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.

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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 GlobalSecurity.org, 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…

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Will Iran be stopped from becoming the biggest threat to our civilization?

In the past few days, Iran announced the resumption of its nuclear fuel research, and later failed to show up at a meeting at the IAIE (International Atomic Energy Agency), where it was supposed to explain its move. No one should be really surprised, given Iran’s long history of nuclear deception, exemplified by the discovery of facilities that were either kept secret or are suspected of hosting activities not permitted by international agreements. Broken promises, hidden information, illegal import of nuclear technology are unfortunately the foundations of a supposedly peaceful program. But why should we lie to ourselves? Iran does not need any peaceful nuclear energy.

Iran has the world's second largest natural gas reserves (after Russia) and the third largest oil reserves in the world. In addition, its yearly domestic oil consumption represents less than 0.4% of its reserves and its oil exports represent around 0.6% of its reserves. In other words, Iran proved reserves would fulfill close to 100 years of domestic consumption and oil exports. If Iran does need so desperately nuclear energy for its domestic use, then any other nations would need it even more desperately.

So why is Iran so vehement about building a”peaceful” nuclear energy program? Let us assume for a minute that this is really what they want to achieve. Given the fact that it’s perceived as an aggressive dictatorship, sponsoring terrorism, and sitting on most of the world oil and gas reserves, Iran knows that the peacefulness of its program is likely to be challenged. So why would they hide from the IAIE so many elements which, when discovered, would dramatically increase the suspicion that its real goal is nuclear weapons?

At the end of the day, it’s clear what Iran really wants. What is not clear is whether we are going to stop it and who will do it.

Bush, dealing with an Iraq situation far from being resolved, and a public well aware of his unfounded claim of Iraq full of weapons of mass destructions, is going to have a tough time convincing the American public that the US should lead the charge on Iran.
With its charismatic and visionary leader struggling between life and death, Israel, the only nation that has ever used military means to stop a dictatorship from building a nuclear bomb (bombing of Iraq’s nuclear facilities in 1981), is unlikely to make a move in the short term. After suffering many years of Iranian lies and deception, major Europeans powers have yet to show any strong response.

Other major nations, such as China and Russia, are so closely benefiting from Iran’s energy and/or wealth, that not they are not stopping Iran but are even worsening the problem by threatening to veto any future resolutions against Iran at the Security council, by building nuclear facilities in Iran and by providing Iran with sophisticated defensive and offensive military capabilities.

As a columnist at the Toronto Sun, wrote recently: “The world seems to be similarly situated as it was in the 1930s. Then Hitler, like Ahmadinejad today, made public his views of what he intended to do, and European powers took him to be a clown -- only to discover the clown was lethal”. It’s unfortunate to see how little we learn from history, as we seem to be always making the same mistakes. This time around, we are talking about a mistake that could, in a matter of hours, provoke more destruction that any of the 20th century wars… And one may wonder, in a world where a world body such as the UN is so ineffective, whether our democracies can really cope with such existential threats before the effects of their destructive powers becomes a reality.