Sunday, January 28, 2007

As long as we impose sanctions

Editor's note: I am moving over to the other blog.
Last update - 09:22 28/01/2007

By Zvi Bar'el

Thursday will mark a year since the democratic elections in Palestine that brought Hamas to power - a year since the shock and frustration were replaced by a policy of sanctions that has pushed the Palestinian Authority to the brink of civil war and warfare in the streets of Gaza. The accomplishments of this policy resemble those of the international sanctions policy imposed on Iraq: It has not deposed the Hamas government, Qassam rockets continued to land in Israel and it did not serve as an alternative for the need for IDF action. Even worse, the Palestinians' effort to extricate themselves from the sanctions has given new power brokers - Syria and Iran - a basis of support in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Not only Ismail Haniyeh, the outcast, heeds the directives of Khaled Meshal, Iran and Syria, but Mahmoud Abbas, the friend, is also compelled to accept Damascus' "recommendation" to meet with Meshal.

The Israeli assumption that it would be enough to apply heavy economic pressure and arrest members of the Palestinian parliament and government ministers to overturn the election results, turned out, as expected, to be mistaken. Like in Iraq, which existed for 13 years under a regime of sanctions, or Libya, which endured 11 years of sanctions, the citizenry suffers and barely survives, yet does not take to the streets to protest against the failures of the government that represents it. Standing steadfast against sanctions imposed by an occupier is still considered national heroism. Donations, waiving salaries and a great deal of voluntary activity somehow manage to keep the health and education systems in operation. They are continuing to teach at the universities and even artistic work has not come to a halt.

But unlike other sanction regimes, Israel is setting conditions but not promising anything in return. Thus, even if Haniyeh starts wearing a skullcap and Khaled Meshal begins humming Hatikva, and even if Abbas makes it mandatory to teach the heroic story of Masada in Palestinian schools, Israel does not want and is unable to propose a diplomatic alternative that would lead to the establishment of an independent and democratic Palestinian state. It does not want to - because any such proposal would mean a withdrawal from most of the territories and the dismantling of most of the settlements. It is unable to - because there is no government of Israel. After all, even when it appeared that there was a government in Israel, not a single measly illegal outpost was removed; this is a non-government that has transformed the disengagement from Gaza from a national trauma to a housing trauma; and in Hebron, or in Mount Hebron to be more precise, the sovereign provides free protection to a bunch of hooligans.

Israel is trying at least to forge these empty sanctions, devoid of promise, into a symbol of national determination and pride. As if Israel, not Hamas, was the one who needed to mount a steadfast stand. The sanctions changed from a means to a status.

It suddenly seems that it is impossible to get rid of Hamas. Not only Abbas understands that early elections are liable to further erode his power and the power of his supporters. Arab states, which are pained by the Hamas election victory no less than Israel is, now fear new elections and are pushing for the establishment of a unity government. If such a government is formed, its platform will perhaps be a bit more moderate than the one presented during the elections, but it will still be more hard-line than the one Abbas proposes. Ultimately, Israel will find itself pitted against a government that includes Hamas, with a roundabout recognition of Israel. And what will Israel do then? Will it dance for joy over the fact that it managed to "bend" Hamas and then procrastinate for a year and a half until a new American administration takes office?

Israel is not only "celebrating" a year of sanctions now. It is also marking 40 years of occupation this year. The government of Israel, or at least the part of it that is not spending its time in investigators' offices, cannot allow another year of sanctions to pass and thus establish the foundations for the fifth decade of the occupation. Because if this government is, in any case, unable to offer a diplomatic alternative, perhaps it would be best to at least allow the Palestinians to breathe a little, to work a bit, and thus help to prepare a slightly less devastated Palestinian public for peace negotiations with a future Israeli government.

National Attention for Kan. Governor Sunday January 28, 2007 3:46 PM By JOHN HANNA Associated Press Writer TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Most of the Kans

Sunday January 28, 2007 3:46 PM


Associated Press Writer

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Most of the Kansans who've made a mark on national politics have been Republicans, like Dwight Eisenhower and Bob Dole. Another, Sen. Sam Brownback, is running for president.

But now a Kansas Democrat, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, is generating some buzz with her 58 percent re-election margin, glowing write-ups in national magazines and political chatter about her place on short lists for Cabinet posts should Democrats recapture the White House next year.

Sebelius, who's made her fortune in Kansas politics by winning over moderate Republicans, has even popped up in speculation about potential vice presidential nominees. And this year, she's chairwoman of the Democratic Governors' Association.

``It's hard to imagine that her name's not going to appear on everybody's list,'' said Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster in Washington. ``You've got to say Kathleen Sebelius is in demand as a role model, as a political figure, as a governor.''

The 58-year-old governor is a self-described ``aging rocker'' who squeezed a ride in an Indy race car and a Rolling Stones concert into the same day last year. She runs nearly 15 miles a week and regularly attends college football and basketball games.

Her wit occasionally gets her into trouble, as during a 2002 gubernatorial debate when she said driving roads in neighboring Missouri was ``much more terrifying to me than the attacks on the World Trade Center.''

Her father, John Gilligan, a Democrat, was governor of Ohio in 1971-75, making them the only father-daughter governors in U.S. history. Her husband, Gary, a federal magistrate, was a son of the late Rep. Keith Sebelius, a western Kansas Republican.

After eight years in the Kansas House and two terms as insurance commissioner, she ran for governor in 1998, winning over moderate Republicans by portraying herself as pro-business and promising to make government more efficient.

She's continued the political mix this year, proposing that legislators draft a plan for eventually bringing universal health care coverage to Kansas while seeking tax cuts for businesses. She's also been a visible supporter of the military, going to Iraq in 2005 to visit National Guard troops.

During her first term, the state weathered its most severe fiscal crisis since the Great Depression and was forced by its highest court to dramatically increase spending on public schools. With the economy improving, both tasks were accomplished without a general tax increase - though Republicans note Sebelius proposed a swiftly rejected tax package for schools in 2004.

That year, Time named Sebelius one of four ``rising stars from the heartland,'' and a year later it touted her as among the nation's five best governors. Newsweek identified Sebelius as ``one to watch'' this year.

Much of the attention focuses on her ability to draw moderate Republicans, a necessity for statewide office in Kansas. Only 27 percent of the state's 1.6 million voters are registered as Democrats, compared to 46 percent as Republicans, giving the GOP a 322,000-person advantage. No Democratic presidential candidate has carried the state since 1964.

Kansas has long been a springboard for Republicans, most notably Eisenhower, whose presidential library is in Abilene, about 160 miles west of Kansas City, Mo. Sen. Charles Curtis served as vice president in 1929-33. Gov. Alf Landon was the GOP nominee for president in 1936. Dole was Senate majority leader before his failed presidential bid in 1996.

Brownback is considered a long shot for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, but he's got support from the religious right and conservative groups.

Some Republicans suggested Sebelius wouldn't serve out a second term as governor because she'd be tapped for a presidential ticket, and many believe she's eyeing a run in 2010 for the Senate seat now held by Brownback, who has said he won't seek re-election.

Sebelius dismisses such ideas, saying she likes her current job.

However, some Kansans wouldn't mind seeing her on the Democratic ticket next year.

``Anything's possible,'' said Rachel Camp, director of a church day care center in Topeka. ``She shows a lot of good qualities that would be assets to our government. I'd probably vote for her.''


On the Net:

Governor's office:

Herzliya Conference: In a word: Iran

by Jeffrey Blankfort

If there is an attack on Iran, will those same folks who insist that the war in Iraq is not for Israel, say that the war on Iran is not for Israel, as well?
Herzliya Conference: In a word: Iran

Haviv Rettig, THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 25, 2007


If this year's Herzliya Conference is any indication, the Israeli establishment, though reeling from one political scandal to another, has only one thing on its mind: Iran. Panel after panel declaimed, ad nauseum, the "existential threat" emanating from the "messianic totalitarian" government in Teheran. Cabinet ministers, IDF representatives, the usual cadre of former generals, policy analysts and even the handful of ex-Mossad officials discussed both openly and privately the nuclear threat, its geo-strategic and psychological implications and methods for its removal.

The focus on Iran was not unique to the Israelis present, however. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns came to Herzliya this week to tell attendees that the Iranian threat "may be the most important challenge that we face today." Thomas Pickering, who used to hold Burns's job, warned that "nuclear proliferation is indeed the characteristic of this nuclear age and its major problem." Peter MacKay, Canada's Foreign Minister, asserted that his country "is deeply concerned about Iran," insisting that "Teheran must not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons."

For all these reasons, Robert Satloff, Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, believes that "regarding Iran, the majority of US diplomatic analysis advances deterrents and not prevention. If Israel was not focusing on prevention, the US policy elite would slide into deterrents and the focus would be on Israel and not Iran."«

"I smell the fog of war," said Col. (res.) Eran Lerman, former chief strategic analyst in the IDF's intelligence directorate, summing up the feelings of others who refused to go on record. Burns himself noted that "Iran, through its policies, has caused a severe reaction throughout the United States, which has since caused an increase in the US's seeking out intelligence and paramilitary information regarding the state."

The preparation for a US or Israeli strike on Iran, both in military-logistic terms and diplomatically and psychologically, is moving forward. In the words of Bremer: "There are two clocks ticking," that of regime reform or change, and that of the Iranian regime's race to acquire a nuclear weapon. The general consensus at Herzliya was that if the latter is perceived in the West as outpacing the former, an overwhelming military strike by the US, despite the terrible risks involved, will become inevitable.

Jeff Blankfort is a radio program producer with KPOO in San Francisco, KZYX in Mendocino and KPFT/Pacifica in Houston..

He is a journalist and Jewish-American and has been a pro-Palestinian human rights activist since 1970. He was formerly the editor of the Middle East Labor Bulletin and co-founder of the Labor Committee of the Middle East. He was also a founding member of the Nov. 29 Coalition on Palestine. He won a sizable lawsuit against the Jewish Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in February 2002 for its vast illegal spying against him, as well as other peaceful political groups and individuals (including anti-Apartheid groups/activists).

Nuclear plans in chaos as Iran leader flounders

The Israeli public buys into the government propaganda(remember Americans swallowed Bush's guff. The Israeli army runs the country. After an embarassing loss in Lebanon and waning power at home, they could use an easy win and Cheney is just itching to make more cash off another war.

Ahmadinejad does not and has never made the major decisions in Iran. The Supreme Leader Khamenei handles those.

Even White House insiders say privately Iran is 10 years away from producing sufficient bomb grade uranium.
Boasts of a nuclear programme are just propaganda, say insiders, but the PR could be enough to provoke Israel into war

Peter Beaumont, foreign affairs editor

Sunday January 28, 2007
The Observer

Iran's efforts to produce highly enriched uranium, the material used to make nuclear bombs, are in chaos and the country is still years from mastering the required technology.

Iran's uranium enrichment programme has been plagued by constant technical problems, lack of access to outside technology and knowhow, and a failure to master the complex production-engineering processes involved. The country denies developing weapons, saying its pursuit of uranium enrichment is for energy purposes.

Despite Iran being presented as an urgent threat to nuclear non-proliferation and regional and world peace - in particular by an increasingly bellicose Israel and its closest ally, the US - a number of Western diplomats and technical experts close to the Iranian programme have told The Observer it is archaic, prone to breakdown and lacks the materials for industrial-scale production.

The disclosures come as Iran has told the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA], that it plans to install a new 'cascade' of 3,000 high-speed centrifuges at its controversial underground facility at Natanz in central Iran next month.

The centrifuges were supposed to have been installed almost a year ago and many experts are extremely doubtful that Iran has yet mastered the skills to install and run it. Instead, they argue, the 'installation' will more probably be about propaganda than reality.

The detailed descriptions of Iran's problems in enriching more than a few grams of uranium using high-speed centrifuges - 50kg is required for two nuclear devices - comes in stark contrast to the apocalyptic picture being painted of Iran's imminent acquisition of a nuclear weapon with which to attack Israel. Instead, say experts, the break-up of the nuclear smuggling organisation of the Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadheer Khan has massively set back an Iran heavily dependent on his network.

A key case in point is that Tehran originally procured the extremely high-quality bearings required for the centrifuges' carbon-fibre 'top rotors' - spinning dishes within the machines - from foreign companies in Malaysia.

With that source closed down two years ago, Iran is making the bearings itself with only limited success. It is the repeated failure of these crucial bearings, say some sources, that has been one of the programme's biggest setbacks.

Iran is also believed to be critically short of key materials for producing a centrifuge production line to highly enrich uranium - in particular the so-called maraging steel, able to be used at high temperatures and under high stress without deforming - and specialist carbon fibre products. In this light, say some experts, its insistence that it will install 3,000 new centrifuges at the underground Natanz facility in the coming months is as much about domestic PR as reality.

The growing recognition, in expert circles at least, of how far Iran is from mastering centrifuge technology was underlined on Friday by comments by the head of the IAEA, whose inspectors have been attempting to monitor the Iranian nuclear programme.

Talking to the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, Mohamed El Baradei appealed for all sides to take a 'time out' under which Iranian enrichment and UN sanctions would be suspended simultaneously, adding that the point at which Iran is able to produce a nuclear weapon is at least half a decade away. In pointed comments aimed at the US and Israel, the Nobel Peace prize winner warned that an attack on Iran would have 'catastrophic consequences'.

Yet some involved in the increasingly aggressive standoff over Iran fear tensions will reach snapping point between March and June this year, with a likely scenario being Israeli air strikes on symbolic Iranian nuclear plants.

The sense of imminent crisis has been driven by statements from Israel, not least from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who has insisted that 2007 is make-or-break time over Iran's nuclear programme.

Recent months have seen leaks and background briefings reminiscent of the softening up of public opinion for the war against Iraq which have presented a series of allegations regarding Iran's meddling in Iraq and Lebanon, the 'genocidal' intentions of its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and its 'connections' with North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.

It also emerged last week in the Israeli media that the country's private diplomatic efforts to convince the world of the need for tough action on Iran were being co-ordinated by Meir Dagan, the head of Israel's foreign intelligence service, Mossad.

The escalating sense of crisis is being driven by two imminent events, the 'installation' of 3,000 centrifuges at Natanz and the scheduled delivery of fuel from Russia for Iran's Busheyr civil nuclear reactor, due to start up this autumn. Both are regarded as potential trigger points for an Israeli attack.

'The reality is that they have got to the stage where they can run a small experimental centrifuge cascade intermittently,' said one Western source familiar with the Iranian programme. 'They simply have not got to the stage where they can run 3,000 centrifuges There is no evidence either that they have been stockpiling low-enriched uranium which could be highly enriched quickly and which would give an idea of a malevolent intent.'

Another source with familiarity with the Iranian programme said: 'Iran has put all this money into this huge hole in the ground at Natanz; it has put a huge amount of money in these P-1 centrifuges, the model rejected by Urenco. It is like the Model T Ford compared to a Prius. That is not to say they will not master the technology eventually, but they are trying to master very challenging technology without access to

everything that they require.'

Fonda Reprises A Famous Role At Peace Rally

The Actress Speaks Out Against the War in Iraq

By Linton Weeks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 28, 2007; D01

For her next act, Jane Fonda has entered the war against the Iraq war. At the tail-end of yesterday's on-the-Mall rally, organized by United for Peace and Justice, Fonda stood onstage with the Capitol behind her and addressed the sun-drenched thousands. "I haven't spoken at an antiwar rally in 34 years," she said. But, "Silence is no longer an option."

The first time Fonda, 69, spoke out for peace, the country was soul-deep in the Vietnam War. In the ensuing decades, as the nation has gone through a slew of changes, so has Fonda.

As a young woman, the daughter of actor Henry Fonda was an actress, a feminist and anti-Vietnam War activist. She morphed into a workout maven, post-feminist arm candy for billionaire media magnate Ted Turner, a vocal Christian and an autobiographer. With 2005's "Monster-in-Law," she defibrillated her movie career.

Yesterday, with her daughter, Vanessa Vadim, and two grandchildren nearby, she was again front and center as actress, feminist and opponent of war.

Her life has come full circle.

She thanked the tens of thousands of protesters for standing up to a "mean-spirited, vengeful administration" and she said she was glad to discover that the soul of America "is alive and well." One huge difference between protests then and now, she told the crowd, is military families and active service people in the present-day movement.

Children in tie-dyed shirts, grandmothers in flowered hats, kids with frizzy hair and muddy jeans danced and hoisted signs and chanted against the war and for impeachment. Despite her showbiz elegance -- blond hair, sunglasses, camel's hair coat and dark over-the-knee boots -- Fonda seemed to fit right in.

She was first known for campy movies such as "Barbarella," which was directed by first husband Roger Vadim, then for higher-shelf films such as "Klute" and "Coming Home," for which she won Best Actress Oscars. She became involved in the political world in the late 1960s, an involvement that continued with her second husband, activist Tom Hayden.

As a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War, she cut a controversial figure. She spoke at protest rallies and, in 1972, posed for a photograph with a North Vietnamese antiaircraft gun. The act was viewed by many as unpatriotic, even treasonous, and some called her "Hanoi Jane."

She has since apologized.

"Those people who would try to undermine her credibility will fail. We welcome her back to the peace community," said Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), chairman of the Out of Iraq congressional caucus.

"She's a high-profile, outspoken American," said actor Sean Penn, while smoking a cigarette before the rally. What she means to the antiwar movement "is the same thing any of the rest of us mean to it. She's one more voting American with a conscience who is against this war."

Getting her to speak at the massive rally was a breeze, organizers said. Leslie Cagan, who works for United for Peace and Justice and is a longtime friend, e-mailed an invitation. Fonda said yes. Fonda has spoken out against the Iraq war at smaller events such as a Canadian lecture series, book signings and the recent National Conference for Media Reform in Memphis. United for Peace spokesman Hany Khalil said yesterday's rally was "one of the first times she has appeared on the national stage."

Kathy Engel, another United for Peace and Justice spokeswoman, said Fonda is important to the cause because through the years, she has been on the wave-crest of women's rights "and a myriad of issues concerning the health of our country. She's a long-distance runner."

Before the march, Fonda spoke briefly to a few hundred people at the Navy Memorial. The event was sponsored by Code Pink, an antiwar group started by women. On the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue, three dozen protesters organized by the conservative Web site Free Republic held up signs calling protesters traitors and terrorist sympathizers.

"Jaaaaannnneeeee Fonda has blood on her hands!" chanted one man with a megaphone.

"Thank you so much for being here," Fonda told the Code Pink folks over the noise. "We're going to get it done." Afterward, she hugged civil-rights activist Dick Gregory.

Asked whether she believed her presence might cause more harm than good to this antiwar movement, she snapped, "No." Then laughed. And was spirited away by handlers to the rally on the Mall.

She was one of the last people to speak at the midday rally. As she waited for her cue, she chatted with Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio). She shook hands with the Raging Grannies, a group of senior citizens who sang onstage, while the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sean Penn and actor-couple Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins milled about nearby.

Vietnam War veteran Orin "Spike" Tyson, 56, motored through the crowd on a Golden Companion Scooter with a U.S. flag flapping on the back. Tyson, a Lansing, Mich., resident who was wounded by shrapnel and a land mine, said he hasn't always agreed with Fonda, "but she has the right to say whatever she wants to say."

It's that freedom, he said, that he fought for.

Simply Brilliant. From the Archives: Jon Stewart with Bush Vs. Bush (Video)

Daffy Does Doom: MAUREEN DOWD

The New York Times

Daffy Does Doom

Published: January 27, 2007

Delusional is far too mild a word to describe Dick Cheney.

Dick Durbin went to the floor of the Senate on Thursday night to denounce the vice president as “delusional.”

It was shocking, and Senator Durbin should be ashamed of himself.

Delusional is far too mild a word to describe Dick Cheney. Delusional doesn’t begin to capture the profound, transcendental one-flew-over daftness of the man.

Has anyone in the history of the United States ever been so singularly wrong and misguided about such phenomenally important events and continued to insist he’s right in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary?


Hillary Clinton’s Mission Unaccomplished: FRANK RICH - Clinton and Iraq

The New York Times

Hillary Clinton’s Mission Unaccomplished

Published: January 28, 2007

Mrs. Clinton has always been a follower of public opinion on the war, not a leader.

HILLARY CLINTON has an answer to those who suspect that her “I’m in to win” Webcast last weekend was forced by Barack Obama’s Webcast of just four days earlier. “I wanted to do it before the president’s State of the Union,” she explained to Brian Williams on NBC, “because I wanted to draw the contrast between what we’ve seen over the last six years, and the kind of leadership and experience that I would bring to the office.”

She couldn’t have set the bar any lower. President Bush’s speech was less compelling than the Monty Python sketch playing out behind it: the unacknowledged race between Nancy Pelosi and Dick Cheney to be the first to stand up for each bipartisan ovation. (Winner: Pelosi.)


Hillary mangles the national anthem

More and more, it seems, it's the unscripted, unguarded moments in candidates for public office that are making the difference, be they botched joke or Macaca moment. Today in Iowa, Hillary Clinton may well have had her own: An open-mic snafu that broadcast her singing along to the National Anthem, and none to tunefully.