Tom Gross Mideast Media Analysis

Islamists: Allah sent Hurricane Sandy “to punish U.S.” (& Spot the difference: Obama-v-Romney video)

October 31, 2012

* Egypt’s president promises to act after a rash of sexual assaults occur during Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday

* The holiday features celebrations, crowded public squares – and widespread harassment of women by men

* Activist Azza Suleiman told Al-Ahram newspaper that her two sons were assaulted in downtown Cairo during the holiday while trying to protect a group of foreigners, while police stood by watching

* Earlier this month, a correspondent for France 24 TV was “savagely attacked” after being seized by a crowd, the network said

* Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood says the new constitution must be based on Sharia law (in contradiction to all the Western media pundits in the NY Times and elsewhere who said this would never be the case)

* Associated Press: “Many Egyptians fear the implementation of Islamic penal code as they watch neighboring Saudi Arabia punishing people with execution, usually with a sword, cutting off limbs or stoning to death”

* Jordan’s King Abdullah orders the release of a man convicted of involvement in the murder of a U.S. diplomat

* 11-year-old boy latest Christian to be killed in Pakistan for his faith. Daily Telegraph: “Police said his lips and nose had been sliced off, his stomach removed and there was evidence that his legs had been mutilated too”

 

I attach a selection of recent articles. I apologize for the fact that these pieces are generally very depressing. The next two dispatches will include some lighter, human interest articles.

Meanwhile this “Spot the difference: Obama vs. Romney video” may amuse you.

-- Tom Gross



(You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.)

 

CONTENTS

1.“Egypt’s sexual assaults intensify over Eid al-Adha holiday” (Associated Press, Oct. 31, 2012)
2. “Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood says new constitution must be based on Islamic Sharia law” (AP / Washington Post, Oct. 31, 2012)
3. “Hurricane Sandy a ‘divine slap on the face of U.S. arrogance,’ Toronto Islamist website declares” (National Post, Canada, Oct. 30, 2012)
4. “Jordan to free man involved in US diplomat murder” (AFP / Al Ahram, Oct. 31 2012
5. “Christians demand separate province in Pakistan to protect them from persecution” (Daily Telegraph, London)
6. “11-year-old Christian boy tortured and killed in Pakistan” (Daily Telegraph, London)
7. “A nation's young minds under attack” (By Alex Rodriguez, Los Angeles Times, Oct. 27, 2012)


EGYPT’S SEXUAL ASSAULTS INTENSIFY OVER HOLIDAY

Egypt’s sexual assaults intensify over holiday
Eid al-Adha features celebrations, crowded public squares - and widespread harassment of women by men.
Associated Press
October 31, 2012

CAIRO - Egypt’s president has acknowledged the widespread problem of sexual harassment in his country, ordering his interior minister to investigate a rash of assaults during the weekend’s Muslim holiday.

Mohammed Morsi acted after his government reported 735 police complaints about sexual harassment over the four-day Eid al-Adha holiday, which ended Monday.

In a statement, Morsi stressed the need to fight “all phenomena of moral chaos and abuses, especially harassment in Egyptian streets.”

The holiday features celebrations, crowded public squares - and widespread harassment of women by men.

Rights activists have faulted Morsi’s Islamist government for failing to take action against the wave of sexual assaults. Earlier this month, about 200 activists gathered outside the presidential palace, chanting slogans against Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood and pressing for a law to criminalize harassment. Morsi’s order appeared to be an attempt to counter the charges.

Complaints about the problem, which has long been a feature of Egypt’s society, gained prominence during last year’s popular uprising that unseated longtime President Hosni Mubarak. Female activists and reporters told of assaults by men in Tahrir Square, the focus of the mass protests.

Activists say that little, if anything, has changed.

Activist Azza Suleiman told the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper that her two sons were assaulted in downtown Cairo during the holiday while trying to protect a group of foreigners, while police stood by watching. She criticized the police and the Interior Ministry for failing to secure the crowded streets.

Tahrir Square has been the scene of a number of assaults against women in the aftermath of the revolution. Earlier this month, a correspondent for France 24 TV was “savagely attacked” after being seized by a crowd, the network said.

Hani Henry, a psychology professor at the American University in Cairo, said the widespread notion that women should dress more conservatively to reduce harassment is one of the biggest impediments to addressing the issue.

“There’s a ‘blaming-the-victim’ mentality,” Hany said. He predicted that addressing sexual harassment could be more difficult now that Islamists have emerged as the strongest political power.

 

EGYPT’S MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD SAYS NEW CONSTITUTION MUST BE BASED ON SHARIA LAW

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood says new constitution must be based on Islamic Sharia law
By Associated Press (as carried in the Washington Post)
October 31, 2012

CAIRO — Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood said Wednesday it is committed to enshrining Islamic Sharia law as the main source of a new constitution, seeking to mollify ultraconservative Islamists who accuse the group of not advocating strongly enough for Islamic rule.

Islamic influence in Egypt’s governance is the most inflammatory issue following last year’s ousting of longtime President Hosni Mubarak. Islamists have swept elections since then, and the Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi is the president — but the Brotherhood faces criticism from even more stringent Islamists as much as from liberals.

Ultraconservatives known as Salafis have pushed for firm language in the new constitution to ensure implementation of Sharia, even calling for demonstrations on Friday. Top Salafi clerics threatened to rally voters against the constitution when it is put to a vote in a referendum before end of this year, if their demands are not met.

Together, Salafis and the Brotherhood dominate the 100-member assembly writing the new constitution.

The controversy centers on the phrasing of key articles that expand the role of Islamic Sharia laws.

The previous constitution said “the principles of Sharia” are the basis of law in Egypt. Liberals favored such phrasing, which they say allows greater leeway, meaning legislation can meet the broad ideas of Islam.

Salafis wanted that changed to “the rulings of Sharia,” implying Egypt’s laws would have to abide by the strict letter of what clerics say is meant in Islamic law.

Liberals fear that could bring heavy restrictions on many rights and would forge a new role for religious scholars similar to clerical rule in Iran.

In its statement, the Muslim Brotherhood appeared to try to accommodate liberals’ demands by keeping the phrase “principles of Sharia,” while adding an article explaining what that means: the principles would include “the juristic rules” of Sharia agreed upon by scholars and the “accepted sources” of the Quran’s interpretation.

Yousseri Hamad, spokesman of Al-Nour party, the most popular political arm of the Salafi movement, commented on the phrasing by saying, “this satisfies us and we agree on it.”

Critics fear such wording could make it easier for hard-liners to challenge laws they feel don’t adhere to Sharia and empower legislators to pass laws that could impose heavy-handed limits on freedoms of expression, worship, faith and other civil liberties.

The Muslim Brotherhood repeated its stance that the Sharia penal code should not be implemented for now by saying that the penal code determines punishment according to the crime after “preparing society first to understand Sharia and accept it.” However, it is not clear who would decide on when society would be ready for Sharia punishment for crimes, and such vague phrases spark more concerns.

Many Egyptians fear the implementation of Islamic penal code as they watch neighboring Saudi Arabia punishing people convicted of murder, drug trafficking, rape, adultery and armed robbery with execution, usually with a sword, cutting off limbs or stoning to death.

The Brotherhood also defended its hard-line position on an article related to women rights.

The proposed article, supported by the Brotherhood and Salafis, states that “women are equal to men without violating the laws of Islamic Sharia.” Liberals and rights advocates fear that would enable Islamist legislators to pass laws that violate women’s rights, such as lowering the age of marriage or permitting female genital mutilation.

A new constitution would be a key step in establishing a democracy to replace the Mubarak’s regime, ousted last year in an uprising led by progressive, secular activists.

But in the nearly 20 months since then, Islamists have emerged as the strongest political force. Morsi was elected president after the Brotherhood and the Salafis swept parliamentary elections, leaving the liberals with minimal representation. The parliament was later disbanded.

The panel drafting the constitution said it could be ready for public discussion as early as the first half of November. The new constitution then would have to be put to a public referendum within 30 days.

 

HURRICANE SANDY A “DIVINE SLAP ON THE FACE OF U.S. ARROGANCE”

Hurricane Sandy a ‘divine slap on the face of U.S. arrogance,’ Toronto Islamist website declares
By Stewart Bell
The National Post (Canada)
October 30, 2012

news.nationalpost.com/2012/10/30/hurricane-sandy-a-divine-slap-on-the-face-of-u-s-arrogance-toronto-islamist-website-declares/

A Toronto website that calls itself the “newsmagazine of the Islamic movement” has described the hurricane battering the northeast U.S. a “divine slap.”

In an un-bylined post, Crescent International, which often promotes the worldview of Iran’s repressive regime, called Hurricane Sandy “a divine slap on the face of arrogance.”

The website is run by the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought. Zafar Bangash, director of the institute, said Tuesday he did not write the post, headlined: “Hurricane Sandy delivers slap on US face.”

“We have a number of bloggers that put on stuff on our website but that particular writer perhaps felt that it was a slap on the face of the U.S. government and its policies,” he said.

Asked to elaborate, Mr. Bangash, who was reached at the Islamic Society of York Region, the federally registered charity that lists him as a director, said he did not believe he would be quoted accurately and hung up.

The post also lamented that Ohio women would be voting in next week’s U.S. presidential election, saying “the fact that Ohio housewives will determine who should occupy the White House to decide on such weighty issues as dealing with the Middle East, Iran’s nuclear program or U.S. relations with Russia is quite amusing, and revealing.

“This is what American democracy is all about. But for now, Hurricane Sandy, as a divine slap on the face of arrogance, is smashing its way through the Eastern Coast of the U.S.”

 

JORDAN TO FREE MAN INVOLVED IN US DIPLOMAT MURDER

Jordan to free man involved in US diplomat murder

King Abdullah of Jordan ordered six Al-Qaeda-linked militants free, one of whom had been convicted in connection with the 2002 murder of US diplomat
AFP (Agence France Presse) (as carried in the Egyptian publication Al Ahram)
October 31 2012

english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/2/8/56868/World/Region/Jordan-to-free-man-involved-in-US-diplomat-murder.aspx

A Jordanian convicted in connection with the 2002 murder of a US diplomat in the kingdom was among six Al-Qaeda-linked militants that King Abdullah on Wednesday ordered freed.

“The king has instructed the government to take the necessary legal measures to free the six convicts,” the palace said, naming the men without giving details.

Salafists, who espouse an austere form of Sunni Islam, have repeatedly held streets demonstrations to demand the release of their relatives.

The palace did not elaborate on its reasons for freeing the prisoners.

One of them is Mohammad Issa Dumos, who was sentenced for 15 years in prison for his role in the assassination of USAID official Laurence Foley, shot at close range outside his Amman home.

The remaining five are in jail for plotting to attack former intelligence officers in Jordan, planning jihad against foreign troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and funding terror activities.

“We welcome the king’s instruction,” Salafist leader Mohammed Shalabi, known as Abu Sayyaf, told AFP.

“Fifty members of the Salafist movement are detained in Jordan. The government has promised us to free all of them.”

 

CHRISTIANS DEMAND SEPARATE PROVINCE IN PAKISTAN TO PROTECT THEM FROM PERSECUTION

Christians demand separate province in Pakistan to protect them from persecution

Pakistan’s embattled Christian minority have launched a campaign for a separate province to protect them from persecution after a wave of brutal attacks and arrests for blasphemy

In 2009, at least seven Christians were burned to death in an attack in Punjab province after reports of the desecration of the Koran

By Rob Crilly, Islamabad
Daily Telegraph (London)
Aug 30, 2012

www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/9508995/Christians-demand-separate-province-in-Pakistan-to-protect-them-from-persecution.html

A 14-year-old girl is being held in prison after being accused of burning a copy of the Koran and last week the body of an 11-year-old Christian boy was found in Punjab bearing torture marks.

The demand for a separate province, although unlikely to succeed, is a further blow to the ideal of Pakistan’s founding father, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, of a secular country that would be home to India’s Muslims but where all would be free to worship their own religion.

The move is the brainchild of Younus Masih Bhatti, president of the Pakistan United Christian Welfare Association, who wants a government commission on new provinces to consider the plight of Christians.

“So, keeping in view the two million Christians in the country and a sense of insecurity among them, there is a requirement for a separate province for them so that they can enjoy equal rights like the majority,” he said.

On Thursday, human rights campaigners renewed calls for Rimsha Masih, the girl accused of blasphemy, to be released after a bail hearing was adjourned until Saturday leaving her imprisoned in a high-security jail alongside murderers and terrorists.

Her parents say Rimsha is only 11 and was born with Down’s syndrome.

However, a medical report which said Rimsha’s mental age was below her physical age of 14 and that she should be treated as a minor was challenged in court by a lawyer for the man accusing her of burning the Koran.

Rao Abdur Raheem said: “If you burn me, I will forgive you, but if you burn our Koran, then I will fight a legal battle to seek maximum punishment for anyone doing this act.” As a result the judge has asked for more time to consider the matter.

In the meantime, Rimsha’s neighbours in a Christian enclave outside Islamabad have fled their homes amid fears of revenge attacks.

Some have tried to set up home in a park in Islamabad rather than return.

Raza Rumi, of the Jinnah Institute, a public policy centre based in Islamabad, said that although Islamist political parties had been repeatedly rejected in elections, Pakistan’s leaders were reluctant to speak out against abuses or push for reform for fear of being called a traitor.

“If you are known as a traitor or anti-Islam, these non-state actors will come and kill you,” he said. “Nobody wants to take that risk.” In 2010, The Daily Telegraph revealed that a Christian mother had been sentenced to death for blasphemy, a case that led to a campaign for reform of the archaic, British-era laws.

Christians, who make up about four percent of Pakistan’s population of 180 million, have been particularly concerned about the law, saying it used to wage personal vendettas or settle property disputes.

In 2009, at least seven Christians were burned to death in an attack in Punjab province after reports of the desecration of the Koran.

However, attempts at reform stalled after the murder of two prominent campaigners last year, including Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab.

Last week, an 11-year-old Christian boy was found dead in a town in Punjab. Police said his lips and nose had been sliced off, his stomach removed and there was evidence that his legs had been mutilated too.

 

CHRISTIAN BOY TORTURED AND KILLED IN PAKISTAN

Christian boy tortured and killed in Pakistan: The tortured body of an 11 year old Christian boy has been found in a town in Punjab, Pakistan, days after a young Christian girl was arrested on blasphemy charges
By Dean Nelson, South Asia Editor
Daily Telegraph
Aug 23, 2012

www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/9495451/Christian-boy-tortured-and-killed-in-Pakistan.html

Detectives in Faisalabad, around 60 miles from Lahore, said they were investigating whether accusations of blasphemy had also been made against the boy.

Human rights campaigners condemned the killing of Samuel Yaqoob whose burned and tortured body body was discovered on Eid, the celebration which marks the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.

His lips and nose had been sliced off, his stomach removed and there was evidence that his legs had been mutilated too.

The boy had been missing since Monday when he left his home in the town’s Christian Colony to visit a local market. His relatives identified his body from a distinctive mark on his forehead.

Yaquub was reported to be an orphan but in local newspaper reports his mother Asia Bibi was quoted denying he had been accused of blasphemy. “We neither received any phone call for ransom nor were we told that Samuel had committed blasphemy,” she said.

Police said they were investigating whether blasphemy had been behind the attack on Samuel. His death comes just days after the arrest of Rimsha Masih, an eleven year old girl with Down’s Syndrome, after Muslims in Islamabad accused her of burning pages from the Koran for cooking.

President Asif Zardari intervened in the case after dozens of Christians fled their homes fearing violence. He said the country’s controversial blasphemy laws, in which those guilty of insulting Islam face the death penalty, must not be misused to settle scores.

The country’s leading human rights campaigner Ansar Burney said he had “strongly condemned the brutal murder” of Samuel Yaqoob who had been killed “mercilessly”.

 

PAKISTAN IS BELIEVED TO HAVE OVER 100 NUCLEAR WEAPONS. IT INCREASINGLY APPEARS TO BE A STATE COMING PART. HOW WILL THE WORLD MANAGE THIS SITUATION IN FUTURE?

A Nation’s Young Minds Under Attack
By Alex Rodriguez
Los Angeles Times (page 1)
October 27, 2012

SWABI, PAKISTAN -- Under a torrid sun on a parched patch of dirt, 65 young boys and girls wiped sweat from their foreheads and struggled to concentrate on their studies. There were no blackboards, no desks.

Nearby, their white two-room country school sat abandoned, shrapnel holes gouged into the exterior. The roof and walls had cracked, making the building too dangerous to use -- the result of a homemade bomb detonated by the Taliban on the school’s porch.

“Everything was fine here,” said 9-year-old Fazl Qadeem, squatting on the ground with his lesson book in hand. “And they destroyed it.”

The Taliban outraged millions of Pakistanis and people around the world this month when its gunmen attempted to kill Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year-old girl who publicly championed the education of girls. But that attack was just one small piece of a long campaign against the country’s education system.

School buildings like the one in Swabi are blown up with astonishing regularity: 96 were damaged or destroyed by militants this year, according to Human Rights Watch, a rate of more than two per week. Last year, 152 schools were hit. Militants have targeted school buses, teachers, headmasters, even a provincial education minister.

The damage is palpable and far-reaching, especially in northwestern Pakistan, where the Taliban maintains its nerve centers.

For parents like Sher Zameer, whose son survived a Taliban ambush of a school bus a year ago that killed the driver and four boys, the joy of watching his son go to class has turned to dread. “We don’t want our kids to get killed for the sake of education,” he said. “After this attack, the enthusiasm is gone.”

At least 600,000 children in northwestern Pakistan have missed a year or more of school because of militant attacks or threats, according to the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child, an Islamabad-based nongovernmental group. In neighborhoods hit by school bombings, parents are pulling their children out of classrooms. More than half the schools destroyed in the northwest have yet to be rebuilt. Teachers in conflict zones have sought transfers to safer areas, leading to a shortage of instructors.

Pakistan desperately needs to shore up its weak, cash-starved education system if it hopes to build a path out of poverty for vast numbers of its citizens. Half the country’s nearly 180 million people are under 17, and the population is expected to soar to 335 million by 2050.

Large numbers of uneducated or poorly educated Pakistanis provide ideal fodder for the country’s myriad militant groups, as well as a rapt audience for hard-line religious clerics who preach intolerance and extremism.

“When the quality of education suffers, you always have a generation of children growing up frustrated and angry,” said Zarina Jillani, executive director of the children’s rights society. “A generation of children is being created without any real hope for the future. You can imagine the ramifications of that.”

The Pakistani Taliban is an amalgam of militant factions bent on toppling the government and imposing Islamic law. It regards government education as secular and therefore un-Islamic.

“Their view of education is that it should be largely limited to the Koran, as it’s understood by them,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director for Human Rights Watch.

The shooting of Malala illustrated the Taliban’s opposition to girls’ education. She was only 11 when she wrote in a BBC blog about the Taliban decree against girls attending school in the Swat Valley, her home. Taliban gunmen boarded her school bus and shot her in the head Oct. 9. She survived and is recovering in a British hospital.

The Taliban’s deep animosity for girls’ education reflects the group’s desire to thwart any kind of empowerment of women, said Jillani. “It’s part of an overall oppression of women,” she said. “The right for a woman to marry who she wants, her right to inheritance -- it’s all part of it.”

But the bombings, which almost always occur at night when children are not present, target boys’ as well as girls’ schools.

“They want to throw us back into the Stone Age,” said Sardar Hussain Babak, education minister for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, home to the Swat Valley and Pakistan’s tribal areas. “If there is no education, extremism and religious fanaticism will rule. This is clear. So they don’t want people to be educated; they don’t want them to be informed.”

Schools in rural areas are especially easy targets for the militants. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province has thousands of schools, and no way to deploy armed guards at each one.

In Swabi, teachers kept classes going for dozens of children between the ages of 5 and 10, but had to move them outside.

“God knows why they do it,” instructor Mohammed Tayyib said of the Taliban. “As a teacher, it’s very frustrating. We’re trying our best, but it has definitely affected my level of motivation. And it has done the same to the students.”

When police do make arrests, said Babak, the provincial education minister, judges often release the suspects weeks later, citing shoddy investigative work. He can attest to that firsthand.

Last year, militants attacked his convoy in the middle of the night, spraying his car with bullets, one of which fractured a bone in his right hand. Several suspects were captured, but a court released them three months later.

The Taliban also claimed responsibility for attacking a bus carrying Sher Zameer’s son and other students home from Khyber Model School outside Peshawar in September 2011, calling it retaliation for a decision by tribal leaders from the suburb of Mattani to form anti-Taliban militias. The militias had set up checkpoints around villages served by the school, said Asghar Khan, whose only son, Mohammed Naveed Khan, was one of those killed.

A dozen black-clad militants crouched in wait behind a roadside berm and opened fire when the bus drove by, so crowded that children were clinging to the roof and sides.

The attackers killed the driver first, then shot out the tires. They pumped hundreds of AK-47 rounds and fired rockets at screaming boys and girls who leaped onto the road and sprinted for cover.

No one has been charged. It took survivors months to overcome their fear. Zameer’s son, 15-year-old Arshad Alam, was out of class for 10 weeks. “Every time I thought of restarting school, images from the attack would replay in my mind and keep me from going back,” he said.

Mohammed Zarshad, injured by shrapnel that pierced his hands and sheared off part of his right ear, didn’t go back for seven months.

“It’s not acceptable in any society for people to attack schoolchildren or schools,” said Khan. “One of the dead was a 5-year-old child. What did that boy do to deserve being killed?”

Trying to save his other arm (& Iranian revolutionary guards in Sudan)

October 27, 2012

The emir of Qatar and the Hamas prime minister in Gaza


* “Bombed arms factory in Sudan belongs to Iran’s revolutionary guards”
* “The Iranians know how to exploit every country that isn’t properly governed and Sudan is a country of that kind”
* “If the Sudanese are correct in what they are claiming, this would mean that the Israeli air force flew its longest ever bombing mission in its history last week. If the Israelis can get to Khartoum undetected, this should signal something to the Iranians”
* Syrian army kills 20 women and children in a bakery


(You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.)

 

CONTENTS

1. Doctors fight to save wounded soldier’s other arm
2. Peres: A million people in shelters
3. “UN silence on Gaza rockets gives terrorists a green light”
4. Hamas gives Qatar emir state reception; others say visit gave Hamas green light to attack
5. Emir of Qatar’s second wife “pays for anti-Israeli media in U.S.”
6. Jewish groups troubled by “European union’s one-sided criticism of Israel”
7. Report: Bombed arms factory in Sudan belongs to Iran’s revolutionary guard
8. Syrian army shelling kills 20 in a bakery
9. Jordan foils major terrorist plot
10. Ignoring threats, Jordanian sworn in as Israel envoy
11. Tension rises in Lebanon as gunmen occupy Tripoli streets
12. Terror attack against Israeli civilians thwarted in Cyprus
13. Turkey again rejects Israeli offer to repair relations
14. “My country is under attack. Do you care?” (Arsen Ostrovsky, Huffington Post, Canadian edition)


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

DOCTORS FIGHT TO SAVE WOUNDED SOLDIER’S OTHER ARM

Last Tuesday night and Wednesday, at least 86 rockets and mortar shells were fired from Gaza and aimed at Israeli civilians. Hamas proudly claimed responsibility for most of these attacks, with Islamic Jihad claiming they had fired the others.

The Israeli-developed Iron Dome defense system (which the American army now says it wants to purchase) managed to intercept many of the major rockets that were on a trajectory to hit Israeli cities, but others got through and a number of civilians in Israel were injured by the rockets, including two Thai farm workers who were severely injured.

Schools throughout southern Israel were closed last week and the population took refuge in bomb shelters, thereby greatly reducing the number of injured.

One young Israeli soldier, Ziv Shilon, who was defending an Israeli community close to the Gaza border, lost an arm in an attack from Gaza on Tuesday. Doctors at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba say his condition had now improved, he has regained consciousness, and they hoped to be able to save his other arm, which was also injured in the blast.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Shilon’s mother, Margalit and wished her son a speedy recovery. “There is nothing like a son’s love for his mother. Today, the entire nation loves and embraces your son. We will do our utmost to assist his rehabilitation,” Netanyahu said.

 

PERES: A MILLION PEOPLE IN SHELTERS

Israeli President Shimon Peres commented last week: “Right now there are a million people, mothers and children, sitting in shelters and being bombed. Nobody in Europe, Asia, America or anywhere else would agree to this day after day. We are behaving with a great deal of patience, we don’t want to see anyone being killed in Gaza, but no-one in the world could agree to the current situation. I want to tell the residents of Gaza and their leaders, they have to decide what they want – to build or to shoot.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman, speaking at a meeting with visiting EU Foreign Policy Chief, Baroness Catherine Ashton, added: “The situation in southern Israel, which is being bombarded with rockets from Gaza, is intolerable. No European state would allow such a reality in its territory as the residents of southern Israel are forced to suffer.”

Lieberman again asked that the EU act to prevent the smuggling of arms into the Gaza Strip.

The Egyptian government brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas at the end of the week, but it is not known how long it will hold.

So far this year, at least 729 rockets and mortars have been launched at Israeli civilians, far in excess of the estimated 653 launched in all of 2011. Slowly, the deterrence that was put into place following Israel’s strong-handed incursion into Gaza in the first days of January 2009, is being eroded.

 

UN SILENCE ON GAZA ROCKETS GIVES TERRORISTS A GREEN LIGHT”

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor said it was intolerable that the UN Security Council had failed to issue a statement condemning fire from Gaza, after more than 80 rockets slammed into southern Israel in a single day.

Prosor warned Security Council members that if they don’t condemn the rocket attacks, “there could be tragic consequences” because Hamas and other terrorists will interpret the silence “as a green light for terror and provocation.”

“The purpose for the rocket fire is to kill Israeli civilians in order to escalate the situation in the region and bring a confrontation between Hamas and Israel,” said Prosor (who is a longtime subscriber to this email list).

***

There is a related article at the end of this dispatch, “My Country is Under Attack. Do You Care?” by Arsen Ostrovsky, an international human rights lawyer.)

* Among other recent dispatch on Gaza, please see:
Reuters: New iPhones snapped up in Gaza despite high prices (& Chomsky in Gaza)

 

HAMAS ACCORDS THE EMIR OF QATAR A STATE RECEPTION; OTHERS SAY VISIT GAVE HAMAS GREEN LIGHT TO ATTACK

On Tuesday, the day before Hamas launched its wave of rockets, the emir of Qatar became the first head of state to visit the Gaza Strip since Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007. The emir initially pledged $250 million and then upped it to $400 million during his visit.

The money is meant to be used to build two housing complexes, and a new hospital. The emir, his wife and the Qatari prime minister led a large delegation that entered Gaza from Egypt in a convoy of black Mercedes and armored Toyotas.

In the West Bank, aides to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads the rival Palestinian Fatah faction, warned that the visit was “dangerous” as it gave the impression that Gaza’s Hamas prime minister was a head of state and thus further split the Palestinian people and territory in two.

“The visit sends a message to the rest of the world that the Hamas regime is a legitimate government and that the Gaza Strip is an independent political and geographic entity,” said one.

The visit was also seen as a severe blow to the claim by PLO chief Abbas to be the “sole legitimate leader” of all Palestinians.

“We call on the Qatari prince to visit the West Bank too!” read a headline in Al Quds, a leading newspaper in the West Bank. (The emir has never visited the West Bank.)

Israel also condemned the visit. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor said the emir has chosen to “support a terror organization that makes the lives of Israelis and Palestinians miserable.” He questioned Qatar’s choice of supporting one side of the internal Palestinian conflict, and said the decision to support violent extremists was in effect to “throw the peace process under the bus.”

Palmor, who is a subscriber to this email list, added: “It helps Hamas entrench themselves in Gaza, not to yield one inch to the Palestinian Authority, and enhancing the division and the reality of two de facto states.”

“Most of the money that he’s pouring in Gaza will go to Hamas pockets, directly or indirectly. You think that will encourage them to hold national elections?” asked Palmor.

Other observers said the visit gave Hamas, which refuses to renounce the use of violence against Israeli civilians, a greater sense of confidence, leading to the rocket barrage against Israel the following day.

However, the visit can also be viewed as a step by Sunni Gulf State leaders to lure Hamas away from its close allegiance with militant Shia Iran .

The five-hour visit ended with a huge rally at the Islamic University in Gaza City, where the emir and his wife were granted honorary doctorates.

 

EMIR OF QATAR’S SECOND WIFE “PAYS FOR ANTI-ISRAELI MEDIA IN U.S.”

Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned, the second wife of the emir of Qatar, is financing work between a U.S. public relations firm and Al Fakhoora, a Qatar-based pro-Palestinian organization that participated in the flotilla that tried to circumvent Israel’s naval border with Gaza two years ago and stirred up international public opinion against Israel.

Documents revealed that the Qataris paid $240,000 to just one American firm for communications services rendered over a six-month period, according to the Washington-based Israel Project.

 

JEWISH GROUPS “TROUBLED BY EUROPEAN UNION’S ‘ONE-SIDED CRITICISM’ OF ISRAEL”

The Anti-Defamation League and other American Jewish groups expressed concern over continuing one-sided criticism of Israel by the European Union for the lack of progress in achieving a negotiated two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Last week, Baroness Ashton, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said Israeli construction in the Gilo neighborhood of south-west Jerusalem was threatening “to make a two-state solution impossible.” (Gilo is one of Jerusalem’s largest areas and no-one realistically expects it to form part of any future Palestinian state.)

At the same time, Ashton chose to omit any criticism of the Palestinian Authority for its continuing refusal to return to the negotiation process, following her meeting last month with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

 

REPORT: BOMBED ARMS FACTORY IN SUDAN BELONGS TO IRAN’S REVOLUTIONARY GUARD

Opposition sources in Sudan claim that the arms factory that was bombed in Khartoum last week belongs to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

In recent years, several reports published in the Arab media said that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard have built weapons manufacturing plants in Sudan and these supplied arms to Hamas and other groups.

After the fall of Libya’s Gaddafi regime last year, the Al-Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps smuggled dozens of antiaircraft and SA-24 missiles from Libya to Sudan, in order to later pass them on to Hamas.

The Sudanese government blamed Israel for the bombing. “A formation of four planes came from the east and used advanced technology that jammed our radars, technology that is available only to a few countries,” the Sudanese information minister, Ahmed Bilal Osman, said.

Israel has not publicly commented on the reports.

But sources with links to Israeli intelligence said: “This was a major arms producing center. The factory did not belong to the Sudanese military industry. The factory belongs to the government in Tehran and is run by Iranians.”

Other Israeli observers noted that if indeed Israel was behind the attack, it may have also been intended to send an additional message to Iran: the distance flown by the Israeli air force to Sudan (1,900 km, or 1,180 miles) would have been 320 km longer than that required to fly from Israel to Iranian nuclear installations, and the logistical difficulties of carrying out such a raid would have had some similarities.

Both during a previous strike on a weapons convoy in Sudan in 2009 (See “Israel’s Sudan strike targeted weapons capable of hitting Tel Aviv and Dimona”) and in last week’s strike on the arms factory, Sudanese communication systems were reportedly jammed using sophisticated technology while the attack was carried out.

Sudan has been listed as a state sponsor of terrorism by the U.S. State Department since 1993, and is a close ally of Iran.

Israeli deputy prime minister and former chief of staff of the Israeli army (and a longtime subscriber to this email list), Moshe Ya’alon, said in response to last week’s events that “The Iranians know how to exploit every country that isn’t properly governed and Sudan is a country of that kind.”

Another subscriber to this email list, the leading Israeli political commentator Ehud Ya’ari, said “If the Sudanese are correct in what they are claiming, this would mean that the Israeli air force flew its longest ever bombing mission in its history last week. If the Israelis can get to Khartoum undetected, this should signal something to the Iranians.”

 

SYRIAN ARMY SHELLING KILLS 20 IN A BAKERY

At least 20 people, almost of all whom were women and children, were killed on Tuesday when the Syrian army shelled a bakery in the city of Aleppo.

 

JORDAN FOILS MAJOR TERRORIST PLOT

Jordanian Intelligence says it has foiled a major terrorist plot led by a group of 11 terrorists. Places and people to be targeted in Jordan were said to include shopping malls, residential areas, diplomats and foreign nationals.

The Jordanian news agency wrote: “The objective of the plot, labeled by Jordan as 9/11 (2) in reference to the Amman hotel bombings of 2005, was to cause chaos and anarchy and spread fear among the population, setting the stage for further operations to follow.”

“The plan was to bomb two shopping malls as a start, divert the attention of all security forces in Amman to those incidents and shortly afterwards, members of the groups would attack sensitive installations and targets, using machine guns, car bombs and mortar shells.”

All members of the terror cell are Jordanian nationals who had been in Syria for training, according to the Jordanian authorities.

In a separate incident, a Jordanian soldier was shot dead in a clash between Jordanian border guards and Islamist infiltrators who tried to enter Jordan from Syria last week. Mohammad Abdullah Manasir is the first Jordanian victim of the current crisis in Syria. Jordanian sources said four of the infiltrators were killed and 12 managed to escape back into Syria, according to the Jordanian paper, Al Rai.

A number of foreign Islamists have been fighting in Syria alongside the anti-Assad rebels. Jordan’s banned Salafi movement – which promotes a fundamentalist brand of Islam – has sent several fighters to Syria in past months and Jordanian border patrols say they have caught some of them recently.

 

IGNORING THREATS, JORDANIAN SWORN IN AS ISRAEL ENVOY

Following up an item in an earlier dispatch on this list, Jordan’s new ambassador to Israel, Walid Obeidat, has now been sworn in by Jordanian King Abdullah despite threats from Obeidat’s powerful clan to disown him if he accepted the post.

Obeidat has been under strong pressure to turn down the position, with his clan offering him five million dinars and the promise of political success as incentive not to take up what they called this “disgraceful” appointment to the Jewish state.

It is the first time in two years that Jordan has appointed an ambassador to Israel.

Along with Obeidat, the new Egyptian ambassador to Israel also presented his credentials to Israeli President Peres this month. The Egyptian envoy also presented a friendly letter from President Morsi to President Peres, which created an uproar in Egypt but has been approved by the Egyptian regime.

 

TENSION RISES IN LEBANON AS GUNMEN OCCUPY TRIPOLI STREETS

Tension is on the rise in Lebanon as armed men took to the streets of the northern coastal city of Tripoli, erecting roadblocks and asking people and car drivers and passengers to identify themselves, the As Safir newspaper in Beirut reported. In some incidents, armed men abused and physically attacked civilians and shot rounds of bullets in the air to frighten others.

At night, sniper fire continued unabated. A 9-year old girl was among those shot dead by snipers, according to press reports.

 

TERROR ATTACK AGAINST ISRAELI CIVILIANS THWARTED IN CYPRUS

Intelligence officials in Cyprus last week said prevented what would have been a “massive terrorist attack” on the Cypriot port Limassol, uncovering a large quantity of explosives. The terror plot was directed at Israeli tourists, and would have followed the recent suicide bombing that killed Israeli tourists in the Bulgarian resort of Burgas. U.S. and Israeli officials have linked the Burgas attack to Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hizbullah.

(For more on that attack, please see: Her final call: “I just found out I’m pregnant at last”. )

The amount of explosive discovered last week, described as pink and comprising small balls, was reportedly enough to cause massive damage, the Cypriot paper Alithia reported.

Israelis often visits Limassol as part of tourist cruise ship vacations.

In a separate incident in July, Cypriot security officials arrested a Lebanese man with Swedish citizenship who was reportedly a Hizbullah operative, and was said to have collected information regarding Israeli-frequented cafes and restaurants as part of a plan to carry out terrorist attacks on Israelis in Cyprus.

The 24-year-old suspect was arrested in his hotel room, where police found documents and photos of Israeli targets, including flight schedules of Israeli airlines.

Cyprus is one of the most popular tourist destinations for Israelis, with some 32,000 visiting the island in 2011, according to official figures.

A number of planned attacks against Israelis around the world have been foiled in the past year, including in Thailand, India and Georgia. Israel says the plots are part of a concerted effort by Iran, which employs the Lebanese Shiite terror group Hizbullah to target Israelis and Jews globally.

 

TURKEY AGAIN REJECTS ISRAELI OFFER TO REPAIR RELATIONS

A new Israeli offer last week mend fences with Turkey has again been rebuffed by Ankara, with Turkish officials dismissing an invitation from Israel’s Foreign Ministry to “set aside differences in the interest of containing the regional unrest created by Syria’s civil war”.

The Israeli press provided details of the proposal, which included an offer to negotiate over a 2010 incident in which eight Turkish militants were killed trying to break Israel’s legally-imposed sea border crossings to Hamas-controlled Gaza.

Turkey’s ongoing refusal to countenance rapprochement with Israel has complicated regional geopolitics and frustrated American officials seeking to bridge differences between the two former allies.

***

I attach an article below.

-- Tom Gross


ARTICLE

MY COUNTRY IS UNDER ATTACK. DO YOU CARE?

My Country is Under Attack. Do You Care?
By Arsen Ostrovsky
Huffington Post (Canadian edition only)
October 24, 2012

I’m angry.

You see, as most Americans were waking up this morning, and those in Europe and elsewhere around the world were going about their daily routines, here in Israel -- over one million people were running for cover from a hail of rockets being rained down by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza. In the space of 24 hours, since Tuesday evening, 80 rockets have been fired on southern Israel. That’s more than three rockets per hour. By the time I finish this article, odds are that count will have risen to 85 rockets.

Just to put things in context: one million Israelis is roughly 13 per cent of the population. Thirteen per cent of the U.S. population equates to about 40 million people.

A dozen Israelis have already been injured, with several of them seriously. The only reason more have not been hurt is because Israel has invested millions of dollars in bomb shelters and the Iron Dome defense system, while Hamas has invested millions of dollars in foreign aid in more rockets.

But here is why I’m angry.

I’m angry that in 2012, over 600 rockets have already been fired from Gaza with no end in sight. I’m angry that the world only notices when Israel undertakes its (sovereign) right to defend its citizens. Can you imagine if even one rocket was fired on Washington, London, Paris or Moscow? No nation on earth can, or should, tolerate such attacks on its people.

I’m angry that while the United Nations never hesitates to call a ‘special emergency session’ on the ‘Question of Palestine’ or pass the umpteenth resolution blindly condemning Israel, that I am still waiting for a session on the ‘Question of Israel’ and Palestinian terror. In fact, 24 hours after the rocket attacks started, I am still waiting for even one syllable of condemnation from the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly or Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

I’m angry that Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary-General, could not find a moment to condemn the Palestinian rockets, but did find time to laugh and dance with South Korean rapper Psy from the popular dance craze Gangnam Style.

I’m angry that while the EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton slammed Israel last week over the building of several hundred apartments (in an area that will arguably remain part of Israel anyway), that I am still waiting for her to slam the Palestinians for firing 80 rockets in one day.

I’m angry that there are those who continue to call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against the Jewish State, but are silent in the face of Palestinian terror.

I’m angry that ships and flotillas continue to set sail for Gaza to show ‘solidarity’ with the Palestinians, but where is their solidarity with the people of southern Israel?

I’m angry that while human rights organizations like Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam and others do not waste a single opportunity to condemn Israel for human rights violations against the Palestinians, the human rights of Israelis are seemingly not important enough for them. Is Jewish blood really that cheap?

I’m angry that mainstream newspapers like the New York Times, lead their stories about the rocket attacks with such headlines as “Four Palestinian Militants Killed in Israeli Airstrikes,” and not “Palestinian Terrorists Rain Down Over 80 Rockets against one million Israelis.”

I’m angry that so many people are blind to the fact that Iran, which has called for Israel to be wiped off the map and now seeks to obtain nuclear weapons, is the primary funder and supplier of arms to Hamas. I’m angry at the fact that all civilians in southern Israel today were instructed not to send their kids to school and stay in bomb shelters. What sort of inhumane way is that for children to live?

I’m angry when people continue to say that ‘settlements’ are the main impediment to peace, and not Hamas, a terrorist group which does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and seeks its destruction. I’m angry when I see pictures like this, of a home in southern Israel hit by a rocket from Gaza today, yet have the audacity to say “ah, but they’re just like toys; what damage can they do?”

I’m angry that there is someone out there who does not know me and has never met me, yet still wants to kill me -- for no other reason than being Israeli.

I’m angry when I hear residents in southern Israel say “we just lie on top of our children and try to protect them with our bodies” or that “we’re living on borrowed time” -- yet the world seems oblivious to their desperate cries for help.

No, I am not angry. I am outraged.

Reuters: New iPhones snapped up in Gaza despite high prices (& Chomsky in Gaza)

October 19, 2012

* Former Mossad chief “in critical condition” after undergoing transplant in Belarus
* Russian-made rocket fired from Gaza at Israeli helicopter
* Israeli-linked professors again dominate this year’s Nobel prizes for science
* Noam Chomsky traveled to Gaza yesterday to criticize Israel
* Leading Saudi paper: “One bullet is enough” to kill Bashar Assad

 

The iPhone 5 is popular in Gaza even before it has reached Israel


(You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.)

 

CONTENTS

1. Reuters: New iPhones snapped up in Gaza despite high prices
2. iPhone 5: Israel has no capital city
3. Former Mossad chief “in critical condition” after undergoing transplant in Belarus
4. “Gaza amassing anti-aircraft and other sophisticated missiles from Libyan war”
5. Hizbullah’s drone may have overflown Dimona
6. Leading Saudi paper calls for Assad’s assassination: “One bullet is enough!”
7. Human Rights Watch: Assad dropping cluster bombs on his own people
8. Washington Post: “Obama’s catastrophic mishandling of the revolution in Syria”
9. Israel prepares to end army exemption for Ultra-Orthodox Jews
10. Israeli-linked professors again dominate this year’s Nobel prizes for science
11. “How Obama bungled the Syrian revolution” (Jackson Diehl, Washington Post, Oct 14, 2012)
12. “Ultra-Orthodox up in arms as Israel prepares to end army exemption” (Matthew Kalman, The Independent, Oct 17, 2012)


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

REUTERS: NEW IPHONES SNAPPED UP IN GAZA DESPITE HIGH PRICES

Apple’s new iPhone 5 is selling well in the Gaza Strip despite selling for twice the price it does in the U.S. It has reached Gaza even before it has gone on sale in Israel, its next-door neighbor and high-tech hub. The iPhone 5 only goes on sale in Israel in December.

The cutting edge smart phones were smuggled into the Palestinian territory from Egypt. Reuters reports that “the phones have been available for a couple of weeks in Gaza and they were on display on Monday in three independent mobile stores in a one-block radius in downtown Gaza City.

Prices ranged from $1,170 for the 16-gigabyte model to $1,480 for 64 gb.

“I ordered 30 and I’ve sold 20 so far,” said one dealer. “We can order as many as we want. But most people are waiting for the price to go down. They’re pretty expensive.”

The iPhone 5, launched last month, sells for $650 for the 16-gigabyte model and $850 for 64-gigabyte version in the United States.

The full Reuters report, as carried in the leading Egyptian daily Al Ahram, is here.

***

Despite press reports from major Western media depicting Gaza as almost universally poor, there is in fact also considerable wealth in Gaza, and it is currently undergoing a real estate boom.

Among past dispatches (with photos) of life in Gaza, please see:

A nice new shopping mall opened today in Gaza: Will the media report on it?
www.tomgrossmedia.com/mideastdispatches/archives/001127.html

Fancy restaurants and Olympic-size swim pools: what the media won’t report about Gaza
www.tomgrossmedia.com/mideastdispatches/archives/001114.html


***

Jewish-American linguistics professor Noam Chomsky traveled to Gaza yesterday to speak at a conference at Gaza’s Islamic University. Chomsky called for an end to the blockade of the Hamas-ruled territory, without noting the irony that he himself had entered Gaza without impediment from Egypt. This is Chomsky’s first visit to Gaza.

Chomsky, 84, is a professor emeritus at the Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at MIT, and is known for his vehement criticism of Israel and America.

 

IPHONE 5: ISRAEL HAS NO CAPITAL CITY

There is disappointment and anger among many in Israel that the iPhone 5’s new Apple Maps application does not list Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and its built-in World Clock app shows Jerusalem as a city without an associated country.

 

FORMER MOSSAD CHIEF “IN CRITICAL CONDITION” AFTER UNDERGOING TRANSPLANT IN BELARUS

The former head of the Mossad, Meir Dagan, is in critical, yet stable, condition after undergoing a liver-transplant operation in Belarus, according to an announcement made by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Meir Dagan was secretly operated on a week ago. The procedure itself was apparently successful, but complications set in following the operation, according to israelinfo.ru.

Senior Israeli doctors assisted in the surgery.

Dagan’s family say they are concerned about his safety after the Belarusian ruler made public details of the operation. Dagan has now been moved to an intensive care unit in an undisclosed hospital.

The regulations of Israeli hospitals forbid liver transplant operations for patients over 65 years old. Meir Dagan is 67, which was why the surgery couldn’t be performed in Israel, Prof. Yaakov Lavie of the transplant center at Tel Aviv’s Tel Hashomer Hospital told Israeli media.

Dagan was to undergo a surgery in India, but the Indian authorities refused to admit him due to his former position as Mossad chief. A number of Western countries also refused to allow Dagan into their countries for an operation, concerned that Iran or one of its proxy terror groups such as Hizbullah would attempt to attack any hospital in which Dagan was housed.

For more on Dagan, please see: www.tomgrossmedia.com/mideastdispatches/archives/001155.html

 

ISRAEL: GAZA AMASSING ANTI-AIRCRAFT AND OTHER SOPHISTICATED MISSILES FROM LIBYAN WAR

Yossi Kuperwasser, who directs Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, has said that “significant” numbers of sophisticated weapons from Libya have been smuggled into Gaza since the fall last year of the Gadhafi regime.

Palestinian militants in Gaza launched a shoulder-fired Strela SA-7 surface-to-air missile at an Israeli helicopter last week, but missed. It was the first such launch from Gaza.

Kuperwasser (who is a former head of Israeli military intelligence and is a longtime subscriber to this email list) said on Wednesday that more than 800 rockets and mortar rounds had been fired into southern Israel since the start of the year, with organizations such as Islamic Jihad taking over from Hamas as the main perpetrators of these attacks.

He added that Islamist extremism was flourishing in Gaza, which is home to some 1.6 million people – 44 percent of whom are aged 14 or under, according to the CIA handbook.

 

HIZBULLAH’S DRONE MAY HAVE OVERFLOWN DIMONA

Hizbullah has confirmed that the drone shot down by Israel’s air force last week was sent by them. The drone was shot down only after it managed to over-fly the Jewish state for three hours during which time it broadcast images of secret Israeli military instillations, preparations for next week’s U.S.-Israel military exercises, and possibly the nuclear reactor at Dimona, according to unconfirmed British press reports, citing intelligence sources.

On Tuesday, a senior Iranian military official claimed that the Islamic Republic has sent drones over Israel “dozens of times” that were not detected. Israel denied the Iranian claims.

On Wednesday, Iranian-American Manssor Arbabsiar pled guilty to attempting to murder the Saudi ambassador to the United States. The plot was organized by high-ranking Iranian officials, according to press reports. The United States has linked the plot to a larger Iranian campaign to assassinate foreign diplomats in at least seven countries including India, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Thailand.

On Thursday, Western diplomats said that Iran is expanding its uranium enrichment capacity at the underground IRGC military base in Fordow, near Qom. Reuters quoted a diplomat at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) saying the pace of Iran’s advancement was “pretty rapid.”

***

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora joined other Lebanese leaders in warning that Hizbullah’s “adventures” could drag Lebanon into a military conflict with Israel.

Siniora told the Beirut Daily Star newspaper that Hizbullah leader Nasrallah did not share his plans with the Lebanese government, and that “Hizbullah hasn’t asked the Lebanese if they are prepared to get engaged in a war against Israel.”

The former prime minister noted that the drone flight was a clear violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 that bans non-government groups from maintaining arsenals and fighting forces.

Lebanese president Michel Suleiman similarly criticized Hizbullah for its “reckless action”.

Former prime minister Said Hariri also criticized Hizbullah for its provocations.

 

LEADING SAUDI PAPER CALLS FOR ASSAD’S ASSASSINATION: “ONE BULLET IS ENOUGH!”

Under the heading “One bullet is enough!” a leading Saudi newspaper with strong ties to the Saudi royal family, has called for the assassination of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad

Writing in A-Sharq Al-Awsat, which serves as a mouthpiece for the Saudi regime, columnist Imad Al-Din Adib said all other solutions to the crisis have failed.

“Classic war, an invasion from the outside, or civil war, are not the solution,” writes Adib. “The practical solution is an operation from within the regime… a bloody solution of one single bullet to end the regime chief who has lost his mind and rejected all forms of political resolution that could spare the lives of the patient Syrian people.”

 

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: ASSAD DROPPING CLUSTER BOMBS ON HIS OWN PEOPLE

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s troops began dropping cluster bombs on civilian areas last week according to the international organization Human Rights Watch (HRW).

According to HRW, Assad’s forces have used cluster bombs in Aleppo, the Damascus suburbs, Homs and Lattakia province, targeting both civilians and fighters. HRW said the cluster bombs – a weapon which is outlawed in many countries – were produced by Russia, but it is not known how they arrived in Syria.

 

WASHINGTON POST: “OBAMA’S CATASTROPHIC MISHANDLING OF THE REVOLUTION IN SYRIA”

Jackson Diehl, the deputy comment editor of the Washington Post, writes:

“Mitt Romney and congressional Republicans are doing their best to portray the assault on the U.S. mission in Libya and its aftermath as a signal foreign policy disaster for Barack Obama. But my bet is that when historians look back on Obama’s mistakes in the last four years, they will focus on something entirely different: his catastrophic mishandling of the revolution in Syria…

“The president’s handling of Syria exemplifies every weakness in his foreign policy – from his excessive faith in “engaging” troublesome foreign leaders to his insistence on multilateralism as an end in itself to his self-defeating caution in asserting American power.

“The result is not a painful but isolated setback, but an emerging strategic disaster: a war in the heart of the Middle East that is steadily spilling over to vital U.S. allies, such as Turkey and Jordan, and to volatile neighbors, such as Iraq and Lebanon. Al-Qaeda is far more active in Syria than it is in Libya – while more liberal and secular forces are turning against the United States because of its failure to help them.

“Obama’s Syria policy began in 2009 with the misguided idea of reaching out to the dictator...”

***

Jackson Diehl’s full article, which is well-worth reading, is attached below. (Diehl is a subscriber to this email list.)

 

ISRAEL PREPARES TO END ARMY EXEMPTION FOR ULTRA-ORTHODOX JEWS

The Israeli army will send enlistment notices to 15,000 ultra-Orthodox young men currently attending yeshivas (religious schools) in the coming weeks. It is part of an effort by the Israeli authorities to integrate all citizens into the state’s civil and military institutions.

Existing ultra-orthodox army battalions will be expanded to accommodate the new enlistees, though they will not be formally drafted until January after the Israeli election, scheduled for January 22. Integration efforts are also being made in Israel’s higher education system, where a new program aims to double the number of ultra-orthodox students by 2017.

There is an article from the British newspaper The Independent expanding on this development at the end of this dispatch, written by correspondent Matthew Kalman, a subscriber to this list.

 

ISRAELI-LINKED PROFESSORS AGAIN DOMINATE THIS YEAR’S NOBEL PRIZES FOR SCIENCE

The 2012 Nobel Prize in Economics has been awarded to Americans Alvin Roth and Lloyd Shapley for research that helps explain the market processes at work when doctors are assigned to hospitals, students to schools and human organs for transplant to recipients. Both prize-winners have strong academic ties to Israel, considered a world leader in game theory economics.

Roth, 60, is a professor at Harvard, and was a visiting professor of economics at the Technion Institute in Haifa in the 1980s, and then returned to Israel in the mid-1990s as a visiting professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and then at Tel Aviv University.

He worked in the past with Israeli-American Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman, who won the Nobel Prize with Israeli Amos Tverski in 2002 for research in behavioral economics.

Shapely, considered one of the fathers of game theory, has worked with Israeli Nobel Prize Laureate Robert Auman in the field.

Another Jewish-American professor, Robert Lefkowitz has won this year’s Nobel prize for chemistry, sharing it with Brian Kobilka.

It is not only Ashkenazi Jews that are winning Nobel prizes, but Sephardi ones too.

A second Jew from an Arab country in the space of five years has won the Nobel Prize in Physics. Serge Haroche, now living in France, but born to a Jewish family in Casablanca, is the third North African Jew to have won a Nobel Prize for Science. Haroche’s father is Sephardi but his mother is an Ashkenazi Jewish teacher, born in Russia who fled the Nazis to reach Morocco, where Haroche was born in 1944.

Haroche was a guest professor on quantum physics at Israel’s Technion last year.

***

Among past related dispatches, please see this one about last year’s Nobel Prize winner for chemistry, Daniel Shechtman of Israel’s Technion institute in Haifa:

* One Israeli’s path from being mocked to winning a Nobel
www.tomgrossmedia.com/mideastdispatches/archives/0011225.html

***

Israel is regularly treated with disdain by many reporters and columnists in the international media. Yet this small state continues to make astonishing contributions to the worlds of art, literature, and particularly to classical music, medicine and science.

Another Israeli, Ada Yonath, won the 2009 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Two Israelis, Avram Hershko and Aaron Ciechanover, won the 2004 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. In the past, Israelis have also won Nobel prizes for economics, literature and peace.

***

I attach two articles below.

[All notes above by Tom Gross]


FULL ARTICLES

HOW OBAMA BUNGLED THE SYRIAN REVOLUTION

How Obama bungled the Syrian revolution
By Jackson Diehl
Washington Post
October 14, 2012

Mitt Romney and congressional Republicans are doing their best to portray the assault on the U.S. mission in Libya and its aftermath as a signal foreign policy disaster for Barack Obama. But my bet is that when historians look back on Obama’s mistakes in the last four years, they will focus on something entirely different: his catastrophic mishandling of the revolution in Syria.

The deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi were a calamity – but those losses were mainly the result of poor security decisions by mid-level State Department officials, not policy choices by Obama. The president’s handling of Syria, on the other hand, exemplifies every weakness in his foreign policy – from his excessive faith in “engaging” troublesome foreign leaders to his insistence on multilateralism as an end in itself to his self-defeating caution in asserting American power.

The result is not a painful but isolated setback, but an emerging strategic disaster: a war in the heart of the Middle East that is steadily spilling over to vital U.S. allies, such as Turkey and Jordan, and to volatile neighbors, such as Iraq and Lebanon. Al-Qaeda is far more active in Syria than it is in Libya – while more liberal and secular forces are turning against the United States because of its failure to help them. More than 30,000 people – most of them civilians – have been killed, and the toll mounts by the hundreds every day.

Of course, Obama is not solely responsible for this mess. But his serial miscalculations have had the consistent if unintended effect of enabling Syria’s Bashar al-Assad – first to avoid international isolation, then to go on slaughtering his own population with impunity.

Obama’s Syria policy began in 2009 with the misguided idea of reaching out to the dictator. Within a month of his inauguration, Obama reversed the Bush administration’s approach of isolating Assad. He later reopened the U.S. Embassy and dispatched senior envoys, such as George Mitchell.

The problem with this policy was not just the distasteful courting of a rogue regime but the willful disregard of the lessons absorbed by George W. Bush, who also tried reaching out to Assad, only to learn the hard way that he was an irredeemable thug. Yet Obama insisted on reversing Bush’s policy of distancing the United States from strongmen like Assad and Hosni Mubarak – a monumental miscalculation.

When the uprising against Assad began in March of last year, the administration’s first reaction was to predict that he could be induced to coopt it. “Many . . . believe he’s a reformer,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. That illusion caused the administration to stand by for months while Assad’s security forces gunned down what were then peaceful pro-democracy marchers; not until August 2011 did Obama say that Assad should “step aside.”

By then Syria was already tipping into civil war. The State Department’s Syria experts recognized the peril: If Assad were not overthrown quickly, they warned in congressional testimony, the country could tip into a devastating sectarian war that would empower jihadists and spread to neighboring countries. But Obama rejected suggestions by several senators that he lead an intervention. Instead he committed a second major error, by adopting a policy of seeking to broker a Syrian solution through the United Nations. “The best thing we can do,” he said last March, “is to unify the international community.”

As countless observers correctly predicted, the subsequent U.N. mission of Kofi Annan was doomed from the beginning. When the White House could no longer deny that reality, it turned to an equally fantastical gambit: Vladi­mir Putin, it argued, could be persuaded to abandon his support of Assad and force him to step down. The nadir of this diplomacy may have been reached on June 30, when Clinton cheerfully predicted that the Kremlin had “decided to get on one horse, and it’s the horse that would back a transition plan” removing Assad.

Needless to say, Putin did no such thing. The war went on; thousands more died. For the past three months, Obama’s policy has become a negative: He is simply opposed to any use of U.S. power. Fixed on his campaign slogan that “the tide of war is receding” in the Middle East, Obama claims that intervention would only make the conflict worse – and then watches as it spreads to NATO ally Turkey and draws in hundreds of al-Qaeda fighters.

No doubt it’s easier for Romney and the Republicans to talk about the death of an ambassador in a terrorist attack than to ask war-weary Americans to think about this. But it is Syria that is Obama’s greatest failure; it will haunt whomever occupies the Oval Office next year.

 

ULTRA-ORTHODOX UP IN ARMS AS ISRAEL PREPARES TO END ARMY EXEMPTION

Ultra-Orthodox up in arms as Israel prepares to end army exemption
By Matthew Kalman
The Independent (London)
October 17 2012

The Israeli Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, has announced plans to draft thousands of Ultra-Orthodox students into the army – a move that could set him at loggerheads with the religious parties in the run-up to a general election in January.

Mr Barak is quarantined from the political battle ahead after quitting the Labour Party. His largely fictional Atzmaut faction is unlikely to attract any votes, and he will either join the Likud party or be nominated as Defence Minister irrespective of whether he enters parliament.

Last week, the army began sending out 15,000 call-up notices to Ultra-Orthodox teenagers who until now have been granted exemption from duty because they are studying in rabbinical seminaries – an arrangement that began in the early years of the state with a few hundred selected students but has now mushroomed to include some 55,000 young men.

The issue of Ultra-Orthodox army service was catapulted back on to the political agenda earlier this year after the High Court struck down the so-called Tal Law that allowed mass exemptions for seminary students, branding it illegal. The Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, lost Kadima from his coalition after failing to enact new legislation.

Mr Barak told a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee in Jerusalem this week that the army had made “massive preparations” to absorb thousands of new Ultra-Orthodox recruits. He said efforts would initially be directed at 16- to 19-year-olds receiving their first call-up notices, while leaving older students alone for now. “Because we’re now in election season, and to facilitate dialogue, I have refrained from setting in stone [directives] regarding those in the interim age bracket,” Mr Barak said.
In order to provide high standards of kosher food, Shabbat observance and gender separation, most Ultra-Orthodox soldiers serve in special units, including the Nachal Haredi, the Netzach Yehuda combat battalion and the Shachar hi-tech training unit.

Brigadier-General Gadi Agmon, of the IDF manpower division, said that the army planned to establish four new battalions for Ultra-Orthodox soldiers, including a so-called “hesder” track that combines seminary study with combat service and home-front units where recruits could serve as firefighters, police officers and medics.

Brig-Gen Agmon said “the entire class of 2013” would be processed, but there would be exceptions for star students – as in music, athletics and other fields – and for those deemed medically or psychologically unfit.

Ultra-Orthodox leaders said they would not allow the mass draft to go forward without a fight. Moshe Gafni, an MP from the United Torah Judaism Party, said the government’s plan could not be imposed by force. “You don’t know what planet you’re living on,” Mr Gafni told the Defence Minister, warning that any attempt to enforce the draft in the seminaries would spark riots.

Hiddush, an NGO that has campaigned for a fair draft, said Mr Barak’s plan was doomed. “Unfortunately there is not the slightest chance that even one yeshiva student will be drafted.”

Meanwhile, Mr Barak denied reports he had met secretly with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for peace talks in Jordan last Thursday. According to the Chinese news agency Xinhua, the two met King Abdullah to discuss Mr Barak’s plan for a unilateral withdrawal from parts of the West Bank.

The reports sparked furious reactions from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who berated the Palestinian President for reneging on his vow not to talk to Israeli leaders without a complete freeze on Israeli construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

“So, the question now is who is the real enemy of the Arab world?”

October 09, 2012

* Abdulateef Al-Mulhim, columnist for (the Saudi-owned) ‘Arab News’: “On the anniversary of the 1973 War between the Arab and the Israelis, many people in the Arab world are beginning to ask many questions about the past, present and the future with regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The questions now are: What was the real cost of these wars to the Arab world and its people. And the harder question that no Arab national wants to ask is: What was the real cost for not recognizing Israel in 1948 and why didn’t the Arab states spend their assets on education, health care and the infrastructures instead of wars? But, the hardest question that no Arab national wants to hear is whether Israel is the real enemy of the Arab world and the Arab people.” [TG: -- Abdulateef Al-Mulhim is a retired Saudi Naval Commodore.]

* Al-Mulhim: “I decided to write this article after I saw photos and reports about a starving child in Yemen, a burned ancient Aleppo souk in Syria, the under developed Sinai in Egypt, car bombs in Iraq and the destroyed buildings in Libya.”

* Al-Mulhim: “If many of the Arab states are in such disarray, then what happened to the Arabs’ sworn enemy Israel? Israel now has the most advanced research facilities, top universities and advanced infrastructure. Many Arabs don’t know that the life expectancy of the Palestinians living in Israel is far longer than many Arab states and they enjoy far better political and social freedom than many of their Arab brothers. Even the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip enjoy more political and social rights than some places in the Arab World. Wasn’t one of the judges who sent a former Israeli president to jail an Israeli-Palestinian?”

 

* Fred Hiatt: “Obama likes to say that ‘the tide of war is receding,’ but saying so doesn’t make it so, and withdrawing America from the field of battle doesn’t necessarily end a war… The longer a president holds America back from its expected role as leader and shaper of events, the messier the dilemmas will be.”


Missing in action

 

* Victor Davis Hanson: “Let us confess it: Many of the things that are bothersome in the world today originate in the Middle East. Billions of air passengers each year take off their belts and shoes at the airport, not because of fears of terrorism from the slums of Johannesburg or because the grandsons of displaced East Prussians are blowing up Polish diplomats. We put up with such burdens because a Saudi multimillionaire, Osama bin Laden, and his unhinged band of Arab religious extremists began ramming airliners into buildings and murdering thousands.”

* Davis Hanson: “The world obsesses over Israel and the Palestinians because of the neurotic Middle East. The issue is not really the principle of a divided capital – or Nicosia would be daily news. Nor is the concern over refugees per se, since well over 500,000 Jews [in fact 800,000] were religiously cleansed from the major Arab capitals following the 1948 and 1967 wars. No one cares where they went or how they have fared in the decades since. Is the global worry really over occupied territories? Hardly. Lately it seems that every desolate island between China and Japan is equally contested. Are there special envoys to the Falklands, and do the islanders receive international aid? Will there be a U.N. session devoted to the Kuril Islands? Does Gdansk/Danzig merit summits? We are told ad nauseam that the Arab minority in Israel suffers – would that the ignored Coptic minority in Egypt had similar protections and freedoms.”


I attach three articles below and recommend reading all three if you have time.

Abdulateef Al-Mulhim’s courageous article is in many ways spot on, but I disagree with his assertion that “The Arab-Israeli conflict is the most complicated conflict the world ever experienced.” It certainly didn’t, and doesn’t, have to be this way.

The writers of the second and third articles, Fred Hiatt (the Editorial Page Editor of the Washington Post) and the historian Victor Davis Hanson (who is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution), are both longtime subscribers to this email list.

(You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.)

-- Tom Gross

 

(Thank you to all those who have picked up on these articles from this webpage, such as David Frum in The Daily Beast.)


“THE ARAB SPRING SHOWED THE WORLD THAT THE PALESTINIANS ARE HAPPIER AND IN A BETTER SITUATION THAN THEIR ARAB BROTHERS”

The Arab Spring and the Israeli enemy
By Abdulateef Al-Mulhim
Arab News
October 6, 2012

www.arabnews.com/arab-spring-and-israeli-enemy

Thirty-nine years ago, on Oct. 6, 1973, the third major war between the Arabs and Israel broke out. The war lasted only 20 days. The two sides were engaged in two other major wars, in 1948 and 1967.

The 1967 War lasted only six days. But, these three wars were not the only Arab-Israel confrontations. From the period of 1948 and to this day many confrontations have taken place. Some of them were small clashes and many of them were full-scale battles, but there were no major wars apart from the ones mentioned above. The Arab-Israeli conflict is the most complicated conflict the world ever experienced. On the anniversary of the 1973 War between the Arab and the Israelis, many people in the Arab world are beginning to ask many questions about the past, present and the future with regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The questions now are: What was the real cost of these wars to the Arab world and its people. And the harder question that no Arab national wants to ask is: What was the real cost for not recognizing Israel in 1948 and why didn’t the Arab states spend their assets on education, health care and the infrastructures instead of wars? But, the hardest question that no Arab national wants to hear is whether Israel is the real enemy of the Arab world and the Arab people.

I decided to write this article after I saw photos and reports about a starving child in Yemen, a burned ancient Aleppo souk in Syria, the under developed Sinai in Egypt, car bombs in Iraq and the destroyed buildings in Libya. The photos and the reports were shown on the Al-Arabiya network, which is the most watched and respected news outlet in the Middle East.

The common thing among all what I saw is that the destruction and the atrocities are not done by an outside enemy. The starvation, the killings and the destruction in these Arab countries are done by the same hands that are supposed to protect and build the unity of these countries and safeguard the people of these countries. So, the question now is that who is the real enemy of the Arab world?

The Arab world wasted hundreds of billions of dollars and lost tens of thousands of innocent lives fighting Israel, which they considered is their sworn enemy, an enemy whose existence they never recognized. The Arab world has many enemies and Israel should have been at the bottom of the list. The real enemies of the Arab world are corruption, lack of good education, lack of good health care, lack of freedom, lack of respect for the human lives and finally, the Arab world had many dictators who used the Arab-Israeli conflict to suppress their own people.

These dictators’ atrocities against their own people are far worse than all the full-scale Arab-Israeli wars.

In the past, we have talked about why some Israeli soldiers attack and mistreat Palestinians. Also, we saw Israeli planes and tanks attack various Arab countries. But, do these attacks match the current atrocities being committed by some Arab states against their own people.

In Syria, the atrocities are beyond anybody’s imaginations? And, isn’t the Iraqis are the ones who are destroying their own country? Wasn’t it Tunisia’s dictator who was able to steal 13 billion dollars from the poor Tunisians? And how can a child starve in Yemen if their land is the most fertile land in the world? Why would Iraqi brains leave Iraq in a country that makes 110 billion dollars from oil export? Why do the Lebanese fail to govern one of the tiniest countries in the world? And what made the Arab states start sinking into chaos?

On May 14, 1948 the state of Israel was declared. And just one day after that, on May 15, 1948 the Arabs declared war on Israel to get back Palestine. The war ended on March 10, 1949. It lasted for nine months, three weeks and two days. The Arabs lost the war and called this war Nakbah (catastrophic war). The Arabs gained nothing and thousands of Palestinians became refugees.

And on 1967, the Arabs led by Egypt under the rule of Gamal Abdul Nasser, went in war with Israel and lost more Palestinian land and made more Palestinian refugees who are now on the mercy of the countries that host them. The Arabs called this war Naksah (upset). The Arabs never admitted defeat in both wars and the Palestinian cause got more complicated. And now, with the never ending Arab Spring, the Arab world has no time for the Palestinians refugees or Palestinian cause, because many Arabs are refugees themselves and under constant attacks from their own forces. Syrians are leaving their own country, not because of the Israeli planes dropping bombs on them. It is the Syrian Air Force which is dropping the bombs. And now, Iraqi Arab Muslims, most intelligent brains, are leaving Iraq for the est. In Yemen, the world’s saddest human tragedy play is being written by the Yemenis. In Egypt, the people in Sinai are forgotten.

Finally, if many of the Arab states are in such disarray, then what happened to the Arabs’ sworn enemy (Israel)? Israel now has the most advanced research facilities, top universities and advanced infrastructure. Many Arabs don’t know that the life expectancy of the Palestinians living in Israel is far longer than many Arab states and they enjoy far better political and social freedom than many of their Arab brothers. Even the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip enjoy more political and social rights than some places in the Arab World. Wasn’t one of the judges who sent a former Israeli president to jail is an Israeli-Palestinian?

The Arab Spring showed the world that the Palestinians are happier and in better situation than their Arab brothers who fought to liberate them from the Israelis. Now, it is time to stop the hatred and wars and start to create better living conditions for the future Arab generations.

 

MISSING IN ACTION

No escape from the Middle East
By Fred Hiatt
The Washington Post
October 7, 2012

www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/fred-hiatt-no-escape-from-the-middle-east/2012/10/07/35fc9204-0f1c-11e2-bb5e-492c0d30bff6_story.html

Before President Obama could turn to the regions and issues he believed should be foreign policy priorities in his first term, he felt he had to clean up the mess his predecessor had bequeathed him in the Middle East and Central Asia.

If reelected, he may confront a similar frustration in his second term.

Consider a few of the developments in that arc of conflict since his administration announced in 2011 an implicit downgrade of the importance of the region and a foreign-policy “pivot” to Asia.

A U.S. ambassador has been killed for the first time in more than two decades, in Libya, and weapons and fighters leaking out of that North African nation have fueled an al-Qaeda renaissance to the south. The United States has had to abandon its presence in Benghazi, the city whose population Obama once boasted of saving.

Civil war has consumed Syria, claiming more than 30,000 lives, many of them women and children, and displacing more than a million. The fighting is a magnet for Islamist extremists and a spur to Sunni-Shiite rivalries and Kurdish aspirations that are destabilizing Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Turkey.

Israel’s most important relationships in the region, its cold peace with Egypt and its once warmer friendship with Turkey, are deteriorating. Israeli-Palestinian peace seems more remote than ever, while a promised reconciliation between the divided halves of Palestinian territory has stalled.

September was the deadliest month in two years in Iraq as bombings and sectarian fighting set back a country that had been in recovery.

In Afghanistan, U.S. officials have given up on a key goal of their withdrawal strategy, a negotiated settlement with the Taliban, the New York Times reported. More than 50 U.S. troops have been killed this year by supposed allies in the Afghan army and police. These demoralizing insider attacks could prompt the allies to retreat even earlier than planned, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the Guardian last week.

Negotiations with Iran have come to a standstill as that country accelerates its nuclear development program, racing toward a weapons capability that Obama has declared unacceptable.

Relations with a nuclear-capable, unstable Pakistan are rockier than ever.

Obama wasn’t wrong in wanting to shift U.S. attention and resources to the Pacific. Compare the economic dynamism of Indonesia, Singapore or Korea to Afghanistan, Yemen or Somalia, and you understand the logic. As China grows more assertive, its neighbors want a dependable, if discreet, U.S. presence.

But the world’s indispensable nation, as Obama has called the United States, doesn’t always get to choose its areas of concern. The president likes to say that “the tide of war is receding,” but saying so doesn’t make it so, and withdrawing America from the field of battle doesn’t necessarily end a war.

Sept. 11, 2001, was a wake-up call, and not only to the dangers of al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. A crucial arc of the world is unstable as one of the world’s great religions debates how and whether to accommodate to globalization and international norms of human rights. This isn’t America’s struggle, but it is a struggle America can’t ignore.

That doesn’t mean the United States needs to send troops into conflict, as Obama believed President George W. Bush did too readily. But when opportunities arise, the United States needs to be ready – to support democrats in Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and Tunisia, for example, or to help the Syrian opposition organize and equip itself. If the stakes in Afghanistan are worth sending U.S. troops into battle, as Obama proclaimed, then those troops should be fighting toward a goal, not a timeline.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney blames Obama for all the troubles in the region, just as Obama blamed Bush. In truth, every president will be at the mercy of events to some extent, no matter how prescient his foreign policy.

But Obama too often has left the United States on the sidelines. “It is time to focus on nation-building here at home,” he tells Americans, who understandably are receptive to that message. No doubt he’d like to focus a second term on domestic recovery and on foreign policy challenges he finds congenial: nuclear arms talks with Russia, say, as well as the pivot to Asia.

But recent events suggest that the next president, whether Romney or Obama, will get drawn into messy, difficult dilemmas in the Middle East and Central Asia. The longer a president holds America back from its expected role as leader and shaper of events, the messier the dilemmas will be.

 

“NOR DO WE ASSUME THAT A CURE FOR PROSTATE CANCER COULD EVER EMERGE FROM TRIPOLI AS IT MIGHT FROM TEL AVIV”

The Neurotic Middle East
The world tacitly exempts the Middle East from the rules of civilized behavior.
By Victor Davis Hanson
National Review Online
October 2, 2012

www.nationalreview.com/articles/328978/neurotic-middle-east-victor-davis-hanson

Let us confess it: Many of the things that are bothersome in the world today originate in the Middle East. Billions of air passengers each year take off their belts and shoes at the airport, not because of fears of terrorism from the slums of Johannesburg or because the grandsons of displaced East Prussians are blowing up Polish diplomats. We put up with such burdens because a Saudi multimillionaire, Osama bin Laden, and his unhinged band of Arab religious extremists began ramming airliners into buildings and murdering thousands.

The Olympics have become an armed camp, not because the Cold War Soviets once stormed Montreal or the Chinese have threatened Australia, but largely because Palestinian terrorists butchered Israelis in Munich 40 years ago and established the precedent that international arenas were ideal occasions for political mass murder.

There is no corn or wheat cartel. There are no cell-phone monopolies. Coal prices are not controlled by global price-fixers. Yet OPEC adjusts the supply of oil in the Middle East to ensure high prices, mostly for the benefit of Gulf sheikhdoms and assorted other authoritarian governments.

Catholics don’t assassinate movie directors or artists who treat Jesus Christ with contempt. Jewish mobs will not murder cartoonists should they ridicule the Torah. Buddhists are not calling for global blasphemy laws. But radical Muslims, mostly in the Middle East, have warned the world that Islam alone is not to be caricatured – or else. Right-wing fascists and red Communists have not done as much damage to the First Amendment as have the threats from the Arab Street.

The world obsesses over Israel and the Palestinians because of the neurotic Middle East. The issue is not really the principle of a divided capital – or Nicosia would be daily news. Nor is the concern over refugees per se, since well over 500,000 Jews were religiously cleansed from the major Arab capitals following the 1948 and 1967 wars. No one cares where they went or how they have fared in the decades since. Is the global worry really over occupied territories? Hardly. Lately it seems that every desolate island between China and Japan is equally contested. Are there special envoys to the Falklands, and do the islanders receive international aid? Will there be a U.N. session devoted to the Kuril Islands? Does Gdansk/Danzig merit summits? We are told ad nauseam that the Arab minority in Israel suffers – would that the ignored Coptic minority in Egypt had similar protections and freedoms.

The oil-rich Middle East is just different from other regions. We don’t expect another Cal Tech to sprout in Cairo in the way it might in either Bombay or Beijing. Nor do we assume that a cure for prostate cancer could ever emerge from Tripoli as it might from Tel Aviv. The world will not be flooded by Syrian-made low-cost, durable products that make our lives better – comparable to what comes from South Korea. There will be not a Saudi or Algerian version of a Kia. High-speed machine lathes will not be exported from Pakistan as they are from Germany. I doubt that engineers in Afghanistan or Yemen will replace our iPads. The Middle East’s efforts in the production of biofuels will not rival Brazil’s. Libya will not send archaeologists to the American Southwest to help investigate Native American sites.

In other words, in politically incorrect terms, the world tacitly gives exemptions to the Middle East – and expects very little in return. It assumes that the rules that apply elsewhere of civility, tolerance, and nonviolence are inoperative there – and perhaps have reason to so be. Money is made in the Middle East either by pumping out oil that others have found and developed or, less frequently these days, by catering for tourists who wish to see the remains of what others built centuries earlier. Few foreigners decide to spend a relaxing week in Egypt, or to sunbathe on the beaches of Gaza, or to enjoy the wine and cheese of Libya, or to snorkel in the waters off Syria, or to study engineering in Algiers. How many tourists choose to mountaineer in Afghanistan or visit Persepolis or unwind in Pakistan?

The world also assumes a sort of Middle Eastern parasitism: Daily its millions use mobile phones, take antibiotics, hit the Internet, fire RPGs, and play video games, and yet they not only do not create these products that they rely upon, but largely have antipathy for those who do.

Asymmetry is, of course, assumed. One expects to be detained for having a Bible in one’s baggage at Riyadh, whereas a Koran in a tote bag is of no importance at the Toronto airport. The Egyptian immigrant in San Francisco, or the Pakistani who moves to London, expects to be allowed to demonstrate against the freewheeling protocols of his hosts, while a Westerner protesting against life under sharia in the streets of Karachi or Gaza would earn a death sentence. What is nauseating about this is not the hypocrisy per se, but the Middle Eastern insistence that there is no such hypocrisy. We expect the immigrant from Egypt to deface public posters and call it freedom of expression; we expect Mr. Morsi, who enjoyed American freedom while he studied for his Ph.D. and then taught for three years in California, to deny it to others and trash his former host.

So how do we make sense out of this abject nonsense? Superficially, it occurs because the world is cowardly, and we accept that terrorism is far more likely to emanate from the Middle East than elsewhere. Principles or tastes do not explain why movies mock Christ and not Mohammed. Fear does, and all sorts of empty pontifications must dress up the necessary compensatory selectivity.

Self-interest explains a lot too. It is not just that nearly half the world’s oil comes from the Middle East. The money paid for it means enormous opportunity for recycling profits. An American university that would oust a student for uncivil speech at home has no problem with rampant anti-Semitism and religious intolerance in its Middle Eastern affiliate – as long as the students pony up $60,000 in annual petrodollar-fed tuition and expenses.

The present low-down age counts as well. The West is not as it was right after World War II, when it was not shy about defending its values and believed that the future of democracy and free markets it offered would mean liberty and security for hundreds of millions. Today, utopian pacifism, multiculturalism, and moral relativism arise out of self-doubt and fears of decline – at precisely the time when radical Islam is more confident than ever before that its own less liberal future is assured.

The paradox is not just that the well-off in London, Paris, and Washington are diffident, while the impoverished in Cairo and Tehran are fanatic, but that there comes also a certain sick awe in the self-loathing West for those who can at least be zealous in their self-righteousness, however repellent in the abstract that may be. One could see all this in Piers Morgan’s CNN interview with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: The more the latter spouted his anti-Semitic and anti-Western hatred and homophobia, the more the liberal former seemed mesmerized by such surety – in a way he most surely is not by Sarah Palin’s mild conservatism.

Finally, what accounts for Middle Eastern neuroticism? A sense of collective inferiority, a feeling that life is pretty miserable, when it need not be – and that the causes are foreign rather than homegrown. Exasperated Arab secular intellectuals sometimes confess that tribalism in place of meritocracy, statism in place of free markets, authoritarianism in place of consensuality, religious fundamentalism in place of tolerance, censorship in place of transparency, and gender apartheid in place of sexual equality combine in the Middle East to ensure poverty and violence.

The latest round of radical Islam arose – in the manner of Nazism in the 1930s, Communism in the 1940s, and Baathism and pan-Arabism in the 1960s – not to address the self-inflicted causes of such failure, but to indict others: Jews, Western democracies and Western capitalists, non-Arabs and heretics, and, above all, powerful Americans. The whines and lamentations gain credence when the Arab Street watches NBC and CNN, when the engineering student attends an American social-science class, when Hollywood endlessly shows the world the evil CIA agent behind the latest Middle Eastern scandal or the white male CEO whose company’s pollution causes cancer. Western self-loathing is offered as proof of Western culpability. Radical Islam then steps in, assuring the Middle Eastern Street that an absence of piety explains why a once-great civilization now bows to decadent Western infidels: The more a believer memorizes the Koran, supposedly the less power the Westerner has over him, and thus the less the beloved iPhone he uses each day can corrupt him.

What can be done? A psychiatrist treating a delusional neurotic attempts to bring him slowly back to reality. In the case of the Middle East, that would mean in the long term defending vigorously the values of free speech, tolerance, and constitutional government – and not giving exemptions on the basis of fear or multicultural relativism. More practically, the U.S. must develop fully all its energy supplies – coal, nuclear, natural gas, oil, and alternative fuels – to reduce the strategic importance of the Middle East in U.S foreign policy. At some point we must be honest: The American self-righteous green zealot who opposes almost all production of new finds of natural gas is not just the fanatical bookend of the Middle Eastern Islamist, but also the means by which the latter gains money and clout.

In the short term, reciprocity would be wise. If violence should continue against American personnel and facilities, we can gradually trim foreign aid, advise Americans not to visit Egypt or Libya, put holds on visas for students from Middle Eastern countries that do not protect Americans or that contribute to terrorism, recall our ambassadors and expel theirs. Reopening our embassy in Damascus and dubbing Bashar Assad a “reformer” did not improve relations with Syria or temper Syrian extremism. A reduced security profile in Libya did not create good will for our ambassador. Two billion dollars in aid to Egypt did not win hearts and minds. The Palestinians are not fond of us, despite millions of dollars in annual aid.

Having Mr. Morsi on the USC campus did not bank good will for the future, any more than, long ago, Sayyid Qutb’s subsidized travel throughout America earned us a soft spot in the heart of the Muslim Brotherhood. I don’t see how welcoming in Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy and giving her airtime on CNN and MSNBC has enriched the United States by providing us a keener understanding of Egypt – not when she uses spray paint to deface public posters that she personally finds objectionable.

To sum up, the West should just say, “No.”

Underreported: Muslim protesters torch dozens of Buddhist temples (& Crucifixion in Yemen)

October 03, 2012

A man was crucified on an electric pylon in south Yemen’s Abyan province on Monday for allegedly helping America


* Demonstrators expected as Barcelona invites Gilad Shalit to Real Madrid match
* Jesus-style crucifiction in Yemen posted on YouTube by al-Qaeda

 

CONTENTS

1. Man crucified in Yemen for being alleged U.S. spy
2. Jordanian tribe slams new Israel envoy
3. Egyptian presidential adviser: all Israel is “occupied territory”
4. Reuters: Muslim protesters torch Buddhist temples in Bangladesh
5. Al-Arabiya: “Assad executed Turkish pilots shot down in June”
6. Mortar shells from Syria land on Israeli territory
7. Hizbullah now playing a key operational role in Syria
8. U.S. Congress calls on EU to isolate Hizbullah
9. Man dies from inhaling fumes from American flag he was burning
10. Pro-America rally held in front of U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv
11. Paris mayor criticized for respecting Yom Kippur
12. Demonstrators expected as Barcelona invites Gilad Shalit to Real Madrid match


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

MAN CRUCIFIED IN YEMEN FOR BEING ALLEGED U.S. SPY

An Al-Qaeda-affiliated group in Yemen has crucified a man for allegedly directing U.S. drones targeting terrorists in Yemen, and posted a video of the crucifixion on YouTube, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reported today.

The man was crucified on an electric pylon in south Yemen’s Abyan province by Al-Qaeda-affiliated Ansar Al-Shari’a.

 

JORDANIAN TRIBE SLAMS NEW ISRAEL ENVOY

The Jordanian Obeidat tribe has condemned the appointment of tribe member Walid Khalid Obeidat as Jordan’s new ambassador to Israel.

The tribe said in a statement published on Monday by Jordan’s al-Dustour newspaper, that a tribe member who accepts such an appointment is “violating all prohibitions, crossing all red lines and offending the nation and the tribe.”

The tribe announced that it was cutting all ties to Walid Obeidat.

Walid Obeidat, a diplomat and consultant to the Hashemite kingdom’s foreign ministry, is scheduled to replace Ali al-Ayed, who was recalled by Amman in early 2009 in protest at Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, which helped to greatly reduce Hamas rocket fire against Israel.

Jordanian officials said yesterday that the decision to appoint a new ambassador to Israel was a result of Egypt’s decision last month to do the same.

 

EGYPTIAN PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: ALL ISRAEL IS “OCCUPIED TERRITORY”

An adviser to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has declared the whole of Israel to be “Occupied Arab territory.” The advisor, Mohammed Saif Al-Dawla, added “this will remain true until the end of time.”

However, other advisors to Morsi have made conflicting statements and said that the new Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt has no intention of altering the Camp David peace accords recognizing the Jewish state.

 

REUTERS: MUSLIM PROTESTERS TORCH BUDDHIST TEMPLES IN BANGLADESH

Here is a video released by Reuters on Monday, which you might not have seen reported elsewhere.

The accompanying Reuters caption reads:

“Fires rage at Buddhist temples in Bangladesh after hundreds of Muslim demonstrators set fires after they complained a Buddhist man insulted Islam in a Facebook posting.
“Members of the Buddhist minority in the southeast of the country said unidentified people were bent on upsetting peaceful relations between Muslims and Buddhists.
“At least four temples came under attack. Some 15 Buddhist homes were also damaged.
“Later, Buddhist demonstrators took to the streets, staging their own demonstration and calling for peace.”

 

AL-ARABIYA: “ASSAD EXECUTED TURKISH PILOTS SHOT DOWN IN JUNE”

A leading Arab news network, Al-Arabiya, reported on Saturday that it has seen leaked Syrian intelligence documents that indicate that the two Turkish air force pilots who were shot down on June 22, but survived the crash, were later executed upon the direct orders of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

Western sources say they do not know if the report is accurate.

In July, the (London) Sunday Times claimed that Russian technicians had played a role in shooting down the plane. Russia maintains a naval facility – the last Russian military facility outside the former Soviet Union – in the Syrian port city of Tartus, where it provides technical support and maintenance.

 

MORTAR SHELLS FROM SYRIA LANDED ON ISRAELI TERRITORY

Mortar shells from Syria last week landed in the Golan Heights and northern Israel, the first time that the 18-month conflict has spilled over into Israel. The mortars landed near Kibbutz El Rom. Nobody was injured in the attack, but Israel has filed a complaint with the United Nations forces operating in the area.

There have been concerns in Israel that the ongoing violence in Syria might spill over the border and that the long-dormant frontier with Syria could become a new Islamist front against Israel.

 

HIZBULLAH NOW PLAYING A KEY OPERATIONAL ROLE IN SYRIA

The Washington Post reports that the Iranian-controlled Lebanese militia Hizbullah has expanded its presence in the Syrian civil war to a key operational role.

The report says that Beirut-based officials have confirmed that Hizbullah has sent fighters from Lebanon to the Syrian front-line to help Iran’s close ally Assad repel the Sunni-led Syrian Free Army.

The Post also reported that funerals for Hizbullah fighters who died in Syria were held in Lebanese villages where families were warned not to discuss their losses.

Tom Gross adds: Yesterday, a large public funeral was held in Lebanon for a senior Hizbullah commander (Ali Hussein Nassif) who died fighting alongside the Assad regime’s forces in Syria.

 

U.S. CONGRESS CALLS ON EU TO ISOLATE HIZBULLAH

250 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed and sent a letter to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton asking that the EU designate Hizbullah as a terrorist organization. The letter follows a similar one signed by 76 Senators.

Intelligence sources confirm that there is no doubt that Hizbullah was behind the deadly suicide attack at Burgas airport in Bulgaria. The attack was the mostly deadly inside the European Union for several years, but the EU has refused to take any action.

For more on that attack, please see here: Her final call: “I just found out I’m pregnant at last”.

The Netherlands criticized fellow EU members for not having yet designated Hizbullah as a terrorist organization, despite decades of carrying out terror attacks around the world, mainly against Jewish civilians, the most deadly of which was in Argentina, killing (among others) several elderly Holocaust survivors.

The Netherlands has unilaterally designated Hizbullah as a terrorist organization.

 

MAN DIES FROM INHALING FUMES FROM AMERICAN FLAG HE WAS BURNING

The (London) Daily Mail reports that a Pakistani man, named as Abdullah Ismail, died after inhaling smoke from American flags being burned at an anti-U.S. rally in Lahore. The rally was being held to protest the anti-Islam YouTube clip that has offended may Muslims in recent weeks.

 

PRO-AMERICA RALLY HELD IN FRONT OF U.S. EMBASSY IN TEL AVIV

Whereas many anti-America rallies have been held in recent weeks in places as far afield as Morocco and Australia, a pro-America rally was held yesterday in front of the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv. A number of Israeli Arabs also attended the rally in Tel Aviv.

Of course, had successive American presidents been true to their election campaign promises, that embassy would have been moved to Jerusalem by now.

 

PARIS MAYOR CRITICIZED FOR RESPECTING YOM KIPPUR

Left-wing politicians in Paris have strongly criticized the city’s mayor, Bertrand Delanoë, after he adjourned city council talks last week when Yom Kippur started.

Delanoë, who is not Jewish, said. “If we had scheduled a meeting for the evening of December 24, I would adjourn it too.”

Delanoë is a member of the Socialist Party, but was criticized by a number of fellow leftist politicians.

 

A demonstrator holds a Palestinian flag during the Euroleague basketball match between Regal FC Barcelona and Maccabi Tel Aviv in Barcelona on 5 February 2009

 

DEMONSTRATORS EXPECTED AS BARCELONA INVITES GILAD SHALIT TO REAL MADRID MATCH

Despite opposition from anti-Israel activists, Barcelona football club has confirmed it had invited freed Israeli kidnap victim Gilad Shalit, to attend a football match against Real Madrid at Barcelona’s home stadium Camp Nou on 7 October.

“This invitation does not indicate in any way that Barça takes a position in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” a club source told AFP. “In fact, remember that club vice president Villarubí received Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in 2011 and showed him all the club’s facilities. We plan to invite other Palestinians in future.”

Anti-Israel activists are expected to picket the game.

[All notes above by Tom Gross]

Iranian news agency: Ahmadinejad “more popular” than Obama among rural Americans

October 02, 2012

Mr Popular


Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency, citing a fake Gallup poll, claims Ahmadinejad more popular than Obama among rural Americans
* Iranian journalists taken in by a “story” in The Onion
* Ahmadinejad’s cameraman defects and seeks asylum in U.S.

***

This is the latest in a series of dispatches concerning Iran. (You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.)

 

CONTENTS

1. Ahmadinejad’s cameraman defects and seeks asylum in the U.S.
2. Iran news agency: “Ahmadinejad more popular than Obama among rural Americans”
3. Poll: 62% of Americans support use of force to stop a nuclear Iran
4. Ahmadinejad denies Jewish history at UN
5. Netanyahu speech to UN judged a success
6. Romney: Military action against Iran probably not required, but must remain an option
7. Iranian journalists killed, injured in Damascus
8. Iranian currency plummets
9. Iran unblocks access to Gmail


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

AHMADINEJAD’S CAMERAMAN DEFECTS AND SEEKS ASYLUM IN THE U.S.

Iranian government cameraman Hassan Gol Khanban, who was accompanying the Iranian president on his trip to the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week, is seeking political asylum in the U.S.

Paul O’Dwyer, a New York-based lawyer who is representing Khanban, confirmed that his client is seeking asylum. He provided no further details. It is believed his client is in protective custody and being debriefed by U.S. intelligence.

In his speech to the UN last week, President Ahmadinejad once again attacked Israel, saying Israelis were “uncivilized.” Iran remains the only country that has called for the annihilation of a fellow UN member-state.

 

IRANIAN NEWS AGENCY: “AHMADINEJAD MORE POPULAR THAN OBAMA AMONG RURAL AMERICANS”

77 percent of rural Americans would choose to vote for Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over U.S. President Barack Obama, Iran’s Fars News Agency reports, claiming that what it said was the result of a Gallup poll.

But the Fars news agency “poll” in fact originated in the satirical American magazine The Onion, and it seems the humor was lost on the Iranian government-sponsored journalists who re-reported the story almost verbatim.

The Onion’s report added that a Gallup poll found that 60 percent of Americans “at least respected that Ahmadinejad doesn’t try to hide the fact that he’s Muslim.”

On its masthead, The Onion describes itself as “America’s finest news source.”

Fars also regularly runs anti-Semitic cartoons. For a recent batch, please see here.

Fars has also ran an interview with me last year, which I didn’t give directly to them, but they copied off an Iranian opposition website that interviewed me about Israel. It can be read here.

Or here in English.

 

POLL: 62% OF AMERICANS SUPPORT USE OF FORCE TO STOP A NUCLEAR IRAN

The majority of Americans support the use of force to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, according to a new (and real) poll conducted on behalf of the Foreign Policy Initiative think tank. 45 percent of respondents also named the Islamic Republic as the country posing “the greatest danger” to U.S. national security interests.

A clear majority of self-identified conservatives (78.6%) and a majority of self-identified moderates (57.8%), in addition to 44.6% self-identified liberals, support U.S. military action to stop a nuclear-armed Iran.

The poll was conducted by Basswood Research from Sept. 15-17. The survey’s margin of error is 3.1% in a sample of 1000 likely voters.

Asked to name the country that is “America’s best ally in the world today,” respondents named the U.K. first (54%), followed by Israel second (15.9%).

 

AHMADINEJAD DENIES JEWISH HISTORY AT UN

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told reporters at the United Nations that while his country “has been around for the last ten thousand years,” Israel has been “occupying” territory in the Middle East for 60-70 years and Jews have “no historical roots in the region.”

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor (who is a subscriber to this list) left the room to protest the Iranian president’s remarks.

“Ahmadinejad showed again that he not only threatens the future of the Jewish people, he seeks to erase our past,” Prosor told reporters.

 

NETANYAHU SPEECH TO UN JUDGED A SUCCESS

In his speech to the UN General Assembly last week, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dramatically drew a “red line” on an illustration of an Iranian bomb, many Western and Israeli critics of Netanyahu derided him.

However, others have noted that his ploy was successful.

The French newspaper Le Monde wrote: “Netanyahu’s strategy paid off, thanks to the simplicity of the presentation and the diagram, and the result is that Netanyahu’s message has dominated the Internet.”

For months, Netanyahu has been trying to warn to the world about the dangers of a nuclear Iran in the clearest and simplest way.

Netanyahu’s “cartoon” bomb diagram ensured blanket coverage across many front pages in an age when the “same old” message about red lines and the threat of nuclear Iran seems to be “boring” journalists and other observers, as though it wasn’t one of (if not) the most pressing issues so far of the 21st century.

 

ROMNEY: MILITARY ACTION AGAINST IRAN PROBABLY NOT REQUIRED, BUT MUST REMAIN AN OPTION

The Washington Post reports that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said that he does not believe military action will be required to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Romney called Iran’s nuclear development “the greatest national security threat that we face,” but he stopped short of endorsing Netanyahu’s comments this week that a military strike might be necessary to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear capability.

However, Romney told reporters aboard his campaign plane Friday that it was difficult to determine during his telephone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier that day whether there was a difference between their so-called “red lines” on ordering military action.

“I do not believe that in the final analysis we will have to use military action. I certainly hope we don’t have to. I can’t take that option off the table. It must be something which is known by the Iranians as a possible tool to be employed to prevent them from becoming nuclear. But I certainly hope that we can prevent any military action from having to be taken.”

Romney said he complimented Netanyahu on his speech to the UN, but joked that he considered ribbing the prime minister over the quality of the poster he showed at the UN to illustrate his “red line” on Iran.

“I suggested that his graphic was not up to the normal Boston Consulting Group standards,” Romney said. Laughing to reporters on the plane, he corrected himself. “No, I didn’t actually do that. But I was thinking that.”

 

IRANIAN JOURNALISTS KILLED, INJURED IN DAMASCUS

Iran says sniper fire in Damascus has killed a reporter for its English-language Press TV and wounded the Damascus bureau chief of Press TV and Iran’s Arabic-language Al-Alam channel.

The Iranian journalists were all embedded with President Assad’s forces when they were attacked last week by the Free Syrian Army.

 

IRANIAN CURRENCY PLUMMETS

The Iranian currency dropped to a record low against the U.S. dollar yesterday, partly as a result of international sanctions against Tehran.

In a single day, the Iranian rial fell 15 per cent against the dollar. Its value dropped from 24,000 to the dollar last week to 34,500 rial to the dollar yesterday.

The drop in the currency is also due to general economic mismanagement by the regime, and domestic criticism of President Ahmadinejad is growing.

 

IRAN UNBLOCKS ACCESS TO GMAIL

The Beirut Daily Star (the editor of which is a subscriber to this email list) reports that Iran yesterday removed online blocks on Gmail. The blocks had been in place for a week, and Iranian Gmail users couldn’t access their accounts.

However, YouTube (which like Gmail is also owned by Google) will continue to be censored in Iran, since it has allowed the controversial anti-Islam clip “Innocence of Muslims” to continue to be aired.

[All notes above by Tom Gross]