WEEK OF DECEMBER 25 THROUGH DECEMBER 31
The Coming War With Iran (?)
Regional chaos might count as a win for the mullahs
Dec. 31….(Washington Times) Iran’s tyrannical leaders, determined to make the Islamic regime a nuclear-armed state, are preparing for war. That’s exactly what the United States and Israel might have to deliver, and soon. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the Revolutionary Guards in May to speed up the regime’s nuclear-bomb program and arm its missiles with nuclear warheads. Now, sources reveal, Ayatollah Khamenei has ordered the guards to prepare for war.
In a recent meeting of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, it was decided that the possibility of an attack by Israel or America in 2012 is real and that the country’s forces need to prepare several contingencies for war. It also was concluded that in case of war, the regime could be victorious, though the cost would be high, but it would emerge as the one and only champion of the Islamic cause in the world. The radicals ruling Iran have long believed that obtaining the nuclear bomb will make them untouchable and will facilitate the expansion of the Islamic movement in the region and the world in bringing the West to its knees. They also have concluded that because of the troubles in the world’s economy and financial troubles in America, even a limited confrontation with America would benefit the Islamic regime.
Just as Hezbollah claims it outfought Israel in the 2006 war, Iran can claim victory against the US in such a conflict, which could include attacking Israel from several fronts. But the real prize for the criminal mullahs would be that it would help the regime bring down the monarchy in Bahrain, create instability in Saudi Arabia and, most important, help the Islamists in Egypt undermine military rule. All this would occur by inciting uprisings for a war of Islam against infidels and Zionists. The guards in their preparations have mapped out several options. One would be to disrupt the oil flow from the Persian Gulf. They know that about 40 percent of the world’s oil and the majority of oil exports of eight countries in the Persian Gulf pass through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway that could be blocked by the regime’s forces. The guards’ navy of speedboats armed with cruise missiles, Iran’s submarines and, most important, the guards’ missiles of various kinds could be launched from deep within Iran and still target the narrow strait. The guards also have mapped out an extensive list of US bases in the Middle East to attack with their missiles, disrupting the movement of US forces and the operation of the Air Force, which the guards believe will be the main thrust of any attack by America.
For that purpose, several US bases have been identified that could be attacked either by short-range rockets with a range of up to 140 miles or with ballistic missiles with a range of more than 1,250 miles. The two air bases in Kuwait, Ali Al Salem and Ahmed Al Jaber, are less than 85 miles from Iran. In Kuwait, the US camps of Buehring, Spearhead, Patriot and Arifjan, with distances of 65 to 80 miles, are all within reach of the guards’ various missiles. The guards also are targeting four US air bases in Afghanistan as the main launching pads for any attacks on Iran. The Bagram Air Base, home to most of the US Air Force presence in Afghanistan, is just 450 miles from the Iranian borders and within range of all of Iran’s ballistic missiles. Other air bases in Afghanistan that would be attacked by the guards in case of war are in Kandahar, Shindand and Herat.
The super US base, Al Adid in Qatar, which is home to a variety of US bombers and fighters, is within 175 miles of Iran and a prime target for the guards, though because of favorable relations of the Islamic regime with the government in Qatar, the guards are not sure America can use that air base for its attack and therefore will be much more likely to use its other superbase at Al Dhafra in the United Arab Emirates, also within range of various Iranian missiles. Other US targets of the guards are the US 5th Fleet in Bahrain and Thumrait Air Base in Oman. The guards also have drawn up plans to confront any uprising from within should one occur after the breakout of war and have mobilized tens of thousands of Basijis ready to put down any unrest against the regime.
The Islamic regime in Iran also counts on Russia and China, with which it has close relations, to come to its help and facilitate an end to war in time to save the regime. China, which holds billions of dollars in contracts and is said to have more than 11,000 contractors, mostly of a military nature, in Iran, has the most to lose in the downfall of the Islamic regime, and its officials already have stated openly that China will aid the Iranian regime in case of war. Though the Islamic regime never should have been allowed to continue with its suppression of its people, its terrorist activities worldwide and its continuation of its missile and nuclear programs despite UN sanctions, one cannot imagine a world with nuclear arms in the hands of the jihadists in Iran. With officials from both Israel and the US calling a nuclear-armed Iran a red line, leaving the possibility of a military option on the table, we must realize that the only possible solution to this dilemma is a regime change in Iran, which a majority of Iranians support. The price we pay today to save world peace and security will be minuscule to what the world will pay in the not-so-distant future.
Obama's Foreign Policy Failures Have Yet to Explode, but . . .
Dec. 31….(Caroline B. Glick / Jewish World Review) In recent months, a curious argument has surfaced in favor of US President Barack Obama. His supporters argue that Obama's foreign policy has been a massive success. If he had as much freedom of action on domestic affairs as he has on foreign affairs, they argue, his achievements in all areas would be without peer. According to a Gallup poll from early November, the US public also believes that Obama's foreign policy has been successful. Whereas 67 percent of Americans disapproved of Obama's handling of the economy and the federal budget deficit, 63 percent of Americans approved of his terrorism strategy. So too, 52 percent approved of his decision to remove US forces from Iraq. In general 49 percent of Americans approved of Obama's handling of foreign affairs while 44 percent disapproved. These support levels tell us a great deal about the insularity of the American public. For when one assesses the impact to date of Obama's foreign policy it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that if the US public was more aware of the actual consequences of his policies, his approval rating in foreign affairs would be even lower than his approval rating in domestic policy. Indeed, a cursory examination of the impact so far of Obama's foreign policies in country after country and region after region indicates that his policies have been more damaging to US national interests than those of any president since Jimmy Carter. And unlike Obama, Americans widely recognized that Carter's foreign policies were failed and dangerous. The failure of Obama's foreign policies to date has been nowhere more evident than in the Middle East.
Take Iraq for instance. Obama and his supporters claim that the withdrawal of all US forces from Iraq is one of his great accomplishments. By pulling out, Obama kept his promise to voters to end the war in "a responsible manner." And as the polling data indicate, most Americans are willing to give him credit for the move. But the situation on the ground is dangerous and getting worse every day. Earlier this month, just ahead of the departure of the last US forces from Iraq, Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki visited with Obama at the White House. Immediately after he returned home, the Shiite premier began a ruthless campaign against his Sunni coalition partners in a no-holds barred bid to transform the Iraqi government and armed forces into partisan institutions controlled by his Dawa Party.
Forces commanded by Maliki's son arrested and allegedly tortured several of the Sunni Vice President Tariq al Hashimi's bodyguards. They forced the guards to implicate Hashimi in terror plots. Maliki subsequently issued an arrest warrant for Hashimi. So too, he issued an arrest warrant for the Sunni Deputy Prime Minister Saleh Mutlaq and fired him without permission from the Iraqi parliament. Hashimi and Mutlaq are now in hiding in Erbil. Maliki is demanding that the Kurdish regional government extradite them to Baghdad for trial. Maliki's actions have driven Sunni leaders in the Sunni provinces of Diyala, Anbar and Salahadin to demand autonomy under Iraq's federal system. He has responded by deploying loyal forces to the provinces to fight the local militias. The situation is so explosive that three prominent Sunni leaders, former prime minister Ayad Allawi, who heads the Iraqiya party, Parliament Speaker Osama Nujaifi, and Finance Minister Rafe al-Essawi published an op-ed in the New York Times on Tuesday begging Obama to rein in Maliki in order to prevent Iraq from plunging into civil war.
Then there is Egypt. Obama's decision in February to abandon then president Hosni Mubarak, the US's most dependable ally in the Arab world in favor of the protesters in Tahrir Square was hailed by his supporters as a victory for democracy and freedom against tyranny. By supporting the protesters against the US ally, Obama argued that he was advancing US interests by showing the Muslim world the US favored the people over their leaders. Ten months later, the Egyptian people have responded to this populist policy by giving jihadist parties a two-thirds majority in Egypt's parliamentary elections. For the first time in thirty years, the strategic anchor of US power in the Arab world, the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, is in danger. Indeed, there is no reason to believe it will survive.
According to the Gallup poll, 48 percent of Americans approve of Obama's handling of the war in Afghanistan and 44 percent disapprove. Here too, it is far from clear what there is to approve of. Against the public entreaties of the US commanders on the ground, Obama is carrying through on his pledge to withdraw all US surge troops from Afghanistan by the US presidential elections in November. In the meantime, the US is engaged in negotiations with the Taliban. The purpose of these negotiations is to reach a political agreement that would set the conditions for the Taliban to return to power after a US pullout. That is, the purpose of the talks is to set the conditions for a US defeat in Afghanistan.
The Obama Administration hails its success in overthrowing Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi without sacrificing a single US soldier. And certainly, this was a success. However, Qaddafi's opponents, who are now taking charge of the country, are arguably worse for the US than Qaddafi was. They include a significant number of al Qaida terrorists and are dominated by jihadist forces. Attempts by the NATO-backed provisional government to convince them to disarm have failed completely. Since Qaddafi was overthrown, large quantities of advanced weapons from his arsenal, allegedly including stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction have gone missing. Significant quantities of Libyan shoulder-to-air missiles have made their way to Gaza since Qaddafi's overthrow.
In Syria, while the administration insists that dictator Bashar Assad's days in power are numbered, it is doing essentially nothing to support the Syrian opposition. Fearing the instability that would ensue if a civil war were to break out in Iran's Arab protectorate, the US has chosen to effectively sit on its hands and so cancel any leverage it ought to wield over the shape of things to come.
As to Iran, Obama's policies have brought about a situation where the regime in Teheran does not fear a US military strike on its nuclear installations. Obama's open opposition to the prospect of an Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear installations has similarly convinced the regime that it can proceed without fear in its nuclear project. Iran's threat this week to close the Straits of Hormuz in the event that the US imposes an embargo on Iranian oil exports is being widely characterized by the US media as a sign of desperation on the part of the regime. But it is hard to see how this characterization aligns with reality. It is far more appropriate to view Iran's easy threats as a sign of contempt for Obama and for US power projection under his leadership. If Iran's ambitions to acquire nuclear weapons are thwarted, it will be despite Obama, not because of him.
Then there is the so-called peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Due to Obama's unbridled hostility towards Israel, there is no chance whatsoever that Israel and the PLO will reach a peace deal for the foreseeable future. Instead, Fatah and Hamas have agreed to unify their forces. The only thing standing in the way of a Hamas takeover of the PLO is the US Congress's threat to cut off US aid to the Palestinian Authority. For his part, Obama has gone out of his way to discredit the Congressional threat by serving as an indefatigable lobbyist for maintaining US financial support for the PA.
Of course, the Middle East is not the only region where the deleterious consequences of Obama's foreign policy are being felt. From Europe, to Africa, to Asia, to Latin America, Obama's determination to embrace US adversaries like Vladimir Putin and Hugo Chavez has weakened pro-US forces and strengthened US foes. So how is that that while Carter was perceived by the majority of the American public as a foreign policy failure, a large plurality of Americans views Obama's foreign policy as a success? Obama's success in hiding his failures from the American public owes to two related factors. First, to date the US has not been forced to contend directly with the consequences of his failures. Carter's failures were impossible to ignore because the blowback from his failures was immediate, unmistakable and harsh. His betrayal of the Shah of Iran led directly to the takeover of the US Embassy in Teheran and the hostage crisis. Carter could not spin to his advantage the daily stories about the hostages. He could not influence CBS evening news anchor Walter Cronkite's decision to end every broadcast by reminding viewers how many days the hostages had been in captivity. So too, the consequences of Carter's weakness in confronting the Soviet Union were impossible to ignore or minimize with images of Soviet tank columns invading Afghanistan dominating the news.
To date, Obama's foreign policy failures have yet to explode in a manner that can make the average American aware of them. Then too, Obama and his advisors have been extremely adept in presenting his tactical achievements as strategic victories. So it is that the administration has successfully cast the killing of Osama bin Laden as a strategic victory in the war on terror. Obama has upheld the mission, as well as the killing of al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki as proof of his competence in securing US interests. And to a large degree, the US public has accepted his claims. Because it is impossible to know when Obama's failures will begin to directly impact the America people, it is possible that he will not pay a political price for them in the 2012 elections. Be that as it may, the Republican presidential contenders would provide an invaluable service to both themselves and the American public as a whole if they make exposing Obama's disastrous stewardship of US foreign policy a central plank of their campaigns.
US Warns Iran Against Closing Hormuz Oil Route
Dec. 29….(AP) The US warned Iran Wednesday that it will not tolerate any disruption of naval traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, after Iran's navy chief said the Islamic Republic is capable of closing the vital oil route if the West imposes new sanctions targeting Tehran's oil exports. Iran's Adm. Habibollah Sayyari told state-run Press TV that closing the strait, which is the only sea outlet for the crucial oil fields in and around the Persian Gulf, "is very easy" for his country's naval forces. It was the second such warning by Iran in two days, reflecting Tehran's concern that the West is about to impose new sanctions that could hit the country's biggest source of revenue, its oil sector. On Tuesday, Vice President Mohamed Reza Rahimi threatened to close the strait if the West imposes such sanctions.
In response, the Bahrain-based US 5th Fleet's spokeswoman warned that any disruption at the strait "will not be tolerated." The spokeswoman, Lt. Rebecca Rebarich, said the US Navy is "always ready to counter malevolent actions to ensure freedom of navigation." With concern growing over a possible drop-off in Iranian oil supplies if sanctions are imposed, a senior Saudi oil official said Gulf Arab nations are ready to offset any loss of Iranian crude. That reassurance led to a drop in world oil prices. In New York, benchmark crude fell 77 cents to $100.57 a barrel in morning trading. Brent crude fell 82 cents to $108.45 a barrel in London.
Western nations are growing increasingly impatient with Iran over its nuclear program. The US and its allies have accused Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to develop nuclear weapons. Iran has denied the charges, saying its program is geared toward generating electricity and producing medical radioisotopes to treat cancer patients. The US Congress has passed a bill banning dealings with the Iran Central Bank, and President Barack Obama has said he will sign it despite his misgivings. Critics warn it could impose hardships on US allies and drive up oil prices. The bill could impose penalties on foreign firms that do business with Iran's central bank. European and Asian nations import Iranian oil and use its central bank for the transactions.
Iran is the world's fourth-largest oil producer, with an output of about 4 million barrels of oil a day. It relies on oil exports for about 80 percent of its public revenues. Iran has adopted an aggressive military posture in recent months in response to increasing threats from the US and Israel that they may take military action to stop Iran's nuclear program. The Iranian navy is in the midst of a 10-day drill in international waters near the strategic oil route. The exercises began Saturday and involve submarines, missile drills, torpedoes and drones. The war games cover a 1,250-mile (2,000-kilometer) stretch of sea off the Strait of Hormuz, northern parts of the Indian Ocean and into the Gulf of Aden near the entrance to the Red Sea as a show of strength and could bring Iranian ships into proximity with US Navy vessels in the area.
Iranian media are describing how Iran could move to close the strait, saying the country would use a combination of warships, submarines, speed boats, anti-ship cruise missiles, torpedoes, surface-to-sea missiles and drones to stop ships from sailing through the narrow waterway. Iran's navy claims it has sonar-evading submarines designed for shallow waters of the Persian Gulf, enabling it to hit passing enemy vessels. A closure of the strait could temporarily cut off some oil supplies and force shippers to take longer, more expensive routes that would drive oil prices higher. It also potentially opens the door for a military confrontation that would further rattle global oil markets.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq says it was behind Baghdad blasts
Dec. 29….(USA Today) An al-Qaeda front group in Iraq has claimed responsibility for the wave of attacks that ripped through markets, cafes and government buildings in Baghdad on a single day last week, killing 69 people and raising new worries about the country's path. The coordinated attacks struck a dozen mostly Shiite neighborhoods on Thursday in the first major bloodshed since US troops completed a full withdrawal this month after nearly nine years of war. They also coincided with a government crisis that has again strained ties between Iraq's Sunnis and Shiites to the breaking point, tearing at the same fault line that nearly pushed Iraq into all-out civil war several years ago.
The claim of responsibility made no mention of the US withdrawal. Instead, it focused its rage on the country's Shiite-dominated leadership, which Sunni insurgents have battled since it came to power as a result of the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. "The series of special invasions was launched to support the weak Sunnis in the prisons of the apostates and to retaliate for the captives who were executed," said the statement in the name of the Islamic State of Iraq. According to the SITE Intelligence Group, a US-based organization that monitors jihadist Web traffic, the claim of responsibility was posted late Monday on militant websites. The group said the attacks were proof that they "know where and when to strike and the mujahedeen will never stand with their hands tied while the pernicious Iranian project shows its ugly face." The remark was in reference to accusations by Sunni militants that Iraq's Shiite-dominated government has allied itself too closely with neighboring Shiite power Iran, a bitter enemy of Iraq under the regime of Saddam Hussein.
The Baghdad military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, said al-Qaeda in Iraq, no longer focused on fighting US forces, is hoping to take advantage of the current political tension to re-ignite sectarian warfare. "It has become a clear scheme to draw Iraq into a sectarian war again," al-Moussawi said. "Al-Qaeda in Iraq played a major role in 2005 and 2006 in pushing the county into a civil war and they succeeded."
On Tuesday morning, a car bomb exploded near a police station in the town of Hawija, 150 miles (240 kilometers) north of Baghdad, killing two civilians and injuring another, said Kirkuk police commander Brig. Gen. Sarhad Qadir. US and some Iraqi officials have warned of a resurgence of Sunni and Shiite militants and an increase in violence after the US troop withdrawal. Along with the security challenge, Iraq is facing an increase in political tension as Iraq's Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is engaged in a showdown with the top Sunni political leader in the country. Al-Maliki's government has issued an arrest warrant for Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on charges that he ran hit squads against government officials. Al-Hashemi has denied the charges and said they are politically motivated.
Israel, US Considering Iran Strike Triggers
(Washington assured Jerusalem it would attack if Tehran's nuke program crosses certain 'red lines')
Dec. 29….(YNET) The Obama administration has assured Israel privately that the US would strike Iran if its nuclear program cross certain "red lines," The Daily Beast reported Wednesday, adding that at the same time Washington was trying to convince Israel not to attack Tehran unilaterally. According to the report, the "Israelis went ballistic" after US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said earlier this month that an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities could “consume the Middle East in a confrontation and a conflict that we would regret." Israeli Ambassador to Washington Michael Oren lodged a formal diplomatic protest, prompting the White House to reassure Jerusalem that the administration had its own "red lines" that would trigger a strike on Iran and that there is no need for Israel to operate unilaterally, the American news website reported.
The Daily Beast said three senior US military officials have confirmed that analysts in the Pentagon were trying to predict which developments in Iran could lead to a preemptive Israeli strike on the Islamic Republic's nuclear facilities. The report said that despite repeated requests going back to 2009, Netanyahu's government has not agreed to ask the US for permission or give significant advanced warning of any pending strike. Shortly after the Israeli ambassador lodged a complaint over Panetta's remarks, the American defense secretary told CBS's "60 Minutes" that should Iran proceed with developing a nuclear weapon "then we will take whatever steps necessary to stop it."
According to The Daily Beast, Matthew Kroenig, who served as special adviser on Iran to the Office of the Secretary of Defense between July 2010 and July 2011, offered some of the possible "red lines" for a military strike on Iran. In a recent Foreign Affairs article he argued that the US should strike Iran’s facilities "if Iran expels international nuclear weapons inspectors, begins enriching its stockpiles of uranium to weapons-grade levels of 90%, or installs advanced centrifuges at its main uranium-enrichment facility in Qom."
The Prophecy Clock Raced Ahead in 2011
Dec. 29….(By Jan Markell / www.olivetreeviews.org) As we exit 2011, some things are certain in this age of uncertainty. Most readers will acknowledge that the end-time clock is racing. The year started with violence as a deranged gunman shot and killed or wounded many in Arizona. One of the victims was a US Congresswoman. As 2011 winds down, chaos and violence rage around the world. The 1960s are being relived as angry young people demand that world governments bow to their anti-capitalist ideas. Violence and instability are everywhere, however, and particularly in the volatile Middle East. So what else do we see? The world is riddled with war and rumors of war. Our churches are no longer sound. True Christianity is under attack from all sides, and Christians are being marginalized as intolerant bigots. In far-away places, Christians are being slaughtered in the name of Allah. Nature seems out of control as we observe record-setting disasters everywhere. Greed and corruption are the engines that run just about everything. Israel and Jerusalem are blamed for most of the world's problems. Allow me to expand on some of these.
War is on the way in the Middle East. Muslim nations are determined to force a showdown over the future of Israel, observes Ronald Reagan's Assistant Defense Secretary Frank Gafney. He warns of a "cataclysmic regional war and it will be over the future existence of the state of Israel. It may involve all of her neighbors, as they want to drive the Jews into the sea. It may include the use of nuclear weapons." So much for the benign purposes of the "Arab spring." Consider Egypt. Under Hosni Mubarek, Egypt was the anchor of regional stability. Now, thanks to the Muslim Brotherhood, instability emanates to all other Mideast nations from that hub. A united effort to annihilate Israel is underway. America is assisting in that endeavor as the Obama assault on Israel continues. Secretary of State Clinton is warning that any American action towards recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel must be avoided. It might jeopardize the peace process even though that process is a joke.
Add to this litany an emboldened and ascendant China, Russia once again under the absolute control of Vladimir Putin, a Mexico free-falling into civil war with narcotic traffickers and their Hezbollah allies on our southern border, and you get a world that is fraught with peril for the United States. Isn't it obvious that we are in the midst of the Bible's predicted "perilous times"? (II Timothy 3:1) Sure, times have always been rough, but it's the convergence of events that is so intriguing at this time. "Occupy Wall Street" is nothing to ignore. Suffice it to say that it represents the lawlessness and debauchery that characterizes our times. Don't dismiss it as a silly circus of unwashed graduate students or fossilized 1960s nostalgists who can't even formulate a coherent platform. If they could govern, we would have the ideal Leftist agenda of Marxism, Socialism, and one-worldism. It would take a super-human person to blend those elements and make it work. His name is Antichrist and he is waiting in the wings.
In late October, the Vatican called for radical reform of the world's financial systems, including the creation of a global political authority to manage the economy. Read that again. The Vatican has called for a one-world economic and political system. Untold millions of Catholics have now been told that their leadership is ok with global government. Six billion more inhabitants of Earth must be persuaded but with record-setting global and individual debt, this process will likely be easy! Many scenarios are yet to play out. The policies of the man we elected by a wide majority just three years ago seem to be designed to confiscate the wealth of most Americans and put an end to America's super power status by eliminating what little value our currency still has. More and more experts are warning us to be prepared for the hyperinflation that's sure to come when the rest of the world decides to stop lending us the money we need to fund our deficits. Already 70% of it is coming out of thin air, courtesy of the Federal Reserve.
America is not going away but a weakened America is necessary before someone can carry the globalist football into the end zone. The one-worlders know this and the world's rabble-rousers denouncing capitalism know this. As we often say in this office, "It's all coming together." On Monday, December 26, a prominent talk show host, with an animated voice said, "We need a world leader now!" He probably had no idea what he said or what the implications are. I noticed he didn't say that we need an American leader. We need a global Mr. Fix-it. Another host calls such a man a "spooky dude." He has no clue either. Only the Bible helps us understand these mysteries and a lot of churches today consider the Bible an inconvenience. The Antichrist will be both: A 'man-with-a-plan' and a real 'spooky dude.' Perhaps one of the most profound prophecy-related stories in 2011 is global debt. We're another year older and deeper in debt! The whole world is in debt, not just America! I could give you the statistics but your eyes would glaze over. Worry not. The 'spooky dude' (antichrist) will solve it!
The early church longed for Jesus' return and thus greeted each other with "Maranatha!" Imagine how simple their lifestyle was. They knew nothing of the clanging noise of concrete canyons around the world, big cities throbbing with violence and turmoil. Still, that simple word comforted them because it promised a better world someday.
As we see 2011 leaving us, know that a better world awaits you, too! But it is not of this world. It is another dimension, another location, another time. Yet it could be here in the twinkling of an eye! The heart-cry of millions in 2011, and even more in 2012, is this wonderful word: Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus! I'll say it over and over again. Some will get sick of it but I won't quit. It's the one word that offers hope as the world comes unglued! Maranatha, maranatha! Keep looking up. With an eternal perspective, the headlines won't disturb you quite so much and you can focus on spreading the gospel while there is still time. And find a church that believes same!
Abbas Preps West Bank for "Palestinian Resistance" (Terror War)
Dec. 29….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas kicked off preparations for a fresh outbreak of anti-Israel "resistance," which concerned US and Israeli security circles believe will develop into "Intifada No. 3. By suddenly firing, the West Bank's top security officer Maj. Gen. Diab el-Ali, and not notifying US Lt. Gen. Michael R. Moeller, the American Security Coordinator between Israel and the PA appointed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Israel's military coordinator, Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, Abbas is joining with Hamas in coordinating another terror war on Israel. Abbas appointed Palestinian military intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Nidal Dokhan, to replace Maj. Gen. el-Ali. Debkafile's military sources in Washington and Jerusalem report that in both capitals, the Palestinian leader's action is seen as paving the way for radical changes in West Bank security. This fragile edifice was kept stable for some years thanks to joint US-Israeli-Palestinian efforts to back up peaceful relations between the Palestinians and Israel after the bloody years of the "Al Aqsa Intifada" terror.
Abbas (Abu Mazen) has now decided to upset this equilibrium by orchestrating an Arab Spring-style uprising on the West Bank, the differences being that the Palestinians will not rise up against their own leaders, but against Israel, and that in no time this event is liable to revert to the "intifada" style Palestinian terrorist violence of the early 2000s. Four actions leading up to these steps have aroused trepidation:
1. Abbas's deal in Cairo last week with the extremist Hamas leader Khaled Meshal is of vital concern. The two rivals agreed that notwithstanding their differences they would go forward on common objectives. For example, Meshaal sought the resurgence of armed resistance against Israel, which Abbas is reluctant to try. They compromised on a "popular resistance" campaign of protracted mass demonstrations which would smash through the defense barrier dividing the West Bank from Israel, knocking over IDF checkpoints and storming en masse into Israel. The "demonstrators" would also march on and burst into Jewish civilian settlements.
2. For this campaign to succeed, it is necessary to redefine the functions of the eight Palestinian commando battalions of the Palestinian National Security Forces-PNSF, soon to be joined by two more just ending their training in Jordan. The PNSF was created and is funded by the United States, while British and Jordanian military instructors train its 8,000 combatants. To make sure the Palestinian "uprising" does not turn against the Palestinian Authority and himself, Abbas will place these military battalions at the forefront of the mass demonstrations. They are to lead the throngs to their points of confrontation with Israel. The PA chairman is therefore highhandedly retooling the armed Palestinian force, which was painstakingly created by the United States, to make it a hammer for confronting Israel's armed forces and civilians on both sides of the Green Line.
3. Abbas fired Gen. Diab el-Ali because he worked productively with the American coordinating unit for four years, from the day the first battalion was formed. His successor Maj. Gen. Dokhan is regarded in Western security circles as a shadowy figure of the undercover world. The difference between them is that while Gen. Diab el-Ali is trusted in Washington and Jerusalem as genuinely and uncompromisingly willing to combat an upsurge of terror and Hamas extremism on the West Bank, the same cannot be said of the new man. Gen. Dokhan maintains good relations with US and Israel officers but also stands well with the heads of the radical Hamas and Jihad Islami.
Neither US nor Israeli commanders would risk sharing sensitive intelligence with him lest it reach the wrong hands. His appointment therefore as the senior officer on the West Bank is seen as the beginning of the end of the successful military and intelligence cooperation the US crafted between Israel and the Palestinian Authority for combating West Bank terrorism and presaging the return of the pro-terror Palestinian organizations. This is what Khaled Meshaal was driving at Tuesday, Dec. 27, when he said his accord with Mahmoud Abbas had ushered in a new era of Palestinian cooperation after "Hamas forces on the West Bank were eradicated in recent years."
4. In intensive consultations this week, Debkafile's sources report that US and Israeli security officials were of the opinion that the security changes Abbas is molding will have the effect of destroying the security stability the West Bank has enjoyed under US-backed Palestinians Authority rule. After opening the door to the radical Palestinian organizations, the PA will soon lose control as Hamas and Jihad Islami ride into the enclave's towns and villages.
Iran Prepares to Expand Military Links with Iraq
Dec. 28….(Newsmax) Iran stands ready to expand its military and security ties with Iraq, its armed forces chief of staff said Sunday, a week after the exit of US forces from the neighboring Arab country. General Hassan Firouzabadi hailed the "forced departure" of the US and allied forces that he said, "was due to the resistance and determination of the Iraqi people and government," the state Islamic Republic News Agency reported. The statements were made in messages Firouzabadi sent to his Iraqi counterpart, Lieutenant General Babaker Zebari, and to Iraq's acting defence minister, Saadun al-Dulaimi, IRNA said.
The departure of the US troops "was due to the resistance and determination of the Iraqi people and government," he said. "I hope the humiliating failure of the United States after nine years of occupying Iraq will serve as a lesson for them to never think of attacking another country," he said. Firouzabadi added that Iran was now "ready to expand its military and security ties with Iraq." Zebari led a delegation of Iraqi military chiefs to Iran last month to explore greater cooperation between the two defence forces. US analysts have expressed concern that Iran could exploit the vacuum left by the US withdrawal to bolster links with Iraq's Shiite-led government. The United States frequently accused Iran of arming Iraqi militias that attacked US forces when they were deployed there.
US President Barack Obama said on December 14 that, while the situation left behind in Iraq was not perfect, "we are leaving behind a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq." His administration has warned Iran against trying to interfere in Iraq.
A Christian Nation Must Defend Christians
Dec. 27….(Rodger Hedgecock) President Barack Obama, in one of his first statements overseas, declared to a Turkish audience and to the whole Muslim world that the United States is not a Christian nation. According to a Gallup poll released last week, the American people don't agree. Measuring religious preference among American adults, Gallup finds that 78 percent identify with some form of Christian religion. Less than 2 percent are Jewish, less than 1 percent Muslim and only 15 percent do not have a religious identity. Based on the amount of media coverage of Muslims, Jews and atheists in America, you'd think these groups were the 78 percent. Not so. Gallup concludes that the poll means "that over 95 percent of all Americans who have a religious identity are Christians" and that "the United States remains a predominantly Christian nation."
But Obama may have meant something else. Here's the relevant quote from the May 2009 press conference in Turkey: "One of the great strengths of the United States is that we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation, or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values." It is bedrock American tradition, as stated in the first amendment to the Constitution, that there is no government-established religion, that freedom of religion for each individual is guaranteed. The United States has no state religion, no government church. In that sense, the United States is, of course, not a "Christian nation."
But when Obama went on to describe our "set of values," it is bedrock American history that those values are rooted in the Christian heritage of the founders. The founders, who described "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" as among the freedoms given all of us by God and went on to establish a government to protect the God-given liberty of every citizen, were not speaking from an atheist or Muslim perspective. Many columns have spoken to Obama's error, but very few have noticed the effect of Obama's statement on the Muslim world. To the Muslim ear, Obama was saying that the United States would not protect Christian communities in predominantly Muslim countries because the US was neutral on the issue of religion. An unfolding Christian bloodbath is the result.
From that day to this, with no end in sight, persecution of Christians in the 57 Muslim countries has increased with frightful results. The "Arab Spring" will be known to history as the beginning of a shameful period of triumphant radical Islam. In every Muslim State, all non-Muslims live in fear. Just look at Egypt. The deposing of Mubarak and street mobs demanding democracy was met with cheers in Western capitals. When the mob was revealed as the Muslim Brotherhood (out of which al-Qaida was born) determined to exterminate Israel and impose a 21st century caliphate, the real price of Obama's words became clear. Coptic Christians in Egypt are among the oldest Christian communities, dating back to the apostles. The Copts predate the Muslim era by 600 years. Today, Egyptian Muslims burn the Coptic churches and attack worshippers who appeal in vain for US protection and have this week sought mass exodus to the US to escape death for their faith.
With the establishment of the state of Israel, the "Religion of Peace" expelled Jewish communities who had lived in their midst since the Diaspora. Israel took these Jewish refugees. Now it is the Christians' turn for persecution by Muslims. And there is no "Christian" nation to protect them or take them in as they run for their lives.
In Iraq, Saddam Hussein had persecuted Iraqi Christians, a community of believers so old they still speak Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus. But the new Iraqi "democracy" has made life for these Iraqi Christians unbearable. After the US invasion, and the long years of war, Obama pulled the troops out, leaving Iraqi Christians to their fate. They are fleeing Iraq. Three Christian churches were hit by bombs during Christmas services in Nigeria yesterday, killing dozens of worshippers. A radical Muslim group named Boku Haram claimed "credit" for the killings, demanding strict Shariah law be imposed on Nigeria. Obama, vacationing in Hawaii, had no comment.
This abandonment of Christian communities in these Muslim countries has encouraged radicals in Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Indonesia, indeed, in every Muslim country to persecute Christianity in the knowledge that Obama will take no action, will make no defense of the defenseless Christian populations in those countries, because we are "not a Christian nation." The Gallup poll says we are a Christian nation, at least by the numbers. But the important question is, are we a "Christian nation" when it comes to defending the right to worship of fellow Christians around the world? Does the God-given right to freedom of religion extend to everyone, or to no one?
Obama has been vigorous and eloquent in his defense of the religious rights of minority Muslims in the US. Will Obama be as vigorous and eloquent in defense of Christians persecuted in Muslim countries, or has he abandoned minority Christians in Muslim majority countries to the bloodbath now getting underway?
Muslim Terrorists Attack Churches in Nigeria on Christmas Day
Dec. 27….(AP) At a Nigerian Catholic church where a terror attack killed 35 people on Christmas, women tried to clean the sanctuary ahead of Mass on Monday while one man wept uncontrollably amid the debris. Outside St. Theresa Catholic Church, crowds gathered among the burned-out cars in the dirt parking lot, angry over the attack claimed by a radical Muslim sect and fearful that the group will target more churches. Rev. Father Christopher Jataudarde told The Associated Press that Sunday's blast happened as church officials gave parishioners white powder as part of a tradition celebrating the birth of Christ. Some already had left the church at the time of the bombing, causing the massive casualties. In the chaos after the bombing, Jataudarde said one mortally wounded man, cradling his shredded stomach, begged him for religious atonement. "Father, pray for me, I will not survive," the man said, according to the priest.
At least 52 people were wounded in the attack, said Slaku Luguard, a coordinator with Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency. Victims filled the cement floors of a nearby government hospital, some crying in pools of their own blood. On Christmas, attacks by the radical Muslim sect left 39 dead across Africa's most populous nation. A bomb also exploded amid gunfire in the central Nigeria city of Jos and a suicide car bomber attacked the military in the nation's northeast. After the bombings, a Boko Haram spokesman using the nom de guerre Abul-Qaqa claimed responsibility for the attacks in an interview with The Daily Trust, the newspaper of record across Nigeria's Muslim north. The sect has used the newspaper in the past to communicate with public.
"There will never be peace until our demands are met," the newspaper quoted the spokesman as saying. "We want all our brothers who have been incarcerated to be released; we want full implementation of the Sharia system and we want democracy and the constitution to be suspended."
Boko Haram has carried out increasingly sophisticated and bloody attacks in its campaign to implement strict Shariah law across Nigeria, a multiethnic nation of more than 160 million people. The group, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" in the local Hausa language, is responsible for at least 504 killings this year alone, according to an Associated Press count. This Christmas attack comes a year after a series of Christmas Eve bombings in Jos claimed by the militants left at least 32 dead and 74 wounded. The group also claimed responsibility for the Aug. 26 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Nigeria's capital Abuja that killed 24 people and wounded 116 others.
Analysts say political considerations also likely play a part in the country's thus-far muted response: President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the south, may be hesitant to use force in the nation's predominantly Muslim north. Speaking late Sunday at a prayer service, Jonathan described the bombing as an "ugly incident." "There is no reason for these kind of dastardly acts," the president said in a ceremony aired by the state-run Nigerian Television Authority. "It's one of the burdens as a nation we have to carry. We believe it will not last forever."
Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation and has the world's sixth-largest Christian population, about 80.5 million people as of 2010, according to a report published this month by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life in Washington. That makes the country just over 50% Christian, according to the Pew figures.
Iran Taunts US With Naval Drills in Strait of Hormuz
(Tehran's latest display of military power will bring it into close proximity of US warships in strategic oil route.)
Dec. 27….(DEBKA) Iran's navy has started a 10-day drill in international waters near the strategic oil route that passes through the Strait of Hormuz. The exercises, dubbed "Velayat 90", could bring Iranian ships into proximity with United States Navy vessels in the area. "Velayat" is a Persian word for "supremacy" and it is currently used as a title of deference for the Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The war games cover a 2,000km stretch of sea off the Strait of Hormuz, northern parts of the Indian Ocean and into the Gulf of Aden, near the entrance to the Red Sea, state television reported.
The drill will be Iran's latest show of strength in the face of mounting international criticism over its controversial nuclear program, which the West fears is aimed at developing atomic weapons. Tehran denies those charges, insisting the program is for peaceful purposes only. Adm Habibollah Sayyari, the navy chief, said Iran is holding the drill to show off its prowess and defense capabilities. "To show off its might, the navy needs to be present in international waters. It's necessary to demonstrate the navy's defense capabilities," state TV quoted Sayyari as saying. Sayyari said submarines, surface-to-sea missile systems, missile-launching vessels, torpedoes and drones will be employed in the maneuvers.
The Strait of Hormuz is of strategic significance as the passageway for about a third of the world's oil tanker traffic. Beyond it lie vast bodies of water, including the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The US Navy's Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet is also active in the area, as are warships of several other countries that patrol for pirates there. Iran regularly holds war games and has also been active in fighting piracy. Both the US and Israel have not ruled out a military option against Iran over its nuclear program. Iranian hard-liners have come out with occasional threats that Tehran would seal off the key waterway if the US or Israel moved against the country's nuclear facilities. Iranian authorities have given no indication the strait will be closed during the exercise, and it has not been shut during previous drills. The US, Britain and Canada announced new measures against Iran's energy and financial sectors last month and the European Union is considering a ban, already in place in the US, on imports of Iranian oil.
WEEK OF DECEMBER 18 THROUGH DECEMBER 24
Merry Christmas or Happy Birthday, Jesus
Dec. 24….(FOJ) (Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.)
Although Jesus was probably born in the late Fall of the year. We know that he was born about six months after John the Baptist. (see Luke 1:26-27, 36). Biblical evidence tells us that John was conceived about mid-June and was therefore born in late March. John’s father, Zacharias, was serving in the temple during the priestly course of Abia, or as it is referred to in the Old Testament, Abijah. So, Jesus was born either in September or October on our calendar. Nevertheless, he was born. While the Bible makes no issue about observing our Lord’s birth, his birth has changed the world. Even time is measured around the Lord’s birth. (BC vs AD)
What really matters this Christmas is, have you been born again? Merry Christmas
Report: Hamas to Join the PLO
(Hamas has agreed to join the Palestine Liberation Organization)
Dec. 23….(Arutz) The Hamas terrorist organization has agreed to join the Palestine Liberation Organization, according to the Associated Press. The decision came during two days after a meeting in Cairo between Palestinian Authority Chairman and PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal and Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Shalah. The gathering, which constitutes a gathering of the three largest terrorist factions in the Arab world today, began with an agreement on forming a central elections comission for upcoming PA elections. Up to this point, Hamas has existed outside the PLO.
Abbas, who heads the PA and the Fatah faction, also serves as head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, once led by chief terrorist Yasser Arafat. Fatah is the umbrella faction for the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terrorist organization, the Tanzim terrorist group headed by Marwan Barghouti, the Shuhada al-Aqsa, the Gaza-based Ansar al-Mujahidin (formerly Kataeb al-Mujahidin) headed by Abu Bilal, and others. The word "Mujahidin" means "holy warriors," implying "jihad" or holy war, a term used by Islamists. Although the Fatah faction is primarily seen as a more secularist faction, the names of its terrorist groups belie the truth of its ideals. The Ansar al-Mujahidin is suspected to have to have links with three Salafi groups that were involved in the murder in Gaza of an Italian member of the International Solidarity Movement, the al-Tawhid, Wal-Jihad and Jaish al-Islam. All three, plus the Army of Islam, are associated with the international Al Qaeda terrorist organization. The Hamas terrorist organization currently rules Gaza, having seized control of the region from Fatah in a militia war with the faction in 2007.
Hamas is allied with numerous other terrorist groups in the region, among them the Islamic Jihad organization, which operates both in Gaza and in the Fatah-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria, and with the Popular Resistance Committees terrorist organization (PRC). Hamas, the PRC and the Army of Islam joined together to carry out the 2006 cross-border raid that resulted in the kidnapping of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. It took five years and the release of 1,027 PA Arab terrorist prisoners, including hundreds of murderers, in order to secure Shalit's safe return.
A Nuclear Iran and Potential War with Syria
Dec. 23….(Jerusalem Post) Hezbollah and Hamas are just some of the challenges Israel could face in the coming year of 2012. With Iran continuing what appears to be an unstoppable race towards obtaining nuclear weapons, 2012 appears to be turning into the year which might be the last chance to stop the Ayatollahs from obtaining the bomb.
Hezbollah, Israel believes, has obtained 50,000 rockets and missiles of various sizes and ranges that encompass the entire State of Israel and could be fired in a future war. This is in comparison to the 15,000 rockets it had just five years ago during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. With predictions that Syrian President Bashar Assad's days are numbered, concern is growing in Israel over the possibility that in the twilight days of his regime, Assad will attack Israel, possibly with his long-range Scud missiles. And then there is the uncertainty surrounding the future of the Middle East, the American pullout from Iraq, the future withdrawal from Afghanistan, the revolution in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, all of which can impact Israel’s security.
Iran Starts Building a Nuclear Weapon: US and Israel Tighten Cooperation
Dec. 23….(DEBKA) Iran has embarked on "activities related to possible weaponization," said American sources Wednesday, Dec. 22, thereby accounting for the dramatic reversal of the Obama administration's wait-and-see attitude on attacking Iran. The change was articulated this week by US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint US Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey. Debkafile's Washington sources report that the Islamic Republic crossed the red line President Barack Obama had set for the United States, i.e., when Tehran begins using the technologies and fissile materials (enriched uranium) it has amassed for assembling a bomb or missile warheads. This marks the moment that Iran goes nuclear and only a short time remains before it has an operational nuclear weapon.
Washington has always claimed that when the order to build a weapon was given in Tehran, the United States would know about it within a short time. The US stealth drone RQ-170 was sent into Iranian airspace for the first time to find evidence to support this suspicion. On Dec. 4 the Iranians downed the unmanned reconnaissance craft by intelligence or cyber means not yet fully clarified. The US, and most probably Israel too, then turned to other intelligence resources to find out what Iran was up to. According to Debkafile's military and intelligence sources, they found evidence that Iran has in fact begun putting together components of a nuclear bomb or warhead. This discovery prompted the latest statements by Panetta and Gen. Dempsey. The defense secretary put it into words when he said Tuesday, Dec.: “Despite the efforts to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program, the Iranians have reached a point where they can assemble a bomb in a year or potentially less.” The next day, Gen. Dempsey said, “My biggest worry is they will miscalculate our resolve. Any miscalculation could mean that we are drawn into conflict, and that would be a tragedy for the region and the world.”
Dennis Ross, until last month President Obama’s senior Middle East adviser, and key architect of White House policies on the Iranian nuclear program and understandings with Israel on this issue, said, Israel has four causes for concern about uranium enrichment in the underground nuclear facility at Fordo near Qom and other developments:
1. Iran’s accumulation of low-enriched uranium, its decision to enrich to nearly 20 percent “when there is no justification for it.”
2. The "hardening" of Iranian nuclear sites, largely by moving facilities underground.
3. Other activities related to possible weaponization.
4. Israel suspects that Fordo is not Iran's only buried facility and that nuclear "weaponization" is ongoing surreptitiously at additional underground locations. “I would not isolate Qom and say this alone is the Israeli red line to spur a military response.”
Our military sources report that all these developments were covered in the short and epic conversation between President Barack Obama and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak at the Gaylord Hotel in Maryland on Dec. 16. It ended with accord on the US and Israeli responses to the new situation arising in Iran. The White House has since accepted the Israeli assessment of Iran's nuclear bomb time table and endorses the conviction that unless Iran retreats from its decision to build a nuclear bomb and steps back from the process it set in train this month, the only option remaining will be a military strike to disable its nuclear program. Following the Maryland encounter, Debkafile’s sources report a procession of prominent US officials visiting Israel to tighten coordination between the US and Israel on their next moves. Lt. Gen. Frank Gorenc, commander of the US’s Third air Force, was one of those visitors. He came to organize the biggest joint military exercise ever held by the US and Israel, as part of the shared response to Iran's steps.
Christianity Is World's Largest Religion
Dec. 21….(CNN) Christians are by far the largest religious group on the planet, and the religion has gone truly global over the past century, according to a new report out Monday, which finds some of the world's biggest Christian communities in surprising places. Europe was the clear center of world Christianity one hundred years ago, but today the Americas are home to more than a third of all Christians. In fact, the United States has the world's largest Christian population, of more than 247 million, followed by Brazil and Mexico.
China also appears on the list of top 10 largest Christian populations, with an estimated 67 million Christians, it has more followers of the faith than any western European country. There are nearly 2.2 billion Christians around the world, making up about one-third of the world's population, the same percentage as a century ago, according to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
Islam is the world's second largest religion, with about 1.6 billion followers worldwide, the Washington-based organization calculates. That's just under one-quarter of the estimated 2010 world population of 6.9 billion. Sub-Saharan Africa has seen the biggest explosion in its Christian population in the past century, going from about 9 million Christians in 1910 to about 516 million today, nearly a quarter of all the world's Christians. Three of the world's ten largest Christian populations are in Africa: Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia.
The study, "Global Christianity," is based on demographic and opinion data from 232 countries and territories. It's part of the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project, which has also included reports on the current and projected number of Muslims in the world. It does not measure practice or belief, merely counting as Christian anyone who says they are. The report calculates that half the world's Christians are Catholic, 37% are Protestants, and 12% are Orthodox.
Iran Jails Pastor Extra Year Before Feared Execution
Dec. 21….(Worthy News) Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has to serve at least one more year in prison before he may be executed for refusing to abandon his faith in Christ and return to Islam, an official assisting him told Worthy News. Iran's judiciary wants to use that time to "use whatever means necessary to cause him to convert to Islam", explained Jason DeMars, director of advocacy group Present Truth Ministries (PTM). DeMars, who is closely involved in the case, said the head of Iran's Judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, had ordered the presiding judge over the trial in the city of Rasht, to "do nothing for one year." "The order was to not issue a verdict and hold Youcef in prison," DeMars quoted an attorney of the pastor as saying. The court was told "to use whatever means necessary to cause him to recant and return to Islam," DeMars added.
The 34-year-old Nadarkhani, who has a wife and two children, was detained in his home city of Rasht in October 2009 while trying to register his house church. Nadarkhani was eventually found guilty of "apostasy," or abandoning Islam, in September 2010 and sentenced to death by the Rasht court. In June this year Iran's Supreme Court did not overturn the ruling but instead asked the Rasht court to "re-examine" whether the pastor was a practicing Muslim before he became a Christian at age 19.
Nadarkhani told the court however that he would remain faithful to Christ, said an official of the Church of Iran house church movement. "Pastor Youcef was therefore four times invited by the court in the northwestern city of Rasht to recant his faith in Christ in order to avoid the execution," explained Firouz Khandjani, a council member of the pastor's Church of Iran movement to Worthy News earlier. "He answered that he will not," Khandjani said
Report: Syria Arms Missiles with Chemical Warheads
Dec. 20….(The Zaman) The Syrian regime, which has endured nine months of civil unrest spurred by the Arab Spring as it swept across the Middle East, has armed its medium-range missile arsenal with chemical warheads. According to a report published by the Sabah daily Sunday, Damascus armed 600 one-ton chemical warheads to use in the event of a foreign military intervention. Furthermore, President Bashar al-Assad ordered the deployment of 21 missile launchers along its border with Turkey. Syria’s medium-range missiles that can be equipped with chemical warheads have a range of up to 1,300 kilometers and would include the southern and central provinces of Turkey.
According to the daily, the Syrian military keeps its stockpile of chemical warheads in secret facilities in and around the capital city of Damascus. In mid-November, President Assad held a special meeting with top commanders of the Syrian army and argued over how to respond to a possible military intervention by the international community. Additionally, Russia, which stood by the Assad regime’s defiance of international pressure on Damascus, sent 3 million gas masks to the troubled country. Most of those masks will be distributed to the regime’s loyalists, the families of soldiers and Baath supporters. The distribution of the masks is set to be completed by the end of December, according to the daily.
Syria is believed to have had a chemical weapons arsenal for more than three decades. Following heavy defeats against Israel in conventional warfare, international defense sources believe that following the Yom Kippur War of 1973, Hafez al-Assad, the former general of the Syrian Air Force, decided to bolster Syria’s strategic position through the development of ballistic missiles to counter Israel’s superiority in conventional warfare. The unchallenged superiority Israeli air forces led Syrian generals to push for other means to protect the regime. From then on, Syria has launched clandestine efforts to develop chemical warheads with ballistic missile delivery systems.
Saudi King Calls for Arab Super State
(Saudi King Abdullah I has called for the formation of an Arab Union that would dominate the Middle East - is this Israel's future adversary?)
Dec. 20….(Arutz) King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia formally called for the formation of a Gulf Union on a backdrop of regional unrest and growing tensions with rival Iran. "I ask today that we move from a phase of cooperation to a phase of union within a single entity," Abdullah said during his address at the opening session of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council conference in Riyadh. "You must realise that our security and stability are threatened and we need to live up to our responsibilities," said King Abdullah. "Our summit opens in the shadow of challenges that require vigilance and a united stance," he added.
The GCC, comprised of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, was formed in 1981 as a security alliance to counter post-revolution Iran. While Abdullah did not speak directly to the nature such a union might take, the six-member GCC has been openly discussing transforming their alliance into a unified diplomatic and military confederation for months now. It has also been actively moving to expand its ranks. The GCC opened integration negotiations with Jordan earlier this month, and is engaged in exploratory talks with Morocco. Last week GCC officials revealed they were making the inclusion of Egypt, the region's most populous and militarily powerful Arab country - a priority.
The GCC nations have technically been at war with Israel since 1948, raising uncomfortable questions about the future of Israel's treaties with Egypt and Jordan should those nations join. The move also comes on the heels of the GCC flexing its muscles in the Arab League, where it moved to isolate key Iran ally Syria over the bloody crackdown of President Bashar al-Assad that has killed over 5,000 civilians.
In a clear reference to Syria, Abdullah urged his GCC allies to help their "Arab brothers so that the blood stops flowing and to guard against the risks of foreign intervention." Analysts say isolating Assad also weakens Iran's proxy in Lebanon, the Shi'ite terror organization Hizbullah, which relies on Syria as a land-bridge to Tehran. Earlier this year Abdullah met with Lebanon's Saudi-educated former Lebanese Prime Minister Sa'ad Hariri, whose Future Movement is closely allied with the anti-Hizbullah opposition in Beirut.
According to the analysts, the move also makes it more difficult for Iran to maintain its insurgency in Iraq as the United States begins its final withdrawal from the war-torn country. Iraqi leaders have long complained to US officials that Riyadh and Tehran are respectively backing competing Sunni and Shi'ite insurgencies in their country. If pro-Saudi opposition groups Lebanon and Syria were to come to power they too could be targeted for recruitment into Abdullah's proposed union, as might Iraq.
Earlier this year Saudi Crown Prince Turki bin Faisal al Saud said, should Iran obtain nuclear weapons, that Riyadh would seek them as well. Such a move would place the potentially nuclear armed Arab super-state on all of Israel's borders.
North Korea's Coming Power Struggle and the Mid-East Nuclear Race
Dec. 20….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis) The sudden death of Kim Jong II, of a heart attack yesterday even though his youngest son Kim Jong-un was hailed as successor confronts the world for the first time since the Cold War with a leaderless nuclear power about which it knows almost nothing. Though anointed as heir, his youngest son Kim Jong-Un, believed to be 26, is more than likely to be challenged for his claim to power. At present, therefore, no one knows who controls North Korea's nuclear arsenal, any more than the identity of the country's next ruler after the dust settles.
Meanwhile there are pressing questions: Will Kim Jong II's successor follow through on his consent this week to suspend Pyongyang's enriched-uranium nuclear weapons program for 240,000 tons of food aid from Washington? How will the 1.2 million strong standing army of the North respond to the first actions of South Korea, Japan and US forces in the Far East in placing their armies on alert? There has been no sign of motion from this huge army apart from test-firing a short-range missile Monday morning from the east coast. This is almost certainly the calm before the storm. A year ago, Kim Jong Il began grooming his son for the leadership, the third of their dynasty, by appointing him Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers Party of Korea and conferring on him the rank of four-star general. Still, he is as short on military experience than he is in politics. After the dead leader's funeral on Dec. 28, the army, or parts therefore, will have to decide whether to continue supporting the Kim family's rule in Pyongyang after 60 years or replace it with a different kind of leadership. The prospect of uncertainty and change there, sends shudders down many political spines in Washington, Tokyo and Seoul, as well as in Beijing and Moscow. In recent months, world powers were deeply immersed in the war threats hanging over the Middle East, Syrian bloodshed and Iran's nuclear weapons momentum. Monday, they woke up to a completely unforeseen scenario, an unstable Far East state armed with a nuclear bomb, which could take the region in any of five directions:
1. Elements of the North Korean army or its security services could go head to head for a power grab in Pyongyang, potentially sparking civil strife in this enigmatic nation of 24 million.
2. To keep any such violence from spilling across its borders, China may send troops into North Korea bringing similar action from Seoul, possibly with US backing. China has a large North Korean expatriate minority which respects Pyongyang rather than Beijing and is therefore a source of unrest. Of the US troops stationed for 58 years on the armistice lines between South and North, about 28,500 remain and could be involved in a conflict with the potential of exploding into another Korean War. The first war in the 1950s cost several armies more than a million lives.
3. The big difference between then and now is that today North Korea has nuclear arms and there is no knowing at what point someone in Pyongyang may decide to use them.
4. A recent Pentagon situation paper estimates that if the Korean Peninsula descended into domestic anarchy and civil strife, the United States would be called on to raise an army of intervention numbering 400,000 soldiers, 100,000 more than the size of US forces fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan at the peak of those conflicts.
5. North Korea maintains thriving nuclear, military and technological relations with Iran and Syria. Hundreds of technicians and engineers, including nuclear and missile experts, have worked for years on their nuclear and missile programs. Western and Israel intelligence services have never been sure how deeply China is involved in North Korea's nuclear and military assistance to Iran and Syria. Is it just passive or does Beijing use Pyongyang as a channel for pumping nuclear technology to Tehran and Damascus?
Some Western agencies have recently come to believe that China has a bigger stake in those Middle East countries than realized and much of the military technology transferred by North Korea to Iran is actually of Chinese origin. A power struggle in Pyongyang, which could be drawn out for as long as a couple of years, could go in many unpredictable directions including stepped-up contribution to the Middle East nuclear arms race.
Franklin Graham: Mideast Furor Threatens US, Christians in Region
Dec. 19….(Newsmax) The upheaval in the Middle East and the rise of fundamental Islamists threaten not only the security of the United States but also the millions of Christians who call the region home, the Rev. Franklin Graham tells Newsmax. The Arab Spring toppled long-term despots in countries such as Libya and Tunisia, and a civil war is being waged in Syria between the Sunnis and the Alawites that could spread to Jordan and Saudi Arabia, Graham, son of the legendary evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham, said during an exclusive interview with NewsmaxTV. The Muslim Brotherhood is moving into the power vacuum and wants to “establish Shariah law in every one of these countries and they will roll back the clock in the Middle East.” “So it’s a threat and it’s a threat to the United States, a threat to our security because so much of our oil comes from the Middle East,” he said. “But For the Christians that are there, and there’s something like 13 million Christians inside of Egypt,their lives are at risk. Churches are being burned, Christians have been killed but it rarely makes the news in this country. So I fear for the church in the Middle East. I have many friends there, I have been working in the Middle East for years and I spoke to one of the pastors today from the Middle East he called me from northern Iraq very afraid as to the situation in their county.”
Graham’s comments reverberate even as Egyptian troops and protesters clashed again today in Cairo for the third straight day, pelting each other with rocks in skirmishes near parliament in the heart of the Egyptian capital. At least 10 protesters have been killed and 441 others wounded in the three days of violence, according to the Health Ministry. Activists say most of the 10 fatalities died of gunshot wounds. Also today, about 30,000 Islamists in Pakistan staged a protest to condemn the United States and show support for their country's military. Pakistan's military was humiliated by the unilateral US special forces raid that killed Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani town in May, facing unprecedented public criticism. But many Pakistanis rallied behind the military after a Nov. 26 cross-border NATO air raid killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, and plunged already troubled ties with Washington to a low point.
Another threat in the region is Iran’s rush to acquire nuclear weapons, which some see as a prelude to fulfilling the biblical prophecy of Armageddon, said Graham, a noted evangelist in his own right and president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse. “They’ve already said that they’re going to use them,” he said. “If we don’t stop them then Israel will be forced to stop them. I’m afraid the Iranians are going to use their nuclear weapons against Israel when they have them. I believe it’s a real threat.”
Obama and Barak Discuss Dwindling Iran Strike Options as the US Exits Iraq
Dec. 19….(DEBKAfile Special Report) US President Barack Obama's half-hour tête-a- tête with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Washington Friday, Dec. 16, was vitally concerned with the coming steps in the Syrian showdown and the latest developments in the controversy over Iran's nuclear weapons program, Debkafile's Washington and intelligence sources report. Their conference was urgent because key events in the Middle East this week made early decisions necessary on both these issues. Termination of the US military mission in Iraq has powerful ramifications for Israel, Iran and Syria as well as Iraq itself.
From Tehran's standpoint, the US military departure has removed a formidable obstacle from Israel's path to an attack on its nuclear installations: the US Air Force's control of Iraqi skies. Cleared of this shield, Iraqi air space offers Israel an open corridor for its air force to reach Iran without hindrance. Overflights through any other country, such as Saudi Arabia, would have been contingent on their governments' cooperation in the anti-Iran offensive.
Tehran delayed releasing word of the capture of the US stealth RQ-170 drone until Dec. 4, timing it for the final month of the US troop drawdown from Iraq, in order to demonstrate to Israel, and not just America, that the sophisticated electronic resources which downed the RQ-170 over the Afghanistan-Iranian border were still available to Tehran for downing Israeli flights entering Iraqi air space. Therefore, Israel's air force could no longer be sure of safely breaching Iraqi air space for its attack.
To put another spoke in Israel's plans for striking Iran, Tehran used Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's visit to Washington (Dec. 12-13 ) for sending the US President a conciliatory message: The Islamic rulers were willing to clear the air with the Obama administration and broach areas of discord, notwithstanding the ill will generated by the allegations of an al-Qods Brigades plot to murder the Saudi ambassador to Washington and the captured American stealth drone's intrusion into their airspace. Iran reinforced the message of good will posted through al Maliki by four additional steps:
1. Monday, Dec. 12, its intelligence minister Heider Moslehi traveled to Riyadh and held talks with Saudi Crown Prince Nayef and intelligence chief Prince Muqrin. This was Tehran's way of informing Washington, say debkafile sources, that Saudi Arabia was acceptable for a role in helping to reset the relationship, while Turkey, Obama's choice, was not. The US preference for Turkey as its main Middle East facilitator was underlined in the two days US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spent in Ankara Thursday and Friday.
2. Wednesday, Dec. 14, a Revolutionary Guards officer Gholamreza Jalali announced that most of Iran's nuclear facilities had been relocated underground. Therefore, "Our vulnerability in the nuclear area has reached the minimum level," he said. This information was intended to strengthen the Obama administration's argument that the odds on an Israeli attack on Iran having useful results had plummeted again.
3. Friday, Dec. 16, Iran's foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi stated: "Within the next two months, the first fuel plate which is produced with the 20 percent enriched uranium will be placed in Tehran's research reactor." Translation: Iran is complying with President Obama's requirement that Iran's highly-enriched uranium be set aside for research, not a nuclear bomb.
4. Saturday, Dec. 17, North Korea was reported to have agreed to suspend its enriched-uranium nuclear weapons program and Washington agreed to provide Pyongyang with up to 240,000 tonnes of food aid. Since Iran and North Korea habitually walk in step on their nuclear strategy, Pyongyang's compliance with Washington's key demand may be taken as a pointer to the Islamic Republic's willingness to slow uranium enrichment in stages that match the lifting of sanctions.
The Syrian question loomed large in the Obama-Maliki talks this week because the US military's exit from Iraq opens another corridor, this one for Iran to exploit for the convenience of a direct military route to Syria for its warplanes and military vehicles. The US president insisted emphatically that the Iraqi prime minister must not let this happen. Maliki refused to give any promises, excepting only that Baghdad would line up behind Arab League policy on the Assad regime and not violate the sanctions the League has imposed on Damascus.
In his briefing to Tehran, Maliki was able to report that while Obama was willing to look at Iran's proposals for slowing uranium enrichment, he would not hear of easing the pressure on President Bashar Assad. What this means is that the door has been opened for Tehran to try and mend its fences with Washington, provided the ayatollahs are willing to throw Assad to the wolves. Before moving ahead on this, the Iranians will no doubt demand guarantees against an American or an Israeli attack on their nuclear program.
Israel's strategic state of health has taken a serious beating from these developments, its options against Iran shrinking substantially and the opening for military action narrowing. The removal of most of Iran's nuclear facilities below ground, President Obama's willingness to heed conciliatory feelers from Tehran, and Baghdad's assumption of the role of go-between for Washington and Tehran are all bad news for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his defense minister.
Iran has again contrived to buy time and leeway for bringing its nuclear weapons program to completion. Even the option of a clear run through Iraq for Israeli warplanes to strike Iran is likely to be short-lived: Tehran, which controls the Iraqi prime minister, will lose no time in placing its electronic warfare and intelligence systems in position for shutting that corridor to Israel. Israel's vanishing options on Iran topped Ehud Barak's conversation with Barack Obama in Washington on Friday.
Political Turmoil Flaring in Iraq as US Leaves
Dec. 19….(CNN) Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is asking lawmakers to withdraw confidence from his deputy after Saleh al-Mutlaq made controversial comments this week over American forces withdrawing from Iraq, state media reported late Saturday. In a recent interview with CNN, al-Mutlaq accused al-Maliki of amassing dictatorial power. "There will be a day whereby the Americans will realize that they were deceived by al-Maliki, and they will regret that," said al-Mutlaq, a leader within Iraqiya movement. The request followed word that the Iraqiya coalition was boycotting the country's parliament, a move that would threaten Iraq's fragile power-sharing arrangement. The crisis pits al-Maliki, a Shiite, against Iraqiya, a powerful political bloc that enjoys support from Sunnis and more secular Iraqis.
Also at issue were reports that an arrest warrant had been issued for Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi for masterminding a recent car bombing targeting the parliament. Ali al-Mussawi, al-Maliki's media adviser, said there were confessions that linked the Sunni vice president to the bombing. Al-Mussawi dismissed the notion that linking al-Hashimi to terrorism was politically motivated. He would not confirm whether an arrest warrant had indeed been issued, saying that was a matter for the judiciary. The Iraqiya bloc, headed by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, made its move Friday night. The bloc is one of the largest and most powerful political groups in Iraq and boasts among its members the speaker of the parliament. The bloc had been in a power-sharing deal with al-Maliki's State of Law Alliance, backed mostly by Shiites. Iraqiya accuses al-Maliki of trying to consolidate his own power rather than share it. His rivals say, for example, that he still controls the country's security ministries and all decisions go through him. They also say that the hundreds of people seized by the government in October for backing terrorism and supporting the banned Baath Party are Iraqiya supporters. Iraqiya spokesman Haider al-Mulla said the bloc has always warned about the deal's risks and says the State of Law Alliance has been violating the law. "Iraqiya has always expressed its rejection to the policy of exclusion and marginalization, lack of power sharing, politicization of the judiciary, the lack of balance within the government institutions," al-Mulla said.
Al-Maliki won a second term as prime minister in 2010 after a months-long dispute among the leading parties in the country's parliamentary elections. The largely secular Iraqiya movement won two more seats than al-Maliki's party, but a merger of the premier's Shiite Muslim slate with a smaller Shiite bloc put him first in line to form a government. There had been fears of renewed bloodshed between Iraq's majority Shiite and minority Sunni populations and that prompted US officials to work out a power-sharing agreement, bringing the Iraqiya movement into the government.
Al-Mutlaq told CNN that Washington is leaving Iraq "with a dictator" who has ignored a power-sharing agreement, kept control of the country's security forces and rounded up hundreds of people in recent weeks. He said he was "shocked" to hear US President Barack Obama greet al-Maliki at the White House on Monday as "the elected leader of a sovereign, self-reliant and democratic Iraq." "America left Iraq with almost no infrastructure. The political process is going in a very wrong direction, going toward a dictatorship," he said. Neighboring Iran, predominantly Shiite and led by a Shiite regime, views al-Maliki as its man in Baghdad and has dictated the shape of the current government, al-Mutlaq said. But he said al-Maliki is playing games with both Washington and Tehran. The last US troops are scheduled to be out of Iraq by the end of December, nearly nine years after the 2003 invasion that topped Saddam Hussein. More than 4,000 Americans and an estimated 115,000 Iraqis died in the invasion and the years of insurgency and sectarian warfare that followed.
WEEK OF DECEMBER 11 THROUGH DECEMBER 17
White House Handling of Drone Raises Questions
Dec. 17….(Bill Wilson, KIN Senior Analyst) According to Iranian engineers, the American bat-wing RQ-170 Sentinel drone was captured by Iran through hacking its GPS system and landing it safely intact. Just how significant this event is will be played out as Iran ups the ante in its nuclear, technological, and military advances and as it ramps up its political rhetoric against Israel and the US. But there is a question that should be asked by the mainstream media, and it should be asked in the context of the US involvement in radicalizing Arab states surrounding Israel. Why didn’t the man who occupies the Oval Office insist this drone be destroyed before the Iranians could dissect it? He told reporters, "We have asked for it back. We'll see how the Iranians respond." DEBKAfile reports that the drone had a self destruct mechanism, but it was never used. The president, according to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Fox News, weighed options to recover or destroy the drone, but was “concerned such a mission could be considered an act of war.” This is all pretty weak considering what is at stake with Israel, Iran and the Middle East. Unless, of course, this White House wanted Iran to have the drone and all of its high tech spy technology. That would explain the drone being essentially handed over to Iran.
DEBKAfile asks in its special report: “The enigmas surrounding its capture continue to pile up. How did Iran know the drone had entered its airspace? How was it caused to land? Most of all, why did the craft's self-destruct mechanism which is programmed to activate automatically fail to work? And if it malfunctioned, why was it not activated by remote control?” DEBKAfile reports that the decision to not recover or destroy the drone was not missed by Israeli security officials, who have a lot at stake. Israel’s perception is that the decision was “symptomatic of a wider decision to call off the covert war America has been conducting for some months against Iran’s drive for a nuclear bomb.” The State Department denies this.
DEBKAfile reported that a senior Israeli security official summed it up: “when it comes to Iran and its nuclear program, the Obama Administration and Israel have different objectives. On this issue, each country needs to go its own way.” Given the support for radicalizing the Middle East, the US partnership with the terrorist sponsoring Muslim Brotherhood, and this weak response to protecting a top secret spy plane, one has to wonder what side this president is on.
Electromagnetic Pulse a Real Threat
(Time to correct US vulnerability is now)
Dec. 17….(Washington Times) Is electromagnetic pulse a real threat to American security? On the heels of recent Republican primary debates, the danger to US electronics and infrastructure posed by a high-altitude nuclear blast suddenly has emerged as a campaign issue. So has concerted opposition to it, with both liberal and conservative skeptics ridiculing the idea as an overblown, even fabricated, distraction. Yet there is ample evidence that the danger is both clear and present. Far and away the most authoritative assessment in this regard is that of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States From Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack, colloquially known as the EMP Commission. That blue-ribbon panel, convened by Congress a decade ago, outlined the nature of the challenge as follows: “EMP is one of a small number of threats that can hold our society at risk of catastrophic consequences. EMP will cover the wide geographic region within line of sight to the nuclear weapon. It has the capability to produce significant damage to critical infrastructures and thus to the very fabric of US society, as well as to the ability of the United States and Western nations to project influence and military power.”
America’s vulnerability to such an attack is growing. As the EMP Commission explained, our heavy, and mounting, dependence on high technology, from cellphones to laptops to GPS, makes the United States disproportionately vulnerable to the disruption that would result from an EMP event. The commission concluded its work in 2004 with a dire warning: “The current vulnerability of our critical infrastructures can both invite and reward attack if not corrected.” This fact has not gone unnoticed. A number of rogue states and strategic competitors are actively investing in the development of precisely this sort of capability. Thus, Russia, which during the Cold War carried out extensive experiments relating to EMP, has actively contemplated its use on a number of occasions since the Soviet collapse. China, too, is investing in EMP weapons as part of its “assassin’s mace,” an asymmetric military arsenal through which Beijing seeks to challenge US primacy in the Asia-Pacific region. North Korea, for its part, is believed to have tested a “super-EMP” weapon powerful enough to create massive disruption in the continental United States back in 2009. Iran, which carried out EMP-related ballistic-missile tests in the Caspian Sea in the late 1990s, has since publicly explored the possibility of using such a capability against America.
The United States, meanwhile, is only marginally closer to remedying its vulnerability to EMP than it was in 2004. The George W. Bush administration did not take decisive action to systematically harden critical infrastructure and assets against electromagnetic pulse. Neither has Team Obama, which has ignored the issue as a matter of public policy almost entirely since taking office. Indeed, it has made America’s vulnerability worse because its September 2009 missile defense plan pushes off serious additional investments in technologies of the kind that could help neutralize a nuclear EMP attack on the US homeland until 2016, or significantly later.
Congress at least has attempted to do more. A number of lawmakers, notably Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, Maryland Republican, and Rep. Trent Franks, Arizona Republican, have emerged as vocal advocates of robust defense against EMP, and a legislative vehicle, the SHIELD Act, even has been crafted for it. But the SHIELD Act has languished in the House since being introduced back in February, and no fresh movement is on the horizon. Defense against electromagnetic pulse, in other words, was and remains an unfunded mandate.
To be sure, the likelihood of an EMP attack on America remains remote. Conventional terrorism, even of the large-scale variety, is considerably more likely, and a biological or chemical event is marginally more so. Yet, if an EMP incident does occur, the costs would be astronomical. Commission Chairman William Graham, a former science adviser to President Reagan, told the House Armed Services Committee in 2008 that an EMP attack had the potential to devastate the country’s electronic infrastructure to such a degree that it would no longer be capable of sustaining the country’s population. That the US government has not yet done so amounts to a serious dereliction of duty. The next US president will need to recognize this dangerous vulnerability, and move decisively to address it.
Syria Deploys Anti-sea Missiles on Coast, Scuds on Turkish Border
Dec. 17….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) Expanded Russian military and diplomatic support for the Assad regime was underscored by the deployment Friday, Dec. 16, of advanced Moscow-supplied Yakhont (SSN-26) shore-to-sea missiles along Syria's Mediterranean shore to fend off a potential Western-Turkish invasion by sea. Last week, Russia airlifted to Syria 3 million face masks against chemical and biological weapons and the Admiral Kutznetsov carrier and strike group was sent on its way to Syria's Mediterranean port of Tartus. Russian naval sources in Moscow stressed that the flotilla is armed with the most advanced weapons against submarines and aerial attack. Upon arrival, the Russian craft will launch a major marine-air maneuver in which Syrian units will take part.
Syria has received from Russia 72 Yakhont missiles able to hit marine targets up to a distance of 300 kilometers, i.e., over the horizon, our military sources report. The missile's radar remains inert, making it hard to detect, until it is close to target. It is then switched on to guide its aim. Its high speed, 2,000 kmh, enables the Yakhont to strike before its target has time to activate self-defense systems. Thursday night, in response to the deployment of 21 Syrian Scuds on the Turkish border, including five with chemical warheads, Ankara convened its top military council and declared its armed forces ready for war. Syria also rushed armored reinforcements to the Jordanian border.
Debkafile's military and intelligence sources report that the rush of Syrian war moves backed by Russia indicates that both believe a Western-Arab force is on the point of invading Syria. They are keeping an eye especially on Turkey which is suspected of having obtained a NATO marine and air umbrella, including the US Sixth Fleet, for military preparations aimed at ousting Bashar Assad, so repeating the operation against Libya's Muammar Qaddafi. The diplomatic flurry around Syria was accentuated by US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's arrival in Ankara Friday morning to find Turkish armed forces on war preparedness, and Syrian Vice President Farouk A-Shara's landing in Moscow for a crisis conference with Russian leaders.
War tensions around Syria rose alarmingly Thursday night, Dec. 15, when Turkey's top military council convened "to review the armed forces' preparedness for war" in response to the deployment of Syrian missiles, some tipped with chemical warheads, on their common border. Debkafile's military sources report the meeting was led by Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. The Assad government also rushed armored units in two directions, to the Turkish frontier and also to the Jordanian border opposite the US special operations units from Iraq newly deployed to defend Jordan against a Syrian attack. Our sources report that 21 Syrian missile launchers, five of them Scud D with chemical warheads, are deployed in northern Syria opposite the Turkish Hatai (Alexandretta) district. They were moved up in broad daylight to make sure Western spy satellites and Turkish intelligence surveillance saw them. More are on the way. In Israel, the IDF announced it was reconstituting the special command for operations behind enemy lines under the command of Brig. Gen. Shay Avital. Before the military council convened in Ankara, Turkey placed its border contingents, air force and navy on war preparedness. The official statement said the high military council had "assessed Turkish army needs and necessary steps to address these requirements." The Turkish press repeated a statement by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in an interview two weeks ago that Turkey does not want to consider a military option for intervention in neighboring Syria as Damascus cracks down on popular protest, but it is ready for any scenario. The Turkish army has prepared operational plans for seizing parts of northern Syria if the situation there continues to deteriorate. Those plans would essentially carve Syria into two entities, with the Turkish army holding the north and protecting opposition and civilian populations, while the Syrian army and Assad loyalists would remain in control of the central and southern regions.
China Would Defend Iran Even if its Means WW III
Dec. 16….(Press TV) Major General Zhang Zhaozhong said, "China will not hesitate to protect Iran even with a third World War." The United States and Israel have repeatedly threatened Tehran with the "option" of a military strike, based on the allegation that Iran's nuclear program may consist of a covert military agenda. Iran has refuted the allegations, saying that as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the IAEA, it has the right to develop and acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Over the past weeks, Israel has renewed its aggressive rhetoric against Iran. On November 21, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned that "time has come" to deal with Iran. Israeli President Shimon Peres also threatened on November 6 that an attack against Iran is becoming "more and more likely." Iranian officials have promised a crushing response to any military strike against the country, warning that any such measure could result in a war that would spread beyond the Middle East.
Vladimir Putin Lashes out at America for Killing Gaddafi and Backing Anti- Putin Protests in Russia
(Vladimir Putin has accused his political opponents at home of trying to destabilize Russia on the West's orders and alleged that the United States killed Libyan dictator Col Muammar Gaddafi)
Dec. 16….(Telegraph) In a ferocious verbal tirade broadcast on Russian state TV that lasted more than four and a half hours, the Russian prime minister made it clear he was determined to return to the Russian presidency next year, scornfully dismissing recent demonstrations against him. "I know that students were paid some money, well, that's good if they could earn something," he said, referring to the biggest protest of its kind since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union last Saturday. Facing down the biggest challenge of his almost twelve years in power, the Russian strong man insisted that the disputed parliamentary election which triggered the protests was not flawed, rejecting calls for a re-run outright. "It properly reflected the real balance of power in the country," he said during a live televised question and answer session that has become an annual tradition. "As for the fairness or unfairness: the opposition will always say the elections were not fair. This happens everywhere, in all countries." Repeatedly accusing his domestic critics and opponents of taking money from the West to do him down, Putin claimed there was a plot to destabilize Russia by effecting a velvet revolution there. "There is a well-tested scheme to destabilize society," he said.
Scornfully recalling Ukraine's pro-Western Orange revolution in 2004, he said that anti-Kremlin opposition figures had advised Ukraine's orange movement at the time and had now brought the same technology to Russia. "Some of my critics are sincere, they must be heard and respected. The rest are pawns in the hands of foreign agents. There are people with Russian passports but who work in the interests of foreign states." Unruffled and outwardly supremely confident, he even quipped that the street protests were only possible because he tolerated freedom of expression. The fact that people are expressing their point of view about the processes occurring in the country, in the economy, in the social sphere, in politics, is an absolutely normal thing, as long as people continue acting within the law."
Determined to return to the Russian presidency next year for a controversial third time after a March 4 vote, Putin is under growing pressure to allow greater political competition and to hold a re-run of the disputed election that saw support for his ruling United Russia party tumble by fifteen percent. But the concessions he held out were relatively minor. He had already vowed to significantly reshuffle the government next year, while his spokesman had suggested he might even reinvent himself and show the world 'Putin mark two.' On Thursday, he raised the possibility of partially restoring direct elections for the country's governors, and said the Kremlin might allow genuine opposition parties to register their presidential candidates. "
But Putin showed no such leniency when it came to the United States. Last week, he dismissed criticism of the vote by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as part of US efforts to weaken Russia, and on Thursday he upped the ante by accusing US special forces of being involved in the killing of deposed Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. "Who did this?" Putin said. "Drones, including American ones. They attacked his column. Then, through the special forces, who should not have been there, they brought in the so-called opposition and fighters, and killed him without court or investigation."
Signaling that President Barack Obama's much publicised attempt to "reset" relations with Russia was now barely alive, Putin added: "Sometimes it seems to me that America does not need allies, it needs vassals. People are tired of the dictates of one country." The carefully stage-managed performance showcased Putin's charisma and his natural ability to command attention and was designed to boost his image and show he remained in control of Russia. Despite the recent outbreak of discontent, Mr Putin remains Russia's most popular politician and is expected to comfortably win next year's presidential election. "The motherland is my life," he said. "I believe in Russia."
The Truth About 'Palestine'
(Revisionist Arab narrative of Mideast conflict premised on deception rather than facts)
Dec. 16….(YNET) When it comes to the Middle East conflict, it seems the "truth" depends on who's talking. A simple explanation of the facts can go a long way to identify whose version of the "truth" is accurate. When it comes to the Arab narrative and the name "Palestine," and "Palestinians," there's more than enough "truth" that can be proven to be untrue. For example, if you ask what and where is "Palestine," virtually every enemy of Israel, including Mahmoud Abbas, will tell you it includes the entire land area which the rest of the world calls Israel. In fact, "Palestine" refers to a coastal section of land in the area of today's Gaza Strip that was inhabited by the ancient Philistines who were not native to Israel or the region. Most scholars believe they migrated from Greece or Crete. The ancient Philistines were enemies of Israel. The biblical giant Goliath, whom King David slew, was a Philistine.
The name "Palestine" is from the Latin name "Philistia." It came to be known as such after the unsuccessful Jewish revolt led by Bar Kochba in 135 AD. Then Roman Emperor Hadrian, in an effort to wipe out any symbols of Jewish presence, renamed the Kingdom of Judea Philistia He did this specifically to insult the Jews, since the Philistines were their enemies. For the record, there isn’t, nor has there ever been a sovereign nation called Palestine.
Truth about Palestine routinely sacrificed
As recently as the Six-Day War there were no specific people known as "Palestinians." Walid Shoebat, a former Muslim terrorist who at that time lived in the area that became known as the "West Bank," (another invented term) said "how can I go to bed as a Jordanian one day, and wake up the next day as a Palestinian?" He is referring to the day before and the day after the start of the Six-Day War. So where does the name "Palestinian" come from? Many will tell you the champion of this remaking of the Arab image is the late Yasser Arafat. He founded the "Palestine" Liberation Organization PLO in 1964 and began using the term "Palestinian" in order to legitimize his effort to portray the "displaced" Arabs from the 1948 War of Independence as unique with an ethnicity and culture of their own. His effort was motivated by the intentional refusal of surrounding Arab countries to absorb them. It is these people who eventually became known as "Palestinian refugees."
Another reason for inventing the term is well described by then-PLO Executive Committee member Zahir Muhsein. In a 1977 interview, he said: "The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality there is no difference between Jordanians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for our political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since the Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct ‘Palestinian people,’ to oppose Zionism.”
So when somebody like US presidential candidate Newt Gingrich says the Palestinians are an "invented people," it seems clear he is basing his comment on facts that ironically are supported by the "Palestinians" themselves. Not surprisingly, he has been attacked for speaking the truth, especially by the Arab world. However, other Republican presidential hopefuls also attacked him. Why?
It seems the Middle East conflict is an environment where "truth" is routinely sacrificed in the name of diplomacy. It seems diplomacy has simply given the Arabs the opportunity to continue reinventing the "truth" in order to maintain their agenda of hatred and de-legitimization of Israel.
Muslims in Uproar Over Temple Mount Bridge for non-Muslims
Dec. 15….(Israel Today) The Muslim world this week clearly demonstrated the extremist nature of its conflict with Israel by working itself into a frenzy over an Israeli decision to either repair or replace a bridge to Jerusalem's Temple Mount that wasn't even used by Muslims. While Muslims have several other Temple Mount entrances at their disposal, the Rambam Bridge, also known as the Mughrabi Bridge, adjacent to the Western Wall Plaza was the only entrance to the holy site for Jews and tourists. A stone bridge built centuries ago allowed access to the Temple Mount until a 2004 snowstorm caused it to collapse. Israel replaced the stone bridge with a wooden structure that Jerusalem engineers recently condemned as unsafe.
What should have been a simple municipal project became an international incident when Jordan's King Abdullah II, whom Israel permits to remain custodian of Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem, warned Israel to keep its hands off the bridge, the temporary wooden bridge that Israel built to replace the original stone structure. Yes, the situation is that ridiculous. Taking their cue from Abdullah, Muslims across the region accused Israel of waging a holy war against Islam. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) asserted that Israel's plans for the bridge "constitute a war crime according to international humanitarian law." Fixing an old bridge, or replacing it with a safer bridge is now a war crime, if Israel's antagonists are to be believed.
Ah, but the Muslims appear to be playing a clever game. Long has the Islamic Waqf that oversees the Temple Mount desired to remove the stain of Jews and Christians from what they consider to be Islam's third holiest site (never mind that the Temple Mount is the holiest site anywhere for Jews). For decades already, Jews and Christians have been forbidden to pray atop the Temple Mount or to bring a Bible on the premises. With the current bridge deemed unsafe, the Muslims see an opportunity to push Jews and Christians out altogether.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has ordered that the current wooden bridge be closed indefinitely as it presents a public hazard. The bridge was temporarily reopened on Wednesday under heavy political pressure, but that may not last. But, unlike the Muslims, Barkat doesn't want the Temple Mount off-limits to Jews and Christians. Quite the opposite. But he wants the current wooden bridge replaced with a more permanent structure, and Barkat attacked the Netanyahu government over its inability to face down Muslim threats and do what needs to be done. "The government's helplessness in dealing with this hazardous and dilapidated nuisance at the heart of the Western Wall and entrance to Temple Mount is regrettable," Barkat said in a statement. Indeed, the government appears to have surrendered to Muslim insistence that Israel has no right to touch the Temple Mount, a position that will only make future negotiations over the holy site more difficult for Israel. And the Muslims are certainly aware of this. They know that by keeping up the pressure and the threat of a regional explosion (again, over a simple bridge), that Israel's claims to the Temple Mount will be further diminished and Muslims worshippers will no longer have to deal with those pesky Jews and Christians in their midst.
Iran Propositions Saudis With anti-US Pact, Nuclear Cooperation
Dec. 15….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) A large Iranian delegation led by Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi visited Riyadh Monday, Dec. 12 and put a proposition before Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz: Why not bury the Saudi royal house's historic feud with the ayatollahs of Tehran and form an anti-US and anti-Zionist pact for leading the Middle East? The Iranians boasted that after the seizure of America's top secret drone technology by a successful cyber attack they must now be accepted as the superpower of the region.
Prince Nayef agreed to receive the delegation following a request from the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Moslehi is one of his closest advisers and a leading antagonist of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who was not told about the visit. Debkafile's Iranian sources report that the Iranians pushed hard for a partnership with the Saudis on such issues as oil, Iraqi, Syria, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Yemen, on most of which Tehran and Riyadh are in direct collision. Saudi Arabia spearheads the Persian Gulf emirates' campaign to establish a bloc of Sunni Arab kings and rulers to fight off Iranian expansion and the influence of the Shiite Hizballah and Syria. The visitors to Riyadh pointed out that a Saudi-Iranian axis in the region would be strong enough to freeze out American and Turkish meddling in the Arab Revolt. It would draw its strength from the combination of Iranian military, intelligence and nuclear capabilities on the one hand and Saudi power and wealth on the other. For the sake of this pact, Moslehi said, Tehran was willing to share its nuclear program with Riyadh.
The Moslehi delegation represented high-ranking Iranian military and intelligence chiefs, while Prince Nayef was attended by the heads of Saudi intelligence services, including Director of General Intelligence Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz. *The two figures conspicuously absent were the top men orchestrating the Arab Revolt and Iraq from opposite sides of the table: Saudi National Security Adviser Prince Bandar bin Sultan and commander of the Iranian Al Qods Brigades, Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Bandar heads the apparatus funneling weapons, money and fighters to the Syrian opposition fighting President Bashar Assad, Tehran's senior ally, while Soleimani leads the counter-campaign for keeping the Assad regime extant.
Nevertheless, the Iranian visitor is reported by debkafile’s sources as explaining to his Saudi hosts that an understanding between them had been reached before and could be reached again. He referred to the May 2008 agreement on Lebanon known as the "Doha Accord," under which Iran, the Persian Gulf states and Syria agreed that the Lebanese crisis would end without winners and losers but with a power-sharing arrangement granting representation to all the country's adversarial forces, including Hizballah. Tehran saw no reason why the same principle could not be applied to the Syrian crisis. The bloodshed and the horrors of civil war could be saved by bringing the opposition factions into the Damascus government.
In return for these understandings, Moslehi proposed an Iranian-Saudi deal for the future of Iraq following the American withdrawal. Iran, he said, was willing to guarantee the rights of Iraq's Sunni community and their participation in Nouri al-Maliki’s government in Baghdad. Turning to the nuclear issue, Debkafile’s military sources report the Iranian intelligence minister maintained that Tehran and Riyadh needn’t be rivals or develop separate nuclear programs, as proposed last week by Saudi Arabia's former intelligence chief, Prince Turki al-Faisal. Turki said that if Iran continued with its weapons of mass destruction program, the Persian Gulf states (including Saudi Arabia) would have no choice but to develop their own. Tehran, said Moslehi, was ready to open up its nuclear program, like its space program, to Saudi participation.
Our sources report that Crown Prince Nayef promised to bring the Iranian proposals before the king and senior princes and have an answer soon. But Riyadh was ready sooner than expected with a response. Before even addressing their overture, Nayef acted to take the Iranians down a peg or two from their self-appointed military and intelligence superpower status. In a broadcast Tuesday, the day after the Iranian visit, the Saudi television network Al Arabiya attributed the explosion at the Moadarress Iranian missile base in the Malard region west of Tehran on Saturday, December 10, to an assassination plot against Ayatollah Khamenei. Khamenei’s son Mojtaba and senior Revolutionary Guard officers were described in the broadcast as having been detained and questioned in connection with the plot.
Drone Incident Highlights US Efforts Against Iran
Dec. 13….(Global Security Network) The recent crash of a US spy drone inside Iran offers a glimpse at the growing secret effort by Washington to curb the nuclear program of its longtime foe, the Associated Press reported on Saturday. picture released by Iran of what is said to be a downed US RQ-170 Sentinel surveillance drone. The capture of the vehicle sheds light on growing covert efforts by the United States to derail Iran's nuclear program
Iran last week released video footage of what it says is an intact unmanned aerial vehicle shot down within its territory. US officials have said equipment failure was more likely to have caused the crash. Observers have expressed little surprise that the drone would be part of US covert activities against the Middle Eastern state. Tehran has previously claimed that Washington was behind computer-based strikes against Iran, along with bomb attacks that killed two nuclear scientists and injured another. Washington has countered that Iran has played a hand in the death of US military personnel in Afghanistan and tried to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States. "It's beginning to look like there's a thinly veiled, increasingly violent, global cloak-and-dagger game afoot," American Enterprise Institute military specialist Thomas Donnelly said at a recent event in Washington. Clandestine activities in the nuclear impasse are "much bigger than people appreciate," said former national security adviser Stephen Hadley. "But the US needs to be using everything it can."
Washington and partner nations believe that Iran's atomic activities, particularly its uranium enrichment program, are aimed at giving the nation a nuclear-weapon capability. Tehran says its nuclear effort has no weapons component. The standoff "will only get nastier" if Iran continues to shrug off UN calls to halt contested atomic activities, Hadley said. The UN Security Council has issued four sanctions resolutions against Iran, which have been bolstered by punitive measures from the United States and other governments. Iran itself issued a letter of complaint to the United Nations regarding Washington's "provocative and covert" drone operations An Iranian lawmaker said specialists had nearly finished collecting information from the drone, which would be employed in a civil legal case against the United States, AP reported. Parviz Sorouri, a member of the Iranian parliament's national security and foreign policy panel, also said the nation could produce its own version of the drone through studying the US aircraft. Studying the drone technology, which is believed to include systems for watching over nuclear facilities, could help Iran learn how to better mask its atomic sites, analysts told AP. Iran also said it would hold onto the US aircraft, AP reported on Sunday. "No one returns the symbol of aggression to the party that sought secret and vital intelligence related to the national security of a country," said Gen. Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, who also threatened an unspecified "bigger" reaction to the incident.
Meanwhile, Sorouri also warned on Monday that his nation was planning an exercise on shutting off passage through the Strait of Hormuz, Reuters reported. "Soon we will hold a military maneuver on how to close the Strait of Hormuz," he told the Iranian Students' News Agency. "If the world wants to make the region insecure, we will make the world insecure." Roughly 33 percent of ship-carried oil made its way through the strait in 2009, the US Energy Information Administration said. The United States deploys naval ships to the sector to counter potential threats to shipping vessels. The Iranian armed forces offered no response to the lawmaker's statement.
Heads of European Union nations on Friday urged the bloc to institute additional punitive measures against Iran before February. Tehran said, though, it did not expect new measures to include oil penalties sought by France, Germany and the United Kingdom, Reuters reported. "Our policy is sustainable supply of oil to Europe. Iran is a major oil producer and any sanctions on our oil export would harm the global market," Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi said to reporters. "We would have no problem to find a replacement for the EU oil market," he added.
Oil money supports 40 percent of the Iranian economy, according to Reuters. Despite the call from the three European powers, nations such as Greece have worried about the effect of an oil embargo given their current high use of Iranian supply. "When they (EU) have so many differences among themselves then they should know the unity they have is only superficial," according to Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi .
The US House of Representatives this week is also scheduled to consider new punitive measures against Iran, Agence France-Presse reported. One piece of legislation would sanction nations and private firms that have financial stakes in Iran's energy operations, provide the Middle Eastern state with gasoline, or support Iranian efforts to produce biological, chemical and nuclear weapons or sophisticated conventional weaponry. Another bill would hit countries or companies linked to Iranian, North Korean or Syrian WMD efforts. Russia is a particular focus of the legislation, which would prohibit "extraordinary payments" related to the International Space Station until the White House formally proves that Moscow is against production of unconventional arms or missiles by the three targeted nations. Proof would also be required that Iran, North Korea and Syria in the last year have not received any equipment or support for any WMD efforts from Russia's space service.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned on Sunday that a growing nuclear threat from Iran demands the use of widespread sanctions against Tehran, including on the Central Bank of Iran, Reuters reported. "This regime in Iran, the ayatollahs, they will be not be there I believe in 10 or 15 years. It is against the nature of the Iranian people and what happens all around the world," Barak said. "But if they turn nuclear they might assure another layer of immunity, political immunity for the regime in the same way that Kim Jong Il assured his," Barak said, in reference to North Korea's nuclear-weapon efforts. There has been increasing speculation that Israel might use armed force to derail Iran's nuclear program. Barak said, though, that there was still "time for urgent, coherent, paralyzing" sanctions against the Iranian oil and financial sectors.
The Obama Administration has battled against current US legislative efforts to punish entities that do business with the Iranian central bank, warning that such a move could harm the global economy if not conducted in tandem with Washington's global partners.
The Year the Arabs Discovered Palestine
Dec. 13….(Daniel Pipes) On October 1, 1948, the mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Husseini, stood before the Palestine National Council in Gaza and declared the existence of an All-Palestine Government. In theory, this state already ruled Gaza and would soon control all of Palestine. Accordingly, it was born with a full complement of ministers to lofty proclamations of Palestine's free, democratic, and sovereign nature. But the whole thing was a sham. Gaza was run by the Egyptian government, the ministers had nothing to oversee, and the All-Palestine Government never expanded anywhere. Instead, this facade quickly withered away.
Almost exactly forty years later, on November 15, 1988, a Palestinian state was again proclaimed, again at a meeting of the Palestine National Council. This time, Yasser Arafat called it into being. In some ways, this state was even more futile than the first, being proclaimed in Algiers, almost 3,000 kilometers and four borders away from Palestine, and controlling not a centimeter of the territory it claimed. Although the Algiers declaration received enormous attention at the time, a dozen years later it is nearly as forgotten as the Gazan declaration that preceded it. In other words, today's declaration of a Palestinian state would have retreaded some well-worn ground. We do not know what today's statement would have said, but like the 1988 document it probably would have claimed that "the Palestinian Arab people forged its national identity" in distant antiquity.
In fact, the Palestinian identity goes back, not to antiquity, but precisely to 1920. No "Palestinian Arab people" existed at the start of 1920 but by December it took shape in a form recognizably similar to today's. Until the late nineteenth century, residents living in the region between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean identified themselves primarily in terms of religion: Moslems felt far stronger bonds with remote co-religionists than with nearby Christians and Jews. Living in that area did not imply any sense of common political purpose. Then came the ideology of nationalism from Europe; its ideal of a government that embodies the spirit of its people was alien but appealing to Middle Easterners. How to apply this ideal, though? Who constitutes a nation and where must the boundaries be? These questions stimulated huge debates. Some said the residents of the Levant are a nation; others said Eastern Arabic speakers; or all Arabic speakers; or all Moslems.
But no one suggested "Palestinians," and for good reason. Palestine, then a secular way of saying Eretz Yisra'el or Terra Sancta, embodied a purely Jewish and Christian concept, one utterly foreign to Moslems, even repugnant to them. This distaste was confirmed in April 1920, when the British occupying force carved out a "Palestine." Moslems reacted very suspiciously, rightly seeing this designation as a victory for Zionism. Less accurately, they worried about it signaling a revival in the Crusader impulse. No prominent Moslem voices endorsed the delineation of Palestine in 1920; all protested it.
Instead, Moslems west of the Jordan directed their allegiance to Damascus, where the great-great-uncle of Jordan's King Abdullah II was then ruling; they identified themselves as Southern Syrians. Interestingly, no one advocated this affiliation more emphatically than a young man named Amin Husseini. In July 1920, however, the French overthrew this Hashemite king, in the process killing the notion of a Southern Syria. Isolated by the events of April and July, the Moslems of Palestine made the best of a bad situation. One prominent Jerusalemite commented, just days following the fall of the Hashemite kingdom: "after the recent events in Damascus, we have to effect a complete change in our plans here. Southern Syria no longer exists. We must defend Palestine."
Following this advice, the leadership in December 1920 adopted the goal of establishing an independent Palestinian state. Within a few years, this effort was led by Husseini. Other identities, Syrian, Arab, and Moslem, continued to compete for decades afterward with the Palestinian one, but the latter has by now mostly swept the others aside and reigns nearly supreme. That said, the fact that this identity is of such recent and expedient origins suggests that the Palestinian primacy is superficially rooted and that it could eventually come to an end, perhaps as quickly as it got started
Israel: Obama Too Soft on Iran
(Top government officials laud France, UK, but tell Ynet White House policy with regards to Iranian nuclear program 'hesitant')
Dec. 13….(YNET) Senior Israeli officials expressed their disappointment with US President Barack Obama's policy on Iran. "The administration is still not acting in full force to impose significant sanctions against Tehran," one of the officials told Ynet Sunday night. On the other hand, officials in Jerusalem lauded French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron. "France and the UK have begun to act determinedly, while Obama's administration has yet to formulate a policy that is sufficiently severe," another official said. "While the House of Representatives and the Senate are promoting (anti-Iran) legislation, the White House is operating according to an ideology which could be defined as 'hesitant.' The Iranian issue calls for a clear stance, but the administration has yet to take the necessary measures to significantly hurt the ayatollahs' regime."
US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro told reporters Thursday Israel and the US enjoy close bilateral cooperation on the threat of a nuclear Iran. "There is no issue that we coordinate more closely on than Iran," Shapiro told reporters in Tel Aviv. "A nuclear Iran, he added, is "a real threat to Israeli security, ours and our allies', and that is why we are determined to prevent this from happening." But officials in Jerusalem are not satisfied with Obama's policy on Iran. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said during a recent interview that the international community must impose harsher sanctions against the Islamic Republic in order to incapacitate the Iranian regime and force it to suspend its nuclear program.
Iran, Hezbollah Tentacles Reaching Latin America
Dec. 13….(CBN) Prior to 9/11, no terrorist group had killed more Americans than Hezbollah. Like its patron, Iran, Hezbollah is committed to America's destruction. Now the two jihadist forces are spreading their tentacles throughout Latin America and, according to experts, could go operational at a moment's notice.
For more than two centuries, the United States has served as guardian of the Western hemisphere. That role only expanded with the Cuban missile crisis and the spread of Soviet communism into Latin America. Iran and Hezbollah represent a new threat in America's backyard. "Over the last 10 years, we have seen a very concerted effort to expand," former Bush administration official Jose Cardenas said. "They are using mosques in Argentina and all the way up through the continent to proselytize, to identify disaffected Latin youth, to recruit, to convert," he said. Cardenas, an associate for Vision Americas, told CBN News that Iran and Hezbollah have established a vast network throughout Latin America. "The whole objective of this strategy is not only to expand their reach but also to undermine the United States' interests in the region, developing assets, developing intelligence, so that when an order comes to go operational, it is almost instantaneous that they can," he explained.
Iran's Latin Hub
Venezuela is Iran's main hub in Latin America. Prior to 2005, Iran's investment in the South American country was zero. Yet in the past six years alone, Iran and Venezuela have conducted over $40 billion in trade, as Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez has embraced the Iranians with open arms. "They have identified each other as mutually useful, beneficial partners," Cardenas said. "And so, as Iran has attempted to evade international sanctions, Hugo Chavez has invited them in to basically establish a platform that allows Iran to use the Venezuelan banking system, from which they're prohibited from using elsewhere, in the international economic system," he explained. Cardenas said the Iranians are using Venezuela not only to evade sanctions, but also to mine for uranium that will be used to build nuclear weapons. There have also been reports that Iran plans to build a missile base in Venezuela. "These missiles would obviously be able to hit urban centers in Florida," Cardenas warned. "They would also be able to debilitate the Panama Canal." "And if they debilitate the Panama Canal, that would have profound economic consequences for the United States," he added. Cardenas believes that in the event of a US or Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, Iran is well-positioned to strike back. "If the US cold war with Iran turns hot, they're going to use their platform in Venezuela to strike at US interests" he said.
Hezbollah Targets 'Tri-Border'
Wherever Iran goes, its terrorist proxy, Hezbollah, is never far behind. That includes Latin America. "Iran has traditionally used Hezbollah as a unit to conduct their dirty work," Cardenas said. Hezbollah has maintained a presence in the notorious "tri-border" region of South America for three decades. The group used this lawless area, located where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet, as a launching pad to attack a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires and the Israeli embassy in Argentina during the early 1990s. Hundreds of people were killed in those attacks. Hezbollah set up shop in the tri-border region because of its large population of Arab expatriates. It's used the same strategy on Margarita Island, off the coast of Venezuela. "We know that in April of this year, there were a couple of Iranian Hezbollah trainers that did training on Margarita Island for operatives who were brought to that place from throughout Latin America," said Roger Noriega, a visiting fellow with the American Enterprise Institute. Noriega, a former State Department official, told CBN News that Hezbollah uses Latin America for training, fundraising, and much more. A recent Italian media report said the group has even established a cell in Cuba. "There's a network of mosques and Islamic centers throughout Latin America that are part of this network," Noriega said. "They recruit through them, they process people through them." The most promising recruits, including Latin American converts to Islam, are sent back to the Iranian holy city of Qom for training. "Conventional wisdom is 'It's all religious training.' But no: they learn terrorist techniques, explosives, bomb-making and arms training," Noriega said.
Mexican Drug Cartels
US law enforcement officials fear Hezbollah is sharing some of those same techniques with Mexican drug cartels along America's southern border. Mexican authorities arrested a Hezbollah operative last year for attempting to establish a large network in Mexico. "You've got narco-drug cartel tunnels underneath the southern border that resemble what you find in southern Lebanon that are built by Hezbollah," Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-SC, told CBN News. Duncan said those tunnels, combined with the recent use of sophisticated improvised explosive devices by the cartels, point to a possible Hezbollah influence. "There is a strong connection between Iran, Hezbollah, and the Mexican drug cartel, basically wanting to maximize the fact that we've got a porous southern border," he said. Those connections nearly became deadly in October, when US authorities uncovered an Iranian plot to use Mexican cartels to target the Israeli and Saudi embassies in Washington, DC On the heels of that plot, Duncan proposed legislation that would make the Western hemisphere a US counter-terrorism focus, specifically the activities of Iran and Hezbollah, whose influence in the region continues to grow. In the past five years alone, Iran has opened new embassies in six different Latin American countries.
Muslim Brotherhood Has Taken Over Egypt
Dec. 13….(Israel Today) The Muslim Brotherhood's exploitation of Egypt's pro-democracy revolution is nearly complete, leading Egyptian liberals complained to one of Egypt's top newspapers on Sunday. Members of various secular parties told Al-Masry Al-Youm that Egypt's temporary ruling military regime has now allied itself with the Muslim Brotherhood after the Islamist group scored a big victory in the first round of voting for Egypt's parliament. Estimates are that the Muslim Brotherhood won control of 40 percent of the parliament when voters from Egypt's largest districts went to the polls earlier this month. Other Islamist groups allied with the Brotherhood won another 20 percent of the vote, while various secular and liberal parties combined took the remaining 40 percent. With those results in hand, the ruling military council is allowing the Muslim Brotherhood to control the writing of Egypt's new constitution, Mohammed Abul Ghar, leader of the Egyptian Democratic Party, told the newspaper. "The council has ignored calls by the majority for a balanced civil constitution that protects the country's future," said Abul Ghar. "The military council is now weaker than the Brotherhood." Abul Ghar said that because of the way things are going, he refused to even sit on the advisory committee that will supposedly be in charge of writing the new constitution. Other liberal leaders say they weren't even invited to take part.
In possibly related news, The Jerusalem Post claimed on Sunday that Hamas had established missile production facilities in the Egyptian Sinai in order to protect its arsenal from Israeli air strikes. Hamas was birthed from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and the two groups share an ideology concerning Israel and future Islamic domination of not only the Middle East, but the whole world. An Egyptian military official later denied that Hamas had been allowed to operate in an organized manner in Sinai, but many of this year's Hamas attacks on southern Israel have emanated or been facilitated from Sinai.
Iran Practices Strait of Hormuz Closure while Decoding US Drone Secrets
Dec. 13….(DEBKAfile Special Report) Bigheaded from capturing the US stealth RQ-170 Sentinel drone, Tehran Monday, Dec. 12 announced plans to conduct a navy drill son for practicing the closure of the Strait of Hormuz, the most important oil transit channel in the world for 40 percent of its fuel. Iranian lawmaker Parviz Sorouri, member of the Majlis national security committee, who announced the drill said, "Iran will make the world unsafe if the world attacks Iran." On Dec. 12, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called Iran "a very grave threat to all of us" and warned that any Iranian disruption of the free flow of commerce through the Persian Gulf "is a red line" for the United Sates. Tehran's announcement of a navy drill in Hormuz augments the Syrian ruler Bashar Assad's mantra since his people rose up against him nine months ago, that an attack on his regime would start a regional blaze. The Iranian lawmaker spoke at length about how his government planned to use the military and intelligence software mined from the top-secret US UAV on Dec. 4. He said Iranian engineers and technicians were "in the final stages of "cracking" the drone's secret technology, although he did not say when this research would be complete. "Our next action will be to reverse-engineer the aircraft," he said and boasted: "In the near future will be able to mass produce it. Iranian engineers will soon build an aircraft superior to the American one." This data would also be used, the Iranian lawmaker said, in a lawsuit against the United State for the "invasion" by the unmanned aircraft. Sorouri did not say where the lawsuit would be filed but Tehran is thought to be preparing an complaint to the international war crimes court at the Hague.
Debkafile's Iranian and military sources note that the linkage Sorouri made between the capture of the RQ-170 and the naval drill in the Strait of Hormuz was intended to inform Washington that Tehran in possession of the drone no longer fears the ability of the naval air carriers the US has deployed in the Persian Gulf to prevent its closure of the strategic waterway. In the last six months, Adm. Habibollah Sayyari has emphasized more than once that the Iranian Navy which he commands is master of the Persian Gulf and dominates the Strait of Hormuz. After trapping the American stealth drone, Iran is mounting a challenge to the warning issued by Panetta and testing the resolve of Washington and the Saudi-led Gulf Arab region to contest the Hormuz drill. Mere verbal protest will not serve. It will just leave Tehran crowing over its possession of the US drone as the key to the military and intelligence mastery of the Persian Gulf waters and the ability to make US back down. However a real threat by the US and Gulf oil powers to stop the drill by force will send regional tensions shooting up. In the meantime, Saeed Jalili, head of Iran's National Security Council has arrived in Moscow to clinch a deal for the transfer of drone secrets to Russia in return for nuclear technology and sophisticated military hardware.
Hard Choices for Hamas With the Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood
Dec. 12….(Pinhas Inbari / Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
* Hamas is abandoning the sinking ship of Syria and many senior cadres have already settled in Gaza. At the same time, Iran has cut its subsidy to Hamas.
* Not only is there a need to find new accommodations for Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal and company, but there is also a political price: the need to decrease terror and transform itself from a pro-Iranian/Syrian "muqawama" (resistance) movement into a typical political party of the Muslim Brotherhood-type that are now in the process of taking control in the Arab world.
* The Hamas leadership in Gaza prefers engagement with Cairo because the prospects of Muslim Brotherhood dominance are much more advanced in Egypt and the close vicinity to Gaza is promising for an eventual joining of forces to advance to the restoration of the worldwide Islamic Caliphate.
* The problem is that both the Egyptian military and the Muslim Brotherhood cannot accept it as a militant movement that threatens the precarious security situation in Egypt and the delicate balance the Brotherhood wants to establish with the military in Cairo. It is not that the Brotherhood doesn't care whether Hamas continues to be a "resistance" movement - to the contrary - but as long as they don't do it from Cairo.
* So what can Hamas do? Abandoning the "resistance" is a non-starter; conducting resistance from Gaza is possible, but the leadership is not sure if they can sustain another Israeli blow of the scope of Israel's 2009 operation. They may aspire to move the "resistance" to the West Bank - and this is exactly what they are currently trying to do - but here they face the IDF.
In December 2011, reports from several directions converged to suggest that Hamas is abandoning the sinking ship of Syria: that many senior cadres have already settled in Gaza and only the upper echelon of leadership that bears symbolic meaning still remains in Damascus. By and large those reports are correct. At the same time, Iran has cut its subsidy to Hamas, which now relies mostly on revenues from commerce through the smuggling tunnels, which can hardly support the Gazan economy. These new developments caught Hamas unprepared. Not only is there a need to find new accommodations for Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal and company, but there is also a political price: the need to decrease terror and transform itself from a pro-Iranian/Syrian "muqawama" movement into a typical political party of the Muslim Brotherhood-type that are now in the process of taking control in the Arab world. In other words, to undo Sheikh Ahmed Yassin's old decision to turn the political/social Muslim Brotherhood group that operated in Gaza until the eve of the First Intifada into a military group, despite the objection of the Muslim Brotherhood leadership in Cairo.
As far as the Hamas leadership in Gaza is concerned, of all the options available, they prefer engagement with Cairo because the prospects of Muslim Brotherhood dominance are much more advanced in Egypt and the close vicinity to Gaza is promising for an eventual joining of forces to advance to the restoration of the worldwide Islamic Caliphate. The problem faced by Hamas is that both the Egyptian military and the Muslim Brotherhood cannot accept it as a militant movement that threatens the precarious security situation in Egypt and the delicate balance the Brotherhood wants to establish with the military in Cairo. It is not that the Brotherhood doesn't care whether Hamas continues to be a "resistance" movement, to the contrary, but as long as they don't do it from Cairo.
The same applies to Jordan. The new prime minister of Jordan, Judge Awn Khasawneh, made it clear that he was interested in opening a new page with Hamas and that the old decision to shut down its offices in Amman was a mistake. There are frequent reports that Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal is about to pay a visit to King Abdullah II in the royal palace, yet no date for the visit has been announced. For Hamas to open a bureau in Cairo, what is needed is a clear-cut and reliable commitment that "resistance" business will not be planned and directed from there. For re-opening a Hamas office in Amman, besides the same commitments, there are further complications that are related to inter-Arab disputes.
The declared policy of Jordanian Prime Minister Khasawneh, as well as the elections in Morocco that brought to power the Justice and Development Party, which is a Muslim Brotherhood party, was not approved in Riyadh, where the Saudis have taken a firm position against the Brotherhood.4 As a result, the price that Jordan might pay for hosting Hamas could be the denial of its joining the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which might inflict a blow to Jordan's economy. The same applies to Morocco, especially now after the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Tunisia, Rashid al-Ghannouchi, threatened that all the monarchies in the Middle East are not immune from collapse. While Salafist Saudi Arabia is taking a firmer position against the Muslim Brotherhood, its tiny neighbor, the Emirate of Qatar, is championing the Brotherhood's spread across the Middle East. The widening gaps inside the GCC are adversely affecting Hamas' prospects to be re-installed in Amman, since the main go-between is Qatar which insists on having a senior member of the emir's family accompany Mashaal on his scheduled visit to the royal palace in Amman. Not only is Saudi Arabia angry at Qatar's policy of promoting the Muslim Brotherhood, Iran and Syria are even more so. The presence of high-ranking Qataris accompanying Mashaal can only mean a complete divorce between Hamas, on the one hand, and Syria and Iran, on the other. This Hamas cannot afford, and all sides have personal knowledge of how Iran can be cruel as a spoiler. So what can Hamas do? Abandoning the "resistance" is a non-starter; conducting resistance from Gaza is possible, but the leadership is not sure if they can sustain another Israeli blow of the scope of Israel's 2009 operation. They may aspire to move the "resistance" to the West Bank, and this is exactly what they are currently trying to do - but here they face the IDF.
The bottom line: The advent of Muslim Brotherhood government across the Middle East and especially in Egypt is good news for Hamas. But on the other hand, they are about to lose their safe haven in Damascus. In order to share in the Muslim Brotherhood success and relocate to Cairo or Amman, they have to leave behind their "resistance" spirit, at least for now, and that they cannot do. At the same time, they cannot re-open the Gaza front and their preferred option is to move the "resistance" to the West Bank - where they find the IDF.
Netanyahu Establishes PM Bible Class
Dec. 12….(Israel Today) Taking a page out of David Ben-Gurion and Menachem Begin’s playbook, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will begin hosting a regular Bible study group in his official residence for researchers, public officials and invited guests. Netanyahu announced the establishment of the study circle on Friday at a ceremony marking 30 days since the passing of his father-in-law, Shmuel Ben-Artzi. The study group will be named after Ben-Artzi, a noted poet and Bible teacher. Both Ben-Gurion and Begin, when they each served as prime minister, hosted regular Bible study groups.
Netanyahu said he was establishing the class to perpetuate love of the Bible. Last Sunday, at a ceremony in Sde Boker marking the 38th anniversary of Ben-Gurion’s death, Netanyahu recalled the first premier’s Bible study class, saying that his father-in-law used to attend. “Ben-Gurion understood that the Book of Books is our mandate for our country, as he said in that same unforgettable statement before the Peel Commission in 1936,” Netanyahu said. “He viewed the Bible as the wondrous story of the Jewish people, the unique spiritual, cultural and historic heritage of our people, and also as one of the cornerstones of all of human culture.”
Nuclear Knowledge, S300 are Iran's Price for Russian, Chinese Access to US Drone
Dec. 12….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis) Iran is driving a hard bargain for granting access to the US stealth drone RQ-170 it captured undamaged last week, as Russian and Chinese military intelligence teams arriving in Tehran for a look at the secret aircraft soon found. Debkafile's Moscow sources disclose that the price set by Revolutionary Guards commander Gen. Ali Jaafari includes advanced nuclear and missile technology, especially systems using solid fuel, the last word on centrifuges for enriching uranium and the S-300PMU-1 air defense system, which Moscow has consistently refused to sell Tehran. This super-weapon is effective against stealth warplanes and cruise missiles and therefore capable of seriously impairing any large-scale US or Israeli air or missile attacks on Iran's nuclear sites. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sent Russian-speaking Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to Moscow on Dec. 7 to try and dissuade Prime Minister Vladimir Putin from letting Iran have the S-300 batteries as payment for access to the captured US drone. Sources in Washington report that before sending Lieberman to Moscow, Netanyahu first checked with the White House at the highest levels. Although he had his hands full with stormy demonstrations in Moscow protesting alleged election fraud, Putin received Lieberman at the Kremlin. But the interview was short. The Russian Prime Minister refused to discuss the episode with his Israeli guest or even confirm that Moscow was engaged in any deal with Tehran.
In answer to reporters' questions, Lieberman commented: "Russia's positions on the Middle East were not helpful." American efforts to reach President Dmitry Medvedev and Putin on the drone deal through other channels were likewise rebuffed. Debkafile's sources report that the Israeli prime minister's decision to sent Lieberman post-haste to Moscow to intercede with Putin followed intelligence tips which indicated to Washington and Jerusalem that the Russians may have played a major role in Iran's capture of the RQ-170 on Dec. 4. They are suspected of even supplying Iran with the electronic bag of tricks for downing the US stealth drone undamaged. If that is so, it would mean Moscow is deeply involved in helping Iran repel the next and most critical stage of the cyber war that was to have been launched on the day the US UAV was brought down. Our exclusive intelligence sources add that that the RQ-170 was the first US drone of this type to enter Iranian skies. Its mission was specific.
Iran's success in determining the moment of the unmanned vehicle's entry and its success in transferring command of the drone's movements from US to Iranian control systems is an exceptional intelligence and technological feat in terms of modern electronic warfare. Western intelligence watchers keeping track of the Russian and Chinese teams in Tehran have not discovered where the negotiations stand at this time or whether the Iranians have taken on both teams at once or are bargaining with each separately to raise the bidding. Saturday, Dec. 10, the Revolutionary Guards Deputy Commander Gen. Hossein Salami, said Iran would not hand the captured drone back to the United States. He boasted: "The gap between us and the US or the Zionist regime and other developed countries is not so wide." He sounded as though the bargaining with the two visiting teams was going well.
Christians in Middle East in Eye of Storm
Dec. 12….(Barnabas Aid) Islamic factions jockeying for position from out of the ashes of the Arab Spring are posing an increased threat to Middle East Christians, an international human rights group contends. The British group Barnabas Aid says that Christians in Iran and Azerbaijan are coming under increased pressure from their governments. Barnabas Aid wrote in its December prayer alert that there is cause for concern for Iran's persecuted believers, because Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei recently urged more than 2.5 million Muslims on a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia to form "an international Islamic power bloc." The Ayatollah Khamenei told the listeners the Arab Spring was guided by Islam and said Muslims worldwide should rally to the Islamic cause. The prayer alert also said the Iranian leader called on Muslims "to make the most of the opportunity" created by the Arab Spring, as well as the anti-capitalist "Occupy" movement across the world.
International Christian Concern Middle East specialist Aidan Clay said the ayatollah's call for a power bloc may be an attempt to distract attention from Iran's domestic problems. "In the 1979 revolution, many Iranians had thought Islam was the answer," Clay explained. "However, 32 years later, Iranians have grown disillusioned, as their government has plunged them into economic stagnation and has isolated them from the international community. "This has led many Iranian youth to seek answers outside of Islam," he continued. "Thousands are now finding the hope and joy they had been longing for in the Christian faith." Clay added, however, that the climbing number of Christians in Iran is problematic for Iran's leadership. "The increasing growth of Christianity in Iran is viewed as a threat to the Iranian regime, which uses Islam to control its people," he said. "In order to maintain control, the regime continues to try to weed Christianity out of the country." Clay said this is the likely explanation for the continued persecution of prominent Iranian Christians such as Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. "In the past year, more than 130 Iranian Christians have been arrested and interrogated. A few of them remain in prison, including Behnam Irani, Mehdi Foroutan, Farshid Fathi, Noorollah Qabitizade and Youcef Nadarkhani," Clay said. Nadarkhani is the pastor who has been detained in jail for his reported conversion to Christianity. Human-rights groups say that his case is awaiting a final verdict. Center for Security Policy senior fellow Clare Lopez said the Ayatollah Khamenei's call for an Islamic power bloc fits together with the objectives of other Islamic groups and countries.
Iran's jihadist objectives are exactly the same as al-Qaida, the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey. Indeed, the Iranian leadership was among the first, most consistent and most vocal of supporters of the 'Islamic Awakening,'" Lopez said. "Notice that the Iranians don't call it the 'Arab Spring,' because the Iranians want to be the ones seen as the leaders of the jihadi movement," Lopez said. Lopez said the Iranians' desire to lead the movement may run into a barrier with Turkey. "Turkish leadership, seized with neo-Caliphate illusions, has decided on claiming that role for themselves. Moreover, the Turks are openly opposed to the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and the Alawites, which is an ally of Iran," Lopez said.
Plus, the Arab League has decided it wants Turkey to lead the next Caliphate, not a bunch of Shias who long for an Imamate and the imminent return of the 12th Imam Mahdi, together with Armageddon," Lopez said. Lopez said Iran is in a battle against the rest of the Muslim world. Iran is locked in a macro-level struggle versus the Sunni world that is lining up against it, out of pure fear, of course. The Saudis are funding it for sure, the Turks think the next Caliphate is theirs for the asking. Assad may well be on his way out, but his death throes, and Iranian/Hizballah efforts to save him, could well ignite Lebanon," Lopez said. She said Iran has another problem with the series of explosions in its nuclear facilities.
In addition to these external pressures, there is the matter of whomever it is blowing up Iranian Revolutionary Guard and nuclear weapons facilities, probably a combination of Mossad working with internal opposition," Lopez said. Lopez added the Iranian regime is not really a completely cohesive unit acting as one voice. She said there are internal "feuds." "There are the internecine feuds playing out within the Iranian regime itself: Supreme Leader versus the president, Ahmadinjad, plus various Iranian Revolutionary Guard factions and former regime factions, like those still following Moussavi, Karroubi, Rafsanjani," Lopez said. "Followers of the former presidents are still not accepting defeat and are working away at retribution and a comeback. Rising power of Jafari and Suleimani bears watching." Lopez said all of these factors add up to rough times ahead for the Iranian leaders, adding that US intelligence hasn't found a way to exploit the problems in Tehran.
Those pesky Christians
Along with the political issues, ICC's Clay said the Islamic regime in Tehran has to contend with another internal issue, a growing house-church movement. Clay said the Iranian leadership is dedicating resources to go after the underground Christians. "Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi says the house-church movement in Iran is a threat to the country's youth. If Iran's regime loses the control of its youth, which is already happening, than it also loses control of Iran's future," Clay said. "The regime has attempted to use propaganda to discredit the powerful house-church movement in Iran and to persuade youth to avoid it. However, the opposite effect is happening. Rather than fighting persecution, Iranian church leaders have accepted it and are using it to their advantage," he said. Clay added that in Iran, as in other countries, persecution isn't harming the house churches. "In fact, an Iranian pastor recently told me that the church is thriving under persecution," he said.
US intelligence failure
Rubin said US diplomats have inaccurately assessed the situation in Tehran. "While American diplomats are interpreting Iranian pragmatism as a sign that they can reach a peaceful settlement with Iran, in reality, Iranian pragmatism means that Tehran is finding new and creative ways to undermine the United States," Rubin said. Lopez agreed with Rubin, but said US difficulties are more severe than a simple matter of misperception. "It's too bad US intelligence has demonstrated how totally outclassed it is in these 'games' by actually going on record publicly to admit that all those 'CIA agents' Hizballah and Iran claimed they'd caught, and, oh yes, they really were ours! Why on earth they'd ever admit such a thing, unless they know for a fact they're all dead already, escapes me at the moment," Lopez said. He said this also spells trouble for Israel: "Israel, understandably, is moving cautiously, but cannot wait forever, as forces both north and south of its borders gather strength and sophisticated armories. Note that Russia just delivered shore-to-ship cruise missiles to Syria."
Muslim Brotherhood to 'Re-examine' Camp David Accords
(Egyptian group's chief: Much time has passed since deal signed, Israel does not abide by It)
Dec. 12….(Arutz) The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt denies a report in Israeli newspaper Yediot Acharonot, according to which the movement has reached understandings with the United States and Israel, according to which the Muslim Brotherhood "understands the importance of safeguarding the peace treaty with Israel." Yediot Acharonot reported an alleged statement by Jeffrey Feltman, Assistant US Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. Dr. Mahmoud Saad Alkatani, Director of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party, told Al Sharq al-Awsat Friday: "The report in the newspaper is completely unfounded. There have been no contacts or understandings with the American or Israeli side about the peace treaty that President Anwar Sadat signed in 1979." He remarked that his party "adheres to respecting the international agreements, as long as they fulfill the purpose that they were meant to, and believes that Parliament has the right to reevaluate any agreement. "A long time has passed since the Camp David accord was signed and like the other agreements it needs reevaluation and this is in the hands of the Parliament… Generally, Israel does not honor the agreement," he added.
Hillary to UN: No Religion Trumps 'Homosexual Rights’
Says biblical objections to homosexuality like 'justification for honor killings'
Dec. 12….(WND) In a speech designed to convince the world that "gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said religious objections to homosexuality should not stand in the way of vigorous United Nations action to promote the homosexual rights agenda. On Tuesday, Clinton said promoting the global acceptance of "gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people" is "one of the remaining human rights challenges of our time," likening the effort to ending racial, sexual, or religious discrimination.She noted that perhaps the "most challenging issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens." These objections, she said, are "not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation." She noted that perhaps the “most challenging issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens.” These objections, she said, are “not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation.”
She stated worldwide “opinions are still evolving” on homosexuality as they did with slavery, and “what was once justified as sanctioned by God is now properly reviled as an unconscionable violation of human rights.” “In each of these cases, we came to learn that no religious practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us,” she said. She insisted the UN must oppose all forms of human rights violations against homosexuals and “transgender” people, from execution and banishment to criminalizing LGBT “status or behavior,” denying them free access to “public spaces,” or the “bullying and exclusion” that takes place in the United States. “I speak about this subject knowing that my own country’s record on human rights for gay people is far from perfect,” Clinton said.
Clinton said that that notions that “gay people are pedophiles, that homosexuality is a disease that can be caught or cured, or that gays recruit others to become gay” are “simply not true.” The Secretary of State added that nations must pass LGBT civil rights laws, even when they offend the majority of a nation’s citizens. “Leadership, by definition, means being out in front of your people when it is called for,” Clinton said. “We are each free to believe whatever we choose, but progress comes from changes in laws.” The address made a five-fold argument that LGBT rights are not distinct from human rights, that homosexuality is not uniquely Western, that religion is not a valid defense, that no serious argument exists against public homosexual behavior, and that all humans must do their part to advance LGBT rights.
Clinton’s speech, delivered in Geneva on Tuesday to celebrate International Human Rights Day, underscored the fact that the Obama Administration has made the worldwide acceptance of homosexuality a pillar of its foreign policy at the UN and around the world. Her address came the same day President Obama announced a plan to reshape American foreign policy to promote global acceptance of homosexuality. The plan instructs all foreign officers to “combat discrimination, homophobia, and intolerance on the basis of LGBT status or conduct” and establishes a $3 million “Global Equality Fund” to finance homosexual activists around the world.
The new initiative is only the latest in a series of steps the Obama administration has taken to push gay rights abroad. In the first-ever report on US human rights to the UN Human Rights Council last year, the Obama administration noted, “Debate continues over equal rights to marriage for LGBT Americans at the federal and state levels.” US delegates advanced a measure opposing the criminalization of homosexuality in the UN Human Rights Council in March that won the support of 85 nations. In July 2010, the Obama administration helped the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) gain NGO status at the UN without the approval of that body’s NGO Committee and over a “no action” vote supported by a majority of members including Russia, China, and Egypt.
Buster Wilson, host of the American Family Radio Network program “AFA Today,” said, “Hillary Clinton is now taking the fight on behalf of LGBT people on behalf of the Obama Administration to the front lines.” He said her notion that “deeply held religious beliefs are standing in the way of human rights for LGBT people” was simply “unbelievable.” Wilson cited her comments as one of several examples that has convinced some observers the Obama Administration is waging a “war on Christianity.”
Hamas Sets up Rocket Production Line in Sinai
(By establishing facilities in Egypt, group aims to protect its assets as it believes Israel won't strike targets inside Egypt.)
Dec. 12….(Jerusalem Post) Hamas has established forward bases and rocket production facilities in the Sinai Peninsula in an effort to protect them from Israeli air strikes, The Jerusalem Post has learned. By establishing the facilities in Egypt, Hamas aims to protect its assets since it believes Israel will not strike targets inside Egypt due to the affect it would have on bilateral relations. Israel has called on Cairo to increase its efforts to restore order in Sinai and to prevent attacks, but the Egyptian military has held back from dismantling the Hamas infrastructure in the peninsula. More than a dozen Egyptian army battalions allowed into Sinai with Israel’s permission (required because of limits placed on Egyptian forces there under the peace treaty) are still operating there, although with limited success in stopping terrorist activity and arms smuggling to the Gaza Strip.
Recent arms smuggled into Gaza have included advanced weaponry stolen from Libyan military storehouses such as Russian-made shoulder-to-air missiles. Israel’s primary concern with Sinai is that it is being used by Palestinians to launch attacks into Israel while taking advantage of the open southern border. The IDF has beefed up its forces along the border and recently established a new regional brigade that is responsible for defending Eilat and nearby areas. On Thursday, the IDF bombed a car traveling in northern Gaza and killed a senior Aksa Martyrs Brigades operative who the army said was plotting an attack. The terrorists were supposed to cross from Gaza into Sinai and then into Israel, similar to the attack that took place in August when eight Israelis were killed. The bombing of the car is part of an IDF understanding that since it cannot operate in Egypt it needs to stop such attacks while they are still in the planning stages in the Gaza Strip. While Hamas is believed to be involved in planning some of the attacks that have triggered Israel’s high alert along the border with Egypt, it is not participating in firing rockets at Israeli communities. That is being done by smaller groups that do not heed Hamas’s authority.
Africa Outraged by Obama's Pro-Gay Rights Foreign Polic
Dec. 12….(Jewish World Review) The enshrinement of equal rights for homosexuals into US foreign policy activities has drawn quick ire from African nations, with one senior figure saying the notion is "abhorrent" across the continent. President Obama has instructed officials across government to "ensure that US diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, and transgender persons" around the world. Under the move, legal, moral, and financial support will be boosted for gay rights organizations, emergency assistance will be sent to groups or individuals facing threats, and asylum in the US will be offered to people forced to flee anti-gay persecution in their countries, Mr. Obama saidd.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlined the new focus in a speech marking international human rights day in Geneva Tuesday night. Calling discrimination of homosexual and transgender people "one of the remaining human rights challenges of our time," Secretary Clinton said "gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights." "It is violation of human rights when people are beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation, or because they do not conform to cultural norms about how men and women should look or behave," she said. "It is a violation of human rights when governments declare it illegal to be gay, or allow those who harm gay people to go unpunished."
John Nagenda, a senior adviser to Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni, told The Christian Science Monitor that this view would be "anathema" to most African nations. "I don't like her tone, at all," he said. "I'm amazed she's not looking to her own country and lecturing them first, before she comes to say these things which she knows are very sensitive issues in so many parts of the world, not least Africa. "Homosexuality here is taboo, it's something anathema to Africans, and I can say that this idea of Clinton's, of Obama's, is something that will be seen as abhorrent in every country on the continent that I can think of."
Almost all of Africa's 54 nations ban homosexuality. Uganda drew opprobrium from across the West last year when a bill was tabled in parliament that would have imposed the death penalty for what was termed "aggravated homosexuality." The bill has since been shelved, but being found to be gay still risks a maximum 14-year jail sentence and Amnesty International has reported arbitrary arrests and torture of suspected gay people in Uganda. More recently, Nigeria's Senate last week agreed a proposed law banning same-sex marriages, again imposing 14-year jail terms for people found guilty, and adding a 10-year sentence for anyone who helps homosexuals marry. Writing in Nigeria's Tribune newspaper Thursday, columnist Leon Usigbe wrote that the new US gay rights policy would provoke a "significant diplomatic confrontation" between Washington and Africa's most populous country.
And in Kenya, influential church leaders immediately condemned the idea that lesbian, gay, and transgender people deserved extra support to achieve equal rights. "We don't believe in advancing the rights of gays," said Oliver Kisaka, deputy general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya. "God did not make a mistake; being gay is that person's own perception. Those who live as gays need help to live right and we should not be supporting them to live in a wrong reality. "Society should reach out to gays and transgender people to help them out of their situation.
WEEK OF DECEMBER 04 THROUGH DECEMBER 10
Iran, Israel Prepare for War
Dec. 9….(Israel Today) Israel's Home Front Command on Thursday held a nationwide drill simulating missile attacks on the Jewish state, just days after a report indicated that Iran's Revolutionary Guards were preparing for war. Air raid sirens blared in Jerusalem and across northern Israel Thursday morning in a test of the warning system. Meanwhile, soldiers with the Home Front Command continued a week-long exercise in southern Israel simulating long-range missile attacks on hospitals, schools and other public buildings where mass casualties would be expected. Last month, the Home Front Command held a drill simulating a massive unconventional missile strike on Tel Aviv.
Fears of a regional war have been driven by Israel's public debate over whether or not to launch a preemptive attack on Iran's nuclear program, which the IAEA recently confirmed is working toward the goal of nuclear weapons. According to the British Telegraph, Iran's Revolutionary Guards is certain Israel will attack, and is preparing to retaliate. Western intelligence officials told the newspaper this week that Guards commander Gen. Mohammed Ali Jaafari recently ordered all of Iran's long-range missiles to be moved to more secure locations in preparation for a retaliatory launch against Israel. While such an exchange would certainly lead to wider hostilities with Syria, Lebanon and possibly the new regime in Egypt, it is unlikely that the entire Arab League would join in an attack on Israel. In fact, many Arab states would be pleased to have Israel solve the Iran nuclear problem.
Iran Exhibits US Drone Undamaged; US-Israeli Intelligence Shocked
Dec. 9….(DEBKAfile Special Report) Iran exhibited the top-secret US stealth drone RQ-170 Sentinel captured on Sunday, Dec. 4. Its almost perfect condition confirmed Tehran's claim that the UAV was downed by a cyber attack, meaning it was not shot down but brought in undamaged by an electronic warfare ambush. This is a major debacle for the stealth technology the US uses in its warplanes and the drone technology developed by the US and Israel. The state of the lost UAV refutes the US military contention that the Sentinel's systems malfunctioned. If this had happened, it would have crashed and either been wrecked or damaged. The condition of the RQ-170 intact obliges the US and Israel to make major changes in plans for a potential strike against Iran's nuclear program. Debkafile reported: The Obama administration's decision after internal debate not to send US commando or air units into Iran to retrieve or destroy the secret RQ-170 stealth drone which fell into Iranian hands has strengthened the hands of the Israeli faction which argues the case for striking Iran's nuclear installations without waiting for the Americans to make their move.
Senior Israeli diplomatic and security officials who followed the discussion in Washington concluded that, by failing to act, the administration has left Iran not only with the secrets of the Sentinel's stealth coating, its sensors and cameras, but also with the data stored in its computer cells on targets marked out by the US and/or Israeli for attack. Debkafile’s military sources say that this knowledge compels the US and Israel to revise their plans of attack for aborting the Iranian nuclear program. Like every clandestine weapons system, the RQ-170 had a self-destruct mechanism to prevent its secrets spilling out to the enemy in the event of a crash or capture. This did not happen. Tehran was able to claim the spy drone was only slightly damaged when they downed it. The NATO spokesman claimed control was lost of the US UAV and it went missing, a common occurrence for these unmanned aircraft. The enigmas surrounding its capture continue to pile up. How did Iran know the drone had entered its airspace? How was it caused to land? Most of all, why did the craft's self-destruct mechanism which is programmed to activate automatically fail to work? And if it malfunctioned, why was it not activated by remote control?
The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal reported that from Sunday, Dec. 4, when Tehran announced the stealth drone's capture, the Obama administration weighed sending special commando forces into Iran from bases in Afghanistan to bring the downed aircraft back to Afghanistan or blow it up to destroy the almost intact secret systems, either by a sneak operation or by an air strike. Iranian officials said the drone was detected near the Iranian town of Kashmar, 200 kilometers from the Afghan border and presumably moved to a military or air base inside the country. The NYT disclosed that the special force would have used "allied agents inside Iran" to hunt down the missing aircraft, the first time Washington has admitted to support from "allied agents" operating covertly in Iran.
In the end, the paper quoted a US official as explaining that the attack option was ruled out "because of the potential it could become a larger incident." If an assault team entered the country, the US "could be accused of an act of war" by Teheran. The Obama administration's internal discussion on how to handle the loss of the high-value reconnaissance drone was followed tensely in Jerusalem. The decision it took against mounting a mission to recover or destroy the top-secret Sentinel was perceived in Israel as symptomatic of a wider decision to call off the covert war America has been conducting for some months against Iran's drive for a nuclear bomb, at least until the damage caused by RQ-170 incident is fully assessed. A senior Israeli security official had this to say: “Everything that’s happened around the RQ-170 shows that when it comes to Iran and its nuclear program, the Obama administration and Israel have different objectives. On this issue, each country needs to go its own way.”
Assad Denies Responsibility in Syrian Crackdown
(Syrian president tells ABC news acts of violence have been committed by individuals, not ordered by gov't.)
Dec. 8….(Jerusalem Post) Speaking with Barbara Walters, Assad said that "There is a difference between a deliberate policy of repression, and the presence of some errors committed by some officials. There is a great difference," Assad reportedly said, adding that acts of violence were carried out by "individuals," and not ordered by the Syrian government. The situation in Syria has grown increasingly chaotic in the last few months as security forces have been accused of firing live rounds on peaceful protests, Syrian soldiers and intelligence officers have defected, some of whom have helped form the Free Syrian Army " to support the opposition. The death toll in the embattled country has risen above 4,000 people according to the United Nations. Assad, speaking during his first interview with an American news outlet, dismissed that figure, questioning the UN's credibility. He also claimed that most of those killed in street violence were government supporters and not vice versa, as has been widely claimed by witnesses, human rights groups, and the UN.
Assad said that he has not ordered the killing of civilians, saying "no government in the world kills its people, unless it's led by a crazy person," according to ABC News. Western leaders, Turkey and the Arab League have ordered that the Syrian president stop a brutal crackdown on protesters that has caused thousands of deaths, and usher in political reforms that he promised almost immediately after the uprising began. Jordan, Turkey, the EU and the US have called on Assad to step down. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Syria is now in a civil war, and there are fears that sectarian differences among Syria's ethnically diverse population could push the country into a conflict similar to that in neighboring Iraq.
Syria on Tuesday claimed it had stopped at least 35 "terrorists" from infiltrating the country from Turkey, which has been housing thousands of Syrian refugees and opponents of the Assad regime. In addition to accusations by human rights groups of torture, killings, and unwarranted arrests of activists and bloggers by the Syrian armed forces, recent reports point to a new phenomenon of unknown assailants and deaths on both the pro- and anti-Assad sides. In the past two days, more people were killed in mysterious circumstances than by the state security forces firing in the streets, activists and residents say. Yet very little is known for certain about who is behind such killings, which appear to have targeted government supporters, as well as opponents. Syria has said it may sign up to a peace plan by the 22-state Arab League which calls for forces to be withdrawn to barracks and Arab observers allowed into the country. But it says, as a precondition, the Arab League would have to revoke economic sanctions it imposed earlier this month and unblock Syria's frozen membership of the League. Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby suggested on Tuesday holding an urgent meeting at ministerial level to evaluate Syria's position.
America, Egypt: Allies of Israel No More
Dec. 7….(Caroline B. Glick/Jewish World Review) With vote tallies in for Egypt's first round of parliamentary elections in it is abundantly clear that Egypt is on the fast track to becoming a totalitarian Islamic state. The first round of voting took place in Egypt's most liberal, cosmopolitan cities. And still the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists received more than 60 percent of the vote. Run-off elections for 52 seats will by all estimates increase their representation. And then in the months to come, Egyptian voters in the far more Islamist Nile Delta and Sinai will undoubtedly provide the forces of jihadist Islam with an even greater margin of victory. Until the US-supported overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt served as the anchor of the US alliance system in the Arab world. The Egyptian military is US-armed, US-trained and US-financed. The Suez Canal is among the most vital waterways in the world for the US Navy and the global economy. Due to Mubarak's commitment to stemming the tide of jihadist forces that threatened his regime, under his rule Egypt served as a major counter-terror hub in the US-led war against international jihad.
Given Egypt’s singular importance to US strategic interests in the Arab world, the Obama administration's response to the calamitous election results has been shocking. Rather than sound the alarm bells, US President Barack Obama has celebrated the results as a victory for "democracy." Rather than warn Egypt that it will face severe consequences if it completes its Islamist transformation, the Obama administration has turned its guns on the first country that will pay a price for Egypt's Islamic revolution: Israel. Speaking at the annual policy conclave in Washington sponsored by the leftist Brookings Institute's Saban Center for Middle East Policy, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hammered Israel, the only real ally the US has left in the Middle East after Mubarak's fall. Clinton even felt it necessary, in the name of democracy, to embrace the positions of Israel's radical left, by admonishing Israel for its lack of democracy.
As for Egypt, rather than recognize the strategic implications for the US and Israel alike of Egypt's transformation into an Islamic state, US Defense Secretary Panetta demanded that Israel ingratiate itself with Egypt's military junta. Thanks in large part to the Obama administration, that junta is now completely beholden to the Muslim Brotherhood, as Libya and Tunisia now are. The Muslim Brotherhood is even now advancing its agenda in Syria, again with US support.
As for Jordan, again thanks to the US's support for the Muslim Brotherhood and its aligned groups in Libya and Tunisia, the Hashemite regime is seeking to cut a deal with the Jordanian branch of the movement in a bid to save itself from Mubarak's fate. Under these circumstances, there is no gesture that Israel can make to its neighbor to the east that would empower King Abdullah to extol the virtues of peace with the Jewish State.
Then there is Iran, and its nuclear weapons program. Panetta has argued that an Israeli military strike against Iran would lead to regional war. But he failed to mention that a nuclear armed Iran will lead to nuclear proliferation in the Arab world and exponentially increase the prospect of a global nuclear war. Rather than face the dangers head on, Panetta's message was that the Obama administration would rather accept a nuclear-armed Iran than support an Israeli military strike on Iran to prevent the mullocracy from becoming a nuclear-armed state. The end result of the Obama Middle East policy is that the US government has become hostile to Israel's national rights and strategic imperatives. Under Obama, the US is no longer Israel's ally.
China Preparing For War With US
Dec. 7….(AP) Chinese President Hu Jintao Tuesday urged the navy to prepare for military combat amid growing regional tensions over maritime disputes and a US campaign to assert itself as a Pacific power. The navy should “accelerate its transformation and modernization in a sturdy way, and make extended preparations for military combat in order to make greater contributions to safeguard national security,” he said. Addressing the powerful Central Military Commission, Hu said: “Our work must closely encircle the main theme of national defense and military building.” His remarks, which were posted on a statement on a government website, come amid growing US and regional concerns over China’s naval ambitions, particularly in the South China Sea. China claims all of the maritime area, as does Taiwan, while four Southeast Asian countries declare ownership of parts of it, with Vietnam and the Philippines accusing Chinese forces of increasing aggression there.
In a translation of Hu’s comments, the official Xinhua news agency quoted the president as saying China’s navy should “make extended preparations for warfare.” But the Pentagon on Tuesday downplayed Hu’s speech, saying that Beijing had the right to develop its military, although it should do so transparently. “They have a right to develop military capabilities and to plan, just as we do,” said Pentagon spokesman George Little, but he added “we have repeatedly called for transparency from the Chinese and that’s part of the relationship we’re continuing to build with the Chinese military.” Nobody’s looking for a war here,” insisted another spokesman Admiral John Kirby.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao last month warned against interference by “external forces” in regional territorial disputes including in the South China Sea, a strategic and resource-rich area where several nations have overlapping claims. China said late last month it would conduct naval exercises in the Pacific Ocean, after Obama, who has dubbed himself America’s first Pacific president, said the US would deploy up to 2,500 Marines to Australia. China’s People’s Liberation Army, the largest military in the world, is primarily a land force, but its navy is playing an increasingly important role as Beijing grows more assertive about its territorial claims. Earlier this year, the Pentagon warned that Beijing was increasingly focused on its naval power and had invested in high-tech weaponry that would extend its reach in the Pacific and beyond.
China’s first aircraft carrier began its second sea trial last week after undergoing refurbishments and testing, the government said. The 300-metre (990-foot) ship, a refitted former Soviet carrier, underwent five days of trials in August that sparked international concern about China’s widening naval reach. Beijing only confirmed this year that it was revamping the old Soviet ship and has repeatedly insisted that the carrier posses no threat to its neighbors and will be used mainly for training and research purposes. But the August sea trials were met with concern from regional powers including Japan and the United States, which called on Beijing to explain why it needs an aircraft carrier.
Persian Gulf Bloc, Saudi Arabia May Seek Nukes
Dec. 7….(Al Arabia) Prince Turki al-Faisal, chief of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, on Monday called on Gulf states to make the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) a powerful regional bloc with a unified armed force and a unified defense industry, a Saudi daily reported. Prince Turki, who has been intensively engaged in public diplomacy across the world, also urged GCC leaders and decision-makers at “The Gulf and the Globe” conference in Riyadh to transform the 30-year-old regional bloc into a strong “union of sovereign states,” the Arab News reported. “We can create a unified Arabian Peninsula, an elected Shoura Council, a unified armed force with a unified defense industry. We can also achieve an economic system with a unified currency, set up a unified space agency, a unified IT industry, a unified aerospace industry, an automotive industry, an educational system with a unified curriculum, a unified energy and petrochemical industry and a unified justice system,” Prince Turki was quoted as saying by the Arab News.
Referring to the achievements of the GCC, he said that there was a need to reevaluate the position in the context of rapid changes taking place around the world, especially in the Middle East. “Why shouldn’t this Gulf grouping become a union of sovereign states to move forward with a unified unity of purpose?” he said. In his speech, he supported the idea of Gulf countries acquiring weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) if Israel and Iran do not roll back their nuclear programs and identified 11 major fields in which GCC countries can unify their efforts and positions to make the Gulf body a force to reckon with. “But, if our efforts and the efforts of the world community fail to bring about the dismantling of the Israeli arsenal of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and preventing Iran from acquiring the same, then why shouldn’t we at least study seriously all available options, including acquiring WMDs, so that our future generations will not blame us for neglecting any courses of action that will keep looming dangers away from us,” he noted, according to the Saudi English-language daily.
Israel is widely held to possess hundreds of nuclear missiles, which it neither confirms nor denies, while the West accuses Iran of seeking an atomic bomb, a charge the Islamic republic rejects. Riyadh, which has repeatedly voiced fears about the nuclear threat posed by Shiite-dominated Iran and denounced Israel’s atomic capacity, has stepped up efforts to develop its own nuclear power for “peaceful use.” Abdul Ghani Malibari, coordinator at the Saudi civil nuclear agency, said in June that Riyadh plans to build 16 civilian nuclear reactors in the next two decades at a cost of 300 billion riyals ($80 billion), according to AFP. He said the Sunni kingdom would launch an international invitation to tender for the reactors to be used in power generation and desalination in the desert kingdom. The United Nations has imposed successive packages of sanctions against Tehran over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. Those measures have been backed up by unilateral Western sanctions.
Regional Threats Too Strong to Ignore Signs of War
(Difference between ministers is not about gravity of Iranian threat, but rather when the right time would be for Israeli action)
Dec. 7….(Jerusalem Post) There are too many signals to ignore the possibility that war might be looming on the horizon. On Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu declared that leaders are tested by their ability to make decisions that might be unpopular among their own people and around the world. While a possible Israeli strike against Iran was not specifically mentioned, Netanyahu’s speech over the grave of Israel’s founding father David Ben-Gurion came just two days after US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta spoke out against Israeli unilateral action.
As Netanyahu spoke, Syria launched a Scud B missile. While not the most sophisticated missile in its arsenal, the Scud was detected by Israeli radars, which tracked its trajectory and flight path. It was also noticed by the Israeli intelligence community, which understood President Bashar Assad’s message that he still controls his missiles and could use them against Israel or other Western targets if they try to topple his regime. Next, came Netanyahu’s decision to hold Likud primaries by the end of January. The move, which came as a surprise, is Netanyahu’s way of reaffirming his leadership and support among his constituents. This way, if he were to decide at a later date to attack Iran, he would be able to say that he did so as the uncontested leader of the country, or at least of Likud.
And finally, there is the Home Front Command exercise being held on Tuesday in the North and will simulate a chemical missile attack. The drill is part of the command’s annual training regimen but is also part of a series of exercises, like the one held last week to simulate a biological attack and the one that will be held next month to simulate a radioactive dirty bomb attack. When will this war take place? No one knows yet. While the press has been full of headlines in recent weeks about a possible Israeli strike against Iran, the cabinet has yet to make such a decision.
Contrary to what has been reported, the differences between the ministers is not over the extent or gravity of the threat, all agree Iran needs to be stopped, but rather when the right time would be for Israeli action. Some, like Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, appear to be arguing that time is against us due to Iranian efforts to harden and disperse their facilities. Others, like Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon and former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, believe there is time at least until we know for certain that Iran is building the bomb.
The possibility of an Israeli strike against Iran has always been on the table and while it was occasionally discussed over the years, in today’s global political climate, every comment, every exercise and every political move can be interpreted as being part of the a larger Iranian-connected plot. The mysterious explosions that rocked the Iranian missile base near Tehran last month and the Isfahan nuclear facility are part of the covert war the West is waging against Iran. The combination of these bombings, together with the beating of war drums by Netanyahu and the new round of sanctions being imposed by the West are all part of the general effort to get the Iranians to rethink their current course of action. The problem is that all assessments in Israel are that without sanctions on the Iranian energy sector it is skeptical that the Islamic regime will stop its program no matter how hard the sanctions are and how isolated Tehran becomes around the world. In the meantime though, Iran and its ally, Syria, are showing the world there is a price for trying to interfere in their affairs.
Israel and Syria Brace for Regional War; Dec. 2011 to Mid-Jan 2012
Dec. 6….(DEBKAfile Exclusive) The actions and words of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Syrian ruler Bashar Assad in the last 72 hours indicate they are poised for a regional war, including an attack on Iran, for some time between December 2011 and January 2012. In their different ways, both have posted road signs to the fast-approaching conflict as debkafile's Middle East sources disclose:
1. Saturday, Dec. 3, Syria staged a large-scale military exercise in the eastern town of Palmyra, which was interpreted by Western and Israeli pundits as notice to its neighbors, primarily Turkey and Israel, that the uprising against the Assad regime had not fractured its sophisticated missile capabilities. Debkafile's military sources advise attaching more credibility to the official Damascus statement of Sunday, Dec. 4: "The Syrian army has staged a live-fire drill in the eastern part of the country under war-like circumstances with the aim of testing its missile weaponry in confronting any attack." Videotapes of the exercise, briefly carried on the Internet early Monday before they were removed by an unseen hand, support this statement. They showed a four-stage exercise, in which missile fire was a minor feature. Its focus was on the massive firing of self-propelled 120mm cannon, brigade-strength practice of 600mm and 300mm multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), offensive movements of Syrian armored brigades backed by ground-to-ground missiles with short 150-200 kilometer ranges. They drilled tactics for repelling enemy reinforcements rushed to combat arenas. All this added up to is an impressive Syrian demonstration of its ability to ward off an attack on Syrian soil by turning a defensive array into an offensive push for taking the battle over into the aggressor's territory, whether the Turkish or Israeli armies or a combined Arab League force backed by NATO.
2. Israel made its rejoinder to the Syrian war message 24 hours later. Addressing a ceremony honoring the memory of for Israel's founding father David Ben-Gurion, Netanyahu recalled how 63 years ago, Ben-Gurion declared the foundation of the State of Israel in defiance of pressures from most of Western leaders and a majority of his own party. They warned him that he would trigger a combined Arab attack to destroy the fledgling state just three years after the end of World War II. But fortunately for us, said the prime minister, Ben-Gurion stood up to the pressure and went through with his decision, otherwise Israel would not be here today. "There are times," said Netanyahu, "when a decision may carry a heavy price, but the price for not deciding would be heavier." "I want to believe," he said, "we will always have the courage and resolve for the right decisions to safeguard our future and security." Although he did not mention Iran, it was not hard to infer that the prime minister was referring to a decision to exercise Israel's military option against Iran's nuclear program in the face of crushing pressure from Washington and insistent advice of certain Israeli security veterans. Defense minister Ehud Barak, who was standing behind the prime minister's shoulder, was as tense as a coiled spring.
3. Six hours later, Netanyahu dropped a bombshell on the domestic political scene: He announced his Likud party would hold elections, including primaries, before January 31, 2012, two years before schedule and a year before Israel's next general election. As head of one of the most stable and long-lived coalition governments ever to have ruled Israel, he is under no pressing domestic need of a demonstration of leadership at this time.
4. In the last two weeks, the Netanyahu government has been subjected to acerbic criticism on the part of one Obama Administration official after another. They have presented Israel as having fallen into the hands of right-wing extremists who are engaged in a mad race to suppress the judiciary and diminish the civil rights of women and children, not to mention Palestinians. Secretary of State of Hillary Clinton went to unimaginable lengths when she likened Israel to Iran because fringe ultraorthodox group's in a couple of suburbs in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak were fighting for gender segregation on public transport against the government and the courts. She was clearly aiming to undermine the Netanyahu government's democratic credentials, and therefore his moral legitimacy for going to war to halt Iran's attainment of a nuclear weapon.
5. The unusually powerful US and Russian naval buildups in the waters around Syria and Iran. Washington sought in late November to give the impression that the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group was anchored off Marseilles, when it was spotted in the eastern Mediterranean opposite Syria. Moscow then rushed to Syria's defense by airlifting 72 anti-ship Yakhont missiles (Western-coded SSN-26) to Damascus. These water-skimming weapons can hit naval targets at a distance of 300 kilometers. After that the Bush, whose freedom to approach Syrian or Lebanese shores, had been curtailed by the new weapon reaching Syria, departed to an unknown destination, while the USS Carl Vinson strike group took up position opposite Iran.
Moscow is also playing hide and seek with its only air carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. It was announced that the vessel would set sail for the Mediterranean on Dec. 6. But on Nov. 25, it was sighted passing Malta and chugging past Cyprus four days later on its way to join the flotilla of three Russian guided missile destroyers already anchored off Syria. Neither the United States nor Russia would have concentrated two powerful fleets in the proximity of Syria and Iran unless they were certain a military conflagration was imminent. While any of the prime movers, Washington, Moscow, Tehran, Israel or Bashar Assad, may at the last moment step back from the brink of a regional war, at the moment, there is no sign of this happening.
Obama Administration Ready to Blame Israel for Everything, Including Anti-Semitism
Dec. 6….(JewishWorldReview) The ground is fast sinking beneath the feet of President Obama's Jewish defenders. While the president is trying to raise money from Jewish donors by patting himself on the back as Israel's greatest friend in the White House, the Secretary of Defense has now made it clear that he sees the Jewish state as responsible for the isolation it faces. Equally as egregious is the fact that Howard Gutman, Obama's ambassador to Belgium, told an audience this week he thinks Israel's policy toward the Palestinians is responsible for the creation of a new kind of anti-Semitism that he believes is understandable on some level.
Panetta's speech on Friday at the Brooking Institution in Washington and Gutman's comments to a conference held by the European Jewish Union were obviously not coordinated, but they combine to give us a clear view of the distorted mindset of administration officials. This is an administration that sees Israel as a source of trouble, not an ally. Combined with the sorry history of three years of Obama's picking fights with Jerusalem, the positions of both Panetta and Gutman give the lie to the notion this is an administration friends of Israel can trust. That the secretary of defense would choose to blast Israel in this manner just as Obama is starting to crank up his re-election campaign speaks to the cognitive dissonance many Jewish Democrats are experiencing. For Panetta to claim Israel is responsible for its own isolation just as Obama boasted of his friendship for the Jewish state shows either a lack of coordination between the Pentagon and the White House or a desire on the president's part to signal the Arab world he is prepared to put the screws to the Israelis as soon as the election is concluded.
As for Panetta's assertions, while sandwiched between some of the usual boilerplate rhetoric about supporting the alliance, they made it clear that Washington views the hardening of anti-Israel positions on the part of Turkey, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority as Israel's fault. Even more, he made it plain that the administration's belief is this rising tide of anti-Israel hate can only be dealt with by a new round of concessions on Israel's part to the Palestinians.
Israel's peace treaty with Egypt is now endangered by the victory of Islamists. Their former ally Turkey is now aligning itself with Hamas terrorists. The Palestinian Authority is about to conclude a unity pact with Hamas that will end its experiment with good government and expand the reach of the Gaza-based terrorists. These events are not the fault of Israel, but are the result of the embrace of Islamism and extremism by a Muslim world that seems to be sinking into the abyss of extremism.
But the Obama Administration looks at this and says it is the fault of the Israelis who have spent the last 18 years trying to make peace, to no avail. Rather than drawing conclusions from the Palestinians' rejection of peace and the bloodthirsty hatred for Jews at the heart of the siege of the Jewish state, Panetta believes the time is ripe for Israel to weaken its defenses and hand over more territory that may become another safe haven for terrorists, as Gaza has proved to be. The secretary's remarks were a not-so-subtle hint that pressuring Israel is still Obama's priority. That key officials of this administration could hold onto a belief in a peace process even the so-called moderates of the Palestinian Authority have rejected speaks volumes not so much about their naivete as it does the grip of ideology on their thinking.
As for Gutman's remarks, they speak not so much to policy as to the thinking behind it. Contrary to his poorly reasoned formulation, hatred for Israel and Zionism is just a modern variant of traditional Jew-hatred, and not a different belief system that can be rationalized. Anyone who would deny Israel the same right to existence and self-defense they would grant any other country is a bigot. Palestinian suffering is real, but the hatred for the Jews and Israel in the Arab and Islamic world has little to do with policy and everything to do with prejudice.
That an American diplomat would stoop so low as to rationalize that hatred is a disgrace. While the White House sought to distance itself from Gutman's remarks, his views give those of us who have wondered about the source of the animus for Israel in this administration new insights about the advice Obama has been getting. Taken together, these two speeches paint a portrait of a government that is at its heart hostile to the Jewish State. Only a blind partisan would think such an administration could be trusted to deal fairly with Israel once the constraints of Obama's re-election efforts are removed.
Secretary Panetta: It's All Israel's Fault
Dec. 5….(Israel Today) American Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the weekend suggested that all of Israel's problems in the region can be traced back to its own behavior. "Israel just get to the damn negotiating table," Panetta said during a briefing at the Brookings Institute. Panetta insisted that Israel needs to be more flexible in order to "reach out and mend fences" with the Arabs, or risk facing even greater isolation. Panetta's outburst was typical of American foreign policy when it comes to Israel in that it completely ignored the dealings of the past several years. Panetta failed to recognize that it was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who had been waiting at the negotiating table all along, and publicly urging Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to join him. For the past two years, Abbas has been explicitly refusing to negotiate with Israel until the Jewish state met preconditions that were never part of currently signed peace deals. Panetta's claim that Israel should make risky political gestures even if the Arabs are not sincere in order to unmask its enemies similarly displayed a very short-term memory. "If the gestures are rebuked, the world will see those rebukes for what they are, and Israel's moral standing will grow even higher," Panetta said, presumably in all seriousness. Of course, that is precisely what Israel was told before it uprooted 10,000 Jews from the Gaza Strip, before it handed over the ancient Jewish capital of Hebron and before it signed a peace agreement with terrorist mass-murderer Yasser Arafat. Ongoing anti-Israel terrorism and incitement following all of those gestures failed to win Israel any moral standing in the eyes of the international community.
Continuing the emulation of his predecessors, Panetta finished by warning that Israel would increasingly find itself all alone if it did not heed his advice. "We have seen Israel's isolation from its traditional security partners in the region grow," said Panetta. It's almost as though each successive American administration does a foreign policy reset, and totally wipes its memory of anything that happened before it was elected. Otherwise, how could Panetta claim with a straight face that Israel has any "traditional" security partners in the region? Sure, Egypt and Jordan have for years been at peace with Israel, and even cooperated to some small degree in security matters. But neither is a "traditional" security partner. In fact, until just a few decades ago, Egypt was the country that most often went to war against Israel, with Jordan not far behind. While regrettable, a return to that situation would not be something new, and certainly would not be the result of any adjustment in Israel's behavior.
Unfortunately, Panetta's failed attempt at reading the Israeli-Arab situation received far less coverage than it should after being overshadowed by another Obama Administration appointee blaming the Jews for Muslim anti-Semitism. US ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman, recently told a conference hosted by the European Jewish Union that Israel is to blame for growing anti-Semitism harbored by people of Muslim faith. Speaking at a conference of European Jewish leaders in Brussels on Wednesday, Gutman said there should be a distinction between traditional anti-Semitism and Muslim hatred for the Jews, as the latter is the direct (apparently legitimate) result of the ongoing Israeli conflict with the Palestinians. He also argued that an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty will significantly diminish Muslim anti-Semitism.”
Panetta: Israel Must Bow to Nuclear Iran, Islamized Middle East
Dec. 5….(DEBKAfile Special Report) US President Barack Obama declared in ringing tones Wednesday, Nov. 30, "We don't compromise when it comes to Israel's security. No ally surpasses Israel in importance to the US." Three days later, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in a lecture to the Brookings Institute was crystal-clear about what America expects Israel to deliver in return. He cited "Israeli estimates" to argue against an Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear facilities because "it would set back the program by one to two years at best." He urged Israel to take risks and get to "the damn negotiating table" with the Palestinians, and "mend fences with countries like Turkey, Egypt and Jordan, which share an interest in regional stability, in view of Israel's "growing isolation in a volatile region."
The content and tone of the defense secretary's lecture were clearly designed to rebut Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak's comments Thursday, Dec. 1, that as a sovereign state, Israel is bound to determine its own security needs and the ultimate responsibility for its national security rests with the government in Jerusalem and the Israeli Defense Forces, no one else. Panetta's lecture was long on generalizations and contradictions and short on facts.
The "Israeli estimates" he cited referred to the most outspoken opponents of the Netanyahu-Barak government, namely the former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, the ex-chief of staff Gaby Ashkenazi, former military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin, as well as Kadima leader Tzipi Livni. Their political agenda would tend to overrule their true views on the merits of an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear sites. It also runs contrary to the assessment of every responsible, knowledgeable Israeli intelligence and military expert, who all believe an attack could delay Iran's nuclear armament by three or four years at the least. Yet Panetta chose the contrary, minority view to support his arguments against an Israeli attack. On the one hand, the defense secretary told the Washington forum that, "No greater threat exists to the security and prosperity of the Middle East than a nuclear-armed Iran," adding that Obama has not ruled out using military force to stop Iran from going nuclear. On the other hand, Panetta warned "the consequences of an Israeli attack could be that we have an escalation that would not only involve many lives, but trigger Iranian retaliation against US forces, and ultimately spark a backlash in Iran that would bolster its rulers."
The facts contradict this assertion: An opinion poll secretly conducted at the universities of Tehran, Shiraz and Isfahan in early November showed that 72 percent of those canvassed were certain the population of Iran's cities would rise up against the Islamic regime the moment the US or Israel attacked its nuclear program. As to the secretary's argument that it would also be hard for attackers to reach Iran's nuclear installations because some of them (the centrifuge plant transferred to Fordo, near Qom) have already been moved underground, he failed to answer two key questions:
1. Why was Israel held back from carrying out a military operation when those installations were still on the surface and vulnerable?
2. By continuing to hold back Israel back, is he saying that Iran should be allowed to go all the way to manufacturing a nuclear bomb without military interference? Is the US defense secretary advising Israel to learn to live with a nuclear-armed Iran, even though its menace is constantly expanding?
Panetta did not supply an answer to either question. But he was a lot clearer on Iran's threat to American security when he said: "any disruption of the free flow of commerce through the Persian Gulf is a very grave threat to all of us" and a redline for the US." Was he saying that a nuclear-armed Iran was not a red line for America? The defense secretary then offered the opinion that "sanctions and diplomatic pressure were working" to isolate Iran. debkafile's Middle East sources emphasize that he would not find a single informed politician, general, intelligence official or economist in the region who agreed with him. Just the reverse: the region's leaders and international financial community report that the Islamic Republic has overcome sanctions with remarkable success and they have not slowed down its nuclear progress by a second.
The US would safeguard Israel's security, said Panetta, but "Israel has a responsibility to pursue shared goals (with the US) to build regional support for Israeli and United States' security objectives." He was referring to the US offer of a security shield in return for Israel's pursuit of "shared goals." The only trouble with that offer is that when it was put before Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Emirates, Turkey, Egypt and Jordan, they agreed to pursue only certain "shared goals," but not those affecting their national security, especially on the Iranian question, which they preferred to address by developing their own independent nuclear options. Therefore, the US shield on offer would be very limited.
His assumption that if Israel could persuade the Palestinians to sit down for peace talks and if it reached out to Turkey, Jordan and Egypt, relations would instantly improve, is just as fallacious. Perhaps Panetta has not heard that Mahmoud Abbas stands by his year-long refusal to face Israel across any "damned tables" and only this week tried to manipulate the Middle East Quartet into forcing Israel to accept an indirect track. Neither does he address the anti-Israel posture adopted by the rulers of Egypt, Turkey and Jordan to persuade their people of their affinity with the Islamist forces rising in the region, like the ultra-orthodox Salafis of Egypt.
Neither Israel, nor any of the mainstream Arab governments accept the Obama-Panetta proposition that time will magically temper the extremism of the Islamist regimes. They have before them the example of a former Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, who made the same argument 32 years ago for the West to dump the Shah and welcome Khomeini's ayatollah regime.
It is time for Jerusalem to state clearly to the Obama Administration that there is no way to reconcile Israel's essential security needs with the rejection of a military operation to cripple Iran's nuclear program; or to promote the rise of Islamist forces in the Arab capitals neighboring on the Jewish state and at the same time hold Israel to account for not reaching out to them.
Iran Will Retaliate for US Drone Attacks, Bockade Hormuz
Dec. 5….(DEBKAfile Special Report) Tehran quickly latched onto US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's warning Friday, Dec. 2 that an Israeli strike at Iran's nuclear facilities would cause unpredictable results. Sunday, Iran issued two threats: to hit back beyond its borders for a US reconnaissance drone which its military claimed to have shot down in the near the border with Afghanistan and Pakistan and that an oil embargo on its exports would boost the price of oil to $250 a barrel. This was another way of threatening a tit for tat in the form of a blockade on the Strait of Hormuz, the most important oil channel in the world, and the transit of Saudi and Gulf oil. This was a reference to another of the US defense secretary's warning Friday that: "any disruption of the free flow of commerce through the Persian Gulf is a very grave threat to all of us" and a red line for the US." The unmanned aerial vehicle the Iranian military claimed in a report on English language Press TV to have shot down Sunday over the eastern part of the country was described in Tehran's statement was an RQ-170.
Iranian sources in Tehran report it was flying over the underground Fordo facility near Qom, where Debkafile's military and intelligence sources uranium is being covertly enriched from 20 to 60 percent. The Iranians did not say when the incident happened. However, some confusion set in when NATO command in Afghanistan later said a US unarmed reconnaissance aircraft flying over western Afghanistan had been missing since late last week. The US RQ-170 drone is an unarmed, unmanned stealth aircraft equipped with the most advanced reconnaissance instruments for detecting nuclear weapons systems. Our sources report that these spy planes operate over Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Turkey as well as Iran and Afghanistan.
The Iranian news agencies quoted senior Iranian officers as claiming the seized the drone which was downed with minimum damage. Their threat to retaliate outside Iran's borders for its alleged intrusion was not specific. It may well extend to embattled Syria to demonstrate that Iran keeps faith with its allies. Some Middle East military sources suggest that Iran might try to shoot down US drones over Turkey to warn Ankara to keep its hands off Syria. In the past week, Turkish leaders were again saying they had lost patience with Bashar Assad's brutality and intransigence and were close to sending troops across the border to establish a buffer zone in northern Syria for refugees and rebels. Iran might also use its Lebanese pawn, Hizballah, to shoot down Israeli spy planes over that country's air space. The foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast in Tehran said Sunday that as soon as the United State and the West propose imposing an embargo on Iranian oil exports, "the price of oil will soar above $250 a barrel. Therefore, any attempt to strangle the Iranian economy by choking off its oil exports will be met by retaliation in kind, the blockage of the Strait of Hormuz to Saudi and Gulf oil.