Attack on Iran would be ‘very destabilizing’ — US military chief

A US military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be “very destabilizing,” top US military commander Admiral Mike Mullen said Sunday, warning that any attack could have serious “unintended consequences.”

“I’ve been one who has been concerned about a strike on Iran for some time, because it could be very destabilizing, and it is the unintended consequences of that which aren’t predictable,” the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Fox News Sunday television program. [continued…]

Saudi air space is ‘not open’ for attack on Iran

Saudi analysts have rejected media reports that the kingdom has given permission to Israel to use its air space for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The Sunday Times reported yesterday that the head of Mossad, Israel’s overseas intelligence service, has assured Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, that Saudi Arabia would turn a blind eye to Israeli jets flying over the kingdom during any future raid on Iran’s nuclear sites.

Jamal Khashoggi, an expert on Saudi foreign policy and editor-in-chief of Al Watan newspaper, said the report was false and was another attempt to provoke the country into revealing its plans towards Iran. [continued…]

Mousavi reportedly will launch political party in Iran

The top figure of Iran’s nascent political reform movement, opposition presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, will launch a political party to pursue his goals, a reformist newspaper reported Sunday.

Iranian officials, meanwhile, released a jailed European journalist and the lawyer of an imprisoned employee of the British Embassy in Tehran said he was confident that his client’s case would be resolved.

Beleaguered President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reiterated calls for a live “debate” with President Obama late Saturday in a possible sign Iran was seeking to ease diplomatic strains over his disputed reelection and its violent aftermath. [continued…]

Earn our trust or go, Afghan villagers tell Marines

The mullah’s message was blunt. We don’t trust you and if you don’t earn our trust, our first meeting will be our last.

With that, he stood abruptly and walked out of his first “shura,” or council meeting, with U.S. Marines.

U.S. forces who have moved deep into formerly Taliban-controlled territory in southern Afghanistan this week say they are here to stay and will not leave until they have improved the lives of ordinary people.

But locals — used to seeing NATO troops come through to fight but fail to follow through on promises of development — may not be won over easily. [continued…]

Obama’s strategic blind spot

Are there not other alternatives than sending our armies to chew barbed wire in Flanders?” During the bitter winter of 1914-15, the first lord of the Admiralty posed this urgent question to Britain’s prime minister.

The eighth anniversary of 9/11, now fast approaching, invites attention to a similar question: Are there not other alternatives than sending our armies to choke on the dust of Iraq and Afghanistan?

Back in December 1914, the Admiralty’s impatient first lord was Winston Churchill, appalled by the slaughter on the Western Front. Intent on breaking the stalemate, Churchill became a font of ideas. Mired in Flanders? Then launch an amphibious assault against the Dardanelles, he urged. Were German machine guns cutting down British Tommies venturing into no man’s land? Then support the infantry with tanks.

Yet Churchill’s innovations failed to deliver a quick resolution. Instead, they prolonged the war and drove up its cost. When the guns finally fell silent in November 1918, “victory” left Britain economically and spiritually depleted. Revolution wracked much of Europe. And the seeds of totalitarianism had been planted, producing in their maturity an even more horrendous war. Some victory. [continued…]

America searches for means of influence in Iraq

Behind the high walls of the American Embassy here, diplomats are casting about to find a new formula to influence politics in Iraq.

With most troops now on large bases outside the cities, America’s day-to-day involvement in Iraqi life has vanished. The decisions, big and small, that American commanders made are now largely being made by Iraqis; American soldiers no longer have daily contact with tribal sheiks, mayors, insurgents and shopkeepers — a change welcomed by the majority of Iraqis.

Although President Obama has made it clear that his strategic priority is the war in Afghanistan, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. arrived in Baghdad last week to emphasize that America still cared about Iraq. [continued…]

Iraqis say reconciliation is an internal matter

Iraq welcomes Vice President Joseph Biden’s encouraging words about America’s commitment to Iraq, but government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Saturday that political reconciliation is an internal matter best handled by Iraqis.

Mr. Biden arrived in Iraq on Thursday to visit troops for the July 4 holiday and to also urge Iraq’s political, ethnic and sectarian factions to make more progress on divisive issues. The Obama administration recently announced that Mr. Biden would overseeing Iraq policy for the U.S. government, part of which included encouraging more political progress from Iraq’s leaders.

“Any party that is not Iraqi will not add to the success of this issue,” Mr. Dabbagh said of political progress. [continued…]

The blue velvet hills of my youth have been destroyed

I can remember the appearance of the hills around Ramallah in 1979, before any Jewish settlement came to be established there. In the spring of that year I walked north from Ramallah, where I live, to the nearby village of A’yn Qenya and up the pine-forested hill. A gazelle leapt ahead of me. When I reached the top I could see hills spread below me like crumpled blue velvet, with the hamlets of Janiya and Deir Ammar huddled between its folds. On top of the highest hill in the distance stood the village of Ras Karkar with its centuries-old citadel that dominated the area during Ottoman times. I had been following the worrying developments of extensive settlement-building elsewhere in the West Bank and wondered how long it would be before these hills came under the merciless blades of the Israeli bulldozers. I didn’t have to wait long. A year later the top of the hill was lopped off and the settlement of Dolev, then a cluster of red-tiled Swiss-style chalets, was established.

Now, more than 25 years later, Dolev has expanded and taken over the hills to its north for vineyards. Numerous highways for the exclusive use of its Jewish settlers connect it to the many other settlements in the area and to Israel’s coastline. Those settlers travelling to and from Israeli cities where they work can only see road signs indicating other Jewish settlements. They encounter no Palestinian traffic on the roads nor do they see any Palestinian villages. No wonder then that I was once stopped by an armed settler and interrogated as to why I was taking a walk in his hills. When I asked him what right he had to be there, he answered: “I live here.” He then pointedly added: “Unlike you, I really live here.”

Not a single year has passed since Israel acquired the territories in 1967 in which Jewish settlements were not built. Had it pursued peace as assiduously, surely it would have achieved it by now. [continued…]

Why don’t Russian-speaking Jews trust Obama?

In the past two weeks, in advance of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Russia, chapters of the Bible have become hot current events items in the Russian-language media in Israel. This is not necessarily a matter of an increasing link to the Jewish sources, but rather the use of verses found relevant to eroding the American president’s legitimacy.

The Torah portion “Noah” has become particularly popular, and especially his son Ham. This Ham – whose name in Russian also means a very crude person – was punished in the Bible by having his skin turn black, with all his descendants doomed to be blacks destined for a life of slavery. Another very popular text lately is a verse from Proverbs: “Under three things the earth trembles, under four it cannot bear up.” The first of the heralds of evil, according to the verse, is “a slave who becomes king.”

Each of these chapters is important in itself, but the real sparks are created by the connection between the two: Ham the black man who is doomed to eternal slavery and brings suffering to the world when a black slave becomes king – or in this case, ascends the throne of the presidency of the United States. [continued…]

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