Archive for the ‘Palestine/Israel’ Category
Brian Downing, Asia Times, April 16, 2011
The once seemingly overwhelming momentum of the democratic movements in the Middle East has been stopped or at least slowed in many countries. The forces behind staunching the tide of change are often domestic in nature, but Saudi Arabia is playing an important supporting role – sometimes behind the scenes, sometimes through open use of force. These actions will have consequences throughout the region for quite some time.
Saudi Arabia and Iran
Once the “twin pillars” of US policy in the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia and Iran have become increasingly antagonistic over the past three decades. This was especially so after the Saudis supported Iraq’s lengthy and bloody war with Iran in the 1980s, which included a handful of air skirmishes between Saudi and Iranian aircraft.
More recently, Saudi Arabia has helped to build a coalition of Sunni Arab states opposed to Iranian influence and nuclear research. Such is the fear of Iran in Saudi Arabia that it is reportedly willing to grant fly-over rights for Israel to attack Iran.
The House of Saud’s concern with Iran has become a veritable obsession. It can be usefully likened to the obsession US national security institutions had for the Soviet Union during some of the more heated moments of the Cold War when many reformist movements around the world were deemed the machinations of Soviet intelligence officers. A pertinent case in point would be the Central Intelligence Agency’s conviction that the popular uprising that unseated the shah was the work of the Soviet KGB.
Similarly, the House of Saud has badly misinterpreted reform movements both inside the kingdom and throughout the region. The various crowds that assembled peacefully to call for a voice in their future are seen as the nefarious work of Iranian intelligence officers.
However, there is no evidence of Iranian intelligence personnel in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia, where the kingdom’s Shi’ite minority is concentrated, or in neighboring Bahrain, where the Shi’ites constitute 70% of the population. In both countries, Shi’ite and Sunni alike called for social and political change. “No Shi’ite, no Sunni, Just Bahraini.” Neither group needed foreign operatives to tell them that their futures were limited by monarchal cliques or that the Shi’ites were looked down upon and excluded from many parts of public life.
Nonetheless, the Saudis responded swiftly and forcefully. They issued dire warnings before the called-for demonstrations of March 11 in their country and security forces immediately set upon groups trying to coalesce that day, intimidating and beating them before they could form the numbers that assembled in Cairo until Hosni Mubarak had to step down. Outside the kingdom, Saudi national guard troops crossed the causeway into Bahrain and helped to crush the protest movement in Pearl Square with considerable loss of life.
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AFP, April 11, 2011
Israel should not settle for a truce with Hamas in Gaza, and should instead seek to topple the Islamist rulers of the coastal strip, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Monday.
“The goal that we have settled on, of seeking a return to calm, is a grave error because it will allow Hamas to reinforce along the lines of Hezbollah,” Lieberman told public radio, referring to the Lebanese militia with which Israel fought a 2006 war.
“The objective must be to force Hamas out of power,” said Lieberman, who heads the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party.
“To return to calm accepts a war of attrition in which Hamas can determine when there is a lull and when the front is heating up,” he said.
+“Defense” means the ability to attack with protection from retaliatory consequences -PR+
James Petras in Counterpunch:
The action and reaction always is located in a limited time frame. Palestinian action is always the initial moment and the Israeli military attack is always described as a response or “retaliatory” and therefore, presumably a form of defensive action, “justifiable”.
Thus what appears as objective reportage on two sets of military actions, is in fact an arbitrary selection of time frames which lays the basis for a highly biased interpretive framework.
US to help pay for Iron Dome “defense” system
Democrats, republicans slated to approve 2011 budget this week enabling Obama to increase security aid to Israel, transfer $205 million for development of anti-missile system
Yitzhak Benhorin, Ynetnews, April 11,2011
The United States is slated to provide Israel with $430 million worth of security aid in the near future which will include $205 million allocated for the development of Iron Dome batteries.
Democrats and republicans are slated to finalize the 2011 budget in the coming days…
…According to an agreement between the US and Israel for the next 10 years, 2011 aid was slated to grow to $3 billion (from $2.77 billion) in addition to an extra $205 million for the development of the Iron Dome system.
Israel warns Iron Dome still at experimental stage
Conal Urquhart, The Guardian, April 11, 2011
The initial success of Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defence system has been hailed as an example of “Jewish genius” – but the army insists it is still at an experimental stage.
Since 7 April the system has shot down nine rockets fired at Israel from Gaza, although it was unable to stop at least 11 others.
Iron Dome: Israel Deploys Unique, Controversial Missile System
Stuart Fox, InnovationNewsDaily, March 30, 2011
…Iron Dome is “a uniquely Israeli solution for a uniquely Israeli problem,” said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org and an expert on defense technology and policy. “Nobody else has the problem of being that close to an enemy you can’t annihilate. Because if it was a stand-up war, and the guy who was shooting at you was only a couple miles away, you would just blow him up, and that would be the end of it. But you can’t do that here.”…
…Furthermore, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that the Israel Defense Forces chose to buy the Iron Dome instead of the U.S.-designed anti-rocket laser because of pressure to buy domestic products, and due to the profitability of selling the technology to other countries.
Pedatzur also argued that Iron Dome won’t act fast enough to protect the southern Israeli cities that bear the brunt of rocket fire coming from the Gaza Strip.
Rocket War: 36,000 DIY Missiles vs. Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’
Adam Rawnsley, Wired, April 8, 2011
But Iron Dome’s protection comes at a price. The advanced radar-guided system uses missiles to knock out cheap, sometimes DIY rockets at short range — and costs at least $25,000 per missile fired and $50 million per battery. Facing an arsenal of thousands of Hezbollah rockets up north, Iron Dome could quickly rack up a hefty bill in the event of another war.
Israeli Anti-Missile System Faces Fire at Home and Delays in U.S. Funding
Nathan Jeffay and Nathan Guttman, Forward, January 4, 2011
…Meanwhile, on the Israeli side, questions have been brewing regarding the system’s efficacy and costs and the real purpose of its development.
Gadi Eizenkot, commander of Israel’s Northern Command, said on November 30 that Iron Dome was not necessarily intended to protect civilians and that its primary deployment should be in military bases. His statement reinforced the concerns of Sderot residents who had already noticed that Iron Dome’s radar system was positioned at a nearby air force base, not in the city.
Local leaders are seething. “We are frustrated; we are angry,” said Alon Schuster, head of the Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council…
…Martin van Creveld, author of 21 books on military history and strategy, including “Countering Terrorism,” pointed to the high cost of using Iron Dome, which reaches $100,000 for each interceptor fired. “The ‘exchange rate’ must be 1,000 to 1 as Qassams can probably be made for $100,” van Creveld said. At such cost ratios, the system offers Israel’s enemies a way to quickly drain the Jewish state’s economic resources, he said.
Now Egypt’s transitional new government says it is ready to re-establish diplomatic ties with Iran. If an agreement is clinched, the diplomatic repercussions will reverberate across the Middle East and beyond.
An historic rapprochement between Tehran and Cairo would concern the Arab world, unnerve Israel and dismay the United States, which has been striving to isolate Iran because of its nuclear programme.
Iran would hail a breakthrough with Egypt as the first concrete gain it has reaped from the pro-democracy unrest gripping much of the Arab world. The changing regional tide, Iran already argues, is in its favour.
“Iran is an important country and we are bound by historic ties with it,” El-Arabi said. “It is a neighbour and we don’t consider it an enemy state.”
Ahmed Eleiba, Ahram Online, April 5, 2011
Iran led the way for regional powers seeking favour with the January 25 Revolution in Egypt. For Egyptian analysts, however, Tehran should take care with its rhetoric on the Egyptian revolution. Supreme Guide Ali Khameini’s famous speech was misplaced, according to Mohamed Abbas Nagi, an expert on Iran affairs at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies. Khameini’s address, which was delivered in Arabic, stated that Islamic revival was coming to the region “born in the womb” of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions. This statement was rejected by most political forces in Egypt, including the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists.
Major General Adel Suleiman, (AKA Mubarak#2 -PR) director of the Centre for Futuristic Studies in Cairo, noted that relations between Egypt and Iran had been linked to a variety of issues and not based on economic and historic ties.
“These relations remained very tense because of sharp differences between Cairo and Tehran regarding Iran’s positions and regional issues,” explains Suleiman. “There was no dialogue despite attempts to make contacts, but these were unsuccessful in building any significant ties or eliminating obstacles. On the contrary, these ties continued to deteriorate further.”
The chill between the two countries during Mubarak’s era was between the regimes, not the people. Disputes and a lack of trust blocked the path to progress. Failure was the dominant feature throughout, and efforts made by Iran’s Shura Council Chairman Ali Larijani in Cairo a year ago were wasted. During his visit, Larijani met with security, political and diplomatic officials as well as the former president.
Following the outbreak of the Egyptian revolution, Khameini’s speech did not help matters, according to Suleiman, since it seemed to promote a sectarian reading of that revolution, at odds with its true nature and spirit.
The turning point came, however, when Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil El-Arabi declared in his first news conference that Egypt is willing to resume relations with Tehran, which it does not view as an enemy state but as a neighbouring country. El-Arabi referred to the historic ties between the two nations, pointing out that the people of Egypt have turned over a new leaf in their history. “Iran is an important country and we are bound by historic ties with it,” El-Arabi said. “It is a neighbour and we don’t consider it an enemy state.”
Grace Wyler, The Business Insider, April 5, 2011
Egyptian presidential candidate and former International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei has said that, if elected, he would fight back against an Israeli offensive in Gaza, Ynet News reports.
In an interview with an Arab newspaper Monday, ElBaradei emphasized his determination to protect Palestinians in Gaza, stating that any Israeli military attacks would result in a declaration of war from Egypt.
“If Israel attacked Gaza we would declare war against the Zionist regime,” ElBaradei told Al-Watan, according to YNet. “In case of any future Israeli attack on Gaza – as the next president of Egypt – I will open the Rafah border crossing and will consider different ways to implement the joint Arab defense agreement.”
ElBaradei also expressed concern over Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, saying that “there has been no tangible breakthrough reconciliation process because of the imbalance of power in the region – a situation that creates a kind of one way peace.”
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Libya is a sideshow. Containing Iran’s power remains their central goal in the Middle East. Every decision — from Libya to Yemen to Bahrain to Syria — is being examined under the prism of how it will affect what was, until mid-January, the dominating calculus in the Obama administration’s regional strategy: how to slow Iran’s nuclear progress, and speed the arrival of opportunities for a successful uprising there.
David Sanger, The New York Times, April 2, 2011
On a Tuesday afternoon in mid-March in the White House Situation Room, as President Obama heard the arguments of his security advisers about the pros and cons of using military force in Libya, the conversation soon veered into the impact in a far more strategically vital place: Iran.
The mullahs in Tehran, noted Thomas E. Donilon, the national security adviser, were watching Mr. Obama’s every move in the Arab world. They would interpret a failure to back up his declaration that Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi had “lost the legitimacy to lead” as a sign of weakness — and perhaps as a signal that Mr. Obama was equally unwilling to back up his vow never to allow Iran to gain the ability to build a nuclear weapon.
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1. WikiLeaks Honduras: State Dept. Busted on Support of Coup by Robert Naiman
“By July 24, 2009, the U.S. government was totally clear about the basic facts of what took place in Honduras on June 28, 2009. The U.S. embassy in Tegucigalpa sent a cable to Washington with subject: “Open and Shut: The Case of the Honduran Coup,” asserting that “there is no doubt” that the events of June 28 “constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup.” The Embassy listed arguments being made by supporters of the coup to claim its legality, and dismissed them thus: “none… has any substantive validity under the Honduran constitution.” The Honduran military clearly had no legal authority to remove President Zelaya from office or from Honduras, the Embassy said, and their action — the Embassy described it as an “abduction” and “kidnapping” — was clearly unconstitutional.
…Instead, a month after this cable was sent, the State Department, in its public pronouncements, pretended that the events of June 28 — in particular, “who did what to whom” and the constitutionality of these actions — were murky and needed further study by State Department lawyers, despite the fact that the State Department’s top lawyer, Harold Koh, knew exactly “who did what to whom” and that these actions were unconstitutional at least one month earlier.”