Eric Cantor Flexes Muscles for Israel
(Israel National News) Jewish Republican Representative Eric Cantor met last week with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and promised him that his party will act as a “check” on the Obama administration.
The unusual meeting offers a strong hint that U.S. President Barack Obama will find Congress taking a more assertive role in foreign policy towards Israel. Cantor is set to become the majority leader in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.
“Eric stressed that the new Republican majority will serve as a check on the Administration and what has been, up until this point, one party rule in Washington,” according to a statement from his office. “He made clear that the Republican majority understands the special relationship between Israel and the United States, and that the security of each nation is reliant upon the other.”
Although not unprecedented, the one-on-one meeting drew strong criticism from anti-Israel circles. The Atlantic, which routinely criticizes Israel, wrote on its ”Daily Dish” that the meeting is “a legitimate scandal worthy of far more attention. When dealing with foreign policy and climate change, Republicans believe in trying to deliberately sabotage the position of the U.S. government. The same is true of U.S. policy towards Iran…. Now it’s true of U.S. policy towards Israel, too.”
The “liberal” Op-ed news site posted an article by Saman Mohammadi, a university student, currently living in Toronto, who wrote under the headline, “Cantor, Thy Name is Traitor.”
The Virginia Congressman met with Prime Minister Netanyahu at the Regency Hotel in New York City, along with National Security Advisor Uzi Arad and Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, according to the Politico website.
Cantor “reiterated his belief that compromise between Israel and the Palestinians can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties,” according to a statement from his office. He also urged the Obama administration to “make it absolutely clear that the U.S. will veto any effort by the Palestinians” to seek recognition of their state by going to the United Nations.
“Eric has a longstanding friendship with Prime Minister Netanyahu and appreciated the opportunity to catch up last evening.”
Veteran observer of U.S.-Israeli relations Ron Kampeas wrote on a blog on the JTA website that the meeting and statement were “an eyebrow-raiser. I can’t remember an opposition leader telling a foreign leader, in a personal meeting, that he would side, as a policy, with that leader against the president.” Cantor’s office later disputed his analysis.
Bush Didn’t Write No Damn Book
By Ahamad Amr
The first lie you’ll encounter in ‘Decision Points’ is the identity of the author; Bush didn’t write no damn book and if I’m wrong about that, I’ll eat the shoe that Iraqi journalist threw at him. ‘Decision Points’ is a hoax as transparent as Clifford Irving’s fake autobiography of Howard Hughes.
Take a good look at the man who held the title of POTUS for eight years – he looks jittery and it’s worth speculating if he’s back on the bottle. I’m not suggesting that Bush is stupid. You need to be awful crafty to regurgitate the same WMD lies for eight years. I’m just saying that the ex-president was in no mental state to write a book – certainly not a book of this size. The entire book was probably farmed out to some Neo-con boiler room operation. The word is already out that Condi Rice vetted the doctored manuscript before it made its way to the printing press. I can see Bush now patting Rice on the back “Condi, you did a heck of a snow job.”
The ex-president’s Neo-con handlers and their entrenched operatives in the main stream media will do their best to cover up his crimes and as well as theirs. It’s not that they’re worried about their reputations. They’re worried about the legal consequences.
The real mystery is who really authored the fictional autobiography. I’ll grant that there’s a distinct possibility that if you give a zillion monkeys access to a computer, one of them will pound out a three page masterpiece. But if I’m not mistaken, George Bush doesn’t know how to use a word processor. Seriously, if Bush actually wrote a book, I’d be the first to eat it.
By all accounts, ‘Deception Points’ is no Mea Culpa. Among Bush’s few regrets is a photo taken of him as he did a fly by to see what the Hurricane Katrina commotion was all about. POTUS is still fuming about the rapper that said he ‘didn’t care about black people.’ Yet Bush professes no remorse over the millions of Iraqis that were killed, maimed and fled into exile as a result of his misadventures in MessOnPotamia. You can take this to the bank; George Bush doesn’t care about Iraqi people.
I expect the pundits will find it easy enough to pick through the weapons of mass deception fairy tales or pounce on the ex-president for being a self-confessed torturer who took the precaution of consulting a Dick Cheney appointed lawyer before approving water boarding and who knows what else. There’s no question that Bush and his accomplices lied about the phantom WMDs and that’s that. There was no intelligence failure and everybody with a lick of sense knows it.
Say what you will about the American intelligence community but never discount their capabilities. If Valerie Plame and Ambassador Joseph Wilson knew the WMD ‘evidence’ was fabricated, so did a whole bunch of other people in the CIA.
The decision to invade Iraq was a result of a failure of judgment not a failure of intelligence. Blinded by their ideological passions, Bush and his Likudnik neo-con advisers bet that their Iraqi venture would be a cake-walk and a slam dunk. WMDs or no WMDs, very few Americans would have complained about an easy and swift victory. And let’s give Bush credit. He was right – for a few months. Check out the president’s approval ratings in the immediate aftermath of the invasion of Iraq. Even when things started getting a little wobbly, Rumsfeld famously scoffed “we don’t do quagmires.”
By the time Bush realized he was wading neck deep in a quagmire, Rumsfeld started contemplating the “long hard slog ahead.” Seven years later, we have a clear idea of where the trillion dollar Neo-Con inspired slog led us. Iraq has emerged as a blood soaked chaotic landscape where Shiite theocrats and radicalized Sunnis going at each other. Today’s Iraq is ranked as one of the most corrupt and unstable countries in the world. So I’m just curious about something. When God told Bush to invade Iraq, did he mention anything about the potential decimation of one of the largest and most ancient Christian communities in the Middle East?
Moving on to the crazy decision to disband the Iraqi army – Bush’s phantom biographers are again pointing an accusatory finger at Paul Bremer for making that disastrous decision. If I recall, the Neo-Con praetorian guards tried to pull this off back in 2007. Fortunately, Paul Bremer refused to fall on his sword and turned around and handed documents to the New York Times proving that Bush knew in advance of the plan to dissolve Saddam’s military. The notion that the senior American envoy to Iraq would be left with the decision to disband the Iraqi Army was absurd on its face. When Bush was called out on it by Robert Draper, this was his response – “Yeah, I can’t remember, I’m sure I said, “this is the policy, what happened?’”
What else did Bush and his ghostwriters forget? I doubt the book mentions anything about Bush’s role in giving American occupation forces standing orders to turn a blind eye to Iraqi government death squads and ignore the torture dungeons operated by the vicious Wolf Brigades. That decision was in line with the Bush Administration’s policy of extraordinary rendition. No worries. Bush had Cheney’s lawyers sign off on that policy too.
There is no doubt in my mind that “Decision Points” is a hoax – a bit of revisionist Neo-Con history to fog our collective memories of Bush’s atrocities. And I’ll tell you who knows it’s a hoax – Random House, the publishers. Don’t boycott the book because there’s no Bush book to boycott. Trust me – Bush didn’t write no damn book.
– Ahmed Amr is the former editor of NileMedia.com and the author of “The Sheep and the Guardians – Diary of a SEC Sanctioned Swindle.” He contributed this article to www.PalestineChronicle.com.
New German Party Opposes Political Islam
German politician Rene Stadtkewitz, dropped by his former party for hosting controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders, has become the chairman of a new party, Die Freiheit (The Freedom). The party held a low-profile launch ceremony in late October, covered by journalist Daniel Pipes.
The party declares that, “Western civilization, for centuries a world leader, faces an existential crisis.” The party platform calls to protect freedom and democracy, and expresses particular concern over Islam, which, it says, “is not just a religion but also a political ideology with its own legal system.”
“We oppose with all our force the Islamization of our country,” party founders declared.
Die Freiheit is strongly supportive of Israel, which it calls “the outpost of the Western world in the Arab theater.” Israel’s right to exist should not be questioned, and “all democratic countries must show the highest interest in Israel’s living in free self-determination and security,” the party platform says.
Parties known for their opposition to political Islam have been increasingly popular across Europe, and anti-Islam parties scored victories in the European Union parliamentary voting in 2009. The Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV) led by Geert Wilders has gained the lead in national opinion polls.
Wilders announced in July that he is forming an international alliance to ban Muslim immigration to the West. His message is “stop Islam, defend freedom,” he said. Dutch Muslims have accused Wilders of using Muslim immigrants as a scapegoat for Europe’s problems.
‘US F-35 package more important than Likud infighting’
Barak supports PM on renewal of settlement freeze, says “either we reach an understanding with the US, or the Arabs will before us.”
(Jerusalem Post) Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday morning defended Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‘s position regarding the renewal of the settlement construction freeze in exchange for an American security package.
In an interview on Army Radio, Barak said that the American benefits “are more important than the conflict going on between [Netanyahu] and Yariv Levin, the deal changes Israel‘s stance for the future generation.”
Second squadron of F-35s is ‘an offer hard to refuse’
Reported 3-year delay in F-35 program may impact delivery
Israel signs contract to buy F-35 stealth fighter
Barak explained that the US has promised to fund the delivery of 20 F-35 advanced stealth fighter jets to Israel which will not be included in the annual aid given to Israel from the US. According to the defense minister, the White House has expressed willingness to take into consideration all the security issues facing Israel, “from Iran to Syria and Hizbullah,” hinting at the capabilities of the modern aircraft.
Barak added that the view in Israel which see the delivery of the F-35 as a “treat” is “embarrassing.” He said that the deal is part of an attempt to reach an understanding with the Americans. “Either we reach an understanding with the Americans or the Arabs will before us, and then we will have to deal with it.”
The US proposal in exchange for resuming peace negotiations entails several conditions, one of which is that Israel must announce a moratorium on settlement construction in Judea and Samaria for three months. This will include construction that began after the September 26 end date of the initial moratorium. The US has agreed that the building freeze will not apply to east Jerusalem and that no further extension will be demanded.
Turkish president: I don’t have a problem with Israelis
“Jews are praying for me in their synagogues every Saturday, all of them are our citizens,” Turkish newspaper quotes Gul as saying.
(Jerusalem Post) Turkish President Abdullah Gul has said Turkey does not have a problem with the people of Israel, but rather that the problems with Israel stem from the policies that are employed by its government, according to a report by the Turkish daily Hurriyet published Sunday.
“I have learned that [Turkish] Jews are praying for me in their synagogues every Saturday. All of them are our citizens. Our problem is not with the people of Israel, but with the policies pursued by the government of Israel,” Gül said, in remarks that were published Sunday in another publication, Milliyet.
Gul was responding to questions from journalists traveling from Turkmenistan, Hurriyet reported.
Tensions between Israel and Turkey rose in the wake of the IDF raid on the Turkish Mavi Mamara ship trying to break the Gaza blockade, during which nine Turks were killed on May 31.
However Turkish officials have reiterated that they are committed to maintaining friendly ties with Israel despite ongoing diplomatic tensions between the two countries.
Obama: Netanyahu willingness to freeze settlements is promising
Israeli political source says PM likely to win narrow approval from cabinet for U.S. package of incentives in exchange for 90-day settlement freeze.
U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday praised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for trying to win approval from his coalition government for a U.S.
proposal to extend a freeze on West Bank settlement construction.
“I commend Prime Minister Netanyahu for taking, I think, a very constructive step,” Obama told reporters upon arriving in the United States after a trip to Asia. “It’s not easy for him to do but I think it’s a signal that he is serious.”
Obama and Netanyahu at the White House on September 1, 2010.
Photo by: AP
The Palestinians halted peace talks after the 10-month Israeli moratorium on settlement construction expired in September. The Obama administration has offered Israel diplomatic and defense perks to renew the freeze for 90 days.
An Israeli political source said earlier Sunday that Netanyahu would probably win narrow approval from his coalition for the U.S. package of incentives.
Netanyahu, who visited the United States last week, convened his cabinet to outline the proposal, which he said was still being drafted with the Americans. Once ready, it would be put to a vote in Israel’s 15-minister security cabinet, he said.
“In any event, I insist that any proposal meet the State of Israel’s security needs, both in the immediate term and vis-a-vis the threats that we will face in the coming decade,” Netanyahu said in remarks broadcast by Israeli media.
The deal includes a U.S. undertaking not to request a further extension of the freeze, and to veto any attempt by the Palestinians to win UN recognition of their state unilaterally.
The Obama administration would also ask Congress to approve a $3 billion sale of warplanes to Israel and, should there be peace with the Palestinians, guarantee its wider security needs. These would supplement the 20 F-35s Israel already plans to buy for $2.75 billion drawn from annual grants it gets from Washington.
An Israeli political source said the security cabinet vote was expected later this week and that seven ministers – Netanyahu among them – were likely to back the U.S. proposal, against six who would vote against and two who would abstain.
The forum includes representatives of major coalition partners, from the center-left Labor party of Defense Minister Ehud Barak to Netanyahu’s rightist Likud to the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
In private, Palestinian officials have expressed anger over U.S. incentives to get Israel to prolong the partial moratorium on settlement building, saying it effectively constituted bribing Israel to fulfill basic international obligations.
A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said there had been no formal word regarding a renewed freeze on housing starts in the West Bank, which, along with adjacent East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, Israel occupied in the 1967 Six-Day War.
“An official Palestinian commitment will come only after President Abbas hears officially from the American administration what is going on between them and the Israelis,” Nabil Abu Rdainah told Reuters.
Netanyahu has previously said any settlement moratorium will not apply to areas around East Jerusalem, which Israel calls part of its capital – a status not recognized abroad – and where Palestinians want to base their own capital.
The Palestinians said the original moratorium was too limited in scope, as it did not include public buildings or settler projects already under way. They have also demanded that any new freeze include Jewish districts in East Jerusalem.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shared the U.S. proposal at a meeting in New York last week, Netanyahu said.
Israeli officials said Netanyahu, who faces a tough political sell within his own coalition on the settlement issue, had pushed Clinton for the broad understandings.
Settler leaders, who said acceptance of the proposal would represent “a fundamental collapse” of the government’s integrity, called an emergency meeting to discuss the issue.
Should Yisrael Beiteinu or a smaller pro-settler party in the coalition quit the government in protest of a renewed freeze, it could prompt Netanyahu to seek a new alliance with the centrist Kadima party of opposition leader Tzipi Livni.
Obamma has made Netanyahu an offer he can’t refuse
(Haaretz) What benefits Israeli security more – a few more trailers on some hilltops or doubling the number of advanced fighters in its inventory?
The list of defense-related and other gifts the U.S. administration is willing to offer to Israel in exchange for three months of construction freeze in the settlements raises suspicions that someone has gone mad. An additional extension of the freeze, which he has previously rejected out of hand, may spell a political and ideological headache for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – but the offer by U.S. President Barack Obama is very enticing. The addition of 20 F-35s to the package discussed two months ago tips the balance very clearly. From Israel’s point of view, it is an offer that cannot be refused.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
Photo by: AP
Since Obama entered the White House two years ago, he has not given the impression – at least in terms of foreign relations – of being a particularly tough negotiator. Nonetheless, this time the administration appears to have gone overboard, even though in Washington they know full well that the freeze is a highly symbolic gesture, which the settlers have already managed to avoid in the past.
This, of course, raises suspicions that there are much broader and substantive issues at hand, and not merely a few housing units in Samaria or Gush Etzion. Not only may there be a genuine Israeli willingness to move forward in a substantive way in negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, but perhaps some sort of deal on the Iranian question is afoot. Could it be – and this is only conjecture – that Obama is trying to persuade Israel to commit to desisting from any independent action against the nuclear installations of Iran, in exchange for a substantial future reinforcement of the Israel Air Force?
The F-35 deal signed last month was controversial in both defense establishment and political circles. The debate did not stem from the quality of the stealth aircraft, but from the price tag accompanying it: Generals and minister believed that when the price per unit is more than $130 million, there are better ways to make use of the U.S. military aid package. But, according to the prime minister, the U.S. is now generously offering to double the number of aircraft without the funding for them being taken from the future military aid package.
This is an enormous gift, which nearly makes the debate on the need for the F-35 redundant. According to reports, there will also be significant benefits elsewhere in the gift list for Israel.
In spite a great deal of bad mouthing about him, the U.S. president has proven no less committed to Israel’s security than his predecessor. To date the security package has included emergency stores that are available to the Israel Defense Forces, a $205-million grant to purchase Iron Dome systems, and a significant stepping-up of joint missile defense training programs. The list of items to come, at least on paper, is impressive.
“The Americans have put forth an excellent proposal. It will be a big mistake not to take it,” a senior defense source told Haaretz last night, adding that “the prime minister has made impressive gains. If we do not implement this deal, we will suffer in terms of defense.”
Obama is essentially spotlighting a debate that has been going on since the settlements began – namely, whether they contribute to or undermine Israel’s security. The U.S. president is now asking: What benefits Israeli security more – a few more trailers on some hilltops or doubling the number of advanced fighters in its inventory?
Barak: Israel must reach deal with U.S. before Palestinians do
Defense Minister weighs in on Obama administration proposal for package of incentives in return for 90-day freeze on West Bank construction.
(Haaretz) Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday that Israel must secure a deal with the Obama administration to pull the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, in order to keep the upper hand in the Middle East peace process.
The defense minister’s remarks come a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented his cabinet with an American proposal for a new 90-day Israeli moratorium of settlement construction in the West Bank, in exchange for certain incentives from the U.S., including the purchase of 20 new warplanes. The proposal, which Netanyahu says has not yet been finalized, was met with opposition from many Likud ministers and Knesset members.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak
Photo by: Archive
“There are two options,” Barak told Army Radio. “Either we reach understandings with the Americans to find a way to force the Palestinians to sit around the negotiating table, or the Palestinians and the Arab world will reach understanding with the Americans and it will be us eating frogs.”
The deal includes a U.S. undertaking not to request a further extension of the freeze, and to veto any attempt by the Palestinians to win United Nations recognition of their state unilaterally.
The Obama administration would also ask Congress to approve the sale of the 20 F-35 warplanes to Israel and, should there be a peace deal with the Palestinians, guarantee its wider security needs.
“The fact that the Americans are willing to put guarantees on the table is a very serious achievement for the prime minister,” Barak told Army Radio on Sunday, adding that the benefits of the American offer outweigh any internal political considerations.
“We wanted 40 planes, but due to [defense] budget cuts, we could only afford 20, at a price of three billion shekels,” Barak said. “The Americans are now offering to complete the deal in return for a 90-day freeze. Furthermore, if we reach an agreement they are offering us a deal six or seven times larger.”
Meanwhile, an unnamed diplomat told The Associated Press on Monday that Israel would be allowed to complete construction of hundreds of homes in West Bank settlements under the new U.S.-proposed settlement moratorium.
That original moratorium, which expired in September, did not apply to some 3,000 apartments already under construction. The diplomat says the new three-month slowdown, if approved, would also not apply to those homes.
The diplomat’s country of origin was not clear from the report.
Netanyahu has found much opposition to the American offer from the right-wing members of his coalition. Nevertheless, he will apparently be able to muster a majority of his diplomatic-security cabinet to approve the incentive package.
But Barak dismissed Likud opposition to the deal as short-sighted.
“Twenty planes are of incomparable importance to momentary smiles between Bibi and his Likud MKs,” Barak told the radio, referring to the prime minister by his nickname.
Shas chairman Eli Yishai said Sunday that his party would abstain from a vote in the matter and enable it to pass in cabinet “if it is made clear in a letter from the president of the United States that construction will take place in Jerusalem immediately, and that after 90 days, it will be possible to build everywhere, without restrictions.”
Shas’ abstention would presumably give Netanyahu a 7-6 majority for the freeze, since votes in favor are expected from himself, three other members of his Likud party (Yuval Steinitz, Gideon Sa’ar and Dan Meridor ), both Labor ministers (Barak and Benjamin Ben-Eliezer ) and Yaakov Neeman, an independent affiliated with Yisrael Beiteinu. The six opponents are expected to be the three Yisrael Beiteinu ministers (Avigdor Lieberman, Uzi Landau and Yitzhak Aharonovitch ) and the three remaining Likud ministers (Moshe Ya’alon, Silvan Shalom and Benny Begin ).
Netanyahu briefed his forum of seven top ministers on the American proposal Saturday night and the rest of the cabinet on Sunday morning. But he said the package is not yet final; certain details remain to be worked out.
“When the work is finished, I’ll bring the matter to the diplomatic-security cabinet for a discussion and vote,” he promised.
Palestinians say settlers torched their olive trees
(AFP) SALEM, Palestinian Territories (AFP) – Palestinians said that Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank burned about 200 of their olive trees on Sunday and also torched surrounding grazing land.
Settlers denied the allegations.
The alleged attackers were seen heading in the direction of the nearby Elon Moreh settlement after setting fire to the trees on land owned by the Palestinian village of Salem, village council spokesman Adli Ishtayeh said.
He said that the trees were on ground adjoining the settlement and, for reasons of Israeli security, kept off limits to their owners for most of the time. He said that the Israeli army, which polices the area, had been notified.
A military spokesman said no complaint against the settlers had been made and that troops on the scene were treating the incident “as a fire, not arson” after unseasonably hot and dry weather.
Settler spokesman David Haivri said Palestinian farmers themselves had been burning dead wood.
“After checking with local security and leaders of the town of Elon Moreh, no unusual events were recorded today in the area,” he said.
“We are not aware of more then some small-scale smoke resulting from farmers burning branches from their own pruning after the harvest.”
Since the start of the olive harvest last month, there have been scores of Palestinian complaints about settlers cutting down trees, stealing olives or preventing farmers from harvesting their crops, rights groups and police say.
A senior Israeli intelligence officer acknowledged that there had been acts of violence and vandalism by Jews in the West Bank, noting in particular recent attacks against mosques there.
“We are not happy about the situation connected with Jewish extremists in the West Bank,” he told a group of foreign journalists on Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“It needs big efforts in order to stop this wave of violence. We know who are these people. Hopefully we will be able to stop this wave of violence”, he added.
Settlers started 1650 new homes since freeze end, says Peace Now
JEWISH settlers have started building 1649 homes since the end of a freeze in construction on September 26, watchdog Peace Now said, more than making up for the 10-month ban on new building.
Figures compiled in a new report by the Israeli group show that in more than two-thirds of the cases, building work had begun on the foundations for new homes, with work being carried out in 63 separate settlements.
During 2009, construction work began on 1888 new housing units, the report said, citing data from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.
“Had the construction continued at the same speed without the freeze, work would have begun on 1574 units during the 10 months of the moratorium,” Peace Now said.
“In the six weeks since the end of the moratorium, the settlers have managed to start construction on a similar number of units.”
The report was published just hours before Israel’s Cabinet meets to discuss a US incentives package designed to persuade it to impose a new freeze in a bid to salvage moribund peace talks with the Palestinians.
A source close to the negotiations said the proposal would involve a 90-day settlement freeze in the occupied West Bank but not in east Jerusalem.
It would involve freezing all construction started since the end of the moratorium on September 26.
Iran developing long-range radar, upgraded missile defense
(CNN) — Iran’s military is working to exponentially boost the range and numbers of its radar systems as part of a series of stepped-up defense measures, state-run media reports.
Brig. Gen. Ahmad Miqani, commander of the Khatam ol-Anbia Air Defense Base, said Sunday that Iran is working on a radar system to detect low-altitude objects as far as 3,000 km (1,864 miles) away, according to Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency. Previously, the maximum range for Iranian radar was 400 km (250 miles), he said.
“Today, we are building all types of active or passive radar systems, with any kind of range and in any frequency,” Miqani said, according to Fars.
The latest public comments touting its upgraded military capabilities come days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Iran the biggest threat to his country and the world, in a speech to a major Jewish organization.
Starting Tuesday, Iran’s military will hold five days of air defense drills to assess the effectiveness of its missile defense and weapons systems, Miqani said, according to state-run Press TV. During the drills, which were described as an annual exercise, Iranian forces will fend off “mock enemy” aircraft and missiles, the report said.
Besides the new and upgraded radar, all of which will be produced domestically, Iran is also making progress in updating its missile defense systems, according to the Fars report.
Miqani said that the military has finished the design stage of its long-range air missile defense system. Iran, too, expects to double the range of its low-altitude Mersad air defense system, he added Sunday.
These announcements come a month after the national defense ministry said Iran had successfully expanded the range of its mid-range Mersad missile defense system.
Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said earlier this year that Iran’s radar systems can now detect any air-borne target, the Fars report said.
“Today, we own sea-based and ground-based radars, as well as radars (that) are capable of identifying multiple air targets in various frequencies and different altitudes,” Vahidi said.
Oklahoma Surprise: Islam as an Election Issue
(The New York Times) Residents at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City last week. A lawsuit has stalled the ballot initiative.
He did not foresee that he would be accused of trying to subject Oklahomans to Islamic law.
Mr. Williams was one of 10 Democrats who voted against putting a state constitutional amendment on the ballot that would forbid state judges from considering international or Islamic law in deciding cases. He considered the idea unnecessary, since the First Amendment already bans state-imposed religion.
His Republican challenger sent out mailers showing him next to a shadowy figure in an Arab headdress. On the other side, the flier said Mr. Williams wanted to allow “Islamic ‘Shariah’ law to be used by Oklahoma courts” and suggested that he was part of “an international movement, supported by militant Muslims and liberals,” to establish Islamic law throughout the world.
“At the end of the day, it was just fearmongering,” Mr. Williams said.
He won by 280 votes, but many of his fellow Democrats failed to hold their seats. The amendment passed with 70 percent of the vote and helped drive record turnout in Republican strongholds. For the first time in the state, Republicans will now control the governor’s office and have veto-proof majorities in both houses of the Legislature.
Other states where Republicans seized control of all reins of government in this election are Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
In Oklahoma, many conservative Democrats from rural areas lost, sounding a death knell for the state’s famous Blue Dogs, who have wielded power since the 1930s, pollsters and some Democrats say.
Politicians on all sides here predict that a raft of conservative bills that had been vetoed by Gov. Brad Henry, a moderate Democrat, will sail through next year, along with a few new ones.
The Republican governor-elect, Mary Fallin, a former member of Congress, is not only the first woman to be elected to the office, but also an archconservative allied with right-wing Republican lawmakers who call themselves the Liberty Caucus.
Voters also passed ballot initiatives on hot conservative issues, measures that had had little chance of becoming law under Mr. Henry.
Those initiatives show the extent of the conservative triumph here and how the anxiety among some voters about illegal immigrants and Muslims has become a potent political weapon.
For instance, voters overwhelmingly approved measures making English the state’s official language and requiring picture identification at the polls. Democrats maintain that both measures make it harder for Hispanic immigrants to vote or go to school, and they had succeeded in stopping them in the past.
But nowhere was the culture clash more stark than on the amendment regarding Shariah law, which put Democrats of a secular bent at odds with the conservative Christians who make up the backbone of the Republican Party.
Supporters of the amendment acknowledge that there is no evidence Islamic law had ever been brought up as a defense in the state courts. But they point to a recent case in New Jersey in which a judge had considered Shariah law in denying a restraining order to a Moroccan woman who said her former husband had raped her while they were married. The decision was overturned.
They also note that Shariah courts have been set up in England, where they have the power under a 1996 law to act as arbitration tribunals in Muslim civil disputes, provided all parties agree to abide by the ruling.
“This is a pre-emptive strike,” said the bill’s main author, State Representative Rex Duncan, a Republican from Sand Springs.
Before the vote, Mr. Duncan described the Shariah tribunals in England as “a cancer” and predicted that Muslims would come to America to take away “liberties and freedom from our children.” In an interview on MSNBC, he said: “This is a war for the survival of America. It’s a cultural war.” (In 2007, Mr. Duncan rejected a gift of a Koran from a council Mr. Henry created, saying, “Most Oklahomans do not endorse the idea of killing innocent women and children in the name of ideology.”)
Mr. Duncan, who had to step down because of term limits, won a close race for district attorney in Osage and Pawnee Counties. His sponsorship of the amendment helped him win there, local pollsters and politicians say. Across the state, the ballot initiative pulled conservatives to the polls.
“It was inflammatory, and it got people to turn out,” said State Representative Wallace Collins, a Democrat from Norman who lost a close race. “It worked for them.”
The day after the election, Muneer Awad, executive director of the local Council on American-Islamic Relations, filed a lawsuit. Mr. Awad argued that the amendment violated the freedom of religion clause of the United States Constitution, because it singled out Shariah law and Islam for special treatment rather than banning consideration of all religious codes. That amounts to state disapproval of Islam, he argued.
Last Monday, Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange of Federal District Court agreed that Mr. Awad’s complaint had merit, finding that the amendment’s “primary purpose inhibits religion.” She temporarily halted the certification of the election results and scheduled a hearing for next week.
Outside the courthouse, Mr. Duncan said the restraining order “thwarts the will of the people.” He said the amendment was never intended as an attack on Muslims, but as an effort to prevent what he called “activist judges” from using Islamic law in deciding cases.
Law professors have begun to raise questions about the unintended consequences of the amendment. Because it also “forbids courts from using or considering international law,” it could complicate contractual arrangements between Oklahoma companies and those with headquarters abroad. The amendment might also prevent judges from referring to the Ten Commandments or exploring English common law in their decisions.
“You throw a series of ambiguous ill-conceived words into the State Constitution and you don’t know what will happen,” said Harry F. Tepker Jr., a law professor at the University of Oklahoma. “It’s a mess.”
Ms. Fallin, who has strong support from business, has begun to back away from the amendment, even though she supported it. “It’s something that she will have to meet with the attorney general on and look at the legal specifics,” said Alex Weintz, a spokesman.
Muslim leaders in Oklahoma said the amendment felt like a slap in the face. They worry that marriages, wills, divorces and contracts — often drawn up between parties under Islamic principles then submitted to a court for approval — will no longer be valid. Jews and Roman Catholics often follow the same procedure in civil matters.
But many Muslims said they were more worried about the anti-Muslim mood that fueled the amendment’s passage. The vote here follows the controversy over a Christian pastor’s aborted plan to burn Korans in Florida and the opposition to an Islamic community center near ground zero in Manhattan.
Large mosques in Oklahoma City and Tulsa have been flooded with hateful e-mail since the suit was filed, including a video of a man destroying a mosque, Muslim leaders said.
“Islamophobia is really popular,” said Mr. Awad, of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “With fear and hate, you really rally up a lot of supporters.”
The politicians backing the amendment, however, deny the accusations of fearmongering.
“America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles — that’s the basis of our laws, and people try to deny it,” said State Representative Mike Reynolds, a Republican who was an author of the bill. “I believe there is an awakening of people concerned about Christian values in our nation, and they are starting to express themselves.”
Commander Says Clark Ordered Him to ‘Destroy’ Russians
by Jason Ditz, www.antiwar.com
In an interview with BBC Radio, former British military Captain James Blunt discussed the details of how, during the height of the NATO occupation of Kosovo, he was ordered by US General Wesley Clark to attack 200 Russian soldiers and “destroy” them.
“I was given the direct command to overpower the 200 or so Russians who were there. I was the lead officer, with my troop of men behind us… The soldiers directly behind me were from the Parachute Regiment so they’re obviously game for a fight,” Blunt recalled.
Blunt had been ordered to occupy the Pristina airport, but 200 Russian soldiers had arrived on site before him, so he radioed on for instructions. It was at this point that General Clark, then the Supreme Allied Commander for NATO, ordered Blunt to “destroy” the Russian soldiers and take the airport for NATO.
It was at this point, Blunt noted, that General Sir Michael Jackson, then commander of the British military, chimed in and told Clark “I’m not going to have my soldiers start World War Three.” Blunt added that even in the absence of this he was willing to risk court-martial to avoid carrying out the attack.
The story of Gen. Clark ordering the attack was well known, as was his clash with Gen. Jackson. Previous reports however had suggested it was an order given simply to Jackson himself, and not relayed to the commander of the troops on the ground.
It is an interesting glimpse into a nearly forgotten war, and indeed one which had likely never come to light except for the fact that the relatively anonymous Captain Blunt has since gone on to considerable celebrity as a musician. But for this odd twist of fate, we may never have known just how close the Kosovo War of the Clinton Administration came to escalating into World War Three, and how comfortable the former Supreme Allied Commander was in ordering that.
As Lisbon Summit Looms, Record Deaths Continue
by Jason Ditz, antiwar.com
At least six NATO troops were killed today in several incidents across Afghanistan, bringing the monthly toll for November to 32, tying it for the deadliest November on record, though the month is not even half over.
The deaths included three NATO troops killed in a single clash with insurgents in the eastern portion of the country. The nationalities of the six were not released by NATO, but the Danish government confirmed that one of those slain in Helmand was from Denmark.
The violence adds more punctuation to a 2010 which has been by far the deadliest on record since the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan. The timing is particularly inconvenient for the ever enthusiastic supporters of the conflict in NATO’s command structure, as the Lisbon Summit on Afghanistan is just days away.
The Lisbon Summit is unlikely to net any major policy changes from the alliance, though it is expected to be the formal announcement of some measure of Russian involvement in the struggling war. It seems though most nations are willing to keep the conflict going more or less indefinitely to avoid a clash with the US, it also appears that few are willing to commit any additional troops, and most expect that the 2011 troop levels will be roughly the same as the 2010 levels. Whether this translates to more record death tolls, however, remains to be seen.
AIPAC Bares All to Quash Lawsuit
Sex, spies, and videotape
by Grant Smith, antiwar.com
On Nov. 8, 2010, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) filed a massive 260-page motion [.pdf] in the District of Columbia Superior Court. It asks Judge Erik Christian to dismiss former AIPAC employee Steven J. Rosen’s $20 million defamation suit. In October the court dismissed all counts of the March 2009 lawsuit except for Rosen’s claim of harm over AIPAC statements to the press that he did not uphold its standards of conduct.
Rosen and AIPAC have – until now – abstained from filing damaging information about the internal workings of AIPAC in court. AIPAC’s willingness to publicly air some extremely sordid and revealing content to get the remaining count thrown out before an alternative dispute resolution hearing begins in December is a sign that AIPAC is now fighting for its life, or – as one former AIPAC attorney put it – “reason for being.” If Rosen proves in court that AIPAC has long handled classified information while lobbying for Israel, the worn public pretense that AIPAC is anything but a stealth extension of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs – from which it emerged in 1951 – will end forever.
Rosen filed his civil suit after adverse judicial rulings made his (and coworker Keith Weissman’s) prosecution under the Espionage Act unlikely. Col. Lawrence Franklin pled guilty to passing classified national defense information to persons not entitled to receive it while Rosen and Weissman were indicted in 2005 for their role in the espionage affair. Although prosecutors reluctantly dropped [.pdf] their indictment in May 2009 – as AIPAC carefully notes in its filing – Rosen was never acquitted. Outstanding questions in the defamation suit about classified-information trafficking have now placed AIPAC in a bind.
If AIPAC financially settles with Rosen, it will signal to the American people and attentive law enforcement officials that it is honoring a previous compensation deal to pay Rosen off after the spy flap subsided. On May 11, 2010, Rosen revealed an e-mail to Washington Post reporter Jeff Stein asserting that AIPAC promised “when this is over we will do right by Steve.” But it’s now far from clear whether AIPAC has the financial wherewithal or donors willing to honor such a – possibly illegal – commitment.
AIPAC’s massive filing is mostly derived from transcribed videotaped depositions taken during a lengthy discovery process. AIPAC’s confrontational lead counsel, Thomas L. McCally, forced Rosen to admit that after AIPAC fired him, he tapped some of its biggest donors for cash. Through conduits, bundlers, and payments carefully structured below the gift tax limits, Daniel Abraham, Haim Saban, Newton Becker, Larry Hochberg, Fred Schwartz, Walter Stern, and other angels ponied up almost $1 million to Rosen between the moment AIPAC fired him and the day he joined the Middle East Forum as a visiting fellow. Rosen’s solicitations may have permanently broken such donor ties to AIPAC. Between 2007 and 2008 AIPAC’s revenue plunged 14 percent from $71 million to $61 million during a period the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported record donations to internationally oriented nonprofits. In 2008, AIPAC had to tap some of its $50 million in reserves to cover a $2.8 million budget shortfall.
AIPAC is firing its best shot now because it needs to get the case thrown out before Rosen can unleash a return salvo of “about 180” internal AIPAC documents showing that it routinely gathered “inside” (Rosen’s preferred euphemism for classified) information from U.S. government officials. Rosen can now immediately file his own sliced and diced depositions and even some of his stash of documents to prove his contention that AIPAC slandered him by claiming he was unique and thereby keep the case moving forward.
Rosen’s sense of persecution over the aborted criminal case is palpable. In one deposition Rosen compares himself to Capt. Alfred Dreyfus bound for Devil’s Island on secret and contrived evidence. In another, he explains to AIPAC’s legal team his motivation for filing a defamation lawsuit.
Rosen: “My primary claim is going to be based on AIPAC putting me in the zone of danger through knowingly false statements, with reckless disregard for the truth; putting me in the zone of danger of being convicted for a crime that I did not commit, which would have caused me to spend decades – potentially decades in prison, an innocent man; and that AIPAC’s reckless disregard for the truth had materially increased the chance of – of a wrongful conviction.”
McCally: “What actions by AIPAC put you in this, quote, ‘zone of danger’ to be convicted for a crime you did not commit?”
Rosen: “The statement that I – my – that my actions were not part of my job, and the statement that my actions were beneath AIPAC’s standards, and statements that stated and implied that AIPAC did not know about what I was doing, and various other false statements that could have led a jury to conclude that my – that I was a rogue operator, that this was not a legitimate lobbying activity.”
AIPAC ‘s filing struggles to exonerate AIPAC’s executive director of any involvement in classified information trafficking in a careful selection from a deposition of Howard Kohr conducted by Rosen’s lawyer, David H. Shapiro.
Shapiro: “You never sought to get classified information?”
Kohr: “That is correct.”
Shapiro: “Okay, did you get classified information?”
Kohr: “Did I get classified …”
Kohr: “…information here? To my knowledge, no.”
Shapiro: “At no time?”
Kohr: “At no time.”
Shapiro: “During – we’re talking the period… 1987-1991.”
Kohr: “’1987 till today.”
Shapiro: “So at no time have you received information that has been classified as secret, top secret, that sort of classification?”
Thomas L. McCally (AIPAC’s lawyer): “Now that’s a different question, actually. You’re saying designated United States secret or top secret?”
Shapiro: “Yes. Designated – classified by the United States government.”
Kohr: “That is correct.”
Shapiro and Rosen are clearly building a very interesting box of incrimination around Kohr. While it is now established fact that a copy of the 300-page “Probable Economic Effect of Providing Duty-Free Treatment for U.S. Imports from Israel, Investigation No. 332-180” was probably still in AIPAC’s possession in 1987 and circulating among its employees, the report was only classified as “confidential” by the U.S. government. If Rosen intends to reveal Kohr received that particular classified information through such depositions, he will have to coach his legal team on the details of how AIPAC (in conjunction with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs) obtained such classified U.S. industrial secrets.
The AIPAC filing reveals the organization’s devotion to planting stories at the New York Times and Washington Post has not diminished since the days of its founder, Isaiah L. Kenen. David Shapiro deposed AIPAC’s head outside legal counsel Nathan Lewin in order to emphasize that Rosen and Weissman’s efforts to push a classified-information-laden story to Washington Post reporter Glenn Kessler was simply business as usual.
Shapiro: “Right. Isn’t that why people talk to reporters?
Lewin: “No. I think you talk to reporters because you may have some information that the reporter might be interested because the reporter asks you questions. This was in the context – a conversation in which they were trying to get the reporter to write the story.”
Shapiro: “Isn’t that part of what AIPAC does, is get information out so that there’s a pressure that builds in favor of Israel?”
Lewin: “In favor of Israel. Correct.”
According to another Rosen deposition, the key to the government’s quashed espionage case against him was the story he embellished and pushed to Glenn Kessler. The FBI wiretapped a three-way conversation of Kessler, Rosen, and Weissman that confirmed AIPAC employees knew they were relaying classified information.
Rosen: “So we were warning Kessler that we had been warned that the Iranians were stirring up what could be called an insurgency. I referred to it colorfully as total war against the United States. That they were recruiting oil field workers for sabotage, that they were putting their agents – I’m afraid at this moment I don’t remember all of the details. But there was a list of details about what the Iranians were doing to get ready for active opposition to the U.S. armed forces in Iraq….”
Aside from such snippets of Rosen’s drive to get the U.S. into a war with Iran, the AIPAC civil-suit defense team was particularly interested in why (before he was indicted) Rosen immediately met with a representative of the Israeli embassy – instead of AIPAC’s inside legal counsel – after the FBI brusquely warned him to “get lawyer by 10 a.m.” Rosen was conscious that his own rushed meeting at a restaurant with an Israeli official was eerily similar to Anne Pollard’s (Jonathan Pollard’s former wife) rushed clandestine meeting with Avi Sella two decades earlier.
Like the Rosen warning, it allowed Israeli officials to flee the United States to avoid arrest and prosecution. AIPAC’s counsel also appeared to want details about the FBI accusing Rosen of lying to them, as Rosen detailed his doorstep confrontation with the FBI followed by rushed consultations with the Israelis.
Rosen: “They [the FBI] were accusatory toward me. They were accusatory toward the government of Israel. They were accusatory toward AIPAC.”
McCally: “And tell me how they were accusatory.”
Rosen: “They said that they had a recording of [Lawrence] Franklin giving a classified document to an Israeli government official. That was the most serious accusation. It’s true, it wasn’t about me or AIPAC. But it was the most serious accusation. They said they had reason to think I was lying when I told them that I did not receive classified information from Franklin, or that I didn’t know of somebody who received – I don’t remember the word formulation. They said that I better get a lawyer by 10:00 a.m. They said that they didn’t – that if I was willing to cooperate, they were willing to I forgive me for lying to them, but that if I didn’t cooperate, I could be prosecuted for lying to them.”
McCally: “Anything else you recall?”
Rosen: “At this moment, no. But I’m sure there might have been more.”
McCally: “Did you respond to them?”
Rosen: “In the beginning I was responding. But as they became more and more threatening, I said, those are very strong words you’re using, I think I better get an attorney. And then one of the two agents said, well, you don’t need an attorney. He said, I’m not an attorney either, you can just talk to us. And I said – I repeated that I think I better get an attorney, this is out of my league, and I’m very surprised by all of this, and I need – my head was spinning. And I said, I need to – I don’t want to talk to you anymore.”
McCally: “And that ended the conversation?”
Rosen: “They made this threat about getting a lawyer by 10:00 a.m.”
McCally: “What significance did they place on 10:00 a.m.? Did they say they were going to arrest you?”
[Two deposition pages omitted from AIPAC filing.]
McCally: “Mr. Rosen, we’re back on the record. Who did you call?”
Rosen: “I called Phil Friedman.”
McCally: “Was he first?”
Rosen: “I believe – I don’t know. I believe I tried to call Howard Kohr. But I somehow didn’t get through or something. I believe I tried to call Howard Kohr, but I have no recollection of that ever taking place, and I don’t think it did take place. But I think I tried to call Howard Kohr. I called Rafi Barak, the deputy chief, the number two, like deputy ambassador, they call it deputy chief of mission, of the embassy of Israel. And I called Keith Weissman.”
McCally: “All right. Let’s take them one at a time. What did you discuss with Mr. Friedman?”
Rosen: “Well, I must tell you that it was a very agitated conversation on my side, and even, to my recollection, somewhat on his. He was taken very much by surprise, as I was. And while I don’t think he was as emotional as I was, he wasn’t completely collected either. It was early in the morning.”
McCally: “What do you recall of the discussion? What did you say, what did he say?”
Rosen: “Most of what I know about the discussion is what I’ve heard people say the discussion was about later. The only part I remember was that we should convene in the office. I said, ‘You’ve got to get me legal counsel,’ because Phil is not a criminal defense attorney. And he said he would, and that we would take care of this, we would find legal counsel. And that was a critical part that I was focused on.”
McCally: “So you recall in your conversation with Phil saying, we need to convene in the office, and he agreed to find you legal counsel?”
Rosen: “He said we should convene in the office.”
Rosen: “When what?”
McCally: “To convene in the office? Right away?”
Rosen: “I don’t think so. I think it was a little later. I don’t know.”
McCally: “When did he say to meet in the office?”
[Four deposition pages omitted from AIPAC filing.]
Rosen: “… this, this is terrible, something awful is happening here.”
McCally: “You called Rafi Barak, deputy chief mission for the embassy?”
Rosen: “Yes, the number two official of the embassy.”
McCally: “What did you discuss with him?”
Rosen: “I told him I had to see him right away. And he said, I can’t, I’m going to a meeting. I said, no, you’re not. I said, this is extremely serious, I have to see you right away. And he said, okay, okay, I’ll meet you at Bread & Chocolate, which is a place we usually met for breakfast, often on Fridays, which this was.”
McCally: “Well – all right. And then you call I Keith Weissman? Did you –”
Rosen: “I don’t remember exactly when I called him.”
McCally: “Do you have any other recollection of your call with Rafi Barak?”
Rosen: “The hard part was getting him to cancel his meeting. By the way, I left out something about…”
[Six deposition pages omitted from AIPAC filing.]
Rosen: “The hard part was getting him to cancel his meeting. I went to Bread & Chocolate and met Rafi Barak, and talked to him there. And he got very upset too.”
McCally: “What did you all discuss?”
Rosen: “I told him especially the part about this allegation that some Israeli had received a classified document from Larry Franklin. I told him this looked very serious to me, and that I probably made some reference to Pollard, because that’s the first thing that of course comes to mind in such a controversy. And he was more guarded with me. Once I told him that, you know, he was – you know, just wanted to go back to the office and investigate it.”
McCally: “Do you recall anything else of your conversation?”
McCally: “What happened when you broke up at the restaurant and left?”
Rosen: “Well, according to my recollection I went to the office.”
McCally: “Well, was the FBI – did they follow you to the restaurant?”
Rosen: “Oh. At the restaurant. Yes. When I went to get my car in the parking lot, the FBI agent was there, or one of them.”
McCally: “Male or female?”
Rosen: “I have a recollection of it being female. But I don’t know. Because the ones who came to my house were two males. I may have that wrong.”
McCally: “She was standing at your car?”
Rosen: “Or in the parking lot at the back door. The way that restaurant works, it has a parking lot behind it, and the back door. And I think I came out the back door, and there she was, I think.”
McCally: “Did you speak with her?”
Rosen: “I don’t think so. I think I just looked at her and drove off.”
McCally: “Did you make any gestures, or did she make any gestures towards you?”
Rosen: “I don’t know. I don’t really know.”
McCally: “Do you recall her waving at you?”
Rosen: “Not at this moment, no….”
So there are lies and spies, but what about the sex? Suffice it to say that 27 percent of the filing deals with widespread workplace-inappropriate activities at AIPAC – from tales of prostitution, late-night Craigslist-powered anonymous hookups, and massive flows of digital content not generally handled by reputable charities. It’s funny to speculate whether AIPAC could have made a plausible defense to Justice Department prosecutors in 2005 that its office network was simply too overflowing with pornography to accommodate substantial amounts of classified government information. But AIPAC never had to. The filing also reveals that very generous rehabilitation incentives from the D.C. deputy mayor and property tax benefits given to AIPAC to build its new H Street headquarters have probably not meaningfully lowered neighborhood blight as promised.
As Rosen and AIPAC tussle in court over the organization’s long history of using classified national defense and economic information for the benefit of their foreign principal, Americans must begin to ask some very serious governance questions. Why won’t the mainstream media cover any aspect of the defamation suit? Shouldn’t this matter have been resolved in a bona fide criminal setting in 2009 rather than being surrendered by prosecutors under the watchful eye of Obama political appointees? Why wasn’t AIPAC itself indicted for espionage? And most important of all, why isn’t AIPAC properly registered as a foreign agent of the government with which it breaks bread (and chocolate) on Fridays?
Read more by Grant Smith
Jonathan Pollard’s First Freedom Gambit – October 28th, 2010
Free Pollard Now, Pay Later – September 26th, 2010
Could Ground-Zero Mosque’s Backers Be Worse Than AIPAC’s? – August 29th, 2010
The Israel Lobby Swims The Atlantic – August 17th, 2010
Try Assange Under the Espionage Act – August 8th, 2010