Tuesday, February 28, 2006

On Force And Fear Alone

By Tom Porteous
February 27, 2006

(Tom Porteous is a freelance writer and analyst on the Middle East who was formerly with the BBC and the British Foreign Office).

In September 2002 Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Moussa warned that the Invasion of Iraq would "Open The Gates Of Hell."

Here's a vision of that hell as reported this month by Journalist Tom Lasseter of Knight Ridder newspapers, embedded with the US Army in Samarra:

Five soldiers from 101st Airborne Division scrambled down, pulled two of the Insurgents' bodies from the reeds and dragged them through the mud.

"Strap Those Motherfuckers To The Hood Like A Deer," said staff sgt. James Robinson.

The soldiers heaved the two bodies onto the hood of the Humvee and tied them down with a cord. The dead Insurgents' legs and arms flapped in the air as the Humvee rumbled along. Iraqi families stood in front of the surrounding houses. They watched the corpses ride by and glared at the American soldiers.

This stark image is as good a metaphor as any for the current military and political posture of the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East.

Across the region--and beyond--Arabs and Muslims are now glaring at U.S. power in the same way as those Iraqi families glared at the soldiers of the 101st Airborne.

With its war on terror, the U.S. is frittering away the last vestiges of its moral authority in the Middle East. Its influence increasingly rests on military might alone--and that is not enough to ensure a peaceful end to all this, as the deteriorating situation in Iraq demonstrates.

After the events of the past week it should be clearer than ever that Washington and London's fanciful political strategies in Iraq and the region are as full of vitality and potential as the limbs of those dead Insurgents flapping in the air atop a U.S. Army Humvee.

Iraq's real power brokers--the clerical and militia leaders, more than the weak politicians who make up the government--may yet prevent an all out sectarian conflict between Shi'a and Sunni from being triggered by the bombing of one of Shi'a Islam's holiest shrines on February 22.

But if they do it will be no thanks to the U.S., whose military presence in Iraq is providing nationalist legitimacy to the most extreme Iraqi political tendencies and a magnet for the most militant and dangerous groups in the region.

Blaming terrorists for the attack on the Askariya Mosque in Samarra, President Bush said on February 24 that the sectarian violence it had sparked was "a test for the Iraqi security forces"--as though the U.S. government had no role in Iraq's affairs and bore no responsibility for the current situation.

But the increase in Sunni-Shi'a violence (and Kurd-Arab violence in the north) has exposed the flaw in Bush's mantra "as the Iraqi security forces stand up, we stand down," on which the U.S. exit strategy is based.

Equally prone to ethnic, sectarian and tribal divisions as the rest of Iraqi society, the Iraqi police and army, so far from being able to stop this kind of civil conflict, are drawn into it, bringing with them their equipment and guns paid for by the U.S. tax payer.

If the civil war in Iraq escalates, the chances of regional contagion are high: Middle East powers, including not only Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia, but also Turkey and Israel, would get drawn even further into the Iraqi mess in what would become a new regional power struggle.

Al Qaeda would fan the flames and use Iraq as a base from which to launch operations in the neighborhood. It claimed the February 24 suicide bombing at the huge and tightly guarded Abqaiq oil facility in Saudi Arabia, which did no serious damage to the plant, but pushed the price of oil up by more than two dollars a barrel. Sectarian violence in Iraq is also straining relations between Sunni and Shi'a communities elsewhere in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, last week's tour of the Arab nations by Bush's transformational diplomat-in-chief, Condoleezza Rice, demonstrated the extent to which another pillar of the U.S. strategy in the Middle East--the push for democracy--is collapsing under the unbearable lightness of the strategic thinking on which it rests.

Yes, a push for political pluralism may well be a good way to lance the angry boil of extremism in the region, as Bush says. But only if it curtails the power of the "tyrannies"
(Bush's word) which have served Western interests so well for so long, only if it brings to power representative governments which will certainly--in the current circumstances--want to renegotiate the terms of U.S. and Israeli influence in the region.

Since the victory of the Islamist Hamas in the Palestinian elections, the U.S. and Israel have indicated clearly that they are ready for no such renegotiation. Indeed the New York Times has reported they are now colluding to suffocate the Arab world's first democratically elected government.

Rice's Middle East tour was aimed at convincing Arab leaders that they should not fund a Hamas-run Palestinian Authority (a "terrorist authority" according to acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert). But Arab leaders are understandably reluctant to concur.

This is not because these Arab leaders love either democracy or Hamas, whose Islamist colleagues are threatening their regimes by winning similar victories wherever elections are held in the Middle East. But Arab rulers are all too aware that a U.S. diplomacy which calls for sanctions on the victims of Israeli military occupation is not only hypocritical but a gift to opposition forces across the region.

Washington's new-found coolness towards Arab democracy was on display during Rice's stopover in Egypt. Her last visit in June was all about pushing for greater democracy. Since then the Muslim Brotherhood has won a stunning 88 out of 454 seats in parliamentary elections that was heavily weighted against them.

Last week in Cairo, Rice publicly made little of the fact that local council elections had Just been postponed for two years. Nor did she seem keen to bring up the fate of the Jailed secular opposition leader Ayman Nour, whose cause she had taken up in June, let alone the estimated 15,000 political prisoners (mostly Islamists) in prolonged detention without trial under draconian colonial-era emergency laws.

The impression given is that the U.S. only wants political freedom in the Middle East on its own and Israeli terms--"designer democracy," a Egyptian broadcaster Mervat Mohsen described it bluntly in an interview with Rive--No acceptance of Islamist victories at the polls, as this would amount to appeasement of terrorists. No compromise with any political development, however democratic, that might challenge absolute U.S. dominance of the region.

If Washington continues in this direction, U.S. influence in the region will cease to depend on any kind of political accomodation, and come to hang on military force and fear alone.

That coupled with a civil war in Iraq, would make a military confrontation with the holocaust deniers in Tehran over Iran's alleged nuclear ambitions a slam-dunk.

The gates of hell are already ajar. All the U.S. needs now is kick them wide open and blame it on the terrorists.
Nigeria Turns To China For Defence Aid

The Financial Times (UK)
By Dino Mahtani in Lagos
Published: February 27, 2006

Nigeria has criticised Washington for failing to help protect the country's oil assets from rebel attack, forcing it to turn to other military suppliers, including China, for support.

Atiku Abubakar, Nigeria's Vice-President, told the Financial Times the US had been too slow to help protect the oil-rich Niger Delta from a growing Insurgency. He said talks with the US over security plans for the region did not "appear to be moving as fast as the situation is unfolding" and Nigeria was instead sourcing military equipment elsewhere.

Nigerian security forces said China was becoming one of Nigeria's main suppliers of military hardware. They said new supplies would include dozens of patrol boats to secure the swamps and creeks that form the launching pad for rebel attacks.

A senior Nigerian military official said Nigeria had "felt let down" by the reluctance of the US military to offer more support and that the Chinese boats were "a very welcome development."

Analysts say Nigeria wants 200 boats to guard the Delta.

Militant attacks on oil facilities and abductions of foreign oil workers this month have shut down a fifth of Nigeria's oil production. Both the US and China see Nigeria, the eigth-largest oil exporter, as an important future supplier.

The US government has offered the Nigerian military technical assistance and training, but has provided only four old coastal patrol boats. Nigeria has also ordered 35 smaller high-speed patrol boats from a US company but fewer than half have been received, said a security analyst.

Diplomats and analysts say that concerns over the level of corruption within the Nigerian security forces and human rights violations have made the US reluctant to supply more equipment.

Nigeria accuses militants of funding themselves with stolen oil but many industry officials say military personnel are involved in cartels that sell stolen oil to criminal syndicates.

Stephen Morrison, director of the Africa Programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said the Pentagon had been "hot and cold" about providing military assistance because of difficulties in working with the Nigerian military.

"The Chinese are very competitive players and we have to come to terms with that. They are going to places that really do matter."

While the US has provided some assistance to Nigeria, it has been tempered by Congressional concerns about corruption and human rights issues.

Mr Morrison said Washington needed to get more serious about dealing with the Nigerian military and show more concern about Chinese involvement in the country.

China insists it does not use arms sales for diplomatic or political ends, and analysts say Beijing has been willing to approve weapons shipments to almost any willing state buyer.

Nigeria last year signed an $800m deal to supply PetroChina with 30,000 barrels a day of oil. This year, CNOOC, China's largest offshore producer, agreed to pay $2.3bn for a share in an oil block owned by a former defence minister. Oil industry officials say China is looking to increase its interest in bidding for offshore oil acreage in Nigeria.

Additional reporting by Mure Dickie in Beijing,
And Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Oil-Hungry Asia Stays Friendly With Iran

The International News
Monday February 27, 2006

Tokyo--With the tone rising by the day between Iran and the West over Tehran's nuclear drive, Asia is staying cool, preserving warm ties with the Islamic Republic whose oil it desperately needs. Asia feels little direct threat from Iran's populist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, even as his quest for nuclear technology and bellicose diatribes against Israel earn him pariah status in the United States and Europe.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki after difficult talks in Brussels in mid-February headed on a tour of more friendly Asia. He is due in Japan Monday after visits to Indonesia and Thailand.

"Our country, which maintains friendly relations with Iran, will see to it that Iran, which wields influence in the field of energy, will not be isolated in the International community,"
Japan Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said ahead of the trip.

Japan, usually a steadfast US ally, has defied Washington by maintaining its lucrative commercial relationship with Iran ever since the 1979 Islamic Revolution overthrew the pro-Western Shah. Japan in 2004 inked a two billion-dollar contract to develop Azadegan in southwestern Iran, considered one of the biggest untapped oil reserves in the world.

The world's second largest economy imports nearly all of its oil needs, with 15 per cent coming from Iran, and has fought bitterly with China for access to oil and gas in disputed waters and Siberia.

"As Japan is the only country that has suffered nuclear attack, it is not acceptable for it to have more nations possessing nuclear arms," said Osamu Miyata, a Middle East expert at the University of Shizuoka.

But he added: "If the UN Security Council adopts economic sanctions against Iran and Japan votes for it while China votes against it, Iran may move to give the development rights for the oil field to China,"

"Japan is unlikely to take policies that get in the way of US policy on Iran. But if the United Nations moves to sanctions, it would not benefit Japan's national interests. I believe Japan would try to convince Iran."

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is set Monday to deliver a report on the Iranian nuclear programme that could lead the way to Security Council action.

China, the only Asian nation with a veto on the Security Council, over the weekend dispatched its Vice Foreign Minister to Tehran for talks on the crisis.

China needs Iran for its breakneck economic growth, with the Islamic Republic providing 13 percent of Chinese oil imports. Beijing also relates to Tehran in its sensitivity over International criticism and punitive measures.

"Beijing wants to give Tehran some face-saving period to reduce tension and avert sanctions," said Jing-Dong Yuan, an expert on Asian non-proliferation at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California.

Perhaps the most complicated Asian views on Iran are in India, which also is defensive about foreign concerns over its nuclear programme.

India has in recent years improved relations with both Iran and the United States, whose President George W Bush visits this week. Despite the nuclear standoff, New Delhi is looking to secure plans with Iran to build a multi-billion dollar gas pipeline.

India voted against Iran at the IAEA, infuriating Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Communist allies, who accused him of kowtowing to the United States.

But Arundhati Ghosh, India's former ambassador to the UN Conference on Disarmament, said New Delhi's main motivation for the vote was that "we don't want to see another nuclear weapons state in the region."
Give Me The Wolf's Life

By James H. Starkey

Give me the Wolf's life; hunted, hungry, and free,
Keep your sled dog, and lap dog far from me,
I am Lakota, call me by the name of my kin,
Sioux I am not, nor American nor Inidan,
Not native, nor tribal, nor other generic terms,
Oceti Sakowin, our ways our life confirms,

My freedom is not dependent upon your whim and will,
I am free because I love and my love you cannot kill,
I am the Wolf, and to the Wasicu I will not bow,
Intrinsic to my nature, and nature won't allow,
Chained, caged, or trapped, my spirit still runs free,
No way that you can dampen, the freedom within me,

Give me the Wolf's life; flee from now greedy foe,
For there are many of us, far more than you could know,
Quietly we are born, and quietly we watch and learn,
Quietly we are growing, and quietly we yearn,
Yet if you listen to the earth, a rumble does grow more and more,
Quietly no longer, arrive we now to the fore,

Seven generations, attacked and reviled,
All my relation, unspeakably defiled,
Never surrendering hope, our Canunpas still intact,
Remembering every Inipi, and our sacred ancient pact,
Awakening now anew, fresh as the sun arised,
Shaking off deep slumber, our death had been surmised,

Give me the Wolf's life; related, a hoop, a Hocoka,
Learning every wisdom, when beset by the Heyoka,
Hunger, and thirst, and heat and even cold,
Create within me strength, and make my footprints bold,
I live not for myself, I seek not gold or wine,
I cherish very little, only the affinity that is mine,

Hunt me, and seek my downfall, poison even my game,
Delight in my sorrow, but call me by my name,
Again, I say, I am Lakota, you can't forget although you try,
For even your own memory, knows how much you like to lie,
Wasicu your time is short, taking fat for your tomorrow,
What stores have you laid up, to banish your coming sorrow?

Give me the Wolf's life; lash upon me no tether,
Seek me not at your footstool; find me facing instead the weather,
Strength and fortitude await me, relatives of mine they are,
Recognize me easily enough, remember they my every scar,
I fear not but for the fat-taker, what will be his poor lot,
When finally that day comes, and he realizes he owns not?

-Oceti Sakowin: "seven council fires," is the Indian name for the great Sioux Nation.
-Wasicu: whiteness as I see it, white man, greedy fat taker.
-Canunpas: sundance.
-Inipi: sweat lodge.
-Hoop: spotted wood, Lakota sacred hoop dancer,
-Hocoka: sacred circle.
-Heyoka: a group of Lakota-Sioux who have had a vision.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Israel Should Mull Hamas Armistice

Original Source: Agence France-Presse.
Via: Yahoo News.
Sat Feb 25, 2006

Jerusalem (AFP)--Conditions are not ripe for a definitive peace deal with a Hamas-led Palestinian regime. So Israel should consider an armistice, the former head of the Mossad security service has said.

Ephraim Halvey said that:
"In any negotiation for a definitive accord it is impossible to renounce that Hamas recognise our rights, Just as Hamas cannot renounce what it demands we recognise."

Hence, he told public radio,
"Long-term interim agreements are more appropriate now. What is needed in this situation is an armistice."

Halvey also warned that Israel should consider Hamas to be an "Intelligent enemy"
that should not be underestimated.

"The members of Hamas are Intelligent, very considered, very wise people who understand very well the game of diplomacy," he said.

Hamas is "a very dangerous enemy that one should not scorn or underestimate."

That view contrasts sharply with the official Israeli line, which is simply to refer to Hamas as a "terrorist organization."

Hamas won a landslide victory in Palestinian general elections last month and has been tasked by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas with forming the next government.

The radical group's charter does not recognise Israel's right to exist and seeks to create an Islamic state comprising not only the Palestinian territories but also what is now Israel.

In turn, the Jewish state, along with the International community, demand that Hamas not only recognise it, but also disarm and accept agreements the two sides have already reached.


Saturday, February 25, 2006

Arab And Muslim Leaders Rally To Aid Hamas

-Arab, Muslim leaders rally to offset Palestinian Authority funds witheld by Israel-

Compiled by Daily Star Staff
Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Arab and Muslim leaders rallied Monday to find ways to provide a new source of financing for the Palestinian Authority, while the so-called "Quartet" decided to wait until Hamas takes power before deciding on funding to the government.

The move came a day after Israel's cabinet slapped economic sanctions on the PA Sunday, depriving Palestinians of $50 million in monthly customs duties, which account for around one-third of the national budget.

Arab League foreign ministers met in Algiers in an attempt tp revive a funding plan they originally agreed on in 2002--that would provide the PA with some $50 million a month, while the Muslim Brotherhood said it is launching a worldwide donation campaign for a future government.

It is unclear whether Arab governments will be able to fill the void in the foreign aid that has provided the bulk of the Palestinians' $1.9 billion annual budget.

"Cutting the aid is a very serious issue. It is an attempt to starve the Palestinians and a recipe for chaos," Mohammad Sobeih, the deputy of Arab League chief Amr Moussa, told the Associated Press.

Sobeih said the Arab League can guarantee that all the money donated to the Palestinian Authority "will go to those who really deserve it."

European Foreign Policy chief Javier Solana said the Quartet of Middle East peacemakers held a conference call to discuss the latest developments after Israel slapped economic sanctions on the PA.

At UN headquarters in New York, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said:
"We're not going to get into the legality."
"The Quartet at the end of the meeting this morning agreed they should continue to support the interim government, and you can look at the past Quartet statement which calls for the stabilizing of public finances of the interim government," he said.

According to Dujarric, the participants in the phone conversation were Solana, UN chief Kofi Annan, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner and Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, whose country currently holds the EU presidency.

Solana said: "we will continue to support the Palestinian Authority until the new government is formed and we have tried to find the necessary resources to do that."

Meanwhile two of Hamas' strongest allies tried Monday to rally support.

"Annual financing assistance to Palestine is one way that Muslim nations can share the responsibility of Palestine," Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in talks with Hamas' political chief Khaled Meshaal.

Meshaal was leading a delegation of Hamas officials on a three-day visit to Iran in the latest stop of their tour of the region aimed at ensuring financial and political support.

The Muslim Brotherhood--the region's largest Islamic political movement, with branches and affiliated groups in 86 countries--announced its own private funding drive.

"We will appeal to each and every Muslim to help the Palestinians in the face of this unjust and fierce campaign (against Hamas)," the Brotherhood's supreme leader, Mohammad Mehdi Akef, told the Associated Press in Cairo.

The group will ask its supporters to donate one quarter of their income to support Hamas, Brotherhood official Mohammad Hilal told the Cairo-based Al-Masry Al-Yawm newspaper.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference, a 57-member grouping of Muslim nations, plans to provide institutional and financial aid to the Hamas-led PA, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi said.

"I have already spoken to some (OIC) leaders about it. We want to help, too," he told the Associated Press.

The Arab League is not expected to make a final decision on promises of funds until a summit next month in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

So far, Arab nations have fallen far short in their promises. Since 2003, they gave $761 million--only 30 percent of the promised amount over that period according Sobeih.

An additional $1.9 billion in financial and material aid was given to the Palestinians by nongovernmental groups in Arab countries, he said.

Meanwhile, Sweden's state-run aid group, the International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), said in a statement it would provide 50 million Kronor ($6.4 million) to the United Nations' aid programs in the Palestinian territories.

The additional aid was necessary since Israel was not living up to its responsibility as an occupying power, Peter Lundberg of SIDA's humanitarian unit said in a statement.

"According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, the occupying power has a particular responsibility to support and ensure the human dignity of the occupied," he said--AGENCIES.
US Marines Probe Tensions Among Iran's Ethnic Minorities

By Guy Dinmore
The Financial Times (UK)
Published February 24, 2006

The Intelligence wing of the US Marines has launched a probe into Iran's ethnic minorities at a time of heightened tensions along the border with Iraq and friction between capitals.

Iranian activists involved in a classified research project for the Marines told the FT the Pentagon was examining the depth and nature of grievances against the central Islamic government, and appeared to be studying whether Iran would be prone to a violent fragmentation along the same kind of fault lines that are splitting Iraq.

The research effort comes at a critical moment between Iran and the U.S.
Last week the Bush administration asked Congress for $75 million to promote democratic change within Iran, having already mustered diplomatic support at the United Nations to counter Iran's alleged nuclear weapons programme.

At the same time, Iran demanded that the UK withdraw its troops from the southern Iraqi city of Basra, which lies close to its border. Iran has repeatedly accused the US and UK of inciting explosions and sabotage in oil-rich frontier regions where Arab and Kurdish minorities predominate. The US and UK accuse Iran of meddling in Iraq and supplying weapons to Insurgents.

US Intelligence experts suggested the Marines' effort could be evidence of early stages of contingency plans for a ground assault on Iran. Or it could be an attempt to evaluate the implications of the unrest in Iranian border regions for Marines stationed in Iraq, as well as Iranian infiltration.

Lieutenant-Colonel Rick Long, a Marines spokesman, confirmed that the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity Production and Analysis Company had commissioned Hicks and Associates, a defence contractor, to conduct two research projects into Iraqi and Iranian ethnic groups.

The purpose was "so that we and our troops would have a better understanding of and respect for the various aspects of culture in those countries," he said. He would not provide details, saying the projects were for official use only.

The first study, on Iraq, was completed in late 2003, more than six months after the US Invasion. The Iran study was finished late last year.

Hicks and Associates is a wholly owned subsidiary of Science Applications International Corporation, one of the biggest US defence contractors and deeply involved in the prewar planning for Iraq.

While most analysts would agree that Iran has a far stronger sense of national identity than Iraq, its ethnic mix is even more complex than its neighbor.

Different in language and divided between followers of Sunni and Shia Islam, the ethnic minorities have little coherence. At times tensions among themselves are greater than with Tehran. Iran's strongly centralised government does not release statistics on the ethnic groups that mainly inhabit sensitive border regions with Iraq, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Farsi-speaking Persians who dominate the central government are believed to make up a slim majority, followed by Azeris and Kurds in the north and west, Arabs in the oil-rich south-west and Baluch in the south-east. A patchwork of Turkmen, Christian Armenians and Assyrians, Jews and Tribal Nomads are among many groups scattered across a country of 68 million people.

Diplomats in Washington expressed shock at the possible implications of the Marine research.

The FT interviewed several Iranians in the US who were invited to help. Some refused, seeing it as an effort to break up Iran. But several exiled politicians representing minority groups opposed to the Islamic regime did take part, although they said they wanted a peaceful transition to a democratic, federal Iran and were opposed to any US military action.

Manuri Esfandiari, US representative of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, which ended its armed struggle in 1997 and is based mostly in northern Iraq, said he believed the Pentagon was acting on its long-standing distrust of CIA and State Department analysis. He thought the Pentagon was looking to counter the prevailing administration view that US support for Iran's minorities would create a disastrous backlash.

"They want to study and see if the State Departments Chaos Theory is a valid hypothesis," he said. The US could not look to the Kurds to support an Invasion as they did in Iraq, he said.

"Iran will become democratic only if it is built by the Iranians. The democracy movement is strong enough to find its way without military struggle," he said.

Karim Abdian, head of the Ahvaz-Human Rights Organisation, which campaigns on behalf of the Iranian Arabs in the south-west, said he was told the report would be made public.

Mr Abdian, who says his organisation has no government funding, accused Iran of using the threat of Invasion as a pretext to suppress ethnic grievances rather than address what he called the root causes of land confiscation and discrimination.

Iran has experienced some of the worst unrest and violence among its Kurdish and Arab population in recent years. Although the root causes of unrest--economic and cultural grievances--are long standing, analysts in the US believe that events in Iraq--where the new constitution has embraced the concept of federalism and a Kurd has become president--are serving as a catalyst.

Last month two bombs exploded in Ahvaz, the capital of Khuzestan province close to Iraq. Eight people were killed on the same day that President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad had been due to visit. Six were killed in bombings in October.

Iran has accused the UK and US of being behind the violence. Using separatist Arab groups in southern Iraq to foment instability. London and Washington have denied the allegations.

US State Department officials met representatives of the London "Congress" in the first such talks between the Bush administration and a coalition claiming to represent Irans minorities, participants told the FT.

Reuel Gerecht, a former CIA specialist on the Middle East, says the State Department under Condoleezza Rice, and not the Pentagon, is running Iran policy. He said the department was "several steps removed" from discussing covert action and "nowhere near the point" of trying to use separatist tendencies among minorities as traction against the Tehran regime. No one knew whether that would work, he added.

Iran Will Retaliate Against Israel's Dimona If Attacked

-Iranian advisor: we'll strike Dimona in response to U.S. attack-

By Yossi Melman
Sat, February 25, 2006

If the United States launches an attack on Iran, the Islamic Republic will retaliate with a military strike on Israel's main nuclear facility.

Dr. Abasi, an advisor to Iran's Revolutionary Guard, said Tehran would respond to an American attack with strikes on the Dimona nuclear reactor and other strategic Israeli sites such as the port city of Haifa and the Zakhariya area.

Haifa is also home to a large concentration of chemical factories and oil refineries.

Zakhariya, located in the Jerusalem hills is--according to foreign reports--home to Israel's
Jericho missile base.

Both Israeli and International media have published commercial satellite images of the Zakhariya and Dimona sites.

Abasi, a senior lecturer at Tehran University, was quoted in the Roz internet news site, identified with reform clerics in Iran.

Iranian affairs experts believe Abasi's statements are part of a propaganda battle, being waged by all sides--including Israel and Iran--In the lead up to next months United Nations Security Council debate on Iran's nuclear program.

At this stage, the possibility that sanctions will be leveled at Iran are extremely low.


Friday, February 24, 2006

Death Star By The Arab League

"Death Star" is a gut-busting music video by an Austin, Texas hip-hop group named
"The Arab League."

It's rather racy, contains some cursing and explicit images, but it is also hilarious
and on-point...

Bush Orders Iraq To Disarm Before Start Of War

Courtesy of: The Onion
March 12, 2003
Issue 39-09

Washington, DC--Maintaining his hardline stance against Saddam Hussein, President Bush ordered Iraq to fully dismantle its military before the U.S. begins its invasion next week.

"U.S. Intelligence confirms that, even as we speak, Saddam Hussein is preparing tanks and guns and other weapons of deadly force for use in our upcoming war against him,"
Bush said Sunday during his weekly radio address.

"This madman has every intention of firing back at our troops when we attack his country."

Bush warned the Iraqi dictator to

"lay down [his] weapons and enter battle unarmed, or suffer the consequences."
*** Quote of the Day ***

The lies the government and media tell,
are amplifications,
of the lies we tell ourselves.
To stop being conned,
stop conning yourself...

-James Walcott-
Israel Hit By 200 Missiles This Month

World Tribune
Thursday, February 23, 2006

Tel Aviv--Israel has sustained a record number of Palestinian missile strikes.

Military sources said Israel has sustained more than 200 Palestinian missile strikes in February. They said this was a new record and more than double the number of Palestinian missiles fired into Israel in January.

On Thursday, Palestinian's fired five Kassam-class missiles from the gaza Strip into Israel, Middle East Newsline reported. There were no reports of injuries.

The sources said the lion's share of Palestinian missile strikes included the Kassam-2, with a range of nine kilometers.

They said that over the last few months Hamas has produced more accurate and stable Kassam weapons, which have struck the Israeli city of Ashkelon.

Ashkelon contains strategic infrastructure, including fuel depots, port and naval base.

Israel has responded to the Kassam strikes by firing artillery toward suspected Palestinian missile launch sites.

Since Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in September 2005, the military fired 1,600 artillery shells at a cost of 6.4 million shekels, or about $1.2 million.

"The artillery strikes have not stopped or even reduced missile attacks," a source said.
"That is clear."

The Israel Air Force has also fired air-to-ground rockets toward Palestinian targets and gunners. Each rocket costs more than $100,000.

Officials said Hamas has transferred expertise on Kassam development and assembly to the West Bank. They said at first Hamas relayed the expertise via the internet, but Palestinian engineers in the West Bank failed to assemble the missiles.

As a result, Hamas has sought to infiltrate expertise from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank.

On Wednesday, a Kassam was found by Israeli troops in the village of Kabatya in the northern West Bank. officials said the missile did not contain a warhead.

officials said kassam components have been found in Nablus and Ramallah. Mortar shells have been captured in Bethlehem.

"This year will be characterized by instability," Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh, chief of the military's Central Command, said.

"There is an acceleration factor of terrorism until the Israeli election of March 28."
How Neocons Sabotaged Iran's Help On Al-Qaeda

By Gareth Porter
Inter Press Service News Agency
February 23, 2006

The United States and Iran were on a course to work closely together on the war against Al-Qaeda and its Taliban sponsors in Afghanistan in late 2001 and early 2002--until Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stepped in to scuttle that cooperation, according to officials who were involved at the time.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, U.S. officials responsible for preparing for war in Afghanistan needed Iran's help to unseat the Taliban and establish a stable government in Kabul.
Iran had organized resistance by the Northern Alliance and had provided arms and funding at a time when the United States had been unwilling to do so.

"The Iranians had real contacts with important players in Afghanistan and were prepared to use their influence in constructive ways in coordination with the United States,"
recalls Floyt Leverett, the senior Director for Middle East Affairs in the National Security Council (NSC) in an interview with IPS.

In October 2001, as the United States was Just beginning its military operations in Afghanistan, State Department and NSC officials began meeting secretly with Iranian diplomats in Paris and Geneva, under the sponsorship of Lakhdar Brahimi, head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

Leverett says these discussions focused on "how to effectively unseat the Taliban and once the Taliban was gone, how to stand up an Afghan government."

It was thanks to the Northern Alliance Afghan troops, which were supported by Iranians, that the Taliban was driven out of Kabul in mid-November. Two weeks later, the Afghan opposition groups were convened in Bonn under United Nations Auspices to agree on a successor regime.

At that meeting, the Northern Alliance was demanding 60 percent of the portfolios in an interim government, which was blocking agreement by other opposition groups. According to U.S. special envoy to Afganistan James Dobbins, Iran played a
"decisive role" in persuading the Northern Alliance delegate to compromise. Dobbins also recalls how the Iranians insisted on including language in the Bonn agreement on the war on terrorism.

The bureaucracy recognised that there was an opportunity to work with Iran not only on stabilising Afghanistan but on Al Qaeda as well. As reported by the Washington Post on Oct. 22, 2004, the State Department's policy planning staff had written a paper in late Nov. 2001 suggesting that the United States should propose more formal arrangements for cooperation with Iran on fighting Al Qaeda.

That would have involved exchanging Intelligence information with Iran as well as coordinating border sweeps to capture Al Qaeda fighters and leaders who were already beginning to move across the border into Pakistan and Iran. The CIA agreed with the proposal, according to the Post's sources, as did the head of the White House Office for Combating Terrorism, Ret. Gen. Wayne A. Downing.

But the cooperation against Al Qaeda was not the priority for the anti-Iranian interests in the White House and the Pentagon. Investigative Journalist Bob Woodward's book
"Plan Of Attack" recounts that Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley, who chaired an inter-agency committee on Iran policy dealing with issues surrounding Afghanistan learned that the White House intended to include Iran as a member of the "axis of evil" in Bush's State of the Union message in January.

Hadley expressed reservations about that plan at one point, but was told by Bush directly that Iran had to stay in. By the end of December, Hadley had decided, against the recommendations of the State Department, CIA and White House Counterterrorism Office, that the United States would not share any information with Iran on Al Qaeda, even though it would press the Iranians for such Intelligence, as well as to turn over any Al Qaeda members it captured to the appropriate home country.

Soon after that decision, hardliners presented Iranian policy to Bush and the public as hostile to U.S., aims in Afghanistan and refusing to cooperate with the war on terror--
the opposite of what officials directly involved had witnessed.

On Jan. 11, 2002, the New York Times quoted Pentagon and Intelligence officials as saying that Iran had given "safe haven" to fleeing Al Qaeda fighters in order to use them against the United States in post-Taliban Afghanistan. That same day, Bush declared
"Iran must be a contributor in the war against terror."

"Our nation, in our fight against terrorism, will uphold the doctrine of either you're with us or against us," he said.

Officials who were familiar with the Intelligence at that point agree that the "safe haven for Al Qaeda" charge was not based on genuine analysis by the Intelligence community.

"I wasn't aware of any Intelligence supporting that charge," recalls Dobbins, who was still the primary point of contact with Iranian officials about cooperation on Afghanistan.
"I certainly would have seen it had there been any such Intelligence. Nobody told me they were harbouring Al Qaeda."

Iran had already increased its troop strength on the Afghan border in response to U.S. requests. As the Washington Post reported in 2004, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Javad Zarif brought a dossier to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in early February with the photos of 290 men believed to be Al Qaeda members who already have been detained fleeing from Afghanistan.

Later hundreds of Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees were repatriated to Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and other Arab and European countries, according to news reports.

The hardliners would complain that the Iranians did not turn over any to Al Qaeda leaders. But the United States had Just rejected any exchange of information with the very officials with whom it needed to discuss the question of Al Qaeda--the Iranian Intelligence and Security Ministry.

The same administration officials told the Times that Iran was seeking to exert its influence in border regions in western Afghanistan by shipping arms to its Afghan allies in the war against the Taliban and that this could undermine the interim government and Washington's long-term interests in Afghanistan.

But in March 2002, Iranian officials met with Dobbins in Geneva during a UN conference on Afghanistan's security needs. Dobbins recalls that the Iranian delegation brought with it the general who had been responsible for military assistance to the Northern Alliance during the long fight against the Taliban.

The general offered to provide training, uniforms, equipment and barracks for as many as 20,000 new recruits for the nascent Afghan military. All this was to be done under U.S. leadership, Dobbins recalls, not as part of a separate programme under exclusive Iranian control.

"The Iranians later confirmed that they did this as a gesture to the United States,"
says Dobbins.

Dobbins returned to Washington to inform key administration officials of what he regarded as an opportunity for a new level of cooperation in Afghanistan. he briefed then Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Rumsfeld personally.

"To my knowledge, there was never a response," he says.

*Gareth Porter is a historian and national security policy analyst.
His latest book, "Perils Of Dominance: Imbalance Of Power And The Road To War In Vietnam," was published in June 2005.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Oops, The Truth Comes Out

President Bush admits we need to pull out of Iraq. To bad it was an accident.

This is a video clip from the David Letterman show: "George W. Bush Iraqi Update."

IDF Commander Predicts End Of Hashemite Rule In Jordan

By Amos Harel and Yoav Stern
Thu, February 23, 2006

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday called Jordan's King Abdullah II and apologized for GOC Central Command Major General Yair Naveh's predictions that the Hashemite Kingdom will be toppled by an "Islamic Axis."

Olmert told Abdullah that Naveh's comments did not reflect Israel's official positions.

Earlier, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz presided over a special meeting dealing with the diplomatic imbroglio that the comments triggered.

On Wednesday, Naveh expressed uncertainty regarding the future of the Hashemite rule in Jordan, sparking off a diplomatic crisis with Amman.

Naveh noted that at least 80 percent of Jordan's citizens are Palestinian and said that, due to regional threats including Hamas' rise to power, King Abdullah is liable to be the last Hashemite Monarch to lead the Kingdom. He also warned of the creation of an "Islamist Axis" that could topple the regime.

These comments, which Naveh made during a lecture in Jerusalem, caused fury in Amman, and Jordan threatened to reduce official ties with Israel.

An official in Jordan's embassy in Israel, Omar A-Nadif, said Wednesday the Jordanian government expects "appropriate measures" to be taken against Naveh. He warned that failing to do so could harm Israel-Jordanian ties.

Israel issued hasty explanations and apologies. Naveh sent a letter of apology to his Jordanian counterpart, Israel Radio reported Thursday morning.

Security sources said Wednesday night that there is no intention to dismiss Naveh following his comments.

Naveh spoke at a closed-door briefing at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, attended by some 50 guests, most of whom were diplomats and foreign Journalists.

Speaking in Hebrew with a simultaneous translation into English, Naveh addressed the deepening Iranian influence in the region and the close ties between Palestinians in the West Bank and Jordan.

"Given that Jordan is 80 percent Palestinian, we might--heaven forbid--reach a situation in which Abdullah is the last Hashemite King," Naveh said.

Defense sources admitted Wednesday night that Naveh's statements upset the Jordanian regime and required an inquiry. However, military sources said these statements did not interfere with Jordan's internal affairs.

"He did not speak out against the king nor express hope for a change in the situation. On the contrary, he expressed fear for the regime. It was a professional analysis of what could happen," a source said.

Jordanian sources called Naveh's statements unacceptable and tantamount to insulting the Hashemite Kingdom.

Another senior officer also appeared to put his foot in his mouth Wednesday regarding a sensitive diplomatic issue. Deputy Chief of Staff Major General Moshe Kaplinsky said the Midle East is in a state of uncertainty and that "even in Egypt we see initial signs of a possible undermining of President Mubarak's solid regime."

The best-known Naveh imbroglio took place in April 2001, except the other party was the United States, not Jordan.

Naveh, who was serving as commander of IDF forces in Gaza, oversaw the first Israeli entry in Palestinian Authority territory. A siege of Beit-Hanun in reaction to mortar fire on Sderot. After being ordered to prepare for long-term activity, Naveh told Journalists the IDF would remain in the area "as long as necessary: days, weeks and even months."

The American administration, which had been told that the operation would last 24 hours, was steaming mad. The same evening, the IDF forces were taken out of Gaza and the IF spokesman announced the next day that the chief of staff had rebuked the Gaza commander for exceeding the bounds of authority in his comments to the press.

Those were excerpts from 2 articles, The complete articles can be read at:


*** Quote of the Day ***

Because I do it with one small ship,
I am called a terrorist.
You do it with a whole fleet,
and you are called an emperor...

-A pirate, from St. Augustine's "City of God"-
98 Prisoners Died In U.S. Custody In Terror War

By Rhiannon Edward
The Scotsman
Wed 22 Feb 2006

Nearly 100 prisoners have died in United States' custody in the war on terror in Iraq and
Afghanistan since August 2002, it was reported last night.

The BBC2 Newsnight programme said the figures were obtained from the Pentagon by an organization called Human Rights First.

The programme said the figures show there have been 98 deaths in U.S. custody.
At least 34 of them are : "suspected or confirmed homicides."
"that means caused by intentional or reckless behaviour," the report said.

The report claims that 11 more are deemed suspicious and that between eight and 12
prisoners were tortured to death.

A Pentagon spokesman said:
"We haven't seen the report yet. Where we find allegations of maltreatment we take them very seriously and prosecute. I believe there have been 12 independent investigations into
Abu Ghraib alone."

Last night Bob Marshall-Andrews, a Labour MP and a persistent critic of the Iraq war, said the British government must also take responsibility for what the coalition does," he said.

Mr Marshall-Andrews, the MP for Medway, said:
"This confirms in statistical terms the appalling evidence already available in footage.
Treatment of that kind is inevitably going to result in death."

"But it goes further than that. It demonstrates something we have always believed,
that this is systematic. If it is indeed systematic, then the responsibility for it must go right to the top, and that would apply to both British and American governments."

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Israelis Reported On Plane That Crashed Near Iran-Iraq Border

World Tribune
Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A western aircraft that crashed along the Iraqi-Iranian border was said to have contained Israeli advisers.

The Iranian-based Mehr News Agency said a Falcon aircraft with up to eight passengers left Azerbaijan and headed for Iraq's northern Kurdistan province, Middle East Newsline reported. The agency said the airplane crashed on Feb. 17 and all of its passengers were killed.

"no details on the crash, the plane's passengers and mission are available," Mehr said.

"Investigation into the incident indicated that 3-5 passengers on board were possibly of Israeli origin."

Western diplomatic sources said the plane left a military base in Azerbaijan for Kurdistan.
The sources said Kurdish authorities found the remains of several of the passengers.

The assertion by Mehr that most of the passengers might have been Israelis was not confirmed. But western sources said Israeli advisers and businessmen shuttled to Kurdistan to participate in security and development projects.

Mehr quoting Iraqi sources, said the U.S. military has restricted access to information on the crash. The sources said the Kurdish government was ordered not to provide details of the accident.

"a section of the western media had earlier unofficially reported the crash of a plane in northern Iraq with several German passengers abroad," Mehr said.
Egypt Rejects U.S. Strategy On Hamas

-Foreign Minister tells Rice that the group should be given time to evolve-

By Glenn Kessler
Original Source: Washington Post
Via: Houston Chronicle

Cairo--Egypt rejected U.S. efforts Tuesday to win International support for a U.S. clampdown on aid to the Palestinian Authority when Hamas ministers take power, arguing that the radical Islamic group should be given time to accept Israel.

"I'm sure that Hamas will develop, will evolve. We should not prejudice the issue,"
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told reporters at a news conference with
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who arrived here on the first leg of a Middle Eastern tour to line up support for the U.S. position.

Egypt does not provide much aid to the Palestinians but has broad influence in the Arab world on Israeli-Palestinian issues, so the rebuff could hamper Rice's efforts to build a united front against the rise of Hamas.

Today, Rice flies to Saudi Arabia and will address officials from Arab countries in the Persian Gulf on Thursday in the United Arab Emirates.

The lengthy news conference with Aboul Gheit underscored the daunting and at times contradictory challenge Rice faces as she tries to fashion an International response to Hamas' unexpected victory in Palestinian elections.

In effect, she urged pressure on the victor of an election she has hailed as fair and transparent, while seeking the support of an autocratic government that she has demanded must become more free.

Addressing Egypt's faltering steps toward an open political system,
Rice spoke vaguely of "disappointments and setbacks" yet only mentioned the case of Jailed activist Ayman Nour--whom she championed last year--when prompted by a question.

And she praised President Hosni Mubarak, who critics say manipulated elections to ensure the defeat of secular, moderate parties.

Hamas is listed as a terrorist organization by the State Department, making it but impossible for the U.S. to provide anything beyond humanitarian aid to the Palestinian Authority.