The Next Mideast War
|Mitchell Bard||June 9th 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributor
In an effort to stop the nearly daily onslaught of rockets from Gaza, Israeli officials have discussed the possibility of a cease-fire with the Hamas terrorists bombarding the Israeli civilian population. Egypt and others have also tried to mediate a cessation of terror that would allow Israel to end its counterterror measures. Rather than agree to a simple cease-fire, however, Hamas, has engaged in verbal gymnastics to suggest it will adopt a policy that will, at best, offer a temporary respite while the organization continues to build up its arsenal to pursue its long-term goal of destroying Israel.
The latest example of this Hamas tactic is the proposal in May 2008 to accept a “tahdiyah,” or period of calm. Earlier, in June 2003, Islamic Jihad and Hamas agreed to a hudna in response to demands from then Palestinian Authority prime minister Mahmoud Abbas to stop their attacks on Israel so he could fulfill his obligations under the Middle East road map. The agreement was interpreted in the Western media as the declaration of a cease-fire, which was hailed as a step forward in the peace process. Violence continued after the supposed cease-fire, however, and Israeli intelligence found evidence the Palestinians exploited the situation to reorganize their forces. They recruited suicide bombers, increased the rate of production of Qassam rockets, and sought to extend their range.
Over the last five years since the declaration of the hudna, attacks on Israel increased and Hamas succeeded in smuggling in more weapons with longer ranges. While any cessation of violence against Israeli civilians is to be welcomed, it is important to understand the cease-fire the radical Islamic groups are contemplating in the Muslim context.
The media and some political leaders portray a hudna as a truce or a cease-fire designed to bring peace. Though the term hudna does refer to a temporary cession of hostilities, it has historically been used as a tactic aimed at allowing the party declaring the hudna to regroup while tricking an enemy into lowering its guard. Read more ..
|Joel Mowbray||June 2nd 2008|
Rev. John Hagee, the fiercely pro-Israel evangelical leader who until recently was supporting U.S. presidential candidate John McCain, is being branded not just an anti-Semite, but one tagged by the media with the worst association possible: Hitler.
Granted, Hagee himself raised the specter of Hitler in a sermon, reportedly from a decade ago but recently dredged up by a left-wing blogger, in which Hagee said that God sent Hitler and "allowed" the Holocaust to happen "because God said, ‘My top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel.’"
Far from the ugly media-driven perception that Hagee was justifying or even somehow praising the Holocaust as Heaven-sent, he was actually trying to answer the question that countless rabbis and survivors have grappled with ever since. How could there be both an all-powerful God and the unimaginable horrors of the Holocaust?
While anyone could rightly be outraged at his theology or even his apparent hubris in purporting to know God's motives, it cannot be said that Hagee is anti-Semitic. The charge, in fact, is completely counter to what is most beautiful about Rev. Hagee's ministry—that he has been so dedicated to combating Christian anti-Semitism. Read more ..
Persecution in Iran
|Priya Abraham||May 26th 2008|
The six leaders are being held at Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison.
The names of the arrested in the photo are, in the front row
seated from the left, Behrouz Tavakkoli and Saeid Rezaie.
Standing from the left are Fariba Kamalabadi, Vahid Tizfahm,
Jamaloddin Khanjani, and Afif Naeimi. On the far right is
Mahvash Sabet, detained since March.
RELATED: IRAN APOSTASY LAW INVOKES DEATH PENALTY
For Baha’is around the world, May 14 came as a chilling reminder of how bad things can become for their community in Iran. In dawn raids that dragged on for hours, Intelligence Ministry officers arrested six of the seven members of Iran’s national Baha’i leadership, the worst assault on Baha’is in almost 30 years. The seventh leader has been in detention since March 5. No one knows why.
The last major round-up and detentions of national Baha’i leaders came in the early 1980s. In 1980, all nine members of the national leadership were abducted and then disappeared.
“The manner in which the six individuals were taken from their homes (is) frighteningly similar, and we are concerned for their safety as well as about further persecution of the Iranian Baha’i community,” said Kit Bigelow, director of external affairs for the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the U.S.
Baha’is in Iran are already feeling the shock waves of losing their main administrators: even days after the arrests, the outside world could glean few details about why or how the arrests had happened. Some government agents present at the arrests indicated that the six leaders would be taken to Evin Prison--a fact the Baha'i community initially publicized. But at the end of May, the community discovered with dismay that their leaders' whereabouts are still unknown, including that of the seventh missing since March. Officials are giving relatives conflicting stories. In such cases, relatives often have to move from court to court to learn the location of their loved ones.
Baha’is have no official clergy, and since their spiritual assemblies were outlawed after the Iranian Revolution of 1979, they have relied on electing national and local committees as leaders of the faith. With all seven national leaders in detention now, Iran has succeeded in severely disrupting the life and communication of its Baha’i community. Read more ..
UNRWA: Refuge for Rejection
|Mitchell Bard||May 19th 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributor
For the last 60 years, the issue of Palestinian refugees has been held out as one of the principal obstacles to peace. In truth, the problem could have been resolved years ago if the Arab states had not preferred to use them as pawns in the conflict with Israel.
The United Nations took up the refugee issue and adopted Resolution 194 on December 11, 1948. This called upon the Arab states and Israel to resolve all outstanding issues through negotiations either directly, or with the help of the Palestine Conciliation Commission established by this resolution. Furthermore, Point 11 resolves:
"that refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which under principles of international law or in equity should be made good by Governments or authorities responsible. Instructs the Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of refugees and payment of compensation..." (emphasis added).
The emphasized words demonstrate that the UN recognized that Israel could not be expected to repatriate a hostile population that might endanger its security. The solution to the problem, like all previous refugee problems, would require at least some Palestinians to be resettled in Arab lands. Furthermore, the resolution uses the word "should" instead of "shall," which, in legal terms, is not mandatory language.
The resolution met most of Israel’s concerns regarding the refugees, whom they regarded as a potential fifth-column if allowed to return unconditionally. The Israelis considered the settlement of the refugee issue a negotiable part of an overall peace settlement.
As President Chaim Weizmann explained: "We are anxious to help such resettlement provided that real peace is established and the Arab states do their part of the job. The solution of the Arab problem can be achieved only through an all-around Middle East development scheme, toward which the United Nations, the Arab states and Israel will make their respective contributions." Read more ..
Edge on Healthcare
Cutting Edge Contributor
A gold star goes to John McCain for his just-released plan for reforming American health care.
Analysts will pick apart details and surely find shortcomings, but directionally, McCain's approach is on the money. Contrary to the vaporous rhetoric of change offered by the Democrats, he proposes real structural health care reform.
The plan boldly takes on key problems in how we deliver health care that contribute to out-of-control cost escalation. According to a recent University of Minnesota study, health insurance premiums have increased over recent years ten times faster than personal incomes—by 30 percent from 2001 to 2005.
The key salvo is aimed at the central pillar of our health care system—tax-subsidized employer-provided health care. About 70 percent of Americans obtain their health care at their place of work.
McCain's plan offers a $5,000 tax credit to families and $2,500 to individuals to purchase health care on their own. This would end the inherent inequity of some people receiving tax-free health care from their employers, while others who are on their own or working for small businesses purchase it with after-tax dollars. Read more ..
JTA Washington Bureau Chief
In a series of speeches otherwise notable for their defiant tone against his real and perceived enemies, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. sounded some conciliatory notes toward Jews, casting them as fellow strugglers against inequity and for peace. But an outburst in a question-and-answer session and an analysis of what lies behind his remarks reveals that the Jewish community may still have reason to be less than comfortable with the former pastor to U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).
Wright launched a media blitz this week just as Obama entered the final stretch of his bid to become the Democratic nominee for president.
The media has highlighted inflammatory passages from Wright's past sermons in which he suggests that white racism remains pervasive and U.S. foreign policy helped bring about terrorist attacks on U.S. targets. These remarks have dogged Obama's campaign.
The Wright factor may have contributed to his defeat in the April 22 Pennsylvania primary, where he lost to U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), 55 percent to 45 percent. In the Jewish community, where the pastor issue has come up repeatedly, Clinton beat Obama 62 percent to 38 percent, according to exit polls.
The candidate has sought to distance himself from his former pastor, calling Wright's rhetoric "offensive." On Tuesday, campaigning in North Carolina ahead of next week's primary, Obama delivered his sharpest denunciation to date of the the preacher he once said nurtured his Christian identity. Read more ..
Inside the Catholic Church
|Martin Barillas||April 28th 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributor
The April 15-20 visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States offered Americans, and the rest of the world, grist for further evaluation of the pontiff not only as a man but also as a messenger. Caricatures of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became the current Pope, have abounded. As prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, a Vatican office that oversees the orthodoxy of priests, prelates, and theologians, he was called “the Pope’s Rottweiler,” “Inquisitor,” and even “Nazi.” As pontiff, he has been called “panzer Pope” and “enforcer” among other epithets.
Benedict is the third pontiff to tread American soil and succeeded in projecting a much more avuncular appearance than his detractors had suggested. That said, he may not have delivered as much as some of his detractors, and fans, had wished.
Brennan Pursell, author of Benedict of Bavaria and associate professor at DeSales University, Pennsylvania, offered in an interview some insights into the Pope and his message to the United States. Pursell said Benedict, as Pope, is consistent with his life story and a life teaching theology and philosophy. He has served variously as parish priest, professor, academic administrator, Cardinal-Archbishop, and personal advisor to Pope John Paul II. When Pursell was asked whether the man who was Cardinal Ratzinger is different from the man who is now Pope Benedict XVI, he quoted Hans Kung, a former Catholic theologian and colleague, as saying “Oh no, there is only one Ratzinger. He now has a different role.” Read more ..
Zimbabwe on the Edge
|Priya Abraham||April 21st 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributor
To listen to Robert Mugabe's latest rant on western imperialism, one would think history has not shaken the 84-year-old liberator-turned-dictator of Zimbabwe.
"We need to maintain utmost vigilance in the face of vicious British machinations," he told a crowd of thousands in Harare's Gwanzura stadium on April 18, Zimbabwe's Independence Day. Banners at the stadium further warned against "sell-outs" to Britain.
In reality, Mugabe is facing perhaps the strongest challenge to his power since he took over from white minority rule in 1980. In national elections held March 29—and still under dispute--Zimbabwe's opposition won control of the nation's 210-seat parliament, winning 107 seats to the ruling party ZANU-PF's 97.
Mugabe has now completely lost any remaining legitimacy he held in Zimbabwe and the world. Zimbabwe's tenacious and beleaguered opposition movement has new hope: "Don't forget we have won," wrote Sokwanele, a civil rights coalition, as it urged Zimbabweans to continue pressing for peaceful, democratic renewal. Under this new calculus, the question now is how long Zimbabweans will wait for Mugabe to go.
Mugabe is beyond caring what the world thinks, and that attitude rippled even in Washington circles. Just as an example, His ambassador to the United States agreed to speak at the Institute on Religion and Public Policy, on April 15, then blew off the event as reporters and others waited for his arrival. His staff made little effort to inform anyone that he was “out of town.” Read more ..
America’s Cultural Divide
|Ronald Kessler||April 14th 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributor
A dangerous movement has been growing among conservative writers to vindicate the late Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy and his campaign to expose Soviet spies in the U.S. government. The FBI agents who were actually chasing those spies have told me that McCarthy hurt their efforts because he trumped up charges, unfairly besmirched honorable Americans, and gave hunting spies a bad name.
To be sure, intercepts of secret Soviet communications that were part of the VENONA program eventually revealed that Soviet espionage operatives in the government numbered in the hundreds—far more than was thought in the 1950s. In that sense, McCarthy was right, but so were dozens of other anti-Communists of the time like FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. The problem was that the people McCarthy tarnished as Communists or Communist sympathizers were not the real spies. Often, the information McCarthy used came from FBI files, which were full of rumor and third-hand accounts.
Several months before he died, I interviewed Robert J. Lamphere Jr., who participated in all the FBI's major spy cases during the McCarthy period. Beginning in 1948, Lamphere also was the FBI liaison to the U.S. Army's Signal Intelligence Service's VENONA program and used leads from the intercepts to work cases involving Klaus Fuchs, Harry Gold, David Greenglass, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, and Kim Philby. For my book "The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI," Lamphere told me that agents who worked counterintelligence were aghast that Hoover initially supported McCarthy.
"McCarthyism did all kinds of harm because he was pushing something that wasn't so," Lamphere told me. The VENONA intercepts showed that over several decades, "There were a lot of spies in the government, but not all in the State Department," Lamphere said. However, "The problem was that McCarthy lied about his information and figures. He made charges against people that weren't true. McCarthyism harmed the counterintelligence effort against the Soviet threat because of the revulsion it caused. All along, Hoover was helping him." Read more ..
|Erica Silverman||April 7th 2008|
from the JTA
|photo courtesy Soman|
Ibrahim Al-Najar used to operate his own egg distribution business in Gaza City until about a year ago, when he was beaten and robbed at gunpoint.
“Masked gunmen surrounded our truck, forced us to the ground and stole our profits,” said Ibrahim, 21, who is married with two children.
Ibrahim had had enough. Politically independent until then, he sold his business and joined Hamas’ security forces. “At least now I know that my family is safe,” Ibrahim stated while patroling the closed presidential compound in the Gaza Strip.
Since Hamas violently ousted the Palestinian Fatah faction from the strip in June 2007, the Islamist group has established a security presence that has brought Gaza residents a level of security unseen during the days of Fatah, despite Gaza’s crumbling judicial system. This helps account for the popularity of Hamas -- designated as terrorists by Israel, the United States, and the European Union -- in the Gaza Strip.
“Before the coup, I kept an automatic weapon in the shop. Now I feel safer,” said Osama, 42, a grocer in Gaza City. “The security is also psychological because when Israel attacks, Hamas fights back.” Read more ..
Enabling the Disabled
|Joyce Bender||March 31st 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributor
In 1990, on a beautiful morning at the White House, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law in front of thousands of people with disabilities, and their advocates and friends. We all remember the words of President George H. W. Bush as he signed the bill that would provide Americans with disabilities the same rights as the non-disabled, “Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.”
Sadly, since that day, those words have not come true in all areas, and one of those areas is employment. Seventeen years later, we still have an unemployment rate of over 50% for Americans with significant disabilities. This is a national tragedy.
The ADA has been weakened over the past several years by Supreme Court rulings that do not make sense. Read more ..
The Expanding Nuclear Club
|Joseph Grieboski and Leonor Tomero||March 24th 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributor
A little over a year ago, the U.S. Congress voted to approve the Hyde Act which changed long-standing U.S. nuclear non-proliferation laws, to allow the transfer of nuclear material and technology to India. Since then, the United States has made yet additional dangerous concessions to India. Now the India nuclear deal has become worse for everyone’s international nuclear stability.
For 30 years, until last year's Congressional vote, nuclear trade was reserved only for countries in good standing under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), our first line of defense against the spread of nuclear weapons. Countries that remained outside the NPT simply could not benefit from nuclear trade under U.S. and international rules. India, which misused international assistance intended for peaceful purposes to develop its own nuclear weapons and which is one of only three countries that never signed the NPT, was no exception.
If the final steps are implemented, including the 45-country Nuclear Suppliers Group changing its international rules and the U.S. Congress approving the U.S.-Indian nuclear trade implementation agreement, India will get all the nuclear benefits it needs without any of the legally-binding obligations to nonproliferation. Read more ..
|Armstrong Williams||March 17th 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributor
Arriving in Washington DC during the 1980s, my most difficult challenge was finding a church home. Having grown up in the Pentecostal and Methodist faiths, Sunday worship was a staple of my weekly routine. For almost 10 years, I canvassed the nation’s capitol seeking a church that would nourish my fleshly failings and remind me of what our creator expects of us as human beings. What was consistent in going from pulpit to pulpit was that ministers were more interested in political rhetoric, the endorsement of political candidates, and the denouncing of some government or community proposal, than the gospel. For many years, It was quite disheartening to find that ministers were not teaching or preaching the word of God, but that their sermons were becoming political rallies. I was stunned at the blame cast upon the White man, the racial divisiveness, and all the things that seemed to divide and separate us from our neighbor.
Then in 1995, I attended First Baptist Church in DC where the Rev. Frank Tucker presided and my spirit finally found what it was seeking. I will never forget meeting with the Pastor prior to joining and expressing my feelings about what I was looking for in a church. I made it clear that my interest was in the word of God and not political rallies, condemnation of America, or various politicians occupying the pulpit on Sunday. He shared my concerns and promised that this wasn’t the case at his church. In my 13 years of being a member of Pastor Tucker’s church, he's never disappointed my spiritual yearning. Throughout the years I've taken Whites, Muslims, Jews, and people of all walks of life to worship with me and they all have left feeling that they could join the pastor's congregation. Read more ..
The struggle for the Caribbean Basin
|Johanna Mendelson Forman||March 12th 2008|
|Johanna Mendelson Forman|
Anyone visiting Port au Prince today will note that public safety has returned to this city of more than two million people. A democratically elected government is in place, as are local government officials. President Rene Preval has created one of the most inclusive governments in recent history four years after his predecessor Jean Bertrand Aristide was forced to step down as president. There is even an ongoing dialogue with the Dominican Republic on border management and migration.
Much of the credit for this stability goes to the UN Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, that together with the Preval government, remain a moderating force in stabilizing Haiti. Its presence, guaranteed by a Security Council Mandate, unfortunately will expire in October 2008. It should be renewed.
This seventh UN intervention in Haiti in just over a decade has also created a new consensus about the role of the international community in the country. No one wants it to fail: not the U.S., the Canadians (the second largest donors), nor the multilateral agencies that support the recovery. Further, Brazil’s lead in peacekeeping has united Latin Americans around a hemispheric security threat.
But Haitians also want to be the masters of their fate. They must be part of the decision-making process. Although Haiti’s government is reconciled to a UN presence to provide security, it is also committed to creating and supporting a new, robust police force of more than 14,000 persons by 2011. We may very well see results, but it will take at least three years. In the meantime, the presence of the UN until that time will help maintain the security environment. Read more ..
Israel and Palestine
|Micah Halpern||March 3rd 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributor
There are war games. There are diplomatic games. There are mind games. And there are just plain - games. Monopoly, the most popular game in the world, produced by Hasbro, one of the most successful game sellers in the world, used to be just a game, a fun, simple, wildly popular game.
And then Hasbro decided to take the game one step further. Hasbro already had the Banking Edition, the SquarePants Edition, the Junior Disney Princess Edition, but they did not yet have the World Edition. So Hasbro came up with a plan to invite fan participation and create Monopoly Here and Now: The World Edition. The invitation went out from headquarters in Pawtucket, Rhode Island to the entire online world - vote for you favorite city anywhere in the world and the cities with the most votes will win spots around the coveted Monopoly board.
That's when the fun stopped. That's when true competition stepped in. That's when Hasbro - unwittingly - stepped out of the realm of gamesmanship and into the real world of politics and diplomacy. Problem was, votes came in for the city of Jerusalem, Israel. Problem is, the Arab world does not believe that Jerusalem belongs to Israel, the Palestinians want Jerusalem for their own capital city one day. The problem was solved by an independent-thinking Hasbro employee in the London office. Just take out the comma and the word Israel. London remained London comma England, Paris remained Paris comma France, Istanbul a frontrunner for first place remained Istanbul comma Turkey and Jerusalem was left to stand alone. And that did not sit well with Israel's friends. Read more ..
|Armstrong Williams||February 20th 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributor
Before the primary season began the Democratic Party reached an agreement with its potential presidential candidates that they would not campaign in Florida or Michigan and that the delegates from those states would be meaningless. All the candidates agreed, which in effect, made the Florida and Michigan primaries moot because none of the delegates could be used by the candidates vying for the nomination. The Clinton campaign was the main advocate for this “ban” because at the time they felt they were invincible and would have little competition from the field. A few months later Super Tuesday arrived.
Super Tuesday was Hillary Clinton’s chance to wipe Senator Barack Obama out of the picture, but what happened was shocking and humiliating to the once unstoppable and formidable candidate. After the votes were tallied Clinton’s campaign had to face the realization that despite winning the big states (California and New York) she was still in a horse race that was neck in neck with the upstart from Illinois.
The result of Super Tuesday was a loss of momentum over the coming weeks which led to less money raised, less positive talk in the news, less volunteer sign-ups, and less energy than her rival. And then she shook up her campaign by removing (or forcing the resignation of) her deputy campaign manager. The cold hard truth is that Clinton is in danger of losing the nomination despite going against her word and campaigning (and winning the non-races) in Florida and Michigan. Now, out of desperation, the Clinton campaign is lobbying the Democratic Party to reverse its prior decision and count the Florida and Michigan delegates in the final delegate count, despite their earlier disqualification. Read more ..
|Shoshana Bryen||January 28th 2008|
Cutting Edge contributor
Gaza looks just about hopeless these days, and indeed, President Bush basically wrote it off while he was in the region. But the problem of Gaza cannot be wished away and no one is comfortable consigning the Palestinians to life behind bars while Hamas takes Iranian money and works on bigger and more precise missiles with which to destroy Israel. Nor is anyone comfortable with ongoing military incursions and the social service "squeeze" that Israel has been forced into - even though we know the Israelis are doing their very best to limit the humanitarian crisis.
Many believe the time has come for drastic action and even President George Bush noted the need for "new international institutions" to deal with the problem.
Three leading options present themselves above the rest:
First, increase the size of Gaza with long-term land leases in northern Sinai, now by Egypt. This is only a few miles west of the present border. We know from Israel's experience with its former Sinai settlement Yamit that there is water and arable land. If part of the problem were density and the lack of room for productive enterprise, this would help. It would also give Egypt a stake in the area's stability and future economic growth. An Israeli politician suggested this some time ago as a humanitarian gesture, but Egypt rejected it out of hand—preferring to leave Israel with responsibility for the whole problem. If one believes that radicalism stems from poverty (many social observers understand that in most poor societies in which children are not turned into human bombs), this idea should have merit and the U.S. government should use its leverage with Egypt to pursue it. Read more ..
Bad Arolsen Media Analysis
|Edwin Black||January 21st 2008|
When probing the Holocaust, the horrific experiences of survivors, the listener melts. We all melt at the enormity of the horror. Tattoos always trump the arcane questions of technology. But professionals who study the Holocaust beyond the blood and bones of mass murder know information technology was an indispensable behind-the-scenes factor in the original crime. Seventy-five years after Adolf Hitler came to power, information technology is again an indispensable behind-the-scenes factor, this time in exposing the crime.
This brings the Holocaust community to the continuing controversy over providing survivors remote secure access terminals to the Bad Arolsen archives instead of making them travel to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. to obtain details of their incarceration and enslavement. The USHMM is refusing to share access with other Holocaust institutions and now claims it will begin “individualized research” for the estimated 150,000 survivors in America and perhaps many among a million worldwide, all of whom want answers today not tomorrow, and do so with an initial staff of 24 trained researchers. The Museum refuses to budge and is increasingly defensive on the persistent demands of Holocaust survivors and media inquiries about a seemingly obvious question.
During and after the January 17, 2008 USHMM press conference on the topic of the Bad Arolsen archival transfers, Museum executive director Sara Bloomfield made statements about the archival technology to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), the 85-year-old, war-tested Jewish communal news service, known for its precision as well as its diligent, respected correspondents. Bloomfield’s remarks to the JTA reporter about why the Bad Arolsen files could not shared, it seems, amounted to a calculated misinformation effort to pretend such sharing was impossible. The opposite is true. Her remarks were implausible on their face, and completely contrary to the published facts. Read more ..
Inside the Islamic World
|Joseph Griebowski||January 11th 2008|
Turkish President Abdullah Gul met President George W. Bush on January 8, marking Gul's first visit to Washington as president.
The official agenda included a laundry list of issues central to US-Turkish relations: joint efforts to counter the Kurdish rebel group PKK; to promote stability in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and the broader Middle East; and to advance Turkey's European Union accession goals.
In his second inaugural address, President Bush stated that, “The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.”
While each of the issues that is currently on the agenda is a priority issue, each also touches on a broader question which remains off the agenda: freedom of religion and belief in Turkey itself.
A significant problem facing religious groups in Turkey is the nation’s biased religious registration laws. Registration is required for religious leaders and institutions to serve the spiritual needs of their constituents. Currently, the Sunni branch of Islam is the only “state-sanctioned” form of religion. Read more ..
|Shoshana Bryen||December 20th 2007|
Cutting Edge contributor
The traditional job of the national intelligence apparatus is to describe what it sees and what it believes it cannot see, hedging its bets with what it calls “estimative language” and degrees of confidence. It traditionally ascribes no intentions to its subjects and prescribes no policies to its government. The new unclassified National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, however, leaves a large exclusion it its field of vision; traffics heavily in purported intentions over observed and understood capabilities; and has the effect of proscribing military action as an element of American policy.
Quick reading indeed, the “Key Judgments” span only three pages, followed by a handy-dandy chart comparing the 2005 NIE to its current counterpart.
Most prominently in the news, the NIE asserts with “high confidence” that Iran shut down its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and has “moderate confidence” that it has not restarted. “Our assessment that the program probably was halted in response to international pressure suggests Iran might be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously.”
To understand how this came to be, start with the single footnote – an extraordinary admission of the limitation of the intelligence process:
By ‘nuclear weapons program’ we mean Iran’s nuclear weapon design and weaponization work and covert uranium conversion-related and enrichment-related work; we do not mean Iran’s declared civil work related to uranium conversion and enrichment.'
This begs questions. Read more ..
Palestine and Israel
|Hanna Siniora||December 20th 2007|
Despite the cynicism of the experts, the Annapolis meeting was a resounding victory for the persistent efforts of American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The presence of Saudi Arabia and Syria signaled the desire of the Arab League to demonstrate their commitment to the Arab Peace Initiative.
The second leg of Annapolis, the December 17th Donor’s meeting, proved to be extremely supportive and generous. In the Palestinian Authority Development and Reform Plan for the next three years, the PA asked for US $5.6 billion dollars and received total pledges of US $7.4 billion, with $3.373 billion for 2008, $2.054 billion for 2009 and $2.054 billion for 2010.
Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad now have a concrete demonstration of the international community’s support for their leadership and the two-state solution. French President Nicholas Sarkozy and his foreign minister Bernard Kouchner excelled in the arrangements that provided the Quartet envoy, former PM Tony Blair, with the tools needed to jumpstart the Palestinian economy. President Abbas, always sensitive to his Palestinian constituency in Gaza, promised to spend more than half of the funds for the benefit of the destitute Gaza Strip. Read more ..
America's Islamic Strategy
|Walid Phares||December 14th 2007|
Over the past few months a number of Western leaders, including senior United States figures, have lent their support to separating the province of Kosovo from the Republic of Serbia, based on the fact that a majority of the inhabitants in the province, ethnic Albanians, wishes this to be done.
The U.S Secretary of State and top European diplomats have been working on the assumption that the ultimate outcome of the crisis should be to see another new Republic emerging in the Balkans from the rubble of former Yugoslavia. Their participation in the UN-sponsored negotiations, along with Serbia, Kosovo, Albania and Russia, has been heading toward the endpoint of breaking one nation state's territory into two states, ignoring the historical context, consequences, and important principles, with far-reaching unpleasant consequences when these principles serve as precedents elsewhere.
Underlying all of this is a not-so-hidden agenda: an anticipated so-called diplomatic dividend for pleasing the Muslim world. A prominent US legislator declared over the summer that granting Kosovo its independence would please the Muslim world and would show that America is not anti-Islamic. The Kosovo affair has this assumed extra importance in this precarious post 9/11 era, as a token. But it risks kindling a chain reaction of explosive crises around the world. Read more ..
|Leslie Susser||December 12th 2007|
JTA news analysis
|Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Nuclear Facility|
After the shock of last week’s U.S. intelligence estimate that found that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, Israel is reshaping its Iran strategy.
Israel essentially is arguing that the U.S. assessment is dangerously misleading and that Tehran is as determined as ever to acquire nuclear weapons. The Israeli dilemma is how to prove Iran is cheating without being accused of trying to push the United States into war. That is why the official strategy is to work quietly behind the scenes. Israel's top intelligence agencies all believe Iran is still at full throttle to produce a nuclear bomb and will be capable of doing so by 2009 or 2010.
The new Israeli strategy is based on four main elements:
- actively pushing for stiffer international sanctions on Iran, despite the U.S. report;
- working quietly behind the scenes to convince others through Israel’s own intelligence material that Iran is intent on producing nuclear weapons;
- refraining from arguing with the U.S. assessment in public, lest Israel be seen to be trying to push the United States into military action against Iran;
- and Israel keeping open its own military options.The emerging policy is the result of close consultations among Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
In a Cabinet meeting Sunday, Olmert stressed that Israel would work to "expose Iran's clandestine operations."
Barak earlier had advised the prime minister not to get into a public spat with the United States over its assessment of Iran's nuclear program but rather promoted the behind-the-scenes effort. Read more ..
|by Walid Phares||September 4th 2007|
Cutting Edge Contributor
|Iran's Revolutionary Guard|
Placing the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (Pasdaran) on the official U.S. terror list is not unlike what it would have been to so-target the SS, and by association the Nazi regime and the German war machine during World War II.
To name the 125,000-strong Pasradan a “terrorist organization” [the first state military branch to be so designated] was a master stroke of effective symbolism. We can already see the uncomfortable, worldwide reaction as exhibited by the spokespersons of the Khomeinist elite, including the Arab-speaking apologists for Tehran.
Speaking on Al Jazeera and other Arab media, pro-Iranian commentators reacting to the news boasted about the omnipresence of the Pasdaran across Iran and asked, "How will the U.S. make a distinction between the Guards and the people." In fact, such comments betray the fear Iranian leaders have had at this point.
Clearly, Iran's leaders are embarrassed in front of their masses; embarrassed that a global power officially considers the most-powerful organization within the regime to be nothing more than “terrorists.” The impact of this decision has barely begun, and will snowball in terms of the psychological impact it will surely have on the ordinary Iranian citizen. Read more ..
Bad Arolsen Inside Story
|by Edwin Black||August 29th 2007|
special to the Cutting Edge
|Bad Arolsen files|
During the week of August 20, Red Cross officials transferred to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum some 13.5 million embargoed files from its massive Nazi-era archive at Bad Arolsen known as the International Tracing Service. The hard drives were hand-delivered by ITS director Reto Meister. For the Red Cross, it was a significant moment that it had labored hard to achieve.
The highlight of the initial ITS handover was a special Museum briefing held August 23 for several dozen Holocaust survivors, Second Generation members, and Jewish organizational leaders. The meeting was a chance to connect with the Holocaust community face to face. Survivors flew in from around the nation to attend. By all accounts the exchange was successful and a tribute to the efforts undertaken by both the Museum and the Red Cross to accelerate the controversial transfer.
During the presentation, ITS director Reto Meister deftly explained the technical complexities in transferring the huge collection and what could be expected in the future, according to several in the audience. Meister’s presentation and response to questions, in spite of a few pesky challenges, was honest and convincing as he promised continued dedication to the process, according to multiple reports from audience members.
Ironically, the special Museum briefing was nowhere covered in the media, not even the Jewish media which normally covers such events. Why? Read more ..
Armenian Genocide Conflict
|by David Harris||August 27th 2007|
American Jewish Committee executive director
Armenian Genocide Victims
From 2000 to 2002, I led a graduate seminar entitled "Post-Holocaust Ethical and Political Issues” at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. Among the topics covered was the politics of memory.
One of the case studies we explored was the controversy surrounding language and its power. We looked in depth at the massacre of Armenians and how its depiction had become a subject of fierce debate, primarily between Armenians, who insisted on calling the events of 1915 a genocide, and Turks, who adamantly refused to countenance the "G word." Essentially, this was a zero-sum game.
Either one supported the Armenian or the Turkish position, whether for historical or political reasons, but neither side allowed room for compromise. The basic Armenian argument was that up to 1.5 million Armenians were deliberately targeted and massacred by the Ottoman Empire, eight years before the modern Turkish Republic came into being. At the time, the word genocide didn’t exist. Read more ..
|by Micah Halpern||August 26th 2007|
Cutting Edge Contributor
Bob Levinson worked for the FBI and before that for the DEA. He retired from these "companies" about ten years ago and like many former agents, went into the private sector. According to his resume, Bob Levinson had "extensive international experience and has focused on criminal activities, business intelligence projects, asset location and recoveries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Russia and Europe."
Bob Levinson was last heard from on March 8th, 2007. He was last seen on an Iranian island called Kish, a resort that caters to a Muslim and European clientele. Unlike the rest of Iran, Kish is a commercially-oriented area where even United States residents - who can enter Iran proper only after undergoing scrutiny and obtaining a special visa and travel papers - are permitted entry without special visas.
Former agents often do private work after retirement. They gain employment as contractors for the government or for companies in the private sector interested in their contacts and talents. As the saying goes, once a spy always a spy. Levinson, it seems, was not working on a covert operation. He was working for a film company and he was in Kish gathering information and meeting contacts.
Almost five months later and there has been no word from Levinson or about Levinson. Relations between the United States and Iran being what they are there is no direct line of communication between the State Department and the powers that be in Iran. Diplomatic ties were severed in 1979 when the Iranians took the United States embassy in Teheran hostage. The United States is at a loss, their access to information is through back channels. Christine, Levinson, the missing man’s wife. is trying on her own, through the media, to gather any information that she can on the condition of her husband of thirty-three years.
She has been interviewed by CNN. There have also even been Persian language programs discussing the disappearance of her husband. She is making a direct appeal for help and information via radio. Her efforts even include an appeal on the Voice of Peace broadcast into Iran.
About two to three US citizens disappear each year in Iran. Sometimes, there is a happy ending, often there is not. One glimmer of hope for finding Bob Levinson comes in the form of the return of another US hostage. The director of the Middle East division of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, an Iranian American who was held hostage since May was just released on “bail.” The terms of her release involved the exchange of a very large sum of money - but she is free. Read more ..
Palestine and Israel
|By Howard Kohr||August 20th 2007|
American Israel Public Affairs Committee executive director
Following the violent Hamas overthrow of the Palestinian Authority (PA) government in Gaza, President Mahmoud Abbas fired the Hamas ministers and created a new PA government in the West Bank. This seismic shift presented Israel with a potential partner for peace in Abbas and his new government.
In the two months since Hamas’ coup, Israel has taken bold steps to bolster Abbas and his new prime minister, Salam Fayyad. These measures include releasing Palestinian tax monies, freeing 250 Palestinian prisoners, offering amnesty to wanted Fatah militiamen and sending over 50,000 tons of humanitarian aid to Gaza’s civilians Read more ..
|By Micah Halpern||August 20th 2007|
Cutting Edge contributor
New York recently went on high alert after an Internet prediction of an Islamic terror attack. Traffic was a mess. Trucks and vans were scrutinized. Bridges, tunnels and highways were moving along at a steady crawl. One of the most fast paced and vibrant cities in the whole wide world was forced to move slowly, deliberately and cautiously.
And then it was over.
And now we must ask – what was that all about? What really is the purpose of putting a city, a population, a nation on high alert? One would think that between the Office of Homeland Security, local police and law enforcement, informants and counter terrorism wonks, the “people in the know” would know how to tell which threats are real and credible and which are hype and improbable.
Well, they do know.
Counter terrorism is an art, it is also a science, and it is also a precise, exacting military-like series of maneuvers. And elevated alerts are an important tool in the arsenal of the counter terrorist. What happened in New York on that specific Saturday was an exercise well worth the time, effort, discipline and the discomfort of the citizens and visitors who happened to have been in town on that warm summer morning.
Elevated alerts are rushed into action following a credible threat emanating from credible Intel. The goal is to prevent a terrorist attack from happening.
A terror attack is like a jigsaw puzzle. It requires many pieces and all the pieces must interlock properly or it will not succeed. Take away one piece and an entire operation is either aborted – or doomed to fail.
With elevated alerts comes heightened security. And one of the best ways to achieve heightened security is through the use of roadblocks. Roadblocks are an attempt to prevent one or more pieces of the terrorist puzzle from coming into the arena. Roadblocks are used to force the planners to halt their operation.
Heightened or elevated alerts send out messages. The message to the public is that we are on top of things, we are not letting terrorist sneak in or slide by, we are maintaining a serious defense system. More important is the message that is sent out to terrorists. An alert says “we know something, we have information.” And then it is up to the terrorists to determine just what and how much really is known – about their plan, about their players, about their general operation. The message is used to instill the fear of failure, the fear of being caught, in the terrorist operatives. Read more ..
|Walid Phares||August 19th 2007|
Cutting Edge contributor
The U.S. is considering a new gigantic arms sale to Saudi Arabia of up to $20 billion. The proposed package includes advanced satellite-guided bombs, upgrades to its fighters and new naval vessels as a U.S. strategy to contain the rising military expansion of Iran in the region. The titanic arms deal is seen as a major Saudi spending to shield itself from a Khomeinist menace looming at the horizons: an Iranian nuclear bomb, a future Pasdaran control of Iraq, and a Hezbollah offensive in Lebanon.
In reality, the Iranian threat against the Saudis materializes as follows: A) If the U.S.-led coalition leaves abruptly, the Iranian forces - via the help of their militias in Iraq - will be at the borders with Saudi Arabia. Throughout the Gulf, Iran’s mullahs will be eyeing the Hijaz on the one hand and the oil-rich provinces on the other hand. B)Hezbollah threatens the Lebanese government, which is friendly to the Saudis. Hezbollah, already training for subversion in Iraq, will become the main trainer of Shiite radicals in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia. C) Finally, across Iraq’s borders, Syria and Iran can send all sorts of jihadis, including Sunnis.
With such hydra advancing, the Wahhabi monarchy is hurrying to arm itself with all the military technology it can get from Uncle Sam. Riyadh believes that with improved F-16s, fast boats, electronics and smarter bombs it can withstand the forthcoming onslaught. I believe it won’t. For as the Iraq-Iran war has proved, the ideologically rooted brutality of the Iranian regime has no boundaries. If the U.S. withdraws from the region without a strong pro-Western Iraq in the neighborhood and absent of a war of ideas making progress against fundamentalism as a whole, the Saudis won’t stand a chance for survival. For the Iranians will apply their pressures directly and unleash more radical forces among the neo-Wahhabis against Saudi Arabia. The Shiite mullahs will adroitly manipulate radical Sunnis, as they have in Iraq and Lebanon. So what should the U.S. advise the Saudis to do instead of spending hugely on arms? Read more ..
Genetically Modified Food
|By Osagie K. Obasogie and Pete Shanks||August 12th 2007|
Cutting Edge Contributors
The FDA is still considering whether to allow meat and milk from cloned animals into America’s food chain, without so much as a warning label. Polls show that Americans oppose cloned foods 3 to 1, and the livestock and dairy industries have repeatedly said that cloned hotdogs and milkshakes make little business sense. Neverthless, the push for cloned livestock has been insistent for years.
In 2003, approval was said to be six months away; that didn’t happen, presumably because of fears of public outrage, but the public relations campaign continued. At the very end of 2006, a long-awaited draft “Risk Assessment” was published, inspiring a flurry of ill-informed puff pieces intended to legitimize the technology. That failed: the FDA received over 100,000 public comments, overwhelmingly opposed to food from cloned animals.
Officials then paused to consider their final decision. Some reports say that FDA approval will come later this year. Others suggest that it may take two years. The mainstream media seems to accept that it’s only a matter of time, no matter what the public wants – and no matter what the real scientific evidence is.
A scathing report by the Center for Food Safety (CFS) exposed embarrassing if not crippling inadequacies in the data the FDA used to suggest that cloned food is safe. The CFS report showed there are no peer-reviewed safety studies on meat from cloned cows, pigs or goats, and only three inconclusive ones on milk; this suggests further study, not immediate approval. Even before that, the National Academies of Science – the government’s science advisors – articulated concerns that the processes for assessing cloned food safety are currently not up to par. Read more ..
Palestine and Israel
|By Micah Halpern||August 10th 2007|
Cutting Edge contributor
The Palestinian people deserve a state of their own. But not now, not yet.
Why? Because the Palestinians have not yet adequately proven themselves ready for total self-government. At least, not democratic self-government. The Palestinians have been in control of their own destiny for a significant chunk of time. And each time they are faced with a pivotal challenge, they fail to rise up to that challenge. And each failure is then blamed on Israel.
The election of Hamas to power, for example, was a challenge to the concept of democracy. And the result was a miserable failure of democracy and a return to anarchy. The decision to arrest terrorists is another example of a challenge the Palestinians faced and failed. The result was the decision not to make arrests by circumventing the issue and calling the gun-toting, saber rattling, Qassam throwing brigades not terrorists, but resistance fighters. Everyone speaks of normalization, but these actions should never be termed normal. These actions are an ab-normalization of the situation and they are an abomination.
Before they can become a democratic state, the Palestinians must be ready, willing and most crucially, able, to make changes in attitudes and in behaviors. Democracy is more than a system of self-government. Democracy is about respect. Respect for law and for laws. Respect for religious and cultural minorities. Respect for education.
Neither Palestinian leadership nor the Palestinian people have grasped the true essence of democracy. They have no understanding of the concept of freedom. They do not yet understand that democracy and freedom are co-joined, that democracy without freedom is dictatorship, that freedom without democracy is anarchy.
Striving for democracy is an admirable goal. Freedom is an inalienable right. But they come with a price - responsibility. Until Palestinian leadership is willing to accept that responsibility, the people will continue to live under an umbrella of violence, poverty and uncertainty. Read more ..
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