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Friday, October 31, 2003

Trent Lott's My Lai solution

As the bombs of the so-called Ramadan Offensive continue to shake Baghdad and its environs, the op-ed pages of America resound with a spontaneous en masse exorcism, exclaiming: "It's No Vietnam" (Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times); "Vietnam It Isn't" (Richard Cohen, Washington Post); "Another Vietnam? No" (Ralph Peters, New York Post). No, no, no, a thousand times no. [more]

by Analyst @ 12:40 AM CST [Link]

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Bernard Lewis: Son of Nuri as-Said Returns?

An alarming and bizarre suggestion for Iraq has resurfaced, touted by two people who should know better. Respected Middle East academic Bernard Lewis and ex CIA director James Woolsey suggest that the best plan for Iraqi democracy is (are you ready for this one??) restoration of the Hashemite monarchy.


by Moderator @ 04:41 PM CST [Link]

Yossi Beilin versus Democracy?

To make sure it is clear to everyone before I start, I think the Geneva accords are worthy of our support because any effort that keeps peace on the public agenda is important.

Nothing is perfect however. Yossi Beilin has written an article entitled "The Eighth Day of Taba" that illustrates, unknowingly some of the things that are wrong with the Geneva Accord, and also with Yossi Beilin.

Beilin wrote:

The Taba discussions lasted seven days. The eighth day lasted three years. It ended in Jordan on October 12 of this year, with the signing of a letter to Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, to which was attached the agreed version of the draft agreement.

The Taba discussions were conducted by the democratically elected government of Israel. The agreements Beilin reached, laudable as they might be, cannot be a continuation of the Taba discussions, because Beilin is not in the government. Moreover, the Israeli government announced several times that the Taba offer was not establishing principles. If it was not accepted then, it was not a basis for further negotiation. There is a good reason for that. Some other things happened during those three years besides Beilin's negotiations with the Palestinians.

by Moderator @ 01:22 AM CST [Link]

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Some unoriginal observations

I wouldn't be the first to tell you about the messianic pretensions of George W. Bush, a man who spoke in the heady days after 9/11 as if his personal mission were to wipe evil from the face of the earth. Indeed, if we can believe what's been written in the papers, Bush later told Abu Mazen that Almighty God Himself had instructed him first to invade Iraq and then to make peace in the Holy Land. [more]

by Analyst @ 01:24 AM CST [Link]

Monday, October 27, 2003

Evolution: From Security Fence to Barrier to Ghetto Wall

The thing, whatever it is called, that the Israeli government is building, began as a security fence along the green line supported by Israelis doves, and then evolved to a "barrier" that makes serious inroads into Palestinian territory, supported by Ariel Sharon's government. Last week, the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv published what was supposedly the final map of the fence, a monstrosity that weaves in and out, lengthening the Israeli border and cutting Palestinians off from their livelihoods. It leaves many stranded between the fence and the rest of Palestinian territory, and requiring special permits just to get to their own homes. But the worst was yet to come, because it seems that the Sharon government will go ahead with plans to build more barriers deep inside Palestinian territory, chopping up the small Palestinian area into even smaller ghettos.

The Israeli government protests that the fence does not create a political border, but it creates an actual barrier that people cannot get through at all. Even worse, the fence, as many suspected is not a magic cure for terror attacks and thefts that have plagued Israel. According to the Ma'ariv article, 20 batallions will be needed to patrol this fence. This is a huge force by Israeli standards. It is impossible to imagine that this force will be maintained for any length of time. Eventually, the fence will keep out only innocent people going about their business, while those planning larceny or terror will have no trouble finding a way through.

Ami Isseroff [more]

by Moderator @ 07:28 PM CST [Link]

Stop the Madness - Another bombing of Aid workers

Today the madness of suicide attacks struck at Iraqi workers of the International Red Cross. Not long ago, Palestinian dissident factions attacked a convoy of US aid workers in Gaza, apparently at the instigation of forces hostile to the PNA. The attack was really directed at embarrassing the Palestinian Authority as much as against the USA. Not long before that, a bomb blew up a Shi'a holy man and killed many other Muslims as they were leaving a Mosque after Friday prayers in Iraq. A Zionist extremist group plotted to blow up a Palestinian girls school. Suicide bombings and terror attacks in Israel have killed hundreds of children - Arab children, Jewish children and Muslim children. Children too young to speak. Children killed while they were eating, leaving half-finished bottles of formula. What kind of madmen do these things? What kind of people support such acts, and in the name of what causes?

It seems that everyone is now a "legitimate" target and there is always some excuse. The madness is aimed at just about everyone, and if we don't stop it, we might be next. [more]

by Moderator @ 06:50 PM CST [Link]

Saturday, October 25, 2003

What happened in Gaza? Civilian Casualties and the IDF

This past week an Israeli missile targeting Hamas terrorists wounded numerous Palestinian bystanders who had gathered to offer first aid following a first missile strike. Official Israeli sources denied that the IAF had fired into the crowd, and offered videos of the strike to show that pilots had not seen the crowds. Nonetheless, there were many injured civilians. Though Israel never targets civilians as a matter of policy, there are increasing concerns that IAF and IDF personnel are careless or deliberately careless, and that the implementation of policies that are bound to lead to "collateral damage" amounts to deliberate targetting of civilians.

Israeli actions are clearly not as bad as sometimes depicted in the Arab press, but the large number of Palestinian casualties, and the numerous incidents in which children were killed after soldiers "fired into the air" suggest that all is not as it should be. Israeli apologists are quick to point out that "we are better than the Hamas" "We don't deliberately target civilians" and "We do not do the terrible things imputed to us in the Arab press." Unfortunately "better than Hamas" is not saying much. It is really pitiful if any self-respecting society uses racist religious fanatics as the standard by which to measure its behavior.


by Moderator @ 10:47 PM CST [Link]

Friday, October 24, 2003

Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. / Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. / All the king's horses, / And all the king's men, / Couldn't put Humpty together again.

(Traditional English nursery rhyme)

The whispers are getting louder. Humpty Dumpty wasn't pushed, they say. He jumped. [more]

by Analyst @ 05:18 PM CST [Link]

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Democracy in Iraq - Why settle for less?

The United States promised to create democracy in Iraq. The models for this were the democratic regimes installed in Japan and Germany after World War II. This was to be the crowning achievement of the Iraq war. If they succeed, the US will have given a real gift to the Muslim and Arab world as well as to the Middle East, a show case for Muslim and Arab democracy. However, as the weeks and months go by, the goal seems more and more elusive. At minimum, it seems that making democracy work in Iraq will cost the American taxpayer about $80 billion a year for an unspecified period. An Iraqi banker estimates that the USA will spend $300 billion in total before leaving Iraq. More important, perhaps, the coalition will suffer an unknown number of casualties in Iraq, especially as some experts predict that the terror will get worse, as Al-Qaeda and other groups organize to take on the occupation.

by Moderator @ 09:04 PM CST [Link]

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Amos Oz on the Geneva Accords: Did they do the Grunt Work of Peace?

Amos Oz participated in the "Geneva Accord" Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and his account of them makes fascinating reading. It is debatable whether or not they really did the grunt work of peace, since this accord is not signed by any government or Palestinian institution, and is not necessarily acceptable to the majority in either society. The real grunt work of peace will be getting both sides to accept whatever agreement is eventually signed, and then working constantly to ensure that the agreement is implemented and kept. That should not detract from the significance of the achievement, but it should put it in perspective.

Amos Oz's summing up of the meaning of the "Draft Final Status Document" is excellent. He wrote:
"The goal of the exercise is solely to present the Israeli and Palestinian publics with a window through which they can view a different landscape - no more car bombs and suicide bombers and occupation and oppression and expropriation, no more endless war and hatred. Instead, here is a detailed, cautious solution that does not circumvent any one of the fundamental questions."

by Moderator @ 12:55 PM CST [Link]

An indecent proposal?

The U.S. faces a number of constraints in Iraq. The most obvious is that, short of radical measures, we will forced to reduce our troop presence sharply over the next several months. Current levels are simply unsustainable. [more]

by Analyst @ 07:58 AM CST [Link]

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Good News from Iran

Iran has reportedly agreed to suspend its uranium purification program and to allow snap inspections of its nuclear facilities in return for unspecified technical aid from western countries. Iran claims that its nuclear program is intended to produce energy to replace fossil fuels. This would appear to be very uneconomical since Iran has almost 10% of the world's oil reserves and 16% of the world's gas reserves. A reactor typically costs 2000/KW capacity to build, while a gas turbine generator costs $500 at present.

Details of the agreement worked out between EU diplomats and Iran have not been released, as is evident from the report below.

Ami Isseroff [more]

by Moderator @ 02:53 PM CST [Link]

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Third party Peace Efforts

The Geneva Accords (Beilin - Abd-Rabbo document) are only one of many many efforts to fill the vacuum created by the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process and to restore to people in our area the hope of peace. An AP article highlights the Silent No Longer initiative and the Ayalon-Nusseibeh agreement. MidEastWeb supports both. Please do join these initiatives. It is important to create a support group for peace, to counter the tremendous effort and resources invested by extremists in sabotaging peace efforts. It is important to keep the hope of peace alive.

by Moderator @ 11:55 PM CST [Link]

Osama Bin Laden's latest Message

Al-Jazeera carried yet another message from Osama Bin-Laden today. Perhaps it is not really him, but only a "virtual" Bin-Laden created by Al-Qaeda, but in reality it makes no difference.


by Moderator @ 11:48 PM CST [Link]

Bigotry and recantation - Mahathir Mohamed and General Boykin

Two cases of bigotry this week and two unsatisfactory recantations.
At the opening of a conference of Islamic leaders, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed of Malaysia ranted to Muslim Leaders that the Jews run the world. In the United States, General Boykin has been going around telling church groups that Muslims worship idols and that "we are fighting Satan."

Both were forced to "explain" their remarks and apologize. They didn't mean it really, they are not bigotted people and all the usual excuses. The truth is, that they did mean it . They just don't see themselves as particularly prejudiced or bigoted, because where they come from, everyone thinks like that.


by Moderator @ 05:05 PM CST [Link]

Coming to Grips with Terrorism

Whatever our politics, we can hopefully unite around the idea that intentional murder of innocent civilians is not a legitimate method of self-defence or resistance or protest.

Terrorism in general, and suicide bombing in particular are NOT confined to the Middle East, and are practiced by many different political groups. The "champion" suicide bombers are the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka, whose struggle has nothing to do with Islam or Israel or the Middle East.

In a New York Times article, Robert Pape examines some myths and facts about suicide attacks, which Pape attributes to dissident groups that want to form an independent state.
However, Pape's classification of causes doesn't fit all suicide attacks. Osama Bin Laden was not trying to secede from the United States, for example, but rather to expel the US from Saudia, and expel the Jews from Israel.

He concludes:
In the end, the best approach for the states under fire is probably to focus on their own domestic
security while doing what they can to see that the least militant forces on the terrorists' side
build a viable state on their own.

Allowing the least militant forces to build a state doesn't make any sense in the case of Al-Qaeda, as Muslims already have many states of their own, and Al-Qaeda are by definition the most militant faction and can never be "least militant." What he is recommending regarding domestic security is exactly what the terrorists want to achieve: a state where everyone is suspect, armed guards check endless lines of people at airports and police checkpoints cause hour long traffic jams. That is not a solution for dealing with terror, but a way of ensuring that accommodation to terror becomes a way of life.


by Moderator @ 01:41 PM CST [Link]

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Palestinians blow up American Aid Workers: PLO or PNA?

The deadly Palestinian attack on a jeep carrying American humanitarian aid workers in Gaza on October 15 should be a red light for the Palestinian authority as well as for the United States. It is certain that the Palestinian authority had no part in this senseless act, which killed people who were coming to interview candidates for scholarships. Equally certain, the act underlines the fact that the Palestinian authority has lost control over Palestinian guerilla groups, and that lawlessness and anarchy have been wrecking Palestinian society since the start of the Intifada. As Palestinian activist (co-founder of ISM and director of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement, Ghassan Andoni points out, the attack underlines a crucial question for the Palestinians too. The Palestine Liberation Orgnization was founded to "liberate Palestine." It is an underground group. The Palestinian Authority is supposed to be a Palestinian government that was born of the Oslo accords, and that would keep the peace and negotiate a compromise settlement. Compromise is not compatible with liberating Palestine. Yet PLO officials explain quite readily that PLO and PNA are the same thing. They can't be.

by Moderator @ 04:17 PM CST [Link]

Does Iran Need Nuclear Power?

Iran is building nuclear reactors and fuel enrichment facilities at several locations, ostensibly to replace fossil fuels. Iran's energy balance is a critical factor in assessing whether they are building reactors żfor peaceful uses or to produce atomic weapons.

Several articles and studies make the case that Iranian energy consumption has been increasing drastically in the past decages, eg - Mohammed Sahimi at http://www.payvand.com/news/03/oct/1022.html and żhttp://www.eia.doe.gov/cabs/iranenv.html. [more]

by Moderator @ 02:38 PM CST [Link]

Monday, October 13, 2003

Security Fence or Apartheid Wall?

The fence or wall that Israel is building in the West Bank has been the subject of acrimonious debate. Israeli settlers opposed the fence because it will leave many of them outside its protection and make a de-facto division of "the Land of Israel." Israeli moderates initially supported the fence because it would protect Israel from Palestinian terror attacks.


by Moderator @ 05:26 PM CST [Link]

A New Basis for Palestinian-Israeli Agreement

Israeli opposition leaders led by Shahar party leader Yossi Beilin and Palestinians led by Yasser Abd-Rabbo have been busy negotiating a new draft agreement, that would supposedly replace the Oslo accords as the basis for Israeli-Palestinian peace. The draft document has been finalized, and a ceremony marking the agreement was conducted in Jordan October 12, though the text has not yet been released.


by Moderator @ 03:43 PM CST [Link]

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Iran: Toward the next confrontation?

Israel has long been claiming that Iran was developing nuclear weapons. For the last ten or 15 years, we have been hearing that Iran was about to acquire "the bomb" within one year or two years or certainly within five years.

Recently however, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the world community have begun to take these claims seriously, because the IAEA found traces of high grade fissionable materials at some sites in Iran and because Iran can't explain why it needs large numbers of gas centrifuges, usually used to purify fissionable isotopes for use in nuclear bombs. Iran has until October 31 to cooperate with the IAEA inspection teams.


by Moderator @ 06:17 PM CST [Link]

Middle East Diary - October 12, 2003

Dear Readers,
This is the start of an informal "scrapbook" of Middle East events, with some newspaper clippings and commentary. It is in addition to views expressed in articles at Mewzine and to the steady flow of articles at Mewnews and Mewbkd.

This last week was a period of quiet desparation and perhaps preparation for bigger and worse things to come. It began with a Palestinian suicide bombing in Haifa and an Israeli raid in Syria, and ended with a deep crisis in the Palestinian government.


by Moderator @ 12:56 PM CST [Link]

Thursday, October 9, 2003

Nothing new under the sun

In the mid-1950s, Elie Kedourie, an outstanding scholar of Mideastern politics, penned an essay less exhaustive but no less damning of the enshrined expert opinion on the Middle East in the Britain of his day than Martin Kramer's Ivory Towers on Sand is of American academic expertise today, and for essentially similar reasons. Even now - especially now - it rewards reading. [more]

by Analyst @ 07:51 AM CST [Link]


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