The American Kafir

2012/05/09

Arming Iraq is a mistake

Arming Iraq is a mistake

Source Article Link: Israel Hayom

By Dore Gold

As Tehran became increasingly frustrated with Turkey earlier in the week, and Iran was looking for alternative locations, besides Istanbul, to hold its nuclear talks with the West, one of the options that came up was Baghdad. It appears that since the U.S. completed the withdrawal of troops from Iraq at the end of 2011, Iran has grown increasingly comfortable, in the diplomatic sense, in the Iraqi capital. There are multiple signs indicating that Iraq is increasingly becoming a satellite state of Iran.

To begin with, there is a considerable Iranian military presence within Iraq, which commands significant political influence. In January 2012, the commander of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards, General Qassem Sulemani, was widely quoted by the Arab press as boasting that Iran today is in control of Southern Lebanon as well as Iraq. Dr. Amal al-Hazani, a professor at King Saud University in Riyadh, wrote in al-Sharq al-Awsat on January 28, 2012, that “even Sunni politicians in Iraq confessed meekly that the Quds Force is the absolute master of Iraqi affairs.”

If that is the present state of affairs, then U.S. plans to build up the new Iraqi Air Force are particularly troubling. A senior IDF officer told Yaakov Katz, the Jerusalem Post’s military correspondent and defense analyst, that Israel is increasingly concerned with intelligence reports that the Revolutionary Guards are solidifying their presence in Iraq. The context of the Israeli concern is the Obama administration’s decision to go ahead with the sale of 36 advanced F-16 Block 52 fighters, which have the same capabilities as the F-16 fighter jets sold to Israel. Iraq is expected to need a total of six fighter squadrons to defend its airspace, which could lead to a force of up to 96 aircraft.

At this time, the commander of the Iraqi Air Force doesn’t expect the F-16s to be operational until 2015, but Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Malaki, is pressing for accelerated delivery by 2013. There are reports that the Iraqi F-16 weapons systems, like its air-to-air missiles, will have “slight downgrades,” but these can be easily fixed. With the Iranian penetration of Iraq continuing, no one should be surprised if there are reports in the future that Iranian pilots are inspecting the Iraqi F-16s in order to develop their own countermeasures to Western aircraft and weapons systems. If the administration is equipping Iraq to be a counterweight to Iran, then somebody in Washington is making a big mistake.

Arms sales to the Iraqi Air Force present a difficult dilemma for the U.S. On the one hand, arms sales are one of the oldest methods employed by the U.S. to develop pro-American attitudes among the officer corps of Arab military establishments. Early this year, Iraqi pilots arrived at an airbase in Tucson, Arizona to begin learning how to fly the F-16. They will develop relationships with their American trainers. Today in Egypt, with the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, the time the U.S. has invested in training, equipping and exercising with the Egyptian Army undoubtedly has helped preserve its pro-Western orientation.

On the other hand, building close ties with the officers of Arab air forces does not guarantee the political orientation of their country in the future. In Iran, after the fall of the Shah, Ayatollah Khomeini purged the officer corps of the Iranian armed forces. In Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ordered the arrest of dozens of Turkish officers who he suspects might plot a coup against his Islamist government. In Iraq, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are right there on the ground, while the U.S. is thousands of miles away with only an embassy, which has been reduced in size, in Baghdad.

Israel is not the only country which should be raising its eyebrows at the prospect of a U.S.-equipped Iraqi Air Force emerging in the years ahead. Saudi Arabia should also be concerned with the Iraqi military buildup. Politically, the two countries belong to competing axes in the Arab world. Iraq is not only pro-Iranian, it also backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Indeed, when the U.S. asked Prime Minister al-Maliki to close off Iraqi air space to Iranian aircraft resupplying Assad, he refused and opted to help Iran instead.

Many forget that al-Maliki lived in exile in Iran for eight years; his party, al-Dawa, was close with Hezbollah. The Iraqi prime minister’s recent actions will undoubtedly reconfirm the suspicions of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who once called al-Maliki “an Iranian agent,” according to a March 2009 Wikileaks cable that was noted on an earlier occasion in this column.

Now the “Iranian agent” will be getting state-of-the-art American aircraft. It should be recalled that Saudi Arabia is Iran’s main adversary in the Arab world and it is a leading opponent of the Assad regime. Indeed, right after the recent Arab summit in Baghdad, al-Maliki launched a verbal tirade criticizing Saudi Arabia and Qatar for their hostile attitude toward the Assad regime. Along with its growing political differences with Baghdad, Saudi Arabia will have to face new Iraqi military capabilities along its northern border, which it hasn’t had to deal with since 1990. The new situation will allow Iran to encircle Saudi Arabia with pressures on three fronts: Bahrain in the east, Yemen in the south, and Iraq in the north.

Israel will need to carefully monitor political and military developments in Iraq. It is imperative that Israel raise this sale with Washington when the issue of Israel’s qualitative military edge is raised. Iraq has been absent from the strategic balance in the Middle East for two decades. Besides investing in its air force, the Iraqi government hopes to build a land army of 14 divisions. It is also buying Abrams tanks from the U.S.

But as much as Washington will still try to control events in a country where its army once ruled, it will have to recognize that, unfortunately, Iran, at present, is emerging as the dominant power in Baghdad, which will ultimately influence what strategic objectives the Iraqi Army will serve along Israel’s eastern front.


(From left) Prof. Joshua Teitelbaum, Efraim Inbar, Ze’ev Maghen and Eytan Gilboa .“We’re realists, not just conservatives.”Photo credit: KOKO

Sanctions or strike: Five Israeli experts weigh in on Iran

Source Article Link: Israel Hayom

By Shlomo Cesana

Israel Hayom presents a special roundtable discussion in which five Israeli experts in Middle Eastern and international politics discuss the Iranian nuclear threat, whether Israel can trust the U.S. and whether the era of American deterrence in the region is over • Meanwhile, 60 percent of Israelis believe the only way to stop Iran is by means of a military strike, according to a new poll.

Seven years ago, Professor Efraim Inbar wrote a document whose bottom line could be summed up as advocating for Israel to attack Iran to stop it from attaining a nuclear capability. This week, Inbar, a political scientist who currently serves as the director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, is somewhat encouraged that more and more Israelis have now reached the same conclusion.

To bolster this line of thinking, a poll commissioned this week by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, the think tank headed by Dore Gold, indicates that 60 percent of the Israeli public believes the only way to stop Iran is by means of a military strike. Inbar agreed to Israel Hayom’s request and invited four research fellows to take part in a discussion aimed at re-examining the Iranian issue.

“We are realists, not just conservatives,” Inbar said. He also offered a reminder of how his scholar colleagues were correct in their analyses of the Arab Spring, the proliferation of the arms race, the peace process, and Turkey’s shift in policy.

Every semester, Inbar begins the first lesson in his war and strategy course by informing students that there are two significant factors that govern relations between states: Who can hurt the other more; and who can withstand the pain more. He wants to apply these two equations to the Iran issue. “We need to ask ourselves, what goal have the Iranians chosen for themselves and what is the price in pain that they are willing to pay?” he said. “That is the only way we will be able to understand what it is they want to do tomorrow.”

“The way to stop Iran is by means of a military assault,” Inbar said. “I don’t believe that sanctions will help. Officials in Tehran view the bomb as their regime’s insurance policy. Their opinion was reinforced by the West’s behavior toward the Libyan regime. The former ruler of Libya, Moammar Gadhafi, gave up nuclear weapons and eventually was removed from power. If he would have developed nuclear weapons, it would be reasonable to assume that the West wouldn’t cause him any trouble.”

“If the Ayatollahs’ regime comes into possession of nuclear weapons, it will be very difficult to create an effective level of deterrence in the future,” he said. “I also don’t agree with assessments that a second strike is effective enough since this is a dynamic process that requires [Israel] to improve itself in relation to the enemy’s capabilities. Iran’s development of the bomb would trigger a nuclear arms race. In a relatively compact region [like the Middle East], deterrent systems and short distances bear critical significance.”

Trust no one

Inbar minces no words, in expressing his unequivocal view that Israel cannot trust the United States. The era of American deterrence in the region is over. In the short term, the Americans are preoccupied with elections. In the long term, it is uncertain as to whether there will still be a window of opportunity for an attack. Yet even if that window closes, the Americans still believe negotiations can solve everything.

The promises the Americans are making now will not stand up in another month. A history of U.S.-Israel relations teaches us that there have been a great number of promises that haven’t been honored, like the Bush letter regarding settlement blocs that has not been adopted by President Barack Obama.

“States act according to their interests, and they are flexible,” Inbar said. “At the end of the day, you have to be realistic. The world wants quiet. The world wants oil at a reasonable price. If Israel disrupts this calm and upsets global economic stability, the international community will do everything to prevent us from launching a military attack. Another thing is that there are people who say the Iranians are rational. But what if the person who makes this assessment is 10 percent wrong? There is no reason to trust the Iranians.”

Despite his firm beliefs, Inbar knows that the enemy can be unpredictable when it comes to its response to an Israeli or American attack. “It is reasonable to assume that Iran would react with missiles and terrorism,” he said. “We’ve already seen this. People should always remember what price we will have to pay if we don’t attack and if we don’t have nuclear weapons. There’s also the possibility that they won’t do anything and not respond at all.”

Still, Inbar does add a caveat. “On the other hand, I believe that the regime in Iran, in the event that it knows it will one day no longer be in power, is capable of fomenting destruction, and it would want to exit the stage and go down in history as the one who did damage to Israel,” he said. “That is why we mustn’t allow them to reach the stage [of getting a nuclear weapon].”

Worthless sanctions

Professor Eytan Gilboa, who also teaches at Bar-Ilan University and whose area of expertise is U.S. policy in the Middle East as well as international diplomacy, believes the U.S. cannot afford to allow Iran to gain a nuclear bomb. “If Iran goes nuclear, the U.S. would for all intents and purposes lose its position in the Middle East and its hegemony on a global level,” he said. “The Americans are aware of this possibility, and that is why they are constantly declaring they won’t allow it to happen.”

“A nuclear Iran would mean that from now on, Iran is the actor that wields the most influence on governments in the Middle East, not the U.S.,” he said. “Obviously this would give a boost to all of the extremists in the region, which would result in damage to the global economy, the world’s energy markets, and the ability of states to monitor the spread of atomic weapons by way of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.”

To boost his argument, Gilboa also cites America’s guiding principles. “The administration vows that it won’t allow Iran to go nuclear,” he said. “Here we are dealing with the credibility of the U.S. government. They say they will employ whatever means they have at their disposal. To me, this sounds more like an empty slogan. Many within the administration as well as those outside it say that it is impossible to prevent Iran from attaining a nuclear weapon. They say the price of a non-nuclear Iran would be higher than that of a nuclear Iran.”

“In the event that Iran does go nuclear, there are two choices: Either halting the program and bolstering deterrence, or containment and deterrence,” he said. “On the surface, the Americans say that containment is not an option. But in the next breath they talk out of both sides of their mouth and begin leaking stories about how they won’t allow an attack on Israel and don’t support it. Officials in Washington don’t want to reach a fork in the road where they’ll have to decide between a nuclear Iran or a military operation.”

“At this stage, the Americans want to exhaust the option of negotiating with the Iranians, and the Iranians, for their part, are not ruling out talks,” Gilboa said. “The question remains: What do you base the negotiations on? The Iranians want talks so that they can move forward with their nuclear program. The Americans want negotiations so that they can stop the nuclear program. And then you have people in Israel and abroad who say, ‘Give negotiations a chance.’ But why? Germany, the U.K., and France held talks with Iran for five years that went nowhere, and eventually they came to the conclusion that Iran was being deceptive in order to continue with its plans. So any attempt by the West to hold talks is playing into Iranian hands.”

“The sanctions and negotiations could work only if the threat of military action was hovering over the Iranians’ heads,” he said. “Since the Americans aren’t wielding this threat, the Iranians understand that while life may be a bit tougher with sanctions, that’s it. They could still move forward with their nuclear program.”

The U.S. has lost its way

Professor Joshua Teitelbaum, an expert on the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia, is less optimistic. In his view, the Americans and the Israelis are both a long way away from understanding the reality in the Middle East. “Since 2003, when the Americans invaded Iraq, the Saudis have gradually lost faith in their most important ally, the U.S. The results of American policy in the Gulf have all proven detrimental to the Saudis,” he said. “The situation has gotten so bad in the wake of the Arab Spring that Saudi Arabia finds itself considerably weakened. Riyadh has understandably asked itself, ‘Is this how the U.S. supports its allies in the region? This is how Washington supports Hosni Mubarak? This is how it supports [deposed Tunisian president Zine El Abidine] Ben Ali?”

“The Saudis are worried about the Iranian nuclear issue, but they understand that the current administration in power in the U.S. is very limited in its capabilities,” he said. “One of the results of the failed U.S. policies in the region was the Shiite uprising in Bahrain that was staged by just 12 percent of the population that lives near a wealthy, oil-producing region. Saudi Arabia views Bahrain as a kind of protectorate, so the massive Iranian presence there is akin to deploying Soviet missiles in Cuba.”

“The U.S. conduct there led them to the conclusion that they need to be more independent,” he said.

A lack of understanding

According to Prof. Ze’ev Maghen, an expert on Islam and modern Iran who currently sits as the chair of the Department of Middle Eastern History at Bar-Ilan University, the West is suffering from a terrible case of ignorance on everything taking place in Iran as well as its relationship with the West and Israel. He was irked by President Shimon Peres’ speech in Washington last month, during which he called on the Iranian people to return to their illustrious past and abandon Islamization.

“The ignorance is also evident in the intelligence assessments in the West as well as the attempt to search for a bomb,” he said. From his standpoint, one can clearly reach the conclusion that the Iranians are building a bomb just by listening to what they are saying.

“They have every reason in the world to build an atomic bomb,” he said. “If I were the president of Iran, I would also make sure my country would have a nuclear weapon. Iran is surrounded by traditional enemies, like Russia and the Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia. The Iranians are using Israel to try to unite the Muslim world under its leadership.”

“Since Mecca, which belongs to the anti-Sunni Wahhabi movement, cannot be the focal point of the Muslim world, there is one place that can unite all the aspirations of various sects in Islam, and that place is Jerusalem,” he said. “That explains [the Muslim] desire to conquer it. We are speaking in completely different languages and our worldviews are also totally different. It is hard for us to understand what a theocracy really is. The West doesn’t understand this reality, one in which a country’s population views the Quran and holy scripture as the last word.”

“Here in Israel, people are always looking for the hidden meaning behind statements,” he said. “They ask, ‘Okay, but what is really happening? Is this a political issue? An economic issue?’ This is where we make the same mistake time and again. The same goes for our attempts to understand the process taking place in Egypt. Here there were those who interpreted the events in Egypt as an oppressed population that rose up to demand its rights. There are obviously masses of people there who want their rights protected, but what they really want is the deeper meaning of life that is predicated on Islam. This is the significance of what is taking place, and it is obvious, but people here can’t quite manage to understand this.”

“From Egyptians’ standpoint, we in Israel have for a while now missed the gist,” he said. “There was a time when they referred to us as the ‘Zionist entity.’ Now they are calling us the ‘shopping mall entity.’ In other words, their reason for being is to take a trip to the shopping mall. They look at us and say, ‘They’ve lost it.’”

America’s strength

Professor Hillel Frisch is a political scientist and expert in Middle Eastern politics who teaches at Bar-Ilan University. He is a fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and the author of a book on security relations between Israel and the Palestinians. His main line of thinking is that over the last 20 years the violent struggle between Israelis and Palestinians has been replaced by an Arab cold war.

There is an ongoing struggle between the camp comprising Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and Syria, and the camp of moderate Arab states. “There is one dimension that is gaining steam all the time, and that is the Sunnis being pitted against the non-Sunnis,” he said.

According to Frisch’s theory, the Americans have adopted the view that empires fall at precisely the moment they have the upper hand, which means that they collapse from within. The sun never set on the British Empire, but the British Empire grew dark from within.

According to Frisch, the Americans are preoccupied with battling another empire – China. Still, he notes: “We have the Iranian problem, which threatens to change the reality in the cold war between Sunnis and Shiites. The Americans know there is a tremendous gap between the economic might of the Saudis and their allies and their military capabilities. So they will continue to preserve their superiority.”

Frisch diverges from his colleagues on this issue. “The Americans have an obligation,” he said. “People think that the U.S. is on the decline from the standpoint of being ready to act, but still they have the ability to do this.”

“The U.S. in the era following its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is a country with significant power,” he said. “I believe that the U.S. will take care of the Iranian threat if necessary, and it wouldn’t be a difficult battle for the Americans. In my view, the Iranians understand the balance of power perfectly. Unfortunately for us, they are smart enough to get the U.S. not to attack.

Wily bomb maker fast in race with technology; informant ID’d device

Wily bomb maker fast in race with technology; informant ID’d device

By Shaun Waterman

Al-Asiri

Al Qaeda’s top bomb maker in Yemen is so ruthless that he recruited and equipped his own brother for an underwear-bomb suicide attack against a top Saudi royal in 2009.

“Even for al Qaeda, that’s cold,” said author Peter Bergen, who has studied the group since the late 1990s.

Now Ibrahim al-Asiri, 30, is suspected of making a new underwear bomb designed for use against a U.S.-bound airliner in a plot uncovered last month by U.S. and Saudi intelligence and thwarted within the past few days.

The supposed would-be bomber was an informant working for the CIA and Saudi Arabian intelligence, U.S. and Yemeni officials said Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. The informant, who delivered the bomb to authorities, is safely out of Yemen.

The revelation, first reported by the Los Angeles Times, shows how the CIA was able to get its hands on a sophisticated underwear bomb well before an attack was set into motion, the AP reported.

Underwear bombs and other explosive devices, such as the converted printer cartridges used in the foiled October 2010 air-cargo bomb plot, are al-Asiri’s trademark, President Obama’s senior counterterrorism adviser said.

Al-Asiri “has demonstrated real proficiency as far as concealment methods as well as the materials that are used in these” bombs, John Brennan said Tuesday in an interview on NBC-TV.

A Saudi national who has served time in the kingdom’s prisons, al-Asiri is the son of a pious retired military man, according to the Saudi Gazette newspaper. The U.S. designated him a terrorist kingpin last year, and he is wanted by the Saudis and by Interpol.

He is believed to be one of the top targets of the recently stepped-up U.S. campaign of lethal drone attacks in Yemen.

The FBI, which is examining the underwear bomb, said it is “very similar” to devices used in plots by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the terrorist network’s affiliate in Yemen, “including against aircraft and for targeted assassinations.”

That clearly is a reference to the August 2009 attempt to kill Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammad bin Nayef, who was injured slightly when al-Asiri’s brother Abdullah blew himself up at a meeting he had requested to turn himself in to authorities.

Initial reports suggested that the bomber had concealed the bomb in his rectum, but Saudi investigators concluded that the device was an underwear bomb, said Mr. Bergen, who was briefed by Saudi officials at the time.

They discovered that the device, made of a plastic explosive called PETN, used a chemical detonator, had no metallic components and could not be detected by conventional metal-detector screening.

On Christmas Day 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to detonate a similar underwear bomb aboard a Detroit-bound U.S. airliner. The detonator failed, probably because Abdulmutallab had sweated through his underwear and dampened the detonator, officials told The Washington Times last year.

The latest version of the underwear bomb has an improved detonator, a U.S. official said Tuesday.

The bomb “was a threat from the standpoint of the design,” Mr. Brennan told ABC News. “And so now we’re trying to make sure that we take the measures that we need to prevent any other … similarly constructed [bomb] from getting through security procedures.”

Abdulmutallab’s underwear bomb was not spotted by metal detectors at Amsterdam’s Schipol airport.

After the failed attack, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) sped up its deployment of advanced imaging technology screening devices, which have become notorious as the “naked X-ray” machines.

Analysts generally agree that the imaging machines should be able to spot the new underwear bomb, said Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

But in an interview with CNN, he cautioned that this was just a “preliminary conclusion. … We don’t know all of the facts yet.”

The key to imaging detection of underwear bombs is generally the detonator because it has to emerge from the clothing in which the explosives are concealed, said Erroll G. Southers, a homeland security scholar at the University of Southern California.

The TSA has deployed about 700 imaging machines at more than 180 U.S. airports, according to agency figures. The machines cost between $130,000 and $170,000 each, and the agency has spent nearly $167 million so far to buy, test, deliver and install them.

TSA has faced keen scrutiny of its efforts to roll out the machines and questions about the effectiveness of deploying them in the United States because all previous al Qaeda attacks against U.S. aviation have originated overseas.

“That is a huge gaping hole,” Mr. Southers said.

Inconsistencies in technology and policy from country to country undermine public confidence, he said, noting reports that the European Union this year will relax the no-liquids rule for air passengers’ hand luggage, which would put the European Union out of step with the U.S. The ban is designed to defeat another kind of nonmetallic explosive.

Investigators from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) will report at a congressional hearing Wednesday that TSA deployed the imaging technology at airports without evaluating it properly.

“Additionally, various reports, studies and independent testimony all suggest that TSA is ineffectively deploying security technology and equipment at commercial airports,” reads a staff memo for the hearing.

2012/05/07

Is Fast and Furious the Next Watergate?

Source Article Link: FamilySecurityMatters

Is Fast and Furious the Next Watergate?

by Alan Caruba

When suspects in a crime are interrogated, they often develop memory loss. When the crime is running guns to drug cartels on both sides of the border, the crime involves the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol officer, Brian Terry, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, Jaime Zapata, and countless Mexican citizens.

Katie Pavlich has written an extraordinary expose, “Fast and Furious: Barack Obama’s Bloodiest Scandal and its Shameless Cover-Up” (Regnery Publishing).  Pavlich, a reporter with extensive contacts within the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), has meticulously documented a story  that should result in contempt of Congress action against Attorney General Eric Holder and possibly Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano as well.

It is an appalling story of arrogance, stupidity, and the intimidation of ATF agents who dared to question and expose the operation. It is a story of deception at the highest levels of our government. Both Holder and Napolitano exhibited memory lapses before a congressional committee. Both knew about a federal government authorized gun-running operation to Mexico called “Fast and Furious.”

Pavlich reports that “Fast and Furious was closely followed by Department of Justice officials. On multiple occasions, U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke met with Phoenix ATF Director Bill Newell to discuss the progress of the Fast and Furious operation. ‘There were DOJ attorneys and prosecutors who were involved in this since the beginning, giving advice,” testified ATF Special Agent Peter Forcelli.

As Pavlich details it, “Operation Fast and Furious wasn’t a ‘botched’ program. It was a calculated and lethal decision to purposely place thousands of guns in the hands of ruthless criminals.”

The operation was designed to attack the Second Amendment right of Americans to purchase and bear arms, a right considered so essential to the nation that it followed directly after the First Amendment rights of free speech, freedom of the press, the prohibition of the establishment of a nationally sanctioned religion, and the right of Americans to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

We are in the grip of an administration that would restrain and erase those rights, and which engaged in a reckless and ruthless operation to achieve that goal. It is an administration that is moving toward the confirmation of a United Nations treaty that would override and eliminate the right to own and bear arms.

The facts regarding Holder’s and Napolitano’s testimony are clear:

“Eric Holder was sent five memos, personally addressed to him, in the summer of 2010 that detailed Operation Fast and Furious.” Holder claimed he first knew about the program in February 2011.

“Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has feigned ignorance when questioned about Fast and Furious. She claims she only found out about the program after Brian Terry was murdered.”

“She visited the White House with Eric Holder to visit President Obama just a day before Holder testified on Capitol Hill about Fast and Furious, leaving the reason for her visit blank.”

Pavlich writes, “These are the facts: There are still 1,400 Fast and Furious guns missing and ATF agents are not actively trying to track them down. Ten thousand round of ammunition were sold to cartel-linked straw buyers under the watch of the ATF. Eight hundred of the original 2,500 weapons sold through Fast and Furious have already been linked to criminal activity.”

The program, observers believer, was the deliberate effort to blame the violence in Mexico and in some cases in America on the gun shops, but those shops were intimidated into participating in Fast and Furious out of fear that ATF would take away their licenses.

After questioning ATF and Justice Department witnesses, Sen. Charles Grassley (Iowa, R), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote a January 31 letter to ATF officials saying, “As you may be aware, obstructing a Congressional investigation is a crime. Additionally, denying or interfering with employee’s rights to furnish information to Congress is also against the law.”
Read the rest of the article at FamilySecurityMatters

FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, “Warning Signs”, posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center, and he blogs at http://factsnotfantasy.blogspot.com. His book, Right Answers: Separating Fact from Fantasy“, is published by Merrill Press.

The Genocide that Obama Refuses to Prevent

Source Article Link: FrontPageMag

The Genocide that Obama Refuses to Prevent

By Daniel Greenfield

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, Obama unveiled an “Atrocities Prevention Board” to, in his own words, “prevent and respond to mass atrocities”.  The “Atrocities Prevention Board” is notable mainly for what it is not and his speech was notable for the topic that it avoided. Genocide.

While Obama mentioned ‘atrocities’ twelve times in his speech, he only mentioned ‘genocide’ three times and one of those times he was quoting from the mission statement of the Holocaust Museum. The list of examples from his own policies contained only one example of genocide, the mass murder program carried out by the Sudanese government.

Tellingly Obama described this actual genocide as a ‘conflict’ rather than an atrocity and urged both sides to negotiate, a sharp contrast with his next three examples, in Cote D’Ivorie, in Libya and in Uganda, where he clearly placed the blame on three leaders and described military and pseudo-military actions that he had taken to end the violence.

President Omar al-Bashir, whom he urged in his speech to have the “courage” to negotiate and make peace, is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. There is no comparison between the actions of Gaddafi or Gbago and those of Bashir. Yet Obama ignored actual genocide, and defiled the Holocaust Memorial Museum by using it as a stage for whitewashing one of the world’s worst ruling mass murderers.

Obama was equally unwilling to call out Iran’s mass murdering thugs, Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, by name. He briefly mentioned that his administration would continue to apply diplomatic pressure on Iran to prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon, but refused to make the connection to the events of the day.

“The uniform shout of the Iranian nation is forever ‘Death to Israel,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has said that, “The Zionist regime is a cancerous tumor on this region that should be cut off. And it definitely will be cut off.”

Mohammad Hassan Rahimian, the personal representative of the Supreme Leader, appeared on Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television to boast that, “We have manufactured missiles that allow us, when necessary, to replace (sic) Israel in its entirety with a big holocaust.”

Israel holds the largest Jewish population in the world. The threat to destroy it is an open threat of genocide. But while Obama repeated his false claim that the entire population of the Libyan city of Benghazi had been at risk, motivating him to act, there was no acknowledgement that Israel does actually a face a threat of genocide.

At an event commemorating the attempted extermination the Jewish people, Obama spoke at length about the plight of the Syrian rebels, who are dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, a group whose spiritual leader has praised Hitler for carrying out the Holocaust and called for the extermination of the Jews.

“The last punishment was carried out by Hitler…” Yusuf al-Qaradawi had said of the Holocaust. “This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hands of the believers.”  And at the Holocaust Museum, all Obama could think of was how to put Qaradawi’s cronies into power in Syria, as he had already put them into power in Egypt.

There is no genocide in Syria. At best there are “atrocities”, a vague word that can mean just about anything. Nor is there any actual threat of genocide. Not in Syria or Libya or Egypt, or any of the other places that Obama intervened. The only place in the Middle East that lies under the shadow of genocide is the Jewish State.

There is no serious prospect that the majority of Arabs will be wiped off the face of the earth. Nor the majority of Persians or Turks. There is only one group in the Middle East whose extermination is called for in every Muslim capital, whose murder is preached in mosques, whose massacre is written in blood on the pages of Islamic scripture.

Mohammed began his rise to power with the persecution of the Jews. He ended it with the ethnic cleansing of Jews and Christians and his successors have perpetuated his crimes, generation after generation, teaching their children to hate and kill, grooming them with cartoons and songs to make genocide seem virtuous.

Today there are more Jews living in Germany than there are in the Muslim nations of the Middle East. There are more Jews living in Poland, where over 90 percent of the Jewish population was exterminated during the Holocaust, than there are in Iran. Within a generation the Muslim world was emptied of Jews more comprehensively than even Poland and the Ukraine had been after the Holocaust.

Not satisfied with an ethnic cleansing that Hitler could only envy, the Muslim world dreams of a final orgy of death, the genocidal vision so often quoted by its Imams and incorporated into the Hamas charter, “The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him said, ‘The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!’”

You can read the rest of the article at FrontPageMag

All Emphasis added

Excruciating Beginning to Trial of 9/11 Plotters

The majority of those who have been following Gitmo detainees coming to trial of the 9/11 plotters knew it would become a circus, especially since Eric Holder has close ties to some of the detainees at Gitmo, Holder was a senior partner with Covington & Burling, a prestigious Washington, D.C. law firm, which represented 17 of the Gitmo Terrorists.

Also, we must never forget who killed Wall Street Journalist Daniel Pearl, a Center for Public Integrity’s report noted:

“Khalid Sheikh Mohammed told FBI agents in Guantanamo that he personally slit Pearl’s throat and severed his head to make certain he’d get the death penalty and to exploit the murder for propaganda,”.

How can we forget that Barack Hussein Obama and Eric PHimpton Holder, Jr wanted a civilian court for the 9’11 terrorists in a New York City Federal Courthouse. W

Source Link: FrontPageMag

Excruciating Beginning to Trial of 9/11 Plotters

By Rick Moran

It was supposed to be a routine arraignment — a reading of the charges and entering of pleas by the defendants.

But the hearing before the military commission charged with trying the 5 major 9/11 plotters for crimes ranging from nearly 3,000 counts of murder to terrorism quickly bogged down and became a circus. A legal proceeding that was expected to last about 2 hours became a 13 hour marathon when defense attorneys used a variety of delaying tactics that bordered on the surreal at times, while the defendants ignored the presiding judge, Col. James Pohl, and refused to enter pleas as a protest against what they believe is an “unfair” system. Their pleas were deferred until a later date.

The arraignment, broadcast on closed circuit TV to 4 other military bases, was witnessed by members of the press, military officials, human rights advocates, and six family members who lost loved ones on 9/11. Some family members who spoke to the press after the arraignment were outraged at the cavalier attitude toward the hearing by the terrorists. The untried system of military commissions will no doubt slow the legal process down even more, as defense attorneys explore the limits of their client’s rights. President Obama and Congress amended the system in 2009 and gave the defendants more legal rights while denying some evidence from being presented that was obtained from the prisoners via “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Human rights groups still say the proceedings are unfair and wish the trials to take place in civilian court.

The five accused included the boastful mastermind of the attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed; Ramzi Binalshibh, who allegedly scouted flights schools; Waleed bin Attash, who allegedly ran a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan and researched flight simulators; Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, who allegedly supplied Western clothing and credit cards, as well as acting as a conduit for money to the hijackers; and Mohammed’s nephew, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, who also helped with financing the operation. The crimes committed by the 5 are outlined in an 87-page indictment that includes charges such as “conspiracy, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, murder in violation of the law of war, destruction of property in violation of the law of war, hijacking or hazarding a vessel or aircraft, and terrorism.”

It became clear that one of the tactics of defense lawyers — both civilian and military — was to put the entire concept of military commissions on trial. In pursuit of this goal, they have filed hundreds of motions challenging every conceivable aspect of the proceedings, leading Col. Pohl to put back the start of the trial until May, 2013.

The cloak of secrecy — necessary to protect counterterrorism methods and confidential informants — is one of the major bones of contention about the commissions pointed to by human rights groups. While evidence obtained from defendants at CIA black sites has been made inadmissible by congressional reforms, some testimony from witnesses who may have been “renditioned” will be accepted. And there will be no mention of alleged mistreatment of the prisoners by their attorneys, although Col. Pohl allowed he will hear motions challenging that matter. Also, as a matter of secrecy, attorneys will not be able to discuss the government’s treatment of their clients while in custody.

Commission critics say that secrecy could still be maintained at a civilian trial — a questionable supposition given the opportunity for the terrorists and their lawyers to wreak havoc under the far more generous protections granted by the Constitution in such a trial. The outrage expressed by both Republicans and Democrats to the Obama administration’s announcement two years ago that Mohammed and his 4 co-conspirators would be tried in New York City caused the Justice Department to beat a hasty retreat and the idea of a civilian trial was dropped.

Prisoners now have access to civilian defense attorneys who specialize in complex death sentence cases — at taxpayer expense. And it was from civilians that most of the posturing and courtroom antics came from. For instance, attorneys for two of the plotters asked that the entire 87-page indictment be read word for word — a right that is granted defendants but is rarely exercised. It took 2 1/2 hours and 6 prosecutors to plow their way through the mind-numbing legalese. At one point, it was thought that all 2,976 names of the 9/11 victims would be read aloud, but prosecutors only mentioned the number of dead without objection.

But that was a small blessing. There were constant interruptions and trivial objections. Binalshibh’s attorney, James Harrington, interrupted the hearing to inform the judge, “My client would prefer to have his name pronounced Bin-al-shib-ah.” Pohl acceded to the request while Binalshibh laid a rug on the floor and began to pray. No attempt was made to stop him.

One female attorney for Mr. bin Attash, Cheryl Bormann, came dressed to the hearing in an abaya, covered head to toe with only her face showing. She suggested that females on the prosection side do likewise, “so that our clients are not forced to not look at the prosecution for fear of committing a sin under their faith,” she said.

The defendants themselves were alternately defiant and disinterested. Mr. Bin Attash had to be brought into the courtroom chained to a wheelchair because he refused to enter voluntarily. They all refused to put on headphones to listen for the simultaneous translation in Arabic, so Col. Pohl ordered the loudspeakers in the courtroom to carry the translation. This slowed the pace of the hearing down even more as the defendant’s lawyers would often speak over the Arabic translation, causing confusion and forcing the translator to repeat. The Guardian referred to the “near-farcical scenes in which the defendants prayed, read the Economist, talked among each other and ignored the judicial events around them.”

At one point during the reading of the charges, Judge Pohl asked Mr. bin Attash’s attorney Capt. Michael Schwartz, who was the attorney who demanded that the charges be read in their entirety, why he wasn’t paying attention. “You are the one who wanted it to be read,” Pohl said. “Your honor, it’s not my right. It is my client’s right,” the lawyer replied.

All of these antics angered many of the family members of 9/11 victims who were granted access to the proceedings at Guantanamo after winning a lottery. Prominent spokesperson for the families, Debra Burlingame, whose brother Charles was a pilot of the plane that crashed into the Pentagon, said, “They’re engaging in jihad in a courtroom.” An emotional statement issued by Eddie Bracken, whose sister died in the World Trade Center, echoed the thoughts of many family members:

“I came a long way to see you, eye to eye. … If you would have this in another country, it would be a different story. They would have given you your wish to meet your maker quicker than you would realize. But this is America, and you deserve a fair and just trial, according to our Constitution, not yours. That’s what separates us Americans from you and your ideology,” he said.

The hearing will continue next month as Judge Pohl will entertain the first of several hundred motions filed by attorneys for the defendants.

2012/05/04

10 Reasons to Impeach Eric Holder

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J. Christian Adams Bio

J. Christian Adams is an election lawyer who served in the Voting Rights Section at the U.S. Department of Justice. His forthcoming book Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice Department (Regnery) releases in October.  His website is Election Law Center.

2012/05/03

Combating Terrorism Center – Usama bin Ladin Letters From Abottabad In Arabic-PDF Copies

CTC UBL Letters From Abottabad

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UBL Document Guide

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Combating Terrorism Center – Usama bin Ladin Letters From Abbottabad In English-PDF Copies

Combating Terrorism Center – bin Ladin Letters From Abbottabad

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Combating Terrorism Center’s bin Ladin Letters from Abbottabad Document Guide

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2012/04/15

Taliban hits Afghan capital, other cities in rare coordinated attack

And Obama wants to negotiate with the Taliban???W

 Source WaPo

Taliban hits Afghan capital, other cities in rare coordinated attack

PARWIZ/REUTERS – Soldiers from the Afghan National Army keep watch near the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) as smoke rises from the site of an attack in Jalalabad province April 15, 2012. Gunmen launched multiple attacks in the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday, assaulting Western embassies in the heavily guarded, central diplomatic area and at the parliament in the west, witnesses and officials said.

By Kevin Sieff, Javed Hamdard and Sayed Salahuddin,

KABUL– Insurgents attacked cities across eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, including at least two prominent targets in Kabul, in a rare coordinated attack spanning some of the country’s most important urban centers. The Taliban called the effort the beginning of their spring offensive.By early afternoon, insurgents were still firing rocket-propelled grenades and rifles from an unfinished commercial building in central Kabul. From their perch, at least four men fired in the direction of the German embassy and NATO’s military headquarters, both of which were just a few hundred yards from the attackers.

Life and war in Afghanistan: April 2012: Our continuing photo coverage shows Afghan life as coalition forces fight in the country.

Securing Highway 1 in Afghanistan

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Securing Highway 1 in Afghanistan

Less than an hour after the attack began, Afghan commandos and their NATO trainers entered the building. There were two large blast holes visible in the facade of the Kabul Star Hotel, frequented by westerners and wealthy Afghans, located just across the street from where the insurgents were firing.

A few miles away, another group of insurgents occupied a building across from the Afghan parliament, firing at the building.

“Armed insurgents, including some suicide bombers, have taken control of buildings in these areas,” said Sediq Sediqi, an Interior Ministry spokesman.

Attackers also targeted a NATO base in Jalalabad, as well as Afghan installations in the capitals of Logar and Paktia provinces, according to officials.

“The attackers occupied a building opposite a university in the city of Gardez and were firing at various directions, including government buildings,” said Rohullah Samoon, a spokesman for the governor of Paktia.

At least two insurgents were killed in Kabul, officials said, but gunfire was ongoing three hours after the attack began.

“This is a message that our spring offensive has begun,” said Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, who said the primary targets were western military and diplomatic installations.

While the Taliban has successfully executed spectacular attacks in Kabul before — including the protracted attack on the U.S. embassy in September — insurgents have never attacked so many disparate targets simultaneously.

2012/04/12

Egyptian court clears way for Salafi presidential candidate in election race

Source Al Arabiya News

Egyptian court clears way for Salafi presidential candidate in election race

By AL ARABIYA WITH AGENCIES

An Egyptian court has ruled that the mother of a popular ultraconservative Islamist viewed as one of the strongest contenders for president is not a U.S. citizen, likely clearing the way for him to run in May elections.

Hazem Abu Ismail (For more read the article linked below the video) is a 50-year-old lawyer-turned-preacher with a large following of enthusiastic supporters, particularly from the country’s ultraconservative Salafi movement.

The country’s electoral commission last week said it received documents confirming that Ismail’s mother was an American citizen, effectively disqualifying him from the race.

“On Saturday, the high electoral committee received a letter from the Foreign Ministry informing it that Nawal Abdel-Aziz, mother of Hazem Abu Ismail, obtained American nationality on Oct. 25, 2006,” the commission chief Hatem Degato told Reuters.

Begato said on Thursday that the agency had received information according to which Abu Ismail’s mother had “used an American passport for travel to and from Egypt” before her death.

But the Cairo Administrative Court on Wednesday said authorities did not have sufficient documents to prove she was a U.S. citizen.

Under the country’s electoral law, all candidates for the presidency, their parents and their wives must have only Egyptian citizenship.

Abu Ismail advocates a strict interpretation of Islam similar to the one practiced in Saudi Arabia and has become a familiar sight in Cairo, with his posters adorning many cars and micro buses.

“Our only demand is to cancel the negative decision of the refusal of the interior ministry to give [Abu Ismail] a certificate that his mother doesn’t hold dual citizenship,” said Gaber Nassar, Abu Ismail’s lawyer early on Wednesday before the ruling was announced, according to Daily News Egypt.

The session was adjourned repeatedly during the day as supporters of the Salafi candidate filled the court room and also demonstrated outside the State Council. It was the second hearing; the first was on Tuesday.

On Friday, thousands of people rallied in central Cairo in support of his candidacy.

“The people want Hazem Abu Ismail! No to manipulation!” the demonstrators shouted after making their way through central Cairo to Tahrir Square, epicenter of last year’s revolt which toppled president Hosni Mubarak.

The protesters, including women in full Islamic veil, carried portraits of Abu Ismail and waved their fists, angrily condemning any attempt to disqualify their candidate.

Abu Ismail launched his candidacy on March 30 with a large motorcade that took him to electoral commission headquarters in Cairo.

He would compete with more moderate Islamist candidates such as senior Muslim Brotherhood figure Khairat el-Shater and former regime figures such as ex-foreign minister Amr Mussa.

Islamists have made big strides since Mubarak’s ouster, winning majorities in elections to both houses of parliament.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party won the most seats in parliamentary elections earlier this year, but the Salafists captured nearly a quarter themselves.

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Related Article Egyptian Presidential Candidate Hazem Salah Abu Ismail – “U.S. Authorities Refused to Investigate 9/11, Which Was ‘Fabricated’ To Defame Islam”

2012/04/08

Iran lawmaker: Country can produce nuclear weapons but will never do so

Source FoxNews

Iran lawmaker: Country can produce nuclear weapons but will never do so

| Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran –  Iran has the knowledge and scientific capability to produce nuclear weapons but will never do so, a prominent lawmaker has said.

Gholamreza Mesbahi Moghadam is a parliamentarian not a government official and his views do not represent the Iranian government’s policy. It however is the first time that such a prominent Iranian politician has publicly stated that Iran has the technological capability to produce a nuclear weapon.

His assertion published on parliament’s website late Friday suggests that Iran is trying to show unity in its political establishment around its often repeated claims that it seeks world-class technological advances including nuclear expertise, but does not want to develop atomic arms as the U.S. and its allies claim.

The statement comes before planned talks beginning next week with the U.S. and other world powers over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

Moghadam said Iran can easily produce the highly enriched uranium that is used to build atomic bombs, but that it is not Tehran’s policy to go that route.

“Iran has the scientific and technological capability to produce (a) nuclear weapon, but will never choose this path,” he said in remarks carried by the parliamentary website icana.ir.

The U.S. and its allies accuse Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charges, saying its program is peaceful and geared toward generating electricity and producing medical radioisotopes to treat cancer patients.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has repeatedly insisted that his country is not seeking nuclear weapons, saying that holding such arms is a sin as well as “useless, harmful and dangerous.”

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has also asserted that if Iran one day decides to build nuclear weapons, it will do so openly and won’t fear anybody. However, he has also emphasized that Iran has no intention to weaponize what he describes as a peaceful nuclear program.

Director of U.S. National Intelligence James Clapper asserted in a January report to the Senate Intelligence Committee that Iran has the means to build a nuclear weapon but has not yet decided to follow through.

U.S. intelligence officials say they generally stand by a 2007 intelligence assessment that asserts Iran stopped comprehensive secret work on developing nuclear arms in 2003. But Britain, France, Germany, Israel and other U.S. allies think such activities have continued past that date, a suspicion shared by the IAEA, which says in recent reports that some isolated and sporadic activities may be ongoing.

However, the IAEA says there is no evidence to prove that Iran’s nuclear materials have been diverted towards weapons.

Iran says it is enriching uranium to about 3.5 percent to produce nuclear fuel for its future reactors and also to around 20 percent to fuel a research reactor that produces medical isotopes to treat cancer patients. Uranium has to be enriched to more than 90 percent to be used for a nuclear weapon.

The U.N. nuclear agency has also confirmed that centrifuges at the Fordo site near Iran’s holy city of Qom are churning out uranium enriched to 20 percent, and says uranium enriched to that level can more quickly be turned into weapons-grade material.

Moghadam, the lawmaker, said that Iran has the means to produce 90-plus percent enrichment.
“There is a possibility for Iran to easily achieve more than 90 percent enrichment,” icana.ir quoted Moghadam as saying.

2012/04/07

A social network site for jihadists?

Source CNN

A social network site for jihadists?

By Adam Levine

The advantage and attraction of social networking isn’t lost on the jihadist community, apparently. New postings on the Ansar al-Mujahideen Arabic forum have been discussing a proposal by one contributor to create a Facebook-like site for jihadists, according to SITE Intel Group, which monitors jihadists activities online.

The idea has surfaced as various jihadi sites have mysteriously gone dark, leaving some to speculate whether there was a covert takedown by a spy agency.

In a posting, the user identified as Rakan al-Ashja’i notes that the terror adherents depend on different online forums and social networking sites for posting propaganda and discussions.

“What I am hoping is to program an application that would spare them using all of that and also attract hundreds and thousands of new brothers to work in this field,” the jihadist posted, according to a translation provided by SITE. “It will register their memberships, then they need only enter and publish what they want in all the sites and forums underneath with the click of a button.”

“We will benefit from the ideas in Facebook a lot, Allah the almighty willing,” al-Ashja’i said.

The posting says the one-click would save time and allow for instant republishing on multiple jihadist sites.

“Most of their time is spent in searching for new sites and creating memberships and adding them to their list, instead of wasting time in publishing on the same site always,” the jihadist said. “Also, it will be fun and it will attract more brothers to work in publishing.”

The idea was met with mostly tepid interest, although it got some enthusiasm, according to responses translated by SITE.

“If I could make a social networking website with the same capabilities and everything like Facebook when it first appeared – it is a very good idea,” wrote a user identified as Muhannad al-Balqani. “It would be a social networking website independent from spies and agent media.”

One jihadist, who goes by Abu Hakim, said there could be a technical issue, because “the publishing sites will deal with this site as spam.”

Another jihadist warned of the difficulty of turning the idea into reality because “programming is a wonderful science, but it needs a lot of work and to engage your brain 200%.”

Al-Ashja’i does not seem put off by the concerns. “It will never be a big obstacle and we can pass it,” he wrote in response to one criticism.

Obama’s signal to Iran

Filed under: Iran, National Security, Sanctions — - @ 11:56 am

Source WaPo

Obama’s signal to Iran

By David Ignatius

President Obama has signaled Iran that the United States would accept an Iranian civilian nuclear program if Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei can back up his recent public claim that his nation “will never pursue nuclear weapons.” (Emphasis added)

This verbal message was sent through Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who visited Khamenei last week. A few days before traveling to Iran, Erdogan had held a two-hour meeting with Obama in Seoul, in which they discussed what Erdogan would tell the ayatollah about the nuclear issue and Syria.

Obama advised Erdogan that the Iranians should realize that time is running out for a peaceful settlement and that Tehran should take advantage of the current window for negotiations. Obama didn’t specify whether Iran would be allowed to enrich uranium domestically as part of the civilian program the United States would endorse. That delicate issue evidently would be left for the negotiations that are supposed to start April 13, at a venue yet to be decided.

Erdogan is said to have replied that he would convey Obama’s views to Khamenei, and it’s believed he did so when he met the Iranian leader on Thursday. Erdogan also met President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other senior Iranian officials during his visit.

The statement highlighted by Obama as a potential starting point was made on state television in February. Khamenei said: “The Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons. . . . Iran is not after nuclear weapons because the Islamic Republic, logically, religiously and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous.”

The challenge for negotiators is whether it’s possible to turn Khamenei’s public rhetoric into a serious and verifiable commitment not to build a bomb. When Obama cited this statement to Erdogan as something to build on, the Turkish leader is said to have nodded in agreement.

But the diplomatic path still seems blocked, judging by recent haggling over the meeting place for negotiations. Istanbul was expected to be the venue, but the Iranians last weekend balked and suggested instead that negotiators meet in Iraq or China. U.S. officials see this foot-dragging as a sign that the Iranian leadership is still struggling to frame its negotiating position.

The Erdogan back channel to Iran is the most dramatic evidence yet of the close relationship Obama has forged with the Turkish leader. Erdogan, who heads an Islamist party that is often cited as a model by Muslim democrats, has been a key U.S. partner in handling Syria and other crises flowing from the Arab Spring uprisings.

A sign of Erdogan’s role as intermediary is that he was accompanied, both in the meeting with Obama and on the trip to Iran, by Hakan Fidan, the chief of Turkey’s intelligence service. Fidan is said to have close relations with Qassem Suleimani, who heads Iran’s Quds Force and is probably Khamenei’s closest adviser on security issues. Also joining Erdogan was Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign minister.

Syria was another big topic in Erdogan’s discussions with Obama and his subsequent visit to Iran. The Turkish leader told Obama he would press Iran to reduce its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whom Erdogan once championed but is now determined to oust. Erdogan said he planned to tell Khamenei that Syrian attacks on Muslim opposition forces must stop. The Turks have been trying, meanwhile, to bolster the opposition so that it can provide a credible alternative to Assad’s rule.

Some Arab analysts see a weakening of support for Assad in recent days from Iran and its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, whose leader Hasan Nasrallah last week called for a “political solution” with the opposition. The key player in any such managed transition would be Russia’s president-elect, Vladimir Putin. U.S. officials hope he can broker a Syria deal before he meets Obama at the G-8 summit next month.

As Iran’s leadership debates its negotiating stance, the squeeze of Western sanctions is becoming tighter. Nat Kern, the editor of Foreign Reports, a leading oil newsletter, forecasts that Iran will lose about a third of its oil exports by mid-summer. It may get even worse for Iran after July 1 if China and the European Union follow through on recent warnings that they might stop insuring tankers carrying Iranian crude.

U.S. officials believe that if Iran refuses to negotiate, it will be easier to tighten sanctions even more.

davidignatius@washpost.com

Over US mother, Islamist likely out of Egypt race

Source Seattle Times

Over US mother, Islamist likely out of Egypt race

Egypt’s election commission confirmed Thursday that the mother of a popular Islamist presidential hopeful was an American citizen, effectively disqualifying him from the race and likely boosting the chances of the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate.

By MAGGIE MICHAEL

Associated Press

Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, a likely candidate for the presidency, outside the Syrian embassy in Cairo

CAIRO —Egypt’s election commission confirmed Thursday that the mother of a popular Islamist presidential hopeful was an American citizen, effectively disqualifying him from the race and likely boosting the chances of the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate.The ruling is likely to draw an uproar from supporters of Hazem Abu Ismail, a 50-year-old lawyer-turned-preacher who in recent months vaulted to become one of the strongest contenders for president, with widespread backing from ultra-conservative Muslims known as Salafis.

The announcement is particularly embarrassing for Abu Ismail, who used anti-U.S. rhetoric in his campaign speeches and rejected “dependency” on America. In recent weeks, he repeatedly denied reports that began circulating that his late mother held U.S. citizenship.

A law put in place after last year’s fall of President Hosni Mubarak stipulates that a candidate may not have any other citizenship than Egyptian – and that the candidate’s spouse and parents cannot have other citizenships as well.

The commission, however, did not outright disqualify Abu Ismail because it has not yet begun the process of vetting would-be candidates’ applications.

Abu Ismail is likely to fight for a way to stay in the race. Late Thursday, he urged his supporters to be patient because he was still fighting to prove that his mother’s documents didn’t amount to a full citizenship. He said the controversy was a mere plot to “slander” him.

“It has become clear to us that there is a big and elaborate plot, tightly prepared for a long time from many directions, internally and externally,” he said, without naming anyone.

Before the commission’s announcement, Abu Ismail’s campaign was vowing to hold a huge rally in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Friday against what they see as a conspiracy to keep him out of the race.

“The massive army of his supporters will rally because we will not be silent over forgery and games,” said his campaign chief Gamal Saber.

As Sunday is the cut-off date for hopefuls to apply to run, the field for the May 23-24 election is beginning to become clearer after weeks of uncertainty. Barring last minute surprises, it appears to be headed to a contest focused between the Brotherhood candidate Khairat el-Shater and largely former regime figures, the popular ex-foreign minister and Arab League chief Amr Moussa and a former prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq.

Abu Ismail’s disqualification would remove el-Shater’s main competitor for the powerful Islamist vote. The Brotherhood, which is the country’s strongest political movement, announced last weekend that el-Shater – its deputy leader – would run. Since then, el-Shater has been heavily courting Salafis, a movement that is more hard-line than the fundamentalist Brotherhood.

Another significant Islamist candidate remains, Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh, a reformer who was thrown out of the Brotherhood last year and is trying to appeal both to religious and more secular-minded Egyptians.

Moussa’s chances were boosted Wednesday when former Mubarak-era strongman and intelligence chief Omar Suleiman announced he would not run. Though widely distrusted as a symbol of the old regime, he might have found support among the liberals and moderates that Moussa is courting and who fear the Islamists’ rising power.

On Thursday, the 61-year-old el-Shater waved at some 3,000 supporters chanting, “Islam is back,” as he entered the election commission headquarters to formally submit his papers to run. He handed in more than 250 endorsements from lawmakers from the Brotherhood party and the Salafi Al-Nour Party, needed to qualify to join the race.

To run for president, a candidate needs endorsements from lawmakers or a party. Otherwise, the candidate must gather some 30,000 endorsements from the public across different parts of Egypt.

Just a week ago, Abu Ismail flexed his muscles by submitting his documents amid a giant rally by his supporters, who stretched from his home to the commission headquarters. He handed in some 150,000 public endorsements, five times the required number.

His face – smiling, with a long, conservative beard – had become ubiquitous in Cairo and other cities because of a startlingly aggressive postering campaign that plastered walls and lampposts with his picture and the slogan, “We will live in dignity.”

Abu Ismail rose to fame through his religious sermons and TV programs promising to guide Muslims to the “right path to Islam.” He joined early on in the protests against Mubarak last year and after his fall struck a defiant tone against the military generals who took power.

When reports concerning his mother began circulating, Abu Ismail insisted she only had a Green Card to visit her daughter, who is married to an American, lives in the United States and has citizenship there.

But in a statement Thursday on the state news agency MENA, the election commission said it received documents from the Interior Ministry proving that Abu Ismail’s mother had a U.S. passport she used to travel a number of time to the U.S.. The mother also traveled to Germany and Egypt using the U.S. passport in 2008 and 2009, it said.

The commission starts reviewing would-be candidates’ papers after Sunday’s deadline.

Egypt: ‘Islamocracy’ under Military Rule

Source JCPA

Egypt: ‘Islamocracy’ under Military Rule

By Jacques Neriah

A year after the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt seems to be drifting into an unparalleled and unprecedented form of government and a unique political experiment in the Arab world: power and authority are being divided between Muslim fundamentalists led by the Muslim Brotherhood and their rivals in ideology, the Salafists. Both are partisans of an Islamocracy (meaning a combination of theocracy and democracy), with Field Marshall Mohammad Hussein Tantawi orchestrating the twenty or so members of the Army General Staff, acting as the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), as the supreme rulers of Egypt. The only remaining question is: to what extent will each of the contenders avoid stepping onto his neighbor’s turf? In other words, will the Islamists, as the main hijackers of the democracy movement in Egypt, accept that the military will remain the source of power and authority in their Islamocracy?

Indeed, the transition process of handing power from the military to the “democratically” elected civilian bodies seems to be stuck and has become the focus of friction between the SCAF and the Islamists, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, the great winners of the parliamentary elections organized in 2011-2012. The military is not in a hurry to subordinate itself to the civilian authorities, while the Islamists, although eager to capture power as the legitimate winners of the democratic process, behave as if they are afraid to provoke the military. They fear a confrontation that could lead to widespread bloodshed, similar to Algeria in 1990 when Islamists won the first free elections in the young nation’s history, triggering a civil war with 20,000 casualties before Abdelaziz Bouteflika returned to power with army support.

As a result, the two sides in Egypt periodically check the extent of their authority and assess the limits to which they can act independently without provoking a reaction by the other side. From this perspective, it seems obvious that the episodes of violent confrontation that have occurred in Egypt in the process of political transition are not due to a lack of experience but rather are the result of a strategy on the part of the SCAF. According to Stephan Roll from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, this strategy has three additional components: gauging public opinion, obscuring decision-making processes, and playing the various political parties and movements off against one another. This strategy became evident in the debate over the design of the new Egyptian Constitution. In March 2011 the SCAF announced that a new constitution would be drafted by a constituent assembly. However, in late 2011 when it became clear that the Islamists would dominate the process after winning the elections, secular-oriented politicians pressed for the adoption of “supra-constitutional principles” that would guarantee the establishment of a democratic state with civilian rule. The SCAF tried to use those demands to its own benefit by introducing a document outlining principles of a revised constitution that granted the military even greater authority than it had possessed under the previous constitution: complete control over the defense budget and veto power over all decisions affecting the military. Massive protests convinced the SCAF to withdraw the motion.

On the other hand, since the beginning of the January 25 revolution against Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood has avoided any direct confrontation with the SCAF. Members of the Brotherhood appear to repeatedly seek dialog with the SCAF. The Muslim Brotherhood strategy remains the same as it was under the previous regime: to change the system from within. The Muslim Brotherhood received 41 percent of the Egyptian vote, with 26 percent going to Muslim extremists known as Salafists, a jihadist movement that believes in “holy war” against the “crusaders,” i.e., Christians and Jews. In Arnaud de Borchgrave’s words, “what these two branches of Islam have in common is their idea of “free” elections – one-man, one-vote, one-time. After their expected victory, Egyptians can forget about another free election as far as anyone can peer into the future.”

Indeed, since the Brotherhood is focused on domestic policy, it should have no intrinsic problem accepting the fact that the military will decide on matters of national security and foreign policy, at least initially. This does not mean that motions in the National Assembly will not be raised and discussed and attempts will even be made to constantly undermine the authority of the SCAF. Recent months have provided sufficient proof that although the legislators in the National Assembly have debated and made decisions on crucial issues, the SCAF has either ignored these decisions or worse, adopted steps completely opposed to the decisions of the National Assembly.

Key Issues

a. The NGO Issue: The SCAF decided to release the American defendants in the court case involving pro-democracy NGOs (including the son of the U.S. Transport Secretary), who had been barred from leaving Egypt, after the State Department paid $300,000 bail for each of them. The judge appointed to deal with the case decided on the first day of hearings that the case would be adjourned for a few months. The SCAF is clearly indicating to American legislators that it is still to be considered a U.S. ally and that no limitations should be put on the $1.3 billion in U.S. aid that finances as much as 80 percent of Egyptian military procurement. This contrasts very clearly with the March 11 National Assembly vote to order an end to this aid, a reflection of tensions with the U.S. over the NGO activists charged with illegal activity.

b. Relations with Israel: Even though the atmosphere in Cairo today is not in favor of Israel (as it never really was in the past), the SCAF has given its approval for the continued presence of the Israeli ambassador in Cairo. The SCAF accepted Israel’s regrets for the killing of several Egyptian soldiers in the aftermath of a terrorist action on the road to Eilat in summer 2011. In March 2012, Egyptian intelligence head Murad Mowafi again brokered a cease-fire between Israel and the Islamic Jihad in Gaza. For the eleventh time, Egypt has repaired the gas pipeline with Israel and beefed up its troops in Sinai in its quest to “reconquer” this part of Egypt which had been left to al-Qaeda and Bedouin operatives.

c. The Challenge from Within: Following the departure of the American NGO defendants, Egypt’s parliament voted on March 10 to begin steps to withdraw confidence from the military-appointed government, a move that will pressure the SCAF to appoint a new cabinet led by the Muslim Brotherhood. A vote of no-confidence would take Egypt into new political waters and could set the stage for a confrontation if the SCAF refused to yield to the will of the National Assembly. It could also complicate negotiations with the International Monetary Fund over a $3.2 billion loan the government of Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri is seeking in order to stave off a looming financial crisis after more than a year of political and economic turmoil. The problem for the Egyptian government is that it could not afford to continue antagonizing Washington for too long. Egypt is rapidly running out of foreign exchange reserves. The financial shortfall was created both by the collapse in business and the tourist trade following the revolution, and also as the long-term consequence of an unsustainably high and growing level of public subsidies. The IMF loan is vital if the country is to prevent a severe financial crisis.

d. Domestic Repression: According to several sources, more than 12,000 civilians have been detained by military tribunals in the past year – more than in the Mubarak era that lasted over 30 years. One year after the president’s fall, not a single senior officer in any Egyptian security force has been convicted in the killing of protesters during the 18-day uprising. Only recently did an Egyptian court rule as illegal the so-called “virginity tests” endured by hundreds of women who were arrested at rallies, demonstrations or protests. This procedure, performed by male doctors, was used as customary practice by the military.

e. The Trial of Former President Hosni Mubarak: The trial of the former president was slow to start after the revolution. Since he left office, Mubarak has spent no time in prison, instead remaining under 24-hour medical watch at advanced medical facilities. His defense lawyers have been allowed to call hundreds of witnesses, a process that could delay his trial indefinitely. And while Mubarak is granted all of the protections of due process, civilians facing much lesser charges are being tried rapidly in military tribunals. Lawyers, victims, and revolutionary groups have questioned the intentions of the SCAF or government prosecutors to deliver true justice.

To sum up, it seems that the military has managed to outmaneuver other forces in the country (Islamists, revolutionary youth, liberals, business elites, and even foreign governments) by creating conditions on the ground whereby everybody discreetly feels the military should play a role in safeguarding the political process, despite calls for its complete marginalization from political life. It is no coincidence that the only actual democracy Egyptians have ever experienced in five millennia was between 1946, the end of the British mandate, and 1952 when Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser and his “Free Officers” seized power and overthrew the monarchy. Egypt’s military held power for the next 60 years (18 years under Nasser, 12 with Anwar Sadat, and 30 with Hosni Mubarak) and it does not seem likely that Field Marshall Tantawi would be the last of Egypt’s military rulers. Nevertheless, unlike the past, there might be a situation of co-existence between the military and the growing power of Islam in Egyptian society. On this front the military can do very little. The external expressions of Islamocracy are widespread today in Egypt. It would be a fair assessment to say that they are here to last. But in no way does this have to be antagonistic to the actual military rule that still prevails in Egypt.

In today’s reality, a power-sharing arrangement between the SCAF and the Islamists seems very likely. One possible compromise would be to delineate specific areas as domains under the authority of the president-elect, with the establishment of a National Defense Council, much as the SCAF is today, to support him in these policy areas. Such a body is already provided for in the old constitution (Article 182), but it has only an advisory role. The executive roles adopted by the SCAF are pure improvisations because of the political vacuum created by the resignation of Mubarak. Such an alternative could appease the military but would limit the powers of the president and the Islamist-led National Assembly. In other words, it would be the continuation of the situation that prevails today in Egypt. Such an arrangement between the parties would hold as long as the specter of civil war remained present or as long as the Islamists continue to accept the supremacy in power of the military. Any detected weakness in the behavior of the military would be interpreted as a sign to end the de-facto arrangement.

About Jacques Neriah

Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, a special analyst for the Middle East at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was formerly Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence.

2012/04/06

Muslim Brotherhood seeks U.S. alliance as it ascends in Egypt

Source Washington Times

Muslim Brotherhood seeks U.S. alliance as it ascends in Egypt

Vows to honor treaty with Israel

By Ben Birnbaum

A lawmaker from Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood said Thursday that there would be “no referendum at all” on the country’s peace treaty with Israel, hours after the Islamist group’s presidential candidate made his unexpected bid official.

“We respect international obligations, period,” Abdul Mawgoud Dardery, a lawmaker from the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), told The Washington Times.

Mr. Dardery was on a good-will tour of Washington this week with three other Muslim Brotherhood representatives. Long shunned by Washington, the group has sought to soften its image in the West as it prepares to assume greater power in post-revolution Egypt.

On Thursday, the White House downplayed the significance of a meeting between administration officials and the Brotherhood’s envoys.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the FJP representatives met with “midlevel” officials from the National Security Council and that it was a reflection of the new politics in Egypt and the “prominent role” the group now plays in Cairo.

“We have broadened our engagement to include new and emerging political parties and actors,” Mr. Carney said.

“Because of the fact that Egypt’s political landscape has changed, the actors have become more diverse and our engagement reflects that,” he said. “The point is that we will judge Egypt’s political actors by how they act, not by their religious affiliation.”

Presidential ambitions

The Muslim Brotherhood’s ascendancy to power in the aftermath of longtime President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster last year has raised concerns among secular Egyptians and Coptic Christians, as well as U.S. and Israeli officials, about how the fundamentalist group would rule Egypt’s 85 million people and conduct its foreign relations.

Asked whether a Brotherhood-led government would put the 1979 Camp David Accords to a referendum, as many of the group’s leaders have promised, Mr. Dardery said no.

“No referendum at all concerning international obligations,” he said. “All our international agreements are respected by the Freedom and Justice Party, including Camp David.”

Meanwhile, FJP presidential candidate Khairat al-Shater filed papers Thursday with Egypt’s High Presidential Elections Commission. Egyptians will vote in the presidential election’s first round May 23 and 24, with the top two vote-getters facing off in a June 16 runoff.

The Brotherhood had promised not to field a presidential candidate but changed course Saturday, citing threats to democracy from the military council that has ruled Egypt since Mr. Mubarak stepped down in February 2011.

In Washington, Mr. Dardery said the Brotherhood fielded a candidate “to make sure that [the] democracy road is protected by the people of Egypt,” arguing that the military council had refused to give the parliament sufficient authority.

Mr. Shater, a businessman with a reputation for cunning pragmatism, joins a crowded field that includes Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik and moderate Islamist Abdel Moneim Abdoul Futouh. Salafist preacher Hazem Abu Ismail was disqualified Thursday, increasing Mr. Shater’s chances for victory.

Doubts about democracy

A poll taken by Egypt’s Al Ahram newspaper found that 58 percent prefer an Islamist candidate.

With Mr. Shater’s entry, some analysts now doubt that Mr. Moussa – once considered the overwhelming favorite – will make the runoff.

“Egypt is not moving toward a democracy,” said Eric Trager, an Egypt analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “It is moving toward a competitive theocracy in which the Muslim Brotherhood is pitted against more fundamentalist Salafists.

“The question is only which interpretation of the Shariah will be legislated, not whether Egypt will be a theocratic state.”

The FJP and the hard-line Salafist Nour Party won two-thirds of the seats in recent parliamentary elections and now dominate the constituent assembly tasked with writing Egypt’s new constitution.

The prospect of unchecked Islamist control has frightened secular Egyptians as well as the country’s large Coptic Christian community, which has faced escalating violence over the past year.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said this week that U.S. officials “want to see Egypt move forward in a democratic transition, and what that means is you do not and cannot discriminate against religious minorities, women, political opponents.”

Egypt’s Islamist tide also has sparked concerns in Israel, which has maintained a cold but stable peace with its southern neighbor since 1979.

“The Muslim Brothers will not show mercy to us, they will not give way to us, but I hope they will keep the peace,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday. “It is important for us, but I think that it is also important for Egypt.”

Despite Mr. Dardery’s statements Thursday, many analysts remain skeptical about the Brotherhood’s true intentions.

Trouble in the Sinai

“Their discourse back at home about Israel being an enemy is consistent with where they have been all along, and I don’t think we should expect any change,” said Steven Cook, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of “The Struggle for Egypt.”

“I think their hope is that they can put [the peace treaty] to the side at least for the moment, but the fact that they called for this referendum, the fact that they’ve used this issue makes it hard to believe that they wouldn’t bow to any political pressure [on Israel].”

Israel has had tense relations with Egypt’s military council, which the Jewish state says has not done enough to prevent terrorists from operating in the Sinai Peninsula.

Early Thursday, Mr. Netanyahu warned that the Sinai is becoming a “terror zone” after a rocket fired from the territory struck the southern Israeli resort city of Eilat. No injuries were reported.

The prospect of a further deterioration in relations between the two countries would raise difficult questions for Washington, which has given Egypt roughly $2 billion in aid annually since 1979.

“If they no longer respect agreements reached under previous governments, then they’re not a country worthy of our support,” said Rep. Gary L. Ackerman of New York, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Middle East and South Asia subcommittee.

But Mr. Ackerman, echoing a now-common school of thought in Washington, told The Times that Mr. Shater’s candidacy might be a positive development given the alternative.

“If I was writing the morning line on who can beat the Salafists, it’s the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said. “And if I have to choose between horrible and not that great, I’ll take not that great.”

Susan Crabtree contributed to this report.

As a Side Note:

A 1991 document written by U.S. MB leader Mohammed Akram (a.k.a. Mohammed Adlouni)explains the goal of the Brotherhood in America, which he identifies as “settlement:”

The general strategic goal of the Brotherhood in America which was approved bythe Shura [Leadership] Council and the Organizational Conference for 1987 is“enablement of Islam in North America, meaning: establishing an effective and sta-ble Islamic Movement led by the Muslim Brotherhood which adopts Muslims’causes domestically and globally, and which works to expand the observantMuslim base; aims at unifying and directing Muslims’ efforts; presents Islam as acivilization alternative; and supports the global Islamic state, wherever it is.” …Thepriority that is approved by the Shura Council for the work of the Brotherhood inits current and former session is “Settlement.”

The document goes on to explain that “settlement” is a form of jihad aimed at destroying Westerncivilization from within and allowing for the victory of Islam over other religions:The process of settlement is a “Civilization-Jihadist process” with all that the wordmeans. The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and “sab-otaging” its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so thatit is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.Without this level of understanding, we are not up to this challenge and have notprepared ourselves for Jihad yet. It is a Muslim’s destiny to perform Jihad and workwherever he is and wherever he lands until the final hour comes, and there is noescape from that destiny except for those who chose to slack. But, would the slack-ers and the Mujahidin be equal.

In another part of the document titled “The Process of Settlement,” the author explains that forthe Brotherhood’s goals to be accomplished, it is necessary to have a strong organizational base:In order for Islam and its Movement to become “a part of the homeland” in whichit lives, “stable” in its land, “rooted” in the spirits and minds of its people,“enabled” in the life of its society, [with] firmly established “organizations” onwhich the Islamic structure is built and with which the testimony of civilization isachieved, the Movement must plan and struggle to obtain “the keys” and the toolsof this process in carrying out this grand mission as a “Civilization-Jihadist”responsibility which lies on the shoulders of Muslims and—on top of them—theMuslim Brotherhood in this country….”

Read the entire PDF here Muslim Brotherhood of the United States

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2012/04/03

Iran Sanctions Exemptions Leave Room for Doubt About Obama’s Intentions

Source Commentary Magazine

Iran Sanctions Exemptions Leave Room for Doubt About Obama’s Intentions

Jonathan S. Tobin

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced today that the United States was granting exemptions to Japan and several European countries from sanctions that are intended to prevent the sale of Iranian oil. However, Clinton represented the waivers as part of the administration’s effort to tighten the vise on Iran. This makes some sense, at least as far as Europe is concerned. The European Union has already forbidden its member nations from signing new oil contracts with Iran and has pledged itself to ending existing obligations by July 1. As for Japan, Clinton said the exemption was a reward for their efforts toward reducing their dependence on Iranian oil.

If these exemptions really part of an integrated strategy aimed at tightening the noose around Iran’s economy then it is fair to say that President Obama is keeping his word to implement the sanctions Congress passed last year over his objections. However, it is worth noting that the administration has history of non-enforcement of sanctions on Iran as well as the possibility that such waivers will be used as a way to prolong negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. There is also the likelihood that the exemptions have more to do with a desire to stabilize oil prices than a campaign to force the ayatollahs to renounce their nuclear plans.

Assuming that Clinton means what she says about sticking to a tough policy on Iran, the exemptions are a way to gradually achieve an oil embargo of Iran without causing a major disruption of oil markets that would harm America’s allies. And while avoiding a spike in oil prices is an imperative for the president’s re-election campaign, it is also desirable to avoid any actions that would create windfall profits for Iran.

That said, as the New York Times notes, the real test of the administration’s intentions is whether it is prepared to apply the law to China and India, the nations that are the primary consumers of Iranian oil. China has already committed itself to buying more Iranian oil in the future.

The danger here is not only that Iran doesn’t believe that President Obama has the guts to risk raising oil prices in an election year and thus will continue to defy international efforts to get it to back down. Though the waivers allow the administration some flexibility in implementation of the sanctions, the fear is that when push comes to shove, the president will lack the nerve to punish nations that still prefer to do business with Tehran. The waivers may also encourage the Iranians to use the promise of negotiations to string the West along without them ever having to give up their nukes. As with everything else about the administration’s Iran policy, the key issue here is trust. The Treasury Department has already issued thousands of exemptions to American companies who want to do business with Iran in violation of the law. So long as Obama and Clinton can keep talking tough, they may assume that the public will be unaware of the fact that the crippling sanctions Congress imposed on them are full of holes.

Given Washington’s ardent desire to prevent Israel from taking action against the existential nuclear threat from Iran on its own, the administration will have every incentive to keep granting exemptions while continuing to indulge in bellicose rhetoric aimed at Iran but really intended for the ears of American voters. An American government that is more committed to maintaining a window for dubious diplomacy with Iran than actually forcing Tehran to give up its nuclear ambitions may well use the exemptions to avoid a confrontation rather than to achieve their intended purpose.

all emphasis added

N. Korean satellite launch pretext for Iran missile test

N. Korean satellite launch pretext for Iran missile test

Western defense officials say upcoming launch is a continuation of Iran and North Korea’s nuclear and missile cooperation • Seoul warns it might shoot down North Korean rocket if it violates South Korean territory.

Yoav Limor

The satellite that North Korea intends to launch into space next month is apparently merely a front, with the real reason behind the planned launch being to test a long-range ballistic missile for another country – apparently Iran. This, at least, is what defense officials in the West have come to believe. The launch is also intended to possibly test a new launcher.

North Korea has moved a long-range rocket to a launching site, apparently determined to press ahead with its plan to launch a satellite in defiance of international condemnation, the South Korean military said Sunday, The New York Times reported. The Times article said that the North Koreans moved the main body of the Unha-3 rocket to the newly built launching station in Dongchang-ri, a village in northwest North Korea.

The satellite launch is expected to take place between April 12 and 16. North Korea has claimed that the launch is for “peaceful purposes only,” and to celebrate the April 15 centenary of the birth of its founder, Kim Il Sung. Kim’s grandson, Kim Jong Un, has led the nation of 24 million since his father, Kim Jong Il, died in December. North Korea has also claimed that the launch will not affect its neighbors and that it wasn’t violating an agreement with the West under which North Korea has agreed to suspend its nuclear program in exchange for food shipments. Within the agreement, North Korea has agreed to halt the testing of ballistic missiles and to stop enriching uranium at its nuclear facility in Yongbyon.

Pyongyan’s neighbor and nemesis, Seoul, warned Monday that it might shoot down parts of the North Korean rocket if they violate South Korean territory, as worries about what Washington calls a long-range missile test overshadowed an international nuclear security summit, AP reported on Monday.

Western security officials now believe that sending the satellite into space is only a pretext for the primary goal of the launch, and that the actual purpose is to test a long-range ballistic missile belonging to another country. Suspicions, as stated, have fallen on Iran.

The Islamic Republic has close ties to North Korea, depending on it during different stages of its nuclear and long-range missile program. Based on this assessment, Iran is concerned that testing its long-range missiles from its own territory will be interpreted by the West as another sign that it is advancing its nuclear weapons program, including an accelerated effort to develop its arsenal of long-range missiles.

Read all of the article Click Here

2012/03/28

Obama’s Support for Pro-Islamist Syrian Opposition and the Duplicity of Turkey

View this document on Scribd

Israel sees new advantage in Iron Dome anti-missile system

Filed under: Iran, Iron Dome, Israel, Missile Defense, National Security, Obama — - @ 9:14 am

Source McClatchy

Israel sees new advantage in Iron Dome anti-missile system

By Sheera Frenkel |

ASHKELON, Israel — Israel’s newest weapon sits squarely along the border of this southern Israeli town. The Iron Dome, a rocket interception system built by Israel, guards many of the cities that lie within the range of rockets fired by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

The system, considered among the most advanced in the world, fires a missile to intercept incoming rockets after it gauges whether a rocket will fall in an area where it can cause damage. It is, according to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, a “game changer.”

When violence flared along the Israel-Gaza border earlier this month, the effectiveness of the Iron Dome was tested, and Israeli officials couldn’t have been more pleased.

Of the approximately 250 rockets and mortars fired at Israel from Gaza, 166 entered Israel’s airspace, officials said. Of those, 74 would have struck civilian areas or buildings. The Iron Dome system intercepted 56 before they could land, a success rate of 75 percent. Israeli officials argue, however, that the Iron Dome also identified rockets that were headed for open areas, such as fields, and let them land harmlessly. Factoring those in, Israeli military officials argue that only 18 of the 166 landed anywhere on target, giving the system a success rate of nearly 90 percent.

Israeli military officers and politicians said the success of the system gave Israel “diplomatic maneuverability” that it didn’t have previously.

Israel Defense Forces chief Benny Gantz described the Iron Dome’s impact as a “serious and historical military change.”

Gantz said the ability to protect Israeli population centers from rocket attacks removed one of the key factors that the military had always seen as a limitation on its operations: what the likelihood was of reprisals.

Now, Gantz added, the Israeli military can operate relatively undeterred without concern about rocket attacks. The barrage of rockets earlier this month was triggered by the targeted killing in a drone strike of Zuhair al Qaissi, a senior member of the Popular Resistance Committee, an umbrella group that includes militants from various Palestinian factions.

Iron Dome is just the beginning, Gantz said. While it focuses on smaller rockets with a relatively short range, such as those from the Gaza Strip, Israel is installing other systems that are intended to stop larger missiles, fired from farther away.

David’s Sling, a system built in conjunction with the U.S. military, is designed to intercept medium- to long-range rockets and cruise missiles, such as those possessed by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. Another system, the Arrow, also developed with the United States, would intercept ballistic missiles fired from hundreds of miles away.

Israeli military officials said they hoped the systems would deter militants from firing rockets.

“If they know we have the ability to stop their rockets from hitting their targets, they might abandon this method,” said one Israel Defense Forces officer, who spoke to reporters recently on the condition of anonymity. “In the long run we can hope for this.”

Already though, the impact on Israeli residents of the south has been felt. Writing in The Jerusalem Post, military analyst Yaakov Katz said that, “Israel’s political leadership is under less pressure from the public that is under the rocket fire. As a result, neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor Defense Minister Ehud Barak feel a need to escalate the operation.”

Meira Cohanim, a 56-year-old resident of Ashkelon, said she felt comforted that the military was trying to intercept missiles from Gaza, even if the system wasn’t 100 percent effective.

“Before, you had this feeling that the rockets were just pounding away,” she said. “And they would land wherever they did and your home was hit or it wasn’t. Now there is a feeling that something might be changing; we might be protected.”

Iron Dome, she said, might give the Israel Defense Forces more leeway to operate in Gaza, but she hoped that it wouldn’t mean another war.

“The people in Gaza don’t have Iron Dome or even bomb shelters. I know some people here think it’s good for us to attack them, but there are innocents and children there, too,” she said. “I hope Iron Dome brings peace, not one-sided war.”

(Frenkel is a McClatchy special correspondent.)

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