UFO tracks Iranian missiles

[I never thought that I would post a UFO story here, but, check-out the video on the site below.  Un-freakin-believeable!]

UFO tracks Iranian missiles

By VINCE SOODIN

A UFO appears to streak through the sky in this astonishing video of the Iranians test firing a controversial missile.

The mystery object zooms unseen through Iran’s airspace — before splitting a cloud in two as the film focuses in on the soaring rocket.

A UFO expert today described the unknown craft — which appears to be tracking the weapon — as “phenomenal”.

Iran launched two short-range missiles last Saturday — angering the West and Israel.

A US report on Fox News revealed the UFO in footage of the second launch.

The video shows the Shahab-3 rocket soaring into the sky.

But after 38 seconds a nearby cloud is mysteriously torn in two by a flying object travelling at speed.

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Nick Pope, a respected former UFO analyst for the Ministry of Defence, examined the remarkable footage.

He hinted that whatever ripped through the cloud was not man made.

He said: “One theory is that it’s a secret American drone. At any time there are prototype aircraft and drones being operated that won’t be shown in public for years.

“Stealth aircraft flew for many years before their existence was acknowledged.

“But the speed and acceleration seems phenomenal. I’m not convinced we’ve got anything capable of such manoeuvres.”

Confronting terrorism

Confronting terrorism

THE resurfacing of Baitullah’s successor, Hakimullah, with Waliur Rehman his alleged rival right beside him, certainly casts serious doubts on official claims that these leaders had been killed. But a more pertinent issue arises on the strategy to deal with the Taliban and other extremist groups perpetrating terrorism in Pakistan. Clearly, the militaristic approach cannot work in isolation. Even when the military clears one area of terrorists, they simply re-emerge elsewhere, where the writ of the state is weak. Interestingly, there are also rumours that most of the Al-Qaeda leaders and the Taliban linked to them, have either died or moved out into other Muslim lands, primarily Arab. So in many ways the Taliban structures have become decentralised and functionally autonomous. In such a situation, the military’s strategy of surrounding the militants in FATA, using covert means to disrupt them from within and using positive financial lures was a more comprehensive and viable approach. Now the US is determined to undermine this and compel the military into launching a full scale, conventional military action into FATA which will have serious repercussions for the country – including impacting our security on the Eastern border with a presently belligerent India. To make matters worse, Interior Minister Malik has declared that we will fight till we have rid the country of the last Taliban. Such ridiculous declarations make little sense since when will we know there are no more Taliban in Pakistan? Can we devise a way to read people’s minds or see what is in their hearts? The only way we can ensure the end of extremist militancy and terrorism is to bring the marginalised people into the mainstream, to ensure security for the ordinary people and to give them access to speedy justice. Otherwise we will continue to see the backlash of a singularly punitive approach in the form of acts of terror across the country.

The suicide bombing of the WFP office in Islamabad reflects this fallout of a military approach where operation areas are not sealed off – which they cannot realistically be in one’s own country. If this is the result of Taliban on the run, it is a result we cannot afford to tolerate. If the war on terror is against non state actors, then the peace must also be made with non state actors – but from a position of state strength which requires assertion of the writ of the state. This does not simply imply the use of force, but through all the economic, political and social tools available to the state. Wherever peace has come, it has come through this route, including in Northern Ireland. Of course, it should also be remembered that the rising tide of terrorism in Pakistan is directly related to the Pakistani state’s increasing submission to US diktat.

The CIA Wants to Control Everything, Even the Weather Watchers

C.I.A. Climate Center Irks Barrasso

By John M. Broder

PhotoBrendan Smialowski for The New York Times “This is reinventing the wheel,” said Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, referring to a new C.I.A. climate center.

Senator John Barrasso, a conservative freshman Republican from Wyoming, said on Tuesday that he would try to stop the Central Intelligence Agency from opening a new climate change center by choking off its funding.

“The C.I.A. is responsible for gathering foreign intelligence information for the United States,” Mr. Barrasso said in announcing an amendment to a 2010 spending bill to block any money being spent by the agency on the new office. “I don’t believe creating a center on climate change is going to prevent terrorist attacks.”

The agency announced late last month that it was creating a Center on Climate Change and National Security to look at how droughts, rising seas, mass migrations and competition for resources could affect the nation’s military and economic priorities.

In a press release, the agency said it did not intend to duplicate scientific work done by other government and private institutions. Rather, the agency said, the new unit would advise policymakers as they negotiate and verify international environmental agreements, including whatever emerges from the 192-nation global warming talks in Copenhagen in December.

“Decision makers need information and analysis on the effects climate change can have on security,” said Leon Panetta, the C.I.A. director. “The C.I.A. is well positioned to deliver that intelligence.”

The small center will be led by specialists from the agency’s intelligence bureau and its directorate of science and technology. It will compile and distribute satellite imagery and other information that can help policy makers and scientists inside and outside of government understand global environmental phenomena.

Climate change is a relatively new area of study for the American intelligence community. The National Intelligence Council, which produces government-wide intelligence analyses, completed its first assessment of the national security implications of climate change just last year.

The unclassified report concluded that climate change would have significant geopolitical impacts around the world and would contribute to a host of problems, including poverty, environmental degradation and the weakening of national governments.

The assessment warned that the storms, droughts and food shortages that might result from a warming planet in coming decades would create numerous relief emergencies and put added strains on the American military.

Senator Barrasso said the intelligence community had enough challenges without taking on global warming.

“Is this climate change center going to make demands on the current C.I.A. bureaucracy?” Mr. Barrasso said in his press statement. “Will someone sitting in a dark room watching satellite video of northern Afghanistan now be sitting in a dark room watching polar ice caps?”

“This is reinventing the wheel,” he added. “We need to let the agencies tasked with monitoring climate change do their job. These agencies can provide the C.I.A. with any information they need.”

The Story of Pat Tillman

[Accident, or execution?  I am pretty sure this book from a major publisher will ask that question.]

Where Men Win Glory

An exploration of the life and death of football star and US Army enlistee Pat Tillman.

By Erik Spanberg

Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman By Jon Krakauer Doubleday 383 pp., $27.95

Many Americans who watched the 9/11 attacks from afar insisted their lives would never be the same after that day, that they could never go back to the way things were before Al Qaeda killed 3,000 people at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Few, if any, lived up to that vow with the conviction of Pat Tillman.

An outstanding defensive back on a lousy NFL team, in 2002 Tillman chose enlistment in the US Army over a $3.6 million contract. He became an Army ranger with his brother, Kevin. They saw limited action in Iraq and later went to Afghanistan.

It was in remote Khost Province, near the Pakistani border, where Pat Tillman died in April 2004, the victim of friendly fire. Those details alone would make Tillman’s story ideal for Jon Krakauer, whose nonfiction bestsellers include “Into the Wild” and “Into Thin Air.” What happened after Tillman’s death, combined with a soldier’s story that is at once unique and universal, provides a perfect foundation for exploring the response of the United States to 9/11. Add Tillman’s rugged intellectual curiosity and independence, as well as his penchant for testing the outer limits of his physical endurance, and you have the perfect protagonist.

In Where Men Win Glory, Krakauer weaves Tillman’s story into the larger American war on terror, with predictable but no less disturbing conclusions. Krakauer reveals how political and military leaders let Tillman’s family – and the rest of the nation – believe his death came at the hands of the Taliban, not his own platoon. Tillman died just as the first reports on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal were breaking and as bloody fighting raged in Fallujah, where the burned corpses of four American contractors were dragged through the streets. Tillman’s death, Krakauer asserts, offered a handy diversion.

His argument is convincing in many respects. A year after Tillman’s death, Representative Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) presided over a congressional hearing on the subsequent bungled military inquiries. He closed the hearing by saying, “What we have is a very clear, deliberate abuse intentionally done. Why is it so hard to find out who did it?”

Top military brass rushed through a Silver Star commendation for Tillman immediately after he died, part of a public-relations offensive aimed at making the former NFL player a poster child for the American military campaigns. It was an effort Tillman himself would have abhorred: He told a fellow soldier on an earlier occasion that he feared dying in action and being paraded through the streets as a justification for war.

Krakauer reports that a US military leader in Afghanistan ordered Tillman’s uniform burned before it could be examined for forensic evidence, much to the chagrin of the coroner who conducted Tillman’s autopsy at Dover Air Force Base. Relentless prodding from Tillman’s mother led to multiple investigations of her son’s death. Those inquiries, as well as extensive interviews by the author, allow Krakauer to piece together what happened in Khost Province. If anything, the author delays his account of the friendly fire episode for too long, waiting until the end of the book to explain those events in detail. (To cite but one of many examples, a digression on the 2000 presidential election and subsequent court battle over Florida votes does little to further Tillman’s tale.)

When Krakauer delves into the mission that led to Tillman’s death and the aftermath, it makes for gripping, heartbreaking reading. In between an opening sequence set in the moments before Tillman was shot and the denouement hundreds of pages later, Krakauer alternates between explorations of Tillman’s childhood and football career and the foreign policy entanglements of the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It’s a hit-and-miss approach. Krakauer is helped by his own extensive legwork, including interviews with Tillman’s wife, fellow soldiers, college friends, and some of his coaches and former teammates. Krakauer also gained access to Tillman’s journals, a mixed blessing that provides crucial insight but sometimes leads to excessive detail and rumination. Accounts of the spin-doctoring attached to the rescue of Jessica Lynch in Iraq and political machinations in Afghanistan and Pakistan also could benefit from judicious editing. Tillman is an interesting character, a man who defies easy jock stereotypes. He’s bound by a relentless personal code of honor. Money doesn’t motivate him, and taking the easy way out is never a consideration.

Soon after Tillman finished his stint in Iraq, several NFL teams put out feelers through Tillman’s agent to help him secure an early discharge from the military and return to football. Tillman declined the offer. He deplored much about the culture of the military, as well as the political calculations behind the war in Iraq, yet insisted on fulfilling his enlistment.

Krakauer demonstrates determination of his own. Two trips to Afghanistan allowed the author to get a sense of the land and the battle on the ground, lending the descriptions of the people and the harrowing topography invaluable authenticity. At the same time, Krakauer seems to have faltered on a few key points in telling the history of the mujahideen, as Dexter Filkins, the ace New York Times war correspondent, recently pointed out in a review of the book.

On another occasion, in detailing Tillman’s college football career, Krakauer has him playing in the Rose Bowl in Anaheim. The Rose Bowl, as any college football fan knows, is in Pasadena.

Still, these are minor quibbles in a book that goes a long way toward explaining the fog of war in the trenches and beyond. It is a fitting tribute to Tillman, a voracious reader who questioned everything. The shame is that Tillman and Krakauer never met; if Tillman had lived, it would have been fascinating to hear him relate his experiences and opinions in collaboration with a writer like Krakauer or on his own.

Erik Spanberg is a freelance writer in Charlotte, N.C.

Afghan Taliban say they pose no threat to the West

Afghan Taliban say they pose no threat to the West

By Sayed Salahuddin

KABUL (Reuters) – The Afghan Taliban pose no threat to the West but will continue their fight against occupying foreign forces, they said on Wednesday, the eighth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion that removed them from power.

U.S.-led forces with the help of Afghan groups overthrew the Taliban government during a five week battle which started on October 7, 2001, after the militants refused to hand over al Qaeda leaders wanted by Washington for the September 11 attacks on America.

“We had and have no plan of harming countries of the world, including those in Europe … our goal is the independence of the country and the building of an Islamic state,” the Taliban said in a statement on the group’s website http://www.shahamat.org.

“Still, if you (NATO and U.S. troops) want to colonize the country of proud and pious Afghans under the baseless pretext of a war on terror, then you should know that our patience will only increase and that we are ready for a long war.”

U.S. President Barack Obama has said defeating the militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan is a top foreign policy priority and is evaluating whether to send thousands of extra troops to the country as requested by the commander of NATO and U.S. forces.

In a review of the war in Afghanistan submitted to the Pentagon last month, U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, in charge of all foreign forces, said defeating the insurgents would likely result in failure unless more troops were sent.

There are currently more than 100,000 foreign troops in the country, roughly two-thirds of who are Americans.

SAFE HAVEN

The Taliban statement comes at a time when Western officials warn that deserting Afghanistan could mean a return to power for the Taliban and the country could once again become a safe haven for al Qaeda militants, who could use it as a base to plan future attacks on Western countries.

The Taliban have made a comeback in recent years, spreading their attacks to previously secure areas. The growing insecurity has further added to the frustration of ordinary Afghans with the West and President Hamid Karzai’s government, in power since the Taliban’s ouster.

Since 2001, each year, several thousand Afghans, many of them civilians, have been killed in Afghanistan, with Taliban and al Qaeda leaders still at large despite the rising number of foreign troops.

In the statement, the Taliban said the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan for its refusal to hand over al Qaeda leaders, was hasty and unjustified. Washington had not given leaders of the movement any proof to show the involvement of al Qaeda in the September 11 attacks, it said.

Washington was using the so-called war on terror in Afghanistan and in Iraq as part of its expansionist goals in the Middle East, central and southeast Asia, it said.

It recalled the defeat of British forces in the 19th century and the fate of the former Soviet Union in the 1980s in Afghanistan as a lesson to those nations who have troops in the country.

Qari Mohammad Yousuf, a spokesman for the Taliban, said the withdrawal of foreign troops was the only solution to a conflict that has grown in intensity and has pushed some European nations to refuse to send their soldiers into battle zones or to speak about a timetable to withdraw from the country.

Some 1,500 foreign troops have also died in Afghanistan since the Taliban‘s ouster causing many nations to question the presence of its soldiers in the country and whether stability can ever be achieved eight years after the overthrow of the militants.

(Editing by Sugita Katyal)

Jews Say No

Dear Friends,
Jews Say No is circulating the following letter and hope you will sign it. We’d like to get as many signatures over the next 24 hours and then try to get it placed as a letter or piece in one of the Jewish (and maybe international) newspapers. We hope you agree with us that it is critical for our voices to be heard!

Please email us at (jewssayno@gmail.com) if we can add your name.

Thank-you,

Nicholas Abramson
Elly Bulkin
Nina Felshin
Sherry Gorelick
Jane Hirschmann
Carol Horwitz
Alan Levine
Helaine Meisler
Gail Miller
Carol Munter
Donna Nevel
Ray Wofsky
Dorothy Zellner


Jews Say No


Letter to American Jews

The primary author of the recently released UN Report on Gaza, the internationally respected jurist Richard Goldstone, has been attacked by establishment voices within the Jewish community.  When those within a community try to “excommunicate” and dishonor a truth-teller, it is our obligation and responsibility to speak out vehemently on their behalf and on behalf of the truth they bring.

By all accounts, Judge Goldstone, who has a deep connection to Israel, approached his task with no pre-conceptions about what he and his team would find as they investigated the circumstances and aftermath of the Israeli attack on Gaza.  Goldstone is a former South African constitutional law court judge who also served as a prosecutor of the Yugoslav and Rwandan war crimes tribunals. His credentials for this task are impeccable.

For following where the truth led him and releasing a report detailing human rights abuses and violations of international law by Israel, as well as Hamas, Judge Goldstone should be applauded for his honesty and integrity. Instead, he and the report have been viciously and relentlessly attacked by many within the Jewish community.

When it comes to Israel, hard-core censorship and intimidation by those claiming to speak in the name of the Jewish people have been the order of the day. Our saying, “Three Jews–four opinions,” reflects the traditional Jewish encouragement to argue and debate. But the reality, sadly, is that diverse opinions are welcome–except when it comes to Israel.

We must hold the Israeli government and the Jewish establishment accountable for attempting to vilify a truth-teller and for suppressing the truth about Israeli government crimes against the Palestinian people.  We call upon each and every one of us to speak out at every opportunity–at our community centers, synagogues, in our homes, in the street, wherever we go.

We must demand that the truth be heard and that those claiming to speak in our name stop manipulating truths that have been well-documented for years, long before the Goldstone report.  We are also appalled by the Obama Administration’s reaction to the report. We call for a fair and impartial investigation of the report’s allegations by non-military institutions in Israel. Failing that, we call for an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Let us begin the New Year in the pursuit of justice.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Best Leader America and Israel Could Buy for the Palestinians

Mahmoud Abbas’ chronic submissiveness

By Amira Hass
In a single phone call to his man in Geneva, Mahmoud Abbas has demonstrated his disregard for popular action, and his lack of faith in its accumulative power and the place of mass movements in processes of change.

For nine months, thousands of people – Palestinians, their supporters abroad and Israeli anti-occupation activists – toiled to ensure that the legacy of Israel’s military offensive against Gaza would not be consigned to the garbage bin of occupying nations obsessed with their feelings of superiority.

Thanks to the Goldstone report, even in Israel voices began to stammer about the need for an independent inquiry into the assault. But shortly after Abbas was visited by the American consul-general on Thursday, the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization got on the phone to instruct his representative on the United Nations Human Rights Council to ask his colleagues to postpone the vote on the adoption of the report’s conclusions.

Heavy American pressure and the resumption of peace negotiations were the reasons for Abbas’ move, it was said. Palestinian spokespeople spun various versions over the weekend in an attempt to make the move kosher, explaining that it was not a cancelation but a six-month postponement that Abbas was seeking.

Will the American and European representatives in Geneva support the adoption of the report in six months’ time? Will Israel heed international law in the coming months, stop building in the settlements and announce immediate negotiations on their dismantlement and the establishment of a Palestinian state in the occupied territories? Is this what adoption of the report would have endangered? Of course not.

A great deal of political folly and short-sightedness was bared by that phone call, on the eve of Hamas’s celebration of its victory in securing the release of 20 female prisoners. Precisely on that day, Abbas put Gaza in the headlines within the context of the PLO’s defeatism and of spitting in the face of the victims of the attack – that is how they felt in Gaza and elsewhere.

Abbas confirmed in fact that Hamas is the real national leadership, and gave ammunition to those who claim that its path – the path of armed struggle – yields results that negotiations do not.

This was not an isolated gaffe, but a pattern that has endured since the PLO leadership concocted, together with naive Norwegians and shrewd Israeli lawyers, the Oslo Accords. Disregard for, and lack of interest in the knowledge and experience accumulated in the inhabitants of the occupied territories’ prolonged popular struggle led to the first errors: the absence of an explicit statement that the aim was the establishment of a state within defined borders, not insisting on a construction freeze in the settlements, forgetting about the prisoners, endorsing the Area C arrangement, etc.

The chronic submissiveness is always explained by a desire to “make progress.” But for the PLO and Fatah, progress is the very continued existence of the Palestinian Authority, which is now functioning more than ever before as a subcontractor for the IDF, the Shin Bet security service and the Civil Administration.

This is a leadership that has been convinced that armed struggle – certainly in the face of Israeli military superiority – cannot bring independence. And indeed, the disastrous repercussions of the Second Intifada are proof of this position. This is a leadership that believes in negotiation as a strategic path to obtaining a state and integration in the world that the United States is shaping.

But in such a world there is personal gain that accrues from chronic submissiveness – benefits enjoyed by the leaders and their immediate circles. This personal gain shapes the tactics.

Is the choice really only between negotiations and armed-struggle theater, the way the Palestinian leadership makes it out to be? No.

The true choice is between negotiations as part of a popular struggle anchored in the language of the universal culture of equality and rights, and negotiations between business partners with the junior partner submissively expressing his gratitude to the senior partner for his generosity.


How Israel bought off UN’s war crimes probe

How Israel bought off UN’s war crimes probe

By Jonathan Cook

October 06, 2009  “Information Clearing House” – — Israel celebrated at the weekend its success at the United Nations in forcing the Palestinians to defer demands that the International Criminal Court investigate allegations of war crimes committed by Israel during its winter assault on the Gaza Strip.

The about-turn, following vigorous lobbying from Israel and the United States, appears to have buried the damning report of Judge Richard Goldstone into the fighting, which killed some 1,400 Palestinians, most of them civilians.

Israeli diplomats suggested on Sunday that Washington had promised the Palestinian Authority, in return for delaying an inquiry, that the US would apply “significant pressure” on Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, to move ahead on a diplomatic process when the US envoy, George Mitchell, arrives in the region tomorrow.

But, according to Israeli and Palestinian analysts, diplomatic arm-twisting was not the only factor in the PA’s change of heart. Haaretz newspaper reported last week that, behind the scenes, Palestinian officials had faced threats that Israel would retaliate by inflicting enormous damage on the beleaguered Palestinian economy.

[SEE: A Video Tape of Abbas Asking Barak to continue the war on Gaza?!]

In particular, Israel warned it would renege on a commitment to allot radio frequencies to allow Wataniya, a mobile phone provider, to begin operations this month in the West Bank. The telecommunications industry is the bedrock of the Palestinian economy, with the current monopoly company, PalTel, accounting for half the worth of the Palestinian stock exchange.

The collapse of the Wataniya deal would have cost the Palestinian Authority hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties, blocked massive investment in the local economy and jeopardized about 2,500 jobs.

Omar Barghouti, a Jerusalem-based founder of a Palestinian movement for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel, denounced the Palestinian Authority’s move: “Trading off Palestinian rights and the fundamental duty to protect the Palestinians under occupation for personal gains is the textbook definition of collaboration and betrayal.”

The deal to establish Wataniya as the second Palestinian mobile phone operator has been at the center of the international community’s plans to revive the West Bank’s economy and show that Palestinians are better off under the rule of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, than Hamas.

Tony Blair, the Middle East envoy representing the so-called Quartet of the US, Russia, the UN and the EU, brokered the agreement last summer, saying Wataniya’s investment of more than $700 million over the next 10 years would “provide a much-needed boost to the Palestinian economy.”

Wataniya is a joint venture between Palestinian investors, including close allies of Abbas, and Qatari and Kuwaiti businessmen.

But while Netanyahu has welcomed the deal as part of his plans for an “economic peace,” an option he prefers to Palestinian statehood, Israel has been dragging its feet in allocating the necessary frequencies.

Wataniya’s planned launch earlier this year had to be pushed back and the company has threatened to pull out of the deal if the new 15 October deadline is missed. If it does, the Palestinian Authority will have to repay $140m in licensing fees and could be liable for hundreds of millions more that Wataniya has invested in building 350 communication masts across the West Bank.

According to Who Profits?, an Israeli organization that investigates links between Israel and international companies in exploiting the occupied territories, Israel has a vested interest in limiting the success of the Palestinian mobile phone industry and protecting its control over extensive parts of the West Bank it wants for Jewish settlement.

The only existing Palestinian operator, Jawwal, a subsidiary of PalTel, has been blocked from building communications infrastructure in the so-called Area C of the West Bank, comprising 60 percent of the territory, which is designated under full Israeli control.

Instead, four Israeli companies — Cellcom, Orange, Pelephone and Mirs — have built an extensive network of antennas and transmission stations for Jewish settlers in Area C. Mirs, a subsidiary of Motorola Israel, also has an exclusive license to provide cellular services to the Israeli military.

Typically, Palestinians traveling outside the major population areas of the West Bank find a limited or non-existent Jawwal service and therefore have to rely on the Israeli companies.

A World Bank report last year found that as much as 45 percent of the Palestinian mobile phone market may be in the hands of the Israeli companies. In violation of the Oslo accords, these firms do not pay taxes to the PA for their commercial activity, losing the Palestinian treasury revenues of up to $60m a year.

Israeli companies also rake off additional surcharges on connections made by Palestinians using Jawwal, including calls between mobile phones and landlines, between the West Bank and Gaza and many within Area C, and international calls.

Dalit Baum, a founder of Who Profits?, said the importance of the telecommunications industry to the Palestinian economy made it a point of leverage over the PA at moments of diplomatic crisis, such as the Goldstone report.

She said: “This case highlights not only how Israel restricts Palestinian economic development through the occupation but also how it uses that control for its own economic and diplomatic advantage.”

[SEE: War and Natural Gas: The Israeli Invasion and Gaza's Offshore Gas Fields]

Israel’s chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, was reported last week to have conditioned his approval for Wataniya’s launch on the Palestinian leadership withdrawing demands for a referral to the war crimes tribunal.

Defense officials were reported to be angry that the PA had supported the attack on Gaza when it was launched last winter but were now pressing for Israeli soldiers to be put in the dock. One senior figure was quoted by the Haaretz newspaper saying: “The PA has reached the point where it has to decide whether it is working with us or against us.”

Under the Oslo accords, Israel retained ultimate control over the “electro-magnetic spectrum,” including the allocation of radio frequencies, in both Israel and the occupied territories.

Allan Richardson, Wataniya’s chief executive, who has previously launched mobile services in post-war Iraq and Afghanistan, blamed Israel for the company’s problems during an interview in July: “The obstacles we’re suffering from are obstacles you’ll never get anywhere else in the world.”

Last year Israel committed to providing Wataniya with a bandwidth of 4.8MHz, the absolute minimum required to provide coverage over the West Bank, but so far has offered only 3.8MHz.

Jawwal finally received 4.8MHz from Israel in 1999, two years after it launched. Despite the number of its subscribers growing tenfold to 1.1 million today, its bandwidth has remained the same. In comparison, Israel’s Cellcom company, with three times as many subscribers, has 37MHz.

Abdel Malik Jaber, PalTel’s chief executive, complained last year that millions of dollars of imported telecoms equipment was stuck at Israeli customs, some of it since 2004. Wataniya has made similar accusations against Israel.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is http://www.jkcook.net.

A version of this article originally appeared in The National, published in Abu Dhabi.

Report: Hamas arrests militants planning to fire rockets at Israel

Report: Hamas arrests militants planning to fire rockets at Israel

The Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip have arrested over the last two days a number of Palestinian militants planning to fire rockets at western Israel, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported Tuesday.

The report quoted group sources as saying Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has organized a crackdown against Palestinian factions to curb the attacks against Israel.

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Hamas has warned the factions not to fire rockets under any circumstances, according to the report, even in response to Israeli measures at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

US/Israel Ready Largest Joint War Games Ever

JERUSALEM POSTYAAKOV KATZ

US Navy missile ships started arriving in Israel on Sunday ahead of next month’s joint missile defense exercise between the IDF and the American military’s European Command.

Called Juniper Cobra, the exercise will include the Arrow missile defense system as well as three American systems – the THAAD, Aegis and PAC3 – that will all be deployed in Israel for the duration of the exercise.

Defense officials said the exercise would not begin for a few weeks, but that the ships were already arriving to begin preparing the infrastructure for the joint drill, the largest since Israel and the US began holding the biennial Juniper Cobra drill in 2001.

The arrival of the ships began a day before Defense Minister Ehud Barak was scheduled to fly to Washington for talks with his American counterpart, Robert Gates. Defense officials said that their talks would focus on the Iranian threat, Israeli-US defense cooperation as well as the role Israel will play in the new American missile defense shield announced last week.

Expectations in Israel are that the US will deploy several Aegis ballistic missile ships – that are capable of intercepting ballistic missiles – in the Mediterranean and Red seas. Israel is already home to the advanced X-Band radar that the Bush administration gave as a farewell gift last October.

Officials said it was possible that the US would decide to leave some systems in Israel following the drill to bolster Israeli defenses in face of the Iranian threat. One possibility under discussion is that Aegis ships, that carry SM3 missile interceptors, will be deployed in the Mediterranean and Red seas.

On Sunday, Gates wrote an op-ed in The New York Times in which he contended that the new European defense plan – which won’t include a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, as per the US announcement last week – was a reworking of the previous proposal, and provided more protection in light of the current threat assessments.

Gates said that while the previous plan would not have provided any protection before at least 2017 – and likely later – the new program will begin providing some level of protection by 2011, will receive a significant boost in capability by 2015, and will be built over time to create “an increasingly greater zone of protection.”

“The new approach to European missile defense actually provides us with greater flexibility to adapt as new threats develop and old ones recede,” Gates wrote.

He challenged critics who have slammed the new plan as a concession to Russia, which had vehemently opposed placing a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe.

“Russia’s attitude and possible reaction played no part in my recommendation to the president on this issue,” Gates said. “If Russia’s leaders embrace this plan, then that will be an unexpected, and welcome, change of policy on their part. But in any case the facts are clear: American missile defense on the continent will continue, and not just in Central Europe.”

“This proposal is, simply put, a better way forward,” Gates summed up his position. “It is a very real manifestation of our continued commitment to our NATO allies in Europe.”

Diplomats converge on Honduras for talks

Diplomats converge on Honduras for talks

By BEN FOX, Associated Press Writer Ben Fox, Associated Press Writer 2 hrs 19 mins ago

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Diplomats from throughout the hemisphere were converging Wednesday on Honduras to resolve a standoff that has left the impoverished Central American country with two presidents, a capital scarred by protests and a bitterly divided population.

Delegates from more than 10 Latin and North American countries will be on hand to mediate talks between representatives of President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted by the military three months ago, and the government of interim President Roberto Micheletti, who has the support of Honduras’ Congress and Supreme Court but has faced intense international pressure to allow his predecessor’s return.

Micheletti set an optimistic tone in a national address late Tuesday, saying the talks would address with a “new spirit” the main issues of dispute over the San Jose Accord, a plan brokered by Nobel Prize-winning former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias.

“To consolidate political stability and normalize our country’s relations with the international community, I believe the time is right to intensify the national dialogue,” he said in the brief speech.

Micheletti did not go into specifics, but said two crucial issues would be discussion of the “powers of the state” and amnesty, apparent references to the key areas of dispute over the San Jose Accord, which would allow Zelaya to return without being prosecuted for his alleged crimes.

Some political observers have said members of the Micheletti government will also need amnesty for any involvement in the ouster of Zelaya, who was still in his pajamas when he was forced at gunpoint into a military truck and whisked by plane into exile in Costa Rica in a June 28 coup.

Micheletti spokeswoman Marcia Facusse repeated that the interim president had offered to step down if Zelaya agreed to renounce his claim to the presidency, something the ousted leader has refused to do.

“From there we can find a place to start the dialogue because the conflict would cease to be about two men and become a search for what’s best for the country,” Facusse told HRN radio.

Zelaya was forced from office for trying to hold a referendum on rewriting the constitution. His opponents charged he wanted to lift the charter’s provision limiting presidents to a single term — an accusation he denies.

Zelaya sneaked back into the country last month and remains holed up in the Brazilian Embassy with dozens of supporters. He has not announced any plans to leave his refuge, and will be represented in the talks by members of his deposed government.

The U.S., along with much of the rest of the international community, has called for Zelaya, as the democratically elected president, to be returned to office to serve out the rest of his term, which ends in January. New elections are scheduled for Nov. 29.

The talks were brokered by the Organization of American States and the delegates were expected to include OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza as well as representatives of the U.S., Canada, Mexico and other countries in the region.

Abbas Postpones Visit to Syria

Abbas Postpones Visit to Syria

Syria has postponed a visit to Damascus by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas due to begin on Tuesday, a Palestinian official told AFP.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the postponement came because of a “surprise” visit to Damascus by Saudi King Abdullah.

A report on Al-Jazeera television had earlier said Damascus postponed Abbas’s trip in protest over the Palestinian delegation to the U.N. Human Rights Council dropping its support for an immediate vote on a damning report on the Gaza war.

But the official insisted the claim by the pan-Arab channel was not true. Abbas had been due to arrive in Damascus on Tuesday and hold talks with President Bashar al-Assad.

Abbas has faced a growing wave of criticism both at home and abroad over the decision not to support a vote on the Gaza report, which was widely seen as a result of intense pressure from the U.S. and Israel.

The U.N. report on Gaza, authored by respected South African Judge Richard Goldstone, accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes and recommended that the Human Rights Council pass the findings to the U.N. Security Council and the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

On Friday, the 47-member council in Geneva decided to postpone until March 2010 a vote on the report, following a request by Pakistan on behalf of Arab, African, Non-Aligned and Muslim states that supported the report.(AFP)

Washington Readies Fresh Iran Sanctions

[Here is the logic of extortion and blackmail that dominates the "civilized world," if someone fails to satisfy the demands made upon them then they are held responsible for the violence that follows and nobody questions the legality of any of it.]

Washington Readies Fresh Iran Sanctions

The United States is ready to slap fresh sanctions on Iran in the event international negotiations over its suspected nuclear weapons program fail, a senior U.S. Treasury Department official said Tuesday.

    “This administration has demonstrated that it is committed to a diplomatic resolution of the international community’s issues with Iran,” Treasury Undersecretary Stuart Levey told the Senate Banking Committee.“The world is now united in looking to Iran for a response. If Iran does not live up to its obligations in this process, it alone will bear the responsibility for that outcome,” he said.

    “Under these circumstances, the United States would be obliged to turn to strengthened sanctions,” said Levey, who as undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence oversees the department’s efforts to staunch the flow of funds to international terrorists and weapons of mass destruction proliferators.

    “We are intensifying work with our allies and other partners to ensure that, if we must go down this path, we will do so with as much international support as possible,” said Levey.

    “We will now wait to see whether Iran follows its constructive words with concrete action. If it does not, and if the president determines that additional measures are necessary, we will be ready to take action, ideally with our international partners.”

    Levey told lawmakers that he was not in a position to provide details of the planned sanctions, although the department has completed work on them.

    He added that sanctions already in place have borne fruit, and that the United States hope to exploit certain “economic vulnerabilities” in Iran.

    “We will need to impose measures simultaneously in many different forms in order to be effective,” he said.

    At the same hearing, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg described the administration’s approach as a “dual track strategy that presents a clear choice to Iran’s leaders.”

    “They can negotiate in good faith, prove their willingness to address the concern of the international community, and in turn improve Iran’s standing in that community, or they can face increasing international isolation and pressure,” said Steinberg.

    Meanwhile, the banking panel’s powerful chairman, Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd, said he was strongly in favor of ratcheting up the pressure on Tehran, and said he was crafting “comprehensive sanctions legislation” to be unveiled later this month.

    “I am committed to ensuring that this Congress equips President Obama with all the tools he needs to confront the threats posed by Iran,” he said.

    The draft Senate bill, which will combine proposals from various lawmakers, aims to impose new sanctions on companies exporting refined petroleum products to Tehran, and other measures.

    It also would expand existing legislation to cover financial institutions and businesses and extend sanctions to oil and gas pipelines, boost moves to freeze the assets of Iranians accused of weapons proliferation and tighten export controls to halt the illegal export of sensitive technology.

    The push to impose new sanctions follows revelations that Iran had a second, secret nuclear reactor under construction under a mountain near Qom, and weekend reports that Tehran may be closer than originally feared to developing a nuclear weapon.

    Tehran’s insists its nuclear program is designed for purely peaceful purposes while the United States accuses Iran of a clandestine effort to build nuclear weapons.

    Iran held nuclear talks last week with world powers, and a second round of talks has been set for October 19.(AFP)

The Meddling in Lebanon Royal Summit

All Eyes in Lebanon on Syrian-Saudi Summit

Saudi and Syrian influence over Lebanon was back on track with reports that no Cabinet deal would be reached before a summit between the two Arab states expected to take place later Wednesday.

Syrian daily Al-Watan said Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz is due to arrive in Syria Wednesday afternoon on a two-day official visit “at the head of an important delegation.”

It will be Abdullah’s first visit to Syria since he acceded to the throne in 2005. The summit is also a further sign of warning ties between Damascus and Riyadh.

On Monday the royal court in an announcement carried by the official Saudi news agency SPA said Abdullah would travel to Syria “in the coming days.”

Relations between Syria and Saudi Arabia deteriorated in the wake of the 2003 invasion of Iraq over Saudi support for the United States.

Abdullah’s trip confirms the improving ties between Damascus and Riyadh, long rivals for influence in the Arab world whose relations soured further after the allegedly Syrian-linked 2005 murder of Lebanon’s ex-premier Rafik Hariri.

Hariri, who also held Saudi nationality, was close to the monarchy in the oil-rich Gulf state and had extensive business interests in the kingdom.

Riyadh has likewise been at odds with Damascus over its warm relations with Saudi Arabia’s rival Iran and its support for Hizbullah.

In early July, Riyadh named a new ambassador to Syria after leaving the post vacant for a year and a visit to Damascus by Abdullah has been in the works since that time, according to Saudi officials.(Naharnet-AFP)

Antiwar Protesters Turn Their Sights on Obama

Antiwar Protesters Turn Their Sights on Obama


Anti-war protesters await a rally in front of the White House in Washington October 5, 2009. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

By Garance Franke-Ruta
Commemorating the upcoming eighth anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan, a coalition of antiwar protest groups converged on the White House on Monday to urge a withdrawal from the fighting there and in Iraq.

Sixty-one people were arrested, according to protest organizers. Several hundred attended a rally at McPherson Square, which was followed by a procession to the White House.

Organized under the umbrella of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, it was the coalition’s first protest of the war in Afghanistan. Antiwar organizers hope it will mark the start of a month — and a season — of fresh agitation, after years of seeking an end to the fighting in Iraq.

The protests brought out the familiar sign of Quaker antiwar activists, as well as the vivid hues and banners of the women’s antiwar group Code Pink. Activist Cindy Sheehan — who became perhaps the country’s best-known antiwar protester after her son Casey was killed fighting in Iraq — also attended.

Other organizers included the War Resisters League, Peace Action, World Can’t Wait, Veterans for Peace and Voices for Creative Nonviolence.

The group United for Peace and Justice — which helped organized many antiwar protests during the George W. Bush administration — is calling for Wednesday to be a national day of action and activities to mark the Afghanistan anniversary. And many groups have been planning a campaign of fall protests for months.

On Sunday, MoveOn.org Political Action asked its members to sign a petition telling the White House and Congress that “we need a clear military exit strategy — not tens of thousands more US troops stuck in a quagmire” and urged them to raise their voices into an out-of-Afghanistan chorus.

“Cheerleaders for the war refuse to acknowledge that there could be any viable strategy other than a bigger and bigger military footprint. …” the group said in the letter. “The hawks are making their position heard. Now, the majority of Americans — those of us who are for as quick and as responsible an end to the war as possible — need to make our voices heard, too.”

MoveOn was one of Obama’s fiercest defenders, and a significant fundraiser during the presidential campaign. It appears to hold high hopes that Obama will continue to show what they described as “a willingness to stand up for his more thoughtful approach to foreign policy.”

UN calls for new reserve currency

UN calls for new reserve currency

The United Nations called on Tuesday for a new global reserve currency to end dollar supremacy which has allowed the United States the “privilege” of building a huge trade deficit.

“Important progress in managing imbalances can be made by reducing the reserve currency country?s ‘privilege’ to run external deficits in order to provide international liquidity,” UN undersecretary-general for economic and social affairs, Sha Zukang, said.

Speaking at the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Istanbul, he said: “It is timely to emphasise that such a system also creates a more equitable method of sharing the seigniorage derived from providing global liquidity.”

He said: “Greater use of a truly global reserve currency, such as the IMF?s special drawing rights (SDRs), enables the seigniorage gained to be deployed for development purposes,” he said.

The SDRs are the asset used in IMF transactions and are based on a basket of four currencies — the dollar, euro, yen and pound — which is calculated daily.

China had called in March for a new dominant world reserve currency instead of the dollar, in a system within the framework of the Washington-based IMF.