Friday, August 31, 2007

Tangibles rise in value - morals decline in value!

Bernanke has spoken and has concluded to act responsibly until irresponsible politicians, running for office, force him to re-inflate. Physical assets rise in value while morals decline in value. Political whores will win in the end and they will not have to stick their hands under the bathroom stall to do so.

Is GW ready to defend Lebanon with military intervention? Seems so. (See 1 below.)

Jeff Emanuel chimes in on Iran and Ahmadinejad's expressed intentions. (See 2

below.)

Will Sderot's children become victims of Olmert's inaction as they are urged to return to school amidst continuing rocket attacks? (See 3 below.)

Caroline Glick asks whether, even in the face of Sarkozy's recent comments regarding Iran, the Europeans have learned the true lessons of WW 2. Certainly the NYTimes, the Far Left and Christopher Hitchens twist GW's comments, regarding the aftermath of Viet Nam, out of shape to suit their purposes.(See 4 below.)

Some European political extremes equate The Koran with Mein Kampf and would have it banned. (See 5 below.)

An Arab news jornalist reports what Arab leaders believe - Netanyahu is the answer to ultimate peace because their leaders believe The Israeli Right is more capable than The Israeli Left in bringing about conditions for peace. (See 6 below.)

Dick

1)USS Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group takes up position opposite Lebanese coast amid trepidation over September presidential election.


Sources report aboard the Kearsarge group’s vessels are members of the 22nds Marine special operations-capable Expeditionary Unit, ready to execute landings on Lebanese beaches.

Wednesday, Aug. 29, Adm. William Fallon, chief of US Central Command and the war on terror paid an unannounced visit to Beirut, although for years US generals have given the Lebanese capital a wide berth. He left after three hours, the longest time considered safe for him to stay. While there he reviewed with Lebanese leaders US preparations for military intervention should the September presidential election descend into civil violence or elicit an attempt by Iran, Syria or Hizballah to seize power by force. Such an attempt could leave Lebanon dangerously stranded between two rival administrations.

The Kearsage posting and a marine force within reach of Lebanese shores is intended as a deterrent and indicator of Washington’s willingness to send the military over to prevent Lebanon’s takeover by Iran or Syria.

Adm. Fallon also inspected the measures for protecting the lives of the anti-Syrian leaders prime minister Fouad Siniora, majority party head Saad Hariri and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, and the safety of US ambassador Jeffrey Felton, a key mover in charting US strategy for Lebanon, and the embassy staff.

Portents of coming unrest were seen last week in the hasty departure from Beirut of the Saudi and UAE ambassadors under threats to their lives. Most Arab and European missions have cut down staff in the Lebanese capital.

Lebanese police are investigating the re-appearance of a sick videogame in Beirut whose goal is the murder of the prime minister, cabinet members, Jumblatt and Maronite leader Samir Geagea, who are designated “thieves and traitors.” Its name, “The Battle of the Seraya,” refers to the government building. The game, which has been removed from stores in Beirut, depicts underground tunnels leading from the government building to the US embassy, echoing Hizballah’s reference to the Siniora government as “the Feltman Cabinet.”

The government building has been guarded by tanks and three army and police battalions since the Hizballah-led opposition occupied downtown Beirut earlier this year with the declared aim of toppling the government.

2) By Jeff Emanuel


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Tuesday said "a huge power vacuum" was imminent in Iraq and promised Iran would be ready to fill it. This plainly-stated desire by the totalitarian regime in Tehran to overtly interfere in the affairs of a sovereign nation -- while simultaneously accusing the US of doing so, despite the fact that coalition forces are still present in Iraq at official invitation of that nation's sovereign government -- should come as no surprise to any who have followed the course of the Iraq war (and postwar) to this point.

From establishing training and base camps for both Shi'a and Sunni fighters (further proof - as if more was needed that sectarian lines are not an obstacle to cooperation if there is a common enemy to be fought), to funding and equipping insurgents within Iraq, Iran's ever-growing involvement in the fight against Iraq, and against the United States within that country, has been both real and pronounced for several years now. That involvement not only includes sending soldiers from the elite Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard across Iraq's eastern border, it also includes supplying terrorists in Iraq with rockets, assault weapons, and the materials necessary to assemble EFPs (explosively-formed penetrators -- an improvised explosive device which, in the past two years, has become the number one killer of American troops in Iraq).

Major General Rick Lynch, commander of the Ft. Stewart, GA's 3rd Infantry Division (whose 3rd Brigade is one of the ‘Surge' Brigades), which is responsible for the area of Iran from Baghdad south to Salman Pak and the Tigris River Valley, publicly stated that his soldiers are currently "tracking about 50 members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps in [their] area," saying that, while none have been captured at this point, they "are being targeted" like any other insurgent fighters.

Recently, a Public Affairs officer within Multinational Force-Iraq privately expressed his concern to me that the media were spiking or deliberately misrepresenting reports made by the military about Iranian involvement and the capture of Persian fighters within Iraq.

"We would arrest three members of the al Quds force (part of the Revolutionary Guard), and the story that would come out in the papers the next day would be, ‘Three Iranian diplomats arrested from embassy.' I'd call the folks at the papers and say, ‘Look, these folks weren't diplomats, and they weren't at an embassy. They're Iranian soldiers and they were taken while fighting against the coalition in Iraq.' I'd say to them, ‘We have evidence - from weapons to ID cards to uniforms - that proves beyond a doubt who and what they are,' and I'd offer to bring them in and walk through each piece of evidence with them.

"They'd never take me up on it, and would never correct their stories."

Ahmadinejad declared that Iran would work with "neighbors and regional friends like Saudi Arabia" to replace the US in Iraq should a withdrawal take place. Saudi Arabia has, as yet, issued no response to this claim, although common sense would suggest that any dealings the Sunni state had with Shi'a Iran regarding the future of Iraq would be approached with the lessons learned from Russia's 1939 treaty with Hitler's Germany freshly borne in mind. Given the demographics of Iraq (overwhelmingly Shi'a, especially in that southern area closest to Saudi Arabia) and of Saudi itself, whose sizable Shi'a population (located in its eastern oil fields) revolted during the Iranian overthrowing of the Shah, as well as Iran's highly-publicized calls for the destruction of a fellow United Nations member country, it is difficult to imagine the Saudis entering into any agreement with the Persian state -- a natural rival well before the Iraq situation became what it is now - without fully acknowledging the likelihood of the latter violating that good faith.

Add to this Iran's war on the Kurds in its northwest reaches -- a battle which has crossed over into Iraq, and which has caused a number of Iraqi Kurds to flee their mountain homes in search of safety from Persian artillery. Then consider the Iranian funding and arming of terrorists, both Sunni and Shi'a, in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and in Syria and Lebanon, and the picture of the Middle East becomes one of several states and regions. All of these are being interfered with, influenced, or taken on militarily by Iran. Iran appears to have far greater imperialistic and hegemonic designs than most in the area, let alone in the generally-out-of-touch West, have ever dared to contemplate and would ever dare to admit.

Further threatening the region is Iran's blatant pursuit of nuclear weapons -- something which is untenable not only to the US and to Israel, but to Saudi Arabia, which has long depended on America's nuclear capability to act as its own deterrent. Should a rival state in such close proximity suddenly arm itself with nuclear weapons, the balance of power in the region would be even further skewed, resulting in (as the least of our worries) a new nuclear arms race among Muslim states.

This does not even take into account the crisis such a development would cause for Israel, as a nation whose leader has repeatedly and openly called for their destruction would be able to reach them with weapons capable of making that Muslim fantasy a devastating reality. The response by too many in the West to this last, of course, is at best to ignore it, and at worst to applaud the unspeakable barbarism required to commit such an act. In the end, those who swore to "never forget" Europe's own horrific crime against the Jews -- the Holocaust -- and who swore "never again" to allow such an act, are sitting idly by as the next one rapidly approaches.

Sadly, Tehran has chosen this course for itself, entirely independent of international action or of any need to do so. Their "foreign policy" of kidnapping soldiers, diplomats, and tourists for use as bargaining chips, of calling for the annihilation of fellow UN member states, and of sending money and materiel across their western border into a separate and sovereign nation, in hopes of killing as many American soldiers and Iraqi people as possible, is entirely -- and sickeningly -- self-directed.

No third parties or overly aggressive rivals are forcing them to act in such an overtly hostile manner not only toward their neighbors, but also toward the West. Iran has made every one of these choices on its own.

Given this, it is of the utmost importance that the people of America and her fellow Western nations begin to pay attention to the aggression being demonstrated by a hostile Iran. It is time to choose to accept, rather than to obfuscate, through chosen ignorance or through media distortion, the indisputable fact that, whether we like it or not, Iran is not only at war with the sovereign state of Iraq, as well as with America. We must also acknowledge tjay Iran has designs much grander and much more terrible than simply being a force of influence in its neighbors' internal politics.

Iran, quite simply, seeks regional hegemony and their oft-stated second goal of the utter destruction of Israel, along with every one of its citizens.

Iraq is simply the first battleground in a much larger war not only for the Middle East, but for the West as well. Along with this larger war (as has been repeatedly promised by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad himself) a second Holocaust is coming.

To all of those who promised "never again": wake up now - it is coming. It has already begun in Iraq, and will only grow from there. It is not too late to stop it; however, if the West does not overcome its complacency in the very near future, then it may not be too long before it is in fact too late.

3) IDF Preparations for new school year in the Sderot area

The IDF is taking part in the preparations for the new school year in Sderot
and the surrounding communities, in order to help citizens cope with the
constant firing of Qassam rockets at their homes. Over 200 soldiers and
officers will accompany the students to schools as well as children to local
kindergartens, and will remain there during the day while educating and
instructing them on emergency procedures and behavior.

Approximately 300 projectile rockets were launched at Israel from the Gaza
Strip during the month of August. The IDF will continue to operate in order
to increase the security and sense of security among the residents of the
Sderot area.

4) The ghosts of wars lost
By Caroline B. Glick

French President Nicholas Sarkozy's statements Tuesday in support of stiffer sanctions against Iran for its pursuit of nuclear weapons were justifiably heartening to many. Sarkozy's remarks, like his Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner's trip last week to Iraq, marked a refreshing departure from his predecessor Jacques Chirac's knee-jerk anti-Americanism.

Yet while Sarkozy's open support for sanctions serves to distinguish him from Chirac, his justification of his position indicates that although much has changed, much has also remained the same in France. By Sarkozy's lights, "This [sanctions] initiative is the only one that can allow us to escape an alternative that I can only call catastrophic: an Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran."

Praising Sarkozy on Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal was quick to conflate his remarks with remarks made by Senator John McCain a few months ago about the prospect of a US military strike against Iran's nuclear installations. McCain said, "There's only one thing worse than the United States exercising the military option; that is a nuclear-armed Iran."

But these statements are not the same. A moral chasm divides them. Unlike McCain, Sarkozy makes no moral distinctions between a nuclear-armed Iran and a military strike aimed at preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power. For him, they are the same.

Sarkozy's moral blindness is rooted in post-World War II Europe's instrumental treatment of the legacy of that war. For the Europeans — and first and foremost for the Germans, and the Dutch, French and Belgians who collaborated with the Germans during the war — the main lesson of World War II was that militarism and nationalism are bad. This view informed post-war Europe's ideological embrace of pacifism and trans-nationalism.

But in truth, militarism and nationalism did not cause World War II. The true cause of that war was Germany's decision to embrace evil and depravity as its guiding philosophy and the willingness of the nations of Europe that collaborated with German authorities to also embrace this evil. That is, the real legacy of the war is a moral one and the real lesson to be learned from the war is not that nations must allow themselves to be gobbled up into trans-national entities or that they must eschew war at all costs. Rather, the true lesson of the war is that nations should embrace morality that sanctifies life and freedom and that holds men and women accountable for their choices.

Europe's refusal to reckon with this central truth is what brings leaders like Sarkozy today to ignore the real reason why Iran must not acquire nuclear weapons. As a regime that embraces evil and preaches genocide and global domination, Iran cannot be trusted with weapons of genocide and global domination. War waged to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power is preferable and less catastrophic than a war Iran would wage if it were to acquire nuclear weapons.

Europe is far from unique in its refusal to accept and contend with the true legacy of its wars. Humanity as a whole more often then not prefers to evade the difficult lessons of war — and especially of lost wars. We see this very clearly today in the Islamic world where the forces of global jihad base their efforts to destroy human freedom on their refusal to accept the reasons that Western nations, organized around the Judeo-Christian notion of human liberty, have defeated their forces in war for the past five hundred years.

The refusal to reckon with the lessons of war is also the central unifying characteristic of Israel's political and intellectual establishment. The Israeli establishment's denials of the lessons of its military history began at the end of the Yom Kippur War, and extend to the 1982 Lebanon War, the Palestinian uprising in the late 1980s, the Oslo Process, the 2000 withdrawal from Lebanon, the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, and the war in Lebanon last summer.

In the midst of all this evasion, something refreshing, and indeed, inspiring is happening today in America. There, a debate about the legacy of an unpopular lost war has recently begun in earnest. That war, of course is the Vietnam War.

Last Wednesday, US President George W. Bush gave a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars where he discussed the consequences of America's defeat in Vietnam. Bush did not speak of the war itself. He did not connect then-president Lyndon Johnson's failure to explain the war to the American people to the US media's decision, made around 1967, to actively sue for American defeat at the hands of the Soviet and Chinese-backed Communists in North Vietnam. He did not discuss the defeat of the members of the American establishment at the hands of their children.

Bush made no mention of the fact that Congress's refusal to provide military assistance to the South Vietnamese made their loss of independence and freedom a foregone conclusion. He didn't discuss how then-president Gerald Ford's betrayed South Vietnam when he refused to provide air and naval support to South Vietnam when the North Vietnamese invaded in 1975.

Bush did not discuss the reasons the US was defeated at all. He limited his remarks to the consequences of that defeat on Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and on the US's position in the world to this very day. He noted that some two million Cambodians died at the hands of Pol Pot's murderous Communist regime which rose to power after South Vietnam was overrun. He recalled the hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese who were imprisoned in concentration camps, the tens of thousands who were killed and the hundreds of thousands who took to sea in rickety boats in a desperate bid to find freedom in the America that had just abandoned them. He noted statements by Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri asserting the US defeat in Vietnam as proof that the US can and will be defeated by Islam.

The US mass media reacted to Bush's speech with fits of hysterical rage. The New York Times, which together with CBS News led the media war against the US defense of South Vietnam, dismissed the President's remarks as "bizarre." Major newspapers and television networks excoriated Bush for remembering the heavy and abiding toll of that lost war and for warning against repeating the mistake of embracing defeat in Iraq.

Christopher Hitchens' response to Bush's speech in the Observer was emblematic of the Left's condemnations. Hitchens wrote, "If one question is rightly settled in the American and, indeed, the international memory, it is that the Vietnam War was at best a titanic blunder and at worst a campaign of atrocity and aggression."

But contrary to the claims of Hitchens and his comrades, the question of America's memory of Vietnam was never settled. They never managed to successfully dictate America's national memory, even as they succeeded in squelching popular debate of history.

This week, author Robert Kaplan published an article in The Atlantic Monthly pointing out the unbridgeable gap between popular histories of the Vietnam War, which are largely based on the views of that war espoused by Hitchens and the New York Times, and the literature of the war read by the American military. Entitled "Re-reading Vietnam," Kaplan gives an overview of that literature, which in comparison to the Left's bestsellers, has generally been published by boutique presses.

These books tell the stories of the warriors who fought in Vietnam. They discuss the stoic heroism of the American POWs who were subjected to years physical torture and unrelenting psychological abuse during their captivity in North Vietnamese prison camps. They describe the counter-insurgency tactics employed by forces in Vietnam that by 1970 had succeeded in politically defeating of the Viet Cong in ninety percent of South Vietnam.

As Kaplan notes, in recent years, these books have been supplemented by new histories, like Lewis Sorley's A Better War, which examine the strategic success of the American and South Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam in the war's later years after General Creighton Abrams took command from General William Westmoreland in 1968.

After the September 11 attacks, the American public began expressing a willingness to reassess Vietnam. This newfound openness to the war was manifested in the public's belated embrace of Vietnam veterans who were shunned and silenced upon their return home.

The force of that embrace was felt strongly in the 2004 presidential elections.

Democratic presidential nominee, Senator John Kerry had built his political career on his public condemnations of his brothers in arms when he joined the anti-war movement after being released from the Navy in 1970. The veterans banded together and with massive public support launched a successful campaign against him.

Although the Left has denounced Bush for his use of Vietnam as a warning for what will occur if the US is defeated in Iraq, the war's opponents have made near obsessive use of the Vietnam War as a means of convincing the American public that the war in Iraq is unwinnable. Just a week after the initial US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, some major media outlets were already invoking Vietnam and warning that "a Vietnam-like quagmire" was ensuing in Iraq.

In a recently released study of the US media's treatment of the war in Iraq, the Internet weblog "Media Busters" noted that a document search showed that since March 2003, The New York Times has published some 2,500 articles that make mention of both Vietnam and Iraq. CNN has run more than 3,000 stories that discuss the wars side by side. And always, the message is the same: As then, so today, the US cannot win, and so every American life sacrificed in Iraq is sacrificed in vain.

Bush's challenge to the received popular wisdom about the Vietnam War came then against the backdrop of these cultural crosscurrents that also inform the current debate on the war in Iraq and the war against Islamic fascism in general. Bush is to be applauded for raising the story Vietnam's legacy. His entrance into the debate will no doubt speed up the long-delayed moral reckoning with the legacy of Vietnam — of America's betrayal of its South Vietnamese allies, and of the consequences of that betrayal on America's international standing and its own self-assessment.

Hopefully, America's newfound readiness to reckon with the lessons of Vietnam will bring about a renewed and realistic American assessment and discussion of the current war against Islamic fascism. Then too, perhaps America's willingness to examine the demons of its past will prompt Europe and Israel and perhaps one day even the Islamic world, to honestly study their military pasts. For until we recognize the causes of our previous failures, we will be doomed to repeat them, time after time after time.

5) Ban Islam?
by Daniel Pipes



Non-Muslims occasionally raise the idea of banning the Koran, Islam, and Muslims. Examples this month include calls by a political leader in the Netherlands, Geert Wilders, to ban the Koran — which he compares to Hitler's Mein Kampf — and two Australian politicians, Pauline Hanson and Paul Green, demanding a moratorium on Muslim immigration.

What is one to make of these initiatives? First, some history. Precedents exist from an earlier era, when intolerant Christian governments forced Muslims to convert, notably in 16th-century Spain, and others strongly encouraged conversions, especially of the elite, as in 16th- and 17th-century Russia. In modern times, however, with freedom of expression and religion established as basic human rights, efforts to protect against intolerance by banning the Koran, Islam, or Muslims have failed.

In perhaps the most serious contemporary attempt to ban the Koran, a Hindu group argued in 1984–85 that the Islamic scriptures contain "numerous sayings, repeated in the book over and over again, which on grounds of religion promote disharmony, feeling of enmity, hatred and ill-will between different religious communities and incite people to commit violence and disturb public tranquility."

The taking of this demand, known as "The Calcutta Quran Petition," to court prompted riots and deaths in Bangladesh. The case so alarmed New Delhi that the attorney general of India himself took part in the proceedings to oppose the petition, which, not surprisingly, was dismissed.



Pim Fortuyn (1948-2002) led the most consequential effort so far to end Muslim emigration, in his case, to the Netherlands.

This early petition set the standard in terms of collecting objectionable Koranic verses. Other efforts have been more rhetorical and less operational. The most consequential was by Pim Fortuyn in the Netherlands to end Muslim immigration. Had he not been assassinated in 2002, he might have ridden his issue to the prime ministry.

The coordinator of Italy's Northern League, Roberto Calderoli, wrote in 2005: "Islam has to be declared illegal until Islamists are prepared to renounce those parts of their pseudo political and religious doctrine glorifying violence and the oppression of other cultures and religions."

A British member of Parliament, Boris Johnson, pointed out in 2005 that passing a Racial and Religious Hatred Bill "must mean banning the reading — in public or private — of a great many passages of the Koran itself." His observation prompted a Muslim delegation to seek assurances, which it received, from the Home Office that no such ban would occur. Patrick Sookhdeo of the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity in 2006 called for prohibiting one translation of the Koran, The Noble Koran: A New Rendering of its Meaning in English, because "it sets out a strategy for killing the infidels and for warfare against them."

Other Western countries witnessed lesser efforts: Norway's Kristiansand Progress Party sought to ban Islam in 2004 and Germany's Bundesverband der B├╝rgerbewegungen sought to prohibit the Koran in 2006, arguing for its incompatibility with the German constitution. "Stop the Islamification of Denmark" demanded in early 2007 the prohibition of parts of the Koran and all mosques, calling them unconstitutional. Australia's Catch the Fire Ministries argued in 2004 that because "The Koran contradicts Christian doctrine in a number of places and, under the blasphemy law, [it] is therefore illegal."

Elsewhere, writers have made the same demands. Switzerland's Alain Jean-Mairet is the strategist of a two-part plan, popular and juridical, with the goal that "all the Islamic projects in Switzerland will prove impossible to fulfill." In France, an anonymous writer at the Liberty Vox Web site wishes to ban Islam, as does Warner Todd Huston in the United States.

The 2006 movie V for Vendetta portrays a future Britain in which the Koran is banned.

My take? I understand the security-based urge to exclude the Koran, Islam, and Muslims, but these efforts are too broad, sweeping up inspirational passages with objectionable ones, reformers with extremists, friends with foes. Also, they ignore the possibility of positive change.

More practical and focused would be to reduce the threats of jihad and Shariah by banning Islamist interpretations of the Koran, as well as Islamism and Islamists. Precedents exist. A Saudi-sponsored Koran was pulled from school libraries. Preachers have gone to jail for their interpretation of the Koran. Extreme versions of Islam are criminally prosecuted. Organizations are outlawed. Politicians have called for Islamists to leave their countries.

Islam is not the enemy, but Islamism is. Tolerate moderate Islam, but eradicate its radical variants.

6) Arabs waiting for Bibi
by Majdi Halabi

Palestinians, Arab leaders believe that only Israel’s right-wing camp can bring peace.

The Israeli Right and part of the center of Israel’s political map are not the only ones waiting for Benjamin Netanyahu. The Palestinians are also waiting for Bibi. This impression comes from conversations with senior Palestinian officials and key figures within Palestinian society.


The Palestinians are convinced that Benjamin Netanyahu can undertake diplomatic moves more easily than Ehud Olmert and his government which, despite possessing a solid and broad coalition base, loses its majority once withdrawals or outpost evacuations are brought up for discussion.


The analysis offered by the Palestinians is very interesting. They say that the Right is better for peace than the Left and bring up many examples to back this up, ranging from the peace treaty with Egypt signed by the government of the late Menachem Begin to the Hebron deal signed by Netanyahu and the Gaza withdrawal carried out by Ariel Sharon, who the Palestinians viewed as a strong rightist.


The Right is good for peace and the Left is good for war – this is the way the Israeli political map is perceived in the eyes of the Palestinian neighbors and Arab leaders. Their analysis is simple. When the Left wishes to pursue peace moves, that is, withdrawals, it is curbed by the Right and religious parties, and at times even the Arab Knesset members’ bloc is not enough to help the Left secure the needed majority.


Yet when the Left wishes to undertake a military move, it always enjoys right-wing support that guarantees a majority for such moves. This was particularly noticeable in all the military moves, wars, and campaigns led by leftist and centrist governments, such as the Grapes of Wrath campaign in 1996 and the Second Lebanon War in 2006.



Left is good for talking

On the other hand, say the Palestinians and analysts of Israeli policy in the Arab world, when the Right is in power it is easier to reach agreements because the Right is consistent and honors its pledges. Moreover, it will automatically enjoy the support of the entire leftist bloc the moment it decides on a withdrawal, evacuation, or any other regional peace agreement.


Benjamin Netanyahu is viewed in a more credible light by regional Arab leaders than the way he has been portrayed in the media and wide sectors within the Israeli public and political arena. A senior aide for one of the most important regional leaders told me that many of them expect to meet Netanyahu and hear about his plans and the moves he wishes to undertake if and when he is elected prime minister.


The aide even expressed an interest in the possibility of meeting Netanyahu, even though there has been no announcement of new general elections at this time.


As it turns out, the Arab world views a right-wing ascendancy to power as an opportunity to advance the diplomatic process. This contradicts the common perception that Arab leaders prefer a leftist Israeli government.


Advertisement

The Left is good for talking and the planning of agreements, the Arabs say, but the Right is the address for signing agreements as it is the only element that can secure a Jewish majority.


It appears that the Arabs are well familiar with the secrets of Israeli politics and it is possible that teams on behalf of Netanyahu and the Right are already talking with the Arab and Palestinian side and attempting to initiate moves on the Palestinian, Syrian and even Lebanese front.


The writer is a journalist for Arab news network al-Hurra

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Clinton and The Paw Paw Patch!

A new pipeline is being built to avoid oil flow problems should the Straits of Hormuz be closed. (See 1 below.)

George Friedman analyzes the recent NIE summary regarding Iraq progress or lack thereof. (See 2 below.)

There seems to be some fund raising skulduggery again by the Clinton's. This time with the Paw family in California.

Sarkozy speaks out about the US and Iran and the potential for a military confrontation. (See 3 below.)

Meanwhile Strategic Affairs Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, is opposed to military action against Iran at this time and counsels diplomacy and sanctions. (See 4 below.)

Olmert and Abbas meet and discuss future intentions. (See 5 below.)

Dennis Ross on Iraq. We must use leverage if we are to get the Shia to act in their own behalf as well as ours. (See 6 below.)

Dick



1) New Arabian Oil Pipeline Will Detour Hormuz


Oil sources report Kuwait and Qatar, though members of the GCC, have opted out of the Trans-Arabia pipeline project.

The two emirates are deeply involved in building a gas pipeline network which is a higher priority for them than the transport of oil - especially Qatar which has large gas reserves but not much oil.

Southern Iraq’s oil is therefore projected to flow directly into Saudi Arabia and bypass Kuwait.

The Trans-Arabia Oil Pipeline network will consist of five main branches:

Pipeline No. 1: Work begins on this section in November. It will run 350 km from Ras Tannura on the Saudi easern coast to Al Fujairah in the United Emirates, also collecting cruide from Abu Dhabi’s Habashan oil field. Its 48-inch diameter provides a capacity of 1.5 million bpd.

Pipeline No. 2: This will link Ras Tannura to Musqat, Oman.

Pipeline No. 3: This will run southwest from Ras Tannura through Hadhramouth and onto Mukalla, on the Yemeni shore of the Gulf of Aden.

Pipeline No. 4: This pipeline will will also terminate at Mukalla, but first circle round from Ras Tannura to the UAE before turning back into Saudi Arabia and on to Yemen.

Pipeline No. 5: This line will slice across Arabia from Ras Tannura in the East due west to Yanbu on Saudi Arabia’s western coast on the Red Sea.

This route is already occupied by two older pipelines. They were laid in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war for the very same purpose as the contemporry project, namely to circumvent the Straits of Hormuz. One was built to carry Iraqi oil out to market away from the war zones of the Iranian-Iraqi frontier.

Alive to possible Iranian or al Qaeda sabotage attempts, the Trans-Arabia Pipeline partners have decided to sink large sections underground and secure the system with such obstructions as fences, earthworks, moats and roadblocks. The new oil force will man the system.

According to estimates, even after the US pulls its army out of Iraq, it will retain troops for securing both the northern and southern oil fields and installations. They will be there to keep Iran at a distance, especially from the the Basra oil center.

The project also fits into the preparations underway in the Gulf oil emirates and Saudi Arabia to step up oil production by 4 million bpd to rein in skyrocketing prices before they hit $100 per barrel.

On the inter-Arab plane, Riyadh hopes Syrian Bashar Assad will appreciate the benefits accruing to his country from the pipeline across its territory - enough to draw away from his close clinch with Iran and mend his fences with Washington. The Saudis are pinning their hopes on Tapline’s resurrection helping to put Damascus-Washington relations on a new footing.

2) Endgame: American Options in Iraq
By Dr. George Friedman

The latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) summarizing the U.S. intelligence community's view of Iraq contains two critical findings: First, the Iraqi government is not jelling into an effective entity. Iraq's leaders, according to the NIE, neither can nor want to create an effective coalition government. Second, U.S. military operations under the surge have improved security in some areas, but on the whole have failed to change the underlying strategic situation. Both Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias remain armed, motivated and operational.

Since the Iraq insurgency began in 2003, the United States has had a clear strategic goal: to create a pro-American coalition government in Baghdad. The means for achieving this was the creation of a degree of security through the use of U.S. troops. In this more secure environment, then, a government would form, create its own security and military forces, with the aid of the United States, and prosecute the war with diminishing American support. This government would complete the defeat of the insurgents and would then govern Iraq democratically.

What the NIE is saying is that, more than four years after the war began, the strategic goal has not been achieved -- and there is little evidence that it will be achieved. Security has not increased significantly in Iraq, despite some localized improvement. In other words, the NIE is saying that the United States has failed and there is no strong evidence that it will succeed in the future.

We must be careful with pronouncements from the U.S. intelligence community, but in this case it appears to be stating the obvious. Moreover, given past accusations of skewed intelligence to suit the administration, it is hard to imagine many in the intelligence community risking their reputations and careers to distort findings in favor of an administration with 18 months to go. We think the NIE is reasonable. Therefore, the question is: What is to be done?

For a long time, we have seen U.S.-Iranian negotiations on Iraq as a viable and even likely endgame. We no longer believe that to be the case. For these negotiations to have been successful, each side needed to fear a certain outcome. The Americans had to fear that an ongoing war would drain U.S. resources indefinitely. The Iranians had to fear that the United States would be able to create a viable coalition government in Baghdad or impose a U.S.-backed regime dominated by their historical Sunni rivals.

Following the Republican defeat in Congress in November, U.S. President George W. Bush surprised Iran by increasing U.S. forces in Iraq rather than beginning withdrawals. This created a window of a few months during which Tehran, weighing the risks and rewards, was sufficiently uncertain that it might have opted for an agreement thrusting the Shiites behind a coalition government. That moment has passed. As the NIE points out, the probability of forming any viable government in Baghdad is extremely low. Iran no longer is facing its worst-case scenario. It has no motivation to bail the United States out.

What, then, is the United States to do? In general, three options are available. The first is to maintain the current strategy. This is the administration's point of view. The second is to start a phased withdrawal, beginning sometime in the next few months and concluding when circumstances allow. This is the consensus among most centrist Democrats and a growing number of Republicans. The third is a rapid withdrawal of forces, a position held by a fairly small group mostly but not exclusively on the left. All three conventional options, however, suffer from fatal defects.

Bush's plan to stay the course would appear to make relatively little sense. Having pursued a strategic goal with relatively fixed means for more than four years, it is unclear what would be achieved in years five or six. As the old saw goes, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly, expecting a different outcome. Unless Bush seriously disagrees with the NIE, it is difficult to make a case for continuing the current course.

Looking at it differently, however, there are these arguments to be made for maintaining the current strategy: Whatever mistakes might have been made in the past, the current reality is that any withdrawal from Iraq would create a vacuum, which would rapidly be filled by Iran. Alternatively, Iraq could become a jihadist haven, focusing attention not only on Iraq but also on targets outside Iraq. After all, a jihadist safe-haven with abundant resources in the heart of the Arab world outweighs the strategic locale of Afghanistan. Therefore, continuing the U.S. presence in Iraq, at the cost of 1,000-2,000 American lives a year, prevents both outcomes, even if Washington no longer has any hope of achieving the original goal.

In other words, the argument is that the operation should continue indefinitely in order to prevent a more dangerous outcome. The problem with this reasoning, as we have said, is that it consumes available ground forces, leaving the United States at risk in other parts of the world. The cost of this decision would be a massive increase of the U.S. Army and Marines, by several divisions at least. This would take several years to achieve and might not be attainable without a draft. In addition, it assumes the insurgents and militias will not themselves grow in size and sophistication, imposing greater and greater casualties on the Americans. The weakness of this argument is that it assumes the United States already is facing the worst its enemies can dish out. The cost could rapidly grow to more than a couple of thousand dead a year.

The second strategy is a phased withdrawal. That appears to be one of the most reasonable, moderate proposals. But consider this: If the mission remains the same -- fight the jihadists and militias in order to increase security -- then a phased withdrawal puts U.S. forces in the position of carrying out the same mission with fewer troops. If the withdrawal is phased over a year or more, as most proposals suggest, it creates a situation in which U.S. forces are fighting an undiminished enemy with a diminished force, without any hope of achieving the strategic goal.

The staged withdrawal would appear to be the worst of all worlds. It continues the war while reducing the already slim chance of success and subjects U.S. forces to increasingly unfavorable correlations of forces. Phased withdrawal would make sense in the context of increasingly effective Iraqi forces under a functional Iraqi government, but that assumes either of these things exists. It assumes the NIE is wrong.

The only context in which phased withdrawal makes sense is with a redefined strategic goal. If the United States begins withdrawing forces, it must accept that the goal of a pro-American government is not going to be reached. Therefore, the troops must have a mission. And the weakness of the phased withdrawal proposals is that they each extend the period of time of the withdrawal without clearly defining the mission of the remaining forces. Without a redefinition, troop levels are reduced over time, but the fighters who remain still are targets -- and still take casualties. The moderate case, then, is the least defensible.

The third option is an immediate withdrawal. Immediate withdrawal is a relative concept, of course, since it is impossible to withdraw 150,000 troops at once. Still, what this would consist of is an immediate cessation of offensive operations and the rapid withdrawal of personnel and equipment. Theoretically, it would be possible to pull out the troops but leave the equipment behind. In practical terms, the process would take about three to six months from the date the order was given.

If withdrawal is the plan, this scenario is more attractive than the phased process. It might increase the level of chaos in Iraq, but that is not certain, nor is it clear whether that is any longer an issue involving the U.S. national interest. Its virtue is that it leads to the same end as phased withdrawal without the continued loss of American lives.

The weakness of this strategy is that it opens the door for Iran to dominate Iraq. Unless the Turks wanted to fight the Iranians, there is no regional force that could stop Iran from moving in, whether covertly, through the infiltration of forces, or overtly. Remember that Iran and Iraq fought a long, vicious war -- in which Iran suffered about a million casualties. This, then, simply would be the culmination of that war in some ways. Certainly the Iranians would face bitter resistance from the Sunnis and Kurds, and even from some Shia. But the Iranians have much higher stakes in this game than the Americans, and they are far less casualty-averse, as the Iran-Iraq war demonstrated. Their pain threshold is set much higher than the Americans' and their willingness to brutally suppress their enemies also is greater.

The fate of Iraq would not be the most important issue. Rather, it would be the future of the Arabian Peninsula. If Iran were to dominate Iraq, its forces could deploy along the Saudi border. With the United States withdrawn from the region -- and only a residual U.S. force remaining in Kuwait -- the United States would have few ways to protect the Saudis, and a limited appetite for more war. Also, the Saudis themselves would not want to come under U.S. protection. Most important, all of the forces in the Arabian Peninsula could not match the Iranian force.

The Iranians would be facing an extraordinary opportunity. At the very least, they could dominate their historical enemy, Iraq. At the next level, they could force the Saudis into a political relationship in which the Saudis had to follow the Iranian lead -- in a way, become a junior partner to Iran. At the next level, the Iranians could seize the Saudi oil fields. And at the most extreme level, the Iranians could conquer Mecca and Medina for the Shia. If the United States has simply withdrawn from the region, these are not far fetched ideas. Who is to stop the Iranians if not the United States? Certainly no native power could do so. And if the United States were to intervene in Saudi Arabia, then what was the point of withdrawal in the first place?

All three conventional options, therefore, contain serious flaws. Continuing the current strategy pursues an unattainable goal. Staged withdrawal exposes fewer U.S. troops to more aggressive enemy action. Rapid withdrawal quickly opens the door for possible Iranian hegemony -- and lays a large part of the world's oil reserves at Iran's feet.

The solution is to be found in redefining the mission, the strategic goal. If the goal of creating a stable, pro-American Iraq no longer is possible, then what is the U.S. national interest? That national interest is to limit the expansion of Iranian power, particularly the Iranian threat to the Arabian Peninsula. This war was not about oil, as some have claimed, although a war in Saudi Arabia certainly would be about oil. At the extreme, the conquest of the Arabian Peninsula by Iran would give Iran control of a huge portion of global energy reserves. That would be a much more potent threat than Iranian nuclear weapons ever could be.

The new U.S. mission, therefore, must be to block Iran in the aftermath of the Iraq war. The United States cannot impose a government on Iraq; the fate of Iraq's heavily populated regions cannot be controlled by the United States. But the United States remains an outstanding military force, particularly against conventional forces. It is not very good at counterinsurgency and never has been. The threat to the Arabian Peninsula from Iran would be primarily a conventional threat -- supplemented possibly by instability among Shia on the peninsula.

The mission would be to position forces in such a way that Iran could not think of moving south into Saudi Arabia. There are a number of ways to achieve this. The United States could base a major force in Kuwait, threatening the flanks of any Iranian force moving south. Alternatively, it could create a series of bases in Iraq, in the largely uninhabited regions south and west of the Euphrates. With air power and cruise missiles, coupled with a force about the size of the U.S. force in South Korea, the United States could pose a devastating threat to any Iranian adventure to the south. Iran would be the dominant power in Baghdad, but the Arabian Peninsula would be protected.

This goal could be achieved through a phased withdrawal from Iraq, along with a rapid withdrawal from the populated areas and an immediate cessation of aggressive operations against jihadists and militia. It would concede what the NIE says is unattainable without conceding to Iran the role of regional hegemon. It would reduce forces in Iraq rapidly, while giving the remaining forces a mission they were designed to fight -- conventional war. And it would rapidly reduce the number of casualties. Most important, it would allow the United States to rebuild its reserves of strategic forces in the event of threats elsewhere in the world.

This is not meant as a policy prescription. Rather, we see it as the likely evolution of U.S. strategic thinking on Iraq. Since negotiation is unlikely, and the three conventional options are each defective in their own way, we see this redeployment as a reasonable alternative that meets the basic requirements. It ends the war in Iraq in terms of casualties, it reduces the force, it contains Iran and it frees most of the force for other missions. Whether Bush or his successor is the decision-maker, we think this is where it must wind up.

3)Sarkozy is first Western leader to speak out loud about US plan to bomb Iran



Addressing 180 French diplomats Monday, Aug. 27, French president Nicolas Sarkozy said a nuclear-armed Iran would be unacceptable and the world must tighten sanctions while offering Tehran incentives to halt weapons development. “This initiative is the only one that can enable us to escape an alternative that I say is catastrophic: the Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran,” he said.

Sarkozy thus became the first important Western leader to declare with brutal frankness that Iran stands in peril of an attack on its nuclear installations.

He spoke out shortly after a long holiday in the United States and a day-long visit to the Bush family estate in Maine. His frank language – he called Iran’s nuclear ambition the world’s most dangerous problem – caused astonishment in diplomatic circles much like the jeans he wore on his visit to the US president.

Sarkozy did not indicate whether France would take part in an American or Israeli attack on Iran, but he did stress French backing for Security Council sanctions over Iran’s refusal to back away from uranium enrichment.

Diplomatic sources disclose that Sarkozy’s warning to Tehran was the bluntest but not the only one Tehran received of the Bush administration plans to bomb its nuclear facilities. Iran was discreetly warned by the Kremlin in early spring that an American attack was impending and would be coordinated with an Israeli strike against Syria. All three armies, the Iranian (plus Hizballah), Syrian and Israeli, have been deep in hectic war preparations ever since.

This war fever will be further heated by Sarkozy’s words. They certainly contradict Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak’s smooth assurance to the Knesset foreign affairs and defense committee, also on Monday, that he sees first signs of Syrian military suspense ebbing.

The French president’s reading of the situation was closer to that of the former US ambassador Edward P. Djerejian, whose impressions from talks with Syrian officials underscored the Syrian president Bashar Assad’s unshakeable commitment to Tehran’s foreign and military policies, even if his relations with Washington do improve.

Like Barak, Mohammed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is trying to pour oil on troubled waters. He sent inspectors to Tehran to collect understandings and so fend off the third round of sanctions promised at the UN Security Council next month.

The IAEA and Iran jointly announced Monday they had “agreed a timeline for implementing a plan to clarify Tehran’s nuclear program.”

Iran took this some steps further, claiming “the IAEA accepted that earlier statements made by Iran (on the issue of plutonium) are consistent with the agency’s findings and thus this matter is resolved.” Tehran also announced cooperation with a nuclear watchdog probe of an “alleged secret uranium processing project linked by U.S. intelligence to a nuclear arms program.”

Washington is not buying this show of Iranian compliance and zeal for cooperation with the world community. The US ambassador to the IAEA in Vienna pointed to “real limitations” in the timeline understanding and accused Tehran of “manipulating the IAEA as a way to avoid harsher sanctions.”

ElBaradei had previously called a military attack on Iran “madness.”

4) By Ronny Sofer

Economic sanctions, not military actions, are the right tools to deal with
Iran right now, Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Monday
evening in an interview with Israel Radio's Persian language channel.

"I don't think that a military solution is the right way to go at this
point," Lieberman said in response to a question regarding Israeli action
against Iran... The most effective way to stop the Iranian nuclear program
is through economic sanctions. This was the case in Libya and Korea," he
stated

"Unfortunately however, those who will pay the price (of sanctions) are the
Iranian people. Already their gasoline is being rationed and there is
inflation and unemployment. All the major banks in Iran are on the verge of
bankruptcy," he said.

"I hope that the extremist leadership of (Iranian President) Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad will be replaced by a leadership that cares about the Iranian
people," he added.

Lieberman, who answered questions put to him by Iranian listeners, said he
hoped that relations between Iran and Israel would eventually return to the
level of cordiality that existed prior to the Islamic revolution in 1979.

"I hope that the current leadership is a passing phase and that the two
nations will return to be as they were. We want to cooperate with Iranians,
in contrast to Ahmadinejad, who wants to wipe Israel off the map," he said.

"We don't want to hurt or harm the Iranian people. We want peace, and
financial and cultural cooperation. The current Iranian regime is bunch of
criminals, a group that endangers the peace in Iran and world peace."

"The Iranian leadership is set. They hold sums of money in foreign bank
accounts. The Iranian population is comprised of good and serious people. We
have had a good history and good experiences with them. They are those who
need to exert pressure on the leadership," he added.

"The Iranian leadership is not investing money in healthcare, education or
the creation of jobs, but rather investing in world terror and Hizbullah.
Therefore, I suggest to citizens of Iran that next time they go vote, they
think hard who they are voting for," he told listeners.

5) Israel offers Palestinians control of Ramallah, Nablus and Jenin.

The teams of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas met in Jerusalem Tuesday, ahead of a private meeting between the two leaders.


Israel Radio reported that during the extended talks the Israelis gave their Palestinian counterparts general offers on core issues. An unnamed official was quoted as saying that the points on which the sides reached some degree of accord would then be discussed in more detail in higher-level negotiations.

Vice Premier Haim Ramon is slated to head the Israeli negotiating team, and Olmert and Abbas are also set continue meeting in the next few weeks.

Among the proposals made by the Israeli team was an offer to share control of the Temple Mount between the three major religions (Judaism, Islam and Christianity) and to cede control of the Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem to the PA. The policing of major West Bank towns Ramallah, Jenin and Nablus would also be given to the Palestinians.

During the discussions both sides agreed to work towards a joint security conference with representatives from Israel, Egypt, US and the PA to examine ways to stanch weapons smuggling from Egypt.

However, a proposal to dig a tunnel along the Philadelphi corridor was dismissed because of technical difficulties, Israel Radio reported.

Olmert and Abbas also discussed Abbas's request to release more Palestinian prisoners.

Israeli government spokesman David Baker said Olmert told Abbas he would soon present a plan Israeli security officials are drawing up to permit greater freedom of movement within the West Bank, which is restricted by IDF roadblocks, Baker said.

Both sides also agreed to continue the meetings between Israeli and Palestinian ministers to discuss nature preservation, economy and culture.

A joint Palestinian-Israeli economic council will be launched, apparently in October in Tel Aviv, in the presence of Olmert, Abbas and international Mideast envoy Tony Blair, Baker added.

The prime minister emphasized that renewed relations between Hamas and Fatah would lead to halting of discussions.

An unconfirmed Al Jazeera report claimed that the Israeli proposal made no mention of the Palestinian "right of return," but that it called to create a demilitarized Palestinian state within the borderlines of June 4th 1967.

In exchange for large settlements Israel would like to keep, it would turn over unsettled ground equal in size to the Palestinians, the Qatar-based channel claimed. Neither Palestinian nor Israeli sources verified any of the details reported by Al Jazeera.

Upon entering the prime minister's house Abbas paused to write a brief comment in the prime minister's guest book. "I am honored to meet with you in your home. I hope and wish that peace between us will move forward, and the two people will witness the peace that we wish to arrive at," he wrote.

But just before the meeting Abbas warned that a planned international peace conference would be a "waste of time" if it failed to address the core issues of Palestinian statehood - borders, refugees and Jerusalem.

Abbas pressed Israel to be more specific on how it planned to approach the peace talks, saying Olmert's proposed "declaration of principles" would not suffice. US President George W. Bush has called for a Mideast peace conference, expected to take place in November, to advance a final Israeli-Palestinian accord.

"If there is a clear framework including final status issues, we will welcome this and go to the conference," Abbas told Voice of Palestine radio.

Olmert began the meeting by congratulating Abbas on the work of Palestinian security forces in Jenin on Monday. The PA forces rescued an IDF officer who lost his way and drove into the hostile Palestinian town.

Olmert also thanked Abbas for freezing the bank accounts of approximately a hundred charities associated with Hamas.

Earlier Tuesday, an article in the Arab daily Al Quds reported that Hamas had given Abbas a proposal on how to end the enmity between the group and Fatah.

The report, quoted by Army Radio, said the offer was given to Hamas Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar in Gaza, and he transferred it to Abbas.

Abbas has yet to respond to the proposal.

Abbas's position since June has been to eschew any dialogue with Hamas until the Islamist group apologizes for taking over Gaza and returns the control of the Strip to the Palestinian Authority.

But Fathi Hamad, a Hamas senior in Gaza, said only moments after Abbas and Olmert began their meeting in Olmert's official residence in Rehavia that Abbas was "behaving as if he is working for Olmert, and by this, bringing his own end nearer."

The PA chairman, on his side, issued a "message of reassurance" to his people early Tuesday morning, saying that he would only be willing to discuss a Palestinian state if Olmert offers him a final agreement, and would reject any temporary solution.

Abbas also said that while he was willing to conduct secret negotiations, any agreement reached secretly would have to pass the test of a referendum among the Palestinians in the West Bank and be approved by the PLO's Legislative Council.

6) A Stable Iraq - Statecraft
by Dennis Ross


President Bush's commitment to staying the course in Iraq remains as strong as ever. In his speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars last week, he invoked the ideological struggles of the past to explain why we must prevail in the current conflict. While many have questioned his analogies to Southeast Asia and Vietnam, I found his continuing conviction that a "free Iraq" will be an "important ally in the ideological struggle of the twenty-first century" more troubling.

It is an illusion to believe that the new Iraq is going to act as our partner in the war on terrorism. Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki has demonstrated repeatedly that he does not seek trouble with either Iran or Syria. Maybe he has good reason to worry about their trouble-making capacity in Iraq, but his government has actually sought to get us to release the Iranian Revolutionary Guard members that we have seized and has done little to publicize Syria's facilitation of jihadists crossing their border into Iraq. Trying to accommodate them, however, hasn't stopped Iran or Syria from causing trouble in Iraq. President Bush has so far excused Maliki's reluctance to act externally or internally. In his VFW speech, he referred to Maliki as "a good guy" with a hard job to do. That may be, but it also indicates that Maliki will not be an ally in the struggle to change Iran and Syria's behavior.

I don't mean to single out Maliki; it seems to be a cottage industry in Washington these days to say that he is the problem in Iraq. But the problems go far deeper. Is there a Shia leader who has credibility in Iraq who seeks enmity with Iran? Certainly not one who has any prospect of emerging as an Iraqi leader. If anything, that adds to suspicions that Sunnis have of nearly every Shia leader: They are all perceived as serving Iranian, not Iraqi, interests.

It matters little whether the Sunni perceptions are correct. The prospect of an Iraq in which a new political compact can be forged is still a distant illusion. The new National Intelligence Estimate has judged that over the next six to twelve months the situation of the Iraqi government will become more precarious, not less. At the latest, the surge will end next April, because the U.S. Army does not have the available forces to sustain it longer, and it is unrealistic to believe that is long enough to create the political space needed to overcome Iraq's internal political divisions.

Truth be told, the surge itself was never going to be sufficient to overcome the psychological and political barriers that make internal compromise difficult. The fundamental problem remains that the Shia are convinced that, as the majority, they are entitled to rule, that the Sunnis are unwilling to reconcile themselves to Shia domination, and that there is, therefore, a risk that the Shia will lose their hold on power. Fearing that they can yet have power snatched away from them, the Shia remain unwilling to share it. The surge can't deal with that problem; only the possibility that the Shia risk losing everything if they don't compromise might alter their behavior.

Would, for example, Maliki and Shia leaders act differently if they thought they might actually lose material assistance for the forces they want equipped if they continue to resist all efforts at compromise? One of the Iraq Study Group's proposals was to tie security assistance to performance on benchmarks: Live up to them, and it is provided, even accelerated; fail to live up to them, and it is cut off.

Leverage is essential to the exercise of statecraft. The Iraq Study Group seemed to understand that. The Bush administration hesitates ever to apply it. Even its quasi-pressure on Maliki is primarily rhetorical. Why would he change his behavior when he sees far worse alternatives, when he is under countervailing pressures from his own base and other Shia politicians, and when he doubts that the Bush administration will change course?

Instead, we ought to be asking how we can use the process of our disengagement to affect the behavior of Iraqis and their neighbors. Our baseline objective should be to make sure that Iraq's problems are contained within Iraq. But we can still hope to achieve more than that. We can still hope to create a managed transition to an Iraq that has a central government with limited powers, provinces with extensive autonomy, and some means for sharing revenues.

Achieving such a transition is worth one last try. To do so, we should do three things. First, we should declare the surge a success and announce that we will negotiate a timetable for our withdrawal with the Iraqi government. This would give Iraqis input into the timing and shape of the withdrawal and doesn't simply impose it on them. Second, we should set a date for the convening of a national reconciliation conference. Unlike previous such conferences, it should not be permitted to disband until agreement has been reached. Success in this conference would mean greater flexibility in our approach to the timetable on withdrawal, and a stalemated conference would produce the opposite. To increase the prospects of the conference working, we should suggest that French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who has credibility across sectarian lines, play a brokering role in setting the agenda of the conference and its ongoing negotiations.

Finally, we should talk to Iraq's neighbors about how to contain the conflict. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Syria, and Turkey all have little desire to see Iraq either fragment or be convulsed to the point that they get increasingly sucked into the conflict. I have my doubts about whether the neighbors will ever agree on what they want for Iraq, but they can agree on what they fear about it. From that standpoint, we should not be negotiating bilaterally with Iran on Iraq; instead, we should be trying to broker critical understandings between, for example, the Saudis and Iranians on what they will do to limit or contain the conflict.

Maybe it is too late for such an effort to work. For the Iraqis, perhaps there has been too much brutality, too much displacement, too much disbelief in the intentions of the "other," and too little willingness to accept a political solution with its attendant compromises. But at least this plan is guided by an objective that is far more rooted in the reality of Iraq than Bush's approach to date. And it might just be something that the president could accept.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Even a mule eventually gets the message!

Burton and Stewart review potential threat on our soil. (See 1 below.)

Training supposed friends who later become enemies. Questionable loyalty carries a price. (See 2 below.)

One British University has come to its senses. (See 3 below.)

Does the low standing of Congress have implications for Democrats? (See 4 below.)

Israel proposes land swap in attempt to move negotiations forward. (See 5 below.)

Palestinians are beginning to tire of Hamas according to a poll. Even a mule gets the message eventually after being hit on the head. (See 6 below.)

Dick

1) Threats, Situational Awareness and Perspective
By Fred Burton and Scott Stewart

In last week's Terrorism Intelligence Report, we said U.S. counter-terrorism sources remain concerned an attack will occur on U.S. soil in the next few weeks. Although we are skeptical of these reports, al Qaeda and other Jihadists do retain the ability -- and the burning desire -- to conduct tactical strikes within the United States. One thing we did not say last week, however, was that we publish such reports not to frighten readers, but to impress upon them the need for preparedness, which does not mean paranoia.

Fear and paranoia, in fact, are counterproductive to good personal and national security. As such, we have attempted over the past few years to place what we consider hyped threats into the proper perspective. To this end, we have addressed threats such as al Qaeda's chemical and biological weapons capabilities, reports of a looming "American Hiroshima" nuclear attack against the United States, the dirty bomb threat, the smoky bomb threat, and the threat of so-called "mubtakkar devices", among others.

Though some threats are indeed hyped, the world nonetheless remains a dangerous place. Undoubtedly, at this very moment some people are seeking ways to carry out attacks against targets in the United States. Moreover, terrorism attacks are not the only threat -- far more people are victimized by common criminals. Does this reality mean that people need to live in constant fear and paranoia? Not at all. If people do live that way, those who seek to terrorize them have won. However, by taking a few relatively simple precautions and adjusting their mindsets, people can live less-stressful lives during these uncertain times. One of the keys to personal preparedness and protection is to have a contingency plan in place in the event of an attack or other major emergency. The second element is practicing situational awareness.

The Proper State of Mind

Situational awareness is the process of recognizing a threat at an early stage and taking measures to avoid it. Being observant of one's surroundings and identifying potential threats and dangerous situations is more of an attitude or mindset than it is a hard skill. Because of this, situational awareness is not just a process that can be practiced by highly trained government agents or specialized corporate security counter-surveillance teams -- it can be adopted and employed by anyone.

An important element of this mindset is first coming to the realization that a threat exists. Ignorance or denial of a threat -- or completely tuning out to one's surroundings while in a public place -- makes a person's chances of quickly recognizing the threat and avoiding it slim to none. This is why apathy, denial and complacency are so deadly.

An example is the case of Terry Anderson, the Associated Press bureau chief in Lebanon who was kidnapped March 16, 1985. The day before his abduction, Anderson was driving in Beirut traffic when a car pulled in front of his and nearly blocked him in. Due to the traffic situation, and undoubtedly a bit of luck, Anderson was able to avoid what he thought was an automobile accident -- even though events like these can be hallmarks of pre-operational planning. The next day, Anderson's luck ran out as the same vehicle successfully blocked his vehicle in the same spot. Anderson was pulled from his vehicle at gunpoint -- and held hostage for six years and nine months.

Clearly, few of us are living in the type of civil war conditions that Anderson faced in 1985 Beirut. Nonetheless, average citizens face all kinds of threats today -- from common thieves and assailants to criminals and mentally disturbed individuals who aim to conduct violent acts in the school, mall or workplace, to militants wanting to carry out large-scale attacks. Should an attack occur, then, a person with a complacent or apathetic mindset will be taken completely by surprise and could freeze up in shock and denial as their minds are forced to quickly adjust to a newly recognized and unforeseen situational reality. That person is in no condition to react, flee or resist.

Denial and complacency, however, are not the only hazardous states of mind. As mentioned above, paranoia and obsessive concern about one's safety and security can be just as dangerous. There are times when it is important to be on heightened alert -- a woman walking alone in a dark parking lot is one example -- but people are simply not designed to operate in a state of heightened awareness for extended periods of time. The body's "flight or fight" response is helpful in a sudden emergency, but a constant stream of adrenalin and stress leads to mental and physical burnout. It is very hard for people to be aware of their surroundings when they are completely fried.

Situational awareness, then, is best practiced at a balanced level referred to as "relaxed awareness," a state of mind that can be maintained indefinitely without all the stress associated with being on constant alert. Relaxed awareness is not tiring, and allows people to enjoy life while paying attention to their surroundings.

When people are in a state of relaxed awareness, it is far easier to make the transition to a state of heightened awareness than it is to jump all the way from complacency to heightened awareness. So, if something out of the ordinary occurs, those practicing relaxed awareness can heighten their awareness while they attempt to determine whether the anomaly is indeed a threat. If it is, they can take action to avoid it; if it is not, they can stand down and return to a state of relaxed awareness.

The Telltale Signs

What are we looking for while we are in a state of relaxed awareness? Essentially the same things we discussed when we described what bad surveillance looks like. It is important to remember that almost every criminal act, from a purse-snatching to a terrorist bombing, involves some degree of pre-operational surveillance and that criminals are vulnerable to detection during that time. This is because criminals, even militants planning terrorist attacks, often are quite sloppy when they are casing their intended targets. They have been able to get away with their sloppy practices for so long because most people simply do not look for them. On the positive side, however, that also means that people who are looking can spot them fairly easily.

The U.S. government uses the acronym TEDD to illustrate the principles one can use to identify surveillance, but these same principles also can be used to identify criminal threats. TEDD stands for Time, Environment, Distance and Demeanor. In other words, if a person sees someone repeatedly over time, in different environments and over distance, or one who displays poor demeanor, then that person can assume he or she is under surveillance. If a person is the specific target of a planned attack, he or she might be exposed to the time, environment and distance elements of TEDD, but if the subway car the person is riding in or the building where the person works is the target, he or she might only have the element of demeanor to key on. This also is true in the case of criminals who behave like "ambush predators" and lurk in an area waiting for a victim. Because their attack cycle is extremely condensed, the most important element to watch for is demeanor.

By poor demeanor, we simply mean a person is acting unnaturally. This behavior can look blatantly suspicious, such as someone who is lurking and/or has no reason for being where he is or for doing what he is doing. Sometimes, however, poor demeanor can be more subtle, encompassing almost imperceptible behaviors that the target senses more than observes. Other giveaways include moving when the target moves, communicating when the target moves, avoiding eye contact with the target, making sudden turns or stops, or even using hand signals to communicate with other members of a surveillance team.

In the terrorism realm, exhibiting poor demeanor also can include wearing unseasonably warm clothing, such as trench coats in the summer; displaying odd bulges under clothing or wires protruding from clothing; unnaturally sweating, mumbling or fidgeting; or attempting to avoid security personnel. In addition, according to some reports, suicide bombers often exhibit an intense stare as they approach the final stages of their mission. They seem to have tunnel vision, being able to focus only on their intended target.

Perspective

We have seen no hard intelligence that supports the assertions that a jihadist attack will occur in the next few weeks and are somewhat skeptical about such reports. Regardless of whether our U.S. counterterrorism sources are correct this time, though, the world remains a dangerous place. Al Qaeda, grassroots jihadists and domestic militants of several different political persuasions have the desire and capability to conduct attacks. Meanwhile, criminals and mentally disturbed individuals, such as the Virginia Tech shooter, appear to be getting more violent every day.

In the big picture, violence and terrorism have always been a part of the human condition. The Chinese built the Great Wall for a reason other than tourism. Today's "terrorists" are far less dangerous to society as a whole than were the Viking berserkers and barbarian tribes who terrorized Europe for centuries, and the ragtag collection of men who have sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden pose far less of a threat to Western civilization than the large, battle-hardened army Abdul Rahman al-Ghafiqi led into the heart of France in 732.

Terrorist attacks are designed to have a psychological impact that far outweighs the actual physical damage caused by the attack itself. Denying the perpetrators this multiplication effect -- as the British did after the July 2005 subway bombings -- prevents them from accomplishing their greater goals. Therefore, people should prepare, plan and practice relaxed awareness -- and not let paranoia and the fear of terrorism and crime rob them of the joy of life.

2) BY AARON KLEIN

RAMALLAH -- American-run programs that train Fatah militias were
instrumental in the "success" of the Palestinian intifada that began in
2000, a senior Fatah militant told The New York Sun.

"I do not think that the operations of the Palestinian resistance would have
been so successful and would have killed more than one thousand Israelis
since 2000 and defeated the Israelis in Gaza without these [American]
trainings," a senior officer of President Abbas's Force 17 Presidential
Guard unit, Abu Yousuf, said.

America has longstanding training programs at a base in the West Bank city
of Jericho for members of Force 17, which serves as de facto police units in
the West Bank, and for another major Fatah security force, the Preventative
Security Services.

This weekend diplomatic security officials announced that the State
Department will begin training Force 17 again this year in an effort to
bolster Mr. Abbas against Hamas, which took over the Gaza Strip in June when
the terror group easily defeated American-backed Fatah forces in the
territory.

Under an agreement signed this month by Secretary of State Rice and
Palestinian Arab Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Force 17 officers are slated
to take course work and conduct VIP protection exercises under the State
Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

The new training program aims to help the Palestinian Authority "deliver
security for the Palestinian people and fight terrorism, build confidence
between the parties, and ultimately help to meet the security needs of
Palestinians and Israelis alike," a State Department press release said.

The training program, which includes courses in the use of weapons, paid
with $86.5 million in funding granted to the Palestinian Authority by
Congress in April.

Many members of Force 17 and the Preventative Security Services also openly
serve in Fatah's declared "military wing," Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which
took credit along with the Islamic Jihad terror group for every suicide
bombing in Israel between 2005 and 2006. The Brigades is responsible for
more terrorism from the West Bank than any other Palestinian Arab
organization.

Abu Yousuf, the Force 17 officer, received American training in Jericho in
1999 as a member of the Preventative Security Services. He is a chief of the
Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Ramallah, where he is accused of participating
in anti-Israel terrorism, including recent shootings, attacks against
Israeli forces operating in the city, and a shooting attack in northern
Samaria in December 2000 that killed the leader of the ultranationalist
Kahane Chai organization, Benyamin Kahane.

After the Kahane murder, Mr. Yousuf was extended refuge by Yasser Arafat to
live in the late Palestine Liberation Organization leader's Ramallah
compound, widely known as the Muqata. Mr. Yousuf still lives in the
compound.

Prime Minister Olmert last month granted Mr. Yousuf amnesty along with 178
other Brigades leaders reportedly in a gesture to Mr. Abbas.

Speaking during an interview for the upcoming book "Schmoozing with
Terrorists," Mr. Yousuf said his American trainings were instrumental in
attacks on Israelis. "All the methods and techniques that we studied in
these trainings, we applied them against the Israelis," he said.

"We sniped at Israeli settlers and soldiers. We broke into settlements and
Israeli army bases and posts. We collected information on the movements of
soldiers and settlers. We collected information about the best timing to
infiltrate our bombers inside Israel. We used weapons and we produced
explosives, and of course the trainings we received from the Americans and
the Europeans were a great help to the resistance."

Mr. Yousuf said the training included both intelligence and military
tactics.

"In the intelligence part, we learned collection of information regarding
suspected persons, how to follow suspected guys, how to infiltrate
organizations and penetrate cells of groups that we were working on and how
to prevent attacks and to steal in places," he said.

"On the military level, we received trainings on the use of weapons, all
kind of weapons and explosives. We received sniping trainings, work of
special units especially as part as what they call the fight against terror.
We learned how to put siege, how to break into places where our enemies
closed themselves in, how to oppress protest movements, demonstrations, and
other activities of opposition."

Mr. Yousuf seemed to anticipate criticism for speaking publicly about the
training. He's not "talking about U.S. training in order to irritate the
Americans or the Israelis and not in order to create provocations," he said.
"I'm just telling you the truth."

3) Esteemed UK university rejects boycott
By JONNY PAUL


Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at a prestigious British academic institution have voted overwhelmingly to reject their union's motion to consider a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

An ad in The Times condemning the academic boycott on Israel
Photo: Courtesy

In a survey commissioned by its UCU branch, 82 percent of UCU members of the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, said they did not support Motion No. 30, voted on at the UCU conference in May, which calls for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Sixteen percent of those surveyed voted in favor of supporting the motion and 2% did not respond.

A larger number of those surveyed said that there should be a national ballot of UCU membership prior to the union adopting any form of boycott. Ninety percent voted for a ballot with 6% disagreeing and 2% not responding

"The members of Imperial College UCU have voted overwhelmingly - by more than five-to-one - to reject Motion 30 - the boycott of Israeli academic institutions," said Imperial UCU member and leading UK academic Michael J. McGarvey, Reader in Molecular Virology at Imperial's Division of Medicine.

"In conjunction with the very similar results from the recent ballots of members at the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, this clearly demonstrates that the vast majority of ordinary members of UCU are against a boycott and the damaging effects that this could have on British academia."

"The huge difference between the votes of individual UCU members and the Congress Delegates, who voted in favor of Motion 30, means that it is now imperative that all ordinary UCU members are consulted on this issue, as soon as possible, by local branch ballots and through a national vote," McGarvey added.

Established in 1907, Imperial College was an independent constituent part of the University of London until July 2007 when it was granted a new royal charter declaring it an independent university in its own right.

4) Weak Congress
By Peter Wehner

According to a new Gallup Poll, Congress’s approval rating has matched its lowest rating ever. Just 18 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, while 76 percent disapprove. This is a staggering decline for the Democratic-controlled Congress, and it has occurred in only a matter of months. President Bush’s approval rating, at 32 percent, is considerably higher. It turns out that come this fall, he may well have the stronger hand to play.

The collapse in support for Congress tells us several things. First, the American people are in a deeply anti-political mood, and public officials who plausibly can tap into that sentiment and channel it in a constructive way will benefit enormously. The public is looking for a change-agent.

Second, the Democratic Congress has passed almost nothing of consequence; in the current environment, this is ruinous.

Third, Democrats are paying a high price for their hyper-partisanship. They appear angry, zealous, and vengeful, far more interested in investigations than legislation.

Fourth, Democrats are reinforcing the worst stereotypes of the party: weak on national security, in favor of higher taxes and larger government, and beholden to fringe groups.

Fifth, Democratic Party leaders, especially Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, are quite weak, both in their abilities to run the institution and as the public faces of the modern Democratic Party.

The 2006 mid-term election was viewed by many commentators as an enormous set-back for the GOP. While the results were about typical for a second mid-term election for the presidential party in power, they did not usher in days of wine and roses for Republicans, who trail Democrats on the generic ballot and in fund-raising. But Republicans have an opportunity. The anger that was directed toward the GOP is now being re-directed toward Democrats, who are finding that governing is more difficult than merely opposing. This may allow President Bush and Republicans to define themselves against the failures of the 110th Congress, just as Bill Clinton was able to define himself against the mistakes of Newt Gingrich (recall the government shut-down).

The congressional GOP is in desperate need of re-branding after years in power, when the fires of reform dimmed and died. The party now has an opening, one growing larger by the month. Once-cocky Democrats must wonder how things have come undone quite so fast.

5)Israel proposes W. Bank-Gaza route in land swap -quick withdrawal from parts of Jerusalem
By Akiva Eldar

Israel has proposed that safe passage for the Palestinians from the West
Bank to the Gaza Strip be included in an exchange of territory with the
Palestinians in the framework of the agreement of principles now being
formulated ahead of the upcoming regional summit.

The Palestinians will receive control of the route, but Israel will maintain
sovereignty and it will only begin to operate after the Palestinian
Authority, under its present leadership, reasserts control over the Gaza
Strip.

Jerusalem believes that the move will help PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and
Prime Minister Salam Fayad garner public support in Gaza, which will see the
Hamas government as an obstacle in renewing communication with the West
Bank.

A senior official involved in talks with the Palestinians said that the
agreement of principles will not set out the details of the land to be
transfered to the Palestinians in exchange for Israel's settlement blocs,
but will reflect as wide as possible a consensus on the core issues with
some ambiguity. The details will be hammered out in negotiations after the
summit.

It is believed that for the Palestinians, safe passage is worth more than
its nominal territory, and therefore this will be a central component in a
territorial package.

Sources close to Abbas say the PA chairman has removed his objection to the
establishment of a state with temporary borders following the signing of the
agreement of principles, but has conditioned his agreement on international
assurances of a timetable for the end of negotiations on permanent borders.

Internal discussions in Israel along with talks with the Palestinians are
formulating the following positions:

Borders -- The starting point is the separation fence, without additional
areas slated for the expansion of settlements. This leaves 92 percent of the
area of the West Bank in Palestinian hands. The final area of the new state
will be larger than the area east of the fence, but smaller than the area
proposed in the Geneva Accord.

Among themselves, Israeli officials talk about the need to begin applying
the principles of the Evacuation-Compensation Law on West Bank settlers. Two
bills have recently been proposed on this issue, one by Colette Avital
(Labor) and Avshalom Vilan (Meretz), and the other by Amir Peretz and Yuli
Tamir (Labor).

Jerusalem -- According to a government official, Israel would be willing to
transfer to the Palestinians at an early stage a number of neighborhoods and
refugee camps outside the fence and in the area of the Seam Line. At a later
stage, it would transfer more or most of the Arab neighborhoods.

The guiding principle is similar to that of the Clinton Plan: Jewish areas
for Jews and Arab areas for Arabs. The "basin" of sacred sites in the Old
City would be administered jointly by representatives of the three
religions, each responsible for its own sites.

Refugees -- Israel would recognize Palestinian refugee suffering and accept
indirectly some responsibility for the refugees from the 1948 war. Israel
would also take part in an international project to rehabilitate refugees in
Palestine, in areas Israel would transfer to the Palestinians and in the
countries where they are now living.

Israel is basing itself on the clause in the Arab peace plan noting that a
solution to the refugee problem is predicated on Israel's consent.

While the U.S. did not plan the agenda of the summit ahead of time, it sees
the agreement of principles as key to the summit's success and is
encouraging the parties to move ahead on it before the summit. The Americans
believe the agreement greatly improves the chances that Saudi Arabia will
take part in the summit, and will back Abbas and Fayad politically and
economically. To connect the regional summit to the Saudi and Arab
initiatives, the Saudis and the Palestinians want the summit to relate to
the Israel-Syrian issue as well.

6) Palestinian poll finds great support for Western-backed gov't

First survey taken since Hamas' Gaza takeover shows party losing support with 47% of Palestinians saying Fayyad gov't performing better than Hamas. Nonetheless Gazans say personal security has improved since takeover


Palestinians overwhelmingly prefer the Western-backed government of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad over the ousted Islamic Hamas' government, although residents of the Gaza Strip believe their security has improved since Hamas seized control of the area, according to a poll released Thursday.


The survey by Ghassan Khatib, an independent and respected pollster, was the first since Hamas took over Gaza in five days of bloody fighting in June.


Following the takeover, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas threw Hamas out of the unity government with his Fatah Party and formed his new Cabinet based in the West Bank. Hamas, which continues to control Gaza, refuses to recognize the new government.


In the new poll, 47 percent said the Fayyad government is performing better than the previous Hamas-led Cabinet led by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. In comparison, 24 percent favored Haniyeh's government, while 23 percent said there was no difference between the two governments. Six percent did not answer.


Even in Hamas' Gaza stronghold, 47 percent of respondents said they think the Fayyad government is performing better than Haniyeh's government, compared with 31 percent who say Fayyad is worse.


Still, Gaza residents say their security situation has improved since Hamas took power. The militant group has pledged to restore law and order to the chaotic area, banning public displays of weapons.


According to the poll, 44 percent of Gaza respondents said their personal security has improved, while 31 percent said it has become worse.


However, with Gaza facing isolation and economic hardship, 45 percent of Gazans say the general situation has worsened, while 34 percent say it is better.


The poll indicated diminished support for Hamas, which trounced Fatah in January 2006 legislative elections. When asked which party they support, 34 percent of the respondents said Fatah and 21 percent said Hamas. The same question before Hamas takeover in June brought Fatah 33 percent and Hamas 29 percent.


If presidential elections were held today, Abbas would get 20 percent of the vote, Haniyeh 18 percent and Marwan Barghouti - a Fatah leader imprisoned by Israel - would get 16 percent.



The question did not take into account the possibility that Abbas or Barghouti might pull out of such a race to back the other in a showdown with Hamas. The poll questioned 1,200 people in the Gaza Strip and West Bank and had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sub-prime problem indicative of deeper societal isues?

Tom Sowell attacks the left for their indifference when poor succeed. There is a new documentary movie out called "What Black Men Think." It interviews black achievers about their views on failed policies that have destroyed so many Black citizens in our nation while breaking up their family unit. (See 1 below.)

George Friedman writes about how GW is a lame duck because his ability to deploy the military has been curtailed by the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and that we have no credible military reserves. He then goes on to describe how Russia is taking advantage of this fact and is making every effort to re-arrange the furniture in the world's living room. (See 2 below.)

The BBC and CNN seem to be two birds of a common feather. (See 3 below.)


Congress established The Fed so it could off load its fiscal responsibility while it scurrilously spent more than the government takes in in taxes. Deficit spending is the way politicians get re-elected and pander to special interests and then they expect the FED to monetize their irresponsible behavior.

The problem created by sub-prime lending, to my mind, is symptomatic of deeper systemic problems facing our nation. It suggests to me, the something for nothing entitlement mentality that has been encouraged and weakened our family unit, education and morals is deeper and broader than one might think.

Hamas escalates its attacks as I suspected it would be doing and have so reported in recent months. (See 4 below.)

Michael O'Shea highlights the hypocrisy of Congress. (See 5 below.)

Dick

1) An Investment in Failure
By Thomas Sowell

It is not just in Iraq that the political left has an investment in failure. Domestically as well as internationally, the left has long had a vested interest in poverty and social malaise.

The old advertising slogan, "Progress is our most important product," has never applied to the left. Whether it is successful black schools in the United States or Third World countries where millions of people have been rising out of poverty in recent years, the left has shown little interest.

Progress in general seems to hold little interest for people who call themselves "progressives." What arouses them are denunciations of social failures and accusations of wrong-doing.

One wonders what they would do in heaven.

We are in no danger of producing heaven on earth but there have been some remarkable developments in some Third World countries within the past generation that have allowed many very poor people to rise to a standard of living that was never within their reach before.

The August 18th issue of the distinguished British magazine "The Economist" reveals the economic progress in Brazil, Argentina, and other Latin American nations that has given a better life to millions of their poorest citizens.

Some of the economic policies that have led to these results are discussed in "The Economist" but it is doubtful that members of the political left will stampede there to find out what those policies were.

They have shown no such interest in how tens of millions of people in China and tens of millions of people in India have risen out of poverty within the past generation.

Despite whatever the left may say, or even believe, about their concern for the poor, their actual behavior shows their interest in the poor to be greatest when the poor can be used as a focus of the left's denunciations of society.

When the poor stop being poor, they lose the attention of the left. What actions on the part of the poor, or what changes in the economy, have led to drastic reductions in poverty seldom arouse much curiosity, much less celebration.

This is not a new development in our times. Back in the 19th century, when Karl Marx presented his vision of the impoverished working class rising to attack and destroy capitalism, he was disappointed when the workers grew less revolutionary over time, as their standards of living improved.

At one point, Marx wrote to his disciples: "The working class is revolutionary or it is nothing."

Think about that. Millions of human beings mattered to him only in so far as they could serve as cannon fodder in his jihad against the existing society.

If they refused to be pawns in his ideological game, then they were "nothing."

No one on the left would say such things so plainly today, even to themselves. But their actions speak louder than words.

Blacks are to the left today what the working class were to Marx in the 19th century -- pawns in an ideological game.

Blacks who rise out of poverty are of no great interest to the left, unless the way they do so is by attacking society.

The poverty rate among black married couples has been in single digits since 1994 but the left has shown no more interest in why that is so than they have shown in why many millions of people have risen out of poverty in Latin America or in China and India.

Where progress can be plausibly claimed to be a result of policies favored by the left, then such claims are made.

A whole mythology has grown up that the advancement of minorities and women in America is a result of policies promoted by the left in the 1960s. Such claims are often based on nothing more substantial than ignoring the history of the progress made prior to 1960.

Retrogressions in the wake of the policies of the 1960s are studiously ignored -- the runaway crime rates, the disintegration of black families, and the ghetto riots of the 1960s that have left many black communities still barren more than 40 years later.

Whatever does not advance the left agenda is "nothing."


2) Window of Opportunity; Window of Vulnerability
Dr. George Friedman

All U.S. presidents eventually become lame ducks, though the lameness of any particular duck depends on the amount of power he has left to wield. It not only is an issue of the president's popularity, but also of the opposition's unity and clarity. In the international context, the power of a lame duck president depends on the options he has militarily. Foreign powers do not mess with American presidents, no matter how lame one might be, as long as the president retains military options.

The core of the American presidency is in its role as commander in chief. With all of the other presidential powers deeply intersecting with those of Congress and the courts, the president has the greatest autonomous power when he is acting as supreme commander of the armed forces. There is a remarkable lot he can do if he wishes to, and relatively little Congress can do to stop him -- unless it is uniquely united. Therefore, foreign nations remain wary of the American president's military power long after they have stopped taking him seriously in other aspects of foreign relations.

There is a school of thought that argues that President George W. Bush is likely to strike at Iran before he leaves office. The sense is that Bush is uniquely indifferent to either Congress or public opinion and that he therefore is likely to use his military powers in some decisive fashion, under the expectation and hope that history will vindicate him. In that sense, Bush is very much not a lame duck, because if he wanted to strike, there is nothing legally preventing him from doing so. The endless debates over presidential powers -- which have roiled both Republican and Democratic administrations -- have left one thing clear: The courts will not intervene against an American president's use of his power as commander in chief. Congress may cut off money after the fact, but as we have seen, that is not a power that is normally put to use.

The problem for Bush, of course, is that he is fighting two simultaneous wars, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. These wars have sucked up the resources of the U.S. Army to a remarkable degree. Units are either engaged in these theaters of operation, recovering from deployment or preparing for deployment. To an extraordinary degree, the United States does not have a real strategic reserve in its ground forces, the Army and the Marines. A force could probably be scraped up to deal with a limited crisis, but U.S. forces are committed and there are no more troops to scatter around.

The United States faces another potential theater of operations in Iran. Fighting there might not necessarily be something initiated by the United States. The Iranians might choose to create a crisis the United States couldn’t avoid. That would suck up not only what little ground reserves are available, but also a good part of U.S. air and naval forces. The United States would be throwing all of its chips on the table, with few reserves left. With all U.S. forces engaged in a line from the Euphrates to the Hindu Kush, the rest of the world would be wide open to second-tier powers.

This is Bush's strategic problem -- the one that shapes his role as commander in chief. He has committed virtually all of his land forces to two wars. His only reserves are the Air Force and Navy. If they were sucked into a war in Iran, it would limit U.S. reserves for other contingencies. The United States alone does not get to choose whether there is a crisis with Iran. Iran gets to vote too. We don’t believe there will be a military confrontation with Iran, but the United States must do its contingency planning as if there will be.

Thus, Bush is a lame-duck commander in chief as well. Even if he completely disregards the politics of his position, which he can do, he still lacks the sheer military resources to achieve any meaningful goal without the use of nuclear weapons. But his problem goes beyond the Iran scenario. Lacking ground forces, the president's ability to influence events throughout the world is severely impaired. Moreover, if he were to throw his air forces into a non-Iranian crisis, all pressure on Iran would be lifted. The United States is strategically tapped out. There is no land force available and the use of air and naval forces without land forces, while able to achieve some important goals, would not be decisive.

The United States has entered a place where it has almost no room to maneuver. The president is becoming a lame duck in the fullest sense of the term. This opens a window of opportunity for powers, particularly second-tier powers, that would not be prepared to challenge the United States while its forces had flexibility. One power in particular has begun to use this window of opportunity -- Russia.

Russia is not the country it was 10 years ago. Its economy, fueled by rising energy and mineral prices, is financially solvent. The state has moved from being a smashed relic of the Soviet era to becoming a more traditional Russian state: authoritarian, repressive, accepting private property but only under terms it finds acceptable. It also is redefining its sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union and reviving its military.

For example, a Russian aircraft recently fired a missile at a Georgian village. Intentionally or not, the missile was a dud, though it clearly was meant to signal to the Georgians -- close allies of the United States and unfriendly to Russian interests in the region -- that not only is Russia unhappy, it is prepared to take military action if it chooses. It also clearly told the Georgians that the Russians are unconcerned about the United States and its possible response. It must have given the Georgians a chill.

The Russians planted their flag under the sea at the North Pole after the Canadians announced plans to construct armed icebreakers and establish a deep water port from which to operate in the Far North. The Russians announced the construction of a new air defense system by 2015 -- not a very long time as these things go. They also announced plans to create a new command and control system in the same time frame. Russian long-range aircraft flew east in the Pacific to the region of Guam, an important U.S. air base, causing the United States to scramble fighter planes. They also flew into what used to be the GIUK gap (Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom) probing air defenses along the Norwegian coast and in Scotland.

Most interestingly, they announced the resumption of patrols in the Atlantic, along the U.S. coast, using Blackjack strategic bombers and the old workhorse of the Russian fleet, the Bear. (The balance does remain in U.S. favor along the East Coast). During the Cold War, patrols such as these were designed to carry out electronic and signal intelligence. They were designed to map out U.S. facilities along the Eastern seaboard and observe response time and procedures. During the Cold War they would land in Cuba for refueling before retracing their steps. It will be interesting to see whether Russia will ask Cuba for landing privileges and whether the Cubans will permit it. As interesting, Russian and Chinese troops conducted military exercises recently in the context of regional talks. It is not something to take too seriously, but then they are not trivial.

Many of these are older planes. The Bear, for example, dates back to the 1950s -- but so does the B-52, which remains important to the U.S. strategic bomber fleet. The age of the airframe doesn't matter nearly as much as maintenance, refits, upgrades to weapons and avionics and so on. Nothing can be assumed from the mere age of the aircraft.

The rather remarkable flurry of Russian air operations -- as well as plans for naval development -- is partly a political gesture. The Russians are tired of the United States pressing into their sphere of influence, and they see a real window of opportunity to press back with limited risk of American response. But the Russians appear to be doing more than making a gesture.

The Russians are trying to redefine the global balance. They are absolutely under no illusion that they can match American military power in any sphere. But they are clearly asserting their right to operate as a second-tier global power and are systematically demonstrating their global reach. They may be old and they may be slow, but when American aircraft on the East Coast start to scramble routinely to intercept and escort Russian aircraft, two things happen. First, U.S. military planning has to shift to take Russia into account. Second, the United States loses even more flexibility. It can't just ignore the Russians. It now needs to devote scarce dollars to upgrading systems along the East Coast -- systems that have been quite neglected since the end of the Cold War.

There is a core assumption in the U.S. government that Russia no longer is a significant power. It is true that its vast army has disintegrated. But the Russians do not need a vast army modeled on World War II. They need, and have begun to develop, a fairly effective military built around special forces and airborne troops. They also have appeared to pursue their research and development, particularly in the area of air defense and air-launched missiles -- areas in which they have traditionally been strong. The tendency to underestimate the Russian military -- something even Russians do -- is misplaced. Russia's military is capable and improving.

The increased Russian tempo of operations in areas that the United States has been able to ignore for many years further pins the United States. It can be assumed that the Russians mean no harm -- but assumption is not a luxury national security planners can permit themselves, at least not good ones. It takes years to develop and deploy new systems. If the Russians are probing the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic again, it is not the current threat that matters, but the threat that might evolve. That diverts budget dollars from heavily armored trucks that can survive improvised explosive device attacks, and cuts into the Air Force and Navy.

The Russians are using the window of opportunity to redefine, in a modest way, the global balance and gain some room to maneuver in their region. As a result of their more assertive posture, American thoughts of unilateral interventions must decline. For example, getting involved in Georgia once was a low-risk activity. The risk just went up. Taking that risk while U.S. ground forces are completely absorbed in Iraq and Afghanistan is hard for the Americans to justify -- but rather easy for the Russians.

This brings us back to the discussion of the commander in chief's options in the Middle East. The United States already has limited options against Iran. The more the Russians maneuver, the more the United States must hold what forces it has left -- Air Force and Navy -- in reserve. Launching an Iranian adventure becomes that much more risky. If it is launched, Russia has an even greater window of opportunity. Every further involvement in the region makes the United States that much less of a factor in the immediate global equation.

All wars end, and these will too. The Russians are trying to rearrange the furniture a bit before anyone comes home and forces them out. They are dealing with a lame duck president with fewer options than most lame ducks. Before there is a new president and before the war in Iraq ends, the Russians want to redefine the situation a bit.

3) By Tom Gross

While regularly censoring criticism of Islamic extremism, the BBC allows highly offensive slurs about Christians and even more so about Jews, to remain on its website for weeks at a time, points out the (London) Daily Mail.

But now, after a campaign by the Daily Mail and its sister newspaper, The Mail on Sunday, "The BBC has been forced to remove statements from its website referring to Jesus as a 'bastard'."

The remarks about Jesus were left as part of a discussion about the death of the Archbishop of Paris.

However, the BBC editors have allowed anti-Semitic comments posted by the same person who wrote the Jesus "bastard" remarks, to remain. Among those still up by him on the BBC's publicly-funded, award-winning website are "The Jews in much remembered concentration camps had even better qualitity of freedom that these Palestinians have".

The Daily Mail wanted to test whether the BBC would disallow remarks critical of Muslims, while allowing anti-Semitic remarks. So one Daily Mail reader posted: "No one can surpass the Muslims for denial of their role in Terrorism and Suicide bombing." The post was "almost immediately deleted by the BBC," reports the
Mail.

The Mail points out that the BBC has, by contrast, allowed "anti-Semitic posts" to remain on its website for over a month now. Among these is: "Zionism is a racist ideology where Jews are given supremacy over all other races and faiths. This is found in the Talmud... which allows Jews to lie as long as its to non-Jews."

Even after the official Board of Deputies of British Jews wrote a polite letter to the BBC pointing out that the comment had been lifted from a notorious 19th Century anti-Semitic text, "The Talmud Unmasked," which is still sold by neo-Nazi booksellers in London, the BBC has refused to remove it, citing freedom of speech.

The Daily Telegraph today runs a lead editorial criticizing the week-long refusal of the BBC to remove the Jesus "bastard" remark and says that the BBC's continuing refusal to make public the independent Balen Report (which is widely rumored to reveal anti-Israel bias verging on anti-Semitism in some BBC Mideast
coverage) is "disgraceful."

4)Fighting escalates between Israel and Gaza Strip in fresh spiral.


In the first half of the week, at least 16 Palestinians were killed by Israel military responses to the waves of Palestinian missile and mortar fire buffeting the population living around Gaza. Hamas, Jihad Islami, Fatah-Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Popular Committees and al Qaeda-linked Salafi groups are all shooting missiles and mortars at Israeli communities around the clock – two dozen in the last 24 hours. An empty nursery school and factory were badly damaged in Sderot. The IDF has brought into action new surveillance instruments and short-range high-precision surface rockets.

Tuesday night, Aug. 21, one Hamas terrorist was killed, and several injured as they crept up to the border fence. During the day, 9 Palestinians were killed, including two children standing by a launcher near Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, who were mistaken for a missile team.

Palestinian organizations are now fielding their Qassam missile and mortar teams day and night. Marksmen armed with sniper rifles fitted with night-vision equipment are shooting at IDF border positions, armored patrols and civilian traffic within range of the border.

Israeli farmers have been ordered by the military to work their fields only up to one kilometer short of the border.

Yet Israeli forces are not permitted to execute their plan to carve out a 1.5-2 km buffer strip inside the Gaza Strip to keep Palestinian assailants at bay, although prime minister Ehud Olmert and defense minister Ehud Barak have promised that the Israel military will not pull its punches against the enemy.

A senior officer in command of the sector complained that without this buffer, Palestinians hold the initiative of when, where and on what scale to wage war. “We are only allowed to shoot when they are near the border fence. It is therefore inevitable that the Palestinians will intensify their attacks, extend their range and start building up casualties on our side.”

Military commanders reported there is nothing to deter the Palestinians from bringing out their advanced anti-tank rockets and extended-range Qassam surface missiles against the towns of Ashkelon and Netivot, as well as the cluster of military facilities guarding the Israel-Gazan border.

They also believe that not all the tunnels running under the fence from Gaza into Israel have been found and the Palestinians intend to use them for surprise attacks.

Palestinian sources explain that local Hamas extremists have intensified their offensive, defying guidelines laid down by their political leaders in Gaza and Damascus, in order to break out of the military, economic and financial blockade clamped down on their rule by the US, Israel, Egypt and the Europeans. This stranglehold prevents Hamas from exercising government and its rule is in danger. To save themselves, Hamas’ military chiefs are driving their war with Israel to extremes. They hope for enough civilian deaths to force outside intervention for a ceasefire in hostilities. Then, Hamas can make its acceptance contingent on the reopening of the Israel-Gaza and Egyptian border crossings under their control.

5) Testing Congress: Faith and Face
By Michael J. O'Shea
Bored by playing God, Congress now plays admiral and general.

Despite endless complaints about HMOs -- not doctors -- deciding patients' fate, Congress repeats the arrogance, rejecting those

* putting their lives on the line,
* working daily with Iraqi troops and political leaders,
* seeing the patient fight back and start to stand on its own.

But Congress knows better. And toys with pulling the plug.

It's a pathetic cycle. Congress's DNA is documented in Iraq, yet it denies paternity. It then claims the pregnancy's too tough and wants to abort. It next protests that lifting a people to life is too hard and opts to abandon them to play law of the jungle to see who will survive and not caring which one does.

Which Iraqi politician has not had a family member murdered? How many governors, mayors, and other officials themselves have been slaughtered? How many days has the Council of Representatives met without mortars shrieking towards their chambers? How many can relax with their families, dine with friends, confer with rivals without fearing this moment may be their last?

Yet Congress, pampered by the Capitol police and fighter pilots overhead if need be, preaches, comforted by press, protesters, "opinion makers" - anyone except those volunteering to fight back.

Congress has introduced resolution after resolution on Iraq - and not one has dealt with helping Iraq's parliament peer to peer, legislator to legislator. Justice, Agriculture, Defense, Treasury, Commerce, the Fed -- even the Iraqi-American Chamber of Commerce & Industry - have teamed with Iraqi counterparts to help them meet problems head-on.

But not Congress. It sermonizes and doesn't hear its own hypocrisy: politicians in America pontificating to politicians in Iraq that only a "political" solution will end Iraq's woes - and taking not a single political step to help, offering not a scrap of practical political advice.

US troops under fire, Iraqi troops under fire, President Bush under fire, Prime Minister Maliki under fire, Iraqi governors, mayors, representatives under fire -- and Congress alone wilts, spooked by blogosphere barbs.

The irony: Congress abhors supposed cover-ups, as for Pat Tillman's death, yet blasts friendly fire of its own against its only Arab ally fighting side-by-side, collateral damage to that ally and to US recruiting, retention, and morale be damned. Arguing for diplomacy and dialogue, Congress does neither. Yet claims the moral high ground.

In the entire Islamic world, which leaders are struggling more for peace than Iraqis? Want Muslims the opposite of Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah? Look to Iraq: there are millions -- thousands of them dying.

Troops never abandon their own; Senate leaders do, dumping Joe Lieberman - sterling enough just seven years back to be their Vice President - for a trendier chap. "Semper Fi"? Not Congress. Misfiring on Lieberman, they took out Marine General Pete Pace instead.

If politicians can't see what's at stake in Iraq, what can they see?

What heart, what mind would be changed by ditching Iraq? Nothing would change those who'll march against Afghanistan once they dangle Iraq's scalp. Al Qaeda would gloat: "We told you about pampered, effeminate Americans," then sift through thousands eager to hitch to the horse proven strong while America limps home.

Mahmoud Abbas was elected in 2004, Nouri al-Maliki in 2006: who's done more, been bolder, been ostracized by fellow Arabs, still sought out rival Sunni leaders, fired commanders and chiefs of police, told Coalition soldiers to confront all militias no matter the political or personal price to himself?

Who's lived under a death sentence from his former leader, personally has grounds for vengeance but will have none of it?

"I will not deal on the basis of tribal revenge with those who killed my family and people. I will go to courts and respect the state and law. That is exactly what we did with Saddam. We gave him every chance to defend himself after he did not give us a chance to say a word when we used to go to execution chambers. I am the person who most believes in national reconciliation."

Yet Congress demands the US deal patiently with Abbas but not Maliki? Abbas: saddled with Arafat's aftermath. Maliki: with Saddam's. Which legacy is more leprous?

General David Petraeus said in April that Maliki is

"someone who wants to lead and serve all Iraqis, but it's not enough to go to him."

Then added:

"He's not the Prime Minister Tony Blair of Iraq. He does not have a parliamentary majority."

More than its prime minister, Iraq's Council of Representatives is key to political progress in Iraq. But Congress, its American counterpart, sneers, too superior to stoop to its peer still traumatized by Saddam's horrors.

Saddam was terror incarnate, scarring Shias and Kurds for life, while Sunnis dread they'll face Shias' former fate. Both see Iran sending arms and cash, Syria permitting terrorists to seep across borders, Al Qaeda recruiting bombers to blast children, women, elders, recruits. Yet Chairman Carl Levin proclaims:

"We cannot save the Iraqis from themselves."

Eighty percent of suicide bombers foreigners, not Iraqis; 60% of US troop deaths from IEDs, many from Iran: and Iraqis must save themselves from themselves. When the doctor can't even see the disease, how can he write the prescription?

Congress cites Sadr and his supposed dominion over Maliki, never asking: If Sadr's so powerful and Maliki's under his thumb, why isn't Maliki more effective if he's doing as Sadr demands?

Some say partition Iraq: as if it were Siamese triplets with vital organs in each part and when the patient doesn't concur. Saw away anyway when the body's not your own?

Senators cry "civil war," yet dismiss Al Qaeda's bombing the Golden Mosque -- more sacred to Shias than Senate chambers are to Senate leaders -- that unleashed sectarian savagery and cost American lives.

Yet many senators hope to command those troops. Command troops, much less respect, when they can't command facts?

* Fact: American troops are better now than before Iraq, over 98% of them alive and well.
* Fact: Iraqi troops improve by the day.
* Fact: Iraqi courts are stronger.
* Fact: local, provincial, and federal Iraqi governments are wrestling with problems Congressmen dodge.
* Fact: more progress has been made in Iraq in four years than at New York's Ground Zero in six.

Yet, like children on a trip, politicians keep asking "Are we there yet?", "When are we going home?" -- deaf to what Operation Iraqi Freedom has been about from the beginning:

"a united Iraq that can govern, defend and sustain itself and is an ally in the war on terror."

It's never been a war against Iraq: it's always been a war with Iraq to destroy Islamic terrorists. If conquest had been the goal, Iraq could have been crushed in weeks if not days. Statesmen know the difference: hustlers don't.

George Bush said from the start: We'll leave. Al Qaeda said: We won't. Maliki said since taking over: Let us take charge. American commanders say: They've got fight and fight better, but need time to win on their own.

Commander after commander says Al Qaeda is like no other enemy they're ever known: ruthless, cunning, relentless, resourceful, determined, and with tools no other enemy has ever had - satellite TV, Internet, cell phones. We have precision-guided weapons: they have precision-targeted media And use them devastatingly, especially in the US.

If Al Qaeda is a match for the US, what chance would Iraqis have alone?

Al Qaeda has another advantage: influence in Congress more than any commander. It attacks, Congress cries, it explodes, Congress cowers, it dictates, Congress bows.

It is men of faith - Lieberman the Jew, Bush the Christian - who offer hope to Islam. It is warriors of the West who offer peace to the Middle East.

Faith will win in Iraq. Saving face will not