Friday, July 4, 2008

T e r r o r i s m.

By Yaakov Katz

 Jerusalem Post, July 2, 2008

They are both Arabs who lived in East Jerusalem with blue Israeli identity cards.

One committed the massacre at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in March, gunning down eight teenage students. The other rampaged through downtown Jerusalem on Wednesday with a bulldozer he stole from a construction site.

Wednesday's attacker, Husam Taysir Dwayat, was a 30-year-old father of two from Sur Bahir. The gunman who massacred the Mercaz Harav students came from the nearby neighborhood of Jebl Mukaber.

Both attackers are examples of the type of terrorism threat that Jerusalem now faces. The city has experienced a lull in terrorist attacks over the past couple of years in comparison to 2001-2004, when there were suicide bomb attacks every few months.

While Jerusalem has known the occasional terrorist stabbing over the past few years, before Mercaz Harav, the last major attack in Jerusalem was in September 2004 when two border policemen were killed and 17 civilians wounded in a suicide bombing by a female terrorist at the French Hill junction.

But since then, the IDF Central Command and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) have been very effective in preventing terrorist infiltrations into Israeli cities. This is not due to a drop in Palestinian attempts, but it has to do with the near-completion of the West Bank security barrier and IDF operational freedom throughout the territories. In 2007, there was only one suicide bombing in Eilat and so far this year, just one in Dimona.

The Shin Bet and the Israel Police launched a joint investigation Wednesday into the bulldozer attack, and while the possibility that Dwayat acted alone seems the most likely, other options have yet to be ruled out.

Dwayat was known to police for previous criminal activity, and defense officials raised the possibility that he had been coerced by terrorist elements to perpetrate the attack. It would not be the first time, the officials stressed, that terrorism and crime went hand in hand.

On the other hand, there is also the possibility that Dwayat had a falling-out with his employers at the Jerusalem light rail construction site, or that he decided on his own to perpetrate the attack on behalf of his brethren in the Gaza Strip.

Whatever the case may be, the Shin Bet did not record a terrorism threat prior to the attack. According to security officials, the IDF in the West Bank and the Shin Bet are currently operating against five warnings of Palestinian terrorist groups that are working to perpetrate an attack inside Israel.

This is further evidence that the attacker likely acted alone and of his own accord. The same was the case with the Mercaz Harav attacker, who also acted alone, and while he had a submachine gun - possibly provided to him by handlers - in a country like Israel where a large number of citizens have guns at home, it is fairly easy to buy weapons on the black market.

What makes the possibility of foiling such attacks even more difficult is the fact that both Dwayat and the Mercaz Harav gunman carried Israeli ID cards allowing them to travel freely throughout Jerusalem and the rest of the country. In the case of Mercaz Harav, one might argue that security forces should have caught the gunman since he was carrying a weapon, but in Wednesday's attack Dwayat was unarmed and used a bulldozer, which can be found these days on almost every street corner in Jerusalem.

The security fence would also not have helped in such a case. With blue ID cards, the two attackers would have easily crossed into Israel like the thousands of blue card holders who live in the West Bank and travel to Israel daily.

From a security perspective, these types of attacks are the most difficult to foil. There is no planning, no infrastructure and rarely any accomplices.


Yaakov Katz


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


Al Qaedas plan B.

By Amir Taheri,

New York Post, July 1, 2008

NO one should feel safe without submitting to Islam, and those who refuse to submit must pay a high price. The Islam ist movement must aim to turn the world into a series of "wildernesses" where only those under jihadi rule enjoy security.

These are some of the ideas developed by al Qaeda's chief theoretician, Sheik Abu-Bakar Naji, in his new book "Governance in the Wilderness" (Edarat al-Wahsh).

Middle East analysts think that the book may indicate a major change of strategy by the disparate groups that use al Qaeda as a brand name.

The Saudi police seized copies of the book last week as they arrested 700 alleged terrorists in overnight raids.

Naji's book, written in pseudo-literary Arabic, is meant as a manifesto for jihad. He divides the jihadi movement into five circles - ranging from Sunni Salafi (traditionalist) Muslims (who, though not personally violent, are prepared to give moral and material support to militants) to Islamist groups with national rather than pan-Islamist agendas (such as the Palestinian Hamas and the Filipino Moro Liberation Front).

All five circles are at an impasse, says Naji. Some accept the status quo while hoping to reform it. Others have tried to set up governments in a world dominated by "infidel" powers, and have been forced to abandon Islamic values. Still others failed because they didn't realize that the only way to win is through total war in which no one feels safe.

NAJI claims that the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the abolition of the Islamic Caliphate in 1924 marked the start of "the most dangerous phase in history." Those events put all Arab countries, the heartland of Islam, under domination by the "infidel"- who later continued to rule via native proxies.

In Naji's eyes, it is impossible to create a proper Islamic state in a single country in a world dominated by "Crusaders." He cites as example the Taliban - which, although a proper Islamic regime, didn't survive "infidel" attacks and opposition by Afghan elements.

Instead, he says, the Islamic movement must be global - fighting everywhere, all the time, and on all fronts.

SINCE 9/11, Islamist terror movements have been de bating grand strategy. Osama bin Laden had theorized that the "infidel," led by the United States, would crumble after a series of spectacular attacks, just as the Meccan "infidel" government did when the Prophet Muhammad launched deadly raids against its trade routes.
Yet the 9/11 attacks didn't lead to an "infidel" retreat. On the contrary, the "Great Satan" hit back hard.

That persuaded some al Qaeda leaders that a new strategy of smaller, slower but steadier attacks was needed. Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda's No. 2, has advocated such a strategy since 2003, arguing that the jihad should first target Muslim countries where it has a chance of toppling the incumbent regimes.

Now Naji takes that analysis a step further - suggesting that low-intensity war be extended to anywhere in the world with a significant Muslim presence.

Islamists in the "wilderness" must create parallel societies alongside existing ones, Naji says - but not set up formal governments, which would be subject to economic pressure or military attack.

These parallel societies could resemble "liberated zones" set up by Marxist guerrillas in parts of Latin America in the last century. But they could also exist within cities, under the very noses of the authorities - operating as secret societies with their own rules, values and enforcement.

But they could also take shape in Western countries with large Muslim minorities: The jihadis are to begin by giving areas where Muslims live a distinctly Islamic appearance, by imposing special styles of dress for women and beards for men. Then they start imposing the shariah. In the final phase, they create a parallel system of taxation and law enforcement, effectively taking the areas out of government control.

The "wilderness" will provide the cover for bases for jihad operations. Jihad would be everywhere, rather than in just one or two countries that the "infidel" could hit with superior firepower.

IN a notable departure from past al Qaeda strategy, Naji recommends "countless small operations" that render daily life unbearable, rather than a few spectacular attacks such as 9/11: The "infidel," leaving his home every morning, should be unsure whether he'll return in the evening.

Naji recommends kidnappings, the holding of hostages, the use of women and children as human shields, exhibition killings to terrorize the enemy, suicide bombings and countless gestures that make normal life impossible for the "infidel" and Muslim collaborators.

Once parallel societies are established throughout the world, they would exert pressure on non-Muslims to submit. Naji believes that, subjected to constant intimidation and fear of death, most non-Muslims (especially in the West) would submit: "The West has no stomach for a long fight."

The only Western power still capable of resisting is the United States, he believes. But that, too, will change once President Bush is gone.

NAJI makes it clear that the United States is the chief, if not the exclusive target, of jihad at this time. He mentions Israel only once, as "America's little female idol." His only reference to Palestine is in a historical context.

Naji asks jihadis to target oilfields, sea and airports, tourist facilities and especially banking and financial services. He envisages "a very long war," at the end of which the whole world is brought under the banner of Islam.

He identifies several Muslim countries as promising for establishing "the governance of the wilderness": Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Yemen, Turkey, Jordan, Libya, Tunisia and Morocco. The implication is that "wilderness" units already exist in nations such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Somalia and Algeria.

Naji's theory is built on the concept of terror as the main organizing principle of the mini-states he hopes to set up everywhere in preparation for the coming Caliphate. He claims that the Prophet himself practiced the tactic by making his enemies in Medina, where he ran his version of the "wilderness," pay "the maximum price" for any deviance, and through constant raids on trade caravans belonging to his enemies in Mecca.

In a simple language, Naji of fers a synthesis of the themes that appeal to different jihadi groups. With anti-imperialist sentiments, missionary dreams, ethnic and class grievances and puritanical obsessions, he mixes a deadly cocktail.

Naji's message is stark: Western civilization is doomed. Its last bastion, America, lacks the will for a long war. The "infidel" loves life and treats it as an endless feast. Jihadis have to ruin that feast and persuade the "infidel" to abandon this world in exchange for greater rewards in the next.

Amir Taheri's next book, "The Persian Night: Iran Under the Khomeinist Revolution," is due out this fall.

Amir Taheri


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


Hizbullah trainees in Iraq.


Associated Press, Jerusalem Post, July 2, 2008

Hizbullah instructors trained Shi'ite militiamen at remote camps in southern Iraq until three months ago when they slipped across the border to Iran - presumably to continue instruction on Iranian soil, according to two Shi'ite lawmakers and a top army officer.

The three Iraqis claim the Lebanese Shi'ites were also involved in planning some of the most brazen attacks against US-led forces, including the January 2007 raid on a provincial government compound in Karbala in which five Americans died.

The allegations, made in separate interviews with The Associated Press, point not only to an Iranian hand in the Iraq war, but also to Hizbullah's willingness to expand beyond its Lebanese base and assume a broader role in the struggle against US influence in the Middle East.

All this suggests that Shi'ite-dominated Iran is waging a proxy war against the United States to secure a dominant role in majority-Shi'ite Iraq, which has supplanted Lebanon as Teheran's top priority in the Middle East.

"The stakes are much higher in Iraq, where there is a Shi'ite majority, oil, the shrine cities and borders with Saudi Arabia," said analyst Farid al-Khazen, a Christian Lebanese lawmaker whose party is allied with Hizbullah.

"The big story is Iraq, and the Americans unwittingly opened it up for the Iranians" by their invasion in 2003, al-Khazen said.

The allegations come as the United States and Iran are engaged in a showdown over Tehran's nuclear program and each country's role in Iraq.

Iran, Hizbullah's mentor, denies giving any support to Shi'ite extremists in Iraq.

But the three Iraqis who spoke to the AP said the Iranians prefer to use Hizbullah instructors because as Arabs, they can communicate better with the Iraqi Shi'ites and maintain a lower profile than Farsi-speakers from Iran.

For Hizbullah, a high-risk role in Iraq could give the Lebanese movement leverage with the United States and broaden its appeal within the Arab world where anti-American sentiment remains strong.

Iraqi officials have said little about a Hizbullah role in this country. However, President Jalal Talabani told US-funded Alhurra television this week that "there have been several occasions" when Hizbullah members or those who "claim to belong to Hizbullah" have been detained in Iraq.

He gave no further details.

But the two Iraqi lawmakers and the military officer said Hizbullah instructors work only with members of the Iraqi Shi'ite "special groups," the US military's name for splinter factions of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia. The US believes that Iran's elite Quds Force, a branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, supports the special groups.

All three Iraqis spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not supposed to release the information.

The lawmakers belong to al-Sadr's movement and were involved in the creation of the Mahdi Army in 2003. The military officer's job gives him access to highly classified intelligence information.

They said Hizbullah began training Shi'ite militiamen in the second half of 2006 at two camps - Deir and Kutaiban - east of Basra near the Iranian border. They fled across the border in late March or early April this year after US-backed Iraqi forces launched a crackdown against militias in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city.

In Iran, training resumed in camps once used by Iraqi exiles who fought with Iranian forces during the 1980s war between the two countries, the lawmakers said. Instruction includes explosives, ambushes and use of rockets and mortars.

Citing testimony from special groups members in custody, the officer said the Hizbullah instructors never numbered more than 10 at any one time, kept a low profile and moved back and forth over the Iranian border.

Indications that Hizbullah was playing a role in Iraq first surfaced last July when the US military announced the arrest of Ali Musa Daqduq, a Lebanese-born Hizbullah operative allegedly training Iraqi Shi'ite militiamen.

At least one other Hizbullah operative, identified only as Faris, was detained in Basra during fighting there in April and was handed over to the Americans, the Iraqi military officer said.

The US military has said little publicly about Hizbullah's involvement here since announcing Daqduq's arrest, though it has frequently alleged an Iranian role in arming, equipping and training Shi'ite extremists.

"At this point in time, we do not have any new, releasable information regarding Hizbullah's involvement with special groups in Iran and Iraq," a military spokesman, Capt. Charles Calio, said in an e-mail to the AP.

A Hizbullah spokesman in Beirut, Lebanon, refused to comment on any role for his organization.

However, Ibrahim al-Ameen, a Lebanese newspaper editor close to Hizbullah, said in a recent interview in Beirut that Hizbullah's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, spends several hours daily dealing with "the situation in Iraq."

Nasrallah, who studied Shi'ite theology in Iraq, spoke at length about Iraqi "resistance" during a speech last May that analysts believed was aimed at bolstering his image as a godfather of Arab opposition to the United States and Israel throughout the Middle East.

Beside its alleged role in Iraq, Hizbullah is known to have ties to Hamas. The charismatic Nasrallah has become a sort of folk hero in the mostly Sunni Arab world after his guerrillas fought Israeli forces to a standstill in a 34-day war in 2006.

A senior Western diplomat based in the Middle East said his government has information suggesting a growing Hizbullah interest in events in Iraq. However, the diplomat would say no more and insisted on anonymity because the subject is so sensitive.

Hizbullah's possible role in direct attacks against US-led forces is murkier and more explosive.

The two Iraqi lawmakers said Hizbullah operatives planned and supervised both the Karbala attack and the brazen daylight kidnapping of five British nationals from a Finance Ministry compound in Baghdad in May 2007. The Britons are still being held.

In the Karbala attack, English-speaking militants wearing American uniforms and carrying American weapons stormed the compound, killing one US soldier and abducting four. The four were later found dead.

A senior Mahdi Army commander in Baghdad, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, said Hizbullah's operations in Iraq had been supervised by Imad Mughniyeh, a top commander of the guerrilla group killed in a car bomb in Syria last February.

The shadowy figure was suspected of a role in the 1983 bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut and the 1992 attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina.


Bargaining for the living and the dead.

By Moshe Arens


There was a time, not so many years ago, when the policy of Israeli governments, when one of its citizens or soldiers was abducted by a terrorist organization, was to send the Israel Defense Forces to free the hostages. It was clear that negotiating with the terrorists and agreeing to their outrageous demands was simply setting the stage for further kidnappings and higher demands in the future. It was a good policy, even though it involved risking the lives of the hostages and of those sent to free them.

When in past years a policy of negotiating with terrorists for the release of hostages was adopted, it only proved the original premise. The terrorists' demands continued to escalate, and each "deal" with them only provided an incentive for further kidnappings and for ever more outrageous demands before the hostages would be released. The terrorists may have released the hostages - dead or alive - but each surrender to their demands only provided an incentive for additional kidnappings of Israelis and escalating demands, and put at risk Israelis, as yet unnamed, whom the terrorists would abduct in the future. In other words, they served as an incentive for the further abduction of Israelis.

In June 2004, under then-prime minister Ariel Sharon and then-defense minister Shaul Mofaz, a deal was struck with Hezbollah for the return of three dead Israeli soldiers - Benny Avraham, Adi Avitan and Omar Suad - and the release of Elhanan Tennenbaum, in return for about 450 convicted terrorists in Israeli prisons. Whereas the three soldiers had been kidnapped while on duty in the IDF, Tennenbaum had been kidnapped while on an illegal trip in Abu Dhabi in pursuit of what he thought would be a profitable drug deal. There was no justification for the arrangement Sharon's government made in this case. One might have hoped that it would serve as a benchmark not to be exceeded in the future, and as a lesson in how not to negotiate with errorists.


Making decisions in negotiating with terrorists for the release of Israeli hostages is an agonizing matter, and ministers are not to be envied the responsibility they carry on their shoulders. However, certain principles that need to be applied are almost self-evident:


1. Whatever deal is to be struck, it should be done immediately after the kidnapping. (Remember Ron Arad.)

2. The price to be paid for the return of the living is not to be the same as the price for the dead.

3. Remember the Israelis who are being put at risk in the future as a result of giving in to the demands of the terrorists.

It is clear that in the case of the negotiations for the return of IDF soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, these principles have not been observed. In full knowledge that they have been murdered by Hezbollah, the price that Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak now seem prepared to pay is scandalous. Samir Kuntar is not just a terrorist "with blood on his hands," but a cold-blooded murderer who killed a small child and her father. If anything, this deal is worse than the Tennenbaum deal.

And now Gilad Shalit. Any fool understands that the Israeli government held one significant lever on Hamas in this case - the continued blockade of Gaza and the continuation of IDF attacks on Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip. The impression given by the government that agreeing to a cease-fire with the terrorists was part and parcel of a deal for the release of Shalit was nothing less than a cheap political manipulation. One can only imagine the price that the

terrorists are asking now that they are holding not only Shalit hostage, but also the residents of

Sderot, Ashkelon and the settlements in the area. The Olmert government has completely mishandled a most important security matter.

Now that the Olmert government is tottering and seems to about to topple, its spokesmen are insisting that in view of the many dangers Israel is facing, this is no time to change governments. In other words, don't change horses midstream. But Olmert has provided additional proof, as if additional proof were needed after the fiasco of the Second Lebanon War, that his government cannot be trusted to deal with the dangers on the horizon. The sooner they go the better.


Moshe Arens


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


Monday, June 30, 2008

The Iranian Shell Game.


By Emanuele Ottolenghi

July/August 2008

Ever since a defector exposed the existence of Iran's nuclear program in 2002, the regime in Tehran has routinely protested its innocence in the face of charges that it is developing fissile weapons of mass destruction and the missiles on which to carry them. Its nuclear program, Tehran claims, has only civilian purposes, and it is allowed to pursue such a program under the terms of the binding international treaties to which it is a signatory.

If Iran is telling the truth and desires solely nuclear energy—which would be peculiar, to say the least, considering that under its sands rest the world's second largest natural-gas reserves and the world's fifth largest crude-oil reserves—its behavior these past six years makes no sense. The regime would seem to have had everything to gain from making it crystal-clear to the world that it has no intentions of developing nuclear weapons. Instead, it has rejected repeated and alluring incentives designed to seduce it into demonstrating the non-existence of the efforts it continues to insist it is not undertaking. In the process, it has had to suffer painful economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations and the United States. Its six years of defiance and stonewalling have led to increasing diplomatic isolation.

As a matter of simple logic, then, it is only rational to conclude that Iran is working, and working very hard, to become a nuclear power. But there may be logic of a different and no less compelling kind behind its actions. For, at the end of these same six years, many in the West remain fiercely committed to the idea that discussing the dangers of Iran's pursuit of nuclear power—let alone discussing how to stop it—represents a greater threat to the world than does the Iranian pursuit itself.

For a significant portion of the world's foreign-policy makers and intellectuals, any confrontation with Iran on the matter of its nuclear program is dangerously provocative and therefore to be avoided. In particular, prominent European leaders have roundly denounced the supposed "adventurism" of the Bush administration and insisted that (in the words of one leading German Social Democrat) "military options must be taken off the table." Authoritative American voices joined this chorus in the wake of a 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate that declared (in an assertion supported by no other intelligence agency in the world) that Iran had suspended its nuclear-weapons program in 2003. More recently, elements within Western foreign-policy establishments have gone a step further and have begun to suggest that the world can "live with" an Iranian bomb.  

And here we see why Iran's behavior over the past six years has been neither irrational nor foolhardy but rather shrewd, calculated—and successful. Even while loudly repudiating allegations that it is pursuing a military program, the regime has used every technique at its disposal to sow confusion and encourage divisions among its adversaries. These techniques have been of vital importance in gaining time for Iran as it has worked tirelessly toward a fait accompli by procuring the technology necessary for the development of nuclear weapons—including most saliently through the purchase of equipment and materiel that it cannot, by treaty and international law, possess.  


 Iran's efforts to gain equipment vital to a secret nuclear program are mostly centered in Europe. In this, the involvement of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the elite branch of the nation's military, has been pivotal. The IRGC occupies a key place in the Iranian regime. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president, is a former senior officer of the corps, as are the head of the nation's security services and the chief of its information ministry. Iran's homegrown missile, the Shahab, is a product designed and built by the IRGC.

The IRGC is also reliably believed to be in charge of the nation's nuclear program. The two UN resolutions sanctioning Iran for its nuclear activities were targeted at senior IRGC officials. And the United States government, noting the IRGC's relationships with Hizballah, Hamas, and the Iraqi insurgents, has declared the IRGC to be a terrorist organization.

Consider now a few cases, beginning with a single public-works project inside Iran.

  • Two European concerns—Wirth, from Germany, and Seli, from Italy—sold tunnel-boring equipment to Iran for its Ghomroud water project. Wirth's contract was concluded after Germany's export-control agency, BAFA, determined that the machines involved in this project, being intended only for civilian use, were not subject to embargo.

Overseeing the tunnel project, however, was Sahel Consulting Engineers, a company owned by the IRGC. Nor is this connection a secret. The website of Wirth's subsidiary in Iran features images of the Ghomroud construction site. The sign welcoming visitors to the project bears the logo of the IRGC, and the same logo is visible above the tunnel entrance.

Seli, for its part, sold its tunnel-making goods to an Iranian company called Ghaem. This sale, too, was found to be exempt from any restrictions or embargoes. But the U.S. Treasury has designated Ghaem as yet another subsidiary of the IRGC. Seli, in the meantime, is also involved in other important projects in Iran, among them the much larger Kerman water-tunnel project. That deal, worth 134.6 million euros over five years, was signed in 2004—with the active involvement of Sahel Consulting Engineers.

Unquestionably, the equipment has been used to dig water tunnels at Ghomroud and Kerman. Once the digging is finished, though, the equipment belongs to the subsidiary businesses of the IRGC, which can do with them what they wish.

Intelligence photographs have regularly indicated that much of Iran's clandestine nuclear program is being built deep underground, in bunkers accessible by means of tunnels. The machinery and technology for constructing such tunnels can only have been provided by Wirth and Seli. The purchase of this equipment by Iran is perfectly legal. The uses to which it may sooner or later be put are something else.

  • Many European companies are also selling highly sophisticated technology to Iran, and are doing so through businesses that are already known to have diverted such technology to industrial activities related to weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems. The deals concluded by these Iranian businesses, or "end-users," can appear as legitimate as building water tunnels.

For example, Iran's Samamicro distributes high-precision tools made by a number of European companies, including Austria's Grabner Instruments, a leader in laboratory-testing equipment for the petrochemical industry, and Mahr GmbH, a German company producing high-precision measuring instruments. The value of such tools for illicit nuclear purposes is beyond dispute.

Italy's Iveco and Germany's Mercedes have also built an assembly line in Iran. No doubt the assembly line is used to produce trucks, as it is intended to do. But it is equally appropriate for producing launch ramps for missiles. Then there is Austria's KTM, which makes off-road leisure motorbikes. As can be clearly seen in official photographs, such bikes are being used by the IRGC to create mobile units trained to fire rocket-propelled grenades.

  • And then there is military equipment per se. Most European military exports to Iran are flatly outlawed—but not all. The problem, once again, is the possible diversion of authorized equipment to illegitimate ends.

A patrol boat called the Levriero, made by the Italian company FB Design and used by Italy's customs police to fight smuggling at sea, was purchased by Iranian emissaries in the 1990's together with the boat's manufacturing frame and design plans. Thanks to those plans, Iran is now able to produce the vessel locally. Iranian-made copies of the Levriero took part in a peculiar incident this past January in the Straits of Hormuz, when IRGC speedboats seemed bent on provoking a confrontation with U.S. warships. They may also have participated in the March 2007 high-speed chase in the Shatt-el-Arab waterway that led to the kidnapping of fifteen British sailors.

Even when military goods are supplied to Iran under tight controls and for specific purposes, nothing is quite what it seems. In 2003, the United Kingdom and Italy supplied night-vision equipment to Iran's police for their anti-drug units. Quantities of this high-tech gear reportedly turned up inside the headquarters of Hizballah in southern Lebanon during the latter's 2006 confrontation with the Israeli army.

In 2005, Iran purchased 800 high-precision sniper rifles from the Austrian firm Steyr-Mannlicher, once again for ostensible use by police anti-narcotics units. When the United States imposed sanctions on Steyr-Mannlicher over this sale, Austria's defense ministry protested that it had been "unimpeachable." Fourteen months later, U.S. troops in Iraq seized more than 100 of the Steyr-Mannlicher rifles during a raid on an insurgent position. Steyr-Mannlicher denied that the guns had come from its consignment to Iran—which may have been true, since an exact replica of the rifle, apparently made in Iran, went up for sale at an arms fair in Tehran in 2006.

In brief, European and other Western companies, acting often with the blessing of their governments, have supplied Iran with a variety of sophisticated tools, putatively for benign or even worthwhile aims. Soon after the merchandise reaches its destination, it is systematically diverted to non-civilian use. By this means, proceeding with or without the knowing collusion of its Western suppliers, Iran has been spectacularly successful in evading the international sanctions regime.


 But there is another, simultaneous aspect to Iran's success. This has been its campaign, waged on the diplomatic front, to prevent the international community from determining just what are its intentions, its strategies, and above all the state of its capabilities in the area of nuclear weapons.

The job of making that determination has fallen to Mohammad ElBaradei, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a branch of the United Nations. Since 2003, at regular intervals, ElBaradei has been reporting back to the UN on what the IAEA has been able to learn from the Iranians and other sources. His reports have conveyed much sobering information, a tone (whether feigned or not) of urgency, and no indication of progress whatsoever. To the contrary, what they disclose are the successful workings of an Iranian policy aimed at occluding the IAEA's perspective through steady denial, the provision of incomplete or misleading information, and plain stalling.

On June 18, 2003, faced with mounting signs of a possible military nuclear program, ElBaradei announced: "We need to solve this issue as soon as we can."

Two months later, in late August, he worried:

The information [we have procured] was in contrast to that previously provided by Iran. In addition . . . there remain a number of important outstanding issues, particularly with regard to Iran's enrichment program, that require urgent resolution.

A few days after that, he permitted himself a faint note of impatience:

Iran should not wait for us to ask questions and then respond; it should come forward with a complete and immediate declaration of all its nuclear activities. That would be the best way to resolve the issues within the next few weeks.

The "best way," indeed—but that is clearly not how the Iranians saw it. By November 2003, without any evidence of Iranian cooperation, ElBaradei reported:

Iran's nuclear program, as the agency currently understands it, consists of a practically complete front end of a nuclear-fuel cycle, including uranium mining and milling, conversion, enrichment, fuel fabrication, heavy- water production, a light-water reactor, a heavy-water research reactor and associated research-and-development facilities.

These words should have been enough in themselves to confirm what Iran was up to. But they were uttered just as the American failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq had become a dominating fact on the international horizon. As it happens, ElBaradei himself had been a not-insignificant player in efforts at the United Nations to stymie the U.S. effort to topple Saddam Hussein, and he was not about to present a dossier that might now incriminate Iran beyond the shadow of a doubt. Despite the facts adduced in his report, he continued to caution that there was still no conclusive evidence of a military program.

Almost exactly two years later, with still more facts surfacing, ElBaradei was, as ever, polite:

In order to clarify some of the outstanding issues related to Iran's enrichment program, Iran's transparency is indispensable and overdue.

And once again the Iranians evidently felt otherwise. On January 27, 2006, ElBaradei wrote of repeated requests for a meeting with Tehran to discuss information that had been made available to the [UN] about alleged studies, known as the Green Salt Project, concerning the conversion of uranium dioxide into UF4 [the immediate precursor of fissile uranium] . . . as well as tests related to high explosives and the design of a missile re-entry vehicle, all of which could involve nuclear material.

A month later, on February 27, 2006, he again reported failure:

Iran has yet to address the other topics of high-explosives testing and the design of a missile re-entry vehicle.

And a few months after that, on June 8, 2006:

[But] since the last report, . . . Iran has not expressed readiness to discuss these topics further.

The Iranians went on ignoring him. On August 31, 2006, he wrote:

Iran has not expressed any readiness to discuss these topics since the issuance of the . . . report in February 2006.

More than a year later, after Iran had endured two rounds of UN sanctions for its failure to comply with the IAEA, nothing had improved:

Iran has not agreed to any of the required transparency measures, which are essential for the clarification of certain aspects of the scope and nature of its nuclear program.

On February 22 of this year, ElBaradei conveyed Iran's response to mounting signs of a clandestine military program:

Iran stated that the allegations were baseless and that the information which the agency had shown to Iran was fabricated.

Forever tactful, the IAEA gave Iran another chance to come clean—to which Tehran summarily replied that "this was its final assessment on this point." The agency then showed Iranian officials a warhead design that it had obtained from the hard drive of an Iranian computer and deemed "quite likely to accommodate a nuclear device." Iran once more replied that "the schematic layout shown by the agency was baseless and fabricated."

This past May, ElBaradei caught the attention of Western news media with his latest report. In it, he duly noted that Iran had failed to explain the existence of a diagram for an underground testing facility; failed to explain the testing of explosive detonators normally used for nuclear weapons; and failed to explain the existence of documents (including a short video clip) relating to the modification of Iran's Shahab-3 missile to enable it to accommodate a nuclear warhead. Perhaps most disturbing in the report was this offhand passage about work being done by a scientist at the Institute for Applied Physics (IAP), an Iranian military research facility:

The [IAEA] has also inquired about the reasons for inclusion in the curriculum vitae of an IAP employee of . . . [an] equation for the evolving radius of a nuclear-explosion ball with photos of the 1945 Trinity test.

That would be the explosion of a plutonium bomb in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945. Why would an IAP scientist have been working on this equation? One reason might be that his employers saw a possible application for it in Iran's current circumstances.


 ElBaradei has been at his task for more than five years. Even now, he will not come out and declare that Iran has a program to develop and deploy nuclear weapons. In fact, what five years' worth of mounting information in ElBaradei's own reports indicates is that this program can only have advanced. Notwithstanding the levying of sanctions by the United Nations and the United States, notwithstanding the ever-diffident nagging of the IAEA, the Iranian strategy of obfuscation, duplicity, and delay has worked.

"All warfare," Sun Tzu wrote,

is based on deception. When able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away.

It is also true that, in diplomacy no less than in war, deception works because those being deceived prefer to live within the deception rather than to acknowledge the sobering facts staring them in the face, and thereby to accept the frightening responsibility of having to act to address and reverse them.

Emanuele Ottolenghi


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

They're Dictators and Terrorists But What Clean Streets!

By Barry Rubin
Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA), June 24, 2008
Hamas celebrated its first anniversary of power in the Gaza Strip amidst massive misinterpretations regarding the situation there.
Ironically, Hamas's victory and survival has less to do with Israel than the rotten strategy of Yasir Arafat. He ruled the Palestinian movement for 35 years by establishing a weak, anarchic, corrupt, and factionalized structure which he played like a violen. After Arafat's death, Fatah paid the price by collapsing in the Gaza Strip, first electorally then militarily. Having proved a failure in government, Fatah then showed itself a failure as an opposition.
Hamas's power rests repression, radical ideology, international protection and an incompetent enemy. A Palestinian storeowner told an American reporter, "What can we do? Hamas is even stronger than a year ago. They can take me and put me away whenever they want." This is the kind of situation which elsewhere makes the West, especially the left, sneer at dictatorships that--as was once said of Italian fascist Benito Mussolini--take away freedom but take credit for making the trains run on time.
Yet while the world prevents Israel from defeating Hamas through military action and very tight sanctions, Fatah is its own worst enemy in combating Hamas.
President George Bush recently stated that a Fatah-ruled Palestinian state should be quickly developed since, "It will serve as an alternative vision to what is happening in Gaza."
This is rubbish. No matter how much money the West pumps in, the nationalists are not going to offer an attractive regime. Fatah's lower level of still-considerable repression is counterbalanced by the corruption and anarchy included in the package.
Jawad Tibi, a former Fatah cabinet minister, explained, "Hamas is Fatah with beards."
True and that lack of differentiation is the problem. Moreover, Fatah continues its own old tricks. When it does arrest those involved in terrorism, they are quickly released. Incitement to commit violence continues on the Palestinian Authority (PA) media, and the PA is far more eager to reconcile with Hamas than to make peace with Israel.
Yes, the PA's survival is a U.S., Western, and Israeli interest but let's not get sentimental or naÔve about these weak, corrupt, and largely radical allies of necessity.
As for Hamas, it possesses three key weapons.
·    The mainstream appeal of extremism and terrorism. "Hamas is strong and brutal but very good at governing," Eyad Sarraj told the New York Times, which describes him as a British-trained psychiatrist and secular opponent of Hamas, After all, he continues, it's distributing gas coupons, getting people to pay electricity bills, and keeping the city clean.

Suddenly, people considered "progressive" see the up side of having a police state. Imagine this kind of thinking applied to other dictatorships all over the world: they are brutal but boy do they keep law and order! Sarraj also forgets that Hamas's war policy resulted in reducing the gas and electricity supply.

But Sarraj is no moderate. In 1999, he wrote that Palestinians were better off without the peace process. Refusing to recognize Israel had been a "nuclear weapon" and armed struggle a great asset. Giving these up was a mistake, Sarraj insisted, and might lead to ending the conflict without eliminating Israel.

Sarraj, while a member of Gaza's tiny left, advocated a strategy parallel to that of Hamas today. Perhaps that's why he protested Arafat's repression but now seems content to accept Hamas's, however much he dislikes its Islamism. The continued extremism of mainstream Palestinian activist opinion makes Hamas's rule seem an acceptable tradeoff because of its militancy.

·    The success of ideological demagoguery. One Hamas supporter told a reporter: "Israel is trying to pressure us to make us forget that the real problem is the occupation." Of course, there is no Israeli occupation in the Gaza Strip, which is one reason why Hamas was able to seize power. "We can take it," she continued, "The Koran teaches that in the end we will be victorious."

This expresses widespread sentiments: Israel is the only enemy; everything else is irrelevant, suffering isn't important, victory is inevitable. Shortly after Hamas seized power, Sarraj told a Canadian reporter about how Hamas threw Fatah men off the tops of buildings, murdered them in hospital beds, and tortured them in a "horrific" manner.

But that isn't important. Whether Hamas brutalizes Palestinians, creates conditions that destroy living standards, drags people into endless war, turns Gaza into a mini-Iran, or causes numerous casualties, its militancy and refusal to compromise is what counts. That may seem irrational to Western observers but that's how Palestinian politics work.

·    Pretended moderation as a scam. Since Westerners can't understand the culture of ideology and extremism, they're sure Hamas will moderate. This is supposedly proven when Hamas leaders say that if Israel only returns to the 1967 borders; gives the West Bank, east Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip to a Hamas-ruled state; and lets millions of Palestinians live in Israel, they'll make a truce until they decide otherwise.

This is a very silly evaluation, reminding me of an American high school textbook which said Israel should try this idea and if that didn't work we would all know better.

Finally, there's the strange conclusion that since Hamas isn't about to fall from power, this proves sanctions have failed. One could say it shows economic and military pressures should be raised further. But at least it should be understood that the sanctions' purpose is to make Hamas less able to kill even more people, take over the West Bank, damage Israel, or turn Gaza into--to stand Bush's view on its head--an "attractive alternative."
Any policy that prevents those things seems pretty valid; any Westerner favoring a strategy that strengthens Hamas should be forced to live under its rule.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal.

- Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.