Alarm bells ought to be going off because of the quiet trip to Washington this week of the head of the Paris-based UNESCO — the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. For at least the fourth time since last December, UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova is visiting the U.S. capital. There are disturbing signs that her trip is part of a renewed push by the Obama administration to waive U.S. law in order to flood UNESCO once again with American taxpayers’ money.
More than money, though, is at stake. Also at issue is the credibility of U.S. foreign policy. Two laws passed by Congress in the early 1990s block American funding to any U.N. body that admits the Palestinians to full membership before they fulfill their promise of direct negotiations with Israel. The aim of these laws, which worked well under three previous presidents, is to prevent the Palestinians from exploiting the U.N. as an avenue to acquiring on paper the statehood they have not yet qualified for in practice.
But last year, perhaps banking on hints that the Obama administration was exploring ways around these laws, UNESCO’s members went ahead anyway. Cheering as they massively outvoted the U.S., they admitted the Palestinian Authority to full membership. That immediately cost them U.S. contributions of more than $78 million per year, or 22 percent of UNESCO’s core budget.
In theory, UNESCO, by treating “Palestine” as a member state, opened the door for the Palestinian Authority to join a number of other U.N. agencies. But at the U.N., for all the impassioned rhetoric, a credible threat of losing hard cash makes a lot of folks think twice. If there is an obvious reason why the Palestinians have not so far pressed ahead with joining other U.N. agencies, it is that the U.S. withdrawal of funding to UNESCO made other agencies wary of welcoming the Palestinians — and lo! the Palestinians got the message.
But will that hold? For the past year, Director-General Bokova has been campaigning for the resumption of U.S. funding. She rushed to Washington to meet with members of Congress last December. She returned to the U.S. in March for a twelve-day tour that took her from Washington to Los Angeles. She was back in Washington in September and also attended the opening of the U.N. General Assembly in New York that month. Her pitch has been that the cutoff of U.S. money has imposed crippling hardships on UNESCO, and that America needs UNESCO because its “vital work to promote global stability and democratic values is in America’s core interests.”
These are flimsy arguments, given UNESCO’s habit of devoting the bulk of its resources to the comfort of its well-paid staff in Paris and its record, according to its own auditors, of waste and confusion in the field. Nor is UNESCO a cradle of core American interests and values, a prime counterexample being the Palestinian vote itself. To take a more recent example, Bokova — who during the Cold War served in Bulgaria’s mission to the U.N. in New York — was in Cuba last month, praising the school system of the Castro dictatorship as a paragon of education in Latin America.
Does America need UNESCO? In 1984, under President Ronald Reagan, America left UNESCO entirely, finding it hopelessly anti-American and corrupt. America then stayed away during George H. W. Bush’s and Bill Clinton’s presidencies, and did not return until 2003, under President George W. Bush. During that 19-year period, America won the Cold War and saw the spread of freedom in the world. If America’s absence from UNESCO had any effect, it was probably a salutary one.
But Bokova, in her push for the resumption of U.S. funding, has had an improbable ally: the U.S. administration itself. In Paris, President Barack Obama’s ambassador to UNESCO is a former congressional staffer, David Killion, who played a part in bringing the U.S. back into UNESCO nine years ago. Following the UNESCO vote last year to admit the Palestinians, Killion came close to apologizing for the U.S. position. He pledged that the U.S. would keep trying to “find ways to support and strengthen the important work” of UNESCO.
In February, the U.S. State Department released a budget proposal that ignored the defunding of UNESCO required by U.S. law, and proposed $79 million for UNESCO in fiscal year 2013. A footnote, in fine print, informed readers that the State Department “intends to work with Congress to seek legislation that would provide authority to waive restrictions on paying the U.S. assessed contributions to UNESCO.”
Some members of Congress were outraged. Florida representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, released a statement saying she was “deeply disappointed that, rather than standing up for U.S. law and for our key ally, Israel, the Administration is seeking to remove this roadblock to the unilateral recognition of a ‘Palestinian state.’” Ros-Lehtinen added that any attempt to waive the law “will pave the way for the Palestinian leadership’s unilateral statehood scheme to drive on, and sends a disastrous message that the U.S. will fund U.N. bodies no matter what irresponsible decisions they make.”
Enough lawmakers shared her views that it seemed for a while that the administration would not get its wish to reopen the money spigot for UNESCO. Some deterrent is needed to Palestinian opportunism at the U.N., where Obama’s State Department failed last month to stop the General Assembly from voting to upgrade the Palestinian Authority’s status to that of non-member observer state. Former ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton notes that how the U.S. deals with UNESCO could set a vital precedent for how it would treat other U.N. agencies, such as the World Health Organization, were they to admit the Palestinian Authority. “If you waive the prohibition once,” Bolton says, “and waive it for a trivial little organization like UNESCO, the pressure to waive it everywhere else will be overwhelming.”
Meanwhile, in Washington, UNESCO has been busy in the back corridors. Following the cutoff of U.S. funding, Bokova handpicked a UNESCO staffer named George Papagiannis to serve in the newly created role of her Washington go-between. Papagiannis, a former communications director for Representative Nancy Pelosi, is well versed in the byways of the Hill. By many accounts, Papagiannis has organized virtually all of Bokova’s doings in the U.S. this past year, including her visits to U.S. legislators.
UNESCO’s website lists Papagiannis as an external-relations and information officer assigned to UNESCO’s liaison office at the U.N.’s headquarters in New York. But staffers there say he spends a lot of time in Washington. And in Washington, for at least part of this year, he has been working out of the office of a small nonprofit outfit called Americans for UNESCO, housed on the premises of George Washington University. Papagiannis refused repeatedly this week to answer my e-mail and phone queries about Bokova’s meetings and his own office arrangements. But documents posted on the website of Americans for UNESCO describe him as using its Washington office earlier this year. In a phone interview, a former longtime board member, John Daly, says that is correct.
All of which might be of no great interest were Papagiannis laboring in Washington to enhance literacy, or perhaps restore cultural artifacts. But there’s a lot of discussion going on among this crowd about how the funding law might be waived. On one of the blogs linked to on the Americans for UNESCO site, there’s a post dated December 1 with the caption “The Process to Change the Law.” It outlines exactly how that might be done — by way of an amendment to a big spending bill: “There will probably not be a specific vote of the Congress on the proposed amendment. Rather it will be included in a larger bill to appropriate funds, that will probably be approved before March, 2013. . . . Lacking strong opposition in the Congress, the waiver will probably be incorporated into the bill.”
Is this credible? I phoned the author of the post, the same John Daly. Daly is an ardent supporter of UNESCO, but unlike Papagiannis he answered my questions. He said he got this information from Peter Yeo, when Yeo spoke at a November 26 panel hosted by Americans for UNESCO at George Washington University. Yeo is a former congressional staffer who now serves as executive director of the Better World Campaign, which is an advocacy arm of Ted Turner’s well-heeled and well-connected U.N. Foundation. In a phone interview this week, Yeo repeated the view that a waiver for UNESCO is likely to go through in “a big omnibus spending bill,” because “this is a strategy that’s been outlined by the president.”
When Yeo shared these thoughts at last month’s Americans for UNESCO panel, he was speaking alongside Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Esther Brimmer. Both of them were responding to a keynote speech by UNESCO’s George Papagiannis.
Information gleaned from UNESCO’s Paris press office this week suggests Bokova will be meeting in Washington with pretty much this same cast of characters who last month were discussing the legislative sleight of hand for hooking UNESCO back up to U.S. taxpayers’ wallets. Squired by Papagiannis, Bokova will be visiting the State Department, plus the U.N. Foundation and “other institutes and foundations.” And which lawmakers will she be seeing this time? Papagiannis replied to that question with an e-mail: “Our meetings are very fluid. At the end of the visit there will be a press release, which you will have access to.”
WASHINGTON/ISTANBUL (Reuters) - With its caustic rhetoric on Israel and its gold-for-gas trade with Iran, Turkey is not the deferential U.S. ally it once was as it carves out a growing role in the fast-changing politics of the Middle East.
The collapse of its ties with the Jewish state have put paid to U.S. hopes it could be a broker in the Arab-Israeli conflict, while its gold sales to Iran have provided a financial lifeline to a government meant to be under the choke of U.S. sanctions.
Yet despite the strains, the relationship between Washington and Ankara is arguably more important than ever.
Seeking to rebuild ties with the Muslim world after the invasion of Iraq and war in Afghanistan, Washington needs all the allies it can get as it navigates the swirling political currents of the Middle East.
Turkey, too, needs friends. Its accession negotiations with the European Union have stalled, while relations with key energy partner Russia are strained over Syria. Turks joke that Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's much vaunted "zero problems with the neighbors" policy has turned into "zero neighbors".
In some senses, Washington is the only game in town.
"They both need each other," said Hayat Alvi, lecturer in Middle Eastern politics at the U.S. Naval War College.
"Turkey and the U.S. will have their differences, especially about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but that does not mean their relationship, however hot and cold it runs, will smash into a brick wall and shatter permanently."
When Barack Obama chose Turkey as his first Muslim nation to visit as U.S. President four years ago, he had high hopes that the secular democracy could help bridge the divide between America and the Islamic world.
From the stalled Middle East peace process to Iran's nuclear program, Washington saw Turkey as a vital ally, an influential broker in a troubled region with common interests ranging from energy security to counter-terrorism.
Turkey, meanwhile, saw Obama's visit as overdue recognition for its efforts to mediate between Israel and Syria, to bring warring Palestinian factions together, and to patch up differences between Pakistan and Afghanistan. An endorsement, in short, of its newly assertive foreign policy.
Four years on, the world has changed.
The Arab Spring has redrawn the political map of the Middle East and Turkey has tried to bolster its influence.
Quick to champion the pro-democracy uprisings which saw decades-old dictatorships unseated in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, it has become one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's bitterest enemies and grown openly critical of U.S. reluctance to intervene in a war that risks spilling onto its soil.
Once Israel's only Muslim ally, its relations with the Jewish state have also collapsed and, with them, the role Washington had hoped Turkey might play as a credible broker.
"Our relations with Israel are the lynchpin of the role Turkey can play in this region," said Faruk Logoglu, former Turkish ambassador to Washington and vice chairman of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP).
"When the state of relations with Israel is as it is now, we are out of the Middle East peace process, out of the Middle East equation, we are just a party to the conflict," he said.
"Turkey probably created a still unstated disappointment in many circles in Washington for really failing to play the leadership role a lot of people thought it could."
Flanked by the EU to the west, Syria, Iraq and Iran to the east and Russia to the north, Turkey's location makes it a vital listening post on a troubled region. When it comes to military and intelligence cooperation, officials on both sides say its relationship with the United States has rarely been stronger.
Turkish support and bases have proved vital, for example, to U.S. forces in Afghanistan, while Turkey hosts a NATO radar system, operated by U.S. forces, in its eastern province of Malatya to help defend against any regional threat from Iran.
It has always been a prickly relationship, driven more by a mutual need for intelligence than any deep cultural affinity.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party, made up of former Islamists, conservatives and pro-business liberals, is wary of being viewed as a U.S. puppet. His populist rhetoric, sometimes appearing at odds with U.S. interests, is aimed at a home crowd suspicious of Washington's influence.
The most striking recent example was his branding of Israel as a "terrorist state" during fighting in the Gaza Strip last month, comments which earned a swift rebuke from Washington but which were largely dismissed by diplomats as another example of him playing to the gallery.
Ties between Israel and Turkey, once Israel's only Muslim ally, crumbled after Israeli marines stormed a ship in 2010 to enforce a naval blockade of the Palestinian-run Gaza Strip. Nine Turks were killed, Israel's ambassador was expelled from Ankara, and military cooperation was frozen. Turkey demands an apology.
It was not what Obama had hoped for.
"Turkey has a long history of being an ally and a friend of both Israel and its neighbors. And so it can occupy a unique position in trying to resolve some of these differences," the U.S. president said during his 2009 visit to Ankara.
Both sides talk down their differences and have come through trouble spots before, not least when Turkey refused to let U.S. forces use its territory as a springboard for the 2003 invasion of Iraq or when it voted against U.N. sanctions on Iran in 2010.
Erdogan has voiced frustration at the idea that Turkey, heavily dependent on imported energy, might need to further cut its oil and gas imports from Iran to comply with U.S. sanctions meant to choke funding for Tehran's disputed nuclear program.
Turkey has won waivers by trimming its Iranian oil purchases but, frozen out of the global banking system, Tehran has sharply increased its purchases of gold bullion from Turkey as payment for gas imports, raising Washington's concern.
An irritant, maybe, but not one that officials see as jeopardizing the wider relationship.
"I don't think there's ice in the relationship. We have extensive cooperation with the United States in every field from foreign policy and counter-terrorism to trade and energy security," said a Turkish government official.
"In any healthy relationship you don't see eye to eye on every topic, and you don't hide the truth from your partner."
The strength of Turkey's relationship with the United States will face at least two major tests in the months and years ahead. The first will be its role in fostering stability in a post-Assad Syria, the second its ability to re-establish itself as a useful contributor to the Middle East peace process.
Syria has already proved a stumbling block.
Turkish officials complain that while Washington encouraged Turkish support for the Syrian opposition in the early days of the revolt against Assad, it has since left Ankara to manage the consequences alone, including an influx of more than 130,000 refugees and mortar shells and gunfire spilling over the border.
"There is a sense of disappointment over the lack of U.S. action in Syria, and I think that's understandable," said former U.S. ambassador to Turkey James Jeffrey, now with the Washington Institute on Near East Affairs.
"Assad will almost certainly not go without a fight and quite possibly another push from the U.S. such as a no-fly zone or other action."
With little sign of a thaw in the standoff with Israel, Turkey's ability to influence the Arab-Israeli conflict may lie more in its blossoming relationship with Egypt, whose new Islamist President Mohamed Mursi was praised by Obama for helping broker a ceasefire in Gaza last month.
Ankara is sensitive to suggestions that its role as peacemaker is being eclipsed by Cairo. Erdogan said Turkey played an "influential role" in reaching last month's peace deal, while Davutoglu has said Egypt and Turkey are not "competitors for leadership in the region".
Turkey has moved to strengthen ties with Mursi. Erdogan, government ministers and business leaders have visited Cairo, though how quickly that relationship will be able to develop given Egypt's deepening political crisis remains to be seen.
"There is a clear shift in how Ankara views its relationship with Cairo, there is a willingness to move towards closer cooperation, to create an Egyptian-Turkish axis," said Sinan Ulgen of the Centre for Economic and Foreign Policy Studies.
"This could be seen by some of the actors in the region as a Sunni alliance, a perception that needs to be taken into consideration," he said.
The bottom line is that Washington may simply have to get used to a Turkey that increasingly walks its own path and that, while mindful of U.S. interests, is unafraid to challenge them.
"For decades, American leaders... proclaimed democratic Turkey as a NATO, pro-Israeli bastion in the Middle East even as they knew Turkish foreign and security policy was in the hands of its military," wrote author and geopolitics expert Robert Kaplan in his book "The Revenge of Geography."
"Finally, in the early 21st century, Turkey... emerged as truly politically, economically and culturally democratic... and the result was a relatively anti-American, anti-Israeli Turkey."
Egypt Democratically Adopts an Anti-Western Dictatorship
Posted By Barry Rubin On December 17, 2012
The victory in the referendum on the Constitution is the fourth straight Muslim Brotherhood success—including the overthrow of President Husni Mubarak’s regime with army assistance, the parliamentary election and the presidential election–in the process of taking over Egypt for the long-term and fundamentally transforming it into a radical Islamist state. This last one should be sufficient to go all the way. This event is also producing a new stage of Western rationalizations that whitewash the Muslim Brotherhood and rationalize support for Islamists being in power.
It isn’t that the constitution, as many Salafists would have liked, explicitly mandates a revolutionary Sharia state. Rather, the constitution sets up a framework that will allow the Brotherhood to do so. Between the president and the constitution, the Brotherhood will now march through every institution and remake it. Judges will be appointed; school curricula rewritten; army generals appointed; and so on. As the Brotherhood shows patience in carrying out this process of gaining total, permanent control, many in the West will interpret that as moderation.
“The problem with [President] Morsi isn’t whether he is Islamist or not, it is whether he is authoritarian,” said a Western diplomat in Cairo. Wow, talk about Western misunderstanding of the importance of ideology. Perhaps whether or not he is an Islamist—and of course he is–has something to do with his being authoritarian? Since his goal is a Sharia state then that is an authoritarian destination for which authoritarian means are considered acceptable and are in fact a necessity. One might as well insert the words Communist, fascist, or radical Arab nationalist for Islamist.
There are three factors involved here in setting Western policy: ignorance, a desire to avoid crises, and a foolish belief that having a radical regime in Egypt will moderate the extremists.
To add insult to injury—literally—the New York Times, which has continually portrayed the Brotherhood in glowing terms, now explains to its readers that the opposition has nothing to offer:
“The leading opposition alternatives appeared no less authoritarian [than the Brotherhood]: Ahmed Shafik, who lost the presidential runoff, was a former Mubarak prime minister campaigning as a new strongman, and Hamdeen Sabahi, who narrowly missed the runoff, is a Nasserite who has talked of intervention by the military to unseat Mr. Morsi despite his election as president.
“`The problem with `I told you so’ is the assumption that if things had turned out differently the outcome would be better, and I don’t see that,’ the diplomat said, noting that the opposition to the draft constitution had hardly shown more respect than Mr. Morsi has for the norms of democracy or the rule of law. `There are no black hats and white hats here, there are no heroes and villains. Both sides are using underhanded tactics and both sides are using violence.`”
This is disgraceful, a rationalization for either failure or worse. The idea is that it really didn’t matter who won because they are all the same so why not a Muslim Brotherhood government with a powerful Salafist influence? Any leader of Egypt is going to be a strongman. The question is a strongman for what causes? And if people were talking about unseating the democratically elected Mursi that’s because they view him as the equivalent for Egypt of some new Khomeini, a man who will drag Egypt into decades of repressive dictatorship and war.
I’ve often written of the weakness and political incompetence of the anti-Islamist forces but these are courageous people fighting for a good cause. True, their side includes leftist and nationalist extremists but should that be used to discredit them all when the Islamists are constantly whitewashed?
And for U.S. interests it certainly does matter who wins. Extend this wrong-headed analogy: the Iranian Islamists are no worse than the shah; Saddam Hussein was no worse than the oligarchs who ran Iraq before it went radical in 1958; the current Islamist regime in Turkey is no worse than the high-handed Kemal Ataturk? One might have well had Communist regimes in South America rather than military dictatorships?
It might not sound nice to some people but the main task of Western diplomats is not to worship democracy but to try to promote behavior in other governments favorable to their own country’s interests. In those terms, Mubarak or Shafik is better than Mursi. And since Mursi doesn’t even stand for real democracy the choice is even more obvious.
And there is a dire implication here: If there is no real democratic opposition then the United States doesn’t have to help it. Is this principle thus extended to Iran, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, and Tunisia? Are Islamists the only alternative or, to put it in a slightly less obviously objectionable way, should we accept and even help Islamists because everyone is the same?
Wow, has the Western elite lost its way. There is so little sense of who is a friend and who is an enemy; the lesser of two evils; the strategic interests of their own country that one can only despair of any lessons being learned from experience.
It’s ironic that Obama has spent so much time talking about how past U.S. support for pro-American dictators has been a mistake that led to a legacy of crisis when he is now supporting an anti-American dictator.
The argument presented by U.S. officials that compromise is in the Brotherhood’s interest is laughable. Do people in Washington know what the Brotherhood wants and conditions in Egypt better than the Brotherhood leadership? We have seen this same mistake made many times before by Western governments and editorial writers, lecturing a radical regime that it would accomplish more by being totally different.
What is most disturbing is not that the Obama Administration is supporting this regime–which is bad enough–but that its not even suspicious of the Egyptian government’s intentions and behavior. It thinks the Brotherhood is going to curb the Salafists while it actually uses them as storm troops. And so in the coming months we will see more obfuscations and apologies about Cairo’s behavior.
The sad truth is that it is too late for U.S. leverage—which the Obama Administration doesn’t want to use any way—to have an impact. The Brotherhood is already in power. If the United States gives it money and support, the Brotherhood will use that to consolidate its rule while mobilizing the people against the United States; if Washington doesn’t, the Brotherhood will then mobilize the people even more effectively in that way. A U.S. policy coddling the regime will be seen as the weak and stupid response of enemies; a tougher policy will be portrayed as hostile.
True, if Obama doles out money and military equipment to the regime with conditions and slowly, Morsi has an incentive to go slower and more carefully yet it also strengthens the regime’s ability to fulfill its goals and entrench itself in power. But the army isn’t going to do anything against the regime even though, at this point, it will not repress the opposition for Morsi. The Islamists aren’t going to be won over by the United States. And Obama isn’t going to be serious about using pressure except for meaningless statements and phone calls. The administration will speak nice language about protecting women’s and minority (Christian) rights while it looks the other way when these are violated.
Understandably, the democratic opposition—like its counterparts in Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, and Iran—it has leared that the United States will not help them. As one sign at a demonstration put it: Obama: Our dictator is your bitch. One day, decades in the future, an American president might be apologizing to Egyptians for a U.S. policy that backed a repressive Islamist regime in their country.
What are the next steps for Morsi? To out-wait the opposition demonstrations, which might well diminish since the constitution is now an established fact, begin the transformation of Egypt’s institutions, and figure out how to handle the problem of parliament. Can he reinstate the results of the earlier election—with a 75 percent Islamist majority—or will he have to hold a new vote next year that might yield a much smaller majority?
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syria warned its Palestinian refugee [almost everyone under the age of 65 in these camps was born in Syria, and are thus not "refugees" of any sort. Henry Kissinger was a German refugee; Henry Kissinger's son, and grandsons, are not. The word "refugee" has been made, by Arab propagnada, into a permanent condition, and the geographic designation "Palestinian" into an unshakable ethnic one -- it's absurd, and an absurdity that one should never tire of pointing out].population on Monday not to aid the insurgency that is fighting President Bashar al-Assad, as hundreds of Palestinians fled the Yarmouk neighborhood of Damascus and headed for relative safety in Lebanon, a day after Syrian forces attacked that neighborhood for the first time in the civil war.
The Syrian warning, reported by the official news agency, SANA, appeared to reflect the sensitivity Mr. Assad attaches to the loyalty of the country’s Palestinians, an important element of what remains of his political legitimacy. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians live in Syria, displaced by the Arab-Israeli struggle. Historically, they have considered Mr. Assad a benefactor and ally. Yarmouk was originally a refugee camp, and has developed into a mixed Damascus neighborhood where many Palestinians live — but increasing numbers of them have been siding with the insurgents.
The warning aimed at these Palestinians came in a news dispatch about what SANA said was a telephone conversation between the country’s foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon about the general situation in Syria and specifically the Yarmouk neighborhood. Mr. Moallem was quoted as telling Mr. Ban that mayhem had been convulsing Yarmouk for days, caused by infiltrations from terrorist groups, the government’s blanket description for insurgents.
“The minister also stressed that Palestinians should not shelter or help terrorist groups who are outsiders to the camp, and should work on kicking them out,” Mr. Moallem was quoted as saying.
The SANA account said Syrian ground forces had refrained from entering Yarmouk, but said nothing about the air strikes that hit Yarmouk on Sunday, which were reported by witnesses, rebels and Palestinian defectors to the rebel side. By some accounts, as many as 20 people were killed, and families could be seen hastily fleeing the area with packed bags.
In neighboring Lebanon, the minister of social affairs, Wael Abu Faour, said on Monday that at least 22 busloads of people had entered the country from Syria in the last day, and a “majority were Palestinians fleeing Yarmouk.”
More refugees were arriving on Monday at the border-crossing town of Masnaa, where entry lanes were clogged with Palestinians.
Hussam Salah, a 27-year-old Palestinian [Syrian] who [was born in and]grew up in Syria and who now lives in Lebanon and works for al-Mayadeen, a pro-Syrian television channel, said a large number of Palestinians fleeing Syria, some of them apparently wounded, had arrived at Bourj el-Barajneh, a Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut’s southern suburbs, and had sought medical treatment from a hospital there.
Did Violent Video Games Cultivate the Environment behind the Newtown Massacre?
Dr. Michael Welner of The Forensic Panel
Watch renowned forensic psychiatrist Dr.Michael Welner, Chairman of the Manhattan-based The Forensic Panel, in this ABC’s The View discussion on the Newtown, Connecticut massacre. He blames, in part, the mass media that has created a legacy for previously unknown perpetrators of mass shootings against defenseless little children in a culture where you win points for committing violence. His comments on ABC’s The View drew specific attention to the growth of the video gaming industry behind the dramatic frequency of heinous massacres like Newtown and Aurora, Colorado.
Dr. Welner noted this frightening development in today's Washington Post:
The Newtown discussion necessarily sweeps in the news media, which give the killers a notoriety they couldn’t have achieved legitimately. The discussion touches on Hollywood, which markets spectacular make-believe violence. Also implicated: The computer gaming industry, which profits from ultra-realistic shooting games that are bloodier than ever.
“I point the finger unreservedly at the entertainment industry, which has spawned and cultivated gaming that by design is increasingly real, geared to action as the shooter’s point of view, increasingly dehumanizes victims, and increasingly rewards players by how many they kill,” said Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist and chairman of the Forensic Panel, who works on more than 20 homicide cases a year.
Dr. Welner believes that adults set a poor example for children by engaging in competitive violent shooting video games. Instead, as he points out, parents should enourage children to hone their communication skills and learn empathy by engaging in volunteerism. Outgoing Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman and others, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has suggested a National Commission on Violence. Perhaps, Dr. Welner might confer with bi-partisan Congressional sponsors of such an investigative commission to unearth the role played by the entertainment industry in these burgeoning virtual video hunger games spawning with increasing frequency these massacres of the innocents like the 20 young children violently killed last Friday in bucolic Newtown, Connecticut.
Perhaps that was behind the comments of Rabbi Shaul Praver of Congregation Adath Israel of Newtown when he spoke Saturday at an interfaith service about what may have been behind the death of six year old Noah Pozner, the son of a synagogue member. Note his comments in this Times of Israelreport:
Praver held a community prayer session on Saturday at Adath Israel and told Israel’s Army Radio Sunday that he castigated the culture that had led to the massacre.
“We live in a culture of violence,” Praver said he told his congregants. “All of our culture is based on violence and we need to teach the kids about the ways of peace. We need to change everything.”
“There’s too much war, too much violence in our streets,” he added, speaking in Hebrew.
Doubtless, Dr. Welner will have more to say about this hypothesis on a CNN Piers Morgan interview tonight.
Emboldened by the "victories," Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal recently reached a secret agreement on the need to launch a "popular intifada" against Israel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Their goal is to drag Israel into a confrontation with Palestinian civilians — one that would embarrass the Israelis among the international community and force them to capitulate.
By allowing Hamas to celebrate its 25th anniversary in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority leadership is paving the way for a third intifada against Israel.
In fact, in the past few days, the third intifada has already begun, as violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers have increased in various parts of the West Bank.
Tens of thousands of Hamas supporters have taken to the streets of Ramallah, Nablus, Hebron and Tulkarem to celebrate the event, the first of its kind since the Islamist movement expelled the Palestinian Authority from the Gaza Strip in 2007.
Since then, in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority had been cracking down on Hamas, arresting hundreds of its supporters and members and closing down dozens of institutions belonging to the movement.
In recent weeks, however, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has apparently decided to endorse a new strategy towards Hamas. He now considers Hamas a political ally rather than an enemy.
The change came immediately after the Israeli military offensive against Hamas in mid-November.
The rapprochement between Abbas and Hamas reached its peak before and after the UN General Assembly vote in favor of upgrading the Palestinians' status to non-member observer state in late November.
Both Abbas and Hamas see the two events -- the war in the Gaza Strip and the UN vote — as "historic achievements" and military and political victories over Israel.
Emboldened by the "victories," Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal recently reached a secret agreement on the need to launch a "popular intifada" against Israel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources in Ramallah revealed.
The two men believe that such an intifada at this stage would further isolate Israel and earn the Palestinians even more sympathy in the international arena, the sources said.
Abbas and Mashaal are aware, the sources noted, that the Palestinians are now not ready for another military confrontation with Israel -- neither in the West Bank nor in the Gaza Strip.
That is why the two men agreed that the best and only option facing the Palestinians these days is a "popular intifada" that would see Palestinian youths engage in daily confrontations with Israeli soldiers and settlers, especially in the West Bank.
Abbas and Mashaal want an uprising similar to the first intifada, which erupted in 1987, when Palestinians mainly used stones and firebombs against soldiers and settlers, and refrained from launching terror attacks inside Israel.
Yet Abbas and Mashaal seem to disagree on the ultimate goal of the "popular intifada."
While Abbas is hoping that daily clashes between Palestinian stone-throwers and Israeli soldiers will force Israel to withdraw to the pre-1967 lines, including east Jerusalem, Mashaal and his Hamas movement are hoping that the uprising would lead to the "liberation of all Palestine, from the Jordan river to the sea."
Abbas and Hamas have decided for now to lay their differences aside and work towards escalating tensions on the ground, particularly in the West Bank. Representatives of the two parties have been holding "reconciliation" talks in Cairo during the past few weeks in a bid to agree on a new strategy against Israel.
Their goal is to drag Israel into a confrontation with Palestinian civilians -- one that would embarrass the Israelis among the international community and force them to capitulate.
Reza Kahlili, ex-CIA agent, in a new WorldNetDaily article, has exposed Iran’s development of weaponized bio-toxins for use in missile warheads that could be a lethal threat to Israel, “Iran Making Anthrax at Secret Plant”. This program has been developed with the assistance of Russian scientists in violation of the Biological Weapons Conventions of which Iran is a signatory. These Russian scientists may have been trained in the secret Soviet era Biopreparat program that created some of the more lethal “crown jewels” of Category A bio-toxins.
Russian scientists have helped Iran master four microbial agents for bombs, which the Islamic regime has used to arm 37 launch-ready missiles so far, sources have revealed.
The secret work is being done at a plant named Shahid Bahonar on a mountaintop by the city of Marzanabad off the mountainous Chalus road to the Iranian Caspian Sea.
[ . . . ]
The plant, under the supervision of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, is headed by Dr. Esmaeil Namazi, who oversees 28 Iranian and 12 Russian scientists, according to a source in the Revolutionary Guards intelligence division with access to the site.
There are several underground facilities at two levels with elevators reaching the lower level some 40 feet underground and where more than 100 personnel work on the microbial bomb project, the source said.
[ . . .]
The arming of warheads with microbial agents takes place at this site and, according to the source, those warheads, which do not create an explosion but spray a large area, can kill tens of thousands of people quickly.
Kahlili notes the range of Iran’s bio-warfare development efforts:
The scientists are working on 18 agents but so far they have developed four for weaponization, according to the source, who provided particulars on three of them:
•Bacillus anthracis (anthrax). This bacteria was developed by the United States during World War II and through espionage was obtained by the Soviet Union, which has long mastered the production. Russian scientists have helped the Iranians to produce anthrax.
•Encephalitis. The blueprint of this virus, Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis, was [allegedly] provided by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in an agreement two years ago with the Islamic regime.
•Yellow rain [T-2 mycotoxin]. This third agent, [said to be] developed with the help of North Korea has no smell and upon impact will destroy the body’s nervous system . . . likely followed by death within 48 hours.Venezeuelan Equine encephalitis, Yellow rain T-2 mycotoxin
“Yellow rain,” which the then-Soviet Union allegedly provided to North Vietnam and Laos to use against U.S.-backed rebels.
The source said Iran has provided this agent to the terrorist group Hezbollah to use in artillery shells and rockets, and has armed cluster bombs with it for any confrontation with Israel or America.
Clare Lopez , a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy, in an email to this author, discussed the importance of the anthrax development:
The anthrax is probably the scariest part of all of this....understanding that it's been genetically-modified for enhanced infectiousness, lethality, persistence, etc....in ways no Western vaccine can counter.
Kahlili quotes Lopez’s overall assessment of Iran’s secret bio-weapons program:
Lopez . . . said that, “From research published by Dr. Jill Bellamy – Van Aalst of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Dr. Anthony Cordesman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and others, we know that Iran, although a signatory to the Biological Weapons Convention, is reported to have weaponized anthrax, mycotoxins and smallpox. Iran possesses a sophisticated technological infrastructure, including university laboratories, within which it conceals its (biological weapons) program.
“The use or even threat of use of biological weapons by Iran – whether a bacterium like anthrax, a virus like Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis or a mycotoxin like yellow rain – would cross a red line, certainly for Israel and for the international community as well,” Lopez said. “Iran must know that even the threatened deployment of such biological weapons would invite an overwhelming military response that could devastate the country.”
We will be publishing an update of our groundbreaking 2007 interview with Dr. Bellamy – Van Alst on the Syrian Bio-Warfare Threat in the upcoming January 2013 edition of The New English Review.
With Allah Apparently Not Quite So Akbar, Khamenei Forced To Join "Zionist" Facebook
Iran's Supreme Leader Joins 'Zionist' Facebook
In step with the times? A photo from the "Khamenei.ir" Facebook page shows current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei (with glasses) behind Islamic Republic of Iran founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (front with white beard).
December 17, 2012
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is arguably one of the world's most-wired authoritarian leaders.
Already active on microblogging site Twitter, social network Google+, and photo-sharing network Instagram, Iran's supreme leader has now joined Facebook -- which has been blocked by Iranian authorities and demonized as a "Zionist" instrument and a tool of "soft war" against the Islamic republic.
The "Khamenei.ir" Facebook page, which was launched on December 13 and publicized on the supreme leader's Twitter account, has so far been liked by more than 3,000 users.
The Facebook debut is the latest move by Khamenei's media-savvy Internet team, which spreads his "ideas and personality" in several languages in cyberspace. The team is also behind Khamenei's sophisticated Khamenei.ir website, which is available in 13 languages.
Khamenei's Facebook page is likely to stir up controversy and raise eyebrows among the millions of Iranians who must access Facebook through antifiltering tools and proxy servers.
Iranian journalist Hadi Nili says the Islamic establishment uses different means to spread its message and reach out to supporters around the globe.
"For the same reason that Iran launches the English-language PressTV or a Hispanic TV station for Spanish speakers or Arabic channels," Nili says, "it uses Facebook and Twitter, which are cheap and easy to use."
Nili believes Khamenei's page is more likely to attract foreign viewers than Iranian Facebook users, who might not give it such a warm welcome.
Many of Iran's Facebook users access that social network to connect with each other, discuss taboo issues such as state censorship or news related to the suppressed opposition movement, or engage in online campaigns in support of political prisoners.
During 2009's antigovernment street protests, activists used Facebook to publicize amateur YouTube videos and other materials that documented the brutal state crackdown they faced.
Those activities are seen as a threat by Iranian officials, who have already targeted a number of activists over their Facebook posts. Blogger Sattar Beheshti, who last month died in custody, was reportedly arrested over his Facebook activism.
Technicians monitor data flow in the control room of an Internet service provider in Tehran in 2011.
Abdolsamad Khoramabadi, an Iranian official with the state-run body in charge of online censorship and computer crimes, said earlier this year that posting materials on Facebook that are considered immoral, contravene sacred Islamic principles, or disrupt security and peace is considered a crime.
Khamenei's Facebook page so far has just four posts -- including a photograph of a young Khamenei walking behind Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the late founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran (pictured above). The posts have received positive comments but also criticism targeting Khamenei and his state policies, including online censorship.
"Praise to Khamenei, Death to those against velayat-e faqih ("guardianship of the jurisprudent")," writes one supporter in a reference to the notion of "guardianship of the jurisprudent" under which Khamenei rules.
Another praises Khamenei for joining Facebook, which he says could be a venue for reaching out to Iranian youth. He notes, however, that the page should be unblocked inside Iran.
"God willing, by removing the filtering from this site and the presence of more officials, and accepting the conditions of the youth, the path for the country's future could become bright," he says.
There are more calls for an end to state filtering on Facebook.
"Is [Ayatollah Khamenei] also using antifiltering?" one user asks sarcastically.
"...You've done a great service to Iran and that is the spread of corruption, prostitution and lies," writes another.
It's not clear whether the Facebook page's administrators will allow such comments and criticism to appear on the page in the future. Criticism of Khamenei -- who holds ultimate political and religious authority under the Iranian Constitution -- is considered a "red line" in the Islamic republic, and those who cross it can end up in jail.
"Can we insult here?" asks one user who appears to be referring to the charge brought against those who have been jailed for challenging Khamenei.