Thursday, February 14, 2008

Iranian Threats and the UN Sanctions Debate.

By Patrick Clawson

On January 26, Hussein Shariatmadari -- the publisher of Iran's most influential newspaper and a close confidant of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei -- stated that attacks on "Zionists, Americans, and European countries that support Israel," as well as on compliant regional rulers, were both morally permissible and easily carried out. Indeed, Iran's hardliners engage in not only heated rhetoric, but also heated action -- from funding terrorists to ignoring international nuclear mandates. Accordingly, while the UN Security Council attempts to set the agenda with a new round of sanctions, the hardliners may forgo passivity and go on the offensive.

The Latest Provocation

Shariatmadari's commentary in Keyhan included threats to many players across the globe:

"All around the world, the crucial centers of Zionists, Americans, and European countries that support Israel are accessible to Muslims. Is it not true that access to many Zionist individuals in the four corners of the world is easily possible? Based on this, there is no human or legal principle that will deter any attack on these centers or people. . . . Maybe when they see that they will have to pay for their actions with their own life and property they will reconsider their support for these savage Zionists. . . . In the course of war against the enemies of Islam, it is permitted to attack those who shield the enemy. Hence, if the rulers of certain Islamic states prevent Muslims from attacking Zionists and keep Muslims from helping oppressed Palestinian people, it is possible to remove these enemy shields."

Perhaps Shariatmadari was just indulging in his normal provocative language, similar to his remarks on Bahrain last summer: "The principal demand of the Bahraini people today is to return this province, which was separated from Iran, to its mother, Islamic Iran." But his words are in the same tone as the hardliners' February 2007 threat that preceded the March hostage crisis involving British sailors.

Despite the regime's past and present provocations, however, a total ban on all Iranian exports is not the best approach, considering that a similar seven-year ban in Iraq (before the oil-for-food program) showed that such blunt-axe approaches to sanctions hurt ordinary people and do not necessarily change a government's behavior.
Instead, the Security Council should design "smart sanctions" based on careful consideration of the four criteria below.

Do the Sanctions Pressure Iran's Political Elite?

The most important goal of the sanctions should be to convince Iran's political elite that their current course is too risky and costly. The recent U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) argued that "Tehran's decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs." Since Tehran thought it would face less pressure on the nuclear issue after the NIE, the new round of sanctions will serve as a useful reminder that the issue is not going away. A unanimous vote would be particularly helpful for demonstrating the breadth of international concern.

Yet, the ten months of protracted negotiations since the last round of sanctions suggest there is little agreement on how much more to press the regime. (Final approval of the new sanctions resolution is expected within weeks of Libya's February 1 handover of the Security Council presidency to Panama.) It would not be surprising if Iran's leaders have concluded that modest additional sanctions are the worst they may have to face. They may also have concluded -- accurately -- that Iran's economy is boosted by high oil prices more than it is hurt by sanctions. Even if that equation changes, important figures such as Khamenei do not seem to care much about the economy.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy has expressed concern that the choice may come down to "Iran with a bomb or bombing Iran." Yet, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad has frequently and firmly insisted Iran has no need to worry about preemptive strikes; the new sanctions resolution is not likely to change his calculus. His domestic critics, who spent much of 2007 warning about the risks of his needlessly confrontational approach, have fallen silent about the matter since the NIE, shifting their attacks to his economic program.

Will the Sanctions Slow Iran's Nuclear Program?

Many of the measures adopted by the UN so far, and many of those said to be under consideration for a new resolution, are aimed at Iran's nuclear and missile programs. Such sanctions, often derided as symbolic, are better described as narrowly focused, since they could have a real impact on nuclear progress. The regime's enrichment efforts have already spanned two decades, and the International Atomic Energy Agency has verified that Iranian centrifuges are working far below capacity, suggesting continuing technical problems. Further impeding access to materials and information might slow Iran's ability to produce enough highly enriched uranium for a bomb until the later part of the NIE's estimated 2010-2015 range.

Is There an Enforcement Mechanism?

The draft of the third sanctions resolution appears to call for "vigilance" and "monitoring"; in other words, governments are being asked to be helpful, rather than being ordered to take action. The resolution apparently will not establish any expert monitoring teams, such as those used to good advantage in the UN sanctions on Sudan, Somalia, Liberia, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban. But this should not stop the United States and Europe from approaching other governments to provide information and assistance to thoroughly enforce the sanctions. To date, the West has done little if anything to make actionable information available to other governments -- particularly those that lack the resources or the sense of urgency to pay much attention to questionable Iranian activities, but which might be prepared to enforce the UN mandate if violations were brought to light.

Experience has shown that private firms are more sensitive than governments to what the U.S. Treasury Department likes to call "reputational risk." Banks detest vague warnings and implied threats from governments. They are already skittish in light of the October 11, 2007, warning by the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force that Iran's practices "represent a significant vulnerability within the international financial system." Accordingly, one can expect more Western pressure on banks to reconsider their business in Iran.

Do the Sanctions Preserve People-To-People Contact?

Sanctions must strike a delicate balance, imposing the sting of diplomatic disapproval without cutting off the ties that connect ordinary Iranians to the outside world. The risk is that a broad sanctions regime would fall disproportionately on Iran's professional classes -- the ones who are the most culturally, politically, and economically integrated into the international system.

To achieve the two goals of isolating the government while keeping the people connected, the new resolution should be accompanied by measures outside the UN. First, since even the hardliners care deeply about Iran's global image, its neighbors and other developing countries should be encouraged to make complaints to Tehran about its nuclear standoff with the UN. Second, there should be expanded outreach to ordinary Iranians, such as more government-sponsored scholarships and quicker processing of visa applications, similar to those funded by the controversial U.S. December package for promoting democracy in Iran.


Most likely, the new UN sanctions will have a very limited positive effect. Iran's hardliners may decide to take the initiative and push hard against the West, potentially making their next provocative action measurably worse. That said, the longer Iran's nuclear program is slowed, the more likely the regime's fundamental weaknesses will be evident, as will the West's abiding strengths. It will not be easy to tell if progress is being made because the pattern of negotiations with Iran is generally stalemate, then breakthrough. Regardless, even the most optimistic reading of the new sanctions makes Sarkozy's choice -- Iran with a bomb or bombing Iran -- more, rather than less, likely.

Patrick Clawson is deputy director for research at The Washington Institute and author of several books and monographs on Iran.

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


Mughniyeh co-founded Hizbullah'


For 25 years, Hizbullah operations chief Imad Mughniyeh was one of the world's most wanted terrorists, involved in endless attacks against Israel and the United States, including the abduction of two IDF reservists in 2006 and the bombing of US embassies in Africa.

Less known than Osama bin Laden but considered a greater outlaw, Mughniyeh was implicated in the 1983 bombing of the US Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut that killed more than 300, as well as the 1994 bombing of the Israelite Mutual Association building in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people, and the 1992 attack on the Israeli Embassy in the same city, in which 29 died.

He apparently had strong ties with al-Qaida, and according to the testimony of Ali Muhammad - a senior al-Qaida operative who was arrested for involvement in the attacks on American embassies in Africa - Mughniyeh met with bin Laden in Sudan in 1993. Hizbullah, Muhammad said, provided explosives training for al-Qaida fighters. This relationship - and the fact that Mughniyeh was Hizbullah's liaison to al-Qaida - has led Western intelligence agencies to raise the possibility that he was also involved in the September 11 attacks.

Born in Tyre, Lebanon, in 1962, Mughniyeh did not attract attention until 1976, when he joined the PLO's Force 17 as a sniper targeting Christians on the Green Line dividing West and East Beirut.

Fatah officials told The Jerusalem Post that he had been very close to Yasser Arafat when the PLO was based in Beirut.

"His nickname was tha'lab [the fox], and today he's considered the second most important figure in Hizbullah after Secretary-General Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. We're very proud to have had a Palestinian holding such a high position in Hizbullah," said a Fatah official who said he had known Mughniyeh well during the '70s and '80s.

When the IDF forced the PLO to leave Lebanon in 1982, Arafat entrusted Mughniyeh with transferring the organization's weapons to Lebanese armed groups allied with the Palestinians. Mughniyeh, who refused to leave Beirut with the PLO leadership, joined the the Shi'ite Amal militia headed by Nabih Berri. He and Nasrallah later left the movement to form Hizbullah.

The first terrorist attacks in which he was implicated were the 1983 bombings of the US Embassy and barracks housing US Marines and French paratroopers, who were part of the Multinational Force in Lebanon. Around 350 people were killed.

In 1985, Mughniyeh was believed to have been one of the terrorists who hijacked a TWA flight on its way from Athens to Rome. The plane was forced to land in Beirut and afterwards flew to Algeria before returning to Beirut. He was later indicted in the US for the murder of one of the hostages on board, a US Navy diver.

On October 10, 2001, Mughniyeh appeared on the FBI's first "Top 22 Most Wanted Terrorists" list. A reward of $5 million was offered for information leading to his capture.

He has also been linked to the Karine A weapons ship that Arafat tried to use to smuggle arms into the Gaza Strip in 2001, as well as the kidnapping of three IDF soldiers in October 2000 by Hizbullah and the abduction of reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser in the summer of 2006.

Mughniyeh was Hizbullah's chief liaison with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and was believed to have spent most of his time in Teheran under tight Iranian security. Outside of Iran, he reportedly never slept in the same place twice and constantly looked over his shoulder.

In January 2006, Mughniyeh is believed to have traveled with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Damascus for a meeting with Nasrallah, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and Islamic Jihad chief Ramadan Salah.

"He knew that he was on the FBI's list for many years, and he has lived many years according to this understanding - and this was strengthened following the Second Lebanon War," said Col. (res.) Dr. Eitan Azani, deputy executive director of the Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the IDC Herzliya and a former head of the Lebanese Desk at IDF Military Intelligence.

In contrast to bin Laden, Azani said, Mughniyeh "did not have a political role, but was strictly involved in operations, like the chief of General Staff."

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


The man linking Iran, Syria and Hizbullah


It's hard to imagine a figure more dangerous, more sophisticated or more experienced than arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh. Until his assassination on Wednesday, Mughniyeh served as the mastermind behind Hizbullah's operations, an elusive figure linked to almost every attack executed by the organization since its inception in the early 1980s.

In fact, it is impossible to name even one large-scale attack executed by Hizbullah that Mughniyeh was not involved in - from airplane hijackings to embassy bombings to kidnappings and more.

The senior Hizbullah leader was responsible for suicide attacks on the American embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, which lead to the strategic withdrawal of American and foreign forces out of Lebanon. He was also wanted in connection to the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy and the 1994 attack on the AMIA building in Buenos Aires, attempted attacks in Asia and the Arab world and the kidnappings of dozens of Westerners in Lebanon throughout the 1980s.

Mughniyeh's importance lies not only in his ability to execute extraordinary attacks against targets around the world - or even in his control of Hizbullah's operational branch in Lebanon - but more significantly in the close connections he established between Iran, Syria and Hizbullah. Mughniyeh positioned himself as the operational link between these actors. It is in this framework that Mughniyeh also served as al-Qaida's contact within Hizbullah throughout the 1990s.

There is good reason the FBI set a $5 million price on his head, and that some in the American intelligence community have described Mughniyeh as an even more dangerous enemy than Osama bin Laden himself.

Unlike bin Laden, however, Mughniyeh's influence was not derived from the image he created of himself, but by his actual deeds and capabilities as an initiator, planner, supervisor and executor of attacks on an international scale. In effect, these attacks tremendously strengthened Hizbullah's capabilities in a variety of spheres, creating the deterrence that the organization was seeking to achieve vis-à-vis foreign states and Israel.

After the assassination of a terrorist leader - especially one as senior as Mughniyeh - the question arises: Will there be a boomerang effect? Will the organization seek retaliation? Hizbullah is known to employ a policy - developed by Mughniyeh himself - in which a significant attack against the organization and its leaders does not pass without harsh response. It is thus reasonable to assume that such retaliation will indeed follow Wednesday's assassination.

The list of actors potentially responsible for Mughniyeh's assassination is long and goes well beyond Israel. Among the possible culprits: Lebanese Christians who hold Mughniyeh responsible for assassinations against their own leaders; competing factions within the Shi'ite community; and Syrian intelligence figures who, despite previous cooperation, may have been uncomfortable with Mughniyeh's close connections to Iran and his strength within Lebanon and the Mediterranean region.

Yet there is actually little importance in identifying the perpetrators.

Even if Israel is relieved of responsibility for the assassination, Hizbullah will react instinctively against Israel - placing blame on the country and even retaliating with attacks against Israeli targets and interests around the world.

Hizbullah, under Mughniyeh's leadership, has already developed the infrastructure and contingency plans necessary to activate sleeper cells into launching attacks against Jewish and Western interests on short notice - a matter of days, weeks or months. They are additionally capable, of course, of launching Katyusha rocket attacks against Israel from Lebanon.

Hizbullah retaliated against Israeli and Jewish targets in Argentina after the Israeli assassination of organization leader Abbas al-Musawi in 1992 and Israel Air Force bombings in 1993.

While Mughniyeh's assassination may serve to intensify the group's motivation to fulfill their proven capabilities, the hand that controlled the organization's activities for so long, which previously would have been the hand of retaliation, has now been severed.

Dr. Boaz Ganor is the Executive Director of the International Institute of Counter Terrorism (ICT) and the Deputy Dean of the Lauder School of Government at IDC Herzliya.

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


Mark Steyn Is Not Alone

By Brooke M. Goldstein 

Award-winning author Mark Steyn has been summoned to appear before two Canadian Human Rights Commissions on vague allegations of "subject[ing] Canadian Muslims to hatred and contempt" and being "flagrantly Islamophobic" after Maclean's magazine published an excerpt from his book, America Alone.

The public inquisition of Steyn has triggered outrage among Canadians and Americans who value free speech, but it should not come as a surprise. Steyn's predicament is just the latest salvo in a campaign of legal actions designed to punish and silence the voices of anyone who speaks out against Islamism, Islamic terrorism, or its sources of financing.

The Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC), which initiated the complaint against Steyn, has previously tried unsuccessfully to sue publications it disagrees with, including Canada's National Post. The not-for-profit organization's president, Mohamed Elmasry, once labeled every adult Jew in Israel a legitimate target for terrorists and is in the habit of accusing his opponents of anti-Islamism -- a charge that is now apparently an actionable claim in Canada. In 2006, after Elmasry publicly accused a spokesman for the Muslim Canadian Congress of being anti-Islamic, the spokesman reportedly resigned amidst fears for his personal safety.

The Islamist movement has two wings -- one violent and one lawful -- which operate apart but often reinforce each other. While the violent arm attempts to silence speech by burning cars when cartoons of Mohammed are published, the lawful arm is maneuvering within Western legal systems.

Islamists with financial means have launched a legal jihad, manipulating democratic court systems to suppress freedom of expression, abolish public discourse critical of Islam, and establish principles of Sharia law. The practice, called "lawfare," is often predatory, filed without a serious expectation of winning and undertaken as a means to intimidate and bankrupt defendants.

Forum shopping, whereby plaintiffs bring actions in jurisdictions most likely to rule in their favor, has enabled a wave of "libel tourism" that has resulted in foreign judgments against European and now American authors mandating the destruction of American-authored literary material.

At the time of her death in 2006, noted Italian author Orianna Fallaci was being sued in FranceItalySwitzerland, and other jurisdictions, by groups dedicated to preventing the dissemination of her work. With its "human rights" commissions, Canada joins the list of countries, including France and the United Kingdom, whose laws are being used to attack the free speech rights and due process protections afforded American citizens.

A MAJOR PLAYER on this front is Khalid bin Mahfouz, a wealthy Egyptian who resides in Saudi Arabia. Mahfouz has sued or threatened to sue more than 30 publishers and authors in British courts, including several Americans, whose written works have linked him to terrorist entities. A notable libel tourist, Mahfouz has taken advantage of the UK's plaintiff-friendly libel laws to restrict the dissemination of written material that draws attention to Saudi-funded terrorism.

Faced with the prospect of protracted and expensive litigation, and regardless of the merit of the works, most authors and publishers targeted have issued apologies and retractions, while some have paid fines and "contributions" to Mahfouz's charities. When Mahfouz threatened Cambridge Press with a lawsuit for publishing Alms for Jihad by American authors Robert Collins and J. Millard Burr, the publisher immediately capitulated, offered a public apology to Mahfouz, pulped the unsold copies of the book, and took it out of print.

Shortly after the publication of Funding Evil in the United States, Mahfouz sued its author, anti-terrorism analyst and director of the American Center for Democracy, Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, for alleging financial ties between wealthy Saudis, including Mahfouz, and terrorist entities such as al Qaeda. The allegations against Ehrenfeld were heard by the UK court despite the fact that neither Mahfouz nor Ehrenfeld resides in England and merely because approximately 23 copies of Funding Evil were sold online to UK buyers via

Unwilling to travel to England or acknowledge the authority of English libel laws over herself and her work, Ehrenfeld lost on default and was ordered to pay heavy fines, apologize, and destroy her books -- all of which she has refused to do. Instead, Ehrenfeld counter-sued Mahfouz in a New York State court seeking to have the foreign judgment declared unenforceable in the United States.

Ironically, Ehrenfeld lost her case against Mahfouz, because the New York court ruled it lacked jurisdiction over the Saudi resident who, the court said, did not have sufficient connections to the state. Shortly afterwards the Association of American Publishers released a statement that criticized the ruling as a blow to intellectual freedom and "a deep disappointment for publishers and other First Amendment advocates."

The litany of American publishers, television stations, authors, journalists, experts, activists, political figures, and citizens targeted for censorship is long and merits brief mention. There is an obvious pattern to these suits that can only be ignored at great peril. And we must expect future litigation along these lines:

* Joe Kaufman, chairman of Americans Against Hate, was served with a temporary restraining order and sued for leading a peaceful and lawful ten person protest against the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) outside an event the group sponsored at a Six Flags theme park in Texas. According to ICNA's website, the group is dedicated to "working for the establishment of Islam in all spheres of life," and to "reforming society at large." The complaint included seven Dallas-area plaintiffs who had never been previously mentioned by Kaufman, nor been present at the theme park. Litigation is ongoing.

* The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) sued Andrew Whitehead, an American activist, for $1.3 million for founding and maintaining the website, on which he lists CAIR as an Islamist organization with ties to terrorist groups. After CAIR refused Whitehead's discovery requests, seemingly afraid of what internal documents the legal process it had initiated would reveal, the lawsuit was dismissed by the court with prejudice.

* CAIR also sued Cass Ballenger for $2 million after the then-U.S. Congressman said in a 2003 interview with the Charlotte Observer that the group was a "fundraising arm for Hezbollah" that he had reported as such to the FBI and CIA. Fortunately, the judge ruled that Ballenger's statements were made in the scope of his public duties and were protected speech.

* A Muslim police officer is suing former CIA official and counterterrorism consultant Bruce Tefft and the New York Police Department for workplace harassment merely because Tefft sent emails with relevant news stories about Islamic terrorism to a voluntary list of recipients that included police officers.

THESE SUITS REPRESENT a direct and real threat to our constitutional rights and national security. Even if the lawsuits don't succeed, the continued use of lawfare tactics by Islamist organizations has the potential to create a detrimental chilling effect on public discourse and information concerning the war on terror.

Already, publishers have canceled books on the subject of counterterrorism and no doubt other journalists and authors have self-censored due to the looming threat of suit. For its part, CAIR announced an ambitious fundraising goal of $1 million, partly to "defend against defamatory attacks on Muslims and Islam." One of CAIR's staffers, Rabiah Ahmed, bragged that lawsuits are increasingly an "instrument" for it to use.

U.S. courts have not yet grasped the importance of rebuffing international attempts to restrain the free speech rights of American citizens.

This is troubling. The United States was founded on the premise of freedom of worship, but also on the principle of the freedom to criticize religion. Islamists should not be allowed to stifle constitutionally protected speech, nor should they be allowed to subject innocent citizens who talk to other citizens about issues of national security to frivolous and costly lawsuits.

Brooke M. Goldstein is a practicing attorney, the director of the Legal Project at the Middle East Forum and the director of the Children's Rights Institute. She is also an award-winning film producer of The Making of a Martyr, an adjuct fellow at the Hudson Institute, and the 2007 recipient of the E. Nathaniel Gates Award for Outstanding Public Advocacy.


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


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

PA TV Bunny Rabbit Threatens to 'Eat the Jews'

by Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

The latest TV character created to incite Palestinian Authority children to anti-Semitism, Islamic triumphalism and violence has debuted on a popular show produced by Hamas. The character is a cute rabbit who aspires to finish off the Jews and eat them.

The rabbit's name is Assoud, which translates as "lions," and he has come from Lebanon "in order to return to the homeland and liberate it," according to the Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) organization, which translated the dialogue.

In a PA children's program called Tomorrow's Pioneers, a young girl hostess asks the new character, "Why is your name Assoud, since you are a rabbit?"

Assoud replies: "A rabbit is a [term] for a bad person and coward. And I, Assoud, will finish off the Jews and eat them."

"Allah Willing!" the girl exclaims.

Later in the show, children are taught that the Jewish city of Tel Aviv is actually Arab and that it must be "liberated" by way of Hamas-style terrorism.

Assoud asks the child hostess of the program, "Do you know the original name of our city... Tel Aviv?"

"It's our city: Tel-Rabia," she replies, "but the Zionists today call it Tel Aviv, but it will stay ours.... And we will return with Allah's will."

Assoud: "How will we go to our city if the Jews took it?"

"We will continue the resistance [a PA term for terrorism]," she answers.

The program ends with singing: "We will never recognize Israel...." with the hostess emphasizing the call to "liberate our homeland from the Zionist filth."

The show, Tomorrow's Pioneers, first became known for its genocidal Mickey Mouse look-alike character, Farfur. The show's producers had Farfur murdered by Israelis and replaced by Nahoul the bee, who was killed off in an episode in which Israel would not allow him to leave Gaza for medical treatment.

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

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


Tuesday, February 12, 2008



by Steven Zak   

You can't fight an enemy you're afraid to offend

Pick up the morning paper any day or log on to your computer and you'll be treated to reports of savagery by followers of Islam. No one could blame you if you drew the inference that Islam worldwide is a malevolent force. Yet, many would have you believe that the problem isn't Islam, but "Radical Islam."

In other words, somewhere there's a good Islam, distinct from the bad one that assaults civilized sensibilities every day. This postulate has two variants:

     Good Islam "exists" even if only in the past.

"There have been occasions of Muslim moderation and tolerance, such as those in long-ago Sicily and Spain," argues scholar Daniel Pipes, who adds that Islam may well "be something different in the future."

I'd defer to Dr. Pipes on the facts; Islam may change (it may get worse). But that is no reason to characterize a once-upon-a-time or hypothetical future Islam as more authentic than the one here and now. Islam is what Islam is now, not what we hope it could be. Lead is lead before it turns to gold.

Dr. Pipes argues, though, that we need to maintain the construct that Islam differs from Radical Islam, because "if one sees Islam as irredeemably evil, what comes next?" Such a view "leaves one with zero policy options."

This argument conflates descriptive and prescriptive issues. "What is Islam?" is one question. "What should we do about it?" is another. It is one thing to hold that we ought not reveal our true thoughts to the enemy, quite another to create fictions that we come to believe. I'm concerned with the descriptive question -- What is Islam? -- and suggest that, if truth matters, we shouldn't skew our answer out of fear.

    Good Islam and Bad Islam exist simultaneously.

While Dr. Pipes concedes that in the present "it is hard to recall the positive side" of Islam, the prevailing wisdom is that good Islam and Radical Islam exist simultaneously, the latter as a small subset of the former. The problem is that the evidence shows that the "subset" isn't so small.

As Michael Freund has documented, poll after poll demonstrates the non-trivial numbers of anti-civilization adherents of Islam. An Al-Jazeera survey on September 11, 2006, for instance,found that half the respondents support Osama Bin-Laden. Virtually all voters in "Palestine" back terrorists. In Britain, 25% of Muslims approve of the London subway bombings of July 7, 2005. That's 25% who admit they approve.

Even so, some might argue, since less than 100% of Muslims are terrorists or terrorist sympathizers, we still have an obligation to distinguish Islam from Radical Islam. But it is never the case that 100% of any population shares or acts in accordance with the collective ideology of that population.

IN WORLD WAR II, not all Germans supported the Nazis. In the last German election before the war, Nazis failed to get even half the vote and scholars still debate whether the majority of Germans ever supported the regime. Some, of course, were victims of the regime. Yet, we were at war with Germany, not Radical Germany.

Not even all Nazis were bad -- Oskar Schindler, a hero in Israel, was a party member. Yet, in that war, we didn't split such hairs. We drew no distinctions between Nazis and Radical Nazis so as to humbly assure that we meant the good ones no harm. To support the notion that Nazism was a malevolent force did not require showing that 100% of individual Nazis acted consistently with its character, but only that Nazism was incompatible with civilization and a threat of sufficient magnitude that it could not be ignored.

By that standard, Islam today is unquestionably a malevolent force. We should be unafraid -- and unapologetic -- to say as much.

Khalim Massoud, the president of Muslims Against Sharia (whose members, according to the group's own poll, 20% of Muslims want to behead) agrees. "Islam in its present form is incompatible with modern society," he says, and adds that we should "stop worrying about offending Muslims and start calling things what they are."

Amen to that. You can't fight an enemy you're afraid to offend.

Exhibit A is the case of the British school teacher recently imprisoned in Sudan for allowing her seven-year-old students to name a teddy bear "Muhammad." The response of British Foreign Secretary David Miliband -- echoed by the hapless school teacher -- was to offer assurances that he "fully respects" Islam, a groveling signal of cowardice and fear.

Even in small ways, we cower before Islam. Take Hollywood's reluctance to turn out films that show Muslims behaving badly. Compare the Hollywood of the Second World War, which helped rally the nation against a brutal foe. We had no fear then of giving offense by making films featuring villainous Germans or Japanese. Today, we don't know whether to condemn our enemies or invite them for Ramadan dinner.

And so, we degrade ourselves with such spectacles as the Annapolis "peace" conference, where, along with representatives of terror-masters like Saudi Arabia and Syria, we indulged the ever-demanding leader of Fatah and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade. Another reminder that diplomacy, without a healthy dose of "calling things what they are," brings no honor.


In recent news, a suicide bomber in Afghanistan killed 13 on a bus, while attackers in Thailand beheaded two fish sellers and shot, stabbed and crucified a third victim. No word yet on whether the perpetrators were acting in the name of Radical Islam or just the regular kind.

 Steven Zak is an attorney and writer in California.


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


Can Tony Blair Pull it Off?

By Raphael Israeli


No sooner had Tony Blair announced his  impending resignation from his prime ministerial post where he is no longer as welcome as he was a decade ago, than he insinuated his desire to  put his skills and personal charm at the service of the Middle Eastern conflict, or more precisely at the thorny part thereof that concerns the Israelis and the Palestinians, which he and others wrongly consider as the "core of the problem".


But even before he made his first step in the new venture, in which he is sure to be turned away by the Arabs and other Muslims who will not forgive him his role at Bush's side in Iraq and Afghanistan,  he already announced his faith in the "international community", whatever that means; he declared that "the "only solution" was the one he prescribed; and  that was "two states for two nations". Capitalizing on  the immense credit he honestly earned in mediating between the foes in Ireland, he has probably been looking at himself, and so do others regard him, as ideally fitting for the job.


In Ireland he dealt with two parties that were equally civilized, respected the rule of law,  spoke the same language, understood the workings of democracy and drew their notions and experiences from the same Western  sources, something that can hardly be said about the Middle East. This conceptual diversity grows even more complicated when Blair pretends to reflect and replicate the "will of the international community". Who is that community? The UN? The members of the Security Council? Has there ever been any consensus about anything among them? Iran has become a critical international issue and the Russians and the Chinese have been recalcitrant in pursuing their own interests. Where is the international community that Blair wants us to believe he will be representing?


One should always be wary of negotiators who state  from the outset that "the only way" is so and so. That means that not only their  mind is made up and no fact or development can change it, but a  vain pretension is implied that any other suggestion, idea or concept that may come up on the part of others, including the parties to the conflict themselves, are mere thin air that cannot be even considered. Namely, the conclusion was reached before negotiations started, because the "only solution" is the one that was conceived by the smart mediator  and therefore must be enforced regardless of what those other  idiots, who may have a different ideas or think differently,  have to say about it.


Has Blair thought through what does the formula "two states to two nations" mean? The Israeli party is  easier , because it is crystallized around the idea of a Jewish-Zionist state in Palestine, give and take  negotiation over its boundaries. But the Palestinians? They are a nation of 9 million, half of them in what id called Jordan in the eastern part of Palestine, another 3 and half in the West Bank and Gaza,  and more than a million in Israel. What Palestinians does he wish to create a state for? These days, the legitimate and democratically elected Hamas government has taken over in Gaza and been conducting itself as a government, certainly more organized and more able to enforce peace and order domestically than its corrupt predecessor.  Is that not a state? Do the Palestinians need , or deserve, more than one state, in addition to East Jordan where they already constitute a majority?  Then who are the Palestinians who are included in this evasive formula?


The situation is extremely intricate and needs patience, insight and an extraordinary comprehension of the cultural and historical  make-up of the two rivals in the conflict. Vague platitudes, repetitions of old and  stale slogans and ruminations over formulas that never worked before, are not the best way to start off in the venture that well-intentioned Blair has volunteered to undertake.  The Nobel Prize for peace in the middle east, which was granted to other politicians before,  is still awaiting a worthy recipient. If Blair covets it, he better rethinks his way.


Raphael Israeli

The author is a professor of Middle East and Islam at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.


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






by Ariel Cohen

1st part of 2  

How to cope with global jihad

The conflicts in Iraq, Lebanon, and Afghanistan and the global Islamist insurgency have revealed that Western democracies and their political and military leaders do not fully comprehend the multifaceted threats represented by radical Muslim nonstate actors. In this, they violate the most famous dictum of Sun Tzu, the Chinese strategic genius of 2,500 years ago: "If you know yourself and understand your opponent you will never put your victory in jeopardy in any conflict."

The broad support that al Qaeda jihadis and radical Islamist militias such as Hamas and Hezbollah enjoy in the Muslim world and in the global Muslim diaspora, as well as among non-Muslim anti-American political forces around the world demonstrates that describing the global Islamic insurgency as a fringe or minority phenomenon is unrealistic and self-defeating. Since 9/11, democracies have fought three wars against nonstate Islamist actors. The West needs to draw important lessons from Iraq, Afghanistan, and the clash between Israel and Hezbollah to address these strategic deficits. Lack of clarity in defining the enemy and delays in formulating political and information strategy severely endanger U.S. national interests and the security of the West.

Fighting the wrong enemy

The Bush administration lost valuable time before it finally defined radical Islam as the premier national security threat in October 2005. Initially in the post-9/11 period, the president targeted "evildoers" and "terrorism" as the enemy. Moreover, Islam was declared a "religion of peace" and Saudi Arabia, which has spent the last 30 years spreading its Wahhabi/Salafi gospel, was labeled as "our friend." Unsurprisingly, the nation and the military were somewhat disoriented.

The U.S. military quickly and successfully destroyed the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. After that, however, the menu of enemies became slim: Saudi Arabia, from which 15 out of 19 hijackers came, was considered too important an oil supplier and too pivotal a state in the Middle East to be engaged. Pakistan, both the parent and the nursemaid of the Taliban, promised cooperation. Most important, the U.S. did not know (and still does not know) how to fight nonstate actors, be they sub-state terrorist organizations, militias, or supra-state religious/political movements.

The jury is still out as to all the reasons for the Soviet collapse, but it was defeated in part through an indirect strategy formulated by the Reagan administration, and in part because it disintegrated due to its own internal weaknesses. If we are to believe one who was "present at the destruction" -- Russian Prime Minister Egor Gaidar -- a key reason was the flooding of the world market with cheap Saudi expensive military-industrial complex. In addition, it was burdened with ideological fatigue and cynicism, torn by ethnic centrifugal forces, and being bled in Afghanistan by the U.S.-supported mujahedeen.[1]

For over a century, the U.S. military and other arms of the government have been designed, nurtured, and financed to fight nation states, from Spain in 1898, to Germany in the two world wars, to Japan in 1941-45. Working with insurgencies or counter-insurgencies hasn't been Washington's forte for a long time. The U.S. military did not succeed in defeating the North Vietnamese insurgency, nor did its Cold War guerilla allies prevail in Angola or Mozambique. Beside the Huk rebellion in the Philippines, and support of Afghan mujahedeen, U.S. insurgency and counterinsurgency successes have been limited and peripheral to war-fighting. The current conflict is fundamentally different.

The wars that went awry

The U.S. entanglements in Iraq and Afghanistan are exactly where the jihadis want the United States to be. According to Ayman al Zawahiri, in a taped interview at the second anniversary of 9/11, "If they withdraw, they lose everything, and if they stay they will continue to bleed to death."[2] In other words, damned if you do and damned if you don't.

U.S. abandonment of Iraq would be seen as a major victory for anti-American and Islamist forces in the Middle East and throughout the Muslim world. After Iraq, jihadis may target Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and eventually Egypt and nuclear-armed Pakistan for takeover. It is the belief of al Qaeda leaders from Osama bin Laden all the way down that Iraq is going to do to America what Afghanistan did to Russia. And this would be a major accomplishment for a nonstate actor in a confrontation with the mightiest state on earth.

Meanwhile, the future of NATO operations in Afghanistan remains uncertain, with many European allies foretelling the Alliance's defeat there. A resurgent Taliban, supported by al Qaeda and by elements within Pakistan, is threatening to overwhelm the NATO effort. At the same time, many in the Middle East believe that Israel, which they see as America's proxy, was defeated in Lebanon by Hezbollah; and Iran remains defiant, bringing on line batteries of 3,000 centrifuges capable of enriching uranium for nuclear weapons as well as funding Shiite extremists in Iraq and Lebanon.

Islamist extremist/jihadi organizations, including movements and militias from Egypt to Afghanistan, represent clear and present dangers to American homeland security, our vital interests, and to our Arab and Israeli allies. If and when victorious, today's terrorist organizations, global Islamist movements such as Muslim Brotherhood or al Qaeda, and "civil militias" such as Hezbollah or the Mahdi Army, are likely to take over countries and acquire nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. With their implacable anti-American and anti-Western agendas, they will represent dangers comparable to, or greater than, those presented by the fully armed and mobilized nation states which topped the threat hierarchies of the twentieth century. Hezbollah's relative success against Israel in the summer of 2006 is an important case study, worth analyzing in greater detail.

The Hezbollah war as jihadi war

The Israeli-Hezbollah front, which had been relatively dormant since the hasty Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, erupted as world leaders gathered for the July 2006 G-8 Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. Hezbollah's unprovoked killing of eight Israeli soldiers and kidnapping of two resulted in 34 days of fighting. The hostilities will have long-term repercussions for Israel and other states confronting terrorist organizations, militias outside of state controls, and other nonstate actors.

The main lesson of the Hezbollah war is that military responses are simply not enough. The jihadi threat needs to be defeated by a combination of political, ideological, media, military and intelligence measures. The good news is that the potential does exist for a broad coalition between Western, non-Western and Sunni Muslim and Arab nation-states to get the job done. The bad news is that these actors are still obsessed with weakening Israel and forcing its withdrawal from the West Bank without the foundations for durable peace and have not fully realized the necessity of working together against radical forces. The process of attaining this realization itself is likely to be painfully slow and costly in blood and treasure.

The Hezbollah war is at least the third conflict in the Greater Middle East characterized by the involvement of an advanced Western democracy on the one hand and a sub-state actor on the other. The first two are the war against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and the fighting against the Sunni and Shiite anti-American insurgencies in Iraq. The three wars have important commonalities, as the guerilla forces are religiously motivated, demonstrate a willingness to fight to the end, possess superior knowledge of the local terrain; and rely on dispersal among the local population, often utilizing systems of underground bunkers and strongholds which they prepare in advance.

The Israel-Hezbollah conflict was hardly the first -- or the last -- jihadi war. Israel is already involved in a low-intensity conflict in Gaza, primarily against Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Resistance Committees, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades of the PLO, elements of al Qaeda, and a bevy of other jihadi organizations. The Gaza forces have used Qassam rockets, which are primitive compared with Hezbollah's Katyushas, the Zilzal 1,2, and 3, and the Fajar low trajectory short-range ballistic rockets supplied by Syria and Iran, along with sophisticated anti-tank Russian-made missiles and SAMS.[3] Additionally, Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami (the global Islamic Party of Liberation founded by a Palestinian cleric in the early 1950s) called for the creation of a caliphate (an expansionist military-religious dictatorship operating under strict interpretations of Islamic religious law) in Gaza.[4] The declaration of a caliphate anywhere on the globe would allow jihadi movements everywhere to shift from a "defensive" jihad to an offensive one -- the jihad to impose Islam on the non-Islamic world, something only a caliph is allowed to do.

At least two additional theaters are worth mentioning, as they are not yet attracting as much attention. The first is Somalia, until recently under the tenuous rule of the Islamic Courts. While the Ethiopian Army and the provisional government defeated the Courts in December 2006, the Islamists dispersed among the population and are in the process of making a comeback. The international links of the Islamic Courts are clear. Chechens, Arabs, and even British and Swedish Muslims were killed fighting in Somalia.

The second theater is Darfur, where the Arab Islamist militia Janjaweed, Hizb ut-Tahrir, and other jihadi organizations have promised to fight any U.N. peacekeeping contingent deployed there.[5] Somalia and Sudan's combined population is 44.4 million, thus the potential of these two impoverished countries to serve as a base of jihad in Africa and elsewhere can be vast -- as long as the oil money from Islamist sponsors keeps flowing in to recruit, train, and deploy their populations as jihadi shock troops. Moreover, if Somalia reverts to Islamic rule despite the December defeat of the Islamic Courts, its location next to the Bab-el-Mandeb strait may put this strategic shipping lane at the mercy of suicide boat attackers operating from Somali coastal bases.

The future of deterrence

Even the most advanced militaries, such as the U.S. and Israeli, which relied on the deterrent capacity and reputation they gained in conventional, twentieth century warfare, will need to reaffirm or re-establish deterrence against sub-state actors by successfully destroying enemies in the future. This will not happen unless the nature of the new enemy is fully understood and new doctrines, approaches, tactics, and procedures are developed. Moreover, in the Israeli case, the reassertion of deterrence will not be complete before the appropriate reforms and training have been fully implemented in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

In the past, the U.S. relied on the power of its combined operations and technological and industrial superiority. Its aircraft and ships dominated the skies and the oceans during World War II. In addition, the two nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were a clear demonstration of overwhelming force by a weapon which, for a short time, remained exclusively in U.S. hands. The U.S. military performed majestically in Gulf One, in Afghanistan, and during the opening of the current conflict in Iraq. What happened after the last two campaigns is eroding U.S. power and the perception of that power around the world.

Israel has relied on the deterrence value of its military prowess, earned in the hard-won victory against five attacking Arab armies in 1948; the four-day defeat of the Soviet-equipped Egyptian army in the Suez campaign of 1956; and the victory over the Egyptian, Syrian, and Jordanian forces in 1967, in which Israel lost 779 soldiers while the combined Arab forces lost 21,000.

In the 1973 war, Israel was stunned by a Syrian-Egyptian surprise attack. Nevertheless, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) recovered in time to take back all of the Golan Heights, put Damascus within artillery range, and surround the Third Egyptian Army at Suez, with no effective fighting force between the Israeli troops on the African side of the Suez Canal and Cairo, within three weeks. In 1982, the IDF was at the gates of Beirut within a week, forcing the evacuation of Yassir Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to Tunis, Iraq, and Yemen and destroying a third of the Syrian airforce (86 planes) in one day. While Israel lost 675 soldiers, close to 10,000 Syrian and PLO combatants were killed. Between 1982 and 2000 Israel lost over 1,200 soldiers in Lebanon. But the defeat handed to Syria and the PLO in Lebanon, despite the war having been strategically bungled and the occupation domestically unpopular, bought Israel a quarter of a century without a major war.

The deterrence value of these victories could not last forever, however. The 1982-2000 South Lebanon conflict ended with Israel's poorly managed withdrawal and abandonment of the South Lebanon Army in May 2000. Prime Minister Ehud Barak and then-Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz supervised the retreat, which was primarily triggered by internal Israeli protests and dismay over casualties being suffered by Israeli troops deployed in the self-styled "security zone" in South Lebanon. The fact and the form of the withdrawal generated a perception of Israeli weakness. Shortly thereafter, Yassir Arafat unleashed the Terror War (the Second Intifada) which lasted until 2004, in which over 1,100 Israelis were killed in bombings and shootings, 75 percent of them civilians. Many speculated that the hasty retreat from Lebanon contributed to Arafat's decision to launch the Second Intifada. However, if this was correct, the Israelis certainly failed to internalize the lesson. Their 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, including the abandonment of Jewish villages there, did nothing to stop the volleys of short-range Qassam rockets from Gaza into pre-1967 Israel. Many analysts now argue that Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, billed by the Sharon government as yet another "painful concession for peace," only contributed to the Hamas electoral victory in January 2006 and increased the Arab perception of Israeli weakness. In fact, in June 2006 Hamas conducted an assault and kidnapping operation similar to Hezbollah's subsequent attack, which triggered the latest war.

Systemic failure

Many Israeli and foreign commentators are focusing, correctly, on the failures of the political leadership and top military to anticipate, evaluate, prepare for, and defeat the Hezbollah threat. They cast the net broadly, to include sociological, morale, bureaucratic and political issues -- not only narrow military ones. All these categories of analysis are valid. They point out that the Tel Aviv-based secular leftist European elite of Israel, including many in the IDF high command, bought into the same approach to military transformation that had been promoted by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The current generation of Israel's political and military leaders had dismissed the concept of overwhelming military victory in favor of a dysfunctional technocratic reliance on a "Revolution in Military Affairs," emphasizing high-tech systems and air power.[6] While high-tech gives an important advantage to developed countries and modern militaries, it cannot replace good old intelligence and boots on the ground. There clearly was a misguided belief that Israel is so powerful, nothing bad could happen to it. The political, military, and strategic results of this, yet another failed Israeli "concept," are there for all to see. The process of self-examination, investigation, and conclusions will be heart-wrenching. Israel went through a similar exercise after the perceived "earthquake" of 1973. However, the current war is viewed as a limited one but an even more decisive Israel failure than the Yom Kippur War was ever perceived to be. In 1973, the Israelis believed that the Arabs would not attack after the disaster of 1967 -- and paid for the misconception with 3,000 lives in a country of 3.6 million. Then, as now, the Israeli political class and the military became enamored of a concept which turned out to be a self-defeating construct rather than a valid reflection of reality.

In 2006, the political and military leadership suffered from a severe case of negligence and neglect. Israeli government and military institutions had been focused on "unilateral withdrawal" -- first from Gaza and, with an eye toward the future, from the West Bank -- to combat the perceived "drawbacks of occupation." The Olmert cabinet, and especially then-Defense Minister Amir Peretz, a former trade union leader, were busy championing social welfare issues instead of preparing the country for the forthcoming confrontation. At the same time, Syria and Iran were busily arming Hezbollah. The Israeli leadership also did nothing to prepare the country for the crucial realization that Hezbollah is not a conventional army, and that a repeat of the lightning victories of the past was highly unlikely.

During the period leading up to the war with Hezbollah, Israel under then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and then under Ehud Olmert failed to prepare ample bomb shelter space or to deploy the anti-missile defenses it claimed to have developed. It also failed to acquire vital intelligence (such as the location of Sheikh Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, in the early days of hostilities; the scale of presence of Syrian short- and medium-range missiles in Lebanon; and the deployment of C-801/802 Iranian-made anti-ship missiles). Most important, the IDF did not implement existing plans to destroy Hezbollah through a ground operation and ad-libbed almost until the war's end.[7] Reports from the field of failures to plan and lead operations; disasters in supply and evacuation of the wounded; missing weapons, ammunition, fuel, and other supplies indicate that the country and the army, which had not been engaged in fighting a major war since 1982, needs a massive shake-up.[8]

Ariel Cohen

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