Archive for the ‘Iran / Israel War’ category

Ahmadinejad: Obama made a big mistake

June 12, 2010

Ahmadinejad: Obama made a big mistake.

SHANGHAI — US President Barack Obama made a “big mistake” in seeking to punish Iran  over its nuclear program, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Friday, slamming Washington but glossing over China’s decision to back new UN Security Council sanctions.

Ahmadinejad, visiting China’s financial hub to tour the Shanghai World Expo, said the latest United Nations resolution, approved Wednesday, was “a worthless piece of paper” and would have little impact.

The effect, if any, he told reporters at a news conference at the Expo, would be to accelerate Iran’s own development.

“The US president thinks by accusing the nation of Iran he can undermine the role of our country in the world. I think President Obama has made a big mistake,” Ahmadinejad said, accusing the US of hypocrisy for leading the drive to censure his country.

Obama “came to power by the motto of change. He said he would abandon the bullying of the former administration. Now he is marching on the same path as Bush did,” Ahmadinejad said.

Iranian president glosses over Chinese about-face

Ahmadinejad’s visit comes two days after host China yielded to international pressure to back a fourth round of nuclear sanctions targeting Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, ballistic missiles and nuclear-related investments in a bid to compel Teheran to cooperate with international inspectors.

As an ally of Iran and permanent member of the Security Council, China could have exercised its veto power to block the sanctions. China’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday that its support should not block efforts to coax Iran back into negotiations.

But Ahmadinejad said such talks could happen only in a “friendly atmosphere.”

“Having dialogue under a hostile atmosphere has no meaning,” he said.

Ahmadinejad skipped Thursday’s summit in Uzbekistan of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which was attended by Chinese President Hu Jintao and was not scheduled to meet Chinese leaders while in China.

But the Iranian leader deflected suggestions that China’s about-face on the sanctions issue might drive a rift between the two countries.

Beijing was apparently satisfied that the sanctions would not harm its economic ties with Iran, with whom bilateral trade reached at least $36.5 billion last year. China relies on Iran for 11 percent of its energy needs and Chinese companies have major investments in Iranian energy extraction projects and the construction of roads, bridges and power plants.

“We have very good relations with China and we have no reason to weaken our relations with China,” Ahmadinejad said. “We are confronting the United States. The main problem is the US administration. We have no problem with others.”

‘The Zionist regime is doomed, Obama does not know the world well’

He accused the US and other nuclear powers of intimidating other Security Council members into siding against Iran, and lashed out at the West for supporting Israel.

“The Zionist regime is doomed,” said Ahmadinejad, who has repeatedly called for Israel’s destruction and denied the Holocaust.

The Iranian leader insisted that efforts to stop his country from enriching uranium were unjustified and aimed at preventing it and other developing countries from acquiring needed nuclear power technology.

“The nuclear issue is just a pretext. The government of the US is going to swallow the entire Middle East region. Under that context, they are going to control the whole world,” he said. “I should say Iran will never allow the United States to do so.”

“Even if they tear out our throats, it will not happen,” he said.

Ahmadinejad returned repeatedly to the issue of Obama’s role in the sanctions issue, saying the move was an insult.

“I think Mr. Obama does not know the world very well,” he said. “We will never be shaken by people like President Obama.”

Ahmadinejad: Obama must seize ‘historic opportunity’ for improved Iran cooperation

May 26, 2010

Ahmadinejad: Obama must seize ‘historic opportunity’ for improved Iran cooperation – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News.

Iran President urges U.S. to accept nuclear swap deal, warns that if Obama reaches point of no return, his ‘path to friendship with Iran will be blocked forever.’

By The Associated Press

Iran’s president on Wednesday urged U.S. President Barack Obama to accept a nuclear fuel swap deal, warning the U.S. leader will miss a historic opportunity for improved cooperation from Tehran if the offer is rejected.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waving to the media in  Tehran Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
waving to the media in Tehran on May 18, 2010.
Photo by: AP

Mahmoud Ahamdinejad also issued a stern warning to Russia, saying Moscow’s support for the U.S.-led push for a new round of United Nations sanctions against Iran was contrary to the two countries’ neighborly and friendly relations.

Washington has denounced the Iranian offer – brokered last week by Brazil and Turkey – as a ploy by Tehran to avoid a new round of UN sanctions over its controversial nuclear program, which the West fears is geared toward nuclear weapons.

“There are people in the world who want to pit Mr. Obama against the Iranian nation and bring him to the point of no return, where the path to his friendship with Iran will be blocked forever,” Ahmadinejad said during a rally in the southern town of Kerman.

Iran proposed last week to ship much of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey in return for nuclear fuel rods needed for a Tehran medical research reactor. The fuel swap would diminish Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium that can possibly be used in making atomic bombs, if the uranium is enriched to a higher, weapons-grade level.

But the proposal did not deter U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France – the five permanent Security Council members – from agreeing on a draft fourth set of sanctions against Iran for refusing to completely halt uranium enrichment, as demanded by the United Nations.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday said in the Chinese capital Beijing, that Tehran’s offer, submitted on Monday to the UN’s nuclear watchdog, was inadequate and did not address international concerns about Iran’s atomic ambitions.

Tehran’s offer is similar to a UN-drafted plan that Washington and its allies last year pressed Iran to accept, but which the Mideast nation rejected at the time.

“If they [U.S. and its allies] are truthful when they say they seek cooperation … they should accept this offer,” Ahmadinejad said. But if they seek excuses, they should know that the path to any interaction will be closed.

“Mr. Obama must know that this proposal is a historic opportunity … [Obama should] know that if this opportunity is lost, I doubt the Iranian nation will give a new chance to this gentleman in the future,” he added.

Ahmadinejad also singled out Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, saying the neighboring country’s leader had caved in to U.S. pressure for new sanctions on Tehran.

“Justifying the behavior of Mr. Medvedev today has become very difficult,” he said. “The Iranian nation doesn’t know whether [Russians] ultimately are friends, whether they stand by us or are after other things. This is not acceptable.”

The unusually harsh words for Russia reflect a strain in Tehran’s relations with Moscow, a longtime trade partner of Iran with more leverage over it than Western nations. Ahmadinejad said Moscow had no excuse for giving in to U.S. pressure, and urged Medvedev to change his stance.

“I hope Russian leaders and officials pay attention to these sincere words and correct themselves, and not let the Iranian nation consider them among its enemies,” he said.

Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful, and that uranium enrichment is meant exclusively for power generation. Tehran needs the fuel rods to power the research reactor, which also produces medical isotopes to treat cancer patients.

Ahmadinejad warned the reactor is running out of fuel, and stressed that the International Atomic Energy Agency has a responsibility to supply nuclear fuel needed by member countries.

IAF Targets Terror Tunnels in Southern and Northern Gaza Strip

May 21, 2010

IAF Targets Terror Tunnels in Southern and Northern Gaza Strip.

21 May 2010 , 10:26

Approximately 50 rockets have landed in Israeli territory since the beginning of 2010. photo:

In a joint IDF- ISA activity, The Israel Air Force struck two terror tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip and one terror tunnel in the northern Gaza Strip overnight. The tunnels were dug one kilometer from the security fence and were intended for infiltrating into Israel and executing terror attacks against Israeli civilians or IDF soldiers. Direct hits were identified.

The attack is in response to the two rockets that hit Israeli territory in the past two days, landing in the Eshkol Regional Council and the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council.

Approximately 50 rockets have landed in Israeli territory since the beginning of 2010, and over 330 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel since the end of operation Cast Lead. .

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White House Mends Fences with Israel

May 21, 2010

DEBKA.

Midterm Elections and Cold War Reinstate Israel as Key Player
C-130 “Hercules”

US President Barack Obama plans to dramatize his new appreciation of Israel as America’s long-trusted friend and strategic ally for the benefit of the American-Jewish and Israeli public.
One possible action, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources in Washington, is a second visit to Jerusalem by Vice President Joe Biden as a gesture of goodwill toward Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in sharp contrast to his disastrous visit in March, when Israel’s announcement of a construction project in East Jerusalem was used to inflame a deep crisis in relations.
Biden will be taxed with explaining that such incidents as the insulting reception afforded the Israeli prime minister on his White House visit on April 23 were a thing of the past and the administration was intent on putting relations back on track, with emphasis on the president’s unshakable commitment to Israel’s security.
Certain important gestures have already been forthcoming from Washington, although they received far less media play than the crisis.
In the first week of April, Obama ordered the Pentagon to release C-130J air transports to Israel. He had previously embargoed these aircraft because they could be used to drop Israel commando forces inside Iran in case of a decision to attack its nuclear facilities. The President had $98.6 million transferred to Lockheed Martin to pay for the delivery of the first nine transports.

Smart bombs for Israel and pursuit of American-Jewish leaders

On May 9, the President released a shipment to the Israeli Air Force of various types of smart bombs – most of them effective against the fortified locations and the weapons systems used by the Lebanese Hizballah, the Palestinian Hamas in Gaza and the Syrian army. The consignment also included Laser-Guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions system, called LJDAM, which was developed jointly by the US Boeing company Israel’s Elbit for improving the accuracy of bombs fired from a maximum distance of 28 kilometers in all weathers.
On May 20, US Congress overwhelming endorsed President Obama’s request for $205 million to help Israel build the new rocket defense system “Iron Dome.
Thursday, May 13, top White House aides, led by the President’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Senior Advisor to the President on Iranian Affairs Dennis Ross, and NSC Middle East desk chief Dan Shapiro (whose brief includes Israel), addressed a delegation of 15 leading American rabbis.
Rahm admitted the administration had “screwed up the messaging” to Israel and said “it will take more than one month to make up for 14 months.”
The White House fielded its top officials to show American-Jewish community leaders that the president was wholehearted in revising his attitude toward Israel and this group had been entrusted with following through on his directives.
Tuesday, May 18, Jewish Democratic members of the House and Senate were invited to a private meeting with President Obama and heard him admit he got “some toes blown off” making missteps in sensitive US-Israel relations. The lawmakers praised the administration’s effort to put forward tough sanctions against Iran and put to rest White House recriminations against Israel.
“It was a good meeting, but it was not a feel-good meeting – everyone spoke their minds and from the heart,” said Eliot Engel (D-Bronx & Westchester). “The President wants to see peace. We all want to see peace as well.”
The unprecedented 90-minute meeting took place in the Eisenhower Old Executive Office Building.

Stop badgering Israel, make Palestinians pull their weight

Between the two meetings with American Jewish leaders, senior administration emissaries were dispatched to Israel with orders to secretly meet Israel figures seen by Washington as influential and convey three messages:
1. President Obama was burying the hatchet with Israel – less to get out the Jewish vote and boost his Democrats’ hopes for Nov. 2 midterm elections, and more out of new strategic needs arising from the outbreak of a virtual Cold War between Washington and Moscow.
Middle East envoy George Mitchell had been instructed by the president in person to refrain from pressuring Israel to be the only side constantly badgered for concessions in the proximity talks with the Palestinians. He was told to accept Israel’s limits and starting leaning hard on the Palestinians to make them pull their weight too.
2. The President’s messengers reported that he had come to understand that as long as there was no one he could count on in the Arab world, the US and Israel must work together on ways to counteract the Iranian-Turkish-Syrian bloc and its input from Moscow.
Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak is too busy transferring the reins of government to his son Gemal Mubarak to be called on, while Saudi Arabia’s loss of Lebanon and Hamas to the Syrian-Iranian orbit has made its king indifferent to outside events.
Moscow was capitalizing on is reputation for cooperating with Washington, but the White House knew this was an act to cover up its return to Cold War tactics against the United States.
Without saying so explicitly, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources report that the American officials implied that the Obama administration would soon turn to Israel to talk about resuming the intelligence partnership which was so fruitful in the Cold War years of the 1960s and 1970s.
For the moment, Prime Minister Netanyahu is taking Obama’s gestures of friendship with great caution and refraining from referring publicly to the new face the White House appears to be presenting to Jerusalem. He is waiting to see what steps come next and, above all, keeping an open mind until after the November 2 elections before deciding on his response.

Handling Tehran’s Brazil-Brokered Fait Accompli

May 21, 2010

DEBKA.

It May Not Be All Bad, Say Obama’s People
Susan Rice

The coup pulled off in Tehran by Brazil and Turkey with Russian backing was contrived too deftly for US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice to unravel – even by lightning diplomatic sleight of hand.
To rescue the administration’s Iran policy from total collapse, the two worked at top speed to cobble together a sanctions motion feeble enough to command a broad front and have it tabled at the UN Security Council on Tuesday, May 18 – a bare 24 hours after Brazilian and Turkish leaders had Iran sign a 10-point commitment to deposit less than half of its low-grade enriched uranium in Turkey in exchange for fuel rods.
To gain Russian and Chinese endorsement, the draft’s content was heavily watered down with hardly any new measures proposed. This process finally cut short Washington’s serpentine efforts to get Moscow and Beijing to collaborate on tough sanctions for halting Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear bomb. So, to keep the vestigial draft motion moving along the rutted path up to Security Council approval, there will have to be more chops and changes.
All the same, the week’s debacles over Iran prompted a new, hopeful line of thinking in Washington. Administration officials told DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Washington sources the cloud may have a silver lining, after all. They argued that, in the end, Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva “Lula” and Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan undeniably managed to extract three concessions which Iran denied in former rounds of talks with the Six-Power bloc of the US, Russia, China, France, the UK and Germany.

Obama officials see a silver lining

1. After endless haggling, Iran has agreed to ship a total of 1,200 kilograms of its lightly enriched uranium overseas for further enrichment.
2. It has also consented to shipping the entire quantity all in one batch abroad, after long insisting on dribs and drabs. Washington’s main consideration was and is that it is safe to leave Iran with enough enriched uranium for building one or two bombs because it was sure Tehran would not cross that threshold until it had enough weapons-grade uranium in hand for assembling an arsenal of 10 to 12 warheads.
3. Tehran had always objected to the enriched uranium swap taking place outside Iran. Now, Turkey was accepted as a clearing house for the exchange.
Those sources go on to argue that if Tehran could be prevailed upon to give way on those three points, why not go for more? More concessions might be going with the right kind of pressure – not necessarily from the United States. US officials accordingly drafted a set of demands which they believe are worth presenting to Tehran in the hope of a substantial reward. If they are met, then a US-Iranian nuclear showdown might be delayed by a year – or even two – and the risk averted of an Israeli military attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.

The three concessions as building blocks for more

These are the new demands:
A. Iran must abandon its announced intention of continuing to enrich uranium at home from a low 3.5 percent to 19.5 percent grade. Since the Iranian-Turkish-Brazilian agreement allows for overseas processing to 19.5 percent, Iran has nothing to lose by halting the centrifuges spinning at its plants since February. According to our Iranian sources, some 300 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20- percent are already in stock.
B. If Iran complies with A., Washington will guarantee a regular supply of fuel rods for the light water reactor at Bushehr which the Russians have promised to have up and running by late summer. This would entail the US withdrawing its strong objections to Russia finishing the reactor, while at the same time internationalizing the supply of fuel rods and taking it out of Moscow’s hands.
C. Iran’s consent to the reprocessing of low-grade enriched uranium outside its borders must be extended to further quantities. Since negotiations began last year, the 1,200 kilos of low-enriched uranium to be exported – then three-quarters of Iran’s total stock – has almost doubled.
The Americans will ask Tehran to split future amounts into batches of predetermined size for overseas upgrading to 19.5 percent, and insist that the reprocessing take place in Russia, France or Holland, the only countries with the technology for making the product unusable for military purposes.
In this way, Iran would never accumulate enough of this product for further enrichment to weapons-grade.
D. Iran must fully comply with the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency’s demand to open up more nuclear facilities to monitors and admit more inspectors to its suspected military projects.
E. Iran must give part with answers to long years of IAEA queries about the military aspects of its nuclear industry.
Who will put these demands to Iran? Its Brazilian or Turkish chums? Or why not let the IAEA take this starring role in future nuclear diplomacy and recover some of its lost relevance? But first, the Obama administration needs to find out if there are any real grounds for its sudden upbeat mood after a lousy week – in other words, will Tehran play along and meet those five demands?
The answer is brutally clear: Not a chance, say DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Iranian sources. Tehran will never negotiate on – or lay to rest – any queries about the military nature of its nuclear program.
Transparency there is not an option.

Moscow Takes a Swipe at US in Middle East

May 21, 2010

DEBKA.

Friday, May 14: The Day Cold War II Was Launched

Barack Obama

The White House blandly depicted the telephone conversation between Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday, May 13, as producing agreement to step up moves for new sanctions against Iran over its suspect nuclear program. In their wide-ranging exchange, they were said to have noted “good progress and “agreed to instruct their negotiators to intensify their efforts to reach a conclusion as soon as possible.”
While the Iranian issue was certainly broached, Obama and Medvedev’s conversation was far from bland and its wide range covered a minefield.
A high-placed Washington source told DEBKA-Net-Weekly that Obama took Medvedev to task and told him he must rein in Syrian President Bashar Assad to save the Middle East from an imminent full-scale war.
The US president was prompted by an intelligence update reaching him shortly before the phone call, in which the watchers tracking the flow of smuggled Syrian weapons into Lebanon had spotted Scud missiles moving across the Syrian-Lebanese border into Hizballah hands – in defiance of ominous US and Israeli warnings.
Damascus had been tipped off by Moscow that America and Israel would take no action, provided the transfers went forward slowly and only a few at a time.
Yet Medvedev, who had just returned from Damascus, promised to comply with Obama’s request.

What promises? Moscow is grinding its own axe

But instead, Moscow delivered a shocker. Just a few hours later, Friday morning, May 14. Mikhail Dmitriyev, head of Russia’s Federal Agency for Military Cooperation, announced the sale to Syria of MiG-29 fighter jets, Pantsyr short-range air defense systems and armored vehicles.
He did not say exactly when the transaction was signed, suggesting only that it was finalized during Medvedev’s visit to Damascus the week before.
President Obama and his senior advisors were forced to acknowledge finally that Moscow’s sole motive now was to grind its own axe, just for starters in Iran and Syria. (See DEBKA-Net-Weekly reporting in this issue and on May 14: Russia Tries to Push US aside on Iran).
Washington would therefore be well advised to discount Russian leaders’ promises, including support for tough sanctions against Iran. And rather than curbing Assad, the Kremlin was acting to boost him with a fresh injection of arms and backing for his anti-American tactics.
The negative messages from Moscow coincided with a White House re-evaluation of the president’s “grand bargain” policy which made a point of treating Moscow as nuclear friend and partner and a willingness to revive the civilian nuclear cooperation agreement shelved two years ago by his predecessor George W. Bush to protest Russia’s conflict with Georgia.
White House analysts came up with a grimly unequivocal diagnosis, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Washington sources disclose: The president’s year-old policy of fair cooperation with Russia was counter-productive – if not downright damaging.

Clobbering the US with its own diplomatic initiatives

Moscow was found to be using the Obama administration’s diplomatic initiatives as hammers to clobber US interests in the Middle East as well as the Caspian and Central Asian countries. Its activities for disrupting those interests in such places as Syria and Iran were described as comparable in intensity to the Cold War campaigns of the Soviet era in the 1970s.
In Iran, for instance, Moscow had cynically exploited the US president’s quest for succor and support for harsh UN sanctions against Iran as a tool for rendering those sanctions toothless and of no use for curbing Iran’s drive for a nuclear weapon.
The Russian president was caught putting on a big show to disguise his complicity in the maneuver hatched by Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva “Lula” and Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan which produced the deal Monday, May 18, for Iran to send some enriched uranium to Turkey in return for fuel rods for “medical research.”
The show began when Medvedev told Lula who had stopped over in Moscow on his way to Tehran, “The president of Brazil is an optimist, so I’ll be an optimist, too. I give him 30 percent chance of success.”
From the start, this deal was a secret conspiracy hatched with Iran behind America’s back during the Russian president’s visit to Damascus, whereby Brazil and Turkey would clinch a deal for de-activating the US drive for tough sanctions capable of stalling Tehran’s progress towards its nuclear objectives.
One high-ranking US official commented: “The beauty of the stunt is that the Russians didn’t leave any detectable fingerprints, even though they pushed for it as hard as they could.”

Moscow quietly shapes a new anti-American world bloc

While holding back S-300 interceptor missiles for warding off potential US or Israel strikes against Iran’s nuclear sites – as Putin personally promised Washington – Russia has resumed training of Iranian teams in their operation. (See HOT POINTS of May 19, below).
Russia’s drive for influence and gain goes well beyond diplomacy, according to the new White House assessment. While in Damascus and Ankara, Medvedev also dealt with Russia’s push to expand its control of the oil and gas pipelines from Iran and the Central Asian countries to Europe in a takeover of American holdings.
Last November, the Russian pipeline builder OAO Stroytransgaz completed the first part of the Syrian section of a gas pipeline from Egypt across Jordan with a branch running into Turkey.
Shortly before his visit to Syria, the Russian president told the Syrian newspaper Al Watan in an interview that Russian firms were also interested in participating in the construction of an oil refinery in the northern Syrian city Deir Ez-Zor, and also in reconstructing an oil pipeline from the Kirkuk oil field in northern Iraq to the Syrian port of Banias.
In other words, Moscow is getting ready to assume a controlling share in the huge Iraqi oil export industry as soon as American forces pull out of the country.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources in Washington, Obama’s analysts have picked up on Russia’s grand design to foster a new grouping of Middle East and South American nations, such as Brazil, Turkey, Iran and Syria, with Iraq eventually attached – or rather swallowed up.

Nuclear proliferation, terror sponsorship are no object

In contrast to the non-aligned bloc of the old Cold War days, this one has rich economic potential, gathering in two of the world’s biggest oil exporters, Iran and Iraq, and cultivating their dependence on Russia’s technological, nuclear and military capabilities.
This new alignment of world nations would be pro-Russian and anti-American in character.
In pursuit of this goal, Russia is not only prepared to let Syria have sophisticated weapons. Medvedev also promised Assad a nuclear reactor, despite its record of non-cooperation with the nuclear watchdog, and signed deals for building $24 billion dollars-worth of nuclear plants in Turkey too.
Russia’s partnership with America for containing nuclear proliferation is therefore one more show as Moscow lets Iran get away with triggering a Middle East nuclear arms race and helping it spread like fungus into southern Europe and Central Asia.
Sponsorship of jihadi terrorism is no bar to its plans, as the Russian president demonstrated by acceding to the Syrian president’s request for a meeting with the Palestinian Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Damascus.
That marked the end of cooperation with America in combating global terror.
This week, administration leaders are quoted by our sources in Washington as commenting with glum resignation that they see no way at this juncture of averting the emergence of a new Cold War between the United States and Russia under the incumbent governments.
“The die is cast,” said one very senior US official. “Although we can’t say so in public, all our policies and efforts must now be ruled by the ongoing battle of interests between Washington and Moscow.

White House official calls terrorist group “a very interesting organization”  


May 21, 2010

White House official calls terrorist group “a very interesting organization” .

Hizballah. One of the world’s bloodiest, most-notorious terrorist organizations

By Lt. Col. W. Thomas Smith Jr. Thursday, May 20, 2010

The downward spiral toward coffee and pastries between the White House and one of the world’s bloodiest, most-notorious terrorist organizations continues. And based on a Tuesday report in Reuters, this spiral may be tightening into an irrecoverable flat spin.

According to the report, “The Obama administration is looking for ways to build up ‘moderate elements’ within the Lebanese Hizballah guerrilla movement and to diminish the influence of hard-liners, a top White House official said on Tuesday.”

But wait; the soft-soaping gets worse.

The article goes on to say – and this is frankly hard to believe – that John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, told a Washington conference, “Hizballah is a very interesting organization,” and apparently defended his comment by “citing its evolution from ‘purely a terrorist organization’ to a militia to an organization that now has members within the parliament and the cabinet.”

Brennan adds, “There is certainly the elements of Hizballah that are truly a concern to us what they’re doing.”

Oh really?

“And what we need to do is to find ways to diminish their influence within the organization and to try to build up the more moderate elements,” Brennan adds.

Within hours of the report, I was receiving emails from those both directly and indirectly associated with the U.S. intelligence community expressing shock and disbelief.

Then Wednesday, Mr. John Hajjar, the U.S. director for the World Council of the Cedars Revolution (Lebanon’s largest worldwide pro-democracy movement) issued a statement on behalf of the WCCR, a portion of which reads,

“Brennan is wrong and his statements are confusing the American public. We haven’t seen any statement or document by Hizballah members who call for moderation. We haven’t seen so-called moderates calling for disarming the militia. Mr. Brennan said Hizballah has members in the Lebanese parliament. Although true, Mr. Brennan draws the wrong conclusion as this means that the terrorist organization has used its weapons and money to penetrate the Lebanese legislature and not the other way around.

“We in the WCCR ask Mr. Brennan to give the U.S. public and Lebanese Americans one example of a moderate official inside Hizballah. He can’t because there are none. This is an organization that tolerates absolutely no dissent or nuanced views. It executes the orders of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Mr. Brennan’s statements about Hizballah’s ‘moderates’ are an insult and an affront to the Lebanese who were assassinated by the terror organization, to the U.S. citizens and military personnel who were killed by the Iranian funded group and to the Lebanese American community that has been working hard on exposing terror inside Lebanon and on implementing UNSCR 1559 and 1701.”

Hajjar then called on Brennan to either apologize for the “insult” or resign.

“Two million Lebanese Americans won’t stand by idle as a U.S. official is disfiguring the truth in Lebanon,” Hajjar adds.

Disfiguring truth indeed.

Let’s not forget, Hizballah – which former U.S. Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff says, “makes al Qaeda look like a minor league team” – is perhaps the most dangerous terrorist army (let’s not mince words here) on the planet. The group is heavily funded by Iran, and operationally supported by Iran and Syria. It has a capable military wing in Lebanon where it maintains huge stockpiles of military grade weapons – staged throughout the country which have never been adequately challenged (in violation of both United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701).

Hizballah has operational cells worldwide, including here in the U.S. It has a media / propaganda arm that is second to none. Its military wing is stronger – and frankly has more political leverage – than the Lebanese army and police (both of which have been heavily infiltrated by Hizballah). And if Hizballah doesn’t get what it wants from the so-called democratically elected government of Lebanon, the terrorist group and its allies will attack the Lebanese people as they did in May 2008 with impunity.

Hizballah’s leader, Sec. Gen. Hassan Nasrallah, says “Our motto which we are not afraid to repeat year after year is ‘Death to America.’”

Yet officials within the current administration view Hizballah as “a very interesting organization” and publicly admit there may be members worthy of befriending? Perhaps the blood on the hands of Brennan’s so-called moderates is not as much as others. I suppose a “moderate” amount of blood is acceptable.

Pentagon Plan to Beef Up Afghan Base Near Iran May Rile Regime

May 21, 2010

Pentagon Plan to Beef Up Afghan Base Near Iran May Rile Regime – BusinessWeek.

By Tony Capaccio

May 21 (Bloomberg) — A U.S. plan to upgrade its airbase in southwestern Afghanistan just 20 miles from Iran’s border will likely rile the Islamic regime, bolstering suspicions the West is trying to pressure it with military might, analysts say.

The Defense Department is requesting $131 million in its fiscal year 2011 budget to upgrade Shindand Air Base so it can accommodate more commando helicopters, drone surveillance aircraft, fuel and munitions.

Plans to expand the base come as the U.S. works to strengthen the militaries and missile defenses of allies in the region and presses at the United Nations for a new round of sanctions aimed at forcing Iran to curb its nuclear program.

U.S. military officials say the base is only to support U.S. and Afghan military operations in Afghanistan. Iran will likely view the Shindand buildup as another step to squeeze it, said Kenneth Pollack, director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

“Whatever U.S. intentions, the Iranian regime will see it as a threat — as another American effort to surround Iran with U.S. military forces,” Pollack said in an interview.

“The Iranians are almost certainly going to assume that a beefed-up intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance presence is really about spying on them,” he said.

Andrew Krepinevich, president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, shares that view.

“The positioning of the base gives us the opportunity to monitor any efforts by Iran to serve as a sanctuary for anti- government Taliban and allied forces, and to support operations in Iran itself if that were to become necessary,” he said.

Sanctions

The Pentagon planning for Shindand comes as the U.S. is helping to strengthen missile defense systems in Israel and allied nations in the Persian Gulf.

The U.S. Navy is coordinating its ship-borne Aegis missile defense with Israel’s land-based systems, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other top U.S. military officials have encouraged Persian Gulf nations to strengthen and coordinate their individual defenses.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also are upgrading their air, ground and naval forces, spurred by Iran’s military buildup.

The United Arab Emirates has spent $18 billion since 2008 on U.S.-supplied training, munitions and equipment such as the Patriot missile defense built by Lockheed Martin Corp.

Fighter Jets, Missiles

Saudi Arabia has bought 72 Eurofighter Typhoon jets and is in negotiations to buy 24 more. The nation also has bought Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, laser-guided equipment to enhance the accuracy of its air-to-ground missiles, Black Hawk helicopters and U.S. kits to upgrade Apache helicopters and armored personnel carriers.

“We have worked hard in the region to build a network of shared early warning, of ballistic missile defense and of other security relationships,” General David Petraeus, the U.S. military commander in the Middle East and Central Asia, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 16.

Strengthening Gulf partners is important because containing Iran “will be a challenge as long as Iran’s theocracy keeps building asymmetric forces, moving towards nuclear capability and using proxies and non-state actors in neighboring states,” Anthony Cordesman, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said.

Asymmetric forces are used in an attempt to offset the capabilities of a more advanced military foe. Iran might deploy speedboats in a swarm to attack U.S. warships, military officials have said.

Containment Strategy

Iran will view the U.S. base expansion and acceleration of “missile defense and other systems in the Gulf states” as part of a containment strategy, said Kenneth Katzman, a Middle East analyst with the non-partisan Congressional Research Service.

The U.S. should be prepared for what could be a vigorous reaction, he said. “‘Iran will almost certainly respond by stepping up weapons shipments to Taliban militants in Herat and Farah provinces, and Tehran might direct these militants to use the assistance to attempt attacks on the airfield,” he said.

Pollack gave a similar warning. “We need to go in with eyes wide open that we could be provoking them,” he said. “We should not be expanding our operations in this area unless we are ready to deal with the potential.”

Michael O’Hanlon, a military analyst for the Brookings Institution who is in Afghanistan, said he heard from U.S. military officials that Shindand is in line for “a limited tactical expansion for Afghan-specific purposes.”

“I think it would be a big mistake to provoke Iran with an airfield actually designed for possible operations there and potentially encourage Tehran to up its involvement in Afghanistan,” O’Hanlon said. “So I am hoping that we have no such designs and doubt that we do in fact.”

–Editors: Bill Schmick, Edward DeMarco

Iranian ploy backfires

May 21, 2010

Iranian ploy backfires – Israel Opinion, Ynetnews.

Deal mediated by Turkey, Brazil prompts Obama to accelerate sanctions

Eytan Gilboa

Published: 05.21.10, 00:49 / Israel Opinion

In light of past experience, this was a predictable ploy. Every time the noose tightens around Iran’s neck, it pulls a rabbit out of its hat in order to buy some more time and deceive the international community. However, after some political maneuvers and delays, the US managed in recent weeks to secure international support for a fourth round of harsher sanctions against Tehran.

The “deal” signed with Brazilian and Turkish mediation is yet another deceptive ploy by Tehran meant to torpedo the American plan. Yet for the time being, Obama and his partners have not bought into it. Although the negotiations on the new sanctions had not been completed, the latest deal forced Obama to wake up and accelerate his plan.

The president had no other choice but to immediately present the Security Council with a draft agreement on harsher sanctions; otherwise, the strategy he formulated in order to stop the Iranian bomb – a strategy that as it is did not bring any results thus far – would have collapsed completely.

Iran thought that bringing in Turkey and Brazil in an effort to resolve the disagreement would crush the American initiative or at least sabotage it, yet in practice the deal may prompt the opposite result.

The Iranian ploy is so transparent and crude that nobody in the world buys into it, with the exception of its own initiators and Iran supporters worldwide. Moreover, the Great Powers are infuriated that second-tier states such as Turkey and Brazil are trying to dictate the terms to them. It’s also possible that the latest ploy was simply the last straw.

Obama’s challenge, opportunity

Turkey and Brazil are currently Security Council members and will make an effort to protect the deal. The weak links, Russia and China, which only agreed to approve watered-down sanctions, may exploit the situation in order to take the initiative and press Iran to accept the West’s terms. These include a freeze on uranium enrichment in Iran, enrichment of uranium for peaceful purposes outside of Iran – but not in the suspect Turkey – and the provision of answers to the IAEA and acceptance of its monitoring terms.

Iran is engaged in an all-out psychological war against the US and the battle for the bomb has just moved up a notch. Tehran is highly experienced in “Persian Bazaar-style” negotiations and proved that it’s more capable than its rivals when it comes to this war of nerves. Indeed, Iran may pull more rabbits out of its hat before a substantive sanctions proposal comes up for a vote.

Meanwhile, Obama is facing a challenge to his nuclear strategy, his international leadership, and his ability to manage crises. He has an opportunity to boost America’s status in the world in general, and in the Middle East in particular. The question is whether he’ll be wise enough to take advantage of it.

The writer is a Political Science and Communication lecturer and a US expert at Bar-Ilan University

U.S. Congress gives Obama okay to fund for Israel rocket defense

May 21, 2010

U.S. Congress gives Obama okay to fund for Israel rocket defense – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News.

Lawmakers voted to give Israel $205 million for its production of the short-range rocket defense system, Iron Dome defense, by 410-4 margin.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday voted in favor of President Barack Obama’s plans to help Israel fund the deployment of the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system.

Lawmakers, by a 410-4 margin, backed Obama’s plan to give Israel 205 million dollars for its production of a short-range rocket defense system.

An illustration of the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system Anti-missile system Iron Dome, meant to protect Israeli towns from rocket attacks.
Photo by: Rafael Advanced Defense Systems LTD.

The Iron Dome missile defense system aced a test run in January, and event that convinced senior defense officials that the defense system was on its way to becoming operational and that it will be able to effectively protect against short-range missiles, such as Katyushas and Qassams, which often hit Israeli towns.

The project’s first phase, which included development, test runs and the manufacture of two batteries, required a budget of NIS 800 million. The Israel Air Force has also trained a special new unit to operate the defense system.

However, the plan was not allotted an adequate budget. The Israel Defense Forces ducked away from funding the project with its budget, explaining that offensive readiness was a higher priority, and the Defense Ministry has been looking for other budgetary avenues.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman said following the vore that “with nearly every square inch of Israel at risk from rocket and missile attacks, we must ensure that our most important ally in the region has the tools to defend itself.”

“The looming threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, and the persistent threat posed by Iran’s allies Hamas and Hezbollah, only serve to reinforce our longstanding commitment to Israel’s security,” Berman added.

Israel completed tests in January on its Iron Dome system, designed to intercept short-range rockets and artillery shells fired at Israel by Hamas and Hezbollah.

Florida congressman Ted Deutch commended the “Obama Administration for
supporting the critical Iron Dome system, which could help save the lives of innocent Israelis who every day live in fear of rocket attacks on their homes, schools, and marketplaces.”

“Partnering with Israel on short-range missile defense technology demonstrates America’s unyielding commitment to Israel’s security,” Deutch added, saying that “Israel must be able to keep its citizens safe, and we must demand Palestinians end incitement and Hamas reject the use of terror.”

The Obama Administration must always work to address the threats posed to Israel not only by short-range missiles, but by the looming possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran.”

The pro-Israel lobby AIPAC released a statement following the Congress vote, saying that the decision, that “will reduce the threat from Hamas and Hezbollah rocket attacks, is a tribute to America’s commitment to Israel’s defense and underscores our fundamental security cooperation with Israel, an island of democracy surrounded by a sea of hostile terrorist and totalitarian threats.”

“America stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Israel in their quest for peace and the right to live lives free of terrorism,” the statement read


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