21 December 2006
by Yossi Klein Halevi
Only at TNR Online
Post date: 12.20.06
The American press generally viewed last week's Holocaust-denial conference in Teheran--when 67 "researchers" from 30 countries came to "express their views freely" about the Holocaust--as a vulgar outrage. Yet, for all the revulsion, it hardly did justice to what the event represents--namely, the formal emergence of an alliance between Islamists and neo-Nazis. Until now, that alliance has been largely expressed through anti-Israel demonstrations in European cities, where Islamists and neo-Nazis chant the same slogans backing Hamas and Hezbollah. Now, in officially backing far-right Holocaust deniers, the Iranian regime has given new meaning to the term "Islamofascism."
But there is a third component to the Islamofascist alliance: anti-Zionist Jews. The half-dozen members of Neturei Karta--the tiny ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionist movement--who attended the conference understood its real significance: not so much to deny the existence of the Holocaust as to deny the right of Israel to exist. If the Zionists invented the Holocaust, then Zionism itself is history's greatest lie. And, in promoting the notion that the Jewish state is based on fraud, Neturei Karta is not alone; although none were in attendance, far more influential secular Jewish anti-Zionists in the Western press and in academia are also complicit--however unintentionally--in helping this Islamofascist alliance.
Neturei Karta, whose leaders have endorsed Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis, bases its opposition to Israel's existence on theological grounds--specifically, a Talmudic passage that explains how God forced upon the exiled Jews three vows, including the vow not to reclaim the land of Israel against the will of the nations. Neturei Karta believes that Zionism violated that vow. The group's Orthodox opponents counter by noting that, beginning with Theodore Herzl, Zionism sought and eventually received international support, culminating in the U.N. vote to create a Jewish state.
But that obscure theological argument hardly explains Neturei Karta's hatred of Israel--a hatred so pathological that its members make common cause with those who exonerate the murderers of their families. Indeed, beyond theology lies a deeper loathing. In declaring an end to the exile, Zionism has threatened the very essence of Neturei Karta's Jewish identity, which is to sanctify and perpetuate the ghetto. Neturei Karta is like the prisoner who dreads freedom and comes to see his cell as an extension of his being. Other oppressed peoples have produced their version of Neturei Karta--collaborators with their enemies who embrace victimhood. Few, though, have adopted Neturei Karta's extreme conclusion of sanctifying their people's damnation.
In its infatuation with victimhood, Neturei Karta reveals something essential about the psychology of Jewish anti-Zionism generally, including secular-Jewish anti-Zionism. Though they hardly share Neturei Karta's passion for the Jewish ghetto, secularist Jews who oppose Zionists do share the group's rage against Zionism for depriving the Jews of the status of victim.
For nearly 2000 years, Jews in the West not only suffered as victims but were stigmatized for being victims. For the pre-Vatican II Church, the miserable condition of the Jew in exile was proof that God's love had been transferred from the "old Israel" to the "new Israel"; the very fact that Jews were persecuted confirmed the rightness of their persecution. For the Western theoreticians of racial anti-Semitism, Jewish weakness was seen as a genetic flaw that impeded humanity's ability to cope in the jungle of life.
Now, though, the West celebrates the victim as hero. Ironically, then, just as Jews in the West would finally begin to benefit from the status of victimhood, Zionism--with its contempt for victimization and its insistence on self-defense--has denied them that privileged status.
Most Diaspora Jews are probably still grateful to Israel for saving the Jews in the era just after the Holocaust from the despair of excess victimhood. And most Jews instinctively understand that the assault on Israel's legitimacy by parts of the international community vindicates Zionism's insistence that the Jews need a state to protect themselves.
Yet, for some secular anti-Zionists, the status of victim and outcast remains a last source of Jewish identity. And so, just as Neturei Karta cannot forgive Israel for undermining the legitimacy of the Jewish ghetto, so secular anti-Zionist Jews cannot forgive Israel for depriving them of their victimhood. For those anti-Zionists, Israel itself is a kind of Holocaust denier--denying Jews the belated benefits of victimization.
Most anti-Zionist Jews are no doubt appalled by Holocaust denial. (One possible Jewish exception is Noam Chomsky, who not only supported French Holocaust-denier Robert Faurisson's freedom of speech but also absolved him of anti-Semitism.) Even so, the goal of anti-Zionism and of Holocaust-denial is the same: to deny the right of Israel to exist. Having helped transform the question of Israel's existence into a legitimate topic of debate among Western intellectuals, the secular anti-Zionists have proven to be a far more formidable ally of the Islamofascists than the ghetto buffoons of Neturei Karta.
Yossi Klein Halevi is a foreign correspondent for The New Republic and senior fellow of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.
20 December 2006
Try as we might, bricks stare us in the face like a ghost of the head freshly fallen from the guillotine in the Place de la Concorde. Where have you taken us, you Republicans? It was nice to think "liberté, fraternité, égalité", but the self has seemed to rule all. Or is that "oil". Do they really "know their niggers" in the South? (Living in Atlanta for three years exposes one to different modus operandi than I was used to hearing and seeing in Chicago, the city of broad shoulders of my birth.) Or is it Jim Crow modernized, pasteurized and homogenized for popular consumption? The black man is deemed to have a chip on his shoulder if he squeaks the wrong way. Do we let that slide and just avoid their business like we do catching someone picking their nose in traffic? Quick. Look the other way. It'll be over soon. We think. We are alone in our thoughts. Or so we imagine. Just don't look. It's not there.
How to put importance on what we do daily while the suffering of others stares out from dead eyes and empty lost souls whose lives have seemingly failed to reboot? It's pretty meaningless when bloated black bodies are left on overpasses in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Perhaps the French would like to rework the deal for the Purchase we made some time ago. They understand what it is like to have to rebuild from disaster, to have their land invaded three times in less than 75 years, losing a generation of its youngest in the Great War, in the tiny space of four years. Is it a wonder that there was an inclination just to agree with the Germans and just get back to la vie Française? But it is today a different world, but a disaster no doubt. It is a disaster of attention. It is a collective case of attention deficit disorder, swayed by the least, the base, the ordinary. Damn the consequences, for they are shielded from the collective conscience by cries of phony patriotism and chest-beating. As if putting an American flag on the car makes one a patriot. We suck up bullshit (thank you Harry Steinberg) as if it was mother's milk. As long as our collective minds are distracted from the real, the purposeful, we will be taken with the phony war cries from the baby boomer leader and the rest of his Chums who would rather don flight suits and declare everything OK than be true to the American soul that Jefferson and Madison used to speak and write so eloquently of. Their words seem so hollow, so faded antique, sepia in their quaint phraseology. So what would our fathers say to us, here and now? I can hear the voice of my father, he of Staff Sgt. Shiner who used to say to me the weirdness of "the best days of my life: three squares, a place to eat, sleep, buddies, booze and broads. No worries, man." Peace of mind. As a 12 year old focused on all that was new in '72, who could absorb the importance of understanding the meaning in not worrying? Not me. And now to realize that they let us go to explore the world without any other guidance other than "lawyer, doctor, accountant". "Go and make me proud, don't disappoint." I learn the wisdom of the warm arms of the peace of the life in the military so long as there weren't Japanese sneaking into your tent on a hot jungle night where all you could hear were the giant beetles loving each other and the sweat dripping from your fingertips, attached as they were, my uncle Jack said, to his Tommy gun, ready under the cot to blast Tojo's finest into their bushido paradise. He had it right, he did. I had a 50/50 shot of getting it right: "go to law school or get into the tavern business: you get 'em comin' and goin'." Beautiful business, that. Anesthesia for the soul. Anesthesia for the mind. What great advice that was. The great uncle said to the functionally fatherless. Again, not to be appreciated until I realized one day that my youth had gone through my fingers, digging as I was for the longest time to find the answers in the dirt I willingly, gladly, bathed in. It's all so tiresome at times, but hope is there, despite the lunacy and the need for public anesthesia. Sheep, we. Give me a place to sleep. I want to fall into the warm arms of the one. The love. To give all that I can. This son of a father can only give. He writhes, twisting a dance of the fire that burns inside for what is love, what is right. Squeezing his intestines at the idiots who are without conscience, without an appreciation of consequence. We, the sons of our fathers.
28 November 2006
No-one can seriously argue that Hastings was a non-starter for a leadership position. While he may be an outstanding Congressman (I don’t know), he was only the THIRD sitting judge in the history of this country to be impeached. The charges against him were despicable and were proved true. He thinks that he gets a free ride after that? He is damaged goods ethically and thank GOD that Pelosi got him out of the running. There are bigger issues here than the satisfaction of the Congressional Black Caucus. “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” - Von Clausewitz
The Democrats need to stand up and say what they are going to do generally for the good of our country. This transcends party, power or pettifoggery. We have seen what shape the country is in as the result of an all-too-willing Democratic Party just going along for the ride in an attempt to hang onto whatever power their Republican masters would leave them as a token to pretend there was an opposition country. The US is an embarrassment domestically and internationally. Can you imagine us trying to fight WWII all over again? Sprechen sie Deutsch? We’d all be fluent in German if we had then what we have now. 47 million people without health insurance? A Crime. Elderly people eating dog food because it’s that or medicine. A middle class in a race to the bottom, while the upper 1% coasts home with more tax breaks. A war in which our poorest, neediest are cannon fodder for power-mad politicians in debt to the corporations that paid their way to office and who keep them there in fine style. We have the best Congress that money can buy. And our immoral, state-of-denial President, too. If the Democrats don’t change course, and quick, by starting to look at fundamental issues outside of their own narrow interests, they will be out just as quickly as they were put in. It’s time for the reincarnation of FDR and Henry Wallace. If they’re not available, maybe Borat’s not busy for the next few years. Any questions?
And now the epilogue:
The incoming speaker announced that neither her apparent nemesis, Rep. Jane Harman, who would have been next in line for the prestigious post, was not going to get the position either. But it was Hastings who had the last word: he took a shot at conservatives and media voices who have come out strongly against his appointment. "Sorry, haters, God is not finished with me yet," he wrote. Clearly Rep. Hastings' world-view has become warped. Does it not occur to him that in addition to purely political reasons that the voters of this country would not want an impeached judge to head the House Intelligence Committee? The midterm elections were a clear signal (finally) that enough corruption on the Hill was enough. Too many Congressmen in jail or under indictment. Elected officials bought and paid for. Apparently this phenomenon eluded the sharp mind of Rep. Hastings. What he misses is that corruption knows no color. And the allure of power does not either.
— Posted by Randy
24 November 2006
From Daniel Pipes:
The 751 No-Go Zones of France
They go by the euphemistic term Zones Urbaines Sensibles, or Sensitive Urban Zones, with the even more antiseptic acronym ZUS, and there are 751 of them as of last count. They are conveniently listed on one long webpage, complete with street demarcations and map delineations.
What are they? Those places in France that the French state does not control. They range from two zones in the medieval town of Carcassone to twelve in the heavily Muslim town of Marseilles, with hardly a town in France lacking in its ZUS. The ZUS came into existence in late 1996 and according to a 2004 estimate, nearly 5 million people live in them.
23 November 2006
by James Kirchick
Only at TNR Online
Post date: 11.22.06
Of all the subjects for a 90-minute, one-woman show, Rachel Corrie ought to have been at the bottom of the list. Corrie was the 23-year-old Evergreen State College student crushed in March 2003 by an Israeli bulldozer that was either set to raze a Palestinian home or clear brush that could conceal explsovies, depending on whom you believe. She trekked all the way from Olympia, Washington, to the Gaza Strip with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM)--which, despite claiming the mantle of a "peace" movement, has nonetheless abetted Palestinian suicide bombers. And now, New York's Minetta Lane Theater is telling her story in "My Name is Rachel Corrie," which brought the largest advance for any show ever performed there. It is based on Corrie's e-mails and diary entries, and it paints her as a saint who died for a worthy cause by eliding all of the intricacies of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In locales from Corrie's dorm room to the streets of the Rafah refugee camp, "My Name is Rachel Corrie" takes us into the mind of its namesake. But there is hardly any mention of the Palestinian people she was so committed to. Corrie looks either like one of the upper-middle-class kids who take Latin American latrine-digging vacations to buff up their college resumes, or one of the "political pilgrims"--to use Paul Hollander's phrase--of the cold war (Paul Robeson, Ramsey Clark, Susan Sontag) who ventured to totalitarian lands and returned to boast of slumming it with the liberated natives. The selection of Corrie's writings on display never adequately explains why she would so determinedly seek out a dangerous place she knew little about, other than that she had a deep antipathy toward "injustice." A telling indicator not in the play was a photo circulated after her death; in it (and in her diary), Corrie flaunts her hatred of the United States by burning a mock American flag while Palestinian children crowd around her.
If the Palestinians in this play are props, the Israelis are sound effects. As this is a one-woman show, we obviously do not see either the Palestinians or the Israelis, but we sense the latter more than the former. We hear machine guns, helicopter blades, and tanks (though never the sounds of suicide bombs). If you watched "My Name is Rachel Corrie" knowing little about this decades-long crisis, you would leave thinking that Israelis are sadistic monsters who kill Palestinians at random, destroy olive groves, and harass women and children for the sheer thrill of it. The few mentions of terrorism or suicide bombing are vague, and only in reference to "the right of people to legitimate armed struggle." Never is it suggested that these acts take place against civilian targets, not soldiers (though, in her diary, Corrie excuses that, too)
In prostrating herself before an Israeli bulldozer, Corrie actually became that which she was (unwittingly, perhaps) protecting: the Palestinian suicide martyr. She received the martyr treatment--in both Palestinian propaganda and far-left protest circles--becoming a pieta of the anti-Israel movement. Or, as her ex-boyfriend put it, "she has become her death."
The actress Megan Dodds, who plays Corrie, does so accurately. She alternates between two personas in the play: on the one hand, an exuberant girl we see at the beginning (jumping about her messy room, perkily talking about boys) and, on the other, a self-righteous college activist espousing platitudes about the state of the world and the evils of U.S. foreign policy. Dodds, to her credit, is an honest performer: She does not bend to the (no doubt difficult) temptation to make Corrie less grating or sanctimonious than her diaries make her seem.
For a one-person show to sustain itself, its subject must either be humorous (think Elaine Stritch), possess some sort of intellectual severity (Spalding Gray), or both (Hal Holbrooke as Mark Twain). Rachel Corrie did not have any of these. Corrie's bouts of moral indignation overshadow a few moments of humor, which are nothing more than girlish flightiness anyway. She was a simpleton when it came to world politics, and yet the play sanctifies her as some sort of sage witness to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In part, due to the epistolary basis of "My Name is Rachel Corrie," comparisons have been made to "The Diary of Anne Frank." This is partly true. The villains in both plays are heard from but, for the most part, not seen; they are nevertheless omnipresent and threatening. But the comparison ends there: With Corrie, the bad guys are Israelis; with Frank, they are Nazis--hardly equal purveyors of horror. And Anne Frank was a probing character whose blameless observations of fascist Europe demonstrated the cruelty of a period in which children were perfunctorily murdered. Rachel Corrie was a know-it-all who deliberately placed herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. What's more, there is an issue of moral culpability among antagonists. Obviously, Frank's murderers had it. But Corrie died, accidentally, after giving intellectual (and actual) cover to those who are, essentially, the heirs of Frank's killers.
Bereft of gravity, a sympathetic character, or a compelling story, "My Name is Rachel Corrie" ignominiously turns to emotional blackmail. The image on the playbill is of a pre-pubescent Corrie smiling with wispy blond hair blowing across her face. Much of what the editors selected from Corrie's diaries reflect upon her childhood innocence. (Those editors are the venerable British actor Alan Rickman and, less shockingly, Katharine Viner, a writer and editor for The Guardian.) The last segment in the play is a video, taken when Corrie was in the fifth grade, decrying the state of world poverty and declaring her intent to personally "save" the poor. "I'm here because I care," she says in the video, and no doubt she was in Gaza because she cared. (What exactly she cared about is something the play, and Corrie herself, obfuscates.) But this adorable video is meant to convert your sympathy for Corrie into sympathy for her cause. How dare we ridicule such an precocious and idealistic young girl who now lies dead because of her devotion to world peace? What right do any of us have to question the cause for which Corrie gave her life? This is Cindy Sheehan politics.
But what the video unwittingly reveals is that Corrie never outgrew the naïve little schoolgirl. Corrie at 23 was just like Corrie at ten. And that is what's so tragic and so telling about those who wish to change the world without really trying to understand it.
James Kirchick is a writer living in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
22 November 2006
CAMBRIDGE, England, Nov. 21, 2006
Borat, the unspeakably uncouth Kazakh TV presenter
dreamed up by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, is
raising a stink - along with box office revenues - in
cinemas. An anti-Semite and misogynist, seriously
unversed in the politically correct, Borat journeys
around the "U, S and A" and shines a spotlight on
America's own underlying tensions and prejudices.
Wandering in a dirty, Soviet-era suit - with only a
live chicken in his suitcase, an overweight producer,
and dreams of "Pamela Andersons" to keep him company -
Borat travels to the heart of America in "Cultural
Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation
of Kazakhstan." He finds that not everything is
But this isn't the first time Baron Cohen has visited
the U.S. for "cultural learnings" and wrestled with
issues of race and identity. (Though let's hope it is
the last time he wrestles with his naked producer.)
In 1992, when he was a history student at Cambridge
University, he did it for real. He visited Atlanta and
interviewed Jewish and black activists for his
undergraduate dissertation on the "Black-Jewish
alliance" in the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Think of it as a first take: "Cultural Learnings of
America for Make Benefit the Dissertation."
What did Baron Cohen see in that first work trip to
the U.S.? Is there an early whiff of a "Baron Cohen
philosophy" in his dissertation? And might Borat and
Baron Cohen's other characters - Ali G, the white guy
who walks and talks black, and Bruno, the camp
Austrian TV presenter who gets fashionistas to put
their Jimmy Choo-ed feet in their mouths - have been
born in the cloistered halls of Cambridge?
We go to Cambridge in the U and K to find out. You
Seeley Library at Cambridge University is a million
mental leaps away from Borat's fictional village,
where owning a clock radio is the height of
sophistication and women win trophies for
prostitution. This august repository of knowledge is
set in a modernist, red-brick building with a
pyramid-shaped glimmering glass roof. Wawaweewa!
Whispering so as not to disturb students with their
noses buried in dusty tomes, a librarian requests a
signature for the dissertation. It has been signed out
only a handful of times before.
Instantly striking in the 45-page, plastic-bound
document is the title - "The 'Black-Jewish Alliance:'
A Case of Mistaking Identities." It sounds like a
description of Ali G. That character is an alliance of
blackness and Jewishness, in which Baron Cohen - a
devout Jew who eats kosher and observes the Sabbath -
adopts the mannerisms of a blinged-up black Briton
from the "Staines ghetto." (Staines is a middle-class
suburb in leafy Surrey.) And Ali G is a major "case of
mistaking identities," with his interviewees (or
rather, victims) unable to figure out if he's black,
white, or "for real."
Baron Cohen's dissertation, written in remarkably
crisp (for British academe) prose with a number of
studentlike typos, suggests that at 20 he was
fascinated by America and its "melting pot" of
identities long before Borat drove the U.S. from coast
to coast in an ice-cream truck.
He focused on links between blacks and Jews in 1960s
America, arguing that claims of a "Black-Jewish
alliance" have been exaggerated. Yes, Jewish
organizations supported desegregation, but they didn't
officially promote mass action or civil disobedience
in the South. It was Jewish students, of their own
volition, Baron Cohen wrote, who took part in marches,
freedom rides, and voter registration projects.
Borat might disagree, but, in parts, the dissertation
reads like the intellectual foundation of Baron
Cohen's comic creations. He argues that Jews' own
history of suffering "played a vital role in
predisposing them to identify with oppressed Blacks."
The Jewish activist Irving Levine told Baron Cohen
that some young Jews aligned themselves with "the
Black struggle" as a way of considering "their own
identity issues." They were effectively embracing
"movements ... for otherness," Levine told the
Now, years later, Ali G. - this white guy from Surrey,
played by a Jew from well-off West London - takes on
the extreme otherness of young black Brits with the
chunky jewelry, the big, baggy yellow sweat shirts,
the wannabe-gangsta street slang.
Even Borat seems to "identify with oppressed Blacks"
and wishes to embrace their "otherness." Approaching a
group of young blacks in his movie, he declares: "I
like you peoples. How can I be like you?" They teach
him urban-speak and how to hike up his underwear to
show above his trousers. ("What's up wit it, vanilla
face?" Borat later asks a hotel receptionist.)
Might Baron Cohen's portrayal of affinity with black
"others," in Britain and the U.S., stem from his
studies of Jews who lined up with blacks in the '60s?
Maybe that's why only blacks are depicted
sympathetically in "Borat." Where the pseudo-Kazakh
mocks stuffy, uptight whites, he learns from urban
blacks. And don't forget that Luenell, a black
prostitute, is the heroine of the movie.
Elsewhere in the dissertation, Baron Cohen muses that
Jews may have taken up the black struggle because it
is part of the Jewish ethic to "know the stranger," to
defend those cast out. He quotes the Passover command
"Know the stranger, for thou wert strangers in Egypt,"
and cites Jewish activists who believe you can judge a
man by the way he treats those who are "strange."
Baron Cohen pretty much has turned this ancient Jewish
ethic into a guerrilla comedy tactic designed to
expose prejudice. His characters are archetypal
"strangers:" the weirdly foreign Borat, the
self-ghettoized Ali G, the over-the-top-gay Bruno. And
their aim is to provoke reactions to their
strangeness. The "good guys" are generally tolerant
(even as Borat is giving them sloppy kisses), and the
bad guys get hot under the collar (like the pastor who
storms out of a dinner party with Borat).
Who'd have guessed? Borat the anti-Semite may be built
on firmly Jewish ethical foundations. But what about
the meat of Baron Cohen's dissertation? Is it
"It sounds interesting," says David Garrow, the
Pulitzer prize-winning American author of "Bearing the
Cross," an exhaustive study of the life and times of
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Garrow, currently a senior research fellow at
Cambridge, says he's seen "probably three films in the
past 10 years;" Borat's saga isn't one of them. But
he's read about Borat everywhere and is intrigued by
the dissertation's parallels to the movie. Told about
Baron Cohen's dissertation arguments on the rupture in
the "Black-Jewish alliance" in 1967, Garrow says they
sound "a little simplistic." Baron Cohen put it down
to the Six-Day War in the Middle East, when many black
radicals sided with Arabs while Jewish radicals sided
with Israel. "That was part of it," says Garrow. "But
there were also economic and social tensions."
Charney Bromberg, a former civil rights field-worker
in Mississippi and now executive director of the
progressive Zionist organization Meretz in New York,
is shocked to hear he was interviewed by Baron Cohen
back in 1992.
"I was?" He laughs, in a phone interview. "Well, he
must have been far less conspicuous than this Borat
character, because I don't remember him." Bromberg
hasn't seen the movie ("though you could talk to my
children about it endlessly," he notes). But he sounds
pleased at Baron Cohen's dissertation theme: "It
sounds like he got a lot out of what I was trying to
Larry Rubin, a former director of the Jewish Council
for Public Affairs who was also interviewed by Baron
Cohen for the dissertation, doesn't remember him
either. "I guess he was just an earnest young student,
and I see a lot of them." He saw the Borat movie, and
says he's "agnostic on its helpfulness in combating
prejudice. I can see that it's supposed to skewer
anti-Semitism, but satire is a lofty form of comedy,
and some people don't get it."
But Baron Cohen's "heart is in the right place," Rubin
says via phone from New York. "And maybe I had some
small part in that, if I helped him with his studies
on equality back then."
It's strange, as the whispering librarian takes back
the dissertation, to think that Borat - the laughed-at
ignoramus - may have been born here, in the bookish
halls of a lofty seat of learning.
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21 November 2006
Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader publicly admits that Israel's security fence is an important obstacle to the terrorist organizations
at the Center for Special Studies (C.S.S)
November 15 , 2006
Ramadan Shalah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader,
publicly admits that Israel's security fence is an
important obstacle to the terrorist organizations, and
that "if it weren't there, the situation would be
entirely different." The PIJ has carried out the
greatest number of suicide bombing attacks during the
past few years.
Ramadan Shalah interviewed by Al-Manar TV: "The fence
is an obstacle to the resistance..." (November 11)
On November 11, PIJ leader Abdallah Ramadan Shalah
granted a long interview to Al-Manar TV, Hezbollah's
television channel. During the interview, for the
first time he admitted that Israel 's security fence
was an important obstacle to the terrorist
organizations (the "resistance").
He noted that the suicide bombing attacks (istishhad)were the Palestinian
people's "strategic choice,"
and were meant to "create a balance of force and
deterrence" in the campaign against a superior enemy.
Ramadan Shalah noted that the terrorist organizations
had every intention of continuing suicide bombing
attacks , but that their timing and the possibility of
implementing them from the West Bank depended on other
factors. "For example," he said, "there is the
separation fence , which is an obstacle to the
resistance, and if it were not there the situation
would be entirely different ."
Click here to view the relevant
footage from the interview
The last few years have witnessed a constant decrease
in the number of suicide bombing attacks. It results
from a number of factors, including the (partial)
construction of the security fence, which hinders
attempts made by the terrorist organizations to
infiltrate suicide bombers into Israel , although they
continue to search for the fence's weak spots. 1
During the past few years the PIJ, supported and
encouraged by Syria and Iran , is the Palestinian
terrorist organization which has carried out the
greatest number of suicide bombing attacks. In 2005
(during the so-called "lull in the fighting") the
organization carried out five lethal suicide bombing
attacks within Israel, and two more in 2006. 2
Partially completing the fence and the IDF's
successful counterterrorist activities in Samaria (a
focus for the terrorist organization's infrastructure)
indeed hinder (although do not completely prevent) the
carrying out of suicide bombing attacks . Such
attacks, as stated by Ramadan Shalah, are the modus
operandi preferred by the PIJ and the senior leaders
of the organization, who have recently expressed their
intention to continue using them to attack Israel .
1 For statistical data and an analysis of the suicide
bombing attacks in 2005, see the January 2006
Bulletin, "Palestinian Terrorism in 2005," at
2 The last PIJ suicide bombing attack was carried out
at the old Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv on April
17, 2006. For further information see our Bulletin
entitled "Palestinian Islamic Jihad suicide bombing
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19 November 2006
by SEYMOUR M. HERSH
Is a damaged Administration less likely to attack Iran, or more?
Issue of 2006-11-27
A month before the November elections, Vice-President Dick Cheney was sitting in on a national-security discussion at the Executive Office Building. The talk took a political turn: what if the Democrats won both the Senate and the House? How would that affect policy toward Iran, which is believed to be on the verge of becoming a nuclear power? At that point, according to someone familiar with the discussion, Cheney began reminiscing about his job as a lineman, in the early nineteen-sixties, for a power company in Wyoming. Copper wire was expensive, and the linemen were instructed to return all unused pieces three feet or longer. No one wanted to deal with the paperwork that resulted, Cheney said, so he and his colleagues found a solution: putting “shorteners” on the wire—that is, cutting it into short pieces and tossing the leftovers at the end of the workday. If the Democrats won on November 7th, the Vice-President said, that victory would not stop the Administration from pursuing a military option with Iran. The White House would put “shorteners” on any legislative restrictions, Cheney said, and thus stop Congress from getting in its way.
The White House’s concern was not that the Democrats would cut off funds for the war in Iraq but that future legislation would prohibit it from financing operations targeted at overthrowing or destabilizing the Iranian government, to keep it from getting the bomb. “They’re afraid that Congress is going to vote a binding resolution to stop a hit on Iran, à la Nicaragua in the Contra war,” a former senior intelligence official told me.
In late 1982, Edward P. Boland, a Democratic representative, introduced the first in a series of “Boland amendments,” which limited the Reagan Administration’s ability to support the Contras, who were working to overthrow Nicaragua’s left-wing Sandinista government. The Boland restrictions led White House officials to orchestrate illegal fund-raising activities for the Contras, including the sale of American weapons, via Israel, to Iran. The result was the Iran-Contra scandal of the mid-eighties. Cheney’s story, according to the source, was his way of saying that, whatever a Democratic Congress might do next year to limit the President’s authority, the Administration would find a way to work around it. (In response to a request for comment, the Vice-President’s office said that it had no record of the discussion.)
In interviews, current and former Administration officials returned to one question: whether Cheney would be as influential in the last two years of George W. Bush’s Presidency as he was in its first six. Cheney is emphatic about Iraq. In late October, he told Time, “I know what the President thinks,” about Iraq. “I know what I think. And we’re not looking for an exit strategy. We’re looking for victory.” He is equally clear that the Administration would, if necessary, use force against Iran. “The United States is keeping all options on the table in addressing the irresponsible conduct of the regime,” he told an Israeli lobbying group early this year. “And we join other nations in sending that regime a clear message: we will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.”
On November 8th, the day after the Republicans lost both the House and the Senate, Bush announced the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and the nomination of his successor, Robert Gates, a former director of Central Intelligence. The move was widely seen as an acknowledgment that the Administration was paying a political price for the debacle in Iraq. Gates was a member of the Iraq Study Group—headed by former Secretary of State James Baker and Lee Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman—which has been charged with examining new approaches to Iraq, and he has publicly urged for more than a year that the U.S. begin direct talks with Iran. President Bush’s decision to turn to Gates was a sign of the White House’s “desperation,” a former high-level C.I.A. official, who worked with the White House after September 11th, told me. Cheney’s relationship with Rumsfeld was among the closest inside the Administration, and Gates’s nomination was seen by some Republicans as a clear signal that the Vice-President’s influence in the White House could be challenged. The only reason Gates would take the job, after turning down an earlier offer to serve as the new Director of National Intelligence, the former high-level C.I.A. official said, was that “the President’s father, Brent Scowcroft, and James Baker”—former aides of the first President Bush—“piled on, and the President finally had to accept adult supervision.”
Critical decisions will be made in the next few months, the former C.I.A. official said. “Bush has followed Cheney’s advice for six years, and the story line will be: ‘Will he continue to choose Cheney over his father?’ We’ll know soon.” (The White House and the Pentagon declined to respond to detailed requests for comment about this article, other than to say that there were unspecified inaccuracies.)
A retired four-star general who worked closely with the first Bush Administration told me that the Gates nomination means that Scowcroft, Baker, the elder Bush, and his son “are saying that winning the election in 2008 is more important than the individual. The issue for them is how to preserve the Republican agenda. The Old Guard wants to isolate Cheney and give their girl, Condoleezza Rice”—the Secretary of State—“a chance to perform.” The combination of Scowcroft, Baker, and the senior Bush working together is, the general added, “tough enough to take on Cheney. One guy can’t do it.”
Richard Armitage, the Deputy Secretary of State in Bush’s first term, told me that he believed the Democratic election victory, followed by Rumsfeld’s dismissal, meant that the Administration “has backed off,” in terms of the pace of its planning for a military campaign against Iran. Gates and other decision-makers would now have more time to push for a diplomatic solution in Iran and deal with other, arguably more immediate issues. “Iraq is as bad as it looks, and Afghanistan is worse than it looks,” Armitage said. “A year ago, the Taliban were fighting us in units of eight to twelve, and now they’re sometimes in company-size, and even larger.” Bombing Iran and expecting the Iranian public “to rise up” and overthrow the government, as some in the White House believe, Armitage added, “is a fool’s errand.”
“Iraq is the disaster we have to get rid of, and Iran is the disaster we have to avoid,” Joseph Cirincione, the vice-president for national security at the liberal Center for American Progress, said. “Gates will be in favor of talking to Iran and listening to the advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but the neoconservatives are still there”—in the White House—“and still believe that chaos would be a small price for getting rid of the threat. The danger is that Gates could be the new Colin Powell—the one who opposes the policy but ends up briefing the Congress and publicly supporting it.”
Other sources close to the Bush family said that the machinations behind Rumsfeld’s resignation and the Gates nomination were complex, and the seeming triumph of the Old Guard may be illusory. The former senior intelligence official, who once worked closely with Gates and with the President’s father, said that Bush and his immediate advisers in the White House understood by mid-October that Rumsfeld would have to resign if the result of the midterm election was a resounding defeat. Rumsfeld was involved in conversations about the timing of his departure with Cheney, Gates, and the President before the election, the former senior intelligence official said. Critics who asked why Rumsfeld wasn’t fired earlier, a move that might have given the Republicans a boost, were missing the point. “A week before the election, the Republicans were saying that a Democratic victory was the seed of American retreat, and now Bush and Cheney are going to change their national-security policies?” the former senior intelligence official said. “Cheney knew this was coming. Dropping Rummy after the election looked like a conciliatory move—‘You’re right, Democrats. We got a new guy and we’re looking at all the options. Nothing is ruled out.’ ” But the conciliatory gesture would not be accompanied by a significant change in policy; instead, the White House saw Gates as someone who would have the credibility to help it stay the course on Iran and Iraq. Gates would also be an asset before Congress. If the Administration needed to make the case that Iran’s weapons program posed an imminent threat, Gates would be a better advocate than someone who had been associated with the flawed intelligence about Iraq. The former official said, “He’s not the guy who told us there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and he’ll be taken seriously by Congress.”
Once Gates is installed at the Pentagon, he will have to contend with Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Rumsfeld legacy—and Dick Cheney. A former senior Bush Administration official, who has also worked with Gates, told me that Gates was well aware of the difficulties of his new job. He added that Gates would not simply endorse the Administration’s policies and say, “with a flag waving, ‘Go, go’ ”—especially at the cost of his own reputation. “He does not want to see thirty-five years of government service go out the window,” the former official said. However, on the question of whether Gates would actively stand up to Cheney, the former official said, after a pause, “I don’t know.”
Another critical issue for Gates will be the Pentagon’s expanding effort to conduct clandestine and covert intelligence missions overseas. Such activity has traditionally been the C.I.A.’s responsibility, but, as the result of a systematic push by Rumsfeld, military covert actions have been substantially increased. In the past six months, Israel and the United States have also been working together in support of a Kurdish resistance group known as the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan. The group has been conducting clandestine cross-border forays into Iran, I was told by a government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon civilian leadership, as “part of an effort to explore alternative means of applying pressure on Iran.” (The Pentagon has established covert relationships with Kurdish, Azeri, and Baluchi tribesmen, and has encouraged their efforts to undermine the regime’s authority in northern and southeastern Iran.) The government consultant said that Israel is giving the Kurdish group “equipment and training.” The group has also been given “a list of targets inside Iran of interest to the U.S.” (An Israeli government spokesman denied that Israel was involved.)
Such activities, if they are considered military rather than intelligence operations, do not require congressional briefings. For a similar C.I.A. operation, the President would, by law, have to issue a formal finding that the mission was necessary, and the Administration would have to brief the senior leadership of the House and the Senate. The lack of such consultation annoyed some Democrats in Congress. This fall, I was told, Representative David Obey, of Wisconsin, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations subcommittee that finances classified military activity, pointedly asked, during a closed meeting of House and Senate members, whether “anyone has been briefing on the Administration’s plan for military activity in Iran.” The answer was no. (A spokesman for Obey confirmed this account.)
The Democratic victories this month led to a surge of calls for the Administration to begin direct talks with Iran, in part to get its help in settling the conflict in Iraq. British Prime Minister Tony Blair broke ranks with President Bush after the election and declared that Iran should be offered “a clear strategic choice” that could include a “new partnership” with the West. But many in the White House and the Pentagon insist that getting tough with Iran is the only way to salvage Iraq. “It’s a classic case of ‘failure forward,’” a Pentagon consultant said. “They believe that by tipping over Iran they would recover their losses in Iraq—like doubling your bet. It would be an attempt to revive the concept of spreading democracy in the Middle East by creating one new model state.”
The view that there is a nexus between Iran and Iraq has been endorsed by Condoleezza Rice, who said last month that Iran “does need to understand that it is not going to improve its own situation by stirring instability in Iraq,” and by the President, who said, in August, that “Iran is backing armed groups in the hope of stopping democracy from taking hold” in Iraq. The government consultant told me, “More and more people see the weakening of Iran as the only way to save Iraq.”
The consultant added that, for some advocates of military action, “the goal in Iran is not regime change but a strike that will send a signal that America still can accomplish its goals. Even if it does not destroy Iran’s nuclear network, there are many who think that thirty-six hours of bombing is the only way to remind the Iranians of the very high cost of going forward with the bomb—and of supporting Moqtada al-Sadr and his pro-Iran element in Iraq.” (Sadr, who commands a Shiite militia, has religious ties to Iran.)
In the current issue of Foreign Policy, Joshua Muravchik, a prominent neoconservative, argued that the Administration had little choice. “Make no mistake: President Bush will need to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities before leaving office,” he wrote. The President would be bitterly criticized for a preëmptive attack on Iran, Muravchik said, and so neoconservatives “need to pave the way intellectually now and be prepared to defend the action when it comes.”
The main Middle East expert on the Vice-President’s staff is David Wurmser, a neoconservative who was a strident advocate for the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Like many in Washington, Wurmser “believes that, so far, there’s been no price tag on Iran for its nuclear efforts and for its continuing agitation and intervention inside Iraq,” the consultant said. But, unlike those in the Administration who are calling for limited strikes, Wurmser and others in Cheney’s office “want to end the regime,” the consultant said. “They argue that there can be no settlement of the Iraq war without regime change in Iran.”
The Administration’s planning for a military attack on Iran was made far more complicated earlier this fall by a highly classified draft assessment by the C.I.A. challenging the White House’s assumptions about how close Iran might be to building a nuclear bomb. The C.I.A. found no conclusive evidence, as yet, of a secret Iranian nuclear-weapons program running parallel to the civilian operations that Iran has declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency. (The C.I.A. declined to comment on this story.)
The C.I.A.’s analysis, which has been circulated to other agencies for comment, was based on technical intelligence collected by overhead satellites, and on other empirical evidence, such as measurements of the radioactivity of water samples and smoke plumes from factories and power plants. Additional data have been gathered, intelligence sources told me, by high-tech (and highly classified) radioactivity-detection devices that clandestine American and Israeli agents placed near suspected nuclear-weapons facilities inside Iran in the past year or so. No significant amounts of radioactivity were found.
A current senior intelligence official confirmed the existence of the C.I.A. analysis, and told me that the White House had been hostile to it. The White House’s dismissal of the C.I.A. findings on Iran is widely known in the intelligence community. Cheney and his aides discounted the assessment, the former senior intelligence official said. “They’re not looking for a smoking gun,” the official added, referring to specific intelligence about Iranian nuclear planning. “They’re looking for the degree of comfort level they think they need to accomplish the mission.” The Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency also challenged the C.I.A.’s analysis. “The D.I.A. is fighting the agency’s conclusions, and disputing its approach,” the former senior intelligence official said. Bush and Cheney, he added, can try to prevent the C.I.A. assessment from being incorporated into a forthcoming National Intelligence Estimate on Iranian nuclear capabilities, “but they can’t stop the agency from putting it out for comment inside the intelligence community.” The C.I.A. assessment warned the White House that it would be a mistake to conclude that the failure to find a secret nuclear-weapons program in Iran merely meant that the Iranians had done a good job of hiding it. The former senior intelligence official noted that at the height of the Cold War the Soviets were equally skilled at deception and misdirection, yet the American intelligence community was readily able to unravel the details of their long-range-missile and nuclear-weapons programs. But some in the White House, including in Cheney’s office, had made just such an assumption—that “the lack of evidence means they must have it,” the former official said.
Iran is a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty, under which it is entitled to conduct nuclear research for peaceful purposes. Despite the offer of trade agreements and the prospect of military action, it defied a demand by the I.A.E.A. and the Security Council, earlier this year, that it stop enriching uranium—a process that can produce material for nuclear power plants as well as for weapons—and it has been unable, or unwilling, to account for traces of plutonium and highly enriched uranium that have been detected during I.A.E.A. inspections. The I.A.E.A. has complained about a lack of “transparency,” although, like the C.I.A., it has not found unambiguous evidence of a secret weapons program.
Last week, Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, announced that Iran had made further progress in its enrichment research program, and said, “We know that some countries may not be pleased.” He insisted that Iran was abiding by international agreements, but said, “Time is now completely on the side of the Iranian people.” A diplomat in Vienna, where the I.A.E.A. has its headquarters, told me that the agency was skeptical of the claim, for technical reasons. But Ahmadinejad’s defiant tone did nothing to diminish suspicions about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“There is no evidence of a large-scale covert enrichment program inside Iran,” one involved European diplomat said. “But the Iranians would not have launched themselves into a very dangerous confrontation with the West on the basis of a weapons program that they no longer pursue. Their enrichment program makes sense only in terms of wanting nuclear weapons. It would be inconceivable if they weren’t cheating to some degree. You don’t need a covert program to be concerned about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. We have enough information to be concerned without one. It’s not a slam dunk, but it’s close to it.”
There are, however, other possible reasons for Iran’s obstinacy. The nuclear program—peaceful or not—is a source of great national pride, and President Ahmadinejad’s support for it has helped to propel him to enormous popularity. (Saddam Hussein created confusion for years, inside and outside his country, about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, in part to project an image of strength.) According to the former senior intelligence official, the C.I.A.’s assessment suggested that Iran might even see some benefits in a limited military strike—especially one that did not succeed in fully destroying its nuclear program—in that an attack might enhance its position in the Islamic world. “They learned that in the Iraqi experience, and relearned it in southern Lebanon,” the former senior official said. In both cases, a more powerful military force had trouble achieving its military or political goals; in Lebanon, Israel’s war against Hezbollah did not destroy the group’s entire arsenal of rockets, and increased the popularity of its leader, Hassan Nasrallah.
The former senior intelligence official added that the C.I.A. assessment raised the possibility that an American attack on Iran could end up serving as a rallying point to unite Sunni and Shiite populations. “An American attack will paper over any differences in the Arab world, and we’ll have Syrians, Iranians, Hamas, and Hezbollah fighting against us—and the Saudis and the Egyptians questioning their ties to the West. It’s an analyst’s worst nightmare—for the first time since the caliphate there will be common cause in the Middle East.” (An Islamic caliphate ruled the Middle East for over six hundred years, until the thirteenth century.)
According to the Pentagon consultant, “The C.I.A.’s view is that, without more intelligence, a large-scale bombing attack would not stop Iran’s nuclear program. And a low-end campaign of subversion and sabotage would play into Iran’s hands—bolstering support for the religious leadership and deepening anti-American Muslim rage.”
The Pentagon consultant said that he and many of his colleagues in the military believe that Iran is intent on developing nuclear-weapons capability. But he added that the Bush Administration’s options for dealing with that threat are diminished, because of a lack of good intelligence and also because “we’ve cried wolf” before.
As the C.I.A.’s assessment was making its way through the government, late this summer, current and former military officers and consultants told me, a new element suddenly emerged: intelligence from Israeli spies operating inside Iran claimed that Iran has developed and tested a trigger device for a nuclear bomb. The provenance and significance of the human intelligence, or HUMINT, are controversial. “The problem is that no one can verify it,” the former senior intelligence official told me. “We don’t know who the Israeli source is. The briefing says the Iranians are testing trigger mechanisms”—simulating a zero-yield nuclear explosion without any weapons-grade materials—“but there are no diagrams, no significant facts. Where is the test site? How often have they done it? How big is the warhead—a breadbox or a refrigerator? They don’t have that.” And yet, he said, the report was being used by White House hawks within the Administration to “prove the White House’s theory that the Iranians are on track. And tests leave no radioactive track, which is why we can’t find it.” Still, he said, “The agency is standing its ground.”
The Pentagon consultant, however, told me that he and other intelligence professionals believe that the Israeli intelligence should be taken more seriously. “We live in an era when national technical intelligence”—data from satellites and on-the-ground sensors—“will not get us what we need. HUMINT may not be hard evidence by that standard, but very often it’s the best intelligence we can get.” He added, with obvious exasperation, that within the intelligence community “we’re going to be fighting over the quality of the information for the next year.” One reason for the dispute, he said, was that the White House had asked to see the “raw”—the original, unanalyzed and unvetted—Israeli intelligence. Such “stovepiping” of intelligence had led to faulty conclusions about nonexistent weapons of mass destruction during the buildup to the 2003 Iraq war. “Many Presidents in the past have done the same thing,” the consultant said, “but intelligence professionals are always aghast when Presidents ask for stuff in the raw. They see it as asking a second grader to read ‘Ulysses.’ ”
HUMINT can be difficult to assess. Some of the most politically significant—and most inaccurate—intelligence about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction came from an operative, known as Curveball, who was initially supplied to the C.I.A. by German intelligence. But the Pentagon consultant insisted that, in this case, “the Israeli intelligence is apparently very strong.” He said that the information about the trigger device had been buttressed by another form of highly classified data, known as MASINT, for “measuring and signature” intelligence. The Defense Intelligence Agency is the central processing and dissemination point for such intelligence, which includes radar, radio, nuclear, and electro-optical data. The consultant said that the MASINT indicated activities that “are not consistent with the programs” Iran has declared to the I.A.E.A. “The intelligence suggests far greater sophistication and more advanced development,” the consultant said. “The indications don’t make sense, unless they’re farther along in some aspects of their nuclear-weapons program than we know.”
In early 2004, John Bolton, who was then the Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control (he is now the United Nations Ambassador), privately conveyed to the I.A.E.A. suspicions that Iran was conducting research into the intricately timed detonation of conventional explosives needed to trigger a nuclear warhead at Parchin, a sensitive facility twenty miles southeast of Tehran that serves as the center of Iran’s Defense Industries Organization. A wide array of chemical munitions and fuels, as well as advanced antitank and ground-to-air missiles, are manufactured there, and satellite imagery appeared to show a bunker suitable for testing very large explosions.
A senior diplomat in Vienna told me that, in response to the allegations, I.A.E.A. inspectors went to Parchin in November of 2005, after months of negotiation. An inspection team was allowed to single out a specific site at the base, and then was granted access to a few buildings there. “We found no evidence of nuclear materials,” the diplomat said. The inspectors looked hard at an underground explosive-testing pit that, he said, “resembled what South Africa had when it developed its nuclear weapons,” three decades ago. The pit could have been used for the kind of kinetic research needed to test a nuclear trigger. But, like so many military facilities with dual-use potential, “it also could be used for other things,” such as testing fuel for rockets, which routinely takes place at Parchin. “The Iranians have demonstrated that they can enrich uranium,” the diplomat added, “and trigger tests without nuclear yield can be done. But it’s a very sophisticated process—it’s also known as hydrodynamic testing—and only countries with suitably advanced nuclear testing facilities as well as the necessary scientific expertise can do it. I’d be very skeptical that Iran could do it.”
Earlier this month, the allegations about Parchin reëmerged when Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s largest newspaper, reported that recent satellite imagery showed new “massive construction” at Parchin, suggesting an expansion of underground tunnels and chambers. The newspaper sharply criticized the I.A.E.A.’s inspection process and its director, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, for his insistence on “using very neutral wording for his findings and his conclusions.”
Patrick Clawson, an expert on Iran who is the deputy director for research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a conservative think tank, told me that the “biggest moment” of tension has yet to arrive: “How does the United States keep an Israeli decision point—one that may come sooner than we want—from being reached?” Clawson noted that there is evidence that Iran has been slowed by technical problems in the construction and operation of two small centrifuge cascades, which are essential for the pilot production of enriched uranium. Both are now under I.A.E.A. supervision. “Why were they so slow in getting the second cascade up and running?” Clawson asked. “And why haven’t they run the first one as much as they said they would? Do we have more time?
“Why talk about war?” he said. “We’re not talking about going to war with North Korea or Venezuela. It’s not necessarily the case that Iran has started a weapons program, and it’s conceivable—just conceivable—that Iran does not have a nuclear-weapons program yet. We can slow them down—force them to reinvent the wheel—without bombing, especially if the international conditions get better.”
Clawson added that Secretary of State Rice has “staked her reputation on diplomacy, and she will not risk her career without evidence. Her team is saying, ‘What’s the rush?’ The President wants to solve the Iranian issue before leaving office, but he may have to say, ‘Darn, I wish I could have solved it.’ ”
Earlier this year, the government of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert created a task force to coördinate all the available intelligence on Iran. The task force, which is led by Major General Eliezer Shkedi, the head of the Israeli Air Force, reports directly to the Prime Minister. In late October, Olmert appointed Ephraim Sneh, a Labor Party member of the Knesset, to serve as Deputy Defense Minister. Sneh, who served previously in that position under Ehud Barak, has for years insisted that action be taken to prevent Iran from getting the bomb. In an interview this month with the Jerusalem Post, Sneh expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of diplomacy or international sanctions in curbing Iran:
The danger isn’t as much Ahmadinejad’s deciding to launch an attack but Israel’s living under a dark cloud of fear from a leader committed to its destruction. . . . Most Israelis would prefer not to live here; most Jews would prefer not to come here with families, and Israelis who can live abroad will . . . I am afraid Ahmadinejad will be able to kill the Zionist dream without pushing a button. That’s why we must prevent this regime from obtaining nuclear capability at all costs.
A similar message was delivered by Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud leader, in a speech in Los Angeles last week. “It’s 1938 and Iran is Germany. And Iran is racing to arm itself with atomic bombs,” he said, adding that there was “still time” to stop the Iranians.
The Pentagon consultant told me that, while there may be pressure from the Israelis, “they won’t do anything on their own without our green light.” That assurance, he said, “comes from the Cheney shop. It’s Cheney himself who is saying, ‘We’re not going to leave you high and dry, but don’t go without us.’ ” A senior European diplomat agreed: “For Israel, it is a question of life or death. The United States does not want to go into Iran, but, if Israel feels more and more cornered, there may be no other choice.”
A nuclear-armed Iran would not only threaten Israel. It could trigger a strategic-arms race throughout the Middle East, as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt—all led by Sunni governments—would be compelled to take steps to defend themselves. The Bush Administration, if it does take military action against Iran, would have support from Democrats as well as Republicans. Senators Hillary Clinton, of New York, and Evan Bayh, of Indiana, who are potential Democratic Presidential candidates, have warned that Iran cannot be permitted to build a bomb and that—as Clinton said earlier this year—“we cannot take any option off the table.” Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has also endorsed this view. Last May, Olmert was given a rousing reception when he addressed a joint session of Congress and declared, “A nuclear Iran means a terrorist state could achieve the primary mission for which terrorists live and die—the mass destruction of innocent human life. This challenge, which I believe is the test of our time, is one the West cannot afford to fail.”
Despite such rhetoric, Leslie Gelb, a former State Department official who is a president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, said he believes that, “when push comes to shove, the Israelis will have a hard time selling the idea that an Iranian nuclear capability is imminent. The military and the State Department will be flat against a preëmptive bombing campaign.” Gelb said he hoped that Gates’s appointment would add weight to America’s most pressing issue—“to get some level of Iranian restraint inside Iraq. In the next year or two, we’re much more likely to be negotiating with Iran than bombing it.”
The Bush Administration remains publicly committed to a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear impasse, and has been working with China, Russia, France, Germany, and Britain to get negotiations under way. So far, that effort has foundered; the most recent round of talks broke up early in November, amid growing disagreements with Russia and China about the necessity of imposing harsh United Nations sanctions on the Iranian regime. President Bush is adamant that Iran must stop all of its enrichment programs before any direct talks involving the United States can begin.
The senior European diplomat told me that the French President, Jacques Chirac, and President Bush met in New York on September 19th, as the new U.N. session was beginning, and agreed on what the French called the “Big Bang” approach to breaking the deadlock with Iran. A scenario was presented to Ali Larijani, the chief Iranian negotiator on nuclear issues. The Western delegation would sit down at a negotiating table with Iran. The diplomat told me, “We would say, ‘We’re beginning the negotiations without preconditions,’ and the Iranians would respond, ‘We will suspend.’ Our side would register great satisfaction, and the Iranians would agree to accept I.A.E.A. inspection of their enrichment facilities. And then the West would announce, in return, that they would suspend any U.N. sanctions.” The United States would not be at the table when the talks began but would join later. Larijani took the offer to Tehran; the answer, as relayed by Larijani, was no, the diplomat said. “We were trying to compromise, for all sides, but Ahmadinejad did not want to save face,” the diplomat said. “The beautiful scenario has gone nowhere.”
Last week, there was a heightened expectation that the Iraq Study Group would produce a set of recommendations that could win bipartisan approval and guide America out of the quagmire in Iraq. Sources with direct knowledge of the panel’s proceedings have told me that the group, as of mid-November, had ruled out calling for an immediate and complete American withdrawal but would recommend focussing on the improved training of Iraqi forces and on redeploying American troops. In the most significant recommendation, Baker and Hamilton were expected to urge President Bush to do what he has thus far refused to do—bring Syria and Iran into a regional conference to help stabilize Iraq.
It is not clear whether the Administration will be receptive. In August, according to the former senior intelligence official, Rumsfeld asked the Joint Chiefs to quietly devise alternative plans for Iraq, to preëmpt new proposals, whether they come from the new Democratic majority or from the Iraq Study Group. “The option of last resort is to move American forces out of the cities and relocate them along the Syrian and Iranian border,” the former official said. “Civilians would be hired to train the Iraqi police, with the eventual goal of separating the local police from the Iraqi military. The White House believes that if American troops stay in Iraq long enough—with enough troops—the bad guys will end up killing each other, and Iraqi citizens, fed up with internal strife, will come up with a solution. It’ll take a long time to move the troops and train the police. It’s a time line to infinity.”
In a subsequent interview, the former senior Bush Administration official said that he had also been told that the Pentagon has been at work on a plan in Iraq that called for a military withdrawal from the major urban areas to a series of fortified bases near the borders. The working assumption was that, with the American troops gone from the most heavily populated places, the sectarian violence would “burn out.” “The White House is saying it’s going to stabilize,” the former senior Administration official said, “but it may stabilize the wrong way.”
One problem with the proposal that the Administration enlist Iran in reaching a settlement of the conflict in Iraq is that it’s not clear that Iran would be interested, especially if the goal is to help the Bush Administration extricate itself from a bad situation.
“Iran is emerging as a dominant power in the Middle East,” I was told by a Middle East expert and former senior Administration official. “With a nuclear program, and an ability to interfere throughout the region, it’s basically calling the shots. Why should they coöperate with us over Iraq?” He recounted a recent meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who challenged Bush’s right to tell Iran that it could not enrich uranium. “Why doesn’t America stop enriching uranium?” the Iranian President asked. He laughed, and added, “We’ll enrich it for you and sell it to you at a fifty-per-cent discount.”
17 November 2006
by Zarir HussainThu Nov 16, 1:30 PM ET
More than 200 Indians have emigrated to Israel after they were officially recognised as Jews, religious leaders said.
Rabbinical leaders announced last March that some 6,000 members of the Bnei Menashe tribe in India's northeast were descendants of ancient Israelites or one of the Biblical 10 lost tribes.
"A total of 105 people left for Israel on Thursday, while another 103 people went Wednesday with the Israeli Prime Ministers office formally inviting them," Israeli rabbi Hannock Avizedek told AFP.
The Jews travelled from India's northeastern Mizoram state to Israel.
The recognition from Israel came after tribe members sent scores of applications seeking to migrate to Israel, or the "Promised Land", saying it was their right to do so.
According to Israeli law, every Jew enjoys the "right of return" - or the right of abode in the country.
After the recognition, a group of rabbis visited Mizoram last September and converted the first batch of 218 Mizo tribal people to Judaism after they took a holy dip at a mikvah or a ritual bath.
"The new converts are practising the religion perfectly. They will undergo a year-long course in Israel to learn other aspects of Judaism at government expense," Avizedek told AFP by phone from Aizwal, shortly before leaving.
The rabbi spent six months in state capital Aizwal to teach Hebrew and impart lessons in Judaism to the tribal people.
"I am so happy today and it is a dream come true as we leave for our Holy Land," said 30-year-old Bana Kholring, whose businessman husband Avior and three teenaged children were also migrating with her.
Some 800 people from Mizoram and neighbouring Manipur state have migrated to Israel since 1994 when a private body, the Amishav Association took up their case. The last batch of 71 left the northeast for Jerusalem in May 2003.
Mizoram is a predominantly Christian state, while most Manipuris follow Hinduism. Most Jews in the two states were Christian by birth.
Apart from names, the converts share many practices in common with traditional Jews -- such as keeping mezuzahs or parchment inscribed with verses of the Torah at the entrance to their homes. The men wear a kippah or headgear during prayers.
"I have no regrets at all to leave my birth place because Israel is our Promised Land," Zimra Hnamte, a 50-year-old widow, said.
The 208 Mizo Jews would be settled in the cities of Nazareth Illit and Karmiel in northern Israel.
IRAN’S nuclear programme and considerable resources enable it to strive for strategic dominance in its region. With the impetus of a radical Shia ideology and the symbolism of defiance of the UN Security Council’s resolution, Iran challenges the established order in the Middle East and perhaps wherever Islamic populations face dominant, non-Islamic majorities.
The appeal for diplomacy to overcome these dangers has so far proved futile. The negotiating forum the world has put in place for the nuclear issue is heading for a deadlock, probably irresolvable, except in a wider geopolitical context. Such a negotiation has not yet found a forum. In any event, divisions among the negotiating partners inhibit a clear sense of direction.
The five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany — known as the Six — have submitted a package of incentives to Teheran to end enrichment of uranium as a key step towards putting an end to the weapons programme. They have threatened sanctions if their proposal is rejected. Iran has insisted on its ‘right’ to proceed with enrichment, triggering an allied debate about the nature of the sanctions to which the Six have committed themselves. Even the minimal sanctions proposed by the E-3 (the European Three — the UK, France, and Germany) have been rejected by Russia.
Reluctant to negotiate directly with a member of the "axis of evil,’’ the United States has not participated in the negotiations, giving its proxy to Javier Solana, the European Union high representative, who negotiates on behalf of the E-3. Recently, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has announced a reversal of policy. The US — and she herself — would participate in the nuclear talks, provided Iran suspends its enrichment programme while talks are taking place.
But Teheran has so far shown no interest in negotiating with the United States, either in the multilateral forum or separately.
This is because Teheran sees no compelling national interest to give up its claim to being a nuclear power and strong domestic political reasons to persist. Pursuing the nuclear weapons programme is a way of appealing to national pride and shores up an otherwise shaky domestic support. The proposed incentives, even if they are believed, would increase Iran’s dependence on the international system that Iran’s current leaders reject.
The European negotiators accept the importance of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. But they govern societies increasingly loath to make immediate sacrifices for the sake of the future — witness the difficulty of passing legislation on domestic reform. Europe’s leaders know that their publics would not support military action against Iran and would probably prove very shaky in a prolonged political crisis over sanctions — an attitude on which Iran plays skilfully.
America’s European allies have decided to opt for minimum sanctions because they hope that the mere fact of united action by the Six will give Iran’s leaders pause. The conviction expressed by some European diplomats, that Iran will not wish to be a pariah nation indefinitely and will therefore come to an agreement, is probably wishful thinking. As this becomes apparent, the European allies will probably move reluctantly towards escalation of sanctions, up to a point where Iran undertakes a confrontational response, when they will have to make the choice between the immediate crisis and the permanent crisis of letting the Iranian nuclear programme run free.
The dilemma is inherent in any gradual escalation. If initial steps are minimal, they are presumably endurable (and are indeed chosen for that reason). The adversary may be tempted to wait for the next increment so that gradualism may, in the end, promote escalation and make inevitable the very decision being evaded.
Russia’s position is more complex. Probably no country — not even the US — fears an Iranian nuclear capability more than Russia, whose large Islamic population lies just north of the borders of Iran. No country is more exposed to the seepage of Iranian nuclear capabilities into terrorist hands or to the jihadist ideological wave that the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, encourages. For that very reason, Russia does not want to unleash Iranian hostility on itself without a prospect of probable success.
In addition, Russian attitudes towards the United States have undergone a significant change. There is a lessened commitment to strategic partnership. Suspicion has grown on both sides. The United States fears that Russia is striving to rebuild its imperial influence in what Russia calls the "near-abroad"; Russia believes that America is seeking to pressure the Kremlin to change its domestic policies and to reduce Russia’s international influence.
Because of its conviction that Iran will be a formidable adversary and its low assessment of the American effort in Iraq, the Kremlin doubts that the US has the staying power for a prolonged confrontation with Iran and chooses to avoid manning barricades on which it may be left alone. In consequence, Moscow has shifted its emphasis towards Europe and, on Iran, operationally shares Europe’s hesitation. The difference is that if matters reach a final crunch, Russia is more likely to take a stand, especially when an Iranian nuclear capability begins to look inevitable, even more when it emerges as imminent.
The nuclear negotiations with Iran are moving towards an inconclusive outcome. The Six eventually will have to choose between effective sanctions or the consequences of an Iranian military nuclear capability and the world of proliferation it implies. Military action by the US is extremely improbable in the final two years of a presidency facing a hostile Congress — though it may be taken more seriously in Teheran. Teheran surely cannot ignore the possibility of a unilateral Israeli strike if all negotiation options close.
More likely, the nuclear issue will be absorbed into a more comprehensive negotiation based on geopolitical realities. It is important, however, to be clear as to what this increasingly fashionable term implies.
The argument has become widespread that Iran (and Syria) should be drawn into a negotiating process, hopefully to bring about a change of their attitudes as happened, for example, in the opening to China a generation ago. This, it is said, will facilitate a retreat by the US to more strategically sustainable positions.
A diplomacy that excludes adversaries is clearly a contradiction in terms. But the argument on behalf of negotiating too often focuses on the opening of talks rather than their substance. The fact of talks is assumed to represent a psychological breakthrough. The relief supplied by a change of atmosphere is bound to be temporary, however. Diplomacy — especially with an adversary — can succeed only if it brings about a balance of interests. Failing that, it runs the risks of turning into an alibi for procrastination or a palliative to ease the process of defeat without, however, eliminating the consequences of defeat.
The opening to China was facilitated by Soviet military pressures on China’s northern borders; rapprochement between the US and China implemented an existing common interest in preventing Soviet hegemony. Similarly, the shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East made progress because it was built on a pre-existing equilibrium that neither side was able to alter unilaterally.
To the extent that talk becomes its own objective, there will emerge forums without progress and incentives for stonewalling. If, at the end of such a diplomacy, stands an Iranian nuclear capability and a political vacuum being filled by Iran, the impact on order in the Middle East will be catastrophic.
Understanding the way Teheran views the world is crucial in assessing the prospects of a dialogue. The school of thought represented by President Ahmadinejad may well perceive Iranian prospects as more promising than they have been in centuries. Iraq has collapsed as a counterweight; within Iraq, Shia forces are led by men who had been trained in Teheran and spent decades of their lives there. Democratic institutions in Iraq favour dominance by the majority Shia groups. In Lebanon, Hezbollah, trained and guided by Iran, is the strongest military force — much more powerful than the government over which it strives for at least a veto. In the face of this looming Shia belt and its appeal to the Shia population in northeast Saudi Arabia and along the Gulf, attitudes in the Sunni states — Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia — and the Gulf states range from unease to incipient panic. This may explain Ahmadinejad’s insolent behaviour on the occasion of his visit to New York. His theme seemed to be: "Don’t talk to me about your world order, whose rules we did not participate in making and which we disdain.
From now on, jihad will define the rules or at least participate in shaping them."
If that assessment of Iranian attitudes is correct, they will not be changed simply for the opportunity of talking to the United States. The self-confident Iranian leaders may facilitate a local American retreat but, in their present mood, only for the purpose of turning it into a long-term rout. The argument that Iran has an interest in negotiating over Iraq to avoid chaos along its borders is valid only as long as the US retains a capacity to help control the chaos. There are only two incentives for Iran to negotiate: the emergence of a regional structure that makes imperialist policies unattractive, or the concern that, if matters are pushed too far, America might yet strike out.
So long as Iran views itself as a crusade rather than a nation, a common interest will not emerge from negotiations. To evoke a more balanced view should be an important goal for US diplomacy. Iran may come to understand sooner or later that it is still a poor country not in a position to challenge the entire world order. But such an evolution presupposes the development of a precise and concrete strategic and negotiating programme by the US and its associates. Today the Sunni states of the region — Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the non-Shia government of Lebanon, the Gulf states — are terrified by the Shia wave. Negotiation between Iran and the US could generate a stampede towards preemptive concessions, unless preceded or at least accompanied by a significant effort to rally those states to a policy of equilibrium. In such a policy, Iran must find a respected, but not dominant, place. A restarted Palestinian peace process should play a significant role in that design, which presupposes close cooperation among the US, Europe and the moderate Arab states.
We must not flinch from this underlying reality. Iran needs to be encouraged to act as a nation, not a cause. It has no incentive to appear as a deus ex machina to enable America to escape its embarrassments, unless the US retains an ability to fill the vacuum or at least be a factor in filling it. America will need to reposition its strategic deployments, but if such actions are viewed as the prelude to an exit from the region, a collapse of existing structures is probable. A purposeful and creative diplomacy towards Iran is important for building a more promising region — but only if Iran does not, in the process, come to believe that it is able to shape the future on its own or if the potential building blocks of a new order disintegrate while America sorts out its purposes.
Henry A Kissinger, a former US secretary of state, is considered the architect of US foreign policy during the Cold War
16 November 2006
When I was in law school in Atlanta (Emory), I had the chance to see part of the trial of U.S. v. Alcee Hastings. Indeed, I thought I'd learn more from watching a trial than sitting in school for several days learning theory. While I learned some important trial skills as the result of that trial, I also learned that the theory that a conviction of a crime should result in removal from office does not apply. Or at least not to Rep. Hastings. Instead, he is movin' on up...even having been convicted on charges of extortion, perjury and falsifying documents.
The saga began with attorney William Borders Jr., a rising star in the Washington legal community, who became involved with a felony case in Florida involving two brothers, Frank and Tom Romano. The Romanos had been convicted in 1980 of taking $1.2 million from a Teamsters’ pension fund. In early 1981, Hastings, as the judge presiding over the case, ordered seizure of $1.2 million of the Romanos’ assets, including $845,000 in cash. At the time Borders became involved, a final judgment on that forfeiture was pending.
By April 1981, Borders had developed a scheme to solicit a bribe for Hastings from Frank Romano, in exchange for ensuring that the majority of the Romanos’ seized property was returned to them.
Investigators established a pattern of phone calls between Hastings and Borders from February to October 1981, generally corresponding to dates when Hastings was engaged in some kind of action or hearings on the Romanos’ legal situation.
A central piece of evidence in later proceedings came through an FBI tape recording of a phone conversation between Hastings and Borders on October 5, 1981 — the same day that Hastings told his clerk to immediately prepare the order releasing the Romanos’ property. 25 years later, I remember this bit of testimony. because today it sounds like a segue in an episode of "The Sopranos". The transcript, according to the presentation by government prosecutors, showed the two speaking in code — Borders telling Hastings that he had received the $25,000 intended for him, Hastings telling Borders that he would issue the order releasing the property forthwith. Borders was arrested in October 1981, when he accepted the remaining $125,000 of the bribe during an FBI sting. He was tried and convicted in 1982 and sentenced to five years in prison and $35,000 in fines.
The trail of evidence led to criminal charges against Hastings, too. He stood trial but was acquitted. In December 1982, however, Judge Frank M. Johnson wrote an opinion for the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals which upheld Borders’ conviction — and also found that the jury in the Borders case had sufficient evidence to conclude “beyond any reasonable doubt that Judge Hastings was a member of such a conspiracy.”
Even his peers could no longer ignore Hastings’ situation. This and other evidence led to Chief Judge William Terrell Hodges of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida and Chief Judge Anthony A. Alaimo of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida — Hastings’ own court — to file a complaint against Hastings under the Code of Judicial Conduct’s requirement that judges who become aware of unprofessional judicial conduct by other judges make it known.
The final report issued by the five-judge committee appointed to investigate the charges concluded that at his trial, Hastings had fabricated documents submitted as evidence and committed perjury 14 times. The report concluded, “Judge Hastings attempted to corruptly use his office for personal gain. [The committee found] clear and convincing evidence that Judge Hastings sought to conceal his participation in the bribery scheme.... Judge Hastings’ conduct was premeditated, deliberate and contrived.”
The committee reported to the 11th Circuit Judicial Council, which voted unanimously to support the conclusion that grounds to recommend impeachment indeed existed. The same procedure was then followed by the Judicial Conference of the United States, over which the Chief Justice presides, and that body unanimously voted for impeachment. The matter was then sent to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Incredibly, through the entire process to that stage, not a single disciplinary action had been imposed on Hastings, who still sat as a federal district judge.
The House Judiciary committee, after investigation, recommended impeachment.
For the next six years, Hastings remained on the bench, using federal court facilities and drawing a full salary while hearing virtually no cases because of his tenuous position and the refusal of the Chief Justice of his district to assign cases to him.
Finally, in 1988, the House charged Hastings, by a 413 to 3 vote, with 17 acts of misconduct which “strike at the heart of our democracy,” and recommended removal by the Senate. The Senate agreed, and in 1989 found Hastings guilty of eight impeachable offenses, including conspiring as a federal judge to obtain a $150,000 bribe.
Hastings was finally out. As a judge. But there is an epilogue to this saga: As he appealed his ouster to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, he set his sights on elected office. Apparently his hubris knows no bounds. He was playing defense by playing offense.
He ran unsuccessfully for governor of Florida. Then, after reapportionment mandated by the Voting Rights Act, Hastings saw a chance to try again, this time for Congress, in a newly formed district.
During his 1992 congressional campaign, his primary opponent repeatedly raised the issue of his removal from the bench. But his candidacy got a boost when a U.S. District Judge in Washington, D.C., overturned Hastings’ removal by the Senate on a technicality — and Hastings was elected to the House of Representatives in November 1992.
Then, in January 1993, just as Hastings was being sworn in as a congressman, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the district court’s ruling and Hastings’ conviction was effectively reinstated.
Yet, Congressman Hastings he remains. He insists that the impeachment law can be interpreted to allow him to retain his congressional seat, even though his removal as a federal judge included a prohibition from “hold[ing] and enjoy[ing] any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States.” Hastings contends that because the Senate did not expressly disqualify him from elected office, he can retain his position as a Congressman.
This phenomenon underscores the legislature’s part in the inadequate oversight and discipline of the judiciary. To date, Congress has turned a collective blind eye to the uncomfortable reality that a man whose acts as a federal judge were so reprehensible that he is only one of three judges in recent history to be thrown off the bench sits with them today as a member of the United States House of Representatives.
And now, Speaker-Elect Pelosi is giving this man a boost to a seat that he may not be qualified for legally or politically. Under any set of circumstances the whole thing stinks regardless of the fact that it was the people of Rep. Hastings' district who voted him in. They love him apparently.
Hastings has slipped through every single legal crack he could find and now is reaping the rewards of the work of some very, very good lawyers and some really bad law. There is no reason that this man should even be a Congressman. But as long as he is, let us hope that Ms. Pelosi knows what she is doing: apparently Jane Harman has a reputation for being a little soft on the Bush administration, and I can only think that the Democrats will not have that problem with Hastings who will do everything in his power to curry favor with the party that has brought him to the dance in spite of his conviction and the stench. If he is put in as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, let us hope that the latter will dissipate with time. At least we're on notice.