Governing Somalia:

What is more important, freedom or security? Asks Liam Bailey

In the last throes of 2006 Ethiopian forces invaded Somalia, and with Somalia’s Transitional Government (TG) forces drove the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) out of Mogadishu, and with the help of American air strikes, supposedly, out of Somalia. Somali residents had lived in a state of anarchy since the dictator Siad Barre was ousted in 1991. The Union of Islamic Courts restored order and allowed people to go about their normal lives in relative security.In UIC controlled areas children could go to school safely and once more hospitals could treat the sick without flows of injured coming in from daily violence. However, the UIC ruled with a strict code of Sharia law, meaning the security came at the cost of some personal freedoms and civil liberties. With the UIC ousted, 2007 began a new chapter for Somalia, a new chapter of violence and insecurity.The UIC began their sweep to power, taking the capital Mogadishu Jun 2006. By December they controlled most of Southern and Central Somalia. The Transitional Govermnent’s one remaining stronghold was Baidoa and a small area surrounding it, where it is widely believed Ethiopian troops were stationed to protect the government.

The United Nations was responsible for the imposition of the TG. In early December they still recognized it as the only governing body in Somalia or “The only route to peace and stability” –as it was called in Resolution 1725–, despite it being made up of warlords. The warlords were responsible for much of the violence, insecurity and terrorization of the civilian population before the UIC took power.

The U.S gave strong support to the TG, against the UIC forces. Strong support to the very warlords that, by inflicting heavy casualties, forced the withdrawal of U.S. forces in a peacekeeping mission in the early nineties. U.S support failed to stop the UIC advance. Shortly before the Ethiopian invasion the U.S presented a draft Resolution to the UN Security Council (UNSC). The Resolution laid out the rules of engagement for a proposed Inter-Governmental Authority on Development and African Union force to enter Somalia. The fore was to protect the TG, to restart the peace negotiations between the TG and the UIC, but ultimately to reinstall the UN recognized government and engage any forces running contrary to that mission.

It was adopted as Resolution 1725 but the UIC’s rapid sweep to power gave the impression that they were a strong determined and highly capable fighting force. This combined with the UIC’s war declaration on Ethiopian forces in Somalia, their threats to attack peacekeepers and the Iraq quagmire, which started from a similar mission, to make IGAD countries reluctant to send their forces into what could easily become another Iraq.

Ethiopia showed no such reluctance, because Ethiopia had no such noble intentions. With U.S. support, Ethiopia responded to the UIC’s final attack on the last remaining government stronghold of Baidoa. Ethiopia said throughout that it had no intention of occupying Somalia, its only mission was to oust the UIC and return the TG to the seat of power. Unexpectedly the UIC put up little resistance, displaying none of the fight to the death attitude they had spoken of. Ethiopian and TG forces made short work of removing the strict regime of the UIC. As they beat a hasty retreat the UIC made statements to the press promising to wage a guerrilla war, “like Iraq”.

So, it seems that the U.S., Ethiopia and the UN believe freedom is more important than security.

Ethiopia is keeping to its word and their forces have already begun to withdraw. The UIC is also keeping its promise and since their defeat, Somalia, more specifically Mogadishu has been rocked by almost daily, mortar, rocket propelled grenade attacks, and occasional suicide bomb attacks. According to reports an 8000 strong African Union force is now expected to enter Somalia in mid-April 2007. Uganda was due to announce a date for a small Burundian advance force but the news conference was cancelled.

Given the failure of 7000 AU troops to stop the violence in Darfur, Sudan, it is unlikely they will adequately fill the vacuum left by the Ethiopian forces. It is also unlikely they will afford the TG the same protection as the Ethiopian force and a UIC uprising could begin anew. Given the consistent UIC statements to view peacekeepers as an invading force it is almost certain the peacekeepers will become targets for insurgent warfare, and even more certain they will fail to stop the insurgency.

Mogadishu residents are fleeing the city en masse to take residence in makeshift refugee camps on the outskirts. Without security people can’t live their day to day lives but have the freedom to make personal choices. I believe Somalis would rather be secure in their day to day lives, be able to live in their homes, be able to go out without getting caught up in violence or fear of not returning home, or having no home to return to, and be able to send their kids to school without fear of them being killed on the journey. Even if it meant they couldn’t enjoy western comforts, listen to western music, or go to the cinema.

So, by trying to give the Somali people freedom, Ethiopia and the U.S. have returned them to the anarchy they have already endured far too much of. Some people are forced to leave their homes, and so not free to live where they choose, others are forced to stay indoors. Therefore security is more important than freedom, because without security there isn’t much freedom, and what little there is can’t be enjoyed.

My latest articles can be read at http://warpages-leejay.blogspot.com

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No Existential Threat to Israel

Israel, the U.S and others are over blowing the threat from a nuclear Iran.

By Liam BaileyI received an e-mail from Israeli newspaper, Haaretz daily with the subject line: Stand up to –Ahmadinejad. Inside was an advertising banner with the subject line above a picture of an exuberant Ahmadinejad speaking into a microphone. The banner linked to a two minute video by Aish.com, [Aish HaTorah, a yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem].

The Video

It is actually a slideshow. It starts with a picture of Adolf Hitler. Followed by a gruesome picture of tens of undernourished adult males, one standing, the rest lying in what I can only describe as a wall of pigeon-hole bunks. I assume it was taken in a liberated concentration camp. The narrator says: “Imagine you could have stopped Hitler in 1938.” another wall of pigeon holes, this time much smaller filled with human skulls. “Imagine you could have stopped him, but didn’t.”

Showing Ahmadinejad above the quote, “Israel must be wiped off the map,” the narrator announces: “Today a new Hitler is on the world stage calling for the destruction of the state of Israel.” The narrator falls silent for the display of two more pictures of Ahmadinejad above the quotes: “The Zionist regime is a dried up and rotten tree which will be annihilated with one storm” and: “The Elimination of the Zionist regime will be smooth and simple.”

Ahmadinejad’s Intentions and Israeli Lies

The first quote about Israel being wiped off the map is a matter of international debate. Some analysts say Ahmadinejad has never made such a statement, that it is an intentional mistranslation by Israel or their supporters to overstate the danger from Iran. If they are right and only the latter two quotes can be accredited to Ahmadinejad, he is not alone in wanting Zionism to be eliminated, which doesn’t necessarily mean exterminating Jews or obliterating Israel. In my recent interview with Israeli author and academic Ilan Pape, he said: “Israel has to be de-Zionised to a point before any genuine reconciliation can be attempted.” He was talking about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

The Hitler/Ahmadinejad Comparison

Whether Ahmadinejad said “Israel must be wiped off the map” or not, the comparison to Hitler and the holocaust is a blatant misrepresentation of one of the world’s most horrific acts. In 1938 the world was a different place, not least in the perception of Jews. 1938 was in an era when stereotypes were treated as fact and taught to children. Discrimination was accepted, in some cases even expected of people. Jews were stereotypically evil, greedy and devious and persecuted because of it.

When Hitler’s views began emerging, for those who didn’t hate Jews, such entrenched stereotypes made them indifferent. In short the Jews had no friends in the world capable of or willing to stop Hitler. Today the situation is very different.

No Comparison

The holocaust was a horrific and tragic occurrence. The world not even attempting to stop it pre-emptively was a disgrace. However, the world’s guilt over not stopping the holocaust, even if only indirectly, led to the partitioning of Palestine for a Jewish homeland.

In its infancy Israel faced threats from the Arab countries surrounding it, who really did want to carry out a second holocaust, who really did want, and try to wipe Israel off the map. As Egypt’s President announced before the Sinai war: “Egypt has decided to dispatch her heroes, the disciples of pharaoh and the sons of Islam and they will cleanse the Land of Israel….There will be no peace on Israel’s border because we demand vengeance, and vengeance is Israel’s death.” The U.S began supporting Israel militarily in the sixties and rescued Israel from the brink of defeat by airlifting military supplies during the Yom Kippur war , the aggressors Egypt and other neighboring Arab states learned that the U.S wasn’t going to let Israel be defeated.

Since then and currently Israel faces a very small threat from neighboring countries, some have signed peace accords. The others are reduced to funding internal resistance groups against Israel’s occupation, none of which is anywhere near capable of wiping Israel off the map.

Let’s assume Ahmadinejad does want Israel wiped off the map.

Far from having no friends, Israel is now in the “in” crowd, with the most powerful friends in the world: the U.S., U.K. and any other states wanting to stay in America’s favor. With the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), perhaps the most powerful lobby in America, America’s world influence and massive nuclear arsenal, Israel is one of the world’s best protected countries. If this support wasn’t enough to deter anyone considering an attack, or “the destruction of Israel”, Israel has a sizeable nuclear arsenal of its own, widely thought to be 200-400 active nuclear warheads. This is a significant deterrent against attack.

If Israel has 400 nuclear warheads, then Tel Aviv has the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world, bigger than China or France. Iran is years from even having one workable nuclear warhead, and depending on the size and weight of the prototype building a missile to carry it could take just as long. Thus, Israel has sufficient capabilities to defend itself, along with protection from the U.S. as No. 1 nuclear proliferator.

What’s more Ahmadinejad’s patriotism is the driving force behind the dramatic showdown with the U.S. and the world over wanting the country’s right to nuclear power under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Israel has not ratified. His patriotism will prevent him from risking the total obliteration of his country by attacking Israel. So, Iran poses no existential threat to Israel, at least until they have the capabilities to disable the U.S and Israel. I’m sure you’ll agree, that, without outside help this is many years away.

The Lies

Israeli officials know that there is no such “second holocaust” or existential threat from a nuclear Iran. As Gareth Porter reported in the Electronic Intifada:

An article in the online journal of a hard-line think-tank, the Ariel Centre for Policy Research, in August 2004 revealed that “one of the options that has been considered should Iran publicly declare itself to have nuclear weapons is for Israel to put an end to what is called its policy of ‘nuclear ambiguity’ or ‘opacity’. The author, Shalom Freedman, said that in light of Israel’s accumulation of “over 100 nuclear weapons” and its range of delivery systems for them, even if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons within a few years, the “tremendous disproportion between the strength of Israel and an emergent nuclear Iran should serve as a deterrent.”Why the Lie

You may be wondering why Israelis would want to create mass hysteria on the basis of lies, the same reason it denies Palestinian right of return, and is building a great wall around the Jewish state… Zionism’s greatest fear, Israel becoming predominantly Arab.
You may be confused, Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh explained in an interview with the Jerusalem Post, saying that under the threat from a nuclear Iran:

“most Israelis would prefer not to live here; most Jews would prefer not to come here with their families; and Israelis who can live abroad will. People are not enthusiastic about being scorched.” Thus the danger, Sneh elaborated, is that Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would “be able to kill the Zionist dream without pushing a button. That’s why we must prevent this regime from obtaining nuclear capability at all costs.”

The Real Threats

Therefore, the fear is not over the existence of Israel, but over how Israel exists. I suspect Washington’s war planners know the existential threat is non-existent, but have their own reasons for failing to dispel the myth. America does not want allied Israel’s Middle East hegemony to end, especially not in favor of an enemy as staunch as Iran.

Israel putting such weight on their lies taking hold in the world media, has guaranteed their fears will be a reality should Iran successfully enrich uranium to weapons grade. That is why you can rest assured, if diplomacy and sanctions fail to stop Iranian enrichment, Israel will attack with or without U.S help. There is a distinct possibility that the attack will involve the use of nuclear weapons, therefore Iran is more in danger of a nuclear holocaust from Israel.

This article has also been published on War Pages on Blogspot

“A Brighter Palestinian Future”

The new unity government accepts the demands, waters down the wording and expands on the stipulation.

By Liam Bailey

The new Palestinian Authority (PA) unity government is being hailed as a great thing for Palestinians. I don’t deny it is a step in the right direction but tough decisions, and hopefully negotiations lie ahead. If the right decisions aren’t made by all parties involved it will not improve one thing in the occupied territories. Speaking to Israel’s Haaretz daily, on condition of anonymity one Israeli official said: “The conditions have not been met. This is not something we can live with.” The U.S. State Department reiterated its call that the new government must meet international demands. It is clear from recent U.S. and Israel policies and their reactions to the new accord, that a serious change in Hamas’ overtures will be needed if the unity government is to be treated differently than its predecessor.

The reason for hostility towards Hamas is because their charter calls for the destruction of Israel and despite the international siege since early last year they have continually refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist, renounce violence and adhere to previous agreements made between the palestine Liberation Organization and Israel. The unity accord makes no mention of recognizing Israel or the other demand to renounce violence, only stipulating that Hamas will “respect” previous agreements made between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel. Abbas had held out for a commitment to adhere to previous agreements, but Hamas held firm and the wording was watered down.The watered down wording gave weight to the reactions from the U.S and Israel, and the European Union said it would study the new administration “in a positive but cautious manner.” The Quartet, (the EU, Russia and the UN) has been pressuring the U.S for an end to the PA blockade for months. The U.S and Israel have been as stubborn as Hamas.A Russian Foreign Ministry statement Feb. 9 welcomed the new deal between rival Palestinian factions and made a fresh appeal for the lifting of a freeze on direct aid to the Palestinian government. It remains to be seen whether the slight concession from Hamas, the first from them since they took power will allow the other Quartet members to sufficiently tighten the thumbscrews on the U.S. to end the blockade.

It is almost certain the Arab states friendly to the Palestinians will make the most of a momentous achievement by the PA and use their leverage as a much needed Middle East ally for the U.S in stabilizing Iraq and ratcheting up the pressure on Iran’s nuclear regime, to secure they can get some badly needed aid back into to PA. However, while an injection of aid from friendly Arab states will alleviate the Palestinian’s plight, not least in allowing them to pay their employees a full salary for the first time since Hamas were elected. This will make things exponentially better for the workforce and the third of Palestinian families they take home the bacon to.

The normalization of relations with Israel and the U.S. is what’s really needed to bring PA life back to the Palestinian reality before Hamas were elected, which still isn’t western life but it is a good jumping off point for a new push for peace from both sides. This would include unfreezing bank’s and accounts and releasing the $800 million dollars of withheld Palestinian tax revenues and an end to the measure. The new unity in the PA gives its parties the chance to attempt normalizing their relationships with each other and the international community. They badly need the international community on their side, or at least not against them if they expect Israel to come to the table with a serious offer for peace.

What is also needed is the serious change in Hamas rhetoric towards Israel I mentioned, preferably in them accepting the three demands of the quartet. I suspect that their “respecting” past agreements will be enough to satisfy the Quartet on that demand, at least until the negotiation stage. The other demands are the hardest for Hamas to accept, and in fact, what the U.S. fails to realize, or, like Israel, doesn’t care about is that Hamas accepting the most crucial demand –Israel’s right to exist– will take away the unity governments credibility in the eyes of its members, and the population at large. Such an acceptance, to Palestinians would mean accepting that Israel had the right to expel Arabs in the 1948 war. Any negotiations would then risk being interrupted or at worst derailed by gunmen and/or armed wing members attacking each other or Israel.

I have a solution. The new unity government accepts the demands and maintains credibility by watering down the wording and expanding on the stipulation. For instance:
 

We, the PA unity government unconditionally recognize Israel’s existence within the 67 borders, as stipulated by UN Security Council Resolution 242.

The same can be done with the renounce violence demand:
 

We the PA unity government make a declaration to completely renounce all forms of violence for a period of 6 months to allow preparations to be made for the full reinstatement of aid, unfreezing of accounts and return of withheld revenues in Israel and elsewhere it applies, and fresh negotiations with the starting point that adherence to Security Council Resolution 242 and the formation of a completely independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem according to the borders before the 1967 war, are a guarantee, regardless of the talks outcome.

The ball is then well and truly shifted into Israel and the U.S’ courts. UNSC Resolution 242 calls for the return of the above stated land, which was occupied by Israel after the 1967 war. There are arguments that Resolution 242 could be backed up with force as it is legally binding under article 25 of the UN charter on the grounds of its incorporation in UN Resolution 338, presented to the UNSC by the U.S and Russia to end the Yom Kippur war. Resolution 338 may well have been backed up with force. The PA government could approach the UN about a reaffirmation of the resolutions demands for the Israeli/Palestine conflict.

There has never been a better time for Palestinians to maintain a peace, because the U.S needs friends like it never did before. The friendly Arab states, the EU, Russia, and the UN Security Council are all necessary allies for cranking up diplomatic pressure on Iran, The U.S also needs its Arab allies in stabilizing Iraq and possibly for airspace and bases in the event of war with Iran. Israel has always said that its main objective is peace and it is willing to give land to achieve it, whereas the Arabs objective is land, Israel expects them to give peace to achieve it. With the Palestinians doing everything that was expected of them, the U.S and Israel’s rhetoric and incessant peace overtures would back-fire on them. There would be no excuses left.

The Palestinians would need to ensure that they resist the Israeli tactics that would undoubtedly ensue, like the West Bank arrest Raids and new settlement in the recent ceasefire. And the most recent “renovations” at Al Aqsa mosque, which led to violence after the unity government deal was reached. The clashes add further difficulty for a new government that will undoubtedly struggle to regain control after the fierce factional fighting of the last few months. These tactics are aimed at drawing the Palestinians into actions that would end Israel’s uncomfortable predicament.

If the PA could keep to its side of the bargain any reluctance by Israel, which there would undoubtedly be, would be overruled by Iran’s nuclear program being firmly number one on the U.S’ agenda. Iran being such a U.S. priority is almost as much Israel’s fault as anyone else’s, vis-a-vis the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s influence in the current U.S administration. This would make it a double backfire when the U.S. applied pressure on Israel to give the Palestinians the talks they and the world community –badly needed allies– would be shouting for.

When talks commence the ball comes back into the Palestinians court on the basis of needing to compromise on other final status issues, such as the right of return. The Palestinians want refugees to return to the very land they were expelled from, after nearly 60 years this is impractical if not impossible for Israel to grant. I read about one Palestinian refugee who, if granted the right of return, would be building his house in the grounds of Jerusalem airport. Not to mention it would risk Israel becoming predominantly Arab, which would in turn further reduce the number of Jews immigrating to Israel under their Law of Return. Two things Israel will never risk.

A suitable compromise may be accepting a limited right of return, whereby refugees could only return on the grounds that they take up land in the now formally and completely independent Palestinian state. Three generations after the Naqba many of the people expelled in the 1948 war of [Israeli] independence are no longer refugees. They or their descendants have made lives for themselves and their families elsewhere in the world and wouldn’t want to return. The Palestinians clinging uncompromisingly to achieving this right in full is an unnecessary obstacle to peace.

The other thing that would undoubtedly be a new sticking point in any such negotiations would be the separation wall Israel has almost completed. When complete it originally would have enclosed the West Bank, Palestinians complained because it is built inside the land that should become the independent Palestinian state. Since it started there have been extensions to the planned route taking even more land the Palestinians feel is rightly theirs. The wall has been ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice. The new pressure on Israel should also be taken advantage of by the Palestinians to achieve the tearing down of the wall, again, simply by maintaining the peace from their side. If they did this, despite Israel’s delaying and provocative tactics, Israel would eventually have to face the inevitable:

No security wall is needed with the PA adhering to its commitments and peacefully waiting for Israel to meet theirs. However reluctantly the U.S supported the PA, with theirs and the rest of the international community’s support for the new, moderate and peaceful unity government, Israel would be left with nowhere to go.

This might prove difficult, the longer Israel delayed meeting its commitments, and, based on previous initiatives that could be years of provocative actions, the more time the Palestinians would have, for one person or small group to revert to the habits of a lifetime. I’d like to hope the Palestinians would give the new unity government the respect they expect from the international community and that it would well and truly deserve for having the courage to compromise for a brighter Palestinian future.

This article has also been published on War Pages on Blogspot

Excluding Hamas Won’t Bring Peace!

Recent policies to bring Middle East peace, were pushing Palestinians apart and peace further away.

By Liam Bailey

The latest push for Middle East peace focused on strengthening moderates against “the extremists”. Fatah’s Abbas was the policy’s patron saint, well, a patron anyway. The policy exacerbated a rift that worsened when talks collapsed to create a unity Palestinian Authority government. A rift that quickly escalated in an environment under the pressure of extreme poverty caused by the western government boycott of the January elected Hamas government.

It was an unworkable policy, to the Palestinian people Fatah has sold itself time and time again, first and foremost by accepting Israel’s right to exist. To Palestinians this means accepting that Israel had the right to expel their Arab brethren in 1948. Something they will never do. Hamas in government gave the PA a shred of credibility in the eyes of the Palestinian people. Now Fatah have united under this credibility I hope they can use their moderate status to push for Palestinian rights peacefully. If not any deals made and agreements reached will not bring peace. What’s more Israel and the west know this; one reason for the Hamas boycott was their refusal to renounce violence.

I believe that Hamas joining democratic proceedings and adhering to two ceasefires, one for almost a year, proves they are willing to renounce violence if it is reciprocated and leading to an independent Palestinian state within the 67 borders. The right of return and other final status issues could be settled in further negotiations in –a new concept for both states–, peacetime. Hamas certainly won’t renounce violence to adhere to an agreement reached on the basis of –Fatah–succumbing to Israeli demands and putting self-importance and greed before Palestinian rights. Hamas remaining outside the process that led to the Oslo accord and attempting to sabotage the process through terrorism showed this. However neither Israel nor the PLO adhered to their commitments under the accord anyway.The Palestinian people showed their displeasure for Fatah by electing Hamas. Therefore an agreement between Israel and Fatah would not have been appreciated or adhered to by the Palestinian population at large either, including Islamic Jihad. Palestinians will not support any peace that will not change their lives for the better. In the conditions they live a fair and just deal would be a complete turnaround in their lives. Only Hamas looked capable of sustaining its commitment to Palestinian rights and achieving such a deal. Israel may deal with Hamas now they have formed a coalition with the –supposedly– more moderate Fatah. So, the big push for peace, by worsening PA division to crisis point, and beyond, was actually pushing us away from peace.

The policy started late Dec. 2006, with Abbas meeting Olmert, who promised to free $100 million of withheld Palestinian tax revenues. He made good on his promise a few days later. His other concessions however agreeing to take away some West Bank checkpoints and ease the strangulation of there and Gaza, followed the history of such concessions in being much easier said than done. As Israeli analyst Gershon Bashkin put it in the Jerusalem Post Feb. 5: “the proof is in the pudding, and so far the pudding is rotten.” The meeting was followed by a massive arms transfer from Egypt, allowed to reach Fatah security forces by Israel. The U.S recently pledged $84 billion to Abbas as part of the large and multilateral campaign to arm and fund Fatah against a militarily stronger, –certainly in Gaza– Hamas.

The other arm of the policy was a new peace process involving the Quartet, but completely excluding Hamas. If Hamas were to be ignored politically, all they had left was violence. This and the program of funding and arming Fatah militias was always going to make Hamas feel threatened and angry, which of course was going to escalate the fighting.

The rift between the Palestinian factions started just weeks before the Abbas/Olmert meeting, shortly after unity government talks collapsed three sons of a Fatah allied security guard were gunned down. Hamas were blamed but denied the attack. A Hamas judge was killed in a reprisal attack, for which Fatah denied responsibility. Things escalated again when the Hamas leader and PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, returning because of the fighting, was held at the Gaza border by Israel. Hamas militants went to the border, which was being patrolled by Fatah security forces at the time. Fierce fighting broke out between the two factions. After a few hours Haniyeh was allowed to pass and in the chaos, bullets entered the car. Crossfire or not it was taken as an attempt on the Prime Ministers life. Haniyeh’s bodyguard was killed in the attack and his son wounded. Again Fatah were blamed but denied the attack.

Both Abbas and Haniyeh agreed many truces to end the infighting and called for all gunmen to leave the streets. Unfortunately the Hamas military wing is controlled from Syria by Kaleed Meshal. The push for peace presented the appearance that they [the U.S. and Israel] intended to arm and fund Fatah until Hamas was defeated or forced into submission and accepted the –unacceptable– demands laid on them by the west. With Hamas under such a threat and felt to be militarily stronger, Khaled Meshaal sought to ensure Hamas’ survival by defeating Fatah once and for all. At the same time ensuring Hamas’ survival in the political arena and therefore ensuring the Palestinian people will not be willingly led into an agreement of subdifuge.

Hamas and Fatah reached agreement for a power sharing government Feb. 8. Israel officials are casting doubt on whether the planned peace summit Feb. 19 with Abbas, U.S secretary of state Condoleeza Rice and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will go ahead with an Abbas now sharing power with Hamas. They are also talking about a reduced likelihood of Olmert making any concessions to Abbas if the meeting does go ahead. Whether it goes ahead or not will likely depend on the rhetoric from the new government towards Israel, and whether the U.S. pressures for it to go ahead under the facade that they are committed to a peace deal. If their commitment to peace was a strong as their commitment to Israel peace wouldn’t look such a far off prospect.

The unity agreement makes no mention of recognizing Israel or the other demand to renounce violence, only stipulating that Hamas will “respect” previous agreements made between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel. Abbas had held out for a commitment to adhere to previous agreements, but Hamas held firm and the wording was watered down.

Both Meshal and Abbas have stated their commitment to the deal and their desire for no further internal fighting in the PA, and that they hope the international siege of the PA will be lifted because of the new government. While U.S allies in the region, and the other three members of the quartet (Russia, the E.U. and the U.N.), who have been pressuring the U.S. to end the siege may reinstate diplomatic relations with the PA as a first step to making pledges of aid, the U.S. state department has already reiterated that the new government is required to meet international demands.

Just days after the latest push was started by the Abbas/Olmert meeting, the Israeli government approved a new settlement in the West Bank, one which was nearly completed before government approval. The settlement has now been “frozen” because of U.S pressure. The settlements approval, has recently been followed by another Jerusalem home demolition as part of the campaign to keep Jerusalem’s Arab population low and an extension to the planned route of the separation wall. The new route annexes even more land from the final Palestinian state.

This all happened while Palestinian infighting was diverting attention, as well as freeing Israeli security forces to carry out the operations. All are operations that help toward the Zionist dream of a pure, or at least remaining predominantly Jewish, Israel.

Therefore, even people adverse to conspiracies can see that Israel was the main beneficiary of the Palestinian infighting. Their policies after it began proved, at the very least, that they weighed capitalizing on it above creating a suitable environment for a lasting peace.

Meanwhile the U.S is still treating Israel as an ally in the war on terror and Hamas as an enemy in it. This conflict was going on before Osama Bin Laden could trouble anyone, Hamas were attacking Israel before Al Qaeda were attacking the West, Hamas could have jumped on the Al Qaeda band wagon but, despite Zawahiri’s best attempts, they haven’t.

If the solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict was strengthening moderates against extremists, it would have been over years ago. The only push that will bring peace is all parties pushing the desire for peace to number 1 on the agenda. After nearly a century of conflict isn’t it about time they did?

 <i>I wrote this article two days before the PA unity deal was signed.  An example of how fast things can change in this conflict.</i>

This article has also been published, along with my new articles on War Pages on Blogspot

A Powerful Voice: An Interview with Ilan Pape.

Painting a worrying picture and offering ways to alleviate the Palestinians plight.

By Liam Bailey 

Prominent Israeli academic and author Ilan Pape is openly critical of Israel. In his latest article, he called Israel’s policies in the West Bank ethnic cleansing and felt safe to call their actions in Gaza “measured genocide”.

Let us not forget that Ilan Pape is an Israeli and for him to accuse his own homeland of these things must be very hard indeed, and without a strong basis I’m sure he would reduce the terms to something much weaker. Secondly Ilan Pape has extensive experience of the conflict; he is senior lecturer in the University of Haifa Department of political Science and Chair of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian Studies in Haifa.

He has also written books on the subject, including, among others: The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (London and New York 1992), The Israel/Palestine Question (London and New York 1999), A History of Modern Palestine (Cambridge 2003), The Modern Middle East (London and New York 2005) and his latest, Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006).

An Israeli with so much knowledge criticizing his homeland makes him a powerful voice. Ilan agreed to answer a few questions of mine on the above matters by e-mail.

Liam Bailey: Do you believe Israel will ever commit to peace?

Ilan Pape: Not in the near future and maybe not in the longer run. There is a need for a revolutionary change in global and regional balances of power before a genuine process of change takes place in Israel itself. If ever this happens, and it is likely to happen at one point, these are time consuming processes. Israel has to be de-Zionised to a point before any genuine reconciliation can be attempted.

LB: Do you think Israel would be more committed to peace if the U.S allowed resolutions against Israel, and threatened to withdraw U.S aid unless they make more concessions to achieve sustainable peace with the Palestinians?

IP: Yes by all means this is one of the revolutionary changes in the global balances I was taking about, above. It will be a crucial factor in forcing a new thinking within Israel and it would be a very positive message to the Arab world to believe once more in the possibility of peace.

LB: Do you share the opinion that the recent Gaza ceasefire was nothing more than appearing as committed to peace to guarantee continued U.S support from a Democrat Congress?

IP: I think the ceasefire was less to do with US policy as with two other factors: one, Israelis want to see how a civil war inside Gaza serves them and secondly, foolishly, Hamas and Fatah are willing to divert their energies and attention from fighting the occupation into trying to struggle one against the other.

LB: When this article is published, going by my past articles, I will be inundated with e-mails and comments saying that genocide in Gaza is a ludicrous suggestion, that Israel is only attacking Gaza in self defence, and that if the Palestinians would stop launching rockets and committing other acts of terrorism Israel would stop retaliating. What would you say to those people?

IP: The Israeli actions, as the Israeli army admits, increase the motivation for more rockets and missiles. The Israeli army itself admits the punitive actions have very little to do with the missile attacks and are meant to achieve ‘deterrence’. Moreover, ever since 1993, whenever any Palestinian group was willing to ceasefire and give a chance for a peace dialogue, the Israeli army immediately launched a provocative action so that the lull would not continue for too long. After the recent ceasefire was agreed upon, the Israeli army arrested a large number of leaders and killed activists and civilians in the West Bank; knowing perfectly well that this was a cassis belle in the eyes of the Palestinian groups.

LB: You paint a convincingly horrifying picture that Israel is actively committing measured genocide in Gaza and ethnic cleansing in the West Bank. The only problem I have is that both policies cannot be achieved quickly, and will likely run through several governments. How can the people in Israel who want to carry these actions through be sure that the people don’t elect a more liberal government, which would put a stop to their well laid plans?

IP: The cleansing of the Jewish space or the area of Palestine that all the Zionist parties, including the liberal ones, covet as a State, is a pillar in Zionist thought. As long as Israel is a Zionist state there is ‘no danger’ that a counter policy would ever be adopted by a Zionist government. After all, it was liberal Zionists who committed the greatest act of ethnic cleansing so far, the 1948 one, and a pure Jewish space is accepted by liberals as well, as a noble target. They are willing to be happy with a smaller part of the land for achieving this goal but there their liberalism ends. This is why there is ‘no rush’ and in fact it is a liberal Zionist concept that a slow measure nowadays is best for silencing world criticism or internal doubts.

LB: I know one Israeli, Reuven Kossover who openly criticises the government, but not for the Gaza siege or the years of disproportionate reactions and collective punishment, but because they don’t do enough to squash the resistance. He believes that Israel should either declare a border excluding Judea, Samaria and Gaza and expel all hostile Arabs from green line Israel, or annex Gaza and the West Bank completely and expel the hostile Arabs. In your experience do a lot of Israelis share similar opinions?

IP: I think yes, but I do think when it comes to voting we alternate every few years between the ‘Left’ a slower pace of ‘squashing’ and the ‘right, an accelerated one. From the victim’s point of view, alas, the result is the same.

LB: How do you think Israel can be stopped from committing ethnic cleansing and genocide?

IP: Only through a coordinated campaign like the one that stopped the apartheid system in South Africa. But for the boycott, divestment and sanction campaign to succeed you also need a strong, united and well orientated Palestinian leadership and strategy. We lack both.

LB: It is currently in the news that Israel faces an existential threat from Hamas and Hezbollah and most Israelis believe Ahmadinejad is synonymous with a second holocaust. Do you share the opinion that Israel currently poses a far bigger threat to the Arab world than the Arab world does to Israel?

IP: Indeed, Israel is an unfinished project of statehood, and would go to any length to impose its will until most of the West Bank would be annexed to it, together with the Golan Heights and strategic control up to the Litani River in Lebanon. Anyone that stands in the way is or will be attacked.It is interesting that Israeli generals here say that Hizballah and Hamas are mere irritations and not strategic threats, which I think is an accurate description.LB: It seems to me that the fear of a counter-attack by Israel, the U.S, or both obliterating Iran completely will prevent Ahmadinejad from launching a nuclear attack, or any kind of attack. If it occurs to me then someone in Israel’s leadership must also realize the great threat their nuclear arsenal projects. Am I right that Israel always presents fears for its existence, allowing it to remind people of the holocaust at regular intervals, to stop the world criticising its actions against Palestinians?

IP: Yes the manipulation of the Holocaust memory is to allow the policies I have described above to be carried out without interruption. But I do think the fear in Israel is not from a nuclear attack from Iran, it is clear that the worst that can happen is deterrence policies such as the ones that took place in The Cold War. The fear is from a serious challenge to Israel’s absolute military hegemony in the area.

LB: Or does Israel do the above so that anyone who reads they are committing genocide will not believe it because of the way them and their ancestors suffered at the hands of the Nazi’s.

IP: I think what the Israelis rely on are two things. The slow measures that can obfuscate the general picture and hide the accumulative effect and secondly, the Jewish communities who would back unconditionally even the worst Israeli atrocities.

LB: Finally, I read the other day about a new youth movement –similar to the Hitler youth– that has been formed by Israeli MP, Ariyah Eldad. Its stated aims are hiking scouting and promoting the forced transfer of Palestinians from the West Bank. The group’s formation is clear evidence of his intention to carry on Israel’s policies into the next generation. Eldad said he formed the group because he was being asked by a lot of youths while touring schools, “where are we to go?” “What can we do now?” Do you believe he is telling the truth and that his group will attract significant numbers of Israeli youths?

IP: I am sure this will be a very popular youth movement given the present mood in the country, but the Israeli establishment will be very careful from openly endorsing it.

My interview with Ilan Pape has reinforced my view that this conflict is a long way from a peaceful solution. I just hope that the campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions will achieve more popular support and have the desired effect of changing Israeli policies.

Stop the Israeli Oppression!

Publicising a peaceful way to bring Israel into line.

By Liam Bailey

Many people compare the Palestinian’s plight to that of South Africans living under apartheid; two peoples living in one country in completely separate circumstances, one being oppressed and treated inhumanely at the rule of the other. Israel’s separation wall that is being erected, at its current course annexing yet more Arab land reinforces the Israeli apartheid view.

Palestinians –like South Africans under apartheid– are suffering a great deal, especially in Gaza where they have been forced by an EU, U.S boycott to live in poverty as bad as anywhere else in the world. Unlike South Africans there is no significant campaign to stop the oppression. The British anti-apartheid movement became extremely popular across the western world, attracting the support of the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties. Its campaign of boycotting the South African regime, with such popular support, made a big difference in ending the apartheid, according to the people who lived under the regime.

Last year, in a cry for similar support, authoritative members of Palestinian civil society called for an academic, consumer, and cultural boycott of Israel as well as divestment from churches, universities, states, cities, unions, banks and anyone else who wants to take part. The text of the call was:

We, representatives of Palestinian civil society, call upon international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era. We appeal to you to pressure your respective states to impose embargoes and sanctions against Israel. We also invite conscientious Israelis to support this Call, for the sake of justice and genuine peace.

These non-violent punitive measures should be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:
1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

The call was endorsed by 171 Palestinian organizations, campaigns, unions and refugee rights associations, as the original call said: from “the three integral parts of the people of Palestine: Palestinian refugees, Palestinians under occupation and Palestinian citizens of Israel.” The boycott –which could become a major part in the fight to end Israeli oppression– has begun. Several factors are stopping it from having the popular support from mainstream media and western governments enjoyed by the South African anti-apartheid movement:

One: The similarities between Israel treatment of the Palestinians and the South African Apartheid is not commonly connected, especially in the mainstream media, which for whatever reason refuses to make the connection.

Two: We live in a world ruled by the U.S, with Israel by their side, Israel have been extremely keen to have any form of boycott or divestment labelled as anti-Semitic, an almost equal campaign by pro-Israeli media and journalists has begun for people to boycott the boycott.

Three: Fear of terrorism, which gives weight to Islamaphobia and credibility and therefore increasing popularity to far-right wing groups and political parties, happily criticising the entire Muslim community as terrorists or terrorist sympathizers. This means that the Palestinians actively fighting the oppressive Israeli occupation with the only means they have, is played out in the media and therefore seen by the world as terrorism.

Four: Al Qaeda continually seeking to affiliate its cause, which is, in short the murder of Americans and their allies anywhere in the world, with the Palestinians cause, seeking to live in an independent and oppression free-state, and be treated as equals by the world. This adds weight to the media stories, and that the Palestinians fighting the occupation are part of the same Islamic Extremist ideology that is a threat to the western world.

All these factors combine to prevent the calls for boycott and divestment of Israel, attempting similar activities as the anti-(South African)-Apartheid movement and with a similar cause, freeing a people from an oppressive and racist regime, from enjoying anywhere near the same level of support. The campaign is young and this is my way of helping.

Israeli academic and author Ilan Pape is a strong supporter of the boycott. In a recent interview given to Christopher Brown, Mr Pape said of the Boycott’s value in achieving a just solution for the Palestinians:

“It will be very hard in this globalized world we live in to bring about economic sanctions, which would have been the most effective in forcing a change in Israeli policy.

The second best, and more feasible, [way] is to send a message to Israel from the societies at large that its policies are unacceptable, that as long as it continues to do what it does it cannot be accepted … It cannot be in the community of civilized nations.

I think there is both a symbolic and a very political significance to a coordinated reaction by societies in the west for a message, a clear message, that is conveyed in the way of a boycott of divestment or any other symbolic act which says that there is a price tag attached to the policies that you pursue and as long as you pursue these policies, you are not welcomed here. Not as individuals — you are not welcomed here if you represent a certain ideology, a certain state, and especially if you appear as an official representative of this state.”

To the Israeli claims that the boycott is anti-semitic Mr Pape said: “the Israelis are over-using the anti-semitic accusation against anyone who criticizes them. Not only [against] those who call for a boycott, even the mildest criticism of Israel is depicted here as an act of anti-semitism. Maybe one or two known anti-semites have joined the wagon, but that doesn’t prove anything. The fact is that Israel wants to be immune from any criticism. And the shield it uses is always anti-semitism.”

Mr Pape’s final word in the interview was:

“Israel needs a wake-up call. Israelis don’t know that this is what the world thinks about them and I think that civil societies around the world can be the alarm clock for them, and they should be the alarm clock.”

The daily violence Palestinians have to endure under Israeli occupation, combined with what can safely be called “measured” “genocide” and intentions to ethnically cleanse the West Bank, should mean Palestinians have the massive support of all campaigners against oppression. They don’t.

The boycott is a way that you and I can support the Palestinians struggle, a way to let Israel know that the developed and civilized world will no longer tolerate their behaviour, even if our government’s will. I will be supporting it, click here to find out how you can too.

Jettison Blair!

Labour needs to push Blair overboard soon to have any chance in the May elections. By Liam Bailey

Prime Minister Tony Blair has stated his intentions to stand down before the next election. It is a near certainty that he will be replaced by the Chancellor Gordon Brown. Gordon Brown has announced his intentions to distance himself from the white house, to “speak his mind” and put Britain’s National interests first.

The Prime Minister has refused to set a date for his departure, but has said the 2006 Trades Union Congress (TUC) would be his last, meaning he will leave sometime before September. Most people believe he will leave in May to have a decade in office but keep his promise to go before the TUC 2007. Others believe he will go sometime before May to give his successor time to assure the maximum Labour vote at the May elections for the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and local councils.

Pollsters are predicting a heavy defeat for Labour at the May elections. Under Blair they may well be right. I predict arrogant Blair will again put his legacy before the Party and Britain’s national interests by staying in office until at least May, assuring his decade as Prime Minister. Not only that but Labour is currently conducting an extensive policy review, which Blair hopes will secure his legacy by entrenching long-term plans for public service reforms. It is highly unlikely that he will leave before its conclusion.

Many people also believe he will hang on as long as possible in the hope the Northern Ireland’s devolution can be restarted while he is still in office. All these things make it unlikely that he will be stepping down any time soon and unlikely his successor will have anytime to influence the vote in May, if in fact Blair doesn’t stay on for the elections.

The Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said it best: “We have a constitutional novelty. A prime minister with responsibility and no authority and a chancellor with authority but no responsibility. How can this dysfunctional government conduct the affairs of the country?” The latest Labour party scandal proves he is right.

Former Education Secretary Ruth Kelly has caused a massive stir in the UK by taking her Dyslexic son out of state school and into a private school. Ms Kelly said she was doing “the right thing for my child”, in paying 15000 pounds per year fees to move her son from public schooling in Tower Hamlet’s borough to private schooling. A boarding school in Oxfordshire is Ms Kelly’s choice, despite there being 20 schools close to her home, six with either outstanding or excellent Special Education Needs (SEN) services according to a recent Ofsted report. Downing Street almost immediately released a statement supporting MS Kelly and David Cameron, who has a son with cerebal paulsey expressed his sympathy.

I doubt if the thousands of parents across the country, who have children with severe learning difficulties but can’t afford private school will feel the same, in fact it is likely that they will have lost faith in public sector SEN schooling. Either way the former Education Secretary, now Communities Minister Ruth Kelly has shown little faith in her community, little faith in the education system and therefore little faith in herself. Her decision has also caused a massive scandal for Labour, which could really do without it at the moment.

The debate has continued in the papers and Thursday’s British television news, since the Sunday Mirror expose. In 2005 David Blunkett became the ninth minister Blair had forced to resign, and five others have resigned in scandalous circumstances, four over the Iraq war. I have no doubt that Ruth Kelly would have been the tenth forced resignation under normal party conditions. An ITN news reporter echoed Menzies Campbell Wednesday, saying: Blair has the responsibility but no authority and Brown has the authority but no responsibility, so it looks likely she –Ruth Kelly– will stay in her job. So, not only is it yet another high-profile scandal and yet more bad publicity for the Labour Party, but it has yet again drawn attention to the “dysfunctional government” running the UK.

All the above combines to make it very unlikely the pollsters will be proved wrong about the May elections. Labour will indeed be in for a blood-bath.

So, what has never looked likely before begins to look likely now, a Scottish National Party (SNP) win in the Scottish Parliament elections and maybe even Scottish Independence. The Scottish National Party is slightly ahead of Scottish Labour, and miles ahead of all other parties in most opinion polls, you can’t blame them for thinking this could be their year.

The SNP will undoubtedly try to gain Scottish independence, which has a lot of support in Scotland but not from me. I am a proud Scot, but I am also proud to be British and believe we have far more clout in Europe and the world speaking with one unified voice. Devolution has meant Scotland can still act in its own right, with its own separate funding and separate policies, as the smoking ban in Scotland has proven. I am a smoker and to see people on T.V. smoking in English pubs, knowing we can no longer smoke in public places north of the border is one example I could do without.

New supporters are adding to the people who have always supported the SNP’s vision for an independent Scotland. They believe Scotland could be better off as an independent state because it would have sole control and reap the profits of Scotland’s oil reserves, which they believe would expand the Scottish economy.

The fact that the opposition party set to gain the most in the Scottish Parliament elections is not the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats but the SNP is evidence of what is making people angry, perhaps more so than any of the above. The Scottish people want to distance themselves from Blair’s foreign policy and they see the SNP’s vision for an independent Scotland as the best way to do that.

Therefore, perhaps the biggest disadvantage for having Blair onboard is his unrelenting support for Bush and the U.S. combined with anti-U.S. feeling in the U.K. running at an all time high. This is largely because of Bush’s foreign policy, which Blair has followed blindly. Despite support for the Iraq war and therefore Bush and therefore Blair being at an all time low, Blair refuses, whatever his reasoning to criticise Bush even slightly, no matter how stupid his foreign policies seem.

The latest U.S bombing in Somalia is yet another example, Blair was asked during Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s questions if he was concerned by the air strikes from the US air force carried out on Somali targets over the last few days. It was suggested by Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn that what was needed was not foreign intervention but a peace process. Blair agreed: “What is in the interests of everyone in Somalia is to have a peace process that works properly”.

Bearing in mind that for the last fifteen years Somalis have endured either all-out war or total violent chaos in the country, Blair should surely have stopped there, or perhaps added something like: and that is what everybody, including the U.S wants to see in the country. Instead he added: the extremists at work in Somalia pose a threat not just to those outside Somalia but those within it as well and that global terrorism around the world had “a clear ideology and strategy” and where lives were being affected by it, it was right that those responsible were targeted. Bush can do no wrong in Blair’s eyes.

People are worried that with Blair in power the government will be pressured by Bush’s troop surge in Iraq and won’t keep its promise of bringing thousands of our troops home this year. Home from what many believe is an un-winnable war.

Blair staying in power but not really in charge puts the Labour party at a definite disadvantage. For one thing it gives opposition MP’s an easy target to aim criticism and ridicule at. Everyday that passes without an announcement of Blair’s departure means less time for the new leader to turn things around, more time for people to get even angrier as the dysfunctional government is exposed time and again and more reason for opposition MP’s to rub their hands together.

There is a program scheduled on British T.V. channel More Four called the Trial of Tony Blair. In the program Blair is convicted and jailed by a war-crimes tribunal at The Hague. This is further evidence of the U.K’s feelings about the Iraq war and Blair’s part in it. The Labour Party needs to cast Blair from around their neck before it is too late.

The End of War as We Know It!

Islamic extremist terrorism is a new threat. It requires a new approach. By Liam Bailey

9/11 was the pinnacle of an emerging ideology that had been festering for many years. Mainly since 1979, successive American Presidents oil bias and selective or intentional ignorance to unintended consequences of foreign policy decisions created a monster. On 9/11 it bit the hand that stopped feeding it when it had served its purpose. In dealing with the monster Bush has invaded two oil-rich Muslim countries, Afghanistan and Iraq, carrying on the great tradition of exacerbating the problem.

The history lessons should have already taught anyone considering the invasion of a Muslim country that it may not be such a good idea. The long running conflicts in Kashmir and Chechnya should ring alarm bells. The U.S government’s arrogance of “Anything you can do, we can do it better” and Bush’s refusal to admit their military short-comings in Vietnam prevented any such reluctance to invading Afghanistan.

Bush should really have been well versed in Afghanistan’s history and the perilous future of countries who invade, as many of Bush’s top aides were part of the Reagan cabinet that exacerbated the Soviet’s troubles in Afghanistan. A policy started by Reagan’s predecessor, which drew the Soviet Union into invading. The U.S was so confident that the Afghan Mujahideen would defeat the Soviet Union with their support that they concentrated on dragging it out for as long as possible. The spiralling cost of the invasion was a major factor in the demise of the Soviet Union. The U.S is proud their policy went so well, unfortunately it caused instability in Afghanistan for almost a decade.

Bush clearly wasn’t made aware of the possible quagmire Afghanistan could become, or, from Bush’s rhetoric, he holds his U.S and its military on a pedestal and refused to believe a few “Rag-tag” extremists (stirred up Moslems” as Zbigniew Brzezinski called them) could defeat it. The U.S heavily aided and armed the Northern Alliance, which was ousted by the Taliban and had been trying to regain control ever since. The Alliance was no match for the Taliban with Pakistan’s support. The sudden influx of U.S support redressed the balance and the Northern Alliance drove the Taliban back into their caves on the Afghan/Pakistan border.

In Afghanistan, recruiting was always going to be easy for the Taliban seeking to reform and regroup for the insurgency Mullah Mohammed Omar promised. In the Madrassas on the Afghanistan border and across Pakistan, many of which were built with U.S money during the Soviet invasion, a militant interpretation of Salafist Islam is taught. In these teachings there is no greater honour than to be a fighter in the Mujahideen’s struggle to liberate Islamic land from a godless invader.

Nobody knows whether NATO will prevail in Afghanistan or the radicals and Pakistan made Taliban will. Either way, the minute Bush invaded Afghanistan, not only did he legitimize Osama Bin Laden and other terror network’s Fatwahs [PDF p51] by giving their terrorism a battlefield. He then went ahead to show that Osama Bin Laden’s propaganda was true by failing to show remorse for “collateral damage”, and failing to rebuild Afghanistan, thus displaying the imperialistic traits of a war based on ulterior motives. None of which was concern for the Afghan people living under the cruel Taliban.

All the above amid the media frenzy caused by 9/11 and the new “War on Terror” –war on the world’s newest and biggest fear– meant Osama’s propaganda being proved right was watched by every Muslim fortunate enough to have a computer and/or television. The problem Al Qaeda had with dwindling global membership was solved by 9/11 and the war on terror’s first action. Gauntanamo, the “shock and awe” of the Iraq campaign and resulting “collateral damage” further served Al Qaeda’s Salafism fuelled cause. As did the atrocities committed by U.S forces.

Now Salafi Islamists had two battlefields to unleash the deeply entrenched anti-Americanism that had led to 9/11, in the form of insurgent warfare. Two places were U.S forces and interests could be attacked far easier, therefore far more frequently and far more effectively than any other country such interests exist.

Toppling Saddam was the easy part, sacking the Baathist supporters, some of which made up the police and security forces was the stupid part and led to the creation of another wing of the insurgency. An insurgency that now rocks Iraq with suicide bombings and other terror attacks daily. Both the above are Sunni elements of the insurgency, one fighting against the hated American empire, the other fighting to put Sunnis back into the primary position they had been in under Saddam. The latter adds a sectarian element to the insurgency, which the U.S exacerbated by –again acting stupidly– imposing a majority Shia Transitional Government, the Coalition Provisional Authority.

The sectarian misery has built, from its early beginnings of shrines being blown up into two peoples of the same religion attacking each other in almost every way imaginable, driving each other from their homes, and an environment in which nobody feels safe. An environment so corrupted by Jihad, Anti-American propaganda and deep rooted hatred caused by Saddam favouring a minority, part of which were responsible, voluntarily or not, for brutalizing the majority.

I haven’t even mentioned the Kurdish element. The years of oppression by Saddam, crushing their every revolt for an independent Kurdish state with his campaign of ethnic cleansing has led to a prevalence of the same militant Islamic teachings of Afghanistan’s troubled past. As such they make up their own part in Iraq’s misery, fighting for an independent state the hard way: adding to the death and destruction in the hope the U.S will eventually realize that creating three independent states is the only way to end it all. This may prove to be the case.

3000 U.S troops have been killed in Iraq and the occupation isn’t even three years old, which means that more than a thousand U.S troops have been killed every year of the occupation. Increasing the number of U.S troops in a so called “surge” may do no more than give the insurgents more prize targets to kill with their ambush tactics of hit and run, roadside bombs, suicide car bombs and rocket attacks.

What doesn’t help is the fact that any Muslim resistance group fighting occupation is almost guaranteed to be armed and/or funded by a sympathetic and oil-rich Muslim country, as Syria and Iran are showing in Iraq.

In the Lebanon invasion, similar tactics were employed by Hezbollah, another fundamentalist guerrilla group, also allegedly assisted by Syria and Iran. The way those “stirred up” Muslims stood the course of Israel’s organized military, with artillery, air support and even less scruples towards “collateral damage”, supports my argument.I’m not saying that every Muslim country invaded by a superior military will evolve into the state Iraq has become, the chances are they won’t. Iraq, like every Muslim country has its own individual religious and cultural dynamics. A few things are clear though:

The tactics have been set and their effectiveness proven. From now on, every non-Muslim country that ignores the historical lessons and invades a Muslim country, faces a war to decide not whether they will prevail and then restore order, but how long they are prepared to occupy a country partly populated with people who are willing to die to expel them, killing as many as possible in the process.

There is no doubt that the world faces a great threat from religious extremist terrorism, driven by an anti-modernist strand of Islam, interpreted to suit a violently anti-American ideology. This was expanded in 1998 to include U.S allies; almost every country in the western world. The simple fact is that trying to defeat it with the very military that is at the heart [PDF p50] of the anti-Americanism is only doing what the U.S usually does, exacerbating the problem. The new threat we face is not a conventional threat, and it cannot be defeated with conventional warfare.

Unstoppable Iran: Is Military Action the Answer?

Military action may be the only way to stop Iran from achieving weapons grade enrichment, but is it really worth it? Asks, Liam Bailey.

Nobody who knows anything about the current relationship between Iran and the west believes that the latest Resolution, imposing minor sanctions against the Islamic theocracy will have the desired effect of ending Iran’s nuclear aspirations. UN Resolution 1737 was passed unanimously by the 15 member Security Council and prohibits the sale of any materials to Iran that could be used in their “enrichment related, reprocessing or heavy water related activities”. It also imposes restrictions on the movements of twenty-two people or entities involved in the nuclear program, the Ballistic missile program or both as well as freezing their “funds, other financial assets and economic resources.”

The resolution was passed, in a nutshell because of “serious concern that the IAEA Director General’s report of 27 February 2006 (GOV/2006/15) lists a number of outstanding issues and concerns on Iran’s nuclear programme, including topics which could have a military nuclear dimension,” and that after three years of intense efforts “the IAEA is unable to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran,” which is guilty until proven innocent. Also because Iran has failed to stop its nuclear activities in line with Resolution 1696, which gave them till Aug 31 to stop all enrichment and other nuclear activities.

The sanctions may yet be increased in frequency, functionality and severity, but Iran will carry on regardless. Many analysts believe that the west’s actions to stop Iran’s enrichment, puts their theocratic back further up and in fact reduces the chances of them terminating the program.

This is supported by the reaction to the resolution from Iranian leadership, since the resolution was passed Rafsanjani has said it will backfire, Ahmadinejad called it invalid, and said that Iran will humiliate the west, and in the event of a military strike, deal them a “historic slap” on the face. He also vowed to accelerate the program. So, accepting that resolutions, sanctions and other externally applied pressure will not effect an Iranian enrichment freeze, what will?

According to the old analogy “everybody has a price”, perhaps Iran could be persuaded to reconsider their decision on the six-nation incentives package, which included assisting Iran’s efforts in civilian nuclear energy and removing resistance to their entry into the World Trade Organization. Iran rejected the package on the grounds that further negotiation was needed on some of the points. The rejection was followed by intense but futile efforts on the part of the EU to iron out any difficulties Iran had with the package.

The E.U’s efforts were futile because Iran’s problems required direct negotiations with the U.S, who refused, demanding Iran stop enriching Uranium first. This was an obstructive, bloody minded and pig-headed policy. Bush still refuses to accept that Iran holds all the cards in the negotiations. Iran is already enriching Uranium without the E.U’s help and Russia is building them a nuclear power plant at Busheur, despite the current stand-off.

A signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran is entitled to enrich Uranium for civilian purposes, there is as yet no evidence to suggest Iran’s enrichment is not for civilian purposes, only concerns. Nuclear powers Russia and China are Iran’s biggest defenders. So why would Iran stop what it claims is enrichment for civilian purposes, to gain talks with the U.S about western help with a civilian nuclear power program, when Russia is already assisting them? There is no incentive to accept the incentives package, other than the threat of Israeli, U.S or both using military force, including the threat of a nuclear attack, making it clear why Bush refuses to remove the latter option from the table.

It doesn’t however, make clear why Russia finally agreed with the U.S. and U.K. that sanctions should be imposed on Iran. Russia has recently called for a joint approach on the issue, but previous to their agreeing to sanctions Russia with China had actively impeded every effort to end Iran’s enrichment, accepting only when they had sufficiently watered down the wording and the impact. China is of course heavily depended on Iranian oil and gas to fuel its booming economy. The U.S has been calling for this resolution since shortly after the deadline of Resolution 1696 was ignored, the long delay was caused by the reluctance of Russia and China.

The actions of Russia in particular make me wonder whether they can really be trusted as a partner in ending Iranian enrichment. For a start Iran was invited as an observer to the last meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a trade, military and strategic alliance set up by Russia and China. At the meeting a pledge was made to defend the sovereignty of member states, if you like a verbal military agreement.

Since then the SCO and Collective Security Treaty Organization have held unilateral and bilateral military exercises, both coinciding with massive Iranian war-games. Russia has sold twenty-nine TOR M1 advanced missile Defense systems to Iran. Half of the systems, which are capable of targeting and shooting down the west’s Tomahawk Cruise Missiles, have been delivered.

We can’t expect the threat of a military or even a nuclear strike to pressure Iran into accepting the incentives package, while China and Russia are giving Iran every reason to believe it would have their support in the event of such a strike. Nor can we continue to allow Russia and China to take key roles in both sides of the debate. In civilian life a judge would not be allowed to rule on a case involving a party he had dealings with –like the Russia/Iran arms deal– so Russia should be given the choice: stop selling arms to Iran or be removed from UNSC meetings on ending Iranian enrichment. The U.S has courted controversy and heavy criticism from Russia for imposing sanctions on Russia for its arms deals with Iran.

That isn’t going to happen, the U.S. isn’t going to lift its precondition for talks and Iran isn’t going to meet the precondition. So, the incentives package is dead in the water. With such firm support from two of the world’s super-powers and Iran’s desire to develop their own nuclear knowledge it is doubtful whether any offer would be sufficient incentive to freeze Iranian enrichment anyway. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini confirmed this Monday, saying that Iran will never stop its nuclear work.

So, we’re running out of options fast, perhaps military action is the only way to stop Iran from enriching Uranium…

Such an attack, if mounted by the U.S would likely come under immense pressure from Israel mounted on the most heavily pro-Israel President for decades; Israel is likely pushing for the regime change option. The consequences of such an operation would be, at the least a catastrophic conflict liable to engulf the entire region. If any or all of the SCO members (China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan) were dragged into the conflict in allegiance to Iran, in turn bringing possible involvement from U.S. allies (Azerbaijan, Georgia, Bulgaria, Romania, Japan, Israel and the U.K., although the latter two would quite possibly be involved in some capacity from the beginning), a

catastrophic global conflict could become World War III.

Israel may not manage to pressure the U.S into regime change but a pre-emptive strike against the nuclear facilities only. If conventional weapons are used Iran is likely to retaliate against Israel with missiles and may block the Strait of Hormuz, a vital oil channel. They had threatened this as a consequence of sanctions, now sanctions have been imposed it seems Iran have realized that blocking the Strait would only tighten the noose. Iran could also re-evaluate the consequences of a failed state in Iraq against a bloody defeat for the U.S in its neighboring country if Israel goes it alone, which would undoubtedly need a green light from the U.S in any case. It would be a definite if the U.S were involved in the strike. Such a strike also carries the risk of drawing countries from the opposing strategic alliances.

The Sunday Times reported that Israel is planning an independent strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, many of which are underground, using nuclear bunker busting bombs. Israel has denied the report that brought retaliatory threats from Iran. If such a pre-emptive strike were mounted by Israel, the U.S. or both using tactical nuclear weapons, the world’s fate will be in the hands of Russian and Chinese leaders and whether or not they decide to honor the SCO verbal military agreement and unleash any of their nuclear arsenals to retaliate on Iran’s behalf.

Given such a possible chain reaction of unintended, but foreseeable consequences, I ask:

Wouldn’t it be better to allow Iran to continue enriching and instead apply the current amount of pressure on them to allow IAEA inspectors to roam freely around Iran in search of the covert weapons program the U.S is so sure exists?

The worst case scenario of that course of action would be the inspectors missing something and Iran enriching Uranium to weapons grade, possibly even diverting some and making a few warheads. Now, if you listen to Israeli military advisers, ex generals, think-tanks, lobbyists, and you get the idea, if Iran got nuclear weapons, in a fit of un-bridled, religion induced madness Ahmadinejad would make good on his calls for Israel to be wiped off the map. You have to ask the question, what would Iran gain from wiping Israel off the map?

Below I will briefly cover the possible consequences of several nuclear attack scenarios, the Physicians for Social Responsibility [PDF Chapter 5 p77] paint a more complete picture.

Some people may think Iran would attempt to wipe Israel off the map to give the Palestinians independence.

The only thing it would give the Palestinians is a slow and painful death from the radiation sickness spread by the toxic dust cloud engulfing everything. In the miracle that some of the Palestinians and/or Israelis survived the attack and by some miracle didn’t catch radiation sickness, the land would be infertile and anything that did grow would be full of radiation. They would also stand a much higher chance of catching Leukaemia and It wouldn’t be a gamble whether any children born would be deformed only on the degree of the deformity. That is assuming the Iranian weapons are close to the yield of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end the Pacific leg of WWII, which is highly unlikely.

A more likely scenario is Iran attacks Israel with whatever they have thrown together as nuclear missiles; thousands of people die and the above consequences are inflicted, but only on a minute fraction of the scale of Israel’s retaliation. The Israeli reaction to such an attack would leave Iran in total devastation, hundreds of thousands maybe even millions killed by the original attack alone, the aftermath as I detailed above would leave hardly anyone in Iran alive and again, with radiation in the ground, all the crops and the water system, they couldn’t survive. Any miraculous survivors of the blasts and their immediate aftermath would have to be airlifted straight into quarantine to be monitored. Iran as we know it would cease to exist.

Even if the Iranian weapon is on a par with Hiroshima and Nagasaki or better and Israel was wiped off the map, Iran would still cease to exist after the U.S retaliated on Israel’s behalf. Either way Iran would be no more and the world would hang in the balance of a Russian and Chinese decision.

If anything comes through from Ahmadinejad’s supercharged speeches, apart from strong religious beliefs and utter commitment to continue enrichment, it is unrelenting patriotism. The very patriotism that gives such fervour to his continued defiance, in that he is determined that the state he is so proud to be a part of enjoys the right it is entitled to under International Law.

If it strikes me as slightly hypocritical that the biggest nuclear proliferators in the world should be telling Iran that their signature to the Non-Proliferation Treaty isn’t worth the paper it is written on and they are guilty until proven innocent of breaking it, you can’t blame Ahmadinejad and other patriotic Iranians for their reaction. Ahmadinejad’s patriotism would also surely prevent him from doing anything to risk the total obliteration of his country, which would mean he wouldn’t attack another country with nuclear weapons, especially not Israel.

Unfortunately it looks like Israel will attack Iran, either themselves or using the their U.S lobbying group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) widely thought to be the most powerful lobby in America to convince Bush Iran needs to be stopped.

The forecasts I have made in this article could well mean the end of the world and yet I am not running out to build a fall out shelter. Though it may not seem like it from my writing I am ever the optimist. I have written this article in the hope that the U.S will vote for President, the candidate they feel is the least likely to be influenced by the Neocons, AIPAC and Israel. In other words, NOT BUSH, who could well wipe out the whole map trying to keep Israel on it.

Ending the Israel/Palestine Conflict?

I am starting a War Pages think-tank, well blog-tank actually. To be a part of it simply comment on this article with your views on how the Israeli/Palestinian conflict could be resolved and I will select the best comments for the blog-tank.

Open the Debate:

Intent on ousting Hamas, dividing the PA and playing for time, Israel may be missing an achievable dream.

By Liam Bailey

The Gaza ceasefire is now an empty shroud, as Israel, patience exhausted has said the IDF will re-start launching “targeted” attacks on Palestinians launching rockets into Israel from the coastal strip, on average twice daily. So, the cycle will begin, attack, brings defensive attack, brings further attacks, brings defensive attacks… repeat infinite.

The always fragile truce, amid what can only be described as an abhorrent failure by both sides to realize the opportunity it presented, was doomed to failure from the start.

Hamas may be unwilling to recognise Israel but its actions during the ceasefire have proven it a willing partner in any peace process. Only unwilling to succumb to anything that will lessen the chances of a Palestinian state eventually achieved, being worth the years of bloodshed. That includes a unity government that allows Abbas free reign to lead the Palestinian people back down the path of his Israeli and American subservience.

Hamas’ attempts to do what was expected of them and resist the occupation through diplomacy, were not met with acceptance of the fact that they were clearly making an effort to moderate their ways. But by equal efforts to cripple their democratic intentions, because they refuse to recognise Israel, renounce violence and box themselves into a corner.

Israel has existed for many years regardless of who accepts its right to do so. I fail to see what difference Hamas’ recognition would make, like saying, at most twelve words would end Hamas violence, when years of the IDF military supremacy hasn’t.

Hamas’ infinite resilience in the face of the extreme pressure caused by the Israeli/U.S. forced boycott of Hamas governed Palestine, has led to more creative efforts to end their governance. Abbas’ call for new elections was at least partly done for the Palestinian people, realizing that a unity government was not on the horizon he tried to end the Palestinian siege one way or another. It was also undoubtedly done partly to get back into Israel and America’s good books and cheque books, at the expense of his relationship with Hamas and therefore at the expense of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and population.

His recent meeting with Olmert was a sign that it had worked. Olmert agreed to the removal of 27 West Bank check-points, slackening the noose around Gaza and the release of 100 million dollars in tax revenues. Revenues usually collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinians, under Hamas simply collected by Israel.

Olmert’s concessions to Abbas were undoubtedly an attempt to influence any elections that may be held in the PA by helping Abbas to regain some credibility with the Palestinian people. Just three days later Israel announced its authorization for a new West Bank settlement, already being built in the Jordan Valley, to re-house settlers evicted during the Israeli pullout from Gaza. Palestinians must have wretched at Israel behaving like a god over them; Israel giveth –slightly more freedom and money that was rightfully theirs– and Israel taketh away –yet more land from any future Palestinian state–.

If only Israel’s leaders could see that granting the Palestinians what they want would also be the ideal solution for Israel.

There is currently worry within Israel that falling immigration may result in the balance being tipped against it remaining a predominantly Jewish state. If Israel gave the Palestinians an independent state within the borders as they stood before the 1967 six day war, and a partial right of return, allowing only descendants of those expelled in the 1948 war the right to return, only to the newly formed state, Israel’s Arab population would surely move into the new state. This would put Israel closer than ever to a totally Jewish state if not completing the dream.

Israel’s Arabs may not migrate however, as some people, such as Israeli businessman Reuven Kossover, fear that such a Palestinian state would be racked by poverty and at the mercy of foreign aid for its foreseeable future. There is also a simple solution to that problem:

Palestine’s warm climate would allow the growth of tropical fruits, which could be sold and exported in a global orchard business; grapes could obviously go to the manufacture of Palestinian wines. As well as craft manufacture industries that could also be exported around the world. We have already seen the pyrotechnical capabilities of the Qassam manufacturers, with a little training Palestinian rockets –and other fireworks– could bring happiness instead of misery. In my lifetime I have only seen one Palestinian export, Palestinian clove oil.

How many states can you name that have received more news coverage and publicity in recent years than Israel and Palestine?

According to the proverb that no publicity is bad publicity, the novelty of Palestinian exports and the strong support for the Palestinians plight around the world would ensure new businesses expand and provide jobs very quickly. This would not require heavy or sustained financial aid, but an international or Arab program ensuring Palestinians who desire to set up in business get adequate training in the field they choose. Let’s hope Israel sees sense soon.

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