Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sam Nunn Remains a national treasure!

An interesting article on Sarkozy's background. Will it have an impact on him or will, like so many of his heritage, deny their roots because of social pressures or physical threats, ie. Sulzbergers etc. (See 1 below.)

Sec Paulson is learning he has less clout vis a vis China than with his Goldman partners but he is trying and is being more effective than any of his predecessors in this administration. Finally GW has learned what an important Cabinet position Sec. of The Treasury can be. (See 2 below.)

Is GW posturing as our meeting with Iran draws near and if so will Iran pay any attention knowing and/or believing we are simply blustering? (See 3 below.)

Israel's confrontation with Hamas continues to escalate as Israel captures another Hamas leader. (See 4 below.)

Sam Nunn recently sent me the annual report of the organization he Co-Chairs and of which he is the CEO - NTI. Sam and his board continue to work on behalf of the world to reduce nuclear proliferation and restrain and/or reverse that which has already occurred. No doubt Sam would be opposed to any strike on Iran by the U.S. and his unwillingness to vote in favor The Gulf War probably led him to not seek re-election among other reasons.

Nunn remains a national treasure, continues to be light years ahead in his thinking about nuclear proliferation and his organization is doing some amazing things in this area.

That said, the reality of a nuclear Iran may overtake the intellectual argument against such. (See 5 below.)

I believe what Youseff Ibrahim wrote recently is worth repeating. (See 6 below.)

7) Giora Eiland tells it like it needs to be told.( See 7 below.)

Some statistical food for thought! (See 8 below.)


1) Who is Nicolas Sarkozy?
> By Raanan Eliaz
> What to expect from France's new president, scion of one of the oldest Jewish families of Salonika, Greece
> In an interview Nicolas Sarkozy gave in 2004, he expressed an extraordinary understanding of the plight of the Jewish people for a home:
> "Should I remind you the visceral attachment of every Jew to Israel, as a second mother homeland? There is nothing outrageous about it. Every Jew carries within him a fear passed down through generations, and he knows that if one day he will not feel safe in his country, there will always be a place that would welcome him. And this is Israel." (From the book " La Rˆ©publique, les religions, l'espˆ©rance", interviews with Thibaud Collin and Philippe Verdin.)
> Sarkozy's sympathy and understanding is most probably a product of his upbringing; it is well known that Sarkozy's mother was born to the Mallah family, one of the oldest Jewish families of Salonika, Greece. Additionally, many may be surprised to learn that his yet-to-be-revealed family history involves a true and fascinating story of leadership, heroism and survival. It remains to be seen whether his personal history will affect his foreign policy and France's role in the Middle East conflict.
> In the 15th century, the Mallah family (in Hebrew: messenger or angel) escaped the Spanish Inquisition to Provence, France and moved about one hundred years later to Salonika. In Greece, several family members became prominent Zionist leaders, active in the local and national political, economic, social and cultural life. To this day many Mallahs are still active Zionists around the world.
> Sarkozy's grandfather, Aron Mallah, nicknamed Benkio, was born in 1890. Beniko's uncle Moshe was a well-known Rabbi and a devoted Zionist who, in 1898 published and edited "El Avenir", the leading paper of the Zionist national movement in Greece at the time. His cousin, Asher, was a Senator in the Greek Senate and in 1912 he helped guarantee the establishment of the Technion ’Äî the elite technological university in Haifa, Israel. In 1919 he was elected as the first President of the Zionist Federation of Greece and he headed the Zionist Council for several years. In the 1930's he helped Jews flee to Israel, to which he himself immigrated in 1934. Another of Beniko's cousins, Peppo Mallah, was a philanthropist for Jewish causes who served in the Greek Parliament, and in 1920 he was offered, but declined, the position of Greece's Minister of Finance. After the establishment of the State of Israel he became the country's first diplomatic envoy to Greece.
> In 1917 a great fire destroyed parts of Salonika and damaged the family estate. Many Jewish-owned properties, including the Mallah's, were expropriated by the Greek government. Jewish population emigrated from Greece and much of the Mallah family left Salonika to France, America and Israel. Sarkozy's grandfather, Beniko, immigrated to France with his mother. When in France Beniko converted to Catholicism and changed his name to Benedict in order to marry a French Christian girl named Adˆ®le Bouvier.
> Adˆ®le and Benedict had two daughters, Susanne and Andrˆ©e. Although Benedict integrated fully into French society, he remained close to his Jewish family, origin and culture. Knowing he was still considered Jewish by blood, during World War II he and his family hid in Marcillac la Croisille in the Corrˆ®ze region, western France.
> During the Holocaust, many of the Mallahs who stayed in Salonika or moved to France were deported to concentration and extermination camps. In total, fifty-seven family members were murdered by the Nazis. Testimonies reveal that several revolted against the Nazis and one, Buena Mallah, was the subject of Nazis medical experiments in the Birkenau concentration camp.
> In 1950 Benedict's daughter, Andrˆ©e Mallah, married Pal Nagy Bosca y Sarkozy, a descendent of a Hungarian aristocratic family. The couple had three sons ’Äî Guillaume, Nicolas and Franˆßois. The marriage failed and they divorced in 1960, so Andrˆ©e raised her three boys close to their grandfather, Benedict. Nicolas was especially close to Benedict, who was like a father to him. In his biography Sarkozy tells he admired his grandfather, and through hours spent of listening to his stories of the Nazi occupation, the "Maquis" (French resistance), De Gaulle and the D-day, Benedict bequeathed to Nicolas his political convictions.
> Sarkozy's family lived in Paris until Benedict's death in 1972, at which point they moved to Neuilly-sur-Seine to be closer to the boys' father, Pal (who changed his name to Paul) Sarkozy. Various memoirs accounted Paul as a father who did not spend much time with the kids or help the family monetarily. Nicolas had to sell flowers and ice cream in order to pay for his studies. However, his fascination with politics led him to become the city's youngest mayor and to rise to the top of French and world politics. The rest is history.
> It may be a far leap to consider that Sarkozy's Jewish ancestry may have any bearing on his policies vis-ˆÝ-vis Israel. However, many expect Sarkozy's presidency to bring a dramatic change not only in France's domestic affairs, but also in the country's foreign policy in the Middle-East. One cannot overestimate the magnitude of the election of the first French President born after World War II, whose politics seem to represent a new dynamic after decades of old-guard Chirac and Mitterrand. There is even a reason to believe that Sarkozy, often mocked as "the American friend" and blamed for 'ultra-liberal' worldviews, will lean towards a more Atlanticist policy. Nevertheless, there are several reasons that any expectations for a drastic change in the country's Middle East policy, or foreign policy in general, should be downplayed.
> First, one must bear in mind that France's new president will spend the lion's share of his time dealing with domestic issues such as the country's stagnated economy, its social cohesiveness and the rising integration-related crime rate. When he finds time to deal with foreign affairs, Sarkozy will have to devote most of his energy to protecting France's standing in an ever-involved European Union. In his dealings with the US, Sarkozy will most likely prefer to engage on less explosive agenda-items than the Middle-East.
> Second, France's foreign policy stems from the nation's interests, rooted in reality and influenced by a range of historic, political, strategic and economic considerations. Since Sarkozy's landing at the Elysˆ©e on May 16 will not change those, France's foreign policy ship will not tilt so quickly under a new captain.
> Third reason why expectations for a drastic change in France's position in the Middle-East may be naˆØve is the significant weight the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs exerts over the country's policies and agenda. There, non-elected bureaucrats tend to retain an image of Israel as a destabilizing element in the Middle-East rather then the first line of defense of democracy. Few civil servants in Quai d'Orsay would consider risking France's interests or increasing chances for "a clash of civilizations" in order to help troubled Israel or Palestine to reach peace.
> It is a fair to predict that France will stay consistent with its support in establishing a viable Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, existing side by side with a peaceful Israel. How to get there, if at all, will not be set by Sarkozy's flagship but rather he will follow the leadership of the US and the EU. Not much new policy is expected regarding Iran, on which Sarkozy has already voiced willingness to allow development of civilian nuclear capabilities, alongside tighter sanctions on any developments with military potency.
> One significant policy modification that could actually come through under Sarkozy is on the Syrian and Lebanese fronts. The new French president is not as friendly to Lebanon as was his predecessor, furthermore, as the Minister of the Interior, Sarkozy even advocated closer ties between France and Syria. Especially if the later plays the cards of talking-peace correctly, Sarkozy may increase pressure on Israel to evacuate the Golan Heights in return for a peace deal with Assad.
> Despite the above, although Sarkozy's family roots will not bring France closer to Israel, the presidents' personal Israeli friends may. As a Minister of Interior, Sarkozy shared much common policy ground with former Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The two started to develop a close friendship not long ago and it is easy to observe similarities not only in their ideology and politics, but also in their public image. If Netanyahu returns to Israel's chief position it will be interesting to see whether their personal dynamic will lead to a fresh start for Israel and France, and a more constructive European role in the region.

2) China, U.S.: The Strategic Economic Dialogue as a Tool for Managing Relations
By Rodger Baker

Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi is in Washington to meet with U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson for the second of the planned biannual Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED) sessions between the two countries. The dialogue brings together representatives of numerous ministries on both sides of the Pacific, covering finance, labor, trade, agriculture and the environment, among others. As the talks get under way, business and media attention is focused almost exclusively on two main issues: the Chinese-U.S. trade imbalance and China's undervaluing of the yuan.

The dialogue, however, is designed to integrate a much broader array of issues between Beijing and Washington, moving beyond trade to the larger matter of how the world's only remaining superpower deals with the rapid emergence of China on the international economic and political scene. For Washington, the dialogue is a tool to manage China's international relations as much as China's economic development. And for Beijing, the dialogue represents an attempt to shape relations with the United States in terms of economic cooperation, rather than strategic competition.

The economic framework for discussions seems to appeal to both Washington and Beijing, and the current dialogue, then, serves as a convenient tool for managing relations that sit on a much broader geopolitical framework. Still in its early stages, the SED reflects a changing dynamic in the management of U.S.-Chinese relations. From Beijing's perspective, the SED is a way to focus on the potential positive elements of U.S.-Chinese ties -- business and trade -- and reduce attention on questions of the "China threat" and the emergence of China as a military competitor to the United States.

The SED serves, in Beijing's mind, as one way of using the U.S. administration as a balance to the U.S. Congress. If the administration is looking at the broader strategic issues posed by China's global emergence, then it will be less likely to accede to congressional politicking on the China issue -- or so Beijing hopes. China sees the U.S. Congress as "unsophisticated" on China issues, and Capitol Hill as a place where short-term political interests, based to a large degree on electioneering and campaign contributions, drive periodic spurts of anti-Chinese rhetoric. However, during the past two decades, Beijing itself has grown a little more sophisticated in its understanding of U.S. politics, and has moved past dealing primarily with image management at the presidential and ministerial level to trying to shape U.S. political views from the ground up.

With the rapid rise of the Chinese economy in the aftermath of the Asian economic crisis and Beijing's entry into the World Trade Organization, China looked to both protect its growing economic connections and expand its international influence in the post-Cold War environment. With the Soviet Union gone and Europe failing to rise as a counterbalance to the United States, China set its sights on Washington as the biggest challenge to Chinese power -- and yet the best economic path to Chinese growth. Washington was headed for a presidential change, Beijing was dealing with increasing U.S. warnings of the China threat and the Chinese government was looking at its own upcoming leadership transition and the internal battle over best economic policies and security posture. For each of these issues, managing relations with the United States became the critical common factor.

In the late 1990s, Beijing ramped up a program of perception management in Washington, moving from trying to buy influence through campaign contributions to a more subtle approach of accelerating political and economic dialogue with U.S.-based think tanks, research institutes and academic institutions. Chinese scholars, both in the academic fields and in semi-government research institutes, embarked on numerous exchanges, dialogues and forums, sharing insights into policy debates and internal economic inconsistencies in China. At the same time, the state began releasing economic statistics that, through close examination, painted a picture not of a strong and unbreakable China, but of one that faced many of the same economic challenges and potential pitfalls as its Asian neighbors.

Through a carefully managed spread of information, China began shaping the perception of the key U.S. researchers on Chinese issues. Beijing seemed more open, more willing to admit mistakes and more receptive to suggestions for economic, social and even limited political reform. Discussions of the China threat shifted from a military concern to one of economics to one of potential Chinese collapse -- and the attendant ripples that would affect the international (and U.S.) economic systems. This information began trickling up to congressional aides, members of Congress and into the U.S. government bureaucracy and administration.

And Beijing is seeing a payoff, at least on the surface. When the current administration took power, relations with Washington were contentious to say the least. U.S. President George W. Bush came into office with a Cabinet that viewed China as the next strategic threat now that the Soviet Union was relegated to history. China's economic rise, and its military expansion that focused on new missiles and naval technology, was seen as a challenge to U.S. dominance of the seas, and thus to U.S. core national security. Now, the administration is pursuing strategic dialogue and cooperation with China, even if this is just a stopgap measure until Washington can free itself from Iraq.

In 2001, after the 9/11 attacks, Washington and Beijing came to a working arrangement. The United States would essentially leave China alone, and China would not present any direct challenge to the United States as Washington dealt with what it saw as a new strategic threat: al Qaeda and international Islamist militancy. Beijing welcomed the reprieve from the more contentious relations with Washington, which had declined precipitously following the collision that left a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft on a military runway in southern China.

At the time, Beijing was neither militarily nor politically prepared to square off against the United States. In fact, China was facing a major generational shift in leadership and needed the external buffer to allow Beijing to focus on internal issues. With the political transition completed, Beijing then shifted focus to economic and social stability -- and again used the minimal external pressure from Washington to give it breathing room while these issues took priority.

Internationally, Beijing used the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and the North Korean nuclear crisis to try to raise the profile of international organizations such as the United Nations to counter the unipolar power of the United States. At the same time, it tried to raise China's profile and importance to Washington -- since, after all, the U.S. government could not face off against al Qaeda, Afghanistan, Iraq and North Korea all at the same time.

By 2005, Washington was looking at longer-term involvement in Iraq than it had planned, and then-U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick made an indirect offer to Beijing for closer potential cooperation -- offering to treat China as a global player if Beijing proved a "responsible stakeholder." The offer appealed to Beijing, and China, cautiously at first but with increasing boldness, launched into a more open dialogue with Washington, making token trades on currency issues and offering its services in "rogue" nations such as North Korea and, more recently, Sudan in order to demonstrate its "responsibility" and keep real pressure from the United states to a minimum.

While the U.S. administration, particularly the Pentagon, was not all that reassured by China's behavioral change (as seen in early 2006 with a series of reports labeling China a strategic threat and culminating in a several-minute-long tirade by a Falun Gong activist at the White House reception for Chinese President Hu Jintao), Washington, with the exception of Congress, has taken a relatively relaxed approach to China. Trade issues dominate the headlines, as does the yuan valuation, but the administration pushes for more cooperative dialogue with Beijing rather than punitive sanctions or tariffs.

On Beijing's side, shortly after the first SED meeting in December 2006, China's Foreign Ministry launched the Center for China-U.S. Relations Studies at its research institute, the China Institute for International Studies. The center is designed to bring together top Chinese scholars on U.S. issues from across a broad spectrum of China (economic, international relations, security and others) and encourage increased exchanges with counterparts in the United States -- thus managing the perception campaign from a unified center. Earlier this year, China also appointed Yang Jiechi as foreign minister, calling on Yang's years of experience in the Chinese Embassy in Washington, his work with both sides of Congress and his long-standing ties with the Bush family.

The SED, then, provides both Washington and Beijing with a more centralized (and less random) point of contact for managing bilateral relations. But management and fundamental alterations are very different things. China's trade and economic policies will not be set with Washington's concerns as the top priority. Beijing's first concern is the maintenance of Communist Party rule, followed closely by the maintenance of social stability (which allows the party to remain in power). Economics are a tool, one that must balance domestic social pressures with international concerns. Furthermore, while dialogue can provide a channel for managing relations with the United States, China is not abandoning other tools for preserving its increasing economic vulnerabilities as its trade and energy requirements are internationalized.

China's anti-satellite weapons (ASAT) test in January was a clear reminder that China still sees the United States as the top challenge to Chinese economic security. China is a land power, not a maritime power. But China's economics have grown increasingly linked to longer and longer supply lines, particularly with energy imports. As such, Beijing sees a major vulnerability in its supply routes, as a large portion of its energy must pass through waters that, for all intents and purposes, are controlled by the United States. The ASAT test was intended to notify Washington that Beijing has ways to deal with the U.S. strategic dominance of the seas by threatening critical U.S. communications and guidance infrastructure.

China's vulnerabilities as a land power increasingly dependent on sea routes makes Beijing always extremely nervous about the United States, regardless of whether Washington intends to interdict Chinese trade and energy supplies. At the same time, China's expanding trade and political links around the globe are starting to rub up against U.S. strategic interests, particularly where China taps into energy resources Washington wants, or where Beijing's relations in places like Africa and Latin America challenge U.S. access to raw materials. But economic competition notwithstanding, Washington is loath to directly confront China, as attacking a land power in Asia is never wise or easy.

There is a standoff, then, between Washington and Beijing. Washington is heavily occupied with Iraq and Iran, and Beijing is taking advantage of this to expand its political and economic ties as broadly as possible. At the same time, China is obsessed with internal economic and social instability, and Washington can use these concerns to needle Beijing and keep China from taking too much advantage of Washington's limited bandwidth. Both see the SED as a useful place to manage this dance. Neither sees the SED as a real forum for a strategic partnership between China and the United States, or a place for drastic changes in the relationship.

There is something beyond the SED, however, that could start bringing Washington and Beijing closer together: the re-emergence of Moscow.

Relations between Washington and Beijing have been rather manic since the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949. After Beijing's initial flirtations with Washington, China and the United States soon found themselves facing one another on the battlefields of Korea. China's ally at the time, the Soviet Union, largely sat out the conflict, leaving Beijing to ensure the communist revolution in Asia -- and letting China fight the United States while Moscow avoided the potential World War III feared by U.S. strategists at the time. Rather than using the opportunity presented by the Korean War to launch a simultaneous assault on Europe, Moscow let China fight, undermining the potential for any Sino-U.S. relations and tying China closer into the Soviet sphere of influence.

But by the late 1960s, tensions between Beijing and Moscow had risen to a fevered level, and significant border clashes broke out in 1969. Three years later, the mutually perceived threat from the Soviet Union brought U.S. President Richard Nixon to China to meet with Mao Zedong. The United States and China embarked on a new strategic relationship based on balancing the Soviet threat. This lasted until shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when China began seeking to expand its influence in East Asia and looked as though it were getting much more serious about war with Taiwan. In the late 1990s, China even flirted with the idea of establishing a strategic partnership with Russia to block the unipolar power of the United States, but never quite trusted its northern neighbor (and, for a while, Moscow had little to offer anyway aside from arms sales, which were already taking place). When 2001 rolled around, Beijing found new opportunities to deal directly with Washington.

But Russia has begun reasserting its influence around its periphery, and Cold War rhetoric is flowing from Moscow. On the surface, that would seem ideal for China, except that Beijing has been looking at Central Asia as a critical piece of its energy security puzzle, since Central Asian energy supplies never need to move by sea to China. As Moscow seeks to reclaim influence and control in its near abroad, China sees its potential role in Central Asia diminishing and its energy supplies challenged by the resurgent Russia. Add in Russian talk of reinvigorating the Russian presence in the Pacific, and China sees its energy and economic security once again challenged by its neighbor.

This could provide the impetus for a Beijing move closer to Washington -- to keep the United States focused on Russian threats rather than Chinese concerns. Beijing already has experience working with the United States to counter Russian influence, and keeping the current and former superpowers eyeing each other leaves China a less visible threat, and thus capable of continuing to deal with its own internal issues while facing minimal pressure from outside. As Beijing sees it, if a true multipolar world cannot be established any time soon, the hints of a return to a bipolar world order -- with Russia facing off against the United States -- could keep China out of the crosshairs and constrain U.S. actions. With the SED already in place, China has another pathway through which to shape its own image as cooperative, and perhaps drop a few hints of its concerns about Russia.

3)Nine US military ships enter Persian Gulf Wednesday, assembling off Iran’s coast in largest American naval move since 2003.

They sailed through the Strait of Hormuz by day - according to US Navy officials for training exercises. The vessels carry around 17,000 combat and marine personnel. They include the two aircraft carriers, USS Nimitz and USS Stennis, as well as the USS Bonhomme Richard LHD 6 Group, the world’s biggest amphibious strike force. Iran was not notified of the planned arrival.

These maneuvers take place less than two weeks after Vice President Dick Cheney visited the region and informed Saudi King Abdullah and fellow Gulf rulers that President George W. Bush has determined that if Iran refuses to waive a nuclear weapon capability, the US will attack its nuclear, military and economic infrastructure before he leaves the White House in Jan. 2009.

Our sources also note that the US armada sailed into the Gulf on the day the latest UN Security Council ultimatum expired for Iran to give up uranium enrichment or face a fresh set of sanctions.

Its presence backs up Cheney’s pledge and tells the region and Iran that Washington may not be satisfied with sanctions and the military option is alive. Washington is also stiffening its posture ahead of its first direct talks with Tehran on Monday, May 28, when US and Iraqi ambassadors meet in Baghdad. The message to Iran and its ally Syria is that if the Baghdad talks fail, and they refuse to suspend their backing for Iraq’s insurgents and al Qaeda, the US stands ready with a military option.

4) Hamas threatens new attacks after IDF arrests 33 top Hamas officials

Hamas threatened new attacks Thursday after Israel Defense Forces troops arrested 33 senior officials in the organization - including legislators, mayors and one cabinet minister.

"Our strikes against the enemy will continue, we have freed the hand of all our cells to strike the enemy everywhere in Palestine," Hamas' armed wing said in a statement.

The raid was the latest strike against the Islamic militant group, in the wake of Hamas rocket fire from Gaza on Israeli border towns.

According to Israel Radio, the security cabinet approved the arrests five days ago, and instructed the Shin Bet security service and Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to collect and examine evidence against the officials.

The most prominent Hamas politician to be arrested was Education Minister Nasser Shaer. His wife, Huda, said soldiers knocked on the door of their home in the West Bank city of Nablus and took him away. Troops also seized Shaer's computer, she said.

It was the second time Shaer was arrested in a roundup of Hamas members in the past year.

Soldiers also arrested former cabinet minister Abdel Rahman Zeidan, legislators Hamed Bitawi and Daoud Abu Ser, the mayors of the towns of Nablus, Qalqiliya and Beita - Adli Yaish, Wajih Qawas and Arab Shurafa - as well as the head of the main Islamic charity in Nablus, Fayad al-Arba.

Troops also searched for Ahmed Haj Ali, a Hamas legislator in Nablus, but didn't find him at home, neighbors said.

Speaking to Army Radio, Defense Minister Amir Peretz defended action. "Arrests are better than shooting," he told Israeli Army Radio. "The arrest of these Hamas leaders sends a message to the armed organizations that we demand that this firing [of rockets] stop."

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' office condemned the arrests, saying they would only serve to heighten tensions in the area, Israel Radio reported.

Palestinian government spokesman Ghazi Hamad said the arrests displayed "a scale of escalation and Israeli arrogance" and called for those arrested to be released.

"Through this ... aggression the Israeli government is once again pushing the region into a cycle of violence and it bears the full responsibility for the consequences resulting from such irresponsible actions," Hamad said.

Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said the arrests rendered any efforts to restore the cease-fire along the Gaza Strip "worthless."

David Baker, an official in the Prime Minister's Office, added: "Israel is making it crystal clear that it is adamant about stopping the Hamas terror directed against us both in the Gaza Strip via the continuous Qassam rocket attacks and in the West Bank where the terror cells continue to flourish."

The IDF said in a statement: "The Hamas terror organization is currently involved in enhancing the terror infrastructure in the (West Bank) region, based on the model used in the Gaza Strip. The organization exploits governmental institutions to encourage and support terrorist activity."

Last summer, Israel arrested scores of senior Hamas members in retaliation for the capture of an IDF soldier Gilad Shalit by Hamas-allied militants, who has not yet been released.

Tuesday, May 21, a senior US officer in Baghdad accused Iran of orchestrating a summer offensive against US troops in Iraq “linking al Qaeda and Sunni insurgents to its Shiite militia allies.” Our sources add that Iran with Syrian support has also embarked on a summer offensive in other parts of the Middle East, including Lebanon and the Gaza Strip

Rear Admiral Kevin Quinn said maneuvers beginning now are part of a long-planned effort to reassure nearby countries of America’s commitment to regional security. He told reporters before crossing: “There is always the threat of any state or non-state actor deciding to close one of the international straits, and the biggest one is the Strait of Hormuz.

5) Report: US sabotaging Iran nukes

Intelligence operatives in the US and its allied nations have sold Iran flawed technological components in an attempt to sabotage the country's nuclear enrichment program, CBS News revealed Wednesday evening.

In January 2007, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Agency, Vice-President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, said after an explosion at the Natanz nuclear facility (the first Iranian plant to attempt enrichment) that some of the equipment had been "manipulated."

The explosion destroyed 50 of the plant's centrifuges.

Other evidence has indicated that sabotage was the reason for some of the technical problems Iran has encountered in its enrichment enterprise. Sources told CBS intelligence agencies have altered technical data, making it "useless."

"Industrial sabotage is a way to stop the program, without military action, without fingerprints on the operation, and really, it is ideal, if it works," says Mark Fitzpatrick, the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Non-Proliferation and now Senior Fellow in Non-Proliferation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

According to CBS, the fact that Iran purchases the requisite information and equipment on the black market, rather than legally, places it at risk for industrial sabotage. Some prohibited components, the report said, had been shipped to Iran in diplomatic bags by Iranian agents in Frankfurt.

Analysts say that while Iran has established front companies in various Gulf nations to handle the purchase of nuclear enrichment components, the country still needs some European-made parts - either because of their quality, or because it need parts that are compatible with European-manufactured equipment.

Fitzpatrick said that it was impossible to know if, and to what extent, Iran - described as "highly suspicious" - has discovered any industrial sabotage.

"Any technical problems that Iran experiences in its program, some of which were the result of its own speed-up effort, Iran may attribute to foreign espionage," he said.

6) America's thankless commitment to peace
By Youssef M. Ibrahim

It's been some week in Gaza — the Palestinian Arab civil war has become an all-out action movie.

Hamas fighters lob mortars at the compound where the Palestinian Arab president, Mahmoud Abbas, hides. Egypt sends freshly armed Fatah fighters across its borders to kill other Palestinians. The interior minister of the Palestinian Authority resigns, saying he has no authority. Meanwhile, most of Gaza's 1 million residents are holed up in their homes as men with black ski masks stake out positions on rooftops and derelict streets.

The escalation coincided with the 59th commemoration of what the Palestinian Arabs call "Al Naqba," on Tuesday. The word means "catastrophe" in Arabic, a reference to the creation of Israel in 1948. At the moment, however, the phrase Al Naqba more accurately portrays the current Palestinian conditions.

Yet amazingly, the kings of Jordan and Saudi Arabia, along with the president of Egypt, felt this was the right moment to warn a visiting Vice President Cheney that unless America helps put out the Palestinian Arab fires, it cannot begin to stabilize Iraq, win the war on terror, or halt Iran's race for a nuclear bomb.

This formulaic Arab request is shorthand for asking America to "force" Israel to give up the West Bank and the Golan Heights and to deliver an independent Palestinian Arab state that could take in millions of Palestinian refugees. For special effect, the Jordanian monarch, King Abdullah, added that time was "running out" for America to get its act together on Arab-Israeli issues.

If this sounds like a broken record mixed with a touch of blackmail and delusion, it is. Never mind that, even as Gaza burns, in the territories all around Abdullah's kingdom, Shiites and Sunnis are butchering each other in Iraq, jihadists are challenging the current governments, and Iran is looming ever larger.

All drama aside, America has undertaken all the peacemaking opportunities available and done so at a huge cost in both treasury and good will. In the 1970s and '80s, America accomplished two Herculean tasks, landing peace treaties between Israel and Jordan, and between Israel and Egypt. The bill came in at more than $140 billion — and counting — and garnered few thank-you notes.

When compared to what it did for Europe after World War II, the breadth of America's commitment to the Middle East is breathtaking. According to a president of the George C. Marshall Foundation, Albert Beveridge III, postwar expenditures "to reduce hunger, homelessness, sickness, unemployment, and political restlessness" for 270 million

Europeans living in 16 nations totaled a modest $13.3 billion — about $88.2 billion in today's dollars. The Marshall Plan aid lasted just four years.

By contrast, America has been actively working on peace in the Middle East for 28 years, during which it has paid Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinian Arabs more than $150 billion to kiss and make up. America's aid funding in the region is so head and shoulders above that in Africa, the former Soviet republics, and other truly poor countries of the world, it is absurd.

And what has been the result? Since the Israel-Jordan peace treaty was penned on October 26, 1994, American taxpayers have supported Jordan's 6 million people — half of whom are Palestinian Arabs — to the tune of $350 million a year, a total of $4.5 billion to date. Still, Jordanian public opinion is fiercely hostile to America.

Since Egypt and Israel signed on the dotted line on March 26, 1979, Israel has received some $80 billion, and Egypt has collected $60 billion, according to congressional statistics. If American spending on Egypt is far from over, so are the insults heaped on it daily in the Egyptian press.

Even the quarrelsome Palestinian Arabs who routinely burn American flags have received well over $20 billion in food and humanitarian aid from Uncle Sam.

Whether it is money well spent is arguable. What is certain is that America, while Europe and the Arab countries watched, has done more than its share as a Middle East peacemaker. Now, with the problems of Iraq, the rise of Islamist terror, China's growing might, and a rising Russian challenge, America has other fish to fry.

The status quo in the Middle East does not require American baby-sitting. Israel is too strong, and Arab countries are mired by internal challenges. So what America's attitude should be, to use a version of James Baker's joke, is this: When anyone feels the need to sign a peace treaty, they know the number.

7) Don't fear world's wrath: Drastic measures needed in order to curb rocket attacks on Sderot
By Giora Eiland

Prior to any important discussion regarding our handling of the Qassam rocket fire from Gaza, three key assumptions should be made.

Firstly, the Qassam rocket fire cannot be halted by means of an aerial operation only.

Secondly, without changing the situation along the Philadelphi Route Hamas will continue to boost its military force.

Thirdly, the reality in Sderot is unbearable. This assumption is not as obvious as it may sound. Until recently the Israeli government regarded the continuation of the current situation there as the better option. Apparently, this attitude has changed. If the rocket fire cannot be stopped remotely or from the air, how can it be stopped?

There are two ways of achieving this and both options have a common thread: Exercising a political option prior to a military operation and reaching an understanding with the US regarding the question of the "day after," or "how pressure will be lifted after a military operation and in exchange for what ." Such pressure would not only be painful for the Palestinians.

Option A: Capturing areas in the Gaza Strip, particularly the Philadelphi Route - while not sufficing with capturing the Route, which

is too narrow to protect, and widening it. The implication of this would be the destruction of hundreds of homes in Rafah and thousands of homeless people. This will create an international outcry and spark the ire of the Egyptians – which is a good thing! Israel would insist that it would withdraw its troops only if and when a satisfactory security arrangement is hammered out. Such a settlement is possible and Israel should reach an agreement on it with the US prior to an operation.

Similarly, action should be taken in several other areas as well.

Option B: Israel announces that as far as it is concerned Gaza is a political entity (separate from the West Bank,) which is ruled pragmatically and formally by Hamas. As this entity is in a state of war with Israel, Israel would have to take three measures:

* Immediately close off border crossings between Israel and Gaza (as Gaza is open to Egypt, supplies to and from Gaza could be transferred through there.)
* Announce that in several months Israel would cease to supply water, electricity and fuel.
* Since Gaza is an enemy state in a state of war with Israel, every governing institution in Gaza and the infrastructure serving the belligerent effort against us, including roads and bridges, should be targeted

Such Israeli activity would threaten the future of the Palestinian state – and this is positive. The international arena will undoubtedly protest even more strongly and will want to reinstate the old status quo. Israel would agree only if conditions are right, conditions that must be hammered out with the US first.

The continuation of tactical assaults on Hamas rocket launchers is not the solution as it allows Hamas to exploit its relative advantage. This doesn't mean that that the entire Gaza Strip must be taken. One of the drastic measures, as outlined here, can be adopted. And yes, there is no choice but to take a political risk, to anger several players and to force them to take action as well.

The world isn't perturbed by what's going on in Sderot and as long as this situation persists, we shall be called upon to "exercise restraint," and the problems will remain ours alone.

8) Regardless of where you stand on the issue of the U.S. involvement in
Iraq , here's a sobering statistic:

There has been a monthly average of 160,000 troops in the Iraq theatre
of operations during the last 22 months, and a total of 2,112 deaths.
That gives a firearm death rate of 60 per 100,000 soldiers.

The firearm death rate in Washington D.C. is 80.6 per 100,000 persons
for the same period.

That means that you are about 25% more likely to be shot and killed in
the U.S. Capital than you are in Iraq .

The U.S. should pull out of Washington

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Everything is Relative!

Back from three weeks in Tahiti and visiting the six inhabited Marquesas Islands. Will report on my trip and experiences when I dig out from under. Meanwhile am just posting some articles that should be of interest but no time for real analysis and broad reporting and will not be doing so for several more weeks because leaving for grandson's graduation and then another one week vacation to recover from the last one.

In 1 below, George Friedman gives us an informative heads up on why we are now talking to Iran.

In 2 below, Yisrael Ne'eman explains why casualties determine military actions in today's world of wars. His comments beg the question of whether wars are winnable anymore. Alas, PC'ism increasingly dictates and narrows policy and military options.

In 5 below, Ne'eman presents an analysis of the the long awaited Winograd report.

In 3 below, my friend Elliot Chodoff explains the dream world in which Lebanon's leader apparently lives. I mentioned much earlier and consistently that Hamas and Fatah would kill each other and this has been happening daily. Palestinians, and Arabs in general, possess a DNA tribal and rival culture of always needing to be in conflict with someone.

In 4 below, Fred Burton reminds us that the Chinese espionage threat is ongoing and is one of the largest ever assembled against our naton's vital interests.

We routed ourselves through Los Angeles because I wanted to visit a dear friend and client and Fred Burton's review of Mexico's drug cartels only begins to touch the surface of how California and our entire country has been invaded by illegals. Virtually everyone working at the Los Angeles airport is of a foreign origin and I would suspect that some of those working in security are illegals most likely.

I am not opposed to immigration but, again, I believe a nation that does not respect and protect its borders from illegal immigration is doomed. (See 6 below.)

Before I left for the South Pacific, I mentioned my meeting with a person high up in Israeli circles and related to a key Israeli government official. He made the point that Israel has been trying to raise the world's concerns about Iran so that it would not be seen as a problem solely for Israel. The article below is further evidence of this effort. (See 7 below.)

The five Jews that most influenced the world.

Moses said: The Law is everything.

Jesus said: Love is everything.

Marx said: The Capital is everything

Freud said: Sex is everything.

And then Einstain came and said: Everything is Relative


1) The United States, Iran and the Iraq Negotiation Process
By George Friedman and Reva Bhalla

At long last, the United States and Iran announced May 13 that they will engage in direct public bilateral talks over Iraq. From Washington, it was the office of Vice President Dick Cheney and the National Security Council that broke the news. From Tehran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad confirmed that the two sides will meet in Baghdad in a few weeks, most likely at the ambassadorial level. That makes these talks as officially sanctioned as they can be.

Already there have been two brief public meetings -- albeit on the sidelines of two international conferences -- between senior officials from the Iranian Foreign Ministry and the U.S. State Department in March in Baghdad and in May in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. The upcoming meeting in Baghdad, however, will be the first official bilateral meeting. After months of intense back-channel discussions, both sides have made a critical decision to bring their private negotiations into the public sphere, which means Tehran and Washington must have reached some consensus on the general framework of the negotiations on how to stabilize Iraq.

Why Now?

The U.S. political situation illustrates why both sides are willing to come to the table right now. Both Iran and the United States are closely eyeing each other's busted flushes, and they understand that time is not on their respective sides.

From the U.S. perspective, it is no secret the Iraq war has soaked up an enormous amount of U.S. military bandwidth. With the 2008 presidential election fast approaching, the Bush administration is left with little time to put a plan in action that would demonstrate some progress toward stabilizing Iraq. It has also become painfully obvious that U.S. military force alone will not succeed in suppressing Sunni insurgents and the Shiite militias enough to allow the government in Baghdad to function -- and for Washington to develop a real exit strategy. But by defiantly sending more troops to Iraq against all odds, Bush is sending a clear signal to Iran that it is not in the Iranians' interest to wait out this administration, and that the United States is prepared to use its forces to block Iranian aspirations to dominate Iraq.

From the Iranian perspective, Tehran knows it is dealing with a weak U.S. president right now, and that the next U.S. president probably will have much greater freedom of action than Bush currently does. The Iranians learned that dealing with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter would have been preferable to dealing with his successor. If you know negotiations are inevitable, it is better to negotiate with the weak outgoing president than try to extract concessions from a strong president during an increasingly complicated situation. The Iranians also know that the intensely fractious nature of Iraq's Shiite bloc -- which Iran depends on to project its power -- makes it all the more difficult for Tehran to consolidate its gains the longer Iraq remains in chaos.

U.S. and Iranian Demands

And so the time has come for both Iran and the United States to show their cards by laying out their demands for public viewing.

U.S. demands for Iraq are fairly straightforward. Our understanding of what Washington wants from Tehran regarding Iraq rests on these key points:

1. The United States wants Iraq to be a unified and independent state. In other words, Washington knows a pro-U.S. regime in Baghdad is impossible at this point, but Washington is not going to permit an Iranian-dominated state either.

2. The United States does not want jihadists operating in Iraq.

3. The United States wants to be able to withdraw from security operations, but not precipitously, thereby allaying Sunni Arab states' concerns.

Essentially, the United States is looking to create an Iraqi government that, while dominated by the Shia, remains neutral to Iran, hostile to jihadists and accommodating to mainstream Sunnis.

Iranian Demands

Iran's answers to these demands were publicly outlined in a paper at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit. The Saudi-owned, U.K.-based daily newspaper Al Hayat established the details of this paper in a May 5 article. The key points made in the presentation include the following:

1. Iran does not want an abrupt withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq for fear this would lead to reshuffling the cards and redistributing power. Instead, there should be a fixed timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. and British forces from Iraqi cities and relocation at bases and camps inside Iraq, provided the Iraqi forces have reached the point at which they can provide security. The Iranians also stated that they would extend all possible assistance so that foreign forces could exit "honorably" from Iraq.

The U.S. decision to surge more troops into Iraq forced Iran to think twice about placing its bets on a complete U.S. withdrawal. An abrupt withdrawal without a negotiated settlement leaves more problems than Tehran can manage in terms of containing Iraq's Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish factions, and Iran does not want to be left to pick up the pieces in a country that is already on the verge of shattering along sectarian lines.

It is important to note that Iran is not calling for a complete withdrawal from Iraq, and actually acknowledges that U.S. forces will be relocated at bases and camps inside the country. Though this acts as a blocker to Iranian ambitions, the presence of U.S. bases also provides Iran with a stabilizing force placating the Sunnis and Kurds. Moreover, the Iranians are sending assurances to the United States that they are willing to cooperate so the Iraq withdrawal does not look like another Vietnam scenario for the U.S. administration to deal with at home.

2. Iran is "strongly opposed to all attempts to partition Iraq or impose a federal system that allows for regional autonomy." No region should be allowed to monopolize the resources in its territory and deprive other regions of the revenues from these resources.

Iran is essentially saying that Tehran and Washington have a common desire to see a unified Iraq. The U.S. insistence on a unified Iraq takes into account Sunni concerns of being left with the largely oil-barren central region of the country. Iran is signaling that it is not interested in seeing Iraq get split up, even if such a scenario leaves Tehran with the second-best option of securing influence in a Shiite-dominated, oil-rich southern autonomous zone.

3. Iran wants a plan, involving the Kurds and Sunnis, drawn up to root out the transnational jihadist forces allied with al Qaeda in Iraq. Sunni tribes should also assume the responsibility of confronting jihadists, whether they are Iraqi citizens or are from other Arab and Muslim countries.

In this demand, Iran and the United States share a common goal. The jihadists will use every attempt to sow sectarian strife in Iraq to prevent a political resolution from developing. The United States does not want to provide al Qaeda with a fertile base of operations, and Iran does not want its ideological nemesis gaining ground next door and working against Shiite interests.

4. Iran clearly states that the negotiations over Iraq cannot be separated from other regional issues and Tehran's nuclear file.

Stratfor has extensively discussed the nexus between Iran's nuclear agenda and its blueprint for Iraq. Iran is trying to link the nuclear issue to its dealings with the United States on Iraq as a sort of insurance policy. Iran does not want to reach an agreement on Iraq and then leave the nuclear issue to be dealt with down the road, when the United States is in a stronger position to take action against Tehran.

Iran basically is looking for a deal allowing it voluntarily to agree to freeze uranium enrichment in exchange for political concessions over Iraq, but without it having to dismantle its program. That would leave enough room to skirt sanctions and preserve the nuclear program for its long-term interests. Washington is not exactly amenable to this idea, which is what makes this a major sticking point. The United States already has made it clear that it is leaving the nuclear issue out of the Iraq discussions.

5. Iran wants a new regional formula that would make Iraq a region of influence for Tehran.

While it does not appear that Iran explicitly stated this in its presentation, a majority of participants at the conference got the message. Washington cannot afford to allow Iraq to develop into an Iranian satellite, but it is looking for assurances from Iran that a U.S. withdrawal will leave in place a neutral, albeit Shiite-dominated, government in Iraq.

Iranian Offers

The Iranian paper outlined several key concessions it would offer the United States and Iraq's Sunni faction if its demands were met.

1. Iran would help the Iraqi government rein in the armed Shiite militias and incorporate them into the state security apparatus.

2. The de-Baathification law can be revised to allow for the rehiring of former Iraqi army personnel, the bulk of whom are tied to the Sunni nationalist insurgency. However, Iran wants assurances that former Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and other former Baathists will not be allowed to hold the position of prime minister when the time comes to replace current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

3. Iran would be willing to see fresh parliamentary elections, the formation of a new Cabinet and the amendment of the Iraqi Constitution to double the Sunni seats in parliament to 40 percent, with the Shia retaining 60 percent. Tehran has said nothing about what would be left for Kurdish political representation, however.

4. Iran has proposed the "fair" distribution of oil revenues in Iraq to satisfy all parties, especially those in "central Iraq," the Sunni-dominated, oil-deprived heart of the country.

Tehran's offers illustrate the Iranians' open acknowledgment that they are not going to be able to have their cake and eat it too. Instead, they are going to have to guarantee Iraqi neutrality by giving the Sunnis a much larger slice, leaving the Kurds to get screwed yet again.

Back in Washington, the Bush administration is looking at the Iranian withdrawal plan skeptically. Right now, the United States wants assurances that a withdrawal plan worked out with the Iranians does not simply leave a longer-term opportunity for Iran to gradually take control of Iraq once the major roadblocks are out of the way. In other words, the United States needs guarantees that, as it draws down its troop presence, the Iranians will not simply walk in. The Iranian proposal to expand Sunni representation is a direct response to these concerns, provided the relevant parties can actually deliver on their promises.

This is still highly questionable, though significant developments are already taking place that reveal the United States, Iran and various Iraqi players are making concrete moves to uphold their sides of the bargain. With Iran's blessing, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) has announced it will undergo a process of "Iraqization" -- a largely symbolic demonstration that SCIRI will not operate simply as an Iranian proxy. Meanwhile, the Sunni tribes and clans in Anbar province are increasingly broadcasting their commitment and progress in combating transnational jihadists. And finally, numerous reports in the Arab media suggest the United States would be willing to heed the Iranian demand that the Iraqi military not have offensive capabilities allowing it to threaten its Persian neighbor.

The negotiations are moving, and it is becoming more and more apparent that a consensus is emerging between Tehran and Washington over how the Iraq project should turn out. With enough serious arrestors in play for this deal to fall through, it is now up to all players -- whether those players call Washington, Tehran, Riyadh or Baghdad home -- finally to put their money where their mouths are.

2) The Power of Casualties
By Yisrael Ne'eman

Many are wondering whether this government and especially PM Ehud Olmert will survive the fallout from the Winograd Interim Report. If it were only the current Report and even the final document in July, it is possible he could survive. The fact the PM is under criminal investigation may have more to do with his eventual ouster than the results of the Second Lebanon War against the Hezbollah last summer.

Many are comparing this war to that of Yom Kippur in 1973 and expect this government to fall just like Golda Meir's did in the spring of 1974 (taking Defense Minister Moshe Dayan with her). The Olmert government may fall but the differences are enormous.

In 1973 Israel almost lost the war in its totality; it is said Dayan was considering surrender. Others were weighing the use of the nuclear option. The Syrian army on the Golan front was on the way to overrunning the Galilee and there was a day or so when Israel stood on the edge of destruction. In 2006 people were harried in the north with Katusha rockets falling and close to a million refugees fleeing south but Hezbollah was not going to destroy the country. Today the feeling is of deep disappointment and that we certainly could have crushed the Hezbollah but missed the opportunity, at least in part. In the aftermath of 1973 there was a visceral personal and national fury at the government. To add further insult the Agranat Report only dealt with military failure and did not touch government behavior of decision making. To this day many call for its cancellation considering it a cover-up. Winograd is investigating everyone, including previous governments.

Next we have the casualty counts, something which very few want to discuss. Close to 3000 soldiers died in the Yom Kippur War (over the years casualty counts go higher as more soldiers die of their wounds) when Israel's population was less than half the size it is today. Last summer 119 soldiers and several tens of civilians lost their lives. Proportionally we are speaking of 2% military casualties this past summer in comparison to the Yom Kippur War. Examining the 1967 Six Day War with some 700 killed and a population 40% the size of today's, the number of casualties suffered last summer is 7% in comparison. Let us not forget there are 3 times are many wounded as killed, another permanent reminder for everyone. Furthermore the 1967 War is seen as an enormous victory and unfortunately those killed and their bereaved families were largely forgotten in the national memory in lieu of victory celebrations and despite Memorial Day remembrances over the past 40 years.

This is all very "politically incorrect" and downright insulting to the bereaved families but first and foremost the nation recalls the results of the war and then decides whether it was "worthwhile" when weighing how much of a victory was obtained. Israelis do not believe they defeated the Hezbollah and therefore the casualties were "for naught". The former Chief of Staff Dan Halutz fought a very careful war (except for the last few days), utilizing the air force to its fullest extent. But despite the best use of air power wars are won on the ground. As his friends and apologists have so correctly pointed out - had Israel gone for a full ground victory (and obtained it) casualties would have been much higher. Is that the price the Israeli public was willing to pay? As usual there is an abyss (call it a contradiction) between what is wanted on the national level and what one is willing to pay personally for "glorious" victories.

As a result of the shift in values away from collective, societal rights to those focusing on the individual in all western societies including Israel, the media and national spotlight illuminates the personal loss suffered by each individual family much more than previously. Soldiers cut down in their teens and 20s with their whole lives in front of them seem the greatest loss of all despite their military status as defenders of the nation. Their loss is amplified greater than previously but once the journalistic exposure has run its course and the collective pain has passed, the deep never ending anguish of the bereaved families remains forever.

Here numbers count and the defining moments in a nation�s history are made up through mass euphoria (1967) or fury (1973). Expectations also play a major role as in 1967 Israel expected to lose in the order of 10,000 men where as in 1973 one would have been hard pressed to find someone who expected war to break out. The summer of 2006 held expectations for a victory without casualties, a contradictory myth. It is extremely difficult to measure success when battling a non-state entity such as the Hezbollah since it is not a state and quite amorphous. Not killing Hassan Nasrallah or returning our abducted soldiers became symbolic of what went wrong.

Finally a bit of perspective may be in order. The deep long term anger at the end of the Yom Kippur War is not with us as the average person was affected in the short term only. The economy is doing quite well (it took a nose dive after the Yom Kippur War) and few Israelis are suffering the effects of the war even if there are suspicions concerning the future. Despite all the media coverage and the Winograd Report, casualties were low and that most vulnerable raw nerve was not squeezed as happened 33 years previously.

Olmert and his advisors recognize the situation for what it is and figure they can ride out the storm provided the final July report is not a total catastrophe or he gets nailed on a corruption charge. The PM is a clever politician having played the game for more than 30 years. Without sentiment he knows, "It ain't over, until it's over."

3) Siniora's World
By Elliot Chodoff

Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora lives in an enviable, attractive world. In an op-ed in the New York Times (Give the Arab Peace Initiative a Chance,) NYTimes, May 11, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/11/opinion/11siniora.html) Siniora calls on Israel to agree to the terms of the newly renovated Arab Peace Initiative. If Israel would only withdraw to the pre-1967 borders and allow the Palestinians to establish an independent state, all would be right on planet Earth.

The Arab League is willing to extend full recognition to Israel and pay the "high price" of permitting Israel to exist within the pre-1967 boundaries. In return, Israel is expected to finally comply with international law, ending "illegal occupations, over-flights, detentions, house demolitions, humiliating checkpoints, attacks and counterattacks," thus restoring peace and tranquility to the Middle East and its inhabitants.

Siniora condemns Israel's actions in the summer war of 2006, decrying the damage to Lebanese infrastructure, destruction of villages and killing of Lebanese citizens, which "epitomizes the protracted injustice Arabs feel as a result of Israel's record of destruction of their lives and livelihood, its oppression of the Palestinian people and its continued illegal occupation of Arab lands."

Despite his lamentations of Israel's destructive conduct, Siniora�s world is really a wonderful place. In it, there is no Hezbollah threatening his regime as well as Israel's security. The Shiite terrorist organization that has caused so much grief in the region and the world gets not even a dishonorable mention in Siniora's commentary. And of course, there are no IDF soldiers held by Hezbollah, no katyusha rocket attacks, no cross-border incidents; only the pastoral peace of the Middle East shattered by Israeli militarism.

In Siniora's world, there are no terrorist organizations calling for Israel's destruction. No Hamas, no Islamic Jihad, no al Aksa Martyrs Brigade, no al Qaeda. There are no suicide bombers and no Qassam rockets; no IDF soldier held hostage by Hamas in Gaza and no calls for Israel's annihilation. Instead, there are only Israeli roadblocks and detentions of innocents, resulting from the Israeli reliance on force and its refusal to seek a negotiated conclusion to the conflict with the Palestinians. Evidently, in Siniora's world there is no Camp David and there never was an Arafat who simply rejected every compromise.

In Siniora's world, there is no oppressive Ba'ath regime in Syria that threatens war with Israel, supports Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist organizations, and assassinates Lebanese politicians who dare to stand up for Lebanese independence from Syrian intervention. There is no Bashar Assad who speaks peace out of one side of his mouth and threatens to initiate a war if Israel does not accede to his demands. There are no terrorist headquarters in Damascus and no massive shipments of arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon in direct violation of Security Council resolutions and directly threatening Lebanese sovereignty. Rather, there is Israeli intransigence, escalation and revenge that threaten the tranquility of the Arab world and bring death and destruction on the people of the region.

Siniora�s world is one of enticing fantasy. Not only does it conveniently ignore the true threats to security in the region, it proposes a simple, unilateral solution to all the region's ills. In his alternative reality, Siniora can sleep well at night, because those who really would like to eliminate him, Syria and Hezbollah, don't really exist. The problem, of course, is much as we would like to join Siniora in his world, he is stuck with us in the real one, whether or not he would like to believe it.

4) Technology Acquisition and the Chinese Threat
By Fred Burton

A U.S. District Court jury in Santa Ana, Calif., was still deliberating May 9 in the trial of Chi Mak, a naturalized Chinese-American accused of acting as an agent of the Chinese government and exporting military information, among other charges. Chi's wife, brother, sister-in-law and nephew are awaiting trial in connection with the case.

The clandestine and highly sensitive nature of espionage cases, as well as the need to protect the sources and tactics used to discover such operations, makes it difficult to prosecute alleged spies, even when the government is certain the accused party is guilty. For example, alleged American spy Felix Bloch was observed meeting with a KGB officer in a Paris cafe, though he was never prosecuted. Prosecuting suspected spies is further complicated in cases involving the Chinese government, which is renowned for its patient, long-term approach to espionage. Due to these factors, U.S. prosecutors did not accuse Chi of espionage, but of the lesser crimes of being an unregistered foreign agent and violating export laws.

Regardless of the outcome of the trial, however, the testimony and evidence presented in this case provide an inside look at the methods the Chinese use in the United States to acquire cutting-edge technology -- and the U.S. government's efforts to counter them.

An Age-Old Problem

Espionage, often called "the world's second-oldest profession," has been practiced since the beginning of recorded history. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the launch of the global war on terrorism, however, the FBI redirected nearly all of its assets for foreign counterintelligence (FCI) programs into the counterterrorism effort. This meant that for the first time in the bureau's history, practically no counterintelligence efforts were taking place. Although the scope of the damage caused by this virtual FCI hiatus might never be fully appreciated, the October 2005 arrest of the Chi family was one sign that the pendulum was beginning to swing the other way -- that resources were being allocated to address the enormous problem of foreign spies.

While the FBI's limited FCI programs run up against the espionage efforts of dozens of foreign countries, no country poses a more aggressive or widespread intelligence threat to the United States than China.

The Chinese in many ways use the espionage version of the "human wave" attacks they employed against U.S. military forces during the Korean War. Due to China's size and the communist government's control of society, the Chinese can devote immense manpower to gathering intelligence. For example, the U.S. State Department issued 382,000 nonimmigrant visas and 37,000 immigrant visas to Chinese citizens in 2006. Additionally, more than 62,000 Chinese students were studying at U.S. universities last year. Granted, very few of these people were spies, though the number still represents an enormous pool of potential suspects to vet and watch, especially when one considers that there are only 12,575 FBI agents in the United States -- most of whom are assigned to tasks other than FCI, such as terrorism and white-collar crime.

The bottom line, therefore, is that it is very difficult to determine which of these visitors are in the United States to steal secrets and technology. Indeed, many serve in both capacities: They are legitimate students and part of the intelligence effort. Furthermore, not everyone who collects information for the Chinese government realizes they are doing so. By engaging in normal conversations with Chinese friends or relatives about all manner of things, including work, the average person can be providing these friends -- the real intelligence agents -- with critical information.

Additionally, in many cases, the activities of Chinese agents do not fit the legal definition of espionage. Scouring open-source material for new and emerging technologies, attending technology conferences and trade shows and hiring firms to look at new technologies are all legal activities -- and U.S. companies do this all the time. Some Chinese agents, then, are engaging much more in business intelligence than in true espionage. Given the blurred lines between civilian and government/military technology in China, however, the information gleaned can easily find its way into military applications.

The Chinese Style

The Chinese are renowned for their patient and persistent espionage methods, and for their technological reverse-engineering capabilities. They also are noted for taking an extremely long view of their political and military needs and of the intelligence required to meet them. Because of this, the Chinese pose the greatest intelligence threat to U.S. technology.

Aggressive efforts by the Chinese government to obtain critical technologies are no secret. The Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology, for instance, lists science and technology acquisition programs such as its National High-tech R&D Program (known as the 863 Program) on its official Web site. This program provides guidance and funding for acquiring or developing technology that will have a "significant impact on enhancing China's overall national strengths." Targeted technologies include those for civilian use in areas such as information technology (IT), biotechnology, agriculture, manufacturing, energy and the environment. Many of these technologies, however, also have military applications.

While the 863 Program calls for the Chinese to acquire or develop these technologies, it is far cheaper and quicker to acquire them -- and China has a long history of doing so. A great many of China's weapons systems have been developed either by stealing designs and technologies or by outright copying the entire system. In addition to copying small arms such as the AK-47, the RPG-7 and the Makarov pistol, Chinese military industries have even reverse-engineered fighter aircraft. The Chengdu F-7 fighter, for example, is a copy of the Soviet MiG-21. This crash technological advancement program is intended not only to close China's technological gap with the West, but also to leapfrog ahead of it.

To acquire critical technologies, then, the Chinese rely not only on traditional espionage, but also on collecting the needed information via open sources. Such open-source collection is both faster and easier than engaging in espionage -- and it is legal. In effect, the Chinese are exploiting the openness of the U.S. research and development (R&D) system. Such openness allows faster development of technologies in the United States because scientists and engineers from various institutions and companies can share ideas, and thus contribute to different aspects of the concept. The openness, however, also makes it easy for others to "eavesdrop" on the ongoing technological conversation.

Other countries, including Israel, France, India and South Korea, do the same thing -- though none has matched China in the amount of effort and resources devoted to this process. To obtain the desired technology, China is sending students, scholars and researchers to work and study in the United States and other industrialized countries. Some of these visitors then return to China to work in high-tech "incubator parks," where R&D takes place. Among this group, however, are real intelligence officers who are sent to steal critical technologies.

The Chi case provides insight into this process at work in the United States. According to the U.S. government, Chi was employed as a principal support engineer for Power Paragon, a subsidiary of L-3 Communications/SPD Technologies/Power Systems Group in Anaheim, Calif. Chi, who was born in China and became a U.S. citizen in 1985, was granted a "secret-level" security clearance in 1996 and worked on more than 200 U.S. defense and military contracts as an electrical engineer.

During the investigation into Chi's activities, the FBI performed a "trash cover" on him -- literally combing through his trash for evidence -- and found two documents containing instructions for Chi to attend more seminars and lists of the technologies he was to obtain. The lists had been torn up into small pieces, but the FBI was able to reconstruct and translate them. The FBI then performed surreptitious searches of Chi's residence and reportedly found documents pertaining to a number of the technologies listed on both documents.

Redefining the 'Company'

Efforts to collect sensitive technology are conducted not only by individual intelligence agents, but also by the many corporations established and controlled by the Chinese government. One such corporation is the Xinshidai Group, which was established by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and is one of China's two largest military hardware conglomerates. One of the armaments companies Xinshidai controls is Norinco, which is widely known in the United States for sales of light arms and ammunition.

While conglomerates such as Xinshidai are not officially part of the Chinese government, they were established solely to serve the needs of the PLA and the Chinese military-industrial complex. And one important need of the Chinese government is to acquire advanced defense technology. Many Xinshidai subunits, including Norinco, own subsidiary companies in the United States, and employees of these companies attend trade shows and technology conferences, and also meet with representatives from other companies. Of course, with so much information available online, much of this open-source collection can be accomplished from a desk in China

Many times, early technologies related to the defense industry are not yet classified and therefore not protected. These technologies often become classified only after the U.S. government has purchased them. Information on these emerging technologies, then, can be obtained during the early stage, when their developers are applying for patents or looking for venture capital, partners and/or customers.

The technology acquisition process more often crosses the line into traditional espionage inside China, where Chinese intelligence officers -- operating without fear of prosecution -- frequently steal sensitive documents or copy a target's hard drive. This situation is further complicated when one considers that many of the major U.S.-based corporations doing business in China or seeking to expand market share there also have lucrative contracts with the U.S. Defense Department or other federal agencies. Some of these companies are going beyond Chinese manufacturing and are establishing design and software development centers in the country, meaning even more technology and proprietary information must be made available there.

The expansion of foreign companies into China brings a host of potential targets right to the Chinese intelligence apparatus, allowing China to apply even more pressure to even more points in its quest for technology. Moreover, the techniques used against companies and travelers in China can be far more aggressive than those employed against similar targets in the United States.

In addition to the threat posed to U.S. national security, allowing China to close the technology gap through the acquisition of proprietary information -- legally or not -- ultimately will hurt U.S. multinationals as Chinese companies use the information to become competitors. This means U.S. companies wishing to remain competitive by operating in China or partnering with Chinese firms and their subsidiaries in the United States must maintain a high level of vigilance.

5) Winograd Repercussions at First Glance
By Yisrael Ne'eman

Israeli PM Ehud Olmert's decision to establish the Winograd Committee to investigate the failures of the Second Lebanon War was the correct decision for two main reasons. Committee members are experienced, intelligent and honest with chairman Judge Eliahu Winograd especially fitting for the job. But more significantly it is not a judicial forum with legal powers as were the Agranat (Yom Kippur War of 1973) and Kahn (first Lebanon War of 1982) Commissions of Inquiry.

Rather Winograd was established to scrutinize failure in Israeli preparedness and decision making during the summer conflict with the Hezbollah. The Committee is not expected to demand resignations but instead to set the record straight, expose failures and suggest avenues for their correction. The top military and political leadership did not view the Committee as a court of law but rather as a panel of investigation. Olmert appointed the panel over the objections of critics from the Left, Right, military reserves and those demanding "responsible government". They preferred a judicial commission "with teeth". Whether by design or not, leaving the judiciary powers out kept the Committee clean, since as most Israelis know, the Supreme Court is identified as left wing secular for the most part. The Winograd Committee cannot be tainted with such a brush.

With its interim report published and made public on April 30 the Committee was damning in its evaluation of military and civilian preparation for such a conflict while condemning the government for not coordinating war objectives with the IDF. The main culprits are PM Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and the former Chief of Staff Dan Halutz. So far the investigation includes only the first five days of the war, considered the most "successful" phase although the word "failure" hovers above the entire document.

The Committee now leaves it to the political arena to make corrections and/or force a change in government although the final report will only be issued in July. After all, the 120 member Knesset was voted in by "the people" just last March 28 and the Kadima led coalition formed exactly a year ago. "The People" are sovereign and are now left the choice of forcing the government from power through massive demonstrations and petitions, or not. "The People" must decide, not the unelected judiciary or Supreme Court who would have been responsible for selecting a Commission of Inquiry (such as Agranat and Kahn). On Thursday 100,000 demonstrated in Tel Aviv demanding the government's resignation. It depends on "the people" if this signals the beginning of the end for the Olmert government. The confrontation is between the electorate (not the judiciary) and its government.

So will Olmert's government fall? It is impossible to know but the damning facts as exposed by the Committee make it difficult for the PM to continue. Defense Minister Peretz announced he will leave office and demand the treasury as the Finance Minister Avraham Hirshzon, facing criminal charges for theft of public funds, is expected to leave office shortly.

Replacing Olmert is another issue. Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni, seen as Ms. Clean appears as the popular choice for many. However, she has little ministerial experience and was not involved in crisis management. The Winograd report did not find fault with her behavior during the Second Lebanon War which may be a plus, but a closer look raises questions as to why she did not take more responsibility and force her way into the decision making process. Absence or avoidance of responsibility during a crisis does not prove leadership capabilities. The Winograd findings placed much blame for this summer�s debacle on the lack of experience of both Olmert and Peretz. Today Livni has little more experience than she did ten months ago.

The fall back position is to elect veteran 84 year old Shimon Peres with 55 years of political know-how. Peres is trying to stay out of the limelight but many see him as the automatic plug-in. Although he never won an election he was Labor PM from 1984-86 in the National Unity Government (NUG) with Yitzchak Shamir and the Likud after a dead heat tie in the balloting. During his term inflation was reduced from 450% to 20% and Israel withdrew to the security zone in south Lebanon. His second time in office came after Yitzchak Rabin's assassination in November 1995 but he lost the election to Benyamin Netanyahu in May 1996 as a result of Palestinian terror attacks (Feb. and March 1996) and Operation Grapes of Wrath against the Hezbollah in April. Over the years Peres held the defense (1974-77), finance (1988 - 90) and foreign ministry portfolios (1992 - 95).

Experience he has, but what of his policies? As architect of the Oslo Accords he is faulted for the subsequent Palestinian violence and many declare him to be overly na�ve for having trusted Yasir Arafat. He believed in a secular-democratic "New Middle East". Instead there is a different "New Middle East", jihadist - Khomeinist.

Peres has made it clear that neither the Hamas nor the Hezbollah are negotiating partners, but is he overly dependent on the success of the Palestinian secularists such as Fatah (many of whom also want to destroy Israel) and Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and the Seniora government in Lebanon. Fatah and Abbas have virtually no power and Seniora may have half the country behind him, but that is the same half with little weapons or military experience.

And what of Assad, Syria and the Golan? With Damascus it is all or nothing. Would he withdraw from the Golan for "peace" with Syria? The Right cannot make too much noise here, Netanyahu negotiated on that principle when he was PM from 1996 - 99. Most importantly, is there any reason to negotiate with Syria at all? Syria is an ardent supporter of the Hezbollah, Hamas and other Islamic terror organizations working against Israel, the US and the West. Furthermore, who would understand best how to handle the rise of a radical eastern front led by a rejuvenated Islamist Iran after the American withdrawal from Iraq? On the European front Peres has excellent relations with EU leaders and is on speaking terms with the European Left, very helpful when dealing with Damascus and the Palestinians.

Peres is mum at the moment and everyone is clueless as to what Livni would do. Being that the coalition partners do not want elections where Netanyahu and the Likud could come to power should the coalition collapse, many are moving to the fall back position of crowning Shimon Peres as prime minister in the hope he will steady the ship but not take too many "initiatives." Peres thought he was looking at a ceremonial presidential term for the next seven years but instead he may become premier for a third time at just one more crucial juncture in Israel's history.

6)Mexico: The Price of Peace in the Cartel Wars
By Fred Burton

So far, 2007 has been a bad year for one of Mexico's two most powerful drug-trafficking enterprises: the Gulf cartel. In January, the organization suffered a major hit when Mexico extradited its captured leader, Osiel Cardenas, to the United States. Then, on April 17, authorities arrested five Gulf members just south of the Texas border in Reynosa. Among those taken into custody was Juan Oscar Garza, purportedly an important Gulf cartel leader in the city. Less than a week later, authorities in Nuevo Laredo captured Gulf cartel leader Eleazar Medina Rojas. The Mexican Attorney General's office described Medina as "a major killer."

During his 2006 election campaign, Mexican President Felipe Calderon pledged to take measures to quell the brutal cartel war that has been raging in his country since 2003 -- a war that has escalated dramatically over the past two years. Calderon, in attempting to fulfill his campaign promise, is responsible for the angst currently being felt by the Gulf cartel. Sources familiar with the operation say the Gulf cartel is the government's primary target now, and that Calderon hopes to have it dismantled within a year. Should this operation succeed, it will have public security ramifications on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The immediate benefit, of course, would go to Mexico's other main cartel, the Sinaloa organization, which would assume control of the Gulf cartel's operations in many areas. However, with the long-running turf war between these two organizations concluded, the brutal violence that has spread across the country could subside, at least for a time. On the other hand, members of the cartel's infamous Los Zetas enforcement arm would be left without a master -- or the protection that comes with being part of a powerful cartel. At least some of the Zetas would flee into the United States, spreading their particularly brutal style of violence north of the border.

The Cartels

Given its geographic location, Mexico has long been used as a staging and transshipment point for narcotics, illegal aliens and other contraband destined for U.S. markets from Mexico, South America and elsewhere. The smuggling routes into the United States are controlled by the cartels, which operate major transshipment points, or plazas, run by a top figure within each cartel known as the "gatekeeper."

Currently, the majority of Mexico's smuggling routes are controlled by three key cartels: Gulf, Sinaloa and Tijuana -- though Tijuana is the least powerful. This has not always been the case. As recently as November 2005, the Juarez cartel was the dominant player in the center of the country, controlling a large percentage of the cocaine traffic from Mexico into the United States. The death of Amado Carrillo Fuentes in 1997, however, was the beginning of the end of the Juarez cartel. After the organization collapsed, some elements of it were absorbed into the Sinaloa cartel -- a relatively young and aggressive organization that has gobbled up much of the Juarez cartel's former territory.

Over time, the balance of power between the various cartels shifts as new ones emerge and older ones weaken and collapse. The interplay between cartels is, in fact, very much like that between some nations: The chances for peace are highest when a kind of stable coexistence is maintained and profits flow freely. However, a disruption in the system -- such as the arrests or deaths of cartel leaders -- generates tensions and, frequently, bloodshed as rivals move in to exploit the power vacuum.

Leadership vacuums sometimes are created by law enforcement successes against a particular cartel -- thus, cartels often will attempt to use law enforcement against one another, either by bribing Mexican officials to take action against a rival or by leaking intelligence about a rival's operations to the Mexican government or the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

The Current Cartel War

The collapse of the Juarez cartel, the February 2002 death of Tijuana cartel leader and chief enforcer Ramon Arellano Felix, who was killed in a shootout with police in Mazatlan, and the March 14, 2003, capture of Gulf cartel kingpin Cardenas in Matamoros combined to spark the current period of unrest -- and particularly brutal warfare -- among what were then the three main cartels. The aggressive Sinaloa cartel saw those developments as an opportunity to expand its territory -- and profits -- and made its move.

Sinaloa's expansion efforts forced the Tijuana cartel to cede the plaza in the northwestern border city of Mexicali, while Sinaloa's move into Gulf territory in Nuevo Laredo made that town a war zone. The Gulf and Tijuana organizations did unite briefly against the powerful Sinaloa cartel through a deal their leaders struck in prison in 2004. The alliance crumbled, however, as Cardenas and Benjamin Arellano Felix fell to squabbling in 2005. At that point, the Gulf cartel began launching violent incursions into the Tijuana cartel territories of Mexicali and Tijuana, and the three-way war was on again, though the heaviest fighting has been between Gulf and Sinaloa.

The Tijuana cartel was further weakened in August 2006 when its chief, Javier Arellano Felix, was arrested by the U.S. Coast Guard on a boat off the coast of southern California. Mexican army troops also were sent to Tijuana in January in an operation to restore order to the border city and root out corrupt police officers, who mostly were cooperating with the Tijuana cartel. As a result of these efforts, the Tijuana cartel is unable to project much power outside of its base in Tijuana.

This current cartel war is being waged not only for control of the smuggling plazas into the United States, such as Nuevo Laredo, Mexicali and Tijuana, but also for the locations used for Mexico's incoming drug shipments, in places such as Acapulco, Cancun and Michoacan, and for control of critical points on transshipment routes through the center of the country, such as Hermosillo.

While there has always been some level of violence between the Mexican cartels, the current war has resulted in a notable escalation in the level of brutality. One significant cause of this uptick is the change in the composition of the cartels' enforcement arms. Historically, cartel leaders performed much of their own dirty work, and figures such as Cardenas and Ramon Arellano Felix were recognized for the number of rivals they killed on their rise to the top of their respective organizations. In the recent past, however, the cartels have begun to contract out the enforcement functions to highly trained outsiders. For example, when cartels such as the Tijuana organization began to use active or retired police officers against their enemies, their rivals were forced to find enforcers capable of countering this strength. As a result, the Gulf cartel hired Los Zetas, a group of elite anti-drug paratroopers and intelligence operatives who deserted their federal Special Air Mobile Force Group in 1991. The Sinaloa cartel, meanwhile, formed a similar armed force called Los Pelones, literally meaning "the bald ones" but typically understood to mean "new soldiers" for the shaved heads normally sported by military recruits. Although the cartels had long outgunned Mexican police, these highly trained and aggressive enforcers upped the ante even further, introducing military-style tactics and even more advanced weapons.

The life of a Mexican drug cartel enforcer can be exciting, brutal -- and short. Los Zetas and Los Pelones are constantly attacking one another and some members of the groups even have posted videos on the Internet of them torturing and executing their rivals. Beheading rival enforcers also has become common. The current cartel war has proven to be a long and arduous struggle, and there has been heavy attrition among both organizations. Because of this attrition, the cartels have recently begun to bring fresh muscle to the fight. Los Zetas have formed relationships with former members of the Guatemalan special forces known as Kaibiles, and with members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) street gang.

It is this environment of extreme and often gratuitous violence -- killings, beheadings and rocket-propelled grenade attacks -- that has sparked Calderon's actions against the Gulf cartel. Why he is focusing specifically on the Gulf cartel is unclear, though it is possible the government has better intelligence on it than on the others. Or perhaps it is because the Gulf cartel has a more centralized command structure than does Sinaloa, which is a federation of several smaller cartels. Of course, the Gulf cartel itself has argued that the Calderon administration is on the Sinaloa payroll and is being used by Sinaloa to destroy its rival. Another possible reason is that taking out Los Zetas -- who have become emblematic of extreme cartel violence -- would be a major accomplishment for the new president.

The Organizational Structure

The cartels are large, intricate crime syndicates often made up of supporting alliances of smaller cartels, such as the Sinaloa federation. Thus, even if the arrest of a leader or other figure damages one part of the organization, another part of the group can assume the damaged part's role. Additionally, the cartels often are compartmentalized so that one section's removal does not compromise the group as a whole. Further hardening them against law enforcement efforts are the cartels' robust organizational structures. They are distributed horizontally, and are based on family relationships and personal alliances. Because of this, multiple figures can fill leadership vacuums when high-ranking members are arrested or killed.

That said, however, the Gulf cartel has borne the brunt of Calderon's anti-cartel offensive to date -- and even a robust organization with redundant structures will begin to crack when it is hit repeatedly and in different locations, as the Gulf cartel has been. This pressure has resulted in retaliatory attacks against law enforcement and the Sinaloa cartel, which is being blamed for the government's targeting of the Gulf cartel. In the short term, then, the violence will continue, perhaps even escalate as the Gulf cartel fights to survive and maintain its territories and profit stream.

Once there is blood in the water, so to speak, other cartels are likely to swarm over the share of the market the weakened Gulf organization no longer can defend. Sinaloa already is attempting to wrest Nuevo Laredo from Gulf control, and there are indications that Sinaloa also has begun to make a grab for Matamoros. Should the Sinaloa cartel succeed in taking these vital (and lucrative) plazas from the Gulf cartel, it would significantly reduce Gulf's revenues and power. If that happens, and the government action against the Gulf cartel continues, the once-powerful organization could go the way of the Juarez cartel.

On the public security front, however, if Sinaloa is able to make a powerful move and quickly consolidate control over Gulf territory, the result could be the end of the current cartel war and a period of relative calm. The drugs and other contraband will continue to flow, but the violence that has placed so much pressure on the Mexican government will be over -- at least for a season.

Although the ferocious shootouts have been the most pressing issue in the press and public opinion -- and one that can be resolved by taking out one of the main cartels involved -- not all the violence is connected to inter-cartel warfare. Mexico also has a long history of attacks against journalists, as well as honest police officers and others who oppose the cartels and their criminal activities. Thus, even if the inter-cartel warfare is dampened by establishing Sinaloa as the new dominant entity, journalists, police and pro-justice crusaders still will have to live in fear of their area warlords. Average civilians, however, will be less likely to be killed in the crossfire between the cartels.


Implosion of the Gulf cartel, though, would leave Los Zetas and their Kaibile and MS-13 allies exposed. Certainly, after the number of government officials and Sinaloa and Tijuana cartel members Los Zetas and their confederates have killed and terrorized, there will be many who would seek to hunt them down. A collapse of the Gulf cartel infrastructure and the organization and revenues required to maintain safety for the group could result in open hunting season on Los Zetas.

Facing that situation, the remaining Zetas could attempt to form an alliance with another cartel, form their own cartel or perhaps even be forced to flee from Mexico. Should they run, their links with the Kaibiles and MS-13 could prove to be mutually beneficial. MS-13 could help shelter Los Zetas in Central America or even the United States. Los Zetas, on the other hand, possess a level of training, discipline and experience that would be quite useful to MS-13. One thing is certain: the Zetas are brutal thugs and, wherever they land, they will continue to commit crimes.

Years of operating in towns along the U.S.-Mexico border has allowed the Zetas to form close relationships with a number of criminals and organized crime organizations in the United States. Some, in fact, already have been associated with killings as far north as Dallas. There also is far more money to be made in the United States than in Central America. Although that opportunity brings with it the risk of having to evade U.S. law enforcement, it is highly likely that a number of Zetas will find their way to U.S. cities.

Their history suggests they would be most comfortable living in cities along or near the border, where they could quickly flee back to Mexico should U.S. law enforcement close in. Being part of the Gulf cartel, Los Zetas would have better connections in places adjacent to the cartel's plazas, such as the Texas border cities of Laredo and Brownsville, or in cities along the smuggling route, like San Antonio or Houston. However, the Gulf cartel's distribution network stretches to places such as New Orleans, Atlanta and Washington -- meaning Zetas also could turn up in those cities as well.


While the stakes are incredibly high, we must invest maximum effort on this issue, we agree with The New York Jewish Week’s editorial from a number of weeks ago that it would be “counterproductive to raise the level of rhetoric to the point of hysteria, something that will only make it harder to rally the nation when the time comes to make the hard decisions about Iran… Dire statements from Jewish groups may play into the hands of those who want to shrug off the Iranian threat as a Jewish problem, of no concern to the rest of the world.”

A recent poll conducted by The Israel Project indicates that while an overwhelming majority of Americans are somewhat or very worried that Iran might develop nuclear weapons and believe the U.S. should have some involvement in dealing with Iran, they are also skeptical about any information coming from Israel or American supporters of Israel. This indicates that the messenger on this issue is at least if not more important than the message content. Thus, while the Jewish community should be clear and assertive about its concerns, it is vital that we reach out to our non-Jewish coalition partners across the political and religious spectrum. The issue should be framed not as a “Jewish” or “Israeli” issue, but as one that demands the attention of the entire civilized world.