Saturday, June 24, 2006

When is Bush going to Stop Iran?

In a column published today in the Washington Post, the controversial Richard Perle is adding his voice to the chorus of criticism of the US policy (or lack thereof) in regards to Iran’s nuclear threat.
“For more than five years, the administration has dithered. Bush gave soaring speeches, the Iranians issued extravagant threats and, in 2003, the State Department handed the keys to the impasse to the British, French and Germans (the ‘E.U.-3’), who offered diplomatic valet parking to an administration befuddled by contradiction and indecision. And now, on May 31, the administration offered to join talks with Iran on its nuclear program. How is it that Bush, who vowed that on his watch ‘the worst weapons will not fall into the worst hands,’ has chosen to beat such an ignominious retreat?”

“Twenty years ago, I watched U.S. diplomats conspire with their diffident European counterparts to discourage President Ronald Reagan from a political, economic and moral assault on the Soviet Union aimed at, well, regime change. Well-meaning diplomats pleaded for flexibility at the negotiating table, hoping to steer U.S. policy back toward detente. But Reagan knew a slippery slope when he saw one. At the defining moments, he refused the advice of the State Department and intelligence community and earned his place in history.

It is not clear whether Bush recognizes the perils of the course he has been persuaded to take. What has been presented to Ahmadinejad as a simple take-it-or-leave-it deal -- stop the activities that could enable you to acquire nuclear weapons and we will reward you, or continue them and we will punish you -- is nothing of the sort. Neither the activities nor the carrots and sticks are clearly defined or settled with our allies, much less with Russia and China. If the punishments require approval by the U.N. Security Council, the United States would need an unlikely combination of approvals and abstentions from council members. The new policy, undoubtedly pitched to the president as a means of enticing the E.U.-3 to support ending Iran's program, is likely to diminish pressure on Iran and allow the mullahs more time to develop the weapons they have paid dearly to pursue.”

If Bush continues on the same course, he too, will earn his place in history, as the one who allowed Iran’s islamo-fascist regime to acquire nuclear weapons.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Iran Tried to Acquire Nuclear Weapons from Pakistan

Former Pakistan's army chief Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg, recently disclosed to the Associated Press how Iran had approached Pakistan for close to 20 years to obtain conventional arms and then technology for nuclear weapons.

In 1990, while he was Pakistan’s army chief of staff, Iranians visited him to try to acquire nuclear bombs: “They didn't want the technology. They asked: 'Can we have a bomb?' My answer was: By all means you can have it but you must make it yourself. Nobody gave it to us.” Beg added that former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto even told him the Iranians offered more than $4 billion for the technology.

Beg, who believes that Iran has had enough time to build nuclear weapons, received a delegation from the Iranian Embassy in Pakistan last January, seeking advice on how to head off an attack on their nuclear facilities, based on his own experience dealing with India's nuclear threat. His recommendations were to “make it clear that if anything happens to Iran, if anyone attacks it, that Iran's answer will be to hit Israel” and to be ready to “degrade the defense systems of Israel”.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Highly Enriched Uranium Found in Iran

Yesterday, diplomats reported that U.N. inspectors had found traces of highly enriched uranium on equipment that came from a former Iranian military base. The density of enrichment appears to be well above the low-enrichment levels required to produce electricity and not far below the level needed to make nuclear warheads. If confirmed, this report would prove that a/ Iran is enriching uranium at much higher levels than announced, and b/ its nuclear program is not purely civilian.

Interestingly enough, the equipment came from the Lavizan complex, an undeclared facility in a military base which became public after Iranian exiles disclosed its existence. Suspected to be a major center of research into nuclear enrichment, the site was razed and its topsoil removed by the Iranians after the disclosure and before the IAEA would be allowed to visit it… More recently, and as the Telegraph reported, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards cut down thousands of trees in a parkland next to the Lavizan complex, raising further suspicion that the trees may have contained incriminating nuclear traces.

This recent discovery is just the latest proof that Iran's nuclear program is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. One may even wonder why proofs are needed for a country which has the world's second largest natural gas reserves and the third largest oil reserves in the world, and who really does not need nuclear energy. Once again, discussions will take place at the IAEA, at the UN, and in the Western World, and precious time will be lost while the Iranians pursue their apocalyptic nuclear dream…

Monday, May 01, 2006

A New Strategy on Iran by Dennis Ross

Dennis Ross, special Middle East coordinator under President Bill Clinton, just wrote an interesting piece in the Washington Post on how to best deal with Iran. Here are some excerpts:
“The United States and Iran are playing programmed roles in a minuet on nuclear weapons. The United States pushes the U.N. Security Council to warn Iran about the consequences of going nuclear. And Iran continues its march toward development of nuclear power, even as its president declares that ‘we don't give a damn’ about U.N. resolutions calling on Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment.

With the Russians and Chinese seemingly determined to block sanctions, our efforts at the United Nations promise to evolve slowly while Iran presses ahead with its plans. If we stay on the same path, we will be left with two choices: accept the reality of Iran's nuclear weapons capability or take military action to set back its ambitions.

Either outcome could prove disastrous. If Iran succeeds, in all likelihood we will face a nuclear Middle East. The Saudis -- fearing an emboldened Iran determined to coerce others and to promote Shiite subversion in the Arabian Peninsula -- will seek their own nuclear capability, and probably already have a deal with Pakistan to provide it should Iran pose this kind of threat. And don't expect Egypt to be content with Saudi Arabia's being the only Arab country with a nuclear ‘deterrent’.

As for those who think that the nuclear deterrent rules that governed relations between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War will also apply in a nuclear Middle East: Don't be so confident. For one thing, the possible number of nuclear countries will drive up the potential for miscalculation. For another, with an Iranian president who sees himself as an instrument for accelerating the coming of the 12th Imam -- which is preceded in the mythology by the equivalent of Armageddon -- one should not take comfort in thinking that Iran will act responsibly.

But the alternative of using force to prevent or forestall the Iranians' going nuclear does not look much better. To begin with, there are no simple or clean military options. Air operations alone might involve striking hundreds of targets, many in populated areas where there are significant air defense capabilities in the process of being upgraded by the Russians. The more casualties we inflict, the more we inflame the Islamic world.

Perhaps we could manage the response if the military campaign inflicted relatively few casualties and succeeded in setting back the Iranian nuclear program. But such a rosy scenario assumes that Iran's ability to retaliate is relatively limited. Even if we have the means to prevent the Iranian navy and air force from shutting down shipping into and out of the Persian Gulf, Iran has other options for turning any effort to take out its nuclear capability into a wider war….

The challenge remains one of changing the Iranian calculus. Iran must see that it either loses more than it gains by proceeding to move toward nuclear weapons or that it can gain more by giving up the effort. The problem with the current policy is that it threatens costs that either aren't believable or are likely to pale in comparison with what the Iranians see themselves gaining with nuclear power.

But what if we could threaten collective sanctions that the Iranians would see as biting? What if those were combined with possible gains in terms of a deal on nuclear energy, economic benefits and security understandings if the Iranians would give up the nuclear program? …

Why not have the president go to his British, French and German counterparts and say: We will join you at the table with the Iranians, but first let us agree on an extensive set of meaningful -- not marginal -- economic and political sanctions that we will impose if the negotiations fail. Any such agreement would also need to entail an understanding of what would constitute failure in the talks and the trigger for the sanctions…

Real economic sanctions would not just bite Iran and its ability to generate revenue but also would undoubtedly drive up the price of oil. Our readiness to accept that risk at a time when high gasoline prices are becoming a domestic political issue would convey a very different signal about our seriousness to the Iranians -- who presently don't fear sanctions because they think they have the world over a barrel.

There is no guarantee such an approach will work with Iran. This Iranian government may simply be determined to have nuclear weapons. If that is the case, and if President Bush is determined to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons -- as he has said -- we would still be better off having tried a direct negotiating option before resorting to what inevitably will be a difficult, messy use of force once again.”

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Iran’s Potential Response to a US Attack

Citing a senior source in the Iranian armed forces' joint chief of staff, Asharq Al-Awsat described in details how Iran would respond to a US attack.

According to the senior sources, tens of millions of dollars, large quantities of sophisticated weapons and explosives, as well as extensive military training were provided to leading Iraqi, Palestinian and Lebanese terrorist groups.
“Eight fundamentalist Islamist organizations have received large sums of money in the last month from the Iranian intelligence services, as part of a project to strike U.S military and economic installations across the Middle East.

Military training camps of the Guards were opened for the fighters of the Mehdi army in Iran to receive the necessary training. Iran had also increased its financial assistance to Moqtada al Sadr to more than 20 million dollars.

The same applied to Islamic Jihad in Palestine which has received large sums of money, large quantities of arms and military training for its cadres in Isfahan, including street fighting methods.

As for the Lebanese Hezbollah, several loads of arms have been sent to; they include rockets, explosives, and guided missiles. Hezbollah's arsenal includes more than 10 thousand rockets short-range rockets and missiles including Fajr, Nour, Arash, Hadid.

An estimated 80 members underwent private training last year on how to carry out suicide operations from the air (through the use of kite planes) and undersea operations using submarines.”

According to Asharq Al-Awsat , the Iranian plan includes strikes at US bases in the Middle East, suicide operations aimed at US/British embassies and installations as well as key oil installations, and Hezbollah rockets against military and economic Israeli targets. In a second phase, terrorist cells would be used to target civil and industrial sites in Europe and in the US.
“According to Iran, the latest military plan includes:

1- A missile strike directly targeting the US bases in the Persian Gulf and Iraq , as soon as nuclear installations are hit.

2- Suicide operations in a number of Arab and Muslim countries against US embassies and missions and US military bases and economic and oil installations related to US and British companies. The campaign might also target the economic and military installations of countries allied with the United States .

3- Launch attacks by the Basij and the Revolutionary Guards and Iraqi fighters loyal to Iran against US and British forces in Iraq , from border regions in central and southern Iraq .

4- Hezbollah to launch hundreds of rockets against military and economic targets in Israel .

According to the source, in case the US military attacks continue, more than 50 Shehab-3 missiles will be targeted against Israel and the al Quads Brigades will give the go-ahead for more than 50 terrorists cells in Canada, the US and Europe to attack civil and industrial targets in these countries.

What about the last stage in the plan?

Here, the Iranian source hesitated before saying with worry; this stage might represent the beginning of a world war, given that extremists will seek to maximize civilian casualties by exploding germ and chemical bombs as well as dirty nuclear bombs across western and Arab cities.”

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Never Again

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Who Cares about Persecuted Christians?

While many people applauded the Italian government, and the Pope, for granting asylum to the Christian Afghan convert, and perceived it as a show of strength, I see this peaceful resolution as a clear sign of either the weakness or the hypocrisy of Western Christianity.

Having converted from Islam to Christianity, Abdul Rahman had been arrested in Afghanistan, where the law stipulates, like in many other Muslim countries, the death penalty for any Muslim who would convert to another religion. Faced with intense public pressure, Western governments convinced the Afghan president to free the prosecuted convert, and transferred him to Italy where he was granted asylum.

Forcing the Afghan government to free Abdul Rahman and granting him asylum was the best way to avoid having to solve the deeper issue of persecuted Christians all over the world. Instead of confronting Afghanistan and of trying to build the very foundations of religious freedom, we chose to close this problematic file. Now that it has been closed, we are witnessing a deafening silence in both the Western press and among the Western governments regarding the treatment of Christians in the Muslim world. This case was just the tip of an iceberg that the Western world still refuses to confront.

For decades, Christian leaders, including the Pope, have been reluctant to speak up and actively protect the persecuted Christians. What have they done to stop the genocide that took place in South Sudan for years in which hundreds of thousand of Black Christians were slaughtered, displaced, enslaved, raped and forced to convert by their Arab Muslim attackers? Nothing, not even prosecuting the criminals after the genocide took place.

Similarly, when did we last hear a Christian head of a western government, or the Vatican, either complain, denounce or actively confront Saudi Arabia’s religious apartheid?

As we all know, Christians in Saudi Arabia have to worship secretly, or risk lashing, deportation, and torture. Publicly practicing Christianity is forbidden in this country, where more than a million Christians live. To preserve the sanctity of Saudi Arabia, no Church can be built and no non-Muslim can enter Mecca, where close to 1.5 million Saudis live. As in many other Muslim countries, the conversion by a Muslim to another religion is considered a crime punishable by the death penalty. On the other hand, conversion to Islam is highly encouraged, and there are dozens of centers throughout the country where civil servants are actively working to convert foreign residents.

Not only do we tolerate the Saudi Arabia’s religious apartheid, but we allow them to build and finance mosques all over the Western world, where they can freely spread their intolerant version of Islam. To add insult to injury, we even provided them, with great fanfare, a large site a few miles away from the Vatican to build European’s largest mosque. Our way to thank such a tolerant country…

For decades, leaders of the Western world have been silent despite the extreme Saudi’s religious apartheid and the widespread persecution of Christians in numerous countries (Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan, Sudan, Indonesia, etc.). One would have hoped that the case of Abdul Rahman and the high public awareness it generated would have encouraged such leaders to speak up and to try to solve these terrible issues that have cost so many lives and so much suffering. Instead, the case was quickly closed and the deafening silence of the Christian world is now back…

Google Promotes Hezbollah Propaganda, Part II

I wrote a post last week on the fact that the news agency of the Hezbollah was a source for Google News. Since then, a number of blogs picked up this story, including: Atlas Shrugs, Little Green Footballs, and Gates of Vienna

I would like to respond to some of the comments questioning Google’s responsibility, in light of the fact that its news section is based on a random algorithm. While this fact is correct, Google bears the responsibility of selecting and removing any source on its news section.

In an interview reproduced in InternetNews last year, Google spokesman Steve Langdon explained that “news media must apply to be included in Google News and they are evaluated by editors before inclusion”. As reported, he wouldn't provide a list of news media that Google News indexes, nor would he give details of the evaluation process or criteria for inclusion.

It’s painfully obvious that Google News has selected Hezbollah’s Al-Manar as one of its news sources. The question now remains: How is the blog community going to get Google to remove its content from its news service? What actions will Google take to make sure that a terrorist-funded news source does not make it again to the Google News list?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Google Promotes Hezbollah Propaganda

What a rude awakening this morning. As I opened my Google News, the source of a main article regarding the Middle East was Hezbollah’s Al Manar (see picture above). Since when the news agency of a major terrorist organization is considered a mainstream news source? When will Google start acting in a responsible fashion and stand by its “No Evil” principle?

For those not familiar with Al-Manar, here are is a snapshot:
- It’s owned and managed by Iran-funded Hezbollah
- Its programs are dedicated to the promotion of Hezbollah’s views’ and the hatred of America and Israel
- One of the recent drama series it aired, called The Diaspora, was, according to the BBC, based on “the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious 19th Century publication used by the Nazis among others to fuel race hatred."
- The EU, and more recently the US, have forbidden broadcasting the network.
- Until 9/11, its parent organization, Hezbollah was responsible for more American deaths than any other terrorist organizations

Friday, March 31, 2006

China’s Direct Responsibility in Sudan’s Ethnic Cleansing

Sudan’s Defense Minister is currently visiting its largest weapons supplier, China.

As reported by the official press agency of China, Sudan’s Defense Minister was greeted by its Chinese counterpart, Cao Gangchuan: “China and Sudan, since forging diplomatic ties in 1959, have enjoyed stable development of friendly and cooperative relations… The Chinese armed forces attach importance to developing relations with the Sudanese armed forces, and are ready to deepen the cooperation between the two sides in various fields”

As a matter of fact, this military cooperation has been going on for a long time, despite the fact that Sudan has been engaged into massive ethnic cleansing. For many years, Chinese have supplied the Sudanese governments with jet fighters, helicopters, armored vehicles, tanks, and weapons factories. According to the Sudan tribune, “Sudan’s air force recently bought $100 million worth of Shenyang fighter planes, including a dozen supersonic F-7 jets, and also purchased 34 other fighter-bombers from Beijing”.

As China is Sudan’s main weapons suppliers, it’s likely that its arms have been used in the slaughtering of millions of innocent Black civilians. Not only China has a direct responsibility in the murdering and displacement of these innocent African villagers, but it also played a key role in protecting the Arab regime of Khartoum. Using its seat at the United Nations Security Council, China has been Sudan's main diplomatic ally and has systematically threatened to veto any resolutions targeting its partner.

While some may wonder why China struck a partnership with a country widely recognized as being responsible for a massive genocide, the reason is unfortunately simple: oil. In exchange for the invaluable Chinese’s military and diplomatic support, Sudan provides more than 70% of its oil exports to China, and now accounts for close to 10% of China’s oil imports. As part of the relationship, government-owned China National Petroleum Corp has invested billions of dollars in developing oil fields and refineries in Sudan.

It’s obvious that China would do anything to satisfy its thirst for energy, key driver of its domestic growth. In the name of Oil, China provides tens of billions of dollars, sophisticated military equipment, key diplomatic protection to rogue regimes around the world, including Sudan and Iran. And the world is watching silently as millions of blacks are being slaughtered, displaced, or enslaved by an Arab-Islamic regime that is fed by the Chinese appetite for oil.

For an historical perspective on the ethnic cleansing that has claimed millions of lives in Sudan, read this post. For a deeper understanding of China’s military and economic relationship with Sudan, read this article.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

A Saudi’s Secret Nuclear Program?

According to the German magazine Cicero, Pakistani scientists are currently helping Saudi Arabia to build its own nuclear program. After having its nuclear program been heavily financed by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan is now returning the favor.

As the AFP reports:
“Saudi Arabia is working secretly on a nuclear program, with help from Pakistani experts, a German magazine reports in its latest edition, citing Western security sources.

During the Hajj pilgrimages to Mecca in 2003 through 2005, Pakistani scientists posed as pilgrims to come to Saudi Arabia in aircraft laid on by the oil-rich kingdom. Between October 2004 and January 2005, some of them took the opportunity to ‘disappear’ from their hotel rooms, sometimes for up to three weeks, it quoted German security expert Udo Ulfkotte as saying.

According to Western security services, the magazine added, Saudi scientists have been working since the mid-1990s in Pakistan, a nuclear power since 1998 thanks to the work of the now-disgraced Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.

Cicero, which will appear on newsstands on Thursday, also quoted a US military analyst, John Pike, as saying that Saudi bar codes can be found on half of Pakistan's nuclear weapons ‘because it is Saudi Arabia which ultimately co-financed the Pakistani atomic nuclear program’.

The magazine also said satellite images prove that Saudi Arabia has set up in Al-Sulaiyil, south of Riyadh, a secret underground city and dozens of underground silos for missiles.

According to some Western security services, long-range Ghauri-type missiles of Pakistani-origin are housed inside the silos.”

We should not be surprised by this news, as it’s obvious that Arab states will not remain on the side-line while one of their most dangerous neighbors, Iran, is about to have nuclear weapons. Whether they acquire or build nuclear weapons, leading Arab States will, sooner or later, need some form of deterrence. Welcome to a fanatic and nuclear Middle East…

Once again, the source of nuclear proliferation in rogue states leads to Pakistan. As mentioned in a previous post, Pakistan: A Friend or a Major Nuclear Threat?, our unwillingness to confront Pakistan on its past nuclear collaboration with Iran and Libya, and to put those responsible behind bars, may end up being a suicidal mistake for the US.

The Quote of the Day from Our Iranian Friends

"Today the Iranians are hand-in-hand with the Lebanese, Syrians, Iraqis and Palestinians initiating a new trend that will free Palestine and will see the defeat of the Zionists and the US's greater Middle East plan", said the head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards on state television.

Once again, the Iranians are clearly stating their objectives. Question is: what are we waiting for?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

A History of Ethnic Cleansing in Sudan

Arab Domination

Since its independence in 1956 from Britain, the governments of Sudan have always been controlled by the Arab ethnic minority. Deriving its name from the Arabic “Bilad Al Sudan” which means “Land of the Blacks”, Sudan has been a victim of numerous invasions and has historically been an important source of slaves for Arab traders. As a result, Sudan is now divided in hundreds of Black, Arab, and mixed ethnies, tribes, and languages. In the ethnic census of 1956, Arabs represented less than 40%, and Blacks more than 50% of Sudan population.

Except for a 10-year quiet period, Arab governments have tried to force the country, and mainly the Black Animist and Christian South, to adopt the Arab language, culture and even the religion of Islam. This imposition took another level in the early 1980s when the government of Sudan instituted the traditional Islamic law (Shariah) including punishments ranging from amputations for theft to public lashings for alcohol possession in all the regions of Sudan.

Atrocious Ethnic Cleansing

Driven by Islamic radicalism, a sense of Arab racial superiority, as well as an economic interest in the oil-rich South region, successive Arab Muslim governments and Arab tribes engaged into massive genocide.

In South Sudan, systematic persecution, killings, rapes and enslavement of Black Animists and Christians took place over the last few decades, mainly since the 1980s. Experts estimate that, as a result of this ethnic cleansing, more than 2 million civilians have died and more than 4 million were displaced either internally or to neighboring countries. In addition, and in line with a long tradition of Arab slavers in Black Africa, tens of thousands of South Sudanese were captured and enslaved. The testimonial of Francis Bok who spent 10 years of his life as a slave is a must-read on this topic. Not only were these Black Sudanese forced to work for free in terrible conditions but they were, and may still be, subject to atrocious conditions: A recent field research conducted by Christian Solidarity International (CSI) discovered that over 95% of the Sudanese slaves attested to being frequently beaten, nearly 60% of women reported being victim to gang rape and over 33% to genital mutilation. Another 60% recalled being forced to convert to Islam.

In the last few years, the ethnic cleansing efforts have moved from the Black Animist and Christian South to the Black Muslim region of Darfur. In less than three years, more than 400,000 civilians were slaughtered and more than 2 million have been displaced, living in squalid camps and constantly fearing the next Arab raid.

Clear Government Responsibility

The ethnic cleansing that has been taking place over more than 2 decades has been organized and financed by the Arab Sudanese Government. As Human Rights Watch puts it, “despite persistent Sudanese government characterization of the Darfur conflict as a tribal conflict, and repeated denials of state coordination of abusive militia groups, there is irrefutable evidence of a Sudanese government policy of systematic support for, coordination of, and impunity from prosecution granted to the ‘Janjaweed militias’, a policy that continues to this day…The pattern of joint army-militia attacks supported by intensive aerial bombardment demonstrated in North Darfur became standard as the conflict spread to other areas of Darfur. In many cases, villages were first heavily bombed, then the Janjaweed and army ground forces moved in, again with aerial support, to ensure the ‘cleaning up’ of any remaining civilian presence.” This is the same pattern as the successful ethnic cleansing strategy used in South Sudan years before.

Future of Sudan?

In the last 20 years, close to 3 million Blacks have been ethnically cleansed and more than 6 million others have been displaced. Besides the targeted killings, mass rapes, forced displacement and enslavement, hundreds of African villages have been destroyed.

Will the country whose name means “Land of the Blacks” soon deserve such a name? Whether we call it genocide or a crime against humanity, no one has yet been punished or brought to justice. Why are we not forcing Sudan to stop this massive slaughtering and to enable its Black population to live freely in their own country? The silence of the UN, the West, the Muslim countries and the rest of the World is deafening. Why do you think our leaders are silent in the face of the slaughtering, enslavement, and displacement of millions of Blacks? Have we not learned from the genocide of Armenians, Jews or Rwandans? When will “Never Again” be words that we won’t have to use anymore?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Latest Anti-Semitic Case in France: A Rap Song

A few weeks after the discovery of the horrible torture and death of a young French Jew, Ilan Halimi, a virulently anti-Semitic rap song is becoming a hit in the French suburbs.

Intitled “F… the Jews”, this 3-minute song, mixing French and Arabic words, is one of the most disturbing pieces of Anti-Semitism that we have heard in recent years. Some highlights are:
- “We dedicate this F. song to the Jewish SOBs”
- “F. Israel and the US”
- “Jews are cysts that should be removed and burnt,…, cockroaches that need to be crushed and exterminated until the last one”
- “Hitler, this crazy guy, understood that we needed to gas them all”, and so on so forth.

The authors of this song are anonymous, but pretend to be part of a well-known band called pass-pass.

Needless to say, the song is spreading like wildfire….

The French song can be heard here

Monday, March 06, 2006

Annan’s Latest Project: A Counter-productive Facelift of the UN Human Rights Commission

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is currently urging the adoption of a text transforming the Human Rights Commission into a Human Rights Council.

In an excellent analysis, Anne Bayefski, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, explains why this project would be “an enormous step backward for the international protection of human rights and the spread of democratic governance”. As she explained, not only the project would fail to address the heart of the problem with the commission, which is its membership, but it would even worsen it.

Here are some the excerpts:
“Current members include some of the world's worst human-rights violators: China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe. Throughout the months of negotiations over a new entity, such states vehemently opposed efforts to introduce criteria for membership on the council. They succeeded. Not one criterion is included. Instead, the draft merely suggests 'when electing members' a state's human-rights record be 'taken into account.' Even states under Security Council sanction for human-rights violations (although this includes, at the moment, only Sudan and Côte d’Ivoire) would not be excluded automatically…

There is a provision for suspending a Council member that commits gross and systematic violations of human rights. But the step can only be taken with the agreement of two thirds of the members of the General Assembly. Fifty percent of the General Assembly could not even agree that Sudan was guilty of human-rights violations in November of 2005…

Special sessions of the commission can be called by just one third of the council's membership. Although this feature has been hailed as an improved capacity to deal with urgent human rights situations, the membership of the new council will make it more likely that special sessions will be about the United States and Israel rather than China or Sudan…

The proposal significantly shifts the balance of power away from the Western regional group, including the United States. The African and Asian regional groups will hold 55 percent of the votes. The proportional representation of the Asian group will represent the greatest increase and the representation of the Western group the greatest decline….

There is no doubt the United States would be the biggest single loser from the creation of this body. But more generally, U.S. support is unwarranted because the name change from Commission to Council will erroneously suggest renewed credibility in the absence of real reform.”

When will the UN finally fulfill its mission and provide the help the world so desperately needs? How long will our democracies accept that such an important world body and such a critical human rights commission be blackmailed and led by ruthless dictatorships? In the meantime, millions of people are displaced and killed in countries such as Sudan, and the UN remains silent…

Finally and on the topic of Kofi Annan and his biased leadership, I remain puzzled that nobody complained about the fact that Annan received the half-million dollars Zayed International Prize for the Environment a few weeks ago. While he announced that he would use the money to fund a foundation for agriculture and women's education in Africa, it’s still abnormal that a leader of the UN body would be allowed to receive a monetary prize and on top of that from the UAE, a country blatantly violating Human Rights.

As reported by Anti-Slavery, , “Children continue to be trafficked from countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sudan and Yemen to be used as camel jockeys in the UAE. The use of children as jockeys in camel racing is itself extremely dangerous and can result in serious injury and even death. Some children are also abused by traffickers and their employers (e.g. depriving them of food and beating them). The children's separation from their families and their transportation to a country where the people, culture and usually the language are completely unknown to them, leaves them dependent on their employers and de facto forced labourers.” “The trafficking of children for use as camel jockeys is prohibited by ILO Conventions 29, 138 and 182 and by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child - all of which have been ratified by the UAE.”

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Pakistan: A Friend or a Major Nuclear Threat?

In a visit to Pakistan, Bush praised President Pervez Musharraf and recognized Pakistan again as a major ally in the 'war against terror'. It’s undeniable that General Musharraf has been very helpful in fighting the former Taliban regime of Afghanistan and in reducing Al Quaeda capabilities, and deserves much credit for his courageous stance.

That being said, Musharraf has so far failed to transform Pakistan into a stable and long term friend of the United Sates:

- Pakistan is still home to thousands of madrassas teaching poor kids a very intolerant form of Islam. Financed by another ally of the US, Saudi Arabia, these madrassas have been a fertile recruiting ground for Islamo-fascists, and, in the recent past, were the places where young afghans later known as the Taliban, were trained.

- By suppressing democratic reforms while benefiting from an unabated support from Bush, Musharraf has increased the anti-American sentiment in his country. In January 2004, a senior US expert testifying before a Senate panel, suggested that “Pakistan is probably the most anti-American country in the World right now, ranging from the radical Islamists on one side to the liberals and Westernized elites on the other side”.

- While the father of Pakistan’s nuclear program, Abdul Qadeer Khan, is widely recognized as having been the main source of nuclear technology and know-how to the worst enemies of the US, Musharraf has always been protecting him. At a time when we are trying to gather facts against Iran and to limit nuclear proliferation, such a protection is highly detrimental.

Target of many assassination attempts, Musharaf’s life is obviously at risk. And if such an attempt succeeded, we would be facing the risk of having a nuclear Pakistan be led by Islamo-fascists. With that in mind, are we really doing the right thing in Pakistan? Are we effectively transforming the local madrassas, promoting democracy, spreading pro-US sentiment, and building a back-up plan to control Pakistan’s nukes? I am afraid that we are not, but let’s hope that I am wrong.

When Are We Going to Stop the Iranian Masquerade?

At a press conference in Tehran today, Ali Larijani, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, reiterated that his country won't renounce its right to enrich uranium and might reduce its oil exports in response to UN sanctions.

Once again, Iran uses the oil blackmail to influence our policies and it can easily do so, as it has the world's second largest natural gas reserves (after Russia) and the third largest oil reserves in the world. How ironic is it that a country that pretends to be desperately in need of (nuclear) energy is using the very fact that it hold so much (oil) energy to force us to agree. Is that not the biggest masquerade, or farce, of all time?

Iran does not need nuclear energy, but needs a nuclear bomb. And until we recognize this fact and confront Iran accordingly, we will expose ourselves to great dangers. Speaking of which, letting the Russians negotiate on our behalf may prove to be a highly dangerous move, as Russians are too biased toward Iran to be trusted.

This farce would be almost funny if we were not dealing with the most dangerous Islamo-fascist country in the world and with a weapon that can destroy the planet in a matter of minutes.

Some would say that even if Iran gets nuclear weapons, that would not be a threat to Europe and to the US, but just to Israel. But that would be as stupid as saying in the 30s that Hitler would only be a threat to Austria… We are dealing with a country led by fascists driven by the desire to impose Islamic law on the world, and strategically placed in the middle of a region that holds the largest reserves of oil. Do we want Iran to have nuclear bombs? If not, it would be about time to stop this masquerade…

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Will the 12 Fatwas be Next?

A few days ago, 12 well-known European intellectuals published a courageous manifesto in a French magazine warning against Islamism. Here is the text of the manifesto:
"After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new global totalitarian threat: Islamism.

We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all.

Recent events, prompted by the publication of drawings of Muhammad in European newspapers, have revealed the necessity of the struggle for these universal values.

This struggle will not be won by arms, but in the ideological field.

It is not a clash of civilisations nor an antagonism between West and East that we are witnessing, but a global struggle that confronts democrats and theocrats.

Like all totalitarian ideologies, Islamism is nurtured by fear and frustration.

Preachers of hatred play on these feelings to build the forces with which they can impose a world where liberty is crushed and inequality reigns.

But we say this, loud and clear: nothing, not even despair, justifies choosing darkness, totalitarianism and hatred.

Islamism is a reactionary ideology that kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present.

Its victory can only lead to a world of injustice and domination: men over women, fundamentalists over others.

On the contrary, we must ensure access to universal rights for the oppressed or those discriminated against.

We reject the 'cultural relativism' which implies an acceptance that men and women of Muslim culture are deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secularism in the name of the respect for certain cultures and traditions.

We refuse to renounce our critical spirit out of fear of being accused of 'Islamophobia', a wretched concept that confuses criticism of Islam as a religion and stigmatisation of those who believe in it.

We defend the universality of the freedom of expression, so that a critical spirit can exist in every continent, towards each and every maltreatment and dogma.

We appeal to democrats and free spirits in every country that our century may be one of light and not dark"

Information on the signatories can be found here.

Once again, and because of the violent reactions to the 12 cartoons, Europeans decided to stand up for their values and their societies. Published a week after Al-Jazzeera aired a must-see video critical of the Muslim world, it seems that all over the world, people are increasingly vocal about the threat to our modern civilization, and call it by its real name: Islamism or Islamo-fascim. When will our leaders also call this major threat by its name and not use the politically correct "War against Terror"?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Freedom of Speech in the Middle East: A Must-See Video

In an interview aired on Al-Jazeera TV, Wafa Sultan, an Arab-American psychologist, criticized the Muslim world in a particularly harsh and daring way. Excerpts thanks to

“The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions, or a clash of civilizations. It is a clash between two opposites, between two eras. It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality. It is a clash between freedom and oppression, between democracy and dictatorship. It is a clash between human rights, on the one hand, and the violation of these rights, on other hand. It is a clash between those who treat women like beasts, and those who treat them like human beings...

The Jews have come from the tragedy (of the Holocaust), and forced the world to respect them, with their knowledge, not with their terror, with their work, not their crying and yelling. Humanity owes most of the discoveries and science of the 19th and 20th centuries to Jewish scientists. 15 million people, scattered throughout the world, united and won their rights through work and knowledge. We have not seen a single Jew blow himself up in a German restaurant. We have not seen a single Jew destroy a church. We have not seen a single Jew protest by killing people. The Muslims have turned three Buddha statues into rubble. We have not seen a single Buddhist burn down a Mosque, kill a Muslim, or burn down an embassy. Only the Muslims defend their beliefs by burning down churches, killing people, and destroying embassies. This path will not yield any results. The Muslims must ask themselves what they can do for humankind, before they demand that humankind respect them.”

This video aired on February 21, 2006 is a must-see. Trancript can be found here.

It’s amazing that such a speech could be aired in the Middle East, where dissenting voices are not tolerated. Should a program like this give us hope that the Middle East is evolving? Or should we fear that Wafa Sultan may be the next name on a fatwa?

Monday, February 27, 2006

To Whom is Bush Selling Our Ports?

As a follow-up to the post highlighting Bush’s threat to use his veto against any congressional legislation aimed at stopping the sale of shipping operations of six major U.S. seaports, here is some information about the buyer: Dubai.

As U.S. News and World Report puts it, Dubai “serves as the region's criminal crossroads, a hub for smuggling, money laundering, and underground banking” Here are some excerpts:

“There are Russian and Indian mobsters, Iranian arms traffickers, and Arab jihadists. Funds for the 9/11 hijackers and African embassy bombers were transferred through the city. It was the heart of Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan's black market in nuclear technology and other proliferation cases. Half of all applications to buy U.S. military equipment from Dubai are from bogus front companies, officials say. 'Iran,' adds one U.S. official, 'is building a bomb through Dubai.' Last year, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents thwarted the shipment of 3,000 U.S. military night-vision goggles by an Iranian pair based in Dubai. Moving goods undetected is not hard…

U.A.E. rulers have taken terrorism seriously since 9/11, but Washington has a half-dozen extradition requests that they refuse to honor. The list includes people accused of rape, murder, and arms trafficking,…

'All roads lead to Dubai,' says former treasury agent John Cassara, author of Hide and Seek, a forthcoming book on terrorism finance. Cassara tried explaining U.S. concerns about Dubai to a local businessman but got only a puzzled look: 'Mr. John, money laundering? But that's what we do.'"

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Weak Link: Oil Facilities in the Middle East

Saudi Arabian forces just thwarted a suicide car bombing at Abqaiq, an oil processing facility, which handles two- thirds of Saudi Arabia’s oil supply.

Not too surprising. In 2003, Institute for the Analysis of Global Security experts warned us:
“About two-thirds of Saudi Arabia's crude oil is processed in a single enormous facility called Abqaiq, 25 miles inland from the Gulf of Bahrain. On the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia has just two primary oil export terminals: Ras Tanura - the world's largest offshore oil loading facility, through which a tenth of global oil supply flows daily - and Ras al-Ju'aymah. On the Red Sea, a terminal called Yanbu is connected to Abqaiq via the 750-mile East–West pipeline. A terrorist attack on each one of these hubs of the Saudi oil complex or a simultaneous attack on few of them is not a fictional scenario. A single terrorist cell hijacking an airplane in Kuwait or Dubai and crashing it into Abqaiq or Ras Tanura, could turn the complex into an inferno. This could take up to 50% of Saudi oil off the market for at least six months and with it most of the world’s spare capacity, sending oil prices through the ceiling.”

"Such an attack would be more economically damaging than a dirty nuclear bomb set off in midtown Manhattan or across from the White House in Lafayette Square," wrote former CIA Middle East field officer Robert Baer. This "would be enough to bring the world's oil-addicted economies to their knees, America's along with them."

Read the very insightful article written on this topic in 2003: Terror's next target

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Democracy or Bushocracy?

Faced with strong opposition on the proposed deal to sell shipping operations of six major U.S. seaports to a company owned by the United Arab Emirates, Bush threatened to use his veto against any congressional legislation aimed at stopping the deal. In doing so, Bush made three tactical mistakes that may hurt him and the Republican Party:

- Undermining the US democracy and downplaying its citizens' worries: By refusing to open a debate on the port issue and not offering any kind of solutions aimed at understanding and solving the issues that have been raised, Bush is telling the American people that his decision, even if not publicly explained, is more important that their concerns. In a situation where preeminent leaders from both the Democratic and Republican parties disagree with this decision, a veto would be an autocratic act.

- Giving strong ammunition to his adversaries: Bush has often been criticized by his opponents of not being knowledgeable on some core issues and pushing his own agenda at the expenses of national interests. The fact that the White House announced that Bush was not aware of this critical deal until it was approved by his administration and that Bush is putting all his weight behind this unpopular and misunderstood decision is obviously going to play in favor of his detractors.

- Weakening the Republican Party: By making a decision that is perceived as a threat to National Security, Bush is taking away one of the key strengths of the Republicans. When faced with criticism related to their perceived weaknesses (e.g. the Iraq war), the Republican Party has always been using the fact that they represent the safest choice for America as the party that can guarantee that National Security will be at the top of the agenda. They may have a more difficult time making such an argument moving forward.

Why did the Danish newspaper publish the Muhammad cartoons?

In an oped published in the Washington Post, Flemming Rose, editor of the newspaper that first published the controversial Muhammad cartoons, explained his decision. Here are some excerpts:

"I commissioned the cartoons in response to several incidents of self-censorship in Europe caused by widening fears and feelings of intimidation in dealing with issues related to Islam. And I still believe that this is a topic that we Europeans must confront, challenging moderate Muslims to speak out…

We have a tradition of satire when dealing with the royal family and other public figures, and that was reflected in the cartoons. The cartoonists treated Islam the same way they treat Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions. And by treating Muslims in Denmark as equals they made a point: We are integrating you into the Danish tradition of satire because you are part of our society, not strangers. The cartoons are including, rather than excluding, Muslims…

Has Jyllands-Posten insulted and disrespected Islam? It certainly didn't intend to. But what does respect mean? When I visit a mosque, I show my respect by taking off my shoes. I follow the customs, just as I do in a church, synagogue or other holy place. But if a believer demands that I, as a nonbeliever, observe his taboos in the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission. And that is incompatible with a secular democracy….

Nowhere do so many religions coexist peacefully as in a democracy where freedom of expression is a fundamental right. In Saudi Arabia, you can get arrested for wearing a cross or having a Bible in your suitcase, while Muslims in secular Denmark can have their own mosques, cemeteries, schools, TV and radio stations….

The lesson from the Cold War is: If you give in to totalitarian impulses once, new demands follow. The West prevailed in the Cold War because we stood by our fundamental values and did not appease totalitarian tyrants."

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Can Russia be trusted in its negotiations with Iran?

As Iran is being referred to the UN Security Council, a number of countries, including the US and Europe, have expressed hope that a Russian-led negotiation with Iran would break the current deadlock and provide a viable solution.

In order to defuse the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program, Russia has offered to enrich uranium in Russian territory and ship it to Iran for nuclear energy usage. While this proposal sounds good on paper, and may be the best alternative for Iran in order to avoid sanctions, letting Russia be both the broker and the main counterpart in this deal may prove to be a very dangerous choice.

It’s clear that the world is not ready to confront Iran and would rather find a peaceful resolution to the current crisis. For that reason, the EU-3 (Britain, France and Germany) had been unsuccessfully trying for the past few years to negotiate with Iran. While a peaceful resolution would be welcome, we should not place our hopes in a Russian-backed deal, as Russia may not be the honest and fair broker that we need.

As a matter of fact, Russia has unfortunately provided tremendous (and very lucrative) help to Iran in its nuclear and missile projects. Let’s not forget that Russia:
- Built the nuclear power plant at Bushehr, one of the most worrisome components of Iran’s nuclear program.
- Recently sold $1 billion worth of highly sophisticated arms and military equipment to Iran, including surface-to-air missile systems, and has provided missile know-how and expertise.

In addition, many in Moscow's political and military circles have been advocating strong ties with Iran in order to protect the ailing and cash-strapped Russian defense industry, to provide a counter-balance to a perceived anti-Russian US foreign policy and to re-establish Russia's strategic importance in world affairs.

With that in mind, how can we trust Russia to be a fair and honest partner that would strike and implement a deal to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program remains peaceful? And as we deal with a country such as Iran, that has openly expressed its destructive goals, persecuted its own minorities, sponsored multiple acts of terrorism that have claimed the lives of thousand of people, shall we not be careful in choosing the partner that would safeguard our interests? Given Iran’s lack of real need for nuclear energy, and its long history of deception regarding its nuclear program, this is not a choice that we should lightly take.

The Holiday of Ashura

A few days ago, hundreds of thousands of Shi’a Muslims, mainly in Iraq and in Iran, observed the holiday of Ashura to commemorate the martyrdom of Hussein, a grandson of Muhammad.

Ashura rituals are public expressions of mourning and grief. In some instances (see AFP picture), Shi’a Muslims expressed mourning by flagellating themselves on the back with chains and beating their heads with swords.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A double standard regarding the Muhammad Cartoons?

A few months ago, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published 12 cartoons depicting Muhammad in an unfavorable manner. Horrified by the cartoons and by the refusal of the Danish Government to publicly denounce them, Muslims have been sparking protests. Among the most vocals protesters, religious leaders in Saudi Arabia, which last week recalled its ambassador to Copenhagen, called for a boycott of Danish goods.

Knowing Saudi Arabia’s track record regarding religions other than Islam, isn’t this a case of double standard? I will let you make the call…

Look at the Muhammad cartoons (at the middle of the page).

Look at the cartoons in the Saudi press.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Hamas should thank the EU for its electoral victory

Since 1994, the EU has given hundreds of millions of dollars of aid per year to the Palestinian Authority. While the intent was good, and the aim was to benefit the Palestinian population and to help advance the Middle East Peace Process, the aid in part exacerbated the problems of the Palestinians and led to a radicalization of the population.

Since the Oslo agreement, the Europeans should have linked their aid to concrete steps toward an improved life for the Palestinians and prepare them for the prospect of a peace with Israel. Unfortunately, Europeans were reluctant to do so and allowed the governments of Arafat and Abbas to stir up the hatred of Israel and of the Jews, engage in massive corruption, and tolerate the presence of terrorist militias. As a result, Palestinians have become much more radicalized, hateful towards Israel and disgruntled with the Palestinian Authority. And their vote this week is unfortunately the best expression of these feelings.

How different would the Palestinian votes have been if Europe had forced the PA to actively fight corruption and promote peace among its people?

Slave abuse in Sudan

The American Anti-Slavery Group, recently reported the results of a recent field research conducted by Christian Solidarity International (CSI):

Of over 1,000 Sudanese slaves over the age of 11 and recently freed, over 95% attested to being frequently beaten. Nearly 60% of women reported being victim to gang rape and over 33% to genital mutilation. Another 60% recalled being forced to convert to Islam.

Want to act? Click here

Here are the detailed results:

Preliminary analysis of interview conducted by CSI field researcher with recently liberated slaves:

Based on interviews with 1,306 freed male and female slaves over the age of eleven:
- Forced labor 95.5%
- Frequent beatings 95.7%
- Racial insults 95.8%
- Forced conversion to Islam 59.6%

Based on interviews with 1,025 female slaves over the age of eleven:
- Rape 69.7%
- Gang rape 59.4%
- Genital mutilation 33.5%

Based on interviews with 281 boy slaves over the age of eleven:
- Rape 6.0%

Saddam ordered WMD strike on Israel

The former deputy of the Iraqi air force claims that Saddam Hussein ordered him to bomb Israeli population centers with chemical weapons, during the first Gulf War, and that Iraq's chemical weapons were taken to Syria aboard civilian airplanes just prior to the US invasion:
"The former deputy of the Iraqi air force, General Georges Sada, revealed on Saturday that that former dictator of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, ordered him during the first Gulf War to bomb Israeli population centers with chemical weapons.

The ousted dictator, said Sada in recently published book, Saddam's secret's, ordered 96 Russian fighter jets to be armed with chemical weapons and sent to bomb Israel.

According to Sada, who recently served as a national security advisor to the temporary prime minister and was in the midst of a book tour in the US, said he succeeded in convincing Hussein to reconsider his order.

Sada said he convinced Saddam to abort the mission by telling him that the Iraqi pilots could not complete the mission with the equipment at their disposal, and that the Israelis had radar that could detect them before they reached their target.

In his book, which was written four years ago, Sada also claims that Iraq's chemical weapons were taken to Syria aboard civilian Iraqi "Boeing" airplanes just prior to the US invasion.

The 65-year-old Sada said that 56 flights of this type took place, but went largely unnoticed because they were flying under the guise of humanitarian aid.

Prior to the second Iraq war Israel warned that Iraq was moving chemical weapons from its territory into Syria.

Chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction were never found in Iraq by US-led allied forces"

Monday, January 23, 2006

Recent discoveries in Iran’s nuclear program point again to a military use and to Pakistan

As Philip Sherwell reported in Telegraph UK, “Iran has secretly extended the uranium enrichment plant at the center of the international controversy over its resumption of banned nuclear research earlier this month, satellite imagery has revealed”. Not surprisingly, Iran extended its nuclear facilities while negotiating in ‘good faith’. “The building work took place unannounced during a 16-month pause in research and development at the site, while Iran engaged the West in protracted talks over its professed desire to develop nuclear power”.

Not only was this site kept secret until 2002, when exposed by an Iranian opposition group, but it’s built exactly like the Pakistan “facilities that were designed to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons”. “John Pike, the director of, an independent Washington defence research consultancy that specializes in analyzing satellite images, told the newspaper: ‘These pictures indicate that Iran is replicating every major step that Pakistan took in its atomic bomb program’”

In other news from the AFP, “Iran may have received three shipments of sophisticated P-2 centrifuges capable of enriching uranium, diplomats said, which could support Western claims that Tehran is hiding sensitive nuclear work”. “One diplomat said there were reportedly three shipments of one centrifuge each from the black-market network of disgraced Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan in 1997".

Once again, Pakistan is being mentioned as the key source of know-how and technology to Iran. At which point will the US pressure Pakistan and their national hero, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear program, Abdul Qadeer Khan? While Pakistan is a very important ally in the war on terror, to what extent should we protect the man who sold nuclear plans to one of our most dangerous enemies, a man who may be ultimately responsible for bringing the word terrorism to a whole new destructive level?

An energy policy designed to win the war against terror

While some organizations such as the IAGS have long been talking about the strong link between energy and security, few in the press and in the government have yet publicly acknowledged it or even promoted any real energy policies aimed at reducing our dependence on oil.

Fortunately, it seems that the press is finally starting to understand how reducing our dependence on oil may be the single most effective thing that we can do to win the war against terror.

Thomas Friedman recently published a column called ‘It’s not easy being green, but it’s what our nation must do’, in which he acknowledged that the biggest threat to America is petrolism: “The biggest threat to America and its values today is not communism, authoritarianism or Islamism. It’s petrolism… Petrolism is the politics of using oil income to buy off one’s citizens with subsidies and government jobs, using oil and gas exports to intimidate or buy off one’s enemies, and using oil profits to build up one’s internal security forces and army to keep oneself ensconced in power — without any transparency or checks and balances”.

Friedman continues, “Our energy gluttony fosters and strengthens various kinds of petrolist regimes. It emboldens authoritarian petrolism in Russia, Venezuela, Nigeria, Sudan and Central Asia. It empowers Islamist petrolism in Sudan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. It even helps sustain communism in Castro’s Cuba, which survives today in part thanks to cheap oil from Venezuela. Most of these petrolist regimes would have collapsed long ago, having proved utterly incapable of delivering a modern future for their people, but they were saved by our energy excesses…No matter what happens in Iraq, we cannot dry up the swamps of authoritarianism and violent Islamism in the Middle East without also drying up our consumption of oil — thereby bringing down the price of crude… We need a president and a Congress with the guts not just to invade Iraq, but to impose a gasoline tax and inspire conservation at home. That takes a real energy policy with long-term incentives for renewable energies — wind, solar, biofuels — rather than the welfare-for-oil-companies-and-special-interests that masqueraded last year as an energy bill”.

In a column published yesterday in the LA Times, Ronald Brownstein claims that “U.S. energy policy ought to send Iran a lasting message”. As we all know, “one reason Iran is brushing off international condemnation of its nuclear program so defiantly is that its leaders apparently believe they have the world over a barrel”. And our reactions (or lack of) are obviously comforting them in their belief. “If the world blinks from imposing sanctions for defiance now, Iran's leaders might conclude that their oil threat will deter real penalties at each future step in the confrontation. That's a formula for disaster. As Bayh put it, ‘If we knuckle under’ to oil blackmail today, ‘tomorrow it could be nuclear-weapons-based blackmail, and that is a place we cannot allow ourselves to go. Withholding its oil supplies would be painful for Iran: Oil accounts for about 80% of its exports and about half of its government revenue. But no one should pretend an embargo would be painless for the U.S.”

Let’s face it, we have not done anything to curb our reliance on oil, and our consumption and imports are far worse than they were at the time of 1973 oil shocks. “Since the first oil shocks in the 1970s, the U.S., inexcusably, has allowed its dependence on oil imports to grow, from about a third then to about three-fifths now. Fuel economy for America's vehicles is virtually no better today than it was 15 years ago, according to federal figures, as small fuel-efficiency gains in passenger cars have been offset by a shift toward gas-guzzling trucks and sport utility vehicles. Washington hasn't raised fuel-economy standards for passenger cars in two decades. More expensive gas will encourage somewhat more conservation and greater demand for fuel-efficient cars. But Washington can't rely on the hidden hand alone to solve the problems it has been too timid to tackle. The federal Energy Information Administration, in its most recent long-range projection, estimated that market pressures would increase automotive fuel efficiency only modestly over the next quarter-century. As a result, the EIA projects that by 2030, the U.S. will import 62% of its oil, up from 58% now. That means another generation of subsidizing — and remaining vulnerable to — regimes that threaten our security”, writes Brownstein.

”That's why the energy bill Bush pushed through Congress last summer was such a disappointment. Tilted mostly toward subsidizing domestic producers, the legislation contained some incentives for efficiency. But it also extended a legal loophole that allows automakers to claim greater fuel economy than they achieve. The net result, according to calculations by the nonpartisan Alliance to Save Energy, is that the bill will reduce America's dependence on foreign oil by a grand total of: nothing. Zip. Zero. If Iran's belligerent threats of oil blackmail are not a fire bell in the night warning America to do better, what will be? Increasing energy efficiency, and reducing dependence on foreign oil, should be as much a cause for neoconservatives concerned about preserving American autonomy in the world as it is for environmentalists worried about global warming. A grand domestic compromise could bundle together tougher fuel economy standards; mandates (sweetened with incentives) for auto manufacturers to build more high-mileage vehicles and for utilities to generate more electricity with renewable energy; and expanded access for producers to some environmentally sensitive domestic supplies. Such a declaration of energy independence would send Iran, and all other unfriendly regimes in the Middle East, as strong a message as the sanctions Tehran's nuclear defiance is inviting”, concludes Brownstein.

Let’s hope their messages are heard…

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Don’t we love Western self-haters?

In a column published today in Gulf News, Patrick Seale assessed whether the US “can recover its position in the Middle East?”. Once again, we are told that the Muslim world hates us because of …the US and Israel… obviously…

“The Muslim ummah or community of the faithful numbers some 1.3 billion people. The vast majority are peace-loving citizens of the countries in which they live, but many of them feel strongly that Muslims are victims of the conflicts in Palestine and Iraq, but also in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Kosovo, Kashmir and elsewhere, and that it is time for Muslims to resist occupation and oppression. The Arabic word is jihad.” Said Seale. Fascinating to see how he can start with a list of countries where the US is either helping the local populations or not involved, and use it as a mean to explain why the US is hated…

One of the ‘interesting’ examples, that he uses, is the recent air strike in Pakistan: “Just this past week, two unmanned drones of the CIA fired 10 missiles into houses in the Pakistan village of Damadola, close to the Afghan frontier, killing 18 civilians. The Americans hoped to kill Ayman Al Zawahiri, Osama Bin Laden's deputy. But the intelligence was wrong. On a visit to Washington this week, Pakistan's prime minister lodged a firm protest, but the US has neither apologized nor offered compensation to the victims' families. Such air strikes fuel hatred for America, violate Pakistan's sovereignty, undermine the US-Pakistani strategic alliance, weaken President Pervez Musharraf, strengthen his fundamentalist Muslim opponents and add to Al Qaida's mystique of invincibility” wrote Seale. How convenient is it to forget to mention that experts believe some of the most wanted al-Qa'eda figures were killed in the air strike, including the al-Qa'eda explosives and chemicals weapons recognized expert and the son-in-law of Ayman Al Zawahiri?

I guess we should not be surprised by Seale’s biased analysis, given his track record… As some of you may recall, he was the one who published a column in Guardian in which he explained that there was no way Syria was responsible for the killing of Hariri: “Attributing responsibility for the murder to Syria is implausible. The murder is more likely to be the work of one of its many enemies… If Syria did not kill Hariri, who could have? There is no shortage of potential candidates, including far-right Christians, anxious to rouse opinion against Syria and expel it from Lebanon; Islamist extremists who have not forgiven Syria its repression of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 80s; and, of course, Israel. Israel's ambition has long been to weaken Syria, sever its strategic alliance with Iran and destroy Hizbullah. Israel has great experience at ‘targeted assassinations’ - not only in the Palestinian territories but across the Middle East. Over the years, it has sent hit teams to kill opponents in Beirut, Tunis, Malta, Amman and Damascus.” wrote Seale. Of course, it’s Israel responsibility…

Since Seale wrote his analysis, a U.N. probe into Hariri's killing has implicated senior Syrian officials. To add insult to injury, Syria's former vice president Abdul-Halim Khaddam, who defected to France, recognized that Assad had threatened Hariri during their last meeting.

At some point, experts such as Patrick Seale, should wonder what kind of impact their biased analysis have on the Muslim World, and whether their analysis is not one of the reasons why many in the Muslim world hate us…

Monday, January 16, 2006

Iran's nukes and Hezbollah's rockets

In a column published today in the Lebanese Daily Star, Patrick Devenny, the Henry M. Jackson National Security Fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, assesses the impact on Lebanon of a potential war over Iran’s nuclear objectives.

While I don’t agree with some of his comments, some of the data he mentions regarding the Hezbollah are worth mentioning: “In the event of an Israeli attack, Iran would likely respond with a Hezbollah missile barrage against Israel, thereby exacting revenge while maintaining its own distance. Recent Iranian-supplied upgrades to Hezbollah's rocket arsenal, including Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 rockets, have placed major Israeli population centers - such as Haifa - within range. With Hezbollah's recent buildup, the aggregate Israeli conventional threat against the Iranian nuclear program has been rendered relatively minor in comparison to a potential Hezbollah response targeting Israel and its economy. Iran's leaders are well aware of this fact, and are likely to view Hezbollah's rockets as their primary deterrent against an Israeli attack. These same leaders would have little trouble in convincing their allies in Hezbollah to unleash its arsenal, considering that the party's leadership maintains tight contacts with Iran's rulers and its ever-present security apparatus. Hezbollah religious leaders have trained in Iranian seminaries and maintain close connections with ruling Iranian clerics. While the relationship between Iran and Hezbollah is, in many ways, an outgrowth of this more informal connection, the Iranian government has also instituted a bureaucratic mechanism to maintain their interests within the organization. This institutional bond is bolstered by material and financial connections, which increased following the Israeli withdrawal in 2000 to the tune of an estimated $100 million a year provided by Tehran to the Lebanese party.”

It’s likely that, in case of a confrontation between Iran and any foreign nation opposed to its building of nuclear weapons, the Hezbollah will have a role to play in either attacking Israel and/or conducting some targeted terrorist actions involving whatever WMD the Iranians will provide them…

Building on his analysis, I would have liked the author to not only bring attention to the impact of a showdown with Iran on Lebanon, but also question the reason why Lebanon hosts such a terrorist organization and why we accept this situation. Given the fact that a/ Lebanon is not occupied by any foreign nations (besides the Syrians ‘brothers’…), b/ Hezbollah has been recognized as a terrorist organization responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people (including 241 Marines), and c/ Hezbollah could drag Lebanon into a major conflict against its will, it would seem like fair questions to ask…

Sunday, January 15, 2006

A conference on the Holocaust in Iran: To study or to brainstorm? Analysis on the Iranian Baha’i question

Iran just announced that it would hold a conference on the Holocaust. After the Iranian president called the WWII slaughter of 6 million European Jews a myth and expressed the hope that the Jewish state be wiped off the map, this move does not come as a surprise. Obviously, it reinforces the worries that many have in light of Iran’s recent acquisition of sophisticated weapons from Russia and its pursuit of nuclear technology.

How ironic is it that a regime dominated by the mullahs of Iran would question such historical evidence? Ironic, when we know that they have been extensively practicing all forms of discrimination against their own minorities: Arabs, Kurds, Christians, Jews, Baha’is, and so on, while never publicly recognizing their hatred.

The case of the Baha’is is unfortunately a good illustration of the government-sponsored discrimination that has been taking place in Iran for a long time. Despite many resolutions expressing serious concerns over human rights violations in Iran, nothing has been done.

According to Human Rights Watch, a secret memorandum on "the Baha’i question" from the Iranian Supreme Revolutionary Cultural Council, dated February 25, 1991, stated with reference to attendance at universities, "They should be expelled from the universities, either at the time of the admission procedure or during their studies, as soon as it becomes apparent that they are Baha'is." If I were to replace the word Baha’i by Jewish, would that sound familiar?

According to an official site of the Baha’i faith, “The memorandum came to light in the 1993 report by Special Representative Reynaldo Galindo Pohl to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. According to Mr. Galindo Pohl, the document came as "reliable information" just as the annual report on Iran to the Commission on Human Rights was being completed. The memorandum specifically calls for Iran's Bahá'ís to be treated so ‘that their progress and development shall be blocked,’ providing for the first time conclusive evidence that the campaign against the Bahá'ís is centrally directed by the Government. The document indicates, for example, that the Government aims to keep the Bahá'ís illiterate and uneducated, living only at a subsistence level, and fearful at every moment that even the tiniest infraction will bring the threat of imprisonment or worse.” This secret memorandum dealing with the “Baha’i question” is one of the many illustrations of the systematic religious discriminations taking place in Iran not only against its 250,000-member Baha’i community but also against all its other religious minorities with the objective of either eliminating them or converting them.

Shall one suggest to the Iranian president, that in its noble pursuit of historical evidence regarding the Holocaust, he would not forget to include the many religious persecutions that have been taking place in his wonderful country? Obviously, some others may worry that such analysis of the Holocaust would not only be targeted at assessing some historical facts but at brainstorming on the successive resolution of some of its own “Baha’i, Jewish, Arab… questions”….

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Insights into Islamo-fascism

Thanks to the extensive coverage of the trial of Abu Hamza, the former imam of the Finsbury Park mosque in London, we are gaining insights into the world of Islamo-fascism.

Charged with inciting murder and racial hatred, Abu Hamza’s trial sheds light on a growing fascist movement within the Muslim world. In the sermons given to his community in London, Abu Hamza expressed freely what many in his movement think:

- Non believers: “Killing a kuffar (unbeliever) who is fighting you is OK. Killing a kuffar for any reason, you can say it is OK even if there is no reason for it.” He added the shoplifting and theft by Muslims from non-believers was permitted. Students were not required to repay loans and identity fraud by Muslim refugees was allowed, according to his interpretation of Islam.

- Liquor stores: “Don’t go to the man in the wine shop and tell him, ‘Please why are you selling the wine, come to the mosque’. Make sure the person who gave him the license for that wine shop does not exist any more on the earth. Finish him up. Give him dawa (the spread of Islam), if he doesn’t respect dawa, kill him.”

- Jews: “Hitler looked at their dealings and their treachery. They wanted to deceive him in his war… So he killed them and punished them and this is a sunna (Islamic rule). And they will be inflicted with that again when the stones and the Sharia start talking to the Muslim — you the worshipper of God . . . The Jews will be destroyed, the State will be destroyed and some of the Jews will be running around hiding behind the trees and the stones and then they get cursed by the earth until there is not one of them left.”

To read more about the coverage of this trial, go to the Times website, or read this article, whose excerpts were reproduced above.

Besides the disgust that we feel while reading such sermons, it also raises some key questions:

- Why does the Western World tolerate that such sermons are being given in our societies? Why do we tolerate extremists who hate everything that we represent and at the same time constantly abuse our society and its advantages?

- Why is the Muslim community allowing such individuals to preach hatred in its places of prayer? What are the moderate Muslims doing to prevent Islam from being hijacked by extremists who would want to use the religion as a pretext to impose a new fascist order, and exterminate whole populations?

- Why are we not going after those who finance and support such expressions of hatred? Why is Saudi Arabia still allowed to send billions to brainwash Muslims all over the word? What are the governments in the Middle East not held responsible for the hatred in their government-owned press and TV? What are we doing to prevent a major war of religions to take place, following decades of brainwashing and hatred from civil and religious leaders?

If the case of Abu Hamza were to be an isolated one, we would be fine. But we know that there are thousands of Abu Hamzas in the world preaching not only in the very centers of the Werstern World, but also all across the Muslim world, in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and so on. And that’s where the war on terror will be won or lost…