Obama to House Dems: If sanctions fail, Israel will likely strike Iran

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, met with House Democrats yesterday, talking about his trip abroad and his observations.

Obama told the caucus, according to an attendee, “Nobody said this to me directly but I get the feeling from my talks that if the sanctions don’t work Israel is going to strike Iran.” Others in the room recall this as well.

Editor’s Comment — So I guess Obama has decided that if he becomes president and Israel decides to attack Iran, then as president he would of course be utterly impotent — Israel being the most powerful nation on Earth. What’s an AIPAC-loyal American president to do? No doubt Benjamin Netanyahu has already taken due note. Bibi already knows that if he becomes Israel’s next prime minister he’s got carte blanche from McCain; now he just got a passive green light from Obama.

Israel after Olmert

The surprising thing about Ehud Olmert’s announcement on Wednesday was not his declared intention to resign in September as Prime Minister of Israel after just two years in office; it’s that he managed to last this long. Olmert’s handling of the botched Lebanon war in the summer of 2006 plunged his approval ratings into the single digits, and he never really recovered the confidence of the Israeli electorate. Still, he hung on, even when he became the target of a criminal investigation into corruption allegations, promising to resign in the event of an indictment. Some will see the fact that he has chosen to do so now, making clear that he will not be a candidate when his Kadima party holds a primary to choose a new leader in September, as a sign that charges may be in the offing over the case of U.S. businessman Morris Talansky, who has admitted giving Olmert large undeclared donations.

Police: Olmert quitting because he knows we have him

During the two-hour interview – which is the time alloted to the police by Olmert’s office – the investigators are expected to ask Olmert to explain a series of documents, collected by police during the past month, and which allegedly bolster the suspicions that the prime minister was aware and was party to the use of a mechanism for which he received multiple-funding for his trips abroad. Police suspect the excess funds were used to pay for dozens of flights for Olmert’s family over the years.

Police are focusing their investigation on the years when Olmert served as minister of Industry and Trade from 2003 to 2006.

Law enforcement sources suggested in recent days that the investigators may surprise Olmert with questions about other investigations being conducted against him.

But the focus will be Olmertours, and the prime minister will be asked to provide explanations on a precise list of flights for which he allegedly sought multiple funding, and the names of the institutions that funded the trips.

Hamas frees German TV’s cameraman after 5 days

The Hamas militant group released a Palestinian cameraman for German TV on Thursday, and the broadcaster said the 42-year-old man was tortured during his five days in detention.

Masked Hamas gunmen nabbed Sawah Abu Saif from his Gaza home last Saturday during a mass weekend roundup of alleged activists of the rival Fatah movement. Hamas blames Fatah for a Gaza City explosion that killed five Hamas members and a 6-year-old girl. Fatah denies the charges and the Germany broadcaster ARD denies Abu Saif has any political affiliation with either group.

ARD had shut down its Gaza City office to protest the arrest of its cameraman.

Time running out for US in Iraq

A timetable for the withdrawal of US troops has long been a priority for Iraqis – 70 percent want the United States out, according to the latest polls. This sentiment is also reflected in Parliament – the only directly elected branch of government. Two months ago, the political parties representing a majority sent a letter to Congress opposing any US-Iraq security agreement without a timetable.

The Iraqi executive branch, usually allied with the Bush administration on this issue, has joined this consensus. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki insists that the agreement must “either remove US forces from the country or include a timetable for withdrawal.”

But the Bush administration continues to resist, even as the clock ticks toward Dec. 31 – when the current UN mandate expires and US troops lose their legal authority to fight and their immunity from prosecution in Iraq. We are concerned that the administration is not preparing to renew the mandate, which has been done routinely and will be necessary if negotiations do not culminate in a valid security agreement.

Afghanistan: Not a good war

Every war has a story line. World War I was “the war to end all wars.” World War II was “the war to defeat fascism.”

Iraq was sold as a war to halt weapons of mass destruction; then to overthrow Saddam Hussein, then to build democracy. In the end it was a fabrication built on a falsehood and anchored in a fraud.

But Afghanistan is the “good war,” aimed at “those who attacked us,” in the words of columnist Frank Rich. It is “the war of necessity,” asserts the New York Times, to roll back the “power of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.”

Barack Obama is making the distinction between the “bad war” in Iraq and the “good war” in Afghanistan a centerpiece of his run for the presidency. He proposes ending the war in Iraq and redeploying U.S. military forces in order “to finish the job in Afghanistan.”

NW Pakistan clashes intensify; peace deals at risk, Taliban says

Clashes between insurgents and Pakistani troops escalated Wednesday in the country’s fractious northwest as Taliban leaders threatened to withdraw their support for peace deals brokered this year with Pakistan’s new government.

Accounts of casualties from the skirmishes in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, near the Afghan border, varied widely and could not be independently verified. A local military spokesman said that five Pakistani soldiers and at least 38 insurgents were killed, but a spokesman for a pro-Taliban group disputed that tally, saying that only three of its fighters had been slain.

It was the third consecutive day of violence between pro-Taliban extremists and government troops in the formerly serene Swat Valley. After skirmishes erupted near the town of Matta, Pakistani security forces began enforcing a 24-hour curfew in the area, a military spokesman said.

Living through the age of denial in America

If, on the evening of October 22, 1962, you had told me that, in 2008, America’s most formidable enemy would be Iran, I would have danced a jig. Well, maybe not a jig, but I’ll tell you this: I would have been flabbergasted.

On that October evening, President John F. Kennedy went before the nation — I heard him on radio — to tell us all that Soviet missile sites were just then being prepared on the island of Cuba with “a nuclear strike capability against the Western Hemisphere.” It was, he said, a “secret, swift and extraordinary buildup of communist missiles — in an area well known to have a special and historical relationship to the United States and the nations of the Western Hemisphere.” When fully operational, those nuclear-tipped weapons would reach “as far north as Hudson Bay, Canada, and as far south as Lima, Peru.” I certainly knew what Hudson Bay, far to the north, meant for me.

“It shall be the policy of this nation,” Kennedy added ominously, “to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.” And he ended, in part, this way: “My fellow citizens: let no one doubt that this is a difficult and dangerous effort on which we have set out. No one can foresee precisely what course it will take or what costs or casualties will be incurred…”

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