IAF Bomb Tunnels along Gaza-Egypt Border

IAF Bomb Tunnels along Gaza-Egypt Border

Hanan Awarekeh Readers Number : 81

28/01/2009 Israeli occupation aircraft struck at tunnels used for smuggling goods and weapons on the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt on Wednesday; hours before a US peace envoy was due to arrive in the Zionist entity.

The aircraft struck three times before dawn but there was no initial word of casualties.

An Israeli occupation army spokesman confirmed that Israel had carried out air strikes on smuggling tunnels in the town of Rafah.

The strike came after Tuesday’s violence in Gaza where resistance fighters attacked an Israeli military vehicle that was hit by a roadside bomb while patrolling the Gaza border, killing one occupation soldier and wounding three others, the army spokesman said.

There was no claim of responsibility for the attack, but Hamas leader Mushir al-Masri said Israel was to blame for continuing to fire into Gaza. Masri said his group had not agreed to a full cease-fire but only to a “lull” in fighting. “The Zionists are responsible for any aggression,” he said.

An air strike shortly afterwards killed one Palestinian on a motorcycle, and injured 2 others. The exchanges were the first major military developments since Hamas and Israel declared separate ceasefires earlier this month after Israel’s offensive against the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said late on Tuesday that the killing of the man on the motorcycle was only an initial reaction and that Israel’s full response was still to come.

The Israeli occupation army holds Hamas responsible for preserving the peace south of the occupied territories, and will respond harshly to any attempt at undermining it, the announcement added.

On Tuesday the occupation army had received a green light to respond harshly to the bomb attack, though defense officials would not provide details on the planned response, but said it would be in line with Israel’s new policy to respond aggressively to any attack following the end of “Operation Cast Lead” earlier this month.

Meanwhile, in a bid to regain her plummeting popularity ahead of the elections, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told a gathering of the New York-based World Jewish Congress in occupied Jerusalem on Tuesday that Israel would no longer show restraint against Palestinian attacks from the Gaza Strip.

“Israel is going to act according to a new equation. We are not going to show restraint anymore,” Livni said. “We need to change the rules of the game until they learn that the rules have changed and the equation has changed.”

Livni added that Israel needed to negotiate with the Fatah leadership in the occupation West Bank toward a two-state solution, while continuing to fight against Hamas in Gaza. “For me, an agreement with Hamas is not an option,” she declared.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak called an urgent meeting of top defense officials after the bombing. “This is a serious attack, and we will respond, but there is no point in elaborating,” Barak said.

Israel closed its Gaza crossings to humanitarian aid traffic after briefly opening them Tuesday morning. Gaza border official Raed Fattouh said Israeli officials had informed him the closure was due to the attack.

Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry’s Diplomatic-Security Bureau, said Israel’s response would not be limited to closing the crossings into Gaza. “The response will not be the way it used to be,” Gilad said in a speech at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. “The equation has changed.”

Response to Breeding ‘terrorists’: What’s the solution?

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If one is not part of the solution, one is part of the problem” – or so my corporate management used to drum into the engineering staff when I worked as an engineer in Silicon Valley in my younger days. Being a ’stud’, I found myself adept at not only comprehending the problem domains, but also provided useful, implementable, and actually shipped solutions. I was so enamored by that slogan and my successes that I found the principle to be an excellent lesson to teach my own children.

But strangely, I have consistently failed that lesson myself as soon as I entered the social arena and started applying my ‘awesome’ problem solving skills to the new problem domain of justice activism.

Here, the problem domain is pretty well understood, unlike in electrical engineering, where some real hard work and thinking was often necessary to even define the problem domain to tackle to build useful products around. Once that was done, the solutions often actually presented themselves and it was often the timeliness or attractiveness of the implementation that won or lost the markets.

But in the social domain, the matters are far more convoluted. The problem is rather simple. ‘Baboons’ out to conquer the world using lies and deception and by cultivating fake enemies as pretext for “imperial mobilization”. But what’s the solution-space? Platitudes of Moses haven’t worked.

Hegemony is as old as mankind.” So is oligarchy. Every once in a while, the oligarchs or their designated emperor have extended their reach and created greater dominions for themselves. This lesson is so old that St. Augustine even built an entire political-theory around it in the 4th century AD. The problem has been remarkably well understood and captured beautifully by him in this pithy statement:

When the King asked him what he meant by infesting the sea, the pirate defiantly replied: ‘the same as you do when you infest the whole world; but because I do it with a little ship I am called a robber, and because you do it with a great fleet, you are an emperor.’ ” (The City of God against the Pagans, Page 148).

But what is the darn solution if one is a modern victim of such an ancient ‘white man’s burden’?

Certainly if one is an emperor, the solution has been formulated and time-tested for every epoch since time immemorial – from god and divine rights to rule, to ‘la mission civilisatrice’, to Machiavelli 101 and the sophisticated Dialectics of Deception to move any unwilling public to fight for extending the empire.

So as per my corporate slogan “If one is not part of the solution, one is part of the problem” – I must be part of the problem since I side with the innocent victims and don’t have any solution.

How does one become a part of the “solution” so as not to remain a part of the problem?

Thank you.

Zahir Ebrahim

Project Humanbeingsfirst.org

Commentary: Will Obama see sense about nuclear threat?

National Nuclear Security Administration, US Government)

A Trident missile clears a flat pad during the US navy’s eighth development test flight (Image: Lockheed Missile and Space Div. Teaser image: National Nuclear Security Administration, US Government)

Commentary: Will Obama see sense about nuclear threat?

THE possibility that, in an Obama administration, science will drive rational public policy provides an unprecedented opportunity to deal with a gnawing yet persistently neglected threat to the world: nuclear weapons.

No government is likely to declare how many strategic nuclear warheads it has, but the US and Russia are thought to possess at least 5000 apiece. The 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty required each nation to have no more than 2200 “operationally deployed” strategic warheads by 2012, yet this represents no real progress towards disarmament, as the target number is essentially identical to that proposed at the 1997 summit on nuclear arms reduction between Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin in Helsinki, Finland.

As we object to Iran’s apparent efforts to join the club of nuclear weapons states we should remember that the US, Russia, France, the UK and China have failed to meet their obligations to disarm, some four decades after they all signed the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Reducing the size of our nuclear weapons stockpile would not reduce our ability to deter a nuclear attack – a fact acknowledged by politicians such as Henry Kissinger, George Schultz and William Perry. Even 500 active warheads would be sufficient to kill hundreds of millions of people around the world. Reducing the size of the nuclear stockpile would bring one key benefit, though. Maintaining a huge and complex nuclear infrastructure is not cheap. In a time of increasing budget concerns, this is one area where savings could be achieved with little or no cost to security.

The terrorist attacks in Mumbai underscore the danger of a nuclear confrontation between India and Pakistan. Yet the US has turned a blind eye to an ongoing Pakistani project to build a plutonium reactor that would be capable of making enough fuel each year for up to 50 nuclear weapons. In 2006, Congress approved a nuclear cooperation pact with India that would help promote that country’s bomb-making capacity. Neither India nor Pakistan has signed the NPT. The new administration needs to defuse the situation by encouraging disarmament in this region, not proliferation.

Aside from the direct sociopolitical and economic consequences of a regional nuclear war, it is now clear that the longer-term impact of even a localised nuclear conflict between Pakistan and India would be more severe than previously estimated. A study published last year shows that global temperatures and growing seasons could decline significantly following as few as 50 15-kiloton explosions, as might result from such a regional war (Physics Today, vol 61, p 37).

Finally, the new administration might bring some rationality to the US’s efforts to deploy ballistic missile defence systems here and elsewhere in the world. It has been estimated that over the past 40 years the US has spent upwards of $600 billion on missile defence. Yet despite this, the US is not significantly closer to producing a workable system than it was in 1972 when it signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

Obama might bring some rationality to the US’s efforts to deploy ballistic missile defence systems

Common sense suggests, as the US physics community did in 2003, that we should not use a missile defence system until it is shown to be workable against a realistic threat. Yet the US has nevertheless deployed a currently untested system at a cost of close to $10 billion per year – and the Bush administration complicated relations with Russia by declaring its intent to install it in Poland.

In this new year, as the country and the world look to Barack Obama with hope, he has signalled his intent to address one clear global threat, namely climate change. Leading the world away from the nuclear precipice will require at least as much sound thinking and political courage.

Lawrence Krauss is director of the Origins initiative at Arizona State University in Phoenix

Nabucco Remains a Pipe Dream


Yigal Schleifer 1/27/09

Conditions may never be better to spur construction of the Nabucco pipeline project, which would help wean the European Union from its dependence on Russian energy supplies. However, the European Union still seems reluctant to commit fully to the pipeline.

The proposed 3,300-kilometer-long Nabucco gas line would run from the Caspian Sea region via Turkey into Eastern and Central Europe. Although construction is scheduled to start in 2010 and the pipeline is expected to start delivering gas three years later, experts warn the project is far from a sure thing.

The recent gas dispute between Ukraine and Russia demonstrated a clear need for a rethinking of European energy policy, some experts say. Nabucco so far has been at the center of the discussion about potential new sources of energy. “There isn’t a PR campaign in the world that could have given the Nabucco as much attention as the Russian-Ukrainian dispute did,” a Hungarian government spokeswoman, Bernadett Budai, said. “This is the best opportunity in years to make progress.”

Amanda Akcakoca, an analyst at the European Policy Centre, a Brussels-based think tank, suggested that the Russian-Ukrainian row at least got EU officials to refocus on the question of diversifying the bloc’s energy resources. “The issue of energy diversification should be taken more seriously and so far there are signs that this is being done, but, as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating,” Akcakoca said.

Akcakoca made the comments prior to the start of a January 27 energy conference in Budapest, where, to the disappointment of some analysts and energy executives, top EU officials declined to take a big bite into the Nabucco project. While expressing vague notions of support for the pipeline, it seemed clear that Brussels doesn’t wants to make financing immediately available that could kick-start the construction process.

Europe currently gets a quarter of its gas from Russia, with 80 percent of it coming through Ukraine. Some countries, like Bulgaria, are almost entirely dependent on the Russian energy behemoth Gazprom for their gas. Thus, tens of thousands of Bulgarians were left shivering in the winter cold after the supply going through the Ukraine was cut early in January. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].

Nabucco to a great extent has come to symbolize the EU’s struggle to find a common energy policy. The multi-billion-dollar project has been stalled by several questions about long-term viability. Most importantly, the question continues to linger about how the pipeline will be filled. So far, only Azerbaijan has committed itself to supplying gas to Nabucco, but it can only fill a fraction of the pipeline’s capacity. Other potential suppliers, such as Turkmenistan or Iran, are currently problematic suppliers, either for logistical or political reasons. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].

Nabucco is also under threat of being undercut by Moscow, which is suggesting Europe diversify its gas shipment routes (though not its supply) via construction of South Stream, a pipeline that would bring Russian gas under the Black Sea to Bulgaria.

“What we have is a series of agreements and a theory,” says Bulent Aliriza, director of the Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, referring to Nabucco. “It’s got problems all the way down the line.”

Other critics worry that Nabucco is being billed as a kind of panacea for Europe’s energy woes, without taking the discussion of what real energy diversity and security would mean any further. “Simply building a pipeline slightly south is not a strategic issue; it’s a regional one,” says Andrew Monaghan, a research advisor at the NATO Defense College in Rome. Monaghan recently wrote a paper examining Nabucco for the European Parliament. “What I’m saying is that we should consider enhancing the process, not simply changing the line and hoping that will create a better picture.”

The EPC’s Akcakoca says that if Europe doesn’t want to face another winter without gas, Nabucco must be part and parcel of a unified EU energy policy. “Overall [the EU’s] energy policy is quite weak, because each individual member state negotiates its energy deals,” she says. “There needs to be one EU energy policy, full stop. That’s what they should be aiming for.”

Editor’s Note: Yigal Schleifer is a freelance journalist based in Istanbul.

RDX being smuggled into India with cement from Pak

RDX being smuggled into India with cement from Pak

28 Jan 2009, 0206 hrs IST, Pranati Mehra

MUMBAI: Police and security agencies here have got a specific alert — from the police of a North Indian state — about RDX having been smuggled

into the country as part of a cement consignment from Pakistan and the target being an oil refinery.

Officials said the high alert sounded at vital installations like railway stations and hotels in Mumbai last December was not a reaction to the 26/11 carnage but had its basis in this specific intelligence input.

Officials also told TOI that more RDX could be coming in as part of cement or other consignments. But the alert did not name any refinery that was supposed to be the target.

That explained the reaction by Delhi Police and Mumbai Police during the days following the terror attacks on Mumbai. The two closest refineries to Delhi are at Panipat and Mathura. But most of the major refineries are near the coast, including those at Vishakhapatnam, Paradip and Jamnagar.

The alert also mentioned railways as a possible “soft target”.

Several ports, especially those in Vishakhapatnam and Ennore (Tamil Nadu), were also on a high alert on Tuesday. Shipping officials met home ministry and IB officials, agencies reported.

ATS joint commissioner of police Rakesh Maria was not available for comment and state intelligence chief D Shivanandan said he was not privy to the information.

Security was stepped up at all railway stations in National Capital Region following the threat. The police deployed extra Quick Reaction Teams at New Delhi railway station and other stations. “After 26/11, every input is taken seriously,” said Delhi Police’s DCP (crime and railways), Neeraj Thakur.

India goes for ‘urgent’ purchase of anti-tank missiles

India goes for ‘urgent’ purchase of anti-tank missiles

Rajat Pandit

NEW DELHI: With tensions with Pakistan yet to abate and the indigenous “Nag” missile still not operational, the Army has gone in for an “urgent

order” of 4,100 French-origin Milan-2T anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs).

Defence ministry sources said the Rs 592-crore order for 4,100 Milan-2T missiles, pending for quite some time, was cleared after 26/11, with the government finally fast-tracking several military procurement plans.

Though tanks are slowly losing their relevance in the modern-day battlefield, and chances of face-to-face armoured confrontations diminishing, they will continue to play a critical role in the India-Pakistan context.

Both India and Pakistan, who share a long land border, are currently reorganising their mechanised forces to achieve strategic mobility and high-volume firepower for rapid thrusts into enemy territory.

India, of course, has plans to progressively induct as many as 1,657 Russian-origin T-90S main-battle tanks (MBTs), apart from the ongoing upgradation of its T-72 fleet.

But with Pakistan now looking to procure T-84 MBTs from Ukraine to bolster its already strong fleet of T-80UD, Al-Khalid and other tanks, India also wants its infantry battalions to have potent anti-armour capabilities.

This can be gauged from the fact that the latest order for 4,100 “advanced” Milan-2T missiles with “tandem warheads” to replenish the Army’s dwindling ATGM stock comes barely a few months after the Rs 1,380-crore contract for a staggering 15,000 Konkurs-M missiles.

Defence PSU Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL), incidentally, manufactures variants of the second-generation 2-km-range Milan and 4-km-range Konkurs ATGMs, under licence from French and Russian companies, at around Rs 4.50 lakh per unit.

As for the third-generation Nag ATGM, with a 4-km strike range, Army has already placed an initial order for 443 missiles and 13 Namicas (Nag missile tracked carriers). But the Nag is still to become fully operational almost two decades after it was first tested.

DRDO contends that Phase-I of Nag’s user-trials were successfully completed last month, with Phase-II now slated for May-June. “Pre-production of Nag is underway at BDL. It’s is a fire-and-forget missile, with potent top-attack capability to hit a tank’s vulnerable upper portion like the gun turret,” said an official.

Moreover, Nag’s range will be extended to over 7-km in its airborne version named “Helina”, to be fitted on “Dhruv” Advanced Light Helicopters, each configured to carry eight missiles in two launchers.

Incidentally, Nag is the only “core missile system” of India’s original Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), launched way back in 1983, whose development work is yet to be completed.

The IGMDP was “closed” in December 2007 after DRDO declared development work on all other missiles Agni, Prithvi, Akash and Trishul was over. While work on “strategic” nuclear-capable missiles like Agni-III (3,500-km range) and Agni-V (over 5,000-km) is being “undertaken in-house”, India is now increasingly look at foreign collaboration in other armament projects to cut delays.

On Arab TV, Obama makes overture to Muslims

WASHINGTON: In his first extensive interview since taking office, President Barack Obama has struck a conciliatory tone toward the Islamic world, saying he wanted to persuade Muslims that “the Americans are not your enemy.” He spoke a day after sending a special envoy on a Middle East tour in pursuit of what Obama called “progress that is concrete.”

The president told an interviewer from the Al Arabiya network, based in Dubai, that “the moment is ripe for both sides” to negotiate in the Middle East.

Shortly after the Obama interview was broadcast, an explosion on the Israel-Gaza border on Tuesday killed an Israeli soldier. A Palestinian farmer was shot and killed, according to Palestinian witnesses, in retaliatory gunfire. They were the first known fatal incidents since the Gaza fighting, which claimed nearly 1,300 lives, ended 10 days ago. (Page 2)

Al Arabiya, which is owned by a Saudi businessman, has a broad viewership in the region, and President George W. Bush had granted it several interviews.

But Obama did something in the interview Monday that he had not done during the presidential campaign: He mentioned the Muslim background of many of his Kenyan relatives and alluded to his childhood in predominantly Muslim Indonesia.

Obama’s remarks marked at least a stylistic shift from the Bush administration, which critics say engaged too slowly on Middle East peace; the new president offered a dialogue with Iran and what he depicted as a new readiness to listen rather than dictate. On his first full day in office he had taken time to phone several Middle Eastern leaders.

The president spoke as George Mitchell, his special Middle East envoy, was beginning an eight-day tour to include Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, France and Britain. The former Senate majority leader arrived Tuesday in Cairo; he will also stop in the West Bank, though he will not enter Gaza.

Obama told Al Arabiya that he had instructed his envoy to “start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating.”

“Ultimately, we cannot tell either the Israelis or the Palestinians what’s best for them. They’re going to have to make some decisions,” Obama said. “But I do believe that the moment is ripe for both sides to realize that the path that they are on is not going to result in prosperity and security for their people – and that, instead, it’s time to return to the negotiating table.”

The new tone appeared to strike a positive note among at least some in the Muslim world, including Ahmed Youssef, a senior Hamas official.

“In the last couple of days there have been a lot of statements, some of them very positive, and choosing this George Mitchell as an envoy,” Youssef told the Al Jazeera network, according to The Associated Press. “I think there are some positive things we have to count.”

Obama noted that Israel “will not stop being a strong ally of the United States, and I will continue to believe that Israel’s security is paramount,” but he then added: “I also believe that there are Israelis who recognize that it is important to achieve peace. They will be willing to make sacrifices if the time is appropriate and if there is serious partnership.”

In terms that largely tracked Bush’s position, Obama said he believed it was “possible for us to see a Palestinian state – I’m not going to put a time frame on it – that is contiguous, that allows freedom of movement for its people, that allows for trade with other countries, that allows the creation of businesses and commerce so that people have a better life.”

He said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should not be seen in isolation.

“I do think it is impossible for us to think only in terms of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and not think in terms of what’s happening with Syria or Iran or Lebanon or Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Obama said.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday was laying out a more modest set of objectives for Afghanistan; separately, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton emphasized that there was now “a clear opportunity for the Iranians” to engage more meaningfully with the world community.

Obama said he wanted to communicate to Americans “that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives”; and to Muslims “that the Americans are not your enemy.”

“We sometimes make mistakes,” he said, urging a return to “the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago.”