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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Ethiopia Gave Hobson’s Choice for Christmas

Somalis have recently been under a harsh Islamic regime, but the alternatives are much worse.

By Liam Bailey

Predominantly Christian Ethiopia gave its Muslim Somali neighbours perhaps the worst Christmas present of all. The reinstatement of full-blown war to replace the weeks of sporadic artillery fire and months of socially restrictive calm brought by the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC)sweeping to power in June.

Ethiopia entering the conflict proper by launching air-strikes on UIC towns and positions Dec. 24, brought report after report of Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces taking towns and of the Courts in retreat. Reports Dec. 27 put the advancing forces at 50km from Mogadishu having taken control of all major towns en route to the capital.

Upon Ethiopia’s entry into the conflict the UN Security Council called an emergency meeting in which members met regarding a call to end the fighting in Somalia. No call was made however, because the U.S. and several of her allies objected to the text, saying that it singled out Ethiopia and that stability from a political agreement was needed before foreign troops could leave. Lebanon/Israel all over again, I wondered how many Somalis would be killed and displaced before the U.S let the UN pull its finger out. Literally, to point objectionably and tell them to “stop it”, about all it is good for of late.

The U.S of course, supported Ethiopia in fighting the UIC, viewing the action as part of the broad War on Terror. Again similarly to the war in Lebanon earlier this year, the U.S urged restraint by Ethiopia, and the maximum protection of civilians. Clearly the U.S has learned nothing from Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Islamic fundamentalism is not like any ideology or threat the world has ever faced and cannot be dealt with by military force. The current wave of terrorism around the world is fuelled by the literal Quranic interpretations of Salafism and the Jihad it presents as central to Islam. Not only literal interpretations are the problem though, the translation of Islamic texts to suit an ideology of terrorism also contributes in the besiegement of the world.

Take the recent spate of suicide bombings… Suicide is forbidden in the Quran, but Salafism hails Jihad above all else, so suicide bombing as an act of Jihad therefore, is acceptable in their ideology. According to the same ideology those fighting Jihad are seen in a special light by Allah and those dying while doing so go straight to paradise, suicide bombers included.

Dec. 28 reports from Somalia were that the UIC had surrendered in Mogadishu, returning it to clan rule. The Courts had said they would re-group there and continue the war.

Somalia’s envoy to Ethiopia told reporters Dec. 27 that they planned to avoid civilian casualties by not fighting for Mogadishu, instead surrounding and besieging the capital until the UIC surrendered. Their strategy worked in a far quicker time than the Court’s rhetoric would have suggested.

It does now look like the transitional Federal Government has regained control of Somalia with Ethiopia’s assistance. What happens now however, is unclear.

Ethiopian ministers have stated that they do not intend to impose a government in Somalia and that they are there to defend their interests only. They had also said that TFG forces would be on their own in fighting for Mogadishu. Somalis however reported Dec. 27 Ethiopian tanks and troops marching towards the capital with TFG forces.

If Ethiopian ministers speak the truth and indeed intend to leave Somalia now that the courts have surrendered, Somalia will undoubtedly return to the anarchy of the 15 years before. On the other hand, if Ethiopia does intend to take some part in the running of Somalia, I hope it is planning for a long conflict. Somalis may have been worried about the loss of personal freedoms under the Courts, but as the recent demonstrations in Mogadishu displayed, they want to be ruled by Ethiopia even less.

Either way in one of the world’s poorest countries, already enduring severe drought, famine and the aftermath of severe floods, things are set to get far worse for the Somali people. The war has already put an end to the humanitarian efforts being made and created thousands of refugees. In the coming months Somalia’s population will be faced with an environment similar to Iraq, with ex Courts militiamen, foreign fighters and clansmen waging unconventional warfare in Jihad against the Ethiopian occupiers. Or they will be returned to the previous 15 years of lawlessness, chaos, insecurity and violence, again, pretty similar to Iraq.

Somalis don’t get a say in the matter, but if they did it would be Hobson’s choice.

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Supporting Peace Is Not abandoning Israel

This article has so far been published by:
Arabic Media Internet Network

OhmyNews International and

Garowe Online (Somalia).

To be fourth E-mail me or syndicate it from if you are a member.

Blair and the EU have followed the U.S’ line on Hamas for far too long.

By Liam Bailey

Tony Blair wrapped up his Middle East visit Wednesday. The British Prime Minister had toured the Middle East over the past few days in the hope of finding some way to kick start the stalled Israeli/Palestinian peace process. While he was there Mahmoud Abbas said he was going to hold new elections in the Palestinian Authority (PA). He did this, basically, to see if the Palestinian people still wanted to be governed by Hamas after the months of poverty they had endured because the U.S and the west views Hamas as a terrorist organization. Immediately Bush, Blair and Olmert came out supporting Abbas’ decision, and when Tony Blair went to the Palestinian territories he met only with Abbas. The whole Middle East trip then became a mission to support the moderates against the extremists.

Olmert, Bush, Blair, and their allies would have us believe that Hamas won’t stop until Israel is wiped off the map and all Jews have been driven into the sea. Painting Hamas as a terrorist organization in the current climate makes Israel a staunch ally, standing beside the rest of the world in the fight against extremism. It doesn’t however give Hamas or the Palestinian people a fair deal.

Hamas are not like Al Qaeda or their affiliates around the world, who are simply using the Palestinian cause to fuel their own recruitment, with yet another call for Palestinian Jihad released on Al Jazeera this week. Hamas are not filling the internet with their Jihad videos of attacking civilians around the globe. They are not sending fighters into Iraq or Afghanistan to attack and make life difficult for U.S forces. Nor are they attacking or threatening to attack every country allied to the U.S, despite the U.S support of Israel, which is Al Qaeda’s main rallying cry. They don’t have cells in most countries and they are not radicalizing and/or recruiting young Muslims from around the globe to join them, or even attempting to do so.

They are made up of Palestinians, most of whom have lived all their lives under the control of Israel. Of course, according to Bush, Blair and Israel’s supporters it is not a cruel occupation. Israel has been fair to the Palestinians and has only used violence in self defence. By this reasoning the Palestinians should be thankful and their ungrateful violence only brings trouble into their people’s lives. The Palestinians life: not being able to go where they want when they want, living under fear of bombs falling on their home, and –as the current Hamas boycott has shown– at the mercy of Israel for their next meal. They have no army and they are beaten and arrested for protesting.

Hamas, born out of years of life in these conditions are fighting with the only means they have –terrorism– to end Israel’s rule over the Palestinian people. Wiping Israel off the map is simply powerful talk from a disempowered people. Meaning Hamas only maintain the rhetoric of wiping Israel off the map because it continues its cruel occupation and unrelenting refusal to grant the Palestinians their own state and any chance of a decent life.

You’re not trying to tell me that if Israel did give the Palestinians their own state and a partial right of return that Hamas would attempt to push Israeli’s into the sea. A course of action that would risk the wrath of Israel’s far superior military re-taking control and putting them back under the same conditions of occupation. What I mean by partial is allowing only descendants of those expelled the right and only to return to the new Palestinian state within the 67 borders. This wouldn’t cost Israel’s their Jewish state, the reason they have so far refused to give the right. In fact, if the Arabs currently living in Israel decided to go back and live in the new Palestinian state, which I suggest many of them would, it would further secure Israel as a Jewish state.

As I said, Tony Blair went to the Middle East to try and restart the Israeli/Palestinian peace process. As I also said he didn’t meet with Hamas’ leader and PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. How can you re-start peace talks if you don’t talk to both the warring sides? Again it displays an arrogance and a short-sightedness in U.S foreign policy, which is again followed blindly by Blair on behalf of the U.K. They obviously believe that their PA siege will have achieved the desired effect and the Palestinian people will give in and vote Fatah at the polls. As I have previously wrote the Palestinian resolve, hardened by years of the David v Goliath conflict is a force to be reckoned with.

I’m sure Blair will have learned in history lessons about the British home front facing the onslaught of the Nazi Blitzkrieg on the meagre government rations. The British wouldn’t have surrendered to the Nazis in a million years, so Bush and Blair may just get a shock if the PA elections go ahead. If they do go ahead and the Palestinian people vote Hamas again, Bush and Blair will be at a loss as to how to progress toward achieving peace in the Israel/Palestinian conflict, and no closer to meeting the Baker report recommendation on saving face in Iraq.

Notice in this article how many times I have wrote Bush and Blair, as though they are acting on shared interests, which Blair obviously still believes they are.

Blair needs to open his eyes and realize that Bush’s actions are blatantly biased towards Israel. How else can you justify collectively punishing the Palestinian people for acting under the democracy you have fought two wars to try and impose on foreign countries. No one can deny that the past and current U.S led attempts at resolving the conflict have failed miserably.

Blair needs to reunite with the EU, who then need to look at the Israeli/Palestinian conflict without the War on Terror blinkers. The unified EU should finally admit that Hamas only want a viable Palestinian state. They are not a terrorist organization that can’t be reasoned with and won’t stop till Israel is wiped off the map. Only if they make these admissions will they have any hope of achieving a lasting peace agreed to by all the Palestinian factions.

Liam Bailey is a UK freelance journalist.

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Will the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict Ever End?

Latest Gaza ceasefire shows that peace is still a long way off.By Liam Bailey

In the latest Gaza ceasefire the actions of leaders on both sides have proved that they are so hardened and corrupted by the years of conflict that they can’t fully commit to peace. In just the last few hours, Israel blocked the re-entry of Hamas leader and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh into Gaza from his ME trip. The decision came in response to reports that he was carrying $35 million in cash. He has since been allowed to enter but has reportedly left the cash in safe hands with Egypt’s leadership. This display’s, as Palestinians repeatedly complain, that even when Israel doesn’t occupy Gaza they still control it.

I read a report over a week ago that the Likud were suggesting such a move and I actually chuckled at the stupidity of it. I honestly thought that it would be abandoned to the realms of yet more outrageous rhetoric from Israel’s far-right. For them to actually do it, knowing full well the anger and backlash it would instil in Gaza and the occupied territories, displayed Israel’s lack of respect for Palestinian democracy. The backlash it did instil; was Hamas gunmen going to the Gaza-Egypt border and opening fire. Prompting a gun-fight between Hamas and Fatah allied security forces, which are currently patrolling the border areas.

Events in the last few days were already threatening to provoke civil war in the Palestinian Authorities. Three sons of a Fatah allied Gaza security officer were gunned down Monday. Hamas were blamed but denied the attack. Reprisal came yesterday when four gunmen waited for a Hamas commander outside the courthouse in Khan Younis. When Bassam al-Fara, 30, a judge at the Islamic court arrived he was dragged from the car and onto his knees by three of the men, and shot by the other. Hamas have since released a statement blaming a Fatah “death squad” for the attack. Whoever is responsible for the latest violence it makes a Palestinian Authority (PA) coalition government a distant possibility.

Saturday’s statement by Mahmoud Abbas that there are to be new elections in Palestine made matters worse still, making further fighting likely and civil war a definite possibility. Hamas called the plan to hold elections early a Fatah coup attempt on a democratically elected government. Their foreign minister said that Hamas are in government positions and if they don’t take part in elections then there are no elections. If elections do go ahead some good may come from all the violence in the form of a Palestinian unity government.

Israel has stated that it will only deal with a PA coalition government that is willing to recognise Israel’s right to exist.

Israel’s actions in blocking Haniyeh’s return therefore, –predictably– provoking further internal PA clashes show that Israel is keen on killing, once and for all, the talks to create a coalition government and therefore peace. Of course without doing anything that would prompt a facade of objection from Bush and the U.S, who still class Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Since the truce came into effect the Palestinian Authority and militant factions haven’t helped themselves, their people or chances of peace either however. They have had weeks to find some common ground and form a unity government, which collectively at least recognizes Israel and denounces violence. Obviously something more than the (collective punishment) dire poverty the world’s embargo on the Hamas government is causing the general Palestinian public, is needed to justify putting their difference aside. Of course the talks may have been more effective had Hamas leader been in Palestine. One of his commanders being killed cut Haniyeh’s tour short. But the new ceasefire and weeks of talks to form the coalition, necessary to achieve peace didn’t. This shows the Palestinian Prime Minister’s overall lack of desire for peace.

The latest events however, only reinforce the lack of commitment being shown on both sides. The morning after the ceasefire came into effect in Gaza, Israel’s arrest raids and targeted killing of Palestinian militants in the West Bank began with renewed vitality and have continued throughout the prolonged period of supposed calm. Israel’s supreme court Thursday ruled that the targeted killing could continue, but only as a last resort.

Israel’s actions in the West Bank have been met with frequent rocket attacks by Palestinian militants, another one landing Thursday in response to the Israeli border blockade. With Olmert again upping the rhetoric over how long Israel can show restraint in the face of the Qassam attacks, which one Palestinian speaking anonymously called. “big metal forged fireworks.”

The Palestinian resistance groups can not yet see the futility of the rocket attacks, which to Israel are like a giant being hit with a fly swat. It seems they would sooner sacrifice themselves to fight for the freedom of the Palestinian people, than do what so many have done before… unite in the face of a common enemy and settle differences when that enemy is defeated. The PA need to engage in diplomacy as one collective and eternally more powerful voice.

I respect the Palestinian militant factions for their resolve in the face of adversity, under months of heavy Israeli bombardment, military incursions and disproportionate reactions this year and through the years. But their failure to see that Israel’s actions, which, technically haven’t breached the ceasefire; are a strategy meant to provoke the Palestinians into breaking the truce. Once again returning the moral high ground to Israel.

As for Israel’s leadership… Israel currently relies heavily on U.S aid, which continues to flow freely because the conflict with the Palestinians is lumped into the –broad term– War on Terror. If Israel did pull back to the 1967 borders it is likely that the resistance from the Palestinians would be cut to a minimal level. And ensuing diplomacy over the right of Palestinian return could almost certainly end it. Where this would leave U.S aid to Israel is unclear to everyone including their leaders. The recent shift in power in the White House and the Baker report calling on a new approach to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict have undoubtedly added yet more uncertainty over future U.S aid.

So, in the current climate it is unlikely that Israel will go all out for peace. It appears that their every action is aimed at guaranteeing continued U.S support. That includes continuing the conflict and making the Palestinians look like –terrorists– the bad guys.
I wrote in my last article that the Gaza truce is nearer to collapse each day. The last few days have undoubtedly accelerated its collapse. With the current internal clashes in the PA. And the desire of some on both sides for renewed violence. Surely the ceasefire can’t hold on for much longer.

If and when the ceasefire does collapse, I doubt there will be another opportunity like this for quite some time. And unless there are some serious changes on both sides, and in the world’s treatment of both sides, the next opportunity is liable to be squandered just as carelessly.

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US: End of Middle East Dominance: What Dominance?

Previously suppressed states are exploiting the mess in Iraq and vying for supremacy.By Liam Bailey

With the Baker report suggesting America talks with its staunch adversaries Iran and Syria, and the public’s apparent support for Baker’s findings. It is beginning to look like Bush might finally be forced into –unthinkable for him– acts of history validated common sense. Since talking to Iran and Syria was first suggested by Blair after he gave evidence to the Baker Commission, analysts have been questioning the end of U.S domination in the Middle East.

The question should be: did the U.S ever dominate the Middle East? Sure, unconditionally supporting Israel ensured their influence in that conflict, IDF style. Bombing and shooting the Palestinians into agreement with the U.S’ –fad– peace plan at the time. Meanwhile the U.S exerted little or no influence in Israel’s often ill-advised and frequently illegal actions. Israel currently has little or no influence in Middle East affairs anyway. It couldn’t get by without U.S aid [PDF], let alone suppress the latest Palestinian Intifada.

There was a tradition of U.K and U.S influence in Iran’s monarchical rule after we imposed a suitable Shah. The current stand-off over Iran’s nuclear program, and its meddling in Iraq [PDF] show how much things have changed. Not only recently but since the Iranian revolution in 1979, the hostages taken in the U.S embassy during the revolution flipped the bird to U.S influence in Iran.

Iran currently showing disregard for U.S power is a facade to amplify its own strength and help their hegemonic aims.

Syrian diplomats have always adhered strictly to agreements reached with their U.S counterparts. But they have also been close to all-out war over the Israeli Lebanon conflict in 1983. The U.S, recognising that Syria plays a central role in the Middle East and in global Jihad, attempts to exert its influence. And turn the “rogue state” from a supporter of terrorism to a supporter of democracy and U.S hegemony. They have and probably will never succeed in that aim.

The U.S has enjoyed 70 years of good relations with Saudi Arabia’s monarchy, until 9/11 put a significant strain on the “special relationship”. Saudi Arabia’s condemnation of Israel during the Israel/Hezbollah conflict and rhetoric of going to war showed that the U.S doesn’t hold much influence over Saudi Arabia.

In Iraq’s case, we all know the current scenario. The U.S has as much influence in Iraq now as any of the rival militia factions. The same influence it has recently had over every other Middle East country, very little.

The U.S has had reasonable influence in Turkey since shortly after World War II, with the exception of the mid-late 70’s when Turkey invaded Cyprus. The U.S’ influence in Turkey crumbled in the build up to the Iraq war. Turkey refusing U.S forces entry to hit Iraq from the North, showed that –unlike Saudi Arabia– Turkey’s loyalty to their Iraqi Muslim brothers and sisters influenced their policy more than U.S relations. U.S aid [PDF] was cut-off 2003. Except a small military grant, which I presume was necessary for Turkey’s involvement in Afghanistan.

Relations fell apart in Mar. 2005, when the U.S ambassador to Turkey resigned after two years. Because Turkey’s government came out in support of their President’s decision to visit Syria in early April that year, despite the U.S warning against it. Also for ignoring the ambassador’s calls for Turkey to join an international coalition concerning Syria.

The U.S weighs its relationship with and influence of Egypt perhaps higher than any other Middle East country, because of its leadership role in the region. A role which was set when Egypt was actively fighting Israel and sought military aid from the Soviets. Several other Arab states shortly followed suit. U.S Israel relations improved after the 1979 peace treaty was signed with Israel. Since then the U.S has given billions of dollars [PDF] in military and financial aid to sustain Egypt’s moderate voice in Arab councils. Persuade less moderate regimes of the benefits of compromise and to maintain the Egypt-Israeli peace treaty.

The latter has been more successful than the other two by far. As the U.S failed to realize that the feelings of Egypt’s leaders toward Israel’s treatment of their Arab Palestinian brothers didn’t change overnight. More likely they realised they would be in a much better position to help the Palestinians in every way with a whole whack of U.S aid.

Jordan’s monarchy has perhaps the best relationship with the U.S. The U.S began providing Jordan with economic and military aid in 1951 and 1957 respectively. Relations were slightly soured by Jordan’s reluctance to participate in the first Iraq war to liberate Kuwait. Relations improved throughout the 1990’s as Jordan began to take a more favourable view of normalization of relations with Israel. Over the years the U.S has provided billions of dollars [PDF] in aid to Jordan. In return Jordan provided logistical support in the Afghanistan war, and, informally the same in the current Iraq war, although the monarchy was publicly opposed.

King Abdullah’s policies of normalization with Israel and alliance with the U.S cause much unrest from Jordan’s Islamic fundamentalist groups. Like the Jordan Muslim Brotherhood, an influential part of the political mainstream. It also causes unrest in parts of the Palestinian communities, and in prominent professional and trade organizations.

The Middle East and its rich oil reserves have always been at the fore-front of U.S policy. So much so that they have taken their eye off the ball elsewhere; allowing China to become the main influence in Asia and enter the fight for global supremacy. The North Korean nuke test is another example of the Bush administration taking their eye off the ball.

Given all this focus on their Middle East policy it is ludicrous that it has descended into such a farce.

Little wonder as it is largely the world’s most backward foreign policy. Unconditionally supporting a country surrounded by enemies –Israel–, while hoping to exert influence over its enemies. Is like a boxer’s coach shouting orders at the opposing fighter. Stupid. Previously however the U.S had tried to exert their influence over Israel’s enemies by diplomacy in the main. Bush Jnr coming in with his complete ignorance of foreign policy and its relation to even recent history, alongside his policy of never talking to your adversary. Combined with the backward policies above, are perhaps the main reasons for the current state of the Middle East.

Something else I find laughable however is Bush Snr, responsible for another reason for the current mess. Coming in now and telling his son what he needs to do in Iraq. If he had honoured his statements to the Iraq’s Shia and Kurdish populations, by ordering U.S forces to go on into Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein’s regime, in the first gulf war 1991. Embracing the uprising started by the Shia in the south and driving Iraqi forces into the Kurdish uprising in the North. Both of which were started because of Bush’s suggestion of support.

Saddam would undoubtedly have been easily defeated. As he was 2003, but the occupying U.S or U.S/U.N forces would have probably had the support of the Kurdish minority and Shia Majority. Giving the Sunni’s no choice but to join the new diplomatic efforts or be left out of Iraq’s democratic future. As oppose to miss-trust for Bush Jnr by Shia and Kurd’s after being lied to by his dad before him. And resentment because of the massacres his lies led them into.

I believe had Bush Snr done this Iraq would have been a stable democracy by now, certainly closer than has been for decades.

In closing, the U.S never really had much influence in Middle Eastern affairs. The little it did have from supplying heavy financial aid to needy countries in prominent positions. And U.S and Israel’s superior military force were sufficient to secure the things they really needed and manipulate affairs to ensure no-one else gained more control.

The Iraq war in 2003 showing that U.S military force was useless against sporadic Jihad’s guerrilla warfare. Accelerated the rate at which the little Middle East influence the U.S had is disappearing. All that remains is moderate influence in return for heavy aid to countries with even less influence –than the U.S– in Middle East affairs.

The rich and influential Middle East countries are exploiting the exposed weakness to secure their own hegemony.

It will be interesting to watch the changing political and military landscapes in the coming months. Especially if a serious U.S strategy shift in Iraq coincides with a policy shift in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Liam Bailey is a writer from the UK, he runs the War Pages weblog and can be contacted by e-mail.

Somalia Resolution: No Peace to Keep

Peacekeepers should never be expected to establish peace.By Liam Bailey

The 15 Member United Nations Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1725 Dec. 6 2006. The U.S led resolution authorizes a regional force from the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the African Union (AU) to establish a protection and training mission in Somalia. And the lifting of the UN arms embargo in relation to supplying the peacekeeping force. The previous UN mission in the country, started similarly but ended in a bloody battle and the death of 18 Marines attempting to disarm rival factions. The current resolution states its intention to consider taking measures against those that seek to prevent or block a peaceful dialogue process, overthrow the Transitional Federal Institutions by force, or take action that further threatens regional stability. Suggesting that, like its predecessor it could become far more than a protection and training mission, which may well have an adverse effect regional stability.

The U.S pushed for the resolution fearing that, predominantly following Salafist Islam, based on the Wahabi ideology that drives Al Qaeda’s Jihad. The Union of Islamic Courts will turn Somalia into a safe-haven and breeding ground for terrorism if they succeed in taking complete control of the country.

The current situation and likely near future presents similarities with other regions in the world past and present, none of which have gone well, in fact quite the opposite. When the U.S proposed the resolution, immediately analysts were calling out on the U.S’ intention to send troops into another Muslim country they were not wanted. In Iraq’s case that is where the similarities end and the opposites begin…

The U.S led coalition invaded Iraq to topple the government, whereas, no U.S or Western forces will enter Somalia to ensure that the government is not toppled.

The resolution reiterates that Transitional Federal Charter and Institutions are: “The only route to peace and stability” in Somalia, a northeast African nation without an effective central government since 1991. Statements like that, and passing the U.S led resolution authorizing a force, predominantly to protect the TFG in their stronghold of Baidoa, and train their security forces to counteract Islamist rule. Suggests they share the U.S’ desire, or ideology if you like to lump all Islamic militants together. Immediately make them the bad guy’s in any conflict, and proceed to meet them with force under the heading of the War on Terror. As in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, where the U.S and their supporters are finally being forced –by Iraq– to admit that this one size fits all policy just may be a mistake.

Despite Kofi Annan saying Thursday that the nations providing the troops should convince the UIC that they would not be an invasion force, adding: “It is important that we get the Somalis to understand that the force is coming in to help.”

The resolution and proposed force are provoking a predictable reaction from the Somali Islamists. Ibrahim Adow of the UIC told the BBC Friday: “Deploying foreign forces to Somalia is seen as invading forces and the Somali people are prepared to defend themselves against aggression.” Another UIC spokesman, Abdirahin Ali Mudey told The Washington Post Thursday that the resolution will introduce sophisticated weapons into Somalia and provoke a war between his group and the government. The UNSC hopes the resolution will restore peace and avert wider conflict in the region. But Mudey accused them of allowing Ethiopia to occupy Somalia and said that his movement would now reconsider attending the scheduled peace talks with the government later this month.

The UIC considerations would have taken a turn for the worse Friday when TFG forces, according to eye-witnesses accompanied by Ethiopian troops attacked UIC controlled Dinsoor. Some analysts, like BBC Africa analyst Martin Plaut are warning that it could be the opening shots of the long awaited war for control of Somalia. I think it more likely that they are attempting to grab as much land before the arrival of the peacekeeping force, to give them more leverage in the power-sharing agreement that will supposedly follow the UN mission.

A peacekeeping force in Somalia may yet be a long way off, as many of the IGAD and AU nations are reluctant to send forces into the depths of the Somali conflict. Uganda, the only country to pledge troops for the force are now saying they may hold off until the security situation improves. Their Deputy Defense Minister called the lifting of the arms embargo “a first step” but said “It may be that we will think of holding off until the terrain is not so hostile for Ugandan forces.” And that the situation had changed since they first backed a peacekeeping force January 2005. Some are saying the UN’s adoption of the resolution is more a symbolic display of support for the TFG.

If or when a peacekeeping force do arrive in Somalia I suspect they will be in for a rough time. In the final comparison with Afghanistan, not the current war, now led by N.A.T.O, of which the coalition invasion would draw the same comparison’s as Iraq with Somalia’s current plight; the invasion of a Muslim country to topple a Muslim government not in the U.S interest. The earlier invasion however, when Soviet forces entered to strengthen the weak Afghan government they supported against a Mujahideen onslaught, is identical to the current situation. In that the IGAD and AU forces are entering on behalf of the UN, to protect the Somali government which they support, despite it controlling only a fraction of the country. Also identical in the level of outside support for both sides, intent on fighting a proxy war inside Somalia.

So if the examples of conflict in Somalia’s last peacekeeping mission, Iraq, Israel/Palestine and Afghanistan past and present are anything to go by. The AU and IGAD nations’ reluctance to pledge troops is understandable. And if a peacekeeping force ever does enter Somalia it won’t achieve its title aim, especially if it follows the UN mandate. Imposing Sharia law throughout Somalia by Holy War (Jihad) if necessary is central to the UIC’s Salafist ideology, force is the operative word and they will always meet it with force. And they will always have outside support from the world’s extremists.

The only way to avert all out war in the region is by reaching out to Somalia’s moderate Muslim’s with diplomacy to secure peace first, followed by an appropriate force to make sure the agreements are implemented. After a decade of war Somalian’s deserve peace. Not the U.S hijacking diplomacy to open yet another front in the War on Terror that will end in catastrophe. I’m really surprised and disappointed with the UN and the U.S’ failure to learn from their –many– mistakes.

IDF Killing Peace; Keeping Misconceptions Alive

The Gaza ceasefire was born in a hurry, Israel’s hard-line leaders want to kill it just as quickly.

By Liam Bailey

The ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian militant factions is still holding, but everyday brings it nearer to collapse. The ceasefire came into effect Nov. 26 and it was breached in the first two hours. Two rockets were fired by Palestinian militants, who doubted Israel’s commitment to the deal. Shortly afterwards, Israel’s leadership allowed the deployment of Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces to patrol the Gaza/Israel border and Hamas’ leadership assured the militant factions of its optimism of Israel’s commitment to the ceasefire. There were no more rocket attacks on the first day.

The ceasefire was agreed when PA President Mahmoud Abbas telephoned Olmert after meeting with the leaders of all Palestinian armed resistance groups. The terms for the truce offer were agreed in the meeting late Saturday Nov. 25. Olmert agreed to the truce, because unlike the earlier offer it promised an end to all forms of Palestinian violence. The earlier offer promised only an end to rocket attacks in return for an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and a halt to all IDF operations in the strip.

The ceasefire is nearer than ever to collapse. Israel has killed five Palestinians in West Bank operations, since the day after the ceasefire came into effect. The first, a dawn raid carried out in the early hours of Monday Nov. 27, killed one militant and a woman trying to run away with his gun. Palestinian militants responded with the first rocket attacks since the two early breaches of the ceasefire. In recent West Bank operations, 15 Palestinians were detained by IDF forces in the early hours of Dec. 4. Later the Bethlehem chief of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine Mahamud Fanun, who has been wanted by Israel for several years, was detained on suspicion of terrorist activities, according to the Israeli army and Palestinian security officials. The West bank raids have so far been met with between 5 and 20 Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza, depending on which report you read. Palestinian groups claimed there was Israeli artillery fire into the strip Dec. 3, but the reports are unconfirmed.

Monday Dec 4 brought an announcement from Israel’s Defense minister Ephraim Sneh on army radio “Instructions have been issued to avoid unnecessary frictions and to abstain from actions that could serve as a pretext” for Palestinian militants to break the tentative ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. Army radio also reported that arrest raids would now have to be ordered by senior army command instead of by brigade commanders as was previously the case. The moves came from a meeting of Israel parliament’s –powerful– Foreign Affairs and Defence committee. Olmert also told the Committee Monday that the Gaza truce was necessary because “the military operation that took place in recent months in the Gaza Strip did not stop the (rocket) fire”. The government had previously resisted pressure, including from Condoleezza Rice and the U.S to end its West Bank operations. The actions, which Israeli leadership said were necessary to thwart suicide attacks, undermined the restraint Israel has shown in Gaza and the ceasefire as a whole

However the announcement did not bring renewed hope for a lasting peace. The IDF is reluctant to see the ceasefire continue from command level down. According to Arutz Sheva (1) IDF field commanders in Gaza oppose the Security Cabinet’s guidelines, which prohibit any extensive operations in Gaza and allow air strikes on terror activity only on the joint authority of the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister, as oppose to the Chief of Staff only as was previously the case. The IDF fears the militants are using the ceasefire to re-arm.

Just how instrumental the IDF can be in the ceasefire’s life or death and just how little difference the new instructions made was evident in the news coming from the West Bank as I wrote this article just hours after the announcement was made. In just one hour between five and six PM UK time Dec. 4, A Qassam rocket launched at Israel fell short of the target, landing in PA controlled Gaza. And there were reports of two Palestinians killed, two wounded and one detained in various operations in the West Bank, no IDF casualties were reported.

According to Arutz Sheva IDF forces operating in PA controlled Kalkiye wounded an armed gunman and took another terrorist into custody. The International Herald Tribune reported on IDF forces surrounding a militant’s home and in Tulkarm demanding his surrender. The militant Assan Yaish, who was affiliated with the Fatah party and wanted for planning an attack on Israel was shot and wounded as he attempted to escape. The unidentified man with him was killed. In another Tulkarm operation YNET News reported that IDF forces killed a Fatah activist in a café in Tulkarm, also killing a Palestinian boy. Overnight Dec. 4 Israeli forces killed one Palestinian and arrested a further 17 in various operations in the West Bank.

Haaretz’ Gideon Levy used recent history to show how actions like these assassinations and raids can end ceasefires and destroy peace initiatives. As they have every other cease-fire since the Al Aqsa Intifada began Sep. 2000.

The IDF actions, contrary to the government’s instructions are evidence of the internal rift in the Israeli government over the Gaza ceasefire, and the lack of support for the ceasefire from senior IDF officers and government officials. Supported by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and others, Prime Minister Olmert is doing everything in his power to keep the ceasefire alive, to try and reduce his political career from the pits of public opinion. On the other hand Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter and opposition leaders like Likud’s Benjamin Nethanyahu take the IDF line, that the terrorists are using the ceasefire to re-arm, and, supporting the West bank raids would quite happily lay the ceasefire to rest.

“Reuven Kossover a Jewish writer and proud Israeli said: “Amir Peretz is not competent for the job. Period. To put it politely, they are both the kinds of people I’d fire in five minutes if they were working in my establishment. Peretz has demonstrated his inability to represent Tza”hal (the IDF) at the highest levels of government. He has demonstrated his inability to prosecute a war. This recent Lebanon war over the summer is the first military defeat for the IDF that cannot be argued away.

Fortunately Israel’s security cabinet took the Prime Minister’s line over Peretz’. Deciding –officially– Sunday Dec. 3, to continue the restraint being shown in Gaza, but not to expand the ceasefire to the West Bank, as the Palestinians, echoed by Rice and the U.S have called for. According to (link above) Arutz Sheva during the Sunday meeting Olmert said: we must act responsibly and wisely, while considering all aspects of the matter.” Livni expressed similar sentiments, but Amir Peretz said that the IDF would fire on Palestinians involved in launching rockets at Israel.

After the security cabinet’s decision not to expand the ceasefire to the West Bank, the Al Aqsa Martyrs brigade, loosely affiliated with PA President Abbas’ Fatah party gave Israel 14 days to expand the ceasefire or face fresh attacks. Similar statements from Hamas leaders, also warned that the West Bank operations could bring retaliation, as they pulled out of talks with other militant groups on how to enforce the shaky truce. On the grounds that the negotiations were a distraction from negotiations to form a unity government, and that those negotiations should take precedence.

The threats and ultimatums became active plans when Islamic Jihad announced Dec. 3 that it was planning to restart attacks on Israel “In the coming hours. In a further statement even more detrimental to hopes of the ceasefire lasting: Walid al-Obaidi AKA Abu al-Qasam, commander of Islamic Jihad’s Al Quds brigades in the west bank said Monday Dec. 4 that the group had the right to launch suicide attacks on Israel whenever necessary. The statement was in response to Israel’s claim that the army arrested two Islamic Jihad militants on their way into Israel to blow themselves up. Obaidi said: “The allegation came as part of psychological war that occupation troops conduct against our people and resistance. While urging Gaza militants not to abide by any ceasefire unless it covers the West Bank, to “respond to Israeli violations and “go back to the track of resistance. Saying that the Palestinian territories were one part that can not be divided, he added: “The retaliation of Al-Quds Brigades will not delay and will be painful and terrible.”

So, the announced instructions for the IDF to avoid causing friction and reduce activities in the West Bank, no matter how redundant they prove may well have come too late to save the ceasefire. When Olmert and Abbas agreed on the terms of the truce the Israeli military was only operating in Gaza, so Abbas made the offer in return for an end to Israeli actions in Gaza and an immediate withdrawal. There have been no Israeli military actions in Gaza since, but under 24 hours later the IDF launched a fresh wave of operations in the West Bank, which brought fresh Qassam attacks in response. Since the Qassam attacks again rained on Israel from Gaza, Israel’s leadership has been praised for the restraint it has shown not retaliating or re-launching operations against militants in the coastal strip “to give the truce a chance to take hold. The continued raids, killing Palestinians in the West bank however, tell a different story.

The raids are launched under the heading of preventing attacks the IDF have intelligence of being planned. If this is true why did the first raid in months coincide with the Gaza truce? When surely there would have been more IDF troops available to patrol the West Bank security barrier than usual? Which would have stood just as high a chance of stopping attacks and without running just as high a risk of provoking them? Why risk peace to stop a suicide attack from the West bank, when the 7 month gap since the last suggests the 12 metre high security wall is preventing such attacks? And finally, if Israel hadn’t began the operations in the West Bank, instead displaying real commitment to peace and the offers being made –by Olmert–, would the militants have risked an opportunity of getting their own state to launch the first suicide attack in 7 months?

These glaring questions present a possibility in my mind: Did Israel want to take advantage of yet another wonderful opportunity for peace? Or as doubts arise over U.S support for Israel’s occupation now the Democrat’s have congress, and with a Middle East visit by Bush scheduled for shortly after the ceasefire was announced. Did Israeli leaders want to re-affirm their appearance as being committed to peace, while the Palestinian extremists, unwilling to compromise continue launching attacks? Reuven Kossover told me Dec. 5: “Crime Minister Olmert demonstrated [in the Lebanon war] his ability to frame questions in only two lights. The first light is “What does it get me right now?” And the second is what will the Americans think?” He also said: “If the “cease fire” with the PA holds more than a week after Bush departs the region, I’ll be shocked. It currently looks like his prediction was correct.

The Palestinian Authority and militant factions haven’t helped themselves, their people or chances of peace either however. If they could just find some common ground and form a unity government, which collectively at least recognises Israel and denounces violence. Obviously something more than the (collective punishment) dire poverty the world’s embargo on the Hamas government is causing the general Palestinian public, is needed to justify putting their difference aside. The Palestinian resistance groups can not yet see the futility of their threats, which to Israel are like a giant being threatened with a fly swat. It seems they would sooner sacrifice themselves to fight for the freedom of the Palestinian people, than do what so many have done before… unite in the face of a common enemy and settle differences when that enemy is defeated. This usually applies in war but the Palestinians are already fighting as one, they need to engage in diplomacy as one collective and eternally more powerful voice.

I respect the Palestinian militant factions for their resolve in the face of adversity and in the face of months of heavy Israeli bombardment and military incursions this year and Israel’s disproportionate reactions through the years. But their failure to see that Israel’s actions in the West Bank, which, technically, aren’t in breach of the ceasefire, are a strategy meant to provoke the Palestinians into breaking the truce, once again returning the moral high ground to Israel.

If Israel’s leadership had really wanted the truce to take hold, surely they could have put off the West Bank arrest raids, to, as John Lennon sang: Give peace a chance. When the rocket attacks eventually justify a harsh response from Israel, they will have a golden opportunity. To topple the Hamas government while assuring U.S support.

My Middle East articles have been published by OhmyNews International, Arabic Media Internet Network and the Palestine Chronicle. Links from my BIO on the sidebar.
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Gaza: Shock, Awe and Uncertainty 2006

The biggest shock in operation “Autumn Clouds” was the strength of the Gaza Palestinians resolve and Israel’s response. By Liam Bailey

Operation Autumn Clouds was very similar to all Israeli operations against its Palestinian occupants in recent times. Openly disproportionate, indiscriminate against civilians, disregarding of International Law to break their enemies resolve and unsuccessful in their aims. The current truce offers hope that Israel’s leaders may have finally realized killing civilians, especially children in their droves, won’t eventually prompt the Palestinian majority -those not active in the resistance- to say enough is enough and pressure the terrorists to stop attacking Israel… Only compromise on both sides will bring peace.

A lot has happened in Gaza over the last few days… The Israeli Security Cabinet proposed expanding the Gaza offensive in a more determined effort to halt the Qassam attacks Wed. 22. There were 80 rocket attacks in the ten days before the meeting. The day after the meeting; Nov. 23 Israel rejected what was hailed as a landmark truce offer from Islamic Jihad leader Khader Habib. Habib said Hamas and Fatah, as well as several smaller groups had agreed an offer to halt rocket attacks if Israel halts its Gaza offensive, in a meeting with the Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Haniyeh has since confirmed the report. An explanation for the Thursday rejection was given by Prime Minister Olmert’s spokeswoman Miri Eisin “The suggestion concerns a partial ceasefire, limited to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, in exchange for a total halt to Israeli operations on all fronts. This is not serious,” Adding, “We want to see quiet in the Gaza Strip.” Israel’s response was understandable given, that the proposed truce didn’t offer an end to suicide attacks.

According to the official Palestinian Authority (P.A) website President Mahmoud Abbas addressed Fatah officials Friday: “We do not need these rockets because they are no match for Israel’s weaponry and because they draw a violent and harsh Israeli response,” And Saturday, despite the rhetoric of Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal based in Damascus, who threatened a 3rd and more violent Intifada unless Israel returned the land gained in the six day war within six months. Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas and P.A President Abbas were again meeting with all factions and resistance groups to discuss a new truce offer. When all groups had reached agreement to halt all attacks from Gaza –including suicide bombings- from 6:00 am Sunday (4:00am GMT) Abbas telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, late Saturday.

Abbas told Olmert “That all the Palestinian groups are committed to the agreement” and asked that Israel stop all activities in the Gaza strip and “withdraw all forces,” according to Miri Eisin Olmert’s spokeswoman. “The prime minister … told Abbas that Israel would respond favourably, as Israel was operating in the Gaza Strip in response to the violence. With the end of violence, Israel would be happy to withdraw its troops.” Eisin said. The two leaders agreed the mutual truce, which didn’t apply to the West Bank, starting from 6:00am Sunday (4:00am GMT). Israel withdrew all forces in the hours running up to the deadline and according to a spokesperson, Hamas fired its last rockets half an hour before the truce began.

The truce held Sunday, despite two early breeches; rocket attacks by Hamas’ militant wing and Islamic Jihad just hours after the agreement came into effect. The attacks were followed by announcements from the two factions that they were committed to the agreement if Israel observed it. In response to the breeches hundreds of Palestinian security force personnel were deployed to the border with Israel in order to prevent further rocket attacks and Palestinian Prime Minister, Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh voiced hope on Israel’s adherence to the agreement, calling on all factions to observe the truce. Israel showing extreme restraint meant there were no further Palestinian rocket attacks Sunday. Israel is therefore worthy of high praise because its restraint allowed the ceasefire to take hold from its shaky start.

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Damascus, softened his rhetoric Sunday in response to the strengthening truce, saying: ”if the door is sealed and the horizon is closed (for creating a Palestinian state) then we have to look for another choice.” In an interview on Egyptian television.

Israel’s actions early Monday morning, in my opinion cancelled out the praise for their restraint on Sunday, in that their West Bank raid could well have ended this excellent opportunity for peace. Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinians in an overnight raid in the West Bank town of Qabatiya. One of the dead was a wanted militant affiliated with the Hamas Popular Resistance Committees; responsible for many of the rocket attacks on northern Israel. The other was a woman, shot as she tried to run off with the dead militant’s gun. The killings caused much Palestinian anger, but the feared violent response from Gaza never materialized, only two rockets were fired from the strip, three according to some reports. In a planned speech Monday afternoon, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert offered to release frozen funds and prisoners and reduce check-points if the Palestinians made a similarly serious push for peace. Olmert also said that Israel would “uproot” settlements and pull out of the West Bank as part of a final peace deal. Adding: “I hold out my hand in peace to our Palestinian neighbours in the hope that it won’t be returned empty.”

Olmert’s sudden willingness to make concessions for peace is a reflection of his plummeting popularity over the handling of the Lebanon war. And his months of overestimating the IDF power and underestimating the Gaza Palestinians resolve in two operationally massive failures.

If Israel’s latest operation, Autumn Clouds hadn’t failed so miserably in stopping the rocket attacks from Gaza, I don’t believe Olmert would have been making any such offer. When asked about the planned expansion of the operation an IDF spokesman said last week that there had been 157 rockets fired from the strip in November- attacks which killed two Israelis in Sderot. Despite the 105 Palestinians killed, according to medical staff quoted by the Palestinian maan news agency, since the operation began Nov.1. An operation total that does not tell the misery caused by the deaths of innocent civilians, like the 20 Palestinians killed, mostly children in the inerrant shelling of Beit Hanoun Nov. 8, another example of Israel’s indiscriminate use of its superior weaponry. Attacks like Beit Hanoun were meant to break the Palestinian resolve, but with images of crying fathers carrying their babies –plural- to be buried, the attacks strengthened the Palestinian’s will to resist.

Autumn Clouds was the continuance of Operation Summer Rains. Between the two, 400 Palestinians had been killed since Summer Rains began Jun 2006 as the biggest military operation in Gaza since the Israeli disengagement ended Israeli military rule in Gaza Sep. 2005. Disengagement however didn’t end the occupation as far as the Palestinians were concerned.

“Israeli troops surround Gaza, its aircraft fly over it and it has closed the crossing to Egypt” -splitting families and- “stranding hundreds of people.” “Some of those who shelled these Qassam rockets are … provoking Israel, but Israel is very much provoking them because of all kinds of occupation and terror actions against Palestinian civilians. Do not forget the Beit Hanoun massacre,” Mohamed Edwan head of the Palestinian president’s press office told World Peace Herald. Disengagement was presented as a change in Israel’s strategy toward the occupied territories, unfortunately that was as far as it went. The disproportionate violence continued, as did the Palestinian rocket attacks.

Israel fired between 7000 and 9000 heavy artillery shells into Gaza, killing 80 Palestinians in six months between its withdrawal in September 2005 and March 2006. Palestinian rocket attacks are estimated at 1000 for the same period. A further 5100 Israeli artillery rounds were fired tit for tat between the end of Mar. 2006 and the end of May 2006, with 800 Qassam rocket attacks. Operation Summer Rains was sparked off by a cross border raid Jun. 25 in which militants from several Palestinian groups, including Hamas’ military wing killed two IDF soldiers and captured Corporal Gilad Shalit.

Within hours of operation summer rains starting several Palestinian civilian population centres were targeted. Bridges were destroyed effectively splitting Gaza in two and Gaza’s only power station was destroyed leaving the population without power, in the re-processing plants this meant no clean water. Dealing with the trauma of almost constant bombardment and frequent ground force incursions, both killing many Palestinian civilians. While an international boycott of the elected Hamas government placed them in extreme poverty, combined, I believe, to leave Palestinians with only one thing; their religion to believe in, their religion to get them through.

Like Operation Autumn Clouds, Operation Summer Rains failed to achieve its aims of ending the frequent Qassam rocket attacks launched against Israel from the Gaza strip, and freeing captured Israeli corporal Gilad Shalit. The rocket attacks continuing, –before the truce- despite Israel’s increasing retaliation, for me, was a sign that the operations, like all Israel’s disproportionate actions in the last 20 years, were not diminishing the Palestinians resolve. So, perhaps Olmert has finally realized that Israel could send every IDF soldier into Gaza, under the heaviest bombardment and artillery shelling of the conflict and the Gazan’s resolve would remain intact. Rockets would still land in Israel. The Palestinians would still fight by whatever means available for the return of their holy land. The right of their brothers, descendants of those cruelly expelled by Israel 1948-49 to return to an independent Palestinian state. And to ensure that the thousands killed in the decades of conflict haven’t died in vain.

According to Ghazi Hamad, a PA spokesman, Hamas’ response to Olmert’s speech Monday was “This is a conspiracy. This is a new manoeuvre. Olmert is speaking about the Palestinian state without giving details about the borders.”

During his Monday afternoon speech Olmert also said that in return for his concessions, Palestinians would have to “renounce violence, recognize Israel’s right to live in peace and security and give up their demands to allow refugees from the 1948 Mideast War to return to their homes in what is now Israel.” Hamad responded: “The Palestinians cannot give up on the issue of the refugees. It is something approved by U.N. resolutions and it is a main part of the Palestinian cause.” The same stumbling blocks, -official borders and right of return- that have effectively ended all previous efforts for peace.

There will be no peace in the Middle East till Israel is ready to compromise and make firm commitments about Palestinian state borders. Firmly committing to returning the land it gained in the 1967 six day war would certainly be a step in the right direction. If Israel did this perhaps the Palestinians would in return compromise on some of the terms of the right to return, i.e. only direct descendants of those expelled in 1948-49 would have the right and only returning to the Palestinian state. Israel can’t grant full right of return while maintaining a Jewish state, because of the predicted influx of Arabs into Israel. A recent poll however, suggested most Palestinians wouldn’t return to Israel; only to an independent Palestinian state, if that can ever be established.

As I detailed in my last article, Israel currently has no incentive to make any sort of compromise. Only the UN, which –largely because of the U.S- has failed miserably in the past, can motivate Israel into such a compromise, but only along with a change in U.S policy towards the Jewish state. I have come to believe a new resolution ordering Israel to return the land taken in the 1967 war. Create an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza as most of the Palestinian militant groups call for. And allow Palestinians directly descended to those expelled in the 1948 war to return and live peacefully in the newly formed Palestinian state. Along with a U.S threat to stop acting as a shield, financially and militarily unless Israel follows the resolution to the letter. Is possibly the only way to achieve a peaceful resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

An earlier version of this article was published by Arabic Media Internet Network and OhmyNews International.

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