This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Game: Going Into Overtime

"We will not allow a bad deal. We will only arrive at a document that is ready to sign if it ... excludes Iran getting access to nuclear weapons."
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, center right, European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini, center left, and other officials from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States wait for the start of a meeting on Iran's nuclear program at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland Tuesday, March 31, 2015. (Photo credit: AP/Brendan Smialowski, Pool)
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, center right, European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini, center left, and other officials from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States wait for the start of a meeting on Iran's nuclear program at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland Tuesday, March 31, 2015. (Photo credit: AP/Brendan Smialowski, Pool)

Mr. Steinmeier also said that Iran's expectations are "very ambitious" and though rigorously pursued by its negotiators nowhere near acceptable to the P5+1. Or one would hope so. The question of limits on research and development permitted Iran continue to plague the discussions. And then again the burning issue [for Iran] of the scope and timing of sanctions relief remained a sturdy sticking point.

As far as the Obama administration seems concerned, any agreement that manages to lengthen the opportunity of time that Iran requires to produce a nuclear weapon from the current two to three months to at least a year will reflect timely progress. If so, the Americans are not investing too heavy an arsenal of demands by their own accounts.

President Obama's critics, and they are legion, are concerned that any agreement that results for the framework leading up to the final June deadline completing the process appears to be headed in the direction of permitting Tehran to keep its nuclear technology in fairly intact condition. It will be allowed to continue research and development.

And then there's the other issue of handing over for Russian safeguarding the vast stockpiles of enriched uranium which Iran now insists it had never, after all, agreed to; it was merely a misunderstanding. Iran is skilled at prevarication and misstatements and hesitations and promises that never see the light of practical reality.

And sanctions; sanction relief is to be immediate in praise of good intentions and proof of good faith. Faith, that is, on the part of China, Russia, United States, France, Britain and Germany. The Islamic Republic of Iran has faith only in their brand of Islamist doctrine which urges the use of deception to attain a coveted end.

And oh yes, of course, the irritating insistence that the International Atomic Energy Agency have unrestrained access to Iran's nuclear sites to ensure compliance with any completed agreement. Iran detests any intrusions, interference, inconvenient nosiness about its activities which are no one's business but its own.

The sanctions which have bitten off a good chunk of Iran's economy are what brought it to the bargaining table.

Remove them and see the nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles fly in record time. It's what has given Israel and Saudi Arabia screaming-awake nightmares as the canaries in the mine.

Labels: , , , ,

Something's Going On

"Operators, regulators and air-navigation service providers need to take more action to prevent approach-and-landing accidents, and to minimize the risks of adverse consequences if a runway overrun occurs."
Transportation Safety Board Canada report

"In large airports such as Toronto, they'll have precision approaches at both ends of the runway. But some of the smaller airports, including Halifax, don't have a precision approach on all the runways."
"...There's a cost to maintaining the precision approaches and it's a risk analysis that they do."
"It's a catch-22; NavCanada says, 'We'll put these approaches in if you spend the money on updating your aircraft', and then the airlines say, 'Well, we're not going to update the aircraft until these approaches are in place. We'd like to see it sped up."
Captain Dan Adamus, Canadian board president, Air Line Pilots Association International
CTV News

An air disaster was narrowly averted at Halifax International airport on the weekend when an Air Canada plane crashed while approaching the runway. There had been a snowstorm and the plane had circled the airport awaiting clearance to land in the hope that visibility would be improved, the snowstorm abating. When it was given permission to land, the plane came in too low, hitting hydro lines supplying electricity to the airport, and it crash-landed while approaching the runway.

The impact caused it to lose an engine, but seconds earlier it had lost its nosecone and landing gear. The plane's body survived the impact, with its 133 passengers fortunate enough to be able to evacuate the downed plane, as a fire did not eventuate, sparks having been cushioned by snowy conditions on the tarmac. Of the passengers, 25 sustained slight injuries occasioning a brief visit to hospital. The frightened passengers no doubt felt their time had come.

With, no doubt, very vivid thoughts of the Germanwings 320 Airbus, flight 9425 being flown directly and deliberately by its co-pilot, into the summit of a mountain in the French Alps, killing all 150 aboard. Their fright had a relieved and happy conclusion. The Transportation Safety Board has been warning of the potential for runway accidents at Canada's airports for the past five years or so. Likely with reason, since runway safety is a top "watch-list" concern.

Nav Canada is currently in the process of bringing in new GPS technology to ensure that landings are safer on runways that haven't been provided with precision approaches, though not all aircraft are equipped to use that technology. Captain Adamus, involved in commercial flights since 1985, feels some airports in Canada do not yet comply with runway standards as set out by the International Civil Aviation Organization requiring a set amount of added space at the end of a runway.

Nothing is ever really simple, however. Ron Coleman, an aviation consultant with Canadian Aviation Safety Consultants with his own ten years of experience in leading plane crash investigations in Canada and abroad has his own take. The pilots flying Air Canada Flight 625 which crashed 335 metres short of the main runway, would have had ample warning they were flying dangerously low.

A voice-activated "enhanced ground proximity warning system" and a radio altimeter giving precise data of how many feet above ground they are flying is part of the equipment of such a plane. The A320, he pointed out was below the "glide slope", the path a plane properly approaching a landing strip takes, since it severed power lines and hit the "antennae array" on airport property.

"[I]t's a good possibility the approach lights and the runway lights would have been extinguished, which would have made their perception of their landing considerably changed. Those cues would be gone. What we're talking about here in large measure is what was going on in that cockpit", said Mr. Coleman.

"I don't know which one was flying (pilot or co-pilot], but one of them is flying and one of them is observing and looking for the runway. But he's also responsible for making sure that they don't violate their altitude. Something's going on here, but it'll be on the voice recorder."

And so, unsurprisingly, there's a class action suit against Air Canada in the offing...to be filed with the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.

Labels: , , ,

Cleansing Canada of Jihadi Threats

"Mr. Malik then began to recruit the undercover officer to assist him in making an explosive device that could be detonated remotely."
Jessica Lourenca, Canada Border Services Agency officer

"May the angels lash the faces and backs of those who perpetrated this crime [2007 storming by Pakistani military of armed fanatic Islamists at the Red Mosque, Islamabad] when they take their souls out, may their deaths be slow and painful and may they rot eternally in hell."
Jahanzeb Malik, landed immigrant, YouTube page
Farooq Naeem/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Pakistani security forces began their assault on the Lal mosque compound before daybreak on Tuesday, just hours after talks broke down to end the eight-day siege in central Islamabad
Pakistani-born Jahanzeb Malik came to Canada on a student visa in 2004, to study at York University. Eventually he was sponsored by a Canadian as a family-class immigrant. Eight years later he was charged by Peel police with assaulting and threatening to kill his wife. Months afterward he was arrested for failing to remain distant from her Mississauga home.

He left Canada, returning by way of Pearson airport in Toronto a year later. When he was questioned by the CBSA and Canadian Security Intelligence Service, he explained that he had been in Libya, on a teaching assignment. He was given a conditional discharge on two charges he had pleaded guilty to. And a year later an investigation began, surrounding national security.

Posing as a former fighter during the Bosnian civil war, an undercover RCMP officer gained Mr. Malik's confidence. And the man informed the officer whom he took for a fellow traveller that he had attended weapons training camps in Libya, and was in full support of the Islamic State as well as al-Qaeda. The two congenially viewed videos of ISIS beheadings.

Voicing his enthusiasm for the exploits of the terrorists, and approving of the Charlie Hebdo attack, Jahanzeb Malik felt it his duty as a closet jihadist to enjoin his new friend to help him with the manufacture of an explosive device that could be used to bomb various sites in Toronto, including the U.S. consulate.

Arrested on March 9, following a six-month investigation by the RCMP's Integrated National Security Enforcement Team, Mr. Malik, while not having been criminally charged, has been detained on security grounds with the intention of deporting him to Pakistan. In the process of a hearing, the focus is on protecting the identity of the RCMP police officer who had gained Mr. Malik's confidence.

Islamic State instructions to its faithful are held to have been responsible for the two assassinations of Canadian members of the military last October. Those working within Canada's intelligence and security agencies to infiltrate the confidence of jihadis in Canada and to apprehend them before they are able to carry out planned attacks obviously require protection themselves.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Gatestone Institute

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is calling on Arab countries to launch a military strike against the Gaza Strip -- even as the PA plans to bring "war crimes" charges against Israel for doing exactly the same thing in the summer of 2014.
The Arabs are allowed to attack the Gaza strip to remove Hamas from power, while Israel is not even allowed to launch airstrikes at those who are firing rockets at its cities.
The PA's call should be brought to the attention of the International Criminal Court if and when Abbas proceeds with his plan to file "war crimes" charges against Israel for its war against Hamas.
This call should also be brought to the attention of Western governments and international human rights organizations that condemned Israel during Operation Protective Edge.
They also need to ask Abbas whether he also plans to file "war crimes" charges against his Arab brethren once they start bombing the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian Authority (PA), whose leaders say they are planning to file "war crimes" charges against Israel over its last war with Hamas, is now calling on Arab countries to launch a military strike against the Gaza Strip, similar to the Saudi-led campaign against Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen.

The call to launch an Arab military strike against the Gaza Strip was made by Mahmoud Habbash, a senior advisor to PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Commenting on the Saudi-led military operations in Yemen, Habbash, who also holds the post of Chief Islamic Judge, said in a Friday sermon at a mosque in Ramallah: "Protecting legitimacy in an Arab country is a duty of all Arab leaders. They must take the initiative to strike with an iron fist against those who come out against legitimacy, regardless of the time and place, starting from Palestine. What happened in the Gaza Strip was a [Hamas] coup. There should be no dialogue with those behind the coup and they must be hit with an iron fist."

The following day, Abbas himself hinted that he too would like to see the Arab states launch a military campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Addressing the 26th Arab League Summit in the Egyptian resort of Sharm al-Sheikh, Abbas declared: "I hope the Arab states carry out the same policy that they are in Yemen in the case of all Arab nations that suffer from internal conflicts -- such as Palestine, Syria, Libya and Iraq."

When Israel launched Operation Protective Edge in the summer of last year in response to the firing of rockets at Israeli cities, the Palestinian Authority and its leaders, including Abbas, were quick to condemn Israelis for allegedly perpetrating "war crimes" against Palestinians.
But now the same Palestinian Authority, which condemned Israel over Operation Protective Edge, is calling on Arab armies to launch a military campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

For Abbas and his top advisors, it is fine if the Gaza Strip is attacked, so long as Israel is not the attacker. In fact, the PA is inviting the Arab states to do exactly what the Israel Defense Forces did in the summer of 2014: to launch airstrikes against terror bases belonging to Hamas and other radical groups inside the Gaza Strip.

Don't worry, we won't let Israel attack you...
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (right) shakes hands with Hamas's leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, during negotiations in 2007 for a short-lived unity government. (Image source: Palestinian Press Office)

If anything, the appeal to Arab countries to extend their airstrikes from Yemen to the Gaza Strip smacks of hypocrisy.

If the Palestinian Authority openly favors military action against Hamas, why was it opposed to Israel's use of force to destroy the Islamist movement's rocket launchers and ammunition? And why is the PA leadership now planning to file "war crimes" charges against Israel at a time when it, too, is calling on Arab countries to attack the Gaza Strip?

Obviously, the PA believes it is acceptable for an army or armies to attack the Gaza Strip, on condition that it is not the Israel Defense Forces trying to stop Hamas's rocket attacks.

The PA wants the Arabs to attack the Gaza Strip not in order to stop the rocket attacks against Israel. Rather, it wants the Arab armies to help it in its efforts to remove Hamas from power so that the PA will be able to return to the Gaza Strip, from where it was expelled in 2007.
It is not clear at this stage if any Arab countries will accept the Palestinian Authority's invitation to launch a military strike against the Gaza Strip. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Gulf States are too busy trying to stop Iran and its puppets from seizing control of more Arab countries. They are also too busy fighting the growing threat from the Islamic State terrorist group.

But what is clear, meanwhile, is that the PA is continuing to show its true colors by condemning Israel for using military force against Hamas on the one hand, while urging Arabs to use military force against Hamas on the other hand.

The Palestinian Authority's call for an Arab military strike against Hamas has sparked a wave of protests in the Palestinian territories. Thousands of Palestinians marched in the Gaza Strip, chanting slogans denouncing Abbas and calling on him to step down.

The PA's call for military intervention in the Gaza Strip should be brought to the attention of the International Criminal Court if and when Abbas proceeds with his plan to file "war crimes" charges against Israel for its 2014 war against Hamas. This call should also be brought to the attention of Western governments and international human rights organizations that condemned Israel during Operation Protective Edge.

What they need to know is that Abbas in fact supports military action against Hamas, but has a problem when it is carried out by Israel. Arabs are allowed to attack the Gaza Strip to remove Hamas from power, while Israel is not even allowed to launch airstrikes against those who are firing rockets at its cities. They also need to ask Abbas whether he also plans to file "war crimes" charges against his Arab brethren once they start bombing the Gaza Strip.

Labels: , , ,


Report Says Iran May Be Keeping Elements of Nuclear Program in Syria, North Korea

Despite hammering a deal out in Lausanne, Iran may have transferred aspects of its nuclear program to Syria and North Korea. PHOTO: Wikipedia.

As world powers race to close a nuclear deal with Iran, recent reports have indicated that not all elements of Iran’s nuclear program may be domestic, but that some of it may be located in Syria and as far away as North Korea. In light of the secrecy surrounding the talks going on in Lausanne, Switzerland these reports are receiving some attention, according to The Israel Project, a Washington DC-based advocacy group.

If true, the implications of the reports are far reaching. The Israel Project said that the debate in these reports “involves how Iran has dispersed its nuclear assets to Syria and North Korea, which means that any envisioned deal would only slow a part of the Iranian nuclear program, while flooding the Iranians with cash to bolster what’s left over.”

Last November, as an earlier deadline for the talks approached, the issue came up regarding Iran moving its nuclear program’s assets to Syria, but now the debate is including North Korea. And according to the Israel project, “Even if everything goes right in slowing Iran’s nuclear work on Iranian soil…the deal wouldn’t touch all of the places and ways the Iranians are going nuclear.”

The reports indicate that Germany’s Der Spiegel revealed the existence of an undisclosed nuclear facility in Syria where as much as 50 tons of enriched uranium may have been taken, so that while it remained in Syrian territory, it was nonetheless under Iranian control. The facility is located deep in the Qalamoun region, near the town of Qusayr, territory controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force and Iran’s terror proxy Hezbollah.

Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, rejected the report as “ridiculous,” saying it was meant to “create imaginary concerns about the Islamic Republic.”

Similarly, the Iranians are using North Korea as a storage facility for both uranium stockpiles and the necessary missiles to be used as delivery methods for nuclear warheads, according to Ali Alfoneh and Reuel Marc Gerecht of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. The pair noted in the Washington Post that Iran is using North Korean territory to produce nuclear material, and other reports have indicated that Iran has ballistic missiles stationed in that country.

The Israel Project notes that, coupled with the relaxed verification methods that the West may be aiming for, and the influx of cash Iran would receive from sanctions relief, “Iran’s ability to conduct its nuclear world in Syria and North Korea,” would be “supercharge[d],” leaving Iran with the full ability to develop a nuclear weapon, and not hindering its state sponsorship of terrorism.

Labels: , , , , ,

Arutz Sheva

Biden: American Jews Can Only Rely on Israel, Not US

US Vice President makes shocking statement, telling American Jews 'no matter how involved you are in the US, the only guarantee is Israel."

By Ari Yashar, Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 3/30/2015, 1:40 PM

Joe Biden
An incredible admission by US Vice President Joe Biden has been revealed, in which he told Jewish leaders that should the American Jewish community be in danger, it has only Israel to rely on - and not America.

Journalist Jeffrey Goldberg reveals in the April issue of The Atlantic how at a Rosh Hashana event in Biden's home last fall, the vice president told Jewish leaders and Jewish officials in US President Barack Obama's administration how he met former Prime Minister Golda Meir when he was a young Senator.

"I’ll never forget talking to her in her office with her assistant - a guy named (Yitzhak) Rabin - about the Six-Day War,” he recalled. “The end of the meeting, we get up and walk out, the doors are open, and...the press is taking photos. ...She looked straight ahead and said, ‘Senator, don’t look so sad...Don’t worry. We Jews have a secret weapon.'"

Biden states he asked Meir what the weapon was, noting "I thought she was going to tell me something about a nuclear program" - an ironic comment given the US's recent declassification of documents revealing Israel's nuclear program in a breach of understandings with the Jewish state.
But according to Biden, "she looked straight ahead and she said, ‘We have no place else to go.'" 

Addressing his guests at Rosh Hashana, Biden paused for effect and repeated, "we have no place else to go."
"Folks, there is no place else to go, and you understand that in your bones," Biden said. "You understand in your bones that no matter how hospitable, no matter how consequential, no matter how engaged, no matter how deeply involved you are in the United States...there’s only one guarantee."
"There is really only one absolute guarantee, and that’s the state of Israel," he stated.

Responding to the statement, Corey Robin of Salon wrote how disturbing the statement is, given that it consists of "a sitting vice president telling a portion of the American citizenry that they cannot count on the United States government as the ultimate guarantor of their freedom and safety."

"The occupant of the second-highest office in the land believes that American Jews should look to a foreign government as the foundation of their rights and security," she added. "A country that once offered itself as a haven to persecuted Jews across the world now tells its Jews that in the event of some terrible outbreak of anti-Semitism they should…what? Plan on boarding the next plane to Tel Aviv?"

Labels: , ,

Gaming the demise of the Saudi monarchy has been a flourishing industry on the think-tank circuit for the past dozen years. Not long ago I sat in private conclaves of US national security officials with a sprinkling of invited experts where the head-shaking, chin-pulling consensus held that the Saudi royal family would be gone in ten years. A premise of the "realist" view that American policy in the region should shift towards Iran was that the Saudi monarchy would collapse and Sunni power along with it. All of us misunderestimated the Saudis.

Now the Saudis have emerged at the top of a Sunni coalition against Iran–limited for the moment to the Houthi insurgency in Yemen, to be sure, but nonetheless the most impressive piece of diplomacy in the Sunni world since Nasser, and perhaps in modern times. That attributes a lot of importance to a coalition assembled for a minor matter in a small country, but it may be the start of something important: the self-assertion of the Sunni world in response to the collapse of American regional power, the threat of Sunni jihadist insurgencies, and the Shi'ite bid for regional hegemony.

The Saudis have pulled off the most impressive piece of diplomacy in the Sunni world since Nasser.
The standard narrative held that the Saudi royal family would fracture after the death of King Abdullah, leaving a sclerotic and senile generation of princes to preside over the demise of a colonial relic. After the so-called Arab Spring of 2011, the smart money bet on the Islamists, with their fusion of religious fundamentalism and modern political techniques. "Given the awfulness of post-World War II Arab lands, where even the most benign regimes had sophisticated, torture-happy security services, Islamists who braved the wrath of rulers and trenchantly critiqued the moral breakdown of their societies were going to do well in a postsecular age. What is poorly understood in the West is how critical fundamentalists are to the moral and political rejuvenation of their countries. As counterintuitive as it seems, they are the key to more democratic, liberal politics in the region," wrote Reuel Marc Gerecht in 2012.

Writing premature obituaries for the Saudi monarchy wasn't a Western monopoly. Late last year a well-regarded Chinese analyst told me, "Isn't it ironic–we modern Chinese and you modern Americans are trying to prop up this medieval monstrosity!"

Compared to the White House foreign-policy camarilla–McBama and his Weird Sisters–the Saudis turn out to be Middle Eastern Metternichs. The 10-nation coalition that Riyadh assembled to counter Iranian intervention in Yemen has a broad mandate to contain Iran throughout the region. As Zvi Har'el comments in Ha'aretz: "On the diplomatic side, Saudi Arabia was able to get Sudan to break its traditional ties with Iran; Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Court for crimes against humanity, was received with great pomp and fanfare by King Salman, and at the end of his visit announced that his country was joining the coalition. He also ordered the expulsion of all the Iranian delegations from his country, handing Saudi Arabia another important asset in the balance of power against Iran. Qatar also joined the coalition despite being considered an Iranian ally. More importantly, Saudi Arabia and its allies gave themselves free license to operate in any other Arab country that chooses to join the Iranian sphere."

The 10-nation coalition that Riyadh assembled to counter Iranian intervention in Yemen has a broad mandate to contain Iran throughout the region.
More importantly, the Saudis have enlisted the help of two Sunni neighbors of Iran with armies far more powerful than the Tehran's, Turkey and Pakistan. "Iran is trying to dominate the region," Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told a press conference March 26. "Could this be allowed? This has begun annoying us, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries. This is really not tolerable and Iran has to see this." That is a drastic shift the position of Turkey, which in the past sought to balance relations with all of its neighbors. Turkish support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt against the Saudi-backed government of Gen. Fatah al-Sisi also was a source of contention with Riyadh, not least because the Muslim Brothers want to overthrow and replace the Saudi monarchy. Pakistan, heavily dependent on Saudi aid, initially rejected Saudi requests for a troop presence on its border with Yemen but now has military assistance "under consideration."

Turkey has over $320 billion in hard-currency debt, virtually all of it accumulated since 2008, and a currency that has lost 30% of its value against the dollar since mid-2014, leaving Turkish debtors with correspondingly higher debt service costs. A great deal of its foreign currency borrowing was conducted through banks, and most of the money came from the Saudis and other Gulf states. Turkey's debt constraints have pushed its economy into near-recession, with manufacturing output down by more than 2% year-on-year. Erdogan's political standing, which depended on easy credit and populist public spending, is in jeopardy. It seems likely that the Saudis have exercised the Erdogan option for which they paid a high premium over the past several years.

It isn't only that the Saudis acted without the help of the United States, but that they acted in direct contravention of a prime American objective, namely to bring Iran into the regional security architecture as an important and responsible player. The US was led along, but not informed of the particulars of the operation.

"At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday, General Lloyd Austin, head of the U.S. Central Command, said he did not learn the Saudis were actually going attack Yemen until an hour before the operation was launched. Austin, whose theater includes Yemen, would normally expect to be given more than an hour's heads-up before such a military operation. Another official with Centcom, who asked not to be named, told us Thursday evening that Austin had "indications" over the weekend that something might happen but got no final confirmation until Wednesday," Eli Lake and Josh Rogin reported today in Bloomberg News.

This is the second time in a few months that the Saudis have taken the world by surprise. The first was last September, when they initiated a plunge in oil prices by declining to reduce production in the face of a surge in US oil output. That had killed two birds with one stone, namely competition from higher-cost US shale producers, and the Iranian government budget. No one saw that coming. For those of us who enjoy surprises, Riyadh has been a welcome source of them in recent months. We look forward to more.
David P. Goldman is a Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and the Wax Family Fellow at the Middle East Forum. His book How Civilizations Die (and why Islam is Dying, Too) was published in September 2011. A volume of his essays on culture, religion and economics, It's Not the End of the World - It's Just the End of You, also appeared that fall.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, March 30, 2015

Rewarding Tehran

"A comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran is in all our interests. Both sides now need to work intensively to bridge the remaining differences. That will mean some tough choices if we are to reach what would be a historic deal."
Philip Hammond, British Foreign Secretary

"The agreement being formulated… sends a message that there is no price for aggression and, on the contrary, that Iran’s aggression is to be rewarded."
"The moderate and responsible countries in the region, especially Israel and also many other countries, will be the first to be hurt by this agreement [which will pave the way] to an Iranian nuclear arsenal."
"One cannot understand that when forces supported by Iran continue to conquer more ground in Yemen, in Lausanne they are closing their eyes to this aggression."
"This deal, as it appears to be emerging, bears out all of our fears -- and even more than that. The Iran-Lausanne-Yemen axis is very dangerous to humanity and must be stopped." 
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
 Antey-2500 anti-ballistic missile system (Photo from wikipedia.org)
Antey-2500 anti-ballistic missile system (Photo from wikipedia.org)

The most powerful foreign ministers in the world converged on Lausanne, hoping to see some headway in the negotiations by the P5+1 and Tehran. As a sign of confidence in the proceedings, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov left early, preferring not to waste his valuable time any longer, suggesting that if some advances were made he would return to the venue.

The U.S. strives on the surface to ensure that Iran's scientists would require a year to produce weapons grade uranium in amounts sufficient to produce one nuclear bomb. Iran has magnanimously agreed to sacrifice a third of its 9,909 operational centrifuges and to export almost all of its 7.9 tons of low-enriched uranium. Except, really, by agreeing to reduce its centrifuges to 6,000 it still has substantial leeway, and it has in fact, not agreed to the export to Russia of its uranium.

Crossed messages, that kind of thing; interpreted another way, Iran's usual mode of raising trust in its sacred word of honour. For the watered-down consent of Tehran to inadequate guarantees, the Iranian negotiators believe they have the right to demand an immediate lifting of sanctions; sign deal, obtain immediate relief.

"We're getting to the final hours where people have really got to ask what their red lines are -- and if they're really red lines", noted a diplomat in Lausanne. Of course the U.S. and other members of the Security Council team plus Germany prefer a progressive removal of caps on Iranian progress after ten years. Limits on R & D for Iran of centrifuges remain unresolved.

Its latest prototype centrifuge is capable of enriching uranium at 16 times the speed of its current  model. Negotiators intend to see that research to increase the speed of producing weapons-grade uranium is curtailed, and that, once limits on the country's programs have been lifted. As for that other hotly contested issue: Iran remains resistant to attempts to allow inspections proceed to ensure verification.

Ideally, sanctions would be fully lifted after a decade of proven compliance. But as the old saying goes it isn't going to happen, and mostly because Iran will continue to balk at permitting free inspections and verification to ensure that discovery of their hidden agenda and production capabilities never see the light of day until Tehran feels the time is right; that would be when they've succeeded in their nuclear aspirations.

It's their !gotcha! game.

Labels: , , ,

Community Support

"For us, it makes it particularly difficult that the only victim from Montabaur is suspected to have caused this tragedy, this crash -- although this has not been finally confirmed, but a lot is indicating that -- and we have to face this."
"The co-pilot, the family belong to our community, and we stand by this, and we embrace them and will not hide this, and want to support the family in particular."
Pastor Michael Dietrich, Lutheran Church, Montabaur
A police car waits in front of the house of the family of Andreas Lubitz in Montabaur, Germany, Friday, March 27, 2015. Lubitz was the co-pilot on the  Germanwings plane  that crashed with 150 people on board on Tuesday in the French Alps. (AP Photo Frank Augstein)
A police car waits in front of the house of the family of Andreas Lubitz in Montabaur, Germany, Friday, March 27, 2015. Lubitz was the co-pilot on the Germanwings plane that crashed with 150 people on board on Tuesday in the French Alps. (AP Photo Frank Augstein)

Radar tapes indicate that Flight 9525 climbed normally after departure from Barcelona-El Prat Airport to the cruising altitude assigned it at 38,000 feet, a routine flight and a routine elevation that it maintained for a few minutes before a slight course correction. And then, suddenly, a steep but controlled descent took place of just over eight minutes duration. And then, that controlled descent resulted in the plane disintegrating with all aboard flying into biologically minute bits on impact with a mountain in the French Alps.

That precipitous, unauthorized descent was initiated, under the co-pilot's control after he had been given the temporary control of the flight cabin as the pilot stepped outside for a moment to relieve himself in the lavatory. Presumably, he had completed his mission before he fully realized that his co-pilot had plans other than the planned landing he had briefed him with before leaving the cockpit momentarily.

So when he returned and inputted the code to open the cockpit door, he understood it had been deliberately bolted from within. And then began his frantic pleading for entry. Obviously, the conversation picked up by the flight recorder of the verbal exchange between the two men at the landing briefing when Andreas Lubitz responded to Captain Sonderheimer on the Dusseldorf landing with "Hopefully" and "We'll see", wasn't taken seriously by the captain.

Perhaps an off-day for his co-pilot? Well, he was right. It was an off-day, and Andreas Lubitz presumably had plenty of those off-days. Enough so that various medical professionals examining his state of mind gave him a number of notes to be handed to his employers excusing him from work duty on a number of occasions. Including that fateful off-day. When he chose to aim the Airbus 320 into a mountain last Tuesday, taking 150 unwilling people to an early death.

A view of the crash site near Seyne-les-Alpes, France, Monday, March 30, 2015.  European investigators are focusing on the psychological state of a 27...
A view of the crash site near Seyne-les-Alpes, France, Monday, March 30, 2015. European investigators are focusing on the psychological state of a 27-year-old German co-pilot who prosecutors say deliberately flew a Germanwings plane carrying 150 people into a mountain, a French police official said Monday. (AP Photo/Claude Paris, Pool)

According to the German newspaper Bild Am Sonntag, details from the recording transcript demonstrate that Mr. Lubitz had a predetermined plan; that his off-day hadn't been the result of a spontaneous decision, but one that had been hatched much earlier in time. The hour and a half recording has Mr. Lubitz suggesting that Captain Sonderheimer absent himself from the cockpit to relieve himself, and he would take over controls.

And he did just that. Mr. Lubitz said "You can go now", and Mr. Sonderheimer responded "You can take over". And this is precisely what Mr. Lubitz did. He took over, and it was final. That simple transaction sealed the fate of 150 people and one plane. No reentry for the pilot, no intervention possible to rescue 150 people from death. A mountain is an immovable object.

A plane's aluminum skin is relatively fragile, and certainly human beings are even more fragile, given to falling apart when high speed slams them against an immovable object.

Rescue workers work at the crash site near Seyne-les-Alpes, France, Monday, March 30, 2015.  European investigators are focusing on the psychological ...
Rescue workers work at the crash site near Seyne-les-Alpes, France, Monday, March 30, 2015. European investigators are focusing on the psychological state of a 27-year-old German co-pilot who prosecutors say deliberately flew a Germanwings plane carrying 150 people into a mountain, a French police official said Monday. (AP Photo/Claude Paris, Pool)

Death, at least, was instant. No one suffered more than a few minutes of blazing apprehension and deadly fear. Days later, investigators gathered evidence in the co-pilot's Dusseldorf rented flat validating that he suffered from serious mental health problems. Psychiatric medication and additional evidence he was suffering "severe burn-out syndrome", was taken away from the flat.

That, on the psychological side; on the physical side serious problems with his eyesight leading to a 30% loss of vision. A makeshift road is being built through impassable mountain terrain so four-wheel-drive vehicles can be enabled to reach the crash site; far more efficient than the current access only by helicopter where DNA samples have been collected from almost half of the victims.

Gendarme Bruno Hermignies stands by a bulldozer clearing a path to the crash site near Seyne-les-Alpes, France, Monday, March 30, 2015.  European...
Gendarme Bruno Hermignies stands by a bulldozer clearing a path to the crash site near Seyne-les-Alpes, France, Monday, March 30, 2015. European investigators are focusing on the psychological state of a 27-year-old German co-pilot who prosecutors say deliberately flew a Germanwings plane carrying 150 people into a mountain, a French police official said Monday. (AP Photo/Claude Paris, Pool)

Well, of course human rights laws in Germany take the protective preservation of private information very seriously. Which, Lufthansa hints, made it difficult for them to obtain the information that might be required to understand that one of their young new pilots might be problematical from the standpoint of reliability and passenger safety. Nonsense, of course.

Amazing; the country that once distinguished itself as a genocidal war monger embroiling much of the world in a cataclysmic conflict and destroying half of the globe's Jews, has become a human-rights defender of outstanding principle; defending the mentally disadvantage at the expense of the greater public; how much more noble in atonement can they become?

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Awaiting Full Details....

A transcript of the final moments of Germanwings Flight 4U9525 has been published by the German newspaper Bild. Reflecting the captured sound in the cockpit voice recorder where the captain, Patrick Sondenheimer, informs his co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz that he hadn't been able to relieve himself before takeoff, and planned to take a few moments to do so while the plane was in maximum altitude and landing was not far off.

"You can take over", the captain said to his co-pilot.

Soon afterward the captain attempts to re-enter the cockpit. He is denied entry. He asks his co-pilot to unlock the door. Soon he is banging frantically on the door, screaming "For God's sake, open the door!" His mind, no doubt, fixated on the prospect of the early termination of many lives, his own included. And by then the passengers have been alerted to something having gone terribly wrong with the routine flight they have taken.

And, at the frantic demand of authority in the voice of the captain: "Open the damn door!",  and the sound of the axe he is wielding against the door reaches their consciousness, the knowledge that something horrible is about to occur, is reflected in the brief period of screaming the recorder picks up before the plane hits a mountaintop. Investigators believe there is the sound of the plane's wing hitting the mountain.

Before death makes its entrance.

This is the action of a man who resists being told what to do. This is the decision-making of a young man accustomed to having things work out his way. From flying lessons as a teen enabling him to lift a plane off on his own at age 14, to general admiration for his physical prowess, keen enthusiasms, and determined pursuit of a commercial pilot's license. And his belief that he can buy back the affection of a girlfriend by gifting her with a car.

A young man who, though he seeks the help of medical professionals, refuses their advice when it interferes with his aspirational plans. The number of undelivered doctors' scripts excusing Andreas Lubitz from work duty testament enough to his attitude toward his entitlements and his disregard for the welfare of those whose safety has been entrusted to him. When an emotional illiterate mired in his juvenile sense of self has no interest in the public good.

French Gendarmes fly over Germanwings crash site, 26 March 2015
Access to the crash site is very difficult for the recovery teams

Friends and acquaintances describe him in glowing terms as a friendly, well-adjusted, ambitious young man, capable and responsible. The individual who committed suicide and with it mass murder cannot possibly be the man whom they knew. Until enquiries are made of a young woman - two young women - who knew him intimately, and then the ego-driven agenda of a man bridling with resentment arises.

But wait, not everyone is prepared to condemn Andreas Lubitz. Certainly not defenders and spokespeople for those afflicted with mental disorders who decry condemnation of someone with mental illness being guilty of murder as precipitously reaching a conclusion when not all 'facts' are known as yet. And the German Airline Pilots Association points to the fact that the flight data recorder remains missing so that reasons for the crash cannot yet be fully determined.

And the European Cockpit Association claims the release of voice recorder data represents a "serious breach" of globally accepted rules, while many questions remain unanswered. Rushing to judgement, are we? In criticizing a relaxation of vigilance on behalf of the travelling public who trust that no reputable airlines would ever risk inviting disaster by permitting someone with a history of mental illness to have the responsibility of safety for airline passengers.

Recovery team at Germanwings crash site in the French Alps, 25 March 2015
They can only get to the crash site on foot or with the help of helicopters

Authorities at the airlines were aware that Andreas Lubitz interrupted his pilot training sessions for months while he underwent psychiatric treatment. And when he returned to those training sessions he was deemed fully fit to resume training, representing a fine specimen of reliable, capable and talented material as a pilot in whom complete trust could be placed that he would undertake his professional duties in a manner to make his trainers proud.

Labels: , , ,

Arming Hezbollah

"What happens in Syria, happens in Lebanon [in terms of weapons availability], and vice versa. I’ll go a step further and say that everything that happens in Iran can end up in Syria, which can then end up in Lebanon. In the event of war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, I’m not sure Syria will remain on the sidelines. Hezbollah assists the Assad regime, and the help is mutual."
"The types of warheads and their ranges are many. We are in a completely different situation. The sector has changed. They can fire it at military headquarters in Tel Aviv."
"It [the Yakhont] is very fast. It has unusual capabilities. It can fly at a very high altitude, or a low one, depending on the variation. Such weapons pose a challenge to all Western navies in the area."
Israeli Navy source
Tunnel storage for Iranian Qiam ballistic missiles...Press TV-ir

Israel has its concerns, and they are myriad. Hamas threatening to pounce again, from next door in Gaza. And Hezbollah, despite being diverted temporarily next door in Syria, looming as yet another threat as both terrorist groups have been busy since their last military confrontations with Israel, amassing ever-more powerful weapons, secured, generally, from the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran has been quite busy itself on a large number of fronts. Sending out its tentacles near and abroad, from Yemen to South America and beyond.

Securing allies from the netherworld of outlier countries in support of Iranian connections. Building its network of support while undermining the sovereign territories of other countries by inveigling their Shiite sympathizers to follow in the Iranian Revolutionary footsteps in an eventual global undertaking to see Islamist Shiites, quite the equal of any Sunni Islamist extremist entities, take command of the world's fastest-expanding religion.

The upgraded technical qualities of Hezbollah's new acquisitions of surface-to-sea missiles is spoken of as "unprecedented", with dozens of such advanced weaponry in its arsenal, an estimated ten different types of such advanced missiles ready to be placed into action. Among them the Yakhont has a 300 kilometer range. That weaponry has been flowing into Syria and Lebanon, two politically unstable and critically volatile countries whose civil authority has collapsed into violent extremism.

The Israeli Navy, cognizant of all this movement finds itself spending a good deal of operational time and energy in dealing with the smuggling of those advanced weapons as Iran continues to develop its own weapons from templates originating from other states' technologies. It has developed its own smuggling industry as it studiously and covertly arms its allies and proxies in Syria and Lebanon whose semi-state groups are advancing and with their jihadist agendsas likelier as time goes on to attempt sea-based terrorist attacks.

Hezbollah's chief Hassan Nasrallah has plans for offensive moves with which to confidently confront Israel in their next confrontation, seeing his group as equal in terms of experience on the battlefield and with equipment equal to that which the Israels have themselves developed or obtained from other sources. Four new missile ships meant to secure four gas drilling platforms in Israel's Exclusive Economic Zone in the Mediterranean comprising an area 2-1/2 times larger than Israel, are slated for the Israeli Navy's possession.

And it is precisely those gas rigs, among other targets that appear increasingly attractive to Hezbollah. In anticipation of which the navy is busy setting up defense layers to surround those vulnerable targets, which include anti-missile defenses on ships and underwater defenses. Additional ships for this task represent an absolute necessity, according to the naval source. The Israeli navy's submarines, according to yet another naval source, carried out covert operations offshore in numbers, in 2014. "We conducted series of operations in various sectors. Some lasted weeks."

The military is hugely dependent on the capacity of submarines to help gather intelligence, including signals intelligence, while remaining submerged for long periods of time far from Israeli shores. The INS Tanin, the fourth German-Dolphin submarine to become part of the navy's fleet, representing the first vessel equipped with Air Independent Propulsion, received weapons and communications systems from domestic defence groups in Israel after their arrival in September from Germany.

Israel has never been advised to relax its guard. Where in years earlier it was the surrounding Arab countries of the Middle East that threatened its existence, it is now their proxies which do the same by stealth attack on an intermittent basis. While the Middle East is at war with itself as sectarian clashes wreak their wholesale bloodbaths and governments are dismantled and reassembled, the voids that occur before they are once again closed, welcome a flood of non-state extremist militias.

At such time as the countries of the Middle East reach an impasse or a solution however temporary, in their aggression against one another, their attention will revert to their commonly-perceived enemy, a Jewish State in the midst of a Muslim geography irrespective of the Judean heritage that far predated Islam. And then the threat will redouble with Israel on the alert against a bored group of states looking around to resume their antipathy for an intruder, plus their proxy jihadist militias.

In a dysfunctional geography where ancient grudges are never laid to rest, where tribal animosities and sectarian rivalries continually erupt in restive and violent clashes, the greater population is held in thrall to the ambitions of tyrants, oil sheikdoms and kingdoms whose tyrannical rule just manages to keep competing ethnic and clan and religious groups from one another's throats. When those populations become unruly and resistant to their oppressive rulers, mayhem erupts and Israel can relax.

Until the tide, as it inevitably does, turns back to swell the shore of discontent and Jew hatred turns the collective attention and their scimitars, allegorical and advanced into technological death machines to routing Jews and their state from land consecrated to Allah.

Labels: , , , , , ,

The Iran Dilemma: From the Energy-Money-Market Perspective

"My guess is that on March 24th nothing will be done. Both the Iranians and Americans are pointing at the end of March, and my guess is that there will be enough agreement that they will be able to pull something together, but it will be very broad -- and even that's not certain."
"You might see some additional cash flows around restricted Iranian assets ... but in my experience, you are not going to see any real relief on sanctions for at least six months after a deal is done."
Richard Nephew, program director, economic statecraft, sanctions and energy markets, Columbia Centre on Global Energy Policy

"A chance that we get a framework agreement or a 'political understanding' is high -- around 70%."
"[Still significant gaps] Most importantly,U.S. sanctions relief, which Iranians demand upfront, and I just don't think the U.S. is going to go there."
"[A deal] would place modest downward pressure on the oil price [but there] is a lot of geopolitical momentum on both sides to make it harder to walk back."
Cliff Cupchan, chairman, Eurasia, Middle East and North Africa, Eurasia Group

"Iran could increase its oil production between 500,000 to 800,000 bpd within three to six months."
"According to Iran's five-year plan, the country had to invest $255-billion in its energy industry from 2011-2015 [falling short due to international sanctions and a ban on foreign investment]."
Sara Vakhshouri, consultant, Washington

"The big problem is that there are multi-layered sanctions by multiple entities and you cannot just flip a switch and make them go away."
"It's not hard to see how complex this spiderweb is."
Helima Croft, head commodity strategy, RBC Capital Markets
Well, that's the perspective from global money and oil markets, focusing only on the balance  between oil availability and cost, and the release of international funds for investment purposes in one of the world's largest oil-producing countries now constrained in marketing its output and lacking needed release of foreign investments  to upgrade its creaking infrastructure. 
That Tehran is a supporter of Islamist terror, and is itself a terrorist Islamist source is entirely irrelevant to the international money market; they too are constrained by virtue of sanctions.

Neither Iran nor the international investment community are thrilled with those sanctions, interfering with the flow of oil and money. What happens in Syria, in Iraq, in Libya and in Yemen and Iran's role in the confrontation between the split Middle East in its sectarian conflicts is of little interest to those markets. Nor do they much care that the United States hardly knows in which direction to turn first in its entanglements, embarrassments and disappointments.

They could ask an Iranian journalist, once influential in the campaign to elect the current Iranian president, now asking for political asylum in Switzerland his opinion. Amir Hossein Motaghi would tell them that his profession in Iran is a lost cause since he no longer wishes to write only what he is compelled to write, in reflection of the Ayatollahs' perspective on all things Iranian versus the international community.
According to his testimony printed in the British Telegraph, the White House is frantic to persuade the other P5+1 members that all should accept Iran's point of view; not a difficult persuasion for China and Russia, but France and Britain might prove a problem. Germany is hugely dependent on Russia for its energy and wouldn't mind a more relaxed energy market, so it's kind of 50X50. 
"The U.S. negotiating team is mainly there to speak on Iran's behalf with other members of the 5+1 countries and convince them of a deal", he said. And he should know.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told his country in 2013 that economic sanctions will never force Iran into unwelcome concessions over nuclear development. Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader, via Associated Press
And to obtain a more fully rounded perspective they could always confer with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who yesterday said "While [world powers] convene to sign this deal, Iran’s proxies in Yemen are conquering large swaths of land in an effort to overtake the Bab al-Mandab straits, so that they can change the balance of power in shipping oil"
The European Union before the sanctions were imposed in 2012, imported 452,000 barrels per day of Iranian oil. Understandably, they are anxious to have those imports resumed, to aid them in their determination to wean themselves away from Russian energy importation. But it is Iran with the most to gain from an agreement, sitting on the world's fourth-largest crude oil and second-largest natural gas reserves.
With, unfortunately, its foreign trade and oil exports maimed by sanctions targeting its financial services sector leaving its economy to contract almost 6% as oil revenues dwindled from $93-billion to $33-billion. Even China, India and Japan cut Iranian imports so that they languished last year at their lowest levels in decades. Should an agreement be reached, Iranian oil minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh estimates a million barrels per day of Iranian crude could inter the market.
Yet it is Iran itself, despite Secretary of State John Kerry's puppyish anxiety to placate and surrender one immovable position of the U.S. after another to please Iran's demands, that balks at delivering to President Barack Obama the 'success' he so bullishly seeks for his departure legacy. Iran's acceptance of the need to send a large portion of its uranium stockpile to Russia has taken a reverse step. 
Iran's deputy foreign minister surprised everyone by ruling out that agreement to surrender the stockpile that Iran spent years and billions to amass.

Leaving Mr. Kerry with an undoubted headache of volcanic proportions, and challenging him to come up with some other ways to present to the international community the assurance that  it doesn't really matter, and Iran can keep its enriched nuclear stockpile after all, and the solution to the problem is simply to give Iran whatever it insists upon and trust the word of the Ayatollahs that they have no interest in nuclear arms, as an honourable Islamic country of great humanitarian principles.
Foreign ministers from other world powers joined Secretary of State John Kerry in an effort to reach the outlines of a nuclear accord with Iran by a midnight Tuesday deadline. Credit Pool photo by Brendan Smialowski
"The export of stocks of enriched uranium is not in our program, and we do not intend sending them abroad. There is no question of sending the stocks abroad."
Abbas Araqchi, Iranian nuclear negotiating official 

Labels: , , , , ,

The Saudis have done something unprecedented in putting together a military coalition to support Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour, seen here being greeted upon his arrival in Riyadh on March 26 by the Saudi Defense Minister, Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
The Middle East witnessed something radically new two days ago, when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia responded to a plea by Yemen's president and led a 10-country coalition to intervene in the air and on the ground in the country. "Operation Decisive Storm" prompts many reflections:
Saudi and Egypt in alliance: Half a century ago, Riyadh and Cairo were active in a Yemen war, but then they supported opposing sides, respectively the status-quo forces and the revolutionaries. Their now being allies points to continuity in Saudia along with profound changes in Egypt.

Arabic-speakers getting their act together: Through Israel's early decades, Arabs dreamt of uniting militarily against it but the realities of infighting and rivalries smashed every such hope. Even on the three occasions (1948-49, 1967, 1973) when they did join forces, they did so at cross-purposes and ineffectively.

How striking, then that finally they should coalesce not against Israel but against Iran.

Arab leaders have a long history of meeting but not cooperating. From the right: King Hussein of Jordan, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Yasir Arafat of the PLO, and Muammar Qaddafi of Libya in September 1970.
This implicitly points to their understanding that the Islamic Republic of Iran poses a real threat, whereas anti-Zionism amounts to mere indulgence. It also points to panic and the need to take action resulting from a stark American retreat.

Yemen at the center of attention: Yemen played a peripheral role in the Bible, in the rise of Islam, and in modern times; it's never been the focus of world concern – until suddenly now. Yemen resembles other once-marginal countries – the Koreas, Cuba, the Vietnams, Afghanistan – which out of nowhere became the focus of global concern.

The Middle East cold war went hot: The Iranian and Saudi regimes have headed dueling blocs for about a decade. They did combat as the U.S. and Soviet governments once did – via contending ideologies, espionage, aid, trade, and covert action. On March 26, that cold war went hot, where it's likely long to remain.

Arab leaders understand that the Islamic Republic of Iran poses a real threat, whereas anti-Zionism is mere indulgence.
Can the Saudi-led coalition win? Highly unlikely, as these are rookies taking on Iran's battle-hardened allies in a forbidding terrain.

Islamists dominate: The leaders of both blocs share much: both aspire universally to apply the sacred law of Islam (the Shari'a), both despise infidels, and both turned faith into ideology. Their falling out confirms Islamism as the Middle East's only game, permitting its proponents the luxury to fight each other.

The Turkey-Qatar-Muslim Brotherhood alliance in decline: A third alliance of Sunni revisionists somewhere between the Shi'i revolutionaries and the Sunni status-quotians has been active during recent years in many countries – Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya. But now, in part thanks to diplomacy initiated by the brand-new King Salman of Saudi Arabia, its members are gravitating toward their Sunni co-religionists.

Isolated Iran: Yes, a belligerent Tehran now boasts of dominating four Arab capitals (Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, Sana'a) but that's also its problem: abrupt Iranian gains have many in the region (including such previously friendly states as Pakistan and Sudan) fearing Iran.

American diplomats meet again with their Iranian counterparts to capitulate on yet another difference.
Sidelining the Arab-Israeli conflict: If the Obama administration and European leaders remain obsessed with Palestinians, seeing them as key to the region, regional players have far more urgent priorities. Not only does Israel hardly concern them but the Jewish state serves as a tacit auxiliary of the Saudi-led bloc. Does this change mark a long-term shift in Arab attitudes toward Israel?

Probably not; when the Iran crisis fades, expect attention to return to the Palestinians and Israel, as it always does.

American policy in disarray: Middle East hands rightly scoffed in 2009 when Barack Obama and his fellow naïfs expected that by leaving Iraq, smiling at Tehran, and trying harder at Arab-Israeli negotiations they would fix the region, permitting a "pivot" to East Asia. Instead, the incompetents squatting atop the U.S. government cannot keep up with fast-moving, adverse events, many of its own creation (anarchy in Libya, tensions with traditional allies, a more bellicose Iran).

Impact on a deal with Iran: Although Washington has folded on many positions in negotiations with Iran and done the mullah's regime many favors (for example, not listing it or its Hizbullah ally as terrorist), it drew a line in Yemen, offering the anti-Iran coalition some support. Will Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamene'i now stomp out of the talks? Highly unlikely, for the deal offered him is too sweet to turn down.

In sum, Salman's skilled diplomacy and his readiness to use force in Yemen responds to the deadly combination of Arab anarchy, Iranian aggression, and Obama weakness in a way that will shape the region for years.
Daniel Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Gatestone Institute

The troublesome truth is that there is no apartheid in Israel. Israel allows Arabs and Muslims full human and civil rights in all areas of life, including as full members of Israel's Parliament, the Knesset.
To brand Israel as an apartheid state when none of these restrictions exist is not only defamatory propaganda but, according to the black South African Reverend Kenneth Meshoe, trivializes the real suffering of blacks under apartheid.
While Tutu et al discuss Israel the "oppressor," Israel's surrounding enemies seek to obliterate it in accordance with their genocidal charter. Given the silence of Tutu et al on that subject, apparently an agenda of genocide is not seen by them as an injustice.
Tutu also disregards the countless Christians being slaughtered in Muslim states; that black slaves are still being held in Muslim states such as Mauritania; the forcible taking of "infidel" slaves by Boko Haram and ISIS; the racist genocide in Darfur and the 10 million Muslims slaughtered by other Muslims since 1948.
Critics of Sabeel suggest that it actually seems to be a political organization promoting anti-Israel propaganda while driving Church policy toward destroying Israel through BDS.
Why are Desmond Tutu, Sabeel and the anti-Semitic Churches that support BDS so tolerant of the persecution of Christians, global Islamist terrorism, the perpetual threat of Israel's obliteration and the fact that Muslims have driven Christians out of Bethlehem, the very place of Jesus's birth?
These calumnies and misrepresentations have nothing to do with peace and even less to do with justice. They are even more unacceptable coming from church groups or a man of the cloth.
A virulent global campaign by a powerful Christian lobby is trying to influence the Church and use it to delegitimize Israel. The lobbying group is the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, with Nobel Prize Laureate and retired Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu as its patron.

Tutu not only agreed to serve as Sabeel's patron but also to "assist the Palestinian Christian organization in its outreach and development work with Christian Churches around the world."

On its website, Sabeel refers to Israel in terms such as "oppressor," "occupier," "immoral", a violator of Palestinian human rights and its founder, Naim Ateek, refers to Israel's "crucifixion" of Palestinians:
"It only takes people of insight to see the hundreds of thousands of crosses throughout the land, Palestinian men, women, and children being crucified.... The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily."
As a principal agent of the Sabeel lobby, Desmond Tutu's words of indictment reference Israel as the "oppressor."

Tutu knows hate first-hand from South African apartheid, but acutely damages his stature and credibility by unjustly exploiting the tragedy inflicted by the South African regime. He does this in a defamatory propaganda message permeating the Christian Church under liberation theology. He stated outright in an article: "I know firsthand that Israel has created an apartheid reality within its borders and through its occupation. The parallels to my own beloved South Africa are painfully stark indeed." Meanwhile, Israel allows Arabs and Muslims full human rights in all areas of life, including as full members of Israel's Parliament, the Knesset.

Liberation theology is a radical movement that originally developed in South America before making its way to South Africa. The movement was apparently created in response to poverty and ill-treatment of ordinary people. It was caricatured in the phrase, "If Jesus Christ were on Earth today, he would be a Marxist revolutionary."

Liberation theology subsequently became influential in the Churches under South African apartheid. Black theologians, to answer the faith questions of the poor and oppressed, confronted the theology of the Christian status quo, which tended to align with the prevailing institutions of power. Hence, in 1985, the Kairos document was developed, which offered a necessary alternative to biblical and theological models. In essence, the Kairos document focused on the message of liberation theology by encouraging the reading and interpreting of the bible through the eyes of the poor.

To the theologians, the Kairos document was a challenge to the church to rise up against apartheid. The theologians deemed it to be "the moment of grace and opportunity, the favorable time in which God issues a challenge to decisive action." They continued: "If this opportunity is missed, and allowed to pass by, the loss for the Church, for the Gospel and for all the people of South Africa will be immeasurable."

What was once crafted as a just challenge to the Church in 1985 thus became warped into propaganda in 2009, when a new document, the Kairos Palestine , was written. Although based on the same "faith questions of the poor and oppressed" under the South African apartheid regime, this time the Palestinians were presented as the equivalently oppressed.
While Tutu et al discuss Israel the "oppressor," Israel's surrounding enemies seek to obliterate it in accordance with their genocidal charter. Given the silence of Tutu et al on that subject, apparently an agenda of genocide is not seen by them as an injustice.

Continuing to misuse South African black suffering as a launch pad, Tutu has also been forceful in his push for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. He states that BDS helped to achieve South African democracy and that BDS will work toward ending "Israel's decades long occupation of Palestinian territory and the unfair and prejudicial treatment of the Palestinian people by the Israeli government ruling over them" -- despite the fact that Jews have lived in the area for nearly 4,000 years.

Tutu also states: "I have witnessed the systemic humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces... their humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government."

The troublesome truth, however, is that there is no apartheid in Israel. Black South African Reverend Kenneth Meshoe, founder and president of the African Christian Democratic Party and member of the South African parliament since 1994, indicates that under apartheid South Africa, blacks could not vote or hold high government positions; the races were strictly segregated at sports arenas, schools, hospitals, public transportation, public washrooms, benches in waiting rooms; and blacks had inferior medical care, hospitals, and education; they were forced to live in separate residential enclaves. Blacks also carried IDs to show their place of residence at all times, or they faced the penalty of being beaten or thrown in jail. In other words, blacks were criminalized for being black and severely restricted by state laws. Further, marriage was also outlawed between different races.

To brand Israel as an apartheid state, when none of these restrictions exist, is not only defamatory propaganda, but, according to Meshoe, trivializes the real suffering of blacks under apartheid. Meshoe has visited Israel many times, and says that he has never seen any evidence of apartheid. In his reference to the purely defensive so-called "apartheid" wall, Meshoe accurately calls it the "security" barrier. "It is the responsibility of every government to assure the safety of its citizens," he says.

While Sabeel states as its mission support of the "oppressed" Palestinians of the "indigenous Church," it never highlights the oppression and abuses of Palestinians by their own leadership, or the leadership of other countries hosting them such as Jordan or Lebanon. Tutu also disregards the abuses by Hamas, which uses its Palestinian citizens as human shields in its wars to obliterate Israel.

As the patron of Sabeel Center, Tutu also disregards the countless Christians being slaughtered in Muslim states; that black slaves are still being held in Muslim states such as Mauritania; the forcible taking of "infidel" slaves and sex slaves by Boko Haram and ISIS; the racist genocide in Darfur and the 10 million Muslims slaughtered by other Muslims since 1948.

Clockwise from top right: Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu; Anti-semitic writer Max Blumenthal addresses the Friends of Sabeel North America 2014 conference; A Friends of Sabeel North America activist in Portland, Oregon stands in front of a Target store, demanding the boycott of SodaStream, an Israeli company.

Critics of Sabeel suggest that it actually seems to be a political organization promoting anti-Israel propaganda in Christian churches globally, while driving Church policy toward destroying Israel through BDS.

Sabeel also states that, "for many years the Palestinians rejected the establishment of the state of Israel because it was founded on the denial and violation of Palestinian rights."

Historically, however, it is the Jews -- then Romans, then Christians, then Arabs then later the Turks -- who lived on that land during nearly 4,000 years. Historically, it has always been the Arabs who rejected all Jewish rights, including, in the last century, their rejection of the UN partition plan. On the day of Israel's founding in 1948, a group of Arab armies invaded Israel. The Palestinians also refused to make even a counter-offer to generous plans set forth by Israeli Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, both of which offered 97% of everything the Palestinians were demanding.

According to a brief by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, face-to-face surveys found that most Palestinians in east Jerusalem would prefer to become citizens of Israel rather than citizens of a new Palestinian state.

One must ask, then, why is it that Desmond Tutu, Sabeel and the anti-Semitic churches that support BDS are so tolerant of the persecution of Christians, global Islamist terrorism, the perpetual threat of Israel's obliteration and the fact that Muslims have driven Christians out of Bethlehem, the very place of Jesus's birth?

Bethlehem's Christians accounted for over 85% of the population in 1948, and the number dwindled since then, to 12% in 2006. The disputed territories of the West Bank and Gaza have for years been administered by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and by an elected Hamas. Under these regimes, Christian Arabs have been victims of human rights abuses, including beatings, torture, kidnappings, forced marriages, sexual harassment, intimidation, land thefts, firebombing of churches, denial of employment and economic boycotts.

In addition, PA Leader Mahmoud Abbas has declared about a future Palestinian state: "In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli -- civilian or soldier -- on our lands." And a declaration like that is not considered apartheid?

Friends of Sabeel conferences continue to take place several times annually in major North American cities, where calls for BDS are sounded, and where "overcoming Christian Zionism in a quest for Justice" in "seeking the peace of Jerusalem" is a major theme. These calumnies and misrepresentations of Israel have nothing to do with peace and even less to do with justice. They are even more unacceptable coming from church groups or a man of the cloth.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

() Follow @rheytah Tweet