there is a real risk of big war in the Middle East

Please, not again

Without boldness from Barack Obama there is a real risk of war in the Middle East

Dec 29th 2010

NO WAR, no peace, is the usual state of affairs between Israel and its neighbours in the Middle East. But every time an attempt at Arab-Israeli peacemaking fails, as Barack Obama’s did shortly before Christmas, the peace becomes a little more fragile and the danger of war increases. Sadly, there is reason to believe that unless remedial action is taken, 2011 might see the most destructive such war for many years.

One much-discussed way in which war might arise stems from the apparent desire of Iran to acquire nuclear weapons at any cost, and Israel’s apparent desire to stop Iran at any cost. But fear of Iran’s nuclear programme is only one of the fuses that could detonate an explosion at any moment. Another is the frantic arms race that has been under way since the inconclusive war in 2006 between Israel and Hizbullah, Iran’s ally in Lebanon. Both sides have been intensively preparing for what each says will be a “decisive” second round.

Such a war would bear little resemblance to the previous clashes between Israel and its neighbours. For all their many horrors, the Lebanon war of 2006 and the Gaza war of 2009 were limited affairs. On the Israeli side, in particular, civilian casualties were light. Since 2006, however, Iran and Syria have provided Hizbullah with an arsenal of perhaps 50,000 missiles and rockets, many with ranges and payloads well beyond what Hizbullah had last time. This marks an extraordinary change in the balance of power. For the first time a radical non-state actor has the power to kill thousands of civilians in Israel’s cities more or less at the press of a button.

In that event, says Israel, it will strike back with double force. A war of this sort could easily draw in Syria, and perhaps Iran. For the moment, deterrence keeps the peace. But a peace maintained by deterrence alone is a frail thing. The shipment to Hizbullah of a balance-tipping new weapon, a skirmish on the Lebanese or increasingly volatile Gaza border—any number of miscalculations could ignite a conflagration.

From peace process to war process

All of this should give new urgency to Arab-Israeli peacemaking. To start with, at least, peace will be incomplete: Iran, Hizbullah and sometimes Hamas say that they will never accept a Jewish state in the Middle East. But it is the unending Israeli occupation that gives these rejectionists their oxygen. Give the Palestinians a state on the West Bank and it will become very much harder for the rejectionists to justify going to war.

Easy enough to say. The question is whether peacemaking can succeed. After striving for almost two years to shepherd Israeli and Palestinian leaders into direct talks, only for this effort to collapse over the issue of settlements, Mr Obama is in danger of concluding like many presidents before him that Arab-Israeli diplomacy is a Sisyphean distraction. But giving up would be a tragic mistake, as bad for America and Israel as for the Palestinians. The instant the peace process ends, the war process begins, and wars in this energy-rich corner of the world usually suck in America, one way or another. Israel will suffer too if Mr Obama fails, because the Palestinians have shown time and again that they will not fall silent while their rights are denied. The longer Israel keeps them stateless under military occupation, the lonelier it becomes—and the more it undermines its own identity as a liberal democracy.

Don’t mediate. Legislate

Instead of giving up, Mr Obama needs to change his angle of attack. America has clung too long to the dogma that direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians are the way forward. James Baker, a former secretary of state, once said that America could not want peace more than the local parties did. This is no longer true. The recent history proves that the extremists on each side are too strong for timid local leaders to make the necessary compromises alone. It is time for the world to agree on a settlement and impose it on the feuding parties.

The outlines of such an agreement have been clear since Bill Clinton set out his “parameters” after the failure of the Camp David summit a decade ago. The border between Israel and a new Palestine would follow the pre-1967 line, with adjustments to accommodate some of the bigger border-hugging Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and land-swaps to compensate the Palestinians for those adjustments. But there is also much difficult detail to be filled in: how to make Jerusalem into a shared capital, settle the fate of the refugees and ensure that the West Bank will not become, as Gaza did, an advance base for war against Israel after Israeli forces withdraw.

Mr Clinton unveiled his blueprint at the end of a negotiation that had failed. Mr Obama should set out his own map and make this a new starting point. He should gather international support for it, either through the United Nations or by means of an international conference of the kind the first President Bush held in Madrid in 1991. But instead of leaving the parties to talk on their own after the conference ends, as Mr Bush did after Madrid, America must ride herd, providing reassurance and exerting pressure on both sides as required.

The pressure part of this equation is crucial. In his first round of peacemaking, Mr Obama picked a fight with Israel over settlements and then backed down, thereby making America look weak in a region where too many people already believe that its power is waning (see article). This is a misperception the president needs to correct. For all its economic worries at home and military woes in Iraq and Afghanistan, America is far from weak in the Levant, where both Israel and the nascent Palestine in the West Bank continue to depend on it in countless vital ways.

The Palestinians have flirted lately with the idea of bypassing America and taking their cause directly to the UN. Going to the UN is well and good. But the fact remains that without the sort of tough love that America alone can bestow, Israel will probably never be able to overcome its settler movement and make the deal that could win it acceptance in the Arab world. Mr Obama has shown in battles as different as health reform and the New START nuclear treaty with Russia that he has the quality of persistence. He should persist in Palestine, too.



[The odds are very high that this scenario is probably correct, that the next great war is erupting in the Middle East, one that will stretch all the way to Pakistan.  Now all that is left is to find a justification to expand it northwards now, instead of waiting.  Israel is dying and the Zionist freaks who run it understand that.  Losing faith in the idea of “Israel” is the only real existential threat to the Zionist state.  The Sinai is a vital component of that shitty little egotistical imaginary state.  Summer is getting very hot.]



How safe is Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt’s Sinai?

What is happening in Egypt’s Sinai:

In June 2011, unknown gunmen attacked a police checkpoint. (2 Egyptian policemen killed in Sinai )

The police now need army escorts. (23 June 2011, The Economist,The Bedouin of Sinai: Free but dangerous)

In June 2011, two Egyptian soldiers were shot dead by masked gunmen in a main street of el-Arish, the chief city of the region.

Hospitals are crowded with the victims of violence.

Bedouin tribesmen recently cut the road to Sharm el-Sheikh.

Women have been disappearing.

Traders carry guns.

Egypt’s prime minister, Essam Sharaf, recently visited el-Arish.

Hours after he left, a bomb blew up a pipeline that supplies gas to Jordan.

“They may yet attack South Sinai’s oil installations and tourist resorts.” 

(23 June 2011, The Economist, The Bedouin of Sinai: Free but dangerous)

The governor blames Islamic extremists for some of the trouble.

Israel grabbed the Sinai in 1967, but handed it back in 1982. Israel would like the Sinai to be part Israel.

How long before Israel grabs the Sinai from Egypt?

According to The Economist, there could be a big Middle East war during 2011.

“Unless remedial action is taken, 2011 might see the most destructive (Middle East) war for many years.” (The United States, Israel and the Arabs.)

Step 1 – topple Mubarak

Step 2 – create turmoil in the Sinai

Step 3 – invade

Vodpod videos no longer available.

If Israel is to invade the Sinai it needs an excuse.

“A Coptic church in the Egyptian town of Rafah bordering the Gaza Strip was in flames on Saturday (5 January 2011), with witnesses reporting a blast…

“Witnesses said they saw flames coming out of the Mar Girgis church in Rafah after hearing an explosion. Armed men on motorbikes were spotted near the church, one of them said.”(Church in flames in Egypt’s Sinai: witnesses)

According to (sabotage adds new dimension):

Egyptian state TV reported ‘dangerous explosions continuing from one spot to another’ in the main source of gas supplying pipeline in El Arish.

The attackers used explosives to blow up the 240km- long pipeline in the town of Lihfen in northern Sinai near the Gaza Strip and the army shut down the gas supplies to Israel and Jordan, Egyptian officials said.

“It’s big terrorist operation,” the state-tv quoted an official as saying, who blamed the attack on “foreign elements.”

The attack on the pipeline came after Israel, which receives 40 per cent of its gas demand from Egypt, expressed concern that the supplies could be threatened if a new regime takes over in Cairo…

The SITE intelligence group, which monitors Al-Qaeda and other Islamist websites, said some groups had been urging Islamic militants to attack the pipeline to Israel while the security situation in Egypt is in flux.

Egypt is a modest gas exporter, using pipelines to export gas to Israel and also to Jordan and other regional states.

SITE intelligence being, of course, Rita Katz, the notorious Zionist disinfo peddler of ZERO CREDIBILITY…

Problems in the Sinai, problems that raise concerns in Israel about Israel’s security, and which can be blamed on Islamic terrorists, would be very helpful to JUSTIFY some sort of military intervention.

We assume that is one of Israel’s goals – to occupy the Sinai.

Turns out, the Israeli section was not hit. 

Subsequent reports said the attack struck a part of the pipeline carrying gas to Jordan.

The Israeli section was not hit, but gas flow was interrupted to prevent damage.

In his Cairo speech, Obama said: “I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world.”

The new beginning would seem to involve the USA destroying the last remaining parts of the Moslem world that are prosperous and at peace.

A community under siege in tribal Pakistan

[It is understandable that Parachinar is referred to as Pakistan’s “Gaza Strip.”  It is also understandable that Pakistan would set-up the final confrontation with the West here, considering that it was here that the mission began under Zia’s “Islamisation” program some thirty years ago (SEE:  SHIA-SUNNI JIHAD IN KURRAM: IRAN BLAMED).  The American “Taliban” under Mehsud vs the real Taliban under Haqqani will come to a head, with the accompanying Pakistani airstrikes on Mehsud’s forces and American Predator strikes upon Haqqani’s forces, with the innocent Shia, backed by Iran caught in the middle.  Sure sounds like a formula for a great conflagration on Pakistani soil (SEE: The Real War –vs– The Illusions ).] 

A community under siege in tribal Pakistan

As US prepares troop withdrawal, Taliban’s strong hold on border regions reveals Pakistan’s vulnerability.
At least 30,000 families have been displaced due to violence in Kurram, the UN says [EPA]

Parachinar, in Pakistan’s tribal north west, remains under siege. The only road connecting this district bordering Afghanistan to the rest of Pakistan has been blocked by Taliban fighters since 2007.

The blockade was briefly lifted in March, or so the Pakistani government proudly announced. The road was open again and travellers would be protected, they said. Owais, a 25-year-old recent graduate of engineering, was one of the few who took the risk and decided to visit his family.

On March 25, his Toyota HiAce and two other vans were stopped on the Thal-Parachinar road by Taliban fighters. Owais and 44 others were kidnapped.

The Taliban freed the women and children, but killed seven – some claim ten – of the abducted passengers. A further 30 men remained in captivity for close to three months.

After protracted negotiations between tribal elders, the Pakistani government, and varying Taliban factions, 22 of the captives were set free on June 21.  Owais was one of the lucky ones.

“They have been handed to the government forces of the Frontier Corps and are on their way home,” a friend of Owais told Al Jazeera.

Reports suggest the Taliban were paid a ransom of at least 30 million rupees, roughly $350,000. Eight men remain in captivity. And the road, though no longer described as “blocked”, still remains highly insecure.

In his speech this week announcing the military transition in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama once again emphasised Pakistan’s crucial role in combating extremism.

“Of course, our efforts must also address terrorist safe havens in Pakistan,” he said. “No country is more endangered by the presence of violent extremists, which is why we will … work with the Pakistani government to root out the cancer of violent extremism, and we will insist that it keeps its commitments.”

The siege on Parachinar is prime evidence to caution the “mission accomplished” rhetoric already employed by US policy makers. It speaks to the Taliban’s tight hold on the crucial border region, the absence of Pakistani government forces, and the challenges that lie ahead in reaching any meaningful conclusion to the “war against terror”.

“The whole Kurram region has turned into a detention centre for the people,” says local journalist Zulfiqar Ali, referring to the tribal agency of which Parachinar is the administrative capital. Pakistan’s tribal areas are divided into seven agencies, with Kurram bordering Afghanistan’s Khost province.

On the road to Parachinar, passenger vehicles are frequently attacked and food convoys are torched. Since 2007, hundreds of people have been killed in Kurram due to the violence, while the United Nations says at least 30,000 families have been forced to abandon their homes and move to camps for Internally Displaced People.

But escaping the region has become a difficult task. For residents to make it to Peshawar, the nearest Pakistani city, they have to first go into Afghanistan. That route has often been closed due to military operations by the Pakistani army. And even if they make it through, they face tremendous risks in Afghanistan – because the same fighters are active across the border.

“People cannot even travel there to bury their dead,” a local human rights activist told Al Jazeera in condition of anonymity, due to the risks involved in discussing the matter.
From sectarianism to militancy

The only road connecting Parachinar to the rest of the country has been blocked since 2007

The recent troubles in Kurram began as sectarian violence but analysts and local sources say the situation was hijacked by Taliban fighters who use the tribal areas to launch attacks against NATO in Afghanistan.

“Local sectarian groups do not have enough resources to block the road,” says Ali. “It is purely a militant issue now.”

The Shia are a slight majority in Kurram Agency, an area of about 500,000 residents. During the Afghan Jihad, when the tribal regions were used by the CIA as the training grounds for anti-Soviet fighters, the region saw an insurgence of Sunni hardliners.

“There have been sectarian tensions between Sunni and Shia in Kurram for decades,” says Reza Jan, Pakistan Team Lead at the American Enterprise Institute. “But in the past, Sunni-Shia clashes were usually minor. Clashes, when they did occur, were resolved fairly quickly by local leaders and authorities.”

After the fall of the Taliban government in Kabul, and Pakistan’s crackdown on radical elements in Punjab, the tribal areas became the hub of both Pakistani and Afghan insurgents. But many among the armed groups consider Kurram’s Shia tribes – who refused to shelter fighters – as apostates. And Kurram’s Shia paid a heavy price as a result.

“The Tareek-e-Taliban’s current leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, is known to be fervently anti-Shia,” says Reza Jan. “Before he led the TTP, he was the TTP commander for Kurram, Orakzai and Khyber agencies where he made a name for himself through his brutality towards Kurram’s Shia.”

For the past three years, locals have desperately looked for help, mainly from Islamabad – but also from Kabul. In 2008, they accepted a peace deal with the Taliban. The exact components of the deal are seen differently by analysts, but the purpose was clear: they wanted an end to the violence and a lifting of the blockade on the road.

“The Mari agreement in 2008 gave the government full authority to use force against any militants blocking the road,” says Ali. “Why has the government not been able to deliver?”

Failure of the state

With Pakistan’s security apparatus always focused on India, the insurgency in the tribal areas did not recieve sufficient attention in its early years.

As sectarian violence began to be dominated by the Sunni Taliban, the Pakistani government relied on the Frontier Corps, a federally-controlled paramilitary force. But the Frontier Corps was ill-equipped in counter-insurgency and failed to stem the Taliban’s rapid growth.

In 2009, two Pakistani generals told the Associated Press that, of $6.6 billion in US military aid provided during the previous six years for counter-terrorism measures, only $500 million had been used for that purpose. The rest of the funds were used towards Pakistan’s “defence against India”.

Since April 2010, the Pakistani army has reportedly paid more attention to the problem and launched operations in central and lower Kurram agency. But the army’s repeated reliance on peace deals with the insurgents suggests they have failed in rooting out the problem.

“It does not mean the state is not trying,” says Irfan Ashraf, a journalism lecturer at neighbouring Peshawar University. “The fact of the matter is that [the] state is too weak to resolve the issue. And it is not accepting its weakness.”

More people have been displaced by these recent operations. And the route via Afghanistan has also now closed, limiting the flow of food, medicine and other supplies.

“If a sack of flour costs 2000 rupees in Islamabad, it cost us 6000 in Parachinar,” one local, recently relocated to Islamabad, said.

The presence of the army in the region has also limited media access, pushing the issue out of the public discussion.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

AL JAZEERA: Japan races to cool stricken reacto…, posted with vodpod

Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder reports from
Pakistan’s tribal areas

“Anything that is security related is a ‘no go area’ for media and the rest,” says Ashraf. “The media looks up to the security forces, and the official line of the security forces is that it is quiet there.”

When the government announced the reopening of the road in March, it was on the back of a peace deal. Signed in 2008 at the height of the sectarian violence, the deal was being implemented three years later, when local dynamics had changed. Sectarianism was the smaller problem for locals. By then, the Taliban were dominating the area.

The deal itself is not problematic, but the peace deal’s reported mediators, the Haqqani “independent militia”, appears to have become one of the main sources of the abuses now.

“The Haqqanis – with backing from the state – were able to broker a deal between Shia and Sunni. They, in return, would be given transit rights through Kurram,” says Reza Jan.

“The Haqqanis essentially fashioned themselves as the guarantors of the deal.”

Not only has the deal brought more problems for the locals as the Haqqani fighters move around more easily, it has also brought US drone aircraft. The population, once caught in constant sectarian violence, now finds itself again under siege – by the Taliban and the Pakistani army on the ground – and US drones amid the skies.

Follow Mujib Mashal on Twitter: @mujibmashal

What can stop the national security state?

Based on the new Federal Bureau of Investigation manual on “Domestic Investigations and Operations,” 14,000 FBI agents can now spy on and infiltrate political groups without even pretending to have a basis. They can set up surveillance squads on people and go through their trash without even pretending to have a basis. They can run people’s names through databases without even having to record what they have done.

These new policies are all meant to give FBI agents free rein on the “assessment” category of cases, which are opened on individuals and organizations for whom they have no firm evidence to suspect criminal or terrorist activity. According to the New York Times, the FBI opens thousands of such “assessment” cases every month. The new rules make it easier for agents to surreptitiously attend meetings of such organizations. They allow agents to search the trash of individuals so as to find materials that can then be used to pressure them into becoming informants.

The FBI has called such new policies more “fine-tuning than major changes,” and asserts that they do not require Congressional approval.

There is no evidence that the judiciary has any intention of curbing the ever-expanding “national security state.” Quite the contrary. Just a few days after the FBI rules were announced, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that evidence found in unconstitutional police searches is admissible in court as long as the police were following precedent. The ruling guts the “exclusionary rule” protection that has long been used to protect defendants and essentially encourages police departments to rewrite their search policies as broadly as they want. Joining the conservatives in the decision were Justices Elena Kagan and Sonio Sotomayor, Obama’s so-called “liberal” appointees.

The Obama administration has often taken the lead in the onslaught on civil liberties. It has defended and continued Bush’s policy of warrantless wiretapping. It has prosecuted more vigorously than perhaps any prior administration whistle-blowers who have attempted to unveil unconstitutional programs.

Congress is no better. While a few representatives raised objections, in late May the Republican House, Democratic Senate, and Democratic White House worked together to extend the Patriot Act for another four years.

Police and security agencies are employing countless policies and programs—as well as off-the-books practices—that trample upon civil liberties and the well-advertised right to free speech. The Fourth Amendment in particular, which protects individuals from unreasonable search and seizure, has been shredded from all directions. We see it in the National Security Letter provisions, which give the FBI authority to demand personal customer records from internet providers, banks and credit companies (without court approval or oversight). We see it in the stop-and-frisk policy employed by the New York Police Department, among others, used to harass and search Black and Latino young men in particular.

Some critics of the all-sided attack on civil liberties portray it as a legacy of the Bush administration. Others see it as an overreaction to the September 11 attacks. In reality, the problem is much deeper.

The natural tendency of the modern capitalist state—organized to protect the economic domination of the few—is to continuously restrict, monitor, and record the activity and speech of the many. They aim to obstruct and isolate potential critics, while intimidating and incarcerating entire communities which they consider to be surplus populations.

How can this be stopped? The FBI’s infamous Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), aimed at weakening and destroying revolutionary and progressive social movements, was formally brought into the light by Congress in the Church Committee. But this was not because of enlightened representatives. Rather it reflected the fact that the defeat in Vietnam, and the corresponding radicalization of millions, had threatened the legitimacy of the system as a whole.

Congress went so far as to draft legislation that would have made political surveillance illegal, but pulled back when the new FBI Director Clarence Kelley promised the agency would reform itself.

We can see that elements of COINTELPRO have been rebuilt bit by bit, as the people’s movemens of the 1960s and 1970s have receded. The capitalist class, whether led by Republicans or Democrats, has used the opportunity to again target dissent—as was strikingly shown in the FBI raids on anti-war activists last year. The Coalition to Stop FBI Repression has formed to take up their fight. History has shown that attacks on civil liberties begin, and new police tactics are employed, to target specific groups, but then are expanded to ever-larger sections of the population. This is a fight for all us; we need a movement to stop, and ultimately replace, the capitalists’ “national security state.”

The new FBI powers

The new FBI powers

John Whitehead
Guest Columnist
Published: Friday, June 24, 2011 at 9:10 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 24, 2011 at 9:10 a.m.

Listen closely and what you will hear, beneath the babble of political chatter and other mindless political noises distracting you from what’s really going on, are the dying squeals of the Fourth Amendment. It dies a little more with every no-knock raid that is carried out by a SWAT team, every phone call eavesdropped on by FBI agents, and every piece of legislation passed that further undermines the right of every American to be free from governmental intrusions into their private affairs.

Whereas the relationship between the American people and their government was once defined by a social contract (the U.S. Constitution) that was predicated on a mutual respect for the rule of law and a clear understanding that government exists to serve the people and not the other way around, that is no longer the case. Having ceded to the government all manner of control over our lives, renouncing our claims to such things as privacy in exchange for the phantom promise of security, we now find ourselves in the unenviable position of being trapped in a prison of our own making.

It is a phenomenon that Abraham Kaplan referred to as the law of the instrument: “Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding.” Unfortunately, in the scenario that has been playing out in recent years, we have become the nails to the government’s hammer. After all, having equipped government agents with an arsenal of tools, weapons and powers with which to vanquish the so-called forces of terror, it was inevitable that that same arsenal would eventually be turned on us.

Iran reveals motive behind 9/11 attacks

Iran reveals motive behind 9/11 attacks

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks during the International Conference on Global Fight against Terrorism in the capital Tehran June 25, 2011.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has accused the US of using the September 11 attacks as a pretext to invade Iraq and Afghanistan and to divert the American public opinion from its domestic issues.

“Some believe that the motive behind the September 11 attacks was to ensure the safety of Israel, foment insecurity in regional countries, divert the US public opinion from the chaotic economic situation in the country and fill the pockets of uncivilized belligerent capitalists,” President Ahmadinejad said in an address to a two-day anti-terrorism conference on Saturday, IRIB website reported.

“Two years after the incident that provided an excuse for the invasion of two countries (Afghanistan and Iraq), led to the killing, injuring and displacing of millions… the US government, under pressure from the public opinion, tasked a group to investigate the reason behind the attacks. But the real truth has been kept from the Americans and the world,” he added.

President Ahmadinejad went on to say that part of the truth might be revealed if a true investigation to the 9/11 attacks is allowed by the United States.

The Iranian chief executive pointed out that fighting terrorism requires a common global understanding. He noted that terrorism has turned to a concern for all nations, adding that the security of all nations is being threatened by terrorism.

President Ahmadinejad emphasized that terrorism emanates from a deviant thought and a desire to dominate others. He also described poverty, discrimination and humiliation of human beings as the root causes of terrorism.

He said that big powers resorted to terrorism “to create divisions, break unity among nations, impede their progress and dominate over their resources and fates.”

He also underlined that Western countries seek to take the fates of other nations in their hands and impose their puppets on them.

The Iranian chief executive called on the international community to devise practical solutions to curb terrorism and urged the abolishment of “faulty, discriminatory mechanism” on fighting terrorism.

He also said that the Islamic Republic is ready to cooperate with others in fight against terrorism.

The International Conference on the Global Fight against Terrorism opened in the Iranian capital, Tehran, on Saturday.

Senior officials from at least 60 countries and representatives from several international organizations, including the UN, have attended the two-day meeting.

Iran is among the victims of terrorism as more than 17,000 Iranians, including senior officials, have lost their lives in various terror attacks since the victory of the Islamic Revolution some thirty years ago.