News Round Up (6 January 2007)

Treasury Steps Up Pressure on Syria
Thursday January 4, 2007 4:16 PM
AP Economics Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -The Bush administration, intensifying pressure on Damascus, moved Thursday to financially clamp down on three Syrian institutions suspected of helping spread weapons of mass destruction.

The Treasury Department's action means that any bank accounts or financial assets belonging to the three entities found in the United States would be frozen. Americans also are prohibited from doing business with them.

The three entities targeted are the Higher Institute of Applied Science and Technology, the Electronics Institute and the National Standards and Calibration Laboratory.

“Syria is using official government organizations to develop nonconventional weapons and the missiles to deliver them,'' Stuart Levey, Treasury's under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in explaining the United States' action.

The department has the power to take the financial-blocking action under an executive order issued by President Bush in June 2005.

U.S. sanctions arms suppliers to Iran, Syria 1/5/2007 The Bush administration imposed sanctions on Chinese, Russian and North Korean companies for selling weapons to Iran and Syria, The Washington Times reported, quoting U.S. officials.

Earlier this week, a top Russian defense ministry official said that Moscow’s contracts to sell anti-aircraft weapons to Syria and Iran are being fulfilled as scheduled.

The sanctions prohibit the companies from doing business with the U.S. government or acquiring American high-technology items.

Russia has consistently defended its weapons trade with Iran and Syria, saying that the arms sales are legitimate because they would be delivered in accordance with Moscow's international commitments in the nonproliferation sphere and under control by the appropriate bodies. 

Moscow slams US sanctions on its military firms

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Moscow said the latest U.S. sanctions against its arms firms were again "groundless" and added: "And yet once again, the United States is embarking on this vicious circle.

"As a result of its politicized actions, the American state also denies itself and U.S. firms the right to cooperate with our advanced companies," Russia's Foreign Ministry said. "In business language, this is called 'lost opportunities'."

Rosoboronexport, one of the world's biggest arms traders, has recently won control of the Russian firm VSMPO-Avisma, the world's largest titanium producer. It is a key supplier of titanium parts to U.S. aviation giant Boeing and Europe's EADS.

Iraq Slogger is an invaluable one-stop-shop for Iraq News. Nir Rosen is one of the principal journalists and founders of the site. It is excellent. Add the Iraq Slogger to your Juan Cole reading on Iraq. This week Nir Rosen interviews none other than Imad Mustapha, Syria's ambassador in Washington. Read it here.

Two Polls On Syria, Two Opinions
07:55 Jan 03, '07 / 13 Tevet 5767

( A Ma'agar Mochot poll reveals that 58 percent of the respondents support peace talks with Syria. The survey comes less than two weeks after a Dahaf polls showed that 67 percent of Israelis are against negotiations.

The Ma'agar Mochot poll, published by Voice of Israel government radio, was taken after United States Senator Arlen Specter visited Syria and then Israel, where he reported that Syrian President Bashar Assad is "very interested in peace negotiations."

Ori Nir Ori Nir, former Washington correspondent for Israel's Ha'aretz Daily, is the spokesman for Americans for Peace Now. Jan. 3, 2007 in San Fran Chronicle

Why is Olmert rejecting the Syrian overtures? Because of another tenet of Israeli foreign policy: Never act in a way that contradicts the policies of America, Israel's chief ally. President Bush is trying to isolate Syria, punish it and possibly topple Assad's regime because he considers Damascus a part of the "axis of evil." According to several press reports, the White House even communicated to Jerusalem its disappointment that Israel did not attack Syria during its war against Lebanon's Hezbollah last summer.

Everyone in Israel, a state with many military secrets but very few political ones, knew for months that Olmert was dismissing Assad's overtures mainly because Bush expects Israel not to break ranks and engage with Syria. Israeli politicians, according to numerous press reports, confirmed the American pressure in private but declined to do so publicly.

Until last month. At the weekly Israeli cabinet meeting (held behind closed doors but — in a typical Israeli fashion — leaked verbatim to the media), Olmert reportedly said: "Bush has a clear position on this issue. One should ask whether, when the president of the United States, Israel's most important ally, is struggling on every front — including the internal front — against those who are trying to thwart his policy, it is appropriate for Israel to say the opposite." Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres reportedly said: "The worse thing we could do is contradict the United States, which opposes negotiating with Syria." And following the meeting, Interior Minister Ronni Baron told a television reporter: "When the question on the agenda is the political legacy of Israel's greatest friend, President Bush, do we really need now to enter into negotiations with Syria?"

Scott Ritter, a former United Nations weapons inspector and leading Iraq War opponent, has written a new book alleging that Jerusalem is pushing the Bush administration into war with Iran, and accusing the pro-Israel lobby of dual loyalty and “outright espionage.”

In the new book, called “Target Iran,” Scott Ritter, who served as a senior U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998 and later became one of the war’s staunchest critics, argues that the United States is readying for military action against Iran, using its nuclear program as a pretext for pursuing regime change in Tehran.

“The Bush administration, with the able help of the Israeli government and the pro-Israel Lobby, has succeeded,” Ritter writes, “in exploiting the ignorance of the American people about nuclear technology and nuclear weapons so as to engender enough fear that the American public has more or less been pre-programmed to accept the notion of the need to militarily confront a nuclear armed Iran.”

Later in the book, Ritter adds: “Let there be no doubt: If there is an American war with Iran, it is a war that was made in Israel and nowhere else.”

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak accused the US in an interview published yesterday of obstructing peace between Israel and Syria.

"I believe America is preventing (Israeli Prime Minister Ehud) Olmert from achieving peace with Syria," Mubarak told the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth during Olmert’s visit to the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Thursday.

Mr. Bush is expected to call for more troops in a speech as soon as Wednesday, as part of a renewed effort to secure Baghdad. But Nancy Pelosi, the new speaker of the House, and Harry Reid, the new Senate majority leader, dismissed that approach as a strategy “that has already failed.”

Here is the pre-announcement of the surge by Bush's favorite planners. The neocons are not dead.

Iraq: A Turning Point


With Reports from Iraq from Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman



Friday, January 5, 2007  11:00 AM


Friday, January 5, 2007  1:30 PM


Wohlstetter Conference Center, Twelfth Floor, AEI
1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036
Directions to AEI


Registration for this event is now closed. Walk-in registration will not be available. For media inquiries, please contact Andrew Ryan at 202.862.4870.

U.S. senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) and U.S. senator Joseph Lieberman (I-D-Conn.) recently returned from a fact-finding mission to Iraq. Both held extensive discussions with U.S. forces and Iraqi government officials. In light of a possible change in course for U.S. strategy in Iraq, their views will be critical in the upcoming Congressional debate.

At this important time, AEI resident scholar Frederick W. Kagan and former acting Army chief of staff General Jack Keane will release the updated and final version of phase one of “Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq.” The study calls for a large and sustained surge of U.S. forces to secure and protect critical areas of Baghdad. Mr. Kagan directed the report in consultation with military and regional experts, including General Keane, former Afghanistan coalition commander Lieutenant General David Barno, and other officers involved with the successful operations of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment in Tal Afar. An interim version of the report was released on December 14, 2006.

French leader Jacques Chirac also spoke out strongly against Bush's strategy, claiming that America's "adventure" in Iraq had radicalized the region, created a new breeding ground of terrorism, exacerbated sectarian strife, and undermined the West's position in the region.

"As France had foreseen and feared, the war in Iraq has sparked upheavals that have yet to show their full effects," Chirac said in his New Year's address at Elysee Palace to the foreign diplomatic corps.

"This adventure has worsened the divisions among communities and threatened the very integrity of Iraq," he said. "It has undermined the stability of the entire region, where every country now fears for its security and its independence. It has offered terrorism a new field for expansion."

As President Bush prepares to unveil a new military strategy in Iraq, Chirac added that "the priority, more than ever, is to restore full sovereignty to the Iraqi people."

Israeli Experts Say Middle East Was Safer With Saddam in Iraq

By Orly Halpern
The Forward, Page A1, Dec. 4, 2007

Although few tears were shed in Israel over Saddam Hussein's death last week, a small but growing chorus – including government officials, academics and Iraqi émigrés – is warning that Israel could find itself in more danger with him gone, and that it might even regret having welcomed his toppling. Saddam was feared and reviled in Israel, both as a tyrant and as an enemy of the Jewish state. He demonstratively supported Palestinian terrorists, and few have forgiven his bombarding of Israel with Scud missiles during the 1991 Gulf War. Some Israeli officials, however, including Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh, believe that Saddam's death could lead to "a reinforcement of Iranian influence in Iraq," thereby putting Israel in a far more serious and dangerous position than when Saddam was in power.

 Read more…

Al-Akhbar reported a visit by two Hezbollah representatives to Saudi Arabia. Number two of the Party of God, Naim Kassem, and the ex-minister Mohammed Fneich are said to have met King Abdullah. This unprecedented meeting is said to have taken place on 26 December and was not reported by official Saudi sources. However the meeting between a group supported by Shiite Iran and a historic ally – perhaps the main one in the Arab world – of Sunni Lebanese, did not yield concrete results, at least in the here and now, other than “affirmations of availability”. Here is the Arabic version from al-Jazeera

Russia is frustrating US efforts to put the Haririr tribunal on a fast track. Al-Hayat reports that the Russians have dismissed proposals to bring the issue before the Security Council in the coming days.

استبعد رئيس مجلس الأمن للشهر الجاري سفير روسيا لدى الأمم المتحدة فيتالي تشوركين إحالة موضوع المحكمة ذات الطابع الدولي لمحاكمة الضالعين باغتيال رئيس الوزراء اللبناني السابق رفيق الحريري على مجلس الأمن وإصدار قرار جديد حولها.

وأكد تشوركين رداً على سؤال لـ «الحياة» ان «ليس هناك أي اقتراحات حول إعادة دراسة المجلس لموضوع المحكمة الخاصة» حول لبنان.

واعتبر ان المحكمة يجب «أن تلعب الدور الذي من المفترض ان تلعبه، أي ليس فقط ان تؤدي الى العدالة بل ايضاً تكون اساساً لتهدئة سياسية أكبر. فيجب ان تتمتع بدعم سياسي واسع».

وأعرب عن أمله في ان «يتابع الحوار للتوصل الى ارضية مشتركة بين القوى السياسية كافة».

كشف مصدر سياسي لبناني أن العاهل السعودي الملك عبد الله أجرى مباحثات مع قيادي في حزب الله الأسبوع الماضي في أول اتصال من نوعه للرياض مع حزب الله.
وأضاف المصدر السياسي الرفيع أن نعيم قاسم نائب الأمين العام لحزب الله ومحمد فنيش المسؤول الرفيع في الحزب، توجها إلى جدة على متن طائرة سعودية خاصة في 26 ديسمبر/كانون الأول الماضي للاجتماع مع العاهل السعودي ووزير خارجيته الأمير سعود الفيصل.وكانت الزيارة التي استمرت ثلاثة أيام تهدف إلى تخفيف التوتر بين السعودية وحزب الله الذي يقود حملة المعارضة للإطاحة بالحكومة التي يرأسها فؤاد السنيورة وتحظى بدعم الرياض.وقال المصدر إن "الاجتماع تمخض عن مؤشرات للنوايا الحسنة من الجانبين من أجل تحسين العلاقات ولكن لم تكن هناك نتائج ملموسة"، مشيرا إلى أن الجانبين بحثا خلافاتهما وتصاعد التوتر السني الشيعي في لبنان.

Syrian has many important archaeological sites

Archaeologist finds traces of ‘humanity's first war’ in Syria

German archaeologist finds oldest ‘example of offensive war’ in form of clay balls used as ammunition.

BERLIN – A German archaeologist says he has found relics of "humanity's first war" in the northeast of Syria in the form of clay balls used as ammunition almost 6,000 years ago, Die Zeit weekly said in its edition due for publication on Thursday.

"We have there the oldest example of an offensive war," said Clemens Reichel, who is leading an archaeological dig in the ancient city of Hamoukar, on the border with Iraq, for the University of Chicago.

Reichel said that the city, whose fortifications were three metres (10 feet) thick, was besieged and reduced to ashes probably by attackers from southern Mesopotamia.

"It was not a little skirmish which took place here," said Reichel, who has been leading the dig since 2003. He spoke of a real "combat zone", to which the some 2,300 balls of clay discovered at the main part of the site bear witness.

Druze and Jumblat

In the comment section of the pervious post Idaf wrote:

It seems to me that Jumblat is loosing it! After blatantly calling for the assassination of Asad (and actually proudly saying that “we will do it”!) and after accusing Hizbullah of carrying out previous assassinations in Lebanon, he is now calling Hizballah followers “Magian”!

For those not familiar with the term you would find historical info here. In Arabic and Islamic context, this is a very serious insult as Magus used to worship fire in Persia and fought with Muslims in early Islamic history. Basically, Jumblat is accusing Hizbullah followers of “Kufr” (being non-Muslims). This is even more extreme than the fanatical Wahabi classification of Shiites (Khawarij, Rawafidh, Safawiin.. etc.). It is remarkable how a leader of a small minority sect in Lebanon is accusing the majority of Lebanese people of being “Kaafirs”. Osama Bin Laden would really be proud of Jumblat.

I added:

Jumblat’s reference to the Shiites as Magian is not only an accusation that they are kufr, but just as importantly, an accusation that they are Persian. It suggests that they have deep and nefarious cultish reasons to take orders from Iran and are merely an extension of that distant power.

Junblat knows all about the damage such accusations can make. The Druze have frequently been accused of being crypto-Persians and part of the “Shu`ubi” conspiracy within Islam to corrupt the religion in order to get revenge for the Arab conquest of the Persian empire. What is more, Druze beliefs in the transmigration of souls and the like have often been interpreted as “Eastern” roots of their religion. The same has been said of the Alawites.

For Jumblat, who lives in a glass house, to throw such stones at the Shiites is a bit rich.

Alex came up with the kicker. Read this article he posted about the Druze-Hari krishna connection: "Druze Sheikhs at Home in India." So the war is not one between Saudi Arabia and Iran, but between Iran and India! You have to love Lebanon. And I thought it was home to only 22 world religions. It is now 23.

The irony in all this is that fundamentalist Sunnis accuse the Druze of being Magians. Here is a choice paragraph from one fundamentalist site

With regard to the Druze, the followers of Hashtakeen al-Durzi, who was one of the freed slaves of al-Haakim whom he sent to the people of Wadi Taym-Allaah ibn Tha’labah and he called them to believe in the divinity of al-Haakim and they call him “the creator, the all-knowing”, and swear by him, they are among the Ismailis who believe that Muhammad ibn Isma’eel abrogated the law of Muhammad ibn ‘Abd-Allaah. They are worse kaafirs than many other extremist groups. They believe that this universe has no creator and they deny the resurrection and the duties and prohibitions of Islam. They are among the esoteric Qarmatians (al-Qaraamitah) who are worse kaafirs than the Jews, Christians and mushrik Arabs. Basically they follow the philosophy of Aristotle and his ilk, or the Magians. Their ideas are a mixture of Magian philosophy but they make an outward, hypocritical display of being Shi’ah. And Allaah knows best. 

Comments (29)

t_desco said:

Transcript of the AEI event:

Sens. McCain and Liberman (sic) Deliver Remarks on Iraq

Sen. Lieberman:

“The fact is that we are engaged in a war against an axis of Islamists, extremists and terrorists. It is an axis of evil. It has headquarters in Tehran and Waziristan. But because of the unconventional nature of this war, it also has headquarters in cities throughout Europe and Asia and Africa and the United States of America, in cells that operate in the shadows but are prepared to strike us again as they did on September 11th, 2001.

There are people who have spoken of this moment in our history as if it was the ’30s. And there’s some parallels, I fear, there. Some people say the war in Iraq is comparable to the Spanish Civil War; the war in Iraq to the larger war on Islamist terrorism, comparable to the Spanish Civil War to the Second World War; to the late ’30s and the failure to grasp the growing threat of fascism in Europe until it was almost too late.

The enemy we are fighting is an axis of evil. It is totalitarian. It is inhumane. It has a violent ideology and a goal of expansionism and totalitarianism.

It threatens our security, our values, our way of life as seriously, in my opinion, as fascism and communism did in the last century.

… And again, in the trip that we took to the Middle East, obviously we saw the presence of Al Qaida in Iraq and the terrorists in Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority areas, but the tentacles of Iran — still designated the most significant state sponsor of terrorism — are all over the region.

And they are inviting and in some senses beginning to shape new alliances that go across the previous lines of division which simplistically were seen as Arabs versus Israelis.”

According to Scott Ritter’s book, this group is working closely with the Israelis:

Iran exile says Tehran steps up efforts in Iraq

Iran has sharply increased its efforts to fan sectarian violence in Iraq in recent months, easily transferring money and arms across the Iraqi border, an opponent of the Tehran government said on Friday.

Alireza Jafarzadeh, who accurately disclosed key details about Iran’s nuclear program in 2002, gave names, locations and logistics he said were associated with Iranian operations in neighboring Iraq, which includes providing roadside bombs that have killed U.S. forces.

Jafarzadeh spoke at a news conference organized by the Iran Policy Committee, a U.S. group pushing to change in Iran’s Islamic fundamentalist government system.

January 6th, 2007, 10:06 pm


t_desco said:

The psywar has definitely started:

Israel has plans for nuclear strike on Iran: paper

Israel has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons, Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper said.

Citing what it said were several Israeli military sources, the paper said two Israeli air force squadrons had been training to blow up an enrichment plant in Natanz using low-yield nuclear “bunker busters.”

Two other sites, a heavy water plant at Arak and a uranium conversion plant at Isfahan, would be targeted with conventional bombs, the Sunday Times said.

The newspaper said the Israeli plan envisaged conventional laser-guided bombs opening “tunnels” into the targets. Nuclear warheads would then be used fired into the plant at Natanz, exploding deep underground to reduce radioactive fallout.

Israeli pilots have flown to Gibraltar in recent weeks to train for the 2,000 mile round-trip to the Iranian targets, the Sunday Times said, and three possible routes to Iran have been mapped out including one over Turkey.

However it also quoted sources as saying a nuclear strike would only be used if a conventional attack was ruled out and if the United States declined to intervene. Disclosure of the plans could be intended to put pressure on Tehran to halt enrichment, the paper added.

January 6th, 2007, 11:36 pm


t_desco said:

Revealed: Israel plans nuclear strike on Iran

ISRAEL has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons.
Two Israeli air force squadrons are training to blow up an Iranian facility using low-yield nuclear “bunker-busters”, according to several Israeli military sources.

The attack would be the first with nuclear weapons since 1945, when the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Israeli weapons would each have a force equivalent to one-fifteenth of the Hiroshima bomb.

Under the plans, conventional laser-guided bombs would open “tunnels” into the targets. “Mini-nukes” would then immediately be fired into a plant at Natanz, exploding deep underground to reduce the risk of radioactive fallout.

“As soon as the green light is given, it will be one mission, one strike and the Iranian nuclear project will be demolished,” said one of the sources.

The plans, disclosed to The Sunday Times last week, have been prompted in part by the Israeli intelligence service Mossad’s assessment that Iran is on the verge of producing enough enriched uranium to make nuclear weapons within two years.

Israeli military commanders believe conventional strikes may no longer be enough to annihilate increasingly well-defended enrichment facilities. Several have been built beneath at least 70ft of concrete and rock. However, the nuclear-tipped bunker-busters would be used only if a conventional attack was ruled out and if the United States declined to intervene, senior sources said.

Israeli and American officials have met several times to consider military action. Military analysts said the disclosure of the plans could be intended to put pressure on Tehran to halt enrichment, cajole America into action or soften up world opinion in advance of an Israeli attack.

Air force squadrons based at Hatzerim in the Negev desert and Tel Nof, south of Tel Aviv, have trained to use Israel’s tactical nuclear weapons on the mission. The preparations have been overseen by Major General Eliezer Shkedi, commander of the Israeli air force.

Sources close to the Pentagon said the United States was highly unlikely to give approval for tactical nuclear weapons to be used. One source said Israel would have to seek approval “after the event”, as it did when it crippled Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak with airstrikes in 1981.

Scientists have calculated that although contamination from the bunker-busters could be limited, tons of radioactive uranium compounds would be released.

The Israelis believe that Iran’s retaliation would be constrained by fear of a second strike if it were to launch its Shehab-3 ballistic missiles at Israel.

However, American experts warned of repercussions, including widespread protests that could destabilise parts of the Islamic world friendly to the West.

Colonel Sam Gardiner, a Pentagon adviser, said Iran could try to close the Strait of Hormuz, the route for 20% of the world’s oil.

Some sources in Washington said they doubted if Israel would have the nerve to attack Iran. However, Dr Ephraim Sneh, the deputy Israeli defence minister, said last month: “The time is approaching when Israel and the international community will have to decide whether to take military action against Iran.”
Sunday Times

January 7th, 2007, 12:10 am


Ford Prefect said:

Actually, it sounds more like a Halloween-sized marshmallow plan!

January 7th, 2007, 1:07 am


norman said:

At one time some people claimed that president Bush is the antichrist who will bring the world to an end ,seeing what is happening in the midleast and the potential attack on Iran and posibly Syria makes me think that they might be right,God help us.

January 7th, 2007, 5:03 am


norman said:

Husain Meant the american people not goverment ,the problem is that the American people are bainwashed with the same CD they have been hearing for almost sixty years ( Israel is a victom ,the jews are God’s chosen people and the Arabs are terrorists who want to change the American way of life ,it does not mater that every Arab wants to come to America because of the American way of life).

January 7th, 2007, 5:39 am


Dubai Jazz said:

Ehsani2 is making a combination of mistakes, First: he believes what ever the Americans are reporting as ‘Statements of Saddam’ under detention. Second: he judges Saddam by statements he made in the dungeons of his captors.
Let’s imagine for a sec that George is put under similar circumstances, what do you think he would say?

January 7th, 2007, 7:18 am


simohurtta said:

The NYT article Ehsani2 is referring tells:

In interviews with dozens of American and Iraqi officials involved in the hanging, a picture has emerged of a clash of cultures and political interests, reflecting the widening gulf between Americans here and the Iraqi exiles who rode to power behind American tanks.

One can only wonder how Bush’s new mini Marshall plan can be a success. Well, the more important real “free trade plan” seems to be taking steps forward:

The US government has been involved in drawing up the law, a draft of which has been seen by The Independent on Sunday. It would give big oil companies such as BP, Shell and Exxon 30-year contracts to extract Iraqi crude and allow the first large-scale operation of foreign oil interests in the country since the industry was nationalised in 1972.

Oil industry executives and analysts say the law, which would permit Western companies to pocket up to three-quarters of profits in the early years, is the only way to get Iraq’s oil industry back on its feet after years of sanctions, war and loss of expertise. But it will operate through “production-sharing agreements” (or PSAs) which are highly unusual in the Middle East, where the oil industry in Saudi Arabia and Iran, the world’s two largest producers, is state controlled.

Opponents say Iraq, where oil accounts for 95 per cent of the economy, is being forced to surrender an unacceptable degree of sovereignty.
Link to Independent’s article

Iraqis will certainly not be happy with this purposed deal. It makes sense for western companies, but hardly for Iraq and Iraqis. Maybe Ehsani2 can enlighten us why a such stupid agreement is economically “good” for Iraq (or Middle East in general).

Ehsani2 two has several times brought up an enlightened “generalissimos” type Kemal Atatürk would be a solution for Syria. Well in a little different circumstances Saddam Hussein would have seen to be such a figure for Iraq. He modernized the society, fought wars, ended hard handed rebellions, just like Atatürk.

January 7th, 2007, 11:42 am


t_desco said:

More detailed article:

Focus: Mission Iran
Sunday Times

“On a plasma screen, Shkedi will be able to see dozens of planes advance towards Iran, as well as the electronic warfare aircraft jamming the Iranian and Syrian air defences and the rescue choppers hovering near the border, ready to move in and pluck out the pilots should the mission go wrong.

Michael Rubin, an expert on Iran at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, believes it could be a dangerous ruse. “You never want to threaten something you don’t follow through on,” he said.

Rubin believes the Israeli debate about using tactical nuclear weapons is “much more likely to be about pressing the United States to do the job”.

Retired Colonel Sam Gardiner, a former National War College professor who has wargamed airstrikes on Iran, believes an American attack remains a possibility. The current deployment of a second US aircraft carrier strike force to the Gulf region, as well as British minesweepers, is a “huge deal”, he said. “It is only necessary to do that if you are planning to strike Iran and deal with the consequences” — including an attempt to shut the Strait of Hormuz, the sea route for much of the world’s oil from the Gulf states.”

Wesley Clark: Bush’s ‘surge’ will backfire
The rise in troop numbers could reduce the urgency for political effort
The Independent

“The truth is that, however brutal the fighting in Iraq for our troops, the underlying problems are political. … And the real danger of the troop surge is that it undercuts the urgency for the political effort. A new US ambassador might help, but, more fundamentally, the US and its allies need to proceed from a different approach within the region. The neocons’ vision has failed.

Well before the 2003 invasion, the administration was sending signals that its intentions weren’t limited to Iraq; Syria and Iran were mentioned as the next targets. Small wonder then that Syria and Iran have worked continuously to meddle in Iraq. They had reason to believe that if US action succeeded against Iraq, they would soon be targets themselves. Dealing with meddling neighbours is an essential element of resolving the conflict in Iraq. But this requires more than border posts, patrols and threatening statements. Iran has thus far come out the big winner in all of this, dispensing with long-time enemy Saddam, gaining increased influence in Iraq, pursuing nuclear capabilities and striving to enlarge further its reach. The administration needs a new strategy for the region now, urgently, before Iran can gain nuclear capabilities.

America should take the lead with direct diplomacy to resolve the interrelated problems of Iran’s push for regional hegemony, Lebanon and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Isolating adversaries hasn’t worked. The region must gain a new vision, and that must be led diplomatically by the most powerful force in the region, the United States.

Without such fundamental change in Washington’s approach, there is little hope that the troops surge, Iraqi promises and accompanying rhetoric will amount to anything other than “stay the course more”. That wastes lives and time, perpetuates the appeal of the terrorists, and simply brings us closer to the showdown with Iran. And that will be a tragedy for not just Iraq but our friends in the region as well.”

(my emphasis)

January 7th, 2007, 1:29 pm


Ehsani2 said:

Back in 2004, Rodger W. Claire published a book entitled “Raid on the sun”.

To my knowledge, it is the only book that described in detail how the Israeli Air Force planned and executed the raid on Saddam’s nuclear facility at Osirak. The author had the full and exclusive cooperation of the high command of the air force and all of the eight pilots who were involved in the raid.

It is a truly remarkable book for those interested.

January 7th, 2007, 6:29 pm


t_desco said:

Shlomo Nakdimon’s Tammuz in Flames/First Strike is older but also very detailed.

According to Al-Manar, Yedioth Ahronoth reported that Olmert gave Bush the book as a present during his visit to Washington on November 13, but I don’t know if that is true.

January 7th, 2007, 7:45 pm


Ehsani2 said:

This anecdote about Cheney though seems factual:

Raid on the Sun ends on a note that has special relevance for the current situation in Iraq. On the last page of the book Claire tells the reader about a short note the Israeli ambassador to the United States received soon after the First Gulf War in 1991. It was attached to a blowup of a satellite photograph of the Osirak reactor complex taken a few days after the Israeli raid. The note underneath the photo of the shattered reactor read, “With thanks and appreciation, you made our job easier in Desert Storm.” The note was signed by Dick Cheney.

January 7th, 2007, 7:53 pm


Gibran said:

Sharaa’s Prophecy
Barry Rubin
September 26, 2006

To understand what is going on now in the Middle East, and in Western perceptions of the region, it is a revelation to recall the brilliant prophecy made by Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Sharaa in January 2000.
Sharaa was discussing Syrian strategy in negotiations with Israel that were about to reach their culmination. A few weeks later, President Bill Clinton met Syrian President Hafiz al-Assad in Switzerland. Clinton offered Assad the return of all the Golan Heights in exchange for peace with Israel. Assad turned him down. A few months after that, Assad died and Bashar al-Assad replaced his father and has followed a radical course (though often being falsely credited with the opposite) ever since.
Syria and the PLO did not reverse their historic policy of seeking Israel’s destruction. What they did do, however, is to reverse their rhetoric about that goal. In 1967, Arab states openly declared their refusal to negotiate with Israel, make peace with Israel, or accept its existence. In 1974, the PLO adopted a two-stage strategy: first, get a Palestinian state, and then use it as a base for achieving total victory.
Up to the 1993 Oslo agreement, however, the PLO only paid lip service (though, in dealing with much of the West, even the most minimal fig leaf suffices) to this plan. Arafat moved it into an operational mode, however, but it would be left to Sharaa to articulate it publicly with the greatest clarity.
In his January 2000 speech to the Syrian Writers’ Union, Sharaa opened on a pessimistic note. After their defeat in the 1967 war, the Arabs seemed to be “really cornered and faced with one of two choices. Either we have to accept a peace that is akin to capitulation and surrender, which can never be the peace we want, or we have to reject peace without a solid ground on which to base this rejection.”
“Surrender” meant any compromised peace agreement that secured Israel’s existence even if it paid for that privilege by giving up the territory captured in 1967 and accepting an independent Palestinian state. Rejecting peace without a solid basis meant just sounding extremist by preaching perpetual war on Israel.
For decades, Arab states had publicly insisted they would never make peace with Israel. After Egypt did so in the late 1970s, every regime tried to prove it was not a traitor like Sadat. Then Arafat made a deal in 1994, and Jordan signed a peace treaty thereafter. The old position was not just untenable, it was recognized as a public relations’ disaster.
Here is how Sharaa put it prophetically in 2000, a few days before Syria rejected getting its land back through the peace process:
“If we do not get our land through the peace process, we will win the world and Arab public. For Israel has continued to claim that it is always with peace and that the Arabs are against it. True, the media are directed against us and are in favor of the enemy to a large extent, but it is possible to penetrate these mighty, hostile media…. Our strong, solid, and persistent position and the reaffirmation of our constants in a convincing way are bound to have an effect.”
In other words, as long as the Arab side explicitly rejects peace, Israel will have the diplomatic and media advantage. What must be done is to say the Arabs were ready for peace, to repeat demands and so, “in a convincing way,” persuade the international community that Israel was at fault for the conflict since it rejected these demands.
When Israel did offer almost everything the Arabs sought, new, other issues were found to explain why the Arabs said “no.” Such issues include the Palestinian demand that all refugees should return to Israel (where they can sabotage it from within.) Then, there are always tiny, forgotten pieces of territory, as with the Hizballah’s claim that Israel is occupying a small piece of Lebanon (the Shabaa farm), which everyone else (including Syria) regards as Syrian territory; or the Syrian demand for Israeli land illegally occupied by Syria in 1948, which would give Damascus a claim on Israel’s main water source.
There is always the pretext of prisoners being held by Israel (those who committed the last round of terrorist attacks) or quibbling over language. Has Hamas recognized Israel’s right to exist? Well it has, maybe, perhaps, sort of implicitly, hinted, if you read between the lines and ignore what Hamas leaders say in Arabic to the contrary.
“A strong argument is important in the media,” said Sharaa back in 2000. “We only want our land and rights. They are the ones who are exposed now because they want to keep the land….”
And so, six years after Israel offered to give up all the land it captured in 1967, it is possible to persuade the world that… Israel has not offered to do so. Immediately after Israel withdrew from all the Gaza Strip and proposed large withdrawals from the West Bank, much of the Western media, and even governments, were convinced that the problem was that Israel is still an occupier.
No wonder Sharaa concluded, “So, in either case, we will not lose.”
With Arab regimes insisting they did want peace–but avoiding any irreversible step in that direction–the world’s diplomats beat a path to their door. Even after Arafat and Syria rejected peace in 2000, an Arab leader merely had to say he wanted peace–with whatever subtle qualifications or differences between English-language flexibility for Western ears coupled with Arabic intransigence for the folks at home–and the onus was put on Israel for the failure to make a breakthrough.
It was the diplomatic equivalent of shampoo bottle instructions to repeat application even though rinsing one time was enough. This immediately doubled consumption of the product: a tiny linguistic amendment that made all the difference in the world.

January 7th, 2007, 7:59 pm


Ford Prefect said:

I dont necessarily like Sharaa nor any of his cohorts, but, I hate to admit it, his statement,“So, in either case, we will not lose” is, ironically, true! Eventually, by using just the simplest forms of Algebra, the Arabs will not loose. It will take the West a while to grasp that reality.

January 7th, 2007, 8:46 pm


Alex said:


I think there is a mistake here:

( A Ma’agar Mochot poll reveals that 58 percent of the respondents support peace talks with Syria. The survey comes less than two weeks after a Dahaf polls showed that 67 percent of Israelis are against negotiations.”

In fact, the older poll also showed support for talks with Syria … 67% supported talks with Syria … but 66% did not want to return the Golan to Syria as a result of a peace agreement.

Here is the true story of the poll from 2 weeks ago:

A poll published by the best-selling Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper over the weekend found that while 67 percent of Israelis think the Olmert government should respond to Syria’s peace overtures, an almost equal number — 66 percent — would be opposed to giving up the Golan under a future peace accord.

We need our Israeli friends to help us by conducting a meaningful poll that asks the Israelis who do not support the return of the Golan to Syria about the reasons they do not want to.

January 7th, 2007, 8:49 pm


norman said:

Alex ,It is wine and water and a ski resort.

January 7th, 2007, 9:43 pm


norman said:

This is seems interesting about who killed Hareri,
07 January 2007
Those who disregarded King Abdullah’s wise advice to Syrian President Bashar Assad in June should not be surprised to hear alarm bells are ringing in Israel.

Assad and his top aides have repeatedly stated, in recent public comments, that Syria was ready to enter unconditional negotiations with Israel with a view to settling their dispute over the Golan Heights and close the chapter of conflict between them.

The Israeli political establishment is worried. Israeli leaders do not want to reopen negotiation with Syria that was halted and abandoned in the late 1990s on the flimsy pretext that Damascus failed to condemn a militant attack against Israelis. The Israelis have no intention of ever giving up the occupied Golan Heights, the source of about 70 per cent of water for the Jewish state.

Therefore, stonewalling all Syrian attempts to relaunch negotiations is a feature of Israeli policy. The given justifications for rejecting talks are absurd, when seen from an international perspective of negotiations.

Israel wants Assad to expel Palestinian groups based in Syria, cut off Syrian support for Lebanon’s Hizbollah and sever relations with Iran as preconditions for negotiations.

There is no doubt that Assad wants to get rid of the Lebanon-linked pressure applied on him and reinstate his country as a blemishless member of the international community. He is anticipating more chaos in the Middle East as a result of the failures of Israeli-dictated US foreign policy in the region, and is apprehensive that Syria will be one of the scapegoats.

However, it makes little sense for him to meet the Israeli preconditions, let alone for Israel to make those demands, since the Jewish state is not ready to even acknowledge that the objective of the negotiations would be the return of the Golan Heights to Syria.

Logic and reason dictate that the Israeli and Syrian demands should be discussed and negotiated as part of a broad peace agreement between the two.

Israel wants to bury the fact that Hafez Assad, the present president’s father and predecessor as president, who was one of the toughest hardliners in the Arab world, had launched peace talks with Israel and reached a point where an agreement was seen in the horizon. Assad is now following up on those lines, but Israel is creating preconditions that it knows he would not be able to meet.

Taking its cue from Israel, the Bush administration is refusing to accept Syrian overtures for political dialogue even though the path of dialogue is recommended by the Iraqi Study Group.

Despite the refusal, Assad has volunteered to help the US contain the Iraq crisis. He told visiting Republican Senator Arlen Specter in late December that he was willing to host a conference where all the factions of Iraq could seek a consensus on the country’s future.

However, that is not the US wants. It demands that Syria assume responsibility for preventing alleged cross-border infiltration of “foreign” fighters into Iraq and nothing beyond that in the Iraq context. This stand contrasts the reality that Damascus could not be expected to make things easier for the US in Iraq in return for nothing. Syria could and would play a key role in checking the worsening Iraq crisis, but it needs to be reassured that it will be rewarded with meaningful negotiations with Israel over the Golan Heights.

The signal that Syria is receiving, however, is that it will be the next target of “regime change” if the US succeeds in pacifying and controlling Iraq. How could Assad be expected to contribute to his own demise?

It has been revealed that the Bush administration is supporting Syrian dissidents against the Assad regime and is planning to influence the outcome of the next elections in Syria by funding Assad’s rivals.

To that should be added emerging indications that senior Syrian figures were trapped as key suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri on the basis of doctored evidence. (According to a senior officer of the French intelligence agency DGSE — Direction Generale de la Securite Exterieure — Hariri was killed in a car bombing arranged by Israel’s Mossad in cooperation with other regional sides. The DGSE officer says that French investigations found evidence that Mossad and others had played a key role in the assassination. The reason: Israel and the US wanted to blame Syria for the assassination of the popular Lebanese leader in order to force the popular Lebanese revolt that saw the withdrawal of Syrian forces).

Definitely Washington’s plans pre-empt any Syrian effort to convince the US to open a political dialogue encompassing the whole gamut of issues of concern to both sides, including Assad’s quest to regain the Golan Heights through a peace deal with Israel.

Yet again, the Bush administration is on an illusionary path. Any hope for peace in the Middle East rests with addressing the fundamental roots of the conflict, including the Israeli-Palestinian, Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Lebanese fronts. A collective approach may or may not be possible, but Washington should be ready to make important decisions and firm up a mindset that should seek to ensure fairness and justice for all. No piecemeal approach will work.

The only solution for Assad is to dissociate Syria from sinister designs of Shiite domination of the region, play a moderating role vis-à-vis Hamas and other militant Palestinian leaders in Damascus and forget the aspiration of hegemony on Lebanon and Jordan under the guise of irredentist Greater Arab Syria.

By Musa Keilani

© Jordan Times 2007

Article originally published by Jordan Times 07-Jan-07

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January 7th, 2007, 9:48 pm


Alex said:


Lack of maturity is one of the reasons some Israelis still believe they can actually have their cake and eat it too (Keep the Golan and have peace with Syria)

But I believe we also have two other blocks

1) the insecure and the highly suspicious: to those Syria can and should open up and communicate in a transparent way that leaves no doubt about the peaceful intentions of Syria if the Golan is returned.

2) the confrontationalists:

Those who are high on the successes of the Israeli army … Israel is a state that is structured mostly around its army, probably more than any other state in the world.

When Israel signs a peace treaty with Syria they will in effect say goodbye to the euphoria that they used to enjoy through their superior army’s “successes” … all those F16’s that used to go unopposed over Beirut or over the Syrian president’s palace, will become like Saudi Arabia’s F16s … totally useless.. all those skilled Pilots will practice for ever without having the chance to ever teach a nasty Arab army a lesson they will never forget … can you imagine how boring that sounds for the proud and confrontationalists in Israel?

Besides, signing peace with Syria and returning the Golan feels like ending a long soccer match (one that lasted 40 years) in a draw, not on a decisive win … they believe Israel deserves to “win” .. the proper closure for the conflict with Syria according to them should see Israelis celebrating, not Syrians … if you return the Golan to Syria, it will be Syrians celebrating with tons of Syrian flags and pictures of Bashar their hero … while in Israel the process will be painful … handing over Israel’s strategic Golan heights to its fiercest enemy… sounds like a funeral.

Since the Americans and their friends have been trying to create the impression that Syria is a very weak country, and that the Syrian regime is on its way out soon … there is no fear in Israel that is strong enough to make them cough up the Golan … not to that weak country that was beaten by the Israeli IDF many times.

January 7th, 2007, 11:18 pm


norman said:

Alex ,I am not as good as you are in writing but i think the Israelies who do not want to return the Golan Hights because they fear Syria’s intention are using that just as an excuse to keep the Golan and justfy that to the world as Syria hounord the c- fire with Israel for many years ,about the confrontationers ,we can see that they left Lebanon under presure without a peace treaty ,If they have vision they will know that having an Isareli flag in their embassy in Damascus is the ultimate win that they can achaive for their children as with war they will never occupy all Syria ,that could be an opening to a peace treaty between Israel on one side and Syria Palestine ,Lebanon and even Iran , The problem as i see it is that Syria does not show a will to fight and spell blood for the Golan ,Israel will not return the Golan as long as it is not costing them anything in blood or money to keep.

January 8th, 2007, 12:37 am


Ford Prefect said:

Yes, correct Alex. The optimist in me sees a third Israeli group however, somehow paralleling in its thinking to the new emerging your Arab intellectuals in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. I have been reading Ha’aretz and the Jerusalem Post for many years. While changes are negligible in the JP, I see positive opinion changes emerging in Ha’aretz. I am not saying Israelis have turned into doves all of the sudden, but the shift and the subtle changes in public opinion – especially after Kadima’s disastrous and reckless war in Lebanon last summer, are worth underscoring. After all, the young Israeli generation is fed up, as much as young Syrians and young Lebanese with misguided leaders who see war as the only answer. A Jewish colleague once told me that if Israelis today, after almost 60 years of fighting and “winning wars,” are not an ounce safer than they used to be in 1948, then something is not working right. I am hoping that eventually Western leaders will find out that if the Crusaders, the French, the British, the Americans, and (West) Israelis have never felt at ease in that part of the world since Pope Urban II preached the first Crusade in1095, maybe it is time to quit hostility and either have peace or go home. The smarter ones have gone home already.

January 8th, 2007, 12:39 am


Akbar Palace said:

Norman wrote:

“Husain Meant the american people not goverment ,the problem is that the American people are bainwashed with the same CD they have been hearing for almost sixty years ( Israel is a victom ,the jews are God’s chosen people and the Arabs are terrorists who want to change the American way of life ,it does not mater that every Arab wants to come to America because of the American way of life).”

9-11 was committed by 20 Islamofascist Arabs.

Am I brainwashed for stating this fact?

And you want us to believe “every Arab wants to come to American because of the American way of life”?

The facts do not support your conclusion. Not in the US, and not in Great Britain, France, and many other European nations.

January 8th, 2007, 2:14 am


Akbar Palace said:

Alex stated:

“We need our Israeli friends to help us by conducting a meaningful poll that asks the Israelis who do not support the return of the Golan to Syria about the reasons they do not want to.”

We need our Syrian friends to help us by conducting a meaningful poll that asks the Syrians who support the return of the Golan to Syria about the reasons why they want it.

Funny how things look when the tables is turned.

“Lack of maturity is one of the reasons some Israelis still believe they can actually have their cake and eat it too (Keep the Golan and have peace with Syria)”

Alex –

Sorry the Israelis aren’t as mature as you are.

No Israeli I know believes Israel can have peace with Syria whether or not they return the Golan.

If that still doesn’t make sense to you, just take a look at Gaza. I hope that helps.

Ford Prefect said:

“A Jewish colleague once told me that if Israelis today, after almost 60 years of fighting and “winning wars,” are not an ounce safer than they used to be in 1948, then something is not working right.”

Dear Ford Prefect,

Have you asked any of your Arab collegues whether or not they felt safer than they used to be in 1948? Why or why not?

January 8th, 2007, 2:21 am


norman said:

Akbar ,These Islamofascist as you call them attacked the US not because of the American way of life but for a hundred year of backstabing Arabs from the first world war and the Belfore decleration to dening the Arabs their united land and deviding the area into states with different systems so they can not unite then they help Israel year after year by money and weapons to kill Palestinians and other Arabs and occupy their land , so may be you understand now ( that is if you want) why these Islamofascist hate us.

January 8th, 2007, 2:47 am


Alex said:


You can have so much fun reversing entire paragraphs, until the whole mideast is on fire … from Israel to Iran. Beleive me, it is actually a possibility.

As FP stated above, most Syrians want peace with Israel.

They want to move on with their lives. And they want the Syrian Golan back. Why? … ask why none of the countries in the world, including Israel’s best freinds, accepted Mr. Begin’s decision to annex the Golan.


Your English is actually improving with time as mine is deteriorating fast (did you notice?)

I think a Syria Israel war is out of the qurstion … the only available options for Syria if Israel avoids Syria’s calls for peace, are the cold-war types … using smaller proxies. I suggested to a Saudi Editor who (along with many other Saudi and Lebanese journalists) wrote to make fun of Syria for not fighting Israel the way Hizballah faught Israel, I asked him if he can visualize how that war will end? … will Syria accept to lose without using its tens of thousands of big missiles on Israeli cities? will Israel prepare its nuclear misslies and target them towards Damascsus, like Israel did when Syria was winning the 1973 war at the beggining?

I think, or hope, the direct war option is not really an option.

FP … I agree, Haaretz surely has the most impressive set of journalists. Zvi Bar’el, Akiva Eldar, Aluf Benn, Gideon Levy, Yoav Stern …

January 8th, 2007, 4:06 am


Akbar Palace said:

Norman explains,

“Akbar ,These Islamofascist as you call them attacked the US not because of the American way of life but for a hundred year of backstabing Arabs from the first world war and the Belfore decleration to dening the Arabs their united land and deviding the area into states with different systems so they can not unite then they help Israel year after year by money and weapons to kill Palestinians and other Arabs and occupy their land , so may be you understand now ( that is if you want) why these Islamofascist hate us.”


I don’t need you to explain why Islamofascist terrorists do what they do. They usually leave their videos and death notes about all their perceived injustices, the hatred of Jews, the West, and why the milkman forgot to bring their milk.

They’re a bunch of brainwashed cry-babies, often from middle-class families who know nothing of hardship and misery.

Now, would it be a “stretch” if I said you support them?

“As FP stated above, most Syrians want peace with Israel.”

Alex –

Everyone wants peace, except for the bin-Laden, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad types.*

*Did I miss anyone?

And if the Syrians really want peace, their going to have to prove this to a VERY skeptical Israeli audience.

January 9th, 2007, 11:57 am


Ford Prefect said:

Yes, I finally agree with Akhbar. There are many Islamo-facists out there. These criminals turn my stomach upside down as many other Jedio-Christian biggots and killers throughout the history continuously do. After all, anti-Semitism and terrorism against civilians is a European phenomenon and a Western invention. Would some Islamo-facist kill millions of others just out of fascism? Maybe. Would Pat Robertson, or Timothy McVee do it? Maybe. Let’s get beyond the rhetoric and scare tactics and deal with real issues. Enough of this terrorism generalization nonsense. It is no longer adding value to the discussions.

January 9th, 2007, 12:44 pm


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