – of the native population treated Americans and Brits with undisguised contempt and, occasionally, employed the kind of physical aggression and intimidation that would shock the public if it happened in the United States. The Saudi religious police reveled in harassing Americans and Brits. There is a caustic, poisonous anti-American, anti-Western, anti-Israel atmosphere pervading Saudi Arabia and it could not exist without the tacit approval, if not the active encouragement, of the House of Saud.

This is the other half of the royal family’s strategy of holding onto power; wealth and privilege. Millions of ordinary Saudis are poor and don’t understand why that should be so in a nation so rich and so beloved by Allah. Many among the Saudi middle class resent the wealth and privilege that the ruling class enjoys. Absent a convenient scapegoat, this rage and resentment would be turned against the House of Saud and its fragile authority. And so, within the borders of our so-called ally, the myth that American imperialism and Israeli Zionism are to blame for all of the woes that ordinary Saudis suffer is both tolerated and encouraged. The House of Saud showers money onto radical Muslim clerics, perpetuating a centuries old partnership between the royal family and the fundamentalist followers of Muhammad Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab [6]. The Wahhabis, in turn, use those riches to fund the terrorist organizations that want to destroy Western civilization.

The Sauds don’t appear to be troubled by the contradiction of relying on the protection of the world’s one remaining superpower, while simultaneously – if indirectly – undermining America’s ability to provide that singular service. The royal family has been happily playing both ends to the benefit of their personal middle for decades and they show no signs of stopping. As the WikiLeaks release confirms, the House of Saud knows that they hold the ultimate trump card in the form of black gold, and no one in America is willing to call.

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Rich Trzupek

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Editor's Notes: Exposed by WikiLeaks

by David Horovitz

After the first meeting between newish President Barack Obama and new Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in May of 2009, I wrote in these pages about the “acutely uncomfortable clash of divergent outlooks” so readily evident at their media conference.

I noted that while the Netanyahu camp had “rushed to talk up a purported meeting of minds over Iran,” it was plain that there was a gulf between the two men on the issue. Specially, I wrote, it had been Netanyahu’s hope that he would persuade Obama of the imperative to halt the Iranian nuclear drive “as a precondition for encouraging Arab moderation and thus enabling progress with the Palestinians, and on this he failed.”

Instead, I pointed out, “Obama insistently placed tackling the Palestinian issue – which has defeated even the most generous and flexible Israeli governments – on the road to fixing Iran.”

While Israel had argued internationally that stopping Iran would enable headway with the Palestinians, and other foreign heads of state, senior ministers and diplomats had politely suggested it was best to try to chivvy both processes along simultaneously, Obama, I observed, “has gone all the way over to the other side, and done so in public.”

I was referring to the president’s assertion, publicly contradicting Netanyahu, that, “If there is a linkage between Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, I personally believe it actually runs the other way. To the extent that we can make peace with the Palestinians – between the Palestinians and the Israelis – then I actually think it strengthens our hand in the international community in dealing with a potential Iranian threat.”

In that column and many others since, I have often come back to Obama’s unconvincing assertion that Netanyahu, and much of Israel besides, has the Iran- Palestinian equation wrong. I often noted how illogical it seemed for Obama to argue that there was a good prospect of dramatic progress on the Palestinian front even while Iran, and by extension, Palestinian extremists, were in the ascendant, and how much more room for optimism there would be on the Palestinian front if Iran had been faced down, its nuclear march halted, and relative moderates throughout the region emboldened and empowered.

To my mind, the president’s thinking defied common sense. Now we know, however, that it also defied the concrete information he was receiving from his own diplomats.

THE OBAMA administration, it is now clear for all to see, was not pressing a reluctant Netanyahu to make settlement-freeze and other concessions to the Palestinians in part because it truly believed this would be helpful in generating wider support for tackling Iran.

Not at all. The United States, we now know courtesy of WikiLeaks, was being repeatedly urged by a succession of Arab leaders to smash an Iranian nuclear program they feared would destabilize the entire region and put their regimes at risk. Their priority was, and is, battering Ahmadinejad, not bolstering Abbas.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, in 2008, had not urged the US to chivvy those recalcitrant Israelis toward concessions to the Palestinians as a pre-condition for grudging Saudi support for a firmer US-led position against Iran. Anything but. Never mind the Palestinians, the king simply implored Washington to “cut off the head of the [Iranian] snake.”

Likewise, with minor variations in the course of the following year, the rulers of Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.

We are now starting to hear, courtesy of WikiLeaks, what Jordan and Egypt had to say on the matter too.

Obama, that is, was not the prisoner of a misconception, convinced in absolute good faith that if he could deliver Israeli concessions at the negotiating table he might stand a greater chance of getting the Arabs on board for the battle with the mullahs. No, he had the diplomatic cables to prove that the Israeli- Palestinian conflict was no obstacle to wide Arab backing, indeed wide Arab entreaties, for the toughest possible measures against Iran, emphatically including military action.

Either the president, it can be concluded, was so attached to his misconception that he refused to let the concrete information he had on Arab leaders’ thinking get in the way – sticking to his view of the region in defiance of the facts.

Or, more plausibly, he had internalized full well that he didn’t actually need the cover of a substantive Israeli-Palestinian peace process to generate Arab support for tackling Iran’s nuclear program, but chose to pressure Israel just the same, as a tactic, because he felt Israel was not being sufficiently forthcoming on the Palestinian front.

Neither explanation sits well, to put it mildly.

TELL NETANYAHU – who at the time of their first meeting had yet to endorse the two-state solution, and who is extremely unlikely to repeat the peace offer that Ehud Olmert had spurned by Abbas – that you feel he should be doing more? That’s fair enough.

What’s not fair enough is to indicate to the Israeli prime minister, when it’s patently untrue, that he ought to put aside some of his skepticism and take risks for peace because otherwise Israel might impede the US’s capacity to thwart the genocidal enemy, Iran.

In that May 2009 column, I noted that “If building international, and more specifically regional pressure on Iran is perceived to be contingent on dramatic progress toward resolving our vexed conflict with the Palestinians, the outlook may be bleak indeed. To judge by the fate of Israel’s peace overtures since the early 1990s, the Iranians, one can only fear, would be up to their eyes in enriched uranium before there’s a breakthrough here.”

So now here we are 18 months later. The peace process is deadlocked and Iran is indeed a good deal closer to the bomb. And the Obama administration has been pressing Israel for a second settlement freeze, even though Abbas wasted the last one, even though Netanyahu has demonstrably sought to encourage reconciliation by improving the economic climate on the West Bank, and even though Israel’s uncertainty about its Palestinian partner is magnified every time Fatah derides the legitimacy of a Jewish nation-state or the PA endorses “research” denying Jewish sovereign history here.

Until WikiLeaks, the US was presumably still reminding Israel of its view that the “linkage between Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process… runs the other way.”

That the route to thwarting Teheran runs via Jerusalem. That, whatever Israel’s misgivings, it should consider giving ground on the Palestinian front in part because of the demands of the wider struggle against Iran.

What’s the president going to tell Israel now?

David Horovitz

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WikiLeaks Cables Highlight Arab Contempt for Iran

by Jeffrey Fleishman

The Middle East has been suspicious of Iran for years, but the recent disclosure of diplomatic cables highlights the contempt that has spurred Arab countries to strengthen their defenses, including Saudi Arabia's $60-billion deal with the United States to buy missiles and F-15 fighter jets.

Confidential memos from U.S. embassies made public over the weekend by WikiLeaks are not likely to reshape the region's political maneuverings. But they have further agitated the ill will between Tehran and Arab capitals over Iran's nuclear enrichment program and its influence on militant groups in Iraq, the Gaza Strip and other locales.

The release of the cables has narrowed diplomatic wiggle room. Saudi King Abdullah, quoted as urging the U.S. to attack Iran, is likely to find it tough convincing Tehran that he supports regional harmony. The leaks also reveal that Arab countries have a deeper reliance on Washington than they care to acknowledge to their largely anti-American populations.

"There is no surprise in this relationship but it will give opposition groups the ability to say, 'Look at the puppets your leaders are,'" said Randa Habib, a Jordan-based political analyst. "But because it concerns Iran it is somewhat understandable. The fear of gulf leaders is genuine over how this large country [Iran] can eat them."

Although obsessed by Iran's bluster and intrigue, Arab countries have limited options. Talk of countering Tehran has led to calls for increased diplomacy and the possibility of Arab capitals starting or expanding nuclear programs that could manufacture weapons. Such a prospect would make more precarious a part of the world mired in war, terrorism and sectarian hostilities.

"There are those who argue that Iran's development of nuclear warheads would pose a threat to Saudi Arabia and other gulf states, thus launching a nuclear arms race," read an editorial in the pan-Arab Al Quds al Arabi newspaper. "However, why does the response not take the form of a full-fledged Arab nuclear program, especially since the Arabs have the money, capabilities and required alliances" for a nuclear deterrent?

The more pressing concern for Arab Sunni Muslim states is keeping Shiite Muslim Iran off-balance in strategic countries. Gulf leaders want to contain Iran's influence in Iraq and diminish its grip on Islamic militant parties, such as Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Israel's security concerns have intensified the debate on the Iranian threat in recent years, but Arab nations have been attempting to outflank Tehran for generations.

"The official stance in the Middle East, led by Saudi Arabia and including countries like Egypt, Jordan, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, has always been that it is Iran and not Israel that poses the main threat to the region," said Mustafa El-Labbad, director of Al Sharq Center for Regional and Strategic Studies in Cairo.

"What WikiLeaks did was unveil everything to regular citizens around the world and this has led to the embarrassment of regimes in the Middle East. But there is nothing new in the cables," he said.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the diplomatic disclosures "psychological warfare" by the U.S. He was quoted as saying, "Regional countries are all friends with each other. Such mischief will have no impact on the relations of countries."

The leaked musings of diplomats, kings and presidents come at a sensitive time in the Arab world. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are anxious about who will succeed Abdullah and President Hosni Mubarak, both in their 80s. Opposition anger, poverty and failing education systems have added domestic pressures to international tension across the region.

Ahmadinejad and Iran's ruling theocracy have their own constraints. Tehran is beset with international economic sanctions aimed at its nuclear program, which Iran says is for civilian purposes only, but the West suspects is aimed at producing weapons. A large U.S. military presence looms nearby, including U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and the Navy's 5th Fleet in Bahrain.

Saudi Arabia's $60-billion arms deal with the U.S. — negotiated during Iran's standoff with the West over its nuclear program — consists mainly of conventional weapons. But, more important, the sale is viewed by some analysts as a financial favor to keep Saudi Arabia's oil fields protected by its most powerful friend.

"It's a bribe," Habib said. "Saudi Arabia buys U.S. equipment to stay on the good side of Washington. It's more of an economic deal to benefit the U.S. The great majority of Arabs fear Iran. They believe it is too rich and too powerful and will never be an ally."

Nabil Fahmy, former Egyptian ambassador to the United States, said of the diplomatic documents: "I don't think they will change policy, but they will probably make everyone in the region very cautious in what he conveys and doesn't convey" to American officials.

By Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times
Amro Hassan in The Times' Cairo Bureau contributed to this report.

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WikiLeaks: Pakistan Passed Terror Intel to Israel

by Yaakov Katz

J'lem and Islamabad don't share official diplomatic ties, but it isn't unusual for the two countries to share intelligence information on global terrorism.

Pakistan shared intelligence information with Israel regarding possible terrorist attacks against Jewish and Israeli sites in India, according to a leaked diplomatic cable published on Wednesday as part of the ongoing Wikileaks saga.

According to the document dated October 7, 2009, Ahmad Shuja Pasha, head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, told an American diplomat that he had conveyed intelligence on potential terror attacks in India to Israel.

He told former US Ambassador Anne Patterson that he had traveled to Oman and Iran to investigate information he received from the US about possible pending attacks in India.

"Pasha asked Ambassador to convey to Washington that he had followed up on threat information that an attack would be launched against India between September-November. He had been in direct touch with the Israelis on possible threats against Israeli targets in India," the cable read.

A few weeks before the cable was written, the Israeli Counter-Terror Bureau had issued a travel advisory warning of possible attacks against Israeli sites in India. A year earlier, 166 people were killed in multiple attacks in Mumbai, including an attack against the local Chabad house.

Israel and Pakistan do not share official diplomatic ties, although it is not unusual for the two countries to share intelligence information on sensitive issues such as global terrorism.

Israeli officials, such as Mossad chief Meir Dagan, were quoted in other documents published by Wikileaks expressing grave concern about the stability of the Pakistani government and the security surrounding Islamabad’s nuclear arsenal.

Yaakov Katz

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Washington Watch: What the Leaks Really Reveal

by D. Bloomfield

We didn’t need WikiLeaks’ dump of a quarter million State Department cables to tell us that its Arab neighbors are terrified of Iran and want “the head of the snake cut off,” in the words of the Saudi king, but they expect the US or Israel to do the job because they lack the courage to do it themselves.

Bahrain’s King Hamid urged the US to “terminate” Iran’s nuclear program “by whatever means necessary,” according to the cables, and similar views were reported by top officials in Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar.

Arab leaders may publicly embrace – literally – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but the cables leave little doubt they loathe and fear him. Adding to the sense of urgency are reports that China and North Korea are doing even more than previously believed to help Iran develop long-range ballistic missiles, chemical weapons and nuclear technology, and threats from Gulf Arabs that if we don’t take care of Iran they’ll feel compelled to develop their own nuclear weapons.

The document dump gives new credence to Israeli warnings and exposes the Arabs as duplicitous on the most critical issue facing their region. They leave little doubt they’d prefer Israel eliminate the Iranian threat, but just as sure as Allah made little green apples you know they would fiercely denounce the hated Zionists for their brutal attack on a dear Muslim brother.

THERE’S PRECEDENT. The first time Israel thwarted the nuclear ambitions of a brutal dictator, it was universally condemned – and the chorus was led by the US. In response to Arab demands, president Ronald Reagan directed his UN ambassador to work with the Iraqis on a Security Council resolution condemning the 1981 raid that destroyed Saddam Hussein’s Osirak nuclear reactor.

Publicly the Arab world united in its condemnation of the Jewish state but a few days later when a CIA briefer was asked by members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee about the Arab reaction to the Israeli attack, he replied, “Booyea.”

Puzzled lawmakers asked him to translate that into English. “Publicly they’re booing Israel and privately they’re cheering,” he explained.

It is obvious today that the raid did at least as much to protect Saudi Arabia and Iran from an Iraqi nuclear threat as it did Israel. Saddam waited nearly a decade for revenge, launching Scud missiles at Israel during the Gulf War in 1991.

The second Israeli nuclear non-proliferation act was Operation Orchard, the September 2007 attack on a Syrian reactor, believed built with the help of Iran and North Korea. Unlike 1981, Israel didn’t announce its attack to the world, but a few weeks later the Bush administration, which had refused to do the job itself, did.

Russia and China say they don’t want Iran to get nuclear weapons, but their actions are having an opposite effect. They are Iran’s chief enablers, protecting it from more intense international pressure.

China is the greater problem; along with its own rogue ally, North Korea, it is helping Iran acquire long-range ballistic missiles and chemical weapons capabilities, the leaked documents reveal. Iran’s missile capability is greater than previously known publicly.

Israel has been accused of being behind moves to impede Iran’s nuclear program, according to media reports, including the sale of faulty equipment for uranium enrichment, the Stuxnet computer worm that damaged centrifuges and attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists, including two earlier this week.

BINYAMIN NETANYAHU welcomed to exposure of what Arab leaders are saying in private as proof they agree with him about the Iranian threat, and he expressed hope they’d now say it publicly. Don’t hold your breath, Bibi. The Saudi media didn’t mention a word of what Arab leaders are saying, but it was available on the Arabic-language service out of Iran and elsewhere.’s Jeffrey Goldberg makes an interesting point: The WikiLeaks dump disproves those who say “it is only Israel advocating for war against Iran” when in fact “the most strident lobbyists for war against Iran have been Arab leaders.”

Another victim of the leaks is Israel-bashers like Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s former national security adviser, who repeatedly warn that an Israeli attack on the Iranian nuclear facilities would create anti-Israel “resentment” in the region and damage US-Israel relations. It appears that just the opposite may be the case.

The Obama administration has said Arab leaders have told it that progress toward Israeli-Palestinian peace would make regional cooperation against the Iranian threat easier, yet when the president personally pleaded with the Saudi king to act on that he was rebuffed.

King Abdullah, who claims authorship of the Arab Peace Initiative, has repeatedly refused to offer some confidence building measures to encourage greater Israeli flexibility in the faltering peace process. Instead he sticks to his insistence that the Israeli government must meet Arab demands before the Saudis will even speak to it about peace.

It also shows that for all their talk about wanting the Israelis to make peace, their real concern is Iran. And the talk about peace may be just that – talk.

D. Bloomfield

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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