Newt gets it off his chest regarding the economy and an alternative and simplified approach towards taxes. I had a private breakfast with him over 15 years ago and proposed much the same idea. (See 1 below.)
George Friedman reviews the Iraq War. (See 2 below.)
Several months ago Shelby Steele published an op ed piece that I sent in which he wrote Obama must walk a narrow line in order to avoid becoming the Black candidate while appealing to white voters but at the same time maintain his appeal to black voters. The Clintons have been trying their best to force him into that position. Seems Obama's own Minister ironically and unwittingly may have accomplished this for them.
In his brilliant address Obama expressed his hope that one day our nation would not see color and Martin Luther King spoke, earlier, about judging one by the content of their character not the color of their skin. In bringing up the topic and discussing it in a thoughtful manner, Obama may have shot himself in the foot because he has now validated the fact that race is a campaign issue. His message will probably get drowned in the cacophony of political rancor.
Bill and Hillary have to be gloating while figuring out how they can take advantage of Obama's lost momentum. Rev. Wright may have officiated at the Obama's wedding but he may also have put the first nail in the coffin of his presidential aspirations.
Now Sen. Obama moves on and will be making a few more speeches about his thoughts on the Iraq War, another potential land mine in view of his on the record vote against the war but silence over the consequences of ending it peremptorily.
One of my memo readers asked me why politicians have trouble telling the truth when all see through their patently obvious evasiveness. I responded that politicians want to remain in office are apprehensive to acknowledge the truth,rightly or wrongly, fearing it will cost them votes and maybe ultimately their jobs. Funny how our nation began with a president who told the truth about chopping down a cherry tree and how far we have drifted in the ensuing several hundred years. Now most politicians can't see the forest for the trees!
Maybe a new day is dawning with New York's new governor admitting both he and his wife had sexual relations outside their marriage when it was on the rocks but are now back to co-habiting with each other. New Yorkers now must hold their breath because the Governor and his missus could revert back to their former ways should their marriage go on the rocks again. At least they apparently paid for their momentary pleasures out of their own funds, did not tap the state's treasury or state employees nor resort to importing prostitutes. That's a confidence builder!
McCain has a somewhat different take regarding the U.S's position vis a vis dictating to Israel. (See 3 below.)
Michael Rubin discusses, in a well documented essay, Iran's global aspirations and how it is making inroads in Latin America and Africa and we are not responding as we should according to Rubin. (See 4 below.)
Mubarak is always ready with advice but seldom sees his own governance flaws and contribution to the problems he conveniently sees exist. (See 5 below.)
1) Time for Real Change on the Economy and Taxes
By Newt Gingrich
The news on the economy this week is increasingly unsettling.
Gas prices continue to rise, with inflationary ripple effects throughout the economy. And the bust of the sub-prime mortgage market has now spread throughout the credit markets to such a degree that Bear Stearns, the fifth largest American investment bank, was sold last weekend in a fire sale.
Worse still, Wall Street's banks have essentially stopped lending. The appetite for any type of risk has come to a screeching stop. The problem is that a modern economy can't grow, let alone be sustained, for very long when banks stop lending. Companies use loans to finance operations, new equipment, and new acquisitions. That means if companies can't borrow, many will ultimately go out of business and thousands of people will lose their jobs.
First Step: Immediate Action Needed to Stabilize the Housing Market and Keep People in their Homes
In January, I wrote that the Washington insider "stimulus" package then being prepared (which subsequently passed) was "too small, too temporary and clearly inadequate for the scale of the economic problems we face."
Since then, our economic challenges have only grown. Seventy percent of economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal believe the country is currently in recession. In February, national foreclosure filings jumped 60%, with California alone experiencing a 131% jump from the previous year. Many Americans are finding that their largest investment (their home) has lost value; many are unable to sell if they need to move; and others are finding it difficult to borrow money for a new home.
Former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan warns the current financial crisis could be the worst since World War II.
The marginal change provided by February's bipartisan stimulus package does not adequately address the foreclosure crisis nor does it provide long term solutions to our fundamental economic challenges.
The first necessary step is to help bring stability back to the housing market by undertaking reasonable measures to help home owners avoid foreclosure. The key for any workable plan is to distinguish between owner-occupied homes threatened by foreclosure and those owned by investor-speculators. We must make sure only to help the home owners, not the speculators. At the same time we should avoid creating new large federal bureaucracies that have the government doing things that it does not know how to do very well.
Fortunately, while plans for short term and temporary mortgage assistance are being drawn up, some members of Congress are offering long term economic proposals that provide real change instead of marginal change -- proposals that meet the scale of the long term economic challenges we face.
Chances are YOU'RE PAYING MORE IN TAXES THAN YOU SHOULD!
In 1955, Congress declared they would undertake a dramatic simplification of the Tax Code on behalf of small businesses. In the 53 years since that announcement, the tax code has grown a staggering 478% from 172,000 words to over 995,000 words.
One member, Republican Congressman Michael Burgess from Texas, is offering up a proposal that has special resonance for Americans with April 15 just around the corner. It's a plan to save taxpayers time, put an end to special interest loopholes in the tax code, and provide the type of incentives that will put our economy on a course of enduring growth and prosperity: An innovative, one-page, optional flat tax.
A One-Page, Optional Flat Tax Will be Simple to Fill out and It Will Provide the Basis for an Enduring Prosperity
Before being elected to Congress in 2002, Michael Burgess had a 21-year career as a doctor delivering babies in Denton County, Texas. His campaign slogan was "We Need a Doctor in the House". Now the good Doctor Burgess has put together a one page prescription to fix our convoluted income tax system.
Dr. Burgess starts with the fundamental premise that our taxes should be simple, transparent, and low. Dr. Burgess also believes that the economic incentives in our tax code should be clear, predictable, and permanent.
The one-page, optional flat tax proposed by Dr. Burgess is just what it says -- optional. Nobody would be forced into the new system. Taxpayers could continue with their current rates and current deductions, for if they decided that the optional flat tax saved them time and money, they could elect to pay under the single rate optional flat tax system.
The Optional Flat Tax, In Four Bullet Points
Here are the elements of an optional flat tax, in four simple bullet points:
* A single rate of tax (for example, 17%) on all individual and corporate taxpayers;
* Elimination of all taxes on savings, dividends, and capital gains;
* Elimination of the death tax and Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT);
* A standard deduction, which would be above the established poverty level so that an optional flat tax would not unfairly target the poor. Approximately the lowest 42% of income earners would be exempt from paying taxes altogether, and any taxes they did pay would only be on the amount that exceeded the deduction.
A Good Idea that is Gaining Ground
Having a flat, single rate tax is a good idea that has been spreading around the world. Eight U.S. states and twenty nations have single rate flat tax structures.
* Indiana adopted a flat rate in 2003, and by 2007 the Hoosier state's corporate tax revenues grew by 250 per cent.
* Colorado's flat tax, first introduced in 1987, has created repeated surpluses in state tax revenue. This consistent record of success contributed to Colorado reducing the corporate tax rate in 2000 and again in 2001.
* Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina recently proposed an optional flat tax for state income in his 2008 State of the State Address.
* The California Republican Party recently adopted the optional flat tax as part of its party platform, borrowing from the Platform of the American People, a "tri-partisan" agenda developed by American Solutions.
* Most Eastern European nations have flat tax structures, including Russia, and their economies are booming. Since adopting a flat tax in 1995, Latvia's economy alone has grown by an average of twelve per cent each year.
What You Can Do to Learn More about the Optional Flat Tax
Congressman Burgess has recently given two speeches on the House floor detailing his optional flat tax plan.
Dr. Burgess has also prepared a mailer he is sending out to his constituents. It contains a mock-up of what your tax form would look like under an optional flat tax, along with information about the proposal. With this form, filing your taxes would take less than fifteen minutes.
Write your representative and urge him or her to co-sponsor H.R. 1040, the optional flat tax bill. Be sure to let your representative know that you're one of the over 80% of Americans who favors the option of filing their taxes on a single page with one rate of taxation.
It may take time, but I am confident that we will eventually adopt an optional flat tax plan. And when we do, we will put an end to an absurdly complicated system that pits the individual American taxpayer against an army of special interest groups, each trying to advance their narrow agenda at the expense of tax fairness and simplicity. Our tax system robs individual and corporate taxpayers of billions of hours of lost productivity and dilutes the very economic incentives required to keep U.S. workers and companies as the most productive in the world. It can't be replaced too soon.
Real Change Now to Reduce U.S. Corporate Tax Rates, the Highest in the World
Even as we work to win the argument for an optional flat tax plan, we must urge immediate action on reducing America's punishing corporate tax rates. Today's U.S. federal corporate tax rate is 35% -- the second highest in the world -- with the corporate capital gains rate also at 35%. Add in state income taxes and the corporate rate in America averages 40%, making it the highest in the world.
In comparison, the average corporate tax rate in the European Union was 24% in 2007, down from 38% in 1996. How can America compete with the nations of the European Union -- not to mention the emerging economies of India and China -- with this self-defeating, high-tax rate structure?
U.S. corporations bearing this tax burden are ones we expect to provide working people with jobs, better incomes, and long term prosperity. If we continue to have the highest corporate tax rates in the industrialized world, we can surely expect to see more and more companies move jobs overseas. As an anti-recession and long term growth measure, Congress should immediately abolish the capital gains taxes on individual and corporate income, and sharply reduce the corporate tax rate to 12.5 %, the same corporate tax rate as in Ireland, which currently enjoys the industrialized world's lowest rate. After Ireland reduced its rate to 12.5% (from a high of 50%), its living standards and world competitiveness rose dramatically.
Good for the Stock Market, Good for Your 401(k)
Abolishing the capital gains tax on individual and corporate income, along with slashing the corporate tax rate, will lead to an immediate jump in the value of the stock market. It will also lead to an immediate jump in the value of every retiree's 401(k). More importantly, it would lead to a burst of new investments in the United States, creating the foundation for long-term economic growth.
At the same time, we should allow 100% expensing of all investments in new equipment within one year of its purchase. This would lead to a boom in equipping American workers with the best and most modern equipment so they can compete with any economy in the world.
Real Change in Economic Incentives Does not Require Offsetting Tax Increases
It's important to remember pushing for real change in our economy with an optional flat tax and a lower corporate income tax will be met with howls of derision. Some will complain that it will bust the budget. Others will insist that these changes be coupled with offsetting tax increases.
Both will be wrong. The unwillingness or inability of the bureaucrats at the Joint Tax Committee, Congressional Budget Office, and the Office of Management and Budget to foresee the growth caused by previous tax cuts is inexcusable. These same bureaucrats will surely once again underestimate the pro-growth effects and pro-tax revenue effects of fundamentally changing our tax system.
We must take this fight head on with two approaches. First, we must point out again and again how wrong government bureaucrats have been in the past about the pro-growth impact of positive changes to tax incentives.
Second, we must commit ourselves to reducing spending wherever we can. Those of us who support pro-growth tax reform must relentlessly challenge both Republicans and Democrats to eliminate current wasteful spending and to stop proposals for new spending that will prevent us from realizing the powerful long term benefits of fundamental tax reform.
The Defining Choice this November Will Likely Be the Economy
Yesterday, I recorded a video workshop at American Solutions.com on "Solutions for America's Economic Challenges" that expands on what I've laid out in this newsletter.
The overriding, deciding question for the 2008 elections may be who can explain why their economic program is the best answer for the troublesome economy.
Will the left convince the country that massive tax increases, massive increases in spending, and rejecting free trade are the best solutions?
Or will we effectively make the counter-argument that cutting excessive, crippling tax burdens on America's business and industry, getting control of spending, and expanding trade is the right course for a growing economy?
It's up to us to make sure lawmakers pass the right medicine for our economy. Contact your House and Senate members today and tell them we should start with what the good Dr. Burgess of Texas is prescribing.
2) Stratfor's War: Five Years Later
By George Friedman
Five years have now passed since the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Vice President Dick Cheney, in Iraq with Sen. John McCain — the presumptive Republican nominee for president — summarized the five years by saying, “If you reflect back on those five years, it’s been a difficult, challenging, but nonetheless successful endeavor. We’ve come a long way in five years, and it’s been well worth the effort.” Democratic presidential aspirant Sen. Hillary Clinton called the war a failure.
It is the role of political leaders to make such declarations, not ours. Nevertheless, after five years, it is a moment to reflect less on where we are and more on where we are going. As we have argued in the past, the actual distinctions between McCain’s position at one end (reduce forces in Iraq only as conditions permit) and Barack Obama’s position (reduce them over 16 months unless al Qaeda is shown to be in Iraq) are in practice much less distinct than either believes. Rhetoric aside — and this is a political season — there is in fact a general, but hardly universal, belief that goes as follows: The invasion of Iraq probably was a mistake, and certainly its execution was disastrous. But a unilateral and precipitous withdrawal by the United States at this point would not be in anyone’s interest. The debate is over whether the invasion was a mistake in the first place, while the divisions over ongoing policy are much less real than apparent.
Stratfor tries not to get involved in this sort of debate. Our role is to try to predict what nations and leaders will do, and to explain their reasoning and the forces that impel them to behave as they do. Many times, this analysis gets confused with advocacy. But our goal actually is to try to understand what is happening, why it is happening and what will happen next. We note the consensus. We neither approve nor disapprove of it as a company. As individuals, we all have opinions. Opinions are cheap and everyone gets to have one for free. But we ask that our staff check them — along with their personal ideologies — at the door. Our opinions focus not on what ought to happen, but rather on what we think will happen — and here we are passionate.
Public Justifications and Private Motivations
We have lived with the Iraq war for more than five years. It was our view in early 2002 that a U.S. invasion of Iraq was inevitable. We did not believe the invasion had anything to do with weapons of mass destruction (WMD) — which with others we believed were under development in Iraq. The motivation for the war, as we wrote, had to do with forcing Saudi Arabia to become more cooperative in the fight against al Qaeda by demonstrating that the United States actually was prepared to go to extreme measures. The United States invaded to change the psychology of the region, which had a low regard for American power. It also invaded to occupy the most strategic country in the Middle East, one that bordered seven other key countries.
Our view was that the Bush administration would go to war in Iraq not because it saw it as a great idea, but because its options were to go on the defensive against al Qaeda and wait for the next attack or take the best of a bad lot of offensive actions. The second option consisted of trying to create what we called the “coalition of the coerced,” Islamic countries prepared to cooperate in the covert war against al Qaeda. Fighting in Afghanistan was merely a holding action that alone would solve nothing. So lacking good options, the administration chose the best of a bad lot.
The administration certainly lied about its reasons for going into Iraq. But then FDR certainly lied about planning for involvement in World War II, John Kennedy lied about whether he had traded missiles in Turkey for missiles in Cuba and so on. Leaders cannot conduct foreign policy without deception, and frequently the people they deceive are their own publics. This is simply the way things are.
We believed at the time of the invasion that it might prove to be much more difficult and dangerous than proponents expected. Our concern was not about a guerrilla war. Instead, it was about how Saddam Hussein would make a stand in Baghdad, a city of 5 million, forcing the United States into a Stalingrad-style urban meat grinder. That didn’t happen. We underestimated Iraqi thinking. Knowing they could not fight a conventional war against the Americans, they opted instead to decline conventional combat and move to guerrilla warfare instead. We did not expect that.
A Bigger Challenge Than Expected
That this was planned is obvious to us. On April 13, 2003, we noted what appeared to be an organized resistance group carrying out bombings. Organizing such attacks so quickly indicated to us that the operations were planned. Explosives and weapons had been hidden, command and control established, attacks and publicity coordinated. These things don’t just happen. Soon after the war, we recognized that the Sunnis in fact had planned a protracted war — just not a conventional one.
Our focus then turned to Washington. Washington had come into the war with a clear expectation that the destruction of the Iraqi army would give the United States a clean slate on which to redraw Iraqi society. Before the war was fought, comparisons were being drawn with the occupation of Japan. The beginnings of the guerrilla operation did not fit into these expectations, so U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed the guerrillas as merely the remnants of the Iraqi army — criminals and “dead-enders” — in their last throes. We noted the gap between Washington’s perception of Iraq and what we thought was actually going on.
A perfect storm arose in this gulf. First, no WMD were found. We were as surprised by this as anybody. But for us, this was an intellectual exercise; for the administration, it meant the justification for the war — albeit not the real motive — was very publicly negated. Then, resistance in Iraq to the United States increased after the U.S. president declared final victory. And finally, attempts at redrawing Iraqi society as a symbol of American power in the Islamic world came apart, a combination of the guerrilla war and lack of preparation plus purging the Baathists. In sum, reshaping a society proved more daunting than expected just as the administration’s credibility cracked over the WMD issue.
A More Complex Game
By 2004, the United States had entered a new phase. Rather than simply allowing the Shia to create a national government, the United States began playing a complex and not always clear game of trying to bring the Sunnis into the political process while simultaneously waging war against them. The Iranians used their influence among the Shia to further destabilize the U.S. position. Having encouraged the United States to depose its enemy, Saddam Hussein, Tehran now wanted Washington to leave and allow Iran to dominate Iraq.
The United States couldn’t leave Iraq but had no strategy for staying. Stratfor’s view from 2004 was that the military option in Iraq had failed. The United States did not have the force to impose its will on the various parties in Iraq. The only solution was a political accommodation with Iran. We noted a range of conversations with Iran, but also noted that the Iranians were not convinced that they had to deal with the Americans. Given the military circumstance, the Americans would leave anyway and Iran would inherit Iraq.
Stratfor became more and more pessimistic about the American position in 2006, believing that no military solution was possible, and that a political solution — particularly following the Democratic victory in 2006 congressional elections — would further convince the Iranians to be intransigent. The deal that we had seen emerging over the summer of 2006 after the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of al Qaeda in Iraq, was collapsing.
We were taken by surprise by U.S. President George W. Bush’s response to the elections. Rather than beginning a withdrawal, he initiated the surge. While the number of troops committed to Iraq was relatively small, and its military impact minimal, the psychological shock was enormous. The Iranian assumption about the withdrawal of U.S. forces collapsed, forcing Tehran to reconsider its position. An essential part of the surge — not fully visible at the beginning — was that it was more a political plan than a military one. While increased operations took place, the Americans reached out to the Sunni leadership, splitting them off from foreign jihadists and strengthening them against the Shia.
Coupled with increasingly bellicose threats against Iran, this created a sense of increasing concern in Tehran. The Iranians responded by taking Muqtada al-Sadr to Iran and fragmenting his army. This led to a dramatic decline in the civil war between Shia and Sunni and in turn led to the current decline in violence.
The war — or at least Stratfor’s view of it — thus went through four phases:
* Winter 2002-March 2003: The period that began with the run-up to invasion, in which the administration chose the best of a bad set of choices and then became overly optimistic about the war’s outcome.
* April 2003-Summer 2003: The period in which the insurgency developed and the administration failed to respond.
* Fall 2003-late 2006: The period in which the United States fought a multi-sided war with insufficient forces and a parallel political process that didn’t match the reality on the ground.
* Late 2006 to the present: The period known as the surge, in which military operations and political processes were aligned, leading to a working alliance with the Sunnis and the fragmentation of the Shia. This period included the Iranians restraining their Shiite supporters and the United States removing the threat of war against Iran through the National Intelligence Estimate.
The key moment in the war occurred between May 2003 and July 2003. This consisted of the U.S. failure to recognize that an insurgency in the Sunni community had begun and its delay in developing a rapid and effective response, creating the third phase — namely, the long, grueling period in which combat operations were launched, casualties were incurred and imposed, but the ability to move toward a resolution was completely absent. It is unclear whether a more prompt response by the Bush administration during the second period could have avoided the third period, but the second period certainly was the only point during which the war could have been brought under control.
The operation carried out under Gen. David Petraeus, combining military and political processes, has been a surprise, at least to us. Meanwhile, the U.S. rapprochement with the Sunnis that began quietly in Anbar province spiraled into something far more effective than we had imagined. It has been much more successful than we had imagined in part because we did not believe Washington was prepared for such a systematic and complex operation that was primarily political in nature. It is also unclear if the operation will succeed. Its future still depends on the actions of the Iraqi Shia, and these actions in turn depend on Iran.
We have been focused on the U.S.-Iranian talks for quite awhile. We continue to believe this is a critical piece in any endgame. The United States is now providing an alternative scenario designed to be utterly frightening to the Iranians. They are arming and training the Iranians’ mortal enemies: the Sunnis who led the war against Iran from 1980 to 1988. That rearming is getting very serious indeed. Sunni units outside the aegis of the Iraqi military are now some of the most heavily armed Iraqis in Anbar, thanks to the Sunni relationship with U.S. forces there. It should be remembered that the Sunnis ruled Iraq because the Iraqi Shia were fragmented, fighting among themselves and therefore weak. That underlying reality remains true. A cohesive Sunni community armed and backed by the Americans will be a formidable force. That threat is the best way to bring the Iranians to the table.
The irony is that the war is now focused on empowering the very people the war was fought against: the Iraqi Sunnis. In a sense, it is at least a partial return to the status quo ante bellum. In that sense, one could argue the war was a massive mistake. At the same time, we constantly return to this question: We know what everyone would not have done in 2003; we are curious about what everyone would have done then. Afghanistan was an illusory option. The real choices were to try to block al Qaeda defensively or to coerce Islamic intelligence services to provide the United States with needed intelligence. By appearing to be a dangerous and uncontrolled power rampaging in the most strategic country in the region, the United States reshaped the political decisions countries like Saudi Arabia were making.
This all came at a price that few of us would have imagined five years ago. Cheney is saying it was worth it. Clinton is saying it was not. Stratfor’s view is that what happened had to happen given the lack of choices. But Rumsfeld’s unwillingness to recognize that a guerrilla war had broken out and provide more and appropriate forces to wage that war did not have to happen. There alone we think history might have changed. Perhaps.
3) 'Islamists want to destroy everything the West holds dear'
By HERB KEINON AND DAVID HOROVITZ
The success of Hamas and Hizbullah in the region is not only a danger for Israel, but also a threat to US national interests, US Republican presidential candidate John McCain said Tuesday in an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post.
"If Hamas/Hizbullah succeeds here, they are going to succeed everywhere, not only in the Middle East, but everywhere. Israel isn't the only enemy," Arizona Sen. McCain said, in the only interview he is giving to the Israeli media during his visit here.
"They are dedicated to the extinction of everything that the US, Israel and the West believe and stand for. So America does have an interest in what happens here, far above and beyond our alliance with the State of Israel."
McCain, who arrived on Tuesday for a one-day visit accompanied by senators Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said that while he would never tell Israel not to speak with Hamas, he was personally against it.
"Someone is going to have to answer me the question of how you are going to negotiate with an organization that is dedicated to your extinction," McCain said in a lounge in Jerusalem's David Citadel Hotel, as Lieberman and Graham listened.
McCain, who has been here on numerous occasions since his first visit in 1979, was careful about dispensing advice or coming across as dictating policy to the Israeli government.
"I really think that we should understand the US and Israel are partners. Israel is not a client of the United States," he said. "If you are partners, then you don't dictate what you think the terms of the survival of a nation should be."
Asked whether Israel was using the right tactics in trying to quell the rocket fire on Sderot and the western Negev, McCain praised Defense Minister Ehud Barak - terming him "one of the great military people" he has met - and added, "I can't give you a good answer as to how you respond to these rocket attacks."
But, he then said dryly, "I can tell you that I believe that if rocket attacks came across the border of the United States of America, that the American people would probably demand pretty vigorous actions in response. I think I know my constituency in the state of Arizona, and they would be pretty exercised if rockets came across our southern border."
McCain's toughest talk, however, was reserved for Teheran, which he said unequivocally was pursuing nuclear weapons - remarks that were at odds with last year's controversial US National Intelligence Estimate.
"I think Iran is a threat to the region," McCain said, adding that not only were the Iranians "obviously pursuing nuclear weapons," they were also arming and training extremists to send into Iraq, supporting Hizbullah and influencing Syria.
"At the end of the day, we can still not afford to have Iran with nuclear weapons," he said. "We know they have ambitions that are not just aimed at the State of Israel."
These ambitions included "destabilization of the entire region upon which the United States' national security interests rest," he said.
McCain, meanwhile, made no promises regarding former secretary of state James Baker, a man who causes anxiety among many pro-Israel supporters in the US and who has been mentioned as a possible presidential envoy to the region under a McCain administration.
One thing he did promise was that whomever he picked for that role, "I would personally be engaged. I know enough about it to be personally engaged and give it my highest priority. Secondly, he said, any candidate for that position would be someone whom both sides would listen to and respect.
As to a future role for Lieberman, who has been touted as a secretary of state or defense secretary, McCain warmly thanked Lieberman for supporting him at a time when it was not the popular thing to do. "I know many ways that he can serve this country [the US], with or without me as president of the United States," McCain said.
McCain, who spoke by phone with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday, just before meeting the Post, is scheduled to meet on Wednesday with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Likud head Binyamin Netanyahu, as well as visit the Western Wall. He will also take a helicopter tour with Barak. He leaves on Wednesday evening for France and Britain.
Immediately after arriving on Tuesday afternoon from Iraq, McCain went to Yad Vashem, and then to a meeting with President Shimon Peres.
4) Iran's Global Ambition
By Michael Rubin
While the United States has focused its attention on Iranian activities in the greater Middle East, Iran has worked assiduously to expand its influence in Latin America and Africa. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's outreach in both areas has been deliberate and generously funded. He has made significant strides in Latin America, helping to embolden the anti-American bloc of Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua. In Africa, he is forging strong ties as well. The United States ignores these developments at its peril, and efforts need to be undertaken to reverse Iran's recent gains.
Both before and after the Islamic Revolution, Iran has aspired to be a regional power. Prior to 1979, Washington supported Tehran's ambitions--after all, the shah provided a bulwark against both communist and radical Arab nationalism. Following the Islamic Revolution, however, U.S. officials viewed Iranian visions of grandeur warily.
This wariness has grown as the Islamic Republic pursues nuclear technology in contravention to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty safeguards agreement and multiple United Nations (UN) Security Council resolutions. In addition, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has played an increasingly destabilizing role in Iran's immediate neighborhood. But while U.S. officials scramble to devise a strategy to contain, deter, and perhaps roll back Iranian influence in the greater Middle East, Ahmadinejad's government and the IRGC, flush with cash and overconfident with recent success, now aspire to be worldwide players.
Compartmentalized State Department and Defense Department officers focus on Iranian influence in Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf states, and the Palestinian Authority, but a broader perspective that spans country desks suggests that the Islamic Republic now seeks to become a global power. Under Ahmadinejad, Iranian officials have pursued a coordinated diplomatic, economic, and military strategy to expand their influence in Latin America and Africa. They have found success not only in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia, but also in Senegal, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. These new alliances will together challenge U.S. interests in these states and in the wider region, especially if Tehran pursues an inkblot strategy to expand its influence to other regional states.
Latin America: Challenging the Monroe Doctrine
There has long been an Iranian presence in Latin America. Some time ago, Hezbollah established itself at the point where Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina meet. Terrorists linked to Iran bombed the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 and a Jewish community center in the same city in 1994. In 2006, Argentine prosecutors issued warrants for former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and seven others on charges of ordering and masterminding the 1994 attack. The Hezbollah presence in the region has remained a source of concern for policymakers to the present.
Only under Ahmadinejad, though, has the Iranian government pursued a sustained effort to reach out to Latin American countries. Using hundreds of millions--if not billions--of dollars in aid and assistance, Ahmadinejad has worked to create an anti-American bloc with Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua. While Ahmadinejad's first priority may be to solidify diplomatic support among third-world countries, his baiting--and the subsequent baiting by his allies--of Washington and his efforts to further destabilize the neighborhood suggest that he now seeks a permanent Iranian presence on the U.S. doorstep.
The cornerstone of Ahmadinejad's Latin America policy is the formation of an anti-American axis with Venezuela, a goal driven as much by Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez as it is by the Iranian leader. During a July 2006 visit to Tehran, Chávez told a Tehran University crowd, "We have to save humankind and put an end to the U.S. empire." The two met again just two months later during the Non-Aligned Movement conference in Havana. When Chávez again visited Tehran--just a year after his first visit--supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei granted him an audience, an honor bestowed only upon political figures the Iranian leadership deems its closest partners. At the time, Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki quipped that "Hugo Chávez is becoming--or rather has already become--a household name in Iran and perhaps the region, thanks to his frequent trips to the Islamic Republic." Ahmadinejad and Chávez used the visit to declare an "Axis of Unity" against the United States.
Shuttle diplomacy has gone both ways. Just two months after fêting Chávez in Tehran, Ahmadinejad visited him in Caracas. "Together we are surely growing stronger, and in truth no one can defeat us," he told the Venezuelan press. Standing beside Chávez during a trip to Tehran just four months later--Chávez's fourth visit to the Iranian capital in just two years--Ahmadinejad declared, "The peoples of Iran and Venezuela will stand shoulder to shoulder with the disadvantaged nations of the world in spite of the opposition of World Imperialism," which is Ahmadinejad's moniker for the United States.
Whereas Iran plies poorer countries with aid on condition that they alter their stances toward the United States, both Iran and Venezuela are oil rich, and so the relationship is more cooperative. Certainly, Tehran appreciates Chávez's diplomatic interventions. Indeed, had Venezuela been victorious in its efforts to win a UN Security Council seat in 2006, it is doubtful that Washington or its European allies would have achieved the symbolic victory of unanimous Security Council resolutions sanctioning Iran's nuclear program.
Both leaders use their mutual embrace to overcome international isolation and sanctions. During his July 2007 visit to Tehran, Chávez presented Ahmadinejad with an Airbus A340-200 as a sign of friendship at a time when many Western countries looked askance at exporting modern aircraft to the Islamic Republic for fear that a plane might be cannibalized for spare parts in support of Iran's aging military fleet. Such cooperation has made moot the efforts of U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to offer such concessions in order to entice greater Iranian compliance toward its international commitments. For example, just months after she agreed that U.S. companies could export spare aircraft parts to Iran, Ahmadinejad announced the commencement of scheduled passenger flights between Tehran and Caracas.
Both leaders have also used their solidarity to support the other against domestic criticism. On opening two Iranian factories in Caracas, Chávez lauded the "achievements made after the Islamic Revolution," contrasting them sharply with life under the shah--comments that meant little to the Venezuelan audience but helped Ahmadinejad deflect domestic criticism of his management of Iran's failing economy. Ahmadinejad, for his part, parroted Chávez's anti-American rhetoric to the Venezuelan audience, supporting the populist president's contention that Venezuelan ills derive from U.S. plots rather than economic mismanagement. More bizarre have been reports--clearly false--that "entire native tribes" in Venezuela have converted to Shia Islam. Such propaganda, however, plays well to clerical constituencies in Iran that may feel that their president's adventurism runs contrary to more immediate Iranian regional interests.
Increased trade has augmented the diplomatic embrace. As Chávez moved to nationalize Western oil facilities in Venezuela, the Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA announced a $4 billion joint Iran-Venezuela oil production project in east-central Venezuela. In April 2007, Mottaki bragged that bilateral trade between Venezuela and the Islamic Republic would soon total $18 billion, which, even if an exaggeration, is nevertheless a sign of Iranian strategy to pursue soft power influence. Several recent visitors to Caracas have commented on the number of Iranians in the city's hotels.
Cuba, of course, has been part of the Iranian-Venezuelan embrace, although Cuban leader Fidel Castro's illness and the communist island nation's poverty may have dampened its utility as a primary player. Besides hosting the Non-Aligned Movement meeting in 2006, however, Havana has joined Tehran and Caracas in efforts to form a joint shipping line--an asset that, given the disorganization of U.S. and European sanctions enforcement, might help each country bypass certain sanctions. Not every shipping company, for example, may be as compliant with Tehran's sensitivities as one operated by Cubans and Venezuelans. There have already been reports--refuted by the Venezuelan ambassador in Tehran--that Venezuela has enabled Iranian scientists to conduct some nuclear work in the South American state, out of the view of international inspectors.
Both Tehran and Caracas have used their petrodollar windfall to encourage states in Latin America and Africa to embark upon confrontational policies toward the United States. Perhaps the primary beneficiaries in Latin America have been Nicaragua and Bolivia. Just days after Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega's inauguration, Ahmadinejad reveled in the former socialist revolutionary's return to power. "The two nations share identical ideals" and a common enemy in the United States, Ahmadinejad said. Ortega endorsed "strong bonds" between the "two nations and [their] revolutions." Iran's embassy in Managua is now the largest diplomatic mission in the city. Ortega returned Ahmadinejad's visit within months of taking office, traveling to Tehran on a jet lent by Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi. In Tehran, Ahmadinejad spoke of growing Iranian-Nicaraguan ties as the cornerstones of "an order based on justice, peace and brotherhood." In a subsequent session with Ortega, Khamenei spoke of their mutual antipathy toward the United States.
Venezuela might be able to stand on its own, but Nicaragua cannot. The Islamic Republic's embrace of Nicaragua came with strings attached. Storm-ravaged and unfriendly to investors, Nicaragua gained a needed cash infusion. In the months after Ortega's visit to the Islamic Republic, the two countries signed a number of trade accords, and Tehran agreed to finance a $350 million Nicaraguan port. After the announcement of these deals, Ortega called the United States "a terrorist nation" and later endorsed the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. Alluding to this program, Ahmadinejad even offered to transfer "up-to-date experiences and knowledge to Nicaragua." One seasoned Nicaraguan ambassador, slightly embarrassed by Ortega's pro-Iranian rhetoric, told an interlocutor that not only Tehran but also Caracas had made aid to Nicaragua contingent upon Managua's frequent statements of support for Tehran. Regardless of whether Nicaragua is motivated by Venezuelan cash or ideological antipathy toward the United States, an isolated Tehran gains an ally with "identical and common political views."
Bolivia, too, has become an important Iranian ally. Under the leadership of Juan Evo Morales, La Paz has welcomed alliance with Tehran. As with Nicaragua, Bolivia gets aid--upwards of $1.1 billion in "industrial cooperation"--and Iran gets a diplomatic ally. On September 4, 2007, amid international efforts to augment sanctions against the Islamic Republic, Bolivian foreign minister David Choquehuanca Céspedes endorsed "Iran's nuclear rights" and called for international support for the Islamic Republic's position. Tehran rewarded Bolivia with the opening of an embassy in La Paz, certainly a sign that Tehran no longer saw the landlocked South American country as peripheral to its interests.
There is nothing wrong with countries engaging with other countries. Tehran could argue that they have as much interest in strong relations with Latin America as Washington has with the Persian Gulf emirates or newly independent Central Asian or Caucasian republics. But it would be dangerous to dismiss Iranian outreach as altruistic and irrelevant to U.S. national security concerns.
The Islamic Republic's state broadcasting authority has in recent months established partnerships with its Bolivian and Nicaraguan counterparts, not only to help these countries expand their own messaging, but also to have a platform for Iranian-sponsored broadcasts "for all of Latin America." The idea that Ahmadinejad might see Latin America as a beachhead from which to conduct an aggressive strategy against the United States and its allies gained further credence when, earlier this month, Colombian forces raided a Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) encampment and seized a computer whose files referenced FARC plans to purchase fifty kilograms of uranium, raising concern among some U.S. officials that the purchase may have been facilitated with Iranian money and offices.
Africa: Iran's Next Frontier
With successive U.S. administrations and European governments effectively ignoring Africa, Tehran sees its fifty-two countries as diplomatic easy picking. On January 29, 2008, Mottaki declared that this year would mark a "milestone in Iran-Africa ties." Three days later, while attending the Africa Union summit in Addis Ababa, Mottaki announced that Iran would soon host a summit of African foreign ministers in Tehran.
The traditional pattern in which Iranian actions fail to live up to diplomatic rhetoric also appears to be changing in Africa, with Tehran developing strong partnerships with a number of states. The Islamic Republic has forged particularly strong ties with Senegal, once a Cold War ally of the United States but now quietly turning into West Africa's Venezuela. President Abdoulaye Wade has traveled twice to Tehran to meet with Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, first in 2006 and again in 2008. During his most recent visit, he provided a backdrop for Khamenei to declare that developing unity between Islamic countries like Senegal and Iran can weaken "the great powers" like the United States. It would be a mistake to dismiss this as a rhetorical flourish: on January 27, 2008, a week after Senegalese foreign minister Cheikh Tidiane Gadio announced that he, too, would visit Tehran, Minister of Armed Forces Becaye Diop met with his Iranian counterpart to discuss expanding bilateral defense ties between the two states.
Senior Iranian officials have returned the visits. On July 22, 2007, judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi and government spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham--among the closest confidantes of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, respectively--departed for Dakar, where they met Wade and Senegalese prime minister Cheikh Hadjibou Soumaré. Shahroudi declared, "We believe it is our duty to expand ties with Islamic countries and use the capabilities and potentials [sic] of Muslim states to help the growth and spread of Islam." On March 12, 2008, Ahmadinejad left for a visit to the West African state.
While the Iranian leadership might be most interested in expanding a Muslim bloc--especially one that might supplant the influence of Sunni Arab states--the Senegalese leadership seems most interested in immediate economic benefits. "Energy, Oil Prospecting, Industry: Senegal Benefits from Iranian Solutions," a headline in the official government newspaper declared after Wade's first visit to Tehran. After the reciprocal Iranian visit, Wade announced that Iran would build an oil refinery, a chemical plant, and an $80 million car assembly plant in the West African nation. Within weeks, Samuel Sarr, Senegal's energy minister, visited Tehran and returned with a pledge that Iran would supply Senegal with oil for a year and purchase a 34 percent stake in Senegal's oil refinery. Such aid probably came with strings attached. On November 25, 2007, during the third meeting of the Iran-Senegal joint economic commission, Wade endorsed Iran's nuclear program.
Senegal is not alone among those countries Tehran is cultivating. While Iranian officials trumpet Islam during meetings with Muslim officials, the Islamic Republic is willing to embrace any African state--Muslim or not--that finds itself estranged from the West in general and the United States in particular. Here, Sudan and Zimbabwe especially have been beneficiaries. Both European governments and Washington have sought to isolate Sudan for what many international human rights groups deem genocide in Darfur. As the international community sought to tighten diplomatic sanctions on Khartoum, Ahmadinejad moved to embrace Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir. Ahmadinejad was forthright: Iranian-Sudanese ties should be built around the understanding that both governments would defend each other in international settings. Just this month, Iran's defense minister visited Khartoum and called the African state "the cornerstone" of the Islamic Republic's Africa policies.
Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's longtime president, has been as poisonous for his country as Bashir has been for Sudan. Mugabe's government demonizes racial and ethnic minorities, and his economic policies have forced the breadbasket of southern Africa to face famine. But as the international community has isolated Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe, Tehran has reached out to fill the gap. Iranian politicians may speak of their commitment to social justice, but their crass indifference to social issues and public health and well-being are on display as they work to transform Africa's most brutal dictatorship into a pillar of Iranian influence in Africa. Mottaki initiated outreach to Zimbabwe on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in 2006. The two countries pledged uniformity of policy. At a Tehran press conference in November of that year, Mugabe said, "Iran and Zimbabwe think alike and have been described [as belonging to] the 'Axis of Evil.' . . . Those countries that think alike should come together." In subsequent days, the two countries signed deals to boost energy cooperation, restart Zimbabwe's defunct oil refinery, and underwrite agricultural policies that have left the southern African nation on the brink of famine. The Iranian ambassador in Harare pledged to help Mugabe repel sanctions.
South Africa has become another Iranian regional ally. Grateful for the Islamic Republic's opposition to apartheid, the two countries formally reestablished relations in 1994. While subsequent bilateral rhetoric was always warm, in recent years, Tehran has used oil and trade to develop its ties with Pretoria. The Iranian strategy is deliberate. "South Africa is a key member of the Non-Aligned Movement, a bloc of developing countries that has resisted the efforts to force Tehran to halt uranium enrichment," explained a commentary in Iran's official English-language newspaper.
Having failed to get Venezuela onto the UN Security Council, the Iranian government has been anxious to exploit South Africa's rotating membership and its presence on the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) board of governors. In February 2007, for example, Ali Larijani, then the nuclear negotiator for Iran, traveled to South Africa to meet with President Thabo Mbeki. The strategy has paid dividends. Despite the February 2008 IAEA report that found that the Islamic Republic continued to enrich uranium in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty safeguards agreement and two UN Security Council resolutions, the South African government has used its rotating membership on the UN Security Council to advocate against any further sanctions.
Iranian officials have been just as energetic in cultivating smaller African states. In September 2007, interim Iranian oil minister Gholam-Hossein Nozari pledged cooperation to exploit Uganda's newfound oil field, and two months later, the Export Development Bank of Iran pledged $1 million to underwrite microfinance in Uganda. In November, Mottaki also announced an initiative to expand relations with Malawi after that country's president endorsed Iran's right to pursue nuclear technology. The same month, Mottaki welcomed the Côte d'Ivoire foreign minister to Tehran--again, after the West African nation's ambassador threw his country's support behind Iran in the dispute with the UN Security Council over Iran's nuclear program. Indeed, while the Iranian government spreads millions of dollars around Africa, its aid appears conditional upon support. In recent weeks, the Iranian government has used declarations by the leaders of Lesotho, Mauritania, Mali, and Namibia to bolster support for its nuclear program.
Iran will remain at the forefront of U.S. concern well into the next administration. The 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, a joint product of the sixteen organizations comprising the U.S. intelligence community, undercut both a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear defiance and the ability of the Bush administration to constrain Iran's program through unilateral action. The January 6, 2008, confrontation in the Strait of Hormuz between U.S. warships and IRGC speedboats only underscored the tension.
Absent a diplomatic solution or the prospect of a viable military option, many in Washington embrace containment and deterrence as plan B. For example, General John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command until March 2007, said, "I believe we have the power to deter Iran, should it become nuclear. . . . There are ways to live with a nuclear Iran." Containing Iran, however, is easier said than done.
Throughout his administration's second term, Bush has struggled to convince regional allies that his commitments to them are solid. As a result, regional U.S. allies like Egypt, Kuwait, Azerbaijan, and Turkey now seek separate accommodation with Iran.
But even as dozens of diplomats, intelligence analysts, and military officers focus on how to counter Iranian strategy in the region and enhance U.S. public diplomacy, the Iranian challenge has grown far broader. The United States has a compartmentalized strategy; Iran has a global strategy that Washington has been unable to counter: for every three trips Ahmadinejad takes to Latin America, Bush takes one.
The chances for long-term Iranian success may be doubtful--Latin American and African countries may welcome Iranian aid and take advantage of Tehran's soft power with the same enthusiasm with which they sometimes divert U.S. Agency for International Development and World Bank assistance, but any ideological solidarity will be far more limited to each country's immediate leadership. Still, Ahmadinejad's outreach to Latin America and Africa can do damage. The Islamic Republic is not an altruistic power. Its aid is conditional, and sometimes these conditions run counter to U.S. interests. At the very least, Tehran's newfound allies in Latin America and Africa provide needed diplomatic solace and enable Iranian authorities to launder dual use goods and, in theory, outsource suspect weapons research. More worrisome, the Islamic Republic might use its new havens to destabilize neighboring states--indeed, Tehran may be cooperating with Caracas to undermine Álvaro Uribe's administration in Colombia--or as launching pads for terrorism against U.S. interests. The Pentagon may have strengthened its facilities in the Persian Gulf, but Iran and its proxies may find U.S. interests in places like Cancun and the Caribbean more vulnerable. Just as in 1972 the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine outsourced a terrorist attack on Israel's main airport to the Japanese Red Army, IRGC planners may find their African and Latin American allies compliant in their desire to lash out at U.S. interests, especially if cooperation comes with further financial reward. The 1994 Buenos Aires bombing already demonstrates Tehran's willingness to attack soft targets half a world away.
If the Bush administration and its successor continue to ignore Iran's growing global ambitions and do not implement a strategy to reverse Ahmadinejad's recent gains, Washington may find that Iran, not the United States, holds the upper hand in a high-stakes game of deterrence.
1. See Frederick W. Kagan, Danielle Pletka, and Kimberly Kagan, Iranian Influence in the Levant, Iraq, and Afghanistan (Washington, DC: AEI, 2008), available at www.aei.org/publication27526/.
2. See, for example, Todd Lewan, "Hunt for Islamic Terrorists Leads to Border Region," Associated Press, September 19, 1994.
3. "Iran Charged over Argentina Bomb," BBC News, October 25, 2006, available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/6085768.stm (accessed March 10, 2008).
4. See, for example, Matthew Levitt, "Hezbollah Finances: Funding the Party of God," in Terrorism Financing and State Responses: A Comparative Perspective, ed. Jeanne Giraldo and Harold Trinkunas, 134-51 (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007).
5. "Chávez Decorated in Iran; Initials Cooperation Pacts," ElUniversal.com (Caracas), July 31, 2006.
6. Anita Snow, "U.S. Foes Meet at Nonaligned Summit," Associated Press, September 15, 2006.
7. "Iranian Supreme Leader Receives Venezuelan President," Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) (Tehran), July 1, 2007.
8. Kayhan International (Tehran), July 2, 2007.
9. Parisa Hafezi, "Iran, Venezuela in 'Axis of Unity' against U.S.," Reuters, July 2, 2007.
10. "Ahmadinejad Due in Bolivia, Venezuela," IRNA, September 26, 2007.
11. "Ahmadinejad Cements Ties with Chávez," chinadaily. com.cn, September 29, 2007.
12. "Rais-e jomhour dar mosahebeh-ye matbou'ati-ye moshtarek ba Chavez: Dowlat-e Mellat-e Iran va Venezuela ala-raghm-e meil-e estrtekbar-e jahani, dar kenar-e mellat-ha-ye mahroum khahad istad," Iranian Student News Agency (Tehran), November 19, 2007.
13. See, for example, United Nations (UN) Security Council, Resolution 1737 (2006), December 23, 2006, available at http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N06/681/42/PDF/N0668142.pdf?OpenElement (accessed March 13, 2008); and
UN Security Council, Resolution 1747 (2007), March 24, 2007, available at http://daccess-ods.un.org/TMP/5891176.html (accessed March 13, 2008).
14. "Tahvil-e havapayma-ye jadid airbus az keshvar Venezuela beh havapaymale-e jomhuri eslame iran," Fars News Agency (Tehran), July 1, 2007.
15. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, "Approval of License Request for Civilian Aircraft Spare Parts to Iran Air," U.S. Department of State, October 10, 2006, available at www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2006/73811.htm (accessed March 12, 2008).
16. "Iran, Venezuela to Start Direct Flights," Fars News Agency, February 10, 2007; and "First Tehran-Caracas Plane Lands in Damascus," IRNA, March 2, 2007.
17. "Chávez Hails IRI Achievements," Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (Tehran), June 24, 2007.
18. Rafael Noboa, "Chávez, Ahmadinejad Solidify Iran-Venezuela Ties," Agence France-Presse, September 18, 2006.
19. "Gerayesh-e dast-e jam'i-ye be eslam dar barkhi qaba'el Amrika-ye latin," Raja News (Tehran), November 4, 2007; and "Hemayat-e gostardeh Chavez va Castro az moballeghan-e eslami dar Amrika-ye Latin," Rasa News (Tehran), December 7, 2007.
20. Juan Forero and Steve Inskeep, "Chávez Nationalizes Venezuelan Oil Fields," Morning Edition, National Public Radio, May 1, 2007.
21. "Iran, Venezuela to Invest $4 bln in Joint Oil Project," Fars News Agency, July 12, 2007.
22. "FM: Iran, Venezuela to Increase Financial Ties up to USD 18bn," IRNA, April 20, 2007.
23. "Iran, Latin Countries Launch Joint Shipping Line," Fars News Agency, November 5, 2007.
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25. Natalie Obiko Pearson, "Iran and Venezuela Plan Anti-U.S. Fund," USA Today, January 14, 2007.
26. "Ortega Symbol of Nicaragua's Justice-Seeking," Fars News Agency, January 15, 2007.
28. Andres Oppenheimer, "Beware Iran in Latin America," Miami Herald, September 30, 2007.
29. "Nicaraguan President to Visit Iran," Fars News Agency, June 4, 2007.
30. "Iran, Nicaragua Stress Solidarity," Fars News Agency, June 10, 2007.
31. "Iran Slams U.S. as It Hails Nicaragua's Ortega," Fars News Agency, June 11, 2007.
32. "Nicaragua Signs Accords with Iran," Fars News Agency, August 5, 2007.
33. "Iran Deepens Ties with Nicaragua," Fars News Agency, August 6, 2007; and "Iran, Nicaragua Strike Trade Deal," Fars News Agency, August 12, 2007.
34. "Nicaragua Building Ties with Iran," Fars News Agency, August 15, 2007.
35. "Iran, Nicaragua Eye Energy Cooperation," Fars News Agency, February 10, 2008.
36. "Iran, Nicaragua Underline Cooperation among Free Nations," Fars News Agency, June 10, 2007.
37. "Iran Defends Nicaragua's Progress, Independence," Fars News Agency, June 11, 2007.
38. "Bolivia: Iran to Invest in 25 Industrial Projects," Fars News Agency, October 9, 2007; and Andres Oppenheimer, "Beware Iran in Latin America."
39. "Bolivia Calls on World to Support Iran's N. Rights," Fars News Agency, September 4, 2007.
40. "Ijad safarkhaneh-ye Iran dar La Paz," Tabnak (Tehran), January 1, 2008.
41. "Iran and Nicaragua to Expand Media Cooperation," Tehran Times (Iran), December 18, 2007; and "Iran to Open TV Station in Bolivia," Associated Press, February 19, 2008.
42. U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, "Ros-Lehtinen Continues to Raise Concerns over Iran-Venezuela Ties," news release, March 4, 2008.
43. "FM: 2008 a Milestone in Iran-Africa Ties," Fars News Agency, January 30, 2008.
44. "Tehran to Host Iran-Africa Summit," Press TV (Tehran), February 1, 2008.
45. "Communiqué conjoint de la visite officielle de Son Excellence Me Abdoulaye Wade, président de la République du Sénégal en République Islamique d'Iran," Le Soleil (Dakar), June 29, 2006.
46. "Maqam mo'azzam-e rahabari zaban-e Amrika va Abargodrat-ha ra zaban-e tahdid va er'ab danestand," IRNA, February 28, 2008.
47. "Senegalese DM Meets Iranian Counterpart," Fars News Agency, January 28, 2008.
48. "Senegal Stresses Expansion of Ties with Iran," Fars News Agency, July 29, 2007.
49. "President Leaves for Senegal," Fars News Agency, March 12, 2008.
50. "Énergie, Prospection Pétrolière, Industrie: Le Sénégal bénéficie des solutions iraniennes," Le Soleil, June 28, 2006.
51. "Iran to Build Oil Refinery, Chemical Plant in Senegal," Fars News Agency, August 4, 2007.
52. "Iran to Supply Crude Oil to Senegal," Fars News Agency, August 28, 2007.
53. "Senegalese President: Nuclear Technology Is Iran's Legitimate Right," IRNA, November 25, 2007.
54. "Ahmadinejad to Leave for Sudan," Fars News Agency, February 27, 2007.
55. "Ahmadinejad: Iran, Sudan Defend Each Other at Int'l Bodies," Fars News Agency, March 2, 2007.
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57. U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, "Zimbabwe," in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices--2006, March 6, 2007, available at www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2006/78765.htm (accessed March 12, 2008).
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61. "Zimbabwean Agriculture Equipped with Iranian Technology," Fars News Agency, November 23, 2006; "Iran to Launch Zimbabwe's Oil Refinery," Fars News Agency, November 25, 2006; and "Zim Strikes Oil Deal," Reuters, December 17, 2007.
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66. International Atomic Energy Agency, "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Relevant Provisions of Security Council Resolutions 1737 (2006) and 1747 (2007) in the Islamic Republic of Iran," report by the director general, February 22, 2008, available at www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Board/2008/gov2008-4.pdf (accessed March 13, 2008).
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September 17, 2007.
5) Mubarak to Israel: 'Occupation' can't last forever
By Rose Nahmias
"I say to Israel, history does not tell us the occupation will last forever," Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Tuesday night during the speech he gave in honor of the prophet Muhammad's birthday.
Mubarak added "Egypt is continuing its efforts to achieve a lull in violence between Israeli and the Palestinians." He called on Israel to "lift the siege of Gaza, open the border crossings, ease the suffering of the citizens of the Palestinian territories, and enable the continuation of peace talks.
"Peace in the area cannot be achieved without an agreement on a just solution for the Palestinian problem," Mubarak added. Addressing Israel, he said: "Security for your people will not be achieved through collective punishment, aggressiveness, invasion, siege, blockades and the construction of settlements."
Mubarak claimed that a security concurrence should be reached swiftly and justly, resulting in an agreement between the two parties that will end the conflict and rush in a new era of cooperation.
"At the heart of the Palestinian problem is the termination of the occupation, which will end the suffering of the Palestinian people and help them to attain their legitimate ambitions of erecting an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital," Mubarak added. "I say to the Palestinian people – make this your first priority and unify your forces.
'Give peace a chance'
"Resistance is the right of every nation under siege," the Egyptian president continued, "however this right, like so many other armed political battles, has its balance of gain and loss. Give peace a chance and don't provide excuses for those who wish to evade the peace process."
Meanwhile, a senior Israeli security official told Ynet that "Israel will continue to operate against Hamas as long the as the rocket fire continues".
Also on Tuesday, the head of the Israeli Defense Ministry's military-political department, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad returned from a secret round of talks with top Egyptian officials, his second in the past two weeks, this despite the fact that Israel has denied negotiating a truce with Hamas.
The Defense Ministry has claimed that Gilad's meetings in Cairo are focusing on the breached border with Egypt along the Philadelphi corridor and the possible reopening of the Erez crossing on the Gaza-Israel border. Prime Minister Olmert said last week that "there are no negotiations, direct or indirect, with Hamas. Egypt does not have our authorization to conduct such talks."
However, the IDF's ground activity in Gaza has been limited as of late, and the past few days have seen a significant reduction in the Qassam rocket fire attacks on the Jewish state. The last Grad rocket attack on Israel took place on March 3.
Sources in Olmert's office have attributed the relative calm to the harsh blow Hamas suffered during operation "Warm Winter", but other Israeli and Arab sources say the lull is the result of indirect negotiations through Egyptian mediation.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas confirmed the existence of such a lull, and reported it to Jordan's King Abdullah during their meeting in Amman.
However, on Tuesday morning Israel received information that the head of Egyptian Intelligence, Omar Suleiman, postponed his visit, which was expected to take place this week. This is the third time Suleiman has put off his arrival, and a senior Egyptian official told London-based newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat that Suleiman based his decision on Israel's "lack of commitment to pursuing calm in the area".