Monday, December 18, 2006

Six Nation Theory: Reflections on Power Politics in a Changing Middle East

Posted on Sun Dec 17, 2006 at 06:48:59 PM EST

Observers of the Middle East are increasingly troubled by the apparent escalation of sectarian conflict, regional rivalry and internal instability throughout. While it is not likely that the Middle East will erupt into full-scale war, it is certainly a worrisome possibility, the consequences of which trouble local and global observers and continue to stymie American efforts at understanding how best to proceed in Iraq. In this post, I try to meditate on the potentials of power politics, to consider how changed realities affect us all. How has this unstable situation come to pass? Who are the state actors involved, what do they want and fear, and how do they try to achieve their goals?

I propose that we try to understand the contemporary Middle East as the result of six nations very recently, and very traumatically, cut down to five. There were six major powers in the Middle East, who, since the post-colonial era, have competed with one another in order to establish their security and prosperity. Crucially, each of these states has, at one time or another, sought outside, great power support, to remedy its apparent shortcomings with respect to the other powers. The six regional powers never talked to, or cooperated with, one another, in a meaningful sense. They relied upon outside expertise, rentier finances, great power diplomatic support and, most importantly, vast quantities of weaponry, to support their failed policies, rather than deal fairly with the region and promote necessary reform.

The six powers were: Turkey, Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran. The instability currently characterizing the region is the result of the practical disappearance of one of these six: Iraq, which no longer exists as a state that can compete with these powers or even maintain its own relative independence. There is, thus, a vacuum, and the remaining five powers need to fill the vacuum. (Even Israel’s summer war with Hezbollah fits into this dynamic.) But it is not merely the vanishing of Iraq that has changed the picture; it is the means by which this happened and concurrent, interrelated trends, which exacerbate the internal failures of the six states.

These trends are as follows:

Firstly, that the United States intervened, militarily, to overthrow the Iraqi government, but – crucially – was strikingly unable to install a congenial puppet government in the wake of the invasion. In the post-Cold War era, the worldwide revelation that the remaining superpower can be so dramatically incompetent, disorganized and unsure of itself immediately destabilizes a region that had previously been checked by this superpower and dependent, for its policies, on the imagined invulnerability of that superpower.

Secondly, that Israel was unable to pursue a war with Hezbollah to the extent of defeating Hezbollah, but instead was forced to bring the war to a close with minimal achievements and international disquiet. In fact, for all strategic purposes (and that is ultimately what matters), Israel lost and Hezbollah won; for a non-state actor to survive against the Israeli military is the local parallel to America’s inability to organize a successor regime to the Saddam government or contain a widespread insurgency, in a backwards third-world state, able to cause significant damage, in men and material, to what is by far the world's most sophisticated military.

Thirdly, Iran has largely or at least outwardly eschewed “superpower patronage,” from 1979, for a policy of isolated development; with considerable strategy and patience, Iran has managed to develop a formidable military and crucial contacts with powerful state actors (Syria) and non-state actors flush with new confidence (Hezbollah in Lebanon; SCIRI and others in Iraq).

Fourthly, and parallel to Iran’s self-development, the remaining leading Arab powers, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have had the bankruptcy of their foreign policy exposed: Relying entirely on American supremacy, neither Egypt nor Saudi Arabia is certain how to respond to America’s diminished influence in the region. Neither Egypt or Saudi Arabia can compare, industrially or militarily, to Iran; while Egypt is a large state, Saudi Arabia is little more than a bank account managed by a massively unwieldy royal horde.

Fifthly, Turkey has been surprised by the uncertainty of its current status. Though America continues to push for Turkey’s inclusion in the EU, Turkey has distanced itself from America; Turkey’s Islamists are cooling to an EU which seems to have gone productive since failed opposition to the Iraq War, while Turkey's secular elite, in charge of the only military in the Muslim Middle East that can stand toe-to-toe with Iran, is entirely lost: It rejects the EU, yet its secular dictatorship, premised on an idealized National Turkism, has no remaining allies and seems to make little sense in a globalized world, let alone an increasingly conservative region in which Islam becomes a significant marker of identity.

The question now is, which way do the powers go? How will the Middle East develop? I cannot paint a picture of the future, but I can suggest some of the problems and concerns facing the major powers in the aftermath of Iraq’s ongoing implosion. These problems and concerns, in turn, suggest the directions in which current Middle Eastern politics may evolve. Considering the surprises of the past several years, however, take all this with pinches of salt, preferably one pinch per prophesying paragraph.

Iran is ruled a radical but nevertheless republican Shi’i regime that lost many potential friends since the Revolution: Trying to export Islamic messianism was a poor foreign policy that alienated and, indeed, frightened Arab royalty; till now, the Arab governments are, by and large, wary of Iran. Perhaps for this reason, Iran pursues its – so far rather successful – strategy by way of ideological deception. While Iran relies on, and protects Syria, it is making a power grab for Lebanon and for Iraq -- creating a strategic land bridge not only to Israel, but to the Mediterranean, with enormous economic potential. Yes, Iran is hurt by its image of Twelver Radicalism, as well as its potential nuclear-power status, but compensates by emphasizing an extremist pan-Islamic ideology that has found the one thing Sunnis and Shi’i potentially hate more than each other: Israel. By making it an “us” (Islamdom) versus “them” (the West, Israel, and their regional lackeys), Iran is trying to pull the rug out from underneath the main Muslim opposition to its power politics: Saudi Arabia. (Turkey and Egypt cannot present nearly the same challenge.)

Saudi Arabia has bungled one crisis after another; currently flush with cash, Saudi Arabia is potentially more dangerous than even a nuclear Iran. There is nothing scarier than an unmodernized pseudo-nation, with no democratic or republican credentials whatsoever, lorded over by a fabulously wealthy, unformed, cowardly tribe-in-charge; Saudi Arabia's best policy seems to be throwing riyals in the direction of crazy Sunnis and hoping they find Shi'i first. But these Sunni movements often mutate out of their extremist preferences (which is what attracted them to Saudidiocy in the first place) to even more ludicrously extremist positions. Saudi Arabia is scared to death of Iran, but there is nothing Saudi Arabia can do to stop Iran – they can protect Iraq’s Sunnis, and by protect I mean use them as proxies to fight Iranian influence in Imploded Iraq, but this would mean Saudi Arabia funneling billions of dollars in cash and weaponry to movements that might just hate the Saudi royals as much, if not more than, Iran.

Saudi Arabia’s greatest weakness is that it has no real regional foreign policy: Its allies are rentier dictatorships, with no popular support (as opposed to, crucially, the well-armed, well-trained and sophisticated Hezbollah), and it lacks real industrial capacity, economic independence and global influence. The most it can do is threaten to turn off the oil, bankrupt itself, and watch its power slip away, as its population rebels and the ruling family balkanizes and then consumes itself in an orgy paralleled only by what goes on behind palace gates. Quite unnerving.

Egypt once had pretensions to regional leadership, but after 1967, the death of Arab Nationalism and the poor political and economic judgments of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt really is only a poor, poorly-armed country with little more to its name than chairmanship of the Arab League, which is kind of like having advertising rights to the Goodyear Blimp during a Civil War: Nobody cares; at most, you will be shot down, and nobody will bother to figure out who did the shooting because, after all, you were little more than a shell of fabric filled to its shape by hot air. More crucially, Egypt has no real stake in Iraq; while Iran has its Shi’i proxies, and Saudi Arabia will “protect” the Sunnis – the same way they protected Kuwait from Iraq, maybe? – Egypt has no strings it can pull. Not to mention that, lacking a common border with Iraq, Egypt has even less influence. Expect Egypt to remain a pathetic second-tier power among the remaining five. Unless, of course, Egypt’s tremendous intellectual resources are liberated by some degree of democratization; with the Ikhwan in power, Egypt could very quickly, easily and effectively undermine Saudi Arabia’s claim to leadership over Sunni Islam. Egypt has Al-Azhar; Saudi Arabia has oil wells.

Turkey, like Iran and Saudi Arabia, borders Iraq; crucially, it also has an interest in Iraq – namely, dampening the ambitions of the Kurds. However, Turkey is in a bit of a bind: With EU membership increasingly unlikely, Turkey needs to figure out what to do with itself. Its religious movement, democratically popular and supported by an economically energetic middle class, is in favor of a soft secularism, and could present the only model exportable to the rest of the Muslim world – so far. However, the secular elite, which controls the very powerful military, is greatly in favor of a harsh, dictatorial irreligiosity, which would alienate the state from Middle Eastern politics and potentially leave Turkey with absurdly unhelpful allies like Saudi Arabia. (Any enemy of the Kurds, the logic might go, is a pseudo-friend of mine.) So what will Turkey do? If Ak Partisi remains in power, and EU talks go nowhere, Turkey could be a stabilizing influence; it is, after all, the only non-oil-producing Muslim country, besides Malaysia (which is anyway too far away and too heterogenous) that has a large middle-class and serious industrial capacity.

Israel’s interests were badly served by America’s failures in Iraq; compounded by the failures in Lebanon, Israel occupies a very uncertain position. While it is good for Israel to see the Palestinians squabble by way of Kalashnikov, Iran’s increasing influence doesn’t help anything. Not to mention that, in order to challenge Iran’s religious legitimacy, Saudi Arabia would have to be more anti-Semitic than the anti-Semite; Saudi Arabia would have to escalate its own opposition to Israel if it comes to an all-out competition with Iran over influence with the region. In fact, though, Israel most resembles Saudi Arabia; it has no regional allies and has, for years now, pursued a disastrous foreign policy that has relied on power (for Saudi Arabia, that means oil wealth; for Israel, that means the superiority of weaponry) in order to mask the unwillingness to make accommodations to local realities.

The best option for Israel would be Turkey, because Turkey, to compete with Iran, would naturally stress its Muslim moderation (or at least theoretically could); Saudi Arabia has nothing to trumpet other than the fact that holy places happen to be located within its borders. Saudi Arabia has no democratic or economic sophistication to offer as a tantalizing option, rather it could only project stiff Salafism and bucketloads of capital -- even worse, in retrospect, than Iran, which though radical, still has industry, an economy and the national culture and sophistication to present itself as a Huntington-like "core state". But, again, this could not compare to Turkey's more real prosperity, and apparently easier road to further democratic reform and Islamic identity.

By Haroon


Israeli Wall Condemned by Non-Aligned Movement

UNITED NATIONS.— The wall, being built by Israel to isolate Palestine, received sharp criticism on Friday at the United Nations General Assembly from the 118-nation Non-Aligned Movement, which calls for the immediate dismantlement of the barrier.

Cuban Ambassador Ileana Nunez, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, told a United Nations special session on Palestine that Israel must be banned from continuing construction of the illegal wall.

Despite international uproar, Tel Aviv continues erecting the wall in occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem and its surrounding areas, noted Nunez.

Nunez said Israel has already erected 209 miles of wall, which represents 42 percent of the project. Another 63 miles remain under construction. The Non-Aligned Movement called for sanctions against companies participating in building the wall.

Over two million Palestinians living to the east of wall will be separated from East Jerusalem and another 230,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem will be isolated from the rest of the West Bank.

Nunez said the Non-Aligned Movement, headed by Cuba since its 14th summit this past September, maintains that if the wall isn’t stopped it will be impossible to reach a solution to the conflict between the two states.

The Good Daughter, in a Brothel: NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF & Mary Cheney’s Bundle of Joy: FRANK RICH

The New York Times

The Good Daughter, in a Brothel

Published: December 17, 2006

In poor countries where sex trafficking and globalization have fostered new forms of slavery, stories like Yan Kosal’s are still wrenchingly common.


One of the oldest social dichotomies is the one dividing good girls from bad, the madonna from the whore. But in poor countries where sex trafficking and globalization have fostered new forms of slavery, it is the saintly ones — those who risk leaving their villages to help their families — who often end up as whores.

Yan Kosal is a 26-year-old woman here in northwestern Cambodia who was devoted to her aging parents and desperately concerned with providing for them. Her mother is blind, her father is frail, and they depend on her — the only surviving child — for food.

Kosal earned only $30 a month as a peddler, barely enough to scrape by. So when a woman acquaintance told her that she could earn $90 a month selling snacks in Thailand, Kosal leapt at the opportunity.

"I thought I should do this to feed my parents," Kosal said, particularly because her acquaintance offered to escort her to Bangkok. Kosal borrowed $15 to pay her travel expenses, and they set out in September. But once they were in Thailand, where Kosal couldn't speak the language, the trafficker sold her to a brothel.

"First, I cried," Kosal said. But the brothel manager beat Kosal until she capitulated. "If the men wanted to go to the room," Kosal said numbly, "the girl had to go." The women were paid nothing, except for tips — but the sad ones who wept and were uncooperative didn't get tips.



Mary Cheney’s Bundle of Joy

Published: December 17, 2006

Gay-baiting may do candidates who traffic in it more harm than good.

IT'S not the least of John McCain's political talents that he comes across as a paragon of straight talk even when he isn't talking straight. So it was a surprise to see him reduced to near-stammering on ABC's "This Week" two Sundays after the election. The subject that brought him low was the elephant in the elephants' room, or perhaps we should say in their closet: homosexuality.

Senator McCain is no bigot, and his only goal was to change the subject as quickly as possible. He kept repeating two safe talking points for dear life: he opposes same-sex marriage (as does every major presidential aspirant in both parties) and he is opposed to discrimination. But because he had endorsed a broadly written Arizona ballot initiative that could have been used to discriminate against unmarried domestic partners, George Stephanopoulos wouldn't let him off the hook.

"Are you against civil unions for gay couples?" he asked the senator, who replied, "No, I'm not." When Mr. Stephanopoulos reiterated the question seconds later — "So you're for civil unions?" — Mr. McCain answered, "No." In other words, he was not against civil unions before he was against them. His gaffe was reminiscent of a similar appearance on Mr. Stephanopoulos's show in 2004 by Bill Frist, a Harvard-trained doctor who refused to criticize a federal abstinence program that catered to the religious right by spreading the canard that sweat and tears could transmit AIDS.



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Supporters Call for the Recall of South African Ambassador From Tel Aviv and Sanctions Against Israel

Monday, December 18, 2006

Palestine Solidarity Committee (South Africa) and Supporters Call for the Recall of South African Ambassador From Tel Aviv and Sanctions Against Israel

At a press conference held today in South Africa the Palestine Solidarity Committee, COSATU (the Congress of South African Trade Unions representing 1.2 million workers) and the South African Council of Churches called on the South African government to recall the ambassador to Israel and to implement sanctions against Israel.

Speakers at the conference included Willie Madisha (president of COSATU) Eddie Makue (general secretary of the South African Council of Churches), Ali Halimeh (Palestinian Ambassador to South Africa), Virginia Tilley (academic and author), Na’eem Jeenah (chair), Salim Vally (Palestine Solidarity Committee and Patrick Craven (spokesperson for COSATU).

They released the following joint statement:

We, delegates of organisations and movements that represent and have the support of the majority of South Africans, oppose and condemn the Israeli atrocities in Palestine and we make the following call:

  • We call on the South African government to immediately recall the South African ambassador from Tel Aviv and to begin the process of ending diplomatic relations with Israel.
  • We call on all South Africans to establish a strong, forceful and determined boycott and sanctions campaign against the Israeli apartheid state until the end of the occupation.
  • We call on South Africans to identify a national day of action in solidarity with the Palestinian people and to observe it with rolling mass action around the country.
  • We call on the South African government to ensure that no South African serves – in any capacity – in the Israeli Occupation Forces and that any South African citizen doing so will be prosecuted under the Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act.
  • We demand that Israel immediately withdraws all Israeli Occupation Forces from Gaza and ends the occupation of Palestinian lands.
  • We demand that Israel abides by the provisions of international humanitarian law and human rights law, and refrains from imposing collective punishment on Palestinian civilians (as per the UN Human Rights Council declaration issued on 6 July 2006).
  • Call on Israel to release all detained Palestinian ministers and legislators and to release all political prisoners – including hundreds of women and children.
  • We call on the EU to stop the severe sanctions imposed by Europe on the Palestinian Authority as a penalty for exercising their democratic right and electing a government of their choice. This by itself is a brutal intervention on behalf of the occupation.
  • We call on the United Nations to implement the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on Israel’s Apartheid wall.
  • We call on the United Nations to ensure that Israel fulfils its obligations in terms of international law.

Front Page Slander

by Sarah Meyer

Civilization and Truth

Two opposing sides of human nature appeared in the Media within the last 48 hours. Front Page, for me, represents, the Media Face of Darkness.

The Face of Darkness

Jimmy Carter: Jew-Hater, Genocide-Enabler, Liar
14.12.06, D. Horowitz, Front Page. For a full study of this dark media world and their corporate funding, see
The Haditha Doctor and the Media Dissemblers This is relevant information as the Haditha murder trials are about to begin. Compare the above bile with the following Guardian letter:

The Face of Integrity

Israel boycott may be the way to peace
15.12.06. Letters, Guardian. Signed by: John Berger, Brian Eno, Sophie Fiennes, Eduardo Galeano, Reem Kelani, Leon Rosselson, Steven Rose, Arundhati Roy, Ahdaf Soueif, Elia Suleiman and 85 others. Ten Palestinians are killed for every Israeli death; more than 200, many of them children, have been killed since the summer. UN resolutions are flouted, human rights violated as Palestinian land is stolen, houses demolished and crops destroyed. For archbishop Desmond Tutu, as for the Jewish former ANC military commander now South African minister of security, Ronnie Kasrils, the situation of the Palestinians is worse than that of black South Africans under apartheid. See also: BRICUP Palestinian call for academic boycott

Take your pick with care, compassion and tolerance. Peoples’ lives depend on your choice. As for tolerance: I admit my own intolerance for the ethos of Front Page and the above work by Mr. Horowitz. But I am not paid for my intolerance.

UPDATES: Last Word: Jimmy Carter
25.12. – 1.01.07, NEWSWEEK/ MSNBC. Revisiting 'Apartheid.'

For excellent comments on another bulwark of MSM bile, Fox News’ Reilly, click

The url to Front Page Slander
Related Article:Palestine: Wake Up America

Sarah Meyer is a researcher living in the U.K.

Abbas' call for early elections causes rift within Fatah


Daily News

Dec 17, 2006, 11:30

Gaza - The central committee of the Fatah Movement on Sunday lashed out at Farouk Kaddoumi, the secretary general of the Movement, and other Palestinian factions that rejected PA chief Mahmoud Abbas' call for early legislative elections.

In a statement on the issue, the committee said that Kaddoumi's stands do not reflect the official position of Fatah, especially those refusing Abbas' call for early elections.

It added that such positions only caused more confusion within the Fatah Movement and involved the Movement in regional axes that only "harmed the Palestine cause".

For his part, Ahmed Abdul Rahman, the official Fatah spokesman, said that Kaddoumi was not "qualified" to determine the Movement's policy.

However, the higher military council of the AMB, the armed wing of the Fatah Movement, declared its refusal of Abbas' call.

The council, which is the most prominent among the Fatah military wings, declared allegiance to Kaddoumi for his "national and responsible stands and in his capacity as an honest leader that crystallized the unity and cohesion of the Palestinian people".

Another armed wing of Fatah Tawhid (Unification) Brigades, also announced backing to the PA government in its rejection of early elections.

It affirmed that Abbas did not enjoy the same legitimacy as that of the government, noting that he only won 40% of votes in the presidential elections last year.

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Video: Powell on Bush's new Iraq plan: More troops won't work

Powell finds his voice and sets expectations for "the way forward" in Iraq.


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A Follow-up Issue on Boycott – Divestment – Sanctions

What a "Surge" of Forces Really Means in Iraq

William M. Arkin on National and Homeland Security

Out of the November election, where the majority clearly expressed their displeasure with the Iraq war and the President, we have witnessed the creation of the "surge."

Dismissed initially as a fanciful quest by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a surge of as many as 30,000 troops to Iraq is now increasingly being viewed as the likely post-New Year's change of course to be offered by President George W. Bush and a potential war winner.

Is the surge now possible because the miserly Donald Rumsfeld is gone?

Or is it a Washington ploy to get to the inevitable withdrawal while also saving face: Sure there are a lot of loyalists and dreamers out there who still think American can "win," but mostly those in the military and their armchair brethren will be able to say 'well, we tried our best, even put in more soldiers for the final push.'

My sense is that we haven't already seen serious proposals for a surge because of fear of a public backlash, because of Rumsfeld, or because no one can actually describe how a surge would either turn the corner or change strategy.

The reason why a surge continues to be so agonizing is that it is also so difficult for the military.

So as we say goodbye to the Secretary of Defense, let's also be honest: Even in those areas where Donald Rumsfeld is supposed to have been a success in "transforming" the American military, he has been a failure.

"Much more agile and more expeditionary" is how outgoing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld described where U.S. military forces are today in his final television interview with Brit Hume on the Fox News Channel.

"This institution," the Department of Defense, the Secretary said on Friday, "was designed to fight big armies, big navies and big air forces, and that isn't what we're doing today.... We simply have to be able to deal with irregular warfare and the asymmetrical challenges that are so advantageous to the enemies."

Mr. Teflon was only too happy to pin all decisions regarding the number of troops in Iraq on retired Gen. Tommy Franks and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Though it is unseemly that Rumsfeld is unable to take any responsibility to the Iraq quagmire, in a way he is right. The uniformed military has always been split with regard to how many soldiers and Marines were needed in Iraq. Early in the war, there is no question that Rumsfeld and his big brains in the office of the Secretary of Defense rejected calls for heavier forces to defeat the Iraqi army and topple Saddam Hussein, but since "mission accomplished" as commanders on the ground -- particularly Army commanders -- have called for increases and surges, they have mostly been thwarted by their own.

Proposals for increases have been rejected at the Joint Chiefs level. Gen. John Abizaid, the Central Command theater commander or Gen. George Casey, the Iraq commander, have brought forth proposals for more in the "tank," the closed decision changer where Pentagon horse trading is done.

Here are the dynamics: Do you really need more? Where are you going to get the resources? How are the forces going to be sustained? What are they going to do that is different? What are you willing to cut? The dynamics of the interrogation and the questioning ultimately is more responsible for combat commanders "withdrawing" their request or seeing the light.

Word "comes down" that the political decision-makers aren't going to look favorably on an increase request. The Washington military elite -- the Chairman, the Vice, the director of the Joint Staff, the head of plans and policy -- lets it be known "offline" that the debate is closed, that "people" at higher levels are getting irritated, that there are bigger fish to fry. Field commanders return with their tails between their legs, they redouble their efforts, they change tack. But this is how the system works: No one actually is ever making a firm request for an increase and no one is taking a stand to say "no." In this way, Rumsfeld can claim that he has never turned down a combatant commander's request for more troops.

I'm sure we'll read in the histories of the Iraq War ten years down the road that there were all sorts of proposals and contingencies and nascent requests, but the record will be miraculously thin on how those requests just never seemed to go anywhere.

"There hasn't been a minute in the last six years when we have not had the number of troops that the combatant commanders have requested," Rumsfeld said Friday. Given the dynamics of decision-making, Rumsfeld is both lying and telling the truth.

The real question though should be, was there a time in the last six years when it would have made sense to have more.

The Rumsfeld answer: Oh gosh, it makes no sense to ask what could have been, to second guess those who where to uniform, golly me. In fact that's what he said: "There's no rule book," he told Hume. "There's no guidebook. There's no program that says when you get up in the morning it's this."

When Donald Rumsfeld says he has helped to transform the military into a more agile and expeditionary force, one would think that surges would be the natural byproduct: There is a problem somewhere, we send in forces quickly to stem the tide and then withdrawn them: expeditionary.

Of course this also isn't the way the military works. The only forces that are even vaguely expeditionary in nature are the special operations forces, and even here, the actual number of fighters able to be put on the ground is relatively small. Expeditionary Army and Marine Corps unit require enormous support systems; our military is just not capable of the quick in-and-out. Rumsfeld might walk away with the belief that he has organized the military into some fundamental shift in culture but in this he has failed. Maybe if he had spent less time fighting with the military, he might have worked more effectively over six years to actually build something new.

Of course, as I've said before in these pages, a lot of the blame falls on those in uniform as well. They go along to get along. Precious few are willing to jeopardize their careers or futures on what they believe.

When President Bush finally puts forth his proposal for the big surge, the saddest part will be that most of it will be constructed from even more compromises and horse-trading and deceptions. Some troops will be asked to stay longer, a demoralizing decision for already drained forces. Reservists and guardsmen will be pushed forward, many angry and disgruntled. "Fresh" troops will be sent in, but for what?

A decision to surge will be seen by most on the streets as at least an effort to honor our commitment and pull out a win at the eleventh hour. Few Americans will see that the surge will still leave our forces as hostage to Iraqi action and desire.

Agile? We lumber towards the inevitable absolutely powerless, in a political environment so polarized by ideology and contempt for the truth, we can already see what the outcome will be. Some transformation, Mr. Rumsfeld.

By William M. Arkin | December 18, 2006; 10:00 AM ET

A Rumsfeld Critic's Rumsfeldian Iraq Plan

Dec. 17, 2006

(The American Prospect) This column was written by Spencer Ackerman

There's a line from one of Johnny Cash's final songs that adequately sums up the new Iraq strategy proposal released yesterday by Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute. Go tell that long tongue liar, Johnny sings, go and tell that midnight rider; tell the rambler, the gambler, the back biter — tell 'em that God's gonna cut 'em down.

Now, Kagan is no liar. As far as I know, he takes no midnight rides and has bitten no backs. But judging from his paper, he has quite a gambling problem. And while I can't presume to know what the Lord's plans for Fred Kagan are, if God doesn't cut him down, reality surely will.

The plan, as released in preliminary form yesterday by AEI, is a tease. It's arranged as a 52-page bullet-pointed PDF — easily translatable into the Pentagon's indigenous language of PowerPoint — and as such, it makes assertions instead of arguments. Uncharitable as it may be to argue with bullet points, it's a necessary task when faced with such overwhelming and consequential shallowness of thought. The full report is to be released in January, raising the prospect that Kagan's proposal could dovetail with President Bush's anticipated "New Way Forward" plan to be released shortly after the New Year. As such, countering Kagan's fantastic plan has a certain urgency.

Kagan, in his writings for The Weekly Standard, has been a vociferous critic of outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the senior military leadership, whom he believes have jeopardized America's fortunes in Iraq through their insistence on both a relatively light military footprint and a rapid handover of security responsibilities to Iraqis. That makes it all the more painfully ironic that his plan is so Rumsfeldian: it seeks to essentially re-fight the invasion of Iraq; it substitutes wishful thinking for sound military strategy; it presumes that American military resources are both omnipotent and inexhaustible; and it's agnostic to the point of indifferent about what political settlement is to follow military operations.

First, Kagan's basic idea can be summed up in two words: "Security First." By this, he means that no possible acceptable outcome to the Iraq war can occur without an imposition of security. Furthermore, since the Iraqi Army is hardly up to the challenge, the only force imaginable that can impose security is the U.S. military. In the final analysis, Kagan proposes that once the U.S. military can impose security, some political settlement is possible. This, of course, runs up against one very potent obstacle: the sheer exhaustion of the Army and Marine Corps, many of whose forces are on their third combat tour in Iraq and operate equipment in dire need of replacement or repair. Also past the wheezing point is Americans' political desire to continue fighting a near-half-trillion dollar stalemate, as demonstrated by November's Republican meltdown at the polls.

Kagan's response is the blithest one possible. He writes (again, in bullet point form) that America has "1.4 million troops under arms [versus] 140,000 in Iraq." Well, then! Arguing for a troop infusion this week in the Standard, editor Bill Kristol and contributor Robert Kagan (Fred's brother) insisted that "yes, the troops exist," and that Fred Kagan has identified "where they would come from." In fact, what Kagan has offered is no more than a bewildered assurance that there simply must be more troops to send. What he neglects is that nearly all of the available combat force among the Army and Marines are either in Iraq now, recently returned from deployment (in most cases, not their first), or are preparing to return. Kagan settles on 50,000 troops as his magic number. Were he serious about actually deploying these forces, they could be roughly found in the combined forces stationed in Afghanistan and Korea. Yet, for some reason, he doesn't propose pulling out of either of those hot spots, despite warning of the catastrophe that losing in Iraq would augur.

Having conjured up 50,000 additional soldiers and marines, Kagan has the burden of suggesting what they should do. His answer is that they should first secure Baghdad, which he asserts can occur by Fall 2007. The basis for his estimation receives not a word of explication. "Security" is less than a clear objective. What does "security" entail? Twenty attacks a day? Forty? None? Furthermore, three and a half years in Iraq has yielded a single proven course of action for providing security. As Tom Ricks of The Washington Post documents in his definitive book "Fiasco," the Fourth Infantry Division under General Ray Odierno opted for a massive show of near-indiscriminate force to subdue its area of operations north and west of Baghdad, while the 101st Airborne Division under General David Petraeus opted for a lighter approach combined with economic initiatives for Iraqis in its area of operations around Mosul. Petraeus was vastly more successful. If Odierno and Petraeus represent opposite extremes, Kagan refuses to embrace any particular approach at all, seemingly under the sway of the fantasy that more troops automatically equals more security.

Yet Baghdad has received a substantial infusion of American forces since mid-2006, for an offensive known as Operation Forward Together. And Baghdad became more dangerous, not less. After all, Iraq is in the throes of multi-tiered sectarian conflict, which Kagan recognizes — threats to the Iraqi government, the Iraqi people, and U.S. troops arise from al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents, Sunni death squads, Shiite death squads, Shiite militias, and the Iraqi security forces themselves. And here's where Kagan's agnosticism on Iraqi politics will doom his plan. To send an additional 20,000 or so troops to simultaneously take on Sunni and Shiite forces in the capitol with no evident strategy is more likely to plunge Baghdad deeper into chaos while absolutely severing the factions in the Iraqi government from the population it allegedly represents.

Kagan's security-only strategy begins to make sense only if the United States is to reassert direct political control over Iraq — in essence, bringing back the Coalition Provisional Authority. If this has occurred to him, he gives no evidence of it in his paper: at one point, he simply writes that the fall of the Iraqi government "may create [an] opportunity for [a] National Unity Government." Better for him to just call for a coup directly. How this will represent the "victory" he calls for is unclear — yet another manifestation of the strategic lacuna infecting the war's dead-ender enthusiasts.

A more sensible assessment comes from Colonel Jim Pasquarette, commander of the 1st Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division. Pasquarette recently returned from a year-long tour outside of Baghdad, and I interviewed him on Monday. "It is beyond military means to fix the issues in Iraq right now," he told me. "Most everybody agrees there is not a military solution." Instead of building on that basic insight, which comes from direct experience, Kagan would subject ever more forces to die for an ever-elusive goal. Not once does he stop to consider whether his means only push his ends further into the horizon. Somewhere from beyond the grave, Johnny Cash is trying to warn Kagan, and he hasn't given up hope that Kagan will listen.

An enlightened occupier

By Gideon Levy

The juggler from the palace of justice has struck again. In a single week, retired Supreme Court president Justice Aharon Barak proved his impressive acrobatic talents. In his last rulings, all of them having to do with the occupation, the outgoing Supreme Court president seems to have wanted, as he has during the 11 years of his presidency, to have his cake and eat it, too. Barak wants to appear as though he is both upholding justice and not harming security - the unofficial religion of a state that shoots, then cries. What an enlightened occupier!

But even Barak's verbal acrobatics, his impressive formulations and his lofty words cannot conceal the bitter truth: It would have been better had these rulings not been handed down. Going forward, it is perhaps preferable that proponents of human rights no longer petition the High Court of Justice. The fact that the new president of the court and his deputy are not signed on some of these rulings ensures that nothing will change in the future of our Supreme Court.

At the end of this productive judicial week, the Israeli occupation won significant power. This additional power came in the form of the broad legitimization granted its injustices by the most prestigious institution in Israeli society, also lauded abroad. The targeted assassinations will continue in full force, the victims of the occupation will hardly be awarded any compensation and the separation wall will be completed as planned. The cruel reality of the occupation will not change in the wake of these rulings, but now these actions will have the court's seal of approval.

The Israel Defense Forces assassinating unhindered is one reality, and an IDF that assassinates with the High Court's blessing is an even worse reality. The right's moaning about these rulings is therefore just a manipulation: It should be very pleased.

This last ruling is also the worst of them. Barak's crescendo will echo for many years: The court has laundered the executions. All the restrictions the High Court of Justice placed on targeted assassinations are no more than a collection of hollow words. A failed method of warfare, intended for thwarting 'ticking bombs,' has become unbridled and a matter of routine. In fact, 339 Palestinians have already been killed this way since the start of the current intifada; only 210 were intended targets and it is doubtful that all of them deserved to be executed. The rest were innocent bystanders.

Hit lists and death squads, death sentences without trials, and what does the High Court of Justice say? It is necessary that there be "well-founded, strong and persuasive information as to the identity (of the person assassinated) and his activity."

And who will determine what is "well-founded, strong and persuasive information?" The Shin Bet security services. And who will supervise the assassinations? The executioners. Instead of making clear and bold statements, that, for instance, assassination is permissible only in the case of terrorists en route to a terror attack, the court is being disastrously - and typically - ambiguous and, is essentially passing the responsibility to the IDF and the Shin Bet.

We spent five whole years waiting for this? The High Court of Justice could have determined this long ago.

The court also has lofty words for conflicts where rules of international law apply, though it has never expressed its opinion about the endless violations of such law. Jewish settlements in the territories, the transfer of prisoners in Israel, Israel's refusal to care for those living under occupation - all of this is one big, brazen violation of international law. How is it that the High Court of Justice has never ruled on the legality of the settlements, for example?

The court has proved once again that when given the chance to impact reality and bring about significant change, it instead withdraws in panic. Even when it revoked the Intifada Law, it knew that nothing would change on the ground.

Despite the public uproar, a Palestinian's chance of winning compensation from the state for crimes against him remains close to zero. Maria Aman, whose mother, brother and grandmother were killed in a failed assassination attempt in Gaza, can only dream of compensation. She and her family were after all harmed in the context of "an act of warfare," which the High Court of Justice has now sanctioned. It is permissible to launch missiles at cars in the heart of crowded cities, but it is not necessary to compensate the innocent, inevitable victims.

"The military commander must defend human rights," wrote Barak in another of his rulings - the one that okayed the wall severing the a-Ram neighborhood - summing up in a single sentence his efforts to safeguard the human rights being trampled in the territories. The military commander will "preserve human rights?" Given the reality in the territories, there could be no greater contradiction.

From now on, the Supreme Court will act without Aharon Barak. It will, however, presumably continue to act within his legacy, which has authorized nearly all injustices in the territories. Barak, meanwhile, will continue to be depicted in Israel and the world as a pursuer of justice. But the question will come up one day, and people will want to know where the High Court of Justice was when all this was happening. And where was Aharon Barak? No, not only did he not try to stop it; he was also a willing partner.

If Israel and its Western allies break Hamas, they will face an even deadlier foe

Johann Hari

These crazed young men - the 'troops' of Islamic Jihad - are the children of the first Intifada

Published: 18 December 2006

I am sitting in a poky bedroom somewhere in Gaza City - I'm not allowed to know where - and opposite me is a huge beaming picture of Osama bin Laden, with the smoke from a burning World Trade Centre forming a black halo around his head. He is surrounded by a gaggle of jihadi angels: some Chechen fighters, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and our own Tube bomber, the Yorkshireman Mohammed Sidique Khan. "Would you like to see our weapons?" a masked jihadi says cheerfully, before thrusting a grenade into my hand.

I have come to see what Israel will confront in a generation if - as now looks certain after this weekend - they never, ever deal with the democratically elected Hamas government, but instead resolve to break it.

Coining one of the dullest clichés about the Middle East, Abba Eban, one of Israel's longest-serving foreign ministers, famously claimed that "the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity". Precisely the opposite is the case. As the Fatah President, Abu Mazen, tried desperately this Saturday to dislodge Hamas by calling for early elections, we need to remember a stark truth. Every time the Israeli government rejects a Palestinian leader because he is too hard-line, they do not get a cuddly Gandhian moderate in his place. They get somebody more hard-line still.

Yasser Arafat endorsed a two-state solution, but couldn't accept a forever-and-always string of Bantustans bisected by Israeli settler-only roads as his half of the deal - so they rocketed and shelled the old man's compound until he died. Many Israelis now look back on Arafat with near-nostalgia. Today the Hamas Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh, says he can never accept Israel's existence. But he is offering a 40-year-long hudna (ceasefire) - provided Israel withdraws to the internationally recognised 1967 borders, as they should anyway under international law.

Haniyeh is offering to kick all the tough issues down the road until 2046, and build two peacefully co-existing states, with no mutual violence. His track record of keeping his word on ceasefires is strong: in the current short hudna, Hamas has held its fire even as Fatah fires a few Qassam missiles.

But the governments of America, Europe and Israel are snubbing this deal too. They say Haniyeh has to recognise Israel totally, and today. Until he does, his people will be "put on a diet", in the words of one Israeli government adviser. I have seen what this means: hospitals shut and shuttered across the West Bank, with women left to give birth at home like pre-modern peasants. The yellowish hue of malnutrition on children's faces. The empty and echoing schools.

Tony Blair has been at the forefront of this programme to force Hamas to concede, and is in the Middle East to promote it further. For him, the onus is on the Palestinians living under military occupation to justify why they should be freed - rather than on the people who have been oppressing them on their own land for 39 years to explain why it should continue.

The result of breaking the democratic will of the Palestinian people will not be greater softness on their part. No. It will create more men like Abu Ahmad (a nom de guerre), who I sat with last week in the shadow of Bin Laden in a corner of Gaza.

"I want to kill and kill and kill again. I want to be a killing machine until, inshallah [God willing], I become a martyr," he said, staring at me intensely. He is 27 - my age - and murderous. He has just described how he slashed the throats of four female Israeli soldiers in an illegal settlement in 2002, and he chuckled as he described how they cried for their mothers. "All the Jews have to be killed," he says. The children? The women? "I prefer to kill soldiers, but they must all be killed in time. Soldiers first." The Holocaust did not happen, he says, "but it should have".

These crazed young men - the "troops" of Islamic Jihad - are the children of the first Intifada. They saw their parents peacefully protest, and the Israeli troops be ordered to "break their bones" as punishment. Abu Hamza, a sober, severe 26-year-old, explained he first joined Islamic Jihad when he was 10 - a year after he took his first Israeli bullet in the skull. He had been throwing stones and setting fire to old tyres in the street when it happened, and he became a local celebrity as the first child victim of the violence. "I was so proud," he said. He invited me to feel the scar on the back of his head. "Yes," he said with a smile, "we have been growing in popularity over the past few years. Very much."

All over Gaza and the West Bank, the assault on Hamas is creating groups like this to their right, deranged little pockets that will swell if Hamas is totally humiliated. At the moment, they are small, speaking - as Hamas did a generation ago - for only a small fraction of Palestinians. But for how long?

Last week I tried to trace the footsteps of a new streak of Islamist fanaticism that has jutted suddenly into Gaza over the past month. A group calling itself Swords of Islam has started blowing up internet cafés - a symbol of extra-Koranic knowledge and cosmopolitan connection to the world. They have issued Talibanist threats warning that women who do not wear the hijab will be "burned", and that the internet is a "Zionist plot" to keep people away from "their religious duties".

In a bombed-out café named Montada Donajoun in the Jaballiya refugee camp, I spoke to the terrified owner. Basa Abu-Jased, 29, said, "Of course women are frightened now. [Even as a man] I am really frightened! I used to sit on the street and talk to women. Now I won't do it. You don't know what's going to happen." Almost everybody on the street was too frightened to speculate about who these people were; one woman suggested they were "maniacs who had returned from fighting in Iraq", but then hurried away.

It took a very long time to rouse the Palestinians to violence and produce these pathologies. Between 1967 and 1982 - as 200,000 Palestinians were expelled and more than one-third of their remaining land was stolen by fanatical settlers - just 282 Israelis were killed by Palestinians. But Israeli policies have virtually guaranteed a tip towards great violence and forms of madness. Every time the Palestinians have peacefully protested or negotiated, they have been choked further.

There is still - still - a majority in Palestine for peaceful coexistence with Israel, with 67 per cent supporting the Hamas proposal for a 40-year hudna. But if their democratic will is treated with contempt by humiliating Hamas, this historical window will close. Every year the occupation goes on, more deranged people like Abu Ahmad are smelted. "I love Osama bin Laden," he said to me as we parted, slapping me on the back. "I love killing."


The collapse of Mr Blair's hubristic mission

Leading article

Published: 18 December 2006

In the wake of the terror attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001, Tony Blair set out a bold ambition. "The kaleidoscope has been shaken," he announced, "the pieces are in flux. Soon they will settle again. Before they do, let us reorder this world around us." Well, the world has certainly been "reordered", but not in the fashion the Prime Minister must have hoped for.

On yesterday's leg of his Middle Eastern tour, the Prime Minister hailed the success of what has been achieved in Iraq since US and British forces swept into Baghdad three years ago. At a joint press conference with the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, he declared: "The first time I arrived in this country there was no proper functioning democracy. Today there is."

This demonstrates a staggering disregard for the truth. Some 100 Iraqis are dying in sectarian violence every day. Yesterday 30 people were kidnapped from the office of the Iraqi Red Crescent in central Baghdad. These are not the hallmarks of a "proper functioning democracy". What has been created in Iraq is a state of murderous anarchy.

Mr Blair pledged that "attempts to establish democracy will not be destroyed by terrorists or sectarian violence". But the truth is that they already have. According to the Prime Minister, the UK will stand "four-square" behind the Iraqi government. This is dishonest. British troops are even now preparing to pull out of Basra. We have been told that several thousand of our 7,000 soldiers are expected to be withdrawn next year. Are we seriously expected to believe this is because the situation is improving on the ground?

In any case, what exactly is there for Britain to stand "four-square" behind? Mr al-Maliki's government is unable to take on one of the largest militias in Iraq, the Mehdi Army, because its leader is propping up Mr al-Maliki's coalition. Mr Blair constantly lectures us about our duty to respect the democratically elected government of Iraq, while refusing to acknowledge the evidence that elements in that same "government" are complicit in the activities of sectarian death squads.

The situation is hardly better in the rest of the region. There is a threat of civil war in Gaza and Lebanon. Iran seems intent on acquiring nuclear weapons. The foreign policy of Mr Blair and his ally President Bush has started a fire in the Middle East that will continue to burn long after both leave office.

Yet the evidence of this trip is that Mr Blair still imagines the UK is operating from a position of strength. Yesterday he declared that "there is a very strong obligation for all countries in the region to be supportive of the Iraqi prime minister and his government". What makes Mr Blair imagine that Syria or Iran will feel any "obligation" to help the UK and the US escape from the catastrophe they have wrought in Iraq?

Across the Middle East and throughout the wider Muslim world, Mr Blair is an unpopular, discredited figure. The Egyptian prime minister, Hosni Mubarak, did not even hold a press conference with him on Saturday. Mr Blair is in Israel today, hoping to salvage the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. But despite supporting Israel's punitive bombardment of Lebanon in the summer, there is little evidence to suggest Mr Blair has any real influence in that quarter.

Mr Blair's hubristic mission to reorder the world, piggy-backing on American military might, has heaped even more misery on the people of the Middle East, tarnished Britain's international reputation and increased the threat to all of us from Islamist terrorism. If Mr Blair were to open his eyes on this tour, he would be forced to admit that. But instead he chooses words which seek to deny the painful reality.

The poodle and the dove

18.12.2006: Martin Rowson on the poodle and the dove© Martin Rowson 2006

Ending illusions
December 18 2006: It speaks volumes about the dire state of the Middle East that a foreign head of government visiting Baghdad dare not stray beyond the 'green zone' and that the entire Gaza Strip is now strictly out of bounds on security grounds.
More on Israel & the Middle East
Full Iraq coverage

Feds' Creative Accounting

Posted on Fri, Dec. 15, 2006

Report: Federal deficit would be higher

Associated Press

The federal deficit for 2006 would have been 81 percent higher than the $247.7 billion that was reported two months ago if the government had to use the same accounting methods as private companies.

That was the finding Friday when the administratio

n released a 166-page "Financial Report of the United States Government" for the 2006 budget year that ended on Sept. 30.

The report, released by the Treasury Department and the president's Office of Management and Budget, found that under the accrual method of accounting, the deficit for 2006 would have totaled $449.5 billion, not the widely reported $247.7 billion incurred under the cash system of accounting.

Under the accrual method, expenses are recorded when they are incurred rather than when they are paid. That tends to raise costs for liabilities such as pensions and health insurance.

Ten years ago, Congress ordered the government to start issuing annual reports using the accrual method of accounting in an effort to show the finances in a way that was comparable with the private sector.

In this year's report, as in every one that has been issued, Congress' auditing arm, the Government Accountability Office, said that it could not sign off on the books because of problems in the reporting.

Comptroller General David M. Walker, the head of GAO, said in a letter included in the report that 53 percent of the government's total assets were included in agencies that could not be audited properly.

These problems included what Walker described as "serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense," repeating criticism previous reports have made about the Pentagon's bookkeeping.

The report, citing information from the trustees of the Social Security and Medicare programs, said that the shortfall in funding those two programs would total $44 trillion over the next 75 years.

"This report shows we are making progress getting our fiscal house in order in the near term," White House Budget Director Rob Portman said in a statement. "But it also puts in stark terms the necessity of addressing the rapid increase in entitlement spending over time."


Financial report:

Palestinian ceasefire given fighting chance

Dec 18, 2006

GAZA CITY - A shaky ceasefire took effect yesterday between Palestinian rivals Hamas and Fatah after days of heavy fighting pushed the Gaza Strip to the brink of civil war.

It was unclear whether the truce would last as groups of heavily armed gunmen from both sides continued to roam the tense streets of the impoverished coastal strip.

Fighting escalated after President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah on Sunday called for fresh presidential and parliamentary elections, a move intended to break political deadlock with the Hamas Government and lift Western sanctions on its administration. Hamas, which surprised the once dominant Fatah to win January elections, said it would boycott new polls.

Sporadic exchanges of fire followed overnight, including an incident in which two members of a Hamas-led police force were wounded moments after the agreement was announced. Previous deals to end internal fighting this year have fallen apart.

But yesterday forces loyal to Hamas and Fatah fought street and rooftop gunbattles across Gaza. Gunmen also fired mortars at Abbas' offices while his forces seized two Hamas ministries.

Abbas was not in Gaza at the time.

At least three people were killed and 20 wounded.

The two factions had tried for months to form a unity government to end a bitter power struggle, but talks foundered, partly over Hamas' insistence on not recognising Israel.

The ceasefire deal followed heated accusations by Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader, that Abbas' security men had launched a "military coup" against the Hamas Government in Gaza.

The chaos on the streets has spiralled since Zahar's motorcade came under fire last week as it drove near the Foreign Ministry in Gaza City, unknown gunmen killing the three young sons of a Fatah-allied security chief.

His motorcade came under attack again yesterday, unleashing a ferocious gunbattle that raged for more than an hour in the worst fighting since unity government talks broke down last month.

Medical officials said a 19-year-old woman was killed in the crossfire.

Zahar said top Fatah leaders were "fully responsible" for the attack on him "and what will happen".

In a separate attack blamed on Hamas, dozens of gunmen raided a training camp of Abbas' Presidential Guard near the President's residence, killing a member of the elite force.

Hamas gunmen also opened fire at a demonstration attended by tens of thousands of Fatah supporters in northern Gaza, wounding at least one person.

The truce calls for the rival factions to pull back their fighters and release men abducted by each side.

It also calls for Abbas' security forces to end a day-long siege of the two Hamas-led Government ministries.

Fatah said the agreement did not call for a resumption of stalled unity government talks, as asserted by Hamas, which took control of the Palestinian Authority in March.

Abbas has said early elections should be held as soon as possible.

But he also said efforts to form a unity government should continue.

The Palestinian basic law, which acts as a constitution, has no provision for early elections.

Fatah says Abbas can call them through a presidential decree.

Hamas says that would be illegal.

Hamas has insisted it will never recognise the Jewish state, making it unclear how any unity government could get off the ground and satisfy Western powers.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, on a drive to revive Middle East peace negotiations, arrived in Israel just before Hamas and Fatah announced the deal.

He will hold talks today with Abbas in the occupied West Bank and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem.

Blair is expected to discuss with Abbas ways to expand a European aid programme for the Palestinians that bypasses the Government.

Blair has set great store on reviving Middle East peacemaking before he leaves office next year.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talkscollapsed six years ago and the prospect for restarting negotiations dimmed further when Hamas took office.

The movement seeks Israel's destruction.


Presidential guard

With US backing, President Mahmoud Abbas's elite presidential guard has grown to at least 4000 men, up from 2500 members when Hamas took power in March. The US wants to expand it to 4700. Palestinian officials aim for 10,000. European states have committed non-lethal equipment to the guard. The US has helped organise shipments of guns and ammunition from Egypt and Jordan and plans to provide millions in direct support. The US and Israel have backed an Abbas plan to let 1000 members of the Badr Brigade, a Fatah force based in Jordan, into the Palestinian territories.

Intelligence, security forces

Under Abbas's control, General Intelligence has 5000 members. Fatah has accused Hamas of killing several of the unit's leaders in recent months. National Security Forces under Abbas's direct command include military intelligence and the naval police. Not as well-equipped as the guard but have 30,000 members.

Hamas' executive force

First deployed by the Hamas-led Government on the streets of Gaza in May, Hamas says its "Executive Force" has grown from 3000 to 6000. The force is built mostly from members of the Hamas armed wing, the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, but it includes some members from allied militant factions such as the Popular Resistance Committees. Well equipped.

Police and preventive security

Fall under the jurisdiction of the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry. But they are dominated by Fatah loyalists and Hamas has struggled to exert control. Their total strength is estimated at about 30,000.


Iraq reconciliation conference is more government propaganda

December 17th, 2006

The conference was good propaganda for the media, but in reality its useless.

How can they call this a reconciliation conference and they invited oppositions living abroad to join the political process while people who are in the political process wasn’t invited at all.

Al-Mutlq was not invited, Al-Dulami wasn’t invited

Al-Maliki wants former Iraqi army officers to be allowed to reapply for their posts in the new army, at the same time the conference issued ban on Baathests member from joining the political process.

Now the question is: is there any former Iraqi army officer, we assume they are alive and not killed by the government militia, who is not Baathi?

Former Iraqi Army Officers rejected Maliki’s initiative

December 18th, 2006

According Qudspress:

A statement distributed in Iraqi cities, former Iraqi military officers refused Maliki initiative to the ranks of the new army saying:

The new army is collaborating with the occupation, basics principles of every army in the world is to fight the invaders, not to cooperate with it to continue the occupation.

The leaflets distributed in Fallujah, Ramadi, Samarra and Mosul, according to the statement, the officers set several conditions for a return, including a timetable for the withdrawal of the occupation forces from Iraq that does not exceed six months, and the restructuring of the former army and dismantling the current army, and the trial of present senior army officers with crimes against civilians by an international courts.

Palestinians react to pantomime politics

Tony Blair has been in the West Bank today, assuring the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, of his support.

Mr Abbas, for his part, used a joint press conference to reiterate his intention to call new general elections in the hope of ending months of deadlock between his own Fatah organisation and the more radical Hamas group, which won the last election, in January.

This is not something that has pleased every Palestinian blogger - the Palestinian Free Voice makes its feelings known with the headline: "Abbas starts his coup d'etat to overthrow Hamas government."

Another blog, Raising Yousuf, Unplugged: diary of a Palestinian mother, is equally sceptical, saying:

"The interesting thing, Abbas focused his energy on attacking and tearing apart Hamas and its government, blaming them for everything from the state of siege and hunger we are in, to the death of hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli attacks this summer, to the closure of the Rafah Crossing. He ignored completely the fact that Gaza's imprisonment and isolation began LONG before Hamas was elected into power."

One reader posting comments on the site shared a similar view:

"While his call for early elections will be criticised in many places, I find it depressing to think how this will be welcomed in the West. After suffocating the only democratic government in the Arab world, the West will no doubt support Abbas in calling elections again and again, until they get the result they want."

Slightly further away in Egypt - one of the nations already visited by Mr Blair on his current Middle East tour - Rantings of a Sandmonkey saw it slightly differently:

"I don't see why Hamas is so opposed to this. If they truly have the support of the people, they should easily win, no? Unless, of course, they know they won't win this time. Hmm..."

Meanwhile, From Gaza, with Love, the blog of a Palestinian woman doctor, concentrated on the recent surge of violence between Fatah and Hamas forces, the worst for a decade:

"I am sad, angry and not proud of what is going on in Gaza's streets at the moment. Palestinians and Palestinians fight and the Israeli occupation is watching us with the famous old policy of occupation, divide and rule. What a waste of energy and effort toward acheiving our national goals, towards a free and independent Palestine, towards achievement of peace that is based on justice. I could not go to my work, I was confined to my home. I live too close to the president's home and office... it was not safe for me to have a quick at look the shooting."

Amid all this, no local word yet on Mr Blair's latest peace mission, and whether or not is is likely to make a difference.


This post was last changed at 04:21 PM, December 18 2006

Rich Israelis Seeking ‘Rejuvenation’ Linked To Horrifically Murdered Ukrainian Babies

Dec 17, 2006

In a World gone completely insane, there are very few reports we research that truly shock us on all levels as human beings, today one such report has shaken us all due to its sheer horrific brutality, the murdering and butchery of new-born babies for their stem cells and internal organs so that rich Westerners are able to have what are called ‘Rejuvenation’ treatments.

From today’s FSB reports there is apparent confirmation supporting the allegations made by one of Ukraine’s top prosecutors, Irina Bogomolova, who was dismissed from her investigation involving the murdering of newborn babies for their stem cells and organs, and as also confirmed by Western media sources, and as we can read as reported by Britain’s Telegraph News Service in their article titled “Stem cell baby deaths probe 'too close to the truth', claims investigator", and which says:

"A Ukrainian investigator looking into claims that new-born babies were killed to harvest their stem cells and internal organs says she was removed from the case after demanding that the inquiry be extended to all Ukraine's maternity hospitals. Irina Bogomolova, who works in the chief prosecutor's office in the capital, Kiev, claims she was taken off the case because she came too close to the truth while investigating allegations made by women who claim their babies were taken away from them immediately after birth.

She said: "I was sacked for political reasons. I demanded an investigation into all maternity wings in hospitals across Ukraine and I was relieved of duty after making that demand. "A trade in stem cells exists here... I suspect there is a lot of bribery going on, right up to highest levels." Pregnant women, especially from rural areas, are very vulnerable targets as they will obviously believe whatever the doctors tell them. It's easy to take their babies from them and tell them they died or were born dead due to complications."

The Council of Europe is to investigate allegations that newborn babies, and foetuses, have been killed to provide stem cells and internal organs for controversial medical and cosmetic treatments. Officials of the Strasbourg-based human rights organisation are to travel to Ukraine in February to investigate the role played by some of the country's research centres and maternity hospitals in the international trade."

Even more disturbing about these reports are the ‘links’ provided between numerous Ukrainian Maternity Hospitals and Israel’s pharmaceutical giant Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., who are alleged to be the purchasers of these murdered babies stem cells, and organs, through its alliance with Jerusalem-based Gamida Cell. The Gamida Cell Company’s research is described as:

"Gamida Cell is developing drugs based on stem-cell research. Stem cells are primordial cells, early in development and non-differentiated. In response to biochemical stimuli (that are not well understood), the stem cells differentiate into specific ones, such as heart, nerve, muscle, epidermis and so on."

To the actual process of older humans being able to be rejuvenated by the stem cells of babies we can read:

"According to modern science, there are no natural laws preventing successful rejuvenation. Aging is an accumulation of damage to macromolecules, cells, tissues and organs. If any of that damage can be repaired, the result is rejuvenation.

There have been many experiments which have been shown to increase the maximum life span of laboratory animals, thereby achieving life extension. A few experimental methods such as replacing hormones to youthful levels have had considerable success in partially rejuvenating laboratory animals and humans. There are at least eight important hormones that decline with age: 1. human growth hormone (HGH); 2. the sexual hormones: testosterone or estrogen/progesterone; 3. erithropoietin EPO; 4. insulin; 5. DHEA; 6. melatonin; 7. thyroid; 8. pregnenolone. In theory, if all or some of these hormones are replaced, the body will respond to them as it did when it was younger, thus repairing and restoring many body functions. This seems to be borne out in hundreds of thousands of persons who have replaced hormones for many years, especially human growth hormone (HGH, a.k.a. GH).

Most attempts at genetic repair have traditionally involved the use of a retrovirus to insert a new gene into a random position on a chromosome. But by attaching zinc fingers (which determine where transcription factors bind) to endonucleases (which break DNA strands) homologous recombination can be induced to correct and replace defective (or undesired) DNA sequences. The first applications of this technology are to isolate stem cells from the bone marrow of patients having blood disease mutations, to correct those mutations in laboratory dishes using zinc finger endonucleases and to transplant the stem cells back into the patients.

Regenerative medicine uses three different strategies:

Implantation of stem cells from culture into an existing tissue structure

Implantation of stem cells into a tissue scaffold that guides restoration or

Induction of residual cells of a tissue structure to regenerate the necessary body part."

To the moral implications of the World’s rich being able to extend their lives via the murdering of new-born babies there are no historical counterparts, but does serve as yet another horrific example of how degenerate of Mind and Soul the Western peoples have truly become.

It should also be noted that these FSB reports linking the Israelis, and the Western peoples, to these Ukrainian baby murders could also be a part of the ongoing, and increasing, propaganda war currently underway between Russia and the Western Powers over Russia’s refusal to accept new United Nations laws over the Serbian breakaway region of Kosovo, and which the United States is preparing to us on its own territory for the establishment of their North American Union comprising the Nations of the United States, Mexico and Canada.

By Sorcha Faal

What Happened To Will Of The People?

Dec 18, 2006

By J. Maccabee,

We. Do. Not. Want. This. Damned. War.

This entire country is overwhelmingly against this war and the Bush Administration acts like we have no say so in it. He’s keeping America’s kids over there dying in this mix of quicksand and blood and faux patriotism. Why don’t we count? Why is this entire Congress of millionaires and elitists not listening to us? Why doesn’t our Emperor know that we could care less about his legacy? We don’t give a rat’s ass about what history books will say about him because we already know how posterity will cast him and there is nothing he can do to change that. We are goddamned tired of seeing Americans falling behind, losing our rights and our healthcare while he and his advisors spend our tax dollars in Iraq and give each other medals.

I hope the incoming Democrats know this.

Two. Billion. Dollars. A. Week. Would. Go. A. Long. Way. At. Home.

We don’t care about Bush’s legacy. We want our tax dollars over here paying nurses and taking care of veterans and paying teachers and filling potholes and supporting our failing bridges and rail system. By the way, go send your own children to die in the desert. In fact, it would be great of a few of your flag waving Bible thumping patriots had worn a uniform beyond Cub Scout. None of this administration has done anything harder than an Outward Bound trip but you all spew international military advice like you’re Johnny Quest.

Stop. Torturing. People.

This embarrasses us. It shames us all. We, that means us, the opinion of the majority of Americans, want prisoners given rights and protections. We are not scared shitless or terrorists like Republicans. We are not buying into this idea that we should shit on our own Constitution to fight this bullshit war. Let the armchair generals who listen to Rush Limbaugh and Fox News and asshats like Josh Trevino and Jonah Goldberg play Risk by themselves. All prisoners deserve a fair chance at representation. It has always been the American way and always will be.

Our. Healthcare. Sucks.

As Americans we are used to having the best in the world. Now our healthcare reeks. Why? Because the Republican 109th sold our healthcare to the highest bidder. To Republicans, money trumps everything. They made sure that pharmaceutical stockholders were serviced while our parents and our veterans and our children pay out their asses for the same service that 25 of the top industrialized nations give out for a fraction of the cost. You’d have to have your goddamned head in your hands to get Codeine in an emergency room in America. You could be dying of asthma in a hospital in America

Stop. Censoring. America.

It’s OK to watch bombs fall on the heads of Iraqis, but we have to bleep out words like damn and shit. It’s OK to sell video games called Convert or Die where infidels get killed if they don’t become Christians, but god forbid we actually see one of the 3000 caskets of American soldiers. You can also stop letting idiot uneducated political operatives tell scientists that their research is invalid because it might upset a GOP donor. Let scientists decide for themselves by their own reasoning what they can publish and what they can’t. By the way, we would all rather see Janet Jackson’s gorgeous Tit than hear Donald Rumsfeld’s pathetic lies. I mean why is it a major fine to show two people making but it’s OK to show someone getting their head blown off?

Join. The. 21st. Century.

Evolution is the basic operating function of biology. If you think the world is 6000 years old, please keep it to yourself. By the way, you are a fucking idiot. The rest of us believe in SCIENCE and REASON and LOGIC. Global warming is a fact. Hell, even the Alps are melting. The Bush Administration sounds like Monty’s Python’s Black Knight in the search for the Holy Grail. He is armless and legless after a fight, still claiming that we are all wrong and he is ready to fight.

Reality: "I just cut your arm off..."

Bush : "No you didn’t. It’s a FLESH wound..."

Stop. Hiding. Facts.

Stop classifying information bought and paid for by our tax dollars. You’re doing exactly what the Nazis and the Communists did to stay in power. Stop using terrorism to explain why you’re hiding public domain information. It’s embarrassing to people with three digit IQs.

Stop. Ruining. Institutons. Made. To. Protect. Us.

The FDA once had 600 inspectors. Under Clinton they did 34,900 random inspections a year. Under the Emperor, there are 59. Consequently we are getting poisoned at our own restaurants. Taco Bell, Olive Garden. Why? Because you appoint your idiot cousins to important positions because they helped you steal an election. You’ve ruined FEMA, the EPA. The Army. You’re like a giant fucking jinx.

Put. Money. Back. Into. Schools.

Latvian 7th graders know more math and science and American history than American 12th graders. Our kids cannot afford college anymore. Why do we pay $258 million for ONE F-22 Raptor, but there is n o money for our children to get better educations? Because Republicans know that educated people vote Democratic. The fatter and dumber we are, the more we vote Republican.

Attention Democrats. Please don’t be the Republicans you just replaced. We elected you for a reason.