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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Palestinian Authority Sets its New Strategy: Tempts Obama Administration with Instant Peace if it Pressures Israel

The Palestinian Authority Sets its New Strategy: Tempts Obama Administration with Instant Peace if it Pressures Israel

December 29, 2009

We now have Mahmoud Abbas's answer regarding short-term Palestinian Authority (PA) strategy. He says that if Israel stops all construction now-in Jerusalem and the 3000 apartments being completed-and accepts in advance the 1967 borders and there will be peace within six months. This is the basic story we've been hearing since around 1988: one or more Israeli concessions and everyone will live happily ever after.

This is clearly bait being dangled for President Barack Obama, offering him an "easy" way out of his dilemma of not having any peace talks after almost a year in office: pressure Israel to give up more and you will look good, with plenty of photo opportunities of you presiding over Israel-PA talks.

Of course, what Abbas wants to do is to remove one of the main points of Israeli leverage, the borders to be agreed upon and the status of east Jerusalem. Moreover, is leaving out both the additional demands he will be demanding (all Palestinians who want to can go live in Israel) and all the Israeli demands he will be ignoring (recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, the end of the conflict and dropping all Palestinian claims, security guarantees, an unmilitarized Palestinian state, settling all refugees in Palestine).

In addition, of course, he can't speak for about half the people and territory he claims to represent, that is, the Gaza Strip. And by not holding elections and unilaterally extending his term, Abbas leaves the door open for some future Palestinian leadership saying he had no legitimate mandate to negotiate and therefore any agreement he made isn't binding.

Finally, he made one very big misstatement of fact, hoping-as usual-that the West pays no attention to what's said in Arabic. He claims that the PA has stopped incitement against Israel, in terms of urging violence and rejecting Israel's existence. While the PA is, of course, far better than Hamas on such matters, a very large dossier can be compiled on how that is a lie.

The question is what will the Obama Administration do? Is it going to press Israel for still more unilateral concessions so that the PA will come to talks and President Obama can claim a success? Will it try to get the PA to do something in terms of confidence-building measures or to talk without preconditions? Israel is certainly not going to accept the 1967 borders with absolutely no change before even talking with the PA (and probably not even as part of a peace agreement).

Indeed, it is now Obama administration policy that there need to be minor border modifications to accommodate the post-1967 changes on the ground. Moreover, Israel can say that if it stops all construction immediately, including in Jerusalem, the PA still won't talk so what's the point?

Incidentally, Abbas admitted that he never asked for an Israeli construction freeze before but is only doing so in the context of the Roadmap Plan. However, even after the Road Map, Abbas never made this a big issue until after Obama demanded the construction freeze. In objective terms, the president has no one to blame but himself for this mess, but of course he isn't going to blame himself. He has to blame either Israel or the PA. Which will it be?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

For Israel, Good Prospects in 2010

By Barry Rubin*
December 27, 2009

In contrast to my rather gloomy assessment of the Obama Administration's prospects in the Middle East, Israel's prospects look rather good. This is granted, of course, that the chances for any formal peace (note the word "formal") with the Arab states or the Palestinians are close to zero. In addition there are two longer-term threats in the form of Iranian nuclear weapons and Islamists one day taking over one or more Arab states.

But let's enjoy ourselves while we can. It's also important to remember in the Middle East, optimism does not mean forecasting blue skies but merely ones only lightly overcast.

It's funny, though, how much better Israel's situation is then it's generally perceived. Consider the pluses:

--The potential of a clash with the United States has been averted, most likely for the remainder of President Barack Obama's term. All the lessons received by the United States in the region-to whatever extent it learned them-are favorable to Israel, showing how ready Israel is to help U.S. efforts at the same time as demonstrating how hard it is to get peace and how limited is the other's side's cooperation or flexibility. The possibility of U.S. rapprochement with Iran or Syria has been destroyed by the latter

--On the surface the situation with Israel looks dreadful but where it counts the support is sufficient. France, Germany, and Italy have friendly governments while in Britain an acceptably positive regime is about to be replaced by a warmer one. (It helps to have low expectations.)

--Despite their rhetoric, Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders are basically satisfied with the status quo. Their strategies for forcing more concessions from Israel without giving anything leave them smug but without prospects for success. The danger of a Hamas takeover has been averted. The economic situation on the West Bank is about as good as it's ever been. And the PA rulers prefer to avoid renewed violence. That's not nirvana but it ain't bad either.

--Hizballah doesn't want renewed war this year, seeking to carry out revenge terrorist attacks away from the Lebanon-Israel border. Hamas is probably cowed enough by the early 2009 fighting (outside observers still don't realize the extent to which its gunmen broke, ran away, and hid behind civilians, but the Hamas leadership knows), though this can't be taken for certain.

--While the international economic slump has hit Israel, the country has been more insulated than one might have dared hope from its negative effects. Its remarkable technical innovation on hi-tech, science, medical, and agricultural technology continues to make rapid progress.

--Israel has a government with a high level of popular support which really seems-after so much ineptness and ingenious plans that didn't do much good-to be on track. There is, by Israeli standards, a high degree of national consensus.

--Iran still doesn't have nuclear weapons.

That's not at all a bad list. There are many who think that Israel cannot flourish, perhaps cannot even survive, without having formal peace with the Palestinians or perhaps also Syria and the Arabic-speaking world in general. This is simply untrue. The lack of a signed peace treaty with everyone (not to mention that such documents exist with Egypt and Jordan) is not the same as war. From the usual standards of no war, no peace this is a pretty good one.

Of course, there are negatives yet they really don't amount to anywhere near as much as it seems on a superficial glance. The virtual defection of Turkey's regime from the Western alliance (yes, it really is that bad) and the end of the special relationship between Jerusalem and Ankara is a bad thing. But the Turkish semi-Islamist rulers are restrained by their desire to play a role in regional peacemaking and not to make the Americans or Europeans too angry.

Most distressing of all is the noise. The virulent hatred of Israel by large sections of the American and especially European intelligentsia goes along with the endless outpouring of academic, media, and EU sniping can be dispiriting. Yet even here there is some silver lining. The more extreme and outright crackpot the attacks, the less credible they are. Public opinion polls, especially in the United States where they are through the roof, are not so bad. In addition, the lies and screaming have little material effect on the region itself. Something to worry about but don't lose sleep.

What's most important of all is this: A willingness to assess your problems accurately, guided by reasonable expectations. Not being crippled with ideology, blinded by misconceptions, swayed by bad international advice and the desire to be popular. And with determination and courage to implement policies that do the best with the hand you've been dealt.

If only others were doing the same thing, the world-and especially the Middle East-would be a better and more peaceful place.

Friday, December 25, 2009

For Obama, 2010 in the Middle East Looks More Like the Precipice of Doom than Achievement

By Barry Rubin*

December 25, 2009

The year 2010 is going to be interesting. Well, all years in the Middle East are interesting; many of them are far too interesting.

For the Obama Administration, I'm going to predict, it will not be a fun year. True, the best face will be put on things. Since it is protected-perhaps next year to a lesser degree--by the media, the administration has a special advantage over its predecessors. Yet there are two huge and two potentially serious problems which it cannot solve.

The first unsolvable problem is the Arab-Israeli conflict. Last January, President Barack Obama promised a quick solution to the issue. Then he promised that an Israeli freeze of construction on settlements would lead to a diplomatic breakthrough. A few months later, he promised he'd get some Arab concessions in response to an Israeli freeze. In September he promised that final status negotiations would begin in two months.

None of these things happened.

In fact, Obama's policy sabotaged progress. After all, if he was bashing Israel to some extent and demanding a freeze, why should the Palestinians give Israel a way out by negotiating and accept anything less than a total freeze? U.S.-Israel relations have now improved considerably and are good, but there's no talks going on because the Palestinian Authority is saying "no."

Remember in his Cairo speech, Obama said the Palestinian situation was "intolerable." The Palestinians disagree with him. They know they are doing pretty well materially, the world is criticizing Israel, and they don't have to make any concessions.

But here's where it gets interesting: there is a very serious prospect of no direct or any serious Israel-Palestinian negotiations during all of 2010. And in late September, Israel's ten-month freeze ends. No progress, no continued freeze.

There is literally no way out for the Obama Administration. The only route to getting talks is either to get more unilateral concessions from Israel (isn't going to happen) or to pressure the Palestinian Authority (also isn't going to happen). Checkmate; deadlock; no way out.

The Obama Administration is not likely to say: We were wrong. This is tougher than we thought. Nor are they probably going to put the issue on the back burner openly. Nor are they going to criticize the Palestinian Authority. So they will pretend to be working hard, sending their envoy zipping around, looking for some opening to leap into action. But isn't this going to be pretty obviously a charade? Well, only if the media wants to say so.

Then there's Iran. Originally, the administration was going to increase sanctions in September. That was moved back to the end of December. Now it is too late to meet that deadline. At best, we are going to see negotiations in January and maybe-maybe-increased sanctions in February. But who knows?

That's not all. The administration keeps pretending that it has China and Russia on board for sanctions. Anyone who actually reads Chinese and Russian statements should know this is untrue. Can this be kept secret for very long in 2010? Either there will be no sanctions, ridiculously weak sanctions or sanctions without these two. Once again, there is no way out for the administration from looking like a failure.

And by the end of the year or earlier it will be clear that any sanctions applied aren't working. The year 2010 is the make or break year for stopping Iran. Not hard to guess which it will be.

I'm not chortling over this as I'd greatly prefer the administration would be brilliantly successful in bringing peace-a good one, of course, not just any deal-and ensuring Tehran didn't get nuclear weapons. But it's not going to happen.

Two other issues may cause problems but are not likely to bring benefits in 2010, though they are designed to bring political dividends for when Obama is up for reelection in 2012. Iraq will be a headache if the Iranians decide, in part due to their more belligerent mood and as a response to sanctions, to escalate the violence. Syria, unhappy that the United States has not caved in to them, may also do so. This could lead to higher casualties making the troop withdrawal look either like running away or at least ineffective.

The same basic point holds for Afghanistan, where Obama's version of the surge will be in full implementation. The Taliban might decide to make America look defeated; Pakistan isn't going to help. Again, there could be high U.S. casualties and the appearance of failure.

Then there's the chance that Obama's vaunted popularity will crack. Palestinians will claim he isn't giving them everything for nothing; Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hizballah will try to make short work of making America look bad. What if, for example, Obama has to veto some far-out UN Security Council resolution that, for example, demands that Israel return to the 1967 borders? Maybe he'll be able to get it watered down but that could happen.

There's always the chance of a major terrorist attack against some American target succeeding.

In short, 2010 does not look good at all for Obama. Is there any chance of a big success in the region for him? (Your eyes dart around the room trying to think of something. Finally, you give up and give the inevitable answer.) No.

The most critical question of all is whether the administration will learn from its experience. There are a lot of mistaken conceptions to learn from:

The Palestinians aren't desperate to make peace. Moving away from Israel doesn't bring you any material gains and indeed makes it even harder to get progress toward peace. Arab states won't help you. They aren't going to lift a finger to stop Iran while demanding you do so. Engaging Iran and Syria doesn't work. Being popular among Muslims and Arabs is a fragile thing and doesn't get you much more than a cup of coffee when you visit the Saudi king. Apologizing makes you look weak and everyone will then take advantage of you. Shall I go on?

Usama bin Ladin says that everyone wants to bet on the strong horse. Obama's policy makes America look like a dead horse. And, yes, Middle East dictatorships and revolutionary Islamist groups love flogging a dead horse.

Shall Obama hope that 2011 comes fast? Well, that's the year Iran will probably get nuclear weapons.

*Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books, go to

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

EU calls for Division of Jerusalem

The EU states, "The Council recalls that it has never recognized the annexation of East Jerusalem. If there is to be a genuine peace, a way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states.

The Council calls calls for the reopening of Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem in accordance with the Road Map. It also calls on the Israeli government to cease all discriminatory treatment of Palestinians in East Jerusalem."

In other words, the future of Jerusalem is officially an international football, and at the end of the game, the Palestinians are to get their wish: To call Jerusalem their capital.

This is an unprecedented intrusion into Israeli affairs. It completely ignores the facts on the ground. Before Israel controlled Jerusalem, Christians and Jews were barred from the Old City. The Jewish Quarter was destroyed and Jews were expelled and many killed.

Under Israeli rule, all people are permitted to live in and visit Jerusalem. Forcing an official Palestinian presence on this situation will cause unnecessary tensions and increase the danger level. Imagine the Field Day that terrorists will have launching attacks on visitors -- right from land in the Old City. Remember the carnage that resulted from the pull-out from Gaza? This will be a disaster.

It will also be a victory of another sort for the Palestinian leaders, like Abbas, who believe that Jews never lived in Jerusalem. They deny the existence of the Jewish Temples. Even under Israeli control, the Palestinians have destroyed thousands of years worth of Christian and Jewish antiquities. Imagine the carnage if they are ever put in control.

It is puzzling that Israel's official response to the EU declaration did not defend a united Jerusalem under the State of Israel. We need to defend a united Jerusalem every opportunity we get.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Judge Stephen Wilson Keeps Alleged Murder by the Aryan Brotherhood Under Wraps


When an L.A. federal judge closed his court to the public to hear a case in which a widow had charged the feds with wrongful death in her husband’s murder while doing time in prison, some experts called the judge’s action rare or unconstitutional. Even a federal security officer passing by the sealed courtroom found the move odd.
The secret hearing was the latest twist in the tale of the violent deaths of Irv Rubin and Earl Krugel, two local Jewish Defense League activists arrested in 2001 for a plot to bomb a Culver Citymosque — both of whom died while in custody.
Krugel’s widow, Lola Krugel, wants to know how and why her husband, a Reseda dental technician, was placed in an exercise yard with David Frank Jennings, a known skinhead and alleged Aryan Brotherhood acolyte, who crushed Krugel’s skull with a chunk of concrete just three days after Krugel arrived.
On July 21, 2009, in the ornate downtown L.A. courtroom of U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson, those matters were closed to the press and public.
The two were arrested for conspiring to blow up the Westside mosque and the office of Lebanese-American congressman Darrell Issa.
Then both ended up dead.
Rubin’s shocking 2002 jailhouse suicide came first. He was being held on charges for the bomb plot, and his trial was still a long way off, when officials say he managed to slash his throat with a prison-issued razor, then somehow jumped 18 feet from an upper floor of downtown’s federal Metropolitan Detention Center, dying after nine days in a coma.
Then came Krugel’s even more unsettling death on November 4, 2005, as he started his 20-year sentence in a medium-security federal prison in Phoenix but was promptly bludgeoned to death.
The apparent assailant, 30-year-old Jennings, was an alleged member of the Aryan Brotherhood, a feared prison gang. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, its members comprise less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the nation’s prison population but commit 18 percent of all prison murders. The Brotherhood is primarily a crime syndicate that runs prison drug trafficking and prison prostitution, but it carries a nasty racist overlay.
Attorneys for Lola Krugel, the spirited and elfin woman who is Earl’s widow, allege that the U.S. government is culpable for her husband’s death. She did not want to be quoted, but her suit charges that prison officials failed to classify Jennings as an Aryan Brotherhood member despite his gang tattoos.
But within minutes of the start of the late-July trial, as Benjamin Schonbrun, the widow’s attorney, questioned former prison employee Thomas Bond about Jenning’s tattoos, Judge Wilson ordered the court cleared — bending to U.S. government attorneys, who wanted internal prison procedures, such as identifying gang members and gang tattoos, to remain secret.
(The federal government is so obsessed with secrecy in this case, that in a hallway of the federal building, when Assistant U.S. Attorney David Pinchas was asked by L.A. Weekly for his name, he only reluctantly provided it.)
In a statement later, Schonbrun said Wilson acted “without a fair hearing to permit anyone to dispute the necessity for a secret trial. When a federal judge can close an entire trial and exclude our free press, our society suffers.”
Strangely enough, a court order issued by Wilson himself, and publicly available, reveals many key prison procedures that had been expected to come out at the hearing. Moreover, the Aryan Brotherhood tattoos that the federal attorneys are so reluctant to discuss in public were found by the Weekly, readily accessible, on a Web page hosted by the Arizona Department of Corrections.
What is known is that in June 2004, before Jennings was moved to the prison in Phoenix, where he allegedly murdered Krugel, Kimberly L. Beakey, the Bureau of Prison’s “designator of inmates” for the Western region, initially qualified Jennings as a “high-security inmate” — but then “flexed down” Jennings to medium security so he could participate in a drug-abuse rehab program that is unavailable in maximum-security prisons.
Bureau of Prison documents show that Jennings had described himself as a member of the Aryan Brotherhood and wore its tattoo — so Beakey specifically noted that further investigation of Jennings was required upon his arrival in Phoenix.
If Jennings was in the Aryan Brotherhood, federal rules required that he be committed to maximum security. At issue at last month’s trial was whether Bond and another prison officer who saw Jennings upon his arrival in Phoenix did enough research before allowing Jennings into the general population, and into the yard where he is believed to have bashed in Krugel’s head.
n 2005, then–Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Jessner said the only way to break the gang was to seek the death penalty against its members for its frequent killings inside prisons. Adding time to already-lengthy sentences did nothing — the gang leaders still found ways to order murders in jail, Jessner said.
Jessner and a team of attorneys obtained a federal racketeering indictment against 40 Aryan Brotherhood members and their associates, 21 of whom were up for the death penalty — the biggest death penalty case in U.S. history. Yet in L.A. late last month, within 24 hours of the secret two-day trial that Wilson insisted upon, Wilson ruled that the government was not culpable for Krugel’s slaying. Even Wilson’s legal basis for the decision is under seal and a secret — and lawyers for the Los Angeles Times are challenging the blackout.
“The bar for winning prison-conditions challenges is extremely high,” notes Sharon Dolovich, a UCLA Law School professor. “Legal standards put a very strong tilt on the scale [in favor of] correctional officers.” Among judges, she says there is a “strong tendency to defer to prison officials.”
Speaking in general, Dolovich says that if a prisoner is known to have targeted white supremacists, prison officials have an obligation to protect that prisoner, who could easily be singled out by the white supremicists, who are common inside prisons.
Judge Wilson knew Jennings had been classified as a skinhead, but before the trial he ruled, “there was no indication” that any inmates were threatening Krugel with ‘bodily harm.’ ” He dismissed the widow’s contention that prison officials should have tried to protect Krugel simply because other prisoners believed a false rumor that Krugel had attempted to “blow up mosques, but he fucked up by blowing up a skinhead shack instead.”
“I think that’s absurd,” Dolovich says of the judge’s ruling. All the news headlines over Krugel and Rubin’s botched conspiracy, “would be sufficient to create a threat” to Krugel inside the prison.
A California prison expert, Dolovich paints a harrowing picture in which gangs rule their prison subcultures in this state. She says that to survive, prisoners must join with those of their skin color, and overcrowding can stretch resources so thin that guards can’t always protect everyone.
“In a lot of cases, the violence that is directed at other prisoners is directed by [gang] leadership,” she says. “The person who does the killing may have nothing against the person they’re killing but has been so ordered to act by their leadership. In many cases, individual prisoners have a hard time resisting what the leadership says because [if they refuse], they’ll be the next victim.”

Monday, November 16, 2009

Clinton: Tough Talk, Few Results

Posted by michaelblackburnsr on November 5, 2009

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tense exchanges with Pakistani civilians and Arab diplomats over a harrowing week of foreign stops exposed the confining limits of her office.
On her most ambitious and contentious overseas trip as secretary of state, Clinton had to resort to damage control after she appeared to mangle the Obama administration’s message on frozen Mideast peace talks.
And while she scored points back home by standing up to angry Pakistanis who confronted her about drone-launched U.S. missile strikes, her blunt questioning of the resolve of Pakistan’s government exposed American impatience with the country’s incremental steps against terrorists.
In each case her extraordinarily public approach to diplomacy – for better or worse – reflected not only her personal style but also President Barack Obama’s promise to reach out openly to friend as well as foe.
What remains less clear is whether Clinton’s hot-button politician’s persona works any better at producing international results – let alone clarity – than a more classic diplomat’s cooler tact.
There were no breakthroughs, and it’s too early to know how her public and behind-the-scenes performances in Pakistan, Abu Dhabi, Israel, Morocco and Egypt will play out. But Clinton emphatically followed through on a pledge she made last month when she said the time had come for the U.S. government to communicate more aggressively abroad and challenge U.S. critics on their own turf.
From here on, she said then, “we’re going to be in the mix and we’re going to be in the mix every day.”
It is a boldly political take on taking on the world, and Clinton is relying on some of her old campaign trail tricks and moxie to press America’s case.
In Pakistan, she aggressively sold the administration’s stance against al-Qaida during several crowded “town hall” public forums that had been her stock-in-trade during the 2008 presidential primary run against Obama.
But despite finding some success in Africa and Asia earlier this year communicating Clintonian warmth with foreign audiences, Lahore was not Portsmouth, N.H.
And a brash in-your-face style that won voters’ hearts and minds in the U.S. may have come off as confrontational to skeptical Pakistan civilians who responded in kind.
In Lahore, Clinton certainly won domestic consumption brownie points by saying what many Americans have complained about for years – that Pakistan’s government had done little to root out al-Qaida’s upper echelon.
“Al-Qaida has had safe haven in Pakistan since 2002,” she said bluntly. “I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn’t get them if they really wanted to. And maybe that’s the case. Maybe they’re not getable. I don’t know.”
Pakistan’s leaders were not pleased – waiting until Clinton departed to slap back. But even when she had a second chance to scale back her remarks, Clinton softened them only by a hair.
She also dinged Pakistan’s leaders for diminishing their standing in Washington by complaining about tough new conditions set by Congress for providing billions in new aid.
“For the United States Congress to pass a bill unanimously, saying that we want to give $7.5 billion to Pakistan in a time of global recession when we have a 10 percent unemployment rate, and then for Pakistani press and others to say, ‘We don’t want that,’ that’s insulting,” she said.
That wasn’t what the Pakistani government wanted to hear, but it seemed to reflect Clinton’s determination to show the Pakistanis that they can complain about U.S. counterterrorism tactics and about strings attached to U.S. aid – but not without hearing the administration’s own concerns.
Clinton’s toughened public stance was less in evidence, though, when she turned to the stymied Mideast peace process. Instead of bluntness, she struggled repeatedly to cater to both Israeli and Arab concerns, making no headway in getting either side to move closer.
In Jerusalem, trying to mollify Israeli reluctance to agree to halt all future settlements as a pretext to renewed peace talks with Palestinians, Clinton floated an Israeli proposal that would restrain – but not stop – more West Bank housing.
Palestinian and Arab diplomats reacted with outrage, and the Clinton who had been tough in Pakistan was forced to backpedal. Arab officials questioned whether the U.S. had tilted toward Israel and abandoned its position that continued Israel settlements are illegitimate and must be brought to a full stop.
Clinton’s comments reflected a realization within the Obama administration that conservative Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government will not accept a full-on settlement freeze and that a partial halt might be the best lesser option. Her appeal seemed designed to make the Israeli position more palatable to the Palestinians and Arab states.
Clinton had traveled to the region reluctantly, concerned her visit might be perceived as a failure without clear results, according to several U.S. officials. She agreed to meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders after pressure from the White House, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal administration thinking.
In Marrakesh, Morocco, two days after her controversial comments in Jerusalem, Clinton issued what she called a clarification. But she was dogged by questions about the settlements issue for the rest of her time abroad.
Asked Wednesday before departing for Washington what she believed she had accomplished, Clinton focused on the depth of the challenges she faced, not on what the trip delivered – or failed to deliver.
“Every issue that we touched on during this trip is complicated and difficult,” she said. “Each requires patience, perseverance and determination to see them through. If these were easy questions with simple answers, I wouldn’t have made this trip.”

EDITOR’S NOTE – Robert Burns has been covering national security and military affairs for The Associated Press since 1990.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Earl served in the U.S. Navy and in the Yom Kippur War

Earl was a man of incredible courage.
He volunteered for the navy, he paid his own way to Israel to fight for the Jewish State against the hordes of Jew Hating Arab killers.
His motto, our motto, "Never again" meant more than just words.
It meant self defense, and defense of the weak and helpless.
Earl was not a man of violence, although he was a 3rd degree martial artist.
I am told that he moved like a gazelle.
He struck in battle like a tiger, and yet, he would never, ever, harm an innocent person.
During Earl's time in the belly of the goyim beast, before he was condemned to death by vindictive gentiles, he protected other inmates, and counseled Irv Rubin.
Irv said to me, "He is my teacher and my big brother."
He was the same to me.
A great man, that was Earl Leslie Krugel.

Reality Raises It's Head and the Media Wakes Up About the Obama Administration's Middle East Failure

By Barry Rubin*

There’s something big happening in the air regarding American media coverage of the Obama Administration. With the Washington Post in advance, the New York Times waking up the tiniest bit, the Los Angeles Times trailing far behind, and a lot of other newspapers getting tough, reality is seeping into their coverage. Even the Boston Globe, America's most liberal newspaper, is strongly criticizing Obama.

The Globe remarks:

"It takes more than scripted eloquence for presidents to connect with their fellow Americans. It requires a visceral ability to grasp the scope of tragedy, calculate its impact on the national psyche, and react swiftly to it. Ronald Reagan did it after the Challenger explosion....So did Bill Clinton, after the Oklahoma City bombings."

After all, the president didn't go to the celebrations commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall; or the christening of the USS New York with steel from the World Trade Center and families of those murdered in that building attending; or visit the Fort Hood wounded; or even treat the latest attack with due seriousness. And of course his Arab-Israeli policy in his ruins while the Iran issue is making a fool out of the administration.

On foreign policy, more and more things are becoming harder to deny:

--The Obama Administration has failed to charm any Arab states or Iran into changing their policy, even to a tiny extent.

--Iran doesn’t want to make a deal over its rush to get nuclear weapons.

--Engagement with Syria is going nowhere while Damascus continues to help murder American soldiers in Iraq without any Administration criticism or protest.

--Despite its over-ambitious goals and arrogant boasts, the administration has failed completely to advance any Israel-Palestinian peace process.

--Israel is proving flexible while the Palestinian Authority refuses even to talk no matter how much the Administration panders to and coddles it.

--The administration has no strategy in Afghanistan and can't make up its mind.

As the Obama Administration’s first year in office comes toward an end, it has failed, failed, failed, in the Middle East.

Then there's the Washington Post which strongly criticized his policy on the Israel-Palestinian peace process one daybashed his peace process policy and today they go after his Iran policy. The alarm clock is going off.

On November 6, the Washington Post ran a critical editorial on Obama's Iran policy--under the subheadline "How much longer should the Obama administration tolerate the regime's intransigence?--warning that the administration is helping the Tehran regime's strategy of stalling for time and avoiding more sanctions while crushing the opposition. "And each day Iran's known centrifuges produce another six pounds of enriched uranium."

And the editorial has a devastating conclusion:

“The Obama administration and European governments have set the end of the year as a deadline for the transfer of the uranium out of Iran and for progress in the overall negotiations. But the administration must consider whether it makes sense to grant the regime two more months of grace. On Tuesday, after all, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei publicly rejected the overtures he said he had received from President Obama, declaring that negotiating with the United States was ‘naive and perverted.’ On Wednesday, the opposition protesters chanted: `Obama, Obama -- either you're with them, or with us.’ Sooner rather than later, Mr. Obama ought to respond to those messages.”

Just 48 hours earlier, the Washington Post looked at the peace process issue in an article and an editorial. Both reflect this new thinking, breaking from a slavish regard from the inexperienced Obama as the closest thing on the planet to a diplomatic deity.

The writer, Glenn Kessler, does a good job with an article tellingly entitled, “Administration missteps hamper Mideast efforts.” Let me first get out of the way my criticisms as they show some consistent problems in coverage of the Middle East, then talk about all the good things in the article.

Kessler first interviews one Daniel Levy. Mr. Levy has no serious training on Middle East politics and is merely just another left-wing activist who never utters a word of anything except criticism of Israel and never has anything particularly insightful to say. Is this really the best expert that the Post can come up with? True, Levy—who is rather generously described as “a veteran Israeli peace negotiator”—worked a while as a low-level assistant for Yossi Beilin, leader of Israel’s far left-wing—but his emergence into being what sometimes seems like the media’s favorite pundit on these issues in Washington is rather ludicrous.

Mr. Levy’s only "accomplishment" in recent years is reportedly to have co-founded—along with a former Arab lobbyist--J Street, the new anti-Israel but pretending-to-be pro-Israel lobby.

Having said that, what Kessler actually published of his remarks isn’t so bad, which probably reflects more credit on Kessler.

The second interviewee is Ghaith al-Omari, a former advisor to Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas. Omani is listed as “advocacy director,” a title which makes him sound like something less than a scholarly expert, for the American Task Force on Palestine. This is an interesting group since it seems to be the PA's semi-official voice in Washington. As such, it might be slightly more moderate than J Street. Watch what this group says closely.

[Pairing an anti-Israel person who can be portrayed as an Israeli with an official Palestinian spokesman is the kind of phony "balance" too often employed in the media.]

Nevertheless, with Omari, too, Kessler gets reasonable quotes, though he lets him get away with one outright falsehood. Quoting the article:

“He [Omari] said that things have improved in the past nine months, including getting a reluctant Israeli government to embrace the idea of talks.”

Funny, the truth is the exact opposite. The Israeli government has never said anything but that it is ready to negotiate right away and without preconditions with the PA. This kind of outright and demonstrable lie should not be presented without being questioned.

Having said all that, however, Kessler has written a very good article. In fact, I think that his account of what has happened so far this year is worth quoting at length. [But don’t stop reading here because I’m going to get to the Post’s editorial afterward. So skip this section if you think you know all these points already]:

“The administration's key error, many analysts say, was to insist that Israel immediately freeze all settlement growth in Palestinian-occupied territories. The United States has never accepted the legitimacy of Israeli settlements, but the Obama administration took an unusually tough stance. It refused to acknowledge an unwritten agreement between Israel and Bush to limit growth in settlements, with Clinton leading the charge to demand a full settlement freeze.

“U.S. officials say that in the wake of the war in the Gaza Strip in the winter, they wanted to send a signal of toughness and push both sides to take positive steps to build an atmosphere for talks. By that measure, there has been some progress: Israelis and Palestinians have been deep in conversations trying to set the parameters for negotiations.

“But Abbas, emboldened by the U.S. rhetoric, announced that he would not begin negotiations until settlements were frozen. Facing Israeli opposition, the administration appeared to back off the demand for a full settlement freeze, first exempting East Jerusalem and then signaling approval of an Israeli plan to exempt nearly 3,000 housing units on the West Bank.

“Meanwhile, Abbas got into political trouble at home when he succumbed to U.S. pressure to delay U.N. consideration of a report accusing Israel of war crimes in Gaza; he later reversed himself. When Clinton met him Saturday and pressed him to accept the limited Israeli settlement plan as a basis for talks, he refused.”

What makes this analysis especially interesting is that it shows how the administration itself has messed up. I’d like to add though that while the administration has agreed to let Israel finish ongoing construction, the agreement seems to be for an absolute freeze on the West Bank. The only difference is that instead of the freeze taking effect on, say, January 1, it will take place—just to pick a date—around May 1 or so. In fact, then, it is a “full settlement freeze,” just one that is delayed a bit.

So to imply that the United States made some huge concession to Israel or that Israel is getting away with anything is misleading. Obama wanted a full freeze. He got one. And if nothing happens to advance negotiations--though we don't know this--it's possible that the agreement includes Israel's reservation that it will restart in the future. But it's not clear whether that's true and no one seems to be saying so.

The article’s end is a bit more typical of what’s wrong with the usual coverage, in which only Palestinian complaints and demands are highlighted:

“Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, mused…about the end of the dream of a Palestinian state and scoffed at the Obama administration's notion of baby steps to talks. `As to the baby steps, we begun taking them in 1990-1991, and we have been crawling for 19 years,’ he said. `We need youthful steps to end the occupation and establish a Palestinian state.’"

How about a balancing quote pointing out that the Palestinians could have had a state in the late 1970s (Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat's initiative), the early 1980s (Reagan Plan), the early 1990s (U.S.-PLO dialogue), and the mid-1990s or right after 2000 ("Oslo" process) if they didn’t keep rejecting all offers and instead choosing the path of intransigence and violence?

Or how about a balancing quote saying that there should be faster action to get rid of Hamas and end terrorist attacks as well as demonization of Israel? Why is it we only hear about what the Palestinians want (or demand) and never about Israel's desire for full recognition as a Jewish state, territorial swaps on the West Bank, ample security guarantees, an end to the conflict, and resettlement of all Palestinians in Palestine?

Someone please do a count of how many times key media outlets mention the Palestinian list and the Israeli list of what should be in a peace agreement. I wouldn't be surprised if the first outran the second by a ten-to-one margin.

Now for the Post’s editorial whose title, “The Mideast Impasse” could have been used at any time in the last 60 years! In contrast to Omari, it makes clear who is to blame for the impasse:

“Palestinian President [sic] Mahmoud Abbas has participated in peace negotiations with five Israeli governments that refused to halt Jewish settlement construction. Yet Mr. Abbas has rejected an appeal from the Obama administration to start talks with the center-right coalition of Binyamin Netanyahu, putting one of the administration's primary foreign policy goals on indefinite hold. The reason: `America cannot get Israel to implement a settlement freeze,’ a statement said.

“Has Mr. Abbas suddenly realized that settlements are the key obstacle to a Palestinian state? Hardly: In private, senior Palestinian officials readily concede that the issue is secondary. Instead, the Palestinian pose is a product of the Obama administration's missteps -- and also of the fact that the opportunity Mr. Obama said he perceived to broker a two-state settlement is not so visible to leaders in the region.”

Here we have the two key themes I keep trying to get across: peace is very distant and everyone in the region (but not in the West) knows it, and the Palestinians are the ones mainly at fault. It also includes the Obama administration’s responsibility.

The editorial continues that neither Abbas nor Arab leaders “seems to share Mr. Obama's notion that the time is ripe for a deal.” It also sagely adds: “The Obama administration's working assumption has been that energetic diplomacy by the United States could induce both sides to move quickly toward peace. In fact, progress in the Middle East has always begun with initiatives by Israelis or Arabs themselves.”

But then, since it is impermissible not to end with anything but an optimistic conclusion that there is an easy way out, the editorial goes on:

“At the moment, the most promising idea comes from Mr. Abbas's prime minister, Salam Fayyad, who has vowed to build the institutions of a Palestinian state within the next two years, with or without peace talks. Negotiations between the current Israeli and Palestinian leaders could provide indirect support for that initiative, even if there is little progress. But the administration would do well to refocus its efforts on supporting Mr. Fayyad.”

So we still have some "Old Think," as Russians called Communism in the Perestroika era. It is not quite permissible to suggest the administration might “refocus its efforts” on supporting Israel. And of course the Fayyad solution is an illusion. He has no power, might get kicked out at any moment except that his remaining in office is a condition for continued Western aid, the violent tendencies in the Fatah leadership could launch warfare and wipe out progress at any moment, and the PA has failed to build institutions for 15 years so what leads anyone to believe they will change now?

Still, at least this kind of analysis is on the same planet as the real Middle East, which is a step forward.

If you find these articles useful and interesting, please read and subscribe to Barry Rubin's blog, Rubin Reports, at <>:

Friday, November 06, 2009

Earl Krugel Lives

This is the 4th year since the passing of Earl Krugel.
The years have not made the loss any easier.
Earl was a man, a mensch, a Jew, who lived, first and foremost, to defend the rights of others to live in peace and freedom.
The 24th of this month is Earl's birthday, a day more of celebration than the day, the 4th, that he was taken from us in the same month of November.

His memory lives in our hearts.

Monday, November 02, 2009

And Now the Truth Becomes Clear: Hillary Clinton Announces that the Palestinians are the Obstacles to Peace

Earl Krugel had a keen grasp of the intricate issues in the Middle_East.
He was not fond of what the Clinton's did at Oslo, but he understood strategic manuevering, and he understood Arab psychology.
I think he would have liked Obama, as he enjoyed people with high intellects, especially when
they supported the State of Israel.

BTW, I'd like to give a shout out to Lola Krugel, who Earl told me he loved with his entire heart.

By Barry Rubin*

Yesterday I discussed the significance of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s praise for Israel’s policy during her trip to Jerusalem, saying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had offered unprecedented concessions to get peace talks started again.
We don’t know what the plan is though there are hints that Israel agreed to stop all construction on the West Bank once the 3,000 apartment units now being constructed were completed and that this freeze would not apply to construction in east Jerusalem. This is indeed a major concession on Netanyahu’s part and once again puts the lie to the claim that he is inflexible or hard line (though no doubt we will still daily see this in media coverage).

This visit, however, also may be a major turning point in both U.S. policy and public perceptions of the problem regarding the peace process.

At the center of this stands the Number One Paradox of the issue, in some ways of all Middle Eastern politics: Why is it that although the Palestinians complain that they are suffering from a horrible occupation and not having a state of their own they are not in any hurry to make a peace agreement, end the “occupation,” and get a state.

The main answer is that the dominant Palestinian view is still the desire to win a total victory and wipe Israel off the map. The back-up stance is that any peace agreement must not block the continued pursuit of that goal. And the back-up position to that is to reject strong security guarantees, recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, an unmilitarized Palestinian state, settlement of Palestinian refugees in Palestine, territorial compromise or exchanges, and indeed any concession whatsoever.

There are two implications of this:

--The Palestinians are at fault for the failure to achieve peace.

--There isn’t going to be any Israel-Palestinian peace in the near- or even medium-term future.

If you understand the preceding 176 words then you understand the issue comprehensively.

The president of the United States has said that he wants talks resumed immediately and believes it possible to make a breakthrough. The Palestinian leadership is thwarting him on both points. In other words, they are responsible for the failure of a major U.S. policy.

Following Clinton’s visit, Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders have restated their refusal even to talk with Israel. They also claim that Netanyahu is refusing to discuss some issues in the talks, though the Israeli prime minister has simply not made such statements. In fact, as the Washington Post reported, November 1:

“The Palestinian position, if anything, appears to have hardened in recent days, leaving Israel to portray itself as the more willing partner.”

Well, Israel is the more willing partner, isn’t it? That’s the point that breaks the apparent paradox of suffering Palestinians yearning for peace but being thwarted by Israeli intransigence.

One point in the Post article, however, is just flat wrong:

“Israel promised to halt settlements under previous international agreements, and Palestinian officials say they want those promises fulfilled.”

In fact, at the time it signed the original peace process agreement—often called the Oslo accord—in 1993, that’s 16 years ago—Israel put forward its interpretation of the agreement. It said that there would be no new Jewish settlements and no geographical expansion of existing settlements. But Israel made it clear that it would continue to build apartments on existing settlements. That position was not challenged by the Palestinians at the time and it has never held up talks before now.

Indeed, another Washington Post article of November 1, this one by Howard Schneider, pointed out—though only indirectly—why things got even worse:

“However, Obama's election raised expectations among Palestinians and throughout the Arab states that the peace process would yield quicker results from an administration willing to openly criticize Israel and, it seemed, elevate Palestinian interests.”

More than that, it was the Obama Administration which called for a total freeze, distances itself from Israel, and took other steps leading the PA and Arab states to believe that by being intransigent they could get Washington to deliver Israel on their own terms. In other words, while everyone is being too polite to say so, the Obama Administration was responsible for the situation deteriorating.

Now both Egypt and Jordan have come out in support of the PA position, also setting themselves on a collision course with Washington, that there should be no talks at all until all construction on settlements stops without exception, including anything now being completed and all building in east Jerusalem. There is no chance Israel is going to agree to that; there is no chance the Obama Administration will demand it.

And so we have come to the point where it is becoming clear even to those who have been ruled by wishful thinking that there is not going to be any peace and that the Palestinian-Arab side is responsible for this situation.

It is quite probable--and this is extremely important to understand--that there is nothing the Obama Administration can say or do in order to make them change their mind. After all, this is the ideal position from the standpoint of the PA, Egypt, Jordan, and others. Refuse to support talks, reap benefits by showing their militancy, and be able to blame it on Israel.

After all his efforts and alleged popularity, Obama has absolutely zero credit and no leverage in the Arabic-speaking world.

How is this going to affect Obama Administration policy and thinking?

If you find these articles useful and interesting, please read and subscribe to Barry Rubin's blog, Rubin Reports, at :

Monday, October 26, 2009

How and Why Engagement with Sudan Shows Precisely What's Wrong with Obama Administration Foreign Policy

I think Earl would have agreed with Barry Rubin's assessment here.He was a firm believer in fairness tempered with firmness and self-defense.

By Barry Rubin*

October 17, 2009

The Obama Administration apparently thinks that its policy of engaging repressive radical anti-American dictators has been working so well as to extend it now to Sudan. This is the meaning of the new policy to be on this issue October 19.

That country’s government, once accused of genocide in the south, is now said to have been doing the same thing in the west. Mass murder and ferocious repression—300,000 people have been killed; 2.7 million made refugees--has been so prevalent that the country’s president Omar al-Bashir is under an international indictment for war crimes and Sudan is on the State Department list as a country sponsoring terrorism.

Far from being inconvenienced by this fact, however, Sudan has been playing a leading role in the effort to do the same to Israel: that is, wipe it out while simultaneously accusing it of war crimes. Sudan is the current leader of the “non-aligned” group at the UN, the largest bloc of members, and one of the main countries pushing to indict Israel for war crimes.

So to anyone who understands how international affairs works it would appear:

A. That the United States is rewarding Sudan for its behavior.

B. That the United States has already reached an agreement with Sudan that it will act differently at home and in the UN before giving it a big concession.

C. The United States is afraid of Sudan.

None of the above points are true. Therefore, this raises a case study regarding the most important issue of all whose absence from the Obama Administration list of priorities is most noticeable on every issue:

What will the Sudanese government do for the United States? Imagine, in the same week that Khartoum has flouted U.S. interests by pushing the Goldstone report through the UN Human Rights Council, Washington is going to reward it with a renewed relationship.

This sounds familiar:

The U.S. government announced the withdrawal of a plan to put anti-missile missiles in the Czech Republic and Poland on the anniversary of the Russian invasion of Poland at a time when Russia’s leader rejects sanctions on Iran and reaffirms the rationale for annexing much of Poland in 1939.

The U.S. government agreed to engage Iran immediately following the stealing of an election there and the repression of peaceful dissidents.

So we see the same pattern:

--A major concession while receiving nothing in exchange.

--The timing of a concession at a moment when the other side is acting in a particularly aggressive manner.
This is justified, however, by what might well be called the administration’s “cookie” philosophy. This was expressed by retired Major General J. Scott Gration, who has been handling U.S. policy toward Sudan. The former general, who has no previous diplomatic experience—something he has in common with the president—explained, "We've got to think about giving out cookies,’ said Gration. `Kids, countries--they react to gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes, agreements, talk, engagement."

No, that’s not how things work. Reality is better expressed by a Sudanese dissident who said that U.S. rapprochement with the regime will give it confidence to crack down all the harder and, I might add, be more aggressive abroad. That’s precisely, by the way, the effect of the policy on Iran and elsewhere.

So how does the administration guard against such an outcome? It warns that the violence and humanitarian abuses must stop. But a verbal warning from a government eager to renounce toughness and eager to forget all trespasses against U.S. interests is not exactly credible.

You see, the argument is that engagement will make the lives of people in Sudan better and persuade the regime from stopping its sponsorship of terrorism. In principle, this is a reasonable argument but only if three conditions are met:

--Real pressure is applied.

--Concrete, material proof is presented by that country’s behavior before the benefits are provided.

--There is real evidence the regime wants to change its behavior.

All these conditions are lacking regarding Sudan, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, Syria, and every other country the administration is coddling. One can add the Palestinian Authority to the list.

But here’s the problem: If the United States demands that these countries do something, they won’t. This has certain implications:

--U.S. policy toward them will appear to have failed, thus making the administration look bad.

--They will be angry and denounce Obama, thus undercutting his vaunted international popularity.

--The resulting friction might force the United States to engage in tough measures, which could be seen as imperialist bullying.

--Friction could lead to military measures, thus pressing the United States toward having to use force or the threat of force, which would damage the administration’s argument that “soft power” works.

I am not being cynical or joking in providing this list. Such things are the ideas and goals which paralyze the Obama Administration from the kind of policy needed in today’s world.

Equally, there is nothing either conservative or liberal in this analysis. It is the framework by which almost all previous American presidents have conducted foreign polic. If anything, liberals have historically been far more forthright in wanting to pressure repressive dictatorships. Yet here is a presidency supposedly built on compassion whose policy means that Sudan’s people will suffer even more.

The Global Research in Intern

Iranian Negotiations: Ploy of the Week or Deal of the Century?

By Barry Rubin*

October 22, 2009

There are widespread reports about an imminent deal with Iran regarding its nuclear program. Here’s how the New York Times optimistically presents the proposal:

“Iranian negotiators have agreed to a draft deal that would delay the country's ability to build a nuclear weapon for about a year, buying more time for President Obama to search for a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear standoff.”

(To be fair, even this somewhat cautious note may be much less ecstatic than what we'll be hearing if the deal goes through.)

What is the proposed bargain? It is based on an offer the Iranian government made in 2007 and reintroduced last June. In practice, the result would be that Iran enriches unlimited amounts of uranium to a level near that needed for weapons, a large amount of this would be shipped off to France and/or Russia where it would be converted into something useful for medical purposes alone. Thus, it could be said that Iran having nuclear weapons has been either stopped or delayed considerably, though in fact it would only be delayed (if at all) not very long.

If the deal is made—and don’t take for granted it will be as the Iranian regime can think of plenty of delaying tactics, demands for modifications, real or imaginary internal conflicts blocking acceptance, etc.—there will be general rejoicing and the idea of further sanctions will be put on a back shelf to gather dust.

Indeed, it could effectively be argued, that existing sanctions could be removed. This does not seem likely at present--it would require a UN resolution undoing existing sanctions--but such a thing could arise in the future. And of course various countries in Europe could interpret the restrictions more loosely to allow deals that would not have gone through otherwise.

In other words, Iran could go on sponsoring terrorism (in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, against Israel, and in other places) and calling for Israel’s destruction while being treated as a regular member of the international community. It would only be a matter of a week or two before media outlets start writing that this proves President Barack Obama did deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.

Iran is trumpeting the proposed deal as a victory. But that seems rather strange doesn’t it? If this deal is as it appears (and again assuming it happens), then Iran won’t get nuclear weapons, has wasted billions of dollars and years of effort for nothing. In fact, it will be running a huge nuclear program to produce a product which in strategic terms is totally useless.

Or to put it another way, it's like setting up a massive and expensive sword-making industry, then shipping off the completed swords to be turned into ploughshares and pruning hooks when you didn't have any agriculture.

And by the way, since Iran--and its apologists--have been insisting that its real goal was nuclear power plants (as if one of the world's largest oil producers which exports almost all of its production needs that) then why doesn't Iran just agree to some deal in which all the uranium went to fuel such reactors with foreign-enriched fuel and close supervision? Even that would make more sense than this deal.

Does this make sense? There will be many silly reasons for this put forward: Iran was scared by sanctions and a united front against it, or Obama is so popular that they like him or trust him and it proves his strategy works. These ideas are nonsense but one a lot of average people in the West will believe them).

One logical argument that will be advanced is that internal disorder is forcing the regime to take a step back and be more cautious. This is a partial argument but, again, doesn’t explain why there would be such a huge apparent concession from a regime unaccustomed to making them.

So what’s really going on?

First, the whole thing may turn out to be a maneuver for buying time and no agreement is actually made.

Second, the Franco-Russian reworked uranium could be turned back into something suitable for further enrichment into weapons’-grade material in several months.

Third, Iran may well have other secret facilities which are going to be pumping out military useful enriched uranium. We have just seen how well they can conceal these things by the public exposure of such a secret facility. These could easily replace the uranium shipped abroad in a brief period of time.

Fourth, Iranian leaders, knowing that they have some way to go before being technologically ready to build weapons, are happy to accept a seeming delay in providing the uranium which will allow them to catch up with the technological and engineering requirements of making a bomb that works and missiles that will carry it to the target. Indeed, with sanctions loosened, it might get the very techniques and tools it needs to complete this process under the guise of other uses.

Note that the Bushehr nuclear reactor, which was supposed to have begun operation some months ago, has not been started up yet. Is this due to some technical difficulties? The reason certainly doesn't seem to be Iran sending a signal of willingness to compromise since the regime has not used this factor as proof of its flexibility.

If this last argument is true--and it seems to be a reasonable one--then the idea that such a deal would even "slow" Iran's obtaining nuclear weapons wouldn't necessarily be true.

There could also be Iranian deals with other countries—perhaps North Korea or Venezuela, for example—to cooperate in supplying what’s needed. Such a possible arrangement with Syria was destroyed by an Israeli attack on a facility in that country last year.

And speaking of an Israeli attack, this agreement would buy Iran assurance that this couldn't happen no matter what Tehran did since the regime's program would be now under Western protection.

As an Arabic-language expression has it: How do you know it was a lie? Because it was so big.
For example, if Iran was truly going to change course in any real way, there would have been a heated debate within the government of which we would have heard something about.

Or there would have to be a factional dispute or domination by a less extremist group in the ruling circle that argued President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s adventurism was too dangerous to pursue. But all these people have been expelled.

Or it would seem apparent that Iran really was afraid of Western military action or tremendous pressure that would be so great as to force it into a big defeat.

Such cautions seem quite logical. Yet no matter how ridiculous the situation seems if Iran pulls off this ploy it could be a devastatingly successful one.

If you find these articles useful and interesting, please read and subscribe to Barry Rubin's blog, Rubin Reports, at

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Was Earl Krugel A Terrorist?

I read an article recently that said, "Earl Krugel was a terrorist.
As bad as any suicide bomber.
He was willing to kill women and children..."
This is not true.

Earl Krugel would never harm women or children or anyone else, except in defense of someone unable to defend themselves.
Earl Krugel was convicted of planning to place a small explosive device in a mosque and a congressman's office.
According to the FBI it was going to be done at night when no one was present.
It was going to be a message.
"Stop beating up Jewish kids."
Recently some Jewish students had been beaten by Arab youths, and many people felt that the Jewish Community was not being protected.
No one was to be hurt.
No one was hurt.

I knew Earl Krugel, he was a kind man, intelligent and loving, wise and very human.

Earl controlled whatever fear a man would have, being a Jew and plunged, unprotected by the authorities, into one of the world's most brutal penal institutions, and then, with the press buzzing, sent to a prison in Phoenix that was run by the Aryan Nations and other White Power groups.
For two year Earl Krugel survived as a man with his head high in the sordid confines of the Federal Detention Center in L.A.
Once he was shipped to Phoenix, this holding pen for hundreds of Muslims and Nazis, unprotected, his fate was just a matter of time.
He was murdered from behind by a coward.
He was murdered in a way that was unknown to Earl.
Because, you see, Earl Leslie Krugel was indeed a fighter, but he was not a murderer.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

How the West's Enemies Are Saving It

By Barry Rubin*

September 13, 2009

When people are very pessimistic, I say to them: Don’t worry our enemies will save us.

By that I mean that the enemies of peace, progress, and democracy--Islamists and radical Arab nationalists, terrorists and silly people in the West alike--are so intransigent, obviously lying, and dangerously wrong about society that they will convince and force most people to reject and combat them.

Even when thrown lifelines, even when confronted with naiveté, they reject concessions, turn up their nose at compromise, go too far, and make their nonsense so illogical and apparent, as to either teach the naïve in political and intellectual power or persuade others push them aside in order to survive.

Today offers some examples of this idea:

The presidency of Barack Obama and the relatively soft stands of European states have given Iran a great opportunity. Tehran could have made a show of flexibility, a strong pretense about being cooperative, and met with Obama. This would have forestalled a higher level of Western sanctions, while Iran could still work secretly on nuclear weapons.

After all, even after a virtual coup by the most hardline faction, the stolen election, the strong repression, the show trials of dissidents, and the appointment of a wanted terrorist as defense minister [that’s a pretty amazing list, isn’t it?], the West was still willing to deal with the regime.

Instead, Iran produced an “offer” to negotiate so minimal that even the Europeans rejected it. While this doesn’t mean all is well—Russia and China will block and sabotage even moderate sanctions; the West Europeans will oppose really strong ones—at least Iran’s last-minute effort to derail the process altogether will fail.

Imagine what the Iranian regime could have done if the ruling establishment had let someone less extreme than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad get elected, then claimed this showed what a moderate and democratic state they were running. A charm offensive could have defused the nuclear controversy and the sanctions would have fallen away. Iran would have been set loose and a few years from now could have finished its nuclear program in a relaxed manner.

But no!

Turn to Lebanon. The Syrians were riding high. A new government was going to be set up in Lebanon with their clients have both thirty percent of the cabinet seats and veto power over all government policies. But when the March 14 coalition, which won the recent elections, presented its own list of ministers, the Syrians and their Hizballah allies rejected it: not subservient enough. March 14, which has been giving ground steadily, was pushed so hard that it dug in its heels and rejected the Syrian demands. The negotiations will now have to start all over again.

Syria could have gotten back around 80 percent of its former total power over Lebanon in one day, but that wasn’t enough for Damascus.

The same applies to U.S. attempts to engage Syria. The Obama Administration was eager for progress, but the Bashar al-Assad dictatorship would even give an inch to gain a yard. The talks have been frustrating for Washington. The Syrians weren’t willing even to deescalate the terrorism in Iraq for a while.

Syria could have gotten out from under U.S. sanctions, reestablished normal relations with Washington, and have the Obama Administration turn a blind eye to its sponsorship of terrorism and subversion throughout the region.

But no!

The same applies to Hamas. It tried a little to pretend to moderate and already Western suckers were swallowing the bait, but it couldn’t—and wouldn’t –sustain the pretense very long. It couldn’t resist going back to its super-hardline statements and actions.

But the Palestinian Authority (PA) offers an even clearer example. Imagine how much it could have obtained if it played along with the U.S. president’s eagerness to help. A show of flexibility, an eagerness to negotiate, and an effort to get a Palestinian state on something approaching reasonable terms real fast probably would have brought success.

Atmost, there could have been a Palestinian state within 18 months on pretty favorable terms for the Palestinians. Or should one say, at most the PA could easily—and I mean easily—engineered a U.S.-Israel conflict unseen in the history of the Jewish state. But from the start PA leader Mahmoud Abbas made it clear that he was asking for everything and giving nothing. His best chance is already past.

And similar things can be said about various Arab countries regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict specifically and also getting in good with the president.generally. They could have rushed to make minor, meaingless gestures toward Israel in exchange for U.S. support on their broader demands.

Can I have a “But no!”?

One more, historic example: Remember Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein? In late 1990 or early 1991 he could have cut a very favorable deal which would have left his country with part of Kuwait, billions of dollars, and the Saudis trembling at his every command. Instead, he refused any deal, kept his army in Kuwait, and suffered a military defeat.

He did the same in the 2000-2003 period when he could have made some kind of bargain for stopping his nuclear program in exchange for all sorts of concessions. Instead, he did the opposite: he pretended to keep up the program even when he cut it back.

It is very important to understand why this kind of thing happens repeatedly and, though ultimately disastrous for Saddam, usually works out pretty well for the dictators or the leaders of powerful opposition movements.

First, all these forces really are radical and extremist. They don’t want a deal; they want total victory, all the disputed land, total rule, complete dictatorship, the expulsion or extinction of their adversaries. And they can also rightly argue: these methods got me this far.

Second, they really believe their own propaganda. They think they can win and assume that those on the other side—whether Israel, the West, or other regimes they want to overthrow-- are weak and doomed. And, in turn, their enemies give them enough signals to this effect to make them continue to believe this is true.

Third, they are wedded to brutal methods. Terrorism is no accident; it is the tool of people who exult in deliberate violence against civilians. And in such political groups the gunmen and their values rise to the top.

Fourth, they are afraid of internal rivals and their own followers. They know that the people have been so conditioned by extremism as to reject moderates as traitors. This is obviously less true in Iranian but more true in Palestinian politics.

But the other part of this factor is even if a given leader, say from Hamas, wanted to follow a more moderate policy he knows that this would be used against him by rival leaders to destroy his power and maybe even kill him. They must continue to ride the tiger or be eaten. And the fact that they helped give birth to the tiger in the first place won’t save them.

Finally, this is the region’s political style, which to some extent mirrors Western history. Toughness counts; fear is better than popularity.

Many Western leaders and much of the Western intelligentsia are like someone sleeping through a burglary. But not only their friends are trying to wake them up, so are—however inadvertently—their enemies.

*Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books, go to

Monday, September 21, 2009

Breziznski Calls For Attack On Israel By U.S.

Ex-President Jimmy Carter's friend and former Naional Security Advisor called on U.S. forces to fire upon Israeli planes if they fly through Iraq airspace to destroy Iranian Nuclear facitlities.
Brezinski is an idiot.

By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

Zbigniew Brzezinski has called on the president to shoot down Israeli planes if they attack Iran. “They have to fly over our airspace in Iraq. Are we just going to sit there and watch?” said the former national security advisor to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in an interview with the Daily Beast. Brzezinski, who served in the Carter administration from 1977 to 1981, is currently a professor of American foreign policy at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies in Maryland.

“We have to be serious about denying them that right,” he said. “If they fly over, you go up and confront them. They have the choice of turning back or not. No one wishes for this but it could be a 'Liberty' in reverse.’" Israel mistakenly attacked the American Liberty ship during the Six-Day War in 1967.

Brzezinski was a top candidate to become an official advisor to President Obama, but he was downgraded after Republican and pro-Israel Democratic charges during the campaign that Brzezinski’s anti-Israel attitude would damage Obama at the polls.

President Obama’s advisors have emphasized that the former national security advisor is not playing any unofficial role as advisor to the White House.

His enthusiasm for President Obama has waned in the past several months. He recently told a London-based newspaper that the United States may be "sliding into a deeper conflict with various segments of the world of Islam ” because of the president’s failure to carry out his promises to the Muslim world.

Brzezinski said the Obama administration is "diddling around" in trying to reach an “evasive compromise” between Israel and the Arab world.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Muslims Murdering Women for Honor

In July 2008, a Pakistani man living near Atlanta was charged with beating his 25-year-old daughter to death for declining to go along with an arranged marriage to a cousin twice her age.

In Irving, Texas, on New Year's Day 2008, Amina Said, 18, and her sister Sarah, 17, were shot to death by their father for having unsanctioned boyfriends.

In Canada, where hate speech laws are strangling public discussion of any unpleasant aspects of militant Islam, certain segments of the growing Muslim population are applying Sharia law to wayward females. About a dozen cases have arisen, according to Amin Muhammad, a professor at Memorial University in Newfoundland. A much-cited 2001 stat from the United Nations Population Fund estimates the worldwide number of "honor killings" at 5,000 annually.

In Kingston, Ontario, the Shafia sisters — Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, — were found dead in a submerged car on June 30, 2009, with their father's first wife, Rona Mohammed, 50. The sisters' parents and 18-year-old brother have been charged with four counts of first-degree murder in what police suspect is an honor killing.

In May, an Ottawa jury convicted an Indian native born to Afghan parents of gunning down his 20-year-old sister and her fiancé in 2006 because the couple had moved in together before their wedding.

On Dec. 10, 2007, Aqsa Parvez, a 16-year-old Ontario girl who fought with her parents over not wearing a hajib, was stabbed to death by her father in an honor killing while her mother held her down.

In St. John's, Newfoundland, a 14-year-old girl who had been a rape victim was strangled in 2004 by her father and brother in order to restore the family's honor.

In England, which is struggling with an aggressive Muslim minority demanding that the British legal system incorporates Sharia, a father and uncle were convicted on July 29, 2007 of arranging the torture, rape and murder of a 20-year-old Kurdish immigrant woman who had walked out of a marriage arranged when she was 17 and had fallen in love with another man.

The killings are hauntingly similar to events taking place in largely Muslim countries.

The Jordan Times reports that a man in Amman was charged on August 11 with shooting his niece, a rape victim, nine times. The 16-year-old girl had been raped by two relatives and had given birth to a child. Although the girl's father had taken her to the hospital and supported her, the uncle killed his niece "to cleanse his family's honor," a source told the paper.

In Pakistan, an attorney shocked lawmakers a year ago by defending the honor killing of five women who were beaten, shot and then buried alive because some of them wanted to choose which man to marry.

"These are centuries-old traditions and I will continue to defend them," Israr Ullah Zehri, who represents Baluchistan province, said to Pakistan's parliament, according to the AP. "Only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid."

Got that? Burying women alive is not immoral. To be fair, Zehri caught flak from some of the other Muslim parliamentarians that day. Numerous Muslim authorities have said that the Koran does not justify "honor killings." But the killings continue. As does Islamic-inspired terrorism.

Over in Gaza, which is now being governed by the terrorist group Hamas, a divorced Palestinian mother of five was beaten to death on July 23 with an iron chain by her father after he discovered her talking on the phone with a man.

Irv Rubin and Earl Krugel