What if Iran got the bomb?

The political survival of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has moved the question of Iran’s nuclear program back to the center of U.S. diplomacy. Iran, it is argued, cannot be allowed to build nuclear weapons because its leaders say crazy things, wear funny hats without ties, and believe that God will reward them with virgins and whatnot for consuming friendly countries in a nuclear firestorm. Iranians, in short, are so different, weird, and threatening that they cannot be trusted with the bomb. Fortunately, no such state has ever successfully developed nuclear weapons…except for the People’s Republic of China (PRC). And this historical analogy holds a highly relevant lesson for today. [continued…]

EDITORIAL: Has Obama already caved on the settlements issue?

The United States talks today about freezing settlements and the Palestinian state is well and good, but it is not new. Many administrations have spoken about freezing settlements. Furthermore, this talk is not enough. More important is the extent of the response to the rights of our people and the reality of the Palestinian state they are talking about, its borders, and its sovereignty. For this reason, we are still assessing the Obama administration. Khalid Meshaal, Head of the Hamas Political Bureau, Damascus, June 25, 2008

From Maya Bengal in Israel’s Ma’ariv (via IPF) we learn:

Rather surprisingly, the Americans have agreed to allow Israel to construct some 2,500 housing units in the settlements. This is in complete contrast to statements relayed to Israel in recent months, since the new administration took office.

The agreement was secured after Defense Minister Ehud Barak was able to convince the Americans to allow Israel to continue and build those units whose construction had already started. In other words, the Americans gave their consent to letting the construction continue of some 700 buildings, which amount to some 2,500 housing units.

So, while unrest in Iran might have initially looked like a major distraction from the administration’s efforts to apply pressure on Netanyahu to freeze settlements, instead the distraction turns out to have provided cover for the administration to reach a compromise. The recent period of dischord between two old friends is now all water under the bridge — or so some Israelis would like everyone to believe.

It seems though that Barak’s victory might not be as assured as Ma’ariv would like its readers to believe.

According to Reuters:

A report in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, Israel’s most popular newspaper, was more cautious, saying Israel and the United States were “close to an agreement on settlements.” It also cited the same housing figures.

Barak has been seeking a deal with the United States that would include initial steps by Arab states to normalize relations with Israel in return for limiting settlement activity.

Yedioth Ahronoth quoted unidentified cabinet ministers, who attended Barak’s briefing, as saying reports a U.S.-Israeli agreement on settlement had been sealed were wishful thinking on the part of the defense chief.

Reuters also said: “Western officials said the United States was moving in the direction of making allowances so Israel could finish off at least some existing projects which are close to completion or bound by private contracts that cannot be broken.”

Maybe Barak thought a declaration of victory matters more than its substance. We’ll see.

Meshaal delivers speech on Obama’s position on peace process

On June 25, Khalid Meshaal, head of the Hamas Political Bureau gave a televised speech in Damascus and said, in part:

The Obama administration brought a change in rhetoric, but the question is what brought about this change. Even just the change on the level of the language, who effected this change? Was it for the sake of our beautiful eyes or for some defect? What brought this change about is that uncompromising perseverance of the living peoples of the region, when they resisted in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and rejected the occupiers and their oppression and orders. So, they thwarted the policy of the previous administration and its old and neoconservatives.

“This perseverance transformed that administration’s adventures consisting of hegemony and pre-emptive wars into an utter failure, drowning them in the swamps of the region and creating successive crises which then prompted the American voter to go for the option of change to protect his own interests, not for the sake of our interests. Those who accepted the policy of the former administration, those who went along with it and brought tidings of it are not the ones who made the change or contributed towards it. Had the peoples of the region listened to them, the policy of Bush and his neoconservatives would have succeeded. The conditions in our region would have been in an unimaginably bad state.

“We sense a change in the American tone and rhetoric towards the region and the Islamic world, as was evident from President Obama’s speech in Cairo. We welcome this with great courage. We evaluate any change in an objective manner. However, we are not entranced by speeches. Speeches do not win us over. The effect of rhetoric is temporary. We are looking for change in the policies on the ground. This is the yardstick of our judgment of stances and changes. What is required of the leaders of the superpowers and more important countries is firm actions, decisive stances, and serious initiatives that restore rights to their owners and end illegitimate occupation. What is required is not mere speeches that reveal intentions and promises.” [continued…]

Hamas’ choice: Recognition or resistance in the age of Obama

In a major policy speech on 25 June 2009, Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas’ political bureau, tried to do what may be impossible: present the Islamist Palestinian resistance organization as a willing partner in a US-led peace process, while holding on to his movement’s political principles and base.

This is the dilemma that every Palestinian leadership, and perhaps almost every liberation movement, has eventually had to confront. It is a choice, as political scientist Tamim Barghouti has pointed out, between recognition and legitimacy. According to Barghouti, the old-guard Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leadership, when confronted with the same dilemma, chose recognition and forfeited its legitimacy, opening the way for Hamas to emerge. Now it is the turn of Hamas: the price demanded by the US and its allies for Hamas to be taken as an interlocutor is the abandonment of the very principles on which the movement built its mass support. [continued…]

Is this natural growth? – Non profits help American Jews move to Israeli settlements in the West Bank

Yesterday morning, Nefesh B’Nefesh had the first in a series of summer 2009 celebrations greeting its charter flights packed with new immigrants from North America. Nefesh B’Nefesh is a non-profit organization that encourages and facilitates Jewish immigration to Israel from North America and the United Kingdom. They expect to bring over 3,000 immigrants to Israel over the course of the summer, in addition to the 20,000 they have brought since 2002. Attending the ceremony were the Israeli Minister of Transportation, Israeli Minister of Immigrant Absorption, the Chairman of the Jewish Agency, the CEO of EL Al Israel Airlines and the two American Jewish founders of Nefesh B’Nefesh. [continued…]

In Iran, a struggle beyond the streets

The streets of Iran have been largely silenced, but a power struggle grinds on behind the scenes, this time over the very nature of the state itself. It is a battle that transcends the immediate conflict over the presidential election, one that began 30 years ago as the Islamic Revolution established a new form of government that sought to blend theocracy and a measure of democracy.

From the beginning, both have vied for an upper hand, and today both are tarnished. In postelection Iran, there is growing unease among many of the nation’s political and clerical elite that the very system of governance they rely on for power and privilege has been stripped of its religious and electoral legitimacy, creating a virtual dictatorship enforced by an emboldened security apparatus, analysts said.

Among the Iranian president’s allies are those who question whether the nation needs elected institutions at all. [continued…]

Iran opposition calls for release of detainees

Iranian reformist leaders are urging authorities to release all those detained during the unrest that followed the country’s disputed presidential election last month.

The call was issued by defeated presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi as well as former president Mohammad Khatami following a meeting late Monday. [continued…]

Revealed – the secret torture evidence MI5 tried to suppress

The true depth of British involvement in the torture of terrorism suspects overseas and the manner in which that complicity is concealed behind a cloak of courtroom secrecy was laid bare last night when David Davis MP detailed the way in which one counter-terrorism operation led directly to a man suffering brutal mistreatment.

In a dramatic intervention using the protection of parliamentary privilege, the former shadow home secretary revealed how MI5 and Greater Manchester police effectively sub-contracted the torture of Rangzieb Ahmed to a Pakistani intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), whose routine use of torture has been widely documented.

This is the first time that the information has entered the public domain. Previously it has been suppressed through the process of secret court hearings and, had the Guardian or other media organisations reported it, they would have exposed themselves to the risk of prosecution for contempt of court. [continued…]

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