Friday, December 28, 2007

What Goes Round Seems Still To Be Coming Round!

An intelligence source takes a very dour view of the current scene in Pakistan and suggests Osama bin Laden has implemented two moves to challenge the West and most particularly Sec Rice and GW. What goes around seems to still be coming around. (See 1 below.)

Bin Laden speaks (See 2 below.)

The IAF just gets better and better at pinpoint targeting but warns it cannot always be so. (See 3 below.)

And so the war on terrorism will continue to go by escalating and spreading. An assessment by Walid Phares. (See 4 below.)

Herb Keinon reports one of Israel's priorities is to wean Assad from his friends. Good Luck! (See 5 below.)

My friend Toameh suggests Fatah's killing of two Israeli crack soldiers on leave and strolling in Hebron is a direct affront to Abbas. (See 6 below.)

Memri presents its usual excellent analysis and this time on events in Lebanon where ot suggests things are coming to a head. (See 7 below.)

IDF finds chemicals to make weapons in food shipments from EU. (See 8 below.)


1) Bhutto Murder Closes Anti-Terror War Cycle Bush Launched after 9/11

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Washington’s chosen linchpin-to-be in Islamabad, was an unmitigated disaster for America’s war on al Qaeda and its jihadist allies in the key Pakistan-Afghan arena. The 27/12 murder closed a cycle sent spinning by al Qaeda’s 9/11 assault on America in the early days of President George W. Bush’s first term. It has left him clutching at thin air.

This single act of violence hit the West as US-led NATO forces suffer one setback after another in Afghanistan and Taliban and a Qaeda are in control of more than 75 percent of the country. It has done more harm than all the evil wrought against US forces by al Qaeda’s ace commander in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the two years before he was slain.

Al Qaeda left its fingerprints – but typically no trace of the perpetrators. To this day, the master plotters who launched 19 suicide killers against America on Sept. 19, have not been caught, any more than those who engineered the 2004 Madrid rail bombers or the 2005 London transport attacks. The string-pullers of the Bhutto assassination may never come to light.

For now, Western counter-terror agencies are on tenterhooks for a Osama bin Laden message promised in the next 24-48 hours, in which al Qaeda promises he will divulge its steps for salvaging “Iraq’s Muslim Caliphate,” an oblique reference to US military gains.

Bin Laden is expected to make some reference to Pakistan as well, since al Qaeda’s strategists do not see their jihad in terms of separate fronts, but as a single interlinked arena stretching across several regions.

Furthermore, they try never to gamble on a chancy target. Their spadework is lengthy and thorough, consisting of long surveillance to seek out chinks in Western armor, the exploitation of its blunders, advance intelligence-gathering and a strike that leaves no tracks.

Benazir Bhutto was easy prey. Pakistan’s army and Inter-Service Intelligence are rife with Taliban and al Qaeda sympathizers. For more than a year, US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice bargained with President Pervez Musharraf on terms for a power-sharing deal that would bring the opposition leader back from her eight-year exile into heart of Islamabad politics.

No great strategic brain was needed to spot the glaring weakness in putting all of America’s eggs for reforming Pakistan’s political and military shortcomings into one basket. The same fallacy mars Rice’s Palestinian strategy: if Mahmoud Abbas is disposed of like Bhutto, US plans for the Eastern Mediterranean go up in smoke like its Asian arena.

Ahead of the Bhutto assassination, al Qaeda prepared follow-up actions in Iraq and Gaza.

Two major steps are revealed by counter-terror sources:

1. The Fatah al-Islam commander Shaker al-Abessi was transferred to Iraq to spearhead a new offensive. Al Abessi commanded the four-month Fatah al-Islam confrontation with the Lebanese army from the Badr al-Nahr camp near Tripoli in the summer of 2007. The Lebanese army saved the day and the northern provinces from falling into the hands of this al Qaeda offshoot, only after the US stepped in with assistance and an infusion of weapons. Even then, it took a battle of wits between Adm. William Fallon, chief of US Central Command, and al-Abessi to beat him.

Even then, al Qaeda had the last word: On Dec. 12, Brig. Gen. Francois el-Hajj, the Lebanese officer who worked with Adm. Fallon, was assassinated.

Meanwhile, al Qaeda, hoping to build al-Abessi into a second al-Zarqawi, has sent him to establish the “Iraq Front,” a new body for recouping the organization’s trounced forces and turning the tables on the US army. His plan to transit the Syrian-Iraqi border with his top men shows how fragile and uncertain are Washington’s gains in securing joint Syrian-US control of the border.

2. A large body of the Fatah al-Islam rank and file was transferred from Lebanon to the Gaza Strip, apparently by sea. This week, they were in the thick of the Hamas-Jihad Islami missile and mortar offensive against Israel.

By these two steps, al Qaeda established support structures for its next two offensives in a region ranging from Afghanistan in the east to the Mediterranean in the west.

Osama bin Laden’s momentum after Benazir Bhutto was murdered might have been slowed had the Americans reacted rapidly with a combined US-Pakistan military assault on al Qaeda and Taliban strongholds in Pakistan and Afghanistan, on a scale comparable to the post-9/11 campaign. But neither army was ready. The day before the murder, Washington laid plans to boost its special forces presence in Pakistan in the course of 2008.

In an interview to the Voice of America, Adm. Fallon said: “What we’ve seen in the last several months is more of a willingness to use their regular army units along the Afghan border.” He added: …”and this is where I think we can help a lot in providing the kind of training and assistance and mentoring based on our experience with insurgencies recently and with the terrorist problem in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

This belated plan will have to be re-examined in the anti-Musharraf, anti-US climate prevailing in Pakistan after the Benazir Bhutto tragedy.

By pushing for elections to be held on Jan. 8 as scheduled, Secretary Rice is making the same mistake as before, when her democratic urge raised up the terrorist Hamas in a Palestinian election two years ago. Musharraf his holding his horses, waiting for Bhutto’s party to meet Sunday, Dec. 30, and decide whether to run or join the boycott declared by the rival Nawaf Sharif. Monday, the election commission convenes for its decision. This process cannot be foisted on Islamabad without risking increased violence directed against the president as an “American puppet.”

Musharraf was already on a downward slope before Bhutto’s death and his army was falling back in the war on Islamist extremists. Sources foresee this process accelerating and opening the way to the takeover by Taleban and al Qaeda of more parts of Pakistan.

Given this prospect, anxiety over the fate of Pakistan’s estimated 50-60 nuclear warheads is more acute. The Pentagon’s assurance Friday that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is secure under the control of the military would become meaningless if that military turns against the United States. An American operation to pluck that arsenal from terrorist clutches might be fought off by that same military.

In these circumstances, however badly they are needed for the war against al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Iraq, US special forces will need to be permanently deployed within speedy reach of Pakistan’s nuclear stocks. A single bullet (or blast) has switched the spotlight on the world’s most dangerous nuclear threat from Iran to Pakistan.

2) Bin Laden vows in Web audiotape he will 'expand jihad in Palestine'

Al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden made an unusally sharp threat of attacks against Israel in a new audiotape posted on the Web on Saturday.

"I would like to assure our people in Palestine that we will expand our jihad there," he said. "We intend to liberate Palestine, the whole of Palestine from the (Jordan) river to the sea," he continued, threatening "blood for blood, destruction for destruction."

Bin Laden and other Al-Qaida leaders frequently vow to liberate Jerusalem and Palestine in their messages. But the latest comments were a more direct language than bin Laden usually uses. Israel has warned of growing Al-Qaida activity in Palestinian territory, but the terror network is not believed to have taken a strong direct role there so far.

"We will not recognize even one inch for Jews in the land of Palestine as other Muslim leaders have," bin Laden said.

Most of the 56-minute tape dealt with Iraq, in the latest attempt by Al-Qaida to keep its supporters and other insurgents in Iraq unified behind it at a time when the U.S. military claims to have Al-Qaida's Iraq branch on the run.

In the tape, Bin Laden warned Iraq's Sunni Arabs against joining tribal councils fighting Al-Qaida or participating in any unity government.

A number of Sunni Arab tribes in Iraq's western Anbar province have formed a coalition fighting Al-Qaida-linked insurgents that U.S. officials credit for deeply reducing violence in the province. The U.S. military has been working to form similar Awakening Councils in other areas of Iraq.

In the audiotape, bin Laden denounced Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, the former leader of the Anbar Awakening Council, who was killed in a September bombing claimed by Al-Qaida.

"The most evil of the traitors are those who trade away their religion for the sake of their mortal life," bin Laden said.

Bin Laden said U.S. and Iraqi officials are seeking to set up a national unity government joining the country's Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.

"Our duty is to foil these dangerous schemes, which try to prevent the establishment of an Islamic state in Iraq, which would be a wall of resistance against American schemes to divide Iraq," he said.

The authenticity of the tape could not be independently confirmed. But the voice resembled that of bin Laden. The tape was posted on an Islamic militant Web site where Al-Qaida's media arm, Al-Sahab, issues the group's messages.

The tape was the fifth message released by bin Laden this year, a flurry of activity after he went more than a year without issuing any tapes. The messages began with a September 8 video that showed bin Laden for the first time in nearly three years. The other messages this year have been audiotapes.

In an October tape, bin Laden sought to patch up splits between Iraqi insurgent factions, urging them to unite with the Islamic State of Iraq - the insurgent coalition led by Al-Qaida. He took a conciliatory stance, chiding even al-Qaida's followers for being too extremist in their positions toward other insurgents.

Bin Laden's deputy Ayman al-Zawahri took a sharper tone in a December 16 video, branding as traitors those who work with the anti-Qaida tribal councils and calling for Sunnis to purge anyone cooperating with the Americans.

3) Pinpointed IAF attacks on Gaza more precise, hurt less civilians
By Amos Harel

Among those who attended last week's pilots' graduation at the Israel Air Force base in Hatzerim was Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin. Why would a busy man like Diskin take the trouble of going to a military ceremony at a distant base in the Negev? The answer has to do with the tight cooperation between the Shin Bet and the Israel Defense Forces, particularly the air force, as reflected in fighting in the territories.

The Shin Bet and the IAF (in some cases the IDF Southern Command is also involved) are responsible for the most lethal part of combating terror organizations in the Gaza Strip: the assassinations from the air, for which Israel coined the euphemism "pinpointed thwarting." This past month alone, at least 40 armed terrorists were killed in IDF air attacks.

Lately, the thwartings have indeed become more worthy of the title "pinpointed." In all the attacks of recent weeks, only gunmen were hurt, as confirmed by Palestinians. The rate of civilians hurt in these attacks in 2007 was 2-3 percent. The IDF has come a long way since the dark days of 2002-2003, when half the casualties in air assaults on the Gaza Strip were innocent bystanders.

The attacks fall into three main categories: targeting specific known terrorists; targeting Qassam rocket-launching cells en-route or in action; and punitive bombardments of Hamas outposts, in response to rocket or mortar fire into Israel. Since Israel began air assaults on the Gaza Strip, in late 2000, the first two types of attacks killed more than 100 Palestinian civilians.

In their quest to hit terrorists, who operate in the midst of civilian populations, the IAF attacked even when the terrorists were in densely populated areas. There were always safety rules, but these were "bent" at times in view of the target's importance. The result was mass killing of civilians.

The best-known case involved the liquidation of a senior Hamas man, Salah Shehadeh. Besides Shehadeh and one of his aides, the one-ton bomb the IAF dropped on the Gaza house he was staying in also killed his wife, daughter and 13 civilians. That affair led to the infamous statement by then-IAF chief (and later IDF chief of staff) Dan Halutz about "a ding to the plane," in reference to the impact of civilian casualties.

The army's public responses in the Shehadeh affair and other incidents combined obtuseness with self-righteousness. Senior officers claimed there is simply no other way. The attacks are necessary, they said, and it's impossible to reduce the number of "noncombatants" who wind up getting hurt.

Turns out it is possible. Reducing the number of civilian casualties in the attacks on Gaza was one of the first tasks Halutz's heir as IAF chief, Eliezer Shkedi, marked out for himself. The data improved commensurately. From a 1:1 ratio between killed terrorists and civilians in 2003 to a 1:28 ratio in late 2005. Several IAF mishaps in 2006 lowered the ratio to 1:10, but the current ratio is at its lowest ever  more than 1:30.

The IAF warns, however, against expecting zero collateral damage. All it would take is for a missile to veer off-course by a few meters because of a technical malfunction and civilians would be killed. And another thing: When tensions escalate, such as under massive Qassam fire from the Gaza Strip, the IDF is more active and also takes more risks, leading to more civilian casualties among the Palestinians.

4) 2007: A Global Assessment of the Confrontation
By Walid Phares

The conflict we call the War on Terror still continues at the end of 2007 and all indications are that its battlefields are expected to spread further, and escalate, in the upcoming year.

The following is a global assessment of the confrontation that has taken place since 2001, though the systematic war waged by the Jihadi forces against democracies and the free world began at least a decade before 9/11. This evaluation isn't comprehensive or definitive, but a collection of observations related to major benchmarks, directions and projections.

Global cohesion lacking

The main powers and allies involved in the War on Terror still lack global cohesion. While the US integrates its efforts in the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with its efforts globally to defeat al Qaeda and contain nuclear proliferation of rogue regimes like Iran, other powers and blocs of countries have different outlooks and plans. While Britain and other U.S partners in Europe espouse common views on the global scale, France, Germany, Spain and Italy agree on the Afghan theater but still are uninvolved in the Iraqi theater. All Atlantic partners, however, pursue al Qaeda and consider it -- along with other Salafi networks -- as the principal threat. Also, most Western partners perceive the Iranian threat as serious, although differ in the ways in which to respond.

Non-Western powers fighting Jihadist forces do not necessarily unite in the international arena against a common foe. India is targeted by Islamists but doesn't associate with the US-led efforts in the Middle East. Russia is also at war with Jihadi terror, yet it distances itself from the Afghan theater, opposes the US in Iraq, and worse, backs the two terror-spreading regimes in Tehran and Damascus.

In the region, Western-inclined governments claim they fight "terrorism" but only the terrorists who threaten their own regimes, not the worldwide Jihadi threat. The current Turkish government fights the terrorist-coined PKK, but isn't concerned with the growth of Wahhabism and Khomeinism in the region. Saudi Arabia dismantles al Qaeda cells inside the Kingdom but still spreads fundamentalism worldwide. Qatar hosts the largest US base in the region, and at the same time funds the most notorious indoctrination programs on al Jazeera. In short, there are several "wars" on terror worldwide. Surely America is leading the widest campaign, but efforts around the globe are still dispersed, uncoordinated, and in many cases, contradictive.


Many critics asserted in 2007 that the Taliban were returning and that NATO wasn't providing full stability yet. In my assessment, this is a long war: the neo-Taliban weren't able to achieve full enclave control anywhere in the country. The government of Mr. Karzai should take advantage of international backing to achieve a breakthrough in the counter-ideology campaign, because the US-led mission will be successful as long as it provides space and time for Kabul to win the war of ideas. Efforts in 2008 must focus on coordination with Pakistan against the Jihadists, and on civil society political gains.


Finally, General Musharaf's government widened its military offensives during 2007 in the neo-Taliban zones, prompting terror counter strikes in various cities and a major Jihadi uprising in Islamabad. The escalation opened a window among political opposition to make gains against Musharaf. By the year's end, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif came back to the country and were leading the opposition in the next elections. The assassination of Bhutto was a setback to the political process. Musharraf and the secular forces need to coalesce around a platform of national security and democracy and move forward with elections and anti-Terror campaign in 2008. But for international security, the priority is to preserve Pakistan's nuclear assets and keep the Jihadists at bay. Will secular opposition and the President understand this higher national priority in 2008?


An important, but still temporary, victory was scored in Somalia against the Islamist Mahakem, the Taliban of the Horn of Africa, and it took Western support to the Somali Government and an Ethiopian intervention to accomplish it. Denying a state sanctuary to al Qaeda in Africa is a plus, but the future will depend on Bin Laden's advances or defeats across the African continent in 2008.


The main international concern in Africa is undoubtedly toward Darfur. The Sudanese regime was able in 2007 to stall Western intervention for one whole year, allowing the Janjaweed to strengthen and perform additional atrocities. Playing the Arab League and the African Union roles to delay a UN action, Khartoum is battling African resistance movements on two fronts: Darfur, but also the south. The regime, similar to other Jihadi powers in the region, is gaining time to crumble its previous commitments and unleash counter campaigns. The international campaign in Darfur must begin in 2008, otherwise the Jihadi counter offensive in Africa will strike deep in Chad and across the Saharan countries by early 2009.

North Africa

Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian counter terrorism efforts increased in 2007 but so did Terror attacks by al Qaeda in the Maghreb. The North African battlefield is now wide open after the combat Salafists have joined Bin Laden officially. U.S and European support need to target the Sahara region as a whole from Mauritania to Chad in 2008 before it slips to the Jihadi forces. If al Qaeda entrenches itself in the area, West Africa will be threatened by 2009.


The surge by US forces and allies has worked and al Qaeda plans have been impacted and delayed in 2007. The goals of the combined enemies of Iraqi democracy (al Qaeda and the Syrian and Iranian regimes) were to crumble the Coalition's role and to interdict the rise of a Government in the country. US military action eliminated al Qaeda's attempts to create enclaves. The rise of Sunni Tribes against the Terror groups in the center is a major development in the Iraq Theater. Furthermore, the rise of Shia tribes in the south against Iranian influence and in solidarity with the central Sunni tribes is the beginning of a strategic shift in the country. However the persistence of Damascus and Tehran in supporting Terror forces can eventually reverse these advances. Hence, during 2008, it is important for the US-led Coalition to counter the moves by the Iranian and Syrian regimes in Iraq and set up a national Iraqi capacity to deter the Pasdaran activities.


On the negative side, confusing messages issued by US Congressional leaders regarding a so-called "dialogue" with the Iranian regime during 2007 weakened the US containment strategy and harmed efforts by the Iranian opposition. Furthermore the American NIE findings during the Fall of this year gave Tehran's Mullahs additional room to maneuver. On the positive side, the sanctions issued by the US president against the Pasdaran and the Quds force reverberated throughout the country, encouraging an escalation by the opposition inside the country. President Sarkozy's strong attitude reinforced the Western coalition against nuclear weapons sought by the Khomeinists. However if by end of 2008, no further containment is achieved, by 2009, the (Iranian-Syrian) "axis" will be achieving a regional offensive. It is advisable that significant efforts to support Iran's civil society uprising during 2008.


During 2007 the Syrian regime continued to back Terror activities in Iraq, Lebanon and in the Palestinian territories without significant responses from the international community. In Lebanon, the Assad regime was successful in weakening the Government and the Cedars revolution to a tipping point. In Gaza, it backed Hamas coup along with Iran. And it was able to dodge the Hariri international tribunal for one more year. Furthermore Damascus continued to strengthen its missile capabilities and programs of weapons of mass destruction. As for Iran, if no serious containment strategy is applied to the Assad regime as of 2008, by the following year a domino effect would be taking place in the region against the rise of democracies with Syria playing a significant role. During the present year both US Congress political messaging towards "dialogue" and the Russian backing encouraged Assad to pursue his policies and created harsher conditions for the Syrian opposition.


The year 2007 witnessed a series of tragedies with terror assassinations directed against legislators from the majority in Parliament and a senior general in the Lebanese Army. Hezbollah and its allies were successful in intimidating the Government and the Cedars Revolution with violence and threats. The United States public position stayed the course in support to the democracy movement while French initiatives further confused the Lebanese. In 2008 the fate of Lebanon will be centered on the election of a new President. The US, the European Union and their allies in the region have about 9 months to back free Lebanon, otherwise the following year could witness the fall of the country back into the hands of the "axis."


The inevitable dragging of the Turkish Army in incursions against the PKK in northern Iraq during 2007 indirectly serves the interests of the Syro-Iranian "axis." It also deflects the attention from the ideological change performed by the Islamist Government in Ankara.

Saudi Arabia

During 2007, the Saudi Kingdom continued its efforts against the al Qaeda cells inside the country. It developed additional tactics to wage theological pressures on the organization. But at the same time, Saudi funds were still made available to fundamentalists around the world.

Although Russia continues to be a main target to Wahhabi and Jihadist terror and incitement, ironically, the Putin government during 2007 staged three moves to the advantage of terror regimes: opposing the US missile defense system in Europe, meant to protect Europe from the Khomeinist threat; shielding Tehran from Wsetern ressures; and protecting the Assad regime. In 2008, the current direction taken by the Kremlin should be addressed seriously by the US and Europe through a historic and open dialogue on the future of Terrorism. Russia's current policies, if not corrected, can backfire against its own national security in view of the Jihadist rising activities in Chechnya and the Caucasus as well as in central Asia.


India continued to be targeted by the Jihadists in 2007. As a nuclear power, and the largest democracy in the world, this country should be further included in the international coalition against Terror and granted a more important role in south Asia in 2008.


During 2007, Chinese technology and weapons continued to flow to Terrorism-supporting regimes including Sudan, Iran and Syria. As for Russia, China's own security within its own borders can be affected by a growing Jihadi network in its north Western provinces.


The election of Nicholas Sarkozy in 2007 is a positive development as the new President intends to increase French participation in the War against Terrorism. Continuous incitements by Jihadists networks against France also escalated projecting forthcoming confrontations in France.

Europe and the West

Developments and arrests made in Great Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands and Belgium in 2007 all indicate that Jihadi warfare in Western Europe is to be expected in 2008 and beyond. Similar trends were detected in Australia and Canada during the same year

The United States

During 2007 several arrests and dismantling of cells within the United States demonstrated the spread of the Jihadi networks at various levels and in different areas. A Projection of these developments and of the type of infiltrations already in place in this country shows that the map of the Jihadi web is much wider and deeper than anticipated, even by Government agencies and estimates. The diverse nature of the Jihadi activities in America lead me to believe that the next waves will be more sophisticated and better inserted in the institutions and society. The 2007 arrests and reports show that the Jihadists had interest in penetrating the US defense system.

However another type of threat has also appeared: the Jihadi ideological penetration of various spheres of education and decision-making, including at the strategic level. Both Wahabi and Khomeinist funding and influence have been spotted in 2007. The US Congress and the Administration should be spending time and efforts during 2008 to develop a national consensus on the definition of the threat doctrine, Jihadism. Short of achieving a minimal understanding of the Terror ideology, 2009 and beyond will witness a faster mutation of the Jihadi threat inside the country.

Dr Walid Phares is the Director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a Visiting Scholar at the European Foundation for Democracy. He is the author of Future Jihad and TheWar of Ideas.

5) Israeli goal for 2008 - to isolate Syria from radical axis

Formulating a strategy for separating Syria from the "radical axis" is one of the Foreign Ministry's highest priorities for 2008, according to a list complied by Foreign Ministry director-general Aharon Abramovitch and circulated to the ministry's staff last week.

The top goal, according to this list, was "promoting diplomatic processes in the Middle East with the goal of achieving comprehensive peace in the region and protecting Israel's security."

Under this heading were listed a number of secondary objectives, including "formulating a policy for separating Syria from the radical axis."

Another objective listed in this category was increasing international support for isolating extremists in the Gaza Strip and the region, and increasing cooperation with the moderate Palestinian leadership.

The second objective listed in the document was providing a "diplomatic response to strategic threats," with the first objective being "intensive diplomatic efforts to thwart Iranian efforts to achieve nuclear capabilities."

This category also included as one of its aims "leading the international campaign to prevent the participation of terrorist elements in democratic processes."

The Foreign Ministry's other aims, in descending order, were listed as: upgrading Israel's standing in the international arena; widening Israel's economic and trade ties abroad; improving Israel's image in the world and struggling against the deligitimization of Israel; strengthening cooperation with the Diaspora and fighting anti-Semitism; integration in international efforts to deal with global challenges; and providing quality service and support to Israeli citizens both in Israel and abroad both during normal times and at times of crisis.

6) Analysis: A Fatah member by any other name...

Some of the gunmen who participated in Friday's shooting attack near Hebron belong to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction, Fatah activists in the West Bank confirmed over the weekend.

They said the attack was carried out jointly by Fatah and Islamic Jihad members.

The involvement of Fatah members in the attack is seen as a serious embarrassment for Abbas and the PA, whose representatives were quick to denounce the perpetrators, pledging to crack down on all armed groups in the West Bank.

The attack shows that several armed Fatah groups continue to operate in the West Bank despite statements by top PA officials to the effect that most of these groups had been dismantled.

Although many members of Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, have in recent months handed over their weapons to the PA security forces in return for jobs and salaries, dozens of Fatah gunmen are still refusing to follow suit.

Hoping to get better jobs and salaries, these gunmen have set up small militias in various parts of the West Bank.

Others have refused to surrender their weapons for ideological reasons, preferring to join forces with Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

One of these Fatah militias is called Fursan al-Layil (Horsemen of the Night), which is active in the old city of Nablus. Other Fatah gunmen are operating under the auspices of other militias called the Yasser Arafat Groups and the Martyr Ayman Judeh Groups, which took credit for Friday's attack.

On Saturday, the IDF arrested a number of Fatah activists belonging to the Yasser Arafat Groups in Hebron on suspicion of involvement in the killing of the two IDF soldiers on Friday.

Among those arrested was the leader of the group in Hebron, Ahmed Abu Sittah, also known as Abu Suleiman.

One of the gunmen killed in the attack, Basel al-Natsheh, was also known in Hebron as a Fatah activist, although his father, Nabil, is a Hamas member who is serving time in an Israeli prison.

Six other members of the al-Natsheh clan, brothers Naim, Firas and Hazem and brothers Nu'man, Abdullah and Shadi, were also arrested by the IDF. They, too, are said to be members of the Yasser Arafat Groups in Hebron.

Fatah activists said the attack may be linked to the faction's preparations to celebrate its 43rd anniversary this week. The attackers, they explained, were apparently hoping to send a message to the Palestinian public that, contrary to claims by Hamas, Fatah has not abandoned the path of armed struggle.

But while such attacks help Fatah score points on the Palestinian street, they also embarrass the PA leadership in Ramallah, especially in front of the international community, which has just pledged to channel to more than $9 billion to the Palestinians over the next three years.

That's why PA officials were quick to condemn the attack, vowing to take measures against the perpetrators. PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad said during a tour of Nablus that his government would fulfill its security commitments toward Israel by pursuing those responsible. "The military operation took place on Palestinian soil and the PA will carry out all its duties in this regard," he said.

PA Information Minister Riad al-Malki strongly condemned the attack as an attempt to disrupt peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel.

However, both Fayad and Malki are well aware of the fact that the PA's plan to dismantle all the Fatah-affiliated militias in the West Bank is still far from achieving its goal.

Shortly after PA Interior Minister Abdel Razzak al-Yahya announced Saturday that the Aksa Martyrs Brigades had ceased to exist, the group responded by distributing thousands of leaflets throughout the West Bank scoffing at the claim and vowing to continue the armed struggle against Israel.

7) Arming, Military Training, and the Weapons Trade in Lebanon
By: H. Varulkar*

The current political crisis in Lebanon, which began following the August 2006 Israel-Hizbullah war, is now coming to a head. Two of the country's biggest camps - the March 14 Forces, which constitute the majority in the Lebanese parliament, and the Lebanese opposition headed by Hizbullah - have failed to reach agreement over who will be the country's next president and over the makeup of the next government. These two issues will affect the direction the country will take, whether towards the axis of Syria-Iran-Hizbullah, or towards the moderate Arab camp. If no president is chosen by December 31, 2007, the Lebanese parliament will adjourn for three months, leaving the presidential office vacant for a significant period of time - thus increasing the chances of armed violence in the country.

Along with the exacerbation of the political conflict, there is also increasing concern that the situation will deteriorate further, to the point of violence between the two sides, or even civil war. These fears are becoming more and more real, especially in light of the numerous media reports over the past few months that all political forces in Lebanon are arming themselves. These reports suggest that these political forces - and not only Hizbullah - are actively purchasing weapons and distributing them to their activists, who are being trained in military camps set up for that purpose. It seems that this arms race is the result of the desire of all sides to prepare for an armed confrontation that will be inevitable if no agreement can be reached.

Many Lebanese columnists have warned of the possibly severe consequences of this arming, which may even evolve into a second civil war. This concern is shared by the March 14 Forces and the opposition, both of which realize that the distribution of weapons is in itself enough to precipitate yet another Lebanese civil war. (It should be noted that the warnings of civil war are coming mostly from the March 14 Forces.)

Following are excerpts from articles, columns, and reports in the Lebanese and Arab press:
The Growth of the Arms Trade in Lebanon

A special investigation by the London daily Al-Hayat pointed to the arming of the Lebanese civilians. Following are excerpts from the report:

"Seventeen years after the end of the Lebanese civil war, there are again rumors about the 'ghost of armament and horror running through the veins of those who have not yet armed themselves'… Two years of security tensions and political recruitment… have revived the trade in personal weapons, which had been dormant for the past 15 years. No one concerned with the political issues in Lebanon denies the proliferation of personal weapons in the country. Nor do the parties deny that their activists or members are procuring personal weapons out of fear that the other [side] might strike… It is conceded by the representatives of all parties - the groups in power as well as the opposition - that no central decision has been reached by the [party] leaders with regard to the arming of party members. All attribute the trend of buying weapons - which is acknowledged by both the traders and the buyers - to [party members'] fear of the other group…" [1]
Buying Weapons in Lebanon - Not Much Harder than Buying Clothing

A similar investigation by showed the same phenomenon: "'Having a weapon at home makes me feel safe and enables me to protect my family and my possessions.' These words, spoken by a Lebanese citizen, explain why the Lebanese are again arming themselves, following the exacerbation of the political crisis between the opposition and the government... The citizen further said, 'The alacrity with which Lebanese citizens are buying weapons stems from fear of a recurrence of the conflict, or of the outbreak of civil war.' He claimed that 'the trade in weapons is flourishing even though prices have tripled'...

Columnist for the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar Hassan 'Aliq wrote, '[1]n Lebanon [today], buying a weapon is not much harder than buying clothing.' He added that 'the price of weapons has significantly risen as a result of the increased demand.' 'Aliq added that 'the make [of weapon] most in demand was the AK-47, followed by the M-16, followed by hand guns. The price of an AK-47 ranges from $300 to $700, while the price of an M-16 starts at $850 and reaches $1000.' 'Aliq further emphasized that 'the phenomenon of arming is not [limited] to a specific ethnic group or district, and the price of weapons is roughly the same in all regions'"... [2]
Lebanese Youth Fear Civil War and Are Leaving the Country

An investigative report by the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which is affiliated with Hizbullah and Syria, described how the fear of an outbreak of armed violence impacts the day-to-day lives of the Lebanese. The report suggested that many Lebanese are reconsidering their priorities and changing their daily routine, fearing the start of hostilities between the two camps. The report also pointed to the prevalence of emigration: "Among young people, too, the atmosphere of worry prevails. While there are some who are excited about the [possible] war, since they have never experienced it in all its ugliness, others emphasize that the [constant] tension under which they have lived during the past two years has led them to a decision to finalize the arrangements necessary to leave Lebanon even before the [upcoming presidential] election..." [3]

The concern about the use of weapons was also reflected in the November 20, 2007 order by Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Al-Murr suspending the issuing of all weapons licenses countrywide until further notice, except to the bodyguards of ministers, MPs, and current and former party leaders. [4]
The Government Will Not Be Complacent in Dealing with the Phenomenon

In light of the numerous reports of the arming of all groups in Lebanon, on September 24, 2007 the Lebanese government held a special meeting to discuss the issue. Present at the meeting were Lebanese military intelligence chief Brig.-Gen. George Khouri, interior security forces information unit head Lt.-Col. Muqaddam Wissam Al-Hassan, and other officers. The official announcement following the meeting read: "Political disagreement among the various political forces in the country is a natural development. However, [encouraging people] to use weapons or force - whether by incitement from the pulpits and the [television] screens, or by sowing hatred in people's hearts and spreading venom and enmity, or by frightening people by telling them that there is no option other than street bombings... - all this is unacceptable. The state and its institutions will deal with such incidents seriously, using every available legal means and avenue to protect Lebanese [citizens]..." [5]
Lebanon's Political Parties Accuse Each Other Of Arming Themselves

Each side in Lebanon is accusing the other of distributing weapons to its activists and of providing them with military training.

March 14 Forces: Hizbullah Is Recruiting and Training Young People

The March 14 Forces claim that Hizbullah is training activists from other Lebanese opposition parties and forces affiliated with Syria, and is even giving them weapons in preparation for the impending conflict. Some elements in the March 14 Forces claim to have information that the opposition is constructing various scenarios in the event that no agreement is reached over the next president - scenarios including a takeover of government offices and [other] facilities, military operations, and disturbances to carried out by the groups simultaneously in several regions.

A special investigation published November 7, 2007 by the Lebanese daily Al-Mustaqbal, which is owned by Sa'd Al-Hariri, son of assassinated former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri and chairman of the Al-Mustaqbal faction, the largest faction in the Lebanese parliament and part of the March 14 Forces, stated, "As early as a year and a half ago, Hizbullah started training activists from former MP and Workers' Union head Zaher Al-Khatib, from the Syrian Social Nationalist party, from the remnants of Syrian intelligence, and from the National Salvation Front, headed by Fathi Yegen - and all this under the umbrella name The Resistance Brigades. The investigation suggested that these activists are bused from their villages to southern Dhahiya, and from there to the Al-Haramil region in the Beqa' Valley, where they receive military training. These activists are paid a monthly salary of $400 to $600, and are given a weapon." The investigation quoted knowledgeable sources as saying that these activists, "together with Hizbullah, toured the Al-Kharub region in order to work out a plan to target the centers and homes of activists from the Socialist Progressive Party [which is headed by Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt], from the Al-Mustaqbal movement, and from Al-Jama'a Al-Islamiyya."

Al-Mustaqbal bloc MP Muhammad Al-Hajjar accused Hizbullah of taking advantage of the difficult economic situation of Lebanon's youth to recruit them to its armed groups: "There is a detailed plan to take advantage of the difficult economic situation to exploit the unemployed... They will entice them with money, offering a monthly allowance of $400 to $600..." Al-Hajar said that these young people were trained to use light and medium weapons, machine guns, AK-47s, and RPGs. Al-Hajar further claimed that Hizbullah had shifted its target from the Israeli enemy to the enemy within Lebanon. He said: "These groups, formed by [Hizbullah], are civil war militias, trained to generate a charged atmosphere, tension, instability, and internecine wars in all regions of Lebanon." [6]

Lebanese Forces executive body head Samir Geagea likewise warned that "Hizbullah might use armed forces to sabotage the presidential election" if it, that is, Hizbullah, fails to bring in a president who will ensure its interests, like Emil Lahoud did. He claimed that Hizbullah was training and arming activists from the Free National Stream (headed by Michel 'Aoun) or from the Druze opposition, so that they would sabotage the election when the time came. He added that Hizbullah was maintaining training camps in the Beqa' region for training these activists. [7]

In contrast to the March 14 Forces, which vehemently deny all accusations of distributing weapons and training activists, the opposition does not deny arming its activists and even endorses the accusations. The Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which is affiliated with the opposition, also reported on the formation of resistance brigades, quoting a certain "field commander" saying that Wiam Wahhab and Zaher Al-Khatib were distributing Chinese-made state-of-the-art weapons to their activists, and that Al-Khatib had recruited approximately 700 activists. In an interview with the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Gen. Michel 'Aoun confirmed that members of his party were buying weapons, and stated that this was being done for self-defense, and that they had received licenses for personal weapons only. He denied that his party was providing military training to its activists. [8]

Lebanese Opposition: March 14 Forces are Distributing Weapons to Their Activists

On the other hand, the Lebanese opposition asserted that the Al-Mustaqbal movement was enlisting hundreds of young Lebanese men, mostly from the north of the country, and training them and equipping them with weapons on the pretext that they were security guards. The In an article titled "Armed Youth of Al-Mustaqbal or Guards of Abandoned Buildings?" the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which is affiliated with the Lebanese opposition, reported that hundreds of armed young men from the Al-Mustaqbal movement were deployed throughout the streets of Beirut on the pretext that they were guards from a security company called Pro-Secure. [9]

Al-Mustaqbal supporter Col. ('Aqid) Muhammad Al-'Ajouz, director of another security company, called Secure Plus, told that his company did not serve any party or military function, and stressed that it was a government-licensed private security company. He claimed that the accusations were part of "the war of rumors being spread by the opposition against the Al-Mustaqbal movement." [10]

In another report, Al-Akhbar alleged that the Socialist Progressive Party, which is headed by Walid Jumblatt, was distributing weapons to residents of the coastal region and the Al-Tariq Al-Jadida district in Beirut in an effort to attract supporters. The report further stated that Jumblatt's party was also giving out anti-tank RPGs that had been stored in warehouses since the civil war. In addition, it was claimed that Jumblatt had given his men a green light to fire at opposition activists if violent conflict broke out. [11]

Both March 14 Forces and Opposition Columnists Warn of Civil War

The arming of all the elements in the country is arousing great concern among Lebanon's citizens, as is evident from numerous columns on the subject, mainly by columnists affiliated with the March 14 Forces. They warn about the possibly grave ramifications of this widespread arming, which could include another civil war.

Lebanon Has Not Yet Recovered From the Last Civil War

In a column in the Lebanese daily Al-Nahar, Nailah Tweini warned about the possibly grave ramifications of the current upsurge in arming: "...We call on the Lebanese youth themselves, who may not have experienced destruction first hand - as did the preceding generation, which became entangled in a 15-year war of annihilation. Lebanon [has not yet recovered from] the consequences [of that war], and is still paying the price. The fact that over a million Lebanese, mostly young people, have left the country [since the end of the war] is in itself enough to show every young Lebanese citizen the danger of being swept up in the current trend of arming, [military] training, and [following] in the footsteps of the militia. [12]

"No One Will Accept Hizbullah's Use of Force, Coercion, and Oppression"

In an op-ed in the Lebanese daily Al-Mustaqbal, Nusair Al-As'ad called to end Hizbullah's rule of force and oppression: "...We have no option but to put an end to the Hizbullah state and to the slogans [that Hizbullah is spreading in order to take control of] the domestic Lebanese arena... It is one thing for Hizbullah to debate the legitimacy of its weapons against Israel, but it is quite a different matter for it to lay the groundwork for an alternate state [within Lebanon] - and still another matter for it to make life in Lebanon militia-like in order to bring the country down. All this has nothing to do with 'resistance' against Israel or anything that that requires... No one will accept Hizbullah's use of force, coercion and oppression... We must be resolute..." [13]

Hizbullah's Weapons are Aimed Within Lebanon

Dalia 'Obeid, an activist in the Democratic Left movement, which is part of the March 14 Forces, wrote: "...It's no big secret that Hizbullah's weapons have lost their title of 'weapons of resistance'... There are no longer any external manifestations of the resistance against the Israeli occupation (defeated in 2000) - they have been replaced by the manifestations of resistance against Lebanon's state, independence, and constitution. The roles of these weapons inside Lebanon have multiplied... It [i.e. Hizbullah's weapons] is aimed at those who hold opinions [differing from those of Hizbullah's] in regions of Hizbullah control and hegemony - and [these weapons are] the jailer and executioner of the Lebanese security forces. These weapons will cut off any hand reached out [to disarm] Hizbullah's regional and military arsenal [and will serve as] defender of the honor of the Syrian regime. [Hizbullah is using these weapons] to bully [and control] the Lebanese people... [14]

This Arms Race Will Lead to Civil War

While it is mostly the March 14 Forces that expresses fear over the arming trend, the Lebanese opposition appears to be disturbed about it as well. In his column in the Lebanese pro-Syrian daily Al-Safir, Suleiman Taqi Al-Din claimed that the arming was bound to lead to civil war and schism: "It is [the illegal weapons] that led to civil war in 1975 - the fear of the weapons, the fear of the hegemony, the fear of regional decisions [taken by Hizbullah alone] which are not accepted by the Lebanese people as a whole. Along with the weapons of the Hizbullah resistance, many weapons are [also] spreading amongst all the Lebanese political forces and groups. An intense arms race is underway - no matter how fervently this is denied by those who [choose] to deny it.

"This arms race will inevitably lead to civil war. No one group can assure the other, or give it guarantees, or say that the arming is just for defense… Accordingly, [if we want] to deal seriously with the national crisis, we have no choice but to deal with the problem of weapons...

"Weapons are currently in the hands of every group [in Lebanon], beyond the reach of government supervision and control. Under these circumstances, these weapons will, in essence, serve to drive a wedge among the Lebanese, and as a tool for anarchy..." [15]

*H. Varulkar is a research fellow at MEMRI.

[1] Al-Hayat (London), April 14, 2007.

[2], March 4, 2007.

[3] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), November 10, 2007.

[4] Lebanese National News Agency, November 20, 2007.

[5] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), September 25, 2007.

[6] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), November 7, 2007; Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), November 3, 2007.

[7] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), September 9, 2007.

[8] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), November 3, 2007 and November 16, 2007; Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 21, 2007.

[9] Al-Akhbar (London), November 12, 2007.

[10], March 4, 2007.

[11] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), November 13, 2007; November 16, 2007.

[12] Al-Nahar (Lebanon), September 27, 2007.

[13] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), September 30, 2007.

[14] Al-Nahar (Lebanon), October 23, 2007.

[15] Al-Safir (Lebanon), September 22, 2007

8) Army finds explosive chemicals in EU aid bags

6.5 tons of potassium nitrate hidden in sacks marked as sugar from the European Union for needy Palestinians in Gaza. EU declines comment

Israel said on Saturday it had recently seized a truck carrying chemicals used to make explosives hidden in bags marked as EU aid for the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

The army said 6.5 tons of potassium nitrate were in bags marked as sugar from the European Union for Palestinians in the coastal enclave.

EU officials in Jerusalem had no immediate comment.

The cargo in a Palestinian truck was traveling in the West Bank and seized several weeks ago at an Israeli checkpoint, the army said.

The EU is the largest provider of humanitarian assistance to Gaza. Israel tightened its military and economic cordon of the Gaza Strip after Islamist Hamas seized the territory in a June war with secular Fatah.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Never Forget and I trust Bolton versusThe NIE Report

In Memorial

This week, the UK removed The Holocaust from its school curriculum because
it 'offended' the Muslim population which claims it never occurred.

This is a frightening portent of the fear that is gripping the world and how easily each country is giving into it.

It is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in Europe ended.
This is posted in memory of the:

six million Jews,

20 million Russians,

10 million Christians

and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and

humiliated while the German and Russia peoples looked the other way!

Now, more than ever, with Iran, among others, claiming the Holocaust to be 'a myth,'

it is imperative to make sure the world never forgets.

Barak publicly challenges the NIE report and John Bolton was interviewed and found it distressing as well. The Administration seems to have lost control of the intelligence community and the more I read and hear the more I am too am convinced there was a lot of political motivation behind its release. It certainly has undercut GW's ability to put any "holding" strategy together, not that he ever had one. (See 1 below.)

While Olmert has been diddling, Hamas has been improving its ability to make large parts of Israel uninhabitable. (See 2 below.)

The U.S. wants information regarding the expansion of homes in a portion of East Jerusalem. If Olmert had any guts he would tell the U.S. and Abbas that as long as rockets come Israel's way and terrorism continues against its citizens there will be no cessation of expansion by Israel. (See 3 below.)

James Lewis asks whether important Iranian defectors can be believed and raises some doubts. (See 4 below.)

Bolton has his say on the NIE Report. I trust Bolton more than many of the NIE participants.(See 5 below.)

Dr. Lerner suggests Rice lives in a fantasy world. (See 6 below.)

In many ways Netanyahu is Israel's Bolton but perhaos not as brilliant. (See 7 below.)


1) IDF to present Iranian nuclear evidence to US military chief

Disappointed after failing to make their case on Iran and influence the outcome of the United States's National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) released this week, Military Intelligence will present its hard core evidence on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program on Sunday to the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff during a rare visit he will be making to Israel.

Admiral Michael Mullen will land in Israel Sunday morning for a 24-hour visit that will include a one-on-one meeting with IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, as well as with Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

According to a Time magazine article published Wednesday, Mullen is a member of the Pentagon's "anti-war [with Iran] group" that includes Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral William Fallon, current commander of the US Central Command.

In a recent press briefing in Washington, however, Mullen took a hard-line approach, refusing to rule out the possibility that military force will be used to stop Iran's race towards nuclear power.

"I would never take the military option off the table," Mullen told reporters, although he stressed that his remark did not mean that force would be used. Diplomacy, he added, was very important.

Mullen's visit to Israel will be exactly a week after the publication of the NIE report that claimed Iran had frozen its nuclear military program in 2003 and has yet to restart it. During his visit, Military Intelligence plans to present him with Israel's evidence that Iran is in fact developing nuclear weapons.

"The report clearly shows that we did not succeed in making our case over the past year in the run-up to this report," a defense official said Thursday. "Mullen's visit is an opportunity to try and fix that."

In addition to Iran, Ashkenazi and his staff will also discuss with Mullen America's commitment for Israel to retain its qualitative edge in the face of the sale of advanced JDAM missiles to Saudi Arabia.

In the past, Israel had asked the Pentagon to permit the sale of the F-22 fifth-generation stealth fighter jet - also known as the Raptor - but the request was rejected.

Mullen will be met by an honor guard at the Kirya Military Headquarters in Tel Aviv and will sit through a day of presentations by IDF generals, including Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin and OC IDF Planning Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan.

Sunday night he will be honored at a festive dinner hosted by Ashkenazi and will leave Israel Monday morning.

The presentations that Mullen will hear will be on a wide range of topics - including the Hamas buildup in the Gaza Strip, Egypt's failure to stop the smuggling of weapons into Gaza, Hizbullah activities in Lebanon, Syria and Iran.

Israel plans to take advantage of Mullen's visit to Israel to reinforce the already strong ties the IDF has with the Pentagon and the US armed forces. Appreciation for the IDF has increased within the Pentagon in recent months following the Israeli air strike on the alleged Syrian nuclear reactor.

Mullen's visit will be the first time a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has visited Israel in the past decade. Mullen was in Israel with his wife two years ago when he was the commander of the Navy.

He met Ashkenazi at the NATO military commander conference in Brussels last month, and the two have already established an effective work relationship, defense officials said.

Also Thursday, China's government said it was studying the US intelligence review and remained steadfast in its opinion that talks were the way to end the standoff with Iran.

"We will earnestly study the report and make communications with relevant parties," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters at a regular briefing. "China's position on the Iranian nuclear issue is that we support the international nuclear nonproliferation regime, and oppose proliferation of nuclear weapons, and we uphold a peaceful and stable Middle East," Qin said.

Earlier this week, China's ambassador to the United Nations said the report raised concerns about new sanctions.

"I think the council members will have to consider that, because I think we all start from the presumption that now things have changed," Chinese UN Ambassador Wang Guangya said Tuesday when asked whether the release of the intelligence estimate made the prospect of new UN sanctions less likely.

The New York Times reported Thursday that the change in the US's intelligence assessment vis-à-vis Iran was based mainly on notes acquired last summer from discussions between Iranian military officials. The notes reportedly detailed conversations in which certain army officials complained about Iranian leaders' 2003 decision to shut down efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

The notes gave no clue as to why Iran had decided to stop weapons development. The information contained in the notes was supported by other intelligence, including conversations between Iranian officials which had been intercepted in recent months, the paper reported.

Meanwhile, US Vice President Dick Cheney on Thursday said he had no reason to doubt the intelligence assessment.

"There's always the possibility that circumstances will change. But I think they've done the best job they can with the intelligence that's available," Cheney told

The vice president stressed that the administration would not change its policy towards Iran. "We still think there's a need to continue the course we've been on to persuade the Iranians not to enrich uranium," he said.

2) Defense officials fret as Hamas upgrades Qassam arsenal
By Amos Harel

Hamas has recently upgraded its Qassam rocket capability in the Gaza Strip, raising grave concern in the Israeli defense establishment.

Senior defense officials say that Hamas is now able to store the rockets for a relatively long period, which would allow the organization to launch a large number of Qassams at one time.

Over the past year, the IDF and Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) have said that two developments could prompt a major Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip. One was an improvement in the range of the Qassam rockets, which would place Ashkelon within range. The other was an ability to store the rockets for a longer period of time. It seems that Hamas has already achieved the latter, and is close to achieving the other.

Until recently, Hamas had difficulty in storing the rockets. The Qassam is a relatively primitive device, assembled on improvised production lines in the Strip. The explosive charge installed on the rockets is volatile and might explode if kept for more than a few weeks. This is one of the reasons behind Hamas' haste to launch most of its rockets as soon as it gets them.

When firing rockets is politically inconvenient, Hamas hands them over to smaller organizations such as the Islamic Jihad, various Fatah factions and the Popular Resistance Committees to launch them in its place.

In previous periods of escalation between Israel and Hamas, such as last year's Independence Day, Hamas fired almost 300 rockets in a few days before running out of supplies.

The defense establishment is now concerned that Hamas may accumulate several hundred or even thousands of rockets, building up a large arsenal. Under this scenario, Hamas would be able to fire hundreds of rockets a day at Sderot for several days, prompting Israel to take extreme measures.

The Second Lebanon War showed that the Air Force is incapable of overcoming short-range rockets launched from a small area, not to mention a densely built area like Gaza. In the absence of an aerial solution, the IDF may have to mount a ground operation that would lead to heavy casualties on both sides.

The improvement in rocket-storage capability followed the entrance into Gaza in recent months of Palestinian terror experts, mostly via the Rafah crossing from Egypt. These experts, members of Islamic organizations, trained with Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon and Iran.

Alongside the ability to store rockets for longer periods, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, with Iran's help, are expected to increase the Qassam rockets' 15-kilometer range, which would place Ashkelon and dozens of small communities in the northern and western Negev within rocket range.

Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai met Thursday with mayors and regional council heads from Ashkelon, Sderot, Netivot and the communities bordering on the Gaza Strip. He advised them to prepare their communities for an escalation in the area, including increased rocket fire.

3) U.S. wants details on plan to build homes in East Jerusalem
By Barak Ravid

The U.S. has requested that Israel provide clarifications on its plan to build more than 300 new homes in an East Jerusalem neighborhood, Israeli officials confirmed to Haaretz on Thursday.

The new housing would expand Har Homa, a Jewish neighborhood in an area Palestinians claim as the capital of a future state. The Palestinians call the area Jabal Abu Ghneim, and Palestinian officials have appealed to the U.S. to block the project.

The officials said U.S. diplomats who met with senior government officials in Jerusalem this week said that Washington hoped to gain insight on what the construction project would mean for the peace process.

According to the officials, the Americans said they wanted to know "what this thing is exactly and where it's coming from." The officials told Haaretz that they had explained to the Americans that the construction of the 307 housing units was approved long before the Annapolis peace summit that took place last month.

"We told them this was nothing new, and that anyway this was a construction project inside Jerusalem, which is Israel's capital, and that we regard this as perfectly legitimate."

According to the road map, Israel is supposed to cease all settlement construction. But Israel does not consider construction in East Jerusalem to be settlement activity.

UN, Arabs condemn plan
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon slammed on Thursday Israel's plan to build more than 300 new homes in an East Jerusalem neighborhood.

"This new tender for 300 new homes in eastern Jerusalem, so soon after the Annapolis Middle East peace conference, I think is not helpful," Ban said, noting that the United Nations had a consistent position on the illegality of such settlements.

The new housing would expand Har Homa, a Jewish neighborhood in an area Palestinians claim as capital of a future state. The Palestinians call the area Jabal Abu Ghneim.

The future of Jerusalem is one of the most contentious issues facing Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in peace talks that are supposed to resume this month, following the landmark Middle East conference in Annapolis, Maryland.

An Israeli government spokesman has said the plan does not contravene Israel's commitment under a U.S.-sponsored "road map" for peace with the Palestinians.

Palestinian officials say it could damage the peace process re-launched under U.S. patronage at the peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland last week. Palestinian officials have appealed to the U.S. to block the project.

Under the road map, Israel has committed to stop settlement activity in the occupied West Bank, but distinguishes between that area and Jerusalem, whose municipal boundaries were expanded after the 1967 war and included a number of Arab neighborhoods and villages around the city.

The site of the new building lies between Arab East Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Bethlehem to the south.

Jordan also condemned Israel's housing plan, the official Petra news agency said.

Jordanian State Minister for Information, Nasser Judeh, said the Israeli measure contravenes international resolutions that consider the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as occupied territories.

He said the Israeli move would increase tension and threaten efforts to start direct negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis, build confidence between them and push the peace process forward leading to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state and a just and lasting peace in the region.

Judeh urged the Israelis to immediately halt the buidling plans.

Judeh added Jordan totally rejects the Israeli action and believes that the Jewish state's failure to meet its obligations under the road map peace plan and persistence in building settlements, are major obstacles to achieving serious progress in the peace process.
4) Was General Ashgari a Double Agent?
By James Lewis

In March of 2007 Iranian Revolutionary Guards General Ali-Reza Ashgari defected to the West through Turkey. General Ashgari is the highest-ranking defector from Iran ever, a huge bonanza for our understanding of the Khomeinist regime's intentions and capabilities with regard to nuclear weapons.

If he is for real. Troubling circumstantial evidence suggests that he is not.

This week, a public summary of the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran made worldwide headlines. Contrary to endless public statements made over three decades from Khomeini to Ahmadi-Nejad, contrary to the 2005 NIE, contrary to the recent UN report, and contrary to Israeli intelligence, the new NIE claims that Iran's nuclear weapons program was stopped in 2003 and, by implication, has not been restarted since then.

We're safe! Nothing more to worry about from maniacs with nukes.

So -- what happened between the National Intelligence Estimate of 2005 and today's NIE to give the US intelligence community "high confidence" to confirm an end to Iran's nuclear bomb program in 2003?

The defection of General Ashgari (along with several other high-ranking Guard officers) is a plausible explanation for the new Intelligence Estimate. We don't know what Ashgari reported to Western intelligence. Chances are that much of his information was accurate, if out of date. He would need to give that much to gain credibility.

But there is a famous history of the CIA jumping on Soviet double agents -- Golitsyn and Nosenko -- who poisoned the wells of US intelligence with great success. These phony Soviet defectors could be the model the Iranians are emulating.

Iran might have dropped phony defections to give ammunition to the many liberal opponents of President Bush's Iran policy, who are sprinkled throughout our intelligence and foreign policy apparatus.

The new NIE might be the result of Iranian phony defector reports. Since we seem to have very poor human intelligence inside the Khomeinist regime, the Guard defectors (there were several of them) might be greeted by Democrat partisans in the bureaucracy like manna from heaven. The new phony intelligence would confirm their passionately held biases - a routine technique in disinformation ops.

Dropping phony defectors would be a smart strategy, and the A'jad regime prides itself on such things.

Defectors can paralyze US intelligence. It's nearly impossible to tell truths from lies or paranoid exaggerations, a maze that famously destroyed the career of CIA counter-intelligence chief James Jesus Angleton in the 1960s. Phony defectors do not even have to be believed, as long as they confuse US intelligence enough to undermine truthful information. They kick sand in our eyes.

A few public facts suggest that Ashgari may have been a plant. He left a wife and children behind in Iran, ready blackmail victims to control his behavior abroad. His defection coincided with other high Guard officers disappearing, perhaps to confirm Ashgari's phony message. In Tehran there was no visible purge, or even public expressions of heightened suspicions, after the spectacular loss of face due to a high-level defection -- contrary to Ahmadi-Nejad current accusations of "treason" against his pragmatist enemies in the regime. And finally, after the biggest (presumed) scandal revealing treachery in the trusted Guards, there was no loss of power or prestige for the massive Guards faction of the regime.

Ahmadi-Nejad just seemed to shrug off the Ashgari defection. The obvious question is why?

5) The Flaws In the Iran Report
By John R. Bolton

Rarely has a document from the supposedly hidden world of intelligence had such an impact as the National Intelligence Estimate released this week. Rarely has an administration been so unprepared for such an event. And rarely have vehement critics of the "intelligence community" on issues such as Iraq's weapons of mass destruction reversed themselves so quickly.

All this shows that we not only have a problem interpreting what the mullahs in Tehran are up to, but also a more fundamental problem: Too much of the intelligence community is engaging in policy formulation rather than "intelligence" analysis, and too many in Congress and the media are happy about it. President Bush may not be able to repair his Iran policy (which was not rigorous enough to begin with) in his last year, but he would leave a lasting legacy by returning the intelligence world to its proper function.

Consider these flaws in the NIE's "key judgments," which were made public even though approximately 140 pages of analysis, and reams of underlying intelligence, remain classified.

First, the headline finding -- that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 -- is written in a way that guarantees the totality of the conclusions will be misread. In fact, there is little substantive difference between the conclusions of the 2005 NIE on Iran's nuclear capabilities and the 2007 NIE. Moreover, the distinction between "military" and "civilian" programs is highly artificial, since the enrichment of uranium, which all agree Iran is continuing, is critical to civilian and military uses. Indeed, it has always been Iran's "civilian" program that posed the main risk of a nuclear "breakout."

The real differences between the NIEs are not in the hard data but in the psychological assessment of the mullahs' motives and objectives. The current NIE freely admits to having only moderate confidence that the suspension continues and says that there are significant gaps in our intelligence and that our analysts dissent from their initial judgment on suspension. This alone should give us considerable pause.

Second, the NIE is internally contradictory and insufficiently supported. It implies that Iran is susceptible to diplomatic persuasion and pressure, yet the only event in 2003 that might have affected Iran was our invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, not exactly a diplomatic pas de deux. As undersecretary of state for arms control in 2003, I know we were nowhere near exerting any significant diplomatic pressure on Iran. Nowhere does the NIE explain its logic on this critical point. Moreover, the risks and returns of pursuing a diplomatic strategy are policy calculations, not intelligence judgments. The very public rollout in the NIE of a diplomatic strategy exposes the biases at work behind the Potemkin village of "intelligence."

Third, the risks of disinformation by Iran are real. We have lost many fruitful sources inside Iraq in recent years because of increased security and intelligence trade craft by Iran. The sudden appearance of new sources should be taken with more than a little skepticism. In a background briefing, intelligence officials said they had concluded it was "possible" but not "likely" that the new information they were relying on was deception. These are hardly hard scientific conclusions. One contrary opinion came from -- of all places -- an unnamed International Atomic Energy Agency official, quoted in the New York Times, saying that "we are more skeptical. We don't buy the American analysis 100 percent. We are not that generous with Iran." When the IAEA is tougher than our analysts, you can bet the farm that someone is pursuing a policy agenda.

Fourth, the NIE suffers from a common problem in government: the over-valuation of the most recent piece of data. In the bureaucracy, where access to information is a source of rank and prestige, ramming home policy changes with the latest hot tidbit is commonplace, and very deleterious. It is a rare piece of intelligence that is so important it can conclusively or even significantly alter the body of already known information. Yet the bias toward the new appears to have exerted a disproportionate effect on intelligence analysis.

Fifth, many involved in drafting and approving the NIE were not intelligence professionals but refugees from the State Department, brought into the new central bureaucracy of the director of national intelligence. These officials had relatively benign views of Iran's nuclear intentions five and six years ago; now they are writing those views as if they were received wisdom from on high. In fact, these are precisely the policy biases they had before, recycled as "intelligence judgments."

That such a flawed product could emerge after a drawn-out bureaucratic struggle is extremely troubling. While the president and others argue that we need to maintain pressure on Iran, this "intelligence" torpedo has all but sunk those efforts, inadequate as they were. Ironically, the NIE opens the way for Iran to achieve its military nuclear ambitions in an essentially unmolested fashion, to the detriment of us all.

6) Reality check:

Nov 19, 2007 - three Palestinian cops murder Israeli Ido Zoldan.

Israel cracks the case by the next day, capturing two of the cop-terrorists,
Abdullah Baram and his brother Dafar, who confess and reveal where the
murder weapons are hidden as well as the identity of their ringleader, PA
cop Fadi Jama, who still remained at large.

Now, if we lived in Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's fantasy world, the
"moderate" PA leadership would have jumped at the opportunity to clean
house, public denouncing the incident while capturing and prosecuting Fadi
Jama to the full extent of Palestinian law (the PA "justice" system has
capital punishment).

But we don't.

We live in the real world.

The PA isn't prosecuting Fadi Jama. They aren't even going through the
motions. Instead he is being held in protective custody so that Israel
cannot bring him to real justice.

If we lived in Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's fantasy world, the
"moderate" PA security forces now being armed to the teeth would be busy
clearing out the illegal arms and ammunition from the West Bank.

In the real world many of the bullets that were supposed to strengthen the
PA Police have already flooded the Palestinian black market, where they
depressed ammunition prices, just as the large number of smuggling tunnels
connecting between "peace partner" Egypt and the Gaza Strip is cutting into
smuggling profits.

If we lived in Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's fantasy world, the sole
purpose of the "moderate" PA security forces would be to maintain order
within the PA.

In the real world, the "moderate" PA has already warned that if we dare to
launch a major operation to finally put an end to the escalating terror
emanating from the Gaza Strip that they will join with Hamas to battle the
Jewish State.

There is no question that the PA will be able to provide the photo ops that
jibe with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's fantasy world. Photo ops
that American officials anxious to sign off on Palestinian compliance could
readily embrace.

But it won't be reality,

Fantasy based policy may be convenient in the short run, but it ultimately
brings disaster.

7) Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu's Knesset Speech - Commemorating November 29
Our existence does not depend on the willingness of the Palestinians to make
peace with us. Our existence is secured by our right to live in this land
and our capacity to defend that right.

The UN resolution of November 29, 1947 recognizing a Jewish state was an
important moment in the history of our nation, and an important moment in
the history of all nations.

Since then, we have made peace with Egypt and Jordan, but the obstacle to
widening the circle of peace remains what it has always been: the refusal of
Israel's enemies to recognize the Jewish State in any borders.

Our enemies do not want an Arab state next to Israel. They want an Arab
state instead of Israel.

Time and again they were offered an Arab state next to Israel: first, in
the partition plan of 1947; then, indirectly, in the Oslo accords; later,
unequivocally, at Camp David in 2000; and finally, in the countless
declarations since then by both Israeli and international leaders which have
called for two states for two peoples.

And how did our enemies respond to these offers? Time and again they
violently rejected them. In 1947, they launched terror attacks and then an
all out war to annihilate the Jewish state. During the Oslo peace process,
they terrorized Israel with suicide bombers; after Camp David, they
orchestrated the Second Intifadah in which over 1,000 Israelis were
murdered; since then they have fired thousands of Katushya rockets on the
Galilee and thousands of Kassam rockets on the Western Negev in order, they
say, "to liberate occupied Palestine" - in other words, "occupied" Haifa,
"occupied" Acre, "occupied" Sderot and "occupied" Ashkelon.

In doing so, Hezbollah and Hamas are merely following the words of Jamal
Husseini, a cousin of the Mufti and a member of the Arab High Committee, who
said four days before the UN partition vote: "Palestine will be filled
with blood and fire if the Jews receive even a part of

Regrettably, even the more moderate Palestinians refuse to support making
peace with Israel as a Jewish state. They support two states for one
people: A Palestinian state cleansed of Jews, and a bi-national state that
they hope to flood with Palestinians according to what they call the "right
of return."

Until they truly recognize and internalize the right of the Jewish people to
a state of their own and until their leaders show the courage of President
Anwar Sadat of Egypt and King Hussein of Jordan, it is doubtful that we will
have a real partner for a genuine peace.

In this context, we can understand what happened - and what didn't happen -
with the adoption of the UN partition resolution in 1947.

The resolution did not fix for all time the contours of a final settlement
between us and our neighbors. After all, the Arabs rejected the
establishment of a Jewish state and sought to destroy it. The day after
the vote the Mufti himself said, "what the UN wrote in black ink, we will
write in red blood."

Arab leaders cannot come today, 60 years later, and demand to turn back the
clock as if nothing happened. They cannot demand that we accept an agreement
that they themselves tore to shreds because, having failed to destroy
Israel, they have now concluded that its provisions would spell Israel's

Ben Gurion understood this well when he said in one of the first meetings of
the government of Israel: "The decisions of November 29 are dead. The
borders of partition are dead. Jerusalem as an 'international city' is a
mere fantasy." He repeated these ideas in his speech to the Knesset on
December 12th, 1949 when he said that the UN decision was null and void.

Thus, neither the borders of partition nor the internationalization of
Jerusalem are the enduring features of the UN vote.

What is enduring is the international recognition of the right of the Jewish
people to their own state, a right anchored in the Balfour Declaration which
recognized the right of the Jews to a national home in the Land of Israel
and which was reaffirmed by both the San Remo conference in 1920 and by the
League of Nations in 1922.

But the UN partition vote is seared in our memory because immediately
following the vote Britain began to leave the country, opening the way to
the fateful battle that almost snuffed out our existence.

The UN partition vote did not establish the state of Israel. It merely
recognized the historic right of the Jewish people to return to their
homeland and restore their sovereign existence.

But had it not been for the millennial longing of the Jewish people for the
land of Israel, the continuous presence of Jews here across the centuries
and the seventy years of intensive Jewish settlement in the land that
preceded the UN vote, this historic right would never have been realized.

And even these would not have sufficed had not the sons of a tiny nation, in
the wake of the horrific Holocaust, raised the sword of the Macabees and
with incomparable heroism repelled an Arab onslaught that was about to
overwhelm the fledgling state.

The enduring belief in our historic national rights, the settlement effort
that realized those rights and the military struggle that defended them-
these are what established the Jewish state.

The UN vote merely gave international recognition to this. Yet the UN vote
was an important and historic decision, and it is right that we commemorate
that vote today with the distinguished ambassadors of the nations that
supported it.

But consider this: What would have happened to the UN decision if we would
have been defeated in the War of Independence?

The key to Israel's existence has always been rooted in strengthening
Zionism and our ability to defend ourselves - and this remains the key to
our existence and the key to forging a genuine peace with all our Arab
neighbors. Only when some of them recognized Israel's permanence and
indestructibility did they reconcile themselves to making peace with us.

That is why I was shocked to hear in the press that the prime minister said:
"If there will not be two states, Israel is finished."

Mr. Prime Minister: The State of Israel will never be finished! Our
fate will be determined by us, and us alone!

Our existence does not depend on the willingness of the Palestinians to make
peace with us. Our existence is secured by our right to live in this land
and our capacity to defend that right.

We built up our country for 31 years before the peace agreement with Egypt,
we continued to build it for another 16 years before the peace agreement
with Jordan, and I hope we will not wait long before we can achieve a peace
agreement with the Palestinians and with others in the Arab world.

But we do not condition our existence on their agreement. That was the
policy of all Israeli governments until now, and it must be the policy of
all Israeli governments in the future. Let me repeat: Our fate will be
determined by us and us alone!

In the Middle East, peace and security go hand-in-hand. In fact security,
which stems from Israel's strength, precedes peace and peace agreements.
Whoever does not understand this will be left without security and without

Only a strong Israel, confident in the justice of its cause and led by a
strong leadership, will be able to achieve the lasting peace with our
neighbors for which we all yearn.

Monday, December 3, 2007

And The Walls Came a Tumbling Down Because We Cannot Connect Dots!

George Friedman gives his analysis of the recent revelation by the NIE that its intelligence assessment of Iran's nuclear program was wrong. Friedman seems to buy the fact that the new revelation is going to lead to greater co-operation between Iran and our nation vis a vis Iraq. (See 1 below.)

I find the new NIE assessment more a convenient political happenstance motivated as much by GW's need to back off from his bellicose stand which was going nowhere because Iran did not seem threatened by our empty ones and to begin actions which will define his presidential legacy.

I am more skeptical than, perhaps, Friedman and find it difficult to believe all of a sudden an NIE review reveals what it purportedly has. There is plenty of evidence that Iran wants a nuclear bomb, intends to have a nuclear bomb and whether it is close or further away it will become fait accompli that they will have one. That GW's walls have come tumbling down based on an NIE report is hard to believe in view of Sec. Rice's about face and footsie playing with the Saudis, Syria and now Iran.

To this cynical person it appears more an effort to bake the cake in a matter that will provide a more graceful exit from Iraq, ignore certain realities, let another president hassle with them and leave Israel to fend for itself. I doubt much will be learned at today's press conference other than casting more doubt on GW's veracity. It would appear to me GW is trying to demonstrate he is capable of changing his mind when he has "adequate intelligence?" in order to assuage those who criticized him regarding Iraq's WMD.

This announcement, the possibility of a Fed interest rate reduction and Paulson's bank bail-out should give the market some breathing room near term.(See 2 below.)

What Iran is thinking about our inability to connect dots. (See 3 below.)

More assessment of the U.S. intelligence reversal. (See 4 below.)

Olmert went to Annapolis and the limb he was perched on got sawed off. He looks more the duped fool than ever before and nothing he says regarding the world's stance towards Iran's nuclear ambitions will have relevance. When Iran eventually tests their bomb, as Israel did in South Africa, then the world will take notice but it will be too late. We have handed Russia a diplomatic victory and solidified their importance among those in the radical Arab world.

It will be interesting to see how the Saudis take the pass we have given Iran. No doubt other "moderate?" Arab nations will begin running to patch things up with Iran. (See 5 below.)

Frank Gaffney, Jr. addresses the impact of "Petro Dollars" buying U.S. assets. Ownership ultimately creates influence - political and otherwise. As I said: open an account at Citibank and instead of a toaster you will soon be offered a prayer rug.(See 6 below.)

John Podhoretz, a future Speaker Series, participant offers his views regarding the NIE report. Podhoretz believes the intelligence community may be seeking to "frag" GW and deter him from his own desire to confront Iran. (See 7 below.)


1) The NIE Report: Solving a Geopolitical Problem with Iran
By George Friedman

The United States released a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Dec. 3. It said, "We judge with high confidence that in the fall of 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program." It went on to say, "Tehran's decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005." It further said, "Our assessment that Iran halted the program in 2003 primarily in response to international pressure indicates Tehran's decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs."

With this announcement, the dynamics of the Middle Eastern region, Iraq and U.S.-Iranian relations shift dramatically. For one thing, the probability of a unilateral strike against Iranian nuclear targets is gone. Since there is no Iranian nuclear weapons program, there is no rationale for a strike. Moreover, if Iran is not engaged in weapons production, then a broader air campaign designed to destabilize the Iranian regime has no foundation either.

The NIE release represents a transformation of U.S. policy toward Iran. The Bush administration made Iran's nuclear weapons program the main reason for its attempt to create an international coalition against Iran, on the premise that a nuclear-armed Iran was unacceptable. If there is no Iranian nuclear program, then what is the rationale for the coalition? Moreover, what is the logic of resisting Iran's efforts in Iraq, rather than cooperating?

In looking at the report, a number of obvious questions come up. First, how did the intelligence community reach the wrong conclusion in the spring of 2005, when it last released an NIE on Iran, and what changed by 2007? Also, why did the United States reach the wrong conclusions on Iran three years after its program was halted? There are two possible answers. One is intelligence failure and the other is political redefinition. Both must be explored.

Let's begin with intelligence failure. Intelligence is not an easy task. Knowing what is going on inside of a building is harder than it might seem. Regardless of all the technical capabilities -- from imagery in all spectra to sensing radiation leakage at a distance -- huge uncertainties always remain. Failing to get a positive reading does not mean the facility is not up and running. It might just have been obscured, or the technical means to discover it are insufficient. The default setting in technical intelligence is that, while things can be ruled in, they cannot simply be ruled out by lack of evidence.

You need to go into the building. Indeed, you need to go into many buildings, look around, see what is happening and report back. Getting into highly secure buildings may be easy in the movies. It is not easy in real life. Getting someone into the building who knows what he is seeing is even harder. Getting him out alive to report back, and then repeating the process in other buildings, is even harder. It can be done -- though not easily or repeatedly.

Recruiting someone who works in the building is an option, but at the end of the day you have to rely on his word as to what he saw. That too, is a risk. He might well be a double agent who is inventing information to make money, or he could just be wrong. There is an endless number of ways that recruiting on-site sources can lead you to the wrong conclusion.

Source-based intelligence would appear to be the only way to go. Obviously, it is better to glean information from someone who knows what is going on, rather than to guess. But the problem with source-based intelligence is that, when all is said and done, you can still be just as confused -- or more confused -- than you were at the beginning. You could wind up with a mass of intelligence that can be read either way. It is altogether possible to have so many sources, human and technical, that you have no idea what the truth is. That is when an intelligence organization is most subject to political pressure. When the intelligence could go either way, politics can tilt the system. We do not know what caused the NIE to change its analysis. It could be the result of new, definitive intelligence, or existing intelligence could have been reread from a new political standpoint.

Consider the politics. The assumption was that Iran wanted to develop nuclear weapons -- though its motivations for wanting to do so were never clear to us. First, the Iranians had to assume that, well before they had an operational system, the United States or Israel would destroy it. In other words, it would be a huge effort for little profit. Second, assume that it developed one or two weapons and attacked Israel, for example. Israel might well have been destroyed, but Iran would probably be devastated by an Israeli or U.S. counterstrike. What would be the point?

For Iran to be developing nuclear weapons, it would have to have been prepared to take extraordinary risks. A madman theory, centered around the behavior of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was essential. But as the NIE points out, Iran was "guided by a cost-benefit approach." In simple terms, the Iranians weren't nuts. That is why they didn't build a nuclear program.

That is not to say Iran did not benefit from having the world believe it was building nuclear weapons. The United States is obsessed with nuclear weapons in the hands of states it regards as irrational. By appearing to be irrational and developing nuclear weapons, the Iranians created a valuable asset to use in negotiating with the Americans. The notion of a nuclear weapon in Iranian hands appeared so threatening that the United States might well negotiate away other things -- particularly in Iraq -- in exchange for a halt of the program. Or so the Iranians hoped. Therefore, while they halted development on their weapons program, they were not eager to let the Americans relax. They swung back and forth between asserting their right to operate the program and denying they had one. Moreover, they pushed hard for a civilian power program, which theoretically worried the world less. It drove the Americans up a wall -- precisely where the Iranians wanted them.

As we have argued, the central issue for Iran is not nuclear weapons. It is the future of Iraq. The Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988 was the defining moment in modern Iranian history. It not only devastated Iran, but also weakened the revolution internally. Above all, Tehran never wants to face another Iraqi regime that has the means and motivation to wage war against Iran. That means the Iranians cannot tolerate a Sunni-dominated government that is heavily armed and backed by the United States. Nor, for that matter, does Tehran completely trust Iraq's fractured Shiite bloc with Iran's national security. Iran wants to play a critical role in defining the nature, policies and capabilities of the Iraqi regime.

The recent U.S. successes in Iraq, however limited and transitory they might be, may have caused the Iranians to rethink their view on dealing with the Americans on Iraq. The Americans, regardless of progress, cannot easily suppress all of the Shiite militias. The Iranians cannot impose a regime on Iraq, though they can destabilize the process. A successful outcome requires a degree of cooperation -- and recent indications suggest that Iran is prepared to provide that cooperation.

That puts the United States in an incredibly difficult position. On the one hand, it needs Iran for the endgame in Iraq. On the other, negotiating with Iran while it is developing nuclear weapons runs counter to fundamental U.S. policies and the coalition it was trying to construct. As long as Iran was building nuclear weapons, working with Iran on Iraq was impossible.

The NIE solves a geopolitical problem for the United States. Washington cannot impose a unilateral settlement on Iraq, nor can it sustain forever the level of military commitment it has made to Iraq. There are other fires starting to burn around the world. At the same time, Washington cannot work with Tehran while it is building nuclear weapons. Hence, the NIE: While Iran does have a nuclear power program, it is not building nuclear weapons.

Perhaps there was a spectacular and definitive intelligence breakthrough that demonstrated categorically that the prior assessments were wrong. Proving a negative is tough, and getting a definitive piece of intelligence is hard. Certainly, no matter how definitive the latest intelligence might have been, a lot of people want Iran to be building a nuclear weapon, so the debate over the meaning of this intelligence would have roared throughout the intelligence community and the White House. Keeping such debate this quiet and orderly is not Washington's style.

Perhaps the Iranians are ready to deal, and so decided to open up their facility for the Americans to see. Still, regardless of what the Iranians opened up, some would have argued that the United States was given a tour only of what the Iranians wanted them to see. There is a mention in the report that any Iranian program would be covert rather than overt, and that might reflect such concerns. However, all serious nuclear programs are always covert until they succeed. Nothing is more vulnerable than an incomplete nuclear program.

We are struck by the suddenness of the NIE report. Explosive new intelligence would have been more hotly contested. We suspect two things. First, the intelligence on the Iranian nuclear program consisted of a great number of pieces, many of which were inherently ambiguous and could be interpreted in multiple ways. Second, the weight of evidence for there being an Iranian nuclear program was shaded by the political proclivities of the administration, which saw the threat of a U.S. strike as intimidating Iran, and the weapons program discussion as justifying it. Third, the change in political requirements on both sides made a new assessment useful. This last has certainly been the case in all things Middle Eastern these past few days on issues ranging from the Palestinians to Syria to U.S. forces in Iraq -- so why should this issue be any different?

If this thesis is correct, then we should start seeing some movement on Iraq between the United States and Iran. Certainly the major blocker from the U.S. side has been removed and the success of U.S. policies of late should motivate the Iranians. In any case, the entire framework for U.S.-Iranian relations would appear to have shifted, and with it the structure of geopolitical relations throughout the region.

Intelligence is rarely as important as when it is proven wrong.

2)Jalili lands in Moscow as Iranian leaders cheer US intelligence reassessment of nuclear arms threat. Bush statement due later Tuesday

Iranian foreign minister:

Iranian foreign minister: "US has lost the nuclear battle to Iran"

Iran’s nuclear negotiator, dep. FM Saeed Jalili’s trip to Moscow Tuesday, Dec. 4. for talks with Russian president Vladimir Putin, capitalizes on the breakthrough the US has offered Tehran. The shock waves from the US intelligence report that Iran had put its bid for a nuclear bomb on hold in 2003, in contradiction of its 2005 assessment, are already touching other countries as well.

President George W. Bush will talk to the media later Tuesday about his radical turnaround on Iran. Only two months ago he spoke of the Iranian nuclear threat in terms of World War III.

Striking a welcoming note, FM Manouchehr Mottaki reiterated that Tehran never had plans to build atomic weapons. Countries with questions in the past “have now amended their views realistically,” he said. Last Friday, Nov. 30, Mottaki was less restrained, declaring, “The US has lost nuclear battle to Iran.” He was speaking to Basij members (Revolutionary Guards local reserve units). And in Tehran, ex-president Hashemi Rafsanjani declared enigmatically after Friday worship: “Iran is just a few steps before the end.”

Rafsanjani, close adviser to supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was initially interpreted as referring to the national nuclear program. But according to Iranian sources, he was talking about Iran’s contest with the US over its nuclear program. This would indicate that Tehran had been alerted in advance to the White House’s policy revision on its nuclear activities on the bases of the NIE report.

Washington sources confirm that the news which was kept closely secret took political circles by storm when it was released by national security adviser Stephen Hadley and a bevy of senior intelligence officials Monday. Contrary to claims from the Israeli prime minister’s office, Ehud Olmert was not tipped off in advance when he met Bush at the White House last Wednesday.

Our sources add that, contrary to the assurances emanating from Jerusalem, the entire sanctions edifice is in danger of toppling, including Washington’s push for a third round of penalties for Iran at the UN Security Council. This push was based on the previous intelligence estimates of Iran’s progress towards nuclear armament in defiance of the international community in the last four years. The White House has now backtracked on those estimates.

3) ANALYSIS: Iran laughing at U.S. lack of nuclear intelligence
By Amir Oren

The noise that was heard last night in Tehran, according to credible reports, was a hearty Persian laugh after looking at the U.S. intelligence service's website. The unclassified document that Director of National Intelligence, Adm. Mike McConnell published, titled "Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities," as a laundered version that faithfully represents the greatest secrets collected by the CIA and the other U.S. intelligence services, can appropriately be called "much evaluation on no intelligence."

The document's eight pages, which include embarrassing instructions on how to differentiate between different yet related terms ("it is possible," "it may be so," "one must not remove from the equation," and "it's reasonable to assume"), enable the Ayatollas' nuclear and operations officials and the heads of the Revolutionary Guards to reach this soothing conclusion - from their point of view: The Americans have no understanding of what is really happening in Iran's nuclear program. They have no solid information, they have no high-level agents and they have nothing more than a mix of guesswork and chatter. The dissemblance and concealment have succeeded, and the real dispute is not between Washington and Tehran, but within the U.S. administration itself.

Only five weeks ago, McConnell announced that as a rule, he doesn't believe in the release of such documents. He regretted the publication of the principles of the intelligence evaluation on Iraq.

McConnell kept quiet on Monday. Donald Kerr, his deputy, was enlisted to explain why the Iran assessment followed in Iraq's footsteps. The essence of his explanation: The worst-case evaluation which has been repeatedly published since 2005 has changed, and it is important to clarify its "proper presentation." He means to say that if the politicians, President George W. Bush and Deputy President Richard Cheney, insist on leading their country into a war with Iran, this is their democratic right - on the assumption they receive Congressional support - but they shouldn't delude themselves that they can do this on the back of the CIA's investigative officers. Iraq won't repeat itself.

On one level, this is a philosophical debate: How should the lack of "indicative signs" be interpreted, in the face of a devious enemy, a certified cheat who is determined in his pursuit of the goal (also according to the intelligence assessors). The suspicious Bush and Cheney believe the absence of evidence is in fact evidence of the existence of an additional, hidden channel of nuclear development. Their intelligence services say that without proof there is no place for such an evaluation.

Responsibility is different for each rank. Intelligence is responsible for making assessments on facts collected, and the diplomats are responsible for preventing a failure at the two extremes: Not in making an over-estimation such as with Iraq (a result of former President Saddam Hussein's deception) and not in making an under-assessment such as with Al-Qaida before September 11, 2001. It is possible to say, using an Israeli parallel, like July 11, 2006, when the Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence did not know - or did not understand what it had heard - that Hezbollah would execute a kidnapping operation on the following day.

On a second level, the debate is a professional one: How does one evaluate developments in the nuclear field, when there are no actual objects which can be felt (missiles or bombs, for example), and before tests have been conducted. It is possible to weigh from a distance the kilograms of uranium which have been made in centrifuges, and to count how much of them have been hidden or enriched; but the great mystery is the degree of success achieved by the "weapons group," the teams of experts attempting to make the material explosive.

Behind the heap of words, presented as "a low or medium level of certainty," the differences between the worst-case and the best-case views on when Iran will be capable of producing a nuclear weapon are not that great. These range from somewhere between 2009 and the following five years, starting in 2010. Even McConnell's intelligence officers agree that Iran can buy nukes off the shelf - from Syria, North Korea and maybe Pakistan - and that the renewal of the program, if it is indeed on a coffee break, depends only on the intentions of the rulers, and those intentions will change only when the rulers are replaced.

The CIA is so angry with Bush, it seems, that it is ready to go to great lengths in order to help another president. Not Ahmadinejad, God forbid, but the next president in Washington. The result is likely to be the opposite: Higher Iranian militancy along with Bush and Cheney's determination to act - regardless of what the intelligence agencies say.

4)ANALYSIS: Iran nuke study pulls military option off the table
By Shmuel Rosner and Aluf Benn

WASHINGTON - "An intelligence consensus is difficult to challenge with new
data," wrote Judge Richard Posner in his book "Preventing Surprise Attack,"
which deals with the necessary reforms in American intelligence services

Intelligence officers, like anyone else, "are reluctant to change their
minds" and admit they made a mistake or were caught by surprise. So the U.S.
intelligence services should be given credit for trying to correct their
mistake. Meanwhile, it should be remembered that correcting a mistake with
another mistake makes it all the more difficult to change one's mind the
next time.

Israel's ambassador to Washington, Sallai Meridor, spent the weekend warning
about Iran's nuclear program. Meanwhile, Israel knew about the report that
was to be released, but Meridor warned in no uncertain terms that "time is
running out." Either way, the official report blew up in his face: Time is
not running out, the Iranians are not making progress, and Israel may come
to be seen as a panic-stricken rabbit.

The debate surrounding this report's conclusions will be substantial, and
many will assume that its authors have failed in gathering or interpreting
the intelligence out there. A psychological interpretation will also be
thrown into the pot, discounting the conclusions. The same intelligence that
warned of Saddam Hussein's non-conventional arsenal is now making the
opposite, deadly error in relation to Iran. The Americans will find
themselves surprised like they did when they learned of the Indian and
Pakistani bombs.

Professionals will now argue passionately, continuing the debates between
Israel's assessment (an Iranian bomb in 2009-2010) and the American one (a
bomb in 2012-2013).

The Americans failed to explain Monday how they reached their new
conclusions. As such, the general public will find it difficult to decide
who is right. Maybe in the future, when there suddenly really is a bomb in
play, or maybe not, a decision on this can be final. Meanwhile, Israeli
intelligence has adopted the "most severe" approach, but the American
decision maker is only affected by the Americans writing the assessment.

It does not really matter. However successful or flawed this report may be,
there is a new, dramatic reality, in all aspects of the struggle against the
Iranian bomb: The military option, American or Israeli, is off the table,

5) PM: US report should not deter world from dealing with Iran
By Herb Keinon

The threat of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons must not be underestimated, was the message government officials sent out on Tuesday after the release of a US intelligence report claiming that Teheran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 but was continuing to enrich uranium.

The report only emphasizes and strengthens the need for the international community to tighten sanctions on Iran so that it will not be able to produce nuclear weapons, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at the opening of a meeting with the Italian deputy prime minister.

Olmert said that the report's findings were brought up during his meetings with Washington officials soon after the Middle East Peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland last week.

Regardless of the fact that the report said that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons plan, the fact was that such a plan did indeed exist until 2003.

* US: Iran stopped nuclear arms program in 2003

"The US still plans to continue to try to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons. We will make every effort - first and foremost with our friends in the US - to prevent the production of this type of weapon," he said.

Earlier, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that Iran is continuing in its efforts to produce a nuclear bomb despite the report. According to the minister, Iran had indeed stopped its program four years ago but has since renewed it.

In response to Israeli speculation that the report's findings would weaken American-backed support for military action against Iran, Barak emphasized that the issue of its nuclear program was still relevant.

"It is possible that this is correct, but I do not think that it is our place to make assessments about US [policy]. It is our responsibility to ensure that the correct things are done. Constantly speaking about the Iranian threat, as we have done recently, is not the right thing to do… words do not stop missiles," Barak told Army Radio.

"There are differences in the assessments of different organizations in the world about this, and only time will tell who is right," he added.

National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said that irrespective of the US intelligence report, "Israel must continue to act in every way against the Iranian nuclear threat."

"This report is totally fine, it makes me smile, but on the other hand Israel and the defense establishment are working under the premise that Iran is in fact heading directly towards [a nuclear weapon]" Ben Eliezer told Army Radio, adding, "This is exactly one of the issues over which the state of Israel must take no risk."

Similarly, government officials said Monday night that the new report had not lessened Israeli concerns, since enriched uranium can be used both for civilian and military purposes.

According to the report, Iran halted its nuclear weapons development program in the fall of 2003 under international pressure but is continuing to enrich uranium. That means it may still be able to develop a weapon between 2010 and 2015, senior US intelligence officials said Monday.

6) Shariah's Trojan horse
By Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.

Suddenly, a new national debate is beginning about the national security, economic and other implications of Persian Gulf potentates using their petrodollars to buy up strategic American assets. Most recently, the Emir of Dubai's purchase at fire-sale prices of 4.9 percent of the largest U.S. bank, Citigroup, has caused a level of unease not seen since he tried to buy his way into a large number of this country's port facilities.

Almost completely unremarked thus far has been a parallel - and in many ways far more insidious - effort to penetrate, influence and dominate America's capital markets: so-called "Shariah finance." Some estimates suggest that there are approaching $1 trillion now being invested around the world under this rubric. If present trends continue, all other things being equal, such funds may grow to many times that amount within a few years.

Shariah is, of course, the term used by adherents to the totalitarian ideology practiced by the Saudi Wahhabis, the Iranian mullahs and the Taliban to describe the all-encompassing theocratic code they use to justify repressive rule at home and to extend their dominance elsewhere. While it is often depicted by its promoters as Koranic in character, in fact, it is largely man-made, the product of dictates and rulings by caliphs and scholars over many centuries.

For non-Muslims, Shariah is best known for its sanction for the brutalization of women, homosexuals and Jews. Beheadings, amputations, flagellation and stoning are among the prescribed punishments for those who transgress this barbaric code, punishments plucked from primitive tribal practices in the Arabian deserts dating back to medieval times.

As a recent, excellent paper by my colleague at the Center for Security Policy, Alex Alexiev, points out, however, Shariah finance is a relatively contemporary innovation. It was not until mid-20th Century that Islamofascist ideologues like Abul ala Mawdudi and Sayyid Qutb introduced the notion that faithful Muslims must invest their wealth only in vehicles that comply with Shariah's putative prohibition on interest. In the decades that followed, relatively few in the Muslim world followed this admonition as most Muslims regarded with appropriate skepticism financial schemes that generally were not reliable investments, especially those that went to almost-farcical lengths to conjure up returns without acknowledging they amounted to interest payments.

Until now. In recent years, the windfall revenues flowing to the oil-exporting nations of the Persian Gulf have translated into an opportunity for the Islamists who dominate their societies to enlist the West's leading financial institutions as partners in promoting Shariah finance. In overseas capital markets and increasingly on Wall Street, "Shariah advisors" are being hired at great cost to bless investment instruments as compliant with this religious code.

As a result, three ominous things are occurring:

First, Shariah finance creates a mechanism for systematically legitimating the underlying, repressive theo-political regimen - and, thereby, advancing its adherents' bid to govern all Muslims and, in due course, the entire world.

Presumably, Western bankers and investment houses would be horrified to know they are helping promote such arrangements. One would think their governments would be, too. Yet, the former are so avidly pursuing Mideast wealth that few seem prepared to engage in even the most superficial due diligence about the implications of Shariah finance. And British prime minister Gordon Brown, for example, has declared he intends to make London the Islamic finance capital of the world. His government has said it intends to issue its own sukuk (or "Shariah-compliant" bonds) sometime next year.

The trouble is that, having embraced one aspect of Shariah, it will be vastly more difficult, if not as a practical matter impossible, to deny Islamist activists their demands to accommodate other aspects such as: footbaths in public institutions, prayer rooms and time off for prayers in both public and private sector establishments, latitude for cab drivers and cashiers to decline to do business with certain customers or handle certain products, an Islamist public school in Brooklyn, etc. Like Shariah finance, each of these is but a beachhead in the Islamofascists' patient, determined and ultimately seditious campaign to subvert and supplant Western free societies.

Elsewhere in some of those societies, such inroads have been expanded to include: demands for Shariah-compliant schools as in the UK; a push in Canada for separate shariah courts for all matters within the Muslim community; Shariah tolerance for honor killings of women attempted in Germany; destruction of non Shariah-compliant businesses in dedicated "Muslim enclaves" in France; and in various countries, Shariah-approved assassinations of critics of Islam and anyone leaving Islam worldwide.

Second, the Shariah advisors hired by Western capitalists to determine whether investments are "halal" (the Muslim equivalent of kosher) are generally among the foremost adherents to the Islamist creed and associated with organizations that promote it. As one of them put it, Shariah investing is simply "financial jihad" against the unbelievers.

Third, under the direction of these Shariah advisors, at least 2.5% of the proceeds of the investments they control are donated to Zakat funds. Some of these "charities" have been known to contribute to organizations like Hamas, Hezbollah, the families of suicide bombers in Palestinian communities and Islamist madrassas in places like Pakistan. As investment advisors start promoting Shariah finance vehicles and Islamic indexes like Standard & Poors and Dow Jones, non-Muslim Americans will find themselves tithing to these dubious causes, as well.

Before the Trojan horse of Shariah finance is fully wheeled inside the gates of the American capital markets, federal regulators, corporate boards of directors and U.S. shareholders need to understand whether such investing conforms with the good governance and accountability required under Sarbanes-Oxley, the transparency depositors are entitled to under our banking laws and legislation barring material support to terrorism. To do otherwise is to invite the introduction of the instrument of our undoing into our capitalist system and the freedom-loving society it underpins.

7) Dark Suspicions about the NIE
By Norman Podhoretz

A new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), entitled “Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities,” has just dealt a serious blow to the argument some of us have been making that Iran is intent on building nuclear weapons and that neither diplomacy nor sanctions can prevent it from succeeding. Thus, this latest NIE “judges with high confidence that in fall 2003 Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program”; it “judges with high confidence that the halt was directed primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure resulting from exposure of Iran’s previously undeclared nuclear work”; it “assesses with moderate confidence that Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007”; it assesses, also with only “moderate confidence that the halt to those activities represents a halt to Iran’s entire nuclear weapons program”; but even if not, it judges “with high confidence that Iran will not be technically capable of producing and reprocessing enough plutonium for a weapon before about 2015.”

These findings are startling, not least because in key respects they represent a 180-degree turn from the conclusions of the last NIE on Iran’s nuclear program. For that one, issued in May 2005, assessed “with high confidence that Iran currently is determined to develop nuclear weapons” and to press on “despite its international obligations and international pressure.”

In other words, a full two years after Iran supposedly called a halt to its nuclear program, the intelligence community was still as sure as it ever is about anything that Iran was determined to build a nuclear arsenal. Why then should we believe it when it now tells us, and with the same “high confidence,” that Iran had already called a halt to its nuclear-weapons program in 2003? Similarly with the intelligence community’s reversal on the effectiveness of international pressure. In 2005, the NIE was highly confident that international pressure had not lessened Iran’s determination to develop nuclear weapons, and yet now, in 2007, the intelligence community is just as confident that international pressure had already done the trick by 2003.

It is worth remembering that in 2002, one of the conclusions offered by the NIE, also with “high confidence,” was that “Iraq is continuing, and in some areas expanding its chemical, biological, nuclear, and missile programs contrary to UN resolutions.” And another conclusion, offered with high confidence too, was that “Iraq could make a nuclear weapon in months to a year once it acquires sufficient weapons-grade fissile material.”

I must confess to suspecting that the intelligence community, having been excoriated for supporting the then universal belief that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, is now bending over backward to counter what has up to now been a similarly universal view (including as is evident from the 2005 NIE, within the intelligence community itself) that Iran is hell-bent on developing nuclear weapons. I also suspect that, having been excoriated as well for minimizing the time it would take Saddam to add nuclear weapons to his arsenal, the intelligence community is now bending over backward to maximize the time it will take Iran to reach the same goal.

But I entertain an even darker suspicion. It is that the intelligence community, which has for some years now been leaking material calculated to undermine George W. Bush, is doing it again. This time the purpose is to head off the possibility that the President may order air strikes on the Iranian nuclear installations. As the intelligence community must know, if he were to do so, it would be as a last resort, only after it had become undeniable that neither negotiations nor sanctions could prevent Iran from getting the bomb, and only after being convinced that it was very close to succeeding. How better, then, to stop Bush in his tracks than by telling him and the world that such pressures have already been effective and that keeping them up could well bring about “a halt to Iran’s entire nuclear weapons program”—especially if the negotiations and sanctions were combined with a goodly dose of appeasement or, in the NIE’s own euphemistic formulation, “with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways.”

If this is what lies behind the release of the new NIE, its authors can take satisfaction in the response it has elicited from the White House. Quoth Stephen Hadley, George W. Bush’s National Security Adviser: “The estimate offers grounds for hope that the problem can be solved diplomatically—without the use of force—as the administration has been trying to do.”

I should add that I offer these assessments and judgments with no more than “moderate confidence.”