Friday, August 31, 2012

IAEA: Update Iran

"Iran continues to enrich uranium, which shows that sanctions are not having any effect.  More importantly, we are seeing them put the final pieces of the jigsaw into place.
"In full contempt of international opinion, the Iranians are racing toward the finishing line and they are now just metres away from it."  International diplomat
The International Atomic Energy Agency's latest quarterly report lays it out.  One thousand new, not yet operational centrifuges were installed at the Fordow facility since May.  That's the secret facility whose existence was unknown outside Iran until it was completely built in the interior of a mountain as a well protected underground uranium enrichment facility, close to the holy city of Qom.  Once word of its existence was revealed, the IAEA became involved.

According to Western diplomats, uranium has been enriched at the Fordow facility, in defiance of Western sanctions, close to weapons grade. According to the United Nation's nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, the Republic has increased stockpiles of high-grade enriched uranium in the past three months alone from 145 kilograms to 190 kilograms.  Additional news, that the country's mastermind of nuclear efforts has been recalled to duty was followed with interest.

As far as some, such as Israel, closely watching events as they proceed are concerned, the recall of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran's top nuclear scientist, and the heavy stockpiling of nuclear-enriched uranium signals that the country has come closer than ever to proceeding with the final touches to build nuclear arms.  Fakhrizadeh has now re-taken charge of a research facility in Tehran that focuses on the building of nuclear weapons.

This determination was relayed to the Wall Street Journal by UN, American and Israeli officials.  The denial of Tehran to permit IAEA inspectors entry to the Parchin military base close to Tehran on suspicion that the facility there was used for military explosions and that the regime has been busy neutralizing the facility of any possible incriminating evidence of nuclear tests having taken place there, simply confirms suspicions.

Diplomats are anticipating that the IAEA report, expected to be circulated confidentially, will confirm that Iran sanitized the Parchin base to the point that an inspection would be useless.  It is strongly believed that tests on how to proceed to detonate a nuclear weapon were carried out at Parchin, even before Fakhrizadeh was recalled from his involuntary 'retirement'.

Despite Israel's increasingly agitated calls for military action, however, it seems clear that no alarm is warranted.  Catherine Ashton, the EU representative for foreign affairs has stated her intention to conduct ongoing talks with Iran's main nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili "in the coming days".  On the other hand, Iran has given its assurance that there is nothing amiss, that it is merely the fevered fantasizing of Israel and the U.S. that is the problem here.

Iran has no intention whatever, has no interest at all in pursuing any but peaceful nuclear research and development.  Did not Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country's supreme leader, state as much at the Non-Aligned Movement's summit in Tehran this week?  "Our motto is nuclear energy for all and nuclear weapons for none." That's the problem here, there's not enough trust.

Or delusional naivete.

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Photo EPA

 Freedom, Justice, Friendship and Global Peace

 "The revolution in Egypt is the cornerstone for the Arab Spring, which started days after Tunisia and then it was followed by Libya and Yemen and now the revolution in Syria against its oppressive regime.  Our solidarity with the struggle of Syrians against an oppressive regime that has lost its legitimacy is an ethical duty and a political and strategic necessity."  Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi

That official message from Egypt in Tehran delivered at the Non-Aligned Movement summit did not quite reflect the warmth of the loving greeting in the photograph above.  On the right is the lover, on the left the Egyptian asp.  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei could hardly have anticipated that one of their honoured guests from a country Iran is anxious to restore relations with, would sandbag them in such a manner.

But the speech was delivered in Arabic to those assembled, representing heads of state and their emissaries of the Non-Aligned Movement nations.  It underwent quite an alteration during the translation process which managed to alter the content to the extent that the speech was completely warped in favour of Iran's position vis-a-vis Syria.  What went out over Iranian airways, television broadcasts and newspapers also bore no relation to reality.

And it can be certain that the Iranian public heard nothing of what United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said when he addressed the gathering.  "I strongly reject threats by any member state to destroy another or outrageous attempts to deny historical facts such as the Holocaust.  Claiming that Israel does not have the right to exist or describing it in racist terms is not only wrong but undermines the very principle we all have pledged to uphold."

"In the history of the Islamic Republic, nobody has challenged the supreme leader's [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's] position on Israel in front of him, and in such a manner", said Meir Javendanfar, an Iranian-Israeli expert at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, commending both Mr. Morsi and Mr. Ban.

The Syrian delegation felt no gratitude toward President Morsi.  Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Moualem, in speaking of the withdrawal of the Syrians, angered at hearing  from Morsi: "We all have to announce our full solidarity with the struggle of those seeking freedom and justice in Syria, and translate this sympathy into a clear political vision that supports a peaceful transition to a democratic system of rule that reflects the demands of the Syrian people for freedom", responded sanctimoniously that Syria was outraged and withdrew "in rejection of the incitement in the speech to continue the shedding of Syrian blood."

The fact that Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and that the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood is well represented in the opposition to the Alawite regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad cannot have been lost on anyone's awareness of the tender details.  But of course those tender details would have been withheld from promulgation in the Iranian media.

As for Iran's defiance of the International Atomic Energy Agency's inspections and suspicions and determination to continue on its national mission to become nuclear-sufficient and in possession of nuclear arms, another kind of double-speak was in order at the conclusion of the summit:  "Our motto is nuclear energy for all and nuclear weapons for none", said Ayatollah Khamenei who had managed to overlook Mr. Ban's urging to prove Iran's nuclear work is for peaceful purposes.

And, as the summit closed, despite the unexpected intrusions of reality and opposition into the process thanks to two honoured guests, it was clear that the remainder of the NAM delegates lined up their support precisely as Tehran required them to.  "The important political message by NAM to the international community is the message of friendship and peace and its readiness to tackle global challenges", said Ahmadinejad, oozing fraternity and goodwill.

The summit overwhelmingly approved the final statement.  Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority had urged Iran to aid it in forming a Palestinian state, and the final statement included support for Palestine.  The agreement included support for 'the fight against discrimination', 'rejection of unilateral sanctions', and finally, an agreement to elect Venezuela, yet another sterling citizen-nation of the civil world, to the next NAM chair for 2015.

Last, certainly not least, was the general agreement by NAM members in support of Iran's 'right to pursue a peaceful nuclear program'.  "All NAM member states approved the need for a new world management upon the basis of freedom, justice and friendship and with the final aim of achieving stable global peace", beamed Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Who, along with his colleagues is stalwartly prepared to unleash nuclear Armageddon on anyone who doesn't agree with the values and direction of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

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The State of the State of India

It's hard to know whether official India has the courage of its convictions because it's difficult to discern its convictions.  Outside of its ambitions, that is, to be considered an international heavyweight.  And its fondness for reminding the world that it is "the world's largest democracy".  If being a democracy can be construed as listening to the will of the people and ensuring that fairness and justice prevails, then perhaps more could be done to reflect that democratic sense.

On the other hand, it cannot be an easy task to govern the world's second-largest population at over 1.1-billion people of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, let alone the now-unspoken but still resonant class system and cultural practices that do not actually reflect world-class status as an emerging economy, let alone a society still struggling to enter the 21st Century.

India has no lack of brilliant minds, people involved in medical, scientific, business and computer studies and research, second to none anywhere in the world.  Yet it remains incapable of building an efficient, reliable civil infrastructure for its cities, and there are still more people living in India even now without resource to medical care and decent sanitation, inexcusably, than not.

Those who govern the country are careful to court countries which will be of assistance to them, and this includes the Islamic Republic of Iran, the pariah of the Western, developed world, for its rogue and threatening nuclear program, let alone its egregious record on human rights, and its oppression of its people.  India evidently saw no awkwardness inherent in attending the Non-Aligned Nations summit in Tehran.

Attending a conference in Iran, a country which is under strict economic and political sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council and enforced by the U.S. as well, was no problem for India, since it receives much of its oil from Iran.  India saw no difficulty in sitting through excoriatingly nasty harangues and threats levelled against a U.N. member-state, one with which India has amicable social and trade and political relations.

This is a country that proudly announced its intention to launch a 2013 mission to Mars, despite parliamentary opposition critics denouncing the earmarking of millions of dollars for that extraterrestrial mission when the country is in dire need of improved and refurbished infrastructure, and millions of Indian citizens require basic welfare to keep starvation at bay.

The largest democracy in the world is, has been and will continue to be infamously corrupt, at every level of governance.  Politicians in India have acquired amazing levels of wealth through endemic corruption.  The inequities between the country's minority of wealthy citizens and the vast majority of poor shines no light of social justice on the values of the country.

Violence against women is rampant, as is public harassment of women with men commonly getting away with sexual assaults. Girl babies are considered unwanted and aborted in favour of boy babies creating a gender imbalance that guarantees future problems.  The practise of bride dowries, as technically outlawed as class distinctions between the Brahmin class and the 'untouchables', still prevail.

Official India could redeem itself by becoming a world leader in selecting friends a lot more carefully than it has done, accommodating Tehran's purpose-held Non-Aligned summit to ensure that the 120 heads of state attending fortified its assertion of the right to pursue its nuclear program, while threatening to annihilate an neighbouring state.

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Toughing It Out

No doubt about it, Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, is quite right when he bemoans the difficulties inherent in administering the affairs of his country. Onerous and troublesome, causing him to visibly grow older under the limelight weight of national expectations.  But someone has to do it, and he has taken extraordinary steps to volunteer his unique capabilities in service to his country as a patriot and a man of his word.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) speaks during a budget meeting with senior government officials in Moscow's Kremlin June 28, 2012. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
He has been quoted as once having mentioned that the work involved in administering the affairs of state of Russia was analogous to being a "galley slave".  To paraphrase: some galley, some slave.  As the autocratic ruler of a powerful East European country which at one time practised rigorous hegemonic rule over most of its eastern neighbours he is proud of his heritage, proud of his status, proud of the opportunities that fortune has given him.

The job doesn't pay all that much, at the equivalent of $115,000 annually, so there are most certainly quite a number of corporate heads in Russia who earn far in excess of what their president does.  On the other hand, perhaps they make do with owning one or two luxury wrist watches, not the eleven Mr. Putin owns with an estimated total value of $700,000, but who knows, they may be as given as he is to sporting such prize possessions.

The question is: how can he, ahem, afford them?  On his (relative) pittance of a salary.  Of course, Mr. Putin's appetite for living well is just as fierce as his appetite for being noticed and admired and held in high esteem.  Some among his subjects find it difficult to admire him however: "In a country where more than 20 million people barely make ends meet, the luxurious life of the president is a blatant and cynical challenge to society.  We absolutely cannot put up with this", the ungrateful claim.

The ingrates have issued a report entitled "The Life of a Galley Slave", written by opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, deploring the lavish lifestyle and spending habits of their president, viewing that as an unforgivable affront to the millions of Russians who live in dire poverty.  The Kremlin, on the other hand, bruits it about that the president is a man of simple tastes who appreciates sports and wholesome outdoor activities.
Putin's Palace (48 pics)

The report in question came complete not only with denunciatory text, but photographs of the various residences that President Putin has at his disposal, the high-end vehicles, the yachts and much more.  During the time of State Communism under the former Soviet Union, the leaders were infamous for their love of costly dachas and luxurious foreign cars.  President Putin appears to have outdone them by a Mars mile.

Two dozen official residences, a dozen in Moscow alone, the Constantine Palace near St.Petersburg built for Peter the Great, ranging to a $850-million Italianate palace built to President Putin's precise specifications on the Black Sea Coast. An estate in Lake Valdai, serviced by a 1,000-person staff, the estate including a "residential church, swimming pool, two restaurants, movie theatre, bowling alley and concrete helipad".
Mr. Putin admits to owning three old domestic cars and a trailer hitch owned by his father.  On the other hand, the report lists a description of a handful of some of the 700 autos at the president's disposal.  Then there's the 43 planes, including an Airbus and two executive jets, 15 helicopters.  One of the planes, an Ilyushin-96, features an $18-million cabin with a toilet costing $75,000 to host his royal bum.

Nice accommodations.  Nice work if you can get it.  Including one of the yachts, 53.7-metres, with a designer interior, a spa pool, waterfall and wine cellar.  "The real diamond of the Kremlin flotilla", according to the report authors however, is a five-deck yacht with a Jacuzzi, barbecue, maple wood colonnade and huge bathroom faced in marble.

Sounds nice, awfully grand, and Mr. Putin believes he has earned these honourable digs and appurtenances.  Who's going to argue with him?  Still wonder why he he spent so much energy ensuring he would be re-elected President, and engineered a change in the country's Constitution to enable him to remain in that position ad infinitum?

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Instead Of Savoring Diplomatic Triumph, Iran Invites Pushback

The attendance of 120 countries in Tehran is a sorry spectacle reminiscent of the1936 Berlin Olympics, but without Nazi guile.

By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 8/31/2012, 12:13 AM

Ali Khamenei
Ali Khamenei
The conference of the Non -Aligned Movement (NAM) in Teheran was intended by the regime to be a propaganda event on the scale of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, marketing Iran as a regional and international leader thanks to its three-year presidency of NAM.

The regime imported 200 Mercedes luxury cars to transport the visitors and spruced up the major highways leading to the conference. It even invested in a new conference center despite aggravated economic conditions. Road signs were replaced to incorporate doves of peace.

To reduce traffic, the regime announced a 5 day holiday and provided discount gasoline to encourage residents of the capital to leave down. No less than 110,000 security and paramilitary forces, including snipers, were brought to the capital to stamp out any protests. The Iranian press was given a set of do's and don'ts with the latter including stories about natural disasters, power blackouts or crime.

However, the summit is not turning out to be a success. First of all, the Iranian regime failed to learn from Nazi Germany. In 1936, in the run-up and during the Olympics, the Nazi regime toned down the public displays of anti-Semitism and even allowed Jewish athletes to try out for the German Olympic team.

This duped foreign visitors, who concluded that previous reports on persecution of Jews were an exaggeration. Ayatollah Ali  Khamenei, in contrast, opened the event with an address attacking the Israeli regime of "Zionist wolves" and branding the United States a hegemonic meddler.

Khamenei even accused the UN Security Council of being a puppet of US influence. He thus made things extremely difficult for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, already under attack for his decision to attend the conclave.

Such remarks forced Ban's hand and he upbraided his hosts for Holocaust denial and threatening the destruction of the State of Israel. This, of course, does not exonerate the UN Secretary-General for his decision to attend the summit in the first place; it merely points out the clumsiness of the Iranians.
Iran would have been better advised to keep the Syrian issue out of the conference, unless it was certain that the reactions by other delegations would suit Teheran's purposes.

The government-controlled media made a point of highlighting Egyptian attendance as a diplomatic victory. It was therefore blindsided when Egypt's president Mohammed Morsi connected the Syrian uprising to the Arab spring, meaning that it was a popular revolution. Iran could have expected that Egypt, as a Sunni Muslim country aspiring to restore its leadership, could not avoid taking such a position once the Iranians had broached the call for a Syrian cease fire - a proposal previously raised by the Assad regime in Syria.

The Egyptians called for outside intervention and India, a founding member of NAM, called for a transnational solution, meaning that affairs could not be left to the Syrians alone. India also intends to tell Iran to abide by its international obligations on the nuclear issue.

As published online by ArutzSheva7, 30 August 2012

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Ban Lecturing Iran

In Iran meet, UN chief denounces threats to destroy Israel, Holocaust denial

Remarks by Ban Ki-Moon at NAM conference opening day come following Iranian Supreme Leader's harsh attack on suppression of Palestinians by 'ferocious Zionist wolves.'

By Reuters and Haaretz | Aug.30, 2012 

Ban Ki-Moon and Ali Khamenei - AP - 29.8.2012
Ban Ki-Moon, left, meeting with Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. Photo by AP

Without naming Iran, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon denounced his hosts in Tehran on Thursday for threatening to destroy Israel and for denying the Holocaust.

"I strongly reject threats by any member state to destroy another or outrageous attempts to deny historical facts such as the Holocaust," Ban said in his speech to a Non-Aligned Movement summit in the Iranian capital.

"Claiming that Israel does not have the right to exist or describing it in racist terms is not only wrong but undermines the very principle we all have pledged to uphold," he added. 

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly denied the Holocaust and this month described Israel as a "cancerous tumour". In 2005 he caused uproar by being quoted as saying that Israel should be "wiped off the map".
Persian language scholars say a more correct translation of his comment would read: "Israel must vanish from the page of time." 

Ban was attending the NAM summit despite calls from the United States and Israel that he should boycott the event.

The UN chief's comments came after Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei launched a venomous attack against Israel in a speech inaugurating the conference, denouncing what he said was Israel's brutal suppression of Palestinian rights. 

"Even now after 65 years the same kind of crimes marks the treatment of Palestinians remaining in the occupied territories by the ferocious Zionist wolves," Khamenei was quoted by the Fars news agency as saying, adding that Israel commits "new crimes one after the other and create new crises for the region." 

The Supreme Leader added that the "Zionist regime, which has carried out assassinations and caused conflicts and crimes for decades by waging disastrous wars, killing people, occupying Arab territories and organizing state terror in the region and in the world, labels the Palestinian people as 'terrorists,' the people who have stood up to fight for their rights."

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Would It Were So....

"We see that all the countries in the region need stability and peaceful co-existence with each other.  This cannot be achieved with wars but through political work and special relations between the countries of the region."  Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi

This may represent the words of - or may not be in the final analysis - a man whom many have misjudged.  No milquetoast intelligence after all, but a keen philosophical observer, anxious to do what he can to transform his geography into a reasonable semblance of civility.  It would be a long overdue, and impressively refreshing change.  And, coming from a new president whom Egyptians have in the majority finally elected to represent their best interests as president of the most populous Arab country, perhaps time.

"Egypt is now a civilian state ... a national, democratic, constitutional, modern state.  International relations between all states are open and the basis for all relations is balance.  We are not against anyone but we are for achieving our interests", he explained.  Perhaps it will be useful after all that he was educated in the U.S. as an engineer, though he has rejected much about the U.S. and returned to his home country to effect a change.

That, to effect the change he envisioned he had long been a member of the Muslim Brotherhood does not inspire confidence in particular.  Particularly with the hostile emphasis of the Muslim Brotherhood on one of the country's neighbours.  Hostile enough that when a former president of the country signed a peace agreement with Israel, a Muslim Brotherhood supporter assassinated Anwar Sadat, bringing his vice-president, Hosni Mubarak, to the presidency.

President Mubarak respected the peace agreement with Israel, although that agreement kept the two countries from military hostilities only; social acceptance and political amiability did not follow, although Egypt gained from Israeli tourism and trade.  With the ascension of President Morsi to power, though he resigned from the Muslim Brotherhood hierarchy, fears were rampant that the peace agreement would be abandoned.

His party continues to speak of Israel as a racist, expansionist state, and some among them urge for abandonment of the peace treaty.  President Morsi iterates that Egypt will continue to respect international treaties, including the 1979 peace agreement with Israel.  He also attempted to reassure Israel that the newly-initiated military campaign in the Sinai Peninsula, allowed to fall under terrorists' control with the downfall of President Mubarak, was for the purpose of arresting terrorist activities.

"Egypt is practising its very normal role on its soil and does not threaten anyone and there should not be any kind of international or regional concerns at all from the presence of Egyptian security forces", he said.  He has called for dialogue between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran to attempt a solution to the bloodshed in Syria; Iran expressed interest, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have not.

"Now is the time to stop this bloodshed and for the Syrian people to regain their full rights and for this regime that kills its people to disappear from the scene.  There is no room to talk about reform, but the discussion is about change", said Mr. Morsi, adding that "the friends of the Syrian people in China and Russia and other states", should be backing ordinary Syrians.

As for Egypt's long-standing relationship with the United States from whom it receives $1.3-billion in annual aid for its military, the new president said that his country interacts with the United States as "a stable institution", so that it matters little the outcome of the presidential election there. 

Refreshing, clear and concise, and one must hope - fervently, honest.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

US ‘Responds’ to Iran with Second Warship in Gulf

by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu US ‘Responds’ to Iran with Second Warship in Gulf

“When the world calls, we have to respond,” U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told sailors before a second American aircraft carrier headed for the Persian Gulf this week. The urgency of the United States to boost its defenses in the Gulf was indicated by its recalling the sailors early from leave to board the ship for the Middle East, four months ahead of schedule.

The USS John C. Stennis, which can carry 90 warplanes, is heading to the Gulf as Iran continues to challenge the world by advancing its unsupervised nuclear program.

The USS Stennis will join the U.S. Enterprise Strike Group and poses a strong deterrence to any Iranian plans to try to block the Gulf or to attack commercial oil tankers. The Strike Group includes a guided missile cruiser and four guided missile destroyers.

"It's tough," Panetta told sailors before they left port. "We're asking an awful lot of each of you. And frankly, you are the best I have -- and when the world calls, we have to respond."

“Obviously Iran is one of those threats that we have to be able to focus on and make sure that we’re prepared to deal with any threats that could emerge out of Iran,” Panetta told reporters.

The Obama administration, which previously has said that solving the Palestinian Authority demand for independence is the key to peace for the entire Middle East region, has increasingly shown signs that reflect Israel’s warnings that the regime in Tehran is dead set to fulfill its stated intention to annihilate Israel, leaving the United States without a committed democratic ally in the region.

"The very existence of the Zionist regime is an insult to humankind and an affront to all world nations," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a speech this month. "Confronting Zionists will also pave the way for saving the whole humankind from exploitation, depravity and misery."

The beefed up American naval presence in the Gulf parallels concerns in Israel that sanctions may be hurting the Iranian economy but are not enough to stop Tehran’s drive for nuclear capability.

The American-backed sanctions include numerous loopholes that have enabled countries such as Japan and North Korea to continue importing oil from Iran, which depends on the black gold for most of its foreign exchange earnings.

The U.S. State Dept. continues to push for diplomacy to convince  Ahmadinejad to pressure him to allow full inspection of its nuclear facilities by United Nations inspectors.

“We are focused on combining diplomacy and pressure, trying to get Iran to be serious at the negotiating table and we are in full consultations with the Israelis about the picture that we see, and we will continue to make those points clear,” spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said last week.

As published online at ArutzSheva, 29 August 2012

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Egypt Kills 11 Sinai Terrorists

by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu Egypt Kills 11 Sinai Terrorists

Egyptian soldiers killed 11 terrorists in the Sinai and confiscated weapons, according to Egyptian television, quoted by Voice of Israel government radio.

The report, which also stated that 23 terrorists were captured, along with Israeli-made ammunition, was confirmed by the defense ministry. Only one day earlier, an Egyptian newspaper reported that President Mohammed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood party, secured a ceasefire agreement with terrorist leaders.

Cairo said Wednesday it will escalate its war on terror in the Sinai Peninsula, where Bedouin, Hamas and Al Qaeda-linked terrorists have exploited a vacuum of power and taken control of large areas.

After terrorists killed 16 Egyptian border guards in early August, Egypt began moving in tanks and aircraft, in violation of the 1979 Peace Treaty with Israel that prohibits a military buildup in the Sinai without Israeli approval.

Morsi has insisted that the deployment is in Israel’s interest because it is aimed at terrorists and not at a future military attack on Israel, which has bitter memories of the 1973 Yom Kippur War when Egypt rolled its tanks into the Sinai and southern Israel while Syria attacked from the north.

The Sinai Peninsula, which borders Israel from Gaza on the west to Eilat on the east, is fertile ground for Bedouin terrorists, many of whom have aligned with Hamas and  Al Qaeda cells. They have been a source of smuggling of drugs, terrorists, weapons and migrant workers from Africa.

One tribe was reported to have handed over to the Egyptian army a large cache of weapons and ammunition on Sunday. The size of the arsenal in the Sinai was indicated by the Egyptian Interior Ministry’s announcement that it has seized more than 20,000 weapons over the past several months.

As published online at ArutzSheva, 29 August 2012

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Evidence Mounts of Iran ‘Laughing All the Way to Nuclear Power’

by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu Evidence of Iran Laughing All the Way to Nuke Bomb

The United Nations nuclear inspection agency, IAEA, is beefing up attempts to force Iran to cooperate at the same time it is expected to report Iran has installed 350 new centrifuges since May.

The new centrifuges are in addition to a previously-reported 1,000 that have been installed, part of Iran’s plan to have 3,000 centrifuges working.

Newspapers from Pakistan to the United States reported Wednesday that the French news agency AFP quoted diplomats in Vienna that the IAEA will issue a report on Friday detailing Iran’s nuclear progress at the Fordow facility, buried deep underground in order to protect it from a bombing attack.

The nuclear site is enriching uranium to a concentration of 20 percent, far below the 90 percent grade needed for a nuclear bomb but easily upgraded to that level.

Iran continues to insist it is developing its nuclear facilities for peaceful purposes, but  Ahmadinejad's recent reiteration that Israel must be annihilated could be used by the Islamic Republic as reasoning that striking Israel with a nuclear warhead is part of its homemade “peace process.”

The IAEA reputedly is establishing a new “Task Force” to get tough with Iran, which so far  has succeeded to  dodge nuclear inspectors.

Western dependence on diplomacy and sanctions has not convinced Israel that anything except military action can stop Iran, but even the IAEA has shown signs of giving up on Iran.

Last week, it was reported that Iran has “sanitized” a nuclear research facility at a military to the point that it may be too late to inspect it.

Ahmadinejad has been deploying the same tactic for more than two years of negotiating with the IAEA, agreeing to terms and then negotiating again, allowing the continuation of unsupervised nuclear development towards what the West says is Iran’s objective of reaching the capability of manufacturing and delivering a nuclear warhead.

This week, Iran is hosting the Non-Aligned Movement, which is being attended by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

"Our enrichment activities will never stop and we are justified in carrying them out, and we will continue to do so under IAEA supervision," Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said before the summit.

As published online at ArutzSheva, 29 August 2012

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Cyber spying campaign expands in Iran, says Israeli security firm

Israeli security company Seculert said that it has identified about 150 new victims of the Mahdi Trojan over the past six weeks as the developers of the virus have changed the code to evade detection from anti-virus programs.

By Reuters | Aug.29, 2012 | 3:02 PM

Computer server room.
Computer server room. Photo by AP

The scope of a cyber espionage campaign targeting Iran and other parts of the Middle East has widened, even after security experts blew the operation's cover last month, according to the research firm that discovered the Mahdi Trojan. 

Israeli security company Seculert said that it has identified about 150 new Mahdi victims over the past six weeks as the developers of the virus have changed the code to evade detection from anti-virus programs. That has brought the total number of infections found so far to nearly 1,000, the bulk of them in Iran. 

"These guys continue to work," Seculert Chief Technology Officer Aviv Raff said via telephone from the company's headquarters in Israel. 

The decision to keep the operation running implies that Mahdi's operators were not particularly worried about getting caught, said Roel Schouwenberg, a senior researcher with Kaspersky Lab, which has collaborated with Seculert in analyzing Mahdi. 

Schouwenberg said that some viruses are designed for stealth because they become useless if they are discovered. He pointed to the Stuxnet Trojan that targeted Iran's nuclear program in 2010 . 

After that customer-built virus was uncovered by a security researcher in Belarus, authorities in Iran discovered it in a uranium enrichment facility that it had targeted. 

Mahdi is a "less professional" operation that runs on technology built with widely available software, according to Schouwenberg 

"If the quality of your operation is not that high, then maybe you don't care about being discovered," he said. "But the scary thing is that it can still be effective." 

The Mahdi Trojan lets remote attackers steal files from infected PCs and monitor emails as well as instant messages, Seculert and Kaspersky said. It can also record audio, log keystrokes and take screen shots of activity on those computers. 

The firms said they believed multiple gigabytes of data have been uploaded from targeted machines.
Targets of Mahdi include critical infrastructure firms, engineering students, financial services firms and government embassies located in five Middle Eastern countries, with the majority of the infections in Iran, according to the two security firms. 

The bulk of the new victims were in Iran, which is where most infections have occurred to date, according to Seculert, though a few were identified in the United States and Germany.

The two firms have declined to identify specific victims.
As published online at, 29 August 2012

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Misuse of mosque for manufacturing explosives condemned

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Tuesday 28 August 2012

JEDDAH: A number of religious scholars and academics have stressed the need for the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowment, Call and Guidance to beef up monitoring of places of worship. It followed the recent report of a Riyadh mosque serving as a facade for manufacturing explosives.

The Interior Ministry said in a statement on Sunday that it discovered explosive substances and devices at a lean-to of a quiet mosque in Riyadh. Mosques normally use attached rooms to accommodate workers or for library service.

The scholars also demanded deterrent punishments to those who exploit the spiritual atmosphere in mosques to promote chaos in the country, Al-Madinah daily reported on Monday.

“Those who seek to destabilize the country and fight against security forces come under the category of ‘those who rebel against Allah and His Messenger’ and a country’s legitimate government and hence should be punished severely,” said Sheikh Abdullah Al-Manie, who is a member of the Council of Senior Religious Scholars and adviser at the Royal Court.

The scholar also congratulated the Interior Ministry for its successful preemptive strike against the Riyadh cell and protecting the people from such heinous deeds.
“The Islamic Affairs Ministry should ensure that imams and muezzins inspect the mosque premises regularly and thoroughly, so that the facilities are not misused for subversive activities. The sacred houses of worship should not be converted into dens of destructive acts,” he said.
Member of the Fiqh Academy Muhammad Al-Nojaimi stressed the duty of the worshipers and residents in nearby buildings apart from imams and muezzins to see that mosques are not exploited for subversive activities. “Officials concerned should also investigate why some expatriates are unofficially undertaking duties at mosques. They should also launch campaigns and raids at such mosques,” he said.
Head of Islamic studies at the Umm Al-Qura University Muhammad Al-Sahli said it was a matter of deep pain for all Muslims, especially students and teachers of religious knowledge and preachers, that a mosque had been used as a cover for destructive activities.
Director of the Makkah branch of the International Islamic Relief Organization Ahmed Al-Muwarraie urged parents and teachers to protect their children or students from vicious ideologies they might be exposed to in the present circumstances.
Professor of Political Studies at King Saud University Abdullah Al-Lehaidan said the uncovering of a terror cell in Riyadh was not a matter to be taken lightly. “The latest discovery shows that the terror menace is still existing in the country and could be uprooted only after flushing it out from the neighboring Yemeni territories, just as terrorist activities were flushed out from the Kingdom.”

An academic specialized in political sciences at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Waheed Hashim, said Al-Qaeda in Yemen facilitated terrorists to infiltrate into the Kingdom. Another political science expert at the university said Al-Qaeda in Yemen changed its strategy of sending explosives to the Kingdom from outside. “Now they make explosives in the Kingdom, unlike what they did in the past.”
The academics also viewed that the political and economic failure of Yemen provided a breeding ground for terrorists. “The terrorist ideology thrived in Yemen because of rampant poverty, hunger, and endless disputes between religious or tribal sects, insecurity, and a weak central government. The country’s strategic geographical position enables terrorists to secretly enter Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.”
Meanwhile, a former Saudi fighter in Afghanistan, Sheikh Siraj Al-Zahrani, warned against the dangers of Saudi youths being carried away by the temptation to be martyrs in Syria. Siraj said he joined the Afghan Taleban fighters on the assumption that they were fighting on the straight religious path, but experience made him disillusioned and prompted him to return home. “No youth should go to Syria or other war fronts without the permission from their guardians. A family should be cautious about its sons being lured to war zones for jihad,” the sheikh said.

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Grotesque Masquerade

"Iran's current rulers will use your presence to further their own, hateful purposes.  Such a visit would only serve to legitimize and condone the record of this regime, which Canada views as the single most significant risk to global peace and security today.
"Iran's egregious human-rights record denies large segments of the Iranian population even the most basic of rights, while threatening the very existence of one of its neighbours.
"For example, on August 2, 2012, President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad said that, 'anyone who loves freedom and justice must strive for the annihilation of the Zionist regime in order to pave the way for world justice and freedom'."  John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs

This is part of a letter sent by Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs to the attention of Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations.  It was sent to the Secretary-General a day after the announcement that he meant to accept the invitation to attend the Tehran conference of the Non-Aligned Nations.  Mr. Ban evidently considers the summit as a forum giving him the opportunity to advance "towards solutions on issues that are central to the global agenda".

And those issues would of course, include disarmament and conflict prevention.  Since the very critical issues of disarmament and conflict prevention are those which have seized the attention of the international community relating to the Islamic Republic of Iran's stated and firm intention of achieving nuclear status, with the unstated and covert additional intention of manufacturing fissile nuclear material for the formation of arms, this represents a fairly grotesque interpretation.

Iran presents itself as a country given to peace and harmony, one that is critically misunderstood and unfairly blamed and held to a standard that does not respect its sovereignty.  It consistently refuses inspection entry to the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors while denying it has anything to hide.  The existence of its illicit Fordow nuclear facility was kept secret until it could no longer deny its presence.  Its Parchin military installation where it has tested explosive devices has been placed off limit to IAEA inspectors who believe nuclear tests have taken place there.

Its atrocious record on instigating terror groups to do its proxy bidding, its encouragement of hostilities toward those with whom it disagrees politically, its harassment and abuse of those who defy it, and its constant threats on the international stage against the existence of the State of Israel, where it feels entitled to claim it will wipe the world clear of the presence of Jews in an echo of the Holocaust which it denies ever having taken place, is a testament to its malign presence on the world stage.

Because of its oil wealth and the countries with emerging economies' reliance on Iran's energy, it has influence it would otherwise not have with socially and politically backward countries of the world, many of which are themselves verbally belligerent to the advanced economies of the world, and specially the United States and Israel.  That, under these circumstances, Ban Ki-moon sees his way clear to appear at the Non-Aligned summit is appalling.

He is offering the imprimatur of the United Nations to give credence to the outrageous and false allegations issued by Iran, presenting itself as an innocent, as a force for good in the world, as committed to peace and to disarmament, when nothing could be further from the truth.  He is, by his planned presence, doing honour to evil intentions, even at a time when he is aware that Iran's influence and involvement in the civil war raging in Syria is serving to support that dystopian, vicious regime.

"We fundamentally believe that a visit by the Secretary-General to Iran will only serve to further legitimize the reckless actions of this regime," further emphasized Rick Roth, Mr. Baird's press secretary.  Mr. Baird's formal declaration of support for refusing the request to attend the summit represents Canada's position on the issue.  One that is shared by a number of governments and human-rights bodies.

Iran is under strict economic sanctions from Western nations as a result of its illegal nuclear program.  Its position at this summit where it holds the three-year chairmanship of the movement, is an added effort to manipulate opinion to its side.  These are countries, attending the summit, with membership in the United Nations.  Many would not be sending senior representatives or appearing at all, were it not for the fact that it appears the United Nations, in the person of Ban Ki-moon has approved the event.

The United Nations has also seen fit to continue to include the Islamic Republic of Iran's current regime in diplomatic arenas.  This is not the first time that Foreign Affairs Minister Baird has upbraided the UN for its support of Iran.  Disappointment was expressed by Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs at Iran's appointment as a vice-president to the recent UN Arms Trade Treaty conference.  Could anything possibly be more logically perverse?
"[Mr. Baird] is entirely right - it is absolutely outrageous that Ban Ki-moon attend this summit.  If a country like Canada doesn't express its viewpoint on this, then he [Mr. Ban] can say, 'Nobody told me there was a problem with it'.  I think it should be made very clear to him that this is a mistake on his part."  Clifford May, president, Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Kenyan Muslims and Christians

"Many of the injured are women and children with severe burns.  Eleven have deep cuts on their heads and other body parts.
"I have counted seven with bullet wounds.  We have tried to stabilize them, but honestly it will be a miracle if all of them arrive at hospital alive."
 This is a familiar scenario in Africa.  A more extreme version of this situation played out in Darfur when Sudanese Arabs ran their herds through the arable fields of black Sudanese farmers, raising their ire in a revolt against the government which resulted in a massive onslaught of the Sudanese military aided by Arab horsemen burning and looting tribal villages, raping women, slaughtering thousands and creating hundreds of thousands of homeless refugees.

On this occasion this was an attack on the Ormo village of Rekete in Kenya's coastal region.  In relation to a long-running tribal dispute over grazing land and water.  A Kenyan Red Cross spokesperson claimed to have counted 59 bodies and over 40 injured, taken to hospital in Malindi, 150 kilometres away.

"Most of us were asleep and others had woken up when the men came chanting 'kill them, kill them' toward our village at about seven o'clock'", said one survivor from his hospital bed.  "They shot many people and then attacked others with pangas.  I was also shot on my right hand and then attacked with a panga on my head.  They left me when they thought I was dead because I was unconscious."

 One villager described what he had seen; men, women and children being shot and beheaded, while others were burned to cinders in their homes.  This represented a retaliatory raid.  An attack by Orma youth on Pokomo farmers that ended up with two dead.  The farmers had accused the pastoralists of grazing their cattle in their farms.  In areas of east Africa such common disputes over grazing and farming land often escalate in this manner.

"They were armed with crude weapons: machetes, bows and arrows and spears.  Some had guns.  As a result we have lost 31 women, 211 children and six men", said Robert Kitur the area's deputy police chief.  "This is a case of our people who have decided to fight amongst themselves, and unless they decide to resolve themselves, there is little we can do" said coast provincial commissioner Samuel Kilele.

And in Mombasa, Kenya's largest city and majority-Muslim, protesters smashed cars and attacked churches after unknown gunmen killed a Muslim cleric held by the United States to be helping Islamist extremists in Somalia.  Deputy police chief Robert Kitur explained that the cleric that was killed, Aboud Rogo Mohammed, facted terrorism charges for recruiting non-Somali Africans for al-Shabab.

In revenge, protesters planned to target Christians.  They attempted to burn down two churches by setting furniture afire, and vandalized four other churches. Somalia's al-Shabab Islamist terror group in condemning Rogo's killing urged Kenyan Muslims to boycott the presidential election.
 "Muslims must take the matter into their own hands, stand united against the Kuffar and take all necessary measures to protect their religion, their honour, their property and their lives from the enemies of Islam."

Police spokesman Charles Owino has his own theory, claiming that Mr. Rogo's killing was a deliberate plot by al-Shabab "to galvanize support among the youth".  Prime Minister Raila Odinga has appealed for calm. An "inter-religious war" must be avoided at all cost.  "Let's act with restraint as law enforcement agencies get to the root of the matter", he appealed.

"We urge Muslims and Christians not to fight."

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 The Fading American Middle Class

While the Democrats during the U.S. election appear to be outdoing the Republicans in the low level of ad hominem attacks through down-and-dirty advertising, and despite their smudging of their own faces with the disreputable ink of dirty politics don't appear to be edging up in the opinion polls, the escalating economic emergency in the country continues to edge upward.

Republican women meeting at their own Republican-election-committee-improvised Woman Up! Pavilion close to the Republican National Convention, are downplaying the recent heat on the abortion issue with the message that there is room in their party for both sides of the argument, and that the focus of women, no less for men of their party is the state of the country's economy.

And it's not at all good.  So bad, in fact, that it rivals Greece in the misery of a large proportion of the population who once considered themselves among the bedrock of the secure middle class.  There are some financial analysts, in fact, who consider the current financial situation assailing the United States to be more than equal that of Greece's, and promising to outdistance Greece in the final analysis.

Consumers in the U.S. have less confidence in the ability of their country to outdistance the economic depression they're supposed to have overcome.  And they are not at all happy that the distance in financial security between themselves at the lower end of the economic spectrum is growing from that of the high earners in their country who are becoming wealthier while they themselves are stagnating and in many cases, faltering.

The U.S. middle class now faces its "worst decade in modern history", according to a new report which claims an impending "fiscal cliff" is far more disastrous than the feebling of the hoped-for recovery which seems ever more distant.  The warning that projected huge U.S. government spending cuts and tax hikes will cause greater financial damage if Washington continues on that road is ominous, with no discernible option for hope to turn the situation around.

Americans are being warned that a severe recession looms large in their near future.  This, at a time when people feel they've sacrificed enough, are struggling to get by, and were hoping for some relief.  The loss of a further two million jobs is in the offing if this scenario comes to fruition.  To add to the gloomy news a Pew Research Center study claims 85% of middle class Americans consider it more difficult currently than a decade earlier to maintain their standard of living.

The "worse decade in modern history" faces the American middle class, as its share of the country's income continues to fall for the first time since the Second World War.  The middle class share of the national income is singularly unimpressive as they've been surpassed by the affluent while median wages are going nowhere and the concentrated wealth at the top of the pyramid reflects the country's rich citizens' endowment.

The "middle class" are defined as those adults where household income falls between two-thirds and double the national median income of $39,428 to $118,255 for a family of three in 2010.  The middle class are comprised of roughly 51% of U.S. adults by this definition, falling from its 1971 status of 61%.  The share of income flowing to the middle class in 1970 was 62%; by 2010 that dropped to 45%.
"The job market is changing, our living standards are falling in the middle, and middle-income parents are now afraid that their children will be worse off than they are.  These are the disaffected middle class who work hard and play by the rules of society, but increasingly see their situation declining by forces beyond their control.  No matter who is president, the climb back up for the middle class and the recovery will be slow and often painful."  Timothy Smeeding, University of Wisconsin-Madison economics professor

It's all the result of a failed presidency, according to the Republican Party.  "Today's CBO report is another indictment of President Obama's economic policies that have resulted in overspending, increasing debt and a growing financial burden on the next generation", according to a spokeswoman for Mitt Romney's Republican presidential campaign.

Which actually doesn't acknowledge the fiscal inheritance of the former Bush administration, left for the Democrats and President Obama to finagle themselves and the country out of and back into prosperity through the dim period of a global recession and beyond.

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Weapons Of Mass Destruction

President Michel Sleiman has called for a dialogue over a national defense strategy, reviving the ongoing debate over how to incorporate Hezbollah’s weapons into the Lebanese Armed Forces. In his turn, the party’s secretary-general, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, has reiterated that Hezbollah’s arsenal provides a deterrence against Israel. In fact, Hezbollah’s weapons are not only ineffective as a deterrent; they pose a clear and present danger to Lebanon.

Some in the March 14 coalition have accepted Nasrallah’s premise when demanding that Hezbollah’s weapons be incorporated into the state. The reality, however, is that Hezbollah’s assets fall short of providing any added value to Lebanon in several critical domains.

Though the 2006 war was hailed as a divine victory by Hezbollah, it exposed the party’s lack of preparedness when it came to civil defense, the handling of refugees and the evacuation and treatment of massive numbers of casualties. In fact this task fell on Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s government, which was responsible for clearing the rubble away from Beirut’s devastated southern suburbs, and for much of the reconstruction. Two huge mounds of debris near the airport still stand as silent testimony to the divine victory.

In peace time, Hezbollah cannot contribute to border control and search and rescue operations, and it is unable to provide logistical support to Lebanon’s armed forces. Moreover, the party has nothing to offer in terms of maritime surveillance in territorial waters. The latest request from the Defense Ministry for an additional $1.6 billion aims to expand mainly logistical and maritime capabilities.

The question then remains whether Hezbollah’s firepower offers any real deterrence capability. The anti-aircraft defenses that the party is believed to have, namely SA24 shoulder-held missiles as well the mobile but outdated SA8 low- to medium-anti-aircraft missiles, can be dismissed as ineffective against the advanced electronic countermeasures of the Israeli air force. As an illustration, when the Israelis attacked a Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007, Syrian air defenses, which are far more advanced than Hezbollah’s, did not react.

Hezbollah’s antitank weapon systems were highly effective against Israeli armor during the summer war of 2006. However, one could argue that this success was partly due to faulty tactics by Israel, even a gross underestimation by the Israelis of the effectiveness of weapon systems such as the Russian AT-14 Kornett laser-guided missile by well-trained and motivated combatants. But the efficacy of such anti-tank weapon systems in a future conflict may well be in doubt. The Israelis have developed and successfully tested an anti anti-tank weapon system in the Gaza Strip, one that has been able to intercept missiles and rocket-propelled grenades in an effective way.

And what of Hezbollah’s anti-ship capabilities? During the 2006 war, the party crippled an Israeli Hanit Saar5 Corvette using a Chinese C802 missile. However, this occurred because the ship’s close-in weapons system had been turned off. The Israeli navy continued to operate with impunity during the remainder of the conflict. It is very unlikely that the subsonic C802 can replicate that success.

It is Hezbollah’s rocket and missile force, numbering in the tens of thousands, that constitutes the bulk of the party’s firepower. While a smaller number of medium- and long-range missiles such as the Fajr-5, Fateh-110, and Scud variants are stationed north of the Litani River, the short-range Katyusha 122mm and others are south of the river, many in fixed positions in close proximity to civilian areas.

The short-range rockets continued to be launched throughout the 2006 war, with 250 fired on the last day. Though more than 4,000 such missiles were fired, less than 500 actually hit vital targets. Even though the small-sized warheads caused little overall damage, Israeli analysts agree that Israel’s inability to defend against them represented one of the prime failures of the war.

Hezbollah, in turn, considered it a triumph, and rightly so, that it was able to keep firing until the very end, defying Israel’s massive artillery and aerial bombardment. However, against this we must examine the fate of the party’s medium- and long-range missiles. Many were destroyed on the ground early in the war. Since then, Israel’s missile defense systems have significantly improved, with the introduction of the latest generation of Patriot PAC3 and Arrow II missile systems.

Israel’s unmanned aerial vehicle surveillance capability, as well as its manned aircraft capability and improved anti-missile defenses, could minimize Hezbollah’s long-range missile threat. In fact, Israeli analysts today seem more concerned with Hezbollah’s short-range rocket threat.

Even though anti-missile systems such as the Iron Dome have been effective in Gaza, it is unlikely that such a system could neutralize volleys of hundreds of short-range rockets. That is why Israeli strategists have argued that a rapid and massive Israeli invasion of areas south of the Litani would be needed to end the short-range rocket threat, thereby avoiding repeating the failures of 2006. This would inevitably lead to extensive casualties and devastation of villages, not to mention the destruction of Lebanon’s infrastructure, which Israel has declared a legitimate target should hostilities arise.

Hezbollah is well aware of this, and has indicated through intermediaries that it would not initiate hostilities along the southern border. Active resistance for the liberation of Lebanese territory is a thing of the past. However, a cataclysmic scenario may be triggered by Iran, Hezbollah’s patron. As far as Iran is concerned, its regional interests and considerations take precedence over Lebanese concerns.
Hezbollah’s thousands of short-range rockets do not have a significant military value. Instead, they constitute an excuse and an instigation for a destructive Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon. Iran’s control of Hezbollah’s arsenal magnifies the danger. Hezbollah has no credible means of defending Lebanon’s infrastructure, territorial waters or airspace. The deterrence value of the party’s weapon systems is vastly overrated, exposing Lebanon to massive retaliation. The current situation presents a disaster in the waiting.

Basem Shabb is a Lebanese parliamentarian and a member of the parliamentary committee on defense. He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 17, 2012, on page 7.
Read more:
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::

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 A Massacre in Dariya

While the Islamic Republic of Iran hosts a non-aligned nations meeting in Tehran, promising to bring peace to Syria in honour of the Republic's critical relationship with that civil-war-torn country, the violence between the regime and the rebels continues to grew increasingly more brutal.  Syrian soldiers stormed the town of Dariya on the weekend, and it's estimated that well over 300 people, rebels and civilians, women and children, perished in the attack.

As-yet-unverified claims by the rebels insist that over 200 bodies, most of whom were those killed "execution-style" have been discovered in houses and basements in the town.  Dariya has been a rebel holdout, and its status brought it to the position of being stormed by government troops after being encircled by the military and bombarded in a foreboding taste of the full frontal attack to come.

In Dariya's Abu Suleiman al Darani mosque, where men involved in the conflict had gone for haven, 80 corpses were videoed in neat lines covered with shrouds, some with gunshot wounds to the head, chest, and torso.  "Assad forces' vengeance on Dariya, 150 bodies in this mosque alone", claimed the voice of an activist on the video.

"Tanks surrounded the area and before they engaged on the ground they bombarded (the town) from the air very hard for several hours.  In this kind of situation normally people gather in safe places like a mosque or basement.  When the Syrian forces arrived they killed everyone", stated Fires Ramim Toreefi, a rebel organizer in Antalya, Turkey.

Opposition rebels claim to have found 310 bodies in Dariya, and another 120 in other parts of Syria under attack, all since Friday, the day after United Nations' military monitors left the country, with their hopeless mandate concluded.  President al-Assad denied his military had anything to do with this latest atrocity.
"The Syrian people will not allow this conspiracy to achieve its objectives.  What is happening now is not only directed at Syria but the whole region.  Because Syria is the cornerstone, foreign powers are targeting it so their conspiracy succeeds across the entire region."

And, according to the country's official state news agency:  "Our heroic armed forces cleansed Dariya from remnants of armed terrorist groups who committed crimes against the sons of the town."  The "terrorists", the news agency stated, carried out their own massacre for the very specific purpose of inciting the international community to take action against President al-Assad, to injure Syria and break it of its will.

And while Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is lending credence to Iran's support of the Syrian regime by his appearance at the Tehran meeting of the non-aligned nations, he has also been forced to call an enquiry into the killings of civilians in Dariya, perhaps bringing attention to the Shabiya who will most certainly be on the receiving end of like punishment when, as will most certainly occur, the regime falls.

Rebels from the Free Syrian Army had one reason for celebration in the midst of all the fearsome news of deaths, when they claimed to have shot down a military helicopter as they fought against the regime's army in a new front opened in east Damascus.

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