The Fox Guarding the Chicken Coop

The Fox Guarding the Chicken Coop

Dennis Ross and Iran

By Sasan Fayazmanesh

February 27, 2009 “Counterpunch” — – In October 2008 I presented a paper, entitled “What the Future has in Store for Iran,” at a conference on Middle East Studies. The paper, which was subsequently posted at Payvand.com , examined what the US policy toward Iran might look like if either Barack Obama or John McCain came to office. The conclusion of my essay, stated in its last two lines, was: “In the case of McCain, the war [waged against Iran] might come sooner than later. In Obama’s case, one might see a period of ‘tough’ or ‘aggressive diplomacy’ before hostilities begin.”

My conclusion was based on the argument that the US foreign policy toward the Middle East has become institutionalized and it makes very little difference who is the president. The starting point of the argument was an analysis that appeared in The Jerusalem Post just before the Bush Administration took office, predicting that the US Middle East policy would be made more by the neoconservative forces within the new administration than anyone else. In one essay, on December 8, 2000, The Jerusalem Post wrote that both Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz “are the type of candidates the pro-Israel lobby is pushing.” In another article on January 19, 2001, entitled “All the president’s Middle East men,” The Jerusalem Post expressed how the “Jewish and pro-Israel communities are jumping for joy,” knowing that people like Wolfowitz will be in the new administration. The essay predicted: “What you will have are two institutions grappling for control of policy.” It then added: “It is no secret in Washington–or anywhere else for that matter–that the policies will be determined less by Bush himself and more by his inner circle of advisers.”

The message of the Israeli analysts was clear: the Middle East foreign policy of the US has become institutionalized; and rather than watching the US president, one has to watch the institutions that would make the policy. Given this message, my analysis of what the future has in store for Iran concentrated on a few neoconservative institutions and individuals. In particular, I predicted that if Obama were to be elected, the US policy on Iran would be made mostly by Dennis Ross, the “consultant” to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP or simply Washington Institute), a “think tank” affiliate of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). That prediction has now come true. On February 23, 2009, it became official that Dennis Ross is the “Special Advisor to the Secretary of State for the Gulf and Southwest Asia.” [1] The title, as will be explained below, is not what Ross had hoped for, but he would still be in a position to influence the US policy toward Iran.

Who is Dennis Ross, what does he advocate, how was he positioned to become the adviser on Iran in the Obama Administration and what will he do to Iran if he gets the chance? Let me briefly review the case.

Dennis Ross is best known as the dishonest broker who led the so-called negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians during the Clinton Administration. He was “Israel’s lawyer,” to use Aaron David Miller’s apt description of the role that Ross’s “negotiating team” played in the Clinton era, particularly in 1999-2000. [2]

Ross, along with Martin Indyk—who was Clinton’s national security advisor and the US Ambassador to Israel—is a cofounder of the Washington Institute. [3] After leaving office in 2000, Ross became the director of the WINEP. Once the 2008 presidential election approached, Ross jockeyed for a position, left his directorship job and became a “Consultant” to the institute.[4] Originally, Ross and Indyk represented one wing of the WINEP, a wing which appeared to be close to the Israeli Labor Party. Another wing, closer to the Likud Party, and particularly Benjamin Netanyahu, consisted of individuals such as Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz, individuals who played a pivotal role in planning the invasion of Iraq. [5] The difference between the Likud and the Labor wing of the Washington Institute was mostly one of the means employed rather than the end sought. [6] Both wings of the WINEP, similar to Kadima, strove toward a “Greater Israel” (Eretz Yisrael) that includes all or most of “Judea and Samaria.” They both saw Iran’s support for the Palestinian resistance as the biggest obstacle in achieving that goal.  As such, the charge that Iran is developing nuclear weapons and posing an “existential threat” to Israel became a convenient tool for “containing” Iran and stopping its support for the Palestinians. [7] What separated the two sides was that the Labor wing believed that sanctions will eventually bring Iran to its knees, cause either a popular uprising to overthrow the Iranian “regime” or make Iran ripe for a US invasion. The Likud wing, however, had very little patience for sanctions. It wanted an immediate result, a series of military attacks against Iran, replacing the Iranian “regime” with a US-Israeli friendly government, as was done in Iraq. With the emergence of the Kadima Party in Israel in 2005, which brought together the likes of the Likud Party member Ariel Sharon and Labor Party member Shimon Peres, the differences between the two wings of the Washington Institute has mostly disappeared. Clinton’s Middle East men, such as Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk and Richard Holbrooke, are hardly distinguishable from Bush’s men, such as Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith. But since the latter group is temporarily out of office, the former is filling in. Ross has become the designated senior Israeli lobby man in Obama’s Administration. He has no expertise when it comes to Iran. But he knows that for the cause of Eretz Yisrael Iran must be contained; and given this goal, he knows how to recite, ad nauseum, all the usual lines of Israel and its lobby groups against Iran.

After breaking the back of the Palestinians and pushing for the invasion of Iraq, the Israeli lobby groups concentrated their forces to contain Iran. Given the Iraq fiasco and the neoconservatives falling from grace, the Israeli lobby groups settled on Dennis Ross, “Israel’s lawyer,” to lead the task of containing Iran.  Since Ross has no knowledge of Iran, other members of the lobby, particularly their Iran “experts,” have been assisting Ross in his new role. Among these is the ex-Trotskyite, neoconservative Patrick Clawson, WINEP’s “deputy director for research” and an anti-Iran zealot who has been obsessed for decades with the containment of Iran and Iraq. [8] Over the years, with the help of these individuals Ross has developed a strategy to contain Iran. The strategy consists of arguing that: 1) Iran is developing nuclear weapons; 2) Iran is a threat to the US and an existential threat to Israel, and Israel will not tolerate “mullahs with nukes” (Sydney Morning Herald, October 16, 2004); 3) “nuclear deterrent rules that governed relations between the United States and the Soviet Union” do not hold when it comes to Iran, since Iranians, especially their president, are irrational and believe in the “coming of the 12th Imam” (The Washington Post, May 1, 2006); 4) Iran’s nuclear ambitions will start a nuclear arms race in the Middle East; 5) the Bush Administration’s policy of dealing with Iran did not work, because it did not have enough sticks or carrots; 6) the US should push for a direct, but “tough” or aggressive diplomacy to stop Iran from enriching uranium and supporting “terrorism” (Newsweek, December 8, 2008) [9]; 7) the aggressive diplomacy should include pressuring the Europeans, as well as the Chinese and Russians, to stop trading with Iran; 8) the prohibition of trade should include preventing Iran from importing refined oil products and, ultimately, blockading Iran; and 9) once this tough and aggressive diplomacy fails and Iran does not change its “behavior,” then the US could legitimately launch military attacks against Iran, arguing that the it did everything in its power to resolve the situation peacefully.

The above arguments were summarized on March 13, 2008, in a news report in The Jerusalem Post, entitled “Visiting Obama Middle East adviser: He’d be great for Israel.”  According to this report, Mel Levine—a “staunchly pro-Israel” former congressman from Los Angeles and, along with Dennis Ross, “one of Obama’s seven Middle East advisers”—told The Jerusalem Post during a visit to Israel that Obama believes that “the way to stop Iran was with a combination of carrots and sticks.” Levine was further quoted as saying:  “He believes that if you use carrots and sticks and engage in multilateral aggressive diplomacy then if you need to use the military option or do anything that needs to be done you are much more likely to get support of allies, more international support and broader American support.” Mr. Levin had cut to the chase and stated clearly what Dennis Ross had been advocating for years, but in a more convoluted and diplomatic language. The “tough” and “aggressive diplomacy,” as Mr. Levin had made clear, was nothing but a series of motions that would set the stage for military action against Iran.

Ross’s arguments are often devoid of any factual content, as I have shown in “What the Future has in Store for Iran.” For example, in June 2008 the Washington Institute published a “Presidential Study Group Reports” entitled “Strengthening the Partnership: How to Deepen U.S.-Israel Cooperation on the Iranian Nuclear Challenge.” [10] One of the two “co-convenors” of the report was Dennis Ross. [11] Subsequently, the advisors to both presidential candidates endorsed the report. [12] As I argued in my October essay, this 6-page WINEP report—which was funded by a foundation supporting neoconservative causes, and was drafted in consultation with the WINEP’s “Israeli counterparts”—contains almost nothing factual and, indeed, in several places contains errors.  For example, like much of Ross’s other writings, this report tries to give the reader the false impression that Iran is building nuclear weapons. Yet, anyone familiar with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s reports knows that after many years of inspection, the IAEA has been unable to show any evidence of diversion of nuclear material in Iran. Or the report claims that the UN Security Council resolutions calling on Iran to suspend its enrichment program have been “unanimous.” As I have stated in my essay, even a cursory look at the news would reveal that this claim is false.  For example, the third UN Security Council resolution, Resolution1803, did not pass unanimously. Indonesia abstained during the vote. [13] Furthermore, as most news sources pointed out, “Libya, South Africa and Vietnam joined Indonesia in expressing reservations [about the resolution]” (AFP, March 3, 2008). Ross’s arguments, as I have shown in my October essay, are also often quite illogical. It is, for example, not at all clear why Iran’s nuclear ambitions will start a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, while Israel’s decades-old possession of nuclear weapons has not led to such an arms race. Similarly, it is not clear why Iranians, who might have certain religious beliefs, are irrational, but Israelis, who justify the existence of Israel on religious grounds, are rational.

After the June 2008 “Presidential Study Group Reports,” which was endorsed by Obama’s and McCain’s advisors, Ross and company wrote the September 2008 “report of an independent task force sponsored by the bipartisan policy center” on “U.S. policy toward Iranian Nuclear Development.” [14] In this report they put forward the same falsehoods and illogical arguments. At the same time a neoconservative campaign was launched, under the title “United Against Nuclear Iran” (UANI), in which Ross played a prominent role as the “Co-Founder and Co-Chairman.” The “Advisory Board” of UANI included, beside Ross, such notable figures as the neoconservative Mark Wallace, the President of UANI, advisor to Sarah Palin and a John Bolton recruit for a position at the UN; R. James Woolsey the neoconservative and member of the advisory board of The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs; Henry Sokolski the neoconservative signatory of the “Project for the New American Century signatory”; and Richard C. Holbrooke, another “Co-Founder and Co-Chairman” of UANI. [15] The neoconservative campaign included a slick and scary video advertisement, which is still available on the web. [16] The video started with the message “Stop Terrorism, Stop Human Rights Abuses, Stop Nuclear Iran.” Small prints at the bottom of the message read “Paid for by the American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, Inc.” Following the introduction six hands appeared, black and white, joining in a circle around a map of Iran. The viewer was asked to “join the cause” by clicking on the video. If followed, a note would appear that read: “Send a message to the nation that Iran’s nuclear program is unacceptable. Join United Against Nuclear Iran today and receive news updates and event reminders.” Then the viewer was asked for name and email address. This was followed by an ominous video about Iran’s alleged development of nuclear weapons, repeating the same falsehoods and illogical arguments put forward by Dennis Ross and company on behest of the Israeli lobby groups.

After President Obama took office, the media was filled with the news of the impending appointment of Dennis Ross as Iran envoy. Yet the appointment appeared to be postponed. Various explanations appeared in the media for the postponement. Some reasoned that the postponement was at least partly due to Ross’s close ties with Israel. For example, on February 3, 2009, Robert Naiman wrote in the Huffington Post that “allegation of ‘dual loyalty’ is being raised against Dennis Ross.” He further mentioned that Ross is “still chair of the board of the Jerusalem-based ‘Jewish People Policy Planning Institute,’ as indicated by that organization’s website.” [17] Others emphasized the fact that as far as Iran is concerned Ross’s appointment might kill any chance of rapprochement between Iran and the US.  For example, The Christian Science Monitor reported on February 5, 2009, that from an Iranian perspective Ross is the “pioneer of the American-Zionist lobby” and under his leadership during the Clinton years the US policy was “not one millimeter different from Israeli policy.” The report quoted a “Western diplomat” as saying: “There is no doubt they [Iranians] are all going to look at Ross as an Israeli proxy.”

Some of the explanations given for the postponement of Ross’s appointment also explain his vague and broad job title, “Special Advisor to the Secretary of State for the Gulf and Southwest Asia.” Before the end of the 2008 presidential election there were rumors that Ross might be considered for the position of the Secretary of State (Haaretz, October 24, 2008). Once Obama was elected, and Hilary Clinton became Secretary of State, Ross apparently hoped to become at least the “special envoy to Iran.” But given his close ties with Israel and the fact that his containment plans were well known to the Iranians, he had to settle for a less provocative title. Needless to say that the new title, “Special Advisor to the Secretary of State for the Gulf and Southwest Asia,” is still quite provocative as far as Iran is concerned, since changing the name of the Persian Gulf to simply “Gulf” is offensive to many Iranians.

Whatever the reason for the postponement of Ross’s appointment and change of title, one thing is clear: the sly fox is now guarding the chicken coop. As Mel Levine said about Ross: “He’d be great for Israel.” With the help of Richard Holbrooke, Stuart Levey—Bush’s Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, who is now in Obama’s Administration—and all the other “president’s Middle East men,” Dennis Ross might be able to finish the unfinished business of the neoconservatives, the containment of Iraq and Iran. The Israelis and pro-Israel communities must be jumping with joy once again!

Sasan Fayazmanesh is Professor of Economics at
California State University, Fresno. He can be reached at: sasan.fayazmanesh@gmail.com

Notes

1. See Daily Press Briefing, The U.D. Department of States: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2009/02/119730.htm or  The Washington Post.

2. See “Israel’s Lawyer,” The Washington Post, May 23, 2005.

3. See Swisher, Clayton E., 2004, The truth about Camp David: the untold story about the collapse of the Middle East peace process, New York: Nation Books, p.35.

4. See: http://www.washingtoninstitute.org

5. The name of these individuals appears on the “Board of Advisors.” See “About the Institute,” available at: http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/.

6. Ross, for example, supported the invasion of Iraq, even though he was critical of some of the post-invasion policies of the Bush Administration (see “Obama’s Conservative Mideast Pick,” Time, July16, 2008).

7. For different meanings of “containment” see my book: The United States and Iran: Sanctions, Wars and the Policy of Dual Containment, Routledge, 2008.

8. For Clawson’s relentless attempt to contain Iran see The United States and Iran Sanctions, Wars and the Policy of Dual Containment Routledge, 2008.

9. Dennis Ross, “Iran: Talk Tough With Tehran”: http://www.newsweek.com/id/171256/output/print

10. The report’s title was: “2008 Presidential task Forces: Task Force on the Future of U.S.-Israel Relations: Strengthening the Partnership: How to Deepen the US-Israel Cooperation on The Iranian Nuclear Challenge.

11. The other “co-convenors” was Robert Satloff. The two Washington Institute participants, who apparently wrote the piece, were the neoconservatives Patrick Clawson, “deputy director of research,” and David Makovsky, “senior fellow and director, Project on the Middle East Peace Process.”

12. On behest of Obama Anthony Lake and Susan Rice endorsed it, and on behalf of McCain former congressman Vin Weber and the neoconservative R. James Woolsey signed the document.

13. See Security Council Resolution 1803, March 3, 2008.

14. See “Meeting the Challenge: U.S. Policy Toward Iranian Nuclear Development”.

15. See “Leadership” of “United Against Nuclear Iran”:

16. See http://www.unitedagainstnucleariran.com/video/view/4.

17. http://www.jpppi.org.il/ and http://www.jpppi.org.il/JPPPI/

Return of the War Party

Return of the War Party

By Patrick J. Buchanan

February 27, 2009 “The American Conservative” — -“Real men go to Tehran!” brayed the neoconservatives after the success of their propaganda campaign to have America march on Baghdad and into an unnecessary war that has forfeited all the fruits of our Cold War victory.

Now they are back, in pursuit of what has always been their great goal: an American war on Iran. It would be a mistake to believe they and their collaborators cannot succeed a second time. Consider:

On being chosen by Israel’s President Shimon Peres to form the new regime, Likud’s “Bibi” Netanyahu declared, “Iran is seeking to obtain a nuclear weapon and constitutes the gravest threat to our existence since the war of independence.”

Echoing Netanyahu, headlines last week screamed of a startling new nuclear breakthrough by the mullahs. “Iran ready to build nuclear weapon, analysts say,” said CNN. “Iran has enough uranium to make a bomb,” said the Los Angeles Times. Armageddon appeared imminent.

Asked about Iran’s nukes in his confirmation testimony, CIA Director Leon Panetta blurted, “From all the information I’ve seen, I think there is no question that they are seeking that capability.”

Tuesday, Dennis Ross of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a front spawned by the Israeli lobby AIPAC, was given the Iranian portfolio. AIPAC’s top agenda item? A U.S. collision with Iran.

In the neocon Weekly Standard, Elliot Abrams of the Bush White House parrots Netanyahu, urging Obama to put any land-for-peace deals with the Palestinians on a back burner. Why?

“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is now part of a broader struggle in the region over Iranian extremism and power. Israeli withdrawals now risk opening the door not only to Palestinian terrorists but to Iranian proxies.”

The campaign to conflate Hamas, Hezbollah, and Syria as a new axis of evil, a terrorist cartel led by Iranian mullahs hell-bent on building a nuclear bomb and using it on Israel and America, has begun. The full-page ads and syndicated columns calling on Obama to eradicate this mortal peril before it destroys us all cannot be far off.

But before we let ourselves be stampeded into another unnecessary war, let us review a few facts that seem to contradict the war propaganda.

First, last week’s acknowledgement that Iran has enough enriched uranium for one atom bomb does not mean Iran is building an atom bomb.

To construct a nuclear device, the ton of low-enriched uranium at Natanz would have to be run through a second cascade of high-speed centrifuges to produce 55 pounds of highly enriched uranium (HUE).

There is no evidence Iran has either created the cascade of high-speed centrifuges necessary to produce HUE or that Iran has diverted any of the low-enriched uranium from Natanz.
And the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors retain full access to Natanz.

And rather than accelerating production of low-enriched uranium, only 4,000 of the Natanz centrifuges are operating. Some 1,000 are idle. Why?

Dr. Mohamed El-Baradei, head of the IAEA, believes this is a signal that Tehran wishes to negotiate with the United States, but without yielding any of its rights to enrich uranium and operate nuclear power plants.

For, unlike Israel, Pakistan and India, none of which signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and all of which ran clandestine programs and built atom bombs, Iran signed the NPT and has abided by its Safeguards Agreement. What it refuses to accept are the broader demands of the U.N. Security Council because these go beyond the NPT and sanction Iran for doing what it has a legal right to do.

Moreover, Adm. Dennis Blair, who heads U.S. intelligence, has just restated the consensus of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that Iran does not now possess and is not now pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

Bottom line: Neither the United States nor the IAEA has conclusive evidence that Iran either has the fissile material for a bomb or an active program to build a bomb. It has never tested a nuclear device and has never demonstrated a capacity to weaponize a nuclear device, if it had one.

Why, then, the hype, the hysteria, the clamor for “Action This Day!”? It is to divert America from her true national interests and stampede her into embracing as her own the alien agenda of a renascent War Party.

None of this is to suggest the Iranians are saintly souls seeking only peace and progress. Like South Korea, Japan and other nations with nuclear power plants, they may well want the ability to break out of the NPT, should it be necessary to deter, defend against or defeat enemies.

But that is no threat to us to justify war. For decades, we lived under the threat that hundreds of Russian warheads could rain down upon us in hours, ending our national existence. If deterrence worked with Stalin and Mao, it can work with an Iran that has not launched an offensive war against any nation within the memory of any living American.

Can we Americans say the same?

COPYRIGHT 2009 CREATORS SYNDICATE INC

Terrible transformations ahead?

Terrible transformations ahead?

—Rafia Zakaria

No one is untouched and no one is clean. All political contenders from the president to the deposed judges to the opposition leaders all have their own histories of inside deals, corruption and surreptitious self-serving agreements with military generals or Saudi princes

When the men in long black robes descended on Iran several decades ago, the world was stunned. Few knew what to expect, the dénouement of the revolution was swift: within a short span of time, the cosmopolitan Persia envisioned by the Shah had been transformed into the grim Islamic Republic. Women slid under black chadors, television showed only religious programmes and morality became the province of law enforcement over individual conscience.

Ensconced as we are in particular historical eras, it is trying and perhaps impossible to go beyond our faith in normalcy and evaluate the incremental changes taking place around us. As many historical records and memoirs now show, the days leading up to the Iranian Revolution were marked by a similar obstinacy as people continued to believe that after the demonstrations had ceased and the Shah had left, life would return to a familiar normal.

There would be dance parties, women would go to work, drinks would be poured and poetry and art exhibited. Indeed, at our smug end of history, it is possible to see how misplaced this belief in the constancy of the present was at the time. There was of course no return after 1979, the course of politics had changed and Iran was altered forever. The mullahs assumed to be archaic, medieval and generally incapable of governance not only took over the state but transformed it into something nearly unrecognisable from its liberal constitutional predecessor.

There are many differences between Iran in the 1970s and the condition of Pakistan in this first decade of the new millennium. The Islamist movement that roars at our footsteps has many marked differences from the one that wracked Iran decades ago. Indeed, the Taliban, with their shaggy beards and their cave-based militarism, are not the erudite mullahs of Qom, and Mullah Omar bears not even a scant resemblance to the Ayatollah.

But marking as we are several years of an insurgency that only grows in fervour and a political and legal system that is all but collapsed, it is perhaps pertinent to question whether we are indeed as duped in believing in the unchanging constancy of the present as the Iranians were at the precipice of the 1979 Revolution.

One argument that substantiates the above is our preoccupation with genealogy, which insists that the Taliban, being a creation of the Cold War, have nothing substantive to offer in terms of an attractive moral ideology. While sociological, economic and geopolitical explanations of the rise of the Taliban are important, the ascription of these factors as the sole basis for the ascendancy of the group may well be misguided.

It is indeed true that the rise of the Taliban is symptomatic of a cornucopia of failures: of the state to provide security; of legal institutions; and of civilian political institutions to exercise control over the intelligence apparatus of the country.

However, there is also something substantive in the moral ideology offered by the group. While admittedly repugnant to the country’s liberal elite, the stark clarity of an unassailable moral code that very literally allows no dissent, the elimination of all criminality by threat of the most draconian punishment, the elimination of temptation of any form and most notably of all the deliberately designed and very visible anti-modernism, all present a platform designed quite specifically to respond to key confusions within the Pakistani psyche.

In doing so, they represent a substantive post-modern reconstruction of a pre-colonial era, with an invented brand of sharia that is pristine in its simplicity and accessible to even the most barely educated mullah, and an anti-intellectual vitriol that is violently anti-Western. They have made an effective pitch at presenting what an authentic Pakistan rid of corruption, elitism and Western pandering would look like and in their success lies the tragedy confronting the Pakistani nation.

And then there are the seemingly endless political opportunities provided by the weakening of the Pakistani state apparatus in Islamabad. Plagued as it is by illegitimacy, and harassed and cornered by political actors loath to giving up any opportunity to subvert state power, the Pakistani state has lost ground not simply to the Taliban but also to the political forces operating within the democratic mainstream.

The most recent cataclysm, exposing once again the illegitimacies of the NRO that begot the current government and the inability of sustaining its fledgling power against political enemies wanting their own turn at extorting resources from the state, presents precisely the kind of breakdown of constitutionalism that makes the macabre “otherness” of the Taliban look like a departure from the corruption and general moral depravity of Islamabad.

No one is untouched and no one is clean. All political contenders from the president to the deposed judges to the opposition leaders all have their own histories of inside deals, corruption and surreptitious self-serving agreements with military generals or Saudi princes.

In the midst of such moral degeneracy, ordinary people on the streets of Quetta and Lahore are left to wonder whether a packed court that curries favour with particular governments is really better than a stadium where barely educated mullahs hack off hands and hand out whippings to alleged criminals.

So while bands may play in Karachi and Lahore and weddings may continue and resilient school children may continue to study for exams, the devolution of the state and the march of anarchy in Pakistan continue. There was a time when the army was the only usurping force waiting in the murky shadows to capture the reigns of power.

With the arrival of the Taliban, the increasing extension of their territorial power from the tribal areas to Swat and even the villages around Peshawar suggests the beginning of a new game that promises to be far bloodier and a far greater challenge than the civil-military jousts of old.

Perhaps a decade hence, Pakistanis too may look back at these days and wonder how and when we could have been able to predict the terrible and tremendous transformation ahead.

Rafia Zakaria is an attorney living in the United States where she teaches courses on Constitutional Law and Political Philosophy. She can be contacted at rafia.zakaria@gmail.com

The Swat deal is wrong

The Swat deal is wrong

—Shaukat Qadir

The Swat deal amounts to the opening of a Pandora’s Box: where will it stop? The other chapters of the Taliban are only waiting to ask for their own ‘Islamic’ government. Is this the beginning of the real Talibanisation of the NWFP?

The Taliban in Pakistan are far from a monolithic structure. There is, at best, a loose union with a disputed leadership and undefined hierarchy. However, the undisputed Taliban leader in Swat is Fazlullah. Pakistan has attempted to strike a peace deal with the Swat Taliban, in return for the imposition of sharia — Islamic law — in Swat. The attempt has been heralded by some, viewed sceptically by others, and condemned by a few. Let us attempt to examine what is wrong with this deal.

To begin with, the government’s deal has been brokered with Sufi Muhammed, Fazlullah’s father-in-law, not with Fazlullah who, despite their relationship (or because of it), is not on the best of terms with Sufi. If Fazlullah accepts Sufi’s terms, it might result in Sufi becoming more powerful; else the endeavour could deteriorate to an internecine battle for turfs, doomed to fail from the outset.

If one vectors into this equation that the Taliban are hated by the population for all that they stand for and can rule only by force, it is obvious that the deal can, at best, offer a breather and no more.

The provincial government, having announced that it is prepared to go the extra mile to ensure the success of this deal, has now announced its intention of arming the local population to fight against the Taliban and that ‘arms not being used against the Taliban would be withdrawn’. How that will be discovered or how the arms, once given, will be recovered remains a mystery. The central government is having second thoughts anyway.

However, irrespective of whether it works or not, this deal is a recipe for disaster, unless we are prepared to hand Islam over to the Taliban and allow them to legalise their violation of every law of the land and every tenet of Islam.

The Quran states again and again that Islam is progressive; even Saudi Arabia that had been living with its archaic laws is attempting to change. Pakistan is, on the other hand, prepared to allow itself to be held hostage to these self-styled saviours of Islam.

I have persistently numbered among those who advocate negotiating with terrorists, though from a position of strength, and that the use of force alone is not the answer. I have continued to quote the IRA and Sein Fenn as an example of erstwhile terrorists who are today negotiating the fate of Ireland with the British government.

However, there is a line beyond which it is not possible for any state to cede its authority. While it is possible to negotiate a mutually acceptable form of government that reflects the aspirations of the people, no state should be prepared to accept a state within a state, which is governed by force, irrespective of the wishes of the governed.

One meaning of the word ‘Islam’ is peace; the Quran forbids its followers to kill innocent people or to take their own lives. However, the Taliban preach that to take one’s own life as a suicide bomber is not only the path to heaven for the bomber, but that he/she is also doing a favour to those killed for, unknowingly, they too will have died in the cause of Allah and will thus go to heaven.

Hazrat Bibi Khadija RA asked the Prophet PBUH for his hand in marriage. Islam permits each woman to choose her mate and seek divorce if unhappy, just as to the male. Yet the Taliban find justification for ‘honour killing’; the killing of disobedient female offspring, and women who choose their own mate or seek divorce against their parents’ wishes.

Islam asks its followers to seek knowledge and educate themselves; one of the most famous sayings of the Prophet PBUH is ‘seek knowledge, even if you have to travel to China for it’. Yet the Taliban condemn knowledge as being un-Islamic: they burn girls’ schools, throw acid on the faces of girls who defy them in persisting to seek knowledge, and murder persistent teachers.

Even if schools in Swat resume classes, what will they teach? If they have their own courts, what justice will they offer? Will not the next generation of Swatis be condemned to become Taliban?

They forget history and declare democracy to be un-Islamic. The first Caliph, Hazrat Abu Bakr RA was deemed to have been nominated by the Prophet PBUH, since he was asked by the Prophet PBUH to lead the Friday prayers when He fell ill. Yet, Abu Bakr RA did not assume his office until the Friday congregation following the death of the Prophet PBUH, when he was accepted unopposed and unanimously by the congregation. The same occurred following the death of Hazrat Abu Bakr RA when Hazrat Omer RA became Caliph. Following Hazrat Omer’s death, Hazrat Ali RA decided to contest the nomination of Hazrat Osman RA, but withdrew when he realised that Hazrat Osman RA was likely to win. What else is an election or democracy?

In fact, Islam is the first democracy in which not only was the Caliph appointed in accordance with the wishes of the people, he was accountable to the people during his rule. Numerous instances are recorded in history when common people challenged ruling Caliphs and had to be satisfied.

Finally, the Swat deal amounts to the opening of a Pandora’s Box: where will it stop? The other chapters of the Taliban are only waiting to ask for their own ‘Islamic’ government. Is this the beginning of the real Talibanisation of the NWFP?

If so, does no one realise that if they are permitted to take over a province, they will find time to consolidate and, some day in the not too distant future, threaten Islamabad, something they are incapable of doing, now or ever, unless the state gives them such an opening in Swat.

This article is a modified version of one originally written for the National

In Major Reversal of Bush Af/Pak Policy Obama Invites Chinese Aid

U.S. looks to China for support on Afghanistan: Pentagon

Photo

By Chris Buckley

BEIJING (Reuters) – The United States is looking to stronger Chinese cooperation on Afghanistan, piracy, and other international troubles, a Pentagon official said on Saturday after talks that he said also addressed strains over Taiwan.

The U.S. official, David Sedney, said China’s opposition to Washington’s arms sales to the disputed island of Taiwan came up in the two days of discussions in Beijing, but did not overwhelm an agenda that also covered Central Asia, China’s contribution to fighting piracy off the Somali coast, and nuclear weapons.

“The focus was not at all on obstacles. The focus was on how we can move forward,” Sedney, a deputy assistant secretary of defense, told a news briefing after the talks.

“We both understand that it really is a new strategic environment that we’re in here, with China playing the role that it does,” he said.

The talks marked the first defense policy dialogue between the United States and China under the new Obama administration.

Sedney cast them as a promising start but avoided specifics.

Asked if the two sides discussed North Korea and its possible launch of a missile, he said that the two sides had talked about security in northeast Asia.

President Barack Obama has said he will increase forces in Afghanistan by 17,000 in a bid to quell worsening insurgent violence. Sedney said Washington would welcome Chinese help there and in neighboring Pakistan.

“This is an area where we’re looking to see more contributions from the international community — and of course … this means China — to assist in the many, many needs that are in Afghanistan,” Sedney said.

He raised health, education and trade as examples of areas where China could help in Afghanistan, but did not specify security forces as among them. But he said Chinese military officials were interested in U.S. plans there.

“As they pointed out, Afghanistan and Pakistan are both neighbors of China,” Sedney said.

These latest U.S.-China Defense Policy Coordination Talks came after Beijing curtailed many bilateral military contacts in November to show its anger over the Bush administration’s decision to sell $6.5 billion of arms to Taiwan.

Beijing says Taiwan is an illegitimate breakaway province that must accept reunification, by force if necessary, and it has been angered by the military sales. Washington says the sales are justified by U.S. law as designed to help Taiwan defend itself.

Sedney said the two delegations’ discussion of Taiwan was frank but did not mark a shift in long-standing positions.

He praised China’s sending of warships to help NATO and other forces fight pirates who use Somalia as a base to menace the Gulf of Aden.  Continued…

Are The Jews God’s Chosen People?

Are The Jews God’s Chosen People?

Super Jew

One misunderstanding that often confuses pious Christians and Judaics alike is the Judaic claim to be God’s ‘Chosen People’. The implied meaning is that the God Christians and Judaics share favours Judaics over all other human beings, giving them a privileged position.

The question I always ask, when confronted with that claim, is how that alleged favouritism is transferred from Biblical times’ Judaics to modern days Jews. Is it race or religion? This distinction is important because only a very small minority of modern days Jews, the so-called Oriental Jews, are the direct descendants of Biblical times’ Judaics. The majority of the descendants are today’s Palestinians. So if the ‘Chosen People’ status is transmitted genetically, then it is the Palestinians and not the Jews who are the chosen ones.

No, no, that’s impossible, is usually the shocked response to such ‘heretic’ thoughts. Imagine the consequences! It is, of course, the ‘Covenant’ between God and the Judaics, that makes them his ‘Chosen People’. In this religious contract the Judaics have undertaken to follow God’s law as layed down in what Christians call the Old Testament (OT).

My next question then is how God would feel if his Chosen People introduced thousands of new rules and exemptions to an extent that God’s original rules are no longer followed. Wouldn’t that break the ‘Covenant’ and make the Judaics loose their favourite status?

Of course, it would. Judaism has rejected the covenant by introducing the so-called oral tradition which was codified in form of the Babylonian Talmud after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. Anyone who has studied Judaism is aware of the fact that

  • the Talmud has absolute priority over the OT,
  • the Talmud is the most perverted and racist piece of hate literature ever written in human history,
  • the Talmud systematically reinterprets the OT to an extent that what the OT ‘really means’, according to the rabbis’ teachings, and what Christians and Muslims believe have no resemblance what so ever, and
  • that rabbis during their training spend more than 90% of their time studying the Talmud, and the rest is reserved for things like the sex-crazy black magic classic of the Cabala. The OT is only studied through the angle of what the Talmud teaches how to understand the OT.

According to traditional Christian teachings, the Judaics have lost their status as the Chosen People by rejecting God’s word in form of the OT in favour of the oral teachings of the rabbis which – most of the time – are in complete contradiction to what the OT says. Jesus got killed by the Judaics – either, as the Talmud describes in most gruesome detail, by the rabbis themselves, or by bullying the Romans into killing him – for rejecting the oral teachings of the rabbis.

If we follow the theory that the Chosen People is transferred via adherence to the Covenant, God’s law, Biblical times’ Judaics have lost the favourite status. By rejecting the oral tradition and refocusing on God’s law, the Christians have taken the place of the Judaics as the Chosen People. If modern days’ Jews want to regain God’s good-will, they have to reject the racist and pornographic oral traditions codified in the rabbinic concoctions of the Talmud and Cabala.

Andrew Winkler is the founder and editor/publisher of dissident blog ZioPedia.org and independent news site RebelNews.org. You can read more of his writings in the editorial section of ZioPedia.org. Andrew can be contacted on
andrew@therebel.org

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Source: ZioPedia.org