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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Human rights" groups' double standards on white phosphorus (Zvi)

From Zvi, commenting on this story about Gaza terror groups using white phosphorus in rockets towards Israel:


Clearly, it is a "war crime" for Israel to use white phosphorus in such a way that its use is legal - as a smoke screen to protect maneuvering troops - but it's okay for Gazan terrorists to use it in such a way that it cannot possibly be legal; there are no maneuvering Gazan troops in the vicinity who could use these particular weapons as a smoke screen.

Amnesty's last mention of white phosphorus was in August. They have been completely silent on this matter.

HRW is even worse. Only a few days ago, they made a statement at a weapons conferenceabout the use of incendiary weapons in Gaza, showing that they are continuing to focus on the use of such weapons. Despite the conference giving them a perfect opportunity to speak out about the use of white phosphorus as a weapon of terror against Israelis, and despite their clear intent to continue to focus on WP devices, HRW has chosen not to make any statement at all about the blatantly [war] criminal use of white phosphorus munitions by Hamas terrorists and their allies in Gaza.

The failure to make such a statement indicates to the perpetrators and other terrorist groups, from Hezbollah to Hamas, that the international human rights community condones the use of white phosphorus as a weapon of terror against Israeli civilians.

A forceful, direct and unequivocal condemnation of this blatantly criminal behavior might not have any effect, but then again, it might convince Hamas and other terror groups that adopting its wholesale use would be a costly PR disaster for them. These groups are clearly building WP weapons now. The condemnation must come NOW, before these weapons are stockpiled and entrenched in the minds of Hamas planners, and before it becomes too late to save numerous civilian lives.

Once again, there are circumstances in which the use of white phosphorus is legal, even if some groups do not approve of the use of WP smoke devices. The IDF used white phosphorus to screen troop movements, which is a legal use of white phosphorus. The most that can be argued is that in Gaza, the use of these smoke devices fell into a gray area. But it is also true that as the human rights groups attacked the (legal) use of WP during the war, the IDF even made good-faith efforts to stop the use of WP, even though this endangered the lives of its soldiers. The IDF clearly acted in good faith, trying to minimize the danger to civilians.

The manner in which Hamas and its allies are using white phosphorus today is diametrically opposite. The Gazan regime and its allies are using WP as a weapon of terror. This cannot possibly fit into any category that could be remotely described as legal.

It is clear that these attacks are only the beginning. It is clear that this behavior - if not immediately and severely condemned by the global community - will spread within Gaza and become entrenched there, and from there it will spread to other parts of the world.

It is clear, also, that Gazan Arabs as well as Israelis will die from these WP terror weapons, because many of the flying bombs fired by Gazan terrorists fall short and kill their own people. It is clear that any decent human rights advocate should be absolutely appalled by the blatant and deliberate perpetration of war crimes by Hamas and its allies.

I call upon the international human rights community to speak out loudly, clearly and forcefully on this point, now.

The official Hasbara 2.0 poster, and some Technorati news

I can now reveal the official poster for the Elder's off-Broadway extravaganza, at Yeshiva University, scheduled for next Tuesday:

I am still working on the slides - I am pushing a hundred Powerpoint slides, so the talk will likely last some 90 minutes or so (I speak fast.)  There is a lot of information there, though.

The organizers wanted some stats about my blog, so I looked once again at my latest Technorati rankings.

Readers may recall how surprised I was last August when Technorati ranked this blog #56 in Politics and #15 in World Politics among all the thousands of political blogs they follow.

And then how blown away I was when in the beginning of November my rankings rose to #50 in Politics and #7 in World Politics.

Today.....drumroll, please....my rank is

Politics: #41

World Politics: #4  !!!


Yes, I'm blowing away Juan Cole, and Marc Lynch, Stephen Walt, the LA Times Babylon and Beyond blog - even The White House Blog!

And my blog is one of the very few in the top tier that is primarily run by one person.

Very, very cool.

By the way, this was my second biggest month (after Flotilla June); according to Statcounter I am hitting almost exactly 100,000 pageviews (Google says about 150,000.) I also hadn't checked my Feedburner lately, it says that I have over 1100 RSS subscribers. (RSS readers are now set up to link to the comments, by the way.)

UPDATE: Back down to 7 in World Politics, but up to 38 in Politics. Fame is fleeting.

Yodeler fined for upsetting Muslims in Austria

From The Austrian Independent:
An Austrian has been fined for yodelling while mowing his lawn, according to a report.

The Kronen Zeitung newspaper claims Helmut G. was told by a court in Graz, Styria, that his yodelling offended his next-door Muslim neighbours.

The men reportedly accused the 63-year-old of having tried to mock and imitate the call of the Muezzin. The daily paper writes the Austrian was fined 800 Euros after judges ruled he could have tried to offend them and ridicule their belief. The Muslims, whose nationalities were not revealed by the report, were right in the middle of a prayer when the Austrian started to yodel.

"It was not my intention to imitate or insult them. I simply started to yodel a few tunes because I was in such a good mood" the man told the newspaper today.
It gets better:

The Muslim worshippers, meeting in a private house, use loudspeakers in their backyard during their prayers!

Helmut G. is being invited to talk shows and the incident is causing a stir in Graz.

(h/t Silke)

Chanukah menorah upsets Palestinian Arabs

From the PA's WAFA news agency (Arabic):
Settlers have just erected a huge brass candlestick on the outskirts of the city of Nablus in the West Bank.

Witnesses said that the menorah was set by a crane near the Za'tara triangle a few kilometers south of Nablus, and pointed out that this area is at the center of a number of extremist Jewish settlements.

The menorah is often used in Jewish religious rituals, and the settlers seek to impose their ideology onto the West Bank through actions such as these.
(h/t Dovid Haivri, director of the Shomron Liaison Office, who will happily accept donations to allow more public Chanukah displays to be set up in Judea and Samaria.)

Amnesty doesn't think the intifada ever happened

Reading the latest Amnesty UK report slamming Israel on not doing enough for Gaza is an unreal experience. Sprinkled throughout the report are comparisons and statistics that simply ignore the second intifada and Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, all for the singular purpose of making Israel look as bad as possible.

Here are some examples:
Gaza’s economic output per capita is today 40% lower than it was in 1994, at the start of the Oslo peace process.
Why are they comparing Gaza's economy today with its 1994 economy? The implication is that Israel's commitment to Oslo is a sham, as the economy of Gaza has gone down - due to Israeli actions - since that agreement was signed.

However, the economy in the territories was doign extraordinarily well in the years 1994-1999. Real GDP growth in 1997 was 12.2%, in 1998 it was 11.8% and in 1999 it was 8.9%. And then in 2000, with the intifada, it plummeted: -5.4% in 2000, -15.4% in 2001 and -9.4% in 2002. I don't have the Gaza figures separately, but the closing of the Erez industrial zone and the border closure because of the constant terror attacks threw tens of thousands of Gazans out of work. The withdrawal from Gaza cost many more jobs as well. The reason that Gaza's economy is in shambles is because of a policy of terror that was created by the Palestinian Arabs, not because of Israel's reaction to save its citizen's lives. But to Amnesty, the intifada never happened, and Israel is still "occupying" a territory in which is has no people.
Overall ban on exit and entry still in place. No expansion of the few exceptional categories of Palestinians allowed to travel through Israeli controlled crossings. Number of exits below 1% of 2000 levels.
Again, Amnesty ignored the terror spree and rockets from Gaza as a reason why Israel doesn't want Gazans to have the free access to Israel that they had before 2000.

But beyond that, even though the paper is entitled "Dashed Hopes - Continuation of the Gaza Blockade," it doesn't mention Egypt's role in the blockade - or Egypt's opening of the Rafah border. In this case, Amnesty says that the number of exits through Israeli crossings is down - but they ignore Egypt's crossings which has increased Gazans' mobility. Why do they only speak about Israeli crossings in this statistic, and why do they ignore Egypt's role in blockading Gaza? The only possible answer is because the report is not meant to help Gazans but to castigate Israel.

Even in cases where the real statistics can make Israel look bad, Amnesty specifically bends the numbers to make Israel look worse:

In fact, the UN reports that Gaza requires 670,000 truckloads of construction material, while only an average of 715 of these truckloads have been received per month since the ‘easing’ was announced.

Even if we accept that the UN statistic is accurate, Amnesty is comparing the numbers of the total amount needed with what Israel allowed in an average month. Amnesty could have said that Israel allowed 3600 truckloads of construction material since the easing - but that makes Israel sound better than saying "715 truckloads per month."

Amnesty also says that "Access to around 35% of Gaza’s farmland...remains restricted by the Israeli ‘buffer zone’," a nebulous claim that seems to confuse "arable land" with "farmland."

Amnesty's recommendations also ignore the human rights of Israelis to live in safety:
The international community must do its part to ensure that its repeated
appeals to end the blockade are finally heeded.

1) Launch a new, concerted diplomatic initiative for an immediate,unconditional and complete lifting of the blockade, including:
• allowing movement of people including humanitarian staff into and out of Gaza;
• allowing exports from Gaza;
• allowing entry of construction materials including those for the private sector;
• allowing entry of raw materials;
• expanding operations of the crossings;
• lifting restrictions on fuel imports;
• ensuring access to Gaza’s agricultural land and fishing grounds and the protection of civilians in these areas.
And, if Amnesty's recommendations were to be implemented, unrestricted imports of weapons and long-range missiles would be allowed into Gaza as well.

Not to mention that the only way to have unrestricted movement of goods to and from Gaza would mean no crossings at all - simply tear down the fence and let terrorists have all the access they want to export their human bombs to Israel.

The entire report does not use the word "intifada" or "terror" or "rockets" once. The context of Israel's relationship with Gaza in light of the actions of Hamas and its allies is almost completely missing. And, as we have seen, Amnesty's recommendations would directly translate into a new reign of terror for residents of southern Israel - and beyond.

Apparently, Amnesty and the other "human rights" organizations that prepared this biased report are not the least bit interested in the human rights of Israelis.

PalArabs trying - and failing - to become citizens of Arab countries

Nablus TV and Firas Press report on how Palestinian Arabs are desperately trying to become citizens of Arab countries.

Gazans are trying to prove that they have Egyptian roots to become Egyptian citizens, but Egypt forces them to go through a very difficult legal process that forces most to give up in frustration amid steep legal fees. Even people who have one Egyptian parent are being confronted with roadblocks when they try to exercise their rights as citizens.

The major incentive to gain Arab citizenship is for freedom of movement. Palestinian passports are of very limited use, and many countries will not recognize them as valid travel documents.

Other benefits of citizenship include ease of setting up a business in the host country, and going to college. Some Palestinian Arabs also complain about discrimination they suffer in the Arab world simply because they are Palestinian. One person interviewed said that his brothers work in the UAE, and Egyptian citizens receive higher salaries than Palestinian passport holders doing the same jobs.

One expert is quoted as saying that this is not a new phenomenon, and Palestinian Arabs have been seeking to become naturalized citizens of Arab countries since 1948. He says explicitly the entire reason that Palestinian Arabs are treated with such contempt by Egyptians: "The Egyptian government believes that the failure to give the Palestinians Egyptian nationality will push them to hold on to their land."

This is, of course, a human rights issue. Palestinian Arabs are being discriminated against in every Arab country compared to other Arabs. The Convention of the Rights of the Child states that every child has the right to a nationality.

But good luck finding any human rights groups willing to take on this issue.

Ahmadinejad hangs out with the Hidden Imam

Interesting stuff from Amir Taheri in WSJ:
Is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a closet Persian nationalist trying to de-Islamize Iran? Is he part of a plot to send the mullahs back to the mosques to make way for an Islamist military regime?

These are some of the questions raised in the Majlis, Iran's ersatz parliament, by members who are trying to impeach the president. As astonishing as this might be for Western observers, Ahmadinejad is challenged by people who claim that he is not Muslim enough and that he harbors a hidden anti-clerical agenda to promote a mixture of messianism and chauvinism. His closest friend and aide, Esfandiar Rahim Masha'i, has even suggested that "within one year Ahmadinejad's enemies would declare him to be an infidel."

The charge that Ahmadinejad is trying to push the mullahs out of power is based on his own claim that he has a direct line of communication with the Hidden Imam, a Messiah-like figure in Shiite Islam who is supposed to emerge at the end of time to install eternal justice.

Ahmadinejad constantly talks of the Hidden Imam but almost never mentions Ruhollah Khomeini, the mullah who created the present regime. Nor is Ahmadinejad keen to pay tribute to Khamenei. A man who talks to God wouldn't bother with mere saints.

Several times a year, Ahmadinejad takes his entire cabinet to Jamkaran, a suburb of the "holy" city of Qom south of Tehran, to report to the Hidden Imam. In Jamkaran there is a well that is supposed to lead to the place where the Hidden Imam is in hiding. In a solemn ceremony, Ahmadinejad throws copies of his government's budget and other edicts into the well for consideration by the Hidden Imam.

The message is clear: A government that is preparing for the end of times, under the command of the Hidden Imam, does not need the mullahs.
Isn't it reassuring to know that the people who are most likely to topple Ahmadinejad are even more fundamentalist?

Gazans shooting white phosphorus shells into Israel. UN silent.

We all know that white phosphorus is the most hideous substance known to man, and represents the depths of immorality and scandal - but only when it is used by Israel.

Otherwise, no biggie.

From Israel's Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center:
1. On November 19, a phosphorus-containing mortar shell was fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip. It was part of an unusual attack consisting of four rockets and seven mortar shells, which may have been fired in response to the killing of Islam Yassin, an Army of Islam operative who was planning to abduct Israelis in the Sinai Peninsula. The Israeli Foreign Minister instructed the Israeli ambassador to the UN to submit a complaint to the UN Secretary General and to the Security Council chairman (Israel's Foreign Ministry website, November 19, 2010).

2. In a previous incident which took place on the morning of September 15, 2010, one day after the Sharm el-Sheikh summit,1 terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip fired an exceptional number of rockets and mortar shells at Israel (about 10 rockets). The mortar shells landed in the Eshkol Regional Council territory. At least two of them were 120-mm mortar shells which contained white phosphorus.2 No casualties or damage were reported.

3. Terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip have used phosphorus-containing mortar shells before. In Operation Cast Lead, a number of such mortar shells were fired on IDF forces, probably by Hamas. Prior to these two incidents, however, terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip avoided making routine use of such mortar shells.

In the two incidents, Hamas denied using phosphorus-containing mortar shells:

- Hamas administration spokesman Taher al-Nunu claimed that Foreign Minister Lieberman’s remarks on the use of phosphorus shells were untrue. He said they were designed to cast the “resistance” (i.e., the terrorist organizations) in a negative light and provide an excuse for Israel’s own use of such ammunition (Al-Quds TV, November 20, 2010).

- Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri claimed that no “phosphorus bombs” had been fired at Israel and that Israel was making an attempt to justify its intensifying military operations against the Gaza Strip and divert public opinion on the international scene (Palestine-info, September 15, 2010).

- On the other hand, an Al-Jazeera reporter said that the use of phosphorus was hardly a surprise. Al-Jazeera crew doing a research piece on the activity of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades (the Hamas military wing) had discovered that they recycled white phosphorus from Israeli shells found in the Gaza Strip and stored it in the Gaza Strip, apparently for future use (Al-Jazeera, September 16, 2010).
(h/t Joel)

Erdogan accepts "human rights" award, criticizes freedom of expression

Palestine Today reports that Turkey's Prime Minister received Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights in Tripoli, Libya, on Monday.

In his speech, he said that Turkey would not allow any attack on Islam or Islamic values under the pretext of freedom of expression.

He mentioned that the lives of Gaza's children are sacred.

He also said that Turkey would not remain silent and indifferent to violence in the world.

For some reason, he did not use the Armenian genocide as an historic example of the world's silence and indifference to violence.

Jordanian kicks Israelis out of her restaurant. Jordanians cheer.

From Al Arabiya:
A Jordanian woman gained tremendous fame after refusing to receive a group of Israeli tourists at her restaurant in protest of the crimes of the Jewish state against the Palestinian people.

Several professional associations and rights organizations praised the action taken by Salwa al-Barghouti when she decided to kick Israeli tourists out of her restaurant in the coastal city of al-Aqaba, 370 kilometers off the capital Amman.

Barghouti represents all the Jordanian people in their rejection of the Zionist state, said Maysara Malas, head of the Higher Executive Committee for Anti-Normalization.

“Many Jordanians take similar actions, yet nobody knows about them because the media doesn’t know what they do,” he added.

News of Barghouti’s stance spread all over Jordan and shortly after, she made headlines and several media outlets vied for posting her statements.

“I heard customers entering the restaurants speak Hebrew,” she told the press. “I felt extremely angry and remembered all the crimes Israel is committing against Palestinians, so I asked them to leave.”

Barghouti said she does not approve of the strong attention that was given to her action by the media.

“I am against dealing with Zionists in any possible way and I see this as very normal.”

The Israeli tourists who were kicked out, Barghouti added, filed a complaint against her and she was summoned by state security.

“They asked me to sign a document pledging not to mistreat tourists or kick them out of my restaurant again, but I refused.”

Barghouti insisted on her stance and stressed that she will act in the same way if a similar situation takes places.

My position will never change and I will never allow Israelis into my restaurant,” she concluded.
She told one newspaper that the way to identify Israeli tourists is if they have jewelry with a Star of David, or if they are wearing some type of head covering (translated as "hood.")

She was praised by a Jordanian committee against normalization with the Zionist enemy.

Latest nefarious Zionist plot to "storm" the Temple Mount

Palestine Today quotes Arutz-7 about the latest insidious Zionist plan to "storm the Al Aqsa Mosque."

On Chanukah, Jews plan to peacefully go to the Temple Mount and study where the various parts of the Second Temple were.

They quote an organizer of this plot as saying that the Islamic Movement in Israel brings hundreds of people there to teach them about the history of Al Aqsa Mosque, so this would be roughly the same thing, since both of those activities are educational.

Horrors!

Maldives Islamic Foundation: "Israelis coming to steal our organs"

From Minivan News (Maldives):
The Islamic Foundation of the Maldives has reiterated calls to the Maldives government to “shun all medical aid from the Zionist regime” with a team of seven Israeli eye surgeons due to arrive in the country next month, claiming that Isreali doctors and surgeons “have become notorious for illegally harvesting organs from non-Jews around the world.”

An article on the Foundation’s website titled “Beware of Israeli eye surgeons” claims Israeli medical teams have harvested organs from dead Haitians after the devastating earthquake that struck country as well as from Palestinians killed in fighting in the longstanding Arab-Isreali conflict.

“The health authorities in Maldives have to take utmost caution in allowing Israeli medical surgeons into this country and Maldivians who apply for treatment from these doctors have to take precautionary measures to avoid any foul play,” it reads.

A day after the government-run Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) announced the imminent arrival of the Israeli doctors, the Islamic Foundation called on the government not to normalise relations with the Jewish state or “accept any sort of assistance from Israel as long as they are in the lands of Palestine.”

President of Islamic Foundation Ibrahim Fauzy told Minivan News last week that the Foundation does not recognise Israel as a state, asserting that “it is also against our religion to have relationships with Jews.”
The Islamic Foundation website says:
Not long after the news of the horrible earthquake that struck Haiti, Israeli medical teams jumped on the scene to harvest organs from dead or injured Haitians. There have been various reports of allegations on the news media about Israeli medical teams working in disaster zones secretly stealing organs from fresh corpses.

Organ harvesting is a long standing practice by Israeli medical establishment who profit from the criminal act or are rewarded in many ways.

Israel has secretly been removing body parts (including skin and bones) of Palestinians to be used on its injured soldiers and Jews who require surgical transplanting of organs.
While the Maldives has zero freedom of religion - one may not practice any religion besides Islam openly, and non-Muslims may not become citizens - the readers of the Minivan article were overwhelmingly dismissive - and even hostile - towards the Islamic Foundation.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Blog update

Still trying to recover the blog to a reasonable style, and not happy with spending this much time on it.

On some browsers/machines, it seems to look reasonable; on others, the background is a sickly green. I cannot figure out why. Somehow there is a CSS or something that is overriding the template settings I chose, but for some reason they do not override when you view an individual post, just the home page.

I do not think I will even try to put it back the way it was.

As for comments, they were supposed to have migrated over to the correct posts...and that doesn't seem to have happened. I don't know enough about the comment system yet to know whether you can search for your old posts; I honestly haven't had time to play with it as I try to fix the template.

The one bit of good news is that Ruthie will not need to add the titles of the post to the comment threads anymore!

Que sera sera...

Tuesday is "Buy Israeli Goods" day

To counter a planned boycott action, a number of organizations have designated Tuesday as Buy Israeli Goods day.

If you live in a major metropolitan area in North America, this site has a list of local stores that carry Israeli goods. Ask the store manager specifically what he sells from Israel - and buy the goods you need!

Otherwise, you can go to one of the many sites that sell Israeli goods online, like Israeli Products, Shop in Israel or The Zionist Mall (run by the excellent The Vicious Babushka blog.)

Chanukah starts on Wednesday night, so get shopping and join the Buycott!

OK, I screwed up the blog

I made some mistake as I was trying to upgrade the comments...and I made a very bad newbie mistake: I didn't back up my template.

Now I am not sure I can recover. Working on it, but things will be screwy for the foreseeable future.
Sorry!

Ahmadinejad admits Stuxnet damaged centrifuges

From the NYT:
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that “undoubtedly the hand of the Zionist regime and Western governments is involved. ” He also publicly acknowledged, apparently for the first time, that the country’s nuclear program had been disrupted recently by a malicious computer software that attacked its centrifuges.

Speaking at a news conference, Mr. Ahmadinejad vowed the nuclear program would continue, but acknowledged damage from the computer worm. “They succeeded in creating problems for a limited number of our centrifuges with the software they had installed in electronic parts,” he said.

Iranian officials had previously acknowledged unspecified problems with Iran’s centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium that can be used for peaceful energy generation or atomic weapons. But the Iranians had always denied the problems were caused by malicious computer code.

A worm known as Stuxnet is believed to have struck Iran over the summer. Experts said that the program, which is precisely calibrated to send nuclear centrifuges wildly out of control, was likely developed by a state government.

Mr. Ahmadinejad did not specify the type of malware or its perpetrators but said that “fortunately our experts discovered that and today they are not able anymore.”
If they are admitting a little, that means that they got damaged a lot.

See also Fox News' Stuxnet article.

(h/t Zach)

Which 2010 Elder post was the best example of hasbara?

It didn't seem becoming to nominate anything I did this year for the Hasby Awards, since there is a little conflict of interest there, but a number of people did place nominations for postings and videos of mine.

Here they are, with some of my favorites added.

So here you can vote on what you think was the best/most effective EoZ activity this year:

1. Happy Nakba! What really happened in Jaffa, 1948

2. Kfar Hashiloach ("Silwan"), 1891 and 1932

3. Gaza Mall - the video!


4. The camera angle that the Dubai police withheld

5. "Civilians"


6. The Mamilla Cemetery: Arab hypocrisy at its worst and Mamilla Update

7. Muslims freak over WJC meeting

8. The horror of the refugee camps:


9. Stomach-turning deprivation at Gaza museum

10. Saeb Erekat - I am a liar


11. The If/Then Fallacy

12. The Death Owl (Zvi)

13. Invest in Gaza!


14: Gaza: The "staggering quality of the very ordinary"

15. Tisha B'Av - a reason to cry

16. The Abbas/Apartheid Poster Series

Vote!

Afternoon links

Iran's war against the West on social media sites by Israeligirl

Palestinian revisionism is the only obstacle to peace by Danny Ayalon (sorry, forgot who to h/t)

Israel vs. the International Criminal Court by Anne Herzberg

On Thanksgiving, Turkey is eating up US interests by Barry Simon

Jeffrey Goldberg (and many others, including a major Farsi-language site) noticed my post on Iran sending weapons to Lebanon hidden as medical aid. But how can he make two spelling mistakes on my name?

Norman Finkelstein goes completely off the rails (h/t Silke)

National Geographic on Israel's biblical archaeology wars (h/t O)

Finally, some hard metal for Chanukah. The only thing that would make this more awesome would be if they sang it in the original Yiddish: (h/t YK)

Wikileaks: How to negotiate with Iranians (1979)

Here's a notable cable, from 1979 - in the wake of the Islamic revolution in Iran - on how Iranians think, and what precautions diplomats need to take in negotiating with Iranians.

INTRODUCTION: RECENT NEGOTIATIONS IN WHICH THE EMBASSY HAS BEEN INVOLVED HERE, RANGING FROM COMPOUND SECURITY TO VISA OPERATIONS TO GTE TO THE SHERRY CASE, HIGHLIGHT SEVERAL SPECIAL FEATURES OF CONDUCTING BUSINESS IN THE PERSIAN ENVIRONMENT. IN SOME INSTANCES THE DIFFICULTIES WE HAVE ENCOUNTERED ARE A PARTIAL REFLECTION ON THE EFFECTS OF THE IRANIAN REVOLUTION, BUT WE BELIEVE THE UNDERLYING CULTURAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL QUALITIES THAT ACCOUNT FOR THE NATURE OF THESE DIFFICULTIES ARE AND WILL REMAIN RELATIVELY CONSTANT. THEREFORE, WE SUGGEST THAT THE FOLLOWING ANALYSIS BE USED TO BRIEF BOTH USG PERSONNEL AND PRIVATE SECTOR REPRESENTATIVES WHO ARE REQUIRED TO DO BUSINESS WITH AND IN THIS COUNTRY. END INTRODUCTION.

¶3. PERHAPS THE SINGLE DOMINANT ASPECT OF THE PERSIAN PSYCHE IS AN OVERRIDING EGOISM. ITS ANTECEDENTS LIE IN THE LONG IRANIAN HISTORY OF INSTABILITY AND INSECURITY WHICH PUT A PREMIUM ON SELF-PRESERVATION. THE PRACTICAL EFFECT OF IT IS AN ALMOST TOTAL PERSIAN PREOCCUPATION WITH SELF AND LEAVES LITTLE ROOM FOR UNDERSTANDING POINTS OF VIEW OTHER THAN ONE'S OWN. ...

¶4. THE REVERSE OF THIS PARTICULAR PSYCHOLOGICAL COIN, AND HAVING THE SAME HISTORICAL ROOTS AS PERSIAN EGOISM, IS A PERVASIVE UNEASE ABOUT THE NATURE OF THE WORLD IN WHICH ONE LIVES. THE PERSIAN EXPERIENCE HAS BEEN THAT NOTHING IS PERMANENT AND IT IS COMMONLY PERCEIVED THAT HOSTILE FORCES ABOUND. IN SUCH AN ENVIRONMENT EACH INDIVIDUAL MUST BE CONSTANTLY ALERT FOR OPPORTUNITIES TO PROTECT HIMSELF AGAINST THE MALEVOLENT FORCES THAT WOULD OTHERWISE BE HIS UNDOING. HE IS OBVIOUSLY JUSTIFIED IN USING ALMOST ANY MEANS AVAILABLE TO EXPLOIT SUCH OPPORTUNITIES. THIS APPROACH UNDERLIES THE SOCALLED "BAZAAR MENTALITY" SO COMMON AMONG PERSIANS, A MIND-SET THAT OFTEN IGNORES LONGER TERM INTERESTS IN FAVOR OF IMMEDIATELY OBTAINABLE ADVANTAGES AND COUNTENANCES PRACTICES THAT ARE REGARDED AS UNETHICAL BY OTHER NORMS.

¶5. COUPLED WITH THESE PSYCHOLOGICAL LIMITATIONS IS A GENERAL INCOMPREHENSION OF CASUALITY. ISLAM, WITH ITS EMPHASIS ON THE OMNIPOTENCE OF GOD, APPEARS TO ACCOUNT AT LEAST IN MAJOR PART FOR THIS PHENOMENON. SOMEWHAT SURPRISINGLY, EVEN THOSE IRANIANS EDUCATED IN THE WESTERN STYLE AND PERHAPS WITH LONG EXPERIENCE OUTSIDE IRAN ITSELF FREQUENTLY HAVE DIFFICULTY GRASPING THE INTER-RELATIONSHIP OF EVENTS. WITNESS A YAZDI RESISTING THE IDEA THAT IRANIAN BEHAVIOR HAS CONSEQUENCES ON THE PERCEPTION OF IRAN IN THE U.S. OR THAT THIS PERCEPTION IS SOMEHOW RELATED TO AMERICAN POLICIES REGARDING IRAN. THIS SAME QUALITY ALSO HELPS EXPLAIN PERSIAN AVERSION TO ACCEPTING RESPONSIBILITY FOR ONE'S OWN ACTIONS. THE DEUS EX MACHINA IS ALWAYS AT WORK.

¶6. THE PERSIAN PROCLIVITY FOR ASSUMING THAT TO SAY SOMETHING IS TO DO IT FURTHER COMPLICATES MATTERS. ...

¶6. FINALLY, THERE ARE THE PERSIAN CONCEPTS OF INFLUENCE AND OBLIGATION. EVERYONE PAYS OBEISANCE TO THE FORMER AND THE LATTER IS USUALLY HONORED IN THE BREACH. PERSIANS ARE CONSUMED WITH DEVELOPING PARTI BAZI--THE INFLUENCE THAT WILL HELP GET THINGS DONE--WHILE FAVORS ARE ONLY GRUDGINGLY BESTOWED AND THEN JUST TO THE EXTENT THAT A TANGIBLE QUID PRO QUO IS IMMEDIATELY PRECEPTIBLE. FORGET ABOUT ASSISTANCE PROFERRED LAST YEAR OR EVEN LAST WEEK; WHAT CAN BE OFFERED TODAY?

¶7. THERE ARE SEVERAL LESSONS FOR THOSE WHO WOULD NEGOTIATE WITH PERSIANS IN ALL THIS:

- --FIRST, ONE SHOULD NEVER ASSUME THAT HIS SIDE OF THE ISSUE WILL BE RECOGNIZED, LET ALONE THAT IT WILL BE CONCEDED TO HAVE MERITS. PERSIAN PREOCCUPATION WITH SELF PRECLUDES THIS. A NEGOTIATOR MUST FORCE RECOGNITION OF HIS POSITION UPON HIS PERSIAN OPPOSITE NUMBER.

- --SECOND, ONE SHOULD NOT EXPECT AN IRANIAN READILY TO PERCEIVE THE ADVANTAGES OF A LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIP BASED ON TRUST. HE WILL ASSUME THAT HIS OPPOSITE NUMBER IS ESSENTIALLY AN ADVERSARY. IN DEALING WITH HIM HE WILL ATTEMPT TO MAXIMIZE THE BENEFITS TO HIMSELF THAT ARE IMMEDIATELY OBTAINABLE. HE WILL BE PREPARED TO GO TO GREAT LENGTHS TO ACHIEVE THIS GOAL, INCLUDING RUNNING THE RISK OF SO ALIENATING WHOEVER HE IS DEALING WITH THAT FUTURE BUSINESS WOULD BE UNTHINKABLE, AT LEAST TO THE LATTER.

- --THIRD, INTERLOCKING RELATIONSHIPS OF ALL ASPECTS OF AN ISSUE MUST BE PAINSTAKINGLY, FORECEFULLY AND REPEATEDLY DEVELOPED. LINKAGES WILL BE NEITHER READILY COMPREHENDED NOR ACCEPTED BY PERSIAN NEGOTIATORS.

- --FOURTH, ONE SHOULD INSIST ON PERFORMANCE AS THE SINE QUA NON AT ESH STAGE OF NEGOTIATIONS. STATEMENTS OF INTENTION COUNT FOR ALMOST NOTHING.

- --FIFTH, CULTIVATION OF GOODWILL FOR GOODWILL'S SAKE IS A WASTE OF EFFORT. THE OVERRIDING OBJECTIVE AT ALL TIMES SHOULD BE IMPRESSING UPON THE PERSIAN ACROSS THE TABLE THE MUTUALITY OF THE PROPOSED UNDERTAKINGS, HE MUST BE MADE TO KNOW THAT A QUID PRO QUO IS INVOLVED ON BOTH SIDES.

- --FINALLY, ONE SHOULD BE PREPARED FOR THE THREAT OF BREAKDOWN IN NEGOTIATIONS AT ANY GIVEN MOMENT AND NOT BE COWED BY THE POSSIBLITY. GIVEN THE PERSIAN NEGOTIATOR'S CULTURAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL LIMITATIONS, HE IS GOING TO RESIST THE VERY CONCEPT OF A RATIONAL (FROM THE WESTERN POINT OF VIEW) NEGOTIATING PROCESS.
I would guess that things are a little different now, only because the Iranian leadership is committed to a policy of lying about and hiding its nuclear program as a state-level function, not merely on the personal plane that this cable is speaking about. But it is still illuminating, and probably not far off from the truth.

"We're tapping phone lines - I know that that ain't allowed"

From Ha'aretz:
The United States broke an Israeli code and tapped the secure phone line in the Israeli Embassy in Washington without Jerusalem's knowledge.

That revelation about Israeli-American relations did not come from WikiLeaks, but rather from former ambassador to Washington Itamar Rabinovich, in a radio interview yesterday.

Rabinovich did not say exactly when the code was broken and when Israel found out about it, but it was understood from his remarks that the tap started after his 1993-1996 tenure in the U.S. capital and was discovered only years later.

The former envoy said that every staffer at the Israeli Embassy in Washington is warned about possible leaks of conversations held in the building and on ordinary phone lines, but also on the secure phone line.

After the Americans broke the code, Israel's deepest policy secrets were apparently exposed.

"Every 'juicy' telegram was in danger of being leaked," Rabinovich told Army Radio's Razi Barkai. "We sent very few of them. Sometimes I came to Israel to deliver reports orally. The Americans were certainly tapping the regular phone lines, and it became clear that in later years they were also listening to the secure line."
Imagine the outcry that would be sweeping the world now if it was Israel caught tapping US diplomatic phone lines.

It is no secret that allies spy on each other, and when such activities are caught, they are usually handled discreetly. But shouldn't Israel make a stink, just once, in order to get Jonathan Pollard finally released?

Wikileaks: Netanyahu's critique of the Lebanon war, and more

An interesting memo from a meeting between Representative Gary Ackerman and Binyomin Netanyahu while he was opposition leader in April, 2007:

Netanyahu commented that Shimon Peres had admitted to
him that the Oslo process had been based on a mistaken
economic premise, and as a result European and U.S.
assistance to the Palestinians had gone to create a bloated
bureaucracy, with PA employees looking to the international
community to meet their payroll. Netanyahu predicted that
Palestinians would vote for Abbas if they believe that he can
deliver the money. He suggested putting in place an
"economic squeeze with an address," so that Hamas would
receive the popular blame. Asked if Fatah knew how to
conduct an election campaign, Netanyahu said the Palestinian
patronage system should be forced to collapse, which would
have an immediate impact since the entire Palestinian economy
was based on graft and patronage. Instead, he asserted, the
opposite was happening. Hamas was also handling the prisoner
release issue well since they had created the impression that
Hamas was in control of the process and "sticking it to the
Israelis."

Turning to the Second Lebanon War, Netanyahu said the
problem was not the war's goals but rather the disconnect
between goals and methods. If the IDF had used a flanking
move by a superior ground force, it could have won easily.
Instead, Israel "dripped troops into their gunsights," an
approach he termed "stupid." The top leadership had lacked a
sense of military maneuver. In addition, they had been
afraid to take military casualties, but instead got many
civilian casualties. If Olmert had mobilized the reserves in
ten days, seized ground, destroyed Hizballah in southern
Lebanon, and then withdrawn, he would be a hero today.

Netanyahu asserted there was a growing sense in the
public that he had been right in the last election.
Unilateral "retreats" (i.e. such as the withdrawals from Gaza
and southern Lebanon) were the wrong way to go. Israel had
allowed an Iranian enclave to establish itself in Gaza.
Syria was arming itself for the first time in 20 years,
Hizballah had rearmed since the war, and Gaza was being
turned into a bunker. Egypt was not doing on a twelve mile
front along the Gaza border what Jordan was doing on a
150-mile front. The way out was to stop Iran, thereby
dealing with the octopus, not just its tentacles.

Netanyahu stated that a return to the 1967 borders
and dividing Jerusalem was not a solution since further
withdrawals would only whet the appetite of radical Islam.
Ackerman asked if the Palestinians would accept peace based
on the 1967 lines. Netanyahu said he would not agree to such
a withdrawal since the 1967 lines were indefensible, but he
added that the "right of return" was the real acid test of
Arab intentions. Instead of Israel making more step-by-step
concessions, Israel should insist that further concessions be
linked to reciprocal steps toward peace. The Palestinians
must drop the right of return and accept Israel's right to
exist. The Arab initiative did not meet this standard since
it keeps the right of return open. Israel will only have a
peace partner when the Palestinians drop the right of return.
Asked whether Israel could accept case by case exceptions,
Netanyahu insisted not one refugee could ever return. Israel,
after all, was not asking for the right of Jews to return to
Baghdad or Cairo.

Netanyahu said UNSCR 242 was not a bad formula since
it did not specify precisely from which territories Israel
would withdraw. After the withdrawals from Gaza and Lebanon,
there was deep disillusionment among Israelis about the
principle of land for peace. Even the noted Israeli leftist
writer AB Yehoshua had said in a recent interview that he
despaired about peace because the Arabs wanted all of Israel.
From 1948 to 1967, the conflict had not been about occupied
territories, but that point had been obscured by "effective
propaganda." The root of the conflict was an Arab desire to
destroy Israel, which had now become part of the larger
ambitions of radical Islam.

The 1967 borders were not the solution since Israel
was the only force blocking radical Islam's agenda of
overrunning Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Netanyahu proposed that
Israel offer to work with the Saudis against Iran. If Iran
was not stopped, there would be no agreement with the
Palestinians, and the peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt
would come under tremendous pressure. There could be no
deterrence against "crazies" such as Ahmadinejad.

Building boom in Gaza

From YNet:
Gaza's residents are no longer complaining about a coriander shortage. Israeli snacks are flowing into the Strip as well, through the Kerem Shalom crossing – at the approval and under the full supervision of the Hamas government.

The lifting of the siege in June gave the Gazans room to breathe. With the money in the Strip – and there is quite a lot of it in dollars, dinars, and even shekels – they can buy whatever they want.

Food and other products flow into Gaza with hardly any restrictions. What doesn't come from Israel, because the price is too high, continues to flow in through the Rafah tunnels.

"There are a slew of products here, and beautiful restaurants. Is this the Gaza we have been hearing about?" A Sudanese official, who arrived in the Strip about a month ago with hundreds of visitors from Arab countries on the "Viva Palestina" aid convoy, was quoted by Palestinian news agency Maan as saying.

"Where is the siege? I don't see it in Gaza. I wish Sudan's residents could live under the conditions of the Gazan siege," he reportedly added.[I could not find the original quote - EoZ]

One of the main characteristics of the economic change in the Strip is the renovation and construction drive. Buildings are being built in every corner. Hamas is renovating the public buildings destroyed in Israeli air raids during Operation Cast Lead, including the bombed Legislative Council building on Omar al-Mukhtar Boulevard and the police headquarters.

But the renovation of public buildings is nothing compared to Hamas' flagship project: The building of 25,000 new housing units in the city, some on lands of the former Gush Katif settlements.

The goal is not only to overcome the huge apartment shortage – which stems mainly from the natural growth, the damages of the war, and the halt in construction in the past three years – but mainly to benefit the people, whose support Hamas seeks in order to establish its rule.

The plan is to construct multi-story buildings ("we have no land to spare," explains a Gaza housing ministry official) and neighborhoods built as independent residential areas. A mosque will be set up at the center of each neighborhood, alongside shopping centers, schools and kindergartens. Access roads will be paved and even playgrounds for children.

Hamas has allotted tens of millions of dollars to the building project. There is apparently no shortage of money. Generous donations are flowing in from Iran, Islamic associations across the Arab worlds, and governmental elements in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Western elements.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has been mercilessly pursuing Hamas in the West Bank, is aiding Gaza with millions of dollars, boasting that 57% of the Palestinian Authority budget is directed at the Strip.

Abbas pays the salaries of 70,000 government workers from the post-Hamas era, maintains the health and education systems, and even funds some of Gaza's electricity production expenses.

International organizations are also operating in Gaza in full force. Since the Turkish flotilla, Israel has approved – through the Civil Administration – 70 projects of building infrastructure for the health, education and sanitation systems by international elements.

At the request of the United Nations secretary-general, Defense Minister Ehud Barak has approved the transfer of building materials – including gravel – for the construction of a large residential neighborhood for refugees in Khan Younis.

In addition, Hamas has been implementing a new tax system: 14% value added tax, 8% income tax. For each liter of gas flowing into the Strip from Gaza and sold for about NIS 2 (50 cents), the government charges 60 agorot (16 cents). A fee is imposed on all goods arriving from Israel. Each new motorcycle smuggled through the tunnels carries an NIS 300 ($82) tax.

In order to settle the contradiction between the new taxes and the laws of Islam, which state that the only taxes which can be collected are 10% of the Muslim's income which must go to charity, Hamas says it is working to create a social justice system.

And so, in measured steps, without a siege and with a lot of foreign aid, Gaza's economy is starting to recover, as is the agriculture and some of the industries. The Hamas government has recovered from Operation Cast Lead, emerged from the financial distress and is now focused not only on improving its military capabilities, but also on strengthening its hold of the government and imposing an Islamic rule in Gaza.

Israel's "peace partner" wants to turn the clock back to 1947

Today, the anniversary of the 1947 UN Partition Plan which recommended the creation of a Jewish and an Arab state in Palestine, is now described by the UN as a "Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People."

Israel's moderate, pragmatic peace partner has yet again expressed its wish for Israel to disappear.

From Ma'an:
The PA also said that 1947 UN partition plan "a dangerous turning point which led to our catastrophe and loss of our land and historic heritage."

"We are still paying a heavy toll day and night," for this decision, the statement added.
The PA Ministry of Information statement - not available on its English site - is here. They go on to demand the "right to return" to destroy Israel, and an end to Israeli "colonialism" - which, by their definition, includes all of Israel.

The Ministry also favorably quotes from the 1968 Palestine National Covenant:
Article 19: The partition of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of the state of Israel are entirely illegal, regardless of the passage of time, because they were contrary to the will of the Palestinian people and to their natural right in their homeland, and inconsistent with the principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations, particularly the right to self-determination.
It does mention the 1988 "Declaration of Independence" which tempered that stand somewhat:
Despite the historical injustice inflicted on the Palestinian Arab people resulting in their dispersion and depriving them of their right to self-determination, following upon U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181 (1947), which partitioned Palestine into two states, one Arab, one Jewish, yet it is this Resolution that still provides those conditions of international legitimacy that ensure the right of the Palestinian Arab people to sovereignty.
But, pointedly, they do not recognize the identical rights conferred on the Jewish people.

The world will once again ignore the near-explicit desire by the Palestinian Authority for Israel to be wiped out and replaced with a wholly Arab state, and expect Israel to keep negotiating with those hell-bent to destroy it.

Draft law in Turkey: Foreigners can buy land - but not Israelis

From Hurriyet (Turkey):
A draft prepared by Turkey’s Ministry of Public Works and Housing would ease rules for property sales to foreign nationals, but some will not be able to enjoy the relaxed conditions. According to the draft, citizens of Israel and Greece will not be able to purchase land in Turkey, while such sales to citizens of Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Gulf Arab nations will be relaxed considerably.

The Turkish government has pressed the button on a new policy to ease regulations regarding foreign nationals’ purchasing land in Turkey, but a clause restricting Israeli and Greek nationals from buying Turkish land is causing controversy.

Daily Milliyet’s real estate expert Tebernüş Kireççi wrote Wednesday that if approved by Parliament, a draft prepared by the Ministry of Public Works and Housing may render Turkey “one of the top countries for foreigners in real estate ease-of-purchase.”

“All foreign nationals will be able to buy real estate, provided they have a passport and mug shots,” Milliyet reported. “While selling property and land, there will be no need to check if the foreign national’s country has a reciprocity agreement with Turkey.” The term refers to two countries that recognize their respective citizens as having the same rights.

However, a controversial restriction in the draft involves the sale of construction parcels and farmland to citizens of Israel and Greece, Milliyet reported. While all other foreign nationals may be able to buy as much as 99,000 square meters of land, Israeli and Greek citizens will not be able to purchase parcels and land in Turkey. Another controversial clause in the draft says citizens of Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Arab Gulf states will be able to purchase land even without any restriction on size.

A previous proposal to limit the usage rights of foreigners regarding property they purchased in Turkey to 99 years has been shelved, Milliyet said. According to the new policy, foreign nationals owning property in Turkey would have usage rights without any time limitation.
Sounds like Turkey would be a great addition to the EU!

(corrected)

Turkey wants return to Ottoman-era influence - and no Israel (Ma'ariv)

Iranian-style rhetoric from Turkey, from Ma'ariv, translated by Coteret via Islamo-nazism blog:
Turkey – “Israel will not be able to remain over time an independent country, and a bi-national state will be established on all of the area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River in which Jews and Palestinians will live,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in a number of meetings that he held with journalists and academics, including a number of Israeli academics. Davutoglu’s vision, which he revisited a number of times, is for Turkey to become a dominant force in the Middle East and further, that it will be the protector state of the above-cited bi-national state within a number of years.

Davutoglu, a professor of international relations, is considered to be the principal ideologue of the AKP, the party that is headed by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In the course of the meetings with academics and journalists, which were held prior to the eruption of the recent crisis between Turkey and Israel in the aftermath of the flotilla to the Gaza Strip and the killing of nine Turkish nationals on board the Mavi Marmara, Davutoglu said he did not believe that Israel would be able to sign peace agreements with its neighbors, including the state that is to be formed in the area of the Palestinian Authority.

The central idea that was put forward by Davutoglu, which he has been trying to promote by means of a number of journalists and Turkish government officials, is that Israel as an independent state is illegitimate in the region and, as such, is destined to disappear. That assessment is rooted in a deeper ideology that aspires to restore to Turkey the historic influence it wielded during the era of the Ottoman empire, which ruled the Middle East for close to 400 years. Davutoglu said on a number of occasions that he believed that peace would be restored to the Middle East only in the wake of deep and substantial Turkish intervention.

In other words, Davutoglu and Erdogan aspire to set a new regional order — Erdogan by means of populist rhetoric and closer ties with Turkey’s neighbors, Syria and Iran; Davutoglu by means of promulgating the ideological basis. This new order, as noted, has no room for Israel as an independent state. Both Erdogan and Davutoglu have been advancing a policy that promotes closer ties with Syria and Iran, and moves away from the West. Davutoglu added in his meetings with the journalists and academics that the historic [colonial] powers, (Britain and France) which conquered the Middle East from the Ottomans, are the ones that are responsible for the difficult situation that currently reigns in the Middle East, since they drew the borders in a way that suited their own political and military interests, without taking into account the demographic affiliation of the region’s residents.
Sounds like an ideal candidate for the EU, doesn't it?

Iran and Turkey are now jockeying to become the major players in the Middle East because they perceive the weakness and fragmentation of the Arab world and the perceived reticence of the US to throw its weight around in that region outside of pressuring Israel. Iran's ambition is actually greater than Turkey's, as it seeks nothing less than world domination based on Islam, but both of them are trying to take advantage of a vacuum of power in the Middle East.

Maybe Israel should enter that vacuum as well.

After all, Iran's rush to become a nuclear power is not necessarily to use it against Israel immediately - it is to cow the Muslim nations into its orbit, as they lose faith that the US would protect them. Iran sees nuclear weapons, and long-range missiles that can hit most of Europe, as its ticket to being a superpower. Turkey longs for a return to the regional influence it used to have and any alliance with Syria and Iran strengthens its position against more moderate Arab states. Fear is a powerful factor in diplomacy.

Israel already is a nuclear power and has a very good army. We already see that Arab states, especially in the Gulf, are more concerned with Iran than with Israel.

What would happen if Israel offered to protect Gulf states from any Iranian aggression?

Instantly, by the logic of the Turks and Iran, Israel would become a regional superpower. Notwithstanding their rhetoric about Jewish expansionism, Israel has been happy to keep things local unless it is threatened from afar. A move like that would make Turkey and Iran think twice before writing Israel off.

And if Israel would threaten to show some Muslim-style diplomatic muscle, the US might be persuaded to properly take its role as the world's real superpower - something that it needs to do a lot more publicly in the Middle East. Behind-the-scenes maneuvering does not engender respect from Arabs. If stability is what is desired, only the US can achieve that - and it requires acting like a leader.

Wikileaks: The Gulf fear of Iran and the demolition of "linkage"

From the perspective of Israel, the Wikileaks revelations have vindicated Israel's prioritizing the Iranian nuclear issue above all else. The news that Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other Gulf countries have consistently communicated their fear of - and sometimes recommended military strikes against - Iran prove, definitively, that the "Palestinian issue" is not the driving force behind peace in the Middle East.

While the New York Times credits the Obama administration with pushing more far-reaching sanctions against Iran than the previous Republican White House, it doesn't mention that this same administration has been using the Iran issue as bait to pressure Israel to do what it wants. Whether this is a reflection of the importance Obama gives the "peace process" or whether it is an indication that he deep down believes that somehow a peace agreement would truly defuse other Middle East problems is unknown, but the end result is the same - the administration has been using "linkage" as a strategy to push Israel into doing its bidding.

Which is a very dangerous game to play if the real priority is Iran.

What is very clear, though, is that the so-called "experts" and "realists" like Stephen Walt and Marc Lynch who support the "linkage" claim are completely wrong. As Omri at Mere Rhetoric notes:
Either Walt, Mearsheimer, Lynch, Chas Freeman, and their ilk don’t know much about the Middle East, or they’re ignoring what they do know in order to push their own foreign policy wishful thinking as objective analysis.
 Read Omri's entertaining analysis  for more.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dozens of "aid" planes filled with missiles to Hezbollah?

In the wake of the Wikileaks revelation that Iranian Red Crescent planes sent to Hezbollah during the Lebanon war were "half filled" with missiles, one may wonder how many planes are we talking about?

One hint: The war lasted from July 12 to August 14. Here is a report from Radio Free Europe from August 1:

The fifth consignment of Iranian aid destined for Lebanon arrived in Damascus on July 23, IRNA reported. The two aircraft carrying medicine and medical equipment from the Red Crescent Society came on the heels of four other aid shipments, Iranian Charge d'Affaires in Syria Ghazanfar Roknabadi said.

If there were two planeloads in each consignment, and the fifth one was on July 23rd, that averages out to roughly a planeload a day.

If half of the cargo were indeed missiles and other weapons, that means that Iran may have smuggled 16 cargo planes worth of missiles during the war via the Iranian Red Crescent - and possibly dozens more in the months following.

I don't know, but Geneva might consider this a war crime. Perhaps protocol 1, article 38?

It is prohibited to make improper use of the distinctive emblem of the red cross, red crescent or red lion and sun or of other emblems, signs or signals provided for by the Conventions or by this Protocol. It is also prohibited to misuse deliberately in an armed conflict other internationally recognized protective emblems, signs or signals, including the flag of truce, and the protective emblem of cultural property.
Can't wait for HRW and Amnesty and the UN to jump on these revelations and strongly censure Iran for this crime. Any hour now.

Wikileaks: Iran and Syria lied to IAEA about nuke plants

From The Guardian:
Iranian officials withheld from international atomic energy inspectors the original design documents for a secret nuclear reactor suspected of being part of Tehran's plan to build an atomic bomb, a US embassy cable reveals.

The secretariat of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was denied the blueprints when in October 2009 its inspection team visited the part-built facility in a mountainside at Fordow near Qom. It was instead provided with designs that showed only what was already built.

Providing a picture of Iranian obstruction to the visit, Herman Nackaerts, the IAEA's deputy director general who led the inspection, revealed that Iranian officials were "steered by unseen observers who send notes to the Iranian interlocutors during meetings" and insisted on tape recording the meetings but refused to allow the IAEA to do the same.

According to the secret cable back to Washington the inspectors were "not impressed" by the Iranians' continued refusal to elaborate on their denials of evidence pointing to the nuclear programme's military intent.

"The secretariat was still trying to understand ... why Iran would build this facility, scaled as it was for 3,000 centrifuges in contrast to the much larger Natanz facility," Nackaerts told Richard Kessler and David Fite, senior staff members of the US house of representatives foreign affairs committee, in a 90-minute meeting in Vienna.

The IAEA believed there was "a high-level decision not to co-operate" with the inspection, Nackaerts said, and Iran's denials had left the agency at "an absolute stalemate" with Tehran over the military application of its nuclear programme.

Iran insists the facility is for purely civilian purposes. It told IAEA inspectors during the four-day visit that documentary evidence its nuclear scientists had obtained "green salt", an intermediate product in uranium enrichment for nuclear reactor or bomb material, was forged. It said a document about uranium metal describing the process of machining hemispheres of the kind used in nuclear warheads was "mistakenly" included in a packet of information Iran received from the network of Abdul Qadeer Khan, a Pakistani nuclear scientist believed by the US to be a serious proliferation risk because of his previous trading in nuclear weapons technology.

Nackaerts challenged the Iranians to prove the evidence was bogus. He "asked that, if some of the documentation were 'doctored', Iranian officials should show the [IAEA] secretariat 'where the truth ends.' "
In the very same leaked cable, we see details on how Syria stonewalled the IAEA investigation on the nuclear plant that Israel bombed in Dair Alzour in 2008:

9. (SBU) The Syria case, Nackaerts said, was starting to look like Iran in that the government provided "good cooperation" on some areas but presented a "stalemate" on others. The Secretariat challenged Syria's proposed explanation for the presence of uranium at Dair Alzour/Al Kibar (i.e., that Israeli depleted uranium munitions could be the source), but the inquiry was at a roadblock. Syrian officials had been told their first explanation for anthropogenic uranium at the Miniature Neutron Source Reactor (MNSR) was not credible, and the Agency had inquired what nuclear material Syria could have had that was not previously declared. Overall, the IAEA still "did not understand" (meaning, it could not yet present the solid case for) how Dair Alzour fit in as part of a Syrian nuclear program "or part of someone else's program."
Syria was taking a page out of Iran's playbook, and apparently it is as successful in stonewalling the IAEA without much fear for significant sanctions.

(h/t Emet)

Wikileaks: Iran used Red Crescent to send agents and weapons to Hezbollah

A heavily redacted memo in Wikileaks as presented by The Guardian shows that Iran has cynically used its Red Crescent to smuggle weapons -including missiles - and agents into Lebanon during the 2006 war as well as elsewhere.

8. (S) Per the IRC's regulations, following his election in 2005, President Ahmadi-Nejad was able to appoint four members (out of 16) of the IRC management group. These four [NAMES REMOVED] were opposed to the IRC's leadership and eventually requested its president, Dr. Ahmad Ali Noorbala, to resign. [DETAILS REMOVED] He did so in January 2006 [DETAILS REMOVED] Most of the incoming managers were members of the IRGC or the MOIS [Iranian Intelligence Agency]. [NAME REMOVED] said that pre-existing members now considered the IRC an agent of the IRGC. [Iranian Republican Guard]

9. (S) [NAME REMOVED] further elaborated on the presence of MOIS officials in the IRC and other government agencies. All government agencies include an MOIS representative [DETAILS REMOVED] [NAME REMOVED] Prior to Ahmadi-Nejad, the IRC official in this position was the sole MOIS representative; afterwards, [NAME REMOVED] said 40 officers at headquarters and 100 officers at the provincial officers came from the MOIS.

10. (S) [DETAILS REMOVED] in line with Ahmadinejad's government-wide directive, that all employees pass a counterintelligence course. [NAME REMOVED] indicated that such a course violated the principles of the IRC because Red Cross/Red Crescent organizations are supposed to be independent from the state.

11. (S) In addition to the personnel moves, [DETAILS REMOVED] The IRC under Dr. Noorbala had resisted the IRGC's request to take responsibility for relief and rescue operations. [DETAILS REMOVED] the IRGC's Basij forces to assume responsibility for relief and rescue. [DETAILS REMOVED]

12.(S) In 2007, the IRC's budget was granted an additional $200 million to acquire helicopters. The IRC, [DETAILS REMOVED] ordered 20 Russian MI-17 helicopters. Five of these were delivered to the IRC, the remaining 15 went to the IRGC. A similar helicopter order was planned for 2008. (Note: [NAME REMOVED] indicated that [NAME REMOVED] is the only Iranian entity allowed to import helicopters and that it is owned by the IRGC and MOIS.)

13.(S) [NAME REMOVED] has invested in three Iranian companies backed by the IRGC and Defense Ministry. The first, owned by the Defense Ministry, produces chemical weapons protective equipment; it had been defunct prior to the infusion of IRC funds. The second, owned by the IRGC, produces pre-fabricated military commands and mobile hospitals. The third, owned by the Defense Ministry, produces armored personnel carriers.

14.(C) Finally, the IRC [DETAILS REMOVED] began building health clinics in Karbala, Najaf, Hilla, Kazemayn, and Basra and awarded the construction contracts to IRGC companies, despite the IRC's own staff of qualified engineers. [NAME REMOVED] said the clinics would be used for treatment but also as warehouses for military equipment or military bases if needed. He noted that the Iraqi Red Crescent and Iraqi Ministry of Health were not happy with this activity.

Facilitating IRGC Support to Hezbollah

--------------------------------------

15. (S) The IRC again facilitated the entry of Qods force officers to Lebanon during the Israel-Hezbollah war in summer 2006. Although [NAME REMOVED] did not travel to Lebanon during the conflict, he reiterated that the only true IRC officers dispatched to Lebanon were [DETAILS REMOVED] all others were IRGC and MOIS officials. [NAME REMOVED] further said that the IRC shipments of medical supplies served also to facilitate weapons shipments. He said that IRC [DETAILS REMOVED] had seen missiles in the planes destined for Lebanon when delivering medical supplies to the plane. The plane was allegedly "half full" prior to the arrival of any medical supplies.

16. (S) [NAME REMOVED] also allowed the transfer of an IRC hospital in southern Lebanon to Hezbollah. [NAME REMOVED] said that Hassan Nasrallah had asked Supreme Leader Khamenei to allow Hezbollah to run the hospital during Dr. Noorbala's tenure as IRC president. Although Khamenei acquiesced, Dr. Noorbala prevented the transfer until his own departure. The hospitaL [DETAILS REMOVED] is under Hezbollah control. [NAME REMOVED] is allegedly close to Nasrallah and is also trying to create a network of medical clinics in Lebanon.

17. (S) Comment: [NAMES REMOVED] are examples of figures nominally within the Iranian government establishment who have taken courageous stands against IRGC and MOIS incursions into Iranian governance. Such figures are key to our ability to understanding and countering the malign activities of these organizations regionally...

Wikileaks: Mossad's advice to the US

The Guardian has trove of the Wikileaks documents. Here are excerpts of an interesting 2007 description of Undersecretary Burns' meeting with Mossad chief Meir Dagan. The problem is that little of his prescient advice is being followed by the US.

In an August 17 meeting, Israeli Mossad Chief Meir Dagan thanked Under Secretary Burns for America's support of Israel as evidenced by the previous day's signing of an MOU that provides Israel with USD 30 billion in security assistance from 2008-2018. Dagan provided his assessment of the Middle East region, Pakistan and Turkey, stressing Israel's (a) concern for President Musharraf's well-being, (b) view that Iran can be forced to change its behavior, and (c) sense that Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are unstable with unclear futures ahead of them.

Assessing the region, Dagan said Israel sees itself in the middle of a rapidly changing environment, in which the fate of one Middle Eastern country is connected to another. Dagan then said he was concerned about how long Pakistani President Musharraf would survive: "He is facing a serious problem with the militants. Pakistan's nuclear capability could end up in the hands of an Islamic regime." Turning to Iran, Dagan observed that it is in a transition period. There is debate among the leadership between Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad and their respective supporters. Instability in Iran is driven by inflation and tension among ethnic minorities. This, Dagan said, presents unique opportunities, and Israelis and Americans might see a change in Iran in their lifetimes.

Dagan said that Jordan has successfully faced down threats from the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, and that Egypt is struggling with the question of who will replace President Mubarak. He said he sees no hope for the Palestinians, and that Israel looks at Syria and Lebanon, and sees only instability. Further afield, it looks at Turkey and sees Islamists gaining momentum there. The question, he asked, is how long Turkey's military -- viewing itself as the defender of Turkey's secular identity -- will remain quiet.

7. (S) If Israel's neighborhood were not unstable enough, Dagan observed, it did not help that Russia is playing a "very negative role" in the region. He observed that all of these challenges have to be addressed globally -- they could not be dealt with individually. Returning to Jordan as an example, he noted that the more than one million Iraqi refugees in Jordan were changing Jordanian society, and forcing it into a new relationship with Saudi Arabia. This is evidenced by Saudi King Abdullah's recent visit to Jordan, which implies greater understanding between the Jordanians and the Saudis.

10. (S) Dagan led discussion on Iran by pointing out that the U.S. and Israel have different timetables concerning when Iran is likely to acquire a nuclear capability. He clarified that the Israel Atomic Energy Commission's (IAEC) timetable is purely technical in nature, while the Mossad's considers other factors, including the regime's determination to succeed. While Dagan acknowledged that there is still time to "resolve" the Iran nuclear crisis, he stressed that Iran is making a great effort to achieve a nuclear capability: "The threat is obvious, even if we have a different timetable. If we want to postpone their acquisition of a nuclear capability, then we have to invest time and effort ourselves."

11. (S) Dagan described how the Israeli strategy consists of five pillars:

A) Political Approach: Dagan praised efforts to bring Iran before the UNSC, and signaled his agreement with the pursuit of a third sanctions resolution. He acknowledged that pressure on Iran is building up, but said this approach alone will not resolve the crisis. He stressed that the timetable for political action is different than the nuclear project's timetable.

B) Covert Measures: Dagan and the Under Secretary agreed not to discuss this approach in the larger group setting.

C) Counterproliferation: Dagan underscored the need to prevent know-how and technology from making their way to Iran, and said that more can be done in this area.

D) Sanctions: Dagan said that the biggest successes had so far been in this area. Three Iranian banks are on the verge of collapse. The financial sanctions are having a nationwide impact. Iran's regime can no longer just deal with the bankers themselves.

E) Force Regime Change: Dagan said that more should be done to foment regime change in Iran, possibly with the support of student democracy movements, and ethnic groups (e.g., Azeris, Kurds, Baluchs) opposed to the ruling regime.

12. (S) Dagan clarified that the U.S., Israel and like-minded countries must push on all five pillars at the same time. Some are bearing fruit now; others would bear fruit in due time, especially if more attention were placed on them. Dagan urged more attention on regime change, asserting that more could be done to develop the identities of ethnic minorities in Iran. He said he was sure that Israel and the U.S. could "change the ruling regime in Iran, and its attitude towards backing terror regimes." He added, "We could also get them to delay their nuclear project. Iran could become a normal state.

16. (S) On Pakistan, Dagan said that President Musharraf is losing control, and that some of his coalition partners could threaten him in the future. The key question, Dagan said, is whether Musharraf retains his commander-in-chief role in addition to his role as president. If not, he will have problems. Dagan observed that there has been an increase in the number of attempts on Musharraf's life, and wondered whether he will survive the next few years.

CiFWatch takes apart The Guardian's Harriet Sherwood

CiFWatch has a masterful piece that looks at the six month anniversary of The Guardian's Harriet Sherwood reporting from Israel, and seeing if she is meeting her own stated standards of objectivity and going beyond the wire-service coverage to find the deeper stories.

The results aren't pretty:
The entire article is worth reading.

While you are at it, last week CiFWatch published a fantastic flotilla parody which I tweeted and commenters linked to, and if you haven't read it yet you are missing out.

Oslo mall shut down because of anti-Israel protesters

From Nyheter (Norway,) November 19th:
Oslo City [Mall] was closed for fifteen minutes this afternoon after protesters took action against Israeli products in the mall.

Socialist Youth and the Red Youth organized the demonstration. Over 100 young people blocked a booth inside the mall that sells cosmetic products, including Israel's Dead Sea products.

The protesters shouted slogans like "Boycott Israel" and "Free Palestine", they distributed leaflets and hung up banners inside the mall.

Some of the youths could not get into the center. They demonstrated outside the main entrance when the police blocked the entrances.

Police had to close the center to prevent trouble, and one person, according to SU-manager, has been arrested while he was sticking up stickers inside the center.

Eventually, protesters were removed by police and the center was reopened.

[Police described the action as an "illegal demonstration."]
The banners say "Occupation is not nice - Boycott Israel!" and "Shame on you!"

Notice that the protesters were not saying to boycott the "settlements" but to boycott Israel altogether.

(h/t Isak)

Inspiring American Muslim kids to kill their neighbors

From the WSJ:

The November special issue of Inspire, a slick new English-language Web magazine produced by Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula, aims to do more than report the news. It wants to make news, by inspiring young American Muslims to kill their neighbors.

In addition to offering a wealth of fresh details about the attempted bombing of two U.S. cargo planes last month, the third issue of Inspire (the first issue came out in June, the second in October) also provides hard evidence of what many analysts once said was impossible—the growth of homegrown Muslim terrorism in America from a secondary nuisance into a major threat.

To bring down America, "we do not need to strike big," the editors of Inspire boast. "Attacking the enemy with smaller but more frequent operations" will "bleed the enemy"—a strategy of death "by a thousand cuts." One article claims that the recent effort to bomb FedEx and UPS cargo planes, which the magazine calls "Operation Hemorrhage," cost only $4,200: two Nokia phones at $150 each, two H-P printers at $300 each, plus "shipping, transportation and other miscellaneous expenses."

The accompanying editorial package offers a canny blend of photos, feature stories, insider details, snappy news bits and verse-quoting theological justifications for terrorist attacks, all of it calculated to appeal to American Muslims who grew up on glossy magazines like Details and GQ. It is also notable for its collegiate sense of humor, which includes a mention of the fact that the plotters dropped a copy of Charles Dickens's "Great Expectations" into one of the bomb packages—a detail illustrated by a close-up of the novel's paperback edition. A photograph of Yemeni President Ali Saleh is accompanied by the caption "Yeah, keep scratching your head"; a credit at the bottom states "This ad is brought to you by A Cold Diss," a seeming attempt to appeal to the sensibilities of Muslim hipsters.

If Inspire feels so very American, that is because it is believed to be the work of two longtime American citizens—Samir Khan, a Saudi-born American who produced jihadist propaganda from his parents' basement in Queens, N.Y., before fleeing to Yemen in 2007, and Anwar Al-Awlaki, a supposedly "moderate" Islamist cleric who once ran a mosque in Virginia and was recently labeled "the most dangerous man in the world" at a public briefing by New York Police Department intelligence analysts. Targeted for death by a presidential order last May, Mr. Awlaki has reportedly inspired recent terrorist strikes against the U.S. and its allies, including Major Nidal Malik Hasan's rampage at Fort Bragg, in which the U.S. serviceman killed 13 fellow soldiers and wounded 32 others.

Available as a download from an array of websites, Inspire represents a shift among Western jihadists from following theological casuistry on YouTube videos and chat rooms to mobilizing individuals for violent jihad in their home countries. The magazine, whose title comes from a Koranic verse, "inspire the believers to fight," remixes old-school jihadist tropes for an English-speaking Western audience raised on videogames and consumer magazines. Feature stories, first-person narratives, and theological and strategic arguments are mixed with step-by-step instruction in the nuts and bolts of killing people with readily available objects. "If you are sincere in your intentions to serve the religion of Allah," one article advises, "what you have to do is enter your kitchen and make an explosive device." A recipe for making a simple but deadly bomb follows.

The most unnerving pages of the magazine for an American reader are those devoted to advice to the aspiring suburban jihadist, who is encouraged to attach large, sharp blades to the front of a pick-up truck "to mow down as many people as possible in a crowd" and to use other gruesome homemade devices to act upon fantasies of violent martyrdom.

"Road to Hope convoy" meets with Hamas

The "Road to Hope" convoy to Gaza, which suffered a setback when its ship was taken to Greece by its captain, made it to Egypt on Friday.

Practically no news media is covering the event outside of Iran and anti-Israel sites.

The reason is simple: the symbolic aid arrived through proper channels in El Arish and Egypt allowed it through - even including flotilla nutcase Ken O'Keefe. Israel didn't object.

Yesterday, the "humanitarian" group met with senior Hamas officials, including "prime minister" Ismail Haniyeh. Haniyeh confirmed what everyone knows - the aid is secondary, and the primary purpose of these groups is political:
We look at the convoy not only as a humanitarian but also political par excellence to support the Palestinian people, who have been suffering for more than 63 years, and demand fair administration of their state and its capital Jerusalem.
Which is funny, because the Road to Hope webpage says, disingenuously, "We... do not seek to spread any political message."

O'Keefe plans to stay in Gaza for forty days, where he will file reports on his Facebook page and blog.

Work accident!

An Islamic Jihad member was seriously injured in an explosion in densely-populated Rafah on Saturday.

His arms and legs were amputated in emergency surgery and he is in intensive care.

Too bad he couldn't become a full martyr, with all its benefits. Now he's just a loser.

Iran freaks over Star of David at airport (updated)

From YNet:
Images published Saturday by Iranian media outlets show a Star of David on the roof of the main national airline's building at the Tehran airport.

The satellite image was taken from the Google Earth service. According to the Iranian report, the Iran Air building was "built by Israeli engineers," who operated in the countries before the 1979 Islamic Revolution during the days of Shaa Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

"It's interesting that even 32 years after the victory of the revolution, this Zionist star symbol has yet to be removed from this building," a local news website wrote.

The calls to remove the Star of David, which the Iranian authorities view as a symbol associated with Israel, were accompanied by local media reports on the close relations with Israel in the past, which were completely severed after the revolution.
Here's a Farsi article about it.

I was able to find the image in Google Maps:

Check it yourself here.

UPDATE: Marc El in the comments points out an Iranian feature visible from satellites as well, at a university, that does not make the Iranians upset at all: