Spearhead Analysis: EMERGING CLOUT OF HAMAS

November 26, 2012

By Air Commodore (R) Khalid Iqbal
Spearhead Research

As the newly worked out cease fire arrangement come into force in Gaza, a re-look at the conflict is in order. Gaza people entered an interesting phase of struggle when their mandate was denied after 2006 elections; the people of Palestine had given Hamas a resounding mandate of 74 of the 132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council against Al-Fattah’s 46. Voter turnout was more than 77%. Hamas earned the first right to form a government. Nevertheless, this right was forcibly denied through an international conspiracy. This resulted in a de’facto territorial bifurcation between Al-Fattah and Hamas. It encouraged Israel to impose a crippling siege over the people of Gaza. Reaction by the comity of nations and agencies like UN, OIC and Arab League etc was of regret and severe condemnation.

Now Gaza, under Hamas rule, has emerged as an independent political actor to reckon with. Cease fire, truce and any other stabilizing mechanism in Palestinian territories has to be endorsed by Hamas, and not just by the PLA government. Despite denial of mandate, the political power has quietly shifted to its rightful place and the legitimate owner; Gaza and Hamas. Now all routs to durable peace process pass through Gaza. Israelis are already talking to Hamas as the de’facto government of Gaza. Now this is likely to be further formalized with the involvement of Egypt. Hamas achieved a significant breakthrough, when the Emir of Qatar made a state visit to Gaza. He was the first head of state to do so. In the middle of the recent crisis, Egyptian prime minister also arrived in Gaza. Others are expected to follow. Operation “Pillar of Cloud” compelled all Arab countries to rally around Hamas, or at least pretend as such. Like Operation “Cast Lead”, Operation “Pillar of Cloud” also took place on the eve of Israeli elections. It was a rerun of the criminal aggression against Gaza four years ago that had left more than 1,400 Palestinians dead, including hundreds of children. Planning of such events close to elections ensure that there is no political level opposition from within Israel.

The most significant casualty of “Pillar of Cloud” was Ahmad Al Ja’abari, the operational commander of the military wing of Hamas, who was assassinated along with his son. Ahmed al-Ja’abari’s assassination, coupled with air strikes on the Gaza Strip has smashed the inhibitors that kept the conflict from conflagration. Some may say that such assassinations are an aim in themselves. However, these have not brought any long term benefits. Israel killed Hizbullah leader Abbas al-Moussawi, and got the vastly more intelligent Hassan Nasrallah. Hamas founder Sheik Ahmad Yassin was replaced by an abler man. Ja’abari’s successor may be less or more capable. It will not make much of a difference. Assassination of the military commander Ja’abari was a well planned event to trigger the reaction. The Gaza Strip is full of missiles. Some of them are able to reach Tel Aviv. Israeli military had long planned a major operation to destroy as many of them as possible from the air. Intelligence outfits had patiently been gathering information about missile locations. This was the main purpose of the “Pillar of Cloud” operation.

Palestinian Authority plans to make another attempt, on November 29, to get the non-state member status, for Palestine, at the UN. It is uncertain whether or not this increase in violence will affect the petition. New circumstances will certainly pose question on whether or not the Palestinian Authority has the power to reignite solidarity amongst Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The division between these two territories has gone much beyond land and politics; it represents a division between the people. The challenge to unite Palestinians has been daunting for the Palestinian Authority.

Egypt aspires to reposition itself in regional politics. It is doing so by aligning itself with the Arab cause. Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi has repeatedly mentioned the Palestinian cause in his public speeches, most specifically during his recent address to the United Nations General Assembly. Egypt is now in a position and mood to redefine itself in Arab and global politics. Turkey has already scaled back its relations with Israel. These realignments will discourage additional Muslims countries from extending recognition to Israel. Cumulatively, it would strengthen the lobbies wishing a durable solution of Palestine conflict. President Morsi played a critical role in brokering the much-needed ceasefire between Hamas and Israel after eight days of shelling that led to the death of 162 Palestinians. He took another major initiative by agreeing to open Egyptian border crossings with Gaza to allow the trade of food and goods to help relieve Israel’s economic and humanitarian siege of the enclave in line with the wide public support at home.

Failure of the UN to resolve the crises came to fore, yet once again. UN chief Ban- Ki-Moon urged all sides to the Gaza conflict to immediately cease their fire, warning at a press conference in Cairo, he said: “All sides must halt fire immediately…Further escalating the situation will put the entire region at risk.” Earlier, the UN Security Council held its session to discuss the issue but hit deadlock on a statement on the Gaza conflict with the United States saying it opposes any action that undermines efforts to reach a ceasefire. But Russia warned that unless an Arab-proposed statement calling for Israel-Hamas hostilities to end was agreed to, it would press for a vote on the full council resolution – setting up a potential veto clash with the United States. Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the Arab proposal, made through Morocco, is “a very good text”. Palestinian envoy to the UN, Riyad Mansour, highlighted the growing frustration of the Palestinian Authority and its allies as the fighting intensified and the council could do nothing. The Security Council cannot “remain on the margin,” he told reporters. He said it was now urgent for the “the Security Council to shoulder its responsibility and stop this aggression against our people.” US ambassador Susan Rice said there had to be an agreed ceasefire between the Israelis and Hamas for any halt in violence to be “meaningful or sustainable.” It is another wake-up call for the UN. It must carry out meaningful structural reforms to remain relevant in the domain of contemporary conflict resolution. The UN should, at least, be able to honour its own resolutions regarding the settlement of Palestinian issue.

Attachment of Pakistani people to the Palestinian cause predates the creation of Pakistan. They feel that Palestinian issue is the outcome of conspiracies hatched to dismember Ottoman Caliphate. France and Britain lured the Arabs to conspire in toppling Ottoman Empire and in return assured that the Arabs would remain safe. On the contrary, they created an epicentre of insecurity for the Middle East in the form of Israel. Arabs had to pay for the injustices meted out to the Jews by the Europeans. In 1937, while addressing Muslim League’s meeting in Lucknow, Quaid-i-Azam had condemned Britain for conspiring to divide Palestine. In 1946, he urged to resist the plans of settling of Jews in Palestine. Palestinians are a leading miserable life. They are living like open air prisoners and have been facing recurring crisis like situation since 1948. When Pakistan’s first Prime Minister visited the US inn 1948, an influential delegation of the Jew community called on him and offered political and economic support for Pakistan in exchange for recognition of Israel. To this Mr Liaquat Ali Khan replied: “Gentlemen! My soul is not for sale.”

Palestinian issue is not likely to be resolved through armed means; however, negotiations may lead to its settlement. Negotiations between the both parties should be equity based. For this purpose, Palestine Authority should be elevated to statehood. Recurring spates of Israeli aggression against Palestinians are condemnable and world powers should take all necessary steps to immediately stop these acts. The UN and other humanitarian agencies should make necessary arrangements for sustained provision of food, medical facilities and other amenities to the besieged people of Gaza.

The real remedy is peace; a comprehensive and sustainable peace with the Palestinian people. Hamas has already pledged that it would respect a peace agreement concluded by the Palestinian Authority that could establish a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, provided this agreement was confirmed in a Palestinian referendum. The UN needs to pick up the threads, and try to undo its past mistakes.

Current crisis has thrown up three interesting developments: Egypt is emerging as political leader of the Middle East, Hamas is now an independent political actor, and in the long term perspective, Israel is on the losing end in terms of international sympathy.

Writer is Consultant, Policy & Strategic Response, IPRI.
Email:
Khalid3408@gmail.com


At least 15,000 Pakistanis stranded in Libya

March 14, 2011

Around 15,000 to 20,000 Pakistanis remain stranded in Libya, caught in the turmoil, whereas a Monitoring Committee set up in Overseas Pakistanis Foundation (OPF) is monitoring the situation in Libya and coordinating early repatriation of the stranded persons. Talking to a local news agency, Managing Director OPF Habib Ur Rehman Khan said after Egypt the political unrest in the Middle East had spilled over into Libya. He said the monitoring committee was working closely with the Special Task Force established in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Islamabad. Khan said that the OPF Airport Counters are operative around the clock and OPF officials deputed at these airport counters were facilitating Pakistanis returning from Libya.


Libya unrest sparks refugee crisis at Tunisia border

March 1, 2011

Libya’s border with Tunisia is being overrun with migrants, many of them from Egypt, fleeing turmoil in Libya, aid workers say.


Thousands of Egyptians have been streaming into Tunisia from Libya

A UN refugee official told the BBC that 20,000 Egyptians were stranded and needed food and shelter. Many are sleeping in the open despite the cold.

Some Egyptian refugees staged protests shouting: “We want to go home.”

About 100,000 people have fled anti-government unrest in Libya over the past week, the UN estimates.

The BBC’s Jim Muir at the Ras Jdir border crossing with Tunisia says the exodus of Egyptian workers from western Libya began on Wednesday, but has been intensifying daily since then.

Liz Eyster of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) told the BBC that Tunisian authorities were no longer able to cope with the influx.

“They’ve been accommodating people in shelters, schools and places of their own. But we’re now aware of the fact that they’re very much stretched and they need the support of the international community.”

Monji Slim, the local representative of the Red Crescent, told AFP news agency: “It is a humanitarian crisis, our capacities to take in people are exhausted. The entire world should mobilise to help Egypt repatriate its nationals.”

About 7,000 Egyptians have already been evacuated by air, but Ms Eyster said there was a “bottleneck in getting the Egyptians back home”.

One stranded refugee said: “All the people here are demonstrating because they want to go to Egypt. All countries are sending aircraft to rescue their people – Turkey, Korea, India, Bangladesh – everyone is arriving and leaving except for Egyptians.”

A number of countries have been evacuating foreigners by air and sea.

On Sunday a Greek ship carrying hundreds of migrants – mainly from Brazil, the Philippines, Thailand, Portugal, the Netherlands and Britain – docked at the port of Piraeus near Athens.

‘Revolution’

The exodus comes as the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, battles for political survival in an uprising that began in the east of the country.

At least 1,000 people are believed to have been killed in nearly two weeks of violence in which eastern cities cities have fallen to anti-government forces.

Col Gaddafi is facing the biggest challenge to his 41-year rule, but still controls the capital Tripoli.

However the centre of Zawiya, about 50km (30 miles) to the west, was being held by the anti-government camp on Sunday. Pro-Gaddafi forces are surrounding the city.

“This is our revolution,” some demonstrators, quoted by Reuters news agency, chanted.

A number of protesters stood on top of a captured tank while others crowded around an anti-aircraft gun, Reuters added.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington was “reaching out to many different Libyans in the east”.

She was speaking on her way to Geneva to meet the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to discuss the crisis.

Opposition forces that control Benghazi and other eastern cities say they have formed a national council to act as the political face of the anti-Gaddafi movement.

Late on Saturday, the UN Security Council unanimously backed an arms embargo and asset freeze on senior Libyan government officials.

It also voted to refer Col Gaddafi to the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity.

In a telephone interview with a Serbian TV, he said the sanctions were null and void.

“The people of Libya support me, small groups of rebels are surrounded and will be dealt with,” he added.

Col Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam denied that his father had any assets abroad.

“We are a very modest family and everybody knows that,” he told ABC News. “They are saying we have money in Europe or Switzerland… It’s a joke.”

He also denied widespread reports that Libyan troops and mercenaries had fired on civilians.


WikiLeaks: Israel’s secret hotline to the man tipped to replace Mubarak

February 8, 2011

By Tim Ross, Christopher Hope, Steven Swinford and Adrian Blomfield

The new vice-president of Egypt, Omar Suleiman, is a long-standing favourite of Israel’s who spoke daily to the Tel Aviv government via a secret “hotline” to Cairo, leaked documents disclose.


Omar Suleiman, left, was Israel’s preferred candidate to replace President Mubarak according to secret cables released to The Daily Telegraph by WikiLeaks

Mr Suleiman, who is widely tipped to take over from Hosni Mubarak as president, was named as Israel’s preferred candidate for the job after discussions with American officials in 2008.

As a key figure working for Middle East peace, he once suggested that Israeli troops would be “welcome” to invade Egypt to stop weapons being smuggled to Hamas terrorists in neighbouring Gaza.

The details, which emerged in secret files obtained by WikiLeaks and passed to The Daily Telegraph, come after Mr Suleiman began talks with opposition groups on the future for Egypt’s government.

On Saturday, Mr Suleiman won the backing of Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, to lead the “transition” to democracy after two weeks of demonstrations calling for President Mubarak to resign.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister, spoke to Mr Suleiman yesterday and urged him to take “bold and credible steps” to show the world that Egypt is embarking on an “irreversible, urgent and real” transition.

Leaked cables from American embassies in Cairo and Tel Aviv disclose the close co-operation between Mr Suleiman and the US and Israeli governments as well as diplomats’ intense interest in likely successors to the ageing President Mubarak, 83.

The documents highlight the delicate position which the Egyptian government seeks to maintain in Middle East politics, as a leading Arab nation with a strong relationship with the US and Israel. By 2008, Mr Suleiman, who was head of the foreign intelligence service, had become Israel’s main point of contact in the Egyptian government.

David Hacham, a senior adviser from the Israeli Ministry of Defence, told the American embassy in Tel Aviv that a delegation led by Israel’s defence minister, Ehud Barak had been impressed by Mr Suleiman, whose name is spelled “Soliman” in some cables.

But Mr Hacham was “shocked” by President Mubarak’s “aged appearance and slurred speech”.

The cable, from August 2008, said: “Hacham was full of praise for Soliman, however, and noted that a ‘hot line’ set up between the MOD and Egyptian General Intelligence Service is now in daily use.

“Hacham noted that the Israelis believe Soliman is likely to serve as at least an interim President if Mubarak dies or is incapacitated.” The Tel Aviv diplomats added: “We defer to Embassy Cairo for analysis of Egyptian succession scenarios, but there is no question that Israel is most comfortable with the prospect of Omar Soliman.”

Elsewhere the documents disclose that Mr Suleiman was stung by Israeli criticism of Egypt’s inability to stop arms smugglers transporting weapons to Palestinian militants in Gaza. At one point he suggested that Israel send troops into the Egyptian border region of Philadelphi to “stop the smuggling”.

“In their moments of greatest frustration, [Egyptian Defence Minister] Tantawi and Soliman each have claimed that the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] would be ‘welcome’ to re-invade Philadelphi, if the IDF thought that would stop the smuggling,” the cable said.

The files suggest that Mr Suleiman wanted Hamas “isolated”, and thought Gaza should “go hungry but not starve”.

“We have a short time to reach peace,” he told US diplomats. “We need to wake up in the morning with no news of terrorism, no explosions, and no news of more deaths.”

Yesterday, Hosni Mubarak’s control of Egypt’s state media, a vital lynchpin of his 30-year presidency, started to slip as the country’s largest-circulation newspaper declared its support for the uprising.

Hoping to sap the momentum from street protests demanding his overthrow, the president has instructed his deputy to launch potentially protracted negotiations with secular and Islamist opposition parties. The talks continued for a second day yesterday without yielding a significant breakthrough.

But Mr Mubarak was dealt a significant setback as the state-controlled Al-Ahram, Egypt’s second oldest newspaper and one of the most famous publications in the Middle East, abandoned its long-standing slavish support for the regime.

In a front-page leading article, the newspaper hailed the “nobility” of the “revolution” and demanded the government embark on irreversible constitutional and legislative changes.


Britain funding project to train Pakistan judges

March 19, 2010

LONDON, March 18 (APP)-The United Kingdom is funding a project to train Pakistan family judges on cases relating to child abduction.

According to the annual report on human rights 2009 published by Foreign and Commonwealth Office and launched by the British Foreign Secretary David Miliband at the Lancaster House on Wednesday evening, the judges are to be trained under the bilateral judicial agreement on child abduction.

The UK has a similar agreement with Egypt on how to handle child abduction cases. With reference to Pakistan, the report says, “We will be funding a project to train Pakistan family judges on the UK-Pakistan protocol. In recognition that court-imposed custody issues and that arrangements to which both the parents agree can be more sustainable, we have also been developing other avenues for resolving cases including international mediation.”

In the 2009, FCO funded the NGO Reunite to train mediators in Pakistan and Egypt to help parents have contact with their children or have them returned to the UK.

On the issue of ‘forced marriage’ prevalent in the South Asian sub-continent, the report mentioned the excellent performance of the Assistance Unit based in the British High Commission in Islamabad which won the UK Civil Service Award for Diversity and Equality.

The award recognised the Unit’s innovative approach to tackling the practice of forced marriage were as well as directly helping victims, they have undertaken an active outreach and awareness programme among the local communities.

Furthermore, the report also noted progress made by the Pakistani government on improving human rights situation despite the serious challenges that faced the civilian government, exacerbated both by a serious economic crisis and a concerted and violent campaign of suicide attacks by violent extremists in major cities throughout the country.

“Pakistani civil society particularly its media, remains strong and vocal, frequently calling the Pakistani authorities to account.”

The report also spoke about the support for military action in Swat by the galvanised civil society horrified by the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Taliban.

Such abuses, particularly against women and girls, caused widespread outrage in Pakistan, the report said.

It said between 2007 and 2010, Euros 200 million of general assistance will fund projects focused on specific themes including humanitarian assistance, democracy and capacity building for local governments and NGOs. Further support is provided to the local NGOs by the European Commission.

“The UK also strongly supports the EU in requiring that Pakistan sign and ratify all major UN treaties related to human rights, prior to any further trade agreements between the EU and Pakistan.”

According to the report, the UK also funds programmes to promote human rights in Pakistan. These projects aim to raise awareness, benefit vulnerable communities and engage political attention in order to effect longer term political reform.

The report appreciated that the Pakistani Government has created a National Day for Minorities on August 11 and initiated Inter-Faith committees on local level to resolve disputes before they spark into violence.

To support the federal and provincial Pakistani governments in addressing the misuse of the blasphemy laws, the UK Government is funding a project analysing their socio-political impact. This will increase the capacity of the law enforcement officials, government representatives and civil society to implement and monitor proper procedures in blasphemy cases.

On Kashmir, the report says the UK support conflict prevention efforts and its South Asia programme on the Conflict Pool funds for human rights, conflict prevention and peace building projects on both sides of the Line of Control.


Gaza remains in ruins a year after Israeli onslaught

December 22, 2009

Some 6,400 homes were severely damaged or destroyed during Israeli offensive last winter

Kamal Awaja’s family is still living in a tent on the rubble of their home one year after Israel’s winter war on Gaza, but now they have electricity, running water and wireless Internet. And a few miles away the Sawafieri family is raising chickens by hand a year after Israeli bulldozers crushed tens of thousands of birds in their cages when they methodically destroyed the fully-automated farm.

A cold calm has largely prevailed along Gaza’s borders since the end of the massive three-week offensive that Israel launched on December 27, 2008, aimed at halting rocket fire from the Palestinian territory ruled by the Hamas movement. But the group remains firmly in control despite two-and-a-half years of strict Israeli sanctions, and the sparse reconstruction that has taken place is mostly an improvised reordering of the rubble left by the onslaught.

A year ago the Awajas were trapped behind the front lines when ground troops backed by tanks and aircraft stormed into northern Gaza in what would prove to be the deadliest Israeli offensive ever launched on the coastal territory. Awaja and his wife were wounded as they tried to flee and it was four days before they were able to get to a hospital, he says. Their eight-year-old son Ibrahim was shot dead as their home was destroyed. Now the smiling boy with curly black hair stares down from memorial posters hanging on the family’s tent, which has been cobbled together from canvas shelters donated by aid groups, dingy plastic tarps and wool blankets. Israel has sealed Gaza off from all but vital humanitarian aid since Hamas seized power in June 2007.

The limited amount of cement and iron smuggled in through tunnels from Egypt is beyond the financial means of the vast majority of the territory’s 1.5 million residents, most of whom rely on foreign aid. Some 6,400 homes were severely damaged or destroyed during the war, according to UN figures. Most of those who lost homes now share crowded apartments with relatives or huddle under tents supplied by aid groups. Awaja, who still collects a salary from the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank, connected the tent to an electricity grid and purchased an array of home appliances smuggled in through the tunnels. His surviving children surf the Internet with Israeli wireless cards. “We couldn’t live in this hell forever, we had to do whatever we could to raise our standard of living,” explains Awaja, who says he was well-off before the war. “Can you imagine a house in 2009 without television and the Internet?” The new comforts have brought new challenges, like the large packs of feral dogs that try to rummage through the kitchen at night.

“You don’t have anything if you don’t have a house,” Awaja says. “You don’t have any security.” The Sawafieri family has also begun rebuilding, using a 10,000-dollar grant from the Hamas-run Agricultural Ministry to build a ramshackle warehouse and assemble new cages to hold some 5,000 chickens. But the structure erected with scrap metal and torn canvas is a far cry from the modern farm where they raised some 31,000 birds on the eve of the war.

“It was all automatic, you just turned the switch on,” says Mahmud Sawafieri, 24, pointing to the crushed 20-tonne silos rusting outside the warehouse. Israel scored an overwhelming military victory in the war, during which some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed. “Operation Cast Lead achieved its goal, which was to restore Israel’s deterrence ability,” opposition leader Tzipi Livni, who served as foreign minister during the war, said last week.

However, Israel continues to face international condemnation of its actions during the war, including a UN Human Rights Council report that accuses both it and Palestinian militants of war crimes. The report authored by the respected South African jurist Richard Goldstone documented dozens of cases of alleged war crimes – including the methodical destruction of the Sawafieri farm – but has been rejected as biased by Israel.

Hamas, meanwhile, remains as firmly in control of Gaza as it was before the war and as dead-set against any recognition of Israel. The group insists there is no truce, only a strategic decision to temporarily halt the rockets. “The resistance agenda has to support the political agenda,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said. “The occupation stopped firing rockets at Gaza, and Hamas and the other factions reached an understanding about how and when to fire rockets. If there is another Israeli incursion, we will fire them again.” afp


LIVING AND DYING: ISLAM, JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY

November 12, 2009

SCAPEGOATING ISLAM BECAUSE WE ARE TOTALLY SCREWED UP AIN’T GONNA WORK

Gordon Duff

Today, in Tampa, Fla, a Navy reservist tried to murder a Greek Orthodox priest from Crete as a “terrorist.” The reservist claimed the non-Arabic speaking Greek had yelled “Allah Akbar.” (God is Great) When arrested, Naval Reservist Jason D. Bruce told police the priest had tried to rob him. Thus, America’s honor is defended again. Two idiotic wars, two phony invasions and lots of hate crimes, the number, we will never know. We do know 99% of what we hear is lies. Vietnam was a lie. Iraq was a lie and Americans are dying in Afghanistan over more lies. Perhaps we could spread the hate out a bit. We seem to have so much of it.

Now when I hear about 9/11, no matter what I saw, the insane coincidences, the suppressed intelligence and the childish lies told the Commission by Rumsfeld and Cheney make me feel like we have all been “had.” The Iraq lies, thousands of them, were not enough. Now we have the fiasco of a war in Afghanistan where everything is destroyed, everything except poppy plants. They must be invisible, bullet proof, something. One pattern emerges, lies, money, lies, killing and more lies. I am sick of it. Scapegoating Greek priests or Islamic Americans isn’t justified, even after incidents like Ft. Hood shootings.

The stink over Ft. Hood is starting to spread. Every bit of it dishonors the families of the dead. We have too many people, too many armchair counter terrorists, too many “boogeyman” fundraisers and too many hate mongers. They are all in motion now. Dead soldiers are, as usual, a business, a racket. Nothing new in this.

The terrorist, Hasan, is going to have to get the “Jack Ruby” treatment. I got an anonymous email from the Homeland Security group at George Washington University last night claiming Hasan walked in off the street. I ran the names of the people he was with, off the same list his name came from. It was a “who’s who” of security and counter terrorism experts. Hasan got too close to the power during his 6 years at Walter Reed. He made friends in the “right” places and now they are running for cover like rats.

I don’t think any American had a part in this. This Hasan guy was totally nuts. Can I please have an end to the lying? Please stop the phony fundraising for right wing political baloney. Please stop damning over a billion Muslims because of this one criminal. I don’t care if there are a hundred more like him, do the count. Islamic Americans have not been much of a threat, not compared to many other groups. They have a nasty habit of working for a living, obeying laws and leaving other people alone. This is the truth. Learn to deal with it and move on with life.

If you lie to me enough times, I will stop thinking you are a nice person. 9/11 is so full of holes, that failing to call for a new investigation but blaming Islam is an insult, an insult to me, an insult to endless millions of Muslims to believe 9/11 was an abomination.

I can no longer tell which group, the former Bush administration or the conspiracy people are telling the truth. I have proof that the Bush group lied about Iraq and hundreds of other things. Thus, they can’t be believed. Anyone who chooses to believe a liar is a fool. End of story.

Back when Saddam invaded Kuwait, we were told that babys were taken out of their incubators and killed. Then we found the story, reported by every news organization, came from Israeli sources. It was a total lie. After 9/11, we saw films of Palestinians dancing in the streets celebrating. Then we found the films were 10 years old. Israeli’s gave us them also.

When the UN called our invasion of Iraq a war crime, we used 9/11 as an excuse, that and information we have found was, not only lies, but lies paid for by taxpayer money. We bought lies to start a war whose only real purpose was to steal oil, bilk the government with no bid contracts to Bush insiders, hundreds of billions were stolen and kill of thousands of Americans in the process.

When we found we had started a permanent war, we set up a cheap subterfuge called “the surge” and put half of Iraq on welfare, paying criminals billions of dollars to leave us alone. The end result? We seem to have built a massive Mafia inside Iraq that any real government will have to fight for decades. This is what has really happened. Check on it. The truth is out there.

Can anyone begin to tell me what Afghanistan is about? Please, anyone? I study this stuff and it makes my head spin. I have so many groups, foreign fighters, Mujahideen, a dozen different Taliban groups in two countries and more warlords than you can count. We send people out into the middle of nowhere, and folks show up and try to kill them. I love our military geniuses.

Do we know why? Sure we do. You send anyone, girl scouts, mimes, washing machine repairmen into Afghanistan, and someone will show up to kill them. Buy a history book. Read it.

Do we call Afghanistan a war? It is more like Detroit.

Are we going to win the war? Win what? Oh, we are going to make everone love President Karzai and join his government and build a nation, a democracy we can be proud of. Farming on the moon would be easier and much more sensible. It would also be cheaper and less dangerous.

So, what is all this stuff about Islam? I don’t claim to be an expert. I studied this stuff in college. I have lived in Islamic countries. I have many friends there. Islam is not a country. It isn’t really one religion, there are different kinds. We are talking about nearly half the planet here.

Are there things in Islam that read “unpleasantly?” Yes. The Koran has alot of Old Testament in it. Get out a Christian Bible. Start with Genesis. A couple of things will start to come to mind. Both religions involve the same folks, Abraham in particular. Both religions involve alot of war and killing. You can pick out language that will justify anything.

If you want to see how language can be twisted, read the Patriot Acts and then scan the Constitution. If you don’t have your eyes roll back into your head after that, you are a pure dullard.

Islam can be used to justify many things. The Taliban and some in Iran have some odd ideas. The Wahabists in Saudi Arabia make my head spin also. However, the church by my mother’s house in Kentucky had snake handlers and people rolling around the floor. Before you want to accuse the Taliban of crazy, listen to John Hagee, “preacher in charge” during the Bush administration. This guy is “Taliban on steroids.”

What is real and not real? News on TV is not real, not anymore. If you see a picture of something, it could be a dozen years old, it could be anything. If someone tells you something, you have to ask yourself why? Who is paying him? Should things be that way? Hell, no!

If we send our kids to war, we now have to ask, who makes money from it. We all do that already, don’t try to kid me. Some of us don’t admit it, but we all do it. First thing you ask:
What are we there to steal? Do they have oil? Drugs?
Did the Israeli’s push us into it?
Where is this place, I never heard of it? Does someone have a map?
Who is the enemy? Is there an enemy? If we win, do we get a prize?
Do we have to blow the whole place up first, before we give them billions to rebuild it or can we just save the time and drop money on them instead?
What do you call 5000 lobbyists on the bottom of the ocean? (A good start?)
Can we dig back into our own history: (from the Declaration of Independence, 1776)

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

Does it say, anywhere, that it is our job to invade other countries and do all this for them? Does anyone note a failure or two in keeping to some of these ideas back here? Did the Founding Fathers suspect that huge corporations were going to buy and sell our own government and that a huge standing army, more powerful than the forces of the entire planet was going to, under the guise of “spreading freedom,” run rampant around the planet with mercenaries and oil companies?

Does anyone pick up an undercurrent of “mind our own business” in these words from the Declaration of Independence? Has anyone found the part saying we will send in armies and put drug dealers, criminals and thieves in charge of countries, steal their oil, blow things up and fight for decades, because we don’t like their religion?

The folks who wrote the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson in particular, knew Islam well and was not a person very inclined to be a Christian extremist. It takes a bit of work to show Jefferson as a Christian at all. These were men of the Age of Enlightenment, a time when religion and its abuses had proven itself unable to exist in a democracy. If you want to check, you will find that the official policy of the Catholic Church, well into the 19th century declared, not only living in a democracy but the act of voting as a sin.

Perhaps the next time anyone, be it in Jordan, Egypt, Iraq or Alabama, feels a need to chase someone down the street because of their religion, it might be time to pause a moment. The 3 religions of the Book share one thing in common, a single deity. It is the same deity. There are different words, different practices and, oddly, many of the same prophets.

Even if it was written 3000 years ago or 1500 years ago, the intent was not to destroy the lives of children, destroy families and spread hate. Anyone who thinks they can fix this with a gun or bomb or advocate hate, is an enemy of mankind. You are either with us or against, us, Bush was right about that. He just had the “us” part wrong.

Published under special bilateral arrangements between Veterans Today and Opinion Maker


The road ahead for India and Pakistan

October 7, 2009

Siddharth Varadarajan


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh shakes hands with his Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani during a bilateral meeting at Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt. File Photo: PTI

If terrorism will not compel India to settle outstanding disputes with Pakistan, keeping the dialogue process suspended indefinitely is not going to force Islamabad to be more mindful of New Delhi’s concerns either. Both strategies have failed; it is time the two countries moved beyond them

There is a story senior journalist A.S. Panneerselvan tells of the experience of the first group of Tamil Tigers who were brought to a remote camp in Uttar Pradesh for arms training by the Indian government in the early 1980s. Every evening, the camp’s Tibetan cook would look at the group of Sri Lankan Tamils and start laughing. Eventually, one of the Tamils learnt enough Hindi to ask the cook what was so funny. “Thirty years ago,” the old man said, “I was in this camp with other Tibetans getting trained and there was somebody else to cook for us. Now you are here and I am cooking for you!” “That may be so,” the LTTE man said, “but I still don’t see what’s so funny.” Prompt came the reply: “You see, I’m wondering who you will be cooking for 20 years from now ? I think it may be the Chakmas!”

Unfortunately for the Indian establishment, the LTTE story did not end so tamely, over cooking pots and a camp fire. Well before the terrorist group eventually met its end in the Vanni earlier this year, the Tigers assassinated a former Prime Minister of India and were responsible for the death of countless Indian soldiers.

I am recalling this story in an article about India and Pakistan because it reminds us of three processes that are an essential part of modern South Asian statecraft and which help define the contours of the current crisis in the bilateral relationship. First, that every state in the region has, at one time or another, patronised extremist groups or tolerated their violent activities in order to advance its domestic political or regional strategic interests. Second, the activities of these groups invariably “overshoot” their target and begin to undermine the core interests of their original patrons. Third, there comes a time in the life of all such groups when the nature and extent of their violence reach a “tipping point” as far as the same state is concerned.

A mature, well-developed state is one which is able to read the early warning signs and effect a course correction in official policy well before that tipping point is reached. In the absence of this maturity, states respond in one of two ways. States with a tendency to stability are at least able to recognise when a tipping point has been reached and act accordingly. But states which are unable to recognise either the early warning signs or the tipping point itself and which continue to pretend that the non-state actors they have patronised can be subordinated to an official command structure despite evidence to the contrary run the risk of destabilising themselves.

The Congress party leader in Bombay, S.K. Patil, encouraged the rise of the Shiv Sena in the 1960s in order to undermine the city’s communist-led trade union movement. The Sena overshot its target and eventually became a political rival to the Congress. By the time the Sena revealed its true self in the communal violence it helped orchestrate in Bombay in 1992, it was too late for anyone to act against it. The Sena had already become a part of the establishment, its violence normalised, its leaders insulated from police action and proper judicial sanction.

A second example of the same phenomenon, but with a different ending, emerged in Punjab in the 1980s. Indira Gandhi welcomed the rise of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his extremist politics because she saw in him an effective counter to the Akali Dal in Punjab. The Khalistani ideologue’s violence was tolerated for some time; the tipping point for the establishment should arguably have come when a senior police officer, A.S. Atwal, was gunned down by Bhindranwale’s men in April 1983. But New Delhi waited and waited, acting against the ‘Sant’ only in June 1984.

The trouble with acting against extremist groups after the tipping point is reached is that the process can be long drawn out and costly, especially in terms of human life. Successive governments at the Centre pacified Punjab but not before nearly 20,000 people lost their lives in Operation Bluestar, the November 1984 massacres, and the brutal police campaigns in the Punjab.

In Pakistan, the military-cum-intelligence establishment has had a long-term policy of creating, cultivating and using extremist groups both as a lever against mainstream political parties within the country and as a tool of foreign and military policy against India and Afghanistan. Some of these groups very rapidly ‘overshot’ their initial targets, especially domestically. The state responded by targeting particularly wayward terrorist leaders but did not abandon the overall structures of official permissiveness. External pressure following 9/11 led to the temporary course correction of abandoning the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Lal Masjid situation in Islamabad was another potential tipping point but its lessons were ignored, leading to the growth of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. Then came Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, but the nexus between extremism and a military establishment keen to subvert the return of democracy muddied the waters. Sufi Mohammad’s folly in openly defying the Pakistani state soon after the Nizam-e-Adl fiasco in Swat brought about a more decisive point of inflection, which is today still being played out in the Malakand division.

But even if the Pakistani army has joined the battle against terrorism in the frontier regions bordering Afghanistan in earnest, there is no question of the military establishment recognising the danger that anti-India terrorist groups have started to pose to Pakistan itself. A section of the Pakistani political leadership saw in the terrorist attack on Mumbai in November 2008 the grave threat that groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba pose to the stability of the region. Nudged along by the United States and by a non-confrontationist Indian approach, an unprecedented criminal investigation was launched against a section of LeT operatives. Since the LeT has never launched a terrorist attack inside Pakistan, however, it is easy for sceptics there to argue that the group does not pose a threat. That is why the establishment there is reluctant to act against Lashkar chief Hafiz Saeed. But wise statecraft is about recognising the early warning signs, not waiting for the tipping point. Imtiaz Gul’s book, The Al-Qaeda Connection, provides plenty of evidence on the deep links which exist between the LeT, the Jaish-e-Mohammed and even the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, on the one hand, and the TTP in Pakistan’s tribal areas, on the other.

Given these political realities, what can India do to encourage Pakistan to recognise that the terrorist groups operating on its soil are an undifferentiated syndicate and pose a common threat to both countries? Of all the forms of encouragement, refusing to talk is the least effective. It is not a coincidence that those sections of the Pakistani establishment which continue to see the jihadi terror groups as future assets are the very sections least anxious to see the resumption of the bilateral dialogue. Exchanging rhetoric and putting pressure via public statements are also not likely to pay dividends. Nor is there any point in messing up the strong case India has in Mumbai with overkill. Pakistani officials have pointed out, for example, that the salutation “Major General sahab” – one of the co-conspirators allegedly identified by Ajmal ‘Kasab’ and seen by the Indians as proof of Islamabad’s official complicity in 26/11 – is never used in the subcontinent; the preferred greeting is ‘General sahab’.

At a recent Track-II meeting of Indian and Pakistani analysts, former ambassadors, military officers and intelligence chiefs organised by the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies in Bangkok, there was consensus on the grave threat terrorism poses to Pakistan and to India. Specifically, the need for India and Pakistan to open a back channel on counter-terrorism was recognised, with the participation of intelligence agencies from the two countries. This would supplement the back channel on Jammu and Kashmir which worked effectively till 2006 and which, the Track-II meeting felt, needs to be revived at an early date. The Composite Dialogue process, too, was seen as having served a useful purpose in the past.

With last month’s meeting in New York between the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan yielding little in terms of forward movement by either side, there is a danger of the bilateral relationship getting stuck into one of those ruts that finally require the mediation of extra hands in order to be rescued. Rather than wait for that, the first available improvement in optics – the start of the Mumbai trial in Pakistan, for example – should be seized upon to move ahead on the back channel, with the front channel being revived in a calibrated manner as confidence increases. Indefinitely postponing talks will not help protect India from future terrorist attacks. And talking will not make it more vulnerable. India should stop confusing hard line diplomatic strategy for effective counter-terrorism.

If terrorism will not compel India to settle outstanding disputes with Pakistan, keeping the dialogue process suspended indefinitely is not going to force Islamabad to be more mindful of New Delhi’s concerns either. Both strategies have failed; it is time the two countries moved beyond them.


India unconcerned over US report on human smuggling: Chidambaram

September 18, 2009

by IANS

New Delhi, (IANS) India does not attach “too much attention” to a US report saying it is not doing enough to curb human smuggling but should do “what is expected of us as an enlightened nation”, Home Minister P. Chidambaram said Wednesday.

“We don’t take cognizance of the US report. There are 52 countries named. We don’t need to attach too much attention to the report,” Chidambaram said during question hour at the Rajya Sabha.

“At the same time, we should do what is expected of us as an enlightened nation,” he added.

The 2009 Trafficking in Persons Report released by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton June 16 said: “India is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation.”

For the first time, India, China, Russia, Sri Lanka and Egypt and other countries that have been on the on Tier 2 watch list for two years, face the prospect of being automatically moved to the Tier 3 blacklist next year without a presidential waiver if they fail improve their trafficking record, the State Department said.

India is among 52 countries on the watch list of nations that have failed to meet the minimum anti-trafficking standards but are making efforts to do so. The blacklisted countries are subject to US sanctions if they don’t make greater efforts to fight trafficking.

Chidambaram, however, shot down a suggestion to frame a comprehensive law to cover all aspects of human trafficking, even as he admitted that 95 percent of the cases related to women and children.

“The ministry of women and child development is piloting amendments to the law against human trafficking. If the bill is found unsatisfactory, members can move for suitable amendments,” Chidambaram said in reply to a supplementary during question hour.

The response came after Brinda Karat (Communist Party of India-Marxist) said a “major obstacle” to preventing human trafficking was the “lack of a specific law to deal with this.

“There are different acts but there is no comprehensive legislation to harmonise the various definitions of human trafficking in line with international law. When would this happen and in what timeframe?” Karat asked.

Asked what steps were being taken to prevent human trafficking in the guise of marriages, Chidambaram said: “Whenever such cases come to light, an FIR (first investigation report) is lodged and the police investigate the case.”

“Unless an FIR is filed, it will be difficult to judge whether it is a genuine marriage or a case of bride hunting,” he added.

Chidambaram also said an anti-trafficking nodal cell in the home ministry would assist the states in establishing similar cells in each district to prevent the scourge.

“The states have to address the problem. We will help them but the state governments should take the issue seriously,” he contended.


Land First, Then Peace

September 16, 2009

By TURKI al-FAISAL
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

THE United States and other Western powers have for some time been pushing Saudi Arabia to make more gestures toward Israel. More recently, the crown prince of Bahrain urged greater communication with Israel and joint steps from Arab states to revive the peace process.

Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam, the custodian of its two holy mosques, the world’s energy superpower and the de facto leader of the Arab and Muslim worlds – that is why our recognition is greatly prized by Israel. However, for all those same reasons, the kingdom holds itself to higher standards of justice and law. It must therefore refuse to engage Israel until it ends its illegal occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights as well as Shabaa Farms in Lebanon. For Saudis to take steps toward diplomatic normalization before this land is returned to its rightful owners would undermine international law and turn a blind eye to immorality.

Shortly after the Six-Day War in 1967, during which Israel occupied those territories as well as East Jerusalem and the Sinai Peninsula, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution stating that, in order to form “a just and lasting peace in the Middle East,” Israel must withdraw from these newly occupied lands. The Fourth Geneva Convention similarly notes “the occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

Now, Israeli leaders hint that they are willing to return portions of these occupied territories to Arab control, but only if they are granted military and economic concessions first. For the Arabs to accept such a proposal would only encourage similar outrages in the future by rewarding military conquest.

After the Oslo accords of 1993, Arab states took steps to improve their relationships with Israel, allowing for recognition in the form of trade and consular agreements. Israel, however, continued to construct settlements, making its neighbors understandably unwilling to give up more without a demonstration that they would be granted something in return.

Today, supporters of Israel cite the outdated 1988 Hamas charter, which called for the destruction of Israel, as evidence of Palestine’s attitude toward a two-state solution, without considering the illegalities of Israel’s own occupation. Israel has never presented any comprehensive formulation of a peace plan. Saudi Arabia, to the contrary, has done so twice: the Fahd peace plan of 1982 and the Abdullah peace initiative of 2002. Both were endorsed by the Arab world, and both were ignored by Israel.

In order to achieve peace and a lasting two-state solution, Israel must be willing to give as well as take. A first step should be the immediate removal of all Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Only this would show the world that Israel is serious about peace and not just stalling as it adds more illegal settlers to those already occupying Palestinian land.

At the same time, the international community must pressure Israel to relinquish its grip on all Arab territory, not as a means to gain undeserved concessions but instead as an act of good faith and a demonstration that it is willing to play by the Security Council’s rules and to abide by global standards of military occupation. The Arab world, in the form of the Arab peace initiative that was endorsed by 22 countries in 2002, has offered Israel peace and normalization in return for Israeli withdrawal from all Arab territories including East Jerusalem – with the refugee issue to be solved later through mutual consent.

There have been increasing well-intentioned calls for Saudi Arabia to “do a Sadat”: King Abdullah travels to Israel and the Israelis reciprocate by making peace with Saudi Arabia. However, those urging such a move must remember that President Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt went to Israel in 1977 to meet with Prime Minister Menachem Begin only after Sadat’s envoy, Hassan el-Tohamy, Sadat’s envoy, was assured by the Israeli foreign minister, Moshe Dayan, that Israel would withdraw from every last inch of Egyptian territory in return for peace. Absent a similar offer today from Israel to the leaders of Palestine, Lebanon and Syria, there is no reason to look at 1977 as a model.

President Obama’s speech in Cairo this summer gave the Arab and Muslim worlds heightened expectations. His insistence on a freeze on settlement activity was a welcome development. However, all Israeli governments have expanded settlements, even those that committed not to do so.

No country in the region wants more bloodshed. But while Israel’s neighbors want peace, they cannot be expected to tolerate what amounts to theft, and certainly should not be pressured into rewarding Israel for the return of land that does not belong to it. Until Israel heeds President Obama’s call for the removal of all settlements, the world must be under no illusion that Saudi Arabia will offer what the Israelis most desire – regional recognition. We are willing to embrace the hands of any partner in peace, but only after they have released their grip on Arab lands.

Prince Turki al-Faisal, the chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, is a former director of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence services and ambassador to the United States.


Incrementalism to nowhere

September 1, 2009

By Rami Khouri, Arab Media Watch adviser, director of the Issam Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut, editor-at-large of the Beirut-based Daily Star , and co-laureate of the 2006 Pax Christi International Peace Award.

A flurry of activity this week surrounding Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s trip to Washington suggests to many people that we can expect breakthroughs in Arab-Israeli peace-making. Mubarak and US President Barack Obama both said that things were moving in the right direction. The Israeli government has instituted an unofficial and unannounced “freeze” on new settlements construction, as demanded by the United States. Arab reports speak of an “initiative of leaders” to offer the Palestinian refugees compensation in exchange for dropping their demand on the “right of return.” Other reports expect the Obama administration to announce soon the terms of a permanent peace settlement, as a means of forcing all sides to respond and negotiate its terms.

It is good to have hope. It is much better to be realistic, and I fear that much of the talk about “jump starting” the peace process remains handicapped by relying on the same old techniques and approaches that have been tried many times and always failed. The determination of the Obama administration to push for an Arab-Israeli peace will go nowhere if the various initiatives and gestures by all concerned continue to dance around the central issues of the conflict, rather than to attack them head-on.

The current approach to peace-making suffers from the same vulnerabilities that caused many other attempts to fail – other than the Jordanian and Egyptian peace agreements that gave both sides equal and simultaneous rights. Today’s limp approach isolates elements of the conflict, and tries to address them one by one, hoping that “confidence-building measures” will take root and prod the parties to ultimate full reconciliation. So, the United States emphasizes its demand for a full Israeli settlements freeze. It asks the Arab countries to make unilateral gestures of accommodation with Israel, such as opening diplomatic interests sections or allowing commercial over flight rights. The Palestinians in turn are asked to focus on improving their security forces, so that Israelis feel more at ease that terror attacks will stop.

The fatal weakness of this approach is that addressing symptoms of the conflict will not resolve it, and instead one must acknowledge and go right to the core causes of the conflict. An Israeli interests section in the capital of Kuwait or Algeria, frankly, is diversionary nonsense, if the central issue of the historic dispossession, exile and refugeehood of the Palestinians in 1947-48 is not resolved. Similarly, a freeze on new Jewish settlements in isolated parts of the West Bank or the Golan Heights essentially means nothing if the Arab countries refuse to acknowledge and live with Israel as the historic heartland and secure homeland of the Jewish people.

Here is the hard but essential core of the conflict that must be grasped quickly and addressed courageously, if there is to be any realistic chance for peace-making to proceed convincingly, rather than romantically, as is the case now: The shattering and refugeehood of the Palestinian community in 1947-48 was a direct consequence of the Zionist movement’s massive inflow of Jews into Palestine and the establishment of the state of Israel. Any realistic attempt to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict must reconcile those two facts, in a manner that respects three essential principles:

1) It must affirm the rule of law as defined by UN resolutions and international conventions on refugee rights.

2) It must address directly, rather than evasively dance around, the simultaneous core demands of the Jewish people’s need to live in a secure state, and the Palestinian people’s need to have their exile and refugeehood acknowledged as a consequence of Zionism’s actions, and then redressed through a series of options that allow future generations of Palestinians to live a normal life.

3) it must be negotiated directly and peacefully by the parties that explicitly and openly acknowledge the equal national rights of the other, in a manner that is politically realistic to all concerned.

Hosni Mubarak has sat in the White House for almost three decades stating that progress is being made towards a negotiated peace, and every time we sit through this spectacle it becomes less convincing, even just a little bit more childish – because the approach being used guarantees failure if it continues to evade the core issues for both sides that must be resolved.

If the good folks in the White House did not notice, Palestine is now split into a Hamas region and a Fateh region, Israel is polarizing into liberal secularists and gun-toting colonialist religious zealots, and a few days ago Hamas battled a small group of militant Salafists in Gaza who are inspired by Al-Qaeda. It is too costly to keep pussyfooting around the core issues of simultaneously acknowledging Israeli and Palestinian national rights in adjacent states, and resolving the refugeehood of the Palestinians and of any Arab Jews who have similar claims.


PM to defend Pakistan ties in parliament

July 30, 2009

By Bappa Majumdar

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will defend efforts to improve ties with Pakistan in a parliament debate on Wednesday after criticism by opposition groups that he had conceded ground to the neighbour.

Singh signed a joint statement with his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani during a meeting in Egypt this month agreeing to delink the issue of terrorism from the broader peace process.

Opposition leaders saw the statement as a departure from New Delhi’s stand that a resumption of dialogue could only take place if Pakistan acted against the militants it believed were behind last year’s Mumbai attacks.

Singh appeared at a new conference shortly afterwards, ruling out resumption of talks with Pakistan until the Mumbai attackers were brought to justice. But critics said the damage had been done.

“The prime minister must answer why he agreed to a joint statement that disrupts a national consensus that dialogue cannot resume against Pakistan unless strong measures against militants are taken,” Sushma Swaraj, a senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party, told reporters.

Singh also drew flak for agreeing to include in the joint statement a reference to the Pakistani province of Baluchistan, where Pakistan accuses India of fomenting an insurgency. New Delhi denies the charge.

Ahead of the debate in parliament, Singh’s Congress party closed ranks behind him on the approach to Pakistan.

“There is no issue at all. The party is firmly behind the prime minister,” Congress spokesman Janardhan Dwivedi told reporters.

But analysts said many members of Congress party saw his policy on Pakistan as risky in a country where distrust of its nuclear-armed neighbour runs deep and any concession is viewed with suspicion.

“Privately there is enormous pressure from within the party on Manmohan Singh for signing that joint statement, but they will stick together as resuming peace talks with Pakistan is very much on the cards,” said Amulya Ganguli, a political analyst.

India broke off a four-year-long formal peace process after the attacks on Mumbai by Pakistan-based militants who India says must have been helped by Pakistani security agents.

RE-STARTING PEACE PROCESS

Singh is expected to speak at the end of a parliamentary discussion on recent foreign policy issues. The debate could indicate how far the government could go to normalise relations with Pakistan and restart the peace process, analysts say.

“I think he would say that he has taken the step because he wants to normalise relations with Pakistan and it was up to Pakistan now to reciprocate,” Kuldip Nayar, a New Delhi-based political commentator, said.

Islamabad denies state agencies had any role in the Mumbai attacks that killed 175 people and says it will prosecute those accused of involvement in the attacks.

But Pakistan wants India to return to peace talks without conditions such as action against Mumbai attack planners and militant groups India blames for carrying out bombings in Indian cities..

The United States also wants the two sides to return to a dialogue so that Pakistan can concentrate on fighting the Taliban and al Qaida militants on its western borders.

Reflecting its continuing concerns over New Delhi, Pakistan said India’s launch of its first nuclear-powered submarine capable of carrying ballistic missiles was “detrimental to regional peace and stability.”

Pakistan will take steps to safeguard its own security, the foreign ministry said, following Sunday’s launch of the submarine, part of a $2.9 billion Indian plan to build five such submarines.


Indian Opp seeks president’s intervention on joint statement

July 30, 2009

By Iftikhar Gilani

NEW DELHI: A delegation of India’s main opposition, the National Democratic Alliance, met Indian President Pratibha Patil on Tuesday and submitted a memorandum on the recent India-Pakistan joint statement.

Prime ministers Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani signed the joint statement during a meeting in Egypt this month, agreeing to de-link the issue of terrorism from the broader peace process.

“The government has just been formed and after the first foreign tour of the PM facts about the Indo-Pak joint statement have gradually come to light which have raised doubts among people of this country,” opposition leader Lal Krishna Advani told reporters after meeting the president.

Opposition leaders saw the statement as a departure from New Delhi’s stand that a resumption of dialogue could only take place if Pakistan acted against the militants India believed were behind last year’s Mumbai attacks.

“Suddenly, the country saw that the joint statement highlighted that India has agreed that whether Pakistan takes any necessary action against terrorism or not, the talks between them would continue,” he said.

The memorandum accused Singh and Indian negotiators of a “blatant and huge blunder” in spotlighting Balochistan by allowing the insertion of Gilani’s “unilateral” remark on “threats in Balochistan” in the statement.

“To-date, Balochistan had never been mentioned in any talks. This is the first time it has been mentioned, and mentioned in such a way as if we are responsible for it and now we are saying that we will not let that happen again,” Advani added.

Singh will defend efforts to improve ties with Pakistan in a parliament debate on Wednesday (today).


Obama on Israel-Palestine

July 27, 2009

Noam Chomsky
chomsky.info

Barack Obama is recognized to be a person of acute intelligence, a legal scholar, careful with his choice of words. He deserves to be taken seriously — both what he says, and what he omits. Particularly significant is his first substantive statement on foreign affairs, on January 22, at the State Department, when introducing George Mitchell to serve as his special envoy for Middle East peace.

Mitchell is to focus his attention on the Israel-Palestine problem, in the wake of the recent US-Israeli invasion of Gaza. During the murderous assault, Obama remained silent apart from a few platitudes, because, he said, there is only one president — a fact that did not silence him on many other issues. His campaign did, however, repeat his statement that “if missiles were falling where my two daughters sleep, I would do everything in order to stop that.” He was referring to Israeli children, not the hundreds of Palestinian children being butchered by US arms, about whom he could not speak, because there was only one president.

On January 22, however, the one president was Barack Obama, so he could speak freely about these matters — avoiding, however, the attack on Gaza, which had, conveniently, been called off just before the inauguration.

Obama’s talk emphasized his commitment to a peaceful settlement. He left its contours vague, apart from one specific proposal: “the Arab peace initiative,” Obama said, “contains constructive elements that could help advance these efforts. Now is the time for Arab states to act on the initiative’s promise by supporting the Palestinian government under President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad, taking steps towards normalizing relations with Israel, and by standing up to extremism that threatens us all.”

Obama is not directly falsifying the Arab League proposal, but the carefully framed deceit is instructive.

The Arab League peace proposal does indeed call for normalization of relations with Israel — in the context — repeat, in the context of a two-state settlement in terms of the longstanding international consensus, which the US and Israel have blocked for over 30 years, in international isolation, and still do. The core of the Arab League proposal, as Obama and his Mideast advisers know very well, is its call for a peaceful political settlement in these terms, which are well-known, and recognized to be the only basis for the peaceful settlement to which Obama professes to be committed. The omission of that crucial fact can hardly be accidental, and signals clearly that Obama envisions no departure from US rejectionism. His call for the Arab states to act on a corollary to their proposal, while the US ignores even the existence of its central content, which is the precondition for the corollary, surpasses cynicism.

The most significant acts to undermine a peaceful settlement are the daily US-backed actions in the occupied territories, all recognized to be criminal: taking over valuable land and resources and constructing what the leading architect of the plan, Ariel Sharon, called “Bantustans” for Palestinians — an unfair comparison because the Bantustans were far more viable than the fragments left to Palestinians under Sharon’s conception, now being realized. But the US and Israel even continue to oppose a political settlement in words, most recently in December 2008, when the US and Israel (and a few Pacific islands) voted against a UN resolution supporting “the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination” (passed 173 to 5, US-Israel opposed, with evasive pretexts).

Obama had not one word to say about the settlement and infrastructure developments in the West Bank, and the complex measures to control Palestinian existence, designed to undermine the prospects for a peaceful two-state settlement. His silence is a grim refutation of his oratorical flourishes about how “I will sustain an active commitment to seek two states living side by side in peace and security.”

Also unmentioned is Israel’s use of US arms in Gaza, in violation not only of international but also US law. Or Washington’s shipment of new arms to Israel right at the peak of the US-Israeli attack, surely not unknown to Obama’s Middle East advisers.

Obama was firm, however, that smuggling of arms to Gaza must be stopped. He endorses the agreement of Condoleeza Rice and Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni that the Egyptian-Gaza border must be closed — a remarkable exercise of imperial arrogance, as the Financial Times observed: “as they stood in Washington congratulating each other, both officials seemed oblivious to the fact that they were making a deal about an illegal trade on someone else’s border — Egypt in this case. The next day, an Egyptian official described the memorandum as `fictional’.” Egypt’s objections were ignored.

Returning to Obama’s reference to the “constructive” Arab League proposal, as the wording indicates, Obama persists in restricting support to the defeated party in the January 2006 election, the only free election in the Arab world, to which the US and Israel reacted, instantly and overtly, by severely punishing Palestinians for opposing the will of the masters. A minor technicality is that Abbas’s term ran out on January 9, and that Fayyad was appointed without confirmation by the Palestinian parliament (many of them kidnapped and in Israeli prisons). Ha’aretz describes Fayyad as “a strange bird in Palestinian politics. On the one hand, he is the Palestinian politician most esteemed by Israel and the West. However, on the other hand, he has no electoral power whatsoever in Gaza or the West Bank.” The report also notes Fayyad’s “close relationship with the Israeli establishment,” notably his friendship with Sharon’s extremist adviser Dov Weiglass. Though lacking popular support, he is regarded as competent and honest, not the norm in the US-backed political sectors.

Obama’s insistence that only Abbas and Fayyad exist conforms to the consistent Western contempt for democracy unless it is under control.

Obama provided the usual reasons for ignoring the elected government led by Hamas. “To be a genuine party to peace,” Obama declared, “the quartet [US, EU, Russia, UN] has made it clear that Hamas must meet clear conditions: recognize Israel’s right to exist; renounce violence; and abide by past agreements.” Unmentioned, also as usual, is the inconvenient fact that the US and Israel firmly reject all three conditions. In international isolation, they bar a two-state settlement including a Palestinian state; they of course do not renounce violence; and they reject the quartet’s central proposal, the “road map.” Israel formally accepted it, but with 14 reservations that effectively eliminate its contents (tacitly backed by the US). It is the great merit of Jimmy Carter’s Palestine: Peace not Apartheid, to have brought these facts to public attention for the first time — and in the mainstream, the only time.

It follows, by elementary reasoning, that neither the US nor Israel is a “genuine party to peace.” But that cannot be. It is not even a phrase in the English language.

It is perhaps unfair to criticize Obama for this further exercise of cynicism, because it is close to universal, unlike his scrupulous evisceration of the core component of the Arab League proposal, which is his own novel contribution.

Also near universal are the standard references to Hamas: a terrorist organization, dedicated to the destruction of Israel (or maybe all Jews). Omitted are the inconvenient facts that the US-Israel are not only dedicated to the destruction of any viable Palestinian state, but are steadily implementing those policies. Or that unlike the two rejectionist states, Hamas has called for a two-state settlement in terms of the international consensus: publicly, repeatedly, explicitly.

Obama began his remarks by saying: “Let me be clear: America is committed to Israel’s security. And we will always support Israel’s right to defend itself against legitimate threats.”

There was nothing about the right of Palestinians to defend themselves against far more extreme threats, such as those occurring daily, with US support, in the occupied territories. But that again is the norm.

Also normal is the enunciation of the principle that Israel has the right to defend itself. That is correct, but vacuous: so does everyone. But in the context the cliche is worse than vacuous: it is more cynical deceit.

The issue is not whether Israel has the right to defend itself, like everyone else, but whether it has the right to do so by force. No one, including Obama, believes that states enjoy a general right to defend themselves by force: it is first necessary to demonstrate that there are no peaceful alternatives that can be tried. In this case, there surely are.

A narrow alternative would be for Israel to abide by a cease-fire, for example, the cease-fire proposed by Hamas political leader Khaled Mishal a few days before Israel launched its attack on December 27. Mishal called for restoring the 2005 agreement. That agreement called for an end to violence and uninterrupted opening of the borders, along with an Israeli guarantee that goods and people could move freely between the two parts of occupied Palestine, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The agreement was rejected by the US and Israel a few months later, after the free election of January 2006 turned out “the wrong way.” There are many other highly relevant cases.

The broader and more significant alternative would be for the US and Israel to abandon their extreme rejectionism, and join the rest of the world — including the Arab states and Hamas — in supporting a two-state settlement in accord with the international consensus. It should be noted that in the past 30 years there has been one departure from US-Israeli rejectionism: the negotiations at Taba in January 2001, which appeared to be close to a peaceful resolution when Israel prematurely called them off. It would not, then, be outlandish for Obama to agree to join the world, even within the framework of US policy, if he were interested in doing so.

In short, Obama’s forceful reiteration of Israel’s right to defend itself is another exercise of cynical deceit — though, it must be admitted, not unique to him, but virtually universal.

The deceit is particularly striking in this case because the occasion was the appointment of Mitchell as special envoy. Mitchell’s primary achievement was his leading role in the peaceful settlement in northern Ireland. It called for an end to IRA terror and British violence. Implicit is the recognition that while Britain had the right to defend itself from terror, it had no right to do so by force, because there was a peaceful alternative: recognition of the legitimate grievances of the Irish Catholic community that were the roots of IRA terror. When Britain adopted that sensible course, the terror ended. The implications for Mitchell’s mission with regard to Israel-Palestine are so obvious that they need not be spelled out. And omission of them is, again, a striking indication of the commitment of the Obama administration to traditional US rejectionism and opposition to peace, except on its extremist terms.

Obama also praised Jordan for its “constructive role in training Palestinian security forces and nurturing its relations with Israel” — which contrasts strikingly with US-Israeli refusal to deal with the freely elected government of Palestine, while savagely punishing Palestinians for electing it with pretexts which, as noted, do not withstand a moment’s scrutiny. It is true that Jordan joined the US in arming and training Palestinian security forces, so that they could violently suppress any manifestation of support for the miserable victims of US-Israeli assault in Gaza, also arresting supporters of Hamas and the prominent journalist Khaled Amayreh, while organizing their own demonstrations in support of Abbas and Fatah, in which most participants “were civil servants and school children who were instructed by the PA to attend the rally,” according to the Jerusalem Post. Our kind of democracy.

Obama made one further substantive comment: “As part of a lasting cease-fire, Gaza’s border crossings should be open to allow the flow of aid and commerce, with an appropriate monitoring regimeÉ” He did not, of course, mention that the US-Israel had rejected much the same agreement after the January 2006 election, and that Israel had never observed similar subsequent agreements on borders.

Also missing is any reaction to Israel’s announcement that it rejected the cease-fire agreement, so that the prospects for it to be “lasting” are not auspicious. As reported at once in the press, “Israeli Cabinet Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who takes part in security deliberations, told Army Radio on Thursday that Israel wouldn’t let border crossings with Gaza reopen without a deal to free [Gilad] Schalit” (AP, Jan 22); ÔIsrael to keep Gaza crossings closed…An official said the government planned to use the issue to bargain for the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held by the Islamist group since 2006 (Financial Times, Jan. 23); “Earlier this week, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said that progress on Corporal Shalit’s release would be a precondition to opening up the border crossings that have been mostly closed since Hamas wrested control of Gaza from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority in 2007″ (Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 23); “an Israeli official said there would be tough conditions for any lifting of the blockade, which he linked with the release of Gilad Shalit” (FT, Jan. 23); among many others.

Shalit’s capture is a prominent issue in the West, another indication of Hamas’s criminality. Whatever one thinks about it, it is uncontroversial that capture of a soldier of an attacking army is far less of a crime than kidnapping of civilians, exactly what Israeli forces did the day before the capture of Shalit, invading Gaza city and kidnapping two brothers, then spiriting them across the border where they disappeared into Israel’s prison complex. Unlike the much lesser case of Shalit, that crime was virtually unreported and has been forgotten, along with Israel’s regular practice for decades of kidnapping civilians in Lebanon and on the high seas and dispatching them to Israeli prisons, often held for many years as hostages. But the capture of Shalit bars a cease-fire.

Obama’s State Department talk about the Middle East continued with “the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and PakistanÉ the central front in our enduring struggle against terrorism and extremism.” A few hours later, US planes attacked a remote village in Afghanistan, intending to kill a Taliban commander. “Village elders, though, told provincial officials there were no Taliban in the area, which they described as a hamlet populated mainly by shepherds. Women and children were among the 22 dead, they said, according to Hamididan Abdul Rahmzai, the head of the provincial council” (LA Times, Jan. 24).

Afghan president Karzai’s first message to Obama after he was elected in November was a plea to end the bombing of Afghan civilians, reiterated a few hours before Obama was sworn in. This was considered as significant as Karzai’s call for a timetable for departure of US and other foreign forces. The rich and powerful have their “responsibilities.” Among them, the New York Times reported, is to “provide security” in southern Afghanistan, where “the insurgency is homegrown and self-sustaining.” All familiar. From Pravda in the 1980s, for example.


Threatening Iran

July 23, 2009

By Paul Craig Roberts | Counterpunch

When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Japan did not spend years preparing her public case and demonstrating her deployment of forces for the attack. Japan did not make a world issue out of her view that the US was denying Japan her role in the Pacific by hindering Japan’s access to raw materials and energy.

Similarly, when Hitler attacked Russia, he did not preface his invasion with endless threats and a public case that blamed the war on England.

These events happened before the PSYOPS era. Today, America and Israel’s wars of aggression are preceded by years of propaganda and international meetings, so that by the time the attack comes it is an expected event, not a monstrous surprise attack with its connotation of naked aggression.

The US, which has been threatening Iran with attack for years, has passed the job to Israel. During the third week of July, the American vice president and secretary of state gave Israel the go-ahead. Israel has made great public disclosure of its warships passing through the Suez Canal on their way to Iran. “Muslim” Egypt is complicit, offering no objection to Israel’s naval forces on their way to a war crime under the Nuremberg standard that the US imposed on the world.

By the time the attack occurs, it will be old hat, an expected event, and, moreover, an event justified by years of propaganda asserting Iran’s perfidy.

Israel intends to dominate the Middle East. Israel’s goal is to incorporate all of Palestine and southern Lebanon into “Greater Israel.” The US intends to dominate the entire world, deciding who rules which countries and controlling resource flows.

The US and Israel are likely to succeed, because they have effective PSYOPS. For the most part, the world media follows the US media, which follows the US and Israeli governments’ lines. Indeed, the American media is part of the PSYOPS of both countries.

According to Thierry Meyssan in the Swiss newspaper Zeit-Fragen, the CIA used SMS or text messaging and Twitter to spread disinformation about the Iranian election, including the false report that the Guardian Council had informed Mousavi that he had won the election. When the real results were announced, Ahmadinejad’s reelection appeared to be fraudulent.

Iran’s fate awaits it. A reasonable hypothesis to be entertained and examined is whether Iran’s Rafsanjani and Mousavi are in league with Washington to gain power in Iran. Both have lost out in the competition for government power in Iran. Yet, both are egotistical and ambitious. The Iranian Revolution of 1979 probably means nothing to them except an opportunity for personal power. The way the West has always controlled the Middle East is by purchasing the politicians who are out of power and backing them in overthrowing the independent government. We see this today in Sudan as well.

In the case of Iran, there is an additional factor that might align Rafsanjani with Washington. President Ahmadienijad attacked former President Rafsanjani, one of Iran’s most wealthy persons, as corrupt. If Rafsanjani feels threatened by this attack, he has little choice but to try to overthrow the existing government. This makes him the perfect person for Washington.

Perhaps there is a better explanation why Rafsanjani and Mousavi, two highly placed members of the Iranian elite, chose to persist in allegations of election fraud that have played into Washington’s hands by calling into question the legitimacy of the Iranian government. It cannot be that the office of president is worth such costs as the Iranian presidency is not endowed with decisive powers.

Without Rafsanjani and Mousavi, the US media could not have orchestrated the Iranian elections as “stolen,” an orchestration that the US government used to further isolate and discredit the Iranian government, making it easier for Iran to be attacked. Normally, well placed members of an elite do not help foreign enemies set their country up for attack.

An Israeli attack on Iran is likely to produce retaliation, which Washington will use to enter the conflict. Have the personal ambitions of Rafsanjani and Mousavi, and the naive youthful upper class Iranian protesters, set Iran up for destruction?

Consult a map and you will see that Iran is surrounded by a dozen countries that host US military bases. Why does anyone in Iran doubt that Iran is on her way to becoming another Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, in the end to be ruled by oil companies and an American puppet?

The Russians and Chinese are off balance because of successful American interventions in their spheres of influence, uncertain of the threat and the response. Russia could have prevented the coming attack on Iran, but, pressured by Washington, Russia has not delivered the missile systems that Iran purchased. China suffers from her own hubris as a rising economic power, and is about to lose her energy investments in Iran to US/Israeli aggression. China is funding America’s wars of aggression with loans, and Russia is even helping the US to set up a puppet state in Afghanistan, thus opening up former Soviet central Asia to US hegemony.

The world is so impotent that even the bankrupt US can launch a new war of aggression and have it accepted as a glorious act of liberation in behalf of women’s rights, peace, and democracy.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com


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