Daily Archives: November 17, 2008

‘jump the gun’

IAEA chief confirms traces of uranium found at Syria site
AP via Haaretz, Nov 17 2008

ElBaradei confirmed for the first time on Monday that samples taken from a Syrian site bombed by Israel last year, suspected to have been a nuclear facility, contained traces of uranium. ElBaradei said that the IAEA needs more transparency from Syria and other nations to determine whether traces of uranium found at the site indicate Damascus was building a nuclear reactor there. ElBaradei made the comments after a speech to business leaders in Dubai, days before the IAEA is expected to circulate a confidential report to board members outlining the status of his agency’s investigation. ElBaradei told reporters:

It’s not highly enriched uranium. It could have come from so many different ways. That’s why we’re looking at so many different scenarios. We still have a lot of work to do. We haven’t yet reached a conclusion whether that was a reactor or not a reactor. We need cooperation from everybody. We are not going to be able to reach a quick conclusion or jump the gun unless we have absolutely credible information.

The IAEA chief called specifically for more cooperation from Damascus, saying it needs a lot of transparency on the part of Syria. He said he was hopeful that Syria would allow inspectors back into the country to carry out further tests. But he also said Israel needs to provide more information to address Syrian allegations that the uranium may have come from Israeli bombs dropped on the site during the Sep 2007 raid. Moallem last week said it was unclear what type of bombs targeted the site, adding that the US has used bombs containing depleted uranium in Iraq and Afghanistan. Israel’s Foreign Ministry had no comment on the matter when asked last week.

nato is the world government

NATO says still backs plan for US missile shield
David Brunnstrom, Reuters, Nov 17 2008

After talks with Medvedev at an EU summit with Russia on Friday, Sarkozy said he had won Russian backing for talks on security in Europe next year, and urged a freeze in missile deployments by Moscow and the US until then. Sarkozy said that deploying the US anti-missile system would do “nothing to bring security and complicates things.” Sarkozy’s remarks were immediately questioned by the Czech Republic, which is due to host a tracking radar as part of the US missile shield. Prague said Sarkozy had no mandate for his remarks. NATO reaffirmed on Monday its backing for a planned US missile shield in Europe. NATO spokeswoman Carmen Romero said the alliance’s position had not changed. “The decision taken at Bucharest is very clear and we are continuing to analyse different options relating to missile defence,” she said, referring to options such as a proposal for NATO to complement the US shield with additional components aimed at reinforcing its coverage of southeast Europe. NATO Secretary-General Scheffer has called for a report for a NATO summit in April 2009 on options to expand missile defence to areas of NATO not covered by the US plan. The NATO spokeswoman had no comment on Sarkozy’s call for international talks on European security next year.

half of israel’s land is army-controlled

How did IDF gain control over half of the country?
Zafrir Rinat, Haaretz, Nov 17 2008 (extracts)

Some countries have an army, and some armies, like the Israel Defense Forces, have a country. According to a recent study on the defense establishment and land in Israel, various defense bodies lord over half the land. The army tops the list, but they all largely do as they please with respect to planning and development. The result is that while the rest of the country adopts orderly processes, starting from national and regional master plans, much of the state land remains managed separately. The existence of this kingdom may be essential, but its size and management methods have yet to face serious public scrutiny. The study, A Land in Khaki: Geographic Dimension of Defense in Israel, was written by geographers Amiram Oren and Rafi Regev and published by Carmel Publishing. Oren has been researching how the defense establishment’s activities affect the planning of land use, the environment and the property sector.

In Israel’s infancy, they write, the defense establishment built on the foundation of the British army bases. It expanded its land holdings by turning areas into training zones and by building new bases. The Knesset allowed this expansion to proceed practically unfettered. It did set up a planning procedure by committee — whose deliberations were confidential, and whose membership was limited. After the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Israeli defense forces substantially increased, and the army built a great many more installations and training zones. Even after the withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank, it continues to spread out. In addition to the small and medium-sized bases, the defense establishment has several mega bases and operational areas, each covering tens of thousands of dunams, mostly in the south. Close to 9 million dunams (about one third of Israel’s land area and two thirds of the Negev) are used for training and equipment trials. Army bases and training zones occupy a quarter of Judea and Samaria (sic – RB). The upshot is that over the years, Oren and Regev write, there was no civilian supervision over the size, location and number of regions allocated to the defense establishment. The planning authorities know nothing of the true needs of the defense establishment but tends to approve requests anyway.

A Land in Khaki also discusses the assumption that Israel is direly short of land. In fact, the researchers say, the defense establishment actually has vast available land resources, and tremendous freedom in its use of that land. The defense establishment also influences land beyond its direct control and can thwart plans by invoking its own special planning status. Usually the army gets antsy about civilian plans next to its installations. During the last two decades, as land prices climb, the army has been abandoning the cities, and pressure has mounted on the defense establishment to stop ignoring the planning systems and to coordinate with the planning authorities in zoning. The courts, which have also addressed several motions against the construction of military installations, also urge coordination. This study’s main recommendation is that the army adapt to the reality of Israeli civilian society, which is in dire need of land. The study also urges change to the anachronistic clauses in the law that give the defense establishment uncontrolled freedom of action.

joint experts’ statement on iran


Download our Joint Statement (pdf)

Among the many challenges that will greet President-elect Obama when he takes office, there are few, if any, more urgent and complex than the question of Iran. There are also few issues more clouded by myths and misconceptions. In this Joint Experts’ Statement on Iran, a group of top scholars, experts and diplomats – with years of experience studying and dealing with Iran – have come together to clear away some of the myths that have driven the failed policies of the past and to outline a factually-grounded, five-step strategy for dealing successfully with Iran in the future.

Despite recent glimmers of diplomacy, the United States and Iran remain locked in a cycle of threats and defiance that destabilizes the Middle East and weakens U.S. national security.

Today, Iran and the United States are unable to coordinate campaigns against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, their common enemies. Iran is either withholding help or acting to thwart U.S. interests in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Gaza. Within Iran, a looming sense of external threat has empowered hard-liners and given them both motive and pretext to curb civil liberties and further restrict democracy. On the nuclear front, Iran continues to enrich uranium in spite of binding U.N. resolutions, backed by economic sanctions, calling for it to suspend enrichment.

U.S. efforts to manage Iran through isolation, threats and sanctions have been tried intermittently for more than two decades. In that time they have not solved any major problem in U.S.-Iran relations, and have made most of them worse. Faced with the manifest failure of past efforts to isolate or economically coerce Iran, some now advocate escalation of sanctions or even military attack. But dispassionate analysis shows that an attack would almost certainly backfire, wasting lives, fomenting extremism and damaging the long-term security interests of both the U.S and Israel. And long experience has shown that prospects for successfully coercing Iran through achievable economic sanctions are remote at best.

Fortunately, we are not forced to choose between a coercive strategy that has clearly failed and a military option that has very little chance of success. There is another way, one far more likely to succeed: Open the door to direct, unconditional and comprehensive negotiations at the senior diplomatic level where personal contacts can be developed, intentions tested, and possibilities explored on both sides. Adopt policies to facilitate unofficial contacts between scholars, professionals, religious leaders, lawmakers and ordinary citizens. Paradoxical as it may seem amid all the heated media rhetoric, sustained engagement is far more likely to strengthen United States national security at this stage than either escalation to war or continued efforts to threaten, intimidate or coerce Iran […]

a little risqué, but apt


the bev giesbrecht mystery

Abducted B.C. journalist was working for Al Jazeera
Mark Hume, Toronto Globe & Mail, Nov 14 2008

VANCOUVER — Beverly Giesbrecht, a West Vancouver woman who converted to Islam in 2002 and adopted the name Khadija Abdul Qahaar, was on a freelance assignment for the Al Jazeera network when she was abducted in northern Pakistan this week. Giesbrecht, a former magazine publisher in British Columbia who runs a website that is critical of the US-led war on terror and the mainstream media’s coverage of it, had ventured into the highly dangerous NWFP, when she was taken at gunpoint out of a taxi, along with her translator. A few weeks before she was seized on Tuesday, Giesbrecht, whom friends described as “tough and fearless,” appealed through her website, Jihad Unspun, for financial help to get out of the country, writing:

As you know, the JUS team is in Pakistan making a documentary film, and shoring up direct contacts for our news report, which have become very weak in recent years, due to third-hand reporting and a variety of other challenges. Pakistan is now erupting into a full-scale war zone. We have been in some very sensitive areas, and even Islamabad is now locked down. As foreigners, we must leave the country, however we do not have the funds to get out. Allah knows that I really dislike having to ask, but please know how hard we work for Allah. We have managed to get very good material out of the country to our production group, but our physical safety is now paramount. I make this personal and urgent appeal to you to send whatever contribution you can, to assist us to return to Canada and Britain (I am Canadian, our other member with me is from Britain, and we also have some local Pakistanis, who cannot leave the country, I am afraid). As a woman, I have already had a few close calls in the tribal areas, as kidnappers and thieves are running loose even in Peshawar.

Giesbrecht, 52, left Vancouver on Apr 7 and flew to London, going on to Lahore, Pakistan, on Aug 4. Mamoona Malik, a spokesperson for the High Commission for Pakistan in Ottawa, said Giesbrecht’s visa application was supported by two letters from Al Jazeera, verifying she was doing freelance work. One of those letters was signed by Phil Rees, a former BBC foreign correspondent who runs his own documentary film company and who identified himself as news director, London, for Al Jazeera. The second letter was signed by Scott Ferguson, programming director for Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera officials did not respond to calls yesterday. Malik said:

The letters say that she’ll be working with Mr. Phil Rees and she will be reporting on the new government and the wider political situation, including the war on terrorism … in connection with a documentary … Democracy in Pakistan: The High Price of Freedom.

The first report of the abduction appeared Tuesday in News International, an English-language Pakistani newspaper. That story was quickly picked up by other news agencies and began circulating on the Internet. Malik said that as of yesterday morning, the Pakistan High Commission in Ottawa had not heard from the Department of Foreign Affairs about the case. Lisa Monette, spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs, has confirmed a Canadian has been abducted and said officials are in discussions with Pakistani authorities, but has refused further comment.

On her website, Giesbrecht explained that she converted to Islam in 2002 after beginning to research the reasons behind the terrorism attacks of Sep 11 2001. “I became obsessed with finding out what was really going on,” she said. She said she launched the website to provide an alternative to mainstream news coverage of events. “We do not promote ‘terrorism,’ we publish both sides of the news from primarily third-party sources, and we operate within the law,” she stated. Glen Cooper, a friend for 20 years, said Giesbrecht has been attacked for the pro-Islamic slant on her website, but she is not a propagandist. “Bev is a reporter,” he said. Peter Ladner, who is running for mayor in Vancouver, said he met Giesbrecht in 1988, when she worked for him as sales manager for the monthly magazine Vancouver Business Report, a publication she later bought. “I’m extremely shocked,” he said of her abduction. He described her as a “very tough woman,” but added he is deeply worried about her safety. “It doesn’t look good,” he said.

hippy kabbalists of the west bank

My comment to Shahar Ilan :
Courts to perform secular conversions which bypass rabbinate
Title: Relevant: the break-up of the NRP
Name: Rowan Berkeley
City: London State: England
The fact is, not just converts, but ordinarily secular Jewish youths, have been tacitly allowed to enjoy complete freedom from scrutiny re observance providing they were evidently engaged in patriotic activity such as building outposts, even when they married into previously strict families, because the Rav Kook mystique (sometimes criticised as Sabbatai Tzvi-like in its embrace of these ungodly ones) permitted it. This laxity is being forced out of the supposed national-religious camp by the ‘hardalim’. There was a useful article about the ‘hardal takeover of the NRP’ in the other organ a day or two ago.

scott ritter’s proposals for iran policy

With Iran, Obama Needs More Carrot, Less Stick
Scott Ritter, TruthDig, Nov 13 2008 (extracts)

Obama should return to a policy more in line with the Oct 2003 “Tehran Declaration,” negotiated between the EU and Iran, which permitted Iran to engage in uranium enrichment so long as an adequate safeguards inspection regime was in place. The original suspension, which Iran had agreed to and implemented, was intended to be temporary, in effect until the IAEA could get an adequate inspection regime up and running. However, the US pressured Europe to alter the terms of the declaration, insisting on a permanent suspension of uranium enrichment, something the Iranians refuse to do to this day.

According to ElBaradei, the watchdog today has in place a safeguards inspection regime that is operating smoothly and in a manner that allows for not only an accounting of the totality of Iran’s nuclear material stockpile, but a full and comprehensive understanding of the scope and scale of Iran’s centrifuge-based enrichment effort as well. There is, therefore, no legitimate reason for continuing to deny Iran its right to enrich uranium in accordance with the terms of the nonproliferation treaty. It would be ideal for a more intrusive inspection regime, based on what the IAEA calls an “additional protocol,” to be formalized and implemented. Iran has already indicated a willingness to engage in such an expanded inspection regime, contingent upon international recognition of its rights under Article IV of the NNPT to enrich uranium. The US’ hypocritical indifference toward the military nuclear programs of non-NPT nations such as Israel, India and Pakistan undermines the administration’s current stance concerning the NPT-compliant Iran.

I recently attended a NATO conference held in Abu Dhabi, where the UAE government spoke in some detail about its new policy concerning the evaluation and potential development of nuclear energy. The UAE decision was driven by economic analysis which showed a cumulative annual growth rate in energy consumption from 2007 through 2020 of some 9%, resulting in increased demands for upwards of 40k MW, which the UAE is not in a position to provide through traditional energy supplies. Iran, of course, made a similar analysis in the mid-1970s when it decided to embark on an ambitious nuclear energy program. The analysis of the UAE demonstrates the legitimacy of the Iranian nuclear energy need. The UAE noted that it was committed to the “highest standards of nonproliferation” when it came to pursuing any potential nuclear energy program, renouncing any intention to develop domestic enrichment and reprocessing capability.

On the surface, the UAE’s approach seems to stand as a contrast to the position taken by Iran, which has committed to an indigenous mastery of the entire nuclear fuel cycle, inclusive of enrichment and reprocessing. However, the UAE’s commitment to nonproliferation is contingent upon the ability of the UAE to source nuclear fuel from “reliable and responsible foreign suppliers.” The UAE has also expressed an interest in creating a regional nuclear fuel bank that would guarantee the program access to nuclear fuel in times of regional and/or global unrest and uncertainty. In reviewing the Iranian program, one finds the same need for a guaranteed source of nuclear fuel as the driving force behind Iran’s efforts to enrich uranium and reprocess spent nuclear fuel. The US should be seeking to combine Iran’s need for reliable sources of economic-sanction resistant nuclear fuel with that of the UAE (and, looking down the road, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and even Iraq), so that a regional nuclear fuel bank would indeed be just that — regional, inclusive of Iran and its Gulf Arab neighbors.

The small size of any future UAE nuclear reactor program makes the expense of an indigenous uranium enrichment program infeasible. As such, the UAE is well positioned to take a high-minded stance when it comes to adhering to “concerns from the international community regarding spent fuel reprocessing and enrichment plants in developing countries, and the dual-use nature of components employed in fuel fabrication and processing.” Simply put, it can’t afford not to. Iran, on the other hand, doesn’t have that luxury. There is no comparison between the scope and scale of the UAE’s nascent nuclear program with that of Iran. Unlike the UAE, the Iranian program is of a size that could justify an indigenous uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing effort, just as the nuclear energy programs of France, Japan and Germany justify their national fuel-cycle programs.

Establishing a policy that accepts the right of Iran to pursue indigenous enrichment of uranium is actually the soundest approach toward getting Iran to back away from the hard-line position it has taken. In the end, Iran will probably have three choices to consider: continue its indigenous enrichment program despite the severe economic burden; drop its uranium enrichment program in favor of a secure, reliable international source of nuclear fuel; or seek to integrate its uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing capabilities into a larger regional and global framework, one that not only provides economic relief for the Iranian effort, but also brings with it greater international scrutiny and inspection, adherence to international practices and procedures on the handling and accountability of nuclear material, and viability to any regional nuclear fuel bank that would incorporate the product of Iran’s enrichment programs.