Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Blair's which project

Much has been made of the positive influence that PM Tony Blair has had on
Pres. George Bush. Instead of being called "Bush's poodle," of late the
liberal media has reluctantly admitted that he played an important role in
persuading Bush to go thru the UN, and this allowed the French and their
allies to vote against the War in Iraq. This European attitude, that Blair
is basically OK, if a little misguided, while Bush is an outright war
criminal, is a very troubling distinction for many Americans.
The aim of this comment is to propose that Mr. Blair re-direct his
persuasiveness from the US direction towards that of the EU. In other
words, now that the original Iraq War is truly over, and we are in an
entirely different phase of the situation in Iraq, Blair should use his good
offices as an intermediary to prevail upon the EU members, and particularly
France, to drop their anti-American stance, and come around to Blair's way
of thinking.
What he said in his major speech at the Labor Party Convention today made
eminent sense. He apologized for the fact that the reasons used to justify
for the war were not valid, i.e. no WMD were actually found. But, he said
he would not apologize for the war itself and for the overthrow of Saddam
Hussein. At the time the war was undertaken he, like most of the world,
believed the intelligence that there was WMD in Iraq. He cannot be faulted
for this, nor for making the judgment that he did. But that is all water
under the bridge now.
The time has come for Blair, instead of pressuring Bush to moderate his
stance in relation to Iraq, to pressure Pres. Chirac of France to moderate
his knee-jerk anti-Americanism in relation to Iraq. In fact, this
anti-Americanism is a poor basis for EU policy, that is defined in a
negative rather than a positive way. Let the European nations look to their
interests. Do they want a rift with the US? Do they want to see Iraq fail?
Do they want to stand by while the insurgency in Iraq continues to kill many
people, mostly innocent Iraqis? Above all, are they prepared to do nothing
while the US is battling the nascent terrorist forces in Iraq? If the US
fails then one can say for sure that al Qaeda will use Iraq as a center, in
place of Afghanistan, from which to export their blend of terrorism around
the globe. So when the bombs start going off in Paris, we will know who to
blame. But, by then it may be too late.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Death in Damascus

The murder by car bomb of Izz al-Din al-Sheikh Khalil, a senior Hamas operative, in Damascus two days ago, is the first time that Israel's oft-repeated threats to Damascus have been carried out. It was reported that he was responsible for the planning and final approval of the double suicidebus bombing in Beersheva three weeks ago that killed 13 Israelis.
In response to the threats, Syria had acted to lower the profile of the terrorist groups operating out of Damascus. Since Syria had ostensibly declared that it was involved in the war against terrorism, the US in meetings with Pres. Assad had made specific protestations about the freedom of movement and the presence of offices of several dozen terrorist groups in Damascus. Assad then acted to close them, although their functions were continued from other private premises. Finally, in the wake of the killing of the Hamas leaders, Shiekh Yassin and Abdul Rantisi in Gaza, the Hamas leadership got the message and quietly disappeared. However, unlike many other Hamas top leaders Khalil had not gone underground.
Recent word is that the current head of Hamas operations, Khalid Mashaal, who had survived an assassination attempt in Amman, Jordan a few years ago, had moved to Beirut then to Cairo or the Gulf. Evidence for this was reportedly given to the Israeli secret service (Mossad) by an un-named friendly Arab country. While Mashaal is no doubt being tracked by the Mossad, the Israeli Govt. (and no doubt the US) wanted to send a strong message to Assad, that his double game will not be tolerated. In Pres. Bush's well known words"you're either with us or against us."
Now Assad is said to be desperately seeking to transfer a group of a dozen or so Iraqi nuclear scientists that he inherited from Saddam Hussein before his fall. They have apparently been given Syrian citizenship and hidden in a military base. But, they are continuing to do nuclear research. Now Assad wants to transfer them to Iran, but Iran itself is wary because they have their own problems with the IAEA as well as the US over their enriched uranium research.
This death in Damascus reminds us of the case of Eli Cohen, Israel's super-spy, who originally came from there. He was recruited by the Mossad and sent to S. America, where he joined the Syrian community in exile passing as a successful businessman, which he was. He gave to the usual causes, including the Ba'ath party, and eventually became a well-known supporter. He then bravely moved back to Damascus and became one of the main supporters of Hafez Assad. He was so involved with the upper echelons of the Party that he was privy to all their secrets, including military activities. Unfortunately, Assad realized that there must be a mole in his organization, and one evening ordered all radio transmissions in Damascus to be turned off. As Eli Cohen was transmitting his message to Israel that evening he was detected and captured. After being tortured he was hung in a public square in Damascus in 1965. Much of Israel's success against the Syrian Army in the 1967 6-Day war was due to his information. It will take a lot of Khalil's to make up for one Eli Cohen.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Hope and shield

Our old friends, the Anglican Christians, are now our new enemies. Theyhave decided to join the Presbyterians in one-sided opposition to the Stateof Israel. They and their big brothers, the Episcopalians, sent adelegation to Palestine/Israel in order to consider divesting themselvesfrom Israel. In other words, all of their 75 million adherents worldwideand their Church organizations will be asked not to invest in Israel.They met with Yasir Arafat, a well known expert on Israel, and with AshmiBishara, a well known Israeli Arab. He is even a member of the Knesset, sohe must know what to do. They chose not to meet with any Israeli Govt.official, nor any Jewish leader, in case their pure views might thus beaffected by any hint of pro-Israel bias. It makes me want to puke!As far as they are concerned, the decision was made before they left home.These representatives of the "Anglican Peace and Justice Network" haveissued a statement that the actions of Israel against the Palestinians are"worse than draconian." Hence they will propose total divestment of Israel.Somehow or other they missed the terrorism that is being used by the poorPalestinians against us, and that has so far taken the lives of over 1,000Israelis, including a few while they were here. They probably think it isjustified, but they may not have noticed that the two Israeli soldiersmurdered in Jerusalem last week had blacker skin than the suicide bomber.By the way, note that in Northern Ireland, since the Catholic IRA identifieswith the PLO, and hoist the Palestinian flag, the Protestants, mostlyAnglicans and Episcopalians, have taken to identify themselves with Israeland hoist the Israeli flag. Something is seriously wrong here.At the same time that this is happening, in Oslo, a well-known center ofliberal culture, a large banner proclaiming that the Holocaust was aninvention of the Israeli secret service, and with the usual left wing signof a Magen David equals a swastika was hoisted across from the City Hall.The elders of the city, when approached by the Jewish community there andasked to remove this monstrous manifestation of anti-Semitism, refused.Because, they argued, it is free speech, and everyone knows that opponentsof Israel are being intimidated by the accusation of anti-Semitism. Nowthere's logic for you.In his speech at the UN last week Pakistan Pres. Pervez Musharraf managed toget in his dig at Israel. He said that the Palestine problem is "the core ofthe core" of the problems facing the Muslim world, and that "an iron curtainwill descend between the West and the Muslim world" unless something is doneto solve the outstanding issues between them. Apart from the stupidity ofthis remark, what hypocrisy, when the issue of Kashmir is orders ofmagnitude more dangerous than the puny Palestinian problem. Here there area few million involved. In Kashmir there are hundreds of millions ofhostile Muslims and Hindus facing each other with atomic weapons. It willbe good if Pakistan and India manage to resolve the problem of Kashmir, butlet them put their own house in order before criticizing us.So we Jews, a nation that dwells alone, know who our enemies are. So whatis new? We have in the same bag, the liberal Christians (Anglicans,Episcopalians and Presbyterians), and the EU nations (led by France andGermany), and the Palestinian terrorist groups (Hamas, Islamic Jihad,Fatah-al Aksa), the Muslim and Arab nations and their extremist elements(Iran and Syria) and various assorted international terrorist groups (alQaeda-linked). Luckily we have a few friends (the US among them). But,under these circumstances, as the situation begins to look more and moreominously like the 1930's all over again, this time we have the IDF. Ourhope and our shield.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Making enemies

If you wanted to antagonize the whole world and make them your enemies, what would you do? You would take hostages of each country, say one from Britain, two from the US, two from France, two from Italy, from Turkey, Nepal, Egypt and so on. After having them plead for their lives on camera, you would behead them and show the gruesome pictures to the world to make sure that they take you seriously. That is how to make enemies and influence people against you.
But, wait a minute, no-one sets out to make more enemies than they need and to increase the forces set against them, do they? On the other hand, leaders often fail to realize the consequences of their actions when they are absolutely sure of themselves. Thus, Hitler thought it was a brilliant move to attack Russia in the carefully planned Operation Barbarossa, before he had defeated Britain and without the US in the war against him. Similarly, the terrorist forces in Iraq could be said to have overplayed their hand. But, since the taking of Spanish and Phillipino hostages got them the political aims they sought, namely the withdrawal of the forces of those countries from Iraq, they no doubt think they are on a winning streak.
However, two things are in process that could alter the outcome. First, the defeat of the insurgent forces in Fallujah. The US is finally pulling off the gloves there and using its main military advantage, the air force. Fortunately there is no major religious site there that is an impediment to US attack as there was in Najjaf.
Second, the result of the US election will play a major role in the continuing conflict there. If Kerry wins, then the insurgents are likely to up the ante, on the expectation that he will be susceptible to a quick withdrawal, following the example of Spain. On the other hand, if Bush wins then you can expect he will crank up the military pressure on the insurgency. As the US gains better intelligence, this will gradually bring an end to these political abductions, that are standing in the way of future progress, since the reconstruction of Iraq is highly dependent on the availability of foreign experts.
So let us not over-estimate the capability of people who are too stupid to see that they are antagonizing the rest of the world.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

The coming year

On Friday morning (erev Yom Kippur) a young woman, Tifferet Trattner, 24,
was killed in her home in the settlement of Neve Dekalim in the Gaza Strip.
One of many mortar shells fired from Khan Yunis penetrated her house and
exploded in her living room, killing her and injuring another woman. In
response the IDF last night went into Khan Yunis and destroyed 35 houses,
most of them uninhabited, along a strip from where the mortars were fired.
This kind of exchange is expected to heat up as the terrorist groups try to
claim that they forced the IDF to leave, while the IDF seeks to show that
they are leaving voluntarily.
An Israeli women's group that is in favor of Disengagement from Gaza calls
it the "Death Strip" and issued a statement that this death shows that the
removal of Israeli settlers from Gaza is urgent. And indeed there is very
little defense against these short range weapons that can be fired from
anywhere. It is very likely that in the coming year Sharon's Disengagement
Plan will be implemented, and the 18 or so settlements in Gaza will
gradually be abandoned. However, the inhabitants of the Strip have repeated
their intention of resisting the withdrawal. So we can predict that the
coming year will be a difficult one for Israel with the disengagement going
ahead against a background of civil unrest.
Perhaps the most dangerous situation for Israel is the continuing
development by Iran of enriched uranium, of a kind that is really only
appropriate for nuclear weapons. This week the Iranian FM repeated that Iran
has the right to develop enriched uranium and will continue do so, but only
for peaceful purposes. Hands up those who believe him (not many hands go
up). In his speech at the UN FM Silvan Shalom spent a lot of time pointing
out the danger of Iran developing atomic weapons, and the US has also
acknowledged this publicly. A news item that the US is selling Israel a
batch of heavy advanced bombs, including so-called bunker busters that can
hit concrete bunkers buried up to 20 feet below ground, was obviously meant
to give the Iranians a message. They have responded by saying that any
attack from Israel would be met with a strong military reaction. Can the EU
or UN help to head off this potential conflict? I think not. So you have
the makings of a major possible conflict within about 4-6 months. Let us
hope that our armed forces are able and prepared to meet this challenge.
In the coming year as in the past our enemies unfortunately will not stop
until they have the means and capability to destroy us.
A lot will depend on the outcome of the US election. If Bush is elected the
US may well tacitly support Israel in its attempts to take out the Iranian
nuclear sites. With US forces on both sides of Iran (in Afghanistan and
Iraq) the Iranians might well be restrained from taking offensive action.
So the presence of US forces in Iraq (although spread out) also has a
strategic reason. But, if Kerry is elected, basically on an anti-war
ticket, he is unlikely to have any intention of tackling Iran, a far tougher
nut than Iraq. So the coming year may be a dangerous time for us all.

Friday, September 24, 2004

One that got through

The young woman was stopped at the guard post at the busy French Hill
intersection yesterday morning in north Jerusalem. The two soldiers were
suspicious of her, a religious Arab student. She saw that she was not going
to get through to the crowd at the bus stop beyond, so she pressed the
button igniting her bomb, killing herself of course and the two Israeli
soldiers. Both of them happened to be Ethiopian immigrants, Menashe Komemi
and Mamoya Tahio, both from large families, one of which had lost a brother
in fighting in Nablus last year. This was the first suicide bombing in
Jerusalem for 7 months.
The father of the young woman, Zayneb abu Salem, 18, collapsed when told
what she had done. Her family was distraught, not knowing of her recruitment
by friends into the Fatah al Al Aksa Martyr's Brigade in Nablus. She was
apparently determined to kill Jews to avenge the death of a favorite cousin
who was killed in fighting last year. In order to deter future suicide
attempts her family house and that of her "handler" were demolished.
The terrorist groups are now recruiting impressionable young women and
minors, since they are much more able to infiltrate through the checkpoints
and roadblocks, because the young Israel soldiers are less suspicious of
them. The question is how Zayneb managed to pass thru several checkpoints
en route from Nablus to Jerusalem with a bag containing 3-5 kg of
Last week two young women cousins gave themselves up at the busy Hawara
checkpoint, after their families were contacted by a Shin Bet representative
in Nablus and told what they were planning to do. Apparently their Hamas
"handler" was killed in a gun battle the previous day. Somehow the evidence
led to them. Their families in both cases were against their being martyrs
for the cause, and called them. They were told to give themselves up and
did. After being captured they led the IDF to the suicide bombs that they
had hidden. They will go to jail, but they are alive, and so are the many
people they planned to kill in a double suicide bombing in Jerusalem.
The focus of the terrorist groups is now on Jerusalem and Beersheva,
particularly where the Security Fence has not been built. In the once
center of the country, the Sharon region from Hadera to Tel Aviv, there
have been no bombings for many months and the toll is down by 90% since
last year. I never agreed with those who said that there is "no military
solution to this problem," that is too facile. Of course there is, and the
IDF have developed one. There are only a limited number of terrorists who
are able to be the brains behind the scene, these are the ones that must be
targeted. Israel was reluctant at first to target the top leaders, but as
the toll of bodies mounted this policy changed, and now there are few
terrorist leaders who have been in their positions for more than a year. At
the local level, when a terrorist leader is killed, tradition has it (in the
very feudal Palestinian society) that his next older brother inherits his
place (it is usually not a question of who is the most dedicated or better
fighter). So it is known who is the next in line to be targeted. This can
go on only for so long until the leadership is decimated. Add to this the
military incursions where gunmen are killed and captured, and information is
obtained, and you have an effective counter-insurgency program.
To overcome their limitations the Palestinian terrorist organizations are
now scraping the bottom of the barrel, using young women and children. Such
is our enemy.