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Tuesday, 18 July 2006
W. dithers while Lebanon burns.
Topic: Israel

The WaPo reports:

"News agencies quoted the military and police as saying that more than 210 people had been killed since [Israeli] attacks began Wednesday. The Health Ministry put the number at 182 dead and 525 wounded, almost all of them civilians, but said that count included only those identified by hospital officials."

No doubt, there are probably many more killed, but their bodies are probably still buried in the rubble of their homes. Israel's assualt on Lebanon, which they say might continue for weeks, is causing tens of thousands of people to flee, many on roads Israel keeps bombing. They drop leaflets warning residents to leave areas they contend are Hezbollah "strong-holds," and then they bomb the only exits.  

This is a complete disaster, it really is, and what I'm wondering is why the United States isn't rapidly moving in to sort out some kind of cease-fire to stop the totaly disproportunate number of Lebanese casualties? Judging by what Condi Rice said on This Week last Sunday, she and W. are in no hurry to prevent Israel from having time to level much of Lebanon's infrastrucutre.

She told George Stephenopolis that: 

"I'm certainly willing to play whatever role I'm needed to play. We have to go at the root cause. . . It's fine to have a cessation of violence. We want to have a cessation of violence. We're worried about the escalating casualties on all sides. But unless we go to the fundamentals here, we're going to continue to have these spikes of violence in the Middle East as we have had for the past 30 years."

Translation: we want a cessation of violence, but only on our terms. Until Hezbollah does exactly what Israel tells it to do; stops firing rockets, turns over the captive soldiers, and completly disarms, the United States is perfectly satisfied with sitting back and letting Israel bomb Lebanon into the stone-age. We'll leave the diplomacy up to the UN and the EU.  

And then W. can get back to munching his lunch, order a Diet-Coke and blame everything on Koffi Annan. According to W., the solution is all so simple. Instead of Annan wasting his time talking about an international force to separate the two sides and stop the killing as soon as possible, W. says: "What they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it's over." [Inquirer]

It's as easy as that!  People are going to look back on this and ask 'what the hell were they thinking?' How could this government, which has the most influence over one of the sides in this conflict not do more to stop some much death and destruction? It is just unconscienable!

I guess, Brent Scowcroft was partly right about W. being  "mesmerized" by Ariel Sharon. But it's not Sharon in particular who ahs him "wrapped around his finger," but rather the nation of Israel and what it represents to his end-time fantasies. What other explaination is there?

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:28 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 18 July 2006 3:29 PM EDT
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Monday, 17 July 2006
W.'s dithering and possible blow-back in Iraq.
Topic: Israel


While the rest of the world condemns Israel's over-the-top response to Hezbollah's kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers four days ago, the US stands alone is full support of Israel's aggression. W. says, "Israel has a right to defend herself" and he reminds everyone that "there are terrorists who will blow up innocent people in order to achieve tactical objectives." No one denies that Israel has the right to defend itself, or that Hezbollah blows up innocent people, but the difference in this situation is that Hezbollah attacked an Israeli military target and the objective was to force Israel into a trade; their two soldiers for the release of thousands of Palestinian and a small number of Lebanese prisoners in Israeli custody. This is the point that W. and the US press and media are missing here. There is no existential threat to Israel involved in this case. Hezbollah isn't anywhere close to being able to destroy the state of Israel with a few thousand Katyusha rockets.

Bombing Beirut's airport, bombing roads and bridges, destroying power plants and blockading the country's ports, trying to turn "back the clock twenty years," is a total overreaction to the original provocation. Israel has brutally attacked a sovereign country and it is imposing collective punishment on millions of Lebanese civilians to go after a militia that controls only a small portion of the southern Lebanon. The rest of the world is right to condemn Israel for its wildly disproportionate response to what amounts to a border skirmish.  Instead of contracting our diplomacy out to Jordan, Egypt and the EU (all of whom have no influence on the parties involved), W. ought to get on the phone with Ehud Olmert himself and read him the riot act. I think we might have just a little bit of leverage with Israel; after all, we give them $3 billion a year and supply all their weapons. The threat to cut any of that aide off would certainly focus they're attention on ceasing and desisting pretty quickly. Has W. seen to the price of a barrel of oil lately? Has he noticed financial markets all over the world plunging the past four days on the fears of a larger regional war breaking out? And are we prepared to deal with the blow-back in Iraq for our blind allegiance to Israel?  

Because it's not long in coming: The NYT reports today that our old friend in Iraq, Muqtada al-Sadr (who's political bloc in the "unity" government has 30 seats) says that Iraqis will not "sit back with hands folded" while Israel attacks Lebanon. The Times reports:  "In a written statement, Mr. Sadr also said that he considered the United States culpable in the conflict unfolding in Lebanon, since America was the largest foreign ally of Israel." Al-Sadr writes, "Eyes are shedding tears, and the heart feels pain and sadness for our people in Lebanon due to the bombing, terror and clear aggression that the Zionist enemy conducts and that is shielded by a number of countries, including the United States."  

The specter of Iran making our lives a living hell in Iraq is quickly raising its ugly head. The timing of Hezbollah's operation on the Israel's border just coincidentally coincides with the G-8 meeting in Russia and the US effort to convince the international community to take Iran to the UN Security Counsel. If Iran starts throwing their weight around in Iraq, we're in big trouble. Our 129,000 troops over there are already incapable of dealing with the Sunni insurgency, what happens if the Shiites turn on us?  And beyond that, what happens if Israel decides to turn on Syria next? Whereas, before it looked like we had Iran hemmed in from the east and west, they now have us at a disadvantage. Not only can they strike at us in Iraq but they can also get us in Afghanistan, while their buddies in Syria will be more than happy to open up their borders for the flow of arms and fighters into Iraq to really start flowing.  Now, we're the ones who are surrounded.  

This is a pretty precarious position to be in, W. & co. really needs to put their thinking caps on and stop screwing around. We need to fundamentally change our thinking on Iran and start dealing with the reality that they're the regional power. We should drop the idea of going to the Security Counsel, because Russia and China are never going to vote for sanctions or military action anyway; loose the preconditions to direct talks; and we should push for negotiations on all matters pertaining to the region, not just the nuclear program. It is an unfortunate truth that our blundering in Iraq has left us no choice but to deal with Tehran.  

We're still the only super power in the world, so we don’t have to worry about losing face and the benefits of talks with the Iranians outweigh the drawbacks. They could help resolve a whole host of problems plaguing the Middle East or they can make them a lot worse. The question is: does this administration have the intelligence and imagination to do this the right way or are they going to keep making the same mistakes? Don't answer that!    

Read more on this at NSD.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 4:06 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 17 July 2006 4:08 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 12 July 2006
Israel declares another war:
Topic: Israel


Israel is in the news again: Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse and just as Israel was escalating its "incursion" into central Gaza, killing 23 Palestinians in the process... AFP: "TYRE, Lebanon - Israel bombarded Lebanon after two soldiers were snatched by Hezbollah guerrillas in bloody day of cross-border violence that left 11 people dead, opening up a dangerous new front in the Middle East conflict. Israeli forces pounded targets from the land, sea and air and sent troops into Lebanon after the Hezbollah raid on an army patrol on the volatile border which Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert branded an "act of war." Eight Israeli soldiers were killed, along with a Hezbollah fighter and two Lebanese civilians in the deadliest day on the border since Israel ended its 22-year occupation of southern Lebanon six years ago."

Here we go again: Once again Israel is making the same mistakes it always makes, shooting wildly, spreading its bombs all over the place, not caring where their bombs fall. After two weeks of making life for Palestinians in Gaza a living hell, they're no closer to getting their missing soldier back. Whereas before their incursion, Hamas was on the ropes, actually coming around to signing an agreement to implicitly recognize Israel under pressure from Abu Mazen, now because of this misguided, boneheaded, knee-jerk reaction, Hamas is back in the saddle. Once again, Abu Mazen, the only person Israel has any chance of having a rational conversation with has been marginalized.

The brilliant plan to go after the elected Hamas faction in Gaza, when the real perpetrators of the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit were in Syria, has got them no where. Bombing civilian infrastructure has gained them international condemnation and still Shalit is no closer to coming home. Now, they're making the same error by going after the government of Lebanon. The Israelis know as well as anybody that the Lebanese government is much too weak to take on Hezbollah. The Israeli demand that Hezbollah be disarmed sounds good on paper, but in actually it would lead to another Lebanese civil war.

There are all kinds of people in Lebanon that don't like Hezbollah and its Shiite brand of Islam. The Sunnis and Christians in that country resent very much Hezbollah's politics, their militia and their power. And now I'm sure the vast majority of Lebanese are not too thrilled to be in the firing line of Israel's air force and artillery thanks to Hezbollah's unilateral attack on Israel. Israel could use that discontent with a minimum of military pressure to negotiate the release of their two soldiers, possibly with the help of the US and also the French, who have a lot of influence in Lebanon and Syria. If we weren't on such bad terms with Iran, we might be able to convince them to lean on Iran, but that's out the window, of course.

If Israel isn't careful, if they start bombing Lebanese infrastructure and buzzing Beirut, this could really spin out of control. It this were then to spread into Syria, there's no telling where things could wind up.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 7:38 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 15 July 2006 7:03 PM EDT
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Monday, 24 April 2006
The problem with Hamas.
Topic: Israel

Back when Hamas won the elections in the PA, I thought this might be a good omen for the Israeli/Palestinian peace process, such as it is. I congratulated the Palestinian people for their enthusiastic embrace of democracy and hoped that having won such an overwhelming mandate Hamas would moderate their ideology, continue to honor agreements that the previous Palestinian governments had worked out with Israel and get the ball rolling on finally resolving this decade's long mess. [LTAD]

Briefly, it seemed like a new dawn might be emerging in the Middle East, with Sharon having left the scene and a new regime in the PA. Not that I thought Hamas was any great bargain, but it looked like they could pull off the Nixon-going-to-China thing, they having the ideologically approved credibility to negotiate with Israel in the eyes of the Palestinians.

The one little fairly important piece of the puzzle I was missing was that this is the Middle East, common sense doesn't work there. Hamas came right in and refused to recognize the existence of Israel and the various Israeli political parties vying for election were provided with an excellent whipping boy to show how tough they could be against Palestinian terror.

Now that all the political players are in place; the U.S. and the E.U have decided to pull the plug on funding for the PA, until the Hamas-led government either collapses or acquiesces to Israel's demands for recognition and a renunciation of terror. Israel is withholding the millions of dollars it takes from taxes for the PA, so money the PA actually makes itself is also gone. Hamas hasn't reacted well to the pressure and isn't really picking up the whole political give and take thing very quickly. Last week, a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv killed nine Israeli citizens. Even though the bombing was carried out by Islamic Jihad, a faction of Fatah ---our buddy Abu Mazen's outfit ---Hamas got blamed for it and didn't do themselves any favors by not condemning it.

How Hamas might have been able to stop such a bombing with no security forces under its control is a guest ion I have. One would have thought if anyone was in a position to prevent this sort of thing from happening it would have been Abu Mazen, whose Fatah party runs the security forces and has links to the party that carried out the attack. In any case, whoever controls the security forces at this point is to be getting more and more of an academic guestion because they haven't been paid in two months. Soon there may not be any security forces.

Unless, the U.S., the E.U. and Israel are prepared for a complete breakdown of all law and order in the PA, someone has to step in and make a deal with Hamas. Various leaders of Hamas have hinted that they might tolerate the existence of Israel if a deal can be made on borders and money. As usual there are no go options in this on-going conflict, but there are always worse ones. The PA descending into civil war would seem to be a lot worse than trying to meet Hamas half way on some sort of deal to restore funding for a pledge to make their cease-fire permanent and negotiations down the road.

Who knows what the real answer is, I'm just crank who writes a blog, what do I know? The best diplomatic minds in the world have spent decades banging their heads against a wall trying to cut this Gordian's knot, but I do know that one side has to blink, and I say the sooner the better.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:17 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 15 March 2006
Vote for Kadima: we've got really big ones!
Topic: Israel

In a nasty bit of electioneering yesterday, acting Israeli PM Ehud Olmert sent the IDF into the PA to storm a prison in Jericho in order to arrest some Palestinian terrorism suspects who were already locked up. The story is that the Brits and Americans who were guarding the prisoners, in a special arrangement brokered a few years back, left because of security concerns and the Israelis fearing the PA would let them escape came crashing in to get them. During the 10-hour siege, the streets of Palestine predictably exploded and protests in the West Bank and Gaza turned violent, resulting attacks on the British Council buildings in Gaza and Ramallah and the kidnapping of 17 foreigners, according to the AP.

My question is, what the hell were the Israelis doing deep inside the PA to begin with? And how did they know to go in the second the international monitors left? It's all very fishy. In my opinion, the British and the U.S really blew it. The two countries claimed they had been complaining about the security situation at the prison for quite a while, but this is the first anyone has heard of it. If it was such a problem, why didn't they come out publicly and say something before they just up and left. This is now going to turn into yet another political crisis. You can't exactly claim you're an honest broker when you reinforce the perception that you're wrapped around Israel's little finger by allowing something like this to happen. The use of American Apache helicopters and Caterpillar bulldozers in the attack, doesn't help either.

There had to have been a better way to handle this. Now, the bomb-throwers and fire breathers are all fired up and there's likely going to be some kind of retaliation, which will then lead to a heavy handed response from the Israel and then the Palestinians will hit back and so on and so on and so on....But, hey, Kadima's sagging poll numbers went up, so know we know Olmert is capable of using overwhelming force against unarmed targets, just like Sharon always did. And he's way mas macho than Bibi.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:28 PM EST
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Tuesday, 14 March 2006
Iraq on the bloody march to freedom.
Topic: Israel

I hear today that the White House thinks they can regain some ground in public opinion if they focus on issues they feel the president is having some success on, like Iraq and Medicare. Man, they are in a bubble over there on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., aren't they? Yesterday, W. gave his big speech on the Iraqis standing up and us standing down, blah, blah, blah, and today he's in New York State to trumpet his massively successful Medicare drug plan. Can't you already feel the public turning around?

In Iraq, Muktada al-Sadr called for calm and unity and blamed all the violence on al-Qaeda and the U.S. Meanwhile, in the past twenty-four hours, 60 more bodies have turned up with their legs and hands tied and it looks like the Shiites might be running out of ammunition because most of the dead appeared to have been strangled. In Sadr city, the scene of 6 deadly car bombings on Sunday, vigilantism was the watch word of the day. The NYT reports that, "Shiite vigilantes seized four men suspected of the deadly attacks, interrogated them, beat them, executed them, and left their bodies hanging from lampposts in a Shiite slum yesterday." So far so good.

In a further sign that Iraqis are remaining calm and working towards a political solution that will allow the U.S. to stand down as Iraqis stand up, the Times' Jeffery Gettlman writes that, "The streets are ruled by aggressive teenagers with shiny soccer jerseys and machine guns. They poke their heads into cars and detain whom they want. There seems to be no minimum age to join the action. A playful boy named Mustafa, who said he was 11 but looked about 8, was part of a four-foot-tall militia of Sadr city boys struggling to drag chunks of concrete into the street to black cars." Of course, this isn't to say its only Sadr city that's experiencing some democratic untidiness, there are raging gun battles and mortar rounds falling all over Baghdad and the body count is going up by the hour. This is not to say there's complete chaos in the streets or anything, some of the killing is very organized.

Iran is a threat to who?

But, right now, the president's main worry is Iran. You know, they're the most serious threat we face. Some might even say Iran is an imminent threat, in fact. On Radio Times today, Ilan Berman of the American Foreign Policy Foundation warned that the NIE from last August saying that Iran might have a nuke in three to five years was "controversial" and that some are looking much closer in to a time frame of one to one and half years.

What he didn't mention was that by "some" he meant the Israeli lobby. They've been over here pushing the storyline that we have to prevent the "point of no return" which could be any minute now. If the Iranians can get past the hurtles of all the complicated issues involved in actually making a bomb and then put it on a missile and get it to hit the right place, then they might be a real threat some time down the road.

So obviously we have to act now! Berman admits that we don't really know where they are in the process, but since we don't know what we don't know, we should just figure they already do have a nuclear capability. Just like Rummy said before the Iraq invasion, the absence of evidence is no evidence of absence. And anyway, Berman warns, the military option for the Israelis is not a matter of "if" but of "when." We don't want to be put into the position of having to clean up Israel’s diplomatic mess after a preemptive strike; we'd better do it first. The fact that Israeli is blackmailing us into a war that we can't afford is not their problem apparently.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:18 PM EST
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Friday, 27 January 2006
Hamas might be crazy.
Topic: Israel
[See my posts at Non Sum Dignus for more news]

Yesterday, when I wrote about Hamas winning the parliamentary elections in the PA, I might have been a little bit too optimistic about the militant Islamist group's willingness to change. The present leaders of Hamas are not exactly your standard wild-eyed fanatics---they are mainly professionals with degrees---but then again their charter calls for the destruction of Israel, so I don't know how reasonable they're going to be. I really hope they will drop the 'destroy Israel' talk and get on with providing the Palestinians with a better future, because until they stop banging their head against the wall with this crazy notion that they're going to beat Israel with suicide bombers, they're not going to be able to govern. I really doubt the majority of Palestinians in the Gaza and West Bank want to go another round with the IDF, I'm sure that's not what they were voting for.

Hopefully, we won't have to go through the whole long process of haggling that went on before the PLO finally recognized the existence of Israel, and we can get on with it. The Palestinians are a pretty pragmatic and secular people; let’s hope their new leaders are up to the task of bringing them into the modern world. They've certainly got a better chance of eventually becoming a peaceful, prosperous and democratic county than the Iraqis do. Large majorities of Israelis and Palestinians want a two-state solution to this pointless and bloody war, so it's up to both of them to make their leaders do the right thing.

Vlad "the Impaler" Putin is cracking me up!

As everyone knows the Russians caught Britsh spies communicating with a rock last week. Today, the Guardian reports "The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, yesterday said that four British diplomats accused of espionage in Moscow should not be expelled, as their replacements might be cleverer than they were and harder to catch."

Mr Putin said: 'My opinion is that if these intelligence agents are expelled, they [the UK] will send new ones. These new people may prove to be smart. In this case, we will have to go to much trouble spotting them. Think about it,' he said, according to Interfax."

Oh, he's a funny guy!

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:10 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 27 January 2006 1:34 PM EST
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Wednesday, 27 April 2005
Bunker busting bombs to a country that doesn't need them?
Topic: Israel


Here's a very interesting story, which will no doubt go un-noticed by the media, but not the rest of the world.

"The Bush administration has authorized the sale of as many as 100 large bunker-buster bombs to Israel. One expert said the move should serve as a warning to Iranians with nuclear ambitions...

"This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that has been, and continues to be, an important force for economic progress in the Middle East," the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a press release."

An "important force for economic progress?"

How does selling Israel something they don't need help "economic progress?"

Oh, now I see:

"The proposed deal (would be) worth as much as $30 million." And then they can resell it to the highest bidder, like they do with all the stuff we sell them. India? China? Pakistan?

On the win, win side:

The deal "would provide Israel with the capability to drop 5,000-pound bombs that can penetrate bunkers and other buried structures. The GBU-28 bombs can be dropped from Israel's American-made F-15 fighters."

How convenient! But here's the real deal.

"The Israelis want to be able to attack Iran's underground nuclear weapons facilities," said John Pike, a military expert at Globalsecurity.org in Alexandria, Va.

The propose sale should give notice to Tehran that the United States will not allow Iran to become a nuclear power if diplomatic efforts fail, he said."

So, we can't do it so we'll leave it to the Israelis.

Remember the Don Imus interview It's all starting to make sense.

Imus: "Why don't we make Israel do it?" [Take out Iran's nukes program.]

Cheney: "Well, one of the concerns people have is that Israel might do it without being asked...If, in fact, the Israelis became convinced the Iranians had a significant nuclear capability, given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first, and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwords."

Well, that leaves it up to us. We might be cleaning more up more than a diplotmatic mess though. Another 9-11 after this type of attack might buck up Bush's approval ratings. Right around the mid-term elections would do wonders!

Posted by bushmeister0 at 9:06 PM EDT
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